Homily – 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time

My friends, we are into a new month, February, and the chosen Scriptures since Christmas have not ceased to speak about, “light” and the light we are to be in our world.  Isaiah begins the message showing us what, “shining our light” will look like: share your bread, shelter the homeless-poor, clothe the naked and so on. 

   Isaiah goes on to say that, “your integrity will go before you and the glory of God, behind.”  So, in other words, our actions do speak to the persons that we are!  And the prophet continues… “if you do these things, “light will rise for you in the darkness,” almost as if to say, “the good we do will come back to us!” 

   It could be said, because we follow our brother, Jesus, we are part of a very, very large family that he cares for—us included! You will recall that when Jesus graced our earth he said, “I will no longer call you “servants,” but “friends” and this means that our relationship with our God will always go through the “heart” first—he showed us that so many times through his own human life. 

   I often lift up for each of us the balance that we must try to establish in our lives, between “law and love.”  Those who would live by the letter of the law and that practice be devoid of love, have somehow, simply missed the point of Jesus’ whole presence on earth. 

   Recently at Mass, we used the gospel message of the Beatitudes—blessed are the poor, gentle, those who mourn, are merciful, are pure in heart, who are persecuted and who are peacemakers—these are the ones Jesus wanted to make sure we, as his followers, didn’t overlook—didn’t forget.  This Sermon on the Mount says nothing about lifting up the rich and well-off, those with power and control, who unfortunately often use it selfishly—to advance themselves personally. 

   Jesus attempted, often, in his earthly life to get this message across—recall the story of the rich man with the huge harvest who in response said, “I will build bigger barns!” That very night Jesus said, “ his life was asked of him!”

   I think many of us have been disillusioned these past several years to hear elected officials spouting rhetoric that is clearly about uplifting those already enjoying material wealth and comfort and taking away the helps that would clearly give those in need a hand up in life.  And worse yet is the rhetoric about lifting up the speaker and advancing their career.  What part of the oath that they take is about any of this?

   Just this week, Minnesota lost a fine, former politician in Dave Durenberger, and I believe he was a fine politician because he was first and foremost, a fine human being, who tried to live out his “humanity” in his political life as well.  Those who eulogized him added that he also, lived by “his faith.”  I always enjoyed writing to him as our former U.S. Senator, because as a Republican he was a middle-of-the-road kind of guy and really tried to see both sides of an issue.  This is something we all need to try and do. 

   Today’s office-holders, to some extent seem to be more adversarial toward each other, rather than working across the aisle to do what is best for the greatest amount of the people.  Dave Durenberger was someone who earnestly tried to do what was best for most of the people. 

   In today’s gospel, Matthew shares Jesus’ words, “You light a lamp, set in on a stand where it gives light to all in the house.” Keeping this Scripture in mind, I was shocked to hear that our present state senator, who in the past has been unable to vote positively for any issue that uplifted the down-trodden, did, this past week, propose a bill to make on-line horse-race betting in our state legal! Part of his explanation as to the “goodness” of this bill was that now, Minnesota, instead of Iowa would get the revenue. 

   Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians today speaks to the issue of how hard it can be at times to do the right thing.  He tells us not to rest on our “human wisdom,” but instead, “on the power of God, [in] the Spirit.” 

   Writers, theologians and the like—those who have been able to “break out of the box” in their ministry, have encouraged us to claim the power and strength of the Spirit that Paul talks about.  One such individual is Jim Wallis, creator and editor of Sojourner magazine.  In his book, Christ in Crisis: Why We Need to Reclaim Jesus, he minces no words:

Preachers should preach ever more prophetically, teachers should teach formation and not just information, writers should write ever more honestly, lawyers should fight courageously for those who need their help, [and] reporters should report the facts ever more diligently and speak truth to power regardless of what the powers think about that.” 

And he goes on through the arts—that artists would inspire, that those who know about climate change, would work for that, those concerned about a living wage, work for that—that human rights, voting rights, refugee and immigrant rights, LGBTQ+ rights, and women’s rights would all be advocated for and advanced. And he says, we should all do this, without fear because the Spirit will guide us.

   So my friends, all the Scripture passages today call for more from us than the status-quo—Christians, that is, true Christians, cannot be bystanders.  Jesus expects the best from each of us, and that means that we must respond each time we see an injustice in our world.  Sometimes we will be able to physically lend a hand to help, sometimes we can give financially to a group who with our gift can physically do the labor. 

   Our All Are One Catholic community received a very gracious THANK YOU this week from our local Habitat for Humanity.  Amanda Hedlund, the director shared that two families received new houses and 40 more families had improvements made to their homes through the support we and others gave to them financially this year. 

   Sometimes our advocacy can be through letter/postcard writing/calls to our senators and representatives.  The only thing we can’t do when we see injustice and suffering in our world is NOTHING! It should in fact, upset us when we see sisters and brothers, they who are abused and mistreated in our world.  And when it seems we can’t make change come about, then we need to implore the Spirit to show us a way. 

   Living in our world today calls us Christians to be, “tenderhearted.”  The psalmist speaks of, generosity, mercy, and virtuous living” — ways that truly show that our hearts are engaged. 

   I think many of us Christians become disillusioned at times with hierarchy who simply won’t act, proclaiming, ad nauseum, “that the Church moves slowly.” I would say, if you can’t get things done, or won’t, then stand aside, or enlist the help of women, of the laity, for the work that is so needed.

   Isaiah prophetically says in today’s 1st reading, “God hears our cries, and will answer.”  We will have to present ourselves though, as the conduit through which God can work! Paul says, that even in fear, a place that, from time-to-time, we all live, we are strong, [always] in the Spirit. 

   Our brother Jesus, in today’s gospel, compares us again, to “light” set on a lampstand, to give light to the whole house.”  To that image, he adds, “salt,” an image no doubt taken more seriously by those first hearers of the Word, due to the need of its preserving qualities in the absence of refrigeration.

   Even so, the message of Jesus can’t be missed, or dismissed—we need to realize that we are called to truly make a difference in our professed lives as his followers. We are to “show the way,” in dark times, we are to “preserve” life and health, in all ways.  Let it not be said of us one day, that our lives mattered little, that nothing changed for the better because we had lived!  Amen? Amen!