Lenten Reflections: Book of Esther

The past couple of years I worked through Job and Amos. This Lent I’m going to look at the Book of Esther. Esther is one of the Five Scrolls or Megillah it is in the third section of the Hebrew Bible the Ketuvim or the Writings. In the Christian church it is one of the Historical books. This book is interesting as it deals with a woman Esther who becomes Queen of Persia and wife of Xerxes the great, perhaps. In Esther we hear about the events that are celebrated during the feast of Purim. This book is unique since it does not explicitly mention God.

There is an interesting thing about the book is that there are additional chapters of the book that are in the Greek Septuagint. In the Vulgate these are placed at the end of the book and depending on your translation these might be indicated by letters or as numbers. To make it more confusing some Bible translations put these within the text of the book so you get a like chapter A or 11 before the first chapter of Esther.

Women’s March

One of the images from this past Saturday’s Women’s March across the nation and around the world that caught my eye was a group of ladies dressed like suffragettes with a sign reading “Same Shit Different Century”, sure a lot has changed in the world but women’s rights are still dragging behind those of men in the United States. Who would have thought that a century after Alice Paul and the other participants of the Woman suffrage parade of 1913 in Washington DC, that we wouldn’t have really gotten that far from what they were fighting for sure Women can vote and even be elected to public office but they haven’t gotten much since. Women are still earning less than a man for the same amount of work and any semblance of the Equal Right Act still hasn’t been passed and approved by the states. However, this seems unlikely to be passed right now with the Republican held Congress, and perhaps the ERA needs to be revived to include all those LGBTQ as well. Let us all work towards bringing this to a reality as we need to become more active citizens by participating in local elections and learning what candidates stand for rather than how much noise they can make.

This march brought up the musical Ragtime set in the early part of the 20th century and tells the stories of three groups of people the Upper-class Whites in New Rochelle, the African Americans in Harlem, and the Eastern European Immigrants.  It is a period piece for today, as all these groups still exist today in different forms The musical touches on race, disparities of class, police violence, immigration, equality and justice for women and minorities.  If you have some time take a listen to the musical or I’m sure you can find some high school production on Youtube. The stand out songs are the from two different points in the show one at the end of Act One “Till We Reach That Day” and the other just before the end of Act Two “Make Them Hear You”. In the Act One Finale we have an unjust murder by the police, which still is relevant today. The song before the Act Two finale “Make Them Hear You” is an anthem for Justice through non-violence.  We hear that “Your sword can be a sermon, or the power of the pen. Teach every child to raise his voice and then, my brothers, then will justice be demanded by ten million righteous men make them hear you.” This is our vehicle for change in the world, and hopefully tomorrow there will be more of us working for the cause where someday gender and race won’t matter when it comes to politics and life in general.

News Roundup

Pat Summitt: This is huge news as the all time winningest college basketball coach has passed away, this is bound to be surpassed by Coach K or Geno in the future, but without Pat Summitt women’s athletics in college would really be nothing. Summitt changed the way that women’s basketball was played and is bound to be talked about for generations not only in Tennessee. Just look at her coaching tree and you can see her impact. On top of all of this she’s got Tyler, her son, as well. Summitt will be missed, however it would be nice if ESPN and other sports coverage did more to cover women’s sports sure we might see the Women’s NCAA Basketball Championship on ESPN, but it would be wonderful if they covered the WNBA or the NWSL like they did for the NBA and MLS.

Architectural:  This is cool as one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s final houses is being put on the market for the first time ever. It is pretty cool to look at the pictures and see how well kept the owner kept the house as it looks mostly original. I wonder if that’s a stipulation for living in a FLW house. If you have a spare million this house is for you.

News Roundup

Movies: This is surprising news with the film Wonder Woman  will be the first female led film with a 100 million dollar budget. Sure I know that there aren’t many female directors as I can name like three Sofia Coppola, Ava DuVernay from Selma and Kathryn Bigelow who won a
Best Director Oscar for The Hurt Locker. Now I actually had to look up those last two names to make sure I had their names correct. This is one of the big problems facing Hollywood as so many film have a clearly male voice and it would be nice if there were more of a voice for women coming from the director’s chair. Sure there have been a bunch of films recently released that feature mostly female stars but the films are directed by men like Paul Feig. This is a reason it is great to be seeing many female stars developing production firms where they can pick the films they want to make and hire whom they want to write and direct.

Beer: Here we have cool news as the Trappist Beer market is growing.  It nice to see Trappist turning back to this traditional method of making money. Especially since it seems like beer is having a moment right now.

News Roundup

New National Monument: This is pretty unique as President Obama has announced that women’s equality get a monument as well. Obama announced that the Sewall-Belmont house in DC will be designated  the Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument. The building was the headquarters of the National Women’s Party which fought for women’s suffrage and tried mightily to pass the Equal Right Amendment, an amendment to the constitution that granted women equal rights, it was introduced in 1923 and sort of died in 79. However, the Virginia Senate continues to vote on it most recently in January, it seems like the time has come for the amendment to be added to the Constitution.

Comic book Movies: In news that really isn’t news it has been officially confirmed by Warner Brothers that Matt Damon is directing a stand alone Batman movie in the DC Movie Universe. In the Marvel Universe there is a new trailer it only a teaser for the latest film Doctor Strange.

Space: This is a cool story as it involves interstellar travel. Stephen Hawking along with Yuri Milner and the help of Mark Zuckerberg want to send a bunch of computer chip sized satellites with solar sails which would get a push by a giant laser and then use the sun as a means of propulsion. They would travel at about 20% the speed of light. Hawking believes that interstellar travel must be something that we can reach within a human lifetime. The nearest star system is 25 trillion miles or about 4 light years away and the farthest object (Voyager 1) sent from earth has only gone about 135 AU from the Earth.

Jessica Jones

Netflix released their new Marvel show Jessica Jones last Friday and I like many other people have already watch through the series. Jessica Jones is not your average hero in fact she was first introduced in the Marvel MAX imprint, which is a place where Marvel could tell more adult stories as the Marvel Rating System generally put it this is like a film that is R-rated. So the stories are more mature then most other comic books.  Spoilers to follow.

The television show begins with Jessica as a Private Eye running Alias Investigation, this is after her time with Killgrave. This first season like Daredevil’s is about embracing the heroic side, which Jessica decides if enough people think she’s a hero perhaps if she does it long enough she will feel the same. People across the internet have been raving about the series with the talk about rape and PTSD, as well as tackling the big problem the lack of females in the MCU. I like the article from Vox about how Jessica Jones even subverts the Bechdel test.

One of the stand out elements of this show for me is that there is a focus on some of the non super heroes that are alongside these superheroes. In particular the role of Trish and Malcolm I think that these people are among the most important in the series as Jessica need these people in her life to relate to the real world. As these were some of the more interesting relationships in the show.  Let’s hope that this shows depiction of female relationships (Trish and Jessica, Jessica and Hogarth, Hogarth and her ex\lover) can inspire other shows and movies to treat women as actual characters and not just objects that the men get to act around. If you enjoyed Daredevil you are bound to like Jessica Jones, and if you are sick and tired of only men being superheroes this is a must watch. Especially if you need to escape from Thanksgiving.

Lesser known…

First off this week we celebrate the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women on the 25th. It’s one of those UN Days but this seems like a great one as violence against women is a major problem for the whole world. UN Women has a serious problem that we can change and make the world a better place for all women as the Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka says “if we all work together: governments, civil society organizations, the UN system, businesses, schools, and individuals mobilizing through new solidarity movements, we will eventually achieve a more equal world—a Planet 50-50—where women and girls can and will live free from violence”. I don’t think it helps very much with the abundance of pornography available on the internet and even regular films in general where women are made objects rather then individuals.

This week we also have the feast of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal.  We also remember Catherine Labouré, DC (2 May 1806 – 31 December 1876) who relayed the message of Mary to create the Miraculous Medal. The Miraculous Medal is a medal of the Immaculate Conception and some Catholic believe that wearing it can bring special graces upon the individual. It began in 1830, on the eve of the feast of St. Vincent, Catherine rose after hearing the voice of a child calling, she went to the chapel, where Mary told her, “God wishes to charge you with a mission. You will be contradicted, but do not fear; you will have the grace to do what is necessary. Tell your spiritual director all that passes within you. Times are evil in France and in the world.” Months passed and in November Mary appeared to Catherine and showed herself in an oval frame, which would go on to become what the Miraculous Medal looks like, Mary standing upon a globe, and from her hands shone rays of light over the globe. While Catherine watched it rotated and she saw the back as well with the Marian Cross and images of the Sacred Hearts of Mary and Jesus. Mary told Catherine to take these images to her father confessor, telling him that they should be put on medallions, and saying “All who wear them will receive great graces.” Catherine Labouré is an incorrupt Saint, that means that you can go see her body and it hasn’t exhibited any decay since Catherine’s death. If you have a Miraculous Medal wear it if you want


Lesser Known…

We begin this week with the International Day of Tolerance. It’s an UNESCO day and is on the 16th. The Day is something which we need to make a bigger deal of as Tolerance and acceptance are the two most important thing that we need more of in the world. As the song writing duo of Hal David and Burt Bacharach put so eloquently “What the world needs now is love, sweet love/It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of..”. Especially after this past week where horrible things happened all around the world, from Paris to Beirut most recently.

Gertrude of Helfta commonly know as The Great  (6 January 1256 – 1302)
Gertrude was dropped off at the nunnery at the age of five and lived there for the rest of her life. She was trained by Mechthild of Helfta, who was trained by Mechthild of Magdenburg, all are beguines.  She was a Benedictine sister and never left the convent after she arrived, which is rather funny since she is the patron of travelers. She had her first vision rather late in her life as opposed to others at the age of 26, she calls her visions favors from God. She is the only woman to have the title “the Great.”  She was all about a nuptial mysticism, where as she was the Bride of Christ, as all religious women now claim to be. Often times in art Gertrude is confused with another Gertrude who was an abbess and is depicted with a crosier as in the Benedictine orders the head of a house, ie Abbot or Abbess were given them as a sign of authority. Not much of her writings still exist today but the longest The Herald of Divine Love but it is a patchy thing at that. In her writing she made it here desire to have the wounds of Christ engraved on her heart. This should be our own desire to be this close to Jesus, where we share in his pain.

32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

This week we are back in Ordinary Time and continue our tour in the Old Testament, our first reading comes from the first Book of Kings. In the Hebrew Bible it is a part of the Neviim (prophets) and is a single book. The book covers about 500 years in the history of Israel/Judah from the death of David to the Babylonian captivity. We hear today about the prophet Elijah. He was entering a city and encountered a widow collecting sticks. He asked for a small cup of water, when she left he called for a bit of bread as well. The widow called told Elijah that she didn’t have any bread baked and only a handful of flour in a jar and a little bit of oil in a jug, she was collecting the stick to make a small fire so that she could make a little something for herself and son, saying that after they eat it they will die. Elijah tells her to make a little cake for him before making something for herself. For the Lord had said that her jar and jug would not go empty until the Lord send rain upon the earth. So the widow did this and her flour and oil supply lasted for a full year. This is a story about putting our trust in the Lord who will provide for us and also in the giving to other will do amazing things as the widow make Elijah’s cake before her own, and her flour and oil remained full for a year.

In the second reading we hear from the letter to the Hebrews again it about Jesus being the High Priest and how he takes away the sins of the World. Finally we reach the Gospel where we hear from Mark, this is an interesting story this week as Jesus talks money and the “fakeness” of some scribes. Jesus begins by berating the scribes who act holier than thou, since they are simply putting on an act and “they will receive very severe condemnation.” The subject then turn to money and Jesus notices a rich man and a poor widow both going to the treasury and giving some money. The rich man put in lots of money but the poor widow can only put in a couple cents. Jesus gathers the disciples together and says that it was the widow who has put more money in because the money that she gave was from her livelihood rather than that of the rich who gave from their surplus. Who are we more like the rich man or the poor widow? That’s a big question for the week. The general idea with the readings this week was giving and how to do it. It is apropos that as we are nearing two special days that celebrate giving, Veterans/Remembrance Day and Thanksgiving. On Veterans Day we celebrate those who have gone the extra mile and served the nation in most of the rest of the world November 11 is Remembrance Day where we remember the live of those who gave it all for us to live in the world that we live in today. On Thanksgiving we gather together and celebrate family and give thanks for all that we have.

27th Sunday in Ordinary Time

The week the readings are about fidelity and relationship. We begin with the end of the second Creation story in Genesis. After making Man, The Lord says that “It is not right for the man to be alone. I will make him a suitable partner.” So the Lord created all the animals of the land and air bringing them to man who named them, but nothing was a good partner. The Lord then cast a deep sleep upon the man and while he was asleep the Lord took a rib and created woman. When the man awoke and he was brought to her man said “This one at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” This continues until the end that we typically hear a weddings “This is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife and the two of them become one flesh.” Talk about women’s rights here in Genesis 2 it says Men and Women are equals. Turning to the Epistle we hear from Hebrews that we should call Jesus, Brother since he came down from heaven and died for us and we share the same eternal Father or something like that. It’s a rather short reading and uses he to many times.

Finally, in the Gospel we hear about marriage and the family from Mark. The Pharisees came to Jesus and asked “Is it lawful for a husband to divorce his wife?” Jesus throws the Bible back at them “What does Moses say?”, they reply that Moses said that the husband can write a bill of divorce and Jesus once again throws the Bible at them quoting the first reading “,,,two of them become one flesh” for what the Lord brings together no humans can separate. Later on the disciples ask Jesus about this and he replied that “whoever divorces and remarries commits adultery” The second section of this reading we have children coming up to Jesus the disciples try to turn the kids away but Jesus rebuked them saying “Let the children come…for the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” This is a difficult reading for society today where divorce is a common thing, however this might be changing as the Bishops are meeting for the Synod on the Family this upcoming week. Let us remember that we are all called to be of one flesh, receive one another as brothers and sisters, and be accept the Kingdom like little children. This seems to be difficult for so many, may we all be inspired this week to see that it isn’t as difficult as we make it out to be. I hope that we can keep those involved in the Synod in our prayers this week that the Holy Spirit can help guide the discussion and decisions that will be made.