Homily – 33rd Sunday in [Extra] Ordinary Time in a Pandemic

Dear Friends,

22 of us gathered today for a Zoom Mass and it was so good to be together, at least in this way! Stay well everyone–stay safe–do all the hard things to keep yourself and others safe. If you need me, please don’t hesitate to call, 507-429-3616, or email, aaorcc2008@gmail. com. Below, find today’s homily–peace and love, Pastor Kathy

______________________________________________________________________________ My friends, as we move toward concluding the Church Year on this final Sunday in [Extra] Ordinary Time, and prepare to bookend this Year of Grace, as always, with the feast of Jesus, that the Church Universal names as, “Christ the King,” I once again invite different terminology for the feast coming up next Sunday—a title that more accurately names Jesus and his earthly life among us—“Jesus, Brother and Friend.” But for now, let’s proceed into today’s readings.  

   Our lives are about beginnings and endings and this is reflected in our Scripture readings today.  And to each of us, who have lived any length of days, we know too, by experience, that life is full of beginnings and endings. 

   There are, as we age, the ever-present endings as we lose loved ones completing their life journeys and amid these losses, there are the beginnings, as new life continues to enter our lives—as children grow and change—“in wisdom and grace,” hopefully, finding their way in the world. 

   I was always amazed during my years of chaplaincy at our local hospital and nursing home, witnessing entire families gathering, giving their loving support, as a beloved mom or dad or a grandparent was dying.  Always among these families was evidence of this cycle, in the ending of one life and the beginning of another as a little one crawled on the floor. 

   We are blessed in the Midwest with four wonderful seasons wherein nature shows us in stark contrast, endings and beginnings.  We may not always relish the “stark” changes of spring-summer-fall and winter in the Midwest, but we have to admit that the changes from one season to the next make abundantly clear, the beginning and ending of life. 

   I find the obvious changes in seasonal weather, here, very conducive to the journey my physical, emotional and spiritual life seems to take each year.  The warmer weather through spring and summer gets me outdoors in many physically, busy tasks—gardening and yard work with all the equally emotional and spiritual connections to our God who made so much earthly beauty for us to enjoy.  As the year moves into fall, I find my physical self, slows down, with the outdoor life around me—as the earth prepares, here, to go dormant, I too, shift my focus.  I find that I turn more to my interior self at this time—to more quiet and reflection on what life is, really—all about. 

   So what does all this have to do with the 33rd Sunday in [Extra] Ordinary Time, you may ask? Let’s look to the readings:  We have three selections today that help us focus well, I think, on the cycle of our lives, and especially, this Sunday, on the “end times” as we do indeed, wind down the Church Year.

    The beautiful reading from Proverbs today was in past times entitled, “The Virtuous or Valiant Woman.”  The Priests for Equality text, that we use here, in their wisdom, have made this a gender-less specific reading in order to impress upon each of us, male and female that the traits espoused here are universal and genderless—we are all called to strive after perfect love—instilling confidence equally in each other, bringing advantage, not hurt, doing our work willingly for the benefit of each other, holding out our hands to the poor—these are the traits that are to be praised at the city gates, because these traits last, unlike physical beauty.  We have to wonder that if these traits were more universally practiced across the genders, would we ever have the kind of abuse that allows one to be first to the detriment of another.

   The obvious example of course, is the present divide in our country over many issues, but primarily, at present, our recent presidential election. Much of the divide, unfortunately, in this matter and others facing our country is stoked from the White House by a selfish individual who can only see his own needs to the detriment of those he promised an oath to serve.

   Paul, in his letter to the Thessalonians, further encourages us to, “not be asleep as others are,” let us “be awake and sober.”  Our lives as Christians, as followers of our brother and friend—Jesus, do indeed call us to always, as we say here often—“look at the fruit” to know the way we should go.  At the danger of becoming too political, it seems to me that if more people in our troubled world looked, with eyes open, and hearts full, “at the fruits,” or lack thereof, coming out of either position in our country’s divide, it would be most clear, which way we need to go.

   I shared last week that in major decisions in my own life; I look at what brings peace—for the most part, and then I proceed. And that strategy has never failed me.  Suffice it to say, those who wish to be in positions of power wherein they have the opportunity to lead, need to realize that this privilege, and it is a privilege, is never, ever, for the individual, but for those the individual intends to lead, ultimately—“to serve.” I can’t stress enough, this is about service! The “fruit” we are looking for is “service, not “selfishness.”

   For us too, my friends, our life as Christians should always be about service—that is what Paul is really stressing with the Thessalonians and us by extension—[don’t] be asleep as others are, be awake and sober.” 

   Our final reading this week comes from the gospel of Matthew.  We are asked to consider the plight of three employees being given a gift by their employer and what they ultimately do with the gift.  The Scripture says, the employer “entrusted” each with a gift of silver pieces.  It seems to me, that to “entrust” someone with something says much more than to simply “give” someone, something.  The dictionary definition speaks about, “assigning responsibility for doing something.” A current, meaningful example might be the fact that each year our country “entrusts” someone to lead us—to basically care for the needs of our people and our country. 

   The Scriptural example shared by Jesus makes clear I believe, what God expects of those “entrusted” with silver pieces or anything else, considered precious.  It seems that “darkness” is associated too with not using our gifts to better ourselves and others.

   So, my friends, our task seems clear in these troubling times—let’s face what we have to face with open eyes and hearts—this is not a time at all to, “be asleep,” but a time to take seriously what it means to be human among other humans and most importantly, for us, what it truly means to be Christian.  Our faith allows for endings and beginnings—as our Church Year is ending, let us reflect on all that we did right—all that we could do better, and as Advent beckons, and Christmas follows, let us begin anew to be all that we can be for ourselves and others! Amen? Amen!