I have not come to abolish the Law…but to fulfill it!

6th Sunday Ordinary Time Year A 15 FEB 14

 

I have not come to abolish the Law…but to fulfill it!

 

Sermon on the Mount  5: 1 – 7:2

 

The Context:  Matthew….75AD….Antioch/Syria….mix of Jewish and Gentile…

 

Methodical:  5 great discources—Sermon on the Mount first of the five…

 

Today’s gospel….one piece of the sermon on the mount…occuring right on the heels of the Beattitudes!

 

Ancient Mediterranean world based on system of honor and shame vs us today where most of the world operates on an economic system of money and power….

 

That is an important distinction…

 

The Jesus of Matthews Gospel is speaking to an audience of Jews & Gentiles who are struggling with what the Law means and how do we live it?

 

So how do we bring it to 21st Century American life?

 

One way to summarize this section of the Sermon on the Mount would be to say this:

 

The Law is good and is given to us for good reason…it holds us to good and upright behavior….but there is more to holiness than just following the Law….there is something behind it…something greater than just the mere words of it.  There is a Spirit that surrounds the Law.

 

There is more than just coming to Mass and saying prayers…..there is a relationship with God that needs to be fostered in our daily lives.

 

There is more than just believing that the world and society is or ought to be a place of Justice…we must build and live that justice so that the world can see there is more to it than words.

 

There is more to forgiveness than just apologizing to some one else….we must mend the breech of trust that happens when we offend another.

 

There is more to buying and selling things…. there is quality, integrity and honesty

 

There is more to every person in our lives and in our world….no one should be used, abused, discarded or shamed…human sexuality is a gift to be celebrated and honored how ever it is manifested in our lives!

 

There is more to than just doing things that show others that we are obedient to the Law….there is grasping and struggling with what it means to discover our weakness and develop new habits that change how we encounter each other and the world.

 

There is more than being kind and politically correct…there is the challenge to the integration of justice, right relationship and love in every aspect of our lives.  There are principles, like congruence, integrity, openness and transparency.

 

The Good News is that Jesus saw all these things not as markers of judgement and condemnation, but as invitations to reflection and growth. 

 

In all Jesus’s teachings there is always the possibility of redemption!  If it were not true, then the Kingdom of God would only be for a very select few who probably never had to really live life!

 

AA says it most succinctly….we claim spiritual progress rather than spiritual perfection!

 

I heard a wonderful insight into this whole notion just last evening.  A gentleman shared this:

 

He said:  I believe I am given new opportunities every day to experience my defects of character, so that I can choose to live in them differently!

 

That might well be our challenge this week!  When we encounter life this week and we walk smack dab into the walls of our sin, maybe we can stop long enough to look at those experiences differently and respond in a different way because of this Gospel.

 

When the there is the temptation to destroy some one with our words or looks…maybe we can stop and maintain some silence. 

 

When we have wronged some one, maybe we can go beyond the simple…I am sorry…to really repair the breech.

 

When we see injustice, we might stop long enough to confront it, speak our truth to it and help to change the course of history.

 

When the voiceless in our world are held in silence, maybe we can speak for them and thereby give them the courage to speak their truth as well.

 

Wow what a week this is going to be!

 

Advertisements

So what?

Feb 1, 2014 Feast of the Presentation of the Lord

 

My friends, Sacred Scripture can be a very dangerous thing!

It can be so dangerous that is causes us to ask some very daring questions….

Questions as deep and profound as two simple, but powerful words….

It is a question I would invite you to ponder with me tonight….

 

So What?

 

So what that Joseph and Mary brought the child Jesus to the temple forty days after his birth, to do and perform the ritual that their faith tradition dictated to be performed.

 

They were every day folk just doing what their parents had taught them to do in the same way that their parents had taught them to do.

 

With the first born son, you must go to Temple, you must offer a sacrifice of a lamb, but if you can not afford a lamb, then two turtle doves or two pigeons….

 

It’s what you do if you are a righteous and faithful follower of the Jewish faith….it is the Law…it is written in the Law…

 

They do it, and two rather random folks who Joseph and Mary probably had no idea of, came up and pointed out some rather astonishing things about their child….

 

I would imagine that Mary and Joseph had to have looked at each other and thought….wow what a ride these past 10 months have been and I certainly hope its not an indication of what being a parent is all about!

 

But lest I wander too far from the original thought I am going to invite us back to that profoundly simple question…..

 

So What?

 

I wonder if the answer or insight at least to this question might be found in the closing lines of this Gospel pericope….

 

“The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom and the favor of God was upon him.”

 

So What?

 

Let me share it with you in the words of St. Anthanasius – pardon the sexist language…he said:  “God became man so that man might become God”

 

God became human so that humans might become God…..it’s our call…it’s the core of the Good News of Jesus Christ….we are called….by our very existence…by the very fact that we are human to become God!

 

In theological terms it is called “Deification”….we are called, invited, loved, flooded with God’s unmerited grace and mercy….to become God.

 

That my friends is a big answer to a very simple but dangerous question?  So What?

 

 

 

 

 

 

The reality is that Jesus had to grow in wisdom, and age and grace……he wasn’t some magical little diety trapped inside some little humanoid body….he had to learn and grow and experience hurt and pain and struggle and disappointment and rejection and betrayal and joy and peace and laughter and unity and love…all the stuff that you and I experience…remember….we just celebrated it….Emanuel….God with us!

 

So what?…. It means that we are Divine beings my friends, and as such we are called to treat, to hold, to walk and to treasure each other and everyone else with the same level of love, mercy, respect and compassion as we would if it were God walking in our midst….because God is!

 

Every face, every hand, every heart.  Every smile, every tear, every laugh and ever sob….

 

That is not as hard to do when we think and dress and talk and walk and are of the same mindset and belief system and all those other things that define who and how we are in the world….but

 

It is a bit more challenging when it is our co-worker who ticks us off simply by showing up at work.  Or the idiot who can’t decide to merge into traffic or get off the exit ramp.  It is a bit easier when they haven’t taken the life of another, or harmed or hurt someone we love.

 

But it is our constant invitation…to see in the other…the face of Christ….

 

 

 

 

 

This week….as we experience the angst of living….when someone pushes the limits of our love…when someone tests the boundaries of our patience, or peace of mind or our serenity….when that happens, and we would prefer to destroy them with our words…lets see if we can stop….lets see if by simply trying to see some spark of the Divine in that person if we can’t change how we interact with them…

 

So what?….Maybe if we would see the Divine in our enemy…maybe we could be like Simeon and like Anna….maybe we could recognize and name the Divine in someone else and in doing so set them free to live into their Divinity.

 

It kind of sounds like another one of our Gospels that says:

I have come that they you might have life and have it most abundantly!

 

Pretty profound question isn’t it?  Two simple words….

 

So What?

 

 

 

 

I hope our dreams will always inspire us to holiness….

25 JAN 14

 

Homily

An Officer walked up to me yesterday and asked me:

 

Chaplain Marty …. is there really light at the end of the tunnel or is that just something we say so that we can keep going…or something we have been told so that we have hope.

 

I’m going to invite you to hold that question in your mind…is there really light?

 

I have always been enamored by this Gospel….

 

He called them, they left and followed him.

 

Let’s be honest….there had to be more to the message and the invitation of Jesus to those first disciples than these words:  “Repent for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand!” 

 

It’s a great question…because no one with one iota of sense or even family business loyalty would leave a family business….esp. a lucrative fishing business….because some guy walked up and said:  Repent the Kingdom of heaven is at hand! 

 

Either there is more…or we are left to interpret a seemingly simple statement that must have profoundly moving depth!

 

There has to be something more or it had to mean something more…..

 

I am of the ilk that it is a combination of these two perspectives.

 

First, remember Sacred Scripture is not a word for word account, but first and foremost it is a faith document!  So is something left out…most certainly!  On purpose….maybe?  or maybe not?

 

Secondly, I have to believe that Jesus touched and inspired their spirit….you know that place deep in us all that gets excited about life about the potential about what could be and the way it could be.

 

Jesus had to touch the heart….but unfortunately I often believe we have so misconstruted the message of the heart under the guise of religion that we have obscured it beyond recognition.

 

You see the older I get the more I believe in dreams….they hold a key….maybe a key to understanding..insight…faith….

 

Houdini….chained with like 7 different locks….7 different keys

 

There was something deeply spiritual as Leonardo DeCaprio balanced himself precariously on the front railing of the Titanic leaned forward as the ship cut through the waves of the North Atlantic and shouted at the top of his lungs:  I am the king of the world!

 

Those kinds of experiences or encounters point out the fact that deep within us all…the kingdom of God is just waiting to be born….

 

One of my spiritual directors once said:  Never give up on the greatness of your dreams, but always be satisfied with your progress.

 

It is a constant call….the invitation to spread the Good News….

 

I grew up with an image of what “the call” looked like….

 

And that image was reinforced….in sometime blatant ways like “vocation talks” and sometimes in not so blunt ways….like the simple but deeply respectful attitude that was shown to priests, nuns and even those ministers of other faith traditions.

 

In other words I grew up with that understanding that “being called” had to do with something about being different than I was, and that only “special people” were called. 

 

But all that reinforced in my spiritual life…that holiness was something that other special people are and live, and that anything I would do or could do would be miserably short in comparison.

 

What does call look like…used to think…away….life dedicated to God…priest…

 

Now I think it looks like housewife, professional, retired, teen, all kinds of manifestations…..

 

I think maybe we misconstrue what it means to be called….as if it is something different or more than what we are….

 

The reality, just like the disciples is that the call changes….the call evolves in our lives….

 

The call of Christ looks like….the housewife who struggles to balance job, family and laundry.  Or the husband who struggles to balance work commitments and family life. 

 

The call looks like the young adult who is becoming what he or she is or can be for the world with all of its expectations and demands.  Or the call looks like the business executive that struggles with schedules, flights, taxi’s and corporate clients. 

 

The call looks like a teenager who is working like crazy to learn and earn grades for the future or a young adult trying to navigate the complex world and a future that is unclear at best and muddy at its worst. 

 

The call looks like the person who has retired and now volunteers time and tries to balance that and time with family and friends.

 

You see my friends…..maybe it is time for a new perspective on “vocation” or the “call”

 

Maybe the only way that the world will ever know the Good News….that God’s love is bigger than any institution, any religion or even our words…maybe the only way that will ever happen is if we live into that reality no matter where we are in our vocation!

 

Maybe vocation has more to do with how we ARE and less to do with what we do…

 

My hope is that when we put our head on the pillow at night….in those few moments of peace we can take a few deep breaths…look back at our day and say…well I did something good in the world today…

 

Never give up on the greatness of your dreams, but always be satisfied with your progress.

 

Remember the question:  Is there really light at the end of the tunnel?

 

I leave you with the words of Isaiah…because I believe they are words spoken directly to us….

 

Anguish has taken wing…

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light!

You have brought them abundant joy…

For the yoke that burdened them has been smashed….

 

I hope our dreams will always inspire us to holiness….

 

 

Who takes away the sin of the world…

Homily-19 JAN 14 2nd Sunday Ordinary Time

 

John 1: 29-34

 

“who takes away the sin of the world!”

 

I did an experiment this week.  I took one hour of prime time to be intensely aware of everything I heard and read and watched in just that one hour.

 

It was amazing what the world told me about me that I never knew, or maybe unconsciously I had succumbed to without realizing it!

 

Here is just a brief summary of just one hour:

 

=I learned that nearly none of my personal information stored on the little magnetic stripes of my insurance cards, my charge cards, my debit cards, my cell phone or my computer are anywhere near being safe….but there are companies that will safe guard that information for a price!

 

=I learned that in just one hour, there are four different companies who if I just commit my time and money to them, they will guarantee me that I will loose weight, because it must be a proven fact that everyone in the world is over weight!

 

=I learned that since I am over 50 and male I must suffer from ED and BPH and that there are at least three different medications which will resolve those issues as long as my heart is healthy enough.

 

=I also learned that there are medications for things and conditions that I never knew existed in the world and that if I just ask my Dr. I could probably get at least one free 30day sample and probably even more long term assistance with the cost!

 

=I learned that lasers will remove any and all unwanted hair any where on my body and that everyone wants and needs laser hair removal, but that I will most likely have to pay for it out of my pocket because most insurance companies don’t cover it.

 

=I also learned that evidently every man alive and even some women needs hair restoration of some type, which was especially ironic as I learned this immediately after hearing about my need for laser hair removal.  Which ended up causing me alot of confusion and angst?

 

=I learned that if I would only have the right cell phone and cell phone plan my life would be seamlessly organized, every bill would be paid on time with just the swipe of my finger on the screen, that every one of my friends and family would know where I was at, what I was thinking and what I was doing so that I would be constantly connected as every good housewife, child, teenager, young adult, executive and parent should be!

 

=I learned that generally I must be dis-satisfied with at least one aspect of my life, my job or my family, my savings, my retirement, my hair color, or my lack of hair or I must be abnormal!

 

=I guess I learned in one hour that I am just one rather large mess but that for price I can be poked, prodded, primped, and tweaked, and electrified, connected and reinstated back into the human race!!!!

 

That my friends, in a brief summary is the sin of the world……the sin of the world that Jesus came to destroy!

 

Can you recall what Rev. Corein said last week….she left us with the words of the Gospel…you are my beloved and with you I am well pleased!

 

The message of Jesus…it was simple…it was clear…it was without conditions, boundaries, qualifications or exclusions….

 

We are loved, treasured and adored….just for who we are….not for how much hair we have had removed or transplanted….not because we are extremely organized connected and cutting edge…not because parts of our body work or don’t work….not because we are sick or healthy…not because we are or are not any of those things that just one hour of prime time tells us we are…..

 

We are loved, treasured and adored….just because we are a child of an amazing God who wants nothing more than to love us into being our best selves!

 

“I will make you a light to the nations”  the prophet Isaiah said!  “That my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth!”

 

That understanding is precisely the belief that gave birth to this community six years ago today….

 

This point was driven home to me this past week in an extremely powerful experience….I was in my Chapel at the Prison….56 murderers, rapists, child molesters, theives and thugs…and in walked a tall thin beautiful African American woman….who smiled so kindly….who walked right up in front of all these guys….and said….I want you all to stand up and stand up NOW!  Don’t mess around…I am serious…and I am honest…now!

 

Now…she said….with a voice of a drill sgt….I want you to repeat after me…and I want to hear it from each and every one of you…..

 

I am valuable,  I am loveable, I am powerful and I am important!

 

You see as those words were spoken….off of the lips of guys who I know do not believe it about themselves or anyone else….it took on a life….a life of transformation….speaking those words gave birth to the Spirit of living God and nothing was going to stop it then!

 

I believe what my friend Joel Osteen once said:  We need to stop speaking to our God about our mountains, and we need to start speaking to our mountains about our God!

 

This night, six years ago we gathered and spoke words very similar….tonight I want to invite us to speak them again to each other….lets give birth again to the Spirit of the Living God..right here, right now….

 

I’d like to invite you to stand if you are able….or remain seated if you must….but look at someone else, someone who will hold you accountable for your words….move if you must…..and I invite you to repeat these words….

 

I am valuable

I am loveable,

I am powerful,

and I am important.

God loves me and God loves you!

 

Lets give ourselves a hand….we just spoke the Good News….I hope we never stop speaking it!

 

For we believe in One God….

Epiphany-The Embrace of the Divine

Epiphany 2014

 

Epiphany (Koine Greek: ἐπιφάνεια, epiphaneia, “manifestation”, “striking appearance”)[1] or Theophany[2] (Ancient Greek (ἡ) Θεοφάνεια, Τheophaneia meaning “vision of God”),[3] which traditionally falls on January 6, is a Christian feast day that celebrates the revelation of God the Son as a human being in Jesus Christ

 

 

 

What a blessing and a joy to be with you all tonight. 

 

Please over these next days as the bitter and dangerous cold descends from Hades, please be extremely careful, watch out for one another, check in on neighbors and friends and anyone you know who could be of poor reasoning.  Above all, be safe. 

 

You know I love the Christmas season with all its stories,

its symbols and its gatherings, its liturgies, its prayer. 

 

I know for many it is a challenging time as well and I am always left with a sense of never having gotten done all the things that I had planned to do…

 

in some ways, I find myself like the magi…searching, but not always knowing exactly what for…I wonder if others feel that way?

 

Let’s have a bit of fun with these stories and these readings tonight.  A small gift will accompany every answer, but there are two rules….one answer per question and only if your hand is raised!  Second rule….you can only win once!

 

 

Rev. Joan will be assisting me….

 

How many wise men came to see the baby Jesus?

 

What were their names?

Where were they from?

 

Where did they find the baby Jesus?

 

 

Rev. Colleen said she loved playing with the manger scene when she was growing up and so did I…..I used to hide Jesus, much to my mothers shagrin and used to love taking the camels and wise men and put them all over the house moving them every day from Christmas until today closer to the manger scene…..it was a blast to dream and imagine all that was happening….

 

but the sad reality is that even though I learned their names and what they did and saw and had a blast doing it, none of it is based on the truth of the Gospel….

 

it was based on romantic religious imagination…not bad just not quite authentic….

 

The question of the Feast we celebrate today might be for us…..are we still seeking the truth or have we settled for the answers of our misguided religious imagination?

 

You see if there is one thing….

 

one lesson that comes from Matthews Gospel with regard to this whole experience of the magi it is this…..

 

God is revealed to different people in different ways…

 

Mary experienced an angel,

           Joseph had dreams,

                     the shepherds had a host of angels,

                            the magi had a star,

                                 Simieon and Anna held the infant in their        

                                     arms

and God was made manifest in that moment.

 

If we learn anything my friends, maybe we can learn the really Good News…

 

that God meets us right where we are at….

 

just waiting for us to be open to God’s self revelation in that moment. 

 

The whole of the Spiritual Life is a journey of exploration, discovery and searching. 

 

The journey of holiness is a constant unfolding of the mystery we call God in every moment of our lives. 

 

From the hectic schedules to the mundane moments of boredom to the silence of solitude. 

 

Every day, every moment, every experience contains within itself the fullness of God’s self revelation. 

It is why some mystics like Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Hildegard of Bingen and countless others could be swept up in beatific union with God some by only whispering the beginning words of a prayer….

 

The challenge we face is that most of us have only begun the journey of holiness….touched it, tweaked it or even acknowledged it. 

 

But even if that is all we have done, it is enough to be inspired to keep searching….

 

grab a hold of those moments…

 

ones you remember or can recall…

 

let your imagination flow and follow those moments….

 

Because God is there and God is here….

 

In a handshake, a hug, a smile, a good cup of coffee or a simple meal….

 

revel in the joy of being alive…

 

allow what consumes and devours our holiness to slip away,

 

just be and enjoy the embrace of the Divine. 

 

All we have….all we are guaranteed is this moment, would it not be awesome if we could live fully in each of them? 

 

It is so challenging…it can be so hard to remember to do…but it is the core of holiness to live this day, this moment as fully as possible.

 

Just imagine, Jesus is smiling right at you…can your heart feel it…

 

When it happens you will know, that the star you have been following will have come to rest on that place, just like the magi did!

Birth-Giver of God

Jan 1st Homily 2014

 

First please allow me the opportunity, an behalf of Colleen, Corein, Joan and Myself to wish you all a prayer of tremendous blessing and an abundance of Grace in this New Year.

 

It was at the Council of Ephesus in 431 that the undivided Catholic Church community declared Mary to be Theotokos…literally translated as “Birth-Giver of God”…if there is one thing the early church realized, it was that how people spoke about us and our relationship with the Divine, words mattered.

 

And words still matter my friends….they matter deeply, profoundly and significantly. 

 

Because words give voice to the heart and soul of who we are.

 

Words speak our truth.

 

We gather here this morning….not to simply remember or recall Mary and her role in bridging heaven and earth….we gather to remind each other that we are invited and called to do and be the same.  We are the Birth Givers of God…and that my friends is a profoundly moving and profoundly challenging invitation.

 

We begin our liturgy and we begin every greeting of this community with these words:

The Lord IS with you!…….Rather than the traditional mistranslated text of:  The Lord Be with you!  And we do that, not to be unique or cute or different….but because words matter. 

 

The Church has another saying: Lex Orandai, Lex Credendae….we pray what we believe.

 

Dominus vobiscum:  God IS with you!

 

If nothing else, that simple, seemingly meaningless greeting carries profound depth and meaning….it reminds us that we are, just as Mary was….we are called, invited and empowered to be “Birth Givers of God”  Theotokos.

 

In Orthodox churches through out the world, there is a wall of Icons….that stands between the Sanctuary and the Worship Space….that wall is not meant to be a divide, but rather a multifacated portal into the Divine….each image a unique pathway to God…just like these two….there are thousands of images of Theotokos

 

I wonder what a New Years resolution would look like if it said:

I commit to be a Birth Giver of God in the world this year and I will do it by….

 

Because each of us bear a unique imprint, a unique facet, a unique face of God that the world will only see if we let them see it!

 

I hope we line the stairway to heaven with profoundly impressive Icons of hope!