Thanksgiving

I am grateful for a day in which we, as a people, pause to give thanks. And who do we have to thank for this holiday? Your answer is likely “The Pilgrims.” You would not be wrong, but then not completely correct, either. Certainly, Thanksgiving and the religious response of giving thanks to God is as old as time. When one considers enduring cultures, one always finds men and women working out their relationship to God. There is almost always a fourfold purpose to our acts of worship: adoration, petition, atonement, thanksgiving. Such worship is part and parcel of life. And yet, there is still a very human need to specially celebrate and offer thanksgiving on key occasions and anniversaries. Since medieval times, we have very detailed records of celebrations marking the end of an epidemic, liberation from sure and certain doom, the signing of a peace treaty, and more. Continue reading

Passing Away: Watch!

Jesus-Apostles-vine-branch2Keeping Watch. 32 “But of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come. 34 It is like a man traveling abroad. He leaves home and places his servants in charge, each with his work, and orders the gatekeeper to be on the watch. 35 Watch, therefore; you do not know when the lord of the house is coming, whether in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning. 36 May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping. 37 What I say to you, I say to all: ‘Watch!’” Continue reading

Passing Away: certain sign

Jesus-Apostles-vine-branch2The Certain Sign. 28 “Learn a lesson from the fig tree. When its branch becomes tender and sprouts leaves, you know that summer is near. 29 In the same way, when you see these things happening, know that he is near, at the gates. 30 Amen, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. 31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

The image of the fig tree in blossom is a sure and certain sign of summer. Jesus is using a short proverb to assure the readings that his promises are true. So, when they see these things happening they will know. But what are “these things?” Is the reader supposed to remember the fig tree with leaves and no fruit, which Jesus cursed (11:12–14, 20–22)? If so, then alleged “signs” must be carefully scrutinized. Who is “near”? God? A Son of Man other than Jesus? Jesus as Son of Man? What are “these things”? Continue reading

Passing Away: promise

Jesus-Apostles-vine-branch2Promise Amidst Tribulation. 24 “But in those days after that tribulation the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, 25 and the stars will be falling from the sky, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. 26 And then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in the clouds’ with great power and glory, 27 and then he will send out the angels and gather (his) elect from the four winds, from the end of the earth to the end of the sky.

As noted in most outlines, we are jumping into the middle of Mark’s “Oliver Discourse.” Pheme Perkins [691] nicely locates it for us: “Both of the previous sections end with a note of warning to the elect: Persecution requires endurance (v. 13); the presence of false messiahs requires careful attention to the prophecies in the discourse (v. 23). Both sections also assure the faithful that they will be among the elect (vv. 13b, 20b). Thus each unit of prophetic discourse directs the reader’s attention from the present or impending historical experiences of persecution to the culmination of all things at the end time. The faithful testimony of Jesus’ disciples before human courts will assure them that the Son of Man will testify on their behalf in the heavenly court (13:9–13 echoes 8:34–38). A prophecy concerning the coming of the Son of Man to gather the elect now makes explicit the expectations built up in the previous sections.” Continue reading

Passing Away: context

Jesus-Apostles-vine-branch224 “But in those days after that tribulation the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, 25 and the stars will be falling from the sky, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. 26 And then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in the clouds’ with great power and glory, 27 and then he will send out the angels and gather (his) elect from the four winds, from the end of the earth to the end of the sky. 28 “Learn a lesson from the fig tree. When its branch becomes tender and sprouts leaves, you know that summer is near. 29 In the same way, when you see these things happening, know that he is near, at the gates. 30 Amen, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. 31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. 32 “But of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come. 34 It is like a man traveling abroad. He leaves home and places his servants in charge, each with his work, and orders the gatekeeper to be on the watch. 35 Watch, therefore; you do not know when the lord of the house is coming, whether in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning. 36 May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping. 37 What I say to you, I say to all: ‘Watch!’”  (Mark 13:24-37) Continue reading

Unnoticed

Our gospel is known as the story of the Widow’s Mite. As you just heard, a widow donates two small coins, while wealthy people donate much more. A common explanation of the story is that Jesus praises the poor widow and holds her up as an example to us all because she gave “her whole livelihood.” So even though the rich people gave more, it was just for show and only from their chump change. Not the widow, she is “all in” in what she gives to God. The moral of the story is that small sacrifices of the poor mean more to God than the extravagant donations of the rich. And so, I could have a seat at this point, leave you to think about your weekly offering, your APA pledge… are you giving chump change, or are your contributing your whole livelihood? I could but there is more here than meets the eye. Continue reading

Veterans Day 2018

As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”
– John F. Kennedy

A few years ago I received an email from one of my brother friars. I thought would post its content again. The email raised the question – in the light of all the commercial sales and advertisements: Is Veterans Day really a holiday or is it a holy day? Continue reading

Thank you for your service

When the 1960s came around, the “Greatest Generation” – those men and women who served during World War II were still largely and stoically silent about their wartime experiences – but the television networks began television shows about the war. Series such as “Combat,” “12 O’Clock High,” and “Men at War” became staples of primetime viewing. Knowing things about WWII became part and parcel of determining one’s status within the pack (and here I am referring to Cub Scouts). Sure, you might be able to identify the German Messerschmitt 109 fighter aircraft from a flash card, but the real test was could you identify the difference between 109-C and the 109-G series (except the 109-G6 which was soooo… obvious). Clearly such things were critical to national defense among the Cub Scouts. Or so it seemed at the time. Continue reading

Widow’s Mite: context

Sant'Apollinare Nuovo, Ravenna38 In the course of his teaching he said, ‘Beware of the scribes, who like to go around in long robes and accept greetings in the marketplaces, 39 seats of honor in synagogues, and places of honor at banquets. 40 They devour the houses of widows and, as a pretext, recite lengthy prayers. They will receive a very severe condemnation.’ 41 He sat down opposite the treasury and observed how the crowd put money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. 42 A poor widow also came and put in two small coins worth a few cents. 43 Calling his disciples to himself, he said to them, ‘Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury. 44 For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood.’ (Mark 12:38–44) Continue reading