Prayer and the long defeat

In the epic novel The Lord of the Rings, the elves of Lothlorien admit that they are losing their forest lands. But they battle on. The describe their struggle as “fighting the long defeat.” This is source of the comment made by Paul Farmer, who has fought a “losing battle” for health care for the poor. In Tracy Kidder’s biography of Farmer called Mountains Beyond Mountains, Farmer says, “I have fought the long defeat and brought other people on to fight the long defeat, and I’m not going to stop because we keep losing… I actually think sometimes we may win… So, you fight the long defeat.”

Reminds me of the persistent widow. Continue reading

Daily Bread

This coming Sunday marks our journey in Ordinary Time, the 17th Sunday in Year C. You can read a complete commentary on the Sunday Gospel here.

1 He was praying in a certain place, and when he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples.” He said to them, “When you pray, say:  Father, hallowed be your name,  your kingdom come. 3 Give us each day our daily bread  4 and forgive us our sins for we ourselves forgive everyone in debt to us, and do not subject us to the final test.” Continue reading

Matthew 6:1-6,16-18

1 ”(But) take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father.2 When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win the praise of others. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.3 But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing,4 so that your almsgiving may be secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.5 “When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see them. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.6 But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you. Continue reading

The Gospel of Luke – The Time of Testing

Of course we all know that after the meal with his disciples that Jesus went to the Garden of Gethsemane.  Actually, no gospel says that.  Matthew and Mark wrote that he went to a garden. John says he went to Gethsemane. Fuse them all together and you get the “Garden of Gethsemane.”  What does Luke say? Luke only calls it “the place.”  There is no garden specifically mentioned nor is Gethsemane.  Is it important? Well, it is a reminder to be attentive to the text before you and not meld the familiar stories and scenes from other sacred writers.  Each sacred writer has something distinctive that can be missed if one fuses all the details from other accounts. Continue reading

Sacred Heart and Hurricane Irma

As the whole State of Florida prepares for Hurricane Irma’s approach and landfall, we ask you all to keep the people of the Sunshine State in your prayers. The southwest coast of Florida seems to be in for the worst of it. Tampa and Tampa Bay region will also feel the full brunt of the storm. May God watch over us all and keep us safe.

For local followers of this blog, you can keep posted on parish events via our website.

Empathy and grace: parables

Pharisee-n-Tax Collector3A Parable of Reversal? I tell you, the latter [tax collector] went home justified. We might object to God forgiving the tax collector. He doesn’t actually confess any sins. He makes no statement of repentance. He doesn’t offer to change his life. He doesn’t make any reparations for his sins (as the tax collector Zacchaeus does). This appears to be very cheap grace. This parable probably should not be understood as an example story, but is it simply a story of reversal, as the final saying indicates. If the Pharisee is viewed as a villain and the tax collector a hero, besides the historical inaccuracies, the parable loses its power. They have only received what they deserved. There is no need for the reversal in this last verse. Continue reading

Empathy and grace: tax collector

Pharisee-n-Tax Collector3The Tax Collector. 13 But the tax collector stood off at a distance and would not even raise his eyes to heaven but beat his breast and prayed, ‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’

Consider what Luke has already recorded about Jesus vis-a-vis “sinners”

  • “I have not come to call the righteous to repentance but sinners.” (Luke 5:32)
  • …there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance.” (Luke 15:7)

Continue reading

Empathy and grace: Pharisee

Pharisee-n-Tax Collector3The Righteous Who Despise. He then addressed this parable to those who were convinced of their own righteousness and despised everyone else.(Luke 15:9)

The use of exoutheneo – “to despise” (v.9) raises an interesting question about who are the self-righteous people who are despising others in Luke’s time. Is this parable directed against Pharisees and others outside the community of believers who despise those inside the church? In Luke’s other uses of the word, it refers to those who despised or rejected Jesus (Luke 23:11; Acts 4:11). With this understanding, it might be easier for (self-righteous) Christians to assume that the problem is with “those people out there,” but not with “us”. Continue reading

Empathy and grace: what is right

Pharisee-n-Tax Collector3We hear this parable differently that the first century listener.  We know how the parable ends and we also know how Luke has been describing the Pharisees, thus even at the words one was a Pharisee we know how this will end. Won’t it be that the Pharisee will represent the one who trusts himself and his own righteousness rather than God and the one who judges others and holds them in contempt? But lets consider how the first century listener might have heard this narrative.

These two parables are connected linguistically by a number of words with the Greek root –dik– = generally referring to “what is right”. Continue reading

Empathy and grace: context

Pharisee-n-Tax Collector39 He then addressed this parable to those who were convinced of their own righteousness and despised everyone else. 10 “Two people went up to the temple area to pray; one was a Pharisee and the other was a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee took up his position and spoke this prayer to himself, ‘O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity—greedy, dishonest, adulterous—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week, and I pay tithes on my whole income.’ 13 But the tax collector stood off at a distance and would not even raise his eyes to heaven but beat his breast and prayed, ‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’ 14 I tell you, the latter went home justified, not the former; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

This gospel follows the parable of the persistent widow and the unjust judge (18:1-8).  While the common thread is certainly prayer, there are other aspects which binds together these two narrative. One of Luke’s ongoing themes is the inclusivity of the Gospel. In these two parables, prayers are answered by God for a (saintly and probably poor) widow and the sinful (and probably rich) male tax collector. Luke continues to demonstrate that the Reign of God is open to all – a message of keen importance to his Gentile audience. Continue reading