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Dear Friends,

 

I do not think that it is very helpful nor fruitful to try and get into the emotional life of the Jesus character in the Gospel stories. We are not reading biographies, so what Jesus “felt’ or “thought” not the point. The point is to try and take these texts seriously but not literally.

 

The Gospel writers are not writing about the Jesus character they are writing to try and communicate to us what the historical Jesus taught and they are doing this long after the historical Jesus died and, consequently, long after most of his actual words were lost but their effects lived on in the apostles and disciples.

 

They created stories to carry that teaching, each Gospel writer created characters to carry those truths that is what makes the Bible God’s inspired word.

 

That is hard to get our heads around I know and that is why it is tough these days to make faith in Christ workable and why institutional Christianity including Catholicism is fading from importance in the way we actually live our lives.

 

We don’t read the stories and we don’t tell the stories we extrapolate ideas and stick with those.

 

Now, this week’s Gospel story is at hand and my initial thoughts were to get into the idea that Jesus is having a bad time of it, he is frustrated and tired and arguing with the Pharisees and he goes on a rant but that is not what Luke wants to teach us or have us know.

 

Belonging is so important to us, we want to feel a part of something, we want to be identified as someone in relationship and for most of us that is the way that it works in the beginning, but it doesn’t last, does it?

 

I digress here for a bit, but I think it is important. The early Christian community became conscious of the great number of widows and orphans that were the results of early deaths from disease, illness, and accidents but, also, the large number of deaths, especially males, that were the results of warfare and the collateral damage from war.

 

A few Sunday’s ago, and a few verses back we heard Jesus describe in graphic detail the need to take care of our neighbors in that parable we call, the good Samaritan.

 

In an effort to put into practice the love of neighbor that Jesus had taught was equal with love of God and self these early believers responded to this real and present need and one of the first visible differences that Christianity made was bringing these orphaned children and widows into the Christian community where they were cared for with the same love and concern that was shown to family members.

 

This isn’t necessarily the point of this Sunday’s Gospel story, but it is related.

 

If you notice the division that Jesus wants to bring is generational not toward siblings and not just generic. It goes between generations, fathers/sons, mothers/daughters, mothers in law/daughters in law, with an emphasis on the child bearers who give birth to the future.

 

A few verses back Jesus describes the leadership of the Jews of his time in Jerusalem as “an evil generation” and he retells the story in brief of the fall of the first temple and the fact that the leadership then was guilty of apostasy and for the shedding of innocent blood and that blood falls on the leadership now which remains hard hearted and blood thirsty with their insistence on sacrificing animals to make God happy.

 

I do not think Jesus foresaw that he would be establishing a new religion. I think he was trying to reform the Jewish religion of his day. The religion of his day had become obsessed with sin and the offering of animal sacrifices for sin, as I have said before.

 

The whole thing revolved around Temple sacrifice. Everything else was unimportant. Forgiveness, love, repentance, hospitality all unimportant.

 

I think that Jesus understood and believed that everything God saw “as good” in the Genesis story was still around and the task of those who followed Moses and the rest of the prophets was to try and see everything “as good” as God had, most especially themselves.

 

A major obstacle to seeing yourself as “God’s good” is fear, doubt, anxiety, sickness, and, of course, death and the greatest of these is death. People a lot smarter than me will tell you that death and the fear of death is a tyrannical force in our conscious but most especially our unconscious minds that causes us to hoard, be envious, and do violence in mind, heart, and deed.

 

Death drives our bus once we get out from under the protective wings of our parents, life gets tough and we either get tougher or we get left behind or so the story goes.

 

The fire that Jesus talks about setting on the earth makes it’s appearance toward the end of the Gospel of Luke when after the death of Jesus when he seemed to be just like everyone else and the whole thing falls apart with him in the grave like everyone else, two of the disciples are leaving Jerusalem making their way, we are told, to a village called Emmaus.

 

Jesus draws near, although they do not realize that it is Jesus and as the story goes, these two get the unrecognized Jesus (not a zombie or resuscitated body, obviously) to stay and eat with them.

 

The unrecognized Jesus takes the bread, says the blessing and vanishes from their sight and they say, “Were not our hearts burning within us as we listened to him on the way.”

 

What else would you expect Christ to set fire to but our hearts?

 

So, you can go the way of thinking that Christianity/Catholicism is supposed to be this counter cultural force judging people, often, with violent repercussions, as we have done so well in the Crusades, the Inquisitions, the excommunications, the exclusions of females, the burnings of witches, and so many other terrible things or you can think about death and resurrection and when your heart burns within you.

 

I prefer to think that I do not know as much about the resurrection as I would like to know and that I can learn more about it by attending to my heart and not so much my head and that what Jesus was talking about when he talked about fire and his baptism and spreading that fire on the earth was a love that gets us through death to life as the ultimate pattern of all that is and that when our hearts are broken there is room for a fire and that fire isn’t magic but always real.

 

The dualistic world that we have created with a “heaven” that mirrors the “earth” is not supportable with any guidance from the New Testament. I know that we want that “heaven” to be “up” there, but it isn’t.

 

I know we want reunions and all that sort of thing, but that kind of thinking is more from Baroque architecture than the Bible.

 

You have to think about this kind of stuff, don’t believe everything somebody tells you. Trust your burning broken heart to the God who did not abandon Jesus but raised him up.

 

Peace,

Father Niblick