Homily – 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

My friends, this past week I supplied you with several action items to do should you choose to that will hold the Church hierarchy’s “feet to the fire,” as it were, concerning much needed reform within our Church.  At the very least; we all should be praying that the Spirit of Jesus will overshadow these men in leadership to choose rightly the path to go for the betterment of all—that they will come to see how important for the life of the Church a complete reform is.

My best critic, Robert, encouraged me not to say more on the issue of sexual abuse of children, at least not use the entire homily to speak about this “elephant in the living room” and except for the above; I will try to refrain.  Dealing with difficult issues such as this is always disturbing and especially when we feel helpless to make any change.

So, instead, let me tell you what I did this week that helped me with those feelings of helplessness. First of all; I wrote some letters—one to Pope Francis, one to Bishop Quinn and I posted copies of both letters to 7 priests that I know somewhat or very well in this diocese and elsewhere, both active and inactive.  I wrote cover letters with the copies to encourage the priests to talk with their bishops.

Isaiah’s words today in the 1st reading spur us on—“Take courage and do not be afraid.” Continuing the prophet’s thought, our Church needs to have our eyes opened, from those in leadership to those in the pews for those who have been so grievously hurt to assist them “in walking again.”

When I finished my letter writing, I said to my “best critic,”—“this may do no good at all, but it makes me feel that at least, I did something.” Our country was reminded of the same on Friday by former president, Barack Obama when he said in regard to all that is apparently going wrong in our country; the worst thing is that any of us would become complacent.  You see, we never know if  our particular action might just be that spark of hope that will make a difference, because this time within our Church at least, more people are activated, angered and moving forward, demanding change.  That is why I asked you all to consider what you are being called to do!

So, I’m not doing too well in not talking about this… J but my purpose my friends is to try and give us hope in our steadiness, day in and day out, to follow Jesus. He was one who talked to the powers-that-be and challenged them to their best.

But getting back to my goal—other things from my week:  A woman priest on the East Coast shared a homily she wrote for the Unitarians last week when she was asked to supply preach.  Her homily consisted mostly of writing about how our Church needed to open up to women and other reforms like involving the laity in greater ways.  But the piece that really caught my attention and made me sad was when she said, “I have gotten over the Catholic church!” She went on to say, and I know this comes out of her broken heart, that she isn’t willing to wait any longer for them to change—she doesn’t expect it and she won’t hope for it.

Personally, I feel that at this time and place in history; we are at a pivotal moment and that we should not lose hope.  Now, more than ever before, the civil authorities are digging deep into these crimes and it won’t be as easy going forward for the hierarchy to go on as usual.  So, if you haven’t yet contacted our Attorney General of Minnesota, Lori Swanson, there is an action item for this week.  Part of my sending copies of the letters I wrote to priests that I’m familiar with was to make this personal—to say that this is not about some other place and time, but here, now!    So friends, don’t lose hope—keep trying to do what you can, keep trusting that Jesus’ Spirit is with us now and is behind our unrest and is encouraging us to do our best to right this situation.

As I looked over the Scriptures for this Sunday; I was reminded that three years ago on the 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time was our first Sunday back after our epic trip to Alaska, spending 7 weeks away from you at the beginning of my retirement from the hospital.  That time afforded us the opportunity to look deeply at our lives, to ask where we were going and if we were being faithful to what God wanted of us.  And interestingly enough; we arrived back here to continue the work we had left for a time, with peace in our hearts that it is what God wants of us.

Visiting with family and close friends along the way confirmed within us the basic goodness of life, the part that each of us is called to play to make life continually better for all of us.  In that light, I share another piece of my week.

A woman that I visit on a regular basis for pastoral care at St. Anne of Winona needed to get to the ER on Friday to have a physical condition she was suffering from attended to—this was not of an emergent nature but just something to make her more comfortable and because she couldn’t get a clinic appointment before the weekend, this was her next best option. She couldn’t of course go without a ride and none could be found, so I offered to take her.  You should also know that this woman is being treated for stage 4 ovarian cancer.

We were both blessed in having Dr. Brett Whyte on duty. I have known him for many years in my work as a chaplain and I would say, without a doubt that he has the best bed-side manner of any physician I have ever witnessed. He tended to my friend’s needs in the same way that he does with every patient who comes to the ER. He pulled up a chair and asked to know what was going on and even though he could have basically read her chart which he no doubt did, he listened with compassion as she told her story. When the story was told, he then assured her that he would make a plan so that she would feel better. One gets the idea from watching him that he has nowhere else to be—that he has all the time in the world for you. Now, how many people do you know who leave such an impression? Being a Christian calls each of us to give that kind of attention.

Jesus in today’s gospel from Mark affirms what the prophet Isaiah said hundreds of years before him and I paraphrase: When the blind see, the deaf hear and the lame walk, you will know that God is in your midst.  My friends, as Jesus’ followers, we will want to be sure that his model of goodness doesn’t end with him, with a story in a book—people today need to see and hear and walk, unimpeded, and we know these maladies show themselves in more than physical ways.  Don’t lose hope; keep on loving and speaking your truth for those who have no voices.  Jesus said that we would do greater things than he did. Let’s remember all the needs that call for our attention today—immigration reform and our Church crisis being at the top of the list and realizing that we can make a difference.  Jesus’ words that we will do greater things than he did are really quite astounding! Do we believe that? Are we willing to try? When I think of the possibilities, it gives me a great deal of hope! Also, I truly believe what Jesus told us when here, “I will not leave you alone.” Amen? Amen!