John the Baptist’s Fresh Air

What was it like, living in ancient Palestine?

The king was not a real Jew. The high priests had no faith. The Pharisees did not practice what they preached. The Romans ruled as careerist bureaucrats. You couldn’t pray in the Temple because the animal-traders made too much noise. You couldn’t save for the future because the taxmen gouged you. You couldn’t travel because the highways were crawling with bandits.

Dishonesty grew like a sickening weed everywhere, choking the life out of religion and the common life, leaving the nation on the brink of violent despair.

Then people began to hear about a man who lived down in the desert wilderness by the mouth of the Jordan River. He lived on a hillside that looked out on the brilliant sunrise from the quiet, holy east.

This man had no angle. He owed allegiance to no party. He had no designs on any advancement in this world. His life consisted solely in patiently waiting for all the prophecies of old to come true.

Is it any wonder that they came by the hundreds? Down the mountain from Jerusalem and Judea, down the river from Samaria, Galilee, Syria. Is it any wonder that people suffocating in a society canopied with craven selfishness came for a breath of John the Baptist’s fresh air?

He opened up the sky for them. He unlocked the hidden mystery of the sacred page. He made the faith of Abraham live. The work of God had not been exhausted by the many centuries of strife. No: it had all been a matter of careful divine preparation.

Make straight the paths of the Providence of God. Be cleansed for refreshment and renewal. A great day of truth, of justice, of peace and light—the day of Christ—is coming.

Continue reading “John the Baptist’s Fresh Air”

Mystery of the Lost Coin

smadehChapter fifteen of St. Luke’s gospel is famous for containing: the parable of the Lost Sheep and the parable of the Prodigal Son.

In between these two beautiful parables, there is a strange one, the parable of the Lost Coin:

Or what woman having ten coins and losing one would not light a lamp and sweep the house, searching carefully until she finds it?

And when she does find it, she calls together her friends and neighbors and says to them, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found the coin that I lost.’

In just the same way, I tell you, there will be rejoicing among the angels of God over one sinner who repents.

Please do not get me wrong: I mean no disrespect to our Lord. But I have always found this parable strange.

coins necklaceSure, losing one-tenth of your savings is something that would lead you to go searching, lamp in hand. But there seems to be more to this than the monetary value of the coin…

There is:

According to the old customs of Palestine, brides do not wear wedding rings. They wear veils embroidered with coins, or necklaces made of coins. The coins symbolize the dowry they brought to the marriage. The coins ARE the wedding ring, the symbol of the marriage bond.

The woman in the parable, searching the house frantically with lighted lamp, is searching for her lost wedding ring.

(Hat tip to H.V. Morton.)

Pópulum tuum, quaésumus, Dómine, intuére benígnus

“Look kindly upon Your people, we beseech You, O Lord”

This sentence is from one of the priest’s prayers in today’s Mass.

This is why I exist: to ask God to look kindly upon His people.

The sacred priesthood is: Begging God, look kindly on us, please.

Plus, there is preaching and teaching.

But the main thing is begging God.

This sentence from today’s Mass is a shorter version of my favorite Mass prayer:

“Father, …You sent [our Redeemer] as one like ourselves, though free from sin, that you might see and love in us what you see and love in Christ.”

sheepJohn 10 contains statements by Christ that are illuminated somewhat by the following facts of first-century life in the province of Palestine:

1. Shepherding was the #2 most common occupation, after farming.

2. Shepherding was not romanticized by first-century Palestinians. Our Lord’s audience knew that shepherding was a difficult, exceedingly dangerous life.

3. There were two kinds of shepherds: Those who owned their own sheep, and those who tended sheep owned by someone else. The second category was the LEAST desirable of all jobs, just one tiny notch above being a criminal.

4. Sheep are not stupid in every way. They have no sense of direction and are utterly defenseless against predators. BUT they learn their names quickly and recognize voices.

sheepfold5. Shepherds used common sheepfolds to protect their sheep from predators at night. One of the shepherds slept in the opening in the hedge or fence. He would be the human gate.

6. In the morning, the gatekeeping shepherd would only allow shepherds he knew and recognized to enter the sheepfold.

These facts make our Lord’s discourse a little easier to understand.

If you have never read Jesus Christ’s discourse in John 10, then you are seriously impeded from understanding reality.

caps-logo1Click the link and read it right now.

…Ovie hat-trick!!!

Caps up 2-0!!!

ovie-hats