Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Notes on 20 OT, Cycle C

A few quick thoughts from the liturgy and readings from this past Sunday, the 20th Sunday of Ordinary Time in Cycle C.

  • The antiphon: “Turn your eyes, O God, our shield; and look on the face of your anointed one; one day within your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere.” First, is the anointed one that we are asking God to look upon supposed to be us (anointed in Baptism and Confirmation) or His Son (“Christ” literally means “anointed”)? Second, I’m used to hearing that we accept suffering in this life because our time here is like nothing compared to eternity. This turns that around. No matter how long we suffer here, just one day in heaven is worth it. If, on the other hand, the anointed one referred to in the first clause if Christ, then that leaves open the possibility that one day within your courts is referring to that terrible afternoon on Calvary. This antiphon is very unclear.

  • Zedekiah seems an awfully capricious king, easily swayed by whoever speaks to him, eager only to keep his own hands clean. First he allows the princes to toss Jeremiah into the cistern, then he orders a court official to pull him back out because it’s full of mud Jeremiah might die of famine. If it had been full of water, and Jeremiah had died of drowning instead, would that have been somehow more acceptable to Zedekiah?

  • It was a little amusing to hear the lector pronounce the name “Ebed-melech.” Looks like four syllables to me, but somehow, he used about six. He pronounced it the same way both times.

  • We are told in the letter to the Hebrews to “persevere in running the race that lies before us.” That sounds an awful lot like something Paul would write, and yet we are repeatedly told that Hebrews was not written by Paul because it is stylistically different from his epistles. Isn’t it possible that Paul structured his homilies differently than his letters, or that he tailored his correspondence to the recipient? I was taught to do just that in the business writing class that I took as a college undergrad.

  • There is a difference between running a race and training for a race. On race day, you might run through pain, sacrificing your body in the process. If you do that in training, you risk not making it to race day. I could run a race with plantar fasciitis, but if I run every day with it, I risk making it worse and making my training less effective. I’m not sure what the spiritual metaphor for this is.

  • “In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood.” That is very true. I have barely resisted to the point of inconvenience. Even that, too often, seems beyond my ability to withstand. Let’s hope that it doesn’t come to the point of shedding blood.

  • I have teen daughters. A few years ago, a song appeared in our digital library, the refrain of which went something like this: “Somebody call 911. Shawty fire burning on the dance floor. Whoa.” I don’t think that’s what Jesus had in mind when he proclaimed, “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazaing!”

  • To everyone who says, “Can’t we all just get along?” Jesus says, “No, we can’t.”

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Get Ready for a Beating

What are my feelings about this Sunday's gospel (Lk 12:32-48)?

Much has been given to me, and much is expected.  I consistently underperform, for which Jesus seems to promise a severe beating.  There's nothing like the promise of a flogging to improve morale!  No matter how I try, my concupiscent nature keeps overpowering my weak will.

Some people might say that my problem is that I shouldn't try so hard, that I'm bordering on Pelagian heresy.  It's not up to me, it's up to the grace of God almighty, who became incarnate and suffered on the cross for my sins.  All I need to do is accept the redemption worked by Him on my behalf.  Except that's not what Jesus says in today's gospel.

Others would say that, through the grace of God, I can resist the lure of sin's temptation, and so be ready when the master returns.  That seems a Catch 22.  If all the bad that I do is on me, and all the good that I do is not me, but the grace of God, then doesn't it follow that the only reason I don't do more good is that God is not pouring out more grace upon me?  If grace is necessary for conversion, then doesn't lack of conversion indicate lack of grace?  Whose fault is that?

I know, I know.  Everybody is bathing in grace, it's just that some people accept it, and some don't.  But wouldn't accepting the grace be a good work, dependent upon god's grace?  Catch 22!

What I know for sure is that I'm missing something.  I'm missing something in my understanding of the parable.  I'm missing something in my understanding of how God's grace affects our decisions.  I'm missing something in strengthening my will to resist sin.

I'm missing quite a lot, it seems.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Moving Out

Two weeks ago today, I was helping my oldest child settle into his new home in New York state.  The drive there was a little brutal – 90+ degree temps in a van with no air conditioning and no radio.  I was literally sweating into my shirt as I drove.  The boy and two of his sisters trailed behind in his Grand Prix.  My dear wife had stayed back in Ohio with the four young ones and our second oldest.
That Friday was spent establishing a bank account, arranging for internet hookup, driving around town (including locating the local Catholic church), stocking up on groceries, and visiting the laundromat.  By the middle of the day it became clear that he was as settled as he was going to get until Monday, so we agreed that his sisters and I would return to Ohio the next day.
The experience left me feeling sad and trying to convince myself to be happy.  I have no doubt that the boy will learn from this, but I hope that the lessons don’t come painfully.  He has enough savings to last him several months, if he doesn’t spend too freely, and he should be able to find a job before he runs out of money.  He has decided to enter the workforce for a year and start taking post-secondary classes next year, after establishing New York residency.
It's not the way that I would have chosen, but then he is not me, and I am enormously risk averse. I would have had him taking a few classes locally, getting a job before moving out, etc. In some ways, I guess, his faith is stronger than mine.