Homily – 3rd Sunday in [Extra]Ordinary Time in a Pandemic

My friends, YHWH—our God, speaks to Jonah in the first reading, “Get up! Go!”

   The reading from Corinthians today may seem harsh, but we must remember that it comes right out of the times in which Paul and the early Christians lived—they thought that their brother and messiah, Jesus, would be returning soon.  Thus, the need to be prepared, to be ready, with no use bothering about the things of this world!

   From our perspective, looking back, clearly Paul and the others got it wrong.  Or, did they?  I think they perhaps had part of the truth.  Their sense was that Christ would be returning soon, but I think the piece that they and we often miss is that Jesus, the Christ, is here, right in front of us, in the next person that we meet—in the person we see each day—in the mirror!  So, always the need, to be ready, my friends! We all come from Divine dust, as someone said, and are here having a human experience.  How could we ever then, treat any person with disrespect, with a lack of understanding, without mercy or justice? 

   Now, I know you are thinking—but the people who are so hard to even abide—what do I do with them? I am not saying that it will always be easy—not at all. I am just reminding us of the words and actions of our brother Jesus that we don’t turn away, but keep trying and God knows, for each of us, there are those who are truly hard to love.  Amanda Gorman, young poet laureate, at this week’s Inauguration Ceremony spoke so well of it, “That even as we hurt, we hoped, that even as we tired, we tried; that we’ll forever be tied together, victorious.” Our life in Jesus, friends, calls us to this awesome task and as our new president said in his comments this past Wednesday, “There is nothing we can’t do, if we do it together!”

   And in the gospel from Mark, the evangelist with the fewest of words simply conveys Jesus’ message by telling us to, “Change our hearts and minds…”

   Being Jesus’ followers was then, in his time and now, in our time, all about seeing a bigger picture, acting with a larger heart than many are accustomed to doing. It simply isn’t enough to care for, “what I need,” “what I want,” “the people I love”—we must grow our hearts and souls to at least see the pain with which many people in our world struggle and once we see that pain, do our part to alleviate it. 

   This past Wednesday with the Inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, many of us felt a weight of selfishness lifted with the promise from our new leaders that they will lead and care for all the people.  They, I believe, will lead out of their hearts and souls as they have proven in the past through their individual positions in state and national leadership. 

   They will no doubt be accused by their enemies of doing what they do for “political gain,” but they won’t let that get in their way as both are committed to closing doors on the virus from without rampaging across our country, COVID 19, on the virus from within—400+ years old, systemic racism, as well as fixing our economy so that it works for everyone, and finally beginning again to put policies in place to care for and literally save our beautiful earth, home to more than 7 billion of us, not to mention all the plants and animals!

   My friends, always in my words to you; I challenge all of us to, “look at the fruits” in the actions of those you choose to follow, to know if indeed, we are “walking and talking” correctly.  As I prepared for this homily, so many images were floating through my mind and heart from the Inauguration, that from my perspective was sculpted from start to finish to begin to heal the hurts of the past four years, to say in no uncertain terms that we as a nation are better than our past and want now to work on a future world that we are truly proud to hand to our children and grandchildren—to all who are coming next.  In that light, I would like to include here just some of the wonder-filled encouragement of many from the Inauguration Ceremony and others challenging us to be our best—to live in our world, in our time as Jesus did in his.

  • From our gospel today; we are reminded that Jesus always met people where they were in their lives and called them, in that time and place. In today’s gospel he calls fishermen and invites them to now, “fish” for people.  In our lives as parents, grandparents, nurses, farmers, social workers, educators—whatever it might be, Jesus calls us to give our world, as President Biden said in his inaugural address, our [very] souls—in other words, the best we have.
  • I was touched by the fact that Jennifer Lopez, within her singing of, This Land is my Land, This Land is your Land, she recited in her native tongue—Spanish, the words from our Pledge of Allegiance, “one nation, under God, indivisible—with liberty and justice for all,” signaling that this new administration in Washington will truly be aware of all in our beloved country.
  • I was equally touched by the black, female fire-fighter who delivered our Pledge of Allegiance, both in spoken words and sign language—one of the many times that brought tears to my eyes for this awareness of  those without the gift of hearing. 
  • For those who look forward now with hope for what the future brings and whose enemies think that all, those with hope propose to do, can’t be done—it is good to remember one of the great spiritual documents of Hinduism, the Bhagavad Gita, which teaches, “…effort never goes to waste, and there is no failure.” In other words, we might say, “attempting to do our best is always success!”
  • In this vein, when those who would look at our efforts negatively; I always remember Michelle Obama’s words, “When they go low, we go higher.”  My, friends, there will always be those in our path who will doubt that the good can rise, but we must keep our focus and keep moving on.  Amanda Gorman said, [don’t gaze on] “what stands between us, but what stands before us.”

   And in all of the above, we must remember as columnist David Brooks said in a bit of commentary on Wednesday, “the importance of gratitude.”  He reminded all the white folk among us that we should really have gratitude for our black sisters and brothers in the person of Representative James Clyburn of South Carolina who really was able to jumpstart Joe Biden’s campaign by his endorsement late in the primary season, which ultimately elevated Biden to the position of the Democratic nominee and now our president. I would add too, the name of Stacey Abrams in her stellar work in her home state of Georgia making it possible for many more people to vote.  And this, friends, Brooks reminded us, came from a group of people whom white folk have so abused for far too long.  Finally, David Brooks reminded us of the words of another, “where there is gratitude, joy cannot be far behind. “

   In closing then, as Amanda Gorman again said so well, [our] nation isn’t broken, but simply unfinished…there is always light.  If only we are brave enough to see it. If only we are brave enough to be it.”  My friends, this is our call today in present-day prophets and in the words of Jesus; who often reminded us that, “he was the light of the world” and that we must be too! We are being called—here and now, my friends—every day of our lives! Amen? Amen!