My friends, once again this homily was written with Michael Maher in “my rear-view mirror,” so to speak. His passing—his death, as one of you said to me, “makes me so very sad!” Yes! And yet, we know that life and death are a reality for each of us…In my past bereavement work, I have often said to families, “Our heads understand that, but it just takes a while longer for our hearts to catch up.” So, this is where we find ourselves today.
As I began work on this homily—I started with the Scriptures, as I always do, and I sought out some added wisdom, especially, for the first reading from Samuel. The story of David sparing Saul’s life is, Scripture scholar, Diane Bergan says, “a striking example of respect and forgiveness, of doing unto others what we would want them to do unto us,” as our brother Jesus teaches in today’s gospel from Luke.
Jesus’ examples of “turning the other cheek,” giving repeatedly, not only the top garment, but our inner garment too to those who would ask, spells out quite well the extent to which we must consider sharing with others.
I think that Jesus always made the point of carrying the example to the extreme because he knew of our human tendency to give less than we are capable of giving. The idea, I believe, in praying over Jesus’ message is to look for a balance in our lives that cares for ourselves, at least doesn’t leave us out, with enough left to do our share in raising others to a level of dignity that each person deserves.
Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians today, reminds us that we must not only model ourselves on the first human—Adam, but on the second human—Jesus. In other words, we must remember that we are comprised, each of us, of both human and spiritual tendencies; and blending the two; we can come, more and more, to image our brother, Jesus, the Christ.
Diane Bergant writes more on this golden rule of, “doing unto others as we would have them do unto us” by saying that sometimes our culture encourages us toward an opposing rule, that of, “doing unto others before they do unto us.” We all struggle within our lives—the body against the spirit, to treat others as we would want to be treated ourselves—it’s the journey each of us makes with our one, wonderful life.
These past two weeks, as our community has been “storming heaven” for Michael’s healing and through to his death on this past Wednesday, stories have been coming to me from all corners of this city and beyond about how people’s lives have been made better because of his “doing [for] others…” He didn’t do any of it because he expected a return, but simply because that was who he was and perhaps that is the way, we can carry on—by emulating those actions we saw as good in him, in our own lives. Our time has perhaps come to carry on for him.
Michael was an extremely gifted man—he excelled in archery, woodcarving, of which, Sophia, Feminine Face of God stands here in testament. He enjoyed cycling, kayaking, he was an educator, and in all these areas, he had a group of friends that he shared these pastimes with. He shared whenever asked and as another of you said, “The only time he said, ‘no’ was when he was already, otherwise occupied.”
So my friends, with regard to how we respond to our world and the people we encounter and associate with, as baptized followers of Jesus; we are always called to take the high road, never acting out of the human tendency “to do first” before it is “done to us,” but most assuredly, to do unto others as we would expect and want them to do unto us. Anything less is simply, not Christian, nor in the footsteps of our brother, Jesus, nor we might add, our brother Michael.
And as I stated earlier, this means keeping ourselves as part of the equation—it is never good or right to allow ourselves to be abused with the notion that this example of “turning the other cheek” is what Jesus wants us to do. Balance, always balance, respects the fact that our God loves me as well as all others. An alternative way to speak about the golden rule is to say, “Love your enemies, and love yourself.” It’s a package!
In conclusion then, I started today with some reflection on our brother and friend, Michael Maher—one who will be missed by us all because of the ways he touched the world that we all share. Sometimes after a loved one has died, there is the tendency to make more of them in death than they were in life. None of my sharing here today was to say that Michael was perfect—he had his faults as we all do, but I can say, in all honesty, that he never stopped trying to be his best—to stop caring about others and helping in the ways that he could. If that can be said of any of us after we are gone, we would, I believe, have succeeded in our one, wonderful life. Each of us as Paul basically says to us in today’s 2nd reading are of earth and of heaven—Michael is now of heaven. —Amen? Amen!