Homily – 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

5th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
Isaiah 58-10
1 Corinthians 2:1-5
Matthew 5:13-16
February 9, 2014

Jesus says to us as his disciples “You are the salt of the earth.”  Of course, the question becomes in what way are we “salt.”

We use salt to flavor our food.  For those who use salt, it adds flavor to the food.  It makes it better.

We are called to make the world a better place just like salt is used to make food taste better.  What can we do to make the world a better place?

There are people who do not have enough food to eat or a decent place to live.  We make things better for them when we heard the words the Lord offers through the prophet Isaiah to share our bread, shelter the homeless, and to clothe the naked.

People who face these struggles can feel darkness in their lives.  We bring light in offering them help.  We can help make their day a little brighter.

We can bring light to people in need in three ways.  The first is charity, meaning giving them food, clothing, and shelter right now.

The second is to change systems that keep people from being able to do better in life.  Must often this can take the form of advocacy for programs and/or regulations that make things better.

The third way we can bring light is to share our faith.  We must let them know that God cares and that we care.

It’s the second way, justice, that I would like to focus on today.  How do we make life better in the long run?

There are a lot of good programs out there but funding is being cut.  We feel overtaxed but we need to look at not just what changes can be made today.  We must also consider the effects of those changes in the long-term.  Is the money an investment for the future?

Each year our diocese selects an issue for us to reflect upon and then ask us to sign petitions for the issue.  I think the issue and programs in this year’s petition drive qualify as an investment for the future.

This year our petitions ask the government to restore some funding for two programs, Maternity and Early Childhood Foundation, and Healthy Families New York that offer assistance for pregnant mothers and new parents to make sure the children get started on the right foot.  A good start makes for a better life.

If you want it in terms of dollars, a good start should lead the children to be able to better provide for themselves in adulthood, reducing the need later on.

Some people might want to say no one helped me get ahead.  I did it myself, let them fend for themselves.  Where is the compassion and faith in that?

I would look at it from the opposite perspective.  If we struggled to get ahead, we should be motivated to help others who come after us.

For instance, in another town I served in, the parish hosted talks by the Alzheimer’s Association geared to help families with a loved one with dementia.  The parish I was in provided refreshments for these talks.  Our hospitality coordinator made a phone call to the volunteer at the top of the list to ask them to bake something.  They immediately said yes and offered to do it for all the talks.  It was several months before I found out why they were so eager to help.

The husband’s father was the first person diagnosed in that area with Alzheimer’s.  There was no support for the families in those days so they knew what it was like to face it “alone.”  So, when these talks started, they were delighted to hear about it even though the father had long since past because they knew what that support meant.

Here in Ithaca, we are fortunate to have Birthright to help people in similar ways to these two programs.  Birthright can be a light to hope.  So can these programs.

So I hope you see the Lord’s calling to help those in need and I invite to sign petitions that will be available at the various entrances after Mass today.

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