Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Published: February 19, 2017

Bishop Anthony B. Taylor preached the following homily at St. Joseph Church in Conway on Saturday, Feb. 18, 2017 and Holy Redeemer Church in El Dorado and the Cathedral of St. Andrew in Little Rock on Sunday, Feb. 19, 2017.

Bishop Taylor

When the sun comes up, it shines on everyone equally. When it rains, the rain falls everywhere in the area, without distinction. When the wind blows, everyone feels the same breeze, and when a storm hits, everyone is exposed to the danger.

Good people don’t get better weather than bad people. Good farmers don’t get more rain than bad farmers.

In our Gospel, Jesus makes a couple of important points. One is that God’s love is like the sun — he loves everyone equally and that means 100 percent. He loves bad people just as much as he loves good people. He loves Muslims just as much as he does Catholics.

Regardless of what we think about someone else’s behavior, our opinion must not get in the way of our love. Sometimes we must condemn the sin we see around us, cry out against injustice, confront bad deeds, but we are never free to condemn the sinner — never free to make it personal.

He loves people who experience same-sex attraction just as much as those who experience opposite-sex attraction. He loves politicians. He loves ax murderers and he loves the police who protect us from them.

He loves everyone, and his love is infinite! Just as the sun shines on everyone equally and the rain falls on everyone equally, so also God loves everyone equally, 100 percent.

Jesus’ second point is that if we are to become like God, then our love must be like his. That's what Pope Francis is talking about when he speaks of "accompaniment." Journeying with people whose marriages are irregular and with those who experience same-sex attraction or are struggling with other deeply personal issues.

Regardless of what we think about someone else’s behavior, our opinion must not get in the way of our love. Sometimes we must condemn the sin we see around us, cry out against injustice, confront bad deeds, but we are never free to condemn the sinner — never free to make it personal.

God loves the sinner as much as he loves me. Remember the storm of controversy when Pope Francis said: "Who am I to judge?" Of course, he wasn't referring to judging or not judging actions, in that case homosexual actions, which are of course immoral, but rather judging the state of someone else's soul.

Only God can do that and he loves everyone. So who am I to condemn someone whom God loves?

This business of loving people who do bad things is kind of tricky. It is ambiguous. It pulls us in two directions — disapproval of unacceptable behavior, yet still wishing the person no harm. Still loving even those who seek to harm others.

Here is an example taken right out of what is going on in our country today: still loving even those who engage in fear-mongering and hate speech. Still loving even those who play on people's anxieties with such harmful results in the lives of some of the most vulnerable among us, including immigrants who came here as children and refugees whose lives are in danger in their country of origin.

So while we must condemn the evil actions of those who persecute the weak, we must not forget that despite all this, God still loves even them, and who are we to condemn someone whom God loves? 

Here is another example: A classmate of mine, Father Jay Jackson, was murdered in his rectory in Jackson, Tennessee in 1981. There was a manhunt and in the middle of it, Father Jackson’s mother came on TV to appeal to those searching for the murderer that they not use unnecessary violence, that they not harm the suspect. She condemned the act that had taken the life of her son, but she continued to love his killer — or at least wish him no harm.

In a less dramatic way, you and I rub shoulders every day with people who we don't like and even people who wish us harm. Jesus challenges us to love these aggravating people as God loves them, meaning 100 percent.

And you know, the Church is a microcosm of the world, a gathering of people who may otherwise have nothing special in common beyond our belief in Jesus. I once heard a speaker say that: “The Church is the place where the person you least want to spend time with is always there. A place to learn to live with ambiguity.”

And I might add, a place to learn to love. A place to learn how to build bridges of understanding rather than walls of separation. The sun shines its warm rays on everyone and we are called to do the same. God grant that our warmth extend to all, and in particular, that we learn better how to love those we like the least.

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