Preparing good soil

In the chapters and verses leading up to today’s Gospel, opposition is growing, pushing back against Jesus and his ministry. Some do not like that he has cured people on the Sabbath or that Jesus emphasizes mercy and compassion over rules and regulations. Things get pretty rancorous; some go as far as to accuse Jesus of being in league with Satan. Other just keep asking for another miracle, another sign. And yet others believe. Through all of this, Jesus keeps sowing the seeds of faith. Continue reading

Adjusting along the way

Back in the day, along with a group of friends, I used to camp and backpack in the wilderness of Virginia and West Virginia. Generally, it was just for a long weekend – maybe two or three days. We would carry everything in/out. I remember having fun, enjoying it all, but I always felt like I needed a day to recover. Perhaps it was the infrequency of carrying a load, the hiking, and all that goes with the adventure, but come Monday, there was always a stiffness about my neck, arms, shoulders, upper back and all the rest that is connected to those parts.  I could still feel the after effects of the pack’s burden.  “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.” It sounded like the perfect scripture for the post-camping Monday mornings. Continue reading

Heart of the Matter

Sacred Heart of Jesus – not heart of the Father or heart of the Holy Spirit – the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

There is nothing more human than the heart.  In western thought, we speak the heart as the seat and core of our humanity. We can talk about “right-brained” and “left-brained” people – with “left-brained” people being logical, analytical and objective. A person who is “right-brained” is said to be more intuitive, thoughtful, and subjective. But, we are people of folk wisdom. We hold up the heart as the symbol of love, desire – “my heart longs for you” – and more. We see the heart as the seat of intuition, creativity, wisdom, gratitude, faith and the like. If you think about it, the finest values and qualities of human experience are more generally associated with the heart rather than the mind. Continue reading

Holding back

When I was a midshipman at the United States Naval Academy (last century!) I encountered a new phrase: “if the minimum weren’t good enough, it wouldn’t be the minimum.” There a bit of logic to it, but…. can’t say it is the most inspiring bit of prose ever recorded. Yet, there was a sense in which tradition enshrined the saying. The person who graduated with the lowest GPA (2.5 was the minimum) was referred as the “Anchor Man.”  At the end of the graduation he was paraded around on his classmates shoulders and we were all expected to give him a dollar.  Strange tradition, that. He had done the minimum – and who knows he may have worked twice as hard as the rest of us…. Continue reading

Palm Sunday of the Passion: a last meal

Altar-1The Gospel reading for Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion is quite lengthy and so will not be included here. It can be found at the USCCB website:

Jesus Inaugurates the Eucharist (26:26-30a) As Joachim Jeremias and other scholars have shown in looking at all the received Eucharistic traditions (Paul in 1 Corinthians and the synoptic gospel writers), Jesus follows the form and outline of the Passover Seder. The thanksgiving over the bread and the cup recorded in vv. 26 and 27 will therefore be a regular part of the main section of the Passover meal (making this the third of the four cups of the Passover), and we may reasonably assume that Jesus used the traditional words of thanksgiving. But it worthwhile to point out that said the blessing refers to blessing God, not blessing the bread. Continue reading

Connecting dots

And he was transfigured before them; his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light.” (Mt 17:2) Transfigured, metamorphoo – to change the visible appearance; I used to think that maybe Epiphany would have been a better title for what happened on the mountain top. Epiphany meaning the revealing or the unveiling. Then again, I don’t think the full glory of God was revealed; just a single layer was pealed back. Perhaps transfigured is the better word. How much more could the apostles have seen and heard – and, more importantly, to begin to comprehend? The Book of Exodus 33:20 says that if we saw God face-to-face we would not survive the encounter. It would be too much for our mortal being. So, maybe it is better that only a single layer was peeled back. Continue reading

Tempted to forget

temptationAnd sin entered the world. In the second reading, St. Paul is pretty clear that sin entered the world through Adam and Eve. Did you ever stop to think about what exactly was the first sin? Maybe it is as simple as disobedience. “The LORD God gave the man this order: You are free to eat from any of the trees of the garden except the tree of knowledge of good and evil. From that tree you shall not eat; when you eat from it you shall die.” (Gen 2:6-7) That seems awfully clear… lots of trees, lots of fruit, help yourself, but not from that one tree. Awfully clear and awfully tempting. We get to listen to Eve’s thoughts as Satan tempts her: “The woman saw that the tree was good for food, pleasing to the eyes, and desirable for gaining wisdom” (Gen 3:6) I suspect I had many the same thoughts when as a child, I stood before the open refrigerator door staring longingly at the last piece of key lime pie – so good, so pleasing to the eye… and there was mom talking from the next room, “Have a piece of fruit. It’s good for you.” You can guess how that story ends. In my case, it was clearly disobedience, but I am not so sure about Adam and Eve. Continue reading

Litany or Story

storytellingAbout five years ago a man named Jonah Sachs wrote an insightful book titled “The Story Wars.” The subtitle is telling: “Why those who tell – and live – the best stories will rule the future.” A part of the book deals with the 2004 presidential campaign – George Bush vs. John Kerry. After the resounding Republican victory, a democratic strategist, the very colorful James Carville simply noted that the Republicans had crafted a well-received story: the world is a dangerous place and we Republicans will protect you and your loved ones. On the other hand, the democrats had no story at all, only a litany “We’re for clean air, better schools, more health care.” Carville asks would you rather commit your life for a story to believe in or a long list of complaints and problems? Continue reading

Being Perfect

matthew-5_48“…be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect…” That seems like a tall order, trying to be perfect. And if you think of it as being without flaw, spot, or blemish, then you are correct. It is above our pay grade. But then again, “be perfect” does not seem like a suggestion. It appears it is a command from Jesus.

The word “perfect,” telios, is a Greek word which speaks of wholeness, a completeness, a certain end point, goal or destiny that is our calling. There is always a future element about it. “…be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Our destiny, our divine calling – a project for this lifetime. A project that with the grace of God is ours to work towards, even if its fulfillment is in the life to come. Continue reading

Redemptive Anger

sermon-on-the-mountCommandments, rules, and laws – our readings offer a lot to think about. When I was 5 years old, I followed (mostly) the rule: “Don’t cross the street by yourself”, even as I wanted to explore the world across the road. When I was 25 years old, I understood that those rules were for my welfare, health, and protection.  There were also rules to shape me to be a good person: “You have to share your things with your friends.” Hopefully, when we are older we don’t think about those things, they are ingrained, and they are part of the good person we have become. Continue reading