((Homily for the 23rd Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B))
When I was 18 I remember going through a period of time where I couldn't sleep. I was stressed and torn up about who I was, what I was. And I wasn't able to come to grips with myself. I remember standing in front of the bathroom mirror, staring at my reflection. And I said the words for the first time out loud. "I'm gay." I started crying and wanted to look away from my reflection. It was broken, wrong, and not who or what I was supposed to be. but I forced myself to keep looking. And I said it again and again and again - "I'm gay!"
As I stood there, tears pouring down my face, I realized a few things. The world hadn't stopped spinning. I wasn't struck down by God with a lightening bolt. But I also realized - I was exactly as God created me to be. And most importantly - He loved me just the way I was.
Our readings today all speak of healing. Emotional, physical, and social.
Isaiah in our first reading gives us the promise of the coming Messiah. That he is our vindication, he will open the eyes of the blind, and the ears of the deaf, and the tongues that cannot speak will give him praise.
In our Gospel today, Mark sees that Jesus is the fulfillment of God's promise to us in Isaiah. Jesus cures the sick, heals the broken, makes the deaf hear and the mute speak. But Jesus also tells them not to tell anyone. Why?
Well, one reason is the fact that as word gets out, as we know it does, the crowds get larger and larger, and He has no time to eat or pray, and I'd bet sleep. Also, He doesn't want the miracle being the end all of it. He is not just there to perform signs and wonders. The healings were from God and should draw the people back into a closer relationship with God. There were many healers in Jesus' time - he wanted them to see and hear that this was more and not get wrapped up in just the miracle.
The reading from James also draws us to not only heal ourselves with God's help, but to be healing for others. Don't favor the rich man just because he is rich. Don't favor the pretty just because they are pretty. Don't favor the well dressed, just because they are well dressed. Treat everyone as equals regardless of the thickness of their wallet, regardless of their education, regardless of their social standing. When it comes to the table of God's word and the Table of the Eucharist, each of us are found lacking - the rich, the poor, the famous.
James draws us to focus on how we are as a church, the body of Christ. We know Jesus came to call sinners. He ate and drank with the poor and outcast of his day. Many that followed him were desperate, lonely, broken. Even he and his disciples were homeless, wandering from town to town, living off of the generosity of others. And we are reminded not to look down on someone because of how poorly they are dressed; not to look down on someone because of their social status - or lack of.
We are called to heal ourselves first of all. And this is not always an easy process, and never painless. We have to see ourselves for who we really are - sinners just like everyone else, in need of God's healing and grace. We need to find those areas of our attitudes, our beliefs, our hard heartedness and give them to God. So that we can overcome them. And this is a life long process. We are never truly done with our own conversion. But while we are healing:
We are called to be healing to all. Often times the rich don't want to hear this. They want to feel secure in their wealth. And having wealth is not in and of itself a bad thing. But we must realize that it is all a gift from God and should be used as such. Not horded to the point of allowing others to starve and wander the streets because they have no place to go.
Often the rich don't want to hear the truth. They pick and choose what they want to hear and what they want to believe. Leaving the painful choices to others. Like those that choose to follow the "Prosperity Gospel" being preached by so many false prophets and televangelists. But St. Augustine said: "If you believe what you like in the Gospel and reject what you do not like, it is not the Gospel you believe but yourself."
We are to give of ourselves, even when it hurts. As our Blessed Mother did, standing there at the foot of the cross, watching her Son die so that all might live. She united her heart with that of her Son, knowing - perhaps not knowing exactly how, but knowing that God would take it and make it more than any could imagine.
We are about to celebrate Christ's great gift to us - the Eucharist. As we receive the body and blood of Jesus, allow Him to make you anew and lead a life of true obedience, humble service to all, and unconditional love for one another.