May 8, 2016
Today in the United States is "Mother's Day" and in the Church's liturgical calendar it is the Sunday on which most dioceses celebrate the feast of the Ascension. While the grateful remembrance of our mother's nourishing love needs little explanation, the meaning of the feast of Ascension may pose a bigger challenge.
May 1, 2016
For the last ten years or so, Smith magazine, an online magazine dedicated to story-telling, has published a series of books referred to as Six Word Memoirs. Inspired by Ernest Hemingway's six word short story "For Sale: Baby shoes, never worn", the editors asked various people to sum up their lives in exactly six words. The first book in the series was entitled, "Not Quite What I Was Planning," with others having similar titles. This attempt to condense one's life into six words has become a popular writing project in many a college English course.
April 24, 2016
A Change is Coming! I am reminded in today's readings of the words of two of my favorite singer-songwriters, Curtis Mayfield and Sam Cooke. Mayfield's classic song, People Get Ready (written during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s) encouraged listeners that they need to 'get ready' for something momentous was about to happen, while Cooke's reminds people to be attentive to the signs of the times with his words, A Change is Gonna Come. Change may be welcomed while at other times change will be resisted. We are not always ready for change. These songs are apropos today as we journey through the readings for this upcoming Sunday in Eastertime. Over the past weeks, we have again heard and remembered the stories of the early apostles as they were witnesses to the many changes and challenges that formed a new community of believers. Today's readings shed a light on the changes that were still to come for the apostles as "Paul and Barnabas proclaim the Good News," as John sees a new heaven and a new earth and as Jesus shares with his disciples the message that it is love must shape all that they do and the persons that they are becoming.
April 10, 2016
The readings for this Sunday lead me to ponder the notion of worthiness. Peter and the other apostles are "found worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name" of Jesus and Christ himself, the Lamb, is declared worthy "to receive power and riches, wisdom and strength, honor and glory and blessing." What Peter and Jesus have in common is not just worthiness, but the basis for that worthiness. What makes Peter and the apostles worthy? Obedience to God. What makes the Lamb -- who was slain -- worthy? Obedience to God. When I think about this I find myself a little envious of the apostles. Not because of their suffering, of course, but because of their absolute determination to do what they knew God had called them to do. (OK, the truth is that I find myself thinking I should be envious of the apostles. What's the old prayer? "Make me want to want to be better?")
April 3, 2016
"Wish you were here!" At every resort and vacation spot, twirling postcard displays always have some colorful cards with this expression splashed across a front photo. Alternately, people can choose to write this wish on that miniscule blank section on the back side of a post card. Does the post-card sender really wish we were there? Or are they just trying to make us jealous?
March 27, 2016
Beyond a "Dragnet" Approach to Easter. Anyone who grew up in the 1950s and 1960s remembers the TV show "Dragnet." It was one of the first programs that tried to show a realistic portrayal of police work through the eyes of two detectives "working the day watch" in Los Angeles (although looking back on it now the acting was rather stiff and the dialogue rather unconvincing). In the investigation of all kinds of crimes, Sgt. Joe Friday and his sidekick, two unemotional and deadpan detectives, would try to calm down a witness that was getting too emotional or who was embellishing his or her testimony by instructing them: "Just the facts, please, just the facts."
March 20, 2016
Obedient Unto Death. "This is my body, which will be given for you; do this in memory of me" (Luke 22:19) I remember as a child looking at gruesome pictures of the crucified Jesus in our family Bible. I was very disturbed by them, but I found comfort in thinking that since Jesus was God he didn't feel the suffering in the same way we would. I also knew that he was unique and thought that what happened to him would not happen to anybody else. The gospel, however, makes very clear that what Jesus underwent as a rejected prophet can, indeed, be asked of any of his disciples. In addition, it portrays for us how to prepare for and how to endure suffering that comes from following in his footsteps.
March 13, 2016
Our Scripture readings for this week focus on three interrelated themes: a new beginning, transformation and forgiveness/mercy. In the gospel reading from John we might say that Jesus is acting here in the key of Pope Francis. Jesus is clearly showing the woman the mercy that Pope Francis has identified as a core element of the Scriptures. Both Isaiah and the Pauline-inspired reading from Philippians look to a transformed future arising in part from the impact of Jesus' suffering on our behalf and our willingness to join with him in these sufferings.
March 6, 2016
What's wrong with this picture? That's the first question I urge my students to ask of a parable like the one we find in today's Gospel. Parables are the biblical version of a bait and switch. They introduce you to a scene that seems familiar enough. In this case, a dissolute younger sibling, a jealous older sibling, and a ridiculously generous parent. They invite you into the narrative, so that you begin to identify with the characters, and you think you know where the story is going. As Luke presents this parable, Jesus is addressing the Pharisees and Scribes who are grumbling about whom Jesus eats with-in this case, tax collectors and sinners (Luke 15:1-2). We have to hear the parable through the first century ears of the narrative audience (these Pharisees and Scribes) and Luke's authorial audience (those he expected would hear his gospel). What's wrong with this picture for them? First, for the son to ask his father for his inheritance is tantamount to saying, "I wish you were already dead." Sirach 33:20-24 warns against such action, which could lead to financial ruin. Not to mention the shame brought upon the family! Children were expected to honor and obey their parents (Exod 20:12). In Roman society, the father had patria potestas-life and death over his children. So the first surprise is not only that the son is so very disrespectful, but that the father gives in to his request!