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Roger Karban

Ordained in Rome in 1964, Roger R. Karban is a priest of the Diocese of Belleville with scholarly expertise in the Sacred Scriptures. He received a Licentiate in Theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome and did his doctoral studies in Scripture at St. Louis University.

Karban has been the chair of religion departments at Mater Dei and Gibault Catholic High Schools; director of the diocesan diaconate program and is currently the administrator of Our Lady of Good Council Parish, Renault, IL. A part-time faculty member of St. Louis University and Southwestern Illinois College where he teaches the Bible as literature, Karban also teaches adult weekly scripture classes in Belleville, Breese, Carbondale and Lebanon, IL. With the vision of Vatican II, Karban presents workshops, not only in the diocese, but throughout the country.

 

 

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03/25/2018

MARCH 25TH, 2018: PALM SUNDAY

Isaiah 50:4-7; Philippians 2:6-11; Mark 14:1-15:47

Every Palm Sunday I recall the old joke (I first heard it in high school) of the Hispanic man who attends his first major league baseball game. Returning home, his family, anxious to hear about his experience, asks, “How did they treat you?” “They couldn’t have been nicer,” he replies. “For instance, before the game started everyone stood up and asked, ‘Jose, can you see?’”

In some sense, that’s exactly what happened to Jesus on the original Palm Sunday.

Historically, it’s the Sunday before Passover; pilgrims by the thousands are coming into Jerusalem. To assure an instant, panoramic view of the Holy City, many enter by coming into town over the Mount of Olives, singing pilgrimage psalms as they process. One of the most popular songs is Psalm 118, with the refrain, “Blessings on the one who comes in the name of Yahweh.” Some might tear off olive branches, even throw down and walk on their cloaks to transform a simple rural road into a “via sacra.” (My old St. Louis U. prof., Dr. Irvin Arkin, once claimed there were actual records of ancient lawsuits filed by the Mount’s olive growers against the temple priests because their groves were being devastated by pilgrims every high holy day.)

With or without a donkey, Jesus’ pilgrimage group could have been one of at least two dozen coming into Jerusalem on that particular Sunday, all in the same way. The only difference, his followers eventually realized that this time someone actually was coming in Yahweh’s name. When it originally took place, Jesus was just an indistinguishable pilgrim; one of thousands. Few noticed any uniqueness in his arrival; certainly wouldn’t have interpreted the event as our evangelists later did.

But adding the donkey leads Jesus’ followers to zero in on something many of us miss. Those Jerusalemites who at the time of Jesus were expecting a Messiah, were anticipating a very distinctive Messiah; a military leader who would liberate Israel from Roman occupation. That Messiah would ride a horse, not a donkey. Jesus’ mode of transportation during his pilgrimage entrance into the city gave a message most Israelites would have rejected. It might have been good news that the Messiah’s arriving; bad news that he’s riding a donkey. Only after his resurrection would his followers put the pieces together.

In the meantime, we presume this itinerant preacher from Capernaum identifies with Deutero-Isaiah, the author of today’s first reading. He, like the prophet, is determined to wake up each morning, listening for Yahweh’s word that day, even if that word brings him “buffets and spitting.” He hears things other people ignore. Yet, as Paul reminds the Philippians, that word always demands he “empty” himself, that he become completely one with those around him.

That’s why there’s so little physical suffering in Mark’s Passion Narrative. I have no doubt Jesus encountered great physical pain on Holy Thursday and Good Friday. Yet the evangelist writes his Passion/Resurrection Narrative with his readers in mind – those with whom Jesus becomes one - people who aren’t going to encounter much physical suffering in their lives. As Jesus became one with us, we’re to become one with him, to suffer and die with him so we can also live with him.

But, almost always, our suffering is more psychological than physical. We, like Jesus, are frequently misunderstood, friends desert, even “betray” us. In those painful moments, we’re still called to imitate Jesus and give ourselves by constantly becoming one with those who hurt us.

If a gospel Passion Narrative doesn’t even mention that Jesus was actually nailed to the cross, the author must be looking at Jesus’ crucifixion from a unique perspective; a perspective which demands we look at him and ourselves as unique, even in a crowd.

COPYRIGHT 2018 - ROGER VERMALEN KARBAN

This essay comes to you from FOSIL, The Faithful of Southern Illinois, http://www.fosilonline.com.
Email: info@fosilonline.com, or write FOSIL, P.O. Box 31, Belleville, IL, 62222


03/29/2018

MARCH 29TH, 2018: EUCHARIST OF THE LORD’S SUPPER

Exodus 12:1-8, 11-14; I Corinthians 11:23-26; John 13:1-15

That some Catholics still insist on receiving communion on their tongues creates problems for me. It’s obvious they don’t understand what we’re celebrating tonight.

I clearly remember my 1947 first communion. Some of our religion teachers back then still considered us part of the “experiment” Pius X started in 1910 when he lowered the first communion age from 12 to 7. This controversial pope – who, if reigning today, certainly would condemn how I teach Scripture – removed almost all the “educational requirements” for first communicants, and demanded only that they distinguish Eucharistic bread from table bread. Since our parish employed flat, unleavened wafers, I passed that test every time. Jesus was only in that special kind of bread – the bread we never ate at supper.

Everything was directed toward the bread. We didn’t dare look around, lest we break our concentration on it. When the decisive moment arrived for us to receive Jesus’ body, we reverently folded our hands, put them under the communion rail cloth, stuck out our tongues, and swallowed the sacred wafer. It was debatable whether we should chew it or wait for it to dissolve. (Of course, the authentically pious – like myself – waited for it to dissolve.) We eventually returned to our place, heads down, and made our thanksgiving, never once diverting our eyes right or left.

Had Paul of Tarsus showed up at St. Mary’s church on that overcast April morning, he would have turned to the person next to him and asked, “What’s going on?” He couldn’t have possibly recognized the Eucharistic action he refers to in today’s I Corinthian pericope. The passage is highly significant; it’s the earliest narrative of the Lord’s Supper we have, predating the first gospel account by at least ten years.

If we start that Corinthian passage just a few verses before our liturgical reading, and end it a few verses beyond, the context will be evident. Paul isn’t worried about some in his community disrespecting the risen Jesus in the bread and wine; he’s concerned about them being disrespectful to the risen Jesus in one another. Those people who we were once warned – under pain of venial sin - to ignore as we received communion are precisely the people on whom the Apostle expects us to concentrate. Pius X wanted us to distinguish one kind of bread from another; Paul wants us to distinguish one community from another. One is just an ordinary gathering of people, like passengers on a plane; the other, during the Eucharist, is the Body of Christ.

Jesus refers to the agreement his Jewish ancestors made with Yahweh on Mt. Sinai when he says, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood.” Just as those runaway slaves were sprinkled with blood to show they’d made the covenant with Yahweh, so Jesus’ followers will drink his blood to show they’ve made a covenant with him to carry on his ministry. They’ve actually become other Christs.

Blood, as we hear in tonight’s first reading, is the biblical symbol of life. Just as the Israelites are saved by the lamb’s blood on the doorpost, so we’re saved by the life-giving blood of Jesus. But we don’t sprinkle it; we drink it. Taking from the cup is the outward sign - instituted by Jesus - that we’re determined to carry on Jesus’ ministry. Just as married couples wear wedding rings as signs they’re committed to one another, so we drink from the cup as a sign we’re committed to the risen Jesus.

Of course, as tonight’s Gospel shows, that commitment revolves around giving ourselves to others, even to the point of becoming their foot washers. After all, when we wash their feet, we’re actually washing Jesus’ feet. Not bad for amateur foot washers!

COPYRIGHT 2018 - ROGER VERMALEN KARBAN

This essay comes to you from FOSIL, The Faithful of Southern Illinois, http://www.fosilonline.com.
Email: info@fosilonline.com, or write FOSIL, P.O. Box 31, Belleville, IL, 62222


04/01/2018

APRIL 1st, 2018: EASTER VIGIL (night of 3/31)

Exodus 14:15-15:1; Isaiah 55:1-11; Romans 6:3-11; Mark 16:1-7

Ideally all 9 readings should be proclaimed tonight, but because of space limits I can only comment on 4.

Tonight we’re reflecting more on our own death and resurrection than we’re reflecting on the historical Jesus’ death and resurrection. If we haven’t personally died and risen, there’s no reason to celebrate Easter. These readings only make sense when we listen to them through the filter of our own experiences.

The entire celebration revolves around Paul’s reminder to the Romans, “. . . We who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death. . . . If we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him.”

When Paul originally wrote these words, he didn’t envision baptism as just pouring a few drops of water over someone’s forehead. Baptism in his day was administered by immersion. Catechumens were totally dunked under the water, then raised up; an outward sign of dying, being buried, and rising with Jesus. As with all sacraments, what happens outside symbolizes what’s happening inside.

The key is that, like Jesus, one must really be dead before one can rise. As John’s Jesus states in chapter 12, “Only when the grain of wheat dies will it produce fruit.” That’s why these specific women are at the tomb. In Mark’s gospel they alone actually saw Jesus die. Had they not initially experienced his death they wouldn’t have been the first to experience his resurrection.

They’ll eventually understand they’re not dealing with a resuscitation. The historical Jesus doesn’t simply start breathing again. When Paul experienced the “Christ” on the Damascus road, he experienced a whole “new creation,” no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female. As he later told his community in Galatia, he’d never before experienced anyone quite like him/her.

The essential thing about Jesus’ followers is that those who, like him, die by giving themselves to those around them also rise into new creations. That’s why, as we learned in catechism class, no one should confess sins they’ve committed before baptism. It isn’t just that baptism washed away those sins; a different person committed those sins, a person who died.

Just as the ancient Israelites became a new people by crossing through the sea during the Exodus, so we became a new people when we were submerged in the waters of baptism. A group of runaway slaves became the Chosen People when they stepped into the sea; we became other Christs when we stepped into our baptismal water.

Our newness is something on which we can constantly reflect. We never run out of possibilities, never have a shortage of ideas. We’re always acquiring new insights. That’s why Isaiah 55 is a unique reading for this unique night. Deutero-Isaiah’s disciples deliberately chose to end their 16 chapter collection of his oracles in this way; mentioning experiences on which, 500 years after their mentor’s death, even other Christs can reflect.

We who’ve imitated Jesus’ death and resurrection know what it’s like to actually have a deep thirst quenched, a thirst many of us didn’t even notice until this Galilean carpenter became part of our lives. Because of his/her presence, we daily experience someone who simultaneously is so near to us that we can’t imagine how we existed before, yet who is also as far away from us as the heavens are above the earth. Part of our dying/rising is a commitment to live our lives in the midst of such contradictions.

We have no choice but to constantly fall back on God’s word in our life. Deutero-Isaiah was convinced that as soon as Yahweh says something, it happens. This night of all nights is the best occasion to surface what the risen Jesus is saying in my life. If we don’t know, we simply haven’t been listening.

COPYRIGHT 2018 - ROGER VERMALEN KARBAN

This essay comes to you from FOSIL, The Faithful of Southern Illinois, http://www.fosilonline.com.
Email: info@fosilonline.com, or write FOSIL, P.O. Box 31, Belleville, IL, 62222


04/08/2018

APRIL 8th, 2018: SECOND SUNDAY OF EASTER

Acts 2:32-35; I John 5:1-6; John 20:19-31

Looking back at my pre-scriptural religious education, it seems the only “vision” instilled in me was my being in heaven one day. If I daydreamed about anything having to do with this earth it probably revolved around all my friends and family converting to Catholicism so we could spend eternity together. I certainly didn’t share the vision of the gospel Jesus.

That’s why many of the Easter season Acts readings are so important. Scholars agree the glimpses of the early Jerusalem Christian community which Luke provides most probably aren’t accurate historical photographs of that church, a community in which “there was no needy person among them.” Luke seems simply to be depicting an ideal community, one in which Christians are living as Jesus expects them to live. He’s sharing Jesus’ vision with his readers, encouraging them to spend their lives trying to make that vision a reality. Unlike my early religious education, it had little to do with getting into heaven. It was much more about creating a little bit of heaven here on earth.

In this passage, the death entailed in creating that heaven revolves around giving up personal ownership of property. It’s clear from the following Ananias and Sapphira narrative that no one was obligated to take such a drastic step in order to become a Christian. Yet, if we’re other Christs, the possibility of such an action should always be in the back of our minds.

Of course, the reason for such an extraordinary move should always be in the front of our minds: love. The unknown author of I John clearly understands its positioning. Love is always central for all Jesus’ followers. “We know that we love the children of God,” he writes, “when we love God and obey his commandments.” Our faith can only “conquer the world” by falling back on the power of love.

Yet for most of us, even more drastic than giving up property is giving up revenge; something John’s Jesus expects all of us to do all of the time. That’s one of the reasons he gives us his Spirit, to help us forgive others.

We Catholics have been so accustomed to hearing Jesus’ words about “forgiving” and “retaining” as the proof text for the church’s power to “hear confessions,” that we forget he never wanted anyone to retain someone’s sins. He simply seems to be pointing out the consequences of such behavior. In case we haven’t noticed, when we forgive a person, that person’s sins are actually forgiven. When we go against his teachings and retain a person’s sins, those sins remain part of who that person is. We then not only have to worry about our sins, we also have to worry about his or her sins. Unforgiven, they become part of our sinfulness.

I frequently remind my students that Scripture provides us with two separate occasions for the Spirit’s arrival: Pentecost morning in Acts and Easter Sunday night in John. I also point out that the Acts narrative is accompanied by several “disturbing” phenomena: noise, wind and fire, reminding us that the Spirit always disturbs our otherwise tranquil life. The same is true of John’s narrative. Fulfilling Jesus’ vision of a forgiving community can be just as disturbing as noise, wind and fire. It’s at right angles to many of our personalities.

No wonder Thomas wants to see and touch the risen Jesus’ wounds as proof he/she actually exists. It’s really Jesus only if this “new creation” can show the scars resulting from living out his vision.

I trust one day that same Jesus will check on our scars when we finally encounter him at the pearly gates. If we haven’t shared his wounds, I presume neither did we share his vision.

COPYRIGHT 2018 - ROGER VERMALEN KARBAN

This essay comes to you from FOSIL, The Faithful of Southern Illinois, http://www.fosilonline.com.
Email: info@fosilonline.com, or write FOSIL, P.O. Box 31, Belleville, IL, 62222


04/15/2018

APRIL 15th, 2018: THIRD SUNDAY OF EASTER

Acts 3:13-15, 17-19; I John 2:1-5a; Luke 24:35-48

One of the most significant lines in today’s three readings comes at the end of our gospel pericope. Appearing to his disciples on Easter Sunday night, Luke’s Jesus reminds them, “You are witnesses of these things.”

This verse assures us Jesus’ true followers aren’t identified by the catechism answers they can rattle off, the number of indulgences they’ve acquired, or the religious symbols they wear. They’re simply people to be listened to, witnesses to Jesus’ dying and rising; not so much because they actually were in Jerusalem during Passover week in 30 CE, but because they’ve had the same dying/rising experience in their own lives. Since these life-changing things happened to them, they must also have happened to him. That’s what makes them other Christs; they share the same experiences.

Peter can certainly witness to this unique happening. Just a few weeks before, he emphatically told one of the high priest’s maids, “Woman, I do not know him!” when she asked about his relationship with some newly arrested Galilean carpenter. Now he not only cures a crippled beggar in Jesus’ name, he openly chides those who took part in putting him to death. Yet he doesn’t do so just to give them a guilt trip, he wants them “to convert, that your sins may be wiped away.” He hopes they’ll also be witnesses of Jesus’ dying and rising in their own lives.

Of course, the main way our sacred authors believe we die and rise with Jesus is by undergoing a “metanoia:” a repentance. That’s how he began his public ministry; proclaiming the presence of God in the lives of those who undergo a total change in their value systems. The author of I John sees this repentance as revolving around keeping God’s commandments as Jesus taught them; focusing on the needs of others around us. Those who experience the risen Jesus in their daily lives because of their value-change must be witnesses of that experience. It’s not something they’re to keep to themselves. Others must also be invited to share in this new life.

It’s important in today’s gospel pericope that the two Emmaus disciples mention that the risen Jesus “was made known to them in the breaking of the bread.” Though Luke’s Jesus takes great pains on Easter Sunday night to prove he’s “not a ghost,” how do we know he/she’s real today? The chief way is in the breaking of the bread.

Though most of our early Eucharistic catechesis zeroed in on Jesus’ presence in the bread, we know from Paul’s letters – especially I Corinthians – that second-generation Christians stressed his/her presence in one another. It was little skin off their teeth to profess faith in Jesus’ presence in the bread (and wine); it was “controversial” to acknowledge that same presence in those standing or sitting around them. If they couldn’t experience the risen Jesus in them, then he most probably was just a ghost.

Constant reform of the Eucharist is essential to our Christian faith. Since the Reformation we already have a huge percentage of Protestant communities who rarely participate in the breaking of bread. One need only read the minutes of the Council of Trent to discover a few of the 16th century Eucharistic abuses. No wonder reformers swore off such magical practices.

As the late Bishop Frank Murphy taught our North American College class of 1965, “It’s your job to form the Eucharistic community into the Body of Christ.” Nothing should stop us presiders or the participants from carrying out that ministry. If we worry only about saying the right words and performing the right gestures we’ll never have a true breaking of the bread, and never help anyone become a true witness, even ourself.

COPYRIGHT 2018 - ROGER VERMALEN KARBAN

This essay comes to you from FOSIL, The Faithful of Southern Illinois, http://www.fosilonline.com.
Email: info@fosilonline.com, or write FOSIL, P.O. Box 31, Belleville, IL, 62222


04/22/2018

APRIL 22nd, 2018: FOURTH SUNDAY OF EASTER

Acts 4:8-12; I John 3:1-2; John 10:11-18

One of the most difficult things for modern Christians to pull off is to put ourselves in the environment of our Christian sacred authors. What triggers them to write, and for whom are they writing? They certainly aren’t writing for followers of Jesus in the 21st century.

I grew up in the 20th century, a period when we regarded our priests as the community’s “other Christs.” They alone did what the historical Jesus did. They, for instance, could definitively forgive sins and make Jesus present in the Eucharist. No one except priests could do either. Those who wanted to receive the “effects” of Jesus had to have priests around.

During my grade school days, I especially felt sorry for Catholics in communist China. How could they get into heaven? The authorities had killed or expelled most priests. Though someone could make a perfect act of contrition and have his or her mortal sins forgiven without priestly confession, our pastor one day mentioned that he didn’t think any of us could ever make a perfect act of contrition. It was beyond our ability. That meant Chinese Catholics were doomed! (Not to mention those unfortunate Chinese who weren’t Catholic.)

Early Christian communities didn’t have to face those problems. No one person was essential to carrying on the ministry of the risen Jesus. As we know from Paul’s letters, the community together makes up the Body of Christ. It’s not complicated. Different people in that body simply have different gifts of the Spirit, enabling them to minister as the risen Jesus to one another. There’s no clergy or laity. No one is “ontologically different” from anyone else. Should a minister die, the Spirit simply makes certain someone else steps in and takes over that ministry – without that person having to go through years of seminary training.

That’s why, in today’s Acts reading, Peter was able to heal the “cripple.” He’s simply taking over the historical Jesus’ ministry. If Jesus healed, Peter heals. The essential thing is simply to continue doing what Jesus did. One reason Luke wrote Acts was to let his readers know this continuation is going on. These “other Christs” are functioning well. Because they’ve made the Christ the cornerstone of their lives, the historical Jesus has become the risen Jesus.

We need only read I John’s passage to hear the identification the writer presumes exists between the risen Jesus and the members of his community. We, like Jesus, are actually God’s children. But in the future we’ll become even more than that; we’ll eventually “be like him.” These first century Christians are something else!

But they also accept the responsibilities of their uniqueness. Not only do they look at Jesus as the good shepherd in their midst, as other Christs, and readers of John’s gospel, they must also be involved in shepherding. It’s one thing to marvel at how the historical Jesus conceived of his ministry of unifying and caring for people, but it’s a whole other thing to conceive of ourselves in that same position. If he was able to pull this off over 2,000 years ago, why can’t we do the same today?

No wonder the gospel Jesus speaks about “laying down” his life for the flock. Bringing people together is a life-long process, especially when it comes to including “those other sheep who do not belong to this fold.” It takes many “deaths” to make people one. It’s far easier to build walls than bridges.

Our sacred authors never planned to write a collection of proof texts intended to maintain an institution. Their goal is simply to encourage their readers to become the person they describe, not a member of the clergy or laity, but another Christ.

COPYRIGHT 2018 - ROGER VERMALEN KARBAN

This essay comes to you from FOSIL, The Faithful of Southern Illinois, http://www.fosilonline.com.
Email: info@fosilonline.com, or write FOSIL, P.O. Box 31, Belleville, IL, 62222


04/29/2018

APRIL 29th, 2018: FIFTH SUNDAY OF EASTER

Acts 9:26-31; I John 3:18-24; John 15:1-8

To correctly interpret Scripture, we must take ourselves out of our day and age and put ourselves in the day and age of Scripture’s original readers. For instance, most of us who read today’s Christian Scriptures are members of various institutions which have been promoting the “Christian religion” for centuries. We have specific rules and regulations we’re expected to follow, clear-cut dogmas to which we’re committed to adhere. Our first century Christian authors, on the other hand, were part of a movement, not members of an institution. Instead of following definitive rules, regulations and dogmas, they were simply expected to follow a person: the risen Jesus among them. How they accomplished that often differed person to person, but as we hear in today’s three readings, there were certain “things” which applied to everyone.

It’s clear from today’s gospel pericope that John and his readers considered themselves branches of a vine which, because of Jesus’ resurrection, had been growing for just over 60 years. The Christ and his/her disciples had been one throughout those three generations. “I am the vine,” John’s Jesus proclaims. “You are the branches.” Unlike many religious institutions today, the evangelist was much more interested in his readers becoming one with the Christ than in becoming one with the institution. The goal always is to “bear much fruit;” to bring as much life into this world as the vine originally produced. No one could pull this off by himself or herself. It all revolved around being branches of the risen Jesus.

Of course, those branches could only produce fruit by being “pruned.”

Years ago I heard an interview of well-known botanist reflecting on his recent visit to Japan. He traveled there to advise fruit growers how to get more production from their trees. “The problem was immediately clear,” he said, “they almost never pruned their trees.”

He quickly picked up a pruning tool and began sawing off some of the over-abundant branches. After a minute or two demonstrating the proper technique, he turned around to ask for questions, amazed to see several of the growers with tears in their eyes. “I had destroyed the natural, beautiful symmetry of their trees.”

He handed the pruning tool back to them and said, “You can produce beautiful trees or you can produce fruit. You can’t do both. The choice is up to you.”

In some sense, that’s also the dilemma facing Christian churches. We can create beautiful, inspiring, well-ordered institutions, or we can produce the fruit Jesus expects of us. We can’t do both.

Though Luke shows us a very ordered church in his Acts of the Apostles, it’s clear from today’s passage that, behind the scenes, a lot of pruning was going on. Instead of immediately receiving the newly-converted Saul with open arms, the Jerusalem community is standoffish. How can they be certain his Damascus Road conversion story is really true, and not just a slick gimmick created to arrest more Christians? If it weren’t for Barnabas, the future Apostle to the Gentiles would have been left out in the cold. But even after he’s rendered “acceptable,” his confrontative style creates so many problems that the community’s solution is simply to give him a one-way ticket back to Tarsus. To say the least, he was disrupting the church’s order.

That also seems to be why the author of I John zeros in on the basics of the faith, totally ignoring its “beauty points.” We’re to be judged only on how “we keep (Jesus’) commandments and do what is pleasing to him.” There’s no other way to produce fruit.

Is it possible some Catholics today are trying to take the pruning tool out of Pope Francis’ hands? Maybe there’s still time to stop him reshaping the church.

COPYRIGHT 2018 - ROGER VERMALEN KARBAN

This essay comes to you from FOSIL, The Faithful of Southern Illinois, http://www.fosilonline.com.
Email: info@fosilonline.com, or write FOSIL, P.O. Box 31, Belleville, IL, 62222


05/06/2018

MAY 6TH, 2016: SIXTH SUNDAY OF EASTER

Acts 10:25-26, 34-35, 44-48; I John 4:7-11; John 15:9-17

I learned very early in my religious career that one sign the Roman Catholic Church is the one and only “true” church revolves around the conviction that only the Roman Catholic Church has never changed through the centuries. Though other churches have frequently changed, we’ve toed the line, never altering our beliefs, never modifying our practices. We believe and do whatever Jesus commanded us to believe and do at the Last Supper.

Then I fell into the diabolical heresy of studying Scripture.

Among other things, I learned the earliest followers of Jesus followed the risen, not the historical Jesus. They were much more concerned with what the Christ among them was teaching and expecting of them than what the Galilean carpenter had taught and expected of his original disciples a generation or two before. The historical Jesus certainly wasn’t irrelevant, but through his resurrection he had morphed into a new creation, a person who, as Paul believed and taught, was as much a Jew as a Gentile, a free person as a slave, and a woman as a man. He/she not only was concerned with what happened to his fellow Jews in Palestine between 6 BCE and 30 CE, the risen Christ now also cared about those who lived years later, in places far beyond Palestine, Jews and non-Jews alike. That’s why the members of this unique community didn’t hesitate to change. But they certainly didn’t change for change’s sake. There was a method behind their “mobility;” a method we hear especially in today’s gospel pericope. A method revolving around love.

John’s Jesus couldn’t be clearer: “This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.” Notice, he doesn’t say, “Love one another as I have loved you.” The evangelist has him refer to the present, not the past. Jesus of Nazareth didn’t show love once upon a time, he/she, as the risen Christ, is giving us love right here and now. It’s ongoing.

I frequently reminded my high school marriage course students that there’s no one action which to everyone, in every place, at every time shows love. Signs of love change as the people around us and the circumstances they encounter change. We who are commanded to love must always be alert to employing actions which show love to this particular person, in this particular time and place. For Christians, change isn’t a curse, it’s a loving necessity.

Love of others is at the heart of Jesus' faith, as the author of I John insists in our second reading. “Let us love one another,” he writes, “because love is of God: everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God.” Since to biblically know someone or something is to experience someone or something, the author is telling his readers, “The only way we can experience God in our lives is to love one another.” There are no shortcuts.

One of the reasons Luke originally composed his Acts of the Apostles was to let his community know how a church that began as 100 percent Jewish in the 30s, was, in the mid-80s when he wrote, quickly becoming 100 percent Gentile. A real sea change! Though Luke assures us that the Holy Spirit was certainly behind this fundamental switch in membership, most scholars are convinced that, on just a natural level, when Jewish Christians began to love Gentiles as much as the risen Jesus loved them, they couldn’t understand why non-Jews couldn’t also be other Christs. Love eventually opened up the Christian community to love as the Christ loves.

Though this insight flies in the face of my childhood catechism classes, unchangeableness isn’t a sign of divine authenticity; it’s simply a sign we’ve refused to love.

COPYRIGHT 2018 - ROGER VERMALEN KARBAN

This essay comes to you from FOSIL, The Faithful of Southern Illinois, http://www.fosilonline.com.
Email: info@fosilonline.com, or write FOSIL, P.O. Box 31, Belleville, IL, 62222



Archives in PDF format:
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Each archive file has two articles with the most recent at the bottom.

2018 Essays
April 29 & May 6, 2018
April 15 & 22, 2018
March 31 (vigil) & April, 2018
March 25 & 29, 2018
March 11 & 18, 2018
February 25 & March 4, 2018
February 11 & 18, 2018
January 28 & February 4, 2018
January 14 & 21, 2018


2017 Essays

December 31, 2017, & January 7, 2018
December 24 & 25, 2017
December 10 & 17, 2017
November 26 & December 3, 2017
November 12 & 19, 2017
October 29 & November 5, 2017
October 15 & 22, 2017
October 1 & 8, 2017
September 17 & 24, 2017
September 3 & 10, 2017
August 20 & 27, 2017
August 6 & 13, 2017
July 23 & 30, 2017
July 9 & 16, 2017
June 25 & July 2, 2017
June 11 & 18, 2017
May 28 & June 4, 2017
May 21 & 25 or 28, 2017
May 7 & 14, 2017
April 23 & 30, 2017
April 13 & 15(vigil), 2017
April 2 & 9, 2017
March 19 & 26, 2017
March 5 & 12, 2017
February 19 & 26, 2017
February 5 & 12, 2017
January 22 & 29, 2017
January 8 & 15, 2017


2016 Essays

December 25, 2016, & January 1, 2017
December 11 & 18, 2016
November 27 & December 4, 2016
November 13 & 20, 2016
October 30 & November 6, 2016
October 16 & 23, 2016
October 2 & 9, 2016
September 18 & 25, 2016
September 4 & 11, 2016
August 21 & 28, 2016
August 7 & 14, 2016
July 24 & 31, 2016
July 10 & 17, 2016
June 26 and July 3, 2016
Jun 12 & June 19, 2016
May 29 & June 5, 2016
May 15 & May 22, 2016
May 5 & May 8, 2016
April 24 & May 1, 2016
April 10 & April 17, 2016
March 27 and April 3, 2016
March 24 & 26, 2016
March 13 & 20, 2016
February 28 and March 6, 2016
February 14 and 21, 2016
January 31 and February 7, 2016
January 17 and 24, 2016
January 3 and 10, 2016


2015 Essays
December 25 and 27, 2015
December 13, 20 and 25, 2015
November 29 and December 6, 2015
November 15 and 22, 2015
November 1 and 8, 2015
October 18 and 25, 2015
October 4 and 11, 2015
September 20 and 27, 2015
September 6 and 13, 2015
August 23 and 30, 2015
August 9 and 16, 2015
July 26 and August 2, 2015
July 12 and 19, 2015
June 28 and July 5, 2015
June 14 and 21, 2015
May 31 and June 7, 2015
May 17 and 24, 2015
May 10 and May 14 or 17, 2015
April 26 and May 3, 2015
April 12 and 19, 2015
April 4 and 5, 2015
March 29 and April 2, 2015
March 15 and 22, 2015
March 1 and 8, 2015
February 15 and 22, 2015
February 1 and 8, 2015
January 18 and 25, 2015
January 4 and 11, 2015

2014 Essays
December 25 & 28, 2014
December 14 & 21, 2014
November 30 & December 7, 2014
November 16 & 23, 2014
November 2 and 9, 2014
October 19 & 26, 2014
October 5 & 12, 2014
September 21 & 28, 2014
September 7 & 14, 2014
August 24 and 31, 2014
August 10 and 17, 2014
July 27 and August 3, 2014
July 13 and July 20, 2014
June 29 and July 6, 2014
June 15 and June 22, 2014
June 1 and June 8, 2014
May 25 and May 29, 2014
May 11 and May 18, 2014
April 27 and May 4, 2014
April 19 & 20, 2014
April 13 & 17, 2014
March 30 & April 6, 2014
March 16 & 23, 2014
March 2 & 9, 2014
February 16 & 23, 2014
February 2 & 9, 2014
January 19 & 26, 2014
January 5 & 12, 2014

2013 Essays
December 25 & 29, 2013
December 15 & 22, 2013
December 1 & 8, 2013
November 17 & 24, 2013
November 3 & 10, 2013
October 20 and 27, 2013
October 6 and 13, 2013
September 22 and 29, 2013
September 8 and 15, 2013
August 25 and September 1, 2013
August 11 and 18, 2013
July 28 and August 4, 2013
July 14 and 21, 2013
June 30 and July 7, 2013
Jun 16 & 23, 2013
Jun 2 & 9, 2013
May 19 & 26, 2013
May 9 & 12, 2013
April 28 and May 5, 2013
April 14 and 21, 2013
March 30 and April 7, 2013
March 24 and 28, 2013
March 10 and 17, 2013
February 24 and March 3, 2013
February 10 and 17, 2013
January 27 and February 3, 2013
January 13 and 20, 2013
December 30, 2012, and January 6, 2013

2012 Essays
December 23 & 25, 2012
December 9 & 16, 2012
November 25 and December 2, 2012
November 11 and 18, 2012
October 28 and November 4, 2012
October 14 and October 21, 2012
September 30 and October 7, 2012
September 16 and September 23, 2012
September 2 and September 9, 2012
August 19 and August 26, 2012
August 5 and August 12, 2012
July 22 and July 29, 2012
July 8 and July 15, 2012
June 24 and July 1, 2012
June 10 and 17, 2012
May 27 and June 3, 2012
May 17 and May 20, 2012
May 6 and May 13, 2012
April 22 and April 29, 2012
April 7 (Easter Vigil) and April 15, 2012
March 25 and April 1, 2012
March 11 and March 18, 2012
February 26 and March 4, 2012
February 12 and February 19, 2012
January 29 and February 5, 2012
January 15 and January 22, 2012
January 1 and January 8, 2012

2011 Essays
December 18 and December 25, 2011
December 4 and December 11, 2011
November 20 and November 27, 2011
November 6 and November 13, 2011
October 23 and October 30, 2011
October 9 and October 16, 2011
September 25 and October 2, 2011
September 18, 2011
September 4, 2011
August 21, 2011
August 07, 2011
July 24, 2011
July 10, 2011
June 26, 2011
June 12, 2011
June 6, 2011
May 22, 2011
May 5, 2011
April 10, 2011
May 8th, 2011
April 24, 2011
April 3, 2011
March 20, 2011
March 6, 2011
February 20, 2011
February 6, 2011
January 30, 2011
January 16, 2011
January 2, 2011

2010 Essays
December 25, 2010
December 10, 2010
November 28, 2010
November 14, 2010

 

 

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