Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Homily at Holy Spirit Catholic Community, 23rd Sunday of Ordination, Sept. 7, 2014 by Rev. Beverly Bingle, RCWP

Today’s Gospel is full of rules and lessons
that don’t seem connected
to the messages of Ezekiel and Paul,
and the reason may be that,
according to the scholars of the Jesus Seminar,
these words that Matthew puts in Jesus’ mouth
are not Jesus’ words.
Instead, the rules about how to handle wrongdoing
reflect the attempts of the early Christian community
to deal with problems among their own members.
On top of that, shunning Gentiles and tax collectors
goes against Jesus’ practice of welcoming them,
as well as others who were considered outsiders in his culture.
Also in today’s Gospel, Matthew makes an attempt
to solidify Peter’s leadership position
by having Jesus repeat the saying about binding and loosing
from two chapters earlier.
Finally, the statement about “two or three gathered in my name”
was a standard feature of Jewish piety,
part of the common lore and not original with Jesus.
With all of Jesus’ words in this Gospel passage relating
to the specific needs of the community of Matthew
a half century after Jesus,
how are we to understand it?
The key, I think, is in one thing that we know Jesus stood for: love.
Even though we know this passage does not come from Jesus,
we can take from it the need to find ways to do justice,
to make peace,
and to love our family, friends, neighbors… and enemies.
This passage reflects
the principles of Catholic Social Teaching
known as “solidarity” and “subsidiarity,”
which respect personal dignity
by recognizing the human person
as one who is always capable of giving something to others.
Subsidiarity requires that issues be handled
at the lowest level that will be effective.
Matthew’s community seems to be applying that principle,
and it’s generally a good one.
Yet we know today
that there are times when it does not work
to talk with the person who has done the wrong,
and clergy sex abuse is an obvious example.
Had Matthew’s community been confronted with that horrific issue,
the Gospel might have guided the Christian community
toward a different, perhaps less hierarchical, structure.
Our first reading takes place on the lowest level of subsidiarity:
the individual person, the “mere mortal.”
It gives a warning to those of us
who shy away from our call to be prophets.
Ezekiel tells us that, if we don’t speak out about injustice,
we are the ones who will suffer.
I’ve been on both ends of that stick.
I’ve been the one who should have been called to task
for what I was doing or not doing,
and I’ve been the one who kept silent,
telling myself that it was none of my business,
or that my objection wouldn’t make any difference.
One of the great blessings of getting older, I’ve discovered,
is the ability to look back and see what I should have done
and then resolve to do the right thing in the future.
Many times over the years I heard racist and sexist jokes,
and I would sit quietly and say nothing.
It’s taken me a long time to develop the immediate response
that’s only now becoming a habit:
to close my eyes and shake my head sadly,
and say, I don’t find that funny at all.
When I was in college in the 60s,
I did what a great number of students did:
I marched, and protested, and sat in.
Bit by the political bug, I began volunteering in political campaigns.
Young and naïve, I followed the directions of the campaign staffers
and did some of those pre-Watergate dirty tricks.
My conscience took four or five years to kick in,
so that by the time I was 25 or so
I finally began to connect what I was doing
with what I had been taught through family and faith.
Then, for several years
I allowed myself to be a victim of wage theft,
signing a blank time sheet for 24 hours a week
when I was actually working 60 or 70.
I didn’t speak up because I thought I was doing meaningful work
and was afraid I’d lose the job if I said anything.
Lilly Ledbetter I wasn’t.
Ezekiel was right: I suffered for it then,
and I continue to suffer for it
through my poverty-level retirement income.
Like Jesus, Paul tells us outright what’s needed: love.
Love never does wrongs to anyone,
never hurts a neighbor, he writes.
And who is our neighbor?
• Politicians we disagree with, of course.
• Children crossing our border to escape death threats.
• Trafficked youngsters picking the beans to make the chocolate we buy.
• Miners inhaling coal dust so we can waste electricity.
• Refugees everywhere fleeing the disasters caused by our mindless
destruction of the ecosystems of our planet.
• The grouchy neighbor on the other side of the fence.
• The child who abuses alcohol.
Neighbors all.
Learning how to live, how to love, and how to forgive
is a lifelong task.
Before we can speak out for justice,
before we can speak truth to power,
before we can recognize our neighbor,
before we can love one another,
we need to pray….
or meditate, or reflect, or be mindful.
Whatever we call it, Jesus gave us the example.
The Gospels show him praying 37 times,
often going off by himself.
We need to follow him.

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

Rev. Dr. Bev Bingle, Pastor

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