Saturday, December 03, 2011

Christ asks, 'Comfort my people' (Sunday homily)

If you have ever wondered why we get the readings we do,
in Advent, here’s why:

The first reading is a prophecy
and it describes what God’s people need
and what we have hoped for.

The Gospel shows us how that longing is fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

So in Isaiah’s time, God’s people are in a bad way.
Depending on just when Isaiah said this,
either his people are facing the destruction of their country,
or else they are already in exile.

And God sends Isaiah to “comfort my people.”
They will be forgiven; and what’s high will be brought low;
what’s lowly will be lifted up.
In other words, it’s a promise of true justice.

In Isaiah’s time—and in ours—
People who down low, out in the cold,
look up and see the heights—and they wonder…

Then—and now—they wonder:
Can I be lifted up? Is there a way out?

Centuries later, John the Baptist comes,
And God’s people are still down low.
Now it’s the Romans who invade God’s City, Jerusalem—
To curry favor with the Roman overlords,
King Herod installed a Roman Eagle on the gate of God’s Temple.

Imagine our church were in Europe not too long ago;
and here come the Nazis and tell us:
put a swastika on the front of your church?

That’s what God’s People saw on God’s House
every time they worshipped.

God’s People were ready to be lifted up.

But John tells them something they may not have expected.
He doesn’t tell them, Christ is coming to destroy the Romans.
Christ will conquer—but not destroy.
And it starts in the heart—in your heart:
That’s where the path for the Lord begins.

It’s been a long time since John told us to seek that fire—
that conversion—
And there is still a lot of lifting up to do.
And there’s a lot changing in us still needed.

While we’re still waiting and asking, “When Lord?”
Christ is waiting for us—he invites us to do some of the lifting.

Let me apply this to a problem we face right here and now.
People who walk the streets and have no place to sleep at night.

We don’t huge numbers of homeless people in Piqua,
be we have some. Sometimes families with children.

And for some time, Wilma Earls and Cathy Large,
and others involved in the Bethany Center,
Have been trying to do something
about providing shelter at night.
There’s been talk of the Bethany Center becoming a shelter—
but that isn’t possible yet.

In the meantime, they’ve organized a “cold shelter” system
for the winter months,
for those who otherwise would sleep outside.

Several area churches are taking turns,
with a different church providing shelter each night of the week.

You may be wondering,
will St. Mary and St. Boniface be sites for this?

At the present time we’re not.
The pastoral councils and I are looking at it,
but there are some hurdles to overcome before we can do that.

In the meantime, other churches in Piqua are ready to go—
but they need volunteers!

Remember: it’s the Lord who is waiting to see what we’ll do.

We need volunteers to help welcome guests and check them in.
Some can help with preparing food or cleaning up;
some to stay overnight;
and some to put things in order in the morning.
And there are ways to help as well.

Not only is the Lord waiting o see what we will do,
Remember he told us, he’s the one waiting outside,
in the cold, for food and clothing and shelter.

And he told us, he’s also the one we don’t help,
who sleeps under a bridge in January.

Sometimes we make it complicated; we think of all the angles.
But in the end, it’s pretty simple.
We are confronted with Christ’s own words:
“Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers…”

So Christ is asking for this—not me.
What are we willing to do?

There’s a form in your pews, along with a pencil,
where you can say, I’m willing to consider it;
I am willing to be contacted with more information.

If you put your name and address down,
And put it in the collection basket,
it doesn’t mean you’ve promised anything;
it only means you’re willing to hear more.

There’s still a lot of God’s promises that need to be kept—
to comfort his people.

Christ is waiting for us—and calling us—to help him do it.


Anonymous said...

So, if the other churches in your town are ready to go what are the hurdles holding up Catholic participation?

Fr Martin Fox said...


Here are the concerns I am aware of:

1. We have a school, and the only facilities we could use for this would be in the school. As a result, there are anxieties about bringing into the school building folks who may have criminal records, mental health issues, and addictions. Will there be danger to the children?

2. Related to this: the law specifies that various people who have committed various offenses, and/or have been registered as a sex offender, are not allowed within X yards of a school. Are we obliged to screen these folks to make sure none of the homeless coming at night are in that category? Do we, by inviting them in without distinction, incur any criminal or civil penalties?

3. Insurance. Until recently, we could not find anyone who would write a liability insurance policy for our parishes for this. The Archdiocese, who normally provides insurance, told us it would not provide insurance for this--we would have to find another insurer. We have had several say no.

I was not the one doing the shopping so I can't say what those insurers' reasons were, but I would guess it's related to items 1 and 2 above.

Realize that an insurer's job is to try to calculate potential upside liability--what would it have to pay if the worst happens?

Realize also that the Catholic Church has what is called "deep pockets"--meaning lawyers looking for multiple parties to whom to assign liability, are motivated to seek out a potential defendant with large resources. That's us. Those losses are what the insurer promises money to repay.

If an insurer refuses to write a policy, it can only be because it can't calculate how to be sure of a profit, at least at a price that wouldn't be deemed laughable. Think about that.

Now, I recently got word of an insurance carrier offering a policy, but I haven't yet seen the written proposal.

We have to look it over closely to make sure it actually provides the coverage we need, and isn't merely a figleaf.

That will involve having it reviewed by an attorney, perhaps more than one.

Anonymous said...

And of course, there are church dictates regarding the protection of children that enter in, also. I hope something can be worked out to keep EVERYONE safe.