2 September 2018 / 22nd Sunday Ordinary Time, Year B
•• Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-8 •• Psalm 15 •• James 1:17-18, 21b-22 •• + Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23
•• Title: Water, Elevation and Inspiration
[__01__] I’d like to connect this Gospel episode to:
►WATER + purification.
►WATER + concentration. How do we respond to crisis? In our lives? In the church? It’s problematic when a high volume of water is concentrated, and comes all at once.
►WATER + precipitation. Our storm of Saturday August 10th, 3 weeks ago.
[__02__] ►1st. WATER. And purification.
In the Gospel, this Sunday, the washing (water) of hands and other items is the manor concern of the Pharisees and Scribers who are finding fault with Jesus and his disciples’ practices.
And, you and I – as Catholic/Christians – still bless ourselves after the ancient Jewish custom. Holy Water is a sign of life and also of deliverance from death to life.
So, for example, when a child – a little girl or boy – is baptized/christened – we come as close as we possibly can to pouring the water over the child’s whole head. When adults are baptized, they are often fully immersed and submerged in water.
This water is an outward sign. This the definition of a sacrament: an outward sign of an inward reality or grace.
An outward sign of what is meant to happen inside. Jesus does not just want to purify our hands but our hearts.
Jesus wants us not to be a signal or a traffic light for goodness, but to be a signifier, to mean it. Or, as he says, in Matthew’s Gospel: let our Yes mean YES and our No mean no. (Matthew 5:37)
When we ask for forgiveness, when we do penance, we do so not to change HISTORY (outwardly) but change our HEARTS (inwardly).
And, when we endeavor to forgive another person, I suggest this is not so that we can reconcile and give everything a good “look”, but rather so that we can let go – inside – of the hurt, resentment, anger.
In this regard, it is both the water and blood of Christ that touches us inside. So this is water and purification.
[__03__] Secondly, water and CONCENTRATION.
►What about WATER and concentration or a crisis?
Sometimes, the layers of a problem are thickly concentrated and we are not sure what to do.
Recently, my father’s cousin passed away under tragic and sudden circumstances. And, my father’s cousin had one son who is now an adult, but nevertheless as a young man had now lost both of his parents. It was not clear whether or not there would be a funeral mass. And, I must admit that the high concentration of tragic circumstances made me want to withdraw. But, at one point, I suggested to a relative that maybe I should call Richie, the surviving son, an idea that was very enthusiastically embrace and encouraged.
I needed that encouragement to overcome my own fear and grief over the situation, that encouragement was an inspiration and elevation.
We need the help of others to find the high road, the elevated road, which is not always clear of mud or water.
[__03.01__] ►What about WATER and concentration of bad news in the Church right now?
There is a flash flood faced by the Church and by many church leaders right now.
In the Gospel, we recall that Jesus constructed his house on the Rock of Peter. It was a rock that did not have mechanical pumps to push out the bad water. Peter as the first Pope – and every Pope since Peter – has been a sinner in need of redemption. Nevertheless, this rock and construction reminds us that we are elevated by Christ and can be restored and made new. The Church will survive this storm.
Jesus built the church on rock. He did not say that he would build our church on rock, or that he would “deed” the rock to us and we would build it. You are here because He built it. He is in charge.
The Church is Christ’s and we are His. That is the ELEVATION.
What about the INSPIRATION?
This is a challenge right now. Because the inspiration, the prayer, the penance to which all of us are called may seem to be objectionable.
[__04__] So, why should you or be elevated or inspired in this way?
To be an example, to be a witness.
Let’s say it is Christmas Day and it’s super-cold outside: 12⁰ F.
And, you or I are in a rush to get someplace. And, we are driving around Washington or Gregory School or some school zone where the speed limit is significantly reduced.
But, you are in a hurry. There are no police anywhere to pull you over. But, still, you would – and I hope I would practice what I preach – slow down out of respect, out of care, for the child you cannot see, you have not seen, or may never see.
You do so as a sacrifice, as a little penance, to be an example, to be a witness, to elevate, to inspire.
[__05__] Thirdly, water and PRECIPITATION. An example, and an example of the blessing of Lourdes church.
Our Lady of Lourdes Church, 1 Eagle Rock Avenue, 07052 was built with water in mind not just the miraculous healing waters of Lourdes in France, but with the WATER of a stream of which our church is constructed. (NOTE: mechanical pumps running 24 x 365 lower level church. Due to water volume increases / rain, they work harder.)
How do we survive precipitation and heavy rain? I suggest it is due to our
ELEVATION: i.e., we are not actually at the bottom of the valley. We have some elevation here
INSPIRATION, and we have your inspiration, prayerful commitment to Lourdes.
We are blessed. An example…
[__05.01__] Precipitation. 3 weeks ago, around 4 pm on a Saturday, severe thunderstorms and flash floods occurred in this part of Essex County and also in Passaic County and Little Falls.
This led to a flash flood about 3 feet of water in our adjacent Mississippi Avenue (to your right) which lived up to its name. And, because water flows down, there was 5 feet of water outside the church basement door on the side of the church.
Water was leaking into the church basement – Connor Hall – for about 30 minutes. It turned out to be one very shallow puddle. It could have been worse.
And, I believe ELEVATION saved us. While we there are acres and acres of land above us, we are not at the lowest point. And, after a while, the water was able to flow further downhill, further downstream, and went away.
But, in addition to ELEVATION, there was also your INSPIRATION. The inspired and devoted help of many of you to check the basement, to clear a drain, to call the Fire Department and also …to listen, to advise, correct my understanding of the true nature of the problem. Thank you for your patience.
We are grateful that LOURDES has both elevation and inspiration so as to survive water and precipitation.
And, you by your prayers and sacrifice make this ELEVATION and INSPIRATION possible.