John Ronald Reuel Tolkien – Author

I learned how to read novels by reading Tolkien.

 

My mother had a beautiful edition of The Hobbit, hard bound in a green case with gold leaf and gilt pages. There were lovely illustrations in the book, and maps drawn by the author himself.

 

I pulled it off the shelf when I was in the third grade and I read it. Then I read the Lord of the Rings, followed by the Silmarillion, his Unfinished Tales edited by his son Christopher, and then a biography of the man himself.

 

Before I began to read his other works, I began to re-read those books. I read them all, many times over: eight, nine, ten times.

 

I remember a sensation I had on my third time through the Silmarillion, I experienced a heightened sense of understanding that came to me because I had become a better reader. It wasn’t just that I was re-reading the same material, but my vocabulary had expanded and I was able to comprehend more of the material.

 

The picture was filling in and the world that Tolkien created was coming to life.

 

I added his smaller lesser known works to the corpus of material I consumed, when I was still in the seventh grade I read Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and Beowulf. These works resonated with my other reading interests, such as the collected and various tales of King Arthur, they also put me in touch with the broader tradition of the Viking sagas.

 

Then I began to read books about Tolkien and Middle Earth written or compiled by other authors, The Tolkien Companion, the New Tolkien Companion, along with various encyclopedias, bestiaries and anthologies depicting the arms and armor of Middle Earth.

 

Reading Tolkien put the idea in my head that I wanted to be a writer. Reading his work over and over again gave me a deep appreciation for the care and the craft he put into the work of devising his fantasy world.

 

Through Tolkien I came to have an early appreciation for the power of myths, their malleability, and the potential that we have as creative people to fashion our own myths and communicate them to the broader world.

 

Through his writing Tolkien dramatized the basic conflicts he saw at work in our civilization, conflicts between the bucolic and pastoral life with the forces of industry that seemed to be destroying the planet, the disasters of modern warfare and the suffering they visit on the world.

 

The collected stories of Middle Earth are a form of social criticism that is more relevant than ever in the twenty-first century.

 

Tolkien 

 

Given First – 2020.09.02

The Empty Set

Bound by doctrines of freedom, independence

Shackled to the ideal of autonomy, its contradictions

Waiting for a savior to emerge, living in the empty set

 

Alien priests and charlatans descend from the stars

Bargaining for the future with a wink and a nod, con-men

Selling pyramid schemes, bridges to the promised land

 

Remember the dream we were promised by Monroe

Manifest-destiny, genocide and terror, Westward Ho!

 

We blew the tops off mountains and set the prairie on fire

We cut the forests to the root, burying the grassland in dust

We poisoned the water, laced the air with toxins

 

Burning coal, pumping oil, smelting ore, splicing the atom

Celebrating freedom, liberty and progress, even as it kills us

 

We leapt from our peak, wings spread and falling in lament

A short flight for the broken-spirit, drowning in the lake of fire

Each and every aspiration, an occasion for disaster and ruin

 

We indemnified the priest who pushed us from the ledge

We circled the sun in tightening rings, decaying in our orbits

 

They sold us a seat at the electric circus, fed us styrofoam

We chased it with bile, a poor substitute for the body and blood

The synthetic eucharist, a gray-scale facsimile of the Son of Man

 

We abandoned the table of Mithra, the music of the spheres

Trying to recall the set of pinholes, piercing the curtain of night

The bright-silver lights, blinking in the dark, ghost of dead stars

 

 

A Homily – The Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)

First Reading – Isaiah 22:19-23 ©

Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 137(138):1-3, 6, 8 ©

Second Reading – Romans 11:33-36 ©

Gospel Acclamation – 2 Corinthians 5:19

Alternative Acclamation – Matthew 16:18

The Gospel According to Matthew 16:13 – 30 ©

 

(NJB)

 

The Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)

 

 

Listen!

 

Be mindful of the books of prophecy, all too often the writers mistake their own sentiments and dynastic ambitions for God’s. Mistaking their own desires for the will of the divine, and this is not the way.

 

Know this:

 

God does not intervene in human affairs or anywhere in creation, when you read from the book of Isaiah today, remember, God loves the house of David no more and no less than God loves your own house, or any other.

 

God does not play favorites.

 

Consider the words of the psalmist:

 

It is right to praise God, the creator of the universe.

 

It is even better to praise mercy wherever you see it, because mercy is what God and through the exhibition of mercy we serve the divine.

 

Trust in God; the God who does not desire glory, the way to God is one of humility.

 

Listen to the apostle!

 

Everything that exists come from God; God is opposed to nothing and God’s ways are inscrutable.

 

The apostle tells us in the simplest of terms that the mission of the church is to announce the reconciliation of things in God, the creator of the universe. He shares the hope that everyone is reconciled in the loving embrace of the divine.

 

Paul instructs us that the members of the church are meant to serve as messengers and ambassadors of this good news.

 

The church is not, nor should it ever be a recruiting agency, with the purpose of signing up members, holding out the reward of reconciliation for those who join.

 

Paul teaches that the reconciliation has already taken place, it occurred in Christ at the beginning of time and carries through to the end.

 

The mission of the Church is not to effectuate it, but to proclaim it.

 

Consider the Gospel reading for today:

 

Matthew’s Gospel was written roughly one hundred years after the death of Jesus of Nazareth.

 

Saint Paul the Apostle, was the first person to call Jesus the Christ, the anointed one. This was not a term his disciples used of him, nor a term Jesus would have ever used of himself.

 

You should keep this in mind anytime you refer to Jesus as the Christ.

 

Jesus and his disciples did contend with the title “Son of Man.” Among certain sects of the Jewish people this phrase is associated with the coming of a messiah, an individual that could represent humanity as humanity is meant to be, the human being in its most exalted state, and also free the Children of Israel from the grip of foreign rule.

 

The title, “Son of Man,” had been circulating in Jewish literature for about two-hundred years prior to the time of Jesus, and it is most closely associated with the books of Daniel and Enoch in the Old Testament. Apart from scripture, the “Son a Man” was a wildly popular archetype in a period of time known as the “inter-testamental” era, this heroic figure proliferated among non-canonical and apocryphal writers.

 

The authors of Matthew’s Gospel are doing a couple of things, they are connecting the ministry of Jesus, and so by extension their ministry, to this wider body when they refer to Jesus as the “Son of Man,” as well as when they call him the Christ in keeping with the very popular writings of Saint Paul.

 

The authors of Matthew make these claims in order to redirect popular understanding of who the expected “Son of Man” might be; the “Son of Man” was not John the Baptist, and neither is Jesus, John the Baptist returned. The “Son of Man” is not Elijah or one of the other prophets, neither is Jesus the second coming of one of them.

 

The Authors of Matthew are clear that the “Son of Man” is Jesus, the Christ, uniquely able to claim the mantle of sonship in relation to the living God.

 

This is piece of propaganda.

 

The Gospel propagandizes the ministry of Jesus, the ministry of the disciples and the faction of the church most closely associated with Saint Peter.

 

There are no cosmic truths being disclosed here, there is only the struggle of the Church to claim an identity that both carries on the most popular traditions in and around the apostolic era, and to differentiate itself from those traditions at the same time.

 

 

First Reading – Isaiah 22:19-23 ©

 

I Place the Key of the House of David on My Servant’s Shoulder

 

Thus says the Lord of Hosts to Shebna, the master of the palace:

 

I dismiss you from your office, I remove you from your post, and the same day I call on my servant Eliakim son of Hilkiah.

 

I invest him with your robe, gird him with your sash, entrust him with your authority; and he shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and to the House of Judah.

 

I place the key of the House of David on his shoulder; should he open, no one shall close, should he close, no one shall open.

 

I drive him like a peg into a firm place; he will become a throne of glory for his father’s house.

 

 

Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 137(138):1-3, 6, 8 ©

 

Your love, O Lord, is eternal: discard not the work of your hands.

 

I thank you, Lord, with all my heart:

you have heard the words of my mouth.

In the presence of the angels I will bless you.

I will adore before your holy temple.

 

Your love, O Lord, is eternal: discard not the work of your hands.

 

I thank you for your faithfulness and love,

which excel all we ever knew of you.

On the day I called, you answered;

you increased the strength of my soul.

 

Your love, O Lord, is eternal: discard not the work of your hands.

 

The Lord is high yet he looks on the lowly

and the haughty he knows from afar.

Your love, O Lord, is eternal,

discard not the work of your hands.

 

Your love, O Lord, is eternal: discard not the work of your hands.

 

 

Second Reading – Romans 11:33-36 ©

 

All that Exists Comes from Him; All is by Him and from Him.

 

How rich are the depths of God – how deep his wisdom and knowledge – and how impossible to penetrate his motives or understand his methods! Who could ever know the mind of the Lord? Who could ever be his counsellor? Who could ever give him anything or lend him anything? All that exists comes from him; all is by him and for him. To him be glory for ever! Amen.

 

 

Gospel Acclamation – 2 Corinthians 5:19

 

Alleluia, alleluia!

 

God in Christ was reconciling the world to himself, and he has entrusted to us the news that they are reconciled.

 

Alleluia!

 

 

Alternative Acclamation – Matthew 16:18

 

Alleluia, alleluia!

 

You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church.

And the gates of the underworld can never hold out against it.

 

Alleluia!

 

 

The Gospel According to Matthew 16:13 – 30 ©

 

You Are Peter and On this Rock I Will Build My Church

 

When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi he put this question to his disciples, ‘Who do people say the Son of Man is?’ And they said, ‘Some say he is John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ ‘But you,’ he said ‘who do you say I am?’ Then Simon Peter spoke up, ‘You are the Christ,’ he said, ‘the Son of the living God.’ Jesus replied, ‘Simon son of Jonah, you are a happy man! Because it was not flesh and blood that revealed this to you but my Father in heaven. So I now say to you: You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church. And the gates of the underworld can never hold out against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven: whatever you bind on earth shall be considered bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth shall be considered loosed in heaven.’ Then he gave the disciples strict orders not to tell anyone that he was the Christ.

 

 

The Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)

 

A Homily – The Annunciation, Mary Queen of Heaven, A Holy Day of Obligation (Year A)

First Reading – Ezekiel 43:1-7 ©

Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 84(85):9-14 ©

Gospel Acclamation – Psalm 118:36, 29

Alternative Acclamation – Matthew 23:9, 10

The Gospel According to Matthew 23:1 – 12 ©

 

Memorial

 

First Reading – Isaiah 9:1-7 ©

Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 112(113):1-8 ©

Gospel Acclamation – Luke 1:28

The Gospel According to Luke 1:26-38 ©

 

(NJB)

 

The Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time, The Annunciation, Mary Queen of Heaven

A Holy Day of Obligation (Year A)

 

 

Be mindful!

 

It is wrong to place write about the fears and prejudices of human beings, human morality, xenophobia, and to write about them as if they belonged to God.

 

Know this: God does not interfere in the lives of human beings, the creator of the universe does not intervene in our politics.

 

All lands belong to God, all seas, all planets, all stars, all galaxies; everything and everyone that is in them belong to God, we dwell within God, and not one thing exists without God.

 

Be wary of the sentiments of the psalmist. God did not end the captivity of Jacob, the people did.

 

This is not blasphemy, this is not hubris. It is a greater hubris to think that God loves a special people above all others, far more prideful than to come to the understanding that that the Israelites escaped the bondage of Egypt under their own power.

Always bear this in mind:

 

The things you ask God to do for you are in truth a statement of your intentions for how you want to live your life and the things you want to see happen in it.

 

If you wish to ask God for things and tell God about your desires, that is fine, just know that whatever it is you wish for, it is incumbent on you to make those things happen, and if you should seek divine sanction for your intentions, limit that to you desire to live a lawful life, to understand God’s will, and to transcend the human condition.

 

God has given us the gift to know and desire a holy way of life, but God will not live that life for us; the burden is on us to make the choices that keep us on the path of justice.

 

God’s law has been written on your heart, you may see the path toward its fulfillment reflected in the face of your neighbor, you may see it there when you see yourself looking back at you in their eyes, and know that God is with you.

 

As we traverse the narrow way, and walk the path of truth, you must remember that the closer we are to understanding it the easier it is for us to deceive ourselves.

 

Look to the myths of concerning the fallen angels, remember how Icarus fell when he flew too close to the sun, these stories carry the wisdom of this, and look to the corrupt and the false prophets who are near to us.

 

When you petition God; do not petition God for favor. Do not ask God for special treatment, do not ask God to prefer you over any of God’s children, and do not promise to do for God what is not within your power to do… that is not the way.

 

Do not lie to God or yourself when you petition God. Do not ask from God what it already lies within your power to do for yourself, rather, be wise and ask for wisdom.

 

Listen!

 

The way is one of humility.

 

The way is the path of love.

 

It costs us nothing to be polite.

 

Be humble, walk humbly, perform humble service.

 

This is the way of God.

 

Listen!

 

The prophet errs when he ascribes a divine motive, or more, divine action to any event that transpires here on Earth.

 

God the creator of the universe, God made us in freedom; as individuals God made us in freedom, and the whole creation God made free as well.

 

God does not confer glory on anyone, not on any tribe, not on any nation, not on any church; God does not seek glory for God’s self.

 

All such talk is vanity, springing directly from the hearts of men, coming through the mouths of men, falling on the ears of other men.

 

The prophet was wrong to speak of glories, his error being the error of human ambition, representing the limits of the human imagination.

 

However, the prophet was right to speak of this: to speak of hope like a light shining in the darkness, which once perceived gladdens the heart and brings joy.

 

Hope is the way of Jesus and hope leads to God.

 

Be mindful!

 

God’s light shines on us from beyond this world, we will not see the fullness of the divine light until we have left the world behind.

 

Say it again, and carry the knowledge of it in your heart:

 

God does not intervene in the lives of individuals or in the course of human history.

 

God has made us, and the whole of creation free. We are radically free.

 

Praise God, that is wise, be thankful for existence itself, but do not look to God for favor, or justice. In this world, those things are always determined by human agency.

 

Consider the gospel for today.

Whatever the truth is regarding the birth of Jesus, a man who would have been known by his family and his people as Joshua son of Joseph, if in fact there was such a child born to Joseph and Mary, if Joseph and Mary were in fact historical persons, the mission of Jesus as reported in the scriptures, the way of Christ is not served by false narratives.

 

The stories of Jesus’ birth, the annunciation as we have it presented here, these are myths, they are propaganda and lies.

 

The way of God is not served by lies, because God, the creator of the universe, the God of all people is the God of truth.

 

 

First Reading – Ezekiel 43:1-7 ©

 

The Vision of the Coming of the Glory of the Lord to the Temple

 

The angel took me to the gate, the one facing east. I saw the glory of the God of Israel approaching from the east. A sound came with it, like the sound of the ocean, and the earth shone with his glory. This vision was like the one I had seen when I had come for the destruction of the city, and like the one I had seen on the bank of the river Chebar. Then I prostrated myself.

 

The glory of the Lord arrived at the Temple by the east gate. The spirit lifted me up and brought me into the inner court; I saw the glory of the Lord fill the Temple. And I heard someone speaking to me from the Temple while the man stood beside me. The voice said, ‘Son of man, this is the dais of my throne, the step on which I rest my feet. I shall live here among the sons of Israel for ever.’

 

 

Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 84(85):9-14 ©

 

The glory of the Lord will dwell in our land.

 

I will hear what the Lord God has to say,

a voice that speaks of peace,

peace for his people and his friends.

His help is near for those who fear him

and his glory will dwell in our land.

 

The glory of the Lord will dwell in our land.

 

Mercy and faithfulness have met;

justice and peace have embraced.

Faithfulness shall spring from the earth

and justice look down from heaven.

 

The glory of the Lord will dwell in our land.

 

The Lord will make us prosper

and our earth shall yield its fruit.

Justice shall march before him

and peace shall follow his steps.

 

The glory of the Lord will dwell in our land.

 

 

Gospel Acclamation – Psalm 118:36, 29

 

Alleluia, alleluia!

 

Bend my heart to your will, O Lord, and teach me your law.

 

Alleluia!

 

 

Alternative Acclamation – Matthew 23:9, 10

 

Alleluia, alleluia!

 

You have only one Father, and he is in heaven; you have only one Teacher, the Christ.

 

Alleluia!

 

 

The Gospel According to Matthew 23:1 – 12 ©

 

Practice What you Preach

 

Addressing the people and his disciples Jesus said, ‘The scribes and the Pharisees occupy the chair of Moses. You must therefore do what they tell you and listen to what they say; but do not be guided by what they do: since they do not practise what they preach. They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on men’s shoulders, but will they lift a finger to move them? Not they! Everything they do is done to attract attention, like wearing broader phylacteries and longer tassels, like wanting to take the place of honour at banquets and the front seats in the synagogues, being greeted obsequiously in the market squares and having people call them Rabbi.

 

‘You, however, must not allow yourselves to be called Rabbi, since you have only one master, and you are all brothers. You must call no one on earth your father, since you have only one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor must you allow yourselves to be called teachers, for you have only one Teacher, the Christ. The greatest among you must be your servant. Anyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and anyone who humbles himself will be exalted.’

 

 

Memorial

 

 

First Reading – Isaiah 9:1-7 ©

 

A Son is Given to Us

 

The people that walked in darkness has seen a great light; on those who live in a land of deep shadow a light has shone.

 

You have made their gladness greater, you have made their joy increase; they rejoice in your presence as men rejoice at harvest time, as men are happy when they are dividing the spoils.

 

For the yoke that was weighing on him, the bar across his shoulders, the rod of his oppressor, these you break as on the day of Midian.

 

For all the footgear of battle, every cloak rolled in blood, is burnt, and consumed by fire.

 

For there is a child born for us, a son given to us and dominion is laid on his shoulders; and this is the name they give him: Wonder-Counsellor, Mighty-God, Eternal-Father, Prince-of-Peace.

 

Wide is his dominion in a peace that has no end, for the throne of David and for his royal power, which he establishes and makes secure in justice and integrity.

 

From this time onwards and for ever, the jealous love of the Lord of Hosts will do this.

 

 

Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 112(113):1-8 ©

 

May the name of the Lord be blessed for evermore!

 

Alleluia!

 

Praise, O servants of the Lord,

praise the name of the Lord!

May the name of the Lord be blessed

both now and for evermore!

 

May the name of the Lord be blessed for evermore!

 

From the rising of the sun to its setting

praised be the name of the Lord!

High above all nations is the Lord,

above the heavens his glory.

 

May the name of the Lord be blessed for evermore!

 

Who is like the Lord, our God,

who has risen on high to his throne

yet stoops from the heights to look down,

to look down upon heaven and earth?

 

May the name of the Lord be blessed for evermore!

 

From the dust he lifts up the lowly,

from the dungheap he raises the poor

to set him in the company of princes,

yes, with the princes of his people.

 

May the name of the Lord be blessed for evermore!

 

Alleluia!

 

 

Gospel Acclamation – Luke 1:28

 

Alleluia, alleluia!

 

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee!

Blessed art thou among women.

 

Alleluia!

 

 

The Gospel According to Luke 1:26-38 ©

 

‘I Am the Handmaid of the Lord’

 

The angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the House of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. He went in and said to her, ‘Rejoice, so highly favoured! The Lord is with you.’ She was deeply disturbed by these words and asked herself what this greeting could mean, but the angel said to her, ‘Mary, do not be afraid; you have won God’s favour. Listen! You are to conceive and bear a son, and you must name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David; he will rule over the House of Jacob for ever and his reign will have no end.’ Mary said to the angel, ‘But how can this come about, since I am a virgin?’ ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you’ the angel answered ‘and the power of the Most High will cover you with its shadow. And so the child will be holy and will be called Son of God. Know this too: your kinswoman Elizabeth has, in her old age, herself conceived a son, and she whom people called barren is now in her sixth month, for nothing is impossible to God.’ ‘I am the handmaid of the Lord,’ said Mary ‘let what you have said be done to me.’ And the angel left her.

 

 

The Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time, The Annunciation, Mary Queen of Heaven

A Holy Day of Obligation (Year A)

A Homily – The Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)

First Reading – Isaiah 56:1, 6-7 ©

Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 66(67):2-3, 5-6, 8 ©

Second Reading – Romans 11:13-15, 29-32 ©

Gospel Acclamation – John 10:27

Alternative Acclamation – Matthew 4:23

The Gospel According to Matthew 15:21 – 28 ©

 

(NJB)

 

The Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)

 

 

Listen!

 

This is the promise of God, the creator of the universe. God promises to save all people.

 

It is God’s will that all people come to the mountain Isaiah spoke to us about, God will’s that we all ascend it, take a seat at the table and ,make the holy offering of our lives to God, a sacred gift to be shared with all.

 

Be mindful, the conditions that the prophet sets out for a seat at the table, are conditions that God fully intends for everyone of God’s children to meet.

 

God will lead the way, have no fear.

 

We cannot exhaust the patience of the divine; the integrity of God is everlasting.

 

Consider the words of the psalmist:

 

The psalmist is right to ask God to bless all peoples and all nations; to have pity and to merciful, as we pray we look forward to the promise of God fulfilled.

 

Know this!

 

God is not confined to one place, nor to one time, neither does God belong to one people, one nation, one church or one tribe.

 

God, who created the universe, God is the God of everyone.

 

Praise the fairness of God; ask for God’s blessing, not just four yourself but for everyone.

 

Be mindful of the meandering mind of the apostle.

 

Saint Paul often allows himself to wander into legalisms that distract us from the way, erecting barriers to the faith and hope which enkindle love and light the path that Jesus set before us.

 

Skip across the mire, do not get bogged down in these tricks of the mind, look to the other side of the morass and see this, the essential truth:

 

It is god’s will to show mercy to every human being. God, the creator of the universe intends to save us all.

 

Know this!

 

The sheep do not choose the shepherd; the shepherd who chooses the sheep.

 

Everything and everyone belongs to the divine, the divine essence infuses everything and the words indwells us all.

 

There is just the one shepherd, one sheepfold.

 

Listen for the voice of the shepherd and do not trouble yourself with how the shepherd speaks to you, in what language, in what text. Do not concern yourselves with how the shepherd speaks to your sister or your brother, to your neighbors or the stranger; know that the shepherd speaks to them to, and they listen as they are able.

 

Everyone who is, everyone without exception follows in the way of God, there is no other way. Do not trouble yourself if you do not understand the journey that another person is on, God is guiding them, just as God is guiding you.

 

If you resist God will be patient; if you resist God will wait for you, just as God waits for everyone. The God of Jesus Christ, the good shepherd, the God of all people, the God of creation, our God is love; love is patient and love is kind.

 

Have faith!

 

God will not lose a single one of us. Neither will any one of us lose God. No matter what; God is with us.

 

There is not place, not a single place where God is not.

 

Be mindful of the scriptures, especially when the authors are attempting to fit their narrative of the life of Jesus into a picture that makes it look as if he is fulfilling a prediction made by a prophet from past ages.

 

In these cases the literal story is always false and cannot be relied on for anything, even to provision a metaphor, if a narrative rests on false foundation even an allegory which comes from it should be treated guardedly.

 

This is the truth, the future is not predetermined, it never has been and it never will be.

 

God, the creator of the universe made us, and creation free.

 

Prophets only speak of the future for two reasons; to engender hope and to warn of danger, there is no other purpose and there is no predictive power in it.

 

The words of a prophet are always addressed to the people in their own time, in their own place. Prophecy is never meant to guide the lives of future generations, except in cases when the prophet is addressing an issue of universal truth, such as the nature of justice itself, which is unchanging.

 

Consider the Gospel reading for today:

 

There are multiple currents taking place in this passage.

 

Note well, this is the only place in any of the Gospels, in all of the scriptures where Jesus is rebuked and corrected by another person.

 

The woman pleads to Jesus as the son of God for aid and is among the first people in the entire gospel narrative to recognize Jesus as King, and the Son of David.

 

Also of enormous significance is the fact that the person who corrects him is a woman, and she is not Jewish, she is not instructed in the law and yet she knows better than Jesus how his gifts are to be directed.

 

Pay attention to the disciples. They uncharacteristically call for Jesus to give the woman what she asks for. However, they are not moved by the spirit of love and mercy, but rather they bothered by her, and her insistence.

 

For his part Jesus is not inclined to give in to her demands; he refuses her, stating in error that his mission and his gifts are only intended for his fellow Israelites.

 

Then the woman asks again for his help.

 

Jesus responds by comparing her to a dog, stating that it would not be right to take food away from the children of Israel and give it to the unworthy.

 

At this point she corrects Jesus; she humbly accepts being likened to a dog, and uses the analogy to make her point, stating that even dogs are fed scraps from their master’s hand beneath the table.

 

Jesus stands corrected and remarks on the strength of her faith, suggesting to the disciples that because her faith is so strong she will receive the gift she has asked for, a gift of healing for her daughter.

 

Here the gospel writers get it wrong, again, make the entire matter transactional: a demonstration of faith in exchange for the miracle.

 

Know this!

 

God, the creator of the universe does not offer God’s favor in exchange for anything. God gives because God loves. God loves all people. God loves all of God’s children without exception, without qualification.

 

 

First Reading – Isaiah 56:1, 6-7 ©

 

I Will Bring Foreigners to My Holy Mountain

 

Thus says the Lord: Have a care for justice, act with integrity, for soon my salvation will come and my integrity be manifest.

 

Foreigners who have attached themselves to the Lord to serve him and to love his name and be his servants – all who observe the sabbath, not profaning it, and cling to my covenant – these I will bring to my holy mountain. I will make them joyful in my house of prayer. Their holocausts and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar, for my house will be called a house of prayer for all the peoples.

 

 

Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 66(67):2-3, 5-6, 8 ©

 

Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you.

 

O God, be gracious and bless us

and let your face shed its light upon us.

So will your ways be known upon earth

and all nations learn your saving help.

 

Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you.

 

Let the nations be glad and exult

for you rule the world with justice.

With fairness you rule the peoples,

you guide the nations on earth.

 

Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you.

 

Let the peoples praise you, O God;

let all the peoples praise you.

May God still give us his blessing

till the ends of the earth revere him.

 

Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you.

 

 

Second Reading – Romans 11:13-15, 29-32 ©

 

With Israel, God Never Takes Back His Gifts or Revokes His Choice

 

Let me tell you pagans this: I have been sent to the pagans as their apostle, and I am proud of being sent, but the purpose of it is to make my own people envious of you, and in this way save some of them. Since their rejection meant the reconciliation of the world, do you know what their admission will mean? Nothing less than a resurrection from the dead! God never takes back his gifts or revokes his choice.

 

Just as you changed from being disobedient to God, and now enjoy mercy because of their disobedience, so those who are disobedient now – and only because of the mercy shown to you – will also enjoy mercy eventually. God has imprisoned all men in their own disobedience only to show mercy to all mankind.

 

 

Gospel Acclamation – John 10:27

 

Alleluia, alleluia!

 

The sheep that belong to me listen to my voice, says the Lord, I know them and they follow me.

 

Alleluia!

 

 

Alternative Acclamation – Matthew 4:23

 

Alleluia, alleluia!

 

Jesus proclaimed the Good News of the kingdom and cured all kinds of sickness among the people.

 

Alleluia!

 

 

The Gospel According to Matthew 15:21 – 28 ©

 

The Canaanite Woman Debates with Jesus and Saves Her Daughter

 

Jesus left Gennesaret and withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. Then out came a Canaanite woman from that district and started shouting, ‘Sir, Son of David, take pity on me. My daughter is tormented by a devil.’ But he answered her not a word. And his disciples went and pleaded with him. ‘Give her what she wants,’ they said ‘because she is shouting after us.’ He said in reply, ‘I was sent only to the lost sheep of the House of Israel.’ But the woman had come up and was kneeling at his feet. ‘Lord,’ she said ‘help me.’ He replied, ‘It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the house-dogs.’ She retorted, ‘Ah yes, sir; but even house-dogs can eat the scraps that fall from their master’s table.’ Then Jesus answered her, ‘Woman, you have great faith. Let your wish be granted.’ And from that moment her daughter was well again.

 

 

The Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)

 

A Homily – The Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)

First Reading – 1 Kings 19:9, 11-13 ©

Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 84(85):9-14 ©

Second Reading – Romans 9:1-5 ©

Gospel Acclamation – Luke 19:38, 2:14

Alternative Acclamation – Psalm 129:5

The Gospel According to Matthew 14:22 – 33 ©

 

(NJB)

 

The Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)

 

 

Listen!

 

God, the creator of the universe: God is not a maker of kings. God is not a general leading armies. God does not desire sacrifices of flesh and blood.

 

God, the creator of the universe is a god of love and mercy, of justice and compassion, of humility.

 

Consider the words of the psalmist and know that all things belong to God:, all lands, all seas, all planets, all stars, all galaxies; everything and everyone that is in them.

 

God did not end the captivity of Jacob, the tribe of Jacob did.

 

This is not hubris. What is hubris is thinking that God loves a special people above all others, and that God would do for them things that God would not do for others, not the understanding that the Israelites escaped their bondage in Egypt under their own power.

 

Know this:

 

God was never angry or indignant with the people, it is not due to God’s anger that people suffer. God does not rescue us from our plight or from the miseries of the world; that is for us to do, we must rescue ourselves and deliver the other.

 

Be mindful!

 

There are no individuals, there are no families, no tribes, no clans, there are no nations of whom it may be said that God loves them more than any other people.

 

Do not chase after vanities, trust in the judgement of God, trust in God’s plan for creation, trust that God loves everyone and desires their salvation.

 

Have faith that God will accomplish what God wills.

 

Remember this, God is not king, or a lord.

 

The creator of the universe does not wear a crown.

 

We do not seek glory as we struggle on the way toward salvation.

 

As we follow the way of Jesus we seek out the lowest of the low, not the highest heaven, we seek to serve those in the deepest dark and return them to the light of love.

 

God, creator of the universe, God is patient, loving and kind. God is merciful and just, God is humble and desires that we emulate the divine in these ways

 

Learn from God; become like God, loving, merciful, patient, humble, just and a blessing to all.

 

Consider the Gospel reading for today:

 

Bear in mind that the events it describes never happened.

 

This myth is a metaphor.

 

It is intended to communicate the idea that Jesus is not merely the Son of God, but the king of the gods. In it Jesus is depicted as master of the storm and lord of the deep, like other God-Kings, in the Ancient Near East and Mediterranean region.

 

The image of Jesus walking on water, abating the winds, mastering the weather, and calming the storm, is analogous to the triumph of Zeus over the sea monster Typhon, or Marduk over the forces of Chaos represented in the dragon Tiamat.

 

In the reading for today Jesus is depicted as triumphant over the same forces, walking over the water just as Zeus and Marduk stood over the bodies of their vanquished foes in victory.

The myth is also intended to convey that the early church, represented by Simon Peter, was not entirely comfortable with this narrative, though it set aside its fears and embraced it nonetheless. In this metaphor Peter is the Church (Peter is always the church in Matthew’s Gospel), and the Church has been shaken by the death of Jesus.

 

Jesus had disappeared, returning only as an apparition. Peter moves toward the ghostly figure seeking to embrace it, but he is terrified and begins to lose heart. Peter does not know if they can transform the life and death of his friend and teacher into the grandiose and spectacular narrative that the people who had followed Jesus, who were now following him and the disciples into the narrative that they are hungry for.

 

In the end Peter embraces the mythology, the church sets aside the historical Jesus and embraces it too, in so doing the chaos that was shaking their movement in the wake of the crucifixion settles down. The mythological narrative is advanced and Jesus rises from the dead, he is no longer an ordinary man, the rabbi from Galilee; he is the Son of God, he is Christ the King.

 

Peter understood that in this way the church would survive, the storms would abate, if he and the others could convince people to believe this above all other things.

 

 

First Reading – 1 Kings 19:9, 11-13 ©

 

The Lord was Not in the Wind, or the Earthquake, or the Fire

 

When Elijah reached Horeb, the mountain of God, he went into the cave and spent the night in it. Then he was told, ‘Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord.’ Then the Lord himself went by. There came a mighty wind, so strong it tore the mountains and shattered the rocks before the Lord. But the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind came an earthquake. But the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire. But the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there came the sound of a gentle breeze. And when Elijah heard this, he covered his face with his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.

 

 

Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 84(85):9-14 ©

 

Let us see, O Lord, your mercy, and give us your saving help.

 

I will hear what the Lord God has to say,

a voice that speaks of peace.

His help is near for those who fear him

and his glory will dwell in our land.

 

Let us see, O Lord, your mercy, and give us your saving help.

 

Mercy and faithfulness have met;

justice and peace have embraced.

Faithfulness shall spring from the earth

and justice look down from heaven.

 

Let us see, O Lord, your mercy, and give us your saving help.

 

The Lord will make us prosper

and our earth shall yield its fruit.

Justice shall march before him

and peace shall follow his steps.

 

Let us see, O Lord, your mercy, and give us your saving help.

 

 

Second Reading – Romans 9:1-5 ©

 

I Would Willingly be Condemned if it Could Help My Brothers

 

What I want to say now is no pretence; I say it in union with Christ – it is the truth – my conscience in union with the Holy Spirit assures me of it too. What I want to say is this: my sorrow is so great, my mental anguish so endless, I would willingly be condemned and be cut off from Christ if it could help my brothers of Israel, my own flesh and blood. They were adopted as sons, they were given the glory and the covenants; the Law and the ritual were drawn up for them, and the promises were made to them. They are descended from the patriarchs and from their flesh and blood came Christ who is above all, God for ever blessed! Amen.

 

 

Gospel Acclamation – Luke 19:38, 2:14

 

Alleluia, alleluia!

 

Blessings on the King who comes, in the name of the Lord!

Peace in heaven and glory in the highest heavens!

 

Alleluia!

 

 

Alternative Acclamation – Psalm 129:5

 

Alleluia, alleluia!

 

My soul is waiting for the Lord, I count on his word.

 

Alleluia!

 

 

The Gospel According to Matthew 14:22 – 33 ©

 

Jesus Walks on the Water

 

Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side while he would send the crowds away. After sending the crowds away he went up into the hills by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, while the boat, by now far out on the lake, was battling with a heavy sea, for there was a head-wind. In the fourth watch of the night he went towards them, walking on the lake, and when the disciples saw him walking on the lake they were terrified. ‘It is a ghost’ they said, and cried out in fear. But at once Jesus called out to them, saying, ‘Courage! It is I! Do not be afraid.’ It was Peter who answered. ‘Lord,’ he said ‘if it is you, tell me to come to you across the water.’ ‘Come’ said Jesus. Then Peter got out of the boat and started walking towards Jesus across the water, but as soon as he felt the force of the wind, he took fright and began to sink. ‘Lord! Save me!’ he cried. Jesus put out his hand at once and held him. ‘Man of little faith,’ he said ‘why did you doubt?’ And as they got into the boat the wind dropped. The men in the boat bowed down before him and said, ‘Truly, you are the Son of God.’

 

 

The Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)

A Homily – The Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)

First Reading – Isaiah 55:1-3 ©

Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 144(145):8-9, 15-18 ©

Second Reading – Romans 8:35, 37-39 ©

Gospel Acclamation – Luke 19:38, 2:14

Alternative Acclamation – Matthew 4:4

The Gospel According to Matthew 14:13-21 ©

 

(NJB)

 

The Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)

 

 

Listen to the prophet, and know that the grace of God is free, all the good things God has in store for us free, and God promises to deliver to everyone.

 

The covenant God made with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the covenant God made with Moses,  Joshua and David, the covenant God made the prophets and with Jesus and is meant to a blessing on all people, wherever they are, because God is with them as God is with you even when you feel lost and alone.

 

God promises to deliver everyone to a state of blessedness, even the stranger and the sinner.

 

God works God’s will through grace, this is the way Jesus instructed us, this is the way to the fruits of paradise.

 

Consider the words of the psalmist and know that he is mistaken, God is not a king.

 

God is the creator of the universe, God is present in all times and places; God is there in the deepest places of the human heart but does not intervene directly in human events.

 

God only issues an indirect influence in our lives. God’s power does not interfere with our freedom.

 

Contemplate the vast power of God and contemplate the ways of God’s love and mercy, take it for yourself and identify with it, passing through the narrow arch and into the way of goodness and justice and mercy.

 

Consider the words of the apostle, everything he says is true, but it is true for all people, not just for Christians and Jews.

 

It is true for everyone.

 

Nothing can come between us and the love of Christ; not one thing, either from within or from without.

 

Jesus loves us.

 

Remember this, God is not a lord. The creator of the universe does not wear a crown.

 

As Christians we are called on to set aside grandiose notions of glory as we struggle on the way toward salvation. We are called on to follow Jesus and seek out the lowest of the low, not the highest heaven, seeking to serve those in the deepest dark, returning them to the light of love.

 

If we live merely to eat we are no different than the beasts of the field and the forest, merely following our noses and the hunger in our bellies, ruled by thirst and subject to the vicissitudes of desire.

 

We can be more than that, we were made to be more than that, we are meant to look beyond ourselves and to be drawn out of ourselves to see in our neighbors another-self and the divine spark that unites us spiritually, that we may be transcendent in following the way.

 

Consider the Gospel for today and the feeding of the multitude.

 

The miracle of the loaves and fishes is a metaphor, read it carefully.

 

The feeding of the multitude may have happened, though it is just as likely that the narrative is pure myth. The truth of it does not matter, what matters is the way in which the metaphor supports and endorses a principle of communal living and sharing.

 

The disciples were concerned for Jesus, they wanted to separate him from the crowds, and separate the crowds from his ministry.

 

Jesus would not have it.

 

The disciples as is typical of them, argued for the wrong thing, they wanted to send everyone away, put them on their own, have them fend for themselves.

 

This is not the way.

 

Jesus did not rebuke them, as he often did when they erred like this. He simply showed them the way.

 

Jesus took all that they had and shared it with the multitude, the crowds saw his generosity and shared of what they had, everyone contributed according to the rule: do unto others as you would have them do unto you, love your neighbor as yourself, serve God by serving the other.

 

Together they generated a superabundance of food, more than enough to feed everyone, and the lesson ended there, with no magic and no miracles, with simple generosity and love.

 

 

First Reading – Isaiah 55:1-3 ©

 

Come and Eat

 

Thus says the Lord:

 

Oh, come to the water all you who are thirsty; though you have no money, come!

 

Buy corn without money, and eat, and, at no cost, wine and milk.

 

Why spend money on what is not bread, your wages on what fails to satisfy?

 

Listen, listen to me, and you will have good things to eat and rich food to enjoy.

 

Pay attention, come to me; listen, and your soul will live.

 

With you I will make an everlasting covenant out of the favours promised to David.

 

 

Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 144(145):8-9, 15-18 ©

 

You open wide your hand, O Lord; you grant our desires.

 

The Lord is kind and full of compassion,

slow to anger, abounding in love.

How good is the Lord to all,

compassionate to all his creatures.

 

You open wide your hand, O Lord; you grant our desires.

 

The eyes of all creatures look to you

and you give them their food in due time.

You open wide your hand,

grant the desires of all who live.

 

You open wide your hand, O Lord; you grant our desires.

 

The Lord is just in all his ways

and loving in all his deeds.

He is close to all who call him,

who call on him from their hearts.

 

You open wide your hand, O Lord; you grant our desires.

 

 

Second Reading – Romans 8:35, 37-39 ©

 

No Created Thing Can Ever Come Between Us and the Love of God Made Visible in Christ

 

Nothing can come between us and the love of Christ, even if we are troubled or worried, or being persecuted, or lacking food or clothes, or being threatened or even attacked. These are the trials through which we triumph, by the power of him who loved us.

 

For I am certain of this: neither death nor life, no angel, no prince, nothing that exists, nothing still to come, not any power, or height or depth, nor any created thing, can ever come between us and the love of God made visible in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 

 

Gospel Acclamation – Luke 19:38, 2:14

 

Alleluia, alleluia!

 

Blessings on the King who comes, in the name of the Lord!

Peace in heaven and glory in the highest heavens!

 

Alleluia!

 

 

Alternative Acclamation – Matthew 4:4

 

Alleluia, alleluia!

 

Man does not live on bread alone,

but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.

 

Alleluia!

 

 

The Gospel According to Matthew 14:13-21 ©

 

The Feeding of the Five Thousand

 

When Jesus received the news of John the Baptist’s death he withdrew by boat to a lonely place where they could be by themselves. But the people heard of this and, leaving the towns, went after him on foot. So as he stepped ashore he saw a large crowd; and he took pity on them and healed their sick.

 

When evening came, the disciples went to him and said, ‘This is a lonely place, and the time has slipped by; so send the people away, and they can go to the villages to buy themselves some food.’ Jesus replied, ‘There is no need for them to go: give them something to eat yourselves.’ But they answered ‘All we have with us is five loaves and two fish.’ ‘Bring them here to me’ he said. He gave orders that the people were to sit down on the grass; then he took the five loaves and the two fish, raised his eyes to heaven and said the blessing. And breaking the loaves handed them to his disciples who gave them to the crowds. They all ate as much as they wanted, and they collected the scraps remaining; twelve baskets full. Those who ate numbered about five thousand men, to say nothing of women and children.

 

 

The Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)

 

The Feast of Saint Benedict

I attended graduate school at a Benedictine university, Saint John’s in Collegeville, Minnesota. It is located on the grounds of the largest Benedictine congregation in the world; I studied theology there: Church History and Systematics.

 

The monastery at Saint John’s was home to Godfrey Dieckmann, whose liturgical reform movement in the early to mid-twentieth century had significant influence on the Second Vatican Council and changed the way worship is conducted, and the celebration of the mass throughout the world.

 

His reforms represented a return to the practices of the early Christians and the ante-nicene era.

 

While I was at Saint John’s I taught world religions at the preparatory school, I wrote my master’s thesis on the topic of universal salvation, which elicited a great deal of interest from my teachers and classmates, and my work was well regarded.

 

I took courses on medieval monastic history, monastic spirituality and one course specifically related to the Rule of Saint Benedict, from which I have taken one of the phrases that I use most often in my ongoing theological work.

 

Obsculta!

 

Which means listen!

 

It is a phrase which I use interchangeably with: Be mindful!

 

Today we celebrate the feast of Saint Benedict, who purportedly lived between the late fifth-century and the mid sixth-century CE.

 

 

Be mindful.

 

What we know of the life of Saint Benedict comes mostly from the writing of Saint Pope Gregory the first, or Gregory the Great. It is not exactly a biography but rather a reflection on the idealized life of an abbot, most of which is a fiction written c. 593 CE.

 

Nevertheless, Benedict, real or imagined, produced a Rule (a guide for community living) that became the basis of western monasticism.

 

Benedicts Rule, enjoins the monk to a life of poverty, chastity and obedience, a commitment to work, and a studious, meditative reflection on the psalms.

 

The life of Benedict, and the writing attributed to him has influenced the lives of thousands upon millions of people.

 

I am one of them, and I am thankful for Gregory who had the temerity to invent such a person who was noble in his humility.

 

Benedict

 

Given First 07.11.2020

The Feast of Saint’s Peter and Paul, Founders of the Church

Not all Christians celebrate the lives of the Saints, but many do, and today is the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul, who after Jesus were the principle founders of the Church.

We celebrate their feast on the day of their ascension, which is most often the day of their death, in the case of Peter and Paul it is the date they were martyred, the day they were killed as enemies of the Roman State.

Their influence on Christian doctrine was greater than Jesus’, more enduring. Paul, through his letters wrote the core pieces of Christian Doctrine, and Peter was the first pope, the Bishop of Rome, and Patriarch of the Latin Church.

Peter and Paul did not always see eye to eye, though Peter bore the title of chief among the disciples, Paul was the greater teacher and more closely approximated the way of Christ.

As I mentioned, Peter is given credit for founding the church of Rome, the lore of the Church tells us that he was its first bishop, this is a myth however, that title was not even in use during Peter’s day.

It is accepted as true that both men were put to death in Rome, martyred there on account of their commitment to the Church and its mission, they were mot put to death so much for the content of their beliefs, but for leading the kind of secretive society that was feared by the emperors of Rome. Christians were perceived as a threat that has to be curtailed.

Paul was a Roman citizen, he travelled broadly throughout the empire and for from his home of Tarsus. He founded many churches in the eastern Mediterranean and Asia Minor, his letters are the earliest known Christian writings, and though not all of those ascribed to him were written by him, Paul’s actual influence is imeasureable.

A casual observer of history may find this odd because Paul he never met Jesus, and prior to his conversion he was the type of man who would punish other members of his community if they were not properly observing the traditions of his synagogue, Christians were his chief target.

After Paul’s conversion to Christianity he led the mission to the gentiles, opening the teachings of the church to the masses, he made it so that a person did not need to become Jewish first in order to become a Christian.

Peter initially opposed him in this but once their dispute was settled at a meeting in Jerusalem officiated by Jesus’ own brother Saint James, the matter was settled and the gentiles were allowed the full franchise of membership in the community of the blessed.

Peter and Paul

Given First 06.29.2020

The Feast of Saint John, the Baptist

A Homily

John came, and john bore witness to the light
John, born in darkness as all of us are
John saw the light, shing in the deep night
Comforted by its warmth, John felt it first
Feeling it while he was still in the womb
Kicking in the waters, as the light dawned

John was not a man prone to vanity
You would not have seen him chasing the wind
Like a servant, John harvested honey
Faithful to the way, not puffed up with pride
John was a friend and brother to Jesus
The elder cousin of the messiah

Herald and prophet, man of the desert
John turned to us, saying reflect, repent
He came like an angel, with a pure heart
A divine messenger, pointing the way
The way is not in stillness or silence
The way is a path of service and love

He took on the burden and paid the price
John showed us how to stand against power
He came into the world ahead of Christ
Drawing breath while he listened in the womb
The breath he drew was ruha, the spirit
Holy Sophia filled John with wisdom
.
John lived and breathed, washed in the divine flame
Dipping his cup in the fountain of life
Walking with him, by whom all things were made
John’s path was the way of humility
Obedient, unphased by paradox
Born first, and the first to be sacrificed

He lived by the Jordan, serving the light
Not perplexed, or tempted to turn away
He saw in his cousin the end of night
He made a place for him in the desert
He prepared the way as God’s own herald
Ministering to the sick and grieving

Jesus and John. the Son and the herald
Working together in the name of God
Baptizing all into the way of peace
Bathing their flock in the way, in the light
Keeping to their mission even to death
John showed us the way, turn and be blessed!

John the Baptist

 
From the Gospel According to Mark – 2018.06.22