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Showing posts with label Judea. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Judea. Show all posts

Monday, June 27, 2016

A Homily – The Gospel of Luke 9:51-62 ©

 The Gospel of the Day – 2016.06.26

The Church of God

As the time drew near for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely took the road for Jerusalem and sent messengers ahead of him. These set out, and they went into a Samaritan village to make preparations for him, but the people would not receive him because he was making for Jerusalem. Seeing this, the disciples James and John said, ‘Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to burn them up?’ But he turned and rebuked them, and they went off to another village.

As they travelled along they met a man on the road who said to him, ‘I will follow you wherever you go.’ Jesus answered, ‘Foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.’

Another to whom he said, ‘Follow me’, replied, ‘Let me go and bury my father first.’ But he answered, ‘Leave the dead to bury their dead; your duty is to go and spread the news of the kingdom of God.’

Another said, ‘I will follow you, sir, but first let me go and say goodbye to my people at home.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Once the hand is laid on the plough, no one who looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.’

(NJB)

Who is Worthy?

Reflect on this passage from Luke.

Have some empathy for Jesus. The road that the prophet walks is a lonely road. Even those closest to him are rebuked, because they do not understand his mission.

Jesus has been out in the countryside, preaching outside Judea; in the wider region of Palestine, and when he turns his eye toward Jerusalem, toward the completion of his mission the Samaritans reject him.

Jesus, who had opened his ministry to everyone, encounters the sectarianism he is working to dissolve. It is a sorrowful moment.

James and John, the “Sons of Thunder,” offer to rain destruction on the Samaritan village as a penalty. Jesus rebukes them, they are his companions, they have been travelling with him for nearly three years, and they still do not understand the works of mercy he is engaged in.

Jesus then encounters a sequence of people who are all seemingly willing to follow him, but they are busy, they have obligations. For them the time is not now.

Jesus laments.

Little has changed for human beings since his time. The divine work that Christians have been commissioned to undertake; that work requires a full commitment, and the understanding that at its heart there must be mercy.

Mercy, the easiest thing of all to forget when you are angry, lonely, tired, hungry and feeling slighted.

13th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Friday, December 25, 2015

On Jesus and Mithra, Part 1 (Pages 1 - 3)

Everything we know about Jesus is tangled in myth. It is certain that the narratives of his birth, and childhood are works of complete fiction. Even the narrative of his adult ministry, beginning around the year 30 C.E. is imbued with metaphor and allegory. The narrative that we have received from the tradition is so thoroughly syncretized to the broader cultural context of the Near East that we do not even refer to him by his given name; Joshua, but instead we call him by a Greek variant. Therefore, if we desire to understand this story, (as we should) how it came to be as it is, we must engage that broader narrative, the complete societal and theological context from which the Christian story emerged. We must journey beyond the Palestinian crossroads that was ancient Judea, and beyond the Greco-Roman world, we must go to Persia; because the story really begins there, with Mithra.

The “Cult of Mithras” is understudied, but to the extent that it is, it is commonly regarded, merely as a competitor of the early Christian Church, but it was much more than that. Mithraic worship, as it was practiced by the Romans, principally by members of the Roman army in the first four centuries of the common era, has its roots in ancient Persia; as an offshoot of Zoroastrianism (c. 700 BCE), (1) evolving through the centuries until it reached its final form as a “mystery cult” movement with the Roman army. Through its evolution, propelled by the extensive influence of the Persian Empire, Mithraism had a significant impact on every society it encountered, and every form of worship in the Mediterranean region, the Near East, and Southwest Asia.
This essay is an attempt to communicate the multiple ways by which Mithraism has influenced the development of other faith traditions, most importantly the Judea-Christian tradition, and our images of Jesus. 

Scholarship on Mithraism is scant. Most scholars research tends to downplay the connection between the form of Mithraism that was practiced by the Roman army, and the ancient form of Mithraism that was practiced in the heart of Persia. To justify this, these scholars will site some obvious iconographic and liturgical differences between the two forms of worship, as if to say that the presence of a few subtle differences is enough to mark a complete separation and distinction between the traditions; despite the much greater body of similarities. The following paragraph from David Ulansey’s book The Origins of the Mithraic Mysteries illustrates this point clearly. He says:

"The Western mystery cult of Mithraism as it appeared in the Roman Empire derived its very identity from a number of characteristics which were completely absent from the Iranian worship of Mithra: a series of initiations into ever higher levels of the cult accompanied by strict secrecy about the cult’s doctrines; the distinctive cave like temples in which the cult’s devotees met; and, most important, the iconography of the cult, in particular the tauroctony. None of these essential characteristics of Western Mithraism were to be found in the Iranian worship of Mithra."(2) 

Some of his Ulansey’s predecessors have suggested that the differences between the Persian-Iranian form of Mithraism and that of the Roman army are the product of natural transformations that occur in all belief systems as they move from one cultural to another, across great expanses of geography, and time. His particular criticisms have to do with extrinsic matters of form, and ritual activity, which are the structures that we would expect to change over time and distance. The seven stages of initiation, the tauroctony (slaying of the bull), the codes of secrecy, and the type of temple worship have little to do with the central tenets of Mithraism; closely held beliefs that had existed from the earliest times in Persia, through its final incarnation as a Roman mystery cult. The central theme remains the same; a belief in the immortality of the soul, and the notion of personal salvation.

(1) By 700 BCE the Royal court of Persia had fully converted to the religion of Zoroastrianism and its demi-god Mithra. However, Zoroastrianism likely emerged sometime between 2500 – 1200 BCE. 

(2)  The Origins of the Mithraic Mysteries, by David Ulansey, pg. 8, par. 4