Honor, chivalry and war

Much of Francis’ youth had been spent as an apprentice in his father’s cloth business by day and as playboy by night – a time that the older Francis refers to as “When I was in sin.” At the same time, the intrigue and rivalry of imperial and papal politics swirled around Assisi. When Francis was 16-years old, the popolo, as the merchant and new generation of leaders were called, rose up in revolt against the nobles of Assisi (1198 AD). The last remnant of feudal governance was replaced by the “commune” of the city-state of Assisi.  Loyalty to the Emperor was replaced by nominal loyalty to the Papal State. The noble families of Assisi – likely including the family of the young woman who would become St. Clare of Assisi – fled to Perugia, the age-old enemy of Assisi, across the Spoleto Valley. While the people of Assisi thought it to be the definitive victory, it was but a lull in the conflict. Continue reading

Pondering a parable

So where was I….? As noted in an earlier post, today’s gospel includes the Markan version of the parable of the mustard seed: 30 He said, “To what shall we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable can we use for it? 31 It is like a mustard seed that, when it is sown in the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth. 32 But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.”

I wondered if there were any OT references to birds taking shelter in the shade of a plant or a tree. Two came to mind. Continue reading

Pondering parables of the Kingdom

Today’s gospel includes the Markan version of the parable of the mustard seed: 30 He said, “To what shall we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable can we use for it? 31 It is like a mustard seed that, when it is sown in the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth. 32 But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.”  I think it is one of those parables to which western Christians give “the holy nod.” That is an expression I apply to all the times we nod knowingly at the presentation of some matter of Scripture or faith, nodding our agreement, when inwardly we are thinking, “What? Oh well, Jesus said it, I believe it and it must be good.”

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Patience in a digital age

Patience is a virtue that’s been vanquished in the digital age. It would be interesting to know if our threshold of annoying things that impede our “getting on with things” has changed over the years. In the 1970s my computer science class developed programs/software on the Dartmouth Time Share system. We carried around boxes of IBM punch cards that took hours to punch. When had to carry them to the data center and submit them…and wait. When the paper punch strip came out that was amazing! This was progress!. Now if my webpage take more than 200 msec. to load, I am annoyed. “Who designed this thing? What’s wrong with our internet connection?” Just some of the inner thoughts that arise when we are impeded.

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Generosity and Persistence

In the traditional understanding of the parable of “The Sower and Seed,” the focus is often on the soil as a description of our hearts, of our openness to the word of God being sown into our lives. The soil/heart is described as a well-trod path, rocky ground, a bramble of thorns, or rich fertile soil. There is some insight there to be sure, but it does not necessarily give insight into a remedy.  Some have described it as “the soil under your feet”. All one must do is to look down, assess the conditions where you stand in life, and move. Move to the rich fertile soil – and yes, along the way you will have to deal with birds, the weeds and the scorching sun.

At least two things stand out for me about the Sower: generosity and persistence.

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Sacrifice and Atonement

God is on a mission to remove evil from His good world, along with all of its corrosive effects. However, He wants to do it in a way that does not involve removing humans. In this video on sacrifice and atonement, the good people at the Bible Project trace the theme of God’s atoning or “covering” over human evil through animal sacrifices that ultimately point to Jesus and his death and resurrection. The video shows how the Jewish Temple rituals of sacrifice and atonement have been replaced by the New Testament rituals of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. (Note: the video’s will not present a fully Catholic understanding of Baptism or Eucharist, but the trajectory of their narrative points to our fuller understanding of these sacraments.)

As always, if you enjoy these video, I encourage you to support their work and to visit their website for even more great videos – or visit their YouTube channel.

Who are my mother and brothers?

The reading from today’s gospel (with a few extra verses) and St. Francis of Assisi’s answer to the question.

20 Jesus came with his disciples into the house. Again the crowd gathered, making it impossible for them even to eat. 21 When his relatives heard of this they set out to seize him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.” … 31 His mother and his brothers arrived. Standing outside they sent word to him and called him. 32 crowd seated around him told him, “Your mother and your brothers* [and your sisters] are outside asking for you.” 33 But he said to them in reply, “Who are my mother and [my] brothers?” 34 And looking around at those seated in the circle he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. 35[For] whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.” (Mark 3) Continue reading

All were amazed

Next Sunday is the fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time in Year B of the lectionary cycle. You can read a full commentary on the gospel reading here.

21 Then they came to Capernaum, and on the sabbath he entered the synagogue and taught. 22 The people were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes. 23 In their synagogue was a man with an unclean spirit; 24 he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!” 25 Jesus rebuked him and said, “Quiet! Come out of him!” 26 The unclean spirit convulsed him and with a loud cry came out of him. 27 All were amazed and asked one another, “What is this? A new teaching with authority. He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him.” 28 His fame spread everywhere throughout the whole region of Galilee. (Mark 1:21-28)

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The Conversion of Paul

Today the Church celebrates the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul the Apostle. It is an event in history that we note in reference to the place it transpired – the Road to Damascus. It is an event that inspired the great Italian artist, Caravaggio to create his masterpiece, The Conversion on the Way to Damascus. The artwork is located in the Cerasi Chapel of the church of Santa Maria del Popolo, in Rome. Across the chapel is a second Caravaggio depicting the Crucifixion of Saint Peter. On the altar between the two is the Assumption of the Virgin Mary by Annibale Carracci.  It is quite the chapel.

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