15th Sunday Ordinary Time – Fr. Gribowich homily

Good morning, everyone. Sorry for my little liturgical faux pas – I forgot to incense the Gospel right after I made the announcement. I think I’m recovering from the fact that yesterday afternoon, I spent in San Francisco going to a coffee shop, and for some strange reason I thought that it made perfect sense for me to get an espresso around 8 p.m. at night, and I think that I’m still kind of trying to figure out how to think straight after that. So, maybe sometimes these things happen like that.

Anyway, one thing I could say about our culture that we live in – and this has really been right in front of my face I think since I’ve moved out here to the Bay Area – is that we live in a culture that is very much valuing what I would call “self-care”, and I think this is in response to a work culture that is so hard-working, that people are trying to figure out ways to take care of themselves when so much is demanded to them at work. Continue reading “15th Sunday Ordinary Time – Fr. Gribowich homily”

15th Sunday Ordinary Time – A Change of Heart to True Prosperity

Moses Breaking the Tablets of the Law. Rembrandt, 1659, Gemäldegalerie, Berlin (Wikipedia).

Deuteronomy 30:10–14
July 14, 2019

This Sunday, we return to the book of Deuteronomy. We read from it several times last fall and let us take a moment to review. It is literally translated “second law,” but might be better called the second reading of the law. The law did not change, but the tablets on which they were written were destroyed when Moses smashed them after he discovered the Hebrews worshipping the golden calf. It is the 5th book of the Bible and concludes the Pentateuch/Torah. It is composed of a series of addresses by Moses to the Hebrews as they prepare to invade Canaan. As we have seen so many times before, the writings of the Pentateuch had a long history of creation. Rabbinic Judaism held that Moses lived from 1391 to 1271 BC. Therefore, his original exhortation would have been in the late 1200s BC. This is obviously a guess and we are not quite certain to what kind of group he was speaking, nor exactly of what the law consisted.

We are on firmer ground during the reign of King Josiah who reigned between 640 and 609 BC. Two developments marked his times. In 627 the Assyrian king, who effectively controlled Judean kingdom, died and there was a succession battle. Josiah saw this as a moment to seek independence. Around the same time, he started to renovate the temple and discovered a copy of the law. This we may assume is the central part of the book of Deuteronomy (12:4–7). This discovery provoked a religious revival and part of this revival was editing this primitive version of Deuteronomy and adapting it for his day.

Therefore, as they sought to free themselves not only from military connection with Assyria, but also its mental and spiritual dominion, Josiah’s editors included new material on refusing to follow foreign gods. This meant destroying temples and places of worship to other gods in the countryside, worshipping only in Jerusalem (12 4–7), and not listening to any other god or supposed source of wisdom (6:14) They did not, however, fail to learn from the great prophets of the 8th century the importance of social justice.

Josiah was killed in 609 BC and a series of events led to the destruction of the temple and the exile of the leadership of Judea to Babylon by 587. Although it seemed the end of the people, one of the great miracles of history occurred and Persian leader Cyrus offered the people an opportunity to return to Jerusalem as his colonial administrators. The final editor of Deuteronomy was one of those who accepted this invitation and we see that many passages of it reflect these concerns.

The editor or editors looked back on a long history of great successes and colossal failures. They must ask what did the people learn? They sum it up briefly:

Circumcise your hearts, therefore, and be no longer stiff-necked.
(Deuteronomy 10:16)

This is not to say that they wished to abandon circumcision. It was a very visible sign of their identity and commitment. Yet they recognized after all this time, it was almost blasphemous, if not balanced by a change of heart, which actively seeks justice. This was developing among the prophets as well:

Egypt and Judah, Edom and the Ammonites, Moab and the desert dwellers who shave their temples. For all these nations, like the whole house of Israel, are uncircumcised in heart.
(Jerimiah 9:25)

In the section immediately before what we read this Sunday, Moses says:

Though you may have been driven to the farthest corner of the world, even from there will the LORD, your God, gather you; even from there will he bring you back.
The LORD, your God, will then bring you into the land which your fathers once occupied, that you too may occupy it, and he will make you more prosperous and numerous than your fathers.

(Deuteronomy 30: 4–5)

The editors are now back in the promised land although they were in literal exile. They are there because they heard the word of God and obeyed it. He then promises:

The LORD, your God, will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, that you may love the LORD, your God, with all your heart and all your soul, and so may live
(Deuteronomy 30:6)

This life is right in front of them. It is found in the lived experience of their community expressed in the Law:

For this command which I enjoin on you today is not too mysterious and remote for you.
It is not up in the sky, that you should say, “Who will go up in the sky to get it for us and tell us of it, that we may carry it out?”
Nor is it across the sea, that you should say, “Who will cross the sea to get it for us and tell us of it, that we may carry it out?”
No, it is something very near to you, already in your mouths and in your hearts; you have only to carry it out.

(Deuteronomy 3:11–14)

Our section ends here but the next line is the most powerful:

Here, then, I have today set before you life and prosperity, death and doom
(Deuteronomy 3:15)

Note that line is “life and prosperity” and “death and doom.” Life is more than just physical existence. It is the prosperity that flows from being connected to God:

You will live and grow numerous, and the LORD, your God, will bless you in the land you are entering to occupy
(Deuteronomy 30:16)

True prosperity requires close relationships with others and justice towards all as much as stuff.

Death is not only the end of earthly existence but the doom that follows from it:

If, however, you turn away your hearts and will not listen, but are led astray and adore and serve other gods,
I tell you now that you will certainly perish; you will not have a long life on the land which you are crossing the Jordan to enter and occupy.

(Deuteronomy 30:17–18)

These were people who thought in the concrete. The sense of the resurrection from the dead and eternal life were developing at the time. I find it refreshing. What does our obedience to God do for anyone here and now? The final editors were heirs to prophets as well as lawyers and they knew the perils of injustice. Couldn’t we use a bit of this ourselves? Have we embraced the life God offers to us firmly enough that we shall live? Let us aim for prosperity in the fullest possible sense, for the greatest number of people, in the widest possible area.

14th Sunday Ordinary Time – 7 PM (Msgr. LoPinto homily)

It is mentioned in the introduction for this evening’s liturgy, the theme that ties the three readings together is Journey. In the first reading, people are journeying back to Jerusalem, having been in exile for probably four hundred years, and so God is bringing them back to their center, and that was critical for the people, because in their years in exile they felt lost. They were missing their root, their connection to God, and that was in the physical place of Jerusalem. And so God restores them to Jerusalem, and when they do come back, there is a great ceremony that takes place where the people are once again united with God in a renewal of the Covenant.  Jerusalem becomes the base, the center for their living. Continue reading “14th Sunday Ordinary Time – 7 PM (Msgr. LoPinto homily)”

14th Sunday Ordinary Time (Fr. Gribowich homily)

Good morning, everyone. Hope that you’ve had a very nice Fourth of July week, and for many it’s been an extended weekend, since we celebrate the 4th on Thursday. I know that I had a very blessed week on retreat down in the Big Sur at the Hermitage of the Camaldolese Monks. It was a very beautiful time, and I really brought to that retreat so many intentions from people here at this parish, really in a certain way brought all of your intentions to my time on retreat. So it is a really great time to just breathe in deep God’s presence to us through nature.

One thing that we really hear pressing in the Gospel today is Jesus announcing in another way the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom of God. Now, when we think of Jesus’s first public words, so to speak, that announced his ministry, he says the Kingdom of God is at hand: repent and believe in the Good News. And Jesus now sends people out to announce the kingdom of God is at hand. I think it’s important for us to really focus on what is Jesus mean by the kingdom of God, because I think for many of us we have an almost tortured type of understanding of kingdom. 

In fact, the Fourth of July was all about us breaking away from a kingdom – right? We looked at somehow the kingdom of England as being oppressive to the colonists, and for most of us I think we had this kind of love/hate relationship with kingdoms. We just look at them as being oppressive, or we may look at them in awe, and almost in a sense of glory. I’m always amazed that whenever there’s like a royal wedding how many people will tune in the middle of the night to watch it, right, because we’re kind of captivated by all the glamour that goes with that. There’s something about that, and even in the United Kingdom today, in England, there’s people who still are very supportive of the monarchy, even though the monarchy doesn’t have that much real power. There’s people who find pride in the king, the queen, and the whole idea of a monarch. Yet, for us we may look at a kingdom as being something that could be problematic.  Continue reading “14th Sunday Ordinary Time (Fr. Gribowich homily)”

14th Sunday Ordinary Time – A Light Beyond Ourselves?

Reconstruction of Jerusalem and the Temple of Herod. James Tissot, 1886-1894, Brooklyn Museum.

July 7, 2019
Isaiah 66:10–14c

Our first reading this Sunday is from the third prophet to use the name Isaiah. He lived in the first generation of the Jews who accepted the invitation of King Cyrus, the king of Assyria, to return and rebuild the temple in Jerusalem. Although his circumstances are different from the other two Isaiahs, he continues their emphasis on the importance of worship; however, he is chastened by a belief that liturgy which does not direct worshippers to justice is idolatry. We will find in third Isaiah not only eloquence, but a realism that is disturbingly real and contemporary.

King Cyrus promised to help the Jews rebuild the temple in Jerusalem, but his idea was much less grand than theirs. Many who went off with great joy to the land of their ancestors were disappointed at the rugged conditions they discovered and the relative lack of funding. Although financing from Assyrian empire was not enough to rebuild the temple to its former splendor, it was a substantial project—then, as now, an opportunity for corruption. Isaiah is writing at the time of the completion of the temple around 515 BC and has first-hand experience. He takes the leaders to task:

They are relentless dogs,
they know not when they have enough.
These are the shepherds
who know no discretion;
Each of them goes his own way,
every one of them to his own gain:
(Isaiah 56:11)

He compares them with those who came back to Jerusalem for the right motives and have paid a price for it:

The just man perishes,
but no one takes it to heart;
Devout men are swept away,
with no one giving it a thought.
(Isaiah 57:1)

The just will, however, be rewarded:

Though he is taken away from the presence of evil,
the just man
enters into peace;
There is rest on his couch
for the sincere, straightforward man.
(Isaiah 57:1–2 )

But not by a mere tinkering with human power. Those who took the name Isaiah always experienced powerthe glory of Godemanating from the temple. Several months ago, we read the call of the first Isaiah in the temple:

“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts!”
they cried one to the other.
“All the earth is filled with his glory!”
At the sound of that cry, the frame of the door shook
and the house was filled with smoke.
(Isaiah 6:3–4)

This Isaiah tells his people:

Rise up in splendor! Your light has come,
the glory of the Lord shines upon you.
See, darkness covers the earth,
and thick clouds cover the peoples;
But upon you the LORD shines,
and over you appears his glory.
(Isaiah 60:1–2)

The Lord will powerfully enter into the world not to reform it, but to transform it:

Lo, I am about to create new heavens
and a new earth;
The things of the past shall not be remembered
or come to mind.
Instead, there shall always be rejoicing and happiness
in what I create;
For I create Jerusalem to be a joy
and its people to be a delight;

(Isaiah 65:17–18)

This will not be by magic, but by a change of heart that will be seen in true worship and religious practice:

This, rather, is the fasting that I wish:
releasing those bound unjustly,
untying the thongs of the yoke;
Setting free the oppressed,
breaking every yoke;
Sharing your bread with the hungry,
sheltering the oppressed and the homeless;
Clothing the naked when you see them,
and not turning your back on your own.
Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
and your wound shall quickly be healed;
Your vindication shall go before you,
and the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard
(Isaiah 58:6–8)

The Lord vindicates his people not only to show his power and his justice but to provide a true home for all people. Isaiah several times tells the people that they are to rebuild the temple and Jerusalem as a light to the nations. Isaiah 42:6, 49:6, 52:10 and 60:3 tells us as well:

And nations shall come to your light,
and kings to the brightness of your rising.

(Isaiah 60:3)

The section we read today is the final chapter of Isaiah and these themes are brought together very powerfully. The chapter begins with the Lord reminding the people that he is more powerful than they are and they cannot impress, much less intimidate him.

This is the one whom I approve:
the lowly and afflicted man who trembles at my word.
Merely slaughtering an ox is like slaying a man;
sacrificing a lamb, like breaking a dog’s neck;
Bringing a cereal offering, like offering swine’s blood;
burning incense, like paying homage to an idol.
Since these have chosen their own ways
and taken pleasure in their own abominations,
(Isaiah 66:2–3)

Worship without love, particularly for the poor and marginalized, is idolatry, the first and greatest sin.

Jerusalem, however, will be the mother of those who act justly. It will be a most miraculous birth:

Who ever heard of such a thing,
or saw the like?
Can a country be brought forth in one day,
or a nation be born in a single moment?
Yet Zion is scarcely in labor
when she gives birth to her children.
Shall I bring a mother to the point of birth,
and yet not let her child be born? says the LORD;
Or shall I who allow her to conceive,
yet close her womb? says your God.
(Isaiah 66:8–9)

This is where we begin today. Through Jerusalem, the Lord is offering us a personal relationship. Note that Jews and Catholics agree that our relationship with God is in through a community. The Jews call it the people, we call it the church. The passage does not however end here. Isaiah continues:

I come to gather nations of every language; they shall come and see my glory.
(Isaiah 66:18)

These Gentiles will be commissioned to bring the name of the Lord:

to the distant coastlands that have never heard of my fame, or seen my glory; and they shall proclaim my glory among the nations.
(Isaiah 66:19)

Some of these will even become priests:

Some of these I will take as priests and Levites, says the LORD.
As the new heavens and the new earth which I will make
Shall endure before me, says the LORD,
so shall your race and your name endure.
(Isaiah 66:21–22)

This is a very important passage for we of St Charles Borromeo. We are renovating our physical Church. In order that it be both functional and beautiful, we will spend a tremendous amount of time, effort, and money. How will we know if it was worth it? Practically, of course, if it completed satisfactorily, looks good, and doesn’t leak, but I think Isaiah is showing us that it will also be not only what we do in it but through it. Will we be a light beyond ourselves?