The men stoning Stephen thought they were doing the right things.

Monday, 5/1/17

Today we honor Stephen, the first Christian put to death for his beliefs. He was stoned to death by members of the Synagogue of the Roman Freed Men, and by Saul, whom we know as Paul. He held the coats of the men stoning Stephen.

It may be that Saul and the young men in the story thought they were doing a good thing. (The members of the synagogue of the Roman freed men were a special group. Let me explain.) The Roman Empire, with Jewish communities in every port  around the rim of the Mediterranean, had a way of keeping those people in line.

They took five  young Jews from every place as hostages to Rome for five years each., threatening to kill them if their families at home were disobedient to Rome. All those boys were not very religious to start with, but during their five years as hostages for being Jews, they became so religious, that when their years as hostages were over, they went to Jerusalem to take part in the temple worship. They also formed their own synagogue of Roman  freedmen.

What is more, they became such conservative Jews, that they could not stand the way the Christians were open to al men.  So, in attacking Stephen and other Christians, they thought they were doing good deeds.

Their hearts were burning as Jesus explained the Scriptures to them.

Sunday, 4/30/17

Let  us use our imagination to picture ourselves as those two disciples who were getting out of Jerusalem because it was a dangerous place for even the lesser known disciples of Jesus.

If you are like me, it has been many years since we have taken a full day’s walk. In my seminary days once a month we were given a day when we could leave the grounds to walk to a store where we could by some ice cream. The hard thing about it was we could only go to a country store that was over five miles away. Anyway, to make the Gospel reading real for me, I like remembering those ten mile round hikes.

Apparently they had not put much trust in the women who claimed to have seen angels. The two of them had left the Upper Room right after Peter an John had left to check out the tomb. Perhaps the two disciples went along with the story of the soldiers guarding the tomb. They were telling everyone that they had been overpowered by men who stole the body.

On the road to Emmaus they were joined by a stranger who asked them about their heated discussion. They told him they had been talking about the death of Jesus and they said, “We had been hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel.”

The stranger then called them fools for having ignored all the Scriptures had said about the Messiah, and he quoted long passages from the Old Testament that said the humiliation and death suffered by Jesus, far from being reasons for those two doubting him, should have called forth a full faith in him.

We don’t know what Old Testament passages the stranger quoted for them, but I think we can get some idea of it by reading Chapter 53 from the Book of the Propher Isaiah.

Jesus, walking over the center of the waters, is his promise to come to us at the hour of our death.

Saturday, 4/29/17

In the Gospel, Jesus came walking to the disciples over the water. Most New Testament stories like this one are echoes of Old Testament happenings.

As an example of that kind of thing take another famous New Testament story echoing the Old Testament , that is The Sermon on the Mount. In it, Jesus, leaving the people below, brought the disciples up the mountain with him, before delivering the Beatitudes, which were the key one-liners off the New Testament. The importance of that happening becomes clear when you see how it echoes Chapter Twenty-four of Exodus, where Moses, leaving the Israelites on the flat area below, brought the leaders of the tribes up the mountain with hm, going on to deliver the Ten Commandments, which were the key one-liners in the Old Testament.

The story of Jesus walking on the water has a meaning for us when we see that he came walking over a wide passage of the Jordan River. In the Old Testament, passing over the Jordan stood for passing safely into the Promised Land. We see that story beautifully told in Chapter Three of the Book of Joshua.

There, when the Jordan was in flood, God told the four men carrying the Arc of the Covenant to lead the people into the flood.  When the people bravely followed the Ark, the waters opened for them. Then, after the men carrying the Ark, took a stand at the bottom of the riverbed, the people passed by it into the Promised Land. They saw their selves passing through death to life. In an old Spiritual the Darkies , with only death as their possible deliverance, sang, “Show me that stream called the River Jordan. That’s the old stream what I longs to cross.”

Jesus, coming to us, walking on the water, is his promise that he will meet us in the midst of death, bringing us through  to the Promised Land.

North Korea is a most miserable nation.

Friday, 4/28/17

As a young priest, from age 26 to 37, I was a missionary, pastor of a parish in South Korea where the people were just recovering from the war.

Anyway, a friend I met with after Mass yesterday suggested that my lengthy experience over there might equipp me to say something worth while about our present troubles with North Korea.

However, I found my parishioners over there to be more like the best of Americans than they are like the Korean people imprisoned in the police state of North Korea.

In my first year in South Korea I noticed the ways the people were different from Americans, but through the next nine years I noticed only how the people over there were the same as the best of Amercans.

Recently I bought a book on North Korea from Amazon, and it gave a hideous picture of that country. Everywhere you go you would see pictures of The state’s founder, son, and grandson: of Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il. And the present Kim Jong Un.

Base on their loyalty to the state, the people are grouped into ten levels of citizens. The top level is made up of Western style people, who are well shooled and well dressed. They appear in the newsreels. The bottom level are people raised like animals whom others can kill without punishment.

The book I read followed the career of a third-level citizen, son of an officer, who fled north to China when his father met disgrace.

The book also followed the story of a tenth-level man, born in Prisoner Camp I4. He was raised to a reversed scale of morality that had him clapping at seeing his mother hanged, that had him joining in killing a girl his age when she appeared to be disloyal to the nation’s founders.