the Relevance of the Feast of Saint Martin

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Today, Saint Martin’s day, is a day of food and drink celebrated with both wine and foul. At least part of the festivities date back to the middle ages when Advent still was a penitential season complete with fast. This day was one of the last festivities before entering that season. Being in November, the day also bore the characteristics of a harvest festival, and in Martins native France this day marks the beginning of the wine harvest. The wine, Saint Martin’s wine, today might (emphasize this word “might.”) be recognized as Beaujolais nouveau. Today that famous wine makes it appearance the third Thursday of November. Its release is often widely publicized and celebrated, perhaps it might be wise to remember the Saint it is associated with while enjoying a glass. Wine, of course is only one part of the festivity, there also need be a food. This time of year also marked the harvesting of winter meat, and the meat associated with St. Martin is goose. There is a story explaining Saint Martin’s goose, but it might be wise to first review a few milestones in Martins life.

Martin was not born a Christian, though he began associating with them at the young age of ten. At fifteen he joined the army. During his service inn that army, a beggar asked for alms, and Martin obliged by giving him half his military-cloak. The blue of the flag of France is sometimes referred to as St. Martin’s blue, simply because his was a blue cloak. Shortly after this, he began formal entry into the Church. From catechumen he was baptized at eighteen, and at that point he left military service to enter a monastic life.

In signs and in miracles you were renowned throughout Gaul.By grace and adoption you are a light for the world, O Martin, blessed of God.Almsdeeds and compassion filled your life with their splendors,Teaching and wise counsel were your riches and treasures,Which you dispense freely to those who honor you.

Legend says Martin had no higher aspirations in the Church. He had no interest in holding office, though he eventually did become bishop. That’s where Martins goose enters the story. While Martin was living an isolated life with fellow monks, the local bishop heard of his miracles and sought him out to elevate Martin to the rank of bishop. When the bishop’s men came to deliver the news to Martin, Martin was prepared and hid amongst a flock of local geese. Obviously the monk wished to remain in solitude, the bishops men however wished to complete their mission and deliver their bishops message to Martin. While waiting they heard the cackling geese, and after a while they investigated to find out why these birds were making such a ruckus. When they came across the flock, they found Martin crouched amongst them. His goose was cooked, and the Church had its bishop.

Perhaps now that I have gotten a bit of Saint Martin’s story described, it would be an opportune time to recollect on some of the virtues of this saint and also recollect some general observations of this day. In St. Martin’s story it is mentioned that he both served in the military, and served Christ’s Church as monk and as bishop. In both instances Martin placed importance on service. His military service is especially memorable on this Veterans Day. In his service as bishop, one might ponder how he placed service to others above himself. It was after all his flock that called him to that bishop’s post, even though he preferred solitude. He answered their calls. In his devotion to the service to others, one too cannot forget his generous service to the beggar. It is here once again that this venerable saint places another’s needs before his own. Many veterans do battle in defense of others. Many times that is to protect a person from religious persecution. Many times a solders religion gives motive to fight to protect another’s dignity. Saint and solder need not be celebrated separately. Though not part of his symbolism, I think I might be reminded just a little of this saint when the poppy flowers that are distributed for Veterans on their Day. That day, like the  St. Martin, is a remembrance of those who served. To me the virtue of Saint Martin is service for others, and that is the virtue also of Veterans Day

As a devoted man of God, you proclaimed His mysteries,And as a seer of the Trinity, you shed your blessings on the Occident.By your prayers and entreaties, O adornment of Tours and glory of all the Church,Preserve us, O Saint Martin, and save all who praise your memory.

From virtues to observations. Saint Martin’s day is the last festive meal prior to the Advent fast. It involves poultry, and wine, and occurs in November; and that similarity to America’s Thanksgiving is too great to miss. The second observation is that Frances “new wine” is released one week after St. Martin’s day which is noted for “Saint Martin’s wine.” With that observation is the knowledge that France is strongly secular, and that Thanksgiving Day has been manipulated to meet the demands of capitalism. This is not a mock against the capitalist. That capitalist need is to extend “the holiday shopping season.” Why is that important? I think perhaps St. Martins Day is worth remembering this time of year as a Religious Holiday that is now overshadowed by those secular events. I can ponder that loss of Catholic heritage. I can also think of how the loss of that heritage is being accelerated today. It is under attack. I can also quietly think of St. Martin’s day as a Catholic Thanksgiving day minus the secular capitalist spin. Its perhaps a small feast, but one that should not be missed.

Martin 316-387 ad

this is a revisit and repost of an earlier post

Friday of the Thirty-first Week in Ordinary Time

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Scramble, scramble, scramble to reach a safe place. Admit you have done wrong and then try to do right. Scramble to avoid harsh judgment, stay out of prison and avoid the executioner. Action and admission. Take action against the sin, and admit that sin has been committed Admit a wrong and do right. Those are the gospel actions, and yet only half of the gospel message. The other half? That, of course, is that our God is a merciful God. Our God forgives. That word, M-E-R-C-Y will be an important one in the coming year. Soon begins the year of Mercy.

I myself am convinced about you, my brothers and sisters,
that you yourselves are full of goodness, Rom 15:14-21
filled with all knowledge, and able to admonish one another.

Isn’t that the heart of the gospel message, that we have sinned, but also that a merciful God forgives the errors of those who confess their sins before their God. It he reading also gives hint at that sense of urgency a person should have in reconciling themselves to God. It is an urgency that not only effects their life, but their eternal life. Doing right in the eyes of God should mater to us. Really, it is all that should matter to us. It is supremely important. Our lives depend on it. Lk 16:1-8

Rant of the twenty ninth week of ordinary time

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Things change, sometimes radically. Explosively. Violently and definitively. I did not come to be polite or to be nice, I didn’t come to sedate you. I am here to upset you. The last date before Christos, and the moment after are like an explosion. Things change radically’. There is a cultural shift, and not everyone was ready for it. That emotion is central to Jesus Christs message. Christianity is a revolution of the first century. Gone are the temples of the past, a new kingdom is established. Christ describes his ministry as if a bomb detonated, he describes it with as much violence as His disciples would see on the cross. His Cross. And how would anyone expect anything any different?

“I have come to set the earth on fire,
and how I wish it were already blazing!
There is a baptism with which I must be baptized,
and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished!
Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? Lk 12:49-53

God has entered into creation, God called for a change to man’s ways. Think of that flood, Noah’s flood. Jesus entering is as catastrophic, as visible, and as violent; and all of that is before the Passion of the Lord. It is what He preached, a new order. That is something to be reckoned with, it is why His kinsmen judged Him so harshly. Some were content with the status quo and they enjoyed the way things were. Conflict and disruption. The 1960’s of the first century, I don’t think so; the sixties were not that radical, and they were not on the same scale. So many today look on Christ’s message as peaceful and complacent, and that is so far from the truth.It changed earth to the core, it spun differently and changed its axis. Christ is an eclipse of the universe, He is the birth of a new star; a new galaxy. Sunrise and sunset; alpha and omega, birth and death. How do we view it so calmly, so sedately, as if we matter more than He? That makes no sense. God entered into creation to set us on the right path, and we act as if it is our opinions that count? How absurd are we!

Eldad and Medad take a vacation on the 26 Sunday of Ordinary Time.

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In looking at today’s readings, I thought I would begin by researching the two people that are mentioned by name in the first reading  NM11:25-29.They are the two prophets not officially sanctified as prophets by Moses, but who stayed at the camp and prophesized anyway. I wondered what the significance of these two was since their account mirrors those that prophesize in Christs name (properly, they cast out demons) but who are not members of that community. Mk 9:38-43, 45, 47-48The link between the two groups is obvious. To understand Old Testament Eldad and Medad I thought I would step outside my own camp and consult the Rabbi’s. Certainly they can offer some insight.

The Rabbi Rashi describes the naming of the prophets as being drawn by lots, the names were first written down and then the required number drawn. Seventy names were drawn for twelve tribes and this gives six per tribe for ten tribes, and five for two tribes. There then is a problem, no tribe is going to willingly be shortchanged. Note, the reading is from the Book of Numbers. Rashi provides the solution that could have taken place. In that solution 72 entries were created; seventy of which read elder (aka prophet) and two which read “G-d does not want you.” Eldad and Medad’s non participation is then deduced from that scenario. Rabbi’s always offer several solutions. The first is they simply feared rejection and failure. The second is they felt they were not worthy of the honor or “greatness.” In other words, they were humble. Note also that the seventy chosen held a formal position.

While the two reasons are simple enough, fear and humility; the Rabbi’s explanation relates the event to Moshe and the burning bush. “Moshe hid his face because he was afraid to look at G-d. ” There then is the fear of the prophets. Rabbi’s though argue a lot. I do mean a lot! One Rabbi argues that Moshe was wrong in shielding his face, and when Moses later asks G-d to show His face, G-d refuses. That is the argument of Rabbi Yehoshua ben Korsha.

Rabbi Shmuel bar Nachmani presents a counter argument. He argues Moses acted properly and was rewarded with a radiant face as he descends mount Saini. Fear and humility then are both important, as is the response of Moses. “Would that all the people are prophets! Would that the LORD might bestow his spirit on them all. Perhaps all should listen to the Word of G-d, and put their egos aside? As a side note, Jesus often argued with the Pharisees and the Pharisee’s are the precursors to modern Judaism . The Pharisees argued with Jesus, and the Pharisee’s argued amongst themselves much the way these two Rabbi’s presented their arguments. Its cultural. They are arguments to reach a truth.

The argument then can change to who reveals the Word of G-d to us? Eldad and  Medad emphasize a contrast, official prophets versus the unofficial.Do we get to pick who they are, or is that Word revealed to us through them? Might it be a little of both, life is never simple! So many climb to the top so that they can tell us G-ds message. Is Prophet a position that is campaigned for? They declare themselves G-d’s prophets, truthful or not. G-d reveals that message to us through the people He chooses. That is different from us choosing people to deliver a message we want to hear. Prophets reveal G-d’s message to us, they do not place our demands on G-D. A kingdom is not a democracy. It’s the message that gains importance, not the messenger. I sincerely hope I did not mangle the Rabbi’s arguments too much.

Back to the prophets, who was the last Christian prophet? The last prophet mentioned in the Christian bible is John the Baptist. When Jesus asks His disciples who do you think I am, they respond others think him the prophet. When pressed for their own opinion, He is the messiah, the anointed, the Son of God. (This is my camp.) In Christianity one does not turn to a prophet for the Word of God, they turn to the Word made man. They turn to the Body of Christ. The mystical body of Christ is His Church.

This week there has been a lot of air time devoted to that message of G-d. The pope has visited the USA! There is the message of the pope, and then there is the message of the press. Democrats, Republicans, Liberal, Conservative, Traditional. There have been a lot of messages delivered this week. The pope declared his message of Christ, and the news media offered their opinion, analysis, and their spin. Somehow thinking about the prophets was especially important this week. The populist prophets have been talking twenty four seven, and it is a good time to abandon camp for a little peace and quiet.

The Twenty-Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time

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“Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” But first, let’s start with the first reading. It is the tale of “the suffering servant” from Isaiah. It tells of a servant who goes through many hardships, but who is victorious in their plight. The conclusion ultimately is an era of peace, and that peace is a true peace as described by the word Shalom. Though suffering, the servant does reap a reward. The servant is vindicated, the servant is right, they are just. Christians view this suffering servant as Jesus, He is that prophesy fulfilled. The passage is often read throughout Lent, it takes on a particular relevance during the passion of our Lord. Though the servant suffers, the servant is also “true.”

That concept of truth becomes apparent in the second reading, the letter from James where he discusses faith and works. It is not enough to say something if you do not follow through. It is not truthful to wish someone a good day, when you know for certain they are suffering. If one is to wish someone cold and hungry “a good day”, one should also provide some means for them to achieve that result. A coat, a shelter, some food, some employment, or some resolution to their misfortune. Your speech should be truthful, but who wants to hear the Truth? Jesus is the way, the Truth, and the light. Jesus brought about the Truth. Take up your cross and follow me. Truth had consequences (an old TV show), it goes against a lie; and many profit through deceit. The suffering servant takes up the challenge, they bear the cross and they stay loyal to truth. Jesus had a passion for the truth, and that truth is the truth of His father. Truth then can be seen as loyalty, loyalty to God. Take up your cross, it is to stand for something.
In the Gospel reading, Jesus tells Peter “Get behind me satin.” When Jesus tells of the suffering He is about to endure, Peter does not understand. Few leaders of that day suffered and died, hey brought pain and suffering on others. For Peter to stand in the way of Christs suffering would be to obstruct the truth. For truth to overcome a lie, the lie must be confronted. The victory requires a defeat. For Christ to reign, Satin must be defeated. Battles are never easy, and so the servant suffers. In Jesus’s dialogue with His disciples, He tells them of what He is about to endure. They are introduced to the Passion of the LORD, and they approach it with disbelief. They rebel, but then are instructed. Think of that passion in terms of Isaiah’s prophesy. That servant, though continually beaten, never gives up. To Jewish readers that servant is seen as Israel, to them it is the story of their history. I wonder who Jesus saw that servant as. One thought might be that He read that prophesy in the light of God’s Chosen People, He might have inspired them to become a suffering servant triumphant. He asked that they pick up their cross and follow his path towards the kingdom. But then again, He also might have taught many who follow the way to be the suffering servant. To pick up the cross is to become Christ-like, to be as that servant.

The Lord GOD is my help,
therefore I am not disgraced;
I have set my face like flint,
knowing that I shall not be put to shame.
He is near who upholds my right;
if anyone wishes to oppose me,
let us appear together.
Who disputes my right?
Let that man confront me.
See, the Lord GOD is my help;
who will prove me wrong?

Now, I must switch the discussion back to truth. More accurately I return to truth and lies. Truth and lies or good and evil, or perhaps life and death. Truth does not die, it lives. A truthful path brings one to life, the way and truth and life. Truth survives even death, it is resurrected as the truthful servant is ultimately victorious. The truth of Christ still lives today. Today Christian truth still faces obstacles, and to many it is despised. Today it suffers, but this writer is confident it will survive. Christianity is fundamentally rooted in the truth, and truth is tenacious. The servant suffers, but cannot be conquered. The way, the Truth, and the light. To pick up a cross and follow Him is to march toward victory. Bruised, beaten, battered, reviled, and victorious. It is to live, and that  is  the truth.

Is 50:5-9a

Jas 2:14-18

Mk 8:27-35