Homily for Holy Thursday John 13: 1-15
Some people tell me that they are looking for a church community, when in fact they may be looking for a sect or a cult. A sect is a group of people who are all alike, at least in their thinking, views and opinions. They may even look alike and have the same economic and social background. For some, this kind of group is comfortable because it does not stretch or challenge their thinking and way of life.
A church community is not made up of like-minded people. A church is made up of lots of differences that are brought together in community by Grace, by sacrament, by God. This makes sense if we are to become mature Christians. We need our thoughts, beliefs and opinions to be challenge. This happens in a community that respects one another and does not judge one another. Left to ourselves, or in the company only of people who agree with us, our opinions and views too often will come from prejudice, fear, anxiety or sheer isolation from people different than ourselves.
Being at Sacred Heart has been a great blessing for me because you are so conservative and pious. I am a religious order priest, a Paulist. We are a very liberal order, who pushes the envelope of what we think Vatican II is all about. Politically, I suspect that most of us are Liberals. Paulist parishes tend to attract liberal thinking people. I would be surrounded by priests and people who give me comfort in my opinions. I don't have to defend what I think, or ponder my decisions and opinions.
At Sacred Heart, I get to meet a whole group of people that challenge my way of life and thinking. I get a chance to expand my horizons, to see other points of view. It allows me to deepen my own thinking, learn some new things. This is for the good. Now I may disagree with someone about their decision, but because we are a Christian community held together by grace, I can disagree and say so, but I don't say to the other person, "You are wrong." This would be a judgment of that person. To call someone wrong is to say that their decision or opinion was made with dark motives or hidden evil agenda. Sometimes we say we are defending against 'relativism" when in fact we are simply judging others with a false pride that says, "I am better than they are." Rather, two of us can look at a situation and come to different conclusions and different solutions and actions. We disagree, and we say so, but we are not disagreeable. If you want everyone to agree with you, then you want to belong to a sect or a cult not a church.
Jesus did not have very much in common with his Apostles. He was not a fisherman, like four of them. He was not a tax collector. He was not a political Messiah. One of them, Judas, did not agree with Jesus, so he tried to get rid of him. He made a judgment that Jesus was wrong, and this justified what Judas tried to do. Judas left the community. Peter also disagreed with what Jesus was doing when Jesus washed feet. Peter had a different opinion. But he listened to Jesus and changed his mind at least somewhat.
Jesus did not form a community where everyone agreed. Thomas did not think Jesus was alive after being buried, no matter what the others said, but he stayed with the community. Some of the disciples wanted to be more important than others, at Jesus' left and right when the judgment came. Differences are what make up a community because it challenges us to turn to the Eucharist if we are to hang together. Sacraments are where we agree. The grace of shared Body and Blood of Jesus is what really unites us at the core. Tonight we celebrate the miracle of this food becoming God and we, with all of our differences, becoming one community in Christ.