Homily – Bridge the Gaps –On Faith and Finance

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time 2019

Fr. James DiLuzio C.S.P.

Who doesn’t dream of winning the lottery with visions of wealth and security, high standing in society?  Money is power in our world, power to influence others.  In truth, I’m as guilty as anyone in taking for granted the simple things and engaging in delusions of grandeur but Jesus began his public ministry asking that we, the people, not isolate and overprotect ourselves physically, emotionally, economically – because that is often what the rich and powerful do–but rather, live as one people devoted to God and one another. The Gospel is our continual wake-up call to more vital dreams. Initially we may begrudge it but ultimately it is GOOD NEWS inspiring the treasures of relationships, friends, family, delights of meals be they simple or exquisite—all with a continual consciousness of God.

What did Jesus mean when he said,  “I am here to proclaim a year of the Lord’s favor?”  He’s quoting the prophet Isaiah who, 500 years before, reminded the people that they were to return to the practice of JUBILEE—“years of the Lord’s favor.”  Every 7 years and again, every 50 years, the Torah commanded that debts were to be forgiven and indentured servants were to be freed – grounded on the understanding that God is the only true landowner.  We may quibble over ownership but  everything we are and everything we have belongs to God.  Leviticus 25: 23 “for the land is Mine; you are but strangers, resident with ME.”  This was the collective memory Jesus was evoking as the new “anointed one,” turning the people’s expectations of Messiah on its head for most were hoping not for a reconciler but a Vindicator exacting punishment on Israel’s enemies.  Jesus insists we see the world differently, not accepting it on its own terms but rejuvenating it, inviting it, coaxing it to become closer to God who redeems people. 

Biblical scholars tell us that when Jesus speaks of “liberty to the captives” he was speaking primarily about people in prison or sent to labor camps because of debt or inability to pay taxes.  We recall how the Jews detested Rome’s tax collectors!  In the Roman Empire the average person had no rights and the poor plebeian or slave caught committing theft could be punished with death (sometimes by crucifixion).   We do well to remember the horrific practices of so-called Christian nations from the Middle Ages up to as late as the 18th and mid-19th centuries in Europe:  the horrors of debtors’ prisons,  and worse, innumerable recorded cases of poor people, with no recourse to work, stealing a neighbor’s pheasant to feed a starving family, receiving the death penalty to instill fear in other desperate people.   Tragically, there’s not a big leap from these horrors to the ways our society cultivates ghettos and alienates poor neighborhoods.  Why?  Because we and our leaders tend to ignore the bigger picture, because we’ve allowed our society to slip—we cultivate awe of the rich and famous and powerful and forget to encourage generosity and compassion as ultimate values and part of our true goals in life.   That includes bridging the gap between the rich and poor, the advantaged and the disadvantaged.  Now this isn’t socialism.  I repeat, “this is not Socialism” or what others derogatorily label “the social Gospel.”  All it is, is Christ’s insistence that we LET HIM FREE US FROM GREED and enhance our lives on earth with COMPASSION.  Jesus invites us to know when enough is enough – enough of what we need to be good for a family, for a business, be it money or bonuses or furniture or clothing or toys or retirement or legacy for one’s families—all legitimate concerns but never meant to exclude concerns for others in this world.  Jesus, then and now, insists on “Glad Tidings to the Poor.”   Think of Zacchaeus coming down from his perch on a tree—there’s JOY there!  That’s a JUBILEE embodied in one faithful individual.  Or, if you prefer a more threatening image, think of the parable of the indentured servant who was shown great mercy but refused to show mercy to another—recall his ultimate end.  

Jesus invites us to expand our circles so that all peoples of all walks of life have honest levels of association with the downtrodden, the oppressed and afflicted, the forgotten and the neglected. True, we as individuals cannot attend to all, but we can strive to insist that all people’s concerns are able to be voiced, to be heard and that all aspects of societies and cultures, including government and finance, offer assurance that no one is oppressed, afflicted, forgotten or neglected because of laws or choices we and others make. How often I find myself repeating this phrase – “God wants us all to get ahead–not at the expense of others but the uplifting of others.”  It’s the second part of that equation that finds humanity lacking; finds Christianity lacking. In contrast, attend to the way in today’s Scripture (1 Corinthians 12: 12-30) Saint Paul reinforces this unity of all people, no matter how diverse –for every part of the body is necessary to for every “body;” — all parts must contribute to the well-being of the whole.  This too, is an extension of the Eucharistic Feast. The Eucharist being an ongoing participation in the advancement of all peoples –blessed assurance we are not alone.  

Happily, these past weeks of the recent Government shut-down have nonetheless given us signs of HOPE:   Neighbors and Churches expanded their food pantries and many Banks granted postponement of major credit payments to the almost ½ million government employees working but without their weekly or bi-monthly checks to pay their bills.  Like the redeemed Scrooge on Christmas morning, may we enthusiastically endorse those acts of kindness while we, today, re-commit our prayer and our choices for specific actions so that such kindness becomes the norm, not an exception to the way we live our daily lives and earn our daily bread.   What Jesus said that day in Nazareth, Jesus proclaims to us today: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor . . . recovery of sight to the blind.”  Must not we, too, see ourselves differently, because of Christ?   I’ve offered you what our theologians and scholars have to say about Jesus’s words.  Coming to this Eucharist today, we must ask ourselves, “What else could Jesus’ words possibly mean?”

The Scripture Readings for Sunday, January 27th are:

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 69

Reading 1NEH 8:2-4A, 5-6, 8-10

Ezra the priest brought the law before the assembly,
which consisted of men, women,
and those children old enough to understand.
Standing at one end of the open place that was before the Water Gate,
he read out of the book from daybreak till midday,
in the presence of the men, the women,
and those children old enough to understand;
and all the people listened attentively to the book of the law.
Ezra the scribe stood on a wooden platform 
that had been made for the occasion.
He opened the scroll
so that all the people might see it
— for he was standing higher up than any of the people —;
and, as he opened it, all the people rose.
Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God,
and all the people, their hands raised high, answered, 
“Amen, amen!”
Then they bowed down and prostrated themselves before the LORD,
their faces to the ground.
Ezra read plainly from the book of the law of God,
interpreting it so that all could understand what was read.
Then Nehemiah, that is, His Excellency, and Ezra the priest-scribe
and the Levites who were instructing the people
said to all the people:
“Today is holy to the LORD your God.
Do not be sad, and do not weep”—
for all the people were weeping as they heard the words of the law.
He said further: “Go, eat rich foods and drink sweet drinks,
and allot portions to those who had nothing prepared;
for today is holy to our LORD.
Do not be saddened this day,
for rejoicing in the LORD must be your strength!”

Responsorial Psalm PS 19:8, 9, 10, 15   

R. (cf John 6:63c) Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life.
The law of the LORD is perfect,
refreshing the soul;
The decree of the LORD is trustworthy,
giving wisdom to the simple.
R. Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life.
The precepts of the LORD are right,
rejoicing the heart;
The command of the LORD is clear,
enlightening the eye.
R. Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life.
The fear of the LORD is pure,
enduring forever;
The ordinances of the LORD are true,
all of them just.
R. Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life.
Let the words of my mouth and the thought of my heart
find favor before you,
O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.
R. Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life.

Reading 2 1 COR 12:12-30

Brothers and sisters:
As a body is one though it has many parts,
and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body,
so also Christ.
For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body,
whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons,
and we were all given to drink of one Spirit.

Now the body is not a single part, but many.
If a foot should say,
“Because I am not a hand I do not belong to the body, “
it does not for this reason belong any less to the body.
Or if an ear should say,
“Because I am not an eye I do not belong to the body, “

it does not for this reason belong any less to the body.
If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be?
If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be?
But as it is, God placed the parts,
each one of them, in the body as he intended.
If they were all one part, where would the body be?
But as it is, there are many parts, yet one body.
The eye cannot say to the hand, “I do not need you, “
nor again the head to the feet, “I do not need you.”
Indeed, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker
are all the more necessary,
and those parts of the body that we consider less honorable
we surround with greater honor,
and our less presentable parts are treated with greater propriety,
whereas our more presentable parts do not need this.
But God has so constructed the body
as to give greater honor to a part that is without it,
so that there may be no division in the body,
but that the parts may have the same concern for one another.
If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it;
if one part is honored, all the parts share its joy.

Now you are Christ’s body, and individually parts of it.
Some people God has designated in the church
to be, first, apostles; second, prophets; third, teachers;
then, mighty deeds;
then gifts of healing, assistance, administration,
and varieties of tongues.
Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers?
Do all work mighty deeds? Do all have gifts of healing?
Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret?

Or1 COR 12:12-14, 27

Brothers and sisters:
As a body is one though it has many parts,
and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body,
so also Christ.
For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body,
whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons,

and we were all given to drink of one Spirit.
Now the body is not a single part, but many.
You are Christ’s body, and individually parts of it.

AlleluiaCF. LK 4:18

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
The Lord sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor,
and to proclaim liberty to captives.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

GospelLK 1:1-4; 4:14-21

Since many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the events
that have been fulfilled among us,
just as those who were eyewitnesses from the beginning
and ministers of the word have handed them down to us,
I too have decided,
after investigating everything accurately anew,
to write it down in an orderly sequence for you,
most excellent Theophilus, 
so that you may realize the certainty of the teachings
you have received.

Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit,
and news of him spread throughout the whole region.
He taught in their synagogues and was praised by all.

He came to Nazareth, where he had grown up,
and went according to his custom 
into the synagogue on the sabbath day.
He stood up to read and was handed a scroll of the prophet Isaiah.
He unrolled the scroll and found the passage where it was written:
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me 
to bring glad tidings to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.

Rolling up the scroll, he handed it back to the attendant and sat down,
and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him.
He said to them,
“Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”

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