The Good Shepherd Community At Worship
For this 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time, 10/27/13 Rev. Beverly Bingle of Toledo, Ohio has given us a powerful and poetic Homily. After her homily is Rev. Lee’s Commentary. The purpose of the Commentary is to make this an interactive homily of the style many women priests use in their churches. First the Priest sets the stage and gives a brief homily or introductory thoughts and invitation, then the congregation is invited to respond and share their own thoughts on the readings and the thoughts of the Priest. Readers are invited to add their comments in our global parish.
The Readings are: Sirach 35:12-14,16-18; Psalm 34; 2 Timothy 4;6-8,17-18 AND LUKE 18;9-14
Right Relationship With God and Creation Beverly Bingle
Our weather has turned this week.
The first frost.
Last mowing of the year.
Gardeners scurrying to bring in the harvest.
And a marked increase in the number of guests at Claver House.
George, the octogenarian who usually leads us
in the Lord’s Prayer on Thursdays, was late.
I was surprised when Mitchell,
a relative newcomer to the soup kitchen,
volunteered to lead us in prayer before the meal.
He framed the Our Father in a straightforward and simple way:
Let us be grateful for life, he said,
for the food we are about to eat,
for the warm and safe shelter of this room.
Let us share this food in friendship, he prayed,
to gain strength for the day
so we can use the gifts we have been given
to make the world a better place.
I bring this up not because today’s readings are about prayer—
they aren’t, even though they all use prayer as the context.
Instead, the readings are about justice
in the basic meaning of the term:
living in right relationship
with all of creation.
Mitchell’s short prayer showed an understanding of life
that revealed him to be
in right relationship with God
and other people.
Sirach seems to know Mitchell when he tells us that
“the prayer of the unpretentious pierces the clouds.”
That is, those who know themselves,
who do not pretend to be someone they aren’t—
they find their prayers heard.
They understand their right relationship
to God and creation and other human beings,
so they reap a harvest of justice.
They are justified.
They live in righteousness.
Then the psalmist tells us
that happiness belongs to those
who give thanks to God for dwelling in them.
They know who they are
and who empowers them.
Paul writes to Timothy
with another variation on this righteousness.
He knows he is weak,
but he also knows that it is Christ
whose action in and through him
gives him strength.
And in the Gospel this week we hear another parable from Jesus,
another of those that scholars believe came from him.
Through this parable, as with so many of his teachings,
Jesus reveals God to us:
a God of love, of compassion.
Jesus’ use of parables, here as elsewhere, is not meant to inform.
So he is not telling us to avoid the front pew—
though many of us Catholics seem to have picked up on that
as if it were the sole purpose of the parable.
Nor is Jesus telling us to sit in the back of the church and grovel.
No—the parables are aimed at re-tooling our minds,
giving us a new mindset
that will bring us to the experience of the kin-dom of God.
So we hear the Pharisee, an upstanding, law-abiding Jew,
carefully following, even exceeding, the letter of the law.
He is a good man, doing everything he is supposed to do.
He is admired in the community for his way of life.
But he does not go home justified.
His prayer is selfish and arrogant:
he sneers at the tax collector,
places himself above other people,
and prays thanks for what he himself has done
rather than thanking God
for giving him the opportunity to do good things.
The Pharisee does not go home right with God.
He does the right thing,
but he does not see God for what God is.
Nor does he see himself for what he is,
or others for who they are.
He has a long way to go,
and he’s on the wrong path.
On top of that, he doesn’t know he’s on the wrong path.
The tax collector is not a model, either.
His prayer reflects an understanding of who he is—a sinner—
and who God is—the Merciful One.
So he is in right relationship with God.
But his actions are not just—
his livelihood depends
on cooperating with a cruel and powerful government
to oppress his own people, his own neighbors.
He goes home right with God,
but he struggles with changing his life
so that he is also in right relationship with people.
This past Wednesday evening
at our discussion of Michael Morwood’s Tomorrow’s Catholic,
we talked at length about how to pray now that we have
a very different understanding of the universe
from the one held by the authors of the scriptures.
In our lifetimes we are witnessing a major shift
in our understanding of who God is.
what creation is,
and who we are.
The way we used to see God is no longer believable.
As we hear of scientific discoveries like the Higgs Boson,
as we read about the stardust at the base of all existence,
as we ponder the immensity of universes
beyond our universe,
much of the vocabulary and many of the images
that we used for God-talk
no longer make sense to us.
The Fall, redemption theology, the economy of salvation—
these understandings from our previous cosmology
are no longer real for us.
We’re theological babies again.
Happily, real experience and real life remain.
As always, we start with a life experience
and we try to understand.
The gift of conscious awareness brings us a universe of ways
to experience the God in us and around us and beyond us—
always through our embodied spirits, our inspirited bodies.
We are Catholic Christians,
committed to the Way that we learn from Jesus—
reaching out, welcoming, including everyone, loving.
We meet people like Mitchell.
We listen to folks telling us
about their experiences of transcendence and immanence.
We watch the falling leaves and the full moon.
the pink sunrises and the golden sunsets.
We pet our cats and hug our children.
And in all that real life
we do theology,
and we find a mystery full of grace.
Holy Spirit Catholic Community
Mass at 2086 Brookdale (Interfaith Chapel):
Saturdays at 4:30 p.m.
Sundays at 9 a.m.
Mass at 3535 Executive Parkway (Unity of Toledo)
Sundays at 5:30 p.m.www.holyspirittoledo.org
Rev. Bev Bingle, Pastor
Right with God, Right with the Poor and Humble- Judy Lee
I love Rev. Bingle’s homilies, that is why I put them in this blog. -so you can enjoy them too. And, so you can reflect on who God is and where justice and compassion fits in your relationship with God and your neighbors as she does. Her work in a soup kitchen brings her close to truly humble and unpretentious people. As she notes Mitchell’s prayer is truly beautiful and God is delighted with it. The Mitchells in my church are Nathaniel, Gary and Lauretta and Donnie, Mrs.Jolinda and others. Sirach lets us know clearly that “God listens to the prayers of the exploited”( Sirach 13b TIB-The Inclusive Bible Translation.) Sirach also asks us to give of ourselves…and that is a very different posture than the Pharisee who prays putting others down in the Gospel of Luke. But it helps put us right with God. And, even as Rev. Bingle and I and our church members do prioritize serving the poor-including the poor serving one another-we may become the answers to the prayers of those who have little of this world’s goods like the widows and orphans in the time of Sirach,Paul and Jesus. And we may learn how to pray and do justice along with our theology.
I fully empathize with Paul in his letter to Timothy-an elder encouraging a younger church leader by sharing that it is Christ who strengthen’s him so he can proclaim the Gospel even as his life is “already poured out like a libation”.
Yes, the Pharisee who bragged on himself in prayer missed the boat. As he bragged, the boat of right living with God and his neighbor sailed out of sight. He needs to catch the boat of justice and board it right now. As for the tax collector-I can empathize and I like to think that he went home and changed his cheating ,fraudulent ways after his encounter with Jesus since Jesus says “he was right with God”. I empathize with him. I have often felt like him-”Oh God, just give me the last seat in the corner of being with you for that is enough heaven for me. “
In this prayer I am feeling that while I may be stardust and that God’s everlasting love is within me and all around me, I sometimes mess up big time. I have in the past, I do in the present, and I probably will in the future. I am very human and while I fight the good fight and keep the faith like Paul, I do not always win that fight. I get tired, angry, irritable and downright selfish at times. I do not even aspire to being “exalted” but I do aspire to being right with God and my neighbor. I am therefore happy with a theology that includes God’s forgiveness for sin-both individual and social. And social sin, that is the sin of socio-economic systems and governments and powerful folks who exploit others is the worst sin I know. I have no trouble with that word or concept-I do know what it is and have been there. Moreover, I serve people who have been there as well-yes, murderers, yes, adulterers, yes, exploiters of others, yes to breaking the laws of Loving God first and our neighbors as ourselves. So with all due respect to Michael Morwood,whom I have dialogued with, and the God within, the God who is MORE and truly beyond our understanding-might I dare say even beyond the Cosmos- is the one I often need. As one of my people said” I need the Jesus who comes to me when I am alone and scared and feeling lower than a snake’s belly”. Yes, I do understand that new Cosmic understandings make us question “old” formulations, but neither old nor new encompass the God who is MORE. I don’t feel like a babe in the new woods of understanding God, but more like a weaver who gets a hold of and weaves strands of gold and silver, rust and green together, the loving essence of the “old” and the “new” to make a chain of living strands that hold us to our loving God and instructs us in right living.
Amen,to the mystery full of grace. Amen, sister Beverly,Amen.
What do you think our sisters and brothers ?
Judy Lee, ARCWP
Co-Pastor The Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community
Fort Myers, Florida
Bridget Mary's Response:
God is always" More than" we can imagine or dream of. The Holy One loves us beyond our wildest dreams, is within us and in all living beings. Let us rejoice that we are stardust and dance the cosmic dance of creation with delight each day!
Bridget Mary Meehan, arcwp, www.arcwp.org