Sunday, November 10, 2013

Homily - 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time - Holy Trinity of Popes

2 Maccabees 7:1-2, 9-14
2 Thessalonians 2:16-3:5
Luke 20:27-38

            Are we there yet?  How many parents have heard these words on a long car trip?  How many kids have uttered those words?

            Well, guess what?  We’re there.  Jesus has finally arrived in Jerusalem.   And the messages he speaks here in Jerusalem are some of the most important of his ministry.  Because he’s speaking them to Pharisees, and Sadducees, and others who are angered by his preaching, teaching and living the Word of God.

            Kind of reminds me of someone else right now.  In eight short months, Pope Francis is stirring up some of the same controversy.

            I heard an interesting joke recently.

            A dad is sitting in his living room when he hears a ruckus upstairs.  He goes up and is startled to see his kids sitting in a circle on folding chairs, screaming their lungs out at each other:  “You’re an idiot.”  “You’re completely wrong and I can prove it!”   “No.  You’re a dope. You’re wrong and I can prove it.” And so on. 

            The father steps in and demands to know, “What in the world is going on here?”

            “Ah, don’t worry, dad,” one of the kids says, “We’re just playing Church.”

            How true is this in our Catholic Church today? 

            There‘s rancor and division in the Catholic Church especially in United States.  We U.S. Catholics are among the most polarized in the world.  Ask our brother and sister Catholics in other parts of the world.  “I’m right, you’re wrong” is the theme of the day in America in our journey of faith.   Sounds a little like partisan politics in our nation’s capitol.

            Sadly, some of these divisions even exist in and between our own two parishes right here in Everett, Washington. 

            Jesus is talking to all of these warring parties in today’s Gospel message and asking us all to take a collective breath and focus on Him.  He loves us all because, after all, he realizes there’s a sinner and a saint in each and every one of us. 

            Pope Francis has become a lightning rod the way Jesus was to the Sadducees and Pharisees of his day.

            How sad.  Do we realize how blessed we all are to live in these exciting times in the Catholic Church?  Our last three Popes have been remarkable, each in his own unique way.

            Blessed Pope John Paul the Second (soon to be Pope St. John Paul the Second next April) nearly single-handedly defeated the Evil Empire, the Soviet Union, by reminding us to “Be not afraid.”

            Bishop of Rome Emeritus Pope Benedict helped us to understand our Christian faith better than any other pope in modern history.

            His book “An Introduction to Christianity,” written as Joseph Ratzinger in 1968, is the definitive work on Christian faith belief, and not just read at Catholic seminaries. 

            Pope Benedict’s recent books on Jesus will bring any Christian closer to the face of God.

               And Pope Francis’ simple, plain-speaking ways are being heard by Christians and non-Christians, even atheists, and helping all to better understand why the people of faith believe what we believe.  And he leads by marvelous and poignant example.

            I call these three the Holy Trinity of Popes.  We will likely never see so many great men as the Vicar of Christ ever again.  In so many ways, we are blessed to live in these times.

            But still some Catholics bicker about our faith and who is a true Catholic.   And Jesus weeps every time we do.      

            Today, I want to urge us all to raise our minds to the mind of Christ and resurrect our thinking about our faith.  To do this, we may have to lose some attachments to whatever trips our ecclesiastical triggers and unite behind Christ.

            So, here’s a question for all of us. 

What is it that needs to die in us to produce new life? 

What attachment do we need to let go of so we can grow closer to the mind of Christ?

            Like the story of the father whose kids are “playing Church” we Catholics sometimes are tempted to do the same thing.  After all, religion is all about our deepest passions and sometimes these passions are breeding grounds for division instead of devotion to Christ. 

Scripture scholars have written about this weekend’s letter from St. Paul, saying, “When God’s light shines into places where darkness (has) allowed evil to flourish undetected, it makes people nervous, then angry, then malicious.” 

Does everybody believe the Gospel when it is preached?

Some who hear it but do not really believe it may “well resort to plotting and violence against those who preach it.”

Isn’t that what the Sadducees are doing in their ridiculously absurd query of Christ about marriage? 

In our Gospel message, we are shown that the attachments we have in this world are not important in the next world.  All of our attachments.  Yes, even our spouse (Apologies to my wife).

The only attachment that matters is to Jesus Christ.

Sadducees in Jesus’ world were the conservatives, the traditionalists, who only believed what was in the first five books of the bible (or Pentatuch) and believed that God could only be found in the Temple in Jerusalem.  The Sadducees didn’t believe in resurrection or in angels.  Jesus is having a little fun with them by drawing Moses into the discussion to make his point to men who only followed the Law of Moses.

The Sadducees were unlike their more liberal or progressive Pharisee brothers who followed not just the first five books of the Bible, but other teachings of other prophets.  The Pharisees believed in the resurrection and believed God could be found outside the Temple in Jerusalem, in fact, believing God could be found in the many synagogues around the known world of Jesus’ time.

They loved to bicker about who had the purest faith.    

We Catholics like to “play Church.”  We like to bicker about who has the purest faith beliefs.  We like to bicker in and between our two Churches and focus on our divisions instead of what should unite us.

But instead of focusing internally, shouldn’t we focus EVERYTHING on living the ministry of Jesus Christ for all to see?  Couldn’t we do a better job with the New Evangelization? 

I believe in my heart and soul we can.

How can we do a better job? 

First, it starts with giving up some of our biggest attachments in this world, our wealth.  It starts with tithing at a level that can make a difference in the lives of many more people than we touch presently.

(Introduce Stewardship of Treasure Cards)

All that we have is a gift from God.  Our very life is a gift from God.  Everything we own is a gift from God. 

So, let’s commit to dropping the attachments that divide us.  Let’s share more of what we have with others.  Let’s make the Kingdom of God a deeper reality by asking Christ to help us with our thoughts, our words and our actions in this world.

Because if we don’t allow ourselves to become too focused on what is “ours” in this world, “our” attachments to this world, only then can we truly UNITE and live for the world to come, the resurrected world headed by Jesus Christ.

Are we there yet?  No, we’re not there yet. 

We’re not in heaven, we’re still on the journey to the New Jerusalem, but we can bring the Kingdom of God to life better here in Everett.   

This is Jesus’ message, yesterday, today and tomorrow.  I pray we will hear this message loud and clear and live it out in beautiful new ways, resurrected ways, in the years to come.


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