The Power of God’s Tenderness

Sermon for Sunday, July 3, 2016
Seventh Sunday after Pentecost
2 Kings 5:1-14

220px-every_man_pennyFr. Gaston, the protagonist of Bruce Marshall’s 1949 novel, To Every Man a Penny, knows the complexity of God’s world, how not everything is clean and clear-cut, that there are shades of grey and sometimes difficult decisions.  And he also understands God’s extravagant and abundant mercy, how God is willing to bend to meet us where we are in complex life circumstances.  The novel is set in France between the wars, in a Church with many “shoulds” and “oughts.” In this rigid, rule-bound setting Fr. Gaston frequently runs afoul of Church authorities.  For example, Fr. Gaston gave permission to one of his favorite catechism students, Amelle, to become a model – not something Catholics did at the time – and incurred the ire of his fellow prelates.  Fr. Gaston’s best friend from the war, Louise Phillipe, became a Communist, and Gaston was shunned because of his continued loyalty to his friend.  When the hierarchy forbade clergy from going to the barbers to get a hair cut (on account of the risqué magazines kept by French barbers at the time) Gaston kept going to the barber to whom he had gone for years… and was punished by the Bishop.   Finally, when Amelle, upon her mother’s death, resorted to prostitution to support herself, Father Gaston arranged for her out-of-wedlock baby to be taken in by a local convent, further isolating him from his peers. Continue reading

I Will Be There

Homily preached by the Rev. James La Macchia
Trinity Parish of Newton Centre
April 10, 2016
The Third Sunday of Easter – Year C

Acts 9: 1-6
Psalm 30
Revelation 5: 11-14
John 21: 1-19

My Friends:
gospel-of-john-symbolEvery year, I marvel at the genius of the Church’s liturgical calendar, with its amazing gift of extensive readings from the Gospel according to Saint John throughout the Great Fifty Days of Easter.  This Gospel in particular has been rightly called the “spiritual Gospel” because it is the key to the deepest meaning and significance of God’s unique and definitive self-revelation in Jesus the Christ.  Very often, it is this Gospel that illuminates the true significance of events related in a more prosaic way in the synoptic Gospels of Mark, Matthew, and Luke.  Rich in symbols and symbolic prophetic-acts, Saint John’s Gospel continually relates the “signs and wonders” inherent in the Incarnation, Ministry, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ taken as a seamless whole.  And this morning’s Gospel lection is no exception. Continue reading

On the Prodigal Son

Homily preached by the Rev. James La Macchia
Trinity Parish of Newton Centre
March 6, 2016
The Fourth Sunday of Lent-Year C

Joshua 5:9-12
Psalm 32
2 Corinthians 5:16-21
Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32

My Friends:

785px-rembrandt_harmensz_van_rijn_-_return_of_the_prodigal_son_-_google_art_projectToday’s reading from the Gospel according to Saint Luke is my favorite from the New Testament—bar none.  I keep a bookmark with Rembrandt’s famous depiction of the reconciled father and son permanently in my Prayer Book at this morning’s Psalm 32.  And I also posted a lithograph of the forlorn younger son, seated among the pigs and husks, on my office door at Saint Mark’s School, just below a copy of an icon of Moses at the burning bush, about which we heard last Sunday.  That passage is my favorite from the Hebrew Bible—bar none!  So it has been, as they say, a “red letter” few weeks for me with our lectionary!

I resonate so deeply with these two stories and images because together, they represent the complete story of my own spiritual journey to date in a nutshell:  the one, a dramatic and sudden revelation of the Name of God, together with God’s summons to a fraught and dangerous mission in the calling of Moses; the other, the return of the prodigal to the “hesed,” the “mercy” and “steadfast love” of God’s embrace in Saint Luke’s Gospel.  In fact, I always told the students in my New Testament class that if, by some happenstance, we had had no other record of Jesus’ teachings, the Parable of the Prodigal Son and the Parable of the Good Samaritan—both unique to Saint Luke’s Gospel—together would tell us the whole Christian story of salvation in Christ.  These two parables represent the substance of Jesus’ teaching about God, humanity, and the “kingdom of God.”  Continue reading

Face of God’s Mercy

56-divine-mercy-iconJesus Christ is the face of the Father’s mercy.  These words might well sum up the mystery of the Christian faith.  Mercy has become living and visible in Jesus of Nazareth, reaching its culmination in him.  The Father, “rich in mercy” (Eph2:4), after having revealed his Name to Moses as “a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Ex 34:6), has never ceased to show, in various ways throughout history, his divine nature.  In the “fullness of time” (Gal 4:4), when everything had been arranged according to his plan of salvation, he sent his only Son into the world, born of the Virgin Mary, to reveal his love in a definitive way.  Whosoever sees Jesus sees the Father (cf. Jn14:9).  Jesus of Nazareth, by his words, his actions, and his entire person reveals the mercy of God.

—- From The Face of Mercy by Pope Francis


Nearer Than My Soul

john-beloved-discipleGod is nearer to us than our own soul, for he is the ground in which it stands, and he is the means by which substance and sensuality are so held together that they can never separate. Our soul reposes in God its true rest, and stands in God, its true strength, and is fundamentally rooted in God, its eternal love. So if we want to come to know our soul, and enjoy its fellowship as it were, it is necessary to seek it in our Lord God in whom it is enclosed… These are the foundation for our development and perfection. We have our life and our being in nature: we develop and reach fulfilment through mercy and grace.

— From Revelations of Divine Love by Julian of Norwich (1342-1416)


God’s Abundant Mercy

Sermon for Sunday, August 17, 2014
Tenth Sunday after Pentecost

One of the common pitfalls of new preachers is that they tend to preach more than one sermon at a time.  (It’s hard, to preach just one sermon!)  I remember in preaching class in seminary the professor saying in his warm, grandfatherly way, with a twinkle in his eye, “I really liked all three of those sermons you just preached…” So, Professor, if you’re listening to the podcast of this sermon, I’m about to preach three sermons.  I know I’m doing it.  And not to worry, all three sermons will be short.

Joseph reveals himself to his brothers by Raphael

Continue reading