Archive for the ‘Cats’ Tag

Respecting the Image of God in Others, Part II   Leave a comment

Above:  The Pool, by Palma il Giovane

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Third Sunday of the Season of God the Father, Year 2, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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Almighty God, who hast given us authority to rule the earth according to thy will:

enable us to manage things with reason and love,

that the whole creation may give thee praise;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 127

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Genesis 1:24-27

Romans 8:18-23

John 5:1-17

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We humans are not the only intelligent beings on the planet.  Studies of animal intelligence prove this point.  Mimi, the stray cat I feed and pet, possesses intelligence, is self-aware, and responds to her environment in a manner that keeps her alive, for example.  I suspect that she knows more about me than I know about her, actually.  Furthermore, dolphins and whales are highly intelligent.  We humans have a responsibility to protect our neighbors who belong to other species, for the common good.

We humans are the only ones, however, to bear the image of God, metaphorically.  God is spirit, after all.  We have dominion over stewardship, not ownership, of the planet and all that dwells therein.  With great power comes great responsibility.  May we exercise that responsibility well and faithfully, thereby leaving creation better than we found it.

May we also leave each other better than we found each other.  May we ignore irrelevant, dehumanizing, categories and respect the image of God in each other from womb to tomb.  This position cuts across the political spectrum, for, in this matter, labels such as liberal, moderate, and conservative are irrelevant and unhelpful.  The label “loving” is germane and helpful, though, especially when navigating morally gray areas and difficult decisions according to which harm will come to somebody regardless of the choice one makes.  A slogan I heard decades ago says,

YOU CANNOT NOT DECIDE.

When we decide, may the love of Christ compel us.

What would Jesus do?  Which families would Jesus separate at the U.S.-Mexican border?  Whom would Jesus insult with racism?  Whom would Jesus exploit?  Whom would Jesus force to reside in substandard housing?  Whose life would Jesus disregard?  Which people would Jesus see and not recognize the image of God in them?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 26, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS ANNE AND JOACHIM, PARENTS OF SAINT MARY OF NAZARETH

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New Life II   Leave a comment

Above:  Leslie Catherine Taylor (2014-2015), January 1, 2015

Photographer = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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For the Second Sunday of Advent, Year 2, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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O God, who didst prepare of old the minds and hearts of men for the coming of thy Son,

and whose Spirit ever worketh to illumine our darkened lives with the light of his gospel:

prepare now our minds and hearts, we beseech thee, that Christ may dwell within us,

and ever reign in our thoughts and affections as the King of love and the very Prince of peace.

Grant this, we pray thee, for his sake.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 117

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Genesis 15:1-15

Romans 9:1-8

John 3:1-17

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New life is both literal and spiritual.

  1. It was literal in the cases of the offspring of Abraham and their descendants.
  2. It is spiritual in so far as we who are Christians are, in a sense, descendants of Abraham.
  3. It was spiritual for St. Paul the Apostle, formerly Saul of Tarsus.
  4. It was eventually spiritual for Nicodemus.
  5. It is spiritual for those of us born from above, though water and the Holy Spirit.

Not all of us can identify moments of dramatic conversion, but, if we live in God, we produce spiritual fruits.  Those are tangible.  They also benefit others as well as ourselves.

Sometimes the tangible in spiritual in ways a person not familiar with circumstances would expect.  My experience confirms this truth.

In 2014, while my father, suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease, was dying in the opposite corner of Georgia, a stray kitten (Leslie Catherine Taylor) moved in and adopted me.  She insisted on doing so.  Leslie, who had the upper paw in the relationship, was an energetic animal who was into everything.  The fur ball of energy comforted me with her new life as my father’s life faded away.  She helped me to cope.  Eventually she disappeared and presumably died, however.  But, while she shared my life, Leslie was a great blessing to me.

Advent is about, among other things, new life–new life in daily experiences, new life in Christ, new life in the fully realized Kingdom of God, and a baby unlike any other.

Happy Advent!

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 6, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF FRANKLIN CLARK FRY, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED LUTHERAN CHURCH IN AMERICA AND THE LUTHERAN CHURCH IN AMERICA

THE FEAST OF SAINT CLAUDE OF BESANÇON, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, ABBOT, MONK, AND BISHOP

THE FEAST OF HENRY JAMES BUCKOLL, AUTHOR AND TRANSLATOR OF HYMNS

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM KETHE, PRESBYTERIAN HYMN WRITER

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A Prayer for Lost Pets and Their Humans   1 comment

Lelise April 4, 2015

Above:  Leslie Catherine Taylor, Easter Sunday, April 5, 2015

Image Source = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

I have not seen her since April 12.

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O God, who declared the created order to be good,

you have granted us the pleasure of animal companions

and the responsibility to care for them.

These relationships, when they are what they ought to be,

are reciprocal, improving the quality of life of all involved.

Sometimes, however, a pet disappears.

Keep lost pets safe, dear Lord, comfort them, and guide them home.

Likewise, I ask you to comfort the bereft humans

and guide them to take proper actions.

May family reunions occur in a timely manner

and such partings never happen again.

When, however, the separation is permanent,

may abundant grace bring healing for all who need it,

and may the lost pet be safe in your care.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 18, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF DONALD S. ARMENTROUT, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF CALVIN WEISS LAUFER, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMNODIST

THE FEAST OF ROGER WILLIAMS, FOUNDER OF RHODE ISLAND

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM PENNEFATHER, ANGLICAN PRIEST, HUMANITARIAN, AND HYMN WRITER; AND HIS WIFE, CATHERINE KING PENNEFATHER, HUMANITARIAN AND HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2015/04/18/a-prayer-for-lost-pets-and-their-humans/

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Posted April 18, 2015 by neatnik2009 in Prayers on Various Topics

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Compassion for Feral Cats   Leave a comment

Snapshot_20140720

Above:  The Beginning of the Draft of This Post

Image Source = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

–Luke 6:36, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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A few months ago I started feeding a feral cat family which had moved in close to my back door.  Crystal, the mother, and her kittens, Pat and Leslie, ate well.  Much of that time, of course, Crystal ate all of the food, for the kittens were still nursing.  So I fed them indirectly.  They did, however, reach the age at which they ate solid food.

Of the three cats only two remain, for Pat (a white cat with differently colored eyes, just like his mother), has left for parts unknown.  (At least I assume that Pat is male; I have never gotten close enough even to pet the creatures.)  Crystal roams the top of the hill where I live, and Leslie, an adorable tuxedo kitten, stays close to home.  Both mother and daughter (I assume that Leslie is female) dine near my back door, but Leslie seems to need the food more.  Crystal’s hunting skills are excellent; I have seen evidence of that.  But, to the best of my knowledge, Leslie does not hunt.  As my beloved has said, Leslie needs us.

These cats cannot reciprocate, for they have not become socialized to people.  Crystal has at least ceased to hiss at me, but she keeps a certain distance.  Leslie stares and meows at me, usually around mealtime.  Yet I notice that sometimes, after the child has consumed some cat food (especially her favorite, canned food), she comes to the back door, looks at me through the glass, and meows.  What is she saying?  I wonder.  I suppose that she spends some amount of time trying to understand me as best she can.  She observes me bringing her fresh food and water.  That much helps the relationship along.  And I have observed cats long enough to recognize when the proverbial wheels are turning inside a feline head.  Whatever Leslie does with regard to me, she does it from a distance.  She might never become a lap cat, but I adore her for who she is.  And I accept as sufficient Leslie’s mere proximity.

“Be merciful,” our Lord and Savior said.  Give without expectation of repayment, he continued.  After all, God has been merciful to us and nothing we can do in response will even approach the definition of repayment.  But we can, among other things, pass the grace along freely.  Each of us can do something of the sort.  I can do care actively for my feral feline neighbors, and I so so joyfully.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 20, 2014 COMMON ERA

PROPER 11:  THE SIXTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL HANSON COX, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND ABOLITIONIST; AND HIS SON, ARTHUR CLEVELAND COXE, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF WESTERN NEW YORK, HYMN WRITER, AND TRANSLATOR OF HYMNS

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANSEGIUS OF FONTANELLE, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF ELIZABETH CADY STANTON, AMELIA BLOOMER, SOJOURNER TRUTH, AND HARRIET ROSS TUBMAN, WITNESSES TO CIVIL RIGHTS FOR AFRICAN AMERICANS AND WOMEN

THE FEAST OF SAINTS FLAVIAN II OF ANTIOCH AND ELIAS OF JERUSALEM, ROMAN CATHOLIC PATRIARCHS

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Some Related Posts:

Crystal, Pat and Leslie

Crystal and Leslie

Leslie

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Posted July 20, 2014 by neatnik2009 in Luke 6

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Cats as Ministers of Grace   Leave a comment

Snapshot_20131027

Above:  The Beginning of the Draft of This Post

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Bats, swallows and birds alight on their bodies and heads; and so do cats.

–Letter of Jeremiah 22, The New Revised Standard Version

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I have known many felines and had a strong dislike for only one.  There was a neighborhood cat who encroached on the territory of Duncan Gray Cat Taylor, a most mellow creature of God who had adopted me.  I sided with Duncan, of course.  (I had, by the way, named him after three Episcopal Bishops of Mississippi–Duncan Montgomery Gray Sr., Jr., and III.)

Cats are the finest creatures on four legs.  This I affirm, partially because, deep down in the core of my being, I wish that I could be more similar to them.  Their independence of spirit appeals to me.  But they have an advantage I lack:  furriness.  One can get away with much by being soft and furry.  Behaviors which would be maddening otherwise become endearing.  So, as an old saying tells us, kittens are constantly forgiven.  Then we humans, trained well by cats, continue to forgive our older feline companions.

I have spent much of my life to date being emotionally closer to certain cats than to people.  Felines do not meow platitudes at awkward moments.  They do not care about one’s past either.  No, cats who are habituated to humans are likely to warm up to anyone who will treat them kindly.  And cats are not selfish and lacking in affection for others.  They are simply not dogs.  I have read enough about feline behaviors to know when they are marking me as property and when they are being affectionate, so I recognize the latter easily.

I recall occasions when I felt rather badly and needed someone nearby.  I did not need or want words.  No, I required and desired presence.  And, much of the time, that presence has come in feline form.  Sometimes, when resting and ill, I have awoken to find a sleeping cat.  Then I have felt better immediately.  I cannot attest to the feline’s motivations yet know what the effects were.  That is enough.

Our companion animals are good for us.  May we be at least as good for them.  And may we thank God often for them, assuming that we belong to any.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 27, 2013 COMMON ERA

PROPER 25–THE TWENTY-THIRD SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF ARTHUR CAMPBELL AINGER, ENGLISH EDUCATOR, SCHOLAR, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT AEDESIUS, PRIEST AND MISSIONARY; AND SAINT FRUDENTIUS, FIRST BISHOP OF AXUM AND ABUNA OF THE ETHIOPIAN ORTHODOX TEWAHEDO CHURCH

THE FEAST OF THE VICTIMS OF THE SALEM WITCH TRIALS

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Below:  The End of the Draft of This Post

Snapshot_20131027_1

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Posted October 27, 2013 by neatnik2009 in Baruch

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Genesis and Mark, Part II: The Image of God   1 comment

 

fishing-on-the-sea-of-galilee

Above:  Fishing on the Sea of Galilee

Image Source = Library of Congress

(http://www.loc.gov/pictures/resource/ppmsca.05015/)

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 1:20-2:3

Psalm 38 (Morning)

Psalms 126 and 102 (Evening)

Mark 1:14-28

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Some Related Posts:

Genesis 1-2:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/11/week-of-5-epiphany-tuesday-year-1/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/02/22/devotion-for-november-27-in-advent-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/great-vigil-of-easter-year-a/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2011/07/28/great-vigil-of-easter-year-b/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/05/trinity-sunday-year-a/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/18/proper-9-year-a/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/11/12/week-of-proper-28-monday-year-2/

Mark 1:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/16/week-of-1-epiphany-monday-year-1/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/11/third-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-b/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/13/fourth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-b/

Prayer:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/01/21/prayer-for-thursday-after-ash-wednesday/

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Certainly Jesus knew James and John, the sons of Zebedee, for Zebedee was our Lord’s uncle.  James and John were therefore first cousins of Jesus.  There was nothing inherently wrong with fishing; it was honest and socially useful work.  Yet our Lord had a higher purpose in mind for his cousins.

The concept of the image of God unites the readings from Genesis and Mark.  But what is the image of God?  It is not physical, for God is spirit.  Perhaps the best way to identify the image of God in human beings is to notice some contrasts with the rest of the Animal Kingdom.  We are almost genetically identical to chimpanzees, but they do not compose sonnets.  Elephants are quite intelligent and mourn their dead.  Who knows (other than God and whales) what whale songs mean?  I, along with some great Christian saints, assume that our fellow creatures of certain intelligence possess souls, but they members of these species have not forged civilizations as we know them.  Likewise, I adore cats.  Their bodies are perfectly evolved for their purposes in nature.  And I have no doubt that cats I have known well have had souls.  But I, as a human, have a spark which cats lack.

We humans have potential which other mammals lack.  And we ought to live up to higher standards.  We are animals biologically; evolutionary forces have shaped us physically.  But we are more than skin, meat, blood, and bones; we are souls who bear the image of God.

Thus we ought to act accordingly.  We should pursue our highest and greatest potential. We ought to help others pursue and achieve theirs.  We ought to love each other and ourselves as bearers of the divine image.  If we do this, we will cease to hate and kill one another.  We will cease to exploit each other and condone or turn a blind eye to exploitation.  We will cease to discriminate against each other.  We will do all this because we recognize the divine spark in each other and know that we are not so different from each other as we thought once.

I propose a Lenten discipline to continue afterward:  Looking for and finding the image of God in others then treating them with the great respect due a bearer of the divine image.  That is an excellent habit, one which will banish a host of bad ones.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 28, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE FIRST U.S. METHODIST BOOK OF WORSHIP, 1945

THE FEAST OF SAINT GUALFARDUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC HERMIT

THE FEAST OF SAINT PETER CHANEL, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/04/28/devotion-for-the-second-day-of-lent-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Helping Those Who Cannot Reciprocate   Leave a comment

You received without payment; give without payment.

–Matthew 10:8b, New Revised Standard Version

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Recently two incidents from my past have been on my mind.

One weekend about twenty years ago, in Sumner, Georgia (in rural Worth County), Shadow, my mother’s cat, gave birth prematurely.  Only one kitten survived, however briefly.  I named that cat Sebastian.  (A cat deserves a good name, after all.)  Young Sebastian was doomed; even his mother refused to nurse him, consistent with her feline programming.  So we humans took over, doing our best to feed, hold, and sit with the little kitten.  Sadly, the inevitable death claimed Sebastian’s life on Sunday of that weekend.  I wrapped the kitten in a  hand towel, buried the little cat in the backyard, and spoke lines from the Latin Requiem Mass over the grave that evening.  Sebastian had been a creature of God; to God Sebastian had returned.

In June 2009 I met the woman who became the love of my life, at least until the present day.  Our relationship had its ups and downs; both of us were responsible at different times and occasionally the same times.  But she had her own problems which, hindsight tells me, were increasingly severe mental illness.  About this time this year I noticed that the fun and vibrant woman was almost gone and that a depressed female had taken her place.  She lost her job last December and spiraled deeper into mental illness.  Her birthday last January was a sad occasion despite my attempts to make it joyful.  And, one long night, I held her as she asked me to help her die.  I did this until I fell asleep out of exhaustion.

In February, in advance of a weekend with freezing temperatures, she stayed at my place.  The alternative would have been for her to spend those days in a house without a functional furnace.  Those three days–the first of thirty–shook me to my core, for I began to realize how devastated and delusional she was.  After a month I was emotionally exhausted.  My usual routine had ceased to exist as I attempted to cheer up someone whom it was almost impossible to keep cheerful.  There were some fun times, such as a Star Wars movie marathon, but those were few and far between.

Now she lives in a mental hospital; may she find what she needs and return to a healthy and functional state.

There is great value in helping or just trying to help those who cannot reciprocate; it changes one for the better.  Pure love does not require repayment.  No, it pours itself out to the point of self-sacrifice and in the face of certain futility.  And the exercise of pure love makes one a better person.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 31, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT WOLFGANG OF REGENSBURG, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY BISHOP

ALL HALLOWS’ EVE

THE FEAST OF THE REFORMATION

THE VIGIL OF THE FEAST OF ALL SAINTS

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Posted October 31, 2012 by neatnik2009 in Matthew 10

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Authentic Spirituality   1 comment

Above:  Bottle Feeding an Abandoned Kitten

http://lovemeow.com/2010/03/men-rescued-abandoned-new-born-kittens/

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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1 Thessalonians 2:1-8 (The Jerusalem Bible):

You know yourselves, my brothers, that our visit to you has not proved ineffectual.

We had, as you know, been given rough treatment and been grossly insulted at Philippi, and it was our God who gave us the courage to proclaim his Good News to you in the face of great opposition.  We have not taken to preaching because we are deluded, or immoral, or trying to deceive anyone; it was God who decided that we were fit to be entrusted with the Good News, and when we are speaking, we are not trying to please men but God,who can read our inmost thoughts. You know very well, and we can swear it before God, that never at any time have our speeches been simply flattery, or a cover for trying to get money; nor have we ever looked for any special honour from men, either from you or anybody else, when we could have imposed ourselves on you with the full weight, as apostles of Christ.

Instead, we were unassuming.  Like a mother feeding and looking after her own children, we felt so devoted and protective towards you, and had come to love you so much, that we were eager to hand over to you not only the Good News but our whole lives as well.

Psalm 139:1-9 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

LORD, you have searched me out and known me;

you know my sitting down and my rising up;

you discern my thoughts from afar.

You trace my journeys and my resting-places

and are acquainted with all my ways.

3 Indeed, there is not a word on my lips,

but you, O LORD, know it altogether.

4 You press upon me behind and before

and lay your hand upon me.

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;

it is so high that I cannot attain to it.

Where can I go then from your Spirit?

where can I flee from your presence?

If I climb up to heaven, you are there;

if I make the grave my bed, you are there also.

8 If I take the wings of the morning

and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,

9 Even there your hand will lead me

and your right hand hold me fast.

Matthew 23:23-26 (The Jerusalem Bible):

[Jesus continued,]

Alas for you , scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites!  You who pay tithe of mint and dill and cummin and have neglected the weightier matters of the Law–justice, mercy, good faith!  These you should have practised, without neglecting the others.  You blind guides!  Straining out gnats and swallowing camels!

Alas for you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites!  You who clean the outside of cup and dish and leave the inside full of extortion and intemperance. Blind Pharisee!  Clean the inside of cup and dish first so that the outside may become clean as well.

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The Collect:

Grant, O merciful God, that your Church, being gathered together in unity by your Holy Spirit, may show forth your power among all peoples, to the glory of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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What is the test of authentic spirituality?  Or, to phrase the question differently, what does God require of us?  We ought, when pondering this matter, realize that divinity exists in a realm beyond the limits of our ability to understand; God refuses to fit into our intellectual boxes.  So, as valuable as theology can be (which is to say, very), we need to avoid turning theological concepts into idols.

Karen Armstrong proposes the answer that makes the most sense to me.  Compassion, she says, is the test of authentic spirituality.  Compassion is at the heart of the reading from 1 Thessalonians.  Paul cared deeply for the people of Thessalonica, so he shared his life with them.  Compassion impelled Jesus, too.  This helps explain why he was so critical of those who, in the name of God, obsessed over small matters while neglecting what mattered most–that is, to love God with everything and each other as one self.

Compassion transcends species.  The most appropriate image I could find for this post is the one I have attached to it.  I have provided a link to its source, and the story is worth reading.  David Dixon and Paul Ortega, of Palm Springs, California, rescued four kittens from a trash bag in 2010.  Two survived.  Dixon and Ortega named the survivors Scooter and Dixie.  The men bottle fed the kittens until this was no longer necessary.  The kittens became well and the humans decided to keep them.

Admittedly I have a soft spot for cats, especially vulnerable kittens.  Felines are creatures of God and agents of grace, and human compassion ought to extend to all who are vulnerable, regardless of species.  Jesus would approve of what Dixon and Ortega have done for these cats.

In contrast I read about honor killings, sometimes by immigrants to the United States.  Those who perpetrate these crimes use religion to justify their actions.  But the God I worship does not approve of honor killings.  The God I worship teaches compassion, condemns honor killings, says to love my neighbor as I love myself, and adores kittens.  (Being part of creation, they fall under the description of “good.”) This God does not always agree me with me.  Indeed, I know that I am wrong about certain points, but remain unsure which ones those are.  But compassion matters more than fine points of theology.

May the hallmark of your faith life, O reader, be compassion.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 1, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MAXIMILIAN OF TREVESTE, ROMAN CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT DAVID OF WALES, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF MENEVIA

THE FEAST OF GIROLAMO FRESCOBALDI, COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF SAINT THEOPHANES THE CHRONICLER, DEFENDER OF ICONS

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/01/week-of-proper-16-tuesday-year-1/

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Eternal Life I   1 comment

A Cat and Her Kittens

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Collect and lections from the Episcopal Lesser Feasts and Fasts Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints

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Follow the assigned readings with me this Lent….

Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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Isaiah 49:7-15 (TANAKH: The Holy Scriptures):

Thus says the LORD,

The Redeemer of Israel, the Holy One,

To the despised one,

To the abhorred nations,

To the slave of rulers:

Kings shall see and stand up;

Nobles, and they shall prostrate themselves–

To the honor of the LORD, who is faithful,

To the Holy One of Israel who chose you.

Thus said the LORD:

In an hour of favor I answer you,

And on a day of salvation I help you–

I created you and appointed you a covenant people–

Restoring the land,

Allotting anew the desolate holdings,

Saying to the prisoners, “Go free,”

To those who are in darkness, “Show yourselves.”

They shall pasture along the roads,

On every bare height shall be their pasture.

They shall not hunger of thirst,

Hot wind and sun shall not strike them;

He will guide them to springs of water.

I will make all My mountains a road,

And My highways shall be built up.

Look! These are coming from afar,

These from the north and the west,

And these from the land of Sinim.

Shout, O heavens, and rejoice, O earth!

Break into shouting, O hills!

For the LORD has comforted His people,

And has taken back His afflicted ones in love.

Zion says,

The LORD has forsaken me,

My Lord has forgotten me.

Can a woman forget her baby,

Or disown the child of her womb?

Though she might forget,

I never could forget you.

Psalm 145:8-18 (TANAKH: The Holy Scriptures):

The LORD is gracious and compassionate,

slow to anger and abounding in kindness.

The LORD is good to all,

and His mercy is upon all His works.

All Your works shall praise You, O LORD,

and Your faithful ones shall bless You.

They shall talk of the majesty of Your kingship,

and speak of Your might,

to make His mighty acts known among men

and the majestic glory of His kingship.

Your kingship is an eternal kingship;

Your dominion is for all generations.

The LORD supports all who stumble,

and makes all who are bent stand straight.

The eyes of all look to You expectantly,

and You give them their food when it is due.

You give it openhandedly,

feeding every creature to its heart’s content.

The LORD is beneficent in all His ways

and faithful in all His works.

The LORD is near to all who call Him,

to all who call Him with sincerity.

John 5:19-29 (The New Testament in Modern English–Revised Edition):

Jesus therefore said to them [some Jews],

I solemnly assure you that the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing.  For whatever the Father does the Son does the same.  For the Father loves the Son and shows him everything that he does himself.  Yes, and he will show him even greater things than these to fill you with wonder.  For just as the Father raises the dead and makes them live, so does the Son give life to any man he chooses.  The Father is no man’ s judge; he has put judgment entirely in the Son’s hands, so that all men may honour the Son equally with the Father.  The man who does not honour the Son does not honour the Father who sent him.  I solemnly assure you that the man who hears what I have to say and believes in the one who has sent me has eternal life.  He does not have to face judgment; he has already passed from death into life.  Yes, I assure you that a time is coming, in fact has already come, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who have heard it will live!  For just as the Father has life in himself, so by the Father’s gift, the Son also has live in himself.  And he has given him authority to judge because he is Son of Man.  No, do not be surprised–the time is coming when all those who are dead and buried will hear his voice and they will come–those who have done right will rise again to life, but those who have done wrong will rise to face judgment!

The Collect:

O Lord our God, you sustained your ancient people in the wilderness with bread from heaven: Feed now your pilgrim flock with the food that endures to everlasting life; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

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My theme this day is eternal life.

In the reading handed down by (Second) Isaiah exile of Judah is nearing its end.  And God expresses love and forgiveness for the descendants of those who went into exile.  The dominant (and retrospective) theology of much of the Hebrew Bible is that sin led to exiles.  God has forgiven the people, and is pulling strings to bring about a resettlement in the homeland.  I love the concluding words:  “I never could forget you.”

This day’s reading from John follows directly on the heels of the previous day’s gospel lection.  (And the next day’s reading from John will follow this one immediately.)  So, recall that Jesus had just healed a man on the Sabbath, and received criticism because of his timing.  Then he referred to God as his Father, which some construed as blasphemy.  Who did Jesus think he was, to speak of God in such familiar (and equal) terms?

He was (and is) the Second Person of the Trinity.  And his authority flows from the First Person.

Verse 24 uses the term “eternal life.”  In verse 24 anyone who internalizes the teachings of Jesus and trusts in God has eternal life.  This is the present tense, not the future tense.  This is consistent with John 17:3:  “And this is eternal life, to know you, the only true God, and him whom you have sent–Jesus Christ.”

Father Raymond E. Brown, the Roman Catholic priest and great Bible scholar, wrote two thick volumes on the Gospel of John for The Anchor Bibleseries.  His first volume contains appendices, one of which includes a detailed explanation of eternal life on pages 505-508.  Anyone who wishes to read Brown’s analysis in full should consult those pages.  The essence follows:  Eternal life is “the life by which God Himself lives, and which the Son of God possesses from the Father.”  The Son became incarnate to give eternal life to human beings.  The Holy Spirit, which can be given only after the Son has conquered death, breathes eternal life after the Son has conquered death.  Before that happened, Jesus breathed eternal life in person.  Eternal life is associated with the waters of baptism and nourished by the body and blood of Jesus received during the Holy Eucharist.  Eternal life begins during this natural life and continues after natural life ends.  Thus eternal life is not everlasting life.

Being a stickler for details, such as definitions, I chafe when I hear people say “eternal”  and “eternity” when they mean “everlasting.” Hell is everlasting, but Heaven is eternal.

Think about this:  There is no eternal life apart from God.  There is no eternity apart from God.  God cannot forget us; may we not forget God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 1, 2010 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MAXIMILIAN OF TREVESTE, ROMAN CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT DAVID OF WALES, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF MENEVIA

THE FEAST OF GIROLAMO FRESCOBALDI, COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF SAINT THEOPHANES THE CHRONICLER, DEFENDER OF ICONS

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/28/twenty-fifth-day-of-lent/

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Posted February 13, 2012 by neatnik2009 in Isaiah 49, Islam, John 5, Psalm 145

Tagged with , ,

The Kingdom of God Belongs to Such as These   4 comments

Above:  Parisian Children

Ecclesiasticus (Sirach) 17:1-15 (Revised English Bible):

The Lord created human beings from the earth

and to it he turns them back again.

He set a fixed span of life for mortals

and gave them authority over everything on earth.

He clothed them with power like his own

and made them in his own image.

He put the fear of them into all creatures

and granted them lordship over beasts and birds.

He fashioned tongues, eyes, and ears for them,

and gave them minds with which to think.

He filled them with understanding and knowledge

and showed them good and evil.

He kept watch over their hearts,

to display to them the majesty of his works.

They will praise his holy name,

proclaiming the grandeur of his works.

He gave them knowledge

and endowed them with the life-bringing law.

He established with them an everlasting covenant

and revealed to them his decrees.

Their eyes saw his glorious majesty,

and their ears heard the glory of his voice.

He said to them, “Refrain from all wrongdoing,”

and he taught each his duty towards his neighbour.

Their conduct lies open before him at all times,

never hidden from his sight.

Psalm 103:1-4, 13-18 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Bless the LORD, O my soul,

and all that is within me, bless his holy Name.

2 Bless the LORD, O my soul,

and forget not all his benefits.

3 He forgives all your sins,

and heals all your infirmities;

4 He redeems your life from the grave

and crowns you with mercy and loving-kindness.

13 As a father cares for his children,

so does the LORD care for those who fear him.

14 For he himself knows whereof we are made;

he remembers that we are dust.

15 Our days are like the grass;

we flourish like a flower of the field;

16 When the wind goes over it, it is gone,

and its place shall know it more more.

17 But the merciful goodness of the LORD endures for ever on those who fear him,

and his righteousness on children’s children;

18 On those who keep his covenant

and remember his commandments and do them.

Mark 10:13-16 (Revised English Bible):

They brought children for him to touch.  The disciples rebuked them, but when Jesus saw it he was indignant, and said to them,

Let the children come to me; do not try to stop them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.  Truly I tell you:  whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.

And he put his arms round them, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.

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The Collect:

O Lord, you have taught us that without love whatever we do is worth nothing: Send your Holy Spirit and pour into our hearts your greatest gift, which is love, the true bond of peace and of all virtue, without which whoever lives is accounted dead before you. Grant this for the sake of your only Son Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hid:  Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy Name; through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 355

Human nature is complex.  It is true that we bear the image of God.  Yet we are deeply flawed.  We cannot pass a day without sinning at least once.  We are capable of caring deeply for one another and of hating each other.  We feed, clothe, and visit each other, yet we commit murder.  We comfort each other, yet some of us bully others.  As the psalmist reminds us poetically, God knows that we are dust.  God has mercy on us; otherwise we would all be doomed.

Ben Sira writes that God has instructed us in what is right and what is wrong, and that God sees all that we do.  We have much power over our fellow species in the Animal Kingdom, and great responsibility accompanies it.  Dominion does not indicate ownership, for Genesis states that we are stewards.  A steward manages what another owns.  So we ought to care deeply and actively for the rest of creation.  Besides, what affects the rest of creation affects us, too.

On a side note, “fear” in Sirach and the psalm refers to a sense of awe.  I wonder if Ben Sira became deeply acquainted with a cat.  I have known several cats very well, and I do not recall perceiving that any of them looked upon me with awe.  I loved all these felines deeply, thinking of them as furry children.  I even gave them my last name.  I have never known a humble cat, and I think that no cat has any reason to be meek.  A cat, an old saying tells me, “may look a king in the eyes.”  And may God bless house cats for that quality.

I confess that I do not like children.  As best I can tell, this derives mostly or entirely from my childhood experiences; many of my age peers were cruel to me.  So human depravity makes sense; if we were noble creatures, this nature would manifest itself more during our formative years.  And I have chosen a lifestyle certain to avoid having any children.  I consider women the better part of the human species, but I live apart from any of them.  My lot is more contemplative and solitary than not.  Children would disturb me, and I lack the patience to deal with them properly.

So the reading from Mark gives me pause.  The Kingdom of God belongs to such as these?  Yes, the Gospels challenge me, too.  William Barclay, in his commentary on the Gospel of Mark, identifies four spiritual values children embody (generally speaking):

  1. humility
  2. obedience
  3. trust
  4. a short memory

Children, Barclay writes, are generally not obsessed with their own importance.  Also, obedience is their natural instinct, as are trust in parental authority and the goodness of others.  Finally, children tend to be slow to hold grudges.  There is no divine law against such characteristics.

Perhaps the most important lesson for we educated adults who like to think matters through deeply and question authority is that, when approaching God, we ought not to think too highly of ourselves.  God is God, and we are not.  Arrogance is endearing in a cat, but it is not a spiritual virtue in a human being.

Here ends the lesson.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 4, 2010 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARTIN OF PORRES, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

THE FEAST OF FELIX MENDELSSOHN-BARTHOLDY, COMPOSER

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Published originally at ADVENT, CHRISTMAS, AND EPIPHANY DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR and ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

The original posts:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/11/04/week-of-7-epiphany-saturday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/13/week-of-proper-2-saturday-year-1/

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