Nineteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings

Today’s readings speak to all of those of us who have had to deal with stormy times in their lives. Which is to say, I would guess, all of us. And so if we remember what’s going on with Elijah, I think we could identify with him today. Elijah has just come from soundly defeating all of the pagan “prophets” of Baal, which was very embarrassing to King Ahab and especially to Queen Jezebel, who vowed to take Elijah’s life in retaliation. So he has been hiding out in a cave, not for protection from inclement weather, but for protection from those who sought his life. In the midst of this, God asks Elijah why he is here. Elijah explains that the people of Israel have been unfaithful and have turned away from God, not listening to Elijah’s preaching, and they have put all the other legitimate prophets to death. Elijah alone is left. So clearly he would prefer to be left alone in the cave to have some rest from his enemies.

But the Lord doesn’t leave it at that. He tells him to go out to the entrance of the cave where the Lord will be passing by. So when he does that, Elijah experiences a few different things that could well have signified God’s presence: wind, an earthquake, and fire. These represent the many ways we tend to hope God will come to us. When we’re at the end of our rope and we are running for our lives in whatever crisis we can think of, we want God to come on the scene with a mighty act of power and make it all better. But sometimes all we get is a tiny, whispering sound. That’s what Elijah gets, and he knows without a doubt it is the Lord.

Many people ask me how they can know God’s will in the midst of a difficult situation. The answer always is that God will speak to our hearts. Not in some mighty act of power, but in a tiny, whispering sound. We have to be open to that, we have to be listening. And that’s the problem. Because sometimes we’re so caught up in running for our lives, that we miss the tiny whispering sound, we miss the presence of God.

Our Gospel makes that same point. Jesus has just fed the multitudes, as you’ll recall from last week’s Gospel, and now he sends his disciples out in the boat while he goes off to pray. While they are at sea, a terrible storm rages and the wind and waves are tossing the little boat all over the place. The disciples, like Elijah, are afraid for their lives. In the midst of it all, they see Jesus walking on the water. Now they aren’t real sure that’s who it is, but I think for them it was a fairly safe bet. Peter speaks up and says “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” So Jesus gives the command and Peter gets out of the boat.

For a while, he does okay. He’s making progress, walking toward Jesus. But then he stops looking at Jesus and starts looking at the storm: “But when he saw how strong the wind was he became frightened; and, beginning to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’” Do you see that? While he’s looking at Jesus, he is able to walk toward him, but as soon as he takes his eyes off Jesus in favor of looking at the storm, he sinks. “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” Jesus asks him, pulling Peter out of the water.

But we’re going to give Peter a break today. Let’s try a little prayer experiment. I want you to think about a crisis you’ve been in recently, or even one that’s still going on. It might be little or big, but bring that to mind. That crisis is the waves in the story. Now you get to be Peter. You’re on the boat, that safe refuge that is leading you to the place that Jesus has in mind for you. Only on the voyage, your crisis begins a storm that tosses you around so badly that you can’t even see your destination anymore, and you fear for your life. But you see Jesus on the water.

You call out to him and he bids you to come to him. You think about it for a minute, but you realize you have to give it a shot. So you get out of the boat, that safe refuge that gives you some comfort even in the storm, and you start to walk toward Jesus across the stormy sea. And you do okay for a while, but then you wonder if your prayers will ever be answered, or if there is any hope for your situation at all. You feel the wind pushing at you and notice that the waves of your crisis are a lot uglier than you thought they were. And you begin to sink into them, despairing that there is no hope for your situation. And Jesus reaches out his hand to you, pulling you up out of the stormy sea. The storm is still raging, but with Jesus’ help, you get back into the boat, and the waves calm down, and you continue the journey to the place where Jesus wants you to be.

Now we can beat ourselves up, us and Peter too, for having a lapse in faith that lands us in the waves. But think about the other eleven who never even got out of the boat. Because the worst failure is never even trying to come to Jesus. Preferring the comfort of the boat to making that uncertain leap of faith. Maybe the boat is a job you’re not meant to have, or staying away from school because you fear you might not do well, or not making the phone call to that distant loved one because you might be rejected. It’s a lot more comfortable staying where we are, but when we stay in the boat we never have the opportunity to come to Jesus. Because Jesus isn’t in the boat, he’s out there on the water.

When I was in my mid 30s, I was going through a time where I knew I needed a change in my life, because my spiritual life was pretty stagnant. But I was safe and comfortable in my boat: I had a good job, family and friends who are great, and participated in ministry at my church. But I knew the job I had wasn’t what I was meant to do forever. And then I read a book called If You Want to Walk on Water, You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat. It was by an evangelical pastor, and obviously, it went into this Gospel reading in great detail. That’s when I knew that I was cowering in the boat. I had to get out and walk on the water. And that’s how I ended up in seminary, to make a long story short!

Jesus isn’t calling us to be perfect today. Only faithful. We will only be able to walk on the water with Jesus’ help. We may even need him to pull us up out of the waves once in a while. But we were not created for the boat, we were created to walk on water. And we’ll never be able to do that if we don’t get out of the boat.

Saturday of the Eighteenth Week of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings

“Because of your little faith.” If that was the allegation of Jesus’ disciples, those men and women walking with him in person day after day, how much more does it apply to us today? How many situations absolutely confound us? How many injustices seem chronically irreparable? How many emotional crises seem insurmountable? There are demons of all shapes and sizes and types. How effective are we at casting out those demons of addiction, ignorance, or apathy? Why can’t we drive them out? Because of our little faith.

I always bristled a bit at the instruction at the end of today’s Gospel about moving a great mountain. I was pretty sure I’d never have faith that big, and even if I did, why would I want to move a mountain?! But we get all this wrong. It’s as if it depends on us, and it certainly does not. Are we convinced that God can move mountains, that he can drive out demons, that he can respond to addiction, ignorance and apathy? Certainly. But that kind of believing has to get beyond just being in our heads and come out in our words and actions and living.

Because faith is useless if we never put it into practice. It might be tough to be in the midst of addiction, emotional crisis, or injustice, but that’s when we need to depend on our faith. What good is our faith unless it can lead us through hard times and accomplish great things in the midst of the messiness of life? Habakkuk tells us today that “the just man, because of his faith, shall live.” That might not seem possible when we are in the midst of crisis. But our faith tells us that whatever happens, God will never stop being with us.

Maybe we’ll never move a mountain. Who wants to anyway? But with faith we can certainly move from a dark place to light, from despair to peace, from sadness to joy.

Eighteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings

As you may know, I kind of like to cook. I learned to cook back when I was about eleven or twelve, when my mom started a part time job working in the evenings. My Dad, God rest his soul, wasn’t much of a cook. We used to say he used the smoke alarm to time when things were done cooking. So, in defense of myself and my two sisters, I learned to cook. And Dad wasn’t real unhappy about that, as you might guess. Anyway, as I was learning to cook, sometimes I’d come across a recipe for which we didn’t have the exact right ingredients. Sometimes it was a spice we didn’t have, or maybe it called for butter and all we had was margarine. But whatever the case, there were a few times when I just adapted and took a chance. Sometimes it worked out okay, and sometimes not, but I always learned from the experience.

I was reminded about that experience when I was reading today’s Gospel. Jesus has been attracting people to come to him. They have heard his words and seen what he’s done and want to be around him. But the disciples have no idea what to do with these people now that it’s getting late and nobody’s eaten yet. If they could, they might provide a rich feast that the author of our first reading hints at. A buffet flowing with wine and milk and rich fare. But they have nothing like that to give all these people. So they approach Jesus with a different idea: “dismiss the crowds so that they can go to the villages and buy food for themselves.” But Jesus won’t hear of such a thing: “Give them some food yourselves.”

And to the disciples ear, that’s easier said than done. “Five loaves and two fish are all we have here.” But for Jesus, that’s good enough. Those might not have been the exact ingredients for a rich banquet for well over five thousand people, but they’d be good enough in the hands of Jesus. The drama unfolds over four very specific verbs: take, bless, break, give. Jesus takes the bread, says the blessing, breaks the bread, and gives it to the disciples to give to the crowds. And everyone has more than enough to eat.

Jesus does that same thing for us today. He takes the meager gifts we bring: bread and wine, our underdeveloped talents, our tentative faith life. They might not be the ingredients one would hope for, but for Jesus they are plenty. Because he doesn’t just stand off at a distance and see what it is we’ll do with our lacking giftedness, instead he gets right in there with us and supplies everything that what we bring lacks.

Then he says the blessing. In that blessing he gives our meager gifts the power to be a scrumptious banquet. And so our bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ himself, a banquet that in itself gives eloquence to our underdeveloped talents and power to our tentative faith.

Then he breaks the bread. Our gifts taken and blessed are now divided up to provide for the need that is the experience of our world. Because it’s not just us who need to be fed, but it is a hungry, waiting world, that numbers far beyond the shocking five thousand men, to include the billions of men, women and children from every time and place. These are people who are perhaps physically hungry, lacking food and money and clothing and shelter. They are also people who are spiritually hungry, needing something they can believe in, something that can deliver them from the limits of their sadness and pain. This broken bread has to feed all of them, and it will.

Finally he gives the bread to the disciples to give to the people. The disciples are the Church, bringing that blessed bread to all the hungry people. The crowds eat and are satisfied, but more important than that, they are nourished and strengthened for the task that lies ahead. That task is bringing all those hungry people of every time and place to the Church so that they too can be fed, so that their broken lives can be bound up and healed, so that their sadness and pain can be transformed in the healing power of the Cross and Resurrection. The Church’s mission to feed the hungry will never end until that great day when Christ gathers us all to himself.

Just like my culinary experimentation most often led to an edible dish, so the disciples had to throw in whatever they had and came out with an amazing meal. We must continue to do that, continue bringing our bread and wine, our gifts and talents, our faith – such as it is, and giving them to our Lord who takes it all, blesses it and breaks it, giving it all for the life of the world. But it all starts with us. We have to take a chance and give whatever we have. Because if we don’t, dinner will never be served.

Saturday of the Fifteenth Week of Ordinary Time

Today's readings

There is a wonderful, comforting message in today’s readings, and it’s a message that speaks to all of us when we’re at the end of the rope in our faith life.  That message is that God hears the cries of all of us who are poor in one way or another.  Whether we’re actually poor, or whether we’re oppressed, or are spiritually poor and struggling, or our relationships are poor, or we’re just feeling impoverished by a life that is one struggle after another: God hears us.  He can’t help but hear us. 

The Psalmist echoes the cry that goes on in all of us when we are in the midst of hard times: “Do not forget the poor, O Lord!”  How often when we are being tested, do we wonder where God is and demand that he do something right now?  It might even feel like we’ve been forgotten.  But today’s readings say that isn’t so.  God is with us, God hears us, and will always be with us in our need.

That’s what Micah is reminding Israel of in today’s first reading.  They can’t be ignoring the poor, because God doesn’t.  They can’t be oppressing the innocent, because God doesn’t.  They can’t be living evil lives, can’t be cheating people out of their inheritance, can’t be taking what is not theirs, because God does notice, and God will not ignore the evil deeds of this sinful people.  There will be justice for the poor, God will reach out to them in their need. 

Jesus, in the Gospel, was almost running for his life.  He knows that the Pharisees are turning up the heat and trying to kill him.  But he will not miss healing the sick and broken along the way.  He warns them not to make him known, but he does heal them.  Because he cannot be deaf to their cries for wholeness and healing.

That message of comfort comes to us this day.  Wherever we find ourselves this morning, whatever need we may have, whatever brokenness in us needs to be bound up and healed, we can know that God is aware of our needs, and will be with us in good times and bad.  No matter what.

St. Bonaventure, Bishop and Doctor of the Church

Today's readings


St. Bonaventure is known for his theological writings with regard to holiness.  He was chosen to be minister general of the Franciscan Order in 1257, and devoted himself to bringing the Order to a closer living of the principles of St. Francis.  This was especially important to him, since he was cured of a serious illness as a child through the prayers of St. Francis himself.  He is known for his writings, which are very close to a kind of mysticism, even though St. Bonaventure was a very active preacher and teacher, and not a strict contemplative as you’d expect a mystic to be.

The thought that mysticism and active work in the world can co-exist is especially important.  Just because we are busy doesn’t mean we don’t make time to pray.  That was what tripped up the Israelites who thought they were too busy defending themselves that they couldn’t rely on the Lord.  Isaiah prophesied differently.  And that was the thought that tripped up the cities of Chorazin and Bethsaida.  They had seen the mighty works of Jesus, but they just couldn’t get past the surface and see how Jesus’ Gospel could relate to their life.

When we get there, that’s a red flag that something has gone wrong.  When we find that we have gotten so caught up in the busy-ness of our lives that we’ve lost sight of Jesus, then we know that we have some repairs to make on our life of faith.  Because the true witness of a person of faith is that he or she does work in the world that testifies to the richness of their prayer.  “Unless your faith is firm, you shall not be firm,” Isaiah tells us today.  So if we find ourselves a little infirm in our living today, we know that we need to turn to our prayer to make things right.

Saturday of the Thirteenth Week of Ordinary Time

Today's readings

There’s an old saying, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”  And that’s fine, as far as it goes.  But the danger is that sometimes we get so attached to that principle that we fail to recognize when something is, in fact, broke.

That’s what the prophet Amos has been complaining about, isn’t it?  Today’s reading is much more conciliatory, because it comes after the punishment, after Israel had already felt the consequences of their sinfulness.  But Amos’s theme has been to prophecy against the way Israel’s leaders had been so focused on the laws that they had missed taking care of the poor, needy, oppressed, and widows and orphans.  They had convinced themselves they could cheat the poor if they just paid attention to the laws governing worship.  Their practice of their faith was, well, broke.  Only they didn’t want to fix it.

And that’s what Jesus is saying in today’s Gospel: stop trying to fit everything new into the old wineskins.  God is trying to fix what’s broke, trying to do something new, only the religious authorities keep trying to make it fit with what they already saw as important, or else throw it out.  And for the disciple, that’s just not acceptable.

We do that too.  How often have you heard around the church: “but we’ve always done it that way?”  Our traditions are certainly important, but we can’t be so focused on them that we miss the movement of the Holy Spirit.  If God is trying to do something new in our lives, who are we to try to stuff it into old wineskins, old ideas of what works, old ideas of what our relationship with God must be?  When we try to do that, well, the whole life of faith just falls apart.

We have to be open minded to what God is doing in our lives.  We have to be good discerners.  We have to be open to the possibility of God doing something new in us and in our community.  We have to be ready to meet all that fresh wine with brand spankin’-new wineskins, so that God’s activity in our lives can be preserved, and our faith can be freshened.  So for those things in our lives that are, in fact, broken, let us let God fix them.

St. Thomas the Apostle

Today's readings


caravaggiodoubtingthomas.jpgYou know, sometimes I think we don’t know what we believe until we’re called upon to explain it.  Especially for those of us who are “cradle Catholics” – the ones who were baptized Catholic and have grown up in the faith all our lives.  We just accept the things the Church teaches, and never really stop to question them.  And that’s okay, but it’s also okay when we’re called upon to explain our beliefs, if we have to do a little research.  Because there’s always more to learn, and there is always more believing to be done!

“Do not be unbelieving, but believe” is what Jesus tells St. Thomas today.  He might as well say that to all of us.  Because we should never stop exploring our beliefs, never stop learning about our faith.  We’ll never know it all anyway – at least not on this side of heaven.  On that great day when everything is revealed, things will be different, but until then, we have to renew that call to “not be unbelieving, but believe!”

I had a couple preparing for marriage in my office the other day.  The bride is not Catholic, but they are preparing to have their wedding here at St. Raphael, so they have of course been going through our marriage preparation program.  He remarked when we met the other day that “this might sound bad, but I’ve been learning more about the faith in explaining it to her.”  I told him that didn’t sound bad at all, and that moments like that are an opportunity for us to grow in faith.  So many spouses of people going through RCIA have said the same thing: they learn as much as their non-Catholic spouse when the attend RCIA with them.  Learning about our faith is a life-long, joy-filled process.  Do not be unbelieving, but believe!

And so we are going to give poor Thomas the doubter a break today.  Because we all need to grow in our faith.  And what a wonderful invitation we have from our Lord: “Do not be unbelieving, but believe!”

Friday of the Twelfth Week of Ordinary Time

Today's readings


Today’s readings represent some of the deepest longings of the human heart, and expose one of the deepest wounds of the human heart.  The deep wound is the feeling of abandonment that we experience in the midst of trial.  Just as the Jews must have felt abandoned by God when the walls of the city fell, the Temple was burnt down, and everyone was marched off to exile in Babylon, so we can sometimes feel abandoned from time to time when we struggle with the many trials that come to us.  Whether it’s illness, death, or even a wayward family member, whether it’s unemployment or underemployment, or whatever the trial may be, it can be so devastating, and gives us the feeling that we are all alone.

It can be easy to forget God in those times when it seems like God has forgotten us.  And so the Psalmist expresses one of the deep longings of the human heart: “Let my tongue be silenced if ever I forget you!”  The Psalmist meant Jerusalem, but Jerusalem was really for them a symbol of God himself.  When people get to the place of forgetting God, all hope is really lost.  Remembering God in adversity at least gives us the light of faith, the glimmer of hope.  How people get through the hard times in life without faith, I’ll never know.  The Psalmist today desperately prays that no one would ever have to find out.

The leper in the Gospel reading expresses the second of the deep longings: “Lord if you wish, you can make me clean.”  When we have sinned and fallen from God, we often don’t know whether God would want anything to do with us.  We can feel unworthy of salvation, which of course is what Satan really wants to have happen to us.  Because when we’ve turned away from God in shame, again we lose that light of faith and that glimmer of hope.  But the answer to the Leper’s question is what we sinners all have to hear today: “I do will it.  Be made clean.”

God would rather die than live forever without us.  We have to remember that those deep longings of our heart were put there by our God who never wants us to forget him, and who desperately wills that we be made clean.  We may from time to time in our lives have to sit by the streams of Babylon and weep.  But we must never lose hope in the One who always wills our salvation.

The Most Holy Trinity

Today's readings


What is God like?

rublev_trinity_iconToday’s celebration of the Most Holy Trinity reminds us of the fact that God loved the world he created so much that he was determined to remain in relationship with it.  “God so loved the world,” the Gospel tells us, “that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.”  That very familiar quote from John 3:16 has often been described as the entire Gospel all in one verse, because it tells us the reason for Our Savior’s coming, and the purpose for our existence, which is eternal life.

God wishes to remain in relationship with us, his creatures, because God himself is a relationship.  We will never really understand the Trinity in this lifetime, we know that, but we also know that in the Blessed Trinity, our Church has described God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  We recall this deepest of our beliefs every time we make the sign of the Cross, every time we receive a blessing, indeed every time the priest greets us at Mass with those familiar words: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you.”  God is a relationship: the Father with the Son and the Holy Spirit, the Son with the Father and the Spirit, and the Spirit with the Father and the Son.  Three persons, one God, all in relationship.

But make no mistake, I don’t come before you today to define the Holy Trinity for you as if I’ve figured it all out.  This deepest of our beliefs remains perhaps the deepest of all our mysteries.  A story about St. Augustine tells us as much: The story goes that he was walking along the beach, trying to figure out the nature of the Holy Trinity. As he walked along, he came across a little boy who had dug a hole in the sand right next to the shore. With his little hands he was carrying water from the ocean and was dumping it in the little hole. St. Augustine asked, "What are you doing, my child?" The child replied, "I want to put all of the water of the ocean into this hole." So St. Augustine asked him, "But is it possible for all of the water of this great ocean to be contained in this little hole?" And the child asked him in return, "If the water of the ocean cannot be contained in this little hole, then how can the Infinite Trinitarian God be contained in your mind?"  With that the child disappeared.

But just because the Trinity is a mystery, that doesn’t mean that we can’t talk about it.  In many ways, the mystery of the Trinity is a great blessing.  If we could really figure God out and define God in a neat set of explanations, it would be way to easy for us to simply file God away and never give a second thought.  Because we have to struggle with the mystery of the Trinity, this means we must constantly call God to mind and try to wrap our minds around God in new ways.  I had the great pleasure of preaching about the Trinity to our school children on Friday.  The fourth grade was preparing the Mass, and I asked them to write down questions that they had about God.  I was so deeply touched by the questions they wrote to me, and it was one of the greatest thrills of my priesthood to be able to speak to them about those questions.

The questions they had were wonderful:  Why can’t we see God?  Why did God create the world?  If God created life, then how did God become God?  Why does God love us?  Was God there when Jesus was dying?  Why does God forgive us after we’ve done something wrong?  How do we know the Holy Spirit is with us?  But there was one question that seemed to get to the bottom of it all for me:  What is God like?  And I realized that Adam’s question was where the rubber meets the road in our faith, and that question was the whole reason for celebrating this feast of the Holy Trinity: we have to every day examine what God is like so that we can remain in relationship with our God who is a relationship and who longs to remain in relationship with us.

Again, I’m not going to stand here and tell you the definitive answer to Adam’s question.  And that’s because there really isn’t one definitive answer to what God is like.  We could pass out cards right now and everyone could write down one thing that God is like.  And every one of us would be right in some ways, and every one of us would be wrong in some ways.  We could say that God is love, and we’d be right, but we’re wrong if we think of love in the limited way that we humans can conceive of love.  We could say that God is good, and we’d be right about that, but we’d be wrong if we think of God’s goodness in the way that a candy bar is good or a new car is good or even a new baby is good.  Our limited vocabulary can’t even come close to describing God.  As the song goes, our God is an awesome God, more so than any lyrics or other words could ever describe.

So I want to go back to this idea of God as a relationship.  I do that because it’s one of a million ways I could talk about the Trinity today.  But I do it also because I think that God as a relationship is such a very appealing way to think about God.  We all know how much our good relationships mean to us, and so it is very desirable to think of our relationship with God, and of the relationship that is God. 

Because sometimes we need a parent.  And so relating to God as Father reminds us of the nurturing of our faith, being protected from evil, being encouraged to grow, and being corrected when we stray.  If you’ve had difficulty with a parent in your life, particularly a father, then relating to God as Father can also be difficult.  But still, I think there is part of all of us, no matter what our earthly parents have been like, long to have a loving parental relationship.  God as Father can be that kind of parent in our lives.

And sometimes we need the Son.  Relating to God the Son – Jesus our brother – reminds us that God knows our needs, he knows our temptations, he’s experienced our sorrows and celebrated our joys.  God in Christ has walked our walk and died our death and redeemed all of our failures out of love for us.  God the Son reminds us that God, having created us in his own image and likeness, loves what he created enough to become one of us.  Our bodies are not profane place-holders for our soul, our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, and that very body was good enough to become the dwelling place of God when he came to earth.  Maybe you’ve never had a brother or sister or never were close to yours, but in Christ you have the brother above all others who is present to you in all your joys and sorrows.

Sometimes, too, we need a Holy Spirit.  Because we often have to be reminded that there is something beyond ourselves.  That this is not as good as it gets.  As wonderful as our world and our bodies can be, we know they are also very flawed.  The Holy Spirit reminds us that there is a part of us that always longs for God, no matter how far we have strayed.  The Spirit reminds us that our sins are not who we are and that repentance and forgiveness are possible.  It is the Holy Spirit that ena
bles us to do the really good things we wouldn’t be capable of all by ourselves, the really good things that are who we really are before God.

Maybe God comes to us as Trinity because one face of God is not sufficient to be God for us creatures who are constantly changing, and constantly struggling.  One day we need the Father, tomorrow we may need the Son and down the road the Holy Spirit.  Whatever we need, the point is that God is there.  Always was, always will be.

So back to Adam’s question:  What is God like?  Well, that’s a reflection I think I’ll leave you all with today.  What is God like?  I hope you struggle with that question your whole life long.  I hope I do too. 

Tuesday of the Fourth Week of Easter

Today's readings [display_podcast]

When people ask you where you are from, the way that you answer that question probably depends a lot on the context.  For instance, if it was a stranger who asked you that question when you were on a vacation out of the country, you might answer, “I’m from the United States.”  If you’re at a business meeting at your corporate headquarters in another state, you might say, “I’m from the Chicago area.”  If you just move into a house and you’re meeting your new neighbors for the first time, you would tell them where you used to live.  If you are at a ministry function with people from other churches, you would probably say “I’m from St. Raphael’s.”  If the person asking isn’t someone you want to know details of your personal life, you might say, “I’m sorry, that’s classified information.  Witness protection, you know…”

But seriously, today’s Scriptures ask that question in the context of our faith.  Where are you from?  In the first reading, we find there are Christians in Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, but all of them had their hearts – their true citizenship – in the new Jerusalem, the city of God.  They may have been from all over the known world at the time, but they were one in faith, united as brothers and sisters in Christ.  The Gospel reading has some Jews gathered around Jesus in the Temple, asking if he was the Christ.  They wanted to know where he was from.  And it was obvious – they had seen his works and heard his words.  But they could never be united, because even though they were in the same place, their hearts were from different places.

So where are you from?  We could answer that one all kinds of ways.  But spiritually, at our core, we are citizens of heaven.  Our life’s journey takes us all sorts of places, but its source and its destination are one and the same: our true home is in the City of God.  And right now, we are not home yet.  As always, the Psalmist says it so well: “One and all were born in her;” – that is, the City of God – “And he who has established her is the Most High LORD.”