|Photo by CP|
Homily for the Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
(Scriptures for today's Mass)
Audio for homily
Ten years ago this weekend while all of Boston was still celebrating
the Red Sox winning the World Series for the first time in 86 years,
the Catholic community of Concord was gathering in this church
to celebrate its first Masses as Holy Family Parish.
The people of Our Lady Help of Christians Parish in West Concord
and the people St. Bernard Parish in Concord center
came together to celebrate the Supper Jesus left us
on the night before he died.
The first scripture reading that weekend was taken from Ezekiel:
a passage in which the Lord tells the prophet to take two sticks
and to write on one the name of Judah and all the Israelites of his tribe
and on the other the name of Joseph and all those of his tribe.
The Lord then instructed Ezekiel
to hold the sticks together and told him,
I will take the stick of Joseph and join it to the stick of Judah
and they shall be one in my hand.
They shall live by my statutes, carefully observing my decrees,
and I will make a covenant of peace with them.
My dwelling place shall be with them:
I will be their God and they shall be my people.
So, in my homily that weekend, ten years ago,
I took these two sticks and labeled them:
one, for the tribe of Our Lady Parish;
the other for the tribe of St. Bernard Parish.
And I tied them together and placed them over the baptismal font,
a reminder of the waters that welcomed each of us
as members of the one tribe of Jesus, of his Body, the Church.
And as the pastor of Holy Family Parish I called us, in the Lord’s name,
to become one people, one parish, in Christ.
Ten years later, the Lord drops by, in the scriptures,
to see how his Concord tribe is doing on their anniversary.
He won’t be looking at our two sticks to see if they’re still tied together
but rather, as in the words from the Book of Exodus today,
he'll inquire about how we have welcomed one another
and how we’ve welcomed new comers over a decade
and especially, how have we welcomed and reached out to those in need.
He'll inquire about our generosity in giving to others
and our compassion for those in need.
We can report that our Special Events Committee
and our Service and Justice Committee
and St. Vincent de Paul Society have been very active
in welcoming and serving others.
But the Lord looks closely and he will likely find that many of us
hold back and still have more than we need,
that we hold on to our surplus even as others go without.
The Lord hears the cry of the poor:
But it’s in the gospel, the Lord asks the really tough questions
in our 10 year review.
And again, the inquiry here isn’t about sticks or structures
but rather, it’s about our hearts.
In the gospel Jesus reminds us that it all comes down to two things:
loving God – with everything we have (heart, soul and mind)
and loving our neighbor – as much as we love ourselves.
Everything, he says, all laws depend on these two commandments.
How watchful and wary we should be, then, of love’s enemies
and not be misled into thinking that love’s greatest enemy is hate.
If only it were that simple: hate is so easy to spot.
But the real enemies of love are less obvious
and more subtle than hate.
Love’s greatest enemies are realities in our daily lives.
Realities such as envy and jealousy, apathy and spite,
prejudice and pride, stubbornness and contempt,
suspicion and mistrust,
anger stewing, and resentments closely held.
These enemies of love live in our hearts, in our relationships,
in our families, in our neighborhoods
and in our tribe, in our parish, too.
And these have no legitimate place in the lives of us
who belong to the tribe of Christ’s Body, the Church, in Concord.
So the symbolic joining together of the two sticks, held in one hand,
is simply that: symbolic.
• What counts is what lives in our hearts.
• What counts is our outreach to those in need.
• What counts is how we welcome all who come
seeking Jesus and the gospel.
•What counts is how we love God and how we love our neighbor,
remembering that everything else,
all rules and regulations and structures
depend on these two commandments as given by Jesus
and handed down to us through millennia of wise teaching.
So, there is very little room here this day for self-congratulation.
The symbol of the two sticks joined is only as strong
as how generously our parish serves those in need.
The joining of the two sticks is only as meaningful
as the ways we invite one another and newcomers
to share and join in the life we have.
The holding of those two sticks in one hand, the Lord’s hand
is what makes of us a tribe of Christ’s Body, his Church.
And the beauty of the symbol of the two sticks joined
is only as deep as the love we have for God and for one another.
There’s another image here,
in God’s dwelling place, this church,
another image of two sticks joined - and that is the Cross.
And what but the very Body of Christ brings unity
to the two beams that make the Cross.
And so it is with us.
In the love offered us in the suffering and death of Christ
we find the life we seek in faith.
From the wood of the Cross to the wood of this altar
comes the life that is ours in Jesus.
So pray with me on this tenth anniversary of Holy Family Parish.
Pray that Christ hold the sticks of our lives in his hand
and free us more and more every day
to be his tribe, to be his people,
and to grow in our love of God – and one another.
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