Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

God, who puts things together

I found these Foam Flowers and Ferns growing together along the side of the road the other day. God's imagination includes knowing how to put things together beautifully and giving us the soul-capacity to recognize these wonderful combinations and to admire and consider them. 

God put creation together in the Genesis account. I like the part about the universe being put together with the stars making galaxies and constellations. Remember the bit about God introducing us to the animals and inviting us to name them? God put the lilac, the lily and the rose together with their unique scents.

Psalm 119:3 is a reminder of God's putting-it-together skill: You did knit me together in my mother's womb. Jesus put together a team of twelve apostles. He put a family back together when he raised the little girl from death and the boy to the widowed-mother at Nain. Jesus put the cured lepers back together with the community that excluded them for their sickness. Bread and wine, lilies of the field and birds of the air - those are nice combinations.

Sometimes God puts us together by introducing us to friends and dear ones. I remember at school I would remind the kids that their lives were crazy like a seismograph line and my life too, and that God had seen fit for our lives to touch for this fleeting second of cosmic time.

In September we're put together with teachers and classmates. Teams are put together. By God's design? A dog trainer told me, "When you take in a rescue, you get the dog YOU need." I get it.

When we're little we learn to put words together and then sentences. Then we discover how to put sentences together to create a story. Some people are good at putting colors, clothes or design ideas together, or problem-solving ideas.

Some folks tell of being personally put back together after a divorce, job loss, bout of bad health or breakdown. Anyway, discovering the woodland Foam Flower and Ferns so beautifully growing together might help us to pray: gratitude for the coming together of relationships, moments and events that are so good.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Jesus' Entrance Into Jerusalem

As indicated in Tuesday's post, there is now a shift in Mark's Gospel: the time of miracles is over and Jesus turns to Jerusalem. 

When they were approaching Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany, close by the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples and said to them, 'Go to the village facing you, and as you enter it you will at once find a tethered colt that no one has yet ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone says to you "What are you doing" say, "The Master needs it and will send it back here at once." ' They went off and found a colt tethered near a door in the open street. As they untied it, some men standing there said, 'What are you doing, untying that colt?' They gave the answer Jesus had told them, and the men let them go. Then they took the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on its back, and he mounted it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others greenery which they had cut in the fields. And those who went in front and those who followed were all shouting, 'Hosanna! Blessed is he who is coming in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of David our Father! Hosanna in the highest heavens! He entered Jerusalem and went into the Temple; and when he  had surveyed it all, as it was late by now, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve. Mark 11:1-11

It is said, "What the Word does for the ear, the icon does for the eye." The mosaic we see here is from the cathedral in Ravenna, Italy. Jesus arrives at the city gate riding the donkey. The road is strewn with branches. The apostles follow behind, and Peter is up close talking with Jesus as they move along. Perhaps Jesus is filling Peter in on the significance of things. Jerusalem is on the far right - two religious leaders already have their heads together. We see the populace of the city and the children spreading their cloaks on the road. From the look of things, they're spreading more than their cloaks - the young fellow on the left has his head stuck as he pulls off his long shirt. 

But notice this - Jesus rides a donkey, not a horse. We usually see in this a sign of Jesus' humility, but there is more. A man in the ancient world was wealthy if he owned donkeys as did the judges of Israel:

"After Tola rose Jair of Gilead, who judged Israel for twenty-two years. He had thirty sons who rode on thirty young donkeys and who owned thirty towns..." Judges 10: 3,4
"After Elon, Abdon son of Hillet of Prathon was judge in Israel. He had forty sons and thirty grandsons who rode seventy young donkeys." Judges12:14

Is Jesus entering Jerusalem as the judge of human history? Notice the icon shows Jesus sitting side-saddle, as if were a judge at his courtroom seat. And not only a judge, but sitting as a king on his throne. And not only a king, but a king with a message of peace. The Prophet Zechariah foretells the King's Message:

Rejoice heart and soul, daughter of Zion!
Shout for joy, daughter of Jerusalem!
Look, your king is approaching,
he is vindicated and victorious,
humble and riding on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
He will banish chariots from Ephraim
and horses from Jerusalem;
the bow of war will be banished,
He will proclaim peace to the nations,
his empire will stretch from sea to sea,
from the River to the limits of the earth.  Zechariah 9:9,10

Pope Francis recently shared something of a conversation he had with a group of scientists, one of whom said: "I'm an atheist, I ask you a favor: tell the Christians that they should love their message of peace more."

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Intercessions ~ Sixth Sunday of Easter

The American Red Cross was founded today in 1881./ We pray enduring strength for this organization/ and all who participate in its important work of emergency assistance and disaster relief./ We pray to the Lord. 

We ask blessings for Pope Francis and President Trump as they meet this week./ May their time together in the Vatican bear the fruit of peace and healing for our country./ We pray to the Lord.

In the first lesson today we heard:/ "So there was much joy in that city."/ Restore joy where people suffer deep losses,/ where there is grief,/ domestic violence,/ destruction,/ loneliness and war./ We pray to the Lord. 

We pray for the governments of the world,/ asking for conversion/ and the safety of citizens where there is corruption,/ repression and the violation of human rights./ We pray to the Lord.

Mindful of those who are around us at Mass today,/ we ask for health,/ safety,/ the deepening of faith,/ and help in their struggles and challenges./ We pray to the Lord.

For the safety of travelers,/ health for the sick,/ comfort for mourners,/ a welcome for each child,/ inner healing and a change of heart for prisoners./ We pray to the Lord.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

"And he followed him along the road."

They reached Jericho; and as he left Jericho with his disciples and a great crowd, Bartimaeus - that is, the son of Timaeus - a blind beggar, was sitting at the side of the road. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and cry out, "Son of David, Jesus, have pity on me." And many of them scolded him and told him to keep quiet, but he only shouted all the louder, "Son of David, have pity on me." Jesus stopped and said, "Call him here." So they called the blind man over, "Courage," they said, "get up, he is calling you ." So throwing off his cloak, he jumped up and went to Jesus. Then Jesus spoke, "What do you want me to do for you?" The blind man said to him, "Rabbuni, let me see again." Jesus said to him, "Go; your faith has saved you." And at once his sight returned and he followed him along the road.

Back in the middle of June 2014, we set out here to walk gradually and reflectively through St. Mark's Gospel one pericope (peri-ko-pea) at a time. A pericope is a gospel passage that can stand on its own. 

Now here, at the end of chapter ten, we consider this well-known and much-loved account of the healing of blind Bartimaeus. It marks a turning point, as it is the last of many miracles before the story turns to the teaching of Jesus and the events which lead to his betrayal, trial and suffering. In other words, as Mark shifts gears he gives us this last miracle account to review and summarize all the previous wonders. Good teachers do that, don't they?

More than any of the other Gospels, it's Mark who shares the accounts of Jesus' wonder-working ministry. Have you ever listened to Handel's Messiah, where the hopeful words of the Prophet Isaiah (35:4-6) are set to music?

Then the eyes of the blind will be opened,
the ears of the deaf unstopped,
then the lame will leap like a deer
and the tongue of the dumb sing for joy...

We meet Bartimaeus which translates Son of the Unclean. Going all the way back to chapter one: these sick folks are ritually unclean, which translates, You can't participate in our religious-communal life. Perhaps the real wonder of Jesus' healing, beyond the physical cure, is the restoration to the community effected by the healing.

Remember the rich young man (10:17-22), who couldn't follow Jesus because he owned so much stuff? Now we see Bartimaeus contrasted as he throws off the last thing he owns, his old, dirty cloak. Unlike the rich young man, Bartimaeus goes down the road with Jesus.

How beautiful is this - when Bartimaeus cries out, it's an act of believing and a desire to be with Jesus. Back in chapter 5, when the unclean spirit cries out, it's to get away from Jesus.

And that same calling out, "Son of David, Jesus, have pity on me," is a cry of faith. In fact, we can say that Bartimaeus already sees, and more clearly than the religious leaders who are blind to what Jesus is doing, getting all fussed that Jesus eats with sinners (2:15-17). A few verses later they will accuse Jesus of being aligned with the devil. Talk about not seeing!

Jesus must have been quite happy to hear Bartimaeus cry out in faith. Notice this, that the blind man isn't calling out in the temple, but at the side of the dusty road. Instead of complaining about all the relatives and the others who don't go to church, let's be happy wherever confidence in God (faith) is found. 

I have to laugh a little when the apostles tell blind Bartimaeus to have courage. He already has courage; he doesn't need their advice. They're the ones who were lacking in courage. Remember when they were terrified (6:50) at seeing Jesus walking on the water that windy night.

And when the apostles tell the blind man to get up - we're hearing again the command of Jesus to the dead child back in 5:41, "Little girl, I tell you to get up." Really "rise up!"

Then Jesus offers this marvelous compliment, "Go, your faith has saved you," just as he said to the woman who (5:34) had been slowly bleeding to death, "My daughter, your faith has restored you to health; go in peace and be free of your complaint." How courteous. I wish back in my 1970's  homiletics class that the priest would have told us: Tell the people often from the pulpit that their faith is God-pleasing.

So what's Mark's purpose in sharing this Bartimaeus story? Again and again, the miracles of Jesus tell us that he wants us to be inwardly free so we can walk down the life-road beside him. I want to understand this better than the wrangling apostles in the previous gospel scene unable to get get past who is going to be nearest Jesus when he gets his earthly crown and throne. Jesus didn't care about any of that. 

Oh Jesus,
heal the blindness:
our stalled partisan politics,
our sleep-stealing anxieties,
the hot hatreds and prejudices,
our willful ignorance, 
the machinations,
the role-playing and the masks,
the superficial religion and
our unhealthy relationships.
I'm crying out.
I'm on my feet.
I'm throwing off the ragged cloak,