Homily – 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Dear Friends, here is Pastor Dick Dahl’s homily from yesterday–enjoy! Pastor Kathy
P. S. See you next Saturday!

At the end of the War of 1812 over 2,000 British solders were killed in the battle of New Orleans with only 15 American casualties. This bloodbath took place because news that the Peace Treaty had been signed in Belgium two weeks earlier had not crossed the ocean yet. Today, however, thanks to satellites and modern communication we seem to know about every tragedy, both of natural and human origin, within hours, if not minutes of its occurrance.

So while we were still in shock from the horror of the slaughter of our Jewish brothers and sisters at Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, we heard this week of an even more deadly killing of teenagers at a dance hall in Thousand Oaks, California. Next came word that the neighboring town of Paradise had been incinerated by an out-of-control fire in which nine more people died. We also hear daily of some decision by our own President that shows no compassion or understanding for the suffering of people coming to our southern border, seeking refuge from unbelievable fear and suffering in their countries of origin.

With such awareness, sometimes one wants to turn off the news, close one’s ears, withdraw and hide somewhere. Yet when we come together here and gather to celebrate the Eucharistic meal, the Word of God speaks to our hearts, challenging us and enabling us to face the reality around us.

Today’s first reading takes place during a devastating draught that affected not only Israel but people in neighboring regions as well. To save Elijah the Lord sent him to a city in Sidon where he met a widow about to prepare a meager meal for herself and her son with the last bit of food she had. Elijah first asks her to bring him a small cupful of water. Then he asks for a crust of bread, and finally for her to make him a little cake. She was not a Jew and she responded to his request, “As the Lord, your God lives, I have nothing baked and only a handful of flour and a little oil left.” But when he entreats her in God’s name to fulfill his request anyway, she gives him all she has.

This story of response to the needs of a stranger, of responding to a God she did not even know, with all she had is an incredible example of generosity .

In the Gospel reading, Jesus observes another widow. He watches her literally putting a pittance, two coins, into the Treasury, but it was all she had. Again an astounding example of giving with all one’s being.

The reading from the Letter to the Hebrews focused on Jesus who gave all he was and had as his blood poured out in the new Covenant–in which we participate in this meal of bread and wine.

What does it mean, then, when the first and greatest commandment calls us to love God with our whole being?

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881–1955), the brilliant French Jesuit priest, mystic, and paleontologist, had much to say about love. For Teilhard, “love is the most universal, the most tremendous and the most mysterious of the cosmic forces.” Divine love is the energy that brought the universe into being and binds it together. Human love is whatever energy we use to help divine love achieve its purpose. . . .

Religion, from the root religio, means to reconnect, to bind back together. We must all overcome the illusion of separateness. It is the primary task of religion to communicate not worthiness but union, to reconnect people to their original identity “hidden with Christ in God,” as St. Paul states in his letter to the Colossians (3:3).

Christianity has put major emphasis on us loving God. But some speak of their overwhelming experience of how God loves us! In the 1890s the Englishman Francis Thompson wrote a poem called The Hound of Heaven. In it he describes God as a great hound ever seeking us, running to find and save us through the endless byways of our lives. God’s loving us comes through in most of the writing of mystics: God the initiator, God the doer, God the one who seduces us. It’s all about God’s initiative. The mystics invariably find ways to give that love back through forms of service and worship; but it’s never earning the love, it’s always returning the love.

To love God is to love what God loves. To love God means to love everything . . . no exceptions. In his book, The Brothers Karamazov, Fyodor Dostoyevsky wrote, “Love [people] even in [their] sin, for that is the semblance of Divine Love and is the highest love on earth. Love all God’s creation, the whole and every grain of sand in it. Love every leaf, every ray of God’s light. Love the animals, love the plants, love everything. If you love everything, you will perceive the divine mystery in things. Once you have perceived it, you will begin to comprehend it better every day. And you will come at last to love the whole world with an all-embracing love.

Of course, that can only be done with divine love flowing through us. In this way, we can love things and people in themselves, for themselves—not for what they do for us. That’s when we begin to love our family, friends, and neighbors apart from what they can do for us or how they make us look. We love them as living images of God in themselves, despite their finiteness.

Now that takes work: constant detachment from ourselves—our conditioning, preferences, and knee-jerk reactions. Franciscan Father Richard Rohr, from whose daily meditations most of this homily was formed, writes that we can only allow divine love to flow by way of contemplative consciousness, where we stop eliminating and choosing. This is the transformed mind that St. Paul wrote about in his letter to the Romans (12,2) that allows us to see God in everything and empowers our behavior to almost naturally change.