Vineyards of En-Gedi | 2019 May
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Homiletics Notes / 31.05.2019

Luke's Gospel ends on a very upbeat note. The apostle return to the city filled with joy. Yes, their beloved friend has departed, but promises to return. "Great joy" is very difficult to hide; people can see it and hear it. "They were in the Temple praising God continuously." At the very outset, these Christians were causing problems for the Roman occupation and for the Jewish religious leaders. They are doing exactly what Jesus did. Their "impact on society", to quote from Pope Francis' exhortation "Evangelii Guadium" is to restore joy and praising God. These remain the tasks of the Church today. Too often, religion and faith are considered serious and glum things with a long and sad face filled with holy fear. Imagine a Catholic Church ringing with "great joy." Now there's a thought! ...

Homiletics Notes / 30.05.2019

"Looking on" phrase points to the visual nature of this passage and of faith. Remember "blessed are those who have seen and heard". Seeing leads to believing. This is not just a physical seeing, but a spiritual insight; it is a looking deeper. Luke opens with the "presentation" of Jesus to the disciples. They saw, and what they saw was the whole kergyma, the life of Jesus, and in the context of God's overarching plan for salvation. What follows this passage is Pentecost, the birth of the Church, and the commission to preach this very kerygma, so that other may "see and believe." We are such a visual culture ourselves. We see, perhaps too much on the internet, and this seeing leads to all kinds of problems and falsehoods that we see and believe. Yet believing this kergyma, played out before our very eyes, we don't believe. We need to se with much more discernment and using the tests given to us by the Holy Spirit, as to what is true or what is fake. ...

Homiletics Notes / 29.05.2019

There's a choice for the second reading. In the Hebrews choice, the Ascension event appears in priestly and temple language and imagery. Blood (in the Book of Leviticus) is life, so that life offered in sacrifice becomes a sharing and a gift of life. Blood removes sin, which is death, and restores life. Through the life, through the blood of Jesus we, too, are able to be with him in life in the heavenly sanctuary. This life is available only through a sharing in the blood/life of Christ. The hearts sprinkled clean historically references Exodus 24 and the "bodies washed in pure water" references the exodus passage through the Sea of the people of Israel. (Exodus 14-15) This last reference is the going up of the people of Israel to the promised land. Eucharist and Baptism are profoundly connected here in this text. We, too, have made and indeed are still making this same journey of faith. The challenge is to enable people to see that this pattern in Christ is the pattern for us to which we ought to be conformed. For this confession of faith gives life. ...

Homiletics Notes / 28.05.2019

The question Jesus raises in the Gospel requires a decision. Have I received this Holy Spirit Advocate whom Jesus sends or have I received the spirit of this age and place (this culture) in which I live. It is far easier and complacent to accept the spirit of this age. I think it is difficult for Americans to imagine something other than what we already have. largely because it is very comfortable for us. WE have confused this for the reign of God. It is not. As soon as that is said, of course, it sounds like heresy and treason, to say nothing of a lack of gratefulness. Yes, it is very sweet, but it is not the reign of God. It is actually the middle class bourgeoisie. When Jesus says go into the whole world, he means to penetrate the world with such an impact on society and culture so as to change it profoundly. Pope Francis speaks of this in Evangelii Gaudium. Our impact has been damaged and compromised for so many reasons. So when it comes to the "power from on high", it is very different from my own accumulation of power from below. I tend to trust my own power more that this other power, even having evidence every day to the contrary. How to talk about trusting and receiving this "power from on high?" ...

Homiletics Notes / 27.05.2019

Memorial Day and a remembrance of those who died in battle; our society has made it to include all the dead, which has always seemed to me to distract from the specific and deliberate honoring of those who sacrificed for our country. Jesus, once dead and buried, now completes the next aspect of the paschal mystery, the Ascension, returning to the Father so that he should come back again. Like ourselves the apostles grieved the loss of their teacher and friend, but here in this event is both promised and commission. As Luke tells it, the emphasis is on evangelization. The apostles are sent to preach repentance for the forgiveness of sins. Witness to this repentance is given by the new life style of the apostolic community. Herein, reconciliation and "caritas" conforms all actions among them to Christ. The word "μετανοια", usually translated on "conversion" is here given as "repentance." This is a key concept word in the gospels. I signifies a complete reversal (a favorite theme in Luke) of the status quo into something entirely new. This newness was one of the most attractive things about the small apostolic community to many. It is easy for us in parish life to look more like our culture than the reign of God, and we readily accept "business as usual." In this time of major generational shift, moral collapse, and shattered world, parishes cannot afford "business as usual" much longer. ...

Homiletics Notes / 26.05.2019

In most dioceses, next Sunday is Ascension. The first reading in all of the three year cycle is Luke's account in the opening of Acts. The author extends the story of the gospel is continue with the story of the apostolic community. Typical of Luke, it is a speech event, and therefore a teaching as a catechetical event. Set speech events are a typical way of doing Greek history. Jesus' speech ends with the great commission to the community to relate the story of Jesus to the ends of the earth. We've not reached the ends of the earth yet. Indeed we ourselves are in need of hearing this story and receiving it into our lives. Evangelization is about witnessing by actions, not necessarily words. The actual ascension is in one succinct verse. The rest is the "men in white" exhorting them to move on. Immediately they return to Jerusalem to begin the great work. Hence, the Ascension is connected with the Pentecost event and by extension the birth of the Church. "Standing there looking up at the sky" I take to mean a sort of spiritual navel gazing, gobsmacked and frozen, not moved to do the work. Sound familiar like the Church today? ...

Homiletics Notes / 24.05.2019

Reading the letter to the churches in Acts, everyone wants to ask what an unlawful marriage is? Jesus himself had used the expression when speaking about marriage, but in neither case is it spelled out precisely what this means. So, the church took up this expression and over the following centuries began to develop and flesh out just exactly what this means, In any event, if you wish the church to look into the matter regarding your marriage, then make an appointment with your priest, deacon, or annulment person in your parish to initiate an inquiry. Sometimes I think that when I retire I'll just do annulments full time. kIn the first round of the Last Supper discourse of Jesus, the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, in introduced. This Spirit teaches and reminds. The reminder is the fundamental core kerygma. The kerygma is the essential, simple story of Jesus as a statement of what one believes. He descended, he was incarnate, he suffered, he was crucified, he died, he was buried, he rose from the dead, he ascended to the Father, and he will come again. These nine verbs, not that difficult to remember, are also the core of the Nicene Creed. It is a narrative that is about Jesus and about us. The leap of faith comes with the resurrection and return. Because of faith we conform our own lives to the pattern of this same story. ...

Homiletics Notes / 23.05.2019

The Gospel speech of Jesus reveals the Trinity, not just some dogmatic statement, but a living relationship which seeks to include the human person. Faithful love inaugurates the relationship, which is described as indwelling and adding. These are terms of intimacy. This indwelling and adding was almost unheard of for the Hellenistic world of the Greeks and Romans. They might have had experiences of the divine and told stories of the gods walking among humans. Jesus introduces the possibility of something entirely new. Achieving this means love begets love. We know this in glimpses in our normal human experiences, especially in holy marriage. The Holy Spirit accompanies this indwelling as teacher and advocate. The result of this love is peace. The sign of this peace is the stillness of the human heart, which is almost completely unavailable in our culture. We are restless. Yet rather than dwelling on the restlessness, the point is invite this peace and describing it, not as an absence of the cultural restlessness but rather as something entirely new. Who wouldn't want this? ...

Homiletics Notes / 22.05.2019

"Some" among the followers of the Way, raised the question and claimed to answer definitively: Who is welcome into community and communion? The church is still asking that question today when it comes to the divorced and remarried, the people of various Eastern rites, Episcopalian/Anglicans, LBGTQ folk, and others. We set up rigorous steps for them to climb, hurdles to jump, hoops, and fences. The question comes down to who is with us and who is against us. It seems that the church then finds itself boxed into a very tight corner when it tries to please everyone or take the most conservative course. Some would say that there should be no benchmarks or qualifications at all. In a time when diversity is the goal, there's much confusion out there. I appreciate the wording of the letter: "It is the decision of the Holy Spirit and of us not to place on you any burden beyond these necessities . . ." There are only four measures listed, and the first three are foreign to our culture. So today it would come down to "unlawful marriage", and we all know from the annulment process, that that is a wide open question. What is the Holy Spirit telling us today? What principles arise in our hearts and consciences? What is the goal if not communion and community? Do we live in a world where we can still afford to be exclusive? What a dance we do around these questions! ...

Homiletics Notes / 21.05.2019

When I read the narrative in Acts about the first "council" of Jerusalem, I read behind the text the confrontation between two opposing parties and their practices of evangelization. I also read the "parrhesia", freedom of speech that they respected. Their concern and question was pivotal for the the future of the Christian communion. The issue were dietary, racial, tribal, ritual, the argument between the law and grace, and politics. Surely Luke only offers his account in an incomplete way, choosing set speeches, a Hellenistic way of writing history. Peter speaks first; the conversion of Cornelius already completed. Then James re-interprets the law. The upshot: the Gentiles ought to be invited to the table. Half of this first reading from Acts is the Letter given to Paul and companions to bear to Antioch. Note that practice comes before dogma. Peter and Paul had already been welcoming Gentiles into the Sacraments of Initiation. After the practices, follows the teachings. In reality this is still the order today of development. Although there is some resistance to change, this is the way of the Holy Spirit. The Jerusalem church was hesitant but not afraid to take this major step in evangelization; the Church today should have the same conviction and courage. ...