The dinner party

Standard

The dinner party. All enter the fast food restaurant and place their order for burger and fries, sit around a table and start to talk. A casual conversation and a casual affair perhaps before a movie? The professional dinner, a call to entertain a client. It’s the sales pitch. The family dinner, communal, bonding and informational. There are a lot of ways people gather for a meal. Each influences the conversation, and each have their own purpose. The first century was no different. The dinner Jesus was invited to had its purpose, and it had its structure. The meal should not be taken out of context. Jesus was invited to dinner not as simple guest. Jesus was the reason for that meal, the meal was arranged around the Pharisee and Jesus. Lk 7:36—8:3 The event was the conversation between the two. The seating arrangement was formal with Jesus and the Pharisee occupying the central seat. Those of influence and importance sat close and within earshot, others a good distance away. Everyone certainly knew their place at the table, and in society. Formal, and rigid. One should remember that Jesus was a prominent member of society, and when he preached he drew enormous crowds. That is a well-documented historical fact.

The penitent woman, Mary Magdalene, knew her place in society. The Pharisee in the text announced it, and according to the rules of society she should have been distant from the main event. The Pharisee also announced that a sinner, a ritually unclean person, should never have contact with the likes of a Pharisee. In public a Pharisee would cross the street to avoid such a person. One can say they had a paralyses of fear regarding the unclean. In their beliefs sinners, unclean, cripples, the infirm, the blind, were all out of Gods favor. They were denied entry into heaven regardless of their actions. They need do nothing wrong to be cast into hell. Contact with such people could result in their own heavenly demise. Pharisees were separated by choice, fenced off by all that could harm them.

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
God loved us and sent his Son
as expiation for our sins.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Jesus was the polar opposite. He sought the infirm, the cripple, the unclean, and the sinner. If the penitent woman had not touched Him, He certainly would have reached out to her. Such is His nature. There is the dinner conversation. The difference in theology. Jesus sought those like the penitent woman so that they might gain entry into heaven. The Pharisees avoided them out if the fear that they might hinder their own heavenly aspirations. The dinner conversation is Jesus preaching God’s forgiveness. While sin might keep her from the LORD, her tears bring her back. That is the fundamental description of repentance and forgiveness. The dinner conversation gives reason for the confession of sins.

One burning question becomes how the Pharisees become so hardened towards the sinner, as scholars they certainly should have recognized their God as a God of forgiveness. The entire history of the people of the covenant is one of sin, repentance, and forgiveness. The first reading  2 Sm 12:7-10, 13 is a simple example of the sin of David in pursuing the wife of Uriah the Hittite. In the conversation about the event between David and Nathan, David recognizes his sin, and Nathan recognizes God’s forgiveness. This sin is but one sin of an individual, the sins of the nation are their history. And so is the LORDS forgiveness of sins. The Pharisees were formed from the Babylonian exile, an exile attributed to the sinful nature of a nation. Their presence in Judaea was the result of the collapse of their native Israel. According to their own history, weren’t they also outcasts? Shouldn’t they have clearly seen their God as one of compassion and forgiveness? What caused their hardness of heart? What caused them to deny their own sins, and to cast their sins onto another? Perhaps they should have learned a lesson from Mary Magdalene, her tears of confession and her humility, and her faith in the LORD. Her tears, an honest confession, and every aspect of her posture tells of her humility. Her posture also tells of her praise of God, she anoint His feet. Humility and adoration. She knew her place at the table, but also recognized where she needed to be in the eyes of the LORD. On the other hand the Pharisees knew where they wanted to be, and thought they knew how to get there, but somehow missed their mark. One has to wonder what happened after that meal. One should read the Psalms Ps 32:1-2, 5, 7, 11

Saturday of the Second Week of Lent

Standard

He eats with tax collectors and sinners,  that is something the Pharisees do not understand. Pope Francis said you must get among the flock, smell the sheep. The Good Shepherd tells the parable of the prodigal son. That prodigal  son did not get among the sheep, he wallowed with the swine, the unclean. The horror of the Pharisee. Emphasize horror and emphasize unclean. Cultural relevance.Exclamation point.  That son, covered in the dung of the swine, welcomed by the father yet belittled by his brother. Is that brother the Pharisee, the one who wishes to remain clean?

Jesus got close to the sinner, not to be like them, but to heal. To heal required He draw them in close. The Shepherds crook, that is precisely its purpose. To hook around them so that one might pull a member of the flock close, especially a member that might tend to run the other way. To remove some burs, a splinter, or salve a wound. To shepherd, to walk where they walk, to guide, and to bandage some wounds. A sin is a wound, and often a sinner is lost. That’s why He eats with tax collectors and sinners. Proclamation point. Proclaim the gospel, even to the taxman. Even to the sinner. The Father calls out to the prodigal son . But He does more that call, He sends His Son. The Good Shepherd to gather those wallowing in the swine’s mud.The Pharisees though had a different plan, and they did not care to use that crook. For them they used the other end of the cane. The spiked end designed to prod, poke, protect and also to to drive away. One waddles in mud and the other slings it. Prodigal Sons. Plural. He dines with tax collectors and sinners. The Pharisee was there too.

Mi 7:14-15, 18-20

Lk 15:1-3, 11-32

Towards Easter, the first Sunday of Lent

Standard

“Think back on the beginning of the Lenten season. It was both dark and cold. If the environment was unforgiving, so was the near future. Being an observant catholic, I was to fast, abstain; I was to give things up, some which I was rightly or wrongly attached to . The mood was that of a penitent, full of lamenting, searching and seeking. I was waiting, lost and in need. It was my 40-days in the desert.I started the journey with a little smudge of dirt on my face ; a smudge in the shape of a cross. With that my penitential journey had a ray of hope.”

That combines the first two entries into this blog 1400 days ago. Did I make it across the desert? No, I dont think so. I am not quite at the edge yet. Here I am begining that fast once again, with a smudge of ash once again,and reading about the temptation of Christ. Once again. Stones to bread, Alchemy. Have I fallen to that temptation? Probibly more than once. Its trying to make something what it isnt, a dilusion. In desert terms a mirage. Its something someone wants to see, even though it dosent exist. A false hope, and yes a sin.

Filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus returned from the Jordan
and was led by the Spirit into the desert for forty days,
to be tempted by the devil.
He ate nothing during those days,
and when they were over he was hungry.

Power and glory, that might have been the mirage. It certainly was paraded before me. Thats the career. But there are others. Prestige. Its the sin cast by the salesman, the merchandiser. Its the whip that is used to move people, or the carat used to motivate them. It leaves one tired, and thirsty, and hungery. I leaves one draging towards the very same mirage that left them decrepit. Still chasing after that same glory. A sin.

The sin of temptation, the first left for last. Throw yourself down. Scream, lash out. Harm yourself. The donughts in the breakroom, the whiskey at the bar. The fast car. Stupid stuff, done because you can get away with it. The stupid stuff, you say a prayer before leaping; “Oh good God what am I doing?” Using the Lords name in vain, that’s what. The folly of youth and the arrogance of old age. Have I made it across that desert? Nope, not yet. But at least I am begining to recognising some of these temptations. I might not be as sucessful as the Lord, but where is the sin in that?

Dt 26:4-10

Rom 10:8-13

Lk 4:1-13

(Lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, and lets not forget pride.Its time to wander, I certainly wish I had a map, or better yet, someone to serve as a guide) I do confess.

 

 

 

 

Saturday after Ash Wednesday

Standard

Its a dirty job but somebody got to do it is a modern phrase and while the phrase has always been true, people that did the dirty jobs in ancient Roman society were as much an outcast as those unclean in Jewish society. Rome’s society was highly ordered and a persons rank in society had everything to do with what they did for a living. That rank was so much different from what a capitalist society values. In ancient Rome even if a person gained wealth, they still could be looked down upon. They would be viewed of lesser worth even if that means of producing wealth was something society desperately needed. Doing something for the good of all could very well make someone an outcast. It was of course a way for people in good social standing to put someone in their place. We still see this in todays society, but the social snobbery of today is but a remnant of that ancient Roman social structure. If todays social snobs are difficult to deal with now, imagine a society that endorsed and thrived on that. Imagine not only the emotional and personal difficulty, but imagine a society where people refused to farm for fear of getting their hands dirty and therefore loosing rank. It was irritating, counterproductive, and dysfunctional. That is the world of the tax collector Mathew and his associates. Lk 5:27-32  Low ranking according to the snobs of Rome because they made their living dealing with money, despised by Jews because they collected taxes for the oppressive enemy. What’s a poor tax collector to do? The thing though is tax collection is a dirty job that someone has to do. Rome demanded revenue, and if it was not collected there was certain to be a massacre. They were despised by the Jews, even though they often were Jews and saved Jewish lives. They were looked down upon by Rome because they had to do the dirty business of collecting money. When Jesus dines with these tax collector’s then, it becomes easy to see how he is healing a major flaw in society. What he did for the crippled and infirm lepers, He now does for the able bodied worker.

Many times when Jesus heals an individual, people focus on a personal healing. The outcast with sores was an individual driven from society because they were first viewed as cursed by God, and second because those sores could infect others. Cripples, the Blind, Lepers all bore personal sufferings, and many times the biggest cure was compassion. It was for man to offer the same compassion that God gives to us. For all those with medical maladies, a cure can be seen both as a medicinal , and a cure can be brought against the stigmas society placed on the infirm. With the tax collectors, the cure is directly aimed at the social stigma of workers. It is not compassion for pain and suffering, but a solidarity with people that do honest work.It simply is standing against snobbish insults and looking at labor in a rational manner. It becomes a recognition of all the varied tasks that need to be completed in order to survive, and it is given recognition to those that labor for the good of their community. People often don’t think of Christianity as the start of a labor movement, but when Christ dines with those civil servants, he clearly is in solidarity with them, and that is a labor movement. It is a recognition of all of the labor that is needed in Gods Kingdom. It places God in charge of those workers, and not the few snobs who think themselves God.