Thursday, March 31, 2011

Repaired is Better than Never Broken

In today's Gospel, Jesus instructs his disciples to take swords, but when later his enemies come to arrest him, he rebukes them for using the sword. So it seems clear that he wanted them to have swords but not use them, perhaps as a token of his own humiliation: that he had the power to keep himself from crucifixion, but he chose not to use it.

And yet the plan was ruined because one of his disciples drew the sword and cut of a man's ear. But then Jesus heals the ear, and the end of this event is wondrous to behold: it is better than it had been without the breach.

So also, when God made the world it was very good. Yet sin entered in, and evil engulfed the world. Now God enters the world and redeems it by his blood. This will make the last paradise better than the first.

Thus there is never need to regret past sins or their consequences. God's healing redemption makes the end result better than the first.

So then, is it good that there was sin? May it never be! But God's mercy is so great that his healing of a breach makes the last bond stronger. Let us rejoice and be glad. The sermon.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

By whose authority?

Jesus' enemies pose a question to him here, and he replies with a question that corners them. But in the end, although there is an authority that appeals to reason, there is also the internal testimony of faith: the bride knows the voice of the Bridegroom, and the sheep know the voice of their Shepherd. The sermon.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Tuesday of Lent III

St. Luke presents a mystery. Why does the crowd at the triumphal entry cry "Peace in heaven," contrasted against the angels at the birth of Christ who cried "Peace on earth"? The sermon.

Monday of Lent III

Today's Gospel finds Jesus rebuking the disciples for rebuking those that brought infants to him. Their arguments and reason are identical to the arguments of those who reject infant baptism. The sermon.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Oculi, the Third Sunday in Lent

Like the Israelites, who were helpless against the king of Babylon until Cyrus of Persia came and freed them, so are we helpless against the devil until Jesus--the man stronger than he--comes and overpowers him. This is why salvation is by grace and not works: we are helpless against the devil.

So Jesus cast out a devil today, token of his power over all devils. But where does the demon go? Through waterless places seeking rest, and then comes back with seven more wicked than himself. And see, as soon as Jesus heals the mute man, the power of the demons shows itself in an array of Jesus' enemies who charge that he is a son of Beelzebub. See how the last state is worse than the first: for which is worse, a speechless tongue, or a tongue that utters blasphemy?

So must we be warned, having been baptized (and thereby had exorcisms performed on us), that devils are still a danger. What to do? The woman in the crowd though perhaps flattery would do. It does not. Telling Jesus how great he is, or how marvelous his mother, does nothing. Blessed, rather, are they that hear the word of God and keep it. That is, rather than flatter Jesus' mother, follow her example, pondering these things and keeping them in our heart. The sermon.

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Annunciation

Buried in the midst of Lent, and in the womb of a virgin, is the Incarnate God. Hidden in the tiniest space is he who himself contains all space. And at this mystery reason must be silent. And yet this is the very source of the Christian faith itself. So must reason be silent in the face of all that we believe. How can the dead rise? How can life come forth out of death? How can we expect to live in an eternal kingdom of heaven? Reason would scoff at these ideas, but let it explain the virgin conception if it can. Yet who can deny it? For a Child was born, a Man walked among us, though no man was involved in his conception. Yea, reason must be silent today, but faith rejoices with joy inexpressible. The sermon.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

That which is highly esteemed of men is abomination to God

Today's Gospel has to do with the theology of the cross: the crucifixion is something we esteem as ugly and dreadful, but God esteemed it as the means whereby the world is redeemed; so also, that which the world esteems highly is abomination in God's sight. You cannot serve God and mammon. The sermon.

I believe, help thou mine unbelief

Today's Gospel (St. Mark 9:17-29) finds Jesus helping a man who admits that he both believes and does not believe (Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief), just like us. Therefore let us take this man's prayer to heart, for in spite of his weakness Jesus helped him, and was tenderhearted toward his poor child. The sermon.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Canaanite Woman

The Canaanite woman follows Jesus into the wilderness: as we saw him there last Sunday, so we see her faith there today: she must trust and persist in the face of his seeming indifference. Yet she is richly rewarded. The sermon.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Ambassadors in Disguise

The sending of the seventy (St. Luke 10:1-20) depicts an embassage humbly sent, with "neither purse, nor scrip, nor shoes," and instuctions to "salute no man by the way." For these are not to trumpet their high station but their Master, who himself went the way of the cross. Yet they had the ability to tread on scorpions and drive out demons. Satan falls from heaven when they preach. So also whenever ministers proclaim the Gospel, Satan is driven out and exorcised: he falls again from heaven. The sermon.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Not to Condemn, but to Save

Jesus' rebuke of his disciples (St. Luke 9:49-56) is also one we should take to heart, for our judgments, our condemnations, our failure to see things through the eyes of his mercy; for it was that mercy which saved us. The sermon.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Lent I Invocabit

Today's Gospel finds Jesus in the wilderness replying three times to the devil, citing Deuteronomy. It's informative that the three references are to words given to the children of those who perished in the wilderness, who had failed to learn the three lessons here: that man does not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God, that you should not tempt the Lord your God, and that you should have no other Gods. All three are manifest failures when the first law was given. Moses broke the tablets, in token that they have broken the law. Then he went back up the mountain to receive the law a second time, a deutero-nomy. But it was not Moses who led the Israelites' children into the promised land; it was one coming after Moses, namely Joshua; or, according to the New Testament name, Jesus. For Jesus is the greater Joshua, and the Great Israelite who perfectly kept all things the Israelites were supposed to keep. And Jesus leads his baptized children into the eternal promised land, through his own keeping of the law. The sermon.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Friday after Ash Wednesday

The demoniac of the Gadarenes healed (St. Luke 8). The sermon.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Ash Wednesday

Morning mass, with imposition of ashes, today. The sermon.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

The blind beggar once more.

A second brief sermon on the blind beggar, here.

Monday, March 07, 2011

The greatest is love

A brief sermon for first Monday vespers, on the Quinquagesima Epistle, I Corinthians 13: here.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

The Blind Beggar

Today's Gospel, for Quinquagesima the threshold of Lent, finds a blind beggar on the roadside near Jericho. Why is he there? Why is he blind? Why, for that matter, is there blindness, or infirmity, or anguish, or sorrow, or pain, or death? God is good, so why is there evil? The question is really insidious, for what it really does is question whether God is in fact good. Yet the question pops up in the heart, indicating the sinfulness of the heart: such a question was first asked in Eden, by the Serpent (hath God indeed said . . .); but now it springs from the heart. The offspring of Eve find in their nature the wickedness first spawned by the devil.

Repent! And find instead in the example of the blind man a pattern for faith. For instead of allowing himself to be cowed by the rebukes of those who would silence his faithful cry for mercy, he cries all the louder. So sure is he of the Savior's mercy that he cries above the din, until Jesus hears and commands him to be brought unto Him.

And all he wants is to see! For of all times to be disappointed at the inability to see, surely this was the bitterest: Jesus is passing by, and he cannot see Him. So Jesus grants him sight immediately, and the first thing he sees is Jesus! So through his enlightened eyes we gain a glimpse of the beatific vision, when at the last our eyes shall see Him, shall behold His face in righteousness. The same eyes that wept so often shall be filled with the glorious sight of eternal beatitude.

This, then, is why Jesus had to go to Jerusalem, though His disciples were loath to go there of all places. It was in order to meet blind Bartimaeus, and more than that, to go the way of the cross to redeem us all, and to give us all, finally, through His merciful kindness, light, and life, and a heavenly vision that shall never end.

The sermon.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

The Sower in St. Mark

Wednesday's (second series) Gospel contains another sower, from St. Mark 4, a man who cast seed into the ground; slept and rose night and day, and the seed springs and grows up, "he knoweth not how." This man is Christ himself, who first preaches, then dies (sleeps), then rises (wakes), and the seed grows until the final harves (judgment). The word does its own work; even Christ himself "goes to sleep" and lets it do its thing. The sermon.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Sexagesima Sunday: the Sower went out to Sow

The impediments to the success of the Word are many: the devil, the world, the flesh. In the days of Noah, these had succeeded in turning the entire world away from its Creator. In our day also, the Church is small. The Parable of the Sower is about these things, with a message of hope: still the Word produces a crop an hundredfold. This is only because of the power of God in the Word, against all foes. Just as Christ himself rose from the dead against all the odds, so His word accomplishes that for which it was sent. The sermon.