Gifted, graced, and get going

In the first reading, it has been about 40 years since the armies of Babylon captured, destroyed and burned Jerusalem. The Prophet Isaiah is speaking to people who have lived their life in exile with only the stories of the Jerusalem-that-used-to-be as solace. A people that are wondering if they will ever be saved from exile. Will God rescue them as He did when he led the people out of exile and slavery in Egypt those many years ago? Continue reading

Core Values of Stewardship

The rains came to the hollows of Appalachia. The forecast was that rains at the higher elevations would be especially heavy resulting in rising floodwaters in all places and flashfloods in the steeper hollows and valleys of the county. The emergency warnings were for all residents to seek high grounds and keep away from streams and rivers.

When the neighbors saw Jonas, an older resident and a member of the local congregation, they encouraged him to leave his homestead and come with them to higher ground. Jonas thanked them for their offer but said, “I’ve prayed to God and I’m sure he will save me.” The neighbors drove on up the road. Continue reading

Judges

The Book of Judges remains a bit of a mystery to lots of Christians, although some of the more notable names from Old Testament scripture are from the Book of Judges: Deborah, Sampson, and Gideon. The Hebrew word translated “Judges” in the English title of the book refers not to specialized judicial officers or magistrates but to leaders in general. According to the biblical narrative these judges led Israel from the end of the conquest of Canaan until the beginning of the monarchy. The period of the Judges, therefore, extended from the death of Joshua (Jos 24:2931; cf. Jgs 1:1) until the installation of Saul as Israel’s first king by the prophet Samuel, who was also the last judge (see 1 Sm 7:1517). Continue reading

terebinth

I am often asked what is a “terebinth” when it appears in a daily reading. It is a small tree – and there the opinions diverge. It is either a Palestinian type of oak or it is a small tree of the cashew family and once a source of turpentine. Its more formal name is pistacia palaestina. It has a Southern European cousin, P. terebinthus. But then again the word might be referring to Quercus calliprinos, the Palestinian oak. Continue reading

First and Last

This coming Sunday marks our journey in Ordinary Time, the 21st Sunday in Year C. You can read a complete commentary on the Sunday Gospel here.

22 He passed through towns and villages, teaching as he went and making his way to Jerusalem. 23 Someone asked him, “Lord, will only a few people be saved?” He answered them, 24 “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough. 25 After the master of the house has arisen and locked the door, then will you stand outside knocking and saying, ‘Lord, open the door for us.’ He will say to you in reply, ‘I do not know where you are from.’ 26 And you will say, ‘We ate and drank in your company and you taught in our streets.’ 27 Then he will say to you, ‘I do not know where (you) are from. Depart from me, all you evildoers!’ 28 And there will be wailing and grinding of teeth when you see Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God and you yourselves cast out. 29 And people will come from the east and the west and from the north and the south and will recline at table in the kingdom of God. 30 For behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.” (Luke 13:22-30) Continue reading

The road to being perfect

The young man said to him, ‘All of these I have observed. What do I still lack?’ Jesus said to him, ‘If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to [the] poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.’” (Mt 19:20-21)

I would offer that the word “perfect” in the text from today’s gospel is not the best choice for translation for the underlying Greek word teleios – because of the way we understand the word in English. In Classic Greek and in Scripture the word can indeed mean perfect as, without fault, – but those uses are, by in large, references to sacrificial offerings indicated by religious worship. Outside of those cultic uses, the word means to be complete, whole, developed or adult – and generally points to a future time. One might say it looks forward to a time when maturation is complete. In other words, it has a future reference implied in the word itself. Continue reading

Temperature, change and grace

I have two words for you this morning: “thermometer” and “thermostat.” Regular, routine, and household words we rarely give a second thought to: “thermometer” and “thermostat.”

I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!” Those are Jesus’ words from the gospel. They well could have been the prophet Jeremiah’s from the first reading. Jeremiah began his public ministry in the streets of Jerusalem when the good King Josiah was instituting religious reforms to bring the tribes of Judah and Israel back into covenant with God. It was the best of times. The people were being taught the Word of God and right worship – and Jeremiah was on the vanguard of the reforms. And so, it was for about 10 years. King Josiah died in battle and everything changed. Continue reading

Stewards of our Lives

I never thought about becoming a pastor. As many of you know, I entered the Franciscans as a “delayed” vocation. That’s a nice way of saying I wasn’t in my 20’s any longer. But generally, “delayed” means someone in their 30’s.  Fr. Tim Corcoran, the pastor at St. Mary’s in Lutz, a long-time parishioner at Sacred Heart, was already retired as a Federal judge when he entered the seminary. Does that make him, “double-delayed?” I fall in between, received into the Franciscans at the ripe old age of 48 – maybe “delayed plus”? Like Fr. Tim, I entered having discerned that my Time and Talent was meant to be given as a priest, serving the Church and the people of God. It was a decision about Stewardship, which in simple terms, is the act of putting God’s priorities before our own. Good Stewards do four things… Continue reading

Of the same mind

Have you heard the phrase, “Don’t be a thermometer, be a thermostat”? A thermometer reads the temperature of the room and responds to it. A thermostat sets the temperature.

Are you setting the spiritual temperature of the room? Or do you find yourself constantly responding to how your kids are acting (and are you letting that determine the kind of parent you will be)? Are you basing the kind of spouse you are today on your husband or wife’s mood? Are you responsive to the virtue – or lack thereof – in your workplace, and letting that determine how you interact with the people around you? Continue reading