[Listen to "Fr. Baer's homily from 8/28/2010" at www.transfigurationmn.org/worship/Audio.Homily.htm]
This Sunday's Gospel (Luke 14:1, 7-14) lends itself to a nagging homiletical treatment. Indeed, if not careful, we may find ourselves reduced to preaching condescending, moralizing, even whining homilies week after week. Parishioners can take only so many "lettuce" homilies ("let us do this-and-that," "let us be nicer, humbler, kinder, gentler," "let us try harder, let us run faster, let us jump higher."
The hearer becomes sick and tired of lettuce.
In my opening comments about the parishioner with the tomatoes, I attempted two things: First, I sought to acknowledge that I, like everyone else, tend to consider the worth of each member of the parish according to what they can do for me, even if it is as simple as providing me with fresh produce from their garden. Second, I wanted to highlight the fact that this tendency to give attention only to those who might do some good for me is not a habit that occurs only in the profound moments of life, but is likely happening over and over again in my day-to-day affairs.
My concluding challenge to the parishioners, to choose to "waste" a few minutes of time this weekend with someone who, at least ostensibly, could not do something good for them in return, was an attempt to avoid the soft, moralizing, "now then, don't you feel vaguely worse about yourself now that you've listened to this" finale that homily topics like this often conclude with.
If we are going to ask our listeners to change their way of life as disciples of Jesus Christ, in light of His Gospel, let's avoid smothering them with the condescending, tut-tutting, furrowed-brow treatment.
Instead, give them a concrete way to respond.