Sunday, September 16, 2018

The love of Christ urges us on – Mark 8:27-35

24th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B; Holy Infant parish.

I read a human interest story earlier today about George Ruiz. George had retired after serving twenty years in the Coast Guard. He drove in to the Carolinas this weekend from Alabama, cutting down trees in his way, to come rescue people. Sometimes he can get someone out alone, sometimes he can use his expertise to get more accurate information to the emergency services and help them adjust their triage list so as people who are on the wait list to be rescued and be helped sooner if time is running out quicker than expected for them. Now, I don’t know George. I’ve never met him, probably never will. But, I’m guessing he’s not out there because he loves wind and rain. I’m also guessing he’s smart enough that it’s not that he has no fear of these things. He’s not there, I’m guessing, because he thinks putting himself in danger is fun. I’m guessing he’s there, in harm’s way, because of deep-seated love for humanity that won’t shirk from danger when he has an opportunity to express that love in concrete acts of saving people.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

God makes every tongue sing – Isa 35:4-7, James 2:1-5

Twenty-third Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B; Holy Infant parish.

A world of lack become a world of plenty: that’s the picture of first reading from Isaiah painted of what God is doing. Isaiah talked of transformation of the physical world, of deserts becoming places where water was abundant. He also talks about transformation of human bodies, of bodies that couldn’t walk becoming bodies that leap, and of tongues that can’t talk becoming tongues that sing. And it’s that last point that’s really stuck with me this week as I’ve been praying with these readings. It’s the climax of how Isaiah talks about the transformation of bodies, the mute singing, what leads into the influx of water into dry land. And it says something about God’s vision for humanity. That the reading doesn’t primarily talk about getting rid of pain, or of being able to lift really heavy things, no the ultimate image of transformed human bodies is of us singing. That means that God cares about what we have to say, and He doesn’t want what we have to say muted or mumbled, but sung out boldly. Singing is speech colored in.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

God gives us goodness – Mark 7:1-23, James 1:17-27

22nd Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B; Holy Infant.

Many great actors say that they relish playing villains.  Some stories create much of their delight and intrigue by making us root against someone.  If you come out of the movie theater thinking that Scar actually had some good policies, or that Darth Vader wasn’t such a bad egg after all, you’ve kind of missed the point of those movies.  But that way of engaging narrative, seeking out the baddies… that can lead us dangerously astray when we apply it to the gospels, or to our day-to-day lives for that matter.  Because if you look at this gospel trying to find the hero, that’s clear and right; we find Jesus.  But if we look for the villains, we’d be tempted to find the Pharisees and scribes.  We’d start to read this thinking that Jesus is out to vanquish them, and miss his love for them, his will to save them.  And we’d start to think that we need to distance ourselves from them, because they’re bad and they might defile us; too much contact with them might make us… impure?  And then the gospel turns its head on us, on the judgments that rise up within us, and Jesus would sadly smile at us and say, “No, nothing that comes from outside can defile.”

Sunday, August 26, 2018

God shows His love in our relationships – Eph 5:21-32

21st Sunday in OT, Year B; Holy Infant parish.

I don’t usually do this, but I’m going to ask for a show of hands on this one. How many of you had today’s second reading at your wedding? In my experience, about 25% of couples choose it (the majority go for “love is patient, love is kind” from 1 Corinthians for their 2nd reading, but this one from Eph 5 definitely comes in second in popularity; when I had to plan a fake wedding for our liturgical celebration class in seminary, I picked “God is love” from 1 John… if you’re planning a wedding, maybe think about it). You’ve probably noticed that I don’t normally preach on the reading from Paul at Sunday Mass (I most often preach on the Gospel, sometimes on the Old Testament reading; I preach Paul a lot more at daily Mass), but this reading is one of the rare readings that I think you have to preach on if it’s proclaimed, because this language of submission is just kind of, if I’m being honest, uncomfortable. It discomforted me when I began praying with these readings a week ago to prepare myself to preach, and I think I owe it to you wrestle with that out loud for a while and not just leave it hanging. But before I get to that language, I want to look at this reading more broadly.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Saturday, August 11, 2018

God feeds us heaven for our hard walk on earth – 1 Kings 19:4-8

19th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B; Holy Infant parish.

I think we can tell from our first reading that Elijah was distressed, at his wits end. And I want to back up and give you some “previously on 1 Kings…” context for why he felt that way, but first I want to dwell a little with that distress. After he sits down, the first thing we heard about him was that “he prayed to die.” Taking the Hebrew a little more literally, the text says, “He asked to his own soul to die.” It’s not clear to me that he’s exactly praying yet at that point, though it could be “he asked for dying for his soul.” But I’m not sure he’s yet praying to God. He seems to be looking inward at that point, and it may not even be a fully verbalized thought, but a deep inward resignation, when he looks to his soul, his life, and wishes for only death. But, then he speaks. רב! Literally, he cries out, “Much!” We understand: “too much.” “Enough!” That verbalization seems to be enough though, to make him turn to God. “Now, God, take my life, because I (emphatic ‘I’) am no better than my fathers.” That last bit probably means, “No better than the prophets who came before, who couldn’t get Israel to return to covenant living either.” When he speaks these feelings of desperation he’s feeling, that turns him to prayer, that turns him to God, and it certainly doesn’t solve any of his problems, but somehow he gains enough peace to sleep, and that’s the first gift. And there will go on to be more gifts, because when God looks at Elijah’s soul he doesn’t will death, He sees a life worth living, he wills abundant life, just as he does for each of us. And somehow Elijah’s willingness to be brutally honest with God in prayer is the start of opening himself up to more gift.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

God heals through our dependency – Mark 6:7-13, Eph 1:3-10

Fifteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B; Holy Infant

A week and a half ago, I was in the great city of La Porte, IN, celebrating the Fourth of July (and we’ll put aside for now the strange incongruity of someone who’s a British citizen and American permanent resident celebrating that particular holiday… they were burgers and fireworks, it was great). But, more seriously, going back and re-reading the Declaration of Independence, I was struck again by how it concludes with a commitment to Dependence: Reliance on Divine Providence (depending on God), a mutual pledge to one another of our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor – a confession that to be a nation, we need to depend on one another. And, providentially, while we celebrating the independence of one nation a week and a half ago, this Sunday the Gospel gives us the perfect opportunity to celebrate the dependence of the whole Church.