Homilies - June 2010
- June 27, 2010
- by Fr. Christopher
- 1 Kings 10:16b,
- Galatians 5:1, 13-18
- Luke 9:51-62
The Cost of Discipleship
Jesus firmly resolved to journey to Jerusalem as the time came for him to be taken up. “I will follow you wherever you go”… “Have I done anything to you?”… “Follow me!”… “Let me go first and bury my father.”
The Word this morning speaks to us clearly about the cost of being a disciple of Jesus. Throughout the plan of salvation history God has chosen certain men and women to be his special agents by an invitation they could not refuse: Moses and Aaron; judges like Deborah, Samson, and Samuel; prophets like Isaiah, Jeremiah, Elijah and Elisha; kings like Saul, David, Josiah and Hezekiah. For some the call was clear; others asked for signs, protested their unfitness, or sought excuses.
From the beginning of his public ministry, Jesus called certain men and women by a simple order: “Follow me”; others by an invitation: “Come and see”. You know the stories of Peter and Andrew, James and John, Matthew and the others. The fishermen from Galilee appear to have abruptly left everything behind to become fishers of men for him. Matthew we are told had a going-away dinner, where Jesus was present, and as some saw it, defiling himself by eating with sinners.
Did the apostles know what discipleship to the Rabbi, the Master, would mean, would require of them? James and John, those Sons of Thunder, wanted to be like Elijah and call down fire from heaven to punish the inhospitable Samaritan villagers. They are the apostles who petitioned to have the highest places of honor in the new kingdom Jesus said he came to establish. “You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink of the cup I am to drink of?” he challenged them. “We can” they naively answered.
To those persons in today’s gospel who volunteered to follow him, Jesus warns them of the hardships involved: “The Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head”; and if you really want to follow me, there can be no turning back to what you left behind. Otherwise, you are not worthy to share in my kingdom. Jesus asks from the one whom he commands to follow him an immediate detachment from everything, even the familial piety of saying goodbye to parents or waiting until they are dead and buried. Only the sovereign Law Giver has the authority to dispense with the obligations of his commandment “Honor thy father and mother” for the sake of a higher calling.
In his book The Cost of Discipleship Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die”. The ways of dying are many besides the death of our mortal bodies, which is inevitable anyway. Whatever our state in life, to be his disciple means dying to that self that is rebellious, selfish, mistrusting, and too attached to the world’s passing pleasures. We live in a society of affluence, of immediate satisfactions, of unremitting noise and distraction. None of that excuses us from failure to avoid serious sin, the deadly sins, by which we cut ourselves off from peace with God. Affluence can encourage greed and too much dependence on accumulated possessions for a sense of security. Information technology has made pornography available, affordable, and anonymous, reducing the fear of discovery that previously hindered some people from acting out their sexual fantasies. Sadly they become addicts. Anxiety about appearance and decoration of our bodies promote vanity and envy.
The sacrificial demands of carrying the cross are put off, to be avoided by sloth. Tomorrow, tomorrow, Morgen, Morgen, cras, cras, but not today. The proverbial sluggard says: “A lion is outside; in the streets I might be slain.” (Prov. 22:13) St. Augustine pleads with the Lord to give him chastity, but not right away. We are not ignorant of the commandments and moral teachings of the church. We know we must cut away these and other serious sins from our lives in order to be at peace with God, the church and ourselves.
Paul speaks of our being set free by Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross and his resurrection, set free from slavery to sin, set free for generous service to our neighbor and obedience to God. It is easy to presume on God’s mercy and not make the effort, to work at the self-discipline and sacrifices that are part of that being free for God and others. Sirach portrays that attitude very vividly:
Rely not on your wealth; say not: “I have the power.” ….
Say not: “I have sinned, yet what has befallen me?” for the Lord bides his time.
Of forgiveness be not overconfident, adding sin upon sin.
Say not: “Great is his mercy; my many sins he will forgive.”
For mercy and anger alike are with him….Delay not your conversion to the Lord;
put it not off from day to day.” (Chapter 5)
Bonhoeffer speaks of this mentality as judging the offer of salvation as cheap grace. It is not enough to think that by the work of Christ my sins are forgiven, but I do not have to change. Jesus loves us where we are but wants us to grow up. There is that war going on in all of us between the flesh and the spirit that Paul talks about. The spirit can only gain ground and finally win the victory by making use of the armor of God that is set before us. Jesus came to tell us the truth about our human condition, that without him we can do nothing; united with him all things are possible.
If we accept his truth, his promises, his saving work for us all, and give him prime time in our relationship with him, we will become free, especially from fear of final judgment and death. While God’s offer of life with the Trinity in glory for eternity is pure gift, we have to stretch our imaginations that God would have such regard for us as to ask us to accept the offer, then to claim it for ourselves. How do we claim it? By asking Our Lord Jesus for light to see ourselves as he sees us, for strength to resist the lies of Satan and embrace the truth that come from the Wisdom of God, and for a humble spirit of gratitude for his patience with us thus far.
That is why we are here to go on with the Eucharistic sacrifice, joining ourselves to Christ in offering the perfect gift to the all-holy God. Our life with God in peace and joy only begins here. It must be continued as we walk out into our wounded world to bear witness to the hope he has given us that the passion, death and resurrection of the Son of God, Jesus Christ, was not in vain. By remaining united to Jesus, we have the power to answer yes to whatever he asks of us, even to walk away from all attachments to passing things of this world. Then we will be free to serve him with gladness and joy whatever state of life we find ourselves in. To Our Merciful Savior Jesus Christ with God the Father and the Holy Spirit be honor, glory, and obedience now and forever. AMEN
Fr. Christopher Wyvill
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- June 20, 2010
- by Fr. Hilary
- Zechariah 12:10-11, 13:1
- Psalm 63:2-6, 8-9
- Galatians 3;26-29
While I was reflecting on today’s Scripture readings and the Responsorial Psalm, the word and the notion of “symphony” kept coming to my mind. I don’t know about you but it is a delight to me to reflect on the Greek roots of so many English words. Take the tiny Greek word syn: As a preposition it means “with” “I came with him” But as a prefix it expresses “withness” or “togetherness. ” So a “synthesis” is a “placing together;” a “symbol” is a “throwing together”. If I send you a rose, it’s not for eating! And a “symphony” is a “sounding together.” The Greek word for “voice” or “sound” is “phon-e,” from which we get phonetics.
A classical symphony brings together many styles of music. A solo passage may introduce a beautiful brief theme which is later elaborately developed by the whole orchestra. On the whole there is a unity of different pieces or fractions of the whole.
What does all this have to do with today’s Scripture, and indeed with today’s celebration? I started looking at today’s responsorial psalm, psalm 63, and found it beautiful. A passionate expression of love and desire for God: “My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord, my God. ” Here is one interpretation, that of Carroll Stuhlmueller:1 The psalmist’s desire is so intense as to defy logic. On the one hand the psalmist thirsts for God; like a dry weary land without water; on the other, :”as with the riches of a banquet my soul is satisfied.” Verses 2 and 3 offer an explanation: (in another translation from the one in the Lectionary):
“So I have looked upon thee in the sanctuary, beholding thy power and thy glory. Because thy steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise thee.”
“Better than life”? This could be an intimation of immortality. Of a life better than this life.
“Looking upon thee in the sanctuary:” The psalmist’s prayer is certainly associated with the Temple, and all it means for the life of the people of God. In the Temple was the Ark of the Covenant. The “steadfast” love that the psalmist praises is God’s Covenant love, the expression of a personal concern for those God embraces in the Covenant, inviting a response of love.. Here is the dynamic of encounter.
And here, I would propose, is the possibility of seeing the religious life of Israel as a symphony. We read psalm 107 every other week at the morning office of Wednesday, if there is not a major feast on that day. It begins: “Give thanks to the Lord who is good, whose [steadfast] love endures forever.” There follow four descriptions of communal distress, for example of a group lost in the desert. In each great difficulty the group prays to the Lord, who hears their cry and saves them. Each example begins a conclusion with the phrase, “Let them thank the Lord for such steadfast love, such wondrous deeds for mere mortals.” God’s steadfast love encompasses both the individual and the community, the assembly, the People of God. Is that a “symphony?”
Today’s Gospel and second reading show us a New Testament context for these themes.
Today’s Gospel seems completely about individuals. Jesus is alone with his disciples, and asks “Who do the crowds say that I am?” Answer: “John the Baptist, Elijah, or one of the ancient prophets.” That’s what people say. Then the direct Q. Who do you say I am? Peter; “The Christ of God,” “Christ” being understood as ‘the anointed one’ –which is a translation of the word “Messiah.” There were various expectations of who and of what type the Messiah would be. Jesus does not deny that he is the anointed on of God. But of what kind? There follows Jesus’ solemn prediction of his rejection, suffering and death, and of his resurrection on the third day. On top of that, the warning: Those who wish to come after him must deny themselves take up their crosses every day and follow him. And on top of that, the great paradox: If you wish to save your life, you will lose it. If you lose your life for Jesus’ sake you will save it.
In one sense these predictions, the challenges to individuals, are generalities, but this much is true: in every Christian life the cross is inevitable. How and when it comes is not clear. We approach it within the broader context of not only Christ’s death but also his resurrection, ascension and sending of the Holy Spirit to renew His saving presence in our lives. His “saving Spirit” expressed in the community of the church. For light on that we turn to the second reading.
Our Second Reading is from St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians. There are controversies concerning it and within it. In St. Paul’s time The Roman Province of Galatia was in the western part of what we call Turkey. But the Province had a northern section and a southern section, and it isn’t clear in which section the community St. Paul evangelized and later addressed lived. What is clear is that after his initial preaching and forming of Christian communities there was a harmful influence of Christians who had retained influences from Jewish traditions, such as circumcision, or that fidelity was basically a matter of observing the law rather than something that came through faith in Jesus Christ.
Chapter 3 begins; “O stupid Galatians! Who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus was publicly portrayed as crucified?” He quotes Genesis: “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” The law was a pedagogue, a kind of “disciplinarian,” now replaced by faith. Our reading today is the final four verses of this complex argument. So Paul writes;
For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves in Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person; there is not male and female; for you all are ONE IN CHRIST.
Here is a great mystery. In first Corinthians Paul expresses it this way:
The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because the loaf of bread is one, we, though many, are one body, because we all partake of the one loaf. (First Corinthians 10:16-17).
Later in the epistle when speaking of spiritual gifts, Paul writes:
As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ., For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jew or Greek , slave or free persons, and we were all given to drink of the one Spirit (12:12-13).
Symphony: Each of the readings and the psalm shows us aspects of our Christian life and worship. Do they “sound together” in a beautiful way? I think so, especially if both the singular parts and the communal parts come together as a whole in our worship.
Fr. Hilary Hayden
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- June 12, 2010
- by Fr. John
- 2 Sam. 12:7-10, 13
- Gal. 2:16, 19-21
- Luke 7:36 – 8:3
Christ’s Forgiveness of Sins
In the readings today we have two stories of forgiveness of sins. The first is David , accosted by the prophet Nathan for having had the soldier Uriah killed to hide his adultery with Uriah’s wife. David admitted his sin, and Nathan proclaimed that God had forgiven him – though there would be results of his sin in his own family. The second story is that of a woman known to be a sinner, who comes to Jesus while he is dining at the Pharisee Simon’s, house, washes his feet with her tears, wipes them with her hair, kisses them and anoints them with perfumed oil.
Both of these sinners admitted their sins, and therefore were forgiven. We may be sure that this admission was sincere and included a determination not to do anything like those sins in the future. In our time and place great numbers of Christians and Catholics have over-assimilated to the culture around them and live in ways incompatible with Scripture and the Christian Way. This comes from such things as overvaluing money, political power, sex, and acceptance by others so that these take priority over Christ’s way. And many of these people consider their choice a sign of freedom and liberation, little realizing that their choice is a sign of being trapped on the surface of life. They are suppressing deeper dimensions of what it is to be human, what it is to relate to God and what it is to accept Christ’s way. But many have highly developed defense mechanisms that are proof against prophets like Nathan or the example and love of Christ.
Where is Jesus in all of this current experience of the Church? If we take a look at the Gospel story, we see a bit of an answer to this question. Jesus’ life and words were known to this woman, and it was because of who these words and actions showed him to be that she had a change of heart about her life and so whole heartedly expressed it. She had a glimpse of the holiness of God and God’s love reflected in Jesus, and this threw a very different light on her actions which she now repudiated with tears. She had a “metanoia’ – a change of mind as well as of heart. She interpreted reality and herself differently now in the light of who Jesus was. A change of heart without a change in interpretation of who we are, an acceptance of dimensions of the self previously suppressed, is impossible. And we see Jesus’ inner freedom of spirit and acceptance of her that he allowed her to express her change of heart through washing his feet with her tears, wipe them with her hair, kiss them and anoint them. She was not mistaken in her estimate of Jesus. To Simon, Jesus tells a parable and then points out that this woman loves much because much has been forgiven her, correcting Simon’s judgmental attitude toward this woman.
Jesus came not to teach the law but to proclaim the kingdom, that is God’s promised and ultimate offer of salvation to his people. This salvation was a freeing of them from all that stood in the way of their relation to God, an invitation to a deeper relation to God – not only for the individual but for the community so that it would move toward being a more just and merciful society. The people’s relation to God now did not depend primarily on their relation to the law but on their relation to Jesus. Would they accept him or not, accept him on his terms or only on their terms? And in inviting their faith that would bring them salvation, Jesus allowed people their freedom, though he was deeply saddened when they rejected him, knowing as he did the results for them of such rejection.
Jesus’ example has a message for the Church of our time, faced as it is with a seemingly massive departure from the way of Christ by many erstwhile Catholics in Europe and the United States. There is indeed a need for the Church to teach Christ’s way in season and out of season, but there is a danger that it could so concentrate on the moral law that it does not give priority to the proclamation of the kingdom. Its primary duty is to proclaim that God is offering his people and all people God’s way of access to him revealed through Christ and God’s salvation – the answer to human beings’ deepest needs – through the Church, through Christ’s words, through interior enablement by the Holy Spirit, through the sacraments, through God’s forgiveness. And the Church is called to show this by the way it lives, so that people will know that it is making this offer with the dispositions of Christ. People should see that it acknowledges and accepts the good in our culture as well as corrects what is deficient in it. And people of good will should see that the Church is willing to be corrected when appropriate as well as to correct. Then, whether people accept the Church’s invitation is up to their freedom; it is not blocked by the Church’s counter-witness to Christ. – But we must remember that while Vatican II acknowledged that the Church was always in need of reform, we cannot wait till we have a perfect witness to Christ in the Church. This has never been the case, and is unlikely to be the case in our life time!
All of us have a call in the Gospel story, because we are all being called to be transformed into the image of Jesus. People should see in us something of Christ’s image and the joy of the Spirit, and they should hear from us something of Christ’s message.
Fr. John Farrelly
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