Oct 22, 2016

30th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Lk 18:9-14

When our Blessed Lord walked this earth, he confined himself to a small patch of land in the Middle East, 8,000 square miles. That's roughly the same size of our local Diocese of San Diego!

Jesus spent three intense years of his adult life traveling its roads, climbing the hills and valleys of his native land, not only preaching the Word of God and the coming of the Kingdom, he also saw the plight of his people, especially the poor, the forgotten, the abandoned sick, those forced into servitude and poverty by the rich and the powerful, families torn apart by war and violence, the livelihoods of ordinary people exploited by the greed and the corruption of local political and even religious leaders of his day.

He was not like a census worker simply gathering information and statistics or like someone on a fact-finding mission. He responded to what he saw, not like a politician might at a rally nor a local spokesperson reporting live from a community affected by social injustice or discrimination.

Instead, Christ was moved with the compassion of God, at times even provoked to anger but also and always, sharing with them all, taking upon himself, their sufferings, the anguish of their hearts and souls and even their hopes for a better world for their families and their children.  

He did not assure them that he would fight for them. He assured them that he would die for them, for all of them without favoritism or special interest groups - his heart, the heart God ached with anguish for the rich and the poor alike, the natives of the land as well as the foreigners, for the devout religious and also for the corrupt and the selfish. The eyes of God penetrates the souls of every man, woman and child, melting away the protective armor that we often clothe ourselves with, or the scars and bruises we push to the front too often excuse our anger and bitterness.

We call ourselves Christians. We do so, not because we simply follow Christ. It is easy to walk behind him, in his shadow. And many did, even his disciples.  But to be Christian is to see what Christ sees, to experience what he experiences, to be moved with the same heart and soul as his. And to respond in the same measure as Christ himself does, even to the point of offering our very own lives for the salvation of many, and even just for a few!

A case in point is the observation Christ makes as he watched two individuals going to the temple to pray. If we follow Christ and simply look from behind his shoulder we would see a traditional and devout, well meaning religious individual standing before the altar, assuring God he is doing all that he is convinced God would expect of him.

But looking out from behind Christ's shoulder, we would also notice a awkward visitor hanging around the front door of the church not knowing whether to go in or not, who doesn't know how to bless himself or doesn't remember any of the prayers he was taught as a child. That's what we would see from peering out from behind Christ.

But a Christian looks out to the world "with" with the eyes of Christ, "with" the heart of Christ. We must see beyond the appearances. We see and feel what Christ sees and feels - the deep down truth. In this light we now see in the Gospel one person who is blind to the fact that there is something wrong with their soul when he can only see himself in the light of other people’s misfortunes. He is not interested in the gaze of God and what God sees in him. Instead he wants to dictate to God how he himself wants to be seen.

St. Augustine reminds us that, “It would have been more worthwhile to instead inform [Christ, the healer of souls] by confession, the things that were wrong with himself, instead of keeping his wounds secret and have the nerve to make oneself appear righteous at the expense of the scars of others. So it is not surprising that the tax collector went away healed, since he had not been ashamed of showing God where he felt pain”. (St. Augustine, Sermon 351.1)

To love our neighbor as ourselves, we have to see our neighbor and ourselves with the same "insight" of Jesus. Many followed him. But when he disappeared, many of his followers looked for someone or something else to hide behind. Not so for a Christian who shares in the same vision, has a heart like Christ's and sees themselves and all people with the eyes and heart of the Lord.

And not only with eyes and heart. But also with hands and feet, with muscle and mind, with the same motivation and desire of Christ to bring healing and salvation to every soul and body.

During the time our Lord walked this earth, what did he see, how did he respond, what did he do? We are now his eyes, his hands, his voice and his feet.  Our territory today is much greater, even global. How much more are we exposed to the human condition, the suffering of so many, the injustices still festering in the lives and communities on such a vast scale? It is for this reason today is marked out in our Christian calendar as World Mission Sunday.

Don't just see the suffering of the world through the lens of a camera, a commercial or a poster campaign to feed the hungry and bring a message of hope to those who live in the shadows of the world.  See the Mission of the Church through the eyes and heart of Christ and then, moved with sacrificial generosity, give yourself to Christ's vision to bring about a new heaven and a new earth.

Our local saints should also inspire us. St. Junipero Serra who travelled California, not only preaching the Word of God but building sanctuaries and farmlands to inspire the peoples of this land to a vision of how Christ lives and works among us. Our own parish patron, St. Margaret of Scotland, who dressed the wounds of the injured and feed from her kitchen the hungry and desolate while sharing the Scriptures from her own Book of the Gospels. And St. Jerome Emiliani, a military veteran who witnessed the carnage and rubble wars leave behind, especially abandoned children and orphans cut off from the nurturing love of families and friends.

Yes, we might feel overwhelmed by so much a vision of the world as we see it. Even St. Paul in the second reading moaned "At my first defense no one appeared on my behalf, but everyone deserted me." But he would go on to console us that "the Lord stood by me and gave me strength, so that through me the proclamation might be completed and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was rescued from the lion's mouth." (2 Tim. 4:6-8, 16-18)

Yes, we are rescued from the lion's mouth, when our mission in this world is accomplished with the eyes and heart of Christ.

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