Homily for Laetare Sunday, Year B: Recovering our Lost Sabbaths

March 18, 2012


2 Chr 36:14-16, 19-23; Ps 137:1-2, 3, 4-5, 6; Eph 2:4-10; Jn 3:14-21

I’d like to speak this Laetare Sunday about sloth, one of the seven capital sins.  Sloth fits the occasion for two reasons: 1) it’s suggested by today’s readings, and 2) it may be the sin where there is the widest gap between the popular understanding (laziness or lack of ambition) and the Church’s understanding (spiritual sadness).

1)  The theme in the readings that sloth touches on is the sin of the “lost sabbaths.”  According to 2 Chronicles, God permitted Israel’s exile in order “to fulfill the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah:  ‘Until the land has retrieved its lost sabbaths,/ during all the time it lies waste it shall have rest/ while seventy years are fulfilled.’”  God had commanded Israel to keep not only a Sabbath day, but a Sabbath year.  Every seventh year, the land was supposed to “rest” in the Lord, to lay fallow and uncultivated (Lev 25:2).  Apparently, Israel had been working their land during the Sabbath years, and God was not pleased that they were not resting.  Israel, according to the popular understand, was not being “slothful” enough.  Strange.

2)  Something stranger still: the great Christian tradition classifies sloth as a sin against the Sabbath command (ST II-II 36.3).  Here it becomes clear how far the Christian understanding of sloth is from the popular notion of laziness. Read the rest of this entry »

Homily for the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God: A God Who Has a Name

January 1, 2012


Nm 6:22-27; Gal 4:4-7; Lk 2:16-21

For the folks at Gesù in Miami …

Jan. 1, the octave day of Christmas, is a bit of a liturgical casserole.  Presently we call it the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God.  At different points in history, however, New Year’s Day has also marked the feasts of the Circumcision of Christ and of the Holy Name of Jesus.  We still see all three ingredients in the Gospel, for example, which features Mary’s role as mother, Christ’s circumcision, and the giving of the name Jesus.  Surprisingly, however, it’s the theme of the Holy Name that ties together all our readings.  In the reading from the Book of Numbers, for instance, God teaches the priests to call upon His name, saying, “So shall they invoke my name upon the Israelites, and I will bless them” (Nm 6:27).  In the reading from Galatians we hear that the Holy Spirit empowers us to call God by the name “Abba, Father” (Gal. 4:6).  Seeing that our Church is dedicated to the Holy Name of Jesus, I’d like to dwell on this theme for a bit.

We’re probably so used to calling God by name that we hardly give it a second thought.  But many religions traditions would find the practice strange.  I’m thinking especially of two groups.  Read the rest of this entry »

Homily for the Feast of St. Ignatius

August 1, 2011


A day late and, almost certainly, a dollar short.  I was traveling too much to post this yesterday, and Ignatius’ complex holiness doesn’t often lend itself to pithy formulas.  Since this was preached to the Carmelite Monastery of Brooklyn, NY, the Scripture Readings for the 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time were used and the Little Flower got a shout-out.

What will separate us from the love of Christ? (Rom 8:35)

We have a strange convergence of events here today.  That a Jesuit priest would celebrate a Mass of Thanksgiving on the feast of St. Ignatius isn’t uncommon, but that he would end up doing so for a Carmelite Convent is a little more unusual.  At bottom, however, there is only one holiness in the Church—the holiness of Christ.  So I’ll trust that St. Ignatius can edify Carmelites as well.

As evidence of the Church’s one holiness, we could point to the perfect agreement between St. Ignatius’s spiritual vision and the vision that St. Paul presents today in the letter to the Romans.  In both cases, the mark of holiness is twofold: 1) a preferential love for the Cross 2) measured by the greater service of God. Read the rest of this entry »