Go or Stay

gerasene-demoniacFollowing along in Matthew’s gospel, we recall the previous narrative was about the calming of the storm that beset the apostles while they and Jesus were crossing the lake. They arrive at their destination, a place known as the Gadarenes – among the Decapolis – 10 gentile cities on that side of the lake.. Here Jesus was met by two people possessed by demons who completely controlled the two people. While people are often blind to the true identity of Jesus, the demons clearly have an insight into Jesus’ identity. “What have you to do with us, Son of God” – not Jesus’ usual self-reference as Son of Man. “Have you come here to torment us before the appointed time?

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Saints Together

sts-peter-and-paul-1Most of the apostles and lots of saints have their own feast day, but how about the two most famous saints of the early church? There is February 22nd in which the Church celebrates the “Chair of Peter” the sign that Peter was the first among the apostles and the one designated to lead the early Church after Jesus’ Resurrection and Ascension. But there is no “Feast of St. Peter.”

St. Paul, although not one of the Twelve, was an Apostle commissioned by Jesus. There is the January 25th celebration of “The Conversion of St. Paul” which commemorates the Damascus Road episode described in Acts of the Apostles: 9:1-31, 22:1-22, and 26:9-24. It is the scene made famous by the “Conversion on the Way to Damascus” painting by Caravaggio. But there is no “Feast of St. Paul.” Continue reading

The Spectrum of Politics

According to the Pew Research Center, we Americans exist along a political spectrum far more nuanced than “red-blue.” These are among the findings of Pew Research Center’s new political typology, which sorts Americans into cohesive groups based on their values, attitudes and party affiliation, and provides a unique perspective on the nation’s changing political landscape. I can’t say whether their classifications seem on target or not, but it is nonetheless interesting. If you are interested in seeing where you might fall on the spectrum, take this quick online survey. Continue reading

Secrets

Women talking over a fenceRighteous Father, the world also does not know you, but I know you, and they know that you sent me. I made known to them your name and I will make it known, that the love with which you loved me may be in them and I in them. (John 17:25-26) – from the readings of the day for the Memorial of St. Irenaeus.

“You know them Catholics – they have all kinds of secrets – in fact, did you know that there is a Secret Library at the Vatican and it’s filled with all kinds of things they don’t want us to know.” That was from a conversation from almost 40 years ago. It was just one card in a more complete catalog of conspiracy theories held by this individual.

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A world of things

Calvin-techWhile I like technology, I don’t think I am too much of a gadget person. I am rarely-to-never an early adopter and will acquire gadgets when I think they serve a functional purpose I might value. The one exception was Amazon Echo. They promoted it at about 25% of the first generation Echo and I thought why not, buying the device before it was generally available.. The year was 2014. Really nothing too different since then – until last year.

I like to read at the very end of the day while in bed. Sometimes I read on a Kindle (late adoption) but I still like “real” books. With Kindle I could turn out the light and crawl under the covers, read for a while, and simply close the Kindle, and that was that. With a real book, I had to hop out of bed, turn off the light, and then back under the cover. Not too taxing, but when I had already nodded off to sleep… then it became, “I need to rethink this.” There were obvious solutions such as a small reading lamp that could attach to the bed, but just about that time, Amazon introduced smart plugs. Why not? Now the already-asleep me only had to regain enough consciousness to mutter, “Alexa, turn off bedroom.”

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The Power of Touch

Mark-5-two-miraclesA woman “afflicted with hemorrhages for twelve years…She had heard about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak. She said, ‘If I but touch his clothes, I shall be cured.’”

This has been a busy week pastorally speaking – more so as we are more open in this (hopefully) post-pandemic period. It has been one of those weeks when tragedy, misfortune, fate, calamity, heart break, and adversity all seem to set up camp in the parish.  Almost all the stories are profoundly personal, and however illustrative and grace filled, are not for retelling in a homily. Continue reading

Francis and the Crusades – Part 3

francis-sultanIt is important to recognize why Francis came to Damietta during the Fifth Crusade is just one part of his life.  How the experience of the crusade and his meeting with the Sultan of Egypt, Al-Malik al-Kamil, may have changed Francis is a different part of the saint’s life.  While the early sources about the life of Francis are uniform in Francis’ zeal for evangelization and his desire for martyrdom, many modern scholars dismiss these as hagiographic (“saint making”) embellishments.  The modern desire, especially among Franciscan scholars, seems to ensure that Francis “the peacemaker” arrives on the shore of Egypt in 1201.  When one looks outside modern Franciscan scholarship, especially to the current medieval specialist, one gains a different perspective.  André Vauchez, a French medievalist noted for his recent and thorough book on Francis, thinks that “some commentators are doubtful today [re: martyrdom], fearing to attribute to their hero a suicidal attitude or irresponsible behavior.”  Vauchez goes on to write, that “Contrary to what is sometimes affirmed, the search for martyrdom was not in contradiction with his desire to follow Christ, who died on the cross to open to humanity the way to salvation.  To face tribulations and dangers, including the loss of life, in order to spread the Christian faith was, from the beginning, a constitutive element of Franciscan sensibility.” Continue reading

Jairus’ Daughter

Mark-5-two-miraclesIn today’s post we continue to reflect upon this coming Sunday’s gospel with a return event which opened the readings: Jairus and his daughter. “While he was still speaking, people from the synagogue official’s house arrived and said, “Your daughter has died; why trouble the teacher any longer?” Disregarding the message that was reported, Jesus said to the synagogue official, “Do not be afraid; just have faith.” (Mark 5:35-36) The interruption of attending to the hemorrhaging women creates a time delay in the narrative, during which the young girl dies. The community responds with, messengers to report to the father, and mourners to gather at the house (vv. 35, 38). The messengers present an obstacle to the healing by advising the father to leave Jesus alone, since the girl has died. Jesus takes the initiative by telling Jairus to have faith (v. 36). The reference to faith picks up the conclusion to the healing of the woman. Continue reading

Daughter

Mark-5-two-miraclesThere is one simple verse in this coming Sunday’s gospel that deserves some reflection. “Daughter, your faith has saved you.” (Mark 5:34). At their core, the concerns and dynamics surrounding ritual uncleanliness, especially leprosy, bodily discharge, or touching corpses, were about relationships. They put one outside of the community. When Jesus calls the woman who touched him “daughter,” he establishes a relationship with one with whom he should not have a relationship. Her illness made her unclean. Her attempts to be healed by doctors made her impoverished. Her brazen invasion of Jesus’ space, touching Jesus’ clothes, “technically” made Jesus’ unclean and could have resulted in him condemning her. Yet by calling her “daughter,” he established the same kind of relationship with her as Jairus has with his “daughter.” He would do anything possible to save his daughter. Continue reading

The Fruit We Bear

deeplyrooted…every good tree bears good fruit, and a rotten tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a rotten tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.” Jesus was speaking about false prophets, a warning to his disciples. Not bad advice in general.

Perhaps not a bad criteria to judge those who would minister in the name of the Church – from volunteer to Bishop. The problem these days is that I wonder whether we would agree of what constitutes “good fruit” from a ministry or minister. There are places in which good fruit is measured by the liturgical celebrations of solemnities, feasts, and memorials; other places via outreach ministries. I was once told I was a poor minister and pastor because I dishonored the Blessed Virgin Mary. The instance was just having celebrated a Mass and did not center the homily on Mary. It was the Feast of the Ascension. Continue reading