It benefits me to change

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They approached Jesus and strongly urged him to come, saying,
“He deserves to have you do this for him,
for he loves our nation and he built the synagogue for us.”
And Jesus went with them,
but when he was only a short distance from the house,
the centurion sent friends to tell him,
“Lord, do not trouble yourself,
for I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof.

Lk 7:1-10

A small detail caught my eye in this healing of the centurions slave. The centurion had sent the Jewish elders to Jesus regarding that solders request. Note how that Jewish elder tells Jesus “He deserves to have you do this for him.” Those elders were not always the biggest supporters of Jesus, but they found themselves in a situation where Jesus might be able to help their cause. Note that I said help the elders cause, not help the centurion or his slave. Even though they disagreed with Jesus, the Lord could benefit them. With that they could turn a blind eye. Now I am no expert in the Latin language, though I certainly do wish I was. I regret not studying it in the past. In this situation though there is a phrase that leaps into my mind. It enters, although I don’t know how appropriately. Quid Pro Quo, what does that mean? I vaguely recall tit for tat, but that is not right. Quid Pro Quo.

To the dictionary: Quid Pro quo means an exchange of goods or services, where one transfer is contingent upon the other. English speakers often use the term to mean “a favour for a favour”; phrases with similar meaning include: “give and take”, “tit for tat”, “you scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours”, and “Skid row bro.”

The Elders of a society would do something like that, and even back in the first century? Really, I thought that was the domain of the twenty first century politician. I had no idea a devout religious society would do such a thing. I do like the centurions statement though “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof.” Such Sincerity ! It is that sincerity that God seeks. A humble and contrite heart the LORD will not spurn.

Mercy, Confession, Forgiveness.

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Mercy, confession, forgiveness. They are present in all of the readings of this Sunday. All of the readings remind us of Gods infinite Mercy towards His children. In the first, the Lord has delivered the Hebrews from slavery. As Moses converses with God atop the mountain those people regress to their old ways, they build a golden calf for worship. Old habits die hard. The Lord warns Moses of the transgression, and Moses pleads on that flocks behalf. God is a Merciful God and forgives their transgression. Ex 32:7-11, 13-14 Those sinners are able to move past that sin and continue their journey towards the grace of God. Moses acknowledged what they had done was wrong, he did not try to justify a sin. Mercy, confession, and forgiveness. God is a merciful God that allows people to move from sin towards grace.

Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness;
in the greatness of your compassion wipe out my offense.
Thoroughly wash me from my guilt
and of my sin cleanse me.

Paul in his epistle acknowledges his sin. Paul was a persecutor of Christians. He was present at the stoning of Saint Stephen. In his letter Paul confesses his arrogance, he also confesses the faith he had discovered in Jesus Christ. It is in that faith that he preaches Christs gospel to others that once were unbelievers. Paul does not remain stuck in unbelief, and he does not remain condemned for his unbelief. He does not remain condemned because of his condemnation of Christians. He is able to continue his journey, he can move from darkness to light. Through the mercy of Jesus Christ he is forgiven. Dark to light, and sin to grace. 1 Tm 1:12-17

A clean heart create for me, O God,
and a steadfast spirit renew within me.
Cast me not out from your presence,
and your Holy Spirit take not from me.

This is what Jesus in the Gospel argues with the Pharisees. A God of infinite mercy who offers forgiveness is the God that Jesus preaches, it is not necessarily the one that the Pharisees recognize. The Pharisees see Jesus associating with the sinners, and to them these sinners are the condemned. To those Pharisees the sinners have offended God, and because of that were condemned. Often irrevocably and that is a curse. To them Mercy and forgiveness are not apparent, and they fear the same vengeful curse. (The thing is a merciful and forgiving God is not a radical departure from their scriptures. Jeremiah, whom I have been reading, speaks of forgiveness. Gods mercy and forgiveness is etched throughout the Old Testament) It was the curse of the blind, and the crippled, and the leper. Vengeance versus mercy. Condemnation versus forgiveness. A God of wrath, and anger versus love and forgiveness. Jesus teaches of a God that goes after those that are lost and wounded, and a God that reaches out at all costs. That is a God of infinite mercy and forgiveness. God uncorrupted. Lk 15:1-32

O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.
My sacrifice, O God, is a contrite spirit;
a heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.

The parable of the prodigal son also tells of two sons. The one that is disobedient and sinful, and the other that is sternly obedient. The sinner confesses his sins, and is embraced by the father. The other, he is arrogant and jealous of the sinner. Jealousy and arrogance are sins, they also are sins that are neither recognized nor confessed by that so called good and obedient son. Parables have many interpretations. One for this of the prodigal sons is that Jesus likened the righteous obedient son to the Pharisees. The Pharisees and Sadducees and Temple Priests and Scribes were the people’s conduit back towards God. The problem though was that they often functioned more as a roadblock to God, putting one barrier after another between God and man. Jesus wanted them to notice this, and to notice their own behavior in that righteous and arrogant son. He did not wish them to become like the sinner, but like the father that reaches out in an effort to bring that wayward soul back to the kingdom.

Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 132

Monday of the Thirty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time

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The first reading Dn 1:1-6, 8-20 speaks of David as a involuntary member of the Babylonian captivity. It the lengthy reading the wise David argues his way out of eating the food of his captors that would have violated his religion. The discourse certainly speaks of David’s skills in the argument of persuasion, but that’s not really the point. The first reading must be evaluated in the context of the gospel reading. That gospel reading Lk 21:1-4 tells of the poor woman who donates to the temple from her meager purse. She does not donate from her excess, but from money that was essential.

He said, “I tell you truly,
this poor widow put in more than all the rest;
for those others have all made offerings from their surplus wealth,
but she, from her poverty, has offered her whole livelihood.”

What links these two stories? In both I think David and that woman preserve what is essential to their lives. The woman gives to the faith that is fundamental to her existence, and David follows the precepts of his religion that fundamentally define who he is.  In both they loved their God with their whole heart and soul, and both did that with every resource available to them, and it mattered not how limited those resources were..

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

Jesus goes to town

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Jesus goes town to town, and I emphasize to the extreme; with His apostils and also is accompanied by some woman. There it is, the structure of His Church sans buildings. Note that reading emphasizes the contrast male versus female. Note most importantly that it is the females that are mentioned by name. Why would someone bring that up? The reason is simple, there is an extreme importance placed on those who are described by name. (you have to read the text to know this) Describing a person by name places them above a nameless crowd, even though it might be those nameless ones who are in charge. Here the apostils are nameless. Within that Church does reside an order, though contemporary society often misses it. That church, indeed from its beginning has had a hierarchy, though a hierarchy that gives equal importance to both halves. I stand corrected, it gives a greater importance to the “invisible half”, those who labor outside the public eye yet clearly within the eyes of God. Therein lies humility. They walk with Christ, not in front of Him. They serve Him, not use Him for their own gain. It is important to look at that relationship of men and woman in service to the Church. It is important to look at that service of both men and woman, not to look at the service of men versus woman. The service to Christ, after all is cooperative and not antagonistic; both serve one Lord. That is the message of Christ, not the message of a twentieth century social movement. Not popular, but true. Now, I hope I don’t get into trouble for writing this….
Friday of the Twenty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 447


Read it Here:
lk 8:1-3