Sunday, September 6, 2015

Here's the homily I would have shared this weekend

Sometimes a single picture can open our blind eyes to a problem. 

Powerful images taken by photojournalists over the decades have helped us to see man's inhumanity against man or captured a moment of something so senseless that we scream "something has to be done!" 

There is probably one picture of such inhumanity or senselessness seared into your brain. 

And this week, the world added another. NPR's Scott Simon eloquently gave voice to our heartbreak at seeing this image.

"This week the little boy on the beach came to signify thousands who have died trying to escape the everyday of bombs, shooting, and starvation of life in Syria, and other conflicts.

The frail body of a boy shouldn't have to do that. There has been so much fine, vivid reporting about the thousands of lives that have been lost, the millions uprooted, and the many who now camp in foreign train stations or tramp over highways.

But we can grow numb to numbers. One little boy can be a human story.

Nilufer Demir, who shot that photo for a Turkish news agency, said, 'There was nothing to do except taking his photograph. I thought this is the only way I can express the scream of his silent body.'

I have done those stories in war zones and crime scenes in which you hope that a single human story — with a scream, a cry, an image or phrase — might dart through the static of statistics into people's hearts and minds, and move them beyond just feeling.

But a lot of things grab for our attention. Expert voices warn us of complications. We look, and feel, then look away, to go on with the lives we have right in front of us. Until the sight of a little boy on a beach reminds us that looking away can cost lives, too."

Scott Simon's words give voice to our feelings after seeing this picture. 

Pope Francis is suggesting we put our feelings into action. 

After today's Angelus, Pope Francis called on all "parishes, religious communities, the monasteries and shrines throughout Europe" to take action on the growing refugee problem by hosting one family fleeing brutality and repression in their homeland. 

Pope Francis says we must "give them real hope."

Here's a report on today's comments after the Angelus:

Vatican City - "Every parish, religious community, monastery or sanctuary in Europe 'must host a migrant family. Faced with the tragedy of tens of thousands of refugees fleeing from death by war and hunger, and are on their way to a hope of life, the Gospel calls us to be 'close' to the smallest and abandoned. To give them real hope,'  said Pope Francis today after the midday Angelus.

The pontiff recalled the mercy of Mother Teresa, whose liturgical memory is commemorated this weekend: 'The mercy of God is recognized through our work, as we have witnessed the life of the Blessed.' He immediately added: 'Hope is combative, with the tenacity of those on their way towards a safe destination. Therefore, as we draw close to the Jubilee of Mercy, I appeal to the parishes, religious communities, the monasteries and shrines throughout Europe to express the reality of the Gospel and accommodate a family of refugees. A concrete gesture in preparation for the Holy Year. Every parish, every religious community, every monastery, every sanctuary of Europe, should host a family starting with my diocese of Rome. The two parishes in the Vatican are preparing to welcome two families of refugees.'

The Pope then appealed 'to my brother Bishops of Europe, true shepherds, may their dioceses support this appeal of mine, remembering that Mercy is the second name of love: 'All that you have done for even one of my brethren, you did for me. '

Earlier, the Pope spoke of the Sunday Gospel, which is the story of the deaf mute: 'A prodigious event that shows how Jesus will re-establish full communication with God and with other men (and women). The miracle takes place in the area of ​​the Decapolis, that is in pagan territory; Therefore, the deaf-mute who is brought by Jesus becomes a symbol of the non-believer who makes a journey of faith. In fact, his deafness expresses the inability to listen and to understand not only the words of men, but also the Word of God. And St. Paul reminds us that "faith comes from hearing the preaching.'

The first thing that Jesus does, said the Pope, 'is to bring the man away from the crowd: He does not want to publicize what is about to happen, neither does he want that his word covered by the din of voices and the surrounding chatter. The Word of God that Christ gives us needs silence to be accepted as the Word that heals, reconciles and restores communication.'

Two gestures of Jesus are highlighted: his touching ears and tongue of man "blocked" in communication, and the entreaty of a miracle from above, from the Father. The lesson we draw from this episode, says Francis, 'is that God is not closed in on Himself, but opens and connects with humanity. In His great mercy, He exceeds the abyss of the infinite difference between Him and us, and comes to us. To achieve this communication with man, God became man.'

But this Gospel also tells us: 'We are often folded and closed in on ourselves, and we create so many inaccessible and inhospitable islands. Even the most basic human relationships sometimes create the reality incapable of reciprocal opening: the closed couple, the closed family, the closed group, the closed parish, the closed home... and that is not of God. It is ours, it is our sin.'

Yet, concludes the Pope before the Marian prayer, 'the source of our Christian life, in baptism, we are precisely the gesture and the words of Jesus: 'Ephphatha! - Open up! '. And the miracle took place: we are healed from deafness and muteness of the closure of selfishness and sin, and were included in the great family of the Church. We can listen to God who speaks to us and speaking His word to those who have never heard it, or who have forgotten it and buried under the thorny troubles and deceptions of the world. We ask the Holy Virgin, woman of listening and joyful witness, to support us in the commitment to profess our faith and to communicate the wonders of the Lord to those we meet on our way.'"

And we in the United States are not off the hook. Many refugees are flooding into our country from south of the border, fleeing gang violence in their home countries. We heard their stories on Pope Francis' town hall on ABC. 

May our eyes and ears be opened as we hear the Word of God and respond to the refugee crisis. What is God calling you to do?

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