1. Anyone who runs into me on my day off will tell you;
a. Not all my clothes are black.
b. Parishioners walking down 79th St.
c. Parents bringing their children to or from school
d. Occasionally encounter me on my way to the gym in jeans, casual shoes and a jacket.
e. Normally the parents don’t much seem to notice, but the kids go crazy!
f. My favorite reaction happened about a year after I arrived,
i. When on the corner of E 79th and First, a kind exclaimed upon seeing me,
ii. “Father Baker! I’ve never seen you without your clothes on!”
2. His mom and I laughed and laughed.
3. But the truth is,while I do wear my collar on Sundays and in school, otherwise I almost never do.
4. I got out of the habit of always wearing my ”habit” back in 2002.
a. And the reason for that is simple.
5. Back in 2002 the sexual abuse crisis began.
a. Priests went from being respected to suspected.
6. I was treated disrespectfully by people in stores and in hotels.
7. It was even worse on the subway.
a. I had people pull their children away from me if I sat down next to them.
b. twice, people attacked me, once verbally and once physically,
i. shouting things about me and our Church that I could never mention here.
8. But the worst thing was,
a. I understood their reactions!
9. I was ashamed of what our Church had allowed to happen.
10. But I was also angry,
a. because although I was no pedophile,
i. and nor were the vast majority of my brother priests,
1. Yet we were all being judged as if we were.
11. That shame and anger led me to stop wearing my collar,
a. And instantly the attacks and the prejudice stopped.
i. Because no one knew who I truly was.
12. Of course, this is not just the experience of a priest in Manhattan.
13. We all experience prejudice at one time or another.
a. We judge one another as children
i. as to whether we are thin enough, smart enough, strong enough, popular enough, pretty or handsome enough.
b. We judge one another as adults
i. as to whether we are rich or poor, black or white, male or female, straight or gay, American or foreign born,
c. And of course, judgments are rife when it comes to religion.
i. We judge one another because we are Catholic or protestant or Muslim or jew.
ii. And even within the Church we judge one another as to whether we are truly Catholic enough.
14. But just as prejudice is universal, so is the shame that arises from it.
a. A shame which causes us to try and to be something we are not,
b. so that other people will accept us.
15. And while there are many people who would fight against prejudice,
a. there are few who say anything about the shame which comes with it.
16. Save for Jesus.
a. For in Jesus’ day, prejudice was just as prevalent as in our own.
b. The Romans said the Greeks were decadent;
c. the Greeks said the Romans were uncivilized.
d. Both the Greeks and the Romans said the Jews were barbarians;
e. the Jews said the Greeks and Romans were unclean pagans.
17. IT was in this atmosphere of prejudice that Jesus taught and healed.
18. IT was to this atmosphere that he spoke the words we hear in today’s Gospel.
a. For if there was any group that experienced prejudice
i. it was Jesus himself, and his first followers.
19. The Jews called them blasphemers
a. because they believed Jesus was God’s Son.
20. The Greeks called them fools
a. because they believed Jesus rose from the dead.
21. The Romans called them atheists,
a. because they believed in Jesus and the one he called Father,
b. and not the gods and goddesses of the roman state.
22. Especially as the church grew,
a. there were many who were persecuted, tortured, many and killed because of their faith.
23. And thus there were many who were ashamed of their faith,
a. they would attend pagan celebrations
b. eat the meat offered at pagan sacrifices,
c. maybe even dress and act like their pagan neighbors.
d. And in that hide who they truly were.
24. These were the people Jesus reminded
25. about two of the most common things in every household: salt and light.
a. Salt is used because it gives life to food;
b. light is used because it gives life to a room.
26. We take salt and light for granted,
a. so we take Jesus’ use of these words for granted,
b. and thus we miss one crucial part of these sayings; for
i. Jesus speaks of a salt that loses its saltiness
ii. Jesus speaks of a light that is hidden under a basket.
27. When you think about it,
a. for salt to lose its saltiness is impossible,
b. for a light to be hidden under a basket is preposterous
i. because then both salt and light would have to become something THEY were not,
ii. and act in a way contrary to their nature.
28. But of course, that is Jesus’ point.
a. For we are the salt, Jesus says, we are the light.
29. We are salt when we give life to the world by being who we were created to be;
a. for us to be otherwise would mean we were something WE are not;
30. We are light when we give light to others by being who we are;
a. to hide that light would be to act in a way contrary to OUR nature.
31. These were words that were remembered by the first Christians, and with good reason
a. For whenever they were judged because they were different,
b. whenever they were tempted to compromise who they were because they were ashamed.
c. It was then that they remembered;
32. That to be faithful to Jesus meant
a. to reach beyond the barriers of class, and race and religion
b. and invite all people to share their life.
c. In that they were light,
i. enlightening the world to see beyond its prejudice.
d. In that they were salt,
i. enlivening the world with their diverse, universal faith, open to all,
ii. or as it would become known, their catholicity.
33. These are words that we would do well to remember as well.
34. And yet all of us forget them.
a. Our church forgot them.,
b. I often willingly forget them
i. when I put on my collar
ii. and remember those attacks back then
iii. and want to wear something else.
35. We forget them daily.
36. We forget them whenever we allow the prejudice of others
a. to shame us into silence.
b. shame them into denial.
c. And cause us to forget who we as God’s people, truly are.
37. That is one of the main reasons why we worship;
a. to remember who we truly are.
i. In the mass we see it; we act it out.
b. In this church we find people of every race, language, and way of life
c. coming together in one place, sitting together in one room, gathered together around one table,
d. listening, singing, praying, eating and drinking - WORSHIPING together.
38. We take it for granted, of course. But we dare not.
39. Because then, we forget who we are.
40. We are the earth’s salt; the world’s light,
41. encouraging the world to see beyond its prejudice,
42. and enlivening the world with our universality, our Catholicity.