Vineyards of En-Gedi | 2019 July
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Homiletics Notes / 17.07.2019

Hospitality is a lot of work, and often more work than many want to do. Quick and easy and simple govern the planning for hospitality. More than once I've had guests stay at a nearly hotel rather than be in my home. Typically they are just as happy, likewise, to do so. As in the house of Martha and Mary everything in th house is topsy-turvy, apt least that is the impression from Luke's account with the language is Greek suggesting tumult. Martha is depicted as a person who normally seems to like control of things; who can blame her! It's not only all the prep, it's the listening to the guest, which is the moment that the hospitality gets really serious. Travelers always have stories to tell, and sometimes it's like being invited over to someone's house to watch the slides and videos they took of their recent European tour vacation, which can be very boring. Mary listens to Jesus. He is telling the stories of the journey to Jerusalem, stories about how the reign of God is lived out on the way to the heavenly banquet in Jerusalem. The journey is not without cost. The road to heaven is the narrow way, the climb up the mountain is difficult. No more than Jesus leaves the house of Martha and Mary, refreshed no doubt by their hospitality, he is off in the wilderness at prayer and he offers a longer teaching on praying. ...

Homiletics Notes / 16.07.2019

The Catechism for the verses of the second reading about "filling up what is lacking in the affliction of Christ on behalf of his body which is the church" is explained as God's desire to share with the human person a "participation" in God's own activities. This theology comes from the creation narrative and the way Adam and Eve are created and stand in relationship to God over creation. So that what is lacking is this participation. In other words the human person is incomplete unless they take up their cross and follow Jesus. While it is absolutely a article of faith that the Cross is a once for all event, by itself without the participation of the human person would have ben efficacious but for nought, for lack of the human participation. The human person is brought to completion and fulfillment, not by career success or material wealth, but rather by the level to which the human person is engaged in the cross, indeed the whole kerygma pattern for our lives and very existence. This is a very difficult theology to proclaim in a homily; it is one of the unique ways that the scripture understand the role and nature of human suffering.The key word may be "participation" as an aspect of hospitality, which happens because we go out of our way to endure and experience something and some one we may otherwise have typically ignored. This is especially true of our capacity to welcome the divine guest, God. ...

Homiletics Notes / 15.07.2019

In the Gospel reading for this coming Sunday, note the first sentence, "Martha welcomed him." This implies that Martha was the home owner and an independent woman, not subject to a man. Attention to women is part of Luke's interest in his Gospel. The word "διακονειν" appears in verse 40 twice, once as a noun and another as a verb. Surely by the time Luke was writing and being a student of St. Paul, he was aware of how that word had become a specific ministry of service in the apostolic church. Luke perhaps is pointing to the specific role of Martha, among the wealthy women who served the Lord out of their wealth as a believer and close friend. Martha, indeed, is portrayed as giving the orders around the house. She is relatively blunt about telling Jeus to have Mary assist her. The two words that are translated as "anxious and worried" are not the strongest words for these feelings. "Worried" does suggest a bit of "an uproar" about something. The point, however is about the hospitality of listening and making space for the guest, hence in Luke's Gospel it follows the story of the Good Samaritan. ...

Homiletics Notes / 15.07.2019

The master storyteller, Luke, moves swiftly from the parable of the Good Samaritan and the final command of Jesus to another story of hospitality on his journey to Jerusalem: the encounter in the house of Mary and Martha. Both of these women show their own kind of hospitality, which is the bridge connecting the two gospel incidents. The lectionary chooses to provide the encounter of Abraham and the three divine beings at Mamre as an exemplar of this hospitality. The Colossians passage in the second reading alludes to this in the phrase, "it is Christ in you," his indwelling presence, bringing the church to perfection. For our summer travelers and family visitors, hospitality is a fine theme, but more so the current question of our national hospitality at the borders is surely on our minds and stinging our consciences. A little note here: the universal calendar has a memorial for St. Martha, but none for St. Mary, the sister who chose the "better part". It is coming up on July 29th. ...

Homiletics Notes / 12.07.2019

All the bloodshed of the world today, and there is a staggering amount (yet we don't reel from this), has not solved a single problem of the modern world. There are some people who seem to think that if we only find the right scapegoat and sacrifice that population (it's no longer an individual thing) then our problems will be solved. The children at the border crisis is an example. People blame the refugees for their problems so they conclude it is right that they should suffer. Whereas nothing could be further from the truth. Our national problems are not the refugees at the border, and only a difficulty in the lack of ethical fiber now laid bare in our culture. Only the blood of Jesus, in the free deliberateness of his sacrifice, effects the peace that we all dream about and fail to attain, because we are persisting in the wrong approach -- kill the scapegoat! The blood of Jesus is not death, but life in that the renewal of the human and divine relationship is reconciled. ...

Homiletics Notes / 11.07.2019

There's a tendency afoot alleging an extreme, bordering on the violent, hatred and rancor between the Jews and the Samaritans. Daniel Harrington in the Luke volume of Sacra Pagina offers a bit of nuance, because the focus on the antipathy distracts from the point of the story which is an outrageous act of charity. After all there is plenty of gospel evidence that Jesus had a mission to the Samaritans, and was welcome there despite his Jewishness, and the Acts of the Apostles relates the acceptance of Christ and establishment of successful communities there of believers in Acts chapters 8, 9, and 15. Indeed only in Luke 9,53 is a Samaritan mentioned negatively. Indeed here in this story, the Samaritan acts like Jesus in his own response to those on the side of the road, beaten up by life, and crying out for mercy. The story is about the risks of outrageous love, agape love, and επιεικεια, a Greek ethical principal, imbedded in Roman law and Canon law, that a law can be broken to achieve a higher good, in other words setting the principle of the natural law above man-made laws (deliberately using male language here). The law would have commanded the Samaritan to do nothing, but walk on as the priest and the levite did. The natural law stirs in the human heart and cries out for this new kind of compassion. The priest and the levite, rigid keepers of the Mosaic laws of ritual purity, are portrayed by Jesus as ignoring this inner call of the human heart, an inner call put there by God. The story of the graciously hospitable Samaritan is followed immediately in the Gospel of Luke by the gracious hospitality of Martha and Mary, which is next Sundays Gospel. The two accounts are best served when referencing one another. ...

Homiletics Notes / 10.07.2019

Christ is first of all creation, and because He is the Word of God, and creation came from the Word, all creation is created "in" him. This little "in" seems to connect with the "in" language of John's Last Supper speeches, especially chapter 17, where the church is exhorted to "remain in Christ." To step out of that "in"-dwelling is almost as if to step out of creation, and therefore into chaos, into the darkness outside of the light of Christ. The next truth is that Christ "holds all things together", the glue of creation, if you will. Opposite to this, the modern person thinks that the individual holds one's own self together. We use that phrase, "Get it together!" Christ is also the head of the body the Church. In a culture of headless horsemen individualism, there is no head. "All the fullness was pleased to dwell" is a highly technical philosophical word in Greek. But it is the last verse, at the core of the kerygma, is the work of Christ; all that came before regards his the nature of his being, which authorizes him to do the work, and the work is reconciliation by means of the bridge that connects heaven and earth, -- blood. Blood is life, and life is from God. This bridging which is blood binds and reconciles the two worlds when they step out of the participation of being "in" Christ. This peace, this reconnection, this restoration, this redemption is the work of Christ through his precious blood. When we see and experience the blood shed of the post-modern world, we glimpse the chaos and the disconnect, and we all truly feel powerless to do anything about it. Hence the divine intervention/incarnation of Christ to work through his precious blood the bridging back to God. On the other hand we tend to think of peace as the result of some sort of diplomacy and compromise. Reconciliation is not diplomacy. ...

Homiletics Notes / 09.07.2019

In the second reading this Sunday, we have the great Christological hymn in Colossians. The hymn sets out the true identity of Jesus Christ and at once, in highly technical theological language, the kerygma. It begin with the truth of his identity as true God. The word "image" εικων, is "icon" translated literally. An icon was not just a mere symbol or re-presentation of the divine, but understood originally as the thing itself. It is more than just a copy. We, in turn, are made in this image and likeness o God, marred now by sin. Yet he has come to use to reconcile all things for God the Father. This reconciliation is effected by the donation of precious blood, which is life (cf. Leviticus 17). In other words the share we have in God's life is restore through participation in his precious blood. Our contemporary cultural symbolisms and structures of thought are very far from this way of looking at the human person, and very, very far from our imagery around blood. There's almost no way around this; explaining it takes much talk and time, and in the end still does not make sense to the modern person. Yet, this reconciliation through blood only occurs because of who Jesus Christ is, as the hymn lays it out. He is the only one so positioned to effect this reconciliation. We cannot do it on our own, that is, be one again with God. This too is hard for us. ...

Homiletics Notes / 08.07.2019

Surpassed only by the Lost Son parable from the Pharisee's dinner, this Sunday we have the parable of the Good Samaritan. A lawyer asks about the requirements for eternal life, as if were a legal question at all. Jesus turns the question back on him with two questioons. The building up of the narrative works this way. The lawyer responds with the great Shema, a commandment very familiar to Jews today, as it is literally on their doorposts. He adds the great levitical love commandment regarding the neighbor. Jesus applauds him, and it could have ended right there, the lawyer proceeds with the game of questions. "Who is my neighbor?" Jesus' response to this is the parable of the Good Samaritan, and then Jesus concludes with the final question, turned on the lawyer. The five questions comprise the structure of the encounter; these are also five excellent questions for evangelization and for one's own discipleship. This fine question is startling and unexpected by the lawyer who could not have seen it coming at him, and yet the answer is inevitable. Nor could the lawyer have expected the final command of Jesus, inviting him into the first stages of discipleship! The tension in this encounter are in the questions. Jesus uses an outrageous example of the Good Samaritan to make and to strengthen his case for the breath and scope of love and mercy. Note that the Samaritan was possibly a man of substance, because he had his own animal and was traveling well provisioned with wine and oil and coin enough for lodging in excess of what was needed. Thus the lawyer could identify with this Samaritan, because the lawyer himself was probably wealthy in his profession. ...

Homiletics Notes / 05.07.2019

My homily this weekend will take up the three characteristics of the evangelist from the Gospel. Again, first, it is the bestowal or granting of peace to people and even to buildings or residences. Jesus comes with and for peace. St. Paul picks this theme up in his observation of the breaking down of artificially constructed human divisions, to be replaced by a new creation, the old things no longer mattering. Jesus begins this part of the commission acknowledging that the disciples are being sent into a violent and non-receptive world, still true today. The second aspect of the commission defines the presence of the disciples as simple or pure, undistracted by the many things of this world. One might think of this in terms of the vow of poverty, traditionally made by religious orders so that they can focus on their charism and mission. In this passage, the poverty is on one's belongings needed for the journey and on accepting what is given, rather than complaining and moving on to the next house where the food and drinks may be better. The third element is the message itself, "The reign of God is at hand for you." The phrase "at hand" is a single Greek adverbial that has the sense of immediacy and suddenness perhaps alternatively translated at "right now!" In any case it is stronger than "at hand". Why? Well, because of the acceptance of this new creation's peace and because of the refocusing of the person away from the things of this world to the things of heaven. The disciples return rejoicing because their mission has been successful! We might ask ourselves today if this is true of the Church, our parish, and our individual self, especially as we are in the sacraments of service. ...