At our Reno Cathedral this Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Sharon Parker read from Jeremiah 23:1-6. Jeremiah scolds the leadership for “misleading and scattering the flock.” “The shepherds who shepherd my people have scattered my sheep and driven them away. You have not cared for them, but I will take care to punish your rotten harvest.” Joe Bell read from the second chapter in Ephesians:
Remember how at one time you, Gentiles in the flesh, called the lack of circumcision by the circumcised, were at that time without Christ, alienated from the community of Israel and strangers to the Brit of promise, without hope and without God in the cosmos. In Christ Jesus, you who once were far off have become near by the blood of Christ. He is our peace, he who made both one and broke down the dividing wall of division, through his flesh… You are no longer strangers and sojourners, but fellow citizens with the dedicated ones, members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus as capstone… In him, you are growing into a dwelling of God.
After Mass, an alarming conversation was in the nave, the central approach to our altar, the main body of our Cathedral. One man, probably in his fifties, commented how he used to be a working person. He used to be a working person, but is no longer. He was not retired. He is not so rich that he no longer works. He is one of the shepherds, a leader, whose job it is to shepherd the secular flock in the secular cosmos.
“Cosmetology” and “Cosmos” are related. The cosmos is not any world. “Cosmetology” is the study of “cosmos,” or “order,” as it relates to people’s hair and nails. The cosmos is the ordered world we see around us. “The treasury is being part of a living community,” relates a centurion’s faith, as he requests Jesus to heal his servant. He is not separate from his servant, but part of the grander community, including servants under him, and his superiors over him.
“The treasury is being part of a living community,” presents the Jewish tradition of the Four Sons and relates this tradition to our liturgy. The foolish son cuts himself from the community, as does the man saying he is not part of the working community. He does not look up at our mural to see Pope Pius X pointing the working people, dressed in working class clothes, to the four rivers of life.
He does not look to the right and see St. Joseph the Worker, embodiment of all of us, retired and not retired, working class, and people of both lower and higher standing. He does not see in the Eucharist the words of St. Paul who through Jesus Christ calls us to be, “Fellow citizens with the dedicated ones, members of the household of God… with Jesus as capstone.”
Jesus told them, “Did you never read in the writings: ‘the stone the builders rejected became the capstone; by the Personal Name this has this been done, and it is wonderful in our eyes?” God will take his kingdom from you and give it to a people that will produce its fruit. The one falling on this stone will be crushed; it will crush anyone on whom it threshes.” The capstone threshes and Jeremiah tells us, “I will take care to punish your rotten harvest.” The imagery is intentional.
The capstone of the temple is not like the capstone of our Cathedral, rendered in the slideshow. If it were, how could the builders reject it and it become the capstone, the first stone set in building the temple? The capstone is the last stone set, the one set as the grand cosmetic edifice in the building. That is the high altar. If we do not produce fruit, are we better than the Pharisees, crushed by the altar, the capstone of the building they set as more important than the people?
“Barbara debates Ken about the sound of silence part I,” “Part 2” and “Seven reasons Catholics leave including our Cathedral and Diocese in Reno,” relate the plight of workers in contemporary America. They relate how our leadership is so much like the leadership of Jeremiah 23:1-6. We are not gathering in the common workers, the lost sheep of the house of Israel; we are scattering.
Four years ago, CNN gave us the election results from the presidential election. These results reflect a disturbing pattern still existing today. If only people of European/Caucasian ancestry had voted, John McCain would have won the election and won it handily. People from other races did vote, and our President is Barack Obama. The alarm is not that minorities voted, of course, but the clear divide between the one established European community, the leaders, those who are supposed to shepherd, and the sheep.
The established community insists it can play the role of the three monkeys who see, hear, and speak no evil, and the problems will just go away. God will hold them accountable for their intentional blindness.