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Sunday, March 24, 2019

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


A Homily

2016.03.24 – (The Third Sunday of Lent) C


First Reading – Exodus 3:1-8,13-15 ©
Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 102(103):1-4,6-8,11 ©
Second Reading – 1 Corinthians 10:1-6,10-12 ©
Gospel Acclamation – Matthew 4:17
The Gospel According to Luke 13:1-9 ©
(NJB)


Listen!

The rereading from today from the Book of Exodus presents a story of Moses. It presents an image of God who would turn one nation against another, tribe against tribe, family against family. It presents an image of God who prefers one group over another making promises to them of conquest, and the intervention of the almighty on behalf of that selected people.

This story depicts the punishment of the people of Egypt for the sins of Pharaoh, who, if you read the story correctly only did the things he did against the Israelites because God intervened and hardened his heart, time and time again, God determined the course of action Pharaoh would take, and then punished the entire nation for those deeds.

Be mindful.

These stories are not worthy of the sacred text. They make the creator of the universe out to be a hack, a mean spirited and capricious fool, a bully, a murderer, and a thief.

When you read the sacred text remember this; God is not a king, God is not a lord. God does not favor one group over another. God does not intervene in the affairs of human beings. Remember this always.

Do not fall into the pitfalls of the psalmist.

Give thanks to God, the creator of the universe. Give thanks in the peace of God’s blessing, the blessing of life, of freedom, of self-determination, and every other aspect of our being that allows us to be persons.

God gave us our personhood, it is a gift we are meant to cherish. The spirit of God is reflected in our personhood, and in that reflection God is present fully. God is present in us, and present in every other person we encounter, the mighty and the meek, the good and the bad, the ugly and the beautiful.

Give thanks to God and give thanks to those who do God’s work, to those who are loving, to the peacemakers, bless them as you are able.

Bless all of God’s children, as God does, love them all; the helpful and the harmful, the just and the unjust.

Listen!

Be mindful of what the apostle says, like all of the other disciples, he commonly allows his fear to blind him to the teachings of Christ, faith and hope in the way Jesus preached.

Remember.

God, the creator of the universe, God loves you. God loves all of us.

God does not lay traps for us to test our faith. That is not the way. God does not visit suffering on one generation for the purpose of teaching a lesson to another, as the apostle suggested. That would be unjust.

God does not intervene in human affairs, as such, we know that God did not guide the Israelites through the desert.

They found their own way, and they suffered terribly on their journey. They did not suffer because they were are sinful people, they suffered because life is hard. Many people died, many were killed in the wars they fought, they visited violence and anguish and sorrow on their enemies, not because God willed it, but because they were led into those endeavors according to their own human ambitions.

God wills that we love our enemies, and that we pray for those who persecute us. That is the way of Jesus and the sum of our faith.

The Israelites committed terrible crimes, but despite their crimes, they did many things that were good. They put some communities to the sword, they also bonded with one another and strengthened their own. They made a place for themselves in the world according to the ways of the world.
                                              
This is the way of sin, we human beings perpetrate it, leaving God to make some good out of it.

They can be forgiven of their sins, in the same way that we forgive everyone who has sinned, in the same way that we seek forgiveness for our own.

Do not be confused by the apostle, resist the appeal to authority and the desire to follow him into hi errors.

When he uses allegory to relate images and tropes from the exodus to his audience and to the future church, as fore-shadowings of Christ and the rites of baptism, his interpretations and interpolations of meaning cannot be viewed as having been written with those intentions a thousand years prior to the birth of Jesus and the foundation of the Church

It is poetry not fact.

We are encouraged to read the sacred texts as a poet would, finding meaning in the fictions that were written there. Understand this; Moses never lived, everything we read about him is myth and metaphor.

Reading the text as a poet would, honors the spirit within which it was written.

This is how we keep the text alive from age to age, by not falling into the trap of believing that we have discovered the meaning, the truth of it for all time.

Use the sacred texts to promote the teaching of the way; the way of Jesus, the way which is rooted in love, and mercy and compassion.

Reject fear, because God is the bringer of hope, not terror.

Do this, and you are doing the work God has called us to.  

Be wary of the Scriptures, when the authors attempt to fit their narrative of Jesus into a picture that makes it look as if he is fulfilling a prediction made by a prophet from the past.

This is always a falsehood.

Even if a prediction was made, and even if Jesus did the thing that was predicted, it is a false narrative to suggest that Jesus’ actions were in fulfillment of prophecy.

Prophets only speak of the future for two reasons: 1) to engender hope, 2) to warn of danger.

The words of a prophet are always addressed to the people in their own time, in their own place. Prophecy is never meant to guide the lives of future generations, except in the cases when the prophet is addressing an issue of universal truth, such as the nature of justice, a truth which is itself unchanging.

The Gospel writers were propagandists. They fabricated many of the details of Jesus’ life. They fabricated those details to suit the narrative they preferred about who Jesus was, why his life and death were necessary, and what his life and death meant for the early church.

In this narrative the Gospel writers place Jesus directly in the tradition of John the Baptist, with the words “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand.”

This is a continuation of John’s narrative, meant to harness the energy of John’s movement, after his arrest and murder, contextualizing Jesus’ arrest and murder as a part of the same sequence of injustices visited upon the people.

The gospel of the day is plain spoken text.

It acknowledges the overwhelming reality of suffering in the world, of suffering caused by human beings, suffering caused by the random nature of events in the world; the suffering inflicted on the people by the Roman prelate, Pilate, who brutalized the people of Palestine, for political and religious purposes (which to the Romans were one and the same.

The message the Jesus has for his people is that they proceed with care, be mindful and watchful, and considerate of the secular powers. He encourages the people to take care of one another unless they two are caught up in the aegis of Pilate’s authority and subjected to the whims of Roman cruelty.

The people who suffered and died under Pilate did not suffer and die because they deserved it more than any others, they were not more-guilty of crimes than he was, or his followers were, but they were careless, and due to their carelessness they were caught up in the grip of Roman power.

In this parable Jesus stresses the power of intention. The farmer is the Roman State, he has the power of life and death over the people, if the people do not fulfill his expectations, he will destroy them.

This is what Jesus wants them to remember, to keep this in front of them at all times.

The man looking after the vineyard is the Church. The Church pleads for mercy on behalf of the people, so that through mindfulness and care, the people are brought along safely into the next year, preserving themselves and their families in the face of the oppressive Roman State.
It is a tenuous arrangement, but a necessary political arrangement if the people who make up the church are going to survive in a time of persecution. 


First Reading – Exodus 3:1-8,13-15 ©

'I AM has sent me to you'

Moses was looking after the flock of Jethro, his father-in-law priest of Midian. He led his flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in the shape of a flame of fire, coming from the middle of a bush. Moses looked; there was the bush blazing but it was not being burnt up. ‘I must go and look at this strange sight,’ Moses said, ‘and see why the bush is not burnt.’ Now the Lord saw him go forward to look, and God called to him from the middle of the bush. ‘Moses, Moses!’ he said. ‘Here I am,’ Moses answered. ‘Come no nearer,’ he said. ‘Take off your shoes, for the place on which you stand is holy ground. I am the God of your fathers,’ he said, ‘the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.’ At this Moses covered his face, afraid to look at God.
 
And the Lord said, ‘I have seen the miserable state of my people in Egypt. I have heard their appeal to be free of their slave-drivers. Yes, I am well aware of their sufferings. I mean to deliver them out of the hands of the Egyptians and bring them up out of that land to a land rich and broad, a land where milk and honey flow, the home of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites and the Jebusites.’
 
Then Moses said to God, ‘I am to go, then, to the sons of Israel and say to them, “The God of your fathers has sent me to you.” But if they ask me what his name is, what am I to tell them?’ And God said to Moses, ‘I Am who I Am. This’ he added ‘is what you must say to the sons of Israel: “I Am has sent me to you.”’ And God also said to Moses, ‘You are to say to the sons of Israel: “The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.” This is my name for all time; by this name I shall be invoked for all generations to come.’


Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 102(103):1-4,6-8,11 ©

The Lord is compassion and love.

My soul, give thanks to the Lord
  all my being, bless his holy name.
My soul, give thanks to the Lord
  and never forget all his blessings.

The Lord is compassion and love.

It is he who forgives all your guilt,
  who heals every one of your ills,
who redeems your life from the grave,
  who crowns you with love and compassion,

The Lord is compassion and love.

The Lord does deeds of justice,
  gives judgement for all who are oppressed.
He made known his ways to Moses
  and his deeds to Israel’s sons.

The Lord is compassion and love.

The Lord is compassion and love,
  slow to anger and rich in mercy.
For as the heavens are high above the earth
  so strong is his love for those who fear him.

The Lord is compassion and love.



Second Reading – 1 Corinthians 10:1-6,10-12 ©

The Life of the People Under Moses in the Desert Was Written Down to be a Lesson For Us

I want to remind you, brothers, how our fathers were all guided by a cloud above them and how they all passed through the sea. They were all baptised into Moses in this cloud and in this sea; all ate the same spiritual food and all drank the same spiritual drink, since they all drank from the spiritual rock that followed them as they went, and that rock was Christ. In spite of this, most of them failed to please God and their corpses littered the desert.
 
These things all happened as warnings for us, not to have the wicked lusts for forbidden things that they had. You must never complain: some of them did, and they were killed by the Destroyer.
 
All this happened to them as a warning, and it was written down to be a lesson for us who are living at the end of the age. The man who thinks he is safe must be careful that he does not fall.


Gospel Acclamation – Matthew 4:17

Glory to you, O Christ, you are the Word of God!

Repent, says the Lord,
for the kingdom of heaven is close at hand.

Glory to you, O Christ, you are the Word of God!

The Gospel According to Luke 13:1-9 ©

'Leave the fig tree one more year'

Some people arrived and told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with that of their sacrifices. At this he said to them, ‘Do you suppose these Galileans who suffered like that were greater sinners than any other Galileans? They were not, I tell you. No; but unless you repent you will all perish as they did. Or those eighteen on whom the tower at Siloam fell and killed them? Do you suppose that they were more guilty than all the other people living in Jerusalem? They were not, I tell you. No; but unless you repent you will all perish as they did.’
 
He told this parable: ‘A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came looking for fruit on it but found none. He said to the man who looked after the vineyard, “Look here, for three years now I have been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and finding none. Cut it down: why should it be taking up the ground?” “Sir,” the man replied “leave it one more year and give me time to dig round it and manure it: it may bear fruit next year; if not, then you can cut it down.”’


2nd Sunday of Lent (Year C)

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