All posts for the month March, 2023

Isaiah 50, 4-7 + Psalm 22 + Philippians 2, 6-11 + Matthew 26, 14-27,66

April 2, 2023 at St. Agnes & St. Peter Churches in Naples, FL

I think that Social Scienteists will look back the years of our lifetime and call this “The Age of the Victim”. Playing the role of victim has somehow taken over the psyche of many people in the western world. It goes along with the system of blame that we have cultivated. Someone is always responsible for my troubles and misery, and then the victim begins to cry out: “Why me?” “How could this happen to me?” A pity party has almost taken the place of a Birthday Party.

We can listen to Matthew’s Passion and learn hour Jesus confronted evil. Jesus was no helpless victim. He knew from the Prophets he had heard all his life in the synagogue what was likely to happen, and he went straight into Jerusalem. He could have run and hid when that crowd marched into that garden. He heard and saw them coming.

He faced their threats and his own fears because nothing could sway him from being true to who he was: The Son of Man, The Son of God. Never think for one minute that his Divine Nature interfered or took over his Human Nature. To do that makes this whole thing a charade. It was his relationship with to God as a child of God that let him face freely the conflict of his life. 

In Mattew’s Passion, it is clear from every detail that God is in charge and what happens is all according to God’s plan. That is the Jesus Matthew presents to us, a man whose trust in God, who believes in God’s providence, is willing to be obedient to the will and plan of God even if it isn’t understandable or agreeable to his plan. So, he faced those who would betray him, torture him, and sentence him to death with silence. He refuses to argue. He simply prays just as he taught us to pray: “They will be done.” Even at the moment of his death there is cry that is the ultimate prayer.  Even while feeling deserted, he turned to the God he could never fully understand. There is no greater prayer. At that moment, a veil that separated the holy from the profane was ripped from heaven to earth. A God who has become vulnerable and visible is no longer sperate from creation.

And now today we leave it right here. We stop now in wonder over a God who loves us enough to die with us to ponder what it all means and why. The answer to it all comes through each day of this Holy Week. It is time to watch and pray letting Jesus lead us more deeply into the mystery and wonder of our God whose arms streach out to embrace us all.

March 19, 2023 at Saint William Church in Naples, FL

1 Samuel 16, 1, 6-7, 10-13 + Psalm 23 + Ephesians 5, 8-14 + John 9, 1-41

We have to learn to see. The human brain must interpret images are focused on the retina, identify them, name them, and then remember them. That remember is the hard part when you get my age. Do you ever go around the house looking for something as I sometimes do without results, give up, and them an hour later find what you were looking for that was right in front of you all the time? Sometimes we just don’t see what is right in front of us, and that is what John’s Gospel reminds us of today.

This story is about a man who learns to see and a bunch of smart people who can’t see what’s right in front of them. You have to ask the question here: which one is really blind? That man who encounters Jesus is learning. He’s learning to see. He begins calling Jesus, “the man”, then a “prophet”, after that, “Lord”. He is learning to see, and part of what helps him is what he hears because he’s listening to what’s being said all around him. Then John gives us Pharisees. These are learned people who know the prophets and what to look for when the Messiah comes. They remind me of those scholars of the law in Matthew’s Gospel summoned by Herod when the visitors from the east come. Those guys knew from the scriptures where and how the Messiah was to be born, and they were too lazy or something to go along with those magi. It’s the same thing with these Pharisees in Jerusalem.

What a great story of human nature this is. How clearly it reveals what pride and self-satisfaction can do, making people blind to what is right in front of them. Those Pharisees in today’s Gospel knew perfectly well what the Messiah would be like. He was doing the very things the prophets had foretold, and instead of seeing the Messiah, the Lord, they saw a sinner! What a tragedy this is revealing not just something that may or not have really happened in the past, but what truth it reveals about us all who need to learn to see raising the question about who is blind and who is not.

There is a lot of blindness in this world, and a bit of darkness in us all. Too often we just fail to see what is right in front of us for all kind of reasons; prejudice, ignorance, stubbornness, ill will, hurts, pain, and lots more besides. The Gospel we proclaim today reminds us first that we can lean to see. It might take some time, but it does happen. We are also reminded that sometimes what we hear can determine what we see. If we are told again and again that someone or something is bad, we might start seeing it that way even if it isn’t bad. So, that old adage, what you see is what you get is not always true because what we see is not always what’s really there. We have to learn to see, and we have to want to.

The blind man of this gospel teaches us that learning to see what is really there is sometimes slow and gradual, but it is possible. The Pharisees of this Gospel teach us something as well; that sometimes what we think we know can blind us to the truth and leave us in the darkness. They also teach is that if we listen to and understand the prophets and the sacred scriptures, we will be able to see and recognize the presence of God in people who are right in front of us even those we might be inclined call “sinners.” We must not make the foolish mistake of those Pharisees. To do so will leave us in a darkness we can never imagine while the Light of Christ, the Light Life, the Light Truth shines for those who want to see and will do what Christ Jesus asks.

March 12, 2023 at St. Peter, St. William, & St. Agnes Churches in Naples, FL

Exodus 17, 3-7 + Psalm 95 + Romans 5, 1-2, 5-8 + John 4, 5-42

Many who study and pay attention to social and political things believe that the next big war will not be over oil, but over water. The growing concern everywhere and even here in Florida where you can see water nearly everywhere is over fresh clean water. Those of us who have been there can easily see that the great tension and struggle between Israel and the Palestinians is really over who controls the water coming out of the Golan Heights. One of the great challenges that keeps Africa from prosperity is the lack of clean water. We know what happens to the human body when dehydration sets in, and it’s nearly the same thing with human societies and communities.

The conversation in this Gospel between Jesus and a Samaritan woman is about their shared human need, thirst. Coming to recognize that they share the same need, begins to break down the enmity between the two of them. Step by step, the two begin to reveal themselves to each other because they both have the same need as the they speak of their deepest thirst which is not really water, but for worship, salvation, and the search for truth.

They listen to each other, and as they do, their perceptions of each other begin to soften and shift. Jesus never calls her a sinner even though he’s heard she had five husbands. There is no judgment at all in his conversation. He just listens and shares his own need. She listens, and she moves from calling him a “Jew” to wonder if he might be greater than Jacob as she begins to recognize him as a prophet. Then, she comes to realize that he is the Messiah running to tell others. It all happens because of a simple conversation and the willingness of two people who could not be more distant and more opposite to discover their common need and listen to each other.

This Gospel has a lot of theology in it with references to water that are so important to us nearing Easter’s vigil. There is some wonderful theology here in this contrast between a woman who comes at noon in the daytime to a man in the previous story who comes to Jesus at night. All so important to us nearing Easter’s vigil when we gather in the night drawn into the light and take people to the water of everlasting life. Lots of sermons have been preached about that and should be again.

Yet, there is something more here than these theological themes that reveal so many important things to us as we near Easter. There also is a simple lesson about the power of a conversation that explores shared human need. It reminds us of what good listening can do, listening without judgement, listening with respect for the honest expression of a deep longing and human need that is probably shared. 

In sitting with this beautiful story, I am struck by the fact that she leaves her bucket empty, and Jesus seems to never get a drink from that well. Maybe it wasn’t about water all, but rather a mutually shared desire and need for respect, for peace, for someone to listen, and someone to just understand. I think that our faith will be more easily embraced and joyfully lived if we can simply see that in spite of whatever divides us, we all need the same thing, some good love and respect. When we start to listen instead of argue and make pronouncements, call names, and point the finger of blame at people we might get what we really need and so will everyone else. That will give us a taste of the Kingdom of God to which Jesus came to lead.

March 26, 2023 at Saint Eugene Church in Oklahoma City, OK

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

My name is Thomas. When my parents chose that name for me, I am sure that they did not realize what a gift they were giving me. While there are several great men with that name: Thomas Aquinas, Thomas Beckett, Thomas More, I feel sure that they knew nothing of those men, and I have always believed that the Apostle Thomas was their intent. Over the 81 years I have carried that name, that man called: “The Twin” and I have grown closer. The oral tradition that shaped the written Gospels only recalled three occasions when he spoke, and it’s not hard to understand why they would have remembered and passed on his words. The three things he says reveal a movement in faith for anyone who would be a follower of Jesus Christ. First some bewilderment: “We do not know where you are going”. Then the first and shortest of all creeds, “My Lord and My God”. Finally, the courage and boldness that any believer must have when he says, “Let us go to die with him.”

With the words we hear today, Thomas challenges the fear in his companions as they near Jerusalem knowing that there is trouble ahead, and the enemies of Jesus are waiting for him. His timid, frightened companions remind Jesus that there had just been an attempt on his life. They don’t want to go, and they don’t want him to go. Thomas speaks up. What he suggests is that anyone living in fear is already dead. Fear drains the life out of us.  It leaves us paralyzed and unable to fulfill God’s plan for us. Jesus knows what God wants, not just from him but from us all, and so, fearless, he goes.

There is much more to this episode in John’s Gospel than a story about a dead man being called from a tomb. This occasion in Bethany is not the first time Jesus as called someone to life.

Matthew, Mark, and Luke have Transfiguration scenes, but not John. There is no Transfiguration scene. The whole of John’s Gospel episode by episode, reveals the glory of Jesus. The whole Gospel is an unfolding of glory revealed in Jesus Christ from the joy of a wedding feast without wine to the sadness of a grave in Bethany. The glory of God is slowly being revealed through Jesus Christ, who constantly shows us the essence of God’s being and glory. We are invited to enter into the dynamic of that love and in response, give glory to God.

Come Pentecost when the Holy Spirit is poured out and poured into the lives of those cautious, timid, and sometimes fearful disciples, the glory of God breaks into this world.

My friends, if the mission of Jesus Christ was ultimately to give glory to God and restore that glory in the lives of human kind, then we suddenly know what our lives are about and why we are here. The glory of God is the reason we have the gifts given to us using them for the glory of God affirms that we know who we are and why.

For three nights this week, I will refresh your memories about what we do here in this sacred space and remind you of why we do it. An example: I will soon say to you: “Pray, brothers and sisters, that my sacrifice and yours may be acceptable to God, the almighty Father.” And you say? “For the glory of his name!” There it is! There is your reason for being here. Giving glory to God is what you came here for not to get something. Yet, how often we hear some say: “I don’t get anything out of it.” Maybe they only do things to get something in return.  I’m also going to talk about what God is doing here. Sometimes we miss that because we’re too busy thinking about ourselves. Join me three times this week. It might just be refreshing and change the way you experience this Holy and precious time we spend in this place.

March 5, 2023 

This homily will not be given during the Liturgy as this is the opening day of a Lenten Mission at St Sebastian in Ft Lauderdale, FL

Genesis 12, 1-4 + Psalm 33 + 2 Timothy 1, 8-10 + Matthew 17, 1-9

“Six days later” is the way Matthew begins today’s Gospel. So, it is the seventh day – a “replay” of creation and the day of completion. He takes Peter, James, and John up a high mountain. Soon he will climb the mountain of his death alone. The characters, three disciples, experience this moment of glory. They are the same three who will experience the Agony in the Garden. For Jesus this is one more affirmation of what was said about him in the Jordan river. At that time, he was the only one who saw the dove and heard the voice, but not this time. A few verses earlier, Peter answered the question: “Who do you say that I am”? That scene ends with Jesus once more describing his passion, but to lead them through that, they are given a brief glimpse of the future.

The question is still out there for us all. “Who do you say that I am?” Most of us are like those apostles who wanted that glory, power, and all that fame and prestige, but that is not the savior and messiah God has given us. We get the savior and messiah who falls to the ground, who is innocent yet hung on a cross between two thieves. When Jesus tells Peter and the apostles that following him means taking up a cross of self-denial he speaks to us as well. 

The God Jesus reveals to us is a God of mercy and compassion, a God who knows suffering and has already shared it with us. This is a God who suffers with us because his only Son has suffered for us. I find it thought provoking that the Greek word Matthew uses for “Transfiguration” comes into English as a metamorphosis, which is what happened when the Greek gods took on human form. 

With that in mind, we can sit with this image of the Transfiguration as a hopeful and comforting glimpse of what future is instore for those willing to take up the cross, willing to deny one’s own will in favor of God’s will. Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem now in chapter seventeen. It does not take any divine knowledge to know that there is trouble ahead, that his preaching and teaching have threatened the very life and security of those in power from Herod and the Chief Priests to the simplest Scribes and Pharisees. The new creation has on that mountain, and the old world is passing away.

Lest we think that this experience was only something the disciples experienced, we might well wonder about what it meant to Jesus to hear once more the affirmation of his relationship with the Father. There is a dark night of hopelessness lurking around this scene, but the light of God suddenly breaks through that darkness with the promise of victory for those willing to die.