Sunday, July 02, 2017

Newness of Life

So she said to her husband, "I know that Elisha is a holy man of God. Since he visits us often, let us arrange a little room on the roof and furnish it for him with a bed, table, chair, and lamp, so that when he comes to us he can stay there."  2 Kings 4:9-10

We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life. Romans 6:4

"Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me. Matthew 10:40

Father, help us to sort out the proper group identities for following you if we are to remain a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation.  Jesus, show us the path to following you and not getting sidetracked by the way the world wants to marginalize and pigeonhole us as members of trivial groups.  Set us free to experience the newness of life with you, Holy Spirit, to be the priests, prophets and kings that we are called to be through our initiation in Baptism and Confirmation. Amen.

Are you a Cheese Head?  (Yikes!  How does cheese-headedness tie into the Gospel today?  Stick with me for a paragraph or two and I will come back to our shared sense of cheddar-ness.)

Social identity is a person’s sense of who they are based on their group membership(s).  Our social identity affects the way we perceive the world and our reactions to the world and to other groups. Social identity fosters greater trust and reciprocity within “my group” and toward our common goals. The world divides us into many groups based on numerous factors.  We also have a tendency to go along with those factors: religious, economic, and political. There also are many other ways we are marginalized and stereotyped and pigeon-holed:
  • What is your Zip Code? 22032 or 90210
  • What is your favorite Sports team? The Roswell Invaders or the Bakersfield Train Robbers?  Cheese Head or Raider Nation?
  • Elvis v Beatles fans (or Beatles v Rolling Stones)
  • White button-down shirt v Tie-dyed t-shirt
  • Altoids v Tic-Tacs
  • Starbucks v Dunkin

Jesus did not have to look into the world to know his identity. He was born knowing that he was the Son of God/Emmanuel (“God with Us”). He was the essence of the bread and wine he drank and shared with us. It was up to the world and the rest of us to figure out who he was. 

One way that we can figure out the role that a friendship with Jesus plays in our life is by sorting our shared values.  One of those shared values is Holy Hospitality.  Today, the Hebrew Bible focuses on the story of Shunem preparing a place for Elisha to stay whenever he was “with” her family.  St. Paul and St. Matthew remind the Romans (and the Virginians) that when we identify as followers of Christ and provide such hospitality to others, we also are providing that hospitality to Jesus and the Father.  "Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.”

Our group memberships and identities drive some of our behavior and actions.  If someone never experienced a Cursillo three-day weekend, then they are probably not aware of the Tripod nor the Fourth Day nor are they reading this.

People who do not share traits of a group do not share common goals or follow the same rules for sharing public goods.  Back to our opening Wisconsin analogy:  If you are not a Cheese Head, you will probably not be spending time worrying about if your name will ever pop up to the top of the season ticket waiting list.[i]  You might, though, be scouring the NFL Ticket Exchange to score a pair of seats for the October 22 game against the New Orleans Saints.

This week, Pope Francis tried to instill a shared values reminder among some of the “princes” of the Church.  He addressed the year’s crop of newly appointed cardinals and archbishops during his homily at a Mass in St. Peter's Square on June 29 -- the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, who are the patron saints of the Vatican and the city of Rome. 

Pope Francis presents a box containing a pallium to Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin of Newark, N.J., at the conclusion of Mass marking the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican on June 29. New archbishops from around the world received their palliums from the pope. The actual imposition of the pallium will take place in the archbishop's archdiocese. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
Pope Francis said in his Homily: “The life of every apostle is built on constant, edifying prayer; a firm, passionate profession of faith; and a willingness to patiently endure persecution. People must ask themselves whether they are "'armchair Catholics,' who love to chat about how things are going in the church and the world," he said, or if they are "apostles on the go," who are on fire with love for God and ready to offer their lives for him.

Apostles of Christ "know that they cannot just tread water or take the easy way out, but have to risk putting out into the deep, daily renewing their self-offering," he said.

We experience this newness of life when we put out into the deep waters and make sure our shared values – like holy hospitality, piety, study, and action -- are on display for the world.

[i] Lambeau Field has been sold out on a season ticket basis since 1960.  True cheese heads are on the legendary season ticket waiting list ever since. 

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