8th Sunday of Ordinary time, and just before Shrove Tuesday

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Heads you win and tails you lose, or you can’t have your cake and eat it too. Turn the other cheek, and give to Cesar what is Cesar’s and to God what is Gods. Light and darkness, good and evil. God and Mammon. Dichotomies. From today’s readings comes “You cannot serve God and mammon.” Mt 6:24-34 Mammon is not a word that enters into contemporary vocabulary, except when this reading comes around. Often the word Mammon is simply translated money. Is that accurate, I am really not quite certain.

Today’s reading comes after the Sermon on the Mount and is part of a segment where Jesus presents a series of teachings to the disciples. God and mammon are part of that list. The teachings location in both the Gospel and the calendar are important. In the gospel it gives instruction on Christian behavior. On the Calendar, the reading is presented a week before Lent. The word Mammon is not used much today and it does not have a direct translation in the English language. Let’s try to describe it, but first let’s look at the world from an ancient viewpoint.

In the ancient world view, our current life is but one part of a physical existence. If one were an explorer, or  spelunkers, and could find the right cave; they could find the entrance to hell. That landscape existed beneath our feet as solid as the ground we walk upon.

If one had a ladder of sufficient height, given the proper engineering technology, one could step from this earth into heaven. The two were separated by the ancient space aged polymer-ceramic-metallic composite monolithic domed superstructure named  “the firmament.” A modern illustration could be the three level apartment building. The basement apartment a sheer hell, the ground level a tolerable existence, and the penthouse heavenly. One could also use the three stack pancake example in honor of Shrove Tuesday, we live in the middle pancake. God in the penthouse, we on the ground is probably a better example. This is a good example of how the original gospel audience viewed their world. God and Mammon.

This is one example of God and Mammon, God resided in one place and mammon another. There is another example , and the calendar gives hint of it. It is just before Lent and that is carnival season. Carnival for Carnivore for flesh eater, for the flesh. Mammon resides in the world if the flesh, but is the flesh the only part of the body? What about the soul? Life is after all a union of body and soul, a mingling of spirit and flesh; of heaven and earth. In an ancient world it was not just the body that could die, the soul could too. Dying and tortured souls were trapped in that basement apartment. A soul that stumbled landed on the ground level. A person’s body can live while their soul has died, and a body can die while the soul lives eternally. Mammon is not just a focus on money, it is a focus on earthly concerns. It is an ignorance of the Heavenly, and a flirtation with the devil. Think of what Carnival gives emphasis to, and what Lent strengthens one against. Angels and Devils; Devils are fallen angels. “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me.” Not a bad thing to remember when thinking of God and Mammon.

It might be good to give focus to the first reading of Isaiah; Zion said, “The LORD has forsaken me; my LORD has forgotten me.” Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you.” Is 49:14-15 The short passage reminds that God does not forget us, and might serve to remind us not to forget God. Jesus in His teaching reminds us not to fall trap to this world, and if our priorities are focused on God; God will provide. God will provide abundantly. The readings of this day give reminder to focus on the messages of Lent, and not simply or blindly fall for the celebrations of carnival. It is a reminder to place priorities in the proper order, and that is the ultimate goal of the Lenten season that is about to begin.

Half empty, or half full ?

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Peter began to say to Jesus,
“We have given up everything and followed you.”
Jesus said, “… .

When Pete says that they had given up everything, what precisely to people imagine they gave up? Do folks imagine they gave up anything or everything of value? Do people imagine they gave up everything enjoyable? Do people imagine them as ragged paupers following their leader on an agonizing trek, deprived of all of the riches and comforts that the rest of the world freely enjoyed? Is that the only way to look at their sacrifice?

Can someone view Pete discarding life’s burdensome excesses in order to make room for that which is truly valuable? Could they have cast off their sins, difficult as that often is? Might they have learned to discard prejudice? Might they have given up their stubbornness, or set aside their old ways to make room for something new. Did they have to give it up grudgingly, or might they have done so with an enthusiastic vigor? I am not suggesting what their mindset was, but I am merely describing two ways of parting with many things. Two ways of looking at “everything”; especially when those things are not defined and catalogued. One is with misery, the other joy.

They were following Jesus Christ after all. They did not follow Him for death and suffering, but for a joyous life. The gospel is a book of good news, not the book of dread and gloom and doom. This is a glass half empty or half full type of issue. I suspect those who followed Christ did so gladly, they gladly left much behind precisely because so much they possessed brought them harm. At the beginning of their journey I ask; could their possessions be what brought them harm. Instead of possessing “things”, could those “things” possess them?

Jesus cured many of the demons that possessed them.

1 Pt 1:10-16

Mk 10:28-31

Tuesday of the Eighth Week in Ordinary Time

Jesus, the Temple, and a Fig tree

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If Jesus were to walk into the temple today, I wonder who and what he would drive out. More importantly , I wonder what building He would enter?  Would He be pleased with what He saw? Some might think of the modern day temple as the parish church, and others the Universal Church represented by the Vatican. Others might think of it as all that is under the influence of His Church, that which had formally been called Christendom. I like that last thought of the temple, both its house, and its people , and all that those people had constructed, both the buildings and the society. That’s how I see Jesus turning over the merchants carts and the moneychangers stalls. I see him destroying that temple we built, and Him restoring the temple He sent his disciples to build in His name.

And he said to it in reply, “May no one ever eat of your fruit again!”
And his disciples heard it.

How insightful the gospel writer was to combine the story of the fig tree that bears no fruit, and the Jerusalem temple. How well they knew Jesus as the keen observer of nature. He knew the fig tree gained its importance by its fruit, and He saw the similarities of the Temple and the fig tree. Both gained their importance by the fruit they bore, and both suffered being pillaged by those who sought low hanging fruit. Odd the thought on the one hand a tree that bears no fruit, and one that is stripped of its fruit by a greedy farmer (the temple leaders), only to be rendered sterile by their actions.

They came to Jerusalem,
and on entering the temple area
he began to drive out those selling and buying there.
He overturned the tables of the money changers
and the seats of those who were selling doves.
He did not permit anyone to carry anything through the temple area.
Then he taught them saying, “Is it not written:

My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples?
But you have made it a den of thieves.”

Back to today, who are our temple priests? Are they only the priests of Rome, or might they also include the politicians of the day? Unlike ancient Jerusalem, we do not live in a theocracy. More honestly we are creating a theocracy of our own choosing guided by a society fattened and bloated on that low hanging fruit. Like Jerusalem, Jesus again will destroy that temple we constructed and restore that one built in truth. History repeats itself.

[The gospel account of Jesus driving the merchants out of the temple are still relevant today. Those merchants feeding off of mans beliefs still exists today. It can be those preying on the devout, manipulating them to serve their own needs. It can be the politicians feeding off and manipulating public sentiment to fit an agenda. I need not mention that popular vote in Ireland, or secularism sweeping across Europe, or internal ideological battles within the Church, or opponents waging opinion against the Church. A house of Prayer, or a Den of Thieves?]

[I did not wish the last bit of writing to drift into a rant, but simply o highlight the similarities of that ancient temple in Jerusalem and our culture today. They are so similar, ancient Jerusalem being a temple state where the economy revolved around that building. Todays society separating Church and state, but also with a State defining the moral and social and cultural code, often in a clash with its Church(es). A temple of a manipulated culture? Money talks! Its an ancient battle, though today with a State becoming a new temple; a new temple guided by the same political tactics, and agendas that perverted that ancient place of worship.Nothing radical, but simply a different way of looking at a particular passage.https://northernhermit.wordpress.com/2015/05/30/1644/ ]

Mk 11:11-26

Friday 8OT

Thursday of the Eighth Week in Ordinary Time

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As Jesus was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a sizable crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind man, the son of Timaeus,sat by the roadside begging.

Since Pentecost, I have not written much. I have thought about writing, and I have read the daily readings, but I have not been able to put anything to paper. The season that ended with Pentecost, Lent and Easter, was a long one and I thought it ended abruptly. Did I miss the Pentecost octave that had been eliminated? I think so, I think I needed more of a transition back into ordinary time. The readings also had not provided me with that transition, that is until today. In today’s reading Jesus leaves Jericho, and I leave the Easter season. In the gospel Jesus encounters s blind beggar, and I view that blind beggar in the light of Easter.

Had this reading come a month later, I would have placed my focus on Jesus actions and what in this encounter He was trying to teach both his disciples and myself. I would have scrutinized Jesus interaction with His disciples on the scene, and His interactions with the beggar. I would have studied Jesus  words and gestures, I would have looked for the disciples mistakes. I would try to find the lesson. I also would have ignored the blind beggar. I would have ignored him for what he is as I searched for what he represents. Today though I look at that blind beggar in the light of Pentecost, in the light of an Easter Christ. I can see that person for what they are, first a person. That beggar is  clothed in the same body as Christ. The beggar is not first define by blindness, but by humanity. Their begging does little more than describe their struggles and hardships. Being blind, and being a beggar does not make them less than human. It gives no one the right to rob them of their dignity. That is  exactly what Jesus’s disciples were doing when they told that beggar to be quiet. They used their power to push another person down. As those disciples rebuked the beggar, Jesus rebuked them.

The most meaningful part of this gospel account is that this scene is reenacted constantly around the world today. One does not have to search long to find someone begging on the streets. Poverty and human suffering are common encounters even today. The  question though is what do I see when I encounter them, do I view them as less than human? When they beg do I rob them of the little dignity they have left? Do I act as crudely as those early disciples, or do I listen to that Holy Spirit He sent me? Am I obedient to that Spirit of Pentecost?