Anam Cara


Thursday, November 20, 2014

Live Fearlessly!

This post is a part of a post published last Monday, "The Little Apocalypse." It also continues a post from Wednesday, "The Parable of the Talents."

Cèad mìle fàilte romhat. A hundred thousand welcomes to you!

One of the greatest things we can learn from “The Parable of the Talents” is to LIVE FEARLESSLY. Fear causes others to control us, even if that was not the intention of another. We do not think and behave like children of God. We instead allow our fears to dictate how we feel along with what we do and say. It even affects the way we think.

When we live in fear, we will not do things that we normally do. Instead, we go out of our comfort zone to avoid any type of confrontation. This hurts us in more ways than one would think. It causes us to think less of ourselves. We lose confidence. We think that we are not strong enough. Soon, that attitude develops into feelings of worthlessness and shame. Instead of improving on what we are given, we are helpless to the circumstances around us.  This takes on a crippling effect and before long, there will be no way we can free ourselves without getting into an uphill battle in which victory would be slow in coming.

The lazy servant did not invest the money given him. He did not even think to put the talent in a bank to let it draw interest. He kept the focus on the consequences of what could happen if one little part of that talent was lost. Unlike the others, he could not see beyond the fear. He did what any other person with his condition would normally do. He buries his talent under the sands of the desert and hope to God that the problem just goes away. Out of sight, out of mind. Right?

Regardless if we read the Matthew version or the Luke account, it comes out the same. The others have at least doubled the investment. No evidence of fear crippling any of them. They became industrious and as a result, the master sang praises to them. He was proud of them. Those people can become just like him. They can learn. They can expand. There is hope for people like that. They took on the qualities they saw in their master and made it their own.  Herein lies the rub.

Christ lived fearlessly, as he followed the Father. He sees what the Father is doing and does likewise. Not even the pangs of death could deter him from being who he always had been. Now, if we had that kind of resolve, how different would our lives be? We would truly become the masters of our own destiny. How is anyone going to force us to think anything that we would not consider under any other condition, much less say or do? They could suggest all they want. If we do consider, it would be under our terms, because we ourselves have decided to think about it.

When we take on our lives with such mastery, how are we different from the Master himself?

If this or other articles have helped you in anyway, then allow me to make some suggestions. There is a video presentation of this blog. It is called, "The Parable of the Talents." This is an episode of "Anam Cara: Reflections of a Soul Friend" on YouTube. Subscribe to the channel to receive notifications on upcoming episodes. Also, subscribe to this blog here via email to ensure you don't miss out on any new articles coming out.

Until next time, May God and his Mary be with you and your loved ones today, tomorrow; each and every day!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Parable of the Ten Talents

This week's Gospel lesson is from St.Matthew 25.14-30. This link will take you to the Bible Gateway site, which I have bookmarked for the Contemporary English Version (CEV) for easier reading. This website also has other versions available. If one is looking for accuracy, I personally recommend the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV), which will be here.

This post is also a part of "The Little Apocalypse," posted last Monday.

We read of a master that had to go to another country. What for, we are not told. He does selects three managers out of his slave pool to take care of his estate while he is gone. He gives according to what he figures is the ability and capacity of each. To one, he gives five talents. He gives two to another and one to the third one. The master's absence was long time coming, but when he does show back up, he is pleased with the work of the first two "promoted" managers. They doubled what they had.

The third servant did not do as well. He broke even. The reason: The servant was terrified of losing what the master entrusted to him that he buried the money under the sand. That servant did NOTHING! NADA! ZIP! The master of the house was not happy about that! He ordered that talent stripped and gave it to the first servant who has eleven talents now. The third slave was called worthless and "thrown out into the dark where people will cry and grit their teeth in pain." When people around the master heard this, they were dumbfounded. The master then said, "Those who have something will be given more. But everything will be taken away from those who don't have anything."

Notice, the master may not portray the Messiah at all, but someone else. If the master was Yeshua (aka Jesus), why would one person get five talents and another only one? Since when was the Messiah a respecter of persons? 

Also something to pay attention to is the idea that the same person who had five talents is the same one who gained five more (or six, if we count the one taken from the last). The same servant who received just a couple was also the same who doubled it and it is the exact same slave that kept that one, not investing in it at all. Even though we see that the master delayed his return, the time wasn't long enough to where one had to be replace due to either retirement or death. Why I bring this point up is because apparently, this parable is evidence of Preterism (see this blog). 

How does this compare to the parallel in the Gospel of Luke? We see similarities that allow us understand that this is the same story, yet it is a retelling of it because it is not the exact same.

For example, we read that some people in general wish to replace the “king” when the master leaves the country. In fact, the reason why the master leaves is to receive some royal title. This is not found in Matthew. In addition, there are 10 pounds, only one to each of the ten servants. However, we see that though everyone gets an equal amount, one multiplies by ten and another multiplies by five. The returning king is pleased with this. 

Then there is that one who neither added nor subtracted, but instead buries the "pound" not "talent" out of fear. That one gets the pound taken away from him and given to the one that has ten. He is called lazy and worthless. When he is stripped of that pound, the other people around are surprised. The king says, "Those who have something will be given more. But everything will be taken away from those who don't have anything." Just like in Matthew. 

Another difference is that Luke has Jesus tell this story right before Palm Sunday, whereas Matthew has Jesus tell the story after the triumphant entry on the donkey. Because of this, in Matthew, this story is in the “Little Apocalypse” portion, but is not included in that portion with Luke. In addition, the king had those people in the community arrested and ordered, "kill them as I watch." All for their petition to remove the master from ruling over them.

Because of these similarities and differences, many scholars wonder if this is the same or a different event. When I see this story told by two different people, it is no surprise that there would be differences. Given the geography, politics and culture of that time, this surely is to be expected.

If we agree that the two stories are actually the same one told differently; then Luke can shed light to the problems we find in Matthew, and vice versa. Let us also remember that these accounts were written a few decades (at the earliest) after the life of the Messiah and that their Gospels actually come from an already existing oral tradition. Matthew was written in one geographic area, Luke in another. Stories in an oral tradition have a tendency to morph and change over time. Somethings get left out, perhaps unintentionally and other elements get emphasized, all depending on the circumstances of that community where the tradition currently resides. With these things in mind, let us also remember that these stories were based upon events that was perceived by the original story tellers. 

At this point, it would be helpful to have a little working knowledge of first century Judea/Galilee, when these parables were being written down. Josephus was a Jewish historian living at that turbulent time. He wrote books regarding the conflicts that was raging in Palestine. He tells us in "The War of the Jews (Book 2, Chapter 14)" that during the mid to late sixties, Gessius Florus was the Roman procurator of Judea who looted the temple, taking many valuables and money. He justified his action by claiming that Nero, the Roman emperor, had been shortchanged by the Temple and demanded his share immediately. The Judeans mocked him. They passed the basket around, taking collections, implying that the procurator was so poor he needed charity. Several others resorted to violence, however. Guerrilla fighters, called Zealots, took to the streets and started a campaign of looting themselves.

A delegation from Jerusalem petitioned Cestius Gallius, the Roman procurator of Syria, to have Florus removed from his post. This attempt was unsuccessful. Many Jews and even Roman citizens in Jerusalem were arrest and crucified through Florus's retaliation. This resulted in riots that got the attention of Rome. General Vespasian and his son Titus led the Roman militia to quell the rebellion. When they were almost finished, Nero died and a civil war broke out. Vespasian went to Rome, fighting for the right to rule. He was victorious in this endeavor and immediately dispatched his son Titus to finish the job in Judea.  

It is in both versions of the parable that the master was ruthless, harsh, taking money that he did not earn and reaping what he did not sow. The third slave was terrified of his master if he were to suffer loss of any kind. That is why the third slave in both accounts did nothing. The "lazy" servant got his master’s wrath anyway. He did not act, did not participate, in his master’s business.

In this light, it does seem plausible that Luke’s master was Procurator Florus, or even General Vespasian. One has to wonder, could be that the Gospel of Luke is describing events taking place in the second half of the first century by cloaking his message in the disguise of the first half? If this is the case, then the writer of the Gospel of Matthew may also be describing the same events, especially since both wrote roughly at that time frame.

When we realize that these Gospel accounts may explain the circumstances were in a veiled fashion, how does that affect the message we get today?  Is there any relevance to us in the twenty-first century, or does it not at all apply?

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Comments, suggestions or concerns....

Monday, November 17, 2014

Question Regarding Justice and Mercy of God in Regards to Homosexuality

Cèad mìle fàilte romhat! A hundred thousand welcomes to you!
There is a blog that has a letter written by "Angela." She is struggling with a teenage daughter who is attracted to other females. How can she reconcile the love she has for her daughter and yet, at the same time, know that G_d does not approve of these types of relationships? Angela loves her daughter dearly. She ponders over how the Messiah could reject such a sweet, kindhearted person? If anyone wants to read that letter, the blog, "How to Respond When Your Child Says They're Gay" is found by clicking the link. 
I can understand the struggle that Angela is going through. I know someone who is going through the same struggle that Angela and her husband is going through. How does one choose between Christ and their own child?
Just to give an example of what I am talking about, suppose my child robbed a bank and killed a guard in the process. Clearly, what my child did was wrong. Does this mean that I cannot speak on my child's behalf? Perhaps, he was desperate. He wouldn't normally steal anything, much less kill anyone. As a kid, he wouldn't hurt a fly. Then one day, he got sick. Medical doctors gave him pain medication that eventually became an addiction. When the doctors stopped the prescriptions, the child did what he could to manage the his pain.
Yes! Robbing a bank is bad! Killing someone is even worse! One can always return the money (with interest), but if someone dies, you cannot replace a life.
Do I, as a parent, have any right to speak for my child? If so, would a judge consider these circumstances when figuring a sentence that shows justice for everyone? I know the family members of the guard will feel differently and that is understandable. When faced with a choice between that guard and my son, well, honestly, I'm relieved that my son still lives, but I also grieve for the other family.
Now, let us suppose that this judge is G_d and instead of theft and murder, we are talking about homosexuality. Would G_d, being fair that we all know He is, realize that justice without mercy would be the same punishment for everybody across the board? If so, then no one is saved, for we are all sinners.
G_d has in times past shown mercy to those who I feel didn't deserve it, like that thief on the cross. A lifetime of stealing and causing mayhem, yet one statement guaranteed his entrance into Paradise. Therefore, G_d is also merciful along with being just. If G_d shows mercy towards thieves and murderers, would He not also show mercy for gay men and lesbians? Being all knowing and all wise, I can trust in the fact that G_d really knows what is going on inside a person's heart; because life is rarely black and white. There is always the other side to the story.
Then, there is a question regarding homosexual relationships and sin. Despite the many texts used in Scripture to show that homosexuality is a sin, it does remain unclear if some of these texts may be speaking about promiscuity and/or sexual exploitation. In other words, a lifetime commitment of love and intimacy between two adult persons not related to each other might not be a sin at all. The Reformed Celtic Church has an article that explains this in further detail. The article is called, "The Reformed Celtic Church Statement and Policy on Homosexuality and Same-Gender Marriage." 

Of course, one suspects that if mercy comes with justice, then one could come to the conclusion that all will be saved. There is an actual concept in historical Christianity that is commonly called "Universal Salvation." There is an article that explains the history of Universalism in Christianity. Again, just click the link. 

The Messiah was quoting Hosea 6.6 here.
When it comes down to it, the letter kills, but spirit gives life (2 Corinthians 3.6)

Thanks for listening. May the peace of our Messiah and Mary be with you and your loved ones.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

The Little Apocalypse

Apocalypse comes from a Greek word that means "uncovering," or a "revelation." In fact, the New Testament canon has as it's last book, "The Apocalypse of Jesus Christ," which is better known as "Revelation." That whole book is filled with visions that St. John of Patmos (traditionally, the "Beloved Disciple" of the Gospel of St. John) had while under incarceration.

The four horses of the Apocalypse (Revelation 6.1-8). Note the order of Messianic figures, wars, famine and death/natural disasters; then compare them to the beginning of the "Little Apocalypse" (Matthew 24.5ff; Mark 13.6ff and Luke 21.8-11) found below.
Apocalyptic literature is a genre of writings mostly written between 200 BCE to 200 CE. These scriptures are notorious for terrifying images describing conditions of the day, or events that are going to happen, sooner or later. Often times, these images are abstract enough to elicit many different interpretations. It is common to assume that instead of revealing, they remain "hidden," which might have been the intention of the author(s) of these particular works. Those who know the symbols, in other words, people who have been initiated into a mystery, are the ones that can unlock the secrets that lay within.

Many images of the Apocalyptic tradition of Christianity are in the synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke. In Matthew, they are found in chapters 24 and 25. In Mark, the chapter is 13. In the Gospel of Luke, it is chapter 21. Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21 repeat each other, sometimes verbatim. Since, overall, these places could fill 2 or so chapters and not a book--they are called, "The Little Apocalypse." Matthew 25 has parables that are found no where else, save one, "The Parable of the Talents," found in verses 14-30. That parable is also found in Luke, but in somewhat different telling in an area outside of the Little Apocalypse.

There are basically 4 approaches to interpreting these visions. The first is Preterism. The second is the Historical interpretation. The Future approach is the third one listed. These three have to do different aspects of time. The final one is Philosophical, which is in essence, "timeless."

All of Mark 13 can be found in the other two Gospels. The only one of note is the last few verses which are not found in the Little Apocalypse section of Luke, but is found in chapter 17. Matthew's account is certainly closer to that of Mark, almost word-for-word, except in a few places. Matthew seems to add on to what Mark is saying. This is why Matthew's version of the Apocalypse is longer. Mark is the "Readers Digest" version, only in reverse, because it came first. 

Luke's account has the most differences. Luke has a tendency to place elements outside his section that the others put in their own. Even so, Luke does have something in his chapter 21 that doesn't show up in Matthew's and Mark's account, no matter how similar they do appear to be in title. "Exhortation to Watch" sounds a lot like "Necessity of Watchfulness." These stories are essentially different, however. The "Necessity" as it is presented in both Matthew and Mark, is found elsewhere in Luke (chapter 12), so "Exhortation" is not the same.   

Preterism describes things and events as they are occurring, or at best, a very short term "seeing" into the future, more like forecasting than predicting. Forecasting is different from predicting. Forecasting says the chances are likely to be this way as oppose to that way if current trends continue as they are. Predicting is more fatalistic. It says that things happen because they have to, regardless of the conditions involved. Preterists deny the possibility to "foresee" into the far future. This locks Preterism in the first century of our common era. This approach is popular among Roman Catholics, Episcopalian/Anglicans, Eastern Orthodox and free independent Catholics.

The Historical approach takes the view that one reads history, except looking forward into the future rather than looking back in the past. This allows the Historical school to be relevant for our current day and age as it was for everybody two thousand years ago as well as those who will come after us. Several of the Protestant reformers several centuries ago and a significant amount of mainline churches today take this approach.

The Future interpretation says that most of the prophecies of the Bible cannot be filled until the "end is near." People who take this approach say that the Apocalypse doesn't apply to anybody here today, unless, of course, some of us survive into a period of time commonly known as the "Tribulation," and especially the "Great Tribulation." The Apocalyptic lessons apply to those who live under the reign of a power crazed dictator and a religious leader that dominate the entire globe. Since this has neither happened in the past, nor is concurrent, the Apocalypse doesn't describe what humanity is going through up to this point. As of today, this idea is very popular among conservative evangelicals along with those who endorse any of the "millennial" viewpoints today, whether it be pre-trib, mid-trib or post-trib "rapture" of believers.

The only approach that doesn't involve time by itself is the Philosophical approach. Like Preterism, these folks deny the ability to foretell future events. But, we don't have too. What is eternal now was eternal in ages past and will continue to be so in ages ahead. Somethings simply go beyond change. Though it may appear that events and circumstances do morph and evolve as time goes on, things like liberty, justice, peace, joy, love and honesty will always remain defiantly constant. The Philosophical school of thought see these visions and images as a metaphor for spiritual battle that always takes place beyond our normal sight. "Good" will eventually win out because of it's eternal essence.  

Since this week's Lectionary has the Gospel lesson of "The Parable of the Talents" (Matthew 25.14-30), it can be demonstrated that a combination of Philosophical and Preterism is adequate for our purpose of mining for spiritual gems. I'm not saying at this point that the other two are in someway invalid. Discovering the worthiness of all these interpretations will have to wait for another time. All I'm saying is that the first and last are at least valid enough for the insights we seek today.

A YouTube video is being created which will have all these slides and more on there. Also subscribe to the Anam Cara channel to keep up with all the new materials going on there.

UPDATE: The Video Presentation:

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

What is Anam Cara?

An anam cara is an Irish (Gaelic) term meaning "Soul Friend." It can also be spelled as one combined word, "Anamchara," with a "h" added after the "c."

Anam caras are counselors who can know all your secrets, will help you figure out what it is that you need, all without one iota of judgement, or condemnation. A true friend. A Soul Friend, indeed! Anam Caras are found all throughout Gaelic Christian history. This office may actually had it's origins in pre Christian Celtic times, at the time of the Druids.

If you find yourself an anam cara, then very fortunate are you! What is there to look for in anam caras? Look for a very compassionate person.

John O' Donohue wrote a book that explains a lot about this. Wouldn't you know it? The book is called "Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom." Click on the link to see the book on Amazon. Click here to see it at Barnes and Noble. The book can also be purchased at Books-A-Million.

Also, this is a subject that this blog is all about. Happy hunting!