The House of Playballs

Today’s Readings:

  • Hebrews 6:10-20
  • Mark 2:23-28

In the Douay, the RSV, and the NABRE with other Mass texts.

God is not an unjust God, that he should forget all you have done, all the charity you have shewn in his name, you who have ministered, and still minister, to the needs of his saints. But our great longing is, to see you all shewing the same eagerness right up to the end, looking forward to the fulfilment of your hope; listless no more, but followers of all those whose faith and patience are to bring them into possession of the good things promised them.
Hebrews 6:10-12

The comic from XKCD (above) is where I wanna start. Click to embiggen, or click through to see it in it’s native habitat.

That sounds good, right? Until, of course, you realize that the real definition of “Grownup” is relative – not meaning “I can make it up” but, rather, there has to be some children around for me to be the Grownup. When you become a parent, you become an adult really fast. But we live in a world where we want to make stuff up. “We don’t like your silly rules. We’re going to do it our way.” I like to call it special-case devolution. Darwinism is nearly in a class with Divine Revelation: but we don’t think it applies to us. We are happy to regress ourselves into a perpetual, multi-generational childhood as if the rest of the human race wasn’t gunning for our American place at the top of the food chain. But we’ve begun infecting others with our sickness. Europe has succumbed, along with parts of Central and Southern America, all of Canada… we can do whatever we want and no one makes the rules.

Yesterday there was the Dominical quote about “New Wine in Old Wineskins”. Today’s quote is “the Sabbath is made for Man, not Man for the Sabbath.” Both of these quotes get used by the Inovationists to mean that we can toss out the tradition, that we can ignore the moral teachings, that we can, essentially, be whatever we want and call it “Christian” without, really, being Christian. Then they turn around and wonder why no one wants to come to their churches, where they pass out warm blankets and sing facing each other (because God is invisible, right?)… but with no content, no doctrine, no moral code. And no backbone. (Let’s read the Koran in Church, ok?)

Jesus, however, was saying “I’m God and I’m here to tell you what all this means” not, “Toss out tradition and do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law.” We have to keep following “all those whose faith and patience are to bring them into possession of the good things promised them.” If we see that St Paul and Jesus, Mary and Joseph, St Francis of Assisi and St Raphael of Brooklyn all walked this way… we have to walk that way, too; else we’re going some other place.

A couple of days ago I posted about that defeated feeling of “What time have I wasted and God has done nothing with me yet?” Today St Paul counters, teaching God will not forget our works in his name but they are not enough: he wants us to press on, “shewing the same eagerness right up to the end.” Gosh, but that’s annoying. It never stops: this struggle, this constant battle, this on-going fight against all my lesser energies, my evil thoughts, words, and deeds.

The hardest time for me is Sunday afternoon. I spend all week in work and prayer, I have chores on Saturday (so that I don’t waste the time on Sunday) and then the gathering of the faithful, and communion with the Body and Blood of Jesus. Then boom. I’m home. Resting. Looking at the ceiling. And wondering how best to get in trouble – but not too much trouble. This past Sunday, before and after Mass, I walked: 7.5 miles over the course of the day. And I was exhausted. So there was a nap. Douglas Adams gets this so completely:

In the end, it was the Sunday afternoons he couldn’t cope with, and that terrible listlessness which starts to set in at about 2:55, when you know that you’ve had all the baths you can usefully have that day, that however hard you stare at any given paragraph in the papers you will never actually read it, or use the revolutionary new pruning technique it describes, and that as you stare at the clock the hands will move relentlessly on to four o’clock, and you will enter the long dark teatime of the soul.
(From the book, The Long Dark Teatime of the Soul)

So, there I was, waiting and you know it happened. The inevitable stumble and fall and quite suddenly it was midnight – midnight! – and I was still trying to play catch-up with all the things I had intended to do.

Our Hope… this hope in salvation. Gah. Ignore what the doubters say, the detractors, and the people with their cheap grace. Salvation is not pie in the sky by and by when you die: it’s this crappy work right now. It’s remembering to turn the damned computer off and stand up and pray. This is why I have alarms set on my phone to make me do that. They play church bells, but really I’ve got my Nexus programmed to say “Listless no more!” The fall, despite what I said above, is NOT inevitable. We have to choose to fall.

“Every saint has a past. Every sinner has a future.” That’s what Pope Francis has said. It’s so platitudinous so you might miss the real content. St Mary of Egypt says this

Believe me, Abba, seventeen years I passed in this desert fighting wild beasts — mad desires and passions. When I was about to partake of food, I used to begin to regret the meat and fish which of which I had so much in Egypt. I regretted also not having wine which I loved so much. for I drank a lot of wine when I lived in the world, while here I had not even water. I used to burn and succumb with thirst. The mad desire for profligate songs also entered me and confused me greatly, edging me on to sing satanic songs which I had learned once. But when such desires entered me I struck myself on the breast and reminded myself of the vow which I had made, when going into the desert. In my thoughts I returned to the ikon of the Mother of God which had received me and to her I cried in prayer. I implored her to chase away the thoughts to which my miserable soul was succumbing. And after weeping for long and beating my breast I used to see light at last which seemed to shine on me from everywhere. And after the violent storm, lasting calm descended. 

And how can I tell you about the thoughts which urged me on to fornication, how can I express them to you, Abba? A fire was kindled in my miserable heart which seemed to burn me up completely and to awake in me a thirst for embraces. As soon as this craving came to me, I flung myself on the earth and watered it with my tears, as if I saw before me my witness, who had appeared to me in my disobedience, and who seemed to threaten punishment for the crime. And I did not rise from the ground (sometimes I lay thus prostrate for a day and a night) until a calm and sweet light descended and enlightened me and chased away the thoughts that possessed me. But always I turned to the eyes of my mind to my Protectress, asking her to extend help to one who was sinking fast in the waves of the desert. And I always had her as my Helper and the Accepter of my repentance. And thus I lived for seventeen years amid constant dangers. And since then even till now the Mother of God helps me in everything and leads me as it were by the hand.

We can press on. Let the silly people fill their churches with playballs. Let the world fall apart – it’s done that several times since Jesus left here. But it’s never to late to stand up one more time, to kneel down one more time. And to press forward one more time, following Saint Mary and “all those whose faith and patience are to bring them into possession of the good things promised them.”

Author: Huw Raphael

A Dominican Tertiary living in San Francisco, CA. He is almost 59. He feeds the homeless as a parochial almoner and is studying to be a Roman Catholic Deacon. He is learning modern Israeli Hebrew and enjoys cooking, keto, cats, long urban hikes, and SF Beer Week.

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