Pay attention!

Homily for Sunday, April 1, 2018
Easter Day
John 20:1–18

empty_tomb-Saint_James_the_Greater_Catholic_Church_(Concord,_North_Carolina)Long before John crafted his resurrection story—an 18 verse masterpiece that includes an empty tomb, a missing body, a foot race, angelic messengers, a woman weeping, a case of mistaken identity and a joyful reunion—the Holy Trinity was wondering how to best script and cast the resurrection story. Continue reading

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Crushing Disappointment

Homily for March 29, 2018
Maundy Thursday

Next to the blackboard in the Latin classroom at Newton South is a poster with the quote that some say is the most beautiful in all of Latin: “Forsan et haec olim meminisse iuvabit”, which means: “Perhaps one day the memory of even these things will bring pleasure.”  The quote, from Vergil’s Aeneid, is delivered aboard ship by Aeneas to his companions after a series of crushing disappointments: the long and tragic war with the Greeks, the death of Aeneas’ wife as she and Aeneas fled Troy, leaving their homeland, arduous sea journeys, the failed founding of not one but two cities, plagues, the jealousies and intrigues of the gods, and finally—the circumstance that led to Aeneas delivering his famous line—as they drew near to Italy so that Aeneas might found Rome in accordance with a prophecy, jealous Juno sent a devastating storm that sank some of the fleet and drove the survivors away from the coast:  “Forsan et haec olim meminisse iuvabit,” said Aeneas then to his companions.  “Perhaps one day the memory of even these things will bring pleasure.”

Mount Feake CemeteryAs I consider Jesus at the institution of the Eucharist, which we remember this evening, I can’t help but think of all that had happened to Jesus to this point in his life.  Though at first Jesus had high hopes for his ministry and for making converts and for establishing the Kingdom of God, by this time on that Thursday evening long ago, it would have been difficult not to see his mission as a failure.  Gone were the crowds that had followed.  He had established no kingdom.  The religious authorities were closing in to arrest him.  One of his inner circle would soon betray him.  Another would deny knowing him, not once but three times.  The rest would desert him in his moment of need, and…  Jesus intuits, he knows, that he would soon die the painful and humiliating death of a criminal on a cross.  Imagine the crushing disappointment Jesus must have felt this evening… Continue reading

Finding the real Jesus

Homily for Christmas Eve, 2017

Nativity stained glass-Calvary Episcopal Church, Summit, New JerseyWhat do you need to be done with in your relationship with Jesus Christ?  Let me say that again: “What do you need to be done with in your relationship with Jesus Christ?”

And we all have a relationship with Jesus Christ!  Just as there is no such thing as a non-response to an invitation—even not responding to an invitation is a form of response—so there is no one who does not have a relationship with Jesus Christ.  Because Jesus invites all of us to draw closer; we all have a relationship with Jesus Christ!

It may seem odd on Christmas Eve to consider what we need to be done with in our relationship with Jesus Christ, a day when we celebrate beginnings and Jesus’ entering in to human life.  But perhaps Christmas is just the occasion to ask ourselves what we need to be done with in our relationship with Jesus Christ, for—if we are to take in the new life offered to us in Jesus—we first need to make room for that life. Continue reading

Treasures of the Church

Homily for Sunday, November 5, 2017
All Saints’ Sunday

all-saints-2887463_960_720Today, All Saints’ Sunday, is our annual reminder that in the Church’s calendar the rest of the week, Monday through Saturday, is filled with saints’ days.  In the Church’s calendar nearly every other day is a saint’s feast day.  Tomorrow, for example, we remember William Temple, a 20th century Archbishop of Canterbury; on Tuesday we honor Willibrord, an 8th century Bishop of Utrecht; on Friday it’s Leo the Great, a famous 5th century Bishop of Rome; and Saturday it’s Martin, a 4th century Bishop of Tours.

Many of us may be unaware of the riches in our saints’ calendar.  Yet the saints are a treasure of the Church.  St. Lawrence, a deacon martyred in 3rd century Rome, when the persecuting authorities arrived and demanded to be shown the Church’s treasures, gathered before them the poor:  “HERE are the Church’s treasures!”  Similarly, the Church’s saints are treasures of the Church! Continue reading

Metamorphosis

Homily preached by the Rev. James La Macchia
Saint John’s Church,Newtonville
August 6, 2017
The Feast of the Transfiguration of Our Lord Jesus Christ

Exodus 34:29-35
Psalm 99
2 Peter 1:13-21
Luke 9:28-36

 

transfiguration-1442

The Transfiguration, by Fra Angelico, 1442

My friends:  Of the many “signs and wonders” reported in the canonical Gospels, the story of the Jesus’ “Transfiguration,” recounted by Saint Luke in today’s Gospel, is probably the one most outside our ordinary human experience.  Our imaginations can at least grasp changing water into wine; walking on water; healing the sick; even raising the dead.  But what in the world are we to make of this strange and curious event on the height of Mount Tabor in first-century Galilee?  The New Testament Greek word for “transfiguration” is “metamorphosis,” a visible change in the outward appearance of a body, and its morphing into something else.  Continue reading

The Risk of Being Born

Homily for Christmas, 2016

Isaiah 9:2-7
Titus 2:11-14
Luke 2:1-14(15-20)
Psalm 96

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A War’s Ripples: Syrians arriving on Lesbos, a Greek island, by Santi Palacios (AP)

For my homily this evening I will refer to the photos printed in the order of service on the front and back covers, and on page 11. The photos were cover photos for the New York Times in the fall of 2015.

These photos of young Syrian families help us to imagine what it might have been like for the Holy Family at the first Christmas 2,000 years ago.   As the husband attends with concern to his wife in the cover photo, so I imagine Joseph to have tended with concern to Mary as she traveled, full-term, to Bethlehem.  Maybe – as is the woman in the photo – Joseph even wrapped Mary in a blanket to keep her warm.  Like the mothers in the field care for their infants in the photo on page 11, so I imagine Mary to have been in fields with Jesus as they traveled home from Bethlehem, occasionally stopping to rest and nurse.  Like the boy on the back cover looking up to the woman helping him with a coat, so I imagine Jesus to have looked up to adults helping him when the Holy Family fled to Egypt to escape King Herod, for – like the refugee boy in the photo – he probably needed clothing, too, after his family fled suddenly in the middle of the night. Continue reading

All Human Hearts Seek God

Homily for Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Luke 7:18-23

“Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?”… “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard:  the blind receive their sight, the lame walk,
the lepers are cleansed, the dear hear, the dead are raised,
the poor have good news brought to them.”

areyoumymotherI have a hunch that the question John’s disciples put to Jesus is a question that we all ask: “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?”  All human hearts seek God.  Like the newly-born baby bird who falls out of his nest in P.D. Eastman’s children’s classic,  Are you my mother?, and who runs around asking various things, “Are you my mother?”(the dog, the airplane, the steam shovel) so do all of us humans run around to different things to ask, “Are you the one who is to come?  Are you God?”

All human hearts seek God.  But only God is God (and not the steam shovel, or the plane or the dog).  And Jesus urges John’s disciples – he urges us! – to pay attention.  “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard.”  Pay attention!  Pay attention to what brings healing and wholeness; pay attention to what makes life more full and gives joy.  Continue reading