Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Homily for Tuesday of the 28th Week in Ordinary Time

Sometimes current events really drive what needs to be said...

Tuesday of the 28th Week
In Ordinary Time
Galatians 5: 1-6
Luke 11: 37-41

Here goes Jesus, jumping on the poor Pharisees again. Reading this and some other passages one could begin to get the idea that the Pharisees were really bad people. They weren’t really. They certainly didn’t see themselves as bad. They were the interpreters of the Law. For the Pharisees, indeed for Judaism, one was justified in the eyes of God by observance of the Law. So keeping the Law, the proper interpretation of the Law, was essential if one wanted to be a good person, if one hoped to be justified in the eyes of God. Their problem was that for them the Law had practically become an idol, it was their identity. The observance of the Law was how they defined themselves. Jesus was pointing out to them that they had become so wrapped up in the Law that they had practically forgotten the Lawgiver. Faith had become the rules, not the relationship. Jesus was telling them that they were Jews in name only, giving the appearance of faith, but without the substance. They only looked good, they were, in the strict sense of the word, hypocrites. Events of the last couple of weeks, one event in particular, made me see this passage from Luke in a somewhat different way. A man entered a one room Amish schoolhouse. He intended to kill the girls there, for whatever demented reasons he had. In reading about this tragedy I found that the oldest girl there, all of eleven, in an effort to buy time for the younger girls asked the man to kill her first. Then the second oldest girl asked that he kill her next, all in an effort to save the younger ones. What amazing courage! Self-sacrifice that is almost completely foreign to our society. This was a sacrifice that can only come from a faith that knows no limit. Later, after the tragedy had ended, as the Amish community buried their children, they held not just a memorial service, but a service of forgiveness. Not a service asking God to forgive the juvenile sins of their dead children, but a service asking God to forgive the man who killed their children. Forgive the man who killed their children. The news media were stunned, amazed by this action. Many of us were amazed, I was amazed, and I should not have been. I was amazed by their faith, by their willingness to live the faith they profess. I was amazed, and I was ashamed that I was amazed. Then it occurred to me, I am, we are, the Pharisees. We call ourselves Christian, we strive to look Christian, we strive to appear Christian in the eyes of others, but what are we on the inside? Do we really believe what we claim to believe? Are we Christian in name only? We walk around with our WWJD bracelets, but would we really do what Jesus would do? Jesus would have done just what that Amish community did, Jesus DID what that Amish community did. They were living the faith they profess. This quaint, odd group that refuses to join the 21st century lived the faith we claim. I shudder to think of what the reaction might have been had that man gone into one of our schools. We would have demanded trial the next day with the execution immediately following, with too many of us “Christians” volunteering to pull the switch.
I was amazed, and I am ashamed. I am a Pharisee. May God grant us the grace to live the faith we profess.

Deacon John Simmons
Tuesday of the 28th Week in Ordinary Time
Oct. 17, 2006

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