A message from Jonah

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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.)

 

 

Take a hike

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The good LORD and His disciples walk through a field and pluck a few grains of  wheat. Mt 12:1-8 They graze a bit to quiet their hunger. No big deal, but whoa, its the Sabbath. The powers are in an uproar . How dare they, don’t they know that’s a violation? They have just gone  against the law, a capital offence. The authority was mad, but was that authority God? I don’t think so.

Jesus said:
“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened,
and I will give you rest.
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.”

This little incident says much of Christ’s message, and it is a minor infraction despite the uproar. It was the small little rules such as these that began to wear people down. Each and every hour of every day was spent wondering if some law was either followed or broken. Its a crushing burden in the name of God, but that has nothing to do with God. Their purpose was to give power to some, while at the same time tearing others down. They were burdens, that in truth could keep people from the same God the laws  intended to follow.

While Jesus fully followed the laws of God, he did freely disregard much of the trivia paraded before him. In doing so he freed people that they might walk unhindered , returning back towards God. It not only  lightened their load, it unshackled them. Oddly those laws intended to keep a population rooted in tradition, to keep them  firmly planted in what the authority deemed a homeland. A homeland, a final destination. To Jesus though Jerusalem was not the end of the road, but simply a stop on a much longer journey. Notice how much pilgrim is used in Christianity. Look at a bishops staff and spot the walking stick. To complete a long journey, by necessity the burden must be light. Jesus lightened the load. What people did carry was food to give them strength, and that which was necessary to keep them from harm. The Lords Prayer needed no weighty book, compact to be carried in mind and heart.Suitable for a journey.

Kateri Tekakwitha

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Here is a post from a number of years ago, and it is proof that prayers are answered. Today “Blessed” Kateri Tekawitha is now “Saint” Kateri Tekawitha , the first Native North American Saint. The painting of her is by Father Chauchetière. It hangs in the sacristy of St. Francis Xavier Church on the Kanawaké Mohawk Reservation , near Montréal, Québec. On her death this priest witnessed the scars from her encounter with smallpox miraculously and almost immediately disappear from her face.

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Prayer for the Canonization
of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha
O God, who, among the many marvels of Your Grace in the New World, did cause to blossom on the banks of the Mohawk and of the St. Lawrence, the pure and tender Lily, Kateri Tekakwitha, grant we beseech You, the favor we beg through her intercession, that this Young Lover of Jesus and of His Cross may soon be counted among the Saints of Holy Mother Church, and that our hearts may be enkindled with a stronger desire to imitate her innocence and faith. Through the
same Christ Our Lord. Amen.

Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, pray for us.

Kateri Tekakwitha’s date of canonization is 21 October 2012
Memorial 14 July

Kateri was born in1656 of a Catholic Algonquin mother(Tagaskouita) and the Mohawk chief Kenneronkwa in the village of Ossemenon(Auriesville) along the Mohawk river in northern New York. A smallpox epidemic that swept through that region took the lives of Kateri’s(Catherine’s) parents and her  brother. This disease also left her with the diseases characteristic scars, limited vision , and also physically weak. She was adopted by her aunt and uncle(Chief of the Turtle Clan) at four years of age. Since Kateri’s mother was Christian, see encouraged that faith in Kateri. Her father however was of a Native American religion and had an opposite opinion on the subject. Her uncle too discouraged her interest in Christianity. The battle between Christianity, and her families Native American religion would be a source of friction for much of Kateri’s life. Kateri was a devout follower of Christ; she was baptized at the age of 20 by the Jesuit priest Father Jacques de Lamberville. On Christmas Day of 1677 Kateri received her first holy communion. In March of 1679 she professed her vow to perpetual virginity. She devoted her life to teaching prayers to children, helping the sick and aged. On 17April1680 she died at 24-years of age. The last words she uttered were “Jesus, I love you”: “lesos konoronkwa.” Shortly after her death her scars from smallpox began to disappear.

O God, who desired the Virgin St. Kateri Tekakwitha to flower among Native Americans in a life of innocence, grant, through her intercession, that when all are gathered into your Church from every nation, tribe and tongue, they may magnify you in a single canticle of praise. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

KATERI TEKAWITHA embraced Jesus Christ, even though many in her family and tribe rejected her for it. Kateri Tekawitha will be the first canonized Native American saint. She is a source of great pride among the many Native Americans who are devout Catholic’s. Her sainthood is an answer to their years of prayer in the past and she will certainly be a faithful intercessor for all Americans in the years to come. Throughout the Northeastern United States and Canada there are many Native American Tribes that enthusiastically embraced Christianity and they are active, vibrant, devout followers of Jesus and his Church today. The memorial and the canonization of Kateri Tekawitha, the “Lilly of the Mohawks” is an especially festive an joyous occasion for them as it is for all in her region.

Saint Benedict of Nursia

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Saint Benedict is one of the more famous saints in the Catholic Church. There have been 16 popes that have gone by that name. His recognizable  medallion, and cross with its medal as Christ’s Halo, and his monastic orders contribute to his notoriety. His monastery at Monte Cassino  is western Europe’s oldest and was heavily bombed during World War 2 in an effort to defeat the Nazi’s. It was bombed to root out evil, and it was built so that the Saint and his followers could flee from the same. Of what use would that building have served if its occupier’s  were under the spell of a satanic dictator to  propagate works of hatred and evil? Benedict himself would have gladly destroyed it himself rather than let it be used as an instrument of corruption. To understand that, one must understand something of Benedict’s history.

Saint Benedict, born 482AD, began his career as a student of rhetoric in Rome.  Many of his colleagues were well to do students who lived a carefree and somewhat decadent lifestyle. Benedict became concerned about the lifestyle of his contemporaries in that city. He witnessed what their vices were doing to their lives. Rome itself had fallen into a pagan culture with astonishingly  low moral standards. He left Rome and his studies to live in solitude, first in a small village with his nurse, then to the mountains of Subiaco. He lived as a hermit with guidance from a monk named Romanus. After years of study as a hermit, other monks began to seek his counsel. Eventually he formed a series of monasteries in the surrounding area, with his most famous monastery at Monte Cassino. Benedict is known as the father of western monasticism, a patron saint of Europe, and his rule is followed by many. That Rule is a life of liturgical prayer, study, manual labor and living together in community under one abbot. It is interesting to note that Saint Benedict was not ordained, he was not a priest, bishop, cardinal, or pope; though many assume his name and have lived by his rule. The foundation of his life, rule, and order is prayer and work. Prayer and work, ora et labora,it is not one or the other but both. That, to this person, speaks to all and not exclusively the ordained. In his rule both are necessary for life and prayer does not turn into an occupation. In Benedict’s rule work is necessary to meet the earthly needs of every person. Every person has the need for food and shelter, to care for families. Every person also has the need for prayer to nourish their soul and place often hectic lives in the proper order. Prayer is what keeps ones life grounded in a capitalistic and consumer oriented society. It prevents possessions from taking over a person.
As I mentioned earlier one of the items that is recognizable to this saint is his medal or medallion. It is commonly incorporated into the crucifix, and the medals inscription summarize what is essential to Saint Benedict. On the face of the St. Benedict medal is the image of Saint Benedict holding the cross and his rule.On the back of the medal, is a large cross. Engraved on the arms of the cross are the initial letters of a Latin prayer: Crux sacra sit mihi lux! Nunquam draco sit mihi dux! (May the holy cross be my light! May the dragon never be my guide!). Around the margin of the back of the medal are the initials V R S N S M V – S M Q L I V B : Vade retro Satana! Nunquam suade mihi vana! Sunt mala quae libas. Ipse venena bibas! translated Begone Satan! Never tempt me with your vanities! What you offer me is evil. Drink the poison yourself! These inscriptions neatly summarize the focus of his life, and are certainly  words to remember today..

a scholar asks a few questions about the Samaritan.

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The good Samaritan, if one looks at today’s gospel Lk 10:25-37 that is what you would see. Eyes and ears might be drawn to the recognizable story, and the conclusions might be rapidly made. The moral of the story can be recited with little thought, it is all so very familiar. The problem is that is not the purpose of that story , it is  intended to be mulled over,  to be examined from every angle. To be questioned.

One angle is to begin not by dissecting the story, but looking at why it was told. The man talking to Jesus is inquiring about obtaining eternal life. That man is a scholar, an intellectual, an academic. He asks a question and fully expects to argue the response, members of academia are critical thinkers. Jesus knows this, and so inquires what the law states. The man responds with the appropriate laws, love of God and of neighbor. He wishes to justify himself, and wishes to delve into the specifics.  In justifying himself , maneuvers towards a legality.

He (I suspect) wishes to know who his neighbor is, in the eyes of God. He seeks legally defined duties and responsibilities. He is into complexities. Its a complex world, at least to some. This smart-man can differentiate between many different types of men, how many different types of humans did God create? The question is not directed at the twenty first century anthropologist. God created man in His own image. Man is singular, not plural; just as God is singular and not the plural gods of the pagans.One species and two sexes. I hope I don’t get into trouble saying that.

Jesus’s story, and in that story Jesus presents evidence that all men are neighbors, it is not simply that the one that responds with kindness is a neighbor. We are all neighbors, we simply are not all good neighbors. Simple point. The priest was the neighbor of the attacked man, and so was the Levites, and even the robber was a neighbor. The Samaritan simply was the neighbor that loved his neighbors as himself. He acted with mercy and compassion, he fulfilled the second law. Did he fulfill the law regarding love of God? Who has the right to ask that question. Even “the good neighbor” has their flaws. Forgiveness anyone? Not then, how about now? Take a look at that very same mideastern neighborhood today. How much different world politics would be today if we recognized each human being as a neighbor of equal stature as ourselves. As I read this story of “The Good Samaritan” I also realize that the Apostles also had read it, and look at what Saint Paul accomplished with the lessons of this short tale! He became the Apostle to the Gentiles, he recognized those pagans as neighbors, and repeated the story to them. Love your enemy, love the sinner, love your neighbor. Love your neighbor as God loves you, and He so loved the world He sent His only begotten Son.

In thinking about neighbors, is it wrong to ask who created neighbors? We know from Genesis that God created man. We know that God created man in his image and likeness, and saw that man was good. Neighbors ‘sort of’ enter into creation at the tower of Babylon, when man begins to act as if they were god. In that account God scatters man, and confuses their tongues. Neighborhoods are created, and at least bad neighbors are created through mans own fault. The good neighbor, any good neighbor,  tries to correct that fault by entering back into the grace of God. To think of that Samaritan’s actions, one has to think that his good actions were carried out with the full knowledge that they would be unreciprocated. Hostilities run deep. It seems that every sinister move man makes creates a new ghetto. Ghettos and slums are wretched and decrepit neighborhoods. God is a benevolent landlord, man tends to be greedy hoarding slumlords. And who is my neighbor?

If the intellectual-man that asked the question of Jesus wished for a justification, does anyone think he put himself in the injured persons shoes? What would his response be if a Samaritan had tended to him? Would he be merciful in return even though that would go against his culture? If that Samaritan offered him something, would he accept the offering? I think the word I am hinting at is dialogue. The Samaritan healed physical wounds, could cultural wounds be healed in the same manner? It takes two to Tango! The man talking to Jesus asked questions, shouldn’t we do the same ? What does it take to be  good  a neighbor? What does it take to be good neighbors? Notice the plural. Is that a tough question, as tough as sending a satellite across the universe? We did one, why cant we do the other? “And who is my neighbor” is a question asked over two thousand years ago, why is there so much trouble in answering this riddle today? Its not a brainteaser, its the simplest and most basic of questions. The one and only correct response is fundamental to civilization. The question was asked, why so much avoidance in giving an answer?

This is much of the mission of Jesus, to bring neighbors together. His mission was to go after the lost sheep of Israel, and they were the Samaritan’s. They are the people who were led astray by King Ahab and his pagan wife Jezebel. A Jewish King and a pagan Queen who encouraged worship of the pagan god Baal. As the Samaritan showed mercy and compassion, Jesus is the mercy and compassion of God that binds wounds, he reaches out and will be crucified for it. Our God is a merciful God, and a God of compassion; sadly man is not.

I wonder how many other questions that academic had for Jesus? He asked good questions.