Tuesday, December 12, 2017

If David then calls Him "Lord," how is He his Son?


 But when the Pharisees heard that He had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together.  Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?"  Jesus said to him, "'You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.'  This is the first and great commandment.  And the second is like it:  'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'  On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets."

While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, saying, "What do you think about the Christ?  Whose Son is He?"  They said to Him, "The Son of David."  He said to them, "How then does David in the Spirit call Him 'Lord,' saying:t
'The LORD said to my Lord,
"Sit at My right hand,
Till I make Your enemies Your footstool"'?
If David then calls Him 'Lord,' how is He his Son?"  And no one was able to answer Him a word, nor from that day on did anyone dare question Him anymore.

- Matthew 22:34-46

In our current readings, it is the week of the final Passover of Jesus' life, the week that we commemorate as Holy Week.  Yesterday we read that the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Jesus and asked Him, saying:  "Teacher, Moses said that if a man dies, having no children, his brother shall marry his wife and raise up offspring for his brother.  Now there were with us seven brothers.  The first died after he had married, and having no offspring, left his wife to his brother.  Likewise the second also, and the third, even to the seventh.  Last of all the woman died also.  Therefore, in the resurrection, whose wife of the seven will she be?  For they all had her."  Jesus answered and said to them, "You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God.  For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels of God in heaven.  But concerning the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God, saying, 'I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob'?  God is not the God of the dead, but of the living."  And when the multitudes heard this, they were astonished at His teaching.

 But when the Pharisees heard that He had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together.  Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?"  Jesus said to him, "'You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.'  This is the first and great commandment.  And the second is like it:  'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'  On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets."  This question is no doubt an essential one for the Pharisees.  They had found 613 commandments in the Scriptures, and would debate about which one was central.  As usual, Jesus answers the question, not using the foundation set forth by His questioners, but His own basis for a correct answer.  He gives two commandments, not simply one.  The first is Deuteronomy 6:5, the second from Leviticus 19:18.  Together, in Jesus' teaching, they constitute the grand summary of the Law.  My study bible adds that although the lawyer has come with malice to test the Lord, we know from St. Mark's account that this man is converted by Christ's answer (Mark 12:28-34).   My study bible further elaborates that the second commandment here must be understood as written:  You shall love your neighbor as yourself, or even more clearly, "as being yourself."   Often, it says, this is misinterpreted as saying, "You shall love your neighbor as you love yourself," but this destroys the force of the statement.  How much we love ourselves isn't the standard by which Christ calls us to love others.  Instead, we are called to love our neighbor as being of the same nature as we ourselves are; that is, as being created in God's image and likeness  just as we are.  The patristic teaching is that we find our true self in loving our neighbor. 

While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, saying, "What do you think about the Christ?  Whose Son is He?"  They said to Him, "The Son of David."  He said to them, "How then does David in the Spirit call Him 'Lord,' saying:  'The LORD said to my Lord, "Sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool"'?  If David then calls Him 'Lord,' how is He his Son?"  And no one was able to answer Him a word, nor from that day on did anyone dare question Him anymore.  My study bible says that Jesus asks this question to lead the Pharisees to the only logical conclusion:  that He is God incarnate.  They believed the Messiah to be a mere man, and therefore they reply that the Messiah would be a Son of David.  David, as the king of Israel, could never and would never address another as "Lord" except God.  But in Psalm 110:1 (quoted here by Jesus), David refers to the Messiah as "Lord."  Therefore, the Messiah must be God.  The only possible conclusion, my study bible tells us, is that the Messiah is a descendant of David only according to the flesh, yet is also truly divine, sharing His Lordship with God the Father and the Holy Spirit.  The Pharisees do not answer because they realize the implications and are afraid to confess Jesus to be the Son of God. 

On some level, we have to give the Pharisees credit.  Although Jesus points out the hypocrisy of many of the leadership, and also condemns some of their practices (virtually the whole of chapter 23 will consist of Jesus' scathing criticism of the scribes and Pharisees), there are Pharisees who believe in Him, and also who become His disciples (see John 3:1-20).  Here in today's reading, we see they are totally unable to answer Jesus' rational explanation of the Scriptures.  They cannot defy His word.  They recognize the power of His argument and what He is saying.  It is precisely for this understanding that Jesus will condemn them as hypocrites in the next chapter of Matthew, starting in tomorrow's reading.  Despite their understanding, they will seek to destroy and to condemn Him.   Their search for the greatest commandment of all is an interesting one, because it leads to Jesus' teaching.   If we take a closer look at Leviticus 19:18 (the second commandment Jesus names), we read, "You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord."  It's quite interesting that the first invocation is against vengeance, because this mirrors Jesus' teachings as well, in the Sermon on the Mount.  Jesus elaborates on His explication of the Law when He says, "You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.  If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also.  And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two.  Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away."  This is in keeping with the second commandment in today's reading, as its first words give us a proscription against vengeance.  Altogether, the factors in today's reading give us a picture of the Man who is truly the great Teacher of the Law.  He silences the Pharisees with His clear understanding of Scripture, He sums up all the Law and the Prophets with the two greatest commandments.  We see the consistency of His teaching.  His understanding of the Law is not merely in its words and teachings, but rather in its depth, its intent, and origins, for He is the true Lawgiver.  He is the author of the Law, the Logos.  He is the One whom David calls "my Lord."



Monday, December 11, 2017

God is not the God of the dead, but of the living


 The same day the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Him and asked Him, saying:  "Teacher, Moses said that if a man dies, having no children, his brother shall marry his wife and raise up offspring for his brother.  Now there were with us seven brothers.  The first died after he had married, and having no offspring, left his wife to his brother.  Likewise the second also, and the third, even to the seventh.  Last of all the woman died also.  Therefore, in the resurrection, whose wife of the seven will she be?  For they all had her."  Jesus answered and said to them, "You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God.  For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels of God in heaven.  But concerning the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God, saying, 'I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob'?  God is not the God of the dead, but of the living."  And when the multitudes heard this, they were astonished at His teaching. 

- Matthew 22:23-33

It is Holy Week in our current readings, the Passover week of Jesus' final days of His life as Incarnate human being.  He is in Jerusalem, He has cleansed the temple, and has been questioned by the leadership as to His authority to do so.  On Saturday we read that the Pharisees went and plotted how they might entangle Him in His talk.  And they sent to Him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, "Teacher, we know that You are true, and teach the way of God in truth; nor do You care about anyone, for You do not regard the person of men.  Tell us, therefore, what do You think?  Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?"  But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, "Why do you test Me, you hypocrites?  Show Me the tax money."  So they brought Him a denarius.  And He said to them, "Whose image and inscription is this?"  They said to Him, "Caesar's."  And He said to them, "Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's and to God the things that are God's."  When they had heard these words, they marveled, and left Him and went their way.

 The same day the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Him and asked Him, saying:  "Teacher, Moses said that if a man dies, having no children, his brother shall marry his wife and raise up offspring for his brother.  Now there were with us seven brothers.  The first died after he had married, and having no offspring, left his wife to his brother.  Likewise the second also, and the third, even to the seventh.  Last of all the woman died also.  Therefore, in the resurrection, whose wife of the seven will she be?  For they all had her."  Jesus answered and said to them, "You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God.  For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels of God in heaven.  But concerning the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God, saying, 'I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob'?  God is not the God of the dead, but of the living."  And when the multitudes heard this, they were astonished at His teaching.  My study bible tells us that here Christ confirms for us in His teaching that there will be a resurrection.  But it is not the sort of resurrection that the Sadducees are imagining.  The Sadducees were a wealthy landowning class of the area around Jerusalem.  They were active as part of the Council.  But unlike the Pharisees they followed only in the first five books of the Scriptures (the Pentateuch or Torah) and did not believe in resurrection.  They imagine the concept of resurrection to be a continuation to be a continuation of earthly life, including earthly marriage, and thereby mock the doctrine with an absurd scenario.  However, Jesus says they are ignorant of the Scriptures, which reveal that there is a complete transfiguration of life in the resurrection, which makes earthly questions like their irrelevant.  Moreover, they fail to understand how Abraham and his sons can be alive in God even if they are physically dead.  It is the clear teaching of Christ that the souls of the faithful who have departed this life are sustained before the face of God in anticipation of the final joy of the resurrection.

What is life?  How do we characterize life?  Jesus speaks of the Resurrection as a transformed reality.  Life as we know it shifts.  We're in a new mode.  We get a few hints about this in the experiences of Jesus' own Resurrection.  Mary Magdalene doesn't recognize Him until He calls her name (John 20:11-16).  Neither do the disciples who walk with Him on the road to Emmaus, until "He was known to them in the breaking of bread" (Luke 24:13-35).  Life is transformed.   But Jesus characterizes life itself when He replies to the Sadducees asking them, "But concerning the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God, saying, 'I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob'?  God is not the God of the dead, but of the living."   Life itself may not look like what we expect it to be.  It may not take on familiar characteristics of appearance, nor even of nature.  But life is life, and life exists even beyond death and its power in this world.  Jesus is known to His disciples in the breaking of bread.  He's known to Mary when He calls her name.  The disciples on the road to Emmaus reflect on their experience, and ask one another, "Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?"  In this familiar experience of person-to-person communication, they recognize the Jesus they knew intimately as their Master.  Jesus names definite persons in His expression of life from the Scriptures, as God speaks by saying, "I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob?"  God names distinct persons in revealing God's own identity, identifying life with each person.  Jesus further expresses the sense of the Scripture, opening its meanings, by giving to us the gift of recognition of persons as well -- in a place of life that is without barrier to that life, not by time, not by space, and not by death.  We are transformed to expand with life itself, to be taken to the "next level," if we can put it that way, so that we are more filled with life than we could previously accommodate.  We are transformed in order to accommodate more fully the life offered by God.  In The Great Divorce, C. S. Lewis writes of a place where everything becomes more, color has more depth, people are more substantial, and the worldly seems ethereal, pale, abstract, and muted by contrast.  This is the fuller life for which we are transformed, the place Jesus teaches us about, the life that God characterizes in self-revelation as "the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob."  Perhaps it is we who are far too diminished and little in our own understanding of life, and who need to expand to accommodate God.  Let us consider all the ways that God fills life, and the essential unknown that is filled with that life we cannot conceive, but awaits in His life for us.  Jesus says that God is the God of the living.  It is we who must find the way to learn what that means, in a fullness and depth we have to find through faith.






Saturday, December 9, 2017

Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's and to God the things that are God's


 Then the Pharisees went and plotted how they might entangle Him in His talk.  And they sent to Him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, "Teacher, we know that You are true, and teach the way of God in truth; nor do You care about anyone, for You do not regard the person of men.  Tell us, therefore, what do You think?  Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?"  But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, "Why do you test Me, you hypocrites?  Show Me the tax money."  So they brought Him a denarius.  And He said to them, "Whose image and inscription is this?"  They said to Him, "Caesar's."  And He said to them, "Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's and to God the things that are God's."  When they had heard these words, they marveled, and left Him and went their way. 

- Matthew 22:15-22

In our current readings, Jesus is in Jerusalem.  It is what we know as Holy Week; pilgrims from all over Israel and the Jewish diaspora are gathering in Jerusalem for Passover.  Jesus has made His Triumphal Entry, He has cleansed the temple, and has been disputing with the chief priests and Pharisees regarding His authority to do so.  In yesterday's reading, Jesus gave yet another parable to them:  "The kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who arranged a marriage for his son, and sent out his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding; and they were not willing to come.  Again, he sent out other servants, saying, 'Tell those who are invited, "See, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and fatted cattle are killed, and all things are ready.  Come to the wedding." ' But they made light of it and went their ways, one to his own farm, another to his business.  And the rest seized his servants, treated them spitefully, and killed them.  But when the king heard about it, he was furious.  And he sent out his armies, destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city.  Then he said to his servants, 'The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy.  Therefore go into the highways, and as many as you find, invite to the wedding.'  So those servants went out into the highways and gathered together all whom they found, both bad and good.  And the wedding hall was filled with guests.   But when the king came in to see the guests, he saw a man there who did not have on a wedding garment.  So he said to him, 'Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment?'  And he was speechless.  Then the king said to the servants, 'Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'  For many are called, but few are chosen."

 Then the Pharisees went and plotted how they might entangle Him in His talk.  And they sent to Him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, "Teacher, we know that You are true, and teach the way of God in truth; nor do You care about anyone, for You do not regard the person of men.  Tell us, therefore, what do You think?  Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?"  But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, "Why do you test Me, you hypocrites?  Show Me the tax money."  So they brought Him a denarius.  And He said to them, "Whose image and inscription is this?"  They said to Him, "Caesar's."  And He said to them, "Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's and to God the things that are God's."  When they had heard these words, they marveled, and left Him and went their way.  This question is designed to trap Jesus in an answer that will either make Him vulnerable to charges of treason by the Romans or rejection by the Jewish people.   But, as we so often observe about Jesus, He never answers hostile questioners on their own terms.  Rather than accepting the dilemma posed by the Pharisees and Herodians (who are those who support the court of Herod, who rules under Rome), Jesus offers His own basis of understanding.  My study bible says that the distinction between things that are Caesar's and things that are God's does not imply the division of a believer's life into the secular and the sacred.  Instead, the picture is more wholistic:  God is the Lord over all of life, including the secular.  But we do fulfill government requirements that do not conflict with our first responsibility to God (Romans 13:1-7; contrast Acts 4:19, 5:29).   The coin bears the image of Caesar, but each of us is created by God, and bear God's image within ourselves. 

This is an important question, and one that tells us about the place of faith and the Kingdom in our lives.  Rather than severing the tension between the Roman state power and the duty to God, Jesus' answer suspends us in that place where we understand the worldly will always be with us, and the Kingdom will always be "breaking through" in our lives and asking us for discernment.   Rather than battling the world in a political sense, Jesus' sense of the fullness of life gives us a responsibility to bear God's image within us while we negotiate with the world and within it.  Holiness is possible in and through circumstances and dilemmas one cannot imagine if we are simply thinking in terms of worldly political power and might.  Life, in this vision, is a constant place of negotiation, where it is our alertness and state of inner prayer that suspends us in the world but not of it.  Jesus calls for discernment, not rebellion on purely political terms.  We know our first loyalty, we know the Creator of the world and the Giver of our lives.  But we also live within the world as it is, and the story of Jesus' followers is one of prayerful discernment, day by day, as to how God asks of us to respond to the world.  Martyrdom will be a calling for many of His saints.  But martyrdom is not a question of political choice; it is rather a question of spiritual understanding of where and how we are called by God to choose within our own dilemmas presented by the world.  When it is God that comes first, then the field and ground of being no longer is ruled by the merely political.   (Later on in chapter 22, Jesus will give us the fullness of the Law and Prophets summed up in just this first command to love God, and the second to love neighbor as oneself; see 22:37-40.)   Where our depth of connection is to Creator, each moment as we live our lives in this world becomes a point for discernment, a time where a prayerful orientation teaches us how to lead our lives.  This isn't merely a simplistic material consideration of "which side we're on," it is not a choice between one political power or party or another.  That depth of orientation instead requires the alertness to seek where God is leading us and teaching us to grow and expand, and to find new ways to negotiate our lives in this world while our hearts remain firmly first God's.  It is possible to serve God through all things; but in doing so it is the Spirit that chooses the battle, and thereby we enter into mystery and the long learning curve of our faith -- not the certainties of political rules, slogans, and abstract maxims treated as if they were spiritual truth.  The Church fulfills her mission through all things, in all places, under all circumstances, just as Jesus will fill His.  What we find through a life of faith is not absolute certainty, but a life of invitation into mystery, wisdom, and growth.  Christ gives us tastes of this Kingdom not in abstract philosophy, but in joy, love, peace, illumination, and grace.  He teaches us forbearance, endurance, persistence, humility, and true service.  This is the reality of a life of prayer and where it takes us, into that deepening place where we are His first.  To love one's neighbor (in the Greek, this particular word for neighbor means literally the "one who is near") is not to ask first if they share all our opinions and affiliations.  This is where He takes us.





Friday, December 8, 2017

Go into the highways, and as many as you find, invite to the wedding


And Jesus answered and spoke to them again by parables and said:  "The kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who arranged a marriage for his son, and sent out his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding; and they were not willing to come.  Again, he sent out other servants, saying, 'Tell those who are invited, "See, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and fatted cattle are killed, and all things are ready.  Come to the wedding." ' But they made light of it and went their ways, one to his own farm, another to his business.  And the rest seized his servants, treated them spitefully, and killed them.  But when the king heard about it, he was furious.  And he sent out his armies, destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city.  Then he said to his servants, 'The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy.  Therefore go into the highways, and as many as you find, invite to the wedding.'  So those servants went out into the highways and gathered together all whom they found, both bad and good.  And the wedding hall was filled with guests. 

"But when the king came in to see the guests, he saw a man there who did not have on a wedding garment.  So he said to him, 'Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment?'  And he was speechless.  Then the king said to the servants, 'Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'  For many are called, but few are chosen."

- Matthew 22:1-14

Jesus is currently in Jerusalem, and it is early in Passover week.  In yesterday's reading, He gave a parable before the leadership in the temple:  "There was a certain landowner who planted a vineyard and set a hedge around it, dug a winepress in it and built a tower.  And he leased it to vinedressers and went into a far country.  Now when vintage-time drew near, he sent his servants to the vinedressers, that they might receive its fruit.  And the vinedressers took his servants, beat one, killed one, and stoned another.  Again he sent other servants, more than the first, and they did likewise to them.  Then last of all he sent his son to them, saying, 'They will respect my son.'  But when the vinedressers saw the son, they said among themselves, 'This is the heir.  Come, let us kill him and seize his inheritance.'  So they took him and cast him out of the vineyard and killed him.  Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vinedressers?"  They said to Him, "He will destroy those wicked men miserably, and lease his vineyard to other vinedressers who will render to him the fruits in their seasons."  Jesus said to them, "Have you never read in the Scriptures:  'The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.  This was the LORD's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes'?  Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it.  And whoever falls on this stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder."  Now when the chief priests and Pharisees heard His parables, they perceived that He was speaking of them.  But when they sought to lay hands on Him, they feared the multitudes, because they took Him for a prophet.

 And Jesus answered and spoke to them again by parables and said:  "The kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who arranged a marriage for his son, and sent out his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding; and they were not willing to come."  My study bible says that, like the preceding parables (see this reading, and this one), this parable also proclaims the transfer of the Kingdom from the faithless among the Jews (let us remember that all of the disciples are Jews, as is Jesus Himself) to the Gentiles.  It is set as a joyful wedding banquet (see also 25:1-13), as Christ is often called the "Bridegroom" (9:15, John 3:29).  St. Paul uses a marriage analogy for the Kingdom (Ephesians 5:21-33). 

"Again, he sent out other servants, saying, 'Tell those who are invited, "See, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and fatted cattle are killed, and all things are ready.  Come to the wedding." ' "   The repeated sending out of the servants shows the Father's great desire to have His people with Him in the Kingdom.  The first group is interpreted to be Moses and those with him, while this second group is composed of the prophets.  These groups call those initially invited -- the Jews.  The oxen represent the sacrifices of the Old Covenant, while the fatted cattle represent the eucharistic bread of the New Covenant.  Fatted is more accurately translated as "wheat-fed," or even more literally as "formed from wheat."  Therefore, both the Old and New Covenants are fulfilled at the wedding of Christ and His Church. 

"But they made light of it and went their ways, one to his own farm, another to his business.  And the rest seized his servants, treated them spitefully, and killed them.  But when the king heard about it, he was furious.  And he sent out his armies, destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city."   St. John Chrysostom comments here that Christ is prophesying the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in AD 70.   Therefore He attributes this destruction to an act of God rather than simply to that of men.  But nevertheless, their is mercy shown, and patience.  In waiting 40 years from the time of Christ, the entire generation of the time of His Incarnation was given a chance for repentance and faith. 

"Then he said to his servants, 'The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy.  Therefore go into the highways, and as many as you find, invite to the wedding.'  So those servants went out into the highways and gathered together all whom they found, both bad and good.  And the wedding hall was filled with guests."  The third group of servants, sent out into the highways, represents the apostles sent to the Gentiles (all the nations); that is, those not initially invited, but now called.  

"But when the king came in to see the guests, he saw a man there who did not have on a wedding garment.  So he said to him, 'Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment?'  And he was speechless.  Then the king said to the servants, 'Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'  For many are called, but few are chosen."  My study bible explains that the wedding garment would have been provided by the king, and therefore the man had no excuse for not wearing one.  Therefore he's speechless.  His refusal to wear the garment that was provided is an illustration of those who refuse God's hospitality, or who want His Kingdom on their own terms.  My study bible says that the garment specifically refers to the baptismal garment, and by extension, a life of faith, repentance, virtue, and charity.  Without these, a person will ultimately be cast into outer darkness.

Jesus characterizes the repeated messages of the Kingdom, given through all of God's messengers through time, as invitations.  They are invitations to a great wedding feast.  All of the Kingdom will celebrate the marriage of the Son to His beloved bride, who is the Church -- that is, all of the faithful people of God, wherever they are found.  Let us remember that the invitations go out into the highways and to all whom they find, both bad and good.   There are no elites here, no privileged members.  Everybody is included in the invitation.  And each is given a wedding garment.  In this scenario of the wedding banquet, it is all a question of what we find of value, what we treasure.  And that is up to us.  Do we treasure the wedding garment we've been given?  Do we use it and wear it well?  Do we care for it?  Life, in this picture of the parable, is a true banquet.  We've been invited -- every single one of us, both good and bad, whomever is found -- to the King's joyous celebration, to this wedding feast for the whole of the Kingdom, even those who are abroad on the highways.  There is no more generous spirit possible than that involved here.  It is all up to us, whether or not we accept, we say yes to the generous offer of the banquet and the wedding garment itself.  In that spirit of understanding, and in light of the parables Jesus has already given us in the readings from Wednesday and Thursday, let us consider carefully all that we truly find good, and that we truly value.  In this banquet of the Kingdom there is the greatest joy.  Its picture is one of the greatest festivity possible.  It is this to which we are all invited, without discrimination, without barrier, bad or good,  regardless of our station.   In chapter 25, Jesus will give the parable of the Talents (25:14-30).  In it, the Lord says to one:  "Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord."  It is this joy into which we are all invited to participate.  The banquet continues into all time, and through all things.  In the Eucharist, we celebrate and participate continually with the angels and with the great cloud of witnesses, in the communion of all who are a part of this wedding.  Let us recall the joy to which we are invited, and our gracious Master who wants every single one to say "Yes, I accept."



Thursday, December 7, 2017

Whoever falls on this stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder


 "Hear another parable:  There was a certain landowner who planted a vineyard and set a hedge around it, dug a winepress in it and built a tower.  And he leased it to vinedressers and went into a far country.  Now when vintage-time drew near, he sent his servants to the vinedressers, that they might receive its fruit.  And the vinedressers took his servants, beat one, killed one, and stoned another.  Again he sent other servants, more than the first, and they did likewise to them.  Then last of all he sent his son to them, saying, 'They will respect my son.'  But when the vinedressers saw the son, they said among themselves, 'This is the heir.  Come, let us kill him and seize his inheritance.'  So they took him and cast him out of the vineyard and killed him.  Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vinedressers?"  They said to Him, "He will destroy those wicked men miserably, and lease his vineyard to other vinedressers who will render to him the fruits in their seasons."  Jesus said to them, "Have you never read in the Scriptures:
'The stone which the builders rejected
Has become the chief cornerstone.
This was the LORD's doing,
And it is marvelous in our eyes'?
"Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it.  And whoever falls on this stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder."

Now when the chief priests and Pharisees heard His parables, they perceived that He was speaking of them.  But when they sought to lay hands on Him, they feared the multitudes, because they took Him for a prophet.

- Matthew 21:33-46

Yesterday we read that when came into the temple (after He had cleansed the temple), the chief priests and the elders of the people confronted Him as He was teaching, and said, "By what authority are You doing these things?  And who gave You this authority?"  But Jesus answered and said to them, "I also will ask you one thing, which if you tell Me, I likewise will tell you by what authority I do these things:  The baptism of John -- where was it from?  From heaven or from men?"  And they reasoned among themselves, saying, "If we say, 'From heaven,' He will say to us, 'Why then did you not believe him?'  But if we say, 'From men,' we fear the multitude, for all count John as a prophet."  So they answered Jesus and said, "We do not know."  And He said to them, "Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.  But what do you think?  A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, 'Son, go, work today in my vineyard.'  He answered and said, 'I will not,' but afterward he regretted it and went.  Then he came to the second and said likewise.  And he answered and said, 'I go, sir,' but he did not go.  Which if the two did the will of his father?"  They said to Him, "The first."  Jesus said to them, "Assuredly, I say to you that tax collectors and harlots enter the kingdom of God before you.  For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him; but tax collectors and harlots believed him; and when you saw it, you did not afterward relent and believe him."

"Hear another parable:  There was a certain landowner who planted a vineyard and set a hedge around it, dug a winepress in it and built a tower.  And he leased it to vinedressers and went into a far country.  Now when vintage-time drew near, he sent his servants to the vinedressers, that they might receive its fruit.  And the vinedressers took his servants, beat one, killed one, and stoned another.  Again he sent other servants, more than the first, and they did likewise to them.  Then last of all he sent his son to them, saying, 'They will respect my son.'  But when the vinedressers saw the son, they said among themselves, 'This is the heir.  Come, let us kill him and seize his inheritance.'  So they took him and cast him out of the vineyard and killed him. Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vinedressers?"  They said to Him, "He will destroy those wicked men miserably, and lease his vineyard to other vinedressers who will render to him the fruits in their seasons."    My study bible says of this parable that the landowner represents God the Father, and the vineyard refers to God's people.  The vinedressers to whom the vineyard is leased are the leaders who are entrusted to care for the people.  The servants sent by the owner are the Old Testament prophets, who come to call people back to God.   The landowner's son is Christ Himself.  That they took the Son and cast Him out of the vineyard and killed Him, is understood on two levels:  (10)  Jesus was killed outside of Jerusalem; and (2) He was crucified by foreign soldiers, and not by those of his own vineyard.  The other vinedressers to whom the vineyard is later leased are the Gentiles who are brought into the Church.  As in the events of yesterday's reading, when Jesus posed a question about John the Baptist in response to the demands of the leadership regarding His authority, the leaders convict themselves by their answer.

Jesus said to them, "Have you never read in the Scriptures:  'The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.  This was the LORD's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes'?  Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it.  And whoever falls on this stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder."  Now when the chief priests and Pharisees heard His parables, they perceived that He was speaking of them.  But when they sought to lay hands on Him, they feared the multitudes, because they took Him for a prophet.  Jesus quotes from Psalm 118:22-23.    He refers to Himself as this stone.  St. John Chrysostom teaches that this saying illustrates the two ways of destruction.  Those who fall on the stone are people who suffer the consequences of their sins while yet in this life, therefore having the capacity to learn from mistakes.  Those on whom the stone falls are the unrepentant who suffer utter destruction in the final judgment.

Jesus refers us to the consequences of being told the truth, a spiritual truth that we are meant to hear.  He describes Himself as the Son in the parable, the One who follows all the prophets and their messages which call the people (especially the leadership of the people) back to God.  How we respond to that message of truth seems to be all-important, and it certainly is true for the leadership.  This may seem incredibly harsh, but we have to consider that this message is for those who've already been prepared for it.  It is given to those steeped in Scripture, who understand fully the calls of the prophets who have appeared in Jewish spiritual history all along.  This is not a message given for condemnation, but for salvation.  It is given to those considered fully prepared and ready and equipped to hear it and understand it.  Jesus' warnings come to the deliberately blind.  But what is important to consider are the "two ways" of destruction mentioned by Chrysostom.  There are times when we don't pay attention to what we know or perhaps ought to know, and we take some kind of fall in our lives. We stumble.  Often we may find this is the one and only way we become aware of personal flaws, our weak points.  We fall flat on our faces, we blindly walk into complete disaster.  One may have heard the expression, first attributed to Alexander Pope, that "fools rush in where angels fear to tread."  If you have had the experiences I have, you know by personal difficulty the meaning of this expression.  But those of us who are given something upon which to stumble may be grateful for the opportunity to learn from our mistakes, and to make corrections.  This is a spiritual viewpoint that is wise.  It views correction from Christ as something for which we are to be grateful, something which is helpful and loving to us.  Throughout the Gospels, Jesus rebukes those whom He loves deeply, such as Peter, for instance, in this passage.  Peter learns from Jesus' rebukes, and becomes the leader of the apostles whom we know.  But those in truly deep circumstances are the ones who refuse to learn from a rebuke, or a pitfall, or a stumbling block.  It is they upon whom this stone will fall.  We have a lifelong learning curve, a journey of faith.   In yesterday's reading, Jesus took the leadership to task for failure to practice repentance at the message of John the Baptist, when harlots and tax collectors did listen and repent.  He spoke of judgment, of such notorious and repentant sinners standing in judgment against the failed leadership.  In today's reading, He gives a dire warning about the consequences of the failure to repent or to reconsider.  This is a failure to heed warnings, to listen to spiritual truth -- in particular to those who know better but prefer place and position to the humility of our place before God, and before the kingdom of heaven which is at hand.  Where do we fall on this scale?  Do we consider the importance of repentance?  Do we take seriously the power of the stone which Jesus likens to Himself?  Do we take note of the numerous times we've stumbled, or do we fail to notice?  Let us be grateful for stumbling, even grateful for the times we've been "broken," in Jesus' language.  In Jesus' telling, it is a way to know ourselves, to correct ourselves, to gain wisdom and spiritual insight.







Wednesday, December 6, 2017

For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him; but tax collectors and harlots believed him; and when you saw it, you did not afterward relent and believe him


 Now when He came into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people confronted Him as He was teaching, and said, "By what authority are You doing these things?  And who gave You this authority?"  But Jesus answered and said to them, "I also will ask you one thing, which if you tell Me, I likewise will tell you by what authority I do these things:  The baptism of John -- where was it from?  From heaven or from men?"  And they reasoned among themselves, saying, "If we say, 'From heaven,' He will say to us, 'Why then did you not believe him?'  But if we say, 'From men,' we fear the multitude, for all count John as a prophet."  So they answered Jesus and said, "We do not know."  And He said to them, "Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.

"But what do you think?  A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, 'Son, go, work today in my vineyard.'  He answered and said, 'I will not,' but afterward he regretted it and went.  Then he came to the second and said likewise.  And he answered and said, 'I go, sir,' but he did not go.  Which if the two did the will of his father?"  They said to Him, "The first."  Jesus said to them, "Assuredly, I say to you that tax collectors and harlots enter the kingdom of God before you.  For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him; but tax collectors and harlots believed him; and when you saw it, you did not afterward relent and believe him."

- Matthew 21:23-32

Yesterday we read that after His Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem, Jesus went into the temple of God and drove out all those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves.  And He said to them, "It is written, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer,' but you have made it a 'den of thieves.' "  Then the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple, and He healed them.  But when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that He did, and the children crying out in the temple and saying, "Hosanna to the Son of David!" they were indignant and said to Him, "Do You hear what these are saying?"  And Jesus said to them, "Yes.  Have you never read, 'Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants You have perfected praise'?"  Then He left them and went out of the city to Bethany, and He lodged there.  Now in the morning, as He returned to the city, He was hungry.  And seeing a fig tree by the road, He came to it and found nothing on it but leaves, and said to it, "Let no fruit grow on you ever again."  Immediately the fig tree withered away.  And when the disciples saw it, they marveled, saying, "How did the fig tree wither away so soon?"  So Jesus answered and said to them, "Assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but also if you say to this mountain, 'Be removed and be cast into the sea,' it will be done.  And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive."

  Now when He came into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people confronted Him as He was teaching, and said, "By what authority are You doing these things?  And who gave You this authority?"  But Jesus answered and said to them, "I also will ask you one thing, which if you tell Me, I likewise will tell you by what authority I do these things:  The baptism of John -- where was it from?  From heaven or from men?"  And they reasoned among themselves, saying, "If we say, 'From heaven,' He will say to us, 'Why then did you not believe him?'  But if we say, 'From men,' we fear the multitude, for all count John as a prophet."  So they answered Jesus and said, "We do not know."  And He said to them, "Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things."  My study bible explains that since Christ is not a Levitical priest, the chief priests and the elders challenge His authority to cleanse the temple.  As Jesus is careful not to reveal Himself to scoffers, He confounds them with His own question about John instead.   Both the elders' question and Christ's question require the same answer, and therefore would lead someone to confess that Jesus has come from heaven.  So, by not answering them directly, Jesus teaches us not to answer those who come asking about holy things with malicious intent.

 "But what do you think?  A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, 'Son, go, work today in my vineyard.'  He answered and said, 'I will not,' but afterward he regretted it and went.  Then he came to the second and said likewise.  And he answered and said, 'I go, sir,' but he did not go.  Which if the two did the will of his father?"  They said to Him, "The first."  Jesus said to them, "Assuredly, I say to you that tax collectors and harlots enter the kingdom of God before you.  For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him; but tax collectors and harlots believed him; and when you saw it, you did not afterward relent and believe him."  Using their own principles, my study bible notes here, the elders convict themselves by their answer to Christ's parable.

What do you do in response to news?  Jesus emphasizes that in response to John's message (that it was time for repentance and preparation for the coming of the Lord), tax collectors and harlots believed him -- but the leadership (these chief priests and elders) did not.  While they question His authority, Jesus is questioning why they did not respond to the authority in the prophetic call of John the Baptist.  If we take a look at Matthew chapter 3, we can read John's message to the people:  "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!"   To repent is to do an about face, to reconsider, to change one's direction.  In John's use of this word, it is a message to change one's direction in response to the news of the kingdom -- that the kingdom of heaven is at hand.  Jesus tells them that tax collectors and harlots paid attention.  Those considered to be notorious sinners, tax collectors and harlots, were willing to consider what repentance would mean, and how to prepare for this day or this event -- that the kingdom of heaven is at hand.  One would have to consider what that would mean for you or me, if we were to hear this news, that the kingdom of heaven is at hand.  That it was time to re-think, to reconsider, and especially to reorient our lives to this imminent reality.  The real question is about an evaluation of our own lives in the face of this news.  Suppose we really took this as seriously as it truly warrants -- the Kingdom present, bursting through our sense of "normal."  What would we change?  What do we know we're not doing that is really and truly a "good" idea, what it means to be "good," and to do good.  That is, things that are time-tested and eternal that we know are important to spiritual health (and by extension to the rest of our health considerations as well).  Forgiveness is a huge consideration in the face of this news.  If the Lord were to appear in person in the world, right before us, could we really and truly answer well when it comes to considerations about what is really important and essential?  Have we let go of everything we can to God?  Cleaned up all the clutter in our lives, all the unresolved things that are hanging around?  Is there someone we need to make some effort at reconciliation with, even if the other person does not respond to us?    Do we need to clear the air?   Jesus makes a similar kind of analogy to the presence of the Kingdom when He speaks of bringing our gift to the altar, as the altar is the place of God.  Jesus says, "Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift" (Matthew 5:23-24).  When we confess our sins, we pray about both things we have done and have left undone.  Is there something undone?  Is there love we need to express, someone who does not know that we love them, whom we'd like to get that message to, in one form or another?  Do we need to make an expression of kindness or love to ease our hearts?  All of these are things that we need to consider, especially if we think we will be "staring in the face of God," so to speak -- or as John puts it so much better (which Jesus will also say, and teach His disciples to say), "The kingdom of heaven is at hand."  With that reality truly present right before us, what do we consider then?  What becomes important in the face of that truth?  What becomes totally unimportant?  What do we wish to discard?  In the re-orientation (repentance) to the presence of that Kingdom, what do our priorities become?  All of these things Jesus says that tax collectors and harlots were willing to do.  They responded.  They changed.  What is it we need to let go of to do so?  What do we need to accept? What stands in the way?  Where do our true values, or careful reconsideration and re-evaluation, take us?  Nothing could be more important, and we know that this Kingdom is really and truly here.



Tuesday, December 5, 2017

If you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but also if you say to this mountain, "Be removed and be cast into the sea," it will be done


 Then Jesus went into the temple of God and drove out all those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves.  And He said to them, "It is written, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer,' but you have made it a 'den of thieves.' "

Then the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple, and He healed them.  But when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that He did, and the children crying out in the temple and saying, "Hosanna to the Son of David!" they were indignant and said to Him, "Do You hear what these are saying?"  And Jesus said to them, "Yes.  Have you never read,
'Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants
You have perfected praise'?"
Then He left them and went out of the city to Bethany, and He lodged there.

Now in the morning, as He returned to the city, He was hungry.  And seeing a fig tree by the road, He came to it and found nothing on it but leaves, and said to it, "Let no fruit grow on you ever again."  Immediately the fig tree withered away.

And when the disciples saw it, they marveled, saying, "How did the fig tree wither away so soon?"  So Jesus answered and said to them, "Assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but also if you say to this mountain, 'Be removed and be cast into the sea,' it will be done.  And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive."

- Matthew 21:12-22

Yesterday we read that when Jesus and the disciples drew near Jerusalem and came to Bethpage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, "Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her.  Loose them and bring them to Me.  And if anyone says anything to you, you shall say, 'The Lord has need of them,' and immediately he will send them."  All this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying:  "Tell the daughter of Zion, 'Behold, your King is coming to you, / Lowly, and sitting on a donkey, / A colt, the foal of a donkey.' "  So the disciples went and did as Jesus commanded them.  They brought the donkey and the colt, laid their clothes on them, and set Him on them.  And a very great multitude spread their clothes on the road; others cut down branches from the trees and spread them on the road.  Then the multitudes who went before and those who followed cried out, saying:  "Hosanna to the Son of David!  'Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!'  Hosanna in the highest!"  And when He had come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, "Who is this?"  So the multitudes said, "This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth of Galilee."

 Then Jesus went into the temple of God and drove out all those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves.  And He said to them, "It is written, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer,' but you have made it a 'den of thieves.' "   Those who bought and sold were trading in live animals for sacrifices in the temple.  It is just before Passover.  The money changers were trading Roman coins for Jewish coins.  This is because Roman coins bore the image of Caesar, worshiped as a god, and so were considered to be defiling in the temple.  Jesus "cleanses" the temple by doing what He does, for which He will be challenged upon the issue of His authority to do so.  My study bible says that the cleansing of the temple also points to the necessity that the Church be kept free from earthly pursuits.  Each person is considered to be a temple of God (1 Corinthians 3:16; 6:19).  This cleansing of the temple by Jesus is therefore also a sign that our hearts and minds should be cleansed of earthly matters, focused on our place in life as such temples.  Jesus is quoting from Isaiah 56:7 and Jeremiah 7:11.

Then the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple, and He healed them.  But when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that He did, and the children crying out in the temple and saying, "Hosanna to the Son of David!" they were indignant and said to Him, "Do You hear what these are saying?"  And Jesus said to them, "Yes.  Have you never read, 'Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants You have perfected praise'?"  Then He left them and went out of the city to Bethany, and He lodged there.  My study bible says that we are called to glorify Christ in the same spirit of pure love and praise as the children crying out in the temple.  It adds that, in contrast to the children, the adults' praise carried earthly expectations and agendas -- which, when left unfulfilled, led them to rebel against Jesus just five days later (27:20-23).  Jesus here quotes from Psalm 8:2.  The chief priests and scribes are indignant because Jesus not only receives pure praise but also has cleansed the temple, something which only the Messiah could do.  The children name Christ as Messiah by praising Him with "Hosanna" (meaning, "Save, we pray" and fitting for a Deliverer or a Messiah) and calling Him the Son of David, a title for the Messiah or king.

Now in the morning, as He returned to the city, He was hungry.  And seeing a fig tree by the road, He came to it and found nothing on it but leaves, and said to it, "Let no fruit grow on you ever again."  Immediately the fig tree withered away.   The fig tree is a symbol of both prosperity and peace.  It withers because it is fruitless.  My study bible calls this a prophetic act.  After three years of Christ's preaching, teaching, and healing, both the leaders and the crowds were destitute of spiritual fruit.  In the tradition of the prophets, they don't "turn back" and listen.  He curses the tree also, my study bible says, to warn those in every generation of what will befall anyone who fails to listen to His message.

And when the disciples saw it, they marveled, saying, "How did the fig tree wither away so soon?"  So Jesus answered and said to them, "Assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but also if you say to this mountain, 'Be removed and be cast into the sea,' it will be done.  And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive."   This is not the first time Jesus has used the example of moving a mountain as an expression of the power of faith and prayer -- see also 17:20.    My study bible notes that while it's not recorded than an apostle literally moved a mountain, the Fathers are clear that they did have this authority if the need had arisen.  There are stories of certain saints who did make crevices appear in mountains.  Moreover, not all the things done by the apostles were written down.  Beyond its literal meaning, Jesus' promise is an illustration of the power of faith and prayer in all areas of life.  Theophan comments, "Whatever we ask, without hesitation and believing in God's power, we shall receive" when we ask for spiritually profitable things.

What is the power of prayer?  What is the remarkable thing that Jesus brings into the world?  Certainly prayer has existed in manifold form before and after Jesus.  The Psalms, we know, are quoted by Jesus, and He prays from the Psalms on the Cross (see Mark 15:34 and Psalm 22:1, Luke 23:46 and Psalm 31:5).  At the Last Supper, Jesus and the disciples will sing a hymn from the Psalms (likely Psalms 113-118).  Jesus gives us the prayer called the Our Father or the Lord's Prayer in the Sermon on the Mount (see Matthew 6:9-13).  Jesus says earlier that "if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you" (17:20).  Here, He tells us, "Assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but also if you say to this mountain, 'Be removed and be cast into the sea,' it will be done.  And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive."    Note the word "assuredly."  This is a solemn promise.  So what are we to understand of this mustard seed and faith?  In today's reading, Jesus commits an act -- the cleansing of the temple -- that requires faith that He has the authority to do such things.  The children with pure hearts participate in this faith when they praise Him.  He withers the fig tree in a prophetic act, with a power that is vested in the power of faith.  He Himself links up faith with the withering of the fig tree.  It is in that context that He speaks of the faith to move mountains, and the prayer that links with faith.  What we understand about all this dialogue and these events is that faith is something in which we choose to participate.  It is a sort of field into which we tap -- the field of God's presence and power at work in the world, the action of the Spirit, the energies of God's mercy.  Prayer is the method whereby we do so, the most effective way of participation and growth in this field of grace and power.  I would suggest that Jesus' words about faithful prayer teach us about prayer while we participate in this grace through faith -- not a list of what we want if we only somehow convince ourselves we'll get it.  Perhaps with this in mind we should remember what He says:  "It is written, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer,' but you have made it a 'den of thieves.'"  There is an ancient saying about God that remains true in our Christian faith:  "God is a circle whose center is everywhere and circumference nowhere."  It is this infinite circle whose center is everywhere in which we find ourselves when we pray, through which we find our way and steep in our faith, and grow in the practice of the presence of God.  Prayer is something we work at, continue in, live with.  Jesus has taught, "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent" (John 6:29).   It is this circle in which Jesus invites us to participate, made fully human via His life and even His death, baptizing us into the great faith about which He speaks.  Let us find our way through the pure hearts of all those who are like little children.