Many of us maintain a fairly childish and naïve imagine of Jesus that we have carried over from childhood into our adult years and we have never sought to grow in our understanding or allowed the image to change into the true picture given us by scripture. We prefer the childish notion of gentle Jesus, meek and mild to the image of a sometimes harsh and grumpy Jesus pictured in today’s gospel.
Jesus is on his final journey to Jerusalem. He knows what fate awaits him. He understands the cost of obedience to his Father, he understands the cost of discipleship and his mission.
So when Jesus confronts a couple of prospective disciples on the road, each professing that they will follow him …… Oh, but first we have a few reservations …… a few different priorities ……
“I will follow you wherever you go…..let me go and bury my father first…..let me go and say goodbye to my people at home.”
Jesus is harsh in his rebuke.
“Leave the dead to bury their dead …… no one who looks back is fit for the kingdom of God …… “
Jesus spits it out like venom – and there is no way of dressing this up as gentle Jesus meek and mild.
I confronted a few prospective disciples on the road recently. You can see their faces on the front page of the newsletter – about forty-five of them celebrating their first communion plus their parents who have pledged to bring them up in the faith and the community of the Church.
They were wonderful celebrations but where are they today? What are the excuses? Why can I count on one hand those who have returned this weekend to give thanks to God for the gift of Communion and join their sisters and brothers in Christ in celebrating Eucharist.
In my homily at the First Communion Masses, I no doubt sounded like the grumpy old Jesus in today’s gospel because I confronted them. Like Jesus in the gospel I doubt I won any points in the popularity stakes.
I spoke of the power of symbols. In particular, the symbol of dressing up first communion candidates as though they were off to a wedding. And the symbol is real. In communion we share in the wedding banquet of Christ. We are united with Jesus in Eucharist as one flesh, one body. Our participation in the Eucharist is pregnant with the symbolism of marriage, its unity, its self-giving, its obligations its responsibilities, its bearing and giving birth to real fruits – of faith, of hope, of love.
But I dared to ask if this was just a one-night stand or is it a real commitment to Jesus – our partner into eternity – our Lord and Saviour – to whom we have vowed ourselves in life long unity and commitment.
I confronted them with the fact that the engagement period prior to the wedding banquet was a bit of a farce. The preparation or engagement period, except for a few faithful exceptions, lacked any engagement with Jesus at the Eucharist and lacked any engagement with you – their parish family – their brothers and sisters in Christ. I could only hope and pray that after the first communion, after the wedding feast, there might be some commitment to this relationship to Christ and his family to which we are all vowed and pledged in love.
Today’s gospel is a reminder to all of us that our communion and our discipleship, that call to follow Christ, is a summons to turn away from all those things that take priority over our commitment to Jesus.
Such is the unity of those bound to Christ in communion that if only one person is missing from the altar, on any given Sunday morning, then, in a mystical way, the whole family is diminished. It's like the family Christmas dinner and the eldest child, having left home, is missing for the first time. The whole celebration has lost something.
So it is here. None of us are indispensable, the show will always go on without us, life will go on without us, but because we are called by God and grafted into his body, we the Church in this place, are less than whole when we absent ourselves from the celebration, from the mission, from the wedding banquet, from the call to serve.
We, like the first disciples, are called to follow. We may not all be asked to turn our back on our families, turn our back on our dead. But without a doubt there is a cost to our discipleship and that cost is likely to be something that we dread giving up, or being separated from.
Christ is calling each of us but
we must have the ears to hear, to listen with the ear of the heart, so that we
may indeed hear and respond with love to this most urgent of calls, "Come, follow me!" Then we may
become the salt of the earth and the faithful ministers of the gospel - the
Good News – to others. It may take a little sacrifice and commitment to answer
the call to follow but at the break of the new day there is always a new dawn
and the resurrection to new life.
Download Homily HERE
Homily Corpus Christi
Fr. Bill Edebohls
Is it possible to actually drag the future into the present? Jesus certainly believed so, and did so with meals.
One of the Jewish symbols of Heaven was a great banquet – a wonderful feast.
And Jesus would every so often host a meal which anticipated the future, a wonderful future, a meal which promised ‘There will be fulfilment in the future’, and actually brought that future into the present.
He was, He is, Master of the Universe of space and time. For Him, through Him, it was possible to bring the future life of Heaven and the end of history into the present moment.
The feeding of the five thousand in today’s gospel is one of those anticipatory sharings in the banquet of the age to come.
We say this feeding is miraculous, and it was. But the major transformation was not in loaves and fishes - no - the important part of the miracle is in the transformation of the Twelve Apostles.
Jesus did not personally feed the five thousand. He required his followers to get involved in alleviating hunger: ‘You give them something to eat.’ They were quite happy to leave the crowd to fend for themselves, to send them off home, or resort to market economics.
But when they shared the food they had - shared the gifts and resources they had - shared what Jesus had blessed, the miracle of the hospitality of God was multiplied throughout the crowd – extravagantly.
And so Our Lord gave his followers and the crowd a real taste of that future generosity of God towards humankind which we can symbolise as a heavenly banquet.
But, it would not have happened had the disciples not shared Jesus’ vision and got involved in what seemed to be an impossible task.
Of course, the Last Supper was the greatest anticipatory meal which Our Lord shared with his disciples.
And, at Mass, after invoking the Holy Spirit and using the words of Jesus at that supper, we have a real sharing in the future.
When we eat the heavenly bread and drink the spiritual drink, we are eating and drinking the life of the Risen Lord in glory, the glorified humanity of our Risen Lord Jesus Christ. The life of the future.
And then? And then we must do as the Twelve were directed to do. We must go to alleviate the hunger of the world – the hungers of the world: ‘You give them something to eat!’
And there is a myriad of hungers in the world: for food, for companionship, for friendship, for justice, for shelter, for asylum and refuge, for education and knowledge, for faith, for work with dignity, for love - and the list goes on. We are called by Jesus, having ourselves been fed here at the altar, to go out and identify those hungers and then fulfil Our Lord's Command: ‘You give them something to eat’!
Can you be what you eat and drink? For this is not just a meal for our nourishing - not just a meal to imagine or anticipate the eternal feast of heaven.
Each time we share this meal - each time we receive Christ’s body and blood in Communion we are asking God to make us Christ’s body and blood. We agree to stand with the powerless, stand with the hungry, stand with those who suffer injustice, stand with the unloved and be Christ’s bread for them.
This all started when Jesus shared bread and wine with his companions and then gave his life. This motley crew of disciples continued breaking bread, sharing the cup and giving their lives. The cycle has continued across the generations and the centuries to this day and includes all those ordinary people you know who give themselves as ‘bread and drink’ to people who need them.
It’s not magic - but it is miraculous. We still make a lot of mistakes along our pilgrim journey and fail to be the bread of Christ to others. But the connection is clear. On this feast of Corpus Christi, the Body and Blood of Christ, ask for new strength to be what you eat and drink – for others! As St. Augustine said: “Be what you receive, and receive what you are.”
And in doing so drag the future into the
present - drag the Kingdom of God into the present moment that you touch with
your life, with your words, with your love - the life of Christ in you.
Download Homily HERE
Homily for Trinity Sunday
Fr. Bill Edebohls
One of our teachers asked her grade to paint something of their own choosing. All the children got busy about the project they had been given. As the teacher walked around she noticed Madelaine was particularly focused on her painting. ‘What are you painting Madelaine?’ asked the teacher. ‘I'm painting God’ replied Madelaine. ‘Well that must be difficult because no one knows what God looks like’ replied the teacher. At which Madelaine stopped, looked up and confidently announced, ‘well they will when I'm finished.’
The names Christians give to God – Father, Son and Spirit – are both ancient and important. But we should never think they exhaust the possibilities of God's reality. Creator, mother, lover, redeemer, saviour, sanctifier, friend - all go some way to help us put words around our experience of our God, who is more and beyond all names we can possibly use.
Similarly in the Islamic tradition the names of God: the merciful, the compassionate, the just judge, the forgiver, the resurrecter - attempt to paint us a picture of what God is like - or teach us something of the nature of God.
The naming of God, however, is an important, but secondary focus to today's feast of the Holy Trinity. There are two other aspects to this feast day that are more central.
The first is that the Trinity declares that relationships are at the very centre of God. We believe that the Father, Son and Spirit are in full communion, communication and relationship with each other at all times, in all places. The picture painted by today’s feast reveals a God who is both one and a community - a community of love.
To know Jesus is to know the Father and the Spirit and vice versa. They are one. This special relationship also indicates to us that nothing should matter more in our lives than our relationships with one another. To be like the God we profess is to commit ourselves to our relationships, in whatever form our varied relationships take on. To work hard on our relationships is, for a Christian, to touch the divine. Our relationships are called to be an image of the divine relationship of the Trinity.
The second extraordinary thing we celebrate today is that the Father invites us into this loving relationship with Him, Jesus and the Spirit. What is especially consoling about this is that we are the only world religion that believes our God took on our humanity - in the flesh. So through Jesus' life, teaching, compassion and sacrificial love we not only discover who he is, but, at one and the same time, we find out what God and the Spirit are like.
Some people think themselves unworthy of such invitation. Others argue they have to be a better person to deserve such an offer. While both of these responses to God's invitation are understandable, they fail to take into account that in Jesus we have been made worthy of God's love and if we are waiting to get to a certain level of goodness to deserve God's love, we will wait forever.
God invites us into the compassionate embrace of the Trinity where we are and as we are, here and now, so that we can become all that God knows we can be. We don't have to get good to get God. We have to get God before we can get good.
Let's not be like the child preparing for Confirmation who once said to me, ‘The feast of the Trinity is all about that old man, his son and that weird bird.’
this Trinity Sunday let's celebrate the intimacy and dignity to which we are
called by signing ourselves with the focus of our love – Father, Son and Holy
Spirit - and painting an image of God not with brush and paint - but with our
words and deeds and with the mercy, love and compassion we pour into our
relationships - so that in our lives and in our relationships others may truly
see a painting that reveals the Trinity - a community - three persons - One
Download Homily HERE