Sunday #33


Today’s theme is hard to miss. It is the last Sunday of Ordinary Time as next Sunday is the celebration of Christ the King. It also is fall, and time marches towards winter. It is November, the time to celebrate the souls that have departed this life. It is just after Halloween and all that holiday commemorates, the thinning of the veil and the proximity between this life and the next. The readings of the day embrace all of this, and if there is a common theme to the readings the word Eschatology would come into play. That word is concerned with final events, and human destiny. The meaning of the word revolves around death, and judgement, and the final destiny of our souls. It suggests the Apocalypse, the end of time. Biblically it can refer to the messianic age. To sum it in words; time, life, death, heaven and hell. The second coming of Christ, the last judgement. Big and abstract themes, but think. Look at those words.

Time. Time is measured it is finite, it has scale and is measured. A day has a length. Years, months, days, hours, minutes, seconds. Time can be measured. Our time in our present state is measured, it has a span. But what about life, does life turn into death? What are its units? To Christians life is eternal, and death is not victorious over it. Life does not end in death; it is our life’s span that concludes in time. Death cannot defeat Life; it tries but ultimately fails. Christ defeats death and frees those souls shackled to it. “He descended into hell, and on the third day rose again.” But of our free will we can accept all that death has to offer. Some do. Life and death, grace and sin, heaven and hell; there is a correlation. What then is the end of days, the end of time? Eschatology?

Some look at the end of time as the distant future, the end of a millennium and many millennium’s off. Time is measured; the end of time can be the end of a second. One can prepare for the end of time as living one second or day in preparation for the next. In can be viewed in human terms, and on a human scale. Hourly and daily, not simply geologically. Lord, grant me a restful night and a peaceful death; a prayer at compline. In Paul’s 2 Thes 3:7-12  letter, he reminds people that his time frame is human. Paul worked among them. It is their ordinary time and a time people can relate to. Not distant but present. His was a message to follow by example. Jesus Lk 21:5-19 talks of the destruction of the temple, its time had past, and he talks of a battle. The imagery is of a battle on a grand scale, apocalyptic. The end of time, it is that final confrontation between life and death. Those people, at that time, had a different view of the world. He spoke to them in their time so that they might understand. They faced many battles, but individually they were not the ultimate battle. They were not the definitive battle, though many taught otherwise. The battle between good and evil. The battle between life and death.

On one hand, I look at an atomic blast, something the ancients did not know. Apocalyptic for certain. Must the apocalypse always be grand, does the last day always end in fireworks ? I remember when the tiny mass bells that were rung at the transubstantiation of the bread and wine into the body and blood of Jesus the Christ. A time long ago, a time past. Apocalyptic. What if someone saw the importance of keeping those bells ringing, of finding someone to keep that sound through time. It is the sound, however small, of salvation advancing through time. This is my body, and the bells rang. This is my blood, the blood of a new and everlasting covenant. And the bells rang. A small sound announcing something of extreme importance.

“Do not be deceived” (to use the tone of the prophets), the grandiose is not always of grand importance. Little things count, little actions count, and little preparations count. One second ends and another begins. The end of time, the Apocalypse, Eschatology can be put into human terms, the mundane tasks of daily life. Not the end of time and the end of days; but more simply the end of one day or one time.

Excuse my misspellings, and grammar, and poor sentence structure. I would have liked to have worked on this further, to flesh it out, but unfortunately I ran out of time.

the parable of the 10 gold coins


It is a familiar story, and so easy to focus on what is done and not done with those coins.Lk 19:11-28 Two servants utilize them, and one does not, it might be best at this point to read the parable. There starts a conversation of what we are to do with the resources we are given, but don’t we then miss the point? It is not about what we do with what we receive. Its not me, and it is not we. Its about who, and that is where the emphasis should be placed.  Its is about who gave us those resources, and what were  commanded to do with them. The King, not the servants. God, not man.

He called ten of his servants and gave them ten gold coins
and told them, ‘Engage in trade with these until I return.’

Its not that the first two servants of the parable utilized their resource wisely, and that the third did not. Its that the first two were obedient to the command given them, and the third was not. Obedience versus disobedience; faith versus doubt. Two obeyed the King, and one did not. Two listened, and did as they were told. The disobedient servant describes his master as stern, yet that same servant displays his arrogance and disobedience to the future king. How does one listen?

The first reading 2 Mc 7:1, 20-31 describes the faith and devotion the Maccabee’s followers had in their God. They were willing to face their own death and the death of their loved ones rather than be  disobedient to their Gods laws. That faith is mirrored in the gospel reading, the difference being that those in Jesus’s parable are rewarded for their faithfulness. Faith has both a price and a reward.

It happened that seven brothers with their mother were arrested
and tortured with whips and scourges by the king,
to force them to eat pork in violation of God’s law.

Another interesting part of both the story of the disciples of the Maccabee’s and the people in the parable is the way that both their stories progress. In the parable, the commandment is given in the opening of the story. The story then shifts focus onto those entrusted with the coins, and then returns to the Kings judgement.

The Maccabees story also opens with a defiant and victorious faithfulness of the Maccabees. They defeat those that want them to defile their faith. Their faith is their strength. The problem though is that as time progresses their mission looses its focus. It shifts from Gods kingdom to the Maccabee’s nation. As time progresses they glory in their victory, and perhaps loose sight of the faith that fueled their victory. They gradually loose their focus. Its a universal human frailty, as so many prophets remind us. It is the same shift in focus that occurs in the parable. The focus starts with the King, and gradually becomes about the servants. The King though does return, and that’s worth remembering. (Keep your eye on the ball,  your eye on the prize.)

Wednesday of the Thirty-third Week in Ordinary Time


Thursday, 33 ot.

Gospel lk 19:41-44
As Jesus drew near Jerusalem, he saw the city and wept over it, saying, “If this day you only knew what makes for peace–but now it is hidden from your eyes. For the days are coming upon you when your enemies will raise a palisade against you; they will encircle you and hem you in on all sides. They will smash you to the ground and your children within you, and they will not leave one stone upon another within you because you did not recognize the time of your visitation.”

It is an odd concept to think that war is the path to peace, but many times it is. Of course war does not always have to mean fighting on a battlefield, it does not always require the shooting of bullets, or the bombing of buildings, or the destruction of property, or the loss of life. It simply can mean the violent resolution of a conflict. That conflict can involve bloodshed, or it can be a resolution between competing philosophies, cultures, or ideologies. The courtroom can be viewed as a warzone nearly the same as a battlefield. The same can be said of the conflict between good and evil.
Jesus frequently talks about entry into the Kingdom of God, and entry into that Kingdom requires the resolution of a conflict. It requires that defeat of Satan and victory over sin. The cry of Jesus is his concern that the people of Jerusalem, and that is us, don’t recognize that battle and sink into a complacency. That complacency frequently is surrendering to sin.

Sin, as simply disobedience to God. It is the comfort of living in exile by simply losing sight of the glory of Eden. The thing though, is that battle between good and evil, heaven and hell, goes on even if we are not wise participants in it. The more sin is entrenched, the more violent the battle between that good and evil; but the good will win at all costs. Again, ironically those spiritual battles so often do merge into battles on the battlefield. For that reason alone that gospel passage is simply not poetry, it is the violence of the crucifixion and the joy of Easter. It is the violence of the battlefield, and the exuberance when that battle ends with a lasting peace. That violence made worse, simply because we refuse to open our eyes, and that is not a commentary on ancient history but also of contemporary society.

Sides are being drawn, all’s one has to do is read a newspaper, or turn on a television, or listen to a politician. I wonder in this battle of the twenty first century, which side is gaining victory? Are the advances we so often celebrate an advance towards that Kingdom Jesus preaches, or are the victory’s we celebrate an advance in the opposite direction? Are we steadily marching back towards that Garden of Eden, or retreating further from it? Many of the advances since the 1960’s have brought about the dawn of a new age, but as Jesus looks at this present Jerusalem does He weep again? Ignorance or complacency simply lets that sin get entrenched, and makes that battle that more violent, that much longer, and the wounds that much deeper. That battle with sin began with our exit from Eden, do we realize that battle continues today?

Wednesday, 33 week ot


While people were listening to Jesus speak,
he proceeded to tell a parable because he was near Jerusalem
and they thought that the Kingdom of God
would appear there immediately.
So he said,
“A nobleman went off to a distant country
to obtain the kingship for himself and then to return.
He called ten of his servants and gave them ten gold coins
and told them, ‘Engage in trade with these until I return.’

This parable of the talents as told by Luke is similar to that of Mathews; with the talents being replaced by coins, the servants being told to trade them. The focus of the parable though shifts simply because the introduction gives Jesus reason for telling the parable. It is because his followers had thought they might gain immediate entry into that Kingdom of God. The parable then demonstrates that those who wish to enter will really have to work for entry into that kingdom, though they have the resources to enter that kingdom. Another interesting part is that those servants acknowledge that they do not like their king. It is the first two that are obedient, even if it goes against their grain and the third is defiant. Like in Mathew’s gospel the first two gain reward while the third again is reprimanded. Odd how obedience and loyalty are mandatory, they don’t get to vote for a new king. That is a tough lesson for a democratic society where everything is up to a vote, it’s a humbling experience to bow down against ones instincts. Tough lessons indeed.

Today again for the 40-day challenge, though I think I might keep this separate and simply provide a link to an earlier post:

It simply provides a reminder that breads have their season. For the beers though I offer a caution. Many of the beers that are sold during the “holiday season “are Doppelbocks that can have as many as 600 calories per glass. Many of them are from an older time when fasting was taken quite seriously, and they served as the only form of a monks nourishment for the 40 days. If one wishes to drink, perhaps it might be wise to take part in those “liquid breads” while engaging in their seasonal fast.

Memorial of Saint Elizabeth of Hungary and Chickens


If anyone should happen to notice the new badges appearing at the bottom of recent posts, they describe a current challenge that is going on. That challenge is to do a post-a-day until Christmas, and for that challenge there is a topic given that has to be incorporated into the theme of the blog. This day’s post-a-day topic is Chickens! The theme of the blog revolves around the Mass Readings of the Roman Catholic Church. Chickens as they relate to scripture. Question: why did the Chicken cross the road? Answer: To get to the other side. Question: What do Chickens have to do with today’s readings? Answer: I don’t know yet.

Today is the Memorial of Saint Elizabeth of Hungary (1207-1231). Elizabeth was the daughter of Andrew II, King of Hungary, and the wife of Duke Louis IV of Thuringia. Being the daughter of a King and the wife of a duke, Elizabeth led an obviously privileged life. An abbreviated version of her story is that she was the good wife of the Duke, who also had a natural inclination towards the sick, and the suffering, and the downtrodden. She was a religious person, more specifically and important; a lay person. Question: What does this have to do with Chickens? Answer: I don’t know yet! In 1227 Elizabeth’s husband was killed during the crusade, and following that death Elizabeth became a tertiary Franciscan. Her story tells that she did not receive the inheritance due her, and these times were one of personal suffering. As a vowed tertiary Franciscan she took on the role of caring for the sick, going so far as to convert some property she owned into a hospital while herself living in a hut. Throughout her life, from wealth through poverty, Elizabeth always cared for the concerns of others. She placed other before herself in service to God. Question: why did the Chicken cross the road? Answer: To get to the other side.

The gospel reading today is of the blind man at Jericho:
As Jesus approached Jericho
a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging,
and hearing a crowd going by, he inquired what was happening.
They told him,
“Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.”
He shouted, “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me!”
The people walking in front rebuked him,

Question: What do Chickens have to do with today’s readings? Answer: The blind man was not a chicken. He had the nerve to call out to Christ and ask for help. All of the people around him told him to keep silent, but he wished to be cured of his blindness. He had the courage to call out to God, he was not held back by fear, and he wasn’t a chicken. It’s not always easy to make that decision when society pressures you into something else. That is a valuable lesson for today: don’t be a chicken and follow Christ! For Elizabeth she had the desire to serve God by serving the poor and the injured. She had the courage to serve God when she was a member of Royalty, and she had the courage and strength to serve God when she was an outcast from Royal society. Elizabeth wasn’t a chicken either. Her faith gave her strength, her story serves as strength for others…..