To see with the eyes of our hearts enlightened.
November 6, Feast of All Saints (observed):
Draft text of the homily, please pardon any typos, and do not cite without permission.
There’s a certain symmetry to all this.
Blessed are you who are hungry, for you will be filled.
Woe to you who are full, for you will be hungry.
On a very basic level, we all know this to be true.
We understand it because it’s natural cycle we go through every day.
We get hungry, we get fed. We get hungry. We get fed.
And even if the hunger extends for longer than a few hours eventually (except in some awful cases) the cycle is fulfilled.
Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh…
Woe to you who are laughing now, for you will mourn and weep.
We know this to be true, too.
We all know that we go through periods of both joy and sadness in our lives.
But somehow this is harder to accept as a natural cycle.
Why do we have to mourn? Can’t we just stay in joy?
Laughter and tears are all just part of it.
But those are hard lessons to learn.
It’s hard to sit with others (especially children) as they learn that life can be painful.
And sometimes we act as if we actually can have nothing but happiness and joy.
Entire industries are built and sustained around our pursuit of having an awesome life and our avoidance of any discomfort.
But truthfully, joy and grief, all of our emotions are cyclical as well.
Blessed are you when people hate and revile you… but woe to you when all speak well of you.
This one is trickier…especially in these days of social media where people’s venom can be so easily deployed.
Having a positive reputation seems like a very fragile and transitory thing—which is why people spend so much time and energy (and if they have it, money) carefully curating their “brand”—and we’ve all know how that can disappear in an instant.
I suspect that this is a bit of hyperbole on the part of Luke, because I can’t think of anyone who “ALL” speak well of.
And I suppose that there are some who really do revel in being reviled—trolls, and “haters gonna hate”—but I think most of us don’t really experience these extremes…but—if we look—will can find allies and opponents to everything we say or do.
And remaining faithful to our core, Gospel values of “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”—striving to live as fully as possible into these promises—this Baptismal Covenant— that we’re about to make and renew, —doing that faithfully and with integrity means that some will speak well of us and others will be threatened, and speak ill.
Which leaves just one. Blessed are you who are poor… and woe to you who are rich.
That one really gets us.
Notice that Luke is WAY more stark, and he doesn’t spiritualize this the way Matthew does—who says “Blessed are the poor in spirit.”
Blessed are you who are poor.
And woe to you who are rich.
It’s also the one that breaks the pattern.
It’s not the blessed are you poor for you will become rich, and woe to you who are rich for you will become poor.
This isn’t a reversal.
This is a Zen koan-like whack on the side of the head, that wants to invite us into a different way of seeing.
A reversal just means different people are in control but unless they have a different operating system a different way of seeing nothing changes.
(Meet the new boss…same as the old boss)
Jesus says the poor actually possess the Kingdom of God.
And the rich have received their consolation. It’s not a reversal, but it also seems out of balance.
Particularly since we like to imagine the path between poor and rich as an inclined slope.
An endless upward trajectory that we’re all on somewhere, but that just keeps going up and up and up.
But Jesus says something very different here. He’s weaving this circular pattern into our consciousness and trying to get us to see something else. Something deeper.
He’s trying to get us to see the Kingdom.
Being hungry and being fed…are all of a piece… but viewed through worldly eyes, I’m hungry, I eat.
Viewed through Kingdom eyes: I’m hungry, I am fed.
Do you hear the difference?
Weeping and laughing are all of a piece… all part of the human experience.
But through worldly eyes: I can maximize my happiness and minimize my grief through consumerism… through chemistry.
Through kingdom eyes: grief and joy and every other emotion is sacred and holy because God is part of it but they’re also temporary… not something we cling to.
Being spoken well of, and being reviled…are all of a piece.
Through the eyes of the world: I need to control my message and my brand. And I can (and should) lash out at yours.
Through Kingdom eyes: living into my deepest values will reveal allies and opponents, and both are necessary because both are children of God and both teach me more about the world and myself.
Being rich and being poor seen through worldly eyes are opposite ends of a graph with a lot of value judgements attached.
Seen through the eyes of the Kingdom: …they are all of a piece because we are all of a piece.
We are all embedded in and dependent upon the systems of the world —natural, ecological systems, and human-made political and economic systems—and we’re all part of the Kingdom of God… God’s realm of justice and peace. If we have eyes to see.
To enter the kingdom of God there’s no border line to be crossed,
or a barrier to scale, because it’s a graceful invitation into an all encompassing circle.
It’s all of us —sinful saints all— here and across the world, and across time—gathered around a banquet table …with enough for all.
It is all creation reconciled… reunited… with one another and with our creator. Made whole.
Jesus is trying to get us to see with the “eyes of the heart enlightened” as the author of the letter to the Ephesians so beautifully puts it…to see our connectedness… to see our dependence…to see our need for one another and for God.
Seeing with the eyes of the world makes it look like we should be in control.
Seeing with the eyes of the world means seeing the circular nature of things —the rhythm of being—not as a divine wholeness but as a vicious circle.
Bishop Gates noted in his sermon at diocesan convention yesterday that metanoia— that Greek term that gets translated as “repentance” but really means “to change one’s mind…to change your operating system” has an opposite.
And the opposite of metanoia he said might be thought of as paranoia.
We can see this if we simply reverse everything that Jesus says next.
The world says, hate your enemies, do bad to those who hate you, curse those who curse you, abuse those who abuse you.
If anyone strikes you, hit them back…or better yet, strike first.
If anyone steals from you, demand more back. Don’t give to anyone. Do unto others before they have a chance to do unto you. Paranoia.
That’s not the Gospel…it’s the plot to Breaking Bad…it’s the politics we’ve ended up with…it’s the vicious circle of history that we continue to perpetuate when we insist on seeing creation and all of our fellow humans as a possession to be acquired and used instead of gifts to be reverently received, shared, and passed on.
What the saints teach us… (That great cloud of witnesses…) What we celebrate in story…and liturgy…and beautiful music each week is this fundamental difference between seeing as the world sees, and seeing as the Gospel sees…as the way God dreams.
This is what we are recommitting ourselves to today… This is what we are inviting Lily to become a part of…This is what we are pledging our time and our treasure to today.
We are pledging ourselves to the daily, ongoing, difficult, but joy-filled work of reversing the vicious circle of scarcity and violence.
We are committing to rejecting paranoia and the politics of fear, and and embracing metanoia, and the possibility of love. Because love cast out fear.
We are pledging to give all we can, and do all we can, with God’s help, to bring into greater clarity and into fuller reality the grace-filled circle of love and abundance— the circle of God’s Kingdom of which we are all already a part.
By loving all. By doing good even to those who hate you. By stopping and naming abuse, and then praying for those damaged enough to abuse others. By blessing others and by being a blessing TO others.
This is what we are committing to…
Because this is how, “with the eyes of our hearts enlightened” we will know the hope to which we are called…the glorious richness of all saints and all souls…the Body of Christ…at last…encircling the altar as one…and being finally and completely suffused with the “fullness of Christ who fills all in all”