Homily for February 5

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

Audio for homily

So, for the second week in a row now,
we find a close relationship
between the daily headlines and the Sunday scriptures.
And this is all the more amazing when you consider that since 1970
our readings have followed a three-year rotation
and these texts just happen to the ones that come up every three years
on the Fourth and Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time.
And that’s how we came to have these texts
this particular weekend in 2017:
a charge from Isaiah for us to share our bread with the hungry,
to shelter the oppressed and homeless, 
to clothe the naked and not turn our back on anyone.
- and if we’re faithful to these responsibilities, says the prophet,
then light shall rise for us in our darkness
and the gloom in which we find ourselves
will become like the light of the midday sun.

Jesus expands this image in the gospel, telling us
not to become the light of the world
or to reflect the light of the world,
but rather that we ARE the light of the world
and that our light must shine before others
so that in our good works, others will see the glory of God.

At best, it’s a kind of “holy coincidence” that two weeks in a row,
(in a  three-year rotation of scriptures)
readings such as these should come round so perfectly dovetailing
the news and headlines on our minds.

And that curiously, has the potential for making the preacher’s task
not easier but in some ways more difficult.
The preacher has to resist the temptation, here,
to find in the scriptures a plan or a policy to resolve the day’s issues.

Things just aren’t that simple.

The preacher and those who hear him
need to be careful not to use the scriptures to take sides
to advance one political agenda over another - or worse -
to target and take aim at one politician or another.

On the other hand, Isaiah is eminently clear
in how he calls us to care for our neighbor
and Jesus is equally demanding in calling us to be
the salt that seasons our society,
the light that illumines God’s will and work among us.

These scriptures might easily be written on placards for demonstrations
or embedded in editorial opinions -
which is to say, we might easily use these scriptures
to make judgments on the events of the times
and on the actors in the drama of daily news.
Certainly, there’s a legitimate time and place
justifying the use of the scriptures in just that way.

BUT… keeping in mind that many of us have heard these same readings       
every three years for the past 47 years,
or some 15 times since 1970, we might well ask
(before using these scriptures to teach and target others)
we might ask: what impact have these words had on us?

We might ask… 

- How does our presence, yours and mine,
season the lives of those around us?
Recalling that the human tongue knows four major tastes:
sweet, sour, salty, bitter ---
what taste do I leave in others’ mouths?

- What flavor do I bring to the culture I live in?

- Is my soul’s salt fresh? has it gone stale? become bland? useless?
Or do I over-salt and thus render what I try to season unpalatable?

- Do I need to heed the words of Isaiah and remove from my own mouth
any malicious speech, any hasty and false accusation?

- What executive orders have I issued and do I follow
to bar the entry of some into my heart, into my life -
keeping out some, even in my own family, my neighborhood, my parish,
or where I work or go to school.

- What walls do I build in my own life to keep out
those I don’t want to let in?

- Do I live in an invisibly walled community
that allows some in and very subtly keeps others out,
keeps them far away?

- What light, what warmth do I bring to my family and neighbors?
to my classmates at school? to my colleagues at work?

- Does my life, the light of my presence,
help others discover the beauty of what’s around us,
the truth of what’s to be known?

- Or do I shade and dim or extinguish the light others need,
light that should be coming from me
light to help others see, light to keep others warm.

These are hard questions at any time, regardless of the day’s news,
and certainly questions I need to raise for myself
particularly when I find myself I holding others accountable
to the scripture’s standards.

It’s this table and the Word we share here
that keep the salt of our faith fresh and alive.

It’s the light of this altar’s sacrament that reveals Jesus to us
and holds us in the warmth of his presence in the Eucharist.

Pray with me that the salt each of us is called to be
might begin to season the world around us,
beginning right at home.

Pray with me that the light we’re called to be  shine like Christ
in the darkness of our own times,
internationally and in our own personal circumstances.

Pray with me that, in conversation and debate,
malicious speech and false accusation
might be removed from our lips.
Pray with me that the hungry might share in our bread,
the homeless be welcomed to shelter we provide,
the wounded be healed and the afflicted satisfied:
and that light rise for us in our darkness
and our gloom become bright as the midday sun.

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