Sunday of the Word of God

All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work. (2 Tim 3:16–17)

The Sunday of the Word of God in the Catholic Church takes place on the third Sunday in Ordinary Time – tomorrow Sunday, January 23rd. It was established in Pope Francis’ Apostolic Letter, issued motu proprio (of his own initiative), Aperuit illis, “to be devoted to the celebration, study and dissemination of the Word of God.” The title of the papal document, “Aperuit illis“, is taken from Luke’s Gospel, chapter 24, the “Road to Emmaus” narrative. Continue reading

Girls Scout Cookies

Did you know the cookie sales by an individual Girl Scout unit were by the Mistletoe Troop in Muskogee, Oklahoma, in December 1917 at their local high school. Five years later, the Girl Scout magazine The American Girl suggested cookie sales as a fundraiser and provided a simple sugar cookie recipe.. Another eleven year passed and then 1933, Girl Scouts in Philadelphia organized the first commercial sale, selling homemade cookies at the windows of the Philadelphia Gas and Electric Company. In 1936, Girl Scouts of the USA began licensing commercial bakers to produce cookies, in order to increase availability and reduce lead time. The first contracted baker was Keebler-Weyl Bakery, soon joined by Southern Biscuit Company and Burry Biscuit. both later acquired by Interbake Foods in 1937. One hundred twenty five troops launched cookie sales that first year. Continue reading

The Investiture Controversies

As western Christianity was subsumed by the Dark Ages, the medieval era of European history, the traditional bonds of secular rule disintegrated to the local feudal lord. At the same time the bonds between Rome, diocese, and local parishes and abbeys also fell apart. When came the time to appoint a new church leader, the conditions were ripe for an investiture controversy of epic proportions. Theology was not a leading issue….yet. The major actors were wealth and land. Continue reading

Being Named

Up to this point in his gospel narrative, Mark has shown his skills as a storyteller. He has already achieved a mounting tension in the narrative. Chapter 1 ends with Jesus’ fame and reputation as a healer spreading and the crowds seeking out Jesus (1:45). Then come five stories of controversy (2:1-3:6) that do not end on such a positive note: “The Pharisees went out and immediately took counsel with the Herodians against him to put him to death.” (3:6) It does not appear they are on “Team Jesus.” Continue reading

Fulfilled in your hearing

This coming Sunday is the 3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time in which Jesus speaks in the synagogue in Nazareth after having read from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah. It is important to note that this mission is specifically directed at the needs of people: poor, captive, blind, oppressed. Significantly, Jesus’ work will be good news to the poor. Mary’s prayer (1:52-52; the Magnificat) praises the Lord for lifting up the lowly and sending the rich away empty. Later, Jesus announces God’s blessing on the poor (6:20) and then refers to the fulfillment of the charge to bring good news to the poor in his response to John (7:22). The poor also figure more prominently in Jesus’ teachings in Luke than in any other Gospel (14:13, 21; 16:20, 22; 18:22; 21:3). Continue reading

On the team?

Earlier this morning I posted a short commentary on today’s gospel. Within the gospel we again hear Jesus commanding silence about his ministry and his identity. In tomorrow’s gospel Jesus will appoint the Twelve, that core cadre of people whom he will form as apostles and disciples whose mission will not be silence, but rather communications, messaging, and promotion. He wants the right team, rightly formed, carrying the right message to the world.

In a way the formation and preparation of the “team” is in the backdrop of almost every story in the gospel. At the end of the gospels the “team” will be sent with the Good News to the ends of the earth as his spokesperson. It is a role for which you were anointed in your baptism. And so the mission asked of us is – in our own place and time – to be the person rightly formed and willing to speak when called upon. To be “on message” and pass on the saving Word.

So… are you on the team? Starting lineup? Practice squad? Taxi squad? Getting ready? Or just a spectator in the stands? Maybe not even at the game? The nice thing about “Team Jesus” is that the starting lineup is not limited to the Twelve. It’s a big playing field and we can use the whole team in action. So… are you on the team?

Messaging: Mark 3:7-12

In today’s gospel we encounter Jesus by the sea shore with large crowds approaching and a demonic presence. Up to this point in his gospel narrative, Mark has shown his skills as a storyteller. Mark does not write with the high style of Luke, with the religious insight of Matthew, or the soaring prose of John. His writing style is sparse. Yet, he has begun to reveal the human side of Jesus’ character by certain details that Matthew and Luke leave out of their accounts.  For example, only Mark describes Jesus’ grief and anger during the cure of the man with the withered hand (Mark 3:5). Continue reading

In the power

This coming Sunday is the 3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time. A key phrase in this Gospel is “In the power of the Spirit.” As noted, this passage begins with a reference to Jesus being “in the power of the Spirit.” While there are no doubt some implicit Trinitarian ideas here, the OT should serve as the means of understanding the direction of Luke’s narrative. The OT metaphors of wind (Heb: ruach – breath, wind, spirit), smoke, and cloud, as well as fire, were ways of talking about the active presence of God in the world. Even though the single Hebrew term is translated in various ways even when used of God, this idea became a way to talk about God in terms of his immediate activity in the world. The idea behind the Hebrew term ruach expressed the immanence of God in the world and encompassed his willingness and power to act in human history. This idea carried over into most of the NT since the equivalent term in Greek (pneuma) carries the same varied meaning.  As well, this “power of the Spirit” also points to a commissioning of prophets and enabling leaders to carry out their mission. Continue reading

What has withered?

In today’s gospel we encounter Jesus healing on the Sabbath: “There was a man there who had a withered hand” (Mark 3:1). The primary thread of this gospel account is Jesus’ controversy with the Pharisees about what good may be done on the Sabbath. The man with a withered hand is a silent witness to the miracle in his life. He doesn’t call upon Jesus to heal him; Jesus reaches out to him. He simply follows Jesus’ command, approaches and healing follows. Continue reading

Controversy: Mark 3:1-6

In today’s gospel we encounter Jesus healing on the Sabbath: “There was a man there who had a withered hand” (Mark 3:1). It is a familiar setting: the synagogue, often the central building in the village – not only in location and architecture, but in the life of the people. Again Jesus’s action stirred up controversy. And the Pharisee were on alert: “They watched Jesus closely to see if he would cure him on the sabbath so that they might accuse him.” (v.2) This narrative follows immediately after Jesus’ statement that the Son of Man is lord of the sabbath (Mark 2:28) and forms the last of this first series of five conflict narratives and demonstrates his Lordship. The high point of the incident lies less in the act of healing than in the conflict between Jesus and his adversaries, in which they are left silent before his sovereign word. Continue reading