HOMILY – 23rd SUNDAY OT [B] – 2018                                  [Mark 7:31-37]

What does it mean to feel at home?  Not just when you’re in your own house, but when you’re at work, or at school or anywhere.  What makes wherever you are feel homely?  I asked this question during the week and the answers:

I feel at home when I feel comfortable; when I feel I’m part of the group; when I know I’m wanted for myself; when I know and understand what’s going on.

Last week I touched on the issue of loneliness and the lonely most certainly do not feel at home.  Some of you may remember a very popular tv sit-com called Cheers.  It was set in a city bar and the very diverse and at times lonely characters were like family to each other, and that factor guaranteed the show’s success.  Its theme song became especially popular:

Sometimes you want to go
Where everybody knows your name
And they’re always glad you came
You want to be where you can see
Troubles are all the same
You want to be where everybody knows your name. 

This year’s Social Justice Week begins today and there are several pointers for us in the theme that calls us to play our part in “Enabling Communities”. Homelessness is a current issue – meaning more than just a roof over your head.  Having a place to call home helps give me an identity, a feeling of pride and belonging.  But you are also homeless if you feel unwelcome or outside the group.  We are called to play our part in helping people to find a home – perhaps literally by assisting with housing and household needs; or here at Mass, by being welcoming to everyone, providing comfort and genuine friendship.  Yes, that takes effort, but keep thinking how lovely it is to be where everybody knows your name.

Endorsing today’s theme, our bishops write: “To be genuinely included is not just to belong, but to be missed when we are not around.  A responsibility rests on all of us to encourage and to nurture a sense of belonging and acceptance.”  And our scripture readings more than suggest the power and value of an engaged community:  St James cautions against discriminating between rich and poor; healthy and sick; those who have and those who need.  The gospel shows us a community recognizing the inability of the deaf and dumb man to plead for himself.  The people bring him to Jesus.

But it’s the section from the prophet Isaiah that I find most appealing: in the presence of God, the eyes of the blind shall be opened, the ears of the deaf unsealed, the lame shall leap like a deer and the tongues of the dumb sing for joy. [I recall a friend who, after hearing that passage, said “I think I’d prefer to remain deaf than have to listen to all the singing and shouting and leaping around!”]

However, the prophet may not be pointing to the blind actually seeing, or the deaf hearing, but rather to what happens when a community is honestly and generously engaged with their disabled.  Such a community says, It doesn’t matter if you’re blind or deaf or unable to fully participate – you are still part of us and we welcome and support you; we protect and encourage you…

Everyone in your life is there for a reason – each has a part to play – to teach you, to love you, to help you know yourself or to experience life with you.