Sunday, April 26, 2015


This Fourth Sunday of Easter we always read the Good Shepherd. The Latin word for shepherd is pastor, and so, in the Catholic Church today we pray for vocations, particularly to the priesthood. We pray that more people will hear and answer the call.

In his book, the Road to Character, David Brooks writes, "A person does not choose a vocation. A vocation is a calling. People generally feel they have no choice in the matter. Their life would be unrecognizable unless they pursued this line of activity."

And I can say without a doubt that is true in my life. It began with my parents who modeled the faith. My cousin Rev. R. J. Barbour, Jr. used to say that he knew from the time I was a child that I was called to the ministry. And I have no doubt that it was the hand of God that, after being steeped in the Bible at the Baptist Tabnernacle, led to the home of Roberto and Chepita Reyes in Managua, Nicaragua where I could discover the richness of the Catholic Church under the guidance of Archbishop Miguel Obando y Bravo. Returning to Danville, it was then Fr. Michael Duffy who filled in whatever was lacking in my instruction and at the Easter Vigil 1981 received me into full communion with the Catholic Church.

When I was finishing college I could feel the call, the vocation, and guided by Sr. Claire Prenteau, a Franciscan Sister, I was among the first group of Franciscan Volunteers in Baltimore. It was during this year that the inevitability of which Brooks writes became clear. I could do no other than to say yes to the call.

Many have asked why I did not become a Jesuit or a Franciscan. The simple answer is that I am a proud son of Virginia. I have been blessed to travel the world and there is much we can learn from other cultures, but Virginia is my home and the place that, at least to date, I feel called to proclaim the gospel.

These 26 years have not always been easy, but a vocation is not something you can abandon. From the moment you are ordained a priest is who you are. At a particular low point, it was Bishop Michael Saltarelli of Wilmington who providentially called to remind me of that.

As I look back over the history of my own vocation one thing is clear. Vocation is not a private matter. The voice of God calls us through the church. In this brief description I have listed only a handful of the many people God used to nourish and sustain my vocation.

Every member of every church want a good pastor, a good shepherd. Few are shy about critiquing the one the bishop sends. But how many of us take seriously the obligation to nurture vocations?

I do not think that my story is unique. No one responds to a vocation in a vacuum. Yes, there is a very personal aspect to vocation. But it is also communal. From the parents whose obligation it is to be the first teachers of their children in the ways of the faith, to the Bishop whose task it is not only to ordain but to guide, to shepherd all the faithful, especially his closest collaborators, his priests, it belongs to all of us to foster vocations.

Today each of us should ask one question. What am I doing to encourage vocations?

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Starting Over

My apologies to those who have faithfully followed this blog for its sporadic nature this month. The busyness of Easter, a new complication associated with my CP, and my ever-changing new assignment, have made it a challenge quite honestly for me to focus. Today, however, seemed the perfect day to get back on track.

Today we celebrate Sf. Mark, the author of what most scholars consider the oldest of the gospels. He is also venerated as the founder of the Coptic Orthodox Church, one of the oriental Orthodox branches of Christianity whose center is Alexandria Egypt. He is said to have brought Christianity there in approximately 42 AD.

As for the gospel itself, while there is much debate most would agree that it was composed some time after the fall of Jerusalem, 70 AD.

In art St. Mark is depicted as the Lion, symbol of courage. He traditionally understood to be one who records St. Peter's remembrance of the events. He writes in Greek for primarily Greek speakers. By the time of the writing of the first Gospel, the transformation of Christianity into something distinct from Judaism is well underway.

It is he who chooses to call the story evangelion, gospel, literally a good message.

Very little is known about the person of St. Mark. None of the evangelists signed or titled their work. They understood that it was not them but the message that was important. It is only by tradition that we ascribe the gospels to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

One of the key themes of Mark's gospel is urgency and if you read it in one sitting which is not hard to do you can capture the sense of the urgency to proclaim the message to the World.

This year is a good time in particular for us to celebrate the Feast of St. Mark and unite our prayers with those of our Egyptian/Coptic brothers and sisters.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Preparation for Baptism

In the story of the Ethiopian eunuch we have a model for Evangelization and a caution away from the two extremes. One the one end is the Catholic tenedency to over systematize. In response to his question what is to keep me from being baptized, many of our people would have responded, "You haven't spent a full year in the RCIA." The other extreme would be the idea that he could just sit by himself read the Bible and profess faith in Jesus. Both miss the mark.

To those who would say that a person can read the Bible on there own I would respond with the dialogue with Philip.

Do you understand what you are reading?” He replied, “How can I, unless someone instructs me?

It is not that this man is ignorant. He is educated and powerful. He is probably versed in multiple languages. The word used here means literally to lead or to guide. None of us can be our own spiritual guide. Left to our own devices we can all too easily transform the faith to us, rather than allow the faith to transform us.

Philip begins where the man is. He begins with the passage and the provides him not with a complete instruction in the faith but with a sufficient instruction. Clearly it entailed much more than is recorded in Acts because the man knew enough to know the nature of baptism with water.

In our Catholic understanding of the faith. Baptism is the gate or door through which we enter the Church. It is merely the beginning. Most of our formation in the faith will take place as we live it. For the child under the age of 7, the parents and godparents should understand the obligations that having their child baptized entails. For the person over the age of reason, they should understand, according to their ability, the commitment they are making in asking to be baptized.

The man puts the question to Philip. He does not demand baptism as if it is something to which he has a right. But he requests it. It is left to Philip to make the pastoral judgment as to whether he thinks the man is suitably prepared. As a pastor, the shepherd of a flock it is is often a difficult process of discernment. When a person is sufficiently prepared they are to be baptized.

Intrestingly the law of the Catholic Church never allows a pastor to deny baptism. It says that if the hope that a child will be raised in the faith is prorus (completely) lacking, the baptism can be delayed until there is some foundation for hope. The simple fact that the child cannot be his own teacher in the faith.

This story from the Acts of the Aspostles remains to this day our model for preparation for baptism.



Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Other Side of Following

As a child I remember learning to sing the song "I have decided to follow Jesus." It was fun to sing but I had no idea what it meant. I thought it meant be nice. I thought love God and love your neighbor. And I mistakenly thought that it meant if you lived a good life nothing would happen to you. You would somehow be protected.

Today's gospel brushes away that childish notion and reminds us of the real price of discipleship. The same deacon Stephen who was able to captivate even some members of the Sanhedrin with his preaching is stones to death. And for all St. Paul tries to dress it up, it would have been unimaginable to most of us. Even our most gruesome forms of capital punishment pale compared to the slow agonizing death of stoning.

With all the talk of the New Evanglizatiion, we can forget that the Greek word for witness is martyr. If we are going to be true witnesses we have to be willing to be rejected and even allow ourselves to in some ways die for the faith. Few of us will have to physically die. It may be the death of some relationships. It may be the death of habitual actions or ways of thinking. As we emerse ourselves deeper and deeper into the mystery that is our faith we may find that some of the people and things we hold dearest will have to go.

The decision to follow Jesus must me made daily and even sometimes minute by minute. Witnessing to the faith may be in words but more often it is in our actions that real faith makes its presence known.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Deacon as model Christian

In the Acts of the Apostles we see not only the glorious beginnings of the Church but we see the first divisions. Although all of the first disciples were Jews, even they found ways to divide themselves. The Greek speaking Jews and the Aramaic speaking Jews. The Greek speakers would have read the Septuagent (the Greek translation of the Old Testament). The Aramaic speakers would have thought of themselves as the purests reading the Old Testament in Hebrew, a language similar to Aramaic.

When the Greek speakers complained that their widows were not receiving equal treatment, the Aposltes layed hands on 7 men chosen by the Greek part of the community, laying the foundation for the ministry we now call deacon, from diakonia, to wait on table. Their primary ministry was care for the poor and needy but as we see in the gospel today they also preached, which is why in the Catholic Church we allow deacons to preach. Some preached quite powerfully.

Stephen (Stephanos) is perhaps the most famous. If we look closely we will see that the description Luke gives of him closely resembles the description given of Jesus even to the trumped up charges of blasphemy. Filled with the Holy Spirit, Stephen's life becomes an imitation of Christ. Even the temple officials can see it

All those who sat in the Sanhedrin looked intently at him and saw that his face was like the face of an angel.

This was not the result of some unique grace given to Stephen that is no longer available. It is merely the result of Stephan allowing the grace received to fully manifest itself in his life. As we will see, Stephen fully and fearlessly embraced what it means to follow Jesus.

How fully are we ready to embrace our Christian identity? Can people look at us and see the divine presence shining in our faces? It's not difficult; we have the capacity. It can begin with something as simple as a smile. Of the course even that simple smile must have a source. That daily source is prayer. In my younger years I used to often be too busy to pray. Now in middle age I realize there is no such thing. Pray and the rest will fall in place. Pray even when you don't feel like. Pray especially when you don't feel like it. The world around you may not change but you will.

Today's mass was celebrated for the Ethiponia Christtians who were true witnesses to the faith. The church "reccomends earnesty" that all priest celebrate Eucharist daily. If you have an intention for which you would like mass offered do not hesitate to contact me at

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Lost in Translation

Today we hear the end of Jesus's discussion with Nicodemus and we arrive at what has become a common term in so parts of Christianity. born again. Among our Evangelical brothers the term has taken on a particular meaning, but we Catholics also understand the term in the simplest biblical sense.

Here John uses a word that has been translated as "again" but literally means "from above" (anothen) from (ano) which means up, on top, on high. Many, even the newest King James bible has made this correction. In Verse 5 Jesus goes on to explain that this means that one must be born "of water and the Spirit" and unless one is born of water and the Spirit they cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

For us this second birth happens in baptism. Like our first birth it is not something we do, but something that happens to us by God's grace.  In the waters of baptism we are reborn. This understanding of Jesus's words can be traced back to the earliest available writings on this passage. The Catholic, Orthodox, Lutheran, and Anglican communion are all in agreement as to the interpretation of this passage. Only our Evangelical brothers and sisters have attempted to link this passage from John's Gospel with Romans 10 and thereby link being "born again" with a verbal profession of faith on the part of the individual.

So if you are a Catholic and someone asked if you have been born again, you should answer with a resounding yes.  On the day of your baptism have no doubt that "through water and the Holy Spirit" you were born from above (anothen) just as Jesus teaches us we must be in John's Gospel.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Living the Acts

People will sometimes ask why don't we see the same kind of miracles today that we read about in the Bible? Perhaps the answer is in part found in a single word in the Acts of the Apostles. This word appears 11 times. The word is homothumadon. We translate it into English as "with one accord."

The image contained in the word is one that we may not associate with Christians. The first part of the word homo means of course one/ same. The second part comes from thumos a word that conjures up the image of a person breathing hard. It means passion or fierceness. It is not simply that they were in agreement, but they shared a passion for the gospel.

When the Acts of the Apostles repeated says that the community of believers were homothumadon, it paints a vibrant image of people filled with the Spirit who are then transformed into a single passionate voice fearlessly proclaiming the truth of the gospel.

If we look at Christianity today we see neither unity nor courage. Can we even count the divisions? And how many churches are more concerned with filling the pews than with speaking the truth?

This weekend Pope Francis reminded us why Jesus gave the Church one leader, Peter and his successors. Speaking with the one voice that is uniquely his, he said aloud what the world knows but is afraid to admit. He called the Armenian genocide the first genocide of the 20th century. He was actually quoting from a 2001 statement by Pope St. John Paul II,

Imagine for just a moment even the Catholic leaders uniting their voices with the Holy Father. Imagine the more than 2 billion Christians uniting their voices. If we cannot speak with one voice about the past how can we hope to speak about the present or the future?

It is not God who acts differently today it is the Christians. The Holy Spirit we receive in the sacraments is the same Holy Soirit poured out on that first community. If we want to see the same kind of miraculous action we must once more become homothumadon. And the best place to begin is with ourselves. How can we be end the division in our parish and diocese? Sometimes we have to go even smaller a start with a particular group within the parish that we belong to. Start with ourselves and work outward.

As we recover our unity and our passion we will see the working of the Spirit grow. We read the stories of the Acts of the Apostles to remind us what we once were and what we can be.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

A binary choice

When Jesus appears the second time to the apostles and Thomss is present Jesus invites he to do what he said he needed to do in order to believe and then he gives him a comand

He commands him to change

And here we reach the binary decision. The English translations often say things like

Stop doubting and believe (NIV), or

Do not be faithless but believe (KJV) or

Do not be unbelieving but believe (NAB)

The first difficulty is that the verb is not 'to be' but it means to become or to continue. Being can be a static thing. We tend to think of being as rather fixed. The word John uses implies change, it comes from the same root as Genesis or generate.

Secondly John offers two choices pistos (to have faith) or apistos (the exact opposite). Unbelieving is probably the closest we have to an equivalent. It is more than doubt. Doubt is somewhere in the middle. For John there is no middle, you either believe or don't believe. You are either pistos or apistos.

Jesus calls Thomas to go from one state to the other, to become something different.

It would be great if this were a one time thing. But we human beings are constantly in flux, and if we look closely we will see that we vacillate between the two states. There are moments when we are sure, when we trust God, and then we switch. Our fears take over and we are back to depending not on God but on our own power. We go from the peaceful state of pistos to the frantic state of apistos.

The challenge is to recognize when the switch happens and to recognize it as quickly as possible. The faster we recognize it the faster we can get ourselves back to the other side. And when we can't get ourselves back to pistos, we can pray the prayer of Mark 9:24

I believe, help my unbelief (apistia)

This is the prayer of a man who understands his own vacillations.

If you are uncertain which state you are in simply ask, Am I peaceful? Am I content? When we truly trust Gos, when we are sure that God is Lord of all, we can as St. Paul says in his Letter to the Philippians, learn to be content in whatever circumstance we find ourselves.

As we walk through this Sunday and each day, let us regularly pause and check which state are we in pistos or apistos. It really is that simple. Either we trust God or we don't. It's not easy but it is simple.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Flesh and Bones

In today's gospel Jesus appears to the apostles and seeing their surprise says,

Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have

On one level this is a statement about the difference between the resurrection of the body which we profess and a belief in ghosts and spirits or zombies which we do not.

On another level it is a reminder that Christianity is more than a spirituality. Being Christian is more than saying you believe in Jesus or the Church. A truly Christian Faith must have flesh and bones. It must be lived in the hear and now. Reading the Bible, prayer, meditation, reception of the sacraments must all bear fruit in our daily words and actions or they become a phantasm of real religion. The post-ressurection encounters with Christ were not apparitions. The Jesus who appeared was as real as the Jesus who had taught them prior to his death. This is unique claim of Christianity that we worship a God who so loved us that he became incarnate, showed us how to live a truly human life, died and truly rose from the dead (neither zombie nor ghost) a resurrected man.

In baptism we died and rose and now are called to walk as resurrected men and women, to live the new life we received. May our faith today have flesh and bones that it may be seen so that in seeing others might believe

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

More that the Messianic Figure

Peter continues to preach and announces,

Let all the house of Israel therefore know assuredly that God has made him both Lord and Christ

We are so accustomed to the titles that we have a hard time even imagining how they sounded to the original audience. In the Greek translation of the Old Testament which we called the Septuagent, wherever the name of God appear יהיה the translators used the word Kyrios, Lord. We have continued the tradition in the Catholic Bibles today. The other use of the word Kyrios was in reference to the King. Caesar would have been called in Greek Kyrios.

When Peter proclaims Jesus as Lord and Christ, he is making a radical announcement. Jesus is not only the fulfillment of the prophecies regarding the sending of a Messiah to set the people of Israel free; he is the Kyrios, in every sense of the word.

Through baptism he tells them that their sins are forgiven, they receive the Holy Spirit, and they become part of the Kingdom of the one and only true Kyrios.

There are some Greek words that every Chrisitan should know. To this day the one remaining part of mass in Greek is the Penitenial Rite Kyrie ( a form of Kyrios) eleison. Whenever we hear or say the word Lord in our prayer we should recall all of the layers of meaning attached to that word. For the first hearers to say that he was Lord and Christ would have implied that there was only one appropriate response, absolute loyalty and complete submission.

On this third day of Easter as we hear of the Baptism of 3000 and the birth of the Church perhaps it is time for us to unite our hearts with theirs and renew our true belief that Jesus is our Lord and Christ.


Monday, April 6, 2015

Love and Truth

Today we begin our journey through the Acts of the Apostles. Peter, it tells us, on the Day of Pentecost immediately goes out to preach the Gospel to the children of Israel. In the first reported sermon, he sumerizes the story. What is perhaps to our modern ear the most striking sentence is when he says,

This man, delivered up by the set plan and foreknowledge of God, you killed, using lawless men to crucify him.

Keep in mind that Peter is speaking to them with the goal of having them become believers in Jesus. So it might seem odd to us that he accuses them of killing Jesus. Our tendency is to avoid offending anybody. But Peter is dealing with a much more basic principle, truth. Remember, he is simply summarizing the events and it is a statement of fact to say that this crowd in Jerusalem was the same crowd that yelled crucify him.

Has this passage been misused in the past as an excuse for antisemitism? Of course it has. But that does not rob it of its power to call each of us to follow the example of Peter and speak the truth.

This past week as the Church was celebrating Holy Week and Easter, here in Richmond we were marking the 150 anniversary of the events surrounding Lincoln's visit to Richmond which was preceded by the burning of Richmond. I am proud to be a native Virginian, and my name, Wayne Lee Ball, couldn't be any more Southern. In school, however, I never remember them pointing out that it was the confederate troops not the "Yankees" who burned the city's business district to the ground. In their zeal to rob the union army of supplies the fires that were intended to burn only some warehouses touched off our most famous conflagration. We ended up destroying our own city. The local paper at the time described, "confederate authorities, wantonly and recklessly, applying the torch...." There was no attempt to explain away or excuse the actions.

St. Peter describes in suscint and clear terms the history. He addresses them as "children of Israel" to show respect for their participation in the covenant, but at the same time he is blunt about the wrongs his people committed. And let us not forget that they are his own people. Peter is no Gentile. He refers to the Gentiles as "lawless men", men without the Torah.

St. Peters reminds us that we are to preach love but never at the expense of an honest recollection of history, our own individual histories and our communal history. Only in acknowledging or sins, individual to national, can we find forgiveness and the healing the ressurection brings.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

All things made new

The new oils are in the Ambry, the new water is in the font, the New Easter Candle is in its stand, and for the next 50 day (50 being the "pente" in Pentecost) we will reading only the New Testament. Even at wedding and funerals held during the Easter Season all of the readings are from the New Testament.

At the Easter Vigil (and today in some countries) Christians around the world renew the promises of their baptism. As I watch the Sunrise I remember the words from St. Mark's ressurection story,

And very early on the first day of the week they went to the tomb when the sun had risen.

Mark differs from John on the detail of the time and it doesn't really matter which is historically accurate, because each is making a different theological point. For Mark the focus is on the dawning of a new day, the rising.

Today is a time when families often gather. Perhaps the greatest gift we can all give each other this Easter is to let this day be a new beginning. Perhaps it is time leave behind whatever darkness and discord there may be. You may be thinking "But he/she hasn't changed or even apologized." I would remind you of St. Paul in his Letter to the Church in Roman,

But God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. (Rm. 5:8)

It is not about the other person. Behave as if you love, and you will love.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

The times in between

We often reflect on the crucifixion and the ressurection but today invites to reflect on the time in between, between the time when Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus placed him in the tomb (Jn 19:38-39) and the discovery of th empty tomb while it was still dark on Sunday morning (Jn 20:1).

In our creed we say "He descended into hell", but wha exactly do we mean by that? The Jews of Jesus's time did not believe in hell as we conceive it, the place the bad people end up. All the dead were separated from God because before Jesus it was not possible for a human being to enter into heaven. Heaven was the place of God and Angels.

Sheol was the place of the dead. You can rightly think of it as hell because the people there are cut off from the vision of God. What the just had was the consolation of being "in the bosom of Abraham" and the hope of ressurection (if you were a Pharisee). The "blossom of Abraham" was not heaven; it was not eternity in God's presence.

By his three days in the tomb Jesus transforms the meaning of death. Death no longer means the end of life. As we hear in the Letter to the Hebrews,

Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same nature, that through death he might destroy him who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong bondage.

Death, the end of life, separation from God, came into the world through sin, the free choice to give into temptation. Humans feared death, and because of that fear they lived in lifelong bondage. If we want to see the bondage look around at the billions spent of fending off aging.

Jesus goes down to Sheol, to that part of Sheol that was the "bosom of Abraham." He sets the just free and opens the door to a new possibility, enteral life in heaven, eternity in presence of God. This possibility of eternal life was suppose to set us free from fear of death. But has it?

How many of us, the Christians who profess a belief in ressurection and eternal life, still live in bondage, still live as slaves of fear? As the Letter to the Hebrews makes clear, death and the fear it inspires are the tools of Satan. The only ones who should fear are children of darkess. We are to walk always as children of the light. We walk unafraid.

It was still dark when Mary Magdalene went out to the tomb (Jn 20:1), but she walked out of the place she was staying and walked in the darkness unafraid. John's gospel reports her walking alone. It is she who fearlessly goes out into the dark and is therefore the first witness to the ressurection. She is the first to bring the good news to Peter and John ( Jn 20:2). It is Mary Magdalene whose courage is rewarded by the vision and the message of the two angels and most importantly the encounter with the Risen Christ (Jn 20:12-14).

Tonight the church invites us all to walk out into the darkness, to walk in the darkness without fear. We don't fear the darkness because we carry The Light.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.(Jn 1:5)

As the sun sets (7:34 pm in Richmond), as darkness comes upon us, we gather to begin our Easter Vigil. We face the darkness with fire and light. On that first Holy Saturday, it appeared to the world that Jesus was dead. We know that he was still at work, completing the work for which he came into the world, to set us free, to open the gates to eternal life. He descended into hell to set the just ones free. On this Holy Saturday,

May we walk aways as children of the light may we keep the flame of faith alive in our hearts.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Real Crosses

One of the habits I've picked up from a friend not known for political correctness is to stop myself when I am on the verge of getting upset over something relatively small and remind myself when it is one of those "first world white people problems." You know the ones like standing in the grocery story being upset surrounded by food but not seeing your brand of peanut butter or fat-free milk.

Tonight we will gather in our church's and we will read the story of the crucifixion. We will, as we should, try to find some connection between the gospel and our own lives. There is, however, a danger in this.

In reality most of us have pretty good lives. When I am honest with myself I know that there is nothing in life that I need that I don't have: food, clothing, shelter, family and friends, work that I love, freedom and safety,... So when we look at the cross of Jesus tonight and think about the crosses in our own life, let's be careful not to exaggerate. Yes, I have aches and pains from my CP, but it's not life threatening, or even intolerable. At most it's an annoyance.

This week militants from Somalia rampaged through a university in Kenya. The separted the Molems from the Chirstians and killed the Christians, 147 people whose earthly lives came to an abrupt end. These were true martyrs, not people who killed for there faith but people whose lives were taken because of their faith.

If you can read this blog chances are, like myself, you have the privilege of living in splendid isolation from this kind of violence. We can get in our cars and go to church whenever we please. Most of us didn't earn it, we were just lucky enough to be born in places of relative freedom and safety. When I was growing up my parents rarely ever locked the house. Yes, I know there is always some Chicken Little screaming the sky is falling and trying to stir up panic. Yes, there is sin and evil in our world and we have reason for concern. But we should be careful not to overstate the problems in our lives.

Perhaps on this Good Friday, rather than focusing on our own relatively small crosses, we should turn our focus outward, to the crosses of others, to those who face crosses that we can hardly imagine. My prayers today are turned towards friends with a seriously sick child, and worse than the illness is the waiting for a diagnosis. Nothing is harder than a parent, helplessly watching their child suffer. Compared to that I have no crosses. All I have on this Good Friday are reasons for gratitude. In my life it is truly a good Friday.

As we meditate on the suffering of Christ,let us turn our hearts and minds to the suffering of our brothers and sisters in our own neighborhood and around the world. And let us never cease to be thankful for everything and everyone that we have in our lives. Even as he hung upon the cross Christ was focused on others, the thieves hanging with him, his mother and John, even those who crucified him. May we be that other-centered.

NB. the term third world is not a ranking. It is a term from the Cold War used to designate those countries not aligned with either the US or the USSR.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Three days in Church

When the Sun goes down tonight, Jewish families will begin the final search of Chametz (leaven) throughout the house in preparation for Erev Pesach (Passover Eve) tomorrow. What many Christians do not recognize is that we will have kept that tradition as well.

When you walk into a parish Church for Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord's Supper the tabernacle will be empty and clean. The old Easter Candle is gone. The old oils are gone.

In both cases the symbolism is the same. We are putting the old life behind us. We are beginning anew.

The passover celebration will last for eight day. Our celebration lasts three, commemorating the three days in the tomb.

What we begin on Thursday evening, continues on Friday with the Celebration of the Lord's Passion. At this service the priest simply enters and says the opening prayer. There is no beginning because it is not separate from Thursday. At the end of Friday he exits in silence because the service is not over.

On Saturday, the celebration continues with the Easter Vigil. At the end of the Easter Vigil, there is a closing and the first Easter blessing. What was begun on Thursday ends on Saturday.

Is is really too much to ask that people take a small portion of three day to commemorate what should be for any Christian the most important events in the history of the world. And what does it say about our faith if we decide that sitting home is more important?

Scripture tells us that faith without works is dead. Take the time in these next few days. Dedicate these days to God. Regardless of how successful or unsuccessful your Lent has been. Walk the journey to new life, beginning today.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Our Own Betrayal

Today is known in the Anglican tradition as Spy Wednesday, a name that conjures up all sorts of nefarious images. As we read the story of Judas's betrayal we are left with one nagging question, why? The simple truth is, we will never know the answer, not in this life. If we go out searching the Internet we can find a mountain of speculation, including attempts to psychoanalize Judas.

What we know about about Judas is what we know about all human beings. We never directly intend evil. We always, at least in our own minds, intend some good. It may be a compleley selfish good, but we always intend some good for someone.

That being said, we are left to wonder what was the rationalization that Judas used to convince himself to betray Jesus. While Luke and John say that Satan entered him, Mark and Matthew place the betrayal immediately after the woman annoits Jesus with the expense nard and Jesus says that wherever the good news is proclaimed this will be told "in rememberance of her." Whether is was his desire for money, his desire to be remembered or something completely other, Judas probably in his own mind had a good reason for doing what he did. We adult human beings always do.

As we read the story of Judas, the man who went from not just disciple but Apostle to betrayor, we are all challenged as Lent ends to examine our conscience. Are there sins that we have rationalized away? One of our best is the way we declare that if lots of people do something it's not a sin. The good news is that God has placed in each of us a conscience and if we have the courage to sit quietly with it, unless we have completely suffocated it, it will cut through our rationalization. In the depths of our conscience we know what sin is.

On this last full day of Lent, as we hear the story of Judas's betrayal, let us have the courage to acknowledge the ways both large and small in which every one of us betrays the one who gave his life for us.