Some fellas look at the eyes,
Some fellas look at the nose
Some fellas look at the size
Some fellas look at the clothes
I don’t care if her eyes are red
I don’t care if her nose is long
I don’t care if she’s underfed
I don’t care if her clothes are worn
…First I look at the purse!
…If the purse is fat, that’s where it’s at!
The lyrics of this 1965 song which was released by the Contours, a Motown men’s soul group, and later covered by Rod Stewart, in 1993, SAYS IT ALL! Yes, we live in a materialistic world, that often overlooks what’s really important in life, and most importantly, our salvation.
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In today’s Gospel, Jesus begins with an affirmation, “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you his kingdom.” It’s absolutely free to us. As a matter of fact, all he requests of us is that we sell our possession to give alms, that is, food and money to the poor. He tells us to make purses that don’t wear out, for “where your treasure is, there your heart will also be.” The latter dresses us for action as we wait for our Master. For he tells us, blessed are those slaves whom the master finds alert when he comes, for he will serve them, if he finds them so. He doesn’t tell us when he’ll come, but lets us know that the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.
Although a beautiful passage to read, it may appear a little scary. After all, are we ready to receive our master, the Son of Man, if he was to come in RIGHT NOW through the front doors of St. James’ Episcopal Church? Well, let it be known that we are saved in Christ’s grace through the Spirit, in the life and sacraments of our church. We are buried with Christ in his death and share his resurrection through the water of our Baptism. In addition, the consecrated elements of the eucharist are the bread of life and the cup of salvation for God’s people. Thank God, for otherwise, I believe most of us would not be saved.
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However, as Christ followers, we are also given a specific directive in today’s Gospel. Besides asking us to give alms, he asks us to “make purses” that don’t wear out. Other than the fact that a purse may be the equivalent of a wallet for many of us these days, what does that mean? Should we all go out and buy Dooney and Bourke’s, Coach’s, Louis Vuitton’s, or other such designer purses and wallets which are made of the highest quality materials and under the strictest of quality control circumstances? Well, although some of us would certainly love that, I’m sure you know this is NOT what Jesus meant.
The problem Jesus is trying to address here are the social injustices that existed then, just as they exist today. It sounds like all he wants of us to do is give all our money to the poor. However, I believe it is much more than that. Jesus is addressing the social, economic, and political structures that unfairly victimize some people and unduly privilege others. In the book, “Wrestling with God,” by Ronald Rolheiser, he says, “injustice is… the result of social, economic, and political policies that, whatever their other merits, help produce the conditions that spawn poverty, inequality, racism, privilege, and the lack of conscientious concern for the air we breathe.” Therefore, it’s good to take care of the needy, but we must also go above and beyond to address the root of the problems which are creating the many social injustices we are witnessing currently.
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Let us consider the ongoing controversy over the overwhelming migrant issues in our country these days. Our borders need to be respected and defended for our well being, as citizens of the United States of America. I don’t know of any American that would dispute that, although there have been some misconstrued arguments on both sides of the political circus we currently have. However, as Christians, we must be clear on the teachings found in the scriptures, especially those from Jesus Christ himself. We are to welcome the stranger, irrespective of personal inconveniences and even if there is the possibility of some dangers. Not welcoming everyone is contrary to the essence of Jesus’s message, for we were once outsiders as well. In addition, we must remember our current diocesan directive, which is to “Walk in love, as Christ us.”
A horrifying example of not following Jesus’ teachings on welcoming strangers resulted in the recent shooting at Walmart, in El Paso - 22 people were killed and about 2 dozen were injured. Most of the dead had Hispanic last names and eight were Mexican nationals, but not all were of Hispanic origin, and there was a veteran too. The shooter was a 21 year old white male, who had written a racist creed online before the shooting that rallied against an influx of Hispanics into the United States. The document parrots the rhetoric used by political and others in our country. However, we all know that rhetoric is not new. Other racial and ethnic groups have been targeted throughout time in the US, such as the Chinese, Japanese, Italians, Irish and Jews, to name a few. Presiding Bishop Curry and other religious leaders have condemned the racial rhetoric and pray for reconciliation. Then there’s Ruben Martinez, the 11 year old boy from El Paso, who initiated the #elpasoCHALLENGE. The purpose is to honor the people killed, and the plan, for everyone to do 20 good deeds.
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Some people are reluctant to speak up, due to the strong immigrant, discriminatory, political, and gun control issues involved. But, we must speak up, and “not keep silence,” as we read in todays appointed Psalm (50:3). It’s not always easy being a Christian. Therefore, my St. James’ brother’s and sisters in Christ, don’t be afraid, for it is our father’s pleasure to give us his Kingdom. All he is asking us to do is fatten our purses with the fruits of the Spirit, which are love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. These fruits can provide us with wisdom to discern between good and evil; armor us with the strength to break worldly barriers and obstacles; and give us the courage to demonstrate grace and compassion for those in need, just as Jesus Christ did for us when he died on the cold wooden cross. So, be ready and alert to receive our Master, the Son of Man, by going forth to share the fruits of the Spirit in your bag with the world.
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