Homily for June 28, 2015 – Renewing the Face of the Church
“Equal Dignity.” These two words taken from the Supreme Court decision on same sex marriage express what we heard also in the first reading from the Book of Wisdom. Everything and everyone that God created is good. The creatures of the world are wholesome … in the image of God’s own nature God made them.
The implications of the historic events that took place last week require patience, study, conversation and sensitivity. How, together as a nation and as a people of God, do we respond to racial violence in the United States? How do we respond to the new law governing same sex marriage declared by the Supreme Court?
In his eulogy at the funeral of Clementa Pinckney President Obama said for too long we have been indifferent “to the way past injustices continue to shape the present.” He surmised, the amazing grace of God moved people to forgive and bond together in their grief and hope.
The people of Charleston SC are examples of healing and unity. We are challenged to change our attitudes about issues that divide and hurt us. The cries of the LGBTQ community to be treated equally and with dignity have been heard. However, a mixed response to the new law is already evident. Will we allow an amazing grace to guide us and heal us?
Today’s gospel tells two tales of healing and faith. Although there is no biblical reference to Jesus actually curing someone from disease he was a healer. Scripture scholars help us understand. John Pilch wrote that through healing people regained a sense of value in their lives and resumed their rightful place in society. Australian Brendan Byrne suggested, “It is a genuine exercise of faith that brings about the release of divine power.”
One of the saints in our icon collection, Kateri Tekakwitha, is a good example of healing power. An outstanding miracle was attributed to her intercession. A relic, a piece of Kateri’s bone, was placed on the body of a young boy with a flesh eating bacteria. The next day after months of fruitless health care the infection stopped its progression. No scientific or medical explanation; just the amazing grace of God at work again.
The image of Kateri in our church is looking at us this morning. Can we approach questions of equality and dignity in ways that heal? Two weeks ago I spoke of growing strong trees with branches that sustain all of God’s creatures. Last week I discussed surviving on this fragile planet by treating nature, animals and other humans with respect. This week, can you and I think of ways to renew the face of our church?
Some say we are a church that is divided and broken apart on many issues? Same sex marriage is one of them. Some people leave our church because it denies them dignity or seems irrelevant to their lives. Others are hopeful and stay because the church is slowly showing signs of change.
Our parish of St. Vincent de Paul has been evolving. In addition to our increased presence in the public square most notably here we have rearranged ourselves for worship. Gathered in this circle of friendship and faith we affirm our equal presence at this holy table and that each of us presides over this meal. This ecclesiastical change is no less revolutionary than what we have witnessed this past fortnight on a national level.
In a 2013 speech Pope Francis said: “Let us accept others; let us accept that there is a fitting variety, that this person is different, that this person thinks about things in this way or that — that within one faith we can think about things differently.” The pope continued, “Uniformity kills life. The life of the Church is variety, and when we want to impose uniformity on everyone, we kill the gifts of the Holy Spirit.”