Richard S. Vosko

Musings on religion, art and architecture

Homily – 26 February 2017 – We Cannot Forget One Another

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8th Sunday in Ordinary Time A – 022617 – We Cannot Forget One Another

Click here for today’s biblical texts

Today’s reading from Second Isaiah describes the anxieties of the Israelites during the Babylonian exile. They felt abandoned by God. God rejected the Israelites’ complaints and promised to give them a new start in the City of Jerusalem. In this passage Isaiah presents a strong yet tender image of God, who, like a mother, would not forget her children. 

Many people are feeling abandoned today because of actions taken by the government in this country. Students, teachers, farm workers, fast-food workers and others are now in exile and their futures are at stake. One freshman from Austin, TX said, “the fear is starting to become more evident. The uncertainty and anxiety is real….” Like the Israelites did, immigrants, refugees and those seeking asylum, fleeing poverty, oppression, torture and death could legitimately wonder, “where is God.”

During these past few weeks we have been listening to excerpts from Jesus’ sermon on the mount. Sometimes the teachings of Jesus, often couched in metaphors or parables, can be confusing. 

In last week’s gospel, for example, Jesus is quoted as saying, “offer no resistance to someone who is evil.” Really? How can we sit back when so many injustices prevail in our country not to mention our own local communities? 

Today’s gospel offers what seems to be another utterly impossible challenge for many. “Do not worry about tomorrow, it will take care of itself? Really? Who here does not worry about their children or their elderly parents? Who among us does not have concerns about the environment, tax reform, health care or job security?

Written by a tax collector, the gospel starts with a well known line, “You cannot serve God and wealth at the same time.” In other words, “You cannot have your cake and eat it too,” or, we cannot have more than we deserve or is reasonable. These proverbs urge us to choose what guides our everyday actions and decisions. 

The second reading prods us to unravel and respond to the often perplexing challenges of God’s words. Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego did just that recently when he took a public stand against evil. Bishop McElroy spoke boldly and radically about resisting the administration in Washington that, according to church historian Massimo Faggioli,  is now very clearly opposed to the gospel of Jesus Christ on a number of moral and social issues. 

The Bishop addressed the deportation of undocumented persons, fear of Muslims, anti-Semitism and of potentially damaging health care and nutrition laws. He also said, “We must disrupt those who seek to rob our medical care, especially from the poor … those who would take even food stamps and nutrition assistance from the mouths of children.”

What do we do? How do we respond to God’s challenge? Just last week Pope Francis wrote: “As Christians and all people of good will, it is for us to live and act at this moment … since certain present realities … are capable of setting off processes of dehumanization which would then be hard to reverse.”

Here at St. Vincent’s we gather weekly around this table to celebrate the gifts of God, to be nourished and then to return to the streets and neighborhoods to continue to resist what is unjust. That’s our Christian calling. Worship here provides us with renewed energy and it has the power to interrupt us and wake us up when we become too complacent.

We also trust, as today’s gospel suggests, that God continues to love the human race, dancing with us in joyful times and, like a loving parent, providing for us in times of trouble. Our faith in God comes alive when we grasp each other’s hands on those difficult journeys in life.

As you know Lent starts in a few days. It is a season to refresh our convictions, to recommit ourselves to our baptismal promises. It is a time to prioritize what matters most in our lives and to do what is right to advance God’s kin-dom on earth. God, who did not forget the Israelites held captive by injustice, will not forget us. If we believe that then we cannot forget one another.

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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.

5 thoughts on “Homily – 26 February 2017 – We Cannot Forget One Another

  1. Thank you for these wise, welcomed words. I was growing numb from the political onslaught and needed to be nourished and energized by scripture.

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  2. Richard, very well said. The fear that people are feeling is real. We had an international student from the Middle East arrive the first day of Trump’s first executive order. She was detained for 12 hours. Frightened, she sought refuge with family for a week before continuing on to Saint Rose. After two weeks, of worry and angst, she left, and as we discovered when trying to reach her, went to Canada for asylum. It is a travesty when people are leaving our country to seek asylum elsewhere. Pope Francis and Bishop McElroy are standing up and speaking out against injustice and oppression, as Jesus did in his time.

    I am thankful for the millions who are making their voices heard with a message that we will not be silent while others are being oppressed, humiliated and terrorized.

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  3. This is a bold and very courageous homily. Thank you for standing up!

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  4. Well said, Richard. Seems like as Christians we are being asked by God to personally take a lot of crap from people who wold walk all over us. However, when it comes to advocating for those who are on the margins and those who are victims of exploitation God expects a much more assertive response from us. Thanks for going deeper in this homily. Don

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  5. H Richard,

    Thank you for another challenging homily. But for the radical decisions, executive orders and policy directions the new administration in Washington is taking, many of us would not have awakened. A renewed energy exists among the people and as you said – we cannot forget one another. We have to act. Giving up chocolate for lent is not going to do it.

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