In which I find myself agreeing with Jack Chick…

The NABRE text might as well say, “Jesus only rolled his eyes and said ‘Oy’ whilst making a ‘W’ with his fingers.”


The Readings for the Feast of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, Virgin & Doctor
Tuesday in the 26th Week, Tempus per Annum (C1)

Et conversus increpavit illos, dicens : Nescitis cujus spiritus estis. Filius hominis non venit animas perdere, sed salvare. Et abierunt in aliud castellum.
And turning, he rebuked them, saying: You know not of what spirit you are. The Son of man came not to destroy souls, but to save. And they went into another town.

I have no idea why these verses are missing from the NABRE. Research indicates they are missing from the RSV with a note that “other ancient authorities” have them. So they are in the Vulgate and in the Textus Receptus, in the Douay and in the KJV. I think this may be a valid variant: otherwise we have an odd moment where Jesus rebukes someone but we are not told what was said.

Jesus wants to proclaim the good news to this village but because of their sectarian politics, they won’t even let him in the gate. John, the Beloved, wants to call down fire from heaven. The NABRE text might as well say, “Jesus only rolled his eyes and said ‘Oy’ whilst making a ‘W’ with his fingers.” Instead, Jesus responds, “I didn’t come to destroy but to save.”

There’s a lot of folks today who want to call down fire. They are angry at stuff in the church, they are angry at stuff in the world. However, like John, our anger is misplaced. It’s not the people we’re fighting with. We’re trying to save the people: unto their last breath, we should be working and praying for their salvation: praying, loving, preaching, teaching, and being Church as we model the kingdom and God’s love for them. Jesus did not come to destroy but to heal, the Greek uses the word σῴζω Sozo which means “heal” and “save”.

We can’t do God’s Kingdom if we insist on doing things that Jesus wouldn’t be doing. How many radical activists (of any extreme variety) are born because we fail to be the Kingdom of God? Yes, I know that the sex scandal drives many away from the Church and our doctrines are, themselves, the cause of anger. The Truth will do that. Read about this protest in St Patrick’s Cathedral in NYC.

Most folks rejecting the Gospel are not doing what happened in NYC or even recently in Mexico City. Rather I mean how many terrorists were born in Ireland because the Church was failing the people by siding with their wealthy oppressors? How many more when the Church supported the Fascists in Spain? How many more are lost when political power drives the Church in Russia, the US, in Germany, to side with hypocrisy for the sake of fancy watches, dinner invites, and “being seen”? When the future founder of the Muslim Brotherhood spent two years in the US, how did we fail to model the Kingdom and draw him in? What would have happened if we hadn’t allowed Christianity to be equated with middle class, white, mid-century values?

St Therese’s feast is perfect for this passage. She says, “Love proves itself by deeds, so how am I to show my love? Great deeds are forbidden me. The only way I can prove my love is by scattering flowers and these flowers are every little sacrifice, every glance and word, and the doing of the least actions for love.” Rather than calling down fire, she asks us to pray for sinners in this way in her Holy Face Prayer for Sinners:

Eternal Father, since Thou hast given me for my inheritance the adorable Face of Thy Divine Son, I offer that face to Thee and I beg Thee, in exchange for this coin of infinite value, to forget the ingratitude of souls dedicated to Thee and to pardon all poor sinners.

It’s easy to blame the people in Samaria for rejecting Jesus because of their sectarian politics. John wanted to blame them. Jesus had other plans though. When the fire came from heaven at Pentecost it saved Samaria and the whole world.

Although the protesters in NYC were way out of line not everyone is acting like that. When someone in the middle of their journey rejects the Gospel is it sometimes possible that it is because we didn’t offer the Gospel in the first place?

By way of Postscript: My friend and sometime BYOB Theology Co-Host, Drew Ludwig, has shared this article about the missing verses via Twitter. There are several ancient texts (of great import) that do not contain the missing verses.

War, Sex, and Weather

The more wealth Israel accumulated, the more injustice they practiced. The one begot the other which begot more of the first.


The Readings for the 26th Sunday Tempus per Annum (C1)

Vae qui opulenti estis in Sion… Quapropter nunc migrabunt in capite transmigrantium, et auferetur factio lascivientium.
Woe to the wealthy in Zion... Wherefore now they shall go captive at the head of them that go into captivity: and the faction of the luxurious ones shall be taken away.

Amos really has it in for these folks. Who are “these folks” though? Amos was from Judah (the south), but, in fact, he preached mostly in the north. He preached to or about just about all of the folks in what we now think of as Palestine: passages are addressed to the rich folks in Israel (the northern tribes) the rich folks in Samaria, and to the rich folks in Jerusalem. So, while it is sometimes astute to soften the blow of this prophet by saying, well he was talking to people in Samaria in Chapter 6, but we can learn… Fact is, he was talking to The Rich who lived there. To The Rich who there (and everywhere) have the same problems.

But Amos’ problem wasn’t with the riches of The Rich. We do Amos a huge disservice when we think he’s talking about “the wealth of the rich and the poverty of poor”. The NABRE refers to the “complacent” which is technically ok. But it avoids the fact that Amos is talking about those who have enough money to – as the Hebrew says – “be at ease”. The Latin cuts right to the quick and says, “The Rich”. We need to see the context of the problem: which is that Amos is talking about how the wealthy are treating the poor, misusing their riches because of idolatry. Wealth, per se, is not the problem. In the Hebrew prophets, both the rich and the poor have obligations in God’s world. Straying from God’s path into idolatry always means injustice: Falling out of right relationship with God results in falling out of right relationship with people.

The people of the Northern Tribes, following the example of their king, had begun to worship the local deities of Anat, Asherah, and Baal. The goddess of War, the goddess of Sex, and the god of the Weather.

War, sex, weather: worshipping these had made the northern tribes very wealthy indeed. And the more wealth they accumulated, the more injustice they practiced. The one begot the other which begot more of the first. We know this to still be true: it’s the addictive cycle of sin. We do something and it feels good, so we want to do it again. We make allowances in our lives do to it again, and, before we know it, we are ordering our lives around feeling good. We cut off things that make us feel bad – then we cut off things that make us feel bad about feeling good. Our entire modus operandi becomes feeling good. But what if what “feels good” is, itself, bad?

War, sex, and weather. Three cornerstones of our current cultural climate outside and inside the church really.

We love war. Even if we don’t want a new Land War in Asia, even our peace prize-winning President was a warmonger. We have a war on drugs, a war on poverty, both of which became a war on the poor. We have military actions around the world that destroy and disrupt the lives of the poor – who cannot afford to get out of our way. We love to use the technology of war, in the hands of police and civilians, against the poor: through surveillance and physical harm. We do all of this to protect our wealth.

Even in the Church, where we should study war no more, we find ourselves supporting much of this – even cheering on wars that support Israel against our Christian brothers and sisters who made the unfortunate choice to be born in Palestine. And we support a new warmonger Because of the Judges™. We love war.

Sex needs no introduction, but we do love it. We are obsessed with it both inside and beyond the Church. I don’t mean that in the correct theological way where we welcome the divine gift and treat it as the blessed sacrament that it is. If recent revelations are indicative of the deep waters of the Church, we have been very happy, as a community, to turn our eyes away from sexual sins so that we might enjoy our own peccadillos. The culture that gave us “Catholics for Choice” to destroy children is the same culture that gave us clergy who do the same. The same culture that gives us Jim Martin gives us Cardinal McCarrick.

Beyond the Church, our sexual economy destroys the poor around the world, at home with porn production and addiction, abroad with trafficking and disease. And we try – at all costs – to colonize other lands as modern-day, sexual conquistadors committing culture destruction by our imperialist ideas of autonomy and amorality. We love sex. It’s our basic ID card and our tombstone. And sex is nearly always about wealth and power: only the wealthy can afford the “choices” that make their lack of responsibility possible. Only the poor have no choice when it comes to objectification. Only the rich can afford to make and unmake life choices over and over.

Weather: surely we don’t worship Baal, the god of thunder. Yet weather is part of the culture of injustice. Look at pictures of NYC in the 70s and see the smog. That smog is gone now. Why? All the factories and industries that used to be in NYC (and all their jobs) are now in the third world when we can pay less and pollute their skies instead of ours. And we’ve made NYC so clean that we’ve raised the rents and driven out the poor. We are terrified of global climate change, yet we’re culturally unable to address the root cause which is not our consumption of things, but rather our consumption of the poor. We are happy to move our water, earth, and air pollution to other parts of the world. China even gets our garbage – because the idea of recycled toilet paper bothers us. When we do accept the need for change, we still foist our worst choices on the poor. We tell them not to eat meat, yet “plant-based” foods are filled with chemicals in other parts of the world from our industrialization. We rob the world of health and then tell them to eat better or else climate change is their fault.

We worship weather: and neither our fear of climate change nor our indifference to it will let us care for the poor. Amos would have choice words for us, telling us we’ll be the first. It’s not our riches that condemn us: it’s our failure to participate in God’s self-giving. The Fathers tell us the only reason we have wealth is to share it with the poor. God’s self-giving is called kenosis in the Greek. His grace allows us to pour out our selves in slavish labor for to give all our wealth away to the poor. But we need more furniture, you know, and more cheap plastic junk from Wal*Mart, and organic farm produce which we won’t pay a fair price for – preventing the farmer or industrialist from being able to do his job with workers justly paid.

When Jesus tells the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, the rich man has no name: only money. He ignores the poor man: but he knows his name. How is this? He mentions him by name in the next life. In fact, there are two things condemning him here: he clearly knows his name. But instead of doing what we would do – see a friend (or acquaintance) and ask him to speak to someone in power on our behalf, the rich man addresses Abraham and asks him to put Lazarus to work on his behalf. Even in hell, the rich man cannot bring himself to love the poor – only to order them around. His failure to use his wealth in the ways of justice and righteousness has ruined his relationship with neighbor and, so, with God. Rejecting the latter and the former in favor of comfort and pride, he has found he has nothing.

This is us, worshipping sex, war, and weather from our ivory keyboards stretched on our padded deck chairs…

While the Titanic sinks with us, into hell.

The Greatest Adventure


The Readings for the Memorial of Francis of Assisi
Thursday in the 26th Week of Ordinary Time (B2)

Ite : ecce ego mitto vos sicut agnos inter lupos. Nolite portare sacculum, neque peram, neque calceamenta.
Go: Behold I send you as lambs among wolves. Carry neither purse, nor scrip, nor shoes.

Mister Bilbo Baggins ran out of his house one fine Spring morning with no hat, no stick, no coat, not even a pocket handkerchief! How can one survive? He asked. He had been roused from his sleepy life by a Sorcier Provocateur and ran off to rescue some treasure on behalf of 13 dwarves he had just met. Yes, there was a promise of reward, and sure, there was the treat of death. But at heart was a new

…love of beautiful things.
To go and see the great mountains…
…and hear the pine trees
and waterfalls.
To wear a sword instead of a walking stick.
Just once.

A chapter later, standing in rain trying to pick the pockets of a troll, the formerly staid and middle class Mr Baggins realizes he’s come a far way from home, indeed, although he’s only a week or two’s journey out.

And then, only a few pages later, standing in the dark, talking to someone he cannot see, he says,

I’ve lost my dwarves, my wizard, and my way.

It may seem odd to consider this children’s story on the Feast of St Francis, but I’m familiar with both stories – from about the exact same time in my life – and I think they run a sharp parallel. About the time I fell in love with the Hobbit, I met for the first time my cousin, Greg, who was a novice in the Conventual Franciscan Order. I remember reading my first book about the Life of St Francis just after that. This is 1977. Yet, only in my most recent read through The Hobbit (just a month ago did I notice: the Hobbit takes the light half of the year, beginning in mid-April and ending with the Battle of Five Armies in late November of that same year. (The main story arc for the sequel, The Lord of the Rings, begins in Late September and ends in March of the following Spring, thereby covering the dark half of the year.) In the course of the Summer, the Hobbit “dies” to his old self, then slays the dragon, and returns home loaded with riches, returning to find even his home looted and all his goods sold off.

The Hobbit, written by a pious Catholic, is not allegory not at all. But it is a very solid building built of very Catholic bricks. Bilbo travels the Via Negativa, giving up his staid life and becoming a hero. It’s the sort of story that Francis, with his love of Trouveres and Troubadours, would have greatly enjoyed.

And so Francis, reading the passage we have today, where Christ sent them out with neither purse, nor scrip, nor shoes takes it all quite literally and strips himself bare in front of his father and the entire village, saying “Henceforth I will have God as my Father and the Church as my Mother.” And he, too, set out on a strange journey, giving up everything he had, slays the dragon of sin, and wins the riches of Christ. He has no home to return to, since he has given it all away.

A Jungian or a follower of Joseph Campbell might read The Hobbit and find himself saying “We must all take this journey.” Francis, I think, would agree. But the modern, secular, mythologist or therapist would not care what we lost and what we gained. Francis would care that we lost everything and gained Christ.

That is the message Francis give us in reality – which Tolkien only does in sign.

To find Christ is our own goal. He is as near as our neighbor. As near as the leper we won’t touch, as near as the woman smelling of urine on the bus.

But we must let go of everything that stands between us and Christ. We must drop the middle class crap, the idea of class and snobbery, we must kill the dragon of pride and greed, we must in the end, give up even our sight, our defense, our certainty. There, in the dark we will will find Christ – who has been waiting, searching, longing for us.

St Francis, at the end of his life found Christ coming to him, to make the hidden marks upon his soul to wound his flesh visibly. And the very type of Christ that he had become inwardly was now seen beyond.

And as we, too, are conformed to Christ, here, or later, we will see him.

The Prophet St Job assures us:

For I know that my Redeemer lives,
and at last he will stand upon the earth;
and after my skin has been thus destroyed,
then from my flesh I shall see God,
whom I shall see on my side,
and my eyes shall behold, and not another.

Process that: when my skin is destroyed, even then, in my very flesh I shall see God. The Flesh may die, but I shall stand in my flesh before God, my Redeemer.

That’s the greatest adventure: to go through all the trials and loves, the losses and victories of this world to die and then, in my flesh, to see God face to face.

Yes, Virginia, there are Angels. OK, Maryland.


The Readings for the Memorial of the Guardian Angels
Tuesday in the 26th Week of Ordinary Time (B2)

Videte ne contemnatis unum ex his pusillis : dico enim vobis, quia angeli eorum in caelis semper vident faciem Patris mei, qui in caelis est.
See that you despise not one of these little ones: for I say to you, that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father who is in heaven. 
When I was 2, I wondered away from my grandmother’s front porch. I made it all the way to the corner by the Presbyterian Church in Fort Gaines, GA. This was a full block away. I was standing on the corner watching the traffic – I wasn’t on the sidewalk. I was on the curb – when my grandfather, coming home from work yelled at me out of his car window. 

I ran all the way back to a switching on the porch. God only know what could have happened to me standing on the corner there. But thank God Grandpa showed up! (I didn’t think so at the time, because no one likes a switch…)
That every individual soul has a guardian angel has never been defined by the Church, and is, consequently, not an article of faith; but it is the “mind of the Church”, as St. Jerome expressed it: “how great the dignity of the soul, since each one has from his birth an angel commissioned to guard it.” (Comm. in Matt., xviii, lib. II). St Basil says, “Beside each believer stands an angel as protector and shepherd leading him to life.” And the Catechism, citing St Basil, adds, “Already here on earth the Christian life shares by faith in the blessed company of angels and men united in God.”
These angels… 
I told this story the other day, about getting caught in a blizzard on the freeway and I had forgotten it entirely. Its never come up since it happened (in January, I think, of 2007). I was driving from Hamilton, Ontario, to Richmond, Virginia. I had stopped at a rest area in Maryland to get a nap. It was a lovely night. When I awoke there were about 3 inches of snow on my car… carefully backing out and moving along the freeway, there were about 8 inches within an hour. I was going about 15 miles an hour and there was no one on the highway but me. Ok, I’m stupid. There are no hotels, no gas stations… nothing.
This 18 wheeler comes along side of me… and then pulls in front of me…  then  slows down to match my speed. It was a lot easier driving in one of his tracks, let me tell you. We’re going down a mountain and the truck turns on a blinker. I’m not stupid by this point I do the same thing. I follow the truck off on a ramp. We get to the intersection at the ramp and he signals a right turn. I do the same. He drives into the intersection, and I turn right… and he goes off through the other ramp back on to the freeway. I look, and there’s a hotel. 
That’s my impression of how guardian angels work. And no, I’m not saying that the Trucker was actually an Angel. Nor my grandfather. But something made that truckdriver act that way, even though I’m sure that he only used his CB to locate a hotel and led me there. Something brought my grandfather home at exactly the right moment – or maybe kept me safe until he go there.
That’s an Angel acting their part.
Mine stays very busy.
Here’s a performance of Britten’s The Company of Heaven. It’s one of my faves…

Fisking St James


The Readings for the 26th Sunday of Ordinary Time (B2)

Come now, you rich, weep and wail over your impending miseries.

Remember that we – in the USA – are the rich. Doesn’t matter how much you earn, doesn’t matter how much you make or how many kids you have. Married? Single? On Welfare? If you’re reading this over the internet you have more money than huge swathes of the world. 

Your wealth has rotted away, your clothes have become moth-eaten, your gold and silver have corroded,

Yet, you know it’s worthless. You know it has no power to buy happiness, no power to buy love. You know it can facsimilate both. And you’re probably ok, at least sometimes, with the imitations. They are not so expensive as to be prohibitive.

and that corrosion will be a testimony against you;
it will devour your flesh like a fire.

You may know – and not care – or you may not know: they are killing your soul. Each indulgence in those facsimiles preps you for hell. We have only two choices in this world: practice for living in heaven or practice for living in hell.

You have stored up treasure for the last days.

Which will it be? Heavenly treasure or hellish? You may enjoy either – but it will be in the same place, for you will be in the eternal presence of God.  God is a consuming fire: will it mean that you are holy fire yourself or will you be consumed?

Behold, the wages you withheld from the workers

In Apple’s factories, in the restraunts where you did not tip, in the clothing factoris that filled up WalMart and JC Penny’s, in the factories you closed, the Casinos you shut down, the neighborhoods you gentrified shoving out the poor… 

who harvested your fields are crying aloud;
and the cries of the harvesters
have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts.

In your fields now your food lies rotting because you refused to pays the laborers their due, and now have shut the gates against even the poor whose money you stole. You are surrounded now by the very rot of your wealth.

You have lived on earth in luxury and pleasure;

Yet you did not pay full price. The dirt and pollution of your glut you left for others to clean, your landfills hide your superfluity of filth, your streets are filled with your squalor.

you have fattened your hearts for the day of slaughter.

And when the revolution comes you wil be too fat to run.

You have condemned;
you have murdered the righteous one;

he offers you no resistance.

For he dies in the womb so that you can have a “rich and full life”.