Monthly Archives: April 2015

Another’s Homily for Good Friday

I found a link to this homily on a blog I often read, Pray Tell which I think may trump my effort at preaching the day this year in some ways. (If you want to read my effort go to the post immediately before this one.)

DON’T JUST DO SOMETHING, STAND THERE! 
by Teresa Berger

This sermon on John 18:1–19, 42 was delivered at St. Thomas More Chapel and Center at Yale University on Good Friday, March 29, 2013.

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Good Friday Homily 2015

Christ Crucified

This is the text of the homily I gave this year on Good Friday. It was inspired and borrows from an article by Rev. Robert Barron so I can’t claim credit for being so insightful and creative. A link to the article appears at the end of this post. 

The Cross has become a tamed symbol. You see crosses everywhere and nobody gets too upset. There are crosses on church property for all to see. There are items of jewelry in the shape of cross that decorate both the devout Christian and the irreverent rap artist. The cross is innocuous in our time. Rather than a repulsive reminder of the authority of a cruel government set up along a road into town the cross has become just part of the background scenery, hardly noticed, if at all.

We may have forgotten how terrifying a crucifixion was to the people in Jesus’ lifetime. Crucifixion was a particularly horrific way for the people who ruled the Roman Empire to keep people in their place. You cross us, you try to rebel and Caesar will hang you up and make you suffer in ways you can’t imagine! Then when you die and the horrible pain is over we’ll humiliate you some more and let vultures eat the flesh off your bones while your body hangs there rotting. So, be good people who know their place. Crosses with crucified dead and dying “revolutionaries” were constantly on display as people traveled the road in and out of town as a reminder to the populace that they had been conquered by Rome. The cross’ message; Don’t cause trouble. The violence of crucifixion was used as a method to exert domination and control. No one would have thought of decorating their home or wearing a cross around their neck. That would have been just sick!

Yet tonight we reverence a cross brought into our gathering with kisses and touch and genuflections. We will give thanks for a crucifixion and the cross on which an innocent man hung in excruciating pain. The message of the cross doesn’t scare us. Why?…

Because we know that the cross of Jesus did not defeat him. The violence of the cross, the symbol of this world’s power to control our lives, was unable to destroy a “human like us in all things but sin.” As author Fr. Robert Barron recently wrote [We Christians know] that God had raised the crucified Jesus from the dead, proving thereby that God’s love and forgiveness are greater than anything in the world. This is why our Christian exaltation of the cross is a sort of taunt to Rome and all of its brutal descendants down through the ages: “You think [a cross] scares us? God has conquered that!” And this is why, to this day, Christians boldly hold up an image of the humiliated, tortured Jesus to the world. What they are saying is, “We are not afraid.””

Because of Jesus we’re not scared of death what ever way death may come to the Christian. Death isn’t the end of a person who has been united to Christ’s death in baptism. Death is just a passage to a new way of living.

Now, we may think the crucifixion of Jesus happened about 2000 years ago. People using violence to attempt to bring others into subjugation to their will continues even in the 21st century. In the guise of the “Body of Christ” that is the Christian church Christ is crucified again and again still today. And as it was for the early Christians the Cross becomes a sign of hope that enables them to face what ever force tries to compel the believer in Christ to be subject to it’s will, be it disease, war or terrorism or even old age or accidents.

Again, here’s what author Fr. Barron wrote. Last month “[T]he attention of the world was riveted to a deserted beach in northern Libya, where a group of twenty-one Coptic Christians were brutally beheaded by masked operatives of the ISIS movement. In the wake of the executions, ISIS released a gruesome video entitled “A Message in Blood to the Nation of the Cross.” I suppose that for the ISIS murderers the reference to “the Nation of the Cross” had little sense beyond a generic designation for Christianity.

“Just before their throats were cut, many of the murdered Coptic Christians could be seen mouthing the words “Jesus Christ” and “Jesus is Lord.” … In short, both declarations assert the kingship of Jesus, but what a strange kingship! The new David reigns, not from a throne, but from a cross; the one who trumps Caesar doesn’t lead an army, but embodies the divine forgiveness.”

“The ISIS barbarians were actually quite right in entitling their video “A Message Written in Blood.” Up and down the centuries, tyrants and their [accomplices, indeed all evil forces like disease, poverty, the destructive forces of nature, all] have thought that they could wipe out the followers of Jesus through acts of violence. But as Tertullian observed long ago, the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church. And [people like ISIS] were furthermore right in sending their message to “the Nation of the Cross.” But [terrorists like ISIS] should know that the cross taunts them.”

The event in history we celebrate this night in ritual is our proclamation as members of “the Nation of the Cross” death does not scare us! We embrace it and welcome it with a holy kiss for our brother, our savior Jesus, the Christ, has forever changed death into the way to life.


Please note: The general idea for the homily relies heavily upon and the quotes in this homily are from A MESSAGE IN BLOOD: ISIS AND THE MEANING OF THE CROSS by Fr. Robert Barron • February 26, 2015 accessed via the internet at http://www.wordonfire.org/resources/article/a-message-in-blood-isis-and-the-meaning-of-the-cross/4677/ 

Check out Fr. Barron’s website Word On Fire

 


Holy Thursday 2015 Homily

Readings:
Exodus 12:1-8, 11-14
Psalms 116:12-13, 15-16BC, 17-18
1 Corinthians 11:23-26
Gospel of John 13:1-15

Covenant has been theme of our Lenten journey here at St. Mary. Every Sunday we’ve been hearing stories about the covenant between God and his people. We’ve been reading in the Old Testament scriptures about the solemn, unbreakable agreement between two parties, God and humanity, each party promising to do something for the benefit of the other.

  • Noah is saved from a flood and God promises to never destroy humans, again, giving the sign of the rainbow as a reminder of the covenant. Genesis 9:8-15
  • Abraham’s trust of God to be faithful to a covenant to give him many dependents is put to the test and is asked to kill his only son.  Genesis 22:1-2, 9A, 10-13, 15-18
  • Ten commandments were given as the terms of the covenant with God saying do this I’ll keep you alive, you, make me the center of your life!  Exodus 20:1-17
  • But the people don’t keep their end of the agreement and discovered what happens when you break covenant with God —- a whole nation is sent into exile deprived of the life they were accustomed to and the ability to even worship God properly, a death sentence.  2 Chronicles 36:14-16, 19-23
  • Finally we heard that God, out of love, can’t bear to give up on his agreement to give his people a better life even when people can’t seem to live up to the expectations asked of them. God decides to enter into a new kind of covenant. This new covenant is not rules written on stone, or signs in the sky of the rainbow’s diffused light. Now God will write the covenant of his love in flesh and blood.  Jeremiah 31:31-34

As Christians we understand that God is talking about his Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus is the sign that God, out of love, wants humans to live, not die! Not by following rules will humans be saved from death but by knowing another person, by being one with another human who can do what God’s wants, namely total commitment to God revealed in the way of Jesus’ living and dying.

The covenants made between humans in biblical times were often sealed (you could say, signed) in blood. Somehow the blood of animals was usually involved. A goat would have it’s neck slit. Blood of oxen would be sprinkled on the gathered people. Why blood? It was a way of saying blood is life! If I don’t live up to my end of the agreement I might as well be dead. This covenant will give me a fuller life. Blood was a sign of how serious the two parties considered their agreement, and because some animal had to lose it’s life something of value was sacrificed. Covenants were seen as matters of life and death, so something dies to make life possible.

Bassano, J. (1542). Last Supper.

Bassano, J. (1542). Last Supper.

Tonight we begin our annual three-day ritual of remembrance of how serious God is about keeping his end of the agreement to give us life. Each year we hear the story of the blood of lambs being smeared on the doors of our ancestors the night they were liberated from slavery to begin a new life, a sign that they were people of the covenant and death should pass them by. Tonight we hear from St. Paul how Jesus gave us a new sign of the covenant, “This is MY blood, shed for you as a sign of the covenant.” Not animal blood, Jesus’ own blood now becomes the sign of God’s promise to us that death will have no power over us.

Now, most people would say all this talk of blood is “gross” or disgusting. We fear blood outside of a human body because it can transmit disease and we fear contamination. You know, Jesus shedding his blood on the cross wasn’t pretty or pleasant, either. Crucifixion was down right horrifying besides being very bloody. Yet this is what we give thanks for in each and every Eucharist. Jesus shed his blood, his life, so that we who are members of his body would not see death destroy us forever.

Thankfully Jesus has given us a way to be transfused, so to speak, with his life blood. In a sacramental, mysterious way, Jesus has made it possible for us to be “signers on” to God’s covenant promise to hold us in life by enabling us to take into our selves his blood in a non-repulsive way under the form of wine, a drink that brings joy and lightness of being to humans. “Every time, then that you eat this bread and drink this cup” you partake of his life, you agree to the terms of the covenant. The chalice of the Eucharist is his blood, given so that we might live, so that we might be renewed again and again in the solemn promise of God to give us life and that we might remember we owe God our love for He has loved us dying on the cross we celebrate these three days. (How can we even think of not drinking from the chalice and pass it by at communion? This is our acceptance of the covenant that saves!)

How do we keep our part of this deal where God gives eternal life? We shed our blood (not literally, though Christian martyrs have shed blood, including Coptic Christians recently slain by ISIS terrorists or the university students killed just this morning in Kenya when they were identified as Christian instead of Muslims by The Somalia-based Al-Shabaab militant group) we give some of our life for the sake of others having a better life. We do what Jesus did, in his memory. Not just pray over bread and wine, we take on the role of servant so powerfully proclaimed in the washing of feet. Again, the ritual is symbol meant to transmit a message. Not an instruction to literally wash feet outside of this room, but to sacrifice in the manner of Jesus for others.

  • Like a mom and dad who, out of love for children and each other, works at a job and then does the laundry, the cooking, the caring of a sick child while sick themselves. Family living is living out the covenant and ritual of foot washing.
  • Like priests and vowed religious who forgo the intimate love of one person so that they are more available to serve the spiritual and earthly needs of the people they serve
  • Like people who give up a few things so that they can put money in a Rice Bowl or buy a few extra food items so that those who can’t afford enough food have something to eat and live another day.

Sacrifice of self is foot washing. Being a selfless servant to others is signing the covenant with God in our “Blood” by giving up some of our life so that others can live.

The covenant of God and humanity wasn’t just entered into long ago in Old Testament times or in an upper room and a hill outside Jerusalem with the shedding of blood of an innocent man. God enters into solemn agreement once again in the present, with us, who sacramentally eat the Body and drink the blood of Jesus and who then wash the feet of others. Death will not destroy us. Christ is risen. We who are united to him will rise, too, because God never, never reneges on his word, for his Word is Jesus Christ.


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