Homily – 22nd Sunday in [Extra] Ordinary Time in a Pandemic

Hello Friends, being that we had a ZOOM Mass today, I am just sending my homily–have a great week–enjoying the cooler weather–Pastor Kathy

My friends; let us look briefly at the Scriptures given for our reflection today in yet another Sunday of challenge in this “extra” Ordinary Time.

The prophet Jeremiah is lamenting—his walking the way of God and all the abuse he must endure—he just didn’t know his, “yes” would mean all of this!

The psalmist today is able to take things a step higher—“my soul thirsts for you, O God.”  Clearly this writer knows, as we all sang so beautifully, “Your love is finer than life!”

Paul, is his letter to the Romans, that we have been spending time with, of late, continues the challenge that we all so need in these trying times in which we live—do not conform yourself to this age—“be transformed by the renewal of your minds, so that you may judge what is God’s will, what is good, pleasing and perfect.”

And in today’s gospel from Matthew, our brother, Jesus, says to Peter, “You are not setting your mind on the things of God, but of people.”  Again we see that “warring” between our humanity and our spiritual or divine natures that we have talked of in past weeks—the same struggle that Jesus warred against in his human life and in fact is warring against in the gospel reading today.

Cutting Peter a bit of a break; we must remember that his actions and words are based on his love for Jesus as his master and friend.  The character of Peter has proven throughout the Scriptures to be an impulsive one, but yet, one that is true and sound.  Remember that it was Peter, in last week’s gospel who fervently proclaimed, “You are the Messiah!”  I have personally longed this past week through the raging rhetoric of the administration occupying the White House, to hear some truth—some sound, even-handedness and did not.

In our beloved country, so engulfed at present by a pandemic that we have as yet been unable to get our hands around, due to a lack of leadership, an economic fallout as the result of the need for a lockdown during the initial days, to protect us all—another situation yet to be fixed as a million more people filed for unemployment benefits this last week, protesters from the BLACK LIVES MATTER movement underscoring the systemic sin of racism in our country evidenced once again by a police officer in Kenosha, WI shooting a black man in the back, not once, but seven times, the man in the White House did and said nothing to unite us as a nation—to comfort us in our collective pain—black and white, but instead, stoked the flames of division as he asked us to re-elect him.

Scientists the world over have warned that we may not have the time needed to save our planet from the global warming that is only too evident in the wildfires in California, more frequent and more intense, in the hurricanes that are coming earlier than in past seasons with LAURA devastating the south coasts of Texas and Louisiana this past week without a word of support from the president for what the people are going through—only touting his “accomplishments” during his first four years which include turning over many—too many safeguards put in place by his predecessor to protect our beautiful earth.

So my friends, let’s apply the Scriptures to all of this as we did last week.  In my homily of last Sunday; I spoke of the “hope” that I felt as I listened to the case being presented by the president’s challenger for his job.  This “hope,” an emotion I haven’t felt with regard to our country in a while, felt so good!

This week, I must admit, I didn’t listen to the speeches because I have found myself unable to do so with regard to this president and those in Washington who enable him in his unpresidential ways.  I have learned throughout my life, when I have encountered negative and at times, evil behavior, my best response is to not partake because it has the tendency to suck me into the black hole that it creates around itself and I will not make an exception with this man, president or not.

The prophet Jeremiah lamented that speaking the truth as God had given it to him had caused the people to turn against him and that it was difficult to live this way, yet in the end, God’s words burned within him and he must speak.

A woman from Nazareth named Mary found herself in somewhat the same situation of ridicule in her “yes” to God.  She found that she must say, “yes,” as her faith didn’t allow her to say, “no,” even though she didn’t know ahead of time, all that her, “yes” would ask of her.

We celebrated this woman, her faith and her strength in saying, “yes” to God in the feast of her assumption, body and soul into heaven on the 15th of this month and we ask her to give us that same strength and faith to live out our lives, saying, “Yes” to what God may be calling us to.  Her response to the trust that God had placed in her was her “Magnificat” that we have sung in the Canticle of the Turning in our opening hymn and will again sing in the closing hymn.

The times which we are living in are calling us to be our “best selves” and as last week; I am again challenging us with Jesus’ words in responding to these times, to—“check the fruits” in knowing who to believe.

I have been enjoying recently, a book by Franciscan, Father Richard Rohr, loaned to me by a friend, entitled, Eager to Love: the Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi, which I feel says in many places—so well, what our stance as Christians, as followers of our brother Jesus, must be in our world.

He includes the thoughts of another Franciscan, Sister Ilia Delio to flesh out what we are to be about as Jesus’ followers. Rohr begins by saying, “God’s sending of Jesus was never plan 2”—to redeem fallen humanity, “but always, plan 1”—to simply show us the way home.  Sister Ilia basically says; to accept the death of Jesus as necessary to save us from our sins is to have missed the point.  She writes in her book on St. Clare, Clare of Assisi: A Heart full of Love, “Jesus’ death was all about him taking on the worst humanity could offer in order that we, his sisters and brothers could then recognize him in the sufferings of others.”  It was always in God’s plan that we would be about loving each other—always!

The harder task, my friends, always, is to love, which implies listening to others—really listening, and even when we can’t agree, asking God to love them through us—praying to not let ourselves, “get in the way.”

It would seem that first, we must cultivate a heart that can love, ears that can hear—and really listen and then, speak our truth as our God has given it to us, through prayer.  This was Jeremiah’s, Mary’s, Jesus’ and Paul’s way and it must be ours too!

Sometimes we may wonder if we have done the “right thing,” or what the “right thing” might be to do in the future and again, as Jesus said while physically with us, “Check the fruits” which may mean, what really serves people, what brings peace, comfort or well-being to the most of the people?

Doing the right thing should insure everyone, “a place at the table,” for one thing.  “Pro-life” means life, across the continuum.  What are we to make of ramping up the death penalty, now, in our country, after a hiatus of 17 years from this particular kind of cruel punishment—is it truly about, “doing the right thing,” or about speaking, “to one’s base” in an election year, under the guise of, “law and order?” Could we say that a Catholic cardinal who offers “prayer” to bolster the selfish needs of a sitting president rather than acting, as Jesus says, “out of the mind of God,” might be falling short of, “doing the right thing?”

We might compare and contrast that prayer with the one offered by Sister Simone Campbell of NETWORK or more fondly, NUNS ON THE BUS, the previous week, which I will share in part, here.  She prayed that we might fight for a vision that is worthy of God and God’s call to honor the dignity of all of creation—a vision of a people, “grounded in community and care for all, especially the most marginalized—a vision that cares for the earth and heals the planet—a vision that ends structural racism, bigotry and sexism so rife now in our nation and in our history—a vision that ensures hungry people are fed, children are nourished, immigrants are welcomed.”

There can be no doubt my friends that Sister Simone’s prayer comes out of, “the mind of God” and shows us the way as we are challenged by our brother Jesus to know what is right, “by checking the fruits.”  Amen? Amen!