A Homily – John 6:1-15 ©

The Gospel According to John – 2018.07.29

Propaganda

The reading for today is a gross misrepresentation the ministry of Jesus and the way that he preached.

This reading from the Gospel of John is piece of pure propaganda, as such it is an example of the type of writing that should be struck from the sacred text. It never should have made the cannon.

The gospel writers took a story from the common tradition and embellished it. They transformed a story that was suggestive of a miracle, the feeding of the multitudes, and transformed it into an explicit work of magic.

In other versions of this story the miracle of faith which led to the feeding of the people could be read as having come from the people themselves, because they were following the way that Jesus was leading them in.

Other versions of this story allow for a reading which suggests that the people, seeing how little food there was to be passed around, contributed to the stores of foodstuffs that they each had on the person; those without enough taking what they needed, and those with extra giving what they had in the spirit of communitarianism and hospitality.

That is better reading of this story, but the authors of John’s Gospel were not content with that. They could not resist the temptation to embellish and give the credit to Jesus’ supernatural powers.

Such a move undercuts that teaching of Jesus, the way he preached, is a living way. It does not require faith in magic powers, but trust in your fellow human beings, along with a basic commitment to justice and compassion.
The Feeding of the Five Thousand

Jesus went off to the other side of the Sea of Galilee – or of Tiberias – and a large crowd followed him, impressed by the signs he gave by curing the sick. Jesus climbed the hillside, and sat down there with his disciples. It was shortly before the Jewish feast of Passover.

Looking up, Jesus saw the crowds approaching and said to Philip, ‘Where can we buy some bread for these people to eat?’ He only said this to test Philip; he himself knew exactly what he was going to do. Philip answered, ‘Two hundred denarii would only buy enough to give them a small piece each.’ One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said, ‘There is a small boy here with five barley loaves and two fish; but what is that between so many?’ Jesus said to them, ‘Make the people sit down.’ There was plenty of grass there, and as many as five thousand men sat down. Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, and gave them out to all who were sitting ready; he then did the same with the fish, giving out as much as was wanted. When they had eaten enough he said to the disciples, ‘Pick up the pieces left over, so that nothing gets wasted.’ So they picked them up, and filled twelve hampers with scraps left over from the meal of five barley loaves. The people, seeing this sign that he had given, said, ‘This really is the prophet who is to come into the world.’ Jesus, who could see they were about to come and take him by force and make him king, escaped back to the hills by himself.
17th Sunday in Ordinary Time

A Homily – Mark 4:26-34 ©

The Gospel According to Mark – 2018.06.17

 

Parables and Propaganda

Jesus taught with parables, using analogy and metaphors, I think this must be true. This is not because Jesus wanted to keep the truth from the people, or because he wanted to cloak the secrets of the universe in mystery, but because the subjects: God, and the nature of reality are inherently mysterious.

Be mindful of these matters, and know this; God is not a king, God is a friend, a brother, a sister, a parent. God is a gardener, and the fullness of God, exists in the seed as it is sewn, as well as the bush when it is grown. From sewing to harvest it is one and the same thing. We are not called on to wait for it while it grows.

Know this, it is the propaganda of the gospel writers and the early church, it is a function of their vanity that they wrote the lines, suggesting that they themselves were given special teaching by Jesus. We know this, because even with their privileged position as the people who were closest to Jesus while he lived, this did not enable them to understand the events of the crucifixion or before or after his arrest and trial.

Remember it was one of the twelve who sold him out, and in the aftermath the other eleven abandoned him, only a handful of women stayed by his side.

 

The Kingdom of God is a Mustard Seed Growing into the Biggest Shrub of All

Jesus said to the crowds: ‘This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man throws seed on the land. Night and day, while he sleeps, when he is awake, the seed is sprouting and growing; how, he does not know. Of its own accord the land produces first the shoot, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. And when the crop is ready, he loses no time: he starts to reap because the harvest has come.’

He also said, ‘What can we say the kingdom of God is like? What parable can we find for it? It is like a mustard seed which at the time of its sowing in the soil is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet once it is sown it grows into the biggest shrub of them all and puts out big branches so that the birds of the air can shelter in its shade.’

Using many parables like these, he spoke the word to them, so far as they were capable of understanding it. He would not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything to his disciples when they were alone.

11th Sunday in Ordinary Time

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 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

A Homily – John 1:35 – 42 ©

The Gospel According to John – 2018.01.014

 

John and Jesus, and Peter Too

It is important to note that John’s Gospel, being the latest, and last to be written, coming nearly one-hundred and fifty years after the death of Jesus, takes a radical departure from any attempt to present the life of Jesus in a historical context.

The authors of John, only follow the timeline presented in the synoptic gospels; Mark, Matthew and Luke, because that narrative structure had successfully planted itself in the consciousness of the early church.

Nevertheless, John leaps away from the synoptic narrative at every opportunity that presents itself, to insert the “faith” constructions of the early church, “beliefs” about Jesus that had developed over the course of the first century that change the meaning of Jesus’ life and death, and his mission in significant ways.

By the time John’s Gospel is written, the Church is no longer concerned with courting the disciples of John the Baptist. The authors of John skip the baptism of Jesus completely. There is no passing of the torch from one to the other, there is only a statement of recognition from the Baptist, that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the Lamb of God, and with that John’s followers pick up their things to follow him, leaving the Baptist altogether.

The authors of John are not concerned with the assimilation of John’s followers into the early church, they are concerned with the structure and hierarchy of the established church, and therefore they transform this scene into an explicit endorsement of the Petrine supremacy. In which Jesus recognizes Peter as the future leader of the church from the outset, giving him his new name, Cephas, or Rock at the beginning of the ministry.

This sets the tone for the kind of propaganda John’s gospel will be delivering from the outset.

 

The Baptism of the Jesus

As John stood with two of his disciples, Jesus passed, and John stared hard at him and said, ‘Look, there is the lamb of God.’ Hearing this, the two disciples followed Jesus. Jesus turned round, saw them following and said, ‘What do you want?’ They answered, ‘Rabbi,’ – which means Teacher – ‘where do you live?’ ‘Come and see’ he replied; so they went and saw where he lived, and stayed with him the rest of that day. It was about the tenth hour.

One of these two who became followers of Jesus after hearing what John had said was Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter. Early next morning, Andrew met his brother and said to him, ‘We have found the Messiah’ – which means the Christ – and he took Simon to Jesus. Jesus looked hard at him and said, ‘You are Simon son of John; you are to be called Cephas’ – meaning Rock.

 

2nd Sunday of Ordinary Time

A Homily – Luke 2:22 – 40 ©

 

The Gospel According to Luke – 2017.12.31

 

Fulfillment Propaganda, and Mythology

Read the narrative carefully.

It is mythology and propaganda, as such it is a deviation from the way, for the way is always found in the service of the truth.

The gospel writers gave us narratives concerning the early life of Jesus that are works of fiction, and while their intention was to help spread the Good News, and they were not acting with malice. Nevertheless they subverted the real teaching of Jesus, and left the burgeoning movement exposed to corruption.

The writer of Luke asks us to believe this narrative concerning Jesus, that he obeyed the “law,” following the forms of ritual and blood sacrifice that were proscribed in the books of his ancestors, ostensibly lending credibility to the claims of Jesus’ holiness, that he fulfills all of the ancient requirements, setting aside the realities of the prophetic tradition that Jesus stood in, the tradition that prefers acts of mercy over animal sacrifices.

Jesus taught us that the way was to be found in service; service to God, the creator of the universe through the service we provide to one another, not in the fulfillment of corrupt rituals, blood-magic, and the service to the temple.

Jesus was not a magician, Jesus was not a supernatural being. He was an ordinary man, who led an extraordinary life, and was killed for ordinary reasons: greed, jealousy, fear.

Jesus only merited the status of Christ insofar as Jesus led a life of service, which he did. He served his people to the bitter end.

We are all Christ, baptized or not, insofar as we follow the way of his example.

The mythologization of Jesus was a subversion of the way because it suggested that the ordinary service Jesus called us to, the service he exemplified, came from a place of supernatural power.

The gospel narrative serves to mythologize other people, Anna, and Simeon; ascribing to them extraordinary insight, and powers beyond the scope of normal people. Allowing for a continued separation of the people, between the ordinary believer and those who live their lives in the church or temple, between clergy and layperson, this is a disservice to the way.

 

My eyes have seen your salvation

When the day came for them to be purified as laid down by the Law of Moses, the parents of Jesus took him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord, – observing what stands written in the Law of the Lord: Every first-born male must be consecrated to the Lord – and also to offer in sacrifice, in accordance with what is said in the Law of the Lord, a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.

Now in Jerusalem there was a man named Simeon. He was an upright and devout man; he looked forward to Israel’s comforting and the Holy Spirit rested on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death until he had set eyes on the Christ of the Lord. Prompted by the Spirit he came to the Temple and when the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the Law required, he took him into his arms and blessed God; and he said:

‘Now, Master, you can let your servant go in peace, just as you promised; because my eyes have seen the salvation which you have prepared for all the nations to see, a light to enlighten the pagans and the glory of your people Israel.’

As the child’s father and mother stood there wondering at the things that were being said about him, Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, ‘You see this child: he is destined for the fall and for the rising of many in Israel, destined to be a sign that is rejected – and a sword will pierce your own soul too – so that the secret thoughts of many may be laid bare.’

There was a prophetess also, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was well on in years. Her days of girlhood over, she had been married for seven years before becoming a widow. She was now eighty-four years old and never left the Temple, serving God night and day with fasting and prayer. She came by just at that moment and began to praise God; and she spoke of the child to all who looked forward to the deliverance of Jerusalem.

When they had done everything the Law of the Lord required, they went back to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. Meanwhile the child grew to maturity, and he was filled with wisdom; and God’s favour was with him.

 

1st Sunday of Christmas

A Homily – Matthew 26:14 – 27:66 ©

The Gospel According to Matthew – 2017.04.09

 

 

The Passion

 

The Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ according to Matthew

 

Key: N. Narrator. ✠ Jesus. O. Other single speaker. C. Crowd, or more than one speaker.

  1. One of the Twelve, the man called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said,
  2. What are you prepared to give me if I hand him over to you?
  3. They paid him thirty silver pieces, and from that moment he looked for an opportunity to betray him.

Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus to say,

  1. Where do you want us to make the preparations for you to eat the passover?
  2. He replied:

✠ Go to so-and-so in the city and say to him, ‘The Master says: My time is near. It is at your house that I am keeping Passover with my disciples.’

  1. The disciples did what Jesus told them and prepared the Passover.

When evening came he was at table with the twelve disciples. And while they were eating he said:

✠ I tell you solemnly, one of you is about to betray me.

  1. They were greatly distressed and started asking him in turn,
  2. Not I, Lord, surely?
  3. He answered,

✠ Someone who has dipped his hand into the dish with me will betray me. The Son of Man is going to his fate, as the scriptures say he will, but alas for that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! Better for that man if he had never been born!

  1. Judas, who was to betray him, asked in his turn,
  2. Not I, Rabbi, surely?
  3. Jesus answered:

✠ They are your own words.

  1. Now as they were eating, Jesus took some bread, and when he had said the blessing he broke it and gave it to the disciples and said:

✠ Take it and eat; this is my body.

  1. Then he took a cup, and when he had returned thanks he gave it to them, saying:

✠ Drink, all of you, from this, for this is my blood, the blood of the covenant, which is to be poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. From now on, I tell you, I shall not drink wine until the day I drink the new wine with you in the kingdom of my Father.

  1. After psalms had been sung they left for the Mount of Olives. Then Jesus said to them,

✠ You will all lose faith in me this night, for the scripture says: I shall strike the shepherd and the sheep of the flock will be scattered, but after my resurrection I shall go before you to Galilee.

  1. At this, Peter said,
  2. Though all lose faith in you, I will never lose faith.
  3. Jesus answered him,

✠ I tell you solemnly, this very night, before the cock crows, you will have disowned me three times.

  1. Peter said to him,
  2. Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.
  3. And all the disciples said the same.

Then Jesus came with them to a small estate called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples,

✠ Stay here while I go over there to pray.

  1. He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee with him. And sadness came over him, and great distress. Then he said to them,

✠ My soul is sorrowful to the point of death. Wait here and keep awake with me.

  1. And going on a little further he fell on his face and prayed:

✠ My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass me by. Nevertheless, let it be as you, not I, would have it.

  1. He came back to the disciples and found them sleeping, and he said to Peter:

✠ So you had not the strength to keep awake with me one hour? You should be awake, and praying not to be put to the test. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.

  1. Again, a second time, he went away and prayed:

✠ My Father, if this cup cannot pass by without my drinking it, your will be done!

  1. And he came back again and found them sleeping, their eyes were so heavy. Leaving them there, he went away again and prayed for the third time, repeating the same words. Then he came back to the disciples and said to them,

✠ You can sleep on now and take your rest. Now the hour has come when the Son of Man is to be betrayed into the hands of sinners. Get up! Let us go! My betrayer is already close at hand.

  1. He was still speaking when Judas, one of the Twelve, appeared, and with him a large number of men armed with swords and clubs, sent by the chief priests and elders of the people. Now the traitor had arranged a sign with them. He had said,
  2. ‘The one I kiss, he is the man. Take him in charge.’
  3. So he went straight up to Jesus and said,
  4. Greetings, Rabbi.
  5. and kissed him. Jesus said to him,

✠ My friend, do what you are here for.

  1. Then they came forward, seized Jesus and took him in charge. At that, one of the followers of Jesus grasped his sword and drew it; he struck out at the high priest’s servant, and cut off his ear. Jesus then said,

✠ Put your sword back, for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. Or do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father who would promptly send more than twelve legions of angels to my defence? But then, how would the scriptures be fulfilled that say this is the way it must be?

  1. It was at this time that Jesus said to the crowds,

✠ Am I a brigand, that you had to set out to capture me with swords and clubs? I sat teaching in the Temple day after day and you never laid hands on me.

  1. Now all this happened to fulfil the prophecies in scripture. Then all the disciples deserted him and ran away.

The men who had arrested Jesus led him off to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders were assembled. Peter followed him at a distance, and when he reached the high priest’s palace, he went in and sat down with the attendants to see what the end would be.

The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for evidence against Jesus, however false, on which they might pass the death sentence. But they could not find any, though several lying witnesses came forward. Eventually two stepped forward and made a statement,

  1. This man said: ‘I have power to destroy the Temple of God and in three days build it up.’
  2. The high priest then stood up and said to him,
  3. Have you no answer to that? What is this evidence these men are bringing against you?
  4. But Jesus was silent. And the high priest said to him,
  5. I put you on oath by the living God to tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.
  6. Jesus answered:

✠ The words are your own. Moreover, I tell you that from this time onward you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.

  1. At this, the high priest tore his clothes and said,
  2. He has blasphemed. What need of witnesses have we now? There! You have just heard the blasphemy. What is your opinion?
  3. They answered,
  4. He deserves to die.
  5. Then they spat in his face and hit him with their fists; others said as they struck him,
  6. Play the prophet, Christ! Who hit you then?
  7. Meanwhile Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard, and a servant-girl came up to him and said,
  8. You too were with Jesus the Galilean.
  9. But he denied it in front of them all, saying:
  10. I do not know what you are talking about.
  11. When he went out to the gateway another servant-girl saw him and said to the people there,
  12. This man was with Jesus the Nazarene.
  13. And again, with an oath, he denied it:
  14. I do not know the man.
  15. A little later the bystanders came up and said to Peter,
  16. You are one of them for sure! Why, your accent gives you away.

Then he started calling down curses on himself and swearing:

  1. I do not know the man.
  2. At that moment the cock crew, and Peter remembered what Jesus had said, ‘Before the cock crows you will have disowned me three times.’ And he went outside and wept bitterly.

When morning came, all the chief priests and the elders of the people met in council to bring about the death of Jesus. They had him bound, and led him away to hand him over to Pilate, the governor.

When he found that Jesus had been condemned, Judas his betrayer was filled with remorse and took the thirty silver pieces back to the chief priests and elders, saying:

  1. I have sinned. I have betrayed innocent blood.
  2. They replied:
  3. What is that to us? That is your concern.
  4. And flinging down the silver pieces in the sanctuary he made off and hanged himself. The chief priests picked up the silver pieces and said,
  5. It is against the Law to put this into the treasury: it is blood-money.
  6. So they discussed the matter and bought the potter’s field with it as a graveyard for foreigners, and this is why the field is called the Field of Blood today. The words of the prophet Jeremiah were then fulfilled: And they took the thirty silver pieces, the sum at which the precious One was priced by children of Israel, and they gave them for the potter’s field, just as the Lord directed me.

Jesus, then, was brought before the governor, and the governor put to him this question:

  1. Are you the king of the Jews?
  2. Jesus replied,

✠ It is you who say it.

  1. But when he was accused by the chief priests and the elders he refused to answer at all. Pilate then said to him,
  2. Do you not hear how many charges they have brought against you?
  3. But to the governor’s complete amazement, he offered no reply to any of the charges.

At festival time it was the governor’s practice to release a prisoner for the people, anyone they chose. Now there was at that time a notorious prisoner whose name was Barabbas. So when the crowd gathered, Pilate said to them,

  1. Which do you want me to release for you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?
  2. For Pilate knew it was out of jealousy that they had handed him over. Now as he was seated in the chair of judgement, his wife sent him a message,
  3. Have nothing to do with that man; I have been upset all day by a dream I had about him.
  4. The chief priests and the elders, however, had persuaded the crowd to demand the release of Barabbas and the execution of Jesus. So when the governor spoke and asked them,
  5. Which of the two do you want me to release for you?
  6. they said,
  7. Barabbas.
  8. Pilate said to them:
  9. But in that case, what am I to do with Jesus who is called Christ?
  10. They all said:
  11. Let him be crucified!
  12. Pilate asked:
  13. Why? What harm has he done?
  14. But they shouted all the louder,
  15. Let him be crucified!
  16. Then Pilate saw that he was making no impression, that in fact a riot was imminent. So he took some water, washed his hands in front of the crowd and said,
  17. I am innocent of this man’s blood. It is your concern.
  18. And the people, to a man, shouted back,
  19. His blood be on us and on our children!
  20. Then he released Barabbas for them. He ordered Jesus to be first scourged and then handed over to be crucified.

The governor’s soldiers took Jesus with them into the Praetorium and collected the whole cohort round him. Then they stripped him and made him wear a scarlet cloak, and having twisted some thorns into a crown they put this on his head and placed a reed in his right hand. To make fun of him they knelt to him saying,

  1. Hail, king of the Jews!
  2. And they spat on him and took the reed and struck him on the head with it. And when they had finished making fun of him, they took off the cloak and dressed him in his own clothes and led him away to crucify him.

On their way out, they came across a man from Cyrene, Simon by name, and enlisted him to carry his cross. When they had reached a place called Golgotha, that is, the place of the skull, they gave him wine to drink mixed with gall, which he tasted but refused to drink. When they had finished crucifying him they shared out his clothing by casting lots, and then sat down and stayed there keeping guard over him.

Above his head was placed the charge against him; it read: ‘This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.’ At the same time two robbers were crucified with him, one on the right and one on the left.

The passers-by jeered at him; they shook their heads and said,

  1. So you would destroy the Temple and rebuild it in three days! Then save yourself! If you are God’s son, come down from the cross!
  2. The chief priests with the scribes and elders mocked him in the same way, saying:
  3. He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the king of Israel; let him come down from the cross now, and we will believe in him. He puts his trust in God; now let God rescue him if he wants him. For he did say, ‘I am the son of God.’
  4. Even the robbers who were crucified with him taunted him in the same way.

From the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour, Jesus cried out in a loud voice,

✠ Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?

  1. That is, ‘My God, my God, why have you deserted me?’ When some of those who stood there heard this, they said,
  2. The man is calling on Elijah.
  3. and one of them quickly ran to get a sponge which he dipped in vinegar and, putting it on a reed, gave it him to drink. The rest of them said:
  4. Wait! See if Elijah will come to save him.
  5. But Jesus, again crying out in a loud voice, yielded up his spirit.

Here all kneel and pause for a short time.

At that, the veil of the Temple was torn in two from top to bottom; the earth quaked; the rocks were split; the tombs opened and the bodies of many holy men rose from the dead, and these, after his resurrection, came out of the tombs, entered the Holy City and appeared to a number of people. Meanwhile the centurion, together with the others guarding Jesus, had seen the earthquake and all that was taking place, and they were terrified and said,

  1. In truth this was a son of God.
  2. And many women were there, watching from a distance, the same women who had followed Jesus from Galilee and looked after him. Among them were Mary of Magdala, Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of Zebedee’s sons.

When it was evening, there came a rich man of Arimathaea, called Joseph, who had himself become a disciple of Jesus. This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Pilate thereupon ordered it to be handed over. So Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean shroud and put it in his own new tomb which he had hewn out of the rock. He then rolled a large stone across the entrance of the tomb and went away. Now Mary of Magdala and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the sepulchre.

Next day, that is, when Preparation Day was over, the chief priests and the Pharisees went in a body to Pilate and said to him,

  1. Your Excellency, we recall that this impostor said, while he was still alive, ‘After three days I shall rise again.’ Therefore give the order to have the sepulchre kept secure until the third day, for fear his disciples come and steal him away and tell the people, ‘He has risen from the dead.’ This last piece of fraud would be worse than what went before.
  2. Pilate said to them:
  3. You may have your guard. Go and make all as secure as you know how.
  4. So they went and made the sepulchre secure, putting seals on the stone and mounting a guard.

 

 

Propaganda

 

Jesus lived and died, and death was not the end of him (if you believe it).

 

This is the central message of the Christian faith, even a man who was executed as a blasphemer, and a criminal, could receive resurrected to the afterlife, a world of hope, and comfort and joy.

 

This faith is a blessing to the poor, to the marginalized, to the outcast. The faith instructs them that they are known, and loved by God, the creator of the universe, that they will be cared for in the world to come.

 

Every other element of this story should be stripped away. It is all propaganda.

 

 

The core of this narrative may be true, but the everything that drapes from it is embellishment. Jesus did not die in fulfillment of prophecy. Jesus, and the rest of the prophets were not miracle workers and fortune tellers. They were human beings, who died as human beings, at the hands of human beings, for ordinary human purposes; fear and the desire to retain power.

 

Palm Sunday

A Homily – John 11:1 – 45 ©

The Gospel According to John – 2017.04.02

 

 

Raising the Dead

 

I am the resurrection and the life

 

There was a man named Lazarus who lived in the village of Bethany with the two sisters, Mary and Martha, and he was ill. It was the same Mary, the sister of the sick man Lazarus, who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair. The sisters sent this message to Jesus, ‘Lord, the man you love is ill.’ On receiving the message, Jesus said, ‘This sickness will end not in death but in God’s glory, and through it the Son of God will be glorified.’

 

Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, yet when he heard that Lazarus was ill he stayed where he was for two more days before saying to the disciples, ‘Let us go to Judaea.’ The disciples said, ‘Rabbi, it is not long since the Jews wanted to stone you; are you going back again?’ Jesus replied:

 

‘Are there not twelve hours in the day?

 

A man can walk in the daytime without stumbling because he has the light of this world to see by; but if he walks at night he stumbles, because there is no light to guide him.’

He said that and then added, ‘Our friend Lazarus is resting, I am going to wake him.’ The disciples said to him, ‘Lord, if he is able to rest he is sure to get better.’ The phrase Jesus used referred to the death of Lazarus, but they thought that by ‘rest’ he meant ‘sleep’, so Jesus put it plainly, ‘Lazarus is dead; and for your sake I am glad I was not there because now you will believe. But let us go to him.’ Then Thomas – known as the Twin – said to the other disciples, ‘Let us go too, and die with him.’

 

On arriving, Jesus found that Lazarus had been in the tomb for four days already. Bethany is only about two miles from Jerusalem, and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to sympathise with them over their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus had come she went to meet him. Mary remained sitting in the house. Martha said to Jesus, ‘If you had been here, my brother would not have died, but I know that, even now, whatever you ask of God, he will grant you.’ ‘Your brother’ said Jesus to her ‘will rise again.’ Martha said, ‘I know he will rise again at the resurrection on the last day.’ Jesus said:

 

‘I am the resurrection and the life. If anyone believes in me, even though he dies he will live, and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?’ ‘Yes, Lord,’ she said ‘I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who was to come into this world.’

 

When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary, saying in a low voice, ‘The Master is here and wants to see you.’ Hearing this, Mary got up quickly and went to him. Jesus had not yet come into the village; he was still at the place where Martha had met him. When the Jews who were in the house sympathising with Mary saw her get up so quickly and go out, they followed her, thinking that she was going to the tomb to weep there.

 

Mary went to Jesus, and as soon as she saw him she threw herself at his feet, saying, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’ At the sight of her tears, and those of the Jews who followed her, Jesus said in great distress, with a sigh that came straight from the heart, ‘Where have you put him?’ They said, ‘Lord, come and see.’ Jesus wept; and the Jews said, ‘See how much he loved him!’ But there were some who remarked, ‘He opened the eyes of the blind man, could he not have prevented this man’s death?’ Still sighing, Jesus reached the tomb: it was a cave with a stone to close the opening. Jesus said, ‘Take the stone away.’ Martha said to him, ‘Lord, by now he will smell; this is the fourth day.’ Jesus replied, ‘Have I not told you that if you believe you will see the glory of God?’ So they took away the stone. Then Jesus lifted up his eyes and said:

 

‘Father, I thank you for hearing my prayer. I knew indeed that you always hear me, but I speak for the sake of all these who stand round me, so that they may believe it was you who sent me.’ When he had said this, he cried in a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, here! Come out!’ The dead man came out, his feet and hands bound with bands of stuff and a cloth round his face. Jesus said to them, ‘Unbind him, let him go free.’

 

Many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary and had seen what he did believed in him.

 

 

Propaganda

 

God is not served by a false narrative.

 

We may use our reason to find in this gospel a different meaning than the meaning which the narrative plainly describes.

 

That of Jesus calling a corpse from the tomb.

 

We may do this and we should do this, we may do this and we should do this because the narrative is plainly false.

 

In John this narrative has become convoluted by politics, by the ongoing disputes John’s community was having with the local population of Jewish people, who they were doing everything in their power to distinguish themselves from.

 

In John the narrative goes to the issue of who people believe Jesus was, the Christ the Son of God, rather than who he actually was and what he actually taught.

 

In John it is more important to believe the church’s dogma, than to live according to Jesus’s teachings.

 

In the end, only our conduct matters, not what believe about Jesus, or his power to raise the dead.

 

5th Sunday of Lent

A Homily – The Gospel of Matthew 4:12 – 17 ©

The Gospel of the Day – 2017.01.22

 

 

After John’s Arrest

 

Hearing that John had been arrested, Jesus went back to Galilee, and leaving Nazareth he went and settled in Capernaum, a lakeside town on the borders of Zebulun and Naphtali. In this way the prophecy of Isaiah was to be fulfilled:

 

‘Land of Zebulun! Land of Naphtali!

Way of the sea on the far side of Jordan,

Galilee of the nations!

The people that lived in darkness has seen a great light;

on those who dwell in the land and shadow of death

a light has dawned.’

 

From that moment Jesus began his preaching with the message, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is close at hand.’

 

 

The Beginning of Christian Ministry

 

Be wary of the Scriptures, when the authors try attempt to fit their narrative of the life 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; to engender hope, and 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, which is itself unchanging.

 

The Gospel writers were propagandists. They fabricated many of the details of Jesus’ life. They fabricated those details to suit their narrative about who Jesus was, why he was 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 that narrative, meant to harness the energy of John’s movement, after his arrest and murder.

 

3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time

A Homily – The Gospel of John 1:29 – 34 ©

The Gospel of the Day – 2017.01.15

 Jesus Baptized

 

Seeing Jesus coming towards him, John said, ‘Look, there is the lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world. This is the one I spoke of when I said: A man is coming after me who ranks before me because he existed before me. I did not know him myself, and yet it was to reveal him to Israel that I came baptising with water.’ John also declared, ‘I saw the Spirit coming down on him from heaven like a dove and resting on him. I did not know him myself, but he who sent me to baptise with water had said to me, “The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and rest is the one who is going to baptise with the Holy Spirit.” Yes, I have seen and I am the witness that he is the Chosen One of God.’

 

 

Propaganda

 

The Gospel of John was written more than one hundred and twenty years after the death of Jesus. None of its authors knew Jesus, or John, and not any of them knew anyone who knew them.

 

Like all of the other Gospels, John was not written by a single person. It was written by a community of people, and more than any of the other Gospels, it was written as propaganda. It was written with the intention of arguing for that community’s beliefs about who Jesus was, what the weaning of his life was, and what his death meant to the believers, to the world and to the entire creation.

 

By the time Johannine Gospel is written, the early church no longer has any concern about ameliorating John the Baptist’s followers. The ethnic Jews in John’s community had either become Christians, or they were considered by the community to be enemies of the Church.

 

John’s Gospel is overwhelming concerned with depicting Jesus as the cosmic savior. Jesus is the Word of God, who takes away the sins of the World. Jesus is God.

 

When John the Baptist encounters Jesus, he provides witness for this. The Baptist does not Baptize Jesus, as in the other Gospels. He himself is at the work of baptizing. When he sees Jesus approach, he announces to his followers that Jesus has come, a man greater than himself, one who existed before him (even though he was born in time after him), one on whom the Spirit of God rests, one who will complete the baptism of every believer, because he will baptize the Holy Spirit, and not mere water.

 

This was the crowning achievement of the early Christian propaganda. Through this vehicle they transformed the man, Joshua son of Joseph, into the being through whom the entire universe come into existence.

 

And this is fine, but it must be understood for what it is, as the expressions of faith, and hope, not the recitation of history and fact.

 

2nd Sunday of Ordinary Time