23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
04 September 2011
Rev. Kathy Sullivan Vandenberg
This spring has been a difficult time for this State. We have had protests and an uproar in the State Assembly and House in Wisconsin. There have been sit ins in the Wisconsin capital along with demonstrations. There have been arguments on the television both local and national and even arguments in the Wisconsin Supreme Court.
Then we remember the arguments and meetings concerning the debt ceiling in our Nationís Capital. We did not know until the last minute if the government was going to shut down. All of this arguing and should I dare say politicking seems to be out of control. I have not seen a great deal of our leaders talking to one another respectfully and thoughtfully.
I am not going to take any side: Republican, Independent or Democrat, but I am very well aware that the Gospel reading today talks about proper behavior when people in leadership get together.
The same arguing and disagreeing can happen in families. In my job as a Hospice Chaplain I see families disagreeing all of the time about who does what, what will the memorial service look like, remembering the hurt that happened twenty years at the infamous party, and who gets what of the treasures in the household.
To begin todayís homily I want to start with the last section of the Gospel. It concerns prayer. Jesus said that if two or three people get together and pray it shall be given to them. How shall we pray? What should our spirit be like when we go to prayer? And, how should be pray for things respectfully?
When we pray we should have an open mind and heart first. This means that we should not have any presuppositions about what is going to happen when God intervenes in any situation. Our minds need to be open to all possibilities that could happen in any scenario. We have to have a humble heart and be willing to accept what answer God gives us. When we pray together with others, minds can come up with the many creative ideas that are needed to form solutions to problems or hurtful situations. We must be willing to compromise and to listen to what God is suggesting. This is hard to do at times because we often think we are right. Sometimes we think that the only solution to the problem is the solution we personally have come up with.
Also, we must be willing to pray many times together with other or pray singly many times with certainly and trust that God will eventually guide and direct us as we seek guidance and mercy. It is a certainty that God will guide us and give us direction and help. During this time of prayer we must have proper decorum and respect for the others gathered.
After prayer and during the time of discussion we must act by sharing our views. But, our views must be spoken respectively and kindly knowing that we are all part of the answer and we are all part of the solution. Situations that are difficult need the most tact and the most courage to be respectful to each otherís feelings, situations and needs. There should be no shouting, pointing of fingers or banging on the table if someone hears another answer from God that does not match what we have heard. That kind of action is not worthy of God and is not expected by God. By taking action I mean speaking truthfully, kindly, and gently to the one who might have different views than I do.
Praying about something is a sacred trust because we are very likely to hear an answer from God about what we are to do. We are called upon to act rather than keep silent. We could say if my way is not the way of the group I will withdraw and not participate in any group involvement. If someone else hears another answer from God that is not like our own we could dismiss this person and never speak to them again. Wouldnít it be wonderful if we came to an agreement that would satisfy all people!!! Often times God does not work that way. This is the time to speak to others openly, quietly, respectfully knowing that they are all children of God. In families it may take many times of respectful dialog with someone to get our message across. It does not mean changing someoneís opinion but it does mean to act loving with a loving word from God. Acting after praying is necessary for Godís will to be done. Sometimes acting means more praying for a longer time because an answer does not seem to found.
Praying and then acting in response is what Jesus did in the Gospel of today. He asked his disciples to tell others if their behavior is appropriate of harmful. He called for witnesses and testimony. We can do this in our families or with government officials. Praying without doing some action after a problem arises is not finishing the task that Jesus asks of us.
Because praying is a sacred trust we have a responsibility to act even at the government level. This means that if a situation is not resolved in State or National government the way we think it should be, we have a responsibility to let our government officials know our opinions through personal meetings, emails, letters or even calling government offices.
We should not just complain to our co-workers or families we should respond to the government official that has said or done something we do not agree with. We should act in ways that could suggest answers to problems. Perhaps we like what our government official is suggesting. After prayer and reflection we should let our views be known. Perhaps we are called to enter into some type of political action that would express our views and our thoughts.
Challenging ourselves to act after we pray is a call from God to make the world a better place. We cannot do anything without Godís help and direction. We might be surprised if our action to a problem would help in changing situations and making our families more united.