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Spiritual Reflections

Radically free

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When I was a child, the sisters taught us to pray the Angelus as the noon bell rang at school. Then, it seemed like little more than a rote recitation of Hail Marys punctuated by call and response. The faster it went, the sooner we could start lunch and recess -- and that was the real importance of the bell.

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The long haul

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One of the easiest ways to learn the uniqueness of any evangelist is to compare his final work with the sources he employed. That’s difficult to do with Mark and John, but it’s certainly easier when we’re dealing with Matthew and Luke.

A little honesty

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Some scholars of the Christian Scriptures insist we’ll never be able to get an accurate picture of the historical Jesus just by reading the four Gospels. They believe the portraits we find in those writings have been so deeply colored by the authors’ faith in him that the “real” Jesus has been permanently lost. Yet when pressed, even they admit there’s at least one thing about the Gospel Jesus that’s historically accurate: he was a friend of sinners. No one in the early church would have dared invent that characteristic.

What would you do?

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Two widows are featured in the sacred texts today. The text from Kings tells the plight of a Sidonian woman. With no husband, no inheritance rights and no voice, she was dependent upon her son, the man of the family. So it was with the widow of Nain in the Gospel: Her son, her only son, was her legal protector. When both widows lost their sons to death, they suffered not only the loss of a beloved child but also the loss of their rights -- or, as Bonnie Bowman Thurston has put it, they lost their “social security” (The Widows, Fortress Press, 1989).

Unlike anyone else

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Since the Council of Nicaea’s definition of the Trinity in 325 -- three persons in one God -- isn’t spelled out as such in Scripture, it’s challenging to give a biblical homily on this day. Perhaps we should begin with the commandment: “You shall not carve idols for yourselves in the shape of anything in the sky above or on the earth below or in the waters beneath the earth; you shall not bow down before them or worship them” (Deuteronomy 5:8).

Reading the river

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From the time he was a young boy, Mark Twain (aka Samuel Clemens) wanted to pilot a steamboat up and down the mighty Mississippi river. In his book Life on the Mississippi, first published in 1883, Twain tells of his struggle to do so. After he ran away from his home in Hannibal, Mo., Twain boarded a steamboat in Cincinnati. On the New Orleans-bound Paul Jones, Twain promised the captain $500 (after he graduated from school) if only Mr. Bixby would mentor him.

Away from the cliff

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Unless you have been living in absolute isolation for the past year, you know about the “fiscal cliff.” The term is popular shorthand for the financial conundrum that the U.S. government faced at the end of 2012, when the Budget Control Act of 2011 was scheduled to take effect. Hyped incessantly by the media, the so-called fiscal cliff was purported to be an economic Armageddon whose effects would be grave and far-reaching.

All things new

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I believe each human being has a vision of a new world, a world different from the one in which we’re actually living, a world free from the pain and frustrations we’re daily forced to endure. Such dreaming seems to be an essential trait of human nature.

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In This Issue

August 15-28, 2014

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