Joseph Wiesenfarth’s Homily from December 29, 2019

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Joseph Wiesenfarth

Homily 12.29.2019

Isaiah 63:7-9, Hebrews 2:10-18; Mt. 2:13-23


Today’s three readings are about people being saved.  Isaiah tells us about “God’s gracious deeds,” including Israel’s being saved.  And given the season, we can appropriately add this from Isaiah, which is all about salvation getting us beyond Israel: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be upon his shoulder and his name will be called Wonderful, Counsellor … Prince of Peace” (9:6).

The epistle to the Hebrews is precisely about such a messiah.  It is written to Jews who after the death of Jesus accepted him as Messiah, but those descendants of Abraham and Sarah did not know exactly what messiah meant.  This letter to them explains that it meant that Jesus came to save them, not to care for angels.  And Matthew tells us how Joseph saved Jesus from Herod by taking him as a child to live in Egypt and then from Archelaus by taking him to Nazareth.

Such readings can make us think about various ways, big and small, that we have been saved.  Shopping at Metcalf’s a few Sundays back, I met the man from whom I bought my house 48 years ago.  “Is it Joe,” he asked.  “Yes it is, Keith,” I replied.  It was altogether a pleasant moment.  Keith, driving his shopping cart, seems to meet Joe, driving his shopping cart, about once every eight or nine years.  Our first meeting elsewhere was altogether pleasant because he wanted to sell his house and I wanted to buy it.  I remember my wife bargaining the price to a place where he and I and our wives were content.

Louise and I had looked at some 27 or 28 houses, all from the outside and some few on the inside too.  So we were pleased to settle on the spot with Keith and his wife.  For more reasons than just being weary of looking at houses.  We were living in an apartment on Langdon Street for three years and were into our fourth when fraternities, which had been pretty quiet during much of the Vietnam War, were excited by the Paris Peace Accords of 1973 and decided to be noisy again.  Good for them but bad for us at 2:00 a.m. and 3:00 a.m. morning after morning.  We bought a house to sleep again!  We saved ourselves.

The House of Representatives impeached President Donald J. Trump because they determined that he violated the Constitution.   They thereby concluded that he should no longer be the President.  The Republicans in the House and Senate disagreed with the House’s conclusion.  They concluded that Donald J. Trump did not do anything that violated the Constitution and decided that he needed to be saved from the Democrats.  I think that it is fair to say that the Impeachment hearings ginned up a lot of noise altogether.  Which party was the smarter of the two we expect the 20/20 elections to tell us in a practical way.  And I think that there will be a lot of noise before we get to next November.   When it is all over and done with, the winning party will announce the Constitution saved and, hopefully, the country with it.

The Catholic Church, to take an example from religion, is divided along conservative and liberal lines.  Pope Francis has made it clear that Catholics should have a Church energized by the gospel, not demoralized by doctrine. For instance, a survey shows that 97% of Catholics in Germany pay no attention whatsoever to what conservatives say about sexuality, remarriage, and birth control.  One might safely guess that this is not a singular doctrinal instance.  Indeed, Francis has said that the Church “is not a small chapel that can hold only a small group of selected people.”

We here at Holy Wisdom share the blessings of Israel mentioned by Isaiah; of Abraham and Sarah’s descendants mentioned in the Letter to the Hebrews; and, indeed, of Jesus, mentioned in Matthew’s gospel.  So, carrying over the blessings of Christmas for one more week, let us rejoice in the blessings of that good fellowship and sistership that are ours in this assembly.   A Benedictine way of life that began as far back as the sixth century and has broadened its roots to grow variously and generously over time has welcomed us all here.  That way of life has always grown with the way that St. Augustine taught us to know it when the scriptures are read at each Sunday Assembly: “Scripture teaches nothing but charity nor condemns anything but cupidity.”  Here at Holy Wisdom where the Benedictine principle of charity has brought us to a safe ending of the 2019s we have been energized—not only saved but strengthened—for whatever the 2020s may bring.

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