Vineyards of En-Gedi | 2020 April
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Homiletics Notes / 30.04.2020

Sheep and shepherds on a enormous canvas with dense mountain forests in the background and a riot of clouds and flashing sunlight was the frequent subject of painting during the Romantic Age of the early 1800s. This idyllic setting even today invites a return a simpler time and place, where the human is more at one with nature. These images are somehow comforting to us, especially those of us furtherest away in our concrete cities. While we have all these thoughts, we realize at the same time that in fact the shepherds' life and work is not for the faint hearted what with the terrain, the wild storms, wolves, the stupidity of sheep, the loneliness, and all the bugs and beetles and snakes creeping underfoot through the grassy meadow. So, in the gospel this coming Sunday, we have one more time in which Jesus uses rural images to make his point. The setting is winter, otherwise why would the sheep be inside the gate of the sheepfold. The style of this address is the parable. The gatekeeper, in this way of understanding, is the Father or else the Holy Spirit. The shepherd is Jesus. The gate is discipleship, the flock are the children of God. The thief is the devil, who goes prowling about. The stranger is someone unknown to the flock, and so is probably up to no good or is at least questionable. When Jesus explains the meaning of his "figure of speech" the strangers, thieves and robbers (those who came before him) are all the bad kings, priests, and rabbis who came before him, including the false prophets. He also calls himself the gate, the template for authentic discipleship. So, for us, it is all about hearing the Word and following Him. In this Word and relationship, we find life abundant. ...

Homiletics Notes / 29.04.2020

The last three verses of our reading from the first letter of Peter essential restate and quote Isaiah 53, 5-6. The core of this is the enigmatic line, "For by his wounds you have been healed." What does this mean? The line reflects an ancient understanding of medicine that comes from the remnants of a shamanic religion remaining in classical thinking. Today it is spiritualized. Although in a time of pandemic, the principle strangely is at work when antibodies are taken from someone who has had corvid-19, and then this "wound" is used to create a vaccine, hopefully. In the original, the word for wounds is more literally the blows and lashes absorbed by the body of Jesus during the day of his arrest, judgement, scourging, way of the cross, and crucifixion. The word μωλωπι, "by his wound", is actually not the wound itself but rather the blows and strikes that caused the wounds. The language evokes an action, rather than a passive state of things. The underlying principle here is that suffering can be transformative. When we are confronted with suffering, as is happening now with the entire medical community and in ner families, the deepest parts of our human hearts are touched, and this emotion, really a profound empathy, changes our selfcenteredness into a care for others, even to the point of going out of our way to be there for that person, and setting our own lives on the line at risk. The authentic disciple of Jesus, therefore, does give in to the temptation to despair or even on the other hand to rise up in an angry protest, only to create more violence. The day of the cross did not in any way take ahold of the fundamental goodness of Jesus, but he accepted it in order to show the inner power of suffering to be transformative. The question then today is not how can I overcome and dispel the evil of corvid-19, but rather to ask oneself, ...

Homiletics Notes / 28.04.2020

Some of us live sin a politically correct culture and many of us do not. dEach enculturated way of thinking, speaking, and acting has strangely positive and negative aspects, which makes it all the more difficult and problematic when it come to the ethic of sorting this out and making good decisions. It does not help at all that both side have adopted the culture of speech hyperbole, hyperventilated language, bordering on screaming. In very sharp contrast, the letter of St. Peter presents Jesus Christ, "leaving you an example that you should follow in his footsteps." "When he was insulted, he returned no insults." This description of the Jesus' core character transcends the politically correct and turns away from a culture of insults, that we come to accept from a president leading us to the abyss. Once more, we are to consider the manner of Jesus as our own. Jesus walks and talks the way of self-emptying (κενοσις) and self-abnegation (συνκαταβασις), this latter one picked up by Pope Francis in his book, The Way of Humility. Jesus had the art of taking in all the insults and suffering caused by our human tendency to sin. He absorbs them into his very self and shows us demonstrably the effects of our sin in his own body. Our sin is to have turned away inward upon ourselves from love that serves and to have elevated the individual ego to an intolerable sreaming of, "Me! Me! Me!" This egocentric voice has called us astray from authentic love in self love and indulgence of every kind, even to the sin of insults against one's neighbor. We can return and rediscover the voice of Jesus, the good shepherd, calling us back to himself and the Father. We do this by accepting in our lives His grace through the power of prayer and power of conforming ourselves to Christ. ...

Homiletics Notes / 27.04.2020

Easter IV, May 3, Good Shepherd Sunday. John 10 is the Good Shepherd chapter in his gospel. Pope Francis’ remarks that the “pastors should have the smell of the sheep” is relevant to this discourse of Jesus. There seem to be two different characters here: the shepherd and the gatekeeper. Notice in the parable that the sheep are led OUT of the corral, that is to say out into the world, where there’s risks and dangers. Recognition of voice and name are crucial to getting the point of this parable and the collabo- ration between flock and shepherd. From the very beginning Baptism and Confirmation are linked together (Acts 2, 38). Confirmation was never a rite of passage into Catholic adulthood or some sort of last chance to hook our youths into coming to religious education classes. This only started in 1910 with Pius X who also moved First Communion down into “the age of reason” in about second grade. This is a classic example of an undesirable enculturation of the gospel. Baptism symbolizes death, purification, regeneration, and renewal. The Spirit empowered the apostolic Church to evangelize; it is the same today. Finally we are called to conversion; Baptism is the first, foremost, and fundamental locus of conversion. Reconciliation is inextricably bound up into the very nature of Baptism. ...

Homiletics Notes / 24.04.2020

The introit antiphon is far more appealing than the ultramontanism of the right wing Catholic immersed in 18th century's suffocating pieties in which silence rules. Do they ever imagine themselves "cry(ing) out with joy to God" much less to all the world. They would rather remain in silence, head covered and bowed behind the closed doors and windows of the church. God forbid someone should cry out with joy inside a church. Doesn't Jesus himself say that should he be silenced, even the stones with shout? Please, no shouting in Church. The alleluia antiphon speaks of asking Jesus to open the Scriptures for us that our hearts will burn within us. Rather, there's a crowd who want just the opposite; that Jesus should rather calm their hearts in silence, to say nothing of the fact that they're really not wanting the Scriptural truths opened to them, because they've already made a religion dog their own so very far from Jesus' own proclamations and teachings of abundant joy. The communion antiphon then completes the message this weekend, Jesus as Eucharist. Today there's an enormous cultural erosion of this belief; many Catholics have in fact become Protestants, considering gate Eucharist as something symbolic, allegorical, or memorial. Eucharist, the divine and holy presence of Jesus, is what people want. IN one of the many movies about Elizabeth I, a privy councillor gives her advice at a critical point in the challenges to her authority, as she comes to maturity in the kind of queen she should be. He tells her, "Mean need to see and touch the divine, and they need this from you." This becomes a defining moment in how she will proceed in presenting herself in the crisis to her people. And she wins the day. ...

Homiletics Notes / 22.04.2020

Some people hearing or reading the Emmaus account actually tear up at the line, "Were not our hearts during within us while he spoke to us on the way?" This line can resonate deeply with us still today; it has a kind of power that comes from the awareness of a profound truth that suddenly befalls us, surprises us, and our hearts surge. At the blessing and breaking of bread, open eyes and recognition let us know that it is indeed him. The text plays upon the fact that it is Jesus and it is that he is the bread of life all at once; it can be read either way. The whole point of the narrative is the Eucharist! I these days of corona virus lockdown, social distancing, and shelter in place, one hopes that the modern Catholic has that belief, open eyes, and a burins heart for the divine and holy presence of Christ in the Eucharist. We've not had access now for five weeks. Prayer in the family circle should note and stir up this longing for Eucharist. Our hearts certainly get stirred up to go shopping, we live in such crass materialism, spiritual matters of the soul are left to go hungry for the really real. When Jesus opens the Scripture for them, he uses it to interpret the events in Jerusalem, and so the gives gives to Jesus the first telling of the fundamental kerygma. Later in the first twelve chapters of Acts is this then taken up as the proclamation by the disciples. The homilist's challenges is to open these Scriptures and celebrate the Eucharist in such a way that hearts are lifted up, not preached at. ...

Homiletics Notes / 21.04.2020

In our second reading this coming Sunday, St. Peter writes about our sojourning. In our own historical moment, we have the opportunity to re-think our own sojourning here on earth, even as we are participating in a national stay at home recommendation. Our lives are now more poignantly that ever a sojourning in our brief time on earth. Peter commends us to reverence during our brief days on earth. It is not because we will be judge, but out of the reverence we hold for the Most Precious Blood of Jesus, more precious than silver or gold. The option is to waste our time after the search for silver and gold, by which means all the things of this earth. This reverence occurs through realization about the things really are, the great truths of things. The author names the characteristics of Christ as the shedding of his precious blood, the knowledge of him since the foundation of the world, and the resurrection. Then, recalling intellectually these things it is right to place our hope and faith in God, no longer hoping and believing of the things of this world. the homiletic stress should be just on this reverence and the attitudes one has towards the divine actions, while putting the things of this world in their proper place. Curing this pandemic, all these things are a consideration given new interest for us. ...

Homiletics Notes / 20.04.2020

Easter III A pril 26, 2020 The first reading has Peter addressing the first proclamation of the kerygma in Acts. It is addressed to the Jews, whom he addresses as "brothers", for indeed he is. He peaks in the company of the Eleven with their support and solidarity. He quotes extensively from the prophet Joel, Psalm 16, and Psalm 110, interpreting these Scriptures as now fulfilled. The context is Pentecost, and apparently the vent happens in the Temple. Peter relays the core of the story of Jesus: his birth, teaching, and the events in Jerusalem, now including the Ascension and pouring forth of the Holy Spirit. All this leads Peter to call for faith, baptism, and confirmation, and by extension to the Eucharist, which creates a new community. A description of this community immediately follows the speech. The homily should repeat this pattern as a proclamation of the good news. The redemption and resurrection event is not cast in the language of sin and death, but rather as cause for acceptance and joy. This joy is very difficult for most Catholics to wrap their minds around. Particularly in this time of pandemic, we fall back on the old "sinners in the hands of God, held over the pit of hellfire like a spider suspended from a thin thread,' of some oddly nostalgic good old days. Is that really the kind of relationship you yearn for? ...

Homiletics Notes / 17.04.2020

The responsorial psalm from 118 clearly sets out the tone for Divine Mercy Sunday, "His mercy endures forever." It opens with repetitions of praise, while the third and fourth stanzas set the reason for the extravagant praise. One seems to be set in a desert military campaign and the latter a successful construction project. But it is the last stanza that is most apt for today, and we hear this intoned frequently among those with a "live one day at a time" attitude. Indeed this is really all we have, more poignant that ever in this time of pandemic and the numerous restrictions. It is really down to one day at a time. All this[, time and space is what the LORD has done for us. Our response is just this, "This is day the LORD has made, let us be glad and rejoice in it." There's a invitation and a commitment then to take this day with thanksgiving and to be joyful about what God has given to us. This is certainly the opposite of the apocalyptic doomsayers who see God as vengeful and completely lack ing mercy for us mere and sad mortals. One more time the Scripture presents an opportunity to change our hearts and minds in the midst of the temptation of too many Catholics who are Jansenist. I find in my experience those most taken up by the divine mercy spirituality to be the very crowd of dour and judgmental Catholics who show no mercy whatsoever. ...

Homiletics Notes / 16.04.2020

At the end of the octave of Easter, the gospel appropriately tells of two physical appearances of Jesus in the upper room, a week apart. This octave of Easter we too are locked in "the upper room" of our homes for fear of the virus (and one another) and, at least here in Colorado, about 14 inches of snow, which also rather shuts everything down. We're afraid of the snow and ice, the weather, and the big thing that is going to happen: environmental collapse. Too often the homilist is tempted to skip the opening lines of the experience, the part about the forgiveness of sins, mostly because the church does not really believe in it. We're excellent at the retaining part of sins. If you don't believe me, please remember the centuries old files that are kept on everyone who ever cause a stir of any sort, remember the official Western stance towards divorce and remarriage, remember the way the church treats women, if you get my point, and I was just warming up to the crimes of the patriarchy. In a highly legalistic church, there very little or no room for the Holy Spirit, of whom hierarchies are always afraid and suspicious. I've long thought that the point of the Thomas event was only minority about his lack of faith, but rather about the forgiveness of Jesus toward Thomas, yet that too goes largely bypassed in the homilies for this Sunday. Jesus very gently forgives Tomas and literally invites Thomas into his body with his fingers and hand. This is remarkable for the vulnerability the Jesus shows and also his desire to be whole again with Thomas, and indeed with us in the body of the Eucharist. Well, our world today is all about carefully washed hands, a warning about physical contacts, and breathing through face masks, and hands safely rubbed gloved. While these things are absolutely and unequivocally necessary, we humans, herd critters, miss sorely the physicality of human...