A donkey wanders (on Sunday #14)

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Zechariah Zec 9:9-10 opens the day with the image of Jesus entering the city of Jerusalem;” See, your king shall come to you; a just savior is he, meek, and riding on an ass, on a colt, the foal of an ass.” Riding on an ass contrasts with riding on a stallion. The stallion is the transportation of the warrior, the ass carries wisdom. Quiet, unassuming wisdom does not rule by force. It becomes apparent when force leads to exhaustion. It is the silence after the last bomb falls, it is the silence after the last scream. It is what is said when not another word can be spoken, it is the Word of the LORD. It is the Word of the LORD silently spoken, the Holy Spirit. It is done, Gods victory in spite of man’s blunders.

It is why Jesus rides into that ancient city, not to fight yet another futile battle but to atone for man’s sins. Jesus rides into the city on an ass to carry us back to God. That is the reason for the journey, the Word becomes flesh to lift our spirit up from the flesh towards the divine. That is what Paul’s letter Rom 8:9, 11-13 go the Roman’s addresses. “Brothers and sisters: You are not in the flesh; on the contrary, you are in the spirit, if only the Spirit of God dwells in you.” There comes the silence of contemplation (and of prayer). It is not an argument of Body versus Spirit, it is the reality that the body carries a spirit as a donkey carries the LORD.

The donkey, that beast of burden, carries what it must. It carries what is placed upon it. Entering Jerusalem that donkey carries the Son of God. It could have carried rocks, it could have carried Satin himself. The donkey could have climbed towards heaven, or plunged into the depths of hell. The donkey carries a load. And Jesus exclaimed “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”

Body or Spirit, which weighs more? Mt 11:25-30 For certain many think body, it is measured in pounds. But the spirit, cant that be heavier than the heaviest load? A spirit of sin and destruction and despair? A spirit of earthly concerns, the spirit of the popular consumer culture? The spirit of popular opinion. A spirit of hatred and injustice? Aren’t they all heavy burdens? They are the burdens of this world, they are its bombs of destruction. They are the earthly battles. They are what hangs on the Cross. They are the sins of humanity. They are why Jesus enters into creation. His mission is to remove that burden of sin, and place upon us the grace of God. The donkey carries a parcel.

Oh, and how does that donkey decide what parcel to carry? The beast pray’s. It prays that it might be given a suitable task, and a burden not to great. It also prays that it might carry that parcel through treacherous land, it knows well its duty. Some look at the animals back and notice the weight it can carry, but one should pay attention what lies between the donkeys eyes and ears. The beast has a brain after all, call it free will if you will. If given a parcel it dislikes it can buck and kick. If told to do something disagreeable it can squeal. If told to journey where it should not, then it becomes stubborn as a mule. Though it is an animal of burden, it is no fool. The donkey has an intellect. A gentile yoke, and easy task, a light burden should bring Joy; especially if it has carried the opposite for so long.

“a mission” told twice, and today..

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Over the past couple of days the gospel readings have  been from Matthews Mt 10:7-15 account of the commissioning of the Apostles to proclaim the Kingdom of God. They are given permission to do certain things and they are prohibited from doing others. They are directed to bring the message to the house of Israel, and not to the likes of Samaria. They are given permission to cure and heal in His name, they are prohibited from allowing anything to corrupt their mission. Finally, they are told of the many hardships they will endure.

Think of those 12 Apostles going into the world Mt 10:16-23 on this specific mission. They are a small group of followers going against an enormous establishment. They are going against a massive temple, and the power and wealth that is behind it. They challenge a religious authority, that authority is also a political authority; and it is an authority with powerful allies(?) in a world that abhors unrest and uprisings. It is a world that is dominated by brute and brutal strength. It is a world where the authority does not tolerate challenges. My first biblical image? They are David going after Goliath.

Jesus said to his Apostles:
“As you go, make this proclamation:
‘The Kingdom of heaven is at hand.’
Cure the sick, raise the dead,
cleanse the lepers, drive out demons.
Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give.

David versus Goliath gives image of the twelve stepping into the world, it also should give hint of the outcome. The young shepherd defeats a behemoth, defeats the beast with what? A slingshot and some stones, that’s what the story implies. The story implies those simple devices, but that boy has something behind him too. Something that gives him strength, strength to go into battle and be victorious. David is an anointed one, the Apostles are too. Seemingly small they have the power of God standing beside them. If their opponent is strong, they are stronger. Looks can be deceiving. Most know how both stories continue. David is victorious, Christ’s Apostles continue their mission undefeated. Their commission continues to this day. The empire has not defeated them, no matter how hard it tries.

Jesus said to his Apostles:
“Behold, I am sending you like sheep in the midst of wolves;
so be shrewd as serpents and simple as doves.
But beware of men,
for they will hand you over to courts

I say the Apostles mission continues, and that they have not been defeated, but I dare not say the opponent has surrendered. Mt 10:24-33 Read a newspaper, turn on the television, eavesdrop on a conversation. What’s all the chatter about, and can anyone spot an agenda? Its more than liberal versus conservative, or the donkey and an elephant. Odd image that last one! Its the social agenda, or I should say agendas. Many align with their parties. They are the truths and the lies interspersed amongst battling fractions perched on a soapbox. Each claiming to be David and both acting like a Goliath. Power proclaiming its story.

But where are those disciples, where can they be seen? The mission continues, and the opponent flexes its muscle. Its puffed up and well fed, well financed and organized and well seated on a gilded  earthly throne. The disciples, distressed and tormented, they are under attack. Values and beliefs under siege, plundered. Attacked verbally by the media, by a well fed army. The disciples  are called the devil, even though many see their good works. But then again, maybe they don’t see , that mighty opponent is blind and crippled, though they do not know. Blinded by a false message proclaimed by an overstretched authority. Crippled by corruption and coin, the same corruption the disciples were commanded to avoid. The apostles mission, to defeat and also to heal. Don’t miss that word heal. To heal the cripple, to restore sight to the blind, to add salve to a wound.

“Therefore do not be afraid of them.
Nothing is concealed that will not be revealed,
nor secret that will not be known.
What I say to you in the darkness, speak in the light;
what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops.

The opponent armed with power and gold and supported through propagandists.The disciples, armed with a simple truth as proclaimed by their LORD. It seems like the battle of David and Goliath continues today. We all know how it ends, even though some refuse to admit it. Such is the power of deception. The lie will fall, and truth will prevail. The kingdom of God is at hand. It truly is. The story told three times. One, David and Goliath. Two, the Apostles and the world. Three, those that listened to those disciples and their world today.1,2,3.

 

 

Faith, Courage, and the Cure

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Two stories intertwined. Mt 9:18-26 First an official tells Jesus of his daughter’s death with the request that Jesus comes quickly so that he might lay His hands on her. The second, the story of the hemorrhaging woman who quietly hopes to touch His cloak that she might be healed. The final returns to the little girl’s funeral procession. Add the detail that Jesus turns to the hemorrhaging woman and says “Courage woman, your faith has saved you.”

The details of this story, or these stories is rich, and it is easy to get lost in details. With all of those details, where does one start their investigation? This time around, I think those words spoken by Jesus might be the ideal place. Courage and Faith are the keys to the story. If courage and faith healed the bleeding woman, might they not be the clue to what the little girl’s father needs?

While Jesus was speaking, an official came forward,
knelt down before him, and said,
“My daughter has just died.
But come, lay your hand on her, and she will live.”
Jesus rose and followed him, and so did his disciples.

With the father and his little girl, the reader must first decide who needs to be cured. The obvious one is the little girl, she is the one the father seeks help for. Shouldn’t one also question the father’s health too? The loss of a loved one can take its toll on someone’s health. Faith and Courage. The father had faith in Jesus, might he also need a little courage. Like the bleeding woman, Jesus understood her request even though it was silent. The Lord answered the father’s plea even before it became audible. Jesus entered into creation to heal the sick, his nativity was the cure set into motion.

If God the Father loved the world so much that He sent His only Son, how much suffering awaited the innocent little girl in death. On the cross Jesus conquers death, and in His tomb He descends into the depths of hell to set those captives free. The little girl’s father has faith in Jesus and that is why he approached Him. The courage in one’s faith during a person’s darkest time is a challenge. Jesus is merciful, he visits the girl and a death ritual is taken place. The death ritual is cultural, it has its origins in man and not the divine. It reinforces man’s thoughts of life and death, God and man, heaven and hell. Rituals reinforce man’s thoughts, they do not correct those thoughts. If man believes something that is not true, ritual reinforces those beliefs. A lie gains strength. Enter Jesus, the cure.

A woman suffering hemorrhages for twelve years came up behind him
and touched the tassel on his cloak.
She said to herself, “If only I can touch his cloak, I shall be cured.”
Jesus turned around and saw her, and said,
“Courage, daughter! Your faith has saved you.”

Now comes a comparison between the death of an innocent little girl, and a hemorrhaging woman. Jesus, in the story, dismisses those practicing the death ritual. Their ideas on life and death and heaven and hell are wrong. Their ritual does nothing to bring about healing, instead it makes those involved deathly ill. It is especially damaging to the father. Heaven was a distant star, so distant that the father would be left terribly alone. Fearful and uncertain of his daughters future. To reach that distant star required the fulfillment of certain prescriptions, and if not fulfilled what awaited his daughter? Enter the hemorrhaging woman and her fate. She for certain was destined for the depths of hell, and sentenced there for nothing of her own doing. So certain was her condemnation that no one dare touch her, no one except Jesus. He cures her as he cures the little girl. Faith and courage. Faith in a God of love and mercy, and the courage to follow HIM.

Jesus in His mission leads people back to His Father. He restores the understanding between God and man, and redefines a relationship between heaven and hell. His preaching is not one of life and death, but one of everlasting life. He does not preach eternal condemnation, but of a merciful forgiveness. In His gospel the bleeding woman is not sentenced to an eternity in hell, she is granted the opportunity to enter Gods kingdom no matter what her earthly affliction might be. The little girl’s father is granted the certainty that his daughter is loved whatever her state in life might be. God is a loving God, and a merciful God. He also is assured that his daughter is no further away than a prayer. He too has been cured.

An independent and separated 14th Sunday of Ordinary Time..

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The first reading Is 66:10-14c with its praises of Jerusalem speaks loudly of the celebration of tomorrow, the fourth of July. It is an expression of love of nation , yet in that expression it talks about a nation constricted by borders. Its mention of Jerusalem speaks of a country, a landscape, a nation, and a piece of real estate. It speaks of patriotism much as Independence Day does. A country, from sea to shining sea. The gospel reading Lk 10:1-12, 17-20 today also speaks in sorts abstractly of country. In the sending out of the seventy two to preach the gospel, the country (the kingdom Christ preached) is not defined by real estate, but by faith and soul. Independence Day largely has that same theme, a declaration of independence and the defining of this countries ideals, and aspirations. That document captures the soul of a Nation.

Thus says the LORD:
Rejoice with Jerusalem and be glad because of her,
all you who love her;
exult, exult with her,
all you who were mourning over her!

That gives one reason to wonder, what emotion would there be in celebrating the nation minus the ideals of its founding document? What if one approached Independence Day without its inalienable rights? What if one acknowledge the land minus the ideals? The same can be asked about the Christian landscape, what if that were preached minus the teaching of Jesus Christ. What if Christianity was in name only? A title minus its principles.

I can bring this up because the role of much of government is precisely defending the soul of a nation. Its legislatures, and representatives, and courts constantly argue a nations constitution. Some argue for it, and some against it. The fight is for the soul of a Nation, its national identity. That fight is prominent in the lives of many citizens, it is expressed in the news on the airwaves and in print. In fact freedom of the press is a major part of the American identity. The arguments, on both sides, belong to our political process. Take this same argument and apply it to Jesu Christ’s Church, but with one difference.

A difference, what is the difference? Certainly the Churches Pope, Cardinals, and Bishops, and Priests argue for the Churches identity. They argue for a Church that is the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ. Their arguments, and decisions, and proclamations, good and bad, are but one part of the body of Christ.

He said to them,
“The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few;
so ask the master of the harvest
to send out laborers for his harvest.
Go on your way;
behold, I am sending you like lambs among wolves.

That Body includes the voices and actions of all its members, and not simply the ordained . The difference that I had mentioned is that the ordained are familiar with the theatre in which they speak, the laity can often be conflicted. The laity, in their struggle,are often bombarded by an opinionated secular media that wishes to alter their religious foundation. Church and State do not always agree, and the laity struggle between the two. That media often wishes to change the course of Christianity, they wish to replace its heart and soul with something of the politicians choosing. That agenda is for a Christianity, minus the Sacred Heart of Christ. It is an argument of a national agenda that often severely conflicts with a Church identity. They are the hot news issues of the day. There is nothing revolutionary stated here, it is a fact of modern life.

Turn back again to an original question, what would it be like to celebrate a nation minus its ideals. Then turn that question towards Church. What would it be like to celebrate the Mass of Jesus Christ in a Church that no longer honored and protected the teachings of Jesus Christ? Church and State, even when declared separate, are never truly independent of each other.

While celebrating the independence of a nation, Catholics should never take for granted the independent character of their Church. It must not become salt that lost its taste.  One of the primary reasons for the establishment of the Catholic school system, was to keep American Catholics, Catholic. Freedom of religion is part of the nations makeup, and there is nothing unpatriotic stated here. This freedom is a treasured right to be preserved.

The questions comes from listening to the news and issues and struggles of a nation, and searching within them for the truth of the Church. A Catholic should never take for granted the Heart of their Church, or let it be diluted by a political agenda. That Church’s gospel, differs from the one the media proclaims, and that is something I think about on this independence day.

The Fourth, and the fifth, and the fourteenth Sunday of Ordinary time.

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It’s the day after Fourth of July, Independence Day, but as I sit in this “land of the free” my thoughts are not fully devoted to  Americana. They are not directed towards the American Revolution in this New World, they turn back to Europe and the French Revolution. The French Revolution was known for the elimination of Christianity from France. It was that revolution that drove priests, and monks, and nuns from that country. It was the same revolution that put the churches and priests under the control of a French secular government. It was that revolution that produced the state sanctioned mockery of Catholic traditions, mocking especially the tradition of the Holy Catholic Mass. Enlightening.It was through France’s revolution that the worship of liberty, and the worship of reason, replaced the worship of Jesus Christ in the churches and cathedrals of France. It was that revolution that eventually produced the icon of Lady Liberty that adorns New York’s harbor. Lady Liberty, made in the image of the Roman Goddess Libertas. A gift to America.

Libertas plays a prominent role in today’s celebration, she will be seen against a backdrop of fireworks and celebrated in song. Sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Is Liberty, Libertas, our golden calf? Is she new age idolatry, and what are we declaring independence from? Independence, in America, is freedom from rule from a foreign nation. Independence though has a lot attached to it, Libertas is one of them. On this Fourth of July, do I celebrate our nation’s birth, do I celebrate its freedom from the British Empire;but do I bow before the pagan goddess liberty? There is a conflict on this day with the nation’s declaration of independence, and its notion of freedom.

Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults,
hardships, persecutions, and constraints,
for the sake of Christ;
for when I am weak, then I am strong

Independence, freedom, liberty, government of the people and by the people and for the people. The right to bear arms, the right to vote, the pursuit of happiness. Liberty and life. The American dream, the American experiment, democracy and capitalism. The Fourth of July and the American soapbox. The preaching of the politicians, and the rallying of a nation.

There is that statue that sits in a harbor, a gift from France, where lady liberty replaced the Eucharist emerging from the tabernacle. Lady Liberty and the height of the French revolution. It was the secularization of a nation, and an attack against Frances Catholics. It was the state sponsored replacement of a religion. America, freedom of religion. Freedom, and Liberty, and the Goddess of reason (aka politics). The American way, the American Religion. A lesson from the Old World. Some things never change. Old World, New World; it makes no difference.

But you shall say to them: Thus says the Lord GOD!
And whether they heed or resist—for they are a rebellious house—
they shall know that a prophet has been among them.

In today’s gospel, Jesus preaches in his hometown. Mk 6:1-6  People are at once impressed by His abilities to teach scripture, and also hostile to his claims as a prophet sent by His father. They know his history, and place his pedigree above His message. They do not accept Jesus as prophet and drive Him out of town. They certainly do not accept him as the Son of God. The first reading also is of a prophet delivering a warning to Gods chosen people. God’s prophets, how we listen to them, recognize them, ignore them, accept them, or distrust them.

The American dream, God bless America, land of Liberty, Land of the free. Who are our prophets, who delivers Gods message to us? How do we react to that message? There are a lot of people in America talking, and making proclamations, and acting like modern day Ezekiel’s though few would use that name.

Freedom of religion and Lady Liberty, the same lady that exiled Catholics from France. I can listen to the rhetoric of my country, I can celebrate freedom from foreign rule. can enjoy liberty like anyone else, but do I want to bow down before a false god? Do I want to worship an idol? Am I wrong to recognize someone that is against me? Should I keep my eyes open to persecution? Sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Is that a psalm of America, a new form of worship? If I can’t turn to Lady Liberty, to whom should I turn? I should have the liberty to do whatever I want, whenever I want ? What guides liberty? What are her constraints?

Jesus said to them,
“A prophet is not without honor except in his native place
and among his own kin and in his own house.”

Prophets are not always easy to spot, by I might learn some lessons from history. Do I mean to bash liberty, no I do not. I bash only to make a point. Liberty can be misunderstood and abused, especially by people in power. It can be a rallying cry for the wrong agenda. I can appreciate liberty, but I also wonder about worshiping it as a goddess. This is the environment the prophets preached in. They sometimes  told people what they did not want to hear, and the good prophets did not change their story to suit popular opinion. Jesus said, I am the way, the truth, and the light. The only way to the Father is through Me. Unpopular.

Odd that the Fourth should fall on a Saturday. To Catholics Saturday is not a day devoted to the Roman goddess Liberty, Catholics pray to one of their own on that day. Saturday, and even a Saturday that falls on the fourth of July, are devoted to the Mother of God. Today, I have someone to turn to more fitting than a deity sitting in a harbor. She is the one that tells me, the Catholic in the land of the free, to follow her Son. Her Son is the Son of God and not a jingle of patriotism. His words are not an ideology or idolatry, but a truth. True freedom, and true liberty. Surprisingly they are the words this countries “founding fathers” based their own words on. Their liberty was through Christ, and not a replacement of that true God. They prayed religiously. Who should I turn to today (actually yesterday), I am given a choice at least for now. I can wave a flag and make some noise and worship liberty, the goddess of a new religion. Or I can turn to Mary, and listen to her words to be obedient to her Son. Where does freedom ring? A lesson learned. Hail Mary !