A Homily – The Gospel of John 1:1-18 ©

The Gospel of the Day – 2016.01.03 (Sunday)

 

The Beginning of Doctrine

 

In the beginning was the Word:

and the Word was with God

and the Word was God.

He was with God in the beginning.

Through him all things came to be,

not one thing had its being but through him.

All that came to be had life in him

and that life was the light of men,

a light that shines in the dark,

a light that darkness could not overpower.

 

A man came, sent by God.

His name was John.

He came as a witness,

as a witness to speak for the light,

so that everyone might believe through him.

He was not the light,

only a witness to speak for the light.

 

The Word was the true light

that enlightens all men;

and he was coming into the world.

He was in the world

that had its being through him,

and the world did not know him.

He came to his own domain

and his own people did not accept him.

But to all who did accept him

he gave power to become children of God,

to all who believe in the name of him

who was born not out of human stock

or urge of the flesh

or will of man

but of God himself.

 

The Word was made flesh,

he lived among us,

and we saw his glory,

the glory that is his as the only Son of the Father,

full of grace and truth.

 

John appears as his witness. He proclaims:

‘This is the one of whom I said:

He who comes after me ranks before me

because he existed before me.’

 

Indeed, from his fullness we have, all of us, received –

yes, grace in return for grace,

since, though the Law was given through Moses,

grace and truth have come through Jesus Christ.

No one has ever seen God;

it is the only Son, who is nearest to the Father’s heart,

who has made him known.

(NJB)

 

Faith and Dogma

 

John’s Gospel is unlike the others. Its authors were the farthest removed from the life of Jesus; writing the narrative between 120 and 150 years after his death. It is also the furthest removed from the actual ministry of Jesus, concerning itself with the cosmic identity of Christ as the Word of God, more than the lives of actual people, and the ministry of healing, mercy, and justice that was Jesus’ actual occupation.

The gospels of Mark, Luke and Matthew are commonly referred to as the synoptic gospels. The events that they narrate are closely linked to each other and follow the same basic pattern; even though there are differences. Luke and Matthew rely largely on Mark for their structure; Mark being written first.

Luke came second, and took a step a little further back in time than Mark. Whereas Mark begins with the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan river by John. Luke begins with the story of his birth.

Matthew, coming third in the sequence goes a little farther back in time, and tell us of Jesus’ descent from Abraham. While John, coming last, takes the reader all the way back to the beginning of time.

John narrates some of the same events as the other gospels do, but with a markedly different character, all designed to tell us who Jesus is; God’s own self.

The historian in me objects to this treatment of the life of Christ, but it is what it is, and this fiction having taken hold of the Christian Consciousness represents a historical reality all of its own.

The prolog tells us very little about the persons of Jesus, and John the Baptist, but a great deal about what Christians believed about God, the creator of the Universe, and creation itself.

Even though it was a common view in the ancient world that our material condition was essentially corrupt; as evidenced by our experience of pain, sickness, and death. The Christian community of John was articulating a faith in its essential goodness.

It affirms the unity and oneness of all creation; having been brought into being through the Word of Logos; meaning the rational will of God. This tell us that life itself has purpose, it is not random, it not the product of chaotic forces. Creation comes from the goodness, and light of the eternal God. And not one thing or being exists apart from that.

The Gospel encourages us in the hope, that no matter how bad things are in the drama of creation, the darkness will not overcome the light. Also, that the world and humanity itself are worthy of the love of God, so much so that God becomes a human being, lives and suffers with us in the spirit of compassion, and solidarity with the universe that God created.

This teaching is at the same time both remarkably esoteric, and deeply personal. While encouraging the believer to have hope, it also reminds the reader that they must also persevere in the face of rejection and violence. Many people to not want to hear the truth. They prefer their own cozy view of the world, their tribal and national gods, and totems, their neat philosophies, and their magical realities to the sober understanding of what it means to be a child of God. God’s own self was taken and killed for suggesting that there was a different way to live than the ways of the world.

It was the Romans and the Judeans who rejecting the teaching then. Human being have not changed so much in the intervening 2,000 years. It would likely be American Christians who would be quickest to reject God now.

The Second Sunday of Christmas

A Homily – The Gospel of Luke 21: 25-28, 34-36

The Gospel of the Day – 2015.11.29 (Sunday)

 The End of Days?

 Jesus said to his disciples: ‘There will be signs in the sun and moon and stars; on earth nations in agony, bewildered by the clamour of the ocean and its waves; men dying of fear as they await what menaces the world, for the powers of heaven will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. When these things begin to take place, stand erect, hold your heads high, because your liberation is near at hand.

  ‘Watch yourselves, or your hearts will be coarsened with debauchery and drunkenness and the cares of life, and that day will be sprung on you suddenly, like a trap. For it will come down on every living man on the face of the earth. Stay awake, praying at all times for the strength to survive all that is going to happen, and to stand with confidence before the Son of Man.’ (NJB)

 

The Trouble with Prophecy

The authors of Luke report that these are the words of Jesus. In so doing they place lies in the mouth of their friend and their teacher.

Jesus never spoke about the end of the world, because Jesus spoke the truth, and he did not seek to motivate with fear, but with love.

When the sun spends the last of its nuclear fuel; that will be a sign of the end of the world (billions of years from now).

If the moon were to slip in its orbit, that would be a sign of the end of the end of the world (the world as we know it).

The stars are in fact so distant from us, that what happens with them can have little to do with what happens here, but before our sun burns itself out, our galaxy will collide with another, and that will radically change life on this planet (billions of years from now).

God, the creator of the universe, made us, our world, and our universe free. God does not interfere, or intervene in our lives and our choices. Because that is true, the only futures we can predict are those that flow naturally from their antecedents that are present in reality, right now.

We can predict global warming; because it is happening, and the antecedents for it were laid down decades ago.

Just as we can predict the continuation of wars, terrorism, and economic injustice, they are present realities, and matters of statistical certitude.

We can predict these things, not because God has decreed that these things will come to pass, but because we have.

The only liberation we will have from the vicissitudes of this life, will come at the end of. God will not stretch out God’s hand to save you from any danger.

Pay no attention to those who use fear to shape your faith.

They are liars.

God wills that you live a life without fear, and the things that flow from fear; hate, anger, greed, and violence.

To the extent that any of us are drunk, or debauched, it is certain that we will pay for it in your own ways; through the loss of monies, the loss of opportunities, the loss of friendship, the loss of dignity. These habits, (the nature of sin itself), is not that they are traps that will prevent you from reaching your ultimate destiny. They may frustrate you in this life (to one degree or another), but they will not separate you from God. Anyone who says differently is trying to sell you something.

The first Sunday of Advent

A Homily – The Gospel of John 18: 33 – 37

The Gospel of the Day – 2015.11.22 (Sunday)

 Christ the King?

 ‘Are you the king of the Jews?’ Pilate asked. Jesus replied, ‘Do you ask this of your own accord, or have others spoken to you about me?’ Pilate answered, ‘Am I a Jew? It is your own people and the chief priests who have handed you over to me: what have you done?’ Jesus replied, ‘Mine is not a kingdom of this world; if my kingdom were of this world, my men would have fought to prevent my being surrendered to the Jews. But my kingdom is not of this kind.’ ‘So you are a king then?’ said Pilate. ‘It is you who say it’ answered Jesus. ‘Yes, I am a king. I was born for this, I came into the world for this: to bear witness to the truth; and all who are on the side of truth listen to my voice.’ (NJB)

 

The Trouble with Analogies

It is an unfortunate moment in the development of our faith; that the gospel writers felt compelled to use the narrative, of Jesus’ arrest, to give Jesus any claim to kingship at all.

He did not seek kingship, kingdoms are human constructions. It is not a different type of kingdom that Jesus wanted to inaugurate, but a world without kings.

The analogy we ought to look for, in order to understand the Way, has nothing to do with royalty and power, with thrones and dominion, but with life; growing things, caring for things, loving things. The Way of Jesus is like living in a garden.

That language of God as king, has dogged us down through the centuries, and it thwarted the mission of Jesus just as soon as it was first put into use. It gave rise to empires, to principalities, and to the quasi caliphates that even today use the sacred traditions to prop up their greed, their vanity, and their callous disregard for humanity.

All Christians bear some responsibility for this. God, the creator of the universe is not a king, Jesus is not a price. They are gardeners.

The 34th Sunday of Ordinary Time

The feast of Saint Cecilia, Mother of Music

A Homily – The Gospel of Mark 13:24-32

Mark 13:24-32 ©

 The Gospel of the Day – 2015.11.15 (Sunday)

Jesus said, ‘In those days, after the time of distress, the sun will be darkened, the moon will lose its brightness, the stars will come falling from heaven and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory; then too he will send the angels to gather his chosen from the four winds, from the ends of the world to the ends of heaven.

  ‘Take the fig tree as a parable: as soon as its twigs grow supple and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. So with you when you see these things happening: know that he is near, at the very gates. I tell you solemnly, before this generation has passed away all these things will have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

  ‘But as for that day or hour, nobody knows it, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son; no one but the Father.’ (NJB)

On the Limits of Human Understanding

Pay attention to the Gospel, and be mindful of the limits that human agency possesses.

It is instructive.

The authors of this Gospel came to the end of their ability to narrate the life and mission of Jesus.

They allowed their own imagination, their own fears, their misguided notions of what the mission of Jesus was, to come in and take the place of wisdom.

Jesus is transformed from the humble teacher and preacher that he was in life, into a figure descending from heaven in power and glory. Jesus would have been the first to tell them that power and glory are no substitute peace and love, for justice and mercy.

The same thing is true for individuals, for nations, and for societies, there are times of conflict and there are times of peace, there are times of despair and there are times of hope, there are times of confusion and there are times of understanding. When we are farthest away from the light, we are able to see it in greater focus as the point that draws us. Allow yourself to be drawn in by the light.

Jesus did not come back in the lifetime of the Gospel writers. It is unfortunate but they allowed the co-mingling of their fears and their hopes to write a series of lies into the narrative of Jesus’ life.

The church has been stuck trying to interpret these lies ever since.

Heaven and earth are here, they are going nowhere. There is no end time for God’s creation, but there is an end for us.

When our end comes, what will we say of our lives; that we lived in fear of the coming of the end, or that we lived them in hope, with trust, in the service of justice and love?

The 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

A Homily – The Gospel of Mark 12: 38 – 44

In his teaching Jesus said, ‘Beware of the scribes who like to walk about in long robes, to be greeted obsequiously in the market squares, to take the front seats in the synagogues and the places of honour at banquets; these are the men who swallow the property of widows, while making a show of lengthy prayers. The more severe will be the sentence they receive.’

He sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the treasury, and many of the rich put in a great deal. A poor widow came and put in two small coins, the equivalent of a penny. Then he called his disciples and said to them, ‘I tell you solemnly, this poor widow has put more in than all who have contributed to the treasury; for they have all put in money they had over, but she from the little she had has put in everything she possessed, all she had to live on.’ (NJB)

I read a headline today, the Good Pope Francis is saddened by the number of priests, and prelates who use their office to enrich themselves; loving money, seemingly more than they love the people who they have been appointed to serve.

I think of the priesthood today, the priests strolling around in their long dresses. Doing today exactly what Mark complained about, in regards to the scribes.

Today’s priests are yesterday’s scribes.

I think of the monies that all churches spend on their liturgies, their choirs, their incense, their candles; ostensibly to honor the creator, but really I think it is vanity, and they seek only to honor themselves, to take pride in their pageantry, and pat themselves on the back.

The liturgies themselves do little to honor God, or creation, with the creeds and the common prayers serving more to divide one group from another than to bring them together. In my church, the Catholic church, even the eucharist (imagined as God’s own self) is used as a bludgeon, to beat back the people if they are not toeing the line. Those traditions dishonor the gospel, by seeking to keep God confined.

The real presence of God is already alive in all people. The church, if it is to be relevant to more than a few, needs to empty itself, empty its treasury, and meet God where God is living in the hearts of God’s ministers, in the hearts of their neighbors, in the poor, and the sick, in the criminal as well as the “good” citizen.

The church must emulate the widow in this Gospel, and give all it has.