Monthly Archives: April, 2017

A House that still Attracts

Father Bob’s Divine Mercy homily…

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2nd Sunday of Easter A (Divine Mercy)

I have always been inspired by the story of that first community of disciples, how “they devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of bread and to the prayers.”  They sold everything they had to live together, to give themselves for Christ and to each other.  Of course, “the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.”  Who could fail to see the attraction of those first believers? Yes, I have been inspired by their example, but also haunted.  Can we achieve that sort of unity in the complexity of our world today?  Short of you giving me everything you own and all of us moving into the rectory together, how can we shimmer like that fist community?  How can we burn like a beacon to attract others to the life…

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3rd Sunday of Easter, Cycle A

1st Reading – The Acts of the Apostles 2: 14, 22-23
This really takes place after Pentecost in ‘Luke’s story’. This is an example of typical early Christian preaching. There are 4 parts to the early ‘kerygma’ or ‘creed’:
1. Jesus was a man sent by God.
2. Jesus was a man empowered by God to overcome evil.
3. Jesus was a man who was betrayed, who suffered and died.
4. Jesus was then raised and vindicated by God.
This ‘sermon’ is given here by Peter, now transformed by the Spirit of Risen Christ. Peter who slept in the garden and then denied Jesus in fear now proclaims the same Jesus with joy and power. Here is the power of Jesus’ Resurrection! Peter challenges all of us to be so transformed.

The early Christians turned to their Scriptures, just as we do, to help them understand the happenings in their lives. Here Peter uses Psalm 16, and so it was chosen to be the psalm for this Sunday (our closing prayer). Notice how it is about Jesus – and about us.

It was impossible for Jesus to be held in captivity by death; this is what Peter declares to his listeners. Christ could not be held by death because in his cross he had overcome it. Death – theologically, at least – is our ultimate separation from God the source of life. Jesus was not held by death because of some abstract quality of divinity; it was his complete obedience to the will of God (trusting, listening obedience) that kept him more convinced always of God’s love than the evil and suffering around him. It was not some magic act due to his divine powers. It was this trust and obedience that overcame human alienation and separation from God (what is meant by sin and death). (Reginald Fuller, “Scripture in Depth” http://liturgy.slu.edu ) Do you experience this in your life? Name what may be holding you down that is not life-giving…raise it up to Jesus and trust that He will be with you in deciding what to do about it.

2nd Reading – 1 Peter 1: 17-21
The great Easter truth is not that we live newly after death . . .But that we are to be new, here and now, by the power of the resurrection; not so much that we are to live forever, as that we are to live nobly now because we are to live forever. (Phillip Brooks)

In this passage we have to be careful not to take the language of ‘ransom’ and ‘blood’ too literally. The language is somewhat crude and cultic, but it is meant to speak of the liberation that we as Christians have as we come to understand the meaning and consequence of Jesus’ death. His blood speaks of Jesus’ total surrender and trust to his Father’s will and life. In this trust Jesus found the way through death to eternal life with his Father and our God. There is fear here on this side of the grave. But, like Jesus, let us surround our fears with trust in the God who loves us and has ultimate power over death. (Reginald Fuller, “Scripture in Depth” http://liturgy.slu.edu )

From Richard Rohr: “We can’t see love, but we can see what happens to someone who is loved – the power and gentleness of those who let themselves be loved by Jesus, endless life, welling up within . . . “

From Carl Sagan: “For small creatures such as we, the vastness is bearable only through love.”

The Gospel – Luke 24: 13 – 35
Each time we gather for Eucharist we experience this Emmaus story. It is a ‘pattern’ for Eucharist and for conversion. We share the story of Jesus. We invite the stranger, invoke a blessing, and share a meal. In this breaking of the bread our eyes are opened; our hearts come alive with a new fire. Here on this side of the grave and eternity, we can know Jesus; we can experience his presence. Our hearts can burn with the insight and encounter that comes to us from our Lord, a reality we can trust. (Celebration, April, 2005)

These two disciples are leaving their faith community. They do not even place much credence in the ‘women’s testimony’ concerning the empty tomb. In fact, it seems that it is this very testimony that motivates them to leave. They are hitting the road, deep in confusion. Yet, Jesus joins them. This story is sort of a metaphor about how God deals with someone who has gone away; perhaps it is also an image of how we are to deal with each other in our unbelief. It is a story of paradoxes – of faith and crisis, of distance and closeness, of seeing and blindness, of light and darkness. Sometimes it is only as we look back – when we ponder and reflect – that we realize that God’s presence and closeness was real. And so, present with him at the table, they finally recognize the gift of the presence that was there all along, walking away, talking away, wondering why, telling their woe, hearing his story once again. Maybe their sense of loss, their longing for hope, was hope. Maybe even their desire to believe was believing — even their longing to love was love. Maybe the God-we-find-in-Jesus can see all the way through to our broken hearts and clouded minds. It happened back then on the road – it can and will happen to us also on our road of life if we but welcome his presence. (John Kavanaugh, S.J. “The Word Engaged” http://litrugy.slu.edu )

Notice that at the moment of ‘open-eyed’ recognition of Jesus, he vanishes from their sight. Luke’s point is clear: from that time on, the disciples would meet Jesus, know him, be fed and taught by him at every Eucharistic encounter. And in a sense their ‘vision’ is so improved that they find it no problem to journey back to Jerusalem at night – full of joy and energy. (Celebration, April 2005)

From Henri Nouwen in his book With Burning Hearts, pp. 95- 97:
For communion with Jesus means becoming like him . . . And Communion creates community. Christ, living in them, brought them together in a new way. The Spirit of the risen Christ, which entered them through the eating of the bread and drinking of the cup, not only helped them recognize Christ himself but also each other . . . the God living in us helps us recognize the God in our fellow humans . . . this new body is fashioned by the Spirit of love. It manifests itself in very concrete ways: in forgiveness, reconciliation, mutual support, outreach to people in need,
solidarity with all who suffer . . .

There is a burning of our hearts when we know something is deeply true. Can you recall those moments of burning in your heart?

Palm Sunday, cycle A

The Gospel at the Procession: Matthew 21: 1-11

In Jesus’ day the Jewish people had hoped that the Messiah would come with military power and might – and that with that power he would free them. But Jesus came and opened a new way. Just as he rode to Jerusalem on a donkey, an ass, a pack animal, rather than arriving with armies and angels, so he opened a new path for the reign of God, the Kingdom of God. He preached about God who cared for the least, who sought the lost and the poor and counted the hairs of one’s head. This God reached out to the Gentiles, the enemies of the Jews and spoke of loving one’s enemies as if it were possible. His idea of the reign of God and how a Messiah might act was incomprehensible to many of the people. This was not the way a Messiah ought to act. How could this be God or God’s servant?  (Celebration, 4/13/02)

In Matthew’s account, scriptural passages are added to emphasize that Jesus is fulfilling what has been written.  References are made to Isaiah 62:11 and Zechariah 9:9.  Strangely, Matthew misinterprets the Zechariah text which speaks of one animal but in a repeated parallel form as if they are 2 separate animals  (so Jesus is somehow riding both?).  This is a case of being too literal in the interpretation  (R. Faley, Footprints on the Mountain, p. 778).

From Barclay’s Daily Study Bible on Matthew II, p. 239 -241:

They shouted “Hosanna!” meaning “Save now!”.  It was the cry for help which a people in distress addressed to their king or god.  This is a dramatic entrance, and an action by Jesus that brings great meaning beyond words

One of the supreme disasters of Jewish history was the capture of Jerusalem by Antiochus Epiphanes about 175BC.  Antiochus was determined to stamp out Judaism and to introduce the Greek way of life.  He profaned the Temple, to the point of making its chambers into public brothels.  But the Maccabees rose against him and rescued their native land.  The Temple was restored and purified.  See 2 Maccabees 10:7.  Perhaps Jesus was entering into Jerusalem with the same intention of cleansing God’s house just like Judas Maccabaeus.

Jesus shows these traits by his entrance into Jerusalem:

  1. Courage:  Despite everyone’s enthusiasm, Jesus knows he is a wanted man.  Many might have shown more discretion than valor.  This is a deliberate challenge to authority.
  2. Claim as God’s Messiah:  Jesus is a new kind of king.  He is suggesting a whole other way of life.  It is all or nothing.
  3. Love:  This is a kingship of the heart.  A king riding in on an ass often meant that he was coming in peace (A horse was more a sign of war.).  Jesus is the king of peace, wanting love not condemnation.

Some questions for reflection this Holy Week:

Who do I do with feelings of loss and emptiness?
How do I face uncertainty, confusion or anxiety?

What does being powerless in a situation lead me to do?  How do I cope or respond?

What are symbols of hope that offer me reassurance at times of discouragement or grieving?

What or who is the source of my hope and strength?

What disappointments or hurts or failures are preventing me from moving on with my life?

How have I experienced God’s peace and promise of faithful presence through a friendship in my life?

What do I want to do to remain open to God’s continuing faithful love for me?