Chez Mammon

JMJ

The Readings for the 11th Saturday, Tempus per Annum

Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span?

Matthew 6:27 (NABRE)

WORRYING, SO GOES THE ONLINE WISDOM, is a form of Atheism. It seems to arise from something said by the Ven. Fulton J. Sheen, or it could be Pastor Rick Warren. Online quotes are so frustrating because they just get cited over and over. This seems true, but who said it first? Well, we can trace it back to Jesus in one way or another: worrying is not something Jesus told us to do. It’s interesting that the Church’s lectionary for daily Masses has us read the “don’t worry” passage preceded by Verse 24, ending “You cannot serve God and mammon.” So the Church would have us read all of these meanings together:

  • You cannot serve two masters
  • You cannot serve God and Mammon
  • You cannot serve God and worry about stuff
    • don’t worry about food
    • don’t worry about clothes
    • don’t worry about nothing
    • Today is bad enough, tomorrow will come when it does (in 24 hours)
  • Trust God.

New Polity’s podcast on Good Money (starts here) convinced me that most of our world is based on worry: worry about what others think about me, worry about what will happen tomorrow, worry about what might happen after the fact (that’s what a lot of social anxiety is – worry about a conversation after it’s been done). Everything from toiletries to technology is sold using “what will others think of you” schemes. We don’t want money so much as we want to do things with money that will make us fit in. As I’m thinking about this passage I had to turn in a budget for the forthcoming fiscal year. Although I have lived on a monthly budget for most of this century, this is the first time I’ve had to turn in an organization budget. Look, Ma: an entirely new way to worry!

Or, as an old adage has it, “Man plans, God laughs” or even, “Man proposes, God disposes”. We’re only able to see today, only able to know right now. Planning may be good stewardship, but it’s not a way to fend off worry. It can, in fact, inculcate it.

Where your treasure is, there is your heart (as we learned yesterday). If your heart is anywhere other than in God then you are certain to experience the changeability of things. And this will cause you to worry.

Mind you, the contrary practice of Trusting in God, take a long time to develop this side of Judgement Day. Nevertheless, it is a good practice to take up.

My Jesus, I trust in thee.

Things are bad. Things are good. There’s enough money or food. There’s not enough money or food. There’s rising crime and inflation. Things are peaceable and prosperous. There’s danger from earth, wind, or fire. It’s pretty safe. No matter what the situation, it is well with my soul because I trust in Jesus.

Or, at least, that’s where I want to be.

My false hearts pull me in many directions, not the least of which is the desire to “make people happy”. I put that in quotes because I don’t really want to make people happy. I want them to be happy with me. My ego has to be comforted, my ego has to be inflated, my ego has to be validated. The fake hearts (fake identities) we make up have to be continually validated because they do not pump any real blood. Like vampires or parasites, they live on the lifeforce offered by their hosts and by others. Our false selves drain us of love and emotion so that our real hearts, tuned to God, weaken and begin to fade away. They can never be wholly destroyed, so there is always hope, but we do love our false idols of pride.

You cannot serve both God and Mammon.

Validate Me (pt 2)

JMJ

The Readings for the 11th Friday, Tempus per Annum

For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.

Matthew 6:21 (NABRE)

HEART IS ONE Of the most important words in the Bible. Especially in the Hebrew Scriptures – and therefore in the teachings of Jesus – it is the equivalent with the self or soul. The heart in Christian thinking is the seat of the being.

The heart is the dwelling-place where I am, where I live; according to the Semitic or Biblical expression, the heart is the place “to which I withdraw.” The heart is our hidden center, beyond the grasp of our reason and of others; only the Spirit of God can fathom the human heart and know it fully. The heart is the place of decision, deeper than our psychic drives. It is the place of truth, where we choose life or death. It is the place of encounter, because as image of God we live in relation: it is the place of covenant.

Catechism of the Catholic Church, ¶2563

The heart is – as the Place of Covenant – the Holy of Holies within the temple of our person. Ideally it is the throne of God, the seat of Christ reigning in us. As the place where “I am” it is also the place where we engage with the core of our being – which springs from God’s beingness. The Holy Trinity is always there – always the fire at the core of our beingness. Only the Spirit of God can know it fully for He dwells there and – if we are graced to know Him – we can begin to know our real selves.

God is always there. But sometimes, I’m not.

Earlier this week I wrote about the constant quest for validation and how that leads to seeking the praises of other people. God is our source and our validation. God is the core of everything that provides meaning in our lives and in the world. If we value the praises of others above the praise of God, we will not be entering our Holy of Holies, our inner core, to seek communion. Instead, we will create a false heart, a false identity somewhere else in our “psychic drives”. That’s where we imagine our heart. But it’s not a real heart. It’s the “heart of stone” that God says we have in Ezekiel 36:26. It’s a stony idol we have created. We can’t enter it, but we can worship it. And we do.

Remember the Golden Calf? Israel danced around the idol and Aaron said this metal calf was the one that brought Israel out of Egypt. He even said the idol was YHVH by name! (Exodus 32:5) We worship at the altar of our false heart, but it’s not God there. We even name it God. Whatever passion or psychic drive we pick we say, “God made me this way.” Just like a real heart we revolve our entire life around this fake heart. We pretend it is in ourselves that we “live and move and have our being”. All the while we are only a shell of a person, ignoring our self. But, Gosh darn it, people like us.

On Thursday I read this quote from Pope Benedict:

Since the heart is the place of decision and the place of communion, if we create a false heart, a false identity – insisting that really is me – then our communion is off, our worship is off, and our decision-making (our conscience) is off. This false heart becomes the place where we rest in indecision, waiting for others to think highly of us, and unable to make any choices without others: for there is no real heart here. It’s just a rock, an idol. So evil finds a voice.

Where your treasure is, there is your heart: even if it’s a false heart. We worship there, just like Israel dancing around the Golden Calf. And evil takes us into its dance and we fall from grace.

Turn back to your real heart: let the false one(s) fall away. When you enter the Holy of Holies, you will find the Glory of God waiting for you, to give you peace, even in the midst of trial. The choices you make will be real choices, and the light that you see will be the light of the Transfiguration of your life.

To Kingdom Come

JMJ

The Readings for the 11th Thursday, Tempus Per Annum

Thy kingdom come

Matthew 6:10 (AV)

MINDFUL THAT the original texts (in Hebrew and Greek) had no punctuation, I want to challenge you to read the Lord’s prayer here with a colon instead of a line break, comma, or full stop.

Thy kingdom come: thy will be done on earth as in heaven.

The implication being that it is somehow the doing of God’s will that brings about the kingdom. This follows on yesterday’s idea of doing everything for God (and not for worldly praise), and also on Jesus’ call that we “be perfect”. To be who we are called to be we must be within the will of God.

There are many who imagine the “Kingdom Come” to be some kind of economic left, inclusive, woke utopia filled with repressive laws that keep everyone pressed into a Hippier Boomer mold but, you know, Catholic. There are others who think it will be filled with repressive laws that keep everyone pressed into a mid-20th Century, white, middle-class, American mold, everyone looking like Ward and June Cleaver but, you know, Catholic. Both of these visions, left and right, imagine the state enforcing whatever form of politics is needed to make everyone pretend to be Catholic. No one seems to care about changing the hearts needed to make the Kingdom actually come. But that’s what’s needed. Forcing everyone to “do God’s will” by law is legalism, pure and simple. It can damn more than save.

But how does the colon change things? How is doing God’s will bringing the Kingdom? What is God’s will, anyway?

St Paul has the answer to the second question in a way that also answers the first:

God wills that all men should be saved.

I Timothy 2:4

Prior to this Paul has us praying for kings and all in authority – even at a time when they were killing Christians. Mind you, not praying toend their government, but to change their hearts that all might be saved (that is, made whole). The will of God is that all come to a saving knowledge of the truth (that is, Jesus) and when that is on Earth as in heaven then the Kingdom will have come.

That’s what we pray for.

But do we act for it? We tend to think, “If we build it, they will come.” But that’s not at all how it works. If we build the Kingdom before we bring people to Jesus, we’re just Walt Disney. It’s bringing people to the saving knowledge of God that builds the kingdom. Doing God’s will brings about the kingdom – not the other way around.

Validate Me

JMJ

The Readings for the 11th Wednesday, Tempus per Annum

Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.

Matthew 6:2b (NABRE)

MANY RECENT CONVERSATIONS have been around the topic of seeking validation. Your host became aware of this issue leaving his job history (of nearly 25 years) in the DotCom industry and moving back into Church work. One of the main changes was the way in which workers are treated. Don’t get me wrong: I wasn’t treated poorly in DotCommuslavia nor are I treated poorly in the parish where I work. In fact, in both places, the treatment is, I think, above average. It’s the how of the treatment that interests me at this moment.

In my previous line of work, praise and acclamation is not only a given, but perhaps the main point of most conversations. One constant feature of my day was verbal praise, emails filled with bouncing gifs, and a slack filled with emojis celebrating every aspect of my life and the lives of my coworkers. Hands in the air, rainbow flags, and – my personal favorite – the Party Parrot.

Angel Parrot

Leaving there to come to parish ministry, all those shenanigans went away. It was quite an ego collapse, let me tell you! For more than a few months I had no idea if I was doing my job correctly – or at all. There was no tradition of meetings starting with affirmations (prayer, yes, affirmation, no). There was no culture of positivity, there was no “design of personal empowerment”. Sigh, I can still speak the language. Anyway, (NEway, as the cool kids say) what came to me was that this was how the real world functions – a lot less smoke blowing and quite a lot of adulting.

Or another way to look at it would be to realize that a huge part of our culture is based on affirmation: what others think of me is important. What others do or say must be evaluated on how it makes me feel. If it does not affirm me, there’s a problem. If you don’t put a rainbow flag in your company logo for June, you’re a hater.

Jesus tell us not to seek the praise of others, nor to do anything in order to get that praise. Jesus tells us to do thinks not to be seen – in fact to hide away lest we be seen at all. Jesus suggests that we even keep the knowledge so secret that our left hand will not know what our right hand is doing.

There’s nothing wrong with praise – as such – but there is a lot wrong with praise seeking or even attention seeking. I struggle with this a lot because attention is the currency of the internet. That’s why I’ve owned Doxos.com since 1998 and why I’ve been e-journalling since before there were blogs at all. (I love that my blogger profile says Member Since October of 2001.) My original twitter number was in the low 600k. My FB account has been around since Mark first let non-college students join. (The original idea was only college students and only people who were known already by other members could join. Then this was opened up.) MySpace, LiveJournal, and a few other services were all places I could go for attention.

Attention seeking keeps you from growing up: from owning your opinions, from acting on your beliefs and – eventually – attention seeking makes you jealous of (and vindictive around) the interactions in this world of “Social Capital”. What will we do? When we act on our faith are we doing so to be seen doing so? When we hold back for the same reasons, what will become of us? Will Twitter Deplatform me if I speak out the truth about sexuality and human sexual differences? Or would I dare say that at all anyway? Conversely, am I saying them out loud just to get more attention? Clickbait is an artform.

And we already have our reward.

And the spiritual is no longer good enough: we can’t get the “hits” of likes from God who already loves us infinitely. There’s no more God-capital to get. So we need more social hits every day to make up for turning our back on infinity.

The curious thing is that, depending on your job, this behavior works at work. You have no reason in the secular world not to do this. Our entire person is external and socially constructed in that world. But in the Christian world, our personhood is internal: generated by God and involved only in authentic communion with other persons equally God-given. To be you requires an internal dynamic that has nothing to do with attention (social, sexual, or otherwise).

A Christian is set free from craving likes and tweets. We are called to focus on Jesus even when it means the world hates us. Think instead how may Catholics imagine persecution is coming. I mean, of course it is, but getting kicked off YouTube is not persecution!

We should pray, follow the rules of the faith (fasting, etc), or do the works of mercy (give charity) to please God and to work out our salvation in fear and trembling. But if we’re doing them to be seen, we already have the reward for which we are working. We did it for no spiritual reason at all – and so our reward is not spiritual.

The Perfect Name

JMJ

The Readings for the 11th Tuesday, Tempus Per Annum (C2)

So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Matthew 5:48 (NABRE)

BE PERFECT JUST as Our Father is Perfect. Father’s Day is this coming Sunday. Are you able to be anything like your father? I mean in some ways, maybe. And in some ways you may be better, but are you able to be like your father? How much more can we be like our Heavenly Father? Look, I have never known my natural father – I’m asking these questions coming from that very dysfunctional family situation. How can I be like my father, whom I’ve never know. How can I be like God, my Heavenly Father, whom I cannot know at all like I could know my natural father – but I don’t. Wait. Jesus why are you giving us an impossible command?

Because that’s what salvation means.

The Greek word translated here as “perfect” is τέλειος teleios from the word, τέλος telos. It means not only to be “brought to completion” but also to achieve the perfect or intended end. The telos of a thing is determined by its nature – put there by God. The Greeks would look for the logoi of things which can bring us to the Logos of God. The Latins have us looking at essences and natures, but it’s the same process: the base of each person and thing is something created by God. Why was man created? To achieve our perfect end, our telos. What is our telos? Baltimore Catechism, Q6: Why did God make you? God made me to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him for ever in heaven. That is our proper end, our proper telos: to know God, to love God, to serve Him and to be happy (blessed) with him for ever.

The real question is how? How are we to get to our perfect end and thus be like God? Jesus gives us that answer later, using the same word (τέλειος).

Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect (τέλειος), go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.

Matthew 19:21

If you would be perfect… let’s step back a few verses… Jesus rehearses some of the ten Commandments – all the ones dealing with your neighbor: “Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not bear false witness, 19honor your father and mother, and love your neighbor as yourself.” (v. 18). He leaves out all the commands about God… or no he doesn’t. He adds, “Come follow me”. Loving your neighbor is not enough for perfection. We must follow Jesus (that is, God) in order to fulfill the rest of the covenant.

But we know the truth. We’re all sinners who have fallen short of the glory of God. (As an aside, does that mean we are trying to reach God in his Glory – but we miss. Or does that mean God wants to share his glory with us, but we keep falling short?)

Jesus uses this same word (telos) from the Cross in John 19:30. He announces “It is finished” by saying “It’s been telos-ed”. What has been finished? We have – humans. We have been perfected in Christ. I have an essay do in a week and a half on Atonement, so don’t expect me to go too far down that road. But I will say that Jesus – God-Man – is the one that makes it happen. And you can see it in his name. “Come follow me…” Let’s use the Bible as meditation literature.

My friend, Steve, reminds me of the Evangelical addage, there’s nothing more dangerous to the faith than an man with a Greek Dictionary and an interlinear Bible. I may be about to prove that in Hebrew as well.

In Hebrew Jesus Name, as you’ve probably heard, is “Yeshua.” Via Latin and Greek we can get to either Jesus or Joshua. So, you can think of all the ways the story of Joshua might foreshadow the story of Jesus. But I want to stick to the name itself.

Yeshua is linked to the meaning savior and salvation. Now salvation (in both Hebrew and Greek, as well as in Latin actually) has the meaning of “deliver” as well as “healing” and “making whole”. Please keep that in mind. Yeshua gets this meaning because the root of Yeshua is the Hebrew Word, “Yasha” meaning to save (deliver, rescue, etc) which is also linked to the meaning of “make whole” or “heal”. So, somehow, Jesus Yasha-s us: he makes us whole. Jesus name, via the root Yasha, is also linked with the word “Hosanna” which means “please save (us)”, It’s a word cried out to God and to the Kings of Israel. And because Yasha is linked with Hosanna, it’s also linked with two other important words: Moshiah (for example in Deuteronomy 22:27) which is a hominim for Moshiach, or Messiah. This last means “anointed” only, and has no direct link to Yasha or to “moshiah” but the words are within a breath of each other (moshiah and moshiach). They come together in meaning by way of homonymnity. And so “Jesus Christ” or “Messiah Yeshua” literally is the name of the Savior meaning the Saving One who is the Salvation of YHVH.

We are perfected (made whole) in following Jesus.

Arthur Dent and Titus Pullo


JMJ

The Readings for Monday in the 11th week of Ordinary Time (C1)

But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil…

If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic, hand him your cloak as well. Should anyone press you into service for one mile, go with him for two miles. Give to the one who asks of you, and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow.
This thing about walking a mile is regarding Roman soldiers. The Roman soldiers were occupying Israel, and in the eyes of all, these greedy, violent, rowdy, armed Gentiles are a chaotic evil force present in God’s holy land. A Roman soldier could, at any time, demand that you help him and force you to walk with him for a mile doing X, Y, and Z. Jesus says do it and then go two miles with him instead. Imagine that this must have sounded like. This man who talks to tax collectors is telling you to do this oppressive thing that the occupying Army can order for you to do. More than that he’s telling you to go twice as far. To comply with injustice and then to give more.
Who is evil?  It’s not about who “does” evil, either – regardless of what the NABRE says.
The Greek here actually says, “Do not resist the Evil One.
The Latin (non resistere malo) “Do not resist evil”.
St John Chrysostom says this is an important difference:

Having therefore mentioned the ancient law, and recognized it all, He signifies again, that it is not our brother who hath done these deeds, but the evil one. For this cause he hath also subjoined, “But I say unto you, that ye resist not the evil one.” He did not say, “resist not your brother,” but “the evil one,” signifying that on his motion men dare so to act; and in this way relaxing and secretly removing most of our anger against the aggressor, by transferring the blame to another.

 When someone does something against us in the world, it is not them – as an actor – who is evil; rather the evil is something they are being tempted to do. The one tempting them to act in such a way is the Evil One.  It is against him that we have a fight.

When it comes to our brother or sister who is doing harm to us, however, the struggle is not against them but to liberate them from the clutches of Satan. They are trapped and we must free them. This is why Jesus tells us not to hit them back, but rather to let them hit us again; not only to let them steal our coat but also give them everything else we have; not to let them force us to do something we don’t want but also to do things that they don’t know they want yet out of the kindness of our heart. St John says to act in this way will let them see we love them. If they see that we love them we may have a chance to free them from the evil one who has his claws in them.

When you think about it nobody has a reason to attack Christians. In fact, the only person with a reason to attack Christians is Satan. That he gets other people to do it on his behalf and gets them to take the blame is a score for him. That he gets other people to do it on his behalf and gets us Christians to blame the other folks is a double score on his behalf for he gets them to sin and gets us to sin as well. Further, he has ruined our witness. Because let’s be honest, if we’re reacting against their hate we are judging them. And everybody knows that Jesus said judge not lest ye be judged. Reacting in violence – even legal violence – to violence is judgment.

When someone is sitting in the clutches of Satan and a Christian does something that pushes that person farther into those clutches… we have failed.  What Jesus gives us here is a way to subversively do what they want us to do and yet show them Jesus.

If any time someone asked us to do something we said okay and then we did it out of love for them and for Jesus, the world would be a very different place. Imagine no lawsuits about wedding cakes. Imagine no torturous spitting matches in front of abortion clinics. Imagine no Twitter wars. Imagine peaceful loving service leading to salvation.

Look, I understand that we have a legal right to do these things! But just because the law says it’s okay does not mean it is salvific for us or for others. Jesus gives us these tools: let them hit you again. Do what they order you to do. Pray for them. Love them. Nowhere in this list does he save file a lawsuit against them. Nowhere in this list as does he say take them to court or take them to jail. Nowhere are we invited to fight them back.

We need to watch ourselves: we may be the last chance to be rescued from Satan these folks have.

In The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Douglas Adams posits that it’s possible to fly if you fall down and while you’re falling you forget to finish the fall.

There is an art to flying, or rather a knack. The knack lies in learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss. … Clearly, it is this second part, the missing, that presents the difficulties.

So, as you’re falling if you suddenly look to the side and say oh look some luggage you might miss the Earth and then begin to fly. That’s what Jesus is telling us to do here. Distract someone so they don’t do evil. Don’t let them finish their fall. Give them love back instead and they may fly.

Lord I’ve Done Some Yuge Things Here.


JMJ

The Readings for Thursday in the 12th Week of Ordinary Time (B2)
Memorial of St Irenaeus, Bishop and Martyr

Non omnis qui dicit mihi, Domine, Domine, intrabit in regnum caelorum. 
Not all who say to me, Lord! Lord! will enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

Don’t let anyone tell you that all you need to do is “believe in Jesus” for Jesus himself says in this passage (and many others) that there’s some doing that has to be done.  We have to do the will of Jesus’ Father in Heaven. And we have to hear Jesus’ words and do them. And the doing is not about miracles or other forms of wooji-wooji. Domine, Domine, nonne in nomine tuo prophetavimus, et in nomine tuo daemonia ejecimus, et in nomine tuo virtutes multas fecimus? Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name? That’s not doing the will of God. Speaking in tongues is not either.

Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them.  Jesus has just finished telling us that bad trees give us bad fruit. And will get cut down and thrown into the fire. And here he seems to be saying that “Lord, Lord” is not the password into heaven.

Looking into the Old Testament reading today is, at first glance, no comfort. The siege of Jerusalem, the loss of the temple which was the Glory of Israel, the deportation of the King and his court, the loss of an entire religious and artistic culture, and the appointment of an alien king are all the sort of thing that happens when you don’t follow God. And, to make this clear, the alien king changes his name to “Zedekiah” which means the Justice or Righteousness of Yahweh. Seen that way this is all just so much suck. And, in fact, the loss of the Temple on the 9th day of the Hebrew month of Av, is mourned each year with a day of Fasting. (This year that begins at nightfall on the Gregorian date of 21 July.)

And yet.. and yet…

The author of the 2nd Book of Kings knows that this is happening because of the sins of the King and the people. The people are carried off – but not slaughtered. The people are in exile, but not forever. God will bring them back and, in the course of their exile, God will raise up prophets like Daniel and Jeremiah. There will be signs and wonders and even King Nebuchadnezzar who seems like a bad guy today will be shown to be a tool in God’s hands. God is doing something with Israel, and, in the end, with all of us. This exile will end, ultimately, with Messiah. This is all a sign of Zedekiah, of God’s Justice, which doesn’t mean “God’s snarky anger” but rather, “God’s sorting out of all things back to their original intent.” Babylon is a perfect sign of purgation.

So what does it mean to hear Jesus’ words and to do them?

We are familiar with the command to love, and with the ten commandments. The precepts of the Church are well understood. But I think this reading today, especially with the Tag Line of Zedekiah, is about humility. We can come before Jesus on Judgment day bragging about all the things we did “in his name” or we can stand, as the king of Judah did, before his humiliation. We can take what is coming as a gift from God, and let God’s purpose work itself out. That acceptance of God’s Justice, of Zedekiah, is also throwing oneself, in humility, on God’s mercy.

Not all who say to me Lord Lord… but yet all who say to me “Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy on me a sinner.”

_____

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This needn’t ever have happened.

JMJ

The Readings for  in the 12th Week of Ordinary Time (B2)

Omnis arbor, quae non facit fructum bonum, excidetur, et in ignem mittetur. 
Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 

I’m having trouble finding it. It was this year’s “It’s Easter, let’s run a story slamming the Bible” story. Ancient carvings had been discovered that “proved” ancient Israel was pagan, polytheistic, and not at all like your Preacher wants you to imagine. In fact, it was such a mess that we might as well say there were no Jews in that period. I can’t find it, I think, because that part of the News Cycle has blown over. We’ve moved on. There will be other blasphemies.


Except anyone who reads the Bible can tell you that most of the history of the Israelites looks like this: 

God: Don’t eat shrimp.
Random person: Let’s try worshiping these trees, they say it’s ok to eat shrimp.
Everyone: Shrimp sounds good.
God: Send a gentile army in to snap them out of their idolatry.
Israel: Grf. We’re sorry! We’ve sinned! Forgive us!
God: Ok. Send the goyim back defeated.
Israel: They tried to kill us. We won. Now let’s eat.
Random person: Shrimp?
Repeat.

The entire context of the story is ignored as anyone will tell you every holiday is, “They tried to kill us. We won. Now let’s eat.” They leave off the “we were schmucks, and God was opening a can of Righteous Whoopass” parts.

And so, today’s passage from the Old Testament is one of my favourite stories of the kings of Judah, ever since I first heard it cited by Joseph Campbell in his Masks of God series. Our assigned reading abbreviates it and leaves off the good parts. But it catalogues quite a huge housecleaning. Grab a Bible and read through 2 Kings 2 and 3. As you read through it, notice how many things are actually in the Temple of Solomon, hanging out in the place built for worship of the Most High alone.

Then the king commanded the high priest Hilkiah, his assistant priests, and the doorkeepers to remove from the temple of the LORD all the objects that had been made for Baal, Asherah, and the whole host of heaven. These he burned outside Jerusalem on the slopes of the Kidron; their ashes were carried to Bethel. He also put an end to the idolatrous priests whom the kings of Judah had appointed to burn incense on the high places in the cities of Judah and in the vicinity of Jerusalem, as well as those who burned incense to Baal, to the sun, moon, and signs of the zodiac, and to the whole host of heaven. From the house of the LORD he also removed the Asherah to the Wadi Kidron, outside Jerusalem; he burned it and beat it to dust, in the Wadi Kidron, and scattered its dust over the graveyard of the people of the land. He tore down the apartments of the cult prostitutes in the house of the LORD, where the women wove garments for the Asherah. He brought in all the priests from the cities of Judah, and then defiled, from Geba to Beer-sheba, the high places where they had offered incense. He also tore down the high places of the gates, which were at the entrance of the Gate of Joshua, governor of the city, north of the city gate. The king also defiled Topheth in the Valley of Ben-hinnom, so that there would no longer be any immolation of sons or daughters by fire in honor of Molech. He did away with the horses which the kings of Judah had dedicated to the sun; these were at the entrance of the house of the LORD, near the chamber of Nathan-melech the official, which was in the large building. The chariots of the sun he destroyed by fire. He also demolished the altars made by the kings of Judah on the roof (the roof terrace of Ahaz), and the altars made by Manasseh in the two courts of the LORD’s house. He pulverized them and threw the dust into the Wadi Kidron. The king defiled the high places east of Jerusalem, south of the Mount of the Destroyer, which Solomon, king of Israel, had built in honor of Astarte, the Sidonian horror, of Chemosh, the Moabite horror, and of Milcom, the Ammonites’ abomination. He broke to pieces the pillars, cut down the asherahs, and filled the places where they had been with human bones. Likewise the altar which was at Bethel, the high place built by Jeroboam, son of Nebat, who caused Israel to sin—this same altar and high place he tore down and burned, grinding the high place to powder and burning the asherah…Josiah also removed all the temples on the high places in the cities of Samaria which the kings of Israel had built, provoking the LORD; he did the very same to them as he had done in Bethel. He slaughtered upon the altars all the priests of the high places that were there, and burned human bones upon them. Then he returned to Jerusalem.

Indeed, trees that do no bear good fruit are cut down.

Yesterday I suggested that the “narrow gate” of righteousness and the “broad gate” to destruction are both in the same Church. I suggested a lot of ways it’s possible to go down the dirt road to destruction just “doing church things” and forgetting about the Gospel. Today’s reading backs me up.


Think of the Temple as the human soul and realize that we need to be on guard at all times. Solomon was led astray by love for his wives, each asking for her own temple, and him caving in just to keep peace in his house. How many times do we do that, find a way to keep the peace by not keeping the faith? How many idols are in your temple? Where is your sun chariot, or your asheras, your altars to the signs of the Zodiac or your version of “Astarte, the Sidonian horror, of Chemosh, the Moabite horror, and of Milcom, the Ammonites’ abomination”?


Israel wasn’t paying attention. As we discover in the same passage there hasn’t been a Passover observed at all in generations! Things just got out of hand. All that was needed was someone to mind the fort a little more tightly. Someone needed to go right to the police at the first sign of trouble. And if your orchard starts bearing bad fruit, it’s time to chop some trees down just to keep the bad stuff from cross pollinating with the good stuff.


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What color lipstick are you using?

JMJ

The Readings for Tuesday in the 12th Week of Ordinary Time (B2)

Intrate per angustam portam : quia lata porta, et spatiosa via est, quae ducit ad perditionem, et multi sunt qui intrant per eam. Quam angusta porta, et arcta via est, quae ducit ad vitam : et pauci sunt qui inveniunt eam! 
Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few. 

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn rather famously said :the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being” indicating that we each must make choices that are good or evil – and these, in turn build a community of those choices. In like manner, the “Broad Gate” and the “Narrow Gate” stand either side of every Church in which one can enter.

The broad gate clues us in with “Just because I’m here, I’ve made it…” and it allows us to look down our nose (or our communion spoon, as the case may be) at those who are not here with us. The broad gate assures us that there may be sinners somewhere in the world, but they are not here. Other communities have problems with abuse, sex, phyletism, racism, money scandals, but not us. The broad gate causes us to complain about liturgy constantly, to put ourselves over the Church in all the ways we can (I think Father would do so much better if he stopped offering the TLM it’s so rigid. I think the Novus ordo is heretical.) The groad gate invites us to judge our brothers and sisters, often sitting in the pew, just before Liturgy. OMG look what she is wearing! I can’t believe they let him be a reader. Gosh but that voice doesn’t belong in our choir. The broad way invites us to go a la carte on the menu when the whole Wedding Banquet is prix fixe (and already paid for). I like the Church, but not that bit there… I’m Catholic, but…

Please understand I list these because I’ve done these.

The broad gate is opposed by the narrow gate, the latter has only one thing to say: Lord, have mercy on me.

In verse 6 when Jesus says don’t give the holy things to the dogs, don’t give your pearls to the pigs… he’s talking about those of us who stand beyond the Broad Gate looking down on the pious who can’t seem to find their way into all the peace and freedom we enjoy in our wide pathways and our brilliant super highways. We are the dogs, the swine who destroy the holy things. Sure, it would be easy to say, “Dogs are infidels who never make it into the Church and Swine are the schismatics who break away.” But we are the dogs. We are the swine. If we assure ourselves of our safety by virtue of our presence in the church, or our lucky Pious Family Heritage then we need to go to the vet to have our beam like pride removed.

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O Fellowship Divine


JMJ

The Readings for  in the 10th Week of Ordinary Time (B2)

Beati sunt qui te viderunt, 
et in amicitia tua decorati sunt.
Elias quidem in turbine tectus est
Blessed is he who shall have seen you 
And who falls asleep in your friendship.
O Elijah, enveloped in the whirlwind!

I’ve been feeling out this huge transition since becoming Catholic. Both the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church have devotions to saints, yes. But something feels different now, in the West. This is not a case of one does it right and the other wrong: but rather a difference in harmony on a common melody. This could also be my own experience in the East. I don’t pretend to know it all, and staying in largely convert communities can affect one’s journey. That said, allowing for difference of experience, it seems as if in the West there is more of a personal flavor to the cult of the saints. By this I mean only that one seems to have the personal experience of a friendship of certain saints and to relish it more than in the East.


Across the board, East and West, one can ask a saint to pray for an intention just as assuredly as one can ask one’s spouse or folks on Twitter. But there is in the Roman Church a sense of “St So and So is my friend” in a way that I did not see in Orthodoxy. St So and So may also not be always around. Relationships with Saints seem to come and go. People have strong devotions for periods of time. And then they move on. Other devotions seem to last a good while. It’s like the Saints are here to teach us something, as would a Godparent. One has a Patron of course, but something may happen to indicate things have evolved. One may learn to pray from one saint’s writings, or to get through a tough patch by asking another saint for help. One may always find one saint coming to mind as the work day gets difficult, or as troubles heat up in a marriage. When these pass, another saint steps up.

The LXX text about the Friendship with Elijah actually uses the Greek “Agape” rather than “Phila”. It uses a form of the verb to love that can be read either as “I love you, Elijah” or “Elijah, you love me”. It’s kind of neat that way. So the text says something more like “Blessed are they who share with you Agape.” And that’s important. The Saints are present to us because they are so advanced in their journey to Theosis, that God’s love (agape) can allow them to be here with us. They are not omniscient or omnipresent. Thus, they are not always everywhere, but in God’s timeless Agape it can seems like that to those of use trapped here in the realm of Space-Time. When I reach out to Blessed Stanley Rother, it’s not because he’s a magical unicorn that is always around, but rather because in God’s love for me, he allows my relationship with Fr Rother to grow and continue in eternity.

This is the relationship we share in Christ with all who have gone before us – not just those official Saints, but even the Holy Souls in Purgatory who have died in Christ. The hymns “For all the Saints” and “The Church’s One Foundation” make it poetically clear: the Church Militant enjoys full communion with her head on the Trinity’s throne, and through him with the whole companies of the Church Expectant and the Church Triumphant. When we kneel before the elevated Holy Mysteries on the Altar, or in the monstrance, we are in the presence of all who do, will, or have enjoyed that Divine Presence on earth and continue to enjoy Him in His fullness  in Heaven.

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