All posts for the month March, 2020

Ezekiel 37, 12-14 + Psalm 130 + Romans 8, 8-11 + John 11, 1-45

Prepared during a time of self-isolation during the pandemic.

The last of the seven signs that make up John’s Gospel is proclaimed today. Looking up and looking at the other six would be a good assignment as we all stay home this weekend hoping to remain healthy. For now, as often for me, it’s the verbs in this text that can lead us deeper in this mystery. “Take” “Come” and “Untie.” With those three words, the mission of Jesus, the will of his Father, and hope within us all is laid out for our contemplation. Perhaps, in these three commands there is for us mission given and the order is given for what we must do in the name of Jesus.

He tells us, in a sense, to “Take Away” a stone, a stone that is a barrier or for some, perhaps a burden. We are a people commanded to lift or remove the stones that keep others from living, that keep others away from their loved ones, that keep others away from Jesus himself. If this Gospel is real, and if God is speaking to us right now, as we believe happens when the assembly is together, then God commands again that we Take away something, anything, that keeps someone away from love, life, or perhaps lonely, in the darkness of a tomb of resentment or shame. Take Away God says to us.

Then again, God speaks to us and says: “Come out.” Perhaps at no better time does this command prepare us to “Come out” of this time of isolation or quarantine. Come out he says to us to give glory to God and give thanks. “Come out” is the command to people hiding in fear. More broadly he says, “Come out” to anyone who, like Lazarus, has been given up for dead. “Come out” he says to those have lost the Spirit of life, of joy, and peace.

Finally, there is one more command, “Untie”, which echoes in the last instruction Jesus gives to us, his disciples. We will hear it again after Easter as he departs and commissions us to forgive. “Untie” is what we are told to do. Set people free. Cut away whatever keeps our brothers and sisters from really living in the joy of our faith. The baggage of our past so often keeps us from the fullness of life and destroys relationships that could wrap us love. Resentments, grudges, and shame wrap and tangle too many of us, and keep us from living the life we have been promised and hope for.

1 Sm 16:1, 6-13+ Psalm 23 + Ephesians 5:8-14 + John 9:1-41

At St. Peter the Apostle Church in Naples. FL Live Streamed

It was March 21, 1748. From the age of 11, he had been involved in slave trading. He was so coarse and cruel that he earned the name, “The Great Blasphemer.” His ship was being slammed by a raging storm, and he had lashed himself to the helm of that battered ship. In fear and desperation, he remembered the prayers of his Christian mother, and a prayer for deliverance was sucked out of him. Surviving the tempest, he abandoned the lucrative slave-trade and at age 39 and became a minister for the next 43 years. At the age of 82, writing in his diary on the anniversary of that stormy day, John Newton wrote a poem that years later would be set to music becoming the best-known Christian hymn, “Amazing Grace”. While some struggle with that harsh word, “wretch” in the text, I feel sure that John Newton chose it to describe himself in terms of his past. While some may never choose to describe themselves as “wretches” everyone of us formed by this Gospel today might well admit that we have been blind and we long to see, and the world we live in is blind as well.

There are such fascinating details and contrasts in this wonderful chapter of John’s Gospel. There are those Pharisees and leaders of the people who think they can see, but they don’t. They can’t see what is right in front them. They can’t see who it is that works theses signs and wonders much less, what they mean. They live in darkness preferring it to the Light of Christ. There are the man’s parents, who see what has happened, but do not understand. They just don’t want to get involved like so many in this world. Then there is a blind who can see, and like the woman in last Sunday’s Gospel, a personal encounter with Jesus Christ awakens in him more than just sight. He begins to understand, and John tells that he “worshiped” Jesus. In other words, the man born blind suddenly realizes he has been visited by God.

The woman at the well, this blind man, and all of us come to God by different paths, and we all struggle with some kind of blindness that keeps us from seeing as clearly as we may think. It is a kind of Spiritual Blindness that requires a great deal of humility that would allow us to understand and accept that we do not see as clearly as we might think. This kind of blindness affects our ability to address social issues and injustice, because we just don’t see the poor and fail to understand a system that keeps them that way. So, we become like the parents of the blind man. We just can’t be bothered, or we decide that getting involved may require some danger or risks. This spiritual blindness can sour personal relationships, and even affect the way we see a stranger or someone at the border fleeing violence and danger. We just don’t see the Christ in our midst. We can never presume that we have clear sight, and so we must always strive to gaze into the heart of people and things to see as God sees.

In this day, connections are important to us. We go crazy when the internet connection is bad or fails, this very connection that connects us right now. We are all feeling the strain of isolation, that is testing our connections with one another. Yet, in the end, it will be our connection with God that matters, and this disconnect we feel now right now might be for some a lot worse if the connection with God has been broken or ignored. Now, from home rather than from Church we continue our journey through Lent, and like the Hebrew people in the desert, we are hungry and long to eat the Bread of Life. For now, we must feed ourselves on the Word of God until that day when we will assemble here in thanksgiving to rejoice in the fullness of life and share the cup of salvation. For now, we pray, “Lord, heal our blindness so that we may see your guiding hand in these anxious times of fear and darkness. Lead us into the light of faith to rejoice even now in your goodness with a blessed hope that does not fail.”

Exodus 17, 3-7 + Psalm 95 + Romans 5, 2, 5-8 + John 4, 5-42

March 15, 2020 Never delivered at Mass

This weekend is a Maronite Parish Weekend

As I said in the column I write for some parish bulletins last week, I am not so sure that I would run into town and invite everyone to come out and meet someone who had just told me everything I ever did. Why would anyone do such a thing? Who would want everything they have ever done announced publicly? None the less, that’s what she did. Perhaps she felt as though she had nothing to lose since everyone probably knew it all anyway; or perhaps there was something else, and here is where we are drawn into this Gospel and drawn to this who knows everything we have ever done.

This woman is really the center-piece of this Gospel, and her experience itself is a Gospel. It is good news. For John in his Gospel, she is a model of a disciple’s experience of faith. In her encounter with Jesus, she confronts her own sinfulness and realizes her need for forgiveness. With that, she comes to realize the depth of God’s love for her, and with that, she changes from sinner to disciple who rushes to tell what she has found.

For years, I have my imagination has been stirred by a little detail that John puts in this Gospel when he tells us that she left her water-jar behind, I am fascinated and wonder about this and what it means. That water-jar was both something of her past, and part of her shame. Because of it and with it, she had keep coming back again and again to get more water, which was never enough. To me, it is also a kind of symbol of her position in live as a servant living without freedom and in a sense, enslaved to that water-jar, the well, and the need to keep coming every day after day. She left it. She had found freedom and “living water” from a new well, from the source if life-giving water, Jesus Christ. She not only found freedom, she found love that obviously she had not found with all the lovers that had come in and out of her life in her past. As with all of us who ever really find love, she found acceptance just as she was with all of her past known by the lover who didn’t shame her, pass judgement, or condemn.

Our best hope at this point in Lent is that we may have the same experience of standing before this one sent by God to set us free, to forgive, heal, and restore our dignity and our unity before the Father. For John, who is writing this Gospel after some time following the death of Jesus, he is surely reflecting upon what he has seen as the Gospel has been carried across all the boundaries of suspicion, distrust, hatred, and prejudice that the Jewish people had for Samaritans. All of that is over as John writes, telling us how this peaceful reconciliation of two so different peoples could and was accomplished. For Jesus, he is doing the will of the One who sent him sowing in Samaria a grain that will be harvested for eternal life. It all happened because Jesus was willing to sit and talk, eat and drink with someone who was perceived as an enemy.

This Gospel becomes then, an invitation to perhaps look differently upon those we consider enemies or those we would never think of sitting with and talking with much less eating and drinking. If it is the Father’s will that we all be one, God must be wondering when we are going to get started. John suggests that a good place to start would be to pay attention to and follow the example of Jesus Christ.

Genesis 12:1-4a + Psalm 33 + 2 Timothy 1:8b-10 + Matthew 17:1-9

7 March 2020

San Antonio Parish in Port Charlotte, FL Opening of Lenten Mission

This weekend opens a Parish Mission at San Antonio Parish in Port Charlotte

A lot of things happen on hills and mountains in the Gospels. We went up a mountain last week as Satan led Jesus to the high place. This week Jesus leads Peter, James and John up the same way. When Satan leads it is all about this world, it’s kingdoms and its glory. When Jesus leads it is not about this world, its power and its glory. It is about a vision of the kingdom to come after Jesus climbs another mountain. Those apostles will need to keep this vision when Jesus next climbs up a hill to die. These high places are for many peoples and cultures a place close to God, a meeting place. Think of Moses and remember what happened to him as his face became so bright that he had to wear a veil after meeting God there. Matthew surely did as he provides details intended to lead us to connect Moses with Jesus, the giver of the new law. And there is Elijah, the prophet of hope, who encountered God on a mountain as well.

All of this connects Jesus to the past, but Matthew would also have us connect Jesus to the future, the glory of the resurrection. When we get to Easter Sunday, Matthew will once again describe Jesus appearing to Mary Magdalene with clothes that are white as snow. Listen for that, and remember.

Abraham leads us deeper and further into this season when we set aside things that distract us from what is to come. Abraham receives a divine call, and he abandons everything that keeps him from God, heading into the unknown, guided only by the God he has been searching for. My friends, this season is our time to assess everything that might be keeping us from God, keeping us from heading into the unknown, and everything we have tried as a substitute for the God of Abraham, Moses, Elijah, and Jesus. In this place, in this church, we are again on a mountain, close to God. In this place, through the Sacrament we share, the vision of the Kingdom comes to us again as we look upon those around us. On this mountain we are nourished, strengthened and prepared for what is to come so that the disappointments, tragedies, and even the deaths we experience will not and cannot keep us from the Easter that awaits us all.

Like the apostles, we will come down, and all around us will be the suffering, the sick, the hungry and lonely. If we have seen the Lord in this place, and if we have listened to the Lord in this place, those who wait and long for the comfort only God can give will find it in us.