Homily – 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time

dear friends,

below find Pastor Dick’s homily from Sunday in my absence–sorry for the lateness, but we don’t always have internet in the mountain areas that we have been visiting. He has given us once again a wonderful piece! be well all–pastor kathy

The first reading today looks back over 3000 years. The Hebrew
people had been liberated from slavery in Egypt, entered at Sinai
into a Covenant with Yahweh, wandered for years through the
wilderness, and were now finally about to enter the land of
Canaan where they would begin their life as a people. Then they
heard proclaimed what would be the foundation of Israel and the
Jewish community down to this day:

(In Hebrew, “Shema Yisra’el”) “Hear, O Israel, The Lord is our
God, the Lord alone! Therefore you shall love the Lord your God
with your whole heart, and with your whole being, and with your
whole strength. Take to heart these words which I command you
today. Keep repeating them to your children. Recite them when
you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and
when you get up.”

Then the reading from Mark’s Gospel moves us forward a
thousand years. In chapters 10 through 12 Jesus had been
questioned repeatedly: Pharisees asked him, “Is it lawful to a man
to divorce his wife?” A rich man asked him, “What must I do to
inherit eternal life?” Chief priests and scribes asked him by what
authority he had driven money changers and sellers from the
temple area. Herodians and Pharisees asked him, “Is it lawful to
pay the census tax to Caesar or not?” Sadduccees who taught there
was no resurrection asked him whose wife a woman would be at
the resurrection after having been married to seven brothers?
Despite being peppered, as it were, by hostile questions from
various religious and civil leaders, a sincere question came from a
scribe, “Teacher, which is the first of all the commandments?” To
which Jesus answered with the words we heard earlier from
Deuteronomy, “Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone!
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your
soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.” Jesus then
added from Leviticus, “The second is like it, ‘You shall love your
neighbor as yourself.’” Then he said, “There is no other
commandment greater than these.”

The scribe responded that to love God with one’s whole being and
one’s neighbor as oneself was worth more than all burnt offerings
and sacrifices. Jesus saw he had understood.

It seems so clear. Do we understand as well as that Jewish scribe
did? I think it sounds easier than it is. Yet Jesus repeatedly
showed us how. He always reached out to those who were
outsiders and different—lepers, Samaritans, a tax collector, a
Roman soldier, a prostitute, non Jews.

Who do you not love? Who do you hate? No one? Which political
leader? Which White Nationalist? How about members of ISIS?
Are there fellow citizens — neighbors — you can’t stand? Maybe
even members of your own family? Yet Jesus says to us, “There is
NO OTHER commandment greater than these, “Love God with
your whole being and your neighbor as yourself.” He did not list
any exceptions.

When people hold beliefs that I disagree with or even find
abhorrent, am I honestly able to love them? People who abuse
power and privilege and demean others, who even abuse others?
Yet, Jesus says to me, “There is NO OTHER commandment
greater than these, “Love God with your whole being and your
neighbor as yourself.”

Last Monday night in response to the slaughter of eleven Jewish
men and women and the wounding of others, many of us came
together with others from different religions or no religion at
Wesley United Methodist Church to mourn and give support.
One of the speakers was Mark Peterson, our mayor. He spoke
about the hostility toward the stranger that has stained this
community through the years. In the late 1800s when Frederick
Douglas, the former slave and courageous Abolitionist leader,
visited here, he was denied housing. The Ku Klux Klan was active
here in the 1920s. Immigrants such as Hmong families were
greeted with suspicion and hostility as recently as 40 years ago.
Mayor Peterson, however, cited the ways the Winona community
has changed. He praised the work of Project Fine and the fact that
a few years ago, Winona was the first city in Minnesota to declare
itself a “Welcoming Community” to all who come here.

None of us seek suffering for ourselves or our loved ones. Most of
us, I believe, don’t wish suffering on others. But it can be
challenging to love those who differ from us in ways that grate on
us. Yet experience has demonstrated over and over again that only
love brings about change. We can argue our position on politics,
religion or anything else until we are blue or red in the face. Only
when we establish an emotional connection, can a breakthrough

We are called to love…everyone. It is more important than
anything else we can do. No religious activity takes precedence
over loving God and other people. Mother Theresa said, “We
cannot all do great things, but we can do small things with great

We need to ask Jesus to teach us, to help us to learn how to love as
he does. It can seem overwhelming, but in a recent meditation
Father Richard Rohr quoted the following from the Jewish
Talmud: “Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief:
Do just(ice) now. Love mercy now. Walk humbly now.”
Fr. Rohr added, “Love protects us from nothing, even as it
unexplainably sustains us in all thing