Father Bob’s homily last Sunday…
By Fr. Bob
2nd Sunday of Lent C
The Transfiguration is an amazing event – literally the glory of heaven witnessed on earth. The incredible events come in fast succession. The appearance of Jesus’ face changes, his clothes become dazzling white, and suddenly beside him are Moses and Elijah. It culminates with a cloud descending upon them and a voice that comes from heaven saying, “This is my chosen Son; listen to him.”
And of course, why would we not want to listen to him? He has the words of everlasting life. To hear the words of Christ is to be surrounded by goodness, love and peace. It should be what we cling to more than any other thing in the world. This is why we gather on Sunday. And if the music ministry does their job, the readers do theirs, the altar servers do their job as well…
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Consider how these reading occur in the desert…the quiet, the barren, the emptiness…
1st Reading: Deuteronomy 26: 4-10
One of the greatest gifts the people of Israel have given the world is their assurance that God’s love is active in our lives – even in the negative times – even in our limitations. How is this reading reminding us of this truth?
From W&W, Birmingham, 125:
This was part of a liturgy of thanksgiving. The people offered their prayers and thanks for the first fruits of the harvest. How might this reading remind you of Eucharist? First fruits were considered sacred. Before moving forward in God’s grace, we must first pause to offer up what we have and give thanks.
The exodus proved that God was in relationship with a people. The desert and God’s plan for Israel were intimately bound together. Connected with this is the oldest ‘credo’ of ancient Israel. It is a profession of faith rooted in the saving acts of Yahweh, their God.
- Yahweh established the southern kingdom of Judah.
- The Lord God delivered Israel out of bondage, forming a people in the desert.
- Yahweh gave them possession of the promised land.
2nd Reading: Romans 10: 8-13
Faith needs to be both deep within our hearts AND spoken out loud by our lips. What did this mean to these early Christians?
To be ‘justified’ means to be in right relationship with God. To trust that our God claims us as his own. This free gift of God’s acceptance is just that – free, un-won, unmerited. In Jesus we find a God who assures us that his justice is filled with love. It is in responding to this love and acceptance – faith – that we find true life and power – a power that can live even beyond our own handicaps and deaths. (John C. Dwyer, The Lost Gospel of Paul, 43+)
Paul’s message is clear: in order to become transformed, all one needed to do was embrace the message of Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit, then would slowly begin the process of transformation. Jesus proves this in the Gospel reading! (W&W, Birmingham, 126)
Paul insisted that Jesus died once and for all people. It was a complete act of gratuitous, unmerited, unconditional love. The response to such love can be nothing less than the complete offering of one’s entire life to the God who loves so greatly. Human beings are justified by faith, not by observance of the law or by their own merits. It was a difficult message to accept. Justification through the law was ingrained in the people’s consciousness and history.
This is seen in Vatican II! “Following the desire and command of Christ, the Church makes a serious effort to present the Gospel to the whole world so that people can share in God’s love. Everyone who is baptized is charged with this mission. The Church works and prays diligently with great hope that everyone in the whole world will ultimately join together as the People of God, “ (Vat II in Plain English: The Constitutions, p. 38).
The Gospel: Luke 4:1-13:
Jesus said that “One does not live by bread alone.” For what do you hunger? How do these things nourish you?
The Greek word for ‘to tempt’ – periazein – means to test more than it means to entice someone to do wrong. How is this meaning important here? In Jesus’ day, devils were ‘seen’ everywhere. Today, we might understand evil and sickness differently. How can this story of wilderness and devils speak to us today?
Jesus left the desert convinced of three things:
- His power is for love; it is not to be used for self-satisfaction.
- He is called to serve, not to be served.
- He will not bargain with evil, even if it means suffering.
(From Mark Link, S.J. “We Believe in Revelation: Preministry of Jesus,”, 1989, Tabor Publishing)
From Living Liturgy, 2004:
During Lent we can remember that in a desert we are in a place of isolation and desolation where we need like Jesus to be filled with God’s Holy Spirit – we cannot rely on our own means to overcome the problems we face in a desert. Like Jesus, we can find God’s Word to be a source of wisdom and strength. Because of this, Lent can also be a springtime of renewed relationship with God – a time to allow ourselves to be warmed and strengthened by God’s Spirit.
In our desert of ‘daily demands’ and pressures we will find new ways to open ourselves to God’s power which will help us to ‘take up the cross’ of daily living as we attempt through acts of kindness, justice, and encouragement to ‘lay down our lives for others.’
Here is a great truth: what we call temptation is not meant to make us sin; it is meant to help us conquer sin. It is not meant to make us bad, but good – not to weaken, but to strengthen, to refine and to purify. Jesus’ time of testing took place in the wilderness, an area between Jerusalem and the Dead Sea called the Devastation. It stretched over 35 miles by 15 miles – a place of yellow sand, of crumbling limestone, of scattered shingle. Contorted strata, warped and twisted ridges, jagged and bare rock ran in all directions. It glowed with daytime sun and heat; it chilled at night with darkness and cold. It was a place of ‘aloneness’ and danger: a testing place. And Jesus was tested right after his baptism – right after the powerful joy of hearing, “You are my Beloved.” His call to react to all of this was the Spirit driving him into this desert. It seems to be sort of a law of life that just as we come to a high point in our lives we can then nose-dive into danger. Also – we should remember that we are often tempted – tested – through our gifts. If we have charm, a gift for words, a vivid imagination – these talents can also lead us to problems: false pride, sensations, lies and excuses. Jesus, too, was tempted to use his powers for ‘showing-off’ in stead of showing forth God – for compromising with evil rather than trusting in his Father’s love. Jesus was tested as we are. Jesus was strengthened to turn away from the path of sensation, self-gratification, and compromise. As he will ultimately do on the cross at the end of his life, Jesus puts his life into the hands of his Father. (Wm. Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: the Gospel of Matthew, vol.1, p. 62-70)
The Spirit prompted Jesus and provided the scriptures that Jesus needed to combat his enemy. The word is the weapon but the Spirit engages in the battle (W&W, Birmingham, 130). How might scripture be a weapon and the Spirit do battle in your life?
Father Bob’s homily last Sunday…
5th Sunday in Ordinary Time B
We are the baptized evangelizing people of God. Indeed, the moment the baptismal water hit our heads we were commissioned to go and share the good news of Jesus Christ, to tell the story of God’s overwhelming mercy. It has always been so. From the beginning, baptism and evangelization have been linked. At the end of Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus tells his apostles, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit.” Those who have heard God’s word are to let others know it as well. Yet, if God asked each of us, are you ready for this mission, would we raise our hands on high or cautiously, secretly lightly lift a hand and pull it back before it was seen? For I think we all hesitate when…
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O God, Our Loving Parent,
At times your love seems impossible to us,
but with you it is ALL possible.
For where love is, there you are.
May we find your love in all things,
and be instruments of your love
in the world. AMEN
Henri Nouwen says we need to be attentive to moments that may move us to new directions, to refind balance, and to remain fully alive. These spiritual signs have the following characteristics:
- Simple not complicated
- Seemingly impossible
- Always about others as well as ourselves (Home Tonight, p. 12)
From Living Liturgy, 2004:
This parable reveals the dying and rising of the paschal mystery at work. The prodigal son is brought to repentance because he is in dire need; he is “dying from hunger.” There is nothing he does to deserve the father’s response except return. Yet, his decision to repent (turn from death) is met with warm, welcoming love and feasting – at least from the father. For all of us, the invitation to repent is always there – to turn from dying-ways to new life and feasting. What can bring us – and the elder son – to the feasting?
Notice also, that sin is ‘going away to a distant land’ – it is about losing who and where we are called to be. Repentance is about ‘coming back to our senses.’ Sin is an alienation from ourselves, like the son who no longer deserves to be called his father’s son. Sin affects our relationships – with the father – and with others (the elder son). In the father, we find a love that bridges the gap.
From John Pilch, “Historical Cultural Context”, http://liturgy.slu.edu :
In this culture fathers were greatly discouraged from distributing inheritance before their death. The younger son acts very shamefully by effectively wishing his father dead. The elder son is no better. He makes no effort to reconcile his father and brother as the culture demanded. When he ‘comes back to himself’ and repents, the younger son is willing to become a servant and take the rejection and physical abuse that the village will heap on him for his shameful behavior. In this, he does show some measure of honor. But then, the father acts totally out of cultural character. He runs (very inappropriate for an elder). He publicly forgives the son by kissing him, giving him the best robe (which certainly would be the father’s), putting a ring on his finger (a sign of trust), and sandals on his feet (a sign of a free man not a slave). Killing the fatted calf means that the whole village will be invited to come and accept this son and celebrate. (This size calf could feed 100 people.) And then, what does the elder son do? Instead of honoring his father’s wishes, he publicly insults and humiliates his father. Yet, the father also goes out to him (another shameful thing for the father to do). The parable ends here with the father pleading with his son . . .what did the elder son do? What would you do?
The father – God – doesn’t act the way we think he’s going to act. We can never put God in a box! There is nothing we can do that would get God to stop loving us!
This is one of Jesus’ most powerful and best known parables. With which character do you identify?
From Good Goats: Healing Our Image of God by Dennis, Sheila & Matthew Linn:
This story is Jesus’ answer to the Pharisees who ask why he welcomes tax collectors or other unrepentant sinners, and even eats with them. Jesus portrays the prodigal as the greatest possible sinner. Was he repentant? Scripture scholars indicate that the prodigal’s motive is most likely self-interest. Although the words of his prepared speech sound like repentance, he composes them after observing that we would get a lot more to eat if he were back in his father’s house. The son regrets that he has lost all the money he got from his father, but it is unlikely that he has yet repented of breaking his father’s heart. The emphasis is on the father. The father forgives whether the son is repentant or not. This is echoed with the older brother. The lost son, the lost sheep and the lost coin all represent the unrepentant sinner; God takes the initiative to seek out what is lost and unrepentant, rather than waiting for the lost one to repent and come back.
Richard Rohr talks about the “Deuteronomic Code mentality”. That is: I sin, God punishes me, I repent, God loves and rewards me. But stories such as Paul’s conversion or the prodigal son turn this code upside down: I sin, I am unrepentant, I am loved and rewarded by God, this heals me so I can repent. Nothing is earned…God’s love (grace) is a free gift (p. 59-62).
“All human nature vigorously resists grace because grace changes us and the change is painful.” The Habit of Being, Flannery O’Connor
“But Rembrandt, who showed me the Father in utmost vulnerability, made me come to the awareness that my final vocation is indeed to become like the Father and to live out his divine compassion in my daily life, ” Nouwen, The Return of the Prodigal Son, p. 121)