Buying and Dying

Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time (A): Matthew 5:3-12

Do I have a price? Or, can I (or you) be bought?

What I mean is this: is there any thing I want so much that I would betray some fundamental value in order to get it? We are all faced with this dilemma. We all feel the pressure to do this. It might have happened when we were children, when we had the chance to join one of the “right” groups in school – if we were willing to betray or ignore someone who had been a true friend to us. It might be the pressure we feel (at any age) with a group of people who begin to share malicious gossip about someone else. It may be a situation where we could advance at work by cheating or stabbing someone else in the back. Or, it might be the desire to blend in and not stand out from the crowd that keeps us from saying something that we know should be said.  Continue reading “Buying and Dying”

Alternative Facts?

Monday of the Third Week of Ordinary Time (Mark 3:22-30)

Every now and then, I hear people mentioning a strange affliction that seems to affect their spouses, children or friends from time to time. They call the affliction “selective hearing” or “selective deafness”. The afflicted person will only respond to things that are pleasant to hear. Things that might be the least bit demanding, however, are met with this odd “deafness”. None of the people who have mentioned this have found a cure. They would be most grateful if a cure was discovered.

“Selective deafness” is usually something we can all smile about. We’ve encountered it; others may have told us that we have it. The symptoms are fairly benign, much of the time. But not always.  Continue reading “Alternative Facts?”

Is Christ Divided?

Third Sunday of Ordinary Time (A): 1 Cor 1:10-17

McDonald’s or Burger King? Ford or Chevy? The Beatles or the Stones? Apple or Android? The Patriots or the Steelers? Democrat or Republican? “Native” or “from away”?

We like to think of ourselves as mature, independent thinkers who follow our own path in life. This may be true at times, but in reality, we behave like sheep – or, like the turkeys in this photo. The world can feel like a big and scary place, where one could easily get lost or overwhelmed. We instinctively look for the safety of a group – a group in which we can feel at home. We look to this group for companionship, guidance and protection. The group becomes a big part of our self-definition.  Continue reading “Is Christ Divided?”

Naming Jesus

Thursday of the Second Week of Ordinary Time: Mark 3:7-12

When I was a boy, I sometimes was the instigator among my siblings. I knew just what to say to get my brother and sister squabbling with each other, after which I would just walk away as if I had no idea why this just happened. With friends, I might say something deliberately to get a certain reaction from them, and then be too pleased with myself when I succeeded. Those who know me well will tell you that I haven’t completely outgrown this habit.

Keeping this “instigator” story in mind will help us better understand what otherwise might seem like an odd moment in the Gospel story – a moment that happened more than once during Jesus’ ministry. Mark sets the stage. Jesus’ reputation as a teacher and healer have become widespread by now. He is by the Sea of Galilee, and people are coming to him from all over Galilee and Judea, and even the Gentile lands beyond. Jesus needs to get into a boat to prevent the crowds from crushing him. Then comes the odd moment: And whenever unclean spirits saw him they would fall down before him and shout, “You are the Son of God.” He warned them sternly not to make him known. (Mark 3:11-12) Continue reading “Naming Jesus”

Hermits in Diocesan Life

Feast of St. Anthony

Recently, in a book I was reading, I came across an account of a conversation between a diocesan hermit and a priest friend of his. Apparently, they were in the midst of comparing their two vocations. At one point, the priest said to the hermit, “I’m committed to the diocese and to my bishop. You aren’t accountable to anyone. Must be nice!” The priest added that he had heard that from his own bishop.

Whether or not the priest had really heard that from his bishop, his comment is one example of how the hermit life is not well-understood in today’s Church, even among people who could be expected to know better. This lack of understanding is no surprise, either. Hermits are relatively few in number. Besides, the very nature of their vocation means that their life may not be known except to the few who may know them personally.  Continue reading “Hermits in Diocesan Life”