Richard S. Vosko

Musings on religion, art and architecture

Homily – First Sunday of Lent – 9 March 2014 – Freedom from Want: A Human Right

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First Sunday of Lent A – March 9, 2014 – Freedom from Want: A Human Right

Gen 2:7-9; 3:1-7; Psalm 51:3-4, 5-6, 12-13, 17; Romans 5:12-19; Matthew 4:1-11

In his state of the union address in 1941 President Franklin D. Roosevelt proposed four freedoms that people everywhere ought to enjoy: freedom of speech and worship and freedom from fear and want. His address proposed that the United States abandon its isolationist policy established after World War I. He described “freedom from want” in global terms where every nation ought to provide economic security for its inhabitants.”

During this Lenten season our parish has adopted a service initiative called “Freedom from Want.”  It is designed to help us grow closer to people in our community who want for food, shelter, a sense of belonging, compassion, healing and friendship. We are all invited to participate in this activity in some way.

Freedom from want. What do we want out of life? What is it that will free us up, help us reach our full potential? For some it may be it respect, equality, a chance to get ahead, freedom from slavery. For others it may be an education, a path to citizenship, a job. For still others it may be finding their own voice, feeling better about themselves, who they and what they do … without worrying what other people think about them, without feeling inferior. All people, however, want access to basic freedoms like food, water and shelter.

The focus of our “Freedom from Want” initiative is hunger. Fifty million Americans, including 17 million children—struggle to put food on the table. In this country, hunger is not caused by a scarcity of food, but rather the continued prevalence of poverty and greed. One in seven people are enrolled in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Nearly half are children. One in every two babies born in the United States is enrolled in the Women, Infants and Children Program (WIC).

These statistics help us connect with today’s biblical texts and the challenge to bring about freedom from want. The story from Genesis is about Adam and Eve and us. We cannot blame either Adam or Eve for what is wrong in the world. God’s creativity provided everything we need to live well and peacefully. But, Adam and Eve wanted more and gave in to the voice of temptation.

We like to remember we are made in the image and likeness of God. But we sometimes forget who we are as Christians and what our obligations are in the world. It is understandable that we are preoccupied with our own welfare — looking after our children, putting food on our tables. Have we been called to find a way to do something a little extra to take care of others?

In the gospel of Matthew Jesus never forgets who he is; he does not lose his identity, or his self definition. This is what made it possible for Jesus to say “no” to the voices of temptation. Knowing who we are is very important. Walter Brueggeman explained this gospel story as a meditation on the practice of faithful living.

Jesus was prepared to confront the tempting voices that promised a life of protection, food and leadership. He remembered what he was taught as a young Jewish boy and chose to be still long enough to listen and be obedient to the voice of God and none other.  [1]  In doing so he became our model for Christian living. We often say Jesus came to redeem us from the sins of humanity. We could also say he came to restore God’s original idea expressed in creation: all human beings, animals, the planet itself, could live in a harmonious way.

The Lenten season is not about what we do or don’t do. It is about the work of Christ in our lives – in a holy Spirit. [2] As we prepare for Easter can we slow down our pace, be still for awhile and listen for the voices of the good spirits in life? Can we find the energy to ward off the bad spirits? 

We are not alone in this task. Other Christian churches and other faith traditions are doing their part. And, in our church new members continue to find hospitality and nourishment in this faith community. In the Cathedral this afternoon our catechumens Olyvia, Tracy and Abigail will take part in the Rite of Election. Peter, who is already baptized, will participate in the Call to Ongoing Conversion. We stand by these women and men as they come closer to communion with us. Inspired by their vibrant faith, we recommit ourselves to listen to the word of God, to overrule the voices of evil and to respond to the cries of those people who want freedom from want.

It is good for us to be here this morning. If you are visiting for the first time, or if you come only once in awhile, know that there will always be “a place at the table” for you. [3]

________

1. Florence, Anna C. (Ed.) Inscribing the Text: Sermons and Prayers of Walter Brueggeman (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2011) p. 38-39

2. Guerric DeBona.Between the Ambo and the Altar: Biblical Preaching and the Roman Missal (Collegeville: Liturgical Press 2013) 60

3. The  film “A Place at the Table” was shown after the liturgy today.

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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.

One thought on “Homily – First Sunday of Lent – 9 March 2014 – Freedom from Want: A Human Right

  1. For me, the ending of the sermon is where I begin. The comforting assurance that I am always welcome at the table is in fact a freedom from want! Though I have only been in worship a few times, each time I am greeted warmly and accepted. The concern for feeling included evaporates, and becomes instead a feeling of generous and gracious welcome! Kudos St. Vincent’s for role-modeling such a genuine and caring fellowship!

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