Within Our Grasp

The following Homily was preached at my Mass of Thanksgiving. The Homily is based upon the readings & prayers of the day.

The Music Video for Don’t Kill My Vibe by Kendrick Lamar is permeated by a desire to capture sacramentality. There are Churches, a funeral, a mass of people dressed in white, even a guy dressed as a priest. The song begins with a plea “Lord Forgive me…”

So, I decided to rake the song, hoping to find instances of God’s grace showing up in surprising places. On the contrary, I don’t think that I could find any. In context, the phrase Lord Forgive me… is placed like so: “I am a sinner, whose probably gonna sin again. Lord Forgive me of the things I don’t understand.”

Speaking in terms of our moral tradition, ignorance and responsibility for sin don’t go together. Not understanding the seriousness of one’s actions does not make one a sin. Therefore, the forgiveness is misplaced. I think, judging by the rest of the song, he means “Lord relieve me…” The song has nothing to do with remorse. It has nothing to do with guilt. It has nothing to do with shame. It has nothing to do with taking responsibility for one’s faults. Conversely, it has everything to do with pointing fingers at someone. It has everything to do with blaming someone, perhaps someone that Kendrick has a broken relationship with.

I am a sinner, whose probably gonna sin again, is not an act of repenting or conversion. It is merely a statement to absolve oneself of responsibility, and therefore guilt and shame. Gone are my hopes to draw on a song in pop music that deals with remorse. Ironically, I am sure many people who know regret, remorse, guilt, sorrow, or brokenness might turn to this song for some sort of shallow consolation. A song like this, a song that points fingers instead of acknowledging one’s shortcomings, may do more to balm your wounds, rather than reaching into the depths of our sorrow and guilt, removing it. It is like soothing the surface of the cut, without curing the infection at the source.

Yet, that kind of healing is beyond our grasp. So we try to protect ourselves in our brokenness, from ever being discovered. We seal up our tears. The cynicism of our culture is evidence of this. Healing remains beyond us. In our mortal frailty, we can do nothing.

Yet, the encounter between Jesus and the penitent woman of the Gospels turns our cynicism on his head. Tears flowing, she washes his feet with her sorrow. Brokenness exposed, and she will yet again be whole. Her life of sin becomes a life of hospitality. Her life of regret becomes a life of love lived. For our Lord Jesus, our Good Jesus is Love, he is New Life. She can touch it, she can experience, Grace and New Life is within her grasp. Hope and healing is within her grasp from Jesus. It is there, awesome people of God, it is there.

Okay. That sounds really nice, and flowery. There is this all merciful God out there. People are always forgiven. Yeah, we heard it so much it does not appear that profound. But what about my sin! What about my disgusting vile sin! What about everything in the core of who I am, that makes me hide from myself! What about all that is uniquely wrong with me! Yeah it sounds nice doesn’t it. It sounds real nice, there is this merciful God, but this God has not touched me in my sin.

But this is why God’s love became real in Jesus. This is why God’s hope & healing & new Life became real, tangible, incarnate, within our reach, within our grasp in a person, Jesus, God’s Son. This is by whom we, you, uniquely you, uniquely you in all our hidden shame & brokenness are uniquely embraced, and brought to healing. Because Resurrection always overwhelms death, in Jesus healing always overwhelms brokenness, Grace always overwhelms Sin.

Perhaps, perhaps, as this marvelous woman in the Gospels, knows how to love great. Her too, her love for Jesus overwhelms formality, it overwhelms reason. Despite the mockery of Jesus Dinner Hosts, who have not the audacity to touch Jesus, who have not the audacity to take down their hedged shame & brokennes, who like many self-righteous believers, as well as self-righteous atheists, who like our Don’t Kill my vibe song of finger pointing and blaming, are trapped in their shallowness and their formalities. Please, awesome people of God, let us be such as the woman, whose love overwhelms formality. When we can process to Jesus, who gives himself in our Communion, who will overwhelm us, each, overwhelm you with Grace & Mercy… We can process with joy in New Life to be overwhelmed, so that our love too may overwhelm formality, that our joy may overwhelm cynicism in our lives, that our thanksgiving may overwhelm loneliness. So God’s love overwhelm us in such a beautiful way, that our love may be known.

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