Deacon Steven Johnson’s Homily 1-14-21

Homily for Thursday Ordinary Time, 1-14-21, Year B
READINGS: 1st Reading Heb, 3:7-14; Gospel Mk 1:40-45

Theme: See the Forest for the Trees

We’ve heard the expression;He cannot see the forest for the trees.”

We can be so close to our point of view that all we see are the trees right in front of us. If we back up far enough, we can eventually see the vast forest that those few trees are part of. There is so much more to view than just these few trees that are right in front of us. Because of this expansion of our view, our thoughts and viewpoint will change, and we will understand the bigger picture.

We can all develop a myopic view, tunnel vision if you will, and therefore not understand the complete circumstances that make up a situation, thought or perspective.

We can get hung up on rules, regulations, laws, and practices that can make us view only the trees in front of us. Sometimes we need to back up and get a broader view and see the forest.

In the first reading from Hebrews, the author wants the Jewish Christian, who is struggling with their faith and in danger of viewing their religious practices and commandments as a duty that is hard to do, to see a greater glory and good through the promptings of the Holy Spirit. He wants them to see the forest for the trees.

The Holy Spirit reminds us of Christ’s teachings. If our political and religious practices become so rigid that we can no longer see our neighbor as brother or sister through love, we are not following Christ’s teachings and only see the trees. But, if we allow the Holy Spirit to move us more toward Christ, we will see that loving our neighbor (no matter who they are, friend or enemy) is the forest we need to view.

Christ’s teachings are not burdensome. Through our own sin we make them burdensome. Pope Francis is all about reminding us to love our neighbor and help one another. He reminds us never to shun anyone or reject them because of their financial, political, religious, or sexual orientation, no matter what their state in life is.

Do we have to agree with their practices? Do we change the teachings of Christ to accommodate them? No, but we must love them in spite of those things. 

Christ demonstrated this in the Gospel today by healing the leper. In those times, any physical ailment, sickness, or disease was thought to be from the sin of that person. Because of this and the contagious nature of leprosy, people were banned to desolate areas outside the community to fend for themselves. They were rejected as sinful and thus many felt they deserved their disease. Very few people came to help them. They were only accepted back when their ailment, sickness, or disease went away, and they became “clean” in other words, forgiven by God.

Christ, through His compassion, went out to the sick, the poor, the rejected and healed them and gave them hope. We should do the same today and every day.

Do we look at a poor person asking for a handout who has an expensive cell phone in their hand as deceitful and a scammer? If so, we may only see the trees. But if we step back and see that the cell phone was a gift from a friend for their safety, we might see the forest.

Do we look away from the couple passing us on the street because they are gay? If so, we may only see the trees. But if we step back, we might see that they are the founders of a charitable organization that helps abused mothers and children. Then we may just be seeing the forest.

Do we look on those who promote laws for abortion with distain and wish God’s wrath upon them because of their errant belief? If so, we may only see the trees. But, if we acknowledge them as made in the image of God and respect their human dignity while still holding to our truth about the sacredness of life, we may just see the forest.

In these very difficult times, with such division and confusion, we must be able to see the forest for the trees. If we only see the trees, we are in danger of a hardened heart and a self-righteous piousness that leads us into sin. Let the Holy Spirit speak to you and remind you always of love and compassion instead of hate or anger.

Published by St. James, Belvidere

Saint James Catholic Church, Belvidere, IL