Friday, 10 May 2013

Readings for May 9th

A late entry for yesterday's readings. This is partly caused by me not having a laptop- currently in the shop for repairs- and developing a routine around the community computer. Another note is that today and tomorrow will be my last 2 entries for the week. Until Next Wednesday, I'll be in Chicago, and will not be blogging from there. I'll be back in the full swing of things by next thursday! As for today's entry on Yesterday's readings...another Bishop

St. Pachomius
Feast: May 9

Feast Day:May 9
Born:292, Thebes, Egypt
Died:9 May 348, Egypt

 St. Pachomius was the first who drew up a monastic rule in writing. He was born in Upper Thebais - Egypt- about the year 292, of idolatrous parents, and was educated in their blind superstition, and in the study of the Egyptian sciences. Being about twenty years of age, he was pressed into the emperor's troops. He was, with several other recruits, put on board a vessel that was falling down the river. They arrived in the evening at Thebes, or Diospolis, the capital of Thebais, a city in which dwelt many Christians. Those true disciples of Christ sought every opportunity of relieving and comforting all that were in distress, and were moved with compassion towards the recruits, who were kept close confined, and very ill-treated. The Christians of this city showed them the same tenderness as if they had been their own children; took all possible care of them, and supplied them liberally with money and necessaries.
This made an impression on the mind of Pachomius. When he heard that they believed in Jesus, and that because of  their belief, they labored continually to do good to all mankind, he found kindled in his heart a great love of so holy a law, and an ardent desire of serving the God whom these good people adored.

Once his military service ended, he returned to Thebais and entered his name among the catechumens,( back then, this referred to those seeking to receive baptism. Today, it''s a term more widely used for anyone receiving any kind of religious education. From that time on, he developed in his heart a desire to dedicate his life to doing God's will. After a while, he sought out Palemon, a hermit living radical simplicity in the desert. With him, he would learn to pray for  perfect purity of heart, that being disengaged from all secret attachment to creatures, he might love God with all his affections.
Pachomius used sometimes to go into a vast uninhabited desert, on the banks of the Nile. While he was there one day in prayer, he heard a voice which commanded him to build a monastery in that place, in which he should receive those who should be sent by God to serve him faithfully. He received, about the same time, from an angel who appeared to him, certain instructions relating to a monastic life. It was in Tabenna, in 325, that  he would build a little cell,about twenty years after St. Antony had founded his first monastery. 
 By Pachomius'  rule, the fasts and tasks of work were proportioned to every one's strength; All his monks were occupied in various kinds of manual labor: no moment was allowed for idleness. The saint, with the greatest care, comforted and served the sick himself.  His rule was translated into Latin by St. Jerome, and is still extant.

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 One of the themes in our dialog with modern secular -border line atheist- culture, is that it's getting harder for people without faith to see the presence of God in the world. They would read  the first line of Psalm 98 " (God) has done marvelous things" and angrily ask " Is it a marvelous thing that that building collapsed on those workers in Bengladesh, or that wars rage in the middle east and Africa???" The problem with this line of questioning is that the angry person in question assumes that belief in God means belief in someone who will preserve us from absolutely all evil. Someone who will protect us against anything bad ever happening to us. This is a little naive. We do not believe that God created evil, but nor do we believe that he prevents anything bad from ever happening to good people. God gives us the strength to deal with evil so that we could be stronger people in our lived experience. But this is not a popular idea.

 The other problem with that line of questioning is that the person asking it is simply not looking at any of the good in the world. Only at the evil. So in their unspiritual minds,the good we see in our world exists because humanity is so clever and has created many things to make us happy, but the evil is God's fault. Even the evil that comes from the hands of humanity becomes if not God's fault, then proof that God does not exist, for how could a good and loving creator allow such evil to happen to his people? There's no easy answer for this line of questioning, but what it boils down to for me is that, if God is willing to let his own son become human, suffer and die out of love for us, I believe God would be  willing to allow us to bear our own crosses in our journey of faith. He will weep with us, and suffer with us, but will not take away the pain. Such a God is difficult for many to believe in.
  What we need to understand is that Jesus did suffer, not so that people would stop suffering, but so that -as I've already said-they would be given strength in their faith in their own hour of darkness, and even more importantly, so that they could be aware of the suffering of others around them and do their best to ease that suffering.  We see a beautiful example of this in the account of today's Saint, where the Christians of a certain community, moved by compassion, did all they could to relieve the suffering of strangers.  Yes, it is possible for non Christians to have that compassion. But to this day in the city of Toronto, and many cities around the world, it is Catholic Charities that are the most giving, the most generous and the most caring. It's in our blood. We can not remain silent in the face of suffering of others.
 Likewise, we should not remain silent about the importance of Jesus to our world. Have you ever asked yourself 'what is it that drove Paul and the early Christians so much?' Don't forget, the book of Acts takes place in a period when the Gospels had not been written -although the Book of Acts and the Letters of Paul come after the Gospels, they were probably written a decade or 2 before Mark, which is considered by some to be the first of the Gospels (not Matthew! It's complicated, and that's why not all scholars agree, but generally speaking, it's assumed that Mark was the first Gospel written, and that Matthew and Luke were shaped by Mark and other sources!)- so there were not too many written sources to inspire the early Christian. All they had was their oral tradition, and their memories of who Jesus was. Well, that and the fact that the holy spirit WAS working in them. In his Wednesday general audience this week, Francis talked about the Spirit being that living Water that Jesus promised us, as the strongest connection we have to the divine. There is no doubt that the Spirit was hard at work in the early Christians, as they performed many miracles, converted many hearts and many thousands of converts everywhere they went.
 And once again, as we've seen this week, they also received tremendous opposition, not just from Jews, but from Greeks as well. In yesterday's first reading, Paul finally comes to the conclusion that he's had enough of their opposition, and that he will now begin to preach to the gentiles -Greeks and Jews are mentioned in one single assumes that they're referring to the Jewish diaspora living in Greece-. Of course, just after Paul expresses his frustration towards his brethren and practically gives up on them, we hear of how the Synagogue leader is himself converted. So, even when we're ready to give up, God continues to work!

          Paul in Corinth  with Aq'uila and Priscilla

Acts 18: 1 - 8

1After this he left Athens and went to Corinth.
2And he found a Jew named Aq'uila, a native of Pontus, lately come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome. And he went to see them;
3and because he was of the same trade he stayed with them, and they worked, for by trade they were tentmakers.
4And he argued in the synagogue every sabbath, and persuaded Jews and Greeks.
5When Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedo'nia, Paul was occupied with preaching, testifying to the Jews that the Christ was Jesus.
6And when they opposed and reviled him, he shook out his garments and said to them, "Your blood be upon your heads! I am innocent. From now on I will go to the Gentiles."
7And he left there and went to the house of a man named Titius Justus, a worshiper of God; his house was next door to the synagogue.
8Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed in the Lord, together with all his household; and many of the Corinthians hearing Paul believed and were baptized.

Psalms 98: 1 - 4

1O sing to the LORD a new song, for he has done marvelous things! His right hand and his holy arm have gotten him victory.
2The LORD has made known his victory, he has revealed his vindication in the sight of the nations.
3He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness to the house of Israel. All the ends of the earth have seen the victory of our God.
4Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises!

John 16: 16 - 20

16"A little while, and you will see me no more; again a little while, and you will see me."17Some of his disciples said to one another, "What is this that he says to us, `A little while, and you will not see me, and again a little while, and you will see me'; and, `because I go to the Father'?"18They said, "What does he mean by `a little while'? We do not know what he means."19Jesus knew that they wanted to ask him; so he said to them, "Is this what you are asking yourselves, what I meant by saying, `A little while, and you will not see me, and again a little while, and you will see me'?20Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy.

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