A short family drama

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Scene 1, Act One (or,,an odd collections of random thoughts) ;

Jesus went to the district of Tyre.
He entered a house and wanted no one to know about it,
but he could not escape notice. Soon a woman whose daughter had an unclean spirit heard about him.
She came and fell at his feet.

Act 2

“The woman was a Greek, a Syrophoenician by birth, and she begged him to drive the demon out of her daughter. He said to her, “Let the children be fed first. For it is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.” Here is a story rich in imagery. A visualization of what is happening must be stressed, and after that imagination should run wild.

In the scene Jesus, the Son of God and Son of Man, walks through a door and into a house and in that house he is greeted by a woman and a daughter. Not an uncommon scene. The daughter is ill, and the woman asks for Jesus’s help. Here a dialogue between the two begins with a little bit of controversy. The scene begins with a woman a daughter and a house, but halfway through the story new elements are added to the set. The set now includes a table, some food, and a dog. The Son of God, a woman, a house, a daughter, a table, a dog, a discussion that includes a disagreement. How hard is it to imagine that? [The kitchen table, the dinner table. the stage is set.]

In the story the woman asks that Jesus cures her daughter of a demon, and Jesus replies that the children should be fed first and not the dogs. The translation of dog is debatable, some think the word really is “puppy!” The story traditionally is interpreted to be that Jesus came first to deliver the gospel message to the people of the covenant and not the gentiles. But why the imagery? Why children, puppies! , and food? I can understand the adult argument about priorities, but I also can understand children and puppies. I can especially understand a puppy’s insatiable appetite.[Uncle Paul suddenly walks across the room, exit stage left]. I can use my imagination. I can see the parents feeding the child, and can also see that child immediately taking that food and giving it to that puppy. I have seen this before. Many times before.This is a classic domestic situation, it speaks of the roles of parents, husband and wife. It also speaks of the innocence of the child. The parents in this little play differentiate between people, the child does not. To the child the puppy is as important as the parent or the chosen people or the gentiles. Imagine that innocence, no wonder Jesus said bring the children to Him.

Act 3

She replied and said to him,
“Lord, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s scraps.”
Then he said to her, “For saying this, you may go.
The demon has gone out of your daughter.”
When the woman went home, she found the child lying in bed
and the demon gone

[ think: So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. (Genesis 1:27) What is the nature of God?]

[think: Mary as “pre-eminent and as a wholly unique member of the Church”, declares her to be the Church’s “type and outstanding model in faith and charity”]

[im·ag·i·na·tion the faculty or action of forming new ideas, or images or concepts of external objects not present to the senses:]

Is there any surprise that Jesus set up a squabble in this domestic situation, did the Son of God ever really intend not to heal that child? Throughout the gospel, had Jesus ever refused to heal anyone? Certainly before plucking some fruit from a tree man and woman would have seen the goodness of God, but in this little drama the consequences of Adam and Eves actions become visible. They do not simply see the goodness of God, evil and judgement also enters into their consciousness. They become good people and bad people with no shortage of bickering between them, and the cure for this dilemma is expressed or explained through the innocence of a child. Certainly the bickering between nations comes to mind today.

[rec·on·cil·i·a·tion: the restoration of friendly relations (between God and man, between mankind]

Thursday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 332

Gn 2:18-25

Mk 7:24-30

the end

A Great Light

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Today’s gospel Mt 5:13-16 is deceptively simple. It can be over embellished, or made more complex than it need be. Of that I might be guilty. A light that is intended to be seen is simple enough, of course Jesus is talking about faith being visible to the world. That visibility can be in action and in attitude. What more need one say, do all of the details need be spelled out? Does one need to be told how to behave as Christian, on how to make their religion known to the world? More on that later, for now I focus on the two comparisons, salt and light. Couldn’t they be replaced with word and deed? Back to a light, first one under a basket and hidden. Then another, atop a hill.

In the past I have wondered about these two light sources, why were they chosen and what as their reference? I did come up with a conclusion, one hidden and another glaringly visible. For the one tucked away and hidden or protected I envisioned the menorah of the Temple of Jerusalem. It was sacred, so sacred that after the Temples destruction it was changed to nine branches from seven. In its original form it could only reside in the temples sanctuary. It was a sacred light

The other light sat on a hilltop, the rebuild and extravagant city of Caesarea Philippi. That city was rebuilt and renamed to give honor to the emperor (I hope I got the city right, some fact checking might be in order.) There is my comparison, the spiritual light versus the neon glow of a city. How can a light hidden outshine one intended to be a showcase? I could have made the comparison simpler, as that hilltop city was rebuilt and enlarged to show glory to an emperor, the Jerusalem Temple was also enlarged to gain the cooperation of its patrons. Herod the Architect enlarged it, though not for spiritual reasons. He just liked to build things, he built the temple to the true God and also to pagan gods. To him the light that was important was the exterior one, the concrete and not the spiritual.

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
I am the light of the world, says the Lord;
whoever follows me will have the light of life.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Jesus, in his little sermon, tells that the light hidden should outshine those feats of architecture. That works of faith should outshine artistry. To bring this into contemporary terms, can the physical and spiritual be renamed corporal and spiritual. Corpus is bodily, that which enshrines a soul. Where is the importance placed? Both have needs and so there certainly good works that serve both the bodily and the spiritual, the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. One meets people’s physical needs and the other their spiritual. Both make the light hidden become visible. Often though it is the flamboyant that gets the notice, be it a temple building or pagan city. Christ declared He is the way, the truth, and the LIGHT. A light made visible, but not merely by buildings and shrines.

[a corpus  on a cross]

To the salt that loses its taste, it serves no good. Why salt though? First, salt is a preservative. It was also used in a covenant. Second it brings out flavor and adds character. It is a spice, it sets apart. What is the salt of Jesus’s followers? What was the salt of Judea? What set both apart from their neighbors? Their behavior, their beliefs, their worship, their attitudes, their customs and traditions and history? Could that be what gave them their flavor? In society, then and now, there often is the desire to dilute cultures to gain conformity. That was the reason Herod rebuilt the Temple, to placate the citizens to accept Roman rule. It was to make them Roman citizens. Good reason for Jesus to instruct them not to lose their flavor, to become complacent. How does that differ from today? Does a nation try and get its citizens to abandon their traditions and customs? I wonder?

To think of this season, the season after the Epiphany and before Lent. It is carnival in Europe, and South America, and in traditionally Catholic parts of the United States such as New Orleans. To the United States it is Football Season. To Catholics and Christians the Christmas Season runs from Christmas day to the Epiphany and winds down at The Feast of the Presentation of the LORD at the Temple. To the nation the “holiday season runs from after Thanksgiving through Christmas day. Salt that has lost its flavor? What feast has more notoriety in the United States, Candlemas or Groundhog Day? Candlemas celebrates the light of the world, did it remain hidden?

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 73

Is 58:7-10    Ps 112:4-5, 6-7, 8-9

Jn 8:12  Mt 5:13-16

 

Mardi gras

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Gospel readings can deliver so many messages, depending on time and place. Todays is no different, and the time is just before Ash Wednesday. Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday, and the disciples do not wash their hands before their meal. Strangely, this reading can be linked to yesterday’s , where Jesus asks Peter to leave the shallows and push off into deeper waters. The washing of hands is shallow, it occurs on the surface. Sure, it has value. It is a reminder to be holy, but it barely scratches the surface. For Jesus his disciples are to go deeper into their faith, and that means leaving the rituals that ornament their faith, and journey to its essence. Emphasis on this will continue tomorrow when Jesus again asks his disciples to remove themselves from exterior expressions, and delve into the interior of prayer. To journey into the essence of their faith.

When the Pharisees with some scribes who had come from Jerusalem
gathered around Jesus,
they observed that some of his disciples ate their meals
with unclean, that is, unwashed, hands.
(For the Pharisees and, in fact, all Jews,
do not eat without carefully washing their hands,
keeping the tradition of the elders.

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

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How does someone approach these three readings of today? In the first Isaiah declares himself unfit for prophesy, yet becomes one of the greatest prophets. In the second Paul addresses the church at Corinth, and tells his biography. He was initially a great persecutor of Christians, but eventually becomes known as the Apostle to the Gentiles. In the third a tired fisherman named Peter is obedient to a carpenters son, and takes his boat out even though head not caught anything all day. Without first considering the writing of Isaiah, or the letter of Paul; what do we know about the turning point in their lives? For Isaiah, he accepted being a prophet. For Paul, he accepted the call of Christ. For Isaiah, being a prophet placed him in honor but what were the risks. What happened to a prophet when their prophecy did not turn true? What if they were declared a false prophet? For that the fate was death. Isaiah questioned his worthiness, and he also feared the task. Yet he did what God had asked him to do. He left the safety of comfort and sailed into deep unchartered waters. He didn’t do what was easy, he did what was required.

Is 6:1-2a, 3-8

The same is true with Paul. Paul was a vigorous persecutor of Christians, and he was a devout and well educated Pharisee. When on the road to Damascus, Christ appeared and said Paul why are you persecuting me; Paul left the religion he knew and followed the course of the Christians. Not an easy thing to do, Paul could have had a comfortable existence following the Judaism he knew. Instead, he followed Christ. He placed himself before that persecution he once practiced on Christians. In listening to Christ, he placed himself in the danger from the Pharisees and faced uncertainty with the Christians. Would they reject one that was so cruel to them? Paul did not take an easy course, a point he makes in that letter to the Corinthians.

1 Cor 15:1-11

The same is true of Peter when Jesus asks him to fish in those deep waters. The sea is a dangerous place, and he placed himself at great risk going into those waters even though he was certain there were no fish. Yet he was obedient, and reaped an abundant catch. Charting a course into deep waters is common for those early disciples, Jesus often asks they place themselves far from comfort. He asks them to take risks, and challenges them to go where they would prefer to avoid. Yet the follow his command and reap a great reward. When I think of those disciples leaving the safety of those shores, I think of that storm at sea. I think of them landing on a shoreline haunted by demons. I also see  them witnessing Christ overcome the stormy waters, and gaining victory over those demons. I see the strength the gain when facing those challenges. I also look at these readings and the calendar today. Ash Wednesday is three days away, and for forty days Christ asks that His disciples leave the comfort of the shore, and travel to deep and uncomfortable and challenging and treacherous waters. The Lenten season should be something profound, and should go deep into a persons soul. It should visit our uncomfortable sickness, and brokenness, and sins so that we might be healed like those demons far across the sea.

Lk 5:1-11

wednesday and thursday, and friday of the 5th week of ordinary time

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The first readings of the past few days have continued with that story of creation from  Gn 1:20—2:4a Genesis, and the Gospel readings have included several encounters with the Pharisee’s regarding the law; first eating with unwashed hands and then Christ defining what defiles Mk 7:14-23 a person. From the Genesis story, again there is obvious statement of who created the world, and the statements of purpose, and that God saw that it was good. Within the arguments of the Pharisees is the duty to uphold both law and tradition, Jesus of course in his rebuttals challenges both. He asks why a person should observe the laws of man, when the creator of those laws slight the laws of God. That slighting of laws is particularly interesting. Jesus brings up the example of “Any support you might have had from me is qorban”’Mk 7:1-13 and that practice was dedicating something to God in order to work around one of the laws. In modern terms it was that all to common practice of exploiting loopholes in laws.

I have to think that the foundation of Jewish law, a law that the Pharisees are part of the tradition of, was to follow the commandments of God. I can be certain those laws were formed out of their knowledge of their creator, and were based in part on a  knowledge of the natural world that is Gods creation. They saw all that was created by God and saw that it was good, to paraphrase Genesis. Of course along with keen observations of nature, they also had insight into mans habit of stumbling.(Gn 2:4b-9, 15-17) Their exodus was not just to get back to nature, but to get away from a sinful nature of man and return to their God. Add too they recorded their own follies, and recorded those lessons learned into their laws. They were well aware of the exodus from the Garden of Paradise and its cause.

Somewhere along their journey though, laws stopped being written through an observance of Gods laws, but began to be written to serve their own purposes. Largely the Pharisees purpose was nationalism, but every generation has their own reasons for creating laws. Those reasons bluntly are not always written with a focus on God, or through any observation of Gods creation. My argument for the reason and methods of formulating Jewish law is clumsy and full of loopholes and fallacies, but I ramble about it with a purpose. That purpose is to contrast the absolute beauty of Gods creation against the ugly politics of promulgating laws and public policy. As Jesus argues Mk 7:1-13  against ritual purity or dietary laws as they relate to an obedience to God, we can argue our laws towards the poor, our rewriting of marriage laws, our warping of the structure of society through the promotion of homosexuality, our laws regarding youth, elders, education and healthcare, our laws regarding the interactions between nations, laws regarding immigration and migration of workers, and the list goes on.

What are our reasons for advocating a law? Is it through a fidelity to God, or is God to be dismissed from all legal considerations? Is it though keen observation, or through an observation of history and growth in wisdom? Is it influenced through campaigning, through popular vote, are laws bought by fortunes made in industry? I still see that beauty of creation, I can also see an ugliness creeping into society. When Jesus heals a person, sometimes his healing is directed at a personal frailty of an individual. Many times though His healings are aimed at correcting illness that are related to the flaws in the society itself. Those flaws are often highlighted when Jesus confronts the Pharisees and their laws, or when He aids an outcast who is suffering under those laws. Many times the Pharisees address law and tradition as if they are written by God, when in truth they are advanced to serve mans foolish needs. Not all that is legal is moral or righteous. Many times they are not.

I think of laws being advanced today that are so in conflict with Christ’s Church. I think also how they are advanced, through political action committees and donors with big pockets and big agendas. Do they advance Gods laws, or simply the lobbyists own desires? I think of this as I think of Jesus addressing the Pharisees concerning the politics of that time. I also wonder how Jesus would argue with the political parties of our time. I wonder again about which direction His modern disciples would take. Do they favor the progressive laws of society, or contemplate the words of Christ. Do they travel back to paradise or move in an opposite direction? Now, to go back to the beginning of my thoughts on Christ’s healing.

Today when Jesus heals a man Mk 7:31-37  he goes through a bizarre step of interactions. First he draws away from the crowd, second he stick his fingers in the mans ears (weird!) and then he grabs his tongue. Why, but why!. Think for a moment, the man has trouble speaking. What is required for speech? It is hearing and then vocalizing. Jesus touches both organs required for speech. First that which is learned, and second that which is proclaimed. Ears, and tongue. There is more though as those two things are in the possession of the man. For Jesus he must draw the man aside, he must move to a different place. No longer can God address mans needs from a distant location, God must enter into creation. For Jesus that means that he must physically be able to touch man, to physically interact with them. And God became man.

That then gives reason as to why the Christ entered into creation, it was to reverse that exodus from the Garden of Paradise, to restore that true order of creation. It was to heal the wounds of sin and to bring Gods people(all people) Mk 7:24-30  back to God. This healing then , and that dialogue with the Pharisees do indeed relate bank to that story of Genesis. It is about the restoration of creation after mans fall. This  is a ramble of course. Disconnected and disjointed, it is a preliminary draft and unedited to give a glimpse of why the Son of God entered into creation, and it does relate to that story of Genesis, it is about correcting mans fall, his stumble, and his exodus. I hope you understand