Fifty-eighth in a series of reflections on Mass readings during the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy
Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Readings: Sirach 35:12-14; 2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18; Luke 18:9-14
We’ve taken a look at many key concepts throughout the readings of this Jubilee Year: predestination, redemption, repentance, justification. Today we have two more. The first is humility, that virtue which the great C. S. Lewis once described as “not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less.” Humility is self-less-ness in the most arithmetical sense. And it is key for a proper understanding of the other key concept in today’s readings: righteousness, the performance of every action in accordance with the entirety of a code of conduct – ethical catholicity, if you will. Last week we read about how all of Scripture is a mighty tool for instruction in righteousness, and we have been using that tool throughout this Jubilee Year to lift the veil of dust from these ancient concepts and to understand better what it means to be “merciful like the Father.” So now, in these last weeks, let’s continue to use this tool to understand righteousness itself, and humility as the virtue that opens up for us what righteousness really is. Let’s continue to see better how this religion of the “both/and,” this grand paradoxical mechanism of the Son’s obedience works to accomplish the Father’s mercy. Continue reading
Thirty-sixth in a series of reflections on Mass readings during the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy
Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
Readings: 2 Samuel 12:7-10, 13; Galatians 2:16, 19-21; Luke 7:36-8:3
I once remarked in this series that “repentance” seems to be Christianity’s dirty word, largely due to misunderstandings over the idea of sin. Sin, simply put and whatever else it may be, is a mistake, and not understanding that can cause us to misunderstand the idea of repentance as a corrective action – or even the idea of mercy as compassion, as shared suffering (because we all make mistakes). But perhaps Christianity’s most misunderstood word is the one at the center of today’s readings: “justification.” Virtual wars have been fought within the Church over how to understand this concept. Deriving from the Greek dikaiosyne and the Latin justitia, justification has to do with acting properly in accordance with the entirety of a set of legal principles. In this case the principles we are dealing with are the Law, the commands set forth by God through Moses by which God’s people were to conduct themselves in order to be in relationship with Him – the same Law, by the way, that was fulfilled in the Redemption. Continue reading
Eighteenth in a series of reflections on Mass readings during the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy
Fourth Sunday of Lent (Laetare Sunday)
Readings: Joshua 5:9a, 10-12; 2 Corinthians 5:17-21; Luke 15:1-3, 11-32
Today is Laetare Sunday. Just as the midpoint of Advent was a time to rejoice in anticipation of Christmas, so too at the midpoint of Lent do we become glad (Latin laetare) as we anticipate the Easter celebration. And we do this in much the same way as we rejoiced in Advent: by singing and sharing, by putting ourselves at each other’s service, and by turning ever more closely toward the face of our merciful Father. Continue reading
Today is the Memorial of Pope Saint Sixtus II and his companions. Sixtus (or Xystus) was Bishop of Rome during the time of the emperor Valerian, who waged an all-out persecution against the Christian faithful. On August 6, A.D. 258, Sixtus was celebrating Mass at the catacombs of Saint Calixtus with four of his seven deacons, when the emperor’s soldiers entered and killed them. Another of his deacons, Lawrence, would be killed a few days later following a stunning act of defiance (he is the only deacon to be honored with a Feast).
We know of their fate primarily from a letter written by Saint Cyprian, who would himself be killed not long thereafter, to a fellow bishop named Successus. I am including my meager translation of that letter below. I would ask that, as you read it, you please think of those Christians suffering religious persecution today, and recognize the mindset that accompanies it on both sides. I don’t mean the simple humiliation that Christians in the West endure at the hands of secular humanist relativism (not to mention each other); I’m thinking of those at odds with the government in Sudan and Syria, those being wiped out or forced to flee in Iraq by the radical Islamic caliphate, and those trapped in Gaza and unable to evacuate. I pray such extreme persecution never develops here, but rather ends everywhere. Continue reading
There is a traditional Christian answer… It is not clear, however, that the language of that answer any longer communicates what it was intended to convey. Hence we have embarked on a process of reconstruction, attempting to get hold of the reality that the traditional language originally engaged.
Thank you, William P. Loewe, for writing down what was on my mind as I worked on my translation of the Canticle of Zechariah (which I published back on Christmas Eve). Here he is speaking of the meaning of the Resurrection as salvation from sin, but the quote really does apply much more broadly than that. Translation really is more of an art than a skill; obviously one needs skill to know what the words mean and how they work together in grammar and syntax, but translation seeks to communicate not just words but the entire frame of mind and way of life that generated them. And for us Christians it has happened, we must confess, that the oft-used and -abused words such as “redemption,” “salvation,” “justice” and “mercy” have come to simply assume meanings that are no longer actively known, and as a result they are not effectively communicated. This is a problem that I am seeking to at least alleviate as I make my way through a daunting self-imposed project: a reading guide to the Four Gospels, with special attention paid to the beautiful hymns set down by Luke and John. Continue reading