Monday, July 17, 2017

Snow Theories (Unrelated to Game of Thrones)

Five or six years ago, my friend Fr. Lee Jirovsky, a farm kid from near Seward, Nebraska, shared with me a thought on Isaiah's referencing both the rain and the snow coming down. It really stuck with me and so this weekend I wanted to share with people the ways that image can compel them to take learning their Bible more seriously.

15th Sunday, Year A: The Rain and The Snow

We know the parable of sower well. 

One of the first parables we learn. 

When we think of a parable, it's often what comes to mind. 

Probably for the rich imagery: four soils

And because Jesus explains it. 


So instead, turn to p. 28

1st reading: Isaiah 


Three things to note on the text:


1) All one sentence. 

<<read>>

You could diagram it

One core subject & predicate 

Tons of prepositional phrases


Lots of illustrations and metaphors around one metaphor:

2nd line, 2nd column 

"so shall my word be" 
^
"like the rain and the snow come down"



2) Focused on the watering 

Gospel > seed

Isaiah > moisture 


Psalm 65 on the opposite page

You have visited the land and watered it [...]
God's watercourses are filled;
you have prepared the grain.

Thus have you prepared the land: drenching its furrows,
breaking up its clods,
Softening it with showers [...]


Nice illustration of the water cycle. 

Learned in 4th grade? 

I didn't know that they knew about it back then. 

Almost makes for a better image. 

Return isn't a given in Isaiah, as it is in the water cycle 

In the metaphor: God gives water...

...returns by making things grow to His glory and for our benefit. 



3) Snow. 

Uncommon in Judea. 

Rare, but can get in the highlands. 

Especially farther north. Golan Heights. 

But rare enough. 


But makes sense to us why Isaiah includes "snow"

We in Nebraska know it's not enough to get rain in the spring and summer. 

The city people and commuters are happy when there's little snow, 

but ask the farmers and they'll tell you. 


Need snow to keep up the groundwater levels, 

to keep the fields wet enough for when planting starts, 

and snow enough up in the mountains of Colorado and Wyoming to keep the river levels up. 

Just crossed Platte yesterday for a wedding

Big sand bars visible again

Not like a month ago


<<Close books>>



Before further, let's clarify something:

"The word of God", of course, is God speaking to us. 


Most common and direct way of encountering is Sacred Scripture

Other wisdom of God through his Church: sacraments and teaching

Personal Prayer = the Word speaking quietly within us

And of course Jesus himself is "the Word of God" in the flesh. 

But I think naturally the primary way we hear "word of God" here is in reference to the words of the sacred biblical texts. 



Back to our metaphor

Isaiah: the word of God is like the rain AND the snow 


Rain comes down = water now

Snow builds up = water for the future 


I need the word of God to hit me now...

And I need the word of God to store up and stay with me for later. 



We need to build up our water supply...

...Our water supply of the word of God 


Keep the soil soft and supple. 

Build up reserves of word of God that we'll need in the months to come. 


This is why don't pray only when in need. 

Or at least we shouldn't. 

Why we say "now and at hour of our death". 

Don't go to church only when feel like it. 

Shouldn't read the bible only when I get the urge. 
^
Or in desperation 



Things like: 
Daily prayer, 
weekly Mass, 
regular reading of the bible, 
...build up our reserves. 


When you hear a little old Protestant lady quote some line of scripture when something bad happens, she didn't pull that out of the air. 

She probably learned it in Sunday school and has called it to mind or meditated on regularly for the last 60 years. 


We might joke about Catholic lack of scripture knowledge. 

But that means we are cheating ourselves of our snowpack. 

By not reading, soaking, meditating on it:

We are counting on daily rain alone to get us through. 


That little old lady, 
who quotes a psalm when she's rejoicing, 
and quotes St. Paul when she's in distress, 

She has a mountain glacier of the word of God stored up in her heart

She is not going to go thirsty. 



So should we be too: 

Daily prayer: letting the word speak, soaking it in 

Weekly Mass, or even occasional daily Mass,

Regular reading of the bible, on our own, seeing the whole story

Crucial:

So that we have the reserves, the snowpack, that slowly melts and waters the fields of our hearts. 

Monday, July 3, 2017

Almost Everything You Need to Know About Baptism

This Sunday's homily on Baptism: staring the talented trio of St. Paul, Louis IX, and the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod!


13th Sunday of the Year, Cycle A


Today I want to talk about baptism

....Cuz, that's what Paul wanted to talk about today

Letter to the Romans

Amongst other things, baptism


Take out missalette, p. 25

1. Paul's words

2. Infant baptism

3. Cool reflection by a saint on his Baptism. 



Want to look at first part of the reading 

I always have this as the reading at a Baptism the church

Are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus
were baptized into his death?
We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death,
so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead
by the glory of the Father,
we too might live in newness of life.
If, then, we have died with Christ,
we believe that we shall also live with him.


We’re like: “Paul, you’re such a downer!"

Baptism = Babies and new life and resurrection! 

And yet Paul wants to talk about death, dying, burial

Feels odd


But Paul is saying what all Christians believed: that baptism was a going down into Jesus' death

And both Paul and the early Christians saw the water as a perfect image for this


We're all used to pouring at a Baptism 

But as you know: Early Church submerged 


Perfect image:

You go down into the water 

And what's it like?

It’s cold, dark, you can't breathe 

It's like you're in the tomb

You've died with Jesus 


And then you come up...

<gasp>

And there's breath, and light, and warnth

It's like a mini resurrection

You've risen with Jesus 


So baptism was this perfect image of dying and rising with the Messiah

And what Paul is saying, here and elsewhere...

Is that once we've died and risen with him, we are **in** him

We are in Jesus 

We are in the Messiah, the Christ


And then everything else we say about us as Christians flows from there:


"God is our Father"

How?

Because we've been put in the Messiah

We are sons in THE Son

What he is to the Father, we are now too:

Sons and daughters of the Father



We say "we're brothers and sisters in Christ". 

Why?

Because of Baptism

If you're in Jesus, God is you're Father...

And I'm in Jesus, God is my Father...

And she's in Jesus...

If we all have the same father, that makes us??

Brothers and sisters 



We are one body of Christ?

Yes because in baptism we all died and rose INTO him


Everything we say flows from dying and rising with the Messiah. 

Point 1: Paul



2) Why baptism infants?

Know there's debate: Catholic, orthodox, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Methodist baptize infants 

Baptists, evangelical, fundamentalist: don’t 

Reasonable argument:

Early church = mostly adults

Going down into the water: adult image


We all agree: Need to believe; Profess faith in Jesus 


A baby getting baptized looks different

Not professing much


Why are we ok with godparents reciting creed; making promises? 

Debate going on in the church for centuries since the Reformation, exactly 500 years ago 

But why then do we baptize infants? 


You know who I really like to steal from on this one? 

The Lutherans

Missouri Synod: Their document on Baptism. FAQ

Incredibly clear and concise answer

Probably have to answer the question more often than us. 

Catholics can get used to just doing what the church does

"We baptize infants, evangelicals don't. Ok."


But Lutherans have Baptist friends asking "Hey Lutheran folk, why do you..."

Had to be ready

"be prepared to give the reasons for the hope that lies within you"

Lines right up with Catholic thought:

Baptism, we believe, [is] the miraculous means of grace [...] through which God creates the gift of faith in a person's heart. Although we do not claim to understand how this happens or how it is possible, we believe—because of what the Bible says about Baptism—that when an infant is baptized God creates faith in the heart of that infant. This faith cannot yet, of course, be expressed or articulated, yet it is real and present all the same. The faith of the infant, like the faith of adults, also needs to be fed and nurtured by God's word.

All of a sudden makes sense

Debates about: having enough free will to choose God; or do we really have faith as infant...

No, you're reading it all wrong

Faith is a gift

At baptism God creates faith in the heart of the baptized... whether a child or an adult

And then grows, nourished...

...Taught and nourished...

Whether a child or adult. 

Bp. Bruskewitz, for 20 years at Confirmation: “ The faith is more caught than taught"


We 100% agree

God creates the Faith—no matter what age we are...

and then it grows— no matter what age we are. 

Point 2: infant Baptism



3) St. Louis IX

KIng Louis of France 

St. Louis named after him

St. Louis IX 

...has Single best reflection on just how big baptism is

We know it's important, but because we were baptized as children we kinda forget 

"I've seen pictures, I was cute, my godparents were a lot younger."


We know it's important but we don't realize how humongous it was

Louis didn't have this problem


Would become king of France in the 1200s

Would have so much power as the king of the largest Catholic nation

So much dignity, 

So much royal regal power

But he  had perspective


Didn't grow up in Paris

Poissy

Years after he been crowned king, as an adult, he was asked why he loved the little chapel in the castle where he a grown-up, compared to Notre Dame in Paris, or the beautiful Cathedral at Rheims where all the kings of France had been crowned for 500+ years. 


He answered: 

In the castle chapel I received the sacrament of baptism, thereby becoming a child of God. In the Cathedral of Rheims, I received the royal crown, whereby I became King of France. I deem divine sonship a greater dignity than earthly kingship. The dignity of kingship I will lose at the time of my death, whereas, as a child of God, I will obtain eternal happiness.


That's an awesome insight.

That's why he's a saint

He understood that, while he might not remember his baptism, and they didn't have photos in the 13th century…

He knew that on that day, in that moment, he became a child of God and he inherited eternal life

He knew that was a far greater things than anything else that had happened to him:

The roses thrown at his feet

The gold placed on his head

The bows and reverence from all of France 

Was nothing compared to what he received... 

As a tiny little infant, in that cruddy little chapel, in that drafty old castle, in Poissy. 

He received everything he could ever want


We need to take that to heart

We need to think that for ourselves:

"I might not know everything about my baptism, 

but that was the moment

That was the KEY moment for my entire life and my eternity:



The moment I was baptized."

Monday, June 12, 2017

What We **Should** Do on Trinity Sunday

So this Twitter rant by Ben Myers (@FaithTheology) got me thinking, because it lined up with some of my own frustrations with how preachers tend to preach on Trinity Sunday. So I used the accompanying discussion on Twitter to springboard into what I think our main jobs are on this great feast.


Every year, on the Sunday after Pentecost, we celebrate Trinity Sunday

And by "celebrate", I mean pastors worldwide worry about preaching heresy, and congregations sit there nervously while preachers stumble all over themselves try to not go there

You know: 

"Uhh uhh, God is a shamrock"

"No no, I mean he's like a shamrock."

"But he's not. Uh, shamrocks are like God."

"Except, well, not really" 

"Umm, let's all just stand for the Creed"



Earlier this week there was some great chatter about Trinity Sunday on Twitter. 

A lot preachers talking about angst and making heresy jokes.


I mean, there's #NerdTwitter

And then there's #PreacherNerdTwitter


One of the best rants was from a young man who started off with:

"How to combat trinitarian heresies? Start by abolishing Trinity Sunday, that fateful day on which preachers think they have to explain it."


And he had a great rant after that, and then there was a lots of people telling of analogies they had heard:

God's like water, sometimes ice, liquid, steam

God's like a cherry pie, cut in thirds: see the distinct thirds on outside, but still one underneath. 


Last May, "The Babylon Bee", a satire site (like "The Onion" for evangelicals) had an article: "Local Child A Staunch Modalist After Years Of Parents’ Bad Trinity Analogies"


So you can see after this kind of mocking, why preachers are afraid. 


Tony Bedient (our seminarian for the summer) and I were talking about this as we drove back from a softball game Wednesday—cuz that's what a young priest and seminarian talk about in the car.


Priests usually go in two directions here:


1st: I'm going to try to explain it:

• Use really simple terms so people aren't lost. 

• Use this analogy. It takes some thinking, but it gets closer. 

• Analogies are dangerous. So I'm going to dig deep and use some heavy philosophizing and we'll talk about person and essence and consubstantial and hypostasis 

Variants of "My job is to explain the Trinity", just at lower or higher levels.


2nd: either out of knowing how hard it is to explain, or just wanting to have a quick fix, the preacher says:

"It's a mystery.  Not gonna get to the bottom of it. Greatest minds in the Church didn't. We won't either. Called a mystery for a reason. Just take on faith. It's a divine mystery."


Notice one thing about both those approaches:

Those are both intellect endeavors.

One trying to explain, and failing (at various levels)...

...other is giving up and saying we can't do this intellectual endeavor. 



The question I think we need to consider is: 

"Is the first duty of Trinity Sunday to explain the Trinity?"

or "To explain it better than we'd previously understood"?


Is explaining and understanding the only reason we talk about the Trinity, or even the first reason?


Now this isn't to say that no priest will ever stand at this pulpit and try to shed some light onto our faith that requires us verbally diving into that mystery. 


But at least we shouldn't feel constricted or expected to try to explain. 



Well, what should Catholics do if they're aren't going to try to explain how God is one and how God is three?


3 things to try instead:

Confess the Trinity

Worship the Trinity

Love the Trinity



"Confess" is confusing in English. 

Usually we think of "just confession my sins in the confessional"

Really = "Proclaim openly"

Confess your sins, 
confess you love, especially if previously unknown, 
confess one baptism for forgiveness of sins. (Creed)

We might say "profess"

No matter how much I understand or don't understand, I profess belief. 

On Easter Sunday, we profess belief in Jesus as risen from the dead. 

We don't worry about explaining how his body came to life again. 



Worship the Trinity. 

Main job here. 


Among commenters on Twitter, were some Eastern Christians (Greek, Russian, etc)

And they don't have a separate Sunday named after the Trinity


Two responses: 

1) Pentecost is their Trinity Sunday, since Easter ends with the full revelation of the Trinity by the Father sending the Spirit, through the Son. 

2) other phrasing I heard: We don't have a Trinity Sunday because every Sunday is Trinity Sunday!


True. 

Our job every Sunday is to worship and adore the Triune God. 

West believes this too. 

In the old Mass before Vatican II, at almost any Mass that wasn't in a big season, the priest prayed the preface of the Trinity

We'll hear that preface today (it's the prayer right after the "Lift up your hearts/We lift them up to the Lord")

In the old Mass there were only like 15 prefaces for all year, and the default one was the one about the Trinity. 

We have more (like 80?), but even with those we have now, when not in a special season they are all about some aspect of the Trinity or Paschal Mystery. 


Finally, Love the Trinity. 

We can love with all sorts of levels of understanding. 

4 year old loves his parents, but doesn't remotely understand them or their relationship. 

2nd grader might love her teacher, but she honestly doesn't know 95% of her life.

Grow up, fall in love, want to marry someone—still don't really understand that person. Persons are just too complex, too mysterious; still incomprehensible. 


We can love the Trinity and want to be caught up in the love the Three Persons share, without perfect understanding. 

The Church gets it: Look at today's 1st Reading and Gospel.

Nothing in them that remotely indicates a Trinity, and yet reading them draws us into a greater love of the Trinity.



So I don't think there's any need to abolish Trinity Sunday. 

We just need to realize it's not our duty to explain or understand the Trinity perfectly;

Our job is to confess, worship, and love the Trinity at whatever level of understanding we have. 


Tuesday, May 23, 2017

1st Communion & 1st Peter: Three Sundays in Easter

This is "catch up" post of the three Sunday homilies I've done since Easter Sunday. The first is from First Communion/Divine Mercy Sunday. It's a little harder to hear because I was talking to the kids, and the sound system had to carry the voice back to the recorder. The next one is St. Peter showing what Luke means when he says "and he showed them that the Scriptures say the Messiah must first suffer." And finally, we return to 1Peter for his reflections on "giving the reasons for the hope that lies within you."
(PS: Divine Mercy Weekend I gave an adult version of the First Communion homily too. If you want that, mention it in the comments and I'll post that too.)

Monday, April 17, 2017

People Don't Die For What They Made Up

If you have followed this blog previously, you've heard this homily. It is my standard homily for the first Easter in a parish. But it never really gets old because Christians constantly lets the rest of the world "tell our story", and in this case we've let people tell us that the only reason to follow Jesus and the Church He founded is blind, servile faith. So here it is again, in a new church, with a few new crying babies. (Luckily you can still hear the Bible leave the hand of the exasperated pastor and whoosh by the microphone at 5:16, and hit the ground a second later.) So far the best compliment I've received was from a  mother and daughter who said , "That was fourteen minutes? That didn't feel like fourteen minutes." I'll take it!

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Two Women of Lent

Two Lenten homilies about two important women: the woman at the well and Martha the sister of Lazarus. These are late getting posted thanks to tech issues, but may be good going into Holy Week.

3rd: Woman at the Well
5th: Martha and Lazarus' Raising

Monday, March 13, 2017

What Do You Want For Lent?

First homily back at the parish. Kept it short (6 min.) so nobody thinks I'm overdoing it. And people are doing enough penance too.