What Do You Fear?

JMJ

The Readings for Saturday in the 14th Week, Tempus per Annum (C1):

Si patremfamilias Beelzebub vocaverunt, quanto magis domesticos ejus? Nolite timere eos qui occidunt corpus, animam autem non possunt occidere.

If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more those of his household? Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.


What is the origin of fear? I’m trying to suss this out. St John says perfect love casts out all fear. So is the origin of fear in the lack of love? Or, is it in the imperfection of love?

Since no human being, created in the image of God, can be without love I suggest the answer is the origin of fear is in the imperfection of love. Working hypothesis: we fear not because we hate, but because we love imperfectly.

Jesus says do not fear those who can kill the body. Those are the folks we actually fear the most. We may not say “kill the body” anymore, but we are afraid of people who can deprive us of life and liberty. We are afraid of those who can socially kill us by firing us, taking away our home, expelling our children from school, taking our children away from us, shaming us on social media, destroying our reputation on the internet, or stealing our identities and ruining our credit scores. These are the people we fear.

So, I suggest the problem is that we do not love them perfectly. What would it mean to love perfectly?

Jesus’ best example of perfect love is when he says his father causes it to rain on the just and on the unjust. The sunlight, too, can be said to fall on the just and the unjust equally. God’s love is like that: falling on all of us equally. I used to have an image of the love of God pouring down upon us like beams of light and there were some on whom it did not fall. I realized that didn’t make sense. Then what I saw was that there were some who tried to use umbrellas or anything to keep that pesky light from hitting them. These are the Goths of the spiritual world. They try to hide from the light. God doesn’t love me! So they say.

And certainly, there will be those people who will deny you the chance to love them. But you have to keep loving them! Let them say no. You must always say yes. Love must be perfect. We can’t do it yet, fine! But let’s work towards it, later! Love must grow to be perfect.

When our love is perfect and we will not be afraid. Fear is a luxury a person in love simply cannot afford. Fear is the luxury of folks who love stuff more than people. Fear is a luxury of someone who loves their job more than people. Someone who loves their favorite foods, their favorite sex toys, their favorite appetites, their ego, their reputation, more than people: they can afford fear.

So do not fear the person who can kill your body, but brother loved him perfectly. On the way to the beheading, as you’re walking up the steps, Weep For Love of your executioner. Pray in love for his soul. Beseech God to have mercy on him who is about to kill you. Even if that only means slandering you on the internet.

They do that to Jesus moment by moment. What more do you expect for yourself?

Mira! El Otro!

JMJ

The Readings for Friday in the 14th Week, Tempus per Annum (C1):

Tradet autem frater fratrem in mortem, et pater filium: et insurgent filii in parentes, et morte eos afficient: et eritis odio omnibus propter nomen meum: qui autem perseveraverit usque in finem, hic salvus erit.
Brother will hand over brother to death, and the father his child; children will rise up against parents and have them put to death. You will be hated by all because of my name, but whoever endures to the end will be saved.
Again with the brother against brother and in the New Testament, now. Apart from the Sons of Zebedee and Andrew and Peter, there are very few brothers that get along in the Bible. The Macabbees, I guess. Everyone else seems to have a bit of an issue with internecine incivility. 
This passage, though, is about the Church. Brother will hand over brother to death: Christians will be acting like the sons of Jacob, as the sons of Adam and Daughters of Eve that we are. Although it can seem a bit conspiratorial at times, this is actually one thing I fear. I know why I fear this: because I was often on the other side.

Yes, I’m a Christain, but not like one of those over there…

My great fear was that someone would think I was a Christian like the ones the someone hated – whoever they were. In that us-and-them mindset, trying to be really cool (not like them) I was bound to sell Christians short in order to look good to my friends. It actually doesn’t matter who the “us” was in this story. It’s only important that I be seen to be not one of them.

Who was one of them?

Actually: it doesn’t matter.

Repeatedly I’ve had driven home to me lately that, as far as human beings are concerned, there is no “other”. There is only us. There are still two sides, but they are not the sides we think of.

In Gulag Archipelago, Alexander Solzhenitsyn said, “The line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either — but right through every human heart — and through all human hearts.” In short, we are “The Others” we’re afraid of. Even that fails to describe the real situation: God made us. We belong to him. We are his people and the sheep of his pasture. God made all of us. Even the folks that say they don’t or won’t belong, even the folks that feel left outside, even the folks who hate all conception of God, Church, Good, Chastity, Love… whatever. God made us all and we belong to him.

There are folks who struggle to stay on one side of that line. There are folks who struggle to stay on the other. Very few people want to reject love, peace, goodness. And everyone usually acts out of love of something. And all love… is of God. You have to love something and to the extent that you love – even broken – you are being Godly. Certainly, because we are humans, our love can be broken. Most of us have broken love. If you’re walking around, in fact, it’s broken.

There are those beings who would have us love stuff and use people (instead of the reverse). God’s image is not in stuff: but it is in all people. When we fail to love people when we love stuff (pepperoni pizza, cheap radios from WalMart, political ideologies, national anthems) we are at risk of devaluing the image of God present in each person – and so of devaluing God himself.

There is only one force that drives us to devalue persons created in God’s image. It matters not if we do that by our shopping, our voting, our eating, or our dishonesty. When we do it, we’re fighting for the other side.

Today’s Gospel reminds me that there are those (and I have been one) in the Church who fight for the other side. We don’t even do it covertly. We become convinced that those over there are so wrong as to not even be one of us. They are the Sharks. Or the Jets. They are not one of us humans, you see?

In all honesty, they may fail at being Catholics. They may fail at being Christians. (Who of us does not fail?) But they are always one of us: one of the bearers of God’s image. We fail in this, become the other side when we forget another Solzhenitsyn quote (perhaps the rest of the one I’ve cited): “Even within hearts overwhelmed by evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained.”

The Saints and Fathers teach us over and over again that we are to mourn and pray for those around us led away into fighting against Truth. As we are to mourn each our own sins, when we see someone who does not know their sin, or who is aggressively opposing the truth, we should assume two things: if they knew the real truth of Love, they would not oppose it; and, it is us who have failed to tell them or show them. Corrie Ten Boom found herself standing in Ravensbrück Concentration Camp watching Nazi soldiers beat another prisoner. She found it a perfect opportunity to share the Gospel of God’s love with the inmate standing next to her. I’m afraid to do this on the bus – sometimes I’m afraid of the person next to me at Mass or at work! Over and over Corrie saw God’s presence in the person next to her, and she reached out in Love. It’s amazing how many times the response even from Nazis, was Love given back.

We should, therefore, pray all the more for them and mourn, all the more, for our lack of love in showing the way more clearly.

And we should remember that the only “them” is the Demons who seek to divide us. Even if someone is leading us to the chopping block, the executioner, the press, the social media, or the courts for our faith, it should be assumed that it is a failure of love leading to this, not a failure of the person. Jesus says we will be persecuted because of his name. If you find this love difficult – and who would not? – begin perhaps by Thanking God for using this person to show you the fulfillment of prophecy. Then pray for them – and you – to be wrapped in Love.

Impossible.


JMJ

The Readings for the Memorial of Saint Benedict, Abbot
Thursday in the 13th week Tempus Per Annum (C1)

Pro salute enim vestra misit me Deus ante vos in Aegyptum.
It was for your salvation that God sent me before you into Egypt.

Yesterday’s writing may have seemed a bit out of character for me. I’m a placid, poetical sort of writer usually. Nu? I have dark corners too.

So I will wonder again: is this statement of Joseph’s absolution or just a statement of fact? To a mystic, a statement of fact is rare and Joseph, the dreamer of dreams and the reader of omens, is certainly a mystic.

Dylan’s lyrics, continuing from yesterday. It’s the refrain:

I see my light come shining
From the west unto the east
Any day now, any day now
I shall be released

I was walking home from a bar late one night – oh, actually it was about 5 am – with my housemate Rick. It was one of those snowy nights in the middle of winter in New York City when, with the snow falling, there is absolute silence. It’s one of the few things I miss about New York City. This weather. This silence. Anyway, walking. Rick was trying to figure out this song phrase that was running through my head. Rick was very good with Broadway musicals but this one was escaping him. We found out later it was actually a TV Musical that had been on once when we were kids in the late 60s. One word of one song was stuck in my head still in 1995. I could even sing it.  “Imm-poss-ible.” I was certain it must mean something, if only we could figure out why it was stuck there.

Rick said, “There must be something in your life that doesn’t mean something else.”

“Why?” I asked.

Joseph could see his light come shining. He knew that sooner or later he would be released. Yet, he never was. To the end of his days, he was this Hebrew captive in the house of Pharaoh. He was even given a slave name meaning the “The God Speaks so He Lives.” You can read it to mean that Joseph could hear meanings in things… which Pharaoh understood to mean that some deity was speaking to Joseph… or did it mean that Pharaoh (the God) had decided this slave could live? It seems highly likely it was the latter. Joseph was in prison about  orto die… and the god-king spoke and let him live.

If you read the story of Joseph in Genesis close enough, it sounds as if this Hebrew slave is the beginning of the idea that Pharaoh owned the entire land of Egypt. The Egyptians sold their goods and their property to Pharaoh through Joseph in exchange for food during the seven year famine.  And thus Pharaoh – not Joseph – became very rich. Joseph was still Pharaoh’s slave. And through Joseph, all of Egypt, too. And Israel.

I see my light come shining
from the west down to the east.

Dylan was on to something: he was a good mystic too. We all journey from the west to the east in search of more light. Jews and Christians face east to pray: that is the proper orientation – get it? – of synagogues and churches. But everything means something else. Who will help the widow’s son?

When Joseph says that God sent him there, is he stating fact, or mystery? Why do they have to be separate? Joseph’s claim on us is that he is so broken. Joseph is a victim trapped in his victimhood. There is literally nothing Joseph does after he is sold into slavery where he is not a Slave. To highlight: Joseph made his brothers promise that even if he died he would they would take his bones with them back to the promised land. Take his bones. He chained them by their promise to his corpse. I am still a slave who can do nothing. You must take me out of here.

Is it not possible in the sacramental world that fact and mystery are the same thing?

Have you ever looked at recursive formulae in mathematics? After the cth failed attempt, resend the frame after k · 51.2 μs, where k is a random integer between 0 and 2c − 1. It’s like a magic box filled with mirrors, an onion in reverse, where each layer in is bigger than the one outside.

You can get lost in there, meditating on it. Why does a fact have to rule out a mystery? Recursion says they are the same thing, more and more as you go deeper and deeper.

Joseph is both slave and Liberator. Joseph is both Egyptian and Hebrew. Joseph is at one time Jacob’s son and Pharaoh’s son.  Then, by a chiasmus in the text, Moses is those things as well: slave and Egyptian, Hebrew and Liberator, son of Pharaoh’s daughter and son of Israel’s daughter too.

I see my light come shining
From the west down to the east.

Fact and mystery become the same thing in a sacramental universe; because by a glorious chiasmus in the text Jesus is these things as well: slave and Liberator, human and divine. Then in the Gospel Jesus becomes the chiasmus, and we become those things for those around us.

Any day now. Any day now.
I shall be released.

The Amazing Technicolor Nightmare Coat


JMJ

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

Merito haec patimur, quia peccavimus in fratrem nostrum, videntes angustiam animae illius, dum deprecaretur nos, et non audivimus : idcirco venit super nos ista tribulatio.
We deserve to suffer these things, because we have sinned against our brother, seeing the anguish of his soul, when he besought us, and we would not hear: therefore is this affliction come upon us. 
I’m not at all certain what the Committee was doing when they chopped up Genesis to get passages for this week. They leap into the middle of Joseph’s story with no backstory and they leave us with a weak opening for “Israel in Egypt”. We’ll get the Exodus story in a few days but this internecine dysfunction that plays at the heart of Israel’s story that carries past the Maccabees – and on to Bar Kochba in AD 135 – is suddenly robbed of its context.
Israel, oddly like the Church, is filled with squabbling brethren.
Bullies will creep up out of cracks in old sheds on snowy days in funny Christmas movies. They will appear in the bass section behind you to make obscene gestures with their hands on your ears. They will ooze out of the bus seats behind you to taunt you while the bus driver can’t see. They are your own brothers selling you into slavery – to the Egyptians, or to other bullies…

This act is heinous: for the brothers sell their own flesh into slavery. Joseph seems to lord over his brothers his own status as “Daddy and Mommy’s Baby Boy”. Yet the level of bulliness the brothers display is unparalleled: first plotting to kill Joseph (but not doing so only out of a fear of breaking the Kin’s Blood Taboo), then selling him into slavery.

And here they are, ten or 15 years later, still reaping the horror of what they’ve done.
Bob Dylan has this song… the opening verse describes what I imagine would be Joseph’s lament:
They say everything can be replaced
Yet every distance is not near
So I remember every face
Of every man who put me here
I’m not sure how Joseph feels. He’s crying by the end of the story… but is he crying from sheer loss, or from loss of will to torture these men who tortured him?

As someone who was bullied a lot in school, I confess I remember every face. I look them up on Facebook. This dude has a wife and kids and seems kinda happy. This other dude looks like he may have done some time and perhaps has found Jesus recently. Being bullied leaves a mark much deeper than the wounds inflicted, although you can still see my broken nose and tooth.

I’m not sure what Joseph feels here but was I to meet the members of the NCHS Warriors in a similar famine situation – even 35 years later, I’m not sure how I’d feel. Joseph is not exactly gracious. In fact, he gets a good bit of revenge before he caves in. Yes, I’m committing eisegesis: reading into the scriptures instead of exegesis, reading out. But hey, it’s my blog.

The brothers feel compunction here. Maybe not for the first time but, in a sense, finally. And as they speak Hebrew, Joseph can understand them… and I’m sure his own heart is pricked a little by the number of hoops he makes his brothers jump through.
Why does he do it? I don’t know. It’s possible to project all kinds of psychology into this story. It’s remarkably devoid of motive on Joseph’s part. First, he tries to bully them, then he makes them travel back and forth, then he breaks down.
It’s possible he doesn’t forgive them any more than I’ve forgiven my own crop of bullies. I try, but even typing this brief post as made me agitated: not angry, mind you… just… agitated. By the end of the story he seems to have reconciled with his family, but did he hang out with his brothers at all after this? Or just put them in nice houses in Goshen and leave them there? I hear echoes of mistrust and psychic wounds in the story of Potiphar’s wife, in the prison prophecy, in the story of his reunion with his father, and finally of his making his brothers promise to not leave even his bones behind in Egypt.
When he later says “You intended this for evil… but God intended it for good.” Is there any absolution or just a statement of fact?

How do the bullies feel? The brothers somehow remember Joseph, and that is as it should be: but do bullies remember their victims usually? Do they just go unthinkingly on with their lives? I would not be who I am today but for the bullies. I only went to one HS reunion – my ten year, I think – and I admit I was mortally afraid. So… yeah. I remember every face.

Joseph.
OK.

Love different


JMJ

The Readings for Tuesday in the 14th week Tempus per Annum (C1)

Nequaquam, inquit, Jacob appellabitur nomen tuum, sed Israel : quoniam si contra Deum fortis fuisti, quanto magis contra homines praevalebis?
Thy name shall not be called Jacob, but Israel: for if thou hast been strong against God, how much more shalt thou prevail against men?

In Sunday’s readings, St Paul called the Church the “Israel of God” so it’s good to get reminded, today, what that means. Israel means one who wrestles with God.

Israel says to Joshua, “As we obeyed Moses in all things, so will we obey thee also” (Joshua 1:17) and we know how well they listened to Moses! That’s the Church. If you don’t believe me look at Matthew 28:17 (another verse 17).  The risen Christ shows up, “And seeing him they adored: but some doubted.” Doubting him to his face they are. Here’s Jesus now! Oh, well, I don’t know…

But they don’t let go until Jesus blesses them anyway. That’s an honest picture of the Church. God is with us and sometimes we don’t like it. But may God have mercy on us anyways.

The Church is this wrestling partner and the bride of Christ, forever locked in a grapple, declaiming I will not let you go until you bless me. While we often think of the bride of Christ in romantic, sepia-toned, soft-focused images, the truth is the image we have for the church – for Israel – is often less Ward and June Cleaver and more Ralph and Alice Kramden. Even on her best days, the Church is more like Lucy Ricardo… Ricky, let me in the show! Loooceee!

So what does this mean for us, we who lovingly wrestle with God?

In the RCIA class last year one of the Disciples asked if they needed to accept all of the Catholic Church’s teaching before becoming Catholic at Eastet. It’s a valid question. The Church teaches a lot of things… some of which may draw you, some of which may repulse you. What do we do with that stuff?

If you’re joining the Catholic Church, you’re about to say “I believe everything the Catholic Church believes, teaches, and proclaims to be revealed by God”.  Notice that you don’t “believe everything the church believes.” If you’ve decided to become Catholic or to return to the practice of your faith, I think it’s fair to assume that your goal, your desire, is to be a faithful Catholic – without reservations. But you might have some reservations at the present time. The journey is the thing. Is it your goal to be 100% Catholic 100% of the time, even if you can’t do it exactly, just yet? God doesn’t want perfect disciples and even the Doubters in 28:17 get sent out as Apostles.

The entire story of the Bible is filled with people who do what God didn’t want and yet God brings good out of it. If you’re trying to do what is right… even if you can’t make it yet… you’re much further along than some of the important folks in the Bible! We leave behind, today, the story of Jacob and leap into the story of Joseph tomorrow. God’s beloved is sold into slavery… becomes the leader of the known world. Ah, how can we dance with a God like this and worry?

In my journey through very conservative forms of Christianity, I’ve met a lot of folks who openly reject this or that teaching of the Church. Then they act as if they are the insulted ones in the relationship. I’ve always wondered why they bother to be Catholic or Orthodox. I don’t really know. They’ve stopped struggling. They’ve decided they are more right than the Church. But they are clearly not 100% sure: because if you’ve stopped being Catholic or Orthodox go be Protestant. Be faithful to your inner voice and follow your conscience!

But then there are many faithful others who struggle. They want to be this thing, but they have failures. They want to be Catholic, but really? This thing about sex? Really? This thing about birth control? Really? This thing about the Pope? Really? This thing about… I’m serious, they have trouble. But they admit they are having trouble, they struggle, they wrestle. They know that there is something here. They even know they are wrong. When they stumble, they go to confession, they talk to their priest, they abstain from communion… then they come back.

They don’t want the Church to change to please them. They want to – but they can’t yet – change. It’s just not happening. The issue is not how many times you fall: you have only to get up one more time than you fall. It’s only one more time.

I will NOT let you go until you bless me. One of these days, Alice. One of these days… to heaven.

Come back next week, try again. Even limping away, you win.

Waiting at the Bottom of the Ladder


JMJ

The Readings for Monday in the 14th week, Tempus per Annum (C1)

Know that I am with you; I will protect you wherever you go, and bring you back to this land. I will never leave you…

Jacob sees all that’s going on and suddenly “…there was the LORD standing beside him…” To make free with a later vision in the Bible, God was not in the vision of ladders and angels, God was a quiet voice beside him.

We can get distracted by all the things (even holy things) that are going on around us. We forget the one thing important, that God is right there…

The Late Francis Cardinal George of Chicago made an oft-quoted comment about the increasing secularization in our world and how the Church would fare in it. (Tim Drake sussed out the quote and the context here.)

I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison and his successor will die a martyr in the public square. His successor will pick up the shards of a ruined society and slowly help rebuild civilization, as the church has done so often in human history.

Although that bit about his successor may be premature, it’s the last bit that seems important for our readings today.

God will protect us wherever we go. It’s actually not going to get any easier. I think, in fact, it’s going to get harder from here on out because God doesn’t change. The things God asks of us, expects of us, and the things God wants us to be do not change. We’re going to have to fight all the harder just to hold on. We will not let you go until you bless us. It’s a hard struggle, but the truth is God is not changing: it is the world that is changing around us. Holding on to God is the easiest thing we can do. It’s the path of least resistance because God is not changing. We don’t have to run to keep up with God. We only need to hold on and wait.

Truth is, we don’t want to. We’d rather let go and float along with the current.

God himself walks into the room and says, “Don’t worry she’s not dead she’s only asleep.” And the crowd ridicules God to his face. The girl really was dead. But God is not the god of the dead but of the living. To God, that girl was only asleep. That’s how God sees all of us. We are seen by God as so different from the way the world sees us. The world may not be mourning us, but the world thinks we’re stupid. The world is not sad over us, but the world thinks we’re backward. The world does not regret leaving us behind, but the world does think we’re haters. God says otherwise. The world laughs at God.

I don’t think it’s going to get any easier: it’s going to get harder. Cardinal George continues:

God sustains the world, in good times and in bad. Catholics, along with many others, believe that only one person has overcome and rescued history: Jesus Christ, Son of God and Son of the Virgin Mary, savior of the world and head of his body, the church. Those who gather at his cross and by his empty tomb, no matter their nationality, are on the right side of history. 

We see this as today. Both left and right in our political spectrum seem to espouse the same things. Violence is only directed at different parties. The church, strangely, gets it from both sides. That is as it should be. While some on the left think we’re too conservative and some on the right think we’re too liberal we should just be about the business of God. Holding on to God, the one point that does not change or move in the midst of all this chaos.

In the end, it will be up to us to follow Cardinal George’s final option. The Church must “pick up the shards of a ruined society and slowly help rebuild civilization, as the church has done so often in human history.”

God is right here. Let us hold on. This place is awesome. The House of God and the Gate of Heaven. Hold on. When this chaos is over, we will have more work to do.

Towering O’er the Wrecks of Time


JMJ

The Readings for the 14th Sunday, Tempus per Annum (C1)

May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. 

Disciples become Apostles. You never stop being a disciple of course, but eventually, you hit a point where you must become an Apostle. Disciple means learning. Apostle means sent. You never stop learning, however, eventually you have to start teaching. You never stop praying however eventually you must begin preaching. The Christian life is not a give me, give me, give me experience. The Christian Life is a give me so I can give away experience. If you never become an apostle it is as if you stayed in third grade because you were afraid of graduating college.

Saint Francis is often misquoted as saying, “Preach the Gospel always, use words when necessary.” He never said this and, in fact, it would be silly for the man who preached to Muslims and to birds – who never stopped using words – to say something like this. This is often used to tell people to shut up, or to “do social justice” instead of preaching. Eventually, you have to speak up.

But Francis did, in his rule, advise his spiritual sons and daughters, to preach the Gospel with every aspect of their lives – not only their lips, but with their hands, heart, mind, and feet as well. Jesus sends out his 72 Disciples as Apostles to prepare the way for him as he is coming to share the Good News everywhere.  Jesus says, “Behold, I have given you the power to ‘tread upon serpents’ and  scorpions and upon the full force of the enemy and nothing will harm you.” Yet he adds, pointedly, that this should not be our pride: rather we should rejoice that our names are “written in heaven”.

So it is that Saint Paul says he will only boast in the cross of Jesus. There is nothing of more praise, nothing of more joy, nothing of more peace for the Christian than the Cross of Christ.

The cross is the sign of God’s love for us, the depth to which God will go for us even in his Mercy.

It was not enough that God should create us.
It was not enough that God should give us his Covenant.
It was not enough that God should become one of us.
It was not enough that God should teach us in his own voice.
It was not enough that God would interpret his Covenant in his own words to us.
It was not enough that God should eat with us.
It was not enough that God should love us that much.
It was enough that God should die for us.
That we should kill God and have God rise again.
This is God’s love for us.
This is how deep God will go.
This is how attached to his creation by love is God: that he will let us attach him to wood by steel in his hands and his feet and his side.

God is affixed to us, nailed to us like a cross by his love for us as we have affixed him to wood in our hate.

This is what it means to glory in the Cross of Christ. without the cross there is no Resurrection, without the cross there is no Eucharist, without the cross there is no harrowing of hell, Without The Cross there is no church. We have no idea what God’s could have done, we only know what he did do. And so we don’t have “The Cross as Plan B”. We have the Cross as the only plan we can possibly know.

The lamb was slain before the foundations of the world. There is no plan other than this. And so, in the Cross of Christ I will glory. For this is the love that he has for me. This is the love he has for you. The cross. The cross. The cross. This is Jesus’ love for you. This is God reaching to each of us in mercy and love.

The cross. The cross. The cross. Let me shout it from the housetop, let me sing it from the tops of mountains, let me pray it from the depths of my heart! The cross! The cross! The cross! God forgive us that we needed the cross. God love us for we needed the cross.

God open to us the gates of the cross that we too may be affixed to you on this wood.
That we too may love you this much.
That we too may sacrifice everything we have, that we too may be as given to you as you are given to us.

This is how we are disciples.
How we take this message in our lives to others is how we are Apostles.

There is yet one other aspect of this message. when we take it to the world we are Apostles, but when we bring it back to the church we are prophets. God would have this message inside and outside his church. We disciple so that we can be Apostles to those outside the church and so that we can be prophets to those inside the church so that we can raise the church out. so that the Holy Spirit can once again be freed to work inside the church. God has promised to revive Jerusalem. God has promised to heal Israel. God has promised to bring her children back to her. And so we should be ready. That’s as disciples, as apostles, and as prophets.

How many are you worth?

JMJ

The Readings for the Memorial of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha, Virgin.
Saturday in the 14th Week of Ordinary Time (B2)

Nonne duo passeres asse veneunt? et unus ex illis non cadet super terram sine Patre vestro. Vestri autem capilli capitis omnes numerati sunt. Nolite ergo timere : multis passeribus meliores estis vos.
Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father’s will. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. 

This became a most-beloved passage when Fr Yakov mentioned that the sparrows in question are being sold as “Street Meat”: grilled on skewers and offered as snacks. If this were modern day New York, Jesus might be saying, “You’re worth more than many hot dogs.” If this were San Francisco, he might say tacos or pupusas. The parallel would hold because Jesus was talking to poor folks who would eat Street Meat. To reach today’s hip crowds in SF, he might have to say “IPAs” or maybe Vape Hits.


The “sparrows” bit is intended as some sort of comfort offered for the rest of the pericope, though. Jesus is saying, “They hate me… and you’re neither sinless nor God in the flesh. So they are really going to not like you one bit.” This follows on the texts from yesterday and the day before about how troublesome it’s going to be to preach. Rely fully on God – not on your money belt, not on your social connections, not on your religious connections! God may or may not rescue you from the folks howling at your feet, but God will save you.


On the one hand, stop acting (or not) in fear: What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and yet forfeit his soul? On the other hand, don’t be a hypocrite: if you don’t believe that God’s got this, how can you preach this Gospel at all? If you find yourself making decisions based on fear (as I do) then you need to reevaluate your position: Why would the Evil One take any action against you since you’re so willing take action against yourself? You’re doing his work for him! And if you’re telling others to trust in God when he is not the source of your strength and satisfaction, how long will you keep setting yourself up for failure?

What are you afraid of? His eye is on the sparrow (or the IPA) so he must be watching you as well. It is in order to prevent us from falling into this repudiation that he reminds us of our values before God.


These passages were first spoken to the Apostles as they were sent out on their mission. And they apply to us now. We are the ones who are to confess him before others. How do we do this? The Greek text makes it clear. To “confess” or (to “acknowledge”, says the milder NABRE) is homologeo, literally to “say the same”.  But another way to read that is to note that it’s using the root “logos”: to be of the same Logos as Christ. To be in the mind of Christ. This is why the Spirit tells us what to say – for we share one mind with Christ.

We must speak with Christ’s words before others. That’s hard, right? To heal, to forgive, to bless and not curse. It’s so much easier to triumph, to lord over, to gloat. If we fail to say the same as Jesus before others, if we repudiate him by our words or our actions, he will do the same to us. 

Then we’ll be worth bupkiss.

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Not even a pocket handkerchief

JMJ

The Readings for Thursday in the 14th Week of Ordinary Time (B2)

Gratis accepistis, gratis date. Nolite possidere aurum, neque argentum, neque pecuniam in zonis vestris : non peram in via, neque duas tunicas, neque calceamenta, neque virgam : dignus enim est operarius cibo suo.
You received without paying, give without pay. Take no gold, nor silver, nor copper in your belts, no bag for your journey, nor two tunics, nor sandals, nor a staff; for the laborer deserves his food.

This passage has affected a lot of folks most famously, perhaps, St Francis of Assisi who used it as the basis for his rule. But all the mendicant orders bear some of the nature of this verse: the absolute reliance on God in the performance of God’s work. And even today, wrapping up my first year with the Dominican Tertiaries, I find this total reliance to be (nearly erotically) attractive. Not that being a Dominican Tertiary means I can’t be a mendicant: the Dominicans and the Franciscans are together in this eight century long party! (Francis was my confirmation name when I was Episcopalian… this is a tight circle.)

At Mary of Egypt, herself a patroness for other reasons, found herself on this path, abandoning all not to preach the Gospel, but rather to live it. And she was set up for it in her way of life: for she had placed such an emphasis on satisfying fleshly concupiscence that she was already seriously uprooted from the norms of society. One might say that her caving in to sin had set her into a “pre-monastic” way of life: rootless, homeless, penniless, ready to run at a moment’s notice to a distant land just to keep have sex with the hottest guys. Ironic, is it not, to think of this as one step away from her monasticism?

But I wonder what mendicancy means today. Yes, nearly everything I own is within an arm’s reach of me as I type. I have no pension, no savings, not many more possessions than I had in the monastery. I have no debt nor, save for my cat and my parents, any legit obligation or ties. But I still feel weighed down, trapped. The thing I feel that is holding all this together is fear: fear that God will not hold up his part of this bargain. Fear that I will be homeless and dead or in jail – at least if I do this in the city. But if I did this in the country where would I go? A friar needs to be with people. (When I first became Orthodox I created a bit of controversy by suggesting an Orthodox monastery in the city… even though St Basil and others had done the same thing.) Service is a mendicant’s middle name.

And finding someone to go with me in next to impossible. The whole point of this adventure is at least two by two, if not a whole host of brothers. But most folks like the idea of more things, more stuff. 

So…  fear and alone…

But it shouldn’t be that way, right? If there was ever a chance, a time… why not now? 


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Some sheep go astray…

Can you get from this image to the topic?

JMJ

The Readings for the Memorial of St Benedict, Abbot.
Wednesday in the 14th Week of Ordinary Time (B2)

Potius ite ad oves quae perierunt domus Israel. Euntes autem praedicate, dicentes : Quia appropinquavit regnum caelorum.
Go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.  And preach as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’

Bishop Barron often makes a painful point: for every one new convert that enters the Church, six leave. In the USA alone, the second largest religious group is ex-Catholics. The largest is Catholics, as well. In the San Francisco Bay area, 25% of the population is Catholic. Although that “organized religion” thing sets us apart, the reality is that we are so lost among the 75% that folks don’t see us. And often the folks not seeing us are ex-Catholics who would rather forget about us in the first place.

Go to the Lost Sheep of the House of Israel.

Although it’s tempting to want to evangelize among folks who are already Christian, I think Jesus’ first words of direction are important here. The lost sheep do certainly include the “separated brethren,” as they are called, but they’re not lost. They do not fit under the rubric of the “Nones” who have nothing to do with Organized Religion and the lapsed who just have not come back within the last 20 years. I’ve been amazed at the number of lapsed Catholics I know. Folks who used to go, but don’t anymore. I knew folks in High School and College that put my liberal protestant piety to shame, but now probably don’t have even a Bible in the house gathering dust.

I’m sure they have stories like mine: one day I woke up and didn’t believe it. It made no sense to me – at least not as much sense as sex and a job, a commuter card benefit, health insurance, and a few hobbies. I wasn’t cavalier enough to have only 1 hour on Sunday devoted to this private hobby so I dropped it altogether. Besides, there were other religions that were so much more fun in the first place: better food, better rituals, boutique cultural contexts, more interesting DIY functions. Everyone in every bar knew what a “christian” was: Episcopalianism was only slightly less exotic than a Rum and Coke. But no one knew what a Gnostic Pagan was. 

Others may have other reasons for leaving and more heartfelt and less egotistical than mine. But there is one story. 

How does one get back? You have to be invited. I had one afternoon of emotional sap: listening to an old LP I found in the bottom of my closet cleaning out my Sophomore year dorm room. It was of 70s Christian music, and it brought back “all the feels” as they say today. And I cried a lot. Also I left it in the dorm, along with the record player I had it on. That’s how important those feels. But then one day – some 15 years later – I was invited back. The person that invited me was named Ethan. And his invite took the oddest of forms: for he only suggest that maybe, when I moved to San Francisco in 1997, I might have something in common with a local Episcopal Church. And it took me the better part of a year or two to hear the invite in my memory and respond. That community was a perfect way to get me back inside… 21 years later I think it worked, although my path has more than a thousands hairpin turns. Look, you never know how God is going to act. My invite to the Catholic Church came in the most unlikely of ways – from the husband of my Orthodox Goddaughter, who mentioned St Dominic’s to me offhandedly. When the time came Nathan’s recommendation calmed my nerves a bit. And by “coincidence” he was at the service when I made my profession of the Catholic faith.

Our job is to go to the lost sheep. We may not be the folks who “win them back” but Ethan and Nathan both extended invites to me.
How do we go to the Lost Sheep? How can we say the Kingdom of God is at hand in a way that they can hear? St Benedict, whose feast is today, has been nearly maimed into a political slogan by the ranty right, but the Father of Western Monasticism knew that living the kingdom properly wins converts.

At Mass last night, Fr D reminded us that even Dorothy Day knew you don’t do it with “social action” that comes without dogma, but that might be a way in. Finding out that the Church’s pro-life action includes housing the homeless, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, free education for kids and adults, justice for refugees, social services for the poor, medical consultancies (everything from foot-care to drug-interaction advice), and rehab clinics… doing these actions – you can do them all at my parish – will draw others in. Jesus said “let your good deeds shine before men” that they may praise God. Our right action will lead to others coming in for right praise. Our Orthopaxis (which can only flow from our Orthodoxy) will lead to others’ Orthodoxy and, in turn, their Orthopraxis as well.

Go out and find the lost sheep… and tell them the Kingdom is here. Now.

And invite them in.

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