Jesus Our Shepherd

22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Homily for 03 September 2006
Fr. Robert Weiss

“God bless the whole world – no exceptions!” Thus reads one of seven bumper stickers on the back of our mini-van. Recently I read a sign in front of a church in Sheboygan: “God bless the USA.” We older persons may recall Kate Smith singing “God Bless America” during the dark days of World War II. Living in Germany today, my family does not sense such similar sentiments relative to that country or any other European nation. However, we have not forgotten the attempts to set up the German Third Empire (Das Dritte Reich) in the second, third ansd fourth decades of the 20th century when this national sentiment was strong. Today there is no flag waving, no national anthem singing before every athletic event, as is the custom here.

We may ask a justified question as to how much of the idea that the present USA is God’s chosen land goes back to a literal, exclusive interpretation of today’s reading from Deuteronomy. The wandering Jewish people were about to enter the Promised Land. They had an earlier history of sinning through disobeying God’s word. They had been punished by exile in Egypt. Then having repented, they again became God’s “chosen people.”

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. These opening words of John’s Gospel point top Jesus as the Word in his days on earth. James in his letter points to the power of the word, the source of good actions, of caring for others outside of ourselves. Jesus in today’s Gospel points to the negative power of the misuse of the word.

The various reflections on hurricane Katrina, whether in film, TV documentaries, or op ed pages, point to realities and pose questions about the depth and extent of poverty and prejudice in our land. To what extent has a nation distracted by war abroad failed to take care of its own at home, as James pointed out?

On this Labor Day weekend, there are words being spoken by electioneering orators for and against immigrants who seek a better life whether in North America or in other First World nations in Europe. Most immigrants would return to their own countries if given the prospect of a decent standard of living there. We reflect on our own relatives of earlier generations who sought and (often enough) found a betterment of their own lives.

Again in John’s Gospel, we read and hear “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” May we have open hearts to accept his Word!