Living Up to the NameFather Brian Campbell
Ex 17:3-7; Ps 95:1-2, 6-9; Rom 5:1-2, 5-8; Jn 4:5-42
Names are important, they carry a certain value and meaning. Think of all the books available for young parents to pick a meaningful name for their newborn child. Consider the price difference between shoes that may look and feel similar – but carry a different name on the label. We (usually) value our family name. We love and cherish family memories and hope to live up to the family legacy by handing on to succeeding generations of our stories and values. At the beginning of salvation history, God reveals his name to Moses. The name of God not only has a meaning but an identity by which the family of God is called to pass on from generation to generation. This Sunday’s reading challenges us not to be careless but to live up to the name by which we are called.
In today’s first reading from Exodus, Moses ascends the sacred mountain of the Lord – Mt. Sinai. At some point during his ascent, he encountered a supernatural phenomenon that would change the course of his destiny forever. In front of him was a burning bush, yet the bush remained unharmed by the fire. A voice spoke to him to take off his shoes and approach with reverence for this was more than a burning bush – it was the manifestation of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. God speaks to Moses and calls him to bring liberation to the Israelites who are enslaved by the Pharaoh of Egypt. Not knowing what to call the Divine Being, Moses asks for God’s name. God gives his name: YHWY or “I AM who AM.” God’s name is not like any name like Bob, Mary or Terry. God’s names is who he is – more like a riddle. He is absolute existence itself. Against all odds, in the Name of God, Moses is successful in liberating the Israelites from Pharaoh. As a family of faith, they will begin the journey to the Promised Land.
Our second reading from 1 Corinthians, points out how God provided for the needs of his family that Moses led, the people that bore his Name. But the problem is that some deliberately chose not to live up to His Name. Even though God liberated and provided for them, some of the Israelites chose to sin against God. Those who disobeyed might have thought they were safe from God’s eternal punishment since they were family. Paul points out that they were not and neither are those who bear the Name of God’s Son – Jesus Christ: “Therefore let any one who thinks that he stands take care lest he fall” (1 Cor 10:12).
In the Gospel of Luke, we learn of a local Jerusalem news headline – Huge Tower falls on and kills 18 Galileans! Rumor was that since they were under the tower at the wrong time, it was a sign that God was punishing those 18 Galileans because they were bad apples. Doesn’t that sound something like the talking heads giving analysis on 24/7 news today? Jesus turns the tables on those who make a judgment on the souls of the 18 Galileans and who think they know the mind of God’s judgment: “do you think that those Galileans were worse offenders than all of you who dwell in Jerusalem? I tell you No; unless you repent – you too will likewise perish” (Lk 13:5).
We ought to be careful in judging the souls of others or claiming to know the mind of God’s judgment. God is the judge and seer into the hearts of men and woman, we are not. God has given us another Lent for personal reflection, self-discipline, confession of sin and caring for those in need. Let us use this time to bear spiritual fruit, to overcome our carelessness and self-righteousness. In so doing, we will be living up to the Name. From what I hear, the inheritance benefits are out of this world.
More than meets the eyeFather Brian Campbell
Sunday, March 17, Second Sunday of Lent
Gn 15:5-12, 17-18; Ps 27:1, 7-9, 13-14; Phil 3:17—4:1; Lk 9:28b-36
Growing up in the 80’s, like many other boys, I was intrigued by the Transformer’s cartoon and toys. Basically, Transformers are normal day-to-day things you might see like trucks, cars, homes – but they are more than that. When the call to do battle comes, these ordinary things transform into super cool robots – ready for battle! Commercials selling these toys had the same line all the time “Transformers – more than meets the eye!”
Like the Transformers, we are regular people living in an ordinary world, yet we are more than what meets the eye. In the season of Lent we are called to be transformed – changed from the inside out to be the soldiers of Christ, to battle against sin and be a light in the darkness. Let’s now take a look at this Sunday’s readings.
In our first reading from Genesis God asks Abraham to look up into the sky and count the stars. Have you ever seen a clear sky at night and been able to count the stars? In the days of Abraham there were no electric lights to blur his vision. He saw an absolutely unmitigated vision of the stars and planets. God promises to Abraham, who was unable up to this point to have children of his own, that he will be a Father to descendants as numerous as the stars in the heavens. Wow. In his old age, he must have laughed. But with God all things are possible. He would end up having a son, Isaac, whose name in Hebrew means ‘laughter.’ Abraham would have a grandson named Jacob and twelve great-grandsons who would be the fathers of the twelve tribes of Israel. And the rest is history from there. Through faith you and I are the fulfillment of the promise God made to Abraham. His posterity, physically and most importantly – spiritually, is as numerous as the stars in the sky.
Our Gospel this Sunday is that of the Transfiguration of our Lord. As Jesus nears the end of his three-year public ministry, he took his closest disciples – Peter, James and John on a pilgrimage up a mountain top. At the peak of this mountain, with its commanding view of the Galilean plains, Jesus entered into deep prayer. While praying his body, which seemed just as ordinary as any other human body, was suddenly transfigured to be as bright as the sun. The vision of Christ’s transfiguration was shocking and amazing for Peter, James and John to see. Not only was his body radically transformed but appearing to his right and left were men who had been dead for approximately 700 and 1400 years – Elijah and Moses! Elijah and Moses represent the two great individuals whom God spoke to reveal his word and law to the people of Israel. Now these ancient pillars of Israel testify to the fulfillment of God’s law and word in Jesus – the Living Word of the Father who delivers the New Covenant. His transfigured body is a temporary opportunity to see what God will permanently do when Jesus rises bodily from the tomb on Easter Sunday.
St. Paul reminds us in our reading from his Letter to the Philippians that God plans on transforming our mortal bodies to take on an immortal quality. On the day of Final Judgment, God will re-unite our souls with our deceased mortal bodies by raising them from the tomb at the voice of his majestic command. Just as Christ’s mortal body was transfigured on Mt. Tabor and permanently glorified at the Resurrection, so will we who live and die in Christ.
Lent brings us an important message. We give things up and make sacrifices not because we are trying to make a show of piety or to be miserable, but to get ready for eternity through the self-discipline of our mortal flesh. By fasting, prayer and penance God makes holy every aspect of our ordinary life. It’s a transformation of more than meets the eye.
Out of EgyptFather Brian Campbell
Dt 26:4-10; Ps 91:1-2, 10-15; Rom 10:8-13; Lk 4:1-13
About four years ago I received an invitation from family members who retired outside of Las Vegas to come and visit. I had never been to Vegas or a desert region before in my life. Living in Florida for so many decades I have become accustomed to our often warm, wet and green climate. I have to admit that I was shocked by the windy dry heat after leaving the airport around midnight in the middle of June. Without the aid of human inventions like the Hoover Dam and air conditioning, I imagine that the desert is a very difficult place for human life to exist. Yet much of what we read in the Bible occurs in desert regions similar to Nevada – Israel, Egypt, Jordan, etc. There is often an underlying spiritual message within the desert experience and the journey to find paradise. This Sunday’s readings show us how God calls us ‘out of Egypt’ and onto the path that leads to Paradise.
Our first reading from Deuteronomy provides a spiritual backdrop for tithing. The Israelites were commanded by God, through the covenant with Moses, to give back a tithe of their earthly possessions for the upkeep of the Temple, to provide sustenance for their priests, widows, orphans and poor immigrants. A person who tithes his or her income recognizes that God is the giver of all that we have – our money, property, talent, intelligence, ability to work, our life and breath. We give back a percentage of what God gave us to thank God and support the work of his church just as the Israelites did in Deuteronomy. God reminds the Israelites that they have freedom because God freed them from oppressive slavery in the land of Egypt. When Israel chose to be stingy with God, their entrance to the Promised Land was delayed by forty years of wandering in the desert. God made a point to the Israelites and is making a point to us today about the reciprocal nature of generosity. Just as God has been generous to the Israelites in their time of misfortune, so must they in turn be generous to the House of God and God’s poor ones. Are we generous or stingy with the blessings God has given us?
Today’s Gospel of Luke echoes the forty years of the Israelite’s punishment by wondering in the desert before entering the Promised Land. Jesus spends forty days and nights in the dry solitude of the desert. This location, believed to be on a mountain outside of the city of Jericho – the lowest city on earth, is the place where Jesus connects with his Father in prayer and fasting. In the lowest place of the earth Jesus confronts and overcomes our lowest tendency to fall for the devil’s selfish temptations. Hungry, thirst and alone Jesus now enters his role as the lamb of sacrifice, the one ransom sacrifice for the sin of the world. Jesus receives from God the power and vision he needs to begin three years of public ministry that will culminate in his crucifixion.
How do we confront our stinginess, selfishness and sinfulness? In his letter to the Romans, St. Paul makes it clear that on our own we cannot do it. We often fail because we are stuck in Hell’s grasp (of which Egypt symbolized) and we are under the oppressive power of Satan (symbolized by the Pharaoh). Only Christ (of whom Moses was a symbol) can free us by his ransom sacrifice. We are given salvation by confessing faith in Christ as Lord with all our heart (Rom 10:9) – a faith that is actualized personally for us through the waters of holy baptism (Rom 6:1-4) and lived by our actions (Jas 2:24). In the pouring out of Christ’s life on our behalf, God shows with the absolute meaning of sacrificial giving. If God has not withheld him from us, how much more should we show our thankfulness as members of the church, purchased by the blood of his Son? This week let us remember to be thankful and give back sacrificially and generously – for the support of God’s church, the widows, the orphans and the poor.