Deacon Cornell's Homily


Genesis 9:1-7
John 6:35-40


January 21, 2010 Holy Hour for Life at St. Isidore Parish

What a week to be celebrating a Holy Hour for Life. We are witnessing incomprehensible human death and suffering in the aftermath of the earthquakes in Haiti; there are over 100,000 deaths on both sides in the middle east conflicts; we are approaching 50 million deaths of infants by abortion since 1973; and hardly a day goes by without a newstory of someone dying from violence: an armed robbery, a murder-suicide, arson. So we come together tonight to reflect on the Lord of Life, Jesus, who came to reveal the abundant love of God who desires life for all. I hope that our contemplation of God becoming human and dwelling among us in word and in the flesh leads us to a fervent commitment to discipleship, following in Jesus' footsteps.

The reading from Genesis reminds us that ultimately the sanctity of human life comes from what a human being is. Humans are made by God in the image of God. And humans have God as their destiny. That is the reason human life is sacred. It does not matter what a person does or how much they produce or consume, or even what kind of quality of life they are having, as judged by humans. It does not matter how young they are or how old, a person is a person. This reading is also a strong reminder that God does not require that human beings become perfect before God can use them in his plan to establish God's kingdom on earth.

We need to remember that the fact that humans are made by God in the image of God is not true because the Bible says so. If that were the case, then the argument that we should not impose our religious views on others would at least be arguable. That humans are made by God in the image of God is the truth, the reality, for everyone. The Bible only records that reality. Those that argue that this is just a religious belief and cannot be imposed on anyone else are like those who don't believe in science arguing that scientists should stop trying to foist their scientific law of gravity on those who don't believe in it.

Our gospel reading reminds us that not only did God create us but God cherishes us. And the plan to establish the kingdom of heaven here on earth is God's plan, not a human plan. It is God who has decreed that none will be lost. It is God's power that guarantees that this will be done; here on earth as it is in heaven. So I have hope, because I trust in God's power. This doesn't mean I don't have anything to do. It is clear that God has chosen humans as the instruments of God's power. But trusting in God's power allows me to do what God wants in the way God wants it.

This year in Generations of Faith we are dealing with the notion of justice, and how it is fundamentally part of being a disciple. It is not optional. We have come to understand that justice is seeing things the way God sees them, recognizing when a situation is not the way God sees it, and then doing something to change that. This has been missing for a long time in Catholic formation. The recent advances in scripture study and the resulting recapturing of the true humanity of Jesus is starting to change that. One prominent theologian says that we are on the brink of a sea change in discipleship, moving from a focus on deep personal piety with an occasional act of charity, and yes sometimes an extraordinary act of charity, to being a disciple aware of the wider communal issues that demand justice.

I would like to share two short stories that illustrate this movement: first seeing things as God sees them, and then acting to move things towards the reign of God.

Shortly after the first earthquake struck Haiti and the grisly pictures started being broadcast, Pat Robertson demonstrated once again that his image of God is at odds with the Abba Jesus came to reveal. He made a comment to the effect that the earthquake, and all the misery that existed before the earthquake were God punishing the Haitians for some long ago pact with the devil. In one of the blogs I read, a deacon posted a story that one of his friends commented that if Jesus were to meet Pat Robertson, he would "slap him upside the head". The deacon's reply was that he thought no such thing; rather if Jesus met Pat Robertson, or Rush Limbaugh, or Nancy Pelosi, or (insert your favorite evil person), Jesus would look on them with great compassion. When Jesus says that God sent him to insure that no one is lost, he means no one. Remember what our first reading tells us: human life is sacred because every human being is made in the image of God. We do not help bring about the kingdom of God by judging others and, especially not by demonizing others.

The second story is about an engaged couple in Duluth. They were planning their June wedding reception last week while watching the news. At some point, the bride to be announced that there was no way that they could spend what they were planning to on food for the reception while people were starving in Haiti. So come June, the guests at the reception will be served peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and 25% of their wedding budget is being donated to Paul Farmer's Partners in Health to help feedthe hungry and rebuild health clinics in Haiti. See things the way God sees them and then do what we can to make them that way.

I would suggest that we are called to fervent prayer and unswerving respect for human life in our own lives as the most effective way of cooperating with God's unfailing power. The most powerful message we can give is to live our lives in a way that our cherishing of the sanctity of all life shines like a beacon in the dark. Each one of us needs to treat the human being in front of us at any moment with the love Jesus models for us. Blessed Mother Theresa used to say that she couldn't deal with the masses. All she could do was feed one person. And so she started by picking up one person, and then another one and then another one until she had picked up tens of thousands. One at a time. We are called to love each person we meet, one at a time, whether that person is rich or poor, healthy or sick, powerful or powerless, a veritable saint, or someone who has undergone an abortion. And we are called to love that person as Christ loves us. That's God's plan. It's time we started pitching in and doing our part.

The will of our Father in heaven is that no one will be lost. Let us pray as if everything depends on God; and act as if everything depends on us.

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