Thursday, December 3, 2015

Homily at Holy Spirit Catholic Community, Second Sunday of Advent C, Dec. 6, 2015, Beverly Bingle, RCWP

It's hard to keep hope alive when you're poor or oppressed
or running away from war and violence.
Today we hear the prophet Baruch
speaking to the people living in diaspora,
scattered about the Middle East
after they escaped exile in Babylonia.
They're refugees, living in a strange land,
out of Babylon but still in exile.
Baruch tells them to have hope.
“Look east,” he tells them, toward the dawn, to a new day!
Then we hear Paul responding to rumors he has heard
about troubles in Philippi.
He encourages the community there
to look forward with hope to “the day of Jesus Christ.”
Sadly, by the time Paul's message
gets to us here in the 21st century,
we're told that it refers to an apocalyptic “Second Coming,”
Jesus flying in on a cloud at the end of the world.
But that's not what it meant to Paul and the people of Philippi.
For them, “the day of Jesus Christ” meant the day
when they would have reached Christian maturity.
Most of them, Paul wrote, would still be alive on earth
when the whole community had advanced in spiritual growth
to the “parousia,” literally, the presence.
That is, on “the day of Jesus Christ,”
we will be present to God and God to us.
We'll be following the Way Jesus taught.
We will live in peace with justice.
Our hopes will have been fulfilled.
It's not only Baruch's and Paul's words that we need to decipher.
In the Gospel we hear John the Baptist
preaching about a baptism of “repentance
for the forgiveness of sins.”
Luke has the Baptist quote Isaiah, with hope for everyone,
saying that all people will see the salvation of God.
Luke's words “repentance” and “salvation”
don't speak to us the way they did to Luke's community.
For those folks, salvation meant
deliverance from the ways of their oppressors
by following the Way that Jesus of Nazareth taught.
Repentance—the Greek word is metanoia—
meant turning around, literally “going beyond the mind.”
Our mind has a tendency to see our own experiences as truth,
so our own sins become part of who we are
and the sins of others become part of who they are.
We are all sinners.
Metanoia—repentance—means that we begin to pay attention
to how our mind tends to treat our sins as virtues
and turn away from that kind of thinking and acting.
I know how that works firsthand, so I'll give an example—
not a serious one, but one that will help explain what I mean.
I went through a red light the other day.
I wasn't even through the intersection
when I had already sorted out
the best of three good reasons
for why it wasn't bad or even wrong.
But when I see someone else go through a red light—
or do something even less flagrant,
like a rolling stop at the corner—
my mind condemns them roundly.
When we realize we've chosen to do something we shouldn't have,
or not do something we should have,
we too often think the question
is whether or not God will forgive us.
Of course, God forgives us.
God is unconditional loving forgiveness.
The real question is how to see clearly what we are doing
so we can turn ourselves around.
It's easier to be good and do good
if the people around you love you
and help you along the way.
Again, I know that from personal experience.
Whenever we gather here at Holy Spirit,
whether it's two of us or forty of us,
the experience of celebrating with you
inspires me to be as good as I can and do as much as I can
to follow the Way of Jesus more closely.
Your example helps me become a better person.
This past week I've been reading a book by New York Times writers
Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn
about people who have turned their lives around
and gone on to help others do the same.
The title of the book, A Path Appears,
comes from Chinese author Lu Xun, who wrote:
“Hope is like a path in the countryside.
Originally, there is nothing—
but as people walk this way again and again,
a path appears.”
We who have hitched our wagon to Jesus
follow the path he walked—
that path known to our ancestors in faith as “the Way.”
Again and again, whenever they strayed—
and whenever we stray—
we try to get back on the path,
try to turn around and head in the right direction,
or as Luke puts it, we work on
that transformative change of mind and heart, metanoia.
Over the centuries our institutional Church
has developed various methods to call us to metanoia
and different rituals for us to celebrate God's forgiveness. Some of
them are best left in the dustbin of history.
A few of them are worth keeping.
The practice of the Church today, I think,
too rarely takes advantage of the instruction
in the Rite of Penance that tells the priest “to adapt the rite
to the concrete circumstances of the penitents,”
omitting some parts or expanding them,
so “the entire celebration may be enriching and effective.”
Bishop Daniel has asked the priests of the Diocese
to to vary the form of the Lord, Have Mercy prayer
at the beginning of Mass throughout Advent and Lent
in keeping with Pope Francis' proclamation of a Jubilee,
or Holy Year, of Mercy,
Here at Holy Spirit,
we try to model renewal of our Roman Catholic Church,
so we'll go a little farther than changing those few sentences.
After the homily on the weekend Masses of Advent and Lent
we will celebrate God's merciful forgiveness
with the traditional Sacrament of Reconciliation
using a slightly modified Rite 3, the Rite for Reconciliation
of Several Penitents with General Confession and Absolution.
So let's begin today by repenting of our sins
and resolving to try to do better
and to make up as well as we can
for harm we have caused by doing wrong.
For our penance let us, in the coming week,
try to be mindful of any ways
that we are stepping off the path that Jesus showed us.
Now let all of us who wish to receive sacramental absolution
bow our heads to acknowledge that we have sinned.
Now let us make our confession
by lifting our minds and hearts in a silent prayer of contrition,
using our own thoughts
or one of the prayers printed in the bulletin.
Loving God, I have sinned and I am sorry. In your mercy, forgive me
for choosing to do wrong and neglecting to do right. I will try to do
better. May I become more aware of your divine presence in my sisters
and brothers, in all of creation, and in my own self. Help me to
follow more closely the Way that Jesus taught. Amen.
O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee, and I detest
all my sins because of Thy just punishments, but most of all because
they offend Thee, my God, Who art all-good and deserving of all my
love. I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace, to sin no more and
to avoid the near occasions of sin.
My God, I am sorry for my sins with all my heart. In choosing to do
wrong and failing to do good, I have sinned against you whom I should
love above all things. I firmly intend, with your help, to do penance,
to sin no more, and to avoid whatever leads me to sin. Our Savior
Jesus Christ suffered and died for us. In his name, my God, have
O my God, I am sorry for my sins because I have offended you. I know I
should love you, O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended
you, and I detest all my sins, because of Your just punishments, but
most of all because they offend You, my God, who are all-good and
deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of Your
grace, to sin no more and to avoid the near occasion of sin. Amen.

Priest: Our loving and merciful God,
through the life and ministry of our brother Jesus
has reconciled the world and sent the Holy Spirit among us
for the forgiveness of sins;
through the ministry of the Church,
may God give you pardon and peace,
and you are absolved from your sins,
in the name of our God, Source of All Being,
Father-Mother, Son, and Holy Spirit. All: Amen.

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
Mailing address: 3156 Doyle Street, Toledo, OH 43608-2006

No comments: