Homily for August 27

Homily for the Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time
(Scriptures for today's Mass)

(Audio for homily)

Just bought a new whistle
and I thought the big open space of the church
might be a good place to try it out - so, brace yourselves 
- here goes!
Did you hear it?
Well, I’m not surprised because this is a silent dog whistle,
a whistle whose pitch is one that dogs can hear
but the human ear can’t detect.

As you may know,
dog whistles have been in the news the last week or so.
Not the real kind like this one.
The dog whistles referred to in the news are figurative and verbal.
In this sense,
dog whistles are words and phrases in political rhetoric
that reach some ears but not others,
with a message intended for some ears but not for others.

I bring this up because it seems to me,
based on today’s gospel, that God has a whistle, too,
a whistle whose sound reaches us on a special frequency.
It’s in the exchange between Jesus and Peter in the gospel story
when Peter finally gives Jesus the right answer to the question,
 “Who do people say that I am?”
Jesus replies,
 Blessed are you, Peter,
for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you,
but my heavenly Father.”

Peter heard something that the others didn’t hear.

Peter was tuned in to the whisper of God’s  Spirit,
the frequency of God’s whistle sounding in his mind and heart.

Of course, this was Peter   --  Saint Peter --
the rock on whom Jesus pledged to build his church,
to whom Jesus entrust the “keys to the kingdom of heaven!”
Peter was not your ordinary follower of Jesus - he was special.
But we shouldn’t be too hasty in dismissing Peter’s experience
as so unique that it might not be ours, too.

Don’t forget that Peter wasn’t always tuned in to God’s frequency.
He certainly wasn’t listening to God’s whisper or whistle
when he three times denied even knowing Jesus
when Jesus most needed his help.

He wasn’t listening to God’s whisper or whistle
when he abandoned Jesus to the Cross and ran and hid
to protect his own hide.

Sometimes Peter listened - and sometimes he didn’t.
Sometimes Peter heard - and sometimes he didn’t.
Sometimes you and I listen and hear - and sometimes, we don’t.
At least in this regard I believe we’re more like Peter than unlike him.

You and I wouldn’t even be here in this church today
unless somehow, at some time, in some way
we had heard God’s whisper, God’s whistle,
reaching the ears of our minds and hearts.
We wouldn’t be here today unless the whisper of God’s word
had somehow, at some point reached us and spoken to us.

Sometimes God’s whistle, God’s whisper, speaks to us in our habits:
if you’re here today mostly because this is what you do every week -
then that’s how God whistled you to church this morning.
Or maybe you’re here because you’re afraid to miss Mass.
Well, God can reach us through all our feelings,
our apprehensions and our emotions.
God can whistle us to his presence through the pressure of other people.
There may be some here today only because “she said I had to come.”

God can reach us on any frequency we’re tuned in to -
God can reach us even when we imagine
we’ve totally tuned God out!
God’s whistle never stops calling us.
God’s voice is like a radio station broadcasting and streaming online
24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
God’s always calling us, reaching out to us, wanting to get our attention,
whistling for us until we hear - and respond.
The question, then, is this:  am I tuned in to God’s frequency
or have I wandered up and down the dial to other stations?

One good way to figure this out is for us to respond
to the question Jesus asked in today’s gospel:
 “Who do you say that I am?”

Who do we say Jesus is when we’re listen to, read and ponder
the day’s news?
Who do we say Jesus is when we make judgments
about immigrants and immigration policy?
Who do we say Jesus is
when we endorse one piece of legislation over another?
Who do we say Jesus is
when we study the platforms of political parties
and the dossiers of politicians and candidates?
Who do we say Jesus is
when hate is in the headlines on a daily basis?
Who do we, as the church, say Jesus is?
Who do you and I, as individuals,  say Jesus is?

Who we say Jesus is in our lives,
how we listen for his wisdom in forming our opinions
and making choices,
how we love our neighbor in the face of hate,
how we open the ears of our hearts and minds
to the whisper and whistle of God’s Spirit calling us ---
all of this can lead us to the wisdom of God,
to his inscrutable judgments, his unsearchable ways.

Openness to the whisper, the whistle, the word of God
can open us to wisdom otherwise far beyond our own reach.

Pray with me at the Lord’s Table today
that our prayer here attune our minds and hearts
to the whisper, the whistle and the word of our God.

Scripture tells us that Wisdom sets a table to feed her children.
Pray with me that in sharing the Supper of the Lord,
we’ll be nourished by that wisdom which belongs to God alone
but which wisdom God chooses to share even with us.


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