rope

Bonds Unbroken

Seventh Sunday after Epiphany
Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
Leviticus 19:1-2, 9-18
1 Corinthians 3:16-23
Matthew 5:38-48

At the start of an interview with America magazine last year, Pope Francis was asked, “Who is Jorge Mario Bergoglio?” The Pope paused a moment before saying, “I am a sinner,” and then went on to clarify: “…but the best summary, the one that comes more from the inside and I feel most true is this: I am a sinner whom the Lord has looked upon.”

Perhaps you, like me, take heart at these words, which sound like the fruit of hard experience, not the stale repetition of some pretty formula. Perhaps you, like me, know the wounds – many of them meticulously concealed – of broken relationships, the compounded result of a willful and persistent alienation from God and God’s Creation. Yet the maker of the Universe regards Francis, me, and you, and mercifully refuses to let our “no” be the final word. Though we’ve devoted much time and energy to severing our bonds of connection, God has not, does not, will not. Read more

Joseph and the Angel

A Very Messy Christmas

Fourth Sunday in Advent

Isaiah 7:10-16
Romans 1:1-7
Matthew 1:18-24

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.

-Leonard Cohen

Judah is threatened, but King Ahaz, not otherwise known for piety, refuses to test God in his moment of need. God nevertheless renders a sign: Isaiah, who thinks he knows what information a calculating ruler wants to hear, announces that a girl with soon give birth.

Paul writes as a self-described slave to Christians in the imperial capital where he will eventually be executed. Yet, compelled by Christ, he greets his readers with words of grace and peace.

Joseph learns that his fiancée is pregnant with someone else’s child, and looks for a way out. Yet God speaks to him through an angel in a dream and – get this! – Joseph is persuaded to stay. Read more

Amazonas_-_Encontre_das_Aguas

Deep and Wide

Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time

Jeremiah 1:4-10 OR Isaiah 58:9-14 OR Isaiah 66:18-21
Hebrews 12:18-29 OR Hebrews 12:5-13
Luke 13:10-17 OR Luke 13:22-30

It’s a difficult week for ecumenical commentary on the lectionaries, a rare Ordinary Time Sunday when none of the Revised Common Lectionary and Catholic Lectionary passages match. Books and even chapters nearly align, but as the carnival barker says after the darts are tossed, “Close, son, but no cigar.” But this is the hand we’re dealt this week.

I’m suspicious of harmonizing texts. From Tatian’s Diatesseron to shepherds rubbing shoulders with magi in crèche scenes, well-intentioned acts of smoothing over create more problems than they solve. Even so, I’m enough of an intertextualist to identify a theme emerging from our varied readings this Sunday, one I believe as orthodox as a reader of scripture can get. When readers, in their own time and place, engage scripture with the heart and mind of the Church, we sense a double expansion of meaning and application. In short, we’re on to something when we find ourselves implicated in texts that grow wider and deeper at the same time. This Sunday’s texts offer examples of how to do this. Read more

crucifixion

A Different Sort of History

Seventh Sunday After Pentecost
Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

2 Kings 5:1-14 OR Isaiah 66:10-14
Galatians 6:7-18
Luke 10:1-12, 16-20

“What a piece of work is a man! How noble in

reason, how infinite in faculty! In form and moving
how express and admirable! In action how like an Angel!”

-Hamlet, Act II, Scene 2

“Well, boy, if he’s an angel, he’s sure a murderin’ angel.”
-The Killer Angels

It’s a week of significant anniversaries in North America. July 1 is the 146th year since the passage of the British North America Act, creating the Dominion of Canada, July 1-3 is the 150th anniversary of the battle of Gettysburg, the so-called turning point in the American Civil War, and July 4th marks 237 years since the Declaration of Independence provided justification for a military rebellion already in progress. Canada Day is rather less blood-spattered than the American anniversaries, largely thanks to the outcomes of much earlier battles in Quebec in 1759and 1775, and along the Niagara frontier and Lower Canada in 1813-14. These commemorations, however, suggest how much human history celebrates noble gestures, great events, and admirable acts of courage, while glossing over base expediencies, savage violence, and cold exercises of power. Read more

fra-angelico-resurrection-det1-1438-45

Rejoice! Our Work Has Just Begun!

Easter Sunday

Acts 10:34-43
Ps 118
Col 3:1-4 OR 1 Cor 5:6-8 OR 1 Cor 15:19-26
Jn 20:1-9
OR Lk 24:1-12

We didn’t expect this. No matter how many times we’re told the story, we never do. Like Hazel Motes in Flannery O’Connor’s Wise Blood, most of us shout to the world through our attitudes and actions – if not necessarily with words – that, “I’m a member and preacher to that church where the blind don’t see and the lame don’t walk and what’s dead stays that way.” Read more