Homily, 26 February 2017: Eight Sunday in Ordinary Time
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Isaiah 49:14-15; Psalms 62:2-3,6-7,8-9; 1 Corinthians 4:1-5; Matthew 6:24-34—————… seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness …—————Jesus said: … do not worry and say, 'What are we to eat?' or 'What are we to drink?' or 'What are we to wear?'Yet quite probably, 90% of the people who heard Jesus say these words were poor … and they were poor enough that the basics of life – food, drink, clothing – were never guaranteed. If you don’t read this section of the Sermon on the Mount carefully and thoughtfully, it might seem as though Jesus is making a rather superficial argument, one that glosses over the complexities and the realities of life. Yet Jesus said, “Sufficient for a day is it’s own evil,” so he wasn’t ignoring the challenges and the trials of life. So how do we read this passage?“Seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness”: that’s the key. But what does it mean?—————I don’t have time to expound on the theology of The Kingdom of God, so let’s just say that the ‘Kingdom of God’ is God’s presence in the world manifested most profoundly though the Incarnation. The Kingdom of God is Jesus Christ: his presence and his action accomplished through the Holy Spirit.At the time of Sermon on the Mount, seeking the Kingdom of God meant seeking Jesus Christ in person. Today it means seeking Jesus through the Holy Spirit, manifested in the Body of Christ, the Church, and in the hearts of his disciples.And don’t forget about Righteousness! Jesus said to seek the Kingdom of God and his righteousness. But what is righteousness? Paul described righteousness when he said “… I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me … I live by faith in the Son of God who has loved me and given himself up for me.”Righteousness is found in those who love Christ and imitate him by loving God and loving their neighbor.Thus, if the Kingdom of God is the activity of Jesus Christ made manifest through the Holy Spirit in the hearts of believers, then this Gospel passage ought to be understood though the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy.Let me repeat this: wherever you find the Kingdom of God, you will find the works of mercy.—————“Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you besides.”The Kingdom of God is found in our parish and in Christian communities throughout the world where the Works of Mercy are manifested.Consider the Corporal Works of Mercy.Every month we collect over a hundred sacks of food for local food pantries. Every fall we collect clothes, toys, and food for needy families.We are sponsoring two refugee families. These are people who, back in August, must have wondered: “How will we eat? What will we wear? Where will we live?”We do a lot for others and we will do more. The new parish center will include an outreach center so that we can step up our aid to those in need. But I’d also like us to also think about doing more for one another, and to that end, I’d like us to think about the Spiritual Works of Mercy.—————The Spiritual Works include: Instructing the ignorant; Counseling the doubtful; Admonishing the sinner; Comforting the sorrowful; Forgiving injuries; Bearing wrongs patiently; Praying for the living and the dead. What could be a more profound sign of the Kingdom of God than a parish community that does these kinds of works?Of the two types of works, it is the spiritual works that are often the most challenging. Consider that the corporal works of mercy can often be done for strangers, even for people you never see. They may not require significant commitments in time. After all, how much does it take simply to buy a few extra groceries and bring them to church?But the spiritual works of mercy imply that we have taken the time to get to know people, to talk to them, to share company with them: to become like good neighbors to them -- at the very least.If someone is simply a face that you see from time to time at mass, how can you know if he wants or needs to learn more about the faith, how can you know if she has doubts, how can you know if his life is on a bad trajectory, how can you know if she is quietly grieving?More to the point, if you are just a face at mass, how will anyone know when you need help as well? The Kingdom of God is not a collection of isolated individuals; it is a community of believers.But to be a member of community you have get involved. So, if you belong to this parish, but limit your participation to weekend mass, please consider how you might do more. By joining a group, taking a class, attending other services and activities.We’ve been listening to the Sermon on the Mount for the past five weeks. It might help to recall that just after the Beatitudes Jesus said to his disciples, “You are the light of the world,” and he reminded us that “our light must shine before others, that they may see our good deeds and glorify our heavenly Father.”Let’s make that a reality and be a light that shines out not only to those far away, but those who sit with us every week … right here.