About joy

December 17th, 2017, Third Sunday of Advent, Cycle B

The message of the third Sunday of Advent is easy to understand: “Gaudete – Rejoice! Be happy!” What is left to explain? Particularly he, who has read the 60 chapters before that, will understand Isaiah’s good news.

For who rejoices there? And why? It is the war-ravaged city of Jerusalem unexpectedly being rebuilt and repopulated. Like a bride she adorns herself for her groom. Thus the word of the prophet searches for the right listeners to this day: those that find their joy in Jerusalem being rebuilt. mim

Is 61:1-2a, 10-11

The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me; he has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners, to announce a year of favor from the LORD and a day of vindication by our God. I rejoice heartily in the LORD, in my God is the joy of my soul; for he has clothed me with a robe of salvation and wrapped me in a mantle of justice, like a bridegroom adorned with a diadem, like a bride bedecked with her jewels. As the earth brings forth its plants, and a garden makes its growth spring up, so will the Lord GOD make justice and praise spring up before all the nations.

End and Beginning

December 10th, 2017, Second Sunday of Advent, Cycle B

The end has always been interesting to everyone. The end of one’s life and the end of the world. When will it come? And how? And what will happen? The Jewish people were not interested in the end for a thousand years.

They left speculations about the afterlife and Last Judgment scenarios to the Egyptians. What moved them were the beginnings. How does something new come into the world? A people of free human beings? Solidarity, justice, peace? Such a beginning is recounted this Sunday: “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ…”. Somebody attracts attention through his special language, through his unusual life style. He does not make himself bigger than he is. It begins with him. acb

Mk 1:1-8

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God. As it is written in Isaiah the prophet: Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you; he will prepare your way. A voice of one crying out in the desert: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.” John the Baptist appeared in the desert proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. People of the whole Judean countryside and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River as they acknowledged their sins. John was clothed in camel's hair, with a leather belt around his waist. He fed on locusts and wild honey. And this is what he proclaimed: “One mightier than I is coming after me. I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

Vigil

December 3rd, 2017, First Sunday of Advent, Cycle B

According to the latest studies we spend 30 percent of our lifetime asleep. Reducing this healthy statistical mean is not what the gospel has in mind, when it calls on us to stay awake and vigilant. This is about a specific point in time.

It requires focus, a concentration of attention because all of the responsibility is entrusted - to each one a task intended just for them. The matter-of-fact realistic acceptance by the individual and the necessary cooperation requires its own kind of vigilance and interest. Disinterest and negligence would signify sleeping in this case – vigil, to do the work of the absent-arriving landlord in the world together.

Mk 13:33-37

Jesus said to his disciples: Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come. It is like a man traveling abroad. He leaves home and places his servants in charge, each with his own work, and orders the gatekeeper to be on the watch. Watch, therefore; you do not know when the Lord of the house is coming, whether in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning. May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to all: Watch!

Realignment

November 26th, 2017, Feast of Christ the King, Cycle A

​There are life style habits – eating habits, sleeping habits, but also habits of understanding. So for generations it has been our habit to see the maxim of Christian action in the parable of the last judgment, somehow valid for every person: doing good for the needy – and thus doing good for Christ.

Whoops, a wrong viewing habit has slipped in there! An exact perusal and exegesis lead to a different interpretation. Namely? The addressees of the judge of the world’s words are “all the nations”, thus the gentiles. The needy aren’t simply the poor of the world, but Jesus’ disciples, whom the Son of Man calls “least brothers of mine”. This follows from the context of the gospel. And what does this mean? The gentiles are measured, “judged”, according to their behavior towards Jesus’ disciples, who became uncovered, vulnerable and persecuted for his sake. And Jesus’ disciples themselves and their associates, what applies to them? That is written in other parts of the gospel. bek

Mt 25:31-46

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him. And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous* will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’ And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’ Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.’ Then they will answer and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?’ He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’ And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.

Stop thief?

November 19, 2017, 33rd Sunday in ordinary time, Cycle A

It is a bold thought to compare the arrival of God with the intrusion of a thief. In fact, this image talks less about God than about us humans.

We tend to get frightened when God approaches and fear for our belongings. Apparently we view our life as our property. But God comes into our life – also and especially during the darkness of night – as its owner. Being sober and alert means knowing the right property relations. tac

1 Thes 5:1-6

Concerning times and seasons, brothers, you have no need for anything to be written to you. For you yourselves know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief at night. When people are saying, “Peace and security,” then sudden disaster comes upon them, like labor pains upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you, brothers, are not in darkness, for that day to overtake you like a thief. For all of you are children of the light and children of the day. We are not of the night or of darkness. Therefore, let us not sleep as the rest do, but let us stay alert and sober.

Looking ahead

November 12th, 2017, 32nd Sunday in ordinary time, Cycle A

As familiar as the parable of the ten bridesmaids is, as strange, yes, offensive is its message:

only five are admitted to the ballroom! So there must be something wrong with the image of the tolerant Jesus, who accepts everyone as he is. Perhaps something is wrong with us though, if we have more sympathy for the stupid than admiration for the foresighted. Apparently, the most important thing is overlooked: that the groom, namely God, who visits his bride Israel, even finds anyone, who will receive him. mim

Mt 25:1-13

Jesus told his disciples this parable: The kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones, when taking their lamps, brought no oil with them, but the wise brought flasks of oil with their lamps. Since the bridegroom was long delayed, they all became drowsy and fell asleep. At midnight, there was a cry, ‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’ Then all those virgins got up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise ones replied, ‘No, for there may not be enough for us and you. Go instead to the merchants and buy some for yourselves.’ While they went off to buy it, the bridegroom came and those who were ready went into the wedding feast with him. Then the door was locked. Afterwards the other virgins came and said, ‘Lord, Lord, open the door for us!’ But he said in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, I do not know you.’ Therefore, stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour.

… to serve …

November 5th, 2017, 31st Sunday in ordinary time, Cycle A

The word “serve” seems so worn and dented in the history of Christianity that it seems best to replace it with another.

“The greatest among you must be your servant”, tastes like Sunday speeches or a sermon at the inauguration of the new bishop. Everyone can guess: he wants to determine and will have to decide. Even the so humble title “Servant of the Servants of God”, one of the many titles of the Pope, has been linked to the undisguised claim of primacy and prestige over the centuries. The Ethiopian prince Asfa Wossen-Asserate writes in a book about manners: The problem today is not so much that nobody wants to serve, but that no one wants to be a master, because it means living and acting responsibly and exemplary. The greatest, the rabbi, the teacher, the father, the mother … they do not have to make themselves small artificially. They just have to know that only one is the teacher, master, father – the one in the heavens – and they therefore bear all of the responsibility on earth, the responsibility for the world, that is: to serve. acb

Mt 23:1-12

Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his disciples, saying, The scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses. Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example. For they preach but they do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens hard to carry and lay them on people's shoulders, but they will not lift a finger to move them. All their works are performed to be seen. They widen their phylacteries and lengthen their tassels. They love places of honor at banquets, seats of honor in synagogues, greetings in marketplaces, and the salutation ‘Rabbi.’ As for you, do not be called ‘Rabbi.’ You have but one teacher, and you are all brothers. Call no one on earth your father; you have but one Father in heaven. Do not be called ‘Master’; you have but one master, the Christ. The greatest among you must be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

Are words superfluous?

October 29th, 2017, 30th Sunday in ordinary time, Cycle A

One of the most frequent delusions in connection with the reformation of the church is probably the assumption that people need to talk more about and get better informed about the faith. What was it like in apostolic times?

Paul, undoubtedly a man of words, tells the parish in Thessaloniki: There is nothing more to say about this – namely about the faith. Why not? Because it is visible, yes, even seizable with bare hands. The parish in Thessaloniki lives the faith in a way that is visible far and wide. They live as a community where everyone vouches for each other. One person's behavior turns the world upside down by serving the others instead of searching honor, reputation and power for himself. That's how Paul lived, following Jesus' example and the surprised ones followed his example. “Evangelization”? Everywhere, people tell each other how the parish has taken in Paul, how they follow his example of service and are of one mind with him. Indeed, there is nothing more to say about it. The facts speak for themselves. bek

1 Thes 1:5c-10

Paul, undoubtedly a man of words, tells the parish in Thessaloniki: There is nothing more to say about this – namely about the faith. Why not? Because it is visible, yes, even seizable with bare hands. The parish in Thessaloniki lives the faith in a way that is visible far and wide. They live as a community where everyone vouches for each other. One person's behavior turns the world upside down by serving the others instead of searching honor, reputation and power for himself. That's how Paul lived, following Jesus' example and the surprised ones followed his example. “Evangelization”? Everywhere, people tell each other how the parish has taken in Paul, how they follow his example of service and are of one mind with him. Indeed, there is nothing more to say about it. The facts speak for themselves. bek

A question of property

October 22nd, 2017, 29th Sunday in ordinary time, Cycle A

When someone speaks the truth openly without paying heed to the other person's reputation and position of power, they live dangerously. Politically persecuted people know that. Jesus is confronted with the question if it is allowed to pay taxes to the Roman emperor in the occupied Israel.

If he says yes, he is considered an enemy of religion, if he says no, he is considered an enemy of the state: in all cases, he is definitely going to be reported. The first part of his answer, to give the emperor what belongs to him, is a steppingstone to the second part: the request to give God what belongs to God – but: what is that? Following the convictions of Israel, it is no less than the world, the, man and especially the people belonging to him. This realization and its consequences coin Israel's whole history: The struggle for a free answer. hak

Mt 22:15-21

The Pharisees went off and plotted how they might entrap Jesus in speech. They sent their disciples to him, with the Herodians, saying, Teacher, we know that you are a truthful man and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. And you are not concerned with anyone's opinion, for you do not regard a person's status. Tell us, then, what is your opinion: Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not? Knowing their malice, Jesus said, Why are you testing me, you hypocrites? Show me the coin that pays the census tax. Then they handed him the Roman coin. He said to them, Whose image is this and whose inscription? They replied, Caesar's. At that he said to them, Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.

Almost contented

October 15th, 2017, 28th Sunday in ordinary time, Cycle A

Paul, deprived of his freedom by the power of the state, thanks his supporters in the Philippi community for the gifts he has received, which he appreciates but does not really need. Here, Paul shows an unusual anchoring in the midst of his existence.

Just as he no longer recognizes the differences between Jews and Greeks, slaves and free men, men and women as a reason for fighting and hostility among the faithful, he also leaves behind all normal categories of well-being: whether he lives in deprivation or in abundance, even elementary things like satiety or hunger are simply no longer important to him, the hunger is not even an ascetic ideal. Contented in these matters, he names what he longs for: the unanimous community. This is his strong center, his reward and wealth, his glory, and the visible splendour of God. tac

Phil 4:12-14, 19-20

Brothers and sisters: I know how to live in humble circumstances; I know also how to live with abundance. In every circumstance and in all things I have learned the secret of being well fed and of going hungry, of living in abundance and of being in need. I can do all things in him who strengthens me. Still, it was kind of you to share in my distress. My God will fully supply whatever you need, in accord with his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father, glory forever and ever. Amen.

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