Friday, June 19, 2015

Anything you can do, I can do better

Homily by Sr. Constance Joanna, SSJD
Friday, June 19 in Week of Proper 11 Year B
When I read the passage from Paul’s letter to the Christians at Corinth – who were always troublesome to Paul because they were so competitive and argumentative – I remembered a song that was popular when I was young: “Anything you can do, I can do better; I can do anything better than you.” It was from the popular musical Annie Get Your Gun.
I can shoot a partridge
With a single cartridge.
I can get a sparrow
With a bow and arrow.
I can live on bread and cheese.
And only on that?
So can a rat!
Paul sounds like he’s engaging in the same kind of competition as the Corinthians – my pain is worse than your pain, my scars are brighter than your scars. He really does lay it on. But then so do we. You think you’re busy? Look at my schedule! You think you have problems? Listen to my problems. And if we don’t say it, we think it. We hear someone complaining and we might be too polite to say “come on, get a life, look what I’m dealing with and how well I do!” – but we often think it.

But Paul is not just engaging in a competition with the Corinthians here. He is saying that there is a different kind of boasting, a boasting of weakness in order to show his strength comes only from God. And who among us hasn’t learned that we become stronger when we are weak, that our worlds may expand rather than shrink when we deal with limitations – because our vulnerability allows us to move beyond the superficial comforts of life to an awareness of what is really important in an ultimate sense. The churches that are thriving are those in Africa and Asia where people are suffering war and violence. The churches that are shrinking are in the most affluent countries, including our own. There is something about vulnerability and privation and suffering that we don’t seek, but when it comes to us it helps us understand what is really important in life.

And that is what Jesus is talking about in the gospel. “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” – what you have in your home, your church, your city, your country – that is what you value. If we look around our own city, it would seem that decisions have been made and are being made on the basis of helping those who improve the city’s economy. Our treasure is in our large corporate buildings, our transportation system such as it is, our retail stores.

But what happens when values clash? When the truckers, for instance, lobby for the hybrid version of the Gardiner expressway so trucks can move easily through the city’s centre, while others lobby for a street-level boulevard that will improve people space with more green space and access to the waterfront? It’s not as simple as that, but just that one small example shows us what Jesus is talking about – where your treasure is, there will your heart be also – is our treasure consumer goods and building projects and financial investments – or is it in people, relationships, aesthetics, health and welfare for all the people of our city?

And our churches also make decisions on the basis of what people most value – is it our buildings and memorial windows? Or is it reaching out to the kind of people Jesus served – the poor and homeless and hungry and disenfranchised?

And what of ourselves? Where is our treasure? What is your treasure? Look at the way you spend your money, your time, your energy, and you’ll know the answer to that question.

And that is what Jesus is saying at the end of the gospel – look. The eye is the lamp of the body – it illuminates our treasure. Jesus is offering us eternal life, now – intimacy with God, a relationship of love. That goes far beyond the satisfaction we receive from our material possessions. “If your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light.” If you look with the eye of your heart and see the treasures around you – in friendships, in relationships, in the beauty of our environment – your whole body, your whole life will be full of light – and it will be like that light Jesus told us not to hide under a bushel basket – it will be a light that will bring love and compassion to the world God loved and Jesus died for.