Aside

Jesus said to the crowds,
“When you see a cloud rising in the west
you say immediately that it is going to rain–and so it does;
and when you notice that the wind is blowing from the south
you say that it is going to be hot–and so it is.
You hypocrites!
You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky;
why do you not know how to interpret the present time?

Lk 12:54-59

Please, lets emphasize this one line. For this I will discuss:  “You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky; why do you not know how to interpret the present time?…”

The truth is that I partially do know how to interpret the present. That demand vigilance, and observation, and an incredible amount of prayer. No, my interpretation is not perfect but it is a start. It is a reason for a vigilance in listening to the word of God. That word, that gospel counteracts the popular press and the opinions and the advertisements and the editorials of today. It counteracts the word and images that flood me. It is the reason that I read sacred scripture. The present time must, absolutely must, be interpreted through sacred scripture.

John Paul the second

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Today would have been the optional memorial for Saint John Paul II, but it is a Sunday. I thought I would post one of his holy cards, but which one to post? I chose this one, it links John Paul II with John XXII. Pope John XXII was the pope that opened Vatican II. Saint John Paul II spent his entire pontificate under the guidance of that Vatican council, and his successor Benedict XVI was one of his primary advisors. All three certainly influenced Pope Francis. Saint John Paul II understood apostolic succession well, with an understanding of the past and an eye towards the future.

In todays gospel Mt 22:15-21 a Pharisee asks Jesus: Should Jews be required to pay the Roman tax? It is a trick question. Say yes and be cursed by your fellow Jews, say no and deal with the wrath of the Romans. What to do? Jesus requests the coin and points to its image of Caesar. Caesar the Emperor, Caesar declared god. He asks whose image is this, they respond Caesars. Jesus reply “give to Caesar what is Caesars and to God what is Gods.”

Did Jesus think Caesar a god? No, Caesar was a man. A powerful man, a delusional man, it matters little how Caesar is described. The truth is Caesar was nothing more and nothing less than man. Give to Caesar what is Caesars can be rewritten give to man what is mans. But what does anyone owe another man, and how does that compare with what one owes God?

The Torah says much about what men owe one another, and the same is true with the ten-commandments. Both describe at length the debts of men towards one another, and the debt of man to God. Jesus in the New Testament described it in two simple commandments. The first, Love God with your entire heart, mind and soul. The second, love your neighbor as yourself. A message simple enough to fit on both sides of the same coin.

Caesar was a man and deserved to be treated as any Christian treats another. He deserved to be treated as a slave treats their master , and a master their slave. The argument expands to the treatment of wives by husbands, and again husbands by wives. Do unto others. Even when that is difficult? Even when that is difficult, and there is a way out?

Certainly that story of the coin gives reference to the affairs of Religion versus government, and there is relevance to that today. Often Religion forbids certain actions, yet the government is more lenient. Which side of the coin does one accept? There are a lot of those issues in the news today.

The argument of Caesars coin, should not be limited to affairs of Church versus State. How easy would it have been for a Pharisee, or any first century Jew, to love Caesar? How does one treat another under difficult circumstances? How does one treat another as themselves when the conditions are difficult. Who can love an executioner? Who loves an enemy, or a thief, or a beggar? Who can do right by someone who did them wrong? That side of the coin is a little more personal.

Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Ignatius of Antioch

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Lk 12:13-21 Today I have a different take on the wealthy barn builder. He is the one that has so much success he can no longer store his possessions, so he builds a barn to hold them. He gloats in his success and gets ready for a long and comfortable retirement. It is all about him, but the LORD strikes him down.The LORD reminds him that what is important to man is not important to God.

But to the beginning of the reading, someone asks Jesus to tell another to share their inheritance. The inheritance implies the stuff in the barn, the stuff important to man but not to God. That person wants trinkets shared, they want cash. But that is only one side of the inheritance, the other is cultural and the region was rich in them.

That was the land of a culture that often revolved around a city-god, and city gods were not about sharing. They defended its residents and demanded homage, they built walls and they hoarded much like someone stocking a barn, and those barns were often raided, pillaged, and plundered.

Inheritances were not shared, they were hoarded and raided. Each god its own kingdom, but that was not Christ’s teaching. Christ taught one kingdom under God, and one God. That is a shared humanity that inherits all that the LORD gives, a shared inheritance available to all. It’s where the word catholic comes from, universal.

Today is the memorial of Saint Ignatius of Antioch, student of Apostle John and the third bishop of Antioch appointed by Peter. Ignatius was a victim of Christian persecution, and was led from Antioch to Rome to be martyred in Circus Maximus. Along the route from Antioch to Rome he composed seven letters to be delivered to the early Churches. In those letters he passes down his inheritance, his knowledge of Christ as taught to him by the apostles. His inheritance today is passed down through Apostolic succession. Through Ignatius we inherit much of the Church we know today. Surprisingly he was one of the first to use that word Catholic. A shared inheritance.

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!

Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time

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Mk 10:35-45 “The cup that I drink, you will drink.” What did that cup like, what did the sons of Zebedee see and what do I see? To me the cup is a chalice of gold. It is ornate and venerated. Is that what those disciples saw? What did they see as the kingdom that Jesus preached, and how did they expect to see that kingdom unfold. Sensibilities over the centuries change. I have read of the ancient views of heaven and earth, and their views of God and man. Heaven and earth, separated by a barrier. Distant. Entry into the kingdom? For some, it occurred at a specific time and place. To those few entry was sudden. They followed their Messiah to a location, and the kingdom magically appeared. They were granted salvation, and their enemies were destroyed. Many that followed that type of prophet were slaughtered by the Roman army when their messianic vision did not pan out. Occasionally today we read of cults that expect this type of kingdom to appear. Those cult members typically follow a charismatic leader to their death. They drink a magic potion expecting salvation. Is that what the sons of Zebedee expected? Did they expect to be handed a chalice of gold? They knew Jesus, they knew what he preached, but they could not peek into the future.

That cup, what is it and what does it hold? That cup can start with the cup of the Sabbath, and according to prescription it is filled to a set volume and till it overflows. That acknowledges the abundance of God’s blessings on His people. The cup holds a portion, an allotment, and a substance. That substance, at Sabbath, is joyful. It is a cup of wine. At Christ’s baptism, it is His mission, our salvation. Wine turned to blood, blood turned to wine. Destruction and death to salvation and life, and salvation through death. They were about to enter into Jerusalem, they expected that Chalice of gold. Were they yet prepared on how they were to receive it? They have not yet witnessed the crucifixion, and yet they were quite possibly expecting the Ascension, and their own Assumption into the kingdom. They did not yet understand their portion and their cup. They knew what they wanted, they were unsure of what they had to do.

Christ told them. “The cup I drink you will drink.” They do have a role in Christ’s kingdom, but they do have to share in His portion. They are called to service. The cup is poured out for their salvation, but they also are called to service. They are handed a Chalice, and they are called to drink its portion. Entry into that kingdom will be granted, but it is far from automatic. It requires effort. Salvation, and redemption, confession and conversion.

They had not yet fully experienced what that cup held, they have not yet experienced the cross of Christ and this conversation prepares them for that event. The cross will be revealed as the tree of life.”For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many” This is a new testament, and a new covenant. At the Cross their lives will be changed. At first, they wish to deny that Cross, but they will come to understand it and they will come to understand what that cup holds. They will grow from sitting at the right and left of the Messiah, too picking up their crosses and following Him. Can you drink the cup that I drink or be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” They said to him, “We can.”

I see this scriptural passage in context of the Mass. They have heard the scripture read, and  they have heard the homily. Now they prepare to move from pulpit to altar, from the liturgy of the Word to that of the Eucharist. This walk is their introduction. A Mass unfolds.

Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 146