I did not get a chance to write much on Sunday, but I read the phrase:
Someone asked him,
“Lord, will only a few people be saved?”
He answered them,
“Strive to enter through the narrow gate,…”
And immediately thought of:
“Again I say to you,
it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle
than for one who is rich to enter the Kingdom of God.”
What I wondered was: might the narrow gate and the eye of the needle be one in the same? Must we let go of so much baggage that we can fit through the eye of a needle?
It sounds like an impossibility, but then again Jesus said:
“For men this is impossible,
but for God all things are possible.”
I then thought of the art of Fernando Botero:
Saturday of the Twenty-first Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 430 Mt 25:14-30
Jesus parable of the master entrusting talents to his servants is at one glance simple to understand, but on a second glance it turns quite enigmatic.The quick lesson is that those who use their talents are rewarded and those who do not suffer. The enigma occurs when trying to identify the talent, just as in life it can be difficult to identify our own personal talents. The talent was not a coin, but instead was the mass of water needed to fill a vessel known as a amphora. That mass is 130 pounds. Its value is implied as a precious metal (gold or silver), but that is an assumption on the part of he reader: just as we don’t always value our talents appropriately. Some view themselves as worth their weight in gold, when their talents are more properly priced in salt. Others take the exact opposite approach. The talent of the proud versus the talent of the humble? Could the master have been angry at the one who buried his talent done so because he knew the true worth of that talent? Could there be buried in this parable a commentary on the talents of the Empire, versus the talents of Jesus’s disciples?Could it be that an Empire might have a lot of talent to show(but of little true worth), while the humble disciples talents had little flash, but incredible value?It seems the story of the talents raises more questions than it answers, yet somehow leads to the truth. That was Jesus’s talent.
In Jesus description of “The Kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.” isn’t it interesting that the Kingdom is likened to an event rather than a place? The virgins did not have to travel far to it, and they do not have to journey to it, the kingdom like the bridegroom will be made present to them where they are. Their obligation is to diligently wait for it, and be prepared to enter into it. It isn’t the journey that is difficult, it’s the patient anticipation and a constant readiness that is the challenge.While it sounds as if not much need to be done to enter the Kingdom of Heaven: isn’t it more difficult to maintain a constant readiness than to simply reach a milestone on a journey?
Thursday of the Twenty-first Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 428 Mt 24:42-51
Jesus said to his disciples:
“Stay awake! ” In daily life this is usually accomplished with a little coffee, a little fresh air, maybe some loud music; everyone has their own tricks. In Jesus message “Stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come.”: how do you stay awake? That too takes some effort, some tricks.For some it might be a short prayer on wakening, a prayer at meals, or perhaps the rosary. For others it is the daily mass, or the liturgy of the hours, or the stations of the cross.It could be something as unobtrusive as a religious calendar,the subtle reminder of a community. Many might find they need an active participation such as a community event like service to the marginalized or a ministry involving the volunteer of time to others. The charismatics might stay awake by singing in a choir, the contemplative by reading a book or studying Gods creation through nature. The meditative might simply allot time to focus their thoughts, the new age might follow a labyrinth; the conservative might kneel before a crucifix. Those who know the value of stay awake develop their own techniques over time. Perhaps the diligent know the value of staying awake from a time when they allowed themselves to slumber; and now they “stay awake!” by telling others what they learned…
Denunciation of the Scribes and Pharisees Mt 23:13-22 Mt 23:23-26 The Pharisees were a major Jewish sect in Jesus’s time. Pharisaism had its origins with the Babylonian Captivity (587 – 536 BC) when the Jews were unable to continue with temple worship.They gained a more focused prominence during the revolt of the Maccabees (167 – 165 BC) against the Seleucid rulers of Syria. The origin of the name Pharisees is means “those separated” and they were fastidious in insulating themselves from impurities and defilement. The Pharisees’ chief rival sect was the Sadducees. The Sadducees were drawn mainly from the aristocratic priestly class, the Pharisees tended not to be from the temple tradition and were more prominent in synagogues. In the interpretation of the law the Pharisees differed from the Sadducees in their use of oral legal tradition to supplement the Torah, they added many minute details to the law,and required that they be followed to the letter. As the Pharisees and the Sadducees had many different philosophical opinions on Judaism, their arguments frequently were heated and sometimes even violent.The Pharisees often were Jesus’ most vocal critics. Their insistence on a ritual observance of the letter of the law was in direct contrast with Jesus’s preaching on the spirit of the law.Matthews gospel passage vividly illustrated this contrast in opinion. What was wrong with the Pharisee’s approach to Judaism ? What was it that he opposed ? Jesus grew up In a devout Jewish household, went to the temple and participated at the synagogue. He was an observant first century practitioner of Judaism. Jewish ritual and law were not new to him, where is the problem? The Pharisees were concerned with legal details, they were separated from others, and they were locked in a power struggle. One way to look at their approach to life is that they were adherents to Deuteronomy and Leviticus,perhaps at the expense of Jewish Wisdom: They reduced a relationship to a checklist and used that checklist as a tool for a national agenda. The statement is strongly biased, generalized, and probably inaccurate to a great extent; but it highlights Jesus rebuttal to these Pharisee’s. Jewish relationship to YHWH is not simply the legal practice of ritual. It is not a blind obedience; it is wisdom, dialogue, and a relationship. The wisdom dialogue and relationship are the spirit of the law. Without that the ritualized law becomes meaningless. Much of these laws burdened people, and prevented them from seeking that dialogue with the YHWH.Rather that drawing Gods chosen people closer to God, it separated them from both God and man. Jesus rebuttal to the Pharisee’s can’t bee seen as an argument of right versus wrong , but rather a warning against blind ritualization. If Jesus rebuked the Pharisee’s 2000 years ago, what would he say about the way some Christians practice today? Perhaps many of the Pharisee’s followers would be the subject of praise for faithful worship this time around? Jesus said:
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.
You pay tithes of mint and dill and cummin,
and have neglected the weightier things of the law:
judgment and mercy and fidelity.
But these you should have done, without neglecting the others.
Blind guides, who strain out the gnat and swallow the camel!
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.
You cleanse the outside of cup and dish,
but inside they are full of plunder and self-indulgence.
Blind Pharisee, cleanse first the inside of the cup,
so that the outside also may be clean.”
Though Jesus’s address was to the scribes and Pharisees, it really is to everyone!