The National Catholic Review

Barbara Green

Last week, on the day when the Vatican released the results of its investigation of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, which represents 80 percent of women’s religious orders in this country, I received emails from several Catholic sisters. All described themselves as saddened, stunned or demoralized by the Vatican document, which severely criticized the LWCR in a number of areas.

Here’s how his first biographer, Thomas of Celano, records the encounter of St. Francis of Assisi with the crucifix, now famous, but then hanging forlorn in the crumbling Umbrian church of San Damiano. He write that Francis

Every one of the canonical Gospels insists on starting its story with the identification of Jesus as divine.  It is Matthew, by linking Isaiah with the child conceived through the Holy Spirit, who uses the word Immanuel of him.  ('imm'=with; 'anu'=us; 'el'=God)  As Matthew draws the right conclusion about Jesus from the angel of the Lord's words to him, so Luke points to the logic of Gabriel's sentence to Mary: the Spirit will come upon you and the Power of the most High will overshadow you; therefore, what will be born of you will be holy and called Son of God.  Mark offers no immediate pr

How to read, to preach on these familiar stories, related to each other at the thematic level as the Lectionary is wont to do? The synoptic gospels draw heavily on the Elijah/Elisha stories, sometimes to characterize John the Baptist and Jesus and more often Jesus and his disciples. It appears in the first reading that Elijah recruits his successor in a rather flamboyant way, and that detail can catch and hold the eye.

At first glance, these first and Gospel readings seem well-matched, even easy. David and Simon have mis-stepped seriously in terms of what they supposed (sincerely or not) was acceptable behavior, specifically here in the treatment of women. Each is admonished strongly by a powerful prophet-like speaker, and we can see what would have been better. But further study suggests it is not quite so straightforward.

Today’s first reading details a moment in the early days of the young church in a way both vivid and stylized. Those reading the daily lectionary will have an even sharper sense of the unfolding of events from Acts of the Apostles. The material is action-packed, easy to appreciate. Among its favorite topics are the relations between Jewish and Gentile Jesus--believers as well as those Jews (and Gentiles) who are not drawn into the Jesus movement.

Acts of the Apostles is our only canonical version of the early growth of the Jesus-believing community (cf. the Gospels, where we have four accounts), and so it is immensely formative in the tradition of what we assume happened. That we count on the reliability of these events does not preclude our understanding that they are presented as stylized and intertextual, that is, where characters in Acts resemble Jesus, who himself resembles his earlier forebears.

Here, and unusually in all three readings, we can find a common crucial focus: How Jesus—or the Isaian servant, or any of us—will meet and engage suffering, whether it is imposed by others directly or comes more remotely from human ill-will.  Also, of course, we are challenged to think about how we offer such suffering to others, whether we inflict it intentionally or more incidentally.  The heart of the question is what is the most healthy and helpful understanding of what God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit accomplished for and with us in the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus, and ho

I am in the midst of teaching a seminar that considers, among other things, the (perceived and often undeniable) violence involved in Christian interpretation of the Hebrew Bible. And I recently attended the feast of Purim at a conservative synagogue—quite a different experience from hearing an Esther reading at Christian liturgy on Thursday of the first week of Lent!  Consequently, I would like to present a summary reminder of how ‘Judaism’ interprets today’s first reading.

The manifestations of what God is doing for creation in Jesus continue apace, suggesting that there are even more facets for exploration than we have seen to date liturgically, rich though the past weeks have been. The template today is complex: the Isaian servant, closely resembling Moses, declares the itinerary: the journey through the waters and back into the land, the heritage that is God’s gift.