Archives, May 2010

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Monday 05/31/10
Readings
Posted 05/30/10 7:35pm

In praying the Rosary the Mystery of the Visitation might prompt you to check your mental list of people you know who are suffering. What individuals are more than deserving of a visit from you?

With this feast falling on Memorial Day your thoughts might turn to service men and women who protect American interests. You might give a thought to detachments lowered by copters into Afghan ravines. When those men rise up they are targets for snipers when they lie down they are prey to vermin.

You might not agree with the strategy of putting boys in those hostile ravines, and it's quite possible the boys don’t agree with it either; but the fact is their placement there is prompted by a need to spare us any further 9/11 attacks. We owe our service men and women our full concern and gratitude.

Sunday 05/30/10
Readings
Posted 05/29/10 3:47pm

Today we thank God for offering to our feeble minds something of what they can grasp of the mystery of his inner life. Our church’s early saints gave us a hint at that mystery by telling us that there are three persons in the one God. Their choice of that word person was prompted by their fascination with Greek dramas in which one actor might speak through three different masks, with persona being their word for such masks.

What makes an understanding of the Trinity unreachable for us is its combination of eternity’s having had only one being, God himself, but of his having love as is dominant activity. (For us, self love sounds like selfishness; but for God it is his perfect essence.)

Our meditation on the Trinity might progress a little by a consideration of the opening words of John’s Gospel: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” John’s choice of the name Word for the Second Person of the Trinity came from a popular belief with Greeks. Rejecting our belief in a God in heaven, it accepted only a belief in a God in nature, similar to our notion of Mother Nature, and they called that god the Logos, which was Greek for Word.
So, John was saying that the God of nature existed outside and above nature.
The Letter to the Hebrews and Paul’s Letter to the Colossians bring us a little further into our scant understanding of the Trinity. They tell us that the Second Person is the imprint of the Father’s being, and the image of the invisible God. Thomas Aquinas went on from there to suggest that the Son is the Father’s mental image of himself that he forever lovingly contemplates. That love, in turn, is unwavering, taking on its own identity as the Spirit..
Saturday 05/29/10
ReadingsPosted 05/28/10 4:50pm

The temple was a series of courtyards within courtyards. The outer one, known as the Court of the Gentiles, was open even to foreigners. It also served as a market for dealers in animals suitable for sacrifices. It is likely that the temple authorities received their cut on those sales, and that financial loss might have prompted them to demand of Jesus what authority he had for driving out the dealers and money changers.

The authorities asked, “By what authority are you doing these things,” so perhaps they were irked by something more. In his account of the incident Matthew says that after driving out the dealers Jesus went on to usher into the temple the crowd of beggars and lame people from outside the gate. The authorities considered such people to be non kosher, but by his action Jesus was saying that the temple should have a bigger welcome for these children of God than for peddlers and moneychangers.

This story tells us to not let a legalistic outlook blot out our perception of what is right before God.


Friday 05/28/10
Readings
Posted 05/27/10 7:00pm

Our Gospel tells the story of Jesus driving the merchants out of the temple. You should make this into a great story. After framing the picture in your mind, you must zero in on the wild eyes of the beasts as they flee from the wrath of God .

When I took up this story with my Seventh Grade I had the little darlings jumping back in amazement when I turned my desk into the tables of the money counters, flipping it over, sending Bibles, my attendance register, pencils and pens flying.

This Gospel reading today starts on Monday of Holy Week. It tells how Jesus, on passing into the city, felt hunger, and stepped aside to pull a fig off a tree. When he found no figs he cursed the tree, telling it to never again bear fruit.

Then, on passing the same way Tuesday morning Peter noticed that the tree had withered, and he pointed it out to Jesus. Now, the tree is a parable, it stands for us; and the curse that fell on it is a curse waiting for us if we do not produce good works.

But there is a point to the story that one might easily miss. In his Gospel Mark tells us that it was not the season for figs. If we take the tree to be an image for us, what would its being cursed when it was not the season for figs mean for us? It would mean that we must do the right thing at all times, even when we don’t feel like doing it just now.


Thursday 05/27/10
Readings
Posted 05/26/10 7:29pm

In the first reading Peter tells us that in the New Covenant God offers us the dignities that in Exodus Chapter Nineteen he offered to the people of the Old Covenant. We will be “A chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people set apart.”

The priesthood is not restricted to the ordained priests. Everyone here has a priestly role to play in a Mass evolved from the prayers Jesus offered at the Last Supper where he followed the traditional Jewish ritual.

That Jewish meal prayer had three parts. It began with a Calling to Mind Prayer when the head of the family called to the minds of all the great favors they had received from God. In our Mass the principal favors the priest at the altar dwells on have to do with Jesus coming among us and offering himself.

The second part of the Jewish ritual was the Calling Down Prayer when the head of the family called down God’s blessings. In our Mass the priests calls down God’s Spirit to unite us and to inspire us to speak back to God.

The third part of the Jewish meal ritual from called the Pleasing Gift when the head of the family and the diners offered themselves and what they had to God as a pleasing gift in return for his favors to him. The Greek word for Pleasing Gift was Eu-Charis.

By the Second Century the whole Mass prayer came to be known as the Eucharist. Because of their being a Royal Priesthood all the faithful take part in the priestly act of offering themselves as part of the Euchnarist. Comments? Email Fr. Sullivan (return to top)

Wednesday 05/26/10
Readings
Posted 05/26/10 7:25pm

Apologies to readers: I overlooked this post. Fr. S gives them to me a week in advance, but I was a little distracted. Looking at new platform with Wordpress. More soon. -Katie Bark

Peter’s advice to Christians was, “Love each other intensely with pure hearts.”

So, if it is to be pure it could not consist in wild embraces or in gushy compliments. How might we manifest our intense love for one another? Empathy could be a part of it. That is, we could strive imaginatively for a grasp of what hardships and sorrows another is putting up with. I saw something like intense love in the deep friendship a brilliant girl entered into with a girl who got nothing right. I saw intense love in the attention a man I know gave to a wife who never stopped talking. I see real, if not intense, love in teachers, librarians and bus drivers whose hearts go out to people suffering from their own inadequacies: people who leave that teacher, librarian or bus driver with new warmth in their hearts.

Tuesday 05/25/10
Readings
Posted 05/24/10 9:08pm

Jesus said that anyone who gives up family and home for his sake will receive a hundred times more in this present age.

I am not sure what he had in mind, but there is one way where that works out. People whose training had them growing up loving only their own family or their own tribe will find the circle of those with whom they share love will widen a hundredfold once they let Christ broaden their horizon. But, since Christ’s love has not taken hold we hear about tribal slaughters: of peasants by Mexican gangs, of Shiites by Sunni Muslims, of Afghans by the Taliban. The killers cannot be happy with themselves, nor can they be free from the fear of retribution.

What better lives we have when we stroll neighborhoods secure in the belief that everyone we meet is God’s child. ”Hi, what are you taking at school this year?” “Hello there, you take beautiful care of your lawn.” What an absolutely gorgeous baby!

Monday 05/24/10
ReadingsPosted 05/23/10 7:35pm

Yesterday someone asked me what we seminarians wore back in the 1940’s and 50’s. Informally we wore black trousers and T-shirts, and we had crew cuts. From Mass time to bedtime we wore our cassocks. The reading about the rich young man brings back a memory of us seminarians moving up and down the stairs. Going down toward the lower landing at meal time we rocketed past a painting of that young man who turned away because he had many possession.

Back then we knew we would follow Jesus rather than riches, but over the years we have imperceptively switched over to the rich young man’s value system. With our air conditioning and flat TVs we embrace a level of luxury the young man never dreamed of.

With our living so high on the hog we should practice behavior that could get us through the Golden Gates. Sharing our good fortune with those in need would be at the top of our list of tricks.

Sunday 05/23/10
Readings
Posted 05/22/10 8:54pm

The first reading and the Gospel give us quite different accounts of how the Spirit was bestowed on the disciples. In the first reading he came as a mighty wind that gave the disciples the gift of tongues, propelling them out to spread the Gospel.

In the Gospel Jesus conferred the Spirit with a simple breath that had no visible effect.

Those two quite different advents of the Spirit can be seen throughout the Scriptures. In Chapter One of Genesis the mighty wind moving over the abyss brought about the wonders of creation. In Chapter Two God’s simple breath just gave life to Adam.

A whirlwind rushed on Saul, dispatching him to conquer the Ammonites. When the Spirit with his interior gifts came to the Messiah it simply rested on him.

When children preparing for Confirmation are told it will be a repetition of Pentecost they are disappointed in not feeling anything, but they do receive the Spirit. It comes on them like the breath that brought Adam to life, like the breath of Jesus on Easter night when it brought his church to life.

Saturday 05/22/10
ReadingsPosted 05/21/10 8:14pm

Our readings today bring us the conclusion of two great books. The first reading has the final sentences in Luke’s Acts of the Apostles. They picture Paul under house arrest in Rome in the year 65. In 66 when Nero pushed the blame for Rome burning on to the Christians Paul would give his life for Christ.

John’s Gospel concluded with him telling us that his account gives us only a fraction of what Jesus did and said. A little earlier he had summed up his purpose as one of proving to us that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, so that we might have life in his name.

Friday 05/21/10
Readings
Posted 05/20/10 8:40pm

Our Gospel is the conclusion of the story that had Jesus appearing on the shore of the lake when Peter and the others had spent the night fishing. After breakfasting with the Apostles Jesus led Peter aside.

Jesus three times commissioned Peter to feed his sheep. In the matter of a special role for Peter we can couple this story with the one where Jesus called Peter the rock on which he would build his church. Jesus used poetic imagery in calling Peter a foundation stone, in telling him to feed sheep. We have to be careful in assigning any precise political meaning to these poetic conferrals. But, at least Jesus was setting Peter apart from all others.

We can’t say those two poetic passages have the clear meaning that Jesus stands behind the authority of our pope. But, since John and Matthew’s Gospels were written after Peter died and was succeeded by Linus then Cletus as bishops in Rome, it would seem that what Jesus said to Peter also applied to them.

Thursday 05/20/10
Readings
Posted 05/19/10 8:20pm

The first reading today is interesting as an example of St. Paul playing smart politics. After several years of spreading the Gospel through Turkey and Greece Paul came back to Jerusalem. On going into the temple to pray he was recognized by Jews from Greece who were angry with him for his having associated with Gentiles. With their shouting accusations at him they started a riot that brought in Roman officers who put him on trial with the whole Jewish Sanhedrin in attendance.

That was when Paul played clever politics. Seeing that the Jewish assembly was divided between Pharisees who believed in life after death and Sadducees who did not, he started a religious argument between them. He told the Roman judge that his only crime was one of stating his belief that there is life after death. The Sadducees shouted that there was no such thing, and with the Pharisees shouting that there was the Roman judge declared the proceeding a mistrial. He had his soldiers lead Paul away from the attacks by the Sadducees.

Jesus had told us to be as innocent as doves, letting each answer be a simple yes or no, but here Paul lets us see it does not hurt to at times be as shrewd as serpents.

Wednesday 05/19/10
Readings
Posted 05/18/10 6:20pm

Our first reading today is from Chapter Twenty of the Acts of the Apostles. In it Paul urges the presbyters of Ephesus to watch over the Church of God. Let’s pause to take a look at that word Paul used. I mean “church.”

Of course, since church is an English word, and he was speaking in Greek, he didn’t use the word church. The word he used was ecclsia, a word of two parts: aik and cleo. Together they meant “to call out,” or “those called out.” Aik meaning “out” and cleo meaning “to call.” Our word clamor comes from it.

Although we adopted the word ecclesia to designate our coming together, it was originally used in democratic towns to designate the citizens who were called out to vote. It is interesting that Christ’s disciples should have chosen a democratic term to describe our gatherings.

Our word church also had a Greek origin. It was saying their words for Lord and house so fast that they ran together. With the pronunciation of the two “k’s” changed to two “ch’s,” they said Kyre-oikia so fast that it became chee-orch. Comments? Email Fr. Sullivan (return to top)

Tuesday 05/18/10
ReadingsPosted 05/17/10 7:30pm

In the Gospel Jesus said, “I do not pray for the world.” That seems to disagree with St. John saying, “He was in the world, and the world came to be through him.” The confusion comes from the word world being used in two different senses.

In one sense the world is this planet and its people. Like all of God’s creation they are good. They were modeled after the Word through whom all things came to be.

In another sense there is a world for whom Jesus did not pray. That was the secular world, the Roman world that was persecuting Christians.

In my Korean parish I had two nuns from an order that was founded in North Korea before the Communists took over there. After their taking over they tried to suppress that order of nuns, but they cleverly managed to meet and continue their common prayers, eventually escaping to the South. A Sister Rita who was their ring leader up there later came to work in my parish. Whenever we came up against evil behavior Sister Rita would mutter, “Oh saisang, saisang!” or “This world, this world!”

Monday 05/17/10
ReadingsPosted 05/16/10 6:12pm

In the first reading Paul came on some people who thought of themselves as Christians although their only initiation had been a cleansing rite like the baptism John the Baptist had administered in the Jordan. They had not even heard of the Holy Spirit, so Paul laid hands on them and they received the charismatic gifts the Apostles had received at Pentecost.

That story is confusing. It makes no mention of the Christian Baptism Paul described in Chapter Six of his Letter to the Romans. Pentecostal believers reading this passage in the Acts of the Apostles would say it shows the need for a second baptism, a baptism in the Holy Spirit. But, does it? It shows that the baptism of John without Christian baptism is not enough, but it does not show that the Sacrament of Baptism is inadequate without the laying on of hands in a second baptism.

Sunday 05/16/10
Readings
Posted 05/15/10 8:48pm

Today we turn to our belief that Jesus at the end of his years on earth was taken bodily into heaven. We are children of a space age when we have an artificial moon orbiting Saturn and sending back pictures. It is hard for us to picture just what happened at our Lord’s Ascension. I once heard a Sunday TV preacher assuring us that somewhere out in space Our Lord’s body was resting in heavenly splendor, but I don’t believe that.

In Luke’s two accounts of the Ascension the disciples saw the body of Jesus disappearing through the clouds. It might be that his description wasn’t factual. Rather, it was tailored to fit the understanding of that century when people believed heaven to be thirty miles above them, just above the dome of the blue sky.

We must remember that after the Resurrection Jesus passed bodily through locked doors. His body would have taken on the heavenly qualities Paul described in Chapter Fifteen of First Corinthians. It would have been powerful, glorious, and a spiritual body.

Whatever the make-up of his heavenly body, we never know what to make of his Ascension. We say, “He was here, now he is gone. How wonderful!”

We should see the Ascension much as we see the death of Jesus on the cross. He did not die as an individual. He died as a stand-in for all humanity. So, in his Ascension our humanity broke loose from its ties to death and corruption. If we are willing to become one with Jesus by living loving lives we can become one with him in rising above the chains of mortality.


Saturday 05/15/10
Readings
Posted 05/14/10 5:05pm

Since Easter our Gospel readings have been from the four chapters in John’s Gospel that follow on the Last Supper. They lead up to Our Lord’s departure for the Garden of Gethsemane.

The other three Gospels have nothing like this final discourse of Jesus. I have a theory as to why John concluded his account of Our Lord’s teaching with this summation. Since it is only my theory you needn’t humor me, you can go on to something more useful.

My theory is that John modeled his Gospel on three books of the Pentateuch, on Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers. Where they gave an account of God helping the people through the desert years by giving them bread from heaven, water from a rock, a glowing cloud to lead them by night, John quotes Jesus as saying he is the true bread from heaven, if anyone thirsts let him come to him to drink, and he is the light of life, in following him we do not walk in darkness.

Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers are followed by Deuteronomy, a name which means “a copy of the law.” Deuteronomy is presented as a final farewell from Moses. In it he repeats the Ten Commandments and his principal teachings. Chapter fourteen, fifteen, sixteen and seventeen of John's Gospel perform the same function for Jesus. They are his farewell to us his disciples.

Friday 05/14/10
Readings
Posted 05/13/10 9:29pm

Today is the feast of St. Matthias whom the Apostles chose to take the place of Judas as the twelfth Apostle. We know nothing more than that about Matthias, and I see this as an opening for me to tell the story about a Matthias I knew.

Mattie was an Irish seminarian who in 1951 was sent as an exchange student to our seminary in America. He had the winsome good looks of an Irish movie actor: the kind of guy about whom people would say, “Butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth.” But, one day I discovered a tougher side to Mattie. Playing opposite to him in a soccer game I took the ball off Mattie, and with it I turned it towards the goal he was defending. Hearing grunting from behind, and becoming aware that Mattie was pounding hard after me, I passed the ball off. But his footsteps kept pounding after me, and they kept coming as he chased me a long way off the field. When I stopped and turned to him Mattie snapped out of it, and he grinned sheepishly.

Mattie and I ended up in the same diocese in Korea. With his temper flare ups making him unsuitable for parish work, our bishop brought him into headquarters to handle our finances. Soon after that the bishop brought me in to act as chancellor, and that had Mattie and me taking our meals together. In the middle of a meal he could begin feeling dissatisfaction at something. He’d pull out a cigarette, then after a bit he’d say, “Excuse me, Sull,” and he’d go off to his room to let the inner storm pass.

All that inner disquiet brought Mattie to a death in his forties. Stories like his teach us to make allowances for people born with such disquiet. They teach us to thank God for what self control we were born with.


Thursday 05/13/10
Readings
Posted 05/12/10 8:49pm

This Thursday is the traditional day for remembering the ascension of our Lord into heaven, but our bishops have moved that observance to the following Sunday. I like joking about the power of our bishops in being able to shift Ascension Thursday to Sunday.

In the Gospel Jesus said, “A little while and you will not see me, and again a little while and you shall see me.” That set the Apostles to asking, “What is this ‘little while?’"

The first ‘little while’ after which they would not see him seemed to refer to his ascension into heaven, but what was the second ‘little while’ when they would see him? If it meant his coming at the end of the world he wasn’t being very accurate, for more than a little while has elapsed, and that hasn’t come yet.

Father Raymond Brown, who was acknowledged to understand John’s Gospel better than any other man or woman, said we cannot know for sure just what Jesus meant. However, he favored what at first sounds like a strange answer. He thought Jesus was talking about coming to us as the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

“What?” you ask, “aren’t Jesus and the Holy Spirit separate persons?” Well, they are, and they are not. We must remember that the first and fundamental truth of our religion is that we believe in one God. What is more, we believe that the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. He can be called the Spirit of Christ.


Wednesday 05/12/10
Readings
Posted 05/11/10 7:24pm

In this 17th chapter of Acts St. Paul makes a monumental Christian assertion in saying God is not far from any of us for, “in him we live and move and have our being.”
We can heft the weight of that statement by seeing the advancement it makes on what was mankind’s understanding of God’s proximity. We will look at what it was with primitive peoples and what it was with the Jews.

As strange as it seems, from South America, through Africa, Asia, and Canada primitive peoples had similar creation myths in which their gods, disappointed at human sinfulness, abandoned us for heaven’s recesses. The worldwide similarities do not end in that. In one isolated climate after another the primitives took to acting out their creation myths in hopes they could induce their gods to return to again shower them with blessings.

Primitive Israelites had a similar understanding up to the time of Jacob, but then he had the vision of angels ascending and descending from heaven. That vision had Israelites believing that God, while permanently removed to his seventh heaven, still kept in touch with us through angelic messengers.

What a delightful advancement is Paul's revelation of God’s proximity to us!

Tuesday 05/11/10
Readings
Posted 05/10/10 8:59pm

I have never heard a good explanation of those words attributed to Jesus where he says that the Advocate would convict the world “in regard to sin and righteousness and condemnation.” With none of Our Lord’s words having been taped, what the Gospels present us with are fifty-year-old recollections of what he said.

John writes that Jesus said the presence of the Advocate in their lives would be of greater worth to them than his physical presence had been. Since they would have been most unwilling to believe that it is not likely that they made it up. That leaves us to ponder on the question: “In what way is being temples of the Holy Spirit of greater worth to us than would be the physical presence of Jesus in our lives?”

Our search for an answer to that might lead us to a consideration of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Harnessing our wild urges, he brings us to practice Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Fortitude. Knowledge and Fear of the Lord.


Monday 05/10/10
Readings
Posted 05/09/10 5:45pm

The first reading is a part of our family history as Christians. Luke, in telling us, “We set sail” includes us in that “we.” That was a trick Hemingway had for making us his companions. In leaving Asia for Europe we come to Philippi where the unfortunate Brutus met his end.

Luke has us walking by the river with him and Paul, and he feels we will agree that the spot they found would be perfect for Sabbath prayers. Not being alone in that, they came on a group led by Lydia, a dealer in purple from Thyatira. (Critics of the Bible fixed on that, saying that Thyatira was too far from the sea to afford a supply of purple dye: but a later discovery uncovered another Thyatira on an Aegean island.)

The Pharisees get harsh treatment in the Gospels, but we must recognize one admirable aspect of their lives. It was this: they all worked for their own upkeep, taking no support from Judaism. Paul, as a Pharisee took care of his own needs with his tent making, and he rejected the hospitality of the Christians in such places as Corinth; but Lydia’s personality was too strong for him to say no to her offers.

Sunday 05/09/10
Readings
Posted 05/09/10 3:45pm

The Gospel recounts some of what Jesus said to the Apostles after the Last Supper the night before he died. He told them he could not then prepare them for some situations they would have to deal with. He said that when the time came the Holy Spirit would lead them to the right answers.

Fifteen years after the Resurrection one of those situations arose. Along with avoiding non kosher foods, the Apostles, as strict Jews had also avoided Gentiles who ate such foods, as well as homes where such foods were served. St. Peter could say that in all of his years he had not once entered such a place.

But an unexpected situation came along: with Gentiles coming to believe in the Gospel, the Apostles were feeling they owed those Gentiles their companionship. Feeling that this was the kind of situation Jesus had in mind, the Apostles and presbyters gathered in Jerusalem to discuss the situation and to beg the Holy Spirit to tell them what to do.

When everyone had his say the group came around to seeing that Gentiles could become Christians without becoming circumcised Jews. They wrote up their conclusions for distribution through all the Christian communities, beginning the document by saying, “It seems good to the Holy Spirit and to us to put no further burden on these believers.”

That gathering established the pattern for the twenty ecumenical councils that were to be held by the Church. It gave the right framework to the Second Vatican Council where twenty-three hundred bishops met off an on over four years, seeking enlightenment from the Holy Spirit for modern situations undreamed of in the past. The documents of Vatican II were composed under the influence of the Holy Spirit.


Saturday 05/08/10
Readings
Posted 05/08/10 6;40Am

There are two little things we might note in the first reading. One thing is that although Paul had insisted that circumcision was an empty ritual with no religious value, he still had Timothy circumcised. He did this out of respect for people with strong Jewish beliefs. He was letting us know that as Catholics we should go along with practices that mean something to people with different traditions.

The other thing of note is the final sentence. Paul and his companions arrived at Troas, cite of ancient Troy. Up to that day the account in the Acts of the Apostles had narrated what Paul and his companions had done. Suddenly, the Acts stopped telling us what they did, and switched to saying what we did. Luke had slipped into the story.


Friday 05/07/10
Readings
Posted 05/07/10 7:09pm

That meeting of the Apostles in Jerusalem was the forerunner of the twenty ecumenical councils the church has held during the ages. It set the stage for the Council of Trent and for the Second Vatican Council.

Before breaking up they wrote out their decrees, instructing that they should be distributed throughout the known world.

What is most noteworthy about their wording is that they wrote, “It is the decision of the Holy Spirit and of us.” That wording reflected their reliance on the promise of Jesus that in difficult times the Holy Spirit would lead them to all truth. Some good people feel that Vatican II was wrong in allowing the Mass in English and ordinary street clothes for nuns. They should recognize that the twenty-three hundred bishops who met off an on for four years were rightfully relying on the guidance of the Holy Spirit. They undoubtedly received it just as the Apostles did when they decided it was not sinful for us to eat shrimp.

Thursday 05/06/10
Readings
Posted 05/06/10 6:51am

The night before he died Jesus told the Apostles in the future they would have to make decisions for which he could not prepare them in advance. He said that when the time came the Holy Spirit would lead them to the right decisions.

Fifteen years after the Resurrection they came to such a fork in the road. Keeping kosher as devout Jews they had not only avoided unclean foods such as pork and shellfish, they had also avoided people who ate such things, avoiding all places where such things were eaten.

But now, with unclean Gentiles coming to believe in the Gospel, and seeking their love, they did not know how to behave. The church in Antioch, mindful of what Jesus had said the night before he died, deputized Paul, Barnabas and some presbyters to meet with the Apostles in Jerusalem to seek direction from the Holy Spirit as to what course to take.

When Peter and then others had their say, James, the cousin of Jesus and the leader of the church in Jerusalem, quoted a passage from the Bible that spoke of God’s plan to eventually number the Gentiles among the Chosen People. He said they needn’t be bound by all the Jewish traditions, but they should at least avoid meat with blood in it. He thought they should know enough about the teachings of Moses to know that was forbidden. Peter would later cheat on that rule, but not when James was around.


Wednesday 05/05/10
Readings
Posted 05/04/10 5:51pm

We are all familiar with the parable of the vine and branches: Jesus is the vine, we are the branches. As a branch cannot bear fruit if it is cut off from he vine, neither can we accomplish anything of value if we are separated from Christ.

There is another approach to this teaching in an image buried in Chapter One of John’s Gospel.

If we were standing during the reading of that chapter we had the practice of kneeling at “And the Word became flesh and dwelt amongst us.” Now, as important as we saw those words to be, we didn’t state them properly. What John actually wrote was, “And the Word became flesh and pitched his tent with ours.”

What John alluded to there was that in the Book of Exodus God demanded that Moses should weave a special tent to which people could turn for private meetings with God.
In declaring that the Word pitched his tent with ours John was saying that Our Lord’s flesh was his version of a meeting tent to which we can and must retire for his sweet advise in all of our difficulties, in pursuing all our projects.

Tuesday 05/04/10
Readings
Posted 05/03/10 7:50pm

On their first missionary journey Paul and Barnabas spent a month or two in each of four towns in south central Turkey. They preached, baptized, and offered the Eucharist in Antioch, Iconium, Lystra and Derbe.

At the end of their stay in Derbe they appointed the most reliable men to be presbyters. Then, at a brief stop over in Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch they again appointed the most diligent to be presbyters for their town.

There are two interesting details about that term presbyter. First, it is the origin of our word priest, which is a contraction of presbyter. Secondly, the core syllable in the word presbyter which is the byt syllable was the Indo-European word for an ox. The whole word presbyter literally means “the lead ox.” From that we see that it was the intention of the apostles that their priests should conduct themselves like old lead oxen, always teaching, always pulling the biggest load. Priests are not meant to sit up there like coachmen, cracking their whips.


Monday 05/03/10
Readings
Posted 05/02/10 8:51pm

Today we honor two little known Apostles, Phillip and James. Phillip appears twice in John’s Gospel. The first time we hear him suggesting that two hundred denarius would not buy enough bread for each of the five thousand to have a mouthful. The second time he says to Jesus, “Show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.”

Of James all we know is that he was called James the Less because he was shorter than the other James.

With this pair two things are noteworthy. First, that they were uneducated fishermen who received private instruction from Jesus, equipping them to go abroad to boldly proclaim the Resurrection of Jesus to learned men in country after country. The second thing of note with Phillip and James was that they were two of the twelve apostles who supplanted the twelve sons of Jacob as the pillars of the new Chosen People.


Sunday 05/02/10
ReadingsPosted 05/01/10 6:49pm

In the Gospel Jesus gave us the new commandment: we must love one another as he has loved us. He issued his commandment as the second part of the New Covenant, following on his offering his Blood. In this rite he echoed the Sinai covenant in which the young men sprinkled blood on the people and God’s altar as Moses was extracting from the people a promise to keep each of the Ten Commandments.

Our first reading from the Acts winds up the first missionary journey of St. Paul through the central section of what is now modern Turkey. Over several months he and Barnabas preached the Gospel in Perga, Antioch, Iconium and Lystra. Then, retracing their steps, they checked up on each community. As well, from among the most trustworthy they chose a leader for each church. It is interesting that the name they applied to each leader was presbyter. That, surprisingly, is the origin of our word priest, which is its contraction. Interesting as well is the origin of the word presbyter. The core of the work is the syllable byt which was the Indo-European word for an ox. That makes a priest the lead ox. So, he should not be the guy sitting up there cracking his whip. He should be the lead ox, out there pulling the bigger share of the load.


Saturday 05/01/10
ReadingsPosted 04/30/10 7:57pm

Jesus said, “If you ask anything in my name, I will do it.” He must have meant that for the Apostles. We haven’t experienced it working for us. Luke’s version of Our Lord’s words seems more factual. He quotes Jesus as promising, not anything at all, but the holy Spirit to any who ask.

In the first reading Paul spoke of Jesus being a light to the Gentiles. His Jewish audience would have recognized those words as coming from the second of the Songs of the Suffering Servant in Isaiah. There Isaiah said that the Messiah would be possessed of more greatness than the Jews could absorb, and that would turn him to expending it upon the Gentiles.

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