The Readings for the 13th Saturday, Tempus per Annum

The plowman shall overtake the reaper, and the vintager, him who sows the seed.

Amos 9:13 (NABRE)

SHABBAT SHALOM! Nerdy side note: in all romance languages, the days are numbered: Day 2, Day 3. Day seven is usually always some form of “Sabbath” (which is from the Hebrew for seven). Sunday is always “Lord’s Day.” So, Shabbat Shalom! ANYWAY…

It’s interesting that Church puts Amos 9 and Matthew 9 side by side, don’t you think? Israel is coming back and is going to rebuild their ruins and Jesus says don’t put new wine in old wineskins. What are ruins but old wineskins?

San Francisco is a city rebuilt from the ruins of an earthquake and a great fire. When calamity struck in the early morning of 18 April 1906 most of the city fell down. Half of it burned. And it was rebuilt. In many places the older bricks were used. If you look closely at the above photo of our Armory, you can see bricks sticking out at irregular intervals.

These are bricks that have been warped by the 1906 fire. You can see these all over the parts of the city that were rebuilt: all the bricks from the tumbled buildings were collected – including the warped ones – and reused in the post-1906 world. They make an interesting artistic statement about our resiliency and pluck. Evidently, in some ways, their irregular shapes make the masonry stronger because there are no uniform seams that run the full length or height of any wall. So they also say something like, “Try to knock me down again. Just try.”

So it is possible to rebuild on some ruins to the improvement of the ruins and the new construction.

On the other hand, much of San Francisco needed to be fully razed to the ground, the foundations remade, and whole neighborhoods flattened before any renewal could begin.

Sometimes you cannot rebuild until you tear down. This is where the wineskins come in, he said, proudly mixing metaphors.

“Gratia non tollit naturam, sed perficit,” said Aquinas. Grace does not destroy nature, but perfects it. So there are some things that are part of my nature and some things that are not. We must learn to distinguish. The Church is pretty clear about what is mine versus what is the damage done to mine, the disorder caused by myself and the world.

I started a series of posts on identity a few weeks ago. I have not yet finished it:

I’ve been wondering how to wrap up with Identity IV and these readings came up. See there are some things that can be reused like these bricks. There are somethings that don’t belong: that don’t make the structure stronger. In fact, they will tear it down. They’re not part of the original plan, but rather are brought in by the chiefest and greatest of calamities: sin.

Thus, someone coming to the Church has to explore their heart and be ready to accept things like teachings on sexuality and the person, like teachings on divorce and remarriage, like teachings on abortion. I mention these because their are target issues today, certainly, but they have been hot-button issues for the last 2000 years. The Church’s teachings on sexual purity were one of the things that set her apart from the pagan world around her and made people feel safe, unexploited, and able to reach out to God.

We must learn what the Dominicans teach (sometimes erroneously credited to Aquinas), “Seldom affirm, never deny, always distinguish.” So it comes to me that the ruins of my past need to be razed. I need to show the deconstruction process in part IV which is now nearly ready to go.

Yes, there may be a few bricks that can be reused, but some may be like the old wineskins: ready to explode if we put in the new wine of Christ’s blood. It’s time to distinguish.

Shabbat Shalom!



The Readings for the 13th Friday, Tempus per Annum
– Memorial of Junipero Serra

Learn the meaning of the saying, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.”

Matthew 9:13 (NABRE)

THE JESUS PSALTER has become my favorite devotion. There are many editions of it online and off although the first one I found was this one. I have an as-yet incomplete series of posts on this prayer which begins with this introduction. Arising from Mediaeval devotions to the Holy Name of Jesus, it flourished in England during the anti-Church persecutions under Henry and his family and became one of the main pillars of English Catholic Piety. It’s not very popular now, although it should be: a devotion that supported a generation of Martyrs is perfect for us now. It centers around multiple repetitions of Our Lord Name, together with a series of 15 petitions. Most of them begin with “give me the grace”: “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, give me the grace to call for help to Thee. …give me the grace to fix my mind on Thee, …to fly evil company… persevere in virtue… to love Thee.”

We ask our Lord constantly for the grace we need to follow him. We should do this more and more in these latter days. Without that grace, how else do you go from being a Tax Collector to being a disciple?

In The Miracle Worker (1962) you can watch Anne Sullivan teach Hellen Keller. Hellen is deaf, dumb, blind… she has no words, no language. We know now enough about brain science to realize that having no words at all means there are no synapses in her brain to connect concepts with things. The world without words literally does not exist. Anne Sullivan has to physically form the words in Hellen’s hands whilst somehow also planting them in her brain. The internal dialogue is not there. But through patience (and a lot of pain) Anne and Hellen together bring it to be. And then, in the most moving scene, suddenly Hellen knows. “She KNOWS!” cries Anne Sullivan. “She Knows!”

That’s how Our Lord called Matthew. The tax collector had no words or concepts, and no synapses ready to connect them. Then, in one moment – Follow Me – he knows.

This is called grace.

And this is the actual meaning of what Our Lord says. Learn the meaning of I desire mercy, not sacrifice. The line in Hosea 6:6 actually uses the word for lovingkindness or grace, Hesed. “I desire Hesed.” The whole verse is a parallel construction:

I desire hesed not sacrifice
knowledge of God, not Olah.

Sacrifice and Olah are things that go up: smoke rising, incense, etc, sent by us upwards to God. Hesed and Knowledge (Da’at) of God are things that come down from heaven to us. Hesed is grace.

We need the grace mentioned in the Jesus Psalter at every turn. Some of the prayers, “help me”, “strengthen me”, “make me constant” are all variations on the prayer for Mercy (that is, Hesed, grace). We need the thing that pours down on us like water, freely and without measure.

I desire grace (a gift from God) not sacrifice: in other words there’s nothing you can do to win God’s love. God’s love is given freely (while we were yet sinners).

You are already infinitely loved.

Do you continue to struggle like Hellen Keller because you have no synapses, no words, no concepts to connect, or will you let God spell the words out on your fingers.

And follow him?

Plumb and Level

“The Plumb Line and the City” (portion) by Clark Fitzgerald at Coventry Cathedral


The Readings for the 13th Thursday, Tempus per Annum
– Memorial of the First Martyrs of the Holy Roman Church

But never again prophesy in Bethel; for it is the king’s sanctuary and a royal temple.

Matthew 8:25 (NABRE)

SUNDAY I was able to attend Mass at our Cathedral. This was the first time I’ve been there for a Sunday. The homily was quite good, calling us all to being Catholics who confess the Whole Faith and to avoid becoming “Catholic, but…” Most interesting was the way the preacher linked “Catholic, but…” to all extremes in the Church from the “Catholic, but traditionalist” which I took to mean those folks who reject the Novus Ordo Mass and have serious doubts about Pope France, as well as those who are “Catholic, but I reject…” certain teachings. It was interesting to me (as well as edifying) that he saw fit to warn us about both camps and saw them as equally dangerous.

Notice that the priest in our reading who warns Amos about the King’s Anger is also the priest who reported Amos to the King. Although it was not read on Wednesday because of the Solemnity, today’s reading follows on the passage where Amos sees a plumb line or a “plummet” as the NABRE has it. It’s a sign of how out of whack everything is in Israel: nothing is right and God can see it.

See, I am laying the plummet
in the midst of my people Israel;
I will forgive them no longer.

Amos 7:8

The Man In Charge, Amaziah, didn’t want Amos rocking his boat so he kicked him out. But, also, he didn’t want the King to think he was coddling this troublemaker, so he reported him. It’s very likely that if Amaziah had not reported Amos someone else would have. But if Amos is doing God’s work, shouldn’t Amaziah have listened? And he’s a priest and so should know better, right?

Recent events have dropped a plumbline into the middle of the Church and our nation. I don’t mean to take a side on the recent court case, for I believe that was as pyrrhic a victory as we could have ever imagined. See this essay by my brother in Christ. This sentence is so good that I quote it to urge you to read the entire essay: “Furthermore, to ban abortion (which, of course, Dobbs only permits, but does not do) without any jurisprudence of natural law, without any teleology of nature, and without ascribing any meaning to the human body is only accidentally similar to the Divine Law on one subject.” Then from that sentence, I harvest this but one phrase to continue on: accidentally similar to the Divine Law on one subject.

When Amos’s prophecy drops a plumb line in the midst of Israel it shows how out of kilter all of Israel is when compared to God’s law. The recent court decision, “accidentally similar to the Divine Law on one subject” can now serve the same purpose for it shows out totally out of whack literally everything else (including our pro-life movement) is when compared to God’s law. We cannot but fail to see how we’ve propped up an entire social order on liberal economic assumptions but have done nothing to correct the social order (save by one very minor cosmetic action). Most of the folks I know rabidly supporting abortion at this time are not, themselves, going to benefit from this decision: they are too old, they are male, they are not married, or, they don’t have sex with women. But they recognize that this decision puts a kink in the liberal social order which they know is of a piece. The lack of plumb is not visible to those who have eyes to see.

And so they cry foul to the prophet and, at the same time, report the prophet to the authorities just to be on the safe side. When the full extent of Catholic Social Teaching includes not only sexual issues, but also injunctions against usurious capital, hoarding of wealth, and lack of hospitality to the stranger (eg), people who pick from the list like a menu will object to those who insist on the whole banquet. The banquet itself contains many things that we just can’t have in our modern world, like the absolute dignity of all persons as defined by God, and not by our economic system.

We are entering a phase in the late decline of our society when those – Clergy or Laity, politicians or pundits – who say they are “Catholic, but…” will begin to point fingers at actual Catholics to protect themselves. They will be like Amaziah: seeking to protect their social standing they will tell the prophets to hush up – and report them to the Authorities. Those who insist on the whole faith (that is the meaning of Catholic – whole) will find themselves to be rather like Amos in the coming days. Let us pray to be whole.

It will be an interesting time.

Three Singers, One Song


The Solemnity of Sts Peter and Paul, Apostles

It was the feast of the Unleavened Bread

Acts 12:3 (NABRE)

TODAY’S FEAST CELEBRATES TWO Men who sang the same song. They were both martyred for the song because they refused to change the tune when the empire demanded they do so. They didn’t change the tune even when their fellow Jews rejected them and tried to have them slain.

Peter gets arrested and an angel leads him out of prison. Roman prisons are (mostly) underground: holes in the ground like graves actually. What does this remind you of? So, it’s Easter and Peter gets loosed from his underground chains and returned to freedom. Who is this God that frees people from their chains? Peter never changed the Tune.

Paul’s moment of conversion, of course, was more like the Transfiguration than Easter. Like Peter, Paul got to see Christ in his glory. But Paul gave up his entire life – including his religion – to go teach about this man he saw once in a vision. He insisted that in some way we cannot fully understand Jesus had died for him. And then Paul went and died for Jesus. Paul never changed the tune.

The Roman Church has two patrons, Peter and Paul, whom tradition teaches were both martyred at Rome. They were only part of the crew, as it were: tomorrow we celebrate all the earliest Martyrs of Rome. If you listen to Folks Who Know Things™, they will let you know that Jesus was pretty cool but Peter and Paul got it all wrong. We all know of demagogues who preach falsities and lure others to their doom. People who want us to ignore the Church tell us that Peter and Paul were such men. They got it all wrong. Everything is fine. Follow your bliss and do your own thing. It’s only a pinch of incense after all.

Today’s solemnity celebrates two men who sang a common harmony, but there was a third voice in their song. In fact, the Third Voice was the driving force behind Peter and Paul. They only sang the songs that were written for them and their harmony would have fallen apart except for their Master, Jesus. It was he who composed the tunes and wrote the harmonies, who called them to sing, who gave them their voices, who blessed them with all the gifts they needed to do the work he called them to do. To ignore Peter and Paul is exactly to ignore Jesus, the Dominant Third Voice in this trio.

People who know things will try to tell you that Jesus was all about love and Peter and Paul ruined it.

People who say know nothing about love.

Some Magic Bennies


The Readings for the 13th Tuesday, Tempus per Annum
– Memorial of Saint Irenaeus, Bishop and Martyr

They came and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us!  We are perishing!”

Matthew 8:25 (NABRE)

EARLIER POSTS HAVE DISCUSSED the link between the prayer, “Lord have mercy” and olive oil. It’s an ongoing theme. But in today’s reading the apostles cry out “save us” (soson) which carries the meanings, also, of “heal us” and “make us whole”. These meanings (save/heal/make whole) are also carried in the the Hebrew word, and this last happens to be Jesus’ name in Hebrew, but that’s not where I’m going today. Let’s talk about Ben Franklin. Mr Franklin’s first name means “son of the right hand” and his last name means “free landholder” and is a word used by the Anglo-Saxons to describe their Norman Conquistadores, but that’s also not the point today.

Ben once did an experiment where he calmed the ripples on a body of water by adding olive oil. He then went a little bonkers, trying to figure out how much water would covered (and calmed) by a teaspoon of oil. Makes me think of angels and pinheads!

The link between Jesus calming the sea and the idea of mercy being olive oil and oil on the water is where I’m going.

This image comes to mind when I pray any version of the Jesus prayer:
– the ByzCath on, “Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.”
– the one from the period of English Persecution, “Iesu, Iesu, Iesu, have mercy on me”
– or in Latin, Iesu, Iesu, Iesu, esto mihi Iesu

I see Jesus spreading the oil of the Holy Spirit out on the water to calm the sea.

But lately, I’ve also heard him chide me, “Have you no faith at all? Why are you afraid?”

After more than 50 years in this journey with Jesus, I want to say, “Why are you afraid?” I have learned, time and time again, that even when it’s a mess that I have made all by myself, God’s actually in charge. The full meaning of “lead us not into the test” is not “don’t give me more than I can handle” but rather, “Don’t put me in a place where I think I can fix it… cuz I will try and that will make it worse! If you’re going to put me someplace, put me someplace where only you can fix it, and give me the grace to trust you more.”

Lord give me the faith to let you fix things – and to let you fix them in your own time and way. You’ve never let me fall and you won’t start now. But let me only walk where you would have me walk (or sail, if that’s what you want). When the going gets tough, let me keep on going because you’ve got this. Cast your oil on the water – or not – as you see fit. I know you won’t let go even if I slip and slide.

I may never end up where I thought I was going – or where I want to go – but I will end up where God would have me be.

That’s enough.

Freedom Ain’t a State of Mind


The Readings for the 13th Sunday, Tempus per Annum (C2)

For you were called for freedom, brothers. But do not use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh.

Galatians 5:13a (NABRE)

BROADWAY’S SHENANDOAH (1975) had this great number, “Freedom is a State of Mind” and there was dancing and, if I remember correctly, a raft floating down the river – actual water on the stage at the Alvin Theatre. It was a spectacle! The legendary John Cullum also got to sing “Papa’s going to make it all right” – a thing that might not get sung today without some not-so-gentle irony. Anyway it’s the theme of Freedom I want to point out. Here in the good ol’USA we like Freedom. It’s part of our national mythology, in fact it may be all of our national mythology… everything is couched in terms of freedom and please don’t ask too many questions about who is paying for my freedom if I’m not actually paying myself.

St Paul was writing to the Galatians about not being obligated to follow the liturgical laws of the Torah: most especially circumcision, specific days, and rules about kosher food. And, since Rabbinic legal teaching was a live project at the time, how should they treat any new decisions? Paul said Gentiles, at least, were exempt. It seems in places that Paul may have kept Kosher from time to time, but not as a legal dictate – but as a way to not cause a scandal when preaching the Gospel to Jews. It was freedom from such laws, though, that Paul is preaching here.

Paul says Gentile followers of God in Jesus are free to follow God in their own cultural context. We get excited about that “cultural context” but the emphasis in Paul’s mind is on the “Free to follow”. All the saints agree: freedom is not the freedom to do whatever I want, it’s the freedom to do the good.

Our idea of freedom has evolved.

Christians are not free to be greedy, selfish, or prideful. We’re not free to engage in unchastity nor uncharitableness. To follow Christ in our cultural context means to jettison everything that is not his.

Because the other thing that Freedom means is we’re no longer in chains to what post-moderns might call “social constructs”, but I mean that ironically: our body’s sex is not a social construct, but our attitude today is exactly that. Our feelings about sex and sexuality are only a social construct. For freedom from the culture, Christ has set us free. We’re free to follow him now.

And that takes courage as well.

Our ancestors would not have been free to follow Christ if they treated him as just another member of the Greco-Roman pantheon, subject to the same superstitions and taboos. We’re not actually free to make Christ out to be just another of our American Gods, subject to our ad hoc cultural judgments and political whims. We’re set free from such social constructs as well.

Freedom, contrary to the world – and to Broadway – is a state of Spirit, of God’s Spirit in our lives: for the Spirit of God given to us in Baptism and sealed in us by the other sacraments, begins to conform our mind, heart, our flesh, and entire life to Christ. Again: we’re not free to do whatever, we’re free to actually be who God made us to be. St Catherine says if we do that – become who God made us to be – we will set the world on Fire. While we can’t do that simply by following rules, it’s not a case that there are no rules at all.

But many of us chose to return to our slavery to the culture of sin that surrounds us. Paul reminds us that the Spirit and the Flesh are opposed to each other. What the world tells us is right is nearly always in opposition to what the Spirit requires.

The secret is that, outside of the liturgical law, the Spirit and the Law say the same thing. But with the Torah written on our hearts by the Spirit of God in us, we’re free.

But What If

The readings for the 13th Tuesday, Tempus per Annum

Amos 3:1-8; 4:11-12
Matthew 8:23-27

Quid timidi estis, modicae fidei?
Why are you terrified, O you of little faith?


THIS MORNING, Fr Michael’s homily took this scene all the way back to the creation, reminding us that God’s first actions (on the first three days of Creation) were related to God calling order out of Chaos. Here Jesus is stepping into the role of Creator, calling order back into his creation. Another priest also reminded me that this was a Theophany: a manifestation of God. Jesus used the disciples’ lack of faith to show them who he was. It’s the standard homiletic reading of this text: I think it aligns firmly with the Patristic reading here as well. But I immediately asked, Is that all there is? I had the feeling that something was missing. I don’t know what, but…

The Disciples are terrified. I get that. These men who have been fishermen all their lives are seeing a storm – perhaps a once-in-a-century storm. Whatever is wrong they are terrified, so this seems to be more than the normal thing.

Yet, Jesus – God incarnate – is asleep in the boat. Will anything happen to them? I ask you here and now. Will anything happen to them? Even if they do not wake up Jesus, asleep in the boat, will anything happen to them? I think not.

In another passage written decades later, St Paul tells us that we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. The Apostles surely fit this description. So what would have happened if they had had faith to say, Goodness but this storm is bad. We have Jesus sleeping in the boat though, so everything is ok.” When they do wake up Jesus, he chides them. Why are ye fearful? O, ye of little faith. (Jesus uses the Greek neologism, ὀλιγόπιστος, oligopistos. It’s only found in the Gospels and it only refers to the Apostles, in other words, to us.) Why does Jesus snark here? I mean he does wake up… he fixes things… what complain?

I’ve been thinking about this in light of our problem with statuary.

No one but Unreconstructed Confederates cared when the targets were Confederate memorials. Yet even secular statues of men who happen to be saints seem to need defending by the Church and I’m wondering why. The storm, you see, rages all around us: is Jesus sleeping?

Pope Francis’ meditation on St Mark’s version of this story is important here:

The storm exposes our vulnerability and uncovers those false and superfluous certainties around which we have constructed our daily schedules, our projects, our habits and priorities. It shows us how we have allowed to become dull and feeble the very things that nourish, sustain and strengthen our lives and our communities. The tempest lays bare all our prepackaged ideas and forgetfulness of what nourishes our people’s souls; all those attempts that anesthetize us with ways of thinking and acting that supposedly “save” us, but instead prove incapable of putting us in touch with our roots and keeping alive the memory of those who have gone before us. We deprive ourselves of the antibodies we need to confront adversity.

In this storm, the façade of those stereotypes with which we camouflaged our egos, always worrying about our image, has fallen away, uncovering once more that (blessed) common belonging, of which we cannot be deprived: our belonging as brothers and sisters.

“Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?” Lord, your word this evening strikes us and regards us, all of us. In this world, that you love more than we do, we have gone ahead at breakneck speed, feeling powerful and able to do anything. Greedy for profit, we let ourselves get caught up in things, and lured away by haste. We did not stop at your reproach to us, we were not shaken awake by wars or injustice across the world, nor did we listen to the cry of the poor or of our ailing planet. We carried on regardless, thinking we would stay healthy in a world that was sick. Now that we are in a stormy sea, we implore you: “Wake up, Lord!”.

Pope Francis, Urbi et Orbi 27 March 2020

The storm. It’s breaking all around us and all we can think to do is scream back into the darkness. We did not stop at your reproach to us, we were not shaken awake by wars or injustice across the world, nor did we listen to the cry of the poor or of our ailing planet.

I think it’s strange that we have yet to connect (in our hearts) the terror of March with the anger of June. We don’t realize this is all one pattern.

Why are we still afraid?

The Holy Father continues, Faith begins when we realise we are in need of salvation. We are not self-sufficient; by ourselves we founder: we need the Lord, like ancient navigators needed the stars. Let us invite Jesus into the boats of our lives. Let us hand over our fears to him so that he can conquer them.

I find myself wondering why we are afraid… why we are ashamed. We have to confess our sins to be forgiven – we are Catholics and we know this. Why are we afraid to admit that the Mission system was part of a colonialist campaign by Spain, attempting to protect the West Coast from the Russians? Why are we afraid to admit that we destroyed a culture nearly a millenium old, replacing it with food, language, polity, and social structures alien to the locals? We wanted to make Christians out of them – that’s certainly Good – but we added to “Christian” the title of “Spaniard”. We wanted to make Spanish Christians out of them, as certainly as the earliest Church wanted to make Jews out of Gentiles before they could become Christians. Certainly, it was wrong this time as well? Why are we afraid to admit that? There might be sins that cause people to hate us. And we might have to repent.

Why are we afraid to admit that our alliances with false princes and potus-tates have left us mirroring the world, unable to work for its healing. We’ve become partisans. We can’t repent – that would mean we’re wrong. Instead of the Hail Mary we keep chanting the mantra about “The judges” even when the judges have betrayed us and given the lie to all our panderings. Instead of the Bride of Christ, we are only the call girl of Washington. What if this storm is our cross now and our redemption? What if we are only to let go… to remember Jesus is sleeping in the boat with us. All will be well if we but sacrifice our place, our power, our illicit lovers.

Embracing his cross means finding the courage to embrace all the hardships of the present time, abandoning for a moment our eagerness for power and possessions in order to make room for the creativity that only the Spirit is capable of inspiring. It means finding the courage to create spaces where everyone can recognize that they are called, and to allow new forms of hospitality, fraternity and solidarity.

Pope Francis, speaking in March, seems nearly prophetic now, reading his words in June. Why do we double down on our daily schedules, our projects, our habits and priorities? Now is not the time to screw our courage to the sticking place and tell the world where to get off in “all those attempts that anesthetize us with ways of thinking and acting that supposedly ‘save’ us, but instead… we deprive ourselves of the antibodies we need to confront adversity.”

Now is time to confess our sins, to embrace our cross, and save the world.

In the Howling Wastes


The Readings for Saturday in the 13th week Per Tempus Annum (C1)

Isaac asked, “Which of my sons are you?” Jacob answered his father:  “I am Esau, your first-born.”

God used Jacob: he was the second born son rather than the preference of Patriarchs who want the oldest boy. Think about it, though. Isaac was the second born son as well. Think back… the oldest son of Noah caused a curse as did the oldest son of Adam. In fact, Adam was not the first created animal: he was created last and asked to rule over the animals. David was the youngest son of Jesse. Solomon was not his oldest son – in fact, he was the youngest son of the seventh wife if I count rightly. So even when you have a “patriarchal culture” God doesn’t quite follow the rules.

Esau sold his birthright to his younger brother – a thing probably not normal in any culture that has something called a “birthright”. Esau probably imagined that was a meaningless transaction. But, lo: God honors it even so. And Esau falls into a long line of firstborn sons who don’t quite measure up.

How does this typologically fit Jesus, the Only Begotten Son of God and the firstborn of Mary?

Well, Jesus came from the wrong side of town…

Rome was the Center of the World. Culture was made there. Technology and money concentrated there. It was not only the seat of power: it was the center to which all things flowed. The produce of the world, the art, philosophy, and the economy of the world drained out in Rome. It was the Silicone Valley of its day.

Jesus wasn’t born there.

If Rome is the urban center of the San Francisco Bay, Jesus was born to a poor family in a cowshed on the outskirts of Canon City, Colorado. His followers said he was Lord of the World. Even a couple of decades later, in the heart of the empire, there was only 150 or so Roman Christians, many of the homeless, slaves, rescued orphans and elderly… these were not the revolutionaries that would ever overthrow the known world.

But they did.

Picking up the lowly and casting down the mighty. That’s how God works. The “Flyover States” are the most dangerous place on the map.

Would the judge of all do that?


The Readings for Monday in the 13th week Tempus per Annum (C1)

Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, now that he is to become a great and populous nation, and all the nations of the earth are to find blessing in him?

This bizarre scene where Abraham bargains with God leaves us with a huge question: why would God want to be bargained with?

The stories about the city of Sodom are not pretty. As is recounted in Jewish tradition the Sodomites were inclined to hating homeless people, to killing people who dared to beg, and to stoning those who dared to help them. Sodom was not a good place to be unless you were very wealthy and well-connected. It was a lot like modern America.

God wonders to himself if he should tell Abraham what he is about to do. The reason God wanders this is because he’s going to make Abraham a source of blessing for the Nations. That doesn’t make sense unless this is a time of training for Abraham. God wants Abraham to learn something here. What is it?

From the text we’re left to assume that the lesson is in fact intercession.  God wants Abraham to learn how to intercede for strangers. So he starts small and lets him intercede for Lot, his cousin, and his family. Instead of interceding Abraham bargains; but that’s okay: this is a learning process.

God is teaching Abraham how to pray. Abraham steps up admirably. In time the Jewish sense of their purpose would include linking the Temple in Jerusalem and its sacrificial system to the safety of the entire world. Jerusalem becomes the navel of the world, the stone that prevents the flood waters from rising again. In time Israel will give birth to the Messiah, the savior of the world. The Seed of Abraham will become the intercessor for all of us.

We are Abraham’s children. This is our job. We are to be a blessing to the Nations. The church fathers taught that the Church in the world is rather like yeast in bread. It only takes a pinch and the whole loaf rises. The Church’s function in the world is rather like the soul is in the body: we are to be the light of the world, the flavoring that makes everything possible. When was the last time you prayed for strangers?

I thought of this as I heard prayers this weekend for all the folks in town and I thought why shouldn’t we pray for their safety? We are to pray blessings on everyone, to all the nations.  Shouldn’t we pray for their peace? We are to pray for our enemies. We are to pray blessings upon those who curse us. This is exactly what we should be doing. We should be bargaining with God, pardon the phrase, for everyone. This is what Jesus did as well: his entire life was an intersection for the world. When we fail at this we failed to be Christians.

Monking Where You Are.


The Readings for the 13th Sunday Tempus per Annum (C1)

You are my inheritance, O Lord.

Right now Catholic, American internet seems to be filled with one of three different types of politics. These might be described as Monarchist, Socialist, or Capitalist. There are subtypes as well: the Socialists might be split into various camps depending on Marx or Chavez or Trotsky. The monarchists might be split between absolute, Divine Right Monarchists and the Constitutional Monarchists. The capitalists are split between sort of vaguely agrarian communitarian and post-industrialist, libertarian camps. There are Alt Right and Alt Left just like in the secular world.

What each of these types has in common is that they claim the Church’s authority for their political beliefs. Each one seems to say I have found the one right way to bring about Catholic Social change. They ignore the fact that the further right you go, the less you sound like a Catholic social ethicist. While the further left to go the less you sound like a Catholic moral theologian. You can’t be any of these things be a Good Catholic

Today the psalmist offers us the answer.  You are my inheritance, Lord.

I believe and confess that as Catholics we are obligated to bring about a Catholic social order. The USCCB’s Catechism for Adults says:

Through participation in political life—either as voters or as holders of public office—they work for increasing conformity of public policy to the law of God as known by human reason and Divine Revelation. This they do especially by showing the coherence of Catholic teaching with the fundamental yearnings and dignity of the human person.

The catechism does not tell us which political system to use. In fact, it seems to imply that regardless of the political system we still have the same obligation. In fact, it seems to say that it is the performance of our obligation which is the proper focus, not the political system. The Catechism seems to presuppose that making Catholic moral choices will change the political system to be the right one. Focusing on the political system first is to put the cart before the horse. You are my inheritance, Lord.

Not just politics, but in other parts of our life, too:  we seem to put our Catholicism as the caboose on the train rather than the engine. We worry about our jobs too much. Or we stress over our apartment and our status as caregiver for our family. God says to worry about God. Everything else will take care of itself, or better he will take care of everything else. This comes home to me nearly every day recently. When I stress over something I’ve said, or something I’ve done. Will they find out I’m Catholic? Will there be social repercussions? God says he is my inheritance. Not my job, not my social welfare, not my health insurance, not even my parents. But God.

When I say it that way, you might ask why I don’t return to the monastery. I don’t think that’s what God wants. I don’t think that’s my calling. As much as I love sitting in the quiet of a monastic Chapel I don’t think that’s my calling. I think my calling is here in the world. That doesn’t mean I cannot live a monastic life. Or, as a friend rather unkindly implied the other day, pretend I’m monastic. I live alone, I have all day to pray, what else can I do? I feed my cat and read my breviary. You are my inheritance, Lord.

Jesus said, “No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God.”

I spend a lot of time looking back: not like Mrs. Lot who turned around to have fond reminiscences of home. I turn around to look back out of fear. Who is following me? Who has managed to evade God long enough to sneak up behind me? The sphere, this lack of trust, shows a weakness on my part that can be exploited. My fear is my downfall. I forget who my inheritance is. I go after the world doing its own thing. I expect from a selfish world more care then I got from God on a moment-to-moment basis. How strange is that? You are my inheritance, Lord.

But someone with children, someone with a career, someone with an active life filled with things to do and places to go has the same experience. That’s the whole point of Dominican tertiaries: we are Dominicans in the world. We’re not pretend monastics, we’re not pseudo-religious, we are Dominicans Where We Are. I am a Dominican whose primary ministry is in writing and customer service. How does my Dominican presents at my job create a Catholic culture? How do I contribute to the building of a Catholic Social and moral order in the world? How does my Dominican charism bring the Gospel’s preaching to everything that I do? This is Ministry this is the living of a Christian Life in the world. You are my inheritance, Lord.

If we had political activists in the Catholic Church who were focused solely on manifesting Catholic social structures imagine the revolution we would have! If we had social activists in the Catholic Church who were intent on creating a Catholic culture, imagine the revolution we would have! You are my inheritance, Lord.

If we had beauticians, bartenders, bus and taxi drivers, baseball players, librarians, grocers and bag boys, comediennes, architects, artists,  teachers, journalists, photographers, drummers, Piper’s, soldiers, sailors, everything…  all of whom were committed to their Catholicism first to the building of the Catholic moral and social order first, and these other things second. If they all did their stuff as Catholics rather than finding a way to attach their Catholicism to their stuff, imagine the revolution we would have! You are my inheritance, Lord.