28 Aug

Unsung Heroes

I prefer strong and courageous heroes, so I'll admit that I'm challenged by the fact that many of the heroes in the Gospel are weak. Look at these unsung figures...

  • Simon of Cyrene: A man who was unwilling and hesitant, yet he helped Jesus carry the cross (cf. Lk 23:26).
  • The Good Thief: A criminal who was crucified on Christ's right, yet professed faith and entered that day into Paradise (cf. Lk 23:41-43).
  • The Centurion: A pagan who helped crucify Christ, yet likewise professed faith when he exclaimed, "Truly this man was the Son of God!" (cf. Mk 15:39).
  • Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus: Two cowards—"since he was a disciple of Jesus, but a secret one for fear of the Jews"—yet went boldly to Pilate to retrieve the body of Jesus and bury our Lord reverently (cf. Jn 19:38-39).
  • Mary Magdalen: A woman who had made poor decisions in her past, yet followed Jesus and was the first person to be visited by him after the Resurrection (cf. Jn 20:1-16).

This motley crew was the band of heroes. I would have been inclined to think it would have been, instead, the apostles—strong and devoted men—but they betray him (Judas), deny him (Peter), doubt him (Thomas), and flee from him (all of them). Even in other Scripture stories, it is the little and unlikely individuals who take the spotlight: the boy David defeating Goliath (1 Sam 17:48-49), the poor widow throwing in two small coins (Lk 21:2-4), the runt Zacchaeus converting to Christ (Lk 19:3-5). I guess Saint Paul was right when he said, "For when I am weak, then I am strong" (2 Cor 12:10).

21 Aug

Change is in God's Hands

I wasn't even ten years old when the O.J. Simpson trial occurred between 1994-1995, so I don't understand just what exactly happened, which is why I decided to watch the FX mini-series, “American Crime Story: The People vs. OJ Simpson.” There was one lesson I took away from the show: only God's grace can lead to conversion.

The case was not so much about the murder of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman–the ultimate tragedy–but rather about racism and domestic violence. Simpson was acquitted because he was a symbol. The jury deliberated not so much on the merits of the case but rather on prejudice in society. The jury figured, subconsciously perhaps, that a not-guilty verdict, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, would be a catalyst for change. The prosecutors were not innocent either. They figured accounts of Simpson's harm to his ex-wife would shed light on domestic abuse and help end violence towards women. In other words, the courtroom was a means to an end other than the determination of the truth about whether these two innocent people were killed by O.J. The courtroom was manipulated.

14 Aug

Keep it Simple

Classic Rock is my favorite kind of music and a song I very much enjoy is Simple Man by Lynyrd Skynyrd. It speaks of that all-important virtue: simplicity.

Forget your lust for the rich man's gold
All that you need is in your soul
And you can do this, oh baby, if you try
All that I want for you, my son, is to be satisfied.
(Chorus) And be a simple kind of man
Oh, be something you love and understand
Baby be a simple kind of man
Oh, won't you do this for me, son, if you can.

07 Aug

Christ in the Picture

Christ-HeliosUnderneath Saint Peter's Basilica in Vatican City is a preserved necropolis dating back to the first century. You can visit the necropolis today. It is called the Scavi Tour. (I was actually a tour guide when I was in Rome.) In one of the mausoleums, close to the bones of St. Peter, is found a very interesting golden mosaic, called the Christ-Helios. It dates back to the second century and is a fusion of Jesus and the Greek Sun God. The image was an ingenious way to portray Christ clandestinely, since Christianity was illegal. Unsuspecting pagan passersby would assume it was Helios and not desecrate the grave. Christians knew better, since Helios never had a halo in the form of a cross, never held the orb, which was the symbol for universal power, and never gave a blessing with his hand.