Thursday, June 16, 2016

Homily: Holy Spirit Catholic Community, 12 Sunday OT, June 19, 2016, Beverly Bingle RCWP

Jesus has been teaching and healing
back and forth across Galilee,
and he takes a break.
He prays alone,
trying to understand what's going on,
trying to understand himself,
seeking to discern what God wants of him.
Then he asks his followers,
“Who do the crowds say that I am?”
After Jesus hears what they report,
he asks them another question:
“But YOU—who do YOU say that I am?”
Peter answers, “You are God's Anointed One.”
He answers out of his understanding of himself at this point in time.
Having seen the healings and heard the teaching,
Peter is confident about Jesus and his Way,
though later events will shake his confidence.
Today the question comes to each of us:
who do I say that Jesus is?
The answer will depend on who we think we are, our own identity.
Most of us go through an identity crisis, often more than once—
as teens, as young adults, in marriage,
in mid-life, at retirement,
at the death of a parent or a child or a spouse.
We get to a place where aren't sure who we are any more.
We know we are changing.
We try to figure out who we are now.
We feel fragile and vulnerable.
Especially when we're going through a transition in life,
you and I, as believers,
can be grateful to God for the gift of faith
that shapes so much of our understanding
of ourselves and the world.
Auschwitz survivor Primo Levi was not a believer;
he was agnostic.
He wrote about what he saw in the concentration camp:
“In the grind of everyday life the believers lived better.
Catholic or Reformed priests, rabbis of the various orthodoxies,
militant Zionists, naive or sophisticated Marxists,
and Jehovah's Witnesses—
all held in common the saving force of their faith.
Their world was vaster than the world of us unbelievers,
more comprehensible.
They had a key and a point of leverage,
a place in heaven or on earth
where justice and compassion had won,
or would win in a perhaps remote but certain future.”
For us, being Christian is at the core of our identity.
But identity—who we are—changes over the span of a lifetime.
Like Peter, we may have the right answer at one time
and run away from it later,
only to grow in understanding and commitment
as time goes by and life happens.
Jesus wants to know what we think of him today.
It's not just dogma or doctrine.
He wants to know if we will follow his Way.
Will we take up our crosses, the daily grind of ups and downs?
Will we deny our own selfishness
and put others and their concerns at the center of our life?
When Jesus asks us, “Who do you say that I am?”
he shows us who we are.
We begin to see our relationship to the world
and our purpose in life.
We have an awesome capacity to take hold of our own lives
and give them away.
No one can ever take our place—
we are the only ones who can be us.
And all of us humans are equal in this freedom
to live our lives,
give ourselves,
speak the unique word that is in us.
The self-gift of a poor, broken-down janitor
is as valuable to God
as the self-gift of a president or a CEO… or a bishop.
Jesus asks us, “Who do you say that I am?”
Being Jew or Greek, black or white, slave or free,
old or young, male or female is not significant.
What is significant is our freedom,
that gift that reflects that we are made in the image of God.
We can deceive ourselves
with thinking that our foremost task in life
is somehow to make a difference,
to have done something
that no one else could possibly have done,
to be irreplaceable.
But the only difference we really make in this world,
the only thing that we can do that no one else can do,
is take ownership of our lives
and give them away.
This we do in our commitments, our promises.
Getting married.
Taking a job.
Raising children.
Caretaking for a parent.
Registering to vote.
Volunteering at a soup kitchen.
Protecting the environment.
Donating to disaster relief.
Each free commitment we make is out of love,
an emptying out,
a giving away of our very self.
Through those gifts to others
we discover who and what we are.
We learn to love, to believe, to hope.
We do not cling to our life;
we give it away,
and in giving away our time,
and our energy,
and our resources,
we save our lives.
And we find ourselves following Jesus on the Way.

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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