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.
St. Paul includes Junia, a women’s name, on his list of apostles.
St. Paul includes the name Junia, a women’s name, on his list of apostles in Romans 16:7. Does this mean there were women apostles?
The problem is we don’t know who this biblical person is. Not all translators are convinced that she is—rendering her name as Junias, a man. So let’s start with Paul’s list in Romans. Toward the end of his letter, Paul says, “Greet Andronicus and Junia[s], my relatives and my fellow prisoners; they are prominent among the apostles and they were in Christ before me.”
Which do you prefer, reconciliation for now or for always?
The easiest goal to come up with is no goal at all. I can say this confidently, being a lifelong fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants sort of person. An old boyfriend, Sam, used to cluck disapprovingly at my attitude toward life. “The woman without a plan!” he would hiss at me. So I claimed the title proudly: The Woman Without a Plan. Which is not the same as being without a clue, I want to point out.
So little of our mental and physical baggage will accompany us when we meet our creator.
Recently I arranged for a local charity to come pick up eight boxes of household items I was no longer using. The pile, stacked heavily on the porch, was taller than I am. It included coats and shoes, duffel bags and backpacks, kitchenware, wall art, desktop items, and assorted tchotchkes. Plus a huge leatherbound Bible. I looked at the towering stack, pondered its meaning, and went back inside. Eight boxes. Of things I’d had no use for in years.
We can’t escape the legacy of the 73 scriptural texts.
Editors are the unsung heroes of culture. While some of their work amounts to fiddling with commas, they also make crucial decisions that affect the shape of the future. Am I serious? You bet. Recall the handful of folks who wrote the founding documents of our nation. Then consider the roomful of others who haggled over every last sentence, phrase, and word choice. Once those documents left the editorial room, they would be the framework of a country to come. They had to be letter perfect and to mean what they said.