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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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10/20/2019

OCTOBER 20, 2019: TWENTY-NINTH SUNDAY OF THE YEAR

Exodus 17:8-13; II Timothy 3:14-4:2; Luke 18:1-8

(originally published 2016)

We have to be careful how we interpret today’s Exodus reading. One of my Catholic grade school teachers once encouraged us to pray with upraised hands, like Moses, if we wanted to make certain God would hear our prayers and grant our requests.

I’m afraid that teacher never heard of ancient “fertility cults.” The biblical prophets certainly did; they constantly warned their people against employing such religious practices. One of my Scripture profs once defined fertility cults as simple answers to complicated questions, comparing them to modern TV commercials. Having trouble getting a date? Just change your toothpaste! Is your life boring? You’re probably driving the wrong car!

The goal of fertility cults is simple: if you use special words or employ special actions the proper amount to times, you can tie God’s hands behind God’s back. He’s forced to give you whatever you ask, even if he doesn’t want to. God has no choice. It’s akin to holding a piece of kryptonite in front of Superman.

That’s why biblical Jews were forbidden to do anything that even smacked of fertility cults: to plow a field with a donkey and ox yoked together, wear garments made from two different kinds of material, or even boil a kid goat to death in its mother’s milk. The prophets were convinced that no one should engage in any rituals which attempted to control Yahweh’s actions in their lives. The Chosen People were expected to relate to their God, not control God.

Though Scripture scholars can’t agree on the meaning of Moses’ raised hands in our first reading, they’re certain his gestures have nothing to do with controlling Yahweh’s actions during the battle.

Luke’s Jesus enters the fertility cult fray by insisting that those who have a proper relationship with God shouldn’t have to worry about using gimmicks to have their prayers answered. God isn’t a judge who will cave in under pressure. On the contrary, God is always interested in “securing the rights of his/her chosen ones.” The question doesn’t revolve around God’s response to our prayers. It’s about the frame of mind with which we say those prayers. “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

Serious students of Scripture couldn’t agree more with the emphasis put on the importance of Scripture in today’s II Timothy pericope. The unknown author is certain “all Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for refutation, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that one who belongs to God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” Of course, the author is referring only to the Hebrew Scriptures. (The Christian Scriptures wouldn’t be regarded as “inspired” for another 150 years!) And she/he is certainly not thinking about using those writings just as a source of “proof texts.” The sacred writer obviously wants us to imitate the faith of those who composed them. Their faith is the word we should be “proclaiming, whether convenient or inconvenient.”

I’ve discovered after almost 50 years of teaching Scripture that such a proclamation is often “inconvenient” in a church which has traditionally emphasized its own fertility cults. As a child, I used to worry about my non-Catholic cousins’ eternal salvation. They knew nothing about receiving communion on nine straight First Fridays, making novenas to the Blessed Virgin, or the requirements for gaining plenary indulgences.

My mother once received a prayer card from a well-meaning friend. The novena to St. Joseph which it touted came with a warning: “You had better want what you’re praying for to St. Joseph. You’re going to receive it whether you want it or not.”

We Catholics obviously are notorious for cornering the kryptonite market.

COPYRIGHT 2019 - 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


10/27/2019

OCTOBER 27, 2019: THIRTIETH SUNDAY OF THE YEAR

Sirach 35:12-14, 16-18; II Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18; Luke 18:9-14

(originally published 2016)

Last week’s readings zeroed in on the relationship expected of all people of faith with God. A life based on faith demands we relate with God, not try to control him/her. Today’s gospel passage outlines the first step in building and maintaining such a relationship: honesty.

No two people could be further apart on a 1st century CE Palestinian religious scale than a Pharisee and a tax collector. The former was akin to a “super-Jew,” spending his life studying, teaching and keeping the 613 Laws of Moses. Everything he did revolved around those Sinai regulations. Scanning his temple competition, he could logically say, “I’m not like the rest of humanity – greedy, dishonest, adulterous – or even like this tax collector.”

The latter, on the other hand, really didn’t give much thought to those Mosaic precepts. As a collector of taxes, he centered his life on a different value system. He would have daily done things forbidden to main stream Jews. The money he so faithfully amassed went not to his fellow Jews, but to his country’s enemies: the Romans. A traitor to his people, he helped keep their oppressors in power. And he usually acquired those taxes by “immoral” means: extortion, blackmail and strong arm tactics. He not only was hated by everyone, but because of his profession, he constantly was at odds with the very regulations the Pharisee esteemed. Though tax collectors weren’t forbidden under pain of death, like Samaritans, to enter the temple precincts, his presence in that sacred space would have surprised other worshipers. “What’s someone like that doing in a place like this? There goes the neighborhood!”

Yet Jesus praises this religious scoundrel at the same time he brushes aside the religious perfectionist. Out of the two, the tax collector alone leaves “justified:” doing what Yahweh wants him to do, simply being honest about himself. His only prayer is, “O God, be merciful to me a sinner.” Unlike the Pharisee he doesn’t compare himself with anyone else. He just zeros in on his own moral condition.

If all valid relationships revolve around giving ourselves to others, they can only work when we begin the process by being honest about who it is who’s actually doing the giving. Yet we “fake it” so often during our encounters with others, that we also fall into that same trap when we’re really trying to build relationships with significant others. Luke’s Jesus reminds us that faking it with God in a no-no. God simply expects us to tell him/her who we really are. That’s a given.

Sirach, in our first reading, encourages us not to worry: God treats everyone with total impartiality. Yahweh is a God of justice: a God of relationships. He/she gives everyone an even break. If our relationship isn’t working, it can only be because we’re holding back from giving our true selves to God, often because of something embarrassing in that true self.

The unknown author of II Timothy has no problem conveying his insights into Paul’s personality, even when they suggest some of the Apostle’s weaknesses. Though he’s writing about a larger than life figure, he doesn’t hesitate to get down to the nitty gritty. Paul certainly wasn’t the kind of individual who appealed to everyone. “At my first defense no one appeared on my behalf, but everyone deserted me.” Some of us would also pause before stepping forward to defend such a radical person of faith. Paul wasn’t perfect.

Perhaps that’s why he, like us, constantly falls back on his relationship with the risen Jesus: the one person who presumes we’re not perfect, and is grateful whenever we admit it.

COPYRIGHT 2019 - 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

11/03/2019

November 3, 2019: THIRTY-FIRST SUNDAY OF THE YEAR

Wisdom 11:22-12:2; II Thessalonians 1:11-2:2; Luke 19:1-10

(originally published 2016)

On one hand, our sacred authors presume their readers are committed to seeing things other people overlook. But on the other hand, if they actually did see those things, there’d be no need for our authors to write. It’s precisely because people of God don’t always live up to their commitments that we have our Scriptures. In some sense, our biblical authors are in the “reminding” business, making certain we don’t forget the essentials of our faith.

Today’s Wisdom author has no problem assuming this role. Though he or she seems to be one of the first sacred authors to believe in an afterlife the writer also deals with the problem of evil in the world right here and now, especially when that evil is personified in certain individuals. The author’s first principle is that Yahweh created the world in which we live, a world in which evil is always mixed with good. That’s why Yahweh constantly shows mercy to the creation Yahweh brought into existence. But even more important, Yahweh’s “imperishable spirit is in all things!” No matter if there’s evil in us, Yahweh’s undying spirit is also in us, a spirit which will continue to exist even beyond our earthly existence. Long before we meet God face to face, people of faith are committed to noticing God right here and now in all God’s creation. If we acknowledge that presence, we always have an opportunity to “abandon” the evil which at times permeates us.

The disciple of Paul responsible for writing II Thessalonians zeros in on that same commitment. Yet he goes beyond just recognizing God’s spirit in creation. He also recognizes the risen Jesus in those around him. His goal is to make certain “that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him.”

Yet, we live in a world in which we experience a lot of distractions, impeding us from surfacing the risen Jesus in our daily lives. This particular writer especially has to deal with the community’s preoccupation with Jesus’ Parousia. Many are so anxious for his Second Coming that they fail to notice how, in his risen presence, he’s already come into the lives of each of them.

But of course, the greatest obstacle always revolves around the actual people in whom God and the risen Jesus is present. Luke deals with this problem in today’s gospel pericope. As we saw two weeks ago, tax collectors were probably the most despised and evil people in the historical Jesus’ lifetime. Though it’s not too hard to commit ourselves to experiencing God’s presence in all people in the abstract, it’s another thing to actually pick out one specific individual and surface God in him or her, especially if that person is a thief and a traitor to the country you love. Zacchaeus perfectly fits that category.

It’s important to note that Jericho is the last stop before Jesus arrives in Jerusalem, the last stop on a journey that began more than 10 chapters ago. All along the Jerusalem road, Luke’s been emphasizing Jesus’ teachings and personality for those who are on the same road to dying and rising with him. After all those miles, can we find God in someone like Zacchaeus? Perhaps in narrating this encounter Luke is telling us the best way to surface God in others is to help them surface God in themselves, especially by showing our honest concern for them, no matter what other people think or say.

If we think the “lost” are going to be saved by God without our participation, then we’re refusing to notice God’s presence in ourselves.

COPYRIGHT 2019 - 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


11/10/2019

NOVEMBER 10, 2019: THIRTY-SECOND SUNDAY OF THE YEAR

II Maccabees 7:1-2, 9-14; II Thessalonians 2:16-3:5; Luke 20:27-35

(originally published 2016)

We’re so accustomed to thinking and speaking about an afterlife that we can’t imagine people of biblical faith not believing in a hereafter. Yet the vast majority of the authors of the Hebrew Scriptures knew only this life. That’s why their theologies revolve around Yahweh rewarding us for our good and punishing us for our evil right here and now, long before our physical deaths.

Only about 100 years before the birth of the historical Jesus did some Pharisees begin to reason – especially in chapter 1 of Wisdom – that if we build a relationship with Yahweh in this life, Yahweh will continue that relationship into an afterlife. We especially hear that novel theology expressed in one of the Hebrew Scriptures’ last books: Second Maccabees.

In today’s reading from that book, the first of the seven martyred brothers, buying into that Pharisaical theology, can taunt his executioners with his conviction that “. . . you are depriving us of this present life, but the King of the world will raise us up to live again forever.” The fourth brother heroically states, “It is my choice to die at the hands of men with the hope God gives of being raised up by him; but for you, there will be no resurrection to life.” Obviously at this point of theological development there’s still no concept of a hell (or a purgatory.) People only have a choice between resurrection and death. Those who have a proper relationship with Yahweh will live with Yahweh; those who don’t will end up being dead for all eternity.

Obviously the authors of the Christian Scriptures bought into the faith of their mentor, Jesus, and also professed faith in an afterlife, else the unknown author of our II Thessalonians reading could never talk about an “everlasting encouragement.”

Yet as we hear in today’s gospel pericope, the historical Jesus had to deal with a large segment of his fellow Jews – the Sadducees - who thought the Pharisees’ teaching on being with Yahweh after this life was simply ridiculous. To prove their point they bring up the classic example of a woman successively married to seven brothers. They demand to know, “At the resurrection whose wife will that woman be?”

As part of his argument, Jesus goes back to the Exodus 3 burning bush passage. He reasons if Abraham and Isaac and Jacob weren’t still alive after their deaths, Yahweh would have told Moses, “I was their God,” not “I am their God.” (Though we might disagree today with Jesus’ exegesis of that particular passage, in his day and age, it followed all the rules of proper biblical interpretation.)

But his most important argument revolves around a mistake the Sadducees were making. They presumed the eternal life in which Jesus believed and taught was simply an eternal continuation of this life. Nothing could be further from the truth. This Galilean carpenter was convinced that our resurrected life will be a totally different existence from the life we live right here and now. Just as angels live a different life from ours, so a resurrected person will no longer have to live within the limits this life imposes. Our deepest relationships with one another, for instance, won’t be restricted to the human boundaries of marriage. Once we cross into eternal life, we’ll “neither marry nor be given in marriage.”

Though we often like to talk – in a consoling way - about our deceased loved ones continuing to do the things in heaven they enjoyed doing on earth, Jesus insists we’ll eventually have to deal with the fact that our existence in heaven will be the biggest surprise we’ll ever experience.

COPYRIGHT 2019 - 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


11/17/2019

NOVEMBER 17, 2019: THIRTY-THIRD SUNDAY OF THE YEAR

Malachi 3:19-20a; II Thessalonians 3:7-12; Luke 21:5-19

(originally published 2016)

Rarely does the future unfold exactly as we plan. There are always unexpected twists and turns, forcing us to deal with situations we never anticipated. This certainly has been the experience of people of faith, especially those committed to becoming other Christs.

As we know from our Christian Scriptures, one of the most unexpected things in Christian history was Jesus’ delayed Parousia. His earliest followers presumed they’d only have to endure this particular state of affairs for a short time before he returned in the Second Coming and definitively changed how they lived. Though some held onto this belief for a couple of generations, by the time Luke writes in the mid-80s most were beginning to deal with the reality that they’d live their normal life-span and Jesus still wouldn’t have returned. That’s why the third evangelist constantly zeros in on how to live that life-span.

Luke is convinced we should stop giving into the temptation of constantly looking for signs. Jesus will return when he returns, no matter what’s happening around us. International and cosmic events have no relation to his Parousia. But sadly, because of his delay, Christians will now have to deal with something for which they hadn’t planned: persecutions. Luke’s Jesus warns, “. . . They will seize and persecute you, they will hand you over to the synagogues and to prisons, and they will have you led before kings and governors because of my name.”

Not only that, but their faith will eventually create terrific tensions in their families. “You will even be handed over by parents, brothers, relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death. You will be hated by all because of my name . . . .” But never give up hope. Jesus assures us, “Not a hair on your head will be destroyed. By your perseverance you will secure your lives.”

Yet these unexpected persecutions aren’t all bad. Among other things, they’ll provide Jesus’ followers with a valuable opportunity: an occasion to “give testimony” to their faith. In most places in the 1st century CE Roman Empire people on trial have a legal right to publicly defend themselves. In the case of Christians, their trials will provide them with occasions to explain their lifestyle to whole new groups of people; something they should plan on doing - with little or no preparation.

Of course, Jesus’ delayed return also created other problems, as the unknown author of II Thessalonians eventually discovered. His or her mentor, Paul, was convinced many of Jesus’ followers could live an ideal, communal life, sharing all their possessions with one another. Yet as time went on, some of those ideal communities had to deal with freeloaders: people who received, but never gave. After first setting up the Apostle as an example of generosity, the author is forced to warn these selfish individuals, “. . . If anyone (is) unwilling to work, neither should that one eat.” This rather late Christian writing demonstrates the community simply dealt with unexpected problems as they arose. As time went on they more and more understood the implications of carrying on Jesus’ ministry.

Perhaps the prophet Malachi shares the best insight into an unplanned future. Though members of his community were glad to hear that Yahweh would eventually consume the “proud and all evildoers” with fire, he assures them that same inferno would be for them “a sun of justice with healing rays.” For people of biblical faith, there’s always “another hand:” another way of experiencing things. Were the canon of Scripture still open, I’m convinced the saying, “If life gives you lemons, make lemonade!” would have made it into our bibles a long time ago.

COPYRIGHT 2019 - 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


11/24/2019

NOVEMBER 24, 2019: CHRIST THE KING

II Samuel 5:1-3; Colossians 1:12-20; Luke 23:35-43

(originally published 2016)

As far as I can tell, all of us long for peace and tranquility, though few of us are willing to pay the price it costs to actually obtain it.

I frequently repeat spiritual author Jack Shea’s insight that the historical Jesus’ ministry revolved around answering just three questions – What do you want out of life? Where do you get it? How much does it cost?

It’s clear from today’s first reading that the 10 tribes of the northern kingdom of Israel believe David – king of the 2 tribes comprising the southern kingdom of Judah - can bring about such peace and tranquility. The author of II Samuel succinctly states the situation: “When all the elders of Israel came to David in Hebron, King David made an agreement with them there before Yahweh, and they anointed him king of Israel.” This history changing treaty was ratified in 1,000 BCE – the easiest date in biblical history to remember – and lasted until David’s grandson Rehoboam’s reign in the 930s when the one nation again reverted to being two.

But at least for those 70 years Jews believed they could eliminate war and fighting by having one leader stronger than any other leader, especially leaders of the countries surrounding them. Their king’s army could either conquer those other armies, or put enough fear in them that they’d never dare start a war. A once popular 70s poster perfectly summarized their belief. “Lo, though I walk in the valley of darkness, I fear no evil, because I’m the meanest s.o.b. in the valley.” Peace came through power.

The Pauline disciple who wrote Colossians was convinced Jesus of Nazareth could also bring peace and tranquility, not just to Israel and Judah but to the whole world. Yet how this Galilean carpenter planned on doing it differed radically from David’s methodology. It turned everything upside down. This itinerant peasant preacher believed peace could only definitively be achieved by reconciliation, not warfare. The Colossians author was convinced that Jesus personally accomplished this “by the blood of his cross.” Against all logic, Jesus’ peace came not from strength but from weakness – the weakness one demonstrates by loving, not conquering others.

Luke couldn’t state this early Christian belief any better. Using Jesus’ actual crucifixion as the background, he shows how his kingship was diametrically opposed to any other kind of leadership. Following common wisdom, one of the criminals crucified with him joins the crowd in wanting to know why the Christ – the savior of Israel – isn’t saving the three of them by demonstrating he’s more powerful than the soldiers who’ve just nailed them to their crosses.

Yet Luke’s Jesus, always more concerned with the needs of others than his own, ignores their demands and instead responds to the plaintive request of the second criminal, “Remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He simply tells him, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” In other words, “Stop worrying! My suffering and death will bring you peace.”

The historical Jesus – following Jack Shea’s insight – assured his followers they could achieve peace and tranquility simply by imitating him. Not very complicated. But it was the cost of that imitation which created difficulties. To eventually reach a tranquil state, we, like him, would first have to suffer and die by giving ourselves to those around us – especially our enemies.

No wonder after just a few centuries some theologians got us off the suffering and dying hook by coming up with the concept of a “just war.” Just one problem: not only didn’t the gospel Jesus ever mention that loophole, but after 1600 years of employing it, it has yet to bring anyone lasting peace and tranquility.

COPYRIGHT 2019 - 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


12/01/2019

December 1, 2019: FIRST SUNDAY OF ADVENT

Isaiah 2:1-5; Romans 13:11-14; Matthew 24:37-44

(originally published 2016)

Biblical followers of God live in the middle of the tension between what’s actually happening in their lives right now and what they expect to happen in the future.

Over the centuries some religious leaders have been accused of focusing their people’s eyes so intently on the future that they conveniently ignored the painful here and now of their daily lives, a here and now they should – and could – have changed. They didn’t lift a finger, for instance, to help eradicate slavery. They simply taught that there’d be no slaves in heaven.

The prophet First Isaiah could never be blamed for employing that maneuver to avoid responsibility for the world’s problems. Though in today’s first reading he speaks about an ideal future, he was active during a period in biblical history in which no one believed in an after-life as we do today. Isaiah’s ideal future was restricted to the confines of this life.

That’s why the prophet is so concrete when he speaks about that longed-for future. “They shall beat their swords into plowshares,” he proclaims, “and their spears into pruning hooks; one nation shall not raise the sword against another.” There’s no eternal bliss waiting for anyone in heaven. We can only hope for peace and tranquility right here and now.

Yet there’s a condition for acquiring this peace and tranquility. We must be open to hearing God instructing us in his paths and walk in his ways. The problem is that some people hear God’s word and carry it out, while others go through life without even noticing the path God expects them to travel. Our sacred authors presume this awareness – or lack of it - effects both our here and now and our future. But the question remains: why do some hear while others don’t?

It’s clear from today’s gospel pericope that the early Christian community frequently reflected on that same question. Though Matthew projects this query into the future Parousia – Jesus’ Second Coming – many Scripture scholars believe this passage originally revolved around the situation many Christians encountered in their daily lives. How come two people from the same background – even the same family – have different reactions to Jesus’ message? Two men will be the field, two women grinding at the same mill; one will be taken by Jesus, the other won’t. The only way to explain it is that one was awake to what was happening around him or her; the other wasn’t.

Just as someone pre-warned that a robber was going to hit their house tonight “would . . . stay awake and not let his house be broken into,” so we’ve been pre-warned that the Son of Man is coming, not only in his Parousia, but also in our day by day lives. Psychologists often mention that unless we’re actually looking for someone or something, we won’t recognize them when they actually arrive. Staying awake is key to carrying on the risen Jesus’ ministry.

That appears to be one of the reasons Paul zeros in on the same theme in today’s Romans passage. “It is the hour now for you to awake from sleep,” he writes, “for our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.” Scripture scholars point out that biblical salvation isn’t just something which will start after our physical deaths; it also begins right now, whenever we die to ourselves, “put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provisions for the desires of the flesh.”

As other Christs we’re expected to challenge the same unjust situations the historical Jesus challenged. Those who believe everything in this world is just going along hunky dory have obviously forgotten to set their alarm clocks.

COPYRIGHT 2019 - 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


12/08/2019

DECEMBER 8, 2019: SECOND SUNDAY OF ADVENT

Isaiah 11:1-10; Romans 15:4-9; Matthew 3:1-12

(originally published 2016)

By far, the most important section of today’s Isaiah reading is the line, “. . . The earth shall be filled with the knowledge of Yahweh as water covers the sea.” But the key to appreciating its importance revolves around being aware of the ancient Hebrew meaning of the words “knowledge” or “know.”

Our biblical authors normally employ know or knowledge when they’re talking about a person actually experiencing someone or something. It implies a far deeper relationship than just having a casual familiarity with persons or things, like I know the times tables, or I know him when I see him. When the word is biblically used in the context of men and women knowing one another – as in “Adam knew his wife Eve,” or in Luke’s annunciation pericope, “How can this be since I do not know man?” – it usually implies sexual intimacy.

So when the prophet speaks about the earth being filled with the knowledge of Yahweh, he’s basically sharing his conviction that all of us one day will experience Yahweh’s presence in everything and everyone we encounter. God will be as much a part of us as water is a part of the sea. For those who have that God-experience everything will change; even natural enemies will become friends.

Yet at this point in salvation history (8th century BCE), Isaiah is still locked into the Jewish monarchy. He believes it’s through one of the country’s kings that Yahweh’s presence eventually will become an everyday experience. That’s why he spends so much time enumerating the gifts such a unique sprout from the stump of Jesse will possess. (By the way, it’s from this passage that we got six of the seven gifts of the Spirit we had to memorize in our Confirmation classes, not from any of Paul’s lists of the Spirit’s gifts!)

By the time Jesus of Nazareth was about to begin his public ministry, most Jews had given up on one particular king creating an ideal God-present age. A few centuries before this itinerant preacher shuttered his Capernaum carpenter shop, they started to believe Yahweh was going to step outside the reigning monarchy and send a special “Messiah” who would usher in this longed-for day and age. That’s why Matthew’s John the Baptizer is forced to set people straight, emphatically informing them he’s not that special person; he’s just preparing the way for him.

But even if we believe Jesus is the Messiah, we can never forget his basic “stump speech.” He’s not going to bring about God’s presence, he’s simply announcing that God is already present. Remember the first words of his public ministry: “The kingdom of God is close at hand. Repent and believe in the good news!” In other words, “Why are you still waiting for something that’s already here? You simply have to change your value system and you’ll notice God working effectively in your everyday lives!”

Our earliest Christian writer, Paul, presumes his readers in Rome have already gone through such a value changing repentance. The eyes through which they filter everything happening around them constantly surface God’s presence and actions. That’s why, as Isaiah prophesied, they can experience the unity between people who traditionally were opposed to one another; especially the oneness between Gentiles and Jews. Jesus’ ministry of helping people recognize God working in all people has made it possible to experience God in all people, even in natural enemies.

Often, especially during Advent, it seems we’re still passively expecting God to enter our lives, instead of being committed to living the way Jesus of Nazareth thought necessary to recognize that God’s already here. Perhaps a change in our value system is simply too much to expect.

COPYRIGHT 2019 - ROGER VERMALEN KARBAN

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



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

2019 Essays
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

 

 

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