drifting towards the third Sunday

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I misplaced something, a few notes that I had written. I didn’t really misplace them, I lost them by overwriting them. It’s a problem of the digital age.

In that little note I was comparing Jesus’s asking that a boat be made ready for him to His forming of the Church. Mk 3:7-12 I looked back to Moses in a basket among the reeds and declared that basket was a boat. I mentioned Noah and his ark, again a boat. Both I said were for protection and that commonly is what scriptural boats are for. With Jesus I pondered His boat was for protection from the varied crowd and their opinions. He did not want the crowd, the world to suffocate him or to drown him out. A boat not so much for His protection but to guard His Word. The boat became an ark, as the Ark of the Covenant and then the tent, and then temple to synagogue to Church. Jesus knew the need for that boat. It gives the Word of the LORD safe passage.

A large number of people followed from Galilee and from Judea.
Hearing what he was doing,
a large number of people came to him also from Jerusalem,
from Idumea, from beyond the Jordan,
and from the neighborhood of Tyre and Sidon.
He told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd,
so that they would not crush him.

What that writing was overwritten with was a small note on the picking of the Apostles. Mk 3:13-19 Briefly that passage acknowledged the need for an apostolic leadership, while also acknowledging all are called to priesthood. It rambled on the ordained and the lay-priest. Both have their role in Christ’s Church. The emphasis was on Christ’s initiation of a priesthood early in His ministry. While all apostles are disciples, not all disciples are Apostles. Now drift towards today.

Jesus went up the mountain and summoned those whom he wanted
and they came to him.
He appointed Twelve, whom he also named Apostles,
that they might be with him
and he might send them forth to preach

In today’s reading Mt 4:12-17 Jesus again is calling Apostles but there are a few details added. To start the passage begins with the arrest of John the Baptist. John had preached that he must decrease and Jesus increase. John’s ministry ends with his beheading. It ends. Jesus now begins. The second part is that Jesus goes to Capernaum by the Sea of Galilee. He doesn’t head south to Jerusalem, he goes north. He does not go to the center of Judaism, he goes to the fringe where it mixes with the Gentiles. There he declares the Kingdom of heaven is at hand. In that passage is mention of a great light in the darkness, the light which is Jesus the Christ. With that introduction Jesus chooses his Apostles.

When Jesus heard that John had been arrested,
he withdrew to Galilee.
He left Nazareth and went to live in Capernaum by the sea,
in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali,
that what had been said through Isaiah the prophet
might be fulfilled

From these readings, there are a few things that can be extracted or interpolated. First the boat and the Church, Jesus had always traveled among a group. He often traveled with them by boat, and a boat scripturaly is a Church. Is it difficult to see Jesus amongst His Church from the beginning of His Ministry? Is it difficult to see Jesus among His Church at the Nativity? Is Jesus ever separated from His Church? I think not.

John the Baptist was a voice in the wilderness, a solitary voice. Jesus is always amongst the flock, his Church. Jesus from the beginning sees the need for a priesthood and begins His ministry with choosing those leaders. His Church is not formed after His ministry, it is put in place from the start. There is something else that can be gleaned from John the Baptist. John’s death dies not come from the Jewish faithful. It comes from a corrupt Herod. His death does not come from the saints of the covenant, it comes from the sinners that surround and intermingle with them. Jesus, from the beginning, does not go to the heart of Judea but goes to the fringe where the conflict lies. His ministry begins in the lands of the gentiles where life for God’s chosen people is most challenged. From the beginning Jesus reaches out to the sinner. These are the people so many had tried to avoid. Jesus brings the light to the darkness in a very deliberate way. No wonder it is referred to as Church militant.

In going to those fringes he reaches to the abandoned, the socially isolated, the prisoners, the sick both spiritually and bodily. He, through His Church, travels to the schools and the prisons and the hospital and the shelter and soup kitchen and the street corner reaching out to all that wander in darkness. Oddly, that did not grow out of His ministry but was part of its very beginning. From the beginning he argued in the synagogue and in the courts just as Christians do today. Jesus in His ministry does not stay among the polite but deliberately ventures  where many would not. That was the design of the Church from the beginning, bringing His light to all. That includes those that wander through the darkest places. That is the tradition of the Church..

Saturday of the third week of ordinary time.

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Storms at sea can be frightening even today. Imagine the terror of a storm while on water in the first century, and not only for the primitive boats of that day. In the gospel reading ( Mk 4:35-41), Jesus wishes to cross the sea of Galilee, and while making that crossing a squall erupts. At this point I imagine the boat distant from any shore, and I think of those fishermen’s view of the world at that time. To them they would have sight of heaven above and hell below, and that storm would be Gods wrath. God gives them either the ability to safely cross, or casts them down into the depths of the sea. It is by the will of God that they make it to the other side.

In that gospel story I also think of those cities, towns , and villages that dot the shoreline. I understand that region to be inhabited by Jewish communities, and communities of Greek origin, and those under Roman rule. To set sail from one side might be a departure from a Jewish territory, and the arrival into a pagan town. Many times when Jesus and his disciples sail across that sea that is precisely what they are doing. I can think of that storm raging at sea, and in the same way I can think of a similar storm raging on the shorelines. One a storm of nature and the other a storm of armies marching across the landscape.

When I think of that storm at sea and the questions the disciples asked in panic “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”; I don’t see those disciples simply perishing at sea. I see them perishing through the violent clashing of cultures too. When I hear Jesus command the winds “Quiet! Be still!”; I hear that message being directed at both wind, sea and that clashing culture that was roaring on the seashore. Jesus did come precisely to calm a storm, and authority he used to calm that sea is only a hint of what He will do once they reach the shore.

The first reading (Heb 11:1-2, 8-19) talks a lot about faith, the faith and promise made to Abraham. While at sea I am certain those fisherman put their faith in God every time they ventured from shore. I am certain too that this was not the first storm they encountered at sea, and I am certain that it was not the first time they thought they should perish, and I am certain it was not the first time they cried out in fear ” God save us!” But notice this time what they said, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” They cried out not to a God on the other side of the firmament, but instead called out to Christ. Here, they placed their faith in Jesus. That faith certainly was in its infancy, and will be tried and doubted many times along their journey. Placing that faith in Christ while in a storm at sea does speak volumes though. It gives illustration to their strength of faith as they walked with Christ. One might look at that miracle of calming of those seas , personally I see that miracle of faith. Faith in a God that enters into humanity to bring us salvation from our perils, and to lead us back to God . It’s the faith of Christianity.

Friday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time

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A person can always get into a bit of trouble when writing on a parable, especially if that person tries to explain the true meaning of those little stories. That trouble comes from the very design of the parable, first they are not intended to have only one true interpretation and second they tend to bring up as many questions as answers. They are designed to prompt one to think and ponder upon an easily remembered story. Both he sower and the mustard seed (Mk 4:26-34) are ones I have thought and rambled about in the past. Frequently my writing on the Mustard plant and its seeds border on botany lessons, and again today I will give a brief botanical description of one aspect of a Mustard Tree. In Jesus’s parable he describes it as “But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants.” The Mustard Tree can survive a variety of environments. It is salt tolerant, and can survive in both the arid desert and well watered soil. It can grow both in nutrient deficient rocky soil, and in the fertile field. When grown in a harsh environment such as the desert and rocky barren soil, it takes the shape of a gnarly indistinct shrub. Passers by would scarcely notice it. When planted near a stream or well watered and fertile soil it grows into a magnificent tree; a perfect place for the desert wander to find shade from a burning noontime sun.

Tuesday of the Second week of Ordinary Time.

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For the past several days readings, Jesus has been confronting His countrymen. He has been in heated discussions first with the Pharisees and then the Temple scribes. Today’s (actually yesterdays Mk 3:31-35) readings are the most important culmination of this gospels discussion. In that discussion someone says, “Your mother and your brothers and your sisters are outside asking for you.” And Jesus replies ““Who are my mother and my brothers?.’ That is an important question. His mother is of course Mary, but think of the question again. Can not his brothers also include the very Scribes and Pharisees he has been debating with? They are all fellow countrymen of Judea bound by the same covenant. That statement “who are my mother and brothers” can indeed refer to the people born into the same faith tradition as Jesus Christ. They are bound by culture, the covenant , and tradition. They are his people and his tribe yet he denies them, and I think this is important in understanding his confrontations with the scribes  and Pharisees. Those confrontations are directed at His  family. In this final discussion of the series Jesus makes an emphatic statement as to who his family truly is.“Here are my mother and my brothers.For whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.” With that Jesus dissolves those important relationships of paternity and nationality, the only thing that binds himself to another is that they obey the will of God. Of course that does not state that anyone of his religious or familial heredity is incapable of obeying Gods will; it simply states that He places that obedience to God above all else. With that it is not enough to declare oneself united to Christ through familial relationship, or nationality, or religious tradition; and those are powerful means of forming an individuals identity. Jesus does away with those very concrete measures of loyalty in favor of a singular devotion to God. Why do I think this is so important? It is because it helps clarify some of Jesus arguments to the Scribes and Pharisees. His is not a break from the traditions of those people, but Jesus does not place those ancestral traditions above a loyalty to God. They are not enough to win allegiance with Christ. That allegiance can only be won through the obedience to God.His argument then is not a breaking away from his family, but is a pleading for that family to be loyal to their God.

Third Sunday of Ordinary time

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Oh, I don’t know how much there is to add to this Sundays entry since I have written nearly everyday this week. Todays readings focus on Jesus calling his Apostles to become fishermen of men and declaring the Kingdom of God to be at hand. To start with that Kingdom of God, I think one has to look at what Jesus had just departed from. What he departed from after his confrontations was clearly not the Kingdom of God. What I should point out is that though his conversations with those Pharisees was confrontational, they were likely the most civil of conversations He had. The Romans were occupiers of the land and lorded over them, King Herod was paranoid regarding anyone ascending to the throne of David. The Pharisees at least carried on a discussion.In looking at the Kingdom of God, one can start at looking at what the Kingdom of God is not. It is not any of those Kingdoms where man has declared himself God, it is not where man has declared himself King. The Kingdom of God is Gods creation obedient to their God. It is the Kingdom where God is King and man a servant obedient to Gods laws. The Kingdom of God is at hand. When thinking of this Kingdom , one might be wise to think justice and wisdom over politics and leaders.

For the Apostles mission of becoming fishers of men, one can take a look at the first reading which is from the book of  the prophet Jonah. That book is likely the most comedic of any of the books in the bible. It tells the story of Jonah, an arrogant and disobedient servant of God. He is given the assignment of warning the Ninevites to repent for their sins or face the wrath of God. Being the enemies of Jonah and the Israelites, Jonah does not wish to deliver this message. He rebels against God so much that while travelling on a boat a storm at sea frightens his shipmates to the point that they throw the arrogant Jonah overboard. What is a fisher of men? Someone that fishes the likes of Jonah from the seas of sin and disobedience and arrogance and ignorance and anything else that goes against God. In contrast to the way Jonah behaved when being called by God, Jesus disciples are obedient. Their mission as Apostles is to learn and carry the message of Jesus to the world.

What now is the difference between those first century apostles, and a twenty first century apostle? In that first century they had the Christ of the Nativity, and the Christ of the Passion. We have the Christ of the Ascension. Our mission also calls to bring the gospel to the ends of the earth. It also calls to make Christ visible to the world, and making Christ visible is the best way to bring lost souls to the Lord. It means not simply preaching Christianity, but truly living it and setting ourselves apart from the world as disciples of Christ. That is not simply doing all that is permitted in society, but doing what Christ has demanded we do. It is lighting a path to that Kingdom he preached by both word and action so that others might follow.It is keeping ones eyes on the prize that is the Kingdom of God. Being a twenty first century apostle requires being Christ like in our actions. We still live n the Kingdom of man, but have our sights on Gods Kingdom. We still have the disobedient Jonah’s in this world, but we also have Christ’s message to fish them out of the sea. We have all it takes to be those fishers of men, Apostles of Christ.