Healing the Wounds of Division – John 2:13-22

This week’s homily is special for a number of reasons. First, we captured Fr. Michael in video giving the homily. Second, the message is powerful. Third, we are providing the full text of the homily below the video, along with Fr. Michael’s prayer and a prayer from Sr. Pat Bergen, CSJ.

Please share this message with your friends, whether they be Catholic or not. As a nation we all need healing.

The title of this homily strongly speaks for itself. Our nation is divided; as Catholics we are divided. Fr. Michael calls this past week The Week of the Improbable: The Cubs won the World Series after 108 years of drought and Donald Trump was elected to become our 45th President.

Looking to our divided nation, we have an opportunity as Catholics to help bridge the divides caused by economics, culture, race, language and all the many things we use to separate ourselves from one another. Our common faith in Jesus Christ crucified, died and risen can lift us beyond these divisions and into a unity we strong need.

Click play below. Watch. Listen. Share. Pray that we may heal the divisions so strongly affecting our country.

Gospel JN 2:13-22

Since the Passover of the Jews was near,
Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
He found in the temple area those who sold oxen, sheep, and doves,
as well as the money-changers seated there.
He made a whip out of cords
and drove them all out of the temple area, with the sheep and oxen,
and spilled the coins of the money-changers
and overturned their tables,
and to those who sold doves he said,
“Take these out of here,
and stop making my Father’s house a marketplace.”
His disciples recalled the words of Scripture,
Zeal for your house will consume me.
At this the Jews answered and said to him,
“What sign can you show us for doing this?”
Jesus answered and said to them,
“Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.”
The Jews said,
“This temple has been under construction for forty-six years,
and you will raise it up in three days?”
But he was speaking about the temple of his Body.
Therefore, when he was raised from the dead,
his disciples remembered that he had said this,
and they came to believe the Scripture
and the word Jesus had spoken.

Homily Text

Today is a historic reason for two very different reasons. In the Catholic church across the world we celebrate the dedication of the oldest Christian church in Rome: The Church of St. John Lateran. And here in the United States it’s the day after the election of our 45th President. Historically St. John Lateran was built in its foundations in the year 323. That means on that spot in Rome for over 1700 years, a church dedicated through the intercession of St. John the Baptist has stood.

Churches are physical spaces that are symbols of what we believe. Physical spaces matter. Churches matter. But the Church only matters in so far as it stands as a symbol of who we are. As St. Paul says in our 2nd reading today, the foundation on which the church rests is Christ Jesus our lord but we are the living stones of that church. We celebrate that heritage, symbolized in this ancient building.

The Presidency matters. The president of the united states is arguably the most powerful person on the face of the earth. He wields enormous power. But more important than the power that he wields is that he becomes a symbol for our nation. A symbol of who we are and what our values are. What we hold dear.

This year is the year of the improbable. One week ago today, Chicago made sports history. The city of Chicago burst into jubilation with 108 years of misery being put to an end by the Chicago Cubs winning the world series. Earlier in the year, the Cleveland Cavaliers broke the Cleveland sports curse of a 52-year-old drought. These sports teams matter in that they become symbols of hope. Just earlier last week on Friday, 5 million of us Americans gathered together in the parade and the gathering downtown to honor those athletes. I read in one account that it was the 7th largest gathering of human beings on the face of the planet. These are symbols of hope and the election of Donald Trump as American president, the come behind candidate, is for his supporters a sign of hope, and for his detractors a sign of all that is wrong with America.

Let’s begin by acknowledging that neither candidate is an ideal candidate and neither Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump fully represents Catholic Social Teaching. If Hillary Clinton had won, Pope Francis and the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops and many of us Catholics would take issue with her Pro Choice, Liberal redefinition of marriage, and what many of us perceive as an attack on religious freedom. But Donald Trump has won and so Pope Francis and the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops and many of us Catholics take issue with his stand on the environment, immigration, care for the poor, respect for women and minorities. So, we were forced to make a prudential choice for the greater good, or as some may say the lesser of two evils.

John Allen, who writes for the National Catholic Reporter and for Crooks, an online news resource, four days ago posted an online article that Fr. Bernie, Pastor here at St. Anne’s and myself, felt really captured an essence of what was going on. John Allen said that regardless of what the outcome of this election would be, half of America would be deeply disappointed. He looked for a book that was written 10 years ago by a man by the name of Bill Bishop called the Big Sort: Why the Clustering of Like Minded Americans is tearing us apart.

The basic insight of Bishop’s book was that we Americans have become a nation of gated communities of both virtual and visual sort. Bishop found in his research that the dominant trend in American sociology over the last few decades has been that Americans increasingly work, live, recreate, and even worship only with people who think like themselves. Trump voters don’t simply part company with Clinton people intellectually or politically, they parted company with them physically and socially as well. Our disagreement is compounded by estrangement because it’s always easier to demonize a stranger than a friend.

The Big Sort, argues John Allen, has affected our Catholic life as well. It’s well known where the progressive parishes are and where the traditional parishes are which means that Catholics of differing outlooks are often strangers to one another. The gridlock in Congress nationally and the gridlock here in Illinois is emblematic of our inability to compromise or to even understand let alone respect the opinion of someone who thinks differently than we do.

Pope Francis months ago, in the midst of this election, has said that we Americans need to build bridges, not walls, for our world. Bridges that span the vast divide across political persuasion. John Allen has argued that the Catholic Church is uniquely positioned to do this and I think he’s 100% correct. We Catholics represent all of America, rich and poor, young and old, black, white, yellow, red, brown…We’re almost one quarter of the American population. We span the white/latino divide more than any other socio-economic institution in this country. We’re one of the few demographics that basically holds together all of the ideological and political camps.

Catholicism has a truly national reach; a total of 18,000 parishes. To counteract the Big Sort of this increasing division, John Allen invites us to imagine what it would be like to build grassroots communities, he calls them zones of friendship, across tribal lines. For me that’s an incredibly exciting idea. Our teachings as Roman Catholics on social justice are practical applications of the Gospel and they are second to no Church in the world. We have a rich, incredible history, of wise application of the Gospel to the exigencies of our world. John Allen has challenged us to build liturgies of reconciliation, not to vilify the other but to work together to what Cardinal Bernardin called the search for common ground. This month we celebrate the 20th anniversary of Cardinal Bernardin’s death and in the last months of his life he begged us Catholics to come together to search for that common ground which still evades us.

John Allen challenges us to say can we enjoy and engage in social service projects working together, democrat and republican, to help the poor. Can we begin to work together to see one another as people, as Christians, as Catholics and not just as members of opposing political parties.

We have in our first reading this ancient vision of the Prophet Ezekiel, water streaming from the Church. One week ago in Chicago the drought was ended, 108 years of misery; a sports team coming together at every level from the ownership to the management to the team manager to all of the players coming together to win this victory and it was a symbol of hope. What would it be like for us Catholics to come together, across party lines to hold sacred and to put into practice what we hold dear, with Christ Jesus as our foundation? Is that impossible? Was it impossible for the Cubs to win the World Series? Let us go deeper in our faith.

In our Gospel today Jesus casts out the money changers, we stand in danger of monetizing everything within our society. Jesus wasn’t saying that money is bad, but he’s saying that it has to be in it’s proper place. Jesus says prayer has to be our priority, God has to come first. Pope Francis has said over and over again, our economy is important but it must serve the needs of all.

And so let me begin to bring these reflections to a close by a prayer for our President Elect; for our Congress; for our Nation:

Closing Prayers

A Prayer For Our President-Elect, For Our Congress, For Our Nation
by J. Michael Sparough, SJ

Lord, we have emerged from a particularly divisive political campaign, which has divided our nation and preoccupied us for over a year. Now it is time to pray to heal these wounds and to begin again to work together.

A house divided cannot stand – said Abraham Lincoln over a hundred years ago, quoting you, Lord Jesus, which You said 2000 years ago. It was true then. It’s even more true today. Can we come together, Lord? Grant us that grace.

We turn to you as our hope, Lord Jesus. Give us as a nation a president who will lead in the path of your choosing. Grant President -Elect Trump the grace he needs to build on his strength and to overcome his faults.

I pray that he be given extraordinary grace to govern in these extraordinary, challenging times. May the Spirit of the Lord rush upon him to grant him what he needs to be the kind of president that makes us all proud of ourselves as Americans.

May President- Elect Trump be graced to govern with wisdom, kindness, and prudence.

May he be given the gift to help heal the wounds of this badly divided nation and truly celebrate what is good and strong and beautiful in our land.

May we find our greatness in our virtue and return to a strength of holy deeds and moderate speech.

May he remain true to his campaign promise to work to protect the sacredness of life from conception to natural death.

May the change that he promises to bring to America be a return to sanity, civility, and decency.

May we see him growing into a statesman that truly represents the best of all we are as a people.

I pray that rhetoric of division of building walls and of keeping out may give way to building bridges of understanding between us within our country and at our borders.

Give us all a holy desire to protect and use what has been given us – not just for our own economic gain, but to be ever conscious of our needs and the needs of other nations. May we not stand alone but together – with the nations of this world.

May he help us find the way to help us move toward fuller employment and a more equitable distribution of income so no one has to go without.

May he work to protect religious liberty so that government never oversteps its bounds.

May he work with Congress to break a gridlock to pass legislation that is prudent and truly serves the common good.

May he and Congress find meaningful reform of our health care system that is affordable, fair, and does not neglect the needs of the poor.

May he be given great wisdom of restraint as Commander in Chief of our armed forces. May military force be the last resort. May discretion, prudence, courage, and compassion be granted him in this exercise of duty.

May he be granted the grace to move beyond divisive words and denigrating rhetoric about women and immigrants.

May his marriage be strengthened.

May he demonstrate a respect for all people that helps us celebrate who we are as Americans and who we are as members of this global society.

May he truly lead our nation on a path to greatness – a greatness that is rooted in the integrity of our character, the depth of our compassion, the breath of our wisdom, our hunger for learning, our love for the poor.

May he be given the earthly wisdom to be as wise as a serpent and as innocent as a dove. For the measure of a great nation is truly how it cares for the least among us.

May he heed well the warnings of Pope Francis to work with other nations in caring for our planet earth. This is our home. We have no other. May we find ways to protect our environment that balances the demands of the economy with the stewardship entrusted to our care.

May he not turn his back on the cry of the needy from other countries who wait and knock at the gates of our borders.

Bless President-Elect Trump with discerning wisdom in his ability to marry the rights and privileges of our country with compassion for those in great need.

I pray not only for President-Elect Trump. Let us come together in praying for our Congress – that they be able to work together – Republican and Democrat alike – with our President to enact legislation that is the mark of a truly great nation.

And let us pray for us Americans that we may not simply look to our leaders but we may grow in our ability to see ourselves as one nation under God.

May the stars and stripes wave proudly over a land that so many have sacrificed so much for. May we be found worthy of our heritage. May we grow in all that pleasing to our God.

Lord Jesus, help us to grow to become great again – great in virtue, strong in character, abundant in the fruits of the Holy Spirit.

May the measure of our greatness be not in our ability to stockpile weapons or goods but to lead with an example of magnanimity, compassion, and virtue.

Prayer for November 9, 2016 by Pat Bergen, CSJ

(O God,) Healer of Our Every Ill,

Breathe in and among all of us who dwell in this land Soothe our wounds.  Calm our fears. Mend our divisions.

Hope of All Tomorrows,

Open our deaf ears and fill us with compassion. Tender our hearts. Inspire creative ideas to address the cries of our sisters, brothers and Earth itself.

Send forth your Spirit of Love and Unity.

Transform pointed fingers of blame into hands open in reverence to receive one another.

Fan into flame the gift of our founding.

And let us be known again as a people united for the goodness, justice and peace of all people forever.



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