Sunday, April 29, 2007

Fourth Sunday of Easter

Acts 13:14, 43-52
Rev 7:9, 14b-17
Jn 10:27-30

When I was little, a child, we used to actually play outside. We didn’t have Nintendo or computer games, or eight million TV channels. We would go outside, run around and play football, and basketball and baseball. We would go out as early as we could, and play outside for as long as we could. When the sun started to go down, and it began to get dark, the front doors of the houses would open and you would begin to hear the voices, mothers calling their children to come in. We heard them calling, but the last thing we wanted to do was go in and stoop playing, so we just chose not to hear. We ignored the calls until they became insistent, and we understood that if we had to go in, now. We would reluctantly go in and make excuses, “I couldn’t hear you, or I didn’t recognize your voice,” or some other equally bad excuse, that never worked. We refused to listen, to hear the call, and it never seemed to work out very well for us. In the first reading today Paul and Barnabas are preaching the Good News of Jesus Christ. They begin by preaching to those who should have heard them, their fellow Jews. They had the expectation of a Messiah, they were the ones waiting for a savior, for a redeemer, but for whatever reason they did not hear the call. Perhaps they should have recognized the call of God, but did not.
Then there is us. God calls to us each day, but too often we don’t hear, or recognize the call. But God speaks to us in a variety of ways, every day. God speaks to us in the questions of a child, God speaks to us in the beauty of the sunrise, in the awesome realization that world will go on for one more day. Just the fact that we are alive, that we arte here, in this place that is designed to make life like ours possible, is God speaking to us. In the readings listed at the beginning of this homily, God is speaking to us. Have you read them, do you know what they say. Was the first time you heard them at the Eucharist today, or did you take the time to read them before Mass? God speaks to us, calls to us each day, but like the little child who wants to stay outside just a little longer, we don’t heed the call. We know that hearing, really hearing that call means that we must change. When we hear that call and follow we can never be the same. We, however, don’t want to change. Even when we begin to realize that change is going to be to our benefit, we don’t want to change. We’re afraid to change, so we shut out the call, and try our best to stay outside a little longer. But, just like it was for that child, it never seems to work out very well for us. God is calling us, everyday, waiting for us to come in, to come into the joy, into the love, that is God. Listen to the call. Hear God, and then follow.
Deacon John
Fourth Sunday of Easter
April 29, 2007

Sunday, April 22, 2007

3rd Sunday of Easter

Acts 5:27-32, 40b-41
Rev 5:11-14
Jn 21:1-19

We like to talk. We especially like to talk about things we like. We like to talk about things that move us in some way. When you’ve seen a really good movie, you want to talk about it. You want to tell people how good it is, you want to urge them to go and see the movie, because it is so good, so moving, so important. When you have had a particularly good meal at a restaurant, you talk about it, you want others to know just how good that restaurant is, you want them to go there and experience what you experienced. We do this almost compulsively, we can’t help ourselves. We have to tell people about these good things.
That’s the position the Apostles find themselves n in the first reading today. They have experienced the Good News of Jesus Christ, and they cannot contain themselves. They have to talk about him. They have to stop every person they see and tell them about the Good News of Jesus life, death and resurrection. Hey find themselves dragged before the Sanhedrin, in trouble. They had already been told to stop preaching in that man’s name, but they can’t stop. As soon as they leave the court, despite this second admonition they begin to speak of Jesus again.
We like to talk. We tell people about restaurants, movies, books, television shows, sometimes even when they don’t want to hear it. We like to talk, but how much do we like to talk about the Good News that we share with those Apostles? I’m not saying that you need to stand on a street corner and shout to passing strangers. I’m not saying that you need to buttonhole everyone you meet and press the Good news on them. We should not be pests, but we should also not be afraid. When we have the chance to speak about our faith, about the Good News of Jesus, do we speak, or do we stand silent? We can be excited about a movie or a meal, so excited that we have to talk about it. How can we not be excited by Jesus, by the resurrection, by eternal life? The Apostles and all those who followed were excited enough to make sure the Good News was spread. They could not contain themselves, they could not be silent so exhilarating was the message they carried. They could not, would not be quiet, how, then, can we?

Deacon John
3rd Sunday of Easter
April 22, 2007

Friday, April 06, 2007

Good Friday

Is 52:13—53:12
Heb 4:14-16; 5:7-9
Jn 18:1—19:42

Jesus is arrested and led away. His captors are determined to have him executed, but they cannot. They need the ruling authority to execute Jesus, so Jesus winds up in front of Pontius Pilate. Pilate probably didn’t really care one way or the other about having this man Jesus crucified. He would do what ever was expedient. But he was curious, why were these religious leaders so determined to kill this man. So he spoke to Jesus, wanting to know who he was, what he wanted, Pilate wanted to understand why this man had to die. Jesus finally tells Pilate that he has come to testify to the truth. Pilate asks the question, the big question, what is truth? Poets, philosophers and theologians have been working on that answer for millennia. What is truth, is truth the same for you as it is for me? Is truth always the same everywhere for everyone? There are those who would argue that truth is relative, it depends on who you are, where you are, the time and place of your life. There is a truth, however, that transcends all of those factors. It is a truth that applies always and everywhere to everyone. It is the truth that Jesus testifies to. I’m certainly not a genius, but I believe I know what this universal truth is. God is love. Jesus came to show us this ultimate truth. How do I know this? There are signs all around us showing us God’s love. First we’re here, we have life, the gift of a loving God. The sun rises each day, making life possible. These are two of the signs of God’s love. Today we see the ultimate sign that God is love, and that God shares that love with us. That sign stands on a hill, stark against the sky. We were in need of salvation and God’s Son came, to bring that ultimate gift to us. The greatest gift, the greatest sacrifice, the ultimate sign of God’s love, the Cross of Jesus Christ.

Deacon John
Good Friday
April 6, 2007

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Holy Thursday

Ex 12:1-8, 11-14
1 Cor 11:23-26
Jn 13:1-15

We live in a hierarchical world. Somebody is on top, somebody is on the bottom, and never the twain shall meet. Look at the basic structure of a corporation. The CEO is not about to sweep the floor. The CEO would, most likely, think that beneath them. That’s the job of the person farther down, at or near the bottom of the hierarchy. Corporations function this way, but I’m not sure they always function best this way. I remember reading about an airline a few years back that was managing to make money, to do well, when other airlines were falling into bankruptcy. In the successful airline everyone was willing to do whatever was necessary to make things work. If the trash can needed to be emptied, the pilot would not hesitate to empty it. Everyone was working together to make things work, to be successful.
In Jesus’ time it was an important act of courtesy for a host to provide those coming into the home a way to wash their feet. They were, after all, a people that wore sandals if they wore shoes at all, walking on streets that were dirt. Coming into someone’s home with dirty feet would be unthinkable. So the host would provide a way for guests to wash their feet, saving both of them embarrassment. A servant, someone pretty far down the hierarchy, would be assigned the task of washing feet.
Jesus, the Rabbi, the Master, the Teacher, washed the feet of his disciples. In a culture that went primarily shoeless, in a place where the road was dirt, Jesus took on the role of the servant, doing the unthinkable. Peter objected, loudly, I’m sure, because it was unthinkable. This was a job for the lowest of the low, not the one called Rabbi. Jesus tells Peter that if he doesn’t allow him to wash his feet, Peter will have no inheritance with him. It wasn’t just that Peter would have no inheritance, more than that, Jesus wanted them to know that unless he washed their feet, unless he was willing to be a servant, He had no right to talk to them, and they should not listen to him. Jesus wanted them to see that one can be a servant without being subservient. Service isn’t a lowly pursuit, but the highest calling. It is only in service that we can truly lead. It is only in our willingness to be servant, to wash feet that we have the right to lead. One of the first things I learned years ago as a manager was never to ask someone to do something you were not willing to do yourself. Jesus was not asking his disciples, is not asking us, to be a servant without giving us the example first. Lead by serving. Imitate Jesus by being willing to wash feet.

Deacon John
Holy Thursday
April 5, 2007

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Palm Sunday

This homily is based on the First Gospel, said at the beginning of Mass on Palm Sunday.

Lk 19: 28-40

Palm Sunday. Jesus enters Jerusalem triumphantly. Crowds of people greet him shouting “Hosanna,” proclaiming him the king who comes in the name of the Lord. Jesus is on top of the world. Yet in a few short days, instead of being on top of the world, he will be on top of a hill, hanging on a cross. Some of the very people shouting Hosanna will soon be shouting “Crucify Him.” How did things go so wrong so quickly? Why even go to Jerusalem? He was entering the unknown, a place of danger. Jesus had to know what risk he was taking by going there. He was in essence entering the lion’s den, challenging the religious leaders on their territory. Even on a purely human level Jesus had to know how risky going to Jerusalem would be, particularly when the people hail you as their king. He had to know, but he went anyway. He went into the dangerous unknown.
Jesus sent some of his disciples to carry out a mission, bring back a colt tied near the entrance to a village. Should anyone ask “why are you taking this colt?” they were to simply reply that the master has need of it. They could not know what the reaction of those villagers might be. Would they simply let them take it? Would they put up a fight? They were entering the unknown, a potentially dangerous unknown, but they went anyway.
These disciples went to take that colt out of love, love for Jesus, and out of trust. They trusted him. They believed that if he sent them somewhere, if he asked them to do something, it was for a good cause. They believed that whatever happened to them, they would be alright, because they were doing what Jesus had called them to do.
Jesus went to Jerusalem despite the risk, despite the danger, out of love. He went for love of God and out of his love for us. He knew the danger, perhaps he even knew precisely what would happen. He knew the possibility of the pain and suffering ahead of him and he went anyway. He went because of his love for us. He went to do what he knew he had to do, for us, so that we might be able to see God.
Jesus calls each of us to take a risk, to step into the unknown. He asks us to believe, and to trust. It’s not easy, this step into the unknown. How will the people around us react when we express our belief in God? How will they look at us when we express our faith in Jesus as the Messiah, the savior of the world? They may laugh at us, or ignores us, or reject us, or they may believe as well. Either way, we can’t know. We step into the unknown and we are afraid. There is nothing wrong with being afraid, it’s quite normal. Jesus was afraid, yet out of love he stepped in to the dangerous unknown anyway. The disciples of Jesus were afraid, yet out of trust they stepped into the unknown anyway. We have faith, a faith that calls us to love, and calls us to trust in the one sending us. With faith, and love and trust, let us step into the unknown.
Deacon John
Palm Sunday
April 1, 2007