HOMILY WEEK 07 04 – Year II

Faith, Love and Justice

(James 5:1-6; Ps 49; Mk 9:41-50)


Today’s readings present a challenge to us with their harsh language, both by James in the first reading and Jesus in the gospel. Combined with the psalm, however, they invite us to be grounded in God’s forgiveness and healing first, then offer up our lives to God as living sacrifices of love, justice and simplicity. In short, we are to balance contemplation with action, love with justice.

In his letter, James rails against the rich, not for being wealthy, but for their injustice towards workers, for acquiring that wealth unfairly and exploiting the poor. He equates that injustice to murder and laments how their hearts have been hardened. Often the oppression by the wealthy, dictators and military leads to murder, as in Guatemala years ago. Fr. Gerry LeStrat OMI, who was there, recounts how the military, trained by the School of the Americas and in collusion with the government financed by the States, massacred whole villages. The beneficiaries, of course, were those in power and multi-national corporations such as giant American fruit companies.

Crosses with names of those massacred by the paramilitary in Actael, Chiapas, Mexico.

The Church documented over 50 thousand cases of murdered and disappeared. Fr. Gerry himself conducted several of those interviews. When the bishop set up a Truth and Reconciliation process and published the findings, he was murdered very much like Archbishop Oscar Romero. This is the kind of injustice James is decrying, an injustice that today takes the form of outlandish salaries for CEOs of companies, while the workers in that same company struggle to get by.

The Word Among Us offers some background comments to help us understand the gospel. Gehenna was a place known as the valley of slaughter, where the pagans of the surrounding area practiced child sacrifice to appease their gods – a practice the Israelites were at times tempted to also practice. Of course, this was an abomination to God.

Keeping salt within ourselves refers to the Israelite practice of sprinkling salt unto their ritual sacrifices to add intentionality and effect to their petition. And the sayings by Jesus about cutting off parts of our body or plucking out our eye is actually “holy exaggeration” known as Semitic hyperbole to make a point and underline the importance of a teaching. It is similar to a parent saying to a child, “I told you a million times not to do that!” Certainly, that is not true, but said to convince the child of a the importance of certain values or behaviour.

Jesus asks us to practice charity, even giving a cup of water, and emphatically stresses that our actions must cause no scandal to little ones, must hurt no one in any way. We are to be salted by his love that burns away our sins, short-comings and addiction, and then be salt for the world, serving those most in need of our help.

Added to this is the call of the psalmist to be poor in spirit. One who is poor in spirit lives simply, is content with what one has, wears no masks, puts on no airs, all because one is secure in the Father’s love for us. That love comes to us especially through prayer and contemplation of God’s Word.

Bro. Tom Novak OMI in Winnipeg was involved with Just Theatre, a drama group that produced plays about social justice issues such as immigration and Indigenous rights. Richard Rohr, in Albuquerque, New Mexico, founded a Centre for Action and Contemplation (CAC) that seeks to balance union with God in prayer with practical efforts at promoting justice and peace, and conducts a “Living School” that has a waiting list. Both these initiatives are a living out of today’s readings – grounded in God’s love and seeking to work for peace and justice.

Saint Mother Theresa of Calcutta has a very encouraging saying that can help us live these readings in our own lives: “To do God’s will, we don’t have to do great acts – we just have to do many small acts with great love.”

The Eucharist is a ritual that grounds us in God’s love through Word and Sacrament. We who celebrate it, ponder God’s Word and receive the body and blood of Jesus, are then commissioned to go out as sacrificial salted offerings, working for justice and peace in a spirit of gospel simplicity.


Updated: May 23, 2024 — 1:38 am

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