Saint Mary of the Angels homilies and reflections

Homily, February 3, 2013, "Striving for the Vision", Fr. Ken Hughes, SJ
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St. Mary of the Angels, Roxbury, Mass.

Sunday OT 4 C        2/3/13

Jeremiah 1:4-5,17-19  I Corinthians 12:31-13:13;  Luke 4:21-30

 

My Brothers and Sisters,

 

Our Gospel, this morning, begins with the same words which ended last Sunday’s Gospel, namely, “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”  As Fr. Gregoire mentioned last this week, with those words Jesus preached the perfect homily: very short, focused on God’s word, relevant to the present moment and eliciting an immediate response.

 

True, Jesus did not get a 2 minute 46 second standing ovation as Mayor Menino did on Tuesday night when he delivered his state of the city address! But Luke did note that “All spoke highly of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth.”    

 

However, as the people were nodding and smiling and commenting to one another, Jesus realized that they were more taken up with the messenger than with the message.  In reality, they neither knew the messenger nor understood the message.  They saw Jesus, their own home town boy, a grown up success, and, surely, they would benefit from his miracles and reputation.  He would put Nazareth on the map.  And just think of the business and blessings coming their way!

 

So Jesus preached a second homily and “all hell broke loose,” with Jesus barely escaping with his life!  Why this reaction?  When Jesus quoted from Isaiah about “glad tidings to the poor … liberty to captives … recovery of sight …  the oppressed go free … a year acceptable to the Lord,” the people thought Jesus was speaking about them.  They thought that they alone were  the privileged recipients of God’s blessings. 

 

But, by his two examples of Elijah saving a widow of Zarephath and Elisha curing Naaman the Syrian, Jesus pointed to God’s saving, loving action far beyond Nazareth, far beyond Israel, far beyond to that vast pagan Gentile world way out there.  Israel might be God’s chosen people but Jesus was indicating that God’s arms embrace everyone.  And, if the people wanted to be truly his chosen ones, then they had better broaden their vision and deepen their love.  But, being short-sighted and faint-hearted, they resorted to violence.  If you kill the messenger, you won’t have to listen to the message.

No one had really understood Isaiah’s vision of the reign of God as all inclusive.  Everyone thought that the Elijah and Elisha stories were exceptions to the real reign of God.  Now Jesus had connected the dots.  And since the reign of God is a reign of love, compassion, forgiveness and justice for everyone,  Jesus was  challenging their love for everyone, their forgiveness of everyone, their compassion upon everyone, their justice toward everyone.  Were they “on board?”  That was all Jesus wanted!  This was just the beginning!

 

Now, suppose Jesus came to St. Mary of the Angels this morning.  Suppose someone handed him the vision statement of this church community.  Suppose He read it out loud to our assembly here:

 

“St. Mary of the Angels is a multicultural and multilingual Catholic         community of believers in Jesus Christ and his message.  We strive to live our    faith in joyful worship, providing spiritual nourishment, and a welcoming and inclusive environment and sense of family in all of our activities, and committing ourselves to promote justice in our neighborhood and the broader world.”

 

Suppose Jesus, then, sat down.  Could He say, “Today this vision statement of St. Mary of the Angels is fulfilled in your hearing?”  Yes, He could!  -- not because we are living our faith so wonderfully and completely, not because we show to one another that fullness of love  expressed in St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians, not because we are all carrying the ministry of the church as much as we could --  but, we do have Jesus with us.  We do have the Holy Spirit in and among us.  And we are striving!

 

There are two things to remember: 1) When Jesus came into the synagogue at Nazareth that day He did so “in the power of the Spirit,” the same Spirit which had descended upon Him at his Baptism.   We, too, have been baptized in that Spirit. We, too, come “in the power of the Spirit.” 2) When Jesus spoke the word, “fulfilled,” He didn’t mean “completed,” “finished.”  He simply meant that, in Him, the vision of Isaiah, the reign of God, had now established a solid foothold in this world.  So, too, the vision of St. Mary’s is solidly planted.

 

But, how much farther we have to go for the reign of God to flourish!

How much farther our community has to go for its vision to be realized!

Do not be discouraged!  I think that God is saying to us what God said to Jeremiah in today’s first reading.  May I paraphrase a little?

 

“Before I created you a church community, I knew you.

Before you built this church, I dedicated you.

A prophet to neighborhood and broader world, I appointed you.”

 

May we encourage one another to be bold Jeremiahs living God’s dream in Isaiah through the vision statement of St. Mary of theAngels! 

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