No Matter How Dead We May Be…

Homily for April 2, 2017
Lent 5A
John 11:1-45

The Raising of Jairus's Daughter, 1885 (oil on canvas)In one of his more famous homilies, Augustine preached on the three times that Jesus raised someone from the dead.  The first time is the raising of Jairus’ daughter in Mark 5.  Jairus’ daughter was dead in the house, notes Augustine.   Her death symbolizes the sins that we commit only in thought, that are “in the house” and unseen.   The second time is the raising of the son of the widow of Nain, in Luke 7.  When Jesus encounters the son and the widow, his body is being carried outside the city for burial. His death symbolizes the sins that we actually commit – they are “outside the city” and can be seen by others.  And the third time is the story we just heard in this morning’s gospel, the raising of Lazarus.  Lazarus has been dead three days, and Augustine says he symbolizes sins that have become habitual, that have festered so long that there is a stench.   The punch line – to which Augustine builds and delivers as only Augustine can deliver – is that no matter how dead we may be, Jesus is able to raise us to new life. Continue reading

The Work of a Missionary Disciple

Homily preached by the Rev. James La Macchia
Trinity Parish of Newton Centre
January 15, 2017
The Second Sunday after Epiphany – Year A

Isaiah 49: 1-7
Psalm 40: 1-12
1 Corinthians 1: 1-9
John 1: 29-42

My Friends:

130919_fg_popefrancisliberal-crop-article568-largeLike many of you, I have been both fascinated and inspired these last four years by the world’s reaction to Pope Francis:  the bishop of Rome; the Roman Catholic Church’s leader; a genuine peacemaker; and an emissary of God’s mercy and pastoral concern for all humanity.  He has clearly created quite a stir among both the churched and the un-churched across the globe, including members of other Christian communions as well.  And it has been a very long time since—not one, but two—papal documents known as Apostolic Exhortations, an ordinarily obscure and unnoticed Vatican pronouncement, have achieved bestseller status and have been commented upon and debated by so many in the media.  They have even attracted commentary from political leaders at the highest level.  Our own clergy, wardens, and vestry here at Trinity have “read, marked, and inwardly digested” (BCP) this first Jesuit pope’s stirring exhortation to evangelism, entitled The Joy of the Gospel, and have been moved to enlarge our new parish’s mission statement to include the aspiration to become “contemplatives in action”: missionary disciples and evangelists for whom prayer leads us to action, and action leads us back to prayer.  We have multiple copies of The Joy of the Gospel in the parish office for any of you who may be curious—or even inspired—to explore for yourself the cause of the great fuss.

Continue reading

Longing for God

O eternal Truth, true Love, and beloved Eternity, you are my God, and for you I sigh day and night. As I first began to know you, you lifted me up and showed me that, while that which I might see exists indeed, I was not yet capable of seeing it. Your rays beamed intensely on me, beating back my feeble gaze, and I trembled with love and dread. I knew myself to be far away from you in a region of unlikeness, and I seemed to hear your voice from on high: “I am the food of the mature: grow, then, and you shall eat me. You will not change me into yourself like bodily food; but you will be changed into me”. Continue reading

His Great Gifts & Our Capacity to Receive

Saint Augustine by Philippe de Champaigne

His gifts are very great: our capacity to receive them is small and meagre. That is why it is also said to us in Scripture: ‘Open wide your hearts and do not share the lot of unbelievers.’ We are being prepared to receive that which is immensely great, that which eye has not seen because it is not color, which ear has not heard because it is not sound, that which has entered no human heart because the human heart must itself expand for it to enter. We shall receive in proportion to the simplicity of our faith, the firmness of our hope, and the intensity of our desire.

— From a letter of Augustine of Hippo (354-430)


Purity of Heart

Homily preached by the Rev. James La Macchia
July 26, 2015
The Ninth Sunday after Pentecost – Proper 12B

2 Kings 4:42-44
Psalm 145:10-19
Ephesians 3:14-21
Mark 6:35-52

My Friends:

Many of you know that I spent most of my childhood and adolescence deeply immersed in the immigrant culture and spirituality of the pre-Vatican II Roman Catholic Church. And while that experience created dispositions and habits of mind and heart that I value and cherish to this very day, growing up surrounded by my extended family as a Roman Catholic in an Italian-American neighborhood of Boston did have its distinct anomalies, especially because my maternal grandparents and great-grandmother were genuinely pious Roman Catholics devoted to the Church.

My beloved grandfather, in particular, had a very deep devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, a form of popular piety very much in vogue during the post-WWll years.  In fact, the first Friday of every month, together with the entire month of June, was especially dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus back then.  So much so, that on every “First Friday” of the academic year, the sainted nuns would bring our entire Roman Catholic grammar school to a special Mass in our adjacent parish church to honor the Sacred Heart.  So, my grandfather’s devotion to the Sacred Heart was very much in the mainstream of Roman Catholic piety at that time. Continue reading

With Us In The Storm

Sermon for Sunday, June 21, 2015
Fourth Sunday after Pentecost
Mark 4:35-41

The Gospel of Mark has something of a split personality.  And to read the Gospel all the way through from beginning to end is jarring, because the first half of the Gospel is so different from the second.  The first half of the Gospel – the first eight chapters – is set around the Sea of Galilee, with the bulk of the stories taking place on or near the water.  These first eight chapters feel green and lush and nurturing – almost womblike.  In the last eight chapters the Sea is completely absent.  These chapters are arid and stony; and it almost hurts to read them, for Jesus grows more and more isolated as even his friends never really understand him, and Mark’s not one but three passion predictions draw the reader’s attention – force the reader’s attention – toward Jerusalem and the cross.

There are things I like about Mark – Mark is short and to-the-point, for example, and he is a master craftsman at organizing his material to help the reader make associations and draw out meanings.  But I find it difficult to read his Gospel all the way through from beginning to end because the nurturing, womb-like Sea of Galilee half so completely gives way to Jesus’ hard, dry march to Jerusalem and the cross.  Continue reading

What Love’s Got To Do With It

Sermon for Sunday, April 26, 2015
Easter 4B
1 John 3:16-24

In Tina Turner’s 1984 top-of-the-charts hit she sings, “What’s love got to do with it?”  In the epistle lessons for the Easter season, the author of 1 John answers emphatically that love has everything to do with it.  “See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God,” he wrote last week.  “We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us,” he writes today.  And we will hear next week, “Beloved, let us love one another, because…  God is love.”   What’s love got to do with it?  According to the author of 1 John, love has everything to do with it, “it” being not “the thrill of boy meeting girl,” as Tina Turner sings, but the thrill of God drawing close to us in the person of Jesus Christ.  And it’s not just 1 John that tells us about God’s love.  The entirety of the scriptures, from the first jot of Genesis to the last line of Revelation, tells us about God’s infinite, unconditional, unending love for each and every one of us. Continue reading