Suddenly,
this man.

The LORD appeared to Abraham by the terebinth of Mamre, as he sat in the entrance of his tent, while the day was growing hot. Looking up, Abraham saw three men standing nearby. When he saw them, he ran from the entrance of the tent to greet them; and bowing to the ground, he said “Sir, if I may ask you this favor, please do not go on past your servant. Let some water be brought, that you may bathe your feet, and then rest yourselves under the tree.

Abraham, sat in the entrance of his tent on a hot day, near a Mediterranean Sumac tree in Mamre. The Canaanites who lived in that land considered the tree to be holy. Mamre lies about halfway between the current day Palestinian cities of Halhul and Hebron. In Arabic, Mamre is referred to as Rāmet el-Ḥalīl or the Hill of the Friend.

Friendship is a key element in today’s scripture. As Abraham sits there, He suddenly encounters God in the form of three travelers (the Holy Trinity). He suddenly rushes out.

We can well experience the kind of day Abraham and his people were experiencing, just step outside. Abraham runs out on this hot day, leaves the shade of his tent, to welcome the stranger – and does just what someone would need on such a hot day. He offers them cool water to wash in, cool shade to rest in, and a fine picnic lunch. In return for Abraham and Sarah’s act of friendship, God rewards them with the promise of their desired child.

God’s mode of operation is predicated on friendship, His unfailing, all-in, friendship with us in grace and His desire for our friendship – a return to Him, dedication to Him. The Prophets Hosea and Joel make God’s word plain to us: “Come back to Me with all your heart.” The theme of friendship runs through the histories and prophesies of the Bible. God’s perfect witness of friendship – He Himself, comes to us and offers His whole self to reconnect us to God.

St. Paul rejoices in sufferings, because he suffered for the sake of his friends in Christ. He sets an example for us; we must be prepared to do all necessary out of the love the flows from our friendship with God. Run out of our tents, offer cool water, food, and most importantly, what we have heard from Jesus. Like Mary, take what we hear and put that into action. Do not let any anxiety get in the way of sudden friendship with God and each person we encounter.

The
Goal.

“Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus said to him, “What is written in the law? How do you read it?” He said in reply, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” He replied to him, “You have answered correctly; do this and you will live.”

The age-old question, ‘How do I get to heaven?’ A young man, a legal scholar, approaches Jesus to ask exactly that. How do I receive a share of heaven, how do I inherit a place there?

Of course, the scholar came to the right person. Who better to ask than the King of heaven and earth, who dwelt in heaven from eternity? We will cover Jesus’ answer later.

For now, let us focus on the various attempts at human answers to the heaven question.

For some, heaven is an impossibility, a fantasy. It is something made up by primitive people who needed answers to the world’s mysteries. They have no need for an answer on how to get there because no one gets to heaven. Rather, they are readying themselves to flash out of existence.

On the opposite end are people with vague notions of spirituality. They have squishy notions of what heaven is, an indeterminant place of peace and contentment, the fulfillment of whoever conjures a fantasy of what it will be. In their estimation, everybody (except the usual suspects) gets to heaven.

The other major religions of the world have amazingly similar perspectives on how to get to heaven. It is as simple as checking off items from a to do list. For the Jewish people, it is the keeping of the Law. For Muslims, at a basic level, the following of the five pillars, righteous actions, and striving will lead to heaven.

God instructs us differently. Our call is to get to the core of all lists, laws, and rules. God’s way is love. So, how do we achieve our inheritance and get to heaven? It is faith based devotion of our our hearts, souls, bodies, and minds on the Lord. Love of God, in and of itself, is the first commandment. This love extends through and beyond God – and must also be focused on each person we encounter. With faith in Jesus as the way, we are to love, get to building the kingdom here and now, and thus gain the inheritance.

The seventy-two returned rejoicing, and said, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us because of your name.” Jesus said, “I have observed Satan fall like lightning from the sky. Behold, I have given you the power to ‘tread upon serpents’ and scorpions and upon the full force of the enemy and nothing will harm you.  Nevertheless, do not rejoice because the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice because your names are written in heaven.”

As I was studying for this week’s discussion, I came across a great word: performative. The Webster type definition seems a little complex. Here it is: “Relating to or denoting an utterance by means of which the speaker performs a particular act.” This example, contained in the definition, sets it out better: “performative utterances do not merely describe what one is doing; to say the utterance is to do it”

The words Jesus gives his messengers, as He sends them out, are performative: they do, they accomplish what He says. The kingdom of God advances and draws near. Jesus seemingly gives great power. When the disciples return, they rejoice for they have seen remarkable things, miracles. Yet Jesus cautions them. Why?

Jesus cautions them, not to get caught up in the power they have (something we as Christians have completely forgotten and neglected), but to see more clearly the ends that are being achieved.

Certainly, Jesus words accomplished the power the disciples exhibited. Yet they did far more than that. Those signs and wonders were mere markers of the coming new age, the redeemed time, the advent of the kingdom. The performative word of Jesus ushers in the kingdom, invites all into that kingdom. Jesus’ presence among us and His performative words bring the kingdom. So, we must share.

We have to reconnect to the performative words of Jesus. 

We have power in faith. We have to own that power and have confidence that Jesus – GOD – provided. His is the true and performative gospel. What He said is! The enemy cannot win against us because we bring the truth.

Beyond that power, and more compelling, is the word we bring, whether accepted or not: ‘The kingdom of God is at hand for you.’ And if some do not listen, we say: Yet know this: the kingdom of God is at hand.

For freedom Christ set us free; so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery. For you were called for freedom, brothers and sisters. But do not use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh; rather, serve one another through love… I say, then: live by the Spirit

This week we approach the Fourth of July, and coincidentally, St. Paul is talking about freedom. 

We are, after all, pretty blessed by the freedoms we enjoy. Bishop Hodur and the organizers of our Holy Church made a big deal over the freedom this country espoused. After all, they were able, with only some opposition and persecution, able to organize a democratic Catholic Church without bowing to the money, political power, and influence of the Roman Church in areas of the country where they were they were the definition of “Church.” Hodur and the faithful were able to buy property, publish newspapers and pamphlets, build, educate, exercise support of Union membership, and advocate for the power of collective ownership. Pretty strong ideas and ideals, even today.

That kind of radical freedom was successful and blessed not because of actions, advocacy, or loud voices among a group of people. Rather it was from the fact that this group of people recognized and truly believed in the true freedom found only Christ Jesus. Christ set us free, and with His freedom came their and our ability and power.

Freedom means we no longer bow to any slavery. There is no slavery to politics and power. There is no slavery to money. There is no slavery to calls from the worldly – do this and that and you’ll find happiness. We clearly see that those alleged happiness’s come at the cost of a yoke and chains, bondage – slavery. In Christ we have power and ability to say no to slavery.

Freedom means power to use what we have been given for good that goes beyond simple measurement and scales. It is a freedom and power to be self-sacrificial, to go the extra mile, to go beyond even the extra.

The philosopher Jean Paul Sartre wrote on ‘radical freedom.’ Along our faith lines he posited that everyone always has a choice, and every act is a free act. He noted that those who say, ‘they had no choice,’ are lying. In Christ we have a call to freedom and honesty. So then, with St. Paul let us say I am free, and I live by the Spirit.

Cleanup
here and now.

Simon said in reply, “Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing, but at your command I will lower the nets.” When they had done this, they caught a great number of fish and their nets were tearing.

Another poignant Gospel testimony. Jesus borrows a boat and is teaching people along the shore. We can picture this beautiful day, crowds gathered, wanting to see what was going on, eager to hear this new prophet. The sea – calm. The fishermen continue washing their nets, half paying attention to Jesus, half involved in their duties. Then, Jesus asks one of the fishermen to put our farther. “Lower your nets,” He says. The fishermen are incredulous, there are no fish out here! Maybe they laugh to each other thinking that it is a joke. They lower the nets just to see what would happen. Either He is a prophet or a joke. Then the nets are full, full to overflowing, so full they need another boat. Jesus’ revelation is confirmed in their sight and by their experience. 

Jesus’ revelation, His appearance and His words have brought renewed life; essential change in the lives of those who chose to encounter Him. It was not just netting full of fish or beautiful sunny days for those who accepted Him and listened. Rather, it goes much deeper and is not just long-lasting, but everlasting.

Today’s reading from Isaiah makes the change the Lord brings very clear. If you notice, the words from Isaiah 6 are used as the basis of the priest’s prayer before proclamation of the Gospel and the Sacrament of the Word.

Isaiah saw the Lord and was enveloped in unworthiness. Isaiah is shocked and scared. He says: “Woe is me, I am doomed! Yet the Lord will not let that sense of doom and gloom stand. He sends His angel who takes a coal from the heavenly altar and touches Isaiah’s mouth, making him clean and worthy. Isaiah’s life is renewed. When the Lord asks: “Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?” Isaiah readily answers: “Here I am, send me!”

What have we done with the renewed and everlasting lives our encounter with Jesus provides? How has Jesus appearance and revelation mattered to us? Are we caught up in fear and trepidation or will we say: “Here I am, send me!” Those who get discipleship see not just where they are, but where their cleaned and renewed everlasting lives will take them.   

Annual
what?

They rose up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town had been built, to hurl him down headlong. But Jesus passed through the midst of them and went away.

Last week we heard the beginning of this revelation story. Today we hear the end. This is one of those poignant Gospel testimonies. It is so visual. Jesus returns to His hometown and speaks in the Synagogue. We can picture this day, crowds gathered, wanting to see what this hometown boy was going to do, waiting to hear this new prophet. The day – calm. The people half paying attention to Jesus, half involved in their opinions of Him. Jesus is thought of well by some – His words considered gracious. Some spoke highly of Him. Others are incredulous, there is nothing great here! They laugh to each other thinking that it is a joke. The son of a carpenter? Are you kidding me? Jesus confirms His revelation, He confirms it in their sight and by their hearing. The promised Messiah is here. They respond by dragging Him to the edge of town, intent on throwing Him off a cliff. Jesus’ revelation continues, and we see how some people react.

Today, we carry on the democratic tradition of our Holy Church. Our time to react.

Some see this effort as just another meeting. Maybe, like Jesus’ crowd, some stay caught up in their opinions, half paying attention. Some listen to the message, incredulous because – well how can this be true. There is no future, no wealth poured down from on high. We’ll just cruise along and avoid reality – until it is too late to do something about it. Some may laugh, thinking the whole thing is a joke. Are you kidding me? A miracle in Schenectady? So, I deeply pray, I worry a little, and I place my trust in Christ. He will destroy the chains of doubt, incredulity, and indifference where they exist. He will give new strength to each of us, the strength He gave Jeremiah.

God tells us: I’ve known you forever. I know what you can do in my Holy Name. Stand up and tell them (the world). Be not crushed. They (doubt, fear, lack of energy) will fight against you but not prevail. I am with you to deliver you, says the LORD.

Jesus answer is for us this very day. Do not let Him pass through our midst and go away. We have much to do, much to learn, much to accomplish, much to disciple. Let’s react – faithfully working for Him!

Something from
revelation.

Since many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the events that have been fulfilled among us, just as those who were eyewitnesses from the beginning and ministers of the word have handed them down to us, I too have decided, after investigating everything accurately anew, to write it down

We see later, in today’s Gospel the next revelation of Jesus, but before that part, taken from Chapter 4 of Luke’s Gospel, we hear from the very first part of Luke’s first chapter.

This interesting placement of parts from two different Chapters helps us to call to mind what must happen in our lives if we are to be Jesus’ disciples, His followers.

Luke is an interesting example of discipleship lived. Luke wrote both a Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles. He was likely a gentile and a slave who was trained as a scientist and physician; disciples come from every background. Luke’s gospel shows special focus on evangelizing Gentiles; the message disciples are to bring. Luke loyally stays with Paul when he is imprisoned in Rome. After everyone else deserts Paul, Luke remains; discipleship lived.

Luke’s Gospel speaks to the poor and speaks of social justice – work that is a mark of discipleship. He points to forgiveness and God’s mercy to sinners. Throughout Luke’s gospel, Jesus takes the side of the sinner who wants to return to God’s mercy; the proclamation and work of disciples in reconciling sinners.

Reading Luke’s gospel gives a good idea of his life as a disciple. He loved the poor and outcast, wanted the door to God’s kingdom opened to all, was close to Mary, and saw hope in God’s mercy for everyone. I want to be like that! If we are in the Church, part of the Church, lovers and followers of Jesus – then we must all strive to be that kind of disciple.

Luke starts – I want to tell you all about Jesus. I scientifically analyzed all this so that you may realize the certainty of the teachings.

Jesus again enters the public space, another revelation, this time at the Synagogue in Nazareth. He reads from Isaiah and tells everyone that the prophesy is fulfilled in His listeners’ hearing. I am here. This is real.

We have the revelation of Jesus. Like Luke, let hearing result is action and, disciple.

you shall be called by a new name pronounced by the mouth of the LORD.

Jesus again enters the public scene. What better place to do that than at a wedding?

From Christmas forward we see the revelation of Jesus increasing. First, His obvious revelation to Mary and Joseph, the first to behold Him. Soon the crowd starts finding their way to Jesus. Helped by angels, the shepherds see Him, believe, and go forth to proclaim Him. Simeon, the priest and Anna, the prophetess, behold Him in the Temple. The wise men, guided by a star, find Him and the nations of the world pay Him homage. The people of Egypt come to know Him as a refugee and exile. Next, it is the inhabitants of Nazareth, the crowd on pilgrimage to Jerusalem, the teachers in the Temple, John and his disciples at the Jordan and the heavenly proclamation: “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

What’s amazing about the Christmas season is the repeated opportunities the world had and has to encounter Jesus. We don’t just jump from shepherds to Magi to John the Baptist to Cana. Rather, it is thousands of smaller, more intimate encounters with Jesus. It is chances (focus on the plural) to encounter Him, be changed by Him and be something different.

The wedding at Cana is a reminder of the encountering and the changing, as well as the work of those who point to Jesus (at Cana, it was Mary). Cana reminds us that things have changed. We are called to reconnect, to re-recognize the ways in which we are different and the ways we fall short of how different we must be. Things have changed – we are changed by our meeting with Jesus. We have more capacity and room for encounter and change.

At Cana, the usual was changed. The good wine came our later. The disciples came to believe. The usual became wonderfully unusual.

Isaiah reminded us that things would be and must be different. We get a new name – we are called differently. What was usual in us becomes wonderfully unusual. Encounter to change, change to further encounter, more change.

Encounter be changed. Call to mind and bring to action the discipleship of being something different in Jesus. 

Enter the
realm.

Jesus Christ is the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead and ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, who has made us into a kingdom, priests for his God and Father, to him be glory and power forever and ever. Amen. Behold, he is coming amid the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him.

All of our readings and Gospel today preach one essential lesson about our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ: He is King, Lord, and Ruler. He owns all dominion and glory. He is to be served by all, and will be lamented by those who missed the opportunity to do what we do today.

I have been in many church buildings in my life. Cathedrals, Basilicas, large imposing structures build through the hard work and sacrificial pennies of immigrant ancestors, small and humble wooden structures. No matter what kind or type, even in the most modern, blank wall, social realism inspired church buildings, or older buildings that have been wreck-o-vated, you can always find one point, one corner at least, that glorifies God and His Son Jesus. Those buildings while human built monuments, praise the only King, the only government that matters. They call us into His realm.

Those places, in their simplicity, or in their grandeur, call to us; they draw our eyes and hearts to Jesus and focus us on His realm, all the varied and wonderful aspects of Jesus as our King.

More than just the buildings, the gathering of the elect, that’s you and me, is what puts it over the top. We are here to praise, magnify, and petition. We kneel and adore. We offer and we trust. We sign and call out with joyful noise to our King. Our human action, through His grace, draws us closer into His Kingdom, his realm, and sets forth an eternal sign and action through which we meet Jesus.

Lord, how good it is for us to be Yours, to worship You, to be drawn into Your realm.

God’s eternal love, Jesus’ setting aside of heavenly glory to save us, is now owned by us. Jesus came not just to save, not just to teach, not just to open heaven to us, but all-in-all to leave us a gift. Put together, all those things are what He most intended, the things that allow us to change, to be different, to be His ministers and heirs to the Kingdom. As St. John saw, He brought us into a kingdom, and made us priests for his God and Father. Our call is to be His, accept His gift, and enter the realm of the King.