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The art of scripture


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My recent vacation was to Rochester to explore sights and sounds in southeastern Minnesota. One venue I visited was the Rochester Art Center. One of the directors quipped you will find no dead people here.


In other words, all the exhibits were by living artists. One intriguing exhibit is entitled “Walk with us”. The exhibit described as an international, walking-based art exhibition in which fifteen artists share their discoveries and artistic extrapolations from the social, physical, and psychic landscapes they explored while walking. One group of artists picked anything they found on their walks, including bird droppings. Through various techniques they were able to place a dab of each item in a grid like pattern on the canvas.


This may beg the question, what is art? Several years ago, while on sabbatical at Notre Dame University, home of the Fighting Irish, I took an art class. I remember the instructor saying that art is often determined by money. A particular artist, a style of painting becomes popular as many will find the works visually satisfying physically, emotionally, and or spirituality.


In the world of artists and art collectors, the works of art, are comments on society. There is much discussion about techniques and material used. The living conditions and where the artist lives influence a style of art. As a result, a piece of art can have a depth of meaning and insight to the viewer.


Much like art, scripture has many layers. The bible contains the real presence of God’s Word, speaking to us through various writers. The scriptures are the living word of God, as one passage can bring us different insights. To gain a deeper insight into a passage many scripture scholars explore the Sitz im Leben (setting in life). In other words, the scholars, explore, among factors, when a text was written, what was happening in the world at that time of writing, the literary.


As a backdrop to today’s gospel, it is good to know that in Jesus’ time the shared meal was an important statement about social status. Most meals in Jesus’ time were attended by people of the same social rank. The fact that the ruler of the Pharisees invited Jesus to dine at his house indicates that the Pharisees accepted Jesus as a social equal.


At the time of Jesus, accepting an invitation to dinner obligated a guest to return the favor. It was not uncommon for guests to decline the invitation, especially if they realized that returning the favor was more than they could or cared to handle. This quid pro quo was a necessary and common practice among equals. To invite people unable to return the favor was viewed as cultural suicide. Peers viewing such behavior would not invite you to future gathering.


Jesus’ challenge in the gospel is to see all as equal peers and to reach out to others with no other agenda then being God’s heart of mercy, voice of hope, and hands of justice.


Ultimately God determines true honor and will reward and those who has been gracious to even those unable to return an invitation.


Have a peace filled week! Fr. Ron

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