Thursday, November 27, 2014

Homily for Holy Spirit Catholic Community, 1st Sunday of Advent, Cycle B by Beverly Bingle, RCWP

The four weeks of the Advent season that we enter today
symbolize the 4,000 years that the Chosen People waited
before the Messiah came.
Even though God was with the people
through all of those 40 centuries,
they were not always aware of the Divine Presence.
Sometimes they recognized the hand of God:
in the burning bush,
the parting of the sea,
cloud by day and fire by night,
in Moses and Miriam and Aaron
and the prophets.
But sometimes they got distracted with other things
and just didn’t see God with them.
Many of the people of Jesus’ time
did not recognize the Divine Presence in him,
a human like us,
the one who was alert to God’s Divine Presence
and went about teaching people
how to live in right relationship with God.
We still know that God is with us,
but we don’t always pay attention to the fact
that God makes a habit of entering our lives,
being within us,
walking the road with us.
Everywhere we look these days
we’re reminded of the Christmas story,
how Jesus—unique expression of the Divine Presence—
was born among us.
Bells and carols and crib scenes.
We’ll hear how Mary and Joseph traveled to Bethlehem
with no place to stay
until the innkeeper let them sleep in his stable.
We tell ourselves
that we would have welcomed that family into our home
if they had come to our door.
About 15 years ago a young couple with their children
showed up on the doorstep of a friend of mine, Paul.
He knew them from church and invited them in.
When they told him the story of their eviction and asked for help,
Paul moved them into his own house
and rented a room until they got back on their feet.
He saw the Divine Presence in that homeless family,
and I was privileged to see it in him.
And I see God up close in you
as you reach out with time and food and clothes and cash
to Family Promise, Assumption Outreach,
Cherry Street Mission, Habitat… the list goes on!
Another part of our Christmas tradition
is the story of the terrified parents
taking the baby Jesus to another country,
running from the terror and slaughter wrought by King Herod. We tell ourselves
that we would have welcomed them into our country
if they had come here.
Like the children at our border.
In the Rio Grande Valley in Texas,
volunteers acting on their own
have been reaching out to the families.
When the refugees arrive,
according to Sister Norma of the Missionaries of Jesus,
"they are scared, they're hungry, they're tired.
They don't know who to trust.
They fear someone will take advantage of them."
Sister Norma tells the people
when she meets them at the bus station,
"Somos de la iglesia. Estamos aqui para ayudar."
("We are with the church. We are here to help.")
Then there are the folks we see on the evening news,
distressed and dying, but far away from us.
They are victims of natural disasters—
flood, drought, hurricane, typhoon, earthquake, disease.
We know the disasters really aren’t “natural” any more.
Their severity is increasing because of the action—and inaction—
of us human beings who are changing our planet’s climate.
Interestingly, a recent political study shows
that Catholics in America who are of Latino or African heritage
are more concerned about climate change
than white Catholics are.
As people marginalized in our society,
they understand that climate change
will hit them first, and hardest, and longest.
Those faces on TV look like them.
Here at Holy Spirit we’re launching
what for us is a major effort
to mitigate climate change.
We’ve decided to re-forest Toledo.
For the planet as a whole, it’s not very much.
For us, it’s something we can do right now
to help our children and grandchildren
and the whole earth.
But why do we care?
We’re not poor.
We don’t live on coastal lowlands or in a desert.
We have doctors and hospitals handy,
and insurance to help pay the cost of health care.
Even if we live in poverty,
we’re still well-off compared to most of the world’s people.
So why do we care?
Why do we reach out to the homeless and the poor?
Why do we donate to disaster relief?
Why do we support immigration reform?
Why did we sign that public comment letter to the EPA last week?
When we look at the TV reports,
whether it’s an earthquake in Haiti
or a cyclone in Myanmar
or mudslides in Brazil
or starvation from drought in Somalia,
we see people created in the image of God,
people who are temples of the Holy Spirit,
people with the spark of the Divine Presence in them.
We see our sisters and brothers, our children, suffering.
They’re part of us—one people, one body—
and we are compelled to help.
It’s a moral imperative for us.
And from that impulse to help we have done two things.
First, we reach out when whenever we can
to help people in need now.
We have sent direct aid around the world
by contributing through Catholic Relief Services.
We help Toledo’s homeless at Family Promise and Tent City,
and we help feed the poor at Claver House
and Assumption Outreach Center.
Second, we are going to change the climate
by making it better.
We’re not waiting
while governments figure out environment policies
with deadlines 5 or 10 or 20 years off in the future.
We are going to start planting trees next spring,
as soon as the weather breaks.
If we plant a white pine seedling in 2015,
it will grow a foot a year
and by the year 2040
it will be breathing in 15 pounds of carbon dioxide a year,
equal to the emissions from 26,000 miles of driving a car;
and it will be breathing out 260 pounds of oxygen a year,
enough to keep two people alive.
God speaks to us in many ways—through other people,
through nature, through the message of Jesus.
As we go through Advent,
God’s voice is loud and clear:
Be alert!
Live in right relationship with all people, with the earth,
and with me, God says.
I am with you!

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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