08 November 2007

Homily from 2003

Editor's Note: The following is the first of several hold homilies I am posting on this blog since I was able to locate them in spite of several computer crashes. I rarely write out a full homily, but when I do, I like to share them. Enjoy.

4 May 2003

Preached by Father Robert Lyons, Presbyter of Saint Alban’s

First Reading: Isaiah 29: 9-14
Gospel Acclamation: Psalm 16: 8-11
Gospel Reading: Luke 24: 36-49

Confusion reigns in our first reading from the prophecy of Isaiah, as people cannot understand the prophecy of God. God, speaking through his prophet, warns us that there are people who “draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips,” but at the same time, he tells us “their hearts are far from me.”

How many times have we experienced the reign of confusion within our souls? How often have we come to praise God, but known in our hearts that we were only giving him lip service, and not the true service of our hearts? I would dare say that we have probably come to this realization more often than we would like to admit to ourselves – or to others! Sadly, when our praise of God is only found upon our lips, when that praise is not resident in our hearts, we fall into the trap of relying upon the wisdom of man instead of the grace of God. Indeed, this trap is a deadly one, because our reading says that, “the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the discernment of their discerning men shall be hidden.” It is not enough to speak and praise the Lord; it is requisite upon us as redeemed, sanctified Christians to open our hearts and souls to God, and to praise him in every aspect of our lives. . . in every fiber of our being. When we do not allow ourselves to fully worship and praise God, when external factors come between God and us, we find ourselves in a quandary, much as the disciples did in our Gospel reading today.

If we would only trust in the promises of God, if we would follow David’s example and, “set the Lord always before” ourselves, then we indeed would never be shaken, and we would rejoice. Sadly, even the disciples – in those tumultuous days between Good Friday and Pentecost – did not fully comprehend or understand what was going on. Their joy was not full, their doubt was strong, and their fear was great.

In today’s Gospel reading, we read the account of one of Jesus’ appearances to the disciples. They were fearful, but they gradually came to belief. At that first Pentecost, they were strengthened to proclaim the risen Lord, whom they had met face to face. You see, the wisdom of the world – explained that Jesus was dead, buried, and out of the collective consciousness of the Jews once and for all. The high priests went to some expense to ensure that neither of the guards on Jesus’ tomb would tell anyone what had occurred, preferring instead to spread the story that the disciples had taken the Lord’s body by night. It took great convincing, through signs, miracles, wonders, and even ordinary mundane activities – such as consuming a piece of broiled fish – to come to a threshold of belief; a place where the evidence was too great to ignore for the disciples. And yet, Isaiah’s prophecy stood: the chief priests and the scribes could not understand the prophecies; they could not accept the truth of the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms. Indeed, it took many intimate encounters with the resurrected Lord to come to a place where they could not only begin to grasp the truth, but proclaim it with joy. It took the presence of the Holy Spirit to bring this about.

Confusion is not a commodity that was restricted only to Isaiah’s day. Confusion reigns supreme today in the hearts of many who call themselves Christians. The praise of God is on their lips, but the truth of God is not in their hearts. They see, but they close their eyes, they hear, but cover their ears. When hardship comes, they have no idea what to do or say, because they cannot understand the basic truth of the Christian life. Why? If I may humbly submit my opinion on the topic, it is because they do not make the most of their experience with the risen Lord.

As we gather together to break open the Word of God, and to share in the one Bread and Cup at his table, we experience an intimate encounter with Christ. In his word, he instructs us to salvation, and in his most blessed Sacrament, he gives to us the grace to transform our hearts and minds – for we are truly meeting the Christ who came into this world to die for our sins. When you receive of the Eucharist, you are experiencing an encounter with the Lord that should, no must, transform your life! If your sins are troubling you, you must take care of them – and I humbly suggest a good confession to you as a means to do just that. If sorrow is holding you back, turn your sorrow over to the Lord, the one who is a specialist at turning sorrow to joy. If you leave here today with no hope or joy, you have only yourself to blame.

Recently, upon visiting in another congregation, I noticed something that warmed my heart. A woman who had just received her Lord and Savior in Holy Communion was walking back to her pew, and she had one of the most peaceful smiles upon her face that I had ever seen. She knew that her Lord had just come to take up his home within her afresh. As I saw her, I immediately took a piece of paper out of the bulletin and wrote these words, words that I hope will bring you great peace.

“When you leave this place today, you should be radiant with joy. No matter how terrible the music, no matter how bad the preaching, no matter how horrible you felt when you came in: for here, in this place, at the Table of the Lord, you have met the Christ face to face.”


All original material (C) 2007-2010 by Father Robert Lyons.

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