Register with FOSIL

View Fosil Newsletters

Roger Karban

Ordained in Rome in 1964, Roger R. Karban was a priest of the Diocese of Belleville, Illinois, until his death, July 10, 2020, at age 80. He received a Licentiate in Theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome and did his doctoral studies in Scripture at St. Louis University, the genrously and widely shared his scholarly expertise in the Sacred Scriptures.

Karban was the chair of religion departments at Mater Dei and Gibault Catholic High Schools, director of the diocesan diaconate program and the administrator of Our Lady of Good Council Parish, Renault, IL.

A part-time faculty member of St. Louis University and Southwestern Illinois College, he taught the Bible as literature.He also taught adult weekly scripture classes in Belleville, Breese, Carbondale and Lebanon, IL, and with the vision of Vatican II, Karban presented workshops, not only in the diocese, but throughout the country.

FOSIL is determined to keep archives of his teachings online indefinitely.



Roger's Essays

Click here to see Archived Articles



I Kings 19:4-8; Ephesians 4:30-5:2; John 6:41-51

Glad to read in today’s gospel pericope that Jesus “is the one who is from God” and “has seen the Father.” Much of what we Christians know about God comes through Jesus, who according to John is one with God.

People, like the Pauline disciple responsible for Ephesians, can also look at the risen Jesus and come up with some important divine characteristics we’re expected to imitate. He/she’s kind, compassionate, forgiving. “All bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, reviling (and) malice” are verboten. If we accept the challenge to be other Christs, we have no choice but to work on developing these aspects of our own personality.

Yet there’s one aspect of God with which many of us have problems, something Elijah eventually discovered in today’s first reading. But to appreciate this characteristic, we have to know what comes immediately before our I Kings passage, and what comes immediately after it.

The actual narrative begins with Elijah executing the prophets of Ba’al on Mt. Carmel, in Israel’s far north. The prophets’ patroness, Queen Jezebel, when told about their demise, immediately puts a contract out on Elijah. Fearing for his life, he runs south, the length of the country, down to Beer-Sheba (about 130 miles) where our liturgical reading kicks in. Encountering the “angel of Yahweh,” he twice receives enough food and water to go at least another 250 miles south to Mt. Horeb (Mt. Sinai). His whole trip – on foot - from Mt. Carmel to Mt. Sinai is about 400 miles.

The difficulty comes when the prophet eventually reaches Mt. Sinai and Yahweh appears to him in the cool breeze to inform him he doesn’t want him there! God unbelievably expects Elijah to backtrack to Damascus – more than 40 miles north of Mt. Carmel – and carry on his ministry there.

Instead of originally leaving Mt. Carmel and walking directly to Damascus, Elijah takes an 800-mile detour. Anyone can take a wrong turn on their own. But Yahweh actually helped Elijah go to Mt. Sinai. That angel didn't give him food and drink at Beer-Sheba on his own; Yahweh sent him. No wonder the powers that be who pick out our liturgical readings never give us this whole story at one time. If they did, most homilists wouldn’t know what to do with it.

The theology conveyed by the sacred author in this passage is more than disturbing. Besides being expected to follow a God who’s compassionate and forgiving, we’re asked to follow a God who, at times, actually helps us travel in the wrong direction in life. Once we hear this whole pericope, nothing could be clearer.

Applying Elijah’s misdirection to our own lives will take us far beyond geography. How about all the wrong psychological directions we’ve taken in our lifetime? The wrong relationships we’ve formed? Most of the time we didn’t think we’d gone astray. We presumed we were where God wanted us to be.

It’s important to note the gospel Jesus begins his ministry by demanding his followers go through a “metanoia” in their lives; that they change their basic value systems, that they change their directions. Considering their repentance is an outward sign they’ve become other Christs, is it possible the historical Jesus also had to change the direction of his life?

Doesn’t it bother you that Jesus waited for at least 30 years to begin his public ministry? As God, why didn’t he start the ball rolling in Bethlehem? What took him so long? If he hadn’t somehow changed over the years, why were his fellow townsfolk so surprised by his behavior in Mark 6 or his family think he was crazy in Mark 3?

No wonder metanoia is the heart of Christianity. Jesus isn’t asking us to do anything he hasn’t done.


This essay comes to you from FOSIL, The Faithful of Southern Illinois,
Email:, or write FOSIL, P.O. Box 31, Belleville, IL, 62222



Revelation 11:19a; 12:1-a, 10ab; 1 Corinthians 15:20-27; Luke 1:39-56

If Luke hadn't written his two-volume Gospel, we'd probably have no parishes dedicated to Mary.

Matthew barely mentions Mary. Mark describes her as being part of a family delegation going to "take charge" of Jesus because they believe He's gone off the deep end. John places her in two narratives, presuming she converted to "Christianity" between chapters 2 and 19.

But, from the very beginning of Luke's writing up until her appearance in Jerusalem's upper room on Pentecost Sunday, Mary is depicted as the perfect disciple of Jesus: the person all Christians should be imitating. (In the 1960s, the bishops at the Second Vatican Council employed Luke's image of Mary when they included her in their document on the Church.)

Luke's definition of the perfect disciple is short and uncomplicated: it's simply someone who hears God's word and attempts to carry it out.

Not only does the evangelist describe Jesus' mother performing these two actions, he also employs others to point out her uniqueness. Notice what Elizabeth says about Mary in Sunday's Gospel (Luke 1:39-56): "Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled."

Turn to chapter 11 and hear the Jerusalem-bound Jesus' response to the "woman from the crowd" who yells, "Blessed is the womb that carried you and the breasts at which you nursed."

Jesus yells back, "Rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it." Mary isn't to be praised because she's His mother, but because she's the perfect disciple.

In his must-read "Birth of the Messiah," author Ray Brown contends that the three major canticles which Luke places on the lips of Mary, Zachariah, and Simeon are actually prayers frequently used by Jewish/ Christian "Anawim" (the "poor ones"). Though Luke seems to have used someone else's prayers, he adds a line to each canticle to make it fit snuggly into its Gospel setting.

It's important to note Brown's comments on the Anawim: "Although this title may have originally designated the physically poor (and frequently still included them), it came to refer more widely to those who could not trust in their own strength but had to rely in utter confidence upon God: the lowly, the poor, the sick, the down-trodden, the widows and orphans.

"The opposite of the Anawim were not simply the rich, but the proud and self-sufficient who showed no need of God or God's help."

Luke believes that Zachariah, Simeon and Mary fit the category of these Jewish/Christian Anawim. They recognize God as the one force in their lives who can raise them from their state of helplessness and actually bring about the life which God's word promises.

This is how the evangelist presents Mary, proclaiming her "magnificent." She really is one of us, someone who totally relies on God.

In some sense, Paul, in our I Corinthians (15:20-27) passage agrees: If Jesus' mother has risen from the dead, it's not because she's God's mother. But, like us, as followers of Jesus, she's made her son's faith her own. That means whatever happens to Him, happens to her - both death and resurrection.

Though the vast majority of Scripture scholars contend that the Book of Revelations' "woman clothed with the sun" (Rev. 11:19, 12:1-6,10) refers more to the church than to Mary, she, as the exemplary member of that community, encourages us not only to give birth to her son daily (the risen Jesus in our midst), but also warns us about the suffering we'll have to endure for doing so.

There obviously are elements in some of today's "Mariology" with which we ordinary Anawim can't identify. Fortunately, our biblical authors knew nothing about those elements.


This essay comes to you from FOSIL, The Faithful of Southern Illinois,
Email:, or write FOSIL, P.O. Box 31, Belleville, IL, 62222



Joshua 24:1-2a, 15-17, 18b; Ephesians 5:21-32; John 6:60-69

For many of us, our faith has consisted in very few choices. Brought up Catholic, we’ve simply stayed in that configuration of beliefs our whole life. We’ve never experienced a compelling reason to change anything. Yet the authors of today’s Joshua and John readings presume there are times when we’re forced to choose between at least two alternative ways of living that faith.

The author of Joshua presents his readers with the basic choice of the Hebrew Scriptures: do we follow “pagan gods,” or imitate Joshua and his family, opting to make Yahweh our personal God, and relinquish allegiance to any other gods or goddesses? We who grew up after the sixth century BCE have only one God to worry about. But those, like Joshua, who lived before Deutero-Isaiah’s ministry, had hundreds of divine beings from which to choose. For them, biblical faith was much more complicated than just being a “believer” or an atheist.

John’s Christian community is also faced with a choice. The late Raymond Brown’s The Community of the Beloved Disciple meticulously outlines the alternatives. They spring from the distinction between “low and high Christology.” The former looks at the biblical Jesus from his human characteristics, the latter, his divine. If one decides to preach on Jesus’ humanity, one normally goes to Mark, Matthew and Luke, low Christology evangelists. Those who preach on his divinity usually turn to John, a high Christology proponent.

John’s chapter 6 clearly paints a divine, high Christology picture of Jesus. One with God, he offers an everlasting food and drink that guarantees eternal life. His message actually is “Spirit and life.” No wonder some “old time” Christians found all this new stuff hard to accept. They simply could “no longer accompany” that kind of Jesus.

Looking at our biblical writings historically, we frequently find ourselves in the middle of an evolving faith, a constantly moving experience. We not only must know what was said, but when, or in what order it was said. Lots of decisions were involved in forming the Scriptures we have today. The historical Jesus, for instance, decided at one point to reject this-life-only theology of most of his theological predecessors and accept the novel eternal-life theology of his fellow Pharisees. The Sadducees he encountered during his ministry refused to make that jump. They argued that believing in a heaven simply created too many complications, exemplified by multiple marriages.

That’s where our Ephesians pericope comes in. Whether we like it or not, it forces us to make a decision. Do we follow this Pauline disciple’s marriage theology, or go beyond it? We’ve already done this with Paul’s theology on slavery. (“Slaves be obedient to your masters.”) No one today would tolerate slavery just because of the Apostle’s limited reflection on the subject. In the same way, should modern women be “subordinate to their husbands as to the Lord” just because the author of Ephesians said to do so 2,000 years ago? We could employ other biblical quotes to challenge that statement. E.g., our Genesis 1 author contends both men and women are made in the image and likeness of Yahweh; a theology in which there appears to be no marital subordination.

As I mentioned above, Sadducees wanted to live a “simple” life. That’s one of the reasons they rejected belief in an afterlife. Do some Christians reject marital equality today just because they also long to live a simple life? Choices can bring complications. Yet in both the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures we surface a God who has given us free will. Perhaps the more we use that will, the more we actually become like the God we’re trying to imitate, a very complicated being.


This essay comes to you from FOSIL, The Faithful of Southern Illinois,
Email:, or write FOSIL, P.O. Box 31, Belleville, IL, 62222



Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-8; James 1:17-18, 21b-22, 27; Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

The Vatican II reforms opened my eyes to people’s confusion over what are God laws, and what are human laws. Having been brought up in a church which prided itself on never changing, a lot of people – surprisingly more middle age than old - had huge problems when the Council bishops started modifying some of our teachings and regulations. Many of us thought whatever we did and believed came directly from God.

One of the main jobs of reformers – like Jesus of Nazareth – is to remind us what exactly in our faith is from God and what is from humans. It’s natural and easy to mix the two.

Before we start casting stones at the Pharisees and scribes in today’s gospel pericope, I remind you of a late-1960s national survey of Catholics. The questioners asked just one question: “Is it more important to give up meat on Friday or to love your neighbor?” Surprisingly, a majority answered, “Give up meat on Friday.” We obviously learned our catechisms well. But we made little distinction between God’s law and church law. In this case, a changeable human regulation trumped God’s most basic command.

The Deuteronomy author provides us with the best reason for keeping God’s laws: life. Though this particular writer knows nothing of an afterlife, he or she is certain that keepers of Yahweh’s statutes and decrees will have a better quality of life right here and now than those who disregard those regulations. That’s why we should never grumble about having to follow religious laws. We should be grateful for the life we experience by keeping them.

Cutting through the red tape that befuddles many of the faithful about which laws to keep and which to ignore, the author of James tells his community to just zero in on “. . . caring for orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” Above all, “Be doers of the word and not hearers only . . . .” Yet, as innocent as it sounds, “keeping oneself unstained” can become complicated.

It would appear the risen, not the historical Jesus speaks in today’s gospel pericope. Were it the historical Jesus, Paul’s frequent conflicts with “Judaizers” wouldn’t make sense. He’d win every argument against his conservative, law-abiding Christians by just quoting this passage.

The triggering device for this specific teaching of Jesus springs from non-Jews becoming Christians. As long as everyone who accepts the faith of Jesus is a Jew, this question never arises. As Jews, all early first Christian century Jews followed the 713 laws of Moses.

The first Gentile convert creates a problem. Does he or she have to adhere to those Mosaic regulations, especially the dietary rules? Paul’s letters are where the question is hashed out, not the gospels. By the time Mark writes – the early 70s – the issue is fairly well settled. His Jesus can proclaim, “Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person.” Yet the question that prompted this passage still remains: what does God actually want us to do; and what are simply human regulations?

Perhaps the best way to settle this question is to return to Deuteronomy. What laws bring life?

During the 50th anniversary year of Humanae Vitae, this is still the criterion. But our definition of life is always evolving. We no longer limit it to just physical life. The deeper we delve into life, the more complicated is our definition. Of course, I presume we experience a much more meaningful life when we employ our God-given consciences to solve birth control questions than when we just methodically follow human regulations. Proof that God’s laws aren’t always simple to surface or easy to carry out.


This essay comes to you from FOSIL, The Faithful of Southern Illinois,
Email:, or write FOSIL, P.O. Box 31, Belleville, IL, 62222



Isaiah 35:4-7a; James 2:1-5; Mark 7:31-37

Counter to popular wisdom, gospel miracles aren’t supposed to prove Jesus is God; the evangelists provided them to us to convince us what kind of a God he is. If the communities for whom the gospels were originally written weren’t already convinced this unique Palestinian carpenter was God, they wouldn’t be reading the gospels in the first place. Just because someone believes in God, he or she might not believe in the kind of God the gospel Jesus of Nazareth proclaimed. There are all sorts of images of God.

For instance, during the movie Silver Linings Playbook the Bradley Cooper character throws his copy of Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms through his closed bedroom window, abruptly waking up his parents and the neighbors in the middle of the night. Like so many other people reaching the end of this famous book, Cooper doesn’t agree with the vengeful, destructive concept of God Hemingway provides. He wasn’t expecting that kind of ending based on the God he’d heard preached in church.

This “God-imaging” thing goes beyond gospels. First-Isaiah engages in it in today’s first reading. Unlike Jeremiah, who at one point refers to Yahweh as a wadi – a dangerous, undependable stream of water – Isaiah has only good things to say about God in this passage. She/he vindicates our cause, offers salvation, gives sight to the blind, ears to the deaf, new legs to the lame and provides us with constant, life-giving water. Certainly a person you’d always like to have around.

Mark’s Jesus continues with part of that imagery in our gospel pericope by restoring sound and speech to the handicapped man he encounters “in the district of the Decapolis.” Notice how often all the evangelists paint a picture of Jesus curing a deaf or blind person. They seem to revel in reminding their readers that they follow a Jesus who helps us see and hear things which others never notice. For people of faith, seeing and hearing is now on a different level.

This is especially the case in our James passage. The author demands we look at the poor through the eyes of the person we’re trying to imitate. No longer do we notice just a person “in shabby clothes.” We now see someone “rich in faith and an heir of the kingdom.” Though we normally zero in on a rich person’s “gold rings and fine clothes,” and give him/her a place of honor at the community’s gatherings, people of faith no longer classify people based on those distinctions.

This reminds me of a well-known Thomas Merton quote I recently posted on my Facebook page: “Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy.” After reading it, one of my “friends” reminded me that Pope Francis has said something similar. “When we encounter a beggar, it’s our place to give generously; it’s their place to spend it wisely.”

Whether we like to admit it or not, in the gospels we encounter a God in Jesus of Nazareth who often reminded his followers that the God he follows causes it to rain on good people and bad people alike. If we had our druthers, we’d most probably reward the good and punish the bad. Why should we give bad people good things?

It takes Christians like Francis, Merton and James to remind us that we often find a different image of God in the book we employ during our liturgies. If we weren’t taught in our grade school catechism classes that “desecrating” holy objects is a sacrilege, I presume a lot of our homes would have battered bibles in their front yards, and broken windows in their upstairs bedrooms. Maybe Bradley Cooper wasn’t that far off.


This essay comes to you from FOSIL, The Faithful of Southern Illinois,
Email:, or write FOSIL, P.O. Box 31, Belleville, IL, 62222



Isaiah 50:5-9a; James 2:14-18; Mark 8:27-35

Christianity is a rather simple-to-understand faith: If you die with Christ, you rise with Christ. The problem comes in the definition of terms – especially what it means to die with Christ.

Obviously our faith doesn’t demand we actually take off our clothes, lie down on a crucifix and have nails pounded in our wrists and feet. Though the historical Jesus actually died in that way, his followers were never expected to precisely imitate that event. Our dying with him is on a different level. That’s why our first evangelist – Mark – makes certain his readers know what the gospel Jesus means by “dying with him.”

Three times – in chapters 8, 9, and 10 – Mark’s Jesus predicts his passion, death and resurrection. After each prediction, one or more of his disciples say or do something showing they have no idea what it means to die with him. Finally, Jesus clarifies the situation, teaching Mark’s readers three different lessons on dying.

Today’s gospel pericope, after Jesus’ question about who he is, presents us with the first of those predictions. Peter’s given the honor of initially “screwing up the works,” earning Jesus’ well-known, dreaded command, “Get behind me, Satan.” The leader of the Twelve has no idea why dying with Jesus is necessary. Simon, and those who think like him, are obstacles to Jesus’ dying/rising life and ministry.

But how does someone actually die? By denying themselves, taking up their “cross” and following Jesus.

Of course, carrying one’s cross wouldn’t have made sense until after Jesus’ resurrection. That’s why scholars believe the historical Jesus most probably encouraged his followers to carry their “tau.” The tau – a T – isn’t just the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet, it’s also used to symbolize “totality.” Similar to our expression “from A to Z.” (Only for them it would be from aleph to tau.) “Doing something to the tau” implies doing the whole thing. At the time of Jesus, some holy, pious Jews would actually wear a tau on their clothes, or tattoo one on their hand as a sign they were totally dedicated to carrying out Yahweh’s will. (Francis of Assisi knew this, prompting him to frequently use taus. Taus are now found in many Franciscan coats of arms.)

In today’s gospel narrative, Mark is telling his community that the first way another Christ dies is to be totally open to whatever God wants him or her to do. Ironically for the historical Jesus, part of his personal tau consisted in his accepting the cross. No wonder the evangelist could replace tau with cross when Jesus was in the picture. Yet carrying one’s tau is much broader than just one unpleasant thing we’re expected to endure.

Deutero-Isaiah’s tau, for instance, includes the physical suffering he refers to in our first reading. But even before that suffering happens, he mentions that Yahweh opens his ear every morning to hear what he/she’s got in store for him during that particular day. Unless he’s a good “listener,” he’ll never die enough to know how he’s part of Yahweh’s plan.

James couldn’t agree more. Fed up with Christians who do nothing but boast about the depth of their faith in Jesus, he demands to know where “the beef” is. Only when we get involved in supplying the concrete “necessities of the body” for those in need do we start dying. Takes a lot of listening and tau-carrying to reach that point.

Obviously some followers of Jesus hear only the rising part of their dying/rising experience of the risen Jesus. Mark continues to be convinced we concentrate on the dying aspect for a little while longer.

Tune in next week for the second way to die. It’s guaranteed to get even more complicated.


This essay comes to you from FOSIL, The Faithful of Southern Illinois,
Email:, or write FOSIL, P.O. Box 31, Belleville, IL, 62222



Numbers 21:4b-9; Philippians 2:6-11; John 3:13-17

Early Christians wouldn’t have understood our practice of displaying crucifixes depicting a suffering Jesus. It wasn’t that they didn’t believe Jesus suffered and died for us. But, when they wanted to create a symbol which conveyed the meaning of that unique event, putting a suffering Jesus on a cross didn’t really do it. During the first four or five centuries of Christianity, a “crux gemmata,” not a suffering Jesus cross, was the norm; they couldn’t come up with a better way to express their belief in Jesus’ death and resurrection. One need only Google the 5th and 6th century churches of Ravenna Italy to find multiple examples of this kind of crucifix.

In its most common form, a crux gemmata has the shape of the traditional cross, but instead of a suffering Jesus, the cross is covered with jewels. The cross is an obvious symbol of Jesus’ suffering and death; the jewels convey our faith in his resurrection. The perfect Christian symbol, a crux gemmata is an outward sign of our belief that by dying with Jesus, we rise with Jesus. Years ago, when I showed some grade school students an example of a crux gemmata, a little girl raised her hand and spontaneously blurted out, “That’s a happy cross!” It’s against this background that we must hear today’s three readings.

The irony of Yahweh’s command to Moses in today’s first reading to “make a seraph and mount it on a pole,” and have the stricken people “look at it,” revolves around the fact that such seraph snakes are actually killing the Chosen People. Contrary to popular wisdom, in this situation focusing on the instrument of death brings life, not death.

The first followers of Jesus could certainly testify to this reality. The very thing which brought death to Jesus also brought him life. John’s Jesus, in instructing Nicodemus on what it means to be “reborn,” refers back to this Numbers pericope. And he employs one of his double and triple meaning phrases – “lifted up” - to convey his meaning. “Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.” Lifted up can easily have three meanings: simply to be raised up above others, to be exalted above others, or in an ancient middle-East context, a colloquial way of referring to crucifixion: he or she was lifted up on a cross. Which meaning does John expect us to take away? All of them! When Jesus is lifted up on Golgotha on Good Friday, he’s literally put above others, and action which will cause his death. But it’s also an action which brings about his exalted new life, the life he now shares with all his imitators.

The essential question for those who carry on Jesus’ ministry is how are we to carry on his dying and rising? Only the most radical would encourage someone to actually be physically crucified.

As frequently happens, Paul supplies the answer. But he reverses John’s lifted up image. For the Apostle, Jesus’ road to divinity revolved around “going down,” not going up. “He emptied himself, taking the form of a slave.” He became one with those whom people in his day and age regarded as expendable. A real death even in our own day and age.

Women can testify how difficult it is to identify with men; men with women. Straights can find it rough to put themselves in the place of gays: gays have the same problem putting themselves in the place of straights. In the midst of this, it’s essential to know that one way Jesus found life was to become one with all of us. GWMaybe it would help if we lobbied for more crux gemmatas in our churches.


This essay comes to you from FOSIL, The Faithful of Southern Illinois,
Email:, or write FOSIL, P.O. Box 31, Belleville, IL, 62222



Wisdom 2:12, 17-20; James 3:16-4:3; Mark 9:30-37

Today we have the second of Mark’s three prediction/misunderstanding/clarification pericopes explaining what it means to die with Jesus. (Afraid we’ll have to wait until the Twenty-ninth Sunday of the Year to learn Jesus’ third way.) Though the disciples’ misunderstanding is implicit in this narrative, we can easily reconstruct it from Jesus’ clarification. Conveniently ignoring his command to die, his followers have been arguing over who’s the group’s head high honcho.

He begins by confronting them head on. “Anyone who wishes to be first, shall be the last of all and the servant of all.” Then gives them an “audio-visual:” a child. “Putting his arms around it, he says, ‘Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but the One who sent me.’”

Many confuse this particular “child passage” with the one in which Jesus commands we become like little children. Here, condemning church “cry-rooms,” he says we’re to accept little children, not imitate them. Those in the community, like children, who can give us practically nothing are the people we must value the highest. Given our culture, Jesus would probably go into one of our nursing homes, put his arms around an Alzheimer resident and say, “Whoever receives . . . .”

The main problem many people found in the historical Jesus was his aggravating habit of turning everything upside down. Because he’s convinced God is present, working effectively in everyone’s life, then our everyday life is no longer business as usual. Life hasn’t changed, but the way we approach and live it has.

The author of Wisdom encountered similar opposition centuries before Jesus’ birth. He or she ran into a parallel problem in presenting the “just one” as a person everyone should imitate. There’s simply too high a price to pay. Biblically “just” persons develop proper relationships with God and those around them. They’re more concerned with building up the advantage others experience than in selfishly looking for their own advantage. In almost every culture they’re “obnoxious” because they “set themselves against our doings.” Instead of transforming the way we live, it’s far easier to just get rid of the just persons in our midst. Dead people usually don’t give us a guilt complex.

That’s where James comes in. Obviously the community for which he writes has little in common with the ideal, loving communities we find in the first chapters of the Acts of the Apostles. Among other vices, the author’s forced to confront “jealousy and selfish ambition” in some of the individuals reading his letter. Instead of being guided by the risen Jesus, they’ve simply given themselves over to the “passions that make war within their members.” Even if they pray, they have no idea for what to pray. Instead of being open to others, they’re trapped in their own selves.

The gospel Jesus has a community vision which he expects his followers to share; an unstratified society in which everyone is equal, no honorary titles, no one more important than anyone else. It’s evident from the “structure” of our church that we Catholics haven’t bought into Jesus’ vision. Years ago it was fashionable to compare ourselves to General Motors or AT&T; efficient, task oriented, hierarchical structures. Some of this “formalism” changed at Vatican II, but it constantly creeps back in. A seminary classmate from Detroit mentioned that shortly after ordination he attended a clergy conference in which Cardinal Dearden, presuming the council had gotten rid of monsignors, asked for suggestions on how to reward priests who had done extraordinary work during their ministry.

Too bad that equalizing frame of mind didn’t last – in Detroit or in Belleville. From today’s gospel it’s clear it mirrored Jesus’ mentality on dying.


This essay comes to you from FOSIL, The Faithful of Southern Illinois,
Email:, or write FOSIL, P.O. Box 31, Belleville, IL, 62222



Numbers 11:25-29; James 5:1-6; Mark 9:38-43, 45, 47-48

One of the most difficult things for people of faith to acknowledge is that we can’t put limits on God. It’s impossible to set boundaries in which God can work. He/she can only go so far, no further. Today’s first and third readings show how ridiculous it is to even attempt putting limits on an unlimited being.

Moses isn’t foolish enough to restrict Yahweh in our Numbers pericope. Though Eldad and Medad are among the spirit-filled 70 elders, they miss the formal “installation” ceremony. Yet they’re eventually heard prophesying alongside their 68 cohorts. Joshua, following recognized rules and regulations, wants to immediately stifle the pair. But Moses stops him. “Would that all the people of Yahweh were prophets,” he says. “Would that Yahweh might bestow his spirit on them all.” In other words, we should be expanding God’s actions, not restricting them.

Jesus encounters a similar “restrictor” in our gospel passage: John. “We saw someone driving out demons in your name,” he tells Jesus, “and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow us.” But instead of presenting John a gold star for snitching, Jesus cuts him down. “Do not prevent him. There is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name who can at the same time speak ill of me.” Then he teaches his followers how to approach such “grey” situations, “Whoever is not against us is for us.” Obviously we follow a God who can work through anyone, any place, any time.

In a similar vein, the author of James reminds his readers that our God numbers the most unlikely people among his “righteous.” According to traditional, biblical Jewish theology, the community’s wealthy are the people most blessed by Yahweh. Yet those with riches are the individuals who most frequently break God’s laws, especially in their relationship with the poor. One can’t tell who’s righteous and who isn’t without a scorecard – Yahweh’s scorecard. The problem is that it’s a constantly changing scorecard. Just when we’re certain we know who’s in the game and who’s sitting on the bench, God switches players.

That seems to be why the gospel Jesus continues his “cut-down” of John by pointing out the role “insignificant” people play in making God effectively present in our lives. “Anyone who gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ, amen, I say to you, will surely not lose his or her reward.” Not only will those who actively work at making God’s kingdom present in our world receive their reward, but that reward applies to anyone who gives even the slightest help to those engaged in such work.

Of course, the opposite is also true. “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better . . . .” Contrary to popular belief, “little ones” in this context doesn’t refer to physical children. It’s simply one of the gospel Jesus’ affectionate terms for his followers. Who would dare encourage someone to break faith with the risen Jesus? Can’t imagine the consequences.

Nothing or no one should stop us from making Jesus’ mentality our mentality, no matter how difficult that is to achieve. If we’re not careful, we could end up in Gehenna.

Jesus doesn’t seem to be referring to hell in this warning: most probably he’s employing Gehenna’s original meaning: the Jerusalem city dump. He presumes nothing’s worse – not even physical handicaps -than living in a place chock full of worms and constant fires. If we’re broadminded enough to accept Jesus’ outlook on those around us, we’ll actually live life to the fullest. After all, those who insist on limiting God eventually limit themselves at the same time.


This essay comes to you from FOSIL, The Faithful of Southern Illinois,
Email:, or write FOSIL, P.O. Box 31, Belleville, IL, 62222



Genesis 2:18-24; Hebrews 2:9-11; Mark 10:2-16

Most readers of Scripture have no idea that Genesis’ first two chapters contain two contradictory creation stories. Instead of appreciating their differences, we usually treat them as we treat Matthew and Mark’s two contradictory birth of Jesus narratives: combine them and create a third, more acceptable narrative. We’re accustomed to approaching our faith from a catechism mindset, not a biblical perspective; always searching for the either/or answer to every issue. We “Greek-thinking” westerners are understandably uncomfortable with the multiple answers that are an essential part of Scripture’s both/and outlook on life. As the late Fr. Frank Cleary often reminded us, “If you find an internal contradiction in a biblical passage, that’s the sacred author’s way of telling you not to take the passage literally.” This certainly applies to Genesis’ first two chapters.

Though we’re more familiar with the Genesis 1 creation myth – the “six day” one – the Genesis 2 narrative is almost 500 years older. Unlike the God of Genesis 1, this God makes mistakes, e.g., creating man without a helpmate, then thinking one of the animals could take over that role. Yet one of the things prompting the “Yahwistic” author to write seems to be the generally accepted belief that women were created inferior to men. That seems to be why she states that, because the first woman came from the man’s rib, she’s made of the same “stuff” as man. Contrary to popular opinion, she wasn’t created from some throwaway batch of raw material.

In a parallel way, the author’s “etiological” explanation of intercourse challenges the “smutty” accounts circulating in her day and age. Her explanation revolves around a myth that since the man and woman were one in the beginning, their intimate moments are simply attempts to become one again. The gospel Jesus will later employ this story as one of the reasons he prohibits divorce.

Though Judaism, based on Deuteronomy, permitted divorce, Jesus is convinced Moses did so only because of people’s “hardness of heart.” Had Moses dared teach Yahweh’s actual will on the subject, no one would have followed it. So . . . why waste your breath? Yet, in Jesus’ reform of Judaism, we should return to God’s original plan for married couples, not base our lives on the exception.

Obviously this idealistic interpretation of God’s mind created as many problems back then as it does now. It’s certainly more difficult working through marriage problems than it is to quickly end the problems by divorce. Without doubt, some couples should not be together. But it’s important to note Jesus’ no-divorce regulation is, like the law to love our neighbor, more a goal we’re expected to work toward than something we’re obligated to accomplish . . . or else. Being another Christ can at times get complicated. Perhaps that’s why Mark joins his no-divorce narrative to his annoying children story.

Toward the end of my high school teaching career, it became evident more and more of my marriage course students were determined not to have children. When I asked, “Why not?” most replied, “They’re a drag!”

A perceptive response!

But from my experience, they’ve always been a drag. We now simply have more reliable ways of preventing their intrusion into our peaceful existence. Yet when Jesus blesses them, he’s thanking God for even pesky children being a part of our lives. They’re a joy along with being a pain.

The Hebrews author rejoiced over Jesus being one of us. As a human being he gave himself over to suffering through the frustrating evils inherent in relationships in order to eventually experience the unique joys inherent in relationships.

Reminds me of a poster that stated: Grandkids are your reward for not having killed your teenage children. Very theological!


This essay comes to you from FOSIL, The Faithful of Southern Illinois,
Email:, or write FOSIL, P.O. Box 31, Belleville, IL, 62222



Wisdom 7:7-11 Hebrews 4:12-13 Mark 10:17-30

Perhaps no passage of the Christian Scriptures is more misunderstood than today’s gospel pericope.

It certainly fits the category of what the author of Hebrews refers to as a “two-edged sword,” cutting no matter which side you grab. It separates boys from men, girls from women, exposing those who are actually in this “faith-thing” for real, and those who are using it just to get into heaven. As the Wisdom writer promises, those who make it part of their lives will discover “all good things come together” because of it.

The man asks Jesus a question all of us has asked: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” In other words, “What do I have to do to get into heaven?”

The gospel Jesus answers as a good Pharisee. “Obey Yahweh’s commandments.” When the man assures him he’s already done this, we presume Jesus says, “Great, you’re on the road to heaven.” But he then adds, “There’s more to life than just getting into heaven. How would you like to experience God’s kingdom right here and now? To pull that off you’ve got to sell what you have, give to the poor . . . then come follow me.” Contrary to popular belief, Jesus didn’t begin his public ministry to help people get into heaven. Good Jews were already doing this. He closed his carpentry business and began preaching to help people experience God effectively working in their lives right now, long before they pass through the pearly gates.

Unfortunately, the price to experience God’s kingdom is too high for the man. “His face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.” As long as he can get into heaven without it, he’s not going to go for the extra credit.

Jesus’ disciples are also befuddled. That’s not the kind of “salvation” for which they bargained. They don’t think anyone is capable of successfully pulling off such a lifestyle, no matter the rewards. Jesus agrees, even employing an idiom for impossibility: a camel going through a needle’s eye. “If you’re determined to make lots of money in life, you’ve got the chance of a snowball in hell of surfacing God’s kingdom. You can only rely on God’s power, not your own, to pull this off.”

But, on the other hand, if you actually give yourself over to God and “. . . give up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for my sake and for the sake of the gospel . . .,” look at the rewards you’ll receive both right here and now and in the future.

No biblical scholar believes these verses are the proof text for the “evangelical virtues,” dividing Christianity between laity (who just follow the commandments) and clergy/religious who also accept the responsibility of poverty, chastity and obedience. Our sacred authors make no such division. The faith of Jesus is offered to all.

As I’ve mentioned before, spiritual writer Jack Shea once observed that the historical Jesus was concerned with answering just three questions: What do you want from life? Where do you get it? How much does it cost? The inquisitive man who interrupted Jesus’ journey didn’t like the answer he gave for the third question. Yet because most of us have studied our faith from a catechism instead of Scripture, we might not even know what first question to ask. The gospel Jesus shows us we can actually ask for more than we were taught to ask. What a waste just to be limited to the afterlife. Look at what we’re missing between then and now. Jesus not only provides the answers to Shea’s questions, he also provides the questions, whether we want them or not.


This essay comes to you from FOSIL, The Faithful of Southern Illinois,
Email:, or write FOSIL, P.O. Box 31, Belleville, IL, 62222

Archives in PDF format:
adobe Documents are in Adobe Acrobat PDF format.
Click here to download Adobe Acrobat Reader

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

2021 Essays
May 23 through July 18, 2021, Pentecost through 16th Sunday of Ordinary Time
April 11 through May 16, 2021
February 14 through April 4
January 17 through February 7, 2021
January 3 & 10, 2021

2020 Essays
December 27, 2020, and January 1, 2021
December 20 & 25, 2020
December 6 & 13, 2020
November 22 & 29, 2020
November 8 & 15, 2020
October 25 & November 1, 2020
October 11 & 18, 2020
September 27 & October 4, 2020
September 13 & 20, 2020
August 30 & September 6, 2020
August 16 & 23, 2020
August 2 & 9, 2020
July 19 & 26, 2020
July 5 & 12, 2020
June 21 & 28, 2020
June 7 & 14, 2020
May 21, 24 & 31, 2020
May 10 & 17, 2020

2019 Essays
June 30 & July 6, 2019
June 16 & 23, 2019
May 30 or June 2 & June 9, 2019
May 19 & 26, 2019
May 5 & 12, 2019
April 20 & 28, 2019
April 14 & 18, 2019
March 31 & April 7, 2019
March 17 & 24, 2019
March 3 & 10, 2019
February 17 & 24, 2019
February 3 & 10, 2019
January 20 & 27, 2019
January 6 & 13, 2019

2018 Essays

December 25 & 30, 2018
December 16 & 23, 2018
December 2 & 9, 2018
November 18 & 25, 2018
November 4 & 11, 2018
October 21 & 28, 2018
October 7 & 14, 2018
September 23 & 30, 2018
September 9 & 16, 2018
August 26 & September 2, 2018
August 12 & 19, 2018
July 29 & August 5, 2018
July 15 & 22, 2018
July 1 & 8, 2018
June 17 & 24, 2018
June 3 & 10, 2018
May 20 & 27, 2018
May 10 & 13 2018
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



Copyright © 2021 · All Rights Reserved · Faithful of Southern Illinois
P.O. Box 31, Belleville, Illinois  62222
Contact Us

Web Site Design & Hosting by Moonlight Computing, LLC