Homily – 4th Sunday of Lent (Fr. Smith)

 We modern people have difficulty accepting the black-and-white statements of Jesus. We pride ourselves on seeing the exceptions, the grey parts of life. Given the world’s present clumsy polarization, this is quite ironic and perhaps we can now acknowledge that Jesus has a particularly pertinent insight. He reveals who is good, bad, or ridiculous but perhaps we could better say who will be good, bad or ridiculous.

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Homily – 3rd Sunday of Lent (Fr. Smith)

Jesus enters a situation today of great discord and division and leaves one of peace and concord. Let us see how.

This community is broken in many ways with three particularly bad fractures.

The Jews and the Samaritans hated each other. Their enmity went back centuries. David’s kingdom was held together under Solomon but in 922 BC was divided between the 10 tribes of the North, Israel, and the two of the south, Judea. In 721 BC the Assyrians conquered the north, deported many of the inhabitants and resettled other people in Israel. They intermarried, accepted the worship of the LORD, and became known as the Samaritans. There was always friction between them and the Jews of Judea, but it became irrevocable when the Jews destroyed the Samaritan temple at Mt. Gerizim in 129 BC. (See footnote below)

Samaria was situated between Judea and Galilee but as the Samaritans were very hostile to Jews who would take a detour around it. Jesus however says that he “had” to pass through Samaria. This was not for practical reasons but in obedience to his earthly mission to make us one as he and the Father are one. (John 10:30) He knew it would be neither easy nor pleasant.  The first fracture was between Jews and Samaritans and Jesus confronts this intentionally and directly. It will not heal itself.

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Homily – 1st Sunday of Lent (Fr. Smith)

When Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt, he probably expected that they would march straight to the promised land and in due time conquer and settle it. The people had endured such horrors that they should be eager and determined to have their own nation. Yet within a few weeks, they complained about bad food, quarreled among themselves and some even plotted a return to Egypt. The biblical authors were very clear that the Israelites left Egypt not only because of brutal working conditions but attempted genocide. However, they discovered that freedom was difficult and the temptation to either misuse it or reject it was enticing. Jesus shows today that he understands freedom and can make us truly free.

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Homily – 7th Sunday Ordinary Time (Fr. Smith)

We might first think that seeking to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect is designed to frustrate us. How is that possible? The Father is God and without flaw or weakness. Another reaction might be relief. If perfection means doing all things well then it is clearly impossible for us and the Sermon on the Mount with its strange blessings and bewildering reversals of expectations contains just suggestions and perhaps a prospectus for the hereafter but is not meant to be seriously attempted.

 In both cases, we should pause for a moment. The good news of Jesus is for our own good both as a community and as individuals here and now. When I find that any part of the gospel seems irrelevant, I assume that I must dig deeper to understand. This is a great example. Translating the Greek word telos as perfect is not completely wrong but it is inadequate. It is better understood as “complete” or “whole“. The Father’s perfection is that he cares for all people, the whole of humanity. Our perfection must be the same, to love everyone. The two sections from the Sermon on the Mount which we read today are the most difficult but reveal why this is most necessary for individual completeness but more importantly for that of the church.

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Homily – 6th Sunday Ordinary Time (Fr. Smith)

The Biblical idea of Righteousness is a gift that keeps on giving. It has so many meanings that a preacher could give several homilies without repeating anything essential. Part of this is that several Hebrew words have been translated as one Greek word and this has eventually been translated into 2 English words righteousness and justification. To make it even more complicated they can be applied both to God and humanity. Yet the basic reason may be quite simple. Righteousness is about being in a good relationship with God, and human language; even inspired, will always be left wanting. Righteousness is both too broad and too deep.

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Homily – 5th Sunday Ordinary Time (Fr. Smith)

To examine the readings of today’s Mass I will begin and end with personal anecdotes. The first is somewhat banal, the second decidedly unflattering but both are highly instructive.

At an informal gathering of priests, I asked, “Who would notice if your parish were to disappear overnight?” We first gave obvious if somewhat facetious answers: our vendors and UPS carriers. We then got more serious and remembering that the church teaches the preferential option for the poor and marginalized, added food pantries, 12-step meetings, and a neighborhood senior drop-in center. I added a community organizing effort. All of these are good, and much more could be added but we quickly realized that to have an effect a parish must be more than the sum of its parts or the number of its committees.

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