Our Lord sent the apostles out to bring the good news of salvation to the whole world in the middle of what we call the first century, A.D. (anno domini). That first Pentecost Sunday would be the birthday of the Church and would initiate the extraordinary story that has unrolled over the last 2,000 years, a story of everything both human and divine, God’s salvific grace, faith, courage, truth, and unending confidence in the second coming of the Lord. This very human story is also filled with failures in faith, sinfulness, corruption in every form. Through it all, however, the faith has remained intact. The Apostles Creed, the summary of the Church’s teachings in the first century is the same today and always will be. An interesting aspect of the Church is that as soon as it got its feet on the ground and the period of persecution ended, the Church began to manifest its appreciation for art. Its leaders understood that in the world of art the human spirit reaches its highest point in its quest for divinity and the Church has utilized that quest throughout its story as a teaching vehicle to bring profound spiritual concepts into the minds and hearts of its members. The Church has blessed the arts. The Church has been blessed by the arts! No one takes a meaningful tour through Europe today without becoming conscious of the extraordinary encouragement and support that the Church gave to the arts in the early middle ages and that support continues until today. Architecture, music, painting, poetry, sculpture, etc. – all have been developed to keep our minds tilted towards salvation. In the United States, this appreciation for art dropped off in the 19th century because the Church was a Church of poor immigrants. However, there has been a renaissance in this regard in recent years. About twenty years ago, the Diocese of Austin established the Fine Arts Council which has done an excellent job in reaching out to artists in Central Texas who are interested in religious themes, bringing them together, enabling them to display their work and encourage them to move on. From the beginning the strongest leader in this great work has been Mark Landers. Mark can be very proud of the tradition that has been built up in Central Texas and I for one am very grateful to him. After twenty years, however, Mark has decided to step back and let Craig Kaneweke take over. Mark will continue on the scene and be very supportive to Craig and the other dedicated members of the Council. The Diocese has made the corridors of the Pastoral Center a venue for the Religious Arts Gallery and the 8th exhibit will be held in the gallery on September 13th from 5:30 to 7:30 pm. Entrance is free and you might give yourself a pleasant and inexpensive evening by dropping in at the Pastoral Center at 6225 Highway 290 East in Austin. The work of the Council is yet another reflection of the great good that can come from a few generous visionaries being able to work together to build a better Church and a better world. May God bless the Fine Arts Council and those who make it happen.
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17th Sunday of the Year
In today’s Gospel, our Lord is still talking to his listeners in images that they can understand. He lists two incidents where a man (one a farmer and the other a merchant) comes across the possibility of an extremely valuable treasure. In both instances, the men go and sell all of their other possessions in order to secure this one thing of awesome value.
Jesus is challenging us to see that our own salvation is that treasure in the field, is that pearl of great price. Our main challenge in living life on this earth is that this great treasure, that awesome jewel is nothing other than our own personal salvation. We must be prepared to put any threat to our salvation to one side and concentrate on our invitation to the infinite happiness of eternal life.
Keep your eye on the prize.
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