Posts tagged: New Testament

Jesus Loves His Friends

By , April 5, 2014 4:48 am

April 6th, Fifth Sunday of Lent

Oh, today’s Gospel! This is one of my favorite texts in the entire bible whether you are talking about Old or New Testaments. Today’s Gospel excerpt is drawn from the 11th chapter of St. John’s Gospel and for me it is wonderfully meaningful. The whole thrust of this Gospel is John, communicating to the first generation of the life of the Church, his memory what Jesus revealed about himself.

Sometimes our Lord communicated with words and other times just extraordinary actions. Today I am making reference to what I consider a wonderful extraordinary aspect of the life of Jesus of Nazareth. That is the fact that he was a MAN.
Members of the Christian community always recognize that Jesus is God dealing with us through a human nature. We know that. We believe that. But can we get our arms around it? Can our limited brains really grasp the awesome reality that within this Jewish carpenter from Nazareth the Godhead dwelt?

Well, today’s text really helps us to go in that direction. You know the story so well. Jesus goes to visit his friends Mary, Martha and Lazarus but on arriving, he is told that Lazarus died several days before. The text says that he was “troubled in spirit, moved by the deepest emotions” and then listen to this, he began to WEEP!

Did we all catch that? Jesus of Nazareth is weeping. This Divine Presence is torn by emotions, saddened and filled with a sense of loss. Can we really grasp that? I think the principle underlying the scene is that Lazarus was a friend of Jesus. Jesus liked him. Jesus was crushed on learning of Lazarus’ death. I like to transfer that concept to the rest of us. Yes, we are followers of Jesus, yes, we believe in him, but do we really see him as our friend? What a gift.

If we live a good life and if we do the things I just mentioned, we are his friends. Would your acquaintances be impressed if you were at a meeting and they announced that the president of the United States has called for you and has asked you to return the call? Would it seem important to you if it were only the governor or the mayor? My friends, if we are living a good life, we are the friends of Jesus. There is nothing better than that.

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More On Lumen Gentium

By , April 4, 2014 4:46 am

I offered a few comments the other day on that extremely important document, the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium), and I talked about the fact that there are many aspects of the Church that qualify the Church itself as being a mystery. The document goes on to discuss the structural nature of the Church, namely that it is hierarchical and the great reality of the Church’s membership, namely that it is overwhelmingly, yes overwhelmingly, made up of lay people.

In the few paragraphs that I have here, I can’t do a dissertation of the fact that the Church we see in the New Testament enjoys various levels of responsibilities. Jesus called the apostles and he sent them forward to preach his message. Once they established a community of faith in a given area, the apostles provided leadership, coordination and direction. After establishing a church, Paul put men that he had ordained in charge of those churches since he had to keep moving to spread the Gospel. Therefore, I have no doubt that the Church is by its very nature hierarchical but I think that over the centuries, especially in the second millennium, the hierarchical aspects of the Church have been exaggerated, made too rigid and regretfully counterproductive.

Our blessed new Pope Francis has been working hard in his first year to awaken us to the need to strip down the exaggerated signs of hierarchy and prestige that at times have been abused in the Church. And he is making great progress.
Next in Lumen Gentium comes the section on the laity. The document makes a great step forward and that is about the best that could be done at that time. However, what we are seeing now is a wonderful, glorious change where the laity across the world are beginning to assert responsibilities, opportunities and challenges that flow from baptism and confirmation.
These two entities are currently interacting and we can be sure that we will see a certain amount of friction.

Onward through the fog.

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Good News for Cold Winter Days

By , February 22, 2014 5:03 am

February 23rd, Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

The people in Central Texas are used to the moaning and groaning that comes through our television sets on the evening news. Wow! What a winter they have had up north. Imagine Atlanta suddenly being completely shut down as a city and they are not even that far north! Well, we were hit pretty hard too in late December and early January and if a person were tempted to have his or her emotions affected by cold winds, gray skies and sad drizzle, they might have gone through a downer.

Not to worry! Almighty God sent us a wonderful message for the Seventh Week in Ordinary Time. Did you catch it? While you were at Mass on February 23rd, the inspired Word of God came to us through the Book of Leviticus and the sacred author challenged all of us to be HOLY and gave us a yardstick to measure that reality. He says many things but among them are, “take no revenge…cherish no grudge…love your neighbor.”

Following that, St. Paul chimes in when in his letter to the Corinthians he reminds us that each one of us is sacred, God dwells in each one of us, each one of us is God’s temple and, reaching back to Leviticus, he reminds us that God is holy and therefore we are called to holiness.

Finally, St. Matthew, in his fifth chapter, calls us to be truly loving, generous and fair, not just with our relatives and friends, not just with strangers who have not offended us, but we should manifest those qualities even to those who might be considered our enemies.

All of these statements from the Old and New Testament serve as a steady reminder of how we are to prepare ourselves in the Mass in order to join the offertory procession and move forward together towards unity with Jesus Christ and the Eucharist.

Okay, let’s get moving.

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Our Eyes Fixed on Jesus

By , August 17, 2013 5:38 am

Photo: M. Poloskey

August 18th, 20th Sunday of the Year
Let me say once again that I really love the Lectionary, the book of scriptural readings that we use over a three year cycle that was put together by a group of excellent scripture scholars following the Second Vatican Council. Each Sunday, three texts – one from the Old Testament, one from the Epistles and an excerpt from one of the four Gospels – is presented to us. A speaker with a positive approach can always draw a meaningful message out of them.
Well, this is August and things are really hot. I think the scripture readings for this particular Sunday neatly tie in with the weather. In the first reading poor Jeremiah, having brought a true but unhappy message to the king regarding the enslavement of God’s people, finds himself trapped in a very dry hot cistern with death approaching. Yahweh saves him however.
In the next excerpt from St. Luke’s Gospel has Jesus warning us that his presence and his message will create tension and conflict among peoples and even within families. People will be divided by bitterness and hatred. Accepting his message will be the criteria as to which side you are on. If you have a conflict-proof family, you have to thank God as a very special gift.
There is much that is difficult in today’s readings but the excerpt from Hebrews explains the mystery.
“Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus who inspires and perfects our faith. For the sake of the joy which lay before him he endured the cross!”
Yes, there is pain and suffering in life but we are on our way to eternal joy and the key to that is faith in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Let us believe and evermore deeply.

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The Church’s First Chapter

By , January 28, 2013 4:52 am

People with deep faith in Jesus Christ feel very close to him and, of course, they are close. Believing in Jesus, they believe also in his presence made possible by reception of the Eucharist. When we turn our attention to our Lord’s first followers, I think that they tend to become a little more remote. Maybe that is just my opinion but Peter and Paul worked in a different culture, a different economy, all in all a very different world. Even though we study their sections of sacred scripture they still at times seem remote.
Let me make this suggestion. Go your copy of the New Testament and look at three very short letters written by two bishops, Timothy and Titus. We are used to bishop’s letters. Most of them write to the faithful of their dioceses with some regularity. Regretfully, the need for this or that annual collection somehow dominates the list of topics. Maybe the bishops themselves should go back and read these short letters of their predecessors. If you, yourself, will take the time to read them you will see that they are very simple, down to earth and very centered on problem solving, including conflict within the faith community, which was already present in that first generation. In Timothy, both letters have something to say about how the local Church should be structured and how the big concern must be given to correcting false teachers, good Christian moral life must be practiced and the faith must be taught with great clarity.
I really urge you to read these three very brief documents. They may help you to leap over those 2,000 years and realize that these two early bishops, Timothy and Titus, are in a very real way still with us.

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Some Wedding Reception!

By , January 19, 2013 4:48 am

January 20th, Second Sunday in Ordinary Time
I don’t think that there is any doubt that today’s Gospel except from the second chapter of St. John is one of most people’s favorite scenes from the New Testament. It is very concrete. It is very earthy. It describes a scene with which we are all familiar and it inserts both Jesus and his mother into that scene in a very dramatic and pleasurable context. There was a wedding in Cana way up north in Galilee. It must have been quite an affair. The text begins by stating that the mother of Jesus was there and then adds that Jesus and his disciples had likewise been invited to the happy celebration. Well, if you add 14 people at the last minute, it must have been quite a crowd. To me that also seems to be indicated by the fact that for a long period of time the wine had run out causing Mary to say to her son, “They have no more wine.” You know the story. Jesus’ first move is to act unconcerned. Mary gives directions later, “Do whatever he tells you” and that, of course, is to fill good sized vats with water. In an outcome that would have made any Irishman happy, the water is not only changed into wine but the very best wine!
This story is told endlessly as a way of documenting the influence that Mary has over her son. Maybe we have made a little too much of it but it is certainly a wonderful story and it shows a very human Jesus. He is with friends, he is at a wedding, they have been celebrating for a long period of time and he takes action to eliminate embarrassment – all very human traits – and ones that we should think of when we are praying to our Lord. While we worship Jesus as divine, we must, at the same time, be conscious of the fact that this was a real human nature through which he was dealing with us, a nature that enables him to be one with us and enables us to more easily identify with him.
Care for any more wine?

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Shepherds Beware!

By , July 20, 2012 5:43 am

Time after time in the New Testament, Jesus describes himself as the Good Shepherd, a shepherd who has infinite care for all of his sheep and strives to keep them together and bring them forward to union with God. In the 23rd chapter of Jeremiah, the image is used again. In it Jeremiah is warning the religious leaders of the Old Testament that they need to be very careful and fulfill their responsibilities serving God’s people well and protecting them from sin and idolatry. Yahweh tells those shepherds:

“You have scattered my sheep and driven them away! You have not cared for them but I will take care to punish your evil deeds. I, Myself, will gather them in the midst of my flock from all the lands to which I have drive them and bring them back to their meadow where they shall increase and multiply.”

Look at that sentence! “I, Myself, will gather….of my flock.” We are so used to having a subconscious awareness of Jesus’ divinity that unless we make a determined effort to grab that fact and hold on to it with greater clarity, its importance can be missed. “I, Myself (the second person of the Blessed Trinity) will gather my sheep.” We believe that the second person of the Blessed Trinity, God, stepped into the human story in order to be one with us, unite us to Jesus and, through that union, draw us all towards God. This is a tremendous cause for optimism.

A quick glance at the Gospel shows how gentle and concerned Jesus is for his followers. Our Lord and his apostles have been working their way through hectic, demanding crowds and, aware of their tiredness, he says:

“Come by yourselves to an out of the way place and rest a little.”

Those words can be good advice to nearly all of us. We need to take some time for quiet, to make a retreat, to sit in a comfortable living room chair and just think about Jesus and our relationship to him and through him. Who among us does not need to listen to Jesus’ words? Take it easy. Take it easy. Rest a little. Think about the ultimate reality of God’s love for each one of us.

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The Gospels and Social Justice

By , June 13, 2012 4:58 am

The theology of the Catholic Church is drawn and formed by the divinely revealed message from both the Old and New Testament but primarily from the New Testament. The four Gospels, Acts of the Apostles and the Epistles are the treasure load by which the Christian community has poured thought and prayer and from which it has drawn its theology. That theology is all encompassing and enables us to be guided in every aspect of life and with every new situation that develops with the unfolding of the years and the centuries.

One of the things that I am most proud of about the Roman Catholic Church is its highly developed social theology which governs the relationships between all of us as individuals and as institutions and social structures. From the 1st to the 15th century, society was structured very simply and those structures changed little over the centuries. The political system was kingship and the economic system was agriculture. With the coming of modern times and industrialization, new opportunities began to appear, new problems developed, new relationships were formed and in some cases, monumental abuses began to develop. In that context, the Roman Catholic Church began to evaluate the economic, social and political system in the light of the Gospels. Thus, was formed what is called today Roman Catholic social theology. A beautiful and integrated system, solidly based on the natural right to own private property but balanced with a highly developed theory that private wealth is a privilege but also carries with it serious responsibilities. This is a complex issue that cannot be developed in a tiny blog but there is one principle that I will write down here that underlines everything in Catholic social thought and we call it the principle of subsidiarity. The best place to take care of an issue, the most efficient and least expensive place to take care of an issue is as close as you can get to it. If an individual can take care of it himself, he or she should. If the individual cannot, the family assumes responsibility. Then the extended family and then whatever social structure is present in that place at that moment of time. This sounds very simple, doesn’t it? However, it has tremendous implications on how we develop our social structures.

Our theology is a blessing – a trustworthy guide. But we have to have the will and the discipline to follow it day by day!

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No One Wants to be Hard Hearted

By , January 28, 2012 4:52 am

January 29th, Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Most viewers of this blog are probably familiar with the fact that I only post them six times a week. On Saturday, I make some comments on the Scriptures of the following day and then take Sunday off. I hope that you also have an easy Sunday!

This is always the easiest day of the week for me to post a blog because I have my choice of three different readings. The first and second readings are usually drawn from the Old Testament and from one of the Epistles while the third reading is always from one of the four Gospels.

Today, I am passing all of those over and going to the Responsorial Psalm which I think is beautiful, optimistic and a guide for anyone’s life. The first refrain tells us, “If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.” Oh, my friends, what a wonderful challenge. Each of us has experienced temptations to do something that our conscience warns us against and, on the other hand, we sometimes see an opportunity to do good and yet feel that it wasn’t our job or our responsibility. When we have those thoughts and we don’t give the right response, what we are doing is exactly what the psalmist calls us not to do. We are hearing his voice but we have hardened our hearts.

This particular psalm comes from the 95th psalm and it is so beautiful. The psalm tells us:

Let us sing joyfully to the Lord
Let us greet him with thanksgiving
Let us bow down and worship
He is our God and we are the people he shepherds, the flock he guides

These few words are both a challenge and a source of joy and confidence. We are part of the flock. He does shepherd us and we should endeavor to be open constantly to the various invitations to be better, to walk in his footsteps.

Once again, if today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.

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The Beatitudes- Now That Sounds Like a Program

By , June 13, 2011 11:16 am

If you spend any time at all around high school or college kids, you will hear that expression often enough – that sounds like a program. That means what the speaker wants it to mean but for me it is one kid telling another that the idea that has just been expressed is a good one and they should get with it.

I think that is exactly what Jesus did in the fifth chapter of St. Matthew when he sat down on the mountain and began to teach his followers how they were to live if they were to walk in his footsteps. The first thing that comes out of his mouth is the BEATITUDES. I have had many people tell me that it is their favorite text in the New Testament. It is a text that accomplishes many things. First of all, the beatitudes are at the heart of Jesus’ preaching. They pick up on the promises made to God’s people since Abraham and reflect in a very real way the face of Jesus Christ and give us an insight into his love. They express the vocation of the faithful associated with the glory of Jesus’ Passion and Resurrection and proclaim the blessings and rewards promised for Christ’s disciples.

The beatitudes are a call to faithfulness and courage. They summon us to generosity, concern for others, especially the weak and the vulnerable. They are the underpinnings of the moral theology of the Catholic Church and they are the parameters in which the modern social theology of Catholicism is based.

A suggestion: I think that when we first awaken in the morning and we become conscious that we have another 15 or 16 hours to be awake, and should endeavor to live our lives guided and molded by our holy faith, that it would be good to have a copy of the beatitudes at our bedside. Blessed are all those people – blessed are the poor, the mourners, the hungry, the pure of heart, the peacemakers, the persecuted, etc., etc. But are we those people? If we ourselves are those people, then the program preached from the mountainside by our Lord himself is working within us and we should rejoice.

Now that sounds like a program.

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