Hi everyone, here’s my homily for the THIRTY FIRST SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME – November 4, 2012. The readings for today can be found at http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/110412.cfm.
Please excuse what I’m sure are numerous grammatical errors and some “rough edges”. Thanks to Hurricane Sandy, the Newman Center has been without power since Monday and so this was written the old fashioned way on paper and pen – transcribed on computer with limited battery life, etc… you get the idea. Keep all of us in this region, particularly those who’ve lost loved ones, their homes or seen serious damage done to their property (especially along the Jersey Shore) in your prayers.
And as always, thanks for your comments, shares and feedback on the homily, Fr. Jim
Special announcement, before the homily: With election day two days away, I hope you’ll check out a blog I wrote for FOCUS (the Fellowship of Catholic University Students) entitled WHY I AM A SINGLE ISSUE VOTER – that can be found here:http://www.focus.org/blog/posts/why-i-am-a-single-issue-voter.html Thanks and don’t forget to VOTE – it’s a life and death issue… seriously…
Do you remember Drivers Ed? For some of you it was probably just a couple of years ago… Not sure how much has changed, because for me it’s now 23 years ago (wow that’s not a fun revelation) but back then, there were two parts of it in one semester. The first marking period we would be in a classroom talking about driving. We had a book from the NJ Department of Motor Vehicles (that looked like it had been written in the 60’s) with all kinds of rules, laws about driving. We had videos, – oh those videos! About how to drive. Again, mostly 60’s films (remember ladies and gents, this was right when VHS was the “new” electronic equipment, so we actually had movie projectors, with the films, etc) There were women in beehives and these poodle skirts, guys in shirts and ties demonstrating how to drive. The one exception was a much more current film showing the effects of drunk driving (I think it was called “Death Highway” or something… I just remember it was pretty horrific – making the point of how horrific drunk driving was).
This part of drivers ed was designed to give you the theories behind the practice. I remember them giving us “the rule of thumb” for highway driveway (or as they called it “on the speedway” or “the Motor-highway”) for every 10 mph you drove, you should be 1 car length away from the car in front of you (so at 40 MPH, you should be back 4 car lengths – that you’d measure by thumb in front of you…) One guy in my class raised his hand and said “Mrs. Ratched, I thought we were supposed to keep both hands on the wheel, how are we supposed to use our thumbs to count car lengths.” She threw him out of our class. Anyway.
The second half of that semester, after we had completed the theory part was when we were finally put in a car with another drivers ed teacher and actually went out on the road. And it was amazing – because as excited as you were to finally get behind the wheel and drive, there was a great amount of fear. The one student that I was paired up with got behind the wheel first… and when one of the gym teachers (who we nicknamed “Gumby”) who was our instructor said to her “So what do you do first?” She froze. As I chimed in “put the key in the ignition” she said “adjust the mirrors” then I countered back“buckle your seatbelt.” To be honest, I forget what the correct answer was, I just remember Gumby yelling at us telling us how stupid we were and how did we pass the first marking period.
There are a lot of rules and laws to driving that are all there for important, various reasons. But there’s a day when after studying them, you gotta get behind the wheel, and start to drive, start to put it into practice, start to realize that – yeah there’s wisdom to the “rule of the thumb” if you have to stop suddenly to give you enough space to hit the brakes – but that becomes a bit of a drivers instinct that you develop (and at least here in this heavy congested area, rarely will you have room to give 6 car lengths to the person in front of you on the Garden State Parkway, so you compromise on that and try to at least not be right on top of someone). When you’ve seen, or had an experience of what a drunk driver has done – usually that rule, that law becomes sinks in why there is no compromise on that -if you have any alcohol or any drug that can affect your abilities to react, to be alert – you don’t drive.
The theories, the laws move into practice and they are validated in a way that you couldn’t appreciate before… The hierarchy of importance to them becomes apparent to you just as you get behind the wheel and start to drive.
Today’s Gospel is an example of moving from theory to practice; moving from studying to doing; moving from head to heart and soul… This time with the rules, the laws of God. We just heard Jesus’ encounter with yet another Scribe – someone who has been studying the Law probably for most of his adult life – among a group of people who’ve been doing the same thing as well…. They were good at theorizing, debating, arguing with one another, and with other groups of Jewish leaders: what laws are most important to God? how do you interpret them? When did someone violate them and what do we do in those instances? how did one law fit in among the others?
But in someways, these leaders, these scribes could end up so stuck in the theories, the studies, the particulars, it’s like they took the drivers ed class, but have yet to get behind the wheel of the car. Because as Jesus approaches them, here they were encountering the Fulfillment of the Law (as well as the fulfillment of the Prophets and the whole of the Hebrew Scriptures) yet they don’t recognize him as such. Rather, they perceive him as a threat. In the verses before this passage, they had been putting forth all kinds of law-related questions all in attempt to box Jesus into a corner to discredit him.
As this scribe though comes forth, there’s something different. He asks a question which is an important one, one that no doubt his fellow scribes, Jewish leaders had all argued over as well – Which is the first of all commandments – now mind you, he’s not asking the order of the 10 Commandments. Jesus’ response is incredibly revolutionary to his hearers… Because he puts the Love of God on an equal pairing with the Love of your neighbor (as yourself). A safe answer to this crowd would’ve been Love of God alone. Because “love” could have left it somewhat general enough (and some could have argued that love of neighbors falls in that anyway) But by Jesus equating love of neighbor, He’s commanding them to get behind the wheel – to start living in loving ways. He’s telling them that their love of the one true God alone is only validated, only affirmed, only actualized when we actually go out and love others.
One great homilist pointed it out that we have clear examples today of what happens when we don’t listen to Jesus’ command and his insistence that both Love of God and Love of Neighbor are on an equal pairing. For those who chose simply to Love God, we see so-called Christians holding up signs saying “God Hates” and then insert a group of people who they have written off as sinners. For those who chose simply to Love God, that’s where terrorists who drive planes into buildings rationalize their actions saying they are doing that to glorify God. On the other side, for those who simply chose to Love neighbor, you see the birth of secularism… where people will rightly stand up for certain social-justice causes that are important, while ignoring some essential causes that are important as well coming from God’s law and scripture (Dismissing them primarily because they come from scripture). Thats how you have someone argue that they are dedicated to care of the poor and then use Abortion as an example of one way to help people out of poverty.
It is in putting Love of God and Neighbor on an equal pairing that avoids the extremes, and puts things into right balance. So yes, in our Love for God, we are called to turn away from sinful behaviors – we’re not to encourage them – but we have to do that in an encouraging way recognizing our own failures and our need to work together as brothers and sisters in avoiding temptation. Yes, in our Love for one another, we are called to be our brothers and sisters keeper – but not at the expense of recognizing who it is that made us brothers and sisters, and having reverence for Him and the Law that he has given us.
Jesus promises that he will be our constant companion on this difficult road of life we are all on. If we listen to Him, follow his direction, we will find it is possible to take the wheel and drive.
Reminder again, now that you’ve made it to the end of the homily: With election day two days away, I hope you’ll check out a blog I wrote for FOCUS (the Fellowship of Catholic University Students) entitled WHY I AM A SINGLE ISSUE VOTER – that can be found here:http://www.focus.org/blog/posts/why-i-am-a-single-issue-voter.html Thanks and don’t forget to VOTE – it’s a life and death issue… seriously…