Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Homily: 30th Sunday of the Year

Sirach 35:12-14, 16-18
Psalms 34:2-3, 17-18, 19, 23
Second Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18
Luke 18:9-14

Praised be Jesus Christ now and forever! Amen.

1. On a British Airways flight from Johannesburg, a middle-aged, well-off white South African Lady had found herself sitting next to a black man. She called the cabin crew attendant over to complain about her seating. “What seems to be the problem Madam?” asked the attendant. “Can’t you see?” she said. “You’ve sat me next to this man. I can’t possibly sit next to this disgusting human. Find me another seat!” “Please calm down Madam.” the stewardess replied. “The flight is very full today, but I’ll tell you what I’ll do- I’ll go and check to see if we have any seats available in club or first class.” The woman cocks a snooty look at the outraged black man beside her (not to mention at many of the surrounding passengers also).

2. A few minutes later the stewardess returns with the good news, which she delivers to the lady, who cannot help but look at the people around her with a smug and self satisfied grin: “Madam, unfortunately, as I suspected, economy is full. I’ve spoken to the cabin services director, and club is also full. However, we do have one seat in first class”. Before the lady had a chance to answer, the stewardess continues, “It is most extraordinary to make this kind of upgrade, however, and I have had to get special permission from the captain. But, given the circumstances, the captain felt that it was outrageous that someone be forced to sit next to such an obnoxious person.” With which, she turned to the black man sitting next to her, and said: “So if you’d like to get your things, sir, I have your seat ready for you in first class up at the front...” At which point, apparently the surrounding passengers stood and gave a standing ovation while the black guy walks up to first class in the front of the plane.

3. You know, as we listen to this story, hopefully it disgusts us. The prideful attitude of the woman who would not sit next to the African American man should cause us to be utterly repulsed. This attitude of thinking oneself superior to others rears its ugly head in our Gospel as well. There, it is not a white woman and an African American man, but rather a Pharisee and a tax collector. The Pharisee stands in the front of the temple and prays loudly so that all can hear him as he says “'O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity -- greedy, dishonest, adulterous -- or even like this tax collector.” In other words, “Thank God I am not like those people. Thank God that I am so much better than them.”

4. It’s sad that this Pharisee thinks he is better than others, when in reality, it is he who is in need of changing. In this story it is he, and not the tax collector, who has the problem. It is he who needs to learn to be welcoming and loving toward all no matter what their background or heritage or social and economic status. We are all brothers and sisters and should treat each other that way.

5. This is something that, to a more or less degree, we all need to work on. All of us have our prejudices and stereotypes that we need to overcome. And not only do we need to work on this as individuals, but also as groups. Maybe it’s a clique at work that is not welcoming to others. Maybe at school, it’s a group of friends who for one reason or another, feel the need to bully others and treat them badly.

6. Sometimes this sort of prideful attitude finds it’s way even into a parish. I have been to many parishes where there was a kind of an attitude of pride where if you weren’t financially well off or if you were not of the right ethnicity, or if you were a newcomer of any kind, you really didn’t feel welcome. I have even been to a parish where families with children were not allowed…imagine that, a parish without children…how sad.

7. We, as a parish family, need to make sure that we never fall into this same trap. We must all make sure that we never look down upon any of our brothers and sisters for any reason whatsoever. We must make sure that everyone, no matter who they are, what they do, where they come from, or how long they have been in our community, always feels welcome. The day that I hear from someone that they did not feel welcome to be part of our parish or any group within our parish is the day that I know we have, as a parish family, fallen into the sin of the Pharisee who looked down on the tax collector or the woman on the plane who didn’t want to sit next to the African American. God forbid that we as individuals or as a parish would ever fall into such a sin.

8. You know, we as Catholics are about the salvation of souls, nothing more and nothing less. We want all people to be saved, and if we treat others badly, we are failing in that task. Bishop Swain spoke about this very thing when, one year ago this past Friday, he was ordained and installed as our Bishop. On that day, in speaking to us for the very first time as our Bishop he said “Some view the Church as just another special interest group, but the Catholic Church is a not political institution or a non profit agency organized to do good things, although it does. We don’t endorse candidates or support political parties. The Church, rather, is a mystery of God’s plan to sanctify and to save. The Church is the people of God, the Body of Christ and the Temple of the Holy Spirit. She is God’s instrument for the salvation of souls. Yet we must take stands on issues in the public sphere when they touch the core of what we know by reason to be true and affect the salvation of souls. We care about all our brothers and sisters.”

9. Yes, my friends, we care about all our brothers and sisters, we want them all to find salvation; and by being prideful, in looking down on others, by judging them, by not including them in our families, in our groups of friends, in our communities, and in our parishes we are not doing that.

10. Today, as we gather around the Altar of Sacrifice, let us ask God for the grace to always be welcoming, to always be ready to lead others, no matter who they are, to Christ, the one who, through the Church, offers us Salvation.

Blood of Christ, generous to all who turn to you, have mercy on us.
Mary, gate of heaven, pray for us. Amen.
St. Rose, pray for us. Amen.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

A beautiful homily, Father. I only wish the Church hierarchy would follow your advice. How often have homosexual members of our Church been made to feel unwelcome, or at best, like second-class citizens? How often have those that have tried to reach out and include these people also been ostracized? It may be easier to make the parable about a black man when very few of us are racist these days - but what happens when the guy on the plane happens to be gay?