My friends, this Sunday’s homily comes out of my heart that is deeply saddened as I know many of your hearts are as well over our brother, Michael, who lies in wait in a coma in the hospital in Lacrosse—healing, we hope, but also grieving too over the fact that he may not be able to come back to us, as we have known him. Time will tell; but for now, we hold onto hope because we simply don’t know.
Our Scriptures for this Sunday are, amazingly, about hope and trust. The prophet Jeremiah gives us the following: [Those who turn away from God,] “are like a bush in the desert with no hope,” and, “blessed are those who put their trust in God, with God for their hope.”
The psalmist too, in Psalm 1 proclaims, “Happy are those who hope in God.” And additionally, our brother in faith, Paul, in the 2nd reading from Corinthians, says it again, “our hope is in Christ.”
Now Paul, of course, is speaking about the Resurrection of our brother Jesus and because of his rising to a new and inexplicably, wonderful life; we too have that assurance for ourselves, that one day, we will experience this new life. And that is important on a very personal level as we contemplate the fragileness of human life as we know it, here and now.
Our gospel today from Luke takes all of this a step further as we read from the Beatitudes, “Blessed are you who are weeping…you will laugh.”
Jeremiah seems to be comparing the human heart and the emotions contained within to “trusting in God,” saying that, “to trust in God,” is the best thing. I would say that “trust” in someone, God, or another, doesn’t come out of nowhere. We come “to trust” because we have seen something else first and I would suggest that “something else” is “love” or at least, “caring.” Love, as we know, is usually “paired” with the heart, as the source of this wonderful, human emotion, at its best. Now, granted, the word, “love” has been misused throughout time and let us be clear, the love that I am speaking of here doesn’t stem from, as Jeremiah seems to suggest, “selfishness,” but from “a deep caring” for the other.
The author of many spiritual books, Cynthia Bourgeault, has said that the “heart” is about, “seeing the Holy in all that is.” This next week, we celebrate “Valentine’s Day” –a day even though, majorly commercialized, is intended, at its best, to be a day that we let those who we truly care about, know that they are truly loved.
I began this homily sharing my sadness over our brother Michael’s accident and one of you shared with me this past week that on the day that he was injured, he was about two kind acts, taking the food route for Home Delivered Meals as a substitute for another, and bringing meals to folks in need. I think we all would agree, he was about “love” that day.
When speaking about “true love” –in its best sense, we talk about, “the heart being broken open.” This is to say, that the center of emotional response really is, the heart. We never talk about “the head” in this way.
In the best sense my friends, we want “hearts that can break open” because that means that, as Jesus asked, our hearts would be of “flesh” and not “stone.” I believe we can all understand the meaning that Jesus intended—that the people, and the world that we meet each day could, as Bourgeault said, be seen and treated as “Holy” –to be respected and cared for.
This past week—a lovely piece came through my Face Book feed entitled, “We Are the World” –a musical rendition done by the Clarksville Elementary School children. To see the answer to all that may be wrong with our world so simply and beautifully put by children, is to “break open the hearts” of those who listen to it –causing us all to realize that, if we have the will, we can make this world good for all.
Love can be illusive –we may not always know if we are acting out of love, but as Jesus said, “We will know by our actions” –anything that brings good and not bad, is surely, at its base, about love.
I always think of Tevye’s question to his wife, Golda in Fiddler on the Roof: “Do you love me?” Golda goes through a series of tasks that she has done for him for 25 years; cleaning his house, preparing his food, giving him children and so on. He persists, “But Golda, do you love me?” To which she finally says—that basically, doing all that, “I guess I do!”
Jesus, in many ways and in many places talked about love and its good affects in our lives, and how in fact we would know it when we saw it. He talked about it in common terms so that people would be very clear on what love was. He used parables –stories about peoples’ everyday lives –that of the Good Shepherd, the Good Samaritan, the Prodigal and so on—each and all, stories of love.
If we look closely at Jesus’ short life among us, we can only truly understand the meaning of his life through the “eyes of love.” Any other explanation really makes no sense. Unfortunately, the standard belief for many, if not all of us growing up, was about a vengeful, heartless Father-figure who needed to be appeased for the failings of humankind. Think of how much more wonderful it is to imagine a God who loves created life so much so as to send Jesus to basically show us how to live and to ultimately, bring us home.
So my friends, bringing us full circle, this week’s readings call us to hope and trust in a God who loves us immeasurably –who only wants good for us and not bad. This same God, while not changing what life brings, necessarily, is always “walking with us,” giving us the strength and comfort that we need.
This past week, as we have prayed for one of our own, Michael, his daughter Becky has told me she has felt the strength of all of those prayers. Again, we recall our loving God’s words today – “Blessed are you who are weeping. You will laugh.”
Friends, we are called today to trust and hope and love our God who has first trusted, hoped and loved us—in Jesus. Jesus did his piece, “broke open” his heart for us and now we are asked to do the same for others. Amen? Amen!