23 rd Sunday 2005
Sometimes it is easy to preach the “good News of Jesus Christ”. On such a beautiful NewEngland day on a labor day weekend, it should be easy to bless and thank God for so many gifts as we see students returning to schools, communities beginning to reassemble after summer vacations. And yet the circumstances of this past week make it difficult, challenging to “preach good news”. In today’s world where we see so vividly the suffering of so many whose lives have been lost or radically altered by a 9/11, a Tsunami or a Hurricane Katrina, it is difficult to “give thanks and lift up our hearts to the Lord as we do at every Sunday Eucharist. The scope of this most recent natural disaster is so vast, that it is almost unfathomable and yet it reaches into the hearts of each person who will let it touch them. It really is such a small world, isn’t it? Who here has not seen or heard something that has not broken your heart? Who here does does have friends or family whose life has not been dramatically affected by these events. Personally, I can’t help thinking of the many Jesuits whose ministry is in NewOrleans and who may not be able to return there for some time. Although we hear and see images from around the world of natural disasters, it is even more compelling when there is a personal dimension, when you know the people or the place.
Whether it is communication and media that enable us to see so quickly the images of destruction, or the economics of class; the chasm between rich and poor, global warming which may contribute to natural disasters, the infrastructure of energy which determines oil and natural gas prices, we live in a world where the human community is bound together, like it or not.
But how do the Scriptures speak to our hearts today in the light of the events of the past week? The scriptures tell us that we are bound to each other, whether we like it or not. Each of us is responsible for the other, as St Paul says, the commandments are fulfilled in the one “Love your neighbor as yourself” Love does no evil to the neighbor. Hence love is the fulfillment of the law. Although the gospel speaks of conflict resolution among brothers and sisters in the Church, it must apply as well to the larger human community because every human person is a child of God. To be a disciple of Jesus, to claim to be Christian, we have a moral responsibility to put love in action as he himself did. The scriptures remind us as well of the power of prayer. Jesus tells us that when two of you agree on anything (that’s sometimes the problem) in prayer, it will be granted. Not in a magical sense but the power of prayer is the power given to God’s people so that two of you together, or better more than two may be able to find ways of helping to alleviate the suffering of others.
I experienced the power of prayer on my annual 8 day retreat at Eastern Point in Gloucester . This is one of my favorite times of the year because there is nothing I have to do except simply spend time with God. As best as I can, I try to be attentive to the presence of God, to listen to the voice of Jesus, to notice the movement of the spirit. Each time away for these 8 days, the message from God is so powerfully clear. “I am” “I am for you” “I am love in itself” “My love is found in my beloved Son, Jesus. He is my human kindness in your midst”. As challenging as it is to believe in God’s love for the world when we witness the kind of suffering that has taken place this past week, the very heart of God is revealed when love finds a way to comfort, to heal, to take heroic action for others. This love of God for us in Jesus Christ becomes a reality in our world when we reach out to those in need, when we love and forgive, those who are difficult to love and forgive.I began by saying that it is difficult to preach Good News in the midst of the pain, loss and devastation that so many of our brothers and sisters have experiences this past week. And yet this lived expression of love for our brothers and sisters that Christ himself reveals is the very good news that we preach today.