In the Silence

A scribe approaches Jesus and asks, “Which is the first of all the commandments?” All the centuries later, all Christian people know the answer. We know it well. The first commandment is to love – to love God with our entire being, all that we are, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. The scribe agrees, essentially repeats Jesus’ answer and then adds a great insight. One that barely registers in our memory, if at all. The commandment to love is “worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” It is worth more than all we might hold dear about the practice of our religion. It is worth more than the language used, the elaborate churches we build, the outward piety we show, and the traditions of faith we repeat – sometimes without registering a lasting memory at all. Continue reading


You may have heard that Facebook has changed its corporate name to “Meta” as in metaverse, the moniker of the moment. An online article appeared noting #FacebookDead is trending out of Israel. It seems “meta” is the Hebrew word for dead. Someone did not do their branding homework.  ….. It was a grave error.  Moving on…

Chaos and covid

The last 19-20 months of pandemic have taken a toll on everyone in one way or the other. We all have stories, anecdotes, experiences, and have participated in “have you heard” conversations. The beginnings of the pandemic were just devoid of information. It was chaos in the normal and the mathematical sense. It is the mathematical sense that always interests me. People confuse chaos with randomness. Actually mathematical chaos is quite predictable – if you understand the initial conditions. Of course, there’s the rub. When I think about the early days of the pandemic we have the initial conditions of (a) a population used to ferreting out information from the internet with relative ease and (b) a situation when there wasn’t information. Into the void…nature hates a vacuum… let loose the dogs of war… take your pick. The milieu was ripe for the lowest denominator of accuracy to provide fuel for conversations from water cooler to talk radio, Facebook to “in the know” sites, and all the existing and emerging channels of information and disinformation. Continue reading

Francis and the Leper: early companions

The encounter of St. Francis of Assisi and a leper is an oft-cited account in the life of the saint. As we mentioned several weeks ago there are five sources in which one can read the account. English versions of the sources are available online. The sources are

  • The Life of St. Francis of Assisi by Thomas of Celano (1C – written 1228-1229),
  • The Life of St. Francis of Assisi by Julian of Speyer (LJS – written 1232-1235; dependent on 1C),
  • The Legend of the Three Companions (LC3 – a compilation of oral stories from three early companions of Francis started in 1244; thought to be original materials plus dependency on 1C and another text, The Anonymous of Perugia)
  • The Remembrance of the Desire of a Soul (2C written by Thomas of Celano 1245-1247)
  • The Major Legend by St. Bonaventure (LM – written 1260-1263)

In last week’s edition we looked, in some detail, at the “first life” by Thomas of Celano. This week, we can try to summarize the other accounts in a more concise manner. Continue reading

Stacked in your favor

In today’s first reading, St. Paul is in the midst of his monumental work, The Letter to the Romans. Whole commentaries – really thick ones – are better suited to explain the whole logic and trajectory of Paul’s thought, but here is an attempt to give you some context. Up through Chapter 6 Paul is making the case that all the human problems caused by Adam/Eve and the human family are addressed and answered in Jesus – his life, atoning death, and Resurrection. In Romans 7, Paul asks, “then what was the point of the Law/commandments?” Continue reading

It’s personal

This coming Sunday is the 31st Sunday in Year B. Our gospel is taken from the Gospel of Mark in which Jesus is asked which of the commandments is the first and greatest. When Jesus answers the scribe, He uses the second person singular form of the verbs: “You shall love..” Jesus is telling this individual what he should do. In this way it is not a dissimilar encounter with the earlier episode of the rich young man who asks what he must do to inherit the Kingdom (Mark 10:17-22). Although the man goes away sad, he clearly understood that this was an answer to what he, personally, must do. Continue reading

Strangers and Sojourners

Have you ever been in a place where you feel as though you are out of place? Not unwelcomed in a broad sense, but a bit of an intruder. The realization can come upon you unexpectedly and you enter into a liminal space where time freezes and you quickly process what is unfolding. You are entering a party at the home of a friend and you sense these folks are not your familiars. You feel under-dressed – too casual in a room full of fashionistas. A beer-will-be-just-fine person in a room of upscale wine aficionados whose vocabulary is foreign. Surrounded by discussions of foreign films among people for whom “the MCU” has no meaning. But it was your good friend who invited you and has warmly welcomed you. Continue reading

A question of neighbor

This coming Sunday is the 31st Sunday in Year B. Our gospel is taken from the Gospel of Mark in which Jesus is asked which of the commandments is the first and greatest. Having answered the inquiry with respect to the commandment to love God as the first commandment, Jesus adds: “The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”  (Lev 19:18)  Many people think that this was a response unique to Jesus, but as noted in yesterday’s post, when challenged by a Gentile, Hillel the Elder (ca. 40 B.C.-A.D. 10) replied: “What you yourself hate, do not do to your neighbor: this is the whole Law, the rest is commentary. Go and learn it.” This was Hillel’s summary of the whole Law which, for the observant Jew, is rooted in the love of God (Deuteronomy 6:4-5, the Shemaʿ ). The sense of there being the two great commandments was already present in Jewish thought. Continue reading

Praying as we ought

“…the Spirit too comes to the aid of our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit itself intercedes with inexpressible groanings. And the one who searches hearts knows what is the intention of the Spirit, because it intercedes for the holy ones according to God’s will” (Roman 8:26-27)

And how are we to pray? One response is that as Jesus taught us: the Our Father. St. Paul knew that, so I suspect he had more in mind – after all the Holy Spirit had been given to the Church. St. Paul reminds us that, just as Jesus promised, we are not alone. We have a divine prayer partner. Let me suggest at least six ways the Holy Spirit intercedes for us. Continue reading

All in

This coming Sunday is the 31st Sunday in Year B. Our gospel is taken from the Gospel of Mark in which Jesus is asked which of the commandments is the first and greatest. Jesus has responded: 29 …“The first is this: ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone! 30 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these. Continue reading