The Acts of the Apostles

Throughout the Easter Season, our first reading if from The Acts of the Apostles. This is the second volume of Luke’s two-volume work, continues Luke’s presentation of biblical history, describing how the salvation promised to Israel in the Old Testament and accomplished by Jesus has now under the guidance of the holy Spirit been extended to the Gentiles. This was accomplished through the divinely chosen representatives whom Jesus prepared during his historical ministry and commissioned after his resurrection as witnesses to all that he taught. Luke’s preoccupation with the Christian community as the Spirit-guided bearer of the word of salvation rules out of his book detailed histories of the activity of most of the preachers.

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Beach Novels

ReadBeachA while back I read a classic summer beach novel – you know the ones: easy to read, entertaining, no heavy lifting required … and no I don’t remember the title. But I remember this, there are good guys being chased by bad guys. The good guys are only armed with their wit, imagination, guile, luck, and their paranoid friend who believes every conspiracy theory is true. The premise is that everything in the world has a radio frequency identification (RFID) chip embedded in it. When the good guys decide to use cash only so that they stay off the grid, it doesn’t matter because their credit cards and driver’s licenses have RFID chip that, although still unused in their wallets and purses, are detected by the RFID scanner at the checkout counter. As the novel races along the bad guys track the good guys via RFID. The good guys keep emptying their lives getting rid of toll road passes, cell phones, driver’s licenses, credit cards, passports, access badges for work, the groceries and clothes they just purchased for cash… and still the bad guys keep coming. Holy guacamole! There is no place to hide! The bad guys can pick then out of a crowd of a gazillion people. As we read, we cheer for the good guys, we get involved, as if we really and deeply know them. It is as though we can really see them!

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Growing Pains

By the spring of 1213, four years after the founding of the “order,” Francis’ reputation had risen to the attention of the Italian aristocracy – not just in Assisi but throughout central Italy.  The order was beginning to attract men from the higher social classes. Sons of merchants like Francis, sons of the landed wealthy, sons of ruling households, men with established careers in law, music and the arts, and also ordained priests. They joined the already formed group of men from middle and lower backgrounds in muddling through what it meant to follow Christ in the manner of Francis. G.K. Chesterton’s later definition of the Catholic Church – “here comes everybody” – was being lived out in Francis’ day. Continue reading

Wait and See?

Wait-and-SeeSo now I tell you, have nothing to do with these men, and let them go. For if this endeavor or this activity is of human origin, it will destroy itself. But if it comes from God, you will not be able to destroy them; you may even find yourselves fighting against God” (Acts 5:38-39)

Interestingly, in the apocryphal Acts of Pilate 5:1, Nicodemus make a similar plea to Pontius Pilate on Jesus’ behalf: “Let him alone and do not contrive any evil against him: if the signs he performs are of God, they will stand; but if they are of men, they will come to nothing.” We know that Nicodemus was a believer, and he is making a practical suggestion – giving Pilate an “out” from putting Jesus to death.

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Breaking the chains

CONFESSIONOn a rather regular basis, I am asked via email about the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession) and forgiveness of sins. The questions that I am thinking of are mostly from folks who are firmly entrenched in their Christian faith in the Protestant or Reformed tradition. But increasingly these days, inquiries also come from Catholics. Sometimes they are not really questions at all. They are invitations for me to debate them as they wish to free me from the errors of my Catholic beliefs or free the Catholic from the need to go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The question is always some variation of “how can priests forgive sins” when – and here are the variations in their logic – (a) there is no such thing as priest, there is only Jesus as High Priest, (b) only God can forgive sins, (c) people only have one mediator, jesus Christ, and therefore one need only ask Jesus for forgiveness, (d) Scripture never talks about confessing sins to a priest, ….and I think that covers the common debate topics. Continue reading

Imago Dei

The gospel for the 2nd Sunday of Easter for this year is filled with so much. It contains homily material for a month of Sundays. Among it all is this simple verse: “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” (John 21:21)  At a simple level it is the Johannine post-Resurrection commissioning, but it is the how that points to more: “As the Father sent me…” It wasn’t the simple commissioning in Matthew:

Go, therefore,* and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.* And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”(Matthew 24:19-20)

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Royals Priests

Adam is created as God’s first-born son. He’s also conceived as a priest. In previous posts, we saw how the world was fashioned as a Temple and the Garden of Eden was depicted as the sanctuary of the Temple – the holy place where God dwells. If you have a temple, you need a priest to guard it and keep it and to offer sacrifices. And that’s the task that God gives to Adam. It’s a “priestly” task. But you need to know a little Hebrew to understand it.

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Emmaus & Jerusalem

This coming Sunday is the 3rd Sunday in Easter, Year B.  You can read an complete commentary on the reading here:

35 Then the two recounted what had taken place on the way and how he was made known to them in the breaking of the bread. 36 While they were still speaking about this, he stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 37 But they were startled and terrified and thought that they were seeing a ghost. 38 Then he said to them, “Why are you troubled? And why do questions arise in your hearts? 39 Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have.” 40 And as he said this, he showed them his hands and his feet.

41 While they were still incredulous for joy and were amazed, he asked them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of baked fish; 43 he took it and ate it in front of them. 44 He said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the law of Moses and in the prophets and psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures. 46 And he said to them, “Thus it is written that the Messiah would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day 47 and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And (behold) I am sending the promise of my Father upon you; but stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” Continue reading

Too strange to not be true

Fair warning, this is not my usual fare for posting. As it happens I am in my office waiting for a parishioner when I came across this article. Here is the setup.  Do you remember the chewing gum chiclets (it has its own Wiki page)? The brand was introduced in 1900 by the American Chicle Company, a company founded by Thomas Adams. Do you remember the Alamo? The Mexican general at the Alamo was General Antonio López de Santa Anna – or as he in know, General Santa Anna, later in his life he was a next door neighbor to Adams on Staten Island. Chicle was a native product in Santa Anna’s home territory. He thought it would be a great alternative to rubber. That did not work out, but chewing gum did. You can read the “too strange not to be true” story here.

The Center that Holds

doubting-Thomas-DuccioIt is a familiar gospel, a well-known story. It is an episode of “Doubting Thomas.” The one held up for us as an example of what not to be – the one who doubted Jesus. “Don’t be a Doubting Thomas!” we are warned because that leaves you one step away from being Judas.

What other gospel stories do you know about Thomas? Sadly, most people only know this one episode. This is the same Thomas who otherwise is depicted in the Gospel according to John as authentic, straight-forward, sincere, and even courageous. In the 11th chapter of John, Thomas is the one who urged all the disciples to go with Jesus to the home of the now-deceased Lazarus even thought it might mean their deaths (Jn. 11:16). And in chapter 14, when Thomas doesn’t understand Jesus’ metaphorical speech about the place he is going to, Thomas does not do the holy nod – you know, “Jesus said it, I don’t get it, I am not even curious, so I will just nod.” Thomas asks the practical: “Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?” Even when he doesn’t get it or knows the consequences, Thomas is faithful to Jesus and the mission. And then Thomas’ world crumbles: Jesus dies on the cross.

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