Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Homily Third Sunday of Ordinary Time cycle A January 22, 2017

First, a word from our sponsor.   In the Gospel we just heard Jesus calling two sets of brothers to follow Him and be Apostles.  First he called Peter and his brother Andrew, and then the brothers James and John.  He said to them, “Come after me and I will make you fishers of men.”  And indeed, Jesus did just that.  These four men became the first Apostles and the backbone of our faith today.
          We believe that Jesus still calls men and women to follow Him.  Many are called to follow Jesus in the married life.  Some are called to follow Jesus as single people.  And some are called to follow Jesus in a way of special service to Christ’s people, the Church.  Some are called to be religious brothers or sisters.  Some as deacons.  And still others as priests.  And a few finally as bishops. 
          There is a great and growing need for this sort of call or “vocation.”  We have enough bishops, there is not a shortage of them.  And fortunately, we are getting more permanent deacons.  But we as the Church have a great and growing need for men and women religious, and especially for priests. 
          I urge you to pray for vocations to the religious life and to the priesthood.  If any young people here have had the thought or desire to explore this way of life, any of the priests here would be happy, indeed anxious, to talk to you.
          All of us are responsible for encouraging vocations to the service of God’s People, the church.  So pray for vocations!

Now let’s look at our second reading today from St Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians.   St Paul states: For it has been reported to me about you,
my brothers and sisters, by Chloe's people, that there are rivalries among you.” 
          What is going on here?  Who is Chloe, and why are her people informing on the Corinthians?  Well, we don’t know for sure who Chloe was.  But from the fact that Paul takes for granted that everyone seems to know this lady, Scripture scholars pretty much agree that she was probably a wealthy woman of Corinth and a Christian.  And that she hosted the Christian community of Corinth in her house.  Early Christians did not have churches and so held their worship in people’s homes.   And usually the homes of the wealthy because they were larger and would accommodate more people.  Another example of this phenomenon is St Lydia who we read about in the Acts of the Apostles, who was a dealer in luxury cloth. 
Any way Chloe’s people, or literally “those of Chloe” could be her employees or slaves, or could be her relatives.  We don’t know.  Scholars speculate that they were employees of Chloe trading in Ephesus, which is where Paul was located, and while they were doing business in Ephesus they went to report to Paul on the factions in the Corinthian community, hence causing this passage in the letter we have today.  Presumably these people reported to Paul on instruction from Chloe, their boss. 
Was Chloe a snitch?  Was she a meddlesome tattletale?  Should she have kept her nose out of other people’s business, OR did she do the right, indeed courageous, thing?  When Paul’s letter got back to Corinth, chastising his community for their factions and splits, it was clear that Chloe was the source of information for Paul.  That would not have made her popular.  So was she a snitch or was she a hero?
As someone who has had letters written about me to the Bishop, on several occasions and in various dioceses, my initial reaction is to think of Chloe as a snitch.  I have also had a Bishop write more than one complaining letter about me to the President of the Paulists, but that is another story. 
People like to complain.  There is so much division and bitterness out there.  People are quick to complain.  Self-appointed guardians of orthodoxy troll the internet looking for something they don’t like so they can vent their spleen.  The anonymity of the internet gives them cover to be vile and vicious.  It is incredible sometimes the depths to which some of these carping critics will stoop.  It is a sad commentary on our society. 
In another diocese I was at, the parish had had, in the past, a custom of inviting one of the neighboring Protestant Ministers to preach on the Sunday during the Octave of Christian Unity, which we are now in.  The custom died out for various reasons, but on the centennial of the Octave I wanted to revive the practice for that year, celebrating the hundredth anniversary.  I contacted the Diocese I was in to inform them of this and then waited for a response.  And waited and waited.  Finally the Auxilliary Bishop called and told me that they had gotten this request from me, and they know we had done it in the past, but they really didn’t know what to do about it now, because, and his words were “now so many people are watching.”  So many people are now looking for some deviation from the rules to holler and scream and complain about.  The Auxilliary Bishop was embarrassed, and we did NOT have a pulpit exchange.  For fear of the critics.
Here in our parish several years ago we had the local Muslim Imam come and talk once to a group of parishioners who were taking a four week
study introduction to our Moslem neighbors from a Catholic publishing house.  Were any of you there?  
As with any outside speaker we had to get clearance from the Diocese.  The Diocese agreed to his speaking to us, but insisted it be in a classroom and not in the church.  We had planned to do this in Hecker Hall, but of course I asked why that would make a difference and the reason given was that so many people are watching on the internet and some would be offended by the Imam speaking in a place where we worship and by using our pulpit.    We still got several nasty emails for daring to have an Imam come speak to us anyway.
So when someone complains about church practice I naturally get a little defensive.  And hence my question, ¿was Chloe a snitch?
Well there are times we do need to speak up.  On public transportation systems and in airports you see the sign, “See something?  Say something!”  In the crazy world we all live in today we need to be vigilant.  And we need to report suspicious activity.  It is crazy but that is where we are.
We teach our children that if they see bullying at school or elsewhere to report it to a responsible adult.  We need to know about that.  Everyone who volunteers here at the parish needs to go through Ethics In Ministry training, or EIM for short.  It is all about recognizing the signs of inappropriate behavior, especially regarding sexual abuse, and knowing how and to whom to report it.  We stress the obligation to report suspicions appropriately.  In several places as pastor I have had concerns and suspicions reported to me that we then investigated and dealt with.  I was VERY grateful to the people who came forward and alerted me.  That is NOT snitching, but responsible behavior.
There are times we are obligated to report what we know or even suspect.  And this is what Chloe is doing. 
Hopefully Chloe first tried to talk to the parties involved locally.  Hopefully she tried first to get the factions to work together harmoniously.  Only when that failed did she resort to calling in St Paul.  Notice that she put her name on this.  It was not anonymous.  Anonymous letters are worse than useless.  I never read them. They go right in the trash.  Unfortunately the Diocese has not adopted this enlightened policy.  But in any cas, you be mature enough to only send signed letters. 
Finally, Chloe went to St. Paul.  The divisions were pulling the community apart and the factions were killing the Christian spirit in Corinth.   I hope that Chloe spent time in fervent prayer, asking for the guidance of the Holy Spirit, not only for the courage to report to Paul, but to do so in the right way.  Not out of vengeance or getting even, or of one-upmanship, but out of genuine concern for the members of the factions and the whole Body of Christ. 
Friends, we are in contentious, difficult times.  The temptation to castigate and blame and vilify those who see things differently than we do is growing.  We need to be peacemakers.  And we also need the wisdom and courage of Chloe, and know how and when to appropriately voice our concerns.   So I say, Chloe was not a snitch.  Chloe was a person concerned about and dedicated to the growth of the Christian community.  May we be the same.  


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