Monthly Archives: June, 2017

12th Sunday in Ordinary Time, cycle A

1st Reading: Jeremiah 20: 10-13

The “Confession of Jeremiah” reflects the interior dialogue of a prophet who gave his life as an authentic witness to God.  Jeremiah suffered at the hands of his own colleagues.  He was in great turmoil because he believed God ill-equipped him for his mission.  He felt inadequate – that he was not up to the impossible task at hand.  He felt duped and angry.  Yet he knew that God had called him to the prophetic life.  He was confident that the Lord remains faithful to those who are faithful to him.  We are all invited into Jeremiah’s trusting hymn of grateful praise   (Birmingham, W&W for Yr A, p. 429).

Jeremiah turns to God in prayer when he is overwhelmed and full of emotion, as most prophets do.  Margaret Guenther in The Practice of Prayer says, “I enjoy listening to prophets when they say I like to hear (that is, when their target is someone other than me), but I prefer to tune them out when they threaten my comfort.  Prophets can expect to be unpopular, to be opposed and even killed if they persist in their candor,”  (p. 36).  Consider the 2 men who were killed in Portland, OR when they tried to stop an anti-Muslim rant.  Their deaths saved the lives of the 2 women being bullied.  They are modern day prophets for us in their actions.

Who are our persecutors?  Does God give us strength in times of struggle?  How do you feel the Lord with you?  What helps us persist in trusting the Lord?

2nd Reading: Romans 5: 12-15

When trying to understand Paul here, it is important to understand the Jewish notion of “corporate personality” – sort of like our modern idea of an ecosystem in which everything in that system is mutually interdependent. Paul is talking about the social effects of evil – death coming to all of us as we have sinned “in Adam.”  This does not mean that Adam introduced into human life a hereditary trait that is henceforth transmitted biologically. It is more that we have all sinned in Adam because we have all sinned like Adam. Adam is that insecure, false, needy self that we are all like without Christ.

Death is also not to be seen in some crude mechanical way as a punishment for sin. The awful death that Paul is talking about is separation from God; such separation is sin, a turning away from the very source of life.  Physical death is a biological inevitability in an imperfect world – but it is also the final revelation of our utter aloneness before the forces of life and death. Without Christ, we are hopeless.  But Paul is reassuring us that God’s grace is much greater than our sin, our separation. With faith in Christ, we can overcome the chasm . . .

From Celebration, June, 2002 and R. Fuller, “Scripture in Depth” http://liturgy.slu.edu.

Sin can come in through a very small door – a moment of vanity, a selfish choice, an avoidance of compassion. It doesn’t take much energy. Sin can seem so easy; the failure to love can be ‘second nature’ to us – but it is our ‘false nature.’ Our first nature is to love and be loved. We can become insensitive, insecure, walking around in a fog of self-centeredness. But Jesus offers us another way – another door – a door wide enough to bring in love and life. Sin may give us many excuses to say no, but love makes us yearn to say yes. (Exploring the Sunday Readings,  June, 1999)

The Gospel: Matthew 10: 26-33

In Matthew 10: 16, Jesus says, “I am sending you like sheep in the midst of wolves.” Jesus knew that the way of discipleship is and was a very countercultural way of life. Yet, in today’s passage he also assures us of God’s loving concern with every aspect of our being – even the hairs on our heads. The problem may be with us. We hold records of everything that can and does go wrong with our frail mortality. We cling to our insecurity and worry, instead of living fully a life of faith and hope. But when we begin to speak the truth of God’s love, its certainty grows in us. When we act on this truth, we are brought into Christ’s marvelous light.

(Exploring the Sunday Readings, June, 1999)

Harry Emerson Fosdick (1878-1969), a professor at the Union Theological Union in New York once wrote:  “Fear imprisons, faith liberates; fear paralyzes, faith empowers; fear disheartens, faith encourages; fear sickens, faith heals; fear makes useless, faith makes serviceable; and most of all, fear put hopelessness at the heart of life, while faith rejoices in its God.”           (Celebration, June, 2002)

Sparrows are what bird-watchers call ‘junk birds’ – birds so plentiful that them seem uninteresting, unworthy of much attention. But Jesus assures us that God cares for such things – and even cares for us unworthy humans. Jesus urges

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Corpus Christi, cycle A

1st Reading: Deuteronomy 8: 2-3, 14-16

Underline what words strike you as you read this pericope.  Consider your own journeying with God…how has God been present with you, especially in difficulty?  How have you been fed?  What do you think of the words “let you be afflicted”?  Do you sometimes forget where God works in your life?

2nd Reading: 1 Corinthians 10: 16-17

Living Liturgy, Year A, states: “It is a misunderstanding to conceive of Communion as a privatized moment between ‘Jesus and me.’ Communion with the Body and Blood of Christ compels communion with one another.” (2002, p. 161)  What do you see in this reading to confirm this statement?

Look around you at communion time and pray for all of those you are one with: the older one with a walker, the young dude in a leather jacket, the one whose nose is pierced, the elderly gentle grandfather, the young mother in need of sleep, the one with strangely colored hair, the carpenter with calloused hands and splintered nails. Communion means more than accepting the host in our hands. It means accepting our relationship with, even our responsibility toward, all those people. Each of us in the communion line will hear the words, “Body of Christ,” and each of us needs to confirm being a part of that Body with an “Amen” – “So be it.”   (“Exploring the Sunday Readings,” June, 1999, Cycle A)

The Gospel — John 6: 51-58

The Lord’s supper is:

1) a memorial of Jesus’ death and resurrection, a covenant sacrifice

2) a continuation of Jesus’ earthly and post-resurrection meals in which the messianic banquet is anticipated

3) a ritual extension of Jesus’ Incarnation.

The bread and wine become the living body and blood of Christ in those who receive him into their lives. John’s gospel is emphasizing this idea. Through this Living Bread, Christ’s ongoing presence and life continue in the community – in the world.

Raymond Brown says that this passage is a profound proclamation of sacramental and Eucharistic theology. The living bread given by Christ is his own flesh. In ancient times flesh was understood to mean the totality of the person.  John’s focus is on this flesh, the Word made flesh. The totality of Christ’s person, his complete life-force (blood), is the only food that gives life, an eternal life. The coming of Christ into the world is the supreme act of redemption.

“If Baptism gives us that life which the Father shares with the Son, then the Eucharist is food nourishing it.” Jesus promises to dwell within the hearts of believers – to abide within them. A mutual indwelling happens between Jesus and his disciples. This incredible act of intimacy (INTO-ME-SEE) with Jesus opens the door to life – eternal life. Flesh (sarx) is that which of itself leads to death. In Jesus this flesh, sarx, is transformed, redeemed, set free from natural destruction by the Spirit of Jesus. (Birmingham, W&W Wkbk Year A, p.607)

Life is the most precious thing we have. To share one’s life, then, is to share with another our deepest “I am.” This is how we remain in each other – through self-giving and, yes, participating in the common Meal. Jesus’ gift of life to us through our participation in his Body and Blood is not simply for our own sakes, but also for the sake of others. To receive this gift of life is to be compelled to give this gift to others. Giving of one’s life-force, one’s blood, is not so beyond our own human experience either. Every time a mother gives birth, she sheds her blood. Family members readily give blood for the transfusion of a loved one. Our public blood banks are testimony to the generous giving of blood by strangers to strangers. Heroes sometimes shed their blood trying to help or protect another. Living Liturgy, 2002, p. 161

From St. Irenaeus on the sacraments, written 220AD:

“For as the bread, which comes from the earth, receives the invocation of God, and then it is no longer common bread but Eucharist, consists of 2 things, an earthly and a heavenly; so our bodies, after partaking of the Eucharist, are no longer corruptible, having the hope of the eternal resurrection.”

And Tertullian, another ancient theologian:

“The flesh feeds on the body and blood of Christ that the soul may be fattened on God.”

And St. Cyril of Jerusalem:

“And while the moisture is still on your lips, touch them with your hands, and sanctify your eyes and forehead and the rest of your organs of sense.  Then wait for the prayer, and give thanks to God who has counted you worthy of admission to those great mysteries.”

From The Eucharist in the New Testament and the Early Church, Eugene LaVerdiere:

“For John, the event is viewed primarily from the point of view of Christ’s personal presence, sustaining, challenging, nourishing, and uniting the Church on its journey to the Father…(p. 113)  It is as the Word made flesh that Jesus is glorified, that the Father is present in him and that he reveals the Father.  It is as the Word made flesh that Jesus dies, rose again, is exalted, and is now present to us in sacrament (p. 117).”

From Henri Nouwen in his book With Burning Hearts, p. 34-35; 80-97:

The word, “Eucharist” means literally “act of thanksgiving.” To celebrate Eucharist and to live a Eucharistic life has everything to do with gratitude. Living Eucharistically is living life as a gift . . . The great mystery we celebrate in the Eucharist is precisely that through mourning our losses we come to know life as a gift. The beauty and preciousness of life is intimately connected with its fragility and mortality.

In Eucharist we take the ‘bread and the wine’ of our lives and discover the ‘flesh and the blood’ of the Risen One: we take, bless, break and give; Jesus takes, blesses, breaks, and gives. Jesus is the fullness of the God who from the beginning of time has desired to enter into communion with us. Communion is what God wants and what we want, need. It is the deepest cry of God’s and our heart . . . and communion creates community. The God-in-us is now able to see the God-in-others. We begin to glimpse the ongoing incarnation of God – and we participate with gratitude and joy.

Boring Theological Homily (How can you resist?)

Father Bob’s Trinity homily…

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Most Holy Trinity A

On this first beautiful and summery day, I thought nothing could be more beneficial than an overly theological homily!

Couched in the second reading is a very familiar phrase as Saint Paul greets the Corinthians in his second letter.  “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.” I congratulate all of you for not saying “And in your Spirit” as a response to the second reading!  Yet, this phrase, with the slight correction of the recent liturgical translation of fellowship to communion, represents a staggering insight into the Trinity. And through this insight, we might discover that what seems the most theoretical and foreign of doctrines, the Trinity, provides the greatest revelation of our character and humanity.

Let us begin where everything began.  The Love of God.  Love is the…

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The Holy Spirit Within Us

Father Bob’s Pentecost homily…

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Pentecost A 2017

I usually think of Pentecost in terms of unity and commonality and it is a powerful symbol of such.  After all, those who speak many languages are able to hear St. Peter’s speech in their own language.  The Holy Spirit creates the Body of Christ and only those who belong to the Body can claim, “Jesus is Lord.”  It is the birthday of the church and a celebration of our oneness in Christ.

Yet, there is also a particular and intimately personal aspect of the Holy Spirit.  St. Paul reminds us of the different gifts, service and workings that come from the same Holy Spirit, but are received in us differently.  “To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.”

So not only did Jesus breathe on all the disciples to receive the Holy Spirit, each one of them received it, just as…

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Pentecost Sunday, cycle A

1ST READING: ACTS 2: 1-11

Luke is telling us this Pentecost story in such a way as to remind us of the beginning of Jesus’ ministry.  John the Baptist had promised that the Messiah would baptize “with the holy Spirit and fire” (Luke 3: 16). Here we see that the fire comes in tongues giving courage and meaning and understanding to the gift of speech.  In many ways this story is the reversal of the Babel story in Genesis 11: 1-9. At Babel, sin (self-importance and false pride) had brought confusion and defeat. Now with the power of God’s Holy Spirit we see a new universal outreach characterized by mutual understanding and respect. Also where there was fear and inaction, there is now new energy and boldness that is rooted in faith in the God of Jesus. This Holy Spirit is still available today; we also need this ability to understand each other despite differences. Luke’s writing to encourage us to be open to the ongoing process of transformation that is the Spirit!  (Birmingham, W&W, p. 336; Celebration, May2002)

Every essential step in Acts of how witness was borne to Christ from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth is guided by the Spirit, whose presence becomes obvious at great moments where the human agents would otherwise be hesitant or choose wrongly  (R. Brown, The Churches the Apostles Left Behind, p. 68).  Isn’t this profoundly hopeful and encouraging?

2ND READING:  1 CORINTHIANS 12: 3-13

In Corinth, they seemed to feel that ‘spectacular’ gifts such as speaking in strange tongues were more impressive gifts. Those who did not display such wonder-filled gifts were seen as inferior. Paul is trying to help them set their priorities straight. He wants to ground them in the reality that it is Jesus, the crucified one, who is called Lord. The Spirit of this Jesus gives us gifts that are for the good of all. No one gift is to be prized over another – except perhaps love (1 Cor. 13). Through baptism, we are one body – the body of Christ. Through Eucharist we “drink of the one Spirit” — together we are to nourish and build up the entire body that is the very presence of Jesus in the world.  (Birmingham, W&W, p. 336)

The term ‘body’ (soma, in Greek) means the whole person – the whole human being as he lives in relationship with and for others – the way we are REAL for each other.  Paul is using the metaphor in 2 ways:

  1. As a body has different parts yet is one body, so are we.
  2. We, as church, are a living organism: Christ’s body in the world. We derive our life from Jesus; and, it is the way Jesus remains involved in our history, relating to us – to each other.

As we experience and LIVE Jesus’ presence in His Word and Eucharist, we are to BE that presence in the world.  The Spirit is both the source of our unity AND our diversity.  Our hope, our consolation, our strength and challenge is in the Spirit who is God-with-us. (from notes taken from John Dwyer’s talks on this subject)

Martin Luther’s teaching on the priesthood of all believers emphasizes that each Christian has a vocation, a calling, by virtue of their standing or office in the world.  It is through faith, for Luther, that one accepts one’s divinely appointed standing and lives out that faith through the good works of daily life, whether as a cobbler, painter, spouse, or son.  Each of these paths gives glory to God…For work to be a calling means it is recognized as both a gift and a response.  It is more than a desire to do something for others; it is felt as an imperative that I must do this, regardless of how difficult.  In that sense work is experienced as a calling that brings both joy and fulfillment.  (Cahalan, K., Introducing the Practice of Ministry, p. 27).

THE GOSPEL: JOHN 20: 19-23

From The Vatican II Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium, (translated by Bill Huebsch, chapter one):

‘This Spirit is a fountain of living water springing up to life eternal! . . .

Working through the ordinary lives of us all,

the Spirit gives the Church everything it needs . . .

Praying through the heart of the faithful and dwelling in us as in a temple,

The Spirit unifies us all in love . . .

Life in this church is sometimes messy because the Church includes everyone

with all their various talents and desires.

We would end up in a mess with all this if we did not have Christ to lead us. . .

Christ wants us to love each other, to endure sorrow with one another,

to share happiness, to forgive each other freely,

all in a family-like lifestyle.

Therefore, whoever leads us as the Church toward a community of love . . .

real love lived out in everyday life, that person speaks for Christ.’