Executive Orders: Homily for 1/29

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

Audio for homily

Imagine if the question
of admitting immigrants and refugees to our country
were actually as simple as the current debate suggests…

One side, in the name of law, order and economic fairness,
wants to build walls to keep out the many
and tighten the process by which the few might be welcomed in.
The other side, in the name of mercy, compassion and justice 
would welcome all
and provide for their housing, health and education.

What gets lost in these simple terms is the truth that
law, justice, order, compassion, economic fairness and mercy
are not only all legitimate categories to consider
but indeed each one complements, modifies, enhances
and enables the others.
These categories are not opposed to one another.
Considered together, they ought to provide a basis
for making sound judgments and policy
both for immigrants and refugees
and those whose borders they seek to cross.

And these categories might be considered
by anyone of humane good will and care for others.
But what of us, what of us who go by the name Christian?
Our faith in Christ draws us beyond the merely humane
and calls us to a love deeper than neighborly concern.

While all of the categories I listed are worthy of our attention,
we follow Jesus who introduces his own categories.
Jesus issued his own executive orders
signed in the ink of his blood, shed for us,
and his orders are these:
Love your enemies;
do good to those who hate you;
bless those who curse you;
pray for those who mistreat you;
turn your cheek to be slapped on the other side;
]give to all who ask of you;
and do not to seek the return
of what others have taken from you…

If we do not take his words to heart
and bring them to bear on our thinking about this week’s news,
then we cannot call ourselves Christians.
By saying that,
I do not pretend to know what opinions you might form.
My task as a preacher is to bring the word of Christ to bear
on our thoughts, words and deeds.

We need to avoid being like the Corinthians to whom St. Paul wrote.
They were subscribing to the popular thinking of the day
without consulting the wisdom of Christ and his word
as the standard for their moral decision-making.
And it’s possible that we are called to be, like the ancient Israelites,
a “faithful remnant,” holding, living and keeping alive
the truth and wisdom of God’s word in our lives.

And of course, the words of Jesus in today’s gospel demand our attention:
Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the land.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Not for a moment do I suggest that it’s easy
to take on the mind and heart of Jesus
as we think through the complex issue of our day.
We certainly need the Lord’s own help in trying to do this
and it’s the kind of help that comes from prayer.
It was in that spirit that I wrote and posted a prayer on my blog
this past Tuesday, just after the inauguration
- and I share it with you now:

 Well, Lord, some of the hoopla is finally over
 and some of it's just beginning...
And what have we to offer you?
Shall we lift up our hands in angry gestures?
Shall we send up a prayer - laced  with vulgarity?
Shall we hate those who disagree with us,
people you love regardless of how they voted?
Shall we bless your name on Sunday
and curse our neighbor on Monday?
Shall we open our hearts in prayer on one day
and close them to those in need on the next?
Shall we pretend to give you the glory  - while we swagger in our pride?
Shall we pray for relief  -  with a vengeful spirit?
Shall we pray as if all hope were gone,
forgetting that you’re our only hope?
Shall we put our faith in one like ourselves,
forgetting that only you can save?
Whether we won or lost the election,
we quickly forget that you alone are the Lord,
you alone have power to heal and save us...

So we offer you a prayer this day, Lord:
a prayer for the mending of America,
for the healing of our nation's soul,
for the calming of our country's spirit,
for justice done as you would have it,
for freedom tempered with sacrifice,
for liberty crowned with self-restraint,
for compassion in those who govern us,
for leadership tendered with humility,
for truth in our words and deeds,
for integrity and unanimity
- and solidarity  with all,
and for hearts wide open to welcome in
your tired, your poor,
your huddled masses yearning to be free...

We know this is a lot to ask, Lord,
and we know you ask us, in return,
to be instruments of your peace and grace.
Help us, Lord, to live through this time
according to your word and will
and make of us again
a people after your own heart.

Hear our prayer, O Lord,
and in your mercy answer us.  



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