Hope and Consolation

Homily preached by the Rev. James La Macchia
Trinity Parish of Newton Centre
June 18, 2017
The Second Sunday after Pentecost – Proper 6A

Exodus 19:2-8a
Psalm 100
Romans 5:1-8
Matthew 9:35-10:8

the-call-of-the-first-disciplesMy Friends:

Unless you count yourself among the reported thirty-five per cent of the electorate who would support Donald J. Trump even if—in his own words—“I were to shoot someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue,” you may well be among the many who are telling area clergy that they are feeling unusually anxious, stressed, and helpless since the November presidential election.  The numerous missteps, scandals, and almost daily misadventures that have erupted since his January inauguration as the nation’s forty-fifth president likely have done nothing to allay those anxieties and fears.  In fact, if there were not so much at stake for our nation and the world, the daily melodrama and pending constitutional crisis, including their improbable cast of characters, might even prove humorous.  Who needs House of Cards when reality itself provides so much, as they say, “must see TV”! Continue reading

The World Turned Upside Down

Homily preached by the Rev. James La Macchia
Trinity Parish of Newton Centre
June 4, 2017
The Feast of Pentecost (Whitsunday)

Acts 2:1-11
Psalm 104:25-35, 37
1 Corinthians 12:3b-13
John 20:19-23

My Friends:

51ytyz5c1nl-_sy344_bo1204203200_A few years ago, Newsweek magazine published a cover story called “The Changing Face of the Church.”   This provocative and prescient article chronicled both the now-familiar decline of the Christian faith in Western Europe and in North America, and the burgeoning of that same faith in Africa, Latin America, and even in Asia.  According to the article, there were, for example, seven times more Anglicans in Nigeria alone than there are Episcopalians in the United States of America.  And, if recent communiqués from places as diverse as Canterbury Cathedral in England, the Episcopal Church Center in New York, and even our very own Diocesan offices in Boston are to be believed, we can only conclude that our chief pastors are realizing what we in our local congregations, especially in the Northeast—often dubbed the “graveyard of the churches”—have known for a very long time:  All is not well in the Church outside the global south; the “household of God” in these parts is shrinking; and we Christians can no longer continue to engage in business as usual.  And this is not a matter of crisis for the Anglican Communion alone.  This precipitous decline is occurring in every so-called mainline Christian denomination, including the Roman Catholic Church, whose US membership would also be plummeting if not for the influx of largely Hispanic immigrants, thanks be to God.  The hopes and dreams of the failed “Decade of Evangelism”—in which we were to have doubled the size of the Anglican Communion in Western Europe and North America notwithstanding—we have only to look around us every Sunday in our local congregations to behold the sad wages of post-modernity, scientism, and secularism for the Church.  Where are our young people or, for that matter, where are our neighbors?  I, for one, sometimes feel as if I am living in some local version of the Incredible Shrinking Church (sic). Continue reading

The Word is Near You

Homily preached by the Rev. James La Macchia
Trinity Parish of Newton Centre
May 28, 2017
The Seventh Sunday of Easter – Year A

Acts 1:6-14
Psalm 68:1-10, 33-36
1 Peter 4:12-14, 5:6-11
John 17:1-11

My Friends:

resurrectionWe last encountered this morning’s mysterious “two men in white” at Jesus’ empty tomb, in the eerie half-light of early Easter morning, as the myrrh-bearing women made their way there to anoint Jesus’ hastily buried corpse.  There, the two men posed a question to Jesus’ distraught and grieving disciples:  “Why do you seek the living among the dead?  He is not here, but has risen.  Remember how he told you, while he was in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and on the third day rise.  And they remembered his words, according to Saint Luke’s Gospel, and returning from the tomb they told this to the Eleven and to all the rest.” Continue reading

Many Dwelling Places

Homily preached by the Rev. James La Macchia
Trinity Parish of Newton Centre
May 14, 2017
The Fifth Sunday of Easter – Year A

Acts 7:55-60
Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16
1 Peter 2:2-10
John 14: 1-14

My friends:

Despite the rare grace-note of Pope Francis’ successful apostolic visit to Egypt two weeks ago, following the Palm Sunday bombing of two Coptic Orthodox churches by ISIS terrorists, interreligious and ecumenical relations have been strained in recent years by news of mounting terrorism, nativism, and xenophobia—all  in the name of religion.  As I thought about and prayed this morning’s readings from the New Testament, I did so against this backdrop of mounting anxiety and frustration over religiously-inspired terrorism and fanaticism worldwide.  Car-rammings, shootings, and knife attacks by Palestinian terrorists against Israeli Jews, accompanied by cries of “God is Most Great” in Arabic, are almost weekly occurrences now in the State of Israel and the holy city Jerusalem.  ISRAEL-PALESTINIAN-CONFLICT-RELIGION-CRIME-FILES Israeli-Jewish extremists, in turn, continue to vandalize Muslim and Christian properties in Galilee and Jerusalem.  These so-called price-tag attacks against Muslim and Christian foundations are perpetrated by fanatical West Bank Israeli settlers any time the State of Israel’s government even thinks about making serious concessions to the Palestinian national movement in the longstanding Arab-Israeli conflict.  In South Sudan, Christians and Muslims are slaughtering thousands of men, women, and children in a tribal civil war and famine now on the brink of repeating the horrors of the 1990s Rwandan genocide.  Over two million children alone have been displaced in the “ethnic cleansing” there.  In Nigeria, despite the prisoner swap of 103 of the 276 schoolgirls abducted from their dormitories by Boko Haram—which means “the West is forbidden”—many of the remaining young hostages have been forced to convert to Islam, don the hijab, chant the Qur’an, and become pregnant “child-brides” or worse, suicide-bombers for their terrorist captors.  In the interim, 2000 more children have been kidnapped and abused by these terrorists.  Iraqi Sunni Muslims at the behest of ISIS continue to maim and kill their Shi’a neighbors in terror attacks surpassing the death-toll at the height of their civil war following the American invasion.  And, to be perfectly honest, I often feel that I want to vomit now every time I hear God’s name taken in vain by Islamist terrorists shouting “Allah’u’ Akbar,” “God is Most Great,” as both sides in the Syrian civil war fire rockets at hospitals, buses full of evacuees, and other civilian targets, while the government forces of the war-criminal Bashar al-Assad attack their own people with barrel-bombs and sarin gas in that six-year civil and proxy war that has resulted to date in almost a half-million civilian deaths and four million refugees.  I find those words every bit as repulsive as the Christian Crusaders chanting “Deus Vult,” “God Wills It,” as they rode through the streets of Jerusalem and slaughtered thirty-thousand Jews and Muslims following their capture of Jerusalem in the twelfth century CE. Continue reading

Abundant Life Without Want

Homily preached by the Rev. James La Macchia
Trinity Parish of Newton Centre
May 7, 2017
The Fourth Sunday of Easter – Year A

Acts 2:42-47
Psalm 23
1 Peter 2:19-25
John 10:1-10

My Friends:

good-shepherd-thomas-aquinas-2-christ-with-lambsThieves and bandits; gates; gatekeepers; and shepherds—who can blame those Galilean fishermen and Jesus’ early disciples for their failure to understand his “figure of speech” in this morning’s Gospel according to Saint John?  If it was difficult to grasp in Jesus’ world, where sheepherding in rural Galilee and the hill country around Jerusalem is still a common sight, how much more confusing must it be for ninety per-cent of the world’s population who, like us, dwell in cities?  And while I don’t profess to have any first-hand experience in the matter, I have learned several things about sheep and sheepherding that are important for grasping Jesus’ message in this morning’s Gospel—then and now. Continue reading

The Real Presence of Christ

Homily preached by the Rev. James La Macchia
Trinity Parish of Newton Centre
April 30, 2017
The Third Sunday of Easter – Year A

Acts 2:14a, 36-41
1 Peter 1-17-23
Psalm 116:1-3, 10-17
Luke 24:13-35

My Friends:

laveteThe Christian “Holy Land” within the modern State of Israel and the Palestinian territories has rightly been dubbed the “Fifth Gospel” because it testifies so dramatically and so eloquently to the reality of the resurrected and glorified Jesus Christ. The site of this morning’s reading from the Gospel according to Saint Luke is no exception, and a journey to that place is often the last stop on the itinerary of every Christian pilgrimage to the Holy Land.  And for many Christian pilgrims over the centuries, it has served as a capstone experience of the continuing “Real Presence” of Jesus Christ in his Church and, especially, in the Holy Eucharist. Continue reading

The Blind Who See

Homily preached by the Rev. James La Macchia
Trinity Parish of Newton Centre
March 26, 2017
The Fourth Sunday of Lent – Year A

1 Samuel 16:1-13
Psalm 23
Ephesians 5: 8-14
John 9: 1-41

My Friends:

034You are probably familiar with the old saw that “there are none so blind as those who fail to see.”  Our reading this morning from the Gospel according to Saint John is an obvious case in point.  The whole lection turns on the irony that the man born blind sees and understands Jesus’ true identity as the “Son of Man” and the “light of the world,” while Jesus’ sighted opponents, “blind guides,” completely fail to grasp the obvious power and sanctity of this man of God.  Even if they were unwilling to go as far as the blind man in asserting that Jesus is indeed the “Messiah,” the “Christ” of God, they know that their own tradition is not lacking in “signs and wonders” performed by the many prophets of God.  And Jesus seems to anticipate his opponents’ willful ignorance because he goes to the trouble of mixing his saliva with mud and applying it to the blind man’s eyes. He could have simply commanded the restoration of his sight, as he does on other occasions in the Gospels, but, because the folk medicine of Jesus’ time invested saliva with medicinal qualities, he goes to the extra trouble of making the special poultice.  Then he orders the blind man to rinse his eyes in the pool of Siloam, the collecting pond for the waters of the holy city Jerusalem, originating in the “living waters” of the Gihon Spring and passing through the Temple precincts—all highly symbolic places of special holiness in Second-Temple Judaism.   And for those with “eyes to see” among St. John the Evangelist’s community of Jewish-Christians approximately seventy years later, the anticipation of the “illumination” that comes with Holy Baptism would have been obvious as well.  Jesus gives the blind man not just his physical sight; he gives him spiritual vision as well.  The “Christ” is the “light” by which we see light; the primordial light of the Creation that enters the cosmos even before the celestial bodies in the Genesis story of creation.  In a culture so steeped in Temple and Torah, the failure to understand the meaning and import of Jesus’ “signs and wonders” can only be described as obtuseness at best, and incorrigible ignorance at worst. Continue reading