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Sunday, March 17, 2019

A Homily - The Second Sunday of Lent (Year C)


First Reading – Genesis 15:5-12,17-18 ©
Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 26(27):1,7-9,13-14 ©
Second Reading – Philippians 3:17-4:1 ©
Gospel Acclamation – Matthew 17:5
The Gospel According to Luke 9:28-36 ©
 (NJB)


Be mindful of how you read the sacred text.

Always exercise caution, there is a temptation to read them in a way that enables the reader to justify their most corrupt desires, and that is the opposite of what the gospels intend..

The reading for today, a reading from the Book of Genesis, contains many errant and problematic tropes, even though its central message, the promise that God makes to Abraham, that passage is sound.

Let us reflect on it.

Remember this:

God does not intervene in human affairs. God never does. God made the universe and every creature in it free. God does not appoint kings and princes, or rulers of any order.

God did not call Abraham, but rather, Abraham found his way to God, and as always, the path Abraham took to God was by living of a just life.

We find God in doing good; through love and compassion and mercy.

Know this:

God does not favor the cult of animal sacrifice. This is a human contrivance interposed on human culture for human ends.

God did not give land to Abraham in a covenant. There is no covenant, there never was.
This rationale was merely a justification for seizing the so-called promised land by force. They were lands which belonged to other people. The narrative was interpolated over the history of the children of Israel after they fled from Egypt, and only after the successfully prosecuted their wars throughout the land of Canaan, against all of the other Semitic peoples.

In the reading we have been given for today, what is useful for the faith is this:

“Your descendants will number as the stars in sky.” This is the central promise, not the phony covenant with Abraham.

God’s promise is hope; Abraham’s children will be without measure. Based on this hope we may set aside the notion that the world will come to a sudden and arbitrary end.

We can set aside the notion that we are on a race to the finish line, that the clock is ticking, that the sands are falling on the end of days.

Listen!

There are billions of stars in the galaxy, and there are countless galaxies lighting up the night sky.

There are stars and galaxies aborning all the time. Their number is without end.

Remember this, and hold it in your heart:

God is good. Open your eyes and you will see God’s goodness, even in the faces of your enemies.

God is good. Open your ears and you will hear God’s goodness, even in the words of your enemies the goodness of God is shining.

God is good. God loves you, and God loves all people. Your eternal home is waiting for you, come and invite your enemies to share it.

This is the way of Jesus.

Take heed!

Reflect on the daily concerns of the Apostle; be mindful of how he seeks to manage the community of believers.

People are notoriously difficult to manage.

They do not always do as we would wish them to do, they are divisive. They pit themselves against each other.

Saint Paul was not alone in experiencing this, Jesus experienced it with the disciples, Paul deals with it everyday, in every community he helped to form.

The church is still recalcitrant, ungrateful, vain, and misguided.

If you are responsible for the care of people seeking to live in the way of Jesus, remember this; God, the creator of the universe, God is always with them. God dwells inside of each and every one of them, in each and everyone of us.

We may try to have influence over the circumstances that are presented to us, but we are not responsible for their resolution.

The resolution of sin is in God’s hands, make room for your faith to help you understand this.

Do not give up like the Apostle did, free yourself from the doubts the disciples shared.

Do not denigrate God’s creation, do not imagine that the body is evil, do not malign our mortal state because we experience hunger, disease, pain; these are all a part of the mystery of life, of the creation God breathed life into, and called good.

Never forget

As Christians we are bound to read the Gospel in the context of its truthfulness.

We must let the Spirit of Truth guide us, even if it means rejecting a passage such as what is behind the acclamation from Matthew today.

There may have been an event, a time when Jesus together with James and John went up the mountain by themselves.

It may have been that at such event Jesus connected his ministry with that of Moses, the liberator and law giver; and Elijah with the truth-teller.

This may be the case but the supernatural events that were described by Matthew, these did not happen.

God, the creator of the universe, God does not engage in supernatural activities. God is the author of nature and its laws. God does not violate them for any reason.

The disciples were meant to understand that the ministry of Jesus was also in keeping with the expectations of Enoch, with Enoch the Son of Man, whose return was hoped for.

Jesus warned the disciples that his ministry would lead to his death, but like Enoch, death would not stop him, like Enoch he would return.

This is what they hoped for.

Be mindful.

Always read the gospel in such a way that you strip from it the fantastical elements. Stories of the supernatural cannot be taken literally, they are not elucidating and they are contrary to the way.

In theology the words we use to speak about God. These words are only good and useful, if they are grounded and rational.

In mythology; we use words to contextualize our experience, when we wish to speak in metaphors and analogies, so that we may link our experiences to a world beyond ourselves.

These two modes of narrative are not necessarily at odds with each other, but they can be.

Myth can be grounded and rational, but only when the motif of the metaphor, and the assumptions of the allegory are fully understood and properly balanced. They can be good and useful when we engage the narrative with our eyes wide open.

By the same token theology can be irrational, if the assumptions we make about the nature of reality, the nature of humanity, or the nature of the divine and the divine economy are not rooted in truth, or worse, if they are rooted in fear, hate and greed.

The mythology behind the transfiguration is easily and often misinterpreted. This is because the root of the narrative has its origins in a fundamental misunderstanding of who Jesus was.

As I have already suggested; it may be the case that those who first voice the narrative of the transfiguration, and those who first penned it, only intended to transit the message that Jesus stood in the same tradition as Moses the lawgiver, and Elijah the prophet.

The motif of the cloud descending on Jesus may have only been meant to suggest that Jesus’ authority, his understanding of the divine will, came from a place of mystery.

The voice from the cloud naming Jesus as “son,” may have only been meant to convey the message that Jesus is the “heir” to the Abrahamic tradition, and not merely a “teacher” in that tradition.

This is a grounded and rational interpretation of this myth.

However, as happens most often, the interpreters of this myth point to the more sensational images in the narrative; the bright lights and the shining garments, the presence of Moses, and Elijah (as if they were actually there), their journey together into the cloud with Jesus (as if they went there bodily), the voice from that cloud naming Jesus as God’s son, as an actual declaration of paternity from the divine source of all being..

This fantasy-based interpretation has led to great confusion through the centuries. Incredible conflict has ensued based on these fantastic beliefs; conflict and bloody warfare between opposing factions of Christians, and with non-Christians as well.

All because they felt the need to take sides on the question of who Jesus was, and defend their claims with violence.

It is a tragedy. It is antithetical to the way.

Be mindful!

Jesus was a human being, like any other.

Like all creatures he carried a seed of the divine within him, and where the divine is, the divine is present fully.

The fullness of God dwelt within Jesus, just as the fullness of God dwells within each of us. We are connected and in relationship to God, and Jesus, just as we are connected and in relationship to every creature who ever was, is, or yet will be.

What differentiated Jesus from his followers was his understanding of these truths and his ability to apply that understanding in a manner that points the way for us; he showed us how to live in a moral and just society to, for our understanding of the truth to flow from it.


First Reading – Genesis 15:5-12,17-18 ©

God Enters into a Covenant with Abraham, the Man of Faith

Taking Abram outside, the Lord said, ‘Look up to heaven and count the stars if you can.’ ‘Such will be your descendants,’ he told him. Abram put his faith in the Lord, who counted this as making him justified.

‘I am the Lord’ he said to him ‘who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldaeans to make you heir to this land.’ ‘My Lord,’ Abram replied ‘how am I to know that I shall inherit it?’ He said to him, ‘Get me a three-year-old heifer, a three-year-old goat, a three-year-old ram, a turtledove and a young pigeon.’ He brought him all these, cut them in half and put half on one side and half facing it on the other; but the birds he did not cut in half. Birds of prey came down on the carcases but Abram drove them off.


When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, there appeared a smoking furnace and a firebrand that went between the halves. That day the Lord made a Covenant with Abram in these terms:

‘To your descendants I give this land,
from the wadi of Egypt to the Great River.’


Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 26(27):1,7-9,13-14 ©

The Lord is my light and my help.

The Lord is my light and my help;
  whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life;
  before whom shall I shrink?

The Lord is my light and my help.

O Lord, hear my voice when I call;
  have mercy and answer.
Of you my heart has spoken:
  ‘Seek his face.’

The Lord is my light and my help.

It is your face, O Lord, that I seek;
  hide not your face.
Dismiss not your servant in anger;
  you have been my help.

The Lord is my light and my help.

I am sure I shall see the Lord’s goodness
  in the land of the living.
Hope in him, hold firm and take heart.
  Hope in the Lord!

The Lord is my light and my help.


Second Reading – Philippians 3:17-4:1 ©

Our Homeland is in Heaven, and from Heaven Comes Christ to Transfigure Us

My brothers, be united in following my rule of life. Take as your models everybody who is already doing this and study them as you used to study us. I have told you often, and I repeat it today with tears, there are many who are behaving as the enemies of the cross of Christ. They are destined to be lost. They make foods into their god and they are proudest of something they ought to think shameful; the things they think important are earthly things. For us, our homeland is in heaven, and from heaven comes the saviour we are waiting for, the Lord Jesus Christ, and he will transfigure these wretched bodies of ours into copies of his glorious body. He will do that by the same power with which he can subdue the whole universe.

  So then, my brothers and dear friends, do not give way but remain faithful in the Lord. I miss you very much, dear friends; you are my joy and my crown.


Gospel Acclamation – Matthew 17:5

Glory and praise to you, O Christ!

From the bright cloud the Father’s voice was heard:
‘This is my Son, the Beloved. Listen to him.’

Glory and praise to you, O Christ!


The Gospel According to Luke 9:28-36 ©

Jesus is transfigured before them

Jesus took with him Peter and John and James and went up the mountain to pray. As he prayed, the aspect of his face was changed and his clothing became brilliant as lightning. Suddenly there were two men there talking to him; they were Moses and Elijah appearing in glory, and they were speaking of his passing which he was to accomplish in Jerusalem. Peter and his companions were heavy with sleep, but they kept awake and saw his glory and the two men standing with him. As these were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, ‘Master, it is wonderful for us to be here; so let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.’ – He did not know what he was saying. As he spoke, a cloud came and covered them with shadow; and when they went into the cloud the disciples were afraid. And a voice came from the cloud saying, ‘This is my Son, the Chosen One. Listen to him.’ And after the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. The disciples kept silence and, at that time, told no one what they had seen.


The Second Sunday of Lent (Year C)


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