There is a real and important code of hospitality in the Middle East: people are generous in their invitations, and invited guests are expected to accept.
Each of us experiences disappointment in some of our relationships with others. Sometimes we even come to know the pain of rejection. That experience can leave an indelible mark on our hearts and minds. Such moments can run the gamut from the ordinary to the traumatic: not getting chosen for the team when we were young; the gossip of friends who talk behind our back; the refusal of people with whom we live or work to take our needs and insights seriously; alienation in a marriage or other family relationship.
Walking the Walk
We've all heard the line that it's not enough to "talk the talk." To be authentic human beings, and authentic Christians, we also - and more importantly - need to "walk the walk." It's not hard to see that this is the principle message of today's readings: "walk the walk," or as Eliza Doolittle sang famously in My Fair Lady, "don't talk of love - show me!"
Are you envious because I am generous?
I grew up in southwestern Minnesota - in a small town surrounded by vast fields of the world's richest loam soil - agricultural areas that stretched from horizon to horizon and that provided food for the world. We always planted a huge garden yielding every kind of vegetable and fruit imaginable. My most treasured "gardening memory" is this:
The cross is a symbol that Christians often take for granted. This is probably because it is omnipresent in Christian art and architecture. It appears crowning steeples, inscribed on foundation stones, grave markers, and carried in liturgical processions. But the cross as a symbol was not always so popular. In fact, the symbol of the cross was used sparingly if at all during the first four centuries of the Church's existence.
Our lectionary places three slices of Scripture before us every Sunday. The first reading has been selected because it has some relationship to the Gospel. Either it is the scriptural foundation, which Jesus references, or it may contain the stories, which are alluded to in the Gospel passage. But the second reading is often a selection from an epistle, which is read continuously. Last Sunday, the second reading was from Paul's Letter to the Romans Chapter 12. This Sunday we hear from the next chapter, Romans 13.
A young couple to whom I am close has twin girls who are now eight years old. One of the twins was born with a rare genetic condition. It is a complex syndrome with multiple manifestations. In the case of this little girl, it was manifested in serious spinal issues that included two floating vertebrae. Her parents were tenacious in finding out all they could about this condition and in tracking down a surgeon in Iowa who is proficient in performing the delicate surgery that their daughter needed. Her mother was especially dogged in her determination to get the best help possible.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of one of the most important and influential documents of the Second Vatican Council. Entitled Dei Verbum, "The Word of God," it dealt with the Catholic understanding of divine revelation found in our Scriptures and in the tradition of the Church. A fundamental assertion of this document was that God's "revelation" did not consist first and foremost in a series of doctrinal propositions but was essentially a relationship between God and human beings.