If I was to give a title to this sermon I might title it -How quickly they forget.
The first reading for today’s Mass is from the book of Exodus. It deals with the setting down moral and religious laws. All these laws and moral guidelines developed in the years following the liberation of the Jewish people from years of slavery in Egypt.
This particular passage is all about how the Jewish people were to treat the weakest, defenseless people in the community – the widow, the orphan, the stranger or alien and those down on their luck. God calls the people to remember how harshly they were treated as slaves in Egypt – they are not to treat other men, women and children in the same way.
Next Monday is voting day. As citizens we have a duty to vote. I heard a commentator on the CBC say that this campaign season was the ugliest, mean spirited, small minded and raciest we’ve seen in a long time. Urging Olivia Chow to go back to China, attacking other candidates Muslim faith, insinuating their sympathy for terrorist groups – all these realities are not what this city, this country is all about. We are blessed to live in this city. Despite our differences Torontonians are a generous people. Look at how people respond to the United Way, Cancer campaigns, Share Life, the many food and toys drive at Christmas, the Star’s summer camps for children – the list could go on and on.
But just below the surface there is that fear and distrust of the newcomer, fear of the stranger, there is fear and suspicion of anyone who is different.
How quickly we forget that this city was built on immigration and each new wave of immigrants faced the hostility of the wave before them. Each wave of immigrants had to struggle to find work, learn the language and build a better life for their children. It has always been a struggle to fit in, to be welcomed.
We constantly have to be reminded that for a lot of people life is not fair. Pope Francis speaks about a culture of indifference toward those at the bottom rung of society – the neglected aged mothers and father, the slum dwellers of the world, the men, women and children who are the victims of war, the exploited temporary workers, the underpaid and over worked nannies, those who work two or three part time jobs just to keep their heads above water.
We heard today’s short gospel so many times. The greatest commandment –love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind – and this is joined at the hip with ‘you shall love your neighbour as yourself. If these commandments do not touch the way we treat others, the way we think about others, way we respect others, the way we support others then we are sounding brass and tinkling silver.
We are good people struggling to live and love as Christ would have us live and love. Some days we win and some days we lose but always we keep trying.
May we all be strengthened by the bread of life that will nourish us at the Mass to find within ourselves the ability to love as we’ve been loved, to accept others as we have been accepted, to forgive and heal as we have been forgiven and healed and be agents of God’s love and peace to all who come into our lives.