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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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06/16/2019

JUNE 16TH, 2019: HOLY TRINITY SUNDAY

Proverbs 8:22-31; Romans 5:1-5; John 16:12-15

Ever guilty of going about things backward?

I presume this is the situation many of us Christians face every Trinity Sunday. Though our sacred authors describe and comment on God from one direction, we’re usually approaching him/her from the opposite direction. While our writers create the biblical pictures they develop based on their personal experiences of that God, many of us shape our personal God-experiences just to fit into their pictures. Our definition of God is frequently more important than our experiences of God. First, we look for a theology, then search for experiences to reinforce it.

Our sacred authors weren’t brought up on catechisms; they were formed by experiences. Though they later attempt to put their experiences into some form of logical patterns, it’s clear from the many – often contradictory – biblical theologies we encounter that no one size fits all. Those willing to be involved with God are committing themselves to an adventure almost impossible to describe. Perhaps that’s why, in God’s wisdom, our Scriptures were composed by Semitic – not Greek – thinkers, people who refuse to analyze their exploits. Instead of coming up with either/or ways of looking at their God-adventures, they concentrate on synthesizing them. They’re always on the lookout to add another dimension or surface an aspect they never before noticed. Their one goal is to zero in on the both/and of their experiences.

Not long ago I learned of an interesting custom among 19th century North American Plains Indians: “counting coup.” In battle, the tribe’s most courageous warriors would simply touch an enemy - not kill or wound him - then ride off. After the conflict, the survivors would gather to count the touches and compare notes. Among other things, they were convinced such “coups” transferred some of their enemy’s strength or spirit to them in ways that killing them couldn’t achieve.

Could saving and collecting our sacred writings be another way of counting coup? In a sense, our biblical writers have touched God, and lived to tell us about it. They could have “killed” God by giving us a technical, catechism definition of divinity. But instead, they only touched her/him, leaving something for another day and another encounter. Best of all, they shared the spirit they gained from their contact, helping us uncover another dimension of someone who boasts unlimited dimensions.

Unlike our Semitic-thinking sacred authors, we Greek-thinkers are in the business of killing, not touching. When we get done with the subject we attack, there’s nothing left but to bury the carcass in some theological manual.

Thankfully today’s three sacred writers touch and don’t kill.

The author of Proverbs could never have buried his or her coup in one of those manuals; it’s simply too poetic. The writer actually “co-creates” with Yahweh, standing next to God during the creation process.

Paul and John, on the other hand, bring up things on which many of us rarely reflect. The Apostle zeros in on the failures and weakness that come to the fore when we reach out to God in our lives. Yet the instant we put our hands on the divine in our midst, we see the limits of those hands. In the same way, the Evangelist takes us beyond what we “cannot bear to hear now.” We can never look forward to retiring from the battle, no matter how often we engage with God. It’s an essential part of who we are.

No matter how we’ve learned about God in the past, there’s always time to rearrange our priorities. It might take a lot more courage, but what an experience we’ll have to boast about? We’ll not only leave God intact, but have a strength we’ve never had before.

Maybe those Indians knew what they were doing.

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


06/23/2019

JUNE 23RD, 2019: BODY AND BLOOD OF CHRIST

Genesis 14:18-20; I Corinthians 11:23-26; Luke 9:11b-17

I grew up with images of “Corpus Christi” which completely contradict today’s readings.

We old-timers graphically remember those glorious processions in “days of yore.” The event was held outside if possible, but if necessary up and down the aisles of our parish church; thurifers swinging, incense rising, bells ringing, everyone’s eyes riveted on the small host in a golden monstrance, each straining to get at least a glimpse. One of the highlights of my seminary career was traveling over the Italian hills to attend the Orvieto procession in June, 1963 – just a few days before Pope John XXIII’s death - 700 years after the tradition originally began.

Back then everyone was expected just to watch and look. It involved almost no practical participation. Some unknown priest had already done all the work; we showed up only to admire the end product. Yet nothing could be further from the biblical concept of the Body and Blood of Christ.

Our sacred authors presume the community – not one individual – “confects” the Eucharist. Their actions lead to the risen Jesus actually being among us.

Both Paul and Luke pinpoint what their communities can (and must) do to pull off such a tremendous event.

The Apostle perfectly summarizes the situation: “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes.” Unless someone’s willing to die, we’re eating just a piece of bread and drinking just a sip of wine. If we refuse to give ourselves to one another, there’s nothing miraculous even to look at.

Though in this passage’s original context, Paul graphically hammers away at what his Corinthians should be sharing, in today’s liturgical readings it’s left up to Luke to be specific. Following the conviction of our gospel scholars that all six bread miracles are Eucharistic, it’s essential to note – contrary to popular belief – that the people, not Luke’s Jesus, feed the crowd. He simply starts the process, “Give them some food yourselves,” and ignores their complaints. He’s the distributor, not the multiplier of the food his community provides. The loaves and fish are miraculously increased in the giving. An action that normally would produce less, actually produces more!

Our present problem revolves around the “stuff” we’re to share today. When the Eucharist was celebrated in the context of a pot-luck meal, the actual food and drink that both Paul and Luke mention makes sense. (Even the pagan priest/king Melchizedek provides Abraham and his men with bread and wine.) But, except for occasionally helping feed the poor, we probably should look beyond just sharing our “victuals” with one another.

As a pastor and Eucharistic presider, I almost always engaged in “dialogue homilies.” I gave a brief homily on the readings, then opened the floor. It took a little while, but eventually many of the parishioners took advantage of the opportunity to reflect on the Scriptures. No one seemed to mind the homily’s added length, and most gained from the community’s insights. (I always did!)

On those rare occasions on which no one added, I usually reminded the people, “I presume some are leaving the Eucharist hungry today. Though the Spirit blessed you with the food they needed, for some reason you didn’t think you had enough to share. Always remember, there’s only enough when someone begins to give what she or he has. It’s how we die with the Christ.”

Considering today’s feast, it would be a shame if we revert to listening to the risen Jesus’ word instead of sharing Jesus’ word. Why would anyone reinvent the feast of Corpus Christ? We already have such a weekly “celebration” in most of our parishes.

Can’t you smell the incense burning and hear the bells ringing?

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


06/30/2019

JUNE 30TH, 2019: THIRTEENTH SUNDAY OF THE YEAR

I Kings 19:16b, 19-21; Galatians 51, 13-18; Luke 9:51-62

We often forget the problems in the biblical communities which originally triggered our sacred writings. We’d have no Scripture without them. Our inspired authors never write in a vacuum. Something’s always going on when they take stylus to papyrus, something that bugs them.

Today’s three readings, for example, provide us with one of their classic issues: someone’s reversal of faith.

Paul’s letter to the Galatians revolves around that unforeseen development. He had personally evangelized the community in Galatia, assuring them that sharing the faith of Jesus would eventually bring the life they desired. Their only obligation was to die and rise with the risen Jesus in their midst. Though some in the church were Jews, the Apostle said nothing about Moses’ 613 laws. Jewish Christians were still expected to maintain those regulations because of the agreement all Israelites had made with Yahweh; but it was their dying and rising with the Christ, not their covenant obligations, which brought life.

Yet some of Paul’s Galatian converts eventually reversed field, having discovered it was far easier to keep the Mosaic laws than to die and rise with Jesus. Though their faithfulness to those Sinai regulations was difficult, faithfulness to the risen Jesus was far more complicated, far more pervasive. Their new commitment demanded that one had to be on one’s toes constantly, always alert to giving himself or herself to those around them. Though now experiencing a freedom they couldn’t have imagined before this Galilean carpenter came into their lives, it was a costly endeavor. Some eventually preferred the slavery of the Jewish law to the freedom of dying and rising with Jesus. Given the cost, they made their choice.

It’s clear from our Lucan pericope that Paul’s Galatians weren’t alone. Some perspective converts wouldn’t even go far enough to make a commitment. Rejected by Samaritans because they were traveling to Jerusalem, James and John prefer heavenly fire to free choice, totally counter to the message Jesus preached. Yet it seems the reversals which the evangelist’s community have already experienced shape how the gospel Jesus presents his message.

He pulls no punches. “Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.” Nor is there an appropriate time to make that life-changing decision. Waiting until those disturbed by such a choice – like parents - have passed from the scene isn’t an option. When God makes this unexpected offer, it’s take it or leave it. And once you take it, there’s no looking back, not even for formal goodbyes.

Though Elijah grants Elisha one last merciful glance back to his mother and father, even he eventually slaughters his oxen – his livelihood - and follows the prophet down the road as his attendant. He even burns his plow; he has nothing left.

I’ve often quoted Jack Shea’s insightful remark about the gospel Jesus of Nazareth. According to this spiritual writer, our itinerant preacher simply answered three direct questions for his audience: what do you want out of life, where do you get it, how much does it cost?

It’s clear from our sacred writings that the third answer creates most of the problems for the community and helps trigger a good portion of our Scriptures. Followers of the risen Jesus didn’t simply make up their minds, carry on his/her ministry, and live happily ever after. Many did a lot of looking back over their shoulders; some even changed the direction in which they were traveling.

Our Christian writers never downplay the difficulty. But neither do they downplay the life that comes from working through that difficulty. It all depends on what we want from the life we live; the life God offers us.

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


07/07/2019

JULY 7TH, 2019: FOURTEENTH SUNDAY OF THE YEAR

Isaiah 66:10-14c; Galatians 6:14-18; Luke 10:1-12, 17-20

[Editor's note: While Father Roger Karban recovers from an illness, FOSIL reprints a columns from 2016:]

I presume Paul would have benefited from a class or two in anger control before he wrote his letter to the Galatians. It’s an understatement to say he was uptight when he dictated it. He had personally evangelized the Galatian community, teaching them how to become other Christs by imitating Jesus’ death and resurrection in their own lives. Only by giving themselves for others would they be transformed into the same new creation into which the risen Jesus had been transformed.

Yet in a short period of time, some of them – as former Jews - had reverted back to their old practice of finding salvation in keeping the 613 laws of Moses, symbolized by the men being circumcised. They found more security in that than in being crucified with Jesus. Paul was so infuriated by their behavior that a chapter before today’s pericope, he angrily writes, “Would that those who are upsetting you might also castrate themselves!” (Somehow the church has never found a liturgical setting for this particular passage.)

Using himself as an example, the Apostle encourages people just to look at him and see the damage to his body that his dying with Jesus has brought about. (Scholars believe his “marks of Jesus” have nothing to do with the later phenomenon of individuals receiving the “stigmata.”) Paul’s been scourged and beaten because of his imitation of Jesus, not because of his keeping the Mosaic regulations. Though he’s endured great physical pain, he’s convinced there’s also a huge amount of psychological pain in discipleship. That seems to be what he means when he speaks about “the world being crucified” to him.

That’s precisely the kind of pain Third Isaiah is presuming when he talks about “rejoicing with Jerusalem.” Among other things, the prophet is trying to stimulate his community to simply leave Babylon and return to the Jewish capital. The problem is that when he’s preaching these words, Jerusalem is in ruins, wiped off the face of the earth by the Babylonians over 60 or 70 years before. These formerly exiled Israelites not only have to return, they also have to rebuild. After one glance at the destroyed city, most decided to go back to Babylon. They found more peace and security in a foreign land than in rebuilding their native land.

Obviously we must go beyond the here and now and have a vision of what can be if we’re true disciples. Living by such a vision entails a real psychological death; something not only many Israelites, but also many Galatians were unwilling to endure.

As we hear in today’s gospel passage, giving oneself over to the vision of Jesus frequently causes rejection. Luke’s Jesus is not just predicting what’s going to happen when his followers try to evangelize others, like all gospel writers, Luke is also reflecting on what already happened to some of the “missionaries” in his own community. He wants to make certain they don’t get down just because they were often rejected. No matter how their message was received, God is still among us working effectively in our daily lives. God’s presence doesn’t depend on people recognizing it. Whether proclaimers of Jesus’ word succeed or fail, as long as they keep working to make the risen Jesus’ vision a reality in this world, their names are “written in heaven.” According to Luke’s Jesus, that’s the only thing that matters.

Obviously a lot of Catholics again accepted Jesus’ vision after Vatican II. And a lot of Catholics eventually abandoned that vision for the sake of their own security. Thank goodness we have a pope who’s calling us to return to that vision, no matter the cost.

COPYRIGHT 2016 - 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


07/14/2019

JULY 14TH, 2019: FIFTEENTH SUNDAY OF THE YEAR

Deuteronomy 30:10-14; Colossians 1:15-20; Luke 10:25-37

[Editor's note: While Father Roger Karban recovers from an illness, FOSIL reprints a columns from 2016:]

One of my favorite Peanuts quotes is Linus’ offhand remark, “I love mankind . . . it’s people I can’t stand.” I presume it became quite popular in the late 50s and early 60s because so many of us identified with the little guy. We can love things in the abstract, but when it comes down to loving them in the concrete we frequently find a half dozen reasons for suspending our love.

That’s exactly the problem Luke’s Jesus tackles in today’s gospel pericope. It’s not difficult to repeat his answer to the lawyer’s question, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” We’re to demonstrate our love of God by loving our neighbor. On face value it’s easy to understand. The kicker comes when the legal scholar follows his first question with another: “And who is my neighbor?”

Those who deal with the 613 Laws of Moses know that definitions of terms is essential to understanding those laws. For instance, when it comes to the commandment “You shall not commit adultery” we Christians presume that prohibition refers to having relations with anyone who’s the spouse of another. Yet many Mosaic Law experts are convinced this commandment originally applied only to those who were having illicit relations with Jews. Similar relations with Gentiles weren’t covered under this particular commandment.

It’s interesting that Jesus doesn’t provide this legal expert with a precise definition of neighbor; instead he tells him a story.

Most of us know about the historical animosity between Jews and Samaritans, but few of us appreciate the actions of the priest and Levite. When the two pass by on the opposite side of the road, they’re not just refusing to get involved with a fellow Jew in need, they’re actually forced to do so because of their religious obligations. Functionaries at the Jerusalem temple, they’re forbidden to touch a dead body or even come into contact with blood. So, in this particular situation, this particular Jew doesn’t fit their theological definition of a neighbor. He’s more a temptation to sin for them than a concrete occasion to fulfill Yahweh’s command in the book of Leviticus to love your neighbor. The Samaritan, on the other hand, isn’t limited by their religious restrictions. He’s forbidden – under pain of death – from even entering the temple!

Notice when Jesus asks, “Which of these three, in your opinion, was neighbor to the robbers’ victim?” the lawyer doesn’t say “the Samaritan.” He simply replies, “The one who treated him with mercy.”

As much as I hate to admit it, Jesus seems to be saying that if any of us ever find ourselves in dire straits, we’d better pray an atheist come by. “Religious persons” would probably have four or five reasons why, in this situation, they’re absolved from helping us. Luke’s Jesus couldn’t be clearer: religious obligations can never excuse us from helping someone in need.

He agrees with the author of Deuteronomy who, in our first reading, reminds us that God’s commandments are ensconced in our everyday lives. We don’t have to look up to heaven to find out what God wants us to do; we simply have to look around us. God works in the concrete, not the abstract.

The Pauline disciple responsible for Colossians takes this concreteness one step further, expressing his belief that the human Jesus was actually the “image of the invisible God.” Not the holy card image of Jesus, but the real image.

Along that line, historians remind us that no one over the age of 20 in Jesus’ day and age had a full set of teeth. Since the historical Jesus was 30 when he died, I presume he fits Linus’ definition of “people.”

COPYRIGHT 2016 - 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


07/21/2019

JULY 21ST, 2019: SIXTEENTH SUNDAY OF THE YEAR

Genesis 18:1-10a; Colossians 1:24-28; Luke 10:38-42

[Editor's note: While Father Roger Karban recovers from an illness, FOSIL reprints a columns from 2016:]

After I saw the movie High Noon at the age of 12, I found myself for a least a day and a half trying to walk like Gary Cooper. I probably wasn’t alone. Movie heroes normally engender imitation. That’s why the most popular motion picture hero of all time is To Kill a Mockingbird’s Atticus Finch. Almost everyone would like to imitate this fictitious hero’s unprejudiced personality.

The imitation of heroes didn’t start with movies. Our sacred authors utilized this concept thousands of years ago. It’s behind today and next week’s Genesis readings. The writer depicts Abraham and Sarah as ideal Jews, in both passages demonstrating characteristics which good Israelites are or should be noted for.

Today’s characteristic is hospitality.

Though the three strangers come at a most inappropriate time – siesta – Abraham doesn’t wait for them to ask for hospitality, he rushes over and begs them to “let” him take care of them. Then, with Sarah’s help, he “picks out a tender, choice steer” and prepares it for them with all the side dishes. (By the way, no Scripture scholar believes these three are the Trinity. They’re simply Yahweh in human form, a unique entity that no one human being can represent.)

In a world in which there were no hotels or restaurants as we know them today, travelers depended on people’s hospitality for survival. Our biblical writer reasons that if Israelites are Yahweh’s Chosen People, then Israelites must mirror Yahweh’s concern and care for all people. She’s proud to say the first two Jews mirror that care and concern.

The sacred author even tells us about the reward Abraham and Sarah receive for their generous hospitality. “One of (the strangers) said, ‘I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah will then have a son.’” Sarah’s barrenness is over. Yahweh will demonstrate the same generosity with this couple as they demonstrated for the three travelers.

This isn’t the only time in Scripture that hospitality is given an unexpected reward. Our gospel pericope provides us with another classic example.

We can never forget that Luke revolves much of his gospel around a journey Jesus and his disciples take from Galilee to Jerusalem. They, like the three Genesis visitors, are also travelers, frequently dependent on people’s hospitality. In today’s passage, the sisters Martha and Mary offer Jesus a meal as he’s passing through their village. He not only accepts, he spends the time while the food’s being prepared in teaching his good news.

Then, when Martha complains that her sister is listening to his teaching instead of helping with the cooking, he rewards them for their hospitality by gifting them and all women with something which, in their culture, only men were expected to possess: the ability to engage in the “better part.” They, like men, could be full disciples, fully listening to and carrying out Jesus’ teaching. For Luke, no longer were there “women and men’s activities.” This evangelist, more than the other three could be labeled a radical feminist.

One really doesn’t know what to expect when one offers hospitality to others. And, for the author of Colossians, that offering is ongoing. It never stops. “Filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, the church” is always part of every Christian’s ministry.

Just as Abraham, Sarah, Martha and Mary discovered a totally new direction in their lives when they gave themselves to others, so we, following their example have no idea what to expect when we imitate their example. No wonder our ancestors in the faith found life so exciting.

Maybe we don’t have the right heroes if we’re living boring lives today.

COPYRIGHT 2016 - 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


07/28/2019

JULY 28TH, SEVENTEENTH SUNDAY OF THE YEAR

Genesis 18:20-32; Colossians2:12-14; Luke 11:1-13

[Editor's note: While Father Roger Karban recovers from an illness, FOSIL reprints a columns from 2016:]

Some years ago when I was commenting on this set of readings I had a friendly disagreement with the editor of one of the diocesan papers carrying my articles. She strongly objected to my talking about Abraham “haggling” with Yahweh, believing that term bordered on anti-Semitic language. She encouraged me to use a word like barter or negotiate instead.

I immediately called a rabbi friend, asking his opinion on the matter. He assured me, “Roger, there’s nothing wrong in speaking about a Jew haggling. We’re not only known for it, we’re proud of it.”

That’s why the Genesis author included this narrative in her Sodom and Gomorrah story. If it’s a characteristic for which Jews are proud, then Abraham, the ancestor of all Jews must have had it in spades.

Though no scholar takes this haggling between Yahweh and Abraham literally, the writer not only created this passage to demonstrate the latter’s negotiating prowess, but also to show his unique relationship with Yahweh. As theologically simplistic as it might sound to us today, the Yahwistic author is telling us God is someone you can bargain with – as long as you’ve given yourself over to God.

In some sense, Luke’s Jesus is telling us something similar in our gospel pericope. It seems God, like the besieged friend, has a breaking point. Find it, and you’ll get what you want. Yet, listen carefully to what Jesus says you’re going to get. It won’t be a lot of “stuff.” Rather, “. . . The Father in heaven (will) give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.” In other words, if we ask for the Holy Spirit, we’re certain to receive the Holy Spirit, no strings attached.

As we’ve seen in the past, Luke, more than any other evangelist, is convinced the Holy Spirit is an essential element in our becoming other Christs. In his mind, how would we know how to carry on Jesus’ ministry without that Spirit pointing us in the right direction? At this point in the second half of the first century CE, the Christian community, following the historical Jesus’ mindset, had not yet locked itself into a hierarchical structure. It functioned as the Body of Christ because of its deep relationships with the risen Jesus and with one another, not because of any clerical prerogatives. As Paul once reminded his Corinthian community, the Spirit not only gifts each member of the community with all the talents that community needs, it also helps them integrate those gifts for the good of the community.

Of course, as the Pauline disciple who wrote Colossians believes, the relationship we have with the risen Jesus – who gives us his Spirit - revolves around our determination to die and rise with him. “You were buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him . . . .”

I don’t worry a lot about the rising. Jesus will take care of that. But I do spend a lot of time mulling over the dying. How am I to accomplish that today? That is where the Spirit kicks in.

Once upon a time I, along with many other Catholics, thought the only way to die was to ignore the Spirit working in my life and simply give myself over to the will of those exercising authority over me. Things certainly got more complicated when I started studying Scripture. Like our sacred authors, I began to realize my relationships with God, the risen Jesus, and the Holy Spirit took precedence over my relationship with the institution. At that point, I also began to do a lot of haggling. Just wish I were as good at it as Abraham.

COPYRIGHT 2016 - 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


08/04/2019

AUGUST 4TH, 2019: EIGHTEENTH SUNDAY OF THE YEAR

Ecclesiastes 1:2, 2:21-23; Colossians 3:1-5, 9-11; Luke 12:13-21

[Editor's note: While Father Roger Karban recovers from an illness, FOSIL reprints a columns from 2016:]

Many of us don’t realize how today’s well-known Ecclesiastes passage contradicts the writings of other sacred authors. Those who composed our Hebrew Scriptures usually challenge Qoheleth’s belief that “All things are vanity!” Knowing nothing of an afterlife – as we know it – until shortly before Jesus’ birth, most of them looked upon wealth as Yahweh’s right here and now reward for being good. They believed if you kept your nose clean, doing what Yahweh commanded, Yahweh would grant you a long life and take good care of you during that life.

Qoheleth, on the other hand, doesn’t see any sense in spending a lifetime acquiring wealth. He’s observed that someone who hasn’t “labored over it” will eventually inherit it. “For what profit comes to someone from all the toil and anxiety of heart with which he/she has labored under the sun? All their days sorrow and grief is their occupation . . . .”

How are we supposed to deal with these biblical contradictions?

In some sense we’re invited to spend our money and take our pick. The same theology doesn’t run from Genesis to Revelation. Our ancestors in the faith were convinced there are many implications – often contradictory implications - to our following Yahweh or the risen Jesus. The Scriptures they saved and collected provide us with a bunch of them.

Yet at the same time, a common theme runs through all our sacred writings: people of faith are constantly trying to discover what God wants of them.

In today’s gospel passage, Luke’s Jesus tells us what God doesn’t want: a senseless accumulation of wealth. Following Qoheleth, he warns his followers that the wealth they acquire here isn’t going to follow them into eternity. If they’re smart, they’ll work at storing up real “treasure:” the things that matter to God, the things which are transferable from this life to the next.

The Pauline disciple who authored Colossians couldn’t agree more. “. . . Seek what is above,” he writes, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Think what is above, not of what is on earth.” He’s convinced that if we’ve died with Christ we’re already operating in the “above.” That means we must not only sidestep all the evils this earth offers, but also put on a “new self.” We must actually become other Christs.

Following the insights of his mentor, the writer is convinced the first step in this transformation is to recognize the risen Christ in everyone around us. Quite a task! Being human, we first have to overcome all the barriers this earth has built between one person and another. “There is not Greek and Jew,” he reminds us, “circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free, but Christ is all and in all.”

No wonder there are different theologies in the Christian Scriptures. There’s simply no one way to recognize that divine dimension in everyone. How do we prepare ourselves to experience that uniqueness? It isn’t just a matter of telling our minds to do so.

It takes time to pull that off. It doesn’t happen instantly. Different people are at different stages of that recognition. The American Georgetown University Jesuits, for instance, were still owning and selling slaves in 1838, based on the belief that legitimate slaves – individuals created by God as slaves – were “ontologically different” from non-slaves. It took another generation and then some for all Christians to realize that theology didn’t hold water.

Today some still struggle with recognizing the risen Jesus in gays, lesbians and transgendered persons. Add that to the perennial problem: recognizing him/her in women. We’ve obviously got a long way to go, and a lot of contradictions still to explore.

COPYRIGHT 2016 - 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


08/11/2019

AUGUST 11TH, 2019: NINETEENTH SUNDAY OF THE YEAR

Wisdom 18:6-9; Hebrews 11:1-2, 8-19; Luke 12:32-48

[Editor's note: While Father Roger Karban recovers from an illness, FOSIL reprints a columns from 2016:]

Practically nothing in Scripture was written by eyewitness – not even our gospels.

Only after years, or even centuries of reflecting on God’s actions in their lives did our sacred authors eventually compose the writings that make up our Sacred Scriptures. Though many of the people involved in their narratives seemed to understand the implications of those divine actions as they were actually taking place, scholars constantly remind us that such insights most probably didn’t become part of their faith lives until far down the road. Even today we often catch ourselves saying, “I didn’t notice it at the time, but . . . .”

One need only Google Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons’ famous “Invisible Gorilla” experiment to see how easy it is to miss things that happen right before our eyes. The two professors demonstrated that our eyes normally see only what our minds program them to see. If we’re not expecting it, we usually don’t see it. On a practical level, experts tell us that’s why motorcycles are so frequently involved in highway accidents. Drivers of cars are geared to see other cars, not motorcycles. Based on that insight, yard signs have recently appeared in our area encouraging us to “Watch Out For Motorcycles!’

On a Scriptural level, that also seems why we have today’s three liturgical readings. Our sacred authors are concerned that we not only discover what happened to them, but that we also be prepared to discover those same things and events happening in our own lives. If we’re not prepared to have them take place, we’ll rarely notice them taking place.

Our Wisdom author is convinced that only those enslaved Israelites who were anticipating Yahweh to destroy their foes actually interpreted the Exodus correctly. Historically, according to the Exodus author, the majority of Jews in Egypt argued against Moses. What turned out to be the greatest saving event in Jewish history started as a huge aggravation. Especially the Torah’s Yahwistic author reminds us of the people’s constant “griping.” They’d have been more content eating watermelon as slaves along the Nile than crossing the Reed Sea as free people. What a chosen few saw, most ignored.

The author of Hebrews wants to make certain such blindness never happens to Jesus’ followers. So he constantly hammers away at Abraham and Sarah’s faith. Presuming they’re the first Jews, they don’t have Yahweh’s track record to fall back on. Only their faith helps them see Yahweh’s hand in the daily events of their life. They didn’t emigrate from Ur to Canaan, for instance, simply to acquire more food in a foreign land, but because Yahweh had a unique plan for them and their descendants. Likewise they didn’t engage in intimate relations because of any physical attraction but because that was an essential part of God providing them with an heir. Our sacred authors are convinced that faith enables us to notice what others ignore.

That seems to be why Luke’s Jesus wants us to be certain about where our “treasure” is located. Those who consistently “sell their belongings and give alms” will also be the ones who are consistently prepared to notice the risen Jesus present in their lives. Those who focus on caring for the needs of others will also be focusing on experiencing God’s kingdom in their midst. The historical Jesus presumed his followers would see what he chose to see during his earthly ministry. That was the only way they would be his faithful and prudent stewards.

Perhaps it would be more faith effective to replace some of our elaborate church decorations with simple yard signs reading, “Watch For God Working In Your Lives!”

COPYRIGHT 2016 - 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.

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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