Archive for the ‘Repentance’ Tag

Devotion for Proper 6 (Year D)   1 comment

Parable of the Sower

Above:  The Parable of the Sower

Image in the Public Domain

Being Good Soil

JUNE 14, 2020

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The Collect:

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 6:(8) 9-13 or Ezekiel 17:22-24 or Daniel 4:1-37

Psalm 7

Matthew 14:10-17 (18-33) 34-35 or Mark 4:1-25 or Luke 8:4-25; 13:18-21

Ephesians 4:17-24 (26-32; 5:1-2) 3-7 or 2 Peter 2:1-22

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Your mind must be renewed by a spiritual revolution so that you can put on the new self that has been created in God’s way, in the goodness and holiness of the truth.

–Ephesians 4:23-24, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

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Much of the content of the assigned readings, with their options, functions as commentary on that summary statement.  To borrow a line from Rabbi Hillel, we ought to go and learn it.

The commission of (First) Isaiah might seem odd.  Does the text indicate that God is commanding Isaiah to preach to the population but not to help them avoid the wrath of God?  Or, as many rabbis have argued for a long time, should one read imperative verbs as future tense verbs and the troublesome passage therefore as a prediction?  I prefer the second interpretation.  Does not God prefer repentance among sinners?  The pairing of this reading with the Parable of the Sower and its interpretation seems to reinforce this point.  I recall some bad sermons on this parable, which is not about the sower.  The sower did a bad job, I remember hearing certain homilists say.  To fixate on the sower and his methodology is to miss the point.  The name of the story should be the Parable of the Four Soils, a title I have read in commentaries.  One should ask oneself,

What kind of soil am I?

Am I the rocky soil of King Zedekiah (in Ezekiel 17:11-21) or the fertile soil of the betrayed man in Psalm 7?  A mustard seed might give rise to a large plant that shelters many varieties of wildlife, and therefore be like the Davidic dynastic tree in Ezekiel 17:22-24 and Nebuchadnezzar II in Daniel 4, but even a mustard seed needs good soil in which to begin the process of sprouting into that plant.

One might be bad soil for any one of a number of reasons.  One might not care.  One might be oblivious.  One might be hostile.  One might be distracted and too busy.  Nevertheless, one is bad soil at one’s own peril.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 16, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTIETH DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF GUSTAF AULEN, SWEDISH LUTHERAN THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT FILIP SIPHONG ONPHITHAKT, ROMAN CATHOLIC CATECHIST AND MARTYR IN THAILAND

THE FEAST OF MAUDE DOMINICA PETRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MODERNIST THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF RALPH ADAMS CRAM AND RICHARD UPJOHN, ARCHITECTS; AND JOHN LAFARGE, SR., PAINTER AND STAINED GLASS MAKER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/12/16/being-good-soil-2/

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Devotion for Proper 4 (Year D)   1 comment

©Photo. R.M.N. / R.-G. OjŽda

©Photo. R.M.N. / R.-G. OjŽda

Above:  The Exorcism

Image in the Public Domain

Faithfulness and Faithlessness

NOT OBSERVED IN 2019

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The Collect:

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Deuteronomy 31:30-32:27 or Isaiah 5:8-17

Psalm 142

Matthew 17:9-20 or Mark 9:9-29 or Luke 9:18-27 (28-36) 37-45

Philippians 2:14-30

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A typically Jewish way of speaking and writing about God is to recall what God has done.  After all, God is like what God has done.  Furthermore, we are like what we have done, although we are far more than the worst deeds we have committed.  The relevant issue is the pattern of what we have done and of what we are doing.  Repentance is possible, after all, and the past is not necessarily accurate in predicting the future.

Consider with me, O reader, the assigned readings for this Sunday.  The two options for the First Reading proclaim divine judgment upon the faithless, for whom God has done much.  The faithless should know better.  Perhaps they do know better, but they are not acting as if they do.  The lection from Isaiah 5 follows the famous passage likening rebellious Israel to a well-tended vineyard that yields wild grapes.  God will judge that vineyard, we read.  Likewise, we read of faithless Israel in Deuteronomy.  If Richard Elliott Friedman is correct, lurking in the background of the text is a condemnation of polytheism.  God is, after all, insistent upon monotheism in the Hebrew Bible.  If Dr. Friedman is correct, faithlessness to YHWH entails turning to supposedly subordinate deities, members of the divine council–a concept Hebrew prophets opposed vigorously.

In contrast to those lections we read Psalm 142, the lament of a dying man whom other mortals have abandoned.  This man, contemplating the imminent unknown, turns to God alone.  One may assume safely that God is faithful to those who demonstrate fidelity.

The passage from Philippians belongs to a section of that epistle in which one finds advice regarding how to live faithfully in community.  People are to think about each other and model their lives after Jesus, whose humility and selflessness is certainly challenging to emulate.  In this context the customary verses about people with polysyllabic names take on more importance than they might otherwise; these verses model the attitudes and behaviors the preceding verses extol.  People are like what they do.

The three options for the Gospel reading are parallel versions of the same story, set immediately after the Transfiguration of Jesus.  One might fixate on the typically Hellenistic diagnosis of epilepsy as demonic possession, but to do so would be to miss the point.  In the narrative the Apostles have just learned of Christ’s true identity in all of its glory, yet they have not grasped this revelation, and were therefore ineffective.  The lesson for we who read these stories thousands of years later is to ponder whether we grasp who Jesus is and whether we are as effective as we can be in our discipleship.

Our challenge in this regard is to render proper thanksgiving to God in our lives.  We can do this only be grace, of course, but our desire to pursue this course of action is also essential.  Obstacles include laziness, fear, selfishness, cultural conditioning, the pressure to conform, and simple obliviousness.  If we are to grow into our full spiritual stature, however, we must seek to follow and honor God and to trust in divine grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 16, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTIETH DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF GUSTAF AULEN, SWEDISH LUTHERAN THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT FILIP SIPHONG ONPHITHAKT, ROMAN CATHOLIC CATECHIST AND MARTYR IN THAILAND

THE FEAST OF MAUDE DOMINICA PETRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MODERNIST THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF RALPH ADAMS CRAM AND RICHARD UPJOHN, ARCHITECTS; AND JOHN LAFARGE, SR., PAINTER AND STAINED GLASS MAKER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/12/16/faithfulness-and-faithlessness/

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Devotion for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday After Proper 25, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Belshazzar's Feast

Above:   Belshazzar’s Feast, by Mattia Preti

Image in the Public Domain

Humility Before People and God

OCTOBER 28-30, 2019

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The Collect:

Holy God, our righteous judge, daily your mercy

surprises us with everlasting forgiveness.

Strengthen our hope in you, and grant that all the

peoples  of the earth may find their glory in you,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 51

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Samuel 2:1-10 (Monday)

Daniel 5:1-12 (Tuesday)

Daniel 5:13-31 (Wednesday)

Psalm 84:8-12 (All Days)

1 Peter 4:12-19 (Monday)

1 Peter 5:1-11 (Tuesday)

Matthew 21:28-32 (Wednesday)

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O LORD of hosts,

happy are they who put their trust in you!

–Psalm 84:12, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Do not be arrogant, the readings for these three days tell us.  Trust in God instead, we read.  Daniel 5 tells us of Belshazzar, viceroy under this father, King Nabonidus (reigned 556-539 B.C.E.) of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire.  God, the story tells us, found Belshazzar wanting.  Furthermore, we read, God delivered the empire to the Persians and the Medes, and the Babylonian Exile ended shortly thereafter.

Cease your proud boasting,

let no word of arrogance pass your lips,

for the LORD is a God who knows;

he governs what mortals do.

Strong men stand in mute dismay,

but those who faltered put on new strength.

Those who had plenty sell themselves for a crust,

and the hungry grow strong again.

The barren woman bears seven children,

and the mother of many sons is left to languish?

–1 Samuel 2:3-5, The Revised English Bible (1989)

That is a timeless lesson.  We read of Jesus telling certain professional religious people that penitent tax collectors and the prostitutes will precede them in the Kingdom of God.  Later in 1 Peter, we read of the imperative to clothe ourselves in humility, when dealing with each other and God.  As Proverbs 3:34-35 tells us,

Toward the scorners he [God] is scornful,

but to the humble he shows favor.

The wise will inherit honor,

but stubborn fools, disgrace.

The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Persecution might come, but one must remain faithful.  That is a recurring message in the Bible, from Jeremiah to the Books of the Maccabees to the Gospels to 1 Peter to Hebrews to the Revelation of John.  It can also be a difficult lesson on which to act, as many chapters in the history of Christianity attest.  Fortunately, God is merciful than generations of Donatists (regardless of their formal designations) have been.  That lack of mercy flows from, among  other sources, pride–the pride which says,

I persevered.  Why did you not do likewise?  I must be spiritually superior to you.

We all need to acknowledge, confess, and repent of our sins.  We all need to change our minds and turn around spiritually.  We all need to be humble before God and each other.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 31, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE VISITATION OF MARY TO ELIZABETH

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/05/31/humility-before-people-and-god/

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Devotion for Friday Before Proper 20, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Sky with clouds sunny day

Above:   Sky with Clouds

Image in the Public Domain

Grace and Judgment

SEPTEMBER 20, 2019

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The Collect:

God among us, we gather in the name of your Son

to learn love for one another.  Keep our feet from evil paths.

Turn our minds to your wisdom and our hearts to the grace

revealed in your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 48

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The Assigned Readings:

Ezekiel 22:17-31

Psalm 113

Romans 8:31-39

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Who is like the LORD our God, who sits enthroned on high,

but stoops to behold the heavens and the earth?

He takes up the weak out of the dust and lifts up the poor from the ashes.

He sets them with the princes, with the princes of his people.

–Psalm 113:5-7, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The reading from Ezekiel 22 is full of divine judgment on the unrighteous, notably false prophets who have stolen from people, destroyed lives, and taken lives, among other offenses.

I will repay them for their conduct–declares the Lord GOD.

–Ezekiel 22:31b, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Good news for the oppressed is frequently bad news for their unrepentant oppressors.

St. Paul the Apostle made a wonderful point about the love of God in Christ:

For I am certain of this:  neither death nor life, no angel, no prince, nothing that exists, nothing still to come, not any power, or height or depth, nor any created thing, can ever come between us and the love of God made visible in Christ Jesus our Lord.

–Romans 8:38-39, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

That passage reminds me of Psalm 139, in which the author praises God for being omnipresent:

Where could I go to escape your spirit?

Where could I flee from your presence?

If I climb the heavens, you are there,

there too, if I lie in Sheol.

If I flew to the point of sunrise,

or westward across the sea,

your hand would still be guiding me,

your right hand holding me.

If I asked darkness to cover me,

and light to become night around me,

that darkness would not be dark to you,

night would be as light as day.

–Psalm 139:7-12, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

On the other hand, the author of Psalm 139 prays that God will kill the wicked and announces his hatred of those who hate God in verses 19-22.  Does not the love of God extend to them?  Does not God desire that they confess their sins and repent?  Does not God prefer that oppressors cease their oppression and become godly?  In Psalm 23 God prepares a banquet for the author in the presence of the author’s enemies, who are powerless to prevent the banquet.  Furthermore, only divine goodness and kindness pursue the author; his enemies fall away, unable to keep up with divine love and might.

God does not separate us from divine love, grace, kindness, and mercy.  No, we choose to acknowledge it and to act accordingly or to do the opposite.  Love comes with the possibility of rejection and the duty of acceptance.  Grace is free yet definitely not cheap, for it changes its recipients; it comes with obligations.  God liberates us to love, glorify, and enjoy Him forever.  Will we accept that grace and its accompanying duties, especially those regarding how we treat our fellow human beings?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 19, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANDREW BOBOLA, JESUIT MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT DUNSTAN OF CANTERBURY, ABBOT OF GLASTONBURY AND ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY

THE FEAST OF SAINT IVO OF CHARTRES, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT IVO OF KERMARTIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND ADVOCATE OF THE POOR

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/05/19/grace-and-judgment/

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Devotion for Tuesday After Proper 19, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Jonah Preaching to the Ninevites

Above:   Jonah Preaching to the Ninevites, by Gustave Dore

Image in the Public Domain

The Call to Repent

SEPTEMBER 17, 2019

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The Collect:

O God, overflowing with mercy and compassion,

you lead back to yourself all those who go astray.

Preserve your people in your loving care,

that we may reject whatever is contrary to you

and may follow all things that sustain our life in

your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 47

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The Assigned Readings:

Jonah 3:1-10

Psalm 73

2 Peter 3:8-13

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When my mind became embittered,

I was sorely wounded in my heart.

–Psalm 73:21, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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To alter a familiar quote slightly, I have resembled that remark.  So did the authors of many of the Psalms, such as number 137:

Remember the day of Jerusalem, O LORD, against the people of Edom,

who said, “Down with it! down with it! even to the ground!”

O Daughter of Babylon, doomed to destruction,

happy the one who pays you back for what you have done to us!

Happy shall he be who takes your little ones,

and dashes them against the rock!

–Psalm 137:7-9, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

That remark from Psalm 73 also described Jonah, a fictional and satirical character who wanted to see the great enemy of his nation destroyed by God, not to repent–to turn around, literally.  He was the most reluctant of prophets.  Jonah did not understand that, in the words of 2 Peter 3:9b,

It is not his [God’s] will that any should be lost, but that all should come to repentance.

The Revised English Bible (1989)

The rest of the story is that Jonah completed his mission successfully, against his will and to his consternation.  (Read Chapter 4.)  He went off to sulk and became fond of a plant that provided shade.  God killed the plant, making Jonah even more unhappy.  Then God chastised him for caring about the plant yet not the people of Nineveh.

That is how the book ends–on an ambiguous note.  The story invites us to ask ourselves if we are like Jonah and tells us, if we are, to repent.  Not all of us will, unfortunately, but at least we have the opportunity to do so.  That is evidence of grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 19, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANDREW BOBOLA, JESUIT MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT DUNSTAN OF CANTERBURY, ABBOT OF GLASTONBURY AND ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY

THE FEAST OF SAINT IVO OF CHARTRES, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT IVO OF KERMARTIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND ADVOCATE OF THE POOR

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/05/19/the-call-to-repent/

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Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before Proper 15, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Ark of the Covenant in the Temple of Dagon

Above:  The Ark of the Covenant in the Temple of Dagon

Image in the Public Domain

Keeping Faith

AUGUST 15, 2019

AUGUST 16, 2019

AUGUST 17, 2019

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The Collect:

O God, judge eternal, you love justice and hate oppression,

and you call us to share your zeal for truth.

Give us courage to take our stand with all victims of bloodshed and greed,

and, following your servants and prophets, to look to the pioneer and perfecter of our faith,

your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 45

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The Assigned Readings:

Joshua 7:1, 10-26 (Thursday)

1 Samuel 5:1-12 (Friday)

1 Samuel 6:1-16 (Saturday)

Psalm 82 (All Days)

Hebrews 10:26-31 (Thursday)

Hebrews 10:32-39 (Friday)

Matthew 24:15-27 (Saturday)

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God takes his stand in the divine assembly,

surrounded by the gods he gives judgement.

–Psalm 82:1, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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In 1 Samuel 5 and 6 Philistines captured the Ark of the Covenant, which proved to be more than they knew how to handle.  Idols bowed down to the Ark.  The Ashdodites came down with what was most likely venereal disease, although other translations include hemorrhoids and the bubonic plague.  The Philistines returned the Ark promptly.

God is more than we mere mortals can handle or contain.  Some of our theological propositions are true (at least partially), but the combination of these does not equal the truth of God.  There is always a glorious mystery of divinity; one should accept and embrace it.  We ought to persevere in faith and good works, especially when doing so is difficult.  Doing the right thing during good times is easy, and every day is a good day for faith and good works.  Yet keeping faith during challenging times is when, as an old saying tells us, the rubber meets the road.  When we fail, we have an obligation to express remorse and to repent.

Writing these words and creating this post is easy.  Living these words is more difficult, however.  I have to work on that task daily.  The results vary from day to day and from time of day to time of day.  To keep trying is crucial.  To do so while trusting in God, who is always somewhat mysterious, and in the existence of grace makes succeeding more likely.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 23, 2016 COMMON ERA

WEDNESDAY IN HOLY WEEK

THE FEAST OF GEORGE RUNDLE PRYNNE, ANGLICAN PRIEST, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT GREGORY THE ILLUMINATOR, PATRIARCH OF ARMENIA

THE FEAST OF HEINRICH VON LAUFENBERG, GERMAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT TURIBIUS OF MOGROVEJO, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF LIMA

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/03/23/keeping-faith/

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Devotion for Monday and Tuesday After Proper 14, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment


Sacrifice of Isaac--Caravaggio

Above:  The Sacrifice of Isaac, by Caravaggio

Image in the Public Domain

Active Faith

AUGUST 12 and 13, 2019

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The Collect:

Almighty God, you sent your Holy Spirit to be the life and light of your church.

Open our hearts to the riches of your grace,

that we may be ready to receive you wherever you appear,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 44

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The Assigned Readings:

2 Chronicles 33:1-17 (Monday)

2 Chronicles 34:22-33 (Tuesday)

Psalm 89:1-18 (Both Days)

Hebrews 11:1-7 (Monday)

Hebrews 11:17-28 (Tuesday)

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How blessed the nation that learns to acclaim you!

They will live, Yahweh, in the light of your presence.

–Psalm 89:15, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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That is the theology in the accounts of Kings Manasseh and Josiah of Judah.  We read of Manasseh (reigned 698/687-642 B.C.E.) in 2 Chronicles 33:1-20 and 2 Kings 21:1-18.  The story in 2 Kings is more unflattering than the version in 2 Chronicles, for the latter mentions his repentance.  Manasseh’s grandson, Josiah (reigned 640-609 B.C.E.) is on the scene in 2 Chronicles 34-35 and 2 Kings 22:1-23:30.  His fidelity to the Law of Moses delays the destruction of Judah, we read.

Hebrews 11 focuses on faith.  Verse 1 defines faith as

the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

In context this definition of faith is consistent with the understanding of St. Paul the Apostle, for whom faith was inherently active, hence the means of one’s justification with God.  In the Letter of James, however, faith is intellectual, so justification comes via works.  This is not a contradiction, just defining “faith” differently.  Active faith is the virtue extolled consistently.

I argue with Hebrews 11:17-20.  The near-sacrifice of Isaac (Genesis 22) was a form of child abuse.  There was no way it did not damage the father-son relationship.  Earlier in Genesis Abraham had interceded on behalf of strangers in Sodom (Chapter 18).  Yes, he had relatives there (see Genesis 13, 14, and 19), but he argued on behalf of strangers.  In Chapter 22 he did not do that for his son, Isaac.  God tested Abraham, who failed the test; he should have argued.

Did I understand you correctly?

would have been a good start.

May we have the active faith to follow God.  May we know when to question, when to argue, and when to act.  May we understand the difference between an internal monologue and a dialogue with God.  Out of faith may we act constructively and thereby leave the world better than we found it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 23, 2016 COMMON ERA

WEDNESDAY IN HOLY WEEK

THE FEAST OF GEORGE RUNDLE PRYNNE, ANGLICAN PRIEST, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT GREGORY THE ILLUMINATOR, PATRIARCH OF ARMENIA

THE FEAST OF HEINRICH VON LAUFENBERG, GERMAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT TURIBIUS OF MOGROVEJO, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF LIMA

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/03/23/active-faith-2/

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