As St. Peter said to Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration – “It is good to be here.”  It is good to be back together at Mass in our Church.  Thank you for all your sacrifices over the months that we were apart – painful sacrifices of not being able to receive Jesus’ Body and Blood in the Eucharist and navigating social media to “virtually attend” Mass.  Thank you for your patience and dealing with the unsettled-ness of having to come to Mass with masks, sanitizer and distancing (we used to think “car keys, wallet now it’s keys, wallet, mask, sanitizer….) This – what we are doing here today – this is the most essential thing (to re-claim a phrase) in the life of Catholic Christians… and so it is indeed good to be here.

Hi everyone here’s my homily for the 14th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME  JULY 5, 2020.   Thanks so much for stopping by to read this and even more for sharing it on your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and everywhere else people share social media posts and your feedback and comments! For the audio version you can get them at SOUNDCLOUD click HERE or from ITUNES as a podcast HERE. Thanks again… I hope you and yours experience all of God’s blessings today and always! In Christ – Father Jim

The greatest of understatements ever:  it’s been a bizarre few months.  On the list of “how so?” we can add a whole education and new vocabulary we’ve learned.  In December, how many people even heard of a place called Wuhan?  What COVID was?  Phrases like “social distancing” – goals of “Flattening the curve” would’ve been foreign concepts and unknown to the vast majority of people – yet now we’re all very well familiar with them.

Even medical things have entered into everyday conversation and debate.  Can you ever recall a prescription drug that’s name would be known  and fiercely debated to the degree that Hydroxychloroquine has?  Months ago as the news shifted to 24 hours a day/7 day a week coverage over this virus you were hearing people speculating all kinds of potential treatment or cures for this virus.  Depending upon how much time and energy you were paying to it all, or where you were looking you could have heard or seen everything from Vitamin C being a cure to simply being out in the sun for extended periods of time.

Hydroxychloroquine was first a headline coming from Europe where some doctors over there reported that this anti-malaria drug was effective in treating patients suffering from COVID-19.  Because this was not a typical usage for this drug, some were initially hesitant about it while others got incredibly excited at it as a potential breakthrough in combating something that we had never faced before.  Long story short – as you probably remember – it became political.  There were some who became major advocates of it and were proposing it very publicly as a treatment while others just as quickly dismissed it as a treatment and claimed it was dangerous and irresponsible to be proposing this in such a public way.  Depending upon your political beliefs, people were starting to make determinations about a medical treatment to a disease.    Which in our saner, more critical thinking of moments should make everyone shudder.

Yesterday, CNN (who was decidedly in the anti-Hydroxychloroquin “side”) posted a headline “a surprising new study found that the controversial antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquin helped COVID-19 patients better survive in the hospital.”

Just seeing that was depressing.  Not because it’s hopefully a way of helping to treat this virus.  But rather just reflecting on how has our country gotten so polarized that when so many people are suffering from a virus, as people have been anxious and depressed about the effects of it that a potential treatment could become a game of politics… become a source of further division?    It’s depressing to see politicians acting like this – even being on one side or the other of what should be a medical debate….It’s depressing seeing media people almost gleeful reporting “it doesn’t work” with a “told you so” attitude (just as depressing as seeing other media people saying “Yes it does work” with a “told you so” attitude yesterday).  All of this has gotten a vast majority of people to the point of frustration to wonder can we trust anyone or anything anymore?  That’s been a recurring theme in many discussions with people of all ages that I’ve been encountering over the last few months for sure.

Which for us as people of faith is not necessarily a bad thing.  Because we need to recapture a sense of who we are and whose we are… And recognizing that how we answer those questions should impact everything.

Who are we? Whose are we?  St. Paul very beautifully reminds us in that second reading today – brothers and sisters – you are not in the flesh – on the contrary you are in the spirit, if only the Spirit of God dwells in you.  Paul argues that we cannot live “according to the flesh” – allowing temporal things to consume our thoughts, words and actions.  So if we’re living as followers to any politician, to any media source…   If we take a political party affiliation like saying “I’m a Democrat” or “I’m a Republican” and allow that to become our identity…  If our world-view is determined by what CNN, Fox News or the NY Times tells us…   If we’re focused simply on temporal concerns like our comforts (or discomforts) finances, even our physical health then it’s no wonder we’re anxious, lacking peace and lacking Joy.  They are temporal – temporary things which we’ve also learned all too well over the last few months,  that are going to come and go…  Remaining focused on those things, letting them define us can distract us from eternal things. It can diminish our awareness of the Spirit of God that dwells in us.

St Paul reminds us the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you” –   How awesome a gift that we so easily be oblivious to…   We have Resurrection power within us.  That same Spirit that conquered death dwells in you and me.  That’s the gift of our Baptisms.  That’s what we are renewed and nourished with as we receive Jesus’ Body and Blood in the Eucharist.

Paul’s words are meant to stir that Spirit within us, so that we can hear afresh the words of Christ beckoning us in the Gospel “Come to me all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest…”  Jesus when speaking to his initial listeners knew they were burdened… Mistreated by the Romans, and having their identity as God’s chosen people being weighed down into what had become this highly legalistic almost obsessively compulsive set of over 600 rules and regulations – these individuals were anxious, lacked peace and joy.   For you and I living in the year 2020 with our trials and tribulations, we can recognize that we’re not so different from them.  And Jesus’ answer back then is as effective and powerful today.  Jesus dismisses those powerful entities – government and religious leaders – and tells them Come to metake my yoke… As they did, these first followers experienced freedom of being children of God, of being His sons and daughters.

Freedom… As our nation celebrates our Independence Day this weekend, in this time of continued uncertainty – it’s an opportunity for us to reflect on how our founding fathers in charting out a course for the new nation understood that very point.  The extraordinary thing in the Declaration of Independence is that they recognized that:   the equality of humanity comes from our creator… Our freedoms, our rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, all of those things, like everything comes from God.

When we remember these truths, when we see ourselves as first and foremost followers of Jesus and allow our following Him to shape how we live, our identity, we find not only getting back to our roots as “Americans” living out the dream that our framers had in the Declaration of Independence.  More importantly we remember and live as citizens of the Kingdom of God and our eternal identity as His beloved sons and daughters…