SERMON: Shoes by L. R. Tarsitano

August 13, 2017

“Put shoes on his feet.” (Luke 15:22) Quite often, it is the little details in the parables of our Lord that tell us the most about his teaching. It is the details that lead us deeper into the Gospel, refining our understanding of the eternal and life-giving Truth, so that we will not be satisfied with vague or careless summaries of the scriptures, such as “the parable of the Prodigal Son is about forgiveness.” Yes, of course, the parable of the Prodigal Son is about forgiveness, but at the same level of superficiality we might as well say that Huckleberry Finn is “about a boy” or that Gone With the Wind is “about a fire.” We wouldn’t think much of a school that didn’t dig deeper than [...]

PRAYER: A Scriptural Rosary Novena Of Meditations On Humility

February 14, 2017

From Scriptural Rosary First Day — Matthew 7:1-5 Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye. Second Day — Matthew 11:25-30 At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of Heaven and Earth, because thou hast hid these [...]

PSALMS: The Prayer Of An Afflicted Person, by Bruce k. Waltke, James M. Houston, & Erika Moore

February 7, 2017

From The Psalms as Christian Lament PSALM 102: A prayer by an afflicted person when he grows weak and pours out his complaint before “I AM.” “I AM,” hear my prayer; let my cry for help come to you. Do not hide your face from me when I am in distress. Turn your ear to me; when I call, answer me quickly. For my days vanish in smoke; my bones burn like glowing embers. My heart is blighted like vegetation and so withers; I forget and depart without eating my food. From the sound of my sobbing, my bones cling to my flesh. I am like a desert owl, I have become like a screech owl among ruins. I keep vigil; I have become like a bird alone on a roof. All day long my enemies taunt me; those who are senseless and against me [...]

CHILDREN: Models Of How To Enter The Kingdom, by Xavier Léon-Dufour

January 17, 2017

From To Act According to the Gospel Even though Jesus blessed the little children, he did not thereby affirm that the reign of God belonged to them.  Nevertheless, he held them up to his disciples as living models for them to imitate.  In what sense? Most readers of the gospels continue to follow the traditional interpretation, which the scholarly consensus also reflects: children are obedient and trusting, they provide an example of availability and are to be admired for their simplicity, innocence, and even humility.  But the Biblical perspective is quite different: children are a sign of divine blessing and must be exposed to the realities of the faith, first by their parents and then by their teachers until they reach the age of [...]

PRAYER: The Monday Wash by Michel Quoist

October 3, 2016

From New Prayers As he walked the roads of Palestine, Jesus observed the life going on around him.  Especially the life of ordinary people: the woman making bread, the woman searching for a lost coin; the injured man who had been attacked on the road, the children playing and the widow weeping; the sower in the field, the good harvest, and the shepherd with his flock…as he observed, he was filled with wonder.  He saw the seeds of the Kingdom sprouting already through all this life. Jesus is still traveling our human roads today: “I will be with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)  He beckons to us, unobtrusively.  Wherever there is the smallest gesture of genuine love, he is there: “Love comes from [...]

POETRY: The Sower, by William Cowper

February 3, 2016

A sower went out to sow his seed: and as he sowed, some fell by the way side; and it was trodden down, and the fowls of the air devoured it. And some fell upon a rock; and as soon as it was sprung up, it withered away, because it lacked moisture. And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprang up with it, and choked it. And other fell on good ground, and sprang up, and bare fruit an hundredfold. And when he had said these things, he cried, he that hath ears to hear, let him hear. (Luke 8:5-8) Ye sons of Earth prepare the plough, Break up your fallow ground! The Sower is gone forth to sow, And scatter blessings round. The seed that finds a stony soil, Shoots forth a hasty blade; But ill repays the sower’s toil, Soon withered, [...]

PARABLES: The Power of Disturbing Stories, by Amy-Jill Levine

December 8, 2015

from Short Stories by Jesus Jesus told parables because they serve as keys that can unlock the mysteries we face by helping us ask the right question: how to live in community; how to determine what ultimately matters; how to live the life that God wants us to live.  They are Jesus’s way of teaching, and they are remembered to this day not simply because they are in the Christian canon, but because they continue to provoke, challenge, and inspire. Jesus knew that the best teaching concerning how to live, and live abundantly, comes not from spoon-fed data or an answer sheet.  Instead, it come from narratives that remind us of what we already know, but are resistant to recall.  It comes from stories that prompt us to draw our own [...]

SUFFERING: A Study In Joy — 1 Thessalonians, by James Martin, SJ

October 15, 2015

From Between Heaven and Mirth You would think that the book that many scripture scholars agree to be the oldest in the New Testament would garner a great deal of respect and attention.  You would think that a document written around 50 AD – only seventeen years or so after the death of resurrection of Jesus – would be pored over by all Christians.  You would think that most Christians would know even the smallest verses of this document by heart. Well, you would be wrong.  Saint Paul’s Letter to the Thessalonians isn’t all that well-known by many Christians. Still, by common consent, it is the earliest of Paul’s letters, and therefore the earliest writing in the entire New Testament.  Scholars say that 1 [...]

CHARITY: Treatise IX. On the Advantage of Patience, by Cyprian

February 17, 2015

Argument. — Cyprian Himself Briefly Sets Forth the Occasion of This Treatise at the Conclusion of His Epistle to Jubaianus as Follows: “Charity of Spirit, the Honour of Our College, the Bond of Faith, and Priestly Concord, are Maintained by Us with Patience and Gentleness. For This Reason, Moreover, We Have, with the Best of Our Poor Abilities, by the Permission and Inspiration of the Lord, Written a Pamphlet on the Benefit of Patience, ‘ Which, for the Sake of Our Mutual Love, We Have Transmitted to You.” As I am about to speak, beloved brethren, of patience, and to declare its advantages and benefits, from what point should I rather begin than this, that I see that even at this time, for your audience of me, patience [...]

POETRY: The Recognition Of Eve, by Karl Shapiro

January 21, 2015

Whatever it was she had so fiercely fought Had fled back to the sky, but still she lay With arms outspread, awaiting its assault, Staring up through the branches of the tree, The fig tree. Then she drew a shuddering breath And turned her head instinctively his way. She had fought birth as dying men fight death. Her sigh awakened him. He turned and saw A body swollen, as though formed of fruits, White as the flesh of fishes, soft and raw. He hoped she was another of the brutes So he crawled over and looked into her eyes, The human wells that pool all absolutes. It was like looking into double skies. And when she spoke the first word (it was thou) He was terror-stricken, but she raised her hand And touched his wound where it was fading now, [...]

STORY: The Story of Jonah, by Leonard Michaels

August 22, 2014

From Congregation: Contemporary Writers Read the Jewish Bible (I studied under Leonard Michaels at the University of California (Berkeley).  He was the kind of professor that made even a particularly dry graduate class enjoyable.  But then, we got to read, To The Lighthouse, by Virginia Woolf.  I am still amazed that I passed that course.  I remember the class when he came in and announced that he had cancer, and only had a year or so to live.  But from what I read, however, he didn’t die until he was seventy years old.) I Stories were once meant to be told and retold aloud.  As in the Bible, they were revelations of events on Heaven and Earth and were the common property of the race.  Like fairy tales, they contained [...]

PEACE: Living Toward A Vision, by Walter Brueggemann

July 6, 2014

From Peace I will give you your rains in their season, and the land shall yield its produce, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit. Your threshing shall overtake the vintage, and the vintage shall overtake the sowing; you shall eat your bread to the full, and live securely in your land. And I will grant peace in the land, and you shall lie down, and no one shall make you afraid; I will remove dangerous animals from the land, and no sword shall go through your land. (Leviticus 26:4-6) For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. (Ephesians 2:14) The central vision of world history in the Bible is that all of creation is one, every [...]

LISTENING: Take Care How You Listen by M. Basil Pennington

June 3, 2014

From Listening: God’s Word For Today As Jesus was making his way through the towns and villages preaching, he often told stories, drawing upon the everyday events around him and the creation which he loved – for he had made it.  The Twelve were with him as were other disciples such as Mary Magdalene and Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward, and Susanna.  In the evening, after a long day of ministry they would gather for a quiet time with Jesus.  One evening he said to them: “Take care how you hear, for anyone who has taken care will be given more, while from anyone who has not taken care, even what he has will be taken away.” That was the day Jesus had spoken about the sower.  As he sat in the village [...]

THE PRODIGAL SON: The Prodigal Son And Reconciliation by Joel W. Huffstetler

March 27, 2014

From Boundless Love Then Jesus said, “There was a man who had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.’ So he divided his property between them. A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and traveled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property is dissolute living. When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. But when he came to himself [...]

POETRY: Poems On Wayward Children, et alia

March 26, 2014

The Prodigal Son’s Brother Steve Kowit who’d been steadfast as small change all his life forgave the one who bounced back like a bad check the moment his father told him he ought to. After all, that’s what being good means. In fact, it was he who hosted the party, bought the crepes & champagne, uncorked every bottle. With each drink another toast to his brother: ex-swindler, hit-man & rapist. By the end of the night the entire village was blithering drunk in an orgy of hugs & forgiveness, while he himself, whose one wish was to be loved as profusely, slipped in & out of their houses, stuffing into a satchel their brooches & rings & bracelets & candelabra. Then lit out at dawn with a light heart [...]

SATURDAY READING: “The Lord Is A Warrior,” by Jerome F. D. Creach

March 15, 2014

From Violence in Scripture In Genesis 1 and 2, God is as open to the creation as one who invites participation by the elements in the creative process.  This view of God, in turn, has direct bearing on the understanding of humankind as made in “the image of God,” (1:26-27).  The absence of war and coercive action is at the center of the nature of God and of God’s intention for humankind.  With this picture of God and creation the book of Genesis sets the stage for the rest of the Bible.  This will become apparent, among other places, in the exodus story.  What may seem at first glance simply a story of liberation from slavery in which God battles an historical ruler, the pharaoh of Egypt, is actually an account of a contest [...]

GOD 101: Understanding Inscrutability

February 26, 2014

Do You Honor God? Hippolytus of Rome Translated from the Greek by Walter Mitchell Do you honor God? Do you love him —here’s the very feast for your pleasure. Are you his servant, knowing his wishes? —be glad with your Master, share his rejoicing. Are you worn down with the labor of fasting? —now is the time of your payment. The Laborers in the Vineyard For the kingdom of Heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard.  After agreeing with the laborers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard.  When he went out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace; and he said to them, “You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you [...]

HERMENEUTICS: Can We Go On Together With Suspicious Minds? by F. Scott Spencer

February 22, 2014

From Salty Wives, Spirited Mothers, and Savvy Widows  Doubt and Trust as Both Side of the Hermeneutical “Coin” Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it?  And when she has found it, she calls her friends and neighbors together, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the piece which I lost!’  Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents. (Luke 15:8-10) Elvis didn’t think so.  “We can’t go on together with suspicious minds,” he crooned.  “And we can’t build our dreams on suspicious minds.”  Loving relationships and communities do not thrive in the throes [...]

SAINTS: Dead Or Alive

February 6, 2014

For a number of years now I have had a problem with one of my studies: animism.   The ancient belief that all things are imbued with spirit, and that spirits have their own lives (as it were). Animism includes such beliefs as the transmission of souls through the funeral sacrifice, ancestral spirits as guides for the living, and souls as the causation of life. My biggest struggle has been how to open up this concept enough so that Christian prayers could have any meaning for someone in a country where the inhabitants still hold ancient spiritual beliefs. Animism, to me, is a closed, Earth-bound way of seeing life and its relation to what is no longer in body.  Christianity, to me, opens up this way of seeing things by incorporating a [...]

THE CHURCH YEAR: Candlemas/Presentation Of The Lord by Kathleen Norris

February 3, 2014

From The Cloister Walk And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother, “Behold the child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted (and you yourself a sword will pierce) so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed.” (Luke 2:34-35) The darkness is still with us, O Lord.  You are still hidden and the world which you have made does not want to know you or receive you.  You are still the hidden child in a world grown old.  You are still obscured by the veils of this world’s history, you are still destined not to be acknowledged in the scandal of your death on the cross.  But I, O hidden Lord of all things, boldly affirm my faith in you.  In confessing [...]

SERMON: An Interpretation Of Love, by Dennis Ngien

November 24, 2013

Therefore, though I might be very bold in Christ to command you what is fitting, yet for love’s sake I rather appeal to you — being such a one as Paul, the aged, and now also a prisoner of Jesus Christ — I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten while in my chains, who once was unprofitable to you, but now is profitable to you and to me. I am sending him back. You therefore receive him, that is, my own heart, whom I wished to keep with me, that on your behalf he might minister to me in my chains for the gospel.  But without your consent I wanted to do nothing, that your good deed might not be by compulsion, as it were, but voluntary. For perhaps he departed for a while for this purpose, that you might receive him [...]

GENESIS: Cain and Abel, But Mostly Cain by John R. Coats

October 13, 2013

From Original Sinners: A New Interpretation of Genesis The First Birth is a Co-Creation, So Is The First Murder – Then Again, Maybe Not Have you ever offered an idea that you thought worthy of consideration, only to have it dismissed out of hand?  Or given a gift that was snubbed?  Or have your accomplishments been ignored when the kudos were given out?  A yes to any of these opens a portal between Cain’s story and your own, even if you didn’t kill anybody. The account of Cain and his brother, Abel, is J’s recasting of a widespread culture-founding story of rivalry between herdsmen and farmers into a pattern that will dominate Genesis – the displacement of the firstborn by the younger son.  But in this, the first occurrence [...]

FALLEN ANGELS: The Creation of the World and Other Business, Act III by Arthur Miller

October 12, 2013

Third: When every man wants justice, why does he go on creating injustice? God sits watching the sleeping Adam and his family.  They have built a crude shelter and there is evidence that they have learned to cook their food.  God is unhappy because apparently his people have forgotten him, scarcely ever mentioning or thinking about, let alone praising, their creator.  God orders Azrael to blow visions of death into the minds of the sleeping family, so that in their fear they may turn to thoughts of God. God departs and Lucifer enters.  He sees how content Eve has become with her life; he fears that “they’ll turn the whole Earth into this smug suburb of Heaven!”  Cain is jealous of Abel, Lucifer knows, and when he [...]

SCRIPTURE: Cain Murders — and Walks by Alan M. Dershowitz

October 10, 2013

From The Genesis of Justice It was, after the passing of days that Kayin [Hebrew for Cain] brought, from the fruit of the soil, a gift to YHWH [Hebrew for God], and as for Hevel [Hebrew for Abel], he too brought – from the firstborn of his flock, from their fat-parts. YHWH had regard for Hevel and his gift, for Kayin and his gift he had no regard. Kayin became exceedingly upset and his face fell. YHWH said to Kayin: Why are you so upset? Why has you face fallen? It is not thus: If you intend good, bear-it-aloft, but if you do not intend good, at the entrance is sin, a crouching demon, toward you his lust – but you can rule over him. But then it was, when they were out in the field that Kayin rose up against Hevel, his brother, and [...]

POETRY: The Ghost of Abel, by William Blake

October 9, 2013

A Revelation in the Visions of Jehovah Seen by William Blake TO LORD BYRON in the Wilderness: What doest thou here, Elijah? Can a Poet doubt the Visions of Jehovah? Nature has no Outline, but Imagination has. Nature has no Tune, but Imagination has. Nature has no Supernatural and dissolves: Imagination is Eternity. Scene — A rocky Country. Eve fainted over the dead body of Abel, which lays near a Grave. Adam kneels by her. Jehovah stands above. Jehovah: Adam! Adam: I will not hear thee more, thou Spiritual Voice. Is this Death? Jehovah: Adam! Adam: It is in vain. I will not hear thee Henceforth! Is this thy Promise, that the Woman’s Seed Should bruise the Serpent’s head? Is this the Serpent? Ah! Seven time, O Eve, thou has fainted [...]

GOD 101: Curse On, Curse Off

October 8, 2013

Yes, it’s a reference to The Karate Kid.  I like the image of doing one thing with one hand, and doing another with the other. It’s just that I am absolutely fascinated these days with the bare beginnings of the Bible. You have a forest of sorts.  A magical forest.  Who knows, perhaps there were even unicorns.  You have a few specifically named trees.  The tree of life.  That has no distinct limitations attached to it. Then you have the tree of the knowledge.  Of good and evil.  Of that we are not allowed to eat. It doesn’t take a snake (who at this point walks around, one assumes, like a Wall Street banker, confident and full of himself) to step back and wonder about this. God creates man to be like him (God). [...]

SCRIPTURE: The Son Of Satan And The World’s First Murderer, by James L. Kugel

October 8, 2013

From How To Read The Bible: A Guide To Scripture Then And Now The story of Cain and Abel does not even fill a whole chapter, but it has long fascinated readers.  How is it that Adam and Eve’s first son turned out to be a murderer – and what does this imply about human nature? Expelled from the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve soon had their first children, Cain and Abel.  The Bible recounts that these two sons chose different professions: Cain became a farmer and Abel a shepherd.  When, one day, they decided to offer a sacrifice to God – Cain from his crops, Abel from his herds – God showed a preference for Abel’s offering, and this infuriated his brother. So, when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his [...]

EVIL: Biblical Characteristics of Demon Possession, by Steven Waterhouse

September 24, 2013

From Life’s Tough Questions The New Testament records many symptoms of demon possession.  Any consideration of demonic control should begin with an evaluation of a person by a list of the Biblical facts about demon possession. Alterations in Voice Demons would speak through the body of a possessed person.  They would claim to be separate from the person (Luke 4:33-34). And shouting out with a loud voice, he said, ‘What business do we have to do with each other, Jesus, son of the most high God?  I implore you by God, do not torment me!’  For he had been saying to him, ‘Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!’ And he was asking him, ‘What is your name?’  And he said to him, ‘My name is Legion; for we are many.’ (Mark [...]

SCRIPTURE: Who is Wisdom and Where Can She Be Found? by Bonnie A. Bizk

August 13, 2013

From Christine de Pizan & Biblical Wisdom: A Feminist-Theological Point of View Wisdom strides across the pages of the Hebrew Bible with a delightful audacity and aura of authority that rather astounds the reader when first attempting to read these pages without the burden of embedded presuppositions regarding what the Bible is saying.  Here within the Bible, in the very literature that most past historians and scripture scholars have considered a grand tribute to the triumph of monotheism, and a decisively male monotheism at that, emerges a figure who clearly resembles a goddess.  Her person is ambiguous.  In some instances she is an emanation from the most high God, and clearly subordinate; at other times she is conflated with [...]