Homily for July 1

Homily for the Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Scriptures for today's Mass


I don’t usually write about current events on my blog
but this past week, two of my posts were related to the news.

On Monday I wrote:
Lord, I'm just not sure how to handle the current political scene
or what to speak in this climate of accusation and judgment,
of quick tempers exploding at a moment's notice
in harsh and hateful words,
breeding discord and division in families
and between friends and neighbors and colleagues...
It's near impossible to get to the truth of things
when so many are so resistant
to hearing anything beyond what they already believe...
Prejudice, stubborn bias and often ignorance
reign on both sides, on every side,
and slogans and sound bites substitute for substance
in debating critical and complex issues...
The questions, hardly easy, don't admit of easy answers, Lord,
and no amount of shouting will resolve the mess we're in...

Then on Friday I wrote:
• Lord, I doubt that anyone in Annapolis
woke up on Thursday morning and thought,
"Hmm.. maybe it will be our turn today..."

• But I'm beginning to wonder, Lord:
is this how it is?    is this how it's going to be?

• Are we all, in our own cities and towns,
are we all just waiting until it's "our turn,"
waiting for the day when the shots ring out
on our street?  in our schools?  at our place of work?  in our church?

• I don't mean to sound morbid, Lord, but the reality is grim:
too many guns,   in too many places,   on too many days
leaving too many dead, wounded, grieving
- and fearful of waking up and wondering,
"Hmm.. maybe it will be our turn today..."

Well, that’s some of what I wrote this past week.
And then I sat down to write a homily for today
and in the scriptures I read:
God did not make death
nor does he rejoice in the destruction of the living.
For he fashioned all things that they might have being…
For God formed humankind to be imperishable,
in the image of his own nature did God create us.
But by the envy of the devil,
death entered the world..

These lines from the Book of Wisdom
don’t offer any easy answer to our troubles and worries
but they can help us frame the question.

In different ways and from different perspectives,
and on both sides of the aisle,
we are appalled by some of the ideologies
expressed by our leaders and our neighbors
and we’re cut to the quick by stories and images
too tragic to imagine.

Without mentioning the Garden of Eden,
that passage from Wisdom does take us back to the story of creation.
The Book of Genesis is neither an historical nor a scientific account
of the origins of the universe and of life
but it has a lot to teach us about the relationship
between the Creator and us, his creatures, the work of his hands.
Genesis tells us that we were not created
to have a limited shelf-life:
we were made to be imperishable.
It’s we who chose to rupture that relationship
when, confronted with evil’s envy of our God-given nature,
we chose -and often continue to choose-
evil over good, wrong over right, selfishness over justice,
our way over God’s way.

The stories in our national and international news are tragic:
not just because they’re politically offensive
 (as they often are)
and not only because they violate human sensitivities
 (as they frequently do).
Rather, the news is tragic because it repeats the original rupture
between God and creation, between God and humankind,
between God - and you and me.
The words from Wisdom, then, call us beyond the political
and deeper than that place in our gut
where we feel the pain of others.

The words of Wisdom call us to examine, once again:
our relationship with God, yours and mine;
and our relationship with creation, the world we live in;
and our relationship with our neighbors, near and far.

Our response to the news of the week, the day and the hour depends
not on our being Democrats or Republicans or Independents -
no, our response depends on:
whether or not we are believers;
whether or not we are followers of Jesus and of his word;
whether or not we bow to a law even greater and more compelling
than the law of the land and its Constitution.

It will be a good and noble thing for us Christians, on the 4th of July,
to pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America -
provided we do not forget that our first allegiance
is to a much higher power and authority.
Our task, our call as Catholic Christians in the world
is to work always to restore that original unity
between God and humankind and creation,
that original unity that was ours
before the envy of evil entered the world
and we fell to the temptation to choose
evil over good, wrong over right, selfishness over justice,
and our way over God’s way.

The tone of the two prayers I wrote on my blog
and quoted earlier
might seem very negative - well, they were.
But I didn’t read you the whole text…

My prayer on Monday concluded with these words:
• We need wisdom, Lord, to see beyond the bias
that clouds and blinds our vision...

• We need an understanding deeper
than what often masquerades as insight...

• We need counsel born of truth
not of our preconceived assumptions...

• We need courage to seek the truth -
and then to speak it humbly and firmly…

• We need knowledge of your will
that we might do what you'd do, Lord...

• We need greater, deeper reverence
for your rule over our decisions...

• We need awe before your mystery
as we seek to love and serve you...

• We need your Holy Spirit, Lord, your Spirit's grace and gifts,
to help us do what's right and just - whatever the cost may be…

And my prayer on Friday ended with these words:
• Help me, Lord - help all of us - to be not afraid
and to trust in you that all shall be well,
that all shall be well,
that all manner of things Shall. Be. Well.

• Help us, Lord, to know what to do
to make things better, safer and more secure for all
- and sooner than later...

• Help us know what to do about guns
and give us the courage to do what should be done,
whatever that might be...

• Help us identify the quietly violent among us
and learn how to reach them, heal them
and help them make peace with whatever rages inside them...

• Help us turn away from violence, Lord,
in our art and entertainment,
in our language and our music,
as the easy solution to our problems...

• (And while you're at it, Lord:
please heal me of any violence, however slight, however subtle,
in my mind, in my thoughts and deep within my soul...
Heal me of any rage or anger
lurking in my grudges, in my resentments
and in the petty, stupid squabbles
that distance and divide me from others and from you...)

• Help us all, Lord, with the help of your grace,
to shape and make a world where your peace reigns
and where, each morning, we might awake and wonder,
"Hmm... is today my chance, my turn, Lord,
to be a channel of your peace?"   


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