Saturday, June 30, 2012

Did Jesus Come for the Rich or the Poor?

Lets check the record, just for the fun of it.
Here's how Jesus announced his ministry.

When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: 
‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
   because he has anointed me
     to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
   and recovery of sight to the blind,
     to let the oppressed go free, 

And in case you're wondering how the "religious" people took the news...not good!
Here the story continues:

And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, ‘Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’ All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They said, ‘Is not this Joseph’s son?’ He said to them, ‘Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, “Doctor, cure yourself!” And you will say, “Do here also in your home town the things that we have heard you did at Capernaum.” ’ And he said, ‘Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s home town. But the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up for three years and six months, and there was a severe famine over all the land; yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.’ When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage.They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff.But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way.
~both passages are from The Gospel of Luke Chapter 4.

The Right Wing Evangelicals are not happy with Obamacare, because it tends to the poor. Yet tending to the poor, the sick, the imprisoned etc is what the Gospel is all about.

If you don't think so, check the record!

If you want an even clearer example of how Jesus judges the Nations on the planet, go to the end of his ministry where he makes the following pronouncement. The Religious Right Wing Fundamentalists executed Jesus shortly after this. These kinds of words are dangerous. 

So let me repeat them here.
Explain these words away to me. Anybody?

The Judgement of the Nations

 ‘When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?” And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” Then he will say to those at his left hand, “You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.” Then they also will answer, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?”Then he will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.” And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.’ 

I don't know what it takes to make anything clearer than this. But there you have it. If the Right Wing Evangelicals give you a hard time about what the Bible says, ask them to explain this away.

Better still, tell them right up close and personal and ask them to Repent of their Wickedness, and Return to the Lord!

Tell them Fr. Paul sent you.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Messianic Banquet

I do not want to leave you without a note hope after the poem I wrote in that last post.
Today we commended Bernie to God's keeping.
We did so using the wonderful passage from Isaiah which gives us a vision of that Last Great Messianic Banquet.
Here are words to hold on to.


When I met my wife I also met this wonderful family. I remember one Thanksgiving Day early on, when I found myself in a church hall in Essex, with what seemed like hundreds of people. How could I ever learn all these names? Your family is bigger than most of the churches I’ve served.

Time after time after time in good times and in bad times we have gathered and there has always been quite a spread of tables laden with food; lots and lots of food, lots of cold beer and tonic (Boston word for soda) and for the discriminating tastes; a good single malt.
These were times of joy and times of sadness.
Baptisms, Birthdays, Marriages, and of course there have been Funerals.
Sometimes it was just the immediate family.
Other times there was the whole clan.

During the past week we have gathered around this table.
We have dealt with reality the best we knew how.
We’ve told our stories.
We have shared our feelings.

So now it falls to us to bid farewell to Bernard.

It occurred to me that perhaps the most appropriate passage from Scripture to read at a time like this is the passage from Isaiah that pictures heaven as a Banquet where all of us without exception are gathered at the mountain of God. The Biblical Scholars call this “The Messianic Banquet” since it is the Messiah who invites us to this Last Great Feast.

To respect both Bernard’s wishes and this family’s needs, I think it makes sense for us to live in the hope that there will come a time when we will gather at That Great Banquet Table.

There is this about the cross of Jesus.
And I do need to mention this with no offense intended to anyone.
There is no blame here for whatever happens.
Jesus takes all the blame upon himself.
He paid the price for all our sins and not for our only but for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:2)
There is no blame.
There is only forgiveness.
There is only love.
There is only hope.
This is the meaning of the Cross as I understand it.
And I felt it important to say so.

Therefore I would like to share with you Reading from the Book of the Prophet of Isaiah

The Messianic Banquet

Isaiah 25:6-9
On this mountain the God of hosts will make for all peoples
a feast of rich food, a feast of well-matured wines,
of rich food filled with marrow, of well-matured wines
 strained clear. 

And he will destroy on this mountain
the shroud that is cast over all peoples,
the sheet that is spread over all nations; 

God will swallow up death for ever.

And then God will wipe away the tears from all faces,
and the disgrace of his people he will take away
from all the earth,
for the God has spoken. 

It will be said on that day,
Lo, this is our God; we have waited for God,
so that God might save us.
This is the God for whom we have waited;
let us be glad and rejoice in this salvation.

The Lord’s Prayer
         Our Father, who art in heaven
         Hallowed be thy Name.
         Thy Kingdom Come
         Thy Will be done
         On earth as it is in heaven
         Give us this day our daily bread
         And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who
                  trespass against us
         And lead us not into temptation
         But deliver us from evil
         For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory
         For ever and ever. AMEN.

A Blessing for Bernard

Unto God’s gracious mercy and protection we commit you. May the Lord Bless you and keep you, may the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you , May the Lord lift up the light of his countenance upon you and give you Peace this day and forevermore. Amen.

After the Suicide

Dear friends and family and others this may be helpful to,
We have recently been through a suicide in our family. It was a devastating experience especially for the parents, brothers, sisters and extended family. My heart went out to the son, since my own father died (of "natural causes") at Christmas when I was a boy. It took years for me to deal with the loss. In this case I can see the newly married son with a brand new baby similarly affected.
We were all stunned by the event.
We have also been surrounded by prayer during this time
The love of those affected and the work of "cleaning up" afterward was impressive. We've gathered together to review the facts as we knew them and we have shared how we experienced.
There were difficulties in preparing a proper funeral for the deceased since he claimed atheism.
As a priest of the church I wanted to respect that, but I also wanted to respect the family's need for closure.
I wrote this poem.
The family was deeply moved by the words.
I publish them here in hopes that they may touch the hearts of others similarly affected.
May God go with us all in these difficult times.
Fr. Paul

A Note To Bernie

There was only silence.
A moment before the silence, there was a gunshot
Before that there was desperate despair and a panicky conversation.
The air was dank and wet as the rain poured down tears from heaven
Then there was a flurry of phone calls
Across the world a loved one frantically called Bernie’s son
“Your dad is in his truck with a gun”.
“Oh my God”
There were more epithets of disbelief
And of course more phone calls.
The son in California called the aunt in Colorado
Called her brothers in New Hampshire
Called her sister in Massachusetts
And the word began to spread
“Bernie is in a truck with a gun!”

There was only silence.
As the body bled out.
And heaven relentlessly poured down its tears
And drenched the truck
Awaiting the revelation of the cold wet truth.

It was less than an hour’s drive
And when the brothers arrived it appeared
All too clear that the deed was done.
He seemed asleep in the truck
A long last sleep of course
And time stood still as they pulled up
To get out of the car
To approach the door
Of the truck
Where the brother lay slumped over.
It was so.
And there was silence.

The police responded quickly
There was a body
And a gun
There was a meticulously generated letter
With bullet points
Documenting the 17 sources of blame
His health was bad
There was no family
Nobody cared
And he could not go to jail
He apologized to his fiancé in the Philippines
But not to his son
or to Mom and Dad
or to his brothers and sisters
The police interrogation was mercifully supportive.

Mom and Dad!
Octogenarians. Already buried one son
Victim of an accident
And then there were tears and inconsolable grief.
And now there is silence awaiting the news
As they awoke to another routine day.

The brothers called the sisters
Called the spouses
“It happened.
He did it.”
And hearts stopped
The rain fell
And the silent body was examined
And taken away to the Funeral Home.

Mom and Dad!
The brothers and sisters gathered
And said what had to be said.

Shudders of grief
A paroxysm of deep despair!

Came then the Quest for understanding
Came then more silence
Maddening, infuriating silence
As the body refused to speak.

Then the night visions came to Mom.
Sleep eluded her. She saw an accusatory face
And Dad paid the bill, puffed on a cigar
A fine single malt anesthetized a tiny bit of pain
And the Silence replied to the Quest
Absolutely refusing to answer.

The family gathered and Alan booked a flight East
To figure out a way to lay his father to rest
And to bring his lovely new bride and their baby girl
Unmercifully bereft of a grandfather
And of course to claim his inheritance of a father’s
Significant debt.

The Priest in me wanted to prepare a way to Commend Bernie to God.
But there was no God.
There really was no God.
I wanted devoutly to respect both the family’s need for closure
And Bernie’s renunciation of God.
And I too then heard this very same Silence.

But the new day was lovely
The sun and the sea and the sweet salt air
Were awash with the Glory of Life
My heart was full of Gratitude
For this amazing family.

Bread and wine is all that is left for me
And this I can commend to those who
Understand the language of This Sacred Meal

Even this is possible with God.
Even this.
For the last word in the Silence is this;

Every last one cast away from the Presence of God
The poor, the halt, the blind, the lame,
The incurably sick,
The sinners, the prostitutes
The tax collectors, and the plain and simple fisherfolk
This is the very last word.

That was stupid.
Grow up and face facts.
Get some help for God’s sake.
And even if there is no God.
Get some help.
And then there is no answer
To the call from within your own heart of hearts
Until the gun spoke to the silence.

The desperate, despairing silence.

Then God spoke.
There is this word
Did you forget to Love?
You probably did.

So then, there is this last word.
We’re mad as hell at you.
We’re sad beyond words.
It is unconscionable that you would blame
Mom for calling you out to responsibility
Or Dad for the Sin he confessed and you would not.

But there is still this last word.
There is no other word for any of those
Who yet have to carry on to make the best of
A glorious, marvelous and yes; “A Wonderful Life”.

There is this.
Last word.
You cannot snow heaven.
There is only Truth there.
Time now to Listen to this
Last word.
That you will hear
In that long last Silence.


                                                               ~Paul Bresnahan, Father’s Day 2012