Homily – 30th Sunday in [Extra] Ordinary Time

Dear Friends, 

In my absence the past two weeks, Pastor Dick Dahl has been standing in for me and has given us two wonderful homilies to reflect upon. Look for them here in two separate postings. Thanks so much Dick–my gratitude! –Pastor Kathy


Thanks to an invitation from Jim Hanzel several months ago, I now meet with a small group of men every Wednesday morning to read and discuss the scripture readings for the coming weekend Mass. This past Wednesday when we talked about the implications of today’s Gospel, one of the men said, this is an interpretation you will not hear preached in any of the Catholic churches in town this Sunday. I said, well it will be preached in one of them—at All Are One.

So let’s consider this reading from today’s Gospel according to Luke. First of all, it only appears in Luke’s Gospel. Why did he think it so important to include it when Matthew and Mark did not? We may get a clue in the first verse. Until it was pointed out to me in our discussion Wednesday, I had not noticed that this passage does not begin with the words of Jesus, but rather with the words of Luke, namely, “He (Jesus) addressed this parable to those who were convinced of their own righteousness and despised everyone else.” After this the words of Jesus begin as indicated by quotation marks.

We must ask ourselves, “How do I fit in here?” We are given two people to compare ourselves to. The Pharisee was a religious man. He was educated and well versed in the Scriptures, including the words of Ben Sira which were read to us in today’s first reading. The Pharisee followed the advice of Ben Sira to keep the commandments. As he proudly professed to God, ‘I am not like others who are greedy, dishonest, adulterous.’  In fact, he went on to say not just what he did not do but what he did do. He fasted twice a week, paid tithes on all his income. In other words he even went beyond what the Law required. 

The other person was a tax collector. He did not collect taxes for the Jewish temple, but for the Roman government that was occupying Israel. Many people  despised him because he could be viewed as a traitor, one who made a living off helping the enemy. Furthermore, many tax collectors put their thumb on the scale as it were and took an extra share to pad their own pockets. 

This man, however, “stood off at a distance and would not even raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast and prayed, “O God, be merciful to me a sinner.”

Once again, where do we fit in? Some Catholics may think, “I oppose abortion and homosexuality, therefore I am pleasing to God.” Or some may think, “I avoid serious sins, I go to Mass every Sunday, and I contribute to the church and other charities. Thank God I am not like those who rarely come to Mass and especially those who don’t even believe in God.” Others yet may think, “There are a lot of bad people in the world. God, I thank you that I am not like them.”

Now, however, we hear Jesus’ words about the two men: “ I tell you the latter went home justified, not the former; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

What may have seemed clear upon first hearing this story may now seem less clear upon reflection. Why did Jesus not praise the Pharisee for his good works? Why exalt the tax collector whose behavior may indeed have left much to be desired?

I suggest that there are two lessons for us to chew over from this reading. First of all is out attitude toward ourselves.  Jesus is speaking to us about our attitudes, not our actions. His words reflect the perspective that we express in the prayer we say before Communion, “Lord, you make us worthy to receive you, and by your word, we are healed.”

In other words, avoiding sin, doing good works, participating in Mass and prayer all make sense when these acts are a response, a response of deep gratitude for the love and mercy God has first shown to us. But it isn’t what makes us worthy. God’s unconditional mercy and love, which we call Grace, does that. As important as our actions are, Jesus and Luke his evangelist are stressing the importance of our attitude. 

The second lesson this story calls us to consider is our attitude toward others. Despite all the good works the Pharisee did, he despised others and judged them to be inferior to himself. When put that bluntly, I think that most of us would recoil at the thought of doing so. However, when we step back and search our own actual attitudes, we may discover a similar tendency in ourselves. Just as the Pharisee had reasons to criticize the behavior of the tax collector, we find ourselves having good reasons to be critical of the attitudes and actions of those we don’t agree with—especially in politics today, but perhaps in other areas of life as well.

Like Ben Sira, Jesus again and again calls for justice and mercy in the treatment of the poor and less powerful people in our lives. But even when we do our best to follow his words, he warns us not to think we are any better than those we serve, but to view ourselves as blessed to be able to do what we can.

I end with a somewhat lengthy quote from a meditation Father Richard Rohr posted a week ago in which he shared the following story by Tim Shriver, a Chair of Special Olympics. Special Olympics, as you know,  works with many people whom our culture excludes or disregards. Through their eyes Tim has come to see God’s presence in every human being. As you hear Tim’s words, reflect if you stand in solidarity with any who exist “on the edge,” folks who have been excluded, and if you see those individuals through God’s eyes. 

Tim writes, “You cannot believe in or practice unitive consciousness as long as you exclude and marginalize others—whether it is women or people of different sexual orientations or people of religious or ethnic minorities or, in my experience, people with intellectual disabilities. My work,’ he says, “ is largely with and in support of people who have significant vulnerabilities because of intellectual disability. In many cultures these people are excluded and oppressed, though often unconsciously, even more so than other marginalized groups. . . . They are thought to be hopeless. Mostly they are ignored and forgotten.

Tim goes on, “For twenty years I have been mentored by these same people. Some might not be the best-spoken, the most articulate writers, the most celebrated thinkers, the fastest runners. And yet, despite all of that, I have met person after person who emanates a kind of radiant light. After a while, even the densest of us may have our eyes opened to that something which transcends all superficial distractions of disability: the unimaginable beauty of every person. That beauty is ours for the seeing if only we have the eyes to see, if only we pay attention.

Tim goes on, “I try to maintain those eyes as I engage in this work. At times I will pull myself out of whatever I’m doing and try to remember that I’m united with all that is. I give myself license to step away and reconnect. I fail mostly, but once in a while I succeed, and when I do, I feel like I am touching a “sweet spot” of wonder and peace. It enables me to be present to people in a way that I can communicate to them that I love them unconditionally. There are no conditions to our unity, to our oneness.

Finally, he concludes, “Many times I’ve watched, for instance, as a person with Down syndrome stands with a gold medal around her neck, arms raised high to a cheering crowd. I can’t look at that child, at that human being, without slipping out of dualistic thinking. Those moments are a kind of sacrament of unitive consciousness. They are “both-and” moments where shadow and light coexist in the same experience. . . . Divine energy shoots vertically through me like a force, and says, ‘See! Look! Pay attention to what is right in front of you! That is all you need to know!’”


 

Homily – 29th Weekend in [Extra] Ordinary Time

Clarissa Pinkola Estes, author of Women Who Run with the Wolves, is one of my favorite women writers for her ability to give women a voice in society.  She came into my life at a time when I was heading back to school to complete work for a master’s degree and she spoke to my heart.  When I read Women Who Run with the Wolves, I said, “Finally, someone has put into words what I have been thinking for so long!” And, it was especially poignant that it was a woman who said it!  In a nutshell, which is hard to do for this woman author; the over-reaching thought was that women do have minds, unique thoughts, experiences and urgings for life—it is in their DNA, and they do need to be listened to!

Throughout her literary career, Pinkola Estes has challenged her readers toward, “showing their souls”—a very Christian idea and one, I believe, Jesus would approve of.  In the seeming, mish-mash of readings for this weekend; we might wonder if there is a common theme and I would offer that “soul-showing” is part of it.

On reading the selection from Exodus, my first thought was to not include much on it due to the violent picture of God depicted there. Exegetes though, tell us that we should cut the writers of this text a break as they lived in a different time and culture and didn’t have the benefit of Jesus, as we do, to reflect on, regarding their actions toward Amalek.  As is often a good plan with Scriptures; we must go deeper for what is ultimately the nugget to take to heart.

The words of the psalmist today, “Our help is from God, who made heaven and earth,” seems an appropriate response to the Exodus reading.  In other words, our take-away really should be, that no matter what life brings, our God will be there for us!

If we were looking for an overall theme though for today’s readings, clearly, “persistence,” exegetes tell us, would be it. Back to the Exodus reading—we see that more than anything else, the Israelites are persistent in asking God for what was needed, as they perceived it.  The larger image for all of us is to persevere in prayer.

We see in Paul’s letter to Timothy that same persistence—we might say, perseverance, as he encourages his young disciple to preach the gospel, “when convenient and [more so] when inconvenient.”

And finally in Luke, Jesus encourages us to persevere in fighting for justice till we have it.  If someone like the unjust judge in today’s gospel, who clearly cares nothing for people or God, in his own words, will finally relent giving the woman what she asks for, simply to get rid of her, think of what God who loves us more than we can imagine, will do through persistent prayer.

So friends, as we think about persevering in prayer, preaching the Gospel and fighting for justice, till we have it, my earlier comments on “soul-showing” seem appropriate.  Our call as followers of Jesus our brother should move us beyond being idle by-standers—lamenting what is.  Hearing his message, deep in our souls should move us to action in our world that so needs us to show our souls—what it is in fact that we deeply care about.

At the risk of being political, which I don’t mean to be, I’d like to share a recent example that demonstrates this lack of “soul-showing.”  This happened at a recent town hall meeting with our national representative, Jim Hagedorn.  At one point, we challenged him to  consider that when he stands by, saying nothing about the abhorrent behavior of the president, on a number of issues, which he agrees, he does not support, he is in fact, saying that he condones it.  He acted surprised to know this!—that lack of saying something is perceived as, agreement.

One of my pet peeves, no matter the political party, is the absence of “soul-showing,”  “intestinal fortitude”—read, “guts,” as former principal of Cotter High School, here in Winona, Father Paul Nelson used to say, when it comes to anyone holding public office and refusing to speak out on a controversial topic for fear of not being re-elected!  In my mind, such a person is not worthy of the office, because they have no idea of what serving the people means!

There used to be a time in our country when congresspeople worked, “across the aisle,” doing what was best for the American people—while maybe not getting everything they each wanted, but getting something!  “Soul-showing,” I would say, in this regard, seems a thing of the past and we so need for it to return in people who ask to serve our country.

I heard a talk that Barack Obama gave a year ago as he was receiving an award wherein he appealed to our “better angels.” He went on to say that in our world, “working to make something “better, is good!”  Again, while it may not be everything that we want, if each party, in any dispute, gets something, “this is good!”  This, my friends, is an example of, “soul-showing.”  And again, not meaning to be political, this “soul-showing” stuff is beyond, “political”—this is the message of our brother Jesus, calling us to be our best selves!

To do nothing, until we can have everything we want, does not work, whether it is in Congress, the Church, or in our daily lives because it is simply ignorant of the human condition and selfish with regard to others and their needs.

The message of Jesus, my friends, calls us to so much more—to show our souls on a consistent basis.  In conclusion, I’d like to end as I began with some eloquent words from Clarissa Pinkola Estes that I’ve shared with you before, but bear a repeat as they are really a blueprint for our lives as followers of Jesus.

“There will always be times when you feel discouraged.  I too have felt despair many times in my life, but I do not keep a chair for it.  I will not entertain it.  It is not allowed to eat from my plate.  The reason is this: In my uttermost bones, I know something, as do you.  It is that there can be no despair when you remember why you came to earth, who you serve, and who sent you here.  The good words we say and the good deeds we do are not ours.  They are the words and deeds of the One who brought us here.”

My friends, I am not sure I could have said from my heart all that Clarissa Pinkola Estes said here from hers, but I know that I am mightily challenged by her words!  In that spirit then, in a world that needs each of us every day to persevere in good, truth and justice—basically, love, in broad strokes;  I invite us all to consider these final words from her:  “When a great ship is in harbor and moored, it is safe, there can be no doubt.  But that is not what great ships are built for!”  Amen? Amen!

Homily – 28th Sunday in [Extra] Ordinary Time

My friends, once again this week we are asked to look at the quality of “faith”—what it is and what it in fact, means in our lives.  The Scriptures for today, in two instances, tell us stories of people who believe, and more so, hope, for a cure from leprosy—Naaman, through the intercession of Elisha, the prophet and a Samaritan at the hands of our brother, Jesus.  And even though 10 lepers are cured; we will concentrate on the one that Jesus did—the one who came back to say, “thank you,” which tells us something, I think, about the virtue of gratitude.  And finally, in the letter to Timothy; we see the faith of Paul, who is in prison.

So first, we encounter Naaman, a non-Israelite, in the reading from Kings, cured by the prophet, through Naaman’s faith and then a Samaritan, along with nine others, cured by Jesus of a skin disease that made them outcasts in their own land—again, they were, as Jesus said, “Saved by their faith.”  So, it would seem, as we discussed last week—faith can do great things.

Because “faith” is taking center stage these past two weeks, many people are writing about it—one in particular, Jesuit musician, Dan Schutte. Dan speaks, in an article in the National Catholic Reporter, about his education, from little on with the School Sisters of Notre Dame and later with the Jesuits. He says that in both cases, he was challenged to, “not leave his brain at the door of the church,” so to speak, “but to think deeply about his Catholic faith and to not take everything at face value—[questioning], as a path toward a deeper and more authentic faith, to make his own, the teachings of the Church.” Sounds like a great description of faith for all of us!

Schutte goes on to give another description of faith that he gained, along the way from a priest, in a sermon during the Easter Season.  He didn’t include the priest’s name, but says that he has never forgotten what he had to say on the topic. “The opposite of faith is not doubt,” the unnamed priest said.  “The opposite of faith is certainty.”

Schutte continues, “In other words, when we are certain about something, we don’t need faith anymore.  Walking in faith, Schutte continues, sometimes takes work, not only of the heart, but the mind.  It’s often a daring, courageous journey with Jesus, the Risen One, at our side, guiding us with his Spirit,” he concludes.

I would like to lift up a couple of things that he said in this explanation.  Schutte talks about the “work” that “faith” sometimes is, and I think it is significant that he says, it is the work of not only the “heart, but the mind.”  The significant piece for me is that he started with, “the heart” and only secondly added, “the mind.”  In other words, faith is a “heart matter,” primarily, and we should always start there!  Starting with the mind seems to direct us to the “certainty” that the unnamed priest says, “is not faith.”

The second point that I’d like to call our attention to is the fact that, faith “is often a daring, courageous journey with Jesus.”  In other words, when it comes to faith—believing in things that we aren’t certain about; we need to keep our eyes on Jesus and “trust in the inspiration of his Spirit.”

It was this kind of faith and trust that carried Jesus throughout his life, which inspired Naaman, Paul and the Samaritan leper in the readings for today. And when we think about faith in our own lives, would we describe it as Dan Schutte came to understand it from teachers through the years?  I personally find great solace in knowing that faith isn’t something that I need to have “certainty” about.

When I think of the things that I have taken on faith in my life and probably will continue to, without complete assurance; I realize that it comes from a “deep knowing” in my heart, that something is so, that God wants me to do this.  Examples:  that I should enter the convent, that I should leave the convent, that I should marry Robert, that I should pursue ordination.

For me, it is about my relationship with Jesus and I dare say, if it weren’t for him, what he said and did in his earthly life; I would find belief in the God that the hierarchy gives us, at times, hard to take.

This reminds me of a scene from Franco Zefferelli’s film, Jesus of Nazareth.  This particular scene takes place after Jesus’ death.  Mary Magdalen has just come to share the news that, “Jesus is risen, that she has seen him!”  Of course, the men don’t believe her and she leaves in disgust.

The apostles go on to discuss the matter, rather heatedly and at one point, Thomas, who was known in Scriptures for doubting, questions Peter, “Do you believe her story?” Peter responds, “Yes, I do!” Thomas counters with, “How can you?!”  Peter responds simply, “Because he, [meaning Jesus] said so—that he would rise! And Peter continued, “I have always believed him!”

We can hardly object to what someone says they believe, but knowing a person, their credibility in other things; we come to trust in their assurance, “about things they cannot see,” which is the definition of faith. Now, of course this scene from Zefferelli’s film is not recorded in Scripture, but we can imagine such was part of the apostles’ deliberations in coming to believe all that Jesus said and ultimately, did.

So, my friends, my purpose here is not to “sew up faith,” as it were, because we know that is not possible. My purpose in fact is to challenge us to think ever more deeply about what our faith means—and further, what it calls us to do.

Jesus had a sense—a trust, that he was mightily loved by his Abba God, that he was sent on a mission of love and something about his trust in God’s love and care for him, allowed him to give to the final measure.

We see this same type of love in the love of earthly parents—their willingness to bring children into a world that they have no assurance will be a good place for them to grow up in, except for what they have experienced in their own lives.  This same type of love is present within anyone who chooses love over hate in our world, good over bad.

In conclusion then, no assurances, but faith will lead to some awesome places if we can let go of our need for certainty and our response to this new-found freedom is likely to be that of the one, returning leper—now cured—gratitude.  Amen? Amen!

 

Homily – 27th Sunday in [Extra] Ordinary Time

My friends, the operative word in today’s readings is “faith.” We probably all have some sort of definition in our heads and hearts of just what “faith” is.  It has been said, “Faith is belief in things that we cannot see.” In the letter to the Hebrews, not one of our chosen readings for today, it says, “Faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”  So, we might say that faith and hope are a team.

Many of us might say that it is “faith” that gets us through in our lives, whether we place that “faith” in God or in others in this world.  And usually, our faith has its source in something tangible that has happened in our lives.

If our faith is placed in God, it is based, no doubt on times when God has “been there” for us—we have felt a support perhaps beyond ourselves.  If our faith is placed in others, likewise, we have felt their support and love and can therefore believe that they have our best at heart.

Faith is a tenuous thing, whether it is placed in God or others—it takes a balancing act, because so much, for us humans, is dependent upon the seen reality.  Yet again, those wiser than us say faith is, “belief in what we cannot see.”  Curious.

For our purposes here, I would like to speak primarily about placing our faith in God whom we do not see, but say we believe in.  If we say that we do not believe in God, but place our belief in others; I think the same things are operative, but for simplicity, let’s look at “belief in God.”

It takes a great deal of being present to our world, to “seeing” God all around us, or at least trying to, in creation—the animate and inanimate, because, as we know, none of us sees God, as God is, in this life.  We might recall though, as a way to move forward, that Jesus said, “If you have seen me, you have seen God,” -John 14:9.

So, does Jesus actually mean that?—that if we have seen him, we have seen God?  And for us, who have not seen Jesus, as his first followers did, what are we to make of his words?  As I see it, what we do have are his words—a sharing of those who actually, in most cases, did know him and see his actions.  What they saw and experienced was so compelling that they were able to leave everything and follow him, and this fact changed the whole world.

So it would seem that when any of us sees beauty, goodness, mercy, justice and love displayed in this world—a selfless giving of oneself for others; we should realize that we have seen God!  Do you believe that?  Because, really, we should!—the Scriptures tell us as much in Jesus’ words when the apostles asked him to “show them [the God of us all].”  “You have seen God, Jesus said, when you have seen me!”

We can only “see” Jesus now, through his words and actions in Scripture, but when we see all the goodness spoken of above, we are seeing what Jesus came to show us about right living, what his apostles first saw—and we are then, in fact, seeing the face of God.

Because this is so, none of us should ever doubt the presence of a Higher Power (God) in our midst, because even though, there is much evil these days to worry and upset us, there is likewise, much goodness that abounds.

We know this to be true in groups like, Moms Against Gun Violence—those valiant women and the men who support them, taking on the National Rifle Association (NRA), trying to call them back to common sense beliefs about gun ownership that would make our country safer, Everytown for Gun Safety—the group of parents that grew out of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in 2012, the work of Gabby Giffords and her husband, Mark Kelly, through the Giffords’ Foundation, to make our country safer from gun violence.  Gabby Giffords, former Congresswoman, you will recall, was shot in 2011 along with 18 others at a gathering of her constituents in Tucson, Arizona.  All these groups on just ONE issue and there are so many others on other issues—those caring for the ill-used and abused at our southern border, and watchdog groups speaking truth to power in Washington.  Goodness abounds amid those things that still need the actions that our brother Jesus has called us all to.

So, in our quest to be, “believing people,” we must remember the other part of the definition of faith from the Hebrews:  “Faith is confidence in what we hope for”… Faith and hope, YES—do go together.

We humans are “hard-wired” to love—it is in our DNA, so to speak. We are spiritual people here having a human experience, just like our brother Jesus.  All those who came before us in time, who have passed on the faith of our brother Jesus, basically a stance that we are here to be our “best selves,” to share life with others and to one day, return home to the God who has loved us mightily—always!

So what does a faith that calls us to be our “best selves” ultimately ask of us?  The Scriptures for today give us some help:

  • Our friend, Habakkuk, in the first reading says that “arrogance” cannot be our stance as part of our human experience, if being our best selves is what we are after.  Those who are “arrogant,” this prophet says, “have a soul that is not right within them.”  Additionally, this one says, “Those who are just, will live by their faith.”
  • The psalmist today cries out, “That we would not harden our hearts, if today we hear God’s voice.” This is great confirmation, isn’t it, that our stance in this world should be to, “lead with our hearts?”

So my friends, this business of “being our best selves,” leading with our hearts, which ultimately will mean that we will need to be just, good, kind, and merciful in our world, will, as you know, not always be easy—it will drop us into some “gray areas” that won’t always be simple to navigate around—we may have to jump into the fray.

  • Paul assures us in his letter to Timothy today that “the Spirit of God is no cowardly Spirit, but One that makes us strong, loving and wise” and additionally, he says, as Jesus’ followers, we need to “bear [our] share of the hardship that the gospel entails.” Perhaps speaking up when everyone else is going along with something that they shouldn’t be going along with.
  • Our final encouragement is Jesus’ call to each of us, an assurance really, that, “faith the size of a mustard seed, can uproot trees” and in another place, “move mountains.” Much of what plagues us in this world feels like, “uprooting trees, trying to move mountains, at times, but I place my continued trust in Jesus’ words e and hopefully, you can as well.  Amen? Amen!

Homily – 26th Sunday in [Extra] Ordinary Time

Friends, once again this week we are challenged to care for those who in our society and world, live with less because we live with more.  You all know that we in the First World have managed to accumulate the lion’s share of the world’s goods and we are willing to fight to keep it, and whether we personally believe that or not, our country does and that is why we fight many of the wars that we do, to protect our interests around the world.

Lives are being lost today, as throughout history, on both sides of battles, over nations wanting more, rather than trying to find a way for all of us to have the basics which will ultimately mean some having less so that everyone can have some.

Our United States is really good about giving humanitarian aid throughout the world when disasters strike, with the exception of the last few years possibly, and so we should!  We can look at the unequal distribution of the world’s goods and say truthfully, that no one of us is responsible for this situation—but people of heart and character will always struggle over what to do to help, and so we should!

The Scriptures today don’t speak so much against having wealth when others do not, but against being complacent in our lifestyles.  Complacency seems to be the greater evil for which the prophet Amos has his dander up with the Israelite people today.  Complacency is about being so wrapped up in our own world, our own lives, and our own projects that we cease to see the “Lazarus” people at our door, looking for the scraps.

Recently, figures came out letting us know that the poor have become poorer and the rich—richer, since the last census figures were taken.  Complacency drives us to see our own children and their needs and wants without realizing that we are likewise connected to all the children throughout the world, especially to those who have no food.  And furthermore, we do, each of us, bear some responsibility toward those in this world who suffer from lack of the necessities of life.  This is so because of our membership in the human race, to say nothing of our membership in the People of God, which in a very broad sense, is what all our religious denominations are about.  Every religious belief system calls its people to service of the less fortunate and the deeper message and challenge is always to understand why the imbalance exists, and then, to do what we can to right it.

I think we find ourselves troubled by the story of the rich person and Lazarus today—probably more so by the cruel-seeming outcome for the complacent rich person.  We speak often here in our gatherings of the great love and mercy of our God—a few weeks ago we had the story of the prodigal child—wasteful of this world’s goods and the prodigal, wasteful, almost, love of the parent in accepting the wayward one back.  So why today, do we see no leniency for the rich person?

It seems the difference is that this wealthy person never made the connections in his life, even though fiery prophets such as Amos and others, one after another, came and proclaimed, challenged that there be a better, more just way of life for all.   The rich person didn’t heed the message whereas the prodigal found the way home and did see the light.

My friends, we all have free wills—no one from on high or from below will ultimately be able to force us to do anything—we will need to choose.  The responsibility is ours and so too the consequences.  I believe that Jesus wants us to get the message, in no uncertain terms, that many things, while not good, can and will be forgiven, but when we simply don’t care or can’t be bothered, or for whatever reason, don’t attempt to see the connection to the whole; we are on shaky ground. I have to wonder about some in Washington these days—if any belief system is part of their lives—talk about complacency!

It has been suggested that the poor, destitute person, Lazarus, has a name in the story and that the rich person does not to uplift the plight of the poor man and to downplay the actions of the rich person. It has also been suggested that we try and see how we might be like the rich person; not that the situation is the same—of not feeding the hungry, but maybe there are other ways that we are capable of sharing in issues of inequality. Can we perhaps make a call; write a letter, saying “no” to a congressperson that we don’t agree with? Who are the people right in front of me, at my doorstep, so to speak, whose needs I am ignoring?

And friends, that is truly what it is all about—taking the Scriptures and making them come alive today; applying them to our current life situations. That is what Jim Wallis, international speaker, writer, and founder of Sojourner Magazine, in his new book, Christ in Crisis: Why We Need to Reclaim Jesus is doing.  Going back to the message of Jesus and asking, where are we in our nation going wrong?  He, a religious leader, along with many other religious leaders are in agreement that our nation has lost its soul and if many of us who claim to be truly Christian, would return to the words of Jesus; we would find our souls again!

The Spirit of God is continually renewing the face of the earth, calling each of us to be our best selves; and that isn’t about a narrow, strict following of man-made law and regulation, but about the law of love, prodigal loving even, that Jesus talked about.  We simply can’t be about living our lives with reference to “black and white” rules when the solutions to many of our world’s problems; climate change, gun violence, unending wars, hypocrisy in leadership in both Church and State throw us into “gray areas” where “heart action,” not “head action” alone, is needed.

Being “black and white” as a response to the needs of this world, can often leave us feeling really disconnected from our best selves.  We can’t fully know what it is like to be on the receiving end of a law, such as those against the LGBTQ community, women and more, that are devoid of love, or to be discriminated against for the way we were born, if that hasn’t been our reality, unless we walk in someone else’s shoes for a while.  We can’t always do that, but we can try very hard to treat others as we would want to be treated.  In every situation where we encounter strife, animosity or division; we must apply the law of love.  We can’t just talk about labels devoid of the human component. Once we give the label a human face; we can never again be complacent; we can never again say, “It’s not my business.”  We can no longer walk away.

If we choose to stay and confront the evil present; (remember, evil is easy to spot—it is that which is devoid of love) then we must be good listeners of people’s stories; we must have ears that can truly hear and hearts that can feel their pain.

It isn’t an easy thing to confront the powers-that-be when they speak.  We have all been taught to give them the respect of the office; but we must always remember that we answer to a higher power.  We all know right from wrong and must simply speak up when people are being misused and abused—no matter who is speaking the untruth.  It was what our brother Jesus did, and it is what we must do!

We have such a wonderful example at present in Swedish-born, Greta Thunberg. She spoke with much emotion this past week at the United Nations, imploring the leadership of this world to lead in order to save our planet for the next generation.  And she was right-on to ask, to demand even that each of us steps up, refusing to be complacent any longer.

The times in which we live friends, are crisis-laden, lacking in morality—selfish times, that we must, simply must address with love—continually ask our brother Jesus to stand by you as you endeavor to be “the light” this world needs.

In conclusion, looking back at today’s gospel, the rich man was apparently “condemned” not for his selfishness, but for his complacency that effectively allowed him, “not to see” the suffering right in front of him! Let us not be guilty of the same! Amen? Amen!