The Prodigal Son

A Homily for the Fourth Sunday in Lent

Texts: 2 Corinthians 5:16-21; St. Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32


Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, who welcomes the sinner and invites them into the banquet. Amen.

I have some good news: we are more than halfway through Lent. In three weeks, we will gather to proclaim that Christ is risen, and our fasting will turn to feasting.

As we enter the home stretch, it’s important to remember that we don’t fast during Lent simply because God wants us to give up coffee or dessert or some little vice or because skipping that hamburger on Friday earns God’s love. Rather, Lent is a time of preparation; around the Church, people are preparing to receive the Sacrament of Holy Baptism or to re-affirm their baptismal vows, and the fasting is a traditional way to remember our dependence upon the Lord, to remember our need for God’s redeeming grace poured out in these waters. Our fasting is a way of both supporting these new Christians and preparing to renew our own baptismal vows at Easter.

As we gather to break our fast and enjoy both the Resurrection and that first sip of beer or that first bite of chocolate, we will also celebrate that our family has grown. Across the Church catholic, we are going to gain thousands of new sisters and brothers in Christ. At Easter, as we celebrate Christ’s Passover from death to life, our newest kindred will pass through the waters, dying and rising with the Living Christ.

At this feast, we’ll welcome in a lot of infants and children, and Christ’s Church will grow. Some will be people who grew up outside the faith and who are responding for the first time to the Gospel of our Lord. Such a joyous occasion. There will be people transferring from one congregation to another, renewing their baptismal vows as they live anew into who God has called us to be. After gathering around the Font, the Church will move on to the sacramental banquet, the great meal of thanksgiving as we celebrate that the Almighty has redeemed the sinner and rescued us from the power of sin, the devil, and Death. And what a tremendous time it is to rejoice with these newest sisters and brothers as we gather with them for the first time around the Heavenly Feast.

But then there will be the people it’s harder to welcome – those who put the whole notion of grace and forgiveness to the test Continue reading “The Prodigal Son”

Becoming Poor to Be Made Rich

A Homily for the Sixth Sunday after Pentecost

Text: 2 Corinthians 8:7-15


Grace to you and peace from God our Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, who made himself poor that we might become rich. Amen.

Our society is a little bit obsessed with money, isn’t it?

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Hohenschwangau, Bavaria, Germany

I know, this isn’t exactly a groundbreaking claim, but consider the old show, Life Styles of the Rich and Famous, or if you’re my age, its spiritual successor, MTV’s Cribs. These programs went out of their way to showcase the opulence of modern celebrities – penthouses, mansions, yachts, cars that cost more than some people could possibly hope to earn in a decade. These shows glamorize the life of “champagne wishes and caviar dreams.”

Funny how you never see a show praising the resilience of the working parent who drives a ten-year old minivan or the family that relies on public transportation.

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Part of the sprawling  Domus Augusti, Rome, Italy

But of course, it’s not just our society – it’s not as though such wealthy extravagance is unique to the past century in the United States. As a kid in Germany, one of my favorite things to do was to tour the magnificent Schloesser of centuries past, the massive palaces that bear witness to the feudal age. And in Rome, that eternal city, you can wander up the Palatine Hill and see the ancient foundations of the Caesars’ estates.

 

Lest we forget, the Church has not been immune from such greed. From the palatial residences of medieval bishops to modern prosperity preachers boasting a fleet of private jets, our obsession with financial wealth is widespread. Church-wide greed sowed the seeds for the Reformation centuries before Luther. This preoccupation with earthly wealth infected the Church early on: a fourth century Roman aristocrat and pagan high priest once remarked upon the Pope’s life of luxury, “Make me the Bishop of Rome, and I shall become a Christian immediately.”

But, dear ones, “y’all know the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake became poor, so that by his poverty y’all may become rich.” Continue reading “Becoming Poor to Be Made Rich”

A Mighty Shrub

A Homily for the Fourth Sunday after Pentecost

Texts: Ezekiel 17:22-24; 2 Corinthians 5:6-17; St. Mark 4:26-34


Grace to you and peace to you from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, who has sown the seeds of the Kingdom. Amen.

Is it any wonder that Scripture makes such frequent reference to trees? They are signs of abundance and long life, and for good reason. Even a humble acacia tree of fifteen feet would soar above its desert surroundings and be the tallest object in a small Israelite town, a landmark that lasts for decades. A sycamore, that preferred perch for Zacchaeus, could easily grow up to sixty feet tall. The ancient economy depended on trees which provided timber for building, fuel for burning, and fruit for eating. Precious commodities like frankincense and myrrh come from trees.  These majestic plants were so important to life across the entire ancient world that they took on sacred characteristics in societies from Scandinavia to India.

But in the ancient Near East, no tree loomed quite as large as the mighty cedars of Mount Lebanon. Continue reading “A Mighty Shrub”

A House United

A Homily for the Third Sunday after Pentecost

Texts: 2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1; St. Mark 3:20-35


Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, who unites us into one holy family. Amen.

“Arise, O Lord, and judge your own cause. Remember your reproaches to those who are filled with foolishness all through the day. Listen to our prayers, for foxes have arisen seeking to destroy the vineyard whose winepress you alone have trod.”

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Diet of Worms

These are the opening words of the papal bull, Exsurge Domine (the Latin phrase that leads off the document) signed by Pope Leo X threatening to excommunicate Martin Luther in the year 1520. When Luther refused to recant, he was formally excommunicated a year later at the Diet of Worms. Continue reading “A House United”