Homily for the 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B
7 October 2018 – Cathedral of Saint Raymond Nonnatus
Respect Life Sunday
Our ability to understand the Christian life and the Church’s mission is directly related to how well we understand the heart, the core, the foundation, of the whole Christian enterprise.
Listen to the beginning of the Gospel of John:
“In the beginning* was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be. What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world came to be through him, but the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, but his own people* did not accept him. But to those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God, to those who believe in his name, who were born not by natural generation nor by human choice nor by a man’s decision but of God.
And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth.”
We Christians believe in something that to every other culture and religious system appears to be utterly ridiculous. We are immersed in a Christian culture, maybe not its morality but certainly in its origins. We are in danger of taking for granted the fact that the God of Israel “so loved the world that he sent his only begotten Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” (Jn 3:16)
The God of the universe, the Creator of everything, so loved his creation that he sent his only Son to take on flesh in his creation, to live in the midst of his creatures and beloved children, to die at the hands of his creation, then to rise again to the astonishment and wonderment of the cosmos for the express purpose of defeating sin and death, that all of creation might exist once more in harmony with him.
Nobody else on planet earth believes that. Nobody else in the history of mankind has believed that. And the implications of this, the subject of the Church’s dogma, doctrine, and discipline comprise what is properly regarded as the most complex intellectual system off any human culture in the history of humanity.
The nuts and bolts of this thing are so fascinating, but also so nuanced and, thus, often very complicated. But the general themes of the Christian life are actually pretty simple: love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and body and love your neighbor as yourself.
One implication of the coming of Christ into the world is the notion of a theological anthropology; that the greatest questions of the human life that have been asked in every culture – who am I? Where am I from? Where am I going? What’s the point of all of this? Do I have a purpose? Am I loved? Am I noticed? Does this life have any meaning? – have significant, meaningful answers found in the person of Jesus.
That despite our sin, there is something worth dying for in our humanity. There is some dignity, some value, some meaning that is inherent to every human person that makes him or her worth dying for.
There is something more original to you than your original sin, and it is something that God has lived our life and died our death to redeem and point out to you.
At the very heart of this view of mankind, is the belief that every person – Christian or not – is worth everything to God the Father and Creator and Sustainer and Provider. That we, creatures, do not have the power or the competence to determine the value and dignity of the rest of creation. The dignity of our brother or sister is not up for discussion; for the Christian, it is a given.
And to look across a crowded restaurant and see someone who looks different than me, speaks another language than me, dresses differently than me, loves somebody I don’t think they should love, might not live here legally, or worships in a different way than me – for me to look at them and think, “I don’t like them” is to completely undermine what I claim to believe as a Christian.
The baby in the womb is a human person, the beloved of God.
The families separated at the border for coming into America illegally are human persons, the beloved of God.
The old woman abandoned by her family and dying at Sunny Hill is a human person, the beloved of God.
The murdered baby whose funeral I celebrated in this church 2 months ago is a human person, the beloved of God. And that baby’s father, his alleged killer, is a human person, the beloved of God.
Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Brett Kavanaugh, Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Sen. Jeff Flake, President Donald Trump and Stormy Daniels and Hilary Clinton and Pope Francis and Cardinal Cupich are human persons, the beloved of God.
The man or woman who, I’m told, year after year vandalizes the Respect Life tables in the Narthex and Commons is a human person, the beloved of God.
The people who drive their loud cars down Raynor Avenue in the middle of the night, and the man who stood outside the rectory last week at 3:14am screaming at the top of his lungs before sprinting down the street…they are human persons, the beloved of God.
I do not get to choose who is a human person worthy of my respect. I do, however, get to choose whether I will see the connection between my claim that I am in love with Jesus Christ and the claim of the second reading today that this Jesus is not ashamed to call all men and women brothers and sisters; that the one for whom and through whom all things exist desires to bring his many children to glory with him.
Christian discipleship is not a political game, some economic or politically charged enterprise. The Christian is above all of that.
Respecting life in all of its forms begins with looking our adversary in the eyes and, because we belong to Christ EVEN if they do not, and saying to them, “I hear you. I do not agree with you. I love you. I don’t agree with your opinion or assessment, but I refuse to vilify you. I love you. You are my brother.”
Yes, we believe what we believe about the way a Christian life ought to be lived.
And we better be living it to the best of our ability.
But if we become indifferent to the reality of the struggle for other people,
and we do not stand up for them,
particularly for those who have no voice at all,
who will stand up for us?
To stand up, to rise up, in the name of Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Son of Mary,
who was himself a poor, refugee, making his way in a strange land,
to go out to every nation and to teach them all that has been commanded by Christ,
and passed down by his Church,
to do it today, and tomorrow, and forever,
this is discipleship.
This is pro-life.
In speaking about divorce in the Gospel today, Jesus says,
“Because of the hardness of your hearts
[Moses] wrote you this commandment.
But from the beginning of creation, God made them.”
Therefore, what God has done, what God has deemed right and just, what he has chosen to do, let no man or woman undo.
Jesus, we love you. Jesus, we need you. Jesus, we trust in you.
Jesus, send us your Spirit. Jesus, break open the hardness of our hearts and grant us simplicity and authenticity in our love for you. Jesus, may our love for you lead us to a more pure vision of reality. Jesus, give the courage to love. Jesus, heal the wounds within us that separate us from one another. May we become your disciples, may we become your witnesses.
Jesus, send us your Spirit, and teach us how to love.