Staying tuned

A lot of people in the parish know that in my former life I was a naval officer serving on nuclear submarines in the Pacific. And people know me now as a Franciscan Friar and ordained priest. I think most people assume I went from the “monastic enclosure” of the submarine to the hallowed halls of the friary. Not so much. There was a 14-year period when I was out there in the world working in the field of consulting. I started out advising commercial nuclear-power plants – kind of an obvious transition. Before I knew it, a less obvious path opened, and I found myself working on information-technology projects. That eventually led to strategic-management consulting for several different industries. Looking back on it, one thing was for sure: It was never dull. It was exciting to continually enter into new engagements, with new clients, and have the chance to think creatively, strategically, and in all different ways. Continue reading

Greatness: in his name

jesus-and-child35 Then he sat down, called the Twelve, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.” 36 Taking a child he placed it in their midst, and putting his arms around it he said to them, 37 “Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but the one who sent me.”

If the first teaching was troublesome, the next would have been downright shocking. In our time we have a different view of children. We hold children to be innocent and precious. This does not seem to have been the view of 1st century. In ancient culture, children had no status. They were subject to the authority of their fathers, viewed as little more than property. In Roman culture adults were adopted, not children. Consider St. Paul’s statement: “I mean that as long as the heir is not of age, he is no different from a slave, although he is the owner of everything, but he is under the supervision of guardians and administrators until the date set by his father.” (Gal 4:1-2) If this is said of the heir, can you imagine the attitude for children in general? Perkins [p. 637] writes: “… the child in antiquity was a non-person…Children should have been with the women, not hanging around the teacher and his students (cf. 10:13-16). To say that those who receive Jesus receive God does not constitute a problem. A person’s emissary was commonly understood to be like the one who sent him. But to insist that receiving a child might have some value for male disciples is almost inconceivable.” Continue reading

Greatness: servant

jesus-and-child35 Then he sat down, called the Twelve, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.” 36 Taking a child he placed it in their midst, and putting his arms around it he said to them, 37 “Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but the one who sent me.”

The conversation in Capernaum is no longer addressed to “disciples” but to “the Twelve.” In the gospel of Mark, the Twelve (hoi dōdeka) are a group of disciples chosen by Jesus to be his special companions (Mark 3:14; 4:10; 11:11; 14:17). They were particularly instructed by Jesus (Mark 9:35; 10:32) and were sent by him to proclaim the coming of the kingdom and to cast out demons (Mark 3:14, 16; 6:7). While we naturally add the phrase “Apostles” to the text, the emphasis is not on the 12 people in charge after the Resurrection, but rather the restoration of Israel as the people of God. The number was symbolic of the twelve tribes of Israel (cf. Matt 19:28; Luke 22:30; Rev 21:12–14) and pointed to the eschatological nature of Jesus’ mission. [AYBD 670] We can see this clearly in the Matthean account: 27 Then Peter said to him in reply, “We have given up everything and followed you. What will there be for us?” 28 Jesus said to them, “Amen, I say to you that you who have followed me, in the new age, when the Son of Man is seated on his throne of glory, will yourselves sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” (Matthew 19:27–28) Continue reading

Greatness: discussing

jesus-and-childBut following the second prediction of the passion there seems to be a non-sequitur in process: 33 They came to Capernaum and, once inside the house, he began to ask them, “What were you arguing about on the way?” 34 But they remained silent. They had been discussing among themselves on the way who was the greatest.

Again the disciples remain silent. Before they were afraid to ask Jesus about the meaning of his teaching. Here they think they are trying to avoid embarrassment. If before they worried that Jesus would condemn them for not understanding his teaching, now, are they worried that he will condemn them for desiring and talking about greatness? They do not yet fathom Jesus as a gracious savior. Continue reading

Greatness: misunderstanding

jesus-and-child30 They left from there and began a journey through Galilee, but he did not wish anyone to know about it. 31 He was teaching his disciples and telling them, “The Son of Man is to be handed over to men and they will kill him, and three days after his death he will rise.” 32 But they did not understand the saying, and they were afraid to question him.

In the scene immediately preceding our Gospel, the disciples experienced an inability to cast out a demon from a young child – a great change from their initial missionary experience. They are perplexed and do not understand. While Jesus’ answer is simple (v.29), it is a teaching moment for the disciples – more prayer is needed. The disciples are equipped with more witness that the average person Jesus encounters in this Galilean ministry, still they are perplexed about the meta-narrative that is the story of Jesus. Continue reading

Greatness: context

jesus-and-child30 They left from there and began a journey through Galilee, but he did not wish anyone to know about it. 31 He was teaching his disciples and telling them, “The Son of Man is to be handed over to men and they will kill him, and three days after his death he will rise.” 32 But they did not understand the saying, and they were afraid to question him. 33 They came to Capernaum and, once inside the house, he began to ask them, “What were you arguing about on the way?” 34 But they remained silent. They had been discussing among themselves on the way who was the greatest. 35 Then he sat down, called the Twelve, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.” 36 Taking a child he placed it in their midst, and putting his arms around it he said to them, 37 “Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but the one who sent me.” Mark 9:30–37 Continue reading

The Stigmata of St. Francis

St. Francis receives the Stigmata (fresco attr...Authorized by Pope Paul V, September 17th is the Feast of the Stigmata of St. Francis of Assisi, a feast day celebrated within the Franciscan communities.

Stigmata, from the Greek word, generically points to a “brand” or a “mark.” It is the common word to describing branding of cattle. In the Christian context it refers to the bodily marks resembling the wounds of the crucified Christ. St. Francis was the first person, historically recorded, who bore the marks of the crucified Christ in his hands, his feet, and in his side. Continue reading

Live into the answer

There are lots of things about our Faith that I heard/inherited/was taught. The classic from the Baltimore Catechism was (Q.) Why did God make you? (A.) God made me to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him forever in heaven.  I have known the answer to that question for more than 60 years. It is a great question and Sr. Mary Lawrence assured me it was the perfect answer. Continue reading

Curating our stories

Over the last two pastor’s columns I have been talking about stories: sharing your story with God as part of the Sacrament of Reconciliation and just last week, sharing your stories of God with your family. And I continue to think about our stories of faith and this life of grace.

One of the amazing moments of my sojourn to Israel this summer was actually holding mustard seeds in my hand. And, trust me, you had to look very closely. I took a picture and when I show it to people most guess that it is very fine grains of dirt. When I say that it is a mustard seed, then the power of Jesus’ parable of the mustard seed comes to the fore. Continue reading

Our Lady of Sorrows

Mother-of-SorrowsOur Lady of Sorrows is celebrated on September 15th in the western Catholic Church. It is a devotion on Mary’s experience of the way in which the prophecy of Simeon came to be:

When the days were completed for their purification according to the law of Moses, Mary and Joseph took Jesus up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord… Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, awaiting the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Messiah of the Lord. He came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus to perform the custom of the law in regard to him, he took him into his arms and blessed God, saying:  “Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in sight of all the peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel. The child’s father and mother were amazed at what was said about him; and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted and you yourself a sword will pierce so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” (Luke 2:25-35)

In Catholic religious imagery, the Blessed Virgin Mary is portrayed in a sorrowful affect, with seven daggers piercing her heart. These represent the seven traditional sorrows:

  1. The prophecy of Simeon (Luke 2:25-35)
  2. The Flight into Egypt (Matthew 2:13)
  3. The loss of the child Jesus in the Temple (Luke 2:34-45)
  4. Mary meeting Jesus on the way to Calvary (John 19:26-27)
  5. Jesus dying on the cross (John 19:30)
  6. The piercing of the side of Jesus and Mary’s receiving the body of Jesus in her arms (Matthew 27:57-59)
  7. The body of Jesus placed in the tomb (John 19:40-42)