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Friday, December 27, 2013

Christmas Homily Starter – December 22, 2013

First Reading:  Isaiah 9:2-7
Second Reading:  Titus 2:11-14
Gospel:  Luke 2:1-17

Last year at this time, all the hype about the Mayan prophecy served to divert the attention of many people.  In our part of the world at this time of year, every year, the diversion of shopping occupies people’s attention.  Today’s first reading contains another diversion, one of omission.  The omission is of this verse:  “For all the boots of the tramping warriors and all the garments rolled in blood shall be burned as fuel for the fire.”  This verse is immediately precedes the announcement of the child who has been born to us, named Wonderful Counsellor, and Prince of Peace. 

People of faith must address people’s fears about apocalyptic diversions like Y2K and the Mayan prophecy.  This takes time away from raising people’s awareness of very real impending catastrophes such as global warming and dwindling potable water resources. 

Seasonal and consumerist diversions aided by lectionary omissions, enable us to remain in darkness about unfair labour practices, the oppression of people and the environment, and the warriors and the bloodied garments of the victims of our world’s ongoing wars.  Some of us caught up in the joy of the season are unaware that for some, this is an especially difficult time of year.  When we see the TV ads for the starving children in faraway lands, let us also remember to be a compassionate presence for our brothers and sisters closer to home.

But darkness is not permanent for us, as our first reading tells us, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness— on them light has shined.”  What is that light?  It is the light of remembering that our Creator is with us, calling us to cooperation in working together for justice and cooperation rather than acquisition and conquest.  God is calling us to see our oneness, that our oneness is an outgrowth and sharing in the oneness of God, and, therefore sharing in God’s joy.  The foundational premise of Catholic Christian ethics is that God wants us to be happy.

The second reading reinforces that, the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all, telling us that Jesus Christ came to mould us as his own, to make us eager to do what is right; to teach us to live lives of humility, compassion and justice.  In so doing, we will have abundant joy.

In the Gospel, Joseph and Mary, whose pregnancy is near term, go to register for the compulsory census ordered by Rome.  When the time came for Mary to deliver, she gave birth to her firstborn son and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. 

Let our hearts not become inns that don’t have room for Jesus to be born in them.  Pope Francis says in the encyclical Evangelii Gaudium, “The great danger in today’s world, pervaded as it is by consumerism, is the desolation and anguish born of a complacent yet covetous heart, the feverish pursuit of frivolous pleasures, and a blunted conscience.  Whenever our interior life becomes caught up in its own interests and concerns, there is no longer room for others, no place for the poor. God’s voice is no longer heard, the quiet joy of his love is no longer felt, and the desire to do good fades.” 

But through our faith, we have been called out of complacency and darkness.  Again, Pope Francis reinforces our hope.  He says, “Goodness always tends to spread. Every authentic experience of truth and goodness seeks by its very nature to grow within us, and any person who has experienced a profound liberation becomes more sensitive to the needs of others. As it expands, goodness takes root and develops. If we wish to lead a dignified and fulfilling life, we have to reach out to others and seek their good.” 

Seeking the good of others does not mean neglecting ourselves but it is as the Joan Baez song says, “Just take what you need and leave the rest.  But they should never have taken the very best.”  In other words, we can consume less so that others have enough to survive.  It means working to see that it indeed comes to pass that, “all the boots of the tramping warriors and all the garments rolled in blood shall be burned as fuel for the fire.”  In other words, work towards peace, towards the time when war are not longer fought so that some can have more and more, while others have less and less.

So this Christmas, every Christmas and throughout each and every year, let’s let the inns of hearts expand as we reach out to others and seek their good.  We love God by loving the world, and all its human and non-animals, minerals and plants.  The more we love, the more our hearts expand to be filled by the lushly blooming God-Seed within us.  Today in us is born our Saviour.  Glory to God in the highest, peace and good will toward all God’s creation!  Amen!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

First Sunday of Advent - December 1, 2013

This Sunday I didn't write a homily because what Marcus Borg wrote in Thinking About Advent was something I thought the community would benefit from hearing.  See you next time, Blessed Advent.


Feast of Christ the King - 24 November 2013

First reading: 2 Samuel 5.1-3
Second reading: Colossians 1.12-20
Gospel: Luke 23.35-43

For a long time now, the Feast of Christ the King has bothered me.  I wasn’t sure why.  Then one year, I think it was part of the 2000 Jubilee celebrations, the Feast of Christ the King was celebrated by whole the diocese at the Italian Centre near the PNE.  The homilist was extolling how the kingship of Christ was so different from earthly kings.  The words of the homily spoke of seeking heavenly riches instead of earthly riches.  These words were almost comical as the sunlight beamed on the sparkling jewels of the Eparchial Bishop’s mitre. 

The theme of Jubilee is to release people from bondage and to let the Earth rest.  If we contrast West Georgia Street between Granville and Denman and East Georgia Street between Columbia and Commercial Drive, we see a micro picture of our nations and our Churches.   The burdens of the people and of the land are heavier than ever before in history.  When I think of the social, economic, political and religious hierarchies of today, the “Christ the King” metaphor just doesn’t fit, my Jesus.

For example, the first reading tells us about the beginning of David’s kingship.  We know from the stories how David misused his power, even arranging the death of one of his loyal soldiers so that he could take his wife.

The second reading tells us that Christ is the firstborn of all creation; that everything was created through and for him.  It is telling us, just as Jesus did, that Jesus is the way to wholeness.  We reach wholeness through the practice of love and justice.  Although wholeness may call us to die in some ways; it is a death to self that brings new life. 

We know that Jesus died because he was saying, doing, and living what is just.  He was a threat to the political and religious status quo.  The second thief actually emulated what Jesus taught when he spoke up in defence of Jesus.  I think it was this thief’s love of neighbour and sense of justice that led Jesus to say, ‘today you will be with me in Paradise.’  Salvation is gained in loving God by loving our neighbour. 

So to me Jesus as “Christ the King,” just doesn’t fit.   Jesus is the Holy One who became one of us, died to bring love of justice into the world and then, in the ultimate act of rule-breaking, rose from the dead.  I think “Christ the Anarchist” is a more apt metaphor. 

What are your thoughts on the metaphor of “Christ the King.”


27 October 2013 - Priesthood Sunday

Shared Homily Starter

1st Reading:       Sirach 35:15-17, 20-22
2nd Reading:      2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18
Gospel:                        Luke 18:9-14

Today is priesthood Sunday.  The thread that weaves through today’s readings is humility:  Humility in prayer, humility in actions and relationships. 

Last Sunday, I had the opportunity to attend the liturgy for the installation of a local pastor.  During the service the Archbishop read the functions of a pastor from Canon 519, specifically “he carries out the functions of teaching, sanctifying, and governing.”  Obviously, I disagree with Canon 1024 that says, “Only a baptized man can validly receive sacred ordination” but I also disagree with the two of the three functions of a pastor stated in Canon 519.   First, I would substitute guiding for governing.  Second, one of the dictionary definitions of “sanctify” is “to make holy.”  Humility should tell us that God alone sanctifies.  One of the keys to holiness is humility.  Humility should further tell us that the only mediator between God and us is Jesus.  Canon Law, like the lectionary version of the first and second readings, leaves something out, humility.  Part of what was left out of the first reading is:

21 The prayer of the humble pierces the clouds,
   and it will not rest until it reaches its goal;
it will not desist until the Most High responds

Pastors, like everyone else, need to practice humility and speak honestly. 

The lectionary version of today’s second reading also has verses omitted from the scripture passage.  In these verses, we hear Paul pleading with Timothy to come soon because Demas has deserted him and their mission; Crescens, Titus, and, Tychicus have gone to spread the word in Galatia, Dalmatia and Ephesus, respectively; and, only Luke is still with him.  Paul asks Titus to bring Mark with him.  It must be chilly in jail because Paul also asks Timothy to bring his cloak, as well as his books and parchments.  Lastly, in the omitted part he warns Titus about Alexander the coppersmith, who is an opponent to their mission and message and has made trouble for Paul.

These omitted verses make Paul more human to me.  It’s Paul’s second letter to Timothy.  This time Paul’s circumstances have changed considerably for the worse.  He’s in prison in Rome─ and─ he’s feeling deserted and alone. 

With out these verses, it appears that Paul is just writing to Timothy about his trust and relationship with God.  If we don’t omit these verses, we get a glimpse of Paul’s relationship with the community as well as with God.  He reaches out and tells Timothy all that’s weighing on him.  Paul knows his letters are read to the whole community.  For me, this is another lesson for a Pastor.  God blessed us with and is present in the community.  When things overwhelm us, perhaps it’s God reminding us of that.   Paul writes,But God stood by me and gave me strength.”  I think the message for today is that there is strength that comes through community.  If Paul were writing today, the last part of that sentence mighty be, “so that through us the message might be fully proclaimed.”  This passage shows Paul’s humility in action, in his reaching out to Timothy and, by extension, the community. 

Today’s Gospel brings us back to subject of that omitted verse in the first reading “the prayer of the humble.”  This parable should be required daily reading for all pastors and a suggested daily reading for many.  We need to remember that God’s love encompasses the “thieves, rogues, adulterers,” and everyone else that society negatively labels.  We need to remember that God loves the so-called “haves” as well as the “have nots.”  The AA saying, “there but for the grace of God, go I” is not sufficient for us in light of this parable in Luke.  Rather, we should say, “There too, goes a child of God, my brother, my sister.” 

As people who try to live the Gospel, judging what is in another’s heart is not our job.”  Our job ─pastors or not─ is as it says is Micah 6:8 is “to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with our God.” 

With God’s help, may I serve you well.

Please share your thoughts.


Shared Homily Starter

2 Maccabees 7.1-2, 7, 9-14
2 Thessalonians 2.16 – 3.5
Luke 20.27-38

The Second Book of Maccabees describes the struggle of the Jews for religious, cultural, and political independence from the Seleucid king Antiochus IV Epiphanes.  Antiochus kingdom included present day Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon and more.  He was a Greek, who by violence and persecution, sought to suppress the Jewish religion in his kingdom.   But the point of this book is to convey religious ideas or principles rather than historical facts.  Today’s reading shows that the some Jews believed in the idea of resurrection.   In the New Testament, we learn that the Pharisees did but the Sadducees did not.  More importantly, the message of today’s reading is that one should remain faithful to God even in the face of torture and death. 

These Jewish brothers didn’t give up their lives only because of hope in a hereafter but also because their brothers and sisters were suffering under an unjust regime.  Their love of God compelled them to love and suffer for their neighbours.  Oscar Romero and Chelsea Manning prove such love is still present in our world.

In today’s passage from Paul’s Second Letter to the Thessalonians, Paul encourages the church in Thessalonica not to give up hope but to continue to live by the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Paul’s statement, “But the Lord is faithful...” is a reassurance to hope for all Christians. 
The Trinity, God as Creator, Jesus as Saviour, and the Holy Spirit as Sanctifier, have invested their entire loving selves in the created universe.  Our Triune God is all about saving, treasuring and loving the entire creation.  “Divine Love and Wisdom are sufficiently large and grand to include universal salvation.  No one need be lost or left out.  None need be excluded.  Our hope must be this large, too!  We must embrace God’s victory in spite of small, hateful and fearful minds and hearts.  God hates no one.  How could God hate if “God is love”?
There are some we hear about in the news that claim to be Christian.   They preach hatred and fear and divine wrath.  They have twisted and misused the Gospel for their own purposes out of their own tragic fears. They seem to have missed the very point that because the word salvation comes from the Latin word salus, which means health.  So to be saved is to be restored to health, to be made whole.  God is love!!!   Love and hate cannot coexist simultaneously in the same location. God is loving![1]   God is love!!!  

In today’s gospel the Sadducees, who don’t believe in the resurrection try to trip Jesus up by asking him, which of the seven brothers will be the woman’s husband?  Jesus tells them, “Those who belong to this age marry and are given in marriage; but those who are considered worthy of a place in that age and in the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage” and that they are “are children of God, being children of the resurrection.”  I have always found this Gospel passage difficult to understand until recently. 
For example Ilia Delio writes, “Creation flows out of the dynamic, self-communicative love of God and, like God, goes forth in dynamic relationships toward greater unity in love.”  We are created from God’s love, and resurrection summarizes “the whole evolutionary emergent creations as a forward movement to become something new, a new reign of God, a new heaven on earth.  What took place in Jesus Christ is intended for the whole cosmos, union, transformation in the divine embrace of love.”[2]
If salvation is being made whole, then Jesus is the whole-maker.  One who lives in Christ, embraces death as sister as part of the family of life.  The seven brothers in today first reading knew that death is the transcendence of limits towards the fullness of life.   As for today’s gospel, and the dilemma posed by the Sadducee’s question, in the new reign of God, “the next act always anticipates something more creative, something new emerging out of the chaos of the old.”[3]

I don’t know what that “something new” may be.  Just imagine.  Could it mean that “children of the resurrection”, we will be so infused with God’s love that we fully realize our relationality?   Could it mean that our love “made whole” will transcend the limits of our present human relationships?  

Please share your thoughts.

[2]   Delio, Ilia. 2011. The emergent Christ: exploring the meaning of Catholic in an evolutionary universe. Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, p. 77
[3]   Delio, Ilia. 2011. The emergent Christ: exploring the meaning of Catholic in an evolutionary universe. Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, p. 77