Fourth Sunday of Lent by Mary Ramsden

Homily Date

March 18, 2012.  Fourth Sunday of Lent. Cycle B
I really jumped at the words "paying it forward" in the reflections sent out from Dignity USA this week. I thought to myself: how true and perfect those words are not only for the season of Lent but for the circumstances we find ourselves in while we look back as well as ahead on forty years of Dignity Chicago.
I won't waste your time going over salvation history with you. We know those stories so well we could recite them from memory. Please do not mistake that as being flippant.
We KNOW the stories very well.
The question is, "do we LIVE the message they proclaim" or do we still look at these stories as water color pictures from Sunday school?
Do we "pay it forward" or are we content to be mere consumers on the journey?
The prophets and saints took their covenant with Yahweh God seriously both in terms of looking back on what they had suffered and learned.....but forward to what could and may well be in store for the community.
They were seriously grateful and responsible at the same time. And that, friends, often got them into a world of hate and trouble. A prophet is never welcome........
Are we willing to do everything it takes to pay it forward in our own lives and community?
Are we grateful (it IS Laetare Sunday after all) in a Responsible way?
Back in the 80s I was very involved with AIDS Pastoral Care Network and Hospice. It was there that I met some of the bravest people I would ever know in my life. With their last breath they were a "gentle, loving people and they were singing, singing for OUR lives" to quote a song. They could only hope for the days we enjoy today. They would not live to see them, but even knowing that, they forged on ahead trusting that others would pick up the standard and continue on with "the good fight".
We need community and fellowship to keep us on the right path in our work and on our journey. Criticism is a good thing when it is offered in love and offered with insight. And for the one that offers the loving criticism, a reality check in how it can be received at first offering is a humbling thing as well. No one likes to be attacked. Or better put, no one like to FEEL that they are being attacked. Speaking the truth is risky business, as folks like Dietrich Bonhoeffer learned during WWII.
On this Sunday that we rejoice and revel in the gift of an early spring, the message of a loving God that would lay down His own life for us, supported by a community of accepting, loving people......may we always look back to the sacrifices that got us here and forward to what we need to do to be sure that the struggle goes on within our own selves collectively and individually to create a space where love can continue to grow and blossom between our Maker and the Creation that has come about.
I have been doing a bit of study on the roots of Operant Conditioning through history as is applied to animal training. It is amazing to me how far we have come in a relatively short time. But you know, when you study the actual history of it, it hasn't been a short time at all. Historically, it has been eons. What appears to have happened is that a very long time of trial and error, suffering and frustration, misunderstanding and misinterpretation were present before the big AHA. The, after a short time of AHA, someone else comes along and in a short time improves the practice and understanding in leaps and bounds.
I think that is true of where we find ourselves today. We have gone for a long time of suffering and hard won truths that we now have the chance to truly jump forward with and take to a level never enjoyed before in our world and community. The question is, will we?