Homily for July 22

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


The scriptures this weekend are all about
shepherds who mislead and scatter their people
and the person designated to preach these scriptures is
- your shepherd.
This is what we call a conflict of interest.
I am, perhaps, the person least qualified to be objective
about these passages and yet it’s my job to preach them.
Jeremiah takes on kings, prophets and priests, Israel’s shepherds,
who have misled and scattered the people.
And in the gospel,
Jesus is moved with pity for the crowds following him
because they seem like a flock abandoned by their shepherd.

The bad news here is that shepherds, those who lead God’s people,
sometimes fail to be faithful in their work.
We have more than enough evidence of this
in stories of abuse and cover-up,
going back years and as recent as last week’s headlines.

The good news is that there’s always one Shepherd, Jesus,
who never fails the flock.
In spite of the conflict of interest homilists face here,
you can be sure that no pastor preaches this weekend
without measuring himself against the words of Jeremiah and Jesus.

And, left to his own devices,
it’s likely that each pastor will judge himself
too harshly in some areas
and more leniently than he deserves in others:
sometimes getting it right and sometimes getting it wrong.

And he will be judged by others, too.
People hearing these readings will be asking themselves,
 “Is our shepherd faithful or unfaithful
in his preaching and in his leadership?”
And the answer to that question, in every parish, will be mixed.
The percentages will vary from place to place, shepherd to shepherd,
but in every parish the same pastor
will be esteemed by some as eminently faithful
and denounced by others as scandalously unfaithful.
And both of these reactions will be based
on the same homilies, the same ministry and the same leadership.

I’ve been preaching in Concord for 24 years.
The two 2 most frequent criticisms of my preaching I’ve heard have been:
1) that my homilies are too political,
and that I often reveal my own political stance and ideas
I hear this particularly around the time for elections.
And 2) the other critique of my preaching
is that my homilies are not sufficiently - political:
that I don’t call out particular candidates or policies,
that I don’t clearly indicate which candidates or policies
Catholics should endorse.
Both of these critiques are in response to the same person,
the same homilies and the same leadership.
So then, is fidelity, like beauty, in the eye of the beholder?  No.

The shepherd’s fidelity, the preacher’s fidelity
needs to be more objectively evaluated
through three lenses, through three sets of eyes:
• First, through the eyes of faith in Jesus, God’s Word made flesh,
Christ, who is Lord, Savior, Judge and Brother of us all;
• Second, through the eyes of Christ’s Body, the Church who,
in proclaiming the scriptures, hands on our faith’s Tradition;
• and Third, through the eyes of our own experience:
our trials and joys, as we worship together, grow in faith,
serve the poor and wrestle
with how to live a Christian life in today’s world
and how to respond to and resolve the political dilemmas
that face us all.

It’s through these eyes, these lenses,
that we view and evaluate a pastor’s fidelity
and it’s critically important to employ not just one or two
but all three of these lenses:
the lens of faith in Christ,
the lens of the Church’s tradition,
and the lens of whatever is the wisdom of our own experience.

And I probably don’t need to mention this, but I will:
what’s good for the shepherd is good for his flock.
As we consider the fidelity of preachers through these three lenses,
each of us needs to review his or her own faithfulness
as individual Christians.
• For if pastor and people see only through the eyes of personal faith,
they run the risk of becoming their own authority,
establishing and relying on their own brand of infallibility.
• Or if pastor and people see only through the eyes of Tradition,
they run the risk of loosing sight of the ongoing human struggle
for meaning and peace - which Tradition is meant to serve.
• Or if pastor and people see only through the eyes
of their own experience
their vision will be myopic, blurred and unable to focus
on the truth and holiness we’re all called to seek and to live.

Ultimately, neither beauty nor fidelity is in the eye of the beholder -
but rather in the eyes of God.
And because we have trouble seeing as God sees,
we need all three of those corrective lenses
• that we might faithfully see Christ as God among us;
• that we might faithfully live by the wisdom the Church offers;
• that we might faithfully seek, in our own circumstances,
a holy way of life,
a way to live as Christians faithful to the gospel
in the political realities of today’s world.

We thank God for giving us Jesus as our Shepherd:
for in Christ our Brother
- we see and meet our God, present among us;
and through Christ, God’s only Son
- we become God’s sons and daughters;
and with Christ’s Body, the Church,
- we see in the gifts we offer
the Body and Blood of the only truly faithful One:
Jesus, the loving Shepherd who, on the Cross,
gave his life for us, his unfaithful flock.

May Christ shepherd us, his people
and may we shepherd one another,
in fidelity to his Word, his Church and his truth.


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