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Showing posts with label Parable. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Parable. Show all posts

Sunday, November 12, 2017

A Homily – Matthew 25:1 - 13 ©

The Gospel According to Matthew – 2017.11.12


This parable is a rank betrayal of the way.

The writers and editors of Matthew’s gospel, did not understand the basic meaning of the most prevalent of Jesus’ teaching, which is that the last will be first and the first will be last.

Those imposters in the early church betrayed the teaching of Jesus providing justification for the miser, to those who would withhold from others the gifts they had under the mistaken notion that the gifts of heaven are distributed according to some standard other than the selfless love God has for all of God’s children.

A person is not rewarded in the way because they are smart, people are not punished because they are foolish or unprepared.

The commandment that Jesus has issued are simple: Love one another, as I have loved you.

A Christian is to love God with all their heart, and all their strength and all their mind. They are to love their neighbor even as they love themselves. Jesus teaches us that within these words are contained the entire code of the law, and all of the teachings of the prophets.

Jesus expressed his understanding if this law in the most beautiful synthesis: Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you.

This parable, that the writers of Matthew saw fit to include in the gospel, is a betrayal of the teaching of Jesus.

They put a lie in his mouth, doing great damage to everyone who sought to follow in the way after them.

The False Bridesmaids and the False Groom

Jesus told this parable to his disciples: ‘The kingdom of heaven will be like this: Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were sensible: the foolish ones did take their lamps, but they brought no oil, whereas the sensible ones took flasks of oil as well as their lamps. The bridegroom was late, and they all grew drowsy and fell asleep. But at midnight there was a cry, “The bridegroom is here! Go out and meet him.” At this, all those bridesmaids woke up and trimmed their lamps, and the foolish ones said to the sensible ones, “Give us some of your oil: our lamps are going out.” But they replied, “There may not be enough for us and for you; you had better go to those who sell it and buy some for yourselves.” They had gone off to buy it when the bridegroom arrived. Those who were ready went in with him to the wedding hall and the door was closed. The other bridesmaids arrived later. “Lord, Lord,” they said “open the door for us.” But he replied, “I tell you solemnly, I do not know you.” So stay awake, because you do not know either the day or the hour.’

32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Sunday, July 23, 2017

A Homily – Matthew 13:24 - 43 ©

The Gospel According to Matthew – 2017.07.23

Parse the Gospel

Bear in mind that the Gospels were written long after Jesus dies. Matthews Gospel was compiled by a community of believers between 80 and 100 years after his death.

It is often the case that you can see two threads in the Gospel:

The teaching of Jesus as remembered by the community, and the community’s interpretation of that teaching, one that they believe promotes their interests.

These threads are often out of synch with other.

One of the tells that you are moving from Jesus’ view to the view of the church is when the gospels report that Jesus is deliberate in his use of mysterious messaging, as if he is hiding something from the people, and passing on the secret meaning of his teaching to his disciples only.

This is when the church puts its own interests above the teaching of Jesus, and this is where they begin to lead people astray, substituting simple wisdom for fantastical stories about angels, and the evil one and the end of time.

Reject that messaging and focus instead on the way, which is loving and patient and kind.

Plant the smallest of seeds and wait, it will grow into a mighty tree.

Allow the yeast to leaven the dough, it will leave no part of the bread untouched.

Let the weeds grow until the harvest. The wheat will go to the granary, the weeds will go to the fire, and remember, in the scriptures fire is an image representing our encounter with God, the creator of the universe, God who is just and loving, and good.

Let them both grow till the harvest

Jesus put another parable before the crowds: ‘The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. While everybody was asleep his enemy came, sowed darnel all among the wheat, and made off. When the new wheat sprouted and ripened, the darnel appeared as well. The owner’s servants went to him and said, “Sir, was it not good seed that you sowed in your field? If so, where does the darnel come from?” “Some enemy has done this” he answered. And the servants said, “Do you want us to go and weed it out?” But he said, “No, because when you weed out the darnel you might pull up the wheat with it. Let them both grow till the harvest; and at harvest time I shall say to the reapers: First collect the darnel and tie it in bundles to be burnt, then gather the wheat into my barn.”’

  He put another parable before them: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed which a man took and sowed in his field. It is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the biggest shrub of all and becomes a tree so that the birds of the air come and shelter in its branches.’

  He told them another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like the yeast a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour till it was leavened all through.’

  In all this Jesus spoke to the crowds in parables; indeed, he would never speak to them except in parables. This was to fulfil the prophecy:

I will speak to you in parables
and expound things hidden since the foundation of the world.

Then, leaving the crowds, he went to the house; and his disciples came to him and said, ‘Explain the parable about the darnel in the field to us.’ He said in reply, ‘The sower of the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world; the good seed is the subjects of the kingdom; the darnel, the subjects of the evil one; the enemy who sowed them, the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; the reapers are the angels. Well then, just as the darnel is gathered up and burnt in the fire, so it will be at the end of time. The Son of Man will send his angels and they will gather out of his kingdom all things that provoke offences and all who do evil, and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth. Then the virtuous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Listen, anyone who has ears!’

16th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Sunday, September 25, 2016

A Homily – The Gospel of Luke 16:19 - 31 ©

A Homily – The Gospel of Luke 16:19 - 31 ©

The Gospel of the Day – 2016.09.25

The Vision of Abraham and Lazarus, A Lack of Charity

Jesus said to the Pharisees, ‘There was a rich man who used to dress in purple and fine linen and feast magnificently every day. And at his gate there lay a poor man called Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to fill himself with the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table. Dogs even came and licked his sores. Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to the bosom of Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried.

  ‘In his torment in Hades he looked up and saw Abraham a long way off with Lazarus in his bosom. So he cried out, “Father Abraham, pity me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in agony in these flames.” “My son,” Abraham replied “remember that during your life good things came your way, just as bad things came the way of Lazarus. Now he is being comforted here while you are in agony. But that is not all: between us and you a great gulf has been fixed, to stop anyone, if he wanted to, crossing from our side to yours, and to stop any crossing from your side to ours.”

  ‘The rich man replied, “Father, I beg you then to send Lazarus to my father’s house, since I have five brothers, to give them warning so that they do not come to this place of torment too.” “They have Moses and the prophets,” said Abraham “let them listen to them..” “Ah no, father Abraham,” said the rich man “but if someone comes to them from the dead, they will repent.” Then Abraham said to him, “If they will not listen either to Moses or to the prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone should rise from the dead.”’

False Narratives in the Gospel

There are readings in the Gospel that contradict everything Jesus himself taught.

This is one of those readings.

This is not a parable, it is not meant to teach anything but fear. It is given as a means of justifying the first Christians, especially in those communities outside of Palestine, in their desire to see some others excluded from their charity.

There are clues given; by which we can see that this is a false interpretation of Jesus’ teaching.

The first clue is the heavily mythologized imagery, imagery of the afterlife the presence of Lazarus in the Bosom of Abraham (imagined here as an analogy of Elysium), the abode of the blessed dead.

Another clue is in the reference to Hades, the description of the gulf between it and the blessed realm. Jesus did not speak in concrete terms regarding the afterlife.

Another clue is in the way that the author riffs on the name of Lazarus, which is the name of a man who we know Jesus loved. The author builds up the narrative in a way that draws a clear connection between Lazarus and the tales of the Syro-Phoenician woman, who also, like a dog, asks for scraps at the table of Christ.

In this way the author connects everyone who is viewed as an outsider in the believing community, on the basis of nationalism, and ethnicity, to Lazarus, who was beloved by Jesus; the man for whom Jesus wept.

The final clue we are given so that we can see this reading as false, is the central message of the reading itself. The message that is given is that Jesus is content to let people die in their sins, suffer in eternity, and never have recourse to salvation. This message is in stark contrast to his teaching on love, forgiveness, and mercy.

We should always be mindful of the way the prejudices of human beings, in the era when the gospels were first being written, creep into the narrative to rob us of the truth.

26th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Sunday, February 28, 2016

A Homily – The Gospel of Luke 13:1-9 ©

The Gospel of the Day – 2016.02.28 (Sunday)

The Parable of the Fig Tree

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.”’ (NJB)

The Church and Power

The gospel of the day is a plain spoken text. It acknowledges the overwhelming reality of suffering in the world. Suffering caused by human beings, suffering caused by the random nature of events in the world; the Roman prelate, Pilate, caused suffering among the people of Palestine, either directly, at his hands for political and religious purposes (which to the Romans were one and the same), or indirectly, because they were forced into servitude.

The message the Jesus has for his people is that they be careful, mindful, watchful of those powers, and of one another unless they two are caught up in the aegis of Pilates authority and subjected to the whims of 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, or his followers, but they were careless, and due to their carelessness they were caught up in the grip of Roman power.
Jesus stresses in the parable 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.

The man looking after the vineyard is the Church. The Church pleads for mercy on behalf of the people, and through mindfulness, and care; the people are brought along safely into the next year, preserving themselves and their families in the face of the violent 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.  

2nd Sunday of Lent