Monday 13 July 2015

Seventh Sunday after Pentecost.Yr B.-Br. Simeon

Homily preached by Br. Simeon e.f.o. at Springwood on Sunday 12th July 2015

Andre-Rublev's Saviour

Seventh Sunday after Pentecost Yr. 

Gospel:  Mark 6: 14-29

The death of John the Baptiser:

"Herod had sent men who arrested John, bound him in prison on account of Herodias, his brother Philip's wife, because Herod had married her. For John had been telling Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother's wife.”

A man named Jack was walking along a steep cliff one day, when he accidentally got too close to the edge and fell. On the way down he grabbed a branch, which temporarily stopped his fall. He looked down and to his horror saw that the canyon fell straight down for more than a thousand feet.

He couldn't hang onto the branch forever, and there was no way for him to climb up the steep wall of the cliff. So Jack began yelling for help, hoping that someone passing by would hear him and lower a rope or something.

HELP! HELP! Is anyone up there? "HELP!"

He yelled for a long time, but no one heard him. He was about to give up when he heard a voice. Jack, Jack. Can you hear me?"   "Yes, yes! I can hear you. I'm down here!"

"I can see you, Jack. Are you all right?"  "Yes, but who are you, and where are you?

"I am the Lord, Jack. I'm everywhere."   "The Lord? You mean, GOD?"

"That's Me."
"God, please help me! I promise if, you'll get me down from here, I'll stop sinning. I'll be a really good person. I'll serve You for the rest of my life."

"Easy on the promises, Jack. Let's get you off from there; then we can talk."
 "Now, here's what I want you to do. Listen carefully."  "I'll do anything, Lord. Just tell me what to do."

"Okay. Let go of the branch.""What?" "I said, let go of the branch. Just trust Me. Let go."  There was a long silence.

Finally Jack yelled, "HELP! HELP! IS ANYONE ELSE UP THERE?"

In the Name of God, +Father, +Son and +Holy Spirit. Amen.

This  story of today's Gospel reading, is outside the account of Jesus’ own death, the most horrific stories in the Gospels.

Between Jesus’ sending off the Twelve on their first missionary journey and their return, Mark inserts the story of John the Baptiser’s death. At first, this narrative seems out of place – but the account of John’s death serves as an important benchmark for understanding the meaning of discipleship and the resurrection.

The works that Jesus and the Twelve are performing have reached the ears of King Herod himself.  Rumours have been circulating that the Baptiser has been raised from the dead.   Mark recounts the details of John’s martyrdom and burial which make clear that a new chapter of human history begins in Jesus, that God has set in motion a re-creation of humanity in his Son, that the long-awaited but little understood reign of God has begun.  John is the precursor of the Christ event, not the event himself.
In Mark’s Gospel, John’s death foreshadows the death of Jesus (just as John’s appearance at the beginning of the Gospel sets the stage for Jesus’ coming on the scene).  As John pays the ultimate price for “speaking truth to power,” Jesus will give his life for the Gospel he has preached.  A similar convergence of fear, cowardice, hatred and manipulation that leads to John's beheading will end in Jesus’ crucifixion.
Not lost in Mark’s narrative is the reality that discipleship/prophecy exacts a heavy price.  But God promises that he will raise up the life of his martyred prophet/disciple in the fullness of his reign.

Ridicule, isolation, rejection, even death, can be required of every one – even us – for taking seriously God's call to be his prophets and the work of discipleship.

We often react to the Baptisers in our midst as Herod does: We know in our deepest being that they speak wisdom and justice and we desperately want to embrace it in our lives — but when their words become too demanding and too challenging, when they require of us a conversion that is well beyond our comfort zone, when their call
subjects us to ridicule or isolation, then we find some way to justify doing away with them. Authentic faith, belief that means anything, requires the would-be disciple of Jesus to live the Word we have heard and seen, regardless of the cost.

Like Herodias, we hold grudges; we keep score; we remember who slights us and we wait for the right moment to get back at them.  The grudges we keep seldom have the tragic consequences of Herodias, who manipulates her own daughter’s charms and

her husband’s arrogant behaviour to destroy John the Baptist — but we’ve let our anger divide our families, we’ve refused to surrender our need for vengeance for the  
sake of reconciliation, we’ve held on to our resentments until we got our satisfaction.

But God’s grace enables us to put aside our disappointments and let go of our anger (however justified) in order to make reconciliation possible, to speak God’s Word of justice, to be the means of peace in our homes and communities.

God’s reign continues to be established in our own Jerusalem’s and Nazareth’s because of the prophetic proclamation of the Baptisers and Apostles and all who have taken on, with integrity and conviction, the role of prophet of the God of life and love in our own time and place.