Saturday, September 9, 2017

HOMILY – 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A) (2017)

Jeremiah’s words from last Sunday’s First Reading have been ringing in my ears this entire week. Maybe you recall them: You duped me, O LORD, and I let myself be duped; you were too strong for me, and you triumphed. All the day I am an object of laughter; everyone mocks me. Whenever I speak, I must cry out, violence and outrage is my message; the word of the LORD has brought me derision and reproach all the day. Jeremiah complains that the Lord has made him do what he does not want to do, and what Jeremiah has reluctantly done does not appear to him to be very successful. And even worse, Jeremiah finds himself the object of laughter – everyone is making fun of him – and all he can show for his efforts are disrespect, criticism, and rejection by those he is trying to save. For Jeremiah, who tried in earnest to oppose the political and religious winds of the day that were in opposition to God’s covenant, his fate would be arrest, imprisonment, and public disgrace. We are called today to be prophets like Jeremiah – sounds attractive, right? In fact, by our Baptism, we were anointed priest, prophet and king. In my shorthand: a PRIEST to pray and lead others in prayer; a KING to humbly serve the needs of others; and a PROPHET to know the truth, share the truth with others, and if necessary to defend the truth. A prophet is one who speaks on behalf of God – bringing the message of God into our world, into the human family within our homes, our neighborhoods, our places of work, and into our daily lives. Prophets are also called to bring us to conversion – to the often thankless job of not only calling others to listen to and trust God, but to then challenge them to reject sin and heal brokenness in individual lives and within their faith community. Regardless of the issue, we are challenged to seek God’s will and share that with others. And yes, this means moving beyond emotion, political correctness and popularity. This is what Jesus did. As prophets, we are carrying on the work of Jesus today. As modern day prophets, we may too often feel like Jeremiah: ill-equipped, or unwilling, or beat-up, discouraged and alone in the work of being a prophet. Fortunately, our role as prophets are strengthened by the Mass – in hearing God’s words spoken to us from Sacred Scripture and receiving the Eucharist to nourish us in our work. And certainly, through daily prayer we can be open to God’s Word, as well as to filter out the rest of the noise that bombards us. And we are blessed here at OLP to have a strong school and Parish School of Religion program to equip our youth to go out into the world to be the prophet that they are called to be. And, our adult faith formation programs – Alpha and our men’s and women’s programming, among others – reinforce and support us as adults in our call to be prophets. AND, today’ readings speak directly to us. Like Ezekiel in today’s first reading, being a prophet comes with great responsibility – to not only speak God’s message, God’s truth however difficult it might be, but to also realize that if we ignore this responsibility there will be grave consequences. This point hits home especially for me as a father in my responsibility to teach my sons and hold them accountable, and also the consequences for me if I knowingly ignore or reject this responsibility. In today’s Gospel, Jesus reinforces this responsibility of bringing others to conversion. Jesus is speaking of those within the faith community of the Church who have sinned. He is instructing them to seek reconciliation. And as prophets, we need to help “win over” those who have sinned – for their sake and the sake of the community. We can often miss this last point because our faith community (as wonderful and loving as it is), and even with our families and neighborhoods, we tend to be so private, isolated and disconnected. But we know from our human experiences that the adversity of one person affects others: an absent co-worker, an injured team member, a family member who is sick or struggling with an addiction. In these situations, there is certainly a desire, even an urgency, to heal, fix or repair what or who is not well. This is even more true within the Church because as we are reminded in today’s Gospel: “For where two or three are gathered together in [Jesus’] name, there am I in the midst of them.” If there is sin and brokenness within this faith community, we weaken our human capability to make present Jesus. This is why we need strong men and women of faith to speak the truth humbly, compassionately, and confidently to those in our life who most need conversion. A commentary from Liturgical Press offers this wonderful insight into today’s Gospel: the work of effecting reconciliation and conversion (in my words, the work of being a prophet) is not about simply making a personal judgment about someone and their words and behaviors; rather it is about helping them to turn their life around and become once again faithful members of the community – and this work is always communal, informed by humble prayer, and guided by Jesus who remains “in the midst” of his Body, the Church. And I will add, that it is also out of love, as St. Paul states in today’s second reading, that we are motivated to act – loving our neighbor, even our sinful neighbor, as we love our self. Going back to the prophet Jeremiah, he says: I will not mention him [God], I will speak in his name no more. But then it becomes like fire burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones; I grow weary holding it in, I cannot endure it. How true is this for us! There is a battle raging in each one of us (as well as in our families and communities). If we are completely honest with ourselves, burning in our hearts and minds is God’s love and the desire to share that love with others. We may want to ignore or suppress this truth, but it is real. Like Jeremiah, we may at times want to run from it, but so strong is this desire, that we can never escape it. So, I say: don’t be afraid to be the prophet you are called to be! God will give you the grace – the help – you need. Be bold in speaking God’s word. AND Enter into the other battle – the one raging in our families and communities – and bring God’s love, God’s mercy, God’s peace to those who need most to hear these words. Be willing to surrender to God’s will for you and be the instrument of God in your home, in your marriage and family, in your place of work, in your neighborhood or community, in this faith community, in the world we live in. Go and be great prophets – God needs you to be, and we need you to be a great prophet! May God bless you.