Homily for August 17

Homily for the Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
(Scriptures for today's Mass)

Audio for homily

How often have you heard someone say,
   Well, it doesn’t really matter what god you believe in
      or how you name your god.
   It doesn’t really matter what you believe in
      as long as you believe in something, some god, some power.

Well, all three scriptures today do highlight the universality of God
and God’s love and grace.

• Isaiah reminds us that the Lord’s house will be a house of prayer
   - for all peoples.

• St. Paul is clear that although his own people, the Jews,
   have yet to accept the gospel
God’s covenant with them, his chosen people, is irrevocable.

• And here is Jesus,
reaching beyond his own mission to the house of Israel,
reaching out to a pagan woman whose interest is inspired
perhaps not so much by any faith
as much as personal desperation.

As ancient as these stories may be, they speak to us today.
In our own times, the universality of God’s love and grace
is easily accepted by many and in some cultures, by most.

So, does it not matter who or what you believe in
as long as believe in someone or something?
Is that so?

We need to try to look at this question from two vantage points
and the first will be more difficult for us than the second.

First, we need to try to see this from God’s point of view.
God is the creator of every human being
and knows every human soul and life  - intimately.
God loves every one of us long before we’re conceived,
before we’re born
and loves us regardless of what our beliefs are
– or what they are  not.
God’s love for us is greater than our belief in God
and God’s love isn’t given on account of our believing,
nor is it withdrawn for our lack of belief.

God. Is. Love.

But God’s love for each of us is a gift
and it is given out of God’s desire
to engage each of us in a relationship of love.

God loves each of us and asks for our love in return
and asks us to love one another as we are loved by God.
The universal gift of God’s love is given to each of us, then,
with expectations, responsibilities and demands.
In fact, we Christians say that this love is the LAW
by which we are to live.

And with that statement,
I’ve crossed over to the other vantage point
from which we need to try to understand
the universality of God’s love and grace.

There are thousands of religions and faiths and beliefs in the world.
But I’m a Christian believer speaking to other Christian believers.

• I believe in God, the creator of the all things visible and invisible.

• I believe in Jesus, God’s Word made flesh, who lived among us
and who suffered died and rose from the dead
so that you and I might have life forever.

• And I believe in the Spirit of God, living and moving in my heart,
and in your heart, and in all the world around us.

• And I believe that in communion with Christ’s Body, the Church,
we come to discern the truth, to grow in God’s love
and to serve those in need.

And in just a few minutes you will be joining me
in professing those very same beliefs in the Nicene Creed.

So, I believe, we believe, that the universal love and grace of God
- took flesh - and was born among us 2,000 years ago
and that the image that hangs over our prayer every week:
is the sign of how and how much God loves us
and of how and how much we are called to love one another.

While we believe that God’s love is universal
and that no human being lives outside or beyond
God’s universal embrace, we also believe that
in a unique, historical, physical, personal, and unrepeatable way
God revealed himself to the world, in the mystery of Jesus
and invited us to a life of faith, ruled by the law of love.           

We believe that the eternal God loves us
and has spoken to us and has saved us in Christ,
and lives among us in the Spirit.

And that gift of faith,
the gift of knowing God through Jesus and the Spirit,
in the sacramental life of the Church,
that is a gift beyond compare, an unparalleled gift,
a gift we’re called to treasure and to share.

And in light of what we have been given,
what we have heard,
and what we have received:
we who follow Jesus can never say
   It doesn’t really matter what god you believe in
      or what you believe in,
   or how you name your god…

We can not say that.
So much more that that is our belief, 
the belief of our ancestors and of our Church. 

This is the belief
for which our brothers and sisters in Iraq are, this day,
being persecuted;
the belief that gathered us together today in this church;
the belief we’re about to profess in the Nicene Creed;
the belief that leads us to find at this Table
the Body and Blood of Jesus 
in the Bread and Cup of the Eucharist.

This is the belief that is ours in Christ Jesus the Lord.

This is the mystery of our faith
and it does truly matter who we believe in,
what we believe
and how we name our God.


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