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.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Healing miracles...what to make of them?

Sumac blooms along the Erie Canal

While Jesus was speaking, an official came forward,knelt down before him, and said,"My daughter has just died.But come, lay your hand on her, and she will live."Jesus rose and followed him, and so did his disciples.A woman suffering hemorrhages for twelve years came up behind himand touched the tassel on his cloak.She said to herself, "If only I can touch his cloak, I shall be cured."Jesus turned around and saw her, and said,"Courage, daughter! Your faith has saved you."And from that hour the woman was cured.  Mt 9:18-22
The readings from Matthew this past week have been filled with stories of Jesus healing people including bringing them back from the dead and with stories of his casting out devils and demons.  These stories are well attested in the canonical gospels as well as other gospels and contemporaneous accounts.  Clearly the early Christian communities knew of and believed in the ability of Jesus to cure and give life.  That these were expected signs of the Messiah does not undercut the accuracy of these accounts.  In fact, today's gospel in Matthew 10 says that Jesus bestowed this power on the apostles as well.

What am I to make of these stories?  How do they fit into my own faith and spiritual life?  When I was younger, it was easy enough to find "natural explanations" for these healings but that misses the point.  The primary miracle, if you will, is the incarnation.  If I believe that the Divine One was incarnated as the human Jesus and that he was fully human and fully divine, what's a few healings and exorcisms.  It is the incarnation that is important for me and my life.

If the Divine One became accessible as a human being, it was to show us how to live a life that would lead to eternal union with the source of all life.  The path he called us to follow is not one that has no difficulties, pain, suffering and ultimately death.  No amount of righteous living can result in a life devoid of these human realities.  The simple rule of Jesus was that we are to love others--even our enemies--as ourselves.  His life demonstrates that such way of living does not eliminate pain and suffering but rather the opposite.  Such a life will bring us into a radical conflict with the world and its values and will result in our crucifixtion in small or large ways depending on our life and the extent to which our life threatens the world and the "powers that be."  This is what happened to Jesus and surely the same fate awaits us if we have courage enough to live out our values in the midst of a culture that encourages just the opposite.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Cognitive dissonance is the fountain of learning.

Wetlands in Tinker Park, Henrietta NY

Blessed are all who fear the LORD,and who walk in his ways.
What your hands provide you will enjoy; you will be blessed and prosper:
Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your home,Your children like young olive plants around your table.
Just so will the man be blessed who fears the LORD.
May the LORD bless you from Zion; may you see Jerusalem’s prosperity all the days of your life,
and live to see your children’s children.  Peace upon Israel!  Psalm 128
Sometimes the comforting words of scripture come into a profound conflict with our life experience.  Most of the time I, at least, just try not to think about it because it is uncomfortable.  "Cognitive dissonance" is a term used to describe this situation.  "In the field of psychology, cognitive dissonance is the mental discomfort (psychological stress) experienced by a person who simultaneously holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values."  (Wikipedia)  It is uncomfortable because something has to give.  Either one belief is accepted and the other rejected or both are changed to eliminate the contradiction.

Psalm 128 is the responsorial psalm in today's liturgy.  It presents a comforting thought:  If I fear the Lord and walk in his ways, I will prosper.  It is a scene of domestic tranquility and peace that is very appealing.  There is, however, another truth.  During the 20th century about 2 billion human beings lost their lives to wars, infectious diseases and famine.  It is reasonable to assume that these victims had nothing to do with these disasters that befell them.  They were victims in the truest sense of the word.  Their faithfulness to their religious traditions could hardly have had anything to do with their fate.

How can one hold both of these realities at the same time?  How can one resolve what appears to be fundamental contradiction?  One thing is certain:  to ignore this and pretend that there is no contradiction does not help very much.  This presents an opportunity of coming to a deeper understanding of my relationship with the Divine One and my role in the world.