Sunday Homily 9 July 2017

Fourteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time:

Zechariah 9: 9-10; Romans 8: 9, 11-13; Matthew 11:25-30

What is humility? It is GRATITUDE for life itself! JOY in being alive. Humility is Gratefulness for the gift of work—whether fulfilling in the moment or not. It sees every opportunity as a stepping stone to cherish, an opportunity to learn. “What is” – is enough to be good for each day.

Humility levels the playing field. It looks beyond position, social influence, prestige or income. It doesn’t judge. Humility defers to Hope. It keeps its sights on God — eschewing evaluation, judgement and critique on the mortal soul for the sake of the immortal soul. Saint Paul says, “abandon the flesh!” What he means by “flesh” is “self-interest above all other concerns.” His Letter to the Romans insists that this self-absorption constitutes hostility toward God. To live in selfishness is to refuse to accept why God made us and why we are here. Humility is the ability to see ourselves and others beyond our wants, our needs and preferences, beyond our assessment of “friend” or “foe.” To be humble, as Saint Paul says, is to “thrive in the Spirit!”

Sometimes it takes tragedies to bring us humility. War and conflict can make us bitter, but in faith, they humble us—making us ever mindful of human weakness, cruelty and sin with a desire to be done with it, once for all. Humility thinks not of the past but of the future. It releases us from the hell of hate and fear. During a time of civil and religious violence in India, a Hindu cried to Gandhi, “I’m going to Hell! I killed a child!” Gandhi asked, “Why did you do this?” He replied, “Because they killed my son! The Muslims killed my son!” “I know a way out of Hell,” said Gandhi. “Find a child, a child whose mother and father have been killed and raise him as your own. Only be sure that he is a Muslim and that you raise him as one.”

Examples of this kind of humility can be found in our recent history when, in the 1990’s, Churches and Synagogues sponsored refugee Muslim and Orthodox Christian families fleeing the genocide of the Bosnian/Herzegovina/Croatian/Serbia wars fueled by the atrocities of racist Serbian President Slobodan Milošević. Just as today, even amidst our cantankerous Immigration Policy debate, Churches and Synagogues are welcoming Serbian and Middle Eastern refugees with teams of faithful people offering room and board, language and technical skills to resettle here. And what have Americans in common with these families—neither language nor faith nor customs– except our common humanity? This is humility in action; evidence of grace.

Gandhi knew that humility is seeing another as a human being, and nothing more. Zechariah knew it.  Jesus knows it. Then, and only then, do we begin to respect what makes us different. But the difference remains secondary to the knowledge that because of the sins we have in common, we must transcend them lest we perpetuate them. Humility offers hope for the future. In the Second World War, two individuals from warring nations, decided to initiate a new beginning:

“A soldier wrote to a German mother: ‘As a member of a Commando unit raiding a village in France, it became my duty to kill your son… I earnestly ask your forgiveness, for I am, after all, called to be a Christian. . . I hope I may, some day after the war is over, talk with you face to face.’ The German mother received the note several months later, and she wrote to the English soldier in turn: ‘I find it in my heart to forgive you, even you who killed my son, for I too am a Christian . . . If we are living after the war is over I hope you will come to Germany to visit me, that you may take the place in my home, if only for a time, of my son whom you killed.’’

Indeed, Humility is seeing another as a human being, and nothing more. This is the only way the Vision of Zechariah, which is also Jesus’ vision, becomes a reality: when “the warrior’s bow is banished, and (the King) proclaims peace to the nations; his dominion stretching from sea to shining sea. Jesus invites us to accept this vision as our own. It’s a cross, but he bears the weight. And the Good News is we don’t need to wait for a war or tragedy to take it up. All we need be is humble.

Jesus doesn’t offer us the Eucharist because we deserve it. He looks beyond our pasts–good, bad and indifferent as they are—and sees human beings in need of Saving. Jesus knows our human hearts are prone to self-interests–be it our own, our families’, our nation’s or that of our Church. So, he invites us to come “down to earth,” offering us spiritual food that our bodies must digest. His Eucharistic meal invites us to keep our sights on the horizon. Only an honest, humble stance will create the gratitude needed for this meal to have its full effect. Otherwise we tend to relive the past, the blame, the regrets, or indulge today without any thought of tomorrow. As recipients of His Eucharist he asks us to see ourselves and to see others in the same way: dependent on God and one another. “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”

Celebrate Saint Luke the Evangelist Today!

Catholic and Orthodox Christianity celebrate Saint Luke, the Evangelist today, October 18.  He is the author of Luke’s Gospel and Acts of the Apostles in what I like to call “the Second Testament” (because the Hebrew Scriptures are certainly “the First Testament.”) If you would like to hear selections from my Luke Live! ministry, go to:

http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/revjamesmdiluziocsp

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

HOPE–How Christianity Can Play its Part on the World Stage Part 2

In September I wrote about the importance of HOPE and decided to pursue the topic further. I wrote: “In the coming weeks I will explore exactly how the Christian story, its history and daily experience of Christians today supports this HOPE. I invite Christian readers to share their insights so that together we may embrace Resurrection Hope most fully. I also invite people of other faiths and backgrounds to share HOPE perspectives in their beliefs, concepts and/or faith experiences. Together we just might be able to identify and apply common ground principles, evidencing hope through mutual respect and celebration of the best of our humanity.” So, now we begin:

HOPE as a noun is defined in a variety of ways in a number of dictionaries. Here are three citations:

New Oxford American Dictionary

http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/us/definition/english/hope

1. A feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen. 2. A person or thing that may help or save someone. 3. Grounds for believing that something good may happen. 3. Archaic; a feeling of trust

Merriam-Webster Dictionary  http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hope

1.The feeling of wanting something to happen and thinking that it could happen; a feeling that something good will happen or be true. 2. The chance that something good will happen. 3.Someone or something that may be able to provide help; someone or something that give you a reason for hoping.

The American Heritage Dictionary

https://ahdictionary.com/word/search.html?q=hope

1. a. The longing or desire for something accompanied by the belief in the possibility of its occurrence: He took singing lessons in the hope of performing in the musical. b. An instance of such longing or desire: Her hopes of becoming a doctor have not changed. 2. A source of or reason for such longing or desire: Good pitching is the team’s only hope for victory. 3. often Hope. Christianity The theological virtue defined as the desire and search for a future good, difficult but not impossible to attain with God’s help. 5. Archaic. Trust; confidence. Idiom: hope against hope To hope with little reason or justification

Notice that the New Oxford definition does not specify that “hope” is necessarily for a “good” until the 3rd definition of the word. Merriam-Webster offers “wanting something “good” in its first definition; American Heritage doesn’t specify “good” until the fourth definition with the specification Christianity. The implication, of course is that,although all people have goals and dreams which undergird “Hope,” unfortunately, not all “Hopes” are oriented toward a “good.” Some hope for an adversaries untimely demise. Some have expectations of entitlement over and against fairness, justice or mercy. Some cling to desires for advancement at the expense of others. That’s the “Shadow” side of Hope and I will devote another blog to that. For now, I would like to focus on Hope for universal goods.

The Hebrew Scriptures embraced by Christians are filled with examples of Hope expressed in elegant, poetic words and images. Many echo God’s promises for future fulfillment and harmony for the human race. Here are just a few:

“And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions.” (Joel 3: 1)

“In the days to come, the mountain for the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest mountain and raised above the hills. All nations shall stream toward it, many peoples shall come and say, ‘Come, let us climb the Lord’s mountain to the house of the God of Jacob. That he may instruct us in his ways, and we may walk in his paths.’ For from Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations and impose terms on many peoples. They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; one nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again.” (Isaiah 2: 2-4)

“But a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom. The spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him; a spirit of wisdom and of understanding. A spirit of counsel and of strength, a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the Lord, and his delight shall be the fear of the Lord. Not by appearance shall he judge, nor by hearsay shall he decide but he shall judge the poor with justice and decide aright for the land’s afflicted. He shall strike the ruthless with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked. Justice shall be the band around his waist, and faithfulness a belt upon his hips. Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; the calf and the young lion shall browse together with a little child to guide them. The cow and the bear shall be neighbors, together their young shall rest; the lion shall eat hay like the ox. The baby shall play by the cobra’s den and the child lay his hand on the adder’s lair. There shall be no harm or ruin on all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be filled with knowledge of the Lord as water covers the sea. On that day, the root of Jesse, set up as a signal for the nations, the Gentiles shall seek out, for his dwelling shall be glorious.” (Isaiah 11: 1-10)

“All you who are thirsty, come to the water! You who have no money, come, receive grain and eat; Come without paying and without cost, drink wine and milk. Why spend your money for what is not bread; your wages for what fails to satisfy?” (Isaiah 55: 1-2)

Building upon the Judaism of Jesus (who quotes Isaiah 61: 1-2 and Is 58: 6-7 as he begins his public ministry) , Christian HOPE grounds itself in the Hebrew expectation for “The Day of the Lord” – the time when God will right all earthly wrongs and goodness and justice will prevail. Good will be rewarded and evil punished. This belief is a bedrock of the Jewish Faith. This WILL happen – if not “at once,” than ultimately “at last!” (See Malachi 3:19, Joel 2: 1 ff, Zephaniah 1: 14 ff). In the interim, what is promised for the future may be achieved in part in the here and now. Thus, we articulate “hope” in the popular phrase “the now and the not yet,” for while Jesus insists his followers “pray for the coming of the kingdom,” he also urges us to do our best to achieve it. (Luke 11: 28) The harmony we desire for the culmination of the world is possible the more we make our daily decisions out of love of God and neighbor. Today, Christians and Jews are bound by this same directive as are people of Islam and other world religions who embrace this tenet.

More to come in my next blog entry!

HOPE–How Christianity Can Play its Part on the World Stage Part 1

Inspired by watching Religion and Ethics on PBS this morning, I would like to begin a series of reflections on what part Christianity can play on the world stage today.  At its core, Christianity offers HOPE, a hope centered in– but not limited to– the promise of Resurrection and eternal life. In truth, what Christians call “the Easter mystery” must echo in daily life, giving evidence of its reality in all human dimensions.  When taken in the full scope of its Judaic foundation, the Resurrection’s import is not only future-directed but extends to the past, present and future equally.  Only when hope is afforded its complete multi-directional realities can its ultimate gift—the celebration of the “eternal now,” (some prefer the phrase “the perfect present”)—be realized.

Living in “the eternal now” imbues the present with transformative power.  The reality of Resurrection offers Christians the capacity to heal the fears, the hurts, regrets and resentments of the past and move forward in humility and truth.   Indeed, Christian hope grounds itself in humility, insisting that Christians cultivate knowledge of history with a spirit of truth, never denying its individual and collective wrongdoing but neither ignoring nor discounting its positive contributions.  This Hope-infused-truth allows present choices to be informed by the past so that with prayerful care, the past does not perpetuate its harm into the future.  Christianity can achieve its greatest human potential when Christians invite people grounded in other religions, philosophies and cultures to identify either the same or parallel expressions of hope with humility and truth, identifying and building upon a cultivated “Common Ground” in the present moving toward a more humane and compassionate future.

In the coming weeks I will explore exactly how the Christian story, its history and daily experience of Christians today supports this HOPE.  I invite Christian readers to share their insights so that together we may embrace Resurrection Hope most fully.  I also invite people of other faiths and backgrounds to share HOPE perspectives in their beliefs, concepts and/or faith experiences.  Together we just might be able to identify and apply common ground principles, evidencing hope through mutual respect and celebration of the best of our humanity.