Thursday, January 7, 2016

Homily at Holy Spirit Catholic Community, Baptism of Jesus, C , January 10, 2016 by Beverly Bingle, RCWP

Jesus was a Jew.
His Jewishness was integral to his entire being,
and his first followers had no problem with it.
Starting with Constantine, though,
Christians began to hide that fact.
The change begins to show up in art
as Jesus' family get blond hair and blue eyes.
The crucifixion images begin to show Jesus
wearing a loincloth to hide the uncomfortable fact
that he had been circumcised,
as all Jewish boys were—and still are—on the eighth day.
The apostles morph into handsome western Europeans,
except for Judas who takes on caricatured Jewish features
and the yellow clothes that Jews were made to wear.
The current issue of Smithsonian
describes the discovery of an ancient synagogue in Magdala,
the fishing village that was probably
the home of Mary of Magdala.
The many discoveries brought to light
by the excavation of this synagogue and the surrounding area,
“solidified the portrait of Jesus
as a Jew preaching to other Jews.”
Excavations in the nearby villages of Nazareth and Bethsaida,
along with the history of the area,
give us new insights about the times Jesus lived in
and the cultures that surrounded him.
Who was this person, this Jesus from Nazareth?
He was, first of all, a faithful Jew.
He was a Jew living in the midst of turmoil and oppression.
He grew in wisdom, age, and grace
to be a good man,
a prayerful mystic who took God seriously.
And, following the teachings of his Jewish faith,
he grew to have the courage to say out loud
what was obvious to the ordinary people in the countryside: God is
not like the Roman emperor,
who declares himself a god over us.
God is not like the Temple officials,
who set down burdensome rules for us.
God is love.
Today we celebrate Jesus' baptism,
and we find that it's an epiphany story—
another example of the manifestation of God among us—
and it reveals a truth about all of us,
the truth that spirituality has to be lived to make it real.
Jesus didn't suddenly become a different person
on the day he was baptized.
He answered the call that had been growing in him.
He committed himself unconditionally
to living his life in keeping with what Judaism taught:
he saw himself as made in the image and likeness of God,
literally a son of God, beloved by God and called to live in love.
Jesus was compelled by his experience of oneness with God
to speak the truth he had come to understand.
The people who heard him were inspired
by his teaching that everyone, here and now, is beloved;
each of us is a child of God.
Each of us is filled with the Holy Spirit.
Each of us is commissioned to show God
in our selves and our world.
When Jesus committed himself to serve God above all else,
it was not a commitment to suffer and die.

It was a commitment
to follow God's command to love unconditionally,
and that meant doing justice.
Jesus' commitment threatened people with power and authority
in both the religion and the government.
The choice to live in love and do justice
continues to threaten people who hold power and authority.
Pope Francis' push for the care of creation is opposed
by those who have misused their power and authority
to use people and abuse the environment.
This week President Obama's executive orders
aimed at reducing gun deaths
brought vicious statements
from the National Rifle Association members
who profit from guns
and from members of Congress
who depend on NRA contributions for their political campaigns.
There's a very long list of people
who gave their lives trying to do justice,
some of them well-known like Oscar Romero, Maura Clarke,
Ita Ford, Dorothy Kazel, and Jean Donovan,
others known only to their families
who grieve their “disappearance.”
Still, the way of Jesus of Nazareth prevails.
It lives on in every whistleblower
who puts the common good before personal gain.
It lives on in every person, Christian or not,
who does justice in the world.
As Luke writes in today's passage from the Acts of the Apostles,
“any person of any nationality
who fears God and does what is right
is acceptable to God.”
Any person!
Jews and Muslims,
Sikhs and Buddhists and Baha’i,
agnostics and atheists.
Any person!
Even Christians!
You and me!
Here we are at the beginning of the new year,
and our path is clear.
Isaiah gives us the outline
of what Jesus understood and acted on.
Endowed with the Spirit,
like him we are called to bring justice to the nations,
to serve the cause of right;
to open the eyes of the blind;
to free captives from prison;
to bring light to the world.
It's a tall order.
Some of you will fill it by tending to the sick and the dying.
Some will plant trees.
Or tend children and grandchildren,
your own or your neighbors
or those of people you have never met.
Or give to soup kitchens and food pantries
and efforts to settle Syrian refugees
or get trafficked women and children off the streets
and into a safe place.
Some of you will donate blood, or tutor, or register voters.
Whatever piece of justice each of you decides to do this year
may bring opposition from those who profit by oppression.
But, thanks be to you and to God, you'll do it anyway.

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

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