This is a blog that I post to several times a week although not necessarily daily. These reflections are triggered by the scripture found in the lectionary used by many Christian denominations. While I am part of the Catholic tradition, these posts are not --or rarely--sectarian. I try to put myself in the space of a of Jesus Christ and listen to words that come to me as I read and pray the scriptures. Each post also includes a photograph. These rarely have any connection to the content of the post but are simply pleasing images that I capture as I make my pilgrimage through life.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Social Justice and the Feast of the Visitation

He bared his arm and showed his strength,    scattered the bluffing braggarts.He knocked tyrants off their high horses,    pulled victims out of the mud.The starving poor sat down to a banquet;    the callous rich were left out in the cold.  Luke 1:51-53
Today we celebrate the event of the visitation of Mary to her cousin Elizabeth, pregnant with the future John the Baptist...a person who would figure prominently in the spiritual development of Jesus.  This story as told by the earliest Christian communities contained a hymn placed in Mary's mouth that we have come to call "The Magnificat" after the first word in the Latin version.

We tend to be most familiar with the first part of the hymn--"My soul magnifies the Lord"--because it fits in with our very human desire to see salvation in terms of our individual  relationship with the Divine One.  We are less familiar with the second part of the hymn from which the lines quoted above are taken.

The God that "has done great things" for Mary, the God magnified Mary's soul is not a God of individual holiness abstracted from the realities of human existence.  The God whom Mary proclaims, to whom the Hebrew Scriptures testify, about whom Jesus taught is a God preeminently of justice.  This prayer is not a nice little hymn by a pious and demure young woman but a revolutionary declaration that the world is at odds with the gospel.  If Christians do not work to turn things upside down, they are not being faithful to the deepest values of their faith tradition.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Can I be a child...and enter the Reign of the Divine One?

The people brought children to Jesus, hoping he might touch them. The disciples shooed them off. But Jesus was irate and let them know it: “Don’t push these children away. Don’t ever get between them and me. These children are at the very center of life in the kingdom. Mark this: Unless you accept God’s kingdom in the simplicity of a child, you’ll never get in.” Then, gathering the children up in his arms, he laid his hands of blessing on them.  Mark 10:13-16
This passage is very familiar to us and can be understood in many ways.  I think the key is to be clear about what it means to be a child.  I think this becomes clear when you observe children and their interactions.  Children seem to be at their most "natural" when they are playing with each other with out any kind of adult supervision or "rules."  Not to overly romanticize this--I have raised seven children who have 17 grandchildren--but children at play enter fully into a play world.  They seem to create a new reality with relationships and interactions that have meaning within that new reality.  It is a world that they create and into which adults cannot gain admission unless they become part of that new reality.  An adult who attempts to enter as an adult breaks the new reality apart.

Sometimes this passage has been misinterpreted by those in powerful positions in religion to mean that members of a church should accede to the judgments and decisions of those in leadership without questions, a kind of childlike obedience to adult authority.  This is tantamount to an adult trying to enter a child's play world while remaining an adult.  One can do it but it changes and degrades the reality of the child's play world.  More than that, any one who has spent any time with children knows that the last thing one would say about children is that they are "unquestioning!"  The unending series of "why" questions makes that quite clear to those who listen.  The exasperated adult who finally ends that sequence with "Because I said so" is simply using authority to break the reality of the child.

Can I enter into the Reign of the Divine One with the commitment of a child?  Can I enter into this new reality with all my being?  Can I leave aside the authoritarian inclinations of human nature and become fully one with a new reality?

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

St. Paul in Athens: What lesson for us?

For ‘In him we live and move and have our being,’as even some of your poets have said,‘For we too are his offspring.’Since therefore we are the offspring of God,we ought not to think that the divinity is like an imagefashioned from gold, silver, or stone by human art and imagination.  Acts 17:28-9

Although it is tempting to read these lines as confirmation of the universality of the Divine One's self revelation, I think the relevant message for us today concerns Paul's failure in Athens.  These lines are taken from Paul's address at the Aeropagus--public gathering place--in Athens.  He was trying to use the prevailing cultural and religious beliefs to communicate the Christian message to those considered pagans.  He takes lines from two poets--and he takes them out of context--to try to convince the Athenians that the Christian message is compatible with their traditional beliefs.  Interestingly he mentions nothing about "The Way" of life that is central to Christian faith.  His communications tactic does not work and he never find Paul again trying to use this to spread the message.

This reminds me of some of the current Christian thinkers and writers who seem convinced that quantum physics has provided a way to "almost prove the validity" of the Christian revelation.  I am not a physicist but I do have two children who are.  If I have learned anything from them it is that when I think I understand quantum physics especially through the writings of someone who is not a quantum physicist, I almost certainly do not understand it.  Most writers of this sort use words that seem understandable but which are distortions of the quantum insights.  It is all too easy both as physics and as theology.

Paul learned that the Athenians were not buying his facile interpretations of Athenian religions.  Just so, we should learn that those who understand--if that is even possible--quantum physics find the Christian message undercut by such tactics.  The core Christian message is about a way of life and the only effective evangelization will be based on lives lived in that way.  Philosophical and theological analyses are certainly important but will never bring people to faith.  Contact and engagement with Christians who are on the way will do that.  The analysis will come later if at all.