June 16, 2016

HOMILY FOR THE TWELFTH SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME, YEAR C (JUNE 19)


HOMILY FOR THE TWELFTH SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME, YEAR C (JUNE 19)

Ronald Stephens
Bishop of Holy Trinity Diocese and St. Andrew’s Cathedral Parish
The Catholic Apostolic Church in North America (CACINA)

Today I want to do something a little different. I want to talk about the concept of a Messiah since the big question of the day is Jesus’ question: Who do you say that I am?”
Part of the answers that are suggested by the Apostles about Jesus’ identity is that he is either Elijah the prophet returned to earth, or another  prophet announcer of a Messiah coming or he is the Messiah himself.
Now not all Jews accepted the concept of a Messiah in the time of Jesus nor did they all look forward to some sort of God created kingdom of peace and justice, but many did. Many took literally the text of Malachi which said “Behold I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes.” The Jews today who have not chosen to accept Jesus as this messiah are still waiting for the his coming.
There is a wonderful song that was in the pre-Broadway production of Fiddler of the Roof that I had the good fortune to see in Detroit before it opened in its present form on Broadway. At the end of that play the Jewish village of Anatevka is forced to get out of Russia. The people pack up a few of their things and head off to somewhere else. That is how the play ends today with sad song, saying goodbye tot he town they loved and the people they might never see again. Originally though, Tevye had a song at the end which lightened up the ending dramatically, as Tevye always had a comedic way of looking at life. The song was called When Messiah Comes and the lyrics were these:

When Messiah comes He will say to us:
“I apologize that I took so long.
But I had a little trouble finding you.
Over here a few and over there a few.
You were hard to reunite
But, everything is going to be all right.”
“Up in heaven there, how I wrung my hands
When they exiled you from the promised land.
Into Babylon you went like castaways
On the first of many, many moving days.
What a day and what a blow
How terrible I felt you’ll never know.”
Since that day
Many men
Said to us
“Get thee out”.
Kings they were.
Gone they are. We’re still here!
When Messiah comes he will say to us:
“Don’t you think I know what  a time you’ve had
Now I’m here you’ll see how quickly things improve
You won’t have to move unless you want to move
You shall never more take flight
Yes, everything is going to be all right.”
When Messiah comes he will say to us:
“I was worried sick if you’d last or not.”
And I spoke to God, and said “Would that be fair,
If Messiah came and there was no-one there?”
And the Lord replied to me:
“Wait. Everything will be all right, you’ll see.”
Many times
Many men
Took our homes,
Took our lives
Kings they were.
Gone they are. We’re still here!
When Messiah comes and his reign begins
Truth and justice then shall appear on earth,
But if this reward we would be worthy off
We must keep our covenant with God above.
So be patient and devout
And gather up your things and get thee out.

(Sheldon Harnick, unpublished)

From the beginning and to the Jews today, the concept of the Messiah was that God would send a savior to rule over the earth in truth and justice. In Jesus’ time, the greatest majority of his followers wanted to see Jesus not as this Messiah but as the harbinger of the Messiah. Expecting something really good is often better than when we get it. How many times as children was our expectation of Christmas morning so much better than the real thing!  So the disciples who saw Jesus as Elijah or a new Elijah were excited about the hope of a kingdom of God that would arrive soon.
Only Peter seems to have see through this to know who Jesus really was. He himself was the Messiah.
And indeed it has proved true that the reality was not as wonderful as the hope. Jesus tells Peter that this Messiah, himself, would have to undergo great suffering and rejection. He wouldn’t be the mighty prince conqueror that everyone was imagining.  When he tells the Apostles they must not tell anyone, he isn’t like in the other Gospels, telling them not to say that he is the Messiah, but i think he is telling them not to shatter the hopeful vision of the Messiah with the reality of suffering and death. It would be too hard or them to take. Eventually it would be understood but it was too early at this point.
Looking back on the Old Testament with the knowledge of what actually happened, we saw signs and prophecies in the books that foretold this suffering messiah, but they had not put the two together. In our first reading today from Zechariah we hear about God pouring out compassion and supplication on the jewish people when they realize that the one they have made suffer, the one they pierced was like God’s only-begotten son. The clues were there all the time. We just couldn’t see them until the events happened years later.
In the second reading we get to understand that although the concept was of a Jewish Messiah, one who would save the Jewish people and reign over all, the reality was that the messiah came for everyone. Paul says: “there is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male or female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you being to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.”  The word Christ means Messiah. And the messiah who came to Abraham’s offspring, comes to us.
But we can’t have a Messiah says God without the suffering, rejection and death. One thing I have noticed in this country, different from Canada where I grew up, and where Good Friday is a holiday, very few Americans go to church on Good Friday. They do go on Easter, preferring the image of the Risen Christ as Messiah. But that is the end of the journey. What Good Friday celebrates is the Messianic journey through rejection, great suffering and finally death. We can’t have an Easter without that, though. Even in Jesus’ time the followers would have trouble with that journey, so Jesus says not to talk about it.
But there is an addendum for each of us.  if we want to follow Jesus, we too have to take the same journey. yes, there will be resurrection at the end, but we all have to take up our crosses and suffer and die to get there. Only Luke adds the words daily to Christ’s message that we must take up our cross – daily, which may be Luke’s way of explaining to us what Christ meant. We don’t go seeking for our crosses, our sufferings, but they come to us anyway. How we deal with those daily problems, pains, and even horrors, can tie us into the suffering of the Messiah and also remind us of our coming resurrection. We accept these crosses in Jesus’ name and when we d we will be saved, just as God saved Jesus.
Good News to think about even in suffering and when things get us down. That is our Christian hope and the Good News I proclaim to you today.