Thursday, February 07, 2008

"Where Does Revelation Come From?" A Homiletic Reflection about Jesus' "Sermon on the Mount"

And from time to time there is a sermon that so inspires, that so challenges, that so resonates, that it invites deep reflection and is cause for celebration as it invites a kind of deep transformation within, (or at least a subtle shift in thinking.)

The following was written and delivered by a young parishioner and member of the Church of St. Philip's, in North Minneapolis. The author asked to remain anonymous on this blog. I celebrate his spirit, his wisdom, and this Catholic Faith community that I am privileged to be part of on the North Side, that would be so bold as to invite and acknowledge that reflection and revelation might come from him. You may read the text and/ or listen to it on the recording below.



"Where Does Revelation Come From?"

February 3, 2008.

I'd like to first thank Fr. Pat, not only for inviting me to talk, but inviting me on what is perhaps the best day of the year to share reflections on the Gospel. Is there any more profound Revelation in the Bible than the Sermon on the Mount? God on earth telling his friends how to live? I really think a person could spend a lifetime reflecting on and being challenged by:
Blessed are the merciful. Blessed are the clean of heart. Or blessed are the peacemakers.
So thanks Fr. Pat for helping me out and letting me share reflections on text that moves us all so deeply. On the other hand, maybe I shouldn't be so grateful to give a sermon after we've all just heard the greatest sermon ever given. Oh well.

I've always had an easier time connecting with the Gospels, they always seem the most direct and applicable. The most inclusive. Paul always seems a bit verbose and complicated while the Old Testament is…well...Old. But as Catholics we are nothing if not rooted in history, in what has gone before. We believe there is a common thread and a history to our faith that gives us wisdom and is worth holding on to. One question that seems to be present through all these readings is, "Where does Revelation come from?"

How does God share with the people of the world what the great big Plan is? How does God answer that eternal and ginormous question of "WHY?"

St. Teresa of Avila said,
"Christ has no body on earth but yours, no hands but yours and no feet but yours. No voice but yours."
So maybe its not so much a question of HOW God shares Revelation, but from WHO.

The readings today give us a pretty good idea of WHO we should be listening to. And its not who we might expect. Which reminded me of a story.

It was about a year ago. I was working at the county hospital down town and I'd just finished a long shift, and went down to wait for the bus. It a week like last week, bitter cold. And it was 11pm. At that time of night the bus only comes every 30 minutes or so, so I was planning on a wait. I'd only been there a few minutes when I saw a man leave the ER doors and start walking towards me. His clothes were humble, his face lined, and as he came up, he smelled of alcohol, but he had a huge smile on his face that I can't quite describe. He immediately engaged me in conversation, and I admit I was a bit taken aback. He was asking who I was, why I was there, where I was headed. He listened well and was very encouraging about what I said, telling me that I was doing okay. All the while smiling and dancing. I asked him where he was headed, and he told me a homeless shelter, which he was okay with. He then started telling me about his life, he told me that he had been just about everywhere, done all sorts of things and was as old as father time. At one point he asked where I was from. When I told him "Up North" and that I grew up on a lake. He told me that he knew all about that. In fact one time he had been fishing up north and had actually been pulled into the water by a fish. I jokingly said "You were the fish." He stopped, looked serious and said, "Now that's a whole different story." I began to realize that maybe I was talking to someone important. Something about the way he talked made me feel as though I was encountering the Divine. It reminded me of Bible stories when people met angels and were always initially afraid. Maybe its because they were like this guy. Anyway, his bus eventually came, which wasn't mine. As I was reflecting on this unexpected spiritual experience, I looked up to seeing him sitting by the window.…..and as if giving a final confirmation of my thoughts he suddenly turned to look out the window and went like this…..(huge smile, big thumbs up.)

Where does Revelation come from?

I wish it were that simple and I wish that was where the story ended…..but its not. It seemed like my bus just wasn't coming, so I hopped on 5 bus, thinking I would ride it down to Nicollet Mall and warm up a little bit on the way before getting out and waiting some more. I hopped off and was surprised to see such a large crowd of folks on such a cold night. The Nicollet Mall connecting stop is the main stop out of downtown to get to Northside. So I hunched up my shoulders, found a wall to lean against and tried to disappear into the crowd. And then it happened again. A well dressed man followed by two 12 yr old looking boys came up the sidewalks. He was handing out tracts. This is actually a pretty common along the bus routes and even on the busses, especially at the Nicollet/Northside bus stop. And like always I tried to decline a tract. The main reason I do this is that I believe to really share your faith you must have mutual care for the person you are sharing with. It also saves on paper since I am already a "Christian". So I declined. This was apparently a really bad idea. The man immediately got up in my face and said "What's the matter, don't you believe in God?" So I explained that, no, I do, and that I'm a Christian. He asked where I go to church. So I proudly told him St. Philips! Up on 26th and Bryant. He immediately looked suspicious. "What kind of Church is that?" It's a Catholic Church. He looked triumphant. "You're in some trouble then." He started quoting some Bible. Telling me I should be worried about my salvation; that I didn't believe "right". After a few seconds of this I closed my eyes and started repeating aloud "I'm not going to argue with you." This went on for maybe a minute. I think until he realized I wasn't going to engage with him. So he finished by telling me that if I didn't reconsider my church I would be going to Hell. As he walked away I called after him "God Bless You." He turned around and yelled "God does bless ME."

Where does Revelation Come from?

I've ridden that bus route over a thousand times in the last several years. Never have I been engaged in spiritual conversation except on that one night. Twice. The first, a story of connection, inclusion. A poor, humble man who convinced me that I was enough. The second, a story of division, exclusion. A different kind of man who told me I certainly was not enough.

The trouble with Revelation is we often have to choose or decide which message we are to believe with little evidence other than what we know in our hearts to be true. But Jesus helps us out today.
"Blessed are the poor in spirit. Blessed are they who mourn. Blessed are the meek."
Who are these people? Jesus tells us that when they, or we, carry this banner,
"They will insult us and persecute us and utter every kind evil against us."
Paul takes it farther.
"God chose the foolish, the weak, the lowly and despised."
And Zachariah,
"God will leave a people humble and lowly."
Where does Revelation Come from?

What messages do we hear the most today?

I'm heading to a Super Bowl party this afternoon. I mostly watch for the commercials because they're funny. But what are the commercials really saying? You are not enough. But if you buy our product, or spend more, maybe you will be.

I hear big speeches by rich and powerful people saying they have all the answers and if I only vote for them, our problems will be solved.

I see leaders of organizations seeking to exclude those they see as different.
Is this Revelation?

But if we pay attention, there is a message that softly sneaks through the cracks.

I was on a full bus the other day when a woman got on with a baby. I was too busy reading my book, but a homeless man stood up so they could sit down.

At College Bound the other night I was sitting with a kid named Eli. He told me that he wasn't sure he believed in God, but if he did, he pictures God, Jesus, Mohammad, and the Buddha, all in a line, hangin' as brothers. And we just choose which one we get along with best.

Leo Tolstoy was a Christian Pacifist and writer in the 1800's. He wrote a calendar of daily wisdom. The wisdom for today, February 3rd reads,
"Love is real only when a person can sacrifice himself for another person. Only when a person forgets himself for the sake of another, and lives for another creature, only this kind of love can be called true love, and only in this love do we see the blessing and reward of life. This is the foundation of the world."
I know that where you will find Revelation is very different than where I will find it. And I know that you will share your Revelation in a different way than I. And isn't that the beauty of the human spirit? Isn't that faith?

Lois asked me if I would have a challenge for you at the end (because she knows I kind of dig it when we're challenged by a homily). But I think instead I have a prayer for you:

I pray that you know you are not alone. On this day all across the world millions of humans have heard the Greatest Sermon ever given. This is a faith we share.
I pray that as a child of God you know you are enough. And you always were.

And finally I pray that you find Revelation in the simplest and most unexpected places. That you listen to it. That you pay attention to it. And that you let it move you, like a Sermon on the Mount.



Meg Brudney said...

Thank you soo much for sharing this homily. I am sorry I missed it but oh how very very beautiful!

-Meg Brudney

Suzann Bugenhagen said...

How great for my Monday morning-I am echoing....a big smile, thumbs up!


Anne said...

Yesterday morning I went to Mass...which, as you know, I've struggled with lately. As I sat there, I prayed for direction in my faith. I believe in God and his miracles...just not sure what Christian "title" I am supposed to be falling under these days.

I came into work this morning and found your email. I listened to the sermon that you shared with us... thank you!! What an awesome treat to have God speak through Ol' friends!

Love you~

Anne Regelean
Lincoln, Nebraska

Sr. Joanna Omeara said...

Dear Melissa!

Thanks ever so much for sending your thoughts and the Blog link re: "Why be a Catholic?" I found the young man's Homily inspiring, and wherever we are, we need to be in touch with the 'Mount' on the 'plain'!

Have a great is incredibly mild here, sunny, no RAIN!! beautiful...

love & peace,