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.
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:
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.
Praise be Jesus, we are so blessed! In our tears, our losses, our weakness – 
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.