1st Reading – 1 Kings 19: 16b, 19-21
Elijah has just finished a very difficult time, facing down the false prophets of Baal and then running for his life from Queen Jezebel. He is tired and asks the Lord to relieve him of his burdens – even his very life.
Then the Lord agrees to have Elijah pass on his role as prophet to Elisha. It is interesting to think that God’s call to Elisha comes to him right in the middle of his ordinary life. And – once he understands the call, he responds with profound commitment. This is quite a powerful story! What do you find thought-provoking in this passage?
From Mary Birmingham, Word & Worship Wrkbk for Yr. C, 409:
A cloak symbolized the personality and rights of the owner, as well as the owner’s protection. The gift of a cloak was a sign of unity and friendship. It was also a sign of one’s function or charism. Elisha, though a very wealthy man (most people would own only one oxen) responds wholeheartedly with a grand gesture of total commitment to the cloak and the call.
Here’s another way of using this story as a means to pray and be open to how God might be speaking to you through it (from Margaret Silf, Inner Compass, p. 13-14):
After reading the passage of 1 Kings 19:19 about Elisha, imagine yourself in a field. The field is being plowed, and you have your own furrow to plow. The field is the field of the world . . . Your hands are on the plow and your feet are heavy with the earth. Perhaps you feel that you are carrying out this gigantic task all alone. But look ahead of you. See the eleven teams of oxen that Elisha saw. You are not alone. You are a part of a long line of life and meaning. But this is not just any line of oxen. It is your own personal line . . .
Who or what is in your line of oxen teams? Think of significant people who have made a difference in your life. Some may have helped provide the pulling power for your plow and its progress. Remember also the important moments, events, decisions or experiences that have formed your furrow. Notice the landscape of your part of the field. Think of how a farmer plows a straight furrow by keeping his gaze on a fixed object ahead.
How has Jesus been your fixed object? He needs to be at the head of each one of our personal lines of oxen teams. It is his risen life and energy that provide the power for our every moment. Think of how he has been both your beginning and your end – both your starting point and your goal. Talk with Jesus about this. As you finish your prayer time, ask Jesus to help you to know –deeply—that you do not plow alone . . .
2nd Reading – Galatians 5:1, 13-18
What did Paul mean by ‘flesh’ and ‘spirit’? These terms, flesh and spirit, which are often used to translate the Greek sarx and pneuma, have caused tragic misunderstandings of Paul’s theology. Paul has often been blamed for seeing the body and sex as sinful — evil. This is unfortunate for it is far from what Paul has in mind when he uses the word, sarx. He does not mean the physical, sexual part of a human. Sarx refers to the WHOLE human as he/she is enslaved to weakness and corruption. (Even when Paul lists sexual ‘sins’ with prominence, he is saying that sexual abuse and misuse are symptoms of the whole person’s disorientation away from God, the true source of life.) The pneuma, or spirit, on the other hand, is the full human who is open to being influenced by God’s Spirit and charis, saving power. Our whole being “every cell of our body, every moment of our mind is BOTH flesh and spirit.” We are enslaved by the power of sin. Or, we are liberated to grow into the image of God that we are intended to be. (Paul Tillich, Shaking of the Foundations, 133, and The Eternal Now, 48).
Nathaniel Hawthorne, probably without intending it, gave us a touching example of this in his book, The Scarlet Letter. Chillingsworth’s decision not to let go of his hatred and revenge, real evil, affects his whole being. By the end of his life, he is a scarred, ugly, shriveled human — sarx. Hester, on the other hand, is transformed by her openness to love and repentance. Even though she is known as a public sinner, the goodness (pneuma) grows and makes her whole person more beautiful. The meaning of the ‘A’ that she must wear changes from Adulteress to Angel. Paul might have seen much of his own theology in this story.
Fuller, “Scripture in Depth,” www.liturgy.slu.edu & M Birmingham, W&W YrC, 409-410:
The freedom that Paul talks about is a freedom grounded in love – for others. We are freed from our small, crippled, self-centered ‘false’ selves – it is false because this is not the way that God has called us to be. The Spirit of Love – which is the Spirit that God freely gives us – provides us with a set of antennae enabling us in each concrete situation to live a life that love requires, without a lot of rules and regulations. Once we are open to God’s Spirit, then – while we may still struggle with the ‘flesh’ (the old, weak, un-redeemed self – the self that is resistant to God’s life and freedom) we will have in the Spirit an indwelling strength and understanding that will help us to live this new life, a life of true love and freedom.
The Gospel – Luke 9: 51-62
Why do you think Luke has this right at the beginning of Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem?
Here Jesus is emphasizing the primacy of commitment to God’s reign, God’s kingdom. All else is secondary. The imagery used is typically Semitic and strongly worded to drive the idea home. Details should not be pressed. To break the saying down into fractions is to lose their impact. The main point is clear: human considerations are insignificant . . . families ties must be seen in connection to our commitment to Jesus. The Palestinian one-hand plow cannot be easily guided without full attention given to the furrows. So, too, the reign of God calls for undivided attention and commitment . . . Everyday of our lives presents new challenges, new problems. There is always the unknown lurking about . . . Yet, in the face of the unknown, Jesus never wavered. We are asked to follow him. We are to walk with the Spirit that gives life, not with the flesh that tires, doubts, and becomes easily discouraged. (R. Faley, Footprints on the Mountain, p.456)
1st Reading – Genesis 14: 18 – 20
Melchizedek is mentioned in only three places in scripture: this reading plus Psalm 110:4 and Hebrews 5:6, 10; 6:20-7:22. He is said to be the king of Salem; its name means peace. This place becomes the city of Jerusalem, the center of Israel’s kingdom.
It was customary for a king to be hospitable toward a victorious leader, but there are no ulterior motives here. Instead, there is a beautiful blessing ritual, to which Abram gives thanks. Note that Abram did not take his victory greedily. He only wanted to save his nephew Lot and retrieve the possessions that were taken from him. For the victory and the blessing, he gives thanks to God. How do you give thanks to god for the victories and blessings in your life?
Later Christian writers would evoke this episode in history and consider it a prefigurement of Christ. Jesus would offer the blessing of his life – the effect would be irrevocable and would be the gift of God’s self to the entire world – redemption. (Birmingham, W&W, p. 560-561).
In exchange for the blessing, Abram offers a tenth of everything. In Eucharist, we offer ourselves to Christ just as Christ offered Christself. We are doing as He said to do. What does this mean for you? What do you offer?
2nd Reading – 1 Corinthians 11: 23-26
This is the earliest written account (maybe 53-55 AD) of Jesus’ Last Supper and the words that have become our Eucharistic prayer.
From Celebration, June 1998:
Eucharist is about a remembering (anamnesis) that does not simply call to mind the past events of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. The Eucharist makes present here and now, within the gathered assembly of believers, the reality of Jesus’ saving death and resurrection. Each Eucharist is a “living remembrance of Jesus’ act of love.” By our participation (offering our ‘hungry selves’, hearkening to God’s Word, sharing peace, and then eating and drinking) in the Eucharist, believers proclaim and are integrated into that death and are given a taste of the resurrected life to come.
We “proclaim the death of the Lord” . . . What does this mean? In Eucharist Christ comes to us as the one in whom God participates in the emptiness and negativity of life…as the one who accepts us in the most unrestricted way possible…and as the one who in virtue of this acceptance, lays claim to all that we are and can be. The Eucharist is not simply a celebration of the resurrection of Jesus or the fact that he now lives. Rather, it is a celebration of the fact that it is the crucified one who now lives; it is a celebration of the God who came into the brokenness, the ‘unwholeness’ and the unholiness’ of the human situation, and who came to stay. In Jesus, God has come to be with us where we are. To proclaim the death of the Lord is to find in his death a new definition of ourselves – a new understanding of the meaning of success and failure, of the meaning of life and death, of what it means to be a human person. (John Dwyer, The Sacraments, “Chapter Eight: the Eucharist” p.129-130)
The Gospel – Luke 9: 11-17
It is important to place this gospel story within the context of the overall gospel of Luke. Chapter 9 had started with Jesus commissioning the Twelve and sending them out to proclaim the Kingdom of God. After they go out Luke tells us of Herod’s curiosity about Jesus: “I beheaded John. Who then is this about whom I hear such things?” Then the Twelve return. They withdraw in private to Bethsaida, but the crowds follow Jesus, and yet, he welcomed them . . . here then, is where the gospel story begins. It ends with a superabundance of satisfying food.
From “Working with the Word,” http://liturgy.slu.edu:
Too often we narrowly view Eucharist in the context of the Last Supper and its elements of bread and wine. This gospel expands our perception to include the whole event of hungering, and then gathering, blessing, breaking, giving, eating, and being satisfied. Evil diminishes life and enslaves people; God’s kingdom restores life and liberates them from hunger – ‘malnutrition’ and oppression. This story illustrates Jesus’ Beatitudes: Blessed are the poor, the kingdom is yours . . . and the hungry will be satisfied.
It is at Eucharist that we experience most intimately the communion of saints. Communion of saints in Greek is koinōnia hagiōn. Koinōnia is any partnership, fellowship, activity, experience or relationship where people come together. It is togetherness for mutual benefit and goodness (Barclay, The Apostles Creed p. 245). Hagiōn literally means sacred things, hagiōi meaning members of the Church as saints, or sacred people (p. 247). Imagine the sacred things as being that which we share in Eucharist, the body and blood of Jesus. In that sense, we are sharing sacred things as a communion (koinōnia) of sacred people. In the Byzantine liturgy, the priest says, “Holy things for holy people” at the distribution of Holy Communion (Shannon, Catholic Update May 2005, p.4). We become the body of Christ.
From the beginning at Samaritan Hospital in Troy
to this moment standing here today at St. Kat’s
I have been blessed.
I have been blessed with models
that have given me hope,
that have provided light on the journey.
My parents, especially my mother —
who instilled the importance of Faith early
through prayer, commitment to the Sacraments,
and teaching us about the Saints,
which included many summer trips to Auriesville
to walk the same grounds as did St. Kateri and St. Isaac Jogues.
I have been blessed with a Brother
who served as a mentor to me in challenging early days
and who instilled in me an example
of what it means to be dedicated and committed
to the priesthood.
To this day, I am overwhelmed
by the fact that my brother, crippled by neuropathy and arthritis
— at 88 years of age — finds a way with the help of good people
to get to St. Vincent’s Church so that he can say Mass
and bring the Word of the Lord to the people of his parish.
I have been blessed with a wonderful wife and companion,
Debbie, who has been for me a source of strength, wisdom,
and spiritual growth.
Deborah — who grew up in St. Helen’s and went to St. Helen’s School
from Kindergarten to Eighth Grade — has spoken
of how well the school reinforced the Faith
she first learned from her parents.
She was always St.. Helen in the School Procession of the Saints.
She made her first Communion at St. Helen’s and was confirmed at St. Helen’s.
She sees it as a blessing that new generations have the opportunity
to experience in our parish school
what she experienced.
We both see this parish as a vital presence on our faith journey.
It offers us community — we love our little parish of people
we sit near in Church — and when someone is missing we feel it.
I often have the opportunity to travel with Debbie
when she brings Communion to those who can’t make
it to St. Kateri’s
and I watch how much her presence as a Eucharistic Minister
means to those she is bringing the Lord to.
In so many vital ways —
from bringing communion to the homebound
to reaching out to the poor
to consoling those who have lost someone
to providing religious education for our youth —
Our parish is doing the work of the Lord.
And so I want to add St. Kateri’s as one of those
models that has given me hope.
As Debbie says, “You can always tell people who
are struggling with the Church to come to St. Kat’s
… where you have a community with a wonderful spirit,
and a priest who clearly loves being a priest
and loves people.
And you always know when he’s arrived for Mass
because you hear his joyful laugh.”
Yes, St. Kateri’s is a pretty special place
and we can help make it even better
by our commitment and our generosity.
We can make our worship and gathering spaces
more appealing and more welcoming;
we can make our school an even more vibrant
witness of Christ-centered learning;
and we can do so much more.
By re-igniting our parish we can become
a model and a beaming light for other parishes in our Diocese.
Yes, I am blessed to be part of St. Kateri’s,
and Debbie and I are happy to be participating in
St. Kateri’s Re-igniting our Faith Program.
Richard Grant wrote an article in the March 2018 Smithsonian Magazine entitled, “Do Trees Talk to Each Other?”. He interviewed German forester and author Peter Wohlleben who says, “Some are calling it the ‘wood-wide web’. All the trees here, and in every forest that is not too damaged, are connected to each other through underground fungal networks…scientists call these mycorrhizal networks.” He cites an example of a beech stump that still had chlorophyll in it because the surrounding trees were keeping it alive. Another professor of ecology, Suzanne Simard, describes mother trees found in forests, the biggest, oldest trees with the most fungal connections. “With their deep roots, they draw up water and make it available to shallow-rooted seedlings. They help neighboring trees by sending them nutrients, and when the neighbors are struggling, mother trees detect their distress signals and increase the flow of nutrients accordingly.” They find that trees share resources across other species because they’ve learned they will live longer and reproduce more in a healthy, stable forest. “That’s why they’ve evolved to help their neighbors.”
I started to think that this is church to me, a network of trees that carry each other in this way. We are all our own tree, but we hold each other up. Holy Spirit binds us together. Church helps me to see outside of myself to the greater whole of God’s forest. I feel a solidarity with others that are struggling and celebrating with their own growth. Individual trees, but our roots are woven together. Our roots go deep into that which gives us strength, hope, wisdom, and all that is loving and good…that which is God. It made me think about these questions, which I pose for your reflection too:
Who are our mother trees?
How much do I contribute to the network, and how much do I take?
Has disease come into our forest? Are we able to overcome it?
Do we show our colors like in autumn? Do we winter well, exposing our bare selves to the elements, so new life can come again in the spring?
Do we move in the breeze together?
Do we honor our stumps? And treasure our saplings?
Do I help those that are a different species than me enough?
Do we reach for the sun and stretch our roots to the life-giving water?
For as Jeremiah reminds us,
“Blessed is the man (and woman) who trusts in the Lord and whose trust is the Lord. For he (she) will be like a tree planted by the water, that extends its roots by a stream and will not fear when the heat comes,” (17:7-8).
Fr. Bob’s Pentecost Sunday homily…
I asked the Lord for more peace.
God said, “I have sent my Holy Spirit to you;
The Spirit of consolation and joy, my closeness to you.
This is your peace.”
I asked the Lord for more strength.
God said, “I have sent my Holy Spirit to you;
A Spirit strong enough for my Son to endure the cross.
This is your strength.”
I asked the Lord for more beauty.
God said, “I have sent my Holy Spirit to you;
The same Spirit that blew over the waters and created everything in its splendor.
This is your beauty.”
I asked the Lord for more understanding.
God said, “I have sent my Holy Spirit to you;
The Spirit will lead you to my will.
This is your understanding.”
I asked the Lord for more forgiveness.
God said, “I have sent my Holy Spirit to you;
The Spirit of reconciliation…
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Let us pray this Reflection by Hildegard of Bingen…
Most royal greening verdancy,
Rooted in the sun,
you shine with radiant light.
In this circle of earthly existence
you shine so finely, it surpasses understanding.
God hugs you.
You are encircled by the arms
of the mystery of God. Amen.
On Trinity Sunday we celebrate the very essence of God – and how we experience this essence. And so, by this celebration we hope to come to experience this mystery more deeply within our real and everyday lives. This God of love, truth and life is not a puzzle to be solved, but a mystery to be loved, experienced, and lived.
From Elizabeth Johnson’s Quest for the Living God, “Trinity: The Living God of Love”: Christians do not believe in three gods but in one. What is particular to this faith is the belief that this one God has graciously reached out to the world in love in the person of Jesus Christ in order to heal, redeem, and liberate…
It lifts up God’s gracious ways active in the world through Jesus Christ and the Spirit, and finds there the fundamental revelation about God’s own being as self-giving communion of love . . . This is about “an encounter with divine Mystery” . . . experiencing the saving God in a threefold way as beyond them, and with them, and within them . . .
‘Trinity theology’ too often has presented its findings as if they were a literal description of a self-contained Trinity of three divine persons knowing and loving each other. This, of course, is not the case, no such literal description is possible . . . we must think with humility. Our “God is not two men and a bird” even though artists have often depicted the Trinity this way. This art is a meditation not a photograph. (207-208)
God is love – God lives as this mystery of love. We humans are created in this image. “Knowing God is impossible unless we enter into a life of love and communion with others.” “The church’s identity and mission pivot on this point . . . Only a community of equal persons related in profound mutuality, pouring out praise of God and care for the world in need, only such a church corresponds to the triune God it purports to serve.” (223)
“The point is, with the three circling around in a mutual, dynamic movement of love, God is not a static being but a plenitude of self-giving love, a saving mystery that overflows into the world of sin and death to heal, redeem, and liberate. The whole point of this history of God with the world is to bring the world back into the life of God’s own communion, back into the divine dance of life (p. 214).
1st Reading – Proverbs 8: 22 – 31
The Book of Proverbs is sort of an ‘Owners manual for the Jewish mind, heart and hands. All the chapters tell the reader about a spirit of right living: a life of discipline, restraint, just judgment, and relational sensitivity. This passage is a poetic presentation of how Wisdom assisted in creation. The goodness of creation and of ourselves is affirmed so that we reverence and use well all of that creation. Larry Gillick, S.J., http://onlineministries.creighton.edu/CollaborativeMinistr/053010.html
This passage in the Old Testament is considered typology…a foreshadow or hint of what may be understood further in the New Testament. Trinity is not a concept that was revealed well in OT, but this is a prefigurement: the idea that the Father had company in creation.
2nd Reading – Romans 5: 1-5
Paul insists that standing firm in the midst of trials yields to endurance and a firm hope. For Paul, the assurance that salvation was a free gift for all inclusively was based on his belief in God’s love shown to us through the power of the Holy Spirit. It was Paul’s firm belief in the triune nature of God that would later be the foundation upon which theologians based the doctrine of Trinity. For Paul it was the Christian anchor: hope and endurance come through faith in the Triune God’s transcendent power! (Birmingham, Word & Worship, p. 554) How has hope and endurance helped you in the midst of trial?
The Gospel – John 16: 12-15
This passage continues the Farewell Discourse of the Last Supper that Jesus has with his disciples. Note how gentle Jesus is in not wanting to overwhelm them by only feeding them bits of information that they are able to understand (Think of how we teach our children!). “Spirit” in this piece of scripture in Greek is “paraclete”…one who stands by us. We have a God that stands forever with us. How does this speak to you?
Let us pray this prayer by Richard Rohr…
God for Us, we call You Father,
God Alongside Us, we call You Jesus,
God Within Us, we call You Holy Spirit.
You are the Eternal Mystery
That enables, enfolds, and enlivens all things,
Even us, and even me.
Every name falls short of your
Goodness and Greatness.
We can only see who You are in what is.
We ask for such perfect seeing.
As it was in the beginning, is now,
and ever shall be.
Fr. Bob’s 7th Sunday of Easter homily…
7th Sunday of Easter C
This week we hear some wonderful and indeed startling things from Jesus in the Gospel as we “listen in” on his prayer to the Father. To begin with, Jesus is praying for us with all his soul. We are absolutely central in his life. No parent could pray with more fervency for their children than Jesus does for us. And what he says is remarkable. Jesus prays, “so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you.” Jesus promises to be as close to us as he is with his heavenly Father! “And I have given them the glory you gave me.” Ours is not a diminished grace of Christ for God does not know how to give in half measures. Jesus has given us everything he has received from God. And finally, Jesus says, “Father, they are…
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Please note: There are reading options for this weekend, so I don’t know if I picked the same readings that Fr. Bob will choose to be read at Mass. So you may be surprised by different readings than these!
The Hebrew word ruah, the Greek pneuma, and the Latin spiritus all basically mean “air in motion,” “breath,” or “wind.” The root word is power. Apart from human and animal power, wind was the main observable energy source in the ancient world. Wind was seen as the breath of God – our own breath coming from that life-giving Breath. It is also interesting to note that in the ancient understanding of wind and water and fire – and thus spirit – we find them possessing what we consider to be properties of liquids. Thus we have the idea of the spirit being poured out. (The Cultural World of Jesus, Cycle A, J. Pilch, p.88-89)
Remember, the Jewish name for God, YHVH (yod, he, vav, he), is really an unspeakable name giving us a deep sense of God’s presence and life. It is a ‘word’ that was not spoken at all, but breathed! The one thing we do every moment of our lives is therefore to speak the name of God. Our first word and our last will be God’s name – God’s essence and Spirit. (R. Rohr, The Naked Now,p 25-26)
The Acts of the Apostles 2: 1-11
Pentecost (50 days since Passover; 7 weeks since planting time) originally was an agricultural feast of thanksgiving for the 1st grain harvest. Later, it came to be also a celebration of the gift of the Law to Moses on Sinai and the establishment of Israel as God’s people. Because it was the second of Judaism’s three major feasts, Jews from all over Palestine and the Greek territories (the Diaspora) would have traveled to Jerusalem. Luke wants us to notice how this diverse group is the perfect place for the Spirit to be present in power. (Celebration, May, 2002; R. Fuller, “Scripture in Depth” http://liturgy.slu.edu)
Luke is also telling us this Pentecost story in such a way as to remind us of the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. John the Baptist had promised that the Messiah
would baptize “with the holy Spirit and fire” (Lk 3: 16). Here we see that the fire comes in tongues giving courage, meaning and understanding to the gift of speech.
In many ways this story is the reversal of the Babel story in Genesis 11: 1-9. At Babel, sin (self-importance and false pride) had brought confusion and defeat. Now with the power of God’s Holy Spirit we see a new universal outreach characterized by mutual understanding and respect. Also where there was fear and inaction, there is now new energy and boldness that is rooted in faith in the God of Jesus. This Holy Spirit is still available today; we also need this ability to understand each other despite differences. Luke is writing to encourage us to be open to the ongoing process of transformation that is the Spirit! (Mary Birmingham, Word and Worship- Yr. A, p. 336; Celebration, May 2002)
Romans 8: 8-17
The terms that Paul uses – flesh and spirit – can be easily misunderstood today. The word translated as ‘flesh’ is sarx, our wounded, broken, attention-seeking self (little self, trapped, insecure). ‘Spirit’ is pneuma, or God’s power within us. Living through Spirit is when we come to know and trust God’s love…our true self (John Dwyer’s Themes from Romans, p. 77). Richard Rohr says, “What you seek is what you are. The search for God and the search for our True Self are finally the same search.”
Here Paul is insisting that baptism is only a beginning. Life in the Spirit is a life of freedom, but it is always a freedom struggling with constant temptation. To live in and with the Spirit of Christ means to live under the lordship of Christ. We are no longer to be controlled by ‘the flesh’ – we undergo a death to this way of living symbolized by the ‘drowning’ of our baptism. But this ‘dying’ really leads to a fuller life – but a life of struggling freedom. We must live in such a way that we continually call out “Abba, Father” even when the full experience of this new life is not quite yet . . . (Reginald Fuller, “Scripture in Depth” http://liturgy.slu.edu
John 14: 15 – 16, 23-26
One of the main points here is that the Father’s love for the disciples and Jesus’ abiding presence with and in them is the Holy Spirit. Filled with this Spirit, the disciples are able to love as Jesus loves and to keep his commandments and word as he desires. The Spirit is the power implanted within us to remember – to understand — and to ultimately fulfill the mission entrusted to us. Another Advocate will be with us – Jesus was the first Advocate to come to us. He came in the flesh to help us, defend us and plead a cause – the cause of God’s love. This first Advocate held nothing back – not even his life. But now this Word-Made-Flesh has ascended and sits at the right hand of the Father. But our wonderful God sends us another Advocate; this indwelling Advocate will remain forever. This Spirit continues the presence and the work of Jesus – in and with us. Living this paschal mystery does mean, though, that this good gift has its cost – we still must die to ourselves in order to be the true presence of Christ for others.
(“Working with the Word” http://liturgy.slu.edu and Living Liturgy, 2004, p. 140-141)
Fr. Bob’s 6th Sunday of Easter homily…
6th Sunday of Easter C
There is a rivalry, a contest that spans throughout the Gospels. It is between Jesus Christ and Caesar, the emperor of Rome. The two figures could not be more different, but both desire the same thing – the allegiance and devotion of all the world. If they were introduced as boxers coming into the arena, Caesar would be carried by his followers and the announcer would thunder, “Now entering, the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world, the dominator, ruler of an empire that stretches from sea to sea, Caesar! And in the other corner, a scrappy young carpenter’s son from Nazareth, Jesus Christ.” It looks like a mismatch. All the power of Caesar is manifest in power, money and armies. So we are left with the question: how did Jesus win?
Jesus and the early church were very intentional in boldly setting up this contrast…
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