When I was a child, getting “grounded” was a form of discipline imposed on me by my parents. From my perspective then, it was something to try to avoid. However, both the book of Sirach (which Jesus, son of Eleazar, says was written by his grandfather Jesus Ben Sira) and the Gospel of Luke emphasize the importance of being “grounded,” though admittedly in another sense of the word. That is, as New Testament scholar Barbara E. Reid, O.P. has noted, these two readings convey proverbial wisdom about the virtue of humility, which is “earthy” or “grounded” wisdom (humility is derived from the Latin humilis, which is derived from humus). During dinner at the house of “a leader of the Pharisees,” Jesus noted the seating arrangements whereby persons occupied “the places of honor, which is the opposite of what they ought to do. “But when you are invited, go and sit down at the lowest place…. For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted” (14:10-11). Here Jesus echoes Sirach, “The greater you are, the more you must humble yourself…” (3:18). Rather than endeavoring to climb the social ladder by sitting with people of higher status, it is better to be grounded by spending time with “the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind” (14:13), seeing from their perspective and identifying with them. Read more
The processional hymn for my wedding eight years ago was “Gather Us In,” written by Saint Louis Jesuit Marty Haugen. It’s always been a favorite for my wife and me. “Gather us in, the lost and forsaken; gather us in, the blind and the lame.”
E pluribus unum (“out of many, one”) originally was a central theme of the Hebrew Scriptures and the Christian New Testament. According to scholar Gerhard Lohfink, the “gathering” of the scattered is a key biblical term for the event of salvation. As Depaul University theologian William T. Cavanaugh puts it, “Salvation in the Old Testament is not about individuals trying to gain admittance to a place called heaven after death; it is about gathering people in communion, thereby restoring the good creation that sin and violence have torn apart…, [and the] theme of gathering does not change in the New Testament; the only change is that the promises of the Old Testament are said to be fulfilled in Jesus Christ.” Read more
God is on the move in the texts for this coming Sunday. In Jeremiah we find God calling, commanding, reassuring. In Hebrews there is a whole lot of shaking going on, “so that what cannot be shaken may remain.” Luke finds Jesus healing and shaming. We are about half way through the longest season of our Christian year, the Season After Pentecost. It is the season when the church, having marked the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus and its calling by the gift of the Holy Spirit – we have now, in other words, all that we need to be Christ’s Body in and for the world – is to be about its ever deepening discipleship. This part of this long season, however, at least in the Northern Hemisphere, coincides with the dog days of summer. Perhaps the wake up call in these texts is perfect timing. God will do what God will do. God is up to what God is up to. Read more
“So let us not talk falsely now; the hour is getting late.”
– From “All Along the Watchtower,” by Bob Dylan
Christendom’s demise is a gift to the church. No longer responsible for underwriting the ruling entities of the world, nor longer required to “make nice” with the principalities, no longer dutifully excusing the violence of power politics, the church can at long last resume the serious business of being the church.
Playing church is, of course, far easier than being it. But, barring a powerfully rejuvenated alliance of accommodated Christianity and American nationalism, reasons to pretend should grow increasingly rare. The benefits of claiming default Christian identity have disappeared in many parts of the United States. Even the assumed American requirement that Presidents endorse “strong beliefs vaguely held or vague beliefs strongly held,” has nearly run its course.
The wall of the vineyard is broken; the hedge is devoured. Read more
Moral theology, which is also known today as Christian or theological ethics, seeks to help Christians answer two fundamental questions: 1) Who ought we as a community and as individual Christians be? 2) What ought we as a community and individuals do? The first question has to do with the kind of character and virtues we ought to have; the second has to do with how we ought to make decisions and ought to act.
Paul’s letter to the Christian community in Corinth says, “Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Cor 15:20). Catholic ethicists Russell B. Connors, Jr. and Patrick T. McCormick note that this theological claim is the heart of our faith, which “affirms that we have experienced redemption as embodied spirits, and that the power of God’s redemptive grace permeates every dimension of our lives….” Read more