The Nativity

The third Joyful mystery is the Nativity, the Birth of Jesus. It is found in Luke’s Gospel (Luke 2), now on Christmas they do read from the first chapters of Matthew and John as well, depending on which Mass you attend. The fruit of this mystery is Poverty, Detachment from the things of the world, Contempt of Riches, Love of the Poor. I always have found it ironic that for one of the most commercial of all the religious holidays the focus is poverty, sure I understand why as Christ humbled himself to be born a human and he arrives in the world in the lowliest of places, his parents had traveled from a far, there was no room at the inn and so he was laid in a manger in a stable/cave. As we enter into this third week of Advent we talk about rejoicing, but let us also remember that this season isn’t about what we get but the time we share with family and friends.

Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

This week the readings come from Genesis 18:1-10a, Psalm 15, Paul’s letter to the Colossians 1:24-28, and Luke’s Gospel 10:38-42.

The major point this week in Hospitality, we see it in Genesis with Abraham welcoming three guest and giving them something to eat and drink as well as in the Gospel where we hear about Mary and Martha. These are perfect role models for us all as we are to be welcoming to all who cross our paths. It’s more than just offering them something to eat but as Jesus tells Martha that Mary has chosen the better by sitting at his feet. It is more about the companionship and spending time with other people, for who know what will happen like when the three guest leave they say that Sarah will bear a child. It isn’t that difficult as we don’t need to stress over a three course meal to impress someone all we really need to do is share some time with others. This is something that doesn’t happen much today as we are so connected to the digital world and some would gladly be interacting with phones instead of real people. We need to be able to put our phones down and talk with one another, it isn’t as difficult as we make it out to be there isn’t a guide or a checklist just be yourself and find out who your neighbors are.

Institution of the Eucharist

Jesus and his friends gathered together to celebrate the Passover meal. When supper was ended he took some bread blessed it and broke it saying “Take, eat this is my body.” Then Jesus took the cup blessed it and gave it to them saying “Take, drink this is my blood, the blood of the covenant.” Blessed and broken both were given body and blood, how often do we give of ourselves in a similar way giving to someone all of ourselves. We remember this each and every time during Mass

This is sharing a meal with friends and family let us be reminded of the Eucharist feast as we gather together on Thanksgiving and later next month at Christmas. Since it seem like at most holidays we rush through them and hit all the moments, but we don’t spend time and relax and enjoy the moments with our family and friends we rush from here to there and try to satisfy everyone else rather then our own needs. For as we read in Matthew “For where two or more are gathered in my name, there am I in their midst.” Christ is with us at these large feast let us remember this and treat our family with the respect that we would treat him.

My Dinner with Andre (1981)

My Dinner with Andre is an interesting little independent film, since it’s two people having a conversation at dinner together and that is it. There isn’t a huge conflict it’s two people sharing ideas at a meal together. The film stars Wallace Shawn and Andre Gregory and the story is sort of kind of based on their lives but not really.  My first encounter with My Dinner with Andre was with the show Community (2×19) “Critical Film Studies”, which was an homage to My Dinner with Andre.

This is a lovingly realized idea and as an added bonus it hits one of the major theme of the movie the fakeness of real life.

So in the film Wallace ‘Wally’ Shawn (playwright, actor) has been invited out to dinner with Andre Gregory (director, actor) Andre and Wally are good friends. The first half of the film is Andre talking about what he has been doing since stepping away from directing in 1975. It is a wide variety of things working with Polish actors in a forest with Jerzy Grotowski, going to Findhorn in Scotland, a trip to the Sahara to inspire a play version of St. Exupéry’s The Little Prince, and a performance art group on Long Island where he was buried alive on Halloween. Andre has embraces the spiritual aspects of life. The other half of the film is Wally arguing that what Andre did over the past five year really isn’t living compared to what most people think living is, however Andre counters that what accounts for real life with all the pleasures of life is more like a dream. Then the film is over with Wally and Andre going home.

One of the cool things I learned by watching the film is that it was film in Virginia, it wasn’t until later when I checked Wikipedia that I learn that it was filmed in the Jefferson Hotel in Richmond, and I’ve been there. I felt at times the film felt a little bit like A Guide to the Perplexed, with it diving into philosophy, I think that the next time I watch it I’ll have a different opinion of the film. This McSweeney’s piece about an audience participation type viewing ala Rocky Horror is a riot. Perhaps I should watch it like this once.

Ernest & Celestine (2012)

Ernest and Celestine is based on the series of children’s books Ernest et Célestine by Gabrielle Vincent.  This is a simple story about a mouse (Celestine) and a bear (Ernest) who become unlikely friends, as Celestine has been told all her life that bear are mean and will eat you. Celestine longs to be an artist and doesn’t want to get involved in dentistry. Early one morning Ernest frees Celestine from a trash can where she had been trapped and offers to get Ernest more food to fill him up that just a single mouse. At this point Ernest gets arrested and Celestine breaks him free and Ernest agrees to help her bring teeth down to the world of the rodents. They are soon pursued by both the bear cops and rodent cops.  They make their escape to a cabin Ernest has in the woods and it soon become winter.  The two eventually become friends. 

This film has a unique visual style as it  echoes the water colors from the books and is lovingly hand drawn. It’s a pretty looking movie. The film has had critical acclaim it even won the Magritte Award for Best Film in 2012, Magritte Awards are given to the best film in Belgium, and Ernest and Celestine is the first animated film to win this award.

If you haven’t seen this film go out of your way and watch it. The film is a little over an hour long  and it is a great way to break up the stranglehold that Disney and Dreamworks have on the animated film market. If you have children get it and watch the film with them, it’s got a nice positive message as well.

Lesser Known…

Friendship Day: This is a classic observance made up by Hallmark to sell card during their low season, it was intended that on August 2 people would send each other cards. However this was not to happen as consumers saw through the gimmick and by the 1940s the observance was over in the United States. Yet the day wasn’t over quite yet as it spread to Europe and then on to Asia where is became a huge thing. With the rise of social media like Facebook and the like Friendship Day has been revived. The United Nations heard of this and in 2011 they declared that 30 July as International Friendship Day. I hope we all can do something special with our friends this upcoming Friendship Day.

Pantaleon (c. 275-305)
Pantaleon mean all compassionate and is one of the Fourteen holy helpers in the West where he is patron for physicians, and against cancer & tuberculosis; and one of the Holy Unmercenaries in the East. This is a unique saint as although there is evidence to suggest that Pantaleon existed some think that the stories associated with him are completely legendary. Some of these stories are a bit crazy, he was a the Emperor’s doctor and eventually turned to his faith since Jesus was the greatest healer. For revealing his faith to the emperor by healing a paralytic but this made the emperor condemn him to die for use of magic. This is the best part according to the hagiographies is the description of his death, he was first burned with torches but Christ appeared as his friend Hermolaus who healed the burns. Since this didn’t work a molten bath was prepared and Jesus stepped into the the bath with Pantaleon and the lead became cold and the fire went out. Then Pantaleon was thrown into the sea with a great stone unfortunately the stone floated. Next he was bound to a wheel but the ropes snapped and the wheel broke. Finally they tried to just behead him, but the sword bent, and the executioners were converted to Christianity. Pantaleon then implored Heaven to forgive them, and It wasn’t until he desired to die that it was possible to behead him, upon which there issued forth blood and a white liquid like milk.

Book of Job: Part three (second cycle of speeches)

If you remember last week we started this section of Job which is a dialogue between job and his friends, Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar. Last week in chapters 3-14 they all were telling Job that it’s something Job did and he needs to make it right with the Lord.

So we turn to the second cycle of speeches in chapters 15-21.

We begin with Eliphaz once again who it seems picks up where he left off.  Eliphaz starts by saying “Your own mouth condemns you not I you own lips testify against you” (15:6) then he ask Job if he thinks that he is smarter than the Lord because Job demands an answer. Eliphaz says that this is undermining the Lord. Job replies  once again stating his innocence and goes on to say that his friends are scorning him.

Next we hear from Bildad who once again tells Job that the Lord is going to punish the evil doer and Bildad adds that the first-born of death is going to be tagging along as well. Job asks “How long will you torment me, and break me in pieces with words?” (19:2) Job then adds that if it is true and he did err that the error remains with him and his friends shouldn’t be continually attacking him about it. Job simply want to be able to plead his case before God.

Zophar is the next to offer his two cents, and guess what he says. Zophar gives a whole list of ways that the wicked man is punished by God. saying that this is the wicked man’s portion from God.  Job replies stating his innocence and saying that the wicked go unpunished all the time but we all end up in the same place, in the ground.

This book is frustrating as none of Job’s friends are actually listening to him and they continually harp on the fact that God will punish the wicked, that is all that they are saying. Next week we will pick up with the final cycle of speeches from this group, and I expect it to be exactly the same thing.

Book of Job: Part two (first cycle of speeches)

In Job 3-14 we have the first time around with Job and his friends “talking”. In a rough sketch

We begin with Job cursing his birth asking Why is light given to those in misery? or why is there Hope?

Eliphaz is the first to speak and he tells Job that sure you have helped others but you’ve never understood their pain and perhaps this is a reason for no one rushing to Job to help him out.  Eliphaz goes on to say that Job most likely sinned and that’s what bad things have happened to Job. He goes on to argue that we are but dust and can easily be crushed. Eliphaz tells Job that he should turn to the Lord for answers. Job replies by saying that he has the right to be angry and compares it to putting salt on food. Job will not quiet down he will be complaining to the bitterness of his soul.

Bildad speaks up and asks how long are you going to be complaining since it wasn’t your fault. He goes on to say that Job’s children died because they had sinned but the other stuff in on Job make yourself right with the Lord. Bildad goes on to say that just as plants need water to grow so do we need hope in our lives. Job replies to this by saying sure I know this but The Lord has done some incredible things Job then continues to claim his innocence saying that he hasn’t sinned so his ill fortune can’t be blamed upon him.

Zophar is the last to speak up and is a huge jerk about it. Zophar goes to say that sure Job is pure and everything for God to speak to him, but God is bigger than Job. The devastation wrought by the Lord to Job is less than what he deserves. Then it gets even worse as Zophar goes on at length about Job’s immorality. Job responds that there is no doubt that all his friends are smart and they have all the wisdom that the world need but Job has some opinions of his own as well. Sure he’s the laughing stock of the town but he wants some answers and wants them from the Lord is need be.

None of these “friends” give Job any real help they all says that  it’s something Job did and he needs to make it right with the Lord. None of these theories are right Job is being put to a test and it isn’t anything he’s done.

Next week we will look at the second series of speeches.


Colorless Tsukiri Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and his years of Pilgrimage is the newest book by Haruki Murakami and it is a fun quick read. As the title suggests it is a Bildungsroman,or coming of age story as our main character Tsukuru Tazaki goes on an journey of self discovery. The story begins with the narrator telling us about Tsukuru and how he has been devastated by his closest friend from high school as they cut him off this group. We are told that these five individuals came together doing volunteer work by chance and they all got along well The group consisted of Akamatsu, Oumio, Shirane, Kurono and Tsukuru. Mr. Red, Mr.Blue, Ms. White, Ms. Black and Colorless Tsukuru. They were friends through high school but when Tsukuru moved away to Tokyo for College he was kicked out of the group for no real reason. Tsukuru wanted to die after this, but after six months he wanted to live.

Tsukuru started dating a new girl, Sara, and he starts talking about his past and his friends from high school who cut him off, she keep pressing him about these friends and we learn about how Tsukuru came back from his death. He begins to swim to build up the muscle mass that he lost in those six months and soon he became friends with someone he met at the pool they were quick friend and Haida, Mr. Gray. they get along great and Haida and Tsukuru begin spending weekends together, hanging out listening to classic music talking about whatever.

This book is difficult to really fully explain as it jumps around in time as Tsukuru is often telling Sara about these things in his past and then we have some dreams and a tale as well, so the narrative isn’t a straight line but it goes back and forth until the end. Sara presses Tsukuru to go visit his friends from high school to find out what all happened that caused him to get kicked out of the group. He learns that the boys are still in his hometown, one girl lives in Finland and the other has died. This is a heart breaking thing for Tsukuru to deal with and he goes and find out how these long lost friends are doing.From all that I’ve read this book hits many of the tropes that Murakami likes to hit in his coming of age stories.

Perhaps I’ll go read another one of his works like 1Q84, as I have often seen it at the library and wonder what it was all about. 1984 or something else? It was also a fun read as just last year my high school class celebrated out 11th reunion, although I didn’t attend I have wondered where some of these people from high school have gone and what they done in the past decade. Hopefully there can be better planning when the 15th reunion comes around.

28th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Today’s readings all have the common thread of meals and sharing woven throughout. We once again start with the Prophet Isaiah. This week we are at a party at the end of time on Mount Zion. Isaiah writes “The Lord will provide for all people a feast of rich food and choice wine…and he will destroy the veil that veils all peoples and wipe away ever tear” This is the kingdom of God in which we are waiting. The important thing to take from this reading is if we take a look at the guests at the party it is not only the Jewish people but all people who have been invited. We will all break bread together, this is symbol of friendship is found later on at the Last Supper and the story of the disciples on the road to Emmaus. It is through the sharing of a meal that kinship develops and at every celebration of the Eucharist we share in a meal with all other.

As we turn to the second reading we are greeted with a letter from Paul to the Philippians, in his letter Paul thanks the people of Philippi for sending some money, as Paul was in prison as usual. So in this reading Paul says that I’ve known hunger and I’ve known feasts and we can do all things because of God and because there are people out there who can help. Paul didn’t ask from the Philippians to send him money to perhaps bail him out of jail but they did so out of concern for him. We must be concerned about other and share in their struggles as well as their joys.

In the Gospel once again we encounter some parables in Matthew. This is the wedding parable, a King is having a wedding feast for his son and the king sends out his servants to get the invited guests, they refuse to come, so he sent another servant to get those invited some ignored the message and other killed the servant. Then the king sent out his troops to destroy the city and murder those who killed the servant, so then the king sent out yet another servant to get whomever is on the streets to come and the hall was filled. This is where some will stop today but there is a little more to the story. The king now went out into the guests and he noticed a man not in wedding dress and he has the servants throw the man out “as many are invited but few are chosen.” This is a weird parable some scholars have take it to be some indication of how the Jewish people have missed the whole Messiah thing and it is now the Gentiles who are the lucky ones. I do not like that take on the reading, it seems like it is more about being prepared as we never know what is in store for us each and everyday, so wear some nice looking clothes. However the king, so the parable goes, only finds one person who isn’t wearing wedding clothes and throws them out, so it is more along the lines of sharing with all who come, like at the banquet in Isaiah.