Nec laudibus nec timore

Moloch by Jean-Pierre Dalbéra


JMJ

The Readings for the 21st Sunday Tempus per Annum (C1)

Contendite intrare per angustam portam 
Strive to enter by the narrow gate
All these readings tie together: it’s like someone had planned it or something. This morning in the office of readings, we got a passage from Zephaniah (1:1-7, 14-2:3) which left me breathless.

I will stretch out my hand against Judah, and against all the inhabitants of Jerusalem;
and I will cut off from this place the remnant of Ba’al and the name of the idolatrous priests;
those who bow down on the roofs to the host of the heavens;
those who bow down and swear to the LORD and yet swear by Milcom;
those who have turned back from following the LORD,
who do not seek the LORD or inquire of him.

Process that:
The Lord’s going to punish… within the Holy City and the Kingdom of Judah
Those who worship Baal and their clergy.
Those who go up on the roof and worship the stars.
Those who worship YHVH and also some other deity.
Those who have left off following YHVH.
And those who never bothered to follow YHVH in the first place – nor even tried to find him.
Again… all of these types of people are found within the walls of Jerusalem and the land of Judah.

If that list of people inside the Church doesn’t scare you, then today’s Gospel will. Listen to what Jesus says to those members of the Church, those who “ate and drank in [his] company,” those he has taught.

I heard this so clearly last night, that the actual homily was lost: “I bet you thought Christianity was all about just being nice and trusting in Jesus. You’re swearing by Jesus, but worshiping Milcom. God’s got a message for you.

“Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough.”

How many are the folks in churches (not just the Catholic Church, but all churches) who claim the name of Christ, but get lost in Newage Astrology and magic? It’s only just “herbalism” or “crystals”. How many Catholics fall prey to the Ba’als of this world: sex, political ideologies, secularism, abortion, birth control, racism, money. How many, thus, say they are Christian but, in fact, are worshiping another deity they have made up inside their head – or fallen for one that is offered by someone else.

It comes to me that “striving to enter” is not what we’re about today. The heroic attempt to win salvation (take the gate of heaven by violence, Jesus says at one point) is not what we’re about. We feel that we should just do enough, what is the minimum? Going all the way seems a bit much.

I thought of all the times, in fact, I had not striven to enter anything at all: when it was ok to get swept along by the tide – when I actively sought out ways to not-do Christianity. I feared for all the times that I didn’t “Fail” to enter. It was not that I wasn’t “strong enough” to enter. I just didn’t want to.

How many times have we failed, as a people, to stand up?

I learned this week about Blessed Clemens August, Cardinal von Galen. His nickname, “The Lion of Munster,” comes from the way he fought Hitler during the war. (His full name is awesome: Clemens Augustinus Emmanuel Joseph Pius Anthonius Hubertus Marie Graf von Galen.) Blessed Clemens did not pull punches. Hitler wished him dead but was advised that to kill him would result in the loss or rebellion of Catholic Germans. His preaching was bad enough, but to remove him would be worse. The Bishop (later Cardinal) was opposed to racism, the concentration camps, the marauding, the bullying. But he didn’t stop there. After the war, he opposed the mistreatment of Germans by the forces of allied occupation. The British didn’t want him to travel and tried to censor him. The Russians did the same.

This man was hated by Nazis and the allies. That’s how you know you’re doing it right.

His motto, which heads up this post, nec laudibus nec timore, means “not for (or because of) praise, not for fear”. Don’t fail to preach the Gospel out of fear of what men will do to you or out of fear of what men might say about you.

In this age, when the right hates Christians for our adherence to moral political ideals about the human person and the left hates us for our adherence to moral sexual ideals about the human person, when the left hates religious tradition because they can’t use it and the right likes religious tradition because they can use it to hide behind, neither of them cares anything about Truth. We will be lost in the shuffle. Or worse. We can, like many “catholic” politicians, cave in and become left/right ideologues, forcing our religion to conform to some secular dogma. Or we can choose to do nothing nec laudibus nec timore. We can choose to make the Gospel and God’s Kingdom the primary – in fact the only – goal of our action.

Or we can worship the Ba’al of sex, the Milcom of politics, the host of heaven. We can even just give up and walk away.

I don’t want to.
I pray I won’t.
I’m afraid that
I might.

Pray.

Noblesse Oblige

JMJ

The Readings for Saturday in the 21st Week of Ordinary Time (B2)

Sed quae stulta sunt mundi elegit Deus, ut confundat sapientes : et infirma mundi elegit Deus, ut confundat fortia.
God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong.


You know, Nietzsche’s complaint about Christianity being a “slaves’ religion” is 100% correct. If one were to be so foolish as to deny this, we have today’s readings to support old FFred. We also have Benedict, Francis, Dominic, and all the others who taught poverty was central. Paul was a scholar of his day, but he was a tent maker. And although the Way attracted the rich and powerful, their income promptly went to supporting the poor. If you’ve not had a chance to see the movie, Paul the Apostle, you’ve missed Prisca and Aquila harboring an entire Christian community in their house. They knew that the wealth God had given them was given them exactly to care for the poor in the Church. God had given everything – including their wealth, station, and skills, expressly for the care and feeding of those poor brethren to whom he had not given such things; save only by the hands of Prisca and her husband. They did not bury their talents. They lavisged them on others and on the Gospel. This care for the poor, this care for the weakest, this care for the foolish is our Way.

It’s supposed to be our Way internally first, to a superfluity that flows out and begins to be our way in the wider world. People are supposed to say, “See how they love each other” even as we give away our extra food to anyone who needs it. To the Romans a weak, elderly person was a danger to the whole tribe and could be exposed on the hillside – as could a newborn baby that no one wanted. Christians rescued all these folks and nursed them back to health, or to a death with dignity in a community of love. In the end it was this care for the weak and the lost that made the Christian faith not only a threat to Roman culture, but, eventually, the victor over Roman culture when the latter had become so corrupt, so rotted from the inside, that it fell way like a chrysalis that was enclosing an entirely new form of life. 

From this moment we get our Western cultural values of charity and of community. Even when we don’t follow them, we pay lip service to the idea of them: as the current administration embodies. Everyone knows things are supposed to look like Mayberry. They just don’t agree on how to get there.

What we do know is there’s no biological or evolutionary reason to do this: there is no non-religious reason at all for caring for the sick, the weak or the poor. There’s no idea of “justice” that requires me to give up all my hard-earned cash to care for you. There is no human system of morality in which this makes sense. Socrates can give us Plato (or vice versa) and ideas about rhetoric disguised as essays on homoerotic love, but he can’t give us charity. Even our founders knew that these ideas don’t come from us – we are endowed with these by our creator (even as we might disagree about how best to relate to him).

And so it is in the eyes of the Church as of the founders, really: the state’s best function is out of the way of the Church so that she can do her job.

Lately our failures in this respect have underscored how our own values have fallen by the wayside. The state’s function of Justice seems needed. Care for the weak (children) and care for the other has failed as we have become power-hungry. Some have openly disparaged the poor and the stranger in the face of clear church teachings, others have misused children in ways that the Pagan Romans would have easily recognized. This has damaged our ability even to opine on these topics, let alone teach, or lead by example.

So we must, what? Bury our talent in the ground? No. Even more we must get out there and be the Gospel in action. Time to double down on the Truth. It may expose us to shame and to mockery, but that’s when our Lord was able best to show his love for us: by going through the same mockery and abuse. We have such a Lord and Savior who asks that we may be like him. Love othersoth hard that we accepts steal into our palms and side.


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Not Sweetness and Light

JMJ

The Readings for the Memorial of St Monica
Monday in the 21st Week of Ordinary Time (B2)

Clauditis regnum caelorum ante homines! vos enim non intratis, nec introeuntes sinitis intrare.
You shut the Kingdom of Heaven to men! You do not enter yourselves, nor do you allow entrance to those trying to enter.

It’s important to hear these verses in a Jewish content. A scribe, a lawyer, was often one of the Sadducees. This tradition within Judaism was of a more literalist sort, invoking the scriptures in a fundamentalist way: “without” interpretation, has it were. The Pharisees, from the other side, were more inclined to circumvent some laws, to find ways to expand them. They were using scripture plus interpretation. These two might be seen as “conservatives” and “liberals” within the Judaism of that time, although there were other parties that were either more or less free with their understandings of the Torah. Some were so concerned about the state of affairs that they treated the whole temple as ritually impure. Others were so liberal that they never bothered to go to the temple at all. Jesus is yelling at both “revisionists” and “traditionalists” in his world. Conservatives and Liberals.

Sometimes it’s tempting to project these verses on our religious opponents. Certainly the plethora of (not so) good-natured religious jokes about Southern Baptists and drinking is a class of this: 

Why do you have to take two Baptists with you when you go fishing? Because if you take just one, he’ll drink all your beer.
What’s the difference between a Baptist and a Methodist? The Methodist will tell you “howdy” when he sees you in the liquor store.

And often these verses get pointed as very large guns (because spoken by Christ, himself)  at Jews of many different ages. And that is never, even in a pretend way, good-natured. Christian Anti-Semitism is a problem of massive proportions. It cost lives and prevents the haters from getting into the Kingdom as well as the Hated which last see Domincal evangelism as only more of the same. 

It is tempting in today’s crisis, to point these verses at the clergy who were having illegal sex with minors. They certainly have avoiding the Kingdom of Heaven while, at the same time, preventing others from entering: not just their victims, but many others who are scandalized or spurred to levels of anger that keep them away.

Still, I can only judge myself. I would like to point these verses as very big guns (because spoken by Christ, himself) at me.

I’m mindful of how much of my life was spend finding ways to bend the rules, to be comfortable, to be left alone, whilst having a religious experience of my own choosing. I think of how my own parents, following my lead, have become activists in their own denomination (UMC), withdrawing support from their parish when the preacher speaks in a way they think of as oppressive. In the times I was “church shopping”, regardless of what denomination it was, I would only go to “friendly” places. And these can always be found. Just keep quiet about them, because you don’t want the Authorities to come down on them. I’ve even found them in Orthodoxy, and you can find them in Catholicism too.

So… 

When I hear about the current crisis I think of how easy it is, Revisionist or Traditionalist, for a Double Income and No Kids family to become a strong financial pillar in a local parish, to keep the pastor quiet about certain issues, to dance through a religious culture without ever setting off the landmines that might challenge one’s place. At the same time, one is preventing not only oneself from hearing the Gospel, but also others.

And we have many examples, I think: not just from my own orbit, but in other ways. For I know that there are many couples married for a while without kids. There are many writers who find the social (including environmental) teachings of the church to be annoying in a capitalist culture. There are politicians who prattle on to keep their positions. There are clergy and lay teachers who like the size of the donations that come from these parties; or, who actually agree that disagreeing with the teachings of the church is “OK in this area now”. And these can always be found. Just keep quiet about them, because you don’t want the Authorities to come down on them. But maybe the Authorities will change soon… Conservative or Liberal matters not. 

And this Crisis, which is a scandal, a stumbling block, an injury, a wound in the sides of the victims as well as in the side of the Church, is caused by this culture. Yes: it is the specific sins of specific people. But the complicity lies far wider than the action. The action of complicit consent is practically a prime tenant of 1st World religious practice – regardless of religion. 

When I hear conservatives or liberals complain… dissing the teachings of the church from either side, we are the folks Jesus is talking to today.

As for me and my house…

JMJ

The Readings for the 21st Sunday of Ordinary Time (B2)

Ego autem et domus mea serviemus Domino.
I myself and my house will serve the Lord.

On the one hand the lectionary for the Novus Ordo Missae gave us more Bible to chew on. On the other hand, curiously, it allows for it to be more watered down. The same is true in the Daily Office. There are more texts to read… but more options to skip parts we don’t like. The Daily Office skips verses of the psalms that are “problematic”,  and the Mass lectionary allows us the option of skipping whole passages. 
One such event is in today’s Lections where, if so inclined, a parish can skip over all the troublesome bit about “being subject” and just get on with the “love” part. Mind you, the love part has no context without the “be subject” part. But that’s never stopped anyone from editing out things that convict them of wrong-doing… or, as they say today, make one feel unsafe.

The two choices are both listed on the lectionary page for today.


I was assigned this reading as lector so I wrote an email asking which version I was to have ready. The response was be ready to do either but it was up the homilist. I wondered why the homilist picked the shorter one. Then it dawned on me that since he was not preaching on the Epistle, maybe he didn’t want to leave it floating out there without comment. That may be the real reason to skip a passage: so that you don’t have to talk about it when you’d rather highlight something else. That made good and charitable sense. 
But the effect is still the same: we don’t do this passage any more. 

Subversion of the social order was Paul’s special charism: he took things like the political and family structures and turned them to tools for working out our salvation in fear and trembling. God’s providence had placed us where and when we are. So salvation was possible where we are, not needing to run away to another place. All we needed to do is…


Be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ. 


A monastic in the Eastern Rites understands this from the get go: when a man is about to be tonsured, as the superior is raising the scissors to cut his hair, the scissors are dropped to the floor. The novice is told to pick them up. The rite begins again, except the scissors may be be dropped three (or maybe more) times. Each time the Novice is told to pick them up.


Obedience is where we give up self-will and begin to find salvation. 


Now men had a hard time in Pagan Rome for no free Pater Familias was under any social obligation to obey someone else on a regular basis. Paul puts the man under the obligation to love.

Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church and handed himself over for her to sanctify her,

Paul is here breaking apart the Roman Family, the traditional Roman marriage. Paul is subverting this order. He’s making a Christian Sacramental Action out of a Roman Civic Contract. To a pagan man, a wife was his property. To a Christian man, she was his own flesh. To a pagan, there was a contractual obligation involved. A husband owned everyone in his household.  To a Christian man, his wife and his children were a chance to go to the death in Agape love.

Wives, however, have a built in social obligation to use for this purpose. This is why,

Wives should be subordinate to their husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is head of his wife just as Christ is head of the church, he himself the savior of the body. As the church is subordinate to Christ, so wives should be subordinate to their husbands in everything.

And a wife of a Christian man would take comfort in the fact that the husband must agape the wife. But even a Christian wife of a Pagan might take comfort in knowing that by obeying her husband, by sacrificing her self-will, she was becoming the best Christian possible using the tools she had to hand in God’s providence.

Paul wanted his folks using the cultural tools and not risking trouble by breaking the local laws unless those laws also broke the law of God. A Roman Pater Familias might send his family starving into the streets, or expose unwanted babies and seniors on the hillside. A Christian certainly could not do so, nor could a Christian stop a pagan from doing so. But, once done, a Christian could open their homes in the name of Agape to those thus abandoned. A Christian could not divorce his pagan wife or her pagan husband. But a Christian should open their homes to those so divorced because of their faith.


Paul’s subversion of the Roman Order was so important that, after trying it out in Rome, he sends Titus to literally take over Crete with this Novus Ordo Seclorum, hoping to change the entire Cretan society by changing the way the family functioned.


Today, when we might hear this passage incorrectly as “Sexist” and “Patriarchal” it is good to be reminded that it is revolutionary to Pagan Romans. 


How do we apply it in today’s culture? Certainly not by recreating the Pater Familias and trying to rule the household with an iron fist. But if we – my household and I – or “your household and you” – choose the Lord what does that mean for us?


The clue is in verse 21. The Greek word describing how we are all to be one-to-another (of which the relationship of Husband and Wife is only an example) is ὑποτάσσω hypotasso from two Greek roots, “under” and “arrangement”. Brothers and Sisters, but yourself under each the other’s arrangement. Let others make choices for you.

This is the same word used in Luke 2:51 to describe Jesus’ relationship (as God) with Joseph and Mary. 

And Paul doesn’t say to do this – as the NABRE would have it – out of “reverence” for Christ. Paul’s Greek says we are to do this out of fear of Christ. The person giving us so much Agape is to be viewed in phobos, in holy awe, in fear. 

This is why it is good for every Christian, lay, monastic, or cleric, to be under obedience to someone. For some of us –  after 50 years as unmarried wild cards in the world – this might be most important. But it must be someone who takes those reins in Agape. This passage tells us it’s not enough just to go to Mass. Submission to another in Love is part of this process. We must stand with Joshua and say “As for me and my house”.

No one is saved alone.

How not to be a useless servant


Today’s Readings:

Et inutilem servum ejicite in tenebras exteriores.
Throw this useless servant into the darkness outside
Matthew 25:30a
We all have gifts. Some of us use them. Some of us run away from them. I posted this a day or two ago, from Cardinal Newman:

God has created me to do Him some definite service; He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission — I never may know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next. Somehow I am necessary for His purposes, as necessary in my place as an Archangel in his — if, indeed, I fail, He can raise another, as He could make the stones children of Abraham. Yet I have a part in this great work; I am a link in a chain, a bond of connexion between persons. He has not created me for naught. I shall do good, I shall do His work; I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place, while not intending it, if I do but keep His commandments and serve Him in my calling.

The thing that I see there, that is the most important, is that Blessed John Henry doesn’t send you out on some Vocational Discernment Weekend, nor does he say you need to go hide in the desert until some vision strikes you: only, I shall be a angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place, while not intending it, if I do but keep his commandments and serve him in my calling,  by which last he means “in my daily work”.
Elsewhere in this same book, (Meditations and Devotions) he offers a very simple rule of life – as quoted by the Catholic Gentleman – to direct us all on the way to Sainthood. Not nominal least common denominator mushiness, mind you, but full on sainthood:
  • Do not lie in bed beyond the due time of rising;
  • give your first thoughts to God;
  • make a good visit to the Blessed Sacrament;
  • say the Angelus devoutly;
  • eat and drink to God’s glory;
  • say the Rosary well;
  • be recollected; keep out bad thoughts;
  • make your evening meditation well;
  • examine yourself daily;
  • go to bed in good time, and you are already perfect.

To this I would add this simple rule, offered by Alexander Schmemann in his journals (Mindul that he was writing privately, but to a hypothetical reader who was craving monastic obedience as the magic panacea for whatever it is that ails you):

  • get a job, if possible the simplest one, without creativity (for example as a cashier in a bank);
  • while working, pray and seek inner peace; do no get angry; do not think of yourself (rights, fairness, etc.). Accept everyone (coworkers, clients) as someone sent to you; pray for them;
  • after paying for a modest apartment and groceries, give your money to the poor; to individuals rather than foundations;
  • always go to the same church and there try to be a real helper, not by lecturing about spiritual life or icons, not by teaching but with a “dust rag” (cf. St Seraphim of Sarov). Keep at that kind of service and be–in church matters–totally obedient to the parish priest.
  • do not thrust yourself and your service on anyone; do not be sad that your talents are not being used; be helpful; serve where needed and not where you think you are needed;
  • read and learn as much as you can; do not read only monastic literature, but broadly (this point needs more precise definition);
  • if friends and acquaintances invite you because they are close to you–go; but not too often, and within reason. Never stay more than one and a half or two hours. After that the friendliest atmosphere becomes harmful;
  • dress like everybody else, but modestly, and without visible signs of a special spiritual life;
  • be always simple, light, joyous. Do not teach. Avoid like the plague any “spiritual” conversations and any religious or churchly idle talk. If you act that way, everything will be to your benefit;
  • do not seek a spiritual elder or guide. If he is needed, God will send him, and will send him when needed;
  • having worked and served this way for ten years–no less–ask God whether you should continue to live this way, or whether change is needed. And wait for an answer: it will come; the signs will be “joy and peace in the Holy Spirit.”
You can grow and use all your gifts this way. 

And if you can’t then try again. Be faithful in piety and love, God will give you ways to use your gifts and you will see them and fulfill them.

Give me oil in my lamp keep me burnin…


Today’s Readings:

Et quæ paratæ erant, intraverunt cum eo ad nuptias, et clausa est janua.
Those who were ready went into the wedding feast with him. Then the door was locked.
Matthew 25:10
There’s a reason this is a wedding feast, above and beyond any of the other possible events: you don’t come late, or poorly dressed, to a wedding feast. You just don’t. When you do, it’s a country music song, and it’s a hit… because you don’t do it.

But we’re an egalitarian society (or we pretend to be) and it’s perfectly alright to show up to the wedding late – it’s just a religious sham anyway. Let me in to the party, dang it.
It’s just not nice to keep people locked out just because they ran out of oil or, to be honest, the oil was running low. But it wasn’t gone. They just wanted to borrow some. Those selfish prigs said no.
So – to do honor to the bridegroom – they ran out to buy some (on the chance, mind you, that they would run out… they hadn’t run out yet…)
And that manipulative scum of a boyfriend locked them out.
At least that’s what it sounds like to us modern folks. Those five women with no oil do not know how lucky they are! They are only pounding on the door because the have been acculturated to do so. What they need is a vacation in the good old US of A.  We know how to treat guests here.
But I think we miss a major lesson in the first verse of this chapter. Tunc simile erit regnum cælorum decem virginibus. The kingdom of heaven is like ten virgins. Before the Parousia, all these people are the Church together. The kingdom of heaven is the Church.
The foolish virgins are just as much a part of this party as the wise ones. The foolish ones heard the same teachings as the wise ones. They worshipped the same God, had the same sacraments, celebrated the same feasts as the wise ones. They got distracted though. They decided the bridegroom wasn’t coming. They had all day to get ready. They had all night to rest up. Instead though, they neither got ready nor did their shopping early. When the time came, they could have bothered. They didn’t though. But now that he’s here… now they think better get ready.
All of Christianity seems to divide into these wise and foolish virgins. I’ve met wise ones and foolish ones in the UMC, the ECUSA, the PCUSA, the OCA, the AOCANA, and the RCC. I’ve met them both in the nondenominational world, and in the indy Cath world.
Across the board, in each one of these groups, there’s a group that is all sticklers for the particulars that make one a Roman Catholic as compared to the OCA. There’s an Organization that will tell you what is special about ECUSA as compared to the ELCA, or why the UMC is unique among the churches. And in each body there’s a second group that doesn’t do that very well at all. Their uniform doctrine is “let’s all get along, none of that matters.” Whilst claiming the name Christian, after a while they even let go of nearly everything that identifies a Christian as one: beginning with our uniform and historic focus on sexual purity (viz teachings on sex outside of sacramental marriage, birth control, abortion, and divorce) and progressing right up to the foundational dogmas of Trinity, Incarnation, and Eucharist. All Foolish Virgins are all alike. Across the board. The sticklers can’t seem to agree on if there is such a thing as baptismal regeneration, but they know Jesus is God in the Flesh.
I know I’ve staked my soul on the teachings of the Catholic Church, but I have rather more in common with someone who has made the same stake on Luther or Cramner than I do with someone who supports the Concordat. All foolish virgins are all alike, and they are all boring. I’ve been in all these places and lots of people asleep in the light.
This is why the foolish virgins are knocking on the the door and asking to be let in: they know what they are missing. They remember the promises that are made at baptism. They have heard the legitimate teachings of the faith all their lives. Yet they rejected them, walked away, found other teachers that would satisfy them by saying things like ‘that’s not a sin’ and ‘do whatever you want, but just love…” But they knew it wasn’t the Church. They knew, inside, that there was a place they were supposed to be.
And in the end, too late.  They made so many choices, picked their way through so many things, that, that sudden realization that oh, it’s all true…

The Voices in My Head


Today’s Readings:

Vigilate ergo, quia nescitis qua hora Dominus vester venturus sit.
Stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come.
Matthew 24:42
I have my phone, essentially, turned off all the time. I have my spam filters on high on my email. I never answer the phone if I don’t know who is calling (caller ID is our friend) and never open emails unless something is supposed to be here, now, about that thing there. 
So why do I accept ideas no matter what they offer?
I know a lot of people (perhaps you do, too) who say they might miss an important email or call. They talk to anyone who rings the phone, they open and click around in every email.
They also get viruses and get hacked a lot.
In NYC, there were these people that would hear their apartment door buzz and just press the “open” button: buzzing in whomever was there. They never worried about this door person robbing them – they were home, big and strong. But, really, the people in danger were the elderly and the alone in the other apartments. Someone would hear a knock on the door and then get beat up. Or someone would turn a dark corner in the stairwell. Boom.
Letting in anything and anyone is a recipe for danger in a lot of cases. In today’s parable, Jesus uses the same word he will, later, use in the Garden. (Matthew 26:40) “Could you not watch with me?” and St Peter will use this word in his Epistle, telling us to “be sober and vigilant.” (1 Peter 5:8) And at the end of time, it is the word used to remind us, “Blessed is he that watcheth”. (Revelation 16:15)
The Greek is γρηγορέω grégoreó. The Latin is Vigilate. Although it means “vigilant” and “Wakeful” and “Watchful”. Just as “falling asleep” means “dying” this also means “Alive.”  I think The NABRE gets the message best with “STAY AWAKE!” Heads up, eyes bright! Keep the homefires burning.
You don’t know when Jesus is coming back, stay on your toes.
That sounds like “Jesus is coming, look busy.” In fact, there’s something else before this – at least in St Peter’s text, it’s “Be sober”.
The Parable of the Wicked Servant who goes out and abuses the others needs to be thought of as something out of Inside Out, or Ratatouille, or the granddaddy of the concept, Herman’s Head. Think, as well, of this verse from the Psalms:
Blessed be he that shall take and dash thy little ones against the rock. (136:9), the wicked servant is doing the same thing… but he’s doing it to the wrong things.
The Fathers saw that passage from the Psalms as referring to taking wicked thought and dashing them against the Rock of Christ. By staying awake and sober we catch the evil thoughts as they begin and dash them in pieces against Jesus.
The reverse is when we let the wicked servant (our passions) get in there and dash everyone else about and bully them into submission to his lust (or pride, or envy, or greed..) If the wicked servant is running the show, when Jesus shows up, it’s too late. But if we are sober, vigilant, AWAKE, we can catch these things before the get in motion, at all.
Frederica Mathewes-Green once compared evil thoughts to messages tied to rocks thrown through the windows of our mind by the evil ones. The trick is to pick up the rocks and throw them back out without reading the messages: to get the stuff out of your mental house before it infects other things. We each know how quick that can be, I think, although the time will be different depending on the situation, the sin, the setting. The ramp is short and sweet: oh, hey, look at this.. that sounds fun.. omg… too late.
It’s like that for sex and anger for me, anyway.
So, you don’t open and click on all the emails. You don’t answer your phone all the time. Why do you respond to this?
Letting the wicked servant beat up everyone, getting his own way, it a bad place to be in. The servant gets used to running the show. Everyone else gets used to being bullied. In the end, no one get’s what they need or want. Even the bully misses out. (Only Satan gets lucky.) Being watchful, all the time, is how it’s avoided (being sober is the way to be watchful, but that’s another essay.)

All comes from God

via GIPHYToday’s Readings:

Ita loquimur non quasi hominibus placentes, sed Deo, qui probat corda nostra.
Even so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God, who proveth our hearts.
1 Thessalonians 2:4b

In thinking about this passage in the context of St John’s decollation I was thinking about how many times St John is pictured as yelling (especially in motion pictures). It’s not enough that John say the truth, he has to yell it out. Herod: you’re an adulterer. Herodias, you’re committing incest. That could have been whispered and his head would come off. The weak are ever afraid of the truth. The emperor’s new something or other.

Today’s world is no less volatile, yet we imagine that we are all emperors, each of us with our fragile little egos inflated, waiting to be popped by a neighbor so that we can yell, “Off with their head!” And so how often do we speak as pleasing men (at all). I’m not talking about topics like sex and marriage here. I’m talking about all the ways we cater to those over us, to those whom we don’t care to bother, offend, engage…

Yesterday I was sitting on a bus with a friend. We were discussing food and things when two teenagers sate down across from us. They were unable to cope with our high falutin topic and so began to make fun of us. This bothered me to no end. So I clammed up. My friend continued talking about beers and such, but I was rather monosyllabic until the kids left the bus.

That was my pride coming into play. But that what it is when we speak to please men: it’s always our pride. How is it so? When we are only concerned for our Job, or our care for the family, or not wanting to get into arguments, or what not… how is it prideful to say something that keeps the peace? If the legitimate issue is “To keep the peace” there may be hope here, but most time it’s not to keep the peace so much as to not cause trouble, or, to not get into trouble. Fear is pride in another form. How so: I don’t want to do anything here that I can’t control. Especially if it’s a matter of moral or truthfulness, I should always trust God when I speak up for his side of the equation. But even when it’s not so important, not trusting my personal safety and my life (in all respects) to God seems… prideful.

This is not the same thing as “God will bless me because I’m his child” nor is it the Prosperity Gospel or any other form of it. Rather this is saying God will bring all things to my salvation. It’s ok. I’m in his hands. Even so, we are commanded to speak with prudence, charity, and a care for the weakest brethren.

So, if you’ve reached sme sort of decision, something that needs to be said, or you’re engaged in a good heart to heart with a friend and just can’t bring yourself to say one thing, or you disengage from a conversation because your companion is oblivious to the snarky kids; then you have started to pay attention to men rather than God.

Now, what has any of these things to do with St Paul or with St John’s head?

If you cave on the little things, you will cave on the big ones. If you’ve done no practicing at all on not letting pride and fear run you life when the going is awkward then when the going is rough, you’ll hide in your pride and fear all the more faster.

I was reading Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman yesterday afternoon, his Meditations and Devotions. This prayer speaks to this theme, I believe:

O, my God, I will put myself without reserve into Thy hands. Wealth or woe, joy or sorrow, friends or bereavement, honour or humiliation, good report or ill report, comfort or discomfort, Thy presence or the hiding of Thy countenance, all is good if it comes from Thee. Thou art wisdom and Thou art love — what can I desire more ? Thou hast led me in Thy counsel, and with glory hast Thou received me. What have I in heaven, and apart from Thee what want I upon earth ? My flesh and my heart faileth : but God is the God of my heart, and my portion for ever.

That line, “Wealth or woe, joy or sorrow, friends or bereavement, honour or humiliation, good report or ill report, comfort or discomfort, Thy presence or the hiding of Thy countenance, all is good if it comes from Thee.” How unlike us is that line… “It’s all good if it comes from God.”

We do like to think some things come from God. But what about those other things? Clearly that’s Satan.

But no: it’s all coming from God. Certainly God works with our Free Will, but that said, how many times do we run away from something we’re afraid of simply because it’s out of our hands? How many times do we not want something, do we walk away from higher, more difficult, and because I want to indulge my fears or my social hopes; because it’s not in our control?

King, Country, & a la Carte Catholicism

Today’s readings:

I will thrust you from your office and pull you down from your station. On that day I will summon my servant Eliakim, son of Hilkiah; I will clothe him with your robe, and gird him with your sash, and give over to him your authority.
Isaiah 22:19-21a
I joined the Holy Name Society a couple of weeks ago. Actually, I had quite the week: joining Holy Name, Angelic Warfare, and the Rosary Confraternities. As all three of those societies are under the O.P. it was a Dominican Trifecta! 
The Holy Name Society, though, was a bit of a surprise to me. Here’s a part of the Holy Name Society pledge:

In honor of His Divine Name
I pledge myself against perjury,
Blasphemy, profanity and obscene speech.
I pledge my loyalty
To the flag of my country.
And to the God given principles
Of freedom, justice and happiness.
For which it stands.
I pledge my support
To all lawful authority
Both civil and religious.

Adopted in 1937, we were not really fighting anyone yet, neither communists or fascists. But we (Catholics) were dealing with a lot hate-filled sentiment that imagined we were out to try to get the Pope to rule the nation. We were happy to even promise that was not the case.

Even today, however, the Catechism of the Church teaches, The authority required by the moral order derives from God: “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore he who resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.” (❡1899) And again, “God’s fourth commandment also enjoins us to honor all who for our good have received authority in society from God.” (2234)

Once upon a time President G. W. Bush claimed God put him in office. This is true. It is equally true of Mr Obama. And Mr Trump. God’s providential mercy has left us here on purpose. We don’t get the leaders we deserve, because God is merciful. We get the leaders we need to work out our salvation in fear and trembling.

A lot (a majority?) of us want peace, stability, equality, liberty, and fraternity. God wants us saved.

So we Catholics honor the leaders God gave us.

But what about when they are idiots?

Well, we got, really, only two choices. The commandment is clear: Honor the idiot anyway because God said so.

And there’s the entirety of today’s reading from Romans:

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How inscrutable are his judgments and how unsearchable his ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord or who has been his counselor? Or who has given the Lord anything that he may be repaid? For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

Elsewhere St Paul says, “All things work for our good.” So, mindful he was saying that under Nero the Nutty, I think we’re in good shape to be saying the same thing under Our Orange Mr Bultitude.  We just don’t know how. And we have to admit that we don’t know. We have to trust that, like in Isaiah’s text, God’s totally got this. “I will thrust you from your office and pull you down from your station.” When we pray, we can be heard. Plus we have another leader. If the Church is the Kingdom of God, by which template all earthly kingdoms are judged, then we have a leader above all other leaders, one we should follow no matter what.

But we don’t like to, do we?

On the left are those who reject the Church’s teaching on Sex, on the right those who reject the Church’s teachings on economy. Avarice (greed) is a much a sin as Lust and usury will damn you near as quick as fornication. What are we to do when our political choices are between the forces of Amoral Economic Justice with Lust, or Sexual Purity with Amoral Greed?

We must live our lives secure in our faith: those who pick one side over the other, giving up half the goods offered us by God, have already lost the struggle.

And so we come in the Gospel to our Foundation.

Tu es Petros.
Hier stehe ich.