A Homily – First Sunday of Lent (Year A)

First Reading – Genesis 2:7-9, 3:1-7 ©
Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 50(51):3-6, 12-14, 17 ©
Second Reading – Romans 5:12-19 ©
Gospel Acclamation – Matthew 4:4
The Gospel According to Matthew – 4:1 – 11 ©

(NJB)

First Sunday of Lent (Year A)
Be mindful!

This is the story of creation and the origins of humanity, it is an etiological myth attempting to explain the origins of sin.

It does not explain anything.

The narrative demonstrates a belief that God, who created the universe on the macro scale, is also responsible for bringing life to all of the things and beings with in it. The myth intends to convey the message that creation is good, and that human beings are good.

The myth also conveys the notion that there are laws that govern creation, and human beings were intended to be subject to them, but that we are also free and that the violation of God’s law has consequences.

What is important to know about the divine law and justice is this: With God there is never justice without mercy. When we seek forgiveness from God, we are looking for something that already found us.

When we are contrite, our contrition is like a shower that washes us clean. God has forgiven us, god forgave us even before we ever sinned or came to the knowledge of sin.

We are all sinners, animals, we are no different than the wolf or the lion, but God speaks to us from our innermost being, God is present at our core; in this way God gives us the power, and the grace to overcome our animal nature and live a holy life; to live a life of conscience.
Know this!

There is no crime that God has not forgiven.

Do not look for God’s hand in the tribulations we suffer here, or the rewards we enjoy on earth, they are like the wind, fleeting and ephemeral.

Listen!

The scope of the creature’s actions, and the consequences that flow from sin, cannot exceed the scope of divine intention and the power of grace to heal.

Consider the Gospel reading for today and know that there is no devil, there is no deceiver except the deceiver that lies in our hearts.

God, the creator of the universe, God has given us the ability to know the truth, and to discern good from evil. God has also given each of us the ability to deny the truth, reject it and lie.

The lies we tell always originate in our own heart. We tell them first to ourselves, before we try to convince others about the truth of what is not true.

We face many temptations as human beings. The reading for today highlights three of the most basic forms that the temptation to do evil might take.

The temptation to turn stones into bread is not the temptation to perform a magic trick, it is an acknowledgement that we are at times tempted toward injustice by the simplest and most ordinary things…by hunger and thirst, by the necessity of meeting our most basic needs.

Any of us, when faced with making those hard choices, the choice to feed ourselves, our children, the ones we love, any of us will contemplate breaking the laws of the state, and the laws of God as well.

The temptation to throw himself off the wall of the temple, was not the temptation to rely on a supernatural power for safety and protection, it was the temptation to vanity. The temptation was to believe in ourselves so much that we can risk any danger, even risk our own lives, and therefore the well-being of everyone who depends on us out of the belief that we can do no wrong, or that nothing can harm us.

The third temptation was not the temptation to rule the world, because that is the temptation to fantasy. The temptation is based on the love of wealth and power in any of its species. This is the most ordinary temptation of all.

To succumb to these temptation, to yield to any of them is to suborn our faith in the way that Jesus taught us, and to put in its place faith in our own machinations.

The way of Christ is what Jesus summarized in his presentation of the golden rule; do unto others what you would have them do unto you. Love God with all your strength, and all your heart, and all your mind, and love your neighbor as you love yourself.

Walk humbly, serve justice and be merciful all the days of your life.
First Reading – Genesis 2:7-9, 3:1-7 ©

The Creation, and the Sin of Our First Parents

The Lord God fashioned man of dust from the soil. Then he breathed into his nostrils a breath of life, and thus man became a living being.

The Lord God planted a garden in Eden which is in the east, and there he put the man he had fashioned. The Lord God caused to spring up from the soil every kind of tree, enticing to look at and good to eat, with the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the middle of the garden.

Now the serpent was the most subtle of all the wild beasts that the Lord God had made. It asked the woman, ‘Did God really say you were not to eat from any of the trees in the garden?’ The woman answered the serpent, ‘We may eat the fruit of the trees in the garden. But of the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden God said, “You must not eat it, nor touch it, under pain of death.”’ Then the serpent said to the woman, ‘No! You will not die! God knows in fact that on the day you eat it your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods, knowing good and evil.’ The woman saw that the tree was good to eat and pleasing to the eye, and that it was desirable for the knowledge that it could give. So she took some of its fruit and ate it. She gave some also to her husband who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened and they realised that they were naked. So they sewed fig-leaves together to make themselves loin-cloths.
Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 50(51):3-6, 12-14, 17 ©

Have mercy on us, O Lord, for we have sinned.

Have mercy on me, God, in your kindness.
In your compassion blot out my offence.
O wash me more and more from my guilt
and cleanse me from my sin.

Have mercy on us, O Lord, for we have sinned.

My offences truly I know them;
my sin is always before me
Against you, you alone, have I sinned;
what is evil in your sight I have done.

Have mercy on us, O Lord, for we have sinned.

A pure heart create for me, O God,
put a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from your presence,
nor deprive me of your holy spirit.

Have mercy on us, O Lord, for we have sinned.

Give me again the joy of your help;
with a spirit of fervour sustain me,
O Lord, open my lips
and my mouth shall declare your praise.

Have mercy on us, O Lord, for we have sinned.
Second Reading – Romans 5:12-19 ©

However Great the Number of Sins Committed, Grace was Even Greater

Sin entered the world through one man, and through sin death, and thus death has spread through the whole human race because everyone has sinned. Sin existed in the world long before the Law was given. There was no law and so no one could be accused of the sin of ‘law-breaking’, yet death reigned over all from Adam to Moses, even though their sin, unlike that of Adam, was not a matter of breaking a law.

Adam prefigured the One to come, but the gift itself considerably outweighed the fall. If it is certain that through one man’s fall so many died, it is even more certain that divine grace, coming through the one man, Jesus Christ, came to so many as an abundant free gift. The results of the gift also outweigh the results of one man’s sin: for after one single fall came judgement with a verdict of condemnation, now after many falls comes grace with its verdict of acquittal. If it is certain that death reigned over everyone as the consequence of one man’s fall, it is even more certain that one man, Jesus Christ, will cause everyone to reign in life who receives the free gift that he does not deserve, of being made righteous. Again, as one man’s fall brought condemnation on everyone, so the good act of one man brings everyone life and makes them justified. As by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by one man’s obedience many will be made righteous.
Gospel Acclamation – Matthew 4:4

Praise to you, O Christ, king of eternal glory!

Man does not live on bread alone,
but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.

Praise to you, O Christ, king of eternal glory!
The Gospel According to Matthew – 4:1 – 11 ©

The Temptation in the Wilderness

Jesus was led by the Spirit out into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted for forty days and forty nights, after which he was very hungry, and the tempter came and said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to turn into loaves.’ But he replied, ‘Scripture says:

Man does not live on bread alone
but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’

The devil then took him to the holy city and made him stand on the parapet of the Temple.

‘If you are the Son of God’ he said ‘throw yourself down; for scripture says:

He will put you in his angels’ charge,
and they will support you on their hands
in case you hurt your foot against a stone.’
Jesus said to him, ‘Scripture also says:

You must not put the Lord your God to the test.’

Next, taking him to a very high mountain, the devil showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendour. ‘I will give you all these’ he said, ‘if you fall at my feet and worship me.’ Then Jesus replied, ‘Be off, Satan! For scripture says:

You must worship the Lord your God,
and serve him alone.’

Then the devil left him, and angels appeared and looked after him.
First Sunday of Lent (Year A)

A Homily – The Gospel According to Matthew 6:1 – 6, 16 – 18 (Year A)

First Reading – Joel 2:12-18 ©
Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 50(51):3-6, 12-14, 17
Second Reading – 2 Corinthians 5:20-6:2 ©
Gospel Acclamation Psalm 50:12, 14
Alternative Acclamation Psalm 94:8
The Gospel According to Matthew 6:1 – 6, 16 – 18

(NJB)

Ash Wednesday (Year A)
Remember this:

The anointed one is not a king, Jesus was not a lord. The Romans crowned him with thorns, they mocked him when they called him king of the Jews.

Jesus was a man of the land, one of the am haaretz. Go to him, follow him, through him enter the way of compassion.

It is right and good to pray for the people. It is even better to leave the temple, to leave the church and be with them when they are suffering, but know this: God does not intervene in our lives, God has equipped each of us to deal with extraordinary grief, and hardship.

When you go to the people go in modesty.

Celebrate, rejoice and be grateful, God is with you and God is merciful, but God makes no intercession for us living in the world.

Listen!

With God there is never justice without mercy.

When we seek forgiveness from God, we are looking for something that has already found us.

When we possess knowledge and we are contrite, that contrition is like a shower that washes us clean, but God had forgiven us before we ever sinned or came to the knowledge of it.

Be mindful!

We are all sinners, we are animals, no different than the wolf or the lion, but God speaks to us from our innermost being, God is present at our core; in this way God gives us the power and the grace to overcome our animal nature and live a holy life; a life of conscience.

There is no crime that God has not forgiven.

Do not look for God’s hand in the tribulations we suffer here, or the rewards we enjoy on earth, they are like the wind, fleeting and ephemeral.

Listen to the Apostle, who says that our salvation is the work of God. God has done the work, it began as Saint John said, in the first moment of creation.

The fall, such as it is, happens subsequent to and in the context of God’s saving work.

God has done the work already, Jesus revealed the truth of it, and has entrusted all of us who follow the way with the task of sharing that good news.

Here is the gospel: You are reconciled to God. There is no debt to pay. Allow the burden of sin, and the fear of it to fall away.

Be glad.

It was always God’s plan that we fall and rise together, that we rise and fall as one, because we are one in the goodness of God.

The apostle tells us, in the simplest of terms that the mission of the church is to announce the reconciliation.

Hear this!

Everyone is reconciled in God’s love, in God who created the universe. The members of the church are to be ambassadors of this good news. The church is not, nor should it ever be a recruiting agency, as it is today obsessed with signing up members, for whom the reward is reconciliation.
The reconciliation has already occurred. The mission of the church is to proclaim it.

Proclaim that every day is a day of salvation.

With God there is never justice without mercy. When we seek forgiveness from God, we are looking for something that already found us.

When we come to that knowledge and are contrite, that contrition is a the shower that washes us clean, but God had forgiven us before we ever sinned or came to the knowledge of it.

We are all sinners, animals, no different than the wolf or the lion, but God speaks to us from our innermost being, God is present at our core; in this way God gives us the power and the grace to overcome our animal nature and live a holy life, to live a life of conscience.

There is no crime that God has not forgiven.

Do not look for God’s hand in the tribulations we suffer here, or the rewards we enjoy on earth, they are like the wind, fleeting and ephemeral.

Know this!

It is God who makes us well, who creates in us the possibility of wellbeing. God is our wellbeing, but God is not a king and there are no other gods.

All creation belongs to God, all that is good and all that frightens us, everything comes from God and will redound to the good.

It is good to show our respect for the creator and to sing songs in praise of God, but remember this and remember it always, that God is our loving parent, and has prepared each of us for God’s blessing.

Be mindful of this!

You will have no reward from God in this life, God does not intervene or interfere in human events.

Do not seek glorify or glorify yourself in public. Do not seek admiration from the world at large.

Pray in private, not in public, do not boast of your piety.

Do not brag on how much you give to the world, or how well you pay your employees, do good for the sake of doing good, be fair for fairness’ sake.

Go to your work and to your disciplines gladly, if you are fasting then fast, smile and be happy.
First Reading – Joel 2:12-18 ©

Let Your Hearts Be Broken, Not Your Garments Torn

‘Now, now – it is the Lord who speaks – come back to me with all your heart, fasting, weeping, mourning.’

Let your hearts be broken, not your garments torn, turn to the Lord your God again, for he is all tenderness and compassion, slow to anger, rich in graciousness, and ready to relent.

Who knows if he will not turn again, will not relent, will not leave a blessing as he passes, oblation and libation for the Lord your God?

Sound the trumpet in Zion!

Order a fast, proclaim a solemn assembly, call the people together, summon the community, assemble the elders, gather the children, even the infants at the breast.

Let the bridegroom leave his bedroom and the bride her alcove.

Between vestibule and altar let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, lament.

Let them say, ‘Spare your people, Lord!

Do not make your heritage a thing of shame, a byword for the nations.

Why should it be said among the nations, “Where is their God?”’

Then the Lord, jealous on behalf of his land, took pity on his people.
Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 50(51):3-6, 12-14, 17

Our God comes and will not be silent!
Devouring fire precedes him,
it rages strongly around him.

He calls to the heavens above
and to the earth to judge his people:

“Gather my loyal ones to me,
those who made a covenant with me by sacrifice.”

The heavens proclaim his righteousness,
for God himself is the judge.

Were I hungry, I would not tell you,
for mine is the world and all that fills it.

Do I eat the flesh of bulls
or drink the blood of he-goats?

Offer praise as your sacrifice to God;
fulfill your vows to the Most High.

You hate discipline;
you cast my words behind you!
Second Reading – 2 Corinthians 5:20-6:2 ©

Be Reconciled to God

We are ambassadors for Christ; it is as though God were appealing through us, and the appeal that we make in Christ’s name is: be reconciled to God. For our sake God made the sinless one into sin, so that in him we might become the goodness of God. As his fellow workers, we beg you once again not to neglect the grace of God that you have received. For he says: At the favourable time, I have listened to you; on the day of salvation I came to your help. Well, now is the favourable time; this is the day of salvation.
Gospel Acclamation Psalm 50:12, 14

Praise to you, O Christ, king of eternal glory!

A pure heart create for me, O God,
and give me again the joy of your help.

Praise to you, O Christ, king of eternal glory!
Alternative Acclamation Psalm 94:8

Praise to you, O Christ, king of eternal glory!

Harden not your hearts today,
but listen to the voice of the Lord.

Praise to you, O Christ, king of eternal glory!
The Gospel According to Matthew 6:1 – 6, 16 – 18

Your Father Who Sees All that is Done in Secret Will Reward You

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Be careful not to parade your good deeds before men to attract their notice; by doing this you will lose all reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give alms, do not have it trumpeted before you; this is what the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win men’s admiration. I tell you solemnly, they have had their reward. But when you give alms, your left hand must not know what your right is doing; your almsgiving must be secret, and your Father who sees all that is done in secret will reward you.

‘And when you pray, do not imitate the hypocrites: they love to say their prayers standing up in the synagogues and at the street corners for people to see them; I tell you solemnly, they have had their reward. But when you pray, go to your private room and, when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in that secret place, and your Father who sees all that is done in secret will reward you.

‘When you fast do not put on a gloomy look as the hypocrites do: they pull long faces to let men know they are fasting. I tell you solemnly, they have had their reward. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that no one will know you are fasting except your Father who sees all that is done in secret; and your Father who sees all that is done in secret will reward you.’
Ash Wednesday (Year A)

A Homily – The Fifth Sunday of Lent (Year C)

A Homily

2019.04.07 – (The Fifth Sunday of Lent) C
First Reading – Isaiah 43:16-21 ©
Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 125(126) ©
Second Reading – Philippians 3:8-14 ©
Gospel Acclamation – Joel 2:12-13
The Gospel According to John 8:1-11 ©
(NJB)
Listen!

God does not intervene in the affairs of human beings or in the machinations of emperors and kings.

Be careful how you read the words of the prophet.

The people were wrong to give God credit for their successful flight from Egypt.

God had nothing to do with the flight of the Israelites from Egypt it. God loved the Egyptians too, they were God’s children, and God mourned their passing, just as God mourns the victims of all human conflict.

There is no need to recall the past, we should not celebrate this narrative, or glorify the crimes of warfare we committed against each other. Move beyond the crimes the Egyptians visited on the Israelites that caused them to flee into the desert, or the crimes the Israelites themselves committed on their sojourn and after, when they crossed the Jordan, and put dozens of tribes to the sword.

Let it go.

God is patient, God is waiting for us to put aside our wild ways, to walk humbly, to love mercy and to seek justice, as God does, and in so doing to give God praise.
Know this and remember:.
It was not God, the creator of the universe, who freed the Jews from captivity in Babylon. It was the king of Persia.

It was a good deed, and it honored the fellowship that all human beings share.

Listen!

Insofar as all good deeds have their origin in the goodness we all derive from God, then yes, God deserves the credit. Nevertheless, it was the free choice of the Persian King to release those who had been enslaved, allow them to return to their homes.

Not all of them did, many remained living in the diaspora as citizens of Persia.

Those who returned to Judea regarded their neighbors and cousins who had never left the land as impure and outcast, as gentiles and worse.

This was a crime against them.

Listen to the Apostle, and do not try to measure yourself against him. Do not measure yourself against his good deeds or his bad deeds.

Know this, and know that your destiny is the same as his, the same as the Samaritans, the same as the King of Persia, the same as the returning Judeans, the same as the Jews of the diaspora, the same as the Canaanites, the Amorites and the Hittites, the same as the Egyptians and the same as all Israelites.

God has prepared a place for you in eternity, and God has laid plans to see that you will find it.

The Apostle expresses the greatest wisdom when he articulates the view that the things of the world, all of them, all of our deeds, that everything is rubbish.

This is not to say that we should throw it all away, discard everything, and appreciate nothing, but it is to understand that all of our works are temporary, transient, and will be forgotten. The entire planet will go up in smoke, swallowed by our mother-star and there will be nothing left of any of us.

That day will come…eventually.

What matters is only how we treat each other that we walk humbly, love mercy and seek justice, all the days of our lives, as much as we are able, for this is the way that Jesus taught us to live.

Remember this:

The anointed one is not a king, Jesus was not a lord. The Romans crowned him with thorns and mocked him when they called him king of the Jews. This title was not meant to be taken seriously. He was the son of a carpenter, and the friend of fishermen.

Jesus was a man of the land, one of the am haaretz. Go to him, follow him, enter the way of compassion.

Contemplate the sacrifice of mercy. It is what Jesus offered.

Mercy is the only sacrifice desired by God; by God the creator of the universe.

There is little else to say in regard to the Gospel of the day.

The reading gives us a narrative of Jesus at the Temple, in the place that is the center of cultic ritual for his people. And in that place his understanding of the traditions of his people is challenged by a group of Pharisees, his peers, and a group of scribes who are also students of the sacred texts.

Jesus is presented with a problem, a legal matter; the question concerns the proper way to deal with a woman who has been caught in the act of adultery.

Testimony was not given.

A witness did not come forward.

A defense was not offered.

A group had gathered; intent on killing her, intent on squeezing the breath out of her by placing large stones on her chest, as stonings were done in the tradition of the Hebrews.

The crowd felt that they had a sacred obligation to fulfill; they had a duty according to the laws of Moses. The adulteress must be put to death; to satisfy it.

In this regard the “law of Moses” had become a fetish, like an idol and the crowd wanted to satisfy it, to present a human sacrifice in the temple precinct.

The Pharisees and Scribes wanted to test Jesus, and the crowd who gathered wanted the spectacle of a killing.

Jesus responds by offering the only thing that God desires, the only thing that anyone there could freely to give.

He offers her mercy, and through her the offer is given directly to God. A sacrifice of mercy substituted for her life.

Do not read the story as if Jesus defeated the crowd. Read it as if he passed the test, and thwarted the efforts of his opponents to trip him up.

The crowd understood his compassion, and they loved him for it, he showed them the way and they wanted it, he carried the crowd with him, into the sacred place, the place beloved by God. The transited with him into the blessed land, the place of mercy and compassion, of humility and justice.

Jesus was the first to make the offering and one by one as the crowd dispersed, they each left an offering of the same.
First Reading – Isaiah 43:16-21 ©

See, I am Doing a New Deed, and I Will Give My Chosen People Drink

Thus says the Lord, who made a way through the sea, a path in the great waters; who put chariots and horse in the field and a powerful army which lay there never to rise again, snuffed out, put out like a wick:

No need to recall the past, no need to think about what was done before.
See, I am doing a new deed, even now it comes to light; can you not see it?
Yes, I am making a road in the wilderness, paths in the wilds.

The wild beasts will honour me, jackals and ostriches, because I am putting water in the wilderness (rivers in the wild) to give my chosen people drink.
The people I have formed for myself will sing my praises.
Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 125(126) ©

What marvels the Lord worked for us! Indeed we were glad.

When the Lord delivered Zion from bondage,
it seemed like a dream.
Then was our mouth filled with laughter,
on our lips there were songs.

What marvels the Lord worked for us! Indeed we were glad.

The heathens themselves said: ‘What marvels
the Lord worked for them!’
What marvels the Lord worked for us!
Indeed we were glad.

What marvels the Lord worked for us! Indeed we were glad.

Deliver us, O Lord, from our bondage
as streams in dry land.
Those who are sowing in tears
will sing when they reap.

What marvels the Lord worked for us! Indeed we were glad.

They go out, they go out, full of tears,
carrying seed for the sowing:
they come back, they come back, full of song,
carrying their sheaves.

What marvels the Lord worked for us! Indeed we were glad.
Second Reading – Philippians 3:8-14 ©

I Look on Everything as so Much Rubbish if Only I Can Have Christ

I believe nothing can happen that will outweigh the supreme advantage of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For him I have accepted the loss of everything, and I look on everything as so much rubbish if only I can have Christ and be given a place in him. I am no longer trying for perfection by my own efforts, the perfection that comes from the Law, but I want only the perfection that comes through faith in Christ, and is from God and based on faith. All I want is to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and to share his sufferings by reproducing the pattern of his death. That is the way I can hope to take my place in the resurrection of the dead. Not that I have become perfect yet: I have not yet won, but I am still running, trying to capture the prize for which Christ Jesus captured me. I can assure you my brothers, I am far from thinking that I have already won. All I can say is that I forget the past and I strain ahead for what is still to come; I am racing for the finish, for the prize to which God calls us upwards to receive in Christ Jesus.
Gospel Acclamation – Joel 2:12-13
Praise to you, O Christ, king of eternal glory!
Now, now – it is the Lord who speaks –
come back to me with all your heart,
for I am all tenderness and compassion.
Praise to you, O Christ, king of eternal glory!
The Gospel According to John 8:1-11 ©

‘Let the One Among You Who Has Not Sinned Be the First to Throw a Stone’

Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. At daybreak he appeared in the Temple again; and as all the people came to him, he sat down and began to teach them.

The scribes and Pharisees brought a woman along who had been caught committing adultery; and making her stand there in full view of everybody, they said to Jesus, ‘Master, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery, and Moses has ordered us in the Law to condemn women like this to death by stoning. What have you to say?’ They asked him this as a test, looking for something to use against him. But Jesus bent down and started writing on the ground with his finger. As they persisted with their question, he looked up and said, ‘If there is one of you who has not sinned, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.’ Then he bent down and wrote on the ground again. When they heard this they went away one by one, beginning with the eldest, until Jesus was left alone with the woman, who remained standing there. He looked up and said, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’ ‘No one, sir’ she replied. ‘Neither do I condemn you,’ said Jesus ‘go away, and do not sin any more.’
5th Sunday of Lent (Year C)

A Homily – The Fourth Sunday of Lent (Year C)

First Reading – Joshua 5:9-12 ©
Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 33(34):2-7 ©
Second Reading – 2 Corinthians 5:17-21 ©
Gospel Acclamation – Luke 15:18
The Gospel According to Luke 15:1-3, 11-32 ©
(NJB)
Consider the reading for today

Let us set aside for a moment the notion that the events reported in the book of Joshua refer to actual historical realities.

They do not.

These writings are fragments of oral history woven together with allegories, using metaphors to transform the narratives into myths that could inspire a struggling people.

These stories began to be collected and written down in the 10th and 11th centuries BCE. They reflect the point of view of the Davidic Monarchy, and that of David’s heirs. They do not reflect that actual history of the people of Israel or Judea.

Know this:

God did not deliver the people from Egypt, they saved themselves. They had nothing to be ashamed of for having dwelt among the Egyptians for so long. The children of Israel entered into the service of the Egyptians during a time of famine and as a means of self-preservation. They remained in service for several hundred years and while there, they grew into a strong people.

This is the story that the tradition has preserved.

There was conflict when they left Egypt, but when they left they did so under their own power.

They became nomads again, returning to their roots, wandering around the Levant until they settled in the land of Cannan, where again there was conflict.

What is hidden in the reading is this:

The People must rely on themselves for what they do in this world. The people must produce their own food, protect themselves and grow their own tribes. They are responsible for this and cannot wait upon God to provide them, if they do they will starve.

God will handle the rest.

The tasks that belong to God will be done by God, the work and the work of God is not of this world.

We are called to have faith in this, and to trust in what we hope for.

Be mindful of what the psalmist says.

If you intend to seek God, look only in your heart. You will find God in loving, and in loving you will be blessed.

Praise God through works of love.

Look for no other glory than service.

God is great because God compassionate.

God has no name, you cannot lift-up God’s name in praise, therefore exalt God’s loving work in creation.

Listen to your neighbors, rescue them from fear. Reassure them with you faith, God’s light will shine on you, in hope and through love.

Be mindful of this, God is merciful, with God there is no need for shame.

God is no respecter of station, class or wealth. God loves everyone the same.

Do not look for God to save you from your troubles, we are each of us another Job, each in our unique way.

Our tribulations are not tests, but we persevere through faith. Trust God and you will understand how transient they are.

Do not look to God to rescue you from anything, look to your neighbor instead. Be that person for your neighbor, for the stranger, rescue them if you can.

All pain is temporary, but love lasts forever.

Do not fear.

Speak the truth.

Avoid evil.

Do good.

God see all, hears all, knows all, even your innermost thoughts, your secrets and desires, your hidden motivations.

Keep your mind in the present and do not focus on the good things that may or may not come as a result of the work you do.

Love, and do good, without the thought of reward for yourself. Love as God does, we experience it in the here and now.

Only hearken to those who teach hope…ignore the fear-mongers. The way is not found in fear.

Listen to the peace of the Apostle.

Our salvation is the God’s work, not ours.

God has done the work already. It began as Saint John said, in the first moment of creation.

The fall, such as it was, happened subsequent to and in the context of God’s saving work.

The work of salvation begins in eternity, the product of sin is a function of time and space.

Listen to the Apostle!

God has done the work already, we are saved. Jesus revealed the truth of it and has entrusted all futures followers of the way with the task of sharing that God news with the world. This is the mission of the Church.

You are reconciled to God. There is no debt to pay. Allow the burden of sin, allow the fear of it to fall away from you.

Be glad.

It was always God’s plan that we fall and rise together. We fall and rise as one, as the Apostle teaches. We fall and rise as one, because we were created as one in the goodness of God.

Consider the Gospel for today.

People change.

Appearances are not everything.

There is good in everyone, and in everyone there is cause to be disappointed.

The degree of judgement levelled by the Pharisees in this narrative; that is not something we should aspire to emulate, neither is the jealousy expressed in this parable by the loyal son.

Beneath any veneer of piety there is often a degree of bitterness and resentment; making the pretense of piety a mere façade.

The parable is about justice.

Jesus presents a story from his vantage, he teaches from the perspective of divine justice.

Few of us are able to do this.

The more common discussion of justice is the superimposition of human values, contemporary social mores over what we think or fear God would desire.

It is a rare matter to be able to set aside the prejudices of the day and be able to express divine justice, but this is the role of the prophet; to express justice characterized by love and mercy, by compassion and forgiveness, and to demand that we reform our human traditions in light of those.

This parable is often analyzed as a narrative on the power of repentance; repentance, which is the turning around of the sinner toward God. It is told as a story of conversion and the power of transformation that ensues, and that is fine because those motifs are clearly present.

The characters in the parable are the father and his children.

Read; God and humanity.

Humanity is presented in two different lights; the self-indulgent, and the disciplined.

The self-indulgent child is like most of us, greedy and heedless of the future. The journey he makes, takes him for from his father, far from God.

It is a long journey, it takes years to complete and it leaves him destitute.

The disciplined child represents a much smaller number of us (though most people fall somewhere in between). He stays home, remains obedient and asks for nothing from his father, expecting to get it all.

He is pious and resolute, but in his heart he is resentful and bitter. Because he asks for nothing for himself, he receives nothing for himself, and in his heart he is covetous.

Between the sin of self-indulgence and the sin of covetousness; which is greater?

I think it is impossible to say; sin is sin..

There is perhaps a broader degree of danger in self-indulgence, but there is deep spiritual danger in the covetous heart.

This is a story of repentance. The younger son repents and returns home. The long journey away from home, is a short journey back, and what the narrative reveals is that while he was away from home, the eyes of his loving father; the eyes of God, were always on him.

I believe this is the point of the narrative.

The purpose of this narrative is not to remind us that repentance is possible, or that God rejoices in the repentant. The point is to say that God is with us, always with us.

We are never out of God sight, and we are never far from God’s love. The parable is about God, God’s mercy, God’s Love, God’s compassion, God’s forgiving heart. It is about what God and Jesus, ask each of us to emulate everyday insofar as we have chosen to be followers of the way.
First Reading – Joshua 5:9-12 ©

The Israelites Celebrate Their First Passover in the Promised Land

The Lord said to Joshua, ‘Today I have taken the shame of Egypt away from you.’

The Israelites pitched their camp at Gilgal and kept the Passover there on the fourteenth day of the month, at evening in the plain of Jericho. On the morrow of the Passover they tasted the produce of that country, unleavened bread and roasted ears of corn, that same day. From that time, from their first eating of the produce of that country, the manna stopped falling. And having manna no longer, the Israelites fed from that year onwards on what the land of Canaan yielded.
Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 33(34):2-7 ©

Taste and see that the Lord is good.

I will bless the Lord at all times,
his praise always on my lips;
in the Lord my soul shall make its boast.
The humble shall hear and be glad.

Taste and see that the Lord is good.

Glorify the Lord with me.
Together let us praise his name.
I sought the Lord and he answered me;
from all my terrors he set me free.

Taste and see that the Lord is good.

Look towards him and be radiant;
let your faces not be abashed.
This poor man called, the Lord heard him
and rescued him from all his distress.

Taste and see that the Lord is good.
Second Reading – 2 Corinthians 5:17-21 ©

God Reconciled Himself to us Through Christ

For anyone who is in Christ, there is a new creation; the old creation has gone, and now the new one is here. It is all God’s work. It was God who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the work of handing on this reconciliation. In other words, God in Christ was reconciling the world to himself, not holding men’s faults against them, and he has entrusted to us the news that they are reconciled. So we are ambassadors for Christ; it is as though God were appealing through us, and the appeal that we make in Christ’s name is: be reconciled to God. For our sake God made the sinless one into sin, so that in him we might become the goodness of God.
Gospel Acclamation – Luke 15:18

Praise and honour to you, Lord Jesus!

I will leave this place and go to my father and say:
‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.’

Praise and honour to you, Lord Jesus!
The Gospel According to Luke 15:1-3,11-32 ©

The Prodigal Son

The tax collectors and the sinners were all seeking the company of Jesus to hear what he had to say, and the Pharisees and the scribes complained. ‘This man’ they said ‘welcomes sinners and eats with them.’ So he spoke this parable to them:

‘A man had two sons. The younger said to his father, “Father, let me have the share of the estate that would come to me.” So the father divided the property between them. A few days later, the younger son got together everything he had and left for a distant country where he squandered his money on a life of debauchery.

‘When he had spent it all, that country experienced a severe famine, and now he began to feel the pinch, so he hired himself out to one of the local inhabitants who put him on his farm to feed the pigs. And he would willingly have filled his belly with the husks the pigs were eating but no one offered him anything. Then he came to his senses and said, “How many of my father’s paid servants have more food than they want, and here am I dying of hunger! I will leave this place and go to my father and say: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you; I no longer deserve to be called your son; treat me as one of your paid servants.” So he left the place and went back to his father.

‘While he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was moved with pity. He ran to the boy, clasped him in his arms and kissed him tenderly. Then his son said, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I no longer deserve to be called your son.” But the father said to his servants, “Quick! Bring out the best robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the calf we have been fattening, and kill it; we are going to have a feast, a celebration, because this son of mine was dead and has come back to life; he was lost and is found.” And they began to celebrate.

‘Now the elder son was out in the fields, and on his way back, as he drew near the house, he could hear music and dancing. Calling one of the servants he asked what it was all about. “Your brother has come” replied the servant “and your father has killed the calf we had fattened because he has got him back safe and sound.” He was angry then and refused to go in, and his father came out to plead with him; but he answered his father, “Look, all these years I have slaved for you and never once disobeyed your orders, yet you never offered me so much as a kid for me to celebrate with my friends. But, for this son of yours, when he comes back after swallowing up your property – he and his women – you kill the calf we had been fattening.”

‘The father said, “My son, you are with me always and all I have is yours. But it was only right we should celebrate and rejoice, because your brother here was dead and has come to life; he was lost and is found.”’
4th Sunday of Lent (Year C)

A Homily – The Third Sunday of Lent (Year C)

A Homily

2016.03.24 – (The Third Sunday of Lent) C
First Reading – Exodus 3:1-8,13-15 ©
Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 102(103):1-4,6-8,11 ©
Second Reading – 1 Corinthians 10:1-6,10-12 ©
Gospel Acclamation – Matthew 4:17
The Gospel According to Luke 13:1-9 ©
(NJB)
Listen!

The rereading from today from the Book of Exodus presents a story of Moses. It presents an image of God who would turn one nation against another, tribe against tribe, family against family. It presents an image of God who prefers one group over another making promises to them of conquest, and the intervention of the almighty on behalf of that selected people.

This story depicts the punishment of the people of Egypt for the sins of Pharaoh, who, if you read the story correctly only did the things he did against the Israelites because God intervened and hardened his heart, time and time again, God determined the course of action Pharaoh would take, and then punished the entire nation for those deeds.

Be mindful.

These stories are not worthy of the sacred text. They make the creator of the universe out to be a hack, a mean spirited and capricious fool, a bully, a murderer, and a thief.

When you read the sacred text remember this; God is not a king, God is not a lord. God does not favor one group over another. God does not intervene in the affairs of human beings. Remember this always.

Do not fall into the pitfalls of the psalmist.

Give thanks to God, the creator of the universe. Give thanks in the peace of God’s blessing, the blessing of life, of freedom, of self-determination, and every other aspect of our being that allows us to be persons.

God gave us our personhood, it is a gift we are meant to cherish. The spirit of God is reflected in our personhood, and in that reflection God is present fully. God is present in us, and present in every other person we encounter, the mighty and the meek, the good and the bad, the ugly and the beautiful.

Give thanks to God and give thanks to those who do God’s work, to those who are loving, to the peacemakers, bless them as you are able.

Bless all of God’s children, as God does, love them all; the helpful and the harmful, the just and the unjust.

Listen!

Be mindful of what the apostle says, like all of the other disciples, he commonly allows his fear to blind him to the teachings of Christ, faith and hope in the way Jesus preached.

Remember.

God, the creator of the universe, God loves you. God loves all of us.

God does not lay traps for us to test our faith. That is not the way. God does not visit suffering on one generation for the purpose of teaching a lesson to another, as the apostle suggested. That would be unjust.

God does not intervene in human affairs, as such, we know that God did not guide the Israelites through the desert.

They found their own way, and they suffered terribly on their journey. They did not suffer because they were are sinful people, they suffered because life is hard. Many people died, many were killed in the wars they fought, they visited violence and anguish and sorrow on their enemies, not because God willed it, but because they were led into those endeavors according to their own human ambitions.

God wills that we love our enemies, and that we pray for those who persecute us. That is the way of Jesus and the sum of our faith.

The Israelites committed terrible crimes, but despite their crimes, they did many things that were good. They put some communities to the sword, they also bonded with one another and strengthened their own. They made a place for themselves in the world according to the ways of the world.

This is the way of sin, we human beings perpetrate it, leaving God to make some good out of it.

They can be forgiven of their sins, in the same way that we forgive everyone who has sinned, in the same way that we seek forgiveness for our own.

Do not be confused by the apostle, resist the appeal to authority and the desire to follow him into hi errors.

When he uses allegory to relate images and tropes from the exodus to his audience and to the future church, as fore-shadowings of Christ and the rites of baptism, his interpretations and interpolations of meaning cannot be viewed as having been written with those intentions a thousand years prior to the birth of Jesus and the foundation of the Church

It is poetry not fact.

We are encouraged to read the sacred texts as a poet would, finding meaning in the fictions that were written there. Understand this; Moses never lived, everything we read about him is myth and metaphor.

Reading the text as a poet would, honors the spirit within which it was written.

This is how we keep the text alive from age to age, by not falling into the trap of believing that we have discovered the meaning, the truth of it for all time.

Use the sacred texts to promote the teaching of the way; the way of Jesus, the way which is rooted in love, and mercy and compassion.

Reject fear, because God is the bringer of hope, not terror.

Do this, and you are doing the work God has called us to.

Be wary of the Scriptures, when the authors attempt to fit their narrative of Jesus into a picture that makes it look as if he is fulfilling a prediction made by a prophet from the past.

This is always a falsehood.

Even if a prediction was made, and even if Jesus did the thing that was predicted, it is a false narrative to suggest that Jesus’ actions were in fulfillment of prophecy.

Prophets only speak of the future for two reasons: 1) to engender hope, 2) to warn of danger.

The words of a prophet are always addressed to the people in their own time, in their own place. Prophecy is never meant to guide the lives of future generations, except in the cases when the prophet is addressing an issue of universal truth, such as the nature of justice, a truth which is itself unchanging.

The Gospel writers were propagandists. They fabricated many of the details of Jesus’ life. They fabricated those details to suit the narrative they preferred about who Jesus was, why his life and death were necessary, and what his life and death meant for the early church.

In this narrative the Gospel writers place Jesus directly in the tradition of John the Baptist, with the words “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand.”

This is a continuation of John’s narrative, meant to harness the energy of John’s movement, after his arrest and murder, contextualizing Jesus’ arrest and murder as a part of the same sequence of injustices visited upon the people.

The gospel of the day is plain spoken text.

It acknowledges the overwhelming reality of suffering in the world, of suffering caused by human beings, suffering caused by the random nature of events in the world; the suffering inflicted on the people by the Roman prelate, Pilate, who brutalized the people of Palestine, for political and religious purposes (which to the Romans were one and the same.

The message the Jesus has for his people is that they proceed with care, be mindful and watchful, and considerate of the secular powers. He encourages the people to take care of one another unless they two are caught up in the aegis of Pilate’s authority and subjected to the whims of Roman cruelty.

The people who suffered and died under Pilate did not suffer and die because they deserved it more than any others, they were not more-guilty of crimes than he was, or his followers were, but they were careless, and due to their carelessness they were caught up in the grip of Roman power.

In this parable Jesus stresses the power of intention. The farmer is the Roman State, he has the power of life and death over the people, if the people do not fulfill his expectations, he will destroy them.

This is what Jesus wants them to remember, to keep this in front of them at all times.

The man looking after the vineyard is the Church. The Church pleads for mercy on behalf of the people, so that through mindfulness and care, the people are brought along safely into the next year, preserving themselves and their families in the face of the oppressive Roman State.
It is a tenuous arrangement, but a necessary political arrangement if the people who make up the church are going to survive in a time of persecution.
First Reading – Exodus 3:1-8,13-15 ©

‘I AM has sent me to you’

Moses was looking after the flock of Jethro, his father-in-law priest of Midian. He led his flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in the shape of a flame of fire, coming from the middle of a bush. Moses looked; there was the bush blazing but it was not being burnt up. ‘I must go and look at this strange sight,’ Moses said, ‘and see why the bush is not burnt.’ Now the Lord saw him go forward to look, and God called to him from the middle of the bush. ‘Moses, Moses!’ he said. ‘Here I am,’ Moses answered. ‘Come no nearer,’ he said. ‘Take off your shoes, for the place on which you stand is holy ground. I am the God of your fathers,’ he said, ‘the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.’ At this Moses covered his face, afraid to look at God.

And the Lord said, ‘I have seen the miserable state of my people in Egypt. I have heard their appeal to be free of their slave-drivers. Yes, I am well aware of their sufferings. I mean to deliver them out of the hands of the Egyptians and bring them up out of that land to a land rich and broad, a land where milk and honey flow, the home of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites and the Jebusites.’

Then Moses said to God, ‘I am to go, then, to the sons of Israel and say to them, “The God of your fathers has sent me to you.” But if they ask me what his name is, what am I to tell them?’ And God said to Moses, ‘I Am who I Am. This’ he added ‘is what you must say to the sons of Israel: “I Am has sent me to you.”’ And God also said to Moses, ‘You are to say to the sons of Israel: “The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.” This is my name for all time; by this name I shall be invoked for all generations to come.’
Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 102(103):1-4,6-8,11 ©

The Lord is compassion and love.

My soul, give thanks to the Lord
all my being, bless his holy name.
My soul, give thanks to the Lord
and never forget all his blessings.

The Lord is compassion and love.

It is he who forgives all your guilt,
who heals every one of your ills,
who redeems your life from the grave,
who crowns you with love and compassion,

The Lord is compassion and love.

The Lord does deeds of justice,
gives judgement for all who are oppressed.
He made known his ways to Moses
and his deeds to Israel’s sons.

The Lord is compassion and love.

The Lord is compassion and love,
slow to anger and rich in mercy.
For as the heavens are high above the earth
so strong is his love for those who fear him.

The Lord is compassion and love.

Second Reading – 1 Corinthians 10:1-6,10-12 ©

The Life of the People Under Moses in the Desert Was Written Down to be a Lesson For Us

I want to remind you, brothers, how our fathers were all guided by a cloud above them and how they all passed through the sea. They were all baptised into Moses in this cloud and in this sea; all ate the same spiritual food and all drank the same spiritual drink, since they all drank from the spiritual rock that followed them as they went, and that rock was Christ. In spite of this, most of them failed to please God and their corpses littered the desert.

These things all happened as warnings for us, not to have the wicked lusts for forbidden things that they had. You must never complain: some of them did, and they were killed by the Destroyer.

All this happened to them as a warning, and it was written down to be a lesson for us who are living at the end of the age. The man who thinks he is safe must be careful that he does not fall.
Gospel Acclamation – Matthew 4:17

Glory to you, O Christ, you are the Word of God!

Repent, says the Lord,
for the kingdom of heaven is close at hand.

Glory to you, O Christ, you are the Word of God!

The Gospel According to Luke 13:1-9 ©

‘Leave the fig tree one more year’

Some people arrived and told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with that of their sacrifices. At this he said to them, ‘Do you suppose these Galileans who suffered like that were greater sinners than any other Galileans? They were not, I tell you. No; but unless you repent you will all perish as they did. Or those eighteen on whom the tower at Siloam fell and killed them? Do you suppose that they were more guilty than all the other people living in Jerusalem? They were not, I tell you. No; but unless you repent you will all perish as they did.’

He told this parable: ‘A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came looking for fruit on it but found none. He said to the man who looked after the vineyard, “Look here, for three years now I have been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and finding none. Cut it down: why should it be taking up the ground?” “Sir,” the man replied “leave it one more year and give me time to dig round it and manure it: it may bear fruit next year; if not, then you can cut it down.”’
2nd Sunday of Lent (Year C)

A Homily – The Second Sunday of Lent (Year C)

First Reading – Genesis 15:5-12,17-18 ©
Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 26(27):1,7-9,13-14 ©
Second Reading – Philippians 3:17-4:1 ©
Gospel Acclamation – Matthew 17:5
The Gospel According to Luke 9:28-36 ©
(NJB)
Be mindful of how you read the sacred text.

Always exercise caution, there is a temptation to read them in a way that enables the reader to justify their most corrupt desires, and that is the opposite of what the gospels intend..

The reading for today, a reading from the Book of Genesis, contains many errant and problematic tropes, even though its central message, the promise that God makes to Abraham, that passage is sound.

Let us reflect on it.

Remember this:

God does not intervene in human affairs. God never does. God made the universe and every creature in it free. God does not appoint kings and princes, or rulers of any order.

God did not call Abraham, but rather, Abraham found his way to God, and as always, the path Abraham took to God was by living of a just life.

We find God in doing good; through love and compassion and mercy.

Know this:

God does not favor the cult of animal sacrifice. This is a human contrivance interposed on human culture for human ends.

God did not give land to Abraham in a covenant. There is no covenant, there never was.
This rationale was merely a justification for seizing the so-called promised land by force. They were lands which belonged to other people. The narrative was interpolated over the history of the children of Israel after they fled from Egypt, and only after the successfully prosecuted their wars throughout the land of Canaan, against all of the other Semitic peoples.

In the reading we have been given for today, what is useful for the faith is this:

“Your descendants will number as the stars in sky.” This is the central promise, not the phony covenant with Abraham.

God’s promise is hope; Abraham’s children will be without measure. Based on this hope we may set aside the notion that the world will come to a sudden and arbitrary end.

We can set aside the notion that we are on a race to the finish line, that the clock is ticking, that the sands are falling on the end of days.

Listen!

There are billions of stars in the galaxy, and there are countless galaxies lighting up the night sky.

There are stars and galaxies aborning all the time. Their number is without end.

Remember this, and hold it in your heart:

God is good. Open your eyes and you will see God’s goodness, even in the faces of your enemies.

God is good. Open your ears and you will hear God’s goodness, even in the words of your enemies the goodness of God is shining.

God is good. God loves you, and God loves all people. Your eternal home is waiting for you, come and invite your enemies to share it.

This is the way of Jesus.

Take heed!

Reflect on the daily concerns of the Apostle; be mindful of how he seeks to manage the community of believers.

People are notoriously difficult to manage.

They do not always do as we would wish them to do, they are divisive. They pit themselves against each other.

Saint Paul was not alone in experiencing this, Jesus experienced it with the disciples, Paul deals with it everyday, in every community he helped to form.

The church is still recalcitrant, ungrateful, vain, and misguided.

If you are responsible for the care of people seeking to live in the way of Jesus, remember this; God, the creator of the universe, God is always with them. God dwells inside of each and every one of them, in each and everyone of us.

We may try to have influence over the circumstances that are presented to us, but we are not responsible for their resolution.

The resolution of sin is in God’s hands, make room for your faith to help you understand this.

Do not give up like the Apostle did, free yourself from the doubts the disciples shared.

Do not denigrate God’s creation, do not imagine that the body is evil, do not malign our mortal state because we experience hunger, disease, pain; these are all a part of the mystery of life, of the creation God breathed life into, and called good.

Never forget

As Christians we are bound to read the Gospel in the context of its truthfulness.

We must let the Spirit of Truth guide us, even if it means rejecting a passage such as what is behind the acclamation from Matthew today.

There may have been an event, a time when Jesus together with James and John went up the mountain by themselves.

It may have been that at such event Jesus connected his ministry with that of Moses, the liberator and law giver; and Elijah with the truth-teller.

This may be the case but the supernatural events that were described by Matthew, these did not happen.

God, the creator of the universe, God does not engage in supernatural activities. God is the author of nature and its laws. God does not violate them for any reason.

The disciples were meant to understand that the ministry of Jesus was also in keeping with the expectations of Enoch, with Enoch the Son of Man, whose return was hoped for.

Jesus warned the disciples that his ministry would lead to his death, but like Enoch, death would not stop him, like Enoch he would return.

This is what they hoped for.

Be mindful.

Always read the gospel in such a way that you strip from it the fantastical elements. Stories of the supernatural cannot be taken literally, they are not elucidating and they are contrary to the way.

In theology the words we use to speak about God. These words are only good and useful, if they are grounded and rational.

In mythology; we use words to contextualize our experience, when we wish to speak in metaphors and analogies, so that we may link our experiences to a world beyond ourselves.

These two modes of narrative are not necessarily at odds with each other, but they can be.

Myth can be grounded and rational, but only when the motif of the metaphor, and the assumptions of the allegory are fully understood and properly balanced. They can be good and useful when we engage the narrative with our eyes wide open.

By the same token theology can be irrational, if the assumptions we make about the nature of reality, the nature of humanity, or the nature of the divine and the divine economy are not rooted in truth, or worse, if they are rooted in fear, hate and greed.

The mythology behind the transfiguration is easily and often misinterpreted. This is because the root of the narrative has its origins in a fundamental misunderstanding of who Jesus was.

As I have already suggested; it may be the case that those who first voice the narrative of the transfiguration, and those who first penned it, only intended to transit the message that Jesus stood in the same tradition as Moses the lawgiver, and Elijah the prophet.

The motif of the cloud descending on Jesus may have only been meant to suggest that Jesus’ authority, his understanding of the divine will, came from a place of mystery.

The voice from the cloud naming Jesus as “son,” may have only been meant to convey the message that Jesus is the “heir” to the Abrahamic tradition, and not merely a “teacher” in that tradition.

This is a grounded and rational interpretation of this myth.

However, as happens most often, the interpreters of this myth point to the more sensational images in the narrative; the bright lights and the shining garments, the presence of Moses, and Elijah (as if they were actually there), their journey together into the cloud with Jesus (as if they went there bodily), the voice from that cloud naming Jesus as God’s son, as an actual declaration of paternity from the divine source of all being..

This fantasy-based interpretation has led to great confusion through the centuries. Incredible conflict has ensued based on these fantastic beliefs; conflict and bloody warfare between opposing factions of Christians, and with non-Christians as well.

All because they felt the need to take sides on the question of who Jesus was, and defend their claims with violence.

It is a tragedy. It is antithetical to the way.

Be mindful!

Jesus was a human being, like any other.

Like all creatures he carried a seed of the divine within him, and where the divine is, the divine is present fully.

The fullness of God dwelt within Jesus, just as the fullness of God dwells within each of us. We are connected and in relationship to God, and Jesus, just as we are connected and in relationship to every creature who ever was, is, or yet will be.

What differentiated Jesus from his followers was his understanding of these truths and his ability to apply that understanding in a manner that points the way for us; he showed us how to live in a moral and just society to, for our understanding of the truth to flow from it.
First Reading – Genesis 15:5-12,17-18 ©

God Enters into a Covenant with Abraham, the Man of Faith

Taking Abram outside, the Lord said, ‘Look up to heaven and count the stars if you can.’ ‘Such will be your descendants,’ he told him. Abram put his faith in the Lord, who counted this as making him justified.

‘I am the Lord’ he said to him ‘who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldaeans to make you heir to this land.’ ‘My Lord,’ Abram replied ‘how am I to know that I shall inherit it?’ He said to him, ‘Get me a three-year-old heifer, a three-year-old goat, a three-year-old ram, a turtledove and a young pigeon.’ He brought him all these, cut them in half and put half on one side and half facing it on the other; but the birds he did not cut in half. Birds of prey came down on the carcases but Abram drove them off.
When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, there appeared a smoking furnace and a firebrand that went between the halves. That day the Lord made a Covenant with Abram in these terms:

‘To your descendants I give this land,
from the wadi of Egypt to the Great River.’
Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 26(27):1,7-9,13-14 ©

The Lord is my light and my help.

The Lord is my light and my help;
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life;
before whom shall I shrink?

The Lord is my light and my help.

O Lord, hear my voice when I call;
have mercy and answer.
Of you my heart has spoken:
‘Seek his face.’

The Lord is my light and my help.

It is your face, O Lord, that I seek;
hide not your face.
Dismiss not your servant in anger;
you have been my help.

The Lord is my light and my help.

I am sure I shall see the Lord’s goodness
in the land of the living.
Hope in him, hold firm and take heart.
Hope in the Lord!

The Lord is my light and my help.
Second Reading – Philippians 3:17-4:1 ©

Our Homeland is in Heaven, and from Heaven Comes Christ to Transfigure Us

My brothers, be united in following my rule of life. Take as your models everybody who is already doing this and study them as you used to study us. I have told you often, and I repeat it today with tears, there are many who are behaving as the enemies of the cross of Christ. They are destined to be lost. They make foods into their god and they are proudest of something they ought to think shameful; the things they think important are earthly things. For us, our homeland is in heaven, and from heaven comes the saviour we are waiting for, the Lord Jesus Christ, and he will transfigure these wretched bodies of ours into copies of his glorious body. He will do that by the same power with which he can subdue the whole universe.

So then, my brothers and dear friends, do not give way but remain faithful in the Lord. I miss you very much, dear friends; you are my joy and my crown.
Gospel Acclamation – Matthew 17:5

Glory and praise to you, O Christ!

From the bright cloud the Father’s voice was heard:
‘This is my Son, the Beloved. Listen to him.’

Glory and praise to you, O Christ!
The Gospel According to Luke 9:28-36 ©

Jesus is transfigured before them

Jesus took with him Peter and John and James and went up the mountain to pray. As he prayed, the aspect of his face was changed and his clothing became brilliant as lightning. Suddenly there were two men there talking to him; they were Moses and Elijah appearing in glory, and they were speaking of his passing which he was to accomplish in Jerusalem. Peter and his companions were heavy with sleep, but they kept awake and saw his glory and the two men standing with him. As these were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, ‘Master, it is wonderful for us to be here; so let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.’ – He did not know what he was saying. As he spoke, a cloud came and covered them with shadow; and when they went into the cloud the disciples were afraid. And a voice came from the cloud saying, ‘This is my Son, the Chosen One. Listen to him.’ And after the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. The disciples kept silence and, at that time, told no one what they had seen.
The Second Sunday of Lent (Year C)

A Homily – The First Sunday of Lent (Year C)

First Reading – Deuteronomy 26:4-10 ©
Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 90(91):1-2,10-15 ©
Second Reading – Romans 10:8-13 ©
Gospel Acclamation – Matthew 4:4
The Gospel of Luke 4:1-13 ©
(NJB)
Whenever you are reading the sacred text, remember this: God does not intervene in human affairs. God made human beings and the whole of creation free. There is no coercion from the divine.

God did not give any land to the Israelites, they took it for themselves, and God does not love war or condone bloodshed.

The way of God is the way of peace.

It is always good to give thanks for the good things that come to you; just as it is wise, not to despair when bad things befall you.

Do not pray for or count on God to intervene in your affairs, to free you from danger, or to rescue you from peril.

Rescue yourself, and failing that, do not despair, your perseverance must be through faith., for this life is not the end. It is the beginning.

Be mindful of the teaching of the apostles, they are often wrong.

Learn from this.

Reflect on what it means to be saved, to be saved means: to be made well.

We are not saved by words and thoughts.

It is not right doctrine, right belief or a magic-formula of mystic utterances that saves us, or brings us near to God. Neither are we saved by good deeds or through our accomplishments.
We are saved because God loves us. God loves us in the same way that God loves all creation. God’s love, which is utterly dependable, God’s love is the agent of our salvation, the catalyst and the cause.

Have no fear.

God, who created the universe; God will save you no matter what you confess and no matter what you believe.

You were marked for salvation when you entered into life.

Christian or not; salvation is yours, because Christian or not, you are God’s child and God loves you.

Remember this!

We are not Gnostics. We do not believe that our salvation is dependent on our possession of special knowledge. You do not need to know of the Christ to be saved by the Christ.

God heals your wounds, because God loves you. It is as simple as that.

Be mindful of this!

There is no devil, there is no Satan. The only deceiver that you need to contend with is the voice of deception that speaks to you in your own heart, and that voice is yours.

God, the creator of the universe, has given us the ability to know the truth and to discern good from evil.

God has also given each of us the ability to deny the truth, to reject it and lie.

The lies we tell always originate in our own heart. We tell them first to ourselves, before we try to convince others. And when we believe the lies that other people tell us, it is not them we believe but the voice within ourselves that tells us what they are saying must be true.

The path to wellness is in cleaving to the truth, in rejecting the sugar-high of the expedient lies, and in savoring the hard truths that are made plain through the contemplation of the divine.

Come to the Gospel with clarity of mind.

Know that what you are reading is not the literal truth. The tale of Jesus’ temptation in the desert is an allegory, wrapped in myth and rifled with metaphor.

Jesus was not tempted by the devil. We know this because there is no devil.

God did not create a universe at war with its creator.

God is not a king, God does not have armies, there are no legions of the damned, there are no hosts of fallen angels.

There is only God, the creator, and the creation which God loves, we are together with God, from end to end.

The antagonist in this story is Jesus’ own self, it is the same antagonist we all face when we struggle to know and do the right thing in the face of the temptation to do what is wrong.

We are our own enemy.

The voice of temptation does not come from without. It comes from within.

In the narrative, Jesus set out to fast. His first temptation was to break the fast. He was tempted by hunger, not the devil.

Be mindful of the power of hunger, hunger can bring a person to do terrible things.

The first temptation Jesus face was the temptation of hunger and he surpassed it.

The second temptation Jesus faced was the temptation to transform the movement he had begun into a political movement. This would have meant taking up arms against the Romans, taking up arms against his own people, going to war with the world.

Jesus knew in his hear that this was not the way of heaven, he also knew that his closest followers would have gladly taken up arms for him. This was the temptation to possess worldly power, it was born from his own doubts and he rejected it.

It is sad to note how in the centuries that followed, the Church that was founded in jesus’ name would not.

The third temptation that Jesus faced was of a more esoteric nature.

The third temptation was the temptation to believe the things that people were saying about him, to believe that he was a divine being, to believe that he had special powers, to believe that the mission he was on was given to him by God, and therefore it could not be stopped. It could not be stopped, even if Jesus were to throw himself off of a high wall.

This was the temptation of vanity, Jesus rejected it.

Throughout the temptation narrative Jesus demonstrates self-control guided by wisdom, and humility. He rejects vanity, he rejects political power, and he rejects the power of hunger to dissuade him.

In each case, the enemy within Jesus, the enemy was not an extrinsic force or a supernatural being. The enemy was altogether ordinary, it was the voice of hunger, the desire for power, and the appeal of vanity. These are temptations that each of face everyday, each in our own way.
First Reading – Deuteronomy 26:4-10 ©

The Creed of the Chosen People

Moses said to the people: ‘The priest shall take the pannier from your hand and lay it before the altar of the Lord your God. Then, in the sight of the Lord your God, you must make this pronouncement:

‘“My father was a wandering Aramaean. He went down into Egypt to find refuge there, few in numbers; but there he became a nation, great, mighty, and strong. The Egyptians ill-treated us, they gave us no peace and inflicted harsh slavery on us. But we called on the Lord, the God of our fathers. The Lord heard our voice and saw our misery, our toil and our oppression; and the Lord brought us out of Egypt with mighty hand and outstretched arm, with great terror, and with signs and wonders. He brought us here and gave us this land, a land where milk and honey flow. Here then I bring the first-fruits of the produce of the soil that you, the Lord, have given me.”

‘You must then lay them before the Lord your God, and bow down in the sight of the Lord your God.’
Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 90(91):1-2,10-15 ©

Be with me, O Lord, in my distress.

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
and abides in the shade of the Almighty
says to the Lord: ‘My refuge,
my stronghold, my God in whom I trust!’

Be with me, O Lord, in my distress.

Upon you no evil shall fall,
no plague approach where you dwell.
For you has he commanded his angels,
to keep you in all your ways.

Be with me, O Lord, in my distress.

They shall bear you upon their hands
lest you strike your foot against a stone.
On the lion and the viper you will tread
and trample the young lion and the dragon.

Be with me, O Lord, in my distress.

His love he set on me, so I will rescue him;
protect him for he knows my name.
When he calls I shall answer: ‘I am with you,’
I will save him in distress and give him glory.

Be with me, O Lord, in my distress.
Second Reading – Romans 10:8-13 ©

The Creed of the Christian

Scripture says: The word (that is the faith we proclaim) is very near to you, it is on your lips and in your heart. If your lips confess that Jesus is Lord and if you believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, then you will be saved. By believing from the heart you are made righteous; by confessing with your lips you are saved. When scripture says: those who believe in him will have no cause for shame, it makes no distinction between Jew and Greek: all belong to the same Lord who is rich enough, however many ask his help, for everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.
Gospel Acclamation – Matthew 4:4

Praise to you, O Christ, king of eternal glory!

Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.

Praise to you, O Christ, king of eternal glory!
The Gospel According to Luke 4:1-13 ©

The Temptation in the Wilderness

Filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit through the wilderness, being tempted there by the devil for forty days. During that time he ate nothing and at the end he was hungry. Then the devil said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to turn into a loaf.’ But Jesus replied, ‘Scripture says: Man does not live on bread alone.’

Then leading him to a height, the devil showed him in a moment of time all the kingdoms of the world and said to him, ‘I will give you all this power and the glory of these kingdoms, for it has been committed to me and I give it to anyone I choose. Worship me, then, and it shall all be yours.’ But Jesus answered him, ‘Scripture says:

You must worship the Lord your God, and serve him alone.’

Then he led him to Jerusalem and made him stand on the parapet of the Temple. ‘If you are the Son of God,’ he said to him ‘throw yourself down from here, for scripture says:

He will put his angels in charge of you to guard you, and again:

They will hold you up on their hands in case you hurt your foot against a stone.’

But Jesus answered him, ‘It has been said:

You must not put the Lord your God to the test.’

Having exhausted all these ways of tempting him, the devil left him, to return at the appointed time.

The First Sunday of Lent (Year C)

A Homily – John 12:20 – 33 ©

The Gospel According to John – 2018.03.18

 

Be Mindful of the Propaganda

The Gospel for today strayed far into the field of propaganda and myth.

It is a disservice to the memory of Jesus, who was not killed for the “glory” of God, or to fulfill some divine purpose, he was killed only to suit the petty vanity of small-minded men.

His death was a political murder.

Any suggestion otherwise undermines the truth.

Remember this; the blessings of God, the creator of the universe, God’s blessings are not transactional. Everyone of God’s children, which is everyone of us; all people, in all time, in all places is the subject of God’s love and mercy. There is not a single person left out of the divine plan.

Any suggestion otherwise diminishes the good news.

God, the creator of the universe, does not intervene in the world, in human affairs, like Zeus, or Jupiter or Jove. God is not the Thunderer. Such attestations are a disservice to the faith.

God is not a king, the creator of the universe comes to us as a loving friend, a brother, a sister, a parent, God comes to us in the form of a stranger, the meek and the marginalized, the poor and the hungry.

There is no power in this world other than God. The Gospel writers penned a lie when they wrote about the “prince” of this world, and the sentencing that was coming.

God has no enemy, and the only enmity we face is the enmity we engender, in our own hearts, to our own detriment.

Be mindful of the pitfalls in the sacred text.

 

If a grain of wheat falls on the ground and dies, it yields a rich harvest

 

Among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. These approached Philip, who came from Bethsaida in Galilee, and put this request to him, ‘Sir, we should like to see Jesus.’ Philip went to tell Andrew, and Andrew and Philip together went to tell Jesus.

Jesus replied to them:

‘Now the hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. I tell you, most solemnly, unless a wheat grain falls on the ground and dies, it remains only a single grain; but if it dies, it yields a rich harvest.

Anyone who loves his life loses it; anyone who hates his life in this world will keep it for the eternal life. If a man serves me, he must follow me, wherever I am, my servant will be there too.

If anyone serves me, my Father will honour him. Now my soul is troubled.

What shall I say:

Father, save me from this hour? But it was for this very reason that I have come to this hour.
Father, glorify your name!’

A voice came from heaven, ‘I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.’ People standing by, who heard this, said it was a clap of thunder; others said, ‘It was an angel speaking to him.’ Jesus answered, ‘It was not for my sake that this voice came, but for yours.
‘Now sentence is being passed on this world;
now the prince of this world is to be overthrown.

And when I am lifted up from the earth, I shall draw all men to myself.’ By these words he indicated the kind of death he would die.

 

5th Sunday of Lent

A Homily – John 3:14 – 21 ©

The Gospel According to John – 2018.03.11

 

The Gift, without Strings

Remember this: the salvation of the world was not worked out by lawyers, and it does not take place in the context of a battle between the forces of good, and the forces of evil.

We are not choosing sides in a cosmic conflict between God, the creator of the universe and the enemy.

The salvation of the world is not a magic act, it is healing. It is a false proposition to say that Jesus had to be lifted up, as Moses lifted the serpent, so that the preconditions for belief in him could be established, so that upon expressing belief in Jesus, regarding the teaching about him, the people of the world could receive the “golden ticket” granting them access to eternal life.

The gift of life is not transactional. It is free. We do not have to ask for it, just as we did not ask to be born. Like true love, eternal life comes to us without preconditions.

God, the creator of the universe, came to us in the person of Jesus. If you trust in the teachings of Jesus you will find peace in this world, you will understand that the things we endure here: pain, suffering, alienation, uncertainty, hunger, disease and death, these are all temporary. This is the heart of the gospel.

Belief, is not required to gain entrance to heaven, belief allows us to see the world of light and life beyond the veil of materiality that we are all entrenched in.

There is no condemnation in God, or in the ministry of Jesus. There is only hope and love, and mercy.

No one is condemned because they refuse to believe in the scriptures, in Christian doctrine, or the dogma of the church.

In fact we should question every point of doctrine, and only accept those teaching which we have vetted for ourselves for their sensibility and veracity.

God continuously pours out the divine love on all creation. No-one is beyond its reach.

There is no magic power in a name, or an article of belief. However, if you do not trust in the way of Jesus, and trust is the meaning of faith, if you are not able to trust in it and you are selfish, instead of giving you are malicious, instead of loving you are harmful, then you will suffer in this world, not as a punishment for what you did or did not do, but as the natural consequence for that type of behavior.

Faith in Jesus, should be liberation in the here and now, freedom in the present reality, it is a blessing to everyone who comes to it, and to all whom they encounter.

 

God sent his Son so that through him the world might be saved

Jesus said to Nicodemus:

‘The Son of Man must be lifted up as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.

Yes, God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost but may have eternal life.

For God sent his Son into the world not to condemn the world, but so that through him the world might be saved.

No one who believes in him will be condemned; but whoever refuses to believe is condemned already, because he has refused to believe in the name of God’s only Son.

On these grounds is sentence pronounced: that though the light has come into the world men have shown they prefer darkness to the light because their deeds were evil.

And indeed, everybody who does wrong hates the light and avoids it, for fear his actions should be exposed; but the man who lives by the truth comes out into the light, so that it may be plainly seen that what he does is done in God.’

 

4th Sunday of Lent

A Homily – John 2:13 – 25 ©

The Gospel According to John – 2018.03.04

 

Corruption

The gospel of the day moves the reader in different directions.

The writers had a mix of motivations. On the one hand they wanted to express the understanding that the death and resurrection of Jesus was foretold by him, it was known, and it was in keeping with God’s plan.

The Gospel writers mixed in with a commentary on the social corruption of the day, with the intention of distancing Jesus and the disciples, and the burgeoning Christian movement from it. In this regard the Gospel for today is a piece of propaganda.

It is unnecessary for the writers to comment on the Jewish Passover, unless they were writing to people who were not themselves Jewish, they were also desiring to distance Christianity from its Jewish origins.

Let us be clear, Jess was a Jew, and the Passover to him, was simply the Passover.

Be mindful, the commentary on the corruption in the temple is not without merit. There was corruption, there has always been corruption in the priesthood, both before the time of Jesus and after.

The organization of religion is as much a matter of commerce as it is of spirituality, perhaps more. This just criticism must be applied equally to the entire community of believers, in all times, and in all places.

 

Destroy this sanctuary and in three days I will raise it up

Jesus took with him Peter and James and John and led them up a high mountain where they could be alone by themselves. There in their presence he was transfigured: his clothes became dazzlingly white, whiter than any earthly bleacher could make them. Elijah appeared to them with Moses; and they were talking with Jesus. Then Peter spoke to Jesus: ‘Rabbi,’ he said ‘it is wonderful for us to be here; so let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.’ He did not know what to say; they were so frightened. And a cloud came, covering them in shadow; and there came a voice from the cloud, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved. Listen to him.’ Then suddenly, when they looked round, they saw no one with them any more but only Jesus.

As they came down from the mountain he warned them to tell no one what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead. They observed the warning faithfully, though among themselves they discussed what ‘rising from the dead’ could mean.

 

3rd Sunday of Lent