Homily for September 30

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Homily for the Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Scriptures for today's Mass


This is one of those weeks when the scripture readings may seem,
at least at first glance, to be remote - even irrelevant.
But it’s also one of those weeks when, if you tease those texts,
if you scratch their surface, you just might find in them
a message that’s just what we need to hear

For instance…
The story of Eldad and Medad in the first reading
is basically a narrative about “us and them,”
or even better, “us VS them.”
It’s the tale of a power struggle to determine
“who’s right and who’s wrong”  -- “who’s in and who’s out?”
and who deserves the seal of authenticity and legitimacy
in the work that needs to be done.
Those ancient themes certainly bring us within striking distance
of this past week’s Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearing room.

A similar struggle for power and authenticity plays out in today’s gospel.
Here, the disciple John represents the jealousy and partisanship
of the 12 men Jesus chose as his closest colleagues.
They’re upset that others, not members of their elite, chosen group,
are also doing good works, even driving out demons.
Jesus shows himself to be much more egalitarian than his followers,
authenticating the ministry of one who simply offers a cup of water
to a thirsty neighbor.

In both readings, we’re counseled that in every situation
there is always at work a dynamic, a power,
an authority greater than our own
and broader than our narrow imaginations might conceive.
Jesus goes on to make clear the seriousness of all this
when he begins to speak about dismembering our bodies!
He’s telling us, here, that
if we persist in our partisan favoritism;
if we fail to ignore the multiple ways
in which God might speak to his people and heals their wounds;
if we dig in at our heels and favor ideology over truth,
power over service, and personal comfort over self-sacrifice,
then it would be better for us to loose an eye or a limb or two
than to walk into hell with our bodies intact.

But… is Jesus seriously suggesting we pluck out an eye
or cut off a hand or a foot?
I can’t see how one could reconcile that
with the mercy and healing and desire for wholeness
that characterize the ministry of Jesus.

But I do see how Jesus might use language and imagery
just this strong
to tell us that there ARE some realities in our lives
that need to be ----- lopped off, cut out.

• Regardless of which side of the legislative aisle we take our seat,
no good is achieved by our demonizing the other side.
Ideology of that kind does not focus our vision,
instead, it blinds us and keeps us from seeing
the whole picture, the whole truth.
And it needs to be cut out.

• If the works of our hands fail the standards of honesty and fairness,
if our hands take in for ourselves far more
than we offer and give away to others,
then we need to CUT OUT whatever injustice and selfishness
keep us from standing in grace before God and our neighbor.

• If the path our feet walk fails to follow in the Lord’s footsteps,
if we fail to go where God calls and leads us
then we need to CUT UP the map we’ve drawn for our own purposes
and begin to walk at the Lord’s side,
with him as our guide and companion.

• The Lord isn’t asking, literally, for an eye, a hand or a foot.
But he is asking for our minds - not that we give them up
but that we use them to search for truth and wisdom -
and he’s asking for our hearts - not that we cut them out of our chests -
but that we give them away in selfless love in serving others.

We all have opinions about what we heard and read
about this past week’s events in Washington.
One thing we can probably all agree on
is that our nation is divided, torn in two,
not by Dr. Ford and Judge Kavanaugh,
they are but two tips of an iceberg of division
that’s been deepening in mistrust and animosity for decades.
Many of us feel helpless in the face of all of this.

Let me suggest that there are three things you and I might do
to help improve the situation.
• One is for each of us to take inventory of our own lives
to see there what needs to be plucked out or cut off
if we hope to stand in grace before God and our neighbor.
• Another is to participate actively in the political process
and to work for and vote for candidates
who might make for real change and growth.
• And a third (last but not in any the way least) we need to pray.
We need to confess that the mess we’re in comes from ignoring
the presence of God in our own lives and in our nation’s life.

In that spirit, I share a prayer I wrote for my blog on Thursday night.

Let us pray…
Our nation is divided, Lord,
and the gap between the two sides could widen the Grand Canyon
and stretch it from coast to coast...
Division and acrimony, Lord:
bitterness, mistrust, animosity, prejudice,
ill will, sarcasm, rancor, hostility - and hardness of heart...

And all this, Lord, on both sides of the divide...

It's painful, Lord, to see revealed how divided,
how broken is this nation,
how deep our common wounds,
how much in need of healing its people,
how helpless and weak we are,
unable to lay aside our ideologies for the truth,
our greed for justice, our comfort for self-sacrifice,
our partisanship for unity...

And you know well, Lord, there is no easy fix here,
no overnight solution, no facile reconciliation:
our wounds are much too deep and of the kind
that only time and sacrifice and humility can begin to heal...

And prayer, Lord, we pray for healing…

We'll not right these wrongs on our own,
we'll not salvage this nation's glory and promise
through our own determination and strength -
we will not, we cannot do this by ourselves
but only with your help, your strength and your power, Lord...

And so, we pray, Lord...
• We pray you give the counsel we need
to truly understand the depth of our division...
• We pray you give the wisdom we need
to see through and beyond our petty schemes...
• We pray you give the strength we need
to build again what we've dismantled in our foolishness...
• We pray for determination to persevere,
especially when the task at hand seems impossible...
• We pray you renew your gift of faith, Lord,
that we might remember it's you, our Creator,
who endow us with certain, unalienable rights...

Send us your Spirit, Lord, to lead us and guide us,
to shape and mold us in your image,
to refresh and strengthen your people with your grace
and most of all:  to seek you and find you and know you
in all things, in the whole of creation and especially, Lord,
in one another and in this nation we call our home...


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