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November 22, 2015
For those of us from the United States, the language of king and kingdom fly in the face of our treasured democracy. Annually on July 4, we proudly celebrate our embrace of representative government and our break from the rulership of a king. So today's feast of Christ the King requires some explanation, lest it raise our democratic hackles. This Sunday culminates our lectionary cycle, closing Ordinary Time for Year B and preparing us for the coming season of Advent. Think of Christ the King as our liturgical New Year's Eve. We stand at the end of another year of worship. Today's readings remind us of some significant aspects of our belief about Jesus as the Christ and what effect His kingdom will have.
November 15, 2015
Almost all cultures and religions address questions of the origins and ends of individuals, societies, and creation as a whole. At the end of the liturgical year, our readings focus on the end times. The first reading from Daniel describes that event with archangel Michael overseeing the judgment whereby some will move into everlasting life while others into everlasting disgrace (Dan 12:2). Two groups are given special attention-"the wise will shine brightly...and those who lead the many to justice shall be like the stars forever" (Dan 12:3).
November 8, 2015
The scriptures for this Sunday call us to a deep meditation on "sacrifice." The text from Hebrews provides the theological foundation: on the cross Christ offered himself, once and for all, as a sacrifice on our behalf. This total self-giving was much more than just an event in his human life; it was also an act of the divine person that made a new relationship with God possible for all humanity. Christ's example teaches that even though sacrifice looks like destruction from the point of view of this world, it actually can operate on another level to bear fruit of incomparable value. It shows us that sacrifice is not fundamentally about what is given up; rather, it is really about the renewal and fulfillment of relationship that it makes possible.
November 1, 2015
Sainthood and Character. During the last week or so I have been reading David Brooks's recent book entitled The Road to Character, and I am really being inspired by it. Brooks's basic idea is that contemporary American individualism has persuaded us that we should shape our lives around the desire of self-fulfillment and self-worth rather than around the older, more traditional value of letting our lives be shaped by what our lives and the circumstances of our world call us to be. Rather than look for our own identity in our own unique selves, Brooks urges, we should look for a community or a group of people that can mold us by their example, whose lives challenge us to commit ourselves to something beyond ourselves, to strive to become persons of character.
October 25, 2015
One of the popular settings for Psalm 126 sings this repeating refrain: God has done great things for us, filled us with laughter and music! This is a fine summary of the readings we are given to hear as we enter into the final weeks of Ordinary Time: the compassion and goodness of God; as well as our own call of baptismal priesthood to such compassion and goodness.
October 18, 2015
The Throne of Grace. "Grant that in your glory we may sit one at your right and the other at your left" (Mark 10:37). People can endure almost anything if they know there will be an end to their suffering and that there will be some recompense. In today's gospel James and John have just heard Jesus speak for the third time about being handed over, mocked, scourged, and condemned to death. Unlike Peter, whose response when Jesus first spoke about this was to reject such a scenario, the Zebedee brothers focus their attention on what reward they will gain if they endure such abuse. They envision Jesus enthroned in glory after his ordeal and themselves seated in the places of honor at his right and left. The other disciples are indignant with the two brothers, probably not because James and John have missed Jesus' message but because they beat the others in requesting the honorable spots!
October 11, 2015
Choose life! A passage in Deuteronomy recounts Moses' last words to the Israelites: "I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life." While it is a stark admonition, it is also rather curious. The choice seems so obvious. Who would choose death over life? Today's readings offer us a similar kind of choice. For the author of Wisdom, it is between wisdom and the trappings of royalty; for the man in the gospel who came to Jesus, it is between renunciation and possessions. For both, the choice is just as stark as it was for the Israelites. However, it is not at all curious, for the options are clearly delineated.
October 4, 2015
Back in the 1980s, when electronic gear was first making its appearance, some friends of mine bought what was then cutting edge electronics - a VCR. They had what in today's parlance would be described as an egalitarian marriage. But for some reason, as the husband became more and more frustrated with his wife's reluctance to learn how to set the machine up, he blurted out, "Don't be such a woman about this!" He could tell by the sudden silence and the cold, icy stare that he had probably not picked an entirely appropriate metaphor. It took a bit of time before the breach of trust could be repaired, and the equality which they had shared before could be shared again.
September 27, 2015
It is so often the case in the Bible that God is revealed as the God of surprises. God's presence and power are disclosed in unexpected ways. We know the stories well. Abraham and Sarah, well beyond their childbearing years, laugh when they are promised the gift of a child. Saul, the fierce persecutor of Christians, is stopped dead in his tracks by the risen Christ and soon becomes Paul, the dauntless apostle to the Gentiles. God's life-giving love is quite ingenious.
September 16, 2015
As Catholics gather to celebrate Mass on this Sunday, September 20, Pope Francis will be completing his visit to Cuba and about to embark on his first visit to the United States. It is going to be an exceptional week for all of us, I think. And in a certain way, the Scripture readings for this Sunday awaken us to some of things that we are likely to hear from this extraordinary servant of God and herald of the Gospel.