Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass by justice and the love of God


 And as He spoke, a certain Pharisee asked Him to dine with him.  So He went in and sat down to eat.  When the Pharisee saw it, he marveled that He had not first washed before dinner.  Then the Lord said to him, "Now you Pharisees make the outside of the cup and dish clean, but your inward part is full of greed and wickedness.  Foolish ones!  Did not He who made the outside make the inside also?  But rather give alms of such things as you have; then indeed all things are clean to you.

"But woe to you Pharisees!  For you tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass by justice and the love of God.  These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.  Woe to you Pharisees!  For you love the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces.  Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!  For you are like graves which are not seen, and the men who walk over them are not aware of them."

Then one of the lawyers answered and said to Him, "Teacher, by saying these things You  reproach us also."  And He said, "Woe to you also, lawyers!  For you load men with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers.  Woe to you!  For you build the tombs of the prophets, and your fathers killed them.  In fact, you bear witness that you approve the deeds of your fathers; for they indeed killed them, and you build their tombs.  Therefore the wisdom of God also said, 'I will send them prophets and apostles, and some of them they will kill and persecute,' that the blood of all the prophets which was shed from the foundation of the world may be required of this generation, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah who perished between the altar and the temple.  Yes, I say to you, it shall be required of this generation.  Woe to you lawyers!  For you have taken away the key of knowledge.  You did not enter in yourselves, and those who were entering in you hindered."

- Luke 11:37-52

Yesterday, we read that as Jesus spoke, a certain woman from the crowd raised her voice and said to Him, "Blessed is the womb that bore You, and the breasts which nursed You!"  But He said, "More than that, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!"  And while the crowds were thickly gathered together, He began to say, "This is an evil generation.  It seeks a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah the prophet.  For as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so also the Son of Man will be to this generation.  The queen of the South will rise up in the judgment with the men of this generation and condemn them, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and indeed a greater than Solomon is here.  The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here.  No one, when he has lit a lamp, puts it under a secret place or under a basket, but on a lampstand, that those who come in may see the light.  The lamp of the body is the eye.  Therefore, when your eye is good, your whole body also is full of light.  But when your eye is bad, your body is also full of darkness.  Therefore take heed that the light which is in you is not darkness.  If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, the whole body will be full of light, as when the bright shining of a lamp gives you light."

 And as He spoke, a certain Pharisee asked Him to dine with him.  So He went in and sat down to eat.  When the Pharisee saw it, he marveled that He had not first washed before dinner.  Then the Lord said to him, "Now you Pharisees make the outside of the cup and dish clean, but your inward part is full of greed and wickedness.  Foolish ones!  Did not He who made the outside make the inside also?  But rather give alms of such things as you have; then indeed all things are clean to you."   Jesus emphasizes the interior of the person, the heart.  To "give alms" of the interior "things" is like understanding the phrase, "I demand mercy, not sacrifice" - Hosea 6:6.  (See Matthew 9:13, 12:7.)  It is also reflected in St. Paul's teaching about the circumcision of the heart (see Romans 2:29).  We give of ourselves; this is part of the taking up of each one's cross.


"But woe to you Pharisees!  For you tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass by justice and the love of God.  These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.  Woe to you Pharisees!  For you love the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces.  Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!  For you are like graves which are not seen, and the men who walk over them are not aware of them."  My study bible says that these warnings are especially important for Christians, particularly those such as the Orthodox whose traditions include many ancient practices:  tithing ("giving alms"), using sacred vessels, holy liturgical rites, and many other traditions handed down from Church Fathers.  These practices, which are quite beautiful, can also lead to a kind of blindness:  either they are expressions of deep faith and lead people to a deeper commitment to God, safeguarding a life in Christ -- or they can be observed "without ever taking them to heart and lead to condemnation."  We note again the "weightier matters" (see Matthew 23:23) of justice and love of God, which Jesus says are things we give of the heart.  We note that justice and love of God go hand in hand, as in the two greatest commandments.   My study bible adds:  "While these charges were directed against the Jewish leaders of the day, every word applies equally to those in the Church who behave in this way."

Then one of the lawyers answered and said to Him, "Teacher, by saying these things You  reproach us also."  And He said, "Woe to you also, lawyers!  For you load men with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers.  Woe to you!  For you build the tombs of the prophets, and your fathers killed them.  In fact, you bear witness that you approve the deeds of your fathers; for they indeed killed them, and you build their tombs.  Therefore the wisdom of God also said, 'I will send them prophets and apostles, and some of them they will kill and persecute,' that the blood of all the prophets which was shed from the foundation of the world may be required of this generation, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah who perished between the altar and the temple.  Yes, I say to you, it shall be required of this generation."   This is a similar kind of statement to the one made in yesterday's reading, in which those who rejected Christ were unfavorably compared (with reference to judgment) to the people of Nineveh and the queen of Sheba.  Only here the judgment comes upon them as they continue in the ways of earlier poor leaders who persecuted and murdered prophets of the word of God.  Burdening others (with requirements of the law) and failing to "lift a finger" to help with the burden is also another failure of the heart:  a failure of love and mercy, a failure of true justice.

"Woe to you lawyers!  For you have taken away the key of knowledge.  You did not enter in yourselves, and those who were entering in you hindered."  My study bible says that "woe" is a term that indicates complete and devastating destruction.  It notes also, "Because the example of a leader can be so influential, leaders who do not love God can hinder others from finding Him as well.  Thus, leaders are held to a higher standard (James 3:1)."  In my opinion, the key of knowledge is the love of God.

So, if we can assume that all of the practices that Jesus condemns as hypocritical are all meant to be created to do good, we can see a great paradox here.  The tithing that He says is simply a surface cover, a false mask for the failure to practice justice and the love of God, is meant as a practice to convey just that:  justice and the love of God.  It tells us that there is something more than practice, that the heart can still be quite severed from the goals the practice is designed to enforce and support and help make stronger.  So, what is it to have justice and love of God in the heart?  If we think about practices like fasting and tithing, we can see a common denominator:  they are practices that give us discipline regarding our own selfishness or self-indulgence, they teach us we can rise above basic desires and make decisions for personal discipline, we can sacrifice to a greater good, we are not just beings with impulses we follow blindly.  We make choices.  There's a deep sort of a crux there regarding loving God and practicing justice:  we can choose to love God and to practice God's justice which is never estranged from mercy.  We were meant for a higher purpose than a simple self-centeredness; we were created for glory.  This glory is reflected in the kind of ways we learn to take on the light of God that has been given to us via grace and shine it for the world.  In such a teaching, every single thing we are or have can be used for God's purposes.  If we can sing we can develop that talent for the glory of God and to express the love we find in God to the world.  (No comment on some of the pop stars of today.)  I recently saw a story about a 99-year-old American woman who makes one child's dress a day for poor girls in Africa to have at least one beautiful thing to wear.  Every single thing we are or that by which we have been blessed can go to the love of God and the practice of God's justice in the world, to shine the light of God's love.  This, of course, includes all "talents" - even if our talent is to make money and profits!   There is nothing and no one who stands outside of this command, this desire for God to be united in love with God's children, and for the children to reflect God's glory.  Let's think about what the justice of God really means, how if we truly love God we will seek to reflect God's justice, inseparable from mercy.  Jesus has emphasized love when He said, "The poor you always have with you," in response to the complaints about the woman with the jar of expensive ointment.  The emphasis in that teaching was on love -- and takes us away from the notion of giving as merely a duty that can be used to cover up a heart that is not filled with the love of God that must always be connected with God's practice of love.  Our giving, in whatever form it may take according to our capabilities, has to be connected to love, to the heart.  The ills of the world fall so hard on the shoulders of the vulnerable:  the widow, the orphan, the poor, the ostracized, the vanquished, the refugee.  They fall on all of us, but vulnerable populations are especially preyed upon by predators that reflect the evil of all kinds of vice, of rage, of lust and covetousness of every kind, of cruelty.  The love of God in the heart must lead to the desire to see justice for God's children.  Perhaps it is the freedom to know and love God, to know God's love for oneself, that is the greatest liberator of all.  It is through God's love that we must see the most vulnerable populations of the world, and we must remember too that "vulnerable" can come where we least expect it.  It is a question of taking notice, and living the prayerful life that can teach us where and how our help is needed at all times.  Let us remember that we may be called upon to give in all kinds of ways that will surprise us; love is giving of yourself.





Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The lamp of the body is the eye. Therefore, when your eye is good, your whole body also is full of light


 And it happened, as He spoke these things, that a certain woman from the crowd raised her voice and said to Him, "Blessed is the womb that bore You, and the breasts which nursed You!"  But He said, "More than that, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!"

And while the crowds were thickly gathered together, He began to say, "This is an evil generation.  It seeks a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah the prophet.  For as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so also the Son of Man will be to this generation.  The queen of the South will rise up in the judgment with the men of this generation and condemn them, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and indeed a greater than Solomon is here.  The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here.

"No one, when he has lit a lamp, puts it under a secret place or under a basket, but on a lampstand, that those who come in may see the light.  The lamp of the body is the eye.  Therefore, when your eye is good, your whole body also is full of light.  But when your eye is bad, your body is also full of darkness.  Therefore take heed that the light which is in you is not darkness.  If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, the whole body will be full of light, as when the bright shining of a lamp gives you light."

- Luke 11:27-36

 Yesterday, we read that Jesus 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. When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he says, 'I will return to my house from which I came.'  And when he comes, he finds it swept and put in order.  Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first."

 And it happened, as He spoke these things, that a certain woman from the crowd raised her voice and said to Him, "Blessed is the womb that bore You, and the breasts which nursed You!"  But He said, "More than that, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!"  My study bible tells us that these verses on read on most feasts of the Virgin Mary in the Orthodox Church.  It says, "Jesus corrects the woman from the crowd, not by denouncing his mother, but by emphasizing her faith.  People are blessed in God's eyes if, like Mary, they hear the word of God and keep it.  The Greek word menounge, here rendered more than that, is translated 'Yes indeed' in Romans 10:18.  This word corrects by amplifying, not by negating."   In chapter 8 of Luke, Jesus made a similar kind of affirmation (see Luke 8:19-21).

 And while the crowds were thickly gathered together, He began to say, "This is an evil generation.  It seeks a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah the prophet.  For as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so also the Son of Man will be to this generation.  The queen of the South will rise up in the judgment with the men of this generation and condemn them, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and indeed a greater than Solomon is here.  The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here."  My study bible notes:  "The sign of Jonah is (1) the fact that the rebellious Ninevites were willing to repent at Jonah's preaching, and (2) that Jonah coming out of the great fish prefigures Christ rising from the tomb (Matthew 12:40)."  It says that in contrast to the Ninevites' repentance, the failure of this evil generation (especially its leaders)  to repent at something far greater -- Christ's preaching and Resurrection -- will result in their judgment.  See Jonah 3 for the story of the Ninevites' repentance.  The queen of the South is also called the queen of Sheba, and is she who came to listen to the wisdom of Solomon, and was witness to the love of God for Israel (see 1 Kings:1-10).

"No one, when he has lit a lamp, puts it under a secret place or under a basket, but on a lampstand, that those who come in may see the light.  The lamp of the body is the eye.  Therefore, when your eye is good, your whole body also is full of light.  But when your eye is bad, your body is also full of darkness.  Therefore take heed that the light which is in you is not darkness.  If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, the whole body will be full of light, as when the bright shining of a lamp gives you light."   Jesus has said, "I am the light of the world.  He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life" (John 8:12).  God is the true light that shines above and beyond all other light;  God's illumination is shared with us in relationship.  Our eyes, in that sense, perceiving the grace of God, become lamps to illumine the whole of who we are.  What "light" do we receive?  My study bible says, "Light is necessary both for clear vision and for life itself.  Faith relies on this divine light, and believers become 'sons of light' (John 12:36; 1 Thessalonians 5:5) who shine in a perverse world (Philippians 2:15)."

Jesus begins to speak about judgment, and the blindness of those who demand a sign (see yesterday's reading) and cannot see what is right in front of them.  He compares them to the Ninevites who repented at the preaching of the prophet Jonah; He compares them to the Queen of Sheba who recognized and honored the wisdom of Solomon, and saw in Solomon's kingship the love of God for Israel.  Jesus says that something (Someone) far greater than Jonah or Solomon is among them.  It is the presence of the Kingdom that He brings into the world, in His person.  This is the light itself, the origin of all light, the light beyond the light we know, the very light that created light.  And yet, they still look for a sign, despite all that He is done.  They call for some sort of formal proof (which they will judge themselves).  Where is the lamp of the eyes for them?  What do they see?  How are they illumined?  Christ calls on us all to remember that our eyes are lamps; they are metaphors for how we see in every other way in life, especially a soul or spirit conception of what makes life enlightened, what gives us "life in abundance."   It is all about our capability to perceive of that light so that it illumines the whole body, the fullness of who we are.  If you think about it, such a light illuminating the whole body is a light that shines to show us fully what our lives are about.  If instead, there is only darkness, how can we even know our true selves, and all the things we might be capable of in God's light?  There is a great power to the lamp of the eye, lamps that are bright and capable of much light.  Such lamps as illumined by God, by Christ the true Light, are capable of shedding light on so much within themselves and around themselves.  In the Greek Orthodox Church, the midnight service of Easter begins Resurrection at midnight with a candle at the altar, from which are illumined all those in attendance who hold their own candles, to them take home and light oil lamps or candles there.  This is how the light of God - Christ the true Light that came into the world - lights our own lamps, our eyes, that which allows us to "see."  If you allow this flame to burn in yourself, what can it illumine for you?  It can illumine your way, can illumine your flaws, can shed light on your hidden capabilities and talents, it can take you through a path in life and also light the way for others.  But it begins with the eyes lit by God.  If Sheba, who was from outside of Israel, could honor Solomon and God's love, if the people of Nineveh, a pagan city, could repent at God's word, then how much more do we have offered to us?  As in yesterday's reading, Jesus is still elaborating here on the idea of the refusal of grace.  Let us remember that grace is the light of God reaching into the world for us, for our communities and for us as individuals.  Here, Jesus teaches us about the lamp of the eyes, of perception, what we use to "see" with in every sense.  Are we capable of the light of God, the holy fire of grace which lights the lamps of the eyes?   Can we accept that we are meant for this?  Are we ready to receive the illumination that sheds light on both our flaws and our capabilities and possibilities?  Are we ready to take our places with Sheba and Nineveh?  Or do we choose to dwell in the darkness?


Monday, October 27, 2014

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.

"When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he says, 'I will return to my house from which I came.'  And when he comes, he finds it swept and put in order.  Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first."

- Luke 11:14-26

On Saturday, we read that as Jesus was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, one of His disciples said to Him, "Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught is disciples."  So He said to them, "When you pray, say:  Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name.  Your kingdom come.  Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us day by day our daily bread.  And forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us.  And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one."  And He said to them, "Which of you shall have a friend, and go to him at midnight and say to him, 'Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine has come to me on his journey, and I have nothing to set before him'; and he will answer from within and say, 'Do not trouble me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give to you'?  I say to you, though he will not rise and give to him because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will rise and give him as many as he needs.  So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.  If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone?  Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish?  Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion?  If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!"

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."     Beelzebub was a pagan god which the Jews derided as "the Lord of the Flies."  My study bible suggests that here, as used by Jesus' enemies, it is a direct reference to Satan.

Others, testing Him, sought from Him a sign from heaven.   Jesus is many times tempted by those who challenge Him to give "a sign" in order to prove His identity.  He always refuses.  My study bible says, "A sign is never given to those whose motive is merely to test God (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."  Exorcism was practiced in Jewish faith, so Jesus' question here is very pertinent.  How can Satan cast out Satan?  The "finger of God" is the Holy Spirit (see Matthew 12:28).  He gives them the rundown of a stark choice; it's very clear.  Either He is working via demons against themselves -- or if that is not possible, then they must conclude according to the logic they try to present!  "The kingdom of God has come near" is the repeated instruction given to the apostles to preach when sent out on their missions (see Luke 10:9-11).

"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."   My study bible says that the strong man in Jesus' example is Satan, "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, "It is the work of Christ to gather the children of God, while those who scatter are in direct opposition to Him.  Those who work in opposition to Christ are different from those who work in good faith toward His purpose but are not yet united to the Church (see 9:46-50)."

"When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he says, 'I will return to my house from which I came.'  And when he comes, he finds it swept and put in order.  Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first."  A note tells us that, according to John Chrysostom, the unclean spirit here refers to the rebelliousness cast out of the Jews by the Old Testament prophets to prepare them to receive Christ.  Those who refuse to receive Him are left open to the wickedness of seven other spirits or demons.   By tradition, seven is a number of completeness, signifying a kind of depth of rejection or worsening state.  Other Fathers comment that this is an image of all of us; once we ally ourselves to Christ, we must persist in a life devoted to God -- otherwise our rejection may result in a worse state than before we received the grace of Christ.  

It's a very interesting story in today's reading because it illustrates something about the power of God. Salvation isn't a one-time decision, it's more of an affair of commitment, like a marriage, where an every day sort of a life is what we commit to -- a way of life that stays with us.  It means there is a constant every day choice to make in all kinds of ways.  Every time we make a decision, seemingly, the option is there.  Do we live prayerful lives and ask for guidance in prayer?  Do we try to remember our "union" with God in all things; does it guide who we are and what choices we make?  This is the powerful pull of repentance, the "change of mind" that happens when adopting a life in which this sort of commitment is meaningful.  It's like thinking of one's spouse or any loved one or even community in general when making choices.  We've made an alliance, a commitment, and if we decide that loyalty isn't our thing then we're headed into a different direction.  This choice takes mindfulness, not forgetfulness.  And in the discussion Jesus has in today's reading, it's clear there are two ways to choose.  We can get our lives all cleaned up, we can put ourselves on what hopefully is the straight and narrow, renew our commitments, and make promises to ourselves and others.  But if none of those things really take root, we're back on a different road -- a road, according to Jesus, that leaves us in a much worse state, a more vulnerable state, than we were in the first place.  It's a kind of carelessness that has worse consequences than we expect.   What's clear is that we each always have work to do; a kind of practice of mindfulness that's essential to understanding where we are in faith.  When we pray, it helps us to center in on right where we are in life.  We give things over to God in order to more clearly understand what our choices are; even in prayer we may get ourselves "out of the way" and all our jumbled thoughts and concerns and fears and preoccupations and worries, so that we might just get a clearer picture about just what is going on and what our choices are.  That kind of mindfulness comes from the remembrance of who we are and what we choose to serve in our lives.  It's a choice that gives us grace and illumination, that helps us with strength when we don't have any of "our own" to draw upon.  It gives courage.  Christ does not present a picture of an easy choice, an easy life in the middle of this kind of struggle with a world that may want to drag us down.  There are all kinds of "pulls" that work like demons to drag us to one place or another; it's tempting to give our awareness a rest as well, just going along with whatever everybody else is seemingly doing no matter what "crowd" we're talking about.  But mindfulness keeps us somewhere else, gives us a refocus, and in the context of Jesus' teaching, one that is necessary and important.  Sometimes we just need to remind ourselves who are our real Friend is, Who loves us best.  Today's reading is also a good teaching on why Jesus does not present signs on demand, does not try to force people to faith.   Christ doesn't just "fix" everybody and change their minds for them.  That's not going to be real faith, because it won't be from the heart and it won't be sustained; inevitably it will result in a rejection of grace.  That the last condition is worse than the first is a warning to those who want signs.  God wants our love, and love is freely given, not coerced. 



Saturday, October 25, 2014

If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!


 Now it came to pass, as He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, that one of His disciples said to Him, "Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught is disciples."  So He said to them, "When you pray, say:
Our Father in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us day by day our daily bread.
And forgive us our sins,
For we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us.
And do not lead us into temptation,
But deliver us from the evil one."
And He said to them, "Which of you shall have a friend, and go to him at midnight and say to him, 'Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine has come to me on his journey, and I have nothing to set before him'; and he will answer from within and say, 'Do not trouble me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give to you'?  I say to you, though he will not rise and give to him because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will rise and give him as many as he needs.  So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.  If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone?  Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish?  Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion?  If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!"

- Luke 11:1-13

Yesterday, we read that it happened as Jesus and the disciples 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."

 Now it came to pass, as He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, that one of His disciples said to Him, "Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught is disciples."  We note once again how often it is that Jesus is praying in the Gospels, that when the disciples come to Him, He is in prayer.  My study bible says that "teach us to pray" expresses a universal longing to be in communion with God.

So He said to them, "When you pray, say:  Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name.  Your kingdom come.  Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven."  My study bible explains that the Father-Son relationship within the Trinity gives us our potential relationship with God.  Through Christ we also are children by adoption, by grace (Galatians 4:4-7).  It says, "As a 'son of God' the Christian is called to love, trust, and serve God as Christ does the Father."  It notes also that God is not our Father just because He created us.  He becomes Father to those who are engaged in a saving and personal relationship with Him, a communion that comes by the grace of adoption (see John 1:13, Romans 8:14-16).

"Give us day by day our daily bread."  My study bible explains that daily is a misleading translation of the Greek epiousios, which means literally "above the essence," or "supersubstantial."  The expression daily bread means not merely bread for this day, for earthly nourishment; it's about the bread of the eternal day of the Kingdom of God, for the nourishment of our immortal soul.  It says, "This living supersubstantial bread is Christ Himself.  In the Lord's Prayer, then, we are not asking merely for material bread for physical health, but for the spiritual bread of eternal life (John 6:27-58)."

"And forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us."  A note tells us:  "The request to be forgiven is plural, directing us to pray always for the forgiveness of others.  The term debts refers to spiritual debts (see Matthew 18:21-35)."

"And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one."  My study bible says that God tempts no one to sin (James 1:13); temptations are from the evil one, the devil.  It says, "Temptations are aimed at the soul's giving in to the sinful passions of the flesh (Romans 7:5).  No one lives without encountering temptations, but we pray that great temptations, tests beyond what we can bear (1 Corinthians 10:13), should not come to us."  "Passions of the flesh" includes all kinds of selfishness.  

And He said to them, "Which of you shall have a friend, and go to him at midnight and say to him, 'Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine has come to me on his journey, and I have nothing to set before him'; and he will answer from within and say, 'Do not trouble me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give to you'?  I say to you, though he will not rise and give to him because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will rise and give him as many as he needs."   A note here tells us that "this parable demonstrates God's faithfulness to those who are in need and who pray with persistence.  The Fathers interpret midnight as both the time of our death and a time of great temptation.  The friend is Christ, who, as our only source of grace, provides everything we need."

"So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.  If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone?  Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish?  Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion?  If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!"   A note tells us that in the Greek of the text, the verbs translated ask, seek, and knock imply a continuing action.  They are more exactly translated reading, "keep asking," "keep seeking," and "keep knocking."   "God responds when we persistently ask for things that are good.  Bread, fish and an egg are all images of life and symbolize the gift of the Holy Spirit (see John 14:13-14; James 4:3)." 

We note the spiritual emphasis of Jesus' teachings on prayer.  This isn't about making a laundry list of the things we want in life.  It's not about asking for things like writing a letter to Santa Claus.  This is about the hunger and thirst for righteousness, the deep longing for God, for communion, especially for the gift of the Holy Spirit, in Christ's words in verse 13.  This is about becoming one with God's will, as we are directed to pray, "Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven."  This is a kind of prayer that is asking for unification in the Spirit even so that we may pray for the things that we ought, the things God wants for us.  Jesus elsewhere teaches that it is the Kingdom we must seek first before all other things (taught with beautiful parables in the next chapter of Luke).  It is remarkable that this message is missed so often, that the true image of prayer here is about the longing to be in communion with the Father, to bring the Kingdom into the world, to practice forgiveness as we are forgiven, to pray for the gift of the Holy Spirit.  Christ wants us to live the kind of God-centered life that extends meanings to everything else in our lives, in the world.  What we pray for is a central core of communion and faith to replace forms of self-centeredness that leave us limited in our understanding of our lives and what is possible for us in life.  If everything becomes centered around a happiness that is only dependent on what is around ourselves, then we will not find that sort of happiness -- because it is thoroughly based on things beyond our control.  So often it is in seeking that kind of control that we slip up, that life takes on a snowballing effect of one wrong step after another, reaching past boundaries to manipulate others, to steal, even to kill.  Our communion with others comes first through communion with the Father.  We base first our love of God and the bounties of the Holy Spirit as the thing we really and truly need, because that places in us a direction, a kind of bedrock, a touchstone which gives meanings and changes our relationship with everything else in our lives.  It touches others as well, with a shared kind of joy that is not just dependent on material life, what we own, but who we come to know we are.  This is the foundation we seek that is not just a "one-time" understanding but an every day journey, as we pray also we may have this bread of "life in abundance" every day.  It gives light to our lives, our minds, our souls, so that we may walk in this world better seeing, illuminated.  Let us consider what we pray for and what is the best gift that affects everything else we are, we do, we have.


Friday, October 24, 2014

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 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 has one comment on this passage:  "Mary and Martha are the sisters of Lazarus, whom Jesus raised from the dead (John 11:1).  Martha is not rebuked for serving, but for complaining and for being distracted, worried and troubled.  In following Christ, we serve in order to facilitate the spread of the gospel (see Acts 6:1-4)."

We could look at this reading and just blame Martha for all her worldly cares of serving.  But if we look closely at the Gospels, we see other instances where Martha is clearly the one who's more in charge of hospitality.  Perhaps she's more outgoing, and Mary more "contemplative."  In the scene in which Jesus approaches their home after Lazarus has died, it is Martha who goes out to meet Jesus as He approaches the house on the road.  Mary is sitting inside together with the other mourners who have come from Jerusalem, the proper posture for mourning.  She is fulfilling a religious duty.  So the picture of these sisters is consistent; furthermore it is to Martha that Jesus says, "I am the resurrection and the life," and Martha who replies that she believes He is the Christ.  Here in today's scene we see the sisters again playing out their roles, only today Mary sits at Jesus' feet presumably with many men also listening to the Teacher.  The duties of hospitality fall on Martha.  But there is something else going on here.  He is the one whom "you do not have  always."  There is something that trumps even the formal duties of hospitality, and that is love.  Mary sits at the feet of Christ because she adores what He offers.  This is a position of worship, of love -- the posture of one who puts what Christ offers above everything else.  That is the "good part" Mary has chosen, and it is the part that "will not be taken away from her," no matter what else may be happening.   The idea that Martha is "distracted" gives us this same idea.  Somehow, by being so involved in what she understands as her social and domestic duty, she's distracted from the fact of what Mary sees and experiences.  There is One present who won't be with them forever, the One who offers the "words of eternal life."   Jesus loves this family of sisters and brother.  They are His close friends.   But Mary's great love for Christ stands as a kind of a sign for this Gospel of love, the Kingdom of God who is love.  This "good part" trumps everything else, no matter the merit or worth.  It won't be taken away from Mary, and by implication, from any one of us.  A great act of love by Mary will also be the decisive moment Judas will turn from Christ to betray Him.  It's a pivotal moment of choice, a new kind of teaching to understand about Jesus and what He preaches.  It's a teaching about our faith, that it is not just a set of rules to follow, but a relationship.  It is all about love; this is the better part we have with Him and we share with others.  Can we go that  far?  Can we take that step?


Thursday, October 23, 2014

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 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 who had been 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 will 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 two laws cited by the lawyer (an expert in the law) are from Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18

"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 says, "Jerusalem is the place of peace, symbolic of communion with God.  Jericho, on the other hand, was renowned as a place of sin (see 19:1).  Falling among thieves speaks to the natural consequence of journeying away from God 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 tells us that titles and positions are meaningless in God's sight when good deeds do not accompany them.  Quoting Cyril of Alexandria:  "The dignity of the priesthood means nothing unless he also excels in deeds."  A note continues, "That the priest and the Levite did not help the man also 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."   My study bible suggests that the Samaritan, while a despised foreigner, is an image of Christ (see John 8:48).  Christ "came down from heaven" (Creed) to save even those in rebellion against Him."

"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 thieves?"  And he said, "He who showed mercy on him."  Then Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise."  A note says, "The bandages, oil, and wine are sacramental images for (1) the garment of baptism, which delivers us from the wounds of sin; (2) the oil of chrismation, which gives us new life in the Holy Spirit; and (3) the communion of the living Blood, which leads to eternal life.  His own animal indicates Christ bearing our sins in His own body, and the inn reveals the Church in which Christ's care is received.  He pays the price for that care (1 Corinthians 6:20; 7:23)."

Jesus' statement, "Go and do likewise," puts us in an entirely different place than the Law leaves us. The Law speaks about refraining from vengeance, and from holding a grudge.  These are important points that Jesus also makes in various Sermons, that I think we miss all too often.  (It also tends to refer to those who are of the same people; see again Deut. 6:51.)  "Love your enemies" is a direct appeal against vengeance.  But from there, in this story, our understanding of the concept of neighbor becomes entirely changed from a "do not" into a highly proactive behavior.  And in this "Go and do likewise" we find yet another mandate for gracious behavior.  That is, being like Christ, imitating the grace that is given to each of us through Him.  And in this behavior is a "neighbor" made.  It is entirely within keeping of the Gospel message, of being disciples, even being sent out into the world to represent this Kingdom into the world, that we are to be -- in some sense -- proactively gracious!  In that case, it is entirely up to others (would-be neighbors) whether or not they accept or reject our gracious (loving) behavior.  It is in the practice of kindness that we offer the Kingdom to others.  Refraining from the kind of vindictive behavior that a grudge would carry to someone else is another side of the same coin; what Jesus teaches isn't at all in contradiction to the Law.  Rather, as He says Himself, it is in fulfillment of it.  In a time when image becomes more and more powerful, given the omnipresence of social media of all kinds, we are -- somewhat surprisingly -- living in a world where it seems like graciousness is increasingly hard to find.  The ever-present and growing power of image becomes a weapon, for PR or perhaps for fighting or bullying.  The seeming anonymity or protection of a screen and distance seems to amplify hostility and rudeness, and it translates into our daily lives, where a kind of force of how you look to others, how impressive one is, how much power one has, becomes a leaven that is evermore bluntly pursued and winds up affecting daily commerce in many ways, especially among the young.  Image also serves hypocrisy, where what matters isn't your heart, but what impression other might have (that is, the right people).  This can translate into donations that have meaning for publicity's sake, but a lack of charity in personal behavior.  I have found a lack of graciousness in all settings, in Churches and among those who really should know better, who may occupy and seek positions of importance.  And, on the other hand, I regularly experience great graciousness from the powerless, and the less seemingly-important, including elders of another generation.  Graciousness, "good manners," is all about the kindness we offer to others.  There's a well-known saying that good manners or etiquette really translates into one thing:  making another person feel comfortable.  This the Samaritan quite literally does.  He treats the hurt man as if he were in his own home, and in effect makes a home for the man, providing for his care.  Thus the Samaritan makes a neighbor of the other.  We don't know whether or not the hurt man was grateful.  The story doesn't tell us that.  It doesn't tell us whether he went his way after healing feeling he had just "gotten something" out of someone else with an attitude of entitlement or superiority.  It doesn't tell us if he repaid the innkeeper for the cost of care provided by the Samaritan.  It just doesn't tell us any of those things.  But it does give us a recipe for ourselves, and for bearing a gracious kingdom into the world.  "He who showed mercy on him" is the one who was the true neighbor.   Let us endeavor to go and do likewise.  It is the way to be disciples and apostles, the very way to show that we are followers of Christ.



Wednesday, October 22, 2014

I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven


 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 will 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, after teachings on discipleship, 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."  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 says that I saw Satan fall describes an event that took place before the creation of the world.  Five times Satan set his will against God (Isaiah 14:12-15; see also Revelation 12:7-12).   We should also note that "serpents and scorpions" are images of demons and devils, putting them in the context of "all the power of the enemy."  But the greatest rejoicing isn't in power -- it's in belonging to the Kingdom of 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 will to reveal Him."   My study bible tells us that "babes," in this context, are people of simple faith and open hearts (see 18:15-17).  And Jesus refers here to the ways God works in the world, how things are revealed.  It is all about relationship.  He is the face of the Father in the world, He is inseparable from the Father.  It is through Him we know God.

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."  There is a powerful, extraordinary quality hidden in today's reading, and we may miss it unless we understand the reality revealed through Christ and the power over the demonic shown here to and through His disciples.  It's a kind of extraordinary authority shared even with "babes."  Jesus refers to the generations of those who sincerely desired to have what they have, and yet it was not revealed to them.  Hidden from prophets and kings, what He has revealed to these "babes" chosen to be His apostles is a profound secret sought for ages by the wise and worldly.

It is truly remarkable to hear Jesus marvel.  When He tells the disciples, "Blessed are the eyes which see the things you see," He's pointing out to them the amazing work of God in this ministry.  So many -- the wise and powerful of the ages -- have sought what has been revealed to these apostles, made known to them.  We also get the extraordinary prayer of thanks by Jesus to the Father, making the occasion doubly remarkable:  "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."  He is rejoicing in the Spirit, the Gospel tells us, when He says these things.  This in itself is a rather tremendous revelation; such moments aren't given to us often in the texts of the Gospels.  The greatest joy of Christ is in the will of the Father, which is love.  And here is love:  that what was always sought by the wise and prudent has been revealed to babes.  It is another way that God has "lifted up the lowly."  It is a profound form of justice, as it teaches all of us what God's love is about.  It's not that the "wise and prudent" do not need the love of God as well, or that they all  need to be torn down.  What is happening here is a message about the Kingdom.   What we expect, our worldly sense of how things should be, is all turned upside down in Christ's ministry.  Jesus Himself, who speaks with authority so that people marvel, has no worldly authority.  He hasn't worked His way into some great position of teaching in the hierarchy of the religious establishment.  None of His disciples are learned in the sense that they had already been a part of the religious rulers.  What they have, though, is a capacity for love and relationship to Christ, and this is the "new wine" that must be put in "new wineskins."  It's a hint about the work of the Spirit, as the text tells us Jesus rejoiced in the Spirit.  Let us remember that we are assured of the fall of Satan, and the work in the world of the disciples is to express the power over the demonic that Jesus has shared with them.  We are also to remember what is to come, that one of these hand-picked disciples will betray Him.  There are the oppressive forces that fight the work of God, the work of Christ, and the Spirit in the world.  There are those who doubt spiritual work in "babes" of all kinds, and the wisdom of babes that may be unacceptable for one reason or another within a particular hierarchy, or ways of thinking.  There is a force of oppression.  And then there is the force of liberation, the defeat of the "occupying" enemy, and it is a force of love and grace, a different kind of power that the "darkness doesn't comprehend"  - neither perceiving nor overcoming.  Let us remember Jesus' joy in the revelation to the babes.  What He wants is just the currency of love, the foundation of real discipleship.