Homily for July 4th Weekend

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 Homily for the 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time
(Scriptures for today's Mass)

Audio for homily

On Tuesday, the Fourth of July, we’ll have Mass at 9:00 in the morning
and we’ll be praying for our country:
praying for our nation on its birthday;
praying for our leaders as we celebrate our independence;
praying for liberty and justice for all;
praying for good counsel, right judgment and wisdom;
praying for the grace for our nation to stand strong and supportive
in the world community;
praying for the strength to defend the vulnerable at home and abroad
the refugee into the life of our nation and into our own hearts and lives.

The scriptures today focus on just this kind of hospitality,
on welcoming the stranger who comes knocking on our door.
To welcome a stranger, Jesus tells us, is to welcome him.
And to love Jesus above all others is what we Christians are called to do.

“To love Jesus above all others…”
What does that look like?
Jesus gives us a couple of examples of the depth of this love
when he tells us that we’re called to love him
more than we love our parents, our mother and our father.
Had he gone on, Jesus might very well have said
he expects us to love him more than we love a spouse,
more than we love a best friend.

I think that for many, maybe for most of us, that seems a big stretch,
because we interpret it as somehow having to choose:
to choose between Jesus and our parents;
to choose between Jesus and our families;
to choose between Jesus and our friends.

Well, there may be times when such a choice is necessary
but more often we’re challenged
not to choose between Jesus an another,
but to see Jesus, to recognize to meet Jesus in the other person:
to discover that the other’s worth, the other’s value is based
not on my likes or dislikes,
not on my temperament and taste,
not on my preferences or prejudices
and certainly not on how the other
might satisfy my needs and desires.

I welcome the stranger, or as Jesus put it, I receive the stranger
because in the heart of the stranger
is the One who is no stranger at all -
for in the heart of the stranger beats the heart of Christ.

This truth should be the starting point for all Christians
as we grapple with questions of welcoming others
and wrestle with welcoming refugees and with immigration reform.
And let’s be clear here:
I wouldn’t for a moment suggest
that the gospel supplies us with all we need                                                                    
to write immigration laws.
But neither for a moment could I suggest
taking a Christian stand on such policies
without naming the gospel as the basis
for our thinking through these complex issues.
For the Christian, there is no other legitimate starting place.
It’s a question of citizenship
because we are, at the same time, citizens of the United States
and citizens of the kingdom of God.

At the end of the second century a man named Matthetes wrote a letter
to a Roman official named Diognetus
in defense of the early Christian community.
We know nothing about either the author or the recipient.
But the mere fact that the letter survived through the centuries
is an indication of its importance for Christians,
not only of that time, but for years to come.
Listen to these ancient words
and ponder their meaning and value for today.
Matthetes wrote:
Christians are indistinguishable from other people
either by nationality, language or customs.

They do not inhabit separate cities of their own
or speak a strange dialect or follow some outlandish way of life.
Their teaching is not based upon reveries
inspired by the curiosity of other human beings.
Unlike others, they champion no purely human doctrine.

With regard to dress, food and manner of life in general,
they follow the customs of the place they happen to be living in…
And yet there is something extraordinary about their lives.
They live in their own countries
as though they were only passing through.
They play their full role as citizens
but labor under all the disabilities of aliens.
Any country can be their homeland but for them their homeland,  
wherever it may be, is a foreign country.
They pass their days upon earth
but they are citizens of heaven.
Obedient to local laws,
yet they live on a level that transcends the law.

Matthetes gives us an apt description of the life the gospel calls us to live.

Christ comes to us in many guises and he comes to our doorsteps
desiring that we welcome and receive him.
• He comes in the guise of the stranger, the refugee,
knocking on our door, seeking safety and shelter.
• He comes in the guise of the family members
whom we shun and shut out of our lives.
• He comes in the guise of the colleague or classmate
whom we ignore, marginalize and put down.
• And he comes in the guise of bread and wine,
the food he offers us, all of us refugees from our sins,
persons displaced by our faults and failings,
men and women who have estranged themselves
from the One who never draws away from us.

On the Cross Jesus made friends of strangers
]by offering himself to deliver us and save us - all of us.
At this table he makes friends of strangers,
taking his place by our side, feeding us with his Body and Blood.
And on the Fourth of July he invites us to welcome him
into our hearts and homeland
be welcoming those who come in his name.


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