Thursday, August 14, 2014

Byzantine: 10th Sunday after Pentecost (8/17/14)

Apostol: 1 Corinthians 4:9-16

Apostol

I think one of the most important things to be aware of in reading this passage is that St. Paul is being ironic (ICSB note to 1 Cor 4:8-13). This may not come out so clearly when the reading is read in church.

We need to be mindful of those who were in Christ before us. We can look to the saints for models of holiness, models which often include great suffering, being "poorly clothed and buffeted and homeless" (1 Cor 4:11). Few are the saints (if there are any!) who did not have sufferings in this life!

Moreover, we can now look to the plight of those lands who received the Gospel before us. Our brethren in the Middle East are again being called to give the supreme witness to Christ. We should pray for them, that their plight may be eased and that they may be strengthened for martyrdom while awaiting their deliverance.

Gospel

Today's Gospel reading follows directly on St. Matthew's account of the Transfiguration. It takes us from the shining splendor of God on the mountain back to the humdrum reality of daily life. Very often it may happen that we come back from a retreat or pilgrimage with a spiritual high, only to run into the brick wall of mundanity. On retreat, all seems well; back in ordinary life, though, we see how much there is still to do.

So it was in this episode. On the mountain the disciples saw the glory of Christ; coming down from the mountain they were again confronted with the fact that all was not well in the world. Not only that, but although their fellow disciples tried (at least, it seems to me that the man refers to the disciples who didn't go up the mountain in 17:16, though I could be wrong), they couldn't cast out the demon! Disappointing for those who had just seen the glory of God.

But the story doesn't end there, for Christ again displays His power by casting out the demon. If we have faith in Him, we too will do extraordinary things, even though we may not see His glory on Tabor's height.

Readings for next week: 1 Corinthians 9:2-12 and Matthew 18:23-35 (11th Sunday after Pentecost).

Also, tomorrow, August 15, is a holy day of obligation (Dormition of the Theotokos).

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Byzantine: 9th Sunday after Pentecost (8/10/14)

Sorry, but again nothing on the Apostolic reading this week.


Gospel

This week's Gospel follows directly on last week's, so it might be a good idea to read that again before reading this week's reading.

Christ walking on water is always a favorite story for children's videos. It's a good one. Now, we often hear how here how this is a lesson in having trust in God, so I'll try to strike out in a different direction (not because of a problem with that lesson, but because there are other parts of the story that can be examined).

Let's look at the figure of St. Peter. Here we see him painted in not the most flattering light. He comes out on the water, but then loses his focus on Christ (and how often have we all done that?) and begins to sink.

Two chapters from this incident, he makes the great confession of faith in Christ which results in his being elevated to the status of the prime minister of the Kingdom of God. Not much changes between these incidents; St. Peter is a largely insignificant character from here until the confession. So, this shows us again the importance of grace in the life of the believer. After being pulled out of the lake, St. Peter probably didn't feel like someone who'd be making a great confession of faith in just a little while. And yet, he did, because it was not his own power he relied on, but it was God Who enabled him (Matt 16:17). So it is for all of us.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Byzantine (and Roman): 8th Sunday after Pentecost (18th in Ordinary Time) (8/3/14)

Note: The Gospel for this week is the feeding of the 5000 in both the Byzantine and Roman Rites! Here's the link to this week's reflection from the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology. Sorry: I didn't get the Apostol done for this week, so I only have the Gospel.

Apostol: 1 Corinthians 1:10-18


Gospel

One of the greatest disappointments of my grade school career was being told in fifth grade that the numbers here weren't real, that they were exaggerations or something like that. That was really a letdown for a kid who believed that the Lord really had fed 5000 people. It would be a long time before I was vindicated in believing that there were really 5000.

A fun little heresy that I've heard of (though haven't heard professed, to my memory) is that the big miracle here was that the people... wait for it... keep waiting... just a little longer... SHARED! Yes. That's right: no miraculous multiplication of loaves and fishes here, just sharing.

For both of those theories, I say yeah right.

What both theories have in common is that they tend to do away with the miraculous. If there weren't really 5000 people, but only, say, five, it's hardly miraculous that Christ could have fed them with limited provisions, isn't it? And again, there's hardly any miracle about people sharing with each other; any half-decent failed messianic prophet (and there were a lot of those) with a little charisma should be able to do that. Nothing special here, folks, move along.

See the problem here? No miracles, nothing out of the ordinary, precious little to make people suspect that "God has visited His people" (Luke 7:16) in Christ. And I think that what's going on here is more that people are reading their assumptions into the text than anything else. The text clearly presents this as a miraculous event (especially Matthew 16:5-11). No, what's going on here is more likely that some have become convinced that miracles don't happen, and have gone on to convince others that they don't. And, because of this presupposition that miracles can't happen, they have to invent other explanations for the text which range from "stretching it" at best to "just plain stupid" or worse.

The fact is, St. Matthew presents us with a miracle. Now, are we going to accept that it was a miracle, or will we be like last week's Pharisees who didn't see what was plain to all?