a priest's musings on the journey

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Perspectives: Br Jude Smith, N/SSJE Preaches His First Sermon

One of my dearest friends and brothers in Christ is a Novice in the Society of St John the Evangelist in Cambridge, Ma. Tommorrow he will be preaching his first sermon at the Maundy Thursday Mass. Check it out below, and send Br. Jude some love. When you have some time, spend some time at the monastary's website.

Maundy Thursday Reflection

The Monastery – Our Lady Chapel

Br. Jude Smith, N/SSJE

The New Commandment: Love

In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit:

As many of you know, I hail from the South – more regionally from New Orleans. The South is known for great stories with funny characters. New Orleans is made up of many and I do mean many colorful characters one of them being a man known as Buddy.

Imagine if you will, a tall black man with thick rimmed Buddy Holly glasses, a megaphone in one hand, an opened Bible in the other and the piece de’ resistance was his rainbow colored umbrella hat. At the foot of Canal and St. Peter Streets – just in front of the US Customs House – one of the most prominent places in downtown New Orleans – Buddy was normally pacing back and forth amongst the tourists and natives along the sidewalk. No matter how hot it was outside Buddy always had on a tweed sports jacket, long sleeve shirt and bow-tie. Buddy preached the Word to all the passersby. It should be noted that even when Buddy grew tired from preaching he’d simply lie down on the sidewalk and take a nap and then return to preaching. When I first saw him after I had moved to New Orleans I thought “Wow – he’s got some nerve.” I don’t know too many people that would spend their whole day on the street corner screaming to people that their lives and ‘the world’ are in horrible condition, the end of the world is near and that they should consider getting their ‘houses’ in order. But, for today’s reflection I’d like to focus on two people who preached these similar ideas – one of them being the One who gave the greatest gift of all – His Love to us through death on a Cross for Salvation. And the other being a young prophet like Buddy who preached the Word of God – refusing to be quieted – even at the hands of his tormentors.

When I think of Jeremiah who heard his call two words come to mind vocation and obedience. In their Latin forms, these words are vocare and audire. Vocare meaning ‘to call’ and audire meaning ‘to hear.’

When Jeremiah heard his call to be a prophet, like a timid child with no confidence Jeremiah replied to God “Ah, Lord God, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth.” (Jeremiah 1.6, The New Oxford Annotated Bible, RSV). God promptly rebuked him – don’t say that, you can speak and wherever I send you – you shall go and speak whatever I command of you (para Jer. 1.7). And, then we are told God touches Jeremiah’s mouth and the words were given to him. Jeremiah, heard his call and was obedient.

I suspect that the people Jeremiah preached to during his ministry of 40 years were much like the world today: selfish, driven by their pride and egos, enjoying the busyness of their own lives while those around them suffered. Jeremiah preached that the ways of the world were not those of God. That the children of Israel needed to be more attentive to those who suffered especially - to one another. In the office readings this morning Jeremiah’s lament is heard. Anger and despair with God are abundant as Jeremiah cries out: “O Lord, thou hast deceived me, and I was deceived” or as another translation says – “you duped me and I was duped.” Jeremiah is angry at God because he has preached against the people of Israel announcing the fall of Jerusalem as a result of their straying from God. Yet no one believed him. No one listened to Jeremiah. As a matter of fact, because they didn’t listen or believe him it caused Jeremiah great mental anguish, torture and eventually caused his death. Jeremiah was so angry with God, that as much as he wanted to turn and run from his vocation as a prophet – he couldn’t. Again, he cries: “For the word of the Lord has become for me a reproach and derision all day long. If I say I will not mention him or speak anymore in his name, there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones and I am weary with holding it in, and can not.” (Jer. 20.8-9).

Buddy too, like a young Jeremiah, heard God calling him to preach Love and attentiveness to those around him. One could certainly see that in New Orleans this is definitely needed. IN a city, where even in 2007 racial tensions are alarming (not just within racial ethnicities but across racial lines as well), the abuse of those on the margin of society are evident and murder rates are alarming with violence on the rise. The children even suffer at the hands of an ever failing school board where political appointments are more important than a child’s education. And all of this being underscored, by the fact that the hundreds of poor who couldn’t afford to evacuate in the wake of a natural disaster, were left to suffer, while our own governments sat idly by and watched. I’d say that no one listened to Buddy as well.

This brings us to today, Maundy Thursday, trying to make sense of what this is about – vocation, obedience and Love. Today begins the most solemn part of holy week when we receive the new commandment. Maundy comes from the Latin – ‘mandautum’ which means ‘mandate.’ So today in some sense, is about putting ourselves into the picture of the Last Supper when we’re told that Jesus “rose from Supper, laid aside his garments, and girded himself with a towel.” (John 13.4) And we know that what follows is Jesus washes his disciples’ feet. In this one act, Jesus gives us not only a foretaste of the greatest act of Love, but it is also symbolism for this ‘new commandment’ of mutual love. It might be helpful to think in terms of this not being so much as a ‘new commandment for Jesus although it could be for his followers. Moses told the Children of Israel to love one another. What is new is that we are called to love as deeply and sacrificially as Jesus loved in washing his disciples’ feet, being prepared to die, submitting to the will of the Father. It is this level and deepness of love that is ‘new’ i.e., to love as he loved – completely. Love for one another regardless of our status in society, skin color, gender, sexual orientation, sickness or even if their happens to be a traitor in our midst. Remember, Jesus did eat with Judas before he went out to do the dirty work of Satan (John 13.21-30). “Love is the Soul of Justice and Justice is the body, the flesh of Love.” (The Last Week, p.215, Borg, Marcus J. and Crossan, John Dominic)

Jesus doesn’t give us stipulations how to Love – no he only asks us to Love one another; “even as I have loved you, that you love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13.34-35) and I fully believe that we are all disciples in this context. We are all followers, on that road to Calvary with Christ, working out our Salvation. Dying with him and rising with him in new life.

So here we are, in our own little corner of the Kingdom of God, known as Cambridge Massachusetts, receiving our vocation – our calling if you will, to be obedient and listen to Christ’s new commandment - to Love one another as he loved us. We hear it all the time preached in the gospel and in church. But, I’d ask you this day, as we prepare to participate in the humble act of washing each other’s feet later in the evening – that you would slow down, and think about how you are loving in your life. Are you loving everyone around you the way Christ calls us to love one another? Are you allowing Christ to love you – the way you need to be loved? Are you loving yourself the way you should? Regardless of what you’ve done, where you’ve been, or the fact, that you’re just showing up, that’s the voice of God, deep within you, yearning to allow yourself the desire to Love better and to be Loved by God. Trust me, I know nothing about the perfect way to Love and be Loved – each day is a struggle for me – just like it is I’m quite certain for everyone of you. But, I would say that this desire we feel within us to love without judgment, without hesitation, that is the voice of God within us – calling us to our vocation to Love. A love that fires us with the same passion to be vulnerable and foolish for Christ’s sake, maybe not washing feet, not even, unless we wanted to wear an umbrella hat in downtown New Orleans, preaching to all who pass by, but risking ourselves to share the meaning of that limitless love with others that is too good and abundant to keep to ourselves.

Grace and Peace to you, brothers and sisters, from our Lord Jesus Christ.
:: posted by Padre Rob+, 4:02 PM


Add a comment