The good news of the day is that Nathan the Bloodhound was victorious in the Westminster National dog show. Nathan did something right! The other news of the day was that today is that American holiday, Thanksgiving. I am always at odds as how to classify it, it is a secular day with some Christian religious roots. The first thanks giving was started in Massachusetts among a group of Anglican separatist’s, the Pilgrims. It also is a big food day where folks rally around one form of poultry, the turkey. And there is football. It is a uniquely American day. Since it is such a big day, and it does have those Christian roots, there is a set of mass readings that are available for Thanksgiving, there also is a separate set of readings for the 34th Thursday of ordinary time. I guess the bishops were also conflicted on how to handle this day. The reading the bishops selected for Thanksgiving though seem completely appropriate. In that gospel reading Jesus heals ten people with leprosy, though only one comes back to give thanks. In that story it was the Samaritan that was the winner, and they were the last group the Israelites would have picked for anything. When you think about those ten, they all cried “Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!”, though I have to wonder, when nine of them cried out did they expect anyone to listen to their pleading? I say nine because it was only the one who noticed their prayers were answered. That one gave thanks, though all were healed. I have to wonder why the others did not return to give thanks. When they shouted “have pity on us”, was that a plea or was it a command? Did they not give thanks because they thought the cure was something they deserved? Did they think Jesus was obligated to cure them? Was it arrogance? Or, did they simply not notice, or did they simply not truly believe? Perhaps, all ten were truly thankful but perhaps some simply needed a reminder to express their thanks. That story leaves me as conflicted as America’s thanksgiving. On one hand the story illustrated the importance of giving thanks. On the other it leaves me wondering why the majority did not. It also leaves me wondering, where do I stand?
Who would have thought a bloodhound would win best in show? Can you imagine how exuberant Nathan was after his victory?
Halloween is one of those odd liturgical days. It is sort of Christian and sort of pagan. The Christians can claim the day as the eve of all hallows day, also known as all saints day. It also has many pagan roots, and many are from the ancient paganism of the Roman Empire. Today though the day is often commandeered by the neo-pagan witches that are so common in these woods. For them this is the biggest day of their calendar year. Years ago it also was a big day for kids, something for them to eagerly look forward to. I think today though the parents have taken this day for themselves. For the kids, there is no longer running around the neighborhood trying to fill their sack to the brim with treats. Instead they are ushered to a safe zone for more structured activities. Oh, I understand the reason and it is a good though sad one; but that charm of the day has been lost. The Halloween I see for kids today is what I think of as the responsible secular day of entertainment. For this modern day it is about the costume, the candy, and the adult parties. For the witches, it is about grown up witch stuff I know nothing about. I assume though they take it quite seriously.
Gone though is All Hallows Eve, the eve of all saints day and all souls day that follows. In days long ago, this kids Halloween was always connected with the liturgical observances of all saints and all souls day. With those masses, that somewhat costumed celebration had meaning. Life, death, good evil, trickery, deception, masks, all reflected something real about life. Wandering house to house they were not given much thought; it was the church service that always brought reason to the customs of Halloween. It was the church service that reminded us that the day was not just a party simply for enjoyment. That was the old Halloween. The new day is that safe day, void of meaning, orchestrated by responsible secular adults, and propagated by the desire of merchants.
Perhaps it might be wise for responsible adults to give kids back their day, to reacquaint them with the history and customs of a true Halloween. That true Halloween still involves costumes and candy, but it also involves the Masses of All Saints and All Souls day. It also involves a bit of the history of those customs, and perhaps even a little bit of the history of some saints. The tradition of this day is too rich for some poor kid, dressed like a fool, to be dragged to a shopping mall so that they can collect some new age health conscious “treat.” Halloween is an important day, and it is a day rich in tradition and meaning; wouldn’t it be better to give a kid that rather than another granola bar? Trick or treat.
Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from my Father.
For which of these are you trying to stone me?”
In Jesus dialogue with the Jews, He is arguing to an unreceptive and hostile audience. Those Jews are accusing him of blasphemy, and Jesus gives his argument for being the son of God. They were hostile because those Jews were unwilling to claim allegiance to any God but the God they knew. Their determination to remain loyal to the God of the covenant was so important that they likely would not go so far as to enter into a debate about the meaning of Son of God that Jesus presents. The part that I find interesting is that both Jesus and those Jews argued a fidelity to God; and that discussion nearly ended in a stoning.
What grabbed my attention to this reading today relates to another argument that I have encountered that also is a type of stoning. The difference this time though is that this contemporary argument is the Pope presenting Jesus, and an audience verbally stoning that messenger. Those hurling the stones though have no interest in any fidelity to God, but instead are violently opposed to the idea of God, and of Jesus Christ. Where does this current stoning take place? It is currently displayed @pontifix at Twitter. It is Pope Francis tweeting Jesus Gospel message to what can be described as the most hostile of audiences.
While the argument between Jesus and the Jews has much to do with how one witnesses God, the Popes message is attacked by people that have no use for God; and that is sad. It is sad to think that those spewing so much venom at the Pope have not listened the blessings given in the beatitudes. They have not embraced the blessing of forgiveness. They have not even attempted to learn of the victory of the cross, or of that kingdom that Jesus preached. It is sad too that the condemnation of Christ continues in this twenty first century. It is sad the wickedness of the scourging, and the mockery of the crowning with thorns is so alive in so many. The sadness also is that these insults are not rational arguments, but vengeful persecutions so reminiscent of a mob mentality.
Pope Francis homily for Mary, mother of God
In the first reading we find the ancient prayer of blessing which God gave to Moses to hand on to Aaron and his sons: “The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you. The Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace” (Num 6:24-26). There is no more meaningful time than the beginning of a new year to hear these words of blessing: they will accompany our journey through the year opening up before us. They are words of strength, courage and hope. Not an illusory hope, based on frail human promises, or a naïve hope which presumes that the future will be better simply because it is the future. Rather, it is a hope that has its foundation precisely in God’s blessing, a blessing which contains the greatest message of good wishes there can be; and this is the message which the Church brings to each of us, filled with the Lord’s loving care and providential help.
The message of hope contained in this blessing was fully realized in a woman, Mary, who was destined to become the Mother of God, and it was fulfilled in her before any other creature.
The Mother of God! This is the first and most important title of Our Lady. It refers to a quality, a role which the faith of the Christian people, in its tender and genuine devotion to our heavenly Mother, has understood from the beginning.
We recall that great moment in the history of the ancient Church, the Council of Ephesus, in which the divine motherhood of the Virgin Mary was authoritatively defined. The truth of her divine maternity found an echo in Rome where, a little later, the Basilica of Saint Mary Major was built, the first Marian shrine in Rome and in the entire West, in which the image of the Mother of God – the Theotokos – is venerated under the title of Salus Populi Romani. It is said that the residents of Ephesus used to gather at the gates of the basilica where the bishops were meeting and shout, “Mother of God!”. The faithful, by asking them to officially define this title of Our Lady, showed that they acknowledged her divine motherhood. Theirs was the spontaneous and sincere reaction of children who know their Mother well, for they love her with immense tenderness.
Mary has always been present in the hearts, the piety and above all the pilgrimage of faith of the Christian people. “The Church journeys through time… and on this journey she proceeds along the path already trodden by the Virgin Mary” (Redemptoris Mater, 2). Our journey of faith is the same as that of Mary, and so we feel that she is particularly close to us. As far as faith, the hinge of the Christian life, is concerned, the Mother of God shared our condition. She had to take the same path as ourselves, a path which is sometimes difficult and obscure. She had to advance in the “pilgrimage of faith” (Lumen Gentium, 58).
Our pilgrimage of faith has been inseparably linked to Mary ever since Jesus, dying on the Cross, gave her to us as our Mother, saying: “Behold your Mother!” (Jn 19:27). These words serve as a testament, bequeathing to the world a Mother. From that moment on, the Mother of God also became our Mother! When the faith of the disciples was most tested by difficulties and uncertainties, Jesus entrusted them to Mary, who was the first to believe, and whose faith would never fail. The “woman” became our Mother when she lost her divine Son. Her sorrowing heart was enlarged to make room for all men and women, whether good or bad, and she loves them as she loved Jesus. The woman who at the wedding at Cana in Galilee gave her faith-filled cooperation so that the wonders of God could be displayed in the world, at Calvary kept alive the flame of faith in the resurrection of her Son, and she communicates this with maternal affection to each and every person. Mary becomes in this way a source of hope and true joy!
The Mother of the Redeemer goes before us and continually strengthens us in faith, in our vocation and in our mission. By her example of humility and openness to God’s will she helps us to transmit our faith in a joyful proclamation of the Gospel to all, without reservation. In this way our mission will be fruitful, because it is modeled on the motherhood of Mary. To her let us entrust our journey of faith, the desires of our heart, our needs and the needs of the whole world, especially of those who hunger and thirst for justice and peace. Let us then together invoke her: Holy Mother of God!