22: Humility and humans

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Humility is the lesson of the day, as I think it is on most days. In today’s gospel Lk 14:1, 7-14
Jesus instructs His disciples on how to approach a dinner party, but this lesson has little to do with etiquette and everything to do with the relationship between God and man.

For some background information, these dinner parties and wedding banquets were large and formal affairs. Wedding banquets today still hold some of the same flavor, but the social dinners are from an era long gone by. They come from a background without modern media, and that includes newspapers. They are from an era without many of the distractions that modern man is accustomed to. One biblical example is the dinner the Pharisee invited Jesus to speak at, that is the one where Mary Magdalene approached Jesus as the penitent woman and broke the social conventions of the day. For the weddings there is the wedding feast at Canna, which the entire population of Canna might have attended. They were events where contracts were brokered, laws discussed and promulgated, theories presented, judgements made, scholarly interactions, just to name a few. Often those giving the event placed the main participants reclining at the center of the event, bystanders and casual observers much farther away. It was a hierarchy, and it did serve a legitimate purpose. The hierarchy of a pack of wolves feeding on a carcass also comes to mind. Pecking orders, social climbers, and people snubbed. Along with the lesson of humility, I wonder if there was not some practical advice in how the Apostles should spread the good news.

These social orders were prevalent in ancient society, it was the Roman class system and that concept of order extended not only to ranking people, but also to ranking what people did for a living. Social conventions are powerful, and often make little sense to those looking at a system from the outside. The social order of men often displaced the order between man and God. In the ancient world Caesar was emperor, who then became a divine god. Augustus, his son, was widely known as the son of god. That is a phrase familiar to Christians. Jesus challenged the social order, his as not the concern of the ranking of men but the relationship between man and God. In Jesus order man bows to God.

To get back to humility, and that is how Jesus asks the disciples to approach the dinner party. Did I mention that the relationship between God and man is often described in scripture as a heavenly banquet? The Old Testament is full of stories where man is invited to the Fathers banquet. Man’s approach is full of social blunders, Faux Pas. The disciples knew these Old Testament stories well.

My child, conduct your affairs with humility,
and you will be loved more than a giver of gifts.
Humble yourself the more, the greater you are,
and you will find favor with God.
What is too sublime for you, seek not,
into things beyond your strength search not.
The mind of a sage appreciates proverbs,
and an attentive ear is the joy of the wise.
Water quenches a flaming fire,
and alms atone for sins.

Sir 3:17-18, 20, 28-29

Humility means to get close to the ground, Humus is the Latin for earth or dirt. Good people are often described as “earthy” in “Christian” societies. They are humble people who do not put on airs, they are not pretentious or arrogant. Jesus also references his humility by becoming man. He references humility as the seed that is planted in the ground to die so that it might transform itself into a plant that bears much fruit. The humble seed becomes the mighty tree. A reminder from Genesis, God took a piece of clay and formed man, breathed into it and gave him life. We are dirt (humus) and to dirt we shall return. Being humble people of the earth is how we were created, and that humility allows for both the humble worker of the land and the humble country doctor that tends to him. In the true social order every human, man of the earth, recognizes the God that created them, and is obedient. It is man’s sins that clutter the landscape. At the Garden of Eden, Adam & Eve try to become like Gods. How did that work out? They were cast out from that land. The tower of Babel, again man trues to become like the gods. Man tries to become something other than a humble human, God brings that tower down and humbles man. In the ancient societies man often s disobedient to the LORDS design, and the LORD humbles him. These are the stories of Cain and Able, and of Noah, and of Sodom and Gomorrah. Man is always brought back to earth, and back into compliance with the will of God. Man is after all a “man of the earth”, a “humble human.” Man can either be humble or be humbled. Man cannot be God, though this is something the likes of Caesar could not accept.

Caesar was not the only human who could not accept his humanity, the world is full of people who consider themselves divine. It seems men of the earth have short memories, and continually try to alter Gods plan. Man sins. Fortunately though the LORD recognizes His creation, and realizes He gave them Free Will, and that will allows for sin. Fortunate for us dirt-bags, our God is a loving God and a God of Forgiveness. Our God is so loving He sent His only Son to become Man. He humbled Himself and became Man. The perfect example of humility. That LORD carried our sins, so that we might be redeemed, and offered Himself as Paschal Sacrifice, hanging on a tree for our salvation. Out of perfect humility, the Lord God, Jesus the Christ, redeemed the world. Gods Perfect Humility for the behalf of humans. Humility. Perfect.

Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 126

Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time

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Jesus loved the Pharisees, which is why he had so many discussions with them. Jesus loved the Pharisees, which is why he hung on a cross for them. Jesus loved the Pharisees, even when He uses a quote from Isaiah to refer to them as hypocrites. That is something to remember when one approaches their discussion concerning “cleanliness.”  In that discussion, the Pharisees use their legalese regarding the purity of hands and vessels. They confront Jesus about His disciple’s disobedience to these laws. In rebuttal Jesus spews a quote from Isaiah describing them as hypocrites. It is a harsh and hurtful quote that comes from the LORD, and that is the reason I emphasize Jesus’s love for those Pharisee’s. Jesus’s harshness is to bring about a healing, it is to cleanse their internal spirit just as the washing of their hands cleanses their body. It is a reminder of the reason for their laws, the purity of body gives emphasis to the diligence needed to maintain the purity of spirit. It is a reminder that their souls are precious, and that the body is a mere vessel. Those laws were a ritual reminder to maintain a clean spirit, and that is something they apparently had forgotten.

He responded,
“Well did Isaiah prophesy about you hypocrites, as it is written:
This people honors me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me;
in vain do they worship me,
teaching as doctrines human precepts.

You disregard God’s commandment but cling to human tradition.”

To better understand this exchange, I thought I would look up a pivotal word in the discussion, and that word is hypocrite. In the quote Jesus implies those Pharisee are hypocrites. What exactly is a hypocrite and where does that word come from? Hypocrisy come from the Greek hypokrisis, and that translates jealous, play-acting, coward, and dissembling. Hypocrite, Greek hypokrites, is associated with judgement and has a theatrical element. It relates to the dramatic performance of an actor. Another interpretation of the word is hypo for under, and krinenin for shift or decide. The origin of the word conjurers up images of drama and theatrical interpretation. In its origin the word is definitely related to a public performance, either that of rhetoric or the drama of an actor. It is what is presented to the world, and not the sincerity of contemplative thought. It is drama and not truth. It is persuasion and not discernment, influence and not contemplation. In truth the actions of the hypocrite is directed at influencing others. Jesus’s rebuttal to the Pharisees’ concerned their acting holy, rather than being holy; and the true purpose of the law was to bring them towards holiness. A clean heart the LORD will not spurn. The Pharisees acted holy, but Jesus wanted more from them. He wanted them to be Holy. There is a difference

Mk 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

Twenty second Sunday, OT: get behind me Satin

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Get behind me Satan! What a harsh phrase for Jesus to speak. Why would He make such a statement to someone that was there to offer help, to someone that wished to protect him? Jesus, with four words, put Peter back in his proper place. He put him rightly back to being someone being a follower of Christ. He placed him back in the role of discipleship. On that journey with Christ, Peter was after all a novice. The journey was new, just as it is for everyone. Peter, in offering his help, tried to place himself as a leader of Jesus. He was still caught up in worldly thinking, and still viewed Christ as a worldly King. Peter had yet to truly grasp what Christ’s kingdom was all about. But why did he call him Satin? Did Jesus really consider Peter to be evil? Did he consider him to be the Devil? A little bit of scholarship hints that Satin is really a bit of a loosely defined term. Though today most people think of the Devil, it can also mean an adversary. An adversary moves in conflict with their opponent. They move in the opposite direction. Peter was moving in a path in conflict with Christ. Christ knew that his Passion and death were part of the plan, yet Peter could not reconcile himself with the suffering Jesus was going to endure. He denied Gods plan, and frequently that plan includes suffering. Denying Gods plan seems to be something that Peter struggles with, especially when he is challenged. Later he will again deny Christ when he is arrested. When Christ tells his disciples that they must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow Him; Jesus is telling us not to be an adversary, or an opponent to Gods will. Suffering is after all a part of life, and it also is a part of discipleship. Folks suffer through many things in life. There is illness, financial struggles, and conflicts with almost everyone we meet; none of which should lead us to take our eyes off of Christ. Quite the opposite following him is the best way of carrying the crosses of daily life. Peter had to put aside his plans in order to follow Christ, he had to surrender to something that at once seemed unpleasant and incoherent. In surrendering to his will, he accepts the will of God. That is a description of being baptized into Christ. To go into the water is to die to ourselves, to be raised from the water is to live in Christ. Peter had trouble in hearing of Christ’s suffering, “get behind me Satin” is a lesson he will draw from many times as the rock upon which Christ builds his church. It is a lesson worth remembering.

Nativity of Mary

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The feast of the”Nativity of Mary “is today (9/8), nine months after her Immaculate Conception.In the eastern tradition Mary’s birthday is formally known as”The Birth of Our Exalted Queen, the Birthgiver of God and Ever-Virgin Mary.” The Church calendar observes the birthdays of only three persons: St John the Baptist , Mary, Mother of Jesus and Jesus the Christ .The names of Mary’s parents, Joachim and Anna, appear in a apocryphal second century book known as “Gospel of James”. It says Joachim and Anna were beyond the years of child-bearing(Like Johns mother St. Elizabeth), but prayed and fasted that God would grant their desire for a child.Like John the Baptists birthday, Mary’s forms an important link between the Old and New Testament. It is the beginning of the New Testament fulfillment of the Old Testament promise of salvation.Mary’s nativity celebrates the dawn of our redemption . It is a feast day,a celebration, a day of rejoicing. All feast days should have something festive to commemorate them.French vineyards name Mary’s birthday “Our Lady of the Grape Harvest”. On this day the best grapes are brought to the local church to be blessed , and grape bunches are attached to hands of the statue of the Blessed Virgin. It is followed by a banquet containing foods made from the fruits of this harvest.

Rejoice or Fast?

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Friday 7 September 2012
Friday of week 22 of the year
Gospel
Luke 5:33-39
When the bridegroom is taken away from them, then they will fast.
Isn’t it great to get a hint about the mood of Jesus’s mission ? It isn’t likened to a revolt, or a revolution: it is likened to a wedding feast, both festive and joyous. It perplexed the Pharisees who were somewhat obsessed with formalities and rituals and maybe to the point where they lost the meaning of rejoicing. Could they not see reason to give thanksgiving for all that YHWH had given them ? Had their obsessions with laws blocked the simple act of rejoicing in the God that their laws and rituals were directed towards? If one can’t rejoice in God and Gods gifts, what is the benefit of ritual ? Can one honor God without rejoicing? The Pharisee’s asked why Jesus and his disciples don’t fast, Jesus asked the Pharisee’s why they don’t rejoice: One Point being  that both are important..