Showing posts from 2019

Committed: 23rd Sunday OT 2019

I won’t ask for a show of hands of who’s recently read the Book of Philemon. It’s probably competing with Jude for least-quoted book of the New Testament. And when you first look at it, it’s kind of a head-scratcher, and you might be inclined to say “well this is fine but I think I’ll go read Colossians again.” But Scripture cannot be set aside, and God promised that His Word would not return to Him without bearing fruit. So what’s the deal with Philemon?

It’s a personal letter from Paul to Philemon, and there’s one more person whom it’s all about: Onesimus, who is Philemon’s slave. Paul’s purpose in the letter is to ask Philemon to free Onesimus.

So the drama here is within Philemon and the decision he has to make. He’s come to a moment when being a disciple of Jesus means something about his life has to change; it means he has to lose something. His relationship with Onesimus — a relationship that is exploitative and ungodly — is suddenly seen for what it is in the light of the Gosp…

Game Changer: 17th Sunday OT

A young woman got in touch recently to ask me if it’s okay to be angry with God... definitely not the first time I've heard that question. I wonder if Genesis 18 doesn’t give us part of an answer. Is Abraham angry at God here? If not angry, at least exasperated, right? GOD I JUST DON’T GET YOU RIGHT NOW.  We are all Abraham at one time or another, telling God we don’t understand, asking what the heck He’s doing and is this really for the best?

Jesus gives us another image, and it also has that edge of pestering, silliness, let’s just say humanity. He describes that persistent neighbor who won’t quit knocking on the door, not as an example of bad theology, not as an example of lack of trust, but as an example of prayer we shouldn't be too proud to imitate.

Prayer is not the performance of a theologically perfect and unfailingly Saintly act. Prayer is giving God what you actually think, what you actually feel. God isn’t interested in an act; He wants you — confused you, angry yo…

Close and Listening: 16th Sunday OT

Our first reading is from Genesis and is about how Sarah and Abraham prepared food and waited on their guests, and how they were praised for their work of hospitality.

Our Gospel is from Luke and is about how Martha of Bethany prepared food and waited on her guests, and how she was rebuked for her work of hospitality.

So what’s that all about? I think Jesus’ answer to Martha tells us the difference. She’s burdened and anxious with her serving, and she hasn’t chosen the better part. Maybe you’ve had guests that you felt burdened and anxious serving. Can you think of a time like that? Or really, anything you’ve ever done for someone that felt like a burden and stressed you out. You probably tried not to show it. You probably said, “Oh, it’s nothing, I’m happy to do it!” But it wasn’t nothing, because you felt burdened. And you were willing to do it, but not honestly literally happy about it. You weren’t happy, you were stressed.

Now maybe you can think of another time you were taking ca…

The law right in front of you: 15th Sunday OT

These are some of Moses’ last words. They are from the thirtieth chapter of Deuteronomy; Moses will die on the threshold of the Promised Land in chapter thirty-four. He has been the central figure through the books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. We hear about his amazing life in those books, but most of the pages are not given to storytelling. Most of it is the Law. Beginning with the Ten Commandments, and expanding outward from there, Moses established a Law that was still being followed fifteen centuries later when Jesus came. Indeed, it is still followed exactly by many today, thirty-five centuries later. That’s really incredible! Can you think of anything else in all of history comparable to that?

A lot of the laws are kind of distant and strange to us today. I couldn’t begin to tell you what was wrong with making a shirt with two different kinds of fabric. And, indeed, the Christian Church acknowledged that in Jesus’ fulfillment of the law, much that was unclean …

Instructions for Evangelists: 14th Sunday OT

After Mass will be our third session in an evangelization series. I've really enjoyed the first two and I think they're going well... please come over if you can! Our Gospel today is timely for that topic of evangelization. That word comes from the Greek for “Good News,” which in old English was “Gospel.” So Evangelization just means sharing the Good News that God has become man and dwelt among us, died to save us, and rose to open Heaven, where He has prepared a place for us and offers us forgiveness, new life, freedom, in a relationship with Him that transforms us.
There are two reasons someone might not want to share the Gospel with your neighbor. One: you don’t really believe it. Maybe you feel like you get something out of church, maybe you feel at home here, but you don’t actually believe that a relationship with Jesus Christ is the best and most important thing that could ever happen to somebody. That would be one reason not to want to share the Gospel with your neighb…

Easter 2019

On Holy Thursday as Jesus gathered His Apostles, washed their feet, and gave us the Eucharist, we saw Him drawing us closer than we could ever imagine: calling us into a relationship that is so close that His very life is shared with us. He was called at His birth Emmanuel, ‘God with us,’ and in the Last Supper we see just how closely with us He wants to be.

On Good Friday we saw Him refuse to give up on that closeness, refuse to abandon us, even to the point of feeling our abandonment. We saw Him love us and trust the Father enough to accept the Cross, knowing and trusting that the Father would bring good from it. We considered the challenge: what if you really believed that whatever you’re going through — whatever grief, whatever struggle, whatever confusion, whatever regret, whatever is hurting your body or your spirit or your soul — what if you really believed that God can take it to Himself joined to the Cross of Christ, and bring redemption through it?

He can. And if you could …

Good Friday 2019

We stand before the Cross of Christ and see the verdict of God on sin and sinners. How terrible is sin? This is how terrible sin is. How loved are we sinners? This is how much we are loved.

At His birth He was called Emmanuel, “God with us,” and on the Cross we see His full commitment to that being-with-us. He went all the way; He took it all. Not content to live our life, His oneness with us would not be complete until He died our death. He was laid on the wood of the manger having taken our flesh, to be with us. He was nailed to the wood of the Cross having taken our suffering, refusing to abandon that being-with-us.

He refuses to abandon us even to the point of feeling our abandonment.

Here bleeds the only innocent man because He would not give up on being with us, and because He would not give up trust in His Father. Even in the feeling of abandonment, even to death, He stayed on the Cross. Even though the blasphemous thief and the mocking crowd taunted Him to come down, and even …

Holy Thursday 2019

Jesus asks His disciples tonight, “Do you know what I have done for you?”

Let’s dwell on that question for these next few minutes. Did they know what He had done for them? Do we? No. We hardly know at all. What could we know of the depth of love and service and gift revealed tonight, and over these next few days? What could we understand of the divine charity that took flesh, taught, healed, suffered and died, rose from the grave, and feeds us with His body and blood, all He is, His own love and life and being? How could we wrap our minds around the idea of a God who washes our feet?

We might say we know almost nothing and be close to the truth… but almost nothing is not nothing, and the great depth and joy of these most sacred liturgies is to perhaps understand just a little more. To be open to the Father revealing to us His Son, giving us through Him the Holy Spirit… In a word, God giving us Himself.

We can think of salvation in terms of being saved from the punishment deserved by si…

Woman, where are they? 5th Sunday Lent

The moment when this story ends is one of my favorites in all of Scripture! The reason why is pretty well summed up by the question Jesus asks her.

“Woman, where are they?”

Where is who? For starters, where are all the people who were ready to stone her a minute ago? How easily Jesus has dispatched them! And how delightful it is to see them slink off. They’re easy to hate, aren’t they? You know the type, we all know these people. Those judgmental hypocrites who are so eager to gang up on a scapegoat when they’re just sinners themselves…

…oh, wait. There I am doing it, standing in hypocritical judgment of these people when I’ve done the same thing. I’ve judged. I’ve scapegoated. Have you? Have you, just for example, self-righteously judged people for being self-righteously judgmental? I’ve done that. How’s that for irony?

But Jesus unmasks that with a simple question and at least give them this: they get it. They drop the stones and walk away. In her worst moment, she had a crowd of ju…

Burning: 3rd Sunday Lent

Pop quiz from last week: In the Transfiguration in Luke 9, when Jesus was seen talking with Moses and Elijah, do you remember what they were talking about?

They were talking about Jesus’ [[[something]]] that He was going to accomplish in Jerusalem. The Greek word for that something can be translated different ways. Some English Bibles say ‘departure,’ others translate it ‘death.’ But the lectionary we hear at Mass does something wise: it simply leaves the Greek word there, untranslated:
“And behold, two men were conversing with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his exodus that he was going to accomplish in Jerusalem.” (Luke 9:31)Exodus... that’s some seriously heavy context with Moses standing right there! It means a heck of a lot more than ‘departure’ or ‘death.’  Today we follow up with a story from that rich context, the Book of Exodus, chapter three. Moses — born a Hebrew, saved from infanticide, and raised in the royal family — is now in exile after defend…

The Reward of Trust: 2nd Sunday Lent

Here's one takeaway from the story of the Transfiguration: one time up on a mountain, the Apostles saw Jesus in His radiant glory. They saw how He fulfills the Law and the Prophets, bringing to completion all of God’s work of salvation from the very start. They saw everything snap into focus, and they got it, and their lives of following Jesus made total sense. At the time of the Transfiguration, they saw the clouds part and heard an actual literal voice from Heaven tell them they were on the right track, revealing the big picture with clarity… beautiful, complete, undoubtable clarity.

Another takeaway is that most of the time, they didn’t. The other side of this extraordinary event is that it was, well... extraordinary. As in not typical, not the norm.

The Transfiguration is beautiful but it’s so fleeting. Even in telling the story, Luke emphasizes the desire of Peter to hang on to that moment, to camp out in that moment, and it’s the same for us. We’d love to hold on to those mo…

Cheeky: 7th Sunday OT

The teaching of Jesus about loving enemies and turning the other cheek can be hard to get a grip on. It definitely sounds lofty and idealistic, but how many of us could say we put it into practice in some real and concrete way — say, during the last week?

The first reading is not a situation you probably encountered this week, but it’s still a good starting point. You never had an enemy like Saul was to David. He was trying to kill him, actively trying to murder him! And David knows that Saul is also at war with God. Saul seems to be standing as an obstacle to everything God is trying to accomplish in His plan of salvation. He’s corrupt and wicked and he’s proven himself untrustworthy time and again. Finally David gets a chance to set all this right and save his life.

The scene is this: it’s night. An expeditionary force of three thousand of Saul’s best troops are out to get David. There’s at least a high compliment being paid, if Saul thinks he needs his best three thousand guys just…

Poor, hungry, weeping, and happy: 6th Sunday OT

Jeremiah tells us how to be unhappy. Cursed is actually the word he uses. “Cursed is the one who trusts in human beings, who seeks his strength in flesh, whose heart turns away from the Lord.” Cursed why? Because those things just aren’t going to work. They aren’t enough! God made creatures in His own image and likeness, He made them for Himself, and our hearts will never find rest in anything less. Your soul is made for God, and whatever you try to substitute is not going to make you happy. Even the very best things in life… if you try to substitute them for God, even the best things in life become a curse. One more dissatisfaction, one more frustration, never enough.

Or to use Jeremiah’s incredibly vivid imagery: “He is like a barren bush in the desert, that enjoys no
change of season, but stands in a lava waste, a salt and empty earth.” Barren, because you’re spending your life doing nothing fruitful and lasting. Enjoying no change of seasons, why? Because the variety, the richnes…