Thursday, March 3, 2016

Homily for Holy Spirit Catholic Community, 4 Lent C, March 6th by Beverly Bingle RCWP

You may have noticed that today's Gospel reading
starts with three verses at the beginning of Chapter 15
and then skips a ways
to pick up at verse 11 with the parable of the prodigal son.
Luke frames the whole chapter
as Jesus' response to the Pharisees and scribes
who are complaining because he eats with sinners,
and today's passage
is one of three very familiar parables there.
In addition to the prodigal son story,
Luke has Jesus tell the story of the shepherd
leaving the flock of 99
and going in search of that one wandering sheep,
and then the story of the woman searching all over the house
until she finds that one coin of the ten that she had lost.
In each of these three stories what was lost is restored,
what was out of place is back where it belongs,
whether it's through a shepherd's care,
a woman's perseverance,
or a parent's love.
Even though Luke puts these parables together
in order to further his narrative,
scholars are fairly certain that all three go back to Jesus,
just as they have little doubt
that Jesus was criticized
for sharing meals with outcasts and the poor.
When people get to be as old as I am,
we can look back over our lives and find ourselves
in every character in today's Gospel parable.
Been there, done that.
I've been the one who pointed a finger
at the kind of people someone chose as friends,
like those Pharisees and scribes did.
I've been the ungrateful child,
like the younger son.
I've been the despairing worker,
scrabbling to make a pittance at a job I hated,
wishing I could go back home again.
And I've been the one
who was hurt and angry
about the favorable treatment
of those who didn't work as hard as I did,
like the older son.
On the other hand,
from time to time I've tried to be the one who forgives,
no matter what,
like the loving father in that parable.
But not very often.
And I've even tried to be the one who points out injustice,
like Jesus did.
But again, not very often, and not often enough.
St. Paul reminds us, in that second reading,
that we who are in Christ
are called to be ambassadors of reconciliation.
I find the etymology of that word ambassador noteworthy.
It comes to us from Middle English through Old French,
based on two Latin usages meaning mission and servant.
Literally, we who are ambassadors of Christ
are servants sent on a mission
with a message of love and mercy.
We are called to welcome the wayward
just as the prodigal son is welcomed.
Sometimes we are able to do that.
But, we know, sometimes it's just not possible,
as in trying to reconcile a relationship with an abusive partner
who will not admit the problem or seek help.
When we are able to reach out in mercy and love,
we become, as Paul puts it,
messengers of God's own righteousness,
of God's own justice.
That's when we carry the very holiness of God to the world.
It's a big job,
but we aren't alone.
Just as the ancient Israelites
walked through the desert nourished by manna from God,
so do we walk through each week
surrounded by, uplifted by,
God's presence in our world.
Sometimes we travel through a desert,
subsisting on the promise that God is with us
even though we feel alone and abandoned.
Sometimes we find ourselves resting in that promise,
surrounded by all the gracious gifts of God.
And on the weekends
we gather to celebrate the very holiness of our lives.
Through it all—
whether we've been stumbling through in a desert
or renewing ourselves in an oasis—
we walk in communion with God and with each other.
Thanks be to God!

Holy Spirit Catholic Community
Saturdays at 4:30 p.m./Sundays at 5:30 p.m.
Holy Thursday, March 24, 5:30 p.m.
Holy Saturday, March 26, 5:30 p.m.
at 3925 West Central Avenue (Washington Church)

Rev. Dr. Bev Bingle, Pastor
Mailing address: 3156 Doyle Street, Toledo, OH 43608-2006

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