Monday, February 20, 2012

Sunday Sermon

Quinquagesima Sunday feb. 19

In Monty Python’s movie The Life of Brian, there is a scene resembling the Sermon on the Mount. After Brian says, “Blessed are the peacemakers,” a small foolish looking man far back in the crowd turns and asks, “Wha’d’ee say?” Another in the crowd responds, “Blessed are the cheesemakers!” What a wonderful, though ridiculous, example of how we can twist things around so badly that their entire meaning is lost. Not only does the meaning of things get lost, but our priorities get changed as well. There is a story of a Franciscan friar who said: “The Jesuits may be the greatest scholars, and the Dominicans may be the greatest preachers, but when it comes to humility, we Franciscans have them all beat.” Some people simply will not see the point. Jesus surely must have agonized over this as he spoke to the Pharisees, who had chastised his disciples for breaking the Sabbath law. Before we were Christians, we were Jews. Our heritage stems from those ancient roots. At the Seder meal during the Passover, the words say that once I was a slave in Egypt, and God brought me out of bondage. The words are spoken in the first person, present tense, even though the Exodus of Israel occurred over three thousand years ago. Here we see a personal claim on the heritage of salvation and an acknowledgement of God’s interaction in each life. The observance of the Sabbath had been for Israel a remembering, a bringing into the present the Exodus story. It was not a nostalgic ritual, but a command to remember that God had loved Israel enough to bring the people into freedom. In a way, the Pharisees had forgotten to remember. They had forgotten the point and the priority of the Sabbath. Israel’s memory faded into laws and rules. Jesus reminded them that God is concerned for all our needs, not our rules. Even David ate the Bread of the Presence when hungry and in need. David’s eating of the consecrated bread did not disturb or change its holiness. Rather, its holiness fed him both physically and spiritually. You have heard the phrase, “Man does not live by bread alone…”? Well, the phrase goes further than those few words. “Man does not live by bread alone, but he does not live long without it. To eat is to acknowledge our dependence –both on food and on each other.” It is God who feeds us, not only manna in the wilderness of Egypt, but the real bread of heaven which is Christ. Do not be confused; God knows our needs and our hunger. But do we? For the danger is not that we doubt that there is bread, but that, by a lie, we convince ourselves that we are not hungry. Our priorities must not be idols which we worship or laws which we make and control; we must know our need for God. Yet we celebrate the way God always feeds us. In the wilderness of perplexity of affliction it is God who rescues us. In the midst of perplexity we do not despair. We carry the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may be made manifest. That is the greater truth; that in the midst of darkness, in the midst of this early Egypt, we are assured of God’s faithfulness. Laws can never be ends within themselves, but only a means to a greater truth. As Jesus stated in Matthew 5, he did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it. It isn’t so much about following rules, so much has how we interact with God and how we treat our fellow human beings. What is our priority? It should be God. God’s is the final word in law and judgment. Incredible though it may seem, God’s priority is love for us. That is not found in rules. It is found in Israel’s Exodus journey to Canaan and most importantly in Christ’s journey to Calvary. In Jesus we have been set free from ultimate slavery. The Resurrection on Easter morn was the fulfillment of the Sabbath. God has brought us not only out of Egypt but out of our bondage to sin and death. We are bearers of that truth and that history. We have been touched by that history; that God has stooped down to enter our very humanity. We draw together in the breaking of bread because we are hungry; not only in body but also in soul. God feeds both and that is a good and holy thing. Because of the Resurrection we can all respond to the Seder meal’s proclamation by saying, “Once I was a slave and God brought me out of bondage.” Re-remembering that Exodus is part of our journey towards God. It is almost as though God has given us transparencies through which to see a greater truth. The Sabbath, the Exodus, and the Resurrection all point to a greater truth, a greater priority. Our relationship with God. God Love You + + The Most Rev. Robert Winzens Pastor – St. Francis Universal Catholic Church San Diego, Ca.