Psychological operations on the Sea of Galilee

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God and Man. In today’s gospel reading the actions of Jesus and the actions of the Apostles needs to be compared. In that reading, after preaching to the crowds, Jesus tells the apostles to get into their boat and cross the lake. At that time Jesus dismisses the crowds goes to the mountaintop, and prays. Jesus often seeks solitude to pray.

Mt 14:22-33

For certain preaching to a large crowd had left him tired. For certain there were those in the crowd that eagerly listened to his word. For certain there were those in the crowd that sought to do harm. Allies and enemies. No wonder Jesus went to that mountaintop, to pray.

How similar the waves of people were to the waves of a stormy sea. Jesus told the disciples to get into a boat and cross the sea. A challenge? A storm kicks up, they panic. Who can think clearly with such pressure? They spot Jesus walking on the water. The Christ they had just walked with is barely recognizable? Would they have recognized him had the situation been different? Would they have recognized him from across a quiet street? They saw him walk on water in a violent storm. They cried out in fear, I wonder who they cried to? My guess is they cried to God. They got something right. Jesus went to the mountaintop to pray. Jesus said “take courage” “It is I “, and “do not be afraid”. Peter obeyed with a courageous response. ”

  • Storms mess with emotions, and they cloud judgement.
  • Navigating difficulties takes practice. It requires a plan.
  • It’s always a good idea to pray.

Peter said to him in reply, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” A prayer answered, and all goes well until Peter loses sight of Jesus. The violent storm caused him to shift his vision. Vision is clouded by fear and uncertainty. It is blinded by all that comprises the storm. How easy is it to stay focused amongst chaos? Peter begins to sink. Then he cries out “Lord save me.” Peter does something right. That cry is a prayer.

(a little side-note, probably not worth inserting)

Take note: Isn’t noise and chaos a great diversion?

Panic ! Panic! Panic! Panic! Panic!

Fear ! Fear! Fear!

Psychological operations (PSYOP) are planned operations to convey selected information and indicators to audiences to influence their emotions, motives, and objective reasoning, and ultimately the behavior of governments, organizations, groups, and individuals.

(end of side-note)

Isn’t it interesting how Jesus seeks solitude for prayer? Isn’t it difficult to maintain focus under certain situations? Don’t constant commotion and noise cloud judgement? Imagine trying to think clearly in a protest. Imagine trying to think clearly with a television blaring its opinions. Imagine trying to maintain peace while surrounded by antagonists. Jesus sought the mountaintop to pray in solitude. I wonder if those disciples appreciated the quiet after the storm. that’s the whisper of God mentioned in the first reading. 1 Kgs 19:9a, 11-13a. Here is a blurb from that reading:

but the LORD was not in the earthquake.
After the earthquake there was fire—
but the LORD was not in the fire.
After the fire there was a tiny whispering sound.
When he heard this,
Elijah hid his face in his cloak
and went and stood at the entrance of the cave

Storms seem popular today, people seem to enjoy the conflict. They enjoy taking sides. Elephants and Asses take note! They enjoy their opinions and their gangs. Politicians are gang members, they like to incite riots. They enjoy and thrive on the violence.Then, they toss out their solution hoping that no can think clearly in the midst of their storm. That’s the political storm of today.

Today the storm is turbulent and treacherous. It is violent and deadly. Such a social climate. Deadly. Jesus went to a mountaintop and prayed. Peter trusted in the LORD, yet amongst the violence he had trouble maintaining focus. Bluntly stated: quiet meditative contemplation, and prayer, and a life focused on Jesus Christ are worth remembering today. There is a storm on the horizon.

(yes, the post is about the importance of having a prayer-life)

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Go figure, and transfigure

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He thought quietly while staring at a blank sheet of paper, “half the year is through (sigh)”. “Gone, disappeared, vanquished”. He knew that from the reading Mt 17:1-9 as it always occurs halfway through the year as if it were the fulcrum of a seesaw. Oddly, he pondered, the story is also halfway through Mat’s gospel. He had passed the halfway point through life years back. Short, fat, bald and old; he was now an elder and at what point had life changed? When did he become the elder, the presbyter? He had studied some Greek in his youth, he knew presbyteros translates elder and the root presbys bluntly screams old man. At some point his life had changed. Mat’s passage had reminded him of that, and he needed something to say. He needed to write something before tomorrow morning. A deadline was looming.

The story was well-known, Jesus and a couple close disciples climb a mountain. On the top of that mountain Peter James and John had witnessed something about Jesus. The scripture stated “his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light.” He was transfigured, but what did that mean? And then the story mentions Moses and Elijah. And then the voice from the cloud “This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased, listen to him.”

That last line spoke of an epiphany, God often spoke from clouds in the Old Testament. It was a cloud that led the Israelites on their exodus journey. Epiphanies are divine revelations and at that moment those disciples got a glimpse of the truth of that Jesus they had followed. Interesting but there must be more. Moses certainly was an important figure, they had followed Jesus as the Hebrews had followed Moses. Elijah the fiery prophet that urged a king to return to the God of Israel. For certain those disciples saw the Christ as prophet. The tent indicated they wished to remain stagnant, but scripture stated the LORD commanded them not to. That mountain top was not a journey complete. Scratching that bald head he pondered on how to shed light on a testament that was clear as day. His brow became furrowed, and his face red. His pencil lightly grazed the paper, its marks were more doodles than sentences.

Staring at that paper he thought, the transfiguration did not end at that mountain top, it was a point on a journey. A milestone, a shift of the teeter-tot. This, then that. The location is important. A moment when divinity was revealed. The tent hinted stability, they also hinted the feast of the tabernacle. Sukkot. The festival of booths. It is not just a moment when they witnessed the divine, it was a moment when they let the divine enter them. It was not simply the clouds that opened, so did their souls. They were not simply witnesses, but participants. And then the journey down. Like the seesaw they change directions, they go back to where they are from. A furrowed brow becomes a grimaced smile. Things are taking shape he thought.

On that journey down the mountain, were the disciples about to become the presbys? Elders? Certainly one can’t forget the timeline, time has a tendency to sneak up on people. At least that is what the short, fat, bald and old guy thought. Transfigured in the wrong direction (youth to old), but what of those disciples. They had walked with Christ for a while, and how did that walk influence them. Did they walk differently, or talk differently? How were they transfigured? The message on the mountaintop tells they saw something life changing. How did their life change? Was the change visible? Scratching his scalp he had to think yes. The old don’t act like the young. They look and act differently, and that is easy to notice. The disciples looked and acted differently too. They had to, and people must have noticed. Their manners must have changed, what they valued must have shifted. As they walked with Christ, they became like him? An analogy he pondered. A face illuminated? A spark to a bonfire? Young to old? A few quick scribbles on the paper about a thought to develop later. Fat fingers fidgeted with pencil and paper as he scrawled his text.

The grumpy, fat and bald and old man thought “of course those disciples had changed” such changes are expected to take place. No one expects a student to remain a student forever, eventually they take on the characteristics of the Master. If they don’t they are flunkies! Peter James and John are not flunkies! But if they changed what does that mean, what happened when they leave that mountain top.

“Sure, they changed” he scribbled on that piece of paper but did the world around them? There is the point. They changed, but the world did not. Their reception? A scratch of the chin, what does history say? History starts with the crucifixion, and continues with martyrdom. For certain they were changed, but there still were challenges to face. More than they knew. The world would not embrace their new-found discovery. Do they move forward or go back. Time moves in one direction, opinions and emotions teeter totter. To move forward with Christ is to walk into an opposition. For Christians, it isn’t Christ that changes. It’s the Christians that change, in fact they are commanded to. The command Jesus gave was “follow me” and to truly follow Him is to be transfigured. To follow him is to be changed. To follow Him is to become Christian and that changes ones appearance and demeanor. To follow Him is to confront an opponent.

A soft grumbling of the fat bald and red-faced old man could be heard as he put down the pencil and leaned back. Arm’s crossed and with his smuggest smile, he found a way to explain something that already was clear as day. He knew it was time for his reward ; couple of cookies and a small glass of milk. Sure his scalp and circumference and age suggested whiskey and cigar, but he had other ideas. Go figure.

 

Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord
Lectionary: 614

Dn 7:9-10, 13-14

Ps 97:1-2, 5-6, 9

2 Pt 1:16-19

Mt 17:1-9

 

Digging through the dirt.

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I could have written last weekend, but I didn’t. It’s not that I did not have a thing to say, I did but I decided to do something else. Time often is a precious resource. I decided to do something other than write. My choice.

Today I write about what the kingdom of heaven is like Mt 13:44-52 . In the gospel readings that kingdom is likened to three things. First, an object of great value buried in a field. Second a pearl valued by a merchant. Third, a fisherman’s great catch. In each example the object of desire is appraised by its owner. The person who discovers an object in the field declares it a treasure, the merchant and fisherman do the same. They declare the object valuable. Granted society and culture often have a say in an objects net worth, and each object was valued by society. Jesus chose objects that were recognized as being of value. People often appraise an objects value. Capitalism thrives on appraised value, as do auctions. People are often appraised on looks, or intellect, or social status, or wealth. Objects are often appraised on supply and demand, or rarity, or the sum of its materials and labor.

Merriam-Webster defines Appraise as ” to set a value on :  to estimate the amount of ” and “to evaluate the worth, significance, or status of; especially :  to give an expert judgment of the value or merit of.” I like the word that is buried in that word Appraise, much like the treasure buried in the field. The word is Praise. Merriam gives a definition as ” to glorify (a god or saint) especially by the attribution of perfections” Sadly may glorify objects. Those the praise God are usually wiser. A little commentary there, actually quite a lot buried in a few sentences.

The stories also have an historical consideration, especially that one of finding a treasure in a buried field. Why, after finding one object, would the treasure hunter buy the entire field? That’s where history comes in. When a land was under attack people often buried their treasures in a field as protection from looting. If a valuable object was found buried in the dirt, chances there were more. Those treasures would belong to the landholder. Thus the importance of buying the land. Of course one could investigate the ethics of taking possession of a neighbors goods in such a manner, but who cares to bring up morals? Reburying something to hide it is an act of deception. Who cares! It’s the object that is valuable, not the ethics.

In the second example the merchant discovers a pearl of great wealth, and sells all he has to take ownership of it. The good news is that the merchant found what he had sought. The bad news was that he placed such a high value on an oysters pearl. Pearls are produced when a grain of sand enters and irritates an oyster’s flesh. I don’t know if they knew that in the first century. But the merchant had sold everything he had to possess it. Greed, gluttony, lust for an oyster’s irritant. Where does man place his value? Many do place such an incredible value on earthly goods, while ignoring the damage they can do to the soul.

Of course the story is about “The kingdom of heaven is like.” The point is that entering the kingdom requires this merchant’s single-minded devotion. Entry is not a half-hearted event. In both the story about the field treasure and the pearl, the value of the object is realized; and those folks will do absolutely anything to possess it.

The kingdom of heaven is like way more valuable than anything you dig up in a field, or find at a flea market. Oddly most people don’t realize that. They spend their lives rumbling through the garbage seeking some trinket of value, while ignoring an abundance of splendor in plain view. The kingdom of heaven isn’t tiny or hidden, its magnificence is in plain view. If only folks would assess its value.

That is the lesson from Jesus’s third example, the fisherman’s great catch. The fisherman certainly know that the harvest is valuable by its abundance. To realize that wealth they must make decisions. They must separate the good from the bad. They must make sound decisions. Look at the question given to King Solomon 1 Kgs 3:5, 7-12. God tells Solomon “Ask me something and I will give it to you.” Solomon asks for the wisdom to make sound decisions. He didn’t ask for something that could be buried in the dirt.

Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 109

A sower sows, and nothing grows… .

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On that day, Jesus went out of the house and sat down by the sea.
Such large crowds gathered around him
that he got into a boat and sat down,
and the whole crowd stood along the shore.
And he spoke to them at length in parables, saying:
“A sower went out to sow.
And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path…

Mt 13:1-23

And as he sowed, some fell on a path and some fell on amongst thorns and some fell on fertile ground. A farmer scattered seed. Broadcasting is the oldest of agricultural techniques. This parable of Jesus is about farming. It is about the farmer’s desire for a crop and all that is needed to bring that crop to fruition. It requires that farmer, and viable seeds, and suitable soil, and a suitable climate. The parable is about farming and possibly the best reference on environmental science and ecology. To bring a seed to fruition requires a good farmer, good seed, and a good environment. All are interconnected. Papa Francesco wrote an encyclical on the environment. Papa knows the environment is important. Farmers know the environment is important. World leaders know agriculture is important, without its products people starve. They die. Take a look at the world.

The goal of the parable farmer is to get his seeds to land on fertile soil, there it had the best chance to grow. The agricultural scientist knows that fertile soil is a perishable commodity. Fertile soil becomes barren if not properly tended. In countries where deforestation is rampant, once fertile soil is vulnerable to erosion. If not stabilized by the roots of the plants, it is quickly washed into the sea. Europe’s churches were once fertile fields, today so many are barren. The crop needs fertile soil, and soil often needs a crop to keep it fertile. That is a lesson in ecology. Church Ecology 101. Church needs parishioners, and parishioners need churches. Each keeps the other fruitful. But what happened the agricultural scientist ponders, the ecologist wonders. The pope wrote an encyclical on the environment. He wondered too. What taints fertile soil.

What taints fertile soil? There are many things. One common technique of the ancient warriors was to salt the enemies fields, by deliberately poisoning its fields the warrior could destroy the crop. Fertile soil made barren deliberately. Today often a culprit is pollution, the fields are tainted through neglect. No one kept a watchful eye or inquisitive mind on the quality of water entering the irrigation ditches. Poisoned fields lead to poisoned crops. And how does this relate to the fields that are Christs Church? I ask, but I wonder if I should answer.

Jesus in His parable discusses the relation of seed to field. One topic the Good LORD does not mention is the atmosphere. Two thousand years ago #ClimateChange was not a priority. Today it is a prominent topic among politicians. As the earth’s climate can change, so can a political climate change. As a political climate can change so can a sociological and ethical climate change? As an ethical climate can change, so to can a moral climate. As a moral climate shifts, so does the religious climate. The success of a seeds germination is not only dependent on soil, it is also dependent on atmosphere. A common concern of the environmental scientist is air pollution. The pope wrote an encyclical on the environment, he was concerned too. Today the environmental scientist knows much about air pollution because much data has been collected. I wonder if Francis has the same. Air (waves) can be toxic, clouds can be seeded, and droughts can occur. Clean rainwater can lead to a fruitful harvest, acid rain can destroy the heartiest crop. Jesus spoke in parables so that people might ask questions. Churches depend on air. John Paul the second asked that the Churches windows be opened for a breath of fresh air. He stated that both lungs must fill with that air so that the Body might live to its fullest. Church and atmosphere can be related, what are its pollutants, its acid rain? The pope wrote an encyclical on the environment, he was concerned. Jesus told a parable. (i might add more later)

Thus says the LORD:
Just as from the heavens
the rain and snow come down
and do not return there
till they have watered the earth,
making it fertile and fruitful,
giving seed to the one who sows

Is 55:10-11

Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 103

A donkey wanders (on Sunday #14)

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Zechariah Zec 9:9-10 opens the day with the image of Jesus entering the city of Jerusalem;” See, your king shall come to you; a just savior is he, meek, and riding on an ass, on a colt, the foal of an ass.” Riding on an ass contrasts with riding on a stallion. The stallion is the transportation of the warrior, the ass carries wisdom. Quiet, unassuming wisdom does not rule by force. It becomes apparent when force leads to exhaustion. It is the silence after the last bomb falls, it is the silence after the last scream. It is what is said when not another word can be spoken, it is the Word of the LORD. It is the Word of the LORD silently spoken, the Holy Spirit. It is done, Gods victory in spite of man’s blunders.

It is why Jesus rides into that ancient city, not to fight yet another futile battle but to atone for man’s sins. Jesus rides into the city on an ass to carry us back to God. That is the reason for the journey, the Word becomes flesh to lift our spirit up from the flesh towards the divine. That is what Paul’s letter Rom 8:9, 11-13 go the Roman’s addresses. “Brothers and sisters: You are not in the flesh; on the contrary, you are in the spirit, if only the Spirit of God dwells in you.” There comes the silence of contemplation (and of prayer). It is not an argument of Body versus Spirit, it is the reality that the body carries a spirit as a donkey carries the LORD.

The donkey, that beast of burden, carries what it must. It carries what is placed upon it. Entering Jerusalem that donkey carries the Son of God. It could have carried rocks, it could have carried Satin himself. The donkey could have climbed towards heaven, or plunged into the depths of hell. The donkey carries a load. And Jesus exclaimed “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”

Body or Spirit, which weighs more? Mt 11:25-30 For certain many think body, it is measured in pounds. But the spirit, cant that be heavier than the heaviest load? A spirit of sin and destruction and despair? A spirit of earthly concerns, the spirit of the popular consumer culture? The spirit of popular opinion. A spirit of hatred and injustice? Aren’t they all heavy burdens? They are the burdens of this world, they are its bombs of destruction. They are the earthly battles. They are what hangs on the Cross. They are the sins of humanity. They are why Jesus enters into creation. His mission is to remove that burden of sin, and place upon us the grace of God. The donkey carries a parcel.

Oh, and how does that donkey decide what parcel to carry? The beast pray’s. It prays that it might be given a suitable task, and a burden not to great. It also prays that it might carry that parcel through treacherous land, it knows well its duty. Some look at the animals back and notice the weight it can carry, but one should pay attention what lies between the donkeys eyes and ears. The beast has a brain after all, call it free will if you will. If given a parcel it dislikes it can buck and kick. If told to do something disagreeable it can squeal. If told to journey where it should not, then it becomes stubborn as a mule. Though it is an animal of burden, it is no fool. The donkey has an intellect. A gentile yoke, and easy task, a light burden should bring Joy; especially if it has carried the opposite for so long.