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

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

Doubting Thomas

Homily for Sunday, April 23, 2017
Easter 2A
John 20:19-31
“Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God.’”

doubting-thomas-duccioToday’s gospel lesson is the familiar story of “Doubting Thomas.”  (Each year the Second Sunday of Easter uses this lesson, from the end of John.)  As I said last Sunday, doubts are a normal and healthy part of faith.  A healthy place to be is in tension with, on the one hand, the Bible’s stories and Church’s teachings about Jesus’ resurrection, and on the other hand our own doubts and skepticism about the resurrection.  I compared navigating the tension between these to be akin to a ship navigating its way between rocks.  The temptation is, when still off in the distance, to jump ship, as it were – or to try to convince our inner “captain” to turn around or to maybe incite a “mutiny” – rather than sail forward and risk the “rocks” of resurrection.  But I noted that, if we sail forward and learn to navigate the “rocks,” we come to a place where we are not so much concerned about what “really” happened at Jesus’ resurrection, a place where we are not so much concerned either about what may be in our own future after we die, but a place rather in which we are focused on the “now.”  And in this Easter “now” we discover that we can live fearless of death.  Mot that we don’t fear death – I think the fear of death is normal, and I have a hunch that all healthy people have at least some fear of death – but a place in which we learn to live beyond our fears.  And I suggested that it is in this “now” that Mary Magdalene lived, she who was not afraid to be present at the crucifixion or the tomb, and who – as soon as Jesus said her name – was brought back into the “now” such that she could notice – and savor and relish – the presence of the risen Christ. Continue reading

Bones and All

Homily for April 16, 2017
Easter Day
John 20:1-18

“Jesus said to her, ‘Mary.’”
Preached by The Rev. Todd Miller

icon-jesus-christ1“So, Miller,” said my one of colleagues, as he sidled up to me at clergy conference, “Bones and all?”  “Absolutely!” I said, laughing at the way he asked me if I believed in Jesus’ bodily resurrection.  “Absolutely!  Bones and all!”

An answer which is of course the “right” answer, and the Church’s “answer.”   The answer upon which all Christian doctrine hangs – “On the third day he rose again,” we say in the Creed.  The answer upon which all Christian hope relies:  “If Christ has not been raised, then we are of all people most to be pitied,” Paul writes (I Cor 15).  “Absolutely,” I say, “‘Bones and all!’” Continue reading

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 Cross is Life and Peace

Homily for Sunday, March 26, 2017
Lent 4A
John 9:1-41

Preached by Fr. Miller at Bethany Convent, the Order of St. Anne, Arlington, MA

I’ve heard it said that, in the East, “religion” is concerned with wisdom, and in the West, with sight.  This morning’s Gospel – the story of Jesus healing the man born blind – is clearly of the West and our concern with sight.

easter_vigil_mass_2015_163_op_760x508But I don’t want to begin with sight.  I want to begin rather with something we all experience, something that has on some level brought us here this morning, that has led us to be Christians, to “walk in the way of the cross” and to hope in resurrection.  That something is suffering.  And I want to look at suffering from the context of the early Church’s catechumenate, the process whereby candidates were prepared for Baptism.  For the most part, this year’s Lenten lectionary is the same lectionary that was used by the early Church during Lent for the preparation of candidates for Baptism at the Easter Vigil.  Candidates would have been in the catechumenate two or three years, and these final Sundays offered a final push of preparation for their Baptism.  Taken as a whole, these Scriptures present in a nutshell the process of awakening to fuller life, of experiencing “resurrection.”   To sum up:  The candidates would have gone from being in the “wilderness” and discovering that Jesus had a wilderness experience, too (Lent 1); to being in the dark with Jesus, as was Nicodemus (Lent 2); to being in the light with Jesus, as was the woman at the well (Lent 3); to being able to “see” with the man born blind (today); to experiencing resurrection, as did Lazarus (next week). Continue reading

Crucified and Risen with Christ

stgeorgetoledo2b-2banastasis2b-2bfr-2btheodore2bjurewiczRedemption [in the mythological sense] means redemption from cares, distress, fears, and longings, from sin and death, in a better world beyond the grave. But is this really the essential character of the proclamation of Christ in the Gospels and by Paul? I should say it is not. The difference between the Christian hope of resurrection and a mythological hope is that the former sends a person back to his life on earth in a wholly new way, which is even more sharply defined than it is in the Old Testament. The Christian, unlike the devotees of the redemption myths, has no last line of escape available from earthly tasks and difficulties into the eternal. But, like Christ himself, he must drink the earthly cup to the dregs, and only in his doing so, is the crucified and risen Lord with him, and he crucified and risen with Christ. This world must not be prematurely written off. In this the Old and New Testaments are one. Redemption myths arise from human boundary-experiences, but Christ takes hold of a man in the center of his life.

— From Dietrich Bonhoeffer to Eberhard Bethge written from Tegel prison, 27 June, 1944