“I, John, looked and there was the Lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with him a hundred and forty-four thousand who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads.” (Rev 14:1) And so begins today’s readings.
In her story “Revelation,” Flannery O’Connor tells a tale of a vision of salvation being encountered by the smug Mrs. Turpin. Her idea was that heaven was an exclusive banquet with just a few guests. The story had told of her unpleasant encounters with the “unsaved” (aka “not like me”) during the day. Later while sitting on her front porch at sunset, Mrs. Turpin is granted a vision from God. Despite all her self-assurances and beliefs, she was about to discover that God’s invitation is for more than just her and those she deems of sufficient moral character and behavior.
I have always thought yesterday’s gospel was harsh. Likely, we all prefer the comforting, peaceful Jesus rather than the Jesus who proclaims: “Do not think that I have come to bring peace upon the earth. I have come to bring not peace but the sword.” And that is just the warm-up – here is what follows: “For I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and one’s enemies will be those of his household.” While I might think it harsh, perhaps a more important question is was it necessary. The Christian writer Flannery O’Connor has some insight about this: Continue reading
The Pharisees are having a rough time in the daily gospels this week. Jesus makes no bones about who he is: “I AM”
Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you,
before Abraham came to be, I AM.”
So they picked up stones to throw at him (John 8:58)
The Pharisees got the message. They made a choice. A friend of mine describes the basic encounter of faith this way: Continue reading
Mary Flannery O’Connor (March 25, 1925 – August 3, 1964) was an American novelist, short story writer and essayist. She wrote two novels and thirty-two short stories, as well as a number of reviews and commentaries. She was a Southern writer who often wrote in what is known as a Southern Gothic style. Her writing reflected her Roman Catholic faith and frequently examined questions of faith, morality and ethics. In a letter to her friend Elizabeth Hester she wrote:
Then another thing, what one has as a born Catholic is something given and accepted before it is experienced. I am only slowly coming to experience things that I have all along accepted.
Good words. May we be intentional, mindful, grateful, curious, and persevere in the Faith we received as our experience grows.
It is a gathering unlike any other. Isaiah describes it as people coming from all corners of the world – every make and model, color and variety. Citizens of every nation from east and west, north and south. All streaming to Jerusalem, to God’s holy mountain bring their offerings of worship. All invited by God, all coming to the Lord God, all of them seeing the glory of God.
Someone in the gospels asks question: “Lord, will only a few people be saved?” I wonder if the questioner’s understanding of salvation – even the offer of salvation – is very different from the prophet Isaiah’s. Maybe the questioner is worried about the state of the world and can only see a few faithful people. Maybe he or she is worried about family members gone astray. Maybe the question is, as most scholars seem to believe, an inquiry whether only a few people “like me” will be saved. Continue reading