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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.

 

 

Roger's Essays

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10/15/2017

OCTOBER 15TH, 2017: TWENTY-EIGHTH SUNDAY OF THE YEAR

Isaiah 25:6-10a; Philippians 4:12-14, 19-20; Matthew 22:1-14

Meals obviously play a big role in both the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures. They appear in all three of today’s readings. But our sacred authors look at them from three different perspectives.

Though our first reading is often proclaimed at funerals, Isaiah isn’t talking about heaven. The concept of an eternal reward awaiting us after our physical death wouldn’t enter mainstream Jewish thought until about 600 years after his prophetic ministry. He’s simply looking forward to an ideal age when there would be no death, when that “veil” which entraps all people will finally be destroyed. When that day arrives, everyone will gather on Mt. Zion – the mount on which Jerusalem’s temple is built – for the most terrific banquet anyone could ever imagine. Yet I presume Isaiah knew such a day would never arrive during his lifetime. It was just his “when-my-ship-comes-in” dream, an expression of his faith in Yahweh’s eventual care, no matter when and how it would appear.

Still, meals – and especially banquet type meals – were significant events in the biblical world. That seems to be why the gospel Jesus uses the metaphor of a big feast when he’s trying to explain his insight into the “kingdom of heaven.”

Before this story appeared in Matthew and Luke’s gospels, scholars believe it was originally included in a now-lost collection of Jesus’ sayings which they refer to as the “Q.” Both evangelists changed it around a little to fit their unique theologies. Luke, for instance, who seems to have had problems with “Mrs. Luke,” leaves out the meal’s wedding aspect, and also adds another excuse for not attending: “I’ve just married a wife, and therefore . . . .” But in either case, gospel readers are reminded that lots of people miss the boat when it comes to recognizing God working effectively in their lives.

By the way, don’t worry about the poor guy who was just walking down the main street, suddenly pulled into a wedding banquet, and then thrown out into the “darkness outside” because he’s not wearing the proper clothes. Matthew has obviously meshed two separate stories into one, simply because they had something to do with wedding celebrations. The second story has nothing to do with the first.

Ignoring the second story, Jesus’ message is clear: “Many are invited, but few are chosen.” Matthew’s readers can prove the point by just looking around. Few people are willing to die enough to themselves to actually experience God in their everyday lives. Though they’re probably longing for such a heavenly encounter, they easily can find excuses for not following through on such a demanding invitation.

On the other hand, Paul of Tarsus is one of the few who has actually accepted the invitation. He’s stepped into a life he could only have dreamt about before he came face to face with the risen Jesus on the Damascus road. By forming the giving relationship with others which that invitation requires, he discovers his value system has drastically been transformed – even about such basics as food. As he tells the Philippians, “I have learned the secret of being well fed and of going hungry, of living in abundance and of being in need.” He has a new focus in life, a focus which actually brings life, no matter the circumstances he experiences.

Obviously Paul’s disciples in Philippi have the same focus, else they wouldn’t be sharing what they have with him.

It’s more than interesting what people are able to do when they start to experience the risen Jesus among them, especially in the needy people among them. “I can do all things in him who strengthens me,” Paul proclaims. But he would have accomplished nothing had he found an excuse to ignore God’s invitation.

COPYRIGHT 2017 - 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


10/22/2017

OCTOBER 22ND, 2017: TWENTY-NINTH SUNDAY OF THE YEAR

Isaiah 45:1, 4-6; I Thessalonians 1:1-5b; Matthew 22:15-21

It might be best to start this commentary by looking at today’s oft-misunderstood gospel pericope.

This passage is frequently employed by those who wish to divide the world between God and “Caesar,” church and state. They frequently use it to defend their conviction that the church and its ministers should stick to “churchy” things, and leave matters of state to those who have a special expertise in such matters.

The main problem with such reasoning is that a church/state configuration of the world was unheard of at the time Matthew penned these lines. His Jesus is simply getting out of a trap set by his enemies, stating something obvious to everyone.

His enemies are convinced they have him cornered. If he says, “Yes, pay the tax!” the Pharisees would sneer and say, “You’ve just lost all credibility with the people. You’re nothing but a lackey of our Roman occupiers.”

Should he say, “No, don’t pay the tax!” the Herodians would yell, “Traitor! Roman soldiers will be coming around later tonight to arrest you for treason to the Empire.”

But by asking his enemies to produce the Roman coin used to pay the tax, then inquiring whose image and name are on the coin, he’s saying, “If you’ve got something in your pocket that belongs to someone else – proven by the name and image – and that person wants it back, then you’d best give what’s Caesar’s back to Caesar.”

The kicker, in this verbal confrontation is what comes next: “And repay God what belongs to God.” In other words, “Why are you more interested in what Caesar owns than in what God owns?” The gospel Jesus obviously presumes the coin, the person who has it, and even Caesar belong to God, something his enemies have yet to learn.

Our sacred authors constantly try to get that point across. No one does it better than Deutero-Isaiah. He does it so well in today’s first reading that some scholars believe these words actually were one of the reasons he was martyred.

Centuries before this unnamed prophet began his ministry, the Chosen People were convinced Yahweh would eventually send a special person to deliver them from all their troubles. They often referred to this unique savior as “Yahweh’s Anointed.” We’re familiar with the Hebrew and Greek words for anointed: “Messiah and Christ.” Deutero-Isaiah is daring to call the Persian emperor Cyrus - an uncircumcised, Gentile leader - Yahweh’s Messiah (or in Greek, “Cyrus Christ!”) For most exiled Israelites to whom the prophet was speaking, that was taking prophecy one step too far. In their minds, if Yahweh was going to save them, Yahweh would send a good Jewish boy – like Moses – to accomplish the task.

Yet, like Jesus, Deutero-Isaiah is convinced that everything and everyone belongs to God. He/she can work through anyone, even non-believers. It’s up to us believers to discover God actually doing this.

Though after the prophet’s death, Cyrus eventually freed the Israelites, the lesson of God’s “broad behavior” was still hard to learn. Six centuries later, for instance, Paul runs into opposition from main-stream Jewish/Christians because he baptizes Gentiles without demanding they first convert to Judaism. Today’s passage from I Thessalonians – our earliest Christian writing – shows how pleased he is that these non-Jewish converts are, without knowing anything about the 613 Mosaic Laws, performing “works of faith and labors of love.” They’re part of God’s “Chosen” People even though they’re not Jews.

As we know from Galatians 3, Paul is convinced that the risen Jesus is unlimited; neither Jew nor Gentile, slave or free, man or woman. Today we could add gay or straight, Democrat or Republican.

Only God knows what people we’ll be expected to add to that list tomorrow.

COPYRIGHT 2017 - 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


10/29/2017

OCTOBER 29TH, 2017: THIRTIETH SUNDAY OF THE YEAR

Exodus 22:20-26; I Thessalonians 1:5c-10; Matthew 22:34-40

Rarely does a liturgical reading more apply to the “Sitz im Leben” we’re experiencing right here and now than today’s Exodus pericope. “Thus says Yahweh, ‘You shall not molest or oppress an alien, for you were once aliens yourselves in the land of Egypt.’”

The authors of our Hebrew Scriptures constantly single out three groups of people for special care: orphans, widows and resident aliens. Each has no one “significant” to plead their cause. The first two have no father or husband; the last are “strangers in the land.” That’s why, as we hear in II Samuel 14, any of the three can knock on the palace door 24/7 and demand an audience with the king. Though frequently overlooked, one of the main reasons 11th century BCE Israelites created the monarchy was to make certain the helpless in the land had a protector: the king. Those with no clout could always depend on him to supply that clout.

The biblical prophets and lawmakers presumed the king’s obligations also were the people’s obligations. Reminding them of their past helplessness, Yahweh expects all Israelites to care for the needs of those who find themselves in a similar predicament. Not only were orphans, widows and resident aliens to receive special care, the poor were also to get singular treatment: there could be no interest on any loan they were forced to take out, nor could a lender keep a cloak overnight that had been taken as collateral. The goal of these laws was to maintain the dignity of those, who through no fault of their own, were in danger of losing that dignity.

The gospel Jesus, as a good Jew, certainly agrees with such generous behavior, quoting the well-known Leviticus command, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Yet as a reformer of Judaism, he places such giving of oneself on the same level as loving Yahweh. Writing specifically for a Jewish/Christian audience, Matthew makes certain his readers get the point. His Jesus alone states, “The whole law and the prophets (the biblical term for the Hebrew Scriptures) depend on these two commandments.” In other words, if you’re not actively loving God and your neighbor, forget about reading the Bible.

It always bothers me, a priest, to hear Paul write about being a “model” for others to imitate, as he does at the beginning of I Thessalonians. Growing up hearing the term “other Christ” applied solely to priests, it really bothered me when I saw some of those special people physically discipline some of the boys in my grade school class. I couldn’t picture the historical Jesus engaging in such violent behavior. (At least I never saw a holy card depicting him “beating the tar out” of some hapless kid.)

Only later, when I learned the title other Christ (Christian) was originally given to all followers of Jesus, I began to understand that all of us should be careful of how we treat others, especially those over whom we have power. Someone’s always watching – for good or bad. And someone’s always affected – for good or bad. We have no idea how “far” our example reaches.

One of the highest compliments we can be paid is to hear that people are speaking well of us not just to us, but to “others.” Paul pays that compliment to his Thessalonians.

Like almost everyone, we often boast about our influential friends. Telling others that we know them seems to give us a higher stature in their eyes. Rarely do we boast about our friendship with the individuals in our midst who have no clout. Wouldn’t it be great if, at the pearly gates, the risen Jesus will one day greet us with, “Welcome! I’ve already heard all about the good things you’ve done for the helpless?”

COPYRIGHT 2017 - 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


11/05/2017

NOVEMBER 5TH, 2017: THIRTY-FIRST SUNDAY OF THE YEAR

Malachi 1:14b-2:2b, 8-10; I Thessalonians 2:7b-9, 13; Matthew 23:1-12

We religious leaders might actually be embarrassed by today’s liturgical readings. If so, we’ve fallen into the trap set for us by our sacred authors.

Back in 1966, the late John L. McKenzie published his controversial book Authority in the Church. In it, the highly respected Scripture scholar pointed out, among other things, that the authors of the Christian Scriptures say very little about our obligation to obey those who exercise authority over us. The vast majority of biblical passages dealing with the subject are almost always concerned with the abuse of such power. That’s how the authority problem surfaced in the early Christian community.

Of course, as we hear in our Malachi passage, the same problem predated Christianity by at least four centuries. The prophet is forced to attack the priests of his day and age, not for offering ritual sacrifices incorrectly, but for failing to instruct people in their faith. “You have turned aside from the way, and have caused many to falter by your instruction . . . .” These religious authority figures are cursed for especially not teaching people about their covenant with Yahweh. They seem to have gotten so taken up with the external trappings of the faith that they’re neglecting the essentials of that faith.

The same poison seems to have infected some leaders in the biblical Christian community. Though Matthew’s Jesus appears to be condemning Jewish leaders in this oft-quoted passage, scholars agree he’s simply employing a gentle way to attack Christian leaders. If the evangelist’s readers didn’t have these problems, he’d never have written this passage.

They, like Malachi’s accursed priests, have forgotten what’s at the heart of their faith. For Christians, it’s the dying and rising of Jesus, and the obligation laid on his followers to constantly imitate that dual event. The historical Jesus’ disciples quickly discovered that the principal way of achieving that death was to become completely one with those around them, especially their fellow Christians. Yet for many in authority the temptation was simply too great to set themselves apart from the rest of the community.

As we hear in today’s pericope, they accomplished this by demanding special places at gatherings, lording it over anyone not on their authority level, wearing distinctive clothes, and expecting to be greeted with honorific titles. (Sound familiar?)

McKenzie constantly pointed out that the gospel Jesus provides a unique definition of authority. “The greatest among you must be your servant. Those who exalt themselves will be humbled; but those who humble themselves will be exalted.” The Christian community is forbidden to compare itself to any other institution. It only has one ideal to live up to: Jesus of Nazareth.

This is certainly how Paul evangelized Thessalonica. He was unlike any other religious functionary they’d ever encountered. “We were gentle among you, as a nursing mother cares for her children. . . . We were determined to share with you not only the gospel of God, but our very selves as well . . . .” Unlike most modern Christian ministers, the Apostle held down a full-time job, simply so he wouldn’t be a “burden” to anyone.

Probably Paul didn’t have to say many words during the evangelization. His personal behavior played a major role in the gospel he proclaimed.

I grew up often hearing our church compared to General Motors or some other large corporation; our leaders put on the same level as business executives. About 20 years ago, in an anniversary article commenting on the history of his archdiocese, the editor of its diocesan paper actually stated, “Had our archbishop and the mayor of our city exchanged places on any given day, no one would have noticed.”

We should read today’s readings very carefully.

COPYRIGHT 2017 - 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


11/12/2017

NOVEMBER 12TH, 2017: THIRTY-SECOND SUNDAY OF THE YEAR

Wisdom 6:12-16; I Thessalonians 4:13-18; Matthew 25:1-13

Obviously today’s Wisdom pericope can only be understood by those who appreciate poetry.

I often remind my students that the Bible isn’t a book; it’s a library, a collection of books, composed by various authors over more than 1,200 years, frequently written in different genres. If we don’t know the type of literature with which we’re dealing, we can’t interpret the sacred author correctly. That’s why we have to fall back on Scripture scholars for help. Unless we actually lived during the biblical period, many of the genres the authors employed will be “foreign” to us. Though I presume almost no one alive today will confuse the Cartoon Network with the History Channel, we’re not that skilled in ancient genres.

Like all poets, the Wisdom author personifies “things” we don’t literally encounter as persons. In this case, he/she turns a movement into beautiful woman. “Resplendent and unfading is wisdom, and she is readily perceived by those who love her, and found by those who seek her.” Biblical wisdom is the quest to surface Yahweh’s patterns of behavior in our everyday lives. If we’re convinced God’s present in everyone we meet and everything we stumble upon, then we must be able to learn something about God from each of those encounters. We simply have to be open to surfacing what God’s trying to tell us. In other words, a lifetime quest “to keep vigil for her.”

The gospel Jesus’ use of parables is a different genre than the poetry used in some Wisdom literature, yet it does emphasize the day by day situations we all experience. A parable isn’t just a story with a lesson. It tricks listeners into admitting what they reject on one level, they’re already accepting on another level. This is especially true when Jesus talks about God’s kingdom. For instance, though we have problems with the slow pace in which God effectively works in our everyday lives, no one complains about seeds in the field taking a very long time to grow. If we accept slowness on one level, we also have to accept it on a different level.

Today’s parable zeros in on always being prepared for God breaking into our lives. Waiting for a bridegroom to return home from his in-laws’ house to consummate his marriage with his new wife is something everyone in Jesus’ day and age takes for granted. Those who don’t bring extra oil for their lamps will eventually find themselves “out in the dark.” (By the way, candles, as we know them, weren’t invented until more than a century after Jesus’ birth. Using them instead of oil lamps in Scripture would be a classic anachronism.) What holds true for expectant wedding guests also holds true for being prepared to surface the risen Jesus. We “know neither the day nor the hour.” If we’re not prepared for his/her breaking into our everyday experiences, we’ll never know it happens.

Of course, we can’t forget the main thing Jesus’ first disciples were expecting never happened, at least not in the way they were expecting. It would seem Paul’s recently evangelized converts in Thessalonica were under the impression no one would die before Jesus returned in the Second Coming. But these exemplary Christians eventually discovered not only was Jesus’ Parousia delayed, but also Christians began to die.

Will these unfortunate individuals miss out on the goodies they’re expecting to receive when Jesus returns, or will they just be at the end of the line when they’re being distributed? “Neither,” Paul says. They’ll be the first to go with the risen Jesus.

Waiting helps us see reality from different perspectives . . . as long as we have enough oil for our lamps.

COPYRIGHT 2017 - 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


11/19/2017

NOVEMBER 19TH, 2017: THIRTY-THIRD SUNDAY OF THE YEAR

Proverbs 31:10-13, 19-20, 30-31; I Thessalonians 5:1-6; Matthew 25:14-30

Perhaps the key to understanding today’s liturgical readings is in our I Thessalonian’s passage. In this earliest Christian writing we possess, Paul is dealing with something most first and second-generation followers of Jesus simply took for granted: his immediate second coming. They didn’t believe carrying on Jesus’ ministry would last a life-time. They presumed the risen Jesus would return very quickly and take them with him to share in his eternal life. At most, they’d have to spend just a few years biding their time before his Parousia would break out among them

By the time Paul writes I Thessalonians, around 20 years after Jesus’ death and resurrection, Christians are getting anxious. As we heard last week, they were beginning to worry about those who had died. Would they completely miss out on Jesus’ promises, or at least be put at the end of the line when the “goodies” were being passed out? Having addressed that problem, the Apostle is now concerned with how they’re occupying their time in the “interval.”

Some Thessalonians seem to be forgetting about carrying on Jesus’ ministry, spending their days conjuring up possible “times and seasons” predicting Jesus’ arrival. (I wouldn’t be surprised if they didn’t have a lottery going!) Others are so disappointed in this delayed Parousia that it’s no longer a factor in their everyday lives. Paul chides both in today’s pericope, pointedly telling each to “stay alert and sober.” Though he’s still holding out hope for Jesus’ imminent return, no one can pinpoint the exact time. Meanwhile, there’s work to be done.

As a good Jew, Paul certainly would have held up the “worthy wife” from Proverbs as an example for all to follow. Whether Jesus’ coming is tomorrow or more than 2,100 years down the road, we should ingeniously be occupying our days, especially if our occupations help others.

But by the time Matthew writes his gospel – at least 25 years after I Thessalonians – Jesus’ Parousia is being relegated further and further into the background. Though the evangelist still seems to believe the event will happen in his lifetime, he’s zeroing in more and more on what Christians should be doing right here and now. This conviction appears to be at least partially behind Jesus’ story of the talents. No one is to take whatever God has given him or her and bury it.

Though “talents” originally were coins or monetary units, because of their use in this parable the term eventually began to stand for any abilities a person naturally possesses. In today’s passage the first two servants “trade” with what the master gives them and double their money. But the third, playing it safe, buries his talent.

We’ve heard this story often enough to know the master’s attitude toward all three long before Jesus finishes the parable. But it’s what he says afterward that creates problems for some of us. This Galilean carpenter certainly doesn’t buy into Robin Hood’s “take from the rich, give to the poor” school of thought. On the contrary. “To everyone who has,” he says, “more will be given . . . but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”

Matthew’s community seems to have interpreted this surprising statement as referring to the faith with which each person is blessed. Those who use their faith to help others will continue to gain more faith. On the other hand, those who refuse to risk by giving themselves to others will eventually lose even whatever security they have.

Only faith which is used for the sake of others will grow into more and deeper faith – no matter when and if Jesus’ Parousia happens.

COPYRIGHT 2017 - 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


11/26/2017

NOVEMBER 26TH, 2017: CHRIST THE KING

Ezekiel 34:11-12, 15-17; I Corinthians 15:20-26, 28; Matthew 25:31-46

Our sacred authors have a unique problem: how do they conjure up images of God which accurately represent their experiences of God? They presume no matter what picture they surface, it’s not going to do total justice to the God they know. Some aspects of their images work, others fail horribly. The author of the Song of Songs, for instance, discovered a parallel challenge when he compared his lover’s hair to “a flock of goats streaming down from Gilead,” and her nose to “the tower on Lebanon that looks toward Damascus.” I don’t think she appreciated every aspect of either image.

In spite of the “limping metaphors,” our sacred authors present us with three distinct images of God in today’s liturgical readings: a shepherd, a new Adam, and a king.

Deeply affected by the Babylonian Exile, Ezekiel hopes for Yahweh to directly break into Israel’s salvation history and shepherd his/her dispirited people. They’ve been aimlessly wandering around for far too long. They’ve no other leader but Yahweh. “I will rescue them from every place where they were scattered . . . I myself will pasture my sheep; I will give them rest, says Yahweh God.” Unless Yahweh steps in, they’ll be left to a dog-eat-sheep world. God is their only hope.

Paul, on the other hand, reflects on the impact the risen Jesus has had on his friends in Corinth. It’s as though the Apostle has read about President Roosevelt’s plans for a “new deal.” We’re all starting from scratch. Just as Adam got us into the mess we’re in by bringing death into the world, the risen Jesus – as the new Adam – has turned everything around by bringing life into our everyday experiences. What we once thought inevitable, the risen Jesus has destroyed. He/she’s created a whole new “game” with a whole new deck of cards.

Yet, on this day of all days, the divine image on which we’re most concentrating is that of king. Today’s gospel pericope is one of our most frequently used passages of Scripture, especially employed during funeral liturgies. It’s always comforting to reflect on how the deceased discovered the risen Jesus in his or her life by caring for the helpless in their midst. But today it’s also important to reflect on how the Jewish biblical image of king revolved around caring for the helpless.

Historians remind us that on their 12th century BCE entrance into the Promised Land, those former Jewish Egyptian slaves didn’t immediately set up a monarchy. Instead, as the book of Judges narrates, the 12 tribes formed themselves into a loose-knit confederation. Only when that confederation no longer met their needs did they begin discussing the possibility of a king.

But it would be a unique king, quite unlike the kings reigning in the countries surrounding Israel. Those monarchies were created to protect the rights of the high and mighty. Yahweh’s kings, on the contrary, came into existence to defend those who had no clout. The high and mighty could take care of themselves. In Israel three groups of people always had legal access to the king 24/7: widows, orphans, and resident aliens. Given the customs of the ancient world, none of the three had anyone – except the Israelite king – to plead their cause.

That’s why Matthew’s Jesus, given the image of a Jewish king, identifies with the helpless in our midst: the poor, the refugees, the imprisoned. He not only pleads their cause, he becomes one with them. Whenever we care for any on that well-known list we eventually discover we’ve been caring for the royal, risen Jesus. The most surprising discovery we’ll experience at the pearly gates. We’ve actually became royalty ourselves by helping the helpless.

COPYRIGHT 2017 - 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


12/03/2017

DECEMBER 3RD, 2017: FIRST SUNDAY OF ADVENT

Isaiah 63:16b-17, 19b; 64:2-7; I Corinthians 1:3-9; Mark 13:33-37

Today’s Third-Isaiah reading only makes sense when we understand that our biblical writers believed people thought with their hearts, not their minds. (Feelings, on the other hand, originated with their kidneys, not their hearts.) So when the prophet accuses his people of “hardening their hearts to Yahweh,” he’s actually charging them with closing their minds to Yahweh. Since they don’t expect anything from God, they don’t even think about God. “There is none who calls upon your name, who rouses himself to cling to you; for you have hidden your face from us and have delivered us up to our guilt.” Though Third-Isaiah knows Yahweh is on the verge of helping those recently released from the Babylonian Exile, God can only do what people permit God to do. How does one go about getting someone to recognize, “You are our father; we are the clay and you the potter; we are all the work of your hands.” Anticipation of God’s actions plays a big role in experiencing God’s actions.

Not anticipating and recognizing God’s actions can even apply to the gifts God gives us. That’s one of the reasons Paul of Tarsus is forced to write I Corinthians. Though the Apostle begins his letter by praising the community for “not lacking any spiritual gift as you wait for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ,” things go downhill from that point. Some individuals believe the Spirit has given them specific talents for their own sakes, not recognizing how each of those gifts was intended to meld together to build up the body of Christ for the common good. They’re certainly blessed, for instance, with “all discourse and all knowledge.” But some are using their knowledge and discourse to tear Christ’s body apart.

What a shame to have hearts so hardened to the risen Jesus that we can’t appreciate the gifts which are meant to help us carry on her/his ministry. How can we remain “firm to the end” when we don’t understand in what that end consists? It’s our end, not my end. Jesus’ followers are working out this end together.

Perhaps the best line in all three readings is the Gospel Jesus’ warning, “Be watchful! Be alert!” Those who strive to become other Christs are obligated to create a unique frame of mind. Though we “catechism-trained” Catholics were deliberately given the impression we pretty much had everything all together – and had put it into one book for safe-keeping – that’s certainly not the mentality of our Christian sacred authors. Thankfully they wrote Scripture, not catechisms.

Mark’s Jesus directs his call for watchfulness to a community still expecting an imminent Parousia. Yet the command to be alert goes far beyond just looking for Jesus’ Second Coming. The story he tells demonstrates how constantly being on guard is an essential part of our faith. As servants of the risen Jesus, we never know when the “master” is going to break into our lives. There’s no such thing as a sacred place, time, or person who can prepare us for such an encounter. The fact that it happens makes the place, time, or person sacred, not vice-versa. If we’re not continually attentive, we’ll miss what, as Jesus’ servants, we’ve been uniquely trained to experience.

Perhaps we’ve been so occupied with learning “faith stuff” that we neglected to learn a faith “mentality.” We might have just created lots of religious, absent-minded “professors;” people who know all about the facts of their faith, but aren’t alert enough to know what’s actually happening in their faith around them.

Too bad those catechism facts simply served as a sleeping pill. Maybe what we need now is a little more biblical caffeine in our faith.

COPYRIGHT 2017 - 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



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Each archive file has two articles with the most recent at the bottom.

2017 Essays
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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