The Fifth Sunday of Lent ~ See, I am doing something new! It’s Mercy! It’s Forgiveness!

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The Fifth Sunday of Lent ~ April 7, 2019

“See, I am doing something new!” says Isaiah.

What is this “new thing” that is promised?

It is mercy. It is compassion. It is forgiveness.

It is Jesus our Lord!

We saw this in the wondrous story of the Prodigal Son proclaimed last week. That story was meant to show us that our God wants to be regarded as a gentle, loving Father who’s always on the lookout for his wayward children. A Father who treats us as “nobility” ready to place a ring on our finger, shoes on our muddy worn-out feet, a fine robe about us and who then throws a party in our honor.

That story, too, was  aimed to confront the Pharisees. They were compared to the elder son who muttered and sputtered about all the attention that the younger brother was getting.

In today’s story, the scribes and Pharisees led a woman caught in adultery in front of Jesus. Their intention was to set a trap for him so they could have some charge to accuse him.

It was a terrible crime for a Jew to commit adultery. It was punishable by death by stoning. They planned a trap for him. The Mosaic law said she was to be stoned, but Roman Law forbade Jews to put anyone to death. There was no middle ground. No matter what he chose, Jesus would be breaking a law.

Let’s look at their concept of authority for a moment.  The scribes and Pharisees, according to Scripture scholar William Barclay, were the legal experts of the day. To them authority was intended to censure and condemn.  That authority should be based on sympathy, that it should be to reclaim the criminal and the sinner never entered their heads~ similar to much of our American justice and prison system today.  They thought they had the right to stand over others and watch for every mistake and every deviation from the law with savage and unforgiving punishment.

Moreover, they were not looking at this woman as a person; they were looking at her as a thing, whereby they could formulate a charge against Jesus. This incident, Barclay suggests, shows vividly and cruelly the attitude of the scribes and Pharisees toward people. They were using her only as a man might use a tool, for their own purposes.

Picture the scene: the crowd wondering how—or if—Jesus was going to escape from this dilemma; the woman, fearful of her fate; the Pharisees, tasting victory. Jesus knew exactly what they were doing, and without a single word, exposed their hypocrisy, leaving them dumbfounded.

How? By writing something on the ground with his finger. What did he write? We don’t know. Check out these suggestions and then decide for yourself.

Maybe Jesus was just “doodling,” as we might do sitting at a boring meeting. It could have been his way of showing disdain for the entire procedure, of curbing his anger.

Maybe, as Barclay suggests, Jesus seized by an intolerable sense of shame, he couldn’t meet the eyes of the crowd or of the accusers or perhaps of the woman . . .  and in his embarrassment he stooped down so as to hide his face, and began writing on the ground with his finger.

Maybe, without naming names, he wrote a list of sins, sins that many in the group would have to claim but were unknown to anyone else there.

Or consider this. No one commits adultery alone, anymore than a prostitute acts alone. Could Jesus have indicated, in some roundabout way, who were the partner – or partners – of this woman? Why should the woman be accused and convicted when her willing partners walk away with their reputations in tact? In Leviticus 20 we read: “. . . the man who commits adultery .. . will be put to death, he and the woman.”

Barclay tells us that the normal Greek word for to write  is graphein; but here the word is used is katagraphein, which  can mean to write down a record against someone.

Jesus knew exactly the right balance between justice and mercy, something most of us have a hard time achieving. After he had finished writing whatever it was he wrote, he stood up, looked directly at the crowd, and extended the invitation: “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”

Not a single stone was thrown; nor would there have been if all of us had been in that crowd. Can anyone of us claim to be without sin? Did Jesus condone adultery? No, he did not. But he read the hearts of every person there, and the message he delivered applied to each and every one.

He told them – and is telling us – that we are not to judge. Both Luke and Matthew proclaim: “Judge not and you shall not be judged”(Mt.7:1).  

He told her that he did not condemn her; that she should Go and from now on sin no more.” Thus, he was not condoning adultery; he was giving her a second chance. She would have to take the opportunity to make her life brand new.

God through this story and that of the Prodigal Son make it very clear that God is doing something brand new.

No one else can read hearts. We see deeds and misdeeds. God sees the whole self.

That is why he said to the woman and now to us: “Neither do I condemn you. Go now and avoid this sin.” Alone with Jesus she had everything she needed. Are we content to having “only Jesus?”

We may not think about it often, but every day we may ask that we may come to treat others as Jesus did in this gospel. How often have we prayed: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us?”

Do we think about what we are saying? It could be a little scary, if we did.

I’d like to be like this Jesus we see in the gospel today. I’d like to have that large of a heart. And I’ve prayed for compassion all the years of my ministry because there have been times my arrogance has taken hold. I was told that at times I was arrogant and not compassionate towards my brother priests. And so I thank God for the moments in which God has given me the gift to be compassionate.

These days I am very much aware of Jesus’ mercy for me. In my almost 76 years, I have had my share of serious sins. And I am glad God is a merciful God. And I pray that I’ve put down the stones I sometimes have clutched in my fist.

You see, a really terrible sin is to throw stones at people whose sins we ourselves could have committed.

Gossiping is a grave sin. It is a sin because it can seriously harm the reputations of the persons we are talking about. Gossip can ruin lives.

Instead, let us be known for being merciful.   And compassionate. And forgiving, when we pray: “Our Father.”

See, God makes all things new.

Mercy is a brand new thing that is part and parcel with the New Testament. Mercy is what Jesus is all about.   And, therefore, mercy is what we should be all about.

And Pope Francis talks about the mercy of God all the time and in 2016 declared a Holy Year of Mercy.

Close your eyes for a moment.

Think about one sin you are glad for which God has forgiven you.

Now, when you next celebrate the holy Eucharist, you really have something for which you can praise and thank your God.

Jesus, my Lord, my God, my All,

I praise and thank you this day for all of your love and mercy and forgiveness

that you have shown me all of my life.

Many times you’ve done brand new things in my life,

and as my 76th birthday is coming up and the 50th anniversary of my priestly ordination,

perhaps you will once again fold the newness that is your love,

and send forth your Spirit into me and lift me up to continue to serve you as best I can.

To You be praise and honor and glory, forever. Amen.

And now, before you go, here’s the beautiful hymn appropriate for our theme, “What wondrous love is this?” Click here.

And here are today’s Mass readings. Click here.

William Barclay /  The Daily Study Bible Series /The Gospel of John / Volume 2 / The Westminster Press / Philadelphia 1975 pp.1-9.

With love, 

Bob Traupman 

contemplative writer

The Fourth Sunday of Lent ~ Lost in the Wonder of God’s Love ~ the story of the prodigal son

The Fourth Sunday of Lent ~ Laetare Sunday ~

The sunday of joy halfway through Lent.  the color of the vestments is rose rather than violet ~ a little more festive.

Today’s Gospel is the Story of the Prodigal Son. It’s been called the greatest short story in the world.

By way of introduction to the story of the Prodigal son, our scripture scholar William Barclay tells us it was an offense to the scribes and Pharisees that Jesus associated with men and women who the orthodox labeled as sinners. The Pharisees gave the people who didn’t keep the law called them the People of the Land, and there was a complete barrier between the Pharisees and these people. The regulations were: not to entrust no money to these people, take no testimony, trust no secret to them, don’t appoint them a guardian of an orphan, don’t accompany them on a journey. A Pharisee was forbidden to be a guest at such a person’s house or have them as a guest. A Pharisee was forbidden so far as possible to do business with such people. It was a deliberate their aim to avoid every contact with such people who were not only outsiders but sinners. Contact with them would necessarily defile. The strict Jew said not, “There will be joy in heaven over one sinner who repents,”, but “There will be joy in heaven over one sinner who is obliterated before God. They looked forward not to the saving but to the destruction of the sinner. (Think of the story of the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11.).  (We’ll see how this applies in the in the second part of the story.)

Under Jewish law a father was not free leave his property as he liked. The elder son must get two-thirds and the younger one-third (Dt. 21:17). It was unusual for a father to distribute his estate before he died.  And there’s a kind of heartless callousness in the request of the younger son. He said in effect, “Gimme the part of the estate I’ll get it anyway when you’re dead, and get outta here.”

The father didn’t argue. He knew his son had to learn from the hard knocks of life, and he granted the request. Without delay, the son collected his share of the property and left home.

He soon ran through the money; and he wound up feeding pigs, a task forbidden to a Jew because the law said, “Cursed is he who feeds swine.”

So the son decided to come home and plead to be taken back not as a son but in the lowest rank of the slaves, the hired servants, the men who were day laborers.

He came home, and his father never gave him a chance to ask to be a servant. He broke in before that and gave him a robe that stands for honor and a ring for authority. If a man gave his signet ring to another it was the same as giving him power of attorney. And shoes for a son as opposed to a slave, for children of a family wore shoes but slaves did not.(The slaves dream in the words of the spiritual—when ‘all God’s chillun got shoes’, for shoes were a sign of freedom.)

Barclay makes several points about Jesus’ famous parable . . . .

(1) It should never have been called the parable of the prodigal son, for the son is not the hero. It should be called the parable of the loving father, for it tells us of about the father’s love, than a son’s sin.

(2) It tells us a great deal about the forgiveness of God. The father must have been watching and waiting for the son for the son to come home for saw him a long way off. When he came, he forgave him, with no recriminations.

When forgiveness is as a favor—that’s not real forgiveness. It’s even worse when someone is forgiven but always by hint or word or threat the sin is held over the person.

Once Abraham Lincoln was asked how he would treat the rebellious southerners when they were defeated and finally returned to the Union. His answer: “I will treat them as if they had never had been away.”

But this isn’t the end of the story.

Then enters the elder son who was actually sorry that his brother had come. He stands for the self-righteous Pharisees who would rather see a sinner destroyed than saved.

Barclay points out . . . .

(1) His attitude shows that his years of obedience to his father had been years of grim duty and not loving service.

(2) He has absolutely no sympathy for his brother. He refers to one returned home not as my brother, but as your son. He was the kind of self-righteous character who would gleefully have kicked him farther into the gutter.

(3) He had nasty mind. There’s no mention of harlots until he mentions them. He probably suspected his brother of the sins he would have liked to have committed.

Barclay concludes with this . . . .

“Once again we have the amazing truth that it is easier to confess to God than to another person; that God is more merciful in his judgments than many orthodox people, that God’s love is far broader than human love; and that God can forgive when we refuse to forgive. 

In the face of a love like that we cannot be but lost in wonder, love and praise!”

So, as you can see our Lenten journey fills us with the joy of God’s love for us. Pope Francis is fond of saying “mercy upon mercy upon mercy.”Yet, there is no story of Jesus ~ none in the entire Bible more poignant, more revealing of God’s love, God’s mercy towards us than the story of ~ not the Prodigal son, but the Prodigal Father!

Do you know what the word prodigal means?  It means, according to my trusty “Synonym Finder” ~ wasteful, squandering, extravagant, excessive, generous, open-handed, abundant, plentiful, bounteous, lavish, exuberant, measureless, bottomless, limitless, overflowing. 

That, dear friends, is what Jesus was trying to tell us in his most famous parable about who his Father wants to be for YOU and ME! 

This morning in prayer, I  caught myself realizing that my relationship with the Father fell short. I wasn’t even sure I loved him! Then I got to thinking that my relationship with my own father was always obscure too. And I felt really sad for a while. I know. I know I love God. And I know he loves me. But I had that moment of obscurity. But there’s still the wonder and the love.

Now, before you go, here’s a beautiful hymn with a slide show to fit our theme, There’s a wideness in God’s Mercy. Click here. Be sure to enter full screen and turn up your speakers. (I invite you to listen to it a second time; the words are amazing. Get Lost in the Wonder of God’s Mercy and Love!

And here are all of today’s Mass readings. Click here.

Acknowledgement: William Barclay / The New Daily Study Bible / The Gospel of Luke /John Knox Press / Louisville KY 1975 – 2001 – pp. 236-7; 242-5.

With love, 

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

I’ve been to the mountain

mount-everest-himalaya_1105_600x450The Second Sunday of Lent ~ February 21, 2016

Jesus takes Peter, James and John to a mountaintop and there they have ~ well ~ a “peak” experience extraordinaire. 

It’s a great story.  It contrasts with last week’s story of Jesus in the desert being tempted by the devil.  Today Jesus is receiving a wonderful affirmation.

According to our Scripture-scholar friend William Barclay, this story is another of the great hinges in Jesus’ life on earth—and we’ll see why. He was just about to set out for Jerusalem, setting his face toward the cross.

In Luke, when prayer happens, something significant usually follows. (Magnificat)

He took his favorite disciples, Peter, James and John up on the mountain to pray, On the mountain top, Moses and Elijah appeared to him. Moses was the great lawgiver of the people of Israel; Elijah was the greatest of the prophets. It was as if the princes of Israel’s life and thought and religion were affirming Jesus to go on. (Barclay)

There’s a vivid sentence here about the three apostles . . . .

            “When they were fully awake they saw his glory.”

 In life we miss so much because our minds are often asleep.

~ There are many of us who are so clamped in our own ideas that our minds are shut. “Someone may be knockin’ at the door” but we’re often like sleepers who will not awake.

~ There are others of us who refuse think about anything. “The unexamined life, said Socrates, “is not worth living.” How many of us have thought things out and thought them through?

~ We can drug ourselves mentally against any disturbing thought until we are sound asleep that Big Brother can taken over. Ever seen the “Matrix?”

But life is full of things designed to awaken us.

~ There is sorrow. Often sorrow can rudely awaken us, but in a moment, through the tears, we will see the glory.

~ There is love. Barclay references a poem by Robert Browning telling of two people who fell in love: She looked at him; he looked at her—“and suddenly life awoke.” 

I remember a similar experience in reading Thomas Merton’s Seven Story Mountain for the second time several years ago. When I finished it I found myself immersed in joyous tears for weeks on end—filled with love for Jesus that this young monk and elicited in me. This Lent, I’m trying to re-enable that experience.

~ There is a sense of need. It’s easy enough to live the routine life half asleep; then all of a sudden there comes some completely insoluble problem, some unanswerable question, some overwhelming temptation, some summons to an effort that we feel is beyond our strength. And that sense of need can awaken us to God.

We would do well to pray, “Lord, keep me always awake to you.” 

Source: William Barclay /Gospel of Luke pages 147,8.

But here’s a couple of other observations from the February 2016 issue of the Magnificat liturgical magazine:

After the disciples witnessed Jesus conversing with Moses and Elijah, this appears in the text . . . .

While he was still speaking, a cloud came and cast a shadow over them,
and they became frightened when they entered the cloud.(Lk. 9:34)

The overshadowing of the divine Spirit does not darken, according to Saint Ambrose, but reveals secret things to the hearts of people. It is the luminous cloud the soaks us from the dew that sprinkles the minds of people with faith sent by the voice of the almighty God.

He’s talking about mystical experience that arise from deep prayer or centering prayer sometimes or even just experiencing an amazing sunset or an exhilerating conversation with a friend.

Anyway, what a gorgeous sentence that is “a luminous cloud that soaks us / from the dew that sprinkles the minds of people with faith . . .  Wow!  Think on that one.

Immediately following, we here from the cloud a voice that said,

       “This is my chosen Son; listen to him.”

It is a call to heed Jesus’ teaching about his Passion and our need to take up our cross and follow him: Jesus is he Messiah who suffers.

       “After the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. They fell silent” . . . . 

Their silence was a mark of awe. As it was on the last day of Jesus’ life, when he said, “It is finished.”

You may never had a mountain top experience like Peter, James and John have had.  Even ONE mountain top experience  — one “peak experience” as Abraham Maslow likes to call them can be life-changing.

Any close encounter with God can be life-changing.

As I conclude, I encourage you to make the intention to be open to joyous experience of your own when such moments come.  When they come, embrace  them.  Try not to resist or deny them as many of us do.  Surrender to the moment and experience it as deeply and richly as you can.

And now before you go, here is the Eucharistic hymn sung by the boy choir at King’s College in Great Britain Ave Verum Corpus. Click here.

And here are today’s Mass Readings. Click here.

Acknowledgements: William Barclay / The New Daily Study Bible / The Gospel of Luke                                                                                     Westminster John Knox Press / Louisville, KY / 1975, 2001

Magnificat.com / Yonkers, NY

With love, 

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Fidelity of Jesus

IMG_0982THE FIRST SUNDAY OF LENT ~ February 14, 2016

This is a story about fidelity in the face of temptation.

This is a story about the Jesus I know and love.

First of all, let’s think about the scene.  The inhabited part of Judea stood on a central plateau that was the backbone of southern Palestine.  Between it and the Dead Sea stretched a terrible wilderness, thirty-five by fifteen miles.  It was called Jeshimmon, which means “the devastation.”  The hills were like dust-heaps; the limestones looked blistered and peeling; the rocks bare and jagged, with heat like a vast furnace and ran out to the precipices. 1,200 feet high, that plunged down to the Dead Sea. It was in that awesome devastation that Jesus was tempted.

(William Barclay / The Gospel of Luke p.52)

So, this is a story about earth-shaking silence that bore the sound of deafening harsh voices and one soft and gentle voice Who sent Jesus among us so we could know we had a father/God who loves us with an everlasting love.

This is a story of confrontation and testing.

Dramatic confrontation with the elements–blinding sun and penetrating darkness, blistering wind and numbing cold, impassioned hunger and parching thirst.

Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to pray and fast.

There, he would shape his mission.  He was searching for the answer of the question:  What kind of spiritual leader would he be?  He was pondering the question of how he could win over people.

There, he was also tempted by the devil, who sought him to distort that mission.

First, a harsh voice prompted Jesus to turn stones into bread as a way of manipulating others to get them to follow him.  Jesus could have made people dependent on him; instead, he shared with them what he realized: Our common dependence on the Father of all, who gives us our daily bread. Limestone, according to Barclay, looks like loaves.

A second harsh voice promised Jesus the whole world, saying: “You’ve got the power to gain the whole world.  You can be king of this world.  This is the temptation to compromise: Don’t set your standards too high.

And Jesus sadly realized that many of his followers, even in the Church, would succumb to greed of every form.  They would kill in Crusades and Inquisitions in the name of love.

As he was tempted, he was led into a soul-embracing love of the One he was to reveal.  In the desert, Jesus must have knelt down and promised in all simplicity to seek and to do the will of the Father from moment to moment.  And in that act of fidelity, in that decision, the new covenant surely was sealed in Jesus’ heart.

Another harsh voice tempted him to throw himself down from the parapet of the temple and have his angels come and raise him up. This was the temptation to do something sensational. He could put together a traveling road show of clever signs and wonders.  Things would be easier that way.  People would easily follow a clever magician.  But this would draw people away from the Father, not toward him.

The soft voice was simply asking Jesus to reveal the real order of the Father’s kingdom.

Jesus realized  his mission in life was to reveal Abba’s love as Father of all.   Jesus was to let the world know that there was a soft voice within us all, who is there to affirm and to love, to test and to guide.

In the desert and its temptations, the whole of humanity was drawn into the possibility of intimate experience of the divine.  Because one person was willing to be led into the holy of holies, we all can go with him.  We can go–provided that we–like Jesus, are willing to be tested and cleansed, strengthened and purified.

In this story, at the beginning of Jesus’ mission, is the answer to the question: Why did Jesus have to die?

The answer was: to surrender himself into the hands of evil people was the only way Jesus could be faithful.  God could have intervened on behalf of his own son.  But that was out of the question.  The world could not accept God as a gentle Father.  They found his message of love much too demanding.  And since the authorities could not and would not accept him and his message, the only recourse left to him was simply to give witness to that message–even to the end.  He chose to be faithful to the soft Voice of the Father , not compromise the message, even if it led to his death.

Jesus had to suffer and die because, tragically, that was the only way the world would allow him to be faithful to the Word he heard and preached.

The Father was more pleased with the fidelity of one son than he would have been with the spread of a message that did not reveal his love.

This is a powerful lesson  for those among us who would coerce others into being good.

The false voices that Jesus tamed and quieted–the voices of greed or accolade or power–we must tame and quiet, relying on his power as elder Son.

But there’s a final warning for us here. The Gospel passage today ends with this sentence: “When the devil had finished every temptation, he departed from him ~ for a time.”

The soft voice of the Father to whom he was so devoted, the voice that was the source and object of all his fidelity, each one of us should train ourselves to hear.  And then learn . . . day after day after day to love . . . more deeply . . . more intimately . . . more really–the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

This is the Jesus I know and love.

And I ask him to teach me the gentle ways of the Father.  Through Jesus, may we be faithful too.

And now, before you go, here’s  a song I’ve always loved with a lovely slide show ~ Be Not Afraid. Click here.  Remember to turn up your speakers and enter full screen.

And here are the today’s Mass readings, if you’d like to reflect on them. Click here.

Also a HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY to everyone!

With love, 

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

 

Transforming Love ~ Happy Valentine’s Day!

IMG_0402Dear Friends,

HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY!

Valentine’s Day this year coincides with the First Sunday of Lent, February 14th.

We’ve been talking about St. Paul’s Ode to Love (1 Corinthians 13) ~ the awesome love that transforms.

But many of us don’t know how to love in a way that transforms because we’re more interested in getting love than giving it.

So, let’s think about that for a moment.

Many young folks in our society haven’t experienced the love that transforms, even from their own parents or their spouses. Very often, their relationships center on their own needs, even when they’re “giving” to their significant other.

But in order to love in a transforming way, we have to be loved in a way that frees us.

So I ask you ~

Who are the people in your life who were able to recognize the YOU inside you?

       Who knew who-you-were behind the mask you present to the world each day?

Who are the people who recognized-your gifts and called them forth from the deep-within-you?

       Who drew forth the goodness they saw in you when that you were presenting to the world you thought wasn’t very   good at all?

That’s the love that transforms! That heals.  That gets us going again.  That moves us down the road a bit.

At this moment I want to name one such man who has had an enormous influence on my life.  He is Father Eugene Walsh.  We used to call him Gino. He was the rector of my seminary the year I was preparing for ordination. He was a Father-figure for me and a mentor; I learned most of what I know about the sacred liturgy from him.

I had the good fortunate to get on his short list to have him as my spiritual director.  He had a way of listening deeply below the level of my words.

I remember one night in his study.  We were sitting across from each other in two easy chairs.  I was always intrigued that the wall behind him was bright orange with a large abstract painting on it.  I was struggling that night about whether I would proceed toward ordination.

Of a sudden, he sprung from his chair, hugged me and whispered in my ear my name ~ Bob ~ and I heard it resonate for the longest time.  His voice found Me ~ some place deep within and called me forth.

I can still hear him calling me.  At that moment, his deep, resonating love ~ transformed me.  Affirmed me, confirmed me.

More than any other person, there is  Jesus; I’ve tried to be like him.  He was deeply human.  He taught me how to be a human being, above all.  A simple, decent, human being.  And to be human, most of all, is to be capable of loving and receiving love.  The same was true of Father Walsh.

And that’s what I’ve always taught:

Sin is the refusal Of love, the refusal To love, as well as the refusal to grow and the refusal to give thanks.

So ask yourself:  Who are the people who really knew who-you-were on the inside, accepted you as you are–the good and the bad–and called you forth to be the best person you could be?

Why don’t you reflect on this  through the day — while you’re driving, sitting on the john  or doing the dishes.  Give thanks for folk.  And maybe give them a call.  Not an email; a phone call.

And finally, I want to honor the two-love birds in the picture above.  They are John and Betsy Walders of Sebastian, Florida.  They would have been married sixty-six years next week (February 19, 2016) and were as much in love as the day they met as teens. (Take note that in this image they’re  both still wearing denim.)   In their eighties they went on a serendipitying around the country, quite oblivious to the fact that they weren’t teenagers anymore!  The joy and memory of all those years sustains Betsy as she witnessed her beloved withdraw into Alzheimer’s. John passed away on September 28th, 2016 a few days before his 92nd birthday.  Betsy is 90.

Asked if they ever considered a divorce, she thought a moment and said, “Divorce, no, murder, yes!”

I love them dearly and miss visiting, but Betsy and I still talk and have many a laugh on the phone every couple of weeks.

Dear Friends, see if you can make this prayer your own ~

Good and gracious God,

You are the One most of all who has loved me into wholeness,

who is calling me forth to be the best person I can be,

calling me not so much to want to be loved as to love.

I thank you for sending people into my life who, even for a brief moment,

have touched me deep within and helped to transform me into a more deeply loving person.

Help me always to be a person who is capable of transforming love. 

And now, before you go, here’s Cold Play’s True Love. Click here.  Turn up your speakers.  Be sure to enter full screen. 

HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY!

With love,

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer  

 

CARNIVAL!

0-Jesters-1161Dear Friends,

Well, this week the Big Easy and Rio have one thing in common — one huge party.  And what is so interesting its very Catholic.  It’s a time to let your hair down before the strike of midnight Ash Wednesday when we  Catholics used to abstain from meat during  the six-week Lenten season.

The root of the word “CARnival is the same as the word “inCARnation”~ a word that means the enfleshment of the Son of God.  

Now here’s a bit of carnival or Mardi Gras history for you.

A carnival is a celebration combining parades, pageantry, folk drama, and feasting, usually held in Catholic countries during the weeks before Lent. The term Carnival probably comes from the Latin word “carnelevarium”, meaning “to remove meat.”   Typically the Carnival season begins early in the new year, often on Epiphany, January 6, and ends in February on Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras in French).

Probably originating in pagan spring fertility rites, the first recorded carnival was the Egyptian feast of Osiris, an event marking the receding of the Nile’s flood water.  Carnivals reached a peak of riotous dissipation with the Roman BACCHANALIA and Saturnalia.

In the Middle Ages, when the Catholic Church tried to suppress all pagan ideas, it failed when it came to this celebration. The Church incorporated the rite into its own calendar as a period of thanksgiving. Popes sometimes served as patrons.

The nations of Europe, especially France, Spain, and Portugal, gave thanks by throwing parties, wearing masks, and dancing in the streets. All three colonizing powers carried the tradition with them to the New World, but in Brazil it landed with a difference. Not only did the Portuguese have a taste for abandoned merriment, (they brought the “entrudo”, a prank where merry-makers throw water, flour, face powder, and many other things at each other’s faces), but the Negro slaves also took to the celebration. They would smear their faces with flour, borrow an old wig or frayed shirt of the master, and give themselves over to mad revelry for the three days. Many masters even let their slaves roam freely during the celebration. Since the slaves were grateful for the chance to enjoy themselves, they rarely used the occasion as a chance to run away.

Pre-Christian, medieval, and modern carnivals share important thematic features. They celebrate the death of winter and the rebirth of nature, ultimately re-committing the individual to the spiritual and social codes of the culture. Ancient fertility rites, with their sacrifices to the gods, exemplify this commitment, as do the Christian Shrovetide plays.  On the other hand, carnivals allow parody of, and offer temporary release from, social and religious constraints. For example, slaves were the equals of their masters during the Roman Saturnalia; the medieval feast of fools included a blasphemous mass; and during carnival masquerades sexual and social taboos are sometimes temporarily suspended.

Tomorrow: Why Ashes on Ash Wednesday?

May I suggest that  by Wednesday morning to try  be ready to enter into a deeper journey into your inner depths to discover our Lord and at the same time your deepest Self.  Be ready to experience new life, new growth for your self and for our country.

Dear Lord,

Today we let our hair down a bit and when the fun is over,

may we be ready to enter the desert on Wednesdayith you

and discover how desert experiences can cleanse and purify us and make us whole.

Let us enter the desert willingly and learn its lessons well.

In this Jubilee year of Mercy, may we know your mercy ways,

receive your merciful love, and extend mercy to others.

We ask you, Lord, to lead the way.

Amen. 

But, before you go, here’s a musical slide show of what a Carnival parade is like down in Rio. Click here. Be sure to enter full screen.

(Ladies: Let your husbands have some fun – um ~ it’s not exactly R-rated.)  

With love, 

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer