Practice, practice, practice

GratitudeI am often given to repeating St. Bonaventure’s wise counsel: humility is the guardian and gateway to all the other virtues…and the first evidence of it is gratitude. We can all have moments in which we are profoundly grateful, but are we grateful people? The first is a description of a moment in time, deeply remembered; the second is an intrinsic condition of who you are as a person. It is at the root of your being, it is the lens through which you see the world, and it is the mode by which you engage the world. Even as I write that last sentence, I am thinking, “Gosh, I want to be that person!” Continue reading

All Saint: both and

angelico-saints-martyrsOne of the things I do is to keep reading, to refresh old thoughts, garner new thoughts and perspectives, and to continue to fuel soul, mind, and imagination. Sometimes the reading materials are books and sometimes – increasingly more often – articles garnered from the internet. One sight that I always “thumb through” is Journey With Jesus. The site is self-described as “A weekly webzine for the global church.” One of the primary authors on the site is Dan Clandenin. He comes from a Protestant perspective, but he brings good insight – insight and perspective that I have found advances pathways for Christian denomination to find common ground.

Sometimes Christians are “it is either this or that” with the implications it can’t be both. This is true to Protestants, Reformers, Evangelicals, Pentecostals, Catholics, and any moniker I have left out. In our best days, we acknowledge that in the realm of mystery, it is most often “both-and.”

That is why I particularly like Dan’s article Saints and Sinners. I might tweak a phrase here or there – but then that would be my take on such things. Overall, I love the trajectory – and I hope you enjoy the article.

Beatitudes: blessings

Great-CommissionThe Second Stanza – Promises of Reward to the Virtuous

All the beatitudes in Matthew 5:7-10 are best interpreted as promising eschatological rewards to people who exhibit virtuous behavior. The second stanza does not, however, represent a logical departure from the thought that undergirds the first, for the virtues that are rewarded with blessings are ones exercised on behalf of the people mentioned in Stanza One. In other words the people whom Jesus declares blessed in 5:7-10 are those who help to bring to reality the blessings promised to others in 5:3-6. Continue reading

Beatitudes: mourn and meek

Great-CommissionThose who mourn. This is not necessarily the bereaved, or even the penitent. Boring (178-9) notes that at one level Matthew here taps into the deep biblical tradition that one of the characteristics of the true people of God is that they lament the present condition of God’s people and God’s program in the world (see Lamentations; the lament Psalms; etc.). In Isa 61:1-11, on which the beatitudes are based, the community laments the desolation of the holy city. Those who mourn do not resign themselves to the present condition of the world as final, but lament the fact that God’s kingdom has not yet come and that God’s will is not yet done (6:10) ). Continue reading

Beatitudes: structure & stanza

Great-CommissionAltogether there are nine beatitudes in 5:3–12, the ninth (5:11–12) is really an expansion of the eighth (5:10). Some scholars opt for a structure with three sets of three, the first eight exhibit such a tightly knit parallel structure that it is more likely that we should understand them as two sets of four. This is most consistent with Hebraic poetry forms which seem to be the literary background of the Beatitudes. Still there is an internal consistency within each “stanza/verse” as seen in the form of each pronouncement:


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Beatitudes: their fabric

Great-CommissionThe 4th Sunday (Year A) and All Saints Day includes (a) the setting of the entire discourse and (b) the opening section, universally known as the Beatitudes. Beatitudes are found elsewhere in Matthew (11:6; 13:16; 16:17; 24:46) and more frequently in Luke. They are based on a common form of expression in the poetical books of the Old Testament (e.g. Pss. 1:1; 32:1–2; 40:4; 119:1–2; 128:1), but nowhere in the Old Testament or other Jewish literature is there so long and carefully constructed a series as here. A beatitude (Latin) or makarism (Greek) is a statement in the indicative mood beginning with the adjective makarios, declaring certain people to be in a privileged, fortune circumstance. It is not original to Jesus but occurs frequently in the OT as well as in non-Scriptural Jewish and pagan writings. Used here, the beatitudes reflect the Jewish use and setting: wisdom and prophecy. Continue reading

Beatitudes: context

This coming weekend, the Catholic Church will celebrate the Solemnity of All Saints. The readings for that celebration are a departure from the lectionary cycle of the Gospel according to Mark.

The Sermon on the Mount

Great-Commission1 When he saw the crowds, he went up the mountain, and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him. 2 He began to teach them, saying: 3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted. 5 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land. 6 Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied. 7 Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. 8 Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God. 9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. 10 Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you (falsely) because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven. Continue reading

Being merciful

Jesus-healingJesus, son of David, have pity on me.” (Mark 10:47). Is “pity” what we desire in our lives? Do you want to be pitied? When I ask people about the word “pity,” how we understand and use it, despite what the Merriam-Webster dictionary says, “pity” does not have a positive connotation in everyday usage. Pity is that thing that we shower upon the unfortunate, a distant regret for their plight, a thankful prayer that it is not us. Continue reading

The between times

chillaxingLife can be a whirl and flurry to things to do, places to go, people to see – and every one of them good and holy. As you can imagine, the Mass of Belonging took a good amount of effort, attention, and energy. The work and planning began about 4-5 months ahead of the celebration, took a lot of attention of the staff, and the commitment of almost 300 volunteers. While first meeting with the staff and making sure we were committed to the endeavor, I noted that this would be like “trying to rewire a house while keeping the lights on at all times.” Continue reading

Faith that saves: asking

Jesus-healingThe Petition. 51 Jesus said to him in reply, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man replied to him, “Master, I want to see.” 52 Jesus told him, “Go your way; your faith has saved you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed him on the way.

Jesus replied, “What do you wish me to do for you?” One might note that either I miscopied v.51, but the astute student will know that I am citing v.36 when James and John ask for the places of honor. In both verses the verb is thelō. Again Mark is drawing our attention to the differences, this time between Bartimaeus and the disciples. Where they ask for glory, power, and prestige, the blind ask for mercy and healing. The blind man’s faith was recognized by the Lord as an affirmation of confident trust in the gracious mercy of God and his power to heal (cf Mark 5:34). The healing was immediate. Continue reading