Link

An interesting article published in the New York Times  By ROD DREHERAUG. 2, 2017 The link is here:

Trump Can’t Save American Christianity

“Today, we in the West owe an incalculable debt to the saint and his early medieval followers, whose visionary, disciplined faith bore spectacular fruit long after their deaths. This experience shows Christians that we have to think not in election cycles but in centuries.”

 

“In the early Middle Ages, the churches and the monasteries were those tiny arks carrying the faith and the faithful across a dark and stormy sea. They can be once again. And must.”

Digging through the dirt.

Standard

I could have written last weekend, but I didn’t. It’s not that I did not have a thing to say, I did but I decided to do something else. Time often is a precious resource. I decided to do something other than write. My choice.

Today I write about what the kingdom of heaven is like Mt 13:44-52 . In the gospel readings that kingdom is likened to three things. First, an object of great value buried in a field. Second a pearl valued by a merchant. Third, a fisherman’s great catch. In each example the object of desire is appraised by its owner. The person who discovers an object in the field declares it a treasure, the merchant and fisherman do the same. They declare the object valuable. Granted society and culture often have a say in an objects net worth, and each object was valued by society. Jesus chose objects that were recognized as being of value. People often appraise an objects value. Capitalism thrives on appraised value, as do auctions. People are often appraised on looks, or intellect, or social status, or wealth. Objects are often appraised on supply and demand, or rarity, or the sum of its materials and labor.

Merriam-Webster defines Appraise as ” to set a value on :  to estimate the amount of ” and “to evaluate the worth, significance, or status of; especially :  to give an expert judgment of the value or merit of.” I like the word that is buried in that word Appraise, much like the treasure buried in the field. The word is Praise. Merriam gives a definition as ” to glorify (a god or saint) especially by the attribution of perfections” Sadly may glorify objects. Those the praise God are usually wiser. A little commentary there, actually quite a lot buried in a few sentences.

The stories also have an historical consideration, especially that one of finding a treasure in a buried field. Why, after finding one object, would the treasure hunter buy the entire field? That’s where history comes in. When a land was under attack people often buried their treasures in a field as protection from looting. If a valuable object was found buried in the dirt, chances there were more. Those treasures would belong to the landholder. Thus the importance of buying the land. Of course one could investigate the ethics of taking possession of a neighbors goods in such a manner, but who cares to bring up morals? Reburying something to hide it is an act of deception. Who cares! It’s the object that is valuable, not the ethics.

In the second example the merchant discovers a pearl of great wealth, and sells all he has to take ownership of it. The good news is that the merchant found what he had sought. The bad news was that he placed such a high value on an oysters pearl. Pearls are produced when a grain of sand enters and irritates an oyster’s flesh. I don’t know if they knew that in the first century. But the merchant had sold everything he had to possess it. Greed, gluttony, lust for an oyster’s irritant. Where does man place his value? Many do place such an incredible value on earthly goods, while ignoring the damage they can do to the soul.

Of course the story is about “The kingdom of heaven is like.” The point is that entering the kingdom requires this merchant’s single-minded devotion. Entry is not a half-hearted event. In both the story about the field treasure and the pearl, the value of the object is realized; and those folks will do absolutely anything to possess it.

The kingdom of heaven is like way more valuable than anything you dig up in a field, or find at a flea market. Oddly most people don’t realize that. They spend their lives rumbling through the garbage seeking some trinket of value, while ignoring an abundance of splendor in plain view. The kingdom of heaven isn’t tiny or hidden, its magnificence is in plain view. If only folks would assess its value.

That is the lesson from Jesus’s third example, the fisherman’s great catch. The fisherman certainly know that the harvest is valuable by its abundance. To realize that wealth they must make decisions. They must separate the good from the bad. They must make sound decisions. Look at the question given to King Solomon 1 Kgs 3:5, 7-12. God tells Solomon “Ask me something and I will give it to you.” Solomon asks for the wisdom to make sound decisions. He didn’t ask for something that could be buried in the dirt.

Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 109

A sower sows, and nothing grows… .

Standard

On that day, Jesus went out of the house and sat down by the sea.
Such large crowds gathered around him
that he got into a boat and sat down,
and the whole crowd stood along the shore.
And he spoke to them at length in parables, saying:
“A sower went out to sow.
And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path…

Mt 13:1-23

And as he sowed, some fell on a path and some fell on amongst thorns and some fell on fertile ground. A farmer scattered seed. Broadcasting is the oldest of agricultural techniques. This parable of Jesus is about farming. It is about the farmer’s desire for a crop and all that is needed to bring that crop to fruition. It requires that farmer, and viable seeds, and suitable soil, and a suitable climate. The parable is about farming and possibly the best reference on environmental science and ecology. To bring a seed to fruition requires a good farmer, good seed, and a good environment. All are interconnected. Papa Francesco wrote an encyclical on the environment. Papa knows the environment is important. Farmers know the environment is important. World leaders know agriculture is important, without its products people starve. They die. Take a look at the world.

The goal of the parable farmer is to get his seeds to land on fertile soil, there it had the best chance to grow. The agricultural scientist knows that fertile soil is a perishable commodity. Fertile soil becomes barren if not properly tended. In countries where deforestation is rampant, once fertile soil is vulnerable to erosion. If not stabilized by the roots of the plants, it is quickly washed into the sea. Europe’s churches were once fertile fields, today so many are barren. The crop needs fertile soil, and soil often needs a crop to keep it fertile. That is a lesson in ecology. Church Ecology 101. Church needs parishioners, and parishioners need churches. Each keeps the other fruitful. But what happened the agricultural scientist ponders, the ecologist wonders. The pope wrote an encyclical on the environment. He wondered too. What taints fertile soil.

What taints fertile soil? There are many things. One common technique of the ancient warriors was to salt the enemies fields, by deliberately poisoning its fields the warrior could destroy the crop. Fertile soil made barren deliberately. Today often a culprit is pollution, the fields are tainted through neglect. No one kept a watchful eye or inquisitive mind on the quality of water entering the irrigation ditches. Poisoned fields lead to poisoned crops. And how does this relate to the fields that are Christs Church? I ask, but I wonder if I should answer.

Jesus in His parable discusses the relation of seed to field. One topic the Good LORD does not mention is the atmosphere. Two thousand years ago #ClimateChange was not a priority. Today it is a prominent topic among politicians. As the earth’s climate can change, so can a political climate change. As a political climate can change so can a sociological and ethical climate change? As an ethical climate can change, so to can a moral climate. As a moral climate shifts, so does the religious climate. The success of a seeds germination is not only dependent on soil, it is also dependent on atmosphere. A common concern of the environmental scientist is air pollution. The pope wrote an encyclical on the environment, he was concerned too. Today the environmental scientist knows much about air pollution because much data has been collected. I wonder if Francis has the same. Air (waves) can be toxic, clouds can be seeded, and droughts can occur. Clean rainwater can lead to a fruitful harvest, acid rain can destroy the heartiest crop. Jesus spoke in parables so that people might ask questions. Churches depend on air. John Paul the second asked that the Churches windows be opened for a breath of fresh air. He stated that both lungs must fill with that air so that the Body might live to its fullest. Church and atmosphere can be related, what are its pollutants, its acid rain? The pope wrote an encyclical on the environment, he was concerned. Jesus told a parable. (i might add more later)

Thus says the LORD:
Just as from the heavens
the rain and snow come down
and do not return there
till they have watered the earth,
making it fertile and fruitful,
giving seed to the one who sows

Is 55:10-11

Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 103

Aside

 

fatima2_edited

That very afternoon, while we remained thoughtful and rapt in wonder, Jacinta kept breaking into enthusiastic exclamations: “Oh, what a beautiful Lady!” “I can see what’s going to happen,” I said, “you’ll end saying that to somebody else.” “No, I won’t,” she answered, “don’t worry.” Next day, when Francisco came running to tell me how she had told them everything at home the night before, Jacinta listened to the accusation without a word. “You see, that’s just what I thought was going to happen.” I said to her.

Sister Maria Lucia of the Immaculate Heart. Fatima in Lucia’s Own Words: The Memoirs of Sister Lucia, the Last Fatima Visionary