Fr. David’s homily June 19, 2016.
June 19, 2016
Whose heart was not broken by the events of last Sunday in Orlando, Florida?
Forty-nine innocent people gunned down by a madman. A massacre.
How is a human being driven to such anger, such violence? Clearly the killer in Orlando was mentally confused, perhaps deranged, his mind infected by the radical ideology of Isis, and according to his farther, his hatred of homosexuals.
You may have read about the Orthodox Jewish community in DC. Sunday was a special feast for Orthodox Jews, celebrating the Torah. At the end of their service, the rabbi, Shmuel Herzfeld, asked the congregation to go with him to a gay club. “Let us stand in solidarity with our brothers and sister,” he said.
And so they did.
The Rabbi wrote about what happened.
“We didn’t know what to expect,” he writes, “but it turned out that we had much in common. We met everyone in the bar. One of the patrons told me that his stepchildren were actually bar-mitzvahed in our congregation. Another one asked for my card so that his church could come and visit our synagogue. The bartender shut off all of the music in the room, and the crowd became silent as we offered words of prayer and healing. It was powerful and moving and real and raw.
I felt the reality that we are living in a time of enormous pain. But I also felt that the night was a tremendous learning experience for me. It was an opportunity to break down barriers and come together as one. It was an opportunity to learn that if we are going to survive, we all need each other.”
I was touched by the response to the massacre by two of our catholic bishops, Archbishop Blasé Supich of Chicago and Robert Lynch of St. Petersburg.
And after all, after the parents and loved ones of the victims, it is the LGBT community which is suffering greatly. It was this community which was the target of the heinous crime.
Archbishop Cupich said directly to the LGBTQ community: “Know this, The Archdiocese of the Chicago stands with you. I stand with you, let our shared grief and our common faith in Jesus, who called the persecuted blessed, unite us so that hatred and intolerance come to an end.”
And Bishop Lynch: “This was terrorism against gay people and we ought to name that.”
For Jesus it was never an “us” and “them.” Everyone was visible and valuable. He brought the prostitutes, the maimed, the poor, the bereaved, the non-Jew, those on life’s sidelines, into that light of day. Before Paul wrote his letter to the Galatians telling them that:
“There is neither Jew nor Greek,
There is neither slave or free,
There is not male or female,
For you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
And he might well have added, There is neither gay nor straight. You are all one in Christ Jesus.
In the gospel today Jesus asks the most important question he will ever ask anyone. He asked it of his disciples then; He asks it of his disciples today, you and me. It’s a question which arises out of Jesus’ own human need for affirmation. You know what that’s like, I’m sure. You’re with someone for a while, living closely with them, sharing their life, experiencing conflict, perhaps misunderstanding, good time, joy-filled moments. There comes a time when you’d like to know how you stand with them. It’s the human heart crying our. “What do I mean for you? Who am I for you? Do I make a difference in your life of not? How?”
Jesus’ answer? Not intellectual, not theoretical.
“Whoever wishes to be my follower must deny his very self, take up his cross each day, and follow in my steps. Whoever will save his life will lose it: Whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.”
What does that mean? Concretely?
It doesn’t mean religious; it’s not a function of saying your prayers, or obeying the letter of the law – important as these may be on the journey to recognizing him.
Losing your life for his sake means the day-by-day commitment to your family. How can I make it better? How can I help it to grow? Where does it hurt? How can I heal it?
Losing your life for his sake means the day-by-day commitment to this human family of ours. How can I make it better? How can I help it to grow? How can I help to break down the barriers of prejudice and hate against people deemed unfit.
Losing your life for his sake means commitment to this family, this community of faith of which each of you, each of us, is not a spectator, but a steward. How can I make it better? How can I help it to grow? What are its needs? What’s my role in response? Am I a taker? A giver? To what extent?
These questions always turn you out of yourself. They’re vocational questions, or, in sacramental terms, Baptismal questions. And the answer you give to the questions says something about your response to his question: “Who do you say that I am?”
It’s life. It’s the Christian life. We’re in it together. Nobody can answer the question: “Who do you say I am?” alone, as an individual, apart from the whole network of human relations.
Ask yourself the question. Now.
“Who do I say that he is?”
How am I by the life I live answering that question?
Gospel Lk 9:18-24
and the disciples were with him,
he asked them, “Who do the crowds say that I am?”
They said in reply, “John the Baptist;
still others, ‘One of the ancient prophets has arisen.’”
Then he said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Peter said in reply, “The Christ of God.”
He scolded them
and directed them not to tell this to anyone.He said, “The Son of Man must suffer greatly
and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes,
and be killed and on the third day be raised.”
Then he said to all,
“If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself
and take up his cross daily and follow me.
For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.”