As Children of the Kingdom


The Readings for the 2nd Sunday of Advent (C1)

Exsurge, Jerusalem, et sta in excelso : et circumspice ad orientem, et vide collectos filios tuos ab oriente sole usque ad occidentem, in verbo Sancti, gaudentes Dei memoria. Exierunt enim abs te pedibus ducti ab inimicis : adducet autem illos Dominus ad te portatos in honore sicut filios regni.
Arise, O Jerusalem, and stand on high: and look about towards the east, and behold thy children gathered together from the rising to the setting sun, by the word of the Holy One rejoicing in the remembrance of God. For they went out from thee on foot, led by the enemies: but the Lord will bring them to thee exalted with honour as children of the kingdom. 
Amanuensis to the prophet Jeremiah, Baruch gets rather short shrift in the Protestant recension of the scriptures, while for Catholics, as well as Orthodox and Anglicans, he is a Prophet in his own right. A book excised by the Protestants only 500 years ago bears his name, and it is from this text that we read today. Baruch is writing after the fall of Jerusalem, from within Babylon. It’s only 5 years since the burning of Jerusalem.  
In Advent, we are reminded not only of Jesus coming at his nativity, but also of his final coming at the great unveiling of the ages. But let’s focus on his, if you will, second and continual advent, here, now with us, in the Holy Mysteries.
We are in Exile. There is no other way to say it. This world is Babylon. We are surrounded on all sides by the signs of hedonism, paganism, idolatry, and empire.  Injustice is rampant – and I don’t mean the sort of “give me my rights” whining we talk about today in our first world privilege. I mean God’s justice: where the wealth of the world is not shared, where we allow sin, poverty, pride, and weakness to create systems of oppression. This exile eats at our hearts. We delude ourselves, influenced by Babylonian thinking, that we needn’t do anything because the Empire should do it, and well, yeah, the gov’t isn’t doing anything, so what can we do anyway? Too many people to worry about. Exile corrupts us and makes us think the habits of our oppressors should be ours as well. We take power over others as a sign that we have “won”. We become the embodiment of our own enslavement.
Babylon is winning…
Yet. Here, on this altar, is God himself in silence. Resting. Waiting. He has come as he promised he would. As he came among us in Bethlehem, so now he has come among us today. Weak and helpless, naked and alone, “for sinners here the silent Word is pleading.” This is our God: with us in the midst of Babylon. Here is Jesus, the Kingdom in his very person, sharing himself with us, making the Kingdom present now. This is how God, “the one who began a good work in us will continue to complete it”. This constant presence with us, in us, and through us in the world
And so our God summons us to this altar in the words of Baruch: for here, at this table, is spread a feast for all of God’s children. Here, on God’s board, is home brought to us and we are served by Angels, and hosted here by Divine Hospitality.
Babylon seems to have won, but the Kingdom has summoned us and subverted the Powers. Babylon is winning… only to fall, to be conquered. 
And we know that this feast is not just for us – the initiated. It is for all who come though death to Life, passing the waters of Jordan, and rising up. And all of the Church turns to look in Joy at her Children coming again through her portals.
So with joy let us not only heed but also echo the words of the Prophet. Let us come that our “love may increase ever more and more  in knowledge and every kind of perception, to discern what is of value,  so that we may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ.” As each of us comes to the table, let us not come alone. Bring others, call to them to join the passage to the Kingdom. God has remembered us all, each and every one. 
Arise Jerusalem and stand on high
In the middle of Exile
We are not alone
In the middle of Babylon
We are in the kingdom even so
Though surrounded by darkness
We are fed on the light
And even when forced into slavery
We are the Children of the Kingdom
Jerusalem is here with us now. Exile has ended.

I know I am, but what are You?


The Readings for Thursday 2 Advent (Year 2):
Memorial of Saint John of the Cross, Priest and Doctor of the Church

Egeni et pauperes quærunt aquas, et non sunt; lingua eorum siti aruit. Ego Dominus exaudiam eos, Deus Israël, non derelinquam eos.
The needy and the poor seek for waters, and there are none: their tongue hath been dry with thirst. I the Lord will hear them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them.
I learned yesterday that the San Francisco SPCA, in addition to rescuing hundreds of animals and finding them good homes, has decided to use its charitable donations to purchase robots to roam its parking areas at night to keep the homeless out. The City has decided to fine them $1,000 a day for letting the robot roam about on public sidewalks and streets. Their parking areas are several sections of street parking: not private at all. And, at night, the area is quite deserted. The homeless encamp here now that The City does the massive sweeps to disturb all the tent cities that are about. The homeless logically get to a deserted area and encamp.
And so many of my fellow citizens are scared of the poor who might, you know, need place to sleep. So, logically, a place that cares for animals cannot be a place that cares for humans.
One of the most apocalyptic things in scripture is God’s love for the poor. God uses “the poor” as a sign for his chosen people as if to say, “I chose Israel, yes, but all these poor folks are Israel, even if they are not Jewish. God’s concern, God’s preferential option for the poor, is part of his woundedness over sin. Sin is our blight, and all our evils arise from it. But God is wounded because of it.
The thing that is most evil is the thing in us that allows us to hoard the resources God gave us to steward. Instead of saying “look, here’s some stuff God gave to humans” we say, “look, here’s my stuff.” And we’ve essentially built a culture that says, “if you don’t have the right stuff, you’re not really people.”
Into this, God says, “The poor… This sucks. I’m going to fix this.”
When God says, at the top of the reading, 
I will make of you a threshing sledge,
sharp, new, and double-edged,
To thresh the mountains and crush them,
to make the hills like chaff.
When you winnow them, the wind shall carry them off
and the storm shall scatter them.
But you shall rejoice in the LORD,
and glory in the Holy One of Israel.
That’s terrifying. When God says, “yeah, the poor need something…” he means “I’ll let them tear it all down to get it.” We are the mountains, we are the hills. We – in the first world – are doomed.
Unless we give it to them ourselves, freely, and in love.
We have no one who speaks for the poor. The American left wants to sterilize them. The American right wants to radicalize them and use them for political fodder. Both sides what them to shop, enslave themselves to fatty foods and credit cards, and play the fool in political actions. And we like them divided by color. We want them to think that some poor people are better off than others, even while we keep them all down. 
The poor are scrambling just now, and when God takes them from being a worm to being a threshing sledge, we are going to be so messed up. But it is a sign now, that we are so messed up, that we buy robots to deal with them rather than deal with them face to face. We will take charitable donations and buy robots to deal with the poor, rather than using that same charity to hire the poor to work with animals. 
I’ve never been homeless. I tend to feel poor most of the time, but that’s only because I don’t get paid enough to live like someone who codes for a living. But, to paraphrase my boss in the 80s, “I don’t care: when the revolution comes your ass is rich.”  She said white. But rich is also true – as it will be for her as well. If you’re reading this on a cell phone that wasn’t given to you free at some booth on a street corner, you’re rich. If you own the computer you’re reading this on, you’re rich. The thing about poverty is there’s always someone with less money. Even at $0 I am also debt free.
So: what are we going to do this Advent about the poor?

This time I got away with it! Right?


The Readings for Wednesday 2 Advent (Year 2):
Memorial of St Lucy, Virgin and Martyr

Quare dicis, Jacob, et loqueris, Israël: Abscondita est via mea a Domino, et a Deo meo judicium meum transivit?
Why sayest thou, O Jacob, and speakest, O Israel: My way is hid from the Lord, and my judgment is passed over from my God?

Recently, visiting my parents house for a vacation, I was “triggered” a number of times towards, as the morning prayer says, “my accustomed failings”. But I had just read Matt Frad’s The Porn Myth and he points out that when we are triggered, we need to call it out. When we feel the old patterns of sin forming up we need to say it is so, out loud, verbally (not just think to ourselves) and ask for help. The entire time I was on vacation I named triggers out loud, mostly in the moment. The experiment was a success in that I got home without having any grave matter to worry about.

Of course once I got home, this all fell apart. Work, normal life, riding the bus, and maybe doing things I shouldn’t have, interrupted this process. In sum, vacation gave me time to struggle, but, of course lack of a real schedule disrupted my devotional life. Coming home restored my schedule, but disrupted tye ascesis, the struggle, the jihad.

But God hasn’t punished me yet, so he’s giving me a free pass, right?

Abscondita est via mea a Domino, et a Deo meo judicium meum transivit.

In the Hebrew and the Greek, this verse says, essentially, God’s not watching. He missed me in the judgment. The rest of the passage is God saying “you’re an idiot.” Today we could add a third option: God’s not watching, if he is he has skipped me… and there is no God any way. God still says, “You’re an idiot.” But we do have more choices now… You’ll remember from earlier in the week: God only delays judgement to give us more of a chance to repent.

It’s easy to forget that the purposes of space and time are to work out our salvation. Forgetting that, any delay seems like a reprieve. I don’t need to struggle with sin right now: I’m on vacation. I don’t have time to pray right now, I have to go to work. I can feed the poor later. I can say I love you, Dad, tomorrow. 

Today, though, is the day of salvation; because today is judgement day. If we think in theological terms, God is outside of Time. God is omnipresent in time as well as space. Judgement day is happening for God at the same “time” as my next sin. Judgement is happening now. Today is the day to be damned. Today is the day to be saved.

God does not delay, as some of us imagine delay. God sees our every action – not only our sins but also our repentance. Why not make the struggle glorious today, brother? Why not destroy that sin today? Why not wage war against the unfleshly powers of evil in heavenly places by destroying their hold on you today? My way is not hid from the Lord, in fact, quite the reverse. And so he loves you even still.

Why not say I love you today?

Send the Rich Away.


The Readings for Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe (Tuesday 2 Advent):
Et signum magnum apparuit in cælo: mulier amicta sole, et luna sub pedibus ejus, et in capite ejus corona stellarum duodecim…
And a great sign appeared in heaven: A woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars…
This image from the book of the Apocalypse, I remember that the famous Protestant End-Times teacher, Hal Lindsey, had the darnedest time reading this image. He realized, of course, that the child born to the woman was Jesus. But who could the woman be? He finally came up with the tortured idea that she was Israel. I mean, right? Jesus was a Jew, so…
Lindsey, good Neocon that he is, also used that wonky reading to build up his idea that America should continue to politically invest in Israel. This was such a common idea among American Evangelicals that when, in the early 1980s, a group of Evangelicals converted en masse to Orthodoxy, joining the Antiochian (Syrian) Orthodox Church, they demanded Metropolitan Philip (R.I.P.) confirm Israel’s right to exist. I’m not sure how the Metropolitan did that, but the political hangovers from that era of American Politics still haunt us. And they haunt our Christian Brothers and Sisters in the occupied lands of the Fertile Crescent as well. 
Of course, the historic Christian Reading is that the Woman Clothed with the Sun is the Virgin Mary. She was dressed that way in Mexico as well and so the Virgin of Guadalupe is a sign of something that haunts us too. 
She is brown.
She is “dark and comely” as Solomon says.
She’s not white.
Worse, in her brown self, she is the Patroness of the Americas. Yes, the Immaculate Conception is Patroness of the USA, but this brown teenager is the Patroness of everything in this stolen land from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego. And never let a white boy forget that.
She is a sign that the Kingdom of God is way bigger than our politics. She is a sign we Americans tend, at heart, to be Partisans, rather than Catholic.
How do I mean that?
There are several ways to be Partisans:
I will only vote for/support one political party no matter what is happening, no matter who their nominees are.
I will use my understanding of the National interest (and political process) to critique the Church’s teachings.
I will highlight one teaching of the church – to the exclusion of all others – just so I can feel good about/justify my support – and belittle others for their lack of support.
I will use my political point of view to deny that others are really Catholic, or even really Christian.
This partisan thinking really is the reverse of Catholicism. It’s really the Anti-Catholicism, the reverse of our faith which name means “whole” or “universal”. The only way to be Catholic at all is, essentially, to reverse all those partisan processes: 
Recognizing that we are Catholics who live in the world but are not of it, we also live in nations but are not of them. We will use all of the Church’s teachings to critique every political moment in our culture and nation – and in other cultures and nations – to the end of bringing all people into the Kingdom of God’s justice, peace, righteousness, and love in this time, on this world, here and now.
In our present state, Guadalupe was a sign from God to the Spanish Conquerors of the Aztecs that the Aztecs were there not for slavery but for salvation: these people are also God’s Children, destined for heaven.
How much more should she be a sign that we – as Christians who live in America – are responsible for the defense of our Catholic brothers and sisters, are responsible for the support, care, love, and even the protection and sanctuary, for theses peoples, whose economic destruction has been wrought by the nation we call home.
And yes, such an action may be contrary to our partisan, national interests and to the law.
As we used to say in school, BFD.
The Woman clothed with the sun is a sign to all Nations that paying attention to the mighty is probably not the best idea. The Magnificat in our Gospel today is a sign that paying attention to the rich is equally bad. The Woman of Tepeyac, raised on the tilma of an Aztec victim of colonial occupation, is a sign that coming from the Richest and Most Powerful nation in the world, we need to bow to the real ruler of the Americas.
The Virgin of Guadalupe has always called out to me. I was overjoyed to find an Orthodox Icon called the Holy Tilma of Tepeyac, put out by a very conservative group of Russian Orthodox Monks. Naturally, there’s always someone more conservative out there, willing to know more, be more conservative than even the monks. Obviously the Monks were deluded at best, maybe satanic plants… when one is stirring up hatred for satanic weeds in God’s Church, one always imagines oneself as innocent, well-bred wheat, you know? Anyway: this year I can celebrate her as a Catholic.

MY soul doth magnify the Lord, * and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.
    For he hath regarded * the lowliness of his handmaiden.
    For behold, from henceforth * all generations shall call me blessed.
    For he that is mighty hath magnified me; * and holy is his Name.
    And his mercy is on them that fear him * throughout all generations.
    He hath showed strength with his arm; * he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
    He hath put down the mighty from their seat, * and hath exalted the humble and meek.
    He hath filled the hungry with good things; * and the rich he hath sent empty away.
    He remembering his mercy hath holpen his servant Israel; * as he promised to our forefathers, Abraham and his seed, for ever.

It just fell through, bang smash!


The Readings for Monday 2 Advent (Year 2):
Lætabitur deserta et invia, et exsultabit solitudo, et florebit quasi lilium. Germinans germinabit, et  lætabunda et laudans.
The land that was desolate and impassable shall be glad, and the wilderness shall rejoice, and shall flourish like the lily. It shall bud forth and blossom, and shall rejoice with joy and praise.
The Byzantine Liturgy refers to the “barren church of the Gentiles” being made fruitful by the Gentiles coming to Christ. We are the wasteland made fertile, we are the desert filled up with joy and flowers. We are the promised joy and praise. Sadly, to get here, we had to go through some rough spots: we keep fighting with Israel. Yet, since we are following Israel’s God, we are, also, followers of Israel. 
They are the ones making strong our feeble hands and feet, giving us courage: yet the failure of Israel, first to evangelize as the prophets urged, and then to recognize the promised Messiah when he came, left us in reversed positions: as the Church of the Gentiles blossomed forth, it becomes the means for saving Israel. This also foretold in Isaiah, I think: for the Holy Road to God’s kingdom runs through our lands, our blossoming desert. All the redeemed of the Lord walk on this Gentile Road – not just the Gentiles. Those returning to Zion will walk there, ie, those who have gone astray, but now come home to the Messiah.
But we’re not only evangelizing verbally and with our lives: we are called to evangelize in our prayers. And that’s what the Gospel is about today.
Jesus sees the faith of the friends and says to the man on the stretcher, your sins are forgiven. Because of the faith of the friends.

Who are you bringing before Jesus? I don’t mean you need to physically drag someone to Church (but that can’t hurt!) I mean, in prayer. Who do you bring before Jesus in Eucharistic Adoration? Whom do you plop down before the feet of God himself, in silence?

Apart from our personal witness – that is, our lives, words, piety, etc, I think the two things most effective in obtaining the conversion of sinners are Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, and committing the person to the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin. In this regard, Mary is one of the Friends with us, together we drop our friend through the roof before our Lord.

Whom do you dare bring before the Lord in this way? Whom dare you not so to do?

I think this is crucial, this element of prayer, in the conversion of our friends and family, the conversion of those whom God has placed in our path: we must place them in God’s way. It is our faith that will save our friends. It is our faith that will fill up the desert with life and manifest the blessings of God’s grace to the world.

Flame. It… Flames


The Readings for Sunday 2 Advent (Year B):
Adveniet autem dies Domini ut fur: in quo cæli magno impetu transient, elementa vero calore solventur, terra autem et quæ in ipsa sunt opera, exurentur. 
But the day of the Lord shall come as a thief, in which the heavens shall pass away with great violence, and the elements shall be melted with heat, and the earth and the works which are in it, shall be burnt up.

The Graphic Parts of this reading – which are graphic indeed (more like Raiders of the Lost Ark than Clue) are not the important parts.

The important part precedes the  graphic. 

The Lord is not being dilatory over his promise, as some think; he is only giving you more time, because his will is that all of you should attain repentance, not that some should be lost.

God’s entire purpose is our salvation. Your salvation. God is holding off on the biggest fireworks show ever waiting for you. For me. Come home.

Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling—
  Calling for you and for me;
Patiently Jesus is waiting and watching—
  Watching for you and for me! 

Come home! come home!
  Ye who are weary, come home!
Earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling,
    Calling, O sinner, come home!

The babe in the manger, crying and cooing. How can you turn away? The mother nursing. Joseph watching, benign and serene. Here, in this place of animal fodder and

Behold your God.

In the end, when there are flames and fire, it will be too late. But now, when there is time. The way to Zion is clear. In this desert that is our world, in the waistland of here, our God comes to us with comfort: tender words of mercy.

Why should we tarry when Jesus is pleading—
  Pleading for you and for me?
Why should we linger and heed not His mercies—
  Mercies for you and for me? 

Come home! come home!
  Ye who are weary, come home!
Earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling,
    Calling, O sinner, come home! 

St Peter calls us out: if God is waiting patiently for us to come home and if we are waiting patiently for the world to end in fire, how should we behave? How patient, how loving, how eager to  outdo each other in virtue and humility should we be?

Even though God tarries, we should not. Let us strive together, sister and brother, that together we might win.

Time is now fleeting, the moments are passing—
  Passing from you and from me;
Shadows are gathering, death-beds are coming—
  Coming for you and for me! 

Come home! come home!
  Ye who are weary, come home!
Earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling,
    Calling, O sinner, come home! 

And God’s prophets are even now ascending the steps to heaven, lighting the second candle of Advent, and proclaiming the Gospel from pulpits in every corner of the land. With the Psalmist, let us say with commitment, I will hear what God has to say, for he speaks  peace to his people. Near indeed is his salvation to those who fear him, glory dwelling in our land. Kindness and truth shall meet; justice and peace shall kiss. Truth shall spring out of the earth, and justice shall look down from heaven.

This is our God, this voice of Love.  Can you not hear it? Can you not respond with the virtue he seeks? Will you now harbor one corner of darkness in your heart… or will you not turn it all over to him, to use and make as he sees fit.

Oh, for the wonderful love He has promised—
  Promised for you and for me!
Though we have sinned, He has mercy and pardon—
  Pardon for you and for me!

Come home! come home!
  Ye who are weary, come home!
Earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling,
    Calling, O sinner, come home!
All of Jerusalem is emptying out to hear the Good News. The entire countryside is gone to hear this preaching. Why are we still sitting here? All we need to is acknowledge our sins and move on. But in this day when there are no sins, that’s the most impossible step ever.
But the choir has a few more verses, and we can all still come home.
It’s Sunday: Go to Mass.
Come home.