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.”

The New Punic War

The Church in Russia views Moscow as “The Third Rome”. It’s been this way for a while. Rome was Rome, but then Rome fell – and there was a filioque, but lay that aside as gently as you can. Then Constantinople was Rome, and the heathen Rus even tried to sack it. But then it fell to the Muslims. (Istanbul is Constantinople, don’t you know that?) So Moscow became the Third Rome, but history has poo-pooed that as a political reality. See, the West kinda glommed onto it: Charlemagne, the Holy Romans, Napoleon, the British Empire, and last, the good ole US of A, all took this place on the World Stage. And, even as Moscow fell, and her Church as well, to the Revolution, various other places became Novus Roma: In Tempore Bello. Perhaps Moscow has watched all of us like Carthage, wandering about with Elephants, ruining her place in the Sun?

We don’t like mess. Americans don’t like mess. Bloody meat may be fine and fashionable, but not on a carcass. Farmed venison is nice, but hunters are not. Armed criminals are bad, but armed citizens protecting themselves is pure evil. We come up with names to avoid mistakes: venison, again, is nice, but deer meat is kinda scary. Abortion is a good, shooting up a school though, that’s senseless violence. We are the same politically: we love results, but we don’t want to see the blood. Blood makes us uncomfortable, results make us happy.  We are unhappy with “boots on the ground” wars. We’ve already imaged the people out, but just their boots are bad, too.

As Americans, we generally like petitions, giant quilts, and million man marches or other methods of acceptable protest. Such protest protect our way of life and our self-image. It makes us look Good and Peaceful Yet Concerned with Justice™. We are so unlike those other, violent people. We are building, and spreading, Civilization! They are destroying it with their protest. We refuse to admit that they are really protesting us by proxy, our activities in their homes. It is only our secular, money-centered, greedy culture they are protesting.

Russia, just to take you back to history class, remembers how the US and the UK used the Soviet Army in WW2 to destroy Hitler’s strength: making hamburger in the meat grinder of Stalingrad. Then, just when we said we would help her rebuild, we announced, “We can’t help communists”. In walking away from our former ally we were hoping that in Russia’s weakness she couldn’t beat us to oil in several places around a war-torn globe. We gave Stalin a financial failure, a reason to renege on all his promises to his people. To no small degree, the blood of 50,000,000 Soviet citizens is on our hands. But we had muscle cars, Elvis, and West Germany!

Much of the rest of the world has been fighting – with guns – against dictators we installed and supported; who in exchange for that support made possible our way of life. We remember Kennedy because he failed to pull this tinkering off in Cuba. But we set up the Cuban Banana Republic therefore they had their revolution. Read up on the School of the Americas. And Iran-Contra. And the Philippines. Grenada. Cristiani. And the Panama Canal. And the entire history of the world since the Louisiana Purchase. And then there are the Native tribal peoples in all of the US, including Hawaii and Alaska. We manipulate, divide, and rule. It’s our MO. But please don’t show us. That’s what made us so uncomfortable with Viet Nam: we could see it. People are worried that Russia hacked our election. So what? This is what we’ve been doing to other people forever. See this about Honduras. See this one about Egypt. Palestine? Iraq? Chile? Ah… let me go on.

Not one president in this or the last Century (at least) is exempt from this critique. The World gave a Nobel Peace Prize to the man who became the greatest Drone Warrior of all time – and now we call him Classy. Please don’t remind us that our boots and our drones kill people. We have never had a family so classy. Never.

When the kids rioted in the 60s and 70s we were annoyed at their destruction of property. We felt the same regarding riots in the 80s, 90s, 00s, and now. We never want to rock the boat too much because, well: cheap gas is good, be you Democrat or Republican. Cheap plastic junk is good, be you shopping for plastic junk at Walmart or IKEA and Target. We want to feel good about our recycling – we don’t care that we have to sell our garbage to China because no one here is willing to do the work. We like our bottled water we don’t care we’re ruining Fiji’s ecosystem, or that it takes gas and pollution to get get our bottles here with all speed. We don’t shoot children in schools, it’s less traumatic to kill them in the womb. We don’t chop the heads off Christians on video! We just drain their charity coffers with lawsuits and force them to pay for things they can’t morally support. We are making bloodless martyrs. Cool, Civilization, cool.

If stuff happens under DJT the way people think it’s going to and we go more than 4 months without some sort of revolt – and I don’t mean Occupy Central Park, I mean revolt – I’ll call BS. I will not, however, be surprised. We have never been willing to tell our freely elected powers that be that we would rise up and overthrow them in the name of freedom… because, really, we have our freedom, the freedom that we want – cheap gas and plastic junk. We don’t very much care that everyone else is paying for it. In the mid-50s we redefined our freedom to be the depth of the produce section at the A&P and the number of car salesmen we could find in the phonebook. We made fun of the Soviets for standing in line for toilet paper. They had to pick from a one party ticket. We had two! Trump will be no different, as long as gas and plastic junk stays cheap. We were happy with Obama’s corporate welfare program for aging insurance companies. We even acted like it was new: not the same welfare that propped up Iacocca’s Chrysler, or the Savings and Loan scandal, or the Military Contractors. As long as the status quo includes my latest gadgets, I’m good, thanks.

This is how we’ve slipped over the years. Once our freedoms are redefined as consumptions, we let someone else’s power corrupt our corruption. If you have cheap tiny Asian fingers in your Christmas decorations, your computers, your watches, your clothing then you did this. I did this. I don’t really care who you voted for, what your race is, or any other of your petty identity issues. While we sit around worrying about what might happen to us, we, as a country, have been making that very thing happen everywhere else at least since the Spanish American War.

To the extent that Russia did anything at all to make this happen (and I like to imagine it was a lot) Russia has helped unmask us to ourselves. Not to the rest of the world – they already knew us.  I don’t think Russia really likes DJT. He’s not gym-sexy and smart like Ramzan Kadyrov. He’s not crafy like Putin. He’s not clever, even, like Medvedev. I think Russia supported Trump exactly because he will be – in public – what we’ve always been in private. Bullies. Trump hasn’t the diplomatic ability to be two-faced. He hasn’t the skills to be diplomatic at all. Putin can now point at us and say “We have never expected anything less from this nation, but at least we will hear it out loud. We won’t be stabbed in the back.” All of this however, takes us out of the way of the Third Rome. We become Carthage. We will burn ourselves up.

If Trump turns into the nightmare he’s supposed to be and I don’t see something exciting and even revolutionary, then, we will all know that the cheap plastic stuff is very important indeed.

May you live in interesting times. Carthago Delenda Est.


Today’s Readings:

  • Hebrews 5:1-10
  • Mark 2:18-22

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

Alleluia: Vivus est sermo Dei et efficax, et discretor cogitationum et intentionum.
Alleluia: The word of God is living and effective, able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart.
From: Hebrews 4:12

The Alleluia verse is my text today mostly because I missed it when it came up in the regular readings last week.

Coming from a Protestant background I’m used to hearing this verse often (especially in the King James version) as a comment on the “inerrancy” and “inspiration” of the Biblical text.

For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. 

“Quick” in the KJV’s language means “alive” but this is often lost on prot Preachers. It translates the word Zoe, the title Jesus takes to himself saying, I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life (Zoe). This text, in Greek, is:

Ζῶν γὰρ ὁ λόγος τοῦ θεοῦ , καὶ ἐνεργής.
“Living is The Logos of God, and energetic.”

The next verse makes much more sense if this is about a person rather than a book:

Neither is there any creature invisible in his sight: but all things are naked and open to his eyes, to whom our speech is

So it is Jesus (God’s Logos) about whom St Paul writes here. It is Jesus that is Life indeed, and Energetic. It is Jesus that is “more piercing than any two edged sword; and reaching unto the division of the soul and the spirit, of the joints also and the marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” Nothing is hidden from him and we are all open to his eyes.

Jesus: not the flat, hardbound green things the Gideons leave in empty hotel rooms in the hopes that it might magically convert someone. Jesus is the Infallible, Inerrant Word of God.

If I could only get that into my head and my heart I might be able to live the Gospel.

You cannot pour the new wine of the Gospel into your old life: you can’t hold the Gospel and keep being your old self. You can’t so a Jesus patch onto your old, tired Identity Politics, false humanist idea of sex and sexuality, modernist ideas of amorality and tolerance: the wineskins burst, the clothes tear. This is what is currently happening in the liberal Protestant bodies, trying to hold on to their favorite parts of the World and molding the Gospel thereto. Even now, they imagine that they can take the Gospel and pour it into the tired, old sins of the world



Like the woman bleeding for decades, the only way to find healing is for them and me to come back to Jesus.

God’s Secret Weapon

Today’s readings
  • Isaiah 49:3-6
  • 1 Corinthians 1:1-3
  • John 1:29-34

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

Et ego dixi: In vacuum laboravi; sine causa et vane fortitudinem meam consumpsi.
To me, all my labour seemed useless, my strength worn out in vain.
Isaiah 49:4a

This verse is missing from the assigned readings today. It’s actually pretty Prophetic of that Eloi, Eloi, moment on the cross, I think. More though, how much I recognize this sentiment, how much it sounds like life sometimes. The Psalms are filled with this, as are the Wisdom books: sometimes stuff just sucks. Worse than that, it feels like nothing makes sense, like nothing you’ve done is of value.

Yesterday (Saturday) was the anniversary of an event in my personal life that totally wrecked my well-under-way midlife crises. Being laid off from a good job in a wonderful company, finding oneself alone and drifting can point out a lot of things: a lot of failures in life planning. The big one for me was the realization of how much of my self identity was invested in work. What I did for money held a lot of my sense of “Who I Am.” The loss of my Job felt like a loss of my Me. To go with Isaiah, here, “To me, all my labour seemed useless, my strength worn out in vain.”

I’m told that for men, this investment of self, this submersion of identity in work is a real problem. I can imagine, though, it might be so for women as well. Thus the drive for women to be able to do the same work as men, right? It’s founded not on a quest for equality as such, but rather on a greed for equal cultural capital in a culture that invented and sells that mistake of you-are-what-you-do.

If my things-done are are without value who am I?

In this mindset I took great comfort in podcasts from my friend and from this guy I follow on Twitter, both named Steve. Both of them reminded me that it is in working out my salvation that I live out my faith, not in standing around waiting for God to reveal his plan for my life. In fact both Steves suggested that was a Protestant, Prosperity thing that had nothing to do with anything Christian. There was this one, on Mediocrity, and then these two on the whole “plan for your life” thing (wait for it).

In the Hobbit (the Book), Bard the Bowman has a secret weapon called “The Black Arrow” which never misses its mark and always is found again. Bard uses the Black Arrow to slay the Dragon Smaug – its fated destiny. I’m sure in the horrid Peter Jackson Blasphemy, Bard had, perhaps, a trident warhead and maybe shot it from a large tank. Here’s the way it looked the first time I was ever introduced to Tolkien’s work (1977)

Isaiah is right there, ready for the punchline. In Verse 2 of the same chapter, the prophet sees himself as “a arrow he has chosen out carefully, hidden yet in his quiver.” God’s secret weapon. “Use thee I will, he (God) promises.” The thing is, we do not get to pick how God will use us, nor really, will we know: God may use you to make a post on Facebook that will cause someone to block you – and will haunt them until they go to Church. But you may never know. Steve the Missionary’s third video goes here, because he gets it: say your prayers, go to Mass, be as obedient as you can with the resources God gives you and slowly, but surely, God will make you a blessing. And you will be blessed.

Where, though, does our sense of self come from, if not from the work we do? A Christian’s selfhood is defined in Christ. He is the image of God – and we are in him, united in his sacrifice. OUr selfhood is so invested in him, that we were called “little Christs” by the Romans. St Paul says that he is dead and it is Christ who lives in him: that’s here we all should be. In today’s opening to the Epistle to the Church of Corinth St Paul makes this point. First, he calls the community of Christians he founded the Ekklesia. It is a noun, meaning “called out” but a few words later, he uses the same word as a verb “Kletois” or “summoned to” what? We are called to Holiness, being set apart for God. God has us in the quiver. We’re there, intended to be used. Only it’s not up to us to be used, we just go through life. God will make use in his own time.

If you end up in the side of a dragon, though, I’m gonna be jealous.

Let’s do the Timewarp Again!

Today’s readings:

  • Hebrews 4:1-5, 11
  • Mark 2:1-12

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

And Jesus, seeing their faith, said to the palsied man, Son, thy sins are forgiven.
Mark 2:5 (Knox)

We do like to think that “our communion time” is for us. I’m here, God: fix me – or fix this thing that’s wrong in my life, or whatnot. But: It’s not like that at all. Mass, the Divine Liturgy, the Holy Eucharist, is a ripping apart of space and time. We stand at one moment before Golgotha, and before the Heavenly Throne, we are at the Parousia and the Harrowing of Hell. All the Altars of God’s Church are but one Altar. All the priests but one Priest. There is only one Offering and perfect Oblation for the sins of the whole world. We are participating in the healing of all things, the Tikkun Olam, as the Jews say. The elevation of the Consecrated Elements (East or West) is that very moment in all of eternity breaking in on all of temporality. We are not there for “me time” (if any are, they’re doing it wrong). This is God’s Eternity. We are there to become the vessels of that Eternity in the world of time and space. It’s not me time: for we stand there with every Christian who ever has, or ever will stand there before God, and with all God’s Children from all times and all spaces.

We all struggle. That’s why Philo says to be kind. All sins are equally sin… But sometime you find you’ve built a life out of one, you’ve decided it’s who you are, and you may feel you need some extra help. It can be so all-engrossing, this false sense of self, that you – the real you – might feel paralyzed. You need your friends to bring you and drop you through the roof at Church: cuz you’re not going to get there by yourself. This through the roof thing is one of my favorite passages. It’s the sign that we are not saved alone: rather we are saved in community.

I was reminded of all this earlier this week, discussing with a friend my involvement with Courage, the Catholic Apostolate ministering to people who, experiencing sexual attraction to members of their own sex, desire to live according to the traditional Christian teaching on sexuality. I was given a blessing by my Spiritual Father to attend Courage meetings back in 2013. I knew it was a ministry which I would find helpful in my struggles. I met with a Fr S, one of the chaplains, and he invited me to attend, but I just never made it to the weekly gathering. I would find myself drifting of to sleep very early on the night of the meeting, just as my calendar alarm was going off. Next week, I would say. Then came the layoff a year ago (a year ago yesterday, actually), and then my six months trying to be a monastic, and my job search. Out of the blue, “coincidentally” as a materialist might say, Fr S emailed me for the first time in three years on the weekend I “happened” to be in SF for interviews last September. Sometimes God has to slug me upside the head for me to get the point. I was at the first meeting the week I moved back. I’ve been going since.

When we kneel at Mass, or stand at Liturgy, when we are in awe before the Physical, Eucharistic, Living and True presence of the Lord who made all the times and all the spaces that have ever been, there in that Host, there in that Chalice, we can make it “All about me” or we can decide – coining a phrase – to make me all about Thee. To make my life a sacrifice, a prayer.

We never know. We never know when we will be able to bring someone to Jesus, but we can do so at every turn. Leaving St Dominic’s once, I saw all the Friars and Novices gathered in adoration before the Heart on fire with love for the world. Who were they bringing through the roof at that very moment? Fr S, praying right along, dropped me through the roof when the time was right. When you stand at Liturgy, or kneel at Mass, whom do you bring? When you go out, where do you take God?

The Overnighter

Today’s readings:

  • Hebrews 2:14-18
  • Mark 1:29-39

In the Douay, the RSV, or the NABRE with other Mass texts.
The Vulgate if you’re up to it.

Then, at very early dawn, he left them, and went away to a lonely place, and began praying there. Simon and his companions went in search of him: and when they found him, they told him, All men are looking for thee. And he said to them, Let us go to the next country-towns, so that I can preach there too; it is for this I have come.
Mark 1:35-38 (Knox)

At St Dominic’s, on the first Friday of the month, overnight into the first Saturday, there is an over-night Adoration. The youth, I think, must be really into it: overnighters always seem to appeal to the youth. I’m happy to get there at 6AM to join in the fun. That last hour in the predawn light of San Francisco, kneeling before Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, is so rich! (Lest anyone say the Orthodox do not do this, we had such things at the Monastery, but nothing quite so intense.) To be there in the darkness, with candles and the white-hot Host shining out at you; Alive, Eternally Present, and yet intimately loving and loved. The Heart of Love, on fire for the world, waiting in silence only for our love to respond.

I love this image in St Mark of Jesus, after healing pretty much anyone within a day’s walk of Simon Peter’s house, going out exhausted to pray in the predawn silence. It shows the reality of the incarnation. Jesus, as a Baby, as a Newborn, was God – but the physical reality of his brain, of his vocal chords, of his muscle control, was a real baby, a real newborn. The Word had no words.  And here, Jesus as a Man, can be the creator of the universe, the healer of every wound, the joy of every heart; but a human body can’t keep going: it stops from time to time. It sleeps. It needs recharging. And he’s not here to run it into the ground doing miracles. He’s got stuff to do! He can’t be a superhero of sorts: a miracle-working God in a man suit. He has to be us. St Paul makes it clear, today in his Epistle to the Hebrews:

And so he must needs become altogether like his brethren; he would be a high priest who could feel for us and be our true representative before God, to make atonement for the sins of the people. It is because he himself has been tried by suffering, that he has power to help us in the trials we undergo.
Hebrews 2:17-18 (Knox) 

Jesus is like us in every way. This so important. He is still God, yes, and he is still Man, and sinless. But really: he dies. He needs to sleep. He’s hungry. He’s subject to the full situation here – he is subject to the fallen order even though he, himself, is not fallen. Think about that that for a moment: to rescue us, God has to play by the house rules here. The same ones you and I have to play by. So after a night of exhausting spiritual labor. Prayer has to happen. But then something else…

We come to him in the silence before dawn and say, “Everyone is looking for you.”

When he says let us go… together… into the neighboring towns, he means, from his place of prayerful, loving silence, that we have work to do. As the day’s dawn rises, we have to get out there, into the neighborhood, into the streets, to do the work he has given us to do. It’s not enough to kneel in silence without getting out here. It is for this he has come… and so, too, us.

Everyone is truly looking for Jesus – even the ones don’t yet know it. It is our job to bear up (and to be) that Sacred Heart, on fire with love for the world. That’s what happens with the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the Loyal Heart of Joseph: all set on fire with Jesus’ Love. What of you? It is good to adore, to repair in silence for the sadness and sins of the world, but we must go out into the neighboring towns. We are God’s hands and feet in the world, being the presence of Love in Action.

The Heart beats: so we must dance.

In the Fog (the Bridge)

Today’s readings:

  • Hebrews 2:5-12
  • Mark 1:21-28

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

All were full of astonishment; What can this be? they asked one another. What is this new teaching? See how he has authority to lay his commands even on the unclean spirits, and they obey him!
Mark 1:27 (Knox)

Yesterday morning at Mass, Father brought up the “Liar, Lord, or Lunatic” argument. It’s C.L. Lewis’ classing trilema: reading the Bible, one cannot say, simply, that Jesus is a good teacher. The things he is reported to have said mean that he is either a liar making up stuff, a lunatic who believes crazy stuff about himself, or else he is who says he is, the Lord God Almighty. The humorous way to posit this is “Mad, Bad, or God. Leaving Mass, I realized that most modern interaction with Christianity is only vain attempts to resolve this situation. For both sorts of Atheists – the sort who say there is no god and the sort who say there can’t be an orthodox Christian god – the issue is resolved exactly thus: the Bible is a bunch of codswallop so we don’t have to pay any attention to it. They go off looking for the “Historical Jesus” which (for it’s not a who), luckily for them, confirms their doctrines and means they don’t have to decide “mad, bad, or God” at all. He’s dead, but he said some cool stuff.

The ones who claim to be Christians whilst rejecting Christianity are the worst, really. They affirm that there is a way around all this. They vote on verses of the Bible that can’t really be Jesus. They insist that if you just ignore a few verse here and there (cutting out half of the Gospels, really) then it all makes sense. They do the same to St Paul: insisting the could not have written his texts. St John didn’t write his his texts… sure, that’s what the Church says, but she’s biased: you have to trust us, we’re *not* biased.

For others, though, who are not Christians, but are more faithful, this really is an issue. They know that to “taste and see” is the right answer: but they have to figure out what to taste. Unfortunately the Atheists offer a seeming reply. By removing bits and pieces of the story, here and there, they make it easy for one to miss the point. “See, how he has authority!”

Faith is needed here: and I don’t mean doctrines, nor do I mean the Apostles’ Creed, nor even the Bible itself. Answer this: If Christians are right about two things, only: that God is really real and he loves us… what would happen? What should happen?

We have a bridge here in San Francisco. It’s orange and kinda famous. Sometimes it’s hidden in the fog. Sometimes it’s right out there in the open. Boats – big, huge boats – go under it ladden with the riches of the world. People jump off of it, too, truth be told, and so the sides have nets to catch them. It is of a certain height and length. It was built at a certain time of specific materials. It was raised at the cost of a certain pile of money and and a solid number of lives. It sparked a labor revolution, and a cultural one. It is painted, end to end, in a specific Pantone color and then the painting has to start all over again – because the salt air and corrosion eat the color daily.

The wind blows there and you may have heard of it.

You can know all the specifics I’ve just hinted at without once ever having set foot (or wheel) on that bridge. Google ’em. Or you can be a 5 year old who is brave enough to walk across it with her daddy, or a 20 year old who cycles it daily to and from work. You can even be a 52 year old who loves to walk out there and back on sunny days. You can be a tourist who gets out there and gasps in awe and moves here six months later and never leaves again. Or you can sit at home and say there is nothing special about such place; or petulantly insist that the Golden Gate was better without the bridge.

Jesus is just like that. I believe that once you try, you will find he is amazing. You don’t need doctrine – but I believe you will want to know everything you can about him, eventually. And no, you don’t need to go to a specific church, but the bridge runs between San Francisco and Sausalito. It’s highway 101. You have to get there sooner or later.

Only a San Franciscan would compare that bridge to Jesus, so I hope you’ll forgive me. But there it is. You can walk without knowing. And even in the fog, and wind, and rain it will hold you up. It has authority like that. That’s faith.

Jesus, being God, can be amazingly patient and loving. Doctrine doesn’t save us – if salvation means “being made whole” – but it does describe how and why it happens. Jesus, however, is salvation. And to get there, it is perfectly fine you have to walk in the fog a bit – even if you want to stay in the fog, I think.

Doctrine can come later. Really.

That’s faith.

All Roads Lead…

From the Roads to Rome project

Today’s readings:

  • Isaiah 60:1-6
  • Ephesians 3:2-6
  • Matthew 2:1-12

In the Douay, RSV, or the NABRE with other Mass Texts.

Those rays of thine shall light the Gentiles on their path; kings shall walk in the splendour of thy sunrise. Lift up thy eyes and look about thee; who are these that come flocking to thee? Sons of thine, daughters of thine, come from far away, or rising up close at hand. Heart of thee shall overflow with wonder and gratitude, to see all the riches of ocean, all the treasure of the Gentiles pouring into thee!
Isaiah 60:3-5 (Knox)

Judaism makes an august claim: that one day, a renegade criminal, hiding from the most powerful man in the world (at that time) beheld a miracle, a bush that was burning and yet was not consumed. In that miracle, to that one runaway, the God of All the Universes and Times there have ever been or ever will be revealed himself as the One by Whose Being all things are. And even as they were being persecuted, led into slavery again and again, fought, destroyed, nearly killed, they held on to that revelation knowing that “The gods of the gentiles are but idols.” On that claim the Church comments that the One by Whose Being all things are, He whom the heavens cannot contain was, in the fulness of time, entered into time as a babe contained in the womb of an unmarried teenager, and there brought hope to all the poor, smelly people in a forgotten corner of the world.

When he grew up, that poor, smelling backroads child, now a man and a preacher, announced, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life: no one comes to the Father but by me.”

And the whole world has listened.

And come, by way of that Child, to the same revelation of the Bush that burns and is not consumed. The One by Whose Being all things are, in Whose Presence all things bow, by Whose Flame all things burn and the real things last – and others go up in smoke – this Very One, is this Babe in the arms of his mother, now, before whom the Magi kneel.

And the full meaning of Moses’ Bush is revealed in the Virgin into whose womb the Divine Fire descended and yet she was not consumed. And we, into whose mouths the Flesh of God is taken and we do not die.

And all the world is fed on Israel’s God, made known in his loving fullness: the Babe in Bethlehem.

This feast, though, says something even more shocking than all the above. This feast says that since Jesus is “the Truth” then All Truth is Jesus. And so the Magi, following the Truth as they know it, come to Jesus. All that is Truth in anything – in any religion, in any political system, in any love, in any art – is Jesus.

As God was preparing, by direct action, the Nation of Israel to birth his promised Messiah, so God was preparing every other nation by direct action to receive Messiah. Israel’s function is to the world. The hatred born by so many towards Israel is a hatred of the God Israel reveals – and the whole world is to receive. To reject Israel’s action is to reject the whole work of God in the world.

All come to the Father by him – even those who are not Christians: because they follow the Truth given to them and so, they are following Jesus. This is not a case of universalism in the warm and fluffy sense (read, Popi, have you seen Dash?) cuz it’s scary to fall into the fire that burns up everything worthless. Will there be anything left of me?

This feast is the promised union of all mankind and God into one great hymn of Divine Fire.

Relating in Courage

Today’s readings:

  • 1 John 5:5-13
  • Mark 1:7-11

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

Quoniam tres sunt, qui testimonium dant in cælo: Pater, Verbum, et Spiritus Sanctus: et hi tres unum sunt.
Thus we have a threefold warrant in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost, three who are yet one.
1 John 5:7

All the cool Bibles leave this verse out. I’m sure they have their reasons, Mr Knox, following Mr Douay and Mr Rheims, in turn following Mr Jerome, who was following the best texts of his time, leave it in. And they have no axes to grind against the Church so I will trust them. The RSV skips it for their own reasons and the NABRE does as well. So, go as you wish, but 5 of my 7 go-to sources have it. So I have it.

The Trinity, apart from any doctrine we might care to explore, is about relationship. God is a fully divine being in relationship. God’s love is so full and perfect that it can only be in relationship. Since we are called to be perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect, we are thus called to be in relationship. The old adage is true: you complete me. As the Orthodox say, no one is saved alone. The prayer intention we explore today is also about relationship:

For our relationships, that they may holy, healthy, and honorable at all times.

I’ve been wrestling with this idea for a few weeks, since I first visited the San Francisco chapter of the Courage Apostolate, which is a 12 Step-based community for people who struggle to live according to the Church’s teachings on sex, especially as people who experience attraction to their own sex.

When I finally attended my first meeting I encountered Courage’s formulation of the 12 Steps. I was especially struck by steps 8 and 9:

8. We made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make direct amends to them all.
9. We made the direct amends to such people wherever possible except when to do so would injure them or others.

When I moved to SF (in 1997) I got a call from someone whom I’d not heard from in years. It was a fun call, a little, I don’t know, hyped and oddly sexual. But it ended with good laughter and was over. About a year, or maybe two later I got another phone call from the same person telling me that he had been very drunk/high during that phone call, had no idea what was said. He had found an unknown number on his outbound calls and knew he needed to reach out, under the guidance of his N.A. Sponsor, to make amends. We had a long talk, and forgiveness and love was shared.

When I read steps 8 & 9 that phone call came back to me. Was I expected to do that? To everyone whom I had hurt in an through my sexual sins and explorations? That list can go on for years!

How many of my relationships are not holy, healthy, and honorable! And how many more have not been!

Holy and Healthy are, essentially the same thing for to be saved and to be whole are the same thing and we turn to Christ for both. It is with Christ, also, that we form our primary relationship. Through that relationship all others are kept in balance. Proper relationships of Agape begin and continue as acts of self emptying, self sacrifice. As the Father pours his being into the Son, and through the Son into the Holy Spirit; as Son shares his self sacrifice to the Father, through the Holy Spirit with us; as the Spirit lives through the loving communion pouring himself out to each and through each. So are we, in our Self Sacrifice to God in each other,ade to receive the indwelling Spirit, with the Son and the Father, and so are we made to pour forth ourselves to God, present in our neighbors as we worship. This pouring forth, this self-emptying is, exactly, our identity.

We come to realize that an unchaste relationship is neither holy nor healthy. It is one in which there is a constant struggle to self-defense against or in spite of the other. Unchastity is a zero sum game where one must contain, control or confine the other. That can be in a negative or positive sense: you satisfied my sexual needs so move along now. Relationships that are neither holy nor healthy move us away from – not towards – our salvation.

This all came home harder last night, at the first Courage meeting of the new year when the topic was Step 8! I admitted that I was lost and had no idea how to navigate around this step. Yet I was very thankful I was only at my second meeting! I could wait a while before worrying about how to deal with something so advanced. I still had to do step 4, at least, “We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.” Yeah, that’s going to take a while to get to.

Humans share one human nature, in the divine pattern: as the Trinity is one in three persons, so are we supposed to be one in many, one shared communion of love.  We mess that up at every turn, yes, but that is what we are called to be.

Mindful that, as I noted yesterday, even Christian Marriage is a chaste institution: sex is always about self-sacrifice and love, never about self-satisfaction, always open to God’s gift of life, so we are all called to Chastity in our relationships. Where are yours? How do you find yourself working on “holy, healthy, and honorable” relationships? What brings you to that place of salvation?

If You’re in Love, Show Me.

Today’s Readings:

  • 1 John 3:11-21
  • John 1:43-51

In the Douay, the RSV, or the NABRE together with other Mass texts.

You were not to be like Cain, who took his character from the evil one, and murdered his brother. Why did he murder him? Because his own life was evil, and his brother’s life was acceptable to God. No, brethren, do not be surprised that the world should hate you.
1 John 3:12-13 (Knox)

Murder for one’s faith is not very common in the USA, especially if one is a Christian. Apart from some social ostracization we’re not likely to experience anything much at all, yet.

Recently there has been a revival of the Sanctuary Movement. As the Wiki notes, “The Sanctuary Movement was a religious and political campaign in the United States that began in the early 1980s to provide safe-haven for Central American refugees fleeing civil conflict. It responded to federal immigration policies that made obtaining asylum difficult for Central Americans.” And, since part of the stated mindsets of the incoming administration as well as its supporters has been opposition to immigration, registering, and deportation, Sanctuary seems perfect for a movement of Churches and Christians concerned about justice. This will, of course, cause them to be reviled by the Administration, but one would imagine this would make them a friend to others.

Yeah, not so much.

A friend (not of the Church-going sort) posted on his Facebook about the revival of the Sanctuaries and instantly he was given a reply: since churches are involved it will only be heterosexual immigrants that they care for. The mainline, liberal denominations are already lumped in with other, more traditional sorts, in the popular mindset, despite 60+ years of caving in to “relevance”. In fact, as the Episcopal Church was moving forward as one of the most gay-friendly of communities, I had a fight with fellow students at NYU when a local parish posted the words of John the Baptist on their reader board, “Make straight in the desert a highway,” etc. This was in 1985 when ECUSA was setting up AIDS ministries and whatall. In NYC where the then-bishop had been most outspoken about his support for gays.  Didn’t matter: once you hate Christians it doesn’t matter what sort of Christians you have.

Today’s verses then should not come as a surprise for us. If you’ve committed to live your life being acceptable to God you will be contrary to social norms. My fear has never been of the political sorts in our country, to be honest, but of the religious sorts who are caving in to societal norms all over the place. I think, at some point, we may see a political power play where the more mainline folks turn over confessing Christians in order to keep their tax exemptions and their access to the corridors of power. It has ever been this way, in Germany, in Communist countries, in other totalitarian dictatorships, so it’s easy to imagine it here. The power may be leftist with Episcopalians, or rightist with Evangelicals and Fundamentalists. Either way confessing Christians with their social actions, their sacraments, and their sexual morals won’t fit in.

So the first of the 15 Aves in the Angelic Warfare Confraternity has us pray with this intention:

For our social and cultural climate, that it may be purified of everything contrary to chastity, and that we may have the strength to resist the pressures of prevailing ideologies.

Chastity is about sexual purity, yes, and much of our culture is tuned to the contrary frequency. However chastity is not only pressured by sexual ideologies: educational ones, commercials, political parties, a general cultural opposition to responsibility, a bias toward hedonism, a loss of joy, a philosophical embrace of nihilistic darkness; these all conspire against this virtue. Privatizing religion helps us towards a less chaste culture as well: religion that has no place in the public sphere, that has nothing to say about public ethics. Literature that glorifies sexual “exploration” even within marriage, or ideas about sex that have only the goal of “satisfaction” in mind all pressure us to discard this virtue. Mindful that Chastity includes the virtue of procreation and the proper use of the sexual gift, think of how many ways even married couples are tempted. In our modern culture almost all non-Catholic religions support the use of birth control.  Even traditional ones, like Eastern Orthodoxy, allow it with a don’t-ask, don’t-tell policy.

Shielding against this the prayer calls on the Virgin Mother of God for aid that we might resist these challenges, but also that our culture may be purified. And St John adds, Filioli mei, non diligamus verbo neque lingua, sed opere et veritate. (1 John 3:18) Msgr Knox renders this as, “My little children, let us shew our love by the true test of action, not by taking phrases on our lips.”  The “love” there is the verbal form of Agape, that divine love that is God. Here is this love in action on our hands. Let us act-out-love not only in the uttering of phrases.

In a culture so dead set against true love, what is our action? How do we find a way to make real love present in the world?

It starts with prayer and the reformation of our own lives. Let us see where it takes us.