Dear Friends, sorry for the lateness of today’s homily, but I was part of a celebration in Rochester to welcome 7 new Cojourners–lay associates with the Franciscan Sisters there. One of the 7, I had the privilege to mentor. So, a bit late today…
My friends, as I said in the bulletin this week, Respect Life Sunday gathers together ALL life and if it doesn’t, then it should! If truth be told though, most of us would have to admit that when we hear the title, “Respect Life Sunday,” we think of the unborn. Now, not that we shouldn’t go there in our thinking, but our Christian life really calls us to more—so much more.
Our brother Jesus gives us two fine examples in today’s Gospel: (1) He is addressing the cultural view of divorce and the place of women in this less than equal arrangement. (2) Jesus is speaking of the place of children in his culture and simply says, and I paraphrase, you can’t be part of me and a greater life, beyond this world unless you become like little children. Let’s look at these two, because both are so about, “respecting life.”
First is the example of women: Jesus is not addressing, “divorce,” because of law, but because of love. This reading is not about a “black and white” ruling with no exceptions but was in response to the hypocrisy of the men asking him the question.
We all know from other readings and other homilies that I have shared, that women had no place in the society in which Jesus was a part, unless they were the “property” of some man, i.e., a father, or a husband. If these entities weren’t around, in the case of death of one or the other, or both, an adult brother or son, might take the woman in.
So, in the case of a potential divorce from an abusive husband, the woman would think twice or more about it, and in most cases, do nothing. Whereas the man in the same situation certainly had more power. In fact, Jesus’ purpose here in discussing divorce is to raise up the fact that men, having all the power in their society, could stipulate as cause, “Inadequacy in the Wife,” when what he might really want is someone, younger and more pleasing in whatever way, and the woman could really do nothing about it.
Then there is the case of children, who just like women, had no power in their society. Imagine the disbelief within the community to hear Jesus say, “Unless you become like little children,” you can’t be part of the greater life that I have come to offer.
So, what might Jesus be saying here? “Becoming like children,” certainly would have to include a purity of heart—a truthfulness of feeling and expression, a sense of wonder of all that is about us in our world. We have all had those times when children express the unadulterated truth about something that causes us to stop in our tracks and proclaim, “Out of the mouths of babes!”
This is what Jesus seems to be asking of his, “sisters and brothers” in the flesh—that we would respect ourselves, others, and act accordingly in our lives. Our living is not just for ourselves, but indeed, for others, and it does matter that when we are claiming, “our freedom,” we are not stepping on others’ freedom.
Jesus was sent by the Creator, as spoken of today in the second reading from Hebrews, to show us that we are all, mightily loved and it seemed that the only way we could really know that was through the “expressed” example of One, sent by the Creator for that very purpose. Jesus, in other words, is such a fine example of one who truly, “respected” all of created life.
October is also the month when we celebrate a “Jesus-like” figure (October 4th) who probably, more than any other human who has lived, showed us Jesus’ face in time. Francis of Assisi is loved by many Catholics and others around the world for the simplicity of his lifestyle—a childlikeness that saw people and all of creation with joy, naming each as his, “sister and brother.”
In the beginning of this homily, I spoke of the fact that, Respect Life Sunday is about more than, life in the womb, and went on to address how, in the Gospel Jesus speaks of the plight of women and children in his time. Now, as we have said many times before, we don’t read the Scriptures as “nice stories” that have nothing to say to our present day.
With that in mind, I lift up the fact that so many have lauded Pope Francis’ encyclical, Laudato Si and rightly so. His beautiful words speak to the fact, perhaps wish, that all are included in God’s love, people, and all of creation. I, as a woman do though, still await the day that Francis can truly act on his beautiful, inclusive words, and include women in all levels of Church governance and full ministry at the altar as priests.
Interestingly, Francis is remembered for his very open comment when asked about the actions of gay and lesbian folks— “Who am I to judge?” Who indeed, except for where women are concerned? Having said that though, Francis seems to be back-pedaling even with gay and lesbian folk in that he refuses to allow priests to bless their unions, naming them, as “sin.”
Jesus, I believe, would be very pleased with the reading from Genesis, chosen for today and rewritten by the Priests for Equality, source of all our readings here at All Are One, because of how they have opened up this reading to include more than just heterosexual relationships.
It is interesting to note that in their translation of this text, we don’t have, “genders” until after the “earth creature” is put to sleep. Additionally, the derivation of the word, “a-dam” is, “earth creature” and not a name, “Adam” for the male creature created by the male God. And when “genders” are introduced, we see that each is given a choice, which indicates that there could be another choice as well.
It is this sensitive writing that finally opens up this Scripture for our gay brothers and sisters, for truly, “It is not good for the “earth creature” to be alone.”
So, my friends, bringing together all these thoughts and readings, we could say that the theme within this Respect Life Sunday is really about, “relationships” and how we deal with our world. Not only must we respect life in its beginnings, but all through life—to the very end.
We must make sure that we respect life in the hungry, the poor, the uneducated, the homeless, those who are lonely, those persecuted for the color of their skin, their gender, whom they love, those seeking asylum and so on, doing our part to make these situations better.
We also cannot live our lives from the standpoint of who has “the power,” but must be open to sharing all that we have. This still tends to be a very patriarchal world in Church, for sure, but in State too. Women must operate out of a whole different set of rules than men do.
In Church this is all too obvious, and I have already lifted up this truth in today’s homily. In State, women still lag behind men in comparable pay for comparable work. Across the professions, women make 84% of what men do and at this rate they would have to work 42 days more to be equal to men in wages. And colored women and those of other nationalities have even lower percentages of equality to men with regard to wages. Over the 25 years that I have tracked this inequality—women have made gains. My question is, “Why has it taken so long,” if we truly, “respect” life?
Regardless of whether you like Hilary Clinton, when she ran for president in 2016, it was clear that she was held to a different standard than the man she ran against, or we might say, any man she would have challenged. Rather than lifting up her lifetime of earned credentials for that position, news commentators often spoke about what she was wearing or discounted her for the “sins” of her husband.
Hillary’s part to play in breaking, “the glass ceiling” seems to have been to shine a bright light on this kind of discrimination so as to make it easier for up-coming women who want to serve our country.
Ah, yes, Respect Life Sunday—we should indeed respect life, but in all it’s many-faceted ways! Amen? Amen!