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July 2, 2017 - God is Good, So Must We

Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

Instead of a customary homily, I am going to share three stories with you. I am basing these stories on today’s first reading, where the goodness shown by strangers bear great and unexpected fruit. In 2 Kings 4:8-16, an influential woman in Shunem showed kindness to the prophet Elisha, who returns the favor by blessing her and her husband with a child they always desired. The reading also shows that in the most mysterious ways, God is good all the time. 

Here are my three stories: 

 1. God is Good, All the Time. This visit home was not the easiest of visits. Especially, he first week was a week of great anxiety, hectic activities, and sadness. For the month preceding my visit, the guy we had employed to be dad's care giver had left due to his own illness. My eighty year old mom was singlehandedly taking care of dad even as she managed the kitchen and other domestic chores. It broke my heart to see my mom struggle this way. Meanwhile, dad, feeling stronger and better, was resisting getting another caregiver. Mom was not being any helpful in trying to convince dad. I was out of ideas. Three days into my visit, my dad tried to be bold and move about the house on his own. Let me confirm your fears. He fell. He fell hard. Standing next to the doctors as they examined the x-rays were my most anxious moments. Fortunately, dad not break a bone. He was bruised and in pain, but there was not a broken bone. I simply thanked God! Had he broke a bone, it would be the beginning of the end. This set back, however, turned into a blessing. It did not take long to convince mom and dad that they needed a caregiver. In the strangest way, the fall became a blessing. There was a moral for me in the story. God is good, all the time. All the time, God is good. Even when things do not go our way, God is good. 

2. Goodness Pays Back. Seventeen year ago my parents moved to the neighborhood where they now own a home. My dad was seventy years of age then and mother was sixty-three. Four factors influenced their choice of particular neighborhood - the church, the hospital, the railway station, and the fish market - all of which are within walking distance. Very early during their stay in their new home, dad came to know about a guy who needed help. He was admitted to the nearby hospital as he recovered from a serious illness. His wife did domestic chores for people in the neighborhood to make ends meet. Dad, out of pure compassion, arranged with a food-cart vendor to provide him breakfast as long as he stayed in the hospital. This went on for three weeks. Seventeen years later, as I was looking for a caregiver for dad, guess who showed up? - the very guy that dad had helped seventeen years ago! He remembered dad and said that it was payback time. Today, he dad’s caregiver. Whats the moral of the story? - that goodness always pays back. Folks, only do good. You never know how you might be re-payed. 

3. Evil also Pay Back. Let me move from personal stories to a more general story. India is in the throes of some tragic violence. Three years back a Hindu nationalistic government was elected with Narendra Modi as the Prime Minister. With his election cow slaughter was banned. Cow is considered a sacred animal by the Hindus. However, animal trade and the leather industry is the life-line for the Muslims and the so called “outcasts,” or dalitsDalits are people who fall outside the Hindu caste system - meaning that they have no place in society. Christians, like my family, also consume meat. Over the last three years, Hindu hardliners and cow vigilantes have taken it upon themselves to not only enforce the ban on cow slaughter, but at the smallest instance of a rumor, attack the minority Muslims and dalits and in few instances burn their homes. Their target is the so called “beef-eaters.” With the ban extending to animal trade and transportation, the livelihood of those working in the meat and leather industry is destroyed. The Muslims and dalits are desperate. To make it even more tragic, in the last three years, twelves Muslims have been lynched to death and hundreds injured in similar attacks. Two of these lynchings happened while I was in India. On the day I left, with no leadership coming up to protest this senseless violence, ordinary Indians in multiple cities came out in protest under a movement called “Not In My Name.” Since then, the prime minister has made a statement condemning cow vigilantism, but who is going to stop the senseless mobs? Not only in India, but in the US and across the globe, there is a rising and often fatal discourse of rejection, degradation, and hatred. Call it nationalism, call it patriotism, call it what you will, but in the name of God, country, race, caste, and ethnicity, people are rejecting, insulting, hurting, and killing others. This intolerance of each other has to stop. As a disciple of Jesus Christ, I am saying, “Not in My Name.”

The Catholic Eucharist is an act of God’s goodness and kindness. In fact, the entire Christian dispensation is the story of God’s goodness that must go viral. Would you please be a disciple of goodness? 

- Fr. Satish Joseph