This is my homily for Sunday 3 October 2010, 27th Sunday for the on-campus Sunday Mass (7:30 p.m.) of Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU) Teaneck, NJ. Mass is every Sunday during Fall 2010 + Spring 2011 semesters. I am the Catholic campus minister for this campus and for the FDU Newman Catholic Association.
Readings: Habakkuk 1:2-3, 2:2-4 | Psalm 95 | 2 Timothy 1:6-8, 13-14 | Luke 17:5-10
[__01] The Gospel asks us what we will do when we come in from the field, when we come in from the wilderness.
Or, we might think of this as – what will I do when I come home from school? From work?
Is it not true that when we reach our home, we want to be warm, and comfortable and dry? We want our needs to be satisfied.
When we are out in the “field” or “wilderness” or at work or in class, we are fighting the elements, we are fighting to survive.
Then, we expect certain things to be more comfortable and easier when we get home.
And, it would nice – it would be good – if all my needs (your needs) were perfectly satisfied at home, when we arrived home. That would be good, but it would not be The Good News of The Gospel.
[__02] The Good News of the Gospel is that we are all servants. We are made to serve each other faithfully.
The consoling part of this Good News is that we rely on others to sustain us, to support us.
If you have taken economics or finance, you may have heard the term sustainable, sustainability.
Sustainability is “hot”. And, it should be, sustainability calls us to be good stewards of God’s creation and of finite resources.
Economists and business people often ask will something last … based on whether it is “sustainable.” Can it sustain itself? The same question is here.
However, the Good News of the Gospel is not that we are self sufficient – self-sustaining entities – that will turn a profit. But, the Good News is that we are sustainable by the love and support of another.
We are sustained by Jesus’ sacrifice of his life. We are sustained by many sacrifices made for us, by parents and others who love us.
And, we are called to sustain each other.
This means we are servants, even in our own homes. This is the challenging part of the Gospel.
[__03_] This Sunday in Catholic parishes of the United States, we reflect on the call to nurture and sustain life, the gift of life body and soul.
On this Respect Life Sunday, we recall ethical choices, choices so many of us make – to sustain our loved ones.
Providing providing food, drink, even clothing to a parent or spouse or relative who cannot do these things for himself or herself, we sustain others. This is the Gospel.
As we read in the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 25, Jesus says that as often as you fed or clothed or visited one of my least brothers and sisters, you also fed, clothed, and visited me.
Sustaining life – and respecting life – also means protecting the life of the one who is yet to be discovered or known or named or even born.
In Psalm 139 and in book of the prophet Jeremiah (chapter 1), we read:
“Lord, thou hast proved me, and known me: thou hast know my sitting down, and my rising up. Thou hast understood my thoughts afar off …. For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast protected me from my mother's womb.” (Psalm 139:1-3, 13)
To the young prophet Jeremiah, the Lord says:
“Before I formed thee …. I knew thee: and before thou camest forth out of the womb, I sanctified thee, and made thee a prophet unto the nations.” (Jeremiah 1:5)
This reminds us of the importance of all life from even before we are born and until we die naturally
[__04_] We are called to respect life and to sustain life. Even in the comfort and privacy of our own homes, there is the command to love and to serve – and thus to sustain.
For example …
• At home -listening to our moms and dads, (honor thy mother & father, Exodus 20:12)
• At table - eating the food which is served, even in the SUB-cafeteria (the Lord fills the hungry with good things, Luke 1:53)
• In our rooms and homes -- helping around the house, to share and to smile (for God loves a cheerful giver, 2 Corinthians 9:7), and
• In our hearts -- showing mercy (forgiving those who sin/trespass against us, as we have been forgiven, Matthew 6:12).
[__05_] We are called to follow the law of love and be servants even at home.
This call to responsibility and examination of our own actions.
And, this question of responsibility and privacy brings us to a tragic case of a freshman at Rutgers University in New Brunswick.
Perhaps, you have heard about the death of a Rutgers freshman, Tyler Clementi.
We cannot necessarily assume that because something is …
• “technologically possible” … or “commonly seen + heard on the internet”
... this makes it OK. And, I think we know this.
There are not laws, however, to govern every aspect of human behavior, every aspect of how I might use my phone or computer.
Last week, a Rutgers University freshman took his own life after a roommate and dorm-mate posted images of him publicly, using the internet.
It would certainly seem that the accused Rutgers students had no intention of causing any physical harm to come to their classmate, Tyler. Their actions, while cruel, do not suggest a long time of premeditated bitterness or resentment.
Their actions remind all of us that we are still accountable even if we believe what are doing is –
• Only a joke/prank
• Only in private between a few people
• Only something so minor that the law does not really cover it.
Even such actions have consequences.
We pray for Tyler Clementi of Rutgers and his family.
We pray for the accused Rutgers students. We believe that the Lord wants the sinner and the accused to live. Guilt is our path to repentance. (cf. Ezekiel 33:11).
From this tragedy, we see our own responsibility to serve and to help others to survive … whether we are in the first week of life or the first week of freshman year of college.
There is no law to govern and surround every action. However, there is Christ’s guidance and example which asks us to consider:
• the old saying --- What Jesus do? (Jesus did not have Twitter or wireless internet)
• Jesus was talking about service and love. So, ask, “what would LOVE do” – in every situation, large or small. What would LOVE do? To my friend, to my brother, sister or any person. What would not loving them do?
So, the law might catch up with us. But, the law (and police and courts) are always trying to catch up. And, they will not always catch us.
But, we have another law, the law of the Gospel which tells us – “love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12)
And – “there is no greater love than this, than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13)
This law helps us to stay ahead of the curve
The call --- To sustain life, sustain life publicly, to sustain life privately..to sustain life because the Lord who sees in secret will bring to light everything (cf, Matthew 6:6; 1 Corinthians 4:5).