… .. .”These writing’s are based on specific readings listed for each particular day. Sometimes it might help to read the readings by clicking on the “UCCB daily readings link.” You might have to do a bit of searching to match the post’s date to a corresponding reading. Other times one can conveniently click on the link within the post. Sometimes they are there, and other times they are not. Of course one can simply read the post all by itself”… .. .
“Do not be afraid.
You are worth more than many sparrows.”
In the Acts of the Apostles Luke tells of the beginning of the spreading of the New Testament throughout the ancient world. While spreading this gospel message had its difficulties, the Apostles were familiar with the variety of cultures and philosophies and languages of that day.It was the world they knew, even though it was about to undergo the miraculous transformation that is the New Testament. In the light of these Acts of the Apostles, ponder the “acts” of Father Isaac Jogues, Father John de Brébeuf and their companions.
They were Jesuit Priests from France, bringing the New Testament to a new continent,and a new world of which they had no experience. North America of the 1600’s was entirely different from Europe. It was a vast wilderness sparsely colonised by small groups of Europeans. It’s indigenous peoples were so culturally different from Europeans. The Iroquois and Huron Indians of New York and New England had a cultural lifestyle different from anything in Europe. Their language was totally unrelated from the languages of the Jesuits, and their clothing like nothing they had ever seen.
In Luke’s Acts of the Apostles, the Apostles could present Christ to the pagans in their own language, and explain Christ to people with cultures and beliefs they knew. Saint Isaac Jogues did not have this luxury, yet knew these people were children of God and worthy of the gospel message of Jesus Christ. Knowing that, they were determined to use every resource to deliver that message. In delivering that message they were tortured, and imprisoned. Isaac Jogues wrote of his torture: “These tortures are very great, but God is still greater, and immense.” To prevent Fr. Jogues from consecrating the host his captors cut off several fingers. Escaping torture and being sent back to France, St. Jogues still had the need to deliver the gospel of Christ to these Indian people despite the language and cultural barriers. Despite a hostile reception and despite torture.
In the return trip to the new world Fathers Isaac Jogues, John de Brébeuf and their companions were eventually martyred. Yet in death, they were not defeated. Ten years later, Kateri Tekakwitha was born in the same village where Isaac was martyred. She is Saint Kateri Tekakwitha, a young woman born of Indian heritage. Saint Kateri was also ridiculed for desiring to follow that gospel message Isaac Jogues and his companions had delivered. She is the Jesuit victory, the victory of Christ. Many of the Indian tribes, especially in eastern Maine, embraced that Gospel of Jesus delivered by saints Isaac Jogues, John de Brébeuf ,and their companions; and they continue to follow that gospel today. Those Jesuits knew these indigenous people of a new world were children of God and worthy of the gospel message of Jesus Christ.
Lk 12:13-21 Today I have a different take on the wealthy barn builder. He is the one that has so much success he can no longer store his possessions, so he builds a barn to hold them. He gloats in his success and gets ready for a long and comfortable retirement. It is all about him, but the LORD strikes him down.The LORD reminds him that what is important to man is not important to God.
But to the beginning of the reading, someone asks Jesus to tell another to share their inheritance. The inheritance implies the stuff in the barn, the stuff important to man but not to God. That person wants trinkets shared, they want cash. But that is only one side of the inheritance, the other is cultural and the region was rich in them.
That was the land of a culture that often revolved around a city-god, and city gods were not about sharing. They defended its residents and demanded homage, they built walls and they hoarded much like someone stocking a barn, and those barns were often raided, pillaged, and plundered.
Inheritances were not shared, they were hoarded and raided. Each god its own kingdom, but that was not Christ’s teaching. Christ taught one kingdom under God, and one God. That is a shared humanity that inherits all that the LORD gives, a shared inheritance available to all. It’s where the word catholic comes from, universal.
Today is the memorial of Saint Ignatius of Antioch, student of Apostle John and the third bishop of Antioch appointed by Peter. Ignatius was a victim of Christian persecution, and was led from Antioch to Rome to be martyred in Circus Maximus. Along the route from Antioch to Rome he composed seven letters to be delivered to the early Churches. In those letters he passes down his inheritance, his knowledge of Christ as taught to him by the apostles. His inheritance today is passed down through Apostolic succession. Through Ignatius we inherit much of the Church we know today. Surprisingly he was one of the first to use that word Catholic. A shared inheritance.
Giovanni Francesco di Bernardone had a unique approach to discipleship. In his day the church wielded much power and influence and many in its leadership roles fell prey to the sins of power. Giovanni Francesco in fact was not much different from these priests. Though he was a member of the laity he came from a family of wealth and in his youth he too was victim of the sins of wealth. He had the reputation of a party loving and carefree soul. In his youth Giovanni dreamed of joining the elite of his day, he dreamed of becoming a knight. Way back then battles were fought almost at the drop of a hat, many times between two neighboring cities.
The slight Giovanni Francesco did indeed succeed in getting his wish; he became one of the proud knights in defense of his city. Sadly though the aspiring warrior fell from his high horse, and and his wounds were serious enough to put an end to his military career. As so often happens with Saints in training, serious setbacks lead to grand changes. In a gospel sense out of death comes a new life and so this happened to Frank. Frank discovered a little church that was as broken as he was, and he set out to repair it. And so he did. He used his money to replace its stones, refurbish its beams, to polish its furnishings. The repairs he made to that little building seemed at the same time to repair him and he began to see that Church rebuilt in a new light.
Stories rarely go from bad directly to good, there are nearly always little twists that lead to challenges, and this one is no different. The little twist is Francesco’s father; it seems the wealthy business man was worried about his sons path. Francis’s new hobby both consumed funds and led Frank away from following in the family business and away from a livelihood. A tug of war ensued and the battle concluded with builder Frank ripping off his clothing and tossing them at his Father-merchant as a way dramatic declination of his inheritance and family lifestyle. Surprisingly Francis did not end up in a mental institution, though had they existed he likely would have.
In one event Giovanni Francesco di Bernardone renounces family wealth and in another he embraces poverty. That second encounter was the result of an encounter of a leper. With these series of events Frank goes from playboy to beggar /church-troubadour . Giovanni Francesco di Bernardone’s changes were undeniably a dramatic series of events yet the biggest shock is the events of this crushed knight reformed a mighty , powerful, though somewhat corrupt Church. Saint Francis used his experience (aka transformation) of rebuilding a church and his personal embrace of poverty to rebuild a Church by restoring it to its original gospel message. He saw in rebuilding that small structure his calling to rebuild that large organization. He rebuilt a church both with a small and capital “C”. In rebuilding the church by replacing its stones he saw the path to rebuild the larger Church by stripping away all that masked its beauty.
Francis wasn’t a priest, he lacked that training. He was a preacher and a Deacon with the role of aiding the church. A helper, a healer. He didn’t learn his theology in a classroom; he learned it through life and through nature. He did not live segregated from people; he and his friars lived among people. He did not display material wealth; he refused it and relied on only God to provide him and his group with what they needed. Through poverty he found a way to live the gospel and deliver that gospel message to others. His way or order eventually became the one of the largest in the Church. Through a dramatic poverty he fed the flock. His reformation of the church was a counter-reformation to the Protestants as his rebuilt the Church rather than divide it. As his spiritual Journey began with an infirmary, one aspect his order was known for was the building of hospitals for those who were poor. Francis is also the patron saint of ecology as so much of his vision of God came through nature. Isn’t it odd how falling off a horse could lead to such a grand victory?
“Amen, amen, I say to you,
you will see heaven opened
and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”
Angels are important. They are the messengers of God. Without the angel Gabriel, would Mary have received the message that “the Lord is with you.” It is the angel Gabriel that tells Mary ” Do not be afraid Mary, for you have found favor with God” and it is the angel Gabriel who told Mary “and behold you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus” The Angel Gabriel said to Mary; The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.”
Angels are important, and the messages they deliver are important. Angel Gabriel is the message of Gods strength. How often it was that Mary must have prayed for Gods strength, and how vigilant she must have been to receive Gods message and messenger. Through the messenger Gabriel Mary listens about of a child conceived by God, and that listening to Angels is important; if you don’t listen to the angel of God, then chances are you will fall prey to the messages of his opponent. Mary prayed to God and listened for Gods messenger, she awaited an Angel.
Gabriel is the angel “the strength of God”, an answer to prayers to Gods strength. Michael is the angel “who is like God”: Quis ut Deus! Michael battles Satin, the angel Michael is that of a warrior in search of an opponent, a protector and guardian. Prayers to Saint Michael the Archangel are for protection. Gabriel’s symbol is the horn delivering Gods message to Gods people, Michael’s is the sword for the defense of those people from the devil Satin.
The Angel Raphael is the message of Gods healing, or the prayer “God, please heal” and the message “God has healed.” From John, Chapter 5: “And an angel of the Lord descended at certain times into the pond and the water was moved. And he that went down first into the pond after the motion of the water was made whole of whatsoever infirmity he lay under.” The angel is Raphael. As simply human, people make mistakes. As people in battle with a devil enemy, people fall in battle and are wounded. We are subject to human frailties, disobedient, sinful, and easily deceived; we are victims of our human nature. It is the angel Raphael who delivers the message of Gods healing.
Angels are important; they are the messengers of Gods strength, protection, and healing. Throughout the bible, both old and new testament, are encounters with Angels. In the ancient world they were attentive to the works of angels. Over time though the image of angels has shifted through art and legend, cultural influences, and folklore that the theology of Angels can easily be obscured. That is sad because if the role of an angel becomes lost, there is always the danger that the message they are to deliver also might be lost; and the messages delivered by these messengers, Angels, are supremely important.
Well, what did I think of this Sundays’ reading, the story of Lazarus and the rich man? Lk 16:19-31 First, this person noticed that concern for the poor and infirm, notably absent in this story, is a cornerstone of Christianity. It is the religions defining trait, which is Christian charity. It is an outward display of Christian love that is so often the theme of the gospel. It is the alms giving of Lent. It is the Christ centered foundation of the homeless shelter, the reason for Christian education initiative, and the inspiration for the development of Catholic hospitals. Can I suggest the root word hospital is in hospitality or good will towards men? Charity towards the likes of Lazarus, the man begging from beneath a table, is absolutely fundamental to Christianity. It is nothing new today, but it was radical at the time of this story.
My other thoughts towards that story revolve around the details and how they are used. The story takes place at a table, so suggestive of the heavenly banquet mentioned frequently in Old Testament. The story does hint at that heavenly banquet; yet in heaven roles reverse; it is the rich man that begs beneath the table. In heaven Lazarus is granted that cherished seat at the table. As a side note, can anyone ponder the Lords table. That theme of table is common in many of the stories of Jesus. The dinner of the Last Supper , was it set in motion to offer Lazarus a seat at the table? “Do this in remembrance of Me.” Lazarus would have gladly eaten crumbs that fell off that rich mans table, yet he was so far removed even they were a dream. How far can an outcast be cast, how great can a barrier be?
Next I marvel at those purple robes, the color of royalty. It is so much the color of royalty that it was worn exclusively by royalty, for anyone else to wear that color was a crime. Jesus clearly wanted those Pharisees to see how they identified with royalty. They were (in their minds) religious royalty. There also was the royal court, and one should not leave out the King of all creation. Those Pharisees did behave like they were royalty, so obvious as they avoided all who were ritually unclean. At their table Lazarus would not even be granted a seat under the table, he would be pushed out the door. That was the reality of the day, there were clear boundaries between the privileged and the suffering. The gospel story clearly mirrors the society of that era. Lazarus was an outcast, ritually unclean and the definition of a sinner. The illustrated facts of life. Does this paint a picture?
“And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores,
who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps
that fell from the rich man’s table.
Dogs even used to come and lick his sores.”
The next detail comes from the beggar himself, Lazarus and his name translates “God is my help.” With him is the call for society to change. In the “next” world he is the one rewarded, and the rich that behaved as royalty is sent to hell. That, to put it bluntly, is in direct opposition to the common belief. To those Pharisees, those who were suffering or cursed on earth were cursed for eternity. To make matters worse, that condemnation was as contagious as influenza is today. A vision of heaven and hell should be interpreted as the Ancient’s would have envisioned it. Heaven resided beyond the firmament ( a tangible physical barrier) and the place of the stars. Hell that frightening tortious place beneath the earth. Jesus, in His story, clearly argued for a call to change. That change is the good news of Jesus Christ, it is the essence of Christianity. To Christ the fear could be replaced with compassion, and compassion meets its reward in heaven. Christian compassion, and Christian charity, they begin with Jesus Christ.
Much of the world in my opinion has taken the lesson of this story to heart. That does not mean there isn’t room for improvement. I think of those hospitals Christian religious orders set up throughout Europe in the middle ages. I think of the charitable work with youth carried out by the likes of John Bosco’s Salesian order, I think of the outreach efforts off the Red Cross, Catholic Relief Services and Catholic Charities. I think of the parishes St. Vincent De Paul Societies, and of the generosity of a country, and a churches citizens. Christianity in action, a table turned over and a world upside down.
Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time