As a way, friends, to help us be connected in mind and heart, when we can’t be together physically; I offer this suggestion from one of our community. When we would actually meet each week, (this week, it would be today, Saturday, March 21, 2020 at 4:30 P.M.) read the Scripture selections (given below) within your own home—if you live with someone, read the selections to each other, knowing that you are in union with others doing the same. If you aren’t able to do this at the regularly scheduled time, then do it when you are able. Follow this with reading my homily and if you have any comments, feel free to share those and we could have a bit of a dialog, for those who wish. And do pray for each other that we can all stay safe and well. Finally, if I can help you in any way, please don’t hesitate to give me a call. 507-429-3616. See readings for this weekend, below:
- 1 Samuel 16: 1, 6-7, 10-13
- Ephesians 5: 8-14
- John 9: 1-41
After reading the homily, you can share your thoughts here by clicking “reply all” to this email.
My friends, a comment we have all heard of late; “We are in a new normal.” The threat of a virus that we can’t even see has kept most of us in our homes along with practicing social-distancing from others when we do go out to take care of necessities.
Our response today from the beloved 23rd psalm gives us a beautiful prayer, especially when we put it to music: “Shepherd me O’ God beyond my wants, beyond my fears, from death into life.”
This “new normal,” I believe, is bringing out the best in many in our country and around our world. I share just a few examples here:
- Just yesterday, the national news carried a story of two biological sisters returning from cancelled spring break plans, who set up a website for young people who were willing to “sit” with children for parents who needed to go to jobs, but were without the means to get sitters for their children who were out of school due to the coronavirus. These young “sitters” were willing to sit for free.
- Musicians and vocalists in Spain, Italy and other places stood on their verandas, balconies or opened their windows to share life-giving music to those in their neighborhoods whom they were told they must not touch physically due to spreading the contagion. But, there are many ways “to touch” others!
- Here in my hometown of Winona, MN, many wonderful, good, kind and compassionate actions are happening as I know are in so many other communities: Food is being delivered to homes for those who don’t have the means to get out. Through our churches, messages of care and support are finding their way to parishioners through emails, web-sites and phone calls in the wake of these same churches closing their doors to keep parishioners safe. A “new normal” indeed!
- A group in my hometown of Winona is working creatively to find individual shelter for homeless people who have lost the group shelter areas that this community worked so hard to put in place prior to the pandemic.
- And, I am sure that the readers of this homily—both my in-town community and on-line readers around our country can add your own stories of goodness and care.
This time, my friends, is calling us to be “church” in new ways—to care in creative ways, being in touch without physically touching, but “touching” just the same—being community.
There is much talk in this weekend’s Scriptures about “being light”—an extension from the Christmas message really, which calls us to follow Jesus’ words, “to be light for our world,” wherever we find ourselves. You perhaps have seen on the news that a movement has begun to turn Christmas lights on again as a way to bring back smiles! We all need to have light in our darkness.
Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians reminds them that, “There was a time when you were darkness, but now are light in our Savior.” John’s gospel this week relates the beautiful story of the blind man whom Jesus freed, first from his physical darkness and then from the darkness in his mind and heart, helping him to see how much he is lived by God. “While I am in the world, I am the light of the world,” Jesus proclaimed. As his followers, we are called to the same—to be the light that each of us can be!
Now some of you reading this, might be asking, “How can I do anything of significance? I certainly can’t preach of write, I’m shy—no one would listen to me, I’m too old, I’m too young,” and on and on might go our excuses.
But, my friends, it’s interesting—looking at the first reading from Samuel, we see that, “God does not see as people see” (God certainly doesn’t expect perfection), “people look at appearances,” (judging worthiness, capability), but [God] looks at the heart.”
Today we hear again about how David is chosen by God as the most fit among Jesse’s seven sons to be the King of Israel—not the oldest, the strongest—but the youngest, the least ready, seemingly, to be King. This calls us friends to apply this message to ourselves and finally dispense of all our excuses too for not doing our part.
Paul, in his many writings to the churches that he established would many times call the people, “his children in the faith,” but when you really look at it, what Jesus asked of his followers and what Paul in turn, asked of his, was that they, and we must include ourselves in this, be “grown-ups” in our faith.
The individualism that has been touted for a long time in our country is in this new day of a pandemic, being challenged. Those who are truly “grown-ups” in their faith systems, whatever that may be for any one group of people, have always realized that the God of us all, quite regularly, “turns things on their heads!”—not choosing those for leadership as the world does, by physical appearance, race or gender, we might add, but by what is in our hearts.
Wiser persons than myself have said that the God who is always part of our lives, cheering us on, grieving when we grieve, rejoicing when we rejoice, uses such times as, a pandemic, when we are most weak and vulnerable, as the “very door” with which to enter into our lives in a more meaningful way, just as God’s Spirit did in the story of the blind man, to give new life and purpose to our lives than we may have known before.
It seems that this pandemic has touched the hearts of many as indicated in the examples that I shared earlier. If we are ever to hear our God’s voice, it will be through our hearts, not our heads, as we can’t figure God out! The gifts of the heart are lovingkindness, justice, mercy, truth, generosity and compassion for a world that God is so in love with. So more than anything else, my friends, know that when you see any of these gifts, when you give any of these gifts through the ways you reach out to others—know that God is there loving others through you—loving you through others.
Yes, this is a “new normal”—calling each of us to new ways of loving. Check in on elderly neighbors, friends, practice social-distancing while still reaching out in acceptable ways and as one Franciscan friar said in a message I received recently, “Wash your hands and then place them in the hands of God!” Amen? Amen!