Sunday Homilies – Fr. Luke Uebler

“All bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, and reviling must be removed from you, along with all malice.  And be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ.”  Words from our second reading today from the 4th chapter of St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians – sisters and brothers, may the Lord give to you his peace and his joy.

·        Churchill got into a heated debate with a Lady member of the Parliament.  The lady became so irate with Churchill that she told him that if he ere her husband, she would poison his tea.  Churchill replied, “If you were my wife, I would drink it.”

·        Funny thing about temper: you can’t get rid of it, by losing it.

·        Speak when you are angry and you’ll make the best speech you’ll ever regret.

·        In the Middle of his golf game, the pastor drove into a sand trap.  He picked up his golf club and broke it, but didn’t say a word.  Then he picked up his golf bag and tore it to shreds but didn’t say a word.  Then he took all his gold balls and flung them into the words but did not say one word.  Finally, he muttered, “I’m gonna have to give it up.”  “Golf,” asked the Caddie.  “No,” he replied, “The Ministry.” 

·        One Sunday a priest announced that he’d pass out miniature crosses made from palm branches.  “Put this cross in the room where your family argues the most,” he said, “and when you look at it, the cross will remind you that God is watching.”  As people were leaving the Church, a woman walked up to the priest, shook his hand and said, “I’ll take five.”

Anger is a problem for so many of us in this world.  I would like to believe that this is so because people do indeed care and have a vested interest in the outcome of things, and when things are out of place, when something goes wrong, it is right that we are upset.  We are hungering and thirsting for justice.  We dream of a better world.  We want things to go right.  It would be a completely different story if we didn’t care, if we were indifferent to the problems around us.  So, we do care, but we are also hurting because we know the pain of things not going as they should, and we often end up using that as a pretext and justification for being angry without realizing just how our anger affects others and hurts them in turn.  And if we are not careful with our anger, and we let it get the better of our sound judgments, and we do nothing to work through it and control it, it will degenerate into shouting and malice and fury and reviling each other instead of truly solving the problems we care so much about.  Worse still, the longer we hold onto our anger, the more problems it causes.  People can certainly be mean to each other at times, and there is too much of this in our world.  The phenomenon of bullying, for example, has multiplied with social media, and while this is a big problem these days in schools, it doesn’t just exist in schools but between co-workers and family members as well.  Or how many people are angry with the government or with problems of racism, for example, or get angry while driving on the road?  The anger we exhibit usually doesn’t solve our problems, and often leads to further suffering and violence.  Just as it was for the Ephesians, we too need to heed the warning of St. Paul to put these things away and instead be kind, compassionate, and forgiving to one another. 

Our first reading today is an example of one person who became the object of someone’s wrath in the person of Elijah.  The backstory is that in the book of Kings, Elijah had a contest with the prophets of Queen Jezebel’s god Baal.  The prophets of Baal and the prophet Elijah each set up altars with an offering to their God.  The 450 prophets failed to get their false god Baal to ignite their offering.  After dousing his offering thoroughly in water, Elijah prayed by himself to the Lord, and in response, God revealed his power and might as the only true God, igniting the offering of Elijah in the sight of the Israelites and all the other nations there.  So, Elijah won the contest as it were, and witnessed to the power of God, but Queen Jezebel wasn’t happy with losing.  So, in her fury, she sent soldiers to kill Elijah, and he found himself on the run, living in exile.  That is where the story picks up in our first reading today where Elijah is lamenting his fate.  After all the good he did in showing people the truth and doing these holy things for God, Elijah was reviled and rejected.  He found himself wandering in the desert wilderness, away from people, in utter despair, hoping that he would die.  Elijah is not the only one to have ever felt this way.  There are many, who after being the object of bullying, or someone else’s anger, or being taken for granted by our family members, do they feel unloved, confused about their prospects in this life, and are made to feel dead inside.  Many have unfortunately acted on this and have taken their own life, and this is a tragedy.  Others try to dull their pain through other unhealthy ways like drugs.  The fifth commandment is, of course, thou shall not kill, and though we may not have physically killed anyone, we can really hurt people with our words and attitude and anger that we bear towards one another which kills people inside.  The call of St. Paul to the Ephesians to turn away from anger is just as important for us today.

On God’s part, he comes to the aid of Elijah in the desert, giving him food and water, and encouraging him for the journey ahead.  Sometimes, the road to healing in this regard will take many efforts to break through the hurts, and to touch their hearts, and to rebuild trust.  Indeed, God comes to Elijah a second time as well and God continues to reach out to Elijah as the story unfolds.  God gives Elijah hope, one step at a time.  We hear that in the strength of that food, Elijah got up and was able to go forward.  We have another food that is available to us that gives us great strength today: the Eucharist.  We come here to celebrate that again around this altar table.  It is God himself, through Jesus, that shows his great love for us in spite of all the sin and anger and malice and evil that we are made to experience in the world.  Jesus isn’t just talking about manna anymore or the multiplication of loaves, but of his very self – he who is the bread of life.  Jesus comes to us and shows us how much we are loved, when God offers himself on the altar for the forgiveness of sins.  In the strength of that food, we are given great hope.  No matter how bad things seem to be or what anger you are made to experience, may you know of this hope always, that God is there for us, loving us through. 

But today is also a reminder that we have a choice.  We can choose to stew in our anger.  And though we may have good cause for this, we can also choose be imitators of God and live in love, as Christ loved us and handed himself over for us.  And if we do that, and be the kindness and compassion and forgiveness of Christ, then we will be able to begin solving those problems that we indeed care so much about together with the support of God and each other.