Random Thoughts on Purpose

Sometimes there is a nexus of events that seem random or perhaps purposeful – usually hard to discern the difference. Many years ago when leading a Bible study on the Book of Revelation, one of the participants told me that every evening when driving home from the session (it was summer), he saw a black crow sitting on a fence. He asked if it was a sign. Could be…. or since it was farm country and the fence was bordering a corn field, it might have just been a crow. I have to admit there is a part of me that operates out of the old maxim: if you hear hoofbeats don’t assume zebra, it’s probably a horse. At least it’s a good maxim for the United States. Continue reading

Controversy: the gathering storm

This coming Sunday is the 27th in Ordinary Time of Year B. The gospel is taken from Mark 10:2-12 and involves a question about divorce whose real intent is to bring Jesus into conflict with what the Pharisees regard as the clear teaching of Holy Scripture. As typical of this section of the Markan gospel it follows the pattern of public engagement (vv.2-9) followed by a more thorough teaching for the disciples in a private setting (vv.10-12). 

Our Sunday gospel takes the form of a controversy story in which the Pharisees’ intent was clear: they were testing (peirazo) Jesus. When this word is used in Mark, it is either Satan (1:13) or the Pharisees (8:11; 10:2; 12:15) who are “testing/tempting” Jesus. Their question begins, “Is it lawful…?” However, they aren’t really asking Jesus to tell them what the law says. They already know what the law says: “When a man, after marrying a woman and having relations with her, is later displeased with her because he finds in her something indecent, and therefore he writes out a bill of divorce and hands it to her, thus dismissing her from his house” (Deuteronomy 24:1) Continue reading

Everyday Prophets

Would that all the people of the LORD were prophets!” – so said Moses to the people of the Exodus.  And did you know that at your own baptism you were anointed with the Sacred Chrism to share in the prophetic ministry of Christ? Were it that each one of us would know that we are prophets of the Lord and would live accordingly….. Of course, that raises the question of what it means to be a prophet.  When I ask around there are a couple of ideas that seem to be popular: Continue reading

God and the Scientist

god-and-scientistAt a recent inter-disciplinary meeting of scientists,  after the days’ meetings a group of men and women got together at the convention center bar. Encouraged by their own inquisitive minds and a drink or two, they came to the conclusion that humanity had come a long way and were at a point where humanity no longer needed God. So, they deputized one of the scientists to let God know. Continue reading

Francis and the Leper: the growth of the Fraternity

When Franciscans recount the story of Francis and the leper, one might presume that they are telling a story from a common core, perhaps even an official recounting of the story as approved by a Minister General of the Order of Friars Minor. And even if some friars are telling the story from a source different from the “official” record, the different medieval sources used make little difference, yes? Yea… not so much. Every medieval source has its own goal, tone, genre and point of view. And that is especially true in the period beginning some 20 years after Francis’ death (d.1226). Continue reading

Words of Encouragement

In today’s first reading we hear from the Prophet Haggai, who ministered in the postexilic period when the Jewish people, under a grant from King Cyrus of Persia, returned to Jerusalem. But it was not the Jerusalem remembered by their parents and grandparents. This was the Jerusalem that had been destroyed by the Babylonians – Temple, buildings and even the protective walls. Jerusalem was a rebuilding and restoration project of immense proportions. Jerusalem was their national identity – and it lay in ruins. Continue reading

A new feast day?

BradyToday is September 23, 2021. It was 20 years ago that Tom Brady became the starting quarterback for the New England Patriots – a job he has had ever since in an amazing career. I received an email this morning from a Tampa Bay Bucs fan who inquired about my position on the possibility of establishing a feast day celebration or at least an optional memorial given the day is otherwise unoccupied by any other special commemoration.

Such things are not up to me…. although I did want to inquire whether this person had set up a home shrine to the GOAT. Continue reading

The Causes of Sin

Next Sunday is the 26th Sunday in Year B of the lectionary cycle with the Gospel reading be taken from Mark 9:38-48. As in the gospel of last Sunday, this gospel also continues the teaching and preparation of the disciples. In the gospel, it seems as thought the preparation is still a “work in progress.”

In seminary exegesis courses one is taught to look for details that indicate a change of scene, location, or other markers to indicate the boundaries of a particular pericope (a technical word used in exegesis meaning “narrative” – and a word that auto-correction keeps wanting to change to “periscope,” which given my history serving on nuclear submarines is kinda’ interesting.). There are no such markers in the text. It is a safe bet to assume Jesus is still in Capernaum, surrounded by the Twelve, with a child in their midst (9:33-37). The expression “little ones” may well also include those given a cup of water because they bear the name of Jesus (v.41). Continue reading

Memorial of Padre Pio

Today is the Feast day of St. Pius of Pietrelcina. The saint began life as Francesco Forgione, born in May 1887 in Pietrelcina, a town and comune in the province of Benevento in the Campania region of southern Italy. He was the son of Grazio Mario Forgione and Maria Giuseppa Di Nunzio, one of five children. His family was pious, attending Mass daily, praying the rosary and fasting with great regularity in honor of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. By age five, young Francesco stated that his life would be dedicated to God. He was a dutiful son, tending sheep, but also seemed to suffer from illnesses including typhoid fever. Around the age of 10 he told his family that he was beginning to experience visions. He soon became interested in becoming a Capuchin Franciscan. Continue reading

The Presence of Mercy

In our first reading for today’s Mass, we encounter Ezra. You might ask, “…and who is Ezra?” The genealogy of Ezra (Ezra 7:1–5) traces his priesthood back to Aaron, brother of Moses. He is also called a scribe, well-versed in the law of Moses (7:6), indicating Ezra’s dedication to the study of the Torah, which he sought to make the basic rule of life in the restored, post-Babylonian-Exile community. It was in religious and cultic reform rather than in political affairs that Ezra made his mark as a postexilic leader. Jewish tradition holds him in great esteem. The Talmud regards him as a second Moses, claiming that the Torah would have been given to Israel through Ezra had not Moses preceded him. Continue reading