Pentecost 2017

Photos of Young Adults smiling, cheering in cap and gown. A great day for them and for their families.  Celebration!  Degrees earned, lessons learned, friendships fostered others abandoned for good or ill -yet, hopefully insights gained about self, others, the reality of relationships. There is a lot to cheer about. And there’s Hope and excitement: What’s next? What’s new? Onward and Forward to the challenges ahead—ready or not!

 

Have they, do we, acknowledge what all events like these encompass?  Or do we just go through the motions, eager to enjoy the dinners planned for the evening or anxiously anticipate getting back to work, or addressing the problems at home in the days ahead?

 

In these, and in each of our lives’ celebrations, faith demands that we ask: Where is God in all of this?  To what extend are we, are they, our families and friends conscious of the spiritual potentials in these and other events that comprise the moments of our lives?  To what extent can we / might we surrender to the moment, be attentive to the present and allow the events of the past these events evoke bring us Wisdom, give us humility and insights into who we are and who we want to be in the days and years ahead?

 

In truth, Graduations, like Confirmations, Weddings, Job promotions / transfers, moving into new apartments/ new homes/ new neighborhoods have the potential to echo the realities of that first Pentecost – a culmination of life experiences with Jesus that give an ordinary celebration profound effects as it did centuries ago for Peter, John, James, the Blessed Mother, Mary Magdalene, Mary (Mother of James) and other disciples—deepening our understanding of who we were, who we are and what we are becoming.  Yes, they have the potential, but what do we do to bring their potentials to fulfillment?

 

On that first Christian Pentecost, the disciples were gathering for the Jewish Feast of Pentecost: The Second Harvest Festival 50 days after the Barley Harvest Festival of Passover–a day of Thanksgiving, rest and celebration.  It may or may not, at that time, have merged the festival with the commemoration of Moses presenting the people with Ten Commandment from Mount Sinai—perhaps a different Feast Day that was combined with that one.  Nevertheless, the disciples had gathered to pray and focus on Thanksgiving –for the simple gifts of life and nourishment, and, for them, gratitude for the Resurrected Jesus and his pledge to be with them always and strengthen them with the Holy Spirit.

 

On that day, as in other days, the disciples hoped for further clarification of Jesus’ story and how they would / could / should understand His Story as foundational to their own.  They didn’t have a guarantee that this would be the day; Jesus hadn’t told them the date.  They had to be present to the Feast they came to celebrate and simply be conscious that God’s Spirit is alive in all good things, and in all times and places.  Do we enter our celebrations—Graduations and otherwise–in the same way?

 

Whether conscious of it or not, our graduates have benefited from the Gifts of the Holy Spirit since birth.  They, like us, were endowed with the Spirit at Baptism and strengthened in the Spirit through Confirmation and every reception of the Eucharist in between and beyond.  Yes, Gifts of the Holy Spirit: Wisdom, Understanding, Awe of God, Wonder in God’s Creation, Courage, Fortitude, Aptitude for Mercy, Justice with Compassion.

 

The lesson here: How much more could they, could we engage in life’s challenges and struggles if we more consciously and deliberately attend to the Holy Spirit?   All we must do is connect our stresses with those of Jesus and the disciples, relate our vacillating between fear and hope with Israelites in the desert, the peoples of the Scriptures and the Saints who’ve come after, continually learning from them, and, like them, acknowledging our conscious dependence upon God.

 

On this Pentecost, we can take comfort that God’s grace is active in us and our world whether we pay attention to the Spirit or not. Despite ourselves. Jesus walks with us whether we know it or not.  But Scripture, Prayer and Sacrament connect us to the bigger picture, the better picture: our lives are not our own but belong to God and for the service of God. In Churches and in Homes we are the people called to a great awakening in our consciousness for charity toward ourselves and others in all things, to make this a better world, more caring world, a world where others see that discipleship in Jesus does and can make a difference—for everyone.  All for the greater glory of God.

 

Celebrate Saint Luke the Evangelist Today!

Catholic and Orthodox Christianity celebrate Saint Luke, the Evangelist today, October 18.  He is the author of Luke’s Gospel and Acts of the Apostles in what I like to call “the Second Testament” (because the Hebrew Scriptures are certainly “the First Testament.”) If you would like to hear selections from my Luke Live! ministry, go to:

http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/revjamesmdiluziocsp

Homily for Sunday, October 12, 2014

Homily for the Twenty-Eighth Sunday of Ordinary Time 2014
Rev. James DiLuzio CSP

Reading 1: Isaiah 25: 6-10A; Psalm 23; Reading 2: Philemon 4: 12-14; 19-20
Gospel: Matthew 22: 1-14 (Printed Below for your convenience)

No One comes to the Table it seems. Not Congress, Not Business, Economists or Nations. 90 % of Scientists agree there is a human footprint on global warming; last month thousands joined a march here in NYC and around the world yet energy companies and many politicians continue to say, “You fools! Nothing is wrong. No one, no policy, no system needs to change!”

What are the signs of our times? No one comes to the table. The song of our age is that there’s no dialogue, only judgment. No self-scrutiny, only ideology. Look at the Sunni-Shi’ite warfare. No! No one comes to the table but each to his own (or her own) home defiant, unmoved and scared. Good News is often portrayed as Bad News; and Bad News is hailed as irreversible. No harmonies–no counterpoint to blend into a discernable tune. Factions fracture the landscape of Church and State, Foreign Policies and National Interests.

In humility we might acknowledge that one part of the problem, one small but significant piece of the puzzle came from the realm of Institutional Religion. For centuries, religious leaders and preachers assure the crowds of the rightness of their respective faiths, but failed to continually counsel charity, compassion and love of others beyond ourselves. Indeed, although charity may start at home it can stay there with no place to go! How else could family members disown family members who marry people from other faiths or leave one tradition for another? Why else would friendships and associations dissolve when some person suddenly believes or acts differently, or develops a new set of politics or priorities? Alas, global issues are global because they remain rooted in deeply personal, familial conflicts.

What’s the antidote? Where is the adhesive to bring families, religions and nations together? Have we given up on cultivating a cohesive enterprise to change the signs of the time or let fresh air, tone and spirit soothe despairing souls? Indeed, the biblical statement seems truer than ever: “And we like sheep have gone astray”, (1 Peter 2:25) Yes, that is how it seems, but, in truth, there is a solution to our isolation—a way far and beyond the status quo. It is this table. For here is a table to which everyone is invited. What’s more, the ONE who serves at this table will revive our spirits and shepherd of souls. The Kingdom is “Here Comes Everybody,” and “Everyone belongs!” But take care! He may only shepherd those willing to share His vision and to follow His example.

The Kingdom offers an antidote to rigidity by bending the rules of cult and tribe and institution through its invitation to a wiser, more all-consuming way of living—calling its members to collaborate for peace, mercy, justice –to find common ground in our common humanity because our God became fully human in Christ Jesus. If we are truly confident that Christ is with us, we can and must encounter all others who abide by different scriptures, traditions experiences, politics and beliefs and engage in collaboration on all levels, irrespective of our differences.

A challenging proposition. No wonder not all accept the invitation. Furthermore, all who come may not participate as fully as they could because we may not appreciate the wealth of spirit, wisdom and courage bestowed upon us in Word and Eucharist. What opportunities these provide! Possibilities, positive choices for today, tomorrow and the next day. To ignore these is disastrous. Such was the fate of the poorly dressed guest; better he had not shown up at all than to realize all the opportunities he had forfeited. So we must take care not to be neglectful as he was. We must not fall into the trap to look but not see; hear but neither listen nor understand, nor share in Word and Eucharist without full participation or conviction. (It’s not that God will throw us out! But that when we leave we will not have achieved the purpose for our visit! That’s the meaning of the parable—NOT that God is vengeful, vindictive and unforgiving. Remember the Bible used FEAR as its teaching tool because that was the custom in ancient civilizations—Jewish and Gentile both. Always when engaging in the Scriptures, we must go beyond this “fear veneer” to find the true meaning of a parable or passage, however frightful the image or language invoked. The meaning is this: appreciate your faith, engage in it and practice it– especially with those who don’t. Yes, all are invited but with our words and actions we must give them a reason to attend!

Jesus tells us “The kingdom of Heaven is in the invitation– a gracious invitation to a table filled with – as Isaiah prophesied – “rich food and choice wines.” And beneath the sumptuous offerings, that table is sturdy and strong, wide and expansive with an infinite number of table leafs and extenders. So: we’ve been invited and we have come. How shall we make this Mass most profitable?

First, allow yourself to be healed. Let your mind and heart experience the blessed assurance that God cares for you, cares about how you feel, what your circumstances are and makes no judgment on the degree of light and shadow in your heart at this time. Accept that God accepts us as we are, where we are and be filled with gratitude. Only gratefulness for such unconditional love can inspire us to let the Lord move us where He will and empower us to offer His unconditional love to others.
Second, recognize that this table/ our table is made of the wood of the cross. It’s the wood of compassion; a cross created to inspire– pity, empathy, forgiveness and reconciliation. It’s a table and it is a cross—both—to remind us that the feast has a price; the Eucharist does feed us and heal us, but it challenges us, too. The cross reminds us of REALITY: that engaging in charity for mutual benefit is painful; abandoning our illusions can make us feel week and discouraged; cultivating patience for dialogue within and among families, business and politics is exacting and exhausting. Still, the Eucharist assures us that all things are possible with God and with pain comes gain! Spiritual realities can and will address the earthly ones as we participate in ongoing dying and rising. Believe more fully in this process! Cultivate it and it will cultivate in you hope and make of us a revived, energized and courageous people.

Third, be courageous and pick up this cross in any way, shape or form that you know how. “Life is short” and “opportunity is not a lengthy visitor!” You have come to the table of Word and Eucharist. Taste and See what God has in store for you today and tomorrow, and through you, and through us—all of us—salvation for the world.

Reading 1 IS 25:6-10A
On this mountain the LORD of hosts
will provide for all peoples
a feast of rich food and choice wines,
juicy, rich food and pure, choice wines.
On this mountain he will destroy
the veil that veils all peoples,
the web that is woven over all nations;
he will destroy death forever.
The Lord GOD will wipe away
the tears from every face;
the reproach of his people he will remove
from the whole earth; for the LORD has spoken.
On that day it will be said:
“Behold our God, to whom we looked to save us!
This is the LORD for whom we looked;
let us rejoice and be glad that he has saved us!”
For the hand of the LORD will rest on this mountain.
Responsorial Psalm PS 23:1-3A, 3B-4, 5, 6
R/ (6cd) I shall live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
In verdant pastures he gives me repose;
beside restful waters he leads me;
he refreshes my soul.
R/ I shall live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.
He guides me in right paths
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk in the dark valley
I fear no evil; for you are at my side
with your rod and your staff
that give me courage.
R/ I shall live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.
You spread the table before me
in the sight of my foes;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
R/ I shall live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.
Only goodness and kindness follow me
all the days of my life;
and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD
for years to come.
R/ I shall live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.

Reading 2 PHIL 4:12-14, 19-20
Brothers and sisters:
I know how to live in humble circumstances;
I know also how to live with abundance.
In every circumstance and in all things
I have learned the secret of being well fed and of going hungry,
of living in abundance and of being in need.
I can do all things in him who strengthens me.
Still, it was kind of you to share in my distress.

My God will fully supply whatever you need,
in accord with his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.
To our God and Father, glory forever and ever. Amen.
Gospel MT 22:1-14
Jesus again in reply spoke to the chief priests and elders of the people
in parables, saying,
“The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king
who gave a wedding feast for his son.
He dispatched his servants to summon the invited guests to the feast,
but they refused to come.
A second time he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those invited: “Behold, I have prepared my banquet,
my calves and fattened cattle are killed, and everything is ready; come to the feast.”’
Some ignored the invitation and went away,
one to his farm, another to his business.
The rest laid hold of his servants,
mistreated them, and killed them.
The king was enraged and sent his troops,
destroyed those murderers, and burned their city.
Then he said to his servants, ‘The feast is ready,
but those who were invited were not worthy to come.
Go out, therefore, into the main roads
and invite to the feast whomever you find.’
The servants went out into the streets
and gathered all they found, bad and good alike,
and the hall was filled with guests.
But when the king came in to meet the guests,
he saw a man there not dressed in a wedding garment.
The king said to him, ‘My friend, how is it that you came in here without a wedding garment?’
But he was reduced to silence.
Then the king said to his attendants, ‘Bind his hands and feet,
and cast him into the darkness outside,
where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.’
Many are invited, but few are chosen.”

The Gospel view of “Foreigners” — My Homily from Aug. 17, 2014

Homily for 20th Sunday in OT 2014

Gospel: MT 15:21-28
At that time, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon.
And behold, a Canaanite woman of that district came and called out,
“Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David!
My daughter is tormented by a demon.”
But Jesus did not say a word in answer to her.
Jesus’ disciples came and asked him,
“Send her away, for she keeps calling out after us.”
He said in reply,
“I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
But the woman came and did Jesus homage, saying, “Lord, help me.”
He said in reply,
“It is not right to take the food of the children
and throw it to the dogs.”
She said, “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps
that fall from the table of their masters.”
Then Jesus said to her in reply,
“O woman, great is your faith!
Let it be done for you as you wish.”
And the woman’s daughter was healed from that hour.

HOMILY by Father James DiLuzio CSP

A man had two sons. When the older son become of age, his father directed him to help his mother with the household chores. The younger son, some three years younger, would sit on his father’s lap and listen to his father talk about his ancestors and about the value of hard work. As the years went by, the father took the younger son to work with him in the yard, mowing and landscaping. “Not you,” he would say to his older son, “your mother needs help moving the furniture and washing the floors.” At large family gatherings at Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter and the Fourth of July, the father and his brothers and their sons would gather after the meals to talk about work, sports, politics. But not the older son. He would help his mother, his aunts and cousins in the kitchen. This went on for many years until, one day, when the oldest son reached the age of 17, while he was clearing the dishwasher for his mother, and his dad and his brother were out mowing the lawn, a solicitor rang the front door bell. The 17 year old answered and opened the door. The solicitor said, “I need to speak to the man of the house.” And from the very depth of his being, the young man took a strong deep breath and called out in a loud voice, “I am the man of the house. You are speaking to him.” From that moment on, the older son shared in the mowing and the weeding and the landscaping. He insisted that his father and brother takes turns with his mother and sisters doing the laundry and washing the floors. On holidays, along with uncles and cousins, he saw to it that everyone cleaned the dining room and the kitchen after the meals. Now everyone joins in and all are better for it.

There comes a time in everyone’s life when we must insist on being included, when we must claim recognition for aspects of ourselves that others may deny, even when we can never fully understand or explain their reasons for denying us. Jesus allows the Canaanite woman one-upmanship to reveal to the disciples and to us that “everyone belongs,” beyond any arbitrary definitions or personal preferences of “who is in and who is out.”

Lord knows what criteria the father in our story was using but there is always a better criteria, a better source for judgment and that is the kingdom of God. And when one makes a choice for the kingdom, when any man, woman or child claims it for himself or herself, everyone benefits.
The Canaanite woman knew God was for her as much as anyone, and Jesus affirms that faith in an all encompassing way. His words to her at the onset seem harsh, but scholars tell us that while Jesus invokes the derogatory image of dogs used by all of his apostles and disciples to label foreigners and people of pagan faith, he only does so in order to reveal their hardness of heart. Furthermore, in the course of the conversation Jesus transitions the word from “dog” to “puppies,” a nuance not conveyed in most English translations to add an irony of endearment. That change brings comfort to the woman and emboldens her to claim her human dignity and her daughter’s need for healing before God.

All human beings belong to God, and God alone has the only just and compassionate criteria for inclusion: simply being human is enough to be good for God. Love and compassion, forgiveness and healing must be offered to everyone who seeks God with a sincere and opened heart. And for those who don’t, God has designated countless people to witness to God’s love without prejudice or judgement or condemnation so his invitation for relationship is observable, tangible and concrete. Aren’t we all here today because we want to be counted as among those designated as God’s concrete examples? Aren’t we all, in an endearing way, simply God’s puppies? As any dog lover will attest, even when the shoes get chewed, the garden uprooted, the newspaper lost, there is nothing so wonderful as a puppy. And so we humans must remember God’s love for us is greater then any mess we make, big or small. We are called to extend this all inclusive acceptance to everyone.

The biblical truth “everyone belongs to God” must be part of our discussions and discernment regarding not only ourselves and our families but our world view. It must season how we see the events in Fergusen, Missouri, the plight of the immigrant and refugee children, of Christians in the Middle East, of the tribal hatreds among Sunni, Shiites and Kurds, Israelis and Palestinians and the solutions and remedies we promote. The kingdom of all are welcome compels us to honest evaluation of our personal preferences and comfort levels in making judgements, and to admit our prejudices, too. What’s our foundational approach for evaluation anyway—economic, political, legal, racial, religious? Is there not a higher power and perspective greater than all of these? I believe there is and I trust that you believe it, too. As we approach Eucharist this weekend, may The Lord grant us the humility to accept every crisis as an opportunity for fair and just relations among all people, no exceptions. The Canaanite woman reveals to us that when anyone acknowledges all are God’s children—then, and only then, can miraculous healing occur.


Today’s readings are about “inclusion,” accepting the God honest truth that “everyone belongs.” From the beginning of the human race, people have grouped themselves into families and tribes, initially by blood relation but later because of common beliefs and rituals with strict rules for those who belong and those who do not. Human fallibility being what it is, some of these rules became quite arbitrary. When David became King, the twelve tribes of Israel were still not quite sure they wished to be united as one tribe under God. They each had their differences, particular ways of doing things and interpreting their traditions. They even had their different Gods, although they had the One God – the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and Moses in common acknowledgement as the greatest of all. But David unites them, in spite of themselves, yet it was a fragile unity, that fell apart at the end of David’s son Solomon’s reign and the resultant civil war created two countries: Israel to the north comprising 10 tribes and Judah to the south comprising only 2.

Today we need to claim more fully that the story of the bible, taken as a whole, whether the Old Testament by itself, the New Testament alone, or more emphatically, both together, is is the story of God calling humanity out of a tribal way of living (i.e., living in a world of “us against them,” a world of constant judgements and condemnations of “who is in and who is out,” “whose sins are forgivable and whose are not”) into a world of universal brotherhood and sisterhood where all are welcomed through love and forgiveness, all are invited to make amends and restitution for wrong doing and so reclaim their human dignity, all are given every opportunity to speak and identify themselves as children of God.
We need to keep this truth n conversation in all aspects of our life, applying it in our homes and our businesses and politics.

Who knows what criteria the father in our story used to include one son in his world and not the other, but in the kingdom of God all are included. Imagine if we indulged our attitudes and judgements and preferences regarding this Eucharist today, we who are joined by our faith in Jesus but come from different ethnic groups and cultures, speak different languages, hold on to different political and economic perspectives and ways of living. H0w can we in our fallibility decide who can encounter Jesus or who needs him more than another? Still, at times we may dare to embrace a comfortable level of arrogance or prejudice to make our reception of Jesus so personal and private that we secretly think “Jesus is for me but not for you!”

ALL Scripture Readings for the Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time:

Lectionary: 118
Reading 1
IS 56:1, 6-7
Thus says the LORD:
Observe what is right, do what is just;
for my salvation is about to come,
my justice, about to be revealed.

The foreigners who join themselves to the LORD,
ministering to him,
loving the name of the LORD,
and becoming his servants—
all who keep the sabbath free from profanation
and hold to my covenant,
them I will bring to my holy mountain
and make joyful in my house of prayer;
their burnt offerings and sacrifices
will be acceptable on my altar,
for my house shall be called
a house of prayer for all peoples.

Responsorial Psalm
PS 67:2-3, 5, 6, 8

R/ (4) O God, let all the nations praise you!
May God have pity on us and bless us;
may he let his face shine upon us.
So may your way be known upon earth;
among all nations, your salvation.
R/ O God, let all the nations praise you!
May the nations be glad and exult
because you rule the peoples in equity;
the nations on the earth you guide.
R/ O God, let all the nations praise you!
May the peoples praise you, O God;
may all the peoples praise you!
May God bless us,
and may all the ends of the earth fear him!
R/ O God, let all the nations praise you!

Reading 2
ROM 11:13-15, 29-32
Brothers and sisters:
I am speaking to you Gentiles.
Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles,
I glory in my ministry in order to make my race jealous
and thus save some of them.
For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world,
what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?

For the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable.
Just as you once disobeyed God
but have now received mercy because of their disobedience,
so they have now disobeyed in order that,
by virtue of the mercy shown to you,
they too may now receive mercy.
For God delivered all to disobedience,
that he might have mercy upon all.

Gospel
MT 15:21-28

At that time, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon.
And behold, a Canaanite woman of that district came and called out,
“Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David!
My daughter is tormented by a demon.”
But Jesus did not say a word in answer to her.
Jesus’ disciples came and asked him,
“Send her away, for she keeps calling out after us.”
He said in reply,
“I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
But the woman came and did Jesus homage, saying, “Lord, help me.”
He said in reply,
“It is not right to take the food of the children
and throw it to the dogs.”
She said, “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps
that fall from the table of their masters.”
Then Jesus said to her in reply,
“O woman, great is your faith!
Let it be done for you as you wish.”
And the woman’s daughter was healed from that hour.

Today’s Sunday Sermon – I decided to offer a sermon instead of a homily – can you tell the difference?

Sermon for 22nd Sunday in OT 2014

Readings: Jeremiah 20: 7 to 9 (“You duped me, O Lord . . . ); Psalm 63 (My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God); Rom 12: 1-2 (“be transformed by the renewal of your mind”); Matthew 16: 21-27 ( Jesus says “Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”)

GET BEHIND ME SATAN! Such harsh words. Don’t you feel sorry for Peter? It only now occurs to me that Jesus isn’t name-calling here. He may not be pasting this label on Peter at all, but rather he’s calling out to the cosmos, defying evil just as he had done during the Temptations in the desert when he began his ministry.
Let’s examine why Peter’s words for Jesus’ safety and comfort trigger Jesus’ conscious battle with Satan and evil. To begin with, “comfort and safety,”’important as they are, do not comprise our highest values or our ultimate goals. Granted, a spirit of “comfort and safety” in God’s care for us is foundational for faith’s dynamism to grow but that is different for our financial and material security. We all depend upon that too much. It is clear the Holy Spirit’ thrives on appropriate risk-taking on God’s behalf with the risk Jesus took taking up the cross the greatest risk of all.
Taking risks on how we explain the mystery and power if the Cross, opening ourselves to deeper in our understanding of this incredible mystery, always beyond our complete comprehension, can provide a stronger faith foundation for us. After all, Peter misunderstood what the Cross could do. Who can ever fully fathom the wisdom of God? Yet, try we must.
Traditionally, the Church understood the Cross as Jesus making restitution for our sins to God the Father. The father required complete selflessness, total self-giving on Christ’s behalf in order to return the world to its proper balance. Jesus was understood as the sacrifice God demanded in order to forgive the world for its obstinacy, arrogance and defiance of God.
Using their Hebrew backgrounds, the biblical writers naturally equated Jesus with the Passover Lamb of Sacrifice whose blood alone could assuage God’s anger and God’s appetite for complete surrender—a complete surrender only the Christ could accomplish. Christ’s blood offered to God would then cover over and ultimately wash away the sins of humankind. Many Fathers and Doctors of the Church continued to use this analogy through millennia in attempts to understand the reason for the Cross and why Jesus had to suffer for our sake. Pastors and preachers continue to build on this analogy to this very day. And these concepts remain an important way of approaching the mysticism and mystery of the Cross beyond our understanding.
Still, the Gifts of the Holy Spirit of wisdom and understanding, of courage continue to impact the collective human mind and the Church’s imagination over the centuries. Modern scholars of the past 100 years or so, and especially the last 30, have been inviting us to see new paradigms, new ways of understanding and appropriating the spiritual benefits of the Cross. They respect the Tradition and the tools for discovery the Spirit endowed each generation. But clearly, new generations don’t understand the old biblical language, its metaphors and allusions. Today’s theologians insist on asking the same questions former Christians and people from other faiths continue to ask. And, honestly,the question we, too, ask: “Why has God been presented as so blood-thirsty all these years?” The response: God is not what these metaphors imply. If Jesus is truly the full revelation of the Living God, must we not understand God through the lens of Jesus’ life? And that is what the new theology and new evangelization does. It looks to Jesus who lived his life with the people, for the people, forgiving the people. Just as God has done for centuries in other ways, the Cross invites the gift of free will to play out its consequences all the while offering not condemnation, but love, kindness and forgiveness. Thus the way of the Cross became the constant source of hope for positive change and transformation for all the world. Our theologians now say what many of us have felt or sensed all along: God did not demand Jesus’ sacrifice. Humanity did. God gave humankind what we wanted, what we demanded so that we might learn from the consequences of our actions. God has always done this and always will. Isn’t that how the Bible plays itself out? Isn’t that how our world plays out to this very day? So, in truth, God surrendered to humanity’s sins in the same way Jesus surrendered to the Cross.
Now we ask, “why does God surrender to us? Why does God put up with us?” ANSWER: Out of a wondrous Love that keeps on giving, a love that is constant and unrelenting. God surrenders to sin to keep the relationship going! For relationship is the heart of God. Indeed, God desires to embrace all that God creates. That is why Christianity insists God is Trinity- relationship itself. So, God surrenders in order to Love and forgive. It is time we accepted more fully how love and forgiveness are as inseparable as the Trinity itself: seemingly distinct one and the same entity.
We’re left with two questions: What sins are forgiven and how are they forgiven in the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ? The sins are nothing more or less than every source of human evil: hatred, jealousies, fears and angers, selfishness—especially when manifested in violence, in “scapegoat-ing” through self-righteousness. Jesus takes on the Cross on God’s behalf to expose the sins of the world, to hold up the mirror to the damage that we do to ourselves, to others, to creation. The method of forgiveness begins by having us look upon the innocent man suffering cruelties of individuals, church and state, allowing ourselves to be filled with sorrow. From sorrow comes compassion, sensitivity to victims and to the sufferings we cause for ourselves and for our world. But more was and is needed because filled with such honesty and sorrow, who then could withstand the guilt, the shame ? The truth is we could not and we can’t. Indeed, the cross offers us plenty of opportunity for self-recrimination but , thank God, not God’s condemnation. God offers deliverance instead. We appropriate that deliverance when we choose to admit our guilt, expunge our sorrow by making amends to our neighbors and to creation because God forgives us even when no others will. Indeed, the Cross invites us to allow our angers and fears, guilt and shame to melt away, allowing God to transform our desires for hate and violence into compassion for ourselves and others. Because of God’s graciousness, we can claim there’s always another day, another chance for us and others to change. But those ideas are just sentiment unless we fully engage in sorrow for our selfish acts, sorrow for denying the centrality of God in our lives and in our world.
You see, for the salvation of the world, The Cross engages us in sorrow to bring us into joy. It’s what we demanded not knowing how much it’s what we truly needed. God could not let humanity have the last word , miss the crucial step of sorrow aware of the suffering we cause because we run from sorrow and don’t want to take responsibility for it. If we had the last word, the triumph of the cross would be our satisfaction to seek revenge for it. Out for blood, we would have perpetuated blame, making others suffer for sins we commit to keep us in a false sense of superiority and blamelessness. That trend is what keeps us in the ways of the world as they are rather than what they might be / could be. Our last word would have perpetuated the realities of the disciples as we found them on Good Friday and Holy Saturday, living in fear and cowardice, seeking to blame and condemn. But the Cross of Jesus brought about the Resurrection, not blame and recrimination. The Resurrected Jesus speaks words such as “peace be with you,” “your sins are forgiven,” and “now go and offer the world the same.” Thus, building upon the old and infusing new spirit for today, we must understand the Cross as evidence that God is always good —not blood thirsty. Therefore, God worthy of worship, awe, reverence and gratitude—not fear. And that is the ultimate message of the Bible in both the Old and New Testaments.
GET BEHIND US, SATAN. It is time we began thinking in new ways, building on the old and learning from our mistakes. Inviting ourselves and others into new ways of approaching mystery, God’s majesty and the meaning of the Cross. We must engage ourselves in sharing the old truths in new and life-affirming ways to new generations of Christians and potential Christians. GET BEHIND US, SATAN, for unless you leave us, we continue to be short-sighted, to be self-centered, condemning others when we find ourselves coming up short, rather than transforming ourselves. GET BEHIND US, SATAN, for it is easier to blame than pick up the Cross to work for solutions. GET BEHIND US SATAN’ for we have been ungrateful for Jesus and what the Cross has done and still does for us. GET BEHIND US SATAN, don’t get in our way. For we want to approach the altar with humility today, not with arrogance but gratefulness, not with entitlement, but contrition. Our presence here today is yet another means of picking up the Cross to let Jesus empower us to be more sensitive, more patient, more hopeful, more courageous and generous. May this Eucharist offers us another chance to bathe ourselves first in sorrow and then in Thanksgiving to see things differently, our lives differently, to see and worship Jesus Christ in newer, stronger ways than we ever have before for our sake and for the sake of the world.