Homily: A Place for Life
November is a month for the Church with so very many special days and feasts. From All Saints day and veterans day and the celebration of extraordinary heroism, to All Souls Day and the end of the Church Year, and even changing the clocks with their reminders that all good things come to an end, and certainly Christ the King and Thanksgiving reminding us that our Creator God is the source of abundant blessings. In this season of thanksgiving and generosity, especially we hear again and again of God’s goodness and tender care for God’s creation, and each one of us gets carried away by how great God is, and these holidays and feasts become our chance to tell everyone about it.
All the feasts and activities of our November harvest time remind us of God’s abundance and how things are supposed to be: it’s a time to reflect on the free gift of food: the earth germinates, the seasons work, water, sunshine, breeding, production, nurture, availability. It’s a guaranteed system culminating in the food chain for those in God’s image, all designed just for us. There’s fundamental generosity at the root of our human life in God’s world. There is enough.
At the heart of our vision is the conviction that God has created us in love, that God remembers us, and that we need God and are expected to respond to God. There’s also a hint of the reverse of that; our first Reading today reminds us all too graphically of how torture of good and innocent people somehow has destroyed the fabric of God’s beautiful creation since time immemorial. Changing a world of Evil and pain is also part of that vision.
The person or nation or parish that understands God’s world doesn’t look around at what it has, and take credit for the beauty and wonder of creation. We look at creation and our own lives, and give God the glory. We understand that God is the source of life, the life of our community and we proclaim thanks to the God who has provided so richly for humankind.
When the priests of the diocese were at Ogalbay Center in West Virginia last time, we were exposed to a speaker that excited and inspired me about how we need to look at ourselves and the work of our parish if we really wanted to the instruments of God’s work.
The speaker was Kerry Robinson, a granddaughter and board member of the Rastub Foundation, a family foundation which gives millions of dollars to Catholic needs throughout the world.
She is also executive director of the National Leadership Roundtable on Church Management, which has established Standards for Excellence – An Ethics and Accountability Code for Catholic Dioceses, Parishes and Nonprofits. She has been dedicated, with the Catholic Chaplain for Yale University, to a campaign to raise five million dollars from Catholic alumni there to create a dynamic program to encourage Catholic Yale students (25% of Yale students are Catholic) to understand and practice their Catholic faith. Were they successful?
Yes, and then some. So far, they have raised seventy-two million dollars to have their Catholic beliefs effuse these future very influential members of American society.
But Kerry didn’t use her time with us to talk about finances or accountability. Her very uplifting talk dwelt instead on the ten positive attitudes and principles that she feels must be the foundation of any work a Christian believer hopes and expects to be productive and fulfilling, especially in the name of the Church.
I share them with you again at a time when we are about to begin a diocesan-wide campaign focusing not just on paying our bills, but on carrying out our mission. I share them because it had such a profound effect on me and many of my priest colleagues, who often find ourselves discouraged in the work of the parish. Her positive attitude in every effort she undertook seems to be the main factor in her success. These were her points:
GRATITUDE – be truly grateful for all God has given you
BE FRUITFUL WITH YOUR LIVES – Have an attitude of sharing what God has given you
BE A PERSON STEEPED IN GENEROSITY – Always be looking for opportunities to share and to practice Random Acts of Kindness
BE COMMITTED TO MISSION – Begin before You Get; Funding Money will follow Mission
SUPPORT THAT WHICH WILL LONG OUTLAST OURSELVES
LIVE AND ACT IN A SPIRIT OF JOY – It Can Be Done It Can Be Fun
REMEMBER THAT GOD’S VOICE IS ALWAYS THE VOICE OF ENCOURAGEMENT
IF YOUR INTENTIONS ARE SOUND, SOME GOOD WILL ALWAYS COME
EVEN IN DISCOURAGING TIMES, REMEMBER WHAT YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT THE CHURCH
FIND WHAT YOU HAVE A COMPETENCY IN AND OFFER IT TO THE SERVICE OF YOUR CHURCH
(And her one side comment: “A cynic is someone who has given up but has not yet shut up.”)
Long ago, in a land and culture with far less in terms of material possessions but perhaps far more in terms of spiritual wisdom, the people of Israel with exuberant trust’ praised the way God set things up, the way God established a coherent, viable, life-giving, life-permitted order…a place for life. A place for life. Is where you live and move ‘a place for life’? Is our parish and the church itself ‘a place for life’? What’s keeping us back from making it so? What has damaged God’s plan, and subverted God’s intent for the world?
The question then is whether we are willing to hear God calling us to care lovingly for the abundance we’ve received, to appreciate this parish we have been given and to share it with one another and with others. And to do it all with a sense of gratitude and generosity.
We are all here because of our yearning to get to Heaven. But we live here, we live now, we live in this place and time. And, as Jesus says to those who question Him today in our Gospel, “Our God is a God of the Living, not of the Dead.”