About Friar Musings

Franciscan friar and Catholic priest at St. Francis of Assisi in Triangle, VA

Words thrown like bombs

One of my friends, a mentor of pastoral ministry, was a fully progressive liberal. She married a wonderful man who was as conservative as she was liberal. They reminded me of the famous political couple Mary Matalin and James Carville. My friend and her husband were both widowed, so it was a later-in-life marriage. I think that is worth noting as they entered their loving marriage with their views well cemented into the fabric of the way they thought and responded. Continue reading

The promised Paraclete

This coming Sunday is the 6th Sunday of Easter in lectionary Year C.  In yesterday’s post we considered the first of two promises: Jesus (and the Father) come through the Word. Today, let’s consider the second response to the question posed in v.21: through the Paraclete

Perhaps it best not to translate the Greek word paraclete because there are too many possibilities. While the literal meaning of the related verb (parakaleo) means “to call to one’s side,” usually asking the other for help, the noun took on a legal meaning as “helper in court”. Thus we have translations like “counselor,” “advocate,” or “one who speaks for another” as well as the too general translation of “helper”. Continue reading

Holding dear

This coming Sunday is the 6th Sunday of Easter in lectionary Year C.  In yesterday’s post(s), we considered the context for our gospel reading (John 14:23-29) Verse 23 begins with, “Jesus answered and said to him.” Jesus is answering the question raised in v. 22 by Judas (not Iscariot): “Lord, how is it that you will reveal (emphanizo) yourself to us, and not to the world?” This question comes because Jesus has just said that he would love and reveal himself to those who have and keep his commandments — those who love him (v. 21: Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me. And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him.”). Continue reading

Word and Spirit: context

This coming Sunday is the 6th Sunday of Easter in lectionary Year C.  On the 2nd and 3rd Sundays after Easter, the gospel was taken from the end of the Gospel of John – all post-Resurrection scenes. And then we jumped back to John 10 for Good Shepherd Sunday (4th Sunday after Easter), a scene that occurs well before Jesus’ final week in Jerusalem. Last week and this Sunday coming, we are in the middle of Jesus’ farewell discourse from John 13-17, a scene immediately following the Last Supper. We have but a few verses which are an integral part of a much larger passage. Accordingly, the Discourse can be outlined in a number of ways, though three main parts are fairly clear: Continue reading

A Sunday afternoon with the newspaper

I remember a time when “reading the newspaper” meant ensconced in your favorite chair or at the kitchen table with the newsprint at the ready. The silent exploration occasionally interrupted with: “Are you done with that section yet?” These days I assume the edition is digital. Now one can be ensconced with their favorite device without worry of any inquiries about the availability of a particular section. Continue reading

Last words, a dying wish

If you knew this was your last week, your last day on earth, what would you tell the people you love? Would it be advice? Your hopes for them? Would it be the dreams you have? Perhaps, the gratitude and love in your heart?  What would be your last words to the ones you love? Beyond the fact we’d really not like to think about it, even if we were ready to do so, this is something difficult, daunting, and delicate.

In many of the weekday gospels of Eastertide as well as this Sunday’s gospel we are hearing Jesus’ answer to the question. Judas is on his way to betray Jesus, the countdown to the crucifixion is running, and Jesus is facing his disciples with news that will devastate them. It is not a time for parables or sermons – he goes straight to the point – just one commandment: “love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.”

It wasn’t “read your Bible”, “believe all the right things”, “go to Church every Sunday”, “pray three times a day” – and don’t get me wrong these are all good and holy things – and I hope you do them. But this Christian life, distilled down and held up as Jesus’ last words to the gathered disciples, is simply “love one another.” This new command is simple enough for a toddler to memorize and appreciate, and yet it is profound enough that the most mature believers are repeatedly embarrassed at how poorly they comprehend it and put it into practice. (D.A. Carson) Why is that? As G.K. Chesterton once wrote that “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting.  It has been found difficult and left untried.”

And it should be noted that this is a command, not a suggestion, a matter of choice, a proposal, or a suggestion – a commandment. But how we love matters. Think about your own childhood. My mom absolutely commanded me to behave as if I loved my sisters and my friends: “Share your toys.” “Say sorry.”  “Don’t hit.”  “Only say nice things.”   I was an obedient lad. I did those things with a clenched jaw and rolling eyes. I am pretty sure that is not how Jesus loved. Behaving as though we love is easy enough (rolling eyes aside), but that “all in-deeply-engaged-generosity-from-the-heart” love – that is an altogether different matter.

And yet the dying wish of our Savior was to love one another. Our God is the one who calls us, first and foremost, to ensure every one of his children feels loved.  Not ashamed. Not punished.  Not chastised.  Not judged. Not isolated.  But loved. “This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” And if we fail to do these things? Then the world won’t know what they need to know about God through the life, death and resurrection of Christ because we will not have put it on display for all the world to see. And we the people of God, the Church, will be seen as flawed and hypocritical – not as a place of holiness, healing, hospitality, and hope.

As I have loved you – at least we have a road map, a set of instructions. Do what Jesus did: “Weep with those who weep.  Laugh with those who laugh.  Touch the untouchables.  Feed the hungry.  Welcome the child.   Release the captive.  Forgive the sinner.  Confront the oppressor.  Comfort the oppressed.  Wash each other’s feet.  Hold each other close.  Tell each other the truth.  Guide each other home.” (D. Thomas, Journey with Jesus)

The French theologian Maurice Blondel offered some sage advice when he counseled believers to just do it, because the love operative in our hands reaching out in the love of Christ to others, has a way, in time, to work its way back from our hands, up our arms, into our hearts, and let us experience “As I have loved you.” Then we truly move towards the place where we love one another.  And then “all will know that you are my disciples.”  And when we enact these final words of  Jesus, the Kingdom of God is revealed.

Going Viral in 1520

The development of the printing press, furthermore, aided Luther’s success. For all the reasons described in previous posts, the time was ripe for change. There was no other European nation that was more ready – it just needed a tipping point. Many point to the printing press as the tipping point, but the real tipping point was that Luther quickly moved to publishing in the German language. His ideas were no longer limited to the intellectual elites and Church scholars. He bypassed that “battlefield” and attacked in a language all  the people – high and low-born alike could understand – German. Continue reading

The Focus of the Commandment

This coming Sunday is the 5th Sunday of Easter in Year C of the Lectionary Cycle. In yesterday’s post we explored a possible understanding of Jesus’ command to love each other. Today continue to read O’Day  reflection (734):

To interpret Jesus’ death as the ultimate act of love enables the believers to see that the love to which Jesus summons the community is not the giving up of one’s life, but the giving away of one’s life. The distinction between these prepositions is important, because the love that Jesus embodies is grace, not sacrifice. Jesus gave his life to his disciples as an expression of the fullness of his relationship with God and of God’s love for the world. Jesus’ death in love, therefore, was not an act of self-denial, but an act of fullness, of living out his life and identity fully, even when that living would ultimately lead to death. …

Continue reading