Leviticus 25:1, 8-17
Psalm 67:2-3, 5, 7-8
The Gospel for today’s liturgy sounds like the beginning or ending of a novel. There is some sleaze, some misuse of regal power and some righteous confrontation of power by truth. There is a death, some misidentification and a lot of kingly weakness in the face of apparent innocence. It sounds a little like Shakespeare’s tragedies all mixed together. There is no other scriptural account of John’s reminding Herod of the section from the eighteenth chapter of Leviticus which, in verse sixteen, states that no man can sexually take the wife of his own brother. This reminder of the Jewish law pleases Herod not at all, nor Herodias, the mother of the daughter who delighted Herod with her dancing. We do not know why she wants the head of John but perhaps she, herself, has also been challenged for her not living the customs and traditions of her Jewish faith.
This year we had the opportunity to take part in the beautiful and very traditional festivities dedicated to Our Lady of Mount Carmel.
The Feast of Noantri ("of us others") is celebrated in honor of the Blessed Virgin of Mount Carmel, from July 15 to 30 in Trastevere, Rome. It is without doubt one of the most celebrated feasts of the Roman people. The origins of the festival seem to date back to 1535: it is conveyed that after a storm, a statue of the Virgin Mary, carved in cedar wood, was found at the mouth of the Tiber by some Corsican fishermen. The Madonna, for this reason called "Madonna Fiumarola" (arriving on the river) was then donated to the Carmelites (entitled "Madonna del Carmine) to the Basilica of St. Crisogono in Trastevere. Thus she became the Holy Protector of Trastevere.
Exodus 40:16-21, 34-38
Psalm 84:3, 4, 5-6a and 8a, 11
Today’s scriptures remind us of the importance of obedience, a topic that sometimes makes us feel uncomfortable, yet is ultimately a source of great and lasting comfort. The Exodus passage shows Moses doing “exactly as the Lord commands him.” He followed God’s instructions to the letter in assembling the “Dwelling of the meeting”, which would hold the Ark of the Covenant and reflect the very presence of God. The people of Israel undoubtedly drew great comfort from the signs of cloud and fire as visible evidence of the presence of God in their midst. These signs were no doubt carefully chosen to reflect protection, warmth, and light that would be available for them in their desert pilgrimage. Yet they were also probably a little unnerving, as these signs were not natural, normal occurrences. The supernatural can be discomforting, and yet we must take this world as we find it, and not as we would make it to be.