Homily – 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time

As someone said to me the other day, “I can’t believe that I will soon be turning the calendar to August 1st!  I many times feel that way when I get to the last day of the week in my pill minder—where did the week go to?!  And in conjunction with this question must always come the next one for us followers of our brother, Jesus— “Have we been true followers—made a difference in our world, for the better?”  In other, more distinct words, have we shown mercy, understanding—been just in our dealings with others—in short, have we done the loving thing when we had the opportunity?

   This walk with Jesus will every day call us to our best.  It will every day ask us to be true students and observers of how Jesus was in his world, and model that—if we claim to be, “Christians.” 

   Paul tells the Ephesians in today’s 2nd reading, “You must stop living the kind of life the world lives” [!]   Now, if the world, our world, in its people, is about being, “our best selves,”—watching out for the good of all, not just what is best for us, as individuals, that is one thing, but even a cursory look at our world says that this is not the case and calls us, “to be more,” even if we must face our world alone.

   Let’s take that cursory look. The preliminary hearings of the Congressional Special Committee charged with getting to the truth about the January 6, 2021, insurrection at the Capitol in Washington began this week. Who was behind it? Why was this event possible? What can be done going forward to see that this kind of “near takeover” of our democracy never happens again? All these questions need to be answered and this bi-partisan committee promised the four police officers who testified before them this past week that indeed, they will get the answers! 

   Now, as is always the case in Washington when lawmakers are trying to do the right thing— “game-playing,” rather than “truth-seeking” seems to be part of what goes on unfortunately. But that kind of behavior cannot dissuade us in our attempts at being our best. I know that many of us called our Representatives and challenged them to do the right thing! 

   For those who did listen to the heartfelt stories of both the Capitol and the Washington police members testifying, one could hardly hear these stories without becoming very emotionally involved in the truth that each of them laid out. One officer stated that with all his training and experience in war zones, especially, Afghanistan, none of that prepared him for what he experienced on January 6th from supposed “fellow citizens”—the violence, the name-calling and outright, brutality, and according to this mob, they were doing it in the name of our flag!

   One plain-clothes officer in Washington, said he put on his uniform that day to protect the democratic process and his fellow officers as well as the senators and representatives from what this mob wanted to do to these members on both sides of the isle if they could get in and he expressed anger at this Congressional body for not doing something sooner to get to the bottom of this assault on our democracy when his life was threatened that day to protect them! 

   In our first reading today, we heard a common theme of humanity in the face of trouble—the compunction to see and remember only what is going on at present. We humans tend to get wrapped up in, “What is in our face,” so to speak—we easily forget what has been or what might be, what has gone on before and seem to get stuck in what is right before us. Now while this is understandable, it certainly isn’t the best that we, as humans are capable of.

  The Israelites, according to Old Testament Scriptures have been saved from continued slavery by a God who loves them. In their freedom, in the midst of physical hunger in the desert, their memories seem short—and unable to believe that the God who saved them, in time, would continue that, “saving care” going forward.  Does that description sound true of us at times?  Do we believe in God when life seems to be going well, but not so much when the tides seem to turn? 

   I visit a woman on a regular basis, giving spiritual support, who from time to time feels, “plagued” by “evil spirits.”  When we pray together, I encourage her to use the name of Jesus—ask him to give her the strength she needs, as there is great strength in that name and that helps in the present, but she often forgets. 

   The gospel of John this week juxtaposes physical versus spiritual, “bread.”  Jesus comments to those, “who are looking for him,” that they aren’t doing so, because they have been enlightened in any way, but just because they have been filled with physical food and want more.  They are simply living in the present—moment to moment.

   Each of the above examples call us to trust and have faith in a God who loves us beyond all imagining and to get past the surface, perhaps, one-time connection to this same God and begin, more and more, to trust that our God is in for the long haul with us.  Our God works through our lives to always inspire us through everyday encounters and circumstances of our days to see the grander, larger scope of what may be beyond this, “surface moment.”  Jesus is asking not just that we feed our bodies, but that we recognize that our minds and spirits need nourishment too.  It is then, when we realize that our one, beautiful life is not, just about us—what is good for me, but about all others who share the planet with us, that we can begin to be, “bread for our world.”  

   We all received a wonderful example of someone being, “bread for the world” this past week through the person of Simone Biles, Olympic gymnast superstar, who, realizing the totality these games were placing on her mental health, withdrew from the immediate competition, so as to protect herself, but also for the good of her team.  She realized she wasn’t performing at her best for herself or for them. 

   In a very public way, while the world was watching, her excellence of character and strength as a person shown through to address something more important than coming in, “gold” or “silver.”  Many in this world who struggle with depression and other forms of mental illness, have an advocate in Simone and now know that it is OK to say when you are hurting and need help.

   With regard to Simone Biles and her acts of courage this past week, it is good to remember the abuse she suffered as a young girl at the hands of her medical trainer, Dr. Larry Nassar.  She and over 100 young women and girls were taken advantage of, and they all must live with what was done to them and try to heal and they must do this every day of their lives. 

   In light of the remembrance of this story concerning Simone Biles, Robert and I watched again, the film, SPOTLIGHT, the true story of investigative reporting done by the Boston Globe in 2002 of the scope of sexual abuse of minors by Catholic priests and its ultimate coverup. What seems to be a question on the minds of so many is how do people, presumably good people, committed seemingly to good through their professional lives, commit so much harm in our world?  Unlike a local bishop once said, “Young [people] heal,” the truth of the matter is that, no, they don’t heal and some never get over it!

   Someone said within the context of the SPOTLIGHT film— “If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to abuse one.”  The abuse, whether among young girls or young boys, in Church or in the general public happens because we have not paid attention or gotten beneath surface events which many times are about power and control, plain and simple. 

   Our walk with Jesus calls us to our best, looking out for what is good for me as a person, but also about all others. We may not always be able to fix a problem, but we have to care that it exists.  Today’s readings are about seeing more than meets the eye—for each of us—that is truly what, “being bread” for our world is all about.

Amen? Amen!