Vineyards of En-Gedi | 2020 March
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Homiletics Notes / 31.03.2020

The first reading, an admonition to those who proclaim the Word of God, is an interesting Palm Sunday reading as we set out feet on the journey of Holy Week. Unfortunately, few homilists have a well-trained tongue. I've been listening to various on line Masses, and the preaching is worse than I had imagined. This is a sign that Catholics do not attend Mass for the homily, but they really come for the Eucharist. I completely understand why homiletics classes in major seminaries strongly recommend a homily between 8-10 minutes. Yet, then when the homilists do open their mouths it is very rarely to rouse the weary; too often the open mouth is filled with scorn, finger pointing, and putting people down. It's really and truly awful. This situation arises when then Church values legality more than an authentic life in Christ. The homilist is tempted to print out some generic homily from the internet and safely read it to the people. There's no heart in it. I know this because for seven years I traveled and preached for the Christian Foundation for Children and Aging (now renamed to Unbound!) nd Sunday after Sunday (317 parishes in those seven years) the ambo had the last weekend internet printout of a homily. We now live in a very weary time of fear and anxiety. People need a word to rouse them. At the end of this Hoy Week the word will be Alleluia, which we haven't heard since before Ash Wednesday. Next, note that the Word come from listening to the cry of the poor, the weary, the refugee. This word never come from the political elite of the day. So the homily must begin in listening. It is this listening that sets our face like flint, because in the voices of the weary we hear the voice of God calling to us. ...

Homiletics Notes / 30.03.2020

Palm Sunday A: People love to take something home from Sundays; along with Ash Wednesday and the ashes, the free blessed palms are another enormous draw. The attraction here comes from the opening ritual of the palms and the accompanying procession into the church. It is a beginning of Mass that is unique and very attractive to people. The First Form called the Procession is obviously the preferred ritual, but will take much coordination with the musicians and servers and hospitality to carry it off. It is elaborate. The rite opens with an introit antiphons and psalm before the priest says anything. It is our introductory invitation to Holy Week by crying out to Jesus, Messiah and Son of David. It is an act of worship. Then the priest invites the people into Holy Week, to follow Christ very solemnly. The main message here connect the Cross and Resurrection as the Pascal Mystery. the palms are then blessed. The Gospel Matthew's account of Jesus' entry into Jerusale follows. The colt of a donkey has been the traditional animal on which the Davidic Kings entered the city for their coronation. The people would have known and gotten the message. I note that the ass was a mother, and this seems an interesting thing to note and wonder what this symbol means. The cries of the people indicate their initial belief in Jesus as the son of David and a prophet; they are soon to learn he is also high priest. Finally the priest announces the procession, moving to Psalm 24 followed by Psalm 47. A Hymn to Christ the King is also possible. When the procession reaches the entrance to the church, the cantor should be there for rite of entrance, versicle and response. Even the opening of the Mass is unusual, as the priest venerated the altar, incenses and begins with the Collect. This whole ritual is to be both festive and at the same time an awareness of the coming Pascal...

Homiletics Notes / 26.03.2020

The Gospel story of Lazarus opens with Jesus at some distance from Bethany, informed of the death of his friend, waits two more days. Doing this time, a argument arises from the disciples about the wisdom of not going to Jerusalem where the confrontation between the Jewish leaders and Jesus has devolved out of control; the disciples are concerned for their own lives and the live of Jesus. In this dialogue it is Thomas, the same one who doubts in John's gospel, who comes off as the courageous and unflinching disciple. a In these days of plague, we too are challenged to go up with Jesus and accept what there is to be for. Yet, it is very hard to be brave, unswerving, and even like Thomas, enthusiastic about the coming way of cross. We are knowing the same thing, challenged as we are to pick up this cross and to serve one another on the way. Marth and Mary are presented in this Gospel as example os this compassionate caring. While some are out there predicting apocalyptic doom. It's what the disciples warn Jesus about, "They are going to stone you." They see only an end, while Jesus proclaims a resurrection, something entirely unexpected and new; Thomas urges them on into the jaws of death. Then, Jesus shows us his own take on death, calling forth Lazarus from four days in the grave. This is what we too must proclaim -- Life! This is not to say we become like Pollyanna. Because we also know, now more than ever in the crisis we face, that life is messy, and I'm sure in some locked down homes, messier than ever. Yet, this is our choice. Love and life are messy, but let us not shrink back from plunging right into the mess of things. It's then that we are at our best. ...

Homiletics Notes / 25.03.2020

Two Sundays ago, n we were given the way of purification in the story of woman of Samaria at the well. Last Sunday we had the story of the blind man who receives his sight, a story about the second way of enlightenment. Now this Sunday we have the story of Lazarus raised from the dead, which is the way of union, because Lazarus now shares with Christ eternal life while even still here on earth. The church gives us this lectionary pattern of readings, the spiritual path from Evagrios of Pontikos and John Cassian, which is the purgative, enlightenment, and union. This is the way of the spiritual journey. In our "go faster" culture, of course, we want to skip merrily to the unitive way without doing all the work that necessarily comes to in the tradition of the first two steps and in that order. This outlines the way to fullness of life in Christ, and that in this new life we will have joy in abundance. To know Jesus is to be one with Him. This is not an easy way, to be taken lightly. It is all given to us in light of next Sunday of Palms, when we will pray with the final unitive way of redemptive suffering. I remember first hearing that from Fr. Carol Stuhmueller at CTU years ago. So I'm now thinking and reflecting on these things in light of the plague upon us. This will sadly be for many a squandered time and a great lesson in humility that will help begin the great journey into Christ. Which will it be for you. ...

Homiletics Notes / 24.03.2020

Lent 5 A: The Resurrection of Lazarus The powerful vision in the valley of the dry bones complements the resurrection of Lazarus. God speaks tenderly to His people, without judgment, condemnation, and threat; he says twice in the reading "O my people." God speaks personally in the first person singular; the Hebrew stresses the verbs of God's powerful actions, noting that none of these are things we human could do on our own even to this day. God opens graves, has people rise, brings the people back to their homeland. The grave opening is repeated twice. God says, I will put my Spirit in you, you may live, I will settle you, I promised, and I will do it. Then you will know (repeated twice in our passage) the I am the LORD God. God is not doing this just to be nice to us, but to show forth his power and the right to claim our faith allegiance for God exclusively because of His conquest of death, sin, and evil. As a background one should probably read the passage in context of the whole vision to get some small sense of the power of this end time event. Here on Laetare Sunday this lifts up our hearts and they surge to God in faith and worship with greater joy. Does a rose vestment help us and lead us to joy? ...

Homiletics Notes / 20.03.2020

The second exchange with the Pharisees reveals the challenges of faith for the blind man. Now "seeing", he is able to express and proclaim his faith, albeit a primitive step of faith, for he still reflects a "do ut des" religion that smacks of Jansenism, a heresy pandemic among the religious right today, often appearing as some form of prosperity religion. If someone is "devout" and "does the will of God" then God listens to that person. Authentic worship on the other hand, worships out of pure love, expecting nothing in return. Love in America is often seen as an exchange of something -- money, allegiance, support, sex or any number of things. Our relationship with God is not based on any exchange, but our complete worship. The equation of blindness and sin is very clear in the final statement of the Pharisees at the end of this encounter: "you were born totally in sin." Often used as a proof text for original sin, the text is arguably more about the enlightenment through baptism (God's action) and the life of the disciple. This is explained further in the final verses of the whole theatrical piece when Jesus speaks and addresses the nature of sin as blindness. So here we have a further aspect or facet of sin given to us. Sin is an act of pride (Genesis), sin as turned in on oneself (St. Augustine: "incorvata in se", and here sin as blindness or living in the dark deliberately. ...

Homiletics Notes / 19.03.2020

The encounter with the man born blind takes place as a series of interconnected scenes, almost as if a staged drama, with the excitement building at the ends with Jesus' seeking the man out, with the denouement and judgment at the hands of the Pharisees. The principal characters are Jesus, the blind man, the parents, the Pharisees, and the crowd (neighbors and disciples), the last two being the choruses. The language throughout is the language of amazement, surprise at the turn of events, disbelief/believe, and astonishment, all followed by worship. This "worship" or "latria" needs a bit of unpacking. From the Greek, it is somewhat related to the concept of "pay". In Catholtic theology the word designated the veneration due to God (the Trinity ) alone. In other words it means an ultimate and decisive act of submission, a physical posture of prostration (proskynesis), and the language of praise and prayer, most richly in music/chant. It's what we are to give God. It is the final act of the man born blind in the drama we read this coming Sunday. Lent is a time to recover and renew this worship and open our eyes to the presence of the divine. ...

Homiletics Notes / 18.03.2020

In a time of corona virus, set very much feels like we are entering a time of darkness, and there is no light yet at the end of the tunnel. We certainly do long for the ned of this plague, but even while in this time, we have the opportunity to live as children of the light. Pope Francis is reminding of us this morning that children of the light live in charity, love for one another. This is a great call for us to charity. There's this dark feeling about that us humans are liable to riot when pushed too far. A tipping point has already happened. The authentic Catholic responds to all this, not with thoughts and anxieties of darkness, but with this charity that comes from Christ, we respond with prayer and calm, and we respond by carefulness for ourselves, our families and for others. Finally St. Paul calls us to attentiveness, an awakened state in preparation for the return of Christ. It is not only an alert state to the presence of Christ, but also an attention to the details and charity that communion and community requires for survival. For Paul, this awakened state enables the Christian to function ethically in society. ...

Uncategorized / 16.03.2020

Reflections for Lent 4 A: Blindness is awful whether real or spiritual, often even emotional, social, cultural, and political. I want to reflect on these last five, not physical blindness. These five aspects exist because this culture stresses the appearances of things, not the facts. Indeed this is what has made the corona virus spread possible. Wearing rose tinted glasses is so much happier than facing all the gloom and doom. Samuel was likewise enmeshed in the judgments of this world based on appearance, In other words we judge a book by its cover, or when buying their wine its the appearance of the label and the cheapest price possible. All this makes it very hard for to discern then the will of God, who never judges by appearances, because knows the core of our inmost selves. I God is love, than God is also light. It's the third stanza of Psalm 23, the overabundant table and the perfumed anointing of the head that develops the first reading; the author here is filled with thanks and praise of God. Paul's riff on light and darkness is the second reading takes this theme of blindness into the theme of conversion and peace with the Father. ...

Uncategorized / 13.03.2020

Lent 3 A: "Is the Lord in our midst or not?" is the question of the day right now. As Americans more and more engage highly individualistic spiritualities and civil religion while leaving more rigorous expressions of Christianity, and in light of the state of the world today, we find ourselves asking this ancient question. Our answer has been evangelical prosperity religions or no religion at all. The world's question today is the growing fear that God has abandoned us, even as we are thirsty and hungry for some deeper and richer meaning in our shallow lives. Paul's words encourage us. "we have with God through our Lord Jesus Christ," "hope does not disappoint," and "God proves His love for us." These answer the question whether God is for us or not. Paul is offering evidence based on God's actions in history, that the answer is a resounding "Yes!" The woman at the well also finds an answer to this question in her encounter with Jesus. Jesus gives her the ultimate answer to the questions of our lives. We are satisfied of food and drink, because we are doing the will of the Father. Jesus, presenting himself a the long awaited Messiah, offers a new direction and meaning for her life. The disciples on the other hand are like the traditionalists today; Jesus (the church) keeps women in their place and should avoid dealing with them. Nothing could be further from the Gospel. ...