Friday, February 20, 2015

Driven by the Spirit, 1st Sunday of lent


We hear today that the Spirit drove Jesus into the wilderness.

The Spirit drove is a very Lenten idea. 

Lent is a time of being driven to remember that human life is short and we have much to prepare for.

It is a time to be driven by the Spirit to a new openness, true repentance and to ongoing conversion.

It is a time that the Holy Spirt drives us forward often into unchartered territory, sometimes even into the wilderness. We are driven, but never abandoned.

 

After Jesus's baptism and anointing with the Spirit, he was driven by the Spirit into the wilderness to fast, and to pray and to be deeply tested by 40 days of confrontation with physical hardship, and bodily and spiritual temptations, and even with evil itself.

That time for Jesus was preparation for the wilderness of the human experience, its fears and anxieties, its fragile and flawed nature, it's hardness and unfairness.

 

We know the story! Jesus came through his own wilderness experience, battered and torn, hungry and tired, but not broken and he proclaimed, and I like to think staring straight into the eyes of Satan

"The time is fulfilled and the Kingdom of God has come near, repent and believe the good news"

Believe the Good News - that even in the heart of the devil's own wasteland, God is near to those who are willing to be saved.

 

Saved by turning away from what is sinful and towards an encounter with the Lord.

Placing yourself at the service of God's kingdom, by doing his will for the good of others.

 

Jesus' victory over the world was a sign that the Kingdom of God had broken into the world, the very world Satan thought he had under his thumb.

 

But, we must remember the Kingdom of God is not a shiny place or a thing - it is truth and life.

It is the sharing of devine life in the Holy Spirit, as the Body of Christ, and it continues, most visibly as the Church, which in the face of sin and evil, still proclaims the Good News and calls for repentance and conversion and reaches out in charity and service.

The Church is for you and I and countless others, the great vehicle, the life raft, the new ark of our salvation.

 

The first ark, Noah's ark, was built to save those who took refuge in it.

St Peter says in the second reading that eight human lives were saved.

Not so many.

But, to Noah and those precious few God gave a promise, he made a covenant with them, that never again would his wrath destroy the world.

 In the light of God's covenant and blessing the flood revealed a new potential for the world,

a world that would be sustained by Gods creative love.

And Noah, in gratitude, gave glory to God.

 

Noah's Ark saved what would become the seeds of renewed creation, but our fallen humanity, like some parasite, was hidden within those few, somehow evil hitched a ride.

 

And we know our story, how quickly humanity fell back into its evil ways.

A new ark was needed. A metaphorical ark of; Abraham, Moses, the Prophets, the Incarnation, the Risen Christ and now, in the time of the Holy Spirit, the ark of the Church.

 

As the devine vehicle of the Spirit, the Church is perfect in its goodness, truth and holiness.

As the human vehicle of the People of God, not so perfect, not always so good, not always so truthful.

 You and I, our brothers and sisters in faith, are imperfect passengers, fragile and broken, self-serving and self-loathing.  To various degrees, we are all beaten and torn by the wilderness, whatever shape that wilderness takes.

 

 We cling together, as Church, not because we are just, or pure, or better than those outside, but because we are not, we are far from it.

 

We take refuge within the ark of the Church bringing our goodness that is the human heart and human spirit, but we also bring our self-righteousness, fear, pride, greed, all manner of corruption and sinfulness.

 

We cling to Mother Church as human beings; all of us, saints and sinners, repentant or not.

 

And we need to hold on tight, never letting one of us (not even the least worthy of us) slip overboard for the crossing can be rough.  Love one another.

 

When Jesus, came out of the wilderness, after facing down evil he proclaimed

 "repent and proclaim the Good News", it is an invitation and a promise to all sinners to climb on board, take refuge in him as Christ the savior, and in his Spirit, who will be with us even to the end of time and in his Church, the body of Christ, the People of God -

together; shoring up the sides, caulking up the cracks, and manning the deck of our beloved ark..

Indeed, Lent is a reminder that the Spirit drives us forth and we have much work to do:

 

We are driven by the Spirit to sacrifice the self through; fasting, prayer and alms giving, and loving one another but, we are also driven to renewal, transformation, thanksgiving and joy.

 Lets never forget that Lent is the promise of Easter.

 

Let us remember, in the Spirit, that even in the wilderness we can proclaim the good news and give glory to God, as Noah did on the deck of his ark.

Because, we too have taken refuge in God and

his promise, made visible in the rainbow

"this is a sign I am giving all ages to come, of the covenant between you and me and every living creature" 

 

 

 

 

Openess to healing, 6th Sunday of Ordinary Time


We continue with Jesus demonstrating (by his signs and deeds) that the reign of God in the world had begun. In Jesus, the Good News is preached, captives are set free, broken hearts and bodies are healed and demons are cast out.

And we see the dynamics of those receiving new life from Jesus being compelled to share this new life in witnessing to others the Good News that cannot be kept silent.

 

In the first reading we hear that the Levitical priests had the responsibility for the well-being of the people of God. They dealt with matters of impurity, both moral and ritual.

A moral impurity is adultery or murder and these are sinful acts.

 Ritual impurity is like the physicality of childbirth, the time of menstruation or the ins and outs of dietary laws, these are, of course, not sinful.

Leprosy is a ritual impurity.  The leper is not sinful but unclean and, so by no fault of his own, a person without a name, an outcast and removed from the fellowship of the community.

 

On the surface this was all about the physical health and well-being of the community.

It was their duty to quarantine those who could infect others.

But, ritual purity was also a reminder that God, in the Ark, was within their camp.

This closeness of God required communal purity; wholeness of body and community.

 

Of course, the notion purity implies impurity and everything in between, the good and the not so good, the broken and the unbroken, the hodgepodge of human lives.

 

In the second reading St Paul reminds us that those very messy human lives, all of it, what we do or not do with our body, mind, and spirit matters, everything we are or do brings us closer or further from God. It is our choice not his.

 

Paul says be aware, everything matters. Be intentional in what you do, do not sleepwalk through  your life.

He says whatever you do, even as mundane as eating and drinking, do for the glory of God.

Even what is impure, broken or sick begins to be purer, less broken, and healthier when we realize that it is the whole person that God loves and we begin to surrender what is not so good up to God to correct and make better, even perfect.

Then, in thanksgiving, we offer up this new, better life, to God in acts of charity and love.

 

Today's Gospel story is one of being made whole through faith. 

A leper, ritually impure, without home or community, comes and knees before Jesus. Think about the risk this man took coming to Jesus. The staring and ridicule, the fear and hatred that would surround him. 

He is not known by his name, but by his condition - the leper.

How desperately strong he must have been.

How much did he know about Jesus? Had he followed Jesus at some distance? Had he been in Capernaum when Jesus healed and drove out demons? Had others in the loose ring of  outcasts told him about Jesus? We don't know. 

What we are told is that in boldness and confidence (isn't this a sign of faith) this unclean man comes to Jesus and cries out

"If you wish, you can make me clean"

Clearly not a demand. Not a list of reasons why Jesus must act. This was a surrender to faith alone and a openness to be healed!

If you will it, Lord, it will be done.

 

Immediately, Jesus in a compassion, that heals and transforms lives, 

reaches out and touches the diseased body .  Think about this action the leper, a human being,  had not felt the touch of another person for; 10, 20, 30 years.  What must it felt like., that kind loving, healing touch.  Also, by touching the leper Jesus himself becomes ritually unclean.  To heal another puts himself outside the community, beyond the pale.

"I do will it, be made clean"

This is the power of love that breaks boundaries and transforms a life.

This is a sign that God is present. Even in the life of a leper.

 

Jesus sends the healed man off to show himself to the priests so they can proclaim him clean and he can re-enter the community.  The man is now whole in body by the healing of his wounds, in spirit by his encounter with Jesus, and now in fellowship by his re admittance to community. This is wholeness.

 

But Jesus first tells him, dont tell anyone? It is like Jesus said what is done is done let the priests do their work and get on with your life.

But, of course, he cannot keep silent. Out of joy and gratitude for new life the new man  proclaims the good news that is Jesus.

 

The Joy of the Gospel always leads to witnessing Jesus is Lord and thanksgiving to God who saves and a heart felt desire to reach out in charity and service to others.

 

 The encounter of the leper and Jesus demonstrates we are both in need of healing and but we can also be agents of healing.

 
We are like the leper, sick and broken in so many differe

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Calling, 2nd Sunday of Ordinary Time


This is a story as old as humanity itself.

From the anxieties of the human condition, man searches for meaning and truth outside himself in a God he does not know.

And God and from the transcendent mystery that is God, reaches out to us, calls out to us individually to know him and love him and be in relationship with him.

This is a story of endless possibility or missed opportunities.

This is a story of the unexpected invitation and the decision that must follow.

 

Samuel was sleeping.

And in the darkness and forgetfulness of sleep the Lord called him.

Samuel wakes and runs to his teacher, the prophet Eli, who Samuel mistakenly thinks called him.

Eli tells him it wasn't him and he sends Samuel back to bed.

Again, the Lord called Samuel, and again the same mistake.

A third time God calls, but it is Eli who understands what is going on and he tells Samuel  next time don't hesitate say

"Speak Lord, for your servant is listening." 

Grasp the unexpected, seize the moment Eli is telling Samuel and, of course, Samuel did.

Now the prophets were special to God, but God looks for encounter and relationship with each one of us.

For many of us, God's reaching out goes unnoticed.

Like Samuel we mistake what we experience of God as something else.

We miss the moment of grace because we cannot believe God is in that moment.

Even when we hear God, in the depths of our heart or conscious, we decide not to answer because we are afraid of what that "yes" will mean.

We might be called to leave the safe, the comfortable and the known.

In our human insecurities we fear the transformation an encounter with God would bring about.

How many  opportunities have I missed - countless.

 Missed moments of kindness and generously, moments of forgiveness, moments of love?

 

God calls us in many different ways. Sometimes directly, in a whisper or a bolt of lightening, but more often (but just as grace filled) he calls us through others, our spouses, family and friends, teachers, and even strangers.

 

The baptist heard God's call and he answered the call to be the lone voice in the wilderness.

In today's Gospel John the Baptist sees Jesus along the banks of the Jordan and he again points him out to Andrew and the unnamed disciple - there is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

He used the term Lamb of God to indicate that Jesus is from God and is the instrument of our redemption; saving each one of us through his own self sacrifice.

Andrew and the other disciple (compelled by some force of Spirit) turn from the Baptist ( their teacher) to Jesus (the giver of life) and so began their journey of faith.

 

They must of been following Jesus at a discreet distance (don't we all follow Jesus at some discreet distance), wondering what to say or do.  Jesus acts and engages them first.

 He turns and invites them to encounter. "What are you looking for" he asks them.

This is a question that goes beyond the immediate inquiry,  it infers transformation - a new direction, a new shape and scope of one's life.

Jesus invites them to come and see to be a part of his life and to share the great adventure of salvation.

Jesus' - come and see - is the same invitation to mystery, as was the Lord calling  Samuel.

Those two disciples that day (like Samuel and John the Baptist) answered yes to God's call.  They followed, they saw, and they gave glory to Him.

 

Jesus, invites us to wake up from our sleep and to journey with him on a life affirming and life changing journey.

Sure, it can be unnerving to our sense of well being, and it will go beyond our comfort level, it will stretch us thin.

But, it is a call, not a plan, it is a direction, not a roadmap. It is an invitation - not to the possible -  but to the impossible. It is free falling with only God to catch us.

Samuel, the Baptist, Andrew and the mystery disciple, Simon/Peter, the twelve, and countless others  did not know what the Lord would say or command them to do.

They did not know what life with him would be like, but they all were open to the call and all trusted his goodness and fidelity.

 

I want to end with the trivial and the model.

I love the bit of detail from today's Gospel "it was about four in the afternoon"

This specific time rings as a detail that comes to us from the earliest oral tradition, a detail too precious to leave out.

It implies that this was an actual encounter remembered.

It also reminds us of our own encounter with Jesus.

The moment when God's call got through and we woke from sleep.

 Or when we first noticed a subtle transformation in our character, a little extra kindness, a bit more generosity or loving a little more selflessly.  We would remember that time.

 

 The model.

Andrew, was always second fiddle, his brother Peter was the star, Andrew's greatness was bringing others to Jesus.

Andrew brought Peter to Jesus, he brought the boy with the loaves and fish to Jesus and the Greeks seeking to speak with Jesus.

Like the Baptist, Andrew always points to Jesus.

And this is how we can be; answering the call from God with a yes, following faithfully (not a some discreet distance) and bringing others to Jesus.

This is our story

We have every opportunity in the world to hear and accept the Word of God.

We have every opportunity to follow the Way of God in truth and love.

We can bring others, by our words and action, to God.

And we can always point beyond ourselves to Jesus and confess to the world that we have found God.

 

 

 

Sunday, January 4, 2015

4th Sunday of Advent


"It is now the hour for you to wake from sleep, for our salvation is closer than when we first came to believe "  St Paul told the Romans

 

NOW is the hour - for salvation is closer than you think - this is the spirit of Advent.

There is a tension in Advent between waiting, alert and joyful and our journeying in confidant trust towards the Lord's second coming.

 

At Advent we look backward at the joy of the nativity when God becomes man - humble and gentle - born of a virgin and we look forward to our Lord's coming again in majesty and glory to judge the living and the dead.

 

Throughout These last couple of weeks we have been called, reminded and prodded by the Spirit of Advent; the first Sunday of Advent, was a wake up to the call to God' judgement that will come, the 2nd Sunday we were called to live authentic lives and to make the crooked straight within ourselves and in those we touch in preparation of the coming of the Lord,

and last week there was the joyful confession in he who is coming to baptize not with water for the repentance of sin, but with the Holy Spirit to bring about new life of faith.

And today we are reminded that nothing is impossible for God and we are shown the model of humility and trust in Mary's surrendering to the impossible in her yes to God.  Advent isn't just another passing season.

 

In the first reading king David thought he had a plausible plan.

- to build an appropriate house ( a temple) for God.

This was a good and noble plan but it wasn't God's plan.

God's plan was bigger and grander than anything King David could even imagine.

What would be impossible for David to build in stone was surly possible for God to create in the womb of a virgin.

God, through Nathan the prophet, reminded David that he began his life a shepherd  of his father's flock.

God tells David not to bother with building him a house (for who can house God?).

Build your people up instead, love them and care for them as a good shepherd of my flock.

Do this and your kingdom will last for ever.

David's kingdom, a sign of God's kingdom, will last beyond brick and mortar, for it is never what we build of stone that lasts.

We know that David's historical undivided kingdom did not last beyond his grandson.

The kingdom God speaks of crosses the boundaries of time and place and extends to the ends of the earth as well as the end of time itself.

 

In the second reading Paul describes the extent of this new impossible kingdom as "being made known to all nations" and it will be achieved only - through faith in, him who can strengthen you, Jesus Christ.

 

In today's gospel reading we see how God will go about this grand enterprise of salvation.

God's messenger the glorious and sublime angel Gabriel reveals to a young, betrothed virgin, the shape of the plan. It is a story of angelic majesty meeting human humility.

"Hail, full of Grace" is Gabriel's  greeting to Mary. Clearly, she is already blessed by her chosen-ness, her immaculate conception and sinless life and she will be further blessed by what is to come.

"The Lord is with you"  emphasis that Mary has been chosen to be the Lord's instrument and his bearer.

Now this is all too much, to overwhelming for a young girl to get her head around.

"Do not be afraid" Gabriel comforts a uneasy Mary.

 This is a promise that only goodness, beyond understanding, comes from the Lord.

Gabriel goes on to reveal to Mary the impossible future.

You (he tells her) will be the mother of the redeemed and the redeemer!

You will conceive a child - Emmanuel (God with us). You will call him Jesus,

 

But the world (some day) will call him Son of God and he will rule over God's kingdom  comprising of all nations in faith and he will rule this kingdom forever.

The shear force and magnitude of this revelation must of weighed  heavily on Mary

 and she asks Gabriel how this can be.

Gabriel says - God will do this, for nothing is impossible for God.

He will do this through the Holy Spirit who will overshadow you. Which means the Holy Spirit will consume completely and changes her and we must remember that Mary was overshadowed not just at divine conception, but for her whole life. Through all the joys, the anxieties, even through suffering and sorrow Mary was always full of God's overshadowing Grace, which is fully realized at her assumption into heaven.

 

Mary's response to the impossible, changed the world and inspires us down to our very day by its humble and trusting acceptance of God's will.

 "May it be done according to your word", she tells Gabriel.

This acceptance doesn't come from understanding or reason.

Mary hasn't figured it out. She doesn't get it.  She surrenders to the unreasonable, the mystery of God.  This is her faith, a  simple (but profound) trust in God.

And this is the mystery of Advent, nothing is impossible for God, not in Mary's life or in our own.

We must hold on to this Spirit of - openness to mystery -  to something bigger then ourselves.

Too often we look for God with our own ideas about what that means, our own images and assumptions about Him and so in the end - we only find ourselves.

We meet the reasonable, the expected, the humanly possible, but never the Devine impossible.

But, Our Blessed Mother (without preconceived ideas) was open to encounter the overshadowing mystery that is God. She was open to embracing the impossible.

And She would wait for it to unfold in hopeful and joyful expectation.

 

Advent reminds us of this.

What we wait for should determine how we wait.

What we journey towards should govern our effort to get there.

Our lives, forever changed by the incarnation, should mirror our faith in Jesus the Christ.

God breaking into our world was not impossible.

God's coming kingdom fulfilled is not impossible.

Living in the Spirit now - as Christ bearers - is not impossible.

Eternal life through Jesus is not impossible.

Advent is a time, that as Christian believers we wait, alert and joyful.

And we journey forward, as one people, in faith, hope and love.

We look back to the incarnation with its sweet tenderness that pierces our hearts

and we look forward to his coming kingdom.

Advent, always and everywhere rings out

Come, Lord Jesus, Come.

 

 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

God dwells here, Dedication of the Lateran Basilica


There is an ancient, millennial old, question - Where does God dwell? And there is a newer, but linked question - What is the Church?

Ezekiel , the first prophet to prophesy outside of Israel to those in exile, describes in a vision, the new temple where those with a new heart and a new spirit will worship -

"The angel brought me to the entrance of the temple and I saw watering flow out" he says.

This new temple is not static, rigid and inert, rather it flows to renew, sustain and sanctify life

Ezekiel continues to describe the inclusive scope of the new temple 

every sort of creature will be found there and on the banks of this river (this flood of grace) every kind of fruit tree shall grow. Their fruit shall be food (because it will ease hunger) and their leaves shall be medicine" (because it will ease suffering).

This new temple is not some place to go to (and passively sit). It is a force of Grace and Blessing that is active in transforming the world.

St Paul bluntly tells the Corinthians. - "You are God's building".

In the second reading he describes that he has laid the foundation of faith, the living temple, not with brick and mortar, but according to the Grace he has received, which is Jesus Christ.

In his faith Paul laid the groundwork, which others, in their faith will build upon.

This living church is alive and evolving, it is not stone but flesh, it is not courtyards but community, it is not architecture it is the Body of Christ.

This is where the Spirit dwells, this is where God is present and is where holiness pours forth like some magnificent river sweeping aside all injustice.

Both Ezekiel and St Paul have a vision that God's house that is not a building.

 It is not someplace, but is every place where Spirit and Truth abound.

Jesus knew this.  In fact, Jesus is the new temple.

In Johns Gospel we hear that the Passover was at hand and Jesus did what all good Jews should do, he went up to Jerusalem. Specifically to worship at the temple - his father's house.

 He found, in the courtyard of the temple, a day like any other day, business as usual.

Money changers changed Roman coin to temple coin appropriate for offering and sellers of sacrificial animals advertised their product hoping to turn a decent profit.

Jesus sets this all on its head and he creates quite a rumpus, by his forceful actions.

This is the house of my Father, he yells, not a marketplace.

His words echoes Ezekiels own words "there shall no longer be traders and sellers in the house of the lord"

Jesus is simply reclaiming the house of God.

And this leads to anger from those who profit (not just monetarily) from the status quo.

 Jesus, whose very existence disrupts unjust power.  He confronted it directly until it became a life and death struggle with the authorities.

They cry out - what gives You the right to do what you do? They want to know in whose name is he acting ?

They want proof, some sort of evidence.

"What sign can you give us" they demand.

Jesus responds, (in spades)

"Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up"

This is insane they think. Here is a madman. No one has that kind of power.

Of course, they think he is talking about the temple complex, the concrete and marble place, in which they now stood - an edifice of power that had become a prison for God and a marketplace to profit from his imprisonment.

There was no further argument recorded, but you can imagine the bewilderment and anger that followed that encounter.

 Instead, the narrator simply adds (showing us exactly what kind of power Jesus has) -

"he was speaking of his body"

 

A body, made holy by a holy life, that after his resurrection becomes glorified as the Body of Christ - the risen and ascended Jesus along with all those who believe in him and are baptized, in the Spirit, into his death and resurrection and who will join him to become one body.

This is where God dwells in freedom and truth and where he can never be imprisoned, not even by death.

"Destroy this temple (of flesh and spirit) and see it rise (in glory) on the third day"

Later the disciples, in the Spirit they had received, remembered the temple incident and Jesus words and his raising on the third day - and they believed. They became the Church.

Today, Mother Church has many names, but pride of place belongs to - the People of God,

who through their individual encounter with the Lord respond to the Lord's own desire that we have  " a loving heart and knowledge of his ways".

You and I, here and now, as Church, humbly and generously help each other as we all stubble forward "climbing the Lord's mountain so that he may instruct us in his ways and we may walk in his paths." 

This is the living Church reaching out to bring sanctifying light to every dark corner.

And this Church, Gods house, is always identified with justice and mercy, love and hope not with power and profit margin.

The living Church is identified as Gods presence flowing from its members as kindness and generosity, patience and humility, as loving service to all those in need wither that be within the family, the parish, or community.

The ecological slogan think globally and act locally" takes on an expanded and sanctifying meaning within the community of believers as acts of charity and stewardship.

Ezekiel, Jesus and St Paul, all remind us that the living temple (where a God dwells) should not be profaned or lessened by routine and habit.  We cannot reduce our faith to a specific building or a specific time and day. The Lords Day, is every day.

And must remember that the sacramental life of the Church, is never "old hat", never routine, it is always new, precious and nourishing and is always Gods grace flowing out as a river.

And we, the People of God, must not let the Church within us, the Spirit dwelling within, to be dulled, made indifferent, trivial and cheap by self-centeredness, routine participation and thoughtless living.

By our selfishness, indifference and thoughtlessness we become like those on the steps of the temple doing everything else, but worshiping (and living) in truth and love.

But that is not who we are.

When the world asks us - where is your Church we can simply say - here!

When the world asks where does God dwell we can answer by its negative where doesnt God dwell?
  But, to show the world where God dwells is to show them the quality of our love

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Feast of the Lord, 27th Sunday of Ordinary Time


God is abundance.  So gracious and overflowing in all goodness that we can only call it love;  creative love, sustaining love, and saving love.

In all his fullness, God and his kingdom is beyond our understanding or even full appreciation.

And we can never describe it adequately, it is always more, greater in every aspect.

Certainly greater than of my words or any words for the Word of God was before all, is all, and in the fullness of time be all.

Because of our human condition, Isaiah calls it a veil over the nations, we have distanced ourselves from God, we are out of touch with the devine, out of right relationship with God, who loves us, and we are unable (at least in this life) to fully know Him.

We have only our limited minds, imaginations and inadequate words to talk about God and our experience with Him.

Jesus knew this, though he knew God, and so he used parables, to help us understand the truth.

How often did he use the phrase "the kingdom of God is like"

 The Kingdom of God is like a great Kings wedding banquet.

In the first reading Isaiah gives us a hint of Gods feast.  He tells Israel that on the Lord's mountain (where God dwells and rules as king) there will be for all people a feast of rich food and choice wines, not only rich and choice, but juicy and pure. It is better than the best.

And this pure and choice feast will be the wiping away tears, ending oppression and destroying death. It certainly includes; protecting all human life, giving priority to the poor and vulnerable, It will insure peace for all peoples.

God's great feast is also inclusive as he gathers all people together and together (as one) they will rejoice and be glad for God has kept his saving promise.

And this rejoicing and gladness at the banquet table sounds like the responsaorial psalm

"The Lord is my Shepard I shall not want . . . You spread your table before me"

We shall not want, we shall have our fill, (in Christ) for Gods abundant grace is life giving and life renewing and enlivens our human nature to reach beyond its limitations.

 St Paul says

"I can do all things in him who strengthens me"

Not some things or the things I am good at or things I think are important or worthy,

God strengthens all things undertaken for his glory and the good of others.

God's grace reaches out to all who reach out to him and He is always generous and merciful .

 "My God Paul says will fully supply whatever you need"

So we have God who is generous beyond measure and his kingdom which is likened to a wedding banquet full of good and choice things, yet we know many turn their back to God's invitation?  Many who do not think the offer is good enough?

Not good enough to give up grasping worldliness, self-centered concerns, and rivalries, not worth the sacrifices it's obtaining might entail.

We know still others who believe God is a fanciful lie, a children's story that no adult could base a life on. This is human folly and the question we hear throughout scripture and most directly in Jesus' parables is "why would you not want to be at God's wedding banquet"?

So back to the parable.

 The king sends out his servants (twice) to invite the lucky guests to the great wedding feast.

Some ignored the King's requests; some had more important things to do, some thought their time was more precious than the Kings.

The Kings servants doing the kings bidding were abused and seriously mistreated. 

We heard last week that the owner of the vineyard (another likeness to the kingdom of God) sent his son, to bring about justice - they killed him instead.

Sounds familiar doesn't it.

The hard hearted and prideful turned their backs to their rightful king.

In just anger the king declares

"The feast is ready, but those invited are not worthy to come. Go out, therefore and invite  whomever you find"

Go out to the darkest corners of the city, go to the forgotten places and bring every one back the King commands.

We see this redeeming generosity echoed in Jesus who had table fellowship with tax collectors, prostitutes, and sinners, all those marginalized by the smug and the self-righteous.

In their blindness they could not see that Jesus was showing them what God's kingdom looked like.

 By now the king's banquet hall was full with the good and the bad, every walk of life, every kind of person including the least desirable crowded around the great banquet table, to share in the Kings many gifts and pleasures.

Then comes an unsettling twist.

"The king comes and he sees a man who had come without a wedding garment.

The king addresses the guest "my friend" he says "how is it you have come without a wedding garment?"

The guest (who most likely had never spoken to a king or better still, think of standing before the Lord yourself), had no answer and in anger the king had the guest thrown out (of the light) into the darkness.

Now, we could say it was unfair for the guest to be tossed out.  After all it was an unexpected, last minute invite.  How was the guest to know? Did the guest even have a wedding garment? Besides, he came when the others, more deserving invitees had not even bothered to show up.

Whatever the wedding garments represents it does make clear that we must be ready and prepared for this most marvelous invite.

The point is - what gets us to the feast will not keep us there. Being invited is a good thing, but remaining at table is better. There seems to be in this parable, the laying out of the ongoing dynamics of salvation; gift, choice, and mission.

God's gift (His invitation) starting with faith and ending in salvation, is made clear in the life, death, and resurrection of his son Jesus. It is free, it is generously given and certainly it is unmerited on our part.

 We start by saying accepting the Kings invitation to the abundant gift of new life here and now (to be lived out in discipleship) and eternal life (in praise and glory) in Gods kingdom to come.

Yet, we must be clothed and in our right mind (as the gospel song tells us)

So we can stand before the King, grateful, humble and with a pure and undivided heart.

These are our wedding garment made new by Gods grace.

Remember, It doesnt end with the invite or just showing up. We must live out our acceptance to God's invitation with more than baptism, conformation and mass attendance.  These just get you the invite and the invite is just the beginning.

At the wedding feast we are honored guests, delighted and joyful, but we are also the obedient servants doing our part in inviting others to join us, showing people, by our lives, what it means to sit at the table of the Lord.

We are both undeserving sinner and newly formed prophet.

We are invited early or late. We arrive on time or as the meal is being served or even as desert is offered.

 It doesn't matter, but the quality of the heart does matters,

 "for many are invited, but few are chosen"

 

 

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Exaltation of the Cross


To begin with - the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross celebrates two historical events: the discovery of the True Cross in Jerusalem, by Saint Helena, the mother of the Emperor Constantine and the dedication in 335 of the basilica built on the site of the Crucifixion.

 However the feast, more than anything else, is a celebration of God's greatest work of saving love: his death on the Cross and his Resurrection, through which death itself was defeated and salvation poured out into the world.

 I want to start with a truth that we just heard and on which I constantly reflect, and perhaps base my entire faith on

" God so loved the world that he gave his only son"

It is essential to remember that God did not send his son to die. 

He sent his son to love and to save.

And because God loved us he wanted to reveal himself to us, to have communion with us, to bring good tidings to the poor and to proclaim his kingdom come.


Think of it - the Transcendent God, who creates and sustains all life, loves us, so much the he came to dwell with us.

To really and truly; take on human life, to eat and drink, to tell stories, to laugh and weep, to heal and comfort and, as all humans often do - suffer.

 And in the end, (with unimaginable grace) accepting an undeserved and unjust death.

Jesus, God with us, is total self surrendering love.

And the cross is the undeniable sign of that unimaginable love.

 In the first reading we hear about another sign that points to the cross.

 The Israelites in the desert forgot the journey they were on. They forgot what God had done for them and continued to do for them. They were fed up.

"With their patience worn out by their journey, (we read) the people complained against God"

As a punitive reminder God sent poisonous serpents among the people.

Now, In their freight, they remembered God, because now they really needed Him and they asked Moses to intercede for them to save them from the snakes.

God gives Moses a simple, familiar solution, build a bronze serpent, suspend it on a pole, and whoever looks upon it after they have been bitten will live.

This was as a sign, a "thing" that reminded the Israelites that it is only God who sustains and saves.

 A sign is important, but it's importance lies in what it points to.

It was not the bronze serpent that saved, it was remembering and trusting in the God that saves.

 In the Gospel of John, Jesus uses that sign to help Nicodemus understand what was coming.

"just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert (Jesus tells him) so must the Son of Man be lifted up so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life"

Moses lift up a sign of God' power and glory while the Son of Man lifted up is God's power and glory. But, this power and glory is surprising and unexpected and even beyond understanding and it flows from one truth -

 "God so loved the world that he gave his only son so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life."

Jesus' life, his death on the cross and his resurrection is a living sign of the father's kingdom come; and that sign looked like self surrender, humility, compassion, healing, forgiving and redeeming. It looked like life not death.

To the authorities Jesus did not look like power and might at all. He did not look princely and certainly not messianic.

Paul describes God who dwelled among us.

 "Christ Jesus did not regard equality with God something to be grasped.

Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave . . . . . he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross."

This is the amazing Good News.

God beyond all understanding wanted to share his Devine life with us and so gave his beloved son to us and in doing so revealed a God who is love, given freely and completely, for the salvation of the world. 

 And this is Jesus, he showed us time and time agin what the kingdom of God looks like; complete forgiveness, a compassion that invited the outcast to table fellowship, that healed the sick and broken hearted, that transformed the world by the breaking bread.

And when confronted by hatred, and jealously he turned to a parable.

When he was falsely accused and turned over to the authorities,

Jesus chose love of God over love of self and in the midst of horrible agony and deep human betrayal Jesus still trusted God to do as he promised and in that love and trust Jesus, the Son of God, surrendered himself up to death. Even death on a cross.

If only the world had listened and seen with open hearts and minds Jesus would not have died that day.

But, the darkness of the cross revealed the light of the resurrection.

Jesus' total commitment to live only for God made the instrument of his death a sign of his love; sacrificial (in its surrender of self) redeeming (in its sanctifying compassion for every human person) and saving (in the fulfillment of God's promise to make all things new, including eternal life)

Those that hated Jesus and his Good News thought that with His death all would be well and business would be as usual. But, they were wrong.

Everything had changed on the cross.

Jesus did not die into nothingness, (as they hoped) but into the embrace of his Father, who's loving power transformed Him and raised him to new life and seated him at his right hand.

 To their horror the cross became not a deadening scandal, but a living instrument of hope and  salvation and it stands forever as a sign of God's renewing love that embraces all suffering and death.

Because of the cross we can look suffering and even death straight in the eyes and cry out from the depth of our hearts

"Christ is risen.  Alleluia"

But we are not done yet.

In the cross before us, that we venerate, we know that God's work, Jesus' work of transforming the world through self surrendering love is now placed in our hands.

We must, with the help of the Holy Spirit, work hard because no one will believe that the Kingdom of a God matters, that what Jesus did matters, that the Cross matters.

No one will believe Jesus is the answer, unless that answer transforms our lives.

"Pick up your cross" Jesus tells us "and follow me"