Saturday, November 30, 2013

Do we have hope to share? (Sunday homily)

The first reading, with all those people coming 
to the Lord’s mountain together--
got me thinking about my family getting together for Thanksgiving.

Over the years, when my family has gotten together, 
we’ve had some arguments and some tears--
from both children and adults--and some hurt feelings.

So, when I got home Thursday evening, 
I was happy to post on Facebook 
that we’d had a good meal, 
lots of funny stories, and no arguments!

As good as that is, that’s not what Isaiah is describing.

Because, you see, we avoid arguments 
by not talking about politics--or even about God!

So the peace we had was a kind of thin peace.
An absence of conflict--good; but not a real unity.

Now, it’s tempting to say, it’ll all work out.

But if that’s true, why do both Saint Paul, in the second reading, 
and the Lord, in the Gospel, tell us to wake up! And be watchful?

Monday through Tuesday nights, 
we’re having a mission at Saint Cecilia--
and I’m Father Martin Fox, 
the priest your pastor invited to give that mission. 

Our topic is “Christ our Hope.” So we’re going to focus on hope.

Which raises the really basic question: what do we hope for?

The truth is, not everyone hopes for the same things.
That’s one of the reasons we stay away 
from certain topics at Thanksgiving.

Not everyone puts his hope in Jesus Christ. 
And many who say they hope in God, 
do not wish to entrust their hopes to the Catholic Faith--
including many who were raised as Catholics.

Why not?

Maybe because their hopes have been dashed.
It takes courage to hope.
A lot of people will say they believe in God--
but they have little or no hope 
that they can really know anything about him.

Or they will say, they have experiences of God--
but they don’t put any trust in any sort of organized religion.

Now, a lot of times we’ll say, that’s enough.

That vision of Isaiah’s 
isn’t everyone just happily talking 
about how good the mashed potatoes are--
but about what the Lord is teaching them.
That vision isn’t everyone sitting around 
having personal, separate experiences of God--
but a People of God, together.

And that’s the hard part. How does that happen?

Pope Francis issued a letter last week, 
called “The Joy of the Gospel.”
You may have already heard about it.
A lot of the media are focusing on a lot of side issues--
they’re good at that!

But the main thing Pope Francis focused on 
is the urgency of sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ!

And in that context, he talked about the needs of the poor.
And he said three things I want to highlight on that subject.

First, that helping the poor is absolutely necessary--
but it is not the sum total of what we Christians are called to do.
It’s the starting-point, not the end result.

The second thing the pope said was that helping the poor 
has to be more than just giving out food or clothing. 
He said we have to be willing to have an “encounter.”

Last week, I went with some folks 
out to a food pantry in Brown County, 
where we passed out food items for almost 600 folks, 
for their Thanksgiving.

“My job” was simple. 
They put me in front of a table filled with cans of sweet potatoes. 
I had to pass them out.
That’s all they’d trust me to do!

So while I’m doing that--
and everyone has a grocery cart 
and we’re giving folks turkeys, vegetables, gravy, 
fruit, bread, and the rest--the line gets backed up. 
And so I hand someone a can of yams, but she doesn’t move on.

So now what do I do?
Good thing I can make conversation.

But what do I say? What do I ask?
What I wondered was what brought them there?
And as looked at everyone, it was tempting to guess.
But I had no right to ask that.
So I asked them, how do you make your sweet potatoes?

You know what I found out? 
Most people--at least out that way--
make them pretty much the same way!

Now, the subject was sharing the Gospel. 
And here I am talking about sweet potatoes!
And--if I’d had more time, I would have talked about Jesus Christ more.

As it is, people saw my collar, 
and asked if I was a minister or a priest, 
where my church was, and so forth.

Now there’s an idea that’s current 
that in order to share the Gospel, 
we don’t really have to say anything. 
We just give our example.

But that is only half true.

It’s certainly true that if we don’t have a good example, 
our words are nothing--worse than nothing, 
because our bad example makes our words seem fake.

That’s why many give up hope 
in the Church or in even knowing God.

But a good example isn’t enough. 
There is a need, at some point and in some way,
To tell people about Jesus Christ.

At  some point, we have to tell people what our hope is.

And that leads me to the last thing 
I want to mention from Pope Francis’ letter:
Whether our sharing of the Gospel is joyful?

And that brings us back to hope. 
Do we say we have hope--
or do we really put our hope in Jesus Christ?

Well, do we?

See, I can’t answer that question for you. Only you can.

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