Scripture tells us all things pass away but faith, hope, and love, and through God all things will be made new over time.
I’m bone tired of it, as you are. This persistent season of betrayal and reproach under which our church currently labors. Relentless revelations of clergy preying on children and bishops moving abusers around is a gnawing ache in the soul of every Catholic—as it should be.
How scripture can help you talk to your kids about pain and suffering.
Jesus came with them to Gethsemane and said to his disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took along Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to feel sorrow and distress. Then he said to them. “My soul is sorrowful even to death. Remain here and keep watch with me.” He advanced a little and feel prostrate in prayer, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet, not as I will, but as you will.”
Scripture scholar Elaine Pagels on how the Gospel of Thomas and other noncanonical gospels renew her faith.
After Elaine Pagels’ young son died of a rare lung disease, and later when her husband was killed in a climbing accident in the Rockies, friends would often comment that her faith must be a real help in her grief. It was. Pagels was able to find hope in the midst of Christian community, ritual, and liturgy that she didn’t experience anywhere else. But when she realized that comfort had little to do with confessing belief in any creed, she began to question how Christianity came to be associated with intellectual assent to a set of beliefs.
How the Prime Directive explains the tension between human free will and divine intervention.
In the late 1960s my boy cousins were all about Star Trek. This was frustrating because, for the three years the show was on the air, our play would be unceremoniously interrupted once a week as my cousins dashed off to be with Kirk and Spock instead of me. (Note to younger readers: “On the air” refers to the way television viewing once operated. You could only watch a program when it was broadcasted and not whenever you felt like it.)
The gospels leave us desiring a host of details about Jesus’ early life.
How did you get to be who you are? It’s a question we ask of those who impress us. It’s also a question that fuels most criminal biopics. We want to know how exceptional souls get from there to there. Experience indicates that who we are now has something to do with where we’ve been.
Dancing with the devil is all too common.
The evil in the world can seem monstrous to us. That’s because we’re people of good will, or so we like to think. A short review of recent atrocities appears to confirm that a certain radical malevolence inhabits the very few of us who transgress the boundaries of civilized human behavior. On this list we pin Stalin and his ilk and Nazi Germany. Also think of Osama bin Laden and his spin-off sponsors of violence, as well as every terrorist who chooses to shoot up a school, movie theater, or concert crowd.
Rarely is there only one way to do something.
Rarely is there only one way to do something. When it comes to exploring scripture, resist Bible fascists who insist their way is correct. Your best approach is influenced by a lot of factors, including context, time, and personality. Are you engaging this project alone or in a study group? Are you committed across a lifetime or compressing your effort into a single semester? Are you fierce about your goals, or do you tend to quit at the first obstacle?
King Uzziah was a good king until his arrogance led him to be both ruler and his own priest.
It’s the throwaway lines that capture us, the longer we hang around biblical territory. This is because our liturgy is based on a lectionary cycle that loops every three years. We grow accustomed to hearing some stories regularly, annually, or even more often if we attend daily Mass. Familiarity, in many cases, courts boredom. Yes, we know: Adam and Eve really blew it. Moses gets his tablets on Sinai. Check. Mary delivers the right answer to the angel Gabriel, thanks be to God. Peter needs to put a rein on his impulses; we get that. And even Jesus rarely surprises.
Adhering to facts may be the least fair thing you can do if the facts themselves are unjust.
Why are they crying? Why cry now? It is the question I ask each time we’re confronted with the maudlin passage in Nehemiah, Chapter 8, where Israel stands weeping buckets before Ezra the priest. We’ve all heard bad homilies. Rarely so bad that we reach for the Kleenex. The people gathered here have returned from a generation of exile. These folks had long ago hung up their harps by the unfriendly rivers of Babylon. They had lain down and wept for thee, Zion, as the old Don McLean song goes. But now they’re home! They’re back in Zion! If there are tears now, they should be tears of joy.
When John baptized Jesus, it meant something very different than it does to Catholics today.
Twenty years ago, director M. Night Shyamalan’s movie The Sixth Sense changed how viewers experienced the power of perspective. If someone stopped watching before the climactic “reveal,” they perhaps could have offered a reasonably coherent plot summary. But as soon as they reached the ending, everything they thought the movie was about had to be reevaluated, and their reasonably coherent plot summary would not have worked at all.