Wednesday, April 9, 2014

On Joy

After a long absence, I have decided to again use this site to supplement the reading and issues we discuss at our Sunday morning gathering.
We are examining Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis' Apostolic Exhortation of November 2013, and joy is a major theme.

What follows is a homily by James Casciotti S.J. on joy.
Joy is the most infallible sign of the presence of God.
Lion BIoy

I should title this homily, "Reflections of a Melancholic," because l for one do not bear up well under joy. Recollected, somber emotions seem somehow more remand better suited to long-term use.
Yet, the Liturgy of the Church insists that joy is at least as much a part of being a Christian as sorrow. We celebrate, not seven Sundays after Easter, but seven Sundays of Easter; indeed, every Sunday is supposed to be a "little Easter."
The Easter Prefaces pound home the message: "the joy of the resurrection renews the whole world." It does? St. Augustine tells us that "We are an Easter people and Alleluia is our song." Sis Boom Ba. Alleluia. Alleluia. Alleluia.
Today we will reflect on what Christian joy means and requires -and why many of us are uneasy with it. One reason we reluctant cheerleaders find it hard to be caught up in joy for very long is that we live in an aggressively secular, news-bite culture which gives us little help with sustained communal celebration.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

the unwelcome revelation of God in Jesus

 Jesus curses a fig tree (Mk 11:14) because it had no figs-- even though, as Mark is careful to point out, "it was not the season for figs."  Certainly Jesus who used gardening events to teach knew it was not the season for fruit.  The curse seems severe, "No one shall eat figs from you again!" and unwarranted.  Our exegete,  Dr. Sabin, tries to soften the severity by telling us "some scholars have suggested that the phrasing is more accurately rendered, "May no one ever eat fruit from you to the end of the age."   "If one has been following Mark's view of Jesus," she goes on, "one sees  that he always shows Jesus' power directed toward healing.  So here it seems right to understand Jesus' reply (to Peter) as encouragement to have faith in the fig tree's restoration."  If this were true, then why would  Jesus have cursed the fig tree at all,  since he could have used his power to have the fig tree bear fruit out of season-- rather than denying himself and everyone else the fruit of the tree for the foreseeable future. Creating fruit out of season would have demonstrated the power of prayer just as well and maintained Dr. Sabin's preferred image of him only using his power for healing.   Then there is the matter that His Father could have responded to Jesus' curse by simply declaring this tree to be a non-fruit bearing variety of fig tree,  like the non-fruit bearing cherry trees we have by the grace of God. There does not seem to be any intrinsic need to cause the tree to wither just because it bears no fruit.  

But then the revelation of God that this story and the surrounding stories were meant to convey would have been lost.  It is an important revelation into the very nature of God and man that proves unwelcome even today --even among church going people. 

  Coty Pinckney is more respectful of the sacred text than our exegete, Dr. Sabin.  He notes that the text says that Jesus approached the tree to see if he could find any fruit on it (presumably knowing full well that it was out of season) but when he came up to it he found nothing but leaves.  "Many trees produce leaves and flowers simultaneously, and the fruit follows later. Figs appear to be an exception, but in reality they are not.  Fig trees produce flowers simultaneous with their leaves, but the flowers are encased in a fleshy, protective covering that has the same shape as ripe figs, giving the false appearance of fruit.  The fruit doesn't develop until after pollination occurs inside these coverings which requires the assistance of a special type if wasp. Then the fruit develops inside these flower coverings.  The skin of the ripe fig is actually this exterior protective covering of the flower."  When Jesus approached the tree, he found that the tree had neither ripe figs nor the flower modules-- the text says "he found only leaves."  The tree seemed from afar  to be flourishing, but in reality it was producing nothing of value.  It was a non-fruit bearing fig tree.  Jesus curses the appearance of fruitfulness without the reality.  God reveals this reality, which had been hidden, by causing the fig tree wither. 

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Essential Jew

Rabbi Naftali Silverberg asks, What is the significance of the name "Jew" Where does the word come from and  what does it mean ?

The word Jew (Yehudi in Hebrew) is a derivative of the name Judah (Yehudah).  Jacob's fourth son; hence calling someone by this name would seemingly imply that the person is a descendant of that particular tribe.  However, as is well known, Jacob had twelve sons, progenitors of the twelve Tribes of Isreal, all of whom comprise our great nation.  Why, then, is the entire Isrealite nation known as "Jews"? 

( The conventional answer to this question is that the majority of Jews today are descendants from the tribes of Judah and Benjamin-- the two tribes which comprised the "Kingdom  of Judea."  The other ten tribes, the members of the "Northern Kingdom," were exiled to unknown lands.  There must, however, be a deeper reason for the fact that the Chosen Nation has been called this name for close to 2500 years!)

Perhaps this question can be cleared up by analyzing the very first individual to be dubbed "Jew." The first instance of this word appears in the biblical Book of Esther, which chronicles the story of Purim: "There was a Jewish man in Shushan the capital, whose name was Mordechai the son of Yair... a Benjaminite" (Esther 2:5).

That's right: the first "Jew" was actually from the tribe of Benjamin!  An objective study of the Purim story reveals that the whole frightening episode was plainly avoidable.  The entire incident was a result of Mordechai's obstinate adherence to a code of behavior which was clearly outdated and inappropriate for the times.  Mordechai was an elderly rabbi who yet recalled days-- more than half a century beforehand -- when the Holy Temple stood in Jerusalem and Torah Law was supreme.  His snubbing of Haman might have been condign during that generation. But things had changed dramatically. The people of Isreal were in exile.  How did Mordechai dare put his entire nation in danger of extinction by slighting the king's favorite minister?  Apparently someone neglected to inform this sage that the ability to conform is the key to survival...

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Blessed are the Meek

Jesus had a calling, a vocation, which preceded his conception in Mary's womb.  In many ways his vocation determined who were to be his parents, what ethnicity and gender he would be, when and where he would live in the course of human events.  The Magi, following their vocation, being attentive to the Holy Spirit who is at work in foreign lands,  could discern something of this infant's vocation before Jesus himself could perceive it.   The same Holy Spirit that had brought  Jesus into this world leads each of us if we are attentive to fulfill our vocation.  Sins against the Holy Spirit, to say the least, present the only real problem for the individual and his community. "Beware the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod," he tells his disciples as they sin against the Holy Spirit.

Scripture tells us that Jesus was like us in all things except sin (Heb 4:15). We all, like Jesus,  have a vocation given by God before we were conceived in our mother's womb. We all have a role to play in bringing about the Kingdom-  a calling which determines when and where and to whom we are born, and whom in the course of our lives we come to interact.  This is true whether we are born to Jewish parents, Muslim parents, Catholic parents or to confirmed atheists the purpose of our vocation is the same as Jesus' -- the coming of the Kingdom of God. 

The beatitudes which Matthew records in the Sermon on the Mount describes the coming of the Kingdom of God. They  describe essential attributes that bring about different facets of the Kingdom,  attributes that belong to the Messiah, attributes of  Jesus -- as he reflects the attributes of God.  "For this I was born and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth," he told Pilate. " Every one who is of the truth hears my voice (John 18:37)."

Saturday, February 4, 2012

“Take care what you hear... "

On March 3, 2011 I made an entry to this blog titled, “Be careful then how you listen..” It was based on a quote in Luke 8 where Jesus presents the parable of the sower and the lamp stand, which we find in this weeks reading from Mark 4. The entry I made then is still well worth reading.
In both Luke and Mark he says,  “Whoever has ears to hear ought to hear,” but he explains that he speaks in parables so that,  “The mystery of the kingdom of God has been granted to you [his disciples]. But to those outside everything comes in parables, so that they may look and see but not perceive, and hear and listen but not understand, in order that they may not be converted and be forgiven.’” [ there are other biblical passages like this Is 6:9Jn 12:40Acts 28:26Rom 11:8 ] Dr. Sabin in her Commentary on the Gospel According to Mark (2005, p.46) states that Mark was quoting Isaiah 6:9 in this passage, and in Isaiah the passage was “clearly ironic.”  But John 12:40 clearly doesn't consider this passage in Isaiah to be ironic, nor do most commentaries.   Even Wikipedia provides a better explanation of this passage. Dr. Sabin doesn't appreciate the revelation of God  expressed in Luke 10:21 and Matthew 11:25 which needs to be taken into account by all scholars of the sacred texts. While the gospels of Matthew and Luke were not written until after Mark the truths of the gospel that they express were present in the oral tradition of the early Christian community at the time of Mark because they were primarily based on the real Jesus event which preceded the written gospels. It is frequently hard for scholars to fully appreciate that they are not privileged interpreters of the revelation of God. They are just as likely as anyone to have hearts impaired by those elements Jesus describes in the parable of the sower. 

Friday, November 25, 2011

Laurence Freeman on Simone Weil

  Dom Freeman's account of Simone Weil's conversion is seriously flawed in a number of aspects, but none more serious than his assertion that she refused baptism.  Diogenes Allen and Eric Springsted's  Spirit, Nature and Community  provides testimonial evidence that refutes this assertion.  You can read the first chapter entitled "The Baptism of Simone Weil" on the publisher's website. Eric O. Springsted's earlier work, Simone Weil and the suffering of love  published by Cowley corrects other aspects of Dom Freeman's account of Ms Weil's rich appreciation of faith and the love of God. The chapter on "The Love of God in Daily Life" is especially well worth reading.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Brennan Manning

After hearing Carey talk about reading  Brennan Manning's  Ragamuffin Gospel  I found this youtube video of Brennan Manning presenting his main idea at of conference in Philadelphia in 1999. has chosen Brennan Manning's latest book All is Grace  as it's book club selection, and published this rather personal review   I shared it with Sr. Clare who thought it was "quite impressive" so I thought I would share it with you.