Saturday, October 22, 2011
Friday, October 21, 2011
Thursday, October 20, 2011
Wednesday, October 19, 2011
HAVING A SENSE
Quote for Today - October 19, 2011
"When you have seen one ant, one bird, one tree, you have not see them all."
Edward O Wilson, Professor of Science, Harvard University, Time Magazine, Oct. 13, 1984
Picture on top: pigeon in Piazza San Marco, Venice, Italy, October 8, 2011
AND READING AGAIN
The title of my reflection for this feast of St. Luke, October 18, is, “Reading - Re-Reading - and Reading Again.”
Isn’t that what we do and have been doing with our Sacred Scriptures in the Liturgy and in private Bible reading down through the years - and we keep on seeing the new in the old?
In today’s first reading - from the 2nd Letter of Paul to Timothy, there is a sentence that stands out. It sort of jumps off the page. Did it jump out for you? “When you come, bring the cloak I left with Carpus in Troas, the papyrus rolls, and especially the parchments.”
Or did the comment by Paul that the Lord is going to give Alexander the Coppersmith a pay-back for the harm he did to Paul?
I would think that today’s first reading is not trying to tell us about the cloak, the papyrus rolls and the parchments. I would assume it was chosen because Luke is mentioned in this 2nd Letter of Paul to Timothy - and today is the feast of St. Luke.
However, for me, that little detail about a cloak and papyrus rolls and parchments was rather intriguing. How many times have we gone somewhere and left something behind - a favorite sweater, a book, an umbrella, our reading glasses or what have you?
Of course this was written in Greek and the Greek word, PHAILONEN, tells us that it was a cloak or heavy winter garment with a hole in it for one's head - something like a poncho.
However, what intrigued me most was the mention of papyrus rolls and parchments.
Last night I did a little research on writing materials for that time and came up with the following. Scholars think the text is referring here to the two types of materials that people back then used to write on. They did write on stones, but record keepers and letter carriers might not be too happy with rocks.
The papyrus rolls would be the writing material - often from Egypt. It was made from plants. Stalks were cut and then their white pith insides were taken out and sliced and laid side by side. Then another layer was laid on top of the bottom pieces, but in the other direction. Then that was pressed and processed and we had papyrus - the great writing on product from Egypt.
Meanwhile in other parts of the world, parchment was used. This was skins: the leather of sheep and goats etc.
Paper - didn’t hit the west from China till the 11th century. So when you hear complaints about “Made in China” - think about it.
As you know we don’t have any original copies of the New Testament. An original would be what is called an autograph copy. We have copies of copies of copies or copies - and as you know changes can happen when copying something.
The good news is that there has been a lot of research on the New Testament. Scholars looked at all the extent copies of copies that we have - plus many of the New Testament references in other writings that we have. Comparing all that, scholars have agreed that we now have to the best of our knowledge, what is very close to the original Greek New Testament. This project started in earnest in the mid 1800’s was completed in the second half of the last century. Having that best Greek Text in hand, translators then try to work out the best translation in the different languages.
As a footnote to that, I have read that the process for doing all this for the Hebrew Scriptures, the Jewish Bible, will be complete in the next 100 years. That means that a large majority of research scholars will have agreed that we have in hand the Hebrew Scriptures as they were finally written down - at some date. Up till the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947, the oldest Hebrew Scriptures were from well into the Christian era.
TWO STORIES - ONE CONCLUSION
Let me now give 2 stories and 1 conclusion. Some of you have to get to work - or get to stores or what have you.
First story: Anna Freud - the daughter of Sigmund - once told Robert Coles - a wonderful child psychiatrist at Harvard - to re-read his notes - his extensive notes - from his vast amount of work with poor children here in the United States and in various other countries. She told him that he would find lots of stuff he missed the first time he wrote those notes. If you have letters, love letters, diaries, stuff you wrote when you were younger - find those writings - some of which are your sacred scriptures. Re-read them and then re-read them again. You’ll find all kinds of things you never saw the first time you read those letters or what have you. And as you touch that paper, you’ll be grateful that you were brought up before the digital age.
Second story: Yesterday in The New York Times there was an article about an exhibit in Baltimore - at the Walters Art Museum. It's entitled, "Lost and Found: The Secret of Archimedes." It will be there from October 16, 2011 till January 1st, 2012. It features the research on a parchment document that has a really varied and tricky history. It was discovered over 100 years ago in a monastery in Istanbul, Turkey. It became an old prayer book - used for centuries - and was in various countries.
Surprise! With all kinds of modern gadgets they found that underneath the prayers was some writings of Archimedes that had been erased - along with other materials - to make ready for the next use of that parchment. All this makes this document an extremely valuable document and worthy of lots of research. If you know about this kind of research, you know about various examples of these kinds of discoveries.
So if you are looking for a museum to go to, get to the Walters in Baltimore and check this out. Once more, the exhibit is called, “Lost and Found: The Secret of Archimedes.”
You’ll get lots of information about documents - old documents - which will be good background for all scriptures.
I hope to go and also pick up a book that goes with the exhibit. If you can't get there, check out this book.
With modern technology much of what is being written is being lost in cyberspace. However, we always hear that stuff in the deep bowels of one’s computer, even if erased, might still be in there somewhere.
In the meanwhile, we can read and re-read things like our own letters and memoirs or what have you - along with the scriptures and find things that are very interesting. If you’re like me, you like this kind of stuff.
I also like comments written in books - except library books. People who write in library books should be written on - as in branding or tattooed. Just kidding - yet I'm serious about the not writing in other’s books.
The pictures above were taken from the Walters Art Museum website. I assume they are happy I'm promoting their exhibit.
Tuesday, October 18, 2011
Quote for Today
"What I wanted to do was to paint sunlight on the side of a house."
Edward Hopper. Recalled on his death to mean, "I want to paint the human soul." Newsweek, May 29, 1967
Questions: What did you try to do in your life? What did you see? Where are your works hanging? Will people they see them after you die? If you had a museum, what would a walk through be like? What would be the big work of art they would stop to ponder?
Painting on top: Cape Cod Morning, 1950, by Edward Hopper
Monday, October 17, 2011
Sunday, October 16, 2011
WHAT KIDS NOTICE
[I like to tell a story for these Kids’ Masses - so this is a story I wrote last night. I noticed in the gospel for this 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time A that Jesus asked for a coin - and asked about the writing on it - and then gave us a teaching and a message. I noticed that the gospel story never says whether Jesus gave the coin back. So all that gave me the idea for this story.]
You never notice what kids notice.
Joshua sat in the exact middle of the Fourth Grade classroom - the exact middle seat - in the middle aisle. It was an assigned seat, but he loved it - because he could see so much in front of him. He could see what the other kids were doing, He could see what Miss Evensong, his teacher, was doing. He noticed those teachers who peeked through the glass of the Fourth Grade classroom door as they walked by - and which teachers never peeked in.
When he grew up he wanted to be either an airport flight controller or a C.S.I. agent.
You never notice what kids notice - but Joshua noticed an awful lot.
He noticed that his teacher Miss Evensong always came to school on Wednesday with her blue bag - but on other days, you couldn’t guess. He noticed that the principal, Mr. Larson was the only adult male in the school who wore white athletic socks every day - like - every day.
You never notice what kids notice.
Joshua noticed by the second week of school that the new kid to their school - James - the kid in the second seat - second row - near the front door never had any money - when it came to having money in your pocket for some gum or candy - or when the teacher was taking up a collection for a family of one of kids in the school who lost their home in a fire or what have you.
Joshua’s dad gave him and his sister Jessica a 5 dollar allowance every week. He once overheard his dad telling his mom that when he was a kid - they never had an allowance - because the family was so poor - and at times he was envious of all those kids who got an allowance. So he swore that when he was a dad, he would make an effort for his kids to have an allowance - even if it was a quarter a week.
Every Sunday after Mass - when they got home - Joshua’s dad would give him and Jessica an envelope with their 5 dollar allowance. One Sunday Joshua asked his dad if he could get his weekly allowance with 3 single dollar bills and 8 silver quarters.
His dad thought he might be saving the states quarters. His dad noticed that his son was a collector.
Now notice what Joshua did with those 8 quarters.
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, every week, Joshua would put a quarter on James desk when nobody would notice - especially James. When the class was going outside for recess or lunch or what have you., he’d sneak the quarter under a book on top of James’ desk or under a piece of paper.
Joshua watched for James’ reaction the first time he found the quarter on his desk. James’ head went back and forth. Then he looked to the floor around his desk. Then he turned around to look if anybody noticed that he had found a quarter on his desk - under one of his books.
Joshua watched all this from the corner of his eye - making out that he was writing something.
James put that first quarter in his pocket - but at first he seemed to hesitatate. Maybe he was going to ask the teacher to ask the class if anyone had lost a quater. The next day came the same surprise - another quarter. On the third day with the third quarter, Joshua noticed a tiny smile on James face. Thursday came a shrug of his shoulder and a bigger smile on his face. On Friday, Joshua had to be extra careful, but he was able to put 3 quarters on James desk: one for Friday, one for Saturday, one for Sunday.
One day in the second week of doing this, Joshua noticed James going out the front of the classroom at a recess break, but sneaking back into the classroom through the back door in hopes of catching whoever might be doing this. Was he wondering if Miss Evensong did it? She had already left the room. He checked his desk sneakily - and there was no quarter there - yet.
That's what he did with 7 of the quarters from his allowance. There was one last quarter. Joshua put that one in the collection basket at Sunday Mass. [This being a sermon in church, I figured I had to put that detail into the story.]
Joshua noticed that James really enjoyed having some money in his pocket - some money to buy a treat or to make a donation for some kid in school who had cancer or what have you.
Joshua did this for almost the whole school year - and James never caught him or figured out who was putting those quarters on his desk.
Being in the exact middle of the classroom helped. Joshua could be the last kid out - some kids going out the back door, some kids going out the front door.
Why did Joshua do this?
Well, he liked it when he had money in his pocket - and he remembered what his father said.
Another reason - was a gospel story which he heard about in church. Once Jesus was asked by the Pharisees: "Should we pay taxes or not?" Jesus asked for a coin. Then he asked whose image was on the coin . They said to him, “It’s Caesars." "Well,: Jesus said, “Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”
This lasted from September till May the following year. One day Miss Evensong, their Fourth Grade teacher announced: "One of our classmates was moving to Tennessee." She pointed to James and said that his dad, who had been out of work for over a year, finally got a job down there. Everyone clapped.
Then Miss Evensong asked James if he wanted to say anything to the class. He stood up and said, “This has been the best year of my life so far. Thank you all for being so nice to me - and I want to thank whoever has been giving me quarters.”
The whole class clapped - but nobody understood what the comment about quarters meant - not even Miss Evensong.
Joshua was now back to his 5 dollars allowance. Surprise he then put those 7 quarters he gave away each week to James here and there around the school and around town. He knew kids loved finding quarters - even pennies at times.
But what Joshua never knew was something that happened 7 years later when James was in high school in Tennessee.
His class was talking about trust. The teacher brought up the topic because someone had stolen a dollar that was sitting on the top of the desk of one of the kids.
Starting from the first seat in the first row, the teacher went around the room asking the different kids, “Whom do you trust?”
When she came to James - who was sitting in the exact middle seat in the exact middle of the classroom, he said, “In God we trust.”
A couple of kids snickered at that comment - ready to make fun of James after class - that is, till he told the story about the mysterious quarters each with the words, "In God we trust" on them - that he kept finding on his desk every day for a whole year - way back when he was a little kid in the fourth grade - in some school way, way, way up in Maryland.
LITURGY OF THE WORD
The title of my homily is, “Liturgy of the Word.”
I also have a subtitle. It’s two questions, “What Makes a Good Meal for You? What Makes a Good Mass for You?”
BACKGROUND FOR THIS TOPIC
Some of us are saying some words about the Mass in preparation for the upcoming changes in the Mass - that start at the end of next month, the First Sunday in Advent, November 27th.
Today we are to say something about the Gloria and the Liturgy of the Word.
The key word I heard at different meetings was the challenge to make this an opportunity to re-look, re-think, re-consider what we see the Mass to be.
I missed the last 2 Sundays. I was on vacation. So let me make some big statements about the Mass first and then bring in the Gloria - but mainly the Liturgy of the Word.
CHANGES IN THE MASS
Any of us here who were brought up with the Mass before 1965 saw dramatic changes in the liturgy when that happened. The upcoming ones are tiny in comparison.
Back then we saw the tables turned - in fact the word “table” was not used. The word “altar” was used. Priests and people now faced each other.
In came English - or whatever was the local language of the locals.
In came the sign of peace.
In came the word “homily”.
In came priests meeting and greeting people after Mass.
Those changes caused upset and uproar, welcome and challenge. They took time getting used to.
If you’re as old as me, what was the biggest change for you?
If you were around and conscious before 1965 what made for a good Mass for you? Has that changed?
What makes a good Mass for you now?
It’s now almost 50 years later. The changes coming in this Advent are more verbal than attitude and behavioral.
For example, the changes in the Gloria are some words and we should be used to in a year or so. My sister Mary told me she went to a 3 evening program at her church and one comment she told me over the phone was that a musician said, “They should had musicians on the translation committee - to make the music easier and more flowing.” Maybe they had musicians on the committee or they were consulted. I don’t know or what have you.
ONE BIG CHANGE: SCRIPTURES & HOMILY
The Vatican II document on the Liturgy gave the challenge to open up the treasures of the Scripture to the faithful.
I dare say that happened. The church came up with better translations of the scriptures. We have the 2 year cycle for weekday Masses and the 3 year cycle for Sundays - Year A, B, C.
I am very grateful for that. Before we had the same readings for Sunday every year - and the comment was that made sermons for some priests the same every year. We can no longer say that Catholics are unaware of the Bible - many attending workshops and classes on the Bible.
I have not done a study of homilies - called “sermons” before 1965.
I once had a part time job in our province archives and I began noticing boxes and boxes of old sermons - many of which were from the last quarter of the 1800’s. Being nosey, I read a lot of them - with an eye for finding out what priests preached about back then. My surprise was: many of them were very much the same. Did guys use each other’s sermons? Secondly, they didn’t have too many gems when it came to examples. That was my reading. That was my observation.
I think by having the 3 year and 2 year cycle, Catholic preachers changed a bit.
Are sermons better? Not everyone is a Fulton Sheen, but are today’s sermons better than the sermons back then.
I would think whatever the answer is, people would say, I know the scriptures better - because we hear variety and they are in English and people do read the Missallette.
BACK TO THE SUB-TITLE OF MY HOMILY
The sub-title of my homily is a question, “What Makes a Good Mass for You? What Makes a Good Mass for You?”
The gift that the last 50 years or so that was given to me was the awareness that the Mass is a Meal. It is the Last Supper made present for us this day.
I heard before 1960 that the Mass was the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. It put us on Calvary - under the cross - where Jesus saved us by his death on the cross.
After 1955 I began hearing that the Mass is more than that: it begins in the Upper Room - where Jesus celebrated a great Last Meal with his disciples. It continues with Good Friday. It leads us to Easter Sunday.
Let me go back to the shift I heard: from Good Friday to Holy Thursday, from being under the cross to being at the Table.
I began hearing the word Meal - Meal - Meal.
That gave me a lot of food for thought - and helped formulate my life as a priest in saying Mass.
There’s a difference between being at an execution - than being at a Passover Meal.
The word “Meal” became significant for me.
What makes a good Meal for you? What makes a good Mass for you?
Is it the food or is it the words that are shared around the table?
What makes a good Mass for you? Is it the readings and the homily or is it receiving communion?
I would assume that the answer to these questions would be twofold: “It all depends!” and “Both”.
Is a good meal when people are sharing their day and their life or is it the salmon or the meatloaf?
One of my beefs is the invasion of the cell phone into the family table?
Is a good meal when people sit around afterwards - continuing a conversation - laughing - relaxing - being in communion with each other.
Is a good meal when the topic of conversation is a great topic of conversation?
When I took my 4 years of courses on the Bible in the seminary and in lots of courses and readings afterwards, I heard over and over again that much of the scriptures evolved around meals.
Early Christians would gather for meals together and stories of Jesus would resound. As in the story in today’s gospel, people would have talked about the time Jesus turned the tables on the Pharisees who are always trying to trip and trick Jesus. Someone would mention how he took the Roman coin that someone handed him and asked him if was lawful to pay takes to Caesar or not? And he asked, “Whose image is this and what’s written on this coin?” They replied, “Caesar’s.” At that Jesus said, “Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”
It doesn’t say if he gave the coin back.
Well, we were taught that these stories and events were all talked about at table - and different people thought, “We better write this stuff down.”
We also heard that this was true of a lot of the Old Testament - stories that were voiced and developed around the camp fire and food.
What I get out of that loud and clear is that a good meal has good conversation and good food together.
What I get out of that loud and clear is that a good Mass has good readings and a good homily.
We’re not sitting around a camp fire or in a small dining room - so it would seem rather difficult to get your comments at Mass - though some priests do that.
I’m sure in some places that would work and in some parishes that would drive a lot of folks crazy as they look at their watches.
What I love to hear is folks who tell me that they were talking something over at dinner what I brought up at Mass.
What I hear on the regular basis is the reality that folks want to hear more about something in one of the readings.
It’s difficult for the preacher to preach on all 3 readings.
The first reading and the gospel are often somewhat connected.
In the past 10 years I’ve been moving more into something in the first reading or the second reading - knowing that I want the word to nourish and feed me.
What I just mainly talked about was the so called, “Liturgy of the Word.”
I didn’t say much about the Gloria. When someone hits a home run or scores a great touchdown, we sometimes see the player send a signal up to the heavens. I see him saying by gesture: “Give God the glory.” I see the Gloria at Mass - a longer way of saying and doing just that: “Giving God the Glory.”
In weeks to come we’ll talk about other parts of the Mass. Amen.