My friends, by way of a beginning, I want to remind us all, myself included, that each of us is here as a spiritual being, created by a magnanimous God, to have a human experience. Think of it, each of us was made perfect, not in sin, but in blessing. Because our God can show nothing but love, this God gave us the gift of human life wherein we can choose how to live that life. Hopefully our life has been or can still be, about love—received, and love given back. In the times in which we live, love and love alone is the only response that will ultimately change hearts.
I have recently been reading Anne Lamott’s new book entitled, Almost Everything: Notes on Hope, and I was especially intrigued and touched really, by a chapter on “Hate.” Those who are familiar with Anne Lamott know her to be a writer who says many things that many of us think, but don’t say out loud. We perhaps scream at our cat or dog, or the walls of our homes! Lamott speaks many of our private thoughts and does it in a way that we can look the “evil’ in the eye and perhaps come, face to face with ways to choose a more loving response.
To her credit and one of the reasons why many people enjoy her writing is that she faces herself squarely with the imperfection in her own life and person and doesn’t as a result “preach” to her readers, but struggles through, within herself, what she is asking us to do.
On the topic of hate she basically tells us that while it at times feels good to hate someone that we find so despicable, she, in the end says, hating is more destructive to ourselves than to our victims and furthermore, it doesn’t accomplish any good or change of heart. What she guides us to is a response on a higher plane, beginning with understanding how someone might arrive at a pattern of life that others find despicable and then arrive at something like empathy.
I offer the following small section of her writing on hate to perhaps aid each of us when we struggle with people and actions that we may find despicable:
“Empathy begins when we realize how much alike we all are. My focus on hate made me notice I’m too much like certain politicians. The main politician I’m thinking of and I are always right. I, too, can be a blowhard, a hoarder, needing constant approval and acknowledgment, needing to feel powerful. This politician had an abusive father, but he managed to stay alive, unlike his brother. I don’t think he meant to grow up to be a racist who debased women. But he was raised afraid and came to believe that all he needed was a perfect woman, a lot of money, and maybe a few more atomic weapons. He must be the loneliest, emptiest man on earth, while I am part of a great We, motley old us. We show up, as in the folktale about stone soup, and we bring and give and put what we can into the pot, and this pot fills up, and we know it.”
My friends, think what our world would be like if each of us, on a more regular basis, could do the loving thing, that which we have been hard-wired to do since our magnanimous God placed us here in our perfect states to have a human experience!
The Scriptures today in this [Extra] Ordinary Time call us to be our best selves beginning with Ebed-Meloch in the reading from Jeremiah who basically does the loving, compassionate thing where Jeremiah is concerned. He doesn’t first see Jeremiah as an enemy of his lord, someone to be despised or hated, but as a fellow human being floundering, needing the help that only he apparently can give.
And lest I give you the impression that being a prophet, as are both Jeremiah and Ebed-Meloch, in their own ways; we see the suffering that Jeremiah is exposed to. When we think about perhaps being a prophet in our own time and place, saying what needs to be said that no one else will say, Jeremiah is a good companion for the journey. He is known as the “reluctant prophet,” a soft-hearted man who wasn’t at all excited about getting people to do what they didn’t want to do!
We are encouraged by the writer to the Hebrews who tells us to, “run with perseverance, to not lose sight of Jesus, nor grow weary or lose heart.” And our brother Jesus has already promised to be with us—always!
We know how important a message this is my friends, “that we are not alone,” when we consider Jesus’ words in today’s gospel: “I have come to light a fire on the earth.” Giving this statement the broadest possible meaning; we know that Jesus wants to light the fire within each of us—we must be his eyes, ears, hands and heart in our world and if we aren’t, he simply will not be here!
Being our “best selves,” that I always talk about does not indicate a squishy, milk-toast type of presence in our world—one that notices when bad things happen, but never utters a word of disapproval. No, being our best selves definitely will call for what our times has come to know as, “tough love.”
If we are going to indeed, love, that means that first we love and respect ourselves through right living and we can then expect and demand even, the same from others. Our commitment to Jesus through baptism, when others spoke for us and through confirmation, when we spoke for ourselves, calls us to strive for this goodness in our lives, wherein we don’t accept evil done in our world and say so, out loud, and strive as well, to accept and understand the person doing the evil.
Looking for balance in our lives in this way is truly doing the most loving thing–not the easiest thing. I began this homily encouraging us to consider a God who has showered us with an over-the-top amount of love. Everything within my message today can be boiled down to love because as Christians, that is what we were made to do. We can’t escape it unless we don’t really want to live in the footsteps of Jesus.
We need to be there for each other, supporting and loving the Jesus we see in other’s faces and actions, condemning the evil expressed when love is absent, never growing weary or losing heart. That’s it friends, that is all we need to do! Amen? Amen!