Reflections of the Spirit
HOMILY FOR JULY 15/16 1989


Deuteronomy 30, 10 - 14  --Psalm 69  --- Collosians 1, 15 - 26  -- Luke 10, 25 - 37

While many people of our parish and diocese gather for the St. Laurent pilgrimage, we come together to hear God's Word, to reflect on it, and later in this service, to offer thanksgiving and share the bread consecrated during a previous Eucharistic celebration here at St. Michael's.

We have just heard the word of God read to us. Let us let go of some of the bothersome thoughts of the day or of the week, and let our minds and hearts listen to what God is saying to us and to our church.

Our second reading tonight, from Paul's letter to the Colossians, is trying to clarify who the person of Jesus Christ really was. Jesus was not some middle-level god such as many of the Greeks believed in. He was not one of many gods -- no, Jesus, the Christ, is "the image of the unseen God" St. Paul says. "All things were created through him and for him, and before anything was created, he existed and he holds all things in unity".

But St. Paul does not stop there. He adds; "Now the church is his body; he is the head." You and I as part of this parish and this church are his body -- and he is our head. During this week of the bi-centennial of the French Revolution, we are presented with images of the French guillotine cutting off peoples' heads. The image of a headless body or a head without its body is a shocking image because it starkly reminds us that there is no life, no functioning possible without the two together. Well, that is how we depend on Christ -- and yes, that is also how he depends on us to bring about what the last paragraph of this reading says..."Because God wanted all perfection to be found in him and all things to be reconciled through him and for him, everything in heaven and everything on earth -- when he made peace by his death on the cross."

Let us keep this image of who Jesus is and what role we have in completing his will, as we take a closer look at the other two readings....

The first reading is from the book of Deuteronomy. When we hear the word "LAW" we tend to think of laws as rules and penalties. The term "law" in scripture refers to how man could bring his life and the life of the community into harmony with God's plan -- and thereby come to realize personal and community fulfillment and happiness.

Moses points out that God's law -- his Word is not obscure or hidden or complicated. It is something we all know because "it is very near to you. It is in your mouth and in your heart for your observance" he tells us. We might say that God's plan for us is obvious to us through our conscience and from what we have learned in our Christian community -- and especially what we know from a loving heart.

The third reading is a familiar story. Jesus asks the Jewish lawyer what the LAW says we must do to inherit eternal life. Let us look at his reply again... "You must love the Lord your god with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself."

Who then, is our neighbor, the lawyer and we ask? What we really want to find are some grounds for limiting our need to love -- some grounds for limiting how much the church, Christ's body must forgive and love...

If we can only find some way of excluding some people...

Can we exclude people who are nasty to us??
Can we exclude people who don't return our love??
Can we exclude people we don't know very well??
Can we exclude our children when they are being disobedient??
Can we exclude our parents when they are being intolerant and disrespectful to us??
Can we exclude people who have different beliefs than us??
Can we exclude people who try to cheat us, steal from us, or who are trying to get us fired from our jobs??
Can we exclude people who have broken our laws and injured us or others??
Can we exclude those who are sick or poor because of their own stupidity or misdeeds??
Can we exclude those, the support of whom, would put ourselves or our families at risk??

All of these are questions we ask every day when we make decisions about whom we shall love as our neighbor. So like the lawyer in the Gospel story, we are looking for a way to limit our responsibility.

Jesus' reply to the lawyer is for us to hear too. The Good Samaritan story tells us that it does not matter at all who we might figure our neighbor is or isn't -- what God wants of us is that WE BE A GOOD NEIGHBOR. The focus is away from the question of who is acting like a good neighbor toward us -- and focuses on our need to be the loving, caring, reconciling, healing, supporting body of Christ St. Paul was writing about. Our role is that of Christ. We know this already though, don't we.

To whom do we need to reach out? Do we have to rush out and buy a ticket to central Africa to work among the starving peoples? Do we have to quit our jobs and work full-time as volunteer helpers working with terminally ill Aids patients?

Maybe, maybe not. Let us look again at Christ's example. He did not sail to Rome or to Athens to heal the cripples on those city streets. He did not spend all his time feeding the hungry. What he did do was reach out the best he could to bring God's love in practical ways to those people his circumstances and his understanding of the Father's will directed him to do.

Remember, God's word is in our mouth and in our hearts -- we do not need to cross seas or leap into the sky to find this Word. Nor is what God asks of us beyond our strength or our reach.

God's will is known to each of us. Maybe he wants me to be a neighbor in Africa -- or in a hospital ward -- or maybe he wants me to be a loving neighbor in my family, where I work or when I'm shopping for groceries. He will make that known to me and he will give me the strength and reach that I needs.

I do not need to figure out who is my neighbor. I need to pray to God that I have the openness and generosity needed to be a neighbor according to the example of Jesus. Let us pray for this as we continue our celebration.

Candesna Cun Wakan Oksina

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