“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.
The word “love” is certainly the topic of poetry, minstrels, Hallmark cards, stories, and life. But what do the Hebrew Scriptures have to say about love? Several weeks ago I mentioned the prayer, the Shema, speaking about the word “hear” or “listen”:
“Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD alone! Therefore, you shall love the LORD, your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength“. (Dt 6:4-5).
But a key part of that prayer is to “love the Lord” to “ahavah the Lord.” As the popular song asks, “What’s love got to do with it.” The answer is everything – if love is properly understood.
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This day’s gospel is a well known story of an encounter during which Jesus is asked: “Which is the first of all the commandments?” Jesus reply is clear and unambiguous:
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart,
with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
I was looking ahead on the parish calendar to see what the month of March would bring apart from the celebration of Lent. It was then I came across a simple marker “Mother’s passing.” It was four years ago now – hard to believe that much time has passed since my mom passed away. But that is the way of things as one grows older oneself; loved one are lost and time passes at an ever-increasing rate.
I am pretty sure I got my love of big band music from mom. She had several 78s of Tommy Dorsey (…and if “78s” is unknown to you, ask you grandparents…or great grands…or wikipedia). It was the music of her era. Continue reading
Some things are indeed complicated, deserving of our time, energy, and perseverance. Today’s gospel from Matthew’s account of the Sermon on the Mount is one of those things.
Jesus said to his disciples: “You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.” (Mt 5:43-44) Continue reading
Franciscan sister and scientist Ilia Delio (my master’s thesis professor), has written a wonderful autobiography. In it she recounts how her parents decided to name her Denise. (She would have been named Denis had she been a boy.) Later in life, she was delighted to find a meaningful connection with the man who first approached theology in an explicitly mystical way in his text Mystical Theology. Delio writes:
When I was doing my doctoral work in theology at Fordham University, I was introduced to the master of mystical theology, Denis the Areopagite, or Pseudo-Dionysius [who wrote in the late fifth to early sixth century]. I was immediately struck by the name “Denis”—the mysterious person who wrote the most exquisite words stretching into the mystery of the incomprehensible God. . . . God is the name of absolute divine mystery beyond any speech or thought or movement. God’s love is so tremendous, this mystical writer claimed, that God is like a sober drunk, falling over himself in the desire to share divine life. Continue reading
Super Bowl ads – love ’em, hate ’em or don’t pay attention – or go out and refill the chips and salsa! I hope you were able to see the New York Life commercial, “Love Takes Action,” that takes viewers through the four words for love, as expressed by the ancient Greeks: philia, storge, eros, and agape.
The New York Life ad takes its inspiration from C.S. Lewis’ The Four Loves, in which the Christian apologist identified four types of love mentioned in the Bible. While philia, storge, and eros are based on feelings, Lewis explains, agape, as it is presented in the New Testament, is a sacrificial love that comes about as an act of will rather than a response to emotions. As the greatest love of all, Agape represents the selfless love that God has for man and man has for God, and that every Christian should strive for, and is sometimes defined as charity/caritas….Enjoy.
One of the amazing stained-glass windows in our church is the triptych window of the Resurrection on the first Easter Sunday. It is a piece that takes its place in the gallery of Resurrection artwork across Christianity. Depictions and artwork that has graced the walls of catacombs of ancient Rome, as well as more formal works such as frescos, icons, illuminated manuscripts, altar pieces, Romanesque reliefs, sculptures and more. The Resurrection has been depicted by the great artists of the West: Caravaggio, Peter Paul Rubens, Annibale Carracci, Giotto, Titian, Piero della Francesca, Fra Angelico, El Greco, Jan van Eyck, Raphael, and Michelangelo. Continue reading
I am not normally given to posting op-ed pieces from online sources. But there was an op-ed piece that caught my attention, more specifically, this:
….anger cannot be the sole fuel propelling us on life’s journey. We also need love, for without it, we are no better than those who fear us. To live with anger is to live powerless. That’s not to say the oppressed should never be angered by the actions of their oppressor. Only that anger can spark a movement, but it should not order its steps. Not if the goal of the movement is peace.
…not if the goal of the movement is peace… Continue reading
The story of Abraham and Sarah is a story that should begin, “Against all odds….” It is a pretty amazing story of perseverance, endurance, and life lived for a mission greater than one’s self. Abraham and Sarah persevered and endured the long journey from modern-day Iraq to Israel on to Egypt and back to Israel. Even as the reached their older years, they continued to hope for a child of their own. They believed in the Lord’s promises even when his timeline was a whole longer than their timelines. They bore the hopes and expectations of all the people they led. Certainly, they lived out St. Paul’s message from 1 Cor 13:7 “[Love] bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.” Continue reading