Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church
Hot Springs Village, Arkansas
When I was studying for the Diaconate one of my Scripture classes was titled, “Difficult Passages in the Bible.”  We looked at passages in both the Old and New Testament that were difficult to understand, that seemed contrary to what Jesus taught.  Passages that seemed impossible to preach on.  Today’s Gospel would have to rank in the top ten of difficult passages.  “Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth?  No, I tell you, but rather division.”  It goes on to talk about creating division, in fact it saves the greatest division for last:  a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law! 

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If I were to ask you or anyone to name some differences between the ancient patriarchal societies like that of Abraham and Jesus day and the modern patriarchal societies like that which exists now in Saudi Arabia....I'm sure I would get at least a few correct answers.  So too, if I asked for similarities between the two.  Today I want to focus for a moment on one of those similarities, that of education.  In both instances it was in Abraham and Jesus' days and in Saudi Arabia and other places today exclusively for men and NOT for women.  Perhaps in such societies, there was and is a fear that a formal education for women might lead them to get ideas and if they get ideas they might imagine changes and if they get themselves and others motivated, some changes might happen, and then the patriarchy might be threatened.

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We moved to the Village from Houston and there it was pretty common to see a homeless person begging on a street corner. If you are unlucky and get a red light and have to stop next to them you learn very quickly the rules of survival.  Look straight ahead, if you have a passenger with you, talk to them but never, ever, under any circumstance turn your head and look at the homeless person.  Everyone knows that.  One day the other deacon at our parish told me when he was driving home from work, he stopped at a red light and sure enough a homeless man came up to his window and he turned and looked at him.  The man smiled and said, “Hi man, my name is Charlie.”  All of a sudden he wasn’t a homeless man, he was Charlie.

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When Pope Francis proclaimed that 2016 would be a Jubilee Year of Mercy he said he wants to make it evident that the Church’s mission is to be a witness of compassionLet us not forget that God forgives and God forgives always, let us never tire of asking for forgiveness.” As a theme he chose, be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”  Today’s readings illustrate the magnitude of the Father’s forgiveness and show us the proper response to forgiveness:  love.

Forgiveness and love - nothing sums up Christ’s mission on earth more than those two words.  And if we are to be “Christ-like,” Christians, that must be our mission also.  What our readings show us is that one follows after the other:  great forgiveness demands great love in return.  That is really important and a key element in our stories, great forgiveness demands great love in return.  Not the opposite, we aren’t forgiven because we loved greatly.  We are called to love because we have been forgiven.  Look at the first reading.

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