Saturday, February 1, 2014

Homily for Feast of Presentation by Rev. Beverly Bingle, RCWP, Pastor Holy Spirit Catholic Community, Toledo, Ohio

It's not easy, 2000 years after the fact, to relate to the holy
writings of our tradition. We live in a different time, a different
culture. We see the world differently, know a reality that would not
have been recognized by our ancestors in faith. And they lived in a
world view that we find equally foreign.

Today's readings present us with that challenge. Our first reading
speaks about what Michael Morwood calls "an elsewhere God"--one who
lives above the clouds and will be sending a messenger to purify this
wayward people. Our psalm asks God to listen to us, as if God had
ears. In our second reading, Paul talks to the Hebrews in terms of
what we now call "atonement" theology, presenting God as sending Jesus
to earth to die so he could make up to God for our sins. And in
today's Gospel Matthew tells us about the traditional Jewish custom of
presenting an eight-day-old child at the Temple--that part we can still
relate to, given our Christian practice of presenting infants for
baptism--but then he adds the testimonies of Simeon and Anna, in which
they foretell Messiahship for the baby in speeches that amount to
predestination theology.

In 2014 we see the world differently. We believe that God's divine
presence is not only elsewhere but everywhere, in everyone and
everything, each of us called and anointed to bring light to the
world. We understand creation to be enormous, stretching into the
multiple universes of outer space. That leads us to the question of
what we are to make of these texts. We cannot take them literally, in
the way that most of us were taught as children. We can't read them
as history, or biology, or cosmology. We have to search them for the
faith truth they hold.

One of the ways to look at these readings that fits with our current
understanding of creation is to recognize Jesus as a unique expression
of the divine. With Matthew, we can imagine in the infant Jesus the
divine spark that would eventually set fire to the disciples and the
world. Jesus, our model of life and prayer and justice and peace,
truly brings light to the world.

Matthew's story of Simeon and Anna recognizing the future greatness in
the infant Jesus reminds me of one of my own family's legends, a story
told often in the gatherings of my childhood. It seems that, on the
morning I was born, my father phoned his sister in Toledo to share the
news. Aunt Lillie shrieked with joy, "I knew when I woke up this
morning that something wonderful had happened in the world, and now I
know what it is!" Every child's birth should be greeted with that
kind of recognition of the spark that has flamed up in a new and
unique expression of God among us. Too often in our world, that
divine spark is quenched and the flame flickers out. We know the
tragedies: injustice thwarts and demoralizes, poverty stunts and
kills, abuse weakens and warps, trafficking molests and murders.

This is Super Bowl weekend. Millions of us North Americans will
gather to enjoy the game, have fun with family and friends, share
food. It's a tradition of our culture. For too many, though, the
Super Bowl will be an occasion of violence and degradation. They are
the children, women, and men who will be victimized when they are sold
for sex or enslaved for work. Large sporting events provide an easy
market, a lucrative business opportunity for traffickers. The Super
Bowl has been called the single largest human trafficking incident in
the U.S. Toledo is a hub for sex trafficking. We have the appalling
distinction of ranking fourth in the nation.

Shedding light on the crime of human trafficking is the key to
bringing this issue out of the shadows. I have seen some of you at
the vigils, praying and calling attention to the issue. Our local
religious sisters are collaborating with faith communities of other
denominations to raise awareness of this crime. They will soon open
Rahab's House right here in Toledo, a facility that will shelter
trafficked women and shepherd them into freedom.

On this same Super Bowl weekend we celebrate the Presentation of Jesus
in the Temple, our traditional day for blessing candles to symbolize
the light of the world. Like every other person on this planet, each
one of us is born to be light to the world. As we continue to work
for social justice, each of us as individuals and together as a
community, let us be thankful that we are blessed with the ability to
let our light shine. So let's let it shine!

Holy Spirit Catholic Community
Mass at 2086 Brookdale (Interfaith Chapel):
Saturdays at 4:30 p.m.
Sundays at 9 a.m.
Mass at 3535 Executive Parkway (Unity of Toledo)
Sundays at 5:30 p.m.

Rev. Bev Bingle, Pastor

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