Where you from?

JMJ

The Readings for Saturday in the 4th Week of Lent (B2)

The Commemoration of St Patrick, Apostle to Ireland

Numquid et tu Galilaeus es?
Art thou also a Galilean?

An Anglican clergyman once told me that whenever he heard a Southern Drawl he immediately assumed he was talking to someone unlearned. I tend to feel the same way about anyone who has a “Lon Guyland” accent, to be honest, or someone with an “oh, now, dere ya go” upper midwest twang. I can’t fault him for it, but I can decry it in myself. We are all parochialists – and we stay that way now, perhaps even more so in our divided country, sussing out where someone is from while trying not to racially or culturally profile them. But still, doing so. We like folks to be like us. 

The term “Galilean” stayed pejorative until the 4th Century AD. For all I know it is, once again, a Hebrew way of saying “hick” or “redneck”. They may really despise the Samaritans, but those twangy, redneck sailors are a fish basket of deplorables.

In point of fact, this is classism. We make assumptions about learning and earning, potential and actualized, based on simple cultural clues. It is as insidious as racism, but because it is a secret tool of all of us, it is rarely decried.

We see the same regional classism at several points in the Gospels: it starts with can any good thing come from Nazareth? and continues up to today’s readings (and will go beyond). Folks in the Gospel – even good folks – are worried about what will happen when we let in those others and they start to run things their way.

This continues in the Body of Christ to this day: be it the odd liturgical warring between the Slavs and the Greeks in the east or the Irish and the Italians in the west, or the liturgical music wars: Eagle’s Wings vrs Palestrina. (I’m only just now making peace with the idea that the Boomers should be able to die in peace and take their vernacular, emo music with them untrammeled.) But even within these camps, do we sing a Godspell Mass or a U2Charist? Do we do Haydn or Missa Luba? If you’ve never heard the latter, Congolese masterwork, please, give a listen at the end of this post!

As humorous as all this is, it’s filled with two sets of assumptions: 
1) They are different and wrong.
2) We’re doing things right.

When these are over even liturgical adiaphora like music, ultimately these are merely matters of humor and I might want to write out a story for the Reader’s Digest. When these are over the person, however, these are anything but funny. If I make assumptions about you based on cultural clues I’m reading, I’m detracting from the image of God in you. If I’m making racist assumptions, that something many of my friends understand and can call me out on. But if I’m making classist assumptions,most all of my friends are in the same class. We all do make the same assumptions. It is much harder to navigate around that – because we all have the same blinders.

Earlier this week I said a couple of things: if this is true of Christ it is true of you; and also, where are you sent? These gifts that you have that no one else has? The same Giver of all Good Things has given all these gift. To despise any one is belittle the image of God. To react to anyone – especially an enemy – with anything other than an active veneration of that image, that icon of the divine in them – be it a coworker, a stranger on the street, a homeless person, a clerk in the store, whatever – is to fail in love and to again crucify the Archetype of that icon.





3

His Ways are Very Different

JMJ

The Readings for Friday in the 4th Week of Lent (B2) 

Factus est nobis in traductionem cogitationum nostrarum. Gravis est nobis etiam ad videndum, quoniam dissimilis est aliis vita illius, et immutatae sunt viae ejus.
He is become a censurer of our thoughts. He is grievous unto us, even to behold: for his life is not like other men’s, and his ways are very different.

I keep wondering if the Righteous Man really is like this or if the Others actually feel this way about him. I do not legitimately know. I know how the elders of Israel felt about Our Lord, even though he’d done little more than make discomfiting claims. Stephen annoyed them as well. The issue seemed to be that both Jesus and those who came after him riled up the people. But no one gets riled anymore. As a late Archbishop of Canterbury once said, “When St Paul preached they had riots. When I preach, they have tea.”

When Billy Graham passed away I heard only a very few people get cranky: most who remembered him at all just fondly remembered America’s pastor (or the Queen’s favourite preacher). Many of the cranky seemed to confuse him with his son who does more politics than his father ever did.

Yet I know that from the White House to Hollywood neither our political leaders nor our cultural ones are any more moral than Nero’s Rome. St Paul would have lots to say to us, but nothing new. The author of the Book of Wisdom was writing about pagans around Israel, but also about sinners inside Israel. So there’s nothing new to say there, either.
Did meeting St John Paul or St Teresa of Calcutta have any effect on either the Reagans or the Clintons? I doubt it. When (ECUSA) Presiding Bishop Ed Browning called President GHW Bush before the war on Iraq, President Bush said “Talk to Barbara, she’s the religious one” and slammed the phone down. That’s about the gruffest thing I’ve ever heard from a politician  to a religious leader, but it’s an outlier as far as data points go. For most political leaders (including the current crop, around the world) it’s a scoop of ice cream to be seen with a religious leader: an afternoon of platitudinous mummery leading nowhere.  
Did the righteous ever make the unrighteous feel as described in this passage? Were the righteous ever ever righteous enough to annoy by their mere presence? Knowing that they killed Jesus, I guess it is to be expected if anyone should get that far along in the path but, apart from all the priest and nuns killed by Reagan-supported troops in Latin America in the 80s, there seems to be no attempt to undo the righteous. (To be clear, I’m not including myself at all. I doubt I could discomfit anyone.)
But, I wonder: what the heck are the righteous doing wrong?

3

There’s gotta be an easier way…

JMJ

The Readings for Thursday in the 4th Week of Lent (B2)

Locutus est autem Dominus ad Moysen, dicens : Vade, descende : peccavit populus tuus, quem eduxisti de terra Aegypti.
And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: Go, get thee down: thy people, which thou hast brought out of the land of Egypt, hath sinned. 

The Latin says they “have sinned”. But the Hebrew says, “They have corrupted themselves.” Yes, worshipping an idol is a sin… but more, it ruins one. It corrupts you.  The Hebrew word is not pretty at allThis is what sin does to you (all the ways this word is translated into English):

act corruptly (4), act…corruptly (1), acted corruptly (3), acted…corruptly (1), acting corruptly (1), blemished animal (1), corrupt (8), corrupted (4), depravity (1), destroy (69), destroyed (14), destroyer (4), destroyers (1), destroying (7), destroys (5), destruction (2), devastate (1), felled (2), go to ruin (1), harm (2), jeopardize (1), laid waste (1), polluted (1), raiders (2), ravage (1), ravaged (1), ruin (1), ruined (4), set (1), spoiled (1), stifled (1), waste (1), wasted (1), wreaking destruction (1).

And, at heart, all sin is Idolatry. 

It’s easy to make fun of the Israelites: they’ve just witnessed the Ten Plagues, they’ve crossed the red sea, they watch a pillar of cloud by day and fire by night talk to their leader and keep them safe, and yet, they decide maybe a golden calf would be good. If you’ll remember the story well, Aaron (whose last name was Martin, SJ) who knew the whole truth about this God, decided the People couldn’t quite handle the truth and thought it would be ok to give them something a little easier to swallow. So, misled by their religious leader, they forget, because of fear, everything they’ve seen and decide some gold is a better choice for themselves.

Yeah, it’s kind of easy to make fun of them, except that’s all of us, right?

We’ve seen God act. We’ve felt the power of God at Mass, in the Confessional, at Confirmation. We’ve seen God change lives, we know the story of the saints, we may even have deeply experienced Mystical insights. And yet, let someone (maybe named Martin, SJ) tell us there’s an easier way… and we’re all on it like so many flies around so many cows. We will make an idol out of any easier way we can find. And we destroy ourselves. Or maybe it’s politics, and we think the latest craze from prohibition to Trump is the way the Gospel’s gonna come to pass. And before we know it, we’re making the Gospel fit our new golden god, or at least his tiny fingers. And we destroy ourselves.

So yeah, it’s fun to make fun of the Israelites. But really: that’s us, there.

What’s got you idoling today?

Like a Swiss Army Knife

JMJ

The Readings for Wednesday in the 4th Week of Lent (B2)

Dedi te in foedus populi, ut suscitares terram, et possideres haereditates dissipatas; ut diceres his qui vincti sunt : Exite; et his qui in tenebris : Revelamini. Super vias pascentur, et in omnibus planis pascua eorum.
[I have] given thee to be a covenant of the people, that thou mightest raise up the earth, and possess the inheritances that were destroyed: That thou mightest say to them that are bound: Come forth: and to them that are in darkness: shew yourselves. They shall feed in the ways, and their pastures shall be in every plain. 

I looked at these verses long and hard last night. In fact, after drafting a couple of paragraphs that sounded really angry, I fell asleep on the sofa. And woke up and said… nope.

But tonight at Mass, as the reader said “I have given thee…” it came to me, like a punch. A pow.

This prophecy of Christ.
Must be true of his body.
Where has God given you?
If you are a member of Christ’s body, this must be true of you.
Where has God given you?

What people’s language do you speak that no one else speaks?
What unreached tribe have you been sent to?
Where can you – and only you – say “Come forth. Shew yourselves”?

Some of us are called like St Ignatius to travel to China to save the souls of the lost in a far corner.
Some of us are called to the bodega down the street.
Some of us are sent like St Dominic to release a tribe of heretics from the chains they forged for themselves.
Some of us are sent to our family of Episcopalians at Christmas.
Some of us are called like Blessed Stanley Rother to translate the Liturgy into a Language never used before.
Some of us are called to speak the language of the Gospel at a union local, or even a local bar.

We are all called to be apostles. If this prophecy is true of Christ, it is true of you.
What set of tools do only you have?
What book of the Gospel has been written for you to read only to those who are trained up to hear it?

“This is what the past is for! Every experience God gives us, every person He puts in our lives is the perfect preparation for the future that only He can see.”  – Corrie ten Boom.

Where are you set for? How finely tuned are you to be the voice of God in that one place that you are where no one else can speak?

Ready!
Sent!
Gospel.

In the Vision-Time

JMJ

The Readings for Tuesday in the 4th Week of Lent (B2)

Certe vidisti, fili hominis?
Have you seen this, Son of Man?

הֲרָאִ֣יתָ בֶן־אָדָ֑ם

Son of Man in the Latin and English. In Hebrew it’s Son of Adam, like in Narnia. Yes, Adam means “man” and also “earth creature”, or even “earthling”. But both of those are the meanings of the Name of the First Man. Calling Jesus “Son of Man” is calling him the Son of Adam. That is an important tag here!

In the movie, Contact, Jodie Foster plays a scientist who (she thinks) has been contacted by aliens. All the clues come encoded in, as it were, micro-dot forms: a cold-war era spy trick where a secret message was photographed and compressed, over and over, until it was just a full stop at the end of a sentence. But the right microscope and a knowing eye could discern what was really there. So also Jodie Foster digs into every clue to discover the depth and content, eventually building a huge machine which people imagine will teleport her, somehow, to a distant galaxy. Instead, her travel pod falls to earth in moments. But in those moments, Foster meets with the aliens who – as with all their clues – found a way to compress so much data into the meeting: that one second in space stretched into an eternity as they passed info through her to the other Earthlings.

It’s an amazing plot device that the author, Carl Sagan, stole from CS Lewis and every story about Faerie abductions out there. No matter how long you are in Narnia, no time seems to have passed in this world at all. The Doctor says, “People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but actually — from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint — it’s more like a big ball of wibbly-wobbly… timey-wimey… stuff.”

Dreams seem to function this way as well: they say that a dream, in real time, only lasts for a second, a brief moment. But in that moment time changes for the dreamer. You’re on a roller coaster having tea with Elizabeth the First and Donald Duck and then the coaster goes over a waterfall and you’re in Shanghai before the War wondering why the Giants never played baseball here (it’s so lovely in the Spring) but then you remember that the Giants have not yet moved to San Francisco. And you wake up.

A couple of seconds, they say, is all that took, but in Dream Time it stretched out into eternity and all made sense.

So I wonder if it was that was the Prophets. I say that because the Angel’s Comment, “Have you seen this, Son of Adam?” reads like a trigger phrase that will suddenly call the whole vision back to mind.

And what a vision it was! A trickle from the door of the temple of Jerusalem grows as it leads away from the temple until it fills the whole world. If that trickle of water represents the faith and teachings of Israel, imagine the odd arrogance of it being just a story the writer made up. There is a tribe of enslaved persons, captured and living in Babylon (about 600 years before Messiah comes). A priest of that tribe who has, himself, no temple or sacrifice and no country of his own, envisions his faith spreading through all the world; imagines that his faith is intended to flow away from the temple and that it will deepen and expand as it does so, until all the world is filled with its Truth!

God was setting things up and we will see this river again, in the book of the Apocalypse. 

The Jews, in their Exile, spread throughout the world paving the way for the Apostles who bring the news of Messiah. They pre-evangelize every corner of Babylon, then of Persia, of Alexander’s kingdom, of the Successor Kingdoms, and of the Roman Empire. Everywhere they go the Apostles preach to Jews and Gentiles, at first in synagogues planted around the known world by this Diaspora. There are Jews even in Roman Britain. And then there were Christians. (The first Roman Jew from Britain on trial for an “Alien Superstition” was in 57 AD.)

The river grows and deepens. Have you seen this Son of Adam? In an instant it can be clear. Do not forget this, and, if you do, you only need to remember, Have you seen this Son of Adam?

Oh, that guy.

JMJ

The Readings for the 4th Sunday of Lent (B2)

Non enim misit Deus Filium suum in mundum, ut judicet mundum, sed ut salvetur mundus per ipsum.
For God sent not his Son into the world, to judge the world, but that the world may be saved by him. 

The Greek in this passage has rich wordplay that is missing in the English. There is a dance between the Greek word meaning to Judge κρίνω krino and to Save σῴζω sozo: because krino means to cut apart, to separate; while sozo means to heal, to make whole.

If you read the whole passage in the Douay, it looks like this (as is):

For God sent not his Son into the world, to judge the world: but that the world may be saved by him. He that believeth in him is not judged. But he that doth not believe is already judged: because he believeth not in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the judgment: Because the light is come into the world and men loved darkness rather than the light: for their works were evil.

But if we read it with different eyes:

For God sent not his Son into the world, to divide the world: but that the world may be made whole by him. He that believeth in him is not cut off. But he that doth not believe is already cut off: because he believeth not in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the division: Because the light is come into the world and men loved darkness rather than the light: for their works were evil. 

The world made whole by action of Jesus. And elsewhere St Paul means when, elsewhere, he says God was in Jesus, reconciling the world to himself – making this newly whole world to be one, in Christ, with God. And in the same place St Paul calls all of us Christians, “ministers of this reconciliation.”

Today’s Gospel – with what must be the most-often quoted verse in the Bible – is the very root of Theosis, the very fire of our divinization in Christ: God’s love. We are all called to be united in Christ’s love. Please note: Christ’s love is entirely one-sided. We are not called to “love if you are loved” or to “love if others love you back”. Christ’s love cost him his life.  He loves us so much that from us he accepted steel in his hand, his feet, his side, thorns on his brow, and, sourged about with whips studded with nails, he let his body be draped in a purple robe of mockery. When that robe was torn off, all the wounds opened again.

This is love! God so loved the world that he let us kill him.

Feeling uncomfortably selfish or needy yet? My friend, talking about the 12 Step process (not himself), said to me at dinner, “I can’t support you in your anguish over my doing drugs, because I need you to support me because I do drugs.”  My friend said that was classic addict talk. My comment was, “My mind is blown”.  I had never heard our modern society diagnosed so sharply. From the left and the right we hear variations on the same sentence: I can’t support you in your pain over X because I need you to support me in my doing X. We have become a culture of Toxicomanes Sans Programmes, of Addicts Without Programs

We do not love but, rather, we want to be loved (and to be lovable) by others. That we are loved, already, does not occur to us. That we are already loved so much as to have had someone die for us, to have someone give his entire life for us, for each one of us is an idea too rich for consideration. Who, we wonder, would love us?  Especially if we’re not doing something to be loved (and we all know a least some thing we do that should make us unlovable). Who are we to be loved like that?

And yet we are also to love like that: to love not counting the cost, no matter what others say or do to us or about us.  Yet we Christians often become infected with the current vogue of I love everyone except those who disagree with me.

Now, certainly, this love which would die for us is not a sentimental thing. Neither is it an easy thing. I don’t love you because you are my type or because we agree on things. I love you because God loves you and commands me to love what he loves. To love means to will the good of the other: and there is only one thing good, as Jesus says, and that is God. So to love you is to draw you into this Dance, to reconcile you with God that, in turn, you might take your place in the ministry of reconciliation, making the world whole, one heart at a time.