Thursday, March 19, 2015

Homily at Holy Spirit Catholic Community, 5th Sunday of Lent B, March 22, 2015, Beverly Bingle, RCWP

This week’s readings ask us to face reality.
We can’t save our life.
We can only spend it.
Use it up.
We can’t hoard it in a pile somewhere or put it in a bank,
then pull it out to use it later.
It’s gone.
Today’s gospel has Jesus presenting us with that very paradox,
first in a metaphor about a grain of wheat
and then more straightforwardly:
if we try to save our life, we lose it.
If we give our life away, we save it.
The scholars of the Jesus Seminar tell us
that the grain of wheat imagery
has deep roots in our Christian tradition;
they observe that the idea of losing your life if you love it
and saving it if you hate it
was most probably part of the oral tradition about Jesus
and that the evangelist later added the context
to Christianize it for his community.
The scholars paraphrase what Jesus meant like this:
I’m a human being, just like all humans,
a child of Adam and Eve.
If I love my life, I lose it because it is only for me.
But if I give up my life, I will save it
because I will have used it to serve God and others.
That fits exactly with what we know Jesus said
about the greatest commandment when he recited the Shema:
Hear, O Israel, God is One.
And you shall love God
with your whole heart, and your whole soul.
And, he said, the second commandment is like it:
Love your neighbor as yourself.
We know that Jesus prayed.
Over and over the evangelists weave their stories around that fact.
He goes off to pray alone.
Praying on the mountain.
Telling his disciples not to “multiply words like the pagans do”
and teaching them how to pray.
And after Jesus prayed, he acted.
He didn’t sit around and try to save his life;
he spent it living out the inspiration of his prayer.
He gave his life away doing that.
I was down at Claver House Tuesday, St. Patrick’s Day,
and Mark was commenting
that almost three months of 2015 are gone
and he hadn’t done a thing.
I just shook my head and said, “Yeah.”
Commiserated with him.
He felt that way, for sure.
But I know that he tends his grandkids
after his daughter leaves for work
and makes sure they have breakfast and get to school.
And I know he has shoveled the walk
for an even more elderly neighbor all winter
and that he’ll be mowing her lawn all summer.
And he’ll be there when the grandkids get home,
greeting them at the door and asking about their day.
He keeps an eye out on the neighborhood.
He’s my age, retired on a fixed and limited income,
but he’s the go-to guy who fixes people’s cars for them,
and fiddles with their toasters and table lamps
to get them going again.
He doesn’t take money for it—
tells them to pass along a good deed when they can.
Mark is spending his life for his family and his neighbors,
using it up for them.
He gives his life away, and as a result he saves it.
Kelly was there Tuesday, too.
Her home situation isn’t particularly happy.
She gets a small disability check once a month
and manages to live on it.
As usual, she stopped through Claver House for breakfast
on her way to volunteer at her church’s daycare center.
She had baked a green cake
and bought some green candy at the Dollar Store
so she could treat the kids after she read to them.
She could save her time and energy and money,
but she doesn’t.
She gives it away, and as a result she saves it.

That first reading from Jeremiah tells us
why Mark and Kelly do that,
and why each of you do that.
It’s the new covenant,
written on their hearts…
written on the hearts of all of God’s people…
written on your hearts
through the experiences and reflection and prayer
of your lifetime.
Dorothy Day once said,
“Don’t make me a saint;
don’t put me on a shelf.”
If we pray and then go about trying to get ahead,
trying to save our time and energy for ourselves,
we put ourselves on a shelf.

It’s like the eggs my hens lay.
If I try to save them, I lose them.
They get old and rotten.
Nothing stinks like a rotten egg.
But if I don’t save them,
if I use them up or give them away,
they produce good things.
So each of us has to make choice—
give up our lives by doing good for others
and loving and serving our neighbors…
or sit like chickens on a bunch of rotten eggs.

Holy Spirit Catholic Community
Saturdays at 4:30 p.m.
Sundays at 5:30 p.m.
at 3925 West Central Avenue (Washington Church)

Rev. Dr. Bev Bingle, Pastor

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