Thursday, June 2, 2016

Homily at Holy Spirit Catholic Community, 10 OTC, June 5, 2016 Beverly Bingle RCWP

Scripture scholars agree that Luke created
the story about the widow of Nain in today's Gospel.
Fr. Reginald Fuller, for example, calls it
a “story that has little historical basis.”
What Luke was doing was shaping
the story of the widow of Zarephath
to show Jesus as surpassing Elijah in his role as prophet
and in his compassion for the vulnerable and oppressed.
Luke makes it clear in the response of the crowd:
"A great prophet has arisen in our midst," he has them say.
"God has visited this people," he has them say.
This story is really not about resuscitation.
The miracle is not raising someone from the dead
but bringing life to those who are dead to the life they have.
All three of today's readings point to rebirth and new life.
They tell us clearly
that our God is the God of life, the God of the living.
The widow in Zarephath was trapped
in the idea that her own sin
was the reason her son was sick unto death.
Paul was trapped
in a legalistic following of his ancestral traditions.
The widow in Nain was trapped
in the social structures
that made her as good as dead without a man to belong to.
So these stories are about metanoia, a turning around,
a change in perspective and belief.
The widow of Nain, without a husband, without a son,
is weak and defenseless
in the culture of that first century patriarchal society.
Jesus' compassion turns her situation around,
and the crowd sees his action clearly.
They see his compassion for her,
and they understand the oppressive system
that would render her destitute.
They had taken for granted
the oppression of their culture and its systems
to the point that it was invisible to them,
but Jesus' action makes it visible.
Once they see the systems that diminish their lives,
they also see the possibility of change and choice.
Like so many of the scriptures,
this story gives us a vivid metaphor
for life-changing, life-defining experiences.
The widow's son is dead,
and he is brought back to life.
The widow faces the death of poverty and exclusion,
and she is brought back to life.
The crowd recognizes
that they have been victimized by a brutal government
that ruled with the cooperation of the rich and powerful
of their own religion.
They been like the walking dead.
We've all been there.
It can start with an assumption that turns out to be false.
Like how much money we need.
So we stay in a job that stifles our imagination
or puts terrible burdens on us.
Then one day we see,
and we rise up from that dead-end job and move on.
Or we make a false assumption about God,
like that widow in Zarephath
thinking that some guilt from her past
is causing God to take her son's life.
Then we grow to understand
that God is not judgmental but compassionate,
and we rise up to live in joy.
Or like Paul in that second reading,
we make assumptions about what's right and what's wrong
and set out to punish the wrong ones.
Then something happens—an “ah-hah” moment—
and we turn our lives around.
We've all experienced them—
life-defining moments,
the time before and the time after distinctly different.
Not all of those life-changing experiences are big ones.
The little daily ones are just as important,
like deciding to go to a lecture,
or registering to vote,
or cleaning the closet and donating the clothes,
or planting a tree,
or smiling and waving at a stranger on the street.
Those little experiences are possible
because we understand the systems that try to control us
and we are free to act to change them.
We are free to act, according to Fr. John Shea,
because Jesus gives us the possibility.
Shea calls Jesus a “peddler of choices”
because he “revealed the mercy of God
and the oppression of people,” allowing us
not only to see what keeps us among the walking dead
but also to rise up and live.
In our freedom of the reign of God,
we are called to take action.
Our model is Jesus as he reaches out in compassion.
Sometimes the action is reaching out to refugees in our midst.
Sometimes the action is phoning City Council about Lake Erie.
Sometimes the action is talking with a neighbor.
Whatever action we take, we have a choice.
The Gospel calls us to choose compassion.
And that raises us up, out of our deadness, into new life.
Thanks be to God!

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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