At a recent inter-disciplinary meeting of scientists, after the days’ meetings a group of men and women got together at the convention center bar. Encouraged by their own inquisitive minds and a drink or two, they came to the conclusion that humanity had come a long way and were at a point where humanity no longer needed God. So, they deputized one of the scientists to let God know. Continue reading
In today’s first reading we hear from the Prophet Haggai, who ministered in the postexilic period when the Jewish people, under a grant from King Cyrus of Persia, returned to Jerusalem. But it was not the Jerusalem remembered by their parents and grandparents. This was the Jerusalem that had been destroyed by the Babylonians – Temple, buildings and even the protective walls. Jerusalem was a rebuilding and restoration project of immense proportions. Jerusalem was their national identity – and it lay in ruins. Continue reading
Today is September 23, 2021. It was 20 years ago that Tom Brady became the starting quarterback for the New England Patriots – a job he has had ever since in an amazing career. I received an email this morning from a Tampa Bay Bucs fan who inquired about my position on the possibility of establishing a feast day celebration or at least an optional memorial given the day is otherwise unoccupied by any other special commemoration.
Such things are not up to me…. although I did want to inquire whether this person had set up a home shrine to the GOAT. Continue reading
In our first reading for today’s Mass, we encounter Ezra. You might ask, “…and who is Ezra?” The genealogy of Ezra (Ezra 7:1–5) traces his priesthood back to Aaron, brother of Moses. He is also called a scribe, well-versed in the law of Moses (7:6), indicating Ezra’s dedication to the study of the Torah, which he sought to make the basic rule of life in the restored, post-Babylonian-Exile community. It was in religious and cultic reform rather than in political affairs that Ezra made his mark as a postexilic leader. Jewish tradition holds him in great esteem. The Talmud regards him as a second Moses, claiming that the Torah would have been given to Israel through Ezra had not Moses preceded him.
Ezra was the one who led a group of Judean exiles living in Babylon to their home city of Jerusalem after Cyrus of Persia gave them leave to return. Ezra, knowing that the people’s “wicked deeds are heaped up above our heads and our guilt reaches up to heaven. From the time of our fathers even to this day great has been our guilt, and for our wicked deeds we have been delivered up, we and our kings and our priests, to the will of the kings of foreign lands, to the sword, to captivity, to pillage, and to disgrace, as is the case today” (Ezra 9:6-7) emphasized observance of the Torah. He exhorted the Israelite people to be sure to follow the Torah Law so as not to intermarry with people of particular different religions, a set of commandments described in the Pentateuch – as well as other commands.
And yet in the midst of his realization of the many ways the people have sinned and failed to live into the Covenant, Ezra is deeply aware of God’s mercy: “…our God has brightened our eyes and given us relief …. has not abandoned us; rather, he has turned the good will of the kings of Persia toward us. Thus he has given us new life..” (Ezra 9:8-9)
And perhaps that is a lesson for today – to realize that in our encounters with all things, even sin and temptation, God’s mercy and grace and there – always there. Ezra recognized that. Do we?
If you are interested in learning more about this book of the Bible, I would recommend The Bible Project’s 8-minute video. Enjoy.
If you would like to read an interesting online short story, consider Scott Alexander’s “Sort by Controversial.” The author imagines a west coast marketing company that accidentally creates an algorithm to generate what comes to be called the “Scissor.” The name scissor seems appropriate as the algorithm is used to create a statement, an idea or a scenario that will create a perfect fissure in and among people. It goes well beyond generating discussion and disagreement. It seeks a nuclear wasteland, take no prisoners kind of fissure. The kind that can leave you absolutely flummoxed that your best friend could possibly disagree with your interpretation of the controversy, followed by escalating fury and paranoia and polarization, until the debate creates the intended goal: nuclear wasteland.
The short story’s protagonist explains the nuclear acceleration: “at first you just think they’re an imbecile. Then they call you an imbecile, and you want to defend yourself. … You notice all the little ways they’re lying to you and themselves and their audience every time they open their mouth to defend their imbecilic opinion. Then you notice how all the lies are connected, that in order to keep getting the little things like the Scissor statement wrong, they have to drag in everything else. Eventually even that doesn’t work; they’ve just got to make everybody hate you so that nobody will even listen to your argument no matter how obviously true it is.”
Sound familiar? The work is fiction, but it makes one wonder.
(p.s. – there is some profanity)
Yesterday in our nation’s capital was a planned rally in support of people who were connected to the insurrection event of January 6, 2021 and are currently being investigated by federal authorities. Apparently the attendance was far less than expected on the part of organizers and Capitol police. As part of the news coverage, a person was interviewed about their presence and what they hoped for as an outcome. The person essentially denied there had been any unrest on January 6th that people were just entering a public building (the US Capital) and now were being persecuted and prosecuted unjustly. When shown film of the event, the storming of the building, the assaulting of police officers, the reaction was that it was just government propaganda. When it was further explained that social media was filled with clips, taken by those storming the building, and posted online – that too was waved away as a government plot. Apart from it being a very sad state of current affairs, it is also an ever present state of affairs. Did we really land on the moon? I mean…. Have you ever met someone who stepped foot on the moon? Continue reading
Today is my one day off. I have swum, grocery shopped, done laundry, prepared lunch, and put my feet up to read. …and then I came across an article which described a new 6-story apart complex being developed in the North Hyde Park area of Tampa. Some of the apartments will be 400 sq. ft.! Yikes, that is still larger than my room on the submarine which I shared with 2 other officers, but that is still tiny. The article mentioned that they were going to equip the micro-apartments with robotic furniture from OriLiving, a startup tech company with roots in the design and urban design schools of MIT. The founder, Hassier Larea, has a very interesting video on equipping the micro-apartment. I wonder what they could have done for submarines!
Our Lady of Sorrows, the Sorrowful Mother or Mother of Sorrows, and Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows are names by which the Virgin Mary is referred to in relation to sorrows in life. For a while there were two feasts in honor of the Sorrowful Mother: one going back to the 15th century, the other to the 17th century. For a while both were celebrated by the universal Church: one on the Friday before Palm Sunday, the other in September. Now the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows is celebrated on September 15th in the western Catholic Church. It is a devotion on Mary’s experience of the way in which the prophecy of Simeon came to be:
When the days were completed for their purification according to the law of Moses, Mary and Joseph took Jesus up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord… Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, awaiting the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Messiah of the Lord. He came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus to perform the custom of the law in regard to him, he took him into his arms and blessed God, saying: “Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in sight of all the peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel. The child’s father and mother were amazed at what was said about him; and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted and you yourself a sword will pierce so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” (Luke 2:25-35)
Many early Church writers interpret the sword as Mary’s sorrows, especially as she saw Jesus die on the cross. Thus, the two passages are brought together as prediction and fulfillment. Saint Ambrose in particular sees Mary as a sorrowful yet powerful figure at the cross. Mary stood fearlessly at the cross while others fled. Mary looked on her Son’s wounds with pity, but saw in them the salvation of the world. As Jesus hung on the cross, Mary did not fear to be killed, but offered herself to her persecutors.
In Catholic religious imagery, the Blessed Virgin Mary is portrayed in a sorrowful affect, with seven daggers piercing her heart. These represent the seven traditional sorrows:
- The prophecy of Simeon (Luke 2:25-35)
- The Flight into Egypt (Matthew 2:13)
- The loss of the child Jesus in the Temple (Luke 2:34-45)
- Mary meeting Jesus on the way to Calvary (John 19:26-27)
- Jesus dying on the cross (John 19:30)
- The piercing of the side of Jesus and Mary’s receiving the body of Jesus in her arms (Matthew 27:57-59)
- The body of Jesus placed in the tomb (John 19:40-42)
Franciscan Media offers a very nice reflection on the Seven Sorrow that is well done.
The opening ceremony for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing was one of the most visually stunning and massive choreographed movements of people I think I have ever witnessed. As a kid I used to think it was amazing that the Ohio State marching band could “spell” Ohio in cursive as it played during halftime. But Beijing was light years ahead in complexity of the movement of peoples from one place to another on the field. If only one person had turned the wrong way it is not hard to imagine the chaos that might have resulted. A few months ago I wrote about the same effect that plays out on the sidewalks of NYC or Tokyo during rush hour – it just takes one person to disrupt the entire flow. Continue reading
In the dark days of December with the pandemic raging, we hoped for the availability of vaccinations. Vaccinations were announced, the infections seem to be retreating, we began to make plans for travel after the long discontent for our masks, restrictions, and the new normal which we hoped would not become normal at all. And then vaccinations slowed, masks were dropped, the Delta variant spread, fights broke out on airlines, governors levied fines against businesses requiring vaccines even as they claimed federal overreach, and the late summer saw an epic rise among the unvaccinated. A night show host, joking one hopes, suggested that unvaccinated people at the hospital should be a lower triage level than vaccinated people. Schools restarted, closed, went virtual, were protested for requiring and not requiring masks. Nobody likes wearing a mask. Why isn’t everyone vaccinated? What happened to personal liberty? Isn’t this supposed to be over.
But whatever your take on all of this, we are tired – we have pandemic fatigue. Continue reading