Homily: Thursday of the second week in Lent

Jer 17:5-10 Ps 1:1-2, 3, 4+6
Luke 16:19-31

Looking at these different religions [Catholicism and Buddhism] brings to mind, in California, two monasteries next to one another: Catholic and Theravada Buddhist. "Love one another." The Buddhist monastery was not compassionate, not Mahayana. The monks must never lie down--they sleep in the lotus position. They're terribly ascetic. If you masturbate, even once, you have to go before a group of 12 elders for pardon. If you commit a sexual impropriety, you're banished from the among the monks forever. They are hospitable, gracious, and aware--they spend all their time being aware of themselves and their thoughts--and they are proud. Humility is not a part of Buddhism. An ex-Trappist monk is staying with them, and when he leaves and needs a ride, they refuse him. "We're not Christians." It is not obvious that love is the most important thing. The world is all concerned with luv; but not with love. The love of Christ is so utterly different; so radically different. In our human love we have some idea: marriage, friendship, the love of parents. But Christ's love is a love that leads to death, and is raised up. He first loved us.
A second story: My grandmother, my grandfather's second wife, had no children of her own. So she fiercely loved her grandchildren. An adoptive parent almost always loves more than a natural parent. She was so loving, had such incredible goodness. She would come up behind you and embrace you, and with such love the tears would fall upon your head. She lived in Brooklyn, where I grew up. When I was in high school, we moved to the suburbs and she stayed there. Her husband had died and it was just her. When I was in grad school, I was with the hip intellectual types, but felt lost. I visited my family for Easter, and we went for Mass at their parish in the suburbs. It was post-Vatican II, and as uninspiring as you'd expect. The Easter Vigil was in the late afternoon. We decided to go to our old parish in Brooklyn. We went to the pre-dawn, Easter Sunday Mass. It was beautiful! It felt right. This was the ghetto. If you could get out, you did. So the only people left were the rather unattractive ones. But this old man led the Eucharistic procession with such happiness. There was something charming about it all. It is the ghetto though. It looks bombed out, looks like Detroit. We decided to visit Grandma, driving through block after block of ghetto. When we rang the doorbell she answered, and was so ecstatic at our arrival that she was jumping up and down. She had everything set up for a big fancy Easter dinner, ham, the works. And no-one had been to her home for Easter for years. But that was what she did for her family. She loved, even when that love was so rarely reciprocated. He role in the family, as a matriarch of sorts, was to make the Easter dinner. She made it, even when it was only her. I think this is what it means, "love one another". Hold people in your heart, be there for them, and do the best you can.

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