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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