Richard S. Vosko

Musings on religion, art and architecture


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Homily – August 8, 2010: Be Bold and Fearless


NOTE: The next homily will be posted on September 12, 2010 – the 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time

19 Sunday Ordinary Time – August 8, 2010 – Be Bold and Fearless

Wisdom 18:6-9, Psalm 33:1,12, 18-19,20-22, Hebrews 11:1-2, 8-19, Luke 12:32-48

The complete biblical texts

No one of us is without fear of some sort. Along with the phobias we each might have about bugs, failing, terrorism, and people who are different, the weak economy devastates all of us. No class rich or poor is excused from this fear. How can today’s biblical texts help us tackle the things that worry us?

The overarching message today is to trust in God. This spiritual recipe is used to help many of us get through tough times. What does it mean to trust in a God who is invisible to us, a being who does not speak to us directly except in our imaginations? Does God work alone in the universe? Does God select whom to help? Is God closer than we think — a supreme being, yet willing to respect us and trust us to get things done?

The first reading speaks about a God who liberated people and ushered them into the land of endless possibilities – the land of milk and honey, the promised land. How did that happen? The leadership during that Passover experience fell to Moses and Miriam who took risks in confronting the Pharoah and mapping out an escape route. By the way, Moses probably would not have even been there if it weren’t for the courage and ingenuity of his big sister Miriam who saved him when he was a baby. (See Exodus 2:1-10) What a good example of how we look after one another.

The second reading tells about Abraham and Sarah, who lived long before the Egyptian captivity. They too were searching for the city of peace and justice –that end of the rainbow, that pot of gold — but did not know how to get there. They were sustained by their solidarity and their belief that God was trustworthy so their hope distilled their fear. It was not that God was their tour guide. (Don’t miss that mountain, turn left at the river.) Rather, it was their trust in God that propelled them to imagine the possibilities and to keep on going even in the face of fear.

Where would our religion be today without these ancestors who kept on going in spite of the odds against them? In our time where do we find such mutual support and solidarity for our convictions?

A key figure in the first text, the Book of Wisdom, is Sophia also known as Woman Wisdom. She was a mythic character believed at the time to play a major role in creation, in the organization of the universe and, in guiding human events. Sophia was considered an influential mediator, someone who bridged gaps in life. The author of this Book had a passion for Sophia who is depicted here as a reflection of God’s glory. [1]

This poses another question for us: Who do we know today is a reflection of God’s glory? Who are the fearless and wise leaders today, the women and men who take risks to help build the kin-dom of God? “Kin-dom” is a word we are using in celebrating our parish’s 125th anniversary. That kin-dom, we believe, is already here although quite incomplete. St. Vincent de Paul parish is a wonderful faith community but it is incomplete. We continue to search for that time and place where we live as sisters and brothers who take care of one another. [2] We dare to dream.

In the gospel Jesus told the disciples they did not have to be afraid of anything. Why? God makes the kin-dom possible and accessible so we need nothing more than to live with that certitude.  Jesus was living proof of this message. He took risks to courageously teach us that anything is possible if we believe in ourselves and trust in God. They go hand in hand. God’s expects us to trust in God’s creation. This gospel speaks to you and me about being ready to open the door when God come’s knocking.

Some people ask, “What am I suppose to do?” This gospel is an invitation 1) to keep alert to the world around us, 2) to tend to people in need, 3) to care for the planet we live on. If we can manage to do these things I think God will be quite pleased with us. It is a call to be hopeful and hospitable in the face of impossibilities. Like Abraham and Sarah, Moses and Miriam we keep our eyes focused on what God is doing in universe. We boldly jump at the opportunity to help God by helping one another get over our fears. Like the Woman Wisdom, we believe we can guide the events of life to a peaceful and just place.
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1 Winston, D. Revised by Tobin, T. “Wisdom of Solomon” in The Harper Collins Study Bible, Attridge, H. Editor (San Francisco: Harper, 2006, p. 1349-1350.

2 Isasi-Diaz, Ada Maria. “Solidarity: Love of Neighbor in the 1980s,” in Lift Every Voice: Constructing Christian Theologies from the Underside, edited by Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite and Mary Potter Engel (San Francisco: Harper, 1990) 303-305

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Homily – August 1, 2010 – The Stuff of Life


18 Sunday Ordinary Time – August 1, 2010 – The Stuff of Life

Ecc 1:2; 2:21-23, Ps 90:3-6,14,17, Col 3;1-5,9-11, Lk 12:13-21

Today’s complete biblical texts.

A program on CNBC called American Greed is about dishonest people who get ahead in the world by taking advantage of others. One episode featured Dennis Kozlowski who created a brand name Tyco that made stockholders rich. He became one of the country’s highest paid executives and went on a buying spree — $4 million for a painting, $2 million for a birthday party, and $6000 for a shower curtain! Kozlowski eventually was imprisoned for plundering the company that made him rich.

Why do some people have this insatiable need or desire to possess things? Is it comfort, convenience, power, security, insecurity? One of our teenage music ministers told me about the Christian Rock Band, Switchfoot. In their song “American Dream” there is this admonition: “When success is equated with excess, the ambition for excess wrecks us.”

The wealthy business man in today’s gospel accumulated many possessions over the years and he just wanted to retire, sit back, eat, drink and be merry. He had one problem: he was running out of space where he could store all his stuff. The comedian Steve Wright would have told him, “You can’t have everything. Where would you put it?” In short order, God said to the rich man, you are foolish to stockpile things that do not really matter in the big picture.

Most people, like you and me, are not greedy or conspicuous consumers. Further, this gospel is not intended to stop us from being good stewards of our resources, our hard earned income and profits. It is not even an indictment against being rich or about spending a little on ourselves and families every so often. It is about getting our priorities straight when it comes to the stuff of life.

Added to the list this morning are the things that clutter our minds. The first scripture reading asks us to take a look at the concerns that keep us up at night. Unless we are worrying about paying bills, putting food on the table, waiting for teens to come home, keeping or finding a job, or other life threatening problems, what else could be worth the anxiety? How can we focus long enough to know what is important in life and then to sift out all those things that are extraneous and excessive?

Today’s psalm challenges us to listen to God periodically and then to be open to that voice, not to harden our hearts. That voice challenges us to look for new ways to live, to change our ways especially those things that cause stress. The author of the letter to the Colossians suggested we take a look at things like greed and deceit, any bad habits that are really not good for us anyway — not if we want to become new creations. I ask myself while shopping how do my buying habits affect others and the planet? Where do things like recycling, energy consumption, bottled water and junk food come into this picture?

All of these considerations require a willingness to be transformed by God’s Word and not by marketing strategies designed to make us shop for stuff we really do not need. We are even led to believe these days that one way to stimulate the economy is to borrow money, if you can, and then use that money to buy things. In a Washington Post article on low consumer confidence Sonja Ryst wrote, “Consumer spending accounts for more than two-thirds of the economy and is key to America’s recovery.” [1] It is a quandary for us.

One question to ask then is — what makes good sense not only for ourselves but also for others? Choosing to live more simply is possible for each of us; and, living with less just might make it possible for others who have little to have just a bit more. Such an image makeover in ourselves and our families could result in a mirror reflection of God. Then we will see in each other what really matters in God’s “kin-dom” — a word used by many theologians instead of “kingdom.” It refers to that time “when the fullness of God becomes a reality in the world at large, we will all be sisters and brothers — kin to each other.” [2] That’s the stuff of life.
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1 Ryst, Sonja, “July Consumer Confidence Takes Sharp Dive” in the Washington Post, July 30, 2010. http://voices.washingtonpost.com/political-economy/2010/07/july_consumer_confidence_takes.html

2 Isasi-Diaz, Ada Maria. “Solidarity: Love of Neighbor in the 1980s,” in Lift Every Voice: Constructing Christian Theologies from the Underside, edited by Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite and Mary Potter Engel (San Francisco: Harper, 1990) 303-305