Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Reading I Amos 6:1, 4-7
Reading II 1st Timothy 6:11-16
Gospel Luke 16:19-31
When we were baptized we became a child of God. As we mature through life we become a disciple of the Kingdom of God. It is all about how you and I preach the Gospel. We do it in different ways because none of us is the same, but there is a slight difference in how we like to go through life. Right now in our country we are going through a lot of turmoil — not being able to respect people for the color of their skin, or whether they have money or don’t have money, where they live, where they work or what they do. It is probably one of the most non-Christian environments we will live through during our lifetime.
But that is always part of how God gives.
I want to share two stories with you that were personal in my life that helped me understand that if I am gong to love I have to love the person and I can’t judge them at all. Both of these incidents took place fifty years ago when I was first ordained. I was in the wealthiest parish in the diocese, which is still the wealthiest parish in the diocese.
The first incident took place during a time when we were going through the whole era of Martin Luther King and his message of “I have a dream.” When you live in Springfield you are aware of politics whether you like it or not, so as priests and people we went down to the state Capitol and walked back and forth carrying signs asking that we respect all people regardless of the color of their skin, and that we must all be one. So, I was walking along and all of a sudden this car pulled up and the person rolled down the window. It was a lady from our parish. Her husband was a doctor and they had everything they wanted. She was driving a white Cadillac as she always did, and she looked at me and said, “Father, get back home where you belong.”
I said, “I will later on today. But right now, I belong here.”
The interesting thing about it was that she and her husband were a very nice couple. In our parish, as we do here, we had people who came to clean the church every week. And when if was that lady’s turn to clean she would send the black lady who cooked and cleaned for her to come to the church and clean in her place. When I saw that black lady cleaning I would say to her, “I am so happy you are here and thank you for cleaning our church. I know you don’t belong to our parish, but you are always welcome here.”
The other story is about a couple who moved into the parish. Giavano was Italian and he and his wife were both black. He was to become the president of the community college in Springfield. They wanted to buy a house in the area where our parish was located and that was like buying a house in Quincy on the east end of town where all the new homes were being built. The realtor said, “I’m very sorry but you are not going to be able to buy a house within the bounds of the parish. Every realtor in town knows that a black person is not allowed to live in that area where all the white people live.”
So they just stepped one step higher and said, “Show us a house just beyond the city limits.” So the realtor showed them a house beyond the city limits and they bought a home. I had met them previously and registered them in the parish. The first Sunday they came to church you could just see the entire parish take a gasp — two black people coming to church there! He came in dressed in his military garb, medals all over him. She came in dressed in black, I will never forget it, with a beautiful fur around her shoulders. They had two boys and the family came in and walked right down to the front pew and sat down. No one said a word.
We had a school of 800 students and 300 kids in the PSR, and out of 1,100 kids in the school those two boys were bilingual who could speak Italian fluently, and English perfectly. All of a sudden, everyone just had to step back and say, “Wow. What’s going on here? These people live their faith and they are as polished as anyone else in the parish.”
One night they invited the pastor and myself out for supper. We went to their home and had a beautiful meal. But it was interesting. It was like having a meal in the White House. You know, some people think, “Oh, the black people don’t know how to do it.” We walked in and had a glass of wine and hors d’oeuvres and then she said, “Let’s go to the dining room and have supper.” They served a salad. Then after the salad we had a pasta and the pastor said, “Oh, gee. Thank you so much for having us.” And she said, “Father, we haven’t had the meal yet. We Italians do this a different way.” Then they served the main course, and another wine to go with the meal. Each time they gave us something to clean our palate so we could enjoy the taste from one course to the other. And after about two or three hours of eating this meal they said, “We are so happy you came into our home.”
It shows you that you and I should never judge anyone by the color of their skin, where they worship, who they vote for, or where they go to school. We should just judge people for who they are. If you have a mindset, it takes a while to have a mindset change. And so you and I have to ask ourselves: “Who are we comfortable with? Do we think we are better than someone else?” If we do, somebody is going to step into our life and humble us, not because they are angry, just because they will be who they want to be and they want to be a part of us, and they want us to be a part of them.
Fifteen years later I was on a TECH and the oldest boy of this family was on the team with me. It was just so wonderful to see him and how he was growing in his faith and how he was living out his life. I do not now if that same housing code still exists in Springfield, but I am sure it exists in some places. And so you and I are disciples and if we are going to preach that Gospel, if we are going to have stewardship in our lives then Jesus says, “I want you to walk where I lead you. I want you to see Christ in each other and if you see Christ in each other, you will become the image and likeness of myself.
God has blessed us. A lot of people walk through these doors. A lot of people walk out of these doors. The challenge for us always is to make sure that if there is someone around us we don’t know, all we have to do is smile and say, “My name is Mike Kuse. I live in this parish. I don’t think I know you.” That’s how we change the world. It’s not putting the men on this side, and the women of the other side. It’s not putting the whites on this side, and the blacks on the other side. It’s not putting the Republicans on this side, and the Democrats on that side. Because when it comes down to life, we all are the same inside. We all seek happiness, we all have problems in our life. Our faith changes. Jesus says, “Just remember one thing. I don’t change, and I never will change. I just want you to open your eyes and see who I am and imitate me in the best way that you know how.”
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Monsignor Michael Kuse is pastor of Blessed Sacrament Parish in Quincy, Illinois.
(TASCAM DR 40 Disc C 003)