May 23, 2018

Author Archive | Mark Shea


Mark Shea: The Strange Need for Ash Wednesday

One of the paradoxes of life in liturgical Churches is the odd popularity of Ash Wednesday.  People who resent the very idea of Holy Days of Obligation come in droves to the liturgy of Ash Wednesday, even though it is not a Holy Day.  Indeed, they seem to come, almost because it is not a […]

valentines new

Remember O Valentine …

Remember O Valentine… …that thou art dust and to dust thou shalt return. I’m really looking forward to sending those cards out this Ash Wednesday! I’m not sure where Aussies stand on the whole Valentine issue.  It’s a fairly—not hugely, but fairly—big deal here in the Land of Hot Dogs and the President with Ridiculous […]


Mark Shea: In memory of our friend Angie

Our friend Angelita died this past Monday, January 29. My wife had known her for decades and she was a friend of the family for as long as there has been a family to be friends with. Jan got to know her because her work has been with people with disabilities most of her adult […]


Mark Shea: The magical thinking that blinds

I love magic.  When I was a boy, my brother did magic tricks that filled me with wonder.  Once, he made me invisible.  I remember running through the house, waving my hands in my parents’ faces and shouting, “Here I am!” while they looked straight at me and couldn’t see me. My brother taught me […]


Mark Shea: From ‘gross’ to the glory of New Year’s

I did not have the benefit of a Catholic, or even Christian, upbringing. December was ‘the Christmas season’, not Advent. Then Christmas came; a wonderful time which was (as Linus in A Charlie Brown Christmas reminded me) about the birth of Jesus Christ. Jesus was a figure in the Bible who had long hair and […]


Mark Shea: ‘Behold, the Virgin Shall Conceive’

Last time, in this space, we chronicled the confusion of my friend, who discovered that the prophet Isaiah did not write “Behold, the virgin shall conceive” in Isaiah 7:14, but “Behold, the almah shall conceive”. Almah, as we saw last time, means “young woman” (an idea that certainly can encompass a virgin, but which need […]


Mark Shea: Reader confused – ‘Was Mary not a virgin?’

“Yikes! Is this true?” The email landed in my mailbox with resounding virtual thud, asking for help for a confused Catholic baffled by one of those Mysteries of the Bible shows on cable TV. I have a private theory that the people who write the Mysteries of the Bible programs used to write for Scooby […]


Mark Shea: Missing the wry Christ

Last time, we saw that the Church to which Matthew writes has been grappling for decades with the question of the relationship of Jew and Gentile in the early Church, particularly in the Holy Land where Jewish ethnocentrism encouraged the idea that Jewish believers sit in first class while Gentile believers are second class and […]


Mark Shea: Smacking one’s head against a parochial wall

Last time, we began to focus on the central claim my reader makes concerning Jesus and the Canaanite Woman, that his ethnocentrism as a first century Jew prompts him to treat her insultingly. To recap, he says: In this Gospel story, the prepaschal Jesus insults a Canaanite woman requesting healing for her daughter by inferring […]

A girl looks at a Bible during Mass in 2016 at a Beijing cathedral. As young people move to cities, Catholic grandparents in rural areas are passing on the faith to their grandchildren. PHOTO: CNS

Mark Shea: There are no borders for Christ

Over the past few weeks, we have been considering some of the complexities of approaching the text of the gospels and trying to get at the words of Jesus, not only in their original context, but as the Evangelists use them in order to teach their respective audiences. I have agreed with my reader on […]

PHOTO: Patrick Fore

‘Aha, your Scriptures don’t match up – your beliefs are bogus’

Last time, we noted that some gospel passages contain identical sayings of Jesus, suggesting that these easy-to-remember nuggets are probably being handed down verbatim from Jesus himself by the community of eyewitnesses who remember him. In contrast, we can also see real variations in the testimony of the gospels both in terms of what different […]


Mark Shea: The Gospel as per your Uncle Bill

Last time in this space, we looked at the problem of making overly-confident claims about the minutiae of day-to-day life of peasants in the first century Holy Land. To be sure, no article of faith is at stake in quibbling about what a Canaanite peasant woman may have thought about dogs. I’m willing to concede […]