We tend to think that the trial of Jesus happened only at the end of his life, before the rulers of the people, Pilate and Herod. In reality, Jesus was on trial for the entirety of his earthly mission. Every time he did or said something, it raised implicit questions, like, "Who does he think he is?" and "Is this the one to come?" Response to those questions depended on two basic sources for discernment: the religious tradition of Israel and the openness of each individual to accept or reject the challenge of Jesus' person and message.
Look at your Advent calendar. Can you spot John the Baptist with his 100 percent organic outfit and odd, non-vegetarian diet? Although he hardly fits the cute calendar images, he's a key character of the Advent season. His warning that it's time to change our behavior may sound a bit like "You'd better watch out ... you'd better not pout ..." but the reward he promises for conversion is not at all like a tinseled tree surrounded by toys and electronics.
Spiritual Reflections: We begin the season of Advent with readings that direct our gaze to the ultimate and the immediate realities of our lives.
Spiritual Reflections: The inscription explaining Jesus' execution, "This is the King of the Jews," has the power to indict everyone who contemplates it.
Spiritual Reflections: Although the desire to assign places for others in the afterlife is tempting, the sacred texts summon our attention and our energies elsewhere.
At the peak of his 40-year career, radio broadcaster Paul Harvey (1918-2009) was heard on 1,600 radio stations by 24 million people weekly. He was best-known for what he called "The Rest of the Story." In that segment, he'd feature some well-known person or event and then supply his listeners with some added and perhaps previously unknown information that completed the story and made it all the more fascinating. Hence, the rest of the story.
There is an atmosphere in two of today's readings that Catholic blogger Todd Flowerday calls "an interlude of mercy" (catholicsensibility.wordpress.com/2014/08/17/reconciliation-lectionary-wisdom). The phrase well captures a sense of God's patience with us sinners as we figure out how to respond to love.
Have you run into those churchy types whose very presence makes you aware that you don't measure up? They don't have to publish their religious résumé. Something about their bearing broadcasts it without any need for a printed copy.
When we meet the judge of today's parable, we are quickly informed that the widow can't appeal to his good side -- he doesn't have one. So, faced with his stony heart, she becomes the water that drips incessantly until something is worn away.
Humans have a penchant for cultivating an "us and them" mentality. In the ancient world, some among Jesus' contemporaries had grown up with such a mentality, and it was difficult to overcome. For centuries, the Jews had been accustomed to their special role as God's chosen people. They were to be uniquely instrumental in God's plan of salvation for all people.