My friends, each week when I come to writing my homily; I first go to the Scriptures of the day to see what the prophets of the past, which of course includes our brother, Jesus, are saying to the people of their time—messages that we must examine and then of course bring to our time to find the meaning for us. Because if the Scriptures we read each week, are just, “nice stories,” that don’t have any meaning in our time—for us—here—in 2021, then we are missing the point! So, let’s examine.
The prophet, Isaiah is foreshadowing a time when the long-awaited Messiah will come and how they will know this One: “When the blind see, and the deaf hear, and the lame walk, you will know that God is in your midst.” And we all know that people experience the inability to see, hear, and walk in more than physical ways.
As we look around our country and our beloved Church; we see this inability in physical, emotional, and within our Church—spiritual ways, as well—to see, hear, and act in ways that can unite us and help us to do what must be done for the good of us all.
Three years ago, at this time, we were grieving from the reporting that over 1,000 of our children in Philadelphia had suffered the loss of their innocence through sexual abuse by their priests over the years. And to this day, many of the systems, mainly, clericalism, that make this kind of abuse possible, are still in place.
Our country seems so divided in its ability to come together to face certain issues—global warming being one. There are some, but less now, who are still in denial that this is even happening, but with fiercer storms and wilder fires plaguing us at present, more are connecting the dots—and some, never will, until it is too late.
Storms like Ida, that did so much damage in Louisiana and along the eastern coast, “are the new normal,” we are told. But, the prophet Isaiah, foreshadowing our brother Jesus, says, “Take courage, do not be afraid.” I place my hope in that friends, and I hope you can as well—because what Jesus is really saying here is, “I will not leave you.”
Our Church too, from its most conservative end, is joining others in preaching misinformation about vaccinations that is keeping people from being inoculated not only from a virulent virus that has killed well over 600,000 of our people, just in this country, but continues to then mutate into ever stronger variants. This is something that we should be united on, yet, we are not, and it has divided families and friends.
And then there are those on the other end of the continuum in both Church and State who seem to see clearly what needs to be done for the good of the many where climate, vaccinations, immigration, racism, sexism, and the list continues, who are simply moving on—some, leaving the Churches of their youth because they see no one leading to bring about the needed change, or speaking a relevant message for their lives, or acting upon the message of Jesus, that should truly, include us all.
At present, our country too, is so divided—unfortunately, in my mind, recent leadership gave voice to an element in our country that felt unheard and manifested itself in a rather, selfish, me-centered philosophy that touted, “Make America Great Again!” Indeed, we should do just that, but in ways that the group chanting this slogan, haven’t yet considered.
As followers of our brother, Jesus, we must always hold that image against his words, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” In today’s gospel, we have a truly beautiful image of this: A blind and deaf man is brought to Jesus, who compassionately takes him aside—touches him, speaking words of comfort, showing us what the coming of God, in our midst, looks like—as the prophet, Isaiah foretold— “when the blind see, and the deaf hear—then, then….” The gospel continues—”the one healed began to speak plainly” and, in my mind, he no doubt, “walked” as he never had before!
Friends, the impasses we see in both Church and State, fueled often by misinformation begs for truth-telling, for compassion, coupled with strength that allows everyone to truly, “walk” in ways that are good for all—it’s a “seeing the forest” kind of thing, instead of getting, “lost in the trees.”
Being a Christian and even a citizen calls each of us to get beyond the needs of the one to see the needs of all. This is a tricky thing because it calls for balance—we are called to see the needs of each one amidst the needs of all and come down in a place where no one is slighted at the expense of the other. Friends and acquaintances of mine have, in the recent past been forced from jobs because the powers-that-be have the need to, “control the message,” that fails to include us all and sadly, these are jobs within institutions run by religious orders, and more broadly, the hierarchical Church.
In this life we can’t have all that we want because then some, may have little, or none. We need a Church and a State where all are considered and a system set up where no one, “falls through the cracks.”
To make this just a bit more plain, if you have a friend or family member who believes the conspiracy theories where vaccinations are concerned, or believes a theology that is basically, “black and white,”—right and wrong, no in-between, or gray area with which to view life, then you have probably understood most of what I have said here today. Usually those with a very narrow view of life, be it in Church or State, won’t allow any discussion unless it affirms their beliefs, which makes moving ahead in meaningful ways in our world that includes many who think and feel differently, to say nothing of cultural differences, most difficult.
My best advice is to then, as always, keep our eyes on Jesus—who said to the deaf man today, “Be opened.” We must walk into this world with hearts and minds engaged, as we need both—speaking truth as we come to know it by the Spirit and asking for the strength to do what is right, as much as possible, for all. And this is how the Eucharist, which we all will receive in a bit, truly becomes, “bread” for our world. And this is what, amid all the suffering in our country, Church and world gives me hope, because I believe that there is the will for many of us, to be that “bread” that so many need. Amen? Amen!