“No word is God’s final word. Judgement, far from being absolute, is conditional. A change in man’s conduct brings about a change in God’s judgement.”
– Abraham Heschel: The Prophets
Welcome to the homily for the 3rd Sunday in ordinary time, cycle A. You can access the readings here.
We started with the words of Abraham Heschel, an excellent theologian and philosopher. He reminds us, much like Jesus in the Gospel, that we can choose to change our minds (repent) and become closer to God. God is counting on us to continue to overcome the obstacles that stand in the way of building God’s kingdom. Rabbi Heschel tells us that “life is clay, and righteousness the mould in which God wants history to be shaped.” We are God’s people who shape our lives and the lives of others.
It’s very important to realize that in the First Century, the phrase “Kingdom of God” was a political metaphor, and it was also a religious metaphor. Jesus could have talked about the community of God or the family of God, but he talks about the Kingdom of God.
The Kingdom of God is something for the earth in the teaching of Jesus.
– Marcus Borg
When you hear your favorite ringtone you know you are getting a call. We are called to discipleship, but I don’t know of a ringtone for that call. The Gospel tells us that Jesus didn’t set out to accomplish God’s mission as a solo act. Jesus gathered a community around him to spread the good word and provide a model for us to follow. Today we are the extension of that community Jesus gathered long ago. We can do much more together than we ever could accomplish alone. When somebody wants to get in touch with you they may decide to call you on the phone. The Gospel can be our ringtone for that call to discipleship today.
Who did Jesus call to discipleship, and who is called today? Jesus called many people to discipleship and this is the model we must follow to properly shape God’s kingdom. I have a personal fondness for the calling of Levi/Matthew. This story helps us to recognize our need to repent for those times we judge others.
You need to remember that in the time of the 1st century, sickness was regarded as a manifestation of sinfulness. So you have the stories where Jesus is said to go into that which is unclean. The best example of that I know is that Levi Matthew, a Jewish man, was working for the Gentile Roman administration as a tax collector, and that would have made him anathema and unclean to his fellow Jews. Jesus goes into that situation and lifts Levi Matthew out of the uncleanness and makes him one of his disciples. That is a Yom Kippur story.
– John Shelby Spong
If you take away one message from this Sunday Gospel it should be to look around you for those poor and marginalized members of God’s kingdom and lift them up in the eyes of our community. Who do we know that are anathema to our fellow Catholics? For example; how do we feel about the LGBT Catholics? If our duty as a community of God is to shape our history in a way that manifests God’s kingdom on Earth the Gospel message is clear:
Repent; for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.