Today’s reading from Second Isaiah describes the anxieties of the Israelites during the Babylonian exile. They felt abandoned by God. God rejected the Israelites’ complaints and promised to give them a new start in the City of Jerusalem. In this passage Isaiah presents a strong yet tender image of God, who, like a mother, would not forget her children.
Many people are feeling abandoned today because of actions taken by the government in this country. Students, teachers, farm workers, fast-food workers and others are now in exile and their futures are at stake. Onefreshmanfrom Austin, TX said, “the fear is starting to become more evident. The uncertainty and anxiety is real….” Like the Israelites did, immigrants, refugees and those seeking asylum, fleeing poverty, oppression, torture and death could legitimately wonder, “where is God.”
During these past few weeks we have been listening to excerpts from Jesus’ sermon on the mount. Sometimes the teachings of Jesus, often couched in metaphors or parables, can be confusing.
In last week’s gospel, for example, Jesus is quoted as saying, “offer no resistance to someone who is evil.” Really? How can we sit back when so many injustices prevail in our country not to mention our own local communities?
Today’s gospel offers what seems to be another utterly impossible challenge for many. “Do not worry about tomorrow, it will take care of itself? Really? Who here does not worry about their children or their elderly parents? Who among us does not have concerns about the environment, tax reform, health care or job security?
Written by a tax collector, the gospel starts with a well known line, “You cannot serve Godand wealth at the same time.” In other words, “You cannot have your cake and eat it too,” or, we cannot have more than we deserve or is reasonable. These proverbs urge us to choose what guides our everyday actions and decisions.
The second reading prods us to unravel and respond to the often perplexing challenges of God’s words.Bishop Robert McElroyof San Diego did just that recently when he took a public stand against evil. Bishop McElroy spoke boldly and radically about resisting the administration in Washington that, according to church historianMassimo Faggioli,is now very clearly opposed to the gospel of Jesus Christ on a number of moral and social issues.
The Bishop addressed the deportation of undocumented persons, fear of Muslims, anti-Semitism and of potentially damaging health care and nutrition laws. He also said, “We must disrupt those who seek to rob our medical care, especially from the poor … those who would take even food stamps and nutrition assistance from the mouths of children.”
What do we do? How do we respond to God’s challenge? Just last weekPope Francis wrote:“As Christians and all people of good will, it is for us to live and act at this moment … since certain present realities … are capable of setting off processes of dehumanization which would then be hard to reverse.”
Here at St. Vincent’s we gather weekly around this table to celebrate the gifts of God, to be nourished and then to return to the streets and neighborhoods to continue to resist what is unjust. That’s our Christian calling. Worship here provides us with renewed energy and it has the power to interrupt us and wake us up when we become too complacent.
We also trust, as today’s gospel suggests, that God continues to love the human race, dancing with us in joyful times and, like a loving parent, providing for us in times of trouble. Our faith in God comes alive when we grasp each other’s hands on those difficult journeys in life.
As you know Lent starts in a few days. It is a season to refresh our convictions, to recommit ourselves to our baptismal promises. It is a time to prioritize what matters most in our lives and to do what is right to advance God’s kin-dom on earth. God, who did not forget the Israelites held captive by injustice, will not forget us. If we believe that then we cannot forget one another.