Richard S. Vosko

Musings on religion, art and architecture


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5/15/11-Homily-What Do We Do Now?


4 Easter A – May 15, 2011 – What Do We Do Now?

World Day of Vocations & International Conscientious Objectors Day

Acts 2:14a, 36-41, Psalm 23:1-3a,3b4,5,6, 1 Peter 2:20b-25, John 10:1-10

Complete New American Bible texts for today

Lance Armstrong was one of the greatest athletes ever to ride a bicycle. Leading his team to many victories, Armstrong once said, you do not have to be in front of the pack to be a good leader. Although the scriptures say so, experts tell us that shepherds do not walk in front of their flocks. Rather they walk behind or in the midst of the sheep, nudging them in the right direction, talking to them, keeping an eye on all of them. [1]

This morning all eyes are on our young sisters and brothers who are going to share in the Eucharistic banquet with us for the first time. In doing so they take another step in becoming active members in the church, the very body of Christ they are about to receive. Soon they will grow to take their place as leaders in our church.

A traditional interpretation of today’s readings suggests we are sheep. When we get disoriented and stray off course the good shepherd, Jesus Christ, leaves the flock to find us, calls out our names, and brings us back into the sheepfold — a euphemism for the word “church.”

In the gospel Jesus refers to himself not only as a shepherd but also a gateway. Guided by Christ, our goal is Christ. The mythologist Joseph Campbell described the doors to every sacred place as life changing portals. Once you pass through the threshold anything is possible on the other side: sickness gives way to health, loneliness finds companionship, yearnings are satisfied, even death is dispelled by eternal life. That is what we are, that is what we do. The people of God welcome and offer each other unthinkable possibilities, innumerable choices for living, all because of the presence of God in our midst.

In the first reading it sounds like Peter is blaming the sheep for turning against the shepherd, the very one sent by God to be the savior of all. [2] The disciples respond with a question that you and I could ask today. OK. What are we to do now? Peter replies. Immerse yourself in your faith, use the strength of your gifts and act in peaceful and humble ways to dispel all evil. Do we all have to do this?

Some writers think the second reading from Peter is a reference, however vague, only to the leaders, the shepherds, of the early church. It reminds them to be patient as they follow in the footsteps of Jesus. However, we know today that leadership in the church is intended to be far more collegial and not reserved to our clergy only. This is why the church calls women and men, who are not ordained, to be leaders. All baptized members are called to help one another advance the kin-dom of God on earth.

During this Easter season we ponder what it means to be members of God’s household. However, with due respect to the bible, we are not exactly like sheep. We can think responsibly, we can decide what to do and where to go in our lives. As Easter people we recall and recommit ourselves to the mission and message of Christ. We grow in our identity as shepherds in the world.

A good bicycle team works together. It is inspired by the desire and strength of the leader who in turn must rely on the team in order to win. What are we to do now? Help each other get to the finish line and through the golden gate.

___

1 Pilch, John. The Cultural World of Jesus, Sunday by Sunday, Cycle A (Collegeville: Liturgical Press) 1995, 76-78.

2 Reginald H. Fuller and Daniel Westberg. Preaching the Lectionary: The Word of God for the Church Today. Third Edition (Collegevile: Liturgical Press) 2006, 86-88


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5/8/11-Homily-Easter is a Defining Time


The Third Sunday of Easter A – May 8, 2011 – Easter is a Defining Time

Acts 2:14, 22-23, Psalm 16:1-2,5,7-11, 1 Peter 1:17-21, Luke 24:13-35

Complete New American Bible texts for today

A storybook wedding. Devastating tornadoes and floods. A papal beatification. A terrorist killed. These recent major news stories remind us that we live in a world of saints and sinners, where nothing is taken for granted, and where dreams can come true.

These headlines however are subplots to the major story in this church this morning. Some of our young brothers and sisters will be sharing in the Eucharistic banquet for the first time. This sacramental event happily occurs on a day that celebrates motherhood. It also takes place in a month that honors Mary. Pope Benedict said in his sermon at the beatification of John Paul II, she is “the Mother to whom Jesus entrusted each of his disciples and the entire community.”

In today’s gospel we walk with the followers of Jesus who were overwhelmed by his tragic execution. They had hoped he was the one who would save Israel. Puzzled by the empty tomb they wondered what would happen to them next. They did not realize it was Jesus who came up behind them on the path. Only later, during the evening meal, did they come to recognize him in the breaking of the bread, a term used by the early church to describe what we call the Eucharist.

So often, like the disciples, we do not recognize the presence of Christ in our midst because we are either consumed by our own to do lists or distracted by happenings in the world. What we can miss are sacramental moments — mysterious engagements with God — something that society is desperately searching for. Sometimes we forget that in our daily routines the Creator does not abandon us, that the risen Christ still walks among us and that the holy Spirit guides us along the way.

However, these spiritual notions are affected by real current events which can change our attitudes. They wake us up, remind us of who we are and what we are called to do. For example, some of those who lost loved ones in terrorist attacks, or were harmed themselves, are celebrating pride and joy over the death of a callous criminal. Others are able to step back, to pause for a moment, to say there must be alternative, peaceful ways to face such evil. As college student Liz Martinez said about the death of Osama bin Laden, “We should not let this moment define us, but let it inspire us to craft a better definition of ourselves.” [1]

Good thing Easter lasts for fifty days all the way up to Pentecost. It gives us ample time to reflect on the meaning of our liturgical events and how they help us redefine ourselves. This is what a responsible church community does. Our ritual making puts us in touch with what is mystical and what is real. The proclamation of biblical stories, the taste of good wine and fresh bread, the companionship of families and friends are the holy things that keep us watchful and hopeful in an unpredictable world. They are the reminders of what we do as a people of God and what our perspective on domestic and global issues might be.

Welcoming our children to the table of the Lord on this Mother’s Day is a festive reminder that we are constantly nourished by a God who, like a mother, feeds and cuddles her children. Each time we eat and drink from this holy table we experience the tender embrace of Christ. When we leave the altar bearing Christ we, like Mary the Mother of God [2], bring comfort and joy to others. These are the acts that define us.

***

1 “A Defining Moment for Young America” in the Chicago Post-Tribune. http://posttrib.suntimes.com/news/5170791-418/a-defining-moment-for-young-america.html

2  In Eastern Christianity Mary is frequently referred to as “theotokos.” This Greek word means “God bearer.”