CRAFTY QUESTIONS

“So they watched him, and sent spies, who pretended to be sincere, that they might take hold of what he said, so as to deliver him up to the authority and jurisdiction of the governor. They asked him, ‘Teacher, we know that you speak and teach rightly, and show no partiality, but truly teach the way of God. Is it lawful for us to give tribute to Caesar, or not?’ But he perceived their craftiness, and said to them, ‘Show me a coin. Whose likeness and inscription has it? They said, ‘Caesar’s.’ He said to them, ‘Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.’ And they were not able in the presence of the people to catch him by what he said; but marveli

ENJOYING OUR “EVERYTHING”

“As for the rich in this world, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on uncertain riches but on God who richly provides us with everything to enjoy (εἰς ἀπόλαυσιν). They are to do good, to be rich in good deeds, generous and ready to share (κοινωνικούς), thus laying up for themselves a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of the life which is life indeed (τῆς ὄντως ζωῆς).” (1 Tim 6: 17-19) I am not “rich in this world” in the financial sense, but God does “richly provide” me “with everything to enjoy.” So this Nativity Fast, which brings me to pay closer attention to how I use my “everything,” I’ll apply the Apostle’s instructions to myself, and try to

EMBRACING CHANGE, THIS NATIVITY FAST

“And leaving Nazareth he went and dwelt in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: ‘The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, toward the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles—the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned.’ From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, ‘Repent (Μετανοεῖτε, Change your mind/focus), for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’” (Mt 4: 13-17) As those of us on the Older Calendar begin the Nativity Fast today, along with the changes it brings to our daily routine, I am reminded of the ver

BAD LEADERS

“And he was teaching daily in the temple. The chief priests and the scribes and the leaders of the people sought to destroy him; but they did not find anything they could do, for all the people hung upon his words, listening.” (Lk 19: 47-48) What is one to do, if he or she is not blessed with good leaders; with leaders who seek to “destroy” Christ rather than to follow and serve Him? One does as did the people mentioned in the passage above, from our Church’s reading for today: They “hung upon” the Lord’s words, “listening.” That’s all I’ve got, concerning today’s reading. Lord, help me to listen more, to You, and to see it as an opportunity to “hang upon” Your words more, if ever I am subje

GRATITUDE OPENS DOORS

“As he was now drawing near, at the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, ‘Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!’ And some of the Pharisees in the multitude said to him, ‘Teacher, rebuke your disciples.’ He answered, ‘I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.’ And when he drew near and saw the city he wept over it, saying, ‘Would that even today you knew the things that make for peace (τὰ πρὸς εἰρήνην)! But now they are hid from your eyes. For the days shall come upon you, when y

YOU WILL HAVE TRIBULATION

“…His disciples said, ‘Ah, now you are speaking plainly, not in any figure! Now we know that you know all things, and need none to question you; by this we believe that you came from God.’ Jesus answered them, ‘Do you now believe? The hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, every man to his home, and will leave me alone; yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me. I have said this to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.’” (Jn 16: 29-33) When the Lord says to His disciples, and through them to all of us, that “in the world” we will have “tribulation,” He means also the “tribulati

FEARING WHERE THERE’S NO FEAR

“Shall not all they that work iniquity come to understanding, they that eat up my people as they eat bread? They have not called upon the Lord. There have they feared with fear where no fear is.” (Ps 52/53: 5-6, Septuagint-translation) This Psalm is describing those of us who “eat up” other people, because we “have feared with fear where no fear is.” And this makes a lot of sense, if we pay attention to the reasons we “eat up,” or at least lash out at, other people. We might do this inwardly, in the form of quiet resentments, or outwardly, – sometimes in “subtle” forms like passive-aggressive sarcasm or passive obstructiveness, or in “less subtle” forms like spreading malicious gossip, or “f

CHRIST AND CLOTHING

"And they brought him to the place called Golgotha (which means the place of a skull). And they offered him wine mingled with myrrh; but he did not take it. And they crucified him, and divided his garments among them, casting lots for them, to decide what each should take.” (Mk 15: 22-24) Each of the four soldiers who crucified our Lord “won” a piece of His garments for himself. And Christ let them “win” in this way, as He knew they would, as was revealed in an ancient prophecy found in Psalm 21/22: “They have divided my garments amongst themselves, and for my clothing have they cast lots.” (Ps 21/22: 18) So these soldiers got to be clothed in Christ’s garments, and He let them do that.Why?

THANKSGIVING

“Then as he entered a certain village, there met him ten men who were lepers, who stood afar off. And they lifted up their voices and said, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!’ So when he saw them, he said to them, ‘Go, show yourselves to the priests.’ And so it was that as they went, they were cleansed. And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, returned,and with a loud voice glorified God, and fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks. And he was a Samaritan. So Jesus answered and said, ‘Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine? Were there not any found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?’ And he said to him, ‘Arise, go your way. Your faith ha

BLESSING THE TRULY-BLESSED

“Blessed are the blameless in the Way, who walk in the law of the Lord.” (Ps 118/119: 1, Septuagint-translation) Is it pointless for us to “bless” and praise “the blameless” (οἱ ἄμωμοι, непорочнии), for example, the Theotokos, whose Entry into the Temple is celebrated today on the “New” Calendar; or the archangels and angels, whose feast is celebrated today on the Older Calendar,– if we ourselves are not “blameless”? No, of course not. Because by celebrating the “blameless” in the law of the Lord, we are reminded of the kind of “celebrity” that is truly praise-worthy in God’s eyes, and are inspired to desire it for ourselves. This is particularly counter-cultural in our day, when so much pre

FAITH & SCIENCE

“Now when he was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, he answered them and said, ‘The kingdom of God does not come with observation (μετὰ παρατηρήσεως); nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.” (Lk 17: 20-21) It’s not by empirical observation, which is the “scientific” method of learning something new, that the Kingdom of God “comes” into my life. The “newness” of the Kingdom of God is something I am given to experience not primarily by the physical senses of sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch, – but in the small victories on the battleground “within me.” It is from within the invisible reality of my life, of my

PARABLE OF THE RICH FOOL

“And he told them a parable, saying, ‘The land of a rich man brought forth plentifully; and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ And he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns, and build larger ones; and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; take your ease, eat, drink, be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you; and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.’” (Lk 12: 16-21) How sad for the rich man in this parable, that he learned he was a “f

THE JOY OF REPENTANCE

“Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to him, to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, ‘This man receives sinners and eats with them.’ So he told them this parable: ‘What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-n

GIVING TO THOSE WHO CAN’T REPAY YOU

“He said also to the man who had invited him, ‘When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your kinsmen or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return, and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. You will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.’” (Lk 14: 12-14) “You will be blessed, because they cannot repay you.” Indeed, we are “blessed” in a special way, as only God can “bless” us, when we give or share of what we have, (however small our “dinners” or “banquets” may be), with those who cannot repay us, or “invite” us “in return.” And

GOD CREATED US FREE

“Keep me, O Lord, for I have hoped in you. I said unto the Lord: You are my Lord, for of my goods, you have no need (ὅτι τῶν ἀγαθῶν μου οὐ χρείαν ἔχεις, яко благих моих не требуеши).” (Ps 15/16: 1-2, Septuagint-translation) God would not truly be Lord, if He had ”need” of anyone or anything; i.e., if He were somehow insufficient, in and of Himself, and depended on the “goods” of others to keep Himself fulfilled. As the Source of Good, that is, as the Source of Life, He certainly has no “need,” as we say in the above-quoted Psalm, of “my goods.” But God does “want” me to embrace true goodness, His life, even while He does not “need” me to do that. Because outside of it I am not truly alive. I

ANGELS & DEMONS

“And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought with the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer. So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, ‘Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and

COMPASSION vs. DEMANDS

”…And that servant who knew his master’s will, but did not prepare or act according to his will, shall receive a severe beating. But he who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, shall receive a light beating. Every one to whom much is given, of him will much be required; and of him to whom much is entrusted, they will demand (αἰτήσουσιν) the more.” (Lk 12: 47-48) Ouch! As Shakespeare put it, “Uneasy is the head that wears a crown,“ – also in the whole business of stewardship or kingship in God’s “house.“ And we all wear that “crown,“ anointed as we are in Holy Baptism, to a “royal priesthood“ (1 Pet 2: 9) in the various, smaller or larger areas of God’s “house,“ in our different voc

PRIORITIZING OUR RELATIONSHIPS

“Someone in the crowd said to him, ‘Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.’ But he said to him, ‘Man (Ἅνθρωπε), who set me to be a judge or partitioner/divider (μεριστὴν) over you?’ And he said to them, ‘Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed (ἀπὸ πάσης πλεονεξίας); for one’s life (ἡ ζωὴ αὐτοῦ) does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” (Lk 12: 13-15) Our “possessions,“ or that which we’ve acquired as a result of our position and/or work in this world, – be this money, or a certain social or professional standing, – may sometimes drive a wedge between us and those closest to us, in our most important relationships (i.e., with someone who is

SALT AND LIGHT

“You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trodden under foot by men. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid. Nor do men light a lamp and put it under a bushel, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Mt 5: 13-16) Fr. Robert F. Taft, SJ, a beloved teacher of many, including me, and who passed away yesterday, was both these things: both “salt” and “light.” By the “salt” of his particular genius, he brought alive th

VENERATING THE SAINTS

“…Woe to you! for you build the tombs of the prophets whom your fathers killed. So you are witnesses and consent to the deeds of your fathers; for they killed them, and you build their tombs. Therefore also the Wisdom of God said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and persecute,’ that the blood of all the prophets, shed from the foundation of the world, may be required of this generation, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who perished between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, it shall be required of (ἐκζητηθήσεται) this generation.” (Lk 11: 47-51) How chilling, that in this series of “woes” on the Pharisees and lawyers, the Lord

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