For 70 years the National Bible Association has designated the week of Thanksgiving from Sunday to Sunday as “National Bible Week.” A movement started among secular business leaders in New York City during World War II, their signature event is this simple allotment of a week of encouraging scripture reading. It seems so benign and easy: Read your Bible.
Exploring the Word
“Children like olive plants around your table” may sound like a modern nightmare. Who can afford to feed, house, clothe, and educate the huge Catholic families of yesteryear? Yet the psalmist presents the wisdom of the ages when he reveals that wealth is not in what we carry in our wallets today but in how thoroughly we invest resources in the future.
“I don’t get anything out of prayer”: This frequently heard lament in the world of pastoring includes many variations: “I don’t get anything out of going to Mass/going to Confession/attending parish missions/believing what my faith teaches/practicing the responsibilities of my religion.”
The moon is a far cry from the sun in more ways than one. It is not a fiery orb that emits heat and light but a cold satellite that simply reflects the light it receives from elsewhere. That’s on one side, anyway. The other side is in shadow.
It’s Priesthood Sunday. Time to celebrate the folks who embrace a vocation for which the pay is lousy, the hours are terrible, the thanks is spotty, and the responsibility is enormous. It’s also the best job in the world. Priests are privileged to render a precious service to the community of faith. The good ones, of course, know this.
It’s not about words. I say this with humility as a professional bearer of words. The gospel doesn’t come to us in word alone, Paul declares—and he too is a primary dealer in words, written and proclaimed. Pope Benedict expresses it frankly: The Gospel is a Person.
You didn’t have to be a scout to know their motto: “Be prepared.” Jesus tells a string of stories with this punch line. However we might plead our case at the end of the age, the one defense we cannot make is that we weren’t forewarned. Each tale of withered fig trees, negligent bridesmaids, or jealous tenants reminds us that, when the call is issued, we’d better come up with the goods.
At a parish raffle, a woman at my table won the prize: a hamper-sized wicker basket full of wonderful blooming plants. The beauty of this mini-garden was delightful to the eye. But the winner put her basket down with a heavy lack of investment and barely looked at it.
Most families aim to be happy. While we may argue and accuse, take offense, assign blame, and carry grudges, our deeper goal is to celebrate that “complete joy” Saint Paul talks about. Our sovereign need to be personally right and to affix fault to others, however, is a serious obstacle to comprehensive happiness.
Where did we first learn to idolize fairness? Maybe it was in math class: a nickel equals five pennies, no more and no less. If someone gives you four pennies for your nickel, you’ve been robbed. Of course, fewer of us object if someone gives us six pennies for the same nickel.