About Friar Musings

Franciscan friar and Catholic priest at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in downtown Tampa, FL.

Royals Priests

Adam is created as God’s first-born son. He’s also conceived as a priest. In previous posts, we saw how the world was fashioned as a Temple and the Garden of Eden was depicted as the sanctuary of the Temple – the holy place where God dwells. If you have a temple, you need a priest to guard it and keep it and to offer sacrifices. And that’s the task that God gives to Adam. It’s a “priestly” task. But you need to know a little Hebrew to understand it.

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Emmaus & Jerusalem

This coming Sunday is the 3rd Sunday in Easter, Year B.  You can read an complete commentary on the reading here:

35 Then the two recounted what had taken place on the way and how he was made known to them in the breaking of the bread. 36 While they were still speaking about this, he stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 37 But they were startled and terrified and thought that they were seeing a ghost. 38 Then he said to them, “Why are you troubled? And why do questions arise in your hearts? 39 Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have.” 40 And as he said this, he showed them his hands and his feet.

41 While they were still incredulous for joy and were amazed, he asked them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of baked fish; 43 he took it and ate it in front of them. 44 He said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the law of Moses and in the prophets and psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures. 46 And he said to them, “Thus it is written that the Messiah would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day 47 and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And (behold) I am sending the promise of my Father upon you; but stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” Continue reading

Too strange to not be true

Fair warning, this is not my usual fare for posting. As it happens I am in my office waiting for a parishioner when I came across this article. Here is the setup.  Do you remember the chewing gum chiclets (it has its own Wiki page)? The brand was introduced in 1900 by the American Chicle Company, a company founded by Thomas Adams. Do you remember the Alamo? The Mexican general at the Alamo was General Antonio López de Santa Anna – or as he in know, General Santa Anna, later in his life he was a next door neighbor to Adams on Staten Island. Chicle was a native product in Santa Anna’s home territory. He thought it would be a great alternative to rubber. That did not work out, but chewing gum did. You can read the “too strange not to be true” story here.

The Center that Holds

doubting-Thomas-DuccioIt is a familiar gospel, a well-known story. It is an episode of “Doubting Thomas.” The one held up for us as an example of what not to be – the one who doubted Jesus. “Don’t be a Doubting Thomas!” we are warned because that leaves you one step away from being Judas.

What other gospel stories do you know about Thomas? Sadly, most people only know this one episode. This is the same Thomas who otherwise is depicted in the Gospel according to John as authentic, straight-forward, sincere, and even courageous. In the 11th chapter of John, Thomas is the one who urged all the disciples to go with Jesus to the home of the now-deceased Lazarus even thought it might mean their deaths (Jn. 11:16). And in chapter 14, when Thomas doesn’t understand Jesus’ metaphorical speech about the place he is going to, Thomas does not do the holy nod – you know, “Jesus said it, I don’t get it, I am not even curious, so I will just nod.” Thomas asks the practical: “Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?” Even when he doesn’t get it or knows the consequences, Thomas is faithful to Jesus and the mission. And then Thomas’ world crumbles: Jesus dies on the cross.

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Lord of All

christ-dancing-christianLife can be breathless. Sometimes we need to take a breath and see how far we have come; to ponder our successes, our failings, all the hurdles we jumped, disasters we dodged, and things that we accomplished. As strange as it might seem, the Easter Season can be a time to think about Lent. At the beginning of Lent the classic refrain  is “What are you giving up?” One parishioner who loves chocolate gave it up entirely for Lent. I asked, “Did that bring you closer to God?” The response was, “Not really. I just end up being cranky and miserable for all of Lent.” I am pretty sure that was not the hoped-for result. Within the tradition of prayer, alms giving, and fasting, there needs to be a path that makes room in your life for our God who is ever close to us. Continue reading

The stories spread

francis-in-stained-glassOver the last several weeks we have been considering what awaited the men who came to join Francis of Assisi and this growing fraternity of believers seeking to follow Christ more fully in the world. We had mentioned there were no rules, regulations, or even a formation program; there was only Francis and the other brothers. But what drew the men to want to “come and see?” Undoubtedly, as today, a complex of reasons, but key among those reasons was Francis of Assisi’s reputation for holiness and miracles.

Francis’ reputation for holiness began at home among the brothers, not necessarily in the public square. The more “public” Francis was still a few years down the road when the reluctant saint began to be called more often to speak and appear and to increasingly gain public exposure. In the beginning, it was his brothers who experienced the holiness of Francis. First and foremost, Francis was a compassionate brother – especially for those who were tempted, spiritually troubled, or depressed. The medieval age was a time when these things were attributed to diabolical powers. Francis had a special gift for consoling those who suffered from such illnesses. Perhaps it stemmed, not only from the grace of God, but also arising out of Francis’ own experience of these same aliments.

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Fantastic fishing

Even after a fruitless night of fishing, tired and ready to “call it a night”, the disciples dutifully cast the nets again. On their own they had caught nothing, but in response to Jesus’ command, there is a fantastic catch of fish (cf. 4:50, 53; 5:8; 11:43). The mention of precisely 153 fish (v. 11) has led to symbolic interpretations of all kinds. And indeed, there must be symbolism involved (unless one assumes that the disciples took time out to make a count).

Saint Jerome believed that the zoology of his time taught that there were 153 different kinds of fish; and the number, as a result, reflected universality. Jerome was probably incorrect about the zoologists of his own day, but his idea about universal symbolism was probably correct. Augustine of Hippo argued that the significance lay in the fact that 153 is the sum of the first 17 integers with 17 representing the combination of divine grace (the 7 gifts of the Spirit) and law (the Ten Commandments). Augustine goes farther and notes that “153” is the “triangular number.” He arrives at this conclusion noting that 153=1!+2!+3!+4!+5! (math refresher: factorials). When the factorials are arranged (see diagram), one sees an image of the Trinity.  (Sorry: I was an undergraduate math major , and just had to include this…!)

Over time there have been a host of theories, but the scholar D. A. Carson discusses this and other interpretations and concludes “If the Evangelist has some symbolism in mind connected with the number 153, he has hidden it well.” Perhaps we can let Carson have the last word.

Futile fishing

FISHERS-OF-MEN1 After this, Jesus revealed himself again to his disciples at the Sea of Tiberias. He revealed himself in this way. 2 Together were Simon Peter, Thomas called Didymus, Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, Zebedee’s sons, and two others of his disciples. 3 Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We also will come with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. [from today’s gospel]

Many quickly pass over the beginning of this passage to move to the miraculous catch signaling the presence of Jesus on the shoreline. But to do so would be to miss the “apostolic roll call.”

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Push and Pull

immigration-people“The Catholic Church in the United States is an immigrant Church with a long history of embracing diverse newcomers and providing assistance and pastoral care to immigrants, migrants, refugees, and people on the move.  Our Church has responded to Christ’s call for us to “welcome the stranger among us,” for in this encounter with the immigrant, the migrant, and the refugee in our midst, we encounter Christ” so writes the US Catholic Conference of Bishops. As well, in these days one walks into a political maelstrom that echoes the deep political divide. One only need read the news to read about the events unfolding at our southern border – and depending on the source you use you will get a certain slant on the events as “crisis”, “humanitarian disaster”, with blame assigned to past or current administrations. Continue reading

Growing in faith

he_qi_road_to_emmausIn the Lucan recounting of the events of the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus, our story occurs on the evening of Easter Sunday. The women have found the tomb empty, there have been encounters with the Resurrected Jesus, and the news is spreading among the small group of faithful. But not all have heard – not the two disciples on the “Road to Emmaus” (24:17) – yesterday’s gospel. The first verse of today’s gospel more traditionally belongs to the story of the disciple encountering Jesus on the road to Emmaus (Lk 24:13-35). Let us pick up the ending of that story: Continue reading