Saturday, July 16, 2016

HOMILY – 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C)

Sin to out bid a priest, deacon or religious in the silent auction? Still waiting on whether I won silent auction. Thanks volunteers. Invite to dinner. Always a great event! It is good that we have this festival each year as a way – not only to raise some money for the school – but to also to welcome our neighbors to our parish campus, as well as maybe welcome back some fallen away Catholics AND to have the opportunity to share the joy and love we know as Catholics. In fact, we are called to be a welcoming people – as an institution: the Church, and individually: as Catholics. We see this in our liturgy – our greeters, music, this space should all be welcoming and inviting (we are getting there!); or even when, for example, we celebrate the Sacrament of Infant Baptism, we start by greeting the parents, godparents and child at the doors of Church – as any good host would – welcoming them not only into this place but also into God’s love and mercy. It is also in our Catholic institutions that we exemplify our welcoming spirit: in our Catholic schools, hospitals, and charities. And we can not forget the domestic Church: our families, where we must be welcoming of each other within the family even when we experience dysfunction – just as the Father does of both sons in the story of the Prodigal Son. And individually, we are called to have a spirit of welcome in everyone we encounter: family, friend, co-worker, stranger, even enemy. As recent events remind us, a spirit of welcome is much needed in our families, places of work, communities, and in our world. There is a need to be welcoming of each other regardless of race, color, religion, gender, national origin, sexual orientation, profession or any other “classification.” And, there needs to be a welcoming regardless of someone’s actions, words or behavior. To be clear, we can love and welcome the sinner, but not the sin; we can show care, compassion and mercy towards others, even if their words or actions are offensive, hurtful, or destructive. I get that the problems facing our world are complex social, economic, political, and historical in nature. But remember Christ too lived in a world filled with hate and violence, and filled with complex social, economic, political, and historical problems AND what did he do: he welcomed all – showing care, compassion and love, even in the face of hostility, embarrassment and rejection. The only way we can do this – to be so welcoming – is to first see and understand in each other that we are made by God, made in his image and likeness, made by God’s love to be loved and to love. It is this very fundamental truth of our Catholic faith that gives each of us a dignity, value and worth AND demands respect, care and compassion – as truly someone worth welcoming. This is the example Jesus gives us over and over again in the Gospels, this is the example we are called to embrace and follow. Today’s readings then give us some insight into how we can be so welcoming. As a “Martha” myself, I feel the immediate need to go on the defensive about what we might interpret as Jesus’ treatment of Martha in today’s Gospel. Jesus does not reject the hospitality and effort given by Martha, but he does reject her anxiety and worry. He wants to make sure that Martha does not miss what he has to offer: his Word, his love, his mercy. We need to possess the best of both Mary and Martha: welcoming and serving of others, while at the same time being attentive and listening. Abraham exemplifies the hospitality we are called as Catholics to show toward others. As we just heard, it was a hot day (like today) and Abraham was no “spring chicken” but, in his old age and weakened body, he RAN to greet his guests, bowing down to the ground before them, and began to serve them. He was fully present, fully focused in serving his guests; and did so with no expectation of receiving anything in return. And greater than what to offered in food, shelter and comfort, was what he offered in his attentiveness towards them. And for this he was greatly rewarded. Yes, it was a friendly audience that Abraham welcomes – actually a divine audience – but we are called to show such welcome to just not family and friends, but also strangers, even enemies! So, I like that the welcoming-themed First Reading and Gospel passages are paired in our Lectionary with today’s Second Reading from St. Paul’s letter to the Colossians. St. Paul reminds us of two things. First, we are part of something bigger than ourselves. Suffering and pain have a way of either causing us to collapse within ourselves or to be like St. Paul, who is writing from prison and is most likely in great physical pain, but nonetheless embraces his pain as an opportunity to unite himself with Christ and all that Christ has done for us. We are faced with a similar decision in each encounter we have, right? In our own fear, insecurity, doubt, anxiety and worry, do we turn inwards – unable to be welcoming and hospitable; OR are we able to move beyond ourselves to show respect, care and compassion – to be truly welcoming – towards all. Second, St. Paul goes on to remind us that we are called to share God’s love and mercy with others – first welcoming and then sharing. We do this when we move beyond our fear, anger, insecurity and pain to welcome someone and then share with them the joy, peace, and love we know when we are in relationship with our God. This is the example Christ provides us, St. Paul models for us, and what we are called to do. We hope to accomplish this, in a small but powerful way, through our parish’s Alpha program this fall and about which you will be hearing more about in the coming weeks. In the meantime, in just a couple of minutes we will stand together and say this beautiful prayer: Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed. Jesus not only provides us with the example of welcoming others, but he awaits our welcome of him in our hearts in minds. It is in the Eucharist that we receive the grace – the help, the courage, the strength – to welcome Christ into our heart and mind and then to be the welcoming Catholic we are called to be. As you say these words today, offer up whatever it is that keeps you from welcoming Jesus and others and then in receiving the Eucharist, receive the grace to welcome those you encounter this week, so they too may know God’s great love.