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Scripture Readings: Third Sunday of Advent
Print PDF: Weekly Homily 12.15.2013
In this season of preparation I set the 16 year-old Islamic girl – Malala, before us as our guide. The Taliban sent death threats to this young Pakistani girl because she dared to be different. She refused to cooperate with the inhumane side of the dominant culture in which she lives. Even now, after having been shot in the head, she persists For me and for so many in our world, this young Muslim woman models what it means to be “Christian.”
The text from Matthew’s gospel also tells us what it means to be “Christian.” Two of John’s disciples ask Jesus about his identity. He describes his work among those existing on the margins of society in the villages of Galilee. Jesus of Nazareth had a passionate love for life. He struggled against everything that blocks off, mutilates, or diminishes people, always enabling life, health and meaning. He reached out especially to the sick, the poor and the marginalized, folks without resources and often without hope for a better life. He opened the possibility for them to be more fully human and to live more authentic human lives.
Many people today have turned away from Christ. They consider him irrelevant and have neither heard nor experienced the truth of his words, “I have come that you may have life, and have it abundantly.
It seems the new Bishop of Rome recognizes this. Like Malala, our brother Francis models for us what it means to be “Christian.” He recently wrote a pastoral letter to us –“The Joy of The Gospel.” His ideas and words in this letter are neither pious, abstract, nor negative. He challenges the unbridled consumerism of our culture while noting the global financial system has failed and continues failing the poor. In doing so he calls all of us to imitate Christ and to enable all people to be more fully human and live more authentic human lives.
Because of that challenge, one of talk-radios most bombastic figures — Rush Limbaugh, is leading a right-wing assault on the Bishop of Rome. He claims Francis is a Marxist and is overstepping his bounds because he points to the failures of free market capitalism and globalization.
In his short time as Bishop of Rome, Francis has repeatedly made clear that following Christ means doing what Christ did. To be “Christian” is to care for one another and the common good of all. That is not Marxism. Francis is neither a socialist nor a capitalist. He is a Catholic and the message he proclaims is the gospel. Like John the Baptizer, he is calling us to prepare the way for the Lord.
His voice is important for so many of our companions in life are overwhelmed by loneliness and alienation. Many feel betrayed by the superficiality of our culture that abandons them. They live without any sense of purpose or meaning. Love is far too absent in so many lives.
I intend to pursue renewal within our Catholic household of faith, while aware that disputes and quarrels about theology, canon law, church structures or liturgy distract us from what it is to be “Christian.” In his letter Francis reminds us that being “Christian” is so simple and profoundly relevant. “Christians” – followers, companions and friends of Christ are those who reach out to people with tenderness, compassion and unconditional love.
The entire world has recognized this in Nelson Mandela; in the courage and character of Malala, the 16-year-old Muslim girl from Pakistan; and in so many other good and holy people, people like each of you. This season of preparation is about listening to your heart. This little suggestion may help you to do that. Whenever you look in a mirror, say to yourself — “I am Malala.” Say it, and each time be newly aware that you are Christ for others when you reach out to them with love.