We know the transcendent God is beyond knowing, but we also know he graciously came into the world and was made known to us through his son Jesus, and we know he remains with us in the Holy Spirit.
But another, very ancient, expression of God, in fact the center piece of the Old Testament understanding of God is the he is the Lord, the rightful sovereign king of not only Israel, but all creation.
In our human history God's reign on earth had be hidden by the veil of the human condition and distorted by the power and darkness of sin.
God’s rule through the anointed kings of Israel, was tarnished by their jealousy and pride, God’s sovereignty was hidden in their sinfulness and the forgetfulness of his people..
Scripture promises that God will come again to set things right and to take up his rightful throne and rule in justice (for he will judge in mercy) and in righteousness (for his glory and joy will fill creation).
This was unstoppable and his judgement on the nations will be on everyone - Kings, princes and subjects, shepherds and flock. All would be held accountable on the Kings return.
In the first reading.
The prophet Jeremiah points to Israel's kings and princes and condemns them for their failure, their hardness of heart and betrayal of the people and of God.
They were meant, with the help of faithful people, to be good shepherds.
But, they had become hirelings and even wolves, protecting their own self-interest, relying on force, intrigue and deceit to hold onto power - and the people, dis-satisfied, stubborn, went their own individual way.
They all had turned their backs on the common good and so they had turned their backs on God’s plan which is always unity.
But all would be set right for God will come again and to take up his rightful place as true king and he will rule on earth as in heaven. God himself would be the good shepherd and all would be his obedient flock.
The responsorial echoes this new reality in profound simplicity - the Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
God's joyful, abundant wedding feast will be shared by every person of good will.
Every person will be anointed in a new unity, a new goodness, and a new righteousness.
And the Good News for us is that this has already happened.
St Paul describes how this is being done in Jesus.
By Jesus' death, resurrection and ascension into heaven Jesus now rules, as Lord, over heaven and earth.
It is Jesus who now gathers together the scattered flock. It is Jesus who now sheds light on the darkness of abusive power, as well as, the obstinately unfaithful.
In Jesus the far and the close are now brought together into one new creation; a new heaven and a new earth, a new people reconciled with God as their rightful king and with each other as faithful subjects in their Lord's fellowship.
Jesus, breaking bread with sinners, forgiving sins, healing the wounded and comforting the broken hearted. God is at work on earth because Jesus is doing the work of God. This is what God’s kingship looks like. This is our model and this is now.
The Gospel today continues this thought. It is a brief transitional passage between the sending out of the disciples and the feeding of the multitude. But it is not filler.
Jesus gathers the disciples who have come back from spreading the Good News.
Jesus invites them to forget about who did what and to instead come with him to a deserted place to pray and rest.
Of course, their quite place turns out not to be not so quite. Jesus always drew a crowd and so he does here; the curious, those wishing to hear the teacher, those desperate to be forgiven and those crying out to be healed.
Jesus was moved by compassion and the words of Jeremiah, Isaiah, the psalms must of swirled in his head for these before him were indeed like lost and abandoned sheep without a shepherd.
Jesus began to teach them that they (and us) are not lost nor abandoned. God is faithful, and God will find us and care for us and he will lead us.
And not only that, Jesus' is telling them that this is not some distant promise, it had begun, in Jesus himself something new had started and it would continue in him and through him, and those who follow him, and this transformation of life will come to completion as God had always intended it to - in unity and peace, justice and righteousness.
The earth and its people will be healed and brought together in the power of God's love.
Jesus changes everything. In him God's reign had begun.
And because this new reign has started we must get on board as faithful and obedient subjects. Even if God's sovereignty seems hidden by our worldly desires, agendas and power structures.
No matter what it seems like, the truth is, God's reign has begun in Jesus and we are his rightful subjects; as leaders and followers, shepherds and flock we each have a responsibility to the sovereignty of God.
To be good shepherds and a faithful flock is to listen to God and to each other and to contribute to the building up his kingdom here and now, and do everything in our power not to harm, tear down or scatter it.
We must lead and be lead in openness and understanding, in kindness and generosity.
We owe allegiance to God as King and Jesus as Lord and to each other as faithful servants s brothers and sisters.
We are obliged to do his will, striving always for peace and unity.
We are obliged, as faithful subjects of our Lord Jesus, to cling to each other.
And together rejoice in hope and together be patient in trial.
We are obliged to pray for each other and to love on another.
We do this because our rightful Lord, comes, with power and like a shepherd he gathers the lambs, carrying us in his arms and leading
Thursday, April 23, 2015
The author of life was put to death, but God raised him from the dead, of this we are witnesses.
Peter, in Acts, tells the people what is the fundamental living truth proclaimed by the Church.
It is the heart of all confessions and creeds.
Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.
"By dying he destroyed our death and by rising again he restored our life."
So fundamental is this truth that St Paul says
"If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching and your faith is in vain"
Christianity stands on this truth (experienced in countless ways from the earliest church till today), Christ is risen from the dead. We stake our own lives on it.
In the second reading John describes what staking our lives on this truth looks like.
The way we may be sure that we know him (that is, be in communion with him) is to keep his commandments. Those that say, I know him, but do not keep his commandments are liars and the truth is not in them, but whoever keeps his word (by living it), the love of God is truly perfected in them.
This reality of knowing and keeping and sharing, that permeates every aspect of our lives, has been described by Jesus as simply loving God and neighbor.
This is not limiting the commandments, Jesus expands them to include every person everywhere, especially the poor, the sick, the broken hearted and the oppressed.
In the Gospel we see this knowing, keeping and sharing in the foreshadowing of the saving activity of the Church - evangelizing - witnessing to the love of God made known in Jesus.
Two disciples recounted how the Risen Jesus was made known to them.
At first we know they fail to recognize him because their faith had not yet been awakened and Jesus himself had be made new.
But, in an action that was familiar yet now new and somehow richer - the Risen Lord was no longer hidden, but was made known to them in the breaking of bread.
In knowing this, their hearts were enflamed and they were compelled to share this knowing.
They could not keep the encounter with Jesus a secret. They must witness (in Faith and Love) to this new truth, this new reality that was still far beyond their understanding.
As the disciples gathered in the room, listening to the two telling them how the Lord was made known to them Jesus appeared, in their midst.
Appeared is an important and accurate word.
He did not enter through the door nor was he discovered hiding in some dark corner.
As the two tell their story, he is simply there.
They were terrified (by the sheer unbelievability of it) and they first thought he was a ghost.
Peace be with you he says to them.
Jesus asks them why they are troubled, why they doubt.
Even has he stood there before them he knew there were many questions in their hearts.
Because disciples were still trying to get their heads around a crucified messiah, much less the risen Jesus. And risen not at the end of time, but in their time.
Like the empty tomb their first thought was the dreadful, but possible Jesus is dead and this is his ghost.
We know that their encounter with Jesus was not some temporary movement the soul.
It was not an otherworldly encounter with a spirit (disembodied and still belonging to the dead).
This was the very real encounter with the very real and very much living Jesus, risen (not resuscitated) from the dead.
Look and see, I am real. Touch and feel, I am he who you love.
He showed them his very real hands and feet.
And they were amazed and overcome in joy.
Jesus asks them for food and this gesture awakens in them the memory and a new understanding of the feeding of the multitude, table fellowship with sinners, the last supper, the two disciples at Emmaus.
This was table fellowship, sharing of bread and wine which they recognized and associated with Jesus of Nazareth, but it is also something new, something Devine, fellowship with the Risen Lord.
And now risen Jesus spoke directly to heart, mind and spirit.
He revealed to them, that everything written about him, every account and prophecy is true and must be fulfilled.
He opened, in and through his Spirit, the scriptures for them.
They began to understand not just with their minds but to believe with their hearts and their whole being that Jesus, is the Christ, and he had to suffer, but that he would be raised, by God, on the third day. In Jesus death had become life.
On that day, in that room, the Risen Lord was made known to them, and it not only changed them, it changed the world.
Jesus was not dead, but living, compelling, life giving and life transforming.
Their encounter with the Risen Lord gave birth to new faith and new hope in them, in us, and for the world.
And this is our faith and because we did not need to see to believe we are especially blessed, because the Lord said
Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.
And those are us my brothers and sisters.
We who believe and who have received the Holy Spirit in baptism also received Jesus' mission
As the Father has sent me, so I send you.
Jesus has been made known to each of us. We keep him within us by doing his will - to love God and neighbor. And we share this Good News by being sent, as the disciples were sent and as the two who recounted how Jesus was made known to them were sent.
One person telling their story of encounter and conversion.
And isn't it true, that there is no better way of handing on the Gospel than by sharing with another one's own personal experience of the love of God in Jesus.
We who have encountered the Risen Lord now need to go out, as witnesses of these things.
Monday, April 6, 2015
It is no surprise that it was Mary Magdalene who was first to come to the tomb that morning.
In the cold and darkness she went alone, on the first day, to the deserted place where they buried Jesus.
She love the Lord, because he had literally saved her.
Remember her story from Luke -
"The twelve were with him, as well as some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities; Mary, called Magdalene from whom seven demons had gone out"
He told her to sin no more and she didn't. He told her to follow him and she followed.
This was true encounter, powerful healing and transforming conversion.
We must not forget that she was not the only women to follow Jesus. The passion narrative, we read on Palm Sunday names Mary the mother of James and Salome, we know that the sisters of Lazarus, Mary and Martha loved and served the Lord. There was Joanna, Susanna, and the wife of Chuza. Who can forget the Samaritan women at the well, and of course, there was always Mary the blessed mother of God.
These women and many others loved and followed Jesus, any from Galilee to Jerusalem.
They supported his ministry of the preaching of the Good News and now, each in their own way, was left broken hearted.
But now, (on that day) in distress and anguish, Mary of Magdalene went to where they had laid Jesus. She found ihat the stone was rolled back revealing the entrance to the tomb.
She did not think of the power of God which can move mountains. She did not think about the possibility of Jesus' resurrection. The risen Christ was still hidden and Faith had not yet come to her.
In horror, which must of been as heavy as the cold dawn itself she ran to the twelve, whom she trusted, to Peter and the other disciple whom Jesus loved.
"They" whoever they might be: the enemies of Jesus, the temple authorities or the Romans themselves.
She only knew that "they" must of taken him and then with tears she adds - we know not where.
We must remember that Mary Magdalene, as a women and as formerly demon possessed, would not be a very credible witness. It would be laughable.
So, why would the early church claim this to be the truth, if it were not.
Mary, as the first witness to the empty tomb was a powerful, personal account that was believed, remembered, and recounted orally by the earliest Christian communities until it was faithfully and lovely written down in the Gospels..
Now, upon hearing, but not necessarily believing, her story, Peter and the unnamed disciple run to the tomb. We assume the younger of the two gets there first, but he does not enter.
Is it in difference to Peter? or is it some unsettling expectation?
So Peter enters first (so like Peter to rush in) and he sees the evidence that the tomb was empty and that the burial cloth (the cloth of death) was still there.
Of course, the absence of a body does not mean a resurrection. There were more dreadful reasonable explanations and this was what Mary first thought and what Peter first thought.
But, if the body was stolen, would not "they" produce the body to discredit the resurrection story? Or if the two disciples had made a simple mistake in the unfamiliar dark place and gone to the wrong tomb, would not that mistake come to light.
The truth (whatever that was), could not be keep hidden.
The Gospel is silent as to Peter's actual reaction or thoughts.
But, it is clear about the other disciple who enters the same tomb and sees the same evidence, but here scripture tells us, rather starkly "he saw and believed"
The great gift of faith, a foreshadowing of the understanding (Faith) the Holy Spirit would bring to them all.
But, they did not understand, yet. They could not explain it, yet. The Spirit had not come upon them, yet.
Jesus, risen from the dead, glorified, as the Christ, was still hidden from them.
We know from the first reading that no such proof of a theft or mistake of location was ever produced.
There was a different kind of proof; the appearance of the Risen Jesus to Mary of Magdalene,
then to the twelve and then to many others. There was the sharing of the Holy Spirit, Jesus' Spirit, the Spirit of God, come not only to them, but let loose into the world.
And now, in truth and love, they believed.
In the first reading we also hear what they came to believe - God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power. He went about doing good, for God was with him. He was put to death and was raised on the third day. He was made visible to us and he commissioned us to proclaim this Good News.
And they did proclaim it, as did our fathers and mothers, our brothers and sisters.
As the Church does to the ends of the world, as we do, by our very lives, everywhere and anywhere we find ourselves..
Christ has risen, alleluia, alleluia.
By his dying and rising again he destroyed death and gave us new life.
By rising he destroyed the darkness of fear and despair that haunt the human condition.
By rising he brought us redemption and salvation.
By rising he gave us Hope, here and now and for eternal life to come,
and he gives us a blessing on those who believe without seeing.
By rising he sends us off to do as Jesus did –
to go about doing good for God is also with us.
Easter is proof of all we believe.
Christ has risen, alleluia, alleluia.
Thursday, March 19, 2015
Today I want to talk about God’s free and open Invitation to each of us and our freedom (also a gift from God) to choose wither to accept his invitation or decline it.
I want you to keep in mind the parable about the king who threw a great feast and invited the usual cast of characters. He thought they all would accept his generous offer, but they did not. Each had something better to do, more pressing, more important or it was just to much effort to go. Disappointed at the lack of interest the king ordered that everyone and anyone was to be invited; worker, beggar, thief, leper and outcast all were invited, and of course they came, and were rewarded with an abundance of good things.
In the first reading we hear - In those days they (Israel) mocked the messengers of God (those that did the inviting to God’s feast)
Infidelity upon infidelity, we are told, poured forth from the nation.
The whole power structure of Israel turned its back on God and his invitation to relay on him, to trust him. They decided instead to trust their wealth, power and arms and not God.
In time they found themselves let down by earthly power and might. They were despoiled, walls were torn down, fields were destroyed, the temple left in ruins and their princes exiled.
By the streams of Babylon we sat and wept. The psalmist laments. Tears stream from those who learned too late what it means to be unfaithful to God.
But, the good news (proclaimed by the prophets and Jesus himself) is that God, in the face of our infidelity, beyond all human reason, is always the faithful, loving father.
He is infinitely merciful and forgiving when we ourselves are not deserving of it.
St Paul declares “God who is rich in mercy because of his great love he has for us, even when we are dead in our transgressions.”
We are loved as children, unruly and defiant children, by a father who knows us better than we know ourselves.
Even in the shadow of sin, sin that we create in our lives, Jesus reaches out to each of us to bring us into the light, back home to our rightful and appropriate place as good faithful children of God.
This is an invitation to the gift of faith.
We are not entitled to it, we cannot earn it or buy it, but, we can accept the invitation or we can turn our back to it.
God gives life. It pours forth as Spirit, light and truth.
But, he also gives us the freedom to choose to love him or not.
Choose him, not with empty Sunday promises and sweet platitudes but with a real human heart, full of Spirit and alive, lived out in thanksgiving, gratitude and charity.
John sums up this gift in 27 famous words
“God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life”
I could end here, perhaps I should, and give us 5 mins of silence to reflect on the fact that God, despite all the wrongs we do to each other and ourselves, despite all the pain and suffering we cause, despite our turning away from him, even denying him, God is always ready to forgive the repentant sinner for he is forever loving and faithful.
God is so in love with us that he sent his Son (not to condemn, which he had every right to do), but to save, to dwell among us, as one of us, to love us, to proclaim the Good News, and in the end, pour out his life for us.
We simply must believe. Believe Jesus is our only Way, our only Truth, and our only Life.
Because, St John tells us whoever believes in Jesus will not be condemned.
Through our belief, we live in faith, hope, and charity. We are driven by the same Spirit that drove Jesus, to be better people (better spouses and parents), we endeavor to be good without counting the cost or seeking the limelight.
We seek another kind of light.
Faith (in Jesus), hope (in eternal life with God) and charity (reaching out beyond the pews) driving us into the world to evangelize in the joy of the Gospel.
But, here is the rub – In St John’s words “whoever does not believe has already been condemned.”
Because many of us by choice already live estranged lives, dictated, not by love, but by self-centered desires, ever changing motives, driven not by the Spirit, but by; greed, envy, pride, anger, and fear.
We do not cling to God, but we cling desperately to what the world offers only to find it is an illusion and a lie and even this lie is not enough or good enough, we forever thirst for meaning in darkness when we could be satisfied in the light of truth.
last week we heard that only Jesus can satisfy us.
Jesus is the stream of living water, sustaining and refreshing, giving depth and meaning to our lives as nothing else can.
So we end up back at the beginning.
We are invited by God to his great wedding feast, but so often we rather not be bothered, at least not now.
St John says
“And this is the verdict, the light came into the world but the people preferred the darkness to light.”
This is the startling truth – We choose to condemn ourselves!
Judgment is now and it is ongoing.
We do it to ourselves with no one else to blame.
We choose - darkness or light.
God always invites. He invites us again and again. The Holy Spirit is determined that
we (clothed and in our right minds) can finally choose to accept the king’s invitation.
Tuesday, March 10, 2015
From the creation of the cosmos to this very moment and until the end of time, God in his infinite love and fidelity has given us every gift and blessing.
He has revealed himself in surprising and profound ways and never more so then in the law, given to Moses as the Ten Commandments and most completely in the fulfillment of that law; the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
In both the commandments and Jesus God gave us the way and the means to our salvation.
The Ten Commandments (three for love of God and seven for love of neighbor) are so well known that we sometimes take them for granted. They have become trivialized either by making them saccharin platitudes or narrowly defined goals, but they are neither.
The Ten Commandments are not the end of our obligation to God's covenant, but the beginning, the groundwork, of our daily ethical and moral life, it is our daily response to God's call to love him more deeply and to love another more unreservedly, especially the poor and the marginalized.
These ten things are not facts to memorize or a list to keep in order, they are not rules to confine us by their narrow observance, they are to expand us as we live them in their deepest and widest aspect. God never restricts us, but gives us opportunity upon opportunity to grow ever more human.
Jesus taught that the commandments are an invitation to turn the table on what the world expects of us. They surprise us and compel us to act beyond our complacency or the ok routine we fall into. They remind us that faith is not settling in and locking the doors behind us, but opening them wide to all in need.
The Temple in Jesus' time had become more of a gate keeper, hiding God within and keeping those that searched for God outside.
Jesus knew that the law and the temple was not about restriction and exclusion, but about possibility and inclusion. He showed this in his life by touching the untouchable, table fellowship with tax collectors, forgiveness and friendship with prostitutes, hanging out with fishermen and not Pharisees.
He spoke clearly about expansion and inclusion of the Law in the Sermon on the Mount when he said you have heard it said, you shall not commit murder, but I tell you shall not be angry with a brother or sister.
The Temple system had become the sign of this narrowness and exclusion. It had become spiritually bankrupt and caught up in the precision its cultic practices.
The of course, Temple worship was correct and fruitful in its way. Each group of worshippers had their proper place or court; men, women, the Gentiles.
The sacrificial system ran smooth with its money changers, turning Roman coin into Temple currency, and its sellers of approved sacrificial animals.
But, in all this hustle and bustle something was lacking or forgotten or ignored. It was too much business as usual.
Jesus, as a sign of this complacency within God's own house choose to physically disrupt that routine business of worship. In the Spirit (the same Spirit that drove him into the wilderness" Jesus drove off the money changers and the sellers.
Those in authority asked Jesus what was the meaning of this. What gave Jesus the right to interfere with the temple. Show us a sign.
Jesus tells them – destroy this temple and in three days. I will raise it up.
Nobody understood what he meant. They thought he meant the concrete temple.
It would not be until the resurrection of Jesus that the disciples in the Holy Spirit that they had received from Jesus, remembered that day the event and understood he was speaking about his body.
They came to believe after Easter that the temple was no longer the house of God.
God was and is present in Jesus himself and now, through the Holy Spirit, in his body, the mystical Body of Christ, the Church.
Not in the brick and mortar church. God is present not in cement, in her sacraments, and in her choices and actions, aligned to the fulfilled commandants.
And, because the ordinary and the routine is not good enough, not nearly good enough a response to God's gift of his Son for our Salvation,
not a good enough response to the commandment, to honestly love God and selflessly love neighbor ( including our enemies, if we believe Jesus)
We must go beyond the expected and routine to respond to God's love for us.
Nothing less than a total commitment to love, by our committed lives of Faith, Hope and Charity.
We as Church, in our liturgies and in our community, and individual Christians, in our daily lives, should imagine Jesus not only cleaning out the Jerusalem temple, but also cleansing our own inner temple, challenging us to expand our idea of faith and embrace kindness and mercy as the norm, to go beyond the routine obligations to find the deeper meaning of what it means to be loved by God and what our human response should be to that amazing infinite gift.
We need to realize that the Law of Moses, even the Church herself, as important and essential as she is not the end point – is only the beginning.
She is not where we rest on our laurels, but where we roll up our sleeves to do the necessary work.
Jesus always reminds, gently and not so gently, that it is not the routine habit that matters but the depth, the truth that lies beneath and beyond the ordinary response -
God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so we might have life.
Friday, February 20, 2015
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 God’s 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.
Let’s 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"
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, don’t 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.