Friday, October 2, 2015

Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time (B), October 11, 2015 - Mark 10:17-31

Heinrich Hofman: Christ and the Rich Young Ruler (1889)
Riverside Church, New York, NY
Present Tense, or Eternal Now

The man ran up, and then knelt down
before the Lord could next leave town;
He asked with some anxiety,
while demonstrating piety,
just what he had to do to get
the big brass ring, through legal writ.
How would the LORD grant such a thing
to this child, so aspiring?
To which the son, who knew the ways
His father worked, then next amazed
the man, who walked away in grief
since offered grace gave no relief.

Why grace, you ask, since such a thing
proposed by Jesus seemed to sting?
Just this: That we might realize
eternal life is not some prize
which Jesus by and by suggests
should be his followers' big quest.
The more you have, more you perceive
you have to do, and not receive.
Not camel nor the rich go through,
but love is what threads through to you;
Thus, be not tense, or worry how,
but trust, and live eternally, now.

Scott L. Barton

As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honor your father and mother.’” He said to him, “Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.” Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.

Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” And the disciples were perplexed at these words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” They were greatly astounded and said to one another, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.”

Peter began to say to him, “Look, we have left everything and followed you.” Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the good news, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age—houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.”

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time (B), October 4, 2015 - Mark 10:2-16

Vie de Jesus Mafa

I Never Liked to Preach This Text

I never liked to preach this text,
What with divorcees in the fold,
Perhaps cast out by their home church,
Who marriage two would not extol;
They came for grace, not for a word
Of judgment on what had to be;
What's past, is past, we said; and who
Were we to judge such returnees?

There was a time when our church, too,
Frowned on divorce as that day's sin,
Espec'ally for the clergy, who
Were barred from pastoring church, therein.
What changed? The word of God? Or what
Our Lord said plainly to those men?
(I use that word deliberately,
Since they were wondering for their ken.)

Can we divorce, like Moses said,
- they asked to set him up - or not?
To which he noted such a rule
Protected women from their lot;
Then his disciples wanted more
In terms of what was wrong and right;
I now believe his twinkled eye
Caused them their wagging tongues to bite.

For though he says adultery
Comes when divorced man marries wife,
He said it's true the other way,
Which must have caused a lot of strife.
What woman could divorce a man?
That such a thing could never be
Thus prompted them to turn away
From rules so they might better see -

The children! - so they'd reassess
the nature of their need for law;
Except ye be as one of these,
You'll lose capacity for awe!
Try not to say who can or can't
Find love anew (or in some form
back then unknown), so you'll be blessed,
And each day's joy will be your norm.

Scott L. Barton

Some Pharisees came, and to test him they asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” He answered them, “What did Moses command you?” They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her.” But Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote this commandment for you. But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

Then in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter. He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”

People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time (B), September 27, 2014 - Mark 9:38-50


He says that I should be at peace,
and look to my own salt;
That is, my flavor should increase,
and be less apt to fault
the faith of others doing good,
as if their recipe
is somehow poison, and not food
that helps some child to see
that she is loved by God no less
than any I might feed;
Remember, that it's God who blesses -
Let none this love impede.

Scott L. Barton

John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” But Jesus said, “Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. Whoever is not against us is for us. For truly I tell you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward.

“If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea. If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than to have two hands and to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame than to have two feet and to be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and to be thrown into hell, where their worm never dies, and the fire is never quenched.

“For everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good; but if salt has lost its saltiness, how can you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time (B), September 20, 2015 - Mark 9:30-37

Thomas Sully: Suffer the Little Children, 1850
National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
(After seeing this post, a friend, Tricia Dykers Koenig,
wrote to say that her great great great great uncle was this artist,
who also painted the portrait of Andrew Jackson that's on the $20 bill!)

What Is the Mark of Greatness When You Die?

What is the mark of greatness when you die?
Is how you've lived the way to death deny?
When Jesus broached predictions of his death,
Then his disciples almost held their breaths,
While wond'ring, if they, too, should be done in,
What might be said of them by kith and kin?
So Jesus took upon his lap a child,
And said, "Just live with trust like this."
And smiled.

Scott L. Barton

They went on from there and passed through Galilee. He did not want anyone to know it; for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, “The Son of Man is to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and three days after being killed, he will rise again.” But they did not understand what he was saying and were afraid to ask him.

Then they came to Capernaum; and when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the way?” But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another who was the greatest. He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.” Then he took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.”

Friday, September 4, 2015

Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time (B), September 13, 2015 - Mark 8:27-38

Marc Chagall: White Crucifixion (1938),
Art Institute of Chicago

I Am Not Sure I Want to Hear

I am not sure I want to hear
This word about a cross so dear
To Jesus' very heart and soul
He says that it should be my goal.
He says, behind him I should get,
Which means to follow him; and yet
I have too much to do, to give
My life, as if it's true he lives.

How can it be, when life's so brief,
And filled with heartache, pain and grief,
The Lord would still invite me where
He goes? I wish he'd not compare
His life to how I'd rather keep
All things, including those who sleep.
And yet, if I can lose my grip,
Perhaps his life might me equip.

Who do I say this Jesus is?
Can I by love show I am his?

Scott L. Barton

Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” And they answered him, “John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” He asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Messiah.” And he sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him.

Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”

He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time (B), September 6, 2015 - Mark 7:24-37

Jesus exorcising the Canaanite Woman's daughter,
from Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry,
15th century, Musée Condé, Chantilly, France

(This poem could be useful in its entirety; or, I think the first main section can stand alone.)

It Is Not Fair

It is not fair, the good Lord said,
That dogs would get the children's bread;
The woman, very wise, replied,
Dogs on the children's crumbs rely.
Perhaps the Lord re-thought his plan;
More likely, though, this Jewish man
Provoked her, standing there, to think
That no! She was not out of synch
With God's great love for humankind.
And now, I am much more inclined
To think the Lord knew all along
She had to - for herself - see wrong
In categories we devise
That keep God's love for all disguised.

It isn't fair when things go wrong,
I mutter in some language strong
To God and to the midnight sky;
And angry, ask a constant "Why?"
About a loved one who has died,
Where suddenly I cry and cry;
Or one more shooting bringing grief,
From which we all yearn for relief;
Or why we have such race divides,
Where fear of other still misguides;
Atrocities of war so stick
Inside my craw, they make me sick;
Imagining my death, I rage,
That I will have to turn life's page.

Someday I'll learn life's not possessed,
But see it's given, and be blessed.

Scott L. Barton

From there he set out and went away to the region of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know he was there. Yet he could not escape notice, but a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately heard about him, and she came and bowed down at his feet. Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin. She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. He said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” But she answered him, “Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” Then he said to her, “For saying that, you may go—the demon has left your daughter.” So she went home, found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.

Then he returned from the region of Tyre, and went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. They brought to him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they begged him to lay his hand on him. He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue. Then looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” And immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. Then Jesus ordered them to tell no one; but the more he ordered them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. They were astounded beyond measure, saying, “He has done everything well; he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.”

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Poem #2 for the Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time (B), August 30, 2015 - Song of Solomon 2:8-13. See also Ruth.

This poem by Thomas John Carlisle (1913-1992), which inspired a line in my poem (#1, below), deserves to be more known.  In addition, Arthur Frackenpohl (b. 1924) of Potsdam, New York wrote an anthem using this poem that you can obtain from Shawnee Press. 
Hear it here:

Rise Up, My Love, My Fair One
(Boaz' Song to Ruth)

Rise up, my love, my fair one. Come away.
The winter of my witlessness is past.
My concentration on the harvest may
have made me heedless but I see at last.
The mist that filmed my mind is over, gone.
The fairest of flowers appears and it is you.
The singing in my heart has me undone
and I am glad and now know what to do.
The figs have ripened. Vines are in full bloom.
Their fruit and fragrance are as naught to all
your luxury which floods away my gloom
and makes me more than eager for your call.
Arise, my love, my fair one. Come away.
This day of days shall be our wedding day.

Thomas John Carlisle
Eve and After: Old Testament Women in Portrait (Eerdmans, 1984)