Saturday, May 23, 2015

He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters


 And He was casting out a demon, and it was mute.  So it was, when the demon had gone out, that the mute spoke; and the multitudes marveled.  But some of them said, "He casts out demons by Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons."  Others, testing Him, sought from Him a sign from heaven.  But He, knowing their thoughts, said to them:  "Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and a house divided against a house falls.  If Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand?  Because you say I cast out demons by Beelzebub.  And if I cast out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your sons cast them out?  Therefore they will be your judges.  But if I cast out demons with the finger of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you.  When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are in peace.  But when a stronger than he comes upon him and overcomes him, he takes from him all his armor in which he trusted, and divides his spoils.  He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters."

- Luke 11:14-23

Yesterday we read that, as Jesus and the disciples went toward Jerusalem, He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house.  And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus' feet and heard His word.  But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, "Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone?  Therefore tell her to help me."  And Jesus answered and said to her, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things.  But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her."  

 And He was casting out a demon, and it was mute.  So it was, when the demon had gone out, that the mute spoke; and the multitudes marveled.  But some of them said, "He casts out demons by Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons."  We should understand that between yesterday's and today's reading, there is a passage given to us last week by the lectionary.  See Our Father in heaven, in which Jesus gives the Lord's Prayer in response to a request by the disciples to be taught to pray.  About these verses, my study bible notes that "Beelzebub" was a deliberate corruption of the name of a foreign god, meaning "the Lord of the flies" as derided by the Jews.  Here it is a direct reference to Satan.

Others, testing Him, sought from Him a sign from heaven.   Often we read that people seek to test Jesus by asking for a sign.  Signs are never given on demand, and those signs that we do read about in the Gospels are never "proofs" for faith but rather the product of faith, signs that the Kingdom is, indeed, present.  My study bible says that a sign is never given to those whose motive is merely to test (see 4:9-12).

But He, knowing their thoughts, said to them:  "Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and a house divided against a house falls.  If Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand?  Because you say I cast out demons by Beelzebub.  And if I cast out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your sons cast them out?  Therefore they will be your judges.  But if I cast out demons with the finger of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you."  The finger of God is another term for the Holy Spirit (see Matthew 12:28).   Jesus speaks rationally here, very logically.  He shows them the error in their thinking and accusations against them.  How do the Jews, therefore, practice exorcisms, He asks, by which power?  Those who do so will judge His accusers.  But if Christ works by the finger of God (that is, the Spirit), then they had better think about what that means about the presence of the Kingdom!

"When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are in peace.  But when a stronger than he comes upon him and overcomes him, he takes from him all his armor in which he trusted, and divides his spoils."  Here is a real battle of power.  My study bible says that the strong man is Satan (also sometimes called the ruler or prince of this world, who "holds sway over the fallen human race," while the stronger is Christ (see 1 John 4:4).

"He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters."  My study bible says that it is the work of Christ to gather the children of God, while those who scatter are in direct opposition to Him.  Importantly, it points out that who work in opposition to Christ are different from those who work in good faith toward His purpose but aren't yet united to the Church (see 9:46-50). 

 To my mind, Jesus' final statement here is a statement of great power, and of authority.  That is, He's the ultimate ruler, the ultimate authority, and thus it is natural that "He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters."  Christ as Lord of the Universe is above all; what is done in His name or for the love of Him is something imbued with power by the nature of His authority.  But we really have to remember what it means to love Christ.  To love Him is to follow His commands, His teachings. It's not enough to say that we are called Christian or that we belong to the Church.  What Christ has repeatedly iterated was the power of real love, loving God and loving doing God's works of charity and mercy, growing to be more "like Him."  This sort of faith, this trust and love of Christ, is what builds up the Kingdom in the world, and it is what makes that power so strong that it prevails over everything.  When we are united to that true power of the universe, this God who is love and who brings life in abundance, then we act in His will, in accordance with the Spirit that has been sent to us, and that is what truly gathers.  It's often said that God works in mysterious ways.  We can quote from Isaiah who has written:  "Truly You are God, who hide Yourself, O God of Israel, the Savior!" (Isaiah 45:15 NKJV).  That is, we may not see it as a sign or proof that works to convince the faithless, but in the end we may observe this power at work in our lives, in times of great conflict and difficult decision, even in ways that don't seem like an obvious victory, such as martyrdom.  The crucifixion of Christ is one obvious example of this!  For Christians, it is a triumph over death, an instrument of the most profound possible transcendence; for others, a stumbling block and foolishness.   Let us remember the faith we put into God's love, into His commands of love and mercy, and the great authority -- the highest power in the universe -- which we follow.  His commands are those that exalt humility, and yet His authority is absolute.


Friday, May 22, 2015

You are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her


 Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house.  And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus' feet and heard His word.  But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, "Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone?  Therefore tell her to help me."  And Jesus answered and said to her, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things.  But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her." 

- Luke 10:38-42

Yesterday we read that a certain lawyer stood up and tested Jesus, saying, "Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?"  He said to him, "What is written in the law?  What is your reading of it?"  So he answered and said, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,' and 'your neighbor as yourself.'"   And He said to him, "You have answered rightly; do this and you will live."  But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?"  Then Jesus answered and said:  "A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.  Now by chance a certain priest came down that road.  And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.  Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side.  But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was.  And when he saw him, he had compassion.  So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him.  On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, 'Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.'  So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?"  And he said, "He who showed mercy on him."  Then Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise."

 Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house.  And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus' feet and heard His word.  But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, "Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone?  Therefore tell her to help me."  And Jesus answered and said to her, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things.  But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her."   My study bible notes on this passage that Mary and Martha are sisters of Lazarus, the one whom Jesus raised from the dead (see John 11:1).  It says that Martha isn't rebuked for serving, bu rather for complaining and for being distracted, worried, and troubled.  It says, "In following Christ, we serve in order to facilitate the spread of the gospel (see Acts 6:1-4)."

It seems to me that this story in today's reading is a kind of "female" counterpart to Jesus' teachings on anxiety and unnecessary worry.  Perhaps we could say that, in fact, this reading is an "introduction" to such teachings, as His comments, "Consider the ravens . . . " come in the chapter after the next one.  We've already read that reading, however, as the lectionary schedule prepared us for Ascension day.  Here, Martha is in her role as the one in charge of hospitality, a character trait carried over into the stories that involve Martha elsewhere (specifically, the 11th chapter of John, in which Lazarus is raised from the dead).  But perhaps we can look at this reading as something "sandwiched" in between the appointing and sending out of the Seventy and the teachings on avoidance of unnecessary anxiety and worry.  Martha is playing her particular role in the grand scheme of things, the one who does the necessary job of providing hospitality.  Hospitality is a form of grace and mercy, of truly being a "neighbor."  Her sister, Mary, is the more "contemplative" one (if we may put it that way) and she sits at Jesus' feet.  She's playing her role as well.  In the story of Lazarus, it's Martha who comes out to meet Jesus as He approaches on the road, while Mary remains in the house sitting in the traditional position for mourning.  We assume that each of the Seventy sent out, as images of all those who will follow in serving to build the gospel message in the world, has a unique role to play, just as do Martha and Mary.  So the message here is about how to fulfill one's particular role, to use one's particular talents and skills.  Each one of us is unique in that sense, and so each one will bring a particular set of skills and talents into God's service.  The message here, as my study bible pointed out, is about the anxiety that goes with it.  We each have our own role to play, and as Jesus points out, Mary is playing hers, and she's chosen "that good part, which will not be taken away from her."   This is what is necessary for her.   Yesterday's reading was about being a neighbor to others, how we act that makes us neighbors, and we can also see some instruction in today's reading that is relevant to this consideration.  If each has a role to play, how do we keep from being distracted by wanting what someone else has, envying another "part" -- and acting in competition rather than, in a sense, complementarily?   That is, in a way that enhances one another's parts.  Again, one imagines that in the great scheme of things, each one has a role to play in the bringing of the Kingdom into the world, the gospel message.  Such is the illustration of the Seventy, and the stories we know about them from Church Tradition (see The kingdom of God has come near you).   So, Jesus' teaching against anxiety and complaints to Martha here is also a way of counseling that each has "that good part."  One size does not fit all.  It's a similar reminder to the one that comes at the end of John's Gospel, when, after being told to "Feed my lambs" and "Follow Me," Peter asks Jesus what John ("the disciple whom Jesus loved") must do.  Jesus answers him, "If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you? You follow Me."  Again, there is a cosmic sense in which we are to play our own role, rather than being so concerned with what others must be doing.  All of this comes under the category of worry and strife, anxiety that is unnecessary and distracting from our own purpose or passion.  This is a story -- in today's reading -- that I feel many women can still relate to.  Let us understand the essential nature of each of our roles.


Thursday, May 21, 2015

Go and do likewise


 And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him, saying, "Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?"  He said to him, "What is written in the law?  What is your reading of it?"  So he answered and said, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,' and 'your neighbor as yourself.'"   And He said to him, "You have answered rightly; do this and you will live."

But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?"  Then Jesus answered and said:  "A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.  Now by chance a certain priest came down that road.  And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.  Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side.  But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was.  And when he saw him, he had compassion.  So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him.  On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, 'Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.'  So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?"  And he said, "He who showed mercy on him."  Then Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise."

- Luke 10:25-37

Yesterday, we read that the seventy apostles sent out by Jesus returned with joy, saying, "Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name."  And He said to them, "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.  Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you.  Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven."  In that hour Jesus rejoiced in the Spirit and said, "I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and revealed them to babes.  Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight.  All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him."  Then He turned to His disciples and said privately, "Blessed are the eyes which see the things you see; for I tell you that many prophets and kings have desired to see what you see, and have not seen it, and to hear what you hear, and have not heard it."

 And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him, saying, "Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?"  He said to him, "What is written in the law?  What is your reading of it?"  So he answered and said, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,' and 'your neighbor as yourself.'"   And He said to him, "You have answered rightly; do this and you will live."    The lawyer cites quotations from Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18.  It's important that Jesus tells him, "Do this and you will live."  It helps us to understand something essential about the rest of our reading, about the power of our own choices and elective decisions.  We note that these choices are centered around the love of God, which must naturally extend to love of neighbor.

But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?"  Then Jesus answered and said:  "A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead."  My study bible tells us that Jerusalem is the place of peace, symbolic of communion with God.  But Jericho, on the other hand, was infamous as a place of sin (see 19:1).  To fall among thieves speaks of the natural consequence of journeying away from God and toward a life of sin (see John 10:10).

"Now by chance a certain priest came down that road.  And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.  Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side."  My study bible explains that titles and positions are meaningless in God's sight when good deeds don't accompany them.  It quotes Cyril of Alexandria, who says, "The dignity of the priesthood means nothing unless he also excels in deeds."  It adds that the failure of the priest and Levite to help the man indicates the failure of the Old Testament Law to heal the consequences of sin.

"But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was.  And when he saw him, he had compassion."   On the other hand, here we have a despised foreigner, who is an image of Christ (John 8:48), for, as my study bible notes, He "came down from heaven" (Creed) to save even those who were in rebellion against Him.  Again, there is the emphasis on the elective choice one makes.

So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him.  On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, 'Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.'"   My study bible says that the bandages, oil, and wine are all sacramental images.  Bandages reflect the garment of baptism, which delivers us from the wounds of sin.  The oil teaches us about the oil of chrismation, giving new life in the Holy Spirit.  The communion of the divine blood -- symbolized by the wine -- leads to eternal life.  "His own animal" indicates Christ who bears our sins in His own body, and the inn is a reflection of the Church in which Christ's care is received.  My study bible notes, "He pays the price for that care (1 Corinthians 6:20; 7:23)."  We note once again the voluntary, elective nature of this care, this aid.

"So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?"  And he said, "He who showed mercy on him."  Then Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise."  Go and do likewise.  This is a command given by Christ.  It's a command not to ask, "Who is my neighbor?" but rather to act as a neighbor, to be a neighbor oneself.  We can't help but to continually reference the elective and voluntary nature of this command, of our following of these commands.  To love God with one's heart and soul and strength and mind isn't something born merely from having been baptized, or going through the sacraments of the Church, or any of the other things that are done to us.  This is something we choose.  In some sense, it is truly a response to God's love, but we have to note the emphasis here on our own choices, our own elective capacities.  Nobody is left out of this command -- not a Samaritan, nor a Jew, nor anybody else.  Nobody is left out of the capacity to follow this command.  Nor does Jesus show any requirement in this story for any pre-condition to loving God.  This applies to anyone, anywhere, to the best of one's own capacity and understanding for doing so.  The same goes for the second command cited by the lawyer, to love neighbor as oneself.  But then we get down to the question, "Who is my neighbor?" and Jesus answers that with a story that uncovers the voluntary nature of His response to the question:  We don't ask, "Who is my neighbor?"  Instead, He compels us to ask how we can be a neighbor, act as a neighbor, and He gives a response that teaches what it is to be a neighbor.  And what is it, really, that makes a neighbor?  Following the real commands here:  loving God with all one's heart and soul and strength and mind, and loving neighbor as oneself.  We don't choose who our neighbors are except to choose to be neighbors ourselves, and thus we answer the question, "Who is my neighbor?"  All of this is elective, voluntary.  It doesn't depend on who the person is who passes by on the other side, or where these people are, or what anybody already has as a personal affiliation.  What matters is the choice of the heart, the elective power of the moment.  If you choose to be a neighbor, it follows that both the actor and the recipient of this choice are "neighbors."  I think it's important that this story comes in Luke just after Jesus appoints and sends out the seventy apostles (this is after the first mission of the Twelve), because after the return of the Seventy from a successful mission, He rejoices that God has revealed so many things to "babes."  In this vein, too, we can see the elective nature of the reality of the Kingdom of God.  Their participation as apostles has nothing to do with a kind of worldly sense of preparation or qualification; this is what is indicated by the word "babes" Jesus uses.  Everything is focused and centered on the love of God and the willingness to serve God in the love of neighbor; all other things come from these two central commands.  Whatever Jesus teaches expands this, and His teachings center in love.  Here, in today's reading, the lawyer is given a command -- and of course, it's an inferred command to all of us -- "Go and do likewise."  In John's Gospel, at the Last Supper, He adds another command, "Love one another as I have loved you."  Both are commands that expand upon the earlier ones, and particularly in the direct of the practice of active love.  Let us consider, then, what the obstacles are to following His commands.  There are none.  There are no requirements here that one has to be baptized first.  There are no requirements here that one has to be a Jew or another category of person.  There is just the requirement to be the person one is called to be, in the love of God and love of neighbor, in the practice of that love, in our understanding of how we practice that love.  Let us consider the nature of the heart, the true inside of a person, our own inner reality, and all the emphasis that Jesus continually puts on that.  "Go and do likewise."  Let us show mercy; let us be "like God."  This is where our identity lies.







Wednesday, May 20, 2015

I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and revealed them to babes


 Then the seventy returned with joy, saying, "Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name."  And He said to them, "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.  Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you.  Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven."

In that hour Jesus rejoiced in the Spirit and said, "I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and revealed them to babes.  Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight.  All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him."

Then He turned to His disciples and said privately, "Blessed are the eyes which see the things you see; for I tell you that many prophets and kings have desired to see what you see, and have not seen it, and to hear what you hear, and have not heard it."

- Luke 10:17-24

Yesterday, we read that Jesus appointed seventy other apostles also, and sent them two by two before His face into every city and place where He Himself was about to go.  Then He said to them, "The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few; therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.  Go your way; behold, I send you out as lambs among wolves.  Carry neither money bag, knapsack, nor sandals; and greet no one along the road.  But whatever house you enter, first say, 'Peace to this house.'  And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest on it; if not, it will return to you.  And remain in the same house, eating and drinking such things as they give, for the laborer is worthy of his wages.  Do not go from house to house.  Whatever city you enter, and they receive you, eat such things as are set before you.  And heal the sick there, and say to them, 'The kingdom of God has come near to you.'   But whatever city you enter, and they do not receive you, go out into its streets and say, 'The very dust of your city which clings to us we wipe off against you.  Nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near you.'  But I say to you that it will be more tolerable in that Day for Sodom than for that city.  "Woe to you, Chorazin!  Woe to you, Bethsaida!  For if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes.  But it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment than for you.  And you, Capernaum, who are exalted to heaven, will be brought down to Hades.  He who hears you hears Me, he who rejects you rejects Me, and he who rejects Me rejects Him who sent Me."  Then the seventy returned with joy, saying, "Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name."

 Then the seventy returned with joy, saying, "Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name."  And He said to them, "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.  Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you.  Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven."  My study bible tells us that "I saw Satan fall" describes an event that took place before the creation of the world.  It says that five times Satan set his will against God (Isaiah 14:12-15; see also Revelation 12:7-12).  To trample on serpents and scorpions is a figurative allusion to devils and demons.  But the greatest gift of all is to be part of the kingdom of heaven, of service to the gospel of the kingdom.

In that hour Jesus rejoiced in the Spirit and said, "I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and revealed them to babes.  Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight.  All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him."    My study bible tells us that "babes" here, as referred to by Jesus, are people of simple faith and open hearts (see Luke 18:15-17).  There is a command here in revelation, in the things given or revealed to people; those here referred to as babes are the open-minded, the ones who can receive, to whom the Son has chosen to reveal the Father.

Then He turned to His disciples and said privately, "Blessed are the eyes which see the things you see; for I tell you that many prophets and kings have desired to see what you see, and have not seen it, and to hear what you hear, and have not heard it."    Jesus emphasizes not only the astonishing nature of the revelations given to these men, but also how precious they are. 

I wonder, sometimes, if we can understand just how precious this gift is that we are given.  It is the gift and blessing of the kingdom, the capacity to participate in the kingdom of heaven, to have the Father revealed to us through the Son.  Here, Jesus emphasizes the unique and precious, priceless quality of this gift of revelation -- this blessing given to these "babes," little children without formal learning and education.  It seems that we take so much for granted, that so much that has been revealed as reported in the Gospels has become not only the things we know and count on, the familiar, but even the sadly discarded and unvalued.  It's a strange thing to consider Jesus' words in the Gospels, this great and powerful revelation of the kingdom, and the obviously exalted value placed upon our capacity to enter into the kingdom by Jesus, and to share in its mysteries -- and at the same time to think that somehow in today's world there is so much that just slips by us, all too familiar, or perhaps even discarded and unknown to so many.   It's tempting to take so much for granted.  The world offers so much, there is so much distraction, entertainment, shocking daily news, free invitation to be involved with so many things -- the power of the gospel may get shuffled under so many other things with which we busy ourselves in life, so many ways in which there are so many other things to think about or to consider or be involved with in our day to day lives.  It puts one in mind of the parable of the Sower, and Jesus' illustration of what it is for the seed of the word to fall among thorns, which choke the seed with "cares, riches, and pleasures of life" and so prevent spiritual fruition.   We are, so many of us, in such a place, choked with all the distractions that the world offers us -- and there are so many, and in such abundance.  It makes one reflect that perhaps we are now so surrounded by so many "thorns."  But this is why it is essential that we remember to stay centered and renew ourselves in prayer. Prayer has a way (and this is particularly so in the practice of contemplative prayer, such as the Jesus prayer practice) of refocusing and renewing, rendering us in a place where we have a chance to recollect who we are, as did the Prodigal Son when he "came to himself."  It's important that we remember who we are by remembering God, and refreshing ourselves in prayer that gives us renewed energy, centered in the power of the gospel message, the freedom that lives in Jesus Christ.  This is a freedom from the thorns, a freedom to choose, and to remember who we are and what we must be about, the things that give life meaning beyond what we chase or what distracts us, and the delusions we follow that give ourselves an idea of self that is temporary, transient, and often empty.  Our reliance is on God in this centered place, where we can encounter what we truly value, the rock we hold onto, and that supports and sustains when the more worldly things let us down, such as the "praise of men" we may come to rely on without this great value of the gospel that teaches us where and who we truly are in the sight of the One who knows that we are precious enough to reveal a Kingdom to, even if we are just "babes."


Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The kingdom of God has come near you


After these things the Lord appointed seventy others also, and sent them two by two before His face into every city and place where He Himself was about to go.  Then He said to them, "The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few; therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.  Go your way; behold, I send you out as lambs among wolves.  Carry neither money bag, knapsack, nor sandals; and greet no one along the road.  But whatever house you enter, first say, 'Peace to this house.'  And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest on it; if not, it will return to you.  And remain in the same house, eating and drinking such things as they give, for the laborer is worthy of his wages.  Do not go from house to house.  Whatever city you enter, and they receive you, eat such things as are set before you.  And heal the sick there, and say to them, 'The kingdom of God has come near to you.'   But whatever city you enter, and they do not receive you, go out into its streets and say, 'The very dust of your city which clings to us we wipe off against you.  Nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near you.'  But I say to you that it will be more tolerable in that Day for Sodom than for that city.

"Woe to you, Chorazin!  Woe to you, Bethsaida!  For if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes.  But it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment than for you.  And you, Capernaum, who are exalted to heaven, will be brought down to Hades.  He who hears you hears Me, he who rejects you rejects Me, and he who rejects Me rejects Him who sent Me." 

Then the seventy returned with joy, saying, "Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name."

- Luke 10:1-17

Yesterday, we read that when the time had come for Him to be received up, that He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem, and sent messengers before His face.  And as they went, they entered a village of the Samaritans, to prepare for Him.  But they did not receive Him, because His face was set for the journey to Jerusalem.  And when His disciples James and John saw this, they said, "Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, just as Elijah did?"  But He turned and rebuked them, and said, "You do not know what manner of spirit you are of.  For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men's lives but to save them."  And they went to another village.
Now it happened as they journeyed on the road, that someone said to Him, "Lord, I will follow You wherever You go."  And Jesus said to him, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head."  Then He said to another, "Follow Me."  But he said, "Lord, let me first go and bury my father."  Jesus said to him, "Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God."  And another also said, "Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house."  But Jesus said to him, "No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God."
 After these things the Lord appointed seventy others also, and sent them two by two before His face into every city and place where He Himself was about to go.   We recall that Jesus has steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem; that is, He has determined He will go toward His Passion.  The time has come for the gospel message to go everywhere before Him as He makes His final journey toward Jerusalem.  These seventy are sent out as missionaries, like the first twelve apostles.  My study bible notes that although they weren't as prominent as the Twelve, the Seventy carried out their missions with fervor and enthusiasm.  In the Tradition of the Church, the Seventy remained true to Christ and to their calling, playing an essential role in spreading the gospel not just to these cities Christ was to pass through, but out into the wider world as well.  Several of them are named elsewhere in the New Testament, in the Book of Acts and the letters of Paul.  All of them are remembered by the Church.

Then He said to them, "The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few; therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest."  My study bible notes that we are to prayer not only for the harvest of converts to Christ, but also for the laborers who will reach to them.  This has gone past the "tipping point" of Jesus' mission; He's on His way steadfastly toward Jerusalem, and His speech begins to reflect notions of judgment.

"Go your way; behold, I send you out as lambs among wolves."  My study bible tells us that Jesus' characterization of these apostles as lambs suggests the sacrificial life of the apostles and all followers of Christ, a subject touched upon in yesterday's reading (above), but made much more explicit and vivid here.  It says, "The wolves are those who seek to frighten and devour those who follow the Lord (John 15:18)."

"Carry neither money bag, knapsack, nor sandals; and greet no one along the road.  But whatever house you enter, first say, 'Peace to this house.'  And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest on it; if not, it will return to you.  And remain in the same house, eating and drinking such things as they give, for the laborer is worthy of his wages.  Do not go from house to house.  Whatever city you enter, and they receive you, eat such things as are set before you."  Once again we note the great emphasis on bearing themselves with complete humility.  My study bible points out the emphasis of Christ on eating whatever is offered to them; Chris commands twice that they do so.  A note informs us that there is twofold significance to this:  first, they must be content with whatever is offered, even if the food is "little and simple;"  and second, "the gracious reception of others' hospitality takes precedence over personal fasting or dietary disciplines."  Fasting may be a helpful religious practice, especially as part of a monastic rule, but the law of God demands charity.  St. Cassian, a famous Desert Father, would relax fasting practice whenever the monastery had a guest.  When asked why, his response reflected the words of Christ in defending the "feasting" of His disciples:  "Fasting is always with me, but you I cannot always have with me."  "In this way," says my study bible, "the ascetics would obey Christ's command here and His command that we not 'appear to men to be fasting' (Matthew 6:18; see also Romans 14:2-6; 1 Corinthians 10:27; Hebrews 13:2)."   The rules set down by Christ are similar to those given to the Twelve:  they're not to "trade up" for better lodging, they conduct themselves with humility, the emphasis is on peace, and judgment comes from the hands of God.

"And heal the sick there, and say to them, 'The kingdom of God has come near to you.'  But whatever city you enter, and they do not receive you, go out into its streets and say, 'The very dust of your city which clings to us we wipe off against you.  Nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near you.'  But I say to you that it will be more tolerable in that Day for Sodom than for that city."   My study bible notes the emphasis:  the gospel message isn't just that there is a Kingdom in the future, but rather that this kingdom of God has come near.

"Woe to you, Chorazin!  Woe to you, Bethsaida!  For if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes.  But it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment than for you.  And you, Capernaum, who are exalted to heaven, will be brought down to Hades.  He who hears you hears Me, he who rejects you rejects Me, and he who rejects Me rejects Him who sent Me."   My study bible suggest that judgment is severe for those who reject Christ after they have experienced His grace.  "In contrast," it says, "those who have never known Christ due to genuine ignorance are without sin in that regard (John 15:22-24), and are instead judged by their God-given conscience (Romans 2:12-16)."

Then the seventy returned with joy, saying, "Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name."  This is an affirmation that, indeed, the kingdom of God is present with them, carried with them as part of the gospel message.

My study bible gives us examples from the Seventy.  One of them was Barnabas.  He was a Jew of the tribe of Levi, born in Cyprus to wealthy parents.  He is said to have studied with Saul of Tarsus (later called Paul the apostle) under the great rabbi Gamaliel.  He was originally named Joseph, but was called Barnabas ("Son of Consolation") by the apostles (Acts 4:36) because he had the great gift of comforting the hearts of other people.  My study bible tells us that "he sought out Paul when everyone else was afraid of him, bringing him to the apostles."  Barnabas was the one first sent to Antioch with Paul.   Many ancient accounts claim that Barnabas was the first to preach in Rome and Milan.  He was martyred in Cyprus, and buried by his cousin Mark at western gate of the city of Salamis.  Also among the Seventy was the apostle Titus, called by Paul both "brother" (2 Corinthians 12:18) and "son" (Titus 1:4).  Titus was born in Crete, educated in Greek philosophy, but after reading the prophet Isaiah began to doubt the value of his earlier training.  Hearing about Jesus, he joined others from Crete who were going to Jerusalem to see for themselves.  He heard Jesus speak and saw His works, and joined Jesus' followers.  My study bible says, "Baptized by the apostle Paul, he worked with and served the great apostle to the Gentiles, traveling with him until Paul sent him to Crete, making him bishop.  It's said that he was in Rome at the time Paul was beheaded and buried the body of his spiritual father before returning home.  In Crete, he baptized many people and governed the Church on that island until he entered into rest a ninety-four.   There are other examples of the Seventy mentioned in Scripture, but we can get an idea from these two mentioned of the great power of the gospel, how people are drawn to it, and those from all walks of life become members of its evangelizing force.  Each of these individuals was called, one way and another, through their lives of great training and talent, all of it being used as befits the gospel, the spread of the message, the power of the whole of the Church.  In these two examples we see powerfully educated persons, Barnabas and Titus, one educated by the great Gamaliel in the fullness of the Jewish tradition, and the other in the splendor of classical Greek culture, philosophy, mathematics, and science.  Each contributed to the gospel message, bringing all their talents, time, and faith to use by Christ in the service of His Church.  And the same is true for each one of us, each of our lives.  It doesn't matter where we come from or what our talents are, what we've already been trained for, even the ways of thinking we've adapted from our own native homes and cultures.  All  of it, when we're called, can be used in the service of Christ and of His Church.  But that's not really up to us, it's up to the work of the Spirit, how we're called.  Each one comes in his or her own way, but all are called to serve, each in unique capacity, in all our diversity.    In this way, the kingdom of God is always near; we bring all that we have to its service, we bear it with us toward others.




Monday, May 18, 2015

You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men's lives but to save them


Now it came to pass, when the time had come for Him to be received up, that He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem, and sent messengers before His face.  And as they went, they entered a village of the Samaritans, to prepare for Him.  But they did not receive Him, because His face was set for the journey to Jerusalem.  And when His disciples James and John saw this, they said, "Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, just as Elijah did?"  But He turned and rebuked them, and said, "You do not know what manner of spirit you are of.  For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men's lives but to save them."  And they went to another village.

Now it happened as they journeyed on the road, that someone said to Him, "Lord, I will follow You wherever You go."  And Jesus said to him, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head."  Then He said to another, "Follow Me."  But he said, "Lord, let me first go and bury my father."  Jesus said to him, "Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God."  And another also said, "Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house."  But Jesus said to him, "No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God."

- Luke 9:51-62

On Saturday, we read that it happened on the next day, when they had come down from the mountain (of the Transfiguration), that a great multitude met Him.  Suddenly a man from the multitude cried out, saying, "Teacher, I implore You, look on my son, for he is my only child.  And behold, a spirit seizes him, and he suddenly cries out; it convulses him so that he foams at the mouth; and it departs from him with great difficulty, bruising him.  So I implored Your disciples to cast it out, but they could not."  Then Jesus answered and said, "O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you and bear with you?  Bring your son here."  And as he was still coming, the demon threw him down and convulsed him.  Then Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, healed the child, and gave him back to his father.  And they were all amazed at the majesty of God.  But while everyone marveled at all the things which Jesus did, He said to His disciples, "Let these words sink down into your ears, for the Son of Man is about to be betrayed into the hands of men."  But they did not understand this saying, and it was hidden from them so that they did not perceive it; and they were afraid to ask Him about this saying. Then a dispute arose among them as to which of them would be greatest.  And Jesus, perceiving the thought of their heart, took a little child and set him by Him, and said to them, "Whoever receives this little child in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me receives Him who sent Me.  For he who is least among you all will be great."  Now John answered and said, "Master, we saw someone casting out demons in Your name, and we forbade him because he does not follow with us."  But Jesus said to him, "Do not forbid him, for he who is not against us is on our side."

 Now it came to pass, when the time had come for Him to be received up, that He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem, and sent messengers before His face.  And as they went, they entered a village of the Samaritans, to prepare for Him.  But they did not receive Him, because His face was set for the journey to Jerusalem.  And when His disciples James and John saw this, they said, "Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, just as Elijah did?"  But He turned and rebuked them, and said, "You do not know what manner of spirit you are of.  For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men's lives but to save them."  And they went to another village.  We must remember where we are, exactly, in Jesus' ministry.  He's revealed twice now to His disciples that He will suffer at the hands of the leadership in Jerusalem, and be killed, and on the third day rise.  It seems that, in yesterday's reading, He was preparing the disciples to become the leaders of His Church that He will require after His ascension to the Father.  Here is another example of preparation of these men.  They do not know what manner of spirit they are of.  His Kingdom isn't going to be ruled by a "worldly" sort of power, the manipulative power of destruction that signals a king capable of powerful warfare.  Their emphasis will be to save.  And so, they walk on, to another village that will perhaps be more receptive to the good news of the Kingdom, the gospel.  The event referred to in which Elijah commanded fire to come down from heaven is to be found in 2 Kings 1:12.

Now it happened as they journeyed on the road, that someone said to Him, "Lord, I will follow You wherever You go."  And Jesus said to him, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head."  Then He said to another, "Follow Me."  But he said, "Lord, let me first go and bury my father."  Jesus said to him, "Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God."  And another also said, "Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house."  But Jesus said to him, "No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God."    My study bible notes here that there is a cost to discipleship.  Jesus reveals three of them:  (1)  a disciple relinquishes personal or earthly security -- if the Lord has nowhere to lay His head, neither will the disciple.  (2)  Nothing -- and that means not even the honor that is due to parents  -- can be an obstacle to serving the Lord.  (3)  A disciple can't delay in accomplishing the good that Christ demands.   We note that when Christ's commands are met with resistance in His followers, His response is to teach, to instruct. 

Again Jesus' encounters serve to boost the faith of the disciples, or rather to teach them what kind of faith is going to be required of them as leaders of His Church.  Each encounter serves as a signpost, a lesson, a kind of emphasis on what sort of men (and women, we remember, are also a part of this ministry) are required for this service, the spreading of the word of the Kingdom.  Our security is in the serving of the Lord, and nothing else, as my study bible notes, can take away this top priority before all things.  Christ Himself has no home; this king is far from a luxurious castle or landholdings, properties, goods, trade, military conquests.  His is a different life, committed to a different sort of kingdom, one that is not seen but nevertheless known and built by faith.  And it's that rock of faith that He's building up, that unbreakable bond between Lord and disciple, built on faith.  And that's why nothing should get in the way of this bond, and everything must serve it:  it's the root of all else to come, the confidence we build up in our lives, the one unshakeable thing.  And this is what He wants from us, a kind of commitment that doesn't let anything else get in the way -- even a commitment in which there are no second thoughts, no hesitation after "putting one's hand to the plow."  It reminds us of the story of Lot's wife, who "looked back" to her old life, and was turned into a pillar of salt.  We could extrapolate from this example, and what it means to be a "pillar of salt," something lacking all moisture, the living water of the Spirit that we are truly "of."  Jesus elaborates, in today's reading, what manner of spirit we are to be of:  prepared, quick to respond to the commands of this Spirit and this Kingdom, fully in and committed, putting nothing else -- not even a memory of the past -- between us and our commitment to God and to the future He brings into the world, the life of the Kingdom.  This may sound terribly harsh, but we remember what manner of spirit we are of -- this is the work of saving, not destroying.  This is the work of the One who is love, who teaches love, who builds up a kingdom of peace.  That's what we learn and where our faith must take us.  As in the example of today's reading, it's not that kind of fire that destroys, but a kind of fire that saves that this Spirit will bring into the world, like the example of the bush that didn't burn when fire appeared to Moses.  This is a spirit of fire that burns with love, that purifies in order to save.  That is the fire in which we participate as those who live with faith in Him, His mission, His kingdom.  It gives us strength, urgency, a confidence in which we serve that which burns in our hearts.  Let us remember His words and His teachings, and what manner of spirit we are of.


O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you and bear with you?


 Now it happened on the next day, when they had come down from the mountain, that a great multitude met Him.  Suddenly a man from the multitude cried out, saying, "Teacher, I implore You, look on my son, for he is my only child.  And behold, a spirit seizes him, and he suddenly cries out; it convulses him so that he foams at the mouth; and it departs from him with great difficulty, bruising him.  So I implored Your disciples to cast it out, but they could not."  Then Jesus answered and said, "O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you and bear with you?  Bring your son here."  And as he was still coming, the demon threw him down and convulsed him.  Then Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, healed the child, and gave him back to his father.

And they were all amazed at the majesty of God.  But while everyone marveled at all the things which Jesus did, He said to His disciples, "Let these words sink down into your ears, for the Son of Man is about to be betrayed into the hands of men."  But they did not understand this saying, and it was hidden from them so that they did not perceive it; and they were afraid to ask Him about this saying.

Then a dispute arose among them as to which of them would be greatest.  And Jesus, perceiving the thought of their heart, took a little child and set him by Him, and said to them, "Whoever receives this little child in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me receives Him who sent Me.  For he who is least among you all will be great."

Now John answered and said, "Master, we saw someone casting out demons in Your name, and we forbade him because he does not follow with us."  But Jesus said to him, "Do not forbid him, for he who is not against us is on our side."

- Luke 9:37-50

Yesterday, we read about the Transfiguration of Christ.  About eight days after the teachings Jesus gave in Monday's reading, He took Peter, John, and James and went up on the mountain to pray.  As He prayed, the appearance of His face was altered, and His robe became white and glistening.  And behold, two men talked with Him, who were Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of His decease which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.  But Peter and those with him were heavy with sleep; and when they were fully awake, they saw His glory and the two men who stood with Him.  Then it happened, as they were parting from Him, that Peter said to Jesus, "Master, it is good for us to be here; and let us make three tabernacles:  one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah" -- not knowing what he said.  While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were fearful as they entered the cloud.  And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, "This is My beloved Son.  Hear Him!"  When the voice had ceased, Jesus was found alone.  But they kept quiet, and told no one in those days any of the things they had seen.

 Now it happened on the next day, when they had come down from the mountain, that a great multitude met Him.  Suddenly a man from the multitude cried out, saying, "Teacher, I implore You, look on my son, for he is my only child.  And behold, a spirit seizes him, and he suddenly cries out; it convulses him so that he foams at the mouth; and it departs from him with great difficulty, bruising him.  So I implored Your disciples to cast it out, but they could not."  Then Jesus answered and said, "O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you and bear with you?  Bring your son here."  And as he was still coming, the demon threw him down and convulsed him.  Then Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, healed the child, and gave him back to his father.  My study bible says that while the disciples faith is incomplete (Matthew 17:19-20), Jesus' rebuke is also to the people in the crowds, whose faith was weaker still (see Mark 9:22-24).

And they were all amazed at the majesty of God.  But while everyone marveled at all the things which Jesus did, He said to His disciples, "Let these words sink down into your ears, for the Son of Man is about to be betrayed into the hands of men."  But they did not understand this saying, and it was hidden from them so that they did not perceive it; and they were afraid to ask Him about this saying.  Perhaps it's because of the marveling of the crowds that Jesus takes this occasion to reiterate what is going to happen to Him.  But the disciples still can't take it in, the words just don't quite "sink down into their ears."   We can sense a kind of resistance; they are afraid even to ask Him about it.  My study bible says that Christ's repeated prediction of His Passion was meant to encourage and strengthen them for the terrifying events they're going to face, and to assure them that He wasn't powerless but rather going to the Cross willingly.

Then a dispute arose among them as to which of them would be greatest.  And Jesus, perceiving the thought of their heart, took a little child and set him by Him, and said to them, "Whoever receives this little child in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me receives Him who sent Me.  For he who is least among you all will be great."  With the news that Jesus will suffer, and die, and rise again, it's possible that the disciples' minds go directly to the idea that Jesus' rising means His kingdom will manifest.  It's a kind of typical failing of human beings, exemplified in the disciples, another stumbling block to our true faith.  But Jesus' teaching here about humility is the touchstone of all that there is in Christian faith.  These men -- and all the rest of us -- must be shaped to be the leaders He calls them to be.  My study bible says that Jesus' pointing to a little child as a model for discipleship emphasizes the virtues required for entrance into the Kingdom:  humility, dependence, lowliness, simplicity, obedience, and a willingness to love and be loved.  Now that is something to think about indeed!

Now John answered and said, "Master, we saw someone casting out demons in Your name, and we forbade him because he does not follow with us."  But Jesus said to him, "Do not forbid him, for he who is not against us is on our side."   There's a note here in my study bible that tells us that the NU-Text reads, "Whoever is not with you is on your side."  Either way, it's an important teaching for all of us -- most particularly in the practice of humility and peace.   Theophylact sees this comment by John as a kind of regret, his conscience having been pricked by what Jesus has just taught about the little child.  St. Ambrose of Milan, however, sees John as expecting full obedience.  But my study bible says that regardless of the motivation, Jesus response tells us that those who act in good faith aren't excluded, even if they're not numbered among the disciples.

In today's reading, we can see Jesus shaping the characters of these men who will go on to lead His Church after His Ascension into heaven.  He's teaching them to be the leaders and examples to everyone else who will follow.   The very first requirement is faith.  The qualities of the "little child" that my study bible teaches:  humility, dependence, lowliness, simplicity, obedience, and a willingness to love and be loved, really fall into a teaching on what it is to have and to develop a greater faith.  We learn a kind of supreme dependence upon God with the growth of faith, as our relationship of faith grows to encompass everything in our lives.  Somehow the very power of the Kingdom and its work through the Church seems to depend on this, as the "failed exorcism" teaches us.  But then Jesus reminds them again of what is to happen to Him.  It is the supreme example of "taking up one's cross" as He taught in Monday's reading.  And it's sobering, here, while all are amazed at the majesty of God, to think about this sacrifice that is to come -- and that the disciple is not greater than his master.  On the contrary, it's a powerful reminder that our faith will ask us to make sacrifices.  These disciples are not simply sharing in the power and the glory and the majesty of God in their ministries, far from it.  And so, there is another preparation for the future as leaders of the Church in Jesus' reminder.   But we can see how the minds of the disciples are working:  they go instead into a competition mode, "Who's going to be greatest in the kingdom?"  They're thinking about position and who will hold what rank among them.  Jesus uses the example of the little child to teach them what His model is for them.  It is a total and complete emphasis on humility as the number one virtue that assures one of greatness in this Kingdom.  It's all about how they treat one another and those who come to them:  the Son and even the Father are there in the ways in which they are to treat the "little ones."   And what about those other people out there?  What about those followers of Christ who aren't with us?  Well, "he who is not against us on our side"  (or "against you," as the case may be).   This is another teaching on humility, but on the aspects of humility that make for peace.  We don't need to pick fights about authority.  We don't need to get into conflict without first being challenged somehow.  And that's a great lesson in His Church; it's a lesson for tolerance and forbearance.  It's a lesson for peace.  And it's all bound up in humility before God, and above all in the faith we place in God.  These are life lessons for each of us, really.  They are Christ's teachings on how we best serve, and how we live a life of faith and dependence upon God.  Let us note that our faith is rooted in our capacity for humility; to be truly faithful is to be humble before God, to put all things in service to the faith.  This may mean sacrifice, a giving up of the things that conflict with our faith.  It will mean a kind of graciousness such as Jesus counsels the disciples to practice with this other group who's not with them.  It's an ability to share this kingdom with others such as the "little child" in Christ's example.  It means keeping God always in our hearts, and practicing love in the ways that God loves us.  A tall order -- and one we practice for a lifetime.