Homily July 16, 2017 the 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time

15sun2I chose to have the short form of the gospel read today because most scholars agree that this was probably what was actually spoken by Jesus with the rest being added by the early church. The parable is one Jesus used to address for his followers the fact that he OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAreally at times had few followers and even some who would leave and go away. The picture he paints is a farmer who haphazardly spreads the seed in his field while planting and loses much of it in weeds and rocky ground and to birds and so forth. Yet Jesus says the farmer will get a return of sixty to a hundred fold on his seeds. To a farmer of his time, this would be almost a miraculous return as seven to ten fold would be considered a good return. Thus, Jesus is saying, the word of God is an active and enlightening and growing thing. Nothing can stop it and numbers of the early 15sun9 (2)disciples and the early church should not discourage or depress his followers. Amazingly he was right as we reach our own time, the word has spread around the world but unfortunately, we must ask has it reached the hundred fold that Christ said it could? Certainly, there will always be unbelievers who hear the word and move on. But truly, has the word gone out to all the world, to the far ends? Have we reached out to the hungry and suffering people in the world? Do we welcome the stranger seeking to enter our country or places where we live. The Word is alive and active, yet we need to listen and make ourselves live it out as a true follower. How each of us responds is how the word will grow.

Homily July 9, 2017, the 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time

14sun1 (2)My yoke is easy and my burden light. The Priests and Scribes and Pharisees and Elders of Jesus time represented the wisdom of time and the law of the land. It was to these leaders of the temple that the people looked to be faithful followers of God in the tradition of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and king David. These men over the years had codified laws and rules and prescriptions that were specific and numerous and were controlling of every part of life. These rules and laws went from the washing of hands 14sun3before eating to worshiping. Lost in all this was the personal nature of God. Jesus today is telling them that the revelation of his Father is hidden from the wise because they are blinded to Jesus. It is through Jesus that they can see and experience the Father. In this way they come to know the father because they know Jesus and only he can reveal and bring the father to 14sun4them. So, Jesus is revealing to them the true wisdom, and that is his person. He is the way to the father and he is telling those so strongly bound and burdened with so many prescriptions to come to him and rest and give up their burdens. His yoke, his burden is easy in comparison. His call is love and concern for others to live in the person of Christ.

Today, we should remember Christ’s words and remember that wisdom is in his person and actions. Rules and laws are meant to be a service or guideline for order, yet without compassion and mercy and living in the person of Christ are they meeting the test “My yoke is easy and my burden light”? Truly our real rest and peace is in him.

Homily July 2, 2017- the 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time

13sun3Today’s readings represent a big change for Christ’s followers in how they look at life. Jewish life in Israel was very much a life born out of a culture of tribes and family and later small villages. Marriages were often between first cousins and always strangers and outsiders while reasonably treated were viewed with suspicion and remained apart. Without the familial connection, a person was alone, set apart. 13sun1Yet, Jesus says today that his followers must deny family and friend and follow him. Family and familial relationships are to become secondary to following him. He is proposing a whole new way of life, one of giving and service and thus in life sharing in a relationship with God. It is a whole new concept of relationships. Paul goes even further today as he says we are baptised into Christ’s death and must 13sun2ourselves die to the sin and evil of the world. Remember, baptism was full immersion in water and symbolized dying to this world and coming to new life symbolized when the newly baptised emerged from the water. In this new life we are called to relate to all whom we meet and to spread Christ’s word wherever we go and share our special relationship with God. Christ’s call is one that goes beyond a tribe or region or family. It is universal and needs to be shared everywhere. Through all this, Christ will share his love with us.

13th Sunday – Gain or Loss?

13th Sunday Ord time, 7-2-17; 2 Kings 4:8-11, 14-16a; Ps: 89:2-3, 16-19; Romans 6:3-4, 8-11; Matt 10:37-42

Gains or Loss?

Our Gospel reading is a continuation from last Sunday. Jesus is commissioning the apostles as they begin to minister.  Jesus not only gives them authority, but he also prepares them with good advice and what we would call “full disclosure” of the hazards and dangers of the task.  They are not to pack all kinds of supplies, but should accept the food and shelter offered to them.  They are told not to fear, but instead trust in God’s care.  Now, just 5 sentences remain in what Jesus has to say.

The first two sentences are conditions of discipleship.  First, he says, “Whoever loves father or mother or son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” This would make an unlikely ad for a job opening.   This was a particularly outrageous idea in the 1st century Middle-East.  “Family” at that time meant extended family, all living together in the same compound.  The idea spouse was a cousin.  Should you turn your back on the family, all financial and emotional support was withdrawn, and you would lose any claim to the family land or the produce from that land.  In short, you would find yourself homeless, without food, shelter, clothing, or love.

Now we better understand why he says his disciple must take up their cross; this discipleship will endanger their relationships, their future, and their lives. “Whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” suggests danger, while also promising rewards.

As I wrote this, I couldn’t help but think of thousands of people who have gone to war or signed on to high-stakes adventures hoping for rewards. Why did men rush to Alaska when gold was discovered? The possible monetary rewards somehow out shadowed the probable frostbite and death. Why do soldiers still become paid mercenaries, if not the reward of money, adrenaline rushes, and glory?   What is the difference here between these people and the apostles?

Well, the apostles would sleep under trees, go hungry at times, depend on benefactors. Peter’s denial of Christ was based on having the kind of fame no one wants. Their material possessions would be minimal; they would endure ridicule. They would fear the collaboration of the Jewish leaders with the brutality of the Romans. But above all else, they believed Jesus to be the Messiah, who taught and led and healed like no one else. They witnessed his miracles, and innately sensed his authority, both of which were unquestionably divine in origin. They were seeking –not rewards- but the privilege of his presence.

The last three sentences of Jesus’ closing remarks to the apostles are about rewards. Oddly enough, it’s not about the rewards for being an apostle, but the rewards people would get for the hospitality and receptivity they offered the apostles. Matthew wrote, “If you receive a prophet as one who speaks for God, you will be given the same reward as a prophet.” To “receive” prophets is to listen to their teaching, to entertain them generously; and show them respect because they are faithful ministers of God.

What is the reward for doing this? The prophet may interpret the Bible to you, or share wisdom.  Besides , there is God’s reward: a place in the kingdom of God, a reward of grace; since both prophet and host, in their own ways, serve the Lord.

A righteous person is kind and good, and you show respect to them purely because you recognize the Spirit of Christ within. And the reward? The righteous person will not fail to pray for you, to bless you, and share their faith with you. And both of you gain eternal life.

What about the cup of cold water? It seems a little thing. But think of the climate and geography of the Middle East. A cup of cold water even today can literally be the difference between life and death. Pope Francis recently wrote, Access to safe drinkable water is a basic and universal human right, since it is essential to human survival and, as such, is a condition for the exercise of other human rights. Our world has a grave social debt towards the poor who lack access to drinking water, because they are denied the right to a life consistent with their inalienable dignity.”  Put in such terms, it no longer seems a little thing.

But Pope Francis makes a good point, in that he brings Jesus’ teaching into the light of 2017. Perhaps you would want to explore how drinking water is provided to areas with none, and what agencies or foundations do this.  That could be our national charity next year.  We are accustomed to donating money as a way to share our faith and care for our needy.  This is good; funding is crucial.

We cannot walk the ancient road of Judea with Jesus, but we can walk in Food cupboards, soup kitchens, recreation centers, ESL classes, in prisons, in nursing homes and hospitals.  We can walk in our own neighborhood, especially as this church is so close to subsidized housing and struggling schools. We need to learn about the Muslim faith, and build relationships with the Muslim families we live near and work with.  Nothing brings peace better than one-on-one friendships.  This is the way we put Jesus ahead of bias and counteract the hatred and violence that puts the innocent on crosses.

We have two copies of this book*, which I highly recommend. It is easy reading, and answers a lot of questions about multi-faith interaction in a changing world.  I would ask that you circulate these books so everyone has a chance to read it, and then maybe we can have an after-Mass discussion group after Labor Day.  I don’t think Matthew was thinking about the 12 apostles when he wrote this teaching about discipleship.  I think he was thinking about us.

*Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road? (Christian Identity in a Multi-Faith World)  by Brian D. McLaren, 2012, Jericho books ISBN 978-1-4555-1395-6 (pbk)