Do Not Be Afraid

27th Sunday of OT -Year A Homily Fr. James M. DiLuzio C.S.P.

Scriptures: Isaiah 5: 1-7:   Psalm 80: Paul’s Letter to the Philippians 4: 6-10:   Gospel of Matthew 21: 33-43

Parents say to their children:  This is your Home; We have taken the responsibility of your material needs, your need for love and nurturing AND the essential importance of learning about cooperation, mutual respect and the give and take, patience and generosity required for appreciating life in this family, and ultimately, in this world.  Together we are building your FUTURE.  And, if the family is a family of faith, they would add, continually, “God will see us through.”

The tenant farmers in the Gospel are equivalent to children or adults dependent upon a parent/ adult / employer for their life and livelihood. But evidently, they either have not had good parenting OR, for reasons we are not given, they found themselves filled with FEAR & DISTRUST.   They turned inward instead of outward.  Rather than bringing grievances, uncertainties, disappointments to their employer, they decided to take matters into their own hands. No desire for deeper understanding, no desire for compromise, no prayer, no attempt at dialogue are in evidence. Whether knowingly or unknowingly, they empowered their fear and distrust which inevitably gave way to “Selfishness” and “Greed.”  Their fears fed envy and jealousy, their distrust, violence. In the parable, the consequences were deadly; a matter of spiritual life and death, because the true OWNER of the Vineyard was God, the Father of All, who welcomes our questioning, our prayer, our disappointments.  In hearing the parable today, we are meant to muse “If only the Tenant Farmers had turned to God who sent His Son to bring deeper understanding, and hope; if only WE could abandon our fears and distrust–be it of God, Church or State and believe without reservation that God’s Holy Spirit is with us continually to inspire, to engage and motivate us to work through our anxieties and fears and strive for a better future.

Many commentators and pundits tells us that Americans are not living in faith these days but in Fear and Distrust. We read that many Americans are afraid of immigrants, of foreigners, or people of religions other than their own.  They read, see and hear the news –which, because of the way news is prioritized—is often the BAD NEWS of community, country and cosmos—and are literally afraid and demoralized.  Others are afraid of our government limiting our freedoms, while, at the same time, many others lost faith in our government to keep us safe.  Some want protection from the economy and its impact on the workforce, others consider that inappropriate intervention.  Some make speeches about freedom of religion and freedom of speech–noting that, at times, questions as to “whose religion” and “whose speech” are not satisfactorily answered; nor is the degree to which hate and violence-inducing speech is a right or abuse of a right.  And most recently, many writers deduce that fear is what makes so many people unwilling to evaluate the benefits and burdens of the 2nd Amendment– about the right to bear arms as it applies to the 21st century.   Common sense tells us that the lawmakers of 1791 could never have envisioned the great diversity of guns and ammunitions available to the American civilian today—certainly not the kind that were used to kill a music loving crowd in Las Vegas.  But, for many, it is as if the mere suggestion of a discussion on the possible ways we could adapt an 18th century Law to 21st century circumstances was somehow “Un-American.”  We have to ask, “What price “liberty?” when fear and distrust rule the heartland?

One thing the Scriptures tell us is that Liberty has responsibilities.  Individual Freedoms of one person or group do, in fact, impact the individuality and freedom of others. When Jesus tells us that He is with us “For when two or three are gathered together in My name, there I am in the midst of them,” it’s not only His assurance of his answers to prayer, but to the necessity of communion with and among others for His presence to take full hold of our lives.  To apply this Gospel to ourselves today, we must ask, “To what extent do we have faith and trust in God?  In Jesus and His teachings?  In the Communion of Saints, the Forgiveness of Sins as part of the road to Resurrection of the Body and Life in the World to come?”  In short, “to what extent do we offer Jesus the highest priority within our lives, positions and priorities, and, yes, even our politics?” To what extent to we cling to Jesus who repeatedly tells people of faith: “Do Not Be Afraid?”

The Gospel today is not only a reflection on religious history regarding those who did not accept Christ as the fulfillment of the Hebrew Scriptures, which, on the surface, is exactly what the parable is about.   It is also about how any or all of God’s Children can misuse the faith and life situations we have been given.  It’s about how people who lack trust in God, in Providence, in the Holy Spirit active in the world bring suffering upon themselves.

Perhaps it is time for us to evaluate our contributions to America’s distrust and fears; confess our personal culpabilities as to the extent we contribute to the fears and anxieties of our age, rather than trust in God to guide us through them with patience, with charity, with hope. Saint Paul wrote in his Letter to the Philippians 4: 6-10: “Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

 Paul’s emphasis on Thanksgiving strengthens the foundation of faith that Everything belongs to God: every land and every people.  Recognizing our very lives are “on loan” from God, makes gratitude the only way to live.  We have this Eucharist to focus us on Thanksgiving, trust that the Holy Spirit of God and Jesus, both, will guide us through the anxieties of the age to insist on fairness, justice and hope—and not to be afraid of change that is for the better for all rather than a few; not be afraid to cultivate charitable discourse “in-person,” i.e., with persons rather than in the impersonal dimensions of the internet alone.  Not afraid to say we believe in a communion of saints-in-the making, believe in Christ Jesus and that communion commands dialogue with rich and poor, church leaders and local communities, police and their precinct constituents, neighbors with neighbors, citizens with immigrants, different colors of peoples mingling with peoples of different colors.

May this Eucharist increase the grace that endows us with courage, perseverance and hope to address this age of anxiety, its fears and discouragements. May our worship today inspire us to advance the Good News: God is with us, to help us expand God’s kingdom so that HOPE is offered to all, here, now and in the Future for generations to come.

Advertisements

Charlottesville, VA, Saint Peter, You and Me – A Homily

Homily for Nineteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time

By Fr. James DiLuzio C.S.P.

1 Kings 19:13-19

Gospel of Matthew 14: 22-33

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/081317.cfm

 

Some people shout but never say anything. Some people scream, but never learn to speak. Some people hate without ever thinking why, and how they came to hate another person or group. Others live by a rule that say, “Fire, Ready, Aim!” Our nation and our world is becoming more impulsive and compulsive—people acting from gut feelings, fears and prejudice without reflection, certainly without prayer–thinking in very limited terms, self-serving terms. More and more people are losing a sense of the bigger picture—a larger, wider, more embracing approach to life and its diversity of peoples.

This weekend’s tragedy in Charlottesville, Virginia is an excellent example of the evil that cultural, ethnic and economic isolation and impetuosity create. What motivated people with a white supremacist perspective to travel from Ohio and other places throughout the country to come to this Virginia town to protest the taking down of the statue of Robert E Lee?  Since the ethnic and prejudicial killings over the past several years in our country, were there sufficient Town Meetings, Conferences, Dialogues from coast to coast to dissect the complexity of these and related issues to prevent more violence?  In fairness, the Charlottesville Mayor and Council did conduct town meetings to let people air their perspectives and their feelings before taking down its Confederate Flag and deciding on moving Robert E. Lee and other Confederate Statues into museums which could better contextualize these historical figures’ characters and life choices than displays in public parks allow.  But perhaps there was insufficient outreach and dialogue with and about the Supremacist Organization before their rally was allowed in the name of “Free Speech.”  Was there sufficient and significant preparation conducted by the protestors and police prior to the event—and, equally important, because our nation has been crying out for more Town Meetings, have there been (and will there be) significant number of meetings in churches, synagogues, mosques and council halls to address the seeds of hatred, prejudice coast-to-coast?  Why or why not?  Everybody knows “Violence doesn’t occur in a vacuum.”

We all fail to initiate and perpetuate the kind of dialogue about morals, logic, faith, culture, diversity that this Age requires. We fail, in part, because we rely upon ourselves alone without the patience to prayerfully allow God to work through all our thoughts and feelings before we act. For example, thankfully, there were many protestors responding to the KKK/Supremacist March, but I wonder if instead of posters of condemnation there were also (and there may have been) placards stating things like and “God loves us all,” “All Nations Shall Come Together,” “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”

 Not that by that time, on that day, it could have made much difference with the Hate march.  But if there were such ideas floating around in the protest, there would at least be some clarification of the kind of thoughtful, preventative action Christianity call us to embrace.

How much, for example, did anyone at that march really know about Robert E. Lee?  I had to do some research myself.  I was surprised to read he was against slavery and against violence.  Against his better judgment he joined the Confederate Army to, in his mind, protect his native Virginians.  He could have been known for pleading for more dialogue among Virginia’s Legislature and with President Lincoln and his Cabinet, more caution on behalf of the Southern States before cessation.  Instead, he compromised his conscience and his deeper values, he didn’t choose to act with a bigger picture in mind.  Lee’s story and conflicts could be better known, better discussed and could lead to more self-scrutiny for our world today, but alas, as in the times of Jesus, only some, not all, are willing to join in the conversation.  Many won’t ever, many don’t, but who do we say we are?  What do we think the proper response of faith is?

Now what does this have to do with today’s Bible Readings?  Everything!  In 1 Kings, we find Elijah hiding in mountain cave.  More dialogue with the previous passages of Scripture is needed to understand the context.  He’s hiding because he acted impulsively, filled with his own zeal for the Lord, he slaughtered all the prophets of Baal, the pagan cult of Jezebel, the wife of Israel’s King Ahab. The king and queen now seek the prophet’s life.  Of course, Elijah expects the Lord to come in Elijah’s own image –with the wrath of whirlwind, an earthquake, in fire.  Instead, God arrives in “a tiny whispering sound” through which Elijah listens and defers more fully to God’s counsel, becoming more rooted in God’s love for him rather than his own zeal to love the Lord more. This conversation results in Elijah being prepared for heaven.  His ministry is over. God wants him to ordain a new prophet in his stead, Elisha.  Then Elijah is taken up to heaven in a chariot of fire.  Something about prudence, patience, and repentance seems to be the thought for the day.

Now let’s look at the Matthew’s Gospel: What made Peter so impetuous as to try and walk on water to Jesus? Was he ready?  Had he fully acknowledged Jesus as both human and Divine?  Jesus walking on Water was manifesting His Divinity, His Union with God to be in command of Nature as well as the source of life for human souls.  Obviously, Peter wasn’t ready; he didn’t understand this nor the degree to which he had to focus on Jesus rather than the raging wind.   Thankfully, Jesus knew that.  He knows we aren’t often ready to let faith’s wisdom sustain us, so he extends his hand.  However, what if Peter were less anxious to act and more open to simply let Jesus come to him?   What if he chose to surrender to the bigger truth that “God loves us First” and that God will act “First” — through our conscience, through our prayer.  Patiently allowing our conscience and our consciousness to be centered in God makes us more fittingly responsive to the evils of the world, more preventative, less reactionary.  Jesus was coming to Peter and all the disciples in the boat. Could / should Peter have waited?  What might have occurred had Peter allowed Jesus to make his point as God and Man first, allowing the Spirit to seep more fully in his mind and body and find more communion with the disciples before boldly reacting and presenting Jesus with his own “state of emergency?”

All this is “food for thought,” regarding our degrees of dependence upon Christ as we address the problems of our times.  One thing for sure, we must speak out against evil, hatred and violence, but how we do it, and more importantly, the extent to which we let the Spirit move us to daily efforts of prevention–THIS is the question we must address today, tomorrow and the next day.  Jesus came, He continues to come and thankfully, we arrived today to let his Word penetrate us again and this Eucharist to nourish our conscience, bodies and spirits.  Allowing Jesus to come to us first, to allow him to do what He Will Do for Us first before we act, react, respond –knowing that we must put our faith into action—can and will make all the difference in our responses to the evils that abound in our nation and in the world.

Stop Anti-Semitism & Scapegoating NOW!

Are you as saddened and outraged about what has happened at Oberlin College in Ohio  as I am?
An adjunct professor spews anti-Semitic, racial hatred in class and on Facebook. The College President allows it because of “freedom of speech” but  in his speech addressing the issue, he does not specify all that is illogical in the anti-Semite professor’s diatribes. Here’s my response and warning to myself and to all of us tempted to scapegoat, blame or ostracize any group AND our responsibility to counter lies and the dark myths of prejudice:
1. We must never speak about any ethnic, national or religious group as responsible for any one thing in particular. Every group is made up of individuals, sub-groups and marginal groups who evidence tremendous diversity .  When anyone speaks of “The Catholics,” “The Protestants,” “the Jews,” The Nigerians,”  “the Americans”  ” the Italians,” we must immediately STOP RIGHT THERE and ask, “Who?”  “Which ones?”  “What segment?” As soon as any one generalizes about any peoples, nation or religion the statement is a LIE!
2.  Even when a sub-group, or smaller group of individuals or individuals themselves are identified as guilty of an immoral incident or event, questions must be addressed and allegations must be verified and substantiated.  Again, “Who?”  “What Contexts?”  “What evidence?”  “What verifications?”  If No ONE can be substantiated as  responsible, then certainly NO ENTIRE GROUP can be responsible. Furthermore, even when ONE individual or Sub-Group is verifiably responsible, it is extremely unlikely that the entire sub-group is responsible and certainly not the entire, larger group.  THIS I S LOGIC.  This is Justice.  This is TRUTH.
3.  Freedom of Speech does allow for anyone to say anything including spewing of  lies, illogic, hatred, prejudice, etc. but a free society has an OBLIGATION to counter that speech with TRUTH.  Furthermore, we have a moral imperative to substantiate the truth with proofs and verifiable historic and scientific evidence.  Therefore, I repeat: Allowing one person’s freedom of speech to include lies, hate, scapegoating requires others to RESPONSIBILITY and to TRUTH.   In the case cited, the President must conduct a public forum revealing the lies of the given professor’s statements. To allow proliferation of a lie is to renege on responsibility and common human decency and allow the lies to prosper, mislead and corrupt people’s thinking.
4.  Even Free Speech has its limits. The public square no longer tolerates racial slurs in the public forums.  Certain expletives are band in the media.  So, too, must negative generalizations  about any group.  Any allegation must in justice identify individuals and sub-groups so we promote truth and balance in the media.  In truth, even positive statements and praise need to have specific clarifications.  For example, even in this hostile political climate in the USA, we must not speak of “The Italian American Vote,”  “the Black or African American vote,”  “The Evangelical Vote,” “The Jewish American Vote,”  those very statements are dishonest. We may speak of “a large portion of African Americans in Alabama in the Republican party are voting this way,”  or  “More Italian Americans in New Jersey are tending to vote in the Democratic primary this year.”  WE must stop generalizations in all spheres or we are planting the seeds of ethnic scapegoating and ethnic hatreds.  Anti-Semitism is often the symptom of a terrible illogic that festers in human minds and in human societies.  All peoples who seek truth and justice must counter this illogic on all levels including temptations that exist in our own hearts.
If you don’t know about this incident, you can read about it here:
PLEASE COMMENT!  Please don’t let Anti-Semitism or any prejudice, any lies, hate or scapegoating go unaddressed.  ALSO:  in the coming weeks I am going to begin to offer commentary in a series of blogs on a most excellent book: Rabbi Jonathan Sack’s book NOT IN GOD’S NAME.  Watch for it!

Pope Francis’ private meetings with Kim Davis and others at the Vatican Embassy in New York:

Because Kim Davis had become a public figure championed by many people for many reasons not necessarily her own (who knows?), the Vatican needed to acknowledge that as it welcomed her as an individual. The truth is that some people who champion her are not only against gay marriage in the secular state but are those who promote hate and prejudice against the gay and lesbian community. Yes, Pope Francis met with Yayo Grassi, a gay man AND his partner– a fact that addresses the issue of consistency regarding his stance of being welcoming and promoting dialogue. But without clarifying that and qualifying the Davis visit, opportunities for misinterpretation and politicizing of her visit became rife. Kim Davis is a public figure, whereas Mr Gassi is not. Had Mr. Gassi been a public figure, the playing field would have been more balanced.

I would like to affirm and promote Pope Francis’ insistence on ongoing dialogue. A Church that promotes love, charity and that preaches against prejudice and hatred, must always be open to hear all sides, all perspectives to inform her pastoral response. Love requires a listening stance. Of course the Bible is an essential source in the conversation but by no means can it be an exclusive one. If the Church took every verse of the Bible on an absolute literal level (without honoring context, Church Tradition and the latest in biblical scholarship) adherents could justify prejudice against all kinds of people. Tragically, they have throughout history. In other words, without ongoing dialogue with all kinds of people and all branches of knowledge such as psychology, anthropology along with the Bible, and peoples’ experiences, the Church would condone all kinds of bigotry and hatred in God’s name–just pick your verse. As for those who adhere to a strict literal interpretation of all Biblical prohibitions, even they admit to various criteria for prioritizing them. In truth, most acknowledge that charity and love toward others must always prevail whatever they may choose for themselves. God bless them. God bless us all.

Gut Response to Republican Debate Sept. 16, 2015

I watched ALL of the Republican debate on CNN.  Here’s my gut response:  Jeb Bush comes across as the most humane (and yes, he had more energy); John Kasich quite sensible.  The rest?  Ugh.  I take particular umbrage with Marco Rubio.  Could anyone be more myopic? His tirade against environmental concern is so extreme.  Is there no middle ground with him?  If some jobs are lost, wouldn’t more jobs be gained in the new technologies?  Has he no concern for clean air and water?  He likes to drink water.  God help him.

Trump was a bit more cordial than the last time.  He is so very entertaining.
Carly Fiorina comes across as a solid hawk, perhaps even more than most of the men.  Do you think she overdid it to show that she is a strong person?  I don’t know.  But I applaud her statements not to fund Planned Parenthood (NO reason tax dollars should support abortions not only because it’s a great moral issue but also because the tax paying public is so divided on the issue.  PP will have no problem getting funds from the private sector anyway) and I appreciated her passion against legalized marijuana as a gateway drug. For all that, I think all of the candidates want to take funding away from  PP.
Sadly Jeb didn’t get to summarize his tax plan, although Carson and others did.  Having read Jeb’s in the NYTIMES, it definitely seems reasonable.  Carson’s tithing (10 %) across the board for everyone is intriguing, but he’s not a viable candidate and the tithing thing doesn’t seem practical on some levels, although it would totally simplify everything. Plus it’s biblical!
I wish these debates would focus more on the issues than the usual political rants and idealistic speeches.  The moderators don’t ask penetrating questions!  E.g. on the hot issue of the Iran deal:  during the considerable number of sanction years, Iran has built up considerable uranium deposits and, without any Western communication , sources say it would be ready to build a bomb in the next three months.  So what good did the strict sanctions do?  They only isolated a sick and diseased country and allowed its leaders to do what they wanted while the common people suffered there.  Why would no one state the obvious here? Sadly, central points like these are never brought up in most debates.  At least some of the potential candidates did state the obvious:  with or without this agreement the USA can bomb Iran any time it likes.  And so can Israel for that matter. So what is the big deal here?  In the past, some diplomacy with an enemy has had greater potential than none at all even when war became inevitable. And as Kasich repeatedly stated, we gain more support from Europe when we at least try the diplomatic way first.
Have a wonderful day.  You deserve it!

Love You As You Are

I must call your attention to David Brooks again. Every parent MUST read this! Plus every believing adult must know that true Faith offers a God with Unconditional LOVE that is NOT based on what we do but for the unique individuals that God created. Think of those times when you simply LOVE BEING YOU when you are not doing or achieving anything. Like waking up in the morning or having your coffee or comfortably drifting off to sleep at night. GOD LOVES YOU!

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/24/opinion/david-brooks-love-and-merit.html?rref=collection%2Fcolumn%2Fdavid-brooks&action=click&contentCollection=Opinion&module=Collection&region=Marginalia&src=me&pgtype=article

Pray for Peace among Sunni and Shiite and read Thomas Friedman NYTIMES today!

Read Thomas Friedman NY Times today: Only way to fight ISIS is to help reconcile moderate majority Sunni and Shiite in Iraq and Syria to abandon tribal hatreds. If not, fighting ISIS Sunni’s directly will align US with Shiite only and create more sympathy for ISIS among Sunni’s worldwide. Good sense!

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/14/opinion/sunday/thomas-l-friedman-obamas-strategy-for-fighting-isis-isnt-all-about-us.html?ribbon-ad-idx=8&rref=opinion&module=Ribbon&version=origin&region=Header&action=click&contentCollection=Opinion&pgtype=article