All posts for the month June, 2016

2 Corinthians 3:1-6 & Luke 10, 1-7

June 26, 2016 at Our Lady of Lebanon Maronite Catholic Church in Norman, Oklahoma

Now we pick up Luke’s take on the great mission. There is a shift of focus from Israel and the Jews to the wider mission that bear more resemblance to the mission of the church after the resurrection of Christ. The 72 is our clue to this universality because it reminds those steeped in the Book of Genesis that the descendants of Noah were 72 in number meaning everyone left after the flood. Luke is anticipating the mission to all the nations begun at Pentecost after Easter when people from every nation under heaven (that’s what it says in Acts 2, 5) were gathered in Jerusalem that Pentecost to hear the Apostolic proclamation.

What happens today is that the 72 disciples become apostles. There is a difference between these two as I said two weeks ago. Disciples are students. Apostle are preachers. Luke it making a point with the numbers. The 12 apostles have consistently represented the 12 tribes of Israel. Now to that number Jesus adds the 72 opening up the mission beyond Israel. No longer is this a chosen few who are sent only to the house of Israel. Now everyone is sent to bring in the harvest so that God can fill all of us with good things.

Luke is unfolding for us, the universal vocation of everyone who has come to faith in Jesus Christ. There is work to be done, and we are sent to take up a share in that mission, reaping the harvest. Sent with bare essentials thinking that we don’t have enough, that we’re not ready, that we don’t know enough and can’t do a good jog; but because this is God’s work, God will provide the resources. Success is not the issue, going and doing is.

We cannot be a passive group of stay-at-home people and be part of mission that identifies us as belonging to Christ. We are charged as church to proclaim the Kingdom and offer God’s peace to all. That is the first step of this commission.

Where people long for comfort, you extend the touch of assurance. Where people are afraid, you sit with them and defy the darkness and fear. Where people look for hope, you bring the light of Christ. Where people are bound by ignorance, you set them free with the truth. Where people are anxious and burdened with the things of this world, you share your joy and the freedom with the things that God provides. This is what proclaims the Kingdom. It takes patience, the patience of God. It takes obedience and openness to the will of God. It takes the vision of the long range view and the wisdom to remember that in the long history of creation we haven’t been here very long at all. We are just getting started.

When sent to announce peace as this reading concludes, we touch the heart of the message we have to share, the truth. Peace was the first announcement of Christ’s coming: “Peace on earth and good will toward men” is what the angels sang to the shepherds. In his life among us, Jesus reached across every barrier by the simple gestures of acceptance and speaking the truth. He showed us what divine peace is all about, the healing of all division and the unity of all creation.

The very word, Shalohm describes wholeness. The Hebrew word literally describes the mending of a net. It has to do with putting back together whatever is broken. As Jesus used the word it was a greeting that announced that he was there present in their midst, and that the relationship he had with the apostles was not broken by death. That is what those sent are to say when they enter a home. They are to announce by the greeting of peace that Christ is there. As Jesus will say later in Luke’s Gospel: “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” We are to continue the peacemaking of Jesus, but this is not patching things up, arranging a settlement with concessions all around, or trying to find some compromise. This peace, real peace, the peace of Christ has to do with the truth of who we are and who we are in God. It is not something negotiable. It is God’s gift to those who are open in faith to the tranquility of God’s love and God’s presence. It is achieved and accomplished when we enter into the magnetic pull of God unity and God’s love.

All the world’s attempts at peace-making are futile and will eventually break down without finding our peace with God and entering into God’s love and unity. Without peace with God, disciples like us will have no peace to share. But that is our mission, peace – unity with God which inevitably means unity within the human family who call God, Father.


1 Corinthians 12:12-13, 27-30 & Matthew 10, 16-25

June 19, 2016 at Our Lady of Lebanon Maronite Catholic Church in Norman, Oklahoma

After calling, appointing, and authorizing apostles and then giving traveling instructions, there is still more. Now there is instruction about what it means to share in the mission of Jesus, and what consequences can be expected. It is important to notice that in Matthew’s Gospel there is no specific missionary journey recorded as there is in Mark and in Luke where the 72 and the 12 are sent out and return to report what had happened. Those instruction that we heard last week were about how the faithful, the church, should present itself to the world, and so today Matthew continues to direct us on about to expect and how to respond.

As the disciples, the apostles, the church began to fulfill the mission the Jesus sent them on, there was no doubt that they would experience the same reactions experienced by Jesus. If the message is the same, and if his presence is realized within them, there is going to be trouble because vested interests were going to be threatened. For instance, when Paul came to Ephesus where the economy rested upon the making of silver idols, far fewer people bought those idols and the economy collapsed. Paul paid the price. It is estimated by historians that there may have been 60 million slaves in the Roman Empire. It was a terror in the mind of free Romans that those slaves might rise up and revolt. When the message of the Gospel and the life-style of Christ’s followers spread through the empire, there was even greater concern because preaching that in Christ there is neither freeman nor slave was revolutionary talk. It had to be silenced. The church which treated everyone with love, compassion, understanding, and respect was not welcome, and those who believed such things and behaved that way had to go.

As it was then, so it remains. The message of the Gospel and the messengers that proclaim it living by its instructions continue to be a challenge and a threat to those whose would have things remain as they are. Vested interests are still feeling uncomfortable and even threatened by the Gospel. Issues of racism, sexism, justice, and sometimes the economy, just as in Ephesus, are confronted by those sent by Christ with the Gospel as their guide and their mission. When immigrants flee their homes for their very lives, we know what Christ would have us do. His own family fled to Egypt in fear of a violent madman. Yet this threatens some, and they turn on those who speak of justice with ridicule to silence the voices of those who cry out with good news for those in fear.

The mission of justice, of peace, and of forgiveness still finds resistance where ever it threatens those in power whose interests are best served by keeping things the way they are by building walls and locking doors. At first their response is ridicule and petty name calling. When this is not effective, power and force is brought to bear with threats and punitive actions. Then the violence begins. The pattern is there from the beginning. The resistance is no less, while the need for the truth, for justice, and for peace is even greater. The growing power and influence of secularism which dismisses the basic Christian value of life itself cannot go unchallenged no matter what the cost. The growing power and the consequence of greed and a self-serving economy with a denial that we are responsible for one another as children of God cannot go unchallenged no matter how often or how insulting are the reactions of those who are threatened.

Those sent out must have conformed themselves to Christ Jesus, not just to his glory in the resurrection, but to his abandonment, his loneliness, his disappointment, and eventually to his crucifixion. They will face opposition with patient courage. They will face rejection with dignity finding comfort in the mutual support of their brothers and sisters. There is a, and history has shown it to be true, a positive consequence to all of this. It bears witness to others. In the time of Matthew, this persecution bore witness to the Gentiles, and they came to Christ because of it. It shall be so again. The power of love is never overcome for it is the power of the Holy Spirit

Matthew is writing to the Jewish converts. No one people has ever been more persecuted and suffered more than the Jewish people. They understood what he was saying. There is here a paradox and a statement of privilege. To suffer for Christ is to share in the work of Christ. To have to sacrifice for the faith is to share the sacrifice of Christ. There is always a thrill in belonging to noble company, and that’s where we are when we are one with Christ.

When our faith costs something we are closer than ever to Jesus Christ, and when we have a share in his sufferings we shall also have a share in his victory and resurrection.

The Fifth Sunday of Pentecost

Philippians 3:7-14 & Matthew 10, 1-7

June 12, 2016 at Our Lady of Lebanon Maronite Catholic Church in Norman, Oklahoma

Matthew is carefully unfolding the story of Jesus. In the story of his baptism, Jesus accepts his task of ushering in the Kingdom of God. Then in the story of the Desert Temptations that follows, Jesus chooses the method he will use to proclaim and realize that Kingdom. The great Sermon on the Mount comes next with which Jesus describes the attitudes that will identify those who live in that Kingdom. They will be called “Blessed.” After the sermon, Jesus begins his mission of teaching, preaching, healing, and forgiving; and he begins to meet opposition from the authorities who have a lot to lose with his message. At that point he chooses helpers to form and prepare carrying on his task or “mission.”

The first thing we can notice about them is that they are very ordinary people. There was about them no remarkable wealth or social position. They were simply common people who did ordinary things with no special advantages. They were just like you and me. Yet, Jesus looks at them just as he looks at us seeing not just what and who we are, but what and who he can make us become. This is what is happening here, not just in the Gospel, but in this room as well. Under the influence and power of Jesus Christ, ordinary people will do ordinary things extraordinarily well.

Matthew calls them “apostles”. If you belong to the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, that’s you. This is the first time the word “apostle” is used, and it is only used one more time. He called them. There was no force or fear, but simply an invitation. They were free to say “yes” or “no”. Everyone is called and invited. Some accept and some refuse. The freedom is always respected. Then he appointed them to a task as the story unfolds. They had been “disciples” which means “learners.” Now what they have learned by watching and listening to Jesus, they will put into practice. They will preach and they will heal. The two cannot be separated because the healing is what the preaching is all about. What they do gives credibility to the preaching. They are to say what he says and do what he does: “You are forgiven”, heal, cleanse, and lift up the dead is the task. This is full authority. What Jesus did in earlier verses, they are now authorized to do.

No longer are these people spectators there to watch and just listen to Jesus. They are not eavesdroppers. They are to take nothing for what they do. This ministry is a gift and it must be seen as gift, so they do not compromise themselves or the mission by doing it for any gain or profit. The Kingdom of God is a gift. You can’t buy it or earn it.

Carrying no staff makes these apostles distinct from other travelers because they travel light. To make sure that they never forget who they are and how they are to behave, they are not to wear sandals. Slaves do not wear sandals. This instruction makes clear that they are servants. They put first things first knowing that God will provide what they need if they are fulfilling God’s will.

My friends, the church teaches that when Jesus speaks there is no time or place, no history and no future. The Word of God proclaimed is always for the now, for the moment. Jesus Christ speaks now to you and me. We are in this church today because we have been called. Think of how many others are somewhere else right now sleeping, golfing, watching TV, working their jobs, or just playing around. Many of them have said “no” to the invitation, but many of them have never heard it. The Word of God proclaimed in this church brings the Word Made Flesh, Jesus Christ into this place and he speaks to us still about what we are to do and how we are to do it. We are servants who have received a gift we are to share, by doing what he has done. This is no place for spectators. If you are going into Communion with Christ in the sacrament of this alter, you are going into the mission of Christ as Lord of the Harvest. The consequences of that are something we will hear of next week, but for now we will have enough to do with simply making sure we have no sandals, no staff, and have put first things first ready to forgive, cleanse, heal, and bring life and joy to those who have no hope and therefore no life.

The Fourth Sunday of Pentecost in the Maronite Rite

1 Corinthians 2, 11-16 & Luke 10, 21-24

June 5, 2016 at Our Lady of Lebanon Maronite Catholic Church in Norman, Oklahoma

A couple of years ago my grand-nephews were visiting me, and I took them to the Museum of Osteology just up the road from here. This is not the sort of museum that would normally attract my attention. A building full of bones does not exactly excite my curiosity, but I trusted the recommendation of a friend who had been there a few weeks earlier with her grandchildren. It is not a very imposing or impressive place like the grand Natural History Museum here in Norman. I think the boys were mostly cooperative with my idea because they did not know what Osteology was, and because they had trusted me with a trip to Andy Alligators the day before, they liked it a lot.

I was hesitant trying not to spoil the experience by acting so, but we went in, paid the price of admission, and as soon as we stepped through the door, they went wild. Standing at the entrance was what seemed to me to be a huge pile of bones wired together in a somewhat thoughtful way resembling nothing I could identify. Immediately both boys pointed and shouted out the name of some aquatic creature I don’t think I could name if I saw it live. For more than an hour they raced around the place running back to me now and then insisting that I come and see another arrangement of bones which they insisted with great delight was some other creature about which I had no knowledge much less interest.

Whenever I hear Jesus praising the wisdom of children, I always think of this experience. Those boys and every child take the most simple yet thrilling delight in things I sometimes cannot see, but they can. A simple and pure mind and heart can receive truths that a learned mind cannot take in. It is possible to be too clever. In these few verses of Luke’s Gospel, those of us who think we are so smart, wise, and educated are called to task for our failure to see. What we are invited to do is see what God sees, and perhaps even see as God sees. It’s all about seeing and sight. It teases us out of biological optical impulses into the sight or to the eyes of faith.

In the verses just before these, Luke has the first missionaries, the first ones sent out in the name of Jesus Christ returning and all excited because of what they have seen happen. As they say to Jesus, “Even the demons are subject to us because of your name!” Then Jesus says: “Yes, I have seen Satan fall like lightening from the sky.” Then he warns them that their joy should not be over what they have accomplished, but because of who they are. “Rejoice”, he says, “because your names are written in heaven.” Then Jesus breaks into prayer with these verses of praise to God for what God is revealing to them, and then he turns to those disciples, and pronounces them Blessed because they can see who he is as the presence and the revelation of God himself. They can see what those learned and scholarly, wise and self-perpetuating Scribes and Pharisees cannot see.

As we listen to this Gospel proclaimed, we must hope for and desire that kind of sight. We must open our minds and then our hearts to see the glory of God in all creation and in all God’s children, All God’s children: not just the ones we like are who think or look like us. God could not possibly see any difference between us. We must see as God sees, and we must see what God sees if we are to be counted among the Blessed. From flowers to clouds, from simple acts of kindness to great moments of generosity there is cause for rejoicing.

Feel the joy of Jesus as he breaks into praise of the Father over the fact that these disciples can see with the eyes of faith what is before them. Look today with the eyes of faith at what is placed upon this altar. See with simple eyes of a child what bread and wine are because of what we do in the name of Jesus Christ. Then, see with the eyes of faith what happens to us who receive the Word and the Sacrament of his presence.


Count your blessing. Know your Blessedness. Be a blessing in his name.