Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Homily at Holy Spirit Catholic Community, 6 Easter A, May 25, 2014, by Rev. Beverly Bingle, RCWP

When we hear today's passage from the Acts of the Apostles,
we have trouble relating to its miracles,
its unclean spirits shrieking out,
the requirement for apostles to perform a charismatic ritual
in order to bring the Holy Spirit to people.
It made sense
in the worldview of Middle Eastern people two millennia ago,
but it doesn't seem to resonate
with the way we experience the world today.
On the other hand, I am reminded
of an incident down at Claver House a while back.
Pamela came in that day shouting some obscenities
and pacing agitatedly around the room,
threatening the other guests.
Paul, a frequent guest, walked quietly over to her,
called her by name, and said simply, "Be quiet,"
and Pamela stopped shouting and flailing about,
looked him straight in the eye, turned around and left.
Good teachers and good parents do that same kind of thing
with the youngsters in their charge.
Sometimes it works, and those of us who have seen it happen
pass the story along.
That kind of control takes a person
who is centered, gentle, attentive, caring,
a person who knows the Holy Spirit dwells in everyone,
who is ready to speak with the Spirit inside one's self
and listen to the Spirit in the other--
in short, a loving person, the way we know Jesus was,
the way we, as Christians, are called to be.
Then, when we hear today's passage from the first letter of Peter,
we have trouble relating to the idea that God wills us to suffer,
that Jesus died for our sins,
that he was put to death to lead us to God.
While those ideas made some kind of sense
in the Greco-Roman culture of the scripture writers,
they don't fit with today's understanding
of how the world operates, and of how God operates.
We no longer see God as requiring death as a sacrifice;
we see life--indeed all the universe--
as an expression of a greater God
than we can possibly imagine.
We understand humankind as evolving over billions of years
and continuing to evolve,
God-created and never to be destroyed but to be transformed.
We see suffering in general
as part of the cycle of our life as conscious beings.
We look to Jesus' suffering and death as part of being human,
just like us.
We know that Jesus was murdered
because he was a man of integrity,
a prophet, who spoke the truth
and suffered the consequences in that culture,
the same way that whistleblowers suffer in the U.S. culture,
the same way Fr. Roy Bourgeois, Fr. John Dear,
and other male Catholic clergy are suffering
for speaking truth about women's ordination,
the same way theologian Elizabeth Johnson is suffering
for her excellent scholarship,
the same way the Leadership Conference of Women Religious
is suffering for continuing to focus on works of social justice
in spite of the Vatican's inquisition.
And when we hear that Gospel passage,
we have even more trouble today.
John's high Christology doesn't fit our understanding.
We don't see God's love as conditional,
so we question the statement John puts in Jesus' mouth,
that IF you love me and obey,
then I will ask God to send the Paraclete.
And we don't see God's love as exclusive:
that ONLY those who obey are the ones who love Jesus,
and God will love ONLY those people.
We believe that God is with everyone,
without condition, without limit.
In line with Fr. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin--
another of those theologians once silenced by the Vatican--
we believe that each of us and all of us are growing--
evolving--into God.
Our world view has shifted in the last 2000 years.
Our knowledge has increased, and our consciousness has grown.
The framing and phrasing of spiritual experiences in this way
no longer rings true for us.
We truly believe that God is everywhere, in everyone.
There's a unity about God that we're discerning now,
and it's different from that former world view.
We truly believe that God includes everybody,
not just those who are Christians or Catholics
or who think of God in a certain way.
We truly believe in a universal communion
of all people and all animals and all matter,
a unity beyond our imagining.
So we try to look at these scripture passages
through the lens of today's world,
looking for what was in the heart of the first-century believers
and trying to find the parallels in our world today.
Do we find anything for us?
Can we read any of it in light of the signs of our time?
When John has Jesus say,
"I am in God and you are in me and I am in you,"
we hear it with a cosmic sensitivity.
It's not that this idea was not present before,
but we now know about the Big Bang (the Cosmic Hatch)
and the expanding universe
and the existence of other universes.
We know that God is bigger than we had ever thought before,
and we struggle with for ways to imagine that,
search for metaphors to describe that.
We also know that our human greed and selfishness
threatens to change our planet so much
that our grandchildren will die from the effects
if we do not change our habits.
We can also find a meaningful message for us
when we turn to today's psalm, #66, .
Its message resonates for us:
Let all the earth cry out in joy to our God.
Now that spring has finally sprung,
it's easier for us to pray that
than it was four months ago
when we were tromping through three feet of snow.
We can almost hear the sprouts and blossoms crying out in joy.
Tiny fruits are forming on the cherries and apples and pears
where the blossoms have already faded.
Even the radishes have sprouted.
And the dandelions.
We can see the perennial re-birth of the planet,
even as we know
our consumerist habits are threatening its life,
and our lives along with it.
We are learning more and more about how these life forms
that feed us and clean our air and water
developed over time into what we see today.
With every new piece of knowledge that dawns upon us,
we are ever more ready to sing out,
"Let everything that lives and breathes give praise to God!" And
we're ever more ready to do our part
to be all that God made us to be!

Holy Spirit Catholic Community
at 3535 Executive Parkway (Unity of Toledo)
Saturdays at 4:30 p.m.
Sundays at 9 a.m.
Sundays at 5:30 p.m.

Rev. Dr. Bev Bingle, Pastor

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