A Sunday of parables

parable_SowerThis 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.”

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A new Moses

sermon-on-the-mountThe 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.

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Letters to the Corinthians

saint-paulToo many irons in the fire, so to speak. I have a whole folder of work-in-progress articles, posts, studies, musings, and a “digital attic” of things in the folder “Interesting ideas.” One of the items in the attic was an introduction to St. Paul’s letters to the Corinthians – or rather his on-going somewhat rocky relationship with the community at Corinth.

With the exception of The Letter to the Galatians and The Letter to the Romans, St. Paul’s epistles are pastoral letters, most often responding to some problem in the community – that is not to say they do not carry/imply a consistent theological unpinning – but the letters are pastoral in nature and most often corrective and encouraging. But we are not always sure of the problem that is being addressed. Continue reading

Taxes and Faith

DenarriIn today’s gospel we are witness to Jesus’ encounter with the authorities and their question about the payment of taxes. Certainly the question of taxes is as much about authority as any topic. And there is perhaps no thorny or inflammatory topic of conversation than taxes. One may easily assume it is with malice that Jesus is asked about the census tax payable to Rome. The empire exacted three types of taxes: a ground tax, which required that ten per cent of all grain and twenty per cent of all oil and wine production be given to Rome; an income tax, equivalent to one per cent of a person’s income; and a poll/census tax, which amounted to a denarius or a full day’s wage. To add insult to injury, the tax could be paid only in Roman coin, most of which contained an image and inscription considered blasphemous by many Jews: Tiberius Caesar Divi Augusti Filius Augustus Pontifex Maximus (“Tiberius Caesar, august son of the divine Augustus, high priest”). Continue reading

Hesitation

Great-CommissionDoubt/hesitation. When they saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted (Mt 28:17 – part of the gospel for Holy Trinity Sunday). Many English translations offer “but some doubted.” Unfortunately the word “some” does not appear in the Greek text. The only two valid translations are “they worshiped, but they doubted (hesitated)” or “they worshiped and they doubted (hesitated).” It is hard to avoid the simple statement of the text: those who worship are also those who doubt.

Mark Allan Powell writes about this verse in his book, Loving Jesus [121]. Continue reading

Holy Trinity: theology and economy

Great-CommissionAs some critics rightly point out, nowhere in Scripture does the word “Trinity” appear. Their argument is then that the idea of a Holy Trinity is a human doctrine. Yet, Christians are baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit: not in their names, for there is only one God, the almighty Father, his only Son and the Holy Spirit: the Most Holy Trinity. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church explains: “The mystery of the Most Holy Trinity is the central mystery of Christian faith and life. It is the mystery of God in himself. It is therefore the source of all the other mysteries of faith, the light that enlightens them. It is the most fundamental and essential teaching in the hierarchy of the truths of faith. The whole history of salvation is identical with the history of the way and the means by which the one true God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, reveals himself to men ‘and reconciles and unites with himself those who turn away from sin.” (CCC§234). Continue reading

Liturgy, Heresy and Creed

Great-Commission16 The eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had ordered them. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted. 18 Then Jesus approached and said to them, “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” (Mt 28:16-20) This coming Sunday the Church will celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity. Continue reading

The Book of Job

JobAs you might imagine, during my time as a Catholic priest, many folks have come to talk with me while they are in the midst of suffering. Suffering from a cataclysmic life event, a prolong encounter with illness, betrayal, a life that is heading in the wrong direction, the weight of dealing with a situation or with people – and many more topics. I rarely have solutions and even if I had a suggestion, that’s not why people come to talk. There is a very human need to say things out loud in a place they are sure that someone will listen. As best I can, I try to listen. I pray with them. I suggest they begin to take a look and see where they might find God in milieu of life that swirls around them. And sometimes I will inquire if they have read the Book if Job.

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Three Years in Arabia

saint-paulOne of our Bible study folks asked about the reference in The Letter to the Galatians to St. Paul’s time in Arabia. I had always wanted to post something on the topic – and now I have an immediate request to do so. The problem is that we don’t really know a lot of biographical information about St. Paul – at least not in the sense of modern biographies.

In any biography the author, by necessity, leaves out many events. Even a lengthy work like the 16-volume, 10 million-word biography of Winston Churchill by Randolph Churchill and Martin Gilbert, which is said to be the longest biography of modern times, will still leave out much more than it records. So, when we read the New Testament, which is relatively short, we do well to remember that the human authors have been highly selective, mentioning only a very few events in the lives of the characters. St. Paul’s time in Arabia is one such event that receives only a couple of brief mentions, without which we would know nothing of it at all. We can only speculate on the “why,” “when,” and “how long” of Paul’s time in Arabia based on the information we have – which is not a lot. Continue reading