Homily – November 4, 2018

I’m sure you’ve heard or used the statement, ‘let’s get down to basics.’ Let’s get to the heart of the matter.

For the Israelites delivered from centuries of slavery in Egypt the basic, the heart of the matter, was ‘behold Israel the Lord our God is one.’ They were to love their liberating God with all their heart, all their soul and all their strength. From the beginning of their journey into freedom the Israelites had difficulty believing or trusting this ‘basic’, the Lord thy God is one. For centuries they’d lived among a people who worshiped many gods and that tainted their concept of God. To hedge their bets they crafted a golden calf as their deliver, not the God of Moses.

As Christians we believe in one God and we believe our one God involves the mystery of Father, Son and Spirit. Like the Israelites of old we too are tempted to follow other gods; so we idolize power, wealth and pleasure. These powerful idols lure us away from the God we are to love with all our heart, with all our mind and with all our strength.

In Hebraic thought the heart and soul and strength are not separate human facilities but the person in the totality of his or her being. God is totality ours and we are to be totality God’s.

In our first reading we’re told to ‘fear the Lord all the days of our lives.’ This doesn’t call us to a cowering relationship with God. The word fear is best understood as awe or wonder. The Jewish people awed, overcome with wonder that God choose them as his own people. ‘I will be your God and you will be my people.’ We are told that God lives in light inaccessible. But our inaccessible God became flesh and dwelt among us. As John the Evangelist tells us ’what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, this we declare to you. Our inaccessible God came to us as obedient slave to his father’s will, an obedience that brought him a shameful death as a crucified common criminal.

And our crucified Christ us a new commandment, ‘love one another as I have loved you.’ We all know that is not an easy thing to do. Men and women may disappoint us, break vows to us, lie about us with gossiping tongues, cheat or rob us. They break our hearts and we want to get even. Tit for tat. That only diminishes us, makes us less than we are meant to be. Every day we are challenged by the words, ‘forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.’scary.

This time last week we were shocked by the murder of 11 Jewish men and women who were praying in the Living Water synagogue in Pittsburgh. Some blame this tragedy on the divisive political speeches going on in the States and in Canada, speeches that demonize other people from other lands or live by other convictions. But we experienced a similar tragedy in Montreal last year when a fanatic bigot killed 10 Moslem men praying in their local Mosque.

Demonic politicians around the world are setting neighbour against neighbour for their own purposes as they worship at the idols of power. Love one another as I’ve loved you calls us to give life not take a life. Love one another as I’ve love you calls us stand up for and protect good men and woman who are different from ourselves in what they believe, in their social or cultural backgrounds, and in their life styles and not see them as less than ourselves.

Love one another as I have loved you challenges us to see beyond the hostile words that call us to be suspicious of men and women different from ourselves and try to understand why good men and women fall into bigotry and discrimination toward others. Basically these preachers of hate and discrimination play on the fears and insecurity of people. They lure them into believing that the outsiders, these newcomers are going to take away their jobs, they are going to lower the real estate value of the neighbourhood, live on welfare, up our health care costs and cost us higher taxes. Such talk is devious.

As we continue to celebrate our Eucharist we can pray for ourselves, family members and friend that we be graced to see through the seduction of bigotry and suspicion and believe in the goodness of good men and women who seek to come into our country, our neighbourhood and our parish. Whatever you do to one of these the least of my brothers and sisters, you do to me.