Twenty-three of us met via Zoom today to celebrate Mass and our love for God and each other. If you weren’t able to join us today, hopefully you can next month, October 25, 2020! I hope this finds you all safe and well. Please call me, 507-429-3616, or email me, firstname.lastname@example.org. if I can help in any way, or if you just want to chat. Peace and love, Pastor Kathy
My dear friends, the last couple of Sundays I have concentrated on the virtue of hope being that the times in which we live have in many ways shown us a lack of leadership in our nation and our Church to truly address and lead us as our country struggles with a world-wide pandemic, systemic racism and an economy that benefits the rich on the backs of the poor.
Hope is that virtue that allows us to go on in the midst of much that feels without hope because we believe that there is more good than bad all around us. We believe even though we live in this country that is so divided and this division is encouraged by those who are our supposed leaders. We, each of us, dare to hope because of our faith in a God who loves us all—beyond measure and asks us to be our best. And by our baptisms and confirmations in this faith; we are committed to that, “very best” in our world.
This past week; I shared a prose piece, by Elaine Griffin Baker on social media—a reflection really, on the general feeling or tone within our country at the present time—a sense of division that seems to experience little direction or healing from the powers-that-be, especially in Washington. The author went on to express feelings of past times when occupants in the White House, from both political parties, showed us, on a regular basis, through the arts, times with family and general tone what is good in our country and uplifted that even though everyone didn’t agree on all policies or how things were necessarily done. The author then reflected on our present—where we as a nation are, lamenting that any and all good of past times is now gone and that we are bereft for lack of that good as we are constantly divided instead of united in any way.
While I earnestly try in my homilies, as your pastor, to not take sides where politics are concerned; I thought this piece was worth sharing as it seemed to name the heaviness that lies upon our nation, our very hearts, regardless of political party in this September-time of 2020. Jesus, while with us, always said, “Check the fruits”—you will know then, how to judge right from wrong. While it is neither my place, nor right to tell you how to vote, be assured that I will always tell you to, “check the fruits” and go from there.
While most who read the piece that I shared, agreed that it did reflect the somber, unhappy and divided tone in our country at present, one person challenged me by saying that, “She was surprised that I would share such a piece given my line of work.” Precisely because of, “my line of work,” I know that I have a responsibility always, always, to direct my parishioners to “check the fruits” and go from there.
Today’s Scriptures seem to validate this stance from first to last. Beginning with the prophet, Ezekiel, who speaks of the struggle that we all face—day in and day out—between good and evil with our God desiring always, our best—that we would follow the correct way, by once again, “checking the fruits” and proceeding from there. And this desire of our loving God, comes from One who will always love and accept us—this we know from our brother Jesus—no matter what we do or how far we may stray.
Paul, in his beautiful letter to the Philippians today, shows us the way to be our best selves in the example of Jesus’ life among us. I believe that Paul would agree with Elaine Griffin Baker as he says to the Philippians, “be united in your convictions, in your love—with common purpose and mind…having no competition among you, no conceit…having humility,” [in all things].
And Paul continues, “Each of you, must think of the interests of others, not your own [alone]. Baker seems to be suggesting that the somber tone in our country appears to be about this very idea—“thinking only of oneself.” Paul goes on, [our brother Jesus] “was emptied of himself—he was God, but did not cling to that truth, but instead, became like us.” More on this in a bit.
Today’s psalm response, number 25, gives us even more advice on how we are, “to be” in this world, among our sisters and brothers—in the largest sense, as our God is and can continue to be, through us. The psalmist writes of God’s, “steadfast love, humility, goodness and mercy”—we can’t go wrong following such “fruits” as these!
And finally, our gospel from Matthew today, gives us the piece of advice that as followers of our brother, Jesus; we must always take. It is such a simple response that it is probably no wonder that we miss it from time to time. Jesus tells us, “If you say, ‘yes’ to God, then live that out.” And my friends, for most of us, at our baptisms, our “yeses” were spoken for us and at our confirmations; we each affirmed those original yeses, so that our path is clear, whether we always acknowledge it or not.
Jesus’ counsel about “checking the fruits” refers not only to others, but to ourselves—we have to look for what is good and true, noble and upright, about what is reflective of our very best, what is just, merciful and loving—what brings out good in others and not bad—what includes everyone—truly, every one and when for the most part, we can see that these things are present; we can more clearly know how to proceed—that in fact—it is the way to go. And conversely, the opposite is true as well—where there is belittlement, disregard for others and their needs, for justice and equality, abuse of all kinds for the betterment of self, lying and the pain that each of these causes; we can be equally sure, that these are “bad fruits” and should not be followed.
For those who regularly read my homilies; you know that I have recently been quoting from Father Richard Rohr’s book, The Universal Christ wherein he lays out for his readers, a God big enough to be meaningful to all in this world. I would like to conclude this homily with a very hope-filled message for all of us in these seemingly, hopeless times.
Father Rohr’s words are indeed a challenge to each of us, but they are hope-filled in that if we, more often than not, attempt to follow them, our world, in its entirety—people, animals, plants and on down to the smallest possible element of life will become a shining example of God-with-us and in us and all around us and this is what he and others mean when they speak of the “Cosmic Christ,” a God big enough for us all.
Father Rohr says and I will paraphrase in order to say more in less time and space, in a chapter entitled, “Original Goodness” as opposed to the concept that humans bound on the law came up with, “original sin,” that is, that basically from the beginning, each of us was “goodness” as only our God can create. To quote Rohr exactly, “The Christian life is simply a matter of becoming who we already are [!]” I think we can see that starting out in a negative vein (sin) is not the most conducive to ever thinking well of ourselves or others nor treating either with dignity.
Paul told us in the letter to the Philippians today, that at the name of Jesus, “every knee should bend.” Considering that Jesus chose to become part of humanity, it would follow that he saw it as “good” and not as “sin” as Rohr would say. Again, to quote Rohr directly, “In every age and culture, we have seen regressions toward racism, sexism, homophobia, militarism, lookism and classism. This pattern tells me that unless we see dignity as being given universally, objectively and from the beginning by God, humans will constantly think it is up to us to decide.” Additionally, Rohr says, “To try to build on no is, in the imagery of Jesus, to ‘build on sand.’ ”
Rohr differentiates between law and love and basically says that because God always relates to us from the standpoint, first and foremost, of love, that we should do likewise in the ways that we relate to our world. Rohr says of it, “human commandments, [in Jesus’ mind] far too often took the place of love…mere obedience is far too often a detour around actual love. Obedience is usually about cleaning up, love is about waking up.” Incidentally, this was why Jesus often didn’t follow many of the Jewish laws and was always getting into trouble because of it.
So, my dear friends—these times it would seem, are calling us to a full “waking-up”–being true to our senses—to see and to hear and to discern with our hearts, not our heads entirely where good is being advocated for, where there is unity and not division—all basically uplifted in the original piece I mentioned as well as through our Scriptures today. I might suggest that if we could, more often than not, let love stand before law, we could, and would, not only “bend our knee” at Jesus’ name, but in the presence of others and all of creation, too. Amen? Amen!