Richard S. Vosko

Musings on religion, art and architecture

Homily-10/24/10: Our Mission From God


30th Sunday Ordinary Time – October 24, 2010 – Our Mission from God

Sirach 35:12-14, 16-18, Psalm 34:2-3, 17-19, 23, 2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18, Luke 18:9-14

Complete biblical texts

Supposing we changed the prayer of the Pharisee in this gospel just a bit. Thank God I am not like that geek with the green hair. Thank God I don’t dress like she does. Thank God I am not like those people in that religion. Thank God I am not like the rest of humanity. Some scholars suggest the prayer of the Pharisee was not very impressive in the eyes of God. In our eyes it needs to be rewritten.

As we know, stereotypes are generalizations or assumptions that people create about other people based on images. Advertisers, the news and entertainment media are quite guilty of stereotyping, e.g., women, elderly persons, foreigners and even our children. They do it so well many people believe what they see and hear is true even though it is false. [1] Stereotyping clogs rivers of justice and any attempt to wash oppression away. [2]

We see this happening around the globe as tribes and countries fight each other for land and power. We see it in this country as minorities are attacked because of prejudice and hatred. Politicians demean each other rather than talk about serving the common good. Like the Pharisee some humans excel at building themselves up by putting others down. Psychologists tell us, once ingrained in our brain, our image of others is hard to erase. The documentary Death in Gaza dramatically depicts how Palestinian boys are imbued with a hatred for Jews from the time they learn to walk and talk.

There are counterpoints to stereotyping. The Festival of Nations is being held in the Empire State Plaza today. Organized in 1972 this Festival presents a glimpse of the world and shows how diverse peoples can work together. It involves children so they can appreciate their heritage without stereotyping others who are different from them.

Today is Mission Sunday a day for the people of God to renew a commitment to proclaim the Gospel, to embrace a more missionary perspective of the world, to shun parochialism, to evangelize rather than proselytize. This coming week young adults and old from across this nation will gather at the Mission Congress in Albuquerque, NM to discuss the cultural diversity of today’s Church and how missionaries can best carry out their work in this country and others.

We were once a mission church in this country and there are still many areas that are missions. Do we Catholics still see ourselves as a mission church with no influence in society? Is our identity rooted in the way we respond to voices crying for help from the largest Christian religion in the world?

The first reading from Sirach is from a collection of biblical texts known as wisdom literature. Todays section suggests that ethical practice is just as important as ritual observance. Worshiping God here and elsewhere and engaging in works of justice are part of the same mission. They cannot be thought of separately. Whether on the streets or in our homes, whether with family or with outcasts, what is the image we portray for others to see? Are we Catholics easily stereotyped?

Both events mentioned earlier involve children and young adults. Today in the United States is also the celebration of the twenty-fifth Anniversary of World Youth Day.  Earlier this year, Benedict, the bishop of Rome, said to young adults, “If you are willing, the future lies in your hands, because the talents and gifts that the Lord has placed in your hearts, shaped by an encounter with Christ, can bring real hope to the world!” [3] This is an invitation to all of us young and old alike.

God has chosen us to pick up where the peacemaker Jesus left off. We do so, not by elevating our religion above others, but by walking humbly hand in hand on an interfaith journey. We do so, not by selecting one moral issue over another, but by treating every injustice as part of a single garment. We pick up where Jesus left off, not by looking down on others who are different from us, but by viewing all people equally through a lens of compassion.

Jesus reversed expectations in today’s gospel. He said the tax collector who felt the need for mercy would be justified while the proud Pharisee who praised himself would be humbled. Perhaps we too can turn the tables.



2 Haugen, Marty. “Let Justice Roll Like a River” in Gather, 1994, 715

3 Message of Benedict 16 on the Occasion of the Twenty-Fifth World Youth Day, March 28, 2010


Author: Richard S. Vosko

Richard S. Vosko, Ph.D., Hon. AIA, is an internationally known sacred space planner. He is a presbyter in the Diocese of Albany who enjoys the classroom as much as the pulpit. On Sundays he presides at worship at St. Vincent de Paul Parish, Albany, NY. For more information on Vosko’s background, his projects, publications and speaking engagements please go to his website. For his homilies and occasional musings about religion, art and architecture go to his blog. Comments, questions and suggestions are always welcomed there.

5 thoughts on “Homily-10/24/10: Our Mission From God

  1. Father ,
    This was an excellent homily . I wish we could change the whole world. I often feel like the tax collector especially when I first started teaching handicapped children. But a reward came when I met some of the kids I taught as adult with very productive lives.


  2. Growing up in New York City was a wonderful experience. It was also very broadening…although I didn’t realize it then…I just thought of it as “my” neighborhood. From my earliest memory my classmates and next door neighbors were very different from me, and different from each other. In my High School, as a white, Christian, I had the experience of being a minority. You are so right that early positive exposure is one of the keys to tolerance. But I also believe that it’s never too late to start. Thanks for an energizing homily. Peace


  3. As I read this homily, I am listening to Taize music. It is so beautiful, in part, because it comes from a place in France where they minister primarily to young people. Young people are hungry for God. We are all, I believe, hungry for God as we understand God. I was at the first World Youth Day. I was a young adult youth minister in NYC working with the CYO. I even bought the banner with the pope’s face, the commemorative coin, and the pope commemorative program book. I have lost them all but I have never lost his words “Dear young people, your church needs you, God needs you”. Those words and the adults who ministered to us, anchored us in faith and Catholic identity. Everything I try to do professionally, politically, personally comes from my love for Jesus’ vision of peace and justice. The strength is from grace and the support of community. As much a we fail in this daily, hourly and minute by minute, the grace of the Holy Spirit brings hope. I would love to hear a homily that speaks to the necessity of prayer and meditation in staying on this path.All prophets prayed. It is prayer that binds our mission to the mission of Christ. Jesus prayed. I don’t know why he did, but scripture says he did. I think we have to pray. If not, we are perhaps no more than (often burned out) social workers. I would also love to explore our tendency to “be Peter”. Why are we so embarrassed to tell people that it is our faith in God that inspires our actions? How the heck else can young people believe that the Church has anything to offer them?


  4. I wasn’t present to hear the homily, but did read it on your blog. Your e-mail question re “What do Catholics want to hear more of (or less of) on Sundays?” is answered, for me, by today’s homily. I want to hear connections made between the Sunday Scriptures and life in 2010, which you make so well. When I pray over the Scriptures, some connections come to me, and it is always validating and challenging to hear your connections. So, more of the same! I appreciate that your tone is challenging, but not critical, cynical etc. of today’s Church. You seem to see the glass half full; it does get tiring to hear folks who speak from the glass half empty. As frustrated as I can get, I still love the Church. Please pray for the Sisters of Mercy; we are being visited by the Apostolic Visitators this week at our Mid-Atlantic community.

    This weekend, about 35 of my 1960 St. Peter’s School of Nursing classmates from across the country gathered to celebrate our 50th anniversary of graduation. The friendships we made from 1957-1960 were as warm and supportive today as back then. The stories reflected our experience of Church then, as we were steeped in compassion and ministry, and have lived it out over the years. In our stories of today, there was pain and sorrow in many of the experiences of these women in their local parish churches, and as I spoke of St. Vincent’s and the community, the justice ministries, the homilies, the music. They wished for an experience of a caring and supportive parish, which is, in their experience, difficult to find. So, I thank you, and all the staff, again, for your commitment to our St. Vincent’s community.


  5. This is a marvelous homily – thank you. Stereotyping is a convenient means to overlook our differences, and it is rampant in this political climate. As a country, we have become so polarized, and the constant bombardment with political ads is an attempt to “program” us, for lack of a better word, to forget that the opposition who is demonized are people like ourselves in many ways. On its face, and without faith, it is such a discouraging environment. I agree that if we act with justice and mercy, love and kindness to all others, and not just to those who are like us, we can slowly transform our little corner of the world. We need, though, to be rooted in prayer and connected to the Gospel. In this busy and distracted world that we live in, I would appreciate a homily on how to create space for prayer in order to know, in our whole being, how much God loves us. In that way, our actions will be a reflection of that love and mercy. Thank you again. It is very generous of you to provide an opportunity to read and reflect and comment on your homilies. Kate


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