Sunday, September 11, 2016

Homily for 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time C , 09/11/16 by Dick Vosko

24th Sunday in Ordinary Time C - 091116 - Helping Lost Sheep
Click here for today’s readings
This morning we overheard a tense conversation between God, who threatened to destroy the people of Israel, and Moses who challenged God. He reminded God of earlier promises to give the people all the resources they needed to live and grow. So, God listened to Moses and did not carry out the hostile act. Presumably the people showed remorse and stuck to their part of the covenant with God.

Fifteen years ago our nation was tested by a heinous act of terrorism. Many youths among us today learn about the tragedies in lower Manhattan, Washington DC and Pennsylvania from history books and family stories. Since 9/11 our nation has become more alert and cautious and, more paranoid and suspicious. Nativistic rhetoric has distorted our national motto “Out of Many, One” (E Pluribus Unum).
Have we taken too much for granted? Maybe our sense of privilege and entitlement as a nation has suffered a set back. Today good people in our great society lack vitality because their American dreams have been crushed by income inequality and other sins of racism, ostracism, greed.

Globalization is often thought as a culprit for our economic woes, a threat to our sustenance. Yet globalization promotes solidarity with other humans around the world. It is apparent that what happens in China affects us economically. What happens in our country affects the lives of others living elsewhere on this planet.

In the first reading the people of Israel apparently lost sight of how lucky they were to have survived captivity, to have had brave leaders who would guide them to the richness of the promised land. They encountered different cultures on their journey and seemed threatened by them. They fought for power and wealth and became impatient and angry with the very God who was willing to walk with them along the way. So, they became idolatrous worshiping false idols and ideologies. No wondered God was angry.

The familiar vignettes in today’s gospel remind us of our responsibilities to care for those who struggle on the fringes of society, who are lost or confused, who are victims of societal and political narrow- mindedness. Public officials disapproved of Jesus who welcomed sinners and ate with them. He rebuked them with parables stressing unselfish mercy. We too are summoned to find that lost sheep, that lost treasure, that runaway child, so to provide people with new beginnings and second chances and to do so without prejudice.

In accepting the 1979 Nobel Peace Prize Mother Teresa said that poverty exists around the world but not only in the poor countries. “I found the poverty of the West so much more difficult to remove,” she said. She lamented that when a person is shut out, feels unwanted, unloved, terrified, thrown out from society, that [kind of] poverty is so hurtful, so much so, she said, I find it very difficult. In the spirit of Mother Teresa of Kolkata how can we carry out the mission entrusted to us?

One nationwide response is the Higher Ground Moral Revival Movement taking place in a number of State Capitals. The revival was launched to advance a social justice agenda that centers on the economic liberation of all people; access to quality education for every child; healthcare access for all; criminal justice reform; and ensuring that historically marginalized communities have equal protection under the law. We are invited to join that march tomorrow which starts at 10 AM at Emanuel Baptist Church, 275 State Street (Albany, NY).

The covenantal dispute between God, Moses and the Israelites reminds me of another passage in the bible that suggests God does not test us beyond our ability to be tested. The attacks on our lives on September 11, 2001 remind us how vulnerable we really are. Given our human inabilities to secure lasting peace over the centuries is it any wonder that we are huddled together here today to praise and ... remind God not to abandon us as we continue our work for reconciliation, seeking justice for all the citizens of this earth. 

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