Sin no more

This coming Sunday is the 5th Sunday in Lent, Year C. In yesterday’s post all the accusers and the crowd of people had left the scene. This prepares for the fourth and final stage of this story–Jesus’ response to the woman (vv. 10-11). He straightens up and asks for a report of what happened, as if he had been totally oblivious to what took place as he concentrated on his writing. He does not ask her about the charges but rather about that aspect of the situation most heartening to the woman: Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you? (v. 10). Continue reading

Jesus’ Response

This coming Sunday is the 5th Sunday in Lent, Year C. In yesterday’s post we left the scene with the scribes and Pharisee awaiting Jesus’ answer: “So what do you say?” When he heard what the teachers of the law said, Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. This action has been variously interpreted. Some say Jesus was embarrassed to be confronted by a promiscuous woman (unlikely); others, that it was a ploy to gain time to think how best to answer. Some suggest that he was writing the sins of the accusers, a tradition that goes back to St Jerome and which later appeared in 10th century Armenian gospel manuscript. Continue reading

Put to the test

This coming Sunday is the 5th Sunday in Lent, Year C. The gospel for the day is the well-known “woman caught in adultery.” In John 7 the Feast of Tabernacles is underway. Jesus has been publically teaching in the Temple precincts, arousing the interest of the people and the concern of the Jewish religious leadership.  The leadership meeting presumably took place on the last (and seventh) day of the feast. They are discussing what to do with Jesus – and murder seems to be on their minds (7:1).  Early the next day, Jesus is coming early to the temple to teach on the morning of the added eighth day of the feast, which was a day of rest (Lev 23:39). Continue reading

Background and Context

This coming Sunday is the 5th Sunday in Lent, Year C. The gospel for the day is the well-known “woman caught in adultery.” Interestingly, it does not seem as “well known” in ancient times. It does not appear in the earliest manuscripts of John’s gospel yet it appears in well attested manuscripts. Is it not original to John? Is it a later addition? St. Augustine held that it was authentic but scribes, thinking Jesus was too lenient on the adulterous woman, simply did not copy it into their manuscript. The technical specialists will debate the topic – probably until the second coming, but even the hardest critics admit that the sense of the story is Johannine is its “feel.” Continue reading

Empathy and karmic balance

“A man had two sons …” (Luke 15:11) – such is the beginning of the beloved and well-known Parable of the Prodigal Son. But you know Scripture doesn’t come with titles for such things. That’s just what the parable has always been called. But we could call it something else. The Parable of the Waiting Father? Or perhaps the Parable of the Petulant Older Brother? I guess it all depends on what draws your interest and attention. What about you? Where are your thoughts drawn: to the younger son’s selfish greed, the older son’s arrogant fury, or perhaps the patient father’s extravagant love? Continue reading

Being prodigal?

I have had a life-long interest in etymology, the study of the origin of words and phrases. I subscribe to the Merriam-Webster “Word of the Day”, not for the definition, but for the etymology of the word. I think it was in my first year of theology, the word “prodigal” came up. I thought to myself, “I know that one, it means having lived a less than worthy life, a sinful life.” – probably based on the older brother’s assessment of his wayward, wandering younger sibling.  Who knows? Perhaps the older brother was correct, but the word prodigal means “a profuse or wasteful expenditure.” Continue reading

Reform in Germany: a context

The Question: Why will Luther succeed in Germany when Wycliffe failed in England, Hus failed in Bohemia, and Savonarola failed in Florence.” In other words, what were some of the critical factors that lead to the success of the reform in Germany when it had failed in other places?

German Princes and German Identity. The German princes were beginning to assert their political independence from Rome and the Holy Roman Emperor. Germany’s emerging political identity was fueled by its growing wealth in commerce and industry and the rise of its business class, the burghers, who were beginning to pursue their own interests. This new spirit of nationalism was to influence German society and its relationship to the Roman Church. Secular interests were taking precedence over religious matters. Germany’s newfound confidence and independence were to challenge papal and imperial authority and set forces in motion that were to affect European society during the Protestant Reformation. Continue reading

Rather odd

TheAnnunciationAt first blush it does seem odd that the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord falls in the midst of Lent. It is an event in the life of Christ that we associate with Advent. That scene in which the Angel Gabriele comes to Mary to announce she will be the mother of Emmanuel, “God with us.”

My friend, Fr. Bill McConville OFM, notes that part of the church’s art tradition is that the scene of the Annunciation often portrays Mary, not empty-handed, but holding a book or a scroll, her reading and reflecting on Scripture being interrupted by the angel’s pronouncement. The tradition is that she is meditating on Isaiah 7 (today’s first reading) in which there is the promise that a virgin will bear a child. Continue reading

Some thoughts

This coming Sunday is the 4th Sunday in Lent, Year C: the Prodigal Son. The parable offers that the father has extended unconditional forgiveness to both sons prior to their repentance. What then does this say about the fuller meaning of repentance?

The parable of the Lost Sheep ends with: “I tell you, in just the same way there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance.”  The parable of the Lost Coin ends with: “In just the same way, I tell you, there will be rejoicing among the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” Taken at face value, the idea of a sheep repenting is only slightly less absurd than the idea of a coin repenting. Continue reading

The other Son

This coming Sunday is the 4th Sunday in Lent, Year C: the Prodigal Son. The story would be complete as it stands with the return of the prodigal son and the father’s open-armed acceptance. But another story interlocks with this: the story of the elder son who has not appeared in the story. The father has responded to the prodigal son’s return with compassion. How will the elder brother respond?

Then the celebration began. Now the older son had been out in the field and, on his way back, as he neared the house, he heard the sound of music and dancing. He called one of the servants and asked what this might mean. (vv. 24-26)

In anger, the elder son refuses to join in the celebration, thus physically distancing himself from his family and his own role as elder son in a celebration of this kind. “At such a banquet the older son has a special semi-official responsibility. He is expected to move among the guests, offering compliments, making sure everyone has enough to eat, ordering the servants around and, in general, becoming a sort of major-domo of the feast. [Baily, 294] Continue reading