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Sunday, August 11, 2019

A Homily - The Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C)


First Reading – Wisdom 18:6-9 ©
Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 32(33):1,12,18-20,22 ©
Second Reading – Hebrews 11:1-2,8-19 ©
Gospel Acclamation – Matthew 11:25
Alternative Acclamation – Matthew 24:42 44
The Gospel According to Luke 12:32 - 48 ©


(NJB)


Be mindful.

Think carefully about the words of the prophet.

There is no place for jingoism in the way which Jesus instructed us in. Remember what Jesus said, “take no oaths for me or against me.”

Remember this; God, the creator of the universe, God loves all people, God desires the deliverance of all people, God desires and works for the salvation of everyone.

God bears no enmity toward anyone, and know that our foes are God’s children also.

There is no one alive who may boast of their virtue, all of our pretensions to being devout are nothing but charades, all of our sacrifices are meaningless in the absence of love and mercy.

Reject the false wisdom that suggests there is any other way.  

Consider the preaching of the psalmist.

It is fitting to praise God, praise the creator of the universe everyday and give thanks for your life in it. Do your part to make it a better place.

It is wise to trust in the counsel of God, to have faith in God’s mercy; and though this is wise, do not expect God to rescue you from danger, and do not believe that God’s loves any one of God’s children more than any other, or that you are loved in a unique and special way.

God knows all things and God understands all things, you have heard this said.

God’s knowledge is not an abstract knowledge of the particulars details of individual events, God understands our person, our choices, our lives and experience; even as we understand them ourselves, with a clary we do not possess.

Be mindful.

Trust in God’s plan for you, and God’s plan for creation.

Do not wait for salvation, there is nothing you can do to effect it, you cannot purchase it with good deeds, or trade for it on faith. Salvation is already yours, go out and share the good news, salvation is the inheritance of everyone.

Let us now reflect for a moment on the meanng of faith and the teaching of the Apostle.

The Apostle is mistaken.

Faith is not a thing, like a key, such that when it comes into your possession you are able to do miraculous things.

Faith is not a substance, it is not quantifiable.

The simple meaning of faith is this, it means trust, it guarantees nothing, and it proves nothing.

But I will tell you this, placing your trust in God is its own reward. Faith in the heavenly will brings peace of mind, it frees us from fear and anxiety, it facilitates love and promotes caring, it leads us into the way of justice and mercy.

Abraham may have obeyed the calling in his heart out of faith, his faith may have endured undiminished when he arrived at his journey’s end as a stranger in a strange land, he may have instructed his heirs to trust in God, in the same way that he and his wife Sara did, all of them may have trusted in the same vision, but it was not because of their faith that they thrived on land, and it was not because of her faith that Sara conceived a child after a lifetime of being barren.

Be mindful.

Faith is not a coin that we exchange for the blessings of God, and make no mistake, God does not interfere in our affairs.

The teachings of Jesus cannot be treated like a shell game, though they are, and have been since the beginning, as Matthew’s Gospel illustrates.

The way of Jesus is not a long con, it is not a bait and switch, it is a simple teaching that cannot be controlled or owned by any one group of people.

God, the creator of the universe, God has hidden nothing. The truth is in the open for anyone to see.

The wise and the powerful, the learned and the clever, the weak and the meek, everyone has access to the same truth, to the knowledge of God, to the path of justice, of hope and love.

Know this!

The future history of the world has not been written.

Any supposition we might make about our future on earth is guesswork. Some guesses are more informed than others, we can speak about the future in terms of possibility and probability, but we cannot know anything about the days and nights to come.

There are thousands of ways in which the plans we have laid, or the hopes which we cherish can come undone; lightening will strike, a tornado will blow, a meteor will fall, a volcano explode. A person in the fullness of their life may trip and fall and hit their head and die, leaving everything they have accomplished behind them.

The promises we have received from God, those promises are not of this world. God has promised to bring an end to suffering, injustice, hunger, illness. We can believe in this promise, but those promises are not of this world. They are the promises of the next world, a world in which we are not subjected to the vicissitudes of the material condition.

I cannot speak of that world. I have never seen it.

No one living has.

Our belief in a loving God, our hope in the words of the prophets, our trust in the Gospel, these are what allow us to believe that this is true. But anyone who pretends to know for certain, they are over stating their case.

What we have been taught is that we can live out our present lives as if the reality of those promises were true, that is how we realize the promise and make it present among us.

This is the secret of the way which Jesus taught.

If we are just and loving, if we care for one another we do not have to wait for salvation, we already have it.

Listen!

Because the Gospels were written by human beings (mostly men), written by communities of people long after the time that Jesus lived, we are often confronted with passages that appear to vacillate between the hope and joy, and optimism the way, and the demands of those who were seeking to enshrine his teachings in institutions like the Church.

Every day, and especially on every Sunday the Gospel must be read carefully, and from time to time we have to peel away those segments that speak to us a place of fears and the doubts, to shed light on and place in their proper context the conservativism and protectionist teachings of those who came after Jesus, writing about their expereience in the second and third generations after his passing.

The opening of the gospel for today represents the heart of Jesus’ teaching in clear and untrammeled terms; there is no need to be afraid, Jesus says.

There is no need to be afraid says the shepherd to the flock. There is no need to be afraid.
The parable that follows, must be read in the context of these hopeful words, no other context will do.

The parable speaks to the roles of a householder and his servants. The parable does not address whether the servants were members of his family, hired hands or slaves, it does not need to, because for the purpose of the reading those distinctions are immaterial.

The teaching in the gospel for today concerns preparedness, the fulfillment of the obligations assigned to the role a person occupies, and cooperation.

In this parable we are presented a specific setting; it is the walled house of the householder, this is a metaphor for the believing community.

We are told of the householder himself, who represents Jesus the founder of the Church (and in popular mythology the Son of Man who has promised to return), the householder also represents the head of the believing community, in its contemporary time and place.

Finally, we are presented with the servants of the household, a metaphor for the entire community of believers.

Be mindful, insofar as the householder represents head of the believing community, it is to be understood that this figure is only chief among servants..

Jesus uses this parable to instruct us about preparedness, and preparedness is about expectation, while expectation is about hope, and hope is the core of the Gospel.

The parable calls us to be happy in our work, to go to it joyfully, to faithfully execute the responsibilities we are given (the responsibilities we have sought), to anticipate the needs of those in our care and fulfill them.

Be aware!

The narrative changes in response to Peter’s questioning.

I suggest that this point in the reading represents a departure from the teaching of Jesus. It is a reflection of the teachings of the church in the following generations.

The teaching becomes harsh.

The love, the mercy, the merciful heart of Jesus are absent, in their place are judgements, beatings, lashings and the alienation of others.

This ending contradicts Jesus, who taught us to come together, to be one.

Jesus taught in the spirit of compassion, he forgave those who persecuted him, the disciples who abandoned him, even as he was being crucified.

Remember this…and do not forget to love one another.


First Reading – Wisdom 18:6-9 ©

You Made Us Glorious by Calling Us to You

That night had been foretold to our ancestors, so that, once they saw what kind of oaths they had put their trust in, they would joyfully take courage.

This was the expectation of your people, the saving of the virtuous and the ruin of their enemies;
for by the same act with which you took vengeance on our foes you made us glorious by calling us to you.

The devout children of worthy men offered sacrifice in secret and this divine pact they struck with one accord: that the saints would share the same blessings and dangers alike; and forthwith they had begun to chant the hymns of the fathers.


Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 32(33):1,12,18-20,22 ©

Happy are the people the Lord has chosen as his own.

Ring out your joy to the Lord, O you just;
  for praise is fitting for loyal hearts.
They are happy, whose God is the Lord,
  the people he has chosen as his own.

Happy are the people the Lord has chosen as his own.

The Lord looks on those who revere him,
  on those who hope in his love,
to rescue their souls from death,
  to keep them alive in famine.

Happy are the people the Lord has chosen as his own.

Our soul is waiting for the Lord.
  The Lord is our help and our shield.
May your love be upon us, O Lord,
  as we place all our hope in you.

Happy are the people the Lord has chosen as his own.


Second Reading – Hebrews 11:1-2,8-19 ©

Abraham Looked Forward to a City Founded, Designed and Built by God

Only faith can guarantee the blessings that we hope for, or prove the existence of the realities that at present remain unseen. It was for faith that our ancestors were commended.

It was by faith that Abraham obeyed the call to set out for a country that was the inheritance given to him and his descendants, and that he set out without knowing where he was going. By faith he arrived, as a foreigner, in the Promised Land, and lived there as if in a strange country, with Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. They lived there in tents while he looked forward to a city founded, designed and built by God.

It was equally by faith that Sarah, in spite of being past the age, was made able to conceive, because she believed that he who had made the promise would be faithful to it. Because of this, there came from one man, and one who was already as good as dead himself, more descendants than could be counted, as many as the stars of heaven or the grains of sand on the seashore.
All these died in faith, before receiving any of the things that had been promised, but they saw them in the far distance and welcomed them, recognising that they were only strangers and nomads on earth. People who use such terms about themselves make it quite plain that they are in search of their real homeland. They can hardly have meant the country they came from, since they had the opportunity to go back to it; but in fact they were longing for a better homeland, their heavenly homeland. That is why God is not ashamed to be called their God, since he has founded the city for them.

It was by faith that Abraham, when put to the test, offered up Isaac. He offered to sacrifice his only son even though the promises had been made to him and he had been told: It is through Isaac that your name will be carried on. He was confident that God had the power even to raise the dead; and so, figuratively speaking, he was given back Isaac from the dead.


Gospel Acclamation – Matthew 11:25

Alleluia, alleluia!

Blessed are you, Father,
Lord of heaven and earth,
for revealing the mysteries of the kingdom
to mere children.

Alleluia!

Or:

Alternative Acclamation – Matthew 24:42 44

Alleluia, alleluia!

Stay awake and stand ready,
because you do not know the hour
when the Son of Man is coming.

Alleluia!


The Gospel According to Luke 12:32-48 ©

You too Must Stand Ready

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘There is no need to be afraid, little flock, for it has pleased your Father to give you the kingdom.

‘Sell your possessions and give alms. Get yourselves purses that do not wear out, treasure that will not fail you, in heaven where no thief can reach it and no moth destroy it. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

‘See that you are dressed for action and have your lamps lit. Be like men waiting for their master to return from the wedding feast, ready to open the door as soon as he comes and knocks. Happy those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. I tell you solemnly, he will put on an apron, sit them down at table and wait on them. It may be in the second watch he comes, or in the third, but happy those servants if he finds them ready. You may be quite sure of this, that if the householder had known at what hour the burglar would come, he would not have let anyone break through the wall of his house. You too must stand ready, because the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.’

Peter said, ‘Lord, do you mean this parable for us, or for everyone?’ The Lord replied, ‘What sort of steward, then, is faithful and wise enough for the master to place him over his household to give them their allowance of food at the proper time? Happy that servant if his master’s arrival finds him at this employment. I tell you truly, he will place him over everything he owns. But as for the servant who says to himself, “My master is taking his time coming,” and sets about beating the menservants and the maids, and eating and drinking and getting drunk, his master will come on a day he does not expect and at an hour he does not know. The master will cut him off and send him to the same fate as the unfaithful.

The servant who knows what his master wants, but has not even started to carry out those wishes, will receive very many strokes of the lash. The one who did not know, but deserves to be beaten for what he has done, will receive fewer strokes. When a man has had a great deal given him, a great deal will be demanded of him; when a man has had a great deal given him on trust, even more will be expected of him.’


19th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C)

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