What do I do…?

The people who sit in darkness have seen a great light, on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death light has arisen.

Thank you for joining as we testify, proclaim, and evangelize the great and Holy Name of Jesus.

Last week we spoke of our baptismal obligation to testify, give witness, and proclaim the truth of Jesus, His gospel message, and the promise of salvation that is in Him. This week we reflect on the light we have received and that light in relation to our obligation.

I don’t know how many of you took economics in college. I remember it well. I enjoyed macroeconomics, looking at the big picture of the economy and how things work.

Walter Heller, speaking of economists commented: “You know it’s said that an economist is a man who, when he finds something that works in practice, wonders if it works in theory.”

That makes sense for us doesn’t it. We who go shopping for food every week, who need a paycheck, and who put gas in the car know what works in practice, i.e., in reality.

One thing I remember quite well from economics was the idea of perfect competition. Perfect competition occurs when companies sell an identical product, market share does not influence price, companies are able to enter or exit without barriers, buyers have perfect or full information, and best of all – companies cannot determine prices. Everyone pays about the same price.

A loose example is old fashioned regular milk. Sealtest, Hood, Stewarts, Price Chopper, Hannaford, Crowley – well milk is milk. But… and we all know, companies have learned to change things up, differentiate, and offer unique milk products like goats’ milk, almond milk, oat milk, 2%, 1%, skim, chocolate, extra pasteurized, non-GMO. We are willing to pay more or less to substitute regular milk for what we want or prefer.

There is however one unique thing, one that cannot be substituted, one we cannot replace with something that might be similar or just as good and that is Jesus.

Jesus came as the promised light, and we who recognize His coming should be like the people of Capernaum by the sea, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali. We have a great, perfect light Who shows us the way we are to go.

The excerpt from Psalm 126 used for the alleluia verse tells of the reaction of those who recognize the Lord as their Light. The Lord had done great things for us; Oh, how happy we were! They perceive what the Lord has done for them, and they show forth their happiness because its light stands in dynamic contrast to the darkness they lived in.

If for us the Lord is indeed our light and salvation, without substitute or equivalent, the question comes down to what we do with Him.

The right choice and the only choice for us is to follow Him and declare Him. Like the called disciples we must get up and go with Jesus, learn from Jesus, and testify, give witness, and proclaim the truth of Jesus His gospel message, and the promise of salvation that is in Him alone.

My heart changed.

When eight days were completed for his circumcision, he was named Jesus 

Thank you for joining as we continue in the celebration of the Christmas Season and in our expectation of the Lord’s return in glory.

The question on everyone’s mind – why celebrate this? I mean, think about it. This ceremony performed probably in Joseph and Mary’s home and all it entails – well it seems both minor and kind of gross.

The Roman Church got rid of this celebration and converted it to a Marian Feast. That cleaned it all up, right? They do not have to think about all this, and they thought they made it all pretty. Unfortunately, they lost the point.

So why do we celebrate our Lord’s circumcision? There are several very important reasons to celebrate.

One reason is that it is factual. January 1st is eight days from December 25th, and in accord with God’s instruction to Abraham which Joe so elegantly read, every male among you, when he is eight days old, shall be circumcised.

Another reason, and this is particularly important for us, is that the fact of the circumcision, the pain and loss of blood, was testament to Jesus’ humanity. Indeed, God had become man. Jesus laid down His Deity and took on our flesh so He could deliver on all the Father’s promises to us.

Jesus as man was the only One Who could save us from our sins by paying their penalty, Who could redeem us, and Who could make us new and co-heirs with Him to eternity in the Kingdom now and to come.

How privileged we all are that God became man, that His humanity was one-hundred percent real and full. Many ancient heresies tried to downplay or outright rejected Jesus’ humanity, but without that humanity we could not have been saved, our debt would not be paid, we would remain our old fallen selves.

In the circumcision we are reminded that this baby boy, Jesus, faced all we face. He was not some magical figure, sitting up in the manger and doing calculus, or speaking, or anything other than what 8-day old babies do – eating, crying, and needing a diaper change.

Finally, the circumcision is a sign in the old covenant, the covenant that Jesus, as God, enjoined on the Jewish people and all in their nation.

Jesus took on this sign of the old covenant in His flesh to declare that He was of Israel, its true son, and just as the sign of the old covenant was in His flesh so would the sign of the new covenant be in His flesh – in nail marks, scars, and a pierced side.

For us, the new covenant in Christ’s flesh and blood frees us, as St Paul says, from the Law and its prescriptions. We live a new changed existence in grace.

St. Paul is being very careful in exhorting the Galatians and us so we might perceive our new reality – who we really are as a changed people. The Galatians, and some today, believe that they can do stuff – be circumcised, cook a certain way, carry out lists of activities and be saved. How wrong they are!

Our salvation is in the God/man Jesus. He completed that work. Now we must accept Him, live changed lives, and walk His way in faith working through love.

Perfect

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin. So let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help.

Jesus, the perfect Son of God, the perfect advocate, the perfectly blameless and sinless one, the perfect high priest, the perfect lamb was sent by God the Father to save the imperfect.

The testimony of the Scriptures insists upon Jesus’ perfection. In Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians, we read: “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

What is so amazing is that God would self-sacrifice perfection for the likes of us. He gave perfection so those who hate, the violent, the prejudiced, the deniers, the betrayers, the unfaithful, the cheaters and liars, those who place politics above truth, the thieves, and the man or woman who just cut you off or slammed a door in your face, can confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help.

The Father instructed His perfect Son to be the perfect sacrifice, to take upon Himself the sin we live in, because only by the offering up of perfection taking on our sin could we be saved.

Throughout the history of the Jewish people, we see time and time again God taking action to save, not because of some imperfect offering from imperfect people, or because of some human plea, but by His own perfect will; by His choice and interior self-agreement. God chooses, God agrees, God brings about. 

In the end God brought about perfect forgiveness of sin, fellowship with the imperfect, and adoption of the imperfect through the offering of the Perfect one, Jesus. All we need to do is accept that gift. Can we in our imperfection grasp this and say yes? Assuredly so! Now is the time.

Therefore, on this Good Friday, and in each of our days, let us take account of where we fall short, let us then give thanks for the timely helpavailable to us because we have approached the throne of grace and have said, ‘Yes Lord, I believe.’ Let us take every opportunity to let all we encounter know what God has done for us. Then, with deep humility, rest in God’s perfect love.

Doubt, anger, hunger.

Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.”

The Grand Ole Opry hosted a Bluegrass night last night. Dailey & Vincent sang By The Mark.

When I cross over
I will shout and sing
I will know my Savior
By the mark where the nails have been

By the mark where the nails have been
By the sign upon his precious skin
I will know my savior when I come to him
By the mark where the nails have been

A man of riches
May claim a crown of jewels
But the king of heaven
Can be told from the prince of fools

By the mark where the nails have been…

Indeed, we are, in these days very closely in touch with St. Thomas. Consider what he had been through. Everything he had heard and seen at the hands of Jesus followed by betrayal, suffering and death. He was filled, as we are in these days, with doubt, anger, and hunger.

Maybe Thomas hungered for how it was. I believe we do. We haven’t been separated from the way things were long enough to really evaluate the implications of our choices. In fact, recent protests focused on reopening and going back is a sinful desire for old ways. No lessons have been learned there. Thomas rather learned a very important lesson. He would not believe unless he could go back. Jesus charged him instead with going forward, to act on faith and to have confidence. Thomas, move forward.

Maybe Thomas was angry. His apple cart was upset, his cheese had been moved. He had to re-evaluate and adjust, but that can make us upset, uncomfortable, and sometimes even angry. If you read some social media messages the anger is palpable and deeply immature. Is that where Thomas stayed? No, of course, but he could have. He could have stayed angry, lived in the past. Instead, encountering Jesus in a new way he came to new life. He moved from angry and hungering disciple to Apostle, bearer of the Good News. Thomas, move forward.

Thomas doubted. How could it change, how could it get better? He learned it was not by going back or by being angry. Thomas learned, as we must, it is by the mark and living in the promise of Jesus, by living Jesus’ way, and by knowing our life is not here, but in Jesus’ holy name.

Yet it was our infirmities that He bore,
our sufferings that He endured.

  • One of those moments.
  • The light goes on.
  • We see ourselves and the world in a new way.
  • Wow! Now I get it.

This day, this Good Friday, in the midst of pandemic and crisis, causes us to stop and absorb reality in a new way; to understand what life is really about. To focus on Jesus.

Brothers, sisters,

Jesus took on the world. He took on the sinful state of the world. Why?

When sin entered the world, along with it came all of sin’s consequences. Sickness, pain, poverty, abuse, injustice, war, disease, plague, destruction, pandemic – these and more. Man finds ever new ways to take the gifts of God and to corrupt them.

Along with all that came death. It was not death as we, in our Christian perspective and understanding, perceive it. It was death without hope, without a promise. It was a long, an eternal holding pattern.

The souls of the dead were warehoused.

Why did Jesus take on the sinful world? The why is answered in this: By Jesus’ love sacrifice for us He frees us of all hopelessness and reorients us. He reorients us. He offers us a powerful, beautiful, and hope-filled life pointed at the eternal. What life is about.

The Cross is not an occasion. Good Friday is not a day. It is profound change. Our future, our direction was changed this day. We gain today an understanding and appreciation for what life is about.

Remember those warehoused souls? It was Jesus’ first act – to free them from Sheol. He descended to hell, to the dead, and He freed them. From hopeless stasis to heavenly joy and glory, He freed them to what life is about.

Our current crisis brings this reality home. The light needs go on in our minds and hearts. What is life about? What have i been caught up in? Where have I been dwelling? What am I even praying for now? To go back to how it was? To get on with getting on?

  • One of those moments.
  • The light goes on.
  • We see ourselves and the world in a new way.
  • Wow! Now I get it.

We are each called to work out our salvation, as is said, in fear and trembling.

As we come to the Cross, let us pray – not for a going back, but for a going forward. Stop for this moment. Absorb the fact that Jesus took on fever, pain beyond measure, exhaustion, loneliness, dehydration, abandonment. He bore our infirmities to give us far more than the here and now. Let us focus our eyes, minds, and hearts on what we are truly living for and where out life will take us.

  • One of those moments.
  • The light goes on.
  • We see ourselves and the world in a new way.
  • Wow! Now I get it.

Through His suffering, My Servant shall justify many.

The door to heaven is now open. Let us live intent on making it through that door to life eternal. Let us appreciate what life is really about. That is the profound charge we have in the Cross. That is why.

How shall I make a return to the LORD
for all the good he has done for me?
The cup of salvation I will take up,
and I will call upon the name of the LORD.

Psalm 116:12-13

King David sat down to write a psalm, a hymn of thanksgiving. How appropriate that it be proclaimed this evening. 

On this very night, Jesus gifted us with means by which we remain in union with Him whether in good times or bad, whether celebrating or in danger. By this union with Jesus, we have the means and grace necessary to transcend all things. On this night Jesus took the bread and cup and left us His body and blood. On this night, Jesus left us the power to wipe away sin, to lose and to bind. On this night, Jesus gave to His Church a share in His ministerial priesthood so that His great grace, our source of strength and transcendence, might live on in a real and effective manner.

We receive His grace in a real and effective manner as we gather, in person or even remotely, before the altar. What is the altar? It is Jesus Himself. On this night Jesus gave us Himself as the altar, the sacrifice, and the priesthood that offers the sacrifice so that we might always remain part of, really full participants in His eternal transcendent reality.

It is interesting that on this night we read from John’s gospel. John focused completely on the nature of Jesus as transcendent. Transcendence is a rich word meaning “that which is divinely other and loftier, wholly independent of the material universe, beyond all known physical laws and rules.” John most aptly expresses the great truth that our Lord Jesus Christ is God. On this night Jesus provides us with Himself so that we might receive His grace and be pulled up into Him, to transcend with Him as sharers and partakers in His nature. To move beyond.

In repeating David’s hymn of thanksgiving, we acknowledge our deliverance in a lively, i.e., joy filled, expression of devotion, love, and gratitude. We must now, in this moment, lift our souls up to God. We are called to be a thankful people, thankful in the midst of every situation because we are not just in the here and now. In the midst of struggle, fear, and anxiety. In the here and now we are more than the here and now. We are transcendent beings whose eternity surpasses all.

David was once in great distress and danger, so much so that it almost drove him to despair. He seeks God and cries out to Him in that distress. David experiences God’s goodness and his prayers are answered. God heard him, pitied him, and delivered him. Note that David took care to acknowledge the goodness of God, even asking, ‘how could I possibly make a return to God for His goodness?’ He does it by taking up, as we are privileged to do at every Holy Mass, the cup of salvation. He vows to continue calling on the name of the LORD. God helped David to transcend his situational problems as a symbol of what God’s Son, a descendent of David, would do for us. Jesus’ gift to us is complete and eternal transcendence over problems, situations, sin, and death itself.

David certainly gave thanks, only understanding in shadows what we know fully. We know that God graciously delivers us from every trouble. His deliverance is beyond the here and now – and why the Eucharist is so important, for in our time before the altar we are pulled into God’s eternity. This is important! Our troubles are but for a time, but our assurance transcends. Jesus delivers us from the now to the forever. Draw strength from that brothers and sisters, all who partake at the Lord’s table and who share in Jesus’s transcendence. Amen!

Perfection among us.

But Jesus cried out again in a loud voice, and gave up his spirit.

The perfect King of Kings enters His holy city. As you may remember from past homilies of this day, the arrival of a king on a donkey was the sign of a king’s arrival in peace. And so, the Savior of the world enters in peace to shouts of Hosanna to the Son of David.

Jesus, God made man, the perfect Son, enters into a city far from perfect. In fact, it was a broken city. 

In one corner the Chief Priest and his council were planning to kill Jesus and were not too shy to use bribery to accomplish their ends. They were not afraid of soliciting false testimony or engaging their enemy to accomplish their ends.

The Temple was filled with salesmen and money changers. The House of God was turned into Crossgates Mall. The worship of God was nothing more than a reason for commerce.

There were revolutionaries in the street. There was the persecution of the Roman overlords who took advantage of the people. The Roman governor set up his palace opposite the Temple for all too see, so they would know who was really in charge.

The once great city of David had become a city without God. In fact, God had not spoken to His people for several hundred years. Malachi, the last prophet before the Baptist, pointed out that God loves Israel, but that the people do not return His love. The people withhold what is due to God, and if they do give, give only what is defective. People divorce their spouses to marry worshipers of other gods. Sorcerers, adulterers, perjurers, and people who take advantage of workers and the needy abound. Priests tell people whatever they want to hear, suppressing God’s word. Things had not changed in the 478 years since Malachi! Talk about a losing streak! Things were far from perfect. 

The perfect Lamb enters breaking through people’s focus on everything wrong, calling their attention to Him. But it would not end there. Again, and again, Jesus broke through the whispers and silence of corruption. The Son of God broke through just as the sun breaks darkness.

Jesus, the perfect Savior, is finally lifted up over the city, and in that moment of salvation He changed the world. He crushed death and its fear and made us new FOREVER. Amidst our imperfection let us set fear aside and rejoice in the King’s power to destroy every imperfection and redeem what is broken.

In or out of
the cave?

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who in his great mercy gave us a new birth to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you

Imagine living our lives in a cave. We can see nothing but images projected on wall in front of us. We are prevented from knowing their true nature. To us, these shadows are our reality. We may name and define the shadows. We may create and entire understanding based on these shadows. But what, if suddenly, we were able to break free from this perceived reality to see things as they really are?

On this Low Sunday let us return to the cave where Jesus had been buried.

In all the encounters in and around that cave, from the burial of Jesus to just after his resurrection, we find people deciding how they would live.

The Jewish leaders had asked for a guard for the tomb. They knew Jesus’ claims. They asked Pilate for soldiers. “You have a guard,” Pilate said. “Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.” So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard.

The guards who had been there the morning of the resurrection ran off to Jerusalem to report what had happened. A meeting with the elders was called, and they decided to give the soldiers a large bribe. They told the soldiers, “You must say, ‘Jesus’ disciples came during the night while we were sleeping, and they stole his body.’ If the governor hears about it, we’ll stand up for you so you won’t get in trouble.” So the guards accepted the bribe and said what they were told to say.

The elders and the guards decided they would live in the cave, to stay there in a world of shadows, refusing to acknowledge the truth.

Peter and John went into the tomb, as did the women who arrived first. They saw the reality. Perhaps not understanding it fully, they still accepted and witnessed by leaving the cave behind.

St. Peter praises God today for a new birth to a living hope. He recognizes the fact that the tomb – Jesus’ tomb and in fact his and our tombs, those caves, are to be left behind. We have reality, understanding – and best of all an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for us.

Jesus works to lift us up out of our caves. When we are stubborn like St. Thomas was, He will confront us. He will ask us to see reality and to hope – not just a hope of desire, or of wanting things to be a certain way – but hope that is evident. Let us set forth into the sunlight of Jesus, leaving caves behind.