Becoming the Last of All

The disciples have just been arguing among themselves about who is the greatest. As Mark relates the narrative this occurs just after Jesus has told them that he must be handed over to his enemies, suffer, die, and in three days be raised up. We are told that the disciples do not understand what Jesus is saying, and yet they do not dare to question him about it. If we think about it, this is really not so difficult to understand. The absence of questioning suggests that there is a certain willfulness in the disciples’ not understanding. They do not[read more]

Wisdom and Prayer

In today’s gospel Jesus, along with Peter, James, and John have just come down from the mountain where the transcendence and glory of God had been made manifest in Jesus. According to Mark the disciples “had become extremely afraid” at this wisdom of God made manifest. It is all far too much for them. It perhaps is not accidental, then, that as they, with Jesus, come down from that experience of what lies beneath “the common, ordinary, unspectacular flow of everyday life,” they encounter an intractable problem. A father has brought to the disciples his son who is possessed by[read more]

Darkness Will Be Our Light

Today is the feast of The Chair of St. Peter. As we celebrate the feast this year, there is taking place at the Vatican an unprecedented meeting to deal with the ongoing scandal of the sexual abuse of minors and other sexual misconduct of priests and religious. Today’s reading from Matthew, given the Roman Catholic interpretation of the text in which we have been formed, seemingly confronts us, who live continually with this scandalous abuse of power, with a grave contradiction. Is the promise of Jesus, at least as it has been interpreted to us in our tradition, false? What[read more]

Redemptive Suffering

Unless one lives in total illusion, it will cross one’s mind and heart more often than seldom that life is difficult. Of course, it is also blessed and joyful, but in the course of life each of us will find ourselves confronting the painful reality that human life is fragile and, in some foundational way, broken. We experience this in sickness, in natural and human made disasters, and especially in the way we live out our relationships and commitments to each other. In today’s gospel, then, the disciples hear from Jesus a very painful, although truthful, teaching. “It is necessary[read more]

Pathos and Responsibility

Both the Lord in Genesis and Jesus in Mark’s gospel are presented in today’s readings as apparently frustrated. In the very anthropomorphic presentation of God in Genesis, the Creator is presented as experiencing regret for having created free human beings. In Mark’s description of Jesus’ attempting to teach his disciples to avoid the hypocrisy and self-alienation of the Pharisees and Herod, we hear of the pain that the disciples’ obduracy evokes in him. It is striking to ponder the fact that Jesus and God might experience the pathos that is so painful an aspect of our own experience. It is[read more]

Why Are You Resentful and Crestfallen?

In his view our basic human task in life is to seek and then give form gradually and tentatively, in dialogue with our world and our times, to “the unique image of Christ [we] are called to realize.” Integrity, meaning, purpose, and consonance flow from our faithfulness to this life task.[read more]

Unfettered Speech

As a developing child, I was very slow to begin to speak. Although my parents told me about it, we never really spoke about what might have contributed to this, aside from my mother saying the pediatrician would always encourage her by saying that I would begin to speak when it was the right time for me. Now I can well imagine that a part of my hesitancy was the birth defect that would not be repaired until I was five or six. This made it difficult for me to make certain sounds, and it also, I think evoked anxiety[read more]

Shame and Prayer

In countless commentaries on the encounter in Mark’s gospel between Jesus and the Syrophoenician woman, much is made of her faith and her perseverance. And so should it be. Even as Jesus at first seems to rebuff her, her faith, hope, and love for and of her daughter lead her to continue to plead with Jesus until he relents and, because of her perseverance, heals her daughter. The very brief story, however, also gives us insight into what in the woman’s character allows for such persevering prayer and so can teach us a foundational disposition for our own practice of[read more]

Being and Doing

Some philosophers see anxiety as that affect that constitutes what is unique in human experience. We are anxious because, of all creatures, we are aware that we are going to die. And so, we develop our own understanding of life and world, our own particular fruit which comes from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. We come to see the world in light of the good, whatever avoids death and evil, whatever raises awareness of or concern about our own death. We long to return to that time of life when the reality of death was hidden from[read more]

Generosity and Love

Today’s reading from 1 John tells us that we are to love one another in the way that God has loved us. The nature of this love of God for us is seen and known, we are told, in God’s giving of Jesus, the very life of God, to us, “so that we might live through him.” God does not love us because we have loved God, but rather in pouring out God’s self to us “as atonement for our sins.” Love, according to the author of this letter, is not a contract; it is not a response to another[read more]