Thursday, November 20, 2014

CONSUMATION

Rev 5:1-10; Ps 149 The lamb has made us a kingdom of priest to serve our God; Luke 19:41-44

"The lion of the tribe of Judah, the root of David, has triumphed, enabling him to open the scroll with its seven seals.Then I saw standing in the midst of the throne and the four living creatures and the elders the lamb that seemed to have been slain.  He had seven horns and seven eyes; these are the seven spirits of God sent out into the world.  He came and received the scroll from the right hand  of the one who sat on the throne.."
                                                       
This is a common image that we see on the front of Altars.  The depiction we receive from the book of revelation is brought to us on a regular basis when we go to celebrate the Eucharist.

It reminds us that the consummation of history is not random or moved by chance but deliberate and determined by the lamb that seemed to be slain.  Jesus is the orchestrater of history unfolding.  He is the Lord of history, all of history.

When we look around and get discouraged or frustrated, the lamb that seemed to be slain but isn't is meant to give us courage.  W care in his grip.

The painful and destructive process of the end times and consummation of history reflects one important reality that unfolds for us in the gospel today.

Jesus cries over stubborn rebellion humanity.  His tears are not only meant for the Jewish leaders of his day but for all of us who experience our own rebellion against God and fight our own stubbornness to change.  

The gospel ends with these words it is a warning and exhortation for us, "because you did not recognize the time of your visitation."

How often does Jesus weep for you and I because we like the leaders of the day fail to recognize the time of visitation?

We get so caught up in our plans that we lose sight of providence.  In order to recognize the day of visitation we must leave room for God's plan to unfold in and through our life.
Thus slowly our stubbornness and rebellion natures are tamed, purified, transformed.

Thus we leaner the pathway to surrender to the lamb that will open the seals and bring forth the consummation of history.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

INDESCRIBALE

Revelation 4:1-11; Ps 150 Holy, Holy, holy Lord, mighty God!Luke 19:11-28

How can one put words on a scene that is indescribable?  Have you ever had an experience where words didn't seem to do justice to the occasion?  Have you ever tried to explain or describe something only to find that the words pale in comparison to the reality beheld?

Sometimes words just don't work or carry the full impact of the experience.

Think about John today in the book of revelation trying his best to describe the immense reality of heaven.  So many angles by one is to approach the celestial realm, where is one to begin.

Where does one's eyes fall as a gaze peers through the open door.  First things first I suppose as John points out, "a throne  was there in heaven and on the throne sat one whose appearance sparkled like jasper and carnelian.  Around the throne was a halo as brilliant as an emerald."

Try to imagine such a sight.  Let your imagination go.  But first you may want to google carnelian and revisit the glow of jasper and emeralds.  It certainly won't hurt.

To the right is a glimpse of carnelian.

Needless to say, quite a sight was revealed.

Then as you continue to read there are elders wearing white with gold crowns with flashing of lighting, rumblings, peals of thunder.  There were seven flaming torches burning in front of the thrown.  Imagine how the fire dances in the jasper, carnelian, and emerald glow.

Then we get to the "that which resembled a sea of glass like crystal."

Then the echo of "holy, holy, holy The Lord God almighty..." resounding in the celestial realm.

At last we must admit it is too much to piece together in our tiny little heads.  So what is the proper response when such a sight is revealed and our eyes behold such amazement?

Awe, Wonder, and Sorrow.  We stand in awe and we wonder at such amazement and we are sad for w know we are not worthy and yet this is what awaits us in faith.  Our sorrow is for our selves for we are aware just how little we have prepared ourselves for such a treat.  Yet the door is open for all to see.

Mystery, power, opulence, splendor.  All of this is for all of us who journey in faith.

Who would dare refuse such a king?


Monday, November 17, 2014

JUDGMENT

Last weekend I spent a few moments preaching about death and the christian perspective on death.  See previous post if interested here.  So this weekend I want to spend a few moments preaching about what awaits us after death.

There are many folks who have had near death experiences.  I'm sure there is some validity to their experiences.  But they almost die, they don't actually die.  What happens when we die die?

First a reflection on freedom.  Freedom is a big deal for us.  We talk about it, march for it and because of it, and we are willing to fight and die for keeping it.  Especially as US Citizens we boast many freedoms.  We have freedom of press which we love even if we don't like what is being printed.  We have freedom of speech again even if we disagree with what is being said.  We have freedom to assemble and petition even if we disavow the protest.  We have freedom of religion. We have the freedom to carry a gun, to own property, to live and travel where we want.  These are important and essential to our lifestyle.

There is one freedom that has deep and lasting impact on matters of what happens after death.  This is our moral freedom.  We have been created to freely choose to become who God created us to be or to separate ourselves from that reality based on the choices and decisions we make in the here and now.

In  this freedom we can understand particular judgment.

After death we will stand before Christ, face to face.  We will peer into truth himself. In that moment we will discover who we are; we will find out what we have made ourselves to be based on the decisions and choices we have made.

Judgment is not vengeance from with out.  God is not going to force anything upon us.  Rather, he will recognize who we have chosen to become based on the life of faith we have lived.

Particular judgment reminds us of our true dignity.  We have an intellect, will, and freedom, which means we can shape our destiny.  We have some say in the matter.  God has placed the ball in our court.

In particular judgment, our fundamental orientation in life whether it be toward God or away from God will be laid bare.  In all the pathways of life we shall see clearly, whether we fumbled after God, valid no matter the wrong turns we have taken or we have decisively closed ourself to God, all will come to the light.

In that moment our attitude to God and neighbor shall disclose either our acceptance of Grace and divine love or our rejection.  God will let us be who we have made ourselves to be.

Here is what a few scripture passages say about judgment:

1 corn 4:5  He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and manifest the motives of the heart so all receive praise from God.  (not only our choices will be revealed but also our motives behind them)

2 corn 5:10  Each will stand before the judgment seat of God an drive an accounting of all that has been done in the body whether good or evil.  (faith is not just a spiritual reality but physical reality as well.  What we do in the body matters)

Rom 14:10 we shall all give an accounting of ourselves

Matt 12:36 on that day we shall render an account of every careless word spoken.  by our words we shall be acquitted or convicted.  (Think about the number of careless words we let fly from our lips daily)

James 2:10-12 we shall act and speak as men destined for judgment under the law of freedom

Again, the final stage of life is not forced upon us but weighs heavy on freedom and responsibility.  Now, obviously we will not all have the same standard.  As we read int he gospel, God gives to each according to their capabilities (Matt  25:14-30).   A child born with a crack addiction will not be looked upon in the same was as myself.  God alone knows the shadows of our freedom!

What about general judgment?  Particular judgment is when our history ends and we stand before Christ and we will know whether we are with God or without God.

General judgment is when all history ends.  Everyones relationship to God and neighbor shall come to light.  The furthest consequences of our decisions shall be revealed.  All the influences whether for good by the love we shared or bad by the hurt we caused will unfold.

Everyone will see how everyone's lives have interwoven and how God's providence moved history along.  It will be as if all will flash before the big screen at Texas stadium and every one will get to see all of it.

Reminder: the guilt that continues on after our  existence because of our choices is still a part of us. We are responsible for that in some way.  We will have to suffer the pain of seeing our influence unfold  in general judgment.  This is already a purifying reality.  We cannot enter heaven fully until we know the full impact of our life.

In that revelation our hearts and minds will suffer the loss of impurities and be made ready for glory.  Only then shall our final place be revealed in where we sit in the whole tapestry of history and existence.

Last the church teaches that in the sacrament of reconciliation we anticipate judgement.  That every time we go to confession, confess our sins, seek to amend our life, do penance we enter on the road of conversion that leads us from death to life.  If we go to confession regularly and seek to amend our life of the faults and short comings by leaning on God's mercy then in the end what we will discover in particular judgment will not surprise us for we would have been attentive every step of the way.

In the end we will discover that our true identity will have been rooted in the mercy of God we sought daily.


Thursday, November 13, 2014

RUNAWAY

philemon 7-20

Today we encounter st paul's letter to Philemon.  The jist of the letter revolves around Onesimus, a runaway slave who may have stolen from his owner on his way out.  Of course, his owner is probably Philemon.

Something happens.  This useless runaway slave encounters Paul and thus encounters Christ.  Their is a conversion.  As St Paul states clearly in the letter, "I urge you on behalf of my son Onesimus, who's feather I have become in my imprisonment, who was once useless to you but is now useful to both you and me"

It should be noted that  Christianity has the power to make bad men good.  There is and must be room for improvement in everyone if we look upon them with the eyes of God.  We cannot give up on anyone, for God gives up on no one.

Paul was now sending Onesimus back to where he came from perhaps to make amends and set things right.

Paul wasn't helping Onesimus to escape his past but rather to confront it and rise above it.  Christianity is about conquest.   We do not shirk our responsibility but rather we meet head on.  Confrontation is important.  There is need to bring things up and to flush things out and to urn things around.

Christianity demands we get our hands dirty.

The one thing that is striking about the letter is that Paul is not leaning on his authority as an apostles.  He isn't making demands from the authority point of view but rather he is addressing Philemon on a much deeper level, the level of love and mutual respect.

Then Paul leaves off with this simple request, "refresh my heart in Christ."

What a beautiful sentiment.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

NEWNESS

Titus 3:1-7; Ps 23; Luke 17:11-19

Here are few words from Pope Francis, "newness often makes us fearful, including the newness God brings us, the newness God asks of us...let us not be closed to the newness of God wants to bring into our lives..."

This newness is exactly what St Paul is describing in his letter to Titus, "for we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, deluded, slaves to various desires and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful ourselves and hating one another.  But when the kindness and generous love of God our savior appeared..."

But when the kindness and generous love of God our savior appeared.  Here is the newness that transforms.  Here is the newness that reeks havoc with our old selves.  Here is the newness that brings freshness into our lives.

The more we open to the kindness and generous love of God in our savior the more our lives take on a new direction, a quicker step, a more lively rhythm as w journey forth.

This newness with a power to transform is captured by the lepers in the gospel  for today.  They approach Jesus with a willingness to receive and in this attitude they find themselves transformed.  Yet, the newness is lost on all but 1.  Ten lepers experience God's kind an generous love and yet only one is aware of the newness that illumines their life.

How sad!  How sad to be so enriched by the newness of Christ and yet never bother to acknowledge it.  This is the sad reality of most of us.  We have all benefited from God's kind an generous love but how many of us actual live that newness daily in our life.


Today ponder the newness God wants to bring in to  your life?  How do we welcome it?  How do we close ourselves off to it?  Often times it comes in disguised or disfigured realities?  Look again!

Monday, November 10, 2014

DEATH

This week I started a series of homilies on the last four things: Death, Judgment, Heaven, and hell.

I will start with Death.  Over the past two and half weeks I have presided at 9 funerals.  I have been thinking a lot about death as I visit with the families and bless the bodies of love ones and fulfill the rite of burial.

The ages of the persons who have experienced death range from 2 months old to 92 years old.  The ages in between are 31, 40, 42, 54, 62, 64, 91.   It has been quite an experience for the community.  In particular the deaths of the young persons have stuck a chord with many.  In the prime of their life they were called from this world.

Unfortunately, death is often surprising and shocking to us especially if a young person dies. In large part because we are very insulated from death in the US.  The average life span is roughly 79 years.  Thus, we think death is always a long way off, behind the bend that is no where near our reach.

We avoid the evidence of our own mortality and pretend it won't happen to us or to our family or we try with all our might to prevent it.

There was a time when churches were built adjacent to cemeteries.  Everyone had to at least think about as they went to worship because they would pass the shadow of the tombstones of their ancestors.  It was on their heart, mind and imagination. Because we are insulated form the reality of death, the power of the resurrection and its impact in our life has been lessen.

Death is unavoidable.
But having stated that it is important to note this about our life span.  The final frontier is not between life and death.  Though we speak it when we say it is a matter of life or death.  The final frontier is between life with Christ and life without Christ.  This of course means that our life span ranges not from conception to the grave but conception into eternity.  Our earthly life is a small percentage of the total of our existence.  Death does not end our existence.

What does scripture say on the subject.  There is much to be found in scripture about death, but i wish to highlight three moments in scripture.

Death arrives on scene in Genesis chapter 2.  It comes as a warning.  God tells Adam and Eve that if they eat the fruit of a particular tree they shall surely die.

We know the rest of the story.

If you fast forward to the book of revelation chapter 21, death again appears.  John is having a vision of the new Jerusalem, a new heaven and a new earth.  It consist of the full realization of the the kingdom of God.  In that moment, when history reaches its consumption, John tells us that there will be no more death, no weeping, no mourning, no tears.

Then somewhere between these book ends of scripture, in the book of wisdom chapter 2 we read, God formed man to be imperishable.  But by the envy of the devil, death entered the world.

Think about that for a moment.  Envy.  Envy is when you can't have what you want and you don't want anyone else to have it either.  The devil refused God's friendship, and he did not want man to have it either.  In fact, this is still the MO of the devil today.  He tries to drags us down with him.

Envy is the inability to rejoice in the goodness of the other or the inability to rejoice in the good that comes to another.  

So where does this leave us.

The church teaches that in death the soul separates from the body.  Where does the soul go?  Are we breathe into nothingness.  Or rather as scripture states, the souls of the just are in the hands of God.  God creates in himself a place for us.  The life source, spark, energy that makes each of us unique does not just fade into nothingness but finds its rest in God alone.

In death God calls man to himself.

The church reminds us that physical death incorporates us fully in to christ's redeeming act. And don't we groan for redemption?  How often do we frustrate ourselves because we still haven't overcome our tendency to be impatient, or get angry or give in to lust?  All of these realities demand redemption.  Death opens up to the fullness of redemption.

Death is not a negative experience but  appositive experience in which we reach a new level of being human.   Is this not what the resurrection is all about.

Here is an analogy to ponder as we close.

When a child is conceived in its mother's womb, it is given an enclosed place to gestate and grow.  Its environment, generally speaking is warm and secure.  Yet, at some point the baby has to be delivered from the womb into the world.  The baby is not meant for the womb.  Only in being delivered can its powers be fully engaged and it can become who it is created to be.  This process is painful.  It involves anxiety, stress, wretched heartache, tears and the like not just for the mother, and the babies family but also for the baby.

Once the baby is born it can't go back in the womb.  Going back would be a retreat into lesser way of being human.

Such it is in death.  The world is like a womb.  We are given a time to gestate, to grow, to mature.  At some point, we too have to be delivered from the world into that place of higher existence.  It, like a delivery of a baby, involves pain, tears, anxiety, stress, wretched heart ache and the like not only for the family but also for the one who is experiencing death.  Then we are delivered.  The loved one can not come back because coming back would be a retreating into a lesser way of being human.

Just like in delivering  child eventually the pain subsides and joy is infused in our life, so it is in death.  At some point the pain subsides and the joy of realizing the reality of new life in Christ takes over.

Here is the bottom line.  Tragedy is not dying young.  I heard that many times over the past few week.  what a tragedy that they died so young!  I disagree.  It isn't the age by which we die that determines a tragedy but rather whether or not we had prepared in this life for that experience. This is the true tragedy.

Too many people live by the philosophy, Carpe Diem, or siege the day, live in the moment, live for today. This is foolish.  People who live for the day with no thought for tomorrow usually end up arrested, thrown in jail, or a many other harmful things occur.

We should live for the moment.  We should live for tomorrow, the great tomorrow, the last day that awaits us.  Only with our eyes fixed on tomorrow can we truly live today.  This is how we prepare.

We give more weight to the life of faith into our lives.  W make sure truth is granted an higher importance than our selfish desires.  Only then can we embrace the beauty of death as a birthing into the newness of life everlasting in christ.




Thursday, November 6, 2014

GOD SEEKER

Philippians 3:3-8; Ps 105 Let hearts rejoice who search for the Lord; Luke 15:1-10

We encounter these words from the pen of St Paul today, "More than that, I even consider everything as a loss because of the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord."

In light of that today spend some time and energy seeking to find the gain in each of life's losses  What I mean is be attentive to the supreme good of knowing Christ and allow that to fill the loss with greater significance and importance in the life of faith.

Today's psalm is a fascinating piece.  If we go to 1 Chronicles 16:8 and following we will encounter this psalm being used in the context of King David bringing the Ark of the Covenant back to Jerusalem.  It was a day of great festivity.  The whole city turned out to welcome the presence of the Ark, the present of God back into their city, its rightful place.

The psalm mentions we should "seek to serve the Lord constantly."  Perhaps this is the recipe of happiness and lasting joy.  How many of us truly seek to serve the Lord constantly? Rather, do we not reduce our service of the lord often to an hour a week or sometimes even less?  How do we seek the lord in our daily lives, our work, our play, every moment.

In today's gospel we encounter the familiar story of the lost sheep and its shepherd who abandon the 99 to go out and seek the one that has strayed.

In this context Jesus reminds us that the heavens rejoice over one repentant sinner.

Repent is the first command of Jesus in the gospel of Matthew.  In a sense, everything else follows, and nothing else matters.  When was the last time we revised our thinking or changed our minds about how God works?  When do we bring joy to heaven?  Too often we forget that our actions here below reach upward to eternity in heaven.

Self-righteous complacency is the most effective barrier to God's grace and the cause of great sadness in heaven.  Today be a source of joy, repent!