Sunday, September 2, 2018

HOMILY Twenty-Second Sunday, Cycle B September 2, 2018

HOMILY    Twenty-Second Sunday, Cycle B           September 2, 2018

          Jesus and the Pharisees are at it again.   This time over eating with unclean, that is unwashed, hands.  The Pharisees are bent out of shape over things that are external, showy kind of things.
          Jesus is concerned instead about what comes out of the person from within.  Purity is not a matter of ritual, but of what is in our heart. 
          The Pharisees emphasize the outside: the rituals, the rules, the things that are obvious and can be seen. 
Jesus emphasizes the inside;  "From within people, from their hearts,
come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit,
licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly.
All these evils come from within and they defile.”
            Today we are dedicating and blessing the wonderful renovation of the exterior of our church and rectory, and the addition of a new lobby, with handicapped accessible entrance, bathrooms, a new meeting room and renewed nursery.  Externally, on the outside, it is really an improvement.   Our exterior has gone from being dingy and grody looking, and dangerous, even mistaken for abandoned buildings, to now being noble and beautiful and note-worthy. 
          Many have contributed and worked on this transformation and they all are to be thanked and commended.  All those who contributed and worked on this project can be justly proud of the results.   It is WONDERFUL!!!
          But we are reminded by today’s Gospel that the exterior is not what saves.  What really matters is the interior. 
        In our case as a parish, what matters is what goes on here inside this church building, and even more importantly than that, is what goes on within this church community, the people, the parish of St Austin Catholic Church.
          The exterior is beautiful.  And we are justly proud.  But that is NOT enough.  How we are as a parish community, what we do as a parish community, is the real proof and the critical issue.   It is great that we look good.  And we do look good.  It is so great that after so long we look really good.
          But as wonderful as that is, it is even more important that we, the parishioners, as a community, be constantly renewed.  It is what comes from inside our community that is important and saving.  In this difficult time of increasing racism, nativism, xenophobia, of exclusion of others, of wanting to separate into our gated communities of people who are just like us, we need to be more catholic. 
          Catholic means universal.  Catholic is inclusive.  Catholic does not build boundaries and save only those on the inside.  Catholic means reaching out to all types of people, becoming a sacrament of salvation of the whole world.  Catholic includes everyone that Jesus cares about.  Everyone that Jesus wants to save.  Everyone for whom Jesus gave His life.   And that is everyone.
          THAT is pretty inclusive.
          We are happy to celebrate the blessing and dedication of these improvements of our parish plant.  But they are exterior things.  The real task starts now, with how we use these improvements to increase, improve, renovate our outreach to more and more people. 
          We have to do the hard work of renovating, not our buildings, but our community: to be more welcoming, more inviting, more reaching out, more inclusive, more catholic. 
          In our second reading today St James, who tends to go directly to the point and not be flowery and theoretical, but rather direct and practical, states: Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this:
to care for orphans and widows in their affliction
and to keep oneself unstained by the world.  
          We should be justly proud of our accomplishment in this renovation project.  But we must even more be motivated to be a Catholic community worthy of this beautiful church building, a community that practices religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father, which is to care for orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained by the world.  That is our challenge.  With God’s grace, we are up to it.  

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