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Below you will find the current episode of the series, Tony's Town. New episodes appear occasionally and when replaced by a new episode, are generally included in the Archives library.  Additionally, we occasionally rerun an earlier or archived episode on the Tony's Town Reruns section.  We do this if an episode is relevant to a current event, particular to a recognized holiday or universal time of celebration, or if it is requested by our readers. The Archive library follows this 'Reruns" section below. 

If you are new to the series,we suggest you avail yourself of the archived episodes, especially the first four in addition to Tony's Southside Neighborhood They will introduce you to the people, places, and themes of the series as they appear. So, to paraphrase someone well known to us;

Welcom to our neighborhood, friend.

Tony's Town


A question is asked; was the use of the term "John Doe" for an unknown person, first used in the Bible?

JOHN DOE

 

     "The Passion of our Lord according to St. Matthew."

     "Thanks be to God," comes the congregation’s response.

     Descending from the pulpit, Father John stands at the top of the center aisle.

     “As we approach the celebration of Easter, we hear in today’s reading ‘Father, Abba, all things are possible to you. Take this cup away from me; but not what I will, but what you will.

     "And the gospel writer goes on to describe Jesus’ passion and death. But there is something he leaves out."

      Looking at the congregation, the associate pastor allows a knowing smile to amble across his fact.

     "Every one of us were part of that event that fateful Friday," he says.

     "We were all there ...

     "All of us stood with Pilate and Jesus before the mob.'

 

  

     Hi, Tony here.  It’s Palm Sunday, here at St. Kate’s, and as is traditional the entire passion narrative Lord is read and recited by the celebrant of the mass, selected readers and the entire congregation.

     The reading finished; Father John begins his brief sermon. From his opening words, and the attention he has engendered in his flock, this might be an interesting few minutes.

 

     What do you say we sit back in the pew listen.

 

     "As some of you are aware, I enjoy collaborating with a fellow clergyman in composing our words for these Sunday morning talks. We meet, as is our habit, at Sam’s Bistro. Sam’s delightful cinnamon rolls help get the creative juices flowing."

     Pausing a moment, an impish grin animates Father John’s face.

     "And my expanding waistline is a testament to her talents," he adds looking toward the back rows.

     A murmur of soft laughter rolls through the congregation as Sam, with her little girl Emily Ann, sitting in one of the pews, chuckles and blushes slightly.

     "This past week, though, my friend was ill.  So, thinking I was going to be on my own, I was surprised to find our parish adult education director, Joey, at our usual table.

     "It seems Thursday morning’s storm left parts of the city without power, including Joey’s shop. So, forced to close, he headed to Sam’s for some coffee and a late morning breakfast bagel."

     Pausing a moment, Father John sips from a bottle of water on a small table to his left, then continues.  

     "Now, when I said we were all there with Pilate and our Lord, obviously I’m not speaking of being physically present; but figuratively we all were."

     Listening attentively, the faces of the congregation register curiosity to confusion. Seems Fr. John has everyone’s attention.

     "How?” you ask. 

     "Well, it was Joey who brought an interesting thought to my attention. Something I hadn’t really thought of. Joey asked if we were all present in one of the minor characters.

     "Guess who." Father John asks, smiling gently.

     Silence.

     "Who is that minor figure, you ask? Any guesses?"

     The congregation remains silent for a moment, then little Danny Farley, in his usual pew with his mom and dad, raises his hand.

     "Mary, his mother," the boy says.

     "Good guess, Danny," Father John says, tousling the young man’s hair. "But, no, I’m thinking of someone else."

     "John, the apostle, who stood with Mary," comes another answer from a small voice in a pew to Father’s right.

     "Again, a good guess young lady, but that’s not who I’m thinking of."

     Silence ensues with no further answers forthcoming.

     "Barabbas," the priest says.

     "Now, again, we weren’t physically there; yet might Barabbas be the metaphorical figure in whom we see ourselves; is Barabbas all of us? This is what Joey asked. And when I thought about it, I could see where Joey was going with his idea.

     "Barabbas was condemned and similarly, we all were. Barabbas, to earthly crucifixion; all of us to an eternal death. A fate far worse than crucifixion."

     Shifting in the pews, the congregation focuses their attention more intently on the priest.

     "As we just heard, when Pilate didn’t want to crucify Jesus, he offered to release another man to them, the man we know as Barabbas. He is described in various gospels as a murderer, a bandit, a revolutionary, and a thief.

     "And it was at that point Joey posed a question I’d never thought before; was the name Barabbas the first century equivalent of our modern-day term, John Doe? Was Barabbas just some unknown thug hauled out of the depths of the prison by Pilate to offer the mob in an attempt to avoid condemning Jesus? Remember, Pilate publicly said he found no fault in Jesus.

     "Joey went on to say that he’d done some research as to try to find out more about this man. And what he came up was interesting.

     "Barabbas is an interesting name. You see, bar abbas means, ‘son of the father.” That form is known as a patronymic; Aramaic in this case, denoting the lineage of a man through the father. From his research, Joey said there’s some speculation the name was actually, ‘bar rabban’; son of the teacher; son of the rabbi, It is an interesting possibility; the son of a rabbi who influenced his son to wage a war against the invading Romans. And over time, ‘bar rabban’ somehow became ‘bar abbas’?  Both of us found it to be an intriguing thought. 

     "Now follow me for a minute. Jesus’ name, as he was known growing up in Nazareth, was Yeshua bar Joseph; Yeshua, son of Joseph. Closer to home, Joey would be Joseph bar Michael; I would be John bar Michael as both our dads were named Michael. But bar abba is generic, not particular to any named father. So, might ‘bar abba’’ son of the father, or Barabbas, be a generic reference to a person whose name was lost to history?

     "After all, in effect, we are all children of a Heavenly Father.

     "The gospels are short on names. Outside of his disciples, Zacchaeus, Nicodemus, Bartimaeus, and a few others the names of the people Jesus encountered, cured, and even raised from the dead are not recorded. The name of the young, rich Jewish man, Jairus’ daughter, the widow at Nain and her son, the Centurion whose servant Jesus cured, the wise and foolish virgins, the worthless steward, the paralytic, the man born blind, and others are nameless. Yet the thug offered the crowd was uniformly recorded by all four gospel writers, forty or more years after Jesus’ ascension.

     "Think about it; maybe the gospel writers were trying, in an allegorical way, to emphasize not just a single individual, but the entirety of mankind stood on that platform with Pilate and our Lord, condemned to death."

     Pausing to let his question sink in, Father John again sips from the bottle of water, then continues.

     "This is how the gospels are to be read; as a living event and not just the words of a simple historical story.

     "When we consider the scene with Pilate, Jesus, and Barabbas in that light, it’s fair to ask, was Barabbas just an anonymous thug to be crucified? Did Pilate, believing Jesus not to be guilty, offer the mob a heinous criminal, thinking they wouldn’t let a despicable brute go free in favor of crucifying one of their own rabbis? 

     "And, is it possible the gospel writers, like the rest of the crowd, did not know the thugs name and used the John Doe of the day, Barabbas, as his moniker? Might a bit of analogy be the purpose of the writers?

     "That. In our own way, we’re all … Barabbas."

     Returning to the altar to continue the celebration, Father John turns to the congregation.

     "Peace."

 

     The passion of our Lord is read at every Catholic Mass on Palm Sunday. Do we hear it merely as a narrative story of an historical event?

     Sacred Scripture, though inspired by the Holy Spirit, was written by men. With that in mind, were the four writers borrowing from each other? It’s a fair question. After all, there are conundrums in Scripture. The gospels don’t agree on the number of women at the tomb on Easter morning, or the actions of the two men crucified with Jesus. The passion narrative differs slightly from writer to writer, and other small inconsistencies exist. Yet years later, as age and time dim the memories of men, the identity of a minor character, a nameless thug, is clearly remembered by all four gospel writers ?

     As Father John said, the point we all might well want to take to heart is to realize Barabbas, is a metaphor for each and every one of us.

     In the person of Barabbas, a man condemned to die, did we all stand, with Pilate and Jesus on that platform, condemned …

     … and like Barabbas, were set free… as the Lamb of God …

     … was sacrificed for the sake of the wolves.

     Thinkaboutit … I’m Tony Baggz.

Copyright©2024Tres Angeli Publishing

TONY'S TOWN RERUNS

Here we offer a previously offered episode of Tony's Town.  It might be a request from a reader who joined the folks in our neighborhood after the episode was "aired."  It might be a previously offered episode that resonates with current events in society.  Or it might be one we wanted to offer again, just for the fun of it.  So, please enjoy.

MISTER DRISCOLL

     “The Gospel of the Lord.”

     “Praise be to you, Lord Jesus Christ,” comes the congregation’s response.

     Closing the Lectionary, Father John descends from the pulpit and walks down the center aisle. Having finished the Gospel reading, it’s time for his homily, his sermon.

     Adjusting his microphone, he looks around at the congregation. Smiling at the Farley boys in their shirts and ties, he tousles little Danny Jr.’s hair.  Dan Farley, his wife Shannon, and their four kids, two boys and two girls, always sit in the second pew off the center aisle.  They are a fixture at the 9:00 a.m. Mass.  Heck, this service wouldn’t be the same without them.

     Clearing his throat, Father John puts his hands together …

    “… I’d like to tell you a story …

 

     Hi, I’m Tony Baggz.  We’re here in the sanctuary at St. Kate’s.  Father John is presiding at all three Masses this weekend, as Father Bob has taken a vacation to visit family. 

     Here in the neighborhood, Father John and Reverend Williams of Mt. Nebo Baptist are noted for their speaking prowess.  So much so that they often get together at Sam’s Bistro on a weekday morning, share a pot of coffee, maybe some cinnamon rolls, and collaborate.  So, I wouldn’t’ be surprised if the theme this weekend might be in the same vein at Reverend William’s service. In fact, I overheard them talking about horse racing this past Thursday and I imagine the sermon might be similar at Reverend John Randall’s Sunday service.  You see, John enjoys watching the ponies and since yesterday was the running of the Kentucky Derby, it’s even money the Lutheran minister called up John or Martin for an idea or two.

    Anyway, our celebrant is starting his talk. 

 

     What do you say we listen in…?

 

     “Sister Mary Margaret is sitting in her office one morning at Mater Dei High School,” he begins.

     A gentle rustle is heard as people shift in their seats. Father John is known for his humorous stories and I think the congregation anticipates one this morning.

     “Waiting for her eleven o’clock freshman English class, Sister checks the morning’s mail. Picking up a pink envelope, she finds a birthday card from her sister, Madeline. Opening it, a twenty-dollar bill flutters to her desk. Reading the card, she chuckles and reaches for the bill. Making a note to call her sister, she starts to think about what she might do with the money.

    “Looking out her window, a raggedly dressed gentleman catches her attention.  His jacket’s torn as are the knees of his jeans. His shoes, badly worn, need repair. His hair is unkempt, and his beard hasn’t seen a razor in at least a week. Seeing him, Sister makes her decision. Taking a note card, she encloses the bill and writes, ‘Have faith, sir.’  Corralling one of the ninth graders, a boy named Tim, she instructs him to take the card to the gentleman, now seated on a bench. 

     “Returning to the window, Sister sees Tim approach the gentleman. Extending the card, he points to Sister’s office window and explains what the card is and where it came from.  The gentleman opens the card, takes out the bill and reading the note, smiles and nods his head. At that moment, a city bus arrives, the man boards, and young Tim returns to the building, as Sister picks up her books and heads for her class.

     … End of story?”

     Pausing, a crafty smile ambles across Father John’s face. “Well, not exactly,” he says.

     “The following morning, Sister is again waiting for her English class when Mother Superior appears at her door.

     “Sister, a gentleman outside my office is asking for you, she says.

     “Surprised, she follows Mother Superior, wondering who this might be. Turning the corner, she blinks and after a few seconds recognizes the man as the fellow to whom she gave the note and the money; looking just as unkempt as he did yesterday.

     “Sister, this is Mr. John Driscoll … I have that correct, Mr. Driscoll?”  Mother Superior asks.

     “Yes ma’am,” he mumbles.

     “Mr. Driscoll, may I present Sister Mary Margaret.”

     “Nice to meet you ma’am,” the man says, quietly, nodding his head slowly and respectfully.

     “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Driscoll," the nun replies, a warm smile on her face.

     "A momentary awkward silence ensues. Then, reaching into his jacket pocket, he produces an envelope and extends it to the nun. Here S’ter, this is for you.

     "Taking it, she opens the envelope to find thirty twenty-dollar bills - six hundred dollars.  Stunned she looks up at the raggedly dressed gentleman.

      “I … I don’t understand, she stammers. I … I can’t take this, sir … this is … she says softly, her words trailing off.

     "A smile lights up his eyes as Mr. Driscoll interrupts the nun’s protest.

    “No, please S’ter, please take it … it’s yours …  

     … Have Faith paid thirty to one.”

     The smile on Father John’s face stretches from ear to ear as prolonged laughter erupts. Pausing, he allows the congregation to enjoy the moment before continuing.

     “We heard in today’s gospel the incident of the worthless steward. A man who, given a responsibility, did nothing and earned the wrath of his master. In the end, he was thrown out into the darkness for his lack of effort.”

     Again, a rustle is heard as people again shift in the pews. The priest’s words lack their previous impishness.

     “In a few weeks we will hear of the five foolish virgins who were refused entry to a wedding celebration and left into the darkness because of their laziness and lack of foresight. And later, the story of a rich man who, though generous to his friends, paid no heed to a poor beggar at his doorstep and in the end, found himself in agony.”

     Silence hangs heavy as Father John pauses to sip a glass of water, then pace the center aisle, his posture suggesting he’s searching for the right words. The congregation is still. Everyone now knows there is no laugh-out-loud punchline coming.

     “There is a theme to these incidents,” the priest continues. “A message we rarely hear because, in a way, it contradicts our traditional teaching that the poor are worthy of our care and concern. Now it is true, those devastated by illness, tragedy, or catastrophe are our responsibility. They are our brothers and sisters in Christ, and to live a life of charity and good will is no gamble. Not in the eyes of the Lord. After all, our church here, St. Katherine’s, is involved in more than a dozen programs to aid those in need.  As are numerous other churches and synagogues in our little corner of the world. We as a family, willingly and lovingly accept our responsibility.” 

     All eyes are fixed on the priest. Other than a small child coughing softly, it is silent.

     “But what the Lord is telling us in these incidents is that to be lazy, willingly or intentionally foolish or apathetic, is not a virtue. To live selfishly or indolently earns, not reward or eternal happiness, but rather the opposite. Jesus wouldn’t have told these parables unless He wished to make us understand the utter hopelessness of these vices, and their ultimate consequences.  Living a life of value, using the talents we have and contributing to the common good, is the responsibility of all. And to squander that opportunity; to stand before God’s final judgment with nothing to show but sloth and avarice is to risk being thrown into a darkness where, as the Lord said, there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.

     “For those who gamble their eternal salvation on a life of laziness and greed, at that moment of divine judgment there will be a feeling of desolation, hopelessness, and the terror of knowing what is to come as one hears the Lord speak…

     ... thy will be done ...

     … and there will be no Mr. Driscoll to save the day.”

 

      The measure of a society is its ability to care for its weakest and most vulnerable citizens. To give aid and comfort freely, willingly to those devastated by some physical, natural, or social catastrophe is moral, just, and honorable. Something to be applauded. And that charity and kindness will be rewarded by the Ultimate Judge. It is a Judeo-Christian imperative.

     But what about the other side of the coin? What about creating and maintaining an environment which allows a man to only live off the efforts of others? To contribute nothing but laziness, apathy, and greed? Vices the Ultimate Judge teaches leads to the ultimate bad end.

     Is enabling another to live an indolent life or creating and maintaining an entire state of those who refuse to take responsibility for utilizing their God-given productive talents and gifts wise? Is endangering the eternal salvation of others a virtue …

     … or a vice?

     Thinkaboutit, I’m Tony Baggz.

 

©2018 TresAngeliPublishing, LLC





Tony's Town Archives

Below you will find prior episodes. The have been included here in the order they appeared through the first four episodes; Church and State to Amish Race Car Drivers. Many of the people, places, and themes of the episodes are set in those first four. Also, the Tony's Southside Neighborhood portion found immediately below is a overall view of the people and places here in our neighborhood. If you are new to our little neck of the woods, may I suggest you avail yourself of these so as to familiarize yourself with our little world.

Please enjoy.


TONY'S SOUTHSIDE NEIGHBORHOOD  - PEOPLE AND PLACES     Come meet the neighborhood gang and their favorite haunts.

CHURCH AND STATE   In today's culture, what does structured religion provide society?

NAMES    Get to know many of the neighborhood gang more closely.  And what popular recording artist might need to change his nickname?

THE REPAIR    Sometimes the most trivial work is the most important.  Discover it in a conversation that occurs before, "movie night."

AMISH RACECAR DRIVERS    The 'glue' that holds uncommon relationships together puzzles a young man.  Listen to a rabbi set him straight..  

TWELVE CENTS    Sometimes the very valuable lessons in life, come at little cost.

ROLL TIDE     An prolife episode shows us sometimes those very valuable lessons come from the least likely person you would expect. 

DILEMMA     An unexpected windfall is a challenge to "do the right thing."

BLACK OPAL     Some of God's most beautiful, yet unlikely, creations, speak to us of beauty and depth beyond what's see on the surface. 

MISTER DRISCOLL   Riches from an unlikely source.

SALT IN CHOCOLATE    A necessary evil?

A SCARY STORY      Sometimes nice guys do finish last.

TANZANITE  A whisper from God

THE S IS SILENT  A devastating disease ... do you have it?

PROOF     Proof of the existence of God ... from an interesting source

THE PREACHERS MISTAKE  The danger of going overboard

A SECOND CHANCE  A disaster becomes a miracle, with a little patience ... and a second chance.

STAINS  A well-worn pair of pants tells an important story

MIRROR   Some mirrors walk ... and talk ... and make a man's life a time of joy

THE TONIC FOR WHAT AILS YA   It isn't alway a medicine but sometimes it's an attitude

FLOWERS FOR MOM    How can the sweetest smelling flower sometimes be a weed?

Chicken Backs     A Father's Day reverie ... 

Friends  A miracle performed at the request of a man's friends sheds light on the dilemma of an aging agnostic. 

Divinity and Humanity  An atheist decries the condition of today's society, and meets the wisdom of a famous archbishop

Seven and Seventeen  A tragic mistake ... avoided

Definition  Words of wisdom ... from a sharp young lady.

A SCARY WORD   Can two simple letters send a chill down your spine? A man with a chicken salad sandwich and a great sense of humor thinks so. And he's got the boys around the card table wondering if he's right.

AT THIS MOMENT      A Catholic priest dances with his wife ... again...           

PENNIES FROM HEAVEN    A trip to a ball game, a parking lot ripe with abandoned wealth, and an impromptu sermon on a Sunday afternoon ...

HIDDEN MEANINGS  It's amazing how a plate of blueberry pancakes and a cup of coffee can get the ole grey matter going.  Theology at the breakfast table ... an interesting concept.

St. Robert  An "unusual\" saint leads a young man to the understanding of an unfortunate truth.

Blending In    Do Christians need another Pentecost?  An interesting conversation asks that question.

Same Problem - Different Saints    An interesting theological debate ... and at the ballpark no less ...