Monday, July 1, 2019

Homily 13th Sunday in Ordinary time cycle C June 30, 2019 St Austin, Austin TX

Though I did NOT give this homily this past weekend, I thought I would post it anyway.  Enjoy!   Fr Chuck K CSP

On the way they entered a Samaritan village
to prepare for Jesus’ reception there,
but they would not welcome him because the destination of his journey was Jerusalem.  When the disciples James and John saw this they asked,
"Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?"
Jesus turned and rebuked them, and they journeyed to another village.

          In the gospel James and John want to call down fire from heaven.   Why?  to burn up and consume the Samaritans who will not welcome them because they are on their way to Jerusalem.  Hmmmm.   For complex historical reasons the Jews and the Samaritans did not like each other.  They could not stand each other.  It was every bit as bad, and even worse, than the political, social, racial, sexual orientation and other divides in our own day. 
          But I think we can identify somewhat with James and John.   Would it not be great - certainly dramatic - to be able to call down fire from heaven on your political enemies?  On all those pointy headed liberals, or on those deplorable xenophobic conservatives, and just have them burned up in your sight?  Whoosh!   Things would get a lot hotter around here if you could.
          But in the Gospel Jesus doesn’t buy into incinerating His enemies.   Instead, the Gospel states, “Jesus turned and rebuked them, and they journeyed to another village.”   Hmm.   We cannot call down fire, but that doesn’t stop up from calling names, or labeling our opponents as fools, idiots, retards.   And guess what?   When we do that, and denigrate others, Jesus turns and rebukes us.  We are like James and John, and are called out by Jesus for failing to truly follow Him. 
          Certainly there are programs and policies that we strongly and vehemently disagree with, such as the continuing scandal of the way our government treats innocent children at the border, holding them in deplorable conditions, that brings shame to our entire nation.  And situations like this should make us angry.   But we are not to use our anger like John and James did, wanting to hurt back and retaliate and even escalate the violence, but instead to use all the means available to us to work, work, work to change the situation, and to change hearts and minds.
          We are not to call down fire from heaven in that way.        
          However, just a few weeks ago we did hear about fire from heaven that was totally different.  We celebrated Pentecost, when tongues as of fire came down on the disciples, and enflamed them for mission.  This is the fire we need to call down, not on others to incinerate them, but to call down on ourselves, to enliven and to strengthen and to embolden us to proclaim the Good News of the Gospel, not only by our words, but much more strongly by the example of our lives!
          I think this is what St. Paul is getting at in today’s second reading when he tells us: For you were called for freedom, brothers and sisters.
But do not use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh;
rather, serve one another through love.
For the whole law is fulfilled in one statement,
namely, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
But if you go on biting and devouring one another,
beware that you are not consumed by one another.”
For the whole law is fulfilled in one statement,
namely, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
          Brothers and sisters:  we are in for a long, contentious, nasty, brutal, dirty, divisive, and wholly crazy political election cycle.  And we all know it is going to get worse before it gets better.  And in frustration and exasperation and just being fed up we will be tempted as old John and James were tempted to call down fire from heaven to consume our political and social enemies.  And if not to call down fire, at least to hurl down degrading and insulting and demeaning names.  We may not do it out loud, but if we do it in our heart we might as well call down fire.  But we will only call down the Lord’s rebuke on us, as He rebuked John and James so long ago.
          Instead we are going to have to call down the Holy Spirit on ourselves, and especially our hearts.  St. Paul today urges us: “live by the Spirit and you will certainly not gratify the desire of the flesh.”
Name calling is certainly the desire of the flesh.
          We need to invoke the Holy Spirit’s help, and guidance, and strength, to not gratify the desire of the flesh, that is, the desire to call names, to treat others shamefully, to humiliate and write off others.  
Live by the Spirit” St Paul urges us.    Let us be on fire! 

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