Vineyards of En-Gedi | 2019 March
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Homiletics Notes / 29.03.2019

In some way, as Jesus addresses the parable of the Lost Son to the Pharisees, it seems almost as if to the older brother, and by extension to us. I have known more than one time when I've been the older brother, holding back, full of resentment, proud, and feeling better than that other person, a Eucharist crasher. Our own claim to some kind of holiness is seriously invalidated when we lord it over others with our own self-righteousness. Reconciliation, in other words, involved everyone. The background Hebrew word שןבה "shuvah" has more than one step to it. It means to come to an awareness of when you are sitting, to arise, to turn in the other direction, and then move. The younger son does just this in the parable; the older brother does not. Yet, I think this movement is also the work of the parish. Lincoln was once asked how he would treat the rebellious South once the Civil War was over. His answer, "As if they had never been away." ...

Homiletics Notes / 28.03.2019

The Joshua reading accompanies the Lost Son parable because it commemorates a feast; the people are now reconciled to God, have enter the promised land, and now celebrate. So, too, today the people come for food. Food forms community. When I was teaching full time, I'd set out a box or bag of cookies, didn't matter what kind, and the students would snarf them up, sit down, and talk. How many parish pot luck's, funeral dinners, receptions, whatever, and if there's food they will come. Sometimes here at Guardian Angels, the Bible Study breakfast reaches Sunday brunch proportions. We gather, we eat, we talk. It's a feast. This is what the Father does when the son returns; and his desire is for everyone to be present. Reconciliation is a feast! Now we can eat together again. Reconciliation is a harvest! ...

Homiletics Notes / 26.03.2019

"We are ambassadors" is a verb in Greek, and has more a sense of a trained elder sent to negotiate peace, or in a crude English it might be read as "we are ambassadorizing for Christ." For the disciple today and the parish today, this means that the Church can never be merely inward gazing and working, but must be present in the world and to the world. It also means that peace is not negotiated through finger pointing judgment, but rather through the skill of listening and coming to a new truth about all the parties involved that is a new creation. The Father desires that the two sons enter into a new relationship with one another; the father truly negotiates with the older brother. The Church, especially religious orders, have made very little investments in developing the skill of its members in this practice, so much needed in the modern world of increasing tribalization and polarization. ...

Homiletics Notes / 25.03.2019

Of the fifteen times that the word reconciliation, καταλλαγητη, five of these occurrences are here in the second reading, therefore, it is one of the premier sites for a theology of reconciliation. It is the Father who reconciles, through Christ, all things to himself; it is the Father in Revelations who makes all things new. So, again the Father as in the gospel appears here in the readings. The Father send us as ambassadors, in the text not a noun but a verb, which suggests the activity of the role and not the status. The usual word for a political ambassador is not used, but rather suggests a person seasoned with experience and wisdom and discipleship. This "ambassadorship" has a ministry component (διακονια = diaconate) and a message (λογος), which means an "account". This accounting or narrative is twofold: it is at once the fundamental kergyma of the gospel and also the hearing out of the person's story, both victim and perpetrator, those near and those far off. ...

Homiletics Notes / 25.03.2019

The editorial bar introduces this gospel as the "Parable of the Lost Son" instead of the "Parable of the Prodigal Son," perhaps because the word "prodigal" has gone of usage or perhaps because the son now lost to the Father is the son who stayed home all along. But then, like every good parable, there is no ending to the story so we have no idea whether he goes in to the feast at his Father's special invitation. When we are in love we can become recklessly extravagant towards the beloved with gifts, food, entertainment, jewelry, wine, rings, clothes, our inmost self, our time. We do not think of the cost. For love, we have even made foolish mistakes. Or do we? This is the father in the parable. Who of us have not waited for a lover to return, a child to come back home, a friend rediscovered after years of absence? If there is any prodigal part of the story, it the Father in his reckless love. Each of the sons is rebellious in his own way, which in some ways places each on the extremes of a spectrum of love. Yet the Father is extravagant in the breathe and scope of his forgiveness. He pleads with the older brother. His argument? The great value in reconciliation. Our own families are so often just like this family portrayed by Jesus. I see the rifts particularly at funerals. There's so much need of reconciliation, when I see the sheer greed for the inheritance be first and foremost in the hearts and minds of one adult child or another. ...

Homiletics Notes / 21.03.2019

Luke's gospel text for Year C, seems very strange in some ways. Just after a series of parables on a variety of topics, this unusual awareness of the daily news interrupts the teachings, but becomes a teaching on the nature of sin, forgiveness, and restoration to productive fruitfulness. Jesus typically uses agricultural imagery to teach. Certain televangelist preachers have been known to make comments on natural disasters and the like, suggesting that these things were God's punishment. I take away from Jesus' comments here that one should hesitate to draw such hasty conclusions, yet this seems to be our human tendency. Just before this insertion, Luke 12, 54-56 addresses the problem of reading the signs of the times. Basically, us humans aren't very good at it. Nor are we the best at making judgments, for example, the orchard owner caves in to the gardener regarding the fig tree, who knows it better than the owner, because he has the quality of knowledge of fig tree and the quality of tender care, as is shown in vs. 8. He cultivates it and manures it. This is the life of the disciples -- cultivation of the gospel and the fertilizer of God's grace. Then the fruits of the Holy Spirit will be borne. This is really the first step of evangelization, to prepare one's self for the work. ...

Homiletics Notes / 20.03.2019

Paul wants us to be aware, to remember our history, especially from the viewpoint of God's actions in our history. He is remembering the Exodus events. Despite God's saving them, the people were fundamentally ingrates, their first sin, and their second, they wanted to return back to Egypt. Their third sin: to take matters into their own hands, and worship what they themselves created. So it is with us, these exact spiritual, mental, and willful sins in the modern world. Egypt is the secular world with all its bright lights, sounds, and conveniences. We like it here. What's to be saved from? These sins, this history is an example for us. When I go off on a history tangent in my homily, some people complain because they don't like history and they certainly don't like the reminder. But he main point is the last line of the text, that we should take care to stand firm. This does not mean in some belligerent, eristic way, but rather the firmness that comes with interior peace, that stilling of the soul and mind and heart before God. This is the work of Lent in prayer. ...

Homiletics Notes / 19.03.2019

So far, this Lent, I am enjoying the first readings, until of course next Sunday and the parable of the prodigal son, who has been downgraded by the English editors, to the "lost son", while saying nothing about his being found. Upon seeing the bush burning, Moses "decides", I must go over to look at this remarkable sight and see why the bush is not burned. Does religion, then, begin with curiosity? The strange, the unaccounted for, the mysterious compellingly calls out to us. Curiosity is a lesson best learned from having two cats. Yet we have the mystery of the divine presence among. Are people no longer curious about the world we cannot see nor give an account? The dialogue begins and ends with names, the human Moses and the holy "I AM". It is in between this naming that we first here the Exodus story in a nutshell, announced and told by "I AM". Moses' response to a request for authorization, literally. What will I tell? Who are you sending me? Faith also begins in questions as well as curiosity. The second naming by God's own self is very interesting structurally. "The Israelits" and "to you" (who are the very Israelites) bracket the word "I AM" so that that the layout of the words suggests that God is already in their midst. Do we have the imagination, the healing of our spiritual blindness to see and know that yes, indeed this is so true. God is much safer in burning bushes and locked in tabernacles. ...

Lectionary & Catechesis, Lent, Year B / 17.03.2019

The anointed one, foretold in Cyrus according to Isaiah, and fulfilled in Jesus Christ comes to save us through the trial of baptism, death to sin and an assent to God’s grace in the resurrection. The readings are about lamentation for the effects of sin; this is what Pope Francis means by a renewal of compunction, the gift of tears....

Homiletics Notes / 15.03.2019

It is very difficult to be firm with another person to say nothing being firm with one's own self. In a culture awash in the rollercoaster ride of emotions and relativism, there's no support for it. Often, going with the flow is the easiest and calmest way out. There was a cartoon I saw once of two men standing in hell, talking no doubt about how they wound up there. One says to other, "I just went with the flow. I had no idea it wound end up here." Yet, this is Paul's concluding advice, "Stand firm in the Lord." He's been writing about models and conformity to Christ's glorified body. I seem to remember some other place where we are to conform ourselves to the cross. Just exactly what does that mean? Conformity to the glorified body of Christ, just what is this? Further, He will do it for us. Because this text is coupled with the gospel story of the transfiguration, where apostles experienced the dazzling white of Jesus' clothes, it seems as if the emphasis is not on the dramatic change of clothes, but that Jesus is conversing with Moses and the Prophet Elijah, figuratively the law and the prophets. This makes us ask: Am I in conversation with the law and the prophets? After all this is the appearance of the conformity to this glorified body. Prayer is this conversation, just as is a homily, which to me is a dialogue about love, there being no other more worthwhile conversation. Conformity in this dialogue leads to the capacity to stand firm in one's heavenly citizenship. Yet, this is not about the individual, as Paul is actually writing in the plural, but about the formation of the community of faith, all of us together. ...