More Than Many Sparrows

12th Sunday in Ordinary Time | June 21, 2020

See today’s readings here. Video recordings of the Sunday evening Mass, where Fr. Brian regularly preaches, are available on Facebook at Delaware Koinonia. The archive of all of Fr. Brian’s homilies can be found hereSalesian Sermons

Why should I feel discouraged / Why should the shadows come
Why should my heart feel lonely / And long for heaven and home
When Jesus is my portion / A constant friend is He
His eye is on the sparrow / And I know He watches over me
His eye is on the sparrow / And I know He watches me

I still remember the 1st time I heard these lyrics.

It was at St. Anthony of Padua parish in Brookland, Washington DC.

And I was attending one of my first Gospel Masses.

I remember the cantor walking up to the microphone, the piano player hitting the first note and then suddenly I was surrounded by the sound of an entire congregation singing a hymn that was as familiar to them as amazing grace.

Older black men, eyes closed, gently whispering the words.  Older black women swaying back and forth, tears at the corners of their eyes, belting it out.

And me, just sitting, letting it all flow over me.

I knew in that moment that I was tapping into something much deeper than a beloved Church hymn.  That this spiritual was tapping into a language that I was only just beginning to understand.

The language of the other.  The language of the oppressed.  The language of the downtrodden.

See I never really gave this Gospel much thought.  I mean, it was a comforting, quaint image.  But not much more to me.

For I have never been told to question my worth.

I have never been told to stay in the shadows.

I have walked through life constantly affirmed in my potential.  Doors were opened.  Paths prepared.  

And I walked through them unafraid.  Into the dazzling light that shines on the successful.

And when I met those inevitable people who didn’t see my worth, I had an army of people who loved me, standing behind me as I regained my footing and began to walk again.

So I guess I assumed that this was how everyone experienced life.

But in that haunting melody, I began to question my naive assumptions about how we as a society value one another.  I began to see that not everyone was granted the worth that is their birthright.

It has been over a decade since those Gospel masses.

But the lesson I learned that morning continues to resonate in our present moment.

For the worth of each individual is not determined by us.

It is not calculated by a capitalist worldview that reduces people to what they contribute to the economy, what they consume.

It is not determined by centuries of prejudice and white supremacy that have reduced people to the color of their skin

It is not a gift that can be bestowed or removed at a whim by politicians or judges, depending on the mood of the populace.

It is not at the mercy of our family members or teachers, bosses or coaches.  It does not depend on our own self-confidence or self-esteem.

The worth of each individual is guaranteed by a God whose eye is watching each of us with care.

This God who sees each beloved child.

Whose song gently reaches out to every one who questions their worth.  Everyone who lives in fear.  Everyone who is surrounded by enemies, denouncing them at every turn

The God who says without hesitation. . .  

Black lives matters.

Transgender lives matter.

Indigeous peoples lives matter

Undocumented lives matter

High school dropouts lives matter

Criminals lives matter

Homeless lives matter

Poor lives matter

Elderly lives matter

Unborn lives matter

Autistic lives matter

Addicts lives matter

The God who looks into each pair of eyes, brimming with pain and anger, with hopelessness and grief, with despair and defiance, with fear and self-loathing, with guilt and regret.  

Who looks into our eyes.

And says.  You are worth more than many sparrows, my child.  I love you.  You are mine.

This God who looks at us, those who dare to claim the name of Christian, and invites us to follow him.  To see the world as our God sees.  To treasure the other that our God delights in.  To love the one whom our God loves.

This is the God proclaimed this night my friends.  This is the God we believe in.

May we dare to be like the one in whose image we all are made.

May this God forever be praised.

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