Fractured Wednesday

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All sorts of things cause division. The first reading mentions how the two sons of Abraham are divided. One born of his wife Sarah, and the other of their slave Hagar. Both were sons of Abraham, yet they were divided as sheep are divided from goats. The story often is used as a description of nations formed. The son Isaac , and the on Ishmael : the patriarchs of Israel and Islam. They become great nations, and also rivals. Because they are divided. One free, another from a slave; yet in Christ equal in the eyes of the Father. Jesus does not preach a kingdom of Judea and a  kingdom of Islam, to Jesus it is the kingdom of God.

Sarah noticed the son whom Hagar the Egyptian
had borne to Abraham
playing with her son Isaac;
so she demanded of Abraham:
“Drive out that slave and her son!

Gn 21:5, 8-20a

The odd thing about the division of the earth is that the division multiplies. From two sons, to two nations, to twelve tribes, to an abundance of kingdoms (each with its deity). Earth becomes divided, and so does heaven. Fractured and fragmented, a shredding of the glory of creation.

When Jesus came to the territory of the Gadarenes,
two demoniacs who were coming from the tombs met him.
They were so savage that no one could travel by that road.
They cried out, “What have you to do with us, Son of God?

The gospel reading Mt 8:28-34 also tells of a fragment of creation. As Jesus crosses the sea He and the disciples enter the land of the Gentiles and for the followers of the covenant it is a fearful place. To their eyes there is uncleanliness, and evil of an epic proportion. It is as if they had entered hell, and that hell was guarded by demons. Surprisingly Jesus conquered those demonic creatures, and that brings its own fear. Once an earthen vessel is shattered, it is difficult to assemble those shards together to make the vessel whole again. Yet that is the mission of Christ, to reunite creation and make it whole. The kingdom of God is at hand. A broken and divided world put back together, creation healed.

(if one travels to a potters studio they will often notice a wall with broken pottery scattered beneath it. That is what the potter does with pieces that do not meet expectations. Of course since they have already been fired, they can not be reassembled. God often scatters or shatters man  when disobedient, but also reassembles him at the proper time. That’s the difference between God and man. Man can neither destroy or recreate Gods creation, though they often disagree. Nothing is impossible for God.)

Wednesday of the Thirteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Feast of (doubting) Saint Thomas.

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How many consider that Thomas’s absence was part of a divine plan? Thomas’s absence from originally seeing the risen LORD separates him from the group. His questions are a contrast to the disciple’s testament, Thomas questions both the LORD and His Apostles. Thomas challenges a cult mentality by introducing doubt and reason, and by demanding proof. By way of the doubt and the questions and the demands, Thomas proclaims both the LORD has truly risen, and My LORD and my GOD. With his doubts Thomas declares the presence of the Easter Christ. Thomas proclaims a Christ of the resurrection.

But Thomas said to them,
“Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands
and put my finger into the nailmarks
and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

An Easter Christ is the Christ that as revealed to Saint Paul, and Paul also was known for his doubting Christ. Paul was the persecutor of Christians who encountered the Easter Christ in the road to Damascus. That encounter was after the Ascension. Peter also had his doubts about the LORD, his were famously acknowledged by the crowing of a rooster at the crucifixion. Interesting how the LORD revealed Himself at the transfiguration with the inner group of disciples. That is Peter’s experience, an experience that is challenged by the crucifixion. Then there is Thomas, also one who walked with Christ. Finally Paul, who persecutes the followers of Christ. All three are challenged, yet all three proclaim Christ as truly risen, and Christ as LORD. With questioning minds they make their declaration.

Thomas’s doubt bridges that Christ of the Transfiguration and the Easter Christ. Thomas did walk with Christ as a disciple, and then proclaim the Christ of Easter. The same with Peter. For Paul a Christ after the resurrection. For us? Ours is a Christ of the resurrection, an Easter Christ. And our doubts, do we have them? Are we any less human than the other three? Thomas’s doubts serve a purpose, as does any inquisitive mind. Ours is a God given ability to question, to ponder the LORD.

When Jesus encounters Thomas’s doubts and questions the Lord does not chastise or condemn him. Jesus asks that Thomas seek the answers to his questions. He says to place his hands into the wounds of Christ. Jesus has Thomas explore the risen LORD. The doubts are a natural part of the human experience. Thomas needed to see and touch Jesus to believe, and he does so. He declares Christ truly risen. Jesus also tells that it is better that those who do not see believe. Not to see, and yet believe is go have faith. Both are important, naturally seeking and being guided simply by faith. For certain I can probe this planet and see the works of Christ. I can also follow Christ in faith when I am blinded by darkness. Perhaps it is the first, the questioning, that feeds and strengthens the second that is faith. (Faith & Reason)

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