Note: This blog entry is from the authors homily archives.
By Deacon John Rangel
The Scripture selections for the 20th Sunday of Ordinary Times contain several themes and images for our consideration. As I reflected on and prayed over the readings during the past two weeks, images of certain people lodged in my mind …foreigners, immigrants, Gentiles, the Canaanite woman and other outsiders. Classes of people that Scripture tells us were excluded from temple worship, social and cultural participation and discriminated against in many other ways. They were not invited in but rather held in distain, contempt and hatred. Today, as we survey the current social, civic, moral, religious and political conditions in our country and abroad not much has changed over 4,000 years.
I have to be honest and say that the horrific and tragic events of the past ten days
have been very unsettling for me, and I suspect for all people of good will, and
people who know, love and serve God. My initial homily focus was on themes
drawn from today’s readings like: “All are Welcome”, “Jesus’ love has no
Boundaries”, “Persistence in Prayer”, “Make room for Others”, and Insiders and
Outsiders”. I thought… surely I can craft a homily around one of these themes that
speaks to the heart of people through the word of God in this time and place.
Then Charlottesville happened – August 12, three dead many injured. August 17
Barcelona, Spain, 17 dead, hundreds injured. Both deadly events triggered by
hatred, anger, bigotry, racism and religious fanatics. Then on August 16 mudslides
in Sierra Leon killed hundreds and hundreds more are missing. And yes the sun
will disappear in our area Monday, August 21 beginning at 11:54AM. Tranquility
and peacefulness are missing in so much of our world. But the evil one is gleeful!
Not surprising, my mind became clouded, my heart heavy because of these events
so I turned to God and prayed .” God what can I say? Holy Spirit what should I
say? The answer came in a Sunday reflection I happened to read this week on a
Catholic web site (LPI) by Fr. Mark Suslenko. His thoughts and words about Life
with Conflicting Opposites spoke directly to my heart.
I will share Fr. Mark’s reflection now for your prayerful consideration.
Life with Conflicting Opposites
One of the graced blessings of Christianity is learning how to develop and sharpen the gift of discernment in the face of opposites. As believers we are asked to internalize the Gospel message, allowing it to enlighten our minds and inform our actions.
A simple authentic and honest encounter with another human being can reveal hidden truths, allow enemies to embrace, and mutual respect to flourish. It is necessary to journey into the heart of a person in order for walls, prejudices, and antiquated barriers to be removed. Inclusivity has been one of the hallmarks of God’s agenda from the beginning of time. His house is intended to be “a house of prayer for all peoples” where human dignity is safeguarded regardless of who we are, where we come from, and what we believe.
It sometimes requires that we take a radical stance in order to catch people’s attention and reveal the smallness and ego-centeredness of their thinking—whether this be a religious community of nuns deciding to construct a new outdoor chapel in order to protect the sacredness of their ground from the path of an intended pipeline; a bride-to-be who calls off her wedding and invites the homeless to her reception; two known enemies sitting down and finding resolution to a common issue; restructuring our priorities to give more service to the poor and vulnerable; learning how to offer the hand of forgiveness and mercy rather than anger, resentment, hatred and bitterness; or embracing the agony and suffering of crucifixion on the cross.
We live with seemingly conflicting opposites all of the time. Jesus’ message offers us a way to bring two distinct realities together and discover a central, healing, and harmonious meeting place. We are people of the “already and the not yet” who are called to live in this tension regardless of the cost. We are asked to love as God loves as we live in the broken, the contradictory, the mundane, the silly, and even evil.
It is not our task to get everyone on the same page, to create some uniform and consistent way of thinking, or become robotic in our approach to life. It is, however, our call to be open to God’s surprises, to be vehicles of healing, to discern what God has in mind for our world and for us, to challenge conventional and outdated ways of thinking and being, and becoming risk-takers whose thoughts and actions catch people’s attention and cause them to think.
It requires that we drop the exaggerated concern we have with ourselves and the impressions people may have of us and risk looking silly as we find our way through this often silly but graced world.
As our relationship with God unfolds and we begin to celebrate the love relationship we have with our Creator, we will lose our preoccupation with trying to score points for heaven or achieving some personal satisfaction and learn how to love and embrace all things and people as God does. We will understand that the primary task of discipleship is learning how to discern and cooperate with God’s life-giving, loving, and all unifying plan of salvation. Only a contemplative heart can love those most difficult to love and do what is most challenging and risky to do. O God, let all the nations praise you!
Rev. Mark Suslenko
Brothers and sisters the events of the past ten days should be troubling and disturbing to all God’s people. As disciples of Jesus Christ we are called to be witnesses of love and forgiveness, to oppose hatred and bigotry and other evils against humanity whenever and wherever it occurs, to stand with all our marginalized brothers and sisters.
We need the persistence of the Canaanite woman. We should talk to people about the sinful nature of hatred, bigotry, and anger and its destructive power and explain to them how we can overcome it.
Let that Canaanite woman be our example and let us be quick with our arguments and have answers ready for those who dismiss our faith and belittle our beliefs.
Christ was a bit off-hand with that woman as a way of getting her to express her faith. Let us be like her and be fearless in explaining to others those things that bring true meaning and purpose to our lives.
Deacon John Rangel is Director of Mission for Catholic Men Chicago Southland Apostolate
What we would like to do is change the world—
Make it a little simpler for people
To feed, clothe and shelter themselves
As God intended them to do…
We can to a certain extent change the world;
We can work for the oasis,
The little cell of joy and peace in a harried world.
We can throw our pebble in the pond
And be confident that its ever widening circle
Will reach around the world…
There is nothing that we can do but love,
And dear God—please enlarge our hearts
To love each other, to love our neighbor,
To love our enemy as well as our friend.
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