But how can they?

Today is the Feast of St. Andrew the Apostle. St. Andrew is the patron saint of several countries, notably Scotland and Russia – as well as patron of many other activities, including the Russian Navy. The brother of Simon Peter, he was called as an apostle and sent on mission after the Resurrection of Jesus. There are many reports and claims of his missionary endeavors that range from Kiev to Scotland and the reports of conversions are notable. And so the first reading is well chosen.

But how can they call on him in whom they have not believed?
And how can they believe in him of whom they have not heard?
And how can they hear without someone to preach?
And how can people preach unless they are sent?
As it is written,
How beautiful are the feet of those who bring the good news! (Romans 10:14-15)

Being born and raised in the south, there were lots of people with beautiful feet. It didn’t matter if you were at the Piggly-Wiggly, the five-and-dime, or the gas station. There was someone there ready to give witness because they were sent so that others could be called, hear, and believe. It’s the way it was.

In the Franciscan tradition, people are quite ready to quote St. Francis: preach the gospel at all times; use words if necessary. The problem is that Francis never said that. The attribution to Francis is bogus. Francis believed in proclaiming the Word. That’s why very early in the Order’s history he sent missionaries into the Baltic, among the Germanic people, as far afield as lands north of the Black Sea. Within a generation of Franics, the friars were in China. They were sent to give witness – certainly by their lives – but Francis is clear they are to preach “when the Spirit commands.” (Rule of 1221)

Recently I read a post from a priest who, as a seminarian, wrote to his later self to remind him about prayer. There were 15-20 admonitions, each one starting with (e.g.) “There is a person in despair, who is one prayer away from Hope.”

Out there in your life, there is a person who is one witness, one chat, one invitation away from being called, hearing and believing. It’s up to you. Preach the gospel at all times. Use words.

St. Andrew pray for us.

The Calling of Saints Peter and Andrew by Caravaggio (1603–1606)

The Parade of Nations

In our modern times there is perhaps no “parade of nations” more famous than the ceremony that begins the modern Olympic Games. All the nations of the world, national flags at the fore, people dressed for the occasion, with a destination in mind. A reminder of what the Prophet Isaiah foretold in this morning’s first reading.

In days to come, The mountain of the LORD’s house shall be established as the highest mountain and raised above the hills. All nations shall stream toward it; many peoples shall come and say: “Come, let us climb the LORD’s mountain, to the house of the God of Jacob, That he may instruct us in his ways, and we may walk in his paths.” For from Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.

In the gospel we again receive a foretaste of Isaiah’s prophecy fulfilled as the Centurion comes to Jesus. He came because he had heard of Jesus because “from Zion” went forth instructions.

As the psalm refrain says, “Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord” but when we arrive, we can be spectators only, or we can chose to “go forth from Zion” and speak of our Hope in Jesus to a modern Centurion that he or she may join the parade of nations.

Photo by Franck Robichon

The Cast of Characters

This coming Sunday is the Second Sunday of Advent in lectionary cycle C, the year when the Gospel of Luke is the primary source of our gospels for the coming 12 months. The gospel is taken from a section in which Jesus is preparing for public ministry. Luke these six verses of the Sunday gospel, Luke places the story of Jesus in continuity with the biblical history of God’s dealings with humanity found in the Old Testament. As well, he places the story in the context of human history and begins with the familiar “In the fifthteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar.”  Verses 1 and 2 need a “playbill” so you  might familiarize yourself with the “actors.” Continue reading

Tribulations, Miracles and Promises

Oh my gosh… Advent is here. It seems like just yesterday it was summer and then “boom” it’s Thanksgiving. I hope y’all had a nice “turkey day” with family and friends. I hope you had a chance to bask in the warm glow of those days and enjoy the love that bonds you together with all those folks important to you. And that you brought that sense of family and that warm glow here to church on Sunday morning. Continue reading

First Advent – a final admonition

This coming Sunday is the start of a new liturgical year (Year C) and the first Sunday in Advent. In the posts this week we have looked  at the gospel in context and in detail. The reading ends with a final admonishment

34 “Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life, and that day catch you by surprise 35 like a trap. For that day will assault everyone who lives on the face of the earth. 36 Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man.”

Continue reading

Giving Thanks

I am grateful for a day in which we, as a people, pause to give thanks. And who do we have to thank for this holiday? Your answer is likely “The Pilgrims.” You would not be wrong, but then not completely correct, either. Certainly, Thanksgiving and the religious response of giving thanks to God is as old as time. When one considers enduring cultures, one always finds men and women working out their relationship to God. There is almost always a fourfold purpose to our acts of worship: adoration, petition, atonement, thanksgiving. Such worship is part and parcel of life. And yet, there is still a very human need to specially celebrate and offer thanksgiving on key occasions and anniversaries. Since medieval times, we have very detailed records of celebrations marking the end of an epidemic, liberation from sure and certain doom, the signing of a peace treaty, and more. Continue reading

First Advent: redemption

This coming Sunday is the start of a new liturgical year (Year C) and the first Sunday in Advent. In the previous post we were considering the Lukan usage of the word “sign” – 25 “There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on earth nations will be in dismay, perplexed by the roaring of the sea and the waves.

Luke’s use of signs only echoes the prophet Isaiah (13:9-10), Ezekiel (32:7-8), and Joel (2:30-31). Thus, these heavenly signs do not just point forward to the coming, but also backwards as fulfillment of the prophets’ word. Promise and fulfillment is one of the major themes throughout Luke. Just as Luke began with shepherds seeing the sign of a baby in a manger in fulfillment of the angels’ message, so this future coming is certain to occur in fulfillment of the prophets’ messages.

At that fulfillment Luke writes that people will be (a) in dismay, perplexed or (b) die of fright (could also be translated “faint”). These words are unique to Luke. But what is more significant is that there are two groups of listeners: “the people/they” in vv.26,27 and “you” in v.28.  The responses to what happens are quite different. The people faint (or die) from fear and foreboding, but you (the disciples implied) are to “stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand.” (v. 28) For “you” the terrible signs symbolize the redemption that has come near. What does it symbolize for the “people”?

“Redemption” — this word (apolytrosis) occurs only here in all of the gospels. Although it occurs 7 times in Paul’s letters and twice in Hebrews. A form of this word (lytroomai) occurs in Luke 24:21a: “But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.” Another related word (lytrosis) is found occurs twice in Luke: “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has looked favorably on his people and redeemed them” (1:68). “At that moment she came and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem” (2:38). Continue reading

The Memorial of Andrew-Dung-Lac and Companions

Beware of men, for they will hand you over to courts and scourge you in their synagogues, and you will be led before governors and kings for my sake as a witness before them and the pagans” (Mt 10:17-18)

Today’s readings celebrate the martyrdom of Fr. Andrew-Dung-Lac and Companions. The title of the memorial is a bit misleading – its title follows the tradition of the General Roman Calendar. But in other places and times the name of the celebration is known as a feast dedicated to the Vietnamese Martyrs, the Martyrs of Annam, the Martyrs of Tonkin and Cochinchina, or the Martyrs of Indochina. Continue reading

Thanksgiving Pie

We all have elements of Thanksgiving that are required, mandatory, and just plain ol’ absolutely-has-to-be-there for Thanksgiving to be truly Thanksgiving. Those elements are familial, nostalgic, and our connection to our sense of self and history. As children grow up and marry, having families of their own, the traditions merge and blend, but there is always a connection to one’s childhood present on the table. There are many constants: turkey, ham, mashed sweet potatoes (with or without marshmallow topping), stuffing and the list goes on. And then there are the traditions of dessert. Continue reading