In this chapter, Luke began recounting all the events that brought the disciples to see that Jesus was more than human.

Tuesday, 9/1/15
With Luke giving the first three of his chapters to his Infancy Narrative, he then devoted Chapters Four through Nine to showing how it gradually dawned on his disciples that he was more than human. That gradual dawning began with his day at the synagogue in Capernaum.
Luke is here asking us to join the disciples as they wondered what kind of man this could be.
With the disciples, we are in wonder over the authority in the teaching voice of Jesus. With their Scribes, everything they said about heaven was hearsay; but Jesus talked about heaven as though he had been there.
The disciples were amazed at how the devils in possession of a man there all recognized Jesus as “The holy One of God.”
When Jesus turned on the devil possessing the man, he commanded the devil to come out, and the devil threw the man to the ground in an unsuccessful attempt to hang on to the man.
 All the people in the synagogue that day, were so utterly convinced of the other-worldliness of Jesus, that they spread word about him everywhere.   

In voting we should seek help from the Suffering Servant who brought forth justice, “Not crying out, not shouting, not making his voice heard in the streets.”

Monday, 8/31/15
Imbedded in the later chapters of the Book of Isaiah there are four poems dedicated to God’s Suffering Servant. We Christians feel that the Bible saw Jesus as that Suffering Servant, and we are happy that in today’s Gospel Jesus identified himself as the Suffering Servant.
A noteworthy thing about the story in today’s reading is the people’s violent change of mood toward Jesus. In the beginning, “they all spoke highly of him;” but then soon after “they were all filled with fury. They rose up, and drove him out of town.”
In that congregation there must have been several “rabble rousers” who turned the people against Jesus.
That situation might set you to thinking about our upcoming 2016 elections. Like me, you might have received letters asking for donations for advertising. The media’s pundits, in making their guesses as to the winners of the elections, are depending on which candidates have amassed the most millions for advertising.
That was not Our Lord’s way. In the first of those four songs of the Suffering Servant, the Bible says, “He shall bring forth justice to the nations, “Not crying out, not shouting, not making his voice heard in the streets.”
Our preferences are as easily moved as were those of the people in the synagogue in Nazareth.
It should not be that way. In addition to the Ten Commandments there be an eleventh one that binds us to coolly seek out the truth. In that search we should get all the facts. Then, we should closet ourselves with the Suffering Servant, begging his help for bringing justice to the nation.

If you keep your heart clean it can be your private chapel for visiting with the Lord.

Sunday, 8/30/15
In today’s Gospel the Pharisees accused the disciples of breaking the rules of kosher. These rules were originally given to the Israelites for health reasons. The Old Testament in Leviticus Eleven forbade them the eating of pork or shellfish. There was no refrigeration back then, and God wanted to protect the people from food poisoning, and Jesus went along with that.
However, when five hundred years before his time, the Scribes began adding other harmless foods to the list of what was kosher (appropriate), Jesus protected the right of people to eat harmless foods when they were hungry.
He said, “Nothing that enters one from outside can defile a person; but the things that come out from within are what defile.” He said that it is from our hearts that come “evil thoughts, theft, greed, malice, deceit.”
We can combine that thought with what Jesus says to us in Chapter Three of the Book of Revelations: “I stand at the door and knock. If anyone should hear my voice and open the door, I will come in and dine with him.”
That makes you think that if you keep your heart free from evil thoughts, Christ will come in and stay with you. It will be a private chapel where you can meet with him at all times.    

We should give more attention to the down home goodness all around us.

Saturday, 8/29/15
The Gospel gives us a litany of spectacular evils.
Herod was spectacularly fatuous in the party he threw for himself, in his appreciation  for his step-daughter’s bawdiness, in his caving in to his respect for his fatuous guests.
Salome was spectacular in her vanity and in her disregard for John’s untouchable holiness.
Herodias was spectacular in her spite.
In pleasing contrast, the first reading presents us with a litany of down home goodness. Paul compliments Thessalonica’s Christians for their fraternal charity, going on then to encourage them to be even more loving.
He recommends the down home beauty of lives of tranquility, of our not meddling in the affairs of other’s, and of our working with our hands.
When you are among people, all you hear them talking about are acts of such spectacular evils as shootings, of abandoning refugees to die, and of official corruption.
We should buck up, and give more attention to the down home goodness inspired by the love of God all around us. 

St.Augustine supplied us with clear thoughts about our beliefs.

Friday, 8/28/15

In honoring St. Augustine today, we particularly honor some of his key thoughts. 
He said, “Our hearts are made for you, O Lord, and they cannot rest until they rest in you.”  This is everyone’s favorite. It represents Augustine’s complete surrender to God.
 He wrote: “The sacrifice aspect of the Mass consists in Christ’s and the worshipers’ interior submission to God.” From the First Century on Christians had been asking in what way their Sunday Eucharist could be a sacrifice. This was Augustine’s clear answer to that.
 “A Sacrament is an encounter with God who is the ministering agent for all the Sacraments.”  (We needn’t wonder if the priest hearing our confessions is in the state of grace. It is Jesus who performs the Sacrament.)
He wrote, “”No one can be saved by his or her own efforts, unaided by the grace of God.” In Augustine’s Fourth Century, a priest named Pelagius was a forerunner of Twentieth Century’s Norman Vincent Peale in claiming we can save ourselves by our own positive thinking.

St. Augustine supplied the Church with clear understandings of ourbelievs.

Friday, 8?28/15

In honoring St. Augustine today, we particularly honor some of his key thoughts. 
He said, “Our hearts are made for you, O Lord, and they cannot rest until they rest in you.”  This is everyone’s favorite. It represents Augustine’s complete surrender to God.
 He wrote: “The sacrifice aspect of the Mass consists in Christ’s and the worshipers’ interior submission to God.” From the First Century on Christians had been asking in what way their Sunday Eucharist could be a sacrifice. This was Augustine’s clear answer to that.
 “A Sacrament is an encounter with God who is the ministering agent for all the Sacraments.”  (We needn’t wonder if the priest hearing our confessions is in the state of grace. It is Jesus who performs the Sacrament.)
He wrote, “”No one can be saved by his or her own efforts, unaided by the grace of God.” In Augustine’s Fourth Century, a priest named Pelagius was a forerunner of Twentieth Century’s Norman Vincent Peale in claiming we can save ourselves by our own positive thinking.

St. Monica spent her life doing what God had put her here to do.

Thursday, 8/27/15

In the Gospel Jesus spoke of coming at an unexpected time, and finding his servant busy about doing his master’s work.  St. Monica, the mother of Augustine was one such faithful servant. Her husband, a pagan with ambitions for his son, had fitted him out with a fine education and a maid to care for him.

Swimming against that tide, Monica followed her son from assignment to assignment, becoming successful at last by introducing Augustine to the spiritual spell of St. Ambrose.

You and I are both servants of God, with his tasks to carry out. Our hope is that the Lord will find us doing his work when he comes for us.

I often quote Romans Fourteen, Seven. “No one lives as his own master. No one dies as his own master. While we live, we are responsible to the Lord; when we die, we die as his servants. Both in life and in death we are the Lords.”

If you want to be good teachers, parents, and Catholics; then just act like good teachers, parents, and Catholics.

Wednesday, 8/26/15

In the Gospel Jesus accused the Scribes and Pharisees of being hypocrites who put on a show of being  holy man, while secretly their lives were giving over to evil behavior.

In the Greek language of the New Testament, all  actors, even honest ones, were known as hypocrites. They were men who each played a role.

With none of us being as good as we appear to be, we could be hypocrites. Maybe hypocrisy is our dominant fault.

But we should not accuse ourselves of being hypocrites for doing what we should be doing. To be a good teacher, a good mother, a good father, a good Catholic, one must play that role.

In the movie “The Verdict,” Paul Newman played the part of an Irish Catholic lawyer. He was telling the jury that if they wanted to be just men and women they should just act with justice. In that role he said, “In our Religion we say if you want to believe, then act as though you do believe, and Faith will be given to you.”

That is good advice. Without accusing yourself of hypocrisy, you should go out and act like good parents, like good teachers, like good Catholics; and you will receive the gift of becoming good parents, good teachers, and good Catholics.

Who were the Scribes and the Pharisees?

Tuesday, 8/25/15

With the Scribes and the Pharisees jointly challenging Jesus, it might help for us to have a clear idea about these two groups, the Scribes and the Pharisees.

The origins of the Scribes go back to 450 b.c.. In that year Jewish leaders moved to make the Law of Moses the civil law for Jerusalem; and for that to be legal, they had to publically read the whole of the law; going on then, to its gaining acceptance from all of Jerusalem’s people. The people approved, but they requested the right to add amendments. At first, three amendments were accepted, but over the centuries thousands more of amendments were added, and the legal class of the Scribes emerged to keep those amendments straight.

The Pharisees as a class of religious Jews, went back just to 152 b.c., but their roots went back to 977 b.c.. What happened back then was that King David was dying, and although he had promised the kingship to Solomon, the son of Bathsheba; his renegade son Adonijah had raised a private army, and was acting like the next king. David on his deathbed, hearing about that usurpation, ordered the priest Zadoc to crown Solomon.

Zadoc was certain that if he did that, Adonijah’s henchmen would kill him. Feeling he would certainly die from anointing Solomon, Adonijah, out of obedience to David, bravely went ahead with it. Surprisingly, the anointing of Solomon raised such an acceptance from all the people that Adonijah had to flee for his life.

In recognition of Zadoc’s bravery, the people swore themselves to accepting only direct descendents of Zadoc as their high priest. That became the rule for them over the nxt seven hundred years. Then, in 152 b.c. the only available descendent of Zadoc was a most unfit man; and rather than condemning themselves to being ruled by a nitwit, the people gave the high office to Jonathan, the brother of their hero, Judas Maccabeus.

However, a small group of arch conservatists, holding to the tradition that the high priest had to be a descendent of Zadoc, separated themselves; coming to be known as the Pharisees, or the “separated.” They also backed up the Scribes by adhering to all the precepts that had been added to the Law of Moses.      

Jesus had listened into Nathaniel's conversation with God.

Monday, 8/24/15

Today we honor Bartholomew, one of Our Lord’s apostles. The name Bartholomew means Son of Ptolemy. His given name was Nathaniel, and he is called that in today’s Gospel.   

Jesus left his home in Nazareth, and went to be baptized by John in the Jordan. The next day, when John pointed him out as the Lamb of God, two followers of John the Baptist, Andrew and John. Came up from the river; and they followed Jesus at a distance. When he turned, asking them what they were looking for, they asked him where he was staying. He told them to come, so they stayed with him that night.

The next day Andrew went and got his brother Simon, telling him they had found the Messiah. When Simon came to him, Jesus changed his name to Peter. The young men then  rounded up their fellow fisherman Phillip, and he went to tell Nathaniel that they had found the Messiah.

Nathaniel, relaxing under a fig tree, had been praying, talking with God. When Phillip identified the Messiah as Jesus of Nazareth, Nathaniel asked, “Can any good come out of Nazareth?”

Still, he followed Phillip, and when Jesus saw him, he said, “Behold a true Israelite in whom there is no guile.”

Nathaniel asked Jesus how he knew him, and Jesus said, “I saw you under the fig tree before Phillip called you.”

Nathaniel then said, “Rabbi, you are really the Son of God.” He knew that only God himself had been part of his conversation under the fig tree, so Jesus had to be the Son of God.

Faith is God's free gift.

Sunday, 8/23/15

Today’s Gospel tells the story of how most of his followers left Jesus because they did not believe he could give them his flesh to eat. They all still believed in God, they just no longer believed in Jesus.

 There are two steps to our believing. The first step is that we must believe in God. The second step is that we must believe that Jesus is God’s only Son who has come into this world.

Good clear thinking is help enough for us to take that first step of believing in God. The second step of believing in Jesus as God’s anointed one calls for God giving us the gift of Faith.

For an atheist to change by taking that step to believing in God I think all that is necessary is that he take a clear look at the universe of which he is a part. starting with himself. 

Science clearly demonstrates that his or her body is composed of millions of cells, each of which is composed of millions of DNA molecules.

I myself am a Grandfather Clock with millions of interlocking parts that was set in motion eighty-eight years ago, and is still ticking along fine. Intricate clocks like each of us don’t come together naturally with their parts ticking away.  They need a great watchmaker.

Dante published his Diving Comedy just eight hundred years ago. His story related how he had been in love with a girl named Beatrice who died while young. In his epic he imagined Beatrice from heaven arranging for him to travel through hell and purgatory.

In the story when Dante reached heaven, he discovered that everything there, while being new, was also oddly familiar, so he asked Beatrice to explain that to him. She  said, “All things among themselves possess an order, and this order is the form that makes the universe like God.”

So, for belief in God, nothing more is needed than that you believe in his reflection in the order everywhere throughout our universe.

But, clear thinking alone cannot bring us to belief in Christ. You are like a child, and your father is asking you to trust him by taking a leap into the deep water. For belief in Christ that is required of you. You must go by what St. Paul said in Romans, 8:24, “In hope we were saved. Now, hope that sees for itself is not hope. For who hopes for what one sees?  We need the gift of Faith. 

While priests are being addressed as very reverend they hear Jesus telling them not to lord it over people.

Saturday, 8/22/15
When we hear about religious leaders who lord it over people, we might picture some priests who carry themselves as though they were something special.
That puts me in mind of how the Church adopted “clericalism.” Wanting to recall what I read about that, I Googled the question, “How did the Catholic Church adopt clericalism?”
By bad luck, the only answer my computer would give was something I wrote myself. It was this.
“By 450 a.d. Europe was overrun by Arians who said that Jesus could not be the Son of God. After several generations when the Church was barely managing to stand up to the Arian tribes, a fresh German nation, the Franks, came into the valley of the Rhine. Their King Chlodwech (also known as Clovis) married a Catholic girl who convinced him that by accepting Christianity, he could become another Constantine.
“At Christmas of 496 Chlodwech and his Franks received Baptism from Bishop Remigius of Rheims. It was an immensely joyous occasion, but Remigius and his priests found that their alliance with the Franks had them facing a social problem.
“With the Franks, as with all nations under Feudalism, there was no place for commoners. Any man with an inherited title would possess lands and serfs, while any man without an inheritance was a serf, and he slept with the pigs. The priests and bishops, who had no inheritances had no standing. 
“Then, in 500 someone came up with a scheme for elevating the bishops and their priests. The plan had each of them, finely attired, appearing before the nobles to declare, “I have an inheritance. My inheritance is the Lord.” 
“An oddity of those times was that their word for an inheritance was clerc. From that the bishops and priests came to be called “clerics.” That innovation altered the structure both of Feudalism and of the priesthood. In making a place for the bishops and priests, the new clerical state became part of Feudalism. In time the social tier of the clerics came to be recognized as the First Estate.
“The ruling class among the Franks began demanding that the clergy take on the superior ways proper to their high estate. As the French say, “Noblesse oblige.”  So clerics came to be known as Reverend, Very Reverend, and so forth. They had to wear robes befitting their station. This brought about a conflict in the hearts of the priests. At the same time they were asking to be addressed as very reverend, they could hear Jesus telling them not to lord it over people.”

Ruth was the great-grandmother of David, a distant ancestor of Jesus.

Friday, 8/21/15

In the first readings today and tomorrow we have the beautiful story of Ruth, the great-grandmother of King David.

 In 1100 b.c., a man named Elimelech owned a small piece of land near Bethlehem, but when a draught struck the land, he found his acre did not produce enough to feed him, his wife Naomi and their two sons. So, on hearing that there was good free land across the Dead Sea in Moab, Elimelech packed up his wife and sons, and moved over there.

When the sons came of age, Elimelech found pagan girls Orpah and Ruth as their brides. Suddenly, then,  disaster struck; with an epidemic taking the life of Elimelech and both of his sons. Feeling it best for her to return to her home in Bethlehem, Naomi told her two daughter-in-laws to return to the homes of their parents. Orpah, in tears, left her, but Ruth refused to leave Naomi.

She famously told Naomi ,“Wherever you go, I will go, wherever you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God.” 

The two arrived at Bethlehem at harvest time, and Ruth took to gleaning, or picking up grain that slipped though the fingers of the harvesters. A wealthy landowner named Boaz, inquired about the industrious girl; and, on finding that she was the daughter-in-law of his diseased cousin Elimelech, he told the harvesters to intentionally drop more grain for her to pick up.

Naomi was happy at learning that a near relative of her husband was showing interest in them. She still possessed Elimelech’s fields; but with no man to farm them, they were useless; and by Israelite law she could only sell the land to her husband’s nearest relative. What’s more, that relative in purchasing Elimelech’s land, also bound himself to take on Elimelech’s wife and children.

So, Naomi, detecting in Boaz’s a romantic interest in Ruth; dressed and perfumed Ruth. And on hearing that Boaz, after a hard day threshing, had fallen asleep on the threshing floor; sent Ruth to sneak up behind Boaz, then, laying down at his feet, to cover herself with the corner of his cloak.

Boaz, when he awoke and found Ruth at his feet, guessed at Naomi’s scheme; and he showed interest in it himself. However, he said that there was another of Elimelech’s relatives who had first call on buying their dead cousin’ land.   

They next consulted with that relative; and although the man would have liked to buy the land, he didn’t want to take on Ruth as a bride. 

So, Boaz married Ruth. That had a son they named Obed. He, in time had a son Jesse, the father of David, and the ancestor of Jesus.

Today we honor St. Bernard who was the first to say, "Hell is paved with good intentions."

Thursday, 8/20/15

In 1109 the Cistercian Monastery at Citeaux admitted Bernard, a nineteen year-old lover of literature. Then, four years later, that Cistercian foundation sent Bernard to found another Cistercian monastery, and for it he found a valley of such clear air that its monks referred to it as Clairvaux.
Writing from Clairvaux, Bernard awakened the Middle Ages to a love for Mary the Mother of Jesus. That love had been so personal to him that from childhood it had inspired him to mine the Old Testament for symbols of Mary, such as the Morning Star, the Tower of Ivory, and the Ark of the Covenant. 
Surprisingly, this lover of solitude became the religious hero of many worldly men and women who made Bernard’s sayings their own. All over Europe people were echoing Bernard in sayings like these:
 “Hell is full of good intentions.”
“Nothing can damage me the way I damage myself.”
“When religion brought forth Wealth, that daughter of hers devoured her.”
“We find rest in those we love if we provide a resting place for them.”
 At age thirty-eight, Bernard was called from the monastery to act as secretary to the Second Lateran Council. At forty-nine, he was given the task of choosing the rightful pope between two claimants. When the abbot of Cluny became jealous of Bernard’s great success, Bernard won that man over by exhibiting a sincere admiration for what he was accomplishing at Cluny.
Bernard was forty when St. Malachy, the primate of Ireland, on a journey to Rome stopped over at Clairvaux. Malachy found his heart so warmed by the friendship Bernard offered him, that on his arrival in Rome, he asked, but was refused, permission to lay aside his duties in Ireland so that he might return to Clairvaux.
There is an old story about St. Barnard and a man laboring in his field. Bernard was riding up through the foothills to give a retreat to the monks of an isolated monastery, when the man halted his mowing to admire Bernard’s horse.
“That’s a beautiful horse, Reverend Father,” the man said.Noticing the horse for the first time, Bernard agreed. “Yes, it is a beauty, isn’t it?”The man went on. “You’ve got it easy, riding that wonderful mount, with no hard work, and nothing to do but pray. How easy can it get?”
“But, wait, Sir,” Bernard said, “Prayer is very hard work.”
The man said, “There’s no way it can be as hard as what I’m at all day.”
Bernard made a proposal. “I’ll tell you, sir, if you can pray the Our Father through to the end without letting another thought interfere, I’ll give you this horse.”
Delighted, the man began, “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed-say, do I get the saddle too?”

We are all called to work in the Lord's harvest.

Wednesday, 8/19/15

In today’s parable Jesus compares all of us to workers called to work in his harvest field. Some of us get to working early in the day, some of us later on. He pictures those later ones as having idled away their time at useless activities. If we are not working in his harvest field, whatever else we have been doing as useless.

In our school we had a seventh grade girl who differed with Jesus on that point. That girl raised her hand, and said, “I don’t want the Church or anyone else telling me how to live my life. It’s my life to use in any way I like.”

If she follows up on that, she will join a good number of like-minded people. She will join them in jail. That little girl was never able make it on her own. Her parents made her bottle just warm enough. They changed her diapers then kept her well clothed, they paid for her education.

Hopefully, short of paying for her selfish views, that girl will come to agree with what Paul said in Romans, 14:7. “No one lives as his own master, no one dies as his own master. While we live we are responsible to the Lord; when we die, we will die as his servants. Both in life and in death we are the Lord’s.

Jerusalem didn't have a gate called "The Needle's Eye."

Tuesday, 8/18/15

Let’s take a brief look at each of our readings. Joshua, the disciple of Moses, led the Israelites until 1200 b.c.; and King Saul took over as their leader after 1070 b.c.. But, in the intervening hundred and seventy years, each of the twelve tribes led its separate  existence; except  for when they were threatened by common foe, as was the case with today’s reading.

The Midianites, a desert people not engaged in farming, waited across the Jordan until the Israelites were harvesting their grain. The Midianites would then swoop down on the Israelite farmers, stealing their crops. The Book of Judges speaks of twelve Israelite “Judges,” who were champions for all the tribes, and Gideon was the first of them.

Then, in the Gospel, Jesus said it was easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than  for a rich man to get into heaven. Fundamentalists who take everything in the Bible literally say that Jerusalem had a gate known as the Needle’s Eye, and it was too narrow for a camel to pass through it. If you didn’t realize that Jesus could  exaggerate. that would explain his words. However, Jerusalem never had such a gate. The Fundamentalists just made it up.

When Jesus said it was hard for a rich man to enter heaven the disciples asked, “Who then can be saved?”

In Old Testament times the Israelites didn’t know about heavenly rewards. They thought that good people were rewarded with earthy riches. They thought the  amount of riches anyone amassed was an indication of how highly God thought of that person. Jesus says otherwise.   

We are all meant to follow Jesus.

Monday, 8/17/15

The Gospel has a story about a young man who, rather than give all to the poor, went away sad, because he had many possessions. It makes me nostalgic.

One of the great Renaissance artists painted a picture of that young man, and we had a copy of that painting halfway down the stairway at the major seminary I attended from 1947 to 1953. Six times a day over six years, my six seminary classmates and I  rattled past that picture, and each time, we gave it a thought.

Seminary life was pretty severe back then. We each wore a full-length black cassock from six in the morning till nine at night, switching into play clothes for an hour and a half in the afternoon. Except for forty-five minutes in the morning, and forty-five minutes in the evening, and for that hour and a half in the afternoon, we had to keep  silence, not being allowed to even exchange a few words.

I guess the stiff discipline worked in making us somewhat reliable. Towards the end of that sixth year, the chief priest came into our classroom, issuing our assignments. Al was sent to work in Mindanao in the Philippines, Hughie went to upper Burma, Dave and I were sent to Korea, Ray to the Virgin Islands, and Tom Normanly to Bolivia.

None of us did anything great in the countries we were sent to, but none of us was a rich young man to start with.

We need to get rid of inner clutter, to make room in our hearts for Wisdom

Sunday, 8/16/15

Our first reading is from the Book of Proverbs, and it urges us to pursue wisdom. The Bible pictures Wisdom as a young lady with a sister named Folly. While Folly has us rushing after quick pleasures, her sister Wisdom urges us to make choices that will bring happiness in the long run.

Many times a day you need to decide which sister to listen to. Wisdom urges you not to put off your work, while her sister Folly says, “Aw, goof off.” Folly then tells you to have another drink and another helping, while Wisdom says, “Come on, why not have a good night’s sleep, and then wake up free for the day?”

In today’s reading, Wisdom urges you to “Forsake foolishness that you may live, and advance in the way of understanding.”

The Bible sometimes speaks of God himself as being our Wisdom. When you are looking for help in making the right decision, the best thing to do is to empty your heart of desires, of prejudices, and of “druthers;” opening up a wide inner room for Wisdom to fully occupy. You then ask God,  “What do you want me to do?” And you then let Wisdom take over your decision making.

There is a professional golfer who turned twenty-two this year as he won three of the major championships. Nick Faldo asked Jack Nicklaus about the secret to Jordan Spieth’s early wisdom; and Jack said it was Jordan’s ability to create an “uncluttered mind.” We need that too. We need to get rid of our inner clutter, to make room for Wisdom.

We set aside August 15 as a day we can spend lovingly with our mother Mary.

Saturday, 8/15/14

Today we honor Mary for being bodily taken up to heaven, even though we do not know what that means. We no longer picture the heaven of the saints as being “up there” above the clouds, because that is where we man the space station with the Russians.

Europe is proud of possessing the burial places of the Apostles. Peter and Paul are in Rome. James is in Santiago, Spain. Scotland claims Andrew. Some Apostles were divided up with an arm here and a leg there, but no town ever claimed to be Mary’s resting place, because Christians have always known that Mary has been taken up into heaven.

Genesis calls death and the corruption that follows it a punishment for our sins. The sinless Mary did not undergo them.

But, just as we can no longer picture Mary’s body being taken up to a heaven just above the clouds, so neither can we imagine her body to be needing any nourishment. Her body does not undergo any kind of aging. It is best for us to try imagining her as being the way Paul described things to the Corinthians.

God gives a body as he chooses. It is sown corruptible, it is raised incorruptible. It is sown dishonorable, it is raised glorious. It is sown weak; it is raised powerful. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual one.”

Setting aside August 15 as Mary's feast day gives us a day when we can spend lovingly with Mary our Mother. 

Storytellers who could neither read or write reliably handed down hundreds of years of Israelite history.

Friday, 8/14/15

While our first reading yesterday was from Chapter Three of the Book of Joshua, today’s first reading is from Chapter Twenty-Four. In yesterday’s reading Joshua was the young man who led the people into their Promised Land. Today’s reading picks him up when he had come to old age, and he had gathered the scattered tribe leaders to listen to his dying words.

It was around the year 1250 b.c. that he led the people through the Jordan; and it was around the year 1200 b.c. that he delivered his final words. Those dates only became important a hundred years ago, around the year 1920. What happened then was that archaeologist discovered that the Hebrew alphabet was only invented a hundred years after the death of Joshua. 

In 1200 b.c the big shipping and trading people were the Phoenicians, from present day Lebanon. They operated copper mines in the Sinai desert, and for keeping records of how many hours the miners worked, and of how many tons of ore they dug, the supervisors had to use Egyptian writing. Finding that tedious, one smart man abbreviated twenty-four hieroglyphics into the alphabet. By around the year 1.000 b.c. the Israelites and the Greeks  used his alphabet to develop their own script.      

With Joshua in today’s reading giving over seven hundred years of history one wonders how his people could have kept such accurate records two hundred years before hsa people had an alphabet.

In 1920, Milman Parry, a Harvard classical scholar, was shocked at finding that archeology had proved that here was no Greek alphabet in the century when Homer composed the Iliad and the Odyssey. Now, Parry knew every line of those great works, and he was convinced that Homer had somehow composed those works even without writing them down.

Parry heard that there were pockets of ancient peoples in Yugoslavia, and that they had a small class of men who could recite epic poems as long as the Illiad and Odyssey. What is more, none of them had learned to read and write. Parry got a grant that enabled him to spend four years over there, making records of the recitations of those poets.

What he learned was that those poets, instead of memorizing individual words, strung together ancient tales by linking together set phrases. They never sung about lips or water. It always had to be “ruby-red-lips,” or ”sky-blue-water.”

Like in today’s first reading, the tribes conquered by the Israelites were the, ”Amorites, Perizzites, Canaanites, Hittities, Girgashites and Jebushites.”  They were strung together in that same order nineteen times in the first six books of the Old Testament.

Story-tellers who could neither read or write reliably handed down to us seven hundred years of Israelite history from Abraham to Joshua.