FR. TOM'S HOMILY FOR THE 32nd SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, November 8, 2020:
“We do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters…so that you may not grieve like the rest, who have no hope.” This passage from St. Paul is one of my favorite passages of Scripture, and my absolute favorite when it comes to understanding grief through the lens of faith. In this one sentence, Saint Paul reminds us that we are not “like the rest, who have no hope.” When it comes to death, when it comes to grief, the defining characteristic of the believer is that we don’t look at those difficult moments with despair or confusion – we see them with a profound hope that reminds us that not even death can separate us from Christ; can separate us from one another. In Jesus, even death is transformed into eternal life. Hope is what defines the Christian approach to living. And, it is profoundly different than the way the rest of the world looks at things. You are not like the rest.
I was thinking of this passage while watching all the election coverage this week. Yesterday was an historic moment for our nation as it saw only the second Catholic ever to be elected president of the United States, and the first women of color to reach the vice-presidency. But, for half of our nation, yesterday was a long-awaited and hard-fought victory; while simultaneously a devastating loss that still requires further judication before a trustworthy conclusion can be reached for the other half.
As our readings invite us to reflect not on the kingdoms of this world, but of the eternal kingdom where Christ reigns in perfect glory for all time, they reminds us to embrace St. Paul’s words, “you are not like the rest.” You and me, we are not meant to be just like the world. And yet, when we look at the election results this week, Catholics were exactly like the rest. We are as equally divided as the rest of the nation. The Catholic vote was split 50-50 between both candidates.
But, today, I don’t want to talk about all the things that brought us to this moment, instead, where do we go from here? What can the follower of Christ do to help us break out of this cycle of vitriol, division, even hatred. And, I think the most important thing we can do is to remember St. Paul’s charge that we are not like the rest of the world. That we can stop subjecting ourselves to the world – simply picking a side and accepting what they offer – and instead become the transforming presence that we are called to be.
Just look at the images that Jesus gives us to explain and shape our presence in the world. He tells us we are called to be leaven, that makes the world rise. He tells us we are salt, flavoring the world around us with the Gospel. He tells that we are light; shining brightly in the darkness that envelops us. And if this task seems too big for us to handle, He tells us that if our faith is even the size of a mustard seed we could say to the mountain “Move from here to there” and it would move.
You see, we are not like the rest, who have no hope. So, what is this hope? We normally conceptualize hope in ordinary ways. We think of hope as a kind of optimism (“I hope things will go well”); or a form of positive thinking (“I’m very hopeful about the future”). Or even a kind of wish or blind faith (“I hope I’ll get through this”). These are good things, but this isn’t what St. Paul is talking about. Our Christian hope is something far more powerful. Our hope expresses something so profoundly deep that it is life changing. Something so amazing that this kind of hope leaves us different than the way it found us. Because our hope is not a wish or a dream, it is a person. Jesus is our hope. And this hope is yesterday, today, and forever.
Jesus is the hope that came into a weary world. When Jesus came, the world was weary of Roman occupation that crushed the Jewish people under the weight of empire. The world was weary of religious oppression that made it difficult and even illegal for people to worship God. It was weary of waiting for the promises that God had been speaking for centuries to be fulfilled. The world was weary of many things.
And, we can relate to this. We live in a weary world. We are weary of this election, weary of the divisions, negativity, and hatred around us; weary of war and terror and violence; weary of racism and prejudice; and so very weary of this virus that has changed our lives and changed our world, and taken far too many from us. We are weary indeed.
And into our weariness, Jesus is our hope. And His hope transforms us and changes us. Just think of what He does in the Eucharist – He transforms the bread and wine so that they go from being just like the rest into the miraculous presence of God in our midst. And if He can do that to bread and wine, imagine what He wants to do to you and me. He wants to change us so that we are not like the rest, who do not possess this hope. The Eucharist changes everything – each time we receive we become more like Jesus; we become more loving, joyful, compassionate and forgiving. In short, we are no longer like the rest. The presence of Jesus in our lives signifies an end to our weariness. We don’t have to keep doing things the same way. We don’t have to keep asking the same questions. We don’t have to keep fighting the same fights. Jesus is here. Hope is here. Our hope can transform the world.
Our hope is expansive enough to embrace all sides. We are capable of embracing the dignity of the unborn child in the womb; and the dignity of the prisoner on death row. We have the ability to care for the hungry and the homeless; and want immigrants and refugees to be treated with compassion. Our hope can change our divisions into unity. Our hope can make enemies, friends.
My friends, as we come to this moment of change in our nation; let us become leaven, the salt, and the light that Jesus has called us to be. Let us help the world rise in its respect for the dignity of one another; let us flavor our communities with the kindness and compassion of the Gospel; let us shine the light of Jesus to cast out the darkness of hatred, racism, and prejudice.
You are not like the rest, who have no hope. Let us transform the world around us through our hope in Jesus Christ.
May the Lord give you peace.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.