Sunday, January 27, 2019

Are you ready to be liberated? To help liberate others? (Sunday homily)

Jesus chose this passage to announce: he is the Messiah.
That’s what he did in that synagogue that day.
People were waiting for something like this.
It must have been an electric moment.

Notice what Jesus identifies as the heart of the Gospel:
Liberation. Redemption. Freedom.
But what does that mean?

We know he’s not talking about political freedom.
Jesus never organized a demonstration or circulated a petition.
Not that political freedom isn’t worthwhile – 
but it was not Jesus’s starting point. 

Jesus focused on changing lives.
If you are poor, what counts as good news?
Maybe having that threat of no heat, no water, no home, go away?
A week’s groceries is good news.
Even better news is that you aren’t treated as “less than”; 
that you are treated with dignity; you matter.

Would it shock you to hear that there are people 
who don’t come to St. Remy – 
and the same could be said of Holy Angels, or St. Michael, 
or St. Boniface or St. Mary in Piqua – 
because they think they won’t fit in?

They don’t have nice enough clothes.
They aren’t sure they know anyone who is here.

So if you want to bear “good tidings,” think about people 
who may not feel welcome in “our” circle – and change that.

Who are the “captives” to set free? Lots of people.
What about folks who need alcohol – too much?
Or people hooked on food? Or sports, or work? 

How about addiction to the Internet? 
Either to the latest news, the latest gossip or outrage 
on Facebook and Twitter;
or to dark materials on websites
you don’t want anyone else to know you look at.

How do we get free from these addictions?
Only Jesus Christ can set us free.
Only he can give you and me the strong enough “want to,” 
to be willing to change what needs to be changed, 
to confess our sins without holding back,
and be willing to ask another human being to help.

Alcoholics Anonymous originated something called the Twelve Steps. 
And the first step goes like this:
“We admitted to ourselves that we were powerless over alcohol – 
that our lives had become unmanageable.”

People in AA recite that, and the rest of the Twelve Steps, 
to one another in regular meetings.

A lot of people are captive precisely because 
they aren’t ready to take that first step. 
How does this work?
The obvious starting place is the Sacrament of Confession.
After that is looking for people we trust who we can talk to.

Jesus wants to set people free. 
He asks you and me to be the face of that liberation;
To be the hands that help lift people out of the prisons of their shame.

I am convinced that lots of people – here, listening to me right now –
could experience that freedom, 
if only they are willing to open up to another human being and say,
“I need help. I’m addicted to…” fill in the blank.
“And I need a partner to hold me accountable and help me get free.”

How does this work?

Well, I’m in the confessional about six hours each week.
I’d be thrilled to be forced to add more hours. Keep me busy?

But after that, then all of us – all 1,600 parishioners of St. Remy – 
it’s on all of us. 

Are you ready for a friend or family member to come to you?
To trust you?
Ready to say, I’ll listen; I won’t judge or reject you?
I’ll keep my ears wide open and mouth tight shut?

Twelve-step groups are all around for alcohol.
For people dealing with drug addiction, 
there are meetings in Piqua, Greeneville and Sidney.
For people wrestling with porn and similar addictions, 
meetings are harder to come by, but there some, 
along with online resources.

I prepared a blue sheet that looks exactly like this.
This has websites for Alcoholics Anonymous, 
Gamblers Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous and Sex Addicts Anonymous.
These will be in the confessional. Help yourself.

These Twelve Step resources are one tool to help,
Along with prayer, confession and Christian fellowship.
There are things we can do to be set free – if you are ready.

In the first reading, when Ezra was reading God’s Word to his People, they were crying! 
Why did they cry?
Because they realized how far they were, in their lives, 
from what God had for them.

But remember what Nehemiah said:
“Do not be saddened: 
because rejoicing in the Lord must be your strength.”

Jesus coming to be with us, to bring us complete forgiveness, 
and to give us the Holy Spirit to strengthen us –
That is our joy. 
Sadness? Because we’ve missed out? 
Because of what enslaves us and others? Absolutely.
But replace that sorrow for sin with rejoicing for mercy!
Christ forgives! Christ liberates! Christ is with us to set us free!

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