Thursday, October 31, 2019

Lord, for your faithful people life is changed, not ended.

Lord, for your faithful people life is changed, not ended.
                                                                        Preface for Christian Death

I wake up early, open my computer but go no further. The view through the window has taken hold of my attention.  It’s not yet 7 a.m. but it is still dark. The rain shimmers as it passes between me and the streetlights. I walk to the window for a better look. When did all these leaves fall?   I open the window. It is warmer than I expected. It is as if I am standing on the cusp of summer and fall.

The church is also on the cusp of two seasons:  ordinary time (the end of the current liturgical year) and advent (the beginning of a new year).  Today is the first of 3 Sundays which precede this transition - The Solemnity of Christ the King.

The gospel for Christ the King reminds me of this dark morning.  Jesus hangs on the cross and and is taunted by the authorities as well as a criminal hanging next to him. They see him as just another dying leaf hanging from a tree limb - ready to fall and be swept away.  

Those with eyes of faith see something different.   

I am  the true vine and my Father is the vine-grower.  (John 15:1)

During November the church directs our attention to those who have lived, died and returned to the vine-grower.

Among these are the saints whose names are known by many like Saint Luke, the recorder of today’s gospel and the newly canonized Saint John Henry Newman.  

There are also those whose names are less known but precious to each of us.  They are our spouses, parents, grandparents, children, mentors and friends who have died.  As we receive the Eucharist we are communion with them through Jesus..

During communion we will pray the Litany of the Saints (#721).  The response “pray for us” in an invocation to the saints for us as well as those souls who await entrance into the fullness of God’s kingdom.

Blessed to be in ministry at St. Mary’s and honored to be part of the funeral liturgies for your loved ones over these past years.

Bruce

Sunday, October 27, 2019

“O God, be merciful to me a sinner.”
                                                  Luke 18:13b   


Today we will be hearing from a very important preacher.  It is the same great preacher who preached last Sunday. You might call this man -  “The Ultimate Preacher!” 

OK, so that was a shameless attempt to get your attention.  

Consider the first line of last week’s gospel:  Jesus told the disciples a parable about the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary.  Luke 18:1  

There’s no doubt that Jesus was a teacher.  People called him, “Rabboni” (Rabbi in English) which means teacher  But, if you close your eyes as you hear this reading it is not hard to imagine Jesus himself preaching.

Today, we hear another parable found only in Luke’s gospel; The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector.  Don’t miss the significance of Jesus’ choices of characters. Jesus knows his audience will assume that the Pharisee will be the hero and the tax collector the goat.  You and I know better.

The line that echoes in my mind is the humble prayer of the tax collector - O God, be merciful to me a sinner.  We will sing similar words in today’s offertory song, ”The Jesus Song” (#406).

***
This week the church celebrates the Solemnity of All Saints (Friday) and The Commemoration of the Faithful Departed.  (Saturday) It begins is a time when we particularly remember those who have died:

  1. the saints whose names are familiar to many 
  2. the saints whose names are familiar in our own hearts and memories 
  3. those who are still waiting to gain entrance into what John describes as:  A new heaven and a new earth, the holy city, a new Jerusalem.

November is a time when the church on earth joins with the first two groups and in praying with greater intensity for the latter or these groups.

Here at St. Mary’s we will begin the All Saints liturgy by praying John Becker’s setting of the Litany of the Saints (#721).  We will continue this prayer during communion for each of the Masses this November.

Blest to be in ministry at St. Mary’s,


Bruce

Friday, October 18, 2019

If God Is For Us


If God is for us, who can be against us?
                                 Paul’s letter to the Romans 8:31

I saw it and wondered what to do. The prudent part of me answered immediately, “It won’t come up again for another three years, ignore it, everyone else does.”

I’m speaking about a reading that comes up just once in the three-year cycle.  Here is a portion:

In those days, Amalek came and waged war against Isreal. So Moses said to Joshua, “Choose some men for us, and tomorrow go out and engage Amalek in battle. I will be standing on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand.  Exodus 17:8,9

If you’re not sure about for whom we should root and why, send me an e-mail.

And Joshua mowed Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword.  Exodus 17:10

Am I the only having a hard time cheering the victory? 

If you’re having a hard time with your decision, take a look at the verse we don’t hear this morning.

Then the LORD said to Moses: Write this down in a book as something to be remembered, and recite it to Joshua:  I will completely blot out the memory of Amalek from under the heavens. Exodus 17:14

Wow!  That is harsh!

For the past few week’s I’ve researched, studied and reflected on this portion of Exodus.  The best help I have found is from Bishop Robert Barron who suggests looking at this reading allegorically. 

An allegory is a figure of speech that teaches a moral lesson using (in this case “historical”) characters, figures and events. 

So, what is the moral lesson of this story?

For me, the lesson has nothing to do our enemies or the memories of the blotted out Amalek.  It has nothing to do with war, or even the just use of force. 

The lesson is about God and comes from Paul’s letter to the church at Rome.  We sang it as our processional hymn last week and will sing it again today as we leave church.  It is written at the top of this article.

Blessed to be in ministry at St. Mary’s,

Bruce

PS
I continue to struggle with violent biblical texts.

PPS
If you are at the 10:30 liturgy you will not find the psalm in the usual place.  Turn to #620.




Thursday, October 10, 2019

Jesus, You Are the Healing


Jesus, you are the healing, 
you came to make us whole again.
                             “You Are The Healing”  words and music by Scott Soper

Today’s scripture readings contain 2 stories about healing. A significant part of both stories is that the main character (the person) healed is not Jewish.

In Second Kings Chapter 5 the Prophet Elisha instructs Naaman to plunge in the River Jordan. Naaman is the General of the Arameans, a people at war with Israel. The reading ends with the newly healed Naaman making testimony to the Lord.

Interestingly, the person who brings Naaman to Elisha is an Israelite girl captured by the Arameans in a raid and works as a servant for Naaman’s wife. Another interesting thread has to do with a man named Gehazi.  (I’ll leave that or you to read.)

In the gospel we hear a story where a Samaritan is among 10 people healed of leprosy.
  1. As he was entering a village, ten lepers met [him]. They stood at a distance from him
  2. and raised their voice, saying, “Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!”
  3. And when he saw them, he said, “Go show yourselves to the priests.”* As they were going they were cleansed.
  4. And one of them, realizing he had been healed, returned, glorifying God in a loud voice;
Here is a portion of the U.S. Catholic Bishop’s commentary:
This incident... provides an instance of Jesus holding up a non-Jew as an example to his Jewish contemporaries....(resembling).... Lk 10:33 where a similar purpose is achieved in the story of the good Samaritan....

If you are like me, you might wonder as to why only one the 10 realize he had been healed. The answer is found in the continuation of the commentary and is the main point of today’s scripture lessons.

.....it is the faith in Jesus manifested by the foreigner that has brought him salvation.

Our processional, “If God Is For Us” (#605) and offertory “You Are the Healing” (#399) were selected to highlight God’s healing power. The recessional hymn “Now Thank We All Our God” (#196) gives us the opportunity to praise God for God’s gift of healing in our lives.

Blessed to be in ministry at St. Mary’s

Bruce

PS
We continue our October devotion to the Blessed Mother by singing “Hail Mary, Gentle Woman” (#705) as the Gathering Song.



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