Monthly Archives: April 2016

Philip and James – Saints and Apostles

Rubens apostel philippus.jpg

Philip the Apostle – the saint we know is being celebrated on Monday, May 2… 

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The next major Feast Day is Monday, May 2.  That’s the feast of St. Philip and St. James, Apostles.  It’s normally celebrated on May 1, but this year May 1 falls on a Sunday, so it got transferred.

The days’ readings are: Isaiah 30:18-21, Psalm 119:33-402 Corinthians 4:1-6, and John 14:6-14.  That’s according to, which has a three-year cycle of Bible readings for Sunday services.

But see also St. Philip & St. James, from Satucket.  It has a two-year cycle of Daily Bible Readings. (You get through the Bible in two years.)  And that site shows some debate on “St. James:”

The New Testament mentions at least two persons named James, probably at least three, and perhaps as many as eight.  This is as good a place as any to sort them out.

The bottom line:  We seem to be none to sure which St. James is being celebrated on May 2.  But for a complete list of all eight possible candidates – for the post of the “James” being celebrated on May 1 (or 2, along with Philip) –  see St. Philip & St. James.

At the top of that list-of-eight is James the Greater.  (Seen at left.)

He’s also called James the son of Zebedee, and I wrote about him in St. James the Greater.  On the other hand, the piece on Philip and James said the James here was the Son of Alphaeus:

We know nothing of this man except his name, and … that Jesus chose him to be one of the 12 pillars of the New Israel…  He is not the James of Acts, son of Clopas, “brother” of Jesus and later bishop of Jerusalem and the traditional author of the Letter of James.  James, son of Alphaeus, is also known as James the Lesser to avoid confusing him with James the son of Zebedee, also an apostle and known as James the Greater.

Be all that as it may…  The James the Greater post said he has a Feast Day all his own, on July 25. It also noted that – according to tradition – he was the first apostle to be martyred.  (Some time around 44 A.D.)  And that according to tradition, he’s the patron saint of pilgrims:

In the spiritual literature of Christianity, the concept of pilgrim and pilgrimage may refer to the experience of life in the world (considered as a period of exile) or to the inner path of the spiritual aspirant from a state of wretchedness to a state of beatitude.

On that note, the post cited a book by James Roose-Evans, Passages of the Soul: Ritual Today.

The book noted that a sense of ritual “should pervade a healthy society.”  (Apparently ours is none too healthy that way.)  The book added that a big problem these days is that we’ve “abandoned many rituals that used to help us deal with big change and major trauma.”

In turn the book called a pilgrimage a “ritual” – a ceremonial act – “on the move.”

The book also noted that a good pilgrimage can be “one of the most chastening, but also one of the most liberating” of human experiences.  Which led to the following observation, a la Dirty Harry:  “So, punk, do you feel like getting chastened and liberated?”

(For more on a chastening-liberating pilgrimage I took – back in November 2014 – see Returning from a pilgrimage – and the coming holidays.)

But getting back to St. Philip…  (We know a lot more about him.)  The post Total love – and “the Living Vine” talked about the Sunday Bible readings for May 3, 2015.  The first reading – Acts of the Apostles (8:26-40) – told about Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch:

Philip the Evangelist was told by an angel to go to the road from Jerusalem to Gaza, and there he met the Ethiopian eunuch…  The eunuch was sitting in his chariot reading the Book of Isaiah, and had come to Isaiah 53:7-8.  Philip asked the Ethiopian, “Do you understand what you are reading?”  He said[,] “How can I understand unless I have a teacher to teach me?”  …Philip told him the Gospel of Jesus, and the Ethiopian asked to be baptized.  They went down into some water and Philip baptized him.

The post also noted that as a eunuch the Ethiopian was beyond the pale – if not untouchable – from a legalistic standpoint.  That was because of Deuteronomy 23:1.   The King James Version – the Bible that God uses – puts the matter rather delicately:  “He that is wounded in the stones, or hath his privy member cut off, shall not enter into the congregation of the LORD.

Yet Philip, guided by God’s Spirit, does not hesitate to share the good news of God’s love and salvation with this less than whole Ethiopian and to baptize him into the faith, to welcome him into the life of the Christian church.  This new faith is for all, God’s love is for every human being no matter what disability or disease or affliction has come our way.

(See “Wesley Uniting Church.”)  In other words, the point of Acts 8:26-40 – and Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch – is that God’s Love is Universal.  (See also Jonah and the bra-burners.)

So here’s to “Philip and James – Saints and Apostles,” and their Feast Day.

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The upper image is courtesy of Philip the Apostle – Wikipedia.  The caption:  “St. Philip, by Peter Paul Rubens, from his Twelve Apostles series (c. 1611), at the Museo del Prado, Madrid.”  That article added:  “In the Roman Catholic Church, the feast day of Philip, along with that of James the Just, was traditionally observed on 1 May, the anniversary of the dedication of the church dedicated to them in Rome (now called the Church of the Twelve Apostles).”  A note:  “James the Just” is third on the Satucket list, just below James the Greater and James the Lesser.

The image of St. Philip and St. James together is courtesy of That site indicated that the Feast Day – May 1 or 2 – honors “James the Less:”

St. James the Less, a brother of the Apostle Jude, was of Cana of Galilee.  He is the author of one of the Catholic Epistles in the New Testament.  He was favored by an appearance of the Risen Christ (I Cor. 15:7).  After the dispersion of the Apostles he was made Bishop of Jerusalem.  He was visited by St. Paul (Gal. 1:19).  He spoke after Peter at the meeting of the Apostles (Acts 15:13).

Another note:  The “Daily” Bible readings for St. Philip & St. James include:  Psalm 119:137-160 (morning); Psalm 139 (evening); Job 23:1-12; John 1:43-51 and/or John 12:20-26.

Re: Isaiah 53:7-8:  He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth;  he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth…  For he was cut off from the land of the living;  for the transgression of my people he was punished.”  The passage is said to refer to the sufferings of Christ.  See John Gill’s Exposition of the Bible.

Re:  “Beyond the pale.”  See also The Pale – Wikipedia.

Re:  “Untouchable.”  See also Dalit – Wikipedia.

Re:  Jonah and the bra-burners, which said the Book “ain’t about no stinkin’ whale:”

Clearly, the Book of Jonah … is the product of that school of Jewish thought which was universalist and which opposed the nationalist view…  It is the universality of God and the attribute of divine mercy that are the lessons of Jonah.  Those who think of the book as nothing more than the story of a man and a whale miss the whole point. (E.A.)

There used to be a lower image, and it was courtesy of the Wikipedia article, The Baptism of the Eunuch.  

More on “arguing with God” – and St. Mark as Cinderella

St. Mark, second from the right.  (His symbol – a lion – sleeps in the right foreground…) 

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This post talks about two recent Daily [Bible] Readings, and an upcoming Feast Day.  (The one for St. Mark, on Monday April 25.)  And here’s a note about the painting above.

St. Mark – second from the right – is seated directly above his symbol, a lion.  (John, author of the fourth Gospel, is at the far right, standing and dressed in white.)  I mention all this because – as noted – St. Mark’s feast day is next Monday, April 25.

But first I wanted to talk about the Old Testament Daily Office Reading for last Monday, April 18.

That reading is Exodus 32:1-20.  I first wrote about that passage in Arguing with God. That’s when Moses went up on Mount Sinai to get the 10 Commandments from God.  But back at base camp, the Children of Israel were partying up a storm.  (Maybe since they’d just been freed from 400 years of slavery.)  Which naturally made God mad.

God got so mad that He decided to destroy the Children of Israel and start all over again, with just Moses.  In the Good News Translation of Exodus 32:10, God said to Moses:  “Now, don’t try to stop me.  I am angry with them, and I am going to destroy them.  Then I will make you and your descendants into a great nation.” (Emphasis added.)

But here’s what happened next, from the King James 2000 Bible:

And Moses besought the LORD his God, and said, LORD, why does your wrath grow hot against your people … ?  Why should the Egyptians speak, and say, For mischief did he bring them out, to slay them in the mountains…  Turn from your fierce wrath, and change from this evil against your people.  Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants…  And the LORD turned from the evil which he thought to do unto his people.

That’s Exodus 32, verses 11-14.  (The “KJ2” link is at the top, second from the far right.)

Arguing with God noted the difference between Moses “pleading” or “beseeching” God.  But the point is that what Moses was really doing was using his powers of persuasion to get God to change His Mind.  In plain words, you could say that Moses was arguing with God.

And that’s a concept that many Christians – including most Fundamentalists or “Conservatives” – would find highly incongruous.  And speaking of Moses, the Old Testament Daily Office Reading for Wednesday, April 18, talked about how Moses got in touch with God.  (While the ancient Hebrews spent 40 years wandering in the wilderness.)

That reading was Exodus 33:1-23, and it includes Exodus 33:7-11:

Now Moses used to take the tent and pitch it outside the camp, far off from the camp; he called it the tent of meeting…  When Moses entered the tent, the pillar of cloud would descend and stand at the entrance of the tent, and the Lord would speak with Moses…  Thus the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend.

Keep in mind that Moses was writing about – and referring to – himself in the third person.

That’s writing called illeism, and I wrote about that style of writing about this time last year, in Moses and “illeism.”

But more to the point, it goes to show “just when, where and how Moses came to write the first five books of the Bible.  (The Torah.)  I contemplated that subject – as illustrated at left – in My Lenten meditation, from last February.

Among other revelations, I found that it could be argued that Moses got his idea of “One God” from his time as a Prince of Egypt.  And from the fact that Akhenaten – the Pharaoh who ruled 100 years before Moses – seems to have first introduced the idea of one God – monotheism – to the Egyptians.  (But they just weren’t ready for that idea.)

And that while Moses may have written parts of the first five books of the Bible, he may have had to rely on oral tradition for some of his history.  (See also Moses [and] the Burning Bush.)

But now it’s time to get back to St. Mark and his Feast Day.  It’s celebrated next Monday, April 25, and you can see the full set of Bible readings at St. Mark, Evangelist.

See also St. Mark’s “Cinderella story”,” from last April 25.  That post talked about how Mark’s account “is (or was) the most ‘dissed‘ of the Gospels.”  That is, for many centuries the Early Church Fathers pretty much neglected Mark’s Gospel.  (St. Augustine called Mark “the drudge and condenser” of Matthew.)  Foe one thing, his written Greek was much “clumsier and more awkward” than the more-polished writing in Matthew, Luke and John.

The result?  Mark’s was the “least cited Gospel in the early Christian period:”

But “this Cinderella got her glass slipper,” beginning in the 19th century…  That’s when Bible scholars finally noticed the other three Gospels all cited material from Mark, but “he does not do the same for them…”  And as a result of that, since the 19th century Mark’s “has become the most studied and influential Gospel.”

In other words, later scholars concluded that Mark “started the process and set the pattern of and for the other three Gospels.”  And that belated recognition – of Mark’s as the real trend-setter of the Gospels – is where the Cinderella-story metapor comes in.

Then too, ever since then people have been struggling with the idea of God, just like Jacob did…

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File:Leloir - Jacob Wrestling with the Angel.jpgJacob wrestling with the Angel…”

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The upper image is courtesy of Peter Paul Rubens: The Four Evangelists, which noted:  “Rubens portrayed the four evangelists while working together on their texts.  An angel helps them…   Each gospel author can be identified by an attribute.  The attributes were derived from the opening verses of the gospels.  From left to right: Luke (bull), Matthew (man [angel]), Mark (lion), and John (eagle).” See also Four Evangelists – Wikipedia.

The full Daily Office Readings for Monday, April 18, 2016 are:  Psalm 41, 52 (morning); Psalm 44 (evening); Exodus 32:1-20; Colossians 3:18-4:6(7-18); and Matthew 5:1-10.

The image of Moses is borrowed from On Moses and “illeism.”  See that post for the full references. 

The full Daily Office Readings for Wednesday, April 20, 2016 are:  Psalm 119:49-72 (morning); Psalm 49, [53] (evening); Exodus 33:1-23; 1st Thessalonians 2:1-12; and Matthew 5:17-20.  The indented quote in the main text of Exodus 33:7-11 is from the Revised Standard Version.  The link in the main text will take you to the New International Version.

The lower image, courtesy of Wikipedia, is Jacob Wrestling with the Angel, by Alexander Louis Leloir(1865).  Leloir (1843-1884), was a a French painter specializing in genre and history paintings. His younger brother was painter and playwright Maurice Leloir.

Paul restored – from the Damascus Road

“Ananias Restoring the Sight of St. Paul” – after his Damascus road experience

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Last week’s post was Doubting Thomas – and Peter Restored. (Including the image at right.)  This week’s post is about Paul being “restored.”

He got restored from his state of “ungrace.”

As a result of that transformation, the Apostle Paul got transmogrified. I.e., changed from being the early Church’s deadliest enemy to being second only to Jesus in the history of that early Christian Church.

Note that the “Peter Restored” part of last week’s post was based on the Gospel for the Third Sunday of Easter.  (April 10.)  “That is, in John 21:1-19, ‘Jesus restored Peter to fellowship after Peter had previously denied him.'”  But one thing that post missed was the first reading, Acts 9:1-6, (7-20).  That reading told about Paul’s Damascus road experience.

And it continued the theme of being “restored to grace.”

But first it described Paul “in his former state” – of ungrace – beginning with this:

Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any who belonged to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.

I wrote about Paul‘s experience in Peter confesses, Paul converts.  (About the June 29 Feast Day that “remembers both Peter and Paul, together.” See also St Peter and St Paul, Apostles. See also the Conversion of St. Paul at Wikipedia.) That is, before his Damascus road experience, Paul was a zealous Pharisee who intensely persecuted the early Christian Church. But God had other plans.

One example of Saul-Paul’s former life – as persecutor of the early church – was his part in the stoning of Stephen, in Acts 7:57-8:3.  (“Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison.”)

See also Galatians 1:13-14, where Paul wrote about his being “extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers.”  Accordingly, he intensely “persecuted the church of God” – that is, the new Christian Church he thought heretical –  “and tried to destroy it.”

But then he had his Damascus Road Experience.  In that experience he was literally struck blind, for three days.  Accordingly, Paul was “pretty much dragged kicking and screaming into his position of authority,” within the new Christian Church he’d formerly tried to destroy.

Bartolomeo Montagna - Saint Paul - Google Art Project.jpgThe end result?  Paul became “no less than the ‘second founder’ of Christianity.”  (Second only to Jesus that is.)  

Put another way, Paul is generally considered to be “one of the most important figures of the Apostolic Age.”

Or consider this:  “Paul’s influence on Christian thinking arguably has been more significant than any other New Testament author.”  (See Paul the Apostle – Wikipedia, with the image at right.)  So one object lesson from all this could be:  “Be careful who you persecute!”

But seriously, we now turn to the readings for next Sunday, April 17. (Which this year is the Fourth Sunday of Easter.)  Among those readings is the Twenty-third Psalm.  And that psalm deserves more discussion.

See for example Psalm 23 – Wikipedia, which prompted the painting below.

Eastman Johnson painted it in 1863, and called it “The Lord Is My Shepherd.”

Wikipedia noted the painting’s imagery, including an “African-American man reading the first part of a Bible, possibly the Book of Exodus.  He is sitting against a blue jacket, which may indicate service in the Union army.”  Then there’s also this note: 

Eastman Johnson painted The Lord Is My Shepherd only months after the Emancipation Proclamation of New Year’s Day, 1863.  The image of a humble black man reading from his Bible was reassuring to white Americans uncertain of what to expect from the freed slaves. But the simple act of reading was itself a political issue.  Emancipation meant that blacks must educate themselves in order to be productive, responsible citizens.  In the slave-holding South, teaching a black person to read had been a crime;  in the North, the issue was not “May they read?” but “They must read.”

Also as to that artistic imagery, Wikipedia noted that reading man – formerly a slave – was “sitting against a blue jacket, which may indicate service in the Union army.”

That is, the reading man apparently served in the so-called “United States Colored Troops.(Established by General Order Number 143 on May 22, 1863, )  And those troops – which included “Pacific Islanders, Asian Americans and Native Americans” – were the “precursor to the Buffalo Soldier regiments of the American Old West.”

Which is a pretty good metaphor for the transforming power of Jesus

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 Eastman Johnson‘s 1863 painting “The Lord is My Shepherd…”

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The upper image is courtesy of Conversion of Paul the Apostle – Wikipedia.  The full caption:  “‘Ananias Restoring the Sight of St. Paul’ (c.1631) by Pietro da Cortona.”

See also Ananias of Damascus – Wikipedia, which noted his name means “favored of the LORD.”  The actual restoration of Saul-Paul’s sight was described in Acts 9:17-19 NIV:

Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord – Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here – has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”  Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength.

Re: Psalm 23.  Wikipedia noted that the text of the psalm, “beloved by Jews and Christians alike, is often alluded to in popular media and has been set to music many times.”  The article cited a number of examples of the psalm being set to music, including Johann Sebastian Bach‘s “Cantata No.112 Der Herr ist mein getreuer Hirt, BWV 112.”

Re: the “transforming power of Jesus.”  In case I’m being too subtle, the link is to 1st Timothy 1:12-16:

I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me … putting me into service, even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor…  It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all.  Yet for this reason I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience…  (E.A.)

Also on that note, see Galatians 4:3, in the NLT:  “that’s the way it was with us before Christ came.  We were like children;  we were slaves to the basic spiritual principles of this world.”  As to the last passage, I prefer the RSV:  that “we were slaves to the elemental spirits of the universe.”

The lower image is courtesy of Psalm 23 – Wikipedia, which included the caption noted above.  The indented quote is courtesy of The Lord Is My Shepherd by Eastman Johnson / American Art.

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Doubting Thomas – and Peter Restored

About Peter denying Jesus:  Next Sunday’s Gospel – April 10 – tells how he got “restored to grace…”

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Detail from El GrecoHere’s a heads up:  The Gospel for the Third Sunday of Easter is all about the Restoration of Peter.  (Peter – who became a saint – is seen at right.)  That is, in John 21:1-19, “Jesus restored Peter to fellowship after Peter had previously denied him.”  (Not just once, but three times.)

But Jesus did more than that.

He specifically charged Peter to “feed my sheep.”

Note also that this express restoration of Peter – by Jesus – is unique to John’s Gospel:

All four gospels record Peter’s denial of Jesus, and all of the synoptic gospels record how Peter “wept bitterly” after the rooster crowed.  John omits this detail [about Peter weeping bitterly], but he is unique in describing the restoration scene between Jesus and Peter.

All of which reminds us that Jesus is willing to do the same thing for us today.  That is, He’s willing to forgive and forget – referring to us – for all the times in the past that we’ve disappointed Him. (Or “fallen short.” See Romans 3:23.)  Just like He did with Peter.

For more on the shortcoming itself, see Denial of Peter.  The article noted that the “emotional turmoil and turbulent emotions behind Peter’s denial and later repentance have been the subject of major works of art for centuries.”  For example, in the painting at the top of the page (by Gerard van Honthorst):  “A young maidservant accused the apostle Peter, in the yellow cloak, of knowing Jesus Christ.  Fearing for his own safety, Peter denied the acquaintance…”

So much for the Bible readings coming up next Sunday, April 10.  (See also the notes…)

As for last Sunday (April 3), the Second Sunday of Easter (or the Sunday after Easter) is also – and always – “Doubting Thomas Sunday.”  (He’s shown at left, with Jesus.)

That’s because the Gospel for the day is always John 20:19-31.  It tells about how Doubting Thomas got his name.  (And in turn how his name became a byword for any and every “skeptic who refuses to believe without direct personal experience.”)

One of the first posts I ever did for this blog was First musings – The readings for “Doubting Thomas” Sunday.  That post noted the term was “a reference to the Apostle Thomas, who refused to believe that the resurrected Jesus had appeared to the ten other apostles, until he could see and feel the wounds received by Jesus on the cross.”

Which brings up the spiritual questions raised by Thomas and his “doubting.”

First of all:  “If you doubt and question your faith will it become stronger?”

In other words, how do we as Christians deal with our doubts?  About the Bible and about the life of Jesus?  Put another way:  “The flip side of that [first] question is:  ‘Should we just blindly believe?'”  For boot-camp Christians the answer is simple:  You shouldn’t have any doubts.

In other words, you should “blindly believe.”  But for the rest of us – the ones who don’t want to stay Bible buck privates the rest of our lives – the best answer was noted in First musings:

Remember Thomas, the disciple, who wouldn’t believe in Christ’s resurrection until he put his hand into Jesus’s wounds.  He went on to die spreading the gospel in Persia and India.  God gave us free choice, He doesn’t want us to be robots, He could have made us like that, but wanted us to choose for ourselves.  You learn and grow by questioning. (E.A.)

File:Leloir - Jacob Wrestling with the Angel.jpgThat – to me – was the best answer.  And for more on that idea – and position – see On arguing with God.  That post noted that Jacob got his name changed to Israel precisely because he wrestled with God.

And so he became “Patriarch of the Israelites.”

I also wrote about Thomas in Doubting Thomas’ “passage to India.”  Among other things, that post noted the key difference between “skeptical” and “cynical.”  The difference?

Being skeptical means “having reservations,” while the “main meaning of cynical is ‘believing the worst of people.”  (Or, being “distrustful of human sincerity or integrity.”)  On the other hand, the Bible itself tells us to approach the Faith with the proper sense of “reservation:”

Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.

See 1st John 4:1, emphasis added.  See also About Saint Thomas the Apostle.

That site said that after the Ascension of Jesus, the Apostles as a group decided who would go where, and for what missionary purpose.  And those disciples told Thomas to go to India.

He objected, saying he wasn’t healthy enough for such travel, and that “a Hebrew couldn’t possibly teach the Indians.”  Then too – like Saint Patrick – he became a literal slave:

A merchant eventually sold Thomas into slavery in India.  It was then, when he was freed from bondage that this saint began to form Christian parishes and building churches…  Thomas built a total of seven churches in India[.  He is] an example of both doubter and a staunch and loyal believer…   After all, each of us has both of these characteristics residing deep within ourselves – both moments of doubt and those of great spiritual strength…

Indeed, you might say that developing such “great spiritual strength” is only possible by having – and overcoming – those “moments of doubt.”  (See also resistance training.)

And finally, a note about two recent Daily Office Readings of interest.

The first is the New Testament reading for Thursday, April 8, 1st Peter 2:11-25.  That included 1st Peter 2:13 and 14:  “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority:  whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right.”

For more on that thought – especially appropriate in this season of politics – see On dissin’ the Prez.  Which noted Acts 23:5:  “Thou shalt not speak evil of the ruler of thy people.”

And finally there’s the Gospel for today, April 9, which includes John 16:12, where Jesus said:  “I have much to say to you, but you are not able to grasp it now.”  Which of course supports my theory that it doesn’t pay – spiritually – to be a “boot-camp Christian.”

In the meantime, we remembered Thomas – doubts and all – from last Sunday.  And this Sunday we remember Peter, who first denied Jesus three times, then got “restored to grace…”

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Christ’s Charge to Peter, in which Jesus is both “forgiving and stern…”

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The upper image is courtesy of the link Denial of Peter, in Restoration of Peter – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The full caption: “The Denial of St. Peter by Gerard van Honthorst (1622-24).”  The description of the painting is courtesy of The Denial of St. Peter – ArtsConnectEd.

 For more on forgiving and forgetting, see Does the Bible instruct us to forgive and forget?

The four readings for the Third Sunday of Easter – April 10 – are:  Acts 9:1-6, (7-20)Psalm 30Revelation 5:11-14, and John 21:1-19.

For more on St.Thomas in this post, see On St. Nick and “Doubting Thomas.” 

The lower image is courtesy of Restoration of Peter – Wikipedia.  The caption:  “Christ’s Charge to Peter,” by Peter Paul Rubens (circa 1616).  As to the forgiving and stern:  “Paul Barnett notes that Jesus’ approach to Peter in John 21 is ‘both forgiving and stern.'”