I present to you today the words of Fr. Don Snyder of St. Ladislas Parish in Westlake, OH. One of the permanent deacon candidates called it to my attention and it is too good to miss. Do see the exhibit of the St. John's Bible is you have the opportunity. The homily is shared with Dr. Don's gracious permission.
(Brueggemann, p. 44) Paul reflected a long time on slavery and freedom. He did not think there are a lot of little slaveries, but that they are all of piece, and we can name them. He called them "elemental spirits": "We are enslaved to the elemental spirits of the world" (Galatians 4:3) and "If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the universe, why do you live as if you still belonged to the world?" (Colossians 2:20). This may sound primitive today because most people do not believe that way. But even if we are more sophisticated, we still know that the powers that coerce us are powerful and alive, and for some reason we are not free to lives our lives ward joy. We spend our time crying, satisfying others, measuring up, meeting quotas.
Brueggemann, p. 43: "For freedom, Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery...For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters" (Galatians 5:1, 13). Obviously, the freedom Paul discovered in the gospel was not an invitation to irresponsibility, nor was it a promise that there would be no more burdens or hardships. But now they are the responsibilities, burdens, and hardships of a free person, one not driven, but one facing options and having the power to choose the good news against all the bad forms of news that make promises that can never be kept. Slavery is many different things. Whatever the slavery that binds a person, that is the one that counts. Let us characterize slavery simply as that which keeps us from being joyous. When we locate that, we will be close to the source of our oppression.
Brueggemann, in Chapter 3, decides of all the implied meanings in shalom to focus first on freedom: Jesus Christ frees. God intends freedom. It is clear to us all that our biblical story—our biblical faith—begins in the story of the exodus. Taken historically, that story is about how a band of Israelites were freed one wondrous night long ago. Taken theologically, it is the announcement of how God’s purpose for freedom intruded radically into history and redesigned the direction of history. Now history becomes the story of how God’s purpose for freedom made its powerful way in the affairs of persons and nations. Exodus has given us a model to understand that the key problem in human experience is the problem of oppression, embodied here in the Pharaoh.
Pope Francis concludes with three intertwining topics: Personalizing the Word, Lectio Divina, and an Ear to the People. In Personalizing the Word and Lectio Divina he makes it clear that we must allow the scripture to "penetrate (our) thoughts and feelings." Not only must we attentively walk through the Word but we must allow the Word to walk through us. People want to hear the Good News from a witness, or as put by homiletic writer George Sittler, someone who comes "still trembling from the encounter with the Word." Although we are humbled, even tempted to silence by our flaws, we keep "growing and wanting to grow,
Pope Francis suggests to us the kind of study and prayer which should be brought to preaching, and much of it is familiar to you. First, the call to contemplate: to take time,"a prolonged time of study, prayer, reflection, and pastoral creativity," with the passage itself in prayer and study, striving to grasp its original meaning and intent using the biblical research now available to us. Additionally and of equal importance, is the time one gives to contemplate the Word in light of the people with whom one ministers. He asks for a "broad and profound sensitivity to what effects peoples' lives." This leads the pope into a discussion of the principal message of the text, and the principal effect of the text as it comes from the author.
Once upon a time, in the 13th century, Dominic visited the sisters at a convent near Rome, bringing with him a gift of spoons from Spain, one spoon for each sister. He had brought them personally from Spain, and presumably carried them across Europe himself. Actually, Dominic may have had his reasons for the gift. He was trying to persuade the sisters at Santa Maria outside of Rome to move to another convent, to St. Sixtus in Rome. The Pope wanted him to establish a reformed community. I don’t know if that was the motive for the gift giving, but it is often cited as an example of his tenderness.
I started out to summarize and reflect on the next section of Evangelii Gaudium, but have been so taken and moved by Francis's words that I am going to share with you directly from his text. I certainly cannot improve on the depth of his insights and the beauty of his language. He subtitles this portion of the text "Words which set hearts on fire."
142. Dialogue is much more than the communication of a truth. It arises from the enjoyment of speaking and it enriches those who express their love for one another through the medium of words...
the memory of the faithful...should overflow with the wondrous things done by God...in the homily truth goes hand in hand with beauty and goodness…(the faithful) will sense that each word of Scripture is a gift before it is a demand.