Greetings on the Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Readings: DT 30:10-14; PS 69:14, 17, 30-31, 33-34, 36, 37; COL 1:15-20; LK 10:25-37
There was a scholar of the law who stood up to test Jesus.
He followed all the commandments or so he thought. Jesus affirmed his understanding. But he went a step too far.
He couldn’t resist. He knew that of all the commandments there was one that he was not quite comfortable with or perhaps we can say he wanted to limit its scope to fit his idea of what it means.
And who is my neighbor? Or more accurate – Who is NOT my neighbor? Who can I treat differently/poorly?
Jesus answered with a story. He wanted to shake this young man out of his bias and self-justification and into the justice of God – mercy.
The priest and the Levite passed on the opposite side. Why?
- Worry about drugs, disease, or filth?
- Worry about the imaginary banditos hidden in the bushes?
- Worry they were late for an appointment?
- Worry that it would cost them money?
In contrast the Samaritan worried about none of these things rather worried he did not leave the inn keeper enough deposit to finish the healing work and promised to pay any balance due upon his return. Talk about a different perspective!
This unworthy enemy of the people was the one who obeyed the commandment.
Some additional commandments:
- You shall not molest or oppress an alien, for you were once aliens yourselves in the land of Egypt (EX 22:20).
- You shall not hand over to his master a slave who has taken refuge from him with you (Deut 23:16).
- You shall have but one rule, for alien and native alike. I, the LORD, am your God (Lv 24:22).
- Thus says the LORD: Do what is right and just. Rescue the victim from the hand of his oppressor. Do not wrong or oppress the resident alien, the orphan, or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place (Jer 22:3).
- Within you, father and mother are despised; in your midst, they extort from the resident alien; within you, they oppress orphans and widows. What is holy to me you have spurned, and my Sabbaths you have desecrated (Ez 22:7-8).
Tonight, July 13th into the 14th, ICE covers the land, desecrates the Sabbath, violates the commandments and ignores all the ancient warning regarding aliens in our midst. And our leadership is happy to oppress the Samaritans among us.
Go and learn the meaning of the words, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ (Matt 9:13a).
This ICE raid campaign is a great stain on the nation and a for-shadowing of what we are becoming.
We are drawing to the conclusion next Tuesday July 30th. I have already posted the Final Gospel of John outline which now includes he web page with weekly outlines, notes and discussions.
By August 12th I intend to post a polished version to allow easier transition between the topics but this version is content complete.
I hope your summer is berry, berry good!
All the best!
Sorry, No Room
Greetings on this Fourth Sunday of Easter
Readings: ACTS 13:14, 43-52; PS 100:1-2, 3, 5; REV 7:9, 14B-17; JN 10:27-30
President of the United States Donald J. Trump: We can’t take any more. Sorry. Can’t have it. So turn around. That’s the way it is.
Fake apology. Fake problem. Fake Christianity.
Solemn Warning from the Blessed Mother
The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is from age to age to those who fear him. He has shown might with his arm, dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart. He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly. The hungry he has filled with good things; the rich he has sent away empty. He has helped Israel his servant, remembering his mercy, according to his promise to our fathers, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.
Apostolic Exhortation of Pope John Paul II – Ecclesia In America
The Synod Fathers recalled that “the Church in America must be a vigilant advocate, defending against any unjust restriction the natural right of individual persons to move freely within their own nation and from one nation to another. Attention must be called to the rights of migrants and their families and to respect for their human dignity, even in cases of non-legal immigration” (65).
Jesus said: “My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish. No one can take them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one can take them out of the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.
Happy Mindless Mimes verses Dense Moral Exhortations
A good deacon friend of mine said, ‘Deacon Gerry, how can you find social justice context in just about everything Jesus said? I think you are shoe-horning sacred scripture.’ This was said with honest and pure intent. He is a gentle soul who lives the gentleness of Jesus on a daily basis and I take his concern seriously. Upon reflection my response is that I relate more to Sister Aloysius Beauvier in Doubt.
The desire for self-serving peace is a non-Christian response to the Diaspora problem.
May I borrow a quote from Sister Aloysius Beauvier?
You just want things to be resolved so you can have simplicity back.
Simplicity over essential truth not the trivial.
Hypocrites! for you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law, justice and mercy and faith; these you ought to have done, without neglecting the others (MT 23:23).
The Search for Truth of Intention
Father Brendan Flynn: You haven’t the slightest proof of anything!
Sister Aloysius Beauvier: But I have my certainty! And armed with that, I will go to your last parish, and the one before that if necessary. I’ll find a parent.
The desire to lead by falsehood is a path of destruction.
A Christian hears the voice and we follow Jesus who led by example.
I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do. (JN 13:15).
We gather, protect and share the divine life with the stranger and wanderer of this world.
Peace be with you,
Lowering the Barr
Greetings on the Third Sunday of Easter
Readings: ACTS 5:27-32, 40B-41; PS 30:2, 4, 5-6, 11-12, 13; REV 5:11-14; JN 21:1-19
Everything Is Broken
On this third Sunday of Easter we see the scene in the Gospel of John of just how broken and dejected the disciples were.
The defeat in Jerusalem with the crucifixion of Jesus cast a deep sense of desolation upon them.The writer of John places them back as fishermen not to the Sea of Galilee but to the Sea of Tiberias. It’s the same body of water but the Tiberias name is in honor of the second emperor of Rome, Tiberius. It is a not so subtle way of saying the disciples did not return to their Jewish roots but to the slavery of the domain of the roman overlords.
So they restart the old business returning to their former occupation being fishermen.
Failure has a tendency to do that to a person. We are tempted to regress to a former way of living. Not that the former way was bad or anything but after having been a part of this radical revolution of man’s encounter with God it simply an empty life.
SO THEY WENT OUT AND GOT INTO THE BOAT, BUT THAT NIGHT THEY CAUGHT NOTHING.
I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised. This former honorable life is not for them now.
It is good to note that Jesus has already appeared to the disciples twice already and now the third time. Yet even still they are slow to recognize him. How was this a differential appearance?
CHILDREN, HAVE YOU CAUGHT ANYTHING TO EAT? (NO) CAST THE NET OVER THE RIGHT SIDE OF THE BOAT AND YOU WILL FIND SOMETHING.
Tradition holds the 153 fish caught were equal to the number of species of fish in the Sea of Galilee signifying an abundant world-wide catch.
Jesus asks them to bring some of the fish to commingle it with the fish he has already prepared. It is the divine-human cooperation of participating in the divine salvific plan.
Yet, it cannot yet continue. Something must happen first.
Simon, son of John
Do you love me?
Jesus addresses Simon not as Peter – the name he gave him – but with the birth name he was given. He is meeting Peter where he is being stuck in the natural life without hope.
But love beacons. You know I love you.
Feed my lambs.
Tend my sheep.
Feed my sheep.
And so Peter is forgiven his betrayal and all at once is also renewed in the love that calls him forward to radical love.
It is good to lower the bar but not always
The embarrassing activities of the Attorney General of the United States and the entire Department of Justice has lowered the Barr indeed. The tragic truth is not for the purpose of the salvific needs of the human family, not for the beacon of love, and not for encouraging a Peter-like great confession and profession.
The country has been bruised by Attorney General Barr because he is excusing a betrayer and offering him unlimited power.
The Barr is lowered not toward radical love but the unleashing of monstrous hatred and self-interest.
Tiberius was just such a brooding, sexual monster. He set the tone for what was about to happen in the empire. We might want to learn from history.
Who Beacons You?
Jesus beacons. He beacons with fish, bread and love.
He calls you to the work of forgiveness, salvation and love.
Choose well the Barr you go over.
I’ve been Framed!
Greetings on the Fourth Sunday of Lent
Readings: JOS 5:9A, 10-12; PS 34:2-3, 4-5, 6-7; 2 COR 5:17-21; LK 15:1-3, 11-32
Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn
It is fitting that this year is the 350th anniversary of the death of Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn. One of Rembrandt’s most compelling pieces, his final painting, was the Return of the Prodigal Son. So much has been written about this invocative piece and the story of Rembrandt’s life. A very good read on the matter would be by Henri J. M. Nouwen with a title of the same name.
The centrality of the parable is the merciful forgiveness of the Lord and His call for our salvation and reconciliation with the divine and one another. The story does not end as fables do with a perfect and happy ending but rather with a moral dilemma. How will the younger son treat the older son? How will the older son treat the younger? The younger now safely in the house and celebrating while the older brother outside brooding over past wrongs.
The parable of the Prodigal Son is about salvation and the family life with its intertwined reality in the salvation of both sons. It is a question of superficiality. The older son is suddenly aware of his discontent. The younger son is oblivious to the older son and caring for only his own restoration. It’s a disaster in the making. And, yet, the Father knows and works to reconcile and embrace both his sons.
Servants, Hired Workers and Friends
And, now, what of the others namely the Servants, Hired Workers and Friends?
It is noteworthy that it is a servant who breaks the news to the older brother.
Now the older son had been out in the field and, on his way back, as he neared the house, he heard the sound of music and dancing. He called one of the servants and asked what this might mean. The servant said to him, ‘Your brother has returned and your father has slaughtered the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’
He became angry…
Editorial note: no, he gave motion to his seething anger.
Pity the poor servant who had to break the news to the older brother. He no doubt knew the older sons true feelings. Or do you think everyone is fooled by his stoic mask? I am sure the servant hoped beyond hope the news would be accepted gladly. The servant wears the disinterested mask worn by those who know the pain of the older son’s violence. The servant was happy too for the master who is father-like to the hired workers giving more than enough food to eat.
Pity the friends of the older brother. Friends, true friends grieve over his estrangement from both his father and brother. True friends want to correct him but are fearful of his response. Consider his anger rage-fill response to the fathers pleading. ‘LOOK, all these years I served you and not once did I disobey your orders; yet you never gave me even a young goat to feast on with my friends.’
Servant, hired worker and friend alike can see the mercy and forgiveness but for the movement of the soul of the older son.
We’ve Been Framed
Consider Rembrandt’s painting! See the drama of older and younger brother unfold before you. Clearly this is the central theme. Both father and son share the left center and the older brother commands the right center of the frame. The light is from an interior source – the hands and face of the father. The light embraces the younger son and casts a hopeful ray upon the older son who will have none of it.
But who else is in the frame. Who else sees but small flickers of light that they are visible at all.
Four onlookers stare at the scene. Henri Nouwen sees spectators. I see hearts pleading silently behind their frozen masks that the young son and the elder son would say yes to love. Two women looked at in faith are pining the scene before them is real not a fantasy and that this love light is for them too. It is generally understood that one is a daughter Cornelia and the other his spouse Saskia – who both preceded him in death.
Actually all his children save one daughter preceded him in death (son Rumbartus 1635, 1st daughter Cornelia 1638, 2nd daughter Cornelia 1640, wife Saskia 1642, unnamed son 1652, son Titus 1668). Rembrandt died in 1669. The servant with a vacuous look and relaxed pose of spectator is hiding behind the servant’s mask worn by those who have been abused by the elder son standing, no, Lording over him. And the flute player frozen in the wood work hoping this live will bring life to him as well.
The story of the Return of the Prodigal Son is about two Sons….. Plus everyone in the frame. This merciful love of the father taken with reconciliation would light up all the people in the frame.
Salvation has both a horizontal and vertical axis, yes?
Who is in your frame?
And so we conclude with the question. Who is in your frame?
What does your life portrait look like?
Who is in your darkened shadows?
How many are searching your eyes, hands, face for any sign of the love light that remains when one receives forgiveness with the heart of reconciliation.
Paint a new picture.
Homily Sunday, March 24, 2019 (major points borrowed from Saint Pope John Paul II March 22, 1992)
How well do I know myself? How well do people know me?
Can you imagine this happening to you or me?
In 1888, a man’s brother named Ludvig died in France from a heart attack. Thanks to poor reporting, at least one French newspaper believed that it was Alfred who had perished, and it proceeded to write a scathing obituary that branded him a “merchant of death” who had grown rich by developing new ways to “mutilate and kill.” The error was later corrected, but not before Alfred had the unpleasant experience of reading his own death notice. The incident may have brought on a crisis of conscience and led him to reevaluate his career. This is the one and the same Alfred Nobel – inventor of dynamite. In his last will he established the Nobel Peace prize for advancements that bring practical use and peace for humankind. Today we call it the Nobel Peace Prize first issued in 1901.
God reveals his name to mankind
- On this third Sunday of the Lenten season, in the passage from Exodus, God lets us know his name.
‘I AM sent me to you'” (cf. Ex 3:13-14). This word, “I am”, which is also expressed in the word Yahweh, says that God is the existent and transcendent One. Everyone receives existence from him. From this we are given to understand that Yahweh is none other than one, the only God.
- Revealing to people his own name, that is, his intimate existence, is a sign of God’s great kindness. However, this is only the beginning!
- Prophets, psalmists follow with their message of God.
- Then from the Lord Jesus’ revelation we explicitly learned that God, although one in essence, exists in three equal but distinct Persons, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We learned that the choice of the people of Israel in the Old Testament was meant to prepare for the coming of the Messiah but that, with the coming of Jesus of Nazareth, true God and true man, all of mankind has been called to the dignity of the People of God. Most of all we learned (and this is the greatest thing God said about himself through Christ) that God is love, that is, in him being and loving are the same thing, that he possesses unlimited love, that he has not received the ability to love from anyone else, but that everyone receives it from him.
- How much love God has poured out upon the earth and into our hearts! He has done so through the Spirit of Jesus, the Holy Spirit, poured out at Pentecost upon the people gathered in the Upper Room and, since that day, upon all believers in the different forms in which grace has been given to souls.
All this takes place within us through continuous conversion. In fact, conversion means eliminating the obstacles between us and him, between us and his grace, and letting his life be instilled in us.
Being converted means taking on a new mentality by which we see as Jesus sees, we want what Jesus wants and we live as Jesus live. Living from him and like him is the goal of the Christian, to the point of being able to say with St. Paul: “Yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me” (Gal 2:20).
In the passage from the gospel of Luke, we see how Jesus takes his starting point from that day’s current events to teach the people and to preach conversion: the news involved the ferocious murder of a group of Galileans (what we do to others) and the sudden collapse of a tower which had killed 18 people (what we build).
Concerning the first episode, Jesus says: “Do you think that these Galileans were the greatest sinners in Galilee just because they suffered this?” (Lk:13:2). With these words he wants to eliminate the notion that misfortune is necessarily a punishment for sin.
Concerning the second episode Jesus warns: “But I tell you, you will all come to the same end unless you begin to reform” (Lk:13:5). Here the topic is more clearly expressed: Jesus wants to make us reflect on the fact that a catastrophe has symbolic meaning too; it is a reminder to examine one’s own state of conscience. When it is a question of hardened sinners who meet a tragic fate, it is even more tragic than the events described because the ultimate destiny of each person is concerned with eternity – our Final End.
However, even though the warning is a harsh one, Jesus is patient, full of love and mercy. We see this in the parable of the fig tree that does not yield fruit. After three years the owner ordered it to be cut down. But the vinedresser asked for a reprieve. The vinedresser is Jesus who, in his great love, offers us still more time to mend our ways, to be converted and live as true Christians.
St. Paul, too, in today’s passage from the First letter to the Corinthians, urges us not to fool ourselves: it is not enough to be baptized and nourished at the same Eucharistic table if we do not live well and keep watch! (cf. 1 Cor 10:3-4).
Let us contemplate this mystery which inspires the Third Sunday of lent. God revealed his name to us. God has offered us his profound mystery: the mystery of divinity and then the mystery of communion, of the Trinity. Let us remain then in contemplation of this mystery of the Name of God in order better to understand the mystery of lent, conversion, but conversion through Christ’s sacrifice, through his paschal mystery. Praised be Jesus Christ!
Note: On Monday, 22 March, the Holy Father made a Pastoral Visit to Rome’s St. Leonard Murialdo Parish. During his visit he celebrated the Mass of the Third Sunday of Lent; after the Gospel he preached the homily based on the readings.
Peace be with you,
I have had a quite unique experience.
During the period of my diaconal formation and continuing during the first 4 years of diaconal life, I have witnessed the then approaching death of two very holy deacons. Reverend Deacon George J Collins died on May 6th, 2011. Reverend Deacon William H. Cresswell died on May 27, 2015. In the case of Deacon Bill, I was honored to be present and praying for his safe passage even at his last breath.
Deacons George and Bill were dedicated to their ordination and public ministry.
Service during incapacitation – George
I remember once visiting Deacon George in the hospital. I cannot recall the reason for his hospitalization but I do recall the multiple IV bags hanging from the pole and running into his arm. In the years leading up to that day I had been working for Deacon George in the various ministries he was responsible for at the parish. Almost absent minded I asked George, ‘Do you think it is time to retire?’ George responded, ‘I am waiting for a sign from the Lord’. Without a pause I asked, ‘Don’t you think this is the sign – the person to be taking over your ministry is standing next to you with you in a hospital bed with an IV drip in your arm?’
I guess subtly is not my usual play.
We went on from there continuing to serve until it was clear it was time to stop. His daughter came to claim him and bring him home to her household to enjoy the time to come.
When George and were discussing his exodus he assured me he would continue to serve with holding bible studies and other home based ministry. He never stopped wanting to serve the Lord.
He died within a few months.
His last writing only weeks before he died can be found here: https://deacongeorgecollins.webs.com//Documents/To%20Pay%20the%20Debt.pdf
Service during incapacitation – William
Deacon Bill was a holy deacon as well. Deacon Bill serves without complaint even if there was a lot one could complain about!
Whenever he was asked how things were, he would always respond ‘Wonderful!’
Deacon Bill had Parkinson’s disease. If memory serves he suffered a decline that lasted about 5 years. It was difficult for him and his very supportive adult children. Time and again I would visit Bill and we would have long and private conversations about the gift of suffering and dedicating one’s suffering for Christ. He was uniquely called to devote his suffering for the world and I suspect great graces have been dispensed to us from his willingness to see his pain as something beautiful contained within the passion of the Lord.
Many times when he served the Altar he would lift the chalice during the elevation of the elements. His hand was uncertain at best and ire call praying most fervently for him and the Church that his hand and arm remain strong that no scandal would result from a spill. Always his hand would straighten like a bar of steel. To this day I recall his courage as service unto the end.
I was praying the prayer of commendation over Bill at 8:45 AM on May 27th 2015 and reciting the Hail, holy Queen… when I reached ‘that he may be made worthy of the promises of Christ’ he drew his last breath.
Tough Act to Follow
I don’t think I will do the same.
For me I see decisions to serve after being informed of serious health issues should contain a certain degree of discernment and discovery.
What can I do, one might ask? What is different than before? What is best for the transitions?
For me I see the infinite possibilities of diaconal service in non-traditional ways that break out of the existing framework and bring one to the marginalized that much more closely.
I don’t hold my diaconal ordination as a thing to be possessed but a gift to be dispossessed. In fact I will say the Permanent Diaconate is a bridge between the Church of the 21st century and the 22nd century. Not long after will we see the married priesthood and ordained deaconesses. I am certain that the permanent is in fact a different transitional diaconate based on the needs of the Church in a specific time of her history.
With that framework in mind what to do?
By the way, it’s not like I have a timeline in mind. That is the point. There is no timeline only capacity and competency. Knowing incapacity is coming what is the Spirit calling me to do?
For now I will keep my counsel. In fact since my blog is not actually read this is almost my personal diary at this point!
What should I unwind?
My first instinct is to complete the projects already in flight in the Philippine and Haiti. In each case ending them so to speak at a good place seems the tidy thing to do. Like Deacon George train and hand over my local ministry to competent parishioner lay persons. These steps seem fairly obvious.
I need to unwind some dreams too. Travel to Rome to study (not a big tourist person but rather to read and study in the bosom of the Church). Day dreams of various ministries that have always captivated my spirit and to stretch and expand my otherness with Christ. These too must be put aside.
I read Pope Benedict XVI Declaratio (10 February 2013) announcing his resignation of the Bishop of Rome hoping to gain some insights. It isn’t that same thing but it was worth a look.
What should I wind up?
Ah, the fun part!
Can we fail to quote the saying ‘When the Lord closes a door he opens a window’?
Returning to making Music as from my youth. I love music and making music. I plan to practice and perform where uplifting. This is fruitful living.
Deepening the Prayer and learning from Deacon Bill the necessity for a deacon to offer gift in suffering.
Continue teaching school as a profession. While still practical I think I would like to continue. What a great transition our teens need to witness less fear of the future and more embracing life as life.
Continue Clinical Pastoral Care as a practice. I am certain (as much as one can be at times like this) that Lord wants me to continue to minister to the sick and dying.
Most of all I will enjoy the silence that comes from ignoring the world and its distractions and seeing the kingdom already present among us.
Tuesday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time
Readings: GN 6:5-8; 7:1-5, 10; PS 29:1A AND 2, 3AC-4, 3B AND 9C-10; MK 8:14-21
It was another example of the leaven of evil or as Jesus described it: Watch out, guard against the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod (Mk 8:15).
Donald Trump, Jr. proposing to the young conservatives to distain and forsake their teachers and their loser teacher indoctrination (Washington Post, https://www.washingtonpost.com/education/2019/02/16/why-donald-trump-jr-loser-teachers-comment-was-a-chilling-moment-educators-around-world/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.c354436ea825).
You don’t have to be indoctrinated by these loser teachers that are trying to sell you on socialism from birth.
Some basics on leaven are in order.
Leaven or leavening agents have a basic function.
When making bread the desired chemical reaction is to produce many tiny carbon dioxide bubbles. This causes the dough to rise and expand in every direction and make for a large and fluffy flavorful loaf of bread when baked. It is a yeast based fermentation process. The alcohol is gassed off in the process.
The leaven example is a way Jesus would compare and contrast the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of the divine one.
The Divine Leaven
Jesus describes his own leaven.
He cites the twice sharing miracle of the feeding of the 5,000 and the 4,000. He is referring to the restorative and supportive nature of the divine will when this leaven enters us. When we allow the Lord to be the leaven of our souls great and wonderful things happen. And all these things elevate and support the human experience.
Justice is a central theme of the divine. Loser teachers teach the same: There are no just structures without people who want to be just (CCC, 2832).
The Leaven of Evil
By comparison Jesus infers the inferior leaven of the Pharisees – the ones who hold the religious and political power (Pharisees and Herod, respectively). These do not produce the miraculous or restorative nor just and right relation. Rather they focus on wealth, power and control. Trump perverts the true conservative movement for one based on greed and fear.
Donald Trump Jr is selling the leaven of people like William Franklin Graham III and Jordan Ross Belfort, respectively, expressing self-interest in religion and business.
Donald Trump, Jr is right. Teaching needs to change. Here are some proposals for his charitable foundation to fund. Oh wait. He was permanently barred from running a charity in New Your due to his and the Trump family enormous greed. The family must pay back 2.8 million.
- Philosophy – Essential understanding of a moral framework and the authentic search for the character of the person.
- Ethics – Ethics should be a required course in High School and business ethics in College.
- Humanities – How we come to believe and sense what we think.
- Economics – Clearly Donald has very little understanding of economic theory. This can be said of so many so some more education is in order. The misuse of language has taken new and disturbing energy from the Trump family.
What Leaven will you eat?
If leaven can be thought to animate the human soul then what type of leaven do you want to eat: the leaven of the divine or the leaven of a ponzi schemsters like Bernard Madoff?
Which do you think Donald Trump, Jr is promoting? Justice or Greed?
My Way or the Highway
Today is the 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Readings: JER 1:4-5, 17-19; PS 71:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 15-17; 1 COR 12:31—13:13; LK 4:21-30
The reading today brings into sharp focus the difference between the way God thinks and we humans tend to do something else (react). The first reading in Jeremiah recounts Moses and the Exodus (gird your loins). In Jeremiah’s time, how God will rescue them too and you should have faith in your deliverer. The responsorial psalmist recounts how we are known and knitted in the womb and the one who made us will surely not forget us.
Then in the Gospel reading it all falls apart. Right after Jesus fulfills the prophecy of Isaiah (the ‘Spirit of the Lord is upon me’) he is confronted with our demand: My way or the Highway.
Startling isn’t it that in Jesus’ home town exists in many living there such interior discord that when Jesus continued to speak they basically said, ‘My way or the highway’ or more specifically they try to throw him off a cliff.
The pairing of the Gospel with the letter of Paul to the Corinthians helps us frame the question well and therefore help us choose the better path.
Isn’t this the son of Joseph? –there it is. This is a hint to the interior thoughts. Who are you to tell us anything? Wow, from praise to derision in 10 seconds.
Jesus offers insight to their interior discontent:
- Physician, cure yourself – you think you are better than us?
- Do here in your native place the things that we heard were done in Capernaum – do what we tell you for us!
- Yet, no prophet is accepted in his own native place – you are a simple man, no Great Prophet are you, Jesus.
Jesus recounts the ancient story about God’s love for all. This reveals the deepest discontent of all. He told them the story to help them break out of their self-interest and interior discord and to think more broadly about Godly love.
- Elijah – sent only to a widow in Zarephath in the land of Sidon.
- Elisha the prophet – cleansed only Naaman the Syrian.
Ouch! Or Ouch? Therein is the interior response.
Paul to the rescue
The apostle Paul brings this great divide into focus. How are we focuses interiorly?
Everyone in the crowd had gifts from God. Some gifts are obvious and grand. Some gifts are subtle and sublime. Depends what you do with them!
Paul teaches without love as the centering purpose and source of strength it is worthless.
Then he does the side by side comparison.
- Love is patient and love is kind verses jealous and pompous.
- Love rejoices with the truth verses inflated, rude, seeking its own interests, quick-tempered, brooding over injury, rejoicing over wrongdoing.
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
The gospel message is kindness to the other, even your enemy. The Gospel is the power to do such things in love.
If you want to throw people over a cliff because they want to heal the sick, help the immigrant, feed the poor and tend to the widow and orphan… then know you are asking Jesus to pass through the midst of you and go away. And that brings tears to the eye of God.
Decide to love instead.