Much attention has focused recently on the phenomenon of hoarding. Some people simply cannot part with anything, moving about their homes through dirty tunnels. Hoarding is a phenomenon of a throw away economy that produces billions of tons of cheap products. Everyone who has things in storage (I do, in a friend’s garage at least) is a bit of a hoarder. I was impressed when 31-year old Brendon Ford moved from our rectory on Tuesday to the Dominican Novitiate: everything he owned fit into a mid-sized sedan. How many pickup trucks would you need to move your stuff?
Let’s talk about spiritual hoarding. We Catholics are the spiritual children of the Jewish nation, themselves chosen to receive the law of God—“blessed are you, O Israel, for what pleases God is known to you!” We have received that law, but inestimably more, we have received the gift of justification, the sacraments, and the New Covenant of grace. God has given us the fullness of truth; God has given us the Eucharist! But do we hoard the Gospel? Do we keep these infinite graces to ourselves, where they do little good, or do we distribute them as good stewards? We have been chosen, but not for ourselves. We have been given all this so that we may have the joy of giving it to others. The law of the gift: what you give away is renewed within you. When you try to keep God’s gifts tightly in your hands, it turns to dust. Faith is only faith when it is given away. Don’t just keep the faith—spread it!
And so “My house,” God says through the Prophet Isaiah in the first reading, “shall be called a house of prayer for all nations.” The Jews were not chosen for themselves, and neither are we. We are chosen to bring God’s law of love to all the nations. “The foreigners …. Them I will bring to my holy mountain; their offerings will be acceptable on my altar, for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations.”
Giving it away
That’s why our community came up with $250,000 to build a public chapel open for the entire city 24 hours a day. Last week two Spanish-speaking women were trying to get into the chapel. “Their sister is a regular in the chapel but they love it too, so I let them in and encouraged them to register with the chapel to get the code. How wonderful these ladies from the Mission felt welcome in our chapel! How wonderful that many tourists, and Hindus and Muslims and atheists come off Geary Blvd to find a quiet spot in our open church. Silence is the beginning of prayer and the beginning of peace. “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.”
In our Gospel today, Jesus goes into the pagan territories of Tyre and Sidon, and a Canaanite woman, calls out: “Have pity, Lord, Son of David.” He ignores her. “Send her away,” the disciples ask him, and then he denies her outright: “I was sent only for my own, the lost sheep of Israel.” The woman persists: “Lord, help me.” And he goes even further by insulting her: “why should I throw good food to a dog?” The woman does not miss a beat: “Please Lord, even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from their masters’ tables.” So finally Jesus breaks, and I think he breaks into a big smile. “O woman,” he exclaims, “great is your faith!”
This faith is not mine to hoard, but mine to give away. I have received it to give it. That’s our parish and every Catholic parish. That’s why one of our parishioners leads a small group to the Clement Street Farmer’s Market every other Sunday, to give the faith. Will you join her? That’s why 150 of us have taken an hour of adoration every week, to keep this chapel open for all the city, to pray for the city in a dedicated hour every week. Will you join us? That’s why many teach children’s’ catechism on Sundays and RCIA on Mondays and Bible study on Tuesdays. They know what they have received and gratefully give it to others. That’s why a group of men just formed a Knights of Columbus chapter here, and a four of our women a mother’s group, and why our young men serve at the altar and our young women sing in the choir, and our young adults pray the rosary every Tuesday night together. Will you join them? Or will you simply hoard your faith? Let His house be called a house of prayer for all nations!