A Homily – John 15:18 – 21 ©

The Gospel According to John – 2017.05.21

 

 

Getting it Wrong

 

It is often the case that the writers of John’s Gospel express these confusing and misleading sentiments.

 

The world did not hate Jesus, though it is true that some people did. Their hatred arose from fear, and it led to anger, which resulted in Jesus’ death.

 

This was not a cosmic event, it was a political murder, and it did not achieve its objective, beyond the killing of Jesus.

 

It was an ordinary execution.

 

The writers of John fail to understand two key principles in Jesus’ teaching; the power of conversion, and the ease with which people fall away, even the closest initiate.

 

Those who persecute the faith one day may become the most ardent supporters the next, like Saul of Tarsus, who became the apostle, Saint Paul.

 

Those who were closest to the tradition, can turn against it, like Judas, who sold Jesus into captivity.

 

The faithful can turn against their community, and then turn back toward it again, as was the case with Simon, who became Saint Peter, whom Jesus called Satan, and yet still invited to his table, who denied Jesus on the night of his arrest, and then became the rock on which the church was built, who died a martyr in Rome.

 

What joy and what travail we may experience in life because we are Christians, these things have less to do with Jesus, than they have to do with the day to day struggles that all people experience here on earth, the struggle for food, and shelter, for clean water, for life, and dignity and human rights.

 

We do the tradition a disservice if we make those struggles into something cosmic and fantastic, instead of seeing them for the ordinary pleasures and tribulations of life.

 

 

They Do Not Know

 

Jesus said to his disciples:

 

‘If the world hates you, remember that it hated me before you. If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you do not belong to the world, because my choice withdrew you from the world, therefore the world hates you.

 

Remember the words I said to you: A servant is not greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will persecute you too; if they kept my word, they will keep yours as well.

 

But it will be on my account that they will do all this, because they do not know the one who sent me.’

 

6th Sunday of Easter

A Homily – The Gospel of John 20:19-31 ©

The Gospel of the Day – 2017.04.23

 

The Gospel of John 20:19-31

Gospel Acclamation Jn 20:29

Second Reading 1 Peter 1:3-9 ©

Psalm 117(118):2-4,13-15,22-24 ©

First Reading Acts 2:42-47 ©

 

Faith is Trust, Not Belief

The early Christian communities flourished because they believed in one another, The trusted one another, the relied on one another. They held their possessions in common and the lived according to their beliefs. They shared their food, their clean water, their way of life.

 

Because of their example, their communities grew.

 

It was not their faith in the risen Christ that caused their communities to grow, it was their faith in each other, strengthened by the example that Jesus had set which allowed them to flourish, and endure persecution.

 

This is not to say that the good news of the resurrection was not a binding doctrine for the early church, it was. But hat bound them even more closely together was the living witness to that teaching which they shared with one another.

 

The witness that God, the creator of the universe, is kind, loving, and merciful.

 

Jesus taught this above all things, and for a few short years this was the principle teaching of the Church he founded. Jesus taught that God is a loving father, abba, and God approaches God’s children in the spirit of love, always, even when God is exercising judgment, and administering justice.

 

The Church, like God, has no enemies.

 

God does not dwell behind the wall of a city, a temple, a cathedral a basilica.

 

There are no gates barring access to God, there are no barriers, in the world or in the mind, or in the true dogma of the church..

 

God is in all places, at all times and in the hearts of all people.

 

God does not favor one child above another.

 

God is a bringing of life, not death. God loves peace, not war.

 

Remember, God is the parent of everyone, the creator of the universe, and everything in it.

 

The resurrection of Jesus (if you believe in it) is a gift of hope. It is a reason to trust in what had theretofore been unseen, and what has been promised to everyone.

 

Whether we believe in the resurrection or not, this does not matter, the resurrection is the destiny that God has set in place for every person, not one of God’s children will be left out.

 

What faith in the resurrection does: it makes it easier to live the good life. When your belief in God’s love for you is firm, it is much easier to pray for those who persecute you, to love your enemy, to lead a just life, of kindness and sharing and mercy.

 

What faith in the resurrection is not: it is not an article of belief that a Christian holds onto, granting them access to paradise.

 

Faith will not protect you from evil, either from within or from without.

 

Be mindful of what Saint Peter taught, Peter is mistaken.

 

Peter praises the faithful for their love and devotion to Jesus, for their belief in Jesus as the Christ, as an object of devotion, as an idea fixe. This makes transforms our image of Jesus into an idol; calling Christians to give their love and devotion to an image, instead of to the way of life that he taught.

 

Peter is mistaken.

 

Do not tell people to be happy in their suffering, because they are suffering for a great cause. Do not tell them this. If a person is suffering something which they must endure, because they have no choice, so be it. Boost them up, support them, give them hope, but do not speak to them about the honor and glory of their suffering, and do not promise rewards for their suffering in the next life, do not promise these things in the name of idols.

 

When Christian faith moves away from the living tradition, and ceases to be way of life, when it stops being about people, becoming a partisan thing, a thing of ideology, and doctrine, then the way is lost.

 

The Gospel for the second Sunday of Easter moves us for away from the ministry of Jesus and into the life of the early church, into the era of partisanship.

 

John’s Gospel was written roughly one hundred-twenty years after Jesus died. This reading contains some fascinating glimpses into the life of John’s community.

 

John says that on the night Jesus was crucified the apostles hid in the upper room for fear of the Jews, indicating the deep division that had already taken place between the nascent church and the Jewish people who founded it.

 

Jesus and the apostles were Jewish. Ninety years before John’s gospel was written, Saint Paul was active in his ministry to the gentiles, arguing with St. Peter about the notion that gentiles must first become observant Jews before they could join the church.

 

St. Paul won that argument. The church opened to the world, and ninety years later it would come to see the Jewish tradition and its people as anathema to itself.

 

There was great concern for the church and its authority in this time. The image and understanding of who Jesus is changes. Jesus is reimagined as a priest doing priestly things; commissioning the disciples, instantiating their office, and empowering the to pass judgement on people, to forgive or not forgive sins as the disciples saw fit.

 

This flies in the face of the historical Jesus, a man who was not a priest, but was a prophet.

 

Jesus forgave sins, and encourages the disciples to forgive sins, not because they had the special power to do so, but because God, the creator of the universe, forgives sins. When the prophet proclaims absolution, they are not exercising a special power, they are proclaiming the will of God, and announcing something that has already happened.

 

This reading encourages the people to respond to mystical deeds and magical happenings; ghostly apparitions and visions, as if the claim that these supernatural events took place lent some greater authority to their work.

 

Many are taken in by this sort of thing, it is an appeal to magical thinking, but those types of appeals are always fabrications and lies.

 

In the final passage the gospel writer puts forth the notion that the miracles were real, they were performed so that people would believe that Jesus is (in a special way) the son of God, and that through this belief they would come into the church named after him, and thus become candidates for eternal life.

 

The construction of this ideology is: come to the church where the Gospel is given, learn the name of Jesus Christ, believe that he is the Son of God, receive that belief as an object or an article of faith, present that belief at the gates of, and be rewarded with eternal life.

 

The scheme of this tradition, which will be familiar to most Christians, this scheme is Gnostic.

 

The church rejected Gnosticism and these themes in the same era that John’s Gospel was written.

 

We should to.

 

The meaning of faith is trust; trust in God.

 

The meaning of faith is not belief, belief in a proposition or an article of dogma.

 

Christian faith is not; believe in Christ so that you can be saved. It is; trust God, that you are saved already.

 

First Reading Acts 2:42-47 ©

The whole community remained faithful to the teaching of the apostles, to the brotherhood, to the breaking of bread and to the prayers.

 

The many miracles and signs worked through the apostles made a deep impression on everyone.

 

The faithful all lived together and owned everything in common; they sold their goods and possessions and shared out the proceeds among themselves according to what each one needed.

 

They went as a body to the Temple every day but met in their houses for the breaking of bread; they shared their food gladly and generously; they praised God and were looked up to by everyone. Day by day the Lord added to their community those destined to be saved.

 

Psalm 117(118):2-4,13-15,22-24 ©

Give thanks to the Lord for he is good, for his love has no end.

 

Let the sons of Israel say:

‘His love has no end.’

Let the sons of Aaron say:

‘His love has no end.’

Let those who fear the Lord say:

‘His love has no end.’

 

Give thanks to the Lord for he is good, for his love has no end.

 

I was thrust down, thrust down and falling,

but the Lord was my helper.

The Lord is my strength and my song;

he was my saviour.

There are shouts of joy and victory

in the tents of the just.

 

Give thanks to the Lord for he is good, for his love has no end.

 

The stone which the builders rejected

has become the corner stone.

This is the work of the Lord,

a marvel in our eyes.

This day was made by the Lord;

we rejoice and are glad.

 

Give thanks to the Lord for he is good, for his love has no end.

 

Second Reading 1 Peter 1:3-9 ©

Blessed be God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who in his great mercy has given us a new birth as his sons, by raising Jesus Christ from the dead, so that we have a sure hope and the promise of an inheritance that can never be spoilt or soiled and never fade away, because it is being kept for you in the heavens. Through your faith, God’s power will guard you until the salvation which has been prepared is revealed at the end of time. This is a cause of great joy for you, even though you may for a short time have to bear being plagued by all sorts of trials; so that, when Jesus Christ is revealed, your faith will have been tested and proved like gold – only it is more precious than gold, which is corruptible even though it bears testing by fire – and then you will have praise and glory and honour. You did not see him, yet you love him; and still without seeing him, you are already filled with a joy so glorious that it cannot be described, because you believe; and you are sure of the end to which your faith looks forward, that is, the salvation of your souls.

 

Gospel Acclamation Jn 20:29

Alleluia, alleluia!

Jesus said: ‘You believe because you can see me.

Happy are those who have not seen and yet believe.’

Alleluia!

 

The Gospel of John 20:19-31

In the evening of that same day, the first day of the week, the doors were closed in the room where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews. Jesus came and stood among them. He said to them, ‘Peace be with you’, and showed them his hands and his side. The disciples were filled with joy when they saw the Lord, and he said to them again, ‘Peace be with you.

 

‘As the Father sent me, so am I sending you.’

 

After saying this he breathed on them and said:

 

‘Receive the Holy Spirit. For those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven; for those whose sins you retain, they are retained.’

 

Thomas, called the Twin, who was one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. When the disciples said, ‘We have seen the Lord’, he answered, ‘Unless I see the holes that the nails made in his hands and can put my finger into the holes they made, and unless I can put my hand into his side, I refuse to believe.’ Eight days later the disciples were in the house again and Thomas was with them. The doors were closed, but Jesus came in and stood among them. ‘Peace be with you’ he said. Then he spoke to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; look, here are my hands. Give me your hand; put it into my side. Doubt no longer but believe.’ Thomas replied, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him:

 

‘You believe because you can see me.

 

Happy are those who have not seen and yet believe.’

 

There were many other signs that Jesus worked and the disciples saw, but they are not recorded in this book. These are recorded so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing this you may have life through his name.

 

(NJB)

 

2nd Sunday of Easter

A Homily – The Gospel of John 20:1-9 ©

Gospel Acclamation – 1Cor 5:7-8

Second Reading – Colossians 3:1-4 ©

Sequence

Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 117(118):1-2,16-17,22-23 ©

First Reading – Acts 10:34,37-43 ©

 

The Faith

Follow Jesus. Do good. Love justice. Be merciful; be a source of healing in the world.

 

This is the way, of Easter hope believe in the way.

 

The way is the law, and the law is life.

 

God’s law is written in hearts. God speaks to us there.

 

The Creator of the universe, and everything in it, speaks to us in terms of love, and mercy, and kindness.

 

All other versions of God’s law are merely reflections of it, dim and imperfect.

 

God’s law is a living flame. Look into the flames, and see it shimmering, wrapping itself around the coals. It is good to uphold God’s law, to demonstrate it by right living.

 

We are truly alive in the world. Our faith calls on us to live as if we believed that the promise of our salvation were true, as if it were true and already, and fully accomplished.

 

This is the meaning of the Gospel, the good news that Christ has risen. Christian faith is trust in this proposition, trust in the belief that you, and everyone, will rise too, not as a transaction in exchange for our “belief,” but merely because God loves us.

 

Imagine the holy family of God, God who created the universe and everything that is in it.

 

Imagine the holy family, by which I mean the entirety of creation.

 

Imagine all of us living in the garden now; at peace, without want, or enmity, living in that place where we are able to see clearly, that our relationships with each other are more important than gold, political power, or any other earthly treasure.

 

Celebrate the feast of Easter, take part in it and accept the realities that Jesus pointed to, through his life, his death, and resurrection. It does not matter if any of it is literally true, or not.

 

Believe in it, even in the dark times, even in times as dark as the first Sunday morning, when Mary Magdala came to the tomb.

 

She was at the foot of the cross when Jesus was crucified. It was she who anointed him for burial. She was the first to receive the revelation that Jesus had risen.

 

It was dark when she arrived at the tomb, but not completely, and in the dim light of morning she saw a hint of the truth that would unfold as the sun rose, filling the day with light.

 

She saw the stone rolled away from the tomb, and found the tomb empty.

 

At first she assumed that someone had come, and removed the body of Jesus, taken and hidden him somewhere.

 

She hurried to find the others, and tell them what she had found.

 

When the other disciples arrived on the scene and explored the empty tomb for themselves, the understanding of what had transpired began to take hold.

 

They saw the empty tomb, the burial garments cast aside, and they understood that Jesus had been raised from the dead.

 

On that belief, and on the strength of their witness the Church was born, but the Church was not built on the foundation of Peter’s faith, which faltered and failed on the night Jesus was arrested.

 

It was built on the faith of women, like Mary, and the other women who never abandoned Jesus, who did everything in their power to make the path that was in front of him smooth.

 

Throughout his ministry it was the women among his disciples who knew, who always understood the power of his message, and the necessity of responding to it in faith, not with propositions and creeds, but with action and a living witness. They were never confused about his mission.

 

They always understood how it would end.

 

While his male disciples tripped over themselves, doubted him, doubted each other, vied for supremacy, betrayed him, denied him, sold him into captivity; while all of that was going on, the women were steadfast by his side.

 

They anointed him, they witnessed his trial. They set aside their fear. They stood by him as he was crucified, they buried him, they waited by the tomb, and they were the first to see him risen.

 

They followed him to the end, and served as an example to us all.

 

God bless these women, and their faith, it was a comfort to Jesus in his final hours.

 

Easter Sunday – Easter

 

 

The Readings of the Day – 2017.04.16 (Easter Sunday) Primary Readings

 

First Reading – Acts 10:34,37-43 ©

 

Peter addressed Cornelius and his household: ‘You must have heard about the recent happenings in Judaea; about Jesus of Nazareth and how he began in Galilee, after John had been preaching baptism. God had anointed him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and because God was with him, Jesus went about doing good and curing all who had fallen into the power of the devil. Now I, and those with me, can witness to everything he did throughout the countryside of Judaea and in Jerusalem itself: and also to the fact that they killed him by hanging him on a tree, yet three days afterwards God raised him to life and allowed him to be seen, not by the whole people but only by certain witnesses God had chosen beforehand. Now we are those witnesses – we have eaten and drunk with him after his resurrection from the dead – and he has ordered us to proclaim this to his people and to tell them that God has appointed him to judge everyone, alive or dead. It is to him that all the prophets bear this witness: that all who believe in Jesus will have their sins forgiven through his name.’

 

Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 117(118):1-2,16-17,22-23 ©

 

This day was made by the Lord: we rejoice and are glad.

 

Give thanks to the Lord for he is good,

for his love has no end.

Let the sons of Israel say:

‘His love has no end.’

 

This day was made by the Lord: we rejoice and are glad.

 

The Lord’s right hand has triumphed;

his right hand raised me up.

I shall not die, I shall live

and recount his deeds.

 

This day was made by the Lord: we rejoice and are glad.

 

The stone which the builders rejected

has become the corner stone.

This is the work of the Lord,

a marvel in our eyes.

 

This day was made by the Lord: we rejoice and are glad.

 

Second Reading – Colossians 3:1-4 ©

 

Since you have been brought back to true life with Christ, you must look for the things that are in heaven, where Christ is, sitting at God’s right hand. Let your thoughts be on heavenly things, not on the things that are on the earth, because you have died, and now the life you have is hidden with Christ in God. But when Christ is revealed – and he is your life – you too will be revealed in all your glory with him.

 

Gospel Acclamation – 1Cor5:7-8

 

Alleluia, alleluia!

Christ, our passover, has been sacrificed:

let us celebrate the feast then, in the Lord.

Alleluia!

 

The Gospel of John 20:1-9 © – The Empty Tomb

 

It was very early on the first day of the week and still dark, when Mary of Magdala came to the tomb. She saw that the stone had been moved away from the tomb and came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved. ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb’ she said ‘and we don’t know where they have put him.’

 

So Peter set out with the other disciple to go to the tomb. They ran together, but the other disciple, running faster than Peter, reached the tomb first; he bent down and saw the linen cloths lying on the ground, but did not go in. Simon Peter who was following now came up, went right into the tomb, saw the linen cloths on the ground, and also the cloth that had been over his head; this was not with the linen cloths but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple who had reached the tomb first also went in; he saw and he believed. Till this moment they had failed to understand the teaching of scripture, that he must rise from the dead.

 

(NJB)

A Homily – Matthew 17:1 – 9 ©

The Gospel According to Matthew – 2017.03.12

 

 

The Transfiguration

 

 

Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain where they could be alone. There in their presence he was transfigured: his face shone like the sun and his clothes became as white as the light. Suddenly Moses and Elijah appeared to them; they were talking with him. Then Peter spoke to Jesus. ‘Lord,’ he said ‘it is wonderful for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.’ He was still speaking when suddenly a bright cloud covered them with shadow, and from the cloud there came a voice which said, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved; he enjoys my favour. Listen to him.’ When they heard this the disciples fell on their faces overcome with fear. But Jesus came up and touched them. ‘Stand up,’ he said ‘do not be afraid.’ And when they raised their eyes they saw no one but only Jesus.

 

As they came down from the mountain Jesus gave them this order, ‘Tell no one about the vision until the Son of Man has risen from the dead.’

 

 

Constructing Idols in Narrative

 

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

 

Let the Spirit of Truth guide us, even if it means rejecting a passage such as this.

 

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

 

It may have been that at such event Jesus connected for his followers the essential message that his ministry was in line with that of Moses, the liberator, the law giver; and Elijah, the truthteller.

 

The supernatural events described here did not happen.

 

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

 

The disciples were also to understand that the ministry of Jesus was also in keeping with that of Enoch, for Enoch is the Son of Man, and he was expected to return.

 

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

 

Always read the gospel in such a way that you strip from it the fantastical elements. Those are not elucidating and they are contrary to the way.

 

Read through those fantasies only to understand what they tell us about what they people believed who witnessed Jesus’ life, and wrote his story. There is no other wisdom to be had from them.

 

 

2nd Sunday of Lent

A Homily – The Gospel of John 20:1-19 ©

The Gospel of the Day – 2016.04.10

 

Look After My Sheep

Jesus showed himself again to the disciples. It was by the Sea of Tiberias, and it happened like this: Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee and two more of his disciples were together. Simon Peter said, ‘I’m going fishing.’ They replied, ‘We’ll come with you.’ They went out and got into the boat but caught nothing that night.

It was light by now and there stood Jesus on the shore, though the disciples did not realise that it was Jesus. Jesus called out, ‘Have you caught anything, friends?’ And when they answered, ‘No’, he said, ‘Throw the net out to starboard and you’ll find something.’ So they dropped the net, and there were so many fish that they could not haul it in. The disciple Jesus loved said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord.’ At these words ‘It is the Lord’, Simon Peter, who had practically nothing on, wrapped his cloak round him and jumped into the water. The other disciples came on in the boat, towing the net and the fish; they were only about a hundred yards from land.

As soon as they came ashore they saw that there was some bread there, and a charcoal fire with fish cooking on it. Jesus said, ‘Bring some of the fish you have just caught.’ Simon Peter went aboard and dragged the net to the shore, full of big fish, one hundred and fifty-three of them; and in spite of there being so many the net was not broken. Jesus said to them, ‘Come and have breakfast.’ None of the disciples was bold enough to ask, ‘Who are you?’; they knew quite well it was the Lord. Jesus then stepped forward, took the bread and gave it to them, and the same with the fish. This was the third time that Jesus showed himself to the disciples after rising from the dead.

After the meal Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me more than these others do?’ He answered, ‘Yes Lord, you know I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my lambs.’ A second time he said to him, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ He replied, ‘Yes, Lord, you know I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Look after my sheep.’ Then he said to him a third time, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ Peter was upset that he asked him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’ and said, ‘Lord, you know everything; you know I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my sheep.

‘I tell you most solemnly,

when you were young

you put on your own belt

and walked where you liked;

but when you grow old

you will stretch out your hands,

and somebody else will put a belt round you

and take you where you would rather not go.’

 

In these words he indicated the kind of death by which Peter would give glory to God. After this he said, ‘Follow me.’

(NJB)

Caretaking is the Christian Mission – And there is No Other

 

What does it mean to be a Christian?

To be a member of the body of Christ?

What does it mean to be a disciple?

To be a student in the school of faith?

 

In the reading for today there are miracles and visions, there are portents and prophecies, but most significantly, toward they end; there is a moment of instruction.

Jesus is with Peter; Simon by his given name. They are sitting together after breakfast in a moment of earnest talk. Jesus knows that he is handing over the leadership of his movement to this man with whom he often disagreed. Jesus had rebuked him severely; calling him Satan, the enemy. Peter had abandoned Jesus when he was arrested and denied him in front of crowds of people. Despite those failings, or perhaps because of what Peter had learned from them; Jesus spoke to him in a loving manner. He beseeched Peter to in turn be just as loving toward the community that would grow from the seeds of faith…of trust, that the two of them had planted.

In the same way that Jesus had rebuked Peter three times, in the same way that Peter had denied Jesus three times, Peter now confessed hi love for Jesus three times, and issued the following commission three times:

Feed my lambs. Look after my sheep, Feed my sheep.

If Jesus gave Simon a new name; Peter, the rock, as an indication that he has been given the responsibility of establishing the foundation of the church that is to come, then the injunction given here is meant to establish the foundation of the Christian mission: caring, feeding, loving.

Whoever does these things, follows Christ.

3rd Sunday of Easter

A Homily – The Gospel of John 20:19-31 ©

The Gospel of the Day – 2016.04.02

 

The Doubt

In the evening of that same day, the first day of the week, the doors were closed in the room where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews. Jesus came and stood among them. He said to them, ‘Peace be with you’, and showed them his hands and his side. The disciples were filled with joy when they saw the Lord, and he said to them again, ‘Peace be with you.

‘As the Father sent me, so am I sending you.’

After saying this he breathed on them and said:

‘Receive the Holy Spirit. For those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven; for those whose sins you retain, they are retained.’

Thomas, called the Twin, who was one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. When the disciples said, ‘We have seen the Lord’, he answered, ‘Unless I see the holes that the nails made in his hands and can put my finger into the holes they made, and unless I can put my hand into his side, I refuse to believe.’ Eight days later the disciples were in the house again and Thomas was with them. The doors were closed, but Jesus came in and stood among them. ‘Peace be with you’ he said. Then he spoke to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; look, here are my hands. Give me your hand; put it into my side. Doubt no longer but believe.’ Thomas replied, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him:

‘You believe because you can see me.

Happy are those who have not seen and yet believe.’

There were many other signs that Jesus worked and the disciples saw, but they are not recorded in this book. These are recorded so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing this you may have life through his name.

(NJB)

Faith is Trust, Not Belief

The reading for today moves us for away from the ministry of Jesus and into the life of the early church.

John’s Gospel was written roughly one hundred-twenty years after Jesus. This reading contains some fascinating glimpses into the life of John’s community.

John’s says that the apostles hid in the upper room for fear of the Jews; indicating the deep division that had already taken place between the nascent church and the Jewish people who founded it.

Jesus and the apostles were Jewish. Ninety years before John’s gospel was written, St. Paul was active in his ministry to the gentiles, arguing with St. Peter about the notion that gentiles must first become observant Jews before they could join the church.

St. Paul won that argument. The church became opened to the world, and ninety years later would come to see the Jewish tradition and its people as anathema to itself.

There was great concern for the church and its authority in this time. Jesus is imagined as a priest doing priestly things; commissioning the disciples, instantiating their office, and empowering the to pass judgement on people, to forgive or not forgive sins as the disciples saw fit.

This flies in the face of the historical Jesus; who was not a priest, but was a prophet. Jesus forgave sins, and encourages the disciples to forgive sins, not because they had the special power to do so, but because God, the creator of the universe, forgive sins. When the prophet proclaims absolution, they are not exercising a special power, they are proclaiming the will of God, and announcing something that has already happened.

This reading encourages the people to respond to mystical deeds and magical happenings; ghostly apparitions and visions, as if the claim that these supernatural events took place lent some greater authority to their work.

Many are taken in by this sort of thing, but it is always a fabrication and a lie.

In the final passage the gospel writer puts forth the notion that the miracles were real, they were performed so that people would believe that Jesus is (in a special way) the son of God, and that through this belief they would come into the church named after him, and thus become candidates for eternal life.

The construction of this ideology is; come to the church where the Gospel is given, learn the of Jesus Christ, believe it he is the Son, be rewarded with eternal life.

The scheme is Gnostic.

The church rejected it in this same era.

We should to.

The meaning of faith is trust; trust in God.

The meaning of faith is not belief, belief in a proposition or an article of dogma.

Christian faith is not; believe in Christ so that you can be saved. It is; trust God, that you are saved already.

2nd Sunday of Easter

A Homily – The Gospel of John 20:1-9 ©

The Gospel of the Day – 2016.03.27 (Easter Sunday)

 The Empty Tomb

It was very early on the first day of the week and still dark, when Mary of Magdala came to the tomb. She saw that the stone had been moved away from the tomb and came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved. ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb’ she said ‘and we don’t know where they have put him.’

So Peter set out with the other disciple to go to the tomb. They ran together, but the other disciple, running faster than Peter, reached the tomb first; he bent down and saw the linen cloths lying on the ground, but did not go in. Simon Peter who was following now came up, went right into the tomb, saw the linen cloths on the ground, and also the cloth that had been over his head; this was not with the linen cloths but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple who had reached the tomb first also went in; he saw and he believed. Till this moment they had failed to understand the teaching of scripture, that he must rise from the dead.

 (NJB)

The Foundation of the Church

On this Easter Sunday, the reading for the day does not offer a great deal of theology to engage in. The narrative is brief. And relatively straight-forward.

It was dark on Sunday morning, when Mary Magdala came to the tomb. She was at the foot of the cross when Jesus was crucified. It was she who anointed him for burial, and she was the first to receive the revelation that Jesus had risen.

It was dark when she arrived at the tomb, but not completely, and in the dim light of morning she saw a hint of the truth that would unfold as the sun rose, and filled the day with light.

She saw the stone rolled away from the tomb, and found the tomb empty.

At first she assumed that someone had come and removed the body of Jesus; taken and hidden him somewhere.

She hurried to find the others, and tell them what she had found. When the other disciples arrived on the scene and explored the empty tomb for themselves, the understanding of what had transpired began to take hold.

They saw the empty tomb, the burial garments cast aside, and they understood that Jesus had been raised from the dead.

On that belief, and on the strength of their witness the Church was born, but the Church was not built on the foundation of Peter’s faith. It was built on the faith of women; the women who never abandoned Jesus, and did everything in their power to make smooth the path that was in front of him.

Throughout his ministry it was the women who surrounded him who always knew, always understood the power of his message. They were never confused about his mission. They always understood how it would end.

While his male disciples tripped over themselves, doubted him, doubted each other, vied for supremacy, betrayed him, denied him, sold him into captivity; while all of that was going on, the women were steadfast by his side. They anointed him, they witnessed his trial, they stood by him as he was crucified, they buried him, they waited by the tomb, and they were the first to see him risen.

God bless these women, and their faith, it was a comfort to Jesus in his final hours.

And then those same foolish men put them aside. Took over the narrative, and did their best to wash their names from the Gospel.

Easter Sunday – Easter

A Homily – The Gospel of Luke 9:28-36 ©

The Gospel of the Day – 2016.02.21 (Sunday)

 

The Transfiguration of Christ

 

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. (NJB)

Myth and Reason

 

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

Mythology; the words we use to contextualize our experience, when we wish to speak in metaphors, and analogies, so that we may link our experiences to the 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, when the motif of the metaphor, or the allegory are understood and properly balanced, when you engage this narrative with your eyes wide open. By the same token theology can be irrational, when the assumptions we make about the nature of reality, the nature of humanity, 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. It is likely, that this is so because the root of the narrative in itself has its origins in a fundamental misunderstanding of who Jesus was.

It may be the case that those who first gave voice to the narrative, and those who first penned it, only intended the message to be 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 the 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 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.

This fantasy-based in interpretation has led to great confusion through the centuries. Incredible conflict has ensued based on these fantastic beliefs; conflict and bloody warfare among Christians, and with non-Christians. All because they felt the need to take sides on the question of who Jesus was, and defend their side with violence.

It is a tragedy.

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 way that points the way for us; to live in a moral and just society to, for our own understanding of that truth to flow from it.

2nd Sunday of Lent