Love a Sinner

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Sure the taxmen sinned, sometimes they took more than required and pocketed the difference. Sometimes their fees left people with little to eat. They often suffered from greed, sometimes had little regard for their neighbor. Sometimes they didn’t recognize a sin. Jesus welcomed them, and he cured them. Extortion, bribery, robbery, deceit, brutality; all sins that keep one from God. Jesus taught them to repent, and offered forgiveness. That forgiveness allowed them to change, and a change could restore them to life. Sinners came to Jesus, because He cured. Lord have Mercy, Christ have Mercy, Lord have MERCY. The Pharisees (of that era) did not. A sinner is a sinner, and not all sins are character flaws. The blind, and beggars, and cripples, all of them cursed and with no recourse. There lies doom. The taxmen sinned, even though they sought to be fair. Their sin simply was being a taxman. Pharisees knew that, but Jesus might argue. Why should an upright taxman live the life condemned? Jesus dined with the sinner, they came to him because he cured. The Pharisee fought against sin, but did they fight for the sinner? How was it that they brought about a cure? Why did sinners follow Jesus? The sinners, such as taxman Mathew, felt a burden lifted from their shoulders. They were freed from the burden of sin they had carried so long

While he was at table in his house,
many tax collectors and sinners came
and sat with Jesus and his disciples.
The Pharisees saw this and said to his disciples,
“Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” Mt 9:9-13

 

A paralytics cure

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After entering a boat, Jesus made the crossing, and came into his own town.
And there people brought to him a paralytic lying on a stretcher.
When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic,
“Courage, child, your sins are forgiven.”
At that, some of the scribes said to themselves,
“This man is blaspheming.”
Jesus knew what they were thinking, and said,
“Why do you harbor evil thoughts?
Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’
or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? Mt 9:1-8

There is the gospel blurb of the day, and today is the memorial of the first martyrs of Rome. Those are the martyrs slaughtered by Emperor Nero. The scribes challenge Jesus forgiveness of sins. Intuitively I suggest that most can see how forgiveness can allow a paralytic to walk again. Metaphysically of course. Most can recognize the crippling effect of sin on one’s life, and forgiveness allows for a change. It grants the cripple a new lease on life. What though of the slaughter instituted by evil Nero? Whom does the forgiveness of sins set free in this instance? I suspect, and this is only opinion, it sets free the Christian witnesses of the horrors of Nero. Even though they did not commit the atrocity, the forgiveness of the perpetrators sets those innocent witnesses free. It frees them from a crippling event, it frees them from wallowing in the degenerate horrors of the likes of Nero. It allows them to move on. To run away from injustice, and in doing so to sprint towards a heavenly reward. Pray for those that witness life’s horrors, that they might find the forgiveness to set their own souls free, so that they need not succumb to a satanic advance. The forgiveness of sin is the victory of Christ. Amen…

Thirteenth Sunday Walkabout

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Must I put on my jogging shoes, or my hiking, or fine Italian loafers? Do I need snowshoes? Must I cancel my mail as if preparing for a summer cruise? What precisely does it take to follow Christ? To follow Him, one asks to first burry a loved one, another to bid farewell. Both are rebuked, Christ does not allow these of His disciples? Really? Then there is the enigmatic quote “Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.” Where does the “Son of Man” rest His head? What type of footwear shall I wear as I follow, what mode of transportation will there be? Where, might I ask, is the final destination? How long is the trip? When He asks “follow Me”, can I ask how far are we to go?
Lk 9:51-62

Perhaps I am going about this all wrong, and perhaps the disciples were too. Perhaps my first question should be altered. When Jesus states “follow Me”, might I ask if I need to move my feet. Might I ask the destination? These I think are the questions those disciples failed to ask. To the first “must I move my feet” I suspect the answer is no. Jesus, I suspect, did not wish them to take a journey measured in miles. The destination I suspect is the, Kingdom of God He preached. Follow Me, did not require one to abandon a loved one. It did not mean the disciple could not bury the dead, or bid farewell to a loved one. It simply meant they could not do that first. To follow Christ and bury the dead required that they be done simultaneously. One could at once follow Jesus, and stay with a loved one. To follow Christ truly meant a person’s feet need not move. One can follow Christ while planted firmly in a chair. Follow me is a journey not measured in miles. It is not a change in location, or in geography. “Follow Me” is to follow Jesus in mind and heart and soul. It is a spiritual journey, not an athletic one.

Those disciples one must understand came from another world, a world of different customs, experiences, and expectations. There journey with Jesus Christ also involved a learning curve. They needed to understand the language that the LORD spoke.

Look when they travel ahead of the LORD to Samaria, and ponder when those Samaritans reject Jesus Christ. In that rejection they refuse to follow Him, they reject His teachings. In that rejection, the disciples ask if they should “call on God to consume them.” Had they not yet realized Gods only Son walked among them to save them? Their journey was not only to Jerusalem. Their journey was in understanding who they walked with. It takes a while to understand Jesus’s call to “Follow me”

Jesus’s “Follow Me” does not require abandonment of this world, but simply journeying through this world with Him. One cannot partition the spiritual from the physical, they are intertwined. They exist together. One does not follow at one moment, and change course in the next. It’s not governed by law or reason, but through conversion, and conversion was the journey those disciples were truly on. The foot paths they walked were merely a tool of conversion, the foot journey merely allowed them time. Time to listen, and time to change. What they did not realize is that they were not only journeying to the city of Jerusalem, at the same time they were journeying back to the LORD. Even all the while He walked among them. They journeyed towards Him and with Him at the same time. That is to say they answered His call to “Follow Me.”

1 Kgs 19:16b, 19-21

Gal 5:1, 13-18

Lk 9:51-62

Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 99

Faith and dying in the thirteenth Sunday of ordinary time

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Mathew’s gospel of the young girl dying and the older hemorrhaging woman has admittedly always been a struggle for me. It is a long passage and full of detail.Mk 5:21-43 The trick is separating out those details and then finding out how they are related. An old woman versus a young girl. A lengthy chronic illness, versus one that is brief yet lethal. The link through that number twelve, the length of life of the young girl and the length of a woman’s suffering. Then there is that girl’s father, Jarius the synagogue official. Jesus’s boat comes from the other side, and I have to suspect that other side was a pagan region. With that there is another comparison between Jew and Gentile, and from that one can extrapolate Old and New Testaments. These are the polarities that lie within these sandwiched gospel stories, what are the similarities? The old woman had exhausted all resources before placing her faith in Jesus Christ. “If I but touch his clothes, I shall be cured.” Jarius also in fear turned to Christ. The link between these two stories is faith, it is faith, people’s expectations in faith, and how Jesus acts in faith.

“My daughter is at the point of death.
Please, come lay your hands on her
that she may get well and live.”

For the older hemorrhaging woman, her life was torment. There was the suffering of her illness, and the suffering she endured from society because of her illness. Her desperation from both sources of pain drove her to touch Jesus cloak, and in that faith that caused her to reach out to Christ she is healed. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be cured of your affliction.”

Why would Jesus ignore the pleas of Jarius concerning a daughter that is on the brink of death, to preach and aid a woman who had suffered for years? His plea was urgent, and hers along with everything else could wait! His faith was tested, and that certainly must have been a struggle. Why does God test our faith? When our pleas go unanswered, should we lose faith? All I think are good questions. When Jarius hears the news that his daughter had died, no one would have blamed him for losing faith in Jesus ability to heal. People told him Christ could no longer help, but Jesus said to him “Do not be afraid; just have faith.” Jarius maintained his faith, and his daughter was restored to life. With that then comes another question, who are we to question the way that God works? Ours is to maintain that faith, obedience, trust and acceptance. I suspect Jesus had a few barriers to remove to bring about a healing. The hemorrhaging woman had to battle the crowds, and on the way to healing Jairus’s daughter Jesus had to drive out those mourners. Might the young girl also be inflicted with an illness of inheritance? An old disease passed to a new generation? Both obstacles that stood in the way of life, and Jesus is the God of the living.

God did not make death,
nor does he rejoice in the destruction of the living.
For he fashioned all things that they might have being;
and the creatures of the world are wholesome,
and there is not a destructive drug among them
nor any domain of the netherworld on earth,
for justice is undying.
For God formed man to be imperishable;
the image of his own nature he made him.
But by the envy of the devil, death entered the world,
and they who belong to his company experience it.

The one detail that still remains to be addressed is that sea Jesus keeps crossing. On one side lies the Jewish regions, on the other the pagans; and Jesus in his gospel testament demands that both place their faith in them. One group had been followers of the covenant for generations, the other their enemy and considered to be an unclean and sinful group. That is a cultural divide that even today seems unnavigable, and so pertinent today. Jesus asks that both place their faith in him, just as Jarius and the hemorrhaging woman placed their faith in Him. Certainly both sides of that vast sea challenged Jesus request for their faith, they questioned it, and an many violently disregarded it. Who were the ones that were healed?

Jesus said to the synagogue official,
“Do not be afraid; just have faith.”

Those who listened, and who were unafraid. They approached Him, placed their faith in Him, and were healed.That faith though is not that God would do what we wish, in the manner we expect. It is the faith that God desires to bring healing and life, and save us from death and destruction.There are challenges to faith, obstacles, twists and turns. If there is one message to this gospel it is that perseverance in faith through the many challenges everyone faces, does bring us to life. It brings about its reward even though its actions are far from what we can comprehend or even expect.

Why do we fast ?

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Mt 9:14-17
John the Baptists disciples asked why they and the Pharisees fast while Jesus’s do not. Perhaps they would have been better off asking when do they fast, why do they fast, and when should their fast cease. Fasting is a form of repentance,it is a both reminder of past  negative behavior and a resolution to turn away or repent for that fault.It is an offering made to atone for a sin, with the hope that the sin will be forgiven, and a relationship will be restored.Fasting by its very nature is a waiting, it is waiting for its own end so that something new might begin. It is waiting for hunger, longing, and emptiness to be replaced by nourishment, fulfillment, and joy.Jesus and his disciples did not fast. Perhaps Jesus witnessed the fasting Johns (and the Pharisees) disciples had already endured, perhaps he knew the time has come for hunger longing and emptiness to be replaced.For the fast to be meaningful it had to come to an end so that Joyfulness of a restored relationship might return. It was not out of arrogance that Jesus and his disciples did not fast; it was so that the fullness of redemption might be received. Jesus’s message was not about more waiting, it was about realizing that the hopes and aspirations of the Israelites was present; The Kingdom of God was at hand and that called for celebration. The Celebration  of the New Testament. Jesus knew our human nature, he new we would  fall again and again(and again… .. .), but he also knew the power of redemption and the need for it. John preached repentance, Jesus preached the restorative power of redemption.