Do you know the “if only” lament? Many of us do, and chant it often. As we move through life, it becomes like background music or a theme song for the weary, the burdened and the worried: “If only I were younger, I’d have more energy.” “If only I were older, I could relax and retire.” “If only I had more time, I’d be able to do so much.” “If only others were more cooperative ...” “If only they could see things my way ...” “If only I were prettier, thinner, smarter, braver, stronger ...” “If only I had a better job, a more understanding boss, nicer coworkers ...” “If only I didn’t have arthritis, cancer, depression ...” “If only others would understand me, appreciate me, welcome me, accept me as I am ...”
Are you a planner? Do you set an agenda for your day? Is your BlackBerry or iPhone programmed to alert you to upcoming appointments? Do you make lists that help structure your time and order your priorities?
As with Jesus, so with John the Baptizer: We must be careful to distinguish the historical person from the Gospel person.
It’s clear from the way the evangelists treat Jesus’ baptism that the Baptizer’s inclusion created problems.
Most biblical prophets eventually develop low expectations. Very few people listen to them; fewer still are willing to change their lives because of the prophets’ message.
At this point, the term remnant enters their preaching.
In an effort to stimulate the table conversation, the hostess at a recent dinner party asked each of her guests to share what they regarded as their favorite or most memorable meal experience. One young man said that the meal memory he most treasured was the grilled cheese sandwich he bought with money he had earned at his very first job. Knowing that he was, at last, paying his own way as an adult filled him with a sense of pride and satisfaction.
God showed me a little thing, the size of a hazelnut, lying in the palm of my hand. It was as round as any ball. ... I thought, ‘What can this be?’ My question was answered in general terms. ... ‘It is everything that is made.’ I marveled at how this could be, for it seemed that it might suddenly fall into nothingness, it was so small. An answer for this was given to my understanding: ‘It lasts and ever shall last because God loves it. And in this fashion, all things have their being by the grace of God.’ In this little thing, I saw three properties. The first is that God made it. The second is that God loves it. The third thing is that God keeps it. And what did I see in this? Truly, the Maker, the Lover and the Keeper.”
One of the most helpful concepts to enter our religious thought and vocabulary in the mid-’60s was “salvation history.” It dovetailed with the happenings of Vatican II, helping us understand we were part of an ongoing process by which God, through Jesus, was saving the world. Scripture was emphasized more than ever. In those writings we surface the beginnings of that history. So it was only logical when our new Lectionary came out in 1970 that the first of the weekend readings was usually from the Hebrew scriptures. If nothing else, those rarely heard passages helped us place Jesus more firmly in his historical, Jewish environment, an essential element in understanding God’s actions on our behalf throughout history.
I can’t overemphasize the importance of the first verse of today’s Gospel pericope: “The two disciples recounted what had taken place on the way and how Jesus was made known to them in the breaking of the bread.”
The Sunday after Easter always has the same Gospel, one we should hear at least once a year.
It’s more than just a narrative about Thomas’ initial lack of faith in Jesus’ resurrection and his eventual conversion to that essential Christian belief. As in all Gospel empty tomb and post-Resurrection appearances, John the evangelist provides us with serious insights and implications of that Resurrection. This event isn’t just something that once happened to someone else, giving credibility to his teachings and lifestyle. If we’re imitators of Jesus, it affects the very core of our own lives.
No liturgy is more important or more ancient than the celebration of the Easter Vigil. One hint of its age is that seven of its nine readings are from the Hebrew scriptures.
Scholars presume it took the early church a couple centuries before it placed the Christian scriptures on the same “inspired” level as the Hebrew scriptures. Before then, the community revolved much of its faith understanding around the writings that had inspired the historical Jesus: the collection we once called the “Old Testament.”