Once upon a time there was a little girl who was at the department store with her mother. While her mother was having a battery changed in her watch, the girl was gazing at all of the beautiful pieces of jewelry when her eyes caught upon a string of pearls which seemed to capture her. When she asked her mother if she could buy them, the mother replied that no, she would have to earn the money to buy them. And so she did - the girl's heart was set on those pearls - and she was attentive to every opportunity to earn the money to buy them.
Recently Pope Francis visited the Calabrian region of Italy located at the southern tip of the Italian boot. It is an exceedingly poor and depressed area, with 59% unemployment and, worse, it is in the death grip of the Mafia which controls all aspects of the region's life. When the Pope arrived there he did what we have come to expect of this gracious and loving man: he visited a hospital, a prison, and a home for developmentally disabled persons.
God as the Extravagant Sower. Jesus purposefully describes God in his parables in ways that go counter to our usual expectations. Among many quirky characteristics, in today's Gospel Jesus implies that God is extravagant - even wasteful. In order to appreciate this, we need to "tune in" to the world that was of great concern to his listeners - the world of crops and harvests that would naturally be a concern for the poor farmers listening to his teaching. Jesus begins his story describing a sower who would be considered rather inept by most standards. Seeds are precious ... and this sower goes out to sow seemingly without caring where the seeds will fall. Some fall on the path, others on rocky ground, and still others among the thorns. For all intents and purposes these seeds are lost. The sower has been wasteful. Only some of the seeds land where they where they actually take root and flourish. Jesus' listeners would naturally wonder, what is wrong with this sower?
"The Church's [real] foundation is Jesus Christ the Lord"
Within the recent past, the church has been tossed to and fro in storms of controversy. Not one storm - many storms. And not in one country - in many countries. It has been the target of fierce persecution, and it has also allowed evil to contaminate it from within. Whether in circumstances of harassment or scandal, the lives of many have been diminished, their confidence undermined, and their faith tested.
The Scripture readings for Trinity Sunday are as beautiful and rich as the mystery this feast celebrates. The Biblical peoples stood before God with awe and reverence, so much so that no one was even to say God's holy name; various euphemisms were used instead. Yet, at the same time, the Bible also portrays God as infinitely tender and close to his people.
Freedom in the Spirit
Pentecost is rightly considered to be the "birthday of the Church." Taking the account we read today in the Acts of the Apostles at face value, today marks the fiftieth day after the passion, death and resurrection, when the disciples of Jesus, empowered by the coming of the Spirit, emerge from behind the doors of the upper room where they had taken refuge for fear of persecution, and boldly go out into the streets of Jerusalem, effectively proclaiming the mighty works of God in Jesus Christ.
Life in the Spirit
Some of the most poignant pictures flashed across the world in the wake of natural or military disasters are those of orphaned children. Their inherent vulnerability is compounded by their victimization; they seem to be wandering about aimlessly. With unguarded expressions they cry out with grief and fear. They are so helpless, and they look so hopeless. To be orphaned means to be alone.
Judging from the lectionary texts, this fifth Sunday of Easter would be best named the Sunday of Mixed Messages. In the Gospel, Jesus begins with the comforting words "Do not let your hearts be troubled" (John 14:1) but the passage is about his leaving those closest to him. Those among us trying to cope with the loss of loved ones can only shout back "but of course my heart is troubled!" The letter of Peter celebrates the stone rejected as cornerstone, and then complicates matters by proclaiming the stone simultaneously an obstacle.