Sunday, February 19, 2017

Holy Fools

February 19, 2017 - 75th Anniversary of Executive Order 9066
Mary Magdalene Apostle Catholic Community, San Diego, CA
7th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Sirach 15:1-4, 7, 11-12, 14-20
Psalm 119:1-2, 4-5, 17-18, 33-34
1 Corinthians 3:16-23
Matthew 6:24-34, 7:7-11

This evening I’d like to take a moment to remember a historical event you might not know about. Today marks the 75th anniversary of Executive Order 9066, signed by Franklin Delano Roosevelt, which led to over 120,000 men, women, and children of Japanese ancestry being evicted from their homes and held in internment camps across the country. It was an executive order based in fear. Japanese Americans – many of them citizens – were forced to prove their loyalty and allegiance to this country while being treated like the enemy.  This afternoon, I was at the theater to see a screening of George Takei’s musical “Allegiance” which highlights the realties of this era. In speaking about what inspired the musical, Takei takes us back to his childhood. He remembers being five years old and watching as soldiers with bayonets came into his home and forced him and his family to leave. This was the reality. American citizens taken from their homes on the West Coast and transported to internment camps. It is part of our history and we cannot let it be our future.

It took until 1952 for individuals born in Japan to be allowed to be citizens. And it wasn’t until 1982 that a commission determined that the decision to incarcerate was based on "race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership". It is easy to condemn atrocities after they happen though. It’s harder to condemn them as they happen. Because it doesn’t happen overnight. It happens one step at a time, and it isn’t until much later that we see the truth of what has transpired.  It’s hard to go against the status quo, to resist the “wisdom of this age that is foolish to God” that we hear about in the letter to the Corinthians. But after all, we are being encouraged to “become God’s fools.” Which leads to the inevitable question – what does it mean to be a fool for God? What is a Holy Fool?

Fortunately, history gives us examples of these holy fools – people like Saint Francis of Assisi who rejected the social order, who disrupted the status quo, who sought something beyond this world. Who longed for God’s justice and compassion here on Earth. We have accounts of David dancing with wild abandon before the Ark, of Orthodox saints urging a different road for the church. It might seem that to be a fool is something not for everyone. After all, we like stability. It’s a reassuring luxury to have a roof over our heads and food on our table. To be able to worship together openly, not hidden away in some upstairs room.

I think there’s a way in which we can take this instruction to be a fool for God in another way. I think it connects to the holy resistance that we heard in last week’s gospel, to the radical love we are called to embody. Last week, a group of grassroots organizers gathered in California. Both Pope Francis and Bishop McElroy wrote remarks for the gathering.

Pope Francis condemned leaders who rely on “fear, insecurity, quarrels, and even people’s justified indignation, in order to shift the responsibility for all these ills onto a ‘non-neighbor.’” He wrote, “Do not classify others in order to see who is a neighbor and who is not. You can become neighbor to whomever you meet in need, and you will do so if you have compassion in your heart.” His letter continues “By confronting terror with love, we work for peace.”

In a similar vein, Bishop McElroy told the gathering, “Now we must all become disrupters. We must disrupt those who would seek to send troops into our communities to deport the undocumented, to destroy our families. We must disrupt those who portray refugees as enemies. We must disrupt those who train us to see Muslim men & women as a source of threat rather than children of God. We must disrupt those who would take away healthcare, who would take food from our children. But we can’t just be disrupters, we have to be rebuilders. We have to rebuild a nation in which all of us are children of one God.”

Holy Fools. Holy Disrupters. Holy Resistance. This is what I believe we are called to do. To not be swept up in the rhetoric of this age which disguises itself as wisdom, but is based on fear and insecurity. The wisdom we should seek is that of God – the wisdom that is based in love of our neighbor and love of our enemies. We are given a choice – will we choose fear or will we choose love? Are we willing to be holy fools? Holy disrupters?

It may seem a lot to ask, but it can start small. Every day we are faced with a myriad of choices. And with each choice, we make a decision. Fear or love. Thomas Merton, the trappist monk and poet, once wrote “No one can serve two masters. Your life is shaped by the end you live for. You are made in the image of what you desire.” Let us not desire the wisdom of this world, then, but the wisdom of God. Let us desire the courage to be holy fools – because it takes strength and fortitude to go against the grain of society. Let us trust in a God who loves us, a God reflected in the diverse beauty of creation, a God who provide for the birds, for the wild flowers, for all the creatures of the earth.

Let us have the confidence to ask and to seek. Let us go forth without fear to be the holy fools we are asked to be, trusting that God will always walk beside us in love. Amen.

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