Cusp-a point of transition, as from one historical period to the next;
the borders between the twelve astrological signs.
You are considered to be "on the cusp" if you were born
within a day or two of the beginning or end of any sign.

The Rocky Mountains, Lander's Peak, 1863; Albert Bierstadt


14 February 2018

Homily for The Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time B, February 11, 2018



The Sixth Sunday, in Ordinary Time B, February 11, 2018

Jesus cleansing a leper, medieval mosaic from the Monreale Cathedral, Palermo, Sicily
“Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” Paul speaks those words to move the Corinthians to reform their lives as followers of Christ. In a meme I saw on Facebook recently I read: We aren’t called to be like other Christians; we are called to be like Christ. That is the challenge because to follow Christ always means to step beyond the bounds of convention. If it were not so Jesus would never have been condemned to die on the cross.
In the first reading from Leviticus we see what the convention was. "If someone has on his skin a scab or pustule or blotch which appears to be the sore of leprosy, the priest shall declare him unclean by reason of the sore on his head.
The one who bears the sore of leprosy shall cry out, 'Unclean, unclean!' [and]…He shall dwell apart, making his abode outside the camp." What the Hebrews of the time of Moses knew about leprosy is not certain, but what contagious skin diseases could do was potentially deadly to a band of nomads. These restrictions carried far beyond the wandering in the desert up to the time of Jesus.
In the gospel, we hear that a leper came to Jesus and kneeling down begged him and said, "If you wish, you can make me clean." In approaching Jesus in the manner he does, the man is committing a terrible social blunder and he may be breaking the law too! In the face of all this, Jesus is not repulsed or shocked; he is “moved with pity.” Just three words, but they tell us so much. Jesus’ remarkable answer: “I do want to.” In an extraordinary move, Jesus stretches out his hand and touches the man. As noted, the ancients thought that leprosy was communicable, and at the very least disgusting. But Jesus touched him with care and said, “Be made clean.” Our spiritual life consists of being “made clean,” no matter how disgusting our failings may be. We must receive Jesus’ touch, especially his touch upon our souls (Foley).
The law made lepers outcasts; but, even without the law, nobody wanted to touch a leper. The leper healed by Jesus must have lived for a long time without the touch of another human being.
How welcome the touch of Jesus must have been to that leper! And how overjoyed the leper must have been when he found himself healed! (Stump)
What is of much greater import in Jesus’ behavior is that he touched the man. While touching is common in this culture, touching a leper is not… By touching the “leper” Jesus challenges the bounds of his culture’s judgment. In Jesus’ view, the “leper” does not pollute, and with his touch he restores the leper to full membership in God’s community, to solidarity in human fellowship. (Pilch)
Who are the lepers, the outcasts in our society today? Who do we know who needs a healing touch, or to be brought into society, out of its margins?
In the Eucharist, before we receive the Body of Christ we say, “O, Lord, I am not worthy that you should come under my roof , but only say the word, and my soul shall be healed.” Then, with the touch of Christ, we too are healed.  When we leave the liturgy we are meant to take Christ’s healing touch out into the world that we live in, making it one with Christ.
As Paul says, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.”

19 November 2017

Homily for Thirty-second Sunday of Ordinary Time A, November 12, 2017


Detail from the Rossano Gospel, 11th Century

Homily for Thirty-second Sunday of Ordinary Time A, November 12, 2017
What is wisdom? What does it mean to be truly wise? These are the questions put before believers in today’s scripture selections. In an attempt to find a fresh approach and to put a new face on this timeless but ever timely topic, a scripture scholar Patricia Datchuk Sanchez decided to consult “the mouths of babes”.

She wrote: When I asked our fourteen-year-old son, “What does it mean to be wise?” He replied, “Knowing something.” When asked, “What is wisdom?”, his answer was, “knowing a lot of something.” To the same questions, our thirteen-year-old son replied similarly. Then, I asked if he thought there were a difference between being smart and being wise. After thinking for a few moments, he said, “A smart person knows a lot of facts but a wise person has knowledge that comes from experience.” When I put the questions to our eleven-year-old daughter, she offered the following: “Wisdom means knowing right from wrong. . . a wise person knows what is right and does it.” Finally, it was our nine-year-old son’s turn. He said simply, “A wise person is somebody who knows how to make the right choices.” When I asked him how a person gets wisdom, he replied, “I guess you have to ask God. . . did you need to know anything else, Mom?’” (Sanchez)

“[Wisdom] is readily perceived by those who love her, and found by those who seek her…Whoever watches for her at dawn shall not be disappointed, for he shall find her sitting by his gate.”

Wisdom is the overarching theme of our readings; readiness and patience are considered in light of wisdom. As we approach the end of the liturgical year we see that our readings speak of the end times. For the early Christians the return of the Christ was seen as something imminent. As years and then generations were passing by, Matthew and Paul and the other Christian authors of that time were encouraging the members of the early Church to endure their trials, to remain steadfast in their commitment to Christ, and to be ready for the return of the “Bridegroom.”

If we consider the parable in this light we see that Christ is the Bridegroom whose coming is delayed, the five wise maidens are those Christians who have remained steadfast and prepared, and the five foolish maidens are those Christians who have wavered in their commitment. We can see then why the wise maidens couldn’t give oil to the foolish maidens because the “oil” is the wisdom of God that must be sought for oneself.

Patience is the third element of the readings. We are longing for the Lord. “My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God…my body pines for you like a dry weary land without water.” We are like children on a journey asking our parents: are we there yet? It is hard to remain patient; it is hard to maintain enthusiasm for something that seems so far beyond our reach. None of us can live our lives as if it was our last day. Spiritual wisdom offers a nuanced answer here: We can and we can’t!  On the one hand, the distractions, cares, and pressures of everyday life will invariably have their way with us and we will, in effect, fall asleep to what’s deeper and more important inside of life. But it’s for this reason that every major spiritual tradition has daily rituals designed precisely to wake us from spiritual sleep, akin an alarm clock waking us from physical sleep. (Foley)

It’s for this reason we need to begin each day with prayer. What happens if we don’t pray on a given morning is not that God is angry with us, but rather that we tend to miss the morning, spending the hours until noon trapped inside a certain dullness of heart. The same can be said about praying before meals. We don’t displease God by not first being grateful before eating, but we miss out on the richness of what we’re doing. Liturgical prayer and the Eucharist have the same intent, among their other intentions. They’re meant to, regularly, call us out of a certain sleep.”

“Therefore, stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour."


04 December 2016

Homily for the Second Sunday of Advent A, 4 December 2016




 


One of the popular symbols of this season is the Christmas tree. There are some who already have one standing in a prominent place at home. The year Louise and I became engaged one of the first things we did was to buy a piece of property near Oak Openings, and one of the first things we did on that property was to plant a row of Colorado Blue Spruce along the right of way of the road. Tiny seedlings we planted. We tended them; brought water from town to keep them safe from the hot dry weather of the following summer. After we built our house and moved in with our family we watched them grow a little taller each year careful not to mow them down until they were large enough to escape that fate.
Fir trees seem to take a long time to grow until at some point they seem to grow by leaps and bounds.  We didn’t realize it, but the trees were now at a more vulnerable stage, they were at the height and shape where they made perfect Christmas trees. When I left for work one dark frosty morning I didn’t notice the damage that had been done in the night, but as I returned home later in the light of day I was shocked and angry at what I saw. Two of the trees had been cut with only the bottom tier of branches remaining.
We had planted these trees to grace the land for years to come, and someone saw fit to cut them for a few days’ pleasure. We related this to a friend of ours who had a Christmas tree farm and he told us to leave the remaining branches. He said the branches will begin to grow upward. Amazingly they did, and in a few years you couldn’t tell what had happened. In a few short years we had seen a cycle of planting, tending, growth, destruction, hope and regrowth.
In scripture, the olive tree is often used as a symbol of Israel. In the first reading we read of a stump of a tree from which a shoot is growing. In particular this stump refers to the fallen line of the kings of Israel and the shoot is the heir of David, the Messiah, the Christ. Isaiah is encouraging the returning exiles to take hope in the Messiah-king who will have all the favor of God and whose reign will be one of justice and peace.
In the Gospel, John is crying out, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand,” fulfilling Isaiah’s prophecy of “one crying out in the desert.” People are flocking to John for his baptism of repentance. They are anticipating the coming of the Messiah foretold by Isaiah.
“As herald of Jesus and the reign of God, John the Baptizer explained by word and example precisely how to prepare a welcome for Jesus. Those who came to hear him speak, in the Judean desert near the Jordan, were told, “[Repent]!” (vs. 2). Reform or repentance indicates that welcoming the reign of God requires a complete conversion. In Hebrew, the word for conversion, shubh, implies that a person has found himself/herself on a wrong path or going in a wrong direction and has made a complete about-face or turnaround in order to return to God. In Greek, the term for conversion is metanoia, which means an absolute change of mind and will.” (Sanchez).
John’s message was about justice, about social change. He challenged the people of Israel to get down to the root causes of problems, to uproot unfruitful trees. The changes that are called for in Advent are fundamental and far-reaching; they are structural. In this new church year, we are challenged to work for a better society, different from the one we now have.
The Christian message relies on the conversion of people which will in turn bring about these changes in society (Medellin Documents).
            How do we repent? How do we prepare the way of the Lord? We do this when we feed the hungry, clothe the naked, forgive the guilty, welcome the stranger and the unwanted child, care for the ill, and love our enemies.
In the Lord’s Prayer we pray “thy kingdom come.” Then the presider says the prayer which ends “as we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.” We then receive the Body and Blood of Christ. Jesus comes to us in the Blessed Sacrament, but it does not the end here for we must go and announce the gospel of the Lord and glorify him with our life.
Heavenly Father, fill our hearts with your love so we can help make your kingdom come.

22 March 2015

Homily for the Fifth Sunday of Lent B, 22 March 2015




 

Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies,
it remains just a grain of wheat;
but if it dies, it produces much fruit.

This is the time of year that really starts to get us moving. After being cooped up for the winter we’re eager to get out doors and do things. All those little chores that were left under the snow are now catching our eyes and begging for our attention. Other signs of the season are appearing as well. Garden catalogues and seed displays at the stores are getting us to thinking about the warmer days ahead.
Sometimes in the excitement of the new season we get ahead of ourselves and make greater plans than we actually complete. I confess I have bought packets of seeds that have never been opened, and flats of plants that have dried up in the tray, or nursery stock that died because it was left in an out of the way corner of the yard. I allowed other activities or lost ambition or, dare I say, laziness wither those plans like the sun dried seedlings. I was unwilling to pick up the shovel to break the ground, and the rake to smooth the seed bed. I was unwilling to make the effort.
Sometimes Lent is like that. We make our vows to give up this or that, to do more of one thing or another and we get so far and then loose heart. We buy the seed packet and maybe tear it open but the seed never gets in the ground. We never see the flower or the fruit.
Jesus talks about a single grain of wheat falling to the ground and dying and then producing much fruit. Have you ever seen the head of a ripe stalk of wheat? Depending on the variety it can produce ten or twenty grains from the single grain that was planted. What abundance! But the grain had to be planted first. Fields of wheat do not spring up by themselves. It takes effort; it takes effort.
Jesus has been telling his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer and die to accomplish the will of the Father. In his death not only will he rise to new life but so will all of us who follow after him. Instead of a shovel or rake the tool Jesus had to use was the cross.
These were hard words for his disciples, not because they were not willing to die, but because they weren’t willing to die without a fight. They couldn’t bear the thought of the Messiah just laying down his life. This is why Jesus warns that those who would save their life will lose it but he who loses his life to this world will have eternal life. Eternal life comes when we surrender to the will of the Father, take up our cross and follow Jesus.
This is why these things we do during Lent matter. They help prepare us to take up the cross. They help us to die to ourselves so that that those little seeds we plant in our acts of self-denial will bear fruit in eternal life.
In our Eucharist we share in the abundant fruit that Christ has provided for us by his suffering, death, and resurrection.
Father in heaven,
the love of your Son led him to accept the suffering of the cross
that we might glory in new life.
Change our selfishness into self-giving.
Help us to embrace the cross you have given us,
that we may transform its pain
into the life and joy of Easter.