Sunday, December 7, 2014

Homily at Holy Spirit Catholic Community, Second Sunday of Advent by Rev. Beverly Bingle, RCWP

Our readings for this second Sunday of Advent
make clear how the early Christian writers
continued the practice of reinterpreting their ancient texts
to serve as a lens
through which to understand their own times.
Jewish history, from one perspective,
is a repeated pattern of bondage and exodus to freedom,
every step taken in the presence of God,
sometimes felt and sometimes not.
So Mark paraphrases Isaiah:
Make straight the path of God, he says.
Prepare the way!
He takes the story of slavery and freedom
and frames the memory of Jesus in that same pattern,
with John the Baptizer as the messenger—
the voice in the wilderness—
and with Jesus as the one to come,
the one who will lead the people once again out of bondage.
At the time that Mark wrote,
probably shortly after the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD,
imperial Rome was merciless in murdering the Jews.
The continued resistance
by the people of this backwater colony to Roman rule
brought massacre and destruction;
as Peter’s second letter tells us,
the elements dissolved with fire,
the earth and all upon it burned up.
That letter was written after the year 100,
by which time Rabbinic Judaism and Christianity
were becoming more and more distinct from one another,
but the followers of both
remained equally targeted by Rome for annihilation
by dint of their refusal to accept Roman rule.
Both the Jews and the Christians felt caught
between the Roman Empire and despair.
Since there’s no way out, that second letter of Peter asks,
what sort of persons ought you to be?
The answer for those Christians was to wait for,
and to do what they could to hasten,
the coming day of God,
who promises a new heaven and a new earth
where righteousness will dwell.
Again, it’s the paradigmatic story of Israel—
out of bondage into freedom.
We’re caught in that same dilemma today.
Violence and war, terrorism and genocide, oppression and slavery
burn across our world.
Here at home
it’s not just physical violence;
it’s political and corporate violence:
racism, sexism, classism.
The United States now has a greater wealth gap by race
than South Africa did during apartheid.
From City Councils to Congress,
politicians pass laws that help the rich
and discriminate against minorities and the poor.
Corporations—granted the rights of human persons—
bombard us with materialist messages
that assault our values and bury our hope for justice.
Looking around at our friends, neighbors, and family
as we prepare to celebrate Christmas,
we’re tempted to despair that things can ever change for us.
How can we make God’s path straight in this crooked world?
Down at Claver House this week I listened (eavesdropped!)
while my friend George, the Korean War vet,
told another guest about not getting down on himself. Sometimes, he
told Dave, you don’t know what to do next.
Don’t know what’s coming.
Everything looks bad,
like there’s no place to go, no place to rest.
But you gotta keep on, George told him.
Just keep trying, doing the best you can, no matter what.
You’ll get there, and when you look back,
you’ll see that you got through, you made a way.
He went on to talk about jobs he had when he was young,
about getting drafted out of Kentucky State University
and signing up for the Navy—
had to go, but they let you choose how, he said.
May not be what you wanted,
but make it be the best you can do with what you have.
The conversation went on for at least 15 minutes,
with George saying how he got from there to here
even though he had hoped to go some other way.
Dave is 35 years younger than George.
I could see Dave perking up, beginning to smile,
losing that hang-dog expression he had walked in with.
George was John the Baptizer for Dave,
the messenger in the desert,
calling him to make a path
and trust that God would make it straight for him.
It’s like that for all of us.
We head off in one direction,
and it feels like we’re lost and alone on a dead-end street
and nothing’s ever going to be right again.
What does this path of God look like?
How can we recognize it?
The Israelites in the desert didn’t see it.
They complained to Moses about their wandering about.
Jesus’ disciples didn’t see it.
They thought they should pick up swords and fight.
They ran away.
Argued with each other.
I didn’t see it, either, that path of God.
My life seemed to wander in a random way,
from teaching to politics to government to business to writing…
it didn’t make sense to me at the time,
not at all a path to anywhere.
As George told Dave, you just keep going,
keep doing what you know is right,
and you’ll end up in the right place.
It’s a deep faith that man has.
Malala Yousafzai was 12 years old
when her diary was published anonymously.
She wrote a blog about struggling to get an education in Pakistan,
where the Taliban had banned girls from attending school. Three
years later the Taliban found out who she was
and tried to kill her.
She survived and, continuing on that path,
Malala works tirelessly for the cause of education for girls. She’s
17, a Nobel Peace Laureate, and still on a path
that could not have looked straight to her along the way,
especially as she lay in the hospital with a bullet in her brain.
When the conservative priest Oscar Romero became bishop,
he could not have seen the path he was heading down.
The assassination of Fr. Rutilio Grande,
who had been creating self-reliance groups among the poor,
had a profound impact on Romero;
he said, "When I looked at Rutilio lying there dead I thought,
'If they have killed him for doing what he did,
then I too have to walk the same path.'"
Romero began to speak out
against poverty, social injustice, torture, and murder.
Dorothy Day could not have thought her path straight at all.
An atheist, a journalist writing for Marxist papers,
she had an abortion followed by an unhappy marriage.
How could she have ever seen the path ahead,
that she would co-found and head up
the Catholic Worker Movement
in a life committed to the struggle for social justice?
Those straight highways don’t look straight when you’re on them.
And there are not-so-famous people
who keep doing what they think is right,
not seeing
that they are building a straight path through the desert.
There’s the student who gets teased
but continues to do homework
and becomes the class valedictorian with a full scholarship.
There’s the executive
who ruthlessly walks all over anybody and everybody
to climb the corporate ladder
but takes a different path
when she sees how she has destroyed a colleague.
There are the 5,340 ordinary people here in northwest Ohio
who volunteered 23,167 hours
during the Compassion Games—
who would have thought we’d end up
rated the second most compassionate people in the world?
Franciscan Sister Maryann Mueller
quotes the Chinese author Lu Xun:
Hope is like a path in the countryside.
At first there is nothing,
but as people walk this way again and again,
a path appears.
Sister Maryann says that
“Every kind word in response to unkindness,
every prayer for those who act with violence,
every action we take that respects people and the Earth
helps create the path of hope.
Every e-mail to a legislator,
every petition we sign or call we make to our legislators
helps create the path
to the just, nonviolent, and peaceful world
that we call the ‘Kin-dom of God.’"
At Holy Spirit we try to do what’s right and just,
confident that

the seemingly directionless and random steps we take
are making straight the pathway for our God.

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

No comments: