Patrick’s day reminiscent

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It’s Saint Patrick’s Day and there is a fair amount of green floating about the landscape. It’s not the stuff covered by snow.A personal reflection is that it is not as green as the past, but that might be due to the authors drift into a later season. That, is a season, of a different color. In any case, Patrick’s day is a day I have endorsed even though it is celebrated against a saintly way. A raucous celebration in lent, and on a Lenten Friday to boot. To me this day is American, even more so then Irish-American. It has that rebellious character and that can be interpreted in a number of ways. Put blinders on. It is defiantly Catholic, a Catholic version of Yankee Doodle dandy. Probably not, but I can live with a delusion. It’s a Catholic Saint, and Americans celebrate that. Right? To my delusion, and it is a delusion, America is celebrating a Bishop of Christ. For that reason I celebrate.

I also have to think, this is a Friday of Lent. Monday’s through Thursdays of Lent are important, but the Friday’s of Lent are most important. That is the day of the Passion. That is the day of the sacred Stations of the Cross. Is it right to be decadent on that day? Again, I have let my opinion be known. Pat’s day should be celebrated in America according to American tradition. There’s something to remember though. In the celebration a reminder of a cross, a sacred Cross.

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Saint Pat’s day, this day, is a day of the cross. It is the day of those holy stations. I think, do I care to discuss every station and every pain and every agony? Not today I think, it is after all early in the season. I will speak of the early stations during this celebration of an important Irish Saint. Specifically I will limit it to the first few. With a Guinness in hand, there is that sentence of condemnation. The sentence by Pilate is for nothing our LORD did wrong, it was to appease a crowd. The crowd today wanted their celebration, did they not? Were the authorities stern, did they uphold the law or did they bend? What did Pilate do, did he bow under pressure? Tough decisions for mere mortals for sure! We all make mistakes, let’s remember that. An unjust sentence given and demanded by weak and stubborn men. Station one.

Then there is the scourging, man’s cruelty uninhibited. For this I switch to a sorrowful mystery.  The faults of justice magnified. Ponder that. Vengeance and hatred unleashed, unencumbered and uninhibited. We are left to do according to our will. Who wants to fast on this day? The anger and cruelty of man is something to remember. Let it not interfere with the celebration, but please give a moment of pause. To scourge someone is to unleash cruelty. Let’s remember that the HOLY Lenten penance is a restraint. Some things should be reined in and put under control.

Then turn to mockery, a crown of thorns. A sorrowful mystery again, before the cross is picked up by the Lord. Saint Patrick’s Day should not mock the King. If one is to celebrate, celebrate the LORD that Patrick celebrated. Make use of the day. The crown is a mockery, it is to hurl insults. It is to discredit and to insult. Patrick preached the gospel of Christ and that is what the day truly celebrates. I wonder, how many today will place that crown of thorns on the LORD. I drift in thought to Celtic Neopaganism, or Celtic Reconstructionist Paganism or Neo-Druidism that many will bring up today. It’s a latest thing, not just Irish, a crown of thorns. A drink for drunk, and not a salute. Not a Sláinte or the LORD. Not a toast to the health of that Church that the Saint celebrated, but a drink to be drunk. A mockery of the LORD. Again, I go back to the top. I celebrate this day, I celebrate it as Saint Patrick celebrated the LORD. But mockery does exist, look around. This is a Holy day to celebrate someone who celebrated our Lord. Oh, I guess this is a bit of a ramble.

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Faith, Courage, and the Cure

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Two stories intertwined. Mt 9:18-26 First an official tells Jesus of his daughter’s death with the request that Jesus comes quickly so that he might lay His hands on her. The second, the story of the hemorrhaging woman who quietly hopes to touch His cloak that she might be healed. The final returns to the little girl’s funeral procession. Add the detail that Jesus turns to the hemorrhaging woman and says “Courage woman, your faith has saved you.”

The details of this story, or these stories is rich, and it is easy to get lost in details. With all of those details, where does one start their investigation? This time around, I think those words spoken by Jesus might be the ideal place. Courage and Faith are the keys to the story. If courage and faith healed the bleeding woman, might they not be the clue to what the little girl’s father needs?

While Jesus was speaking, an official came forward,
knelt down before him, and said,
“My daughter has just died.
But come, lay your hand on her, and she will live.”
Jesus rose and followed him, and so did his disciples.

With the father and his little girl, the reader must first decide who needs to be cured. The obvious one is the little girl, she is the one the father seeks help for. Shouldn’t one also question the father’s health too? The loss of a loved one can take its toll on someone’s health. Faith and Courage. The father had faith in Jesus, might he also need a little courage. Like the bleeding woman, Jesus understood her request even though it was silent. The Lord answered the father’s plea even before it became audible. Jesus entered into creation to heal the sick, his nativity was the cure set into motion.

If God the Father loved the world so much that He sent His only Son, how much suffering awaited the innocent little girl in death. On the cross Jesus conquers death, and in His tomb He descends into the depths of hell to set those captives free. The little girl’s father has faith in Jesus and that is why he approached Him. The courage in one’s faith during a person’s darkest time is a challenge. Jesus is merciful, he visits the girl and a death ritual is taken place. The death ritual is cultural, it has its origins in man and not the divine. It reinforces man’s thoughts of life and death, God and man, heaven and hell. Rituals reinforce man’s thoughts, they do not correct those thoughts. If man believes something that is not true, ritual reinforces those beliefs. A lie gains strength. Enter Jesus, the cure.

A woman suffering hemorrhages for twelve years came up behind him
and touched the tassel on his cloak.
She said to herself, “If only I can touch his cloak, I shall be cured.”
Jesus turned around and saw her, and said,
“Courage, daughter! Your faith has saved you.”

Now comes a comparison between the death of an innocent little girl, and a hemorrhaging woman. Jesus, in the story, dismisses those practicing the death ritual. Their ideas on life and death and heaven and hell are wrong. Their ritual does nothing to bring about healing, instead it makes those involved deathly ill. It is especially damaging to the father. Heaven was a distant star, so distant that the father would be left terribly alone. Fearful and uncertain of his daughters future. To reach that distant star required the fulfillment of certain prescriptions, and if not fulfilled what awaited his daughter? Enter the hemorrhaging woman and her fate. She for certain was destined for the depths of hell, and sentenced there for nothing of her own doing. So certain was her condemnation that no one dare touch her, no one except Jesus. He cures her as he cures the little girl. Faith and courage. Faith in a God of love and mercy, and the courage to follow HIM.

Jesus in His mission leads people back to His Father. He restores the understanding between God and man, and redefines a relationship between heaven and hell. His preaching is not one of life and death, but one of everlasting life. He does not preach eternal condemnation, but of a merciful forgiveness. In His gospel the bleeding woman is not sentenced to an eternity in hell, she is granted the opportunity to enter Gods kingdom no matter what her earthly affliction might be. The little girl’s father is granted the certainty that his daughter is loved whatever her state in life might be. God is a loving God, and a merciful God. He also is assured that his daughter is no further away than a prayer. He too has been cured.

Fridays question.

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“How can this man give us his flesh to eat … .? “ Jn 6:52-59


There are people questioning Christianity, and they obviously do not get it. They have not a clue, and this gospel passage makes this painfully obvious. They do not understand Christ as the second person of the trinity, they do not understand God as man, they do not understand a crucified God, and I doubt they can comprehend the resurrection. Easter. Paul, Saul; that apostle to the gentiles; is one of the clueless. The first reading is testament to his ignorance to Christ, and also leads into his persecution of the followers of the way. “The Way” the earliest title of this new religion. Something to be examined in the future.

But that is not the point. The point is the misunderstanding of the religion established by Jesus Christ. Two thousand plus years ago they could not comprehend it. Paul, aka Saul, eventually got it. He figured it out, or it was brilliantly revealed to him. Acts 9:1-20
He then spent a tortious lifetime explaining “the way” to others. Part of this discussion is just about that. At first Paul did not get it, and then he got it. Once he got it, he was radically transformed. So radically transformed, he explained his discovery for the rest of his life. That, my friends, is profound. Christianity was the revelation of Paul’s life. Don’t neglect the impact Paul’s revelation had on him, please put that thought into contemporary terms. Please!

Look around the world today, how many eyes have been opened to the extent of Paul’s? So many on the television proclaim their transformation. I think fat people, and I am a fat person; but is that the same as Paul’s transformation? The transformative power of diet, people speak of it as a new religion. New Age, blah!  Paul was martyred, how many willing endure martyrdom for a healthy lifestyle?

The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying,
“How can this man give us his Flesh to eat?”
Jesus said to them,
“Amen, amen, I say to you,
unless you eat the Flesh of the Son of Man and drink his Blood,
you do not have life within you.

I can think of those who today die for Christ’s name, and there are many. I pray for them, and that I might be granted their strength. I look today for examples from popular society, and with a reason. The noblest martyrs of today are on a different page, a different discussion not to be diluted by todays thought.

My point, which I have taken long enough to get around to is this: If people could not understand Christ in the yesterday of 2000 years ago, how well do our contemporaries understand it today? How many view us as cannibals, or crazies today? How many view us as the outsiders, the fringe of society? How many understand our theology, our doctrines, or our sacraments? How many today can even understand what a sacrament is? The world has changed. How do we explain to our contemporary “new age” world who we are? How do we explain so that they might have the experience Saul had? The world has changed. Christians have endured a stealth persecution they rarely noticed. Their doctrines were diluted, and their identities assimilated. They were declared by the populist irrelevant, antiquated, backward, and unintelligent. How then do we explain to the self proclaimed  decorated intellectuals who “the Man who gave us His Flesh” to eat is? That was the task of the first apostles, how does one approach that task today?

One can think back a couple decades, and even a few decades more. Christianity, popular and preached and proclaimed. Accepted and even promoted. “The Way” was good. But today? On the defensive and under attack. Defiled by modern social movements. Under attack by the press. Negated, villainized, ostracized. Separated from polite society. Saul, Saul why are you persecuting me rings aloud today. Christian social-persecution is here, in our society, today. There then is the question. How do we explain the risen Lord? How do we explain a God that demands we eat His Flesh to a self-described enlightened society? They don’t get it. Worse still is that they think that THOSE WHO DO should be stopped. Stopped, put in their place, silenced. How can this man give us His flesh to eat? Preposterous they exclaim! How do we explain?

Friday of the Third Week of Easter
Lectionary: 277

 

Thursday of the First Week of Ordinary Time

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Todays gospel doesn’t seem to be an overcomplicated one, its message appears to be very easily grasped.Mk 1:40-45 In this reading a leper tells Jesus He can rid him of the disease if he so desires, and Jesus does reach out and cures him. It is a simple call and response. The leper cries out and Jesus responds. It is a reminder for Christians to be responsive to those in need, it is a reminder for Christians to reach out to those in need. Jesus leads by example. A lesson can also be seen in that lepers actions, the leper also reaches out and asks for relief if it is Gods will. The leper enters into a dialogue with Christ, and that is something to remember when in trouble. Cry out. These are simple lessons easily grasped , but so often ignored. I should add that at the period of time that this gospel story takes place few would have reached out to that leper. In that day the lepers infirmary was regarded to be of his own fault. He was not wounded, but a sinner. Jesus actions tells of Gods mercy, and of Gods desire for us to be made whole. It is an action of love, compassion , mercy, and forgiveness in the form of a simple extended hand.

 

 

the parable of the 10 gold coins

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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