Friday, February 19, 2010

This is my beloved Son, homily by Jan Robitscher

“This is my beloved Son, the beloved...;
Listen to him!”

(Matt 17: 5)

Last Epiphany , Yr. II
Exodus 24: 12-18
Matthew 17:1-9

Jan Robitscher
St. Mark’s Church
Berkeley, CA
February 14, 2010

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

If I were to ask you what day it is, you might well answer “Sunday. Perhaps, if you were well versed in the Prayer Book, you would might say, “The Last Sunday after the Epiphany” or maybe even, “The Feast of Cyril and Methodius”, two Orthodox saints. But I’ll bet most of you would say, “It’s Valentine’s Day”, of course! And no matter which answer you gave, you would be right. But what do any or all of these answers have to do with our lessons or this service? Hear again this portion:

While [Peter] was still speaking, suddenly
a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from
the cloud a voice said, “This is my Son, the
beloved; with whom I am well pleased; listen
to him!”

The card shops have told us for a month that today is Valentine’s Day. And all the cards say, in so many words, “I love you”. What about love? How is love reflected in these lessons and on this day?

The Roman Church did celebrate the Feast of St. Valentine until their most recent reform of the liturgical calendar. Sometimes the life of a saint turns out to be mostly legends, but in this case, legends have obscured what was a real life.

Valentine, a Roman priest, together with ST. Marius
and his family, assisted the martyrs who suffered
during the reign of Emperor Claudius II in the 3rd.
century. Being apprehended, Valentine sent to the
Prefect in Rome, who ordered that he be [put to death].
He was martyred about the year 270.

(from Lives of the Saints)

So red would be the color for St. Valentine; the red of Martyrs’ blood. For the love Valentine expressed was far deeper than anything we see on Valentine’s Day cards. It was a love sprung from his own confession of Jesus as the Christ, “God’s Son, the beloved...” which enabled Valentine to assist others who would be martyred for just such a confession until he was martyred, too.

It did not take long for the Church to discover, however, that there were others who led equally heroic lives in the confession of Jesus’ name but who did not become martyrs. These they called confessors. Into this category we can place Sts. Cyril and Methodius, who are now celebrated on this day (when not a Sunday) by Episcopalians, Roman Catholics and the Orthodox Churches. The lives of these ninth century missionaries (who were, incidentally, brothers) were given over to the work of bringing the Gospel message to the Slavonic peoples. This included inventing a written alphabet, preaching and eventually
being made bishops so they could assist in ordaining new clergy. Their work was not without resistance, though, and Methodius endured a brief time in prison on false charges of heresy. Their lives represent another dimension of love; love of God, love of the message of the Good News in Jesus Christ.

And so we come to the Last Sunday after the Epiphany, and are impelled toward another Lenten Season. We bid farewell to Alleluia and Gloria and, llike Peter, James and John, fall silent before the glorious vision of God. It is a time to take the words spoken from the cloud to heart:

“This is my Son, the beloved; with whom I am well pleased;
listen to him!”

In Lent, we are asked to listen to God, even as these saints did; to allow God to show us, in Jesus, how to show our love for one another. We are asked to walk with Jesus in a love that takes us all the way through his passion and death to the celebration of his
resurrection on Easter Day. This kind of listening and loving will change us; not just for 40 days, but for life.

It has been said that every Sunday is a little Easter. Perhaps it would be better to say that every Easter is a big Sunday. Week by week on Sunday morning, and month by month at this service of Evensong, we celebrate the love God has for us in the dying and rising of Jesus--and we seek to return that love to God and to one another, however small and faltering our efforts. Today--once the Feast of St. Valentine, sometimes the Feast of Sts. Cyril and Methodius and now the Last Sunday after the Epiphany--today is Sunday, the Lord’s Day. To this we can only echo the words of the Psalmist:

>“This is the day that the Lord has made;*
let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

(Psalm 118:24)

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