Vineyards of En-Gedi | 2019 October
0
archive,date,ajax_updown_fade,page_not_loaded,,qode-title-hidden,qode_grid_1300,qode-content-sidebar-responsive,transparent_content,qode-theme-ver-17.2,qode-theme-bridge,wpb-js-composer js-comp-ver-5.6,vc_responsive
Homiletics Notes / 31.10.2019

For ancient Israel, a return to the desert and to the exodus experience was understood as a time of renewal, healing, and communion with God. We have no similar image in our culture, except for those who go deep into the natural world and experience such things. Often here in Colorado, that means the mountains, which give us this sense of vastation and communion. Tolkien also writes about this in his essay "On Faerie Tales".Just another thought on that first readings. St. Paul's writing to the Thessalonians has two separate points. First, the co-indwelling of God in us and us in God. Abiding is a good translation in the sense of visitation, union, and communion. We have community with God. The second point is Paul's typical response to the coming of the Lord. He uses the word, "our assembling with him." The word is not the expected "ecclesia" but rather evokes "synagogue", and in the Eastern Churches, "Synaxis", which typically names the "Eucharistic Liturgy." The final verse sounds like the fake news culture of today on the internet that has permeated our lives, and we find ourselves often confused and no longer sure what to believe. Paul would tell us not to be alarmed, but rather in community, in the Lord, we can hold fast to the truth. ...

Homiletics Notes / 30.10.2019

The first reading this coming Sunday offers an eco-theology that we are not seriously enough given our current environmental disaster looming clearly caused by us humans and the destructive ways we have chosen to live. However note the larger context. The author is remembering the Exodus, when Hebrews were in the desert forty years. In that extreme environment they experienced God's care for them. The author brings this up to remind us that God is the God of all creation, and everything works together for good. We don't always see the good in the natural world. Vs. 26d is curious. "For your imperishable spirit is in all things." This borders on panentheism. The passage concludes with a praise for God's mercy, displayed in the natural world, that invites the wicked to conversion. Like Zacchaeus in the Gospel, it is never too late or too impossible to turn to the Lord for mercy. Furthermore, like Zacchaeus, reparations and repair must be done to the environment. Zacchaeus makes an effort to restore and repair the social environment of Jericho that he had profited from. We profit from the environment as if we owned it, but we do not. We seem to have forgotten the point of the Wisdom passage, that God will take care of us. Yet, we don't believe this really, and so we have taken matters into our own hands. ...

Homiletics Notes / 29.10.2019

Just as the blind man "seeks" to see who Jesus is, so too Jesus seeks to save what is lost. The verb in both cases is the same, although the translation misses this. The question then is this: Is the Church seeking to save what was lost? Or have we closed our doors and window lest the modern get to us? It seems to me the latter; we're at risk of becoming a group of people merely hoping to protect ourselves from the world, rather than being in the world to seek what was lost. My imagination goes to those in crushing poverty who work the great garbage heaps in some non developed countries in order to find things that may have some "market' value. Or perhaps ourselves and our "lost" children". We've come too quickly to write certain kinds of people off, just as the Pharisees has written off the tax collectors I'm also imagining the crowd following Jesus composed of every sort of person with every sort of motive and intention, much like a modern congregation. One never knows who is out there in the pews! ...

Homiletics Notes / 28.10.2019

Reflections this week for Ordinary Time 31 C. Jesus reaches Jericho. Luke writes that Jesus "intended to pass through" gives a sense of urgency to the narrative as Jesus travels to Jerusalem. From Jericho up to Jerusalem is the last leg of the journey. The encounter with Zacchaeus interrupts Jesus' progress. The incident, as Luke tells it, has the quality of humor. Zacchaeus was big in stature in the sense of his prominence and wealth in the Jericho area, but in sharp contrast he was short physically. This would arguably have amused the ancient listeners. Without any introduction, Jesus already knows the little man's name, which surprises Zacchaeus. Jesus changes his itinerary immediately; he "must stay" at Zacchaeus' house that very day. We are not told about the supper or overnight (?) at all. We are only given a final parable of the ten coins, told before going to Zachaeus' home. Then after that we're suddenly at the gates Jerusalem for the Palm Sunday narrative in Luke 19. For Luke, one wonders if the Zacchaeus incident merely the set up for the final parable of the journey, again one that regards economic justice. Money will be a continuing theme in Luke during Jesus' brief teachings in the Tempe precinct. Coming up are the parables of the widow's mite, the tax to the emperor, the ousting of the moneychangers, and the betrayal of Jesus for silver coins by Judas. ...

Homiletics Notes / 24.10.2019

Hebrew and Greek have as many words for prayer as Inuit have for snow. It is interesting that the English translation has the Pharisee "speaking" words while the tax collector "prayed." In the Greek, both are simply "saying these words." Jesus uses the word "prayer" at the beginning of the parable. He is both teaching what the words of prayer should be, but described postures and attitudes useful and appropriate for prayer. Prayer is not so much words but a manner of holding oneself in the divine presence. To present one's self in the presence of God, the posture of the supplicant who begins as we do the Mass with the words, "Lord, have mercy." Literally, give alms to us, which is grace, so that we can turn from our human state of sin toward the state God originally intended for us humans. When one looks at our times, and back through history, we humans have much to be penitent about. Nor does the future necessarily look all that hopeful. Discounting all the technological and industrial advances, none of which are necessary for the development of the human person and our core dignity, there is not much to say for us humans. It is a bit odd that the Gospel parable is couples with St. Paul's own boasting about his accomplishments. He is speaking in "the time of my departure is at hand." There is somehow a difference between what Paul is writing and the boasting of th Pharisee. Paul gives the credit for his accomplishments in life to God, unlike the Pharisee. God rescues him from all the evil things happening to him. He knows he cannot do so on his own. It sounds as if in the Roman court Paul proclaimed the Gospel, or at least that is hinted at here. In times of difficulty that is the last thing on our minds, proclaiming the Gospel! ...

Homiletics Notes / 23.10.2019

A sudden reversal of fortune delights us as we wait and hope to win the lottery. Whoops! I have to buy a ticket first. I guess I won't be winning. These reversals of fortune occur throughout the Gospel of Luke; it is one of his favorite rhetorical devices. This is the thematic structure underlying the parable of the two men at prayer. It is rare that Jesus interprets the meaning of a parable for the disciples and for us, but here he succinctly does just that, and in terms of unexpected reversal. In doing so, Jesus also reveals how God answered the prayers of both men. The prayer of the Pharisees, lacking the qualities of humility and faith, is not justified. The tax collector who has faith that God will save him (not his own goodie-two-shoes characteristics) and forgive him. Paul writes to Timothy also in some way about his own reversal of fortune. Just when everything is going very badly for him, people attacking him on every side and being under arrest, Paul sees the hand of God changing all this and bringing him safely to the other side. The reversal also appears in the unexpected attention God gives to the poor, the widow, the weak, all because God shows no favorites. We live in a culture today where white people think they are God's favorites, although they have nothing to show for their presumption except an incredible amount of human suffering because of their arrogance. We live in a time where prejudice and bigotry, both the work of the devil in us, are having a come back unexpected. Perhaps a homily reflecting on these reversals and our prejudices favoring the Pharisee in each of us. ...

Homiletics Notes / 22.10.2019

Sirach is a lengthy "letter" of advice to a son setting out into the world, perhaps; it is among the Wisdom Literature of the Hebrew Testament. Ben Sirach is steeped in the corporal works of mercy. one can not share the works of mercy with the people to encourage them in their faith, especially in our times so lacking in mercy. If God is so partial to the poor, the weak, and the oppressed, well, then so ought we. For some strange reason, in our culture of individualism and independence, it's twisted to be just Jesus and ME, the enormous white Western ego self. God doesn't hear our prayers because we don't serve God but ourselves. We are the Pharisee in the Gospel. A question I heard recently at a clergy day was this. Am I working for God or am I doing God's work? There is a difference. Working for God implies that I'm still doing my own thing and doing it my way. It's like being pastor, and I follow all the rules and regulations of the big blue book, but I do them with my own style, personality, and emphasis or not on one thing or the other. God's work is different as it is the giving of self over to a higher will and purpose than my own. This concept of no partiality then also shows up several times in the Acts of the Apostles and in the epistles as a new realization for the Jewish apostles as they enter into the Graeco-Roman world and minister to the nations. The Church still has much to learn and correct itself in this practice and realization. ...

Homiletics Notes / 21.10.2019

Today is the feast of St. Gaspar del Bufalo, 11786-1837) founder of the Missionaries of the Precious Blood, born, raised, and ordained (1808) in Rome. He had a passion for preaching the Word, especially when inconvenient, and he worked with the poor. He dedicated himself to the reform of the clergy by gathering sincere priests into mission houses of prayer and communal support. He works with the laity to develop their roles in the Church. He was a prolific letter writer. During his life Europe experienced traumatic changes; it was the Napoleonic Age of political wars, economic impoverishment of the masses, and the beginnings of the industrial revolution. During this time, as St. Paul writes to Timothy this Sunday, he was "being poured out like a libation". This is a single word in Greek, from which we get the word "spouse" in English. The word brings together both the sacrificial imagery of the Precious Blood and at the same time the vision of the spousal wedding feast of heaven and earth at the end of the Book of Revelation. This actually best reflects the devotional imagery of St. Gaspar and his work. The precious blood in the cup of blood that cries out at Eucharist for union, for love. Also like Paul, St. Gaspar frequently had to defend his work in the development of a new kind of religious order, a Society of Apostolic Life, in the face of the Church, still governing the Papal States of central Italy. He experienced times of great loneliness even as he was in the thick of things. Spousal imagery and sacrificial libation describe my own personal experience of being a priest, and I would guess that I'm not alone, and that married couples also grasp this powerful devotional imagery. We are with one another, hearkening to the cry of the blood and answering its call. Now how well or just how we do this is another matter altogether; perhaps the point is that we are just still...

Homiletics Notes / 21.10.2019

Reflections towards Ordinary Time 30 C. This and last Sunday's parables on the way to Jerusalem are closely linked by Luke. Jesus is teaching about prayer: persistence, faith, and quality of prayer. I get the feeling that many of us are saying to themselves: "O yeah, that's me, the humble tax collector." I fear too many Catholics are the arrogant Pharisees. This latter prayer quickly leads to self congratulatory self satisfaction. It is a sort of "do ut des' religion kind of prayer ("I am giving so that you [God] will give."), a very simplistic way of looking at the relationship with God. Of course, we all pray in the trenches of life, when the battle is thickest, and we are hurting the most. We bargain. Numerous personal examples come to mind to share. We've all done it. The text includes the Jesus Prayer, one of many times already in the Gospel of Luke. "O God, be merciful to me, a sinner." This is prayer. There is no need for more words. The tax collector has four qualities in his prayer. While the Pharisees takes up his place, the tax collector has no place but "off at a distance." The Pharisees raises his eyes to heaven, while the tax collector's eyes are lowered. The Pharisees addressed himself, while the tax collector addresses God. The Pharisees brags about his status in life, while the tax collector only identifies himself accurately as a sinner. It is unusual that the actual word "mercy" does not appear in the Jesus Prayer, but rather, ιλασθητι the verbal form of the word for a cult sacrifice of propitiation/expiation. In other words, the suggestion and insight is that prayer is itself a sacrificial offering, but here truly expiatory, without expecting a return but God gratuitous forgiveness. That Jesus sets the parable in th Temple drives home this point. Jesus confronts the Temple cult. ...

Homiletics Notes / 18.10.2019

I contend that there are very few Catholics who actually pray. Now the statement should set off a storm of protest. I am being serious. Most are petitioning God for something or for someone, and while that is well and good, it is a very minor kind of prayer. It seems that when the gospels refer to prayer, the authors are remembering the long, lonely, and intense nights of Jesus in prayer, kperfet union with the Father. This is the sort of persistence, endurance, and patience in prayer of this and next Sunday's Gospel reading. One thinks of the Camoldolese, Carthusians, and Cistercians to come close to this prayer. Or Theresa of Avila.. Talk about remaining faithful to what we hav learned. It is then out of this fidelity, out of this prayer, that one has the courage to proclaim the Word, because this Word is very inconvenient in our culture today. Are us homilists up to the work? ...