Thursday, February 08, 2018

HOMILY for February 4, 2018: 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B


PODCAST - Press sideways triangle below to listen

5th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B
February 4, 2018
Ft. Lauderdale, Florida
How Do You Spell Respect?
By (Rev. Msgr.) Nicholas P. Amato

 


Respect


Today I want to talk about respect.

One word respect. It may sound simple, but it may not be.

The Word Respect


Our English word respect – like many of our words – is derived from Latin.

It is made up of two Latin words: 1) re (spelled R-E) which means back, as in going back, and 2) specere (spelled S-P-E-C-E-R-E), a verb that means to look at. And so, our word respect literally means to look back at, to take a second look.

And from this, the word has come to mean to treat someone with regard and esteem. Negatively, it means to refrain from injuring someone.

The connection between the original and the developed meaning of the word seems very clear to me. If we don’t just take a quick look, if we look back and take a second look, we are valuing others.

And then, we are much more likely to act out of that – to treat them with regard and esteem. And, of course, we are much more likely to refrain from any behavior or word that would injure.

Okay, so why am I so focused on this word respect today? Why? Because I see respect lying beneath what happens in today’s Gospel.     

Jesus Respects Women

The context is that Jesus goes into Peter’s house.

Peter’s mothger-in-law is sick in bed with a fever. I have to wonder if it was something like the flu that has been going around this year.

At any rate, and here’s the key point, Jesus goes right up to this woman and takes her by the hand. Now to us, that may not sound like a big deal, but it was in Jesus’ day.

In those days, men were forbidden to touch any woman other than their wife. They couldn’t even shake hands with a woman.

Now it’s important to know that this prohibition did not exist out of respect for women. On the contrary, it existed out of disrespect for them.

It was a highly patriarchal and male-dominated culture. Women had no rights and were seen as at best inferior.

So, a point that’s easy to miss here is that Jesus, right at the start of his ministry, is breaking a barrier. I mean, this is chapter one of Mark’s Gospel – Mark talking about the first things Jesus does in his ministry.

And here, Jesus breaks the gender barrier. He respects this woman as a person with dignity, as a person in need, and he wants to help her.

Apparently, Saint Mark is really out to make a point about this. I say that because at the end of the Gospel, as Jesus ends his miniustry dying on the cross, Mark carefully notes, once again, the presence of women.

He points out that these women were disciples of Jesus. So Mark’s entire Gospel is framed or bookended with Jesus showing respect for women.

Respect Women Today


All of this got me thinking that Jesus would probably be supportive of the main thrust of today’s #MeToo movement.

Today his respect for women might be shown by speaking out against verbal cracks, jokes, sexual harassment of any kind, less pay for the same work and competence – Jesus would call out all of this.

He would call us to respond to this moment in time. He would want us to take a second look at what’s been going on.

He wants us to be respectful in our attitudes, our words, our workplace policies, and in our Church practices. So, yes, there is a spiritual and moral dimension, a Gospel-dimension to the women’s isue that is before us today.

Respect Everyone


I want to add one more point.

Jesus pushes this respect beyond the gender barrier which he breaks in today’s Gospel. In various other incidents, Jesus breaks through other barriers – religion, race, culture, and nationality.

And he always does this out of respect, respect for the dignity of all persons.

He wants to bring a wholeness and fullness to our lives. And he wants to do this for us as individuals and for our society and for all of humanity.


So, he treats with value and dignity, he respects each person, all persons, with no barriers allowed to stand in the way. His example raises the question: are we doing the same?

Monday, January 08, 2018

HOMILY for January 7, 2017: The Feast of the Epiphany, Cycle B


PODCAST - Press sideways triangle below to listen

Feast of the Epiphany, Cycle B
St. Mark’s, Fallston
January 7, 2018

The Story of the 3 Magi as Our Story
By Nicholas P. Amato


A Star

I’d like to suggest that each of us has some star in our life. Each of us has something leading us from within ourselves or drawing us from outside ourselves to some goal.

Today’s gospel passage tells about the Magi or wise men from the East following their star.

The star they follow is leading them directly to the newborn Christ. The question I’d pose for us today on the Feast of the Epiphany is: What star are we following?

Perhaps it is the star of getting as close to Christ as possible as we age and realize that our time for going home to God is getting closer.

Or maybe it is the star of a college student pursuing her dream of becoming a physical
therapist.

So what is our star? And, like the star that the Magi are following, (1) will our star lead us to God, (2) in some way give glory to God, or (3) draw others to God?

Journey

The Magi are clearly on a journey.

The passage says that they come from the East, maybe present-day Iran or Iraq, and arrive in Jerusalem. They have left the comfort of home and have undertaken a journey to see the newborn king.

A good way for all of us to understand our lives is as a journey. And a journey makes some demands on us.

It may mean that a young man and woman take the risk of commitment to one another in marriage or It may demand that I risk retirement not knowing whether I’ll have enough to live the lifestyle I’m accustomed to or the risk of having elective surgery or moving out of our family home into a retirement community.

Seeing our lives as a journey is challenging, but it can also be life-giving.

So the question becomes: What journey am I on right now?

Hurdles

The Magi are wise enough to detect a hurdle of their journey. Their hurdle is King Herod.

Herod pretends to be interested in this young child, but the Magi sense that in truth Herod feels threatened and will do violence to the one to whom the star is leading.

In a similar way, there will be hurdles for us as we journey and follow our star.

Perhaps comforts and pleasures and the easy life that lure will distract us from the journey and leads us to waste our talents and opportunities.

Or perhaps someone will discourage us from following the star that seems right for us.

The question here is: What hurdles can we identify for ourselves?

Giving

The gospel tells us that the Magi give gifts to the newborn Christ.

Perhaps this is a good test of the star we are following or the journey we are on, that is, does our journey lead us to be more generous in our giving?

So, if we are consciously trying to follow the way of the Lord, are we generous in giving to God’s work on this earth? Besides finances, could we be more generous in giving of our time or talent?

It could be kind deeds for elderly neighbors or helping out in our parish.

Here the question becomes: What is the quality of our giving to God on our journey?

Change

Finally, the gospel tells us that the Magi had to change their plans.

Recall that after seeing the child, they are warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, but to return home by another route. The insight here is that seeing God more and more fully and getting closer with Jesus will also change us.

In fact, remaining unchanged is not necessarily a virtue. Change and growth
seem to be what each star and journey are all about.

Maybe our journey leads us to see things from the perspective of others first,
instead of just being close-minded or judging others as wrong.

The question here is: How is our star and our journey calling us to change?

Conclusion

To conclude, the deeper story under the charming story of the 3 Magi can really be our story.

Our star, our journey, our hurdles, our giving, and our changing – all these elements in the Christmas story can reflect our own human experience.


And in that sense it becomes a revelation to us of our story.