Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church
Hot Springs Village, Arkansas
When I looked at today’s readings my first thought was they deal with the difference between doing and saying, sort of like “say what you mean and do what you say.”  But how do you preach on that here?  You only have to look at the list of ministries this parish is involved in to see that we are doers.  Then I remembered that last line in the Gospel, “Yet even when you saw that, you did not later change your minds and believe him” and I realized that all three readings really deal with changing our mindset.  Think about the recent Gospels; 2 weeks ago we heard about how many times must I forgive?   We say 7 and God says 77.  Change how we think.  Last week every worker in the vineyard gets paid the same.  We say unfair, God must be a Democrat!  God says be generous in your love.  Change how we think.  And today Jesus makes it very clear, to enter the Kingdom of God we have to change how we think.

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All three readings and the responsorial psalm reflect one theme, all are welcome in this place.  The first reading from Isaiah takes place after the Jews have returned to the Promised Land from exile.  The temple has been rebuilt but they find their homeland occupied by foreigners whom they deeply resented.  After 49 years in exile, to come back and see not only their homeland but more importantly their temple, the very place where Yahweh dwelled, overrun with foreigners was more than the people could tolerate.  Enter Isaiah.  A couple of weeks ago I said the role of prophets was not to predict the future but rather to properly name the present and no one does that better than Isaiah, listen.  The foreigners who join themselves to the Lord, . . . loving the name of the Lord, . . . who keep the sabbath, them I will bring to my holy mountainTheir offerings and sacrifices will be acceptable on my altar for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.  Let us build a house where prophets speak, and words are strong and true, where all God’s children dare to seek to dream God’s reign anewAll are welcome in this place.  It was not an easy lesson for the Jews to learn, weren’t they the “chosen people”?  And it remains a hard lesson for us for us to learn today.

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Almost exactly 5 months ago to the day I preached on this Gospel.  That was the Second Sunday of Lent.  Now I considered just using that homily again, after all what are the chances that this parish will remember what was said 5 months ago!  But then I remembered that Lynne puts all of my homilies on the parish website and just on the outside possibility that one of you will go and look it up I thought no, I better write a new one.

Five months ago I talked about one word in the Gospel, Listen.  Today I would like focus on a different word, Afraid.  Right after God says, “Listen to Him,” we hear, “When the disciples heard this, they fell prostrate and were very much afraid.”  Fear can paralyze us, make us powerless, drop us down to the ground.  Dictators and totalitarian governments have always understood this.  Why are they so ruthless?  Because it instills fear in the population.  Make them afraid and you can control them. 

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Do you remember when you had to help your children with their homework?  Or maybe even more recently your grandchildren?  When it is 9 o’clock at night and there is still another page of questions to answer we are tempted to simply start supplying the answers.  Don’t worry about explaining the beauty of the Pythagorean Theory, just calculate the side of the triangle and be done with it!  But the next time, if we start earlier on the homework, maybe 4 in the afternoon, we change our style and try to help our children learn the steps to solving the problem and let them find the answers for themselves.  It is the classic “teach them how to fish rather than just handing them a fish.”

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