St Bartholomew, Apostle

saint-bartholomewAn Israelite in Whom There Is No Deceit

Today we celebrate the life and ministry of the Apostle Bartholomew, also called Nathanael. Little is know of him. We do know that he recognized Jesus as the Son of God from the beginning and that Jesus, Himself, testified to his good character. Reading from today’s Gospel of John:

Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” And he said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”   (John 1:45-51)

Bartholomew was a person of integrity. He was able to deal openly and honestly. He was willing to follow Jesus without a great deal of persuasion, no matter the cos. For these reasons, Jesus was able to prophecy that extraordinary things would take place in his life and ministry.

Nevertheless, there was a cost for Bartholomew for having been chosen. The Apostle Paul spells out some of this cost in his First Epistle to the Corinthians:

I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, as though sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels and to mortals. We are fools for the sake of Christ, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute. To the present hour we are hungry and thirsty, we are poorly clothed and beaten and homeless, and we grow weary from the work of our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we speak kindly. We have become like the rubbish of the world, the dregs of all things, to this very day.   (1 Corinthians 4:9-13)
God gave to Bartholomew the grace to believe and to preach His Word under all circumstances. He travelled extensively as a missionary. Many miracles were attributed to his ministry. Tradition has it that Bartholomew was martyred for the Faith. Our prayer for the Church today is that we may recognize the Messiah, as Bartholomew did, and follow through on our calling. As Bartholomew, are we willing to pay any price?

Leave a comment

Filed under Feast Day, Holy Day, homily, Jesus, lectionary, liturgical preaching, liturgy, Pentecost, preaching, Revised Common Lectionary, sermon, sermon preparation, St. Bartholomew, Year B

Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 15B

Track 1: Asking for Wisdom

1 Kings 2:10-12; 3:3-14
Psalm 111
Ephesians 5:15-20
John 6:51-58

The psalmist wrote:

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;
those who act accordingly have a good understanding;
his praise endures for ever.   (Psalm 111:10)

Without an appreciation and reverence for the wisdom of God and his understanding, we may not realize that limitations of our human wisdom and knowledge. As Solomon began his reign on the throne of his father David, he understood that he needed help.

In a dream God came to him and asked what he could do for Solomon. From 1 Kings we read:

At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream by night; and God said, “Ask what I should give you.” And Solomon said, “You have shown great and steadfast love to your servant my father David, because he walked before you in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart toward you; and you have kept for him this great and steadfast love, and have given him a son to sit on his throne today. And now, O Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David, although I am only a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. And your servant is in the midst of the people whom you have chosen, a great people, so numerous they cannot be numbered or counted. Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil; for who can govern this your great people?”   (1 Kings 3:5-14)

Solomon lacked wisdom to govern the people but he was wise enough to understand that.  He needed God’s wisdom. Is that true for us or are we capable of going it alone? It would seem that many people are going along today. Or their thinking and understanding may be governed by what they are hearing other people are saying. Satan knows how to sow disinformation and lies. What the world is saying is not what God’s Word is saying.

In the Book of James we read:

If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you. But ask in faith, never doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind; for the doubter, being double-minded and unstable in every way, must not expect to receive anything from the Lord.   (James 1:5-8)

God is generous in sharing his wisdom when we ask him, as he did for Solomon. But Satan not only sows disinformation and lies, he also sows doubt. Does God even exist? If so, does he even care? Three is a sea of doubt all around us. If we are not careful, it will toss us to and fro. All of us have doubt, but it comes unbelief when we do not feed on the word Of God, but on the propaganda of this age.

The Apostle Paul warned:

Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil. So do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.   (Ephesians 5:15-17)

How we live will be determined by our spiritual intake. What is our spiritual diet today? Are we feeding on the Word of God? How about the body and blood of Jesus? Are we feeding on him on a regular basis? In today’s Gospel we read:

The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” So Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever.”

This is not a time for disputing and doubting. We are living in a critical and difficult time. We need the full nourishment of God. Otherwise, we will surely be tossed about. God the Father wants so much to share his wisdom with us. Jesus wants us so much to feed on him. Let us acknowledge our need for God and let us return to him with all our hearts. Amen.

 

 

 

Track 2: An Invitation from God 

Proverbs 9:1-6
Psalm 34:9-14
Ephesians 5:15-20
John 6:51-58

God is calling us. Do we hear him? He says:

“Come, eat of my bread
and drink of the wine I have mixed.
Lay aside immaturity, and live,
and walk in the way of insight.”   (Proverbs 9:5-6)

God is offering us a great feast. He is that great feast. We have nothing to do but come. Through the Prophet Isaiah God offered this invitation:

Ho, everyone who thirsts,
    come to the waters;
and you that have no money,
    come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
    without money and without price.   (Isaiah 55:1)

Jesus was in Jerusalem with his disciples for the Festival of Booths. He gave out this invitation to all:

On the last day of the festival, the great day, while Jesus was standing there, he cried out, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, ‘Out of the believer’s heart[l] shall flow rivers of living water.’”    (John 7:37-38)

Are we ready for the great day of the Lord? Are we ready to eat the food that Jesus has prepared for us?

Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever.”   (John 6:53-58)

Clearly Jesus is talking about the Holy Communion or Eucharist. This meal is a foretaste of the heavenly banquet we will be experiencing with Christ as the redeemed of the Lord. We have eternal life through our faith in the Lord Jesus. That life, however, begins now.

God’s invitation for his heavenly banquet has already gone out. He has invited us to join him in Holy Communion which is preparation for the heavenly banquet. Jesus said: “Do this in remembrance of me.” Whenever we partake of the Communion we are reminded of the unconditional love and mercy of Christ, and his great sacrifice for us on the cross. It is the love of Christ that constrains us from doing wrong. We need to be reminded often.

We remember the parable that Jesus told about the wedding banquet. Some of the people who were invited were just too busy or distracted to come. Is that us? God offers us an invitation but he cannot make us come. He is continually calling us. God does not give up on us. Jesus said that he would never leave us or forsake us.

Nonetheless, at the end of the Book of Revelation we have this final reminder of God’s invitation:

The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.”
And let everyone who hears say, “Come.”
And let everyone who is thirsty come.
Let anyone who wishes take the water of life as a gift.   (Revelation 22:17)

Are we hungry for God? Our we thirsty for God? Our daily diet today will help determine what  our eternal celebration will be.

Leave a comment

Filed under homily, Jesus, lectionary, liturgical preaching, liturgy, Pentecost, preaching, Revised Common Lectionary, sermon, sermon preparation, Year B

Saint Mary the Virgin

Il_Sassoferrato_-_Madonna_with_the_Christ_Child_-_WGA20874Faith in God’s Promises

The prophets of old foretold the Messiah and His ministry, but who could grasp all that they were saying?

Who has believed our message
and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?
He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.
Like one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.  (Isaiah 53:1-3)

Mary understood that God had made promises to Abraham and she believed that He would keep them. She lived through terrible circumstances but never gave up her hope and trust in the Lord. Her God was full of love and mercy. Her reverence and humility before God are without question.

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.
For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant;
For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed.
For He who is mighty has done great things for me,
And holy is His name.
And His mercy is on those who fear Him
From generation to generation.
He has shown strength with His arm;
He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He has put down the mighty from their thrones,
And exalted the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
And the rich He has sent away empty.
He has helped His servant Israel,
In remembrance of His mercy,
As He spoke to our fathers,
To Abraham and to his seed forever.”   (Luke 1:46-55)

Mary did not always fully grasp the ministry of her son, however. We cannot fault her for that. There was no one ever like Jesus, either before or since. As the prophet Simeon foretold, her heart would be pierced and she would gain a greater understanding.

“Indeed, this child is destined to cause the fall and rise of many in Israel and to be a sign that will be opposed— and a sword will pierce your own soul—that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”  (Luke 2:34-35)

Our hearts must be pierced also if we are to understand the ministry and message of Jesus. How closely we follow Jesus in our lives will telegraph what we truly believe. Will we go the distance with Him as did His mother Mary? Mary was at the cross when most of Jesus’ disciples fled. She could not turn away. Her love for God was so great. She walked in the steps of Abraham who was willing to sacrifice his own son if that were required by God.

What is our witness today? Are we highly favored of God? We may not understand all that is going on. We may not fully grasp the miracle that God is working out. Nonetheless, we can still believe and trust in the promises of God as did Mary. Let us pray for grace to endure the pain while eagerly anticipating our Lord’s victory with patience and endurance? Mary did this and so much more. Her enduring faith and courage has inspired the Church down to this day.

SaveSave

SaveSave

3 Comments

Filed under Feast Day, Holy Day, homily, Jesus, lectionary, liturgical preaching, liturgy, Pentecost, preaching, Revised Common Lectionary, Saint Mary, sermon, sermon preparation, Virgin Mary, Year B