Homily for the Seventeenth Sunday—Cycle A

Logan Bear
Thu, 07/31/2008 - 19:15

Homily given by Mike Tynan on July 27, 2008

The other night Norma and I went to see Mamma Mia, a light musical based on the music of ABBA (not to be confused with the Aramaic word for Daddy.) The plot revolves around a young girl trying to determine which of her mother’s three former boyfriends is her father. In what is probably the most serious moment of the show, the girl is confronted by her fiancé, who tells her that her identity does not depend upon who her father was, but rather, what is inside her. In other words, she is her own person and that is why he loves her. Now what does this have to do with our readings?

Scripture scholars tell us that by requesting a heart that is understanding and wise, Solomon was asking God to give him the gift of seeing as God sees, of judging like God judges. He could have asked for wealth, power, security, or any number of things that wouldn’t have enhanced who he was one bit. Instead, he requested to become more like God, to be an image of God to the people of Israel, in short, to be who he was meant to be.

Paul tells his readers that Jesus is the image of God and that all of us are predestined, that is, called, to become more and more like him. Whether Jew or Greek, male or female, slave or free—all are called to be that reflection of God that shines in Christ.

Finally, in the Gospel, Jesus likens the reign of God to a treasure that a person sacrifices everything in order to possess; or to a pearl for which a merchant sold everything so he could buy it. Now clearly one interpretation of those parables is that we should give everything over in our lives to make God first, but I am going to suggest something in addition to that.

What if the treasure is ourselves? What if the pearl is who we are as persons? If that were the case, then what are we willing to give up in order to be the persons we are? What are we willing to sacrifice in order to realize the image of God, the Christ, that is in us?

Last week, Marie, Norma and I attended a conference that centered on three aspects of church life that matter a great deal to us, and at least one of which relates to all of you as well: married priesthood, women’s ordination and inclusion of gay people, as gay people, in the full life of the Church. I hope to tie them in to these ideas of the treasure and the pearl.

I’ll just briefly mention the piece about a married priesthood and how that affected me. I knew that I needed intimacy in my life. It gradually dawned on me over eight or nine years in parish life. And so, unlike many priests who fell in love and then left, I left the clerical state—and all its comforts—in order to find my treasure. It was what I felt called to do, but I gave up a lot in order to find my pearl of great price.

Another aspect of the conference centered around the role of women in the church and specifically the ordination of women. Many of the women there, some who have already been ordained and some who are preparing for ordination, consider their calling to be a part of who they are, many having felt the call since childhood. It is the deep seated call to minister—to heal, to baptize, to preach and to celebrate—as Jesus did. This is their treasure, their pearl, to image Christ in their loving ministry. They are not playing at being priests; they are bringing God’s reign to those on the margins.

I must say a word, however, about all this “priesthood” thing, whether it’s married or women. Priesthood has got to be re-examined and shorn of its clerical and medieval trappings. However “priesthood” evolves, it must not be to the denigration of the laity. Roles and functions can often lead us astray from who we are all called to be in Jesus.

The third aspect of the conference was the workshop on inclusion of gay people in the church. Do I need to say anything to you folks who have struggled to accept the treasure that you are in your gayness? What sacrifices most of you made to come out to yourselves, to your families, and to the Church! Some of you had to risk a lot, some not so much, but there was always some uncertainty. Still you know that you are called to possess that pearl of great price, to image Christ, honestly and truthfully, as yourselves,
as unique individuals.

Jesus concludes the parables by stressing that the good scribe, or in our case, the good church leader, will bring forth from the store things both old and new. Some things are so old that they appear to be new. A married priesthood was as old as Simon Peter himself. Women priests are as old as the epistles of Paul and the paintings in the catacombs. (Before the service is over, Norma will share for a few minutes some of the things she learned in one of her workshops.) And, surprisingly for many, inclusion of Gays in the church was also an accepted practice, at different periods of history, as Dan Helminiak points out in his pamphlet for Dignity.

So I conclude this part of the homily by asking for prayers that church leaders be able to recognize the treasures in their midst: married persons eager to serve in the priesthood; women ready to assume their roles as priests and bishops; gay, lesbian, transgendered and bi-sexual people seeking to image Christ in the world today. Perhaps the Church will find us and be willing to sacrifice what it must to include us. In the meantime we will come, like the girl in the movie, to a realization that we are who we are—thanks to the grace of God.