On Sunday, January 29, Kim Panaro, ARCWP, and Dave DeBonis led the community’s liturgical celebration. Dave introduced the shared homily with his inspired words below.
Dave’s Shared Homily
You will notice in the Gospel reading(below) that we changed the wording from the original to reflect recent information regarding Jesus’ true message. The second reading is by father Greg Boyle a Jesuit priest working with young people involved in gangs in the Los Angeles area. Mary Theresa introduced father Boyle and his book to us several months back. Pairing these two readings together hopefully gives us an opportunity to explore not only where Jesus stood but also how we might demonstrate fidelity by continuing to stand in the right place.
Today, in many fields the goal is success and success is measured by change, improvement, positive outcomes. If you fail to show that these are possible, the insurance company might not pay for the procedure, the educational program might be canceled, clinical trials might be ended early, and the grant money might not be awarded.
But Greg Boyle reminds us that Jesus was not about success; he was about fidelity. As Greg Boyle asks in another section of his book: If Jesus’ priority was a successful outcome, wouldn’t he have chosen a path different from the one that ultimately led to his death? The danger in being overly focused on success, according to Boyle, is that it can lead us to abandon causes or people where there’s little hope of success. What then would become of the older person experiencing a steady decline in function, those with chronic illness, or those struggling with addiction? If a positive outcome is the ultimate goal, who would take the risk of trying to be the light for these individuals?
I think the importance of Jesus’ model of fidelity is that it allows us to confidently forge ahead in bringing light wherever it is needed no matter how dire the situation. Free from the burden of having to deliver success as defined by society’s standards, we can focus on being one with the other and can disrupt the status quo by creating “a community where the outcast is valued and appreciated.” According to Boyle, over time this disruption could be the catalyst for real change but of course it comes with a price. In demonstrating fidelity to people and not to doctrines, Jesus went from being a very popular figure with the masses to someone who angered people on both sides of the political spectrum. He willingly sacrificed his own success, his very life, in order to remain one with those who needed him.
So once again we are being challenged to shake things up, to make everyone angry with us by standing with the “wrong people” and standing there much longer than the world thinks is reasonable. We are asked to stand in places not based on the odds of success but instead based on our commitment to be one with the forgotten. We are asked to create a community where the forgotten are cherished and where we show unreasonable hope, unreasonable kindness, and unreasonable fidelity.
The American poet Jack Gilbert writes “the pregnant heart is driven to hopes that are the wrong size for this world.”
The strategy and stance of Jesus was consistent in that it was always out of step with the world. Jesus defied all of the categories upon which the world insisted: good-evil, success-failure, pure-impure. Surely, he was an equal opportunity “pisser-off-er.” The right wing would stare at him and question where he chose to stand. They hated that he aligned himself with the unclean, those outside, those folks you ought neither touch nor be near. He hobnobbed with the leper, shared table fellowship with the sinner, and rendered himself ritually impure in the process. They found it offensive that Jesus had no regard for their wedge issues, their constitutional amendments or their culture wars.
The left was equally annoyed. They wanted to see the ten-point plan, the revolution in high gear, the toppling of sinful social structures. They were impatient with his brand of solidarity. They wanted to see him taking the right stand on issues, not just standing in the right place.
But Jesus just stood with the outcast. The left screamed: “Don’t just stand, there do something.” And the right maintained, “Don’t stand with those folks at all.” Both sides, seeing Jesus as the wrong size for this world, came to their own reasons for wanting him dead.
How do we get the world to change anyway? We don’t strategize our way out of slavery. We stand in solidarity with the slave and by so doing we diminish slavery’s ability to stand. By casting our lot with the gang member, we hasten the demise of demonizing.
All Jesus asks is “Where are you standing?” And after chilling defeat and soul- numbing fatigue, he asks again “Are you still standing there?” Can we stay faithful and persistent in our fidelity even when things seem not to succeed? I suppose Jesus could have chosen a strategy that worked better (evidence-based outcomes) that didn’t end in the cross but he couldn’t find a strategy more soaked with fidelity than the one he embraced.
From the inspired words of Father Gregory Boyle from his book Tattoos on the Heart.
When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain, and after he had sat down his disciples came to him he began to teach them saying:
“You are in the right place when you stand with the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
You are in the right place when you stand with those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
You are in the right place when you stand with the meek, for they will inherit the land.
You are in the right place when you stand with those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.
You are in the right place when you stand with those who are merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
You are in the right place when you stand with the clean of heart, for they will see God.
You are in the right place when you stand with the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
You are in the right place when you stand with those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
You are in the right place when you stand with those who are insulted and falsely persecuted and uttered every kind of evil against them because of me.