Reflections

Feast of Corpus Christi (Father's Day)

A reflection on the Feast of Corpus Christi (Father’s Day, June 18, 2006)

By John Houk


The readings for this Sunday:

Ex 24:3-8
Psalm 116:12-13, 15-18
Hebrews 9:11-15
Mark 14:12-16, 22-26



The full text of the readings can be found here.


There is no evidence that Hallmark and the Church conspired to produce this double holiday (holy day). The Feast of Corpus Christi dates from the 13th century, and quickly became popular (Catholic Encyclopedia) because people like processions. The newly consecrated Body of Christ would be carried through the streets after Mass. I would get up and walk in such a procession. Processions can be very powerful experiences.

I am also a Father, and it is nice to have the light shone in my direction once a year. We all like a little affirmation. But let’s get to this Feast Day as we find it in the Gospel reading with some context.

A Meditation on Life and Loss

By Lola M. Wells
A reflection for Memorial Day 2006

Psalm 34

I will bless Yahweh at all times,
praise continually on my lips,
I will praise Yahweh from my heart;
let the humble hear and rejoice.

Proclaim with me the greatness of Yahweh,
let us acclaim Yahweh's name together.
I seek Yahweh and Yahweh answers me,
frees me from all my fears.

Fix your gaze on Yahweh and your face will grow bright,
you will never hang your head in shame.
Paupers call out and Yahweh hears,
saves them from all their troubles.

The angel of Yahweh encamps
around those who fear him, and rescues them.
Taste and see that Yahweh is good.
How blessed are those who take refuge in Yahweh.

Fear Yahweh, you holy ones,
those who fear Yahweh lack for nothing.
Young lions may go needy and hungry,
but those who seek Yahweh lack nothing good.

Come, my children, listen to me,
I will teach you the fear of Yahweh.
Who among you delights in life,
longs for time to enjoy prosperity?

Guard your tongue from evil,
your lips from any breath of deceit.
Turn away from evil and do good,
seek peace and pursue it.

The eyes of Yahweh are on the upright,
Yahweh's ear turned to their cry.
But Yahweh's face is set against those who do evil,
to cut off the memory of them from the earth,

They cry in anguish and Yahweh hears'
and rescues them from all their troubles.
Yahweh is near to the brokenhearted.
Yahweh helps those whose spirit is crushed.

Though hardships without number beset the upright,
Yahweh brings rescue from them all.
Yahweh takes care of all their bones,
not one of them will be broken.

But to the wicked evil brings death,
those who hate the upright will pay the penalty.
Yahweh ransom the lives of those who serve,
and there will be no penalty for those who take refuge in Yahweh.
New Jerusalem Bible

I have been graced to know many, many veterans. They have tickled my wit, challenged my intellect and deeply saddened my heart. My heart and soul are more fragile and humble as a result of our shared journeys. I abhor war and believe it is absolutely immoral. I do not, however, direct my moral outrage at the men and women the nations send to fight the wars. There are a myriad reasons why individuals go to war. Some genuinely believe the cause is just, some are drafted, and a few go because everyone on the block has already gone. There are others who are in trouble and believe the military life can straighten them out; just as there are those who are drawn by the promise of education and financial bonuses. The veteran population reflects the general population. There are a number of disappointed and/or angry veterans. Their disappointment and anger is mostly directed at a nation that either has forgotten them and their war, did not welcome them home or is taking back benefits promised.

There are some veterans who brag about their "kill." Some of these individuals talk about the enemy with disparaging nicknames such as "gooks," "chinks" or "ragheads." For these men the enemy does not have a human face. A few veterans have done this in order to cope with what they did in combat. If the enemy is evil and nameless then what I did is not as horrible as what I think it is, and I can continue to live. Truth is that there are also a few mean-spirited veterans who were probably bullies as kids, were bullies in combat, and now brag about their deeds like any neighborhood tormentor.

Psalm 34 is the scripture passage that speaks most clearly to me about Yahweh and veterans. Yahweh does not call for wars, nor does Yahweh take sides in combat. Every human life is precious to Yahweh who waits for our gaze to turn toward him. Yahweh does, however, favor those who turn from evil to do good, who seek peace and pursue it. I do not know a veteran who went to war in order to have more war. They went in the cause of peace. They thought they knew the face of evil and were intent on destroying it.

As we celebrate this Memorial Day I invite you to spend a few minutes with a few veterans I know. Except for "Would you believe I am a hero" each anecdote tells of loss and of dark memories that have been carried for years.

No Longer A Slave

By Greg Swiderski

Readings for the Sixth Sunday of Easter (May 21):
Acts 10:25-48
1 John 4:7-10
John 15:9-17

The full text of the readings can be found here.

In this Sunday's gospel John writes about a change in relationship: I no longer call you slaves, but friends. Most translations soften the “s” word to servants. The original Greek is “doulos”. Slaves is the more accurate appellation; it is the most often Greek used throughout the Christian scriptures. It refers to a "qualified sense of subjection." (Strong's Concordance)

Shock and awe; a glimpse of the awe and wonder of God.

Reflections on Jesus’ post resurrection appearances

by Don Rampolla

“Shock and awe” is now a well recognized term for U.S. military strategy. (70 years ago the equivalent term was “blitzkrieg”) Thinking about the disciples despair after Jesus’ crucifixion I would suppose that these terms might apply to their reaction to Jesus post resurrection appearances.

The robust, fruity, delicate, Catholic Christian Community

Reflection on Fifth Sunday of Easter (May 14)

By Pat Rampolla

The readings for this Sunday:
Acts 9:26-31
Psalm 22:26-32
1 John 3:18-24
John 15:1-8

The full text of the readings can be found here.

As I was reflecting on the image of the vine and the branches in today’s Gospel reading I started to focus on the grapes that are the fruit of the vines that have been well pruned. From the grapes my thoughts moved to wine which is the ultimate product of crushed and filtered grapes.

Have you ever been to a wine tasting party where the wine connoisseur describes in very colorful language the various wines that are being featured?

The wines are described as robust, fruity, delicate, fragrant, hearty, earthy, containing a bouquet of flowers and many more descriptive adjectives. The best wines often come from combining various kinds of grapes or from vines that contain grafts from several varieties of grapes. What an inclusive image?

For me, this whole process, the growing, the pruning, the grafting, the crushing, the blending, the tasting and even more, the savoring, is a wonderful image for our lives as followers of Jesus and members of the Catholic Christian Community.

Shepherd As Metaphor

A Reflection for the Fourth Sunday of Easter (May 7)
by Greg Swiderski

Readings:
Acts 4:8-12
1 John 3:1-2
John 10:11-18

The full text of the readings can be found here.

Last week Alan Alda, formerly of MASH fame and now trying to present science in a popular manner and Brian Green, a scientist who has written about the String Theory to explain the universe, spoke on the Charlie Rose program. They said that metaphors were valuable to try to make the seemingly incomprehensible and sometimes arcane tenets of science available to the lay person.

However, they reminded us that all metaphors are inadequate and fragile when striving to make known the complexities of scientific knowledge.

Their insight might easily apply to our approach to the divine and in particular to John's gospel. The many "I AM" expressions (the way, the truth, the light; the bread of life, and today, the good shepherd) attempt to access the sheer incomprehensible and the awesome sacred. Perhaps Muslim practice parallels this when people honor the 99 names for the divine, each an attempt to the full truth.

What is inadequate about the shepherd? Well, first, most of us have never experienced shepherding. At what level, then, can we relate to this scriptural image? Is any effort limited?

I might bet that many preachers today want to present themselves or their institution as the shepherd and their listeners and members as the feckless sheep. We will tell you what to do for we know best. Such paternalism seems condescending and robs the individual or the congregation of its challenge to respond to its own conscience.

After honestly admitting these limitations, what emotional experience might this metaphor tap? How about security and unconditional love?

Three Women and an Empty Tomb

A Reflection For Easter Vigil/Easter Sunday (April 15/16 2006)

by Lola Wells

The full text of the readings can be found here.

Mark 14:1-8
When the Sabbath was over,
Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James, and Salome
bought spices so that they might go and anoint him.
Very early when the sun had risen,
on the first day of the week, they come to the tomb.
They were saying to one another,
"Who will roll back the stone for us
from the entrance to the tomb?"
When they looked up.
they saw that the stone had been rolled back;
it was very large.
On entering the tomb they saw a young man
sitting on the right side, clothed in a white robe,
and they were utterly amazed!
He said to them, "Don't be amazed!
You seek Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified.
He has been raised; he is not here.
Behold the place where they laid him.
But go and tell his disciples and Peter,
'He is going before you to Galilee;
there you will see him, as he told you.'"
New American Bible

Our story begins with the most human of activities - visiting the site where our loved one lies buried. Here three women are going together. One imagines the depth of their friendship. Together they had traveled with Jesus, listened and learned, questioned, laughed, prayed. These journeys had not been easy. Travel accommodations for women were indeed sparse, but there was a sense of urgency about the man, a feeling that you wanted to be with him as much as you could because…. They had heard Jesus talk of his death. It was sort of an open secret among his followers, but no one understood. They so loved him that it was unbearable to think of him dead. If it had been unbearable to think of him gone when he was with them, how much greater, more desperate the pain now. They walked in silence.

They had heard that Joseph of Arimathaea, Nicodemus and others had buried Jesus in accordance with Hebrew custom, but they wanted to take additional spices. They were not thinking it would make any real difference. Nothing could delay the body's putrefaction. It's just that it was all so abrupt. They had come into Jerusalem with him. All the people seemed to love him. The crowds had shouted his name, waved palm branches as they called him their King. They had celebrated the Passover with him and Peter, James, Judas, Jesus' mother, all the others. Then, it was all over. None of the three women remembered much of what happened next except for the crowd crying out to crucify him! The very same crowd that had claimed him as their king now wanted him crucified! It could not be understood. There was so much anger and hatred in those cries that they were afraid. They were afraid not so much for themselves as they were concerned for the people so filled with hatred. And then came the crucifixion, and the endless hours of his dying. Mary Magdalene had best expressed the turmoil of their feelings: "Sometimes I wanted him to die quickly. I prayed for his suffering to end immediately! Other times it was like I didn't want it to end. I did not want him to leave me, leave us. I feel so alone and lost now."

Being "on the street"

A Reflection For Passion Sunday (April 9)
by Greg Swiderski

Readings:
Mark 11:1-10
Isaiah 50:4-7
Psalm 22:8-24
Philippians 2:6-11
Mk 14:1--15:47

The full text of the readings can be found here.

A few months ago Peter Steinfels wrote in the Religion Journal of the New York Times about the film of CS Lewis' famous book: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. He quoted a writer who thought that the creature which might more fully represent the Christ of scripture was either a donkey or a sheep; the movie presents a lion as the "Christ figure." A lion never appears in the gospel and is never used by the writers to characterize Jesus. A lion seems a fierce figure, dominant and frightening; this seems at odds with the Christ of the gospels.

In the Christain sacred stories Jesus rides upon an ass as he arrives in Jerusalem; he is echoing Zechariah 9:9. He comes as a person of peace; a bellicose leader would ride a horse.

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