February 24, 2019
Luke 18: 1-30
Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’
“For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’”
And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”
To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’
“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’
“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
People were also bringing babies to Jesus for him to place his hands on them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”
A certain ruler asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.’[a]”
“All these I have kept since I was a boy,” he said.
When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was very wealthy. Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”
Those who heard this asked, “Who then can be saved?”
Jesus replied, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.”
Peter said to him, “We have left all we had to follow you!”
“Truly I tell you,” Jesus said to them, “no one who has left home or wife or brothers or sisters or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age, and in the age to come eternal life.”
If ever there was a passage of scripture that sums up the legacy and lessons, the witness to the Life of Dr. Cecile De Sweemer, it is our reading from today. Cecile pushed for justice, through prayer and action, on behalf, not just for herself, but those who needed a passionate advocate. I heard over and over again from those who knew her that she did not give up, that she pushed for what she knew was right, and when the Church, or the UN, NGO’s or governments got in the way, she kept at it, wearing them down until justice was delivered. We could all learn a lot from her tenacity.
Cecile was also someone who taught us to not skirt our responsibility, to not think we were justified by being better than others, but for owning our own part of the work of bringing about the Reign of God on earth. Sure, she could have rested after a lifetime of dedication to those experiencing poverty, illness, and the ravages of conflict, but she did not. Instead of looking at others and saying “I’ve done more in my life than they ever will,” she was faithful to the end, working for others, often before herself. She did not exalt herself, but lived a life that truly taught us what it meant to be humbled for the sake of love of neighbor, and for that, God and many around our world exalt her.
Cecile loved children, and when I think of the story of the children coming to Jesus, I think of the many photos of Cecile, with children coming to her. She taught through her work with children who had been orphaned, the importance of letting our lives be disrupted by children, of removing the barriers that keep us from caring for those who need us most.
And finally, Cecile took seriously the call, and the gift, of giving up all that we have to follow Jesus, to leave our families, our wealth, and wholeheartedly enter the Reign of God, Where we have family and community aplenty, among those marginalized by the powers of the world.
Cecile, Well done, Good and Faithful Servant. May we live into your example. May we find ourselves in the family of God you pushed us to embrace, and may your memory be a blessing to all who loved you and called you friend, mother, mentor and colleague.