Vineyards of En-Gedi | 2019 June
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Homiletics Notes / 29.06.2019

Decision and commitment tie the readings together for this 13th Sunday of Ordinary Time. These two steps are but the beginning steps of the longer process of discipleship. Elisha is just beginning. Paul encourages the Corinthians at the outset of their life in the Spirit not to turn back, despite the hard road ahead. The three who enthusiastically approach Jesus in the gospel just make their first declaration; it is a commitment compromised by their former commitment, and while they are not turned away by Jesus but invited to begin discipleship. The concluding plow image and saying perhaps still works even in our largely urban culture; people can still relate. If only we were as committed to our discipleship as we are to our economics and politics wouldn't this be a different church! Where is our baptism? Where is our "body" in Christ in the Eucharist? Whatever happened to that Holy Spirit in confirmation? And as for the two sacraments of service (yes, that's the Catechism rubric) how am I doing? Actually all the sacraments, but perhaps for the anointing of the sick, are commitments. The idea and word of "sacramentum" originates in the Roman imperial army; it was the most sacred vow a soldier took to serve the emperor and fight until death for Rome. The Church picked up this rather secular word for its own purposes. ...

Homiletics Notes / 27.06.2019

The Elijah and Elisha story are hyperbolic in that the slaughter of the 12 oxen seems unnecessary; it would have produced close to 8,000 pounds of meat to eat or four tons! In the day before refrigeration this meant eating it within days, or corning, smoking, or jerking it, which itself are all labor intensive. So it seems like the story has a bit of hype. The twelve clearly refers to Israel's twelve tribes, the nostalgic form of government in Elijah's time of wicked kings and queens, eg. Ahaz and Jezebel! Israel becomes a sacrifice for the Lord, an offering of the whole self, none left for the royal consciousness (cf. Brueggemann) but only for the prophetic work of ensuring the divine and holy presence of the Lord among the people. At this point, Elisha offers himself to Elijah to be trained in the school of the prophets. Psalm 16 this weekend is a fine followup to this motif. Which leads me to the question: are we being schooled in the Gospels? are we willing to turn aside from our own "plowing of the field" to the Lord's work? Where does God rank in the activities of my life? ...

Homiletics Notes / 26.06.2019

The thematic thread woven in the readings this Sunday could be taken from the responsorial Psalm 16, "O Lord, my allotted portion nd my cup, you it is who hold fast my lot." Elijah and Elisha received their lot from God, Paul boasts of his life's lot in the Holy Spirit, and Jesus accepts his Father's will in freely going up to Jerusalem. Many think to choose and create their own life (finding one's self) while finding it obscure or hard to ask God, "Why did you make me?" Connected to this issue of one's lot in life, is acceptance and also at once a freedom. The human person has a higher calling than the mere making of money, and we are more than we realize. This is a theme running through all of Tolkien's stories: acceptance of one's destiny, that never comes from within one's self, but always from some higher source. These stories are compelling for that reason as we watch and see the character accept the lot given to them, whether they like it or not, and their reluctance. Just start with Frodo for example, and any of the Hobbits. The one who rejected his lot and choose himself, of course, is Sauron, the epitome of evil. ...

Homiletics Notes / 25.06.2019

As the 4th of July approaches, we find ourselves attempting to wrestle with what freedom means. No one agrees; there are as many definitions as their are people. It seems that to many, of course, it means freedom in which they say, "I'm an American. Nobody tells me what to do," a line I heard from a neighbor once who sat in his pick up that had no mufflers at midnight smoking which literally shook my house. Freedom means I can do whatsoever I please. This is not what St. Paul is talking about. For him, it is a two sided coin: freedom from the yoke of slavery to sin (and aren't addictions a yoke of slavery?) and freedom "for service to one another through love." This is at the core of the life lived in the Spirit. Now, let me say from the outset that this is not easy to let go of all the things that bind me to this earth and this flesh because of desires and pleasures. While these things satisfy, briefly, they are not durable in the long run, and result in a human person, "incorvata in se," to quote St. Augustine. In a heavily materialistic and consumeristic world of excess and abundance, it is hard to see beyond these mortal things to consider that the spiritual is more satisfying. We are fed, clothed, and sheltered over the top, and children on our borders are captives in concentration camps of unspeakable conditions and want of human basics for simple dignity. And the so-called, alleged, evangelical Christian (many Catholics included) have little conscience about it. This will be Jesus' point in the Gospel this coming Sunday. We take care of ourselves first, then afterwards and our own business satisfied, then we just might think about following Jesus, but in our own interpretation and enculturation of the Gospel suited and cloth cut to bourgeoisie America. That gospel is not The Gospel. Oh, and I'm a guilty as the...

Homiletics Notes / 24.06.2019

This coming Sunday we return to Ordinary Time 13 C, and more than that we start with the outset of Jesus' journey to Jerusalem. In Luke's Gospel, up until chapter 9, Jesus has been ministering in Galilee and beyond traditional boundaries of Israel. His ministry has largely involved miracle stories, the gathering of his apostles and disciples, and rudimentary teachings about the reign of God. Now he turns his full attention to the coming Paschal Mystery, and "he resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem." It's very definitive and shows his strong will. There will be fewer miracles reported on the way, and there will much more teaching, especially now that the inner group has been called and formed. Luke presents us with the two obstacles facing Jesus. First in the rejection of his invitation from the Samaritans over their self-importance, and second in our attachment to the things of this world and not being attached to the reign of God. It is still the same today. We are inhospitable and distracted. The final verse in this passage, the hand to the plow saying, is about our commitments and perseverance. It is a saying still recognizable in our largely urban cultures. There are numerous examples of our initial attention to something and our lack of follow through, including the sacraments. ...

Homiletics Notes / 20.06.2019

The modern American parent calls their children to supper by calling out "Alright, kids, get in the car." They're headed for the drive through! Eating together, so often talked about, yet so often, not the way things are. After all, why is the state banquet for some foreign dignity so important or even doe anymore? First because we need nourishment. In nourishment together we share something more than just the food. A mouth, opened, because a two way street, in that as much goes in and as comes out. People eat and become more voluble. We talk, reveal (open up) ourselves, and share in a common experience of the food and drink. Jesus left us with a meal, the Lord's Supper, in its oldest designation. Luke notes that the bread and fish were satisfying, quenching their hunger, satisfied with the meal's food, but more than that, satisfied with the sharing in a new community that was created. At diplomatic suppers, there's the potential for a new community to be created. People talk, sharing the self that it more than the resume or the intelligence briefing. Their humanity comes out. This happens at the Lord's Supper, when the full divinity and humanity of Jesus are present to us in this new way. We are satisfied. ...

Homiletics Notes / 19.06.2019

For this coming solemnity, the readings make a strong connection between the priesthood (in the first reading and the psalm) and the Eucharist (in the second reading and the Gospel with its alleluia). The collects lead us from reverence, through unity and peace, and to sharing in Christ's life for eternity; all three of these are thematically Eucharistic and suggests directions for the homily on communion and community. In the Gospel, Jesus tells them to give the people some food themselves, rather than sending the people away into the local villages. The apostles realize how little they have, whether in the material of loaves and fish, but spiritually to feed people as Jesus does in his preaching. The detail of "groups of fifty" points to the fact that the first thing that Jesus does is to bring order in the confusion of our human condition. Not that the crowd was disorderly, but having come to Jesus, the crowd seems to go through stages of coming together in an orderly community. The use of numbers, 5, 2, 50, 5,000, and 12 resonate with other biblically meaningful and symbolic numbers. Numbers almost always point to some sort of order. This incident has always been read as a sign foretelling the Last Supper and the Eucharist, especially around the theme of fulfillment and satisfaction for the human person. There have been other recent readings regarding the breakdown of the barriers of ritual purity concerning food; some frown on this reading of this text because it seems to deny the aspect of multiplication, a word that itself does not appear in the text in any of the Gospels. The last verse of this passages seems fruitful for reflection: fragments gathered signify abundance and fulfillment. ...

Homiletics Notes / 18.06.2019

The second reading this coming Sunday from I Corinthians 11 is in the middle of a passage wherein Paul is criticizing the Corinthians community for their practices when they gather for the Lord's Supper, which is the earliest title of this event, τον του κυριου δειπνον. He takes on their divisions (we are still filled with divisions), the lack of attention to the hungry (there are still the poor among us not adequately fed), and that everyone eats worthily (we're still gawking to see who goes and who doesn't). . This last note is pointed. The approval comes from the individual, not the community. In other words conscience here holds first place for worthiness to receive. There's horror stories out there of priests who deny communion right there in front of everyone! Secondly to eat the bread, properly recognizing both the reality of Jesus present precisely in his dying, his self-emptying, and his sharing. The actual reading is quite matter of fact for what is called the institution of the Eucharist itself. Here it is the context that is worth exploring. The eating and drinking is a proclamation of the death of the Lord. Here the Eucharist is given as a core part of the whole kergyma, which is the evangelizing mission of the Church. We proclaim dying, so that we can profess resurrection. ...

Homiletics Notes / 17.06.2019

The coming weekend solemnity is the Body and Blood of Christ, year C. We are first presented with the mysterious figure, King Melchizedek, who also seems to be a priest out of nowhere. The historical events of Genesis 14 are shrouded in the mists of legend. After a successful recovery of his relative Lot and his property, The offering of bread and wine was done to celebrate the defeat of bad rulers and a restoration of concord to the Valley. It is a blessing for Abraham, who response with a tithe of the spoils from the battle. The contrast is King Bera of Sodom who offers Abraham a share of the material goods and persons captured, which Abraham rejects. The blessing of Melchizedek appears to be more valuable and important to him. The contrast is between the things of earth and the things of heaven; Abraham chooses the better part. As for Melchizedek, he become a type for King David, who both governs and blesses, and for Jesus, again both ruling and sanctifying. Psalm 110 reinforces this thematic connection; it is used in the ordination rite. The priests of the new covenant do not sacrifice animals, but offer bread and wine, as simple and rudimentary staples, yet also pointing to a feast and celebration. It is hard to imagine, for many, that the Mass is a feast, because it has been put to the them as an obligation, which means a burden. It is a victory over evil (the bad kings) and a celebration of the restoration of family (reuniting Abraham and Lot. This is a good place to begin a theology of the Mass and the Eucharist. ...

Homiletics Notes / 14.06.2019

The second reading this Sunday is all about relationship. After all this is the purpose of the human person we are made for relationship, finally for a relationship with God. Many people today are confused about this, thinking that our purpose is our work. We were not made for our work, which is not our careers, and even before given care for the garden of this earth, by God. The relationship came first and is the last. I'm remembering a quote from Winston Churchill, "A living is what you get, but a life is what you give." It's the famous John F. Kennedy question, 'Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country." Both examples of the fine art of rhetoric. As the Psalm has it, we are given "rule" over the earth, or in Genesis the awful translation of "dominion" is used, all the while the language points toward being in an orderly relationship with the "garden", this earth. The Trinity is a relationship of love. All this is problematic for the American male, rugged individualistic, self-made, whose model is Natty Bumpo of James Fennimore Cooper's Leatherstockinng Tales, as in the Last of the Mohicans, and later the Lone Ranger. these images, besides being unattainable myths, are contrary to the true end of the person -- a relationship of love in the Trinity. ...