Jesus: Lighten Up!
Twenty-Fourth Sunday after Pentecost
An-other unsettling parable.
Last week: the bridegroom rejects the five bridesmaids— foolish.
This week: the master rejects the slave who did not invest his
money— wicked and lazy.
Next week: the Son of Man rejects those who neglect the
Jesus seems to be on a rejection roll,
which doesn’t square with the Jesus that I know.
What is Jesus really saying?
Applying this parable literally would lead to the conclusion
that God is a harsh bully who enjoys damning people.
Some of us perhaps sometimes go there in our heads!
“Oh my, how I have wasted the talents; I am doomed!”
Upon first reading, this parable is an unsettling story.
A rich man entrusts his property—his money.
A talent is a measure of money equivalent to 6000 denarii.
One denarius was a day’s wage.
And so, the man entrusts 99 years worth to servant #1,
33 years worth to servant #2 and 16 ½ years worth to servant #3.
An outrageous amount of money—without any instructions.
Now, the average person
would probably simply do his/her best to keep the money safe.
He/she would not risk investment.
Consequently, the choice of the third servant seems to be the wise
—especially given the known harshness of the rich man!
And so what happens?
He is thoroughly excoriated:
“As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness,
where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
Excuse me!??!? Thrown into darkness for being prudent?
Is God harsh? Can God be a bully at times?
God may seem to be harsh.
There is the story of Saint Teresa of Avila (+1582), Spanish Carmelite
nun, making her way to her convent during a fierce rainstorm,
slipping down an embankment and falling squarely into the mud.
The irrepressible nun looked up to heaven and admonished her
"If this is how You treat Your friends,
no wonder why You have so few of them!”
God may seem to be harsh
—given the complexity of our lives and the unavoidability of pain.
This too, however, is somehow a revelation of God who is king,
of God whom we know, in faith, to be love.
In actuality, God cannot act contrary to Who He is,
and thus cannot act contrary to love.
God does not make bad things happen.
He sure as heck allows a lot of bad things to happen,
which is mysterious and trying and perhaps upsetting and
I know that I repeat myself when I say:
we always read Scripture in reference to the theological truth
that God is love, bearing in mind that Jesus sometimes speaks
in deliberately exaggerated terms to reveal this.
God acts with intensity—like harshness, but it the intensity of love.
And the higher the stakes, the greater the intensity with which God
In other words, the more intimate the matter, or the more awesome
the greater the vulnerability of God,
and thus the more intense the action of God.
The “harsh” cleansing of the Temple, for example,
was an act of love by Jesus.
What is Jesus really saying?
Perhaps the detail to be applied, the key in the parable,
is the entrusting of something precious.
The kingdom of God entails God, the King, entrusting something
precious that He would like to see grow and bear fruit.
And this something He entrusts with a corresponding sense of
What does God entrust?
In the end, God never “entrusts” anything less than Himself.
God entrusts His inner riches, i.e. His life, and thus His love.
Perhaps, response of the rich man serves well, in its exaggeration,
to underscore the unbelievable preciousness of what we have been
and how our refusal, in a mysterious way, impacts God.
Think of a time when you were impacted when, with love,
you entrusted a precious gift to someone
that was subsequently carelessly ignored or even rejected.
I have shared this story before: 5 th grade, Nikki Booth. Big Crush.
And, we had a field trip one day, and I mustered the nerve,
as we boarded the bus, to give her a ring, symbol of my feelings for
It was a cheap ring that was precious to me.
The day seemingly went well; enjoyed being together.
After we alighted the bus, she walked directly to the nearest trash-can
and tossed the ring in it.
I still haven’t recovered—obviously!
It is infinitely greater with God…
Now, we sometimes close ourselves to the gift of God out of fear.
We think God is perhaps a harsh bully who enjoys damning people.
The third servant “mismanaged” because he feared the rich man.
The first two servants did not fear.
We must ask the Holy Spirit to help us to see God as He truly is.
If ever we have pulled back from the gift out of fear
or ignored or misused the gift out of self-absorption,
all we must do is acknowledge our failing, which opens our hearts,
which opens us to God’s merciful embrace.
Let us be embraced this day, this morning.
And, let us ask that this gift, which is not our own, transform us,
and that we communicate it to others—with a sense of God’s
Zachary Baker Rodes
Year A, Proper 27
November 8, 2020
Let us always seek the truth, whence it comes, cost what it may. Amen.
Brothers and sisters, as we make our march towards Advent, the lectionary gives us a series of complex yet engaging Gospel texts which call for us to pay special attention. Advent is the beginning of our liturgical year and therefore could be seen as a sort of new year. So, as we already take into account the ending of 2020, we can also view this new year of Advent as a way to make spiritual or faith-based resolutions. We should carefully consider, then, what every week’s readings could be telling us for this year. For this week, I am sure many of us are feeling like that last line in Thessalonians. Maybe it would be preferable to be caught up in the clouds to meet our Lord than to do anything else right now. This is not the 2020 we expected, and I am comfortable speaking for most to say that we can’t wait to say goodbye. But remember, things will not go back to normal, whatever that means, suddenly on the first Sunday of Advent or January 1. We need to stay alert and so as we move into this week, let us carefully consider what’s presented to us today.
Let’s start at the end of the parable. Keep awake Jesus tell us; we are to be alert and watchful for the coming of the Lord, or we neither know the day nor the hour. He tells us this a lot, doesn’t he? He proclaims this twice just before in Chapter 24. But this is not some sort of obsessiveness in watching, for all the bridesmaids fall asleep. Augustine remarks that the five wise who did fall asleep, fell asleep knowing their light would shine bright even in some rest. He writes, “No coldness of love then crept over them. In them love did not grow cold. Love preserves its glow even to the very end.” We are followers of Jesus Christ and in being followers of Jesus we are to simply have our oil ready. We can fall asleep, we can go about our personal affairs, but our mind is to be set on this, the preparing of the oil. That is to say that having our oil prepared means we are ready to meet Christ in all and at the Parousia, the second coming. However, what this means is a radical shift in our understanding that we as Christians live into this apocalyptic reality Christ is presenting to us. More on that in a moment.
But preparing is hard, isn’t it? Sometime in middle school I tried to be a Boy Scout. Their motto as maybe most of you know is “be prepared”. How practical, yet also how difficult it is sometimes. I grew up in a family that went camping for vacation, so I grew up with my own sense of preparedness that was much less rigid than the Boy Scout guidebook. As a parable of preparedness, we are called to reflect on how exactly we are preparing and what or whom we are preparing for. We know the answer to the second question, we are preparing for Jesus’ return, as this is a parable ultimately about the day of his coming. How, then, are we preparing? Rather, self-reflectively, how am I preparing? That is the question I wish to pose to you today and only one you can answer. But to emphasize, this is not about fretting over our works and faith and worrying about the end times. We are not Jehovah’s Witnesses or other end times sects whose literalism is caught up in fanatical worry. But as I said, it seems there is something there that we must dwell on.
This parable is considered an apocalyptic one. That is, of course, dealing with revelation. In it, Jesus is calling for us to be prepared and, in this preparedness we are alert and watchful. We live into this firstly as being baptized into Christ, we are baptized into the love of Christ that transforms us to transform the world in this love. This is the hope of the Gospel in which we find what is means to be Christian. Early church father Irenaeus said, “The glory of God is a human being fully alive.” It is in this fullness of life in Christ that we supply our oil. In the face of all of this, this parable, as apocalyptic as it is, is also a parable of hope found in its apocalyptic nature, which is to say a revelatory underpinning. It is in God that we find our truth and life as Christians, whose reality, as reveled through Jesus Christ, transcends history and whose light, poured into us by the Holy Spirit, casts away the darkness of the world; it is the oil in our lamps which helps this light burn.
20th century French lay theologian and scholar, Jacques Ellul, says something stronger which I wish to raise up. Writing in his theological tour de force, Presence of the Modern World, he says, “The only vision Christians can have of the world they live in is an apocalyptic one.” He writes just before this that, “we must indeed consider the present moment as apocalyptic, which is to say the final moment before judgment and pardon.” This is keeping watch! But we know too that Jesus comes to us all the time, not just in the fullness of time. He is our neighbor, the street person, the political opposite, the lowly, and the unborn. His creation is our dominion over which we have the responsibility to care. In all these things are moments full of judgment and pardon, moments of revelation of God’s love not just for us, but for all his creation. We are to see and to seek Christ in all things and in so doing so we are faced with an apocalyptic reality: we come face to face with the revelation of Jesus Christ, God Incarnate.
In this revelation we thus encounter as Christians the apocalyptical reality of what our faith is. For having been baptized into Christ, we are now called to live into this reality. At this alter, I dare say we are nourished by this apocalypse. In the bread and wine, as the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, we are fed in substance and in spirit everything we need through this revelation. This is the sustenance of the reality of being members of the Body of Christ. Being in Christ as Paul mentions throughout his letters, including in today’s letter to the Thessalonians, means we have faith in Christ and it is his love that transforms our reality. This faith is a faith with profound implications. Matthew is chalk full of these implications, of course not just Matthew but the entirety of the Gospel lays it out for us, that is the Gospel! The Good News of God’s Incarnation as Jesus the Nazarene, who has brought God’s reality to us. We know we are called to love through faith in Christ! But are we wise or are we foolish? Our imperfection leads us sometimes to feel we are foolish, but in Christ we are led to be wise. We will make mistakes, we will sin, that is not the foolishness Matthew writes of. But God’s love and grace for us is ever present when we stand back up and turn again towards him.
What does all this mean for us right now and right here? Everything! It means that when we are dismissed today, our worship of praise, thankfulness, and sacrifice is poured forth out into the street and into the body politic. Feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, housing the homeless, healing the sick, friending the friendless, and helping the widowed and orphaned as well as proclaiming Jesus Christ as Lord and thanking and praising him; and preaching in all of this God’s love for us and his redemption through a reality radically different than our own, which is enmeshed in the world, at odds with God. Then again it isn’t so much about the oil, though important, but about the fire it produces. The oil of our lamps produces light to the world which so often hides in darkness. This is what we present to Christ the bridegroom at his coming whether we meet him on earth or at his return.
My brothers and sisters, as we move into each moment through God’s grace, let us be moved to prayer, to charity, to compassion, to worship and praise and knowledge of God’s love for us. Above all let our oil burn as the light of revelation of God’s love so that those who may need it the most bring their oil to the feast that God calls us to. Through God’s grace may it be so. Amen.
How many of you have ever struggled with jealousy?
Oh, jealousy, that ugly response that can lead to ugly things!
We all fall prey, do we not?
I do! I can recall jealousy of Gordon, who effortlessly swam to victory,
Dana, whose Master thesis was brilliant,
and Eric, whose pastoral faithfulness seemed beyond reach to me.
Jealousy, as a result of which, I never got to know these people.
Jealousy is sadness at another person’s good:
looks, achievements, possessions, relationships, social position, upbringing…
Sadness at good? Terribly disordered.
In Shakespeare’s tragedy “Othello”, the general is wrongly convinced by Iago, junior officer at his command, that his wife is unfaithful.
We hear Iago say,
O beware, O lord, of jealousy; It is the green-eyed monster
which doth mock the meet on which it feeds.
Jealousy plays tricks on the mind—and heart.
St. Augustine (+430) says, “He that is jealous is not in love.”
As it intensifies, jealousy becomes envy--deadly sin.
The sadness at another person’s good becomes anger and contempt,
with a desire to destroy that good.
Terribly, terribly disordered.
Hence, the words of Proverbs 14:30,
“A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh, but envy makes the bones rot”.
The book of Wisdom (2:24) reminds us,
“By the envy of the Devil, death entered the world”.
The chief priests and elders are jealous, becoming envious, of Jesus,
and are unable to hear and welcome him.
Just before this passage, in the first half of Matthew 21,
we have Jesus’ entering Jerusalem with triumph, cleansing the Temple, “cursing” the fig tree and declaring such things as
“Whatever you ask in prayer with faith, you will receive.”
Saint John Chrysostom (+407), Church Father, says that
the Priests were tormented with jealousy, because they had seen Christ entering the Temple in great glory. And not being able to master the fire of jealousy, which burnt in their breasts, they break forth in speech.
Their question does not seek truth and encounter.
“By what authority…?”
Jesus’ response? Well, there is no inclination to cancel them.
Jesus doesn’t answer the question, but He’s not dismissive.
He gives them an opportunity to think, thinkers that they should be.
But, alas, they refuse… And, even then, “what do you think?”
In mercy, Jesus reveals their lack of faith.
Saint Jerome (+420) says “thus much prefaced,
the Lord brings forward a parable, to convict them of their irreligion.”
But, the parable is, as suggested, one of mercy,
designed to attract to the Kingdom of God.
Jesus is seeking to reach them where they are fragile.
The doorway to the Kingdom is mercy,
the doorway to the heart of the King is gratuitous love that reaches us
in our disbelief, our arrogance, our knee-jerk refusal and our brokenness.
Which son in the parable “did the will of his father”? The first.
The one whose immediate response was not exactly enthusiastic,
but who came around and did.
There may be times, in our relationship with God,
when we are not enthusiastic, are indifferent,
feel like we are going through the motions.
There may be times when we say “no”,
and pursue and get entangled in other stuff.
It is never too late to come around
—like the workers of the 11th-hour in last Sunday’s gospel (Matthew 20:1-16).
The wasted time is not held against us.
Indeed, the most unlikely people are “going into the kingdom of God ahead” of the elders, i.e., ahead of the serious people in Church,
accessing the heart of the King: tax collectors and prostitutes!
In other words, those who work for the occupant system
and those, well, whose lives are rather complicated
and make use of their bodies in ways they may prefer not.
These are messy lives that, likewise, do not seem to be
an immediately enthusiastic response to God’s invitation.
What liberating revelation for us:
our disbelief, our arrogance, our knee-jerk refusal and our brokenness
are not a hindrance to God’s attraction and embrace
The only hindrance is deliberate, pondered refusal,
for God respects our freedom to say “no”.
All that is necessary is a whisper of faith,
Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldst come under my roof,
but speak the word only and my soul shall be healed.
The story is told of two fellows riding a tandem bicycle up a steep hill. After significant effort, they finally make it to the top. The front rider says, “That was a tough climb.” To which the second rider replies, “Sure was and, if I hadn’t kept the brake on, we might have slipped backwards!”
This is an odd parable that takes poor collaboration much, much further--
to say the least!
A land-owner leases his vineyard; a lease implies an agreement.
It is harvest collection time,
and the tenants to whom the vineyard has been leased, kill the servants
who come to collect the produce, to which the landowner is entitled
per the agreement.
What is that all about?
Then what happens?
The landowner sends another round of servants, larger in number;
and the tenants kill these servants.
Now, at this point, one would normally conclude: “problem!”
and prudentially send no one else.
The landowner, however, sends his son—alone.
Naïve and imprudent, to say the least?
When the tenants have killed several of your servants,
you do not send your son into harm’s way.
The tenants are crazy.
Moreover, they actually think that, by killing the son,
they will get his inheritance!
This is not how it works.
Remember that this is a parable,
wherein illogicality can serve as a doorway to something deeper.
The landowner’s apparent naiveté and imprudence are significant.
This parable can refer to the prophets and to the Son (of Man/of God)
coming to the Chosen People, His people—to whose leaders He is speaking.
They have been entrusted, in a special way, God’s vineyard.
In a sense, they, with the people, are the vineyard.
In the first reading, Isaiah 5:7, we read,
“The vine of the Lord of Hosts is the house of Israel.”
Today’s psalm, 80, suggests the same.
Given God’s covenant with Israel, we might find this parable disturbing.
God seems vengeful and vindictive, like He is breaking the covenant.
Know that this is not Jesus looking into His crystal ball, declaring game over.
This is Jesus making a strong appeal to these leaders
who hearts are not open because of entitlement.
This is an invitation, not a verdict.
We must, of course, ask how this parable applies to us, today.
What is being revealed to us who are “tenants”,
i.e. children of God, to whom the life of God is entrusted
and in whom the life of God must bear fruit.
God shares with us His life, not because He is lonely,
but because goodness, by nature, radiates.
What is the fruit that must come forth in our lives,
which the landowner would like to be able to “collect”?
We can surely consider the fruit(s) of the Spirit,
i.e., what the life of God does in us.
9 of them—per Galatians 5: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
These characterize relationships between Sisters and Brothers in Christ.
Which leads us to John, chapter 15,
in which Jesus speaks of Himself as the vine,
of us as branches on the vine which must bear fruit,
and reiterates the new commandment to love one another.
The life of God, entrusted to us “tenants”,
must produce the fruit of love for one another.
Indeed, if our hearts have been lovingly seized by Jesus,
we cannot but love our Sisters and Brothers.
Being loved by God transforms and expands the heart,
enabling us to love divinely—even enemies.
This perhaps explains the persistence of the landowner.
In actuality, the landowner’s apparent naiveté and imprudence
are persistence in relationship and the bestowal of gifts.
With each visit, the landowner gives more of himself,
until he gives everything in his son.
Why does the divine landowner do this?
Because goodness, by nature, radiates.
Also, perhaps because God sees how we struggle to love one another.
We have been incorporated into Christ, His Body,
with people who are very different.
It is frankly a little much, a little intense for our sensibility.
We also all have, of course, that one person (the Rector)
who really pushes our buttons, such that we bark and maybe even bite,
or despairingly declare game over.
God, however, never grows weary. He persists.
So much does God persist that “the stone which the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone!”
Normally, a rejected stone is, well, rejected.
God always triumphs. Divine love will triumph in our lives.
All we must do is dare to hope.
All we need to do is cling to Jesus.
When you receive Him in the Eucharist—here or spiritually if watching, express your hope.
Acknowledge the struggles to love, and ask Him to transfigure your heart.
And so, we press on in Him, like St. Paul says in our second reading,
with a heavenly call, preceded and indwelt by divine love.
How blessed we are.
Fr. Dominique Peridans
At this point in Matthew’s gospel, Chapter 11, Jesus’ ministry is in full swing: soaring sermons, holy healings, companion commissioning and town tussles. If Jesus had a Facebook page, it would be bursting at its seams! [A good question to ponder: if the Incarnation had occurred in our time, would Jesus have a Facebook Page and a Twitter account?]
Jesus then underscores the unbelief and the resulting inhospitality of his own people. Early Church Father, Saint John Chrysostom (+407) says that Jesus “puts this question, showing that nothing had been omitted that ought to be done for their salvation.” In other words, God gave His people all that they needed for their encounter with their Savior, and they did not believe in or welcome Him.
Contrasted with this, from a place of vulnerability, we have a surprising, surprisingly intimate moment, a conversation with the Father—and we get to eavesdrop! Jesus thanks the Father for sharing His secrets (i.e., what He carries deep in His heart) with those whom one might not expect: not the leaders of His people, but with the child-like. “You…have revealed them to infants.”
In so doing, Jesus reveals the key to receiving the secrets of God: being child-like. Is that it? You mean: no ascetic practices, no social justice campaign, no theology degree, no moral perfection, no yogic stillness, no perfect church attendance? No. These are all secondary—important, perhaps even intrinsic, but secondary. Children are not ascetic or engaged in social justice, have no degrees, are morally immature, cannot typically sit still and, on their own, would probably not attend church because too boring . The child-like: those who trust, who judge not, who welcome.
Now, what is beautiful, and so hope-filled, is that God actually wants to share His secrets. It is His wish. He does not need to. God, however, is love, and love, by nature, radiates. God simply wants to share His secrets, and His true(est) secret is Himself. God opens His mystery to each of us. And thus the great(est) secret in our lives is God, is Christ.
From this intimate conversation with the Father, Jesus extends the unconditional invitation that we read in verse 28: “Come to me.” You will notice, as suggested, that there are no contractual terms. Jesus does not say, “Come to me all you who can pay dues, all you who understand the divine mysteries, all you whose track record is impeccable and have your act together.” Au contraire, we are invited to “come” as we are: indebted, misunderstood, hobbling, incomplete, uncertain, scared, indifferent—“all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens.” What an invitation!
There is one unusual condition in the un-conditional invitation, however. If we are to experience the rest of which Jesus speaks, rest that comes directly from His heart, we must take upon ourselves His yoke and His burden. And this is where Jesus loses me.
Another yoke does not equal rest! And, so, I respond, “Jesus, if you give me your yoke and your burden, I’ll be pressed to the ground, and will never find rest.” Well, if ever there were a man of his word, it is Jesus. And, Jesus promises rest—somehow, in taking His yoke and burden upon us. This, of course, can only make sense if the yoke, is, in fact, a source of liberation and strength. What liberates and strengthens? Love.
Now, which act of Jesus—although burdensome at one level for a time, in fact, supremely communicates divine love? The Cross. The mystery of the Cross. And so, I think Jesus says, “Meet me at the Cross.” Which does not translate: “Meet me, in your imagination, in Jerusalem on Calvary.” or “Meet me in your ascetic attempts at imitating the Cross”. Instead, “Meet me in my pouring forth of divine love—which can even occur in your suffering.” The love that Jesus poured forth at the Cross is eternal. The horrific pain that he endured at the Cross was momentary. The love liberates and strengthens, and attracts us to Jesus, who says—unconditionally—“Come to me”.
If we accept the invitation, we are set free from all that keeps us from loving, i.e. burdens of the heart, and we find rest for our souls. Our souls can only find rest in our Source, in God, our home. “Come to me” can otherwise be said, “Come home.” We have only to let ourselves be drawn, to accept the invitation. Jesus will take care of the rest. Jesus deposits His Spirit within us Who, within us, “takes care of the rest”.
Let us then “rejoice greatly” and “shout aloud!” “Our King comes to us…triumphant and victorious, humble” (first reading), gracious and full of compassion, of great kindness…loving to everyone” (psalm).
Sermon prepared by the Rev. Dominique Peridans
for the Fifth Sunday After Pentecost
Preached by the Rev. Dr. Tricia Lyons.
A Sermon prepared by Fr. Dominique Peridans
for Corpus Christi Sunday
June 14, 2020
Set aside the eye-glasses of faith for a moment and, with fresh, naked eyes, imagine entering a church, our church, for the first time, as also your first time ever with a group of Christians, hearing “the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh” for the first time, from their religious leader, Jesus Christ, unfamiliar to you, and observing what the people then do after a few prayers and hymns (something that they do every Sunday): Eucharist, Communion.
You go home and, when asked about your experience, say, “Really weird. They claim to eat the flesh and drink the blood of a guy who lived over 2,000 years ago. Really weird.”
If Trey Parker and Matt Stone of South Park fame, creators of the musical The Book of Mormon, were to create The Book of John, they could draw plenty of weirdness from this passage! I actually hope that we never grow too accustomed to the weirdness, truly.
We are in chapter six of John’s gospel, in which there is an interesting succession of events: from the feeding of the 5,000 to Jesus walking on water in the middle of a storm, to the crowd chasing Jesus down and demanding more bread, to Jesus seizing this opportunity and saying that he is the bread, the Bread of Life come from heaven, to the anger of some upon hearing this. Then, rather than backing off, Jesus makes it even weirder, by saying that whoever eats his flesh and drinks his blood has eternal life.
Jesus seeks to deposit this revelation in the hearts of his listeners. Some disciples eventually leave. It’s hard to blame them. Really weird. The Twelve, however, as weird as it may seem to them, stay. They will carry this revelation in their hearts until Jesus gathers them at the Last Supper, when he celebrates this, giving them his flesh and blood for the first time: Institution of the Eucharist.
There, Jesus simply commands “Do this in remembrance of me”, recalled in our second reading today. Jesus does not address the Apostles’ difficulty in understanding the weirdness. Jesus simply commands “Do this in remembrance of me”, words that Jesus, in the person of the priest, echoes during our celebrations. This is really the gift that most unites the Christian Church. We do not all believe the same thing about the gift, alas. Thankfully, Jesus simply (and forcefully) says “do this in remembrance of me”, not “understand this in remembrance of me” Do this—in remembrance of Jesus, in living remembrance of Jesus, in Jesus.
Nadia Bolz-Weber is a Lutheran minister, described by the Washington Post as a “tatted-up, foul-mouthed champion to people sick and tired of being belittled as not Christian enough for the right and too Jesus-y for the left.” She says:
“What unites us isn’t a doctrine, it’s a table—a table that is open to all, in which we receive this Bread of Life come down from heaven. The body and blood of Christ is what unites us and makes us a church. Hopefully not in a
prideful see-how-inclusive-we-are way, but in a Lord-to-whom-shall-we-Go?-way, a You-have-the-words-of-eternal-life way.”
We are welcomed each week at this altar, which is also a lavish table, to receive the bread and wine, which are the body and blood of Christ. Some of us have perhaps grown so accustomed to this Church “practice”, that we don’t realize how radical, how wonderfully weird this is.
Jesus is adamant about Communion. Indeed, in today’s gospel, Jesus doubles-down on what he says. To those who grumble “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” he responds “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” Jesus is adamant about Communion because he is adamant about loving us, forever. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. That is love.
We are welcomed each week at this altar, which is also a lavish table, along with surprising guests, guests we might not have included on the list. But, recall who was at the Last Supper: one betrayed Jesus at table, all but one abandoned Jesus in his hour of need. That God would become human, walk among us, and offer his own flesh for the sake of life that lasts forever, and do this knowing who was gathered around the table.
That is love. It can be hard to accept that persons we may not like receive the same overflowing love, that Christ welcomes all of us. It is sometimes even harder to accept that Christ welcomes all of me: the part that gave at my spouse the silent treatment this week or yelled at my children, or drank alone, or has a problem with lying, or hates my body; the part that suffers from depression and can’t admit it, or is too fearful to give some of my money away, or is riddled with shame over sexuality or cheats on my taxes or judges and is afraid of getting sick and/or old and dying.
All of us and all of me are invited to this feast. We unfortunately cannot gather yet to celebrate it. But, we are invited, and we respond affirmatively, by expressing our desire to participate and partake. This desire and the response of Christ, touching us as if we were present, is called “spiritual Communion”. Respond affirmatively and, in your response, bring the broken pieces of our world and lives. In return, Chris will share Himself. We will, hopefully soon, re-gather in person and celebrate and rejoice. In the meantime, let us believe in Jesus, Bread of life, knowing that “whoever believes has eternal life.”
Proper 7 Year A
Fr. Dominique Peridans
There is too much in this gospel with which to wrestle.
And, it seems to spill out in no logical order.
Jesus, all over the map:
from foreboding and fatalistic to sweet and supportive
to harsh and hard.
On first hearing, someone unfamiliar with Jesus might be inclined to think that He is emotionally unstable or has quite an ego.
Well, we are familiar (enough!) with Jesus, to know, to presume
that all that spills out of His mouth—really, His heart, is loving.
This too, somehow, is a revelation of divine love.
This is a revelation of the urgency and the absoluteness of divine love--
which brought us into existence, sustains us and awaits us at the end.
If revelation of divine love,
then we must be willing to engage Jesus “de face” (“head on”),
for love is the fitting response to love and love is receptive.
We must, of course, also probe
beneath the unpredictable unevenness and the apparent courseness.
A revelation of divine love that includes things not easy to hear:
Jesus: the master at messaging and marketing!
There indeed is too much in this gospel with which to wrestle.
Let us thus focus on one aspect.
This may seem like an easy out, and you may be right!
Let us focus on divine love as providential, on the Lord as Provider.
Are not two sparrows sold for a penny?
Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. And even the hairs of your head are all counted.
So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.
St. Jerome, the 4th-century theologian, born in what today is Croatia,
a prolific writer, know for his translation of the Bible into Latin,
patron saint of translators, librarians, and encyclopedists, says,
“The hairs of your head are all counted”
shows the boundless providence of God towards man,
and a care unspeakable that nothing of ours is hid from God.
St. Hilary, also from the 4th-century, says,
That we should know that nothing of us should perish,
we are told that our very hairs are counted.
No accident then that can befall our bodies is to be feared.
God watches over us. God provides.
God provides because God is love.
Providence is easier preached, however, than believed and practiced at times,
the rough times when life throws an unexpected curve ball:
health issues, financial challenges, death, divorce or depression…
Where is Providence in all of this?
Well, if we are expecting God to be the big fixer of problems,
we may be underwhelmed or disappointed.
Through the rough times,
God is providing what we need to be in intimate relationship with Him
and to love those around us.
The rough times do not have the last word in our hearts and lives,
for Providence touches us in all that we love and live.
The 6th-century monk, St. Thalassios the Libyan, says,
Being Master, He became a servant,
and so revealed to the world the depths of His Providence.
So revealed, St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, the 17th-century French mystic, says,
Do not be afraid to abandon yourself unreservedly
to His loving Providence, for a child cannot perish
in the arms of a Father Who is omnipotent.
To abandon oneself unreservedly to God’s loving Providence
is to do what Jesus says at the end of this Gospel:
to lose oneself for His sake and, in so doing, to find oneself in God.
Jesus invites absolute surrender
so that God can truly and lavishly provide for our hearts and lives.
The surrender must be absolute
because the love with which we are loved is absolute.
“Well, I am unable to surrender absolutely!” you might say.
Join the club!
It is intention and desire: “Lord, I want to surrender”.
It is not about feeling surrendered.
A word of advice from St. Francis de Sales, the 17th-century Bishop of Geneva:
In all your affairs lean solely on God's Providence, by means of which alone your plans can succeed. Meanwhile, on your part, work in quiet co-operation with Him, and then rest satisfied that, if you have trusted Him entirely, you will always obtain such a measure of success as is most profitable for you, whether it seems so or not to your own individual judgment.
Trusting in Providence makes sense if we love.
Let us trust that the Lord is providing in the midst of all that is happening,
as we seek to grow as individuals, as a Church and as a society,
seeking justice and peace for all, inner and outer freedom for all.
My prayer is that we grow in the divine love that sets us free
and enables us to trust in our Lord as Provider.
“If the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36)
“Do not be afraid.” (Matthew 10:31)