Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time C

There is an important theological concept that you many of you I am sure are aware of.  It is called “Already, but not yet.”  What it means is that we already have all we need to make the kingdom of God a reality.  “Already” we have been redeemed and forgiven.  We have been cherished and loved by a God who suffered and died for us.  We have known ultimate love so there is nothing that stands in the way of our capability of making the kingdom of God alive in our midst.

On the other hand, “not yet” refers to the fact that we fail to appropriate all of the love and grace that is given to us at baptism.  We make choices contrary to the Gospel and this inevitably results in our failure to live in a society governed by divine justice and love.  Our sins are the cause of our failure to build the kingdom.

St. Paul’s bold statement to the Galatians is a powerful example of the “already, but not yet.”  He claims that in Christ Jesus, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female.”  Paul takes the opposite poles of his world and dares to say that in the immense love of Christ, they are brought together.  The Jews as the chosen people defined themselves specifically as being different than the Pagan Greeks.  What larger gap in life could there be other than slave or free?  And while the difference between men and women remains formidable, its intensity is not close to ancient times when women had neither rights nor status.  Yet, Paul was convinced that the love of Christ and his death and resurrection were enough to bridge the widest of chasms.  And surely we can dare to say that because of the love of God there is no Jew or Greek or slave or free person, male and female.  Because of the love of God there is no gay or straight, black or white, rich or poor.   That in the essence of the promise of the already, that we may see everything through eyes of Jesus.

Then sometimes, like this past week in Orlando, the “not yet” hits you like a punch to the gut.  And we recognize how far we are from the kingdom of God – that our differences have not melted away in love.  Indeed, when we gather among like, whether it is gays and lesbians in a nightclub, or one year ago, African-Americans at a bible study at Mother Emmanuel in Charleston, there is danger.  Even some who are doing this very act, going to mass, risked their lives this morning in Syria, Nigeria and Pakistan.  And when an entire great religion stands accused due to the actions of their worst members, we are far from the promised land.  We are simply more vulnerable when an unholy alliance of hate, bigotry and violence threatens to terminate anything that seems different or nonconforming.  Then we are in the very throes of the darkness of the “not yet,” far from the vision St. Paul promised.

I hope no one goes home today and thinks that Fr. Bob took a strong stance against hate today. We are all against that kind of hatred.  But ee must look at ourselves.  What we can do to ensure that we do not contribute to the kind of thinking we deplore?  For if the word “them” is in our vocabulary, we are not one in Christ Jesus.  If we dismiss or dislike people for the way they dress, or their politics or for their status in life, we are denying the basic principle that every person is endowed with the overwhelming dignity of God.  We may stop far short of hate in our attitudes and judgments, but we are still resisting being one in Christ Jesus.  We must change ourselves if we are to change the world, for I will not give up on the already.

I will not give up on the already because I will not give up on Jesus Christ, the one whom they pierced as was prophesized by Isaiah.  I understand now what the apostles could not have grasped at the time, why the Messiah “must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised.”  For if we are all to be one in Christ, his life had to reach all of our lives. There could be no pain where his suffering could not be felt, no darkness where his light could not penetrate.  So that in the horror of a nightclub in Florida, or in the midst of a bible study erupting in gunfire or in the most broken moments of our life, the suffering face of Christ on the cross comes to us as someone who has known and shared in our tears.  Why did he suffer and die like he did?  So that no person or place would be beyond his presence. No circumstance would be beyond his love.  He still have the power to bring us together.  I still believe in power of the “already” because I believe in Christ Jesus.