Anxious or Trust: what do you seek?

Mt-6-24-wordwordle-cGod provides the basics  This theme is important to the passage (vv. 25-26, 28-30). Jesus twice uses a standard type of Jewish argument traditionally called qal wahomer – “how much more?” (vv. 26, 30). If God cares for birds and for perishable flowers, how much more for his own beloved children?

The objects of our anxiety, food and drink, are to be seen as less important than the life and the body which they supply, and subsequent verses will draw out the moral that, since God provides the latter, he can be trusted for the former. If God sustains life and protects the bodies of those who serve him, they should not complain if he provides for those things without giving a nod to the symbols of status that the culture ordains. If God provides for the birds and flowers, how much more will he provide for his children? Continue reading

Anxious or Trusting: whom do you serve?

Mt-6-24-wordwordle-cCommentary  Matthew 6:24–34 can be understood as an interweaving of commands against anxiety and materialism with commands to believe that God will meet one’s material needs. Given the recurring theme of daily sustenance throughout all of this chapter of Matthew (6:8b, 11, 25, 31) one easily recalls the Lord’s Prayer, “Give us today our daily bread” (v.11) – but is there a particular context for Matthew’s community which heightens even the daily dependence upon God? The majority of scholars places Matthew’s community in the period after the destruction of Jerusalem/the Temple when rabbinic Judaism was seeking to assert it leadership upon the standard of orthodoxy. What is less clear is the degree to which this emerging Judaic orthodoxy considered the nascent Christianity as separatist and heretics (cf. Birkath ha-Minim). Assuming the local synagogue was hostile to the Matthew’s community, that would imply a separation from the community within which the Jewish-Christians has lived – socially and economically. To suddenly be separated (if that was what happened) then the anxiety levels about “daily bread” would have been heightened. Perhaps that lays in the background of the five-fold use of merimnaō (worry, be anxious) in our passage. Continue reading

Anxious or Trusting: context

The Eighth Sunday of Ordinary Time

Matthew 6:24–34  24 “No one can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. 25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat (or drink), or Mt-6-24-wordwordle-cabout your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they? 27 Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span? 28 Why are you anxious about clothes? Learn from the way the wild flowers grow. They do not work or spin. 29 But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was clothed like one of them. 30 If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith? 31 So do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or ‘What are we to drink?’ or ‘What are we to wear?’ 32 All these things the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom (of God) and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides. 34 Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil. Continue reading

A Moment of Perfect

Cycling : 99th Tour de France 2012 / Stage 20There is a picture in my office. It is in a place only I can see it. I didn’t plan it that way, it was just the only place to hang it when I moved in. It has been there almost seven years. I should probably move it, but I kinda’ like it there. I just have to glance up – and it is there.

It is a picture taken during the final stage of the Tour de France on the Champs Elysees. Not the one shown here – that is just a stock photo. It could have been taken in almost any year. The one of my wall is of one person; of one moment in time. Continue reading

Being Intentional

SwimmingSomeone asked me why I get up most mornings for 5:30 swim practice – wouldn’t I like an extra hour or so of sleep, or maybe be able to stay up a little later the evening before? Extra sleep – sure. Stay up a little later – maybe. But the basic reason I get up so early is because I am intentional about having some semblance of a balanced life and that includes physical exercise. Once I am back at the parish, the course of the day may go as planned…or not, but I am free to respond without wondering if I can squeeze in a workout later in the day. It is liberating, even if a little bleary-eyed. Continue reading

Being Perfect: loving the enemy

BePerfectGive to the one who asks. This last example is an ordinary, everyday occurrence: Give to the one who asks of you, and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow – a request for goods or money from a neighbor or a poor person.  From Deuteronomy 15:

7 If one of your kinsmen in any community is in need in the land which the LORD, your God, is giving you, you shall not harden your heart nor close your hand to him in his need. 8 Instead, you shall open your hand to him and freely lend him enough to meet his need. 9 Be on your guard lest, entertaining the mean thought that the seventh year, the year of relaxation, is near, you grudge help to your needy kinsman and give him nothing; else he will cry to the LORD against you and you will be held guilty. 10 When you give to him, give freely and not with ill will; for the LORD, your God, will bless you for this in all your works and undertakings. 11 The needy will never be lacking in the land; that is why I command you to open your hand to your poor and needy kinsman in your country. Continue reading

Being Perfect: retirbution, revenege or justice

BePerfectCommentary  Jesus’ continues to teach with authority (but I say to you…) to his disciples even as the crowd listens in (cf. 5:1-2). The fifth example used by Jesus (vv.38-41) is one that perhaps most goes “against the grain” of our human reaction. Here Jesus challenges the idea of retribution, revenge, a tit-for-tat model of justice – and the means by which people seek redress in judicial arenas.  For some communities, these verses form the key verses for their belief in non-violent resistance. Continue reading

Being Perfect: context

BePerfectMatthew 5:38-48  38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil. When someone strikes you on (your) right cheek, turn the other one to him as well. 40 If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic, hand him your cloak as well. 41 Should anyone press you into service for one mile, go with him for two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks of you, and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow. 43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same? 48 So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Context. This week’s gospel continues the movement through the first of the Matthean discourses, commonly known as the “Sermon on the Mount” begun on the 4th Sunday of Ordinary Time with the Beatitudes. At a broad stroke, Matthew 5-7 are an expose of Jesus’ authoritative teaching; Chapters 8-9 are pericopes of his authoritative deeds.

Continue reading

The Stigmata

stigmata-st-francis-giottoAfter Francis’ withdrawal from active ministerial leadership of the friars, he witnessed an inevitable evolution of the religious order, which had grown to over 5,000 brothers in 1223 from the humble beginnings in 1209 of Francis and four companions. The evolution of the Order, necessary on a number of levels, also began to change the life of the fraternity. Francis worried that the Spirit of prayer was being compromised and that the necessities of ministry were leading the brothers to increasing ties to material possessions. He lived and suffered in a “Time of Doubt,” as described in the previous article. Continue reading

Fulfilling the Law: teachings

beatitudes1A Teaching About Anger. As will be evident, the following comments use Boring’s model as a way to think about the text at hand.

21 “You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, ‘You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment.’22 But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment, and whoever says to his brother, ‘Raqa,’ will be answerable to the Sanhedrin, and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ will be liable to fiery Gehenna.23 Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you,24 leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift.25 Settle with your opponent quickly while on the way to court with him. Otherwise your opponent will hand you over to the judge, and the judge will hand you over to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison.26 Amen, I say to you, you will not be released until you have paid the last penny. Continue reading