My friends, as I said in the bulletin, this week’s readings are all about being, “prophets,” here and now! Prophesy is the work of us all—followers of our brother, Jesus. We can’t wait for someone else to do this great work but must see the work of speaking truth-to-power, Church or State, to any and all who are dealing out injustice in this world, as our own.
Additionally, to be clearer; we can’t see the work of the prophet as an extraordinary, once, or twice in a lifetime event, but for the true believer in Jesus, the Christ, closer to, an everyday event. In other words, the ability and strength to be a prophet comes with our confirmations and should be practiced whenever the need arises. Further, we must always be ready!
James, always short and to the point was and is truly acting in the role of the prophet in today’s 2nd reading. He was taking issue with the rich who apparently saw no one’s needs, except for their own and says definitively: “Weep and howl for the miseries that are coming to you.” Whether “the miseries” come in this life or the next, he doesn’t say. My take would be that one’s life will always go better, be happier when it is shared with others. The top 1% in our country are at present being asked to pay their fair share in taxes to support those with so much less. Unfortunately, many are objecting!
Eldad and Medad, in the 1st reading today from Numbers were ready when the Spirit overshadowed them, calling them to preach what they had heard. We see the interesting “dilemma” that arises for the people that Moses had gathered for God to share the Spirit with. Hearing that two other elders were preaching, who hadn’t been part of their select group, Joshua objects. Moses needs to remind him and the others, that they haven’t been chosen to preach for themselves, or for Moses, but that the gift to preach, is given for the benefit of others. Moses tells them— “If only all of God’s people were prophets!”
Too many times my friends, we shy away from speaking the words of justice for all—love, care, and concern for the downtrodden, a place at the table where all are welcome, because we have our eyes on what is not the most important issue—following protocol, the law—whatever it might be.
This failure to do what God is calling forth from us reminds me of my early days in Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE)—training to become a chaplain. A wonderful supervisor, mentor, and friend, Southern Baptist minister, Mark Hart, in my training program gave me some fine advice during a time when I was grieving the fact that the Catholic church would not affirm me, or any women as called by God to minister to God’s people at the altar.
Mark said to me one day when we were discussing this, “Kathy, you don’t need anyone’s permission, i.e., the Catholic hierarchy, to do what God is calling you to do!” I believe today that such affirming words as this enabled me 15 years later, after the fact, to pursue ordination to the priesthood within the Roman Catholic Womenpriests because the call was about so much more than a church law that said that I couldn’t! So, for me, there was never any fear of what I might lose by saying, “yes” to God.
Jesus, our brother, had to deal with this same issue that Moses had, with his apostles objecting to others outside their select group of believers preaching what the Spirit had given them. Jesus simply says, “If they aren’t against us, then they are with us!” Jesus is always widening the circle, not making it smaller!
My good friend and soulmate from my convent days, Mary Ann Sinclair, has said of it, “The road is wide!” In other words, there are many ways to God, and we should never discourage any of them. Mary Ann is also a fine artist and made for me a wall hanging to proclaim this very concept. (For those reading this on-line, you can go to our website, http://www.allareonechurch.org to view this hanging). For those in front of me, that hanging is behind me. Because the “road is [indeed] wide,” my friends, our community, All Are One is open to Catholics, yes, but to all other faith backgrounds as well, who want to gather and pray with us. That is also why I open the homily time to all of you because I realize that the wisdom of the Spirit comes to each of us—me, as well as you.
So, does this kind of thinking simplify our lives? No, it doesn’t, but it does make life, incredibly more rich. Three years ago, when I preached on these Scriptures, I included the wisdom of a writer for the National Catholic Reporter, (NCR), Miriam Williams, and her advice bears repeating:
In a piece entitled, A Strong Faith Can Handle the Test of Startling Questions, she is responding primarily to religious evangelicals and other conservatives who want to have their faith all laid out for them—do this, do that and you’re saved! Williams writes that [she] “believes a strong faith can handle the test of ‘tough meat’ (my apologies to my vegetarian friends) when it comes in the form of startling questions.
What if God sees nothing wrong with women delivering the Gospel? What if homosexuality isn’t a sin? What if it is, but God has enough grace to cover it? What if the Bible is literary, but not literal?” She goes on, “I chew, I listen for God in the bites. I digest. I am energized and satisfied, even as I wonder how much longer so many people will feel full on theology that starves them.”
My friends, our lives as Jesus’ followers call us “to go deeper” as mystic, Hildegard of Bingen is known for encouraging. We must move beyond the political, the seemingly religious, the pious, the law, in all its coldness and respond from our hearts as Jesus did. We must look for the truth in these troubling times, not in rhetoric, but in actions of goodness, kindness, compassion—devoid of arrogance and self-centeredness—deep enough to realize that when I look into the face of another, suffering due to something that I believe or have done; I can see my own face, and in all of that, the face of God.
Being “prophets” my friends in a world so big and so diverse—so seemingly more divided than any time that I can remember in my 71 years, calls for us to be big-hearted people. People are across the board with political, religious, and cultural views, but at the end of the day, the faith of any of us, as humans, does call us to simply do the “loving thing” –that is bigger than whether we agree politically, religiously, or in any other way.
A personal example came to me, fresh and open as I wrote this homily. I have three brothers, all followers of the former president, so you know that we do not agree on much politically. None of them came to my ordination, so not much in common religiously, either. But just this week, one brother’s oldest daughter tested positive for COVID, unvaccinated, and by week’s end, had to be taken to the E.R. with low oxygen levels. Luckily, my brother and his wife are vaccinated, but could not convince their three children and spouses to do so. Maybe now, that may change.
So, even though this angers me, because it didn’t need to happen, my response can’t be a “political” one, but a “heart” one. How as a parent would I feel? What would I as a parent in that situation need to hear? Love, of course!
As we struggle friends to live as Jesus did, in our world; we realize, as a friend reminded me recently—love is always, the hardest lesson. Our brother Jesus minces no words in today’s gospel when he addresses leading others astray— “better to have a millstone hung around your neck and thrown into the sea” [!]
All this can at times sound so hard to do, but what gives me hope and strength each day is the knowledge that Jesus always has my back— “I will be with you all days…,” he said. Amen? Amen!