A message from Jonah

Standard

An interesting point about Jonah’s preaching to Nineveh Jon 3:1-10 is that they listened to him. Jonah was not a polished speaker, and he was not enthusiastic. He did not want to deliver the message, and he had nothings but contempt for the people who were to receive it. They were his enemy. Jonah was belligerent, cantankerous, and carried a grudge. He was uncooperative and did not want to be there. In spite of that he delivered the Lords message anyway. Why did those people listen to Jonah? They did not. They did not listen to the messenger, but heard that message and knew exactly who it was from. They recognized Gods voice in a grumpy belligerent man. Jonah was not the one they listened to. When Jesus preached Lk 11:29-32 who did people hear?

(I can add a bit here. Jesus disciples heard first a prophet, and then the messiah, and finally the Son of God. To simplify things, they heard the word of God. The people of Nineveh recognized the same word when Jonah said repent, even though they did not sing any praise to Jonah. The LORD does work in mysterious ways. Think of where Moses heard the voice of God. It was a burning bush. Think of Elijah at the cave feeling the LORDS presence in a passing breeze. Did those people see God in Jonah? No. Did they recognize Gods message through Jonah? They did heed the Word and repent.)

 

 

Lord teach us to pray

Standard
The one single most identifiable Catholic prayer is the Rosary. I would state that it is the most  recited prayer of the Church. The rosary, glorious, sorrowful, joyous and illuminating. The prayer is as meditative as it is instructional. It is Sunday school on a string. The mysteries and their decades are easily committed to memory. The beads also are easy to carry. Its cyclical nature mirrors the cycles of life. They also feature prominently in the Churches own liturgical cycle. Christmas, Lent, Easter are all represented on those beads. Rosaries contain the essential elements of the stained glass windows. Stained glass windows were crafted to educate. Rosaries supplement the Breviaries carried about for liturgical prayer. Often they replace them. The beads are easily recited throughout the day. Recited while sitting or on a walk, both quietly and aloud. Prayed with beads or fingers or pebbles or chalk marks on paper or wall.  I wonder, how may POW’s survived through this simple prayer? How many prisoners survived their ordeal through the intercession of Mary. From fumbling or reciting those beads.
When the disciples asked the LORD how to pray, Jesus gave them (Mt 6:7-15) the “Our Father.” That prayer is also compact any remembered. It was so different from the babbling speeches delivered by the others of the time. Their prayers were lengthy grandiose statements. Those ornamented prayers are to impress the ears in the audience, but not the soul nor heaven. The simple prayer of Jesus reached both regardless if recited in sound or in silence. Jesus’s prayer formed the original rosary, called the pater noster. One prayer said over and over. One of the pillars of Lent is prayer. Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory be!

Almsgiving and prayer

Standard

charity_edited

Well, if yesterday’s reading from the Book of Genesis reminded us of our quest for knowledge of good and evil, todays readings remind us that learning the difference between the two has a bit of a learning curve. Moses Lv 19:1-2, 11-18 in his address to the children of Israel tells them what they should do to be holy in the eyes of God. Jesus in his address Mt 25:31-46  does much of the same as He reminds the disciples that they will be separated like goats versus sheep. He explains to His flock what they must do to remain in His fold. Making decisions has its consequences, one must learn the difference between good and evil. Errors, often made, are a fact of life. There are of course different ways of discovering the difference between good and evil, there are different techniques of making sound moral choices. Moses and Jesus do have their own approaches. For Moses law becomes a tool of choice. For Jesus it is prayer and spirit. Jesus does pray a lot, He often distances himself from the crowd to pray. Jesus also gives instruction, he teaches that we must treat others as God treats us. Today’s discourse is all about charity, it is about feeding the hungry and giving drink to those who thirst. It is about clothing the naked, giving shelter to the homeless, and welcoming the stranger. Jesus preaches good behavior.

Two of Lent’s themes are emphasized in today’s gospel. The obvious one is Charity, and often in today’s culture that is interpreted as almsgiving. Give food to the hungry, and clothing to the naked, and shelter to the homeless are all forms of almsgiving. They are all forms of giving out of Christian love. Charity is love.

For I was hungry and you gave me food,
I was thirsty and you gave me drink,
a stranger and you welcomed me,
naked and you clothed me,
ill and you cared for me,
in prison and you visited me.’

The other Lenten theme is prayer, though that is not as noticeable as Charity. In deciding between good and evil takes discernment and it takes guidance. Moses offered guidance through the law. Jesus offered the same trough teachings, parables, sermons, miracles, and prayer. The last, prayer, takes many forms one of which is reading scripture. Mass is a form of prayer too. Both Moses and Jesus are offering a sermon to the people; that is a common feature of liturgy. Prayer takes many forms.

To go back to charity, often charitable acts are reduced to “giving to the poor” and the poor are frequently reduced to those who are economically in distress. To be hungry certainly can be those who are deprived of food, it also includes those who “hunger and thirst for righteousness.” Often those with the least in economic terms offer the most to others in spiritual terms. That is a subtle reminder that a charitable act should not depreciate or underestimate the value of the receiver. Often the charitable donation should be seen as a payment made for a service rendered. Giving to the homeless serves as a stark reminder of the value and dignity of every life. Those facing hardship often pay a hefty price teaching the wealthy that simple lesson. Prayer and almsgiving should not be separated, one enhances the other.

the first Sunday of Lent

Standard

eve_editedFour days with a dash of ash on my head, but why is it there? For some, and I think this has been emphasized over the past few years, the cross of ash is a symbol of faith. To many it has become a proclamation and public display of faith. That is not what the priest says when placing ashes on a forehead. The priest says (or should say) that we come from ashes and to ashes we return.* They can also say repent and remember the gospel. The first saying is a reminder of that first reading of Genesis Gn 2:7-9; 3:1-7 where God forms man from a ball of clay, we gain life through the breath of God. The second phrase comes from the temptation of Adam and Eve by the serpent in the garden. In that story they fall to temptation and out of God’s grace. That action is man’s original sin. The ashes remind us of who created us, and of our frail human nature, and our path to salvation. While that reading of our birth and fall from Genesis chronicles our human nature and frailties, the reading of Jesus’s temptation Mt 4:1-11  by the same devil emphasizes HIS divinity. Jesus does not fall to temptation. He leads us back on that path towards the garden. Jesus leads us to salvation. The ashes are a poignant reminder of who we are, and who Jesus is.

The ashes are a reminder of our sinful nature, and that first couple was not the only of our kind to sin. Ashes are a reminder of the traditional Old Testament signs of repentance. In that Old Testament man acknowledged their sins by covering their heads in ashes and their bodies in sackcloth. In the ancient Christian traditions, ashes were sprinkled on the penitents as they lie on rough cloth. Penance then was strict, with those sinners standing outside the Church until their penitential acts were completed. Sometimes it is helpful to know traditions of both the Old and New Testaments over time in order to understand traditions of today.

Today, often one only considers themselves a penitent if a Big Sin was committed, and even then the sin is only admitted reluctantly. Those Big Sins are named mortal sins because the break a link to God, they are the sins that kill the soul. The truth is that there are many times per day a person has the occasion to sin. There are 86,400 seconds per day, and each one of them an opportunity to fall. Every choice is an opportunity to do right or wrong. Every second is the chance to do something we should not have, or forget to do something we should have. Before that first couple were guided by the snake, man only knew the grace of God. Our inheritance is the choice between good and evil. We don’t always choose “good”, that is for certain.

While the reading of Genesis documents our fall, the reading from Mathew tells of what was done to save us. It also gives hint at what we are to do this season. The Gospel is the Good News, and that news tells us to pick up our cross and follow him. Gospel tells us how to deal with those temptations as Jesus did. The gospel explains how to say no to the serpent in the desert. The season that is derived from that gospel, Lent, has three concise tools to aid us on our path. Prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Prayer reminds that there is indeed something greater than us, it also is a path to call for help and ask for strength. Fasting also focuses on something greater than our immediate needs. It builds strength and character. Almsgiving is an act of charity of love. It is a reminder of a God that loves us. It is a reminder to do the same to others, it is also a reminder of the abundant blessings we have received.

How would I explain these readings of the first Sunday of Lent, how would I explain the past four days? It and they are a road map for a journey that is about to begin. They are a reminder of where we are starting from, where we are headed too, and a summary of what we need to get there. The first name for the Church that Jesus the Christ founded was “The Way.”  Might this day be the first road post along that Way?

Rom 5:12, 17-19

*”Remember man that thou art dust and unto dust thou shalt return.”

A first Friday of Lent

Standard

crown_edited

The crown of thorns. A crown of kings, cast in gold embedded with jewels. The crown of thorns, blood drips down the Kings face. The true KING, of the kingdom of God. The crown of thorns, the mockery of a KING. The mockery of a heavenly king, the mockery of the KING of the universe. The mockery of the LORD divine. But what of earth, of where he descended to, do we do the same? Do we mock the KING of the universe? Do we place other kings before him? In that ancient world this is certainly true, a pharaoh was a king just as an emperor. But what today do we place before the KING? Not at his feet, but atop HIS throne? We seek leaders, and we place them there. We seek money, and we place it there. We seek prestige, and clout and comfort and riches; we place them there. We place them there, in HIS throne and not at his feet. A crown of gold bedecked with jewels we wear, and for the Almighty the crown of thorns. The crown of thorns, the mockery to the true KING and LORD. The crown of thorns Jesus the Christ worn. We placed it there atop His head, in place of a gold crown we put atop our own. The mockery to a true KING, that is our sin. Remember this season of which we pray, save us from ourselves on this day. Praise the KING of kings, our LORD