Wonder

A thing about wondering is that it may lead to the unexpected.  You may find out more than you want to know or you may find you want to know more.  Wonder and curiosity may result in good or bad, but mostly good, I think, otherwise we wouldn’t have a favorable view of wonder, generally speaking.

For example, say a cantor or choirmaster distributes music sheets containing lyrics to a new hymn, before Mass or a Protestant service.  You read the words and wonder about the hymn’s source.  Did the cantor herself compose it?  You approach the organist, the cantor’s daughter, to ask your question.  “Where did this hymn come from?”  “Did your mother write it?”  You receive the answer.  “No, it comes from our high school records.”  “It’s a traditional school song, just like many Catholic schools have songs or hymns that invoke some spiritual theme that is particular to them.”  “Oh I see,” you say, “I was just wondering.”  The organist smiles at you and you return to your pew.

Now later that day your imagination starts to work; you’re thinking and wondering about the organist.

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Approach to Meaning

Some things came together today, Tuesday, August 13, 2019, for me in the area of finding meaning in experience.  First, I read online the daily Scripture – Dt.  31:1-8; Mt. 18:1-5,10,12-14 – which I try to do each day on USCCB.  Second, as I was scrolling through the Sirius/XM lineup on my car radio, I stopped at the ‘Phish’ channel and listened as I drove to my Mom’s and from my Mom’s apartment after my visit.  Trey Anastasio played a song from King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, “Fishing for Fishies,” which I liked.  Yesterday’s Gospel reading was Mt. 17:22-27 and I’d been pondering its potential meanings off and on for a day now.  The 2nd part of the passage involves fish.

24 After Jesus and his disciples arrived in Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma temple tax came to Peter and asked, “Doesn’t your teacher pay the temple tax?”

25 “Yes, he does,” he replied.
When Peter came into the house, Jesus was the first to speak. “What do you think, Simon?” he asked. “From whom do the kings of the earth collect duty and taxes—from their own children or from others?”
26 “From others,” Peter answered.
“Then the children are exempt,” Jesus said to him. 27 “But so that we may not cause offense, go to the lake and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours.”

New International Version (NIV)

Peter and other disciples of Jesus were fishermen.

The lyrics of the King Gizzard song advocate against fishing.

  Fishing for fishies

Don’t make them feel happy
Or me neither
I feel so sorry for fishies

It seems like cruelty to me
And I’m hungry, leave them be

I don’t want to be fishing for fish
I just want to let them freely swim
I don’t want to be fishing for fish
I just want to let them freely swim
All heights honk
Egos tying knots being fate
Don’t do it
You ain’t a God
Don’t hunt salmon, cod or carp

In our day, we have the environmental problem of overfishing and possible extinction of species.  This was not an issue in Jesus’ era, two-thousand years ago.
I’m still thinking and pondering.
Addendum (8/14/19):  So I experienced yesterday a triple coincidence of media with a theme of ‘fish.’  The combination impels me to think more about the gospel passage and its deep meaning.  Carl Jung, psychologist, wrote on this phenomenon of meaningful coincidence, calling it “synchronicity.”
[8/16/19] “…Jesus claims that because he and his disciples are the sons of God the King, they should not pay any tax” (J.C. Fenton, The Gospel of St. Matthew (Harmondsworth, England: Penguin, 1978), p. 284).  Not to give offense to others is a moral rule to take from this gospel reading.
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To Escape

From time to time in every person, escape is desired desperately.  For some, escape is ever on the brink of consciousness.  There is a deep dissatisfaction with human life, one’s own life and news of the world.

It is useless, useless, said the Philosopher. Life is useless, all useless (Eccl 1:2). 

With realization that human accomplishment is vanity, comes the idea of escape.  Leave the bad, get to the good.  How to get on the path to the good?  Where is that “narrow way” (Mt 7:14) that leads to life, nirvana?

I hope you find it.

 

 

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‘Stabat Mater’

Though I’m a Catholic, I’m not one for Marian devotion.  My heart belongs to Jesus.  However I was struck by the poetic beauty of this Marian hymn I came across in my access of today’s scripture readings on the U.S. Catholic bishops site.

A Mother Stands (Latin, Stabat Mater)

At the cross her station keeping,
Stood the mournful Mother weeping,
Close to Jesus to the last.

Through her heart, his sorrow sharing,
All his bitter anguish bearing,
Now at length the sword had passed.

Oh, how sad and sore distressed
Was that Mother highly blessed
Of the sole begotten One!

Christ above in torment hangs,
She beneath beholds the pangs
Of her dying, glorious Son.

Is there one who would not weep,
‘Whelmed in miseries so deep,
Christ’s dear Mother to behold?

Can the human heart refrain
From partaking in her pain,
In that mother’s pain untold?

Bruised, derided, cursed, defiled,
She beheld her tender Child,
All with bloody scourges rent.

For the sins of his own nation
Saw him hang in desolation
Till his spirit forth he sent.

O sweet Mother! font of love,
Touch my spirit from above,
Make my heart with yours accord.

Make me feel as you have felt;
Make my soul to glow and melt
With the love of Christ, my Lord.

Holy Mother, pierce me through,
In my heart each wound renew
Of my Savior crucified.

Let me share with you his pain,
Who for all our sins was slain,
Who for me in torments died.

Let me mingle tears with you,
Mourning him who mourned for me,
All the days that I may live.

By the cross with you to stay,
There with you to weep and pray,
Is all I ask of you to give.

Virgin of all virgins blest!
Listen to my fond request:
Let me share your grief divine.

Let me to my latest breath,
In my body bear the death
Of that dying Son of yours.

Wounded with his every wound,
Steep my soul till it has swooned
In his very Blood away.

Be to me, O Virgin, nigh,
Lest in flames I burn and die,
In his awful judgment day.

Christ, when you shall call me hence,
Be your Mother my defense,
Be your cross my victory.

While my body here decays,
May my soul your goodness praise,
Safe in heaven eternally.
Amen. (Alleluia)

In Catholic church liturgy, September 15 is a day of memorial for our Lady of sorrows.  This 13th century hymn therefore, is fitting to include in church worship for the day. One may learn about the background to the hymn at Wikipedia.  I think the words or ideas of the hymn are theologically valid for any Christian, Protestant or other.  Its artistic beauty is self-evident.

The inspiration here is John 19:25ff., one of my favorite passages in all the Bible.  It really shows personal involvement in the composition of Gospel of John, so different from the oral tradition of the synoptic gospels.

  Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother
and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas,
and Mary Magdalene.
When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved
he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son.”
Then he said to the disciple,
“Behold, your mother.”
And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.

 

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Jesus Said:

One thing about the apocryphal Gospel of Thomas, which has some crazy content:  almost all its sayings of Jesus begin with the simple introductory formula, “Jesus said” (in Coptic, the word order is, “said Jesus”).  This implies that Jesus was an important person, for his words were memorable and so preserved.

So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today (Mt 6:34).

Hoy mismo!

This is the day!  It’s today!  A book called The Eternal Now (1963) by Paul Tillich has it that the eternal is present in the temporal.  Hey, now!

“Throughout this life, you can never be certain of living long enough to take another breath”  (The Zen Teaching of Huang Po, tr. John Blofeld, NY: Grove, 1959, p. 64).

The wise advice of Jesus of Nazareth shows the future interfering with people’s minds and it shouldn’t.  Perhaps the state we’re in is the result of original sin.  Can one live without the future?

 

 

 

 

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Remember Lin Zhao

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Lin Zhao, 1932-1968, was a Chinese dissident, executed for her loudly expressed views against the corruption and injustice of Chairman Mao’s communist regime.  She was a convert to Christianity after attending a Methodist school and joined the Communist Party as a 16-year-old.  She was an agitator early on and she didn’t live long, but her writings survive.

Jailed in 1960, Lin Zhao spent 8 years in prison until she was secretly killed by firing squad.  In prison she was not silent, but continued her advocacy for reform on behalf of “the common people.”  In her cell, she wrote in her own blood, on linens and such, pricking her finger with bamboo.

Lin Zhao’s radical activism reminds us, in the West, of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, but she stands in a long line of Chinese dissent.  She combined religious and political idealism and dedicated herself to a better world.

Resources:

Lian Xi, ‘The Chinese Dissident who Wrote in Blood’

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lin_Zhao

‘Screening China’

‘In Search of Lin Zhao’s Soul’

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“I don’t give a damn about your intentions [at all]”

 

Above title of this post is a line from the song by Alabama Shakes – ‘Always Alright.’  They performed it on the Saturday Night Live stage in February 2013.  You may check out their SNL shows (and others) on YouTube.  They are of high quality, musically speaking, representing the genre of southern rock and roll.

Alabama Shakes . . . their music is emotionally powerful.

n.b. Info on the band:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alabama_Shakes

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