HOMILY WEEK 32 05 – Year II
Walking in the Truth:
Memorial of St. Martin of Tours
(2 Jn 4-9; Ps 119; Lk 17:26-37)
“To be close to God, be closer to people.”
That quote, found in my father’s bible after he passed away, captures the message of the readings for us today – to have faith in Jesus and to love one another, to be close to God, and to one another. To do this is to “walk in the truth.”
The truth in which we are to walk involves our faith in Jesus. As St. John proclaims, we believe he truly is the Word made flesh, incarnate into our humanity, and became one of us as the Son of the Father.
Part of that faith is to believe in the Trinity, an eternal, creative out-pouring of love, a divine dance or perichoresis, the Father loving the Son, who in turn loves the Holy Spirit, who loves the Father and on and on it goes. Our task is to believe in how much we are loved, that we are beloved sons and daughters of God, that there is nothing we can do to make God love us more than God already does.
The reason Jesus was able to take off his outer clothes (symbolizing power control, status, privilege, and authority), and wash the feet of his disciples, is because he knew how loved he was. He was blessed by the Father in the Jordon, at the transfiguration, and in the garden before he died. He knew he had come from the Father, all things had been given to him by the Father and was returning to the Father, so he could, on the cross, reveal to us the depth of the Father’s love and who God our Father truly is: mercy, humility, compassion, unconditional love, forgiveness and total non-violence. Our task now is to love God with our whole being, which is really just loving God back.
In the first reading, John goes on to insist we love one another. We love others by trusting them, affirming them, blessing them, forgiving them, sharing life with them, and caring for their well-being. We are also to love ourselves, by accepting ourselves as we are, forgiving ourselves our mistakes, believing in our own goodness, and realizing all our qualities are a gift from God.
Marianne Williamson, in A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of a Course in Miracles, expressed this challenge well with the following words:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure… You are a child of God. You playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
Jesus raises the bar by commanding us to love others as he has loved us. That adds a sacrificial tone to our love for others – a willingness to sacrifice our desires and our own will for the sake of others and their well-being, especially, as parents, for our children. And finally, Jesus asks us to love our enemies, to do good to those who hurt us, to bless those who persecute us.
Here is a reflection from Ron Rolheiser OMI on this challenge:
“Jesus was capable of continuing to love and forgive in the face of hatred and murder because, at the very heart of his self-awareness, lay an awareness of who he was, God’s son, and how much he was loved. From that source he drew his energy and his power to forgive.
We too have access to that same powerful spring of energy. Like Jesus, we too are God’s children and are loved that deeply. Like Jesus, we too can be that forgiving.
Very few things, I believe, are more needed today, in both society and the church, than this capacity for understanding and forgiveness. To continue to offer others genuine love and understanding in the face of opposition and hatred constitutes the ultimate social, political, ecclesial, moral, religious, and human challenge. Sometimes church people try to single out one particular moral issue as the litmus test as to whether or not someone is a true follower of Jesus. If there is to be litmus test, let it be this one:
Can you continue to love those who misunderstand you, who oppose you, who are hostile to you, who hate you, and who threaten you?”
Today the church invites us to honor St. Martin of Tours. Martin was born about 316 in Panonnia, Hungary. The son of an army officer, Martin was conscripted into military service. His parents were pagans but Martin became a Christian catechumen and was baptized at 18. Subsequently, he decided he should not be a solider and became what could be called a conscientious objector. When the ensuing charges against Martin were dropped, he pursued his vocation as a monk.
In 360, Martin settled in Gaul and was soon joined by disciples; together they founded the first monastery in Gaul. In 371 Martin was proclaimed bishop of Tours by the people. He served as a bishop-monk and converted pagans to the faith until his death in 397. His biography, written by his friend Sulpicius Severus, related the many good works and wondrous deeds Martin performed. In art, he is usually depicted on horseback, handing his cloak to a poor man. Martin is patron of France, soldiers and vintners, and a fitting saint for this Remembrance Day, as a reminder for all of us to move towards an end to all war and conflict.
The Eucharist is a tremendous act of faith. We believe in the presence of Jesus in his Word, and in the humble gifts of bread and wine. It is a wonderful ritual way of loving God back. It also empowers us to express that faith through loving others as he has loved us, and to walk joyfully in this profound truth.