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.
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?