Thirty Third Sunday of Ordinary Time

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While some people were speaking about
how the temple was adorned with costly stones and votive offerings,
Jesus said, “All that you see here–
the days will come when there will not be left
a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down.”

The temple was the center of Jerusalem, it was what drew the  faithful to that city, it was the center of a culture, and it was a magnificent architectural structure. Jesus though is talking here about more than the demolition of a building. Jesus is also talking about the end of that temple culture, or the end of an era. In talking about that end of an era, Jesus describes the violence of that destructive process in terms of wars between nations and civil wars within society. He describes briefly the hardships and challenges one must endure during that trying time. What should not be missed though in this doomsday message is the line that says not a hair on your head shall be destroyed. While there is that destruction and turmoil that was part of their lives, Jesus assures them that they will be a part of that era that is to begin. The destruction of that kingdom of man and the rising up of the kingdom of God. While Jesus message takes place in the timeframe of those disciples lives. Malachi’s message describes that judgment at the end of time. Malachi points to a final judgment , Jesus points to a changing of time. Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians also describes a form of judgment as a personal evaluation of our lives. Judgment ,an ending and a beginning are themes that are throughout these readings. In this calendar day they too point to an ending as they are the last readings of year-C of ordinary time. They are a call to judgment, of evaluation of a past era and a small proclamation that a new era will arrive. Next Sunday is the final Sunday of the church year which is celebrated as Christ the King of the Universe and then follows the Advent of the Nativity of that Christ.

While the first reading describes the final judgment, Paul’s letter puts that concept of judgment into a much more personal context. His is judgment towards contemporaries that they might discard their weaknesses much as Jesus describes the destruction of the temple: both are a destruction that allows for new growth. Advent marks this season of preparation. The destruction theme of Advent though is something that has been lost throughout history. In older times Advent was a more penitential season, in many ways mirroring Lent. It was not the shopping season that it has become, but more a season of discarding and personal housekeeping of sins that creep into ones lives so that one can again receive that newness of Christ. In the cycle of the Liturgy of the Hours it might be akin to compline and its prayers for the examination of conscience at the end of a day in preparation for the next day that will begin anew.

In Jesus discussion he warns those people to be careful in that season when the temple will be destroyed. He warns of false prophets and battles that will take place and of the hardship and sufferings that will be a part of their reality and that they are not to prepare their defense beforehand, “for I myself shall give you a wisdom in speaking that all your adversaries will be powerless to resist or refute. ” Somehow these seem to be good words to remember before this modern Advent season begins. The season can be marked as a battle between popular culture and the Christ. In it are many of the trappings of that old temple with its “costly stones and votive offerings.” It contains the proclamations of commercialism and its barrage of advertisements designed to tug on ones emotions for a merchants gain. It is a season with many false promises preached by others and expectations that have little to do with Christianity. Perhaps these readings warn of the battle that Advent has become, and a warning to be vigilant in remembering what it truly is: The destruction of one that another might be born.

Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time

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Some Sadducees, those who deny that there is a resurrection,
came forward and put this question to Jesus, saying,
“Teacher, Moses wrote for us,
If someone’s brother dies leaving a wife but no child,
his brother must take the wife
and raise up descendants for his brother.

Now there were seven brothers;
the first married a woman but died childless.
Then the second and the third married her,
and likewise all the seven died childless.
Finally the woman also died.
Now at the resurrection whose wife will that woman be?

Sadducees in their question to Jesus present their question as a mockery of those who believe in resurrection. Jesus in his response describes that resurrected body as being unlike the present body and the constraints placed on it quite different from those of this body. “They can no longer die, for they are like angels; and they are the children of God.” In reading this selection of readings, I can also look at them in relationship to All Saints and Souls day from earlier in the week, I approach them in November, a month devoted to those souls that have passed on, and from the secular remembrance of Veterans day with its commemoration of those who served their country and those who lost their lives serving that country on behalf of others. The first reading of Maccabees echoes sacrificing ones life for that which a person holds dear. The readings, and the month revolve around that theme of death, life, and honor and beliefs. It is resurrection viewed as a dichotomy. This reading of todays adds that dimension of resurrection with its many facets: the resurrection at the end of time, Christ’s Easter, and our baptism of dying to sin and being raised in Christ. Dying so that one might live is a common theme in the Gospel. With resurrection comes those themes of renewal so dramatically illustrated by changing seasons, of death and rebirth, Good versus Evil, and that relationship between God and man. In thinking of resurrection one too thinks of how man was given life and with that one goes to the first book of genesis: “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the earth: and breathed into his face the breath of life, and man became a living soul.” If one thinks of mans death as the Sadducees do, cant one also think of how man was given life through the breath of God? In looking at that quote from Genesis, what is it that those Sadducees were most concerned with, that dust or that breath of life? In looking at their argument, they present the law of Moses: a man of dust who’s interest was leading his people back to God in this earthly world with laws that were designed for this earth, and not that of the resurrection or everlasting life. In that breath into dirt, a law can be anchored in that dirt, or live in that breath. In thinking of that breath, if one wonders, is it dead or is it alive; it is the breath of God that is eternal and always of life. It can be exhaled into dirt and drawn back to God. Doesn’t the fallen solder live in what they died for? Doesn’t the risen body of Christ include that mystical body the Church? It is that breath that gives life, yet so many become entangled in the dirt and in the worldly like those Sadducees.

 The interesting truth though is that those Sadducees present their question to Jesus as a puzzle. That puzzle is a vivid reminder of the challenges in deciding if a law, or practice, or belief, or path follows the earthly, or are truly the laws of God: The seven brothers and mother were presented a choice of following the beliefs of their ancestors, or yielding to the will of their captors. Solders many times choose to fight that they hold dear, theirs is a choice of honor. Those that are baptized in Christ ultimately choose to follow Christ, or abandon that path and follow another. If a choice can be viewed as good or bad, can they not also be viewed as a choice that leads either to life or death. Cannot those choices be viewed as leading back towards God, or simply those that bow to the earth. The puzzle that the Pharisees present illustrates the puzzles of today: whether the laws, and beliefs, and culture, and social norms are bound to the dirt or live in the breath of God. Puzzles are complicated and challenging as are the real puzzles of this present age, complicated by media that blasts the opinions of those with their own special interests. How is one to know if the choice serves the present, or is the victim of propaganda; evil portrayed as good? The good news is the gospel and the reason for an eternal God to become man and become visible in the flesh. Jesus answer gives a truthful response to those Pharisees puzzle and as messiah Christ’s mission is to preach the good news that leads towards that breath of everlasting life that is the kingdom of God he preached. His is the way, the truth and the life.

Triduum of All Hallows

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Sometimes it is hard to think of Halloween as the start of Christian Triduum, but it is. It is the beginning of Hallomas and the eve of All Saints Day , which is followed by All Souls Day. Halloween many times takes on the feeling of paganism, and its customs and solstice link do indeed trace back to many pre Christian festivities. Christians were not the first to be concerned with the spirits or souls of the departed. Halloween as commemorated reflects much of the incorporation of ancient festivals with Christian beliefs. Commercialism too, has shaped this modern holiday just as it has distorted Christmas into a shopping season, and Saint Patrick’s day into a celebration of alcohol.

Many times Hallomas ends on its first day, Halloween. It is the costumes and parties and candies that are advertised; and it is the remembrance of the deceased that is forgotten. The traditional belief of Halloween is that the veil between the material and spiritual world becomes thin. Oddly that day of candy from a religious standpoint was traditionally a day of fasting. Halloween borrows from many traditions around the world though so it is easy to see how that fast got misplaced. It also east to see how, especially in northern climates how this day is associated with the thinning of the veil between life and death. It is the transition of the long days of light to the dark days of winter. It is the trees shedding their leaves. It is the harvesting of the last harvest of the season. It is the cycle of life that is so visible in most northern European climates. One only has to look around to see how that veil is thinned. That change in nature does take on its own spiritual quality and the commercial and pedestrian celebration of Halloween is a festive acknowledgement of that change. But if one only celebrates that end of fall or change of season, Halloween becomes dead as winter. Halloween is not the celebration, it is after all just the beginning of the celebration.

Halloween translates to “the eve of All Saints day” where the church celebrates all saints. It acknowledges all of those faithful who have led exemplary lives. It is a day of remembrance for those who have not been canonized, or for those who do not have a recognized day of their own. It is a day for famous, and those known only by a few family members. It is that celebration of the communion of saints, a day to ask for those saints to intercede for us, to pray for us, and us to offer our prayers and petitions to them. It is a day dedicated to saints,the holy innocents, and martyrs. It is a day of church triumphant. It is good to remember those who have been triumphant on their journey, those who have had a bountiful harvest and who were victorious over “the evil spirits” that are so humorously portrayed on Halloween.

The third day of All Hallows pays tribute to the souls that perhaps stumbled a bit on their journey. Those that perhaps did not make all of the right choices, the ones that were perhaps tricked in life. All Souls day is one for those that struggle and the consolation that even a sinner is loved. It is a day devoted to those souls in purgatory, those that hope to be raised to heaven and those who depend on our prayers and intercessions.

The Triduum is a look at  all souls, all the faithful departed whether saints or sinners, serious topics thankfully lightened by a very festive celebration; but it is easy to get tricked into ignoring these souls while being bribed by candy. In that Halloween phrase “trick or treat”, perhaps there is an echo of both the day of all saints and souls; it is the saints that did not fall for life’s tricks, while perhaps some souls were a bit to attached to the treats that they lost sight of the perils. The disguises of Halloween do after all mimic the disguises and deceptions of life. Art does indeed imitate life.Trick or treat can be rephrased to the more sober and biblical “I present to you a blessing and a curse.” Jack-O-Lanterns with their candles do illustrate body and soul and the procession of masked characters is a drama of the procession of life as most everyone eventually realizes their season for collecting treats has passed. Eventually one must pass from one side of the door to the other, from asking the questions to giving the replies or simply observing and growing in these seasons of life.

Luke the newsman.

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Gospel Lk 10:1-9

The Lord Jesus appointed seventy-two disciples
whom he sent ahead of him in pairs
to every town and place he intended to visit.
 
Saint Luke was a gentile of Syria and disciple of Saint Paul. In looking at his Gospel he can be described as an evangelist, one who preaches Christianity. He was a physician, a healer who chronicles many of Christ’s healings. As the author of both the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles, Luke also was a gifted writer. In his gospel he documents the teachings of Jesus and in Acts Luke documents the early Church. His Acts is a vivid description of the earliest Christians living their faith.
 
The reading for the feast of Saint Luke is taken from his Gospel and describes Jesus commissioning the 72 disciples to go out into the world “ahead of him” to preach the good news. Since Luke was a disciple and convert of Saint Paul’s, Luke’s encounter with Christ  was with an Easter Christ. He was  one who received the good news from the seventy two. As Luke received Christ’s message, went out and preached that same Gospel. Luke’s disciples follow in his footsteps to this day following that commission of spreading the good news of Jesus Christ.
 
In thinking of this Apostle on this feast of Saint Luke, I can read his chronicle of Christ in his two gospel works, and I can also think of the chronicle of Christ that is being written today. In todays writing though I think not of works of evangelism per say. Rather I think of the simple written accounts detailing the newsworthy events of this day. Newspapers detailing todays acts of the modern disciples. In reading the events of the day, many times I can see the Christ those original Apostles preached. Many times I can see these same Christian Acts of todays 21-century disciples and that gospel message still vibrantly alive. That’s the good news of Jesus Christ. I also can see those places where that message has yet to take hold, and where it is in desperate need of those laborers of the Gospel. That’s the rest of the news, much of it bad news. As Luke reported the Acts of the Apostles, in a very real way todays news writer are doing the same today. Many times when thinking of the Gospel writers, they are thought of in terms of their message. Sometimes though it is enlightening not only to think of their message, but also to focus on their medium. One of Luke’s mediums was words. He was a reporter and a witness. How interesting it is to read a newspaper today in the light of Luke’s Gospel writings. How much of todays news is the good news?

Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

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Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 144

As he was entering a village, ten lepers met him.
They stood at a distance from him and raised their voices, saying,
“Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!”
And when he saw them, he said,
“Go show yourselves to the priests.”

Gospel Lk 17:11-19

When I read this Luke’s gospel several things come to mind. First is Luke’s background so that I might understand the message of Christ he is delivering to his audience. Second is that disease leprosy that Jesus is healing. The third is mention of the Samaritan.

Luke’s background becomes important because he is thought to be either a Greek pagan, or a lax Jew living in a strongly Greek area. His history indicates that his audience might not be interested in the feud that existed between the Jews of Jerusalem and the Samaritans. Of interest might be that this Samaritan came back to Jesus in thanksgiving. That Samaritan had much in common with Luke’s audience as they too were pagans. While the healing of the ten lepers was miraculous, that one Samaritan might have easily represented them. To those Hellenic people that Samaritan could have been the proof that Jesus healing was not limited to the Jews of Jerusalem,  but was universal in its scope.

In looking at leprosy, it can be viewed as a disease and it can be viewed by its physical traits. Leprosy in a biblical sense does not simply apply to people. In the bible buildings too can have leprosy on their walls. Though in medical terms Hanson’s disease is the contagious disease of leper colonies it also is any number of diseases that disfigure the flesh. In ancient Jewish culture it also was a disease that rendered people or objects unclean. For people that rendered them unclean and outcasts from society until the priest declared them clean. For the ten lepers who Jesus sent to the priest, they were on their way to be declared clean. Once declared so, they could then reenter society.

What about that Samaritan though? Though the cleansing of that disease similar to Hanson’s disease might have resolved one uncleanliness, how could he journey to the priest to be declared clean? He was Samaritan and not Jewish. His ethnicity and religion rendered him as unclean as that disfiguring disease of the flesh. If the other nine had been Jewish they could reenter society, but not that Samaritan. In looking at those ten lepers, perhaps nine of them cleansed of their rash went back to their old colony. When the Samaritan was cleansed though he did not choose to journey back to that same old colony. He chose to journey towards what Christ preached. The kingdom of God.

(When that Samaritan realized he had been cleansed of his leprosy, his giving glory to God, and his thankfulness towards Jesus was unique. His was not only a cleansing of a skin ailment, but more important a cleansing of a culture that had oppressed him and disfigured his life. That was the leprosy of hatred towards Samaritans and a culture of nations and ethnicities that existed as though they each were individual leper colonies forever shouting unclean towards each other. Colonies of Jews, colonies of Greeks, colonies of Romans, colonies of Samaritans. Leper Colonies, all of them.)

col·o·ny

noun \ˈkä-lə-nē\ .headword .ld_on_collegiate { margin:10px 0 0 0;padding:0 0 0 19px; width: 405px;} .ld_on_collegiate p {margin:0 0 10px 0;padding:0;line-height:20px; } .ld_on_collegiatep.bottom_entry {margin:0 0 3px 0;padding:0;line-height:20px;} #mwEntryDatadiv.headword .ld_on_collegiate p em, .ld_on_collegiate p em { color: black; font-weight: normal; } #mwEntryDatadiv.headword + div.d { margin-top: -7px; } .ld_on_collegiate .bnote { font-weight: bold; } .ld_on_collegiate .sl, .ld_on_collegiate .ssl { font-style: italic; }

: an area that is controlled by or belongs to a country and is usually far away from it
: a group of people sent by a country to live in such a colony

: a group of plants or animals living or growing in one place