Vineyards of En-Gedi | Homiletics Notes
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Homiletics Notes / 23.08.2019

One of the key theological and anthropological terms running through the readings for this coming weekend is the whole notion of developing and conforming the disciple in the culture of Jesus. As aspect of this is in the first reading, the work of the great ingathering, which is to say that the disciple is a missionary and an evangelist. The letter to the Hebrews passage contributes another aspect -- discipleship is work, in other words it does not come easily. It is the Father's work in us through grace that we achieve full discipleship; we do not do it on our own. An example, is that the master gymnast, skater, violinist only gets there after the discipline of much practice and work. Jesus' saying about striving to enter through the narrow gate again is about discipleship, the formation of self and community into a Catholic culture. By Catholic, the readings mean a universalism that surpasses human divisions and hierarchies. ...

Homiletics Notes / 22.08.2019

The parable of the midnight knocking at the door seems rather harsh, and "grinding and gnashing of teeth" only appears this once in Luke's Gospel. They may've eaten in Jesus' company, but not in the manner of the eschatological banquet with Jesus and his fellow banqueters, the prostitutes and the tax collectors. He does not know where they are from because they are not from that special table, which represents the ingathering of all the peoples. The parable leads to three teachings sayings. First there is the surprise that all the figures of Hebrew history will be at the banquet. Luke's largely gentile audience would have had questions about this, as Christians gradually broke from Jewish roots. The second saying tells of the great eschatological ingathering. Thirdly the repeated saying about the first and the last. Each of these represent fundamental aspects of the teachings of Jesus, that combined are core Christian principles of what it means to be church. It's temporal and geographical scope is larger than we normally imagine. That is an enormous thought, especially in our time of exclusivity and entitlement. ...

Homiletics Notes / 21.08.2019

"Few will be saved! We are all sinners in the hands of an angry God." This religious mentality of the late 18th century found in the heresy of the French priest Jansen is still prevalent in the minds of many Catholics. The heresy is that humans largely are unworthy of the absolute transcendence of God, and only a very few elect will be saved, and then only if they perform many pious and penitential works. Sadly, because of the impossibility of the work, many walk away, feeling unworthy and unaware of grace. Subtle as it is, but the many who attempt to enter are reject precisely because of that attempt, that is on their own, without an authentic encounter and accompaniment with the Master of the House. Jesus calls this sort of self-trumpeting religion evil. These who knock at the door had forgotten grace, that pure gift from God that creates a share in God's life right here and now. No propitiation makes it happen. It is gift. All the prophets, the patriarchs, and indeed all the foreigner know and live this grace. They do not come as beggars, but they recline at the banquet table as guests! The religious snob, who think of themselves as self-justified in their religious comfortableness and lord it over others with judgements, they will be the last in the reign of God. One imagines that this includes white supremacists and that ilk. There is a certain whiff of this superior mentality among Catholics; the sooner we unburden ourselves of this attitude, the better for everyone else and for the church. ...

Homiletics Notes / 20.08.2019

Paideia is a very broad word that describes the culture being handed on and how it is handed on. It could as easily be translated "an education", before the word was hijacked by getting credentials for a career, in other words making money. Paideia means what happens to the whole person (body, mind, soul) when suffused with ideals valued by a culture, so that a person embodies the culture and lives it out. All this is far more important than a career, but now something almost completely lost in higher education. Perhaps, English "enculturation/enculturate" covers for Padeia. The translators have chosen the word "discipline" instead, which has all sorts of different connotations in English and in our culture, and among those connotations a certain negativity. What I'm specifically talking about is the holding and handing on Catholic culture In the family. The "discipline" meant here in this text, is far larger concept or practice than punishment or strictness on the part of a father. Note that the writer uses the language of love to color the meaning of this "discipline." A further note about language. The test is highly masculinistic, and ought somehow to be cast in gender neutral language, because surely a mother and father together are engage din this Padeia with their children regardless of anyone's gender. ...

Homiletics Notes / 19.08.2019

The Gospel can be thought of a three teachings, again on the way to Jerusalem passing through towns and villages. The narrow gate image first leads to the other two. The supplicant outside the locked door who is not recognized by the householder who sends the person away leads to to a saying of vs. 28 about the patriarchs and prophets surprisingly already seated at the heavenly banquet. The final two verses 29 and 30, cite the Isaian vision of the first reading and end with a second saying which we see elsewhere in the Gospel. In other words there's a lot of material here. Perhaps the rubric is "the few and the many." The lectionary skips three parables, two sets of sayings, and a rare cure on the way to Jerusalem of a woman. For ourselves, we seek the widest, easiest road and gate into heaven. For religion we are not a rigorous culture. Quick, easy, soft. Jesus tells us that it takes strength. But what does this strength entail? What is spiritual strength? Are we the last minute people or late for everything people? God, the householder, has ended the day and the gate is locked. The house master says twice, "I do not know where you are from." In other words where did your journey start and what path di you take to arrive at this locked gate? What detained you? In light of the racism and the sense of elected and chosen privilege rampant today, it is the last of the three that could be taken up in the homily, supplemented by the first reading, to engage the universalism of the vision of God, one might even say the catholicism, in its original sense. ...

Homiletics Notes / 19.08.2019

The entries this week are for the Ordinary Time 21 C. Our first reading is from the end of the prophet Isaiah. It is a rousing and consulate vision from God who announces, "I come to gather nations of every language." For the life of me, I do not understand how the American heresy of evangelicalism can misread this passage and persist in their racism and white supremacy. But too many of us Catholics can be indicted for the same sins. How much more clear do God have to speak? And some shall even be priests! It is pathetic to hear the North American white Catholic complain about a foreign born priest assigned to their lily parish. After all their sons aren't becoming priests, enarmoed by the great god Baal as they are. And God forbid that an American should learn another language! Could be because they don't even know that grammar of their own? I guess it involves too much thinking. This last week the Danish offered to buy the United States! First our government wanted to buy Greenland. Danish ownership would mean free health care, free college education, a four day work week, a $20 minimum wage, unburdening us of any foreign war, leadership by a far better king than what we purport to have, paid parental maternity leave, cheap prescription drugs, and Denmark is the 2nd happinesst country in the world! Of course, whiners that we are, that wouldn't last. The point is that God's universal plan is not our plan. God is for communion and we are for division. The people of Israel, on the verge of collapse will be sent for as fugitives to the nations to proclaim God's glory. Yes, even to Javan, the Hebrew name for the Greeks! dThe whole Isaiah universal vision is held by Jesus in his teaching in the gospel this coming Sunday. It's time to preach about these things. ...

Homiletics Notes / 16.08.2019

Since it is the strongest word among the four texts this weekend, I'm going to start with fire as a multivalent symbol, focussing on its purifying quality and on its symbolism of enthusiasm. The "cloud of witnesses" certainly had both these qualities going on in their lives. The runner purifies focus to have the energy and strength to race and win. And fire gives us joy, as in "for the sake of the joy that lay before him, he endured the cross". We've all known this aspect of fire, perhaps sitting around a campfire or in front of the fire place in the company of good friends; it warms the heart, as they say. Fire causing division is a bit more complicated. Its meaning relates to the passion one has for something and the confusion or resistance who do not have the same passion. Christ is divisive in contemporary American society, because of the heresy of American civil religion, now practiced even by many Catholics, who want only to "fit in" and to varnish over the differences. We experience of the artificial differences in the church between conservatives/tradionalist and liberals, each side painting the other as bad, negative, or off the rails. Note that the very next words of Jesus after this fire saying are about reading the signs of the times, because discernment leads to decision. So Luke arranges this next saying in conjunction with the fire saying. ...

Homiletics Notes / 15.08.2019

Most of us would rather have cheery, good news stories than even to think about the horrors happening in the modern world. We avoid the politics, the economics, and the antics of world leaders (including our own). It's all just too much to bear. So when Jeremiah preaches the impending doom in the royal court, the princes acted to cheer the people and the soldiers up, by proposing the death of Jeremiah, bearer of bad news. It is likewise very tempting to be a cheery homilist, soothing the peoples' ears with "the good news". Yet, uncomfortable as it is, the challenge is to present the gospel and the conforming of ourselves to Christ in all of its difficult reality. The steps are simple, but far from American culture: deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow me. Not a complicated action plan, just hard to take. The first step alone, denying oneself, is to let go of that cheery, rose colored glasses outlook and see things and one's self as we really are; naked before the throne of God. Now, that's a scary thought! Yet, here is Jeremiah in the dark and dank cistern, alone and hopeless and not a little beat up. The princes had him "thrown" into the cistern, down long narrow stairs of unforgiving stones. And so, either way you understand the fire cast down on the earth of the Gospel, as the fire of the Holy Spirit or the fire of divine purification, it is not cheery, because the fire calls for decision -- for Christ or not! If you do this seriously you'll probably have to get a new set of friends nd a new family. The disciple's walk is out of step with our culture and society. ...

Homiletics Notes / 14.08.2019

I cite Luke Timothy Johnson in Sacra Pagina for his insight into the symbolism of fire. It is both regarding judgment because of its purifying and consuming effects and because it is clearly in the Scripture a sign of the Holy Spirit. Luke uses the same language as th prophet Elijah calling down fire to consume the sacrifices and the false prophets in II Kings. The "to set" of the translation is a very weakened option for the Greek, "to throw down". It strikes me that this is the connection with the Jeremiah selection. The young Judean King Zedekiah was obviously in the control of the princess of the land and the false court prophets, men and women who were there to flatter the king, speak on his behalf, and assuage any sense of impending doom. There is an American heretical Christianity that does just that: they tickle our ears with prosperity religion, create an us vs. them mentality, and create an environment of apocalyptic doom way off in the future. Jeremiah would understand our culture very well; we don't. In our complacency, the last thing we want is the fire, under either of its symbolic range of meanings. ...

Homiletics Notes / 13.08.2019

The city of Jerusalem is under the threat of Babylonian siege, the young king is easily swayed by his inept councillors, and everyone is in massive denial about the doom facing them. The status quo seduces everyone in the tiny Judean kingdom. The false prophets spread cheery fake news to keep the peace at any price. Jeremiah is the lone voice, accurately reading the signs of the times and announcing God's judgment on king and country. He is one small voice, lost in the noise, but for the fact that he brings his messages abruptly to the court. They're not having it; he is a bother, a party crasher. A plot unfolds to do him in, and the king complies. Everyone is in on the conspiracy of silence, except for Ebed-melech, a court official and a Cushite foreigner, who comes to his rescue. If these elements sound vaguely like what is happening today, it is because we are living through similar circumstances. Children are captives like animals at the border, the environment degrades, and we are awash in fake news. We powerlessly wring our hands, we pray, and we go on with the daily business of our lives, unaware and undisturbed by the coming doom and judgment. We ask ourselves, "Who will rescue us?" We are neck deep in the mire of the "cistern" of our times. Who will rescue us? ...