The Readings for the 26th Sunday of Ordinary Time (B2)
The Readings for the 26th Sunday of Ordinary Time (B2)
The Readings for the Memorial of St Vincent de Paul
Thursday ihthe 25th Week of Ordinary Time (B2)
“But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they came together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question, to test him. ‘Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?’ And he said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets’” (Matthew 22:34-40).
And there’s this citation from St Thomas Aquinas’ commentary on the passage:
When man is loved, God is loved, since man is the image of God.
So what is love?
St Thomas has us there, as well: To love is to will the good of another.
Good, also: is very well defined. God is good. God is the ultimate good. Yes, charity and acts of service are important, but God is the final and and goal of all being: if you’re not willing someone else to God-wards, you are not acting in love.
As Fr Z points out, “All of the Law is summed up in Jesus’ two-fold command of love of God and neighbor. The first part of the two-fold law is about unconditional love of God. The second follows as its consequence. We must cultivate our different loves in their proper order. God comes first, always. Always.”
We have it in our mushy liberal hearts that “love” has something to do with “don’t judge me”. We have set up the idea that God wants us to open the doors and let everyone in, like a 24/7 Denny’s. Love is not a “second hand emotion” but rather the driving force that created the universe. It sends us to hell and back in service to another person. It will not settle for second best. It weeps over the addict anddraws her away from her addiction. It can be gentle, nearly passive; or love can be tough to the point of self-destruction in the name of rescuing another.
We cannot love another by simply saying, “Do what ever makes you happy”. For our end and ultimate Good is God. And to walk away from God in any way is not to be acting to one’s own Good.
But how do you will the good of another and yet woo them? How do you notcondemn and yet not condone? How do you call someone Godward without pushing them away?
The Readings for Tuesday in the 25th Week of Ordinary Time (B2)
Jesus says that hearing-and-doing makes one his Mother and his Brother. James, his brother, says the same thing. And Mary, his mother (but James’ stepmother) would know full well what dancing with the Logos can mean. But James and Jesus, now, they get this from Mary’s Husband, Joseph the Craftsman. He knew how to work with wood like a poet. He knew how to work with the grain of wood, how to make beauty in tune with nature. And yet, because he worked with his hands, he would have been part of an underclass in both Jewish and Roman cultures.
The true artisan knows that about his craft, bread-baking, wood working, wordsmithing, iron mongery, gardening, child-rearing, music, stained glass… we all participate that way in the Divine Nature as we mirror the Divine Craftsman. Jesus calls us to participate in that ongoing creative process as that image of God in us is our salvation.
Go be poets of the logos. Work out your salvation.
The Readings for Monday in the 25th Week of Ordinary Time (B2)
America has a problem with rebels. We started with the violent overthrow of our lawful king. We used advanced wordplay to justify what only a couple of generations before would have been a sin. Indeed our whole Anglophone culture is based on the same sort of thing, really. For what was the English schism if not the overthrow of a lawful authority?
We like rebels. But we fail to recognize that all rebels are the same: the essential argument is always, “I will do what I will. This shall be the whole of my law.” This non-argument is used to justify even contradictory ideas: like belief in evolution and also in non-reproductive sex. We rebel against any form of authority including our own. And we envy the folks who do it best: we want to emulate them.
Why can’t I inherit, we ask, all of my money from my parents, ruin every business I touch, cheat on several of my spouses, be emotionally abusive, lie, cheat, gamble, and still be President and a hero to millions?
America has a problem with rebels. All of our movies (even the good ones) are about rebels: what is It’s A Wonderful Life about if not fiscal rebellion? Gone With The Wind is not just about “The Rebel South” but also about a woman rebelling against social norms and running her own life. The Korean war was about a Rebel General. MASH is commentary about rebels in the Vietnam War disguised as a story about rebels in the Korean War. We think the Rebellion in Star Wars is the Good Guys. In our mythology, Jesus was a rebel. We pay no attention to the fact that he adhered to rather traditional Jewish teachings on many front and that even some of his more “rebellious” lines are from one or another Jewish rabbinical tradition. Jesus is not a rebel, but he does have peculiar opinions.
We see this play out in the Church as well: as the entire America Church is filled with Rebels of one sort or another. Yes, there are the liberal sorts who toss off moral strictures, but there are the conservative sorts who align themselves with Steve Bannon and stick up for political leaders who abuse women. These are all our Rebels against the Pope. There are in Orthodoxy white supremacists who won’t even let their women dress in traditional, Orthodox ways because it looks “too Muslim.”
We like rebels – even the ones we say we don’t like.
The problem is that this leads us to some awkward places in our moral life. If we elevate these folks so high on our cultural ranking, where does that leave us, faithful Catholics, who try to adhere to the moral order propounded by our Church exactly because it is the moral order propounded by our Church? Yeah, sure, there’s an element of “rebel” in it because in today’s world looking like Davey and Goliath, or Ward and June Cleaver (or even the Brady Bunch) is a rebellion of a sort. But it is an acquiescence to an authority as well. There is no such thing as a Christian Anarchist.
Unless you’re a rebel.
The Readings for the 25th Sunday of Ordinary Time (B2)
Let us see if his words are true, and let us test what will happen at the end of his life; for if the righteous man is God’s son, he will help him, and will deliver him from the hand of his adversaries… According to what he says, he will be protected.
More importantly, the folks who “hate my life” who are the “ungodly” are not other Earthlings: for God wants to save them too – as do I. The only enemy I have are the demons. When a human attacks my faith, or undermines my position; when I or others sin and detract from the faith, regardless of any human culpability, the actors are the demons who seek to destroy everything God has made. Man is foremost on that list: if we can forget love for a few moments and kill each other over some political squabble, the demons have won.
The bad air in the Church’s lungs, east and west, is demon-scented. It’s filled with notes of pride, and mammon-power. It’s wafted with compromise and temptation. It all comes from hell. It’s only the skillful application of filters that keep us from smelling the sulfur. We take each other to court, break off communion, lead each other into sin; we deck our halls with balls of folly and hate each other for naming them so. Keep the Christians at each other’s throats. The demons have done their work well.
We must turn to each other in Love.
We must be little children – of no account, no power, seen and not heard.
Then we must draw each other into that Fire that is God’s purpose for us.
If we do not do it, he will do it for us. He will turn this Church right around and take us home. That’ won’t be pretty. It will hurt. But we will deserve it.
I burn! To know the pangs of love. These flames,
That singe & bake, that sear & broil my soul
Are but the birth contractions: payment, toll.
For each of Love’s rejections living maims.
See these are not the chains from Marley’s hole
How dark & clanging hopeless Without End
But rather here my soul’s most comely Friend
In living light my wounded heart makes whole
That to that course my living will should bend
Which e’er she knew but never yet could take
& by these Flames is forged anew to slake
The burning passions which my life could end
Your prayers of Love quench not this Burning lake
They heat the forge my soul’s new lamp to make
The Readings for the Memorial of Sts Andrew Kim Tae-gon,
& Paul Chong Ha-sang, and Companions, Martyrs
Thursday in the 24th Week of Ordinary Time (B2)
Remittuntur ei peccata multa, quoniam dilexit multum. Cui autem minus dimittitur, minus diligit.
Many sins are forgiven her, because she hath loved much. But to whom less is forgiven, he loveth less.
It took me years, decades to realize what he said to me. I mean “your sins are forgiven” is clear. But what did I know? I’ve been finding them at ever turn lately. Deeper and deeper. When he said I had loved much, I thought he was laughing at me. For I have. I was not running away from my sins… they were still in my pockets that night at his feet. What sins I had done? I was just living a fun life. There was the long sexual history, of course, but that turned quickly into a pharisaical judgement of folks who didn’t have that history. There was the condemnation of all my sexual partners, the instant feeling of superiority, and the realization that I could always just go to confession. And I knew what it was all about. But I needed to condemn and forgive myself as well.
Sure, I had dissed my parents to pull this off, but it was so important when I did it, right? They were oppressing me into their cultural models of virtue and binding me to the slavery of the middle class. Of course I got out of that house and blew off the family as quick as I could! It has taken most of the last three decades to make up for that. Forgiveness is nothing without healing. “Saved” is the same Greek word as “made whole” and damn it all but I realized I needed my family to be whole. Still, for the longest time, even after he touched me, I didn’t care about them. They were always trying to hold me back. And now I had found the real liberation. This Jesus was the freedom I had always craved. Goodbye, Pops.
Then, later, when I realized what my history had done to me, I struggled to reconcile who I was becoming with who I had been. This guy had reached in and broken all my crutches. But I had used them for so long, that I was literally limping. I would wake up and cry out, How can he do that to someone? Take away all that’s ever been important and leave them alone? And I was not alone because he was still, right there: his hand on my head, my tears falling. My hands holding. My lips kissing.
I still needed so much to wash his feet and to know this wasn’t another hallucination, another lover that took what he wanted and left.
And I found his feet everywhere I looked. And found myself washing them and kissing them over and over. And I realized these were men I had used to get away, to free myself. Sure, I took their money, but sometimes I didn’t cuz it was fun. I had made them all into idols and toys… to fill the broken, empty place where Jesus should be. Idols of lust. Idols of liberation. Idols of personal satisfaction. Idols of gosh this is fun tonight. And each man failed to be that replacement for the one thing needed. Each man fell short, and I had to replace him too. There are no Alphas anywhere. Now that Jesus was here where he belonged I could even love these men, even pray for them, beg God to show them some part of wholeness; some path to wholeness. It took forever for that to dawn on me: restored relationships means even restoring these that had been my destruction. God’s restoration, his love acting through my love, means healing even these broken lives and hearts.
When it all crashes down, when you hit rock bottom, sure, it’s easy to see what good a love like Jesus’ can do for you. But when you’re not at rock bottom, when you’re only aware that something, somewhere, has gone horribly wrong… Love like Jesus offers is only the beginning of a long, slow, climb up. Yes, there glimpses of glory and flashes of light, but mostly, it’s just a trudge up out of the pit I dug for myself. Jesus is here walking with me, but I have to walk. It’s no less deep because I didn’t hit the extremity.
In the latter times, I felt a call unexpected. Could I just, a little, find something good in the past and bring it with me? And that painful last grip of darkness still clings to me. Can I not just maybe find someone that I can take comfort in (read “use” and “self gratify”). I have loved much, and I have also lost much.
I can be forgiven all of it. But I have to let it all go.
And there’s this long, slow trudge, still: where nearly everyone needs my forgiveness and where, I need theirs. And I have to be loving: because what the kids call “slut shaming” is a real thing. We don’t shame folks out of their sins. We love them. For most of them, it was a loss of love or a quest for love, or a demand for love on “my own terms”, that took them there in the first place. Only Jesus can be that love. And your heart has to open, has to draw them forward, has to let Jesus love them through you.
When he said I had loved much, I thought he was laughing at me. For I had. But decades later, I saw what he saw: I was not running away from my sins… they were still in my pockets that night at his feet. I was running to him. I had heard that this man – above all other men – was capable of being Love so I had to run and give him a chance. I never expected forgiveness. What did I need forgiving for? I was in a place I had chosen. But this love that he saw… that he knew inside his own child. This love that his love awoke in everyone who reached out to him.
This love is still becoming the meaning of my life. I’m still letting it unfold and finding new ways of kissing his feet.
The last thing any of us want to do.
The Readings for Our Lady of Sorrows
Saturday in the 23rd Week of Ordinary Time (B2)
Sed quae immolant gentes, daemoniis immolant, et non Deo. Nolo autem vos socios fieri daemoniorum : non potestis calicem Domini bibere, et calicem daemoniorum; non potestis mensae Domini participes esse, et mensae daemoniorum.
But the things which the heathens sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God. And I would not that you should be made partakers with devils. You cannot drink the chalice of the Lord, and the chalice of devils: you cannot be partakers of the table of the Lord, and of the table of devils.
The image above is from the cover of one of my favourite political books, the T.A.Z. or Temporary Autonomous Zone. For a while in the early 90s, I could practically recite the thing. It seemed the perfect image to head up this post.
Paul can be of two minds about the pagan deities in the cultures he visits. On the one hand, there is no such thing as “Hermes” or “Magna Mater”, so the idol is nothing. It’s unimportant. We should pay it no mind at all. On the other hand, the “energies” or “things” that draw humanity to worship idols, that foment fear and superstition in men’s minds: these are demons. So, on the one hand, we know that food offered to idols is – literally – food held up in front of a bit of wood or waved under some metal. Might as well be cooked over wood or in a metal pot for all the “juju” that’s in the idol. But on the other hand there are demons involved in the delusion.
Paul tells us that if you find something in the market, go for it. But if someone tells you that it was sacrificed to idols, then you shouldn’t eat it. The issue is that there’s no “demonic activity” in the meat. But there are demons tempting others – and you – and even accidental visual collusion is still collusion with the demons.
We don’t have a lot of metal or wooden idols in our world any more. So where do we find the demons lurking?
In Ephesians we find Paul telling us we “wrestle not with flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” We’ve made our own idols I think. License and selfish desire, concupiscent ideologies, and false spiritualities all lead us astray. I think it would be easy to make an idol out of some adult entertainment stars, but we’re never that poetic. And demons hate actual art. We’d rather make an idol out of a flag, a football team, or an addiction. For St Paul all the idols of Crete or the Areopagus were also centers of cults: communities of folks. But for us, with our isolation, our internet, our buffering, and introversion, we find that our cultus has room for only one or two.
As with the idols St Paul knew, the thing, itself, is nothing. Drugs, Apple Pie, Chevy Trucks, Hell’s Angels, Cats… The thing, itself, is nothing. But the energies that draw us and hold us to the thing, the desire to craft identities around it (instead of our God-given identity in Christ) that’s the “powers and principalities” that we’re fighting against. These rulers of darkness draw us into their orbits and force us into isolation, away from each other, away from people who worship differently. Today we’ve even developed drugs so that we can listen more carefully to our preferred voices, shutting out all else. When these demons get their hooks into us it can take decades before healing can begin.
This, then, is the cost of this much more subtle, more more personalized content that’s passing for idolatry today. Against this Jesus stands as a “sign of contradiction”. Jesus is not about “me” but about “us”. Jesus calls us out of our isolation into communion, out of our pallid humanist ideas of “equality” and into constantly kenotic communities. The weaker leads, the stronger serves, the wiser learns at the feet of the fool. God is love: a fiery all-consuming, all-engaging, all-dancing act of self-giving. And we need to be that as well or we’re nothing at all like God. The demons hate this.
The image above, as I noted, is from the cover of one of my favourite political books, the T.A.Z. or Temporary Autonomous Zone. It seemed the perfect image to head up this post as it is clearly of an idol that was constructed by an artist. It’s a sort of thing the occult community used to call “Chaos Magic”. It means nothing to anyone save the artist that made it. But for the rest of us it is beautiful, maybe. Tonight, as I was typing the final lines of this post… I took off my contacts and sat back down to the computer. Only then did I see the demons in the image. I’ve had this image in my possession for nearly 30 years only now, liberated from the book and propped up on my blogpost did I see them.
We do not share our demonic communions with anyone at all anymore. Except the demons. And they like it like that. Divide and conquer.
The office hymn today (in the tradition office, pre-V2, and as we used it at my monastery) tells a great mystery, repeated again in Holy Week: singing the whole plan of Salvation. It begins with Matins, in the dark with notes of prehistory and Christmas.
Chosroës, King of Persia, having, in the last days of the reign of the Emperor Phocas, overrun Egypt and Africa, took Jerusalem, where he slaughtered thousands of Christians and carried off to Persia the Cross of the Lord, which Helen had put upon Mount Calvary. Heraclius, the successor of Phocas, moved by the thought of the hardships and horrid outrages of war, sought for peace, but Chosroës, drunken with conquest, would not allow of it even upon unfair terms. Heraclius therefore, being set in this uttermost strait, earnestly sought help from God by constant fasting and prayer, and through his good inspiration gathered an army, joined battle with the enemy, and prevailed against three of Chosroës his chief captains, and three armies.
Chosroës was broken by these defeats, and when in his flight, he was about crossing the Tigris, he proclaimed his son Medarses partner in his kingdom. Chosroës’ eldest son Siroës took this slight to heart, and formed a plot to murder his father and brother, which plot he brought to effect soon after they had come home. Then he got the kingdom from Heraclius upon certain terms, whereof the first was that he should give back the Cross of the Lord Christ. The Cross therefore was received back after that it had been fourteen years in the power of the Persians, and Heraclius came to Jerusalem and bore it with solemn pomp unto the Mount whereunto the Saviour had borne it.
This event was marked by a famous miracle. Heraclius, who was adorned with gold and jewels, stayed perforce at the gateway which leadeth unto Mount Calvary, and the harder he strove to go forward, the harder he seemed to be held back, whereat both himself and all they that stood by were sore amazed. Then spake Zacharias, Patriarch of Jerusalem, saying : See, O Emperor, that it be not that in carrying the Cross attired in the guise of a Conqueror thou shewest too little of the poverty and lowliness of Jesus Christ. Then Heraclius cast away his princely raiment and took off his shoes from his feet, and in the garb of a countryman easily finished his journey, and set up the Cross once more in the same place upon Calvary whence the Persians had carried it away. That the Cross had been put by Heraclius in the same place wherein it had first been planted by the Saviour caused the yearly Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross to become the more famous thenceforward.