CACINA

Homily Feast of the Ascension May 28, 2017

7Feast-of-the-Ascension-We are all part of an age unaccustomed to waiting. We get instant news from the far ends of the earth and can even view it on television. Even a soldier today in Afghanistan can actually call home on the phone or even make a video call. This is far different from families at home in past wars waiting for the mail person with that letter with “free” written instead of a stamp from a loved one in a war zone. Today we get impatient in lines we meet everywhere, always being in a hurry to be someplace. Today our readings are Jesus’ farewell to his disciples and the return to his Father. Remember the Ascension is the very last part of the Easter event of Christ’s Passion, Death, Resurrection and 7ascension-1return(Ascension) to His Father. They know they are to go out to the world and preach, but they have many questions and much unbounded enthusiasm. But, what does Jesus tell them? He tells them they must wait for the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. It is the Spirit who will teach them and inform them of their mission and how to carry it out. It is the Spirit who is the Father’s gift to us that enables Christ’s church to continue, to keep alive his Word and work through the centuries. Yet, in all their enthusiasm, Jesus said wait, don’t do anything until the Spirit comes.

For us, I think there is a lesson to consider in what Jesus said in telling them to wait for the Spirit. Often times in our lives, things arise whether a crisis or some other situation 7the-ascension5or event that we need to pray over and consider. As Jesus told his disciples to wait a few days for his Spirit, it would certainly be good if we allowed time for prayer and the Spirit to help with our decision. The Spirit has been given to the Church and also to each of us to help and enable us to discern and continue to follow Christ in every time and century. The Spirit guides and helps the Church as it marches through the centuries, assisting as humanity itself grows in knowledge and advances hopefully to the age Christ has prepared for his followers. So, we need to live our life in the church with his Spirit, waiting for his return and our own ascension to the Father.

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Counter Cultural Calm and Comfort-All Souls

  • All Soul’s Day – Isaiah 25: 6-9, Ps 27: 1-9,13-14, Romans 5:5-11, John 6: 37-40

 

Tuesday afternoon, I sat with a bedridden elderly woman. I was just beginning to introduce myself to some residents at a nursing home.  I had no information about this woman other than a staff person suggesting she might enjoy a visit.  So I asked, “How’s it going for you?”

Her eyes began to form tears. “Oh, my husband, he’s here, he has dementia, Alzheimer’s.  He sits in a wheel chair and he just talks nonsense…he was never that way before.”   She made no mention of it, but it was clear she had her own health issues too.

We talked for a few minutes about the strain of watching a beloved spouse’s health deteriorate. I asked her: would she like to have me read to her out the Bible.  “Yes”, she nodded.  So I opened to Psalm 103, and read of the goodness of God, about God’s love and faithfulness, compassion and mercy.  She grew visibly calmer as I read.  “Oh, thank you,” she breathed.  The Bible I had with me was donated by the Gideon’s, and I left it with her.  Those free Gideon Bibles have a well-deserved reputation for helping people who are overwhelmed by life.

It’s very easy, and entirely normal, to forget God’s love when crisis strikes.   But in every section of the Bible, we can find reminders of the tender love God has for us, all of us.  Today one of our reading is from Isaiah, a Hebrew prophet who lived some 800 years before Christ.  It speaks of the Lord ending death and grief and tears on the earth, and offers assurance that the Lord will save us.  Then the Psalmist writes, “The Lord is my light and my salvation……..wait for the Lord with courage.”

Years later, St. Paul declared with great certainty that we will not be disappointed by our hopes in God.  Wearied by the sound bites of politicians, we need to be reminded of this!  Paul says, “But God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us…we are justified and saved through him…”  Paul adds, “We also boast of God.”  Now, if you have read much of St. Paul, you know when Paul says you can boast of something, he means it’s rock solid, without a doubt.

But if you might have any remaining doubt about hoping in God, our Gospel will dispel it.  John quotes Jesus saying, “…Everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life, and I shall raise him up on the last day.”

All Soul’s Day is about remembering those who have gone before us; those we miss, those we will mourn for the rest of our lives. But this day calms us, and draws us back from the pain of loss to the comfort of God’s love.  It is almost counter-cultural to remember that God didn’t make us disposable. We are eternal beings.  It is absolutely counter-cultural to say that we are eternal beings, but we still don’t know very much at all about eternity.  And it is probably close to anti-cultural to say that we don’t need to know more about eternity than we already know.  What do we know?  We know Eternity is real, prepared and waiting for you and me and those we love, and it will be beyond anything experienced in this life.

So, today we rejoice in life. We light candles to remind us of eternal life; their light breaks through the darkness of doubt.  We delight in the memory of those who have been born into eternity, even as we remain here for a time, and we continue to share the love of God.

 

A New View

Posted in christian, Christianity, ethics, Faith, forgiveness, homily, inspirational, politics, religion, scripture, Spirit, Word by Rev. Martha on October 20, 2016

30th Sunday 10-23-16 yr c Sirach 35: 12-18; Ps 34; 2 Timothy 4: 6-8, 16-18; Luke 18: 9-14

 

Every once in a while, we’re given the chance to look at something in a different way. For example, you might go on a ride down a familiar road, but this time someone else is driving, and you see a house or a business or a tree you don’t remember ever seeing before.

Sometimes this happens with Bible stories. But this new awareness is not always pleasant.  Take, for instance, the Pharisee in today’s Gospel.  Reading the Gospel of Luke, it’s hard not to develop an attitude about Pharisees.  In chapter 5, when Jesus heals a paralytic, the Pharisees begin a controversy about forgiveness of sins, laws about fasting, observance of the Sabbath, and Jesus’ habit of eating with “sinners” and tax collectors. In chapter 7, the Pharisees refuse to let John baptize them.  In chapter 11 Jesus harshly criticizes the Pharisees for their attention to minor details of the Jewish laws, yet failure to love of God.  In chapter 12, Jesus says plainly, “Beware of the leaven, that is, the hypocrisy of the Pharisees”.

Yet in Chapter 13, the Pharisees come to Jesus and warn him that Herod wants to kill him. Maybe they weren’t all bad.  What was the common view of the Pharisees in Jesus’ time?  And what were their prayers like?

Well, there were many devout and sincere Pharisees, spending their days studying and discussing the laws of God in the Hebrew Scriptures. They lived lives dedicated to careful and meticulous observance of those laws.  Pharisees could routinely quote entire books by memory. It’s hard not to admire their dedication; they seemed to love God.  Most Jews who went to worship in the temple stood and said their prayers aloud – it was the custom, and not a way this particular Pharisee might show off.  But Leviticus 19:18 (love your neighbor as yourself) somehow was set aside.  His prayer seems to follow the ancient commandments; still, the love commandment is missing.

One of best books I’ve read about the Parables of Jesus says that the Pharisees of Jesus’ day were highly respected among most Jews, and were considered righteous. And the Pharisee in this passage far exceeded any of the laws for fasting or tithing.  To the people listening to Jesus, this Pharisee would have been the hero of the story, far better than any tax collector.

Tax collectors, of course, are rarely heroes. But in 33 A.D., the view of a tax collector was very negative.  They were collaborators with the Romans, they enforced an extremely heavy tax burden on the people, they were notorious for dishonesty and extortion, and were classified with murderers and traitors.  At one point they were not allowed even to be witnesses in court.  Some people have suggested that a tax collector wouldn’t have been allowed in the temple, but that is an exaggeration.  But everyone understood why the tax collector would not even raise his eyes to heaven, for failure to rise your eyes was a sign of nearly unpardonable guilt and shame in many cultures.  The tax collector would be, clearly, the bad guy to those listening to Jesus; and that would be supported by his apparent estimation of himself.

Imagine then, the how stunned people were when Jesus declared the Tax collector the one who was justified. Knowing this helps us to better understand the reading.  We need to look again at why Jesus told this parable and why Luke included it in his Gospel.  And of course, we need to consider what this might have to do with us, and not just that the Pharisee sounds like an empty braggart to our ears.

The opening verse of the reading is a good place to start. “Jesus addressed this parable to those who were convinced of their own righteousness and despised everyone else.” Up front we know this isn’t going to be warm and fuzzy, my friends.  Jesus identifies two problems.  One is when we choose to be judge of our own goodness.  Ah, that is so easy.  It’s risk free – there is no chance that anyone will bring up any of my faults.  We always have a reason why we’re right when we judge ourselves.  It puffs up our ego, no painful change or correction is required.  We feel powerful and in charge, able to be faultless without anyone else’s help.

Of course, doing this robs us of any opportunity to see any other point of view, or grow in faith or in relationship to God or our fellow human beings – in fact, it isolates us and stunts our growth. Which leads to the second problem – when I think my self-perceived goodness makes me inherently better than other people, and above the need for God’s forgiveness.  If that is the case, then I have broken both the commandments to love God and to love my neighbor as myself.  Breaking both of them puts us a bad place indeed.

What is it like when guilt and shame bursts into our self-assessment? A friend sent me a link to a site on the internet that will tell you where you rank, both by income or assets, in the world’s wealth. With my little monthly pension and social security, I am in the top 5% of the world’s wealthiest people!!  It ruined my day to realize the bottom 5% is dying from preventable disease and starvation.  I went from what I perceived as a position of grace to feeling like a self-centered miser complicit in the world’s poverty.   My privileged status is largely an accident of birth.  It gave me much more compassion for the tax collector, and reason to relate to his prayer.

This is why Luke included this parable- to warn us, to ruin our day, to stun us, to shake us up. He makes us take a second look at our self-assessment.  Do we really follow Jesus or follow our own path, making life as we live it seem much more righteous than it really is?  Are we much more dependent on a merciful God than we’d like to think?  Luke gives us a chance to see ourselves in a different way, and Luke provides the assurance that Our Creator wants to grant us new sight, to forgive our false pride, and to have us part of The Kingdom of God.  Our God is the God of second chances.

 

Homily July 21, 2013 16th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Posted in christian, Christianity, ecclesiology, inspirational, religion, scripture by Fr Joe R on July 18, 2013

The story of Martha and Mary in Luke is an interesting story that probably was written in early church times when discussion of women’s place in the church was a big issue. In that first century, society was very male dominated and the women were kept separate and even worshiped separated from the men. They were in many ways seen as property and servants. We know that among the early Christians the women had an equal voice in the assembly and taught and had ministries. Even Paul taught equality in his writings until a later insertion was added that women should be silent. greene_nathan_martha_and_mary_small
The complaints of Martha would seem to highlight and underline the traditional role and function of women to serve and prepare for the men. Mary remains at Jesus’ feet and listens to his teaching with the men. This from the gospels was not uncommon for among the people following Jesus many were women. The whole story points to the inclusion of women in listening and sharing ministry rather than the later concept of a contemplative life versus an active life being taken from the story. In fact, Jesus did both in His time when He took time out to pray and meditate and also had a very active ministry. Martha, while probably hard pressed in her preparing to serve the many guests in her house, was I think a symbol of a beginning of a hierarchy and compartmentalization of roles which are still present today in many ways.
I am thankful that in recent times our church has come to see the reality of Church guided by the Spirit with a ministry and membership enabling all to serve in whatever capacity that God calls them to serve according to their talents and abilities and not their gender. In fact, we are one body all called to be united in Jesus Christ and love and serve one another. All are called to follow and did he not say that in his kingdom there is neither male or female? Do we not all receive the same Spirit? It is ironic that we forget that the Spirit leads and nourishes. He prepares and makes us ready. Our world and cultures have taken so long to come to an understanding of so many things especially of the role of women. However the promptings have always been there, only now has the listening begun. Like Mary we all are chosen to listen, but also like Martha, we are called to also serve.