“Is there a life before death?”

April 2, 2017, 5th Sunday of Lent, Cycle A

The Bible is not interested in the immortal soul and a life in the hereafter. Raisings from the dead remain singular phenomena. It is much more about the question of whether the people of God are alive or have already died, whether they are gathered and filled with the Spirit, or are scattered and ‘dried up’. Who would dare to compare the church or a community with a bunch of dead men's bones today?

Ezekiel had this courage, but he also had the belief that God could resurrect his dead people. Rabbi Shalom of Belz had the same original faith in resurrection when he prayed after his wife's death: “Lord of the world! If I had the power to awaken her, wouldn't I have done so already? I cannot. But you, Lord of the world, you have the power, you can do it – why wouldn't you awaken Israel?” mim

Ez 37:12-14

Thus says the Lord God: O my people, I will open your graves and have you rise from them, and bring you back to the land of Israel. Then you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and have you rise from them, O my people! I will put my spirit in you that you may live, and I will settle you upon your land; thus you shall know that I am the Lord. I have promised, and I will do it, says the Lord.

Post-truth

March 26, 2017, 4th Sunday of Lent, Cycle A

“Post-truth” was voted word of the year in 2016. But as already shown by the evangelist John, the thing is older. Jesus's opponents already argumented post-factually.

They do not disprove the facts but just brush them aside, find pious reasons why what they see, cannot be: A blind man sees again. The healed man stays with the facts: “The only thing I know is that I was blind and can now see.” The man has to repeat himself: “... but yet he opened my eyes.” The faith in the bible is interested in facts, not in the things that we would like to have, imagine and dream about. The facts always speak for themselves but quite often against us: “Are we perhaps also blind?” That would be a question to begin with. A beginning fact-wise. Post-factual in the proper sense. acb

Jn 9:1-41

As Jesus passed by he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" Jesus answered, "Neither he nor his parents sinned; it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him. We have to do the works of the one who sent me while it is day. Night is coming when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world." When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva, and smeared the clay on his eyes, and said to him,
"Go wash in the Pool of Siloam" —which means Sent—. So he went and washed, and came back able to see. His neighbors and those who had seen him earlier as a beggar said, "Isn't this the one who used to sit and beg?" Some said, "It is," but others said, "No, he just looks like him." He said, "I am." So they said to him, "How were your eyes opened?" He replied, "The man called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes and told me, 'Go to Siloam and wash.' So I went there and washed and was able to see." And they said to him, "Where is he?" He said, "I don't know." They brought the one who was once blind to the Pharisees. Now Jesus had made clay and opened his eyes on a sabbath. So then the Pharisees also asked him how he was able to see. He said to them, "He put clay on my eyes, and I washed, and now I can see." So some of the Pharisees said, "This man is not from God, because he does not keep the sabbath."
But others said, "How can a sinful man do such signs?" And there was a division among them. So they said to the blind man again, "What do you have to say about him, since he opened your eyes?" He said, "He is a prophet." Now the Jews did not believe that he had been blind and gained his sight until they summoned the parents of the one who had gained his sight. They asked them, "Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How does he now see?" His parents answered and said, "We know that this is our son and that he was born blind.
We do not know how he sees now, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him, he is of age; he can speak for himself." His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone acknowledged him as the Christ,
he would be expelled from the synagogue. For this reason his parents said, "He is of age; question him." So a second time they called the man who had been blind and said to him, "Give God the praise! We know that this man is a sinner." He replied, "If he is a sinner, I do not know. One thing I do know is that I was blind and now I see." So they said to him, "What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?"
He answered them, "I told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples, too?" They ridiculed him and said, "You are that man's disciple; we are disciples of Moses! We know that God spoke to Moses,
but we do not know where this one is from." The man answered and said to them, "This is what is so amazing, that you do not know where he is from, yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if one is devout and does his will, he listens to him.
It is unheard of that anyone ever opened the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, he would not be able to do anything." They answered and said to him, "You were born totally in sin, and are you trying to teach us?" Then they threw him out. When Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, he found him and said, "Do you believe in the Son of Man?" He answered and said,
"Who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?" Jesus said to him, "You have seen him, the one speaking with you is he." He said, "I do believe, Lord," and he worshiped him. Then Jesus said, "I came into this world for judgment, so that those who do not see might see, and those who do see might become blind." Some of the Pharisees who were with him heard this and said to him, "Surely we are not also blind, are we?" Jesus said to them, "If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you are saying, 'We see,' so your sin remains.

Freedom

March 19, 2017, Third Sunday of Lent, Cycle A

The desire for self-determination and freedom is great. So why didn't Israel cheer?

If adversities occur, the search for someone blameworthy immediately begins. And he must then put up with some accusations and distortions: The angry mob wants to stone Moses. The experience of this conflict shows how freedom must be re-established against all resistance. This requires a lesson in history. There is a need for someone who tells the history, and at least for some people who remember it: Moses, the elders. The staff updates the experience of Exodus and the rock updates the attainment of the laws, the commandments of freedom. hak

Ex 17:3-7

In those days, in their thirst for water, the people grumbled against Moses, saying, Why did you ever make us leave Egypt? Was it just to have us die here of thirst with our children and our livestock? So Moses cried out to the Lord, What shall I do with this people? a little more and they will stone me! The Lord answered Moses, Go over there in front of the people, along with some of the elders of Israel, holding in your hand, as you go, the staff with which you struck the river. I will be standing there in front of you on the rock in Horeb. Strike the rock, and the water will flow from it for the people to drink. This Moses did, in the presence of the elders of Israel. The place was called Massah and Meribah, because the Israelites quarreled there and tested the Lord, saying, Is the Lord in our midst or not?

Clarity

March 12, 2017, Second Sunday of Lent, Cycle A

Was the event on the mountain a performance – and Jesus a kind of performance artist? The Greek original text refers to it as a metamorphosis: a modification of the form. Luther translated „er ward verklärt“ (“he was transfigured”), the current lectionary for the liturgy, as „er wurde verwandelt“ (“he was transformed”). Which translation is best?

The way of life is changing for those who know that they stand before God as his creatures and co-responsibles for the creation – and Jews and Christians are those. Life gets reoriented, transformed. For Jesus, the Son, this applies in a very unique way. He shines, as the face of Moses had shone, after he had stood before God on the mountain.

And what about the term „Verklärung“ (“transfiguration”)? For the people, Jesus represents God Himself. This is the „Klärung“ (“clarification”), a clarity that can hardly be borne for us, since it disrupts the varnish and brings up everything that's dark, everything that's not directed to God's will. bek

Mt 17:1-9

Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them; his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, conversing with him. Then Peter said to Jesus in reply: Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah. While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud cast a shadow over them, then from the cloud came a voice that said: This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him. When the disciples heard this, they fell prostrate and were very much afraid. But Jesus came and touched them, saying: Rise, and do not be afraid. And when the disciples raised their eyes, they saw no one else but Jesus alone. As they were coming down from the mountain, Jesus charged them: Do not tell the vision to anyone until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.

Naked

March 5, 2017, First Sunday of Lent, Cycle A

The snake seems to know humans better than we do. It's not the permission “You might eat from all trees except this one”, but the promise of the snake that leads to its success: “You will know what is good and what is evil, you will be like God”.

And by twisting the meaning of the aforementioned right around: “Are you really not allowed to eat from any tree?” it provokes Eve's exaggerated reaction to the tree in the middle: “Not even touching it!” At the end, Adam and Eve stand naked, not because their clothes are missing, but – following the Midrash's teachings – because they lost the protecting command. mim

Gn 2:7-9; 3:1-7

The Lord God formed man out of the clay of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and so man became a living being. Then Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and placed there the man whom he had formed. Out of the ground the Lord God made various trees grow that were delightful to look at and good for food, with the tree of life in the middle of the garden and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
Now the serpent was the most cunning of all the animals that the Lord God had made. The serpent asked the woman: Did God really tell you not to eat from any of the trees in the garden? The woman answered the serpent: We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; it is only about the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden that God said, You shall not eat it or even touch it, lest you die. But the serpent said to the woman: You certainly will not die! No, God knows well that the moment you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods who know what is good and what is evil. The woman saw that the tree was good for food, pleasing to the eyes, and desirable for gaining wisdom. So she took some of its fruit and ate it; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized that they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves.

Economists of God

February 26, 2017, 8th Sunday in ordinary time, Cycle A

When Paul speaks of himself and the members of the community in Corinth as the “administrators of the secrets of God”, he refers to the nonreligious thinking of Jesus.

Again and again, Jesus puts an oikonomos, an administrator, at the center of his parables. It is about the fidelity in dealing with the entrusted good. In order to fulfill their mission, the disciples must be wise, act rationally, and not fear the risk. That's why following is not really pilgrimage or a thought-building, but rather faithful and daring action. acb

1 Cor 4:1-5

Thus should one regard us: as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Now it is of course required of stewards that they be found trustworthy. It does not concern me in the least that I be judged by you or any human tribunal; I do not even pass judgment on myself; I am not conscious of anything against me, but I do not thereby stand acquitted; the one who judges me is the Lord. Therefore do not make any judgment before the appointed time, until the Lord comes, for he will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will manifest the motives of our hearts, and then everyone will receive praise from God.

We are Pope?

February 19, 2017, 7th Sunday in ordinary time, Cycle A

The book of Leviticus shows: Charity is not a thought originating from the New Testament, it is deeply rooted in the commandments of Israel. But what does this “love as thyself” mean?

The measure at that time, the “self”, was the solidarity of the clan. We can recognize a remnant of clan solidarity when “we” are suddenly “Pope”. And this solidarity, which is bestowed upon one's own clan, is meant to prevail in Israel half a millennium before the birth of Christ, even to whom one's own relatives see as an enemy. The love of the enemy in Leviticus determines as injust someone who takes revenge or bears grudges. hak

Lv 19:1-2, 17-18

The Lord said to Moses, Speak to the whole Israelite community and tell them: Be holy, for I, the Lord, your God, am holy. You shall not bear hatred for your brother or sister in your heart. Though you may have to reprove your fellow citizen, do not incur sin because of him. Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against any of your people. You shall love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.

The world's turning point

February 12, 2017, 6th Sunday in ordinary time, Cycle A

The technical skills of man have developed over thousands of years. Just as his language. Likewise, his religion. What was it about in the beginning?

Winning gods grace, keeping him well tempered with all sorts of sacrifices and rites. In case a misfortune happened or a plague came, they unanimously said: “The gods are hungry!” However, like a worldwide bang, suddenly a radical turnaround happened in Israel: Stop your sacrifices, avoid the altar – first go and look for whom you are at feud with, and make peace with him. “Then come and sacrifice your gift.” The world's turning point?

Indeed, when you and I – instead of blindly storming God's heaven – truly become brothers and sisters to each other. Then a revolution occurs, calmly and quietly, undocumented in any chronicle, but nevertheless stronger than all of the world's armouries, as it comes from heaven. 

Mt 5:23-24

Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift.

Heaven's light

February 5, 2017, 5th Sunday in ordinary time, Cycle A

“Salt of the earth”, “light of the world”, “city on a mount” – Jesus defines his disciples' identities with these and similar images. He doesn't suggest the ethical imperative “You shall” to his listeners.

He states facts: “You are”. He doesn't care about the “You”, the socially engaged individual. He says “You all”. This “You all” is today realised in community. Towards what it aligns itself with determines what its impact will be. Zest and radiance are augured, but not self-evident. mim

Mt 5:13-16

Jesus said to his disciples: You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned? It is no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.

Zep 2:3; 3:12-13

Seek the Lord, all you humble of the earth, who have observed his law; seek justice, seek humility; perhaps you may be sheltered on the day of the Lord's anger. But I will leave as a remnant in your midst a people humble and lowly, who shall take refuge in the name of the Lord: the remnant of Israel. 

They shall do no wrong and speak no lies; nor shall there be found in their mouths a deceitful tongue; they shall pasture and couch their flocks with none to disturb them.

Humility? Poverty?

January 29, 2017, 4th Sunday in ordinary time, Cycle A

The humble and poor in Zefaniah are not a slack group of timid, less fortunate and indecisive people who are looking for God for lack of the better. They're in fact hard-hitting realists who accept only God's measure in their search for justice.

Humble realism cannot be discouraged by the constant lagging behind the measure. And poor in the sense of the prophet is, who stubbornly contents himself with nothing less than the richness of the faith provided by God. The virtue of modesty is not a synonym for this, but quite the opposite. tac

Zep 2:3; 3:12-13

Seek the Lord, all you humble of the earth, who have observed his law; seek justice, seek humility; perhaps you may be sheltered on the day of the Lord's anger. But I will leave as a remnant in your midst a people humble and lowly, who shall take refuge in the name of the Lord: the remnant of Israel. They shall do no wrong and speak no lies; nor shall there be found in their mouths a deceitful tongue; they shall pasture and couch their flocks with none to disturb them.

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