What Jeremiah can teach us about this election — Bonfire of the Vanities

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Fr. Fox at Bonfire of the Vanities does a much better job at explaining Jeremiah, ‘the prophet’ (my post title) that I mentioned a few posts ago. With that said, I link to his excellent post:

In comments on a prior post, I suggested a reader — who claims I am a bad priest because I won’t support a particular political candidate as the blocking maneuver against another candidate — read the Book of Jeremiah. Another reader asked what I meant. Here’s what I had in mind. Jeremiah was called to his…

via What Jeremiah can teach us about this election — Bonfire of the Vanities

Twenty Third Sunday of Ordinary Time

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How do you approach Jesus’s miracle healings? How is a person to interpret them, do we view them as medical marvel or do we read more into them? I think everyone has their own approach but in today’s gospel reading it is the first reading from Isaiah that offers some insight. Isaiah is the Old Testament prophet that guides the Israelites through their exile, and Isaiah is also the one whose prophecy gives evidence of Jesus as the messiah. In the first reading Isaiah describes a messiah that heals. The blind see, the mute speak, and the deaf hear. Using that as a guide, the account of Jesus healing records an action of Jesus as Isaiah’s prophesy fulfilled. The fulfillment of those prophetic visions punctuate the gospel accounts.

Here is your God,
he comes with vindication;
with divine recompense
he comes to save you.
Then will the eyes of the blind be opened,
the ears of the deaf be cleared

In the gospel reading Jesus preforms this miracle in a specific location, and the writer spends time on describing that place. Collectively it is the Decapolis. The detail might (does) describe an historical fact, but what are the specifics of this region? Details add depth to the story, it sets a scene. The Decapolis is a region where Jesus devotes a large amount of His ministry to. It is a Roman stronghold, largely autonomous, and heavily populated with Gentiles. In that region a first century Jew would be in the minority, and groups such as the Pharisees would have a difficult time negotiating such a culture. For Jesus to perform a miracle there is no small event. The people that brought the deaf and dumb man to Jesus begged that Jesus lay His hands on him. I wonder why, and if they expected a response? By the sounds of those people’s cheers, Jesus restored more than a man’s senses. Jesus restored a people’s faith. It was not simply a body that was brought back to health, but also a relationship. Jesus is all about restoring a relationship. His mission is to restore a relationship between God and man.

They were exceedingly astonished and they said,
“He has done all things well.
He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”

The rest of the gospel account goes through the details of the healing. Jesus takes the man aside. He puts His finger into the man’s ear, and touches his tongue. Jesus makes physical contact with that individual, and what does that suggest? It tells that Jesus the Christ, and Christos means the messiah, was in close proximity to crippled man. All of those details point to a cure that required that a messiah be in close contact with the people he restored. To the people of that day, there would be little trouble having faith in a messiah that descended upon a cloud, or resided in a cloud, or who was visible through lightening, or fire, or water. A messiah that was born of a woman, and in a manger? Preposterous! A messiah the son of a laborer? Who could believe that? In the Old Testament God could take any form, to Moses God was revealed in a burning bush. To the Hebrews God resided in a cloud and a pillar of fire, and eventually took residence in the Temple. That was believable, but Jesus Christ, Son of man was a challenge. The healing tells of an action that required salvation to enter into creation. That is something worth noting. A healing of hearing, and speech, and perception. That physical presence is important. It is not simply “the Word” but also “the Body” The Mass has two parts, the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Body as the Eucharist. Does the Mass heal?

The final part of the healing concerns the senses. The two senses that were restored are closely related, hearing and speech. Hearing properly aids one in speaking clearly. Jesus took the person aside, away from the noise and commotion so that they could quite literally take hold of their senses. Jesus led the person to a place where they could regain their perspective and continue along the right path. Surprisingly that part of the miracle is quite common, though often not so dramatic. It is the good news of Jesus Christ.

blessed are…..

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Today’s readings struck a note with me. They are such a contrast with all of God’s blessings going to those who are poor, suffering, struggling, trampled on, and persecuted. Gods curse goes to those who have gained every advantage in life. The tough part is that when everything is not going my way, when I am being trampled on, I don’t feel particularly blessed. At those times it is difficult to accept that blessing offered by Jesus. Sure, I can read those words but it is difficult to really believe them. I would much rather be one of those cursed fat cats dining at the best restaurants and driving the nicest cars. The curse doesn’t seem that bad if you get the loot! Then though think of all those who are more “blessed” than me. There are certainly folks with much less money than I; that honorably work much harder than I. They struggle to build something better, and so many don’t let their burden deter them from doing what they value. Their values too seem so well placed. So many are persecuted much more than I ever will be. They have true opponents that wish to defeat them, while I deal with some people I just plain don’t get along with. In their persecutions they are an inspiration to others, as they are in their diligence to persevere. In their struggles and determination I can see that blessing Jesus bestowed on them, and in focusing on their dignity I can see that blessing drift over to me… .

Twenty third Sunday of ordinary time

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Communities and conflict: it seems that the two go together. Today’s readings have a lot to do with conflict resolution, and that seems to be something very useful for today’s age. Conflicts are all around us. Conflict exist within our countries borders. It manifests itself as political conflict, ideological conflict, ethnic, class, religious, generational, sociological, and the list goes on. Along with conflicts within a country, there are also those conflicts that are so prominent across nations. The mid-east conflict, Arab-Israeli, Jewish- Islamic, Jewish-Christian, Islamic-Christian. There are the divides between North and South America, Eastern Europe and America, Eastern and Western Europe. No matter how large or small conflicts exist between two groups. How are those conflicts resolved? That is an important question that Matthew’s gospel addresses. Jesus, in His first example asks that to parties who are in disagreement simply reconcile their difference. He does this though by introducing one important word, Sin. In his argument, one who has another sin against them, should get that brother to see their fault and correct it. By introducing that word, Sin, one brother is right and the other is wrong. That conflict resolution involves correcting a fault, it does not involve compromising a truth. How difficult then is it for two brothers in conflict to agree to a truth? Mathew in his gospel, is after all addressing his community. He is trying to get them to reconcile their differences. He is though trying to get them to reach not a compromise, but the truth. In that gospel writers’ time there was conflict. Theirs was a Jewish Christian community, with a gentle component, and also an ongoing dialogue with the Pharisees. Conflict abounded, but the resolution was not compromise, but instead a pursuit of truth. Within Jesus message to the brother that sins against another, are those same words that Jesus rebuked Peter with; “Get behind me Satan!” Both are not follow their own path, but they are to pick up their cross and follow Christ. Christ is after all that truth. Brothers in Christ should first and foremost seek His way, His truth, and His light.

In Jesus first argument if two brothers could reconcile to a truth all was well. His second argument though gives guidance when reconciliation does not take place. Jesus has the brothers then present their arguments to witnesses, which is the Jewish law for dealing with disagreements. It is so that the facts are adequately stated, so that Justice might be served. The resolution of that conflict must be Just, it is not taken lightly or dismissed frivolously. If a sin is committed, it must be dealt with properly and not glossed over. In the Jewish community any accusation against another was not taken lightly, to accuse or punish one unjustly is an offense against God. In thinking about so many of today’s” brothers sins against their brothers,” I wonder might it be with good reason that the conflicts are not resolved? Sometimes the severity of the conflict hints at the difficulty in discerning the truth. Sadly though, how many times are conflicts not presented to witnesses? How many times is dialogue absent? Conflicts are not always easy to resolve, but what is the better resolution compromise or truth? I thinking of this gospel on a geo political scale, I wonder how many times these two steps are taken “when one brother sins against another?” I wonder what the outcome if government leaders tried to discern a truth rather than win a battle? How much different if they tried to understand rather than defeat? How much different if they both committed to truth rather than position? Conflict resolution is not easy, and discernment is not easy, but what about the strength of a community built on truth? A community built on truth is in ideal the Holy Catholic Church.

If an issue between brothers cannot be resolved through dialogue, or through the intervention of witnesses: next comes the Church. The Church is the body of Christ: it is that way, that truth, and that light. Within its borders hopefully resides the knowledge to aid in any truthful discernment. It is a body of knowledge built through history. Jesus in Matthews’s gospel ask the Christian brothers to seek a resolution there. There either a solution resides, or one can be formulated to be added to that body of knowledge that is Christ’s church. Again “If your brother sins against you,” the pursuit is the truth. So much importance is placed on the importance of seeking truth. In thinking of the truth of the Catholic Church, look at the effort that has been put into that discernment. It is the history of the Church councils, its creed, its catechism, its literature, its influence on history; all of echo those words to Peter, “Get behind me Satin”; its history is the ongoing resolution of one brother sinning against another.

Finally if one brother’s sin against another is not resolved, the one who is sinless is to treat the other as a tax collector or pagan. The author of the gospel, Mathew, was a tax collector. Jesus words to him? Follow me. He did not come for the righteous but for the sinner. Even to them he cries out I am the way, the truth, and the light. Follow me. Repent and receive the good news. His is not a compromise to Satin, or a surrender to sin.

Our Lady of Sorrows

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It is only fitting that the day after the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross is the Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows, for although the cross is exalted for our redemption that redemption was at a cost. Our Lady of Sorrows is a reminder of that cost. It was Mary who witnessed the price of salvation, it was she who endured the suffering of her Son and it is she who bears the sorrow of our sin. It was through Mary’s fidelity to God that she bore Jesus, and that fidelity is consistent through his ministry. Her sorrow is predicted by Simeon at the presentation, she bears the sorrow of the flight into Egypt during the Martyrdom of the Innocents, the loss of Jesus in the Temple and the sorrows of Cavalry; Jesus death upon the cross, receiving his lifeless body and his burial. It is her sorrows that realize the price of sin, her grace that bears these sorrows as a price of our redemption. Her willingness to accept these sorrows on our behalf, are proof positive of her willing grace to intercede on our behalf