Category: The Big Picture: theological, cosmological, and mystical

On the wonder and why of an echo.

This morning I watched an echocardiogram. It was not the first echo I’d attended. In my years as a medical interpreter at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, I’ve been through at least a dozen of them with my Russian-speaking patients, but every time I see it happen I am awed at this wonder of medical …

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On why bad things don’t happen to all good people.

I have a dear friend who recently shared with me a worry that her life has been too smooth, too free of pain and strife. She is a wonderful person—kind, deeply caring, with a heart so large that she feels the pain of others as her own. She’s had a long and profoundly good life …

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On David and consummate humanity.

The first reading last Sunday was from the book of Samuel, and it described the anointing of, by biblical and popular account, the greatest king in the history of Israel: David. It’s kind of a short and sweet story the way we hear it in church: Samuel the priest and prophet of the Lord is …

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On Transfiguration and the quiet room.

This Sunday, we heard the gospel of Transfiguration. It is a beautiful story, rich in imagery and meaning: onto a high mountain—Mt. Tabor, most scholars believe—Jesus takes with him Peter, James, and John. And then… There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the …

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On forgiveness.

This is not my usual kind of essay. It may not be an essay at all, and it’s not even nice. I am writing this because I can’t be the only one who goes through this particular challenge—it must be ubiquitous enough—and I hope (I hope!) that maybe my rather improvisory train of thought could …

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On holding the face of God, and a little bit on Mary.

There is a song I like very much, one of many, of course, but I’ve been thinking about this one lately. Lyrics by Mark Lowry, melody by Buddy Greene. It’s called “Mary, Did You Know?” They play it on the radio often during the Christmas season—understandably, because it’s a series of questions to the mother …

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On leaving the cradle.

We celebrated the feast of the Epiphany this Sunday. One of the most colorful tales in all the Gospels – really, a fairy tale, the most exciting Nativity narrative. Who doesn’t like a fairy tale? In the Gospel of Matthew, three magi – variously translated as kings and wise men from the Orient – come …

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On otherness and sameness, and the degrees of dialogue.

This was another one of those thoughts that are too obvious, too simple to be formulated without prompting. It was born of a conversation with my best friend about how, even though we are so different, we love each other nonetheless. And as we talked, my friend seemed to suggest that some people are able …

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On certainty and the comfort of emergency rooms.

The Lord is my light and my salvation— whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life— of whom shall I be afraid? (Psalm 27:1 NIV) About six weeks ago, I was brought to the nearest emergency room and, after a night on a stretcher, was admitted to a hospital, where I spent a few days before returning …

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On animal liberation and falling off the edge of the world. Part II.

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax …

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