Painting of disciples at Pentecost

A Quieter Pentecost

Acts 2:1-21; 1 Corinthians 12: 3-13; John 20:19-23

 

This week’s post is a reflection originally published in 2011.

The Catholic Church’s Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) is, ideally, a process lasting many months, during which unbaptized catechumens and baptized but unconfirmed candidates learn from and discern with sponsors and other members of the church community they hope to become part of. My home parish takes this seriously. While the rite is meant to lead to reception into the church at the Easter Vigil, there’s no rushing, no shortcuts, no simply going with the flow. The rigor and probing reflection often make me wish I hadn’t completed my own initiation so young.

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Overcoming Epistemology

Trinity Sunday


Psalm 8

…one God, the one beginning of all things, the wisdom by which every soul is wise, and the gift by which all things blessed are blessed…the Trinity of one substance…the beginning to which we return, the form (or pattern) we follow after, the grace by which we are reconciled…the one God whose creation gives us life, through whose re-forming we live wisely, by the love and enjoyment of whom live blessedly.” – Augustine, Retractions

The doctrine of the Trinity can present itself as quite an intellectual puzzle, perhaps especially to the monotheistic believer, and it is therefore rightly called a “mystery.” However, attending to Trinitarian orthodoxy and its implication of us and God can bring spiritual renewal, when we first make ourselves aware of certain habits of thought we moderns possess that render the Trinity a moral and intellectual “problem.” Read more

A Nose Hair in the Body of Christ

Third Sunday after Epiphany
Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Nehemiah 8:2-4A,5-6,8-10
1 Corinthians 12:12-31
Luke 4:14-21

Last year,while visiting our dear friends,Sandie and Owen,and enjoying an evening of good food and even better conversation, Jill, my wife, said, only half in jest, “When I look at what other people accomplish, I can’t help thinking about all those other things I should be doing: working to stop the death penalty, saving starving children, reading the best books, having informed opinions.”

Sandie paused a moment to ponder Jill’s concerns, and said, “All those things are important, but we’re all part of the body of Christ, and we have a role, however small. So what if you’re the nose hair? You’re there for a purpose. You may not have any idea what good you’re doing, but that’s still your job: to be a nose hair in the body of Christ.”

In this week’s second reading, Paul’s too concerned with the interdependence of eyes, ears, hands, and feet to address the problem of nose hairs. Too bad. Read more

Living into the Mystery

Twenty-fifth Sunday after Pentecost
Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time


Daniel 12:1-3 OR 1 Samuel 2:1-10
Hebrews 10:11-25
Mark 13:1-8 OR Mark 13:24-32

It’s November, the closing weeks of the liturgical year, when those in the northern hemisphere see what had recently appeared so green and full of life now wither and die. We see signs in the trees and know that winter is near.

For those in the United States, it is also post-election season. Despite the predictable posturing of winners and losers alongside quadrennial promises of pragmatic cooperation and “reaching across the aisle,” it’s difficult to find real joy in the just concluded, nearly two-year electoral process that left many feeling like a James Bond martini. I, for one, found little to be stirred by in the ugly accusations and dire predictions that now pass of campaigning.

As grace would have it, our readings take a seasonally appropriate turn, looking beyond “current events,” reminding us that what appears deadly serious now will, soon enough, be revealed as inconsequential. For Christians, this so-called eschatological turn can be difficult to negotiate, and scripture’s use of apocalyptic language – unveiling hidden realities through frightening images and strange events – worsens our collective vertigo. Read more

To ponder in our hearts

Numbers 6: 22-27
Galatians 4:4-7 or Philippians 2:5-11
Luke 2:15-21

Caro cardo salutis
(The body is the hinge of salvation)
– Tertullian

The tragically divided trinitarian churches find it difficult to definitively name this Sunday. The Orthodox, as well as some Anglican and Lutheran churches, celebrate the Feast of the Circumcision. So did Catholics until the 1960s, when the day transformed into the Octave of the Nativity and the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. Those using the Revised Common Lectionary celebrate the Holy Name of Jesus or the First Sunday after Christmas Day.

Perhaps the kindest way to understand this confusion is that the mystery of the Incarnation is far too vast for human comprehension. After celebrating, as best we can, its totality on Christmas Day, we who stand on this side of the grave enter the abyssal mystery further only through glimpses and reflections, hoping not to absolutize any partial vision, lest we fall into heresy, from the Greek, hairesis, “a choice.”

All these glimpses lead into a paradox that borders on the monstrous: that the Creator of the Universe enters into Creation as a one of us, decisively bridging the gap between spirit and matter we so desperately struggle to maintain. The fulcrum upon which this mystery pivots is the body, and the visions celebrated on this day all emphasize that saving carnality. Read more