Miserando atque Eligendo

We have a new mayor here in Tampa. Mayor Castor has been in public service for the majority of her adult years, served as Chief of Police and more. There are lots of folks that already knew what kind of leader she will be. Fulfilling positions of leadership is always at the forefront of organizations, politics, and more. It is always a good question for the Church. I have lived during the pontificates of seven popes and in my lifetime we have certainly had a wide variety of types and styles of leaders. In our history, we have had 266 of popes. We have had some spectacularly amazing leaders, saints in the making, and we have had some spectacularly horrific leaders, who would have been quite at home in Game of Thrones (so I hear, I actually haven’t seen it…).  All took up the Keys of Peter, with the same job description given Peter: feed my sheep; tend my lambs. The Pope is the most visible of leaders in the Church, but not the only ones with that same job description. The simple mandate, “feed my sheep; tend my lambs” applies to priests, pastors, parents, principals, police, and anyone who would lead – anyone who would answer the call to minister in the Holy Name of Jesus. Continue reading

Christian life: context

“But to you who hear I say, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. To the person who strikes you on one cheek, offer the other one as well, and from the person who takes your cloak, do not withhold even your tunic. Give to everyone who asks of you, and from the one who takes what is yours do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you. For if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do the same. If you lend money to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit (is) that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, and get back the same amount. But rather, love your enemies and do good to them, and lend expecting nothing back; then your reward will be great and you will be children of the Most High, for he himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as (also) your Father is merciful. “Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven. Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap. For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.” (Luke 6:27-38) Continue reading

Unnoticed

Our gospel is known as the story of the Widow’s Mite. As you just heard, a widow donates two small coins, while wealthy people donate much more. A common explanation of the story is that Jesus praises the poor widow and holds her up as an example to us all because she gave “her whole livelihood.” So even though the rich people gave more, it was just for show and only from their chump change. Not the widow, she is “all in” in what she gives to God. The moral of the story is that small sacrifices of the poor mean more to God than the extravagant donations of the rich. And so, I could have a seat at this point, leave you to think about your weekly offering, your APA pledge… are you giving chump change, or are your contributing your whole livelihood? I could but there is more here than meets the eye. Continue reading

Responding to Mercy: gratitude

tenlepers15 And one of them, realizing he had been healed, returned, glorifying God in a loud voice; 16 and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him. He was a Samaritan. 17 Jesus said in reply, “Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine? 18 Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?” 19 Then he said to him, “Stand up and go; your faith has saved you.”

The Samaritan fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him.  Some might argue that it reads too much into the posture to say that it is an act of worship (although I think that is a fair reading of Luke) – but in any event, is it an act of humility.  St. Bonaventure, sometimes referred to as the second founder of the Franciscan friars, wrote in his work The Tree of Life that humility is the guardian and gateway of all the other virtues and that gratitude is its first evidence. Continue reading

Responding to Mercy: faith

tenlepers11 As he continued his journey to Jerusalem, he traveled through Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he was entering a village, ten lepers met (him). They stood at a distance from him 13 and raised their voice, saying, “Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!” 14 And when he saw them, he said, “Go show yourselves to the priests.” As they were going they were cleansed. 15 And one of them, realizing he had been healed, returned, glorifying God in a loud voice; 16 and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him. He was a Samaritan. 17 Jesus said in reply, “Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine? 18 Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?” 19 Then he said to him, “Stand up and go; your faith has saved you.”

Stand up and go; your faith has saved [sozo] you” (v.19). Such are the words spoken to the Samaritan leper, the only one who returned and gave thanks to Jesus.  sozo has as a basic meaning, “to rescue from danger and to restore to a former state of safety and well being.” Thus it is translated with words like “save,” “heal,” “make whole,” depending upon how the danger is understood.  How are we to understand the use of sozo here in this verse? Continue reading

Responding to Mercy: boundaries

tenlepersThe telling of this encounter seems straight forward: (a) Jesus encounters a group of lepers on the road to Jerusalem, (b) they ask for his mercy, (c) they are cured, but (d) only one returns to thank Jesus and that one is a Samaritan. A simple miracle story, yes? A narrative about faith as the foundation of healing? Such simple summaries, even if true, miss several key aspects of the encounter and the chance to reflect further on our own life of faith in Jesus. Faith and the response to Mercy inevitably leads one to cross boundaries. Continue reading

Responding to Mercy: context

tenlepers11 As he continued his journey to Jerusalem, he traveled through Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he was entering a village, ten lepers met (him). They stood at a distance from him 13 and raised their voice, saying, “Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!” 14 And when he saw them, he said, “Go show yourselves to the priests.” As they were going they were cleansed. 15 And one of them, realizing he had been healed, returned, glorifying God in a loud voice; 16 and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him. He was a Samaritan. 17 Jesus said in reply, “Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine? 18 Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?” 19 Then he said to him, “Stand up and go; your faith has saved you.”

The narrative of the Journey to Jerusalem (begun in Luke 9:51) returns; new characters are introduced – ten lepers – the disciples play no role in this story. For a brief moment the on-going theme of forming discipleship seemingly takes a backseat, as the accent is upon God’s mercy and salvation. Several commentators hold that this account marks a new turn in Luke’s telling of the gospel moving from an accent on discipleship to the larger theme of “Responding to the Kingdom” as the cleansing of lepers is takes as a sign of the in-breaking of the Kingdom. Continue reading

Being merciful

Jesus-healingJesus, son of David, have pity on me.” (Mark 10:47). Is “pity” what we desire in our lives? Do you want to be pitied? When I ask people about the word “pity,” how we understand and use it, despite what the Merriam-Webster dictionary says, “pity” does not have a positive connotation in everyday usage. Pity is that thing that we shower upon the unfortunate, a distant regret for their plight, a thankful prayer that it is not us. Continue reading

Rules

We are promised that whenever two or three are gathered in Jesus’ name, there He will be among us.  I have always suspected when the number is more than a billion world-wide, you better have rules. Rules are necessary – even helpful, but we always need to remember the basis of the rule or things get confusing when people interpret rules in differing ways. I suspect a lot of church arguments fall in this category. Believe it or not, the most common “church rule” question I receive is “how many times a day can I receive Eucharist.”  There is a set number and conditions – I will leave you the details to research on-line.  But when you find the rule (if you do) will you find the basis for the rule? Continue reading