Godwin’s Law You Know

JMJ

The Readings for the 19th Friday, Tempus per Annum (C2)
Memorial of Bl Jane de Chantal

For I will re-establish my covenant with you, that you may know that I am the LORD, that you may remember and be ashamed, and never again open your mouth because of your disgrace, when I pardon you for all you have done.

Ezekiel 16:62-63

ABSOLUTION IS A CURIOUS THING. Outside of the Catholic Church the stereotype is that someone can commit any sin at all – even be Hitler – and, if he goes to confession, he would be absolved of that sin. In fact, the stereotype is true. It needn’t be terribly nuanced. Even Hitler, should he repent of his sins, would be forgiven and absolved of them by the authority of the Church.

Thing is, we don’t want it to be that way. Sure, we don’t want it to be that way for mass murders and mega-haters, but we don’t want it to be that way for those annoying people on the bus nor for that annoying driver on the freeway this morning. Many don’t want it to be that way for parents of noisy children in Mass. And, if we’re really honest, most of us don’t want it to be that way for ourselves either. The Holy Prophet Ezekiel understands why, too: the more we’re aware of the sins we’ve committed, the more ashamed we are by God’s love for us.

This requires full awareness, humility, and comprehension: it takes an arrogant fool can think he actually deserves absolution. But being made aware of the infinite atonement, of infinite love, of infinite grace, as well as the need for it means one is weak. God is in control: we are called to let him be so. But it can hurt: there is danger here. Not only our pride can be hurt. This is one time where “asking for help” is a sign that one is not only weak but completely in the wrong and unable to get out of it.

God is Love (1 John 4:16, etc) and this love is a “consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:29). Balance those. The pain that comes from being loved that much is purgative, atoning. The infinite love, in itself, make it possible to bear the love until we, too, are love.

How can you love a thing like me?

Please Stand By

JMJ

The Readings for the Memorial of St Clare, Virgin
19th Thursday, Tempus per Annum (C2)

Cover your face so you cannot see the land, for I am making you a sign for the house of Israel!

Ezekiel 12:6

SAINT CLARE WAS granted a vision of Mass on Christmas Eve so that she could participate without being present. The Mass was projected on the wall of her cell by the Holy Spirit, allowing her to see and hear the beauty of the Mass as it happened. For this reason, she was named the patroness of Television and, later, of computer screens. There is also a patron of the Internet: St Isidore of Sevile. Some also think that, should he be made a saint, Bl. Carlo Acutis may share this patronage. St John Paul picked St Isidore because of his connection to education. There was a time when we kept thinking the internet was going to be good and educational.

Those were simpler times.

I’ve been slowly disconnecting from the internet, at least as far as social media. Twitter is gone. Instagram is gone. FB will go soon enough. I mean, the Blog is still here – been going since 1998 or so. But what else do I need?

Bishop Barron and others are really urging us to engage on the internet, to engage and “evangelize the culture”. Clare and Francis, along with Benedict would say otherwise. I wonder what St Dominic would say. Certainly, he called his friars to be connected in a way – that was the whole reason his friars went to University. But in those days even universities were an arm of the Church. Did Dominic want his friars to go live in Albigensian towns, learn their code words, blend in and hope for the best? Or was Dominic’s strategy more like the yelly-screamy people on the internet today, always trying to win an argument? I think all of these questions are answered with a strong no.

I’ve known a lot of choir directors (pretty much every last one since High School) that can’t handle silence. Every element of the liturgy must be covered with noise – singing or playing. Any movement of the clergy must be “played over” like some 1930s melodrama or soap opera. When the musicians can’t handle silence, the people never learn silence.

When there is no silence, there is no prayer. That’s the clue I want to share: so much of our life is filled with noise and what we need is silence. St Clare used her “television” one night out of her entire life of prayer to help her in prayer. We find it hard to go 2 mins in silence. But without silence, there is no prayer at all. How can we use for evangelism something that literally prevents the one thing needed for evangelism? We can’t: it’s impossible to use noise to evangelize. All we end up making is more noise.

How can we be a sign for the people if we look just like them, do nothing different, show no other part of the world? Should we not, instead, look like exiles from the culture around us, dig a hole in the wall, show the folks around us there is a way out?

St Dominic is said to have always spoken either to God or else about God. This is good advice for his children as well.

Just as an act of Examination, what is the percentage of your words online and off that could be said to be about God or to God?

Do you need more silence before you speak again?

Serve & Follow

JMJ

The Readings for the Feat of St Lawrence, Deacon & Martyr
19th Wednesday, Tempus per Annum (C2)

Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be.

John 12:26

THE DEACON St Lawrence was the patron saint of the Orthodox monastery where I tested my vocation as a monk. I don’t have one. But it was in conversation with one of the Oblates of that monastery that I learned something important. Sitting on the porch one evening, listening to me give voice to my complaint and struggle, the oblate was supportive. Only when there were guests around to care for did I feel like I was doing my “job” as a monastic. Apart from one or two moments during the year, there were only guests for two weeks during the summer. The rest of the time I felt kind of useless. “Brother,” said the Oblate. “You need to be a friar. The only problem is there are no friars in the Orthodox Church.”

By friar he meant someone who was living out a vocation that was both contemplative and active: present in the world, but in a contemplative way. Even before friars did this, holding in tension the cares of this world with the things of eternity, it was the Deacons of the Church that did this. St Lawrence, holding the wealth of the Roman Church in trust for the poor of Rome is a perfect example.

Lawrence was arrested by the Roman Authorities convinced that he had great wealth. And he agreed that the Church had this wealth and that he (Lawrence) had access to it. When it was demanded of him he gave it over freely: the poor of the Church. The treasure of the Church is the people. Very often even the people fail to recognize this.

It’s not enough to engage in good works – for we must do them sacramentally. Further, for some of us, it’s never enough just to contemplate the beauty of the Lord unless we’re doing so in the active service of others. Jesus says we must serve and follow. Lawerence did both as a deacon is called to do. Friars, as well, do both.

Serving without faith is not enough: for no one is saved by works. But yet, faith without works is dead. If you’re following Jesus you’re serving.

God did not create money in his image. No work of art will ever enter the Kingdom of God. No Church building will be found in heaven. There is no Temple in the New Jerusalem: for the Lord God and the Lamb are, themselves, the Temple (Revelation 21:22).

Man is the image of God. In the Body of Messiah, man is the Temple here. Lawrence knew that the riches of the Church are the poor. When you see man rejected in the world, when you see humanity destroyed by the sins of life in this world, your heart should break. When drugs destroy the brain and sex addles the passions, when anger distorts the family, when greed corrupts the heart of a worker, we should be broken to see the Dwelling Place of God so desecrated.

Yet, by the same token, the Church is not a social services agency. It is not the Church’s place to fix the world. In fact, if the world could be fixed it wouldn’t need the Church: there are many agencies who would do it much better if it could be done. But every political movement has realized, eventually, that the world is broken. A friar, a deacon, any Christian does not move through the world trying to fix it, but rather to heal the human icons of God who struggle through this sinful world, to teach them to bear up manfully the cross they have and to live in love with their neighbors. The world is fixed from the inside.

Be the Light

JMJ

The Readings for the Solemnity of Our Holy Father Dominic
19th Monday, Tempus per Annum (C2)

For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own likings, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander into myths.

II Timothy 4:3-4

These are the readings for the Solemnity of Our Holy Father Dominic as assigned by the Order of Preachers in their liturgy. There’s another set of optional readings for the Memorial of St Dominic in the Roman Missal. In most places today’s readings will be those of the 19th Monday in the C2 cycle.

ST PAUL’s teaching to St Timothy could have been written yesterday. Hardly a day goes by on Catholic Social Mediae when some Self-Proclaimed Teacher doesn’t say something to lure the masses to their doom. That teacher could be trying to marshal up some anger in a political ploy or swirl a vortex of hate around the Pope. He could be offering some Option to escape all this or be offering some liberal mainline pablum to absolve everyone of sins that are politically incorrect to call out. Or any one of these could be unmasked as a hypocrite driving their own ambitions rather than the salvation of souls. Yet St Paul’s words prove this problem is 20 centuries long. More, scripture will show us the Church has been dealing with “prophets” like this all the way back to the Sons of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram. The Church is always splitting into Camps and there’s aways someone willing to listen.

At the time of St Dominic it was the Church’s pride that was causing the split. Another thing that might sound very modern: wealthy cleargy living immoral lives were causing a scandal and driving people out of the Ark of Salvation into the arms of heretics. Think of how many people left the Church over the sexual abuse scandal or Cardinal McCarrick. Think of those scandalaized by politicians not living the faith or those who use the Church as a way to curry votes.

Dominic knew the answer was to double-down on the orthodox faith and the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience. He knew that actually living the faith in its fullness was the only way to draw people back to the Church. To make the faith attractive one needed to live it – thereby proving it was livable – and to live it with joy.

The secret is in the Gospel reading today. In John 8:12 Jesus says he is the light of the world. However today, in Matthew 5:14, he says his followers – we- are the light of the world. These are not contradictory sentences for, in our baptism, we are members of him. As he is light of light, we are, if you will, light of light of light. We are sons of the Father in the Son of God. Our function is to be light here, wherever here happens to be. As lay folks we can be light in our jobs, in our families, in the subway, in the bodega, in the bars, at the disco, even in internet chat rooms. We are called to be the light. Dominic knew his sons and daughters, in order to be the light, would need to live the Gospel fully.

What would it take to be light where you are? How can the Gospel be lived more fully in your life? I don’t know these answers – only you do. In my own life it’sbeen a gradual awakening to the promptings of the Spirit. When I wrote – nearly 20 years ago now – “What if everything I think I know about myself is wrong?” I didn’t know what the answer would look like. It’s possible you don’t know either.

But be light.

And you will see the way.

Keep Watch

JMJ

The Readings for the 19th Sunday, Tempus per Annum (C2)

That night [The Passover] was known beforehand to our ancestors, so that, with sure knowledge of the oaths in which they put their faith, they might have courage.

Wisdom 18:6

IT’S INTERESTING TO READ THIS passage from Wisdom together with the call to faith (in Hebrews) and Our Lord’s command to “be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.” It’s the contrast that makes it interesting: the followers of the Son of Man do not know when he will return. But we must act anyway. None of the folks listed in the “By Faith” passage of Hebrews knew. But they were called to act anyway. “All these died in faith. They did not receive what had been promised but saw it and greeted it from afar.” The Israelites, however, before the Passover, were told to pick an unblemished lamb from their flocks on the tenth of the month and, four days later, their redemption would be accomplished. “It is the Lord’s Passover. For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the Lord.” (Exodus 12:11b-12). The Israelites, says Solomon in the book of Wisdom, were thus given courage. They could put their faith in this unseen promise of God.

Why does Holy Mother Church call this to our mind today – these unseen things together with this one seen thing?

Perhaps, in her wisdom, she knows that we grow weary in our watch. The first lesson calls us to see that Ancient Israel only needed to wait four days. The second lesson reminds us of all our forebears who died without ever receiving the promise and yet they went gladly forward in faith. Yet we can – from our vantage point – see that their faith was not in vain: for the promises made to them have been fulfilled in the Messiah.

So we, too, might be strengthened in our watch by being thus reminded and so encouraged in our life – and death – even if we do not see the promises made to us yet come to fulfillment.

When I was in High School there was a promise made by some radio preacher guy that Jesus was coming back in April of 1980. I thought my foster mother was a bit wonky for believing this guy (for no one knows the day or the hour) but the closer we got to the date in April of that year the more insistent she got that he was right. I was surprised to find how many of my fellow students also knew of this preacher guy. As much as the Teenage Me couldn’t be bothered to show an adult that I actually cared about such things, I let her hug me before I left for school that morning. She was convinced we’d be seeing Jesus before I got home.

I had a Math Test at about 3PM that day.

And just in the middle of the test.

A trumpet blew.

My breath caught.

A trumpet was sounding from rom a car in the parking lot.

My friend, Linda, and I looked at each other across our papers and then the moment passed. She silently shook and we finished the test.

I’ve often tried to imagine what it would be like to live in that tension every day. What would matter to me and what would not matter at all? My Foster Mother still made breakfast and coffee that Tuesday. She sent me to school with lunch money. The clothes were cleaned and supper was ready that night just as expected.

We see all the other promises of God fulfilled save this one. How can we manage not to live as if this may happen at any moment? How can we let ourselves fall into sin mindful that at any moment we could die and be called to judgement? How dare we turn the eyes of our soul from our internal contemplation of the Father for even a moment, knowing that that may be the moment of Parousia, and we will not be ready?

St John Chrysostom included in his Eucharistic Prayer (called the Anaphora) thanksgiving for “the cross, the tomb, the resurrection on the third day, the ascension into heaven, the sitting at the right hand of the Father, and the second and glorious coming again.” In the Eucharist, all of time collapses together from both ends of eternity to here. There is only one eternal Sacrifice offered by the Son to the Father. At every Mass, we stand in that one offering at the end of time before the Father where the Messiah is all in all and the Kingdom is handed over to the Father. It happens at every Mass so how much more should we not be ready always?

Pay attention.

Be ready.

A trumpet blows.

A Perfectly Timely Parable

JMJ

The Readings for Thursday in the 19th Week of Ordinary Time (B2)

Serve nequam, omne debitum dimisi tibi quoniam rogasti me : nonne ergo oportuit et te misereri conservi tui, sicut et ego tui misertus sum?
You wicked servant! I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to. Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?’

I was not sexually abused by any clergy – Catholic, Orthodox, or Episcopalian. 
Nor do I have children. 
I hear this parable always when I hear people crying for blood. 

Yet, reading Ezekiel, and the Responsorial Psalm, 
I know the Church is Israel
And we, too, can be sent into exile for our idolatry.
When the people of God
object to God’s teachings 
From within the House of God
We are all at risk.

Let us pray for victims, for the Church, 
and for the world who cannot hear the Gospel for our sins.

Confess Your Unpopular Opinions

JMJ

The Readings for the Memorial of St Maximilian Kolbe, Priest & Martyr
Tuesday in the 19th Week of Ordinary Time (B2)

Alleluia. Tollite jugum meum super vos, et discite a me, quia mitis sum, et humilis corde 
Alleuia. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart.

In their quest for Lebensraum, or Livingroom, the Nazis invaded Poland on 1 September 1939. Since that whole people was devoted to the Catholic Faith, Hitler knew he had only to break the Church in order to take the heart out of the country. He killed or arrested every leader of the Church – clergy or lay – and had them shipped off to concentration camps, along with Polish Jews, communists, homosexuals, and all the other “undesirables” that had been defined by the Nazi state. 

Today’s saint, Maksymilian Maria Kolbe, found himself in Auschwitz. At the end of July 1941, ten prisoners disappeared from the camp, prompting SS-Hauptsturmführer Karl Fritzsch, the deputy camp commander, to pick 10 men to be starved to death in an underground bunker to deter further escape attempts. When one of the selected men, Franciszek Gajowniczek, cried out, “My wife! My children!”, Kolbe volunteered to take his place. Kolbe died 77 years ago today. Gajowniczek survived Auschwitz, and died in 1995. Kolbe’s sacrifice purchase 50 years for that man, a stranger, and won himself a martyr’s crown. 

Pope St John Paul II called Kolbe “the Patron Saint of our difficult (20th) century.”
He is the Patron Saint of ham radio operators, drug addicts, political prisoners, families, journalists, prisoners, and the pro-life movement.  Here are more things to know about this extraordinary saint.
Although the Pro-life movement, political prisoners, Journalists, the family, and addictions all present us with important issues for our time (even in this century) it is his death in the course of a normal, virtuous act that highlights his importance for our time, for our difficult century.

In our day it is possible to deny the personhood of anyone who disagrees with any political point, socially or individually held. We no longer march them off to the concentration camps, for we are more advanced. We publicly shame them, we hound them from all pages of the internet, we use guilt by association, and arcane conspiracies to exclude them public life and even employment.

But we don’t kill them.

I know of a construction company who refused a contract to a temp employee because the temp employee had a union logo on his Facebook page. I know women who feel they have to use male names on Twitter and other social media in order to be able to have opinions, to enter into arguments, etc, without being called crude names in ad feminem attacks. Pardon the neologism, it’s totally needed here. People lose their jobs for “not sharing our company’s values” nowadays.

Showing virtue in this world is risky. Especially since, as Catholics, we believe the definition of virtue is a static one, defined for all time in the death of Christ on Calvary. You cannot love in a better way, you cannot live in a better way, you cannot die in a better way, no better way than the truth, himself, can be practiced. But we must also be careful that we fall not into the same trap, for disagreeing with our teachings does not de-person you. For Christ died for humans as a class. And we must also be on the lookout for those who, claiming to be Catholics, confuse their partisan politics with the teachings of the Church. It’s possible to be politically active and disagree on some things. It is not possible to be Catholic and belittle, make fun of, or de-person our political opponents – although it is certainly fashionable in this day to do so.

There were 6 Popes in my life time, but I have no memory of the first – St John XXIII – and the 3rd Pope – John Paul I – reigned for only 1 month. I am so very thankful for the other four! Paul VI, St John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Francis. These last two who are there now, one with his seemingly cold academia, and the other with his bubbly grandfatherly qualities, can seem like Abbott and Costello, really. But from Humanae Vitae to Laudato Si, the teachings of the church have been brought solidly to bear on our culture and our missteps. And all the Popes have been excoriated – by Catholics and non-Catholics alike – for their rigid adherence to tradition and for daring to call out the modern world on our sins.

To live a life according to the Church’s boundaries in this time and place is heroic virtue.

Yesterday we celebrated the Memorial of another set of Martyrs, and, oddly, sort of, another pair of Popes. Saint Pontian, was made Pope in AD 231. One of his predecessors, Pope St Callistus, was perceived to be too liberal. His detractors elected a better Pope, a priest named Hippolytus, the latter being more conservative. Both Hippolytus and Pontian were sent to work in the mines, and eventually died, but not before being reconciled. This virtue of disagreement and yet reconciling is what makes them a good model for us: we need only to know that we are required to love all and to lay down our lives for those whom we love. These two things, only. And all else will be fine.

It is fitting that St Maximilian, who was in life so devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary, should die today, which is the Vigil of her entrance into heaven. We shall talk more of that tomorrow, but (spoiler alert) her body and soul are in heaven now, united. The first of child of Adam and Eve to enjoy in that way the fruit of Baptismal Grace in the Heavenly Kingdom. And as her Assumption is the living embodiment of our promised Resurrection, St Maximilian finds his own death, on the vigil of her death, to be the gateway to everlasting life.

In which I came out as Antivax

JMJ

The Readings for the 19th Week of Ordinary Time (B2)

Nonne hic est Jesus filius Joseph, cujus nos novimus patrem et matrem? quomodo ergo dicit hic : Quia de caelo descendi?
Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How then saith he, I came down from heaven? 

Every spring breeze carried a reason or a rumour. Jesus seems to have been surrounded, even in Jerusalem, by folks who thought they knew him very well. I imagine it was a small community of folks from up in Galilee and also some folks in Jerusalem. Of course everyone was talking about him – as they had been about John the Baptist. Every spring breeze carried a reason or a rumour. And the more folks talked, the more there was speculation about who he is. And so there would be the folks who snoop out the truth. He comes from Nazareth. He’s a carpenter. He’s not trained as a teacher. A reason or a rumour…

And so, of course, outside of his intimate circle, there grew up another image of Jesus, one that wasn’t quite so flattering. Just a few verses earlier Jesus was saying, “You don’t care what I teach, you just want more miracles…” 

2,000 years later it’s pretty much the same. Everyone knows who Jesus is. Don’t bother us.

He’s a pro-America libertarian cultural warrior to people on the right.
He’s a hippie peacenik to people on the left.
He’s a protofeminist.
He’s a hyper masculine boxer of demons.
He’s a mythic retelling of Pan.
He’s a failed revolutionary whose body was fed to the dogs.
He’s a teacher with nothing original to say.
He’s a mystic who traveled to India and learned wisdom, and brought it back westward. 
He’s irrelevant to all of these groups when he steps out of their bounds.
Every spring breeze carries a reason or a rumor.

Sadly, each group includes a goodly number of folks who claim to be Christians of every shade and flavor who have serve out their tiny, boxed up Jesus to the world as an inoculation to protect them from meeting the real thing.

I know reasonably good people who are so convinced that Jesus looked and acted just like them that they can’t understand how 2,000 years of Christians could get it wrong. Or, maybe, they have a theory about Paul taking Jesus’ revolution and running it into the ground, or Constantine overpowering the church – as if “yes” could destroy what 300 years of “no” only made stronger. Most just seem to say, “Everyone was wrong until Pastor XYZ finally understood it” or “Until General Convention elected a woman as Presiding Bishop” or “Until the Jesus Seminar”. They’re on a quest for a Jesus that won’t threaten them with annihilation of self, that won’t demand virtues from them (or that will only demand virtues they have recently invented). The Blind guides of the blind, as Jesus calls them.

And there are those who will give Jesus in such small doses, with no context, with no depth, that folks develop an immunity to Jesus anyway. If you only hear about (the very right and orthodox) love of Jesus, with no discussion of his anger, no discussion of his hatred of sin, no discussion of his desire to change a sinner into a saint, then the love of Jesus is just another vaccine. It’s a vaccine equally as effective as those who only preach hell-fire and fear.

So, you ask, how can I know?

Is it possible in a world filled with all these anti-Jesus vaccines, to get exposed to the real Jesus, finally? Is it possible to find Jesus despite all the fakes? Or, won’t just anyone be pointing me in their own pre-made direction? When every spring breeze carries a reason or a rumour, how can I find Jesus?

Asking is the first step: admitting you don’t know, or that the folks you follow may be on the wrong path, admitting there is a wrong path at all, admitting the possibility that you could be wrong about Jesus is as important as his truth. 

For the first step is humility.

Jesus gives us his own flesh as food. He says so. He doesn’t say aa symbol, he doesn’t say a sign, or a warm memory. He says “my flesh is bread”.

Chew on that for a while…

And you become divine.

The vaccine will make you far, far less than you can or should be. It’ll make you dead.





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