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

Solid Food for Social Justice

Homily for February 12, 2017
Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany
I Corinthians 3:1-9

“I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for solid food.”

john_westerhoff_ce20Episcopal priest and theologian John Westerhoff, speaking about Christian formation, distinguishes between “nurture” and “conversion.”  So often when we Christians do formation – like teach prayer, or talk about the importance of regular worship, or teach about the sacraments – we tend to talk in terms of nurture – how church consoles us, for example, or how prayer helps us get through our day.  But nurture will take us only so far, says Westerhoff.  A mature Christian faith – if we are truly to be the “salt of the earth” and the “lights of the world” – requires conversion: a deep-down, thorough and systemic transformation of the inner person.

We’ll get back to conversion, but first I want to speak to our present social and political environment.  In the weeks since the inauguration, many have told me about the rallies they’ve attended, the letters they’ve sent or phone calls they’ve made, and the convictions they have regarding the environment or immigration or religious tolerance.  An activism has been awakened, and I see a care for our nation that I haven’t seen in my lifetime, a desire to make a difference. Continue reading

Ask God What He Can Do In You

Homily for Sunday, January 22, 2017
Second Sunday After the Epiphany
And Trinity Parish’s Annual Meeting

john_f-_kennedy_white_house_photo_portrait_looking_upAs a Massachusetts resident and a part-time history buff, and in light of Friday’s inauguration, this past week I went back to President Kennedy’s inaugural address of 1961, the famous “Ask not what your country can do for you…” speech.   In this speech Kennedy lays his vision for the country.  A vision of “unwillingness to witness or permit the slow undoing of… human rights.”   A vision of the “survival and the success of liberty,” here and around the globe.  A vision committed to those “south of the border,” and our “special pledge…  to assist free men and free governments in casting off the chains of poverty.”  A vision of support for the United Nations, “our last best hope in an age where the instruments of war have far outpaced the instruments of peace.”  A vision of a world in which “civility is not a sign of weakness, and sincerity is always subject to proof.”  A vision of  “both sides [exploring] what problems unite us instead of belaboring those problems which divide us.”   A vision of  “a new world of law, where the strong are just and the weak secure and the peace preserved.”  Anybody remember?  It was – and is – a stirring, hope-filled speech. 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

Contemplatives in Action

Sermon for Sunday, June 19, 2016
Pentecost 5
Luke 8:26-39

ascetics-praying-in-cave-sketchThe text for the homily this morning is not so much today’s gospel text itself as it is the text around today’s gospel text.  In particular, Jesus’ rhythm of mission and prayer – Jesus going out on mission, then withdrawing to deserted places to pray – that Luke set up three chapters earlier, in chapter 5:

Many crowds would gather to hear him and to be cured of their diseases.  But he would withdraw to deserted places and pray. – Luke 5:15b-16

The context of today’s gospel is Jesus’ rhythm of going out on mission and then withdrawing to deserted places to pray; Jesus’ mission leads to prayer, Jesus’ prayer leads to mission.  Mission and prayer is the rhythm of Jesus’ ministry in Luke.

But I don’t want to begin there.  I want to begin rather with President George W. Bush’s “faith-based initiatives.” Continue reading

The Sound and Fury of Loving God

Sermon for Sunday, June 5, 2016
Third Sunday After Pentecost
Galatians 1:11-24

But when God… was pleased to reveal his Son to me…I went away at once into Arabia.”

Though I usually am not able to read the entire Sunday Times, I always try to read the “Modern Love” column in the “Sunday Styles” section.  “Modern Love” stories are reader-submitted, and can be about:

  • the vagaries of dating – “Dating, like insanity, is like doing the same thing over and over, expecting a different outcome.” (May 13, Sarah Moses)
  • a mother with Alzheimer’s finding comfort in her “perfect” boyfriend – “Unless she’s sneaking out of the window at night,” the daughter writes, “I’m not sure how she’s going on these dates.” (Deenie Hartzog-Mislock, April 9, 2015)
  • being a gay father on Mother’s Day – “I finally just said, ‘I’m her mom!’” (May 6, David Beach)

Last month, in a column entitled “The Sound and Fury of Silence,” Laura Pritchett told of her quiet divorce after two decades of marriage.  She and her husband divorced so quietly, in fact, that “neighbors sometimes can’t tell the difference from before the split and after…  Both of our cars are often in the driveway… We [still] like each other and always have.” But… Continue reading

Union with God

icon_transfiguration1The mystics keep telling us that the goal of prayer and the— goal of our hidden life which should itself become more and more of a prayer— is union with God. We use that phrase often, much too often, to preserve the wholesome sense of its awe-fulness. For what does union with God mean? It is not a nice feeling we get in devout moments. That may or may not be a bi-product of union — probably not. It can never be its substance. Union with God means every bit of our human nature transfigured in Christ, woven up into his creative life and activity, absorbed into his redeeming purpose, heart, soul, mind and strength. Each time it happens it means that one of God’s creatures has achieved its destiny.

— From The Light of Christ by Evelyn Underhill (1875-1941)