Friday, August 06, 2010

Fr. Wells' bulletin inserts

Trinity X

Concerning the Epistle.

In today's first reading we continue with I Corinthians, from a passage dealing with spiritual gifts. Paul lists there numerous gifts within the community of the faithful (a community he goes so far as to describe as “the Body of Christ”). But as these various gifts are listed, there is a test implied: gifts which build up the Body of Christ are truly gifts of the Holy Spirit, but any so-called “gifts” which divide or disturb the Body come from a very different source. Paul wishes us to discern carefully those gifts which are truly of the Holy Spirit.

The fundamental gift is the gift of faith. “No man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.” In that sentence Paul was alluding to the earliest form of the Christian Creed, “Jesus is Lord.” It is a breath-taking fact that in certain religious circles, these days, this simple affirmation is rejected as a “sexist” statement, the word “Lord” being regarded as insulting or demeaning to females.

But even in Paul's time the word “Lord” was controversial. This word, Kyrios in Greek, was the word used to translate “Yahweh” in the Old Testament. When early Christians affirmed as their creed “Jesus is Lord,” they were saying “Jesus is God.” This was exactly the reason that the high priest and Sanhedrin attempted to suppress the preaching of Peter and the Apostles in Acts; the declaration that Jesus is God was outrageous to them.

When the pagan Romans or Greeks heard the word “Kyrios,” they thought of the Roman emperor, who in fact was beginning to call himself Divine. The assertion that “Jesus is Lord” sounded distinctly political, in a subversive sort of way. The emperors were always on the look-out for rivals seeking to dethrone them. A new sect which professed “Jesus is Lord” naturally drew the negative attention of worldly powers.

So the simple Creed of the Christians, offensive to both Jews and Gentiles alike, could never be in Paul's world a sentimental platitude or empty slogan. Declaring the Lordship of Jesus Christ was risking one's life, declaring oneself to be Jesus' slave, placing oneself totally at Jesus' disposal.

That sort of declaration does not come about through cheap emotionalism or by a purely human decision. It comes as the miraculous gift of God the Holy Ghost. All who have faith in Jesus, who are enabled to submit to Him as Lord of their lives, truly have the greatest of all spiritual gifts LKW

And the Gospel for the Day.

Trinity Season is mostly devoted to Our Lord's ministry of teaching, though parables, preaching, and miracles (unlike the other half of the year, which sets forth the mighty deeds of His Incarnation, Passion and Exaltation). Therefore, today's Gospel passage, from Luke 19, coming almost exactly in the middle of the "second semester" is striking because it presents a painful picture from Palm Sunday, Jesus weeping over the city of Jerusalem. So here we have a glimpse back into Holy Week.

Jerusalem, associated with David the King and the Temple he built, is a Biblical symbol of the Church which Our Savior established to be His Body on earth. But lest we fall into the Old Testament error of seeing our "Jerusalem" in grandiose terms, we have the warning Jesus uttered here. Jerusalem, the Temple, and the Church we cherish as our spiritual Mother, are all under judgment, "because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation."

Jerusalem failed to recognize the presence of God, as God was incarnate in Jesus Christ. Matthew tells us that when Jesus had entered into the city, the whole city was stirred up and asked, "Who is this?" Luke relates how He spelled out the tragedy of their ignorance.

Jesus has the habit of coming suddenly and unexpectedly. For all the prophetic preparation God has made, men's hearts are still hard and unready to receive Him. We treat His coming in Word and Sacrament as a routine matter, nothing remarkable. Perhaps we do not expect Him to come at all.

But come He does, in Sermon and Eucharist, and in the face of our neighbor.

Usually this episode is interpreted in terms of the justified anger Jesus felt over the corruption of the Temple (which, by the way) He claimed by calling it "my house." Luke, however, stresses not anger but grief. Jesus approaching the holy city weeps over it. We are told elsewhere in Luke (13:34) that on another occasion He said, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those that are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not." This anguished disappointment of Jesus was later mentioned in Hebrews 5:7, "In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears to him who was able to save him from death."

He still loves us, as much as He loved Jerusalem and as much as He loved the temple "where He taught daily." Pray that He will not weep over us for not knowing the time of our visitation, the moment of His presence. LKW

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