November 6, 2023

31st Sunday of Ordinary Time, 11/5/23

Fr. Christopher Kirchgessner

Good morning. I suspect that there are times for all of us when life just seems like a burden. There’s too much to do, too much to worry about. We worry about our health or the health of a loved one, or the pressures from work or in school or classes.

Life can sometimes be rather difficult, and there are a lot of reasons why that is. In the Gospel this morning, we hear about the Pharisees. We hear about the religious leaders of Jesus’s time who are making life burdensome and difficult for those who are doing the best they can to be faithful to the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob.

We heard that the Pharisees make demands on these people, yet they do not practice what they preach. They tell people what to do, but they won’t do it themselves. As we heard, they tied up heavy burdens for people. They laid them on their shoulders without lifting a finger to help them.

The Gospel passage this morning is a challenge to all religious leaders and to all of us who proclaim Jesus as Lord. And the Gospel confronts us with this question: Does the way I live my life proclaim the gospel of kindness and forgiveness of a God who wills that I be saved, or does my life make burden placed burdens on people?

Does my faith weigh people down simply by people who are simply trying to live their faith as best they can? Do we, do I expect people to do things that I cannot do, or that I choose not to do? Surely, following Jesus is not easy and at times it takes every ounce of effort for all of us.

This morning we are presented with the wisdom of Paul. Paul taught that the Gospel and following the gospel is not a burden. Rather, to follow the gospel and to live the gospel is to live in the power of God, which is within us, among us. For all of us who believe Paul tells us that Jesus is Lord, the power of God is with us, and it’s inside. If that were true of Paul’s time, it’s true of our own. The power of God is within us. The power of God is here. Especially when we gather to celebrate Eucharist.

Paul teaches us then that we are to be living signs of this power, of God’s presence in our world and within us. We are to be living signs of that. It is a sign that can renew the human heart. It is a sign that can renew the world. And my friends, don’t we know how desperately our world needs to be renewed?

We know that the human heart needs to be renewed so that there can be peace in our world, so the people can respect one another, so that there can be an end of war and a respect for human life and an end to the constant bickering that we hear day after day after day.

We have gathered together this morning to be nourished so that we can be that living sign of God’s power.

It is not up to someone else. We need to be the living sign in our world, not by laying burdens on people’s backs like the Pharisees, not like making life more difficult, but rather by taking care of those who suffer too. By being voices of peace, living humble lives and generous lives, and proclaiming our Christian faith that Jesus is Lord of all, boldly and without judgment of other people.

And yet we can only do all these daunting tasks we hope to do if we are people of worship and prayer and service, if our prayer is not just for ourselves and our own needs, but about all of us together renewing this world. Our prayer must be about those who are poor and can’t take care of themselves, and we must do more than just talk, we must actually do something for those who need us the most.

And so our challenge this morning is simple but daunting: As best we can, let’s live lives of faith in a God who can change the human heart and who can change our world. Let us be hopeful people, not people who only see the bad and the ugly and the unpleasant–hopeful people who see what we can be if we are truly church, if we truly embrace the Lord Jesus, if we allow the Lord Jesus to be present in our lives, both within us and with each other. Amen.

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