Saturday, May 22, 2021

HOMILY – Pentecost – Spirit of Truth

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When we walk in the Spirit of truth, we walk without fear.

Back when I was working with Operation NightWatch doing homeless street ministry here in downtown Seattle we would venture into “The Jungle” to bring Jesus to the darkest place in the city and to some of the most marginalized people in Seattle.  

“The Jungle” was a large area of homeless encampments under and around I-5, south of the city. It stretched for miles, and at the time had 400 residents. It was a dangerous place. A shooting there in 2016 claimed two lives. 

On the last time I was there, we met a woman who was shot during the ordeal. The bullet is still lodged in her spine. She had just taken off her back brace and left her walker behind a few days before. She admitted she still falls navigating the steep hillsides around “The Jungle.”

Her sad, timid smile lit up her face in the darkness as she described the events of that night.  As someone who spent 20-years working at a fire department, she had been trained to run toward danger instead of away from it.

Instead of running away from the sound of gunfire that fateful night, she came running toward the bullets and ended up spending a month in the hospital as a result.

She was still living in “The Jungle” when we met her because she had nowhere else to go.

The spirit called her to respond – to help her friends. Her first-responder instincts nearly cost her her life.

When we walk in the Spirit of truth, we walk without fear. 

Working with our fast growing homeless population can be a scary at times. With MercyWatch and Operation NightWatch, we have encountered many tense situations, but always listen to that tiny voice in our hearts as we navigate the encampments and street gatherings.

St. Teresa of Calcutta talks about her call by Jesus to be a light in the darkest places. For her it was the slums of India.

When we walk in the Spirit of truth, we walk without fear.

What is the Holy Spirit?  The Holy Spirit is that “tiny whispering voice” that exists in all our hearts. It prompts and guides us as we do the ministry of Jesus in the modern world.

Noted author Fr. Richard Rohr wrote this about the Holy Spirit,

“We are always waiting for the Holy Spirit – somehow forgetting that the Spirit was given to us from the very beginning. The Holy Spirit has rightly been called the forgotten or denied Person of the Blessed Trinity. We cannot sense the Spirit, like we cannot see air, silence, and the space between everything. We look for God ‘out there’ and the Spirit is always ‘in here’ and ‘in between’ everything.”

When guided by the Holy Spirit we can do incredible things for our Savior, especially when we take care of the people he was most concerned with during in his ministry, “the least of our sisters and brothers.”

In today’s Gospel of John, we hear Jesus talking about the advocate, the spirit of truth, sent by God to guide us all. They are locked away in hiding, scared that what happened to Jesus might happen to them. Jesus brings them eternal peace in the way of the Holy Spirit, giving the Apostles the courage to spread the Gospel to the world. All, but John, will suffer a similar fate as Jesus.

The spirit allows God’s word to penetrate, like an arrow, deep into each human heart.

Each Sunday or each Mass, and every time we open the bible and read the word of God, we hear the voice of the Good Shepherd leading us to places we would rather not go.

When we walk in the Spirit of truth, we walk without fear.

 Several years ago the Seattle Times had a particularly poignant illustration of WHO our unhoused sisters and brothers today.

  The article was entitled “The Hidden Homeless: families in the suburbs.” It featured the picture of a father and his four young children living homeless in Everett. 

 Zach Weber is a single father with four kids. His plight highlighted a heartbreaking fact: More than 35-thousand students in Washington schools are homeless.

  Think homelessness is only an adult problem involving people with mental illness and addiction issues? Think again.

Many of the area’s homeless are children, living in cars and shelters all over Western Washington.

The number of homeless students has nearly doubled since 2007-2008, when the Great Recession hit our country’s economy.

One school nurse in the Mukilteo School District says students try to hide being homeless.  You may remember how cruel kids can be about fashion and hygiene.

She says, “In every school, there are families in transition that try to keep it confidential and only tell a select few” the truth about their homelessness.

She says there are many reasons for the homelessness she encounters. But this school nurse says the number-one reason for homelessness is “economic misfortune,” a lost job, a sick kid and large hospital bills, an eviction.

This is the face of homelessness today. It is not just the scary people we see pacing the streets of our city ranting and raving at traffic.

The problem is more complex than that.

This is why we have started our Sacred Encounters ministry here at Christ Our Hope (St. Patrick) to seek out the lost and lonely.

If the spirit is speaking to your heart, we welcome you to join in our efforts. You too can be a light in the darkness and bring Jesus to our sisters and brothers and their children living homeless.

           Pope Francis said something quite profound about putting our faith in action with the prompting of the Holy Spirit. He said, “Take to the streets to evangelize, proclaiming the gospel (by our actions). Remember that the Church was born "on the way out," that morning of Pentecost. Draw closer to the poor and touch in their flesh the wounded flesh of Jesus. Let yourself be guided by the Holy Spirit…”

          This is what Christians have done throughout the ages and this is how best to make Christ present in a broken world.

           When we walk in the Spirit of truth, we walk without fear. 




Monday, May 10, 2021

HOMILY – 6th Sunday of Easter – The Power of Love

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Today Jesus is talking about the transformative power of love.

In his farewell speech to his disciples, Jesus is reminding them to love as he loved, but most importantly, to love each other as he loved each one of them.

This love creates a union, a bond that is hard to break.

Scripture scholars say, “the real proof of that union of wills which is called love… will ensure the permanence of Christ’s (love)”[1] dwelling within them.

This union between Christ and his disciples is the point of the Vine and Branches metaphor Jesus is using to make his point.

Without this union of wills there would be no way for the ministry of Jesus to grow once he is gone.

This entire conversation comes immediately before Jesus talks about the hostile world the disciples will be facing. The first hearers of John’s Gospel understood this hostile world well. They had lived through the persecutions and public executions.

The disciples had only a glimpse of it, and better understood once Jesus was taken away to be crucified.

           What creates this union of wills and the connection to Christ is to keep his commandments of loving God and loving others. In loving God and others, we enter into a friendship with Christ that can powerfully shape how we live our lives if we choose to let it.

           “The friendship between Christ and every Christian, which our Lord expresses so clearly in this passage, led St John of the Cross to write: ‘Call him Beloved to spur him to answer your prayers, for when God is loved he is not slow to respond to the petitions of the one who loves him. […] The Christian soul can truly call him Beloved when his mind and heart are set on him alone’ (Spiritual Canticle, 1, 13).”[2]

           Remaining in Jesus’ love is what his homily is all about. Because when we remain in his love our love will bear much fruit in spreading the Gospel.

“The Greek word for ‘remain,’ menĊ, occurs eleven times in these few verses, a repeated insistence on the return of Jesus by indwelling (in us).”[3]

           I’ve seen how remaining in Christ’s love bears much fruit firsthand. Let me give you a couple of examples.

Our MercyWatch team in Snohomish County grew from a handful to hundreds in our first year in 2016.

Recently, a newly retired team member raised 100-thousand dollars for a medical van in just a few short months during the pandemic. 

Earlier this year, our team was tasked by the Snohomish County Health District to vaccinate the homeless population with the COVID 19 vaccine. Our efforts are well underway as we participate in what Pope Francis calls a culture of encounter on the peripheries. This is where love is put into action. This is all thanks to the transformative power of Jesus’ love flowing through his ministries.

We know the spirit is alive and well in our homeless outreach and street medicine ministry. We know Jesus is present every time our team goes out. And because our branches are connected to Jesus’ vine we are able to produce abundant fruit.

(St. Patrick Version)



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(Christ Our Hope Version - additional content)

Here’s another important passage of the Gospel to unpack. Jesus said:  

“I have told you this so that my joy may be in you
and your joy might be complete.”

Bishop Robert Barron says there is something powerful about this line in that within it is the spiritual life we are all called to. 

Then he goes on to say, “The sheerest sign that someone is not living the spiritual life correctly is… a deeply unhappy attitude. That’s the sign that you don’t have the spirit in you. The flag of the Holy Spirit is joy… If we’re missing that we’re missing the entire program. If you’re living your spiritual life thinking, we’ll I’ve got.. my ethical life… my liturgical life and my moral life (all together), but I’m this kind of crabby, unhappy, miserable person, well then I’m missing the whole point.” 

In St. John’s First Letter we hear that the source of this powerful love is God. In other words, God is love – the source of all love.

How do we show God is love here at Christ Our Hope?

 

-          Sacred Encounters, our street ministry team goes out every Wednesday to minister to the unhoused living on the streets of downtown Seattle


-          Thanks to a generous benefactor, we now offer weekly catered dinners to Josephinum residents

 

-          The parish donated 100K to five agencies working with those on the margins last December as our Christmas gift to Seattle

 

This is how we put the transformative power of love into action in our world. 

This is how we remain in Christ’s love and bear much fruit. 

This is how our joy is complete.



[1] Leonard, W. (1953). The Gospel of Jesus Christ according to St John. In B. Orchard & E. F. Sutcliffe (Eds.), A Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture (p. 1007). Toronto; New York; Edinburgh: Thomas Nelson.

[2] The Navarre Bible: New Testament. (2008). (pp. 425–426). Dublin; New York: Four Courts Press; Scepter Publishers.

[3] Bergant, D., & Karris, R. J. (1989). The Collegeville Bible commentary: based on the New American Bible with revised New Testament (p. 1006). Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press.