Tales from the front steps

“It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”  A quote often attributed to Mark Twain (although it seems that “ain’t so”). Nonetheless it is a nice summary of more than one conversation on the front steps of the church. Such as the one yesterday in which someone expressed their disbelief and near shock that our parish had chosen not to celebrate or announce the holy day of obligation. After a moment of internal… “what is he talking about?…” it dawned upon me that me was referring to the Solemnity of the Annunciation, celebrated today March 25th. When I reminded him the Annunciation was not a holy day of obligation, but that we were certainly celebrating the solemnity at our Masses, I was given “the stare” and then he walked away shaking his head. Of course I can’t know his thoughts, but I have seen “the stare” before. It is the one that says, “No wonder the Catholic Church is in trouble with priests like you.” I hope he well celebrates the solemnity; I know that we will.

Just another tale from the front steps of the church.

A blessing for others

“For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord” (Luke 1:44-45)

There are certain persons in our lives who, when we see them, hear their voice, or just remember them, it can just bring a smile to our face, turn a rotten day into something special, or just make all thing joyous. They are the ones who can make us laugh when there is nothing to laugh about. They are the ones for and with whom bear hugs of greetings are just the thing. They are the ones we haven’t seen in years and yet it just seems like yesterday when we meet again. They are the one with whom we have common history, joys and sorrows, with whom we have weathered many a storm; the ones we trust absolutely.  Who are those persons for you?  Take a moment and bring their faces to your thoughts.  I’ll wait…. Continue reading

Living the Dream

King David – living the dream! I mean who could have imagined?  The Lord God had sent his prophet Samuel out to anoint the one who would be king – and the young shepherd David was selected among all of Jesse’s sons – the one to be king of Israel and all of God’s chosen people.  And the Lord had been with David on the battlefield as he stood before the giant warrior Goliath.  The Lord had stayed with David when he was a wanted man on the run from the murderous hand of King Saul. The Lord had guided David as be took on the mantle of leadership and had united the 12 tribes of Jacob into one nation. And now David was king. Continue reading

Annunciation: favored and troubled

TheAnnunciationConfluence. Luke’s narrative style is on display as he deftly moves from the “annunciation” concerning John the Baptist to the one concerning the salvation of all humanity. There is a confluence of temporal and chronological markers, and the reappearance of Gabriel. The “sixth month” recalls v.24, and seems to imply that Elizabeth has only now come out of seclusion. This prepares for the sharing of the news of her pregnancy in v.36 and her subsequent welcome of Mary (vv.39–45). Yet geographically and socio-religiously we move away from the center (Jerusalem and the Temple) to the margins of the nations (Nazareth in Galilee). Gabriel, God’s messenger, is the connector, pointing to the God’s Word active in the world. Continue reading

Annunciations

TheAnnunciationSimilar, yet… In many respects our gospel (Luke 1:26-38) is similar to the annunciation of the birth of John. The angel Gabriel appears to announce the birth of the child, and the annunciation follows the pattern of birth annunciations in the OT: The angel says, “Do not be afraid,” calls the recipient of the vision by name, assures him or her of God’s favor, announces the birth of the child, discloses the name of the child to be born, and reveals the future role of the child in language drawn from the Scriptures. After their respective announcements, Zechariah and Mary each ask a question, a sign is given, and the scene closes with a departure. The similarity of structure and content between the two scenes invites the reader to consider the differences between them all the more closely. For example, the first announcement came as an answer to fervent prayer; the second was completely unanticipated. John would be born to parents past the age of child bearing, but the miracle of Jesus’ birth would be even greater. Jesus would be born to a virgin. The announcement of Jesus’ future role also shows that at every point Jesus would be even greater than his forerunner. Watch how these nuances are developed in the course of the details of this scene. Note this narrative comparison also punctuates the beginning of Mark’s gospel which has no infancy narrative: John the Baptist is not the Christ, not Elijah, not the prophet to come, and not worthy to loosen the strap of the sandal of the one who is to come. Continue reading

The Annunciation – context

TheAnnunciationLuke 1:26-38  26 In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And coming to her, he said, “Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you.” 29 But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. 30 Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, 33 and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” Continue reading

The Annunciation

TheAnnunciationAt first blush it does seem odd that the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord falls in the midst of Lent. It is an event in the life of Christ that we associate with Advent. That scene in which the Angel Gabriele comes to Mary to announce she will be the mother of Emmanuel, “God with us.”

My friend, Fr. Bill McConville OFM, notes that part of the church’s art tradition is that the scene of the Annunciation often portrays Mary, not empty-handed, but holding a book or a scroll, her reading and reflecting on Scripture being interrupted by the angel’s pronouncement. The tradition is that she is meditating on Isaiah 7 (today’s first reading) in which there is the promise that a virgin will bear a child. Continue reading

Me? Are you kidding?

TheAnnunciationThe angel Gabriel was sent from God…And coming to [Mary], he said, … now at this point you’re expecting me to say “Hail, full of grace!” For good reasons, we Catholics hang on to that translation which is rooted in the Latin Vulgate “Ave gratia plena” – literally “hail, full of grace” – but that is not what the original Greek (Chaire kecharitōmenē) says. A literal rendering from the Greek would be “Rejoice, highly favored one.” So let’s start over: The angel Gabriel was sent from God…And coming to [Mary], he said “Rejoice, highly favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. Continue reading

Favored and Troubled

TheAnnunciationConfluence. Luke’s narrative style is on display as he deftly moves from the “annunciation” concerning John the Baptist to the one concerning the salvation of all humanity. There is a confluence of temporal and chronological markers, and the reappearance of Gabriel. The “sixth month” recalls v.24, and seems to imply that Elizabeth has only now come out of seclusion. This prepares for the sharing of the news of her pregnancy in v.36 and her subsequent welcome of Mary (vv.39–45). Yet geographically and socio-religiously we move away from the center (Jerusalem and the Temple) to the margins of the nations (Nazareth in Galilee). Gabriel, God’s messenger, is the connector, pointing to the God’s Word active in the world. Continue reading

Annunciations

TheAnnunciationSimilar, yet… In many respects our gospel (Luke 1:26-38) is similar to the annunciation of the birth of John. The angel Gabriel appears to announce the birth of the child, and the annunciation follows the pattern of birth annunciations in the OT: The angel says, “Do not be afraid,” calls the recipient of the vision by name, assures him or her of God’s favor, announces the birth of the child, discloses the name of the child to be born, and reveals the future role of the child in language drawn from the Scriptures. After their respective announcements, Zechariah and Mary each ask a question, a sign is given, and the scene closes with a departure. The similarity of structure and content between the two scenes invites the reader to consider the differences between them all the more closely. For example, the first announcement came as an answer to fervent prayer; the second was completely unanticipated. John would be born to parents past the age of child bearing, but the miracle of Jesus’ birth would be even greater. Jesus would be born to a virgin. The announcement of Jesus’ future role also shows that at every point Jesus would be even greater than his forerunner. Watch how these nuances are developed in the course of the details of this scene. Note this narrative comparison also punctuates the beginning of Mark’s gospel which has no infancy narrative: John the Baptist is not the Christ, not Elijah, not the prophet to come, and not worthy to loosen the strap of the sandal of the one who is to come. Continue reading