Homily for the 5th Sunday of Easter, Year B: God is Greater than our Hearts

May 5, 2012


Acts 9:26-31; Ps 22:26-27, 28, 30, 31-32; 1 Jn 3:18-24; Jn 15:1-8

There’s a verse in today’s second reading that hints at the depth of healing that Christ makes possible: “[I]n whatever our hearts condemn … God is greater than our hearts and knows everything” (1 Jn 3:19b-20a).  Sometimes we get so used to cadences of biblical language, that it’s easy to overlook the depth of the mystery being expressed.

The first remarkable feature of this verse is surely this: it speaks of the heart as the origin of a certain kind of condemnation.  What could this mean?  Nowadays we use the heart to refer strictly to our emotions—and usually to out positive emotions.  We often oppose the “heart” to the “head,” and we describe compassionate and generous people as having “big hearts.”  In Scripture, though, the word is broader and deeper: it is the source of bad emotions as well as good; it is the seat of our cravings, the organ of our private thoughts, the storehouse of our memories.

The condemnation of the heart, understood biblically, can consequently refer to “accusations” that originate from a place deeper than our own thinking and willing. Read the rest of this entry »

Homily for the 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B: World Day for the Sick

February 12, 2012


Lv 13:1-2, 44-46; Ps 32:1-2, 5, 11; 1 Cor 10:31-11:1; Mk 1:40-45

If you wish, you can make me clean …”

This 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time also marks The World Day of the Sick.  And whether by chance or by design, today’s Gospel passage perfectly suits the occasion.  In the episode of the miraculous cure of the leper, we receive both 1) a model for approaching Jesus when sick or in material need, and 2) a beautiful portrait of Jesus’ compassionate response.  All of which naturally leads us 3) to seek in Jesus the response to our “unanswered” prayers.

1) With respect to approaching God in prayer, the leper models for us a delicate balance between boldness and surrender.  The leper is bold in making known his real needs and in professing Christ’s power—“You can make me clean.”  At the same time, the conditional statement that precedes the request hints at an even deeper surrender to God’s will—“If you wish …”  The leper respects the fact that Jesus is not simply vending machine for miracles: He is a person in his own right, his own mysterious will, designs and plans.  “If you wish …”

Scripture everywhere recommends both boldness and deeper surrender in prayer. Read the rest of this entry »