Created in the image of God

At the end of Chapter 4 of Mark, the disciples had run into trouble on the Sea of Galilee: “A violent squall came up and waves were breaking over the boat, so that it was already filling up.” (Mark 4:37). This is another exhibit of the divine powers of Jesus that are in addition to the miracles cures and the casting out of demons. They have heard him preach about conversion and the kingdom of God – and yet still ask, “Who then is this?” (v.41).

In today’s gospel, Chapter 5 marks a change of location as Jesus moves into the Gentile territory east of the Jordan River. If the disciples are still asking themselves about the identity of Jesus, then this move will likely raise questions about the mission. If they are able to answer their own question and see Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah, will they be able to grasp that his mission is to Israel and more? Will the disciples connect the cure of the demon-crazed man in the territory of the Gerasenes, Gentile territory with Jesus’ long-term mission, which includes their participation and will move beyond the borders of Israel to the ends of the earth? Continue reading

Handing it on

This coming Sunday is the 5th Sunday of Ordinary Time in Lectionary Year C. Let’s begin with some context to help us locate this gospel narrative in the larger setting of Luke’s gospel.

For the two previous weeks in the lectionary cycle, Jesus has been in Nazareth engaging the citizens of his own hometown (4:14-30). As Jesus indicated, no prophet is accepted in his own native place (v.24). Leaving Nazareth, Jesus moved on to Capernaum. Again he amazed people while teaching in the synagogue on the Sabbath. While present, there was a man with the spirit of an unclean demon (v.33). Jesus casts the demon from the man, again amazing the people: For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and they come out.”(v.36) Also while in Capernaum, Jesus cured Simon’s mother-in-law (vv.38-39) and all manner of people sick with various diseases (v.40) and case out other demons (v.41). Continue reading

The lap of fools

Our gospel today is the second half of the account of Jesus in his hometown. Last Sunday Jesus read from the scroll of Isaiah promising there would come an anointed one filled with the Spirit who would heal, restore, set free, and declare a year acceptable to the Lord. Jesus proclaimed the Word and then simply told everyone. “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” Talk about your “drop the mic” moment. Continue reading

The Western Schism

In the previous posts we had raised the investiture controversy, one sign of the interplay of civil and ecclesial authority, power, and mission. Even with the investiture controversy “on the back burner” for the moment, the siren’s call of power and influence revealed its presence. By the start of the 14th century, the papacy was firmly ensconced in the mix of European politics. Pope Boniface VIII famously claimed all spiritual and temporal power, i.e., all kings ruled at the good pleasure and grace of the pope. It was an age of expanding national powers and the decline of the Holy Roman Empire. Pope Urban locked horns with Phillip IV of France. Phillip was a major proponent of separation of church and state, immediately taking the initiative to remove all priests from civil positions and to tax them as citizens of the realm.

Boniface excommunicated Phillip who responded by decreeing laws prohibiting the export of gold, silver, precious stones, or food from France to the Papal States. These measures had the effect of blocking a main source of papal revenue. Philip also banished from France the papal agents who were raising funds for a new crusade in the Middle East.

Money ever an ingredient in the stew pot of civil and ecclesial life; ever incendiary at their intersection. Continue reading

The Pursuit of Wisdom

Today is the memorial of St. Thomas Aquinas, a Doctor of the Church, and medieval scholastic philosopher and theologian. His best-known works are the Disputed Questions on Truth, the Summa contra Gentiles, and the unfinished but influential Summa Theologiae. The first reading for the memorial is from the Book of Wisdom. There are commentaries a plenty on the whole of the book and I would not attempt such a effort, but I would note that, (a) besides being a great source of a reading to honor St. Thomas, (b) it has importance for our times.

Continue reading

Jesus Rejected

For several days we looked at the perils of being a “hometown prophet.” In today’s exploration of this coming Sunday gospel, we will see the “blowback” from the people.

 28 When the people in the synagogue heard this, they were all filled with fury. 29 They rose up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town had been built, to hurl him down headlong. 30 But he passed through the midst of them and went away

The people of Nazareth began to act on their rage and drive Jesus out of town. The end of this scene is so condensed that interpreters have often felt the need to fill in conjectural details. The scene in question cannot be located with any certainty. Nor is it necessary to speculate about a miraculous deliverance or the force of Jesus’ personality or presence. The intent of the crowd was hostile, but Luke emphasizes that Jesus was not stopped by them. The emphasis is on the last word, which in the Greek text is a verb that implies a continuous action: “He was going on,” The verb (poreuomai) recurs frequently in Luke as the Gospel narrates the journeys that eventually lead Jesus to Jerusalem and the cross.” [Culpepper, 108]

As they were herding Jesus out of town to kill him, he slipped away. In Luke’s Gospel, he never returned to Nazareth. The next passage, just beyond the ending of our reading for today, tells of Jesus returning to Capernaum and again doing great and wonderful things there, and the reports of him circulated throughout the country (4:37, 43-44). The contrast could not be greater. Those who should have known his mission and participated in it, those who knew him best, could see no further than their own wants and their own interests. They drove him out because he not only had dared to share the good news with others, he had brought them face to face with their own narrowness and closed future.

Over this story falls the shadow of the cross, for this will not be the last time that Jesus would take the good news to others who are not the “hometown folks.” And it will not be the last time by doing so that he would confront those who should know better with their own lack of vision and narrow exclusiveness. He will again be rejected by his own people.

Luke is clearly foreshadowing the crucifixion here. But he also has in mind the larger mission of the church in the world. Jesus came to his own, yet they did not accept him (cf. John 1:11-12). But he came not just to his own, but to the whole world. It was precisely because he came to others that his own people did not accept him. They wanted him to themselves, or not at all.

The proclamation of Jesus’ Good News began in Nazareth’s synagogue. But they did not stop the story by rejecting Jesus there. It moved from there throughout Galilee to Jerusalem. And even though they rejected Jesus in Jerusalem, and even succeeded in killing him there, they did not stop the story. It would be played out in Acts, as the apostles and followers of Jesus also suffered rejection at the hands of those who should know better. But they did not stop the Good News. It simply moved on to Judea, to Samaria, and to the farthest reaches of the Earth (Acts 1:7).  The Good News that Jesus read about and proclaimed that day in Nazareth, the mission that he defined, was carried out in spite of rejection.


  • Culpepper, R. Alan. “The Gospel of Luke.” New Interpreter’s Bible. Ed. Leander E. Keck. Vol. 9. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1994–2004) 102–109

Scripture quotes taken from New American Bible

A light in the darkness

In today’s gospel, Jesus talks about the light of our faith, to not keep it hidden. A lighted candle has its proper place – not under a basket, but in the lamp stand where it can provide light to the room, so too our faith has a place in the world, not hidden away, but on display for all to see.

An interesting element of this parable is the translation.

Jesus said to his disciples, “Is a lamp brought in to be placed under a bushel basket or under a bed, and not to be placed on a lampstand?” (Mark 4:21)

Continue reading

Past as Prologue

Yesterday we looked at details of some verses about the perils of being a “hometown prophet.” In today’s exploration of this coming Sunday gospel, we will continue the “deep dive” of those perils when the prophet’s attention is not focused on just Nazareth, but it is even available to people outside of Israel.

 25 Indeed, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah when the sky was closed for three and a half years and a severe famine spread over the entire land. 26 It was to none of these that Elijah was sent, but only to a widow in Zarephath in the land of Sidon. 27 Again, there were many lepers in Israel during the time of Elisha the prophet; yet not one of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.”

Continue reading

State Fair Cuisine

Given its balmy weather, Florida holds the first of the state fairs on the circuit of vendors who make their living on the circuit. One of the staples of state fairs is the strange food offerings. Being first up, the FLorida State fair becomes the “test kitchen” for food offerings at the event. Sharon Kennedy Wynne of The Tampa Bay Times published  the lineup of this year’s offerings. Warning: if you are a nutritionist or an advocate for healthy eating, you might want to stop reading lest some internal circuit overloads. Read at your own risk. Continue reading