The Kingdom is Like a Trigger Warning

The Readings for the 16th Sunday
Tempus per Annum

Wisdom 12:13, 16-19
Romans 8:26-27
Matthew 13:24-43

JMJ

ALL OF THESE PARABLES in Matthew 13 begin “the Kingdom of God is like…”and they always leave me wondering, is the Kingdom like the whole image in the story or like the first symbol in the story the actor or the one to which things happen. In today’s collection of parables each “main thing” is
– a man who sowed good seed in his field;
– a mustard seed;
– yeast.
There are actors in each story – men and women – and they do things like planting a seed or making bread, but which part of the story is the kingdom?

Each of these parables also addresses what should be the action of the Church (God’s Kingdom) in the world. They address evangelism and “church growth” in ways that are unexpected but are very necessary in today’s situation. The actors in the story could each be Jesus (even the woman making bread) or the Holy Spirit, but they are also us, the Evangelists who announce the Good News in the world.

The Mustard Seed is probably the most familiar one in our post-Christian culture. Everyone knows if you have faith “like a mustard seed” you can get a car on Oprah’s show or earn money like Joel Oralsteen. The open secret is, of course, that’s not what Jesus is offering us here. Jesus says the Kingdom starts small and then grows into something huge that even protects others.

The Parable of the Yeast is even more exciting: the woman, of course, is not using dry, powdered yeast from the grocer, but rather sourdough starter. When you mix that with three measures of flour and let it rest the entire thing becomes starter which you can use in the next batch. (The normal thing is to save only a bit of the dough as the yeast for the next batch, but the whole mix is the same thing.) Thus, the Kingdom starts as this small thing – that changes everything! You can take any part of the Kingdom from here and set it over there and it will grow more!

The first being last, the series opens with the Wheat and the Tares or Weeds. You can’t tell the tares from the wheat, the food from the garbage. Tares are, in fact, poisonous and look like wheat so much so that they often get saved, ground as flour and baked. In a small dose can just make the bread taste bad – they can also make you sick. The experience of the Church can be like that: there are bad places where you can get quite sick. There is sexual abuse, yes, but there are also well-meaning folks who just water the faith down enough to be dangerous. There are rigorists who make it so hard to enter the Kingdom that they damn everyone. There are politicians who claim the name of Christian only for their political ends. And there are clergy who play the same game for the sake of power. Yet (especially from the outside looking in) it’s heard to tell the wheat from the tares, until you taste and your stomach is turned.

As Jesus was speaking the Church was 12 men (one of whom would turn traitor), the Blessed Mother, and a handful of other men and women. By the middle of the First Century, there were only a few thousand out of the entire world. There were – at each stage – already some who were tares. No less then than now. Jesus tells us not to worry. Yes, there are tares, but don’t be one of those. There’s a whole process here that is really none of your concern: God’s working this all out. But there is also hope: the whole thing will be leavened. The entire world will be changed, the kingdom will shelter even the birds of the air.

The Church now fills the whole world but truth be told she seems to reflect the world as much as she leavens it. How can she fill the world with hope? Can she purge out the tares so that the crop is pure? The Gospel says she can’t: for they – like the poor – will always be with us. Only at the end of the age… but Jesus puts an interesting spin on it: it’s not only sinners that are tares. He says the angels “will collect out of his kingdom all who cause others to sin.” That’s actually pretty strong language: for we can all do that if we’re not careful. Even in what we imagine to be righteous acts we may cause others to sin. The Greek word used there is σκάνδαλα skandala. The Angels will gather out of the kingdom all the skandala. It literally means “trigger” or “bait”. Jesus is telling us don’t trigger each other.

Saint Paul will later tell us don’t do anything that will make the weaker brethren stumble. He acknowledges that some people might stumble because he eats meat. He said he would rather give up meat than keep others from entering the kingdom. How often do we do things – even things which might be good, in and of themselves – that cause other people to stumble? How often are our actions scandals? The Byzantine Rite has a prayer asking for forgiveness for sins we did not know we had committed: “things known and unknown, voluntary and involuntary.” These are called venial in the Latin rite (CCC ¶1862) “without full knowledge or without complete consent”. Yet they damage a relationship with our weaker brothers and sisters – and so with God. I don’t think God will keep out of his kingdom those who feel compelled to run away by our scandals. On the other hand, those of us who are scandals may have trouble.

The reader may or may not know that sometimes Orthodox monastics can be viewed with suspicion by lay people or by parish clergy. This is a cultural thing in the East. I remember that the late Metropolitan Philip, may he rest in peace, once said, “I don’t want monastics in my church they cause trouble.” I remember hearing of two Orthodox nuns were visiting a parish on behalf of their religious community. One member of the parish took it upon herself to follow the two Sisters around to make sure they didn’t “do anything”. I’m sure that they did nothing, but this member of the parish accused them of stealing food out of the kitchen, since there was a lot of food in the Parish’s kitchen and certainly none at their convent. She called several other members of the parish together to hear the accusation. One of the nuns offered a defense, saying that they had done no such thing. The other nun fell to the ground prostrate and begged forgiveness of the member of the parish for whatever she had done to cause such a scandal.

That prostration, my brothers and sisters, is not causing the weaker Brethren to stumble. In the Gospel the only Sinners we’re given to know is our own self in the first person. Everyone else reacts to my sins, but they are not sinners: I cannot know the state of their heart. So when we see churches burnt, or statues torn down. We should not be like the first nun or the tares amidst the wheat. We should wonder what our sins are: what did we do to trigger this? We should pray for forgiveness – as well as beg forgiveness of the others against whom our sins were committed.

We should evangelize in love.

Looking Trough a Cloud Darkly


JMJ

The Readings for Tuesday in the 16th week Tempus per Annum (C1)

In the night watch just before dawn the LORD cast through the column of the fiery cloud upon the Egyptian force a glance that threw it into a panic.

If you read Gone with the Wind you get a very different image of Scarlet O’Hara than you do if you watch the movie. The movie skipped bits of the book – which was the best selling book in America at the time – for the sake of brevity. And, because some narrative was edited out, bits of the on-screen story had to be changed. Did you know Scarlet had a son by her first husband before he died early in the war? Anyway: these things did not change the meaning of the movie for the audience at the time because they had all read the book. Moviemakers could make assumptions based on the knowledge of their audience.

I had this reading at the Easter Vigil and I was confused by this verse. Here it is again… so time to look into these word choices.
…Cast upon the Egyptian Force a glance… it sounds like a “dirty look”, or a sort of curse. And what’s with the very off-putting turn of phrase, cast on them a glance that threw? There are no passive verbs in the Hebrew, Greek, or Latin versions of this verse, nor in any English translation.
The Hebrew, Greek, and Latin versions of this text, along with all the English ones based on them, have the Lord looking out and doing something.

The NABRE has the Lord looking out and then – through a really painful grammatical construction – has the Egyptians doing something in reaction to the look.

Are the translators trying to Save God’s Reputation? Well, probably not. Evidently, one bias in the modern Roman Catholic world is to eliminate “troubling” passages. In the ancient languages, this verse says God kills the Egyptians. That could, you know, raise questions. We’d end up discussing the book of Job.

Better to dodge that bullet by saying the Egyptians panic of their own free will which accidentally implies that they could see God looking at them.

Skipping passages that may raise questions is not limited to the Catholic Church. In the Orthodox Churches, where the daily offices of Matins and Vespers are often pared down to 30-45 mins of time (instead of the full celebration of same which could take – literally – hours) it’s up to the Choirmaster to pick which parts to skip. This results in some interesting choices depending on the biases involved. At a Monastery it’s the Father Superior who has that final say, and there, too, interesting choices are made.

The thing about liturgical editing of texts into a lectionary or an evening service is that it should assume literacy and familiarity on the part of the singers, readers, and congregation. All of us should know what was skipped for the sake of brevity or complexity. We should not be confused by the difference between the movie and the book

The real issue is that we do not know what we’re missing.

So when a Greek Parish compresses the entire 45 minute recitation (hour-plus if singing it properly) of the Matins Canon into 5-8 minutes, the Congregation begins to think that’s normal: it’s only the other, strange parishes that make up stuff to extend this. When the Liturgy of the Hours says here is the text for the Psalm, who notices any more when it skips a few verses? Do even the clergy who have to recite it know? When a church that uses the Common Lectionary has someone say, “That’s not in the Bible!” Is it because they never bothered to learn, or because someone hid it from them?

The Abominable Bride

JMJ

The Readings for Saturday in the 16th Week of Ordinary Time (B2)

Liberati sumus, eo quod fecerimus omnes abominationes istas.
“We are safe; we can commit all these abominations again”


The Hebrew word used in this line for “Abomination” is תּוֹעֵבָה to’evah, a specific class of ritual and societal uncleaness in the Jewish law, related to certain acts of impiety such as idolatry, and eating unclean foods, certain sexual acts, and the sacrifice of children. In short, a description of nearly every popular Catholic politican and not a few popular clergy in the news. It’s not pretty. And yet on a given Sunday in San Francisco, you can see one such politician receiving the Blessed Sacrament unmolested in her parish church. And yet… crisscrossing the country and visiting Hollywood, Washington, DC, or Boston, one can see the same thing in Orthodox churches. If only my former ecclesial home were seen to be as important as Rome by the media, more would be said about suicides in seminary, Bishops touching things they should not touch, monastics arrested and sent to prison, and sex parties with Metropolitans. And goodness only knows what goes on in Eastern Europe, Turkey, and the lands around Palestine. Everyone says, “We’re safe. We can do these abominations again.”

To’evah, abomination, is also used of charging interest on a loan. In current English usage, usury usually something like loan sharks, payday loans, or medical billing practices. But in the Bible charging any interest at all is morally equal to rape and idolatry. For this reason, until recently, Christians were forbidden to be bankers at all. By the Church. It was a curious dual Antisemitism that forbade Christians to do so, but allowed the industry to continue in the hands of Jews, but then the Church changed her mind when the historic banking families became wealthy enough to interest Christians in the business. Still, given the housing situation in many parts of the country, the lack of care for the poor, the lack of food, the lack of medical care… Even outside of sex acts and worshiping the Golden Calves of the president, we’re all safe, right? We can do these abominations again.

In the end both lungs are spotty if not out and out cancerous. The bride is abominable. The sex part draws attention, but listen to the left criticize the Church’s teachings on sex or listen to the right criticize the Church’s social teachings. It’s all the same a la cart Catholicism, it matters not if you like the Surf and Turf or the Vegan side of the buffet.

What’s to be done?

The Gospel speaks to us now. 

The Kingdom of heaven may be likened to a man who sowed good seed in his field. While everyone was asleep his enemy came and sowed weeds all through the wheat, and then went off. When the crop grew and bore fruit, the weeds appeared as well.

Is that not a perfect description of the Church, taken side by side with today’s prophetic passage? There is one fault though: our weeds (Tares in the Greek – a specific kind of weed that looks exactly like the wheat but happens to be poisonous) are not condemned to be always weeds. In the Church of God, I can be a tare today and good wheat tomorrow. God’s grace can get to me after a lifetime of taredom and restore me to righteous wheatiness in no time. But you have to admit, we have some weeds in the amber waves.

The slaves of the householder came to him and said, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where have the weeds come from?’ He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ His slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’

There are not enough Holy Hot Pockets in Hades for all the folks I would put there. And certainly an enemy has done this. Let’s get’em!

Jesus replies…

‘No, if you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them. Let them grow together until harvest;

And remember what I said: we’re not plants. I’m a mess today, but I may be all filled with grace later. We can stand or fall by our depending on God’s grace or our failure to do so. Jesus doesn’t want us to go on Church purity drives that kick out the sinners. They’re the whole reason the Church is here. The tares need coaxing into wheatiness. We’re all transitional forms forms of saints.

The bride has to stay a mess: and yes, there are those who will find themselves in purgatory here and now. It may be God’s way of making them into wheat. And I don’t understand it, but then, I’m not God and I don’t have to understand it. 

By the same token, none of us can be more merciful than God, but collusion with sin is neither mercy nor love. I know how I would want to reach out with the pruning hooks and so I’m thankful that’s not my job. I condemn myself thereby. Even now, in light of recent scandals, some of my friends who did not believe “gay” was an ontological category are calling for all “the gays” to be kept out of/leave the priesthood, tossing out their own sense of the Church’s teachings in their anger.

We wrestle not with flesh and blood, says St Paul. But against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness.

For those of us not called to serve as judges in the Church – and that’s probably all of us reading this blog, at least, we are called to pray for “the Tares” and also for those harmed by them. We are called to try – at least – to love them all back to God. There are those who have spiritual authority to take other action, and that may happen. But even then, our job is to pray and work for healing. Acting through righteous anger will not cause the world to say, “See how these Christians love each other.” But rather it will make us just like the world. We can be a part of Rage Culture too.

Yet never worry. God knows his own.

At harvest time I will say to the harvesters, “First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning; but gather the wheat into my barn.”

It is most important to keep this in mind. As the whole thing seems to go to hell in a hand-basket, over and over again, our job is to pray and live faithful lives. To be virtuous even when the shepherds fail, to be trusting in the one who, in the end, will gather us into his barn.

Though the cause of evil prosper, yet the truth alone is strong; 
Though her portion be the scaffold, and upon the throne be wrong;
Yet that scaffold sways the future, and behind the dim unknown,
Standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above His own.


In the end, the Bride is beautiful. It is she whom God came and sought, it is she for whom he died. Her beauty, unseen even now, has ravished all of heaven and wooed her creator to come. But it was a beauty he gave her… and he knew it was there, even when she fell so low. He knew he could raise her up with himself.


___

Please consider supporting my my writing via my Patreon.

Here is Deep Water

JMJ

The Readings for the Memorial of Joachim and Anna, Grandparents of God
Thursday in the 16th Week of Ordinary Time (B2)

Obstupescite, caeli, super hoc : et portae ejus, desolamini vehementer, dicit Dominus. Duo enim mala fecit populus meus : me derelinquerunt fontem aquae vivae, et foderunt sibi cisternas, cisternas dissipatas, quia continere non valent aquas.


Be appalled, O heavens, at this, be shocked, be utterly desolate, says the LORD, for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns, that can hold no water. 


There are a lot of Catholic Devotions out there! A lot of spiritualities! Each one is supported by the church, approved, and growing. It’s not a case of once-size-fits-all. Do you like to study and underline passages in books as you think about them? You may be a Benedictine. Do you like to do that on your Kindle while you read in a group? You may be a Dominican. Do you prefer to set the books down and picture yourself in them from memory? You may be a Jesuit. Do you prefer to toss the books out the window and live the Gospel in the streets? Franciscan. It’s a thing: there are online online tests about which religious order your personality fits into. 

Coming from a tradition of one-size-fits-all, this has been eye opening to me. Catholic means whole. If there is something of good, of God in a tool, it belongs in here. There’s meditation, chanting, and silence enough to put any ashram to shame. There’s praise and worship music, baroque stringed adventures, a capella vocal harmonies, and Russian four part chanting enough to put the entire world to shame as mute.There’s a myriad of litanies, vocal prayers, novenas, pilgrimages, books on mass intentions, patristic writings, meditations on the Psalter,  teachings on centering prayer, mystical saints teachings on gardening… There’s enough liturgical variation (just on the books, alone) to make us all eschew the idea that there’s one right way to do Catholicism. 

It’s in light of this buffet of spiritual treasures, this feast for the soul, that I’m always confused at folks who need to shun “organized religion”. This is hardly that, save as a library is organized or a hardware store. You can totally mix and match here. Why did shallow wells of your own when you can plumb the depths of humanity’s spiritual treasures here? Each one plugged into the illimitable riches of a 2000-6000 year old tradition. This water is deep and fresh. And the deeper you go, the deeper it is.

Today is the feast of the Parents of the Blessed Virgin, who were the Grandparents of God. And the thing that calls out to me today is the Rosary, for my friend Tim, spoke on this on Tuesday night, and also this Rosary is my spiritual home. This has become a daily prayer. It, too, gets deeper the further in you go, until you’re lost in visions and depths, stars and great abysses of joy. And when I’m in a room full of people praying this together i can hear the echoes of the children at Fatima and Lourdes, of the mobs surrounding them, simply kneeling and whispering

Hail Mary, full of Grace;

The prayer of the entire church from the Archangel to now. Here to participate in freely, by anyone with a hand and a heart/brain/mouth to say the words. 

A podcast (?) or a conversation I heard (?) last week drove home the point: when Jesus says the “gates of hell will not prevail against” his Church, he uses a word that can’t be about gates… overpowering is not something gates do. Gates do not attack they defend. Gates can be overpowered though. And in that war someone might prevail. Jesus means for us to be on the attack in this spiritual warfare! And since this is a great prayer for walking either a lone or in a group, it comes to me that it’s a great way to conquer as well. What if you could walk the streets of your city or town claiming them for Jesus and our blessed Lady as you walked: simply praying the Rosary and fighting off the demons.


What if armies of prayerful folks could leave Mass on a Sunday and  reclaim whole stretches of their city just by walking home and praying the Rosary as they went? What if walking became your regular mode and you might spend your morning and evening walks to and from the office battling demons and waging peace on your town. 

We consecrated the Archdiocese to Mary last year, maybe we should begin to consecrate the streets, one by one, letting the deep waters of God’s grace fill up our city. Or yours.


___

Please consider supporting my my writing via my Patreon.

Sé do bheatha, a Mhuire, atá lán de ghrásta, tá an Tiarna leat. Is beannaithe thú idir mná agus is beannaithe toradh do bhroinne, Íosa. A Naomh-Mhuire, a Mháthair Dé, guigh orainn na peacaigh, anois, agus ar uair ár mbáis. Amen.

So is the Hail Mary in Irish.

Quis ut Deus?

JMJ

The Readings for Tuesday in the 16th Week of Ordinary Time (B2)

Who is a God like thee, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance?
Quis, Deus, similis tui, qui aufers iniquitatem, et transis peccatum reliquiarum haereditatis tuae? 


Who is a God like thee?
Gratitude post.
Who is a God like thee? 
Tim, the Warrens, Eric and Claire, Tony and Garry, and the OPL, the COM, Courage, and some folks at work, and the folks from college I still know. My online friends that to pray with and work with, to cowrite with and once in a while meet with. My job and apartment both by shear miracles in which to continue being happy and at peace. St Dominic’s, my home, and Star of the Sea parish, my quite place of prayer and adoration. 

Who is God like thee?

Thankful for being debt free, and for my kitteh. For all the beautiful places I have lived, and for odd twists and turns along the broken road, for my broken self, and the blessings that has given me, the mission, the fields white with harvest. For praying in Knock, for sitting in cemeteries, for Jim and Dave, for the fraternity, for that visit that afternoon to NYU in the fall of 1982. friends who don’t talk to me and old friends who do.

For folks who feel like they are my enemies, even though having an enemy would seem a great  luxury. For parents and grandparents and great grandparents. For family crossing now into three centuries. For roots and wings, for food.

For confession and penance, for absolution and struggles, for  pains and discomforts, for challenges and distractions.  For builders and shakers down. For weavers and unweavers. For Blue Ridge Mountains and Polk Gulch. For ddddddddddddddddddddddd,,,,,,,,,,,,mmmmmmmmmmmm and falling asleep at the keyboard.  For podcasts, for tech support as a mission, for icons and prayer corners, for D&D and dice.

Who is a God like thee?

For rainbows and for, for earthquakes and fires, for the Barbary Coast Trail, for ice cream and red sauce, spumoni, and Zabaglione. 

For salmon and shrimp, for chicken and biscuits, for biscuits and gravy, for sausage gravy.

For Giants Baseball and Mets Baseball, for anyone who can beat the Yankees and anyone who will try. For The Dubs and the A’s for bad grammar and poetry.

For La Boulangerie and Pretzel Croissants, for Ukes and who is a God like unto thee?

This is just stuff today…

What will tomorrow bring?

____

Please consider supporting my my writing via my Patreon.

The Israel of God

JMJ

The Readings for Monday in the 16th Week of Ordinary Time (B2)

Popule meus, quid feci tibi? aut quid molestus fui tibi? Responde mihi. Quia eduxi te de terra Aegypti, et de domo servientium liberavi te, et misi ante faciem tuam Moysen, et Aaron, et Mariam.

O my people, what have I done to you? In what have I wearied you? Answer me! For I brought you up from the land of Egypt, and redeemed you from the house of bondage; and I sent before you Moses, Aaron, and Miriam. 

These words are the refrain for the hymn, sung on Good Friday, called the Improperia or the Solemn Reproaches. The text is written as if spoken by God from the cross. For example:

I led you out of Egypt, from slavery to freedom, but you led your Saviour to the cross.

I led you from slavery to freedom and drowned your captors in the red sea, but you handed me over to your high priests. 

This is one of those hinge moments, however. We can’t have it both ways.

These sung lines are often cited as a case of antisemitism. That can only be true if you A) understand the teachings of the church; and B) assume we reject them whole cloth. For the teaching of the Church is that Israel is the chosen people of God and that in Christ, we Gentiles are grafted into that relationship. We become Israel not instead of but rather also. These verses and others which seem to criticize “the Jews” but, in fact, are read by Jews as a complex mea culpa for other things not dealing with Messiah, cannot then be read as only speaking of any perfidy of the Jewish people at the time of Christ, but must refer to the entire people of God and how we all constantly betray him. Yes, for we, too, have been led from slavery to freedom, yet we lead Jesus daily to the cross by our actions and our words.

God asks, today in Micah, that the mountains and hills listen to his argument against Israel (that is, us…) and he has one, surely. The common point in all these instances and in the Gospel where Jesus is talking to “an evil and unfaithful generation” (us) is that “Israel” means to wrestle with God. Yes, God would like us to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God. But we are much more likely to struggle like Jacob did the night before God made him lame and changed his name to “he who fights with God.” That’s our expected function. Not that we ever win, really: but God wants us to submit even though he knows we won’t, because it’s hard. The wrestling always ends the same way it did for Jacob. God puts Jacob’s hip out of joint and blesses him.

There is but this required of us: do Justice, love Mercy, and walk humbly with God. For most functions today, Justice means “revenge”, mercy is unknown, and humility before God (or anyone) is brushed aside. Sunday’s post noted that Catholicism is hard. At Confession yesterday before Mass the priest’s comments surprised me and to be honest I spent much of Mass whining to Jesus about it. So, at least I was praying sorta… but as I was kneeling before communion I imagined this conversation: My Lord, this is too hard. What am I to do? And Jesus responded, “My child, it know it’s hard, but you are, still, alive.” The wrestling match ended that way.

All of that was demanding a sign. We want things to be different, yes, but we want them to be different in the way we want them to be rather than in God’s way.  We want Justice where “our side” wins. Mercy shown only when we feel like it. The only sign we’re going to be given – the Sign of Jonas – has been given to us already. The men of Nineveh are waiting for us to respond to God without grumbling. The Queen of the South wonders that we cannot hear wisdom when it is offered.

When will we stop struggling?

The Flock is Scattered.

JMJ

The Readings for the 16th Sunday of Ordinary Time (B2)
Et suscitabo super eos pastores, et pascent eos : non formidabunt ultra, et non pavebunt, et nullus quaeretur ex numero
I will set shepherds over them who will care for them, and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall any be missing.

It’s hard to be Catholic. Each of us knows this: there is something asked, something demanded of us – each of us has this thing and we know it. But, if we’re doing it all wrong, we can see someone over there doing exactly the same thing with seeming impunity. It’s so easy to judge that person over there for doing it. And then we are tripped up, ourselves, and it must be ok, right? So it is with the sex scandal. All in high places in the Catholic Church have always been sinners (we are all sinners) but some of them spectacularly so. A google of “bad popes” or “Irish nuns” will bring all kinds of stories. And no few news stories today – even within the last few weeks – will be found without much clicking.

No one has asked me about why I became Catholic in the light of the continuing sex scandal. But friends of mine have been asked that. Being Catholic is hard and the sex scandal is huge. It might have broken earlier, to be honest, if there had been electronic media in the 9th century. It might have broken in another church if the Soviets had been on their game. It might have broken in ECUSA if our clergy had not been married – because an abusive husband is surely just as bad as a pedophile, right? But society ignores that sin in a different way. And a married man who has sex outside of his marriage is pretty normal stuff even if it is with another man. Most of us never got around to talking about relationships of power-imbalance until it was too late. Ever wonder why a given ECUSA Bishop had to retire early?

And after hearing (in some cases, daily) preachers who say “don’t do this”, we discover that some were doing it quite often. Why should I bother refraining, right? Because I, at least, am not an abuser but rather a lover. I can see that over there is a huge sin. What is mine? And yet…

Each of us is a shepherd, really. The entire body of Christ, the entire Body of the Good Shepherd: we are all shepherds.  The flock you lead is your family, your friends, your coworkers. The people you see daily on the subway. God expects you – demands of you – the same love, the same care, the same purity of life and doctrine, the same self sacrifice and death from you on their behalf as God demands of his other priests in their place and time. We are all shepherds and when the shepherd falls, the flock is scattered.

When our sins are so small, you know what else is worrisome? Yes, I’m a Christian, but not like that. I have made some different choices, and it’s all ok. And a few more sheep are lost… thinking either we are all hypocrites or else we’re all liars. Or worse, they think they can continue in their sin as well. We try to be all modern and relevant and stuff but become pharisees who gain an convert and make him to be worse than he was before.

We are all shepherds. This is what the name “little Christ” means here. We are all priests, prophets, kings, and shepherds.

We must look out, and as Christ was coming back from retreat with his Apostles, we must be moved with compassion. For all around us are like sheep without shepherds. And we have been sent.

Kneeling in Church just before the communion last night, our cantor began one of those songs that “everyone knows” as far as Church goes. I didn’t know it cuz I’m new here.

I will come to you in the silence
I will lift you from all your fear
You will hear My voice
I claim you as My choice
Be still, and know I am near
I am hope for all who are hopeless
I am eyes for all who long to see
In the shadows of the night,
I will be your light
Come and rest in Me

As I was near the front of the Church I had received the Precious Body and was waiting from the Chalice to come as the first refrain began.

Do not be afraid, I am with you
I have called you each by name
Come and follow Me
I will bring you home
I love you and you are mine

Hearing these words for the first time as one is drinking the Very Blood of God was overpowering. I was standing less than two yards from the Cantor as he sang them.

But then I knelt in my pew to say my thanksgiving for the gift of Christ’s Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity, given to me, an unworthy sinner, a man with a past. And as Jeffrey finished each verse the congregation, slowly receiving their communion and filling in behind me, softly took up the refrain. More and more sang each time. until the song was a soft but insistent thunder of Love around me.

I am strength for all the despairing
Healing for the ones who dwell in shame
All the blind will see, the lame will all run free
And all will know My name 

Do not be afraid, I am with you
I have called you each by name
Come and follow Me
I will bring you home
I love you and you are mine
 

I am the Word that leads all to freedom
I am the peace the world cannot give
I will call your name, embracing all your pain
Stand up, now, walk, and live 

Do not be afraid, I am with you
I have called you each by name
Come and follow Me
I will bring you home
I love you and you are mine

Surrounded by my fellow sheep echoing the words of our Shepherd, I knew that I had come home, that I was surround by – yes, Sinners – who were in love with the same Shepherd. We are all growing into his likeness. Some of us fall… daily some of us fall daily. Yet we reach out, we raise up, we commune, we grow more and more.


But that’s not all, comforting as it is. If we are not thus moved to be better shepherds, better Christs living in the world leading our little flocks to his, then we have failed. We are not failing as fabulously as a Medici Pope, and no one will file a lawsuit against us for malpractice over our personal impious peccadilloes, but we will lose some sheep. And God will have to say to us each, You have scattered my sheep and driven them away. You have not cared for them, but I will take care to punish your evil deeds.

Yet God will bring them home. 




____


Please consider supporting my my writing via my Patreon.

You gotta dance.



Today’s readings:
The seed sown on the path is the one who hears the word…
Matthew 13:19
In Matthew (as we heard on Sunday) seeds are not the abstract “Word of God” that they are in Luke and Mark. Seeds are symbols of us who have received the Word. Often you hear sermons on this parable (from the parallel versions) and the focus seems to be “what kind of dirt are you?” In this telling, though, the story is more abstract, the symbols more threatening. For, the sower sows symbols of us… where we are.  
Any of us can be any of these seeds after any grace filled moment of conversion. It has nothing to do with the sower.
It’s you.
So, are you the one who hears the word of the Kingdom without understanding it?
Are you the one who hears the word and receives it at once with joy but has no root?
Are you the one who hears the word, but then worldly anxiety and the lure of riches block it out?
Or are you the one who hears the word and understands it and bears fruit?
The Word of God does not get into your soul without God putting it there. But that’s not enough: it’s then up to you. You.
You have to do something.
What can you do? Hear. Understand. Bear fruit.
That’s your job. God’s done his. 
You should start with the commandments we got in the first lesson. The rest can come later.
No other gods and no adultery are the big ones today, I think. But your milage may vary. 
How do you dance this dance with God? Trust me: telling me he doesn’t care what you do, or he won’t mind if you’re about to break a few rules, or he won’t care if you’ve go a few extra deities… that’s just you talking to yourself.
But if you’ll dance with God, he will lead. We are all feminine to his masculine. We are all the followers to his lead. Wherever he leads, you should follow.

To Them It Has Not Been Granted


Today’s readings:

Because knowledge of the mysteries of the Kingdom of heaven has been granted to you, but to them it has not been granted.
Matthew 13:11

I am coming to you in a dense cloud, 

so that when the people hear me speaking with you, 

they may always have faith in you also.

Exodus 19:9

One of the things that gripes me most is when someone who rejects the scriptures wholeheartedly tries to tell me what they mean.
I don’t care if that’s your average person-on-the-street who says “let me tell you what you’re doing wrong”, or the historian who makes shibboleths of science, the textual critic who wants the scriptures to have no content; or the liberal who wants to turn it all into useless poetry and left wing politics, the fundie who wants to lick the text looking for the macrodot of right-wing acid, and instead is just left with a sour taste in their mouth because ink is not salvific.
As God did to Moses, so he did to the Church: imparting the meaning of the text: it’s the Church’s job to teach us. And our job to learn from her. Nowhere does any part of the scripture, read in the context of the rest of the text, say “You (singular, second person) can tell what this means.” For God imparts the wisdom to “Y’all (plural, second person) by the Holy Spirit will be lead into all Truth.” And it is in his Church, the pillar and ground of the truth, that “y’all” are. 

 And the minute someone says “but wait… my Bible says…” you’re in the wrong classroom.

If you want the truth: go to the source – which isn’t the text, at all, but the Spirit of God living in his Church, and the Logos of God, spoken only once for all time in Jesus.