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Feast of the Presentation Year A 2020

1. Almost from the time we are born,

a. we are surrounded with teddy bears and stuffed animals.

b. We are told stories about puppies and kitties

c. And many of us have pets.

2. As a result, we see animals and stories about them as cute;

3. Thus, most kids think that the little book about animals

a. which appears on their high school required reading list

b. will be a cute little story . . . and a quick read.

4. Until they realize that the book,

a. George Orwell’s Animal Farm is anything but cute.

b. For it tells the story of a revolution begun by farm animals

1. against their owner Mr. Jones,

c. and the establishment of an animal government

1. dedicated to the proposition that all animals are equal.

5. And yet as anyone who has read the book knows,

a. The pigs and dogs who led the revolution

1. begin to act like the humans they overthrew.

2. and when the other animals question how this could be,

3. since they were all equal,

4. The pigs simply remind them that yes, indeed, all animals are equal,

5. but some animals are more equal than others.

6. George Orwell wrote Animal Farm to be a critique of Communism.

a. However, any young person reading the novel today realizes that Animal Farm isn’t just about Communism;

b. It’s about any attempt to exercise power.

1. For whether or not any society affirms that all people are equal,

2. the reality is that some people end up being more equal than others.

7. This was just as true in the first century as in the twenty-first,

. though people back then were more honest about it.

a. The Israel of Jesus’ day was divided between

0. men and women,

1. freemen and slaves,

2. Jews and Greeks and Romans.

b. And the reality was that

0. men were more equal than women,

1. freemen more equal than slaves,

2. and the Romans more equal than just about anyone else.

8. Everyone depended upon this classed society for stability and security,

a. even those who were exploited by it.

9. And anyone who challenged it

10. or in any way sought to change it

11. was seen as a threat.

12. That was the world Jesus lived in.

a. And when he began to preach and teach

0. that God’s kingdom was coming,

b. The religious leaders called him a blasphemer,

c. The Romans deemed him a threat

1. And they dealt with him as they would with anyone

2. who challenged the stability of their society;

1. they killed him.

d. He wasn’t the first and he certainly was not the last.

13. In fact there would be so many revolutionaries

. and would-be messiahs

a. in first century Judea

14. that eventually the Romans would have to

. crush the people of Israel,

a. destroy Jerusalem

b. and burn their beloved temple to the ground.

15. For the people of Israel threatened roman power

. and had forgotten that some people are more equal than others.

16. That was the world the Gospel of Luke was written in,

. some fifty years after the crucifixion

a. and ten years after destruction of the temple.

17. And thus, at the very beginning of Luke’s Gospel,

a. he tells a story in which Mary and Joseph bring the baby Jesus – where?

b. To that temple,

0. their beautiful temple.

1. The center and symbol of their faith.

c. To present him as their firstborn to the Lord according to the Law.

0. And there is Anna, prophesying that God would save their people.

1. And there is Simeon, acting in the very image of an Old testament prophet.

2. proclaiming that Jesus was that long hoped for savior.

18. Luke assures us in this story

. that even though he was the true messiah and savior of his people

a. Jesus and his family were a faithful part of society,

0. faithful to the temple,

1. observant of the Law and obedient to the prophets.

19. He does this because in the eyes of many, his followers were not;

. They were radicals, who threatened the stability of their society.

. But what made his followers so radical

0. was not that they fought the romans,

1. for they were pacifists,

1. not that they fought against Judaism,

1. for they had worshiped regularly in the temple according to Luke.

2. Just like Jesus and his family did in today’s gospel.

2. It wasn’t that they were blind to the differences of class and culture

1. for they realized that people were different sexes and ages

2. They realized that people had different lifestyles and different amounts of money,

3. They realized they had different gifts.

a. It was just that in their new community

0. there was no more slave or free, Jew or Greek, nor male nor female;

1. all were one in Christ Jesus their Lord.

2. Thus, for them all people were equal,

3. and no one was more equal than any other.

4. It was the very image of the kingdom of God. Talk about a happy ending to the story!

20. The end of George Orwell’s Animal farm is really not happy at all; it is sad.

a. For the narrator, a little pig named snowball,

b. sees that the leaders of their revolution

c. have begun to dress like humans

d. and thus they become just what they revolted against.

21. And in that we learn that is the way it is with us humans as well;

. No matter how hard we try to see people as equal,

a. we will always eventually set some of us up as more equal than others.

22. We get that point at the end of Animal farm, of course,

. but do we get it at the beginning of Luke’s Gospel

1. with Mary and Jesus and Joseph?

23. For Luke wanted us to see Jesus’ radical message

. as the fulfilment of their traditional faith,

24. That Jesus:

. faithful son of Israel,

a. faithful to the temple,

b. faithful to the Law,

1. was here to change the world.

25. But all too often we miss this message.

a. We accept the fact that Jesus and his church

0. have been used for centuries to validate the current rulers,

1. to bless the current structures,

2. And to see to it that while, sure, all people are created equal,

3. some people are more equal than others.

26. That is until recently

27. when the Church we love became mired in scandal;

a. Its leaders revealed to be abusers, and not only of their own power.

a. Its members patronized, judged and often simply ignored

0. when they call for change.

b. It has gone on for so long and with so little evidence of change

28. That many are leaving – first the Church – but then of course also eventually, the faith.

a. The crisis of faith that has happened for so many people is a tragedy.

29. I know it is for the many of you who have written me speaking of this crisis;

a. In your own lives, or in the lives of those you love.

30. But perhaps it is more than a crisis – it is an opportunity

31. An opportunity to see what Luke and the rest of the people of his day saw.

. That at the heart of our traditional Church lies a radical faith.

1. And that when we are most radical

2. that is when we are most faithful

3. As faithful as Mary was,

4. as faithful as Joseph was

5. as faithful as Jesus was.

32. And that is because for the Church,

. its most radical message has always been what

a. Luke’s mentor and teacher Saint Paul wrote to a group of Christians only 20 years after Jesus’ crucifixion:

b. simply that, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

c. And thus no matter who we are,

1. even when we try to make ourselves more equal than others,

2. we are equal in God’s eyes.

3. Imagine what our world would look like

0. if it accepted this truth?

4. Imagine what our Church would look like if

0. we rediscovered it?

5. Many might sneer, yeah, it would be heaven on earth.

6. To which Jesus would reply; exactly.

7. The kingdom of Heaven, in fact.

d. And we are at our most Catholic

e. when we work and pray, worship and live our traditional faith in that radical way.

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