Friday, June 24, 2016

Homily at Holy Spirit Catholic Community, 13th Sunday OT, June 26, 2016, Beverly Bingle RCWP

Today begins the most important section of Luke's Gospel,
referred to by scripture scholars as the “journey narrative.”
Fr. Raymond Brown calls Luke's story
of the long journey to Jerusalem
“an artificial framework.”
It's a literary device created by Luke
so he can tell about Jesus in an organized way.
Jesus actually did travel from Galilee to Jerusalem.
For later followers, his journey takes on symbolic meaning:
it's the way by which Jesus went from death to new life,
and the way that we, as his disciples,
are called to do the same.
Luke's story of the beginning of Jesus' long journey
begins with a lesson that we still need today.
At the very beginning of the trip,
Jesus' disciples are not welcome in a Samaritan village,
but Jesus will not let them call down fire from heaven
to destroy the villagers.
In the 18th century, Jonathan Swift, Irish Anglican priest,
criticized Christians for having
just enough religion to hate
but not enough to love.
History continues to give us examples of people who,
like the first disciples,
want to do violence to people who don't agree with them.
We don't have to look any farther
than the front pages of our newspapers to see it.
People killing other people when they disagree.
People killing other people because they are different.
And people doing murder in the name of God.
It happened in the Crusades.
In Nazi Germany.
In the Middle East.
In Orlando.
It's still happening.
What motivates people to hate so viciously in the name of God?
Maybe their religion is just a veneer on the surface of their lives.
Maybe they just can't grasp the message of love
that's at the heart of all real religions.
Maybe they never really learned what their own religion is about.
Or maybe it's the failure of religious leaders
to keep their own hatred out of their beliefs.
Whatever it is, Fr. Joseph Pollard rightly calls it blasphemy.
But for us Christians, we should know the way.
Jesus' response to his disciples call for vengeance
is to go on to another village.
He teaches us that our way to new life
is not through violence and retribution
but through peaceful avoidance of conflict.
So Jesus and his disciples continue on the journey,
and Luke has Jesus give us more advice.
Three people come up to him, one by one,
and each one hears radical requirements for discipleship.
The first person, wanting to follow Jesus wherever he goes,
hears that there will be no place to rest
for the one who joins Jesus on the Way.
We have to ask ourselves if we are ready to follow,
even if we have to walk away
from the comfort and security of our homes and friends.
Are we ready to speak up for what is right and just,
even if we know our family members and best friends
will disagree with us?
The second person, invited by Jesus to join the group,
wants to go bury his father,
and Jesus responds with “let the dead bury their dead.”
If the man goes home to wait for his father's death
so he can fulfill the law of honoring his parents,
he himself will become dead
to the new life that comes with the journey to Jerusalem.
We have to ask ourselves what we're waiting for
that keeps us from following Jesus along the Way.
Maybe it's job security—
I won't object to my boss' racist remarks
until I have another job lined up.
And the third person
wants to say goodbye to family before he follows,
but Jesus warns that anyone
who expects to live in the reign of God
can't live in the past.
As followers along the way, we look ahead.
We don't regret the past and we're not obsessed with it,
either by focusing on its mistakes
or by imagining it as a golden age.
We know from other scriptures
that Jesus does not mean these sayings to be absolutes.
What Jesus is doing is making clear
the mindsets that undermine living in the reign of God.
He is reminding us of the greater goal,
and that everything else falls by the wayside
in our choice to follow him.
Rarely are we called to burn all our bridges,
like Elisha in the first reading.
These sayings remind us that, at rare, particular moments,
we are called to be heroic.
But most of the time
we are called to reflect, adapt, and take action.
As Paul puts it in that second reading,
we have to live by the Spirit, not by the law.
We are required to serve one another through love.
I recall times in my own life
when I lacked the courage to follow Jesus' way,
and a few times when I had the courage to burn bridges,
to walk away from security for the sake of a vision.
Out of Africa author Karen Blixen once said that
“There is probably always one moment in life
when there is still the possibility of two courses,
and another when only one is possible.
At the latter point I have burnt my boats,
and afterwards there can be no retreat.”
Elisha reached that point.
Paul reached that point.
Jesus reached that point.
We reach that point, too,
faced with the question of what it means
for us
to follow Christ today.
It means to act with love where we are,
in our chosen career,
on our chosen life path,
true to the commitments we have made.
It's not only what we do that's important.
It's how we do it.
There's more than one way to follow Jesus,
but each path has this in common:
we are called to follow with our whole heart,
and our heart must be full of love,
no matter what.

Holy Spirit Catholic Community
Saturdays at 4:30 p.m./Sundays at 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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