One of the events of Francis’ life that has received scant public attention was his meeting with the sultan of Egypt, Al-Malik al-Kamil in 1219 during the so-called “Fifth Crusade.” This meeting has loomed large in the imagination of the “Franciscan world” because of its effect on the Rule of Life and in the Franciscan charism of missions, but has only recently gained public attention because of the new era of tensions with the Islamic world. People are surprised to learn that Francis was part of a crusade – a claim that scholars argue to no end as they argue so many other aspects of Francis’ life. Each side has generally already taken a view of the little poor man from Assisi: Francis the loyal churchman or Francis the radical reformer. Those views are often revelatory of how the scholar views the Crusades. And as with all things, history has a context.
The Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus is a celebration that falls 19 days after Pentecost, on a Friday. The liturgical feast was first celebrated in Rennes, France. The liturgy was approved by the local bishop at the behest of St. John Eudes, who celebrated the Mass at the major seminary in Rennes on August 31, 1670. You’ll notice that the first celebration was not situated in the days following Pentecost. St. John Eudes composed a Mass and a set of prayers for outside the Mass (referred to as an “Office”) that were quickly adopted in other places in France. Continue reading
This coming Sunday’s gospel ends: With many such parables he spoke the word to them as they were able to understand it. Without parables he did not speak to them, but to his own disciples he explained everything in private. (Mark 4:32-34) Mark concludes this collection of parables with a summary indicating that he has selected illustrations of Jesus’ teaching from a much larger cycle of tradition. It was Jesus’ method to teach the people through parables such as the one which Mark has presented. Through these parables Jesus is proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom; in other words, He was proclaiming “the word.” The term is an echo of the explanation given to the parable of the sower, where it occurs eight times. It is appropriate to the vocabulary of revelation and means clearly “the word of God,” or more concretely “the word of the Kingdom.”
This coming Sunday’s gospel is the parable of the mustard seed. Of the three parables of seed which is sown this last is most elaborately introduced in explicit parabolic formulation: the Kingdom of God is like what happens to a grain of mustard. The mustard seed was proverbial in Jewish thinking as the smallest of all seeds. He said, “To what shall we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable can we use for it? It is like a mustard seed that, when it is sown in the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth. But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.” (Mark 4:40-32)
The gospel text for this Wednesday of the 10th Week is take from the “Sermon on the Mount” in Matthew’s gospel:
17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.18 Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place.19 Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:17-19)
Warren Carter (Matthew and the Margins) has these introductory comments about the entire sermon: Continue reading
Mark alone records this parable: He said, “This is how it is with the kingdom of God; it is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land and would sleep and rise night and day and the seed would sprout and grow, he knows not how. Of its own accord the land yields fruit, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. And when the grain is ripe, he wields the sickle at once, for the harvest has come.” (Mark 4:26-29)
Placed beyond the parable of the Sower (vv.1-9) and its explanation, it is easy for the significance of this to be lost in the fast-paced narrative of Mark’s gospel. In the parable of the Sower, the meaning of the interim time before the fruits appear has a positive sense: the time of waiting is a time for sowing, an opportunity for seed to be scattered in the field. There is also a teaching that in that interim period there will be barriers, resistance, and problems encountered in the sowing of the seed as it comes to fruition.
Salt is important. It has its own Wiki page and even has a history book (Mark Kurlansky: Salt: A World History.) Yup, you heard it correctly. A whole history of the world written in the context of salt. As the author writes, “from the beginning of civilization until about one hundred years ago, salt was one of the most sought-after commodities in human history.” And you took salt for granted. Continue reading
The gospel for the 11th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B) comes from Mark 4 which contains some very memorable parables:
- Parable of the Sower (vv.1-9)
- Purpose of the Parables (vv.10-20)
- Parable of the Lamp (vv.21-25)
- Parable of the Seed that Grows Itself (vv.26-29)
- Parable of the Mustard See (vv.30-34)
This coming Sunday the Church returns to “Ordinary Time” – not ordinary as regular and everyday, but from the Latin meaning to count. We celebrate the 11th Sunday in Ordinary Time. The readings, especially the first reading from the Prophet Ezekiel and the Gospel from Mark, each make use of parables. The New Testament scholar, Charles H. Dodd (d. 1973) gave the Church its most classic and enduring definition of a parable: “a metaphor or simile drawn from nature or common life, arresting the hearer by its vividness or strangeness, and leaving the mind in sufficient doubt about its precise application to tease it into active thought.”
The gospel for this Monday in the 10th week of Ordinary Time is the familiar Sermon on the Mount from the Gospel of Matthew. If you would like to read a commentary on the Sermon, you can find it here. But in this post I would like to place these passages in a larger flow of the Matthean narrative. If you could only choose one word to describe the Sacred Writer’s “project” the word “fulfillment” would be a good choice.