Homily – 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time

   My friends, I would laugh, if it weren’t so sad that Christians, in our world number 2.2 billion, Muslims 1.9 billion, and Jews 15 million, and yet, there is so much inequality in our world of nearly 8 billion people.  If we look at today’s Scriptures, this inequality really should not be present if we Christians are walking in our brother Jesus’ footsteps.  Jews and Muslims too, have like religious texts challenging them toward basic goodness in life. 

   The prophet Jeremiah in today’s 1st reading speaks of seeking justice, of being humble, speaking the truth, of a people who is indeed “holy.”  Being “humble,” in my mind, means knowing who we are, and who we are not.  Seeking “justice” is quite self-explanatory, but just in case, I would say it is giving everyone, and I do mean, “everyone” a fair shake in this world.  Being “holy” is perhaps a “catchall” for all of the above. 

   In addition, Jeremiah encourages the people to basically [pastor and care for] their flocks.  With all that he says here, I think we have to assume that he means the “pastoring” should extend to people as well as animals.  Present day hierarchy should heed this message. 

   A present-day example seems appropriate.  It has been suggested that the All Are One Catholic community reach out to the new bishop of the Winona/Rochester Diocese, Robert Baron, as he hasn’t yet reached out to us, which would be the “pastoral” thing for him to do.  Given that, our board reached out to him the end of November 2022 via regular mail.  To this day, we have not received any response at all—not very pastoral of him. 

   Wanting to assume the best of this new, “shepherd,” who responded initially upon receiving this appointment to our diocese, that he was happy for the opportunity of, as Pope Francis teaches, being a shepherd with the smell of the sheep “on him,” we checked with the Pastoral Center in Winona to see if our letter had even arrived. We were basically told that this bishop doesn’t respond to letters, and that the best way to get a “meeting” was to go to the website and ask for same, and that we would hear if he accepted our invitation in 3-5 weeks!  Sigh! Not very pastoral I would say. 

   Continuing on then with today’s Scriptures, the 2nd reading from First Corinthians has Paul saying that “those without anything in this world have been chosen to reduce to nothing those who were something.”  Psalm 146 and the gospel selection from Matthew today mirror each other in content as, “the poor in spirit” are lifted up in both. 

   Jesus calls these “poor” those who are, “sorrowing, lonely, who are single-hearted, who show mercy, and who are persecuted for holiness sake,” the ones who, “will be filled.”  And the psalmist concurs that our God will, “give food to the hungry, sight to the blind, will protect strangers, and raise up those bowed down.”  So, it would seem that the needy are, or will be, taken care of. Right?

   My friends, I am always called back to Jesus’ words before he left us physically, “You will do greater things than I…” This would seem to say that, we are called to continue his work!  So if we ever feel like there are so many things wrong in our world, that nothing ever gets better, perhaps we have to check and see what we are in fact doing to better the situation. 

   As you know, I was asked to give the homily last Sunday at the Unitarian Service and I was graced in the Q and A afterward to be able to update what I  say in future about the “Golden Rule” –of doing to others what I too would want.  The questioner said that he thought the Golden Rule needed to be updated because it may very well be true that what I want done and need is not what someone else might need and want.  I thanked him for this fine-tuning of an old and trusted rule, which just goes to show how everyone’s voice is needed and shouldn’t be discounted!

   This reminds me of a piece I read several years back when the Women’s March on Washington happened the day after the former president was inaugurated.  In this piece, a woman was quoted as saying that she, personally, did not see a need for the Women’s March and another woman, took her on, basically saying, you know, I’m probably a lot like you—I have everything I need, secure home, food, car, the luxury of stopping for a [$6] latte at [my] favorite coffee shop, and so on. She then said that she was marching for all those who couldn’t march and who fall far below what is needed to live comfortably and without fear, especially now, under an administration that plans to gut many of the programs that raise subsistence living above poverty level as well as social programs that protect women and children from violence in their own homes.”

   The present-day news calls me to lift up another example: Minnesota Public Radio had a speaker this past week who mentioned that the new  House of Representatives in Washington, wants to do away with the IRS, replacing it with a 30% across the board sales tax! And we know who that would benefit—certainly not the poor! 

   Friends, whether we live by a golden rule that basically says that, “all the good I want for myself, I want in turn for others,” or Jesus’ words, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” we are called to live beyond our own personal needs and, throughout our lifetimes, we have heard many people affirm this thinking in both Church and State.

   One of my personal [s]heroes in this regard is, Eleanor Roosevelt. In 1934, she had this to say:

          “To deny any part of a population the opportunities for more enjoyment in life, for higher aspirations is a menace to the nation as a whole.  There has been too much concentrating wealth, and even if it means that some of us have got to learn to be a little more unselfish about sharing what we have…I think the day of selfishness is over; the day of really working together has come…all of us, regardless of race or creed or color.  We must wipe out any feeling…of intolerance, of belief that any one group can go forward alone.  We all go ahead together, or we go down together.”

   Wise words that could have been written today.  Amen? Amen!