John Paul the second

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john paul 2_edited

Today would have been the optional memorial for Saint John Paul II, but it is a Sunday. I thought I would post one of his holy cards, but which one to post? I chose this one, it links John Paul II with John XXII. Pope John XXII was the pope that opened Vatican II. Saint John Paul II spent his entire pontificate under the guidance of that Vatican council, and his successor Benedict XVI was one of his primary advisors. All three certainly influenced Pope Francis. Saint John Paul II understood apostolic succession well, with an understanding of the past and an eye towards the future.

In todays gospel Mt 22:15-21 a Pharisee asks Jesus: Should Jews be required to pay the Roman tax? It is a trick question. Say yes and be cursed by your fellow Jews, say no and deal with the wrath of the Romans. What to do? Jesus requests the coin and points to its image of Caesar. Caesar the Emperor, Caesar declared god. He asks whose image is this, they respond Caesars. Jesus reply “give to Caesar what is Caesars and to God what is Gods.”

Did Jesus think Caesar a god? No, Caesar was a man. A powerful man, a delusional man, it matters little how Caesar is described. The truth is Caesar was nothing more and nothing less than man. Give to Caesar what is Caesars can be rewritten give to man what is mans. But what does anyone owe another man, and how does that compare with what one owes God?

The Torah says much about what men owe one another, and the same is true with the ten-commandments. Both describe at length the debts of men towards one another, and the debt of man to God. Jesus in the New Testament described it in two simple commandments. The first, Love God with your entire heart, mind and soul. The second, love your neighbor as yourself. A message simple enough to fit on both sides of the same coin.

Caesar was a man and deserved to be treated as any Christian treats another. He deserved to be treated as a slave treats their master , and a master their slave. The argument expands to the treatment of wives by husbands, and again husbands by wives. Do unto others. Even when that is difficult? Even when that is difficult, and there is a way out?

Certainly that story of the coin gives reference to the affairs of Religion versus government, and there is relevance to that today. Often Religion forbids certain actions, yet the government is more lenient. Which side of the coin does one accept? There are a lot of those issues in the news today.

The argument of Caesars coin, should not be limited to affairs of Church versus State. How easy would it have been for a Pharisee, or any first century Jew, to love Caesar? How does one treat another under difficult circumstances? How does one treat another as themselves when the conditions are difficult. Who can love an executioner? Who loves an enemy, or a thief, or a beggar? Who can do right by someone who did them wrong? That side of the coin is a little more personal.

Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time

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

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.

Man born blind

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If a blind man gaining sight Jn 9:1-41 isn’t an eye opener, listen to that conflict building between Jesus and the Pharisees. In the healing of the “Man born blind” there are two story lines taking place. One is of Jesus heling that man, and the other is the Pharisees accusing Jesus of going against the laws of the Sabbath for preforming that miracle. The man healed says little, he occasionally answers some questions presented before him. The story tells little about the wonderful experience of vision, it mentions little about seeing the world for the first time. The majority of the story is prosecutor and defense. There is a question that is asked at the beginning of the narrative and it would be a shame to let that question to become lost in the argument. The question the disciples asked Jesus is: “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” That question contains some important details. The first is that the man’s blindness us the result of sin, the question wants to determine where the burden of sin lies. Is it from the parent, or the son? The question was not unusual for the time period, infirmaries were commonly considered to be a curse from God. It was a retribution for a sinful act. If this writer recalls correctly, according to the Torah a parent’s sin was not passed on to the children. According to the law if someone bore the curse from sin, it was through their own fault. That is not the answer Jesus gives. His answer is an emphatic neither, the blindness is not the result of a sin committed. To Jesus it is not even a curse. That might not seem to be a bold statement in the light of today’s medical advancements, but in the first century it went against a fundamental structure of society. People would have stood back in puzzlement. Religious leaders would have a furrow in their brow, they would have been challenged by the response. Jesus response would have been met with disapproval. The problem is that Jesus healed the man born blind, the gauntlet was thrown to the ground. Now there is a duel.

In the narrative a lot of detail is presented describing the scene. The first bit of evidence is the mechanism by which this man regains sight, but first notice the man does not ask to be healed. Why? I assume since he never knew sight, he accepted his handicap. But Jesus does open his eyes, and here is the quote on how: When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva, and smeared the clay on his eyes,” I know in the bible there are a few references to ointments for the eyes but in that quote one thing stands out. Jesus spit on the ground and made clay. Jesus made something out of dirt or clay, and he infused it with something of his own. He formed it with the dirt of the earth and his spittle. The description sounds awfully crude, but how were we formed? God formed us from clay, and infused us with his breath. Man and the ointment are both ordinary dirt and something divine. Call it a divine breath or sacred spittle, they are the same.

Is it difficult to miss that connection between God and man? Suddenly the God of the Old Testament gets much closer, or was the LORD ever that far away? There is a change in perception that happens here. Eyes were opened in more way than one. Jesus certainly does challenge the Old Testaments view of the relationship between God and Man. Jesus opens the eyes of many, but he also places anger in the eyes of quite a few. He is challenging the teachers, and they question his authority.

Jesus challenges the teachings of the authorities, and this places the anger in their eyes. Don’t forget the initial question about whose sin was responsible for the man’s blindness, and don’t forget Jesus response. Jesus said the blindness was not caused by sin. Jesus did tell the man to wash in the pool of Siloam, and those pools frequently were used for ritual cleaning. The Pharisees did not marvel at how the pool of Siloam cured the man, they were angered that the LORD healed that blind man on the Sabbath. They knew the source of the cure, and that angered them. Most of the rest if the argument is an attempt to discredit Jesus. They try to discredit him for healing in the Sabbath. They suggest that the blind man was in collusion with Jesus, and finally they suggest that the man was never blind. All of their attempts are discredited.

The blind man healed does see Christ differently than the authorities, at first he sees Jesus as a prophet. Jesus engages that man about who Jesus is. Jesus tells him, “I came into this world for judgment, so that those who do not see might see, and those who do see might become blind.” Throughout the narrative Jesus gives hint of His nature, and of His mission. Here Jesus say’s I am the light of the world. In other parts if the discussion Jesus states “I came into this world for judgment, so that those who do not see might see, and those who do see might become blind.” As that blind man gains his vision, a vision of Jesus Christ also begins to appear. This causes rejoicing among some, and they become disciples. While some rejoice, anger builds up in the eyes of others. They preach and plot and malign themselves against the Lord Jesus Christ.

It can be called anger in their eyes, or delusion, or a lie. It is not the truth. I see the same thing today, it is a conflict that continues. Some see that light of Christ clearly and follow His way. Ohers, they cannot accept His Good-News for whatever reason, and journey towards a darkness. Some follow fads that sometimes glitter on the horizon. Today it is a commonplace New-Age philosophy. Others, weakened by their own frailties, fail to accept His forgiveness. Stubbornly they continue on their own way. They fail to heed his advice and bathe in that pool of water, the pool of forgiveness. That man born blind? He welcomed the LORDS intercession and gladly accepted His action. That blind man realized who the Christ was, and what he had done. That blind man was thankful for that light he had received, and then let that same light guide him on his way. The contrast between the man born blind and the Pharisees is as clear as night and day. The man born blind clearly enjoyed basking in that light of day, Jesus Christ.

Brothers and sisters:
You were once darkness,
but now you are light in the Lord.
Live as children of light,
for light produces every kind of goodness
and righteousness and truth.

Fourth Sunday of Lent
Lectionary: 31

1 Sm 16:1b, 6-7, 10-13a

Ps 23: 1-3a, 3b-4, 5, 6

Eph 5:8-14

Jn 9:1-41