Friday, July 22, 2022

HOMILY – 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Love in Action


          Jesus is teaching us today how to pray. He’s also sharing a parable about how our creator hears and answers our prayers but reminds us to be persistent in our prayers to God. Don’t give up. On God. Or on ourselves.

“Father, hallowed be your name,

your kingdom come.

This weekend’s story is about answered prayers and the people we meet along the way. It’s also about how we should never judge a book by its cover, and how we can change the world one soul at a time.

My dear friend Dianah and her family first saw the homeless woman sitting on a street corner ranting and raving as traffic drove by while coming home from Sunday church service in their hometown of Spokane.  

           The woman clearly was dealing with some deep-seeded demons and appeared mentally ill. 

Most people would just look the other way and keep driving. 

Dianah and her family had done so several times before, but on one particularly cold day her now husband Mike just couldn’t do it.  He could no longer look the other way and keep driving.

He got out of the car, walked up to the woman, and said, “Is there anything you need?”  

The woman said, “I’d love a cup of coffee.”  

So, they drove to the corner gas station to buy the coffee and Dianah said, “We need to get her a sandwich, too.” So they bought a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.   Turned out the woman “loved peanut butter and jelly” sandwiches.  She was so excited about the sandwich and hot coffee and said, “Thank you.”

“Father, hallowed be your name,

your kingdom come.

Give us each day our daily bread

Dianah is someone I’ve known for 25 years.  

This would not be the last time Dianah and the homeless woman would see each other. Dianah would drive by every couple of days and ask if there was anything the woman needed.

This went on for months. Dianah found out the woman loved hot cocoa and warm banana bread with butter on it.  So, she brought her some on a regular basis. 

She would asked her, “Why do you keep stopping by?” Saying, other "people stop by, but you keep coming back.”

Dianah said, “I think God put you in my life for a reason.”  

           The woman told Dianah, “People like you don’t come back.”  

In other words, well-dressed, professional people like Dianah don’t come back.  

“Father, hallowed be your name,

your kingdom come.

Give us each day our daily bread

and forgive us our sins
for we ourselves forgive everyone in debt to us,”

Dianah would usually sit down on the sidewalk with the woman during their visits together to get on her level. 

One day during a visit, Dianah noticed the woman didn’t have any shoes. It was in the middle of winter. It was cold out. The woman claimed someone had taken her shoes. So, Dianah went and got her a pair. 

Dianah eventually learned the woman’s name was Marcella.

Due to city ordinances, Marcella was forced to move on a regular basis. This made it difficult for Dianah to find her. But Dianah always found a way to find her friend Marcella.
           I first learned of Dianah’s experiences with Marcella through Facebook picture posts from Dianah’s husband Mike, another dear friend and longtime homeless advocate.
           A friendship blossomed and Marcella began to count on Dianah to stop by for a visit. Slowly, her mood started to change. Dianah would see Marcella smile, joke and laugh more and more.

One day Dianah stopped by and could tell Marcella was crying. It was such a bitter, cold winter day that Dianah was afraid to get out of the car. Turned out it was the anniversary of Marcella’s father’s death a decade and a half earlier and Marcella was not in the mood for a visit. 

Dianah asked, “Are you OK? Do you need a hug?” 

Marcella looked at her and said, “I’m strong.”

Dianah told her “You are strong, but we’re still allowed to be hurting inside.” She got out of her car and hugged Marcella as the homeless woman cried in Dianah’s arms for a long while.  

Once Marcella told Dianah, “People keep telling me I’m on Facebook. I don’t even know what Facebook is.  But you’re making me famous.” Dianah said, “No, I think you’re making yourself famous.”

Soon, others would join in helping Marcella on the streets due to her Facebook fame. In fact, Dianah met a Spokane police officer who would check in on Marcella every night just to make sure she was OK.

Dianah realized Marcella had a heart that was not meant to be on the streets and started to look for ways to get her off the street and talking to Marcella about this. 

 Then Dianah lost touch with Marcella.  Dianah became despondent. Where was my friend? She disappeared from the streets. Had something happened? 

Weeks went by and Marcella was nowhere to be found. 

Dianah and her family attend Sunday services at a non-denominational church that does a weekly feed for low income and unhoused in Spokane.  

Actually, many experiencing homelessness attend the church service, too.

           One Sunday, just as the service was ending, Dianah caught sight of Marcella, all cleaned up and looking nice, sitting right across from her. Dianah screamed out in a loud voice, “Marcella!” and ran to her friend for an embrace. 

Marcella told Dianah that day, “You know, we’re kindred spirits.”

“Father, hallowed be your name,

your kingdom come.

Give us each day our daily bread

and forgive us our sins
for we ourselves forgive everyone in debt to us,

and do not subject us to the final test."

           Dianah even found out Marcella used to be a nurse. 

Both had judged a book by its cover.  Both had been wrong about each other.  Both learned to love each other just as Christ loved us and taught us to pray.

Many people like to talk about homelessness, but few actually do anything about it.

I pray all followers of Christ will look deep inside our hearts and question the assumptions and judgments that keep us at arm's length of sharing Christ's love. Learn to forgive others for not being like us. And ask God to write off our debts, make us whole again, and let his Kingdom come.