HOMILY WEEK 29 05 – Year II
Truth, Beauty and Goodness: Attributes of God
(Eph 4:1-6; Ps 24; Lk 12:54-59)
“Truth, Beauty and Goodness” – these are the classical three pillars of believing in God and living in Christ.
The readings today, within the context of these three pillars, carry powerful messages for us: in the gospel, we can find Truth by reading the signs of the times; in the psalm, we find Beauty by seeking the face of God, and in the first reading, we find Goodness by striving for unity.
In the gospel, Jesus chides his hearers for being able to read the weather, but fail to “interpret the present time.” They were too engrossed in material things to be able to see what the Incarnate presence of God was bringing to them spirituality, if they would only be open to him.
So, what is really happening in our lives today, if we read the signs of the present time? In the spirit of an Ignatian discernment, I see pros and cons: on the positive side, our society is urging us to have greater tolerance, understanding, respect for the rights of others, openness to reconciliation, and inclusivity – all good things.
On the negative side, however, there is a blatant loss of moral compass, no objective truth, rampant individualism, loss of common good, and in the end, a repeat of the Garden of Eden, with human beings trying to play God. A prime example of that is our prime minister’s ruling candidates for his party must be pro-choice. We have to negotiate a fine line between these two poles, and be ready to speak truth to power, as did Fr. Andrew Britz OSB, former editor of the now defunct Catholic newspaper The Prairie Messenger.
Regarding Beauty the psalm provides guidance, urging us to seek the face of God, the source of all beauty. We can do this especially through contemplative prayer, fostering an intimate relationship with Jesus and through Jesus with the Father. The relationship we have with Jesus, is the relationship we will have with the Father. The late theologian Karl Rahner’s comment on our need to be mystics in the coming centuries, or we will have little to offer and no credibility, is relevant here. Actually, the classical word for prayer “oratio” hints at a mouth-to-mouth relationship with God – as intimate as a mother whispering in her child’s ear.
Paul, in the second reading to the Ephesians, addresses the area of Goodness. The great good that Paul articulates is oneness and “unity in the bond of peace,” especially among Christians who believe in Jesus. Paul spells out our common good and goal – there is one body, one Spirit, one Lord, one faith and one baptism. The qualities he lists helping to achieve that goal of oneness are humility, patience, forbearance and love.
In 1993 I was fortunate to take a session on conflict resolution offered by Cherie Brown, found of NCBI (National Coalition Building Institute). She grew up in the Bronx, New York, where there was constant conflict between races and ethnic groups (Jewish, Chinese, Puerto Ricans, Cubans, Blacks, Hispanic, to name a few). She found herself, by her very nature, constantly trying to mediate peace between these groups, and as an adult, transformed the skills she learned into a business doing mediation work around the world.
During our session, we were asked to debate a controversial question. Our group settled on the issue of casinos and gambling on First Nations communities – good or bad. As the group was basically in favor, I was the only one ready to argue against it. The exercise went as follows: I was to address my opponent directly, giving her all the reasons why I was against gambling in First Nations communities. Her task was to listen to me carefully, without interrupting, and feedback to me all the reasons she had heard me put forward. The group was to judge if she missed any reasons, and they found she had. She then had an opportunity to comment and add other reasons.
Then the process was reversed. It was my turn to listen to her address me directly, telling me all the reasons why she supported gambling in First Nations communities. I had to listen carefully, and then feedback to her (against my instincts) all the positive reasons she had given to me. Again, the audience was to judge if I had missed any, and I had. I was surprised to see how easy it was for me to miss the very reasons I disliked the most – subject to the very human tendency to filter out what we don’t want to hear.
Finally, we de-briefed the session together and tried to find the common ground in our opposing arguments. In our case, the common ground was we were both wanting what was best for the First Nations communities. Perhaps the most significant outcome for me was the feeling of intimacy and closeness I felt towards her after that process. Even though we had polar opposite views, she felt more like a sister to me than an opponent, because we had communicated honestly with each other, had respected each other and had come to realize we stood on the common ground of wanting what was best for the other. In writing this, I realize we were living the values St. Paul lists in his letter to the Ephesians – humility, patience, forbearance and love. Now, I try to apply the principles I learned in that workshop to any situation where there is conflict or division.
The Eucharist brings together all three pillars – we celebrate the truth of the Real Presence of Jesus in Word and Sacrament; we appreciate the beauty of the liturgy, even at its simplest, and we revel in the goodness of God’s unconditional love so freely given through the selfless sacrifice of his Son.
May our celebration empower us to speak truth to power, see God’s beauty in all of creation, and share the goodness of the God’s love with all we meet.