Sunday, June 04, 2017

One Other to Send

Memorial of Saint Boniface, Bishop and Martyr

On our festival of Pentecost, the Feast of Weeks, a fine dinner was prepared for me, and I reclined to eat. The table was set for me, and when many different dishes were placed before me, I said to my son Tobiah: "My son, go out and try to find a poor man from among our kinsmen exiled here in Nineveh. If he is a sincere worshiper of God, bring him back with you, so that he can share this meal with me. Indeed, son, I shall wait for you to come back." Tobit 2:1A-2

He had one other to send, a beloved son. He sent him to them last of all, thinking, 'They will respect my son.' But those tenants said to one another, 'This is the heir. Come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.' So they seized him and killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard. Mark 12:6-8

Jesus, in the way you lived your life, you taught us to be faithful witnesses.  You loved us and freed us from our sins or rejection, selfishness, and pride by the gift of your Body and Blood.  May we carry the Spirit of your commands throughout the year as we follow you. Amen.

As we ease back into Ordinary Time, we start off the week with the Memorial of Saint Boniface and some very rich readings that connect our ordinary days to the Pentecost celebrations in modern Christian and Hebrew traditions.
“Pentecost” was not a new invention of the early church. It is rooted in ancient traditions surrounding the holy day of Shavuot. The first reading reminds us (or teaches us anew) that the Jewish Feast of Weeks (Shavuot) is also called by its Greek name, Pentecost because it was celebrated fifty days after the Passover.

As Kimberly Winston of Religion News Service explained in a 2015 article:
The link between the two holidays lies in their names. “Pentecost” comes from the Greek word “pentekostos,” which means 50. Pentecost comes 50 days after Easter when Christian believe Jesus rose from the dead. And Shavuot comes 50 days after the second night of Passover. Some scholars believe Pentecost owes its name to Jesus’ Jewish followers who were gathered together to observe the festival of Shavuot.[i]

This year, Shavuot happened from sundown May 30 through sundown June 1. Not only does the Shavuot/Festival of Weeks celebrate the harvest, but it also commemorates when God gave the Torah to Moses on Mount Sinai. The other acts tied to this gift are Moses and the people accepting the law (gift) they were then destined to carry out. One way the Jewish holiday is observed is through the reading of the Torah or the Book of Ruth, the story of a woman who converts to Judaism and accepts the Torah. 

Almsgiving and charity to the poor are important virtues taught by the Torah. That is why we witness the significant act of Tobit seeking to carry out the social justice demands of the law. He makes his grain offering to the Lord by seeking to welcome a stranger into his home with the gift of hospitality and dinner. When instead, his son finds a man murdered, Tobit instead carries out the spiritual work of mercy by burying the dead man after the sun goes down.

That is not the only death mourned in today’s readings. The owner of the vineyard tried sending numerous messengers to his workers. The workers expelled all the messengers (prophets). The owner had one other to send: His son. Yet the son met the same fate as the stranger Tobit invited. Murder.

Pairing the Parable of the Tenants with Tobit illustrates opposite reactions to the same law and the gifts we have from God. Rather than obeying the law out of gratitude, those punished in this reading from Mark learn what will (and does) happen when people ignore the Law and reject the cornerstone of life.

We have been in near perpetual cycles of preparation and rejoicing since Advent. Now, how do we carry the Spirit and the commandments throughout the rest of this year?  Easter and Christmas are “short-term” seasons but they are not divorced from ordinary time. They also happen every ordinary day, like the morning dew.

What will be your morning “DO” – your action in response to the gift you have? 

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