Homily – Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

A long time ago, when I was in college, a group of us decided to go on a trip to climb one of the White Mountains. We rented a cabin and got an early start in the morning. I soon learned that I was not in shape for mountain climbing! I soon learned that I was not in shape for mountain climbing! I sat down on a rock outcropping, and told my companions to go own ahead, I would wait for them when they came back down. My classmates were not going to allow it. They literally dragged me up to the summit! And what a view awaited us, the beauty of the White Mountains range, it was breathtaking, it was a spiritual experience.

In the first reading, the prophet Isaiah is revealing a special mountain, the mountain of the Lord of the hosts. He calls on the people to climb the mountain, to reach the summit, and experience the joy of the Lord. There is promise of healing, the promise of a feast! Something like the feast Jesus described in his parable about the king and the wedding feast. He tells of a powerful king who is having a wedding feast for his son. He invites the important people of his kingdom to come, but they “diss” the king, they insult him by not coming. The king makes those people pay for their insults. And he then calls the common folk to come to the feast.

Many writers of the spiritual life use the metaphor of one climbing the mountain of the Lord, striving reach the summit. Climbing a mountain can be hard, very hard some. The same with striving to live the Gospel, it can be hard, full of challenges spiritually! Some of us may not bother, just stay where we are, live where we are. But if we open our hearts to the Holy Spirit, we can feel the pull to move on, we will have Jesus walking besides us helping us forward. Every moment we take the time to read and reflect on Scripture; every moment we enter into prayer, every time we come here to worship, to receive the Eucharist and experience intimately the presence of the Lord; we continue the journey upward, towards the summit. There have been those who gone before us, some living, some deceased, who have recorded the experience of their own climb, who can teach, but mostly inspire us onward. Jesus Christ, the King, calls out to us, “Behold, I have prepared my banquet, everything is ready, come to the feast!”

Good Friday in Beverly – 2015

TGood Friday Crosshis is the first chance I have had to write some reflections on part of what I have been doing during this Holy Week, 2015.  Yesterday, Good Friday, I assisted at the service that was held at St. Margaret of Scotland parish in Beverly, MA.  The small church was built in the late 1800’s, and has a very unique design.  The interior has a dark wood ceiling, which sort of adds to the solemnity of the liturgy we were about to celebrate.

The Good Friday service commemorates the Passion and Death of Jesus Christ, it is the most solemn liturgy held during Holy Week.  Wearing red colored vestments, the Pastor and I silently processed into the church.  Entering the sanctuary, Father, I and the cantor kneeled in the sanctuary, and the service began with readings from Scripture.  I, the cantor, and our music director chanted the Passion of Jesus Christ according to the Gospel of John.  After the prayers of the faithful, I went to the rear of the church, picked up a plain wooden cross, and began to process down the main aisle, back to the sanctuary.  I stopped three times; each time intoning: “Behold the wood of the Cross, on which hung the Savior of the world!” to which the congregation responded: “Come let us worship.”  After Father and I had each venerated the Cross, members from the congregation came forwarded to also venerate it.  Some kissed the wood, others knelt and touched it, and others just bowed before it.  When everyone had come forward, Father and I set the Cross on a side altar, with two candles on either side.  A communion service followed, then Father and I processed out and we did in, in silence.

After greeting members of the Catholic community as they left the church, I went back in; back to the side altar with the Cross.  As I stood, looking at that bare wooden Cross, it came to me, how an instrument of public execution, has become a symbol of triumph, Christ’s triumph of death.  I think though we forget what suffering Jesus went through, for us, for our salvation.  We need to recall what was written by the prophet Isaiah:

“Because of his affliction he shall see the light in fullness of days; through his suffering, my servant shall justify many and their guilt he shall bear.  Therefore I will give him his portion among the great, and he shall divide the spoils with the mighty, because he surrendered himself to death and was counted among the wicked; and he shall take away the sins of many, and win pardon for their offenses.”  (Isaiah 52)

Tonight, we commemorate, we celebrate Jesus Christ victory over sin and death; we celebrate the peace and joy that is still being experienced by so many of us.