Ash Wednesday Homily

The Lenten Path c. J. Patrick Mahon

The Lenten Path
c. J. Patrick Mahon

It is that time of year again—Ash Wednesday. Lent has always been seen as a time for repentance. Pope Francis defines repentance as thinking and acting differently. Joel tells us that God does not want tokens and sacrifices. God wants hearts that are open to the Christ dwelling within.

Lenten practice should allow Christ to come more alive in our hearts. Traditionally, even going back to Judaism, the practices are prayer, fasting, and alms. Hence Jesus’ admonitions in today’s Gospel. By prayer we do not mean repetitive lists of wants and needs directed toward God. Lenten practice should deepen our prayer life as resting in God. Listening to God, not chattering away about our various wants and needs. Almsgiving is central to Christian practice. This week, Pope Francis opened three shower facilities on Vatican property for the homeless—almsgiving to the ultimate. Fasting means refraining from food and many other things. Fasting from consumption and consumerism is not a bad idea. Continue reading

Boehner Has Invited an Anarchist to Address Congress

It Is God's Creation

It Is God’s Creation

“Instead of listening to people, the president is standing with a bunch of left-fringe extremists and anarchists,” Boehner told reporters Wednesday. Boehner’s comments really chapped my grits. I oppose the XL pipeline on religious and environmental grounds.

I really took exception to being called an “anarchist.” I am not proposing the overthrow of government or anything like that. I am simply saying that we do not have hegemony over God’s creation. I also know that, if we mine and use up all the fossil fuel still unmined, we will self-destruct. The environment cannot handle all the carbon dioxide that will be produced by such wanton and reckless choices. Continue reading

Homily 2_7

Mating Blue Herons

Mating Blue Herons

If today’s message ended with the lament of Job in his pain and suffering, I would end the sermon right now. But, I will not. Today’s readings offer hope and chicken soup for our souls.

But first, a little side trip. The Gospel reading tells us that Jesus healed Peter’s mother-in-law. Did you ever think about what Peter was thinking? I have. I bet Peter was thinking that if Jesus heals her the nagging will start all over again. “Peter, when are you going to get a job? Why don’t you go back to fishing so you can support your wife and kids instead of following this wild-eyed preacher all over the backwoods of Galilee?” Poor Peter!

After the healing, the Gospel tells us that Jesus healed many and drove out demons. Jesus was ministering to the people. Jesus is the face of God. God ministers to us. Yes, God is the Presence ministering to us. Blessing is a form of ministry. The Hebrew word for blessing is barukh which is related to a Hebrew word for knee. The beautiful symbolism is that our God bends God’s knee toward us in ministry and blessing. We are created in the image and likeness of God. God blesses us so that we can flourish. God ministers to us; we minister to one another. Continue reading

Epiphany

Light in the Darkness

Light in the Darkness

Today is the feast of the Epiphany—the culmination of the Christmas season. In the darkest days of the year, we have been proclaiming Christ made manifest as the Light of the World that is in darkness. In Christian Orthodoxy, this is the Christmas. When we first moved to Georgia, I learned two things. I was extremely jealous of my Jewish playmates. They got presents for 12 days! I also noticed that Christmas decorations came down right after Christmas whereas in Pennsylvania they came down after Epiphany. Continue reading

Christmas Reflection

DB0A1089If “God” is not up there and out there, if the “God” of theism is dead, then incarnation (Christmas) takes on significant new meaning. Incarnation means that divinity is refreshed in matter, in the physical and material. The Cosmic Christ speaks to incarnation. Divinity has been enfleshed in materiality from before that explosive moment in time when the divine became stardust, when hydrogen life began. “God” is Life as it comes at us, Life bursting forth.

The Buddhist perspective gives me a new focus on the Cosmic Christ. Buddha is not divine. The Buddha became more than what he was. Buddhists are very aware of the Buddha within. The Buddha, more than most, became the incarnation of compassionate living. Buddhist prayer is distinct from Western Christian prayer. Buddhists do not pray to a superpower up there and out there who will come to their rescue. Buddhists bless one another. They are Buddha to one another.

In post-modern thought, the Christ is not divine as coming down from above to rescue a fallen humanity. In the case of Jesus of Nazareth, myth has been translated into fact. For example, when I stood in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, I did not think for one moment that I was at the actual place of Jesus’ birth. Jesus was born in the backwater town of Nazareth. Interpreting Jesus, the early followers came up with the Bethlehem story to show that the Christ was descended from David. Jesus, like the Buddha, became more than what he was. He became the Christ.

The Cosmic Christ, enfleshed “divinity,” now lives in all of creation and in each of us. Paul had it right–“I live. Now not I but Christ lives in me.” This is Christmas. This is incarnation as all mortal flesh keeps silence, pondering the immensity of Love pouring forth. Incarnation is a growing awareness of unity with all that is. Christmas is compassion.

Incarnation is justice, right order, flowing down like a mighty river. Incarnation is reaching beyond our survival instinct to become more than what we are.

Thomas Merton had a profound experience of Love incarnate at the corner of Fourth and Walnut (now Muhammad Ali Boulevard) in Louisville when, looking at the people scurrying about their daily business, generalized, “I am one with all these people. . . It is a glorious destiny be a member of the human race, though it is a race dedicated to many absurdities. . . If only they could all see themselves as they really are. If only we could see each other that way all the time. There would be no more war, no more hatred, No more cruelty, No more greed.” Merton further described his experience as enfleshment, as incarnation, “I have the immense joy of being [human], a member of the race in which God became incarnate.” When we accept and bless others, we become more than what we are, more Buddha-like, more Christ-like, more divine, more of what we are meant to be..

Russ Parker, an Episcopal priest from the UK teaches that we are called to be people of blessing. When we have positive expectations and bless others, powerful things happen. The Cosmic Christ–Love Incarnate–works all things for good. The Cosmic Christ Love Power bends the universe toward justice where slalom wholeness rules. Cosmic Christ Love changes the game. Poverty is power.

Love pours forth as blessing, blessing for the cosmos and all creatures. A few weeks ago, as I was approaching the Wal-Mart in Titusville, I saw a woman walking on the sidewalk. She had a purse and a shopping bag and had just finished talking to another man. As she looked at me and approached, I was beginning to wonder what she wanted. Was she going to ask me for a handout? Then, I was completely taken aback as she said, “Can I pray for you.” I said, “No.” Then, for some reason, I stopped and went back asking, “Pray for what?” She said, “For your healing.” (I should add that I had just finished a one hour bike ride before my shopping trip and I had a hitch in my giddyup.) I said, “Okay.” She took my hands and prayed for me and my legs. The evangelical tone of her prayer made no matter. The fact that she blessed me with healing prayer mattered. I came out of the store. She was no longer there. I was haunted for the rest of the day with, “I was visited by an angel–Love in the flesh.”

Christmas tells me that we are here to be Christ for others. We are here to bless all creation. We are here to be Love incarnate for one another.

Have a blessed Christmas.

 

Homily Third Sunday Advent

Great Egret

Great Egret

Today’s reading from Thessalonians reads, “Rejoice always.” In Philippians, Paul expanded this and wrote, “Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say, rejoice. Indeed, the Lord is near.”

He exhorts us to rejoice always. We say, “Always?” Are we to rejoice when all is going wrong?  Paul would answer, “Yes, always.” Paul is not speaking of happiness which is a “mental or emotional state of well-being characterized by positive or pleasant emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy.” Happiness would have us rejoice only when things were positive. Paul is speaking about joy. The dictionary definition again stresses the positive. The scriptural definition of joy goes much deeper. Continue reading

Homily Second Sunday of Advent

Grey Bloc Belgrade

Grey Bloc Belgrade

On our Danube cruise last summer, we were in five former Soviet Bloc countries as we went from Budapest to Bucharest. Years after the end of Soviet domination, signs of drab life under Communism still remain. In the cities there are block after block of dull grey bloc apartment buildings where workers were forced to live an equally drab existence. Retried Episcopal bishop John Shelby Spong recently reflected on his visit to former Soviet bloc countries and said Communism fell apart because Communism misunderstood human nature. From “each according to ability and to each according to need” is a prescription for failure. Our basic instinct is for survival, not for the common good. People came out from under Communism just as the Israelites escaped the drab slavery of Pharaoh’s Egypt. They set forth with a dream of a just society where everyone mattered. Time and time again, they would go astray but prophets, like Isaiah, called them back to the noble vision. Continue reading

Homily for Christ the King

P1040403In 1925, Pope Pius XI established the Feast of Christ the King. His intent was to emphasize that secularism does not hold the answer for Christians. Ultimately our allegiance is to the Risen Christ and not to worldly things. In today’s consumer world, we need to examine what drives our lives. Some pundits say it is the economy that has replaced religion, “The economy is my shepherd, I shall not want. My IRA leads me to restful waters.”

Jesus was a Jew, not a Christian. He followed in the footsteps of the revolution begun by Moses. Moses led the Hebrew people out of Egypt where Pharaoh oppressed them. The Exodus story is not about locust plagues and parted seas. Moses and the Israelites were setting about the task of creating a system where justice prevailed. Continue reading

God Shelters Us

Photo by Leandro Taub

Photo by Leandro Taub

God is my shelter,
My refuge in troubled times.
I can count on God.

God delivers me
From the trapper’s snare
And deadly diseases.

God covers me with pinions
And under God’s wings I find
Shelter from all terrors.

Terrors of the night
And the threats of terrorists
Do not make me fear.

From all evil threats-
Ebola, ISIL, and all-
God is my shelter.

Sickness, famine, war
Will not cause me any harm.
God is my refuge.

God walks at my side
And my foot will not stumble
And I will not fall.

Homeland Security
Is not the place for our trust.
God alone will deliver us.

Call upon our God
Who will rescue and save us,
Our protector always.

Christ Pantokrator*
All powerful and mighty
God is our protector.

*Lord of Hosts, God Almighty (Orthodox icon)

c. J. Patrick Mahon, 2014