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November 14, 2013

The readings for this Sunday have a rather sober, even ominous mood about them. A famous passage from the Prophet Malachi speaks of the final days of judgment that will fall upon Israel. That day will be "blazing like an oven" and those who are "proud" and "all evildoers" will be like burnt "stubble." The "fire" of that judgment day will consume them and leave "neither root nor branch".

November 6, 2013

Jesus proclaimed, served, and witnessed to the Reign of God. He proclaimed it through his parables, served it through his actions of healing and forgiveness, and witnessed to it through his behavior, particularly in table fellowship with the marginalized. These were all counter-cultural actions. By our baptism, we are to continue this mission of Jesus, with and without words, in both small and large ways.

October 31, 2013

Tax collectors were not the most loved people in 1st Century Roman Palestine. The economic situation at the time was characterized by the notion of "limited good," that is, all goods (both tangible goods such as food, money, and property; and intangible goods such as power and status) were in limited supply and were already distributed. In this equation, to take more than what is rightfully yours meant that your neighbor would have less.

October 23, 2013
"O God, be merciful to me a sinner" (Luke 18:13). "Comparisons are odious," wrote John Lydgate in his poem "Horse, Goose, and Sheep," which dates to the mid-fifteenth century. In the poem, the animals debate which one is more useful to human beings. The poem creatively exposes how boastful comparisons fuel attitudes of superiority and disdain for others. In much the same way, Jesus uses parables, like the one in today's gospel, to help his listeners identify and change behavior in themselves that is harmful.
October 17, 2013

This Sunday's gospel reading deals with the necessity of being persistent in prayer. To understand the drama of Jesus' story of the determined widow and the corrupt judge, it is important to appreciate the justice system of the ancient Near East. We need to forget the ordered nature of our own courts where (usually) one person speaks at a time and there is an orderly presentation of evidence by both sides of a dispute. We are a world away here from Judge Judy!

October 9, 2013

The Broad Embrace of God. What is called leprosy in the Bible may have been any skin ailment, from the dreaded disease itself to psoriasis or eczema. Such conditions were not only feared because of the possibility of contagion, but also abhorred because of the nature of their oozing sores. Besides the hygienic reason for the quarantine imposed on all those who were so afflicted, there was a religious stigma attached. Running sores kept people from participating in religious celebrations. They were thereby deemed unclean, unfit to be counted among a people who considered themselves "a kingdom of priests, a holy nation" (Exod 19:6).

October 4, 2013

"Write down the vision clearly" (Hab 2:2). The lament of the prophet Habakkuk, as he decries the violence, strife, and clamorous discord in his day, seems to have a timelessness to it. During the recent hot summer, several US cities saw a spike in gun violence and senseless deaths. Public discourse has grown more rancorous as marchers proclaim competing visions for what would make for a peaceable world.

September 30, 2013

In the movie of John Grisham's novel "A Time to Kill," two lawyers engage in a battle of legal tricks and attempted power plays in a Southern U.S. courtroom.  The younger lawyer, who is defending a black man who killed his daughter's white rapists, knows he is losing the case. At the eleventh hour it dawns on him that it is not strength, but weakness, that will turn the tide.  He stands up in front of the jury, admits his ineptness, and then simply recounts the horrifying story of the child's rape.

September 18, 2013
The process of evaluation is one that strikes fear into the best of us!  Unfortunately, evaluations tend to focus on failings, not measuring up, weakness.  Sometimes, those messages are important; but never without positive feedback as well.   The readings we are given to hear on this Sunday in Ordinary Time challenge us to reflect on God's priorities and our own, as well as God's evaluative judgments and our own.

 

September 12, 2013

"To What Lengths". On September 2, 2013 at the age of 64, Diana Nyad completed a roughly 110 - mile swim from Cuba to Florida. Fighting off jellyfish and chilly waters, not to mention the danger of getting attacked by fierce sharks, Diana swam for more than 48 hours to reach her goal, which she had previously attempted four times and failed. She is now the first person to officially complete the swim without the help of a shark cage. For me, this is a tremendous physical feat and a display of relentless will power. She definitely went to great lengths to achieve her dream. Interestingly, the Scriptural readings for this Sunday speak similarly about the determination of God, who goes to great lengths to show mercy and to find even one lost individual.