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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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07/23/2017

JULY 23rd, 2017: SIXTEENTH SUNDAY OF THE YEAR

Wisdom 12:13, 16-19; Romans 8:26-27; Matthew 13:24-43

One of Ed Hays’ best-known stories – in his classic book Twelve and a Half Keys – concerns a young man encountering the devil one night on a movie theater parking lot. At first he thinks Satan’s there to buy his soul. But the devil quickly assures him he has warehouses full of souls; he doesn’t need another one. He’s interested in buying his dreams. If he can make that deal, he can change the future of the world.

Fortunately the young man refuses to sell.

But Ed hit on something with which our sacred authors can identify. Once we give up on our dreams, we’re giving up on changing our world for the better.

I often remind my students that the early Christian community is more concerned with having the faith of Jesus than in acquiring faith in Jesus. That’s a whole new faith ballgame. Both the historical and gospel Jesus’ faith is unique; it revolves around transforming our world by giving ourselves for others. If we refuse to make his dreams our dream, we’re destined to one day go out of the same world we originally entered. Nothing will have changed for the better because we were part of this world.

The main problem dreamers encounter is time. It constantly whittles away our hopes and plans for a better world. Things just never seem to turn out when and in the way we expect. It’s simply a lot easier to eventually “sell” our dreams and go with the flow.

As a priest for over 52 years, I can certainly vouch for that sellout. It was symbolic that on the morning I was ordained in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, I and my family had to weave our way under the scaffolding set up to hold the seats for the Vatican II participants. The dreams generated in that Council undoubtedly became the dreams of the majority of my North American College class of 1965. We envisioned a church quite different from the one in which we were being ordained.

For a while some of those dreams came true. Yet it was always a struggle. Eventually many of my priest brothers felt forced to leave the active ministry in order to realize those dreams. And especially after the 1978 Vatican regime change, most of our dreams were officially plowed under. Getting back to the faith of Jesus was put on the church’s back burner. For the sake of our ecclesiastical careers, or just to get some peace in our lives, lots of us mid-60s priests kept our souls, but sold our dreams for less than 30 pieces of silver. The fight just wasn’t worth it anymore.

Perhaps that’s one of the reasons Matthew’s Jesus clicks off three parables about patience in today’s gospel pericope. Echoing the Wisdom author’s call for hope, Matthew is convinced we Christians are always going to have to deal with weeds in our fields. We’re never going to be working in ideal situations or relating to ideal people. Yet no matter our imperfect day and age, we’re always to be “righteous” – to constantly build right relationships with God and those around us.

Following Paul’s advice to the community in Rome, we have to learn to accept our own weaknesses, confident that God’s Spirit always knows who we actually are. Jesus’ dreams might be as minute as a mustard seed or a cake of yeast. Yet if we weak ministers of his words and actions abandon those dreams, the next generation of dreamers will have to wait even longer for the world to change.

Who knows what tomorrow will bring for those who continue to dream? I personally never thought I’d live long enough to experience a Pope Francis. Yet . . . .

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


07/30/2017

JULY 30TH, 2017: SEVENTEENTH SUNDAY OF THE YEAR

I Kings 3:5, 7-12; Romans 8:28-30; Matthew 13:44-52

Author and speaker John Shea frequently reminds his audiences that the historical Jesus’ ministry revolved around three questions. What do you want out of life? Where do you get it? How much does it cost?

This Galilean carpenter certainly wasn’t the first biblical person to get involved with those three topics.

In our I Kings passage, Yahweh asks Solomon what he wants out of life. Surprisingly the king responds, “Give your servant an understanding heart.” Should Yahweh have problems with the term, Solomon quickly defines such a heart. It’s the ability “to judge your people and to distinguish right from wrong.”

Scholars who deal with biblical Wisdom Literature – Psalms, Proverbs, etc. – contend that those with understanding hearts are wise in the scriptural sense. They can perceive God at work in their world, and know how they should respond to his/her presence. Three thousand years ago, our sacred authors believed people thought not with their brains, but with their hearts. (Their emotions, on the other hand, originated in their kidneys, not their hearts. That’s why, for instance, lovers referred to one another as my “sweet kidney” and gave kidney-shaped boxes of chocolates on Valentine’s Day.) Truly wise persons have geared their hearts to think the way Yahweh wants and expects them to think.

In some sense, that’s how the evangelist Matthew conceives of himself. He actually shares an Alfred Hitchcock moment with us in today’s pericope. Just as the famous director suddenly shows up in almost all his movies, so Matthew shows up in his gospel. He’s the “. . . scribe instructed in the kingdom of heaven . . . the head of a household who brings from his storeroom both the new and the old.”

As a good Jew, his storeroom of faith overflows with the “old,” as a good follower of Jesus, he’s also involved with the “new,” constantly experiencing the “kingdom of heaven” in his everyday life. Finding the risen Jesus working effectively in all he does and everyone he encounters can only be compared to discovering a buried treasure or coming upon a pearl of great price. Both fulfill the dreams of a lifetime.

Yet even when we eventually surface that “thing” for which we’ve spent our lives searching, we still have to deal with the price for acquiring it. Paul pulls no punches when it comes to the cost. In today’s second reading, he reminds the church in Rome that we have to be “. . . conformed to the image of God’s Son.” In other words, in order to be “justified,” we must become other Christs. That’s the only way we can be certain we’re doing what God wants us to do, that we actually have an understanding heart. Though we believe “all things work for good for those who love God,” that only happens to those who give themselves over to dying and rising with Jesus – the price God demands.

Among other things, that means we have to commit ourselves to working with a “mixed net;” we can’t just work with those who, like us, are trying to do what God expects us to do. But we’re not only to just work with the “wicked,” we’re to constantly give ourselves to them. It doesn’t matter if our love is returned or rejected, it must always be given. That’s part of the cost of conforming ourselves to the image of God’s Son.

Obviously paying such a price isn’t something we take care of once a lifetime, then forget about it. We not only pay it every day, we discover it changes every day. On the other hand, we also discover a new treasure every day, a constantly changing treasure.

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


08/06/2017

AUGUST 6, 2017: TRANSFIGURATION OF JESUS

Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14; II Peter 1:16-19; Matthew 17:1-9

One of my favorite “stories” comes from a Protestant Scripture scholar. He and his family once toured a pre-Revolutionary-War home in New England. As they were passing through the living room he spied a centuries-old musket hanging above the fireplace. An avid gun collector, he spontaneously reached up and reverently touched its stock.

“Don’t touch that gun!” the tour guide yelled.

He immediately assured her he wasn’t going to harm it.

“I’m not worried about you harming the gun,” she replied. “I’m worried about the gun harming you. It’s loaded!”

When asked why anyone would keep a loaded musket in such a public place, she answered, “My ancestor who build this house loaded it one night in front of his family and hung it there, telling everyone, ‘This gun will fire the first shot for the Colonies’ independence.’”

“Too bad he died before 1776,” the tourist said.

“Oh, no,” the woman replied. “He lived into the 1800s.”

“Then why didn’t he fire the gun?”

“Well,” she smiled, “he just never thought George Washington’s little skirmishes with the British would ever amount to anything.”

The man obviously lived through the event he was anticipating, and never noticed it was happening!

By narrating Jesus’ transfiguration, our evangelists are assuring us that Jesus’ first followers didn’t fall into that near-sighted colonist’s trap. They knew who Jesus of Nazareth really was, and what he was doing.

At the beginning of the first Christian century, Jews had been waiting for more than 800 years for a Messiah: a unique person anointed by Yahweh to free them from their “problems” and inaugurate an ideal age. They had originally believed their king would be that person. But after a bunch of royal rotten eggs, they began to look elsewhere. Contrary to popular belief, there was no one scriptural concept of Messiah. Each age had different problems, requiring different Messiahs to take care of them.

The author of Daniel, for instance, writes in the midst of a 2nd century, BCE, Greek persecution. His people are being horribly oppressed - to the point of martyrdom - for their faith in Yahweh. Like all later “apocalyptic” writers, Daniel falls back on God to rescue them from their persecution. Only God can send someone “like a son of man” to stop the oppression. Though this term originally referred to all humans who, with Yahweh’s help, would eventually overcome the Greek menace, Jesus, in today’s gospel pericope seems to apply it specifically to himself.

Scholars believe this well-known transfiguration passage is a classic biblical “myth:” a portrayal of something which, though true, can only be expressed in symbolic language. In this case, it’s an insight into the person of Jesus. For his disciples, he’s more than meets the eye.

Jesus has become the light of their lives. Not only does he fulfill their dreams of Yahweh’s presence in their lives – something the feast of tents (or tabernacles) commemorates – he has a relationship with God like no other human; he’s actually God’s son! He embodies everything the Law and the prophets (Moses and Elijah) convey.

But of course, as I mentioned above, this biblical myth represents an insight. It’s there, and then it’s gone. It just lasts a few seconds. Only after Jesus’ followers eventually experience his resurrection will their conviction about these things become permanent, essential elements of their faith.

In a way, it’s a shame the author of II Peter took this transfiguration passage literally. It’s important that we fall back on our faith insights. Though looking up we, like his disciples, see only Jesus, if we don’t remember what we “saw” before we looked up, we’re liable to still have a loaded musket somewhere around.

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


08/13/2017

AUGUST 13TH, 2017: NINETEENTH SUNDAY OF THE YEAR

I Kings 19:9a, 11-13a; Romans 9:1-5; Matthew 14:22-33

Today’s three readings are quite disturbing. They surface things many of us would rather keep under a theological lock and key. Perhaps some of the stuff we learned in catechism class “ain’t necessarily so.”

The “thing” in our first reading occurs immediately after today’s liturgical passage. It’s consoling to us believers to know that Yahweh speaks to Elijah not in wind, an earthquake, and fire, but in “a tiny whispering breeze.” Couldn’t be a more pleasant encounter. Yet what God asks the prophet in this specific situation is more than unsettling. He/she demands to know, “What are you doing here?”

Elijah is running away from Jezebel, the Israelite Queen who’s put a contract out on his life. Thankfully, Yahweh helped him escape to Mount Horeb (Sinai) by providing him with sufficient food and water to trek 40 days and 40 nights through the wilderness. But now God abruptly informs him he shouldn’t be there. He insists the prophet return to Israel and forcibly confront this idolatrous queen. After giving him the means to get to Horeb, Yahweh insists he’s in the wrong place!

Did something parallel ever happen to you? Is it possible for God to change God’s mind?

We know from today’s Romans pericope that something parallel did happen to Paul of Tarsus. He’s spent a lifetime trying to be as good a Jew as he could possibly be, adhering to all the Mosaic 613 laws. Yet through his experience of the risen Jesus, he’s discovered God wants him to go beyond those regulations and become another Christ. Justification – doing what God wants you to do - has taken on a completely new meaning for this Apostle to the Gentiles.

Yet Paul claims he would be willing to give up all those saving insights and be “cut off from Christ” if only his fellow Jews would embrace this unexpected path to justification. With countless acts of anti-Semitism in our not too distant Christian past, it’s difficult for us to appreciate Paul’s frame of mind. That’s simply not how a lot of us were “brought up.” To say our faith springs from and revolves around Judaism is an understatement. But it’s something few of us have ever been encouraged to explore.

Neither have we Catholics been encouraged to explore Peter’s sinking in today’s gospel pericope. Accustomed to applying just one biblical verse to the leader of the Twelve – Matthew 16:18: “You’re the rock and on this rock I’m going to build my church!” – we conveniently forget the other things said to Peter in the Christian Scriptures. Things like, “Get behind me, Satan!” or today’s statement, “O you of little faith.”

Our evangelists had no idea this poor, probably illiterate fisherman would one day morph into the first Roman Catholic infallible pope. As I mentioned above, he functions as the gospel leader of the Twelve. But no one originally thought of that group as the church’s first bishops. They were simply a classic symbol of the historical Jesus’ plan to offer his reform to all of Israel’s twelve tribes. For this Galilean carpenter, the tribe of Naphtali was just as important as the tribe of Judah. And he demonstrated that conviction by traveling around with the Twelve: a group meant to bring back memories of the twelve sons of Jacob.

Matthew believes anyone – even Peter – can eventually stop focusing on Jesus and make other things a priority. When that happens, the person begins to sink, overwhelmed by those other things. It’s interesting today that we once again have a pope – Francis - who personally focuses on Jesus, and challenges us to do the same. No wonder he faces opposition. We’re a little out of practice. Many of us simply haven’t done that for a while.

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


08/20/2017

AUGUST 20TH, 2017: TWENTIETH SUNDAY OF THE YEAR

Isaiah 56:1, 6-7; Romans 11:13-15, 29-32; Matthew 15:21-28

Many of us have never noticed that Paul of Tarsus employs Tom Sawyer methodology in his evangelization of his fellow Jews. Yet he’s perfectly clear about it in today’s Roman’s passage. “Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles,” the Apostle confesses, “I glory in my ministry in order to make my race jealous and thus save some of them.”

Mark Twain’s hero finagles his friends into whitewashing a fence by pretending to enjoy his work so much that they eventually beg him to let them do it. In similar way, Paul tells the church in Rome that the basic reason he’s preaching the risen Jesus to non-Jews is to make Jews so jealous that they’ll beg him to convert them also. Once they see how Gentiles’ lives are changed for the better by living the faith of Jesus, simple jealousy will drive them to demand to know about that same faith.

It’s somewhat embarrassing to us Gentiles to discover we weren’t originally Paul’s priority. He only turned to us because of his dedication to his fellow Jews. After they rejected his message, he had no other choice. He felt forced to demonstrate that Jesus’ way to salvation actually worked by ingeniously having non-Jews show Jews that it worked. Though many of us falsely presume the gospel Jesus rejected Judaism in favor of Christianity, Paul couldn’t be clearer. “The gifts and the call of God are irrevocable . . . You (Gentiles) have now received mercy because of their (the Jews’) disobedience . . . .” But eventually, in spite of their disobedience, they also will receive mercy.

Matthew’s Jesus also is clear about the Gentile/Jew issue. When, in today’s pericope, a Gentile woman asks him to cure her possessed daughter, he initially refuses, stating, “I was sent only for the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” In other words, “You Gentiles don’t fit into my job description.”

Jesus eventually cures the girl – triggered by one of the best comebacks in all of Scripture – but he never says he’s changed his priorities. Though open to non-Jews, he plans on reforming Judaism, not replacing it.

He’s not alone in that pursuit. He has some rather well-known predecessors, including Third-Isaiah, the author of today’s first reading. Active shortly after Israel’s 6th century BCE Babylonian Exile, this open-minded, reforming prophet actually envisions a day when Gentiles, adhering to the Mosaic Law, will participate in Jewish rituals. But as far as we can tell, to offer “burnt offerings and sacrifices,” these non-Jews will have to convert to Judaism. (Something many early Christians also expected of Gentiles who converted to Christianity.)

Paul of Tarsus is unique. He’s convinced we follow not the historical but the risen Jesus; the Jesus who is neither slave nor free, Jew nor Gentile, male nor female. We don’t have to be free, Jewish males to be other Christs. Even Gentile, female slaves can make that transformation. In Paul’s “liberal” theology, Gentiles can be Christians without first converting to Judaism. It’s those Gentile Christians whom he presumes will make his fellow Jews jealous enough to also become other Christs.

Just one problem. I personally know of no Jew who, during my lifetime, converted to Christianity. Very few ever do. We’ve traditionally blamed Jews for that situation, at one time even liturgically referring to them as “perfidious.” Yet, following Paul’s theology, we Gentile Christians are the ones to blame. If Jews haven’t converted in large numbers to the faith of Jesus, it’s our fault. We haven’t lived our faith intensely enough to make them jealous.

Embarrassing as it might be, we non-Jewish Christians might be perfidious, not them. We’re the ones who’ve betrayed Jesus’ faith. The proof is in our non-kosher pudding.

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


08/27/2017

AUGUST 27TH, 2017: TWENTY-FIRST SUNDAY OF THE YEAR

Isaiah 22:19-23; Romans 11:33-36; Matthew 16:13-20

I’ve often said that someone who can listen to the William Tell Overture and not think of the Lone Ranger is a true aficionado of classical music. Likewise, anyone who can listen to Matthew 16:18 – “You’re the rock and on this rock I’m going to build my church.” – and not think of the Roman Catholic papacy, is a true Scripture scholar. We’ve employed this text for so long as the main proof text for our hierarchical structure that for all practical purposes Matthew’s real message has been completely lost.

The main problem is that we take today’s gospel passage out of its original context of a first century CE Jewish/Christian community and put it into a twenty-first century church CE institution. When Matthew originally penned these lines, he still seems to have believed Jesus would return very shortly in the Parousia. He wasn’t concerned with setting up a “program for the ages,” but in addressing problems his readers were experiencing then and there. Among those difficulties was the role of Jesus of Nazareth in the lives of Jewish/Christian believers. For the evangelist, this former Galilean carpenter was more than just one more Jewish prophet in a long line of Jewish prophets like Elijah or Jeremiah.

“You’re the Christ, the Son of the living God,” Peter states. The risen Jesus whom Christians follow is not only the Messiah for which Jews longed for centuries, but he/she shares in Yahweh’s divinity.

As we know from Paul of Tarsus, our earliest Christian author, Jesus’ disciples could only stand in awe once they discovered the uniqueness of this itinerant preacher. God had done things through him that no person of faith could have anticipated. “How inscrutable are his judgments and how unsearchable his ways!” Paul reminds the Romans, in today’s second reading, that no one could have predicted what had happened between 6 BCE and 30 CE, and was still happening with the risen Jesus in their midst. We can only give God glory for his/her intervention through Jesus.

Of course, the Chosen People were certain Yahweh had already personally worked in their history. Isaiah gives us an example of such an occurrence in our first reading. The prophet presumes it was Yahweh – and not just politics - who had replaced Shebna with Eliakim as “master of the palace” in 8th century BCE Judah. God never hesitated to get involved in everyday Jewish life.

Matthew is convinced that same divine involvement carries over into his day and age, especially through Jesus and those who follow him. Simon’s rock solid faith in Jesus’ divinity has transformed him into a rock for the early Christian community. This poor fisherman’s belief in Jesus’ uniqueness is the rock on which that church has been built. And just as traditional Pharisaic teachers and lawyers could interpret the Mosaic Law in ways respected and binding “in heaven and on earth,” so Peter and those with faith in the risen Jesus now share in that same ministry for the new People of God. (Contrary to popular belief, this power has nothing to do with who gets into heaven and who doesn’t.)

Through the centuries many of us Catholics seem to have actually put more faith in some of the authority figures in our church than we’ve put in the risen Jesus. Especially during this year commemorating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, we have to thank Fr. Martin Luther for trying to at least partially return us to that biblical faith.

But the struggle continues. After 2,000 years we’re still fighting against “the gates of the netherworld,” trusting the gospel Jesus’ promise that if we constantly fall back on our faith in him, the forces of evil will never prevail - even forces within the church.

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


09/03/2017

SEPTEMBER 3RD: TWENTY-SECOND SUNDAY OF THE YEAR

Jeremiah 20:7-9; Romans 12:1-2; Matthew 16:21-27

The late Carrol Stuhlmueller once mentioned in class that the Hebrew word rendered as “duped” in the initial verse of today’s Jeremiah reading is normally translated as “rape” when used in other places of the Hebrew Scriptures. Given that the next line in this notorious chapter 20 reads, “. . . you were too strong for me, and you triumphed,” that would also seem to be what the prophet is accusing Yahweh of doing to him. No wonder our modern translators watered down the word. We’re accustomed to regarding God as our Redeemer, our Savior, not as our Rapist. Yet, as blasphemous as it is, that seems to be exactly how Jeremiah looks at his relationship with Yahweh.

When, as a child, I began walking to school alone, my mother frequently warned me never to get into a car with a stranger. Only much later did I understand she wasn’t worried about the stranger’s reckless driving record; she feared something much worse. Today Jeremiah confesses, “Years ago I didn’t listen to my mother. I got into a car with Yahweh, and I’m still suffering the consequences.” The prophet is very concrete: “I am an object of laughter; everyone mocks me . . . the word of Yahweh has brought me derision and reproach all the day.”

Even worse, Jeremiah can’t tell Yahweh, “Take this job and . . . .” It’s as though he’s joined the mafia; there’s no way he can get out of it. “I say to myself, I will not mention him, I will speak in his name no more. But then it becomes like fire burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones; I grow weary holding it in, I cannot endure it.” He’s trapped! He’s going to have to be a prophet – with all the pain that entails - till the day he dies.

Jesus of Nazareth’s earliest followers could identify with Jeremiah on all sorts of levels. Though, unlike this 7th century BCE prophet, they can fall back on a belief in an afterlife which eventually levels the faith playing-field, it doesn’t take long for them to discover their relationship with this itinerant preacher brings lots of suffering. That’s why immediately after Matthew has Peter declare Jesus is the “Messiah, the Son of the Living God,” this divine Christ informs his followers “. . . that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly . . . be killed and on the third day be raised.” Peter hadn’t planned on that kind of salvation.

It’s bad enough this Galilean carpenter will have to undergo such pain, but it’s even worse that he expects his followers to endure the same suffering. They, like Jesus, will have to carry their “tau:” be totally open to whatever God wants them to do. Only those who are willing to lose their lives will eventually gain the life Jesus experiences and promises. It’s as though God’s fighting against God.

Even before Matthew wrote his gospel, Paul of Tarsus discovered that same dying/rising reality. It comes with the territory. In our second reading, he reminds the Christian community in Rome that unless they “offer” their bodies as a living sacrifice, they’ll never achieve the life the risen Jesus has achieved.

When Peanuts’ Charlie Brown once mentioned to Lucy that, “Life’s a matter of ups and downs,” Lucy immediately countered with, “I don’t want any downs! I just want to go up, up, up!” I presume each of us can identify with Lucy. Yet at the same time we’re trying to imitate someone who constantly tried to “discern what is the will of God.”

Jesus not only got into the car with Yahweh, he holds the door open for us to jump in with him.

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


09/10/2017

SEPTEMBER 10TH, 2017: TWENTY-THIRD SUNDAY OF THE YEAR

Ezekiel 33:7-9; Romans 13:8-10; Matthew 18:15-20

Years ago, in a radio interview, the late actor Dennis Weaver mentioned why Gunsmoke’s Mr. Dillon had a sidekick like Chester. “All radio and TV western heroes needed someone to be with them, otherwise the show and movies would be terribly boring; the audience would never know what the heroes were thinking. The Lone Ranger talks to Tonto; Gene Autry confides in Smiley Burnette. Without their sidekicks, the heroes wouldn’t have been heroes.”

In some sense, the same thing applies to our faith. Unless we somehow associate with others, our faith – no matter how deep - could quickly become meaningless.

Biblical faith is never to be lived on a mountain top. Only when it’s experienced in the midst of a community does it make sense. Unless we’re relating with others, the examples of living given us by Yahweh and the risen Jesus are useless. It’s easy to “imagine” we’re believers. Actually giving ourselves for others proves it. As M*A*S*H.’s Fr. Mulcahy once observed, “No matter how good you are at bluffing in poker, eventually you’ve got to show your cards.” Only then does the rubber hit the road.

Paul reflects on our unique situation in today’s second reading: “Owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another . . . .” Biblical faith only comes alive when we share our love with others. Since nothing should stand in the way of that love, the Apostle reminds those early Jewish/Christians in the Roman church whose lives once revolved around obeying the 613 Laws of Moses, “Love does no evil to the neighbor; hence, love is the fulfillment of the law.”

Yet, as we know, there’s no one action that to everyone always shows love. Our acts of love differ because the needs of those we love differ. As a prophet, for instance, Ezekiel shows love by being the community’s “watchman.” It’s his responsibility to let them know what Yahweh wants them to do. In 6th century BCE Israel, the normal way the Chosen People surface God’s will is by first surfacing the community’s prophets, then carrying out what they tell them to do. If any prophet refuses to follow through on his/her ministry, they’ll suffer the same punishment as those who refuse to listen to Yahweh.

Because the first followers of Jesus were convinced they shared in Jesus’ prophetic ministry, Matthew’s Jesus stresses their responsibility to confront others in the community when those others refuse to show love to those around them.

Though overlooked by many, in today’s gospel pericope the whole community receives the same power to bind and loose that Peter personally received back in chapter 16; a built-in tension which Matthew is convinced is necessary in any loving Christian community. In other words, there’re no simple answers to complicated questions. Not only that, but Jesus takes his disciples’ prerogatives one step further. “. . . If two of you agree on earth about anything for which they are to pray, it shall be granted to them by my heavenly Father.”

Of course, all this community stuff must be seen against the background of love. We’re not just people who accidentally find ourselves in the same stadium crowd. We’re actually the loving body of Christ. As Matthew’s community quickly found out, it’s in the acts of love we share that we discover the risen Jesus in our midst. “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”

The people we encounter during our lives aren’t just sidekicks who help us reveal ourselves to others. More than anything else, they help us reveal ourselves to ourselves. Only when we show them love do we surface the hero in ourselves.

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
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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