26th Sunday after Pentecost
Hebrews 10:11-14, (15-18), 19-25
By Rev. Dr. Victoria Marie
Today’s homily, like most of my homilies, is not merely to preach to you but to call myself to account. It is part of my ongoing aim to preach a message of hope in these times, when the life of our planet and peace in our world are under threat.
Today’s first reading is the only certain reference to resurrection in the Hebrew Bible, a doctrine that became central in Christian theology and remained a strong current in Judaism during the persecutions of Antiochus IV as a means to effect justice at a time when pious people—the wise—were being martyred (Jewish Study Bible p. 1665)
The figure of Daniel, mentioned in Ezekiel (14:14; 28:3) as a wise and righteous hero of the past, becomes in the Book of Daniel a new model of Jewish faithfulness to God. Daniel is a member of the Jewish community in the Babylonian exile but rises to become an important Jewish courtier. The author of Daniel uses the exilic period as a setting to address the challenging issues of Jews living in exile under foreign kings (Jewish Study Bible p. 1640). For many in our current world, it is a setting that is familiar. In the US this is a time when truth and facts are in exile.
In researching the second reading, I found that many commentaries suggest that the sacrifices offered by the Jewish priests were inferior Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. However, I suggest it is more nuanced than that. Jesus died for teaching people how to live, teaching them to embrace justice, love and peace. To embrace the triad of love, justice and peace often conflicts with the agenda of those in power, which can end in persecution and even death. Jesus’ death was the ultimate lesson in the possible costs of living according to God’s plan.
Not only priests in Jewish antiquity but also Christian priests and ministers of today that fail to teach us God’s plan for how we should live are “offering again and again the same sacrifices that can never take away sins,” (Hebrews 10:11). When our hearts are open and receptive, the gospel of Jesus will put God’s laws in our hearts and inscribe them on our minds. We priests and religious leaders are to imitate Jesus in our love for justice and peace and our love for all people and all God created.
We are to preach not only by our words but by our actions, while holding “fast to the confession of our hope without wavering,” (Hebrews 10:23). Otherwise, how can we preach that going to church on Sunday is merely habit if we continue to participate in rampant consumerism, the continuing destruction of the Earth and stay silent in the face of injustice, in the face of oppressive and/or corrupted institutional structures. All of us, priests and community, show our faithfulness by our actions. This passage from Hebrews stresses that we are to help one another in living the gospel, “to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another,” (Hebrews 10:24-25). In short, salvation is not a solo act but the work of the whole worship community.
In today’s gospel, Jesus foretells of the demise of a corrupted institutional structure of his time. The Temple, whose purpose should be to lead the people of God in worship and helping them to live according to God’s plan, has instead become a financial market place.
In the period of the Second Temple vast numbers of Jews streamed to Palestine and Jerusalem “out or every nation under heaven” (Acts 2:5), taking with them considerable sums of money in foreign currencies. This is referred to in the famous instance of Jesus’ driving the money changers out of the Temple (Matt. 21:12). Not only did these foreign coins have to be changed but also ordinary deposits were often handed over to the Temple authorities for safe deposit in the Temple treasury (Jos., Wars 6:281–2). Thus, Jerusalem became a sort of central … exchange mart, and the Temple vaults served as “safe deposits” in which every type of coin was represented. (https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/money-changers)
Today’s passage from Mark, has the disciples awed by the grandeur of the Temple. But Jesus says to them “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down,” (Mark 13:2). Jesus tells them that the coming times will be full of upheaval but “do not be alarmed; this must take place…. This is but the beginning of the birthpangs,” (Mark 13:8) We know that Jesus’ words were true because we know that the end of the Temple was not the end of the Jewish religion but the birth of the synagogue system. Synagogues are not financial market places but places of true worship. Likewise, the Jewish faith birthed Christianity after the destruction of the temple.
We are living in a time when newer systems, such as the prosperity gospel as well as old systems, such as the fossil fuel and extraction industry are in their death throes but they are not going quietly. This passage from Mark gives me hope that although we have to go through many more devastating forest fires, hurricanes and other weather extremes, sensible energy resources and healthy climate conscious ways and truly gospel ways of living will finally come into being.
Today’s readings show us that times and circumstances have been difficult before; that if we follow the gospel, encourage, support and help one another, in living God’s plan for all of creation, we may have casualties but God will, will prevail. Peace and All Good to you. Amen.
Victoria Marie is is co-founder of the Vancouver Catholic Worker, on unceded Coast Salish Territory. She is a priest, spiritual director, and pastor of the Our Lady of Guadalupe Tonantzin Roman Catholic Women Church Community and author of Transforming Addiction: The role of spirituality in learning recovery from addiction (Scholars Press, 2014). This reflection is a shared or dialogue homily where Vikki gives a short “homily starter” then those present offer their reflections. Vikki was arrested on May 18 in front of the Kinder Morgan tank facility and goes to trial in November.
Wild Lectionary is a weekly blog on ecological justice themes in scripture, curated by Laurel Dykstra, gathering priest of Salal + Cedar, Coast Salish Territory.