The most curious thing about the first reading we heard today isn’t anything in the reading, or what precedes or follows the reading, but what doesn’t follow it. Let me back up and talk about how we don’t get to where we might think we might get to. The story is about the earliest days of the church in Jerusalem. This happens after Pentecost, but before Paul becoming Christian, for instance, before the church has started expanding outside Jerusalem. The Hellenists we hear about are Jews who grew up in Greek-speaking communities but have since moved to Jerusalem and have joined this nascent Christian community, all of whose leaders are Aramaic speaking Jews (“the Hebrews”). They’re insiders… to some extent. But, they’re also immigrants. And while there’s no debate about them being welcome, as there’ll be debate later about quite on what terms Gentiles are welcome, being welcome isn’t quite the same as being fully integrated, isn’t the same as being always remembered, even. And the complaint comes that their widows are being ignored in the daily distribution of food. The apostles both realize the problem, and realize that they can’t solve it. So, they recruit seven men from among this Hellenist group and put them in charge of ensuring that Hellenist widows are better included.
Sunday, May 14, 2017
Sunday, May 7, 2017
Easter, Week 4, Year A; Holy Infant.
Many of you know that before I entered seminary I worked as a prison teacher. When I first started working there, a lot of the other helping professionals in the prison recognized that there was something about the culture of that place, the marbled unity of grotesque beauty and darkness in search of light, that I needed to understand to be fruitful there, and the only way they could explain it was through stories. This story’s from a prison chaplain. I never knew the inmate the story’s about, but it’s a pithy way of getting across in one short graced conversation what I saw so many times, on a much slower scale. He was young, but a hulk of a man, apparently, intimidating. By which, I learnt, the chaplain meant both that he looked intimidating, and that he often went out of his way to intimidate people. He’d stand at the back of the chapel throughout Mass, defiant. After several weeks of this, the chaplain approached him and asked: “What’s your name?” “Striker,” came back the answer. “That’s not a name, that’s a committal offense, a claim, a front. What’s your name?” “González.” “OK, but I’m not going to call you by your last name. That’s not how you were baptized. What’s your name? What does your momma call you?” The next answer, I won’t repeat in church. That’s what his mother called him, something I won’t repeat in church. “She’s mad with you a lot, huh?” “Yeah. I’m bad.” It wasn’t a confession, it wasn’t a boast; it was just a flat statement of fact. “But, I bet that wasn’t what she called you when you were a baby, huh? What does your momma call you when she’s not mad with you?” “OK, my first name is Napoleón.” “Nice name. But that’s not what I asked. What does your momma call you when she’s not mad with you?” Out of a face, I came to know so well that was about to erupt in something, you just didn’t know what, came: “Well, sometimes… she’d call me Napito.” “Napito. Can I call you that?” I wonder how long since he’d heard that. He didn’t say. He just replied, “Sure, padre. That would be chido.”
Sunday, April 30, 2017
3rd Sunday of Easter, Year A; Holy Infant
Have you ever wondered when we sing or hear a psalm, whose voice it is we’re hearing? I don’t mean, “Who’s the cantor?,” as important of a question as that might be. I don’t even mean, historically who wrote each psalm, though as a scholar of scripture, that’s the kind of question that exercises me in my day job. No, I mean to ask it on a level and in a way that respects and values and cherishes through whom the psalm came to us – the Ancient Israelite composers, the scribes who copied them out, the modern composers who wrote our settings, the musicians here who lead us in song – but asks a question that’s a level deeper than that. Whose voice is it really that we’re hearing?
Sunday, April 16, 2017
Easter Sunday; Holy Infant parish.
I don’t really like goodbyes. I’m generally one of those people who tends to quietly slip away from a party, rather than going round bidding farewell to everyone I know. And with casual acquaintances, or good friends we’ll only briefly be separated from, that’s OK (even if it verges on unconscionable for some of my more extroverted friends). But the dearer the friend and the more remote the absence or uncertain the possibility of renewed contact, the more important the goodbye is. And the harder it is. So, I really don’t like those goodbyes, as much as I still cling to them as precious.
Friday, April 14, 2017
Good Friday; Holy Infant.
John’s Passion is full of people making exchanges, swapping something heart-breakingly brilliant, fragile in its tenderness for something dull, insubstantial and ridiculous. Friends, sin is dull, insubstantial and ridiculous. And Jesus dreams more daring dreams than that for us.
Thursday, April 13, 2017
My first time presiding at the Holy Thursday Mass tonight. My pastor preached, so no homily to share, but two reactions to walking through this sacred night as presider.
First the footwashing: It's ridiculously simple. Scandalously simple. It's also tender, earthy, loving, but what struck me most was how simple it is. I just concentrated on one pair of feet at a time. Yet its simplicity can in no way belittle it; it's what God calls us to, and it's what God did for us. We're all called to this kind of service, but these feet were the ones the Church entrusted to me, not through my merit, but through the anointing of my hands which expressed itself by placing in them towel and pitcher, and simple old feet. Why do I make this all so complicated, when Love is scandalously simple?
Next, the procession to the altar of repose. It's hard to hold two ciboria while wearing a cope and humeral veil. To do that without dropping anything required me to clutch them close to my chest. God asks me to hold Him! The intimacy and frailty of Eucharist struck me anew.
Sunday, April 9, 2017
Palm Sunday of the Lord's Passion, Year A; Holy Infant parish.
The death of Jesus shakes everything up. And he knew it would. He even warned his disciples, telling them, “all of you will have your faith shaken.” But more is shaken than just their faith. The whole earth shakes, in an earthquake that shows that earth itself seismically gets what’s going on here, gets that what is happening in earth-shattering, creation-shattering: the God of all creation suffers and dies at the hands of creatures, out of love for them.