#Crumbs is the reflection for September 6, 2015. How has the refugee crisis impacted you? How do you feel about inner city underemployment? How do you feel about the refugees in Hungary? What does being a Christian have to do with our reaction to these events? Find out in “Crumbs”, the podcast for this week. Available on itunes and android. #MSAWordfortheDay #MySpiritualAdvisor #Sermon #Homily #RefugeeCrisis #AylanKurdi #EasternPassage #Gary #MultiEthnic #Muslim #Hindu #Catholic #Christian
For My Spiritual Advisor, this is Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 9/6/2015 The 23rd Sunday of Ordinary Time.
Please pause this audio and read Mark 7:24-37.
This Sunday has two different readings for Catholics and Protestants. Protestants will have a longer reading. For Catholics, the reading begins in verse 31.
You probably did not know Aylan Kurdi, but I know you have seen him. His picture is at the beginning of this podcast at MySpiritualAdvisor.com. Aylan Kurdi was a three year old Syrian refugee who drowned when his family took the chance of escaping war, ISIS, famine, and desolation. They attempted to leave Syria and cross over a few miles of the Mediterranean Sea called the “Eastern Passage”. It is anything but an easy passage. This year alone, according to Frontex, nearly 46,000 refugees have attempted to make the passage. Why would they attempt such a dangerous stretch of sea?
In Gary, IN, my favorite deindustrialized city, parents agonize over where to send their children once they reach Junior High. That is the time when they are faced with gangs, drugs, and other options that their parents don’t want them to follow. For years, the parents about which I speak have struggled to find work. They live in accommodations that none of us would live in. They have unreliable transportation that is in accord with their income. Yet, daddy gets up every day and goes to the job that the school system prepared him to do: slightly above minimum wage. His resume not able to get him anything more, though his character is without question. The children see their options as few. Gang life may be a better alternative to poverty and rejection.
In Hungary, millions of refugees from Syria who were able to make it to the shores of Italy and Turkey, largely from Libya, stand in the square outside of the train station. They had bought tickets for trains heading to Germany, but the Hungarians force them to sleep in the town square and forbid them from leaving to go to Germany who will welcome them. Eventually, the refugees storm the train station after days of chanting, “We are human. We are human.”
What have we come to; Babies washing up on the beach, ganglife as a viable option, and entire groups of people having to chant, “We are human”?
It is a shame that the Catholic reading for this Sunday doesn’t have the Syro-Phoenician woman in its Gospel reading, because the story fits into the Catholic Church’s teachings on the Social Gospel so well. It is informative to the social activities of the protestant churches and their relief organizations, too. The Syro-Phoenician woman is an Arab. She is not a Jew. She is not a Christian. Yet, she has heard of Jesus and must come to have her daughter healed. The exchange is telling. Jesus rejects her request at first because he is not a Jew and she is an Arab Gentile. He even calls her a dog. Yet, she then says, “fine, treat me like a dog. Give me the crumbs from your table.” Jesus then rewards her belief in him and her faith.
Then, Jesus goes back to Arab Gentile territory to the City of Tyre. He goes in a route that Mark says is to the Decapolis, by the Sea of Galilee and through Sidon along the Mediterranean Coast, about where little Aylan’s family got into that fateful boat. It is a journey that is like returning to Chicago from the suburbs by way of Butte, MT or Shreveport, LA, or Bangor, ME, or Sarasota, FL, or San Diego, CA. Jesus in Sidon, after going through every Arab Gentile territory on the map to get there, heals a man deaf and unable to speak who is from Arab Gentile territory.
Jesus didn’t require them to enter the church. He didn’t require them to go to Mass or Church Service. He didn’t get a financial profile to make sure that they weren’t going to use his healing frivolously. He didn’t insist that they speak a certain language, live a certain life, etc. The first encounter he had with them, he met their need. He heard the cry of the poor in spirit, the poor in money, the poor in psychological reserves, emotional balance, and poor in resources to hear, to help, to live.
I live in the United States of America, have we no crumbs? Hungary, have you no crumbs?
I went back and forth as to whether I should put the picture of the lifeless little body of a boy washed up on the shore of Turkey on my website. Yet, I have had it. I am done. I am no longer willing to divide us. I know my opinion, but I will not hate you. I may disagree with you politically. I may not believe in your religion. I may not understand your customs. But I know in whom I believe. I know that no one should be killed or discriminated against for their faith because I am a Christian and thousands of my brothers and sisters in Christ are being killed in Iraq and over the territories controlled by ISIS/ISIL. I know that I am a Christian, and I should be called to love my enemies-not in theory but in practice. I know that I am a Christian, and I should welcome the stranger, providing for their needs.
I have lived in Gary, IN. I have attended a Church in Calumet City, IL that is 60% Mexican in their nationality. I have served as a Campus Minister where the student body is 20% Muslim, over 50% Catholic, 25% Protestant, and 3% Hindu. I have been the pastor of rural churches in North Carolina and Indiana. Here is what I know: All mothers love their children like the Syro-Phoenician Woman in our Gospel. All friends love their neighbors with special needs like the friends of the man whose hearing is healed in our Gospel. All parents want their children to have a better life than they had. All husbands want to provide for their wives. All wives want to provide for their husbands. All people get hungry. All people want a life without war. Everyone wants to live a life in peace and prosperity. Everyone gets cut. Everyone bleeds. Everyone needs air to breathe. Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Blacks, Whites, Mexicans, Hungarians, Arabs, Semites, Asians and Africans are all human. None of them, or us, would ever be turned away by Jesus Christ.
In Matthew 5, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says something which he lives out in this passage from Mark 7 today:
Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in Heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have?
If God gives sun and rain to the evil and the good, plus rain for the crops of the righteous and unrighteous, then who are we to divide his children based on false constructs of humanity? Hate is never of the Gospel. Love is patient, kind, and does not insist on its own way. What I am calling for is not a policy. I am not calling on us to change our stance on any but one issue: we must stop looking at human beings and classifying them as animals, subhuman, or unworthy based upon some classification that does not come from God. God doesn’t even call on us to discriminate against the evil! They shall know us Christians by our love that is not some syrupy kind of junk pilfered in soft pop music or on an infogram that makes us feel warm and fuzzy, just ask the people of Mother Emmanuel Church in Charlotte, SC.
It was a risk for Jesus to go into non-Jewish territory. He risked being rejected, handed over to the authorities and killed. Oh, wait. That is exactly what happened.
This past week, a young couple, a white ethnically Serbian young lady (as it turns out), and an Hispanic young man showed up on my porch and rang my door bell. It was 94 degrees, horribly humid, and they were both dressed in business attire. They asked me if I would like a Kirby vacuum cleaner. I declined, but asked if they would like to come in for a bit of air conditioning and some water. They gladly accepted. As they turned to leave, she said, “Thank you for the water and the air conditioning. You have been so welcoming and hospitable.” Because we had been talking about My Spiritual Advisor and the website, I said, “I AM a Christian. Why wouldn’t I?” To which the man said, “Not everyone who is a Christian is necessarily kind.”
We can take safeguards to protect ourselves. Yet, when the prevailing thought is to be safe in our opinions, safe in our actions, when we know that an act of kindness is what our Lord would want us to do, then we have lost our way. The first step toward getting us back on the right path is to stop looking at each other in ways that divide. The people shouted in the square in Budapest, “We are human.” Can we hear them? Can we see their plight and at least feel their pain, their desperation? Or, can we look at the lifeless body of a baby washed up on a beach and really believe he got what he deserved because of what we decided he was? That is not who we are or what we believe. Amen.
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