The Call Came From INSIDE THE HOUSE!

JMJ

Did you ever notice this one? 

“The Son of Man will send his angels,
and they will collect out of his Kingdom
all who cause others to sin”
Matthew 13:41

I read the Gospel for today and didn’t even notice it. Sitting at Mass tonight this verse lept up and punched me hard in the gut.

The Latin and the Greek both say “scandal” there, but the word σκάνδαλον, skadalon, means “bait in a trap” or “trigger of a trap”.  It’s sometimes rendered as a “Stumbling Block”, but the NABRE, with “cause others to sin” catches the meaning full on, I think.

It came to me that at the heart of sexual sin is the desire to lead others astray. They may not be… but it is desired. No one sins alone, and many sins are triggers for other folks, or else bait.  Politics, for example, or liturgics when doctoring up the readings to cover up uncomfortable parts.

The skandalon is inside the kingdom, not outside. They are children of the Evil One, but they are inside the kingdom.

The enemy is us.

We must remember to pray for our brother and sisters, our spiritual Fathers and Mothers, our leaders and fellow pew-sitters.

That we may be free of skandalon inside the Kingdom. And free from the interference of those who practice lawlessness outside the walls.

Domus Dei et Porta Coeli in Cor Civitatem

+JMJ+

There are some seriously beautiful Churches in this Catholic city. Some 25% of the population in the Bay is said to be Roman Catholic. That means there are more Catholics in this Bay Area than there are Episcopalians. Anywhere. Or Orthodox, for that matter. (How many of them go to Church is another thing entirely, as it is for the other groups.) That many folks means there are some Beautiful Churches here. There are some toasters as well, don’t get me wrong, as well as some of those cyborg things that use holograms and floating statuary. Still, this one seems the winner.



Built in the late 1920s, just before the Depression hit, just in time to support folks through that dark period, and refurbished and retrofitted in the 1980s, just in time to withstand the Loma Prieta quake, it’s a miracle of community in the heart of this city. Doubly so, for the initial funding was from the community and it thrived through the Depression; and then, again, in the 80s, when the Archdiocese wanted it closed, the OP said not just no, but, O Heck No. And the community made the rebuild, and the retrofit and the rebirth happen. I don’t know if this is true, but I’ve heard that nearly 20% of the new Catholics in the Archdiocese come through this RCIA program. There are program events every night, there are multiple masses every day, the Daily Office is said here, weddings, funerals, baptisms, confessions, the food pantry, the homeless services, and open doors from 6AM to (at least) 9PM ever day. The friary hosts the Novitiate for the Dominican Province of the Holy Name. Speakers and clergy come from all over the world to talk about missions, spiritual topics, social justice, and to pray in what was once called, “The most beautiful Church in America”. It still is in my book.


More than a Parish Church, this is home to so many folks, including yours truly. While I’ve felt at home before in other places, and even not at home at all, something here clicked in a way that no other place has. The homeless in the pews, the hippies with their patchouli, the couples, the ethnic diversity, the Spanish Passion Play, the Christmas Messiah Concert, the Old Ladies with their Rosaries, the faithful in the fellowships, the dozens of small groups that spontaneously form to care for each other, the mobs of folks that show up for the daily masses (I’m used to seeing 7 or 9 for a weekday service, not 60 or 70… 30 or more is normal at 6:30 AM) all combine to tell me the Holy Spirit is doing something here, in the Heart of the City, that is making all heaven rejoice.



Numbers are not everything. Growth is not the measure of the Holy and I would rather a tiny, faithful remnant than a stadium full of pretenders. But we’re all sinners, and I can’t tell anyone’s pretending when I’m kneeling in the confessional or reaching out to receive the Body of Christ.


Deacon Jimmy asked in his Homily today how it was that each of us came to be there. I had heard of St Dominic’s parish, of all places, from my Orthodox Goddaughter and her husband, he a cradle Catholic from this Parish. When I left the Monastery, my heart firmly fixed on staying in the West, and having arrived back in SF, my question was “Where can I continue the monastic practice of going to Daily Mass easily from my residence and then get to work?” Easily means one bus, and that was the case for me: the 22 Fillmore brought me every day from Potrero Hill to Saint Dominic’s for 630 Mass and Morning Prayer. You’d almost think God set it up or something. My apartment now is also one bus away, although I have three buses to pick from now, and four buses coming back! That’s how I got there. But what kept me coming back was three moments: talking with Fr Michael about becoming Catholic (when he convinced me that plugging into the community was the important thing); Fr Augustine Hilander racing me out of Morning Prayer one morning to intercept me at the door and invite me to chant the office with the others in Choir; and Michael O’Smith letting me co-lead a small faith group when I had been in the church less than 3 months and wasn’t even officially Roman Catholic. These are all community-related if you can’t tell.

And now there is a new community in the Dominican Tertiaries, or the Third Order, OP, or the Dominican Laity. (Today at Mass I heard us called the “Order of Preachers, Laity”.)  I’m discerning my way yet, but that seems to be my best fit into this place.


I got there on the Second Sunday of Advent 2016. My friend, Tim, says three days later I moved in. How could I not move into my home? If you pay any attention to my social media you know I cannot stop taking pictures of this place. I’ve seen it in every light and shade, and in as many different sorts of weather as we have here, including smog from wildfires. 


I’ve watch stars overhead, seen an Iridium Flare from the front steps, hidden from the rain, and knelt as the evening sun blinded me to the elevated Host at Mass. But there is something else, something, pardon the wordplay, Catholic here. Mass is filled with Anglican Hymns. Our Solemn Mass (11:30s on Sunday) is an Anglo Catholic’s dream of vested choirs and smells and bells. Our low masses (6:30 and 8:00 AM and 5:30PM week-daily) are motions of high piety and prayer (rather than 15 minute Dine and Dashes) that lead folks to mini coffee-hours at the local bakeries or fellowship meals on the Fillmore. I run into people from this parish all over town. There are folks praying the Rosary and the Jesus Prayer here. There are Latin, English, and Spanish Masses. There’s a guitar mass and a Taize mass. There may be more… who knows what God will do here? But everything is here from my past. It’s as if God has prepared this place for an oddball on a journey home. 

And, so it is, that God willing, one of these will be mine soon:


A blessed Feast! 



Face to Face

JMJ

The Readings for Tuesday in the 17th week, Tempus per Annum (C1):

Loquebatur autem Dominus ad Moysen facie ad faciem, sicut solet loqui homo ad amicum suum.
The LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, as one man speaks to his friend.
The Hebrew word used for face in “face to face” is פָנִים panim a plural form. The word is first used in the Scriptures in Genesis 1:2 as the Spirit of God moves over the face of the waters. God and Moses speak in this hovering intimacy, face to face. It is an image that leaves one breathless. Does it not move you to desire the same? To exchange breath with the creator of all life, with the source of all breath! How can this be? How can one know God face to face?
There are hints later in the scriptures when God pours his Spirit out on the elders of Israel and Moses says he wishes it could be given to everyone in Israel. In the Prophets, Joel promises the Spirit of God will be poured out on all flesh.
In the Sacraments, the Holy Spirit is given in Baptism and sealed in the holy oil at Confirmation or Chrismation.
And in the Holy Eucharist this same Spirit, invoked upon the bread and wine, is communicated to us in the Body and Blood of God the Son, for one member of the Trinity is not present without the others. And we receive all of the Trinity when we partake of the bread and the wine. 
Bishop Barron says that “adore” comes from the Latin meaning “mouth to mouth” or “face to face”.  The actual etymology is not quite so intimate as it means only “from the mouth”, coming from the Latin meaning “to speak”.  If there was such a thing as Proto Indo European, then: from PIE root *or- “to pronounce a ritual formula” (source also of Sanskrit aryanti “they praise,” Homeric Greek are, Attic ara “prayer,” Hittite ariya- “to ask the oracle,” aruwai- “to revere, worship”) source. There’s not another mouth involved, in the word, but the one mouth, the one face, must speak to another.
And so when we approach the Eucharist in Adoration – and it needn’t be “exposed” for the Mystery is no less present in the monstrance on a Latin altar, than in the Tabernacle, behind a veil or an Iconostasis, or at Communion in the Liturgy. Under glass, in brass, or at Mass, it’s all God. And we can all address him face to face, as one does to his friend.
The Spirit of God hovers, waits for you to turn to him and open to receive. Come.  Taste and see.

The Leaders they Deserve

JMJ

The Readings for the Memorial of St Martha
Monday in the 17th week, Tempus per Annum (C1):

Cui ille respondit : Ne indignetur dominus meus : tu enim nosti populum istum, quod pronus sit ad malum.
And he answered him: Let not my lord be offended: for thou knowest this people, that they are prone to evil.

The people of Israel have lived in slavery for several generations. They know only idolatry. They only know that some God many have never heard of is rescued them… and they are really quite afraid of this one. The other gods never did anything scary – at least not inside human memory. They know what the worship of fakes looks like. This is why God has given them leaders: to raise them up in the way of their ancestors, to worship the True God of all that is, even of the animal forms of gold and rocks the Egyptians worshipped.

So when the people want to worship, they want to keep doing what they’ve been doing. Moishe and Aharon are there to direct that natural human desire to worship away from the entirely unnatural worship of creation to the Creator Himself. The people want to worship something they can see… Aaron and Moses are there to direct that worship to someone they can know.

Aaron fails in his one job. He not only doesn’t direct the folks to right-worship, he participates in their false worship. In fact, he not only participates in it but he also facilitates it.

Then he passes the blame – not to the people… but to the fire and gold: “egressusque est hic vitulus”. This calf came out…

Who did this, asks the parent. “Notme” reply all the children in the room standing around the pile of garbage that was formerly something important.

Although the people have sinned and will be punished, Moses puts the blame directly on who is at fault: Moses asks Aaron, What did this people do to you that you would lead them into this sin?

I imagine this question will be asked a lot on Judgement Day of leaders who failed to lead, of teachers who failed to teach, of those who were called to speak and fell prey to that liberal canard falsely attributed to St Francis, “use words when necessary”. We “led with beauty” and were “winsome” but we never got around to meat. We dodged questions for fear of causing the weak to stumble, but we never got around to correcting the fallen, to answering them once they were strong.

This is a failure of courage. Until recently (this weekend, really) I thought the vice of cowardice was a failure resulting from some inner weakness. It seems to me, on deeper meditation, to be a species of the sin of pride: I would not anyone see me fail, so I shall simply juggle for a while and slowly back away. If I  sit here quietly no one will see me and, at the right moment, I can vanish. Certainly, introversion can seem like the vice of cowardice, but there is a difference in the heart on this, so don’t misread my statement. And the grace we are given to manifest a charism that we have will overcome – and use – our own weaknesses when they are needed.

Cowardice is a failure to use our charism: to rely on our own self to do something that we should let God do through us. To fail to keep someone in your charge away from a grave fall is for the shepherd to run away from his sheep when the wolf shows up.

A teacher was once asked if someone had to accept all the church’s doctrine to be Catholic. Rather than answer the question at all 45 mins were involved defining the difference between “doctrine”, “dogma”, and “tradition” so that, in the end, there was no time to spend answering the question in a way that would offend anyone.

What did the people ever do to you to deserve such a teacher?

I imagine all of us who have been called to be leaders will need to rely on Aaron’s excuse: “You know, these people are so evil, that I had to let them get away with their pet sins or else they would have gone away. It’s better to have them sin and stay than leave and sin anyway, right?”

“The reality is that we are in danger. This is one of the reasons I have for staying in the face of physical harm. The shepherd cannot run away at the first sign of danger. Pray for us.” Thus said Blessed Stanley Rother 18 months before he was slain by a rightwing hit squad in Guatemala. It is true of us here too, but in other ways. We are in danger  – if we’re not, we’re doing it wrong. What have our flocks, our friends, our councils, our families ever done to us to deserve such leaders?

Who will be the Moses that will intercede for us on that day?

I see your 22, and I raise you 67.

JMJ

The Readings for the Memorial of Saint John Vianney, Priest
Saturday in the 17th Week of Ordinary Time (B2)

Judicium mortis est viro huic, quia prophetavit adversus civitatem istam, sicut audistis auribus vestris.

This man deserves death; he has prophesied against this city, as you have heard with your own ears.

Prophesy against “The City” (be it Jerusalem, or San Francisco, or any part of the City of Man in general) can bring one up on charges of death. John calls out Herod for his adultery and gets beheaded. You’ll get that when you call out a popular, strong leader with rich friends. America has been no fan of being called out since at least the Jackson administration.

So, you have to be careful if you want to speak about The City… make it look like you’re saying something else.

The Holy Father is again taking flak from the right. At issue is a recent change to the Catechism.  Now, first and foremost the Catechism is not an infallible document. It’s edited and changed as needed.


The current text in the Catechism says:

2267 The traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude, presupposing full ascertainment of the identity and responsibility of the offender, recourse to the death penalty, when this is the only practicable way to defend the lives of human beings effectively against the aggressor 


If, instead, bloodless means are sufficient to defend against the aggressor and to protect the safety of persons, public authority should limit itself to such means, because they better correspond to the concrete conditions of the common good and are more in conformity to the dignity of the human person.
 

 
Today, in fact, given the means at the State’s disposal to effectively repress crime by rendering inoffensive the one who has committed it, without depriving him definitively of the possibility of redeeming himself, cases of absolute necessity for suppression of the offender ‘today … are very rare, if not practically non-existent.‘[John Paul II, Evangelium vitae 56.] Emphasis added

A proposed revision to paragraph 2267 reads, in full:

Recourse to the death penalty on the part of legitimate authority, following a fair trial, was long considered an appropriate response to the gravity of certain crimes and an acceptable, albeit extreme, means of safeguarding the common good. Today, however, there is an increasing awareness that the dignity of the person is not lost even after the commission of very serious crimes. 

In addition, a new understanding has emerged of the significance of penal sanctions imposed by the state. Lastly, more effective systems of detention have been developed, which ensure the due protection of citizens but, at the same time, do not definitively deprive the guilty of the possibility of redemption. 

Consequently, the Church teaches, in the light of the Gospel, that ‘the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person,’  and she works with determination for its abolition worldwide. Again, emphasis added.

Now, following on how it was previously explained as something whose met requirements were “very rare if not practically non-existent” we’ve moved to a new place of “inadmissible”.

What’s changed?

The bit about the dignity of the human person is not changed. Nor have the requirements regarding absolute necessity. Nope… that has not changed either.  What has changed is the possibility of necessity and requirements being met. So I don’t think the Pope is changing Church teaching so much as he’s making clear his sense that the 53 Countries that allow the death penalty can’t meet the requirements.

And so he’s preaching against The City, but he’s making it look like he’s preaching against the Death Penalty. 

He’s saying there’s no country in which he can assume both fair laws and unbiased decision making (in courts and in laboratories) coupled with the existing ability to actually detain someone safely. Some will debate that last point, but we have a lot of safe storage now.

And given our track record in America (and some other places too) of racist assumptions in crime and punishment, including – but not limited to – lynchings, unjust arrests, police killings, corrupt judges, tampered evidence, manufactured evidence, turned off body cams, blue collusion, non-peer juries, faked prison suicides, division of families, detention of innocents, revenge killings, and neighborhood race-based raids unseen since the Japanese Internment… I think it’s a fair accusation. 

We wouldn’t know justice if it bit us in the ass. 

The issue is the application, not the teaching. The govt has legitimate rights and powers. But salvation is more important. In this way we return to the early stance of radical support for the Gospel: where even the monastic fathers of Egypt said it was better to hide a criminal from the police, and so give him a chance to repent, than to turn him over. The latter would only mean his death. It is selfish to waste someone else’s soul for a false sense of security. They were speaking of a Christian govt in a Christian empire. It’s not that way now, not at all, not here nor anywhere. We have a duty to protect lives.

Don’t worry. In the same way the left ignores teachings on sex the right will ignore this teaching as well. And they’ll both insist they’re being faithful Catholics whilst hating on the others.

Pray for the souls of the departed, especially those slain in 

Afghanistan
India
Nigeria
US
Iran
Japan
Taiwan
Kuwait
Zimbabwe
Libya
Thailand
Guyana
Uganda
Bangladesh
Iraq
Indonesia
Botswana
UAE
Bahamas
Cuba
Belarus
Yemen
Saudi Arabia
Vietnam
Syria
Egypt
South Sudan
DRC
Ethiopia
China
Sudan
Comoros
Somalia
Barbados
Malaysia
Chad
Pakistan
Oman
Singapore
St Kitts and Nevis
St Lucia
Bahrain
North Korea
Equatorial Guinea
St Vincent and the Grenadines
Palestinian territories
Trinidad and Tobago
Lesotho
Antigua and Barbuda
Belize
Dominica
Jamaica
Jordan

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A sting of pearls…

JMJ

The Readings for St Alphonsus Liguouri, Bishop & Doctor of the Church
Wednesday in the 17th Week of Ordinary Time (B2)

Gloriatus sum a facie manus tuae : solus sedebam, quoniam comminatione replesti me. Quare factus est dolor meus perpetuus, et plaga mea desperabilis renuit curari? facta est mihi quasi mendacium aquarum infidelium.
Under the weight of your hand I sat alone because you filled me with indignation. Why is my pain continuous, my wound incurable, refusing to be healed? You have indeed become for me a treacherous brook, whose waters do not abide!

Jeremiah has figured out that following this God leaves us alone, broken off from the world and the objects of ridicule. And yet God sends us back into the world. Jeremiah says it’s like being tricked. A few chapters later (20:7) he’ll utter these sorrowful, rich words:

Seduxisti me, Domine, et seductus sum : You have seduced me, Lord, and I let myself be seduced : fortior me fuisti, et invaluisti : factus sum in derisum tota die, omnes subsannant me. I am become a laughing-stock all the day, all scoff at me. 

Even for someone deeply in love with God as a Prophet the question can appear, from time to time, “Why can’t I be normal?” I don’t think this is the same thing as, “Can I go back to Egypt?” Many faithful folks dwell in the Suburbs, if you will, of Mammon City. I think of the idea of Israel here, where faithful, pious Jews could dwell in their prayer and their daily lives, sanctifying time, but certainly living in it. Jeremiah and all the prophets down to John the Baptist live beyond the edge. This love stings. And I think it’s ok – even expected a little – for them to want to have something normal.  Sure, serving God is great and all, but why do I have to go all the way?
Simile est regnum caelorum… Iterum simile est regnum caelorum…
The Kingdom of Heaven is like… and again the Kingdom of Heaven is like… 

The preacher apologizes if he misspeaks here, but everyone misses a very fine point here. These two images come together for a reason, a very important reason.

In the first of these Similes (quite literally in the Latin, Simile est) the Kingdom of Heaven is likened unto a Treasure Hidden in a Field. And when someone – say you or me – finds the Treasure, we sell everything to buy the Field.

But in the second one, the Kingdom of Heaven is not the pearls. The Kingdom of Heaven is like a Merchant who goes looking for pearls. And when He – say Jesus – finds the pearls – say you or me – he sells everything he has to buy the pearls.

See?

This Love is worth everything for God who gave everything, even his life, to capture the Pearls of Great Price: you and me. Can you see here how greatly God loves us? Can you see here why it is that we must also give up everything and all things less to take possession of this Kingdom? So greatly are we loved, how can we not love back?

We might think we can go back to being normal. But no… once you taste this love, once you see this light, nothing else can ever be the same. Sins that used to be fun… dull. Things you used to think were love… turn out to be dross. Even the legitimate enjoyments of the world seem brief and passing when viewed in their right perspective. What we have here, real though it is, in its pains and even in its joys, it a shadow of the real stuff.  My beloved has paid for my reality.
This love cost God everything to buy the pearls…

For us to offer anything less than everything in return seems a bit selfish, n’est-ce pas?


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Subversion!

JMJ

The Readings for Monday in the 17th Week of Ordinary Time (B2)

Aliam parabolam locutus est eis : Similis est regnum caelorum fermento, quod acceptum mulier abscondit in farinae satis tribus, donec fermentatum est totum.
Another parable he spoke to them: The kingdom of heaven is like to leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal, until the whole was leavened. 

During the great fire of 1906, so the story goes, Mrs Boudin ran into the family bakery to rescue a bit of the sourdough that was rising at that time, so that the strain of yeast in the 65 year old bakery could be continued. That strain is now 149 years old and still an SF favourite. It only take a little leaven. 

Reaching the end of Christendom is scary for some folks. These folks define Christendom as a Majority World View and that majority is certainly passed away in the US, by falling off on the left and on the right. It died in Europe a painless death of under-use. Although it is thriving in many places, it is often woven in with leaders who would just as soon sell out for more power and mammon. Speaking ill of Putin got an Orthodox Parish in New York City slapped by the OCA. Catholics who are on the Trump train think the rest of us are fake Catholics. Christendom is dead, if by Christendom you mean the power to enforce our morality on folks who are not Christians by using the Gov’t. Gov’ts don’t care about us if we don’t vote for them or else keep them in power. 

Truth is, they never did.

Yet St Paul tells us to “honor the king” and “obey the laws” as long as they don’t contravene the Law of God. And in that respect he’s right – because he says the reason to do this is to get people to speak well of you and want to look into the Gospel.  Jesus says, “Let your light shine before all that they may see your good deeds and praise God.” St Paul takes the Roman Marriage and twists it into a loving relationship of equals. He wants to use it to convert the world. He turns slavery into Christian witness. He wants slave owners to do more than just treat their slaves as equals in Christ. He makes “law abiding” a way to preach. Jesus tells his disciples to be wise as serpents and to make friends of unrighteous mammon. Be in the world, but not of it. Two millennia later, the Christians of the CCCP were praying for the Soviets in the exact same words they used to pray for the Czar, asking that the Gov’t would keep order so that the Church could live the Gospel.

Subversion, my friends. That’s what this is about: subversion. 

The Gospel is leaven, designed to change the world from the inside, or, as the Dominicans say, Grace builds on nature. God takes bread and makes it into His Body. God takes a sinner and makes her into a saint. God take humanity and makes it into himself. None of these by committing violence to the folks involved, but rather by leavening their loaf, by making them, from the inside, into what they are supposed to be. This is why there can be no Benedict Option. To abandon the world would be to rob the world of leaven. 

Still this is not the way to victory. The death of Christendom only means a chance for us to die more often. “Actually I am a Christian,” Tolkien wrote, “and indeed a Roman Catholic, so that I do not expect ‘history’ to be anything but a ‘long defeat’— though it contains (and in legend may contain more clearly and movingly) some samples or glimpses of final victory.” (Letters 255).

The Apostles and all the Church Fathers tell us that no matter how hard we work to build God’s kingdom here, the end will be the Kingdom of Antichrist and darkness.

But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of stress. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, inhuman, implacable, slanderers, profligates, fierce, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding the form of religion but denying the power of it. 2 Timothy 3:1-5a

It’s not going to be pretty, either: Indeed all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil men and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceivers and deceived.  And that “holding the form of religion” bit means that these folks will be (or at least claim to be) Christians. We have these today: folks who say the teachings of the church are impossible to keep, or who insist that a group or class of person can’t keep the teachings of the Church so the teachings must change. In this they deny the power: of God to work, of the redemption of Christ to save, and of the human person to cooperate with grace. 

The Council of Trent foresaw this:  

If any one saith, that the commandments of God are, even for one that is justified and constituted in grace, impossible to keep; let him be Anathema. Canon XVIII

So we’re right on target.

The Prophet Jeremiah’s underwear is an amusing story. It’s how these people will end up. But for the time, we have to even subvert the downward motion: for God intends it for our salvation. Being the leaven in the world, means being the sourdough of God. All we need is one pinch saved from the fire. Only a remnant will save the whole world.


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The right way to end scandal


Today’s readings:

Mittet Filius hominis angelos suos, et colligent de regno ejus omnia scandala, et eos qui faciunt iniquitatem.
The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his Kingdom all who cause others to sin and all evildoers.
Matthew 13:41

This is one of those very comforting verses. Jesus knows – from the beginning – that scandals will be in his Church. And he doesn’t offer much by way of advice other than “leave them alone lest we damage the weaker (good) plants in the field.”

There is rather a huge cottage industry on the internet of Christians tearing down other Christians. It’s nearly funny when it is (eg) liberal fundamentalists and conservative fundamentalists attacking each other, but it is often made all the more sad when it is internecine incivility: Catholics attacking Catholics, or Orthodox attacking Orthodox.

And in the eyes of the world – who can’t tell a Calvinist from a Capuchin – this game of Christians ripping each other up is just pure fun.

Thing is: tearing down one another in public is not what we’re supposed to be doing.

Even serious scandals (you can think of a few: children, embezzlement, gay sex, etc) are supposed to be kept inside the Church by the Church, dealt with by canon law, mercy, prayer, and other appropriate means. The Church Fathers tell us not even to hand over a murderer to the police, because he might repent…

Jesus knows humans are messy. His angels will take care of this at the end of time. Be patient.

Jesus has one command for us: love.

Now, we know: love can involve a lot of correction.

But what it doesn’t involve is uprooting the bad seed and causing scandal to the weaker good seed.

And the bad seed can always be turned around.

In this day and age, though, we walk in a fishbowl. We should tailor our message to the audience. When there are thousands or millions watching, we can’t be ripping new ones for each other.

The world loves that.

Satan just eats it up.

And our souls too.

Don’t Judge me, Bro. Love me.

Today’s readings:

Dixitque ad Aaron: Quid tibi fecit hic populus, ut induceres super eum peccatum maximum?
Moses asked Aaron, “What did this people do to you that you should lead them into a grave sin?”
Exodus 32:21
Recently, I’ve been blessed to have two friends who are on my back all the time about walking out of Church when it’s not about me. I’m not sick. I don’t need anointing. I don’t need prayer. It’s not my wedding. I don’t know those people. What do you mean, I should stay and pray for the kids? I pick up all that in my daily practice. I want coffee now.
I’m cutting myself off from the community when I do that: when I could be doing one of the works of mercy, interceding for the living and the dead. I’m failing in love: I’m cutting people off.
The Israelites, you may remember, are involved in idolatry (the Golden Calf). They have despaired of Moses coming back down the mountain and, in truth and logic, are rather afraid of the Thumber Boomer that is hovering over Sinai. They decide they’d much rather have a nearer deity, one that they can control. So they make one.  
Aaron decides to help them.
Moses puts the blame squarely on Aaron – even though Moses will later plead for the entire people of Israel before God. “What”, he asks. “Did they ever do to you that you let them sin like this?”
Were Moses alive today, Aaron would have a much better response:
Whoa, dude. Don’t judge them. That’s all they can handle. I love these people – like God does – i would never make them do something that was too hard for them. God made them this way: so, what harm is there. Try to be more loving…
We use that tack on everyone.
Jesus, would, perhaps, agree.  But he would school the Christians first (the pagans have other issues…)
We are exactly supposed to love.  And, exactly, we can’t judge.  But what do those things mean?
Well, “judge” means to presume God’s role: the Greek is κρίνω, krino  and it means to cut off or to cut out. When I judge you I cut you off from God’s mercy (mentally, that is) I can’t damn you to hell. And, when it comes to weighing your sin against mine, mine out classes yours by several metric tonnes every time. So… don’t judge.
But love, now… our current understanding of love (like my understanding of Good, yesterday) is a bit off, flaccid, impotent. We don’t want love: we want disinterested regard. We want people to smile and let us alone. We don’t love, we smile and look the other way. Or, sometimes, we watch. But we never actually consider – because that might make someone feel judged.
To Love, though, to ἀγάπη agape someone, in the way of God, after Jesus’ commandment, is to will the good of the other – even to your own sacrificial death. 
The good of the other, though, is not a license to do whatever the other wants. Sometimes they don’t want the good, the beautiful, the true. To love them is to want them to move that way. (Although that same love should know that to force is impossible: love woos, draws, invites.) To Love is to dance. But also, realizing when some steps are out of order, to Love is either to correct or let go; to show them the right steps, or to move out of the way so that no one gets trodden upon.
Love does not simply say, “I will always love you, do whatever you want.” Love says, rather, “I love you. I will always hope, will, work, and desire for you to come with me on the journey to beauty, goodness, and truth, no matter what you are doing contrariwise.” If asked, Love should be honest and say, “Yeah, don’t do that because it’s not the best thing for your salvation, and I would really want you saved: before me, even.”
I fail in love constantly.
Look at today’s Gospel. 
Simile est regnum cælorum fermento, quod acceptum mulier abscondit in farinæ satis tribus, donec fermentatum est totum.
The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed with three measures of wheat flour until the whole batch was leavened.
Matthew 13:33b
I heard a Bible scholar once talk about how, in those days, yeast was not a powder that people could buy at the store, but rather yeast was a culture that people carried around and they were afraid to lose it. This woman, he said, had done something foolish and lost her yeast by using it all up. (That, happily in his eyes, robbed this saying of all meaning and, therefore, Jesus never said it.) For all that he seemed to know about history – and all he claimed to know about the Bible – this teacher knew nothing about baking bread or keeping yeast happy. 
Yes, you do as he said. And, yet, yes you do as Jesus described. You leaven all the flour – and then you set aside a cup or so of the mixture for the next time. Jesus knew his Momma’s recipe: he knew how to bake bread. Jesus is telling us that if we do our job as Church (that is, as the Kingdom of Heaven) the entire world be leavened: will become the Kingdom.
Yeast does not raise bread by disinterested regard. 
Yeast needs to get into the flour, pardon the pun. Yeast eats the flour, burps out gas and has babies. This is the bread rising, the babies have babies, they burp out more gas, everything changes.
The Church is not the Church, the Christian is not the Christian, if she is not loving – that is actively willing and working for the good of the world – the changing of the world, the salvation of souls around us, the making of everything into the Kingdom, that is the Church.
What did this people do to you that you lead them into such sin? Jesus will ask of you when you have let your children leave the Church without a fight. When you have let you friends go their entire lives without realizing what you do very secretly (it seems) on Sunday (only, it seems). Jesus will remind us that we were not supposed to Judge – but by walking away, we did exactly judge. We didn’t will the good of the other, so we failed to Love. We cut them off from what we would imagine to say is the most important part of our lives. We judged them unworthy.
Aaron was not only failing in love, he was actively allowing the people to sin. He was cutting them off from God. He was committing krino – cutting them off. Judging.
The Church does not love us when she leaves us in sin, her priests are not loving when they leave us alone. They are cutting us off from the path of salvation, they are judging us.
You – me – we may not be commissioned preachers, but we are commissioned to love and not judge. To will the Good of others to our own detriment. To do less is to cut them off, to judge them. How do we do this in a world that doesn’t even want to countenance the idea that “good” is anything less that “what feels good to me”? I don’t know. The whole world fears not feeling good – us too: it’s fear of not feeling good that keeps us in disinterested regard.
I should be giving of myself, my talents, my gifts to the Church, to those who need my prayers, who need the grace God has given me for no other reason than to share it with others.
We need to step out of disinterested regard. To be the Church – and to put up with what that might effect in our lives.
Scary, huh?

It’s all Good. I mean ALL. ALL OF IT.

Today’s readings:

Scimus autem quoniam diligentibus Deum omnia cooperantur in bonum, iis qui secundum propositum vocati sunt sancti.
And we know that to them that love God, all things work together unto good, to such as, according to his purpose, are called to be saints.
Romans 8:28
The daily practice of an Examen is a part of Ignatian (Jesuit) spirituality, that I am finding very helpful, recently. It is, if you will, a daily examination of the day, finding the good and bad, the grace and the loss. I should be doing it now, honestly – it’s after my bedtime as I write. Basically ask these questions:
What am I thankful for today?
What happened to me today?
What am I sorry for today?
What do I need to work on tomorrow?
I’d only been doing it a few weeks when I realized that I was “supposed” to be thankful for everything. That’s why Saint James says “count it all joy;” and Saint Paul says, “In all things give thanks”. We’re in a culture of complaint, but God’s Church calls us to “rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say, rejoice.”
When I heard Bishop Barron bring up this passage from Romans in his weekly homily podcast, I was walking down the hill in the dark, on my way out for the day. (And his homily on this passage is so wonderful, catch it here!) And this verse… this one line… suddenly clicked.
Now, can I convey the click…
My understanding of this verse used to hinge on the bare conception that what I think of as “good” isn’t necessarily what God thinks of as good. God want’s saints fitted for heaven, we usually want a more-comfortable seat on the airplane. God wants warriors, battle hardened in virtue, dressed in the full armor of Divine Human Communion; we usually want to avoid pain so much we’ll amputate things just because they hurt too much. God wants miraculous purity, we want good enough.
So I get that.
But suddenly, I realized that wasn’t it at all.
Omnia cooperantur all things work together… The Greek is πάντα συνεργεῖ panta synergei An omnipresent synergy… the WHOLE THING. 
Is working for the Good of those who Love the Lord. There is only one that is good: God. There is only one Good, salvation – union with God. 
See: Jesus comes as Human among us… and he doesn’t just teach a new thing. He rips apart the very fabric of the universe so that Death itself becomes the pathway to life. Pain, passion, suffering are all made gateways to eternity. Self-death is the surest way to rise from the dead.
Bread is flesh
Wine is blood.
Love is death.
Death is life.
But it’s not just these things that happen “to me”. Omnia cooperantur, panta syndergei. Everything.
Obama’s election, Trump’s election, Hillary’s loss, Merkle’s beer drinking, George Steinbrenner fighting with Reggie Jackson, I leave the monastery, you get married, we drink whiskey, they smoke hash, Brazil wins the Olympics, Japan gets bombed, Kanye’s ego, Korea splits, Germany unites, everything works for the good of those who Love the Lord.
Everything.
In Calvin Miller’s The Singer (IVP 1975) there is this great line:
Terra has just one stone
To mark her great insanity:
Across her continents it reads:
HERE LIES HUMANITY!
God’s incarnation, death, resurrection, and ascension, God’s diapers, acne, puberty, and bathroom habits changed this whole world from a death trap into a Spirit-run Salvation Machine.
This is why Paul says elsewhere that he is crucified with Christ. That painful, capital punishment is now the door of life. I am crucified with Christ and yet I life: not I but Christ who lives in me. 
My rootless cosmopolitanism, your square space middle class silliness, my coworkers’ quasi-bohemian tech naivety, the starving millions of the world and right next door, all of us… we have one goal now, and it’s not fixing things, per se: but using them. We dance now like so many angels on the head of a needle that is stitching together eternity and time – a tear we once made – held in God’s own hand.
This world is our way home – even though it’s broken, bleeding, and painful. God didn’t fix the world, God subverted it. It still looks like the minions of evil trapped in time by the unlord of antilife.  But it is not: the accidents remain but the essence is changed.
ALL THINGS!
Praise be Jesus, we are so blessed! In our tears, our losses, our weakness – 
HERE RISES HUMANITY!
This is why Paul can – beyond the edge of our reading today – cap off this passage with one of the most beautiful and mystical sayings in all of space and time:
Certus sum enim quia neque mors neque vita neque angeli neque principatus neque instantia neque futura neque fortitudines neque altitudo neque profundum neque creatura alia poterit nos separare a caritate Dei quae est in Christo Iesu Domino nostro

For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor might, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Roman 8:38-39
I won’t leave you with out a caution, because there are those who don’t love the Lord. There are those for whom the twins of covetousness and greed, anger and fear, jealousy and power, all birth the things that divide us one from another.  Having and having not both become idols in this world just as easily now as ever. Sin is real: one need only mistake the map for the territory: we run away from pain, we chase after joy, we subvert our desires and make them drugs.
It’s easy to forget…
That can separate us from the the Love of God. That – right there. You. Me.  We have that power.
Give it up. The pearl of Great Price is worth everything you have. Give it all up: and get the one thing that’s worth anything.
Here’s this prayer from St Ignatius of Loyola:
Suscipe, Domine, universam meam libertatem. Accipe memoriam, intellectum, atque voluntatem omnem. Quidquid habeo vel possideo mihi largitus es; id tibi totum restituo, ac tuae prorsus voluntati trado gubernandum. Amorem tui solum cum gratia tua mihi dones, et dives sum satis, nec aliud quidquam ultra posco.
Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and my entire will, all that I have and possess. Thou hast given all to me. To Thee, O Lord, I return it. All is Thine, dispose of it wholly according to Thy will. Give me Thy love and Thy grace, for this is sufficient for me.
Give it all up. Rejoice: all is ours!
There is no reason to be afraid. There is no enemy anywhere. Examine your day – and count the blessings.
It’s all Good.