From Father Mead: Disagreements
I offer a Bible Study most Tuesday evenings. During Advent we looked at the Birth narratives in Matthew and Luke, and beginning this Tuesday we will look at the Passion narratives in all four gospels. It is true that we read much of the Passion narratives each year during Holy Week – this year we read Mark’s account of the Passion on Palm Sunday, and we always read John’s account of the Passion on Good Friday – however, I think we often forget or ignore the major differences in each account . . . or maybe we just don’t know they are different at all.
How would most of us respond if asked what Jesus’ words in the garden were? How would most of us answer if asked what day Jesus was crucified? What would most of us say if asked what Jesus’ last words were? I suspect that the answers to these questions would depend almost entirely on which account each of us had heard recently or was most familiar with. As our class this Advent found, the Birth narratives are also very different from each other. Matthew and Luke answer the questions of where Joseph was from and who Jesus’ grandfather was differently. Biblical literalists and fundamentalists beware!
The gospels are different: each has its own specifics which make it impossible for any Christian to distill Jesus’ life and times into a single unified work without picking and choosing one version of an event over others. Yet, it is through these differences that the truth of Jesus’ life shines. It’s not that the details don’t matter; in fact it’s the exact opposite. The details matter very much, but they aren’t the reason each Evangelist wrote his gospel. The details bring to us the truth that Jesus was born, lived, taught, took on disciples, was arrested, tried, crucified, died and rose again.
Through these details we encounter the same Lord in new and amazing ways each time we approach the texts. The starkness of Saint Mark’s gospel shows that Jesus, like all of us, struggles with the weight of the cross he is given to bear. The disciples struggle as well, to the point where they are almost caricatures of failed followers.
Saint Matthew places Jesus’ teaching about disciplship as the centerpiece of the gospel while also highlighting the importance of Gentiles and unexpected outsiders – from the visit of the Magi, to the calling of a tax collector named Matthew as one of the Twelve, and continuing to the post-resurrectional command to preach to and baptize all nations. We are reminded both that discipleship is a way of life and that those who are called to be disciples are not a restricted group.
Luke reminds us that even through the struggles of Jesus and all of his disciples, the saving power of God is always present. Luke gives us the parables of the Good Samaritan and the Prodigal Son, and he reminds us through the example of the “good thief” that even (especially!) from the cross Jesus offers salvation to all who ask.
Finally, it is through John’s gospel that we encounter Jesus as the Word made flesh, the Lord who commands the love he offers as he lowers himself to wash the feet of his servants, is lifted on the cross, and offers himself as the Paschal Lamb for the whole world.
There are many examples of how (and why) each gospel is different. What Jesus does and says is different in each gospel: sometimes these differences are subtle, sometimes they seem irreconcilable. Enormous books about the “historical Jesus” have been written by people who are often more concerned with refuting what one or another Evangelist wrote than trying to understand why the Evangelist wrote it. Recognizing disagreements is fine, but when we get caught up in disagreements to the point where we define things by what separates them, rather than what unites them, we are guilty of losing the forest for the trees. This is true of the Gospels, but it is also true of Christian Unity.
The week between the celebrations of the Confession of Peter (January 18) and the Conversion of Paul (January 25) is known as the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. We can all think of many reasons why we choose one church over another. All churches and denominations can find many differences that not only keep us apart but divide us further. Yet, Jesus commanded us to love each other, he died for all of us, and he has prepared a place for all of us. It is a very good thing to have a week where we put the one thing that really matters forward, our King and our God, and set aside those differences and details that may be important but not important enough to allow us to disown a fellow brother or sister in Christ. This doesn’t mean that we pretend naively that none of the differences matter. Gospels, like Christians, have disagreements, but those disagreements don’t change the fact that through the cross Jesus has made us all children of God. Matthew Mead
PRAYER LIST . . . Your prayers are asked especially for Rick and Ronald, religious, who are hospitalized; for Clare, Vesta, Jan, Ida, Brian, Mary, Michael, MaryAnne, Ray, Betty Ann, Mikhail, Deborah, Charlton, Virginia, William, Mary, Gilbert, Robert, Gloria, Marion, Joseph, Rick, Henry, Thomas, priest and Charles, priest; and for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Patrick, Bruce, Brenden, Jonathan, Christopher, David, Timothy, Nestor, Freddie and Derrick; and for the repose of the soul of William and Helen . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . January 22, 2003: Lt. Col. Robert J. Theilmann, USMC; January 23: 1964 Walter R. Noe, Jr., 1990 Mary Grantham Adams; January 25: 1995 Giselle Klopstock; January 28: 1987 Wan Tang Jou.
LITURGICAL NOTES . . . Confessions will be heard on Saturday, January 21 by Father Mead and on Saturday, January 28 by Father Beddingfield.
HONDURAS UPDATE . . . Father Beddingfield writes from Honduras: “I’m filthy and smell like concrete mixed with dirt.” The mission trip to Honduras has begun! The group arrived safely and thanks to the wonders of the Internet has posted several pictures on the parish website of their current activity! Please take a look in the photo gallery of our website to see how the group is doing. M.M.
NOTES ON MUSIC . . . This Sunday at the Solemn Mass, the prelude is Preludio ‘Sine Nomine’ by Herbert Howells (1892-1983). The postlude is Adagio in E from Three Pieces (1905) by Frank Bridge (1879-1941). The setting of the Mass ordinary is Communion Service in F by Herbert W. Sumsion (1899-1995). For 39 years Sumsion was organist of Gloucester Cathedral, England, and he taught for two years prior to that appointment at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia. His compositions for Anglican liturgical use are tuneful, functional, and include numerous modal inflections, a hallmark of his compositional style. The motet at Communion is Jesu, the very thought of thee by Edward C. Bairstow (1874-1946), who was organist of York Minster Cathedral for many years . . . The recital at 4:40 is played by Andrew Sheranian of Rye, New York. Robert McCormick
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Flowers are needed for 2006. Send your request to Sandra Schubert at email@example.com or online, http://www.stmvirgin.org/ParishClergyAndStaff. Click on Reserve Flowers for Sunday and Feast Days/Special Services and fill out the form . . . Lunch with Sister Deborah Francis continues on Wednesdays after the 12:10 Mass. Bring a lunch and eat with Sister and others in Saint Joseph’s Hall. No agenda, just Christian fellowship . . . Movie Night this week is going to the movies! On Friday, January 27 we are planning to see The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Details will be available on the parish website (community and fellowship section) and in next week’s Angelus . . . 2006 pledge envelopes are available at the back of the Church . . . Attendance last Sunday 274.
LENTEN RETREAT: SAVE THE DATE . . . Saint Mary’s Lenten Retreat will be held March 3 through 5 at the Community of St. John the Baptist in Mendham, New Jersey. Rooms and meals will be in St. Marguerite’s Guesthouse. Participants may join in discussions based on We Preach Christ Crucified by Kenneth Leech, and the group is invited to participate with the sisters at the Daily Office and Eucharist. See the brochure in the back of the church. Information on the community can be found at www.csjb.org.
CHRISTIAN EDUCATION & FORMATION . . . The Tuesday Night Bible Study meets at 7:00 PM on Tuesdays (January 24 and 31; February 7, 21 and 28) in Saint Benedict’s Study. We will examine the arrest, trials, crucifixion and resurrection narratives in the gospels. Please see the parish website for more information . . . The Spirituality and Reading Group meets on Sunday, January 22 at 1:00 PM in Saint Benedict’s Study. The group will read Peace in the Post-Christian Era by Thomas Merton . . . Sunday School meets on Sundays at 10:00 AM. M.M.
A GIFT FOR CLARE . . . A group of parishioners have begun to contribute toward a special gift for the Reverend Clare Nesmith. Clare is now a deacon and serves as curate at Saint John’s of Lattingtown in Locust Valley, New York. Her ordination to the priesthood will be on February 11, 2006. A set of white vestments is being made for her. If you would like to contribute to this gift, please make your check payable to Saint Mary’s and mark it for “Nesmith Ordination.” S.G.
The Calendar of the Week
Sunday The Third Sunday after the Epiphany
Eve of the Conversion of Saint Paul, 6:00 PM
Wednesday The Confession of Saint Paul the Apostle
The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity ends.
Thursday Timothy and Titus, Companions of Saint Paul
Friday John Chrysostom, Bishop of Constantinople, 407 Abstinence
Saturday Thomas Aquinas, Priest and Friar, 1274
Sunday: 8:30 AM Sung Matins, 9:00 AM Mass, 10:00 AM Sung Mass, 11:00 AM Solemn Mass,
5:00 PM Solemn Evensong & Benediction. Childcare from 10:00 AM to 1:00 PM.
Monday – Friday: 8:30 AM Morning Prayer, 12:00 PM Noonday Office, 12:10 PM Mass,
6:00 PM Evening Prayer, 6:20 PM Mass. The 12:10 Mass on Wednesday is sung.
Saturday: 11:30 AM Confessions, 12:00 PM Noonday Office, 12:10 PM Mass, 4:00 PM Confessions, 5:00 PM Evening Prayer, 5:20 PM Sunday Vigil Mass