Today’s readings ask us to read the signs of our times
just as our ancestors in faith had to do in their times.
When we think about at what’s going on these days in our country,
we have to ask, with Pontius Pilate, “What is truth?”
What’s the evidence for that statement?
Is that an “alternative fact?”
Is that true or false?
Is that a lie?
Sometime around 200 B.C. in Egypt
Shimon ben Yeshua ben Eliezer ben Sira
wrote the book we call Sirach.
The passage we heard today tells us
that we have the power to be faithful.
We are free to choose what is good.
No one, Sirach says, has permission to sin.
No one is given strength in order to tell lies.
About 250 years later Paul writes to the Corinthians
about the wisdom of those who are spiritually mature.
He tells them that such maturity is not the wisdom of their time,
and points to the rulers “who are headed for destruction.”
Then Matthew, in the year 85 in Syria,
has Jesus telling his disciples
that their sense of justice
has to go beyond the justice of the scholars
and the religious leaders.
Jesus tells them to be honest and forthright,
to say “Yes” when they mean “Yes”
and “No” when you mean “No.”
The passage that follows today’s gospel
has Jesus telling his disciples to love their enemies,
which scholars agree was definitely spoken by Jesus.
They also agree that the pattern of today’s gospel passage
reflects Jesus’ message
in that he consistently called the disciples
to a higher standard than simply following the letter of the law.
He told them that they were to work at living the spirit of the law.
And the spirit of the law is love.
We hear these scriptures today and ask:
what’s the message here for our world?
Pope Francis, a week ago Friday, named it plainly.
He said, “It’s hypocrisy to call yourself a Christian
and chase away a refugee or someone seeking help,
someone who is hungry or thirsty,
toss out someone who is in need of help.
“If I say I am Christian, but do these things, I’m a hypocrite.”
The Pope said that all nations must focus
on “service to the poorest, the sick,
and those who have abandoned their homelands
in search of a better future for themselves and their families.”
Our U.S. bishops apply Jesus’ teaching
when they write about the need for embracing truth
in Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship.
The bishops tell us
that we have to be guided by our moral convictions,
not attachment to a political party or interest group.
They tell us that “We are called
to bring together our principles and our political choices,
our values and our votes,
to help build a civilization of truth and love.”
When we look at our world today,
it’s obvious that we’re a long way
from a civilization of truth and love.
In too many ways, we’re a long way from civilization.
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center,
in the days since the presidential election,
states across the country have seen increased incidents
of racist or anti-Semitic vandalism and violence,
many of which have drawn directly
on the rhetoric and proposals of Donald Trump.
We’ve seen the executive order
banning Muslims from traveling to our country.
We’ve seen hate crimes against Jews,
the killing of unarmed black people.
After the November election
New York saw more than double the hate crimes
against Muslim Americans
and a 67% increase in hate crimes against Jews,
African Americans, and LGBT individuals.
We’ve seen it right here at home.
We saw the obscenity and the Swastika
painted on the home of American citizens of Arab descent.
There was the bomb threat at the Jewish Community Center.
Then Adrian Williams, an African American,
was subjected to racial insults
and then seriously injured by two whites
right in front of his own house over on Lagrange Street.
High school kids who are LGBT
suffer rape, physical violence, and bullying.
The signs of our times are clear.
They call us here at Holy Spirit to continue
to welcome everyone to the table, no exceptions.
We are called to embrace everyone we meet wherever we go—
whether it’s the homeless at the soup kitchen
or the Gothic teen
or the close-minded racist.
We are called to befriend the remarried divorced couple,
the worker who lost his job,
and the student who doesn’t make it into college.
We are called to be generous
in our love for every one of God’s people.
So we march for unity with the gays and the straights,
with the blacks and browns and tans
and yellows and reds and whites,
with the poor and the middle class and the wealthy.
We pray with the Muslims and the Jews
and the Sikhs and the Buddhists and the Quakers
and the atheists and agnostics.
We even march with other Christians.
To each and every one of them, our “yes” means “yes.”
We reach out to the poor and the oppressed,
no matter their color or ancestry
or citizenship status or religion.
Our “yes” to them means “yes.”
We stand in solidarity with people targeted by hate.
Our “yes” to them means “yes.”
And when we are told lies,
when we are told to hate,
whether it comes from a friend or a stranger
or the President of the United States, we say “no.”
Our “no” to them means “no.”
Holy Spirit Catholic Community
Saturdays at 4:30 p.m./Sundays at 5:30 p.m.
at 3925 West Central Avenue
Toledo, OH 43606
Rev. Dr. Bev Bingle, Pastor
Mailing address: 3156 Doyle Street, Toledo, OH 43608-2006