HOMILY FOR THE 24TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
Readings: Is. 50:4-9/Jas. 2:14-18
Psalm: 116:1-6, 8-9
Gospel: Mk. 8:27-35
Over the past several weeks, I have been doing the same thing that everyone else has been doing: hearing about the mess that the Church has been getting itself into for the past several decades. Since the start of the summer season, there has been report after report of cover-ups by Church officials of misconduct starting in Chile, then Australia then Ireland and then back to the United States. Each and every time a report comes out, dozens of voices cry out with their version of how to solve the crisis and bring a new age within the Church. Each voice that cries out is louder than the next, pointing fingers at everything and everyone. And the one who shouts the loudest becomes the victor. All the while, the ones who long to be heard are pushed back into the shadows or placed in the hot spotlight of public opinion. But that opinion is not their own, but it is the ones that use them for their own cause. It made me stop and wonder that when the time came to add my voice, what would the people hear me say.
Apparently, I am not the only one. Last weekend I went to Mass at Notre Dame. The celebrant during his homily spoke that lately when he goes on the internet, he is spending less time on the news sites looking at the troubles going on in the Church and more time on You Tube watching cat videos. (Can’t say that I blame him.) One of the things that was concerning him was the Gospel proclaimed last week in light of these current events. His focus was on the moment when Jesus gave the mute man the power to speak. He said that when he began to prepare, his mind was not so much on the miracle itself, but what would become after the miracle. The question that kept running through his head was “What happens if the mute begin to speak, and we don’t like what they have to say?” That made me think of what is going on in the Church. And the thought that came into my mind is what would happen if not just the power of speech was restored, but if all of the senses were opened, would they be pleased at what they encountered?
Whenever God reveals himself to us, there is a sense of awe and exhilaration. But there can also be a risk of disappointment and denial. Where those two points show up is all a matter of how much or how little faith we have in our relationship with God. Remember a few weeks ago when Jesus fed the crowds with just five loaves of bread and two fish? The crowd was ready to make him their king ready to do battle with their human oppressors. When Jesus proclaimed that he was the Bread of Life, the crowds could not listen to what was said. They only heard his words of hope and tasted his food; but they did not listen to his message nor savored the meal that he wanted to give them.
In the Gospel proclaimed today, Jesus asks his disciples who the people think he is? They said he was John the Baptist or Elijah or another prophet. But when he asked them who he was, it was Peter who said he was the Christ. Jesus thought that they were ready, more than the crowd was anyway. The crowds left, but the disciples stayed. Jesus told them that the Son of Man must suffer and be rejected by the Scribes and Pharisees, be killed and rise after three days. When Peter takes him aside to tell him that he should not be saying such things, Jesus then knew that they were back on that hillside getting ready to make him a King on earth rather than a King in Heaven.
Those who see the world while their senses are blocked are no more aware than the Mute man we heard about last week. The crowd on the hill could only hear the words of Jesus through the gray noise of the world they lived. Their culture could not allow them. Peter tried to stop Jesus from sharing his destiny, which showed that Peter’s eyes could only look at Jesus but did not see of the Son of God that he would give up his life later on.
Those who were with Jesus were able to have their senses awakened through him so they can understand fully God’s creation. Yet there are still those whose ability to “be opened” is not yet available to them. They could be prevented by some trauma in their lives or some issue with a person or group that is telling them they are not welcome anymore. Anytime they desired to hear the Good News, it would come from those same sources. But instead of joy and gladness, those words would be thought of untrustworthy. So it takes all or our senses, opened by God, for us to find His message to come back home.
In my own case, in order for me to allow my senses to open is to start at one of them and move forward. So I started with the one that sent me on this path at the beginning: listening. I started to talk less and listen more so I would be able to find that voice in all this noise. Then I found it. It was something that has been proclaimed to us this month. The Second Readings this month have been coming from the Letter of James. This Letter was written sometime after the destruction of Jerusalem and the dispersion for the Jews who proclaimed Jesus as the Messiah. This was a letter of encouragement after the catastrophe they just went through. The letter starts out “whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance…” These are not words of instruction but words of hope. More often than not, the Letter of James is pulled out with the reading we heard today: The Faith versus Works debate. But if we just listen to this letter in its entirety, we can begin to find the solace that we are looking for and guidance to help those who are suffering the most. “You must understand this,” says James, “let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger; for your anger does not produce God’s righteousness.”
I encourage everyone to use this letter as a starting point for allowing God to enter into our lives, open our senses and enable us to listen to the cries of those who were once mute because of this crisis and now have the ability to speak. To help them requires that we rid ourselves of those things that would cause more pain than that was there. “Rid yourselves of all sordidness and rank growth of wickedness, and welcome with meekness the implanted word that has the power to save your souls.” Let us pray that these words not only come into our hearts, but also the ones who wish to take revenge on those who have committed these acts on the littlest of God’s creation. Let our senses come in tune with the Voice of God so we can bring back those that have been in the dark and into the light of Christ.
MAY GOD BLESS YOU AND ALL THAT YOU DO THIS WEEK