Saturday, November 22, 2014

Homily for Holy Spirit Catholic Community for Feast of Christ the King by Beverly Bingle, RCWP

The Jesus Seminar prints today’s Gospel story in black.
It’s the voice of Matthew’s community, not Jesus.
They write it down, probably in Syria,
shortly after the destruction of Jerusalem,
making a point about what Jesus’ teaching means to them.
They look around and see the outcasts of their world—
the poor and the weak, the ill and the abandoned.
Their own dispersion
after the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in the year 70
has made them outcasts, too.
So they express what Jesus would say,
based on where they are, what’s happening around them,
and how they apply Jesus’ teaching to their own situation.
It’s obvious, as Catholic scripture scholar Raymond Brown points out,
that “the verdict is based on the treatment of deprived outcasts,”
the very treatment Matthew’s community is experiencing
not only from the Romans
but also from the leaders of their own Jewish religion.
They understand the message of Jesus
to demand a very different standard from the “insiders,”
those leaders both religious and political,
who pay more attention to the rich and the powerful
than to the whole people of God
and the Way of Jesus.
Matthew tells his Last Judgment story in the context of monarchy,
but we don’t have that context here in our lives today.
Pope Pius X set up this feast of Christ the King in 1925
in the middle of a conflict between the Vatican and the state of Italy
about who was in charge.
That controversy was settled four years later with the signing of the
Lateran Pacts,
so that church-state context is gone, too.
The worldview in Matthew’s time
allowed for kings and thrones and angelic escorts on high.
That’s gone, too.
The facts of our scientific cosmology
place the context of today’s story
firmly into the world of our imagination.
So what’s left?
Not kings, not judgments in the sky.
What’s left are outsiders and insiders,
exclusion and inclusion,
and the clear message of Jesus:
nothing can separate us from God’s love
except our own failure to love and serve others.
Our tradition is full of examples of people
easily identified by the sheep-goat metaphor of today’s Gospel passage.
On the one hand we have someone like Francis of Assisi kissing a leper,
and on the other hand we have religious and civil leaders
conspiring to burn Joan of Arc at the stake.
We can still recognize those insiders and outsiders,
those sheep and goats,
Some high-profile sheep:
• Protesters this weekend standing vigil at Fort Benning
to remember the victims of the School of the Americas;
• TUSA, ABLE, and TCC—Toledoans United for Social Action,
Advocates for Basic Legal Equality, Toledo Community Coalition—
and other local groups
working to protect poor children from lead paint poisoning.
And countless lower-profile sheep. I look out and see each of you:
• meeting the emergency needs of the poor for food, clothes, and housing;
• contributing to organizations like Catholic Charities
and the Campaign for Human Development
and Habitat for Humanity
that empower the poor to build new lives and better neighborhoods;
• tending to how and where you buy what you need,
being careful that your purchases don’t support injustice
like child labor, human trafficking, harmful labor practices,
or environmental degradation; and
• taking the time to visit friends and family in hospitals and nursing homes,
write to relatives and neighbors in college or in the military or in jail,
and to listen to the joys and sorrows of the people you meet along the way.
And what about the goats?
In Matthew’s story, neither the sheep nor the goats
knew what they were doing.
They both ask when it was that they did or didn’t do the right thing.
But the image Matthew uses
makes the sheep and goats clearly distinguishable,
if only they would look around.
Just as we can easily tell the difference between a robin and a turkey,
so we can look around our world
and see who’s being excluded
and who’s doing the excluding
and who’s doing the including,
or who’s not being served
and who’s failing to serve them
and who’s trying to serve them.
The hard part, I think,
is looking in the mirror
to see if I am being a sheep or a goat.
And the hopeful part
is seeing that God is in everyone,
so there’s always another connection with the Divine Presence
as we continue along the Way.

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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