Vineyards of En-Gedi | Alan Hartway
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Homiletics Notes / 20.01.2020

Sunday, Ordinary Time 3 A The Gospel this coming Sunday has four parts: the rationale of Jesus' withdrawal to Galilee, Jesus' core message, Jesus' calling of Peter, Andrew, James and John, and a final verse about Jesus' ministry in Galilee. The references to the ancient tribal territories of Zebulon and Naphtali seem a bit obscure. Perhaps the point is that Jesus' work in these two northern most areas foretell Jesus' command to go the Gentiles. Living closest to and among the Gentiles, these two lands were seen as at risk to lose their Jewish religion. The prophet Isaiah's description of their culture is not pretty; they are at the way to the sea, a poetic way referencing their access to the rest of the world and all its lures, a land overshadowed by death, poetically speaking again of the dying to one's faith. The passage also reflects the extent of Jesus' northern ministry. Then suddenly Jesus' simplified message is added to show what Jesus did, then suddenly he is on the shore of the Sea of Galilee in Capernaum. Jesus got around. The last verse in this passage picks this up again after the call of the sons of Simon and Zebedee; Jesus' travels through "all of Galilee". Jesus message is universal, not just meant for some elite privileged core group of the righteous. How does this narrative match up with the modern North American Catholic Church today? ...

Homiletics Notes / 17.01.2020

We rarely think of baptism as the initiation into service of the Gospel. The prophet spells this out for us. This service gives glory to God, leads the community of the baptized to be brought back, (to raise up and restore), and become a light to the nations through evangelization. One of the conversations in the contemporary Catholic Church regards turning inward and becoming a small remnant to shelter and protect this new and smaller community of the utterly faithful from the world. the flip side of this coin is the movement outward of the church to the world, succinctly said by Pope Francis, something to effect of "Make a noise!" or "Create a stir!" The cautiousness of those turn ing inward and their hesitations and scrupulosity around canonical, liturgical, and catechism purity as their litmus test for fidelity is hardly what the Church needs to be doing in the world today and does not fulfill the commands of Jesus to "go forth". Here it is interesting that John the Baptist's proclamation says that Jesus came to "take away the sin" of the world. Yes, it is singular. The Church, living in Christ, is God's tool to make this happen. So what is this sin of the world? It seems that this is actions of the human person making of themselves -- gods. This that ancient sin of Adam and Eve. The sin is life in darkness away from the Light who is Christ. In baptism we are purified of the darkness and turned toward God -- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. ...

Homiletics Notes / 16.01.2020

In the gospel of John, we are not actually told of the baptism of Jesus itself. We do have John's witness to whom Jesus -- his full identity, known through proclamation and faith. It is implied in the text that John baptized Jesus. Jesus comes to "take away the sins of the world", and "he is the Son of God." Jesus is given these two facts by the overshadowing/outpouring of the Holy Spirit, which makes the passage very trinitarian. In other words, to know Jesus is iniitmately engaged in knowing the Father and the Spirit. So often in American religion, the Father receives little notice or attention, and the Holy Spirit receives attention mostly in Pentecostal or charismatics movements. The homily might take this opportunity to clarify John's claims by proclamation of the Trinity as the true source of our "grace and peace", as St. Paul wishes upon the Corinthians in the opening of his letter. Stories of baptisms in the family, baptisms that really start out, baptisms at the Easter Vigil work well here. These baptisms draw us into relationships and bonding which leads to bearing witness. From where else does the Church receives its power to evangelize? ...

Homiletics Notes / 15.01.2020

The core evangelization message is Vs. 6 of this reading, "It is too little for you . . . I will make you a light to the nations." In these days, any light in the darkness of this world would be welcomed. We must ask ourselves if we the church are turning in ourselves as if we were some elite, or if we have rolled up our sleeves to bring light into the messiness of this world. Withdrawal is too little a mission for the church today. The great work ahead of the church today is the same as it always has been -- light to the nations. The church, for the sake of this great mission of light, relies on God alone. The Psalmist gives the answer; God has put a new song into our hearts. The imagery here is beautiful. It does not mean we/re going to get q new hymnal; it does mean that our hearts will be given a new vision and we will have the courage and attitude of a servant to accept and receive it. What exactly is this new song, this new vision? It certainly orients the church/communion toward evangelization. It is an inclusive vision for living out the gospel. Typically, our vision of church work, is a very small vision. one might dare to critique the church by observing that just as the 1950s church had it methods and rigidity, perhaps the church of today hs also become rigid, and we're still doing parish that way we did when Vatic II was still at first florescence. ...

Homiletics Notes / 13.01.2020

I just heard the most ridiculous thing about liturgical decorations, that Christmas decor should remain until the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It's Ordinary Time beginning today! The Presentation is a Sunday this year and also Groundhog Day! In any event we're back to the Gospel of Matthew. We have a portion of one of the Suffering Servant Songs from Isaiah 49 on the work of evangelization. We move to Psalm 40; the stanza again about eveglization. Next the opening verses of I Corinthians. Paul's greeting. Finally the gospel of John, the story of the baptism of Jesus encounter as told by John; the theme of baptism and evangelization continue here. Almost the entire gospel passage is John speaking and giving testimony to what he was told, to what he is doing, and to whom he encountered in Jesus. There is no voice from heaven, just the witness on earth of John, as if that alone should satisfy them. Jesus is called the Lamb of God, a title pointing to his sacrificial role and to the book of Revelations where this is the main title for Jesus. As John gives voice crying out in the desert, so too will Jesus given voice, peacefully and quietly like a lamb, in the north and on the journey to Jerusalem. ...

Homiletics Notes / 10.01.2020

Psalm 29 this Sunday is majestic, especially in the poetics of the original Hebrew's sound and word plays. The psalm emphasizes the blessing over the baptismal water with the hovering over of the priest's hands and descending to the surface of the water. Note the very first line also, "Give to the Lord, ou sons of God." In baptism we are born again and become children of God; another baptismal prayer speaks of us as priests, prophets, and kings, all of which roles are oriented toward evangelization. This language points to the fact that every Christian is engaged in the rule, catechesis, and sanctification of the Church, and by extension -- the world. By the way, the only document one really needs (besides all the recommendations and certifications of psychological wholeness) is one's baptismal certificate. This catechesis is exactly what St. Peter launches into in the house of the centurion, Cornelius. Peter repeats the kerygma yet one more time. I think there are at least a dozen times in the opening chapters of Acts where the kerygma is to be found. Why is it that the modern Catholic, including clergy, haven't the faintest clue what the kerygme is, when is it the fundamental, core faith statement? No wonder there's so little application of this template to one's life. Baptism has become something like a mere merit badge in scouting or an "A" at the end of a semester. ...

Homiletics Notes / 09.01.2020

Becoming a servant challenges us in our culture of privilege and entitlement. U.S. people think of themselves often as serving no one but themselves. Yet so the Lord speaks about the suffering servant to the prophet Isaiah. The service is dedicated to justice, and so this enigmatic figure holds messianic qualities. Only God can save us, but God engages us in his justice making work. The justice is not made with the assertion of power, but rather more subtlety and quietly and gently, than is typical of human justice imposed by the law. This suffering servant works in a completely different way, a way sometimes far from the ways of the administrative and canonical church of today. The servant is personally trained in the school of the Holy One, in other words in prayer, in listening, and in silence. The justice is not just for oneself, and not just for the nation, but for the whole world. Then at the end of the passage comes the effects of that justices, which Jesus uses in the synagogue of Nazareth to read and announce his ministry. This is the same ministry laid down for the church today, and so, we must ask ourselves if we are meeting this enormous challenge. Which church do we want, the servant church or the monarchical one? ...

Homiletics Notes / 08.01.2020

The Cornelius Reception in Acts 10 is arguably the most important and significant Baptism story in the New Testament, second only to the dramatic baptism of Jesus himself in River Jorday. This baptism event opens the way for the mission of the church to the Gentiles. Here we have highly unlikely encounter of a Galilean fisherman, Peter, with a Roman Centurion, Cornelius, in very unusual circumstances. This leads to Peter saying, "In truth, I see that God shows no partiality." Yet we humans walk around confused and in sin about racial prejudice, bigotry, and our own overinflated sense of superiority. The U.S. church today is rampant with racial prejudice and the privilege of white people whose millennial and get x, y, z children are far from the church and discipleship. Baptism calls to our attention that now belong to a very different family indeed, the household of God in which all the peoples are a place at the common table. This element of baptism is rarely mentioned, preoccupied as we are with original sin and the fiery pit of hell towards which we are headed when we live with and nurtured prejudice and racism. The homiletic theme here his the universality of the church's mission and the Eucharist and Holy Spirit come for all. ...

Homiletics Notes / 06.01.2020

My estimate is that more than three quarters of the baptisms in the US are not done because of commitment to Christ and the church, but rather out of fear of original sin, which is proof to me that the church is still living in the context of a Jansenistic piety of the 1700s. We did such a good job of promoting the purification from original sin, that the real major theology of baptism and evangelization is far from the thoughts and heart of the people. This is a very sad state of affairs. Baptismal prep classes are all still based on this original sin proposition. Jesus is baptized for mission. Baptism is the first step of admission, the entry point, the beginning of the Christian life, which is always oriented toward God and the other. It is not about oneself. It follows the well worn processor John Cassian's three fold way: purification, illumination, and union, which is also the essence of the kerygma. The homily this week offers and opportunity to change all of that. In Matthew's account, the voice from heaven addresses the crowd. In Mark and Luke, the voice addresses Jesus personally; in John's gospel, the Baptism only recounts the incident to the crowds, and there is no mention of the voice from heaven. The descending dove appears in all the gospels. Have you heard this voice from? Do you have a vision of the reign of God? What is the level of purity and holiness in your life? What are you doing to promote the evangelization of the world? ...

Homiletics Notes / 03.01.2020

The Ephesians text for Epiphany also states the main mission of the Church as to the "nations," as co-heirs. In that day this would have been an extremely revolutionary thought and practice in the Roman Empire. While there were conversions to this cult or that, the Christian claim and commitment were really like no other, in that the Christian took their stewardship of grace directly and purposively to mean evangelization. The commitment to Christianity could lead directly to martyrdom, and so it was never done lightly or on a whim. No other cult was persecuted in the same way to the same extent. The letter to the Ephesians stresses this point throughout: the church has a mission to the nations and all are welcome to share the grace of God. Today the passage may very well be read in terms of the rampant racial prejudices, even and especially in the Church, which still remains predominantly Euro-centric. It is ironic that Europe now should be the focus of the mission of evangelization. The same is true of the United States. ...