Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Homily at Holy Spirit Catholic Community, 3 Sunday of Lent, March 8, by Beverly Bingle, RCWP

The great beauty of our Catholic Church
rests in our commitment to follow the Way of Jesus
and take action for social justice.
The great ugliness in our Church
comes when we stray from that commitment
and serve other gods—
when we, or our institutional church,
idolize power and wealth.
In today’s first reading from Exodus, we hear a list of commands.
On the surface of it, they are from God and about God.
Below the surface, they tell us how to treat other people.
The Israelites, freed from bondage, trekking across the desert,
found themselves free from slavery to the Egyptians
but also freed to obey God’s law to love Godself
and to love one another.
Interesting, isn’t it, that there is a commandment
to love God and treat other people fairly
but no commandment to obey religious leaders?
Our second reading has Paul preaching to the Corinthians
to urge them to get along.
He wants them to stop arguing with one another
about whose religious leaders are the best.
He reminds them that all their wisdom
is not as wise as God’s wisdom,
and all their strength
is not as strong as God’s strength.
They are to have confidence in God,
not in Apollos or Paul or Cephas,
those disciples who shared the Good News with them.
Their human leaders have taught them about the Word,
but their relationship is with God.
Today we also hear John’s Gospel story
of Jesus’ cleansing of the Temple.
If we at Holy Spirit had catechumens
entering the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil,
we would have read the story of the woman at the well instead.
But both stories show Jesus thinking
above and beyond the authorities of his day.
The scholars of the Jesus Seminar conclude that,
even though both of these Gospel passages
are the creation of the evangelists,
they are also both based on historical reality about Jesus.
The story of the woman at the well paints a picture
of the typical kind of encounter that Jesus had
with people of all religions and ethnicities,
his openness to dialogue,
the expansive vision he shared in relation to God and religion,
and the impact he had on people.
The story of the cleansing of the Temple paints a true picture
of Jesus’ criticisms of the Temple cult.
What meaning does this carry for us today?
We can see Pope Francis’ reforms
of the Curia and the Vatican Bank
as actions parallel
to Jesus’ throwing the moneychangers out of the Temple.
We can see the economic problems in our own country today
as occasions for a cleansing
of the temples of Wall Street and corporate “personhood,”
things like insurance redlining
that charges the poor more than the wealthy,
like payday and car title loans
that bilk wage earners on the edge of poverty,
or like reverse mortgages
that draw elders into debt and destitution.
Perhaps, even more to the point,
we should look at the institutional hierarchy
of our own Roman Catholic Church with the same critical eye
that Jesus looked at his own Jewish Temple officials.
Much is often made of Jesus’ righteous anger,
but we need to hear about the source of it:
his understanding of the relationship
between God and the People of God on the one hand
and on the other hand
the self-serving, self-aggrandizing, profit-making ways
in which the Temple leaders were interfering
with the relationship between God and God’s people.
We can see the problems we have in our time—
the sex abuse scandal and cover-up;
the exclusion and excommunication of individuals and groups
because they are different
or because they do not accept
the hierarchy’s non-doctrinal statements as infallible;
the emphasis of those in power
on efforts that do not reflect our beliefs.
The disconnection between hierarchy and people
plagues us in lots of ways.
The much-publicized Vatican Synod on the Family
is gathering information from Catholics around the world.
But the Synod document and its 46 questions—the Lineamenta—
seems based on the hierarchy’s flawed ideas of biology
and patriarchal misogynistic view of women.
Our Church tells us that human-caused climate change
is the greatest moral issue of our time,
and Pope Francis is expected
to issue an encyclical in June on the subject.
Yet our U.S. Bishops focus their time, energy, and money
to lobby politicians to get the hierarchy’s views on sex issues
written into U.S. law.
Catholic School teachers around the country have been terminated
because they would not sign a promise agreeing to
“refrain from any conduct or lifestyle…
in contradiction to Catholic doctrine or morals….”
The list specifically includes living together outside marriage,
sexual activity out of wedlock,
homosexual lifestyle,
use of a surrogate mother, in vitro fertilization,
artificial insemination,
and membership in organizations whose mission and message
are incompatible with Catholic doctrine or morals.
All this hurts people we know.
People whose marriages fail are ostracized in their parishes.
Divorced people who re-marry without an annulment
are excluded from Eucharist.
Catholics who marry other Christians
find their spouses told to stay away from the communion line.
Couples who use artificial birth control methods
to plan their families responsibly
are barred from the sacraments.
And good teachers are taken away from our kids.
To get personal, the current rule banning women’s ordination
is just that, a rule, not an infallible teaching,
yet priests are being defrocked
and theologians are being barred
from teaching at Catholic institutions
for suggesting the issue is open to discussion.
We have many other reasons
to speak truth to the power of our religious leaders,
as Jesus did.
It would be enough to show that same righteous anger as he did
at the sex abuse of so many of our children,
the cynical cover-up by our bishops,
the transfer of offending priests
to prey upon more and more innocent victims.
Thinking with the church does not mean thinking with the hierarchy.
Even the Catechism of the Catholic Church confirms that principle
when it states that a “human being must always obey
the certain judgment of conscience.”
It’s not easy to form conscience based on reason and scripture.
It takes up our attention for a lifetime...
and we have to practice what we preach.
Jesus gave up his life for it, and we’re called to follow him.
It’s worth it.
Holy Spirit Catholic Community
Saturdays at 4:30 p.m.
Sundays at 5:30 p.m.
at 3925 West Central Avenue (Washington Church)


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