the inner and the outer struggle

Posted By on Oct 31, 2014

(fr. Cyprian) Today’s gospel (Lk 13:31-35) and, especially, the first reading from the Letter to the Ephesians (6:10-20) actually took me back a few weeks and a few chapters to a little earlier in the Gospel of Luke: ‘Do you think I have come to bring peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.’[i] Paul has us decked out for battle. Listen to all the martial images: the armor of God, loins girded, breastplate, the shield, the helmet and the sword. But there’s both an inner and an outer battle going on. In the gospel Jesus is speaking about the outer battle. The power of good seems to always be met by something working against it, like Herod the fox, and the holy city of Jerusalem itself who kills the prophets and stones those sent to it. I’m reading a novel right now about the 1960s in which the Freedom Riders play a major role.[ii] These are the young black students that were trained in non-violent resistance. They may have been non-violent, but this was still a battle, and the more they resisted the greater the violence against them became, from being humiliated at lunch counters and attacked on busses to fire hoses and dogs turned loose on them, all the way to lynching and the bombing of a Sunday school that killed four little girls––can you imagine how heinous a crime that is? All committed by good Christians! Jerusalem, you kill the prophets and stone those sent to you! The struggle for civil rights brought division to the country, north and south, within families, within political parties, within the Christian churches of America, and ended up with a few prophets killed along the way as well. Oh yes, we must be prepared for battle, we spiritual warriors, those who suffer for the sake of justice, we followers of Jesus. But equally important to the outer battles, the cultural wars, and the struggle for justice–– and even more important, certainly at some points in our life anyway––is the inner battle, and I think that is what Paul is addressing. I was reminded again of the famous hadith from the life of the Prophet Muhammad. He had dispatched a contingent of the army and upon their return, he said: “Blessed are those who have performed the minor jihad and have yet to perform the major jihad––al-jihad al-akbar.” When asked, “What is the major jihad?” the Prophet replied: “The jihad al nafs–the struggle against the self.” The commentary I found on this says that this is much more difficult than fighting in the battlefield, because in the struggle...

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the wedding garment

Posted By on Oct 12, 2014

(fr. Cyprian, on Mt 22:1-14; 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time) Luke tells this story of the guests who refused the invitation to the banquet in his gospel too, but in a slightly different version.[i] Scholars think that his is actually the older version of it, closer to the original. In Luke it’s just a man giving a dinner, but Matthew has made it into a king hosting a wedding banquet, which of course is a very evocative image both for the covenant with Israel and the Eucharist. Luke also has more focus on the poor in his version, the blind and the lame who are invited; whereas Matthew is more polemical, as he often is, against his Jewish brothers and sisters, since he’s writing after the fall of Jerusalem; that may be the allusion to the king destroying the murderers and burning their city. But the real jarring part of the story that Matthew adds––besides the king going out and killing everyone and burning down there city!––is this guy who gets caught without his wedding garment. (If ever there were a short story worthy of Flannery O’Connor!) It seems rather arbitrary; he just got rushed in from off the street! Did everyone else have time to go home and change into their party clothes? There’s no indication that anyone was given any warning that they had to wear a wedding garment. And why is this king prowling around checking out the guests rather than doting on his newlywed son and his bride? Even more important, what is this wedding garment?! It’s like the one thing necessary that Mary had chosen, the better part, sitting at the feet of Jesus.[ii] What is it? What is the wedding garment? I sure don’t want to be caught without it! But we ought to start asking ourselves, no matter how old or young we are, whatever our station in life is: what is this wedding garment, and am I wearing it?! Have I got one? I know it sounds too facile, too easy to say it this way, but it has just simply got to be love, doesn’t it? That was certainly Saint Augustine’s interpretation of this parable. This guy in the story didn’t have his wedding garment on––he had no love––and so he got kicked right out of there, like the virgins who had no oil in their lamps.[iii] I was thinking of variations on Paul’s great hymn to love in the Letter to the Corinthians, which we heard just the other day, about the love without which I am just a noisy gong, a clanging cymbal. I could sit in full...

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