Season of Forgiveness

Homily preached by the Rev. James La Macchia
Trinity Parish of Newton Centre
April 15, 2018
The Third Sunday of Easter—Year B

Acts 3:12–19
Psalm 4
1 John 3:1–7
Luke 24:36b–48

Duccio di Buoninsegna-Appearance while the Apostles are at Table

Appearance while the Disciples Are at Table —Ducchio di Buoninsegna

My Friends: If we post-moderns often find it difficult and challenging to appreciate and to understand fully the events described in the New Testament’s narratives about Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances, imagine the astonishment and consternation of those first witnesses to these things.  Our reading this morning from the Gospel according to Saint Luke is made even more pointed and dramatic when we recall the incidents that immediately precede and follow it.  When Jesus suddenly appears in the midst of his disciples in this morning’s Gospel, he finds them already in excited conversation around his earlier appearances to a handful of them on Easter morning and subsequently to two of them on the road to Emmaus that evening.  Then, following the incident described in this morning’s Gospel, Jesus brings his motley band of followers to Bethany—just beyond the Mount of Olives—blesses them, and, to their great astonishment, is taken up into the full presence of God before their very eyes, no longer restricted by time and space and matter.  Imagine the massive assault upon the ordinary hearts, minds, and imaginations of these disciples as a result of these unprecedented events and all of this extraordinary talk about what came to be described as Jesus’ “Resurrection” and his “Ascension”! Continue reading

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Witness to Hope and Truth

Homily preached by the Rev. James La Macchia
Trinity Parish of Newton Centre
December 10, 2017
The Second Sunday of Advent—Year B

Isaiah 40:1-11
Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13
2 Peter 3:8-15a
Mark 1:1-8

Preaching_of_St_John_the_Baptist - Domenico_Ghirlandaio

Preaching of John the Baptist, by Domenico Ghirlandaio, 1449–1494

My Friends: While we will never know the details of John the Baptist’s preaching, one thing is quite certain from this morning’s Gospel: John must have been an arresting and remarkable figure because Saint Mark tells us that “people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.”  Even if we admit some hyperbole in this account of the Baptist’s preaching, it appears that John made quite an impression on all manner of folks from both the countryside and from the capital city.  Then, as now, this was a remarkable feat:  artisans and sharecroppers, together with urban dwellers and religious elites, were prompted to “repent,” to “confess their sins” and to “be baptized” by him.  And they were doing it in droves!  What preacher would not be willing to do almost anything for that result? Continue reading

The Just Judge

Homily preached by the Rev. James La Macchia
Trinity Parish of Newton Centre
November 26, 2017
The Feast of Christ the King — Year A

Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24
Psalm 95:1-7a
Ephesians 1:15-23
Matthew 25:31-46

Wall CommunionMy Friends: Two  years ago—and  well before the current contagion of faux populism unleashed its virulent strains of xenophobia, nativism, ethno-nationalism, and incivility into our national life—CBS’s weekly news-magazine 60 Minutes broadcast a highly anticipated interview with Cardinal Sean O’Malley, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Boston.  Cardinal O’Malley is one of the nine cardinal-advisors that Pope Francis’ has appointed to his new “kitchen cabinet,” and the Cardinal is the only American prelate on that body.  Because of this position and his personal friendship with Pope Francis, Cardinal O’Malley is regarded by many as a spokesman for the Pope.  He is also a fierce and passionate advocate for the poor, for immigrants, and for refugees. Continue reading

Waiting for God

Homily preached by the Rev. James La Macchia
Trinity Parish of Newton Centre
November 12, 2017
The Twenty-Third Sunday after Pentecost—Proper 27A

Amos 5:18–24
Psalm 70
1 Thessalonians 4:13–18
Matthew 25:1–13

dark-981352_960_720My Friends: Two weeks ago, as I sat in my physician’s waiting room for my annual flu shot, I overheard a telling conversation between another patient and the receptionist.  Actually, to say that I “overheard” the conversation is much too generous a characterization: the woman spoke in such a loud voice, and with such dramatic gestures, that her remarks were clearly intended for all of us in that small room.  She announced with great fanfare that she absolutely hated this time of year when we turn back our clocks and the darkness comes early in these parts.  “It’s just terrible for those of us with Seasonal Affective Disorder,” she brayed, “and I just can’t stand it!”  Since I was in a generous mood, I suppressed my default misanthropy and attributed her histrionic behavior to dismay over having just received that unexpected diagnosis. Continue reading

Bending toward Mercy

Homily preached by the Rev. James La Macchia
Trinity Parish of Newton Centre
October 15, 2017
The Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost – Proper 23A

Isaiah 25:1–9
Psalm 23
Philippians 4:1–9
Matthew 22:1–14

My Friends:

Throne_of_Mercy_-_Cambrai_Missal

Throne of Mercy: Cambrai Missal

Those of us who have had the privilege of working with young adults as parents, teachers, or both know just how difficult it often can be to set appropriate expectations and boundaries while, at the same time, creating the necessary framework for exploration, genuine growth, and development in freedom.  The so-called “wonder years” are not always so wonderful, especially in those times and circumstances when we must set limits, speak the truth in love, and hold our charges accountable and responsible for all their choices—good and bad—all the while communicating, by word and action, our unconditional acceptance and love.  Like God—whose throne, according to the psalmist, is rooted and grounded in “justice and mercy”—we too are often challenged to give love its direction from justice, and to temper pure justice with the quality of mercy.  No easy task, as many of us know from hard experience!

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Blessings for all Creation

Homily preached by the Rev. James La Macchia
Trinity Parish of Newton Centre
October 8, 2017
Proper 22A: The Blessing of the Animals & Feast of Saint Francis of Assisi (Transferred)

Isaiah 5:1–7
Psalm 80:7–14
Philippians 3:4b–14
Matthew 21:33–46

St.Francis 2 (2)My Friends:  We warmly welcome among us today—and with great enthusiasm—our enlarged congregation of all things bright and beautiful; all creatures great and small.”  We do this to celebrate the great, October 4th feast of Saint Francis of Assisi, one of the most popular and beloved saints of the Christian faith.  So our Holy Eucharist this morning will include an additional, now annual rite here:  the “Blessing of the Animals.”  But before we do that, I want to say just a few things about blessing; about Saint Francis of Assisi; and about our concern and our charge to care for all of the “very good” Creation that God in God’s love and goodness has given us, and which Saint Francis so dearly and deeply loved.

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Forgiving from the heart

Homily preached by the Rev. James La Macchia
Trinity Parish of Newton Centre
September 17, 2017
The Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost – Proper 19A

Genesis 50:15-21
Psalm 103:1-13
Romans 14:1-12
Matthew 18:21-35

Joseph_Forgives_His_Brothers

Joseph forgives his brothers  (Providence Lithograph Co., 1907)

My Friends: The great American writer and humorist Mark Twain once quipped: “Forgiveness is like the weather.  Everyone is always talking about it, but no one ever seems to do anything about it.”  Indeed, this is the situation to which rabbi Jesus seems to speak directly in today’s reading from the Gospel according to Saint Matthew, that most Jewish of the four canonical Gospels. In fact, because of the structure, themes, and the distinct Hebraisms of this Gospel, many biblical scholars believe it was originally written in Hebrew and only later translated into Greek.  Be that as it may, within a framework so typical of early rabbinic Judaism, Saint Matthew has the disciple Peter—the usual spokesman for Jesus’ inner circle of disciples—question his “Master Teacher” on behalf of the group concerning the Book of Leviticus’ requirement “not to hate your brother in your heart” and “to love your neighbor as yourself.”  They very much want to hear his interpretation of the gathering Oral Torah on this very important matter.  Jesus, after all, has made forgiveness the centerpiece of his teaching by joining it to the Shema’“Hear, O Yisra’el, ADONAI is our God, ADONAI alone.  You shall love ADONAI your God with all your heart and soul and strength, and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.  On these two mitzvot,” these “commandments,” “hang all the Torah and the Neviim,” that is, the “Law” and the “Prophets. Continue reading