Homily – 23rd Sunday in [Extra] Ordinary Time

“For a perishable body presses down on the soul, and a clay house weighs down the restless mind,” the Wisdom writer tells us today.  This is probably a good place to start with these readings, full of challenge and hard sayings because I think it says well our very human response sometimes with what life brings.  We, as human followers of our brother, Jesus, often face being his followers with a willingness to do the right thing, but our very humanness weighs us down, gets in the way of doing what we could, would, if not for our humanity; at least, this is what we tell ourselves.

This reminds me of a conversation I had recently with a friend who is working on becoming a Cojourner with the Rochester Franciscans and I am mentoring her process.  We were talking about mysticism and the ability of saints like Francis, Clare, Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, to rise above their physical, “clay houses and restless minds,” and commune in a special way with our loving God, expressing our desire to do more of that, and realizing that we are far from this level of “communion.”

The author, Susan Pitchford, of the book we are studying and reflecting upon, Following Francis: The Franciscan Way for Everyone says that if we desire to commune with God in this way, we should simply ask God, as God desires this same communion with us.
   It is for this reason that we have built the two minutes of quiet into our liturgies after communion—to give us time that we don’t always take for ourselves in our busy days, to simply “be” with our God who wants to “be” with us.

As my fledgling Cojourner-to-be, friend said, “It gets easier the more that I do it.”  This is true of course of anything that we really want to do.

This kind of practice, communing with God in quiet times during our days prepares us with assurance, strength and will to do some of the hard things that we are called on to do by the memory of our brother, Jesus.  Because, after all, that is our mission as his followers, to more fully and clearly, over our lifetimes, reflect his actions in our lives.

The gospel from Luke today has some hard sayings.  And once again, as always, with Jesus’ words, we have to take the broad view.  We might question his insistence that we turn our backs on our families, mother, father, brothers and sisters, but that would be taking the narrow view.

Jesus is not asking us to literally turn our backs on loved ones, but to prepare us for the fact that in following him; his path, his actions; we may in fact have to “go against” family members.

I think of this with regard to my birth family and my ordination to priesthood—certainly not all of them have supported this; but for me, this is one of those issues where the call of God is what I must follow.

Others of us, in these times of deep divide in our country over many issues, have to go to our hearts, use our heads too, and decide which way to go—“What would Jesus do?” is an operative question here.  And basically, we must ask as he always did, “Is love being served here?” and then proceed.

This reminds me of a wonderful action that our grandson, Elliot’s kindergarten class is about for which I applaud his teachers.  Evidently, if I got the explanation right, the class has a bucket that they can place cotton balls in for each action they do in response to the question, “Is this taking from my bucket (sharing) or from some other’s bucket (not sharing)? And wonderfully, this past week, he reported that his class had 40 cotton balls in their bucket, so they would be enjoying a treat at week’s end for all the good they had done.

This is a wonderful practice for these young children to be about as it prepares them for a life wherein they will more regularly reflect on their actions, asking, in effect, is love being served in what I am about to do?  And even if the question comes after the action—reflecting upon “taking from another’s bucket,” to fill my needs; this is a good thing to help them be more attentive to being their best selves.

We see much the same situation in the reading from Philemon today.  Paul is writing from prison, yet his tone is all about love.  This in itself is a good reflection for us—whether we find ourselves in good times or bad, love is always the center from which we should move.

A little back story on Philemon is probably helpful in understanding what Paul is sharing.  Philemon is a slave-holder, an accepted practice at the time.  He is also a baptized follower of Paul and ultimately, Jesus.  Onesimus, the slave in question, although unnamed has gone to Paul in prison and Paul has taken up his cause with Philemon.  Appealing to his best self and the fact that he and Onesimus share baptism; Paul appeals to Philemon to see that the action of slave-holding is really against his new life in Jesus.

Paul says that the decision is Philemon’s and that Paul won’t force him one way or another. He will only help him to see the right way, with the understanding that, it won’t always be easy to follow our brother, Jesus.

Paul, in his ministry was always about helping others to see that following Jesus makes each one of us equal—we are brothers and sisters in Christ.  We recall Paul saying elsewhere—“There is neither Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female—all are one!

And finally, today’s readings remind us that our time is short and that “now,” as Sister Joan Chittister says, in her new book, is the time to do the right thing—if not you, me, who else will do it?!  Our world is so in need of people who will follow our brother, Jesus, realizing that in doing so; we give up forever who we can love.  But we must remember that we will not be alone in this action—Jesus’ Spirit will always be there, the Wisdom writer tells us today, so for just today, let us be confident that love is always the best response to what life brings.  Amen? Amen!

 

Homily –22nd Sunday in [Extra] Ordinary Time

My friends, I found myself this week thinking about the beauty of our precious earth, amid the burning of the Amazon and the heating of our oceans, this place we all call home, the only place in this grand universe that any of us or anyone that we have ever known has lived and died upon.  If we go out as far as technology can take us and look back at our earth, it appears as a very small, blue dot!  Yet, all the relationships we have ever known of for ourselves and all others happened here, and will continue to, for hopefully, a very long time.  As one reflects on this, it is a very humbling thing.

Sirach, in the first reading today, calls us to this kind of humility and to a sense of care for so great a gift.  The writer says, “Be gentle in carrying out your business/the greater you are, the more you should behave humbly.” In conclusion, this writer speaks of the great power and potential that lies within “charitable giving,” or giving from the heart.

With regard to the beauty of the earth and preserving that, I always enjoy September and the coming of the fall time of the year—I have fondly—over the years called it, “jeans and sweatshirt weather.” I personally wouldn’t need to have it ever be much warmer than 75 degrees with a gentle breeze at my back.  Of course, the farmers need warmer weather to make their crops grow, so that has to be part of the heat cycle for me as well. And when summer is past; I can have my favorite temps for a month or so.

In conjunction with this, I have always enjoyed the variety of weather that this part of the world provides us and I would never want to do anything to disrupt that cycle of variety that we enjoy here.

The second reading today to the Hebrews continues in this vein of “right living,” we might say, in laying out the true relationship that each of us should strive after with our God, others and the planet.  This writer says that our God is not one that we should consider as “untouchable,” but one who is “the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem,” one who is surrounded by “myriads of angels,” gathering for a feast.  To me, this God sounds very relational, and most concerned about “right living,” for all of creation.

The writer to the Hebrews is also speaking about a “just” God for all women and men, one who will judge us all, and the goodness of this God, who we know, is so perfectly shown in our brother, Jesus.

And finally, the idea of moving humbly in our world is once again shown so well through the words of Jesus in Luke today, “They who exalt themselves will be humbled.”

So, my friends, “humility” seems to be the operative word today as we reflect on who we are as individuals and of how we should responsibly engage our world, its people, and really, all of creation.  The days when we can deny, if we ever did, that our beautiful, blue planet is heating up, are over.  Regardless of political preference, this issue has grown beyond that and become a matter that all humans must consider!

I have mentioned in the past, the work of Brian McLaren in The Great Spiritual Migration and he has spoken well about how our thinking and ultimately, our action in our world must change at a very deep level—internally, culturally, politically and spiritually.

He tracks the “God” that has been a part of most of our lives in this country—denominationally, whether it be Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Muslim or other religious groups.  He lists these “Gods” on a scale from 1.0—5.0.

The version of God, 1.0 is the one who was supposed to solve all our problems and people who believe in this God are angry when he hasn’t made their lives that of “a warm blanket or a dry diaper”—in other words, this is an infantile God.

The God, 2.0 is one who is gracious, wants all of us to be nice and get along.  This God is all that some people can handle, McLaren says.

God, 3.0 is for all those who are most comfortable living by the rules and would like to impose those rules on everyone else.

God, 4.0 is a “God of love” and if you believe in this version, you may want to convert everyone else to this God, having them, along with yourself, migrate from selfishness to other-centeredness, from self-interest to the common good, from me to we.

   This God sounds quite good, wouldn’t you say? The thing is, McLaren says, this God is still an exclusive God who shows favor to us, but not to them.  No matter the denomination, this God leads to affection, fidelity and forgiveness in family, community and nation—but only for people from our religion, ethnicity or tribe.

McLaren continues—so while God 4.0 moves us in a good direction from “me, myself and mine” (personal selfishness) to “we and our,” (social maturity), “this same God is still the violent God whose genocide card we keep in our back pocket if we are threatened, or if they have something we desire.  The word we, it turns out, can be pretty dangerous, because it can “otherize” and dehumanize those who aren’t like us.

Those of us Catholic women who have followed their calls to ordained ministry see this “God” displayed in Church officials and those who want to remain in good standing with them.

And finally McLaren offers this hope if we can accept it: “We need God 5.0 to emerge, a God of the inclusive we, the God not just of us, but of all of us.  Only a bigger, nondualistic God can unite us and them in an inclusive identity that is not limited to a tribe or nation, but extends to all of humanity, and not just all humanity, but to all living things, and not just to all living things, but to all the planetary ecosystems in which we share…we need to move to a grown-up God,” in other words.

So my friends, if we would choose God 5.0 to follow, then the days when we can stick our heads in the sand, refusing to do our part—whether that be speaking our truth within a group of friends, writing or calling our Congress people, leading our congregations to truth—with love, whatever it might be, are over.

Everything within these Sunday readings then, push us in the direction of truly knowing ourselves, coming to terms with how wonderfully each of us is made, with how much potential each of us has for good in our world, if we don’t set that aside for the comfortable way out.  What is called for, it seems to me is BALANCE—knowing our potential, yet standing humbly before our God, realizing that we need this “grown-up God” to stand beside us, to show us the way, to be all that we can be—all that our world and its people need.   Amen? Amen!

 

Homily – 21st Sunday in [Extra] Ordinary Time

My friends, today we are challenged to see a very big picture—to look through the lens that our loving God uses when viewing the peoples of the world—the People of God.  And just “who,” we might ask is this People of God?  If one reads the history of the Israelite people and of the covenant made between them and God, we would assume that they, the Israelite people, are the People of God.  Enter the prophets; today especially, Isaiah.

Isaiah warns (as prophets do) to not be so smug—that the God who loves and cares for them also loves and cares for all of humankind.  It would appear that many in leadership of our country are not aware of this!  Where did we ever get such terminology as “the one true church?” Isaiah’s God will gather people from north and south, east and west and all will be welcome.  It is this desire, this action of his Abba God that Jesus prays for the night before his death in John 17—this desire, this action is what we as a church community are named for, that “they all may be one,” that all would be welcome. And not only that all would be welcomed, the prophet says, but that all will rank equally with the Israelites who have felt they are a shoe-in for all of God’s promises, because they are “the People of God.”

This is where the tone in the gospel that seems so harsh, as we read it, comes from. Jesus is basically fulfilling Isaiah’s prophetic words—just because God has made a covenant does not mean that people have a free ride.

How did our Church—to the present day, ever come to the place of having some be a step above any other;  some with titles and positions of power that they claim for themselves—Monsignor, Your Excellency, Very Reverend Father? What is it that allows some of us in God’s family to claim that, “we are called” by nature of how we happened to have been born and others are not for that same reason? Certainly reading Isaiah’s prophetic words today, one could not come to such a conclusion.

Jesus was very clear—painfully clear in fact, in letting the Israelites know that this will not be the case—they will not have a free ride.  Each one worthy of the eternal banquet must do their part in this life to invite, welcome, and be open to all and that includes us!  So, what does this truly mean? Does it mean that I will invite, welcome and be open to all who see things my way? I don’t think so!  These Scriptures should certainly call present-day Israelites to task with regard to their Palestinian neighbors, especially those of the prophet, Isaiah!

Our challenge throughout our earthly journey is to attempt to see the manifestation of God in each person we meet.  This is the central point in a series of articles in the National Catholic Reporter (NCR) recently on “real presence” in Eucharist—it only matters on the altar if we can first see the “real presence” in each other!  Seeing Jesus in each other is easy to do when we are all of like mind and belief—but when people think and act very differently from us, then the message of our prime manifestation of God, as Christians, Jesus, our brother, becomes more difficult.

A present day national conflict is that of the crisis of guns in our country.  We see the rights of gun owners pitted against the rights of others to simply, live.  When 100 lose their lives daily to guns in this country, no matter the cause; we can with certitude say that access to guns is over-the-top.  And the ignorant rhetoric of the National Rifle Association and anyone who repeats it, that this is a “mental health issue,” is simply burying their head in the sand, at the cost of so many innocent lives.

And even if it were true, which it isn’t, that the proliferation of gun deaths in this country is “a mental health issue,” wouldn’t we want to protect our population when these same mentally ill people go looking for a gun by making it extremely difficult for them to get their hands on one?

Jesus’ words of today, it would seem, come into play here describing Abba God’s reaction, “I do not know you!”  We are required my friends, to be honest, to be responsible, to be reasonable, to consider the needs of others, not just our own—this is what we will be judged on one day, not who we know, nor how much we have accumulated of this world’s goods, but by our actions in making this world as good as it can be for all of us.

Getting back to the bigger picture then, human and theological thought have evolved far enough now for us to realize that our God is universal—there is one God for all of us, different and wonderful people on this earth.  And if that is the case, we must all accept the fact that this God of us all became present through time in Jesus, in Buddha, in Muhammad, in the Great Spirit and in ways we may not yet be aware of. All these manifestations show us a different face of God that none of us is able to fully understand in this life.  And why would we expect it to be any other way?

Jesus told us when he graced the earth—“Your ways are not God’s ways.”  Translation: God can appear to humans in any way that God chooses.  In addition, God is able to love more, show more mercy, more understanding, and deal out more justice that any of us could ever imagine.  It would seem that all this God asks of us is that we try to live out, as best we can, these qualities that for us Christians, Jesus demonstrated so well. And if we do, we won’t need to waste energy on whose god is the best!

Amid the differences, in ideologies, in thought processes, as in our current gun crisis in this country; we must strive to see that the manifestations of God in other major belief systems ask the same of their followers as Jesus asks of us.  Thomas Merton, before he died too young, had done a great deal of work comparing the words and teachings of Buddha and Jesus—finding many similarities.  Reading the words of the Great Chiefs of our Native American peoples also shows similar likenesses.  So, why do we try and say, “We are right, you are wrong” when all have a piece of the truth? Why do we say, “Men are called, women are not?” Why is our thinking so narrow, so small, when our God is so broad, so big, so loving, so inclusive?  Where we can challenge others respectfully is on their actions—claiming Jesus, Buddha, Muhammed, the Great Spirit, does not allow having a closed mind to the truth of gun violence in this country, or any other issue that affects us all.

The greater, broader message of today’s readings is that of how God sees the “People of God.”  We are all included and that should change how we look at each other, especially when we disagree on any issue.  It seems whenever we can put a face and an experience on the “pain,” the misunderstanding, the different way of thinking, the different lifestyle, the different belief system—the “something” or “someone” that we feel we can’t live with—can’t accept—we are then opened up, by the grace of God , to a bigger world—allowed to look , just a bit, through the lens that our God looks through and see the multi-colored grandness of all humanity and all of creation, really—the many different faces of God as reflected in all of God’s people and our beautiful world.

The Winona Community, for the 16th year welcomes our Native American sisters and brothers here this weekend as we remember our not-so-good past and promise anew to know, to try and understand and to learn how to share this beautiful piece of land.  And forgiveness is also part of this process, on both sides.

Every attempt we make my friends to know God more through each and every one we meet only draws us closer to that day when we will truly see God’s face in its entirety. The prophet Isaiah reminds us that our God is coming to gather the nations of every language. The psalmist cries out that we should share God’s love with the whole world. The writer to the Hebrews says that suffering will be part of this journey and that we should strive to make the path of our journey straight. And finally, Luke’s gospel concludes with the reminder that none of us are better than the rest of us, so it would behoove us to welcome all, be open to all, and see each one as necessary to show us the total face of God.

And perhaps as our image of God grows larger, as seen through the eyes of many and countless, different people on this earth, our vision of what God is calling us to for the good of our world can grow too! Amen?  Amen!

 

Homily – 20th Weekend in [Extra] Ordinary Time

My friends, by way of a beginning, I want to remind us all, myself included, that each of us is here as a spiritual being, created by a magnanimous God, to have a human experience.  Think of it, each of us was made perfect, not in sin, but in blessing.  Because our God can show nothing but love, this God gave us the gift of human life wherein we can choose how to live that life.  Hopefully our life has been or can still be, about love—received, and love given back. In the times in which we live, love and love alone is the only response that will ultimately change hearts.

I have recently been reading Anne Lamott’s new book entitled, Almost Everything: Notes on Hope, and I was especially intrigued and touched really, by a chapter on “Hate.” Those who are familiar with Anne Lamott know her to be a writer who says many things that many of us think, but don’t say out loud.  We perhaps scream at our cat or dog, or the walls of our homes!  Lamott speaks many of our private thoughts and does it in a way that we can look the “evil’ in the eye and perhaps come, face to face with ways to choose a more loving response.

To her credit and one of the reasons why many people enjoy her writing is that she faces herself squarely with the imperfection in her own life and person and doesn’t as a result “preach” to her readers, but struggles through, within herself, what she is asking us to do.

On the topic of hate she basically tells us that while it at times feels good to hate someone that we find so despicable, she, in the end says, hating is more destructive to ourselves than to our victims and furthermore, it doesn’t accomplish any good or change of heart.  What she guides us to is a response on a higher plane, beginning with understanding how someone might arrive at a pattern of life that others find despicable and then arrive at something like empathy.

I offer the following small section of her writing on hate to perhaps aid each of us when we struggle with people and actions that we may find despicable:

“Empathy begins when we realize how much alike we all are.  My focus on hate made me notice I’m too much like certain politicians.  The main politician I’m thinking of and I are always right.  I, too, can be a blowhard, a hoarder, needing constant approval and acknowledgment, needing to feel powerful.  This politician had an abusive father, but he managed to stay alive, unlike his brother.  I don’t think he meant to grow up to be a racist who debased women. But he was raised afraid and came to believe that all he needed was a perfect woman, a lot of money, and maybe a few more atomic weapons.  He must be the loneliest, emptiest man on earth, while I am part of a great We, motley old us.  We show up, as in the folktale about stone soup, and we bring and give and put what we can into the pot, and this pot fills up, and we know it.”

My friends, think what our world would be like if each of us, on a more regular basis, could do the loving thing, that which we have been hard-wired to do since our magnanimous  God placed us here in our perfect states to have a human experience!

The Scriptures today in this [Extra] Ordinary Time call us to be our best selves beginning with Ebed-Meloch  in the reading from Jeremiah who basically does the loving, compassionate thing where Jeremiah is concerned.  He doesn’t first see Jeremiah as an enemy of his lord, someone to be despised or hated, but as a fellow human being floundering, needing the help that only he apparently can give.

And lest I give you the impression that being a prophet, as are both Jeremiah and Ebed-Meloch, in their own ways; we see the suffering that Jeremiah is exposed to.  When we think about perhaps being a prophet in our own time and place, saying what needs to be said that no one else will say, Jeremiah is a good companion for the journey.  He is known as the “reluctant prophet,” a soft-hearted man who wasn’t at all excited about getting people to do what they didn’t want to do!

We are encouraged by the writer to the Hebrews who tells us to, “run with perseverance, to not lose sight of Jesus, nor grow weary or lose heart.” And our brother Jesus has already promised to be with us—always!

We know how important a message this is my friends, “that we are not alone,” when we consider Jesus’ words in today’s gospel: “I have come to light a fire on the earth.” Giving this statement the broadest possible meaning; we know that Jesus wants to light the fire within each of us—we must be his eyes, ears, hands and heart in our world and if we aren’t, he simply will not be here!

Being our “best selves,” that I always talk about does not indicate a squishy, milk-toast type of presence in our world—one that notices when bad things happen, but never utters a word of disapproval.  No, being our best selves definitely will call for what our times has come to know as, “tough love.”

If we are going to indeed, love, that means that first we love and respect ourselves through right living and we can then expect and demand even, the same from others.  Our commitment to Jesus through baptism, when others spoke for us and through confirmation, when we spoke for ourselves, calls us to strive for this goodness in our lives, wherein we don’t accept evil done in our world and say so, out loud, and strive as well, to accept and understand the person doing the evil.

Looking for balance in our lives in this way is truly doing the most loving thing–not the easiest thing.  I began this homily encouraging us to consider a God who has showered us with an over-the-top amount of love.  Everything within my message today can be boiled down to love because as Christians, that is what we were made to do.  We can’t escape it unless we don’t really want to live in the footsteps of Jesus.

We need to be there for each other, supporting and loving the Jesus we see in other’s faces and actions, condemning the evil expressed when love is absent, never growing weary or losing heart.  That’s it friends, that is all we need to do!  Amen? Amen!

Homily – 19th Sunday in [Extra] Ordinary Time

My friends, this past week, as you know, has been one of grief, of anger, of lack of faith, perhaps, that anything can be done about the “gun crisis” in our country. The term, “gun crisis, is one I heard this week for perhaps the first time—to explain the madness of gun proliferation in our beloved country.  Someone wrote this past week that our country is exemplary in many ways, but then stated, to be the country with the most deaths due to guns, far and above every other country in our world is not something we should want to claim to our credit!

So, my friends, at the beginning of this homily; I would like to share several key thoughts that stood out for me in the readings for this Sunday that can perhaps help us make sense of all this, or at the least, move us forward toward change.

  • First, the Wisdom writer tells us that the “holy people would share all things, blessings and dangers alike.”
  • Second, Psalm 33 proclaims that, “Happy are the people who are chosen to be God’s own!” The psalmist also prays the petition that is on all our hearts—“May your love be upon us as we place all our hope in you.”
  • Third, the writer to the Hebrews reminds us of the definition of faith—“the confident assurance of what we hope for, the conviction about things we do not see.”
  • Fourth, Jesus’ words in Luke’s gospel today are well-known to us as well—“wherever your treasure lies, there, your heart will be.”

I believe in a general way, each of these readings is about faith, some clearer than others, but about that hopeful, confident assurance, just the same.

This “holy people” that the Wisdom writer speaks of is in fact, all of us.  This past week gave us such a profound example, in the yet again, mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton of how, we as a people, “a holy people, share all things, blessings and dangers alike.” Holy people, which all of us were created to be, feel joined when such a tragedy happens, even though we may not know anyone involved. We are joined because we are all God’s people and we must likewise be joined in demanding change in our beloved country that has gone so far astray in what we will “live with,” what we will accept as a new normal in actions, rhetoric and basic values.

This past week, as I said above, I have been hearing the new term used by writers trying to speak sense to the senseless killing that our country somehow has come to accept—that of a “gun crisis,” in our country.

One writer in particular, Daniel Horan, in a National Catholic Reporter article, states in no uncertain terms that, “America is addicted to guns, and that we’re in denial!”  He goes on, “Our country mimics an addict in denial.  Addicts, [we know], need to admit first that there is a problem”—and many in so-called leadership, are not there yet!

Those on the side of doing nothing say, “Americans have a right to bear arms—it’s there in the Constitution.” We must answer this statement as Horan does, “Our Constitution’s second amendment, the right to bear arms was an 18th Century response to a rebelling colony’s right to defend itself,”  end quote, and we must remember that the guns available in the 18th Century were one shot, muzzle-loaders! Horan goes on, “This [Constitutional right] should not be a “cover” for nearly anybody to have access to weapons of mass murder!”

Now I know that there isn’t a one of you here that believes that our Constitutional right to bear arms includes these weapons of mass murder, so I am talking, in effect, to the choir.  But does that leave us off the hook in regard to action?  No, it does not! And having said that, what do we in fact do?

Let us look to our Scriptures.  The Hebrew’s description of what faith is, “the confident assurance of what we hope for, the conviction about things we do not see,” has some clues.

I have said many times before, in this space, that faith and hope are so important, coupled with action, based in love to help us all persevere in these times.  I heard a newscaster, Judy Woodruff of PBS, this past week, question a Republican congressperson on whether he thought this time, with this mass shooting; we could hope for some “gun sense laws?” The congressman responded, “I still don’t think anything can happen yet!” She responded, “Is it good to be of that mindset?”

What she was saying definitely reflects our Scriptures for today—the confident assurance of what we hope for, the conviction about things we do not see!”  Friends, we must not lose hope that a better world than we are living in now can be, and we must couple our hope with action—call and write your congress people, be an irritant under the skin with your persistence, until they act for the good of us all! Go to a demonstration if there is one near you, join the work of Moms Against Violence, or support their work financially, pray without ceasing for strength to not let up, even though you become discouraged. Pray that closed minds and hearts might be opened. I always remember the words of a good friend, Father Paul Nelson, who once told me, and I believe it, “The truth, [or we might say, the good], always comes out—in the end.”

The writer to the Hebrews reminds us of the faith of our great forebears, Sarah and Abraham, “as good as dead,” the writer says, yet they didn’t lose faith in the God who had promised children “as many as the stars in the heavens, the sands on the seashores.” Their faith brought to fruition what they trusted and hoped for.  And it will be for us too friends, if we keep believing, hoping, acting, and this is the key—acting in love for what we hope for!

The “acting in love” part is where, in our vernacular, “the rubber meets the road.” Our brother Jesus cautions us to, “be on our guard, that much will be required of [us] who have been given much.”  He is never easy on us when it comes to passing on what he lived and died for.  And if that sounds too daunting, remember to keep it simple—in any and every situation, ask, “Is love being violated here?” If so, our need to respond is clear!  Much will be required of us to whom much has been entrusted!

Our forebears “held” our faith and passed it on, eventually with it, coming to us—it is part of our lives, thus we endeavor to make it be about, “all that we hope for.”  Faith is indeed about hope and like Sarah, we must ask, “Have we done our part—in loving action?”

Earlier in this homily, I mentioned the NCR article by Daniel Horan, “America is Addicted to Guns and We’re in Denial.” So friends, when we wonder what we can realistically do, he says we can refute as the American Psychiatric Association has done, statements from the White House and the NRA that mental illness, violence in the media and violent video games are to blame for the mass murders in our country.  The overwhelming majority of mentally ill people are not violent and far more likely to be the victims of violent crime than the perpetrators of it, they say.  The Psychiatric Association says there is no causal relationship between violent video games and real-life violence.

Additionally, we must remember that nowhere in the rest of the world do we have the gun violence that we suffer from in the U.S.  Australia is a good example—they have mental illness, and video games, but they also have strict gun laws that limit or down right prohibit gun ownership.

Both Australia and New Zealand, last century—1996 to be exact, banned assault-style weapons after mass shootings in their countries.  This is the action of a mature, reasoned population, unlike the addictive behavior of our country’s so-called leadership. We know addicts always look to blame something or someone else for the cause of the problem.

Horan concludes his article stating, “Our exceptionalism [as a country] is increasingly located in our ability to deny reality, such as in “global climate change.”  The “red herring theater” that takes place within Republican congress people after each mass shooting—the fact that within 30 seconds one person could kill 9 and wound 27 is simply inexcusable! People of faith and church leaders need to call out political leaders to face their denial—accept that we are out of control and that many more people will die because of our collective denial and inaction—we, the people are enabling the cycle of violence!”

Harsh words friends—but our reality! I close then, with no easy answers, only the truth of our brother, Jesus’ words, “Where our treasure lies, there—there, our heart will be too!”  Amen? Amen!