It’s only a little pinch.

Bl. Stanley Rother, God’s Friend.

+J+M+J+

The Readings for Saturday in the 5th week of Easter (C1)

I have chosen you out of the world, the world hates you.

Once, a long, long time ago, it seems to me now, in a religious galaxy far, far away I sat in a class on Patristics as an Episcopal priest explained that no one today would go to their death over a pinch of incense. He thought we were, finally much saner now. I think of this event from time to time and wonder if he was right. Would anyone do it now? Did it make any sense, even then? Most Romans knew the Emperor wasn’t divine. The priests and cults of the empire had needed to invent stories as Julius, Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, and Nero ruined one by one all the sacred traditions and offices of the Republic. The people watched one entire mythology end and a whole new one begin. What did they care? It’s only a pinch and politically wise. The philosophers since Socrates had long spoken in monotheistic terms and, while it was still largely woven over by polytheistic animism, it was clear that the Divine Augustus (etc) was not this deity. So who cared?

In March of 1935, a farmer and his wife celebrated the birth of their first child, Stanley Rother. Raise in a Catholic home and a student of Catholic schools, he was an Oklahoma Farmer’s son, through and through. He did chores, served at the altar, studied well enough in school, danced, and played sports with his friends. And after school was over he thought maybe to go into the priesthood. That was not an easy choice: he failed Latin and his grades were poor. He was asked to leave seminary. But his Bishop saw something in Mr Rother and found another seminary for him. Finally he was ordained to the Catholic Priesthood 55 years ago today on 25 May 1963.

Fr Stanley volunteered to go as a missionary to Guatemala. Pope St John XXIII had called for priests to go and Stanley took that call to his heart. The Bishop who ordained him sent him to Santiago Atitlan as a priest for the tribe named the Tzutuhil, decedents of the Maya. To serve his people this man who had failed to learn Latin became fluent in both Spanish and the Tzutuhil language. He could, after the Council, even celebrate Mass in the native language of the people! The team even gave the Tzutuhil a written language which they had not had until this time.

Meanwhile, in Imperial Rome, Jews were exempted from the pinch of incense by treaty. But Christians were not. They came from every corner of the empire, they were not an ethnicity or a people with a country. They cared deeply and refused to even pretend that the Emperor was divine and in doing so they rejected the politics and the religion of their neighbors. What my former teacher, the Episcopal priest, misunderstood was that the religion of one did not “shape” the politics, it was the politics. To reject the claim of the Emperor to be divine was to insist that humanity could not debase others, that the Roman emperor had no more right to worship than a Roman slave, and – in a world where the pater familias was divine ruler under his own roof, the Christians said, nope: men and women are equal before God and it is God that is ruler. They refused to participate in a system that denied that or to even pretend to participate. When the system said “Caesar is Lord!” the Christians said, “Jesus is Lord.” Rome hated them for it.

The Gov’t of Guatemala, along with many of the other Gov’ts in Central America, were under pressure to fight off the “Reds” who were trying to “infiltrate” these countries. Infiltrate here means teach, find food for the poor, keep farming tools in working order, bring in fresh, running water, etc. The pressure came from the United States. While in Europe, for much (but not all) of the 20th Century, the political persecution of the Church came from the Left, in the Americas it was from the Center and the Right. In every case from Mexico south, where a right-wing puppet or dictator was persecuting the Catholic Church, it was with American arms up the puppet’s backside and American-trained fingers from the School of the Americas on the guns by which that oppression was accomplished.

Christians have, since Rome, been far too liberal for their worldly conservative friends: they welcome immigrants, they feed the poor, they walk among the sick without fear and treat them (we invented the Hospital when the Rich and Powerful of Rome were throwing their sick into gullies to die).  The Christians of Rome pulled together and ignored the world view of the secular traditionalists around them. They shared their food, they cared for the sick, from each according to their abilities to each according to their needs. They built real community around the Church. They refused to even pretend to play along with a system that said one mad idiot was god and everyone else was his slave – even when they daily, faithfully prayed for his salvation and peace. They would not offer incense to him but they willingly offered it for him.

Stanley kept this tradition alive in Santiago Atitlan and when the way to keep out the Reds involved keeping the powerless, poor, and illiterate Tzutuhil exactly powerless, poor, and illiterate, the good shepherd of his people said, “No!” They built real community around the Church. The people learned to farm together (with Stanley’s farming skills from Oklahoma) and when the machines broke it was Stanley that helped them fix things.

People began to vanish – catechists, altar servers, Sunday school teachers, language teachers, farmers. When Stanley dared to stand up to the gun squads who were “Disappearing” his people, his fate was sealed – so we might say in the world. But Father’s fate was sealed when, as a little baby, the faith of the Church was washed into his soul. To be a friend of God means to lay down one’s life for one’s friends…

And he did so: on 28 July 1981, three gunmen entered the Rectory that was Stanley’s home and shot him. He was venerated as a Martyr from that day forward – first by his own people, the Tzutuhil, then by the Church in Oklahoma, and now – officially – by the entire world. He is known as Blessed Stanley Rother, Priest and Martyr. Although he is not yet a saint that will come in God’s time.

The pinch of incense Stanley was asked for was to stand aside while a Gov’t, following funds and support from a mad king in the Rome of the modern world, tried to deny the people of his parish their personhood, their divine icon of God. Stanley could have stayed in the States (he was home less than a week before his death) and he could have let the flock be scattered. Everyone would understand. Oklahoma, today, might be celebrating a priest’s 56th ordination anniversary.

But Stanley did not offer this pinch of incense. He refused to even pretend to play along. The world – a world that pretended to be “Christian” at the time – hated him for it.

(This man is my patron saint.  I started this essay with nary a clue that today – the readings for Saturday, that is – was the anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood. I only knew that after my posts of the last two days about God’s friendship meaning our death… I wanted to show what I was intending. This man is what I mean.)

May he pray for us. May it be so with us as well.

Friendzoned by Jesus.

+J+M+J+

The Readings for Friday in the 5th week of Easter (C1)

I call you friends…

This gets sentimentalized sometimes. Sometimes overly so. I remember when Jesus calling us (me) his friends used to cause me to wax poetical about Plato, David and Jonathan, and about someone important in my life. When I was at the Monastery, I tried to find some core in here that I could hold on to, to stay centered but that failed. The meat of this passage is not that God calls us friends… Because God calls Israel his beloved wife. Friends seems a bit reserved, to be honest. And later God will call the church his Bride as well. But here, we are all just friends.

So what’s going on?

It’s a couple of verses before. Greater love hath no man than this, as the KJV puts it, that a man lay down his life for his friends. And I have called you friends. So yes, that means that I will lay my life down for you… But he also expects us to lay our lives down for him and for each other.

We are are the friends of God, not in a Platonic sense, not in a creepy, pseudo-sexual, S.E. Hinton kind of way, not even in a David and Jonathan sense, but in the foxhole death on a grenade to save your buddies kind of way. In a today-is-a-good-day-to-die way.

In friendship…we think we have chosen our peers. In reality a few years’ difference in the dates of our births, a few more miles between certain houses, the choice of one university instead of another…the accident of a topic being raised or not raised at a first meeting–any of these chances might have kept us apart. But, for a Christian, there are, strictly speaking no chances. A secret master of ceremonies has been at work. Christ, who said to the disciples, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you,” can truly say to every group of Christian friends, “Ye have not chosen one another but I have chosen you for one another.” The friendship is not a reward for our discriminating and good taste in finding one another out. It is the instrument by which God reveals to each of us the beauties of others. – CS Lewis, The Four Loves 

Our friends were picked for us: we know the difference between friends and acquaintances, between coworkers (with whom we may all be close in one degree or another) and honest to goodness friends.

Jesus is such a friend: who has taken (literally) death for us who demands death from us for him and for each other. Jesus is not the bad boy your parents don’t want you to hang out with: Jesus is the boy that says, “Let’s all enlist. Someone’s got to do something about this.”

Jesus is that one friend whose opinion matters more than anyone in the whole world. When I am engaged in hypocrisy, it is the opinion of other Christians that most matters to me. And yet, “in the world” those folks might matter least. I didn’t manipulate the universe to get these friends. These are not “the popular kids” in school. Jesus is always talking to the wrong sort of folks.

In a perfect Friendship this Appreciative love is, I think, often so great and so firmly based that each member of the circle feels, in his secret heart, humbled before the rest. Sometimes he wonders what he is doing there among his betters. He is lucky beyond desert to be in such company. Especially when the whole group is together; each bringing out all that is best, wisest, or funniest in all the others. Those are the golden sessions; when four or five of us after a hard day’s walk have come to our inn; when our slippers are on, our feet spread out toward the blaze and our drinks are at our elbows; when the whole world, and something beyond the world, opens itself to our minds as we talk; and no one has any claim on or any responsibility for another, but all are freemen and equals as if we had first met an hour ago, while at the same time an Affection mellowed by the years enfolds us. Life — natural life — has no better gift to give. Who could have deserved it. Ibid

Jesus calls us friends and then, a few years later, St Paul uses this divine, mutually-assured divinization as the model for a real Christian Marriage, too, and that marriage becomes the icon of the love of Christ for his Church. It is this Church, this circle not of cithara strumming band mates and worship leaders but rather of platoonmates, a Band of Brothers, who will screw each other’s courage to the sticking place, cheer each other on in the games of the arena – gladiators, lions, crucifixions, bonfires, street lights… this great cloud of fellow witnesses (martyrs) cheers us on to death: COME ON!

Alone among unsympathetic companions, I hold certain views and standards timidly, half ashamed to avow them and half doubtful if they can after all be right. Put me back among my Friends and in half an hour – in ten minutes – these same views and standards become once more indisputable. The opinion of this little circle, while I am in it, outweighs that of a thousand outsiders: as Friendship strengthens, it will do this even when my Friends are far away. For we all wish to be judged by our peers, by the men “after our own heart.” Only they really know our mind and only they judge it by standards we fully acknowledge. Theirs is the praise we really covet and the blame we really dread.  

Jesus calls us friends. Don’t make this out to be some kind of sexless eros or some pathetic high school ensemble movie: 

God’s friends die.

Annuntio Vobis Gaudium Magnum!

+J+M+J+

The Readings for Thursday in the 5th week of Easter (C1)

I have told you this so that… your joy might be complete.

Jesus said this just before he went out to die. You know this and I do too, but we often forget it. If you’re not happy, some would say, you’re doing it wrong. I am too blessed to be stressed. You gotta give up your spirit of heaviness… We forget that “Joy” here means to stay within the commands/love of God the Father by staying within the commands/love of God the Son. Which command was never “do what you love and the money will follow.”  It was never “Follow your bliss”. It was never, ever, a rose garden. It was ever was and always will the garden of Gethsemane where God sweat blood, or the fair garden of Calvary whereupon the only tree that ever bore life to the world, God died; or the garden just below the crest of the hill, where life conquered death by death died in death’s despite and Jesus Christ won the victory for all time.

But no rose garden is or can be involved.

Take up your cross daily and follow me, he commanded. The other thing he commanded was to love as he loved us – by dying. Yup, we’re good to go here for some serious Joy. Unless “joy” means something we don’t think it means unless the “joy” we think we know is only somehow a pale and useless shadow of the real thing or even a mockery of it.

“Joy” is one of the fruit of the Holy Spirit. The wiki has a rather wonderful entry on these, including this passage on Joy:

The joy referred to here is deeper than mere happiness; it is rooted in God and comes from Him. Since it comes from God, it is more serene and stable than worldly happiness, which is merely emotional and lasts only for a time. 

According to Strong’s Greek Lexicon, the Greek word listed in the verse is χαρά (G5479), meaning ‘joy’, ‘gladness’, or ‘a source of joy’. The Greek χαρά (chara) occurs 59 times in 57 verses in the Greek concordance of the NASB. 

  • Original Word: χαρά, ᾶς, ἡ From χαίρω (G5463)
  • Part of Speech: Noun, Feminine
  • Transliteration: chara
  • Phonetic Spelling: (khar-ah’) 

Joy (Noun and Verb), Joyfulness, Joyfully, Joyous: 

“joy, delight” (akin to chairo, “to rejoice”), is found frequently in Matthew and Luke, and especially in John, once in Mark (Mar 4:16, RV, “joy,” AV, “gladness”); it is absent from 1 Cor. (though the verb is used three times), but is frequent in 2 Cor., where the noun is used five times (for 2Cr 7:4, RV, see Note below), and the verb eight times, suggestive of the Apostle’s relief in comparison with the circumstances of the 1st Epistle; in Col 1:11, AV, “joyfulness,” RV, “joy.” The word is sometimes used, by metonymy, of the occasion or cause of “joy,” Luk 2:10 (lit., “I announce to you a great joy”); in 2Cr 1:15, in some mss., for charis, “benefit;” Phl 4:1, where the readers are called the Apostle’s “joy;” so 1Th 2:19, 20; Hbr 12:2, of the object of Christ’s “joy;” Jam 1:2, where it is connected with falling into trials; perhaps also in Mat 25:21, 23, where some regard it as signifying, concretely, the circumstances attending cooperation in the authority of the Lord. Note: In Hbr 12:11, “joyous” represents the phrase meta, “with,” followed by chara, lit., “with joy.” So in Hbr 10:34, “joyfully;” in 2Cr 7:4 the noun is used with the Middle Voice of huperperisseuo, “to abound more exceedingly,” and translated “(I overflow) with joy,” RV (AV, “I am exceeding joyful”).

How does this Joy tie into love, death, and carrying crosses?

We know that the things of this world come from doing whatever we want. Everyone one of us knows that “whatever we want” soon devolves into one or two petty things done over and over… eating the same foods, going to the same sorts of movies, taking the same vacations, having the same arguments, engaging the same vices, etcetera, etcetera, ad nauseam, ad infinitum. Then we die.

Nearly everything we do in this world, apart from God, results from a fear of pain and quest for pleasure.

Yet Jesus promised real joy… and then silently suffered death in the 1st-century version of an electric chair set on stun.

How we do whine about our crosses even before we get nailed to them: unrequited love, broken homes, lost innocence, missed plans (my personal favorite of late), no one understands me, no one loves me…

me, me, me.

There is no joy in me: it’s only in serving others, only in loving others, only in dousing our pride, in offering our hearts, broken and disordered, to the God who offers us his natural heart in exchange for ours made of stone.

Joy.

When we know we’re whiners or when we know we don’t understand… when we realize that maybe we’re wrong…

We’re on the path to Joy.

Nothing is strong. Very Strong.

+J+M+J+

The Readings for Wednesday in the 5th week of Easter (C1)

Without me you can do nothing.

St Thomas Aquinas calls God the root of being, itself. God’s being is the very beingness of everything. St John says that God is love. That means the very beingness of the entire Cosmos is rooted in Love. Or, as I tweeted earlier this month:

Ὁ Θεὸς ἀγάπη ἐστίν. (St John) + Deus est ipsum esse per se subsistens. (Aquinas) = Love is all there is (Beatles)

Today, Jesus says “without me you can do nothing”. That is literal truth. Nothing at all (of value) is done without Jesus by anyone at all. Even non-Christians can do nothing without Jesus. Jesus is the Logos, the word of God. Each thing has its own logos, its own “word”. In that it has a being it is participating in God, in that it has a thingness, a function, a logos of its own that is its own participating in Christ. “At the heart of each thing is its inner principle or logos, implanted within it by the Creator Logos; and so through the logoi we enter into communion with the Logos,” said Bishop Kalistos Ware back before he went off the rails. Your action to start the car, to type a blog post, to read a blog post, to whine in the comments is a participation in the Logos or it is of no value, no reality, at all. Even if you’re not a Christian, even if you’re not a theist.

The beingness of God the Father, from which every being generates, and the indwelling principle of the Logos, the very life of God communicated by his pneuma, his Spirit, makes all things an ongoing participation in the Trinity to the eyes that can see it; and yet this is no less true if you can’t or won’t see it.

Bishop John Zizioulas sums this up nicely: To be and to be in communion are the same thing.

There is no way to act that is not an active participation in God, even if you are trying to undermine Godly people in the world. And yet to the degree that you manage to close yourself off to God, to reject participation in God, it is entirely possible to achieve the opposite goal. There are only two choices: being and non-being. There is nothing you can do that is not God in Christ working in the world… Unless it’s not. Then it is exactly the reverse. There is no way to express love that is not a participation in God – even if you reject the idea that God exists. You may have imperfect or disordered love, but God is love. You may deny the very being of those around you or in your womb, but God’s being makes them. You may rip their life – or your own – out of the body, but that life is God’s nonetheless. It’s only you that are cut off.

Without Jesus you can do nothing. Uncle Screwtape knows this. CS Lewis gives him this amazing text in Letter XII which is even now describing Facebook on your phone, Game of Thrones on your TV, twitter on your computer at work, porn…

As this condition becomes more fully established, you will be gradually freed from the tiresome business of providing Pleasures as temptations. As the uneasiness and his reluctance to face it cut him off more and more from all real happiness, and as habit renders the pleasures of vanity and excitement and flippancy at once less pleasant and harder to forgo (for that is what habit fortunately does to a pleasure) you will find that anything or nothing is sufficient to attract his wandering attention. 

You no longer need a good book, which he really likes, to keep him from his prayers or his work or his sleep; a column of advertisements in yesterday’s paper will do. You can make him waste his time not only in conversation he enjoys with people whom he likes, but in conversations with those he cares nothing about on subjects that bore him. You can make him do nothing at all for long periods. You can keep him up late at night, not roistering, but staring at a dead fire in a cold room. 

All the healthy and outgoing activities which we want him to avoid can be inhibited and nothing given in return, so that at last he may say, as one of my own patients said on his arrival down here, “I now see that I spent most of my life in doing neither what I ought nor what I liked”. The Christians describe the Enemy as one “without whom Nothing is strong”. And Nothing is very strong: strong enough to steal away a man’s best years not in sweet sins but in a dreary flickering of the mind over it knows not what and knows not why, in the gratification of curiosities so feeble that the man is only half aware of them, in drumming of fingers and kicking of heels, in whistling tunes that he does not like, or in the long, dim labyrinth of reveries that have not even lust or ambition to give them a relish, but which, once chance association has started them, the creature is too weak and fuddled to shake off.

Porn makes you imagine sins… but you never get to do them. Facebook feels like gossip, even if no one reads your post. Humans are the only being with an ongoing choice, open and active until death, to decide for or against God. To bear fruit, much fruit, good fruit, you must be in Jesus.

Now, some pagans do an awful lot of good: that’s all Jesus. Some Christians do an awful lot of evil. That’s the non-being swallowing things up.

Without Jesus you can do nothing… and you’ll get around to liking nothing, and soon… that’s what you’ll get. As Magenta says to Dr Frankenfurter,

“I ask for nothing! …Master.”
And he replies, “And you shall receive it. In abundance.”

So, about this wall…

JMJ

The Readings for Friday in the 5th Week of Easter (B2)

Vos autem dixi amicos : quia omnia quaecumque audivi a Patre meo, nota feci vobis. 
I have called you friends: because all things whatsoever I have heard of my Father, I have made known to you. 

One thing I often heard in dating relationships was that I have “bad boundaries”. After many years in failed relationships I finally learned what these were in the course of two conversations divided by 5 years. In one, a friend was telling me about a certain “Creepy” sort of person who one might meet who wants to become close friends as a result of a sexual encounter. In another conversation, a different friend, was telling me he was never that sort of person. He always had “good boundaries”. Both of these folks wondered why anyone wanted to be emotionally intimate just because sex had happened. I realized I was the person they were speaking about: the one that thinks sex must imply some sort of connection.

In The Lost Language of Cranes the protagonist, Philip Benjamin, has a falling out with his romantic partner who tells him “you need me too much. Half way across this city in the middle of the day I can feel you needing me.” Or words to that effect. I saw this once when it was on PBS in the early 90s, so I may not have the worlds right, but that scene stuck with me. Haunted me. In fact in my memory it’s the only words I can remember from the movie. But exactly what’s wrong with needing someone? Decades later when relationships were ending I’d still say I don’t get it… what’s wrong with needing someone? 


I have called you friends because whatever I’ve learned from my father I’ve made known to you.

As a hopeless romantic, I always had bad boundaries. And I have often wondered why that was (even before I had the terms down). Why did I “fall in love” or become emotionally attached? What if, however, these terms are intentionally in divine logic? What if what is generally seen as an enjoyable biological function is, in fact, a deeply spiritual and kenotic act of self-destruction? Would it not be natural for there to be no boundaries after it?

Jesus shares literally all of himself with us: body, blood, soul, and divinity. He shares with us all that the Father has given him and names us as friends, using a Greek word (philos) that implies non-sexual relationships based on common experience. The implication that there is a huge amount of intimacy, of union, that comes long, long before physical intimacy happens. Letting sex come first (which does happen from time to time) and yet denying the rest of intimacy: that is the odd choice. As Robert Anton Wilson makes clear in the Illuminatus trilogy, as well as in Schrodinger’s Cat: the Universe Next Door, sex is the ultimate breaking down of the boundaries, the end of the division, the unitive wholeness of humanity. Saying, at that point, “you need me too much” is like the river saying it shouldn’t need water. Having opened that door, slamming it shut again is the real bad boundary. 

At the end of this Gospel reading, Jesus says we should love one another, using a different Greek word now: agape. Unlike philia which is based on common experience, Agape is an act of will, and it is not something we can do alone: it is possible only by God’s love through us. Our love tends to be about gratification and validation. God’s love is about self-pouring out – into us, to overflowing and then out of us into others.

The intimacy offered to us in friendship, or even in the sexual union, is only a foretaste of the intimacy made available to us in the act of Eucharistic Communion. Here the divine fire of heaven enters our spiritual and physical bodies to destroy all that is not of the same divine origin. Uniting us fully and finally to the source and summit of that fire. The act of communion is the sacramental union of your soul with the divine dance at the end of Dante’s Paradiso XXXIII

ma già volgeva il mio disio e ’l vellesì come rota ch’igualmente è mossa,l’amor che move il sole e l’altre stelle. (Par. 33.143-45)

but my desire and will were moved already—like a wheel revolving uniformly—bythe Love that moves the sun and the other stars.

A final note. When Dante reaches the end of his vision and is granted the sight of the universe bound together in one volume, what entrances him is not plain Oneness but all that multiplicity somehow contained and unified. His heart is set on seeing and knowing that multiplicity, an otherness that is still stubbornly present in the poem’s penultimate word. God is the love that moves the sun and the other stars: “l’amor che move ’l sole e l’altre stelle”.
Much has been written about the transcendent stelle with which the Commedia ends; let us give due weight as well to the adjective that modifies those stars, the poem’s penultimate word, altre. Dante believes in a transcendent One, but his One is indelibly characterized by the multiplicity, difference, and sheer otherness embodied in the “altre stelle”—an otherness by which he is still unrepentantly captivated in his poem’s last breath. (Source)

We, dear sisters and brothers, are to be those altre stelle, the other stars moving in God’s light. The act of theosis will burn down all the walls left. We move from friends to lovers of the Divine source of Love. Heaven is an infinite dance without boundaries. 

I am divine, you are dibranches.

JMJ

The Readings for Wednesday in the 5th Week of Easter (B2)
St Athanasius, BDC

Omnem palmitem in me non ferentem fructum, tollet eum, et omnem qui fert fructum, purgabit eum, ut fructum plus afferat.
Every branch in me, that beareth not fruit, he will take away: and every one that beareth fruit, he will purge it, that it may bring forth more fruit. 

The Clash paraphrased this verse very well in 1982, singing: If I go there will be trouble and if I stay it will be double. For those of an earlier generation (or different genre), Lynn Anderson was a bit more poetic with I beg your pardon, I never promised you a rose garden. Both artists reminding us that  Our Lord taught: love is not about warm fuzzies, but rather about a lot of work.  Jesus expects that our relationship with him will be rocky – for us. He’s already done the hard work though. He could not love us any better: he loves you just the way you are.

Still, there is something required of us. He likes our praise and worship, but he wants more than words. One of the Desert Fathers said, if you will it you can become wholly fire. This is what Jesus wants. If you’re on fire, he says. Show me. But we are, perhaps rightly, scared of fire. We know it’s going to burn. We know it’s going to not leave us unharmed, unchanged, unscathed. Jesus knows that life is not tried, it is merely survived if you’re standing outside the fire. It may look good to live fast, avoiding attachments, but it is the attachments, the pain, the struggle that grind down our edges, that make us into smooth, reflective surfaces to return his light.
We want, pardon the analogy, vegan love: warm feelings, romance with no meat, no death, no struggle. Jesus bled and died for this love. And wants us to eat his flesh and drink his blood. And to be honest, he expects us to die for it too. So like he says, it’s gonna be tough to stick around here, but it’s tougher still for the sticks that get cut off. When it comes to love, it’s not moonlight, it’s fire, or it’s fire.

Thing is, we’re prone to go the easy way. Jesus knows that when we can’t be with the one we love, we will love the one we’re witheven though that just gets really old after a while.  When we do it my way find ourselves craving more and more but getting less and less. We suffer from this silly idea that love will fill me up, complete me, make me all the me I’m supposed to be. Real love does that, yes, but only by destroying all of you, making you into the full human being God made you to be. You’ll be you, alright, but you’ll be totally changed, totally different. Because you’ll be Christ.

Love hurts. Yes. So why not pick the love that lasts forever?













A family like yours or mine…


JMJ

The Readings for TuesdayToday is  in the 5th Week of Easter (B2)
St Joseph the Worker

Quoniam per multas tribulationes oportet nos intrare in regnum Dei. 
Through many tribulations we must enter into the kingdom of God. 

Today is the Memorial of St Joseph the Worker. I think Joseph knew tribulations: there was the mystery of his not-yet-wife who was with child, the trip to Bethlehem that became a three year sojourn in Egypt, Herod’s soldiers, snoopy neighbors, and a business to run.

Today’s feast is one of the most powerful reminders that the Holy Family was a normal, every-day family. Filled with the presence of God and the actions of God, yes; like your family or mine is supposed to be.

Today’s feast is a reminder of the dignity of human labor. Pope St John Paul the Great said that work is one thing we share, as humans, with God the Creator: 

THROUGH WORK man must earn his daily bread and contribute to the continual advance of science and technology and, above all, to elevating unceasingly the cultural and moral level of the society within which he lives in community with those who belong to the same family. And work means any activity by man, whether manual or intellectual, whatever its nature or circumstances; it means any human activity that can and must be recognized as work, in the midst of all the many activities of which man is capable and to which he is predisposed by his very nature, by virtue of humanity itself. Man is made to be in the visible universe an image and likeness of God himself, and he is placed in it in order to subdue the earth. From the beginning therefore he is called to work. Work is one of the characteristics that distinguish man from the rest of creatures, whose activity for sustaining their lives cannot be called work. Only man is capable of work, and only man works, at the same time by work occupying his existence on earth. Thus work bears a particular mark of man and of humanity, the mark of a person operating within a community of persons. And this mark decides its interior characteristics; in a sense it constitutes its very nature.

We forget this thing: this mark of a person acting within a community. For many of us it is a struggle: we don’t have work, or we want different work, or we think we should be getting paid more, or we can’t earn enough to care for our families. More and more, today, the idea that work at all can be honored is giving rise to multiple layers of class within our society. The “elite” and the “blue color” spurn each other. Within tech companies engineers and operations folks can be seen on opposite sides of a huge divide. In San Francisco, in the wee hours of the morning, it’s interesting to me that the buses heading west bound on their routes are filled with blue color labor, while across the street and headed easterly, are white color folks earning many times more than the blue color folks. They want very little to do with each other, engaged in each their own struggle.

A friend of mine spends her day working with the Homeless of SF. Many of the Homeless lost their apartments because a greedy landlord took advantage of a loophole in the law. The newly rich move into the building, the newly homeless end up on the street. But then the newly rich complain about the newly homeless on the streets and the cycle begins again. My own industry seems to spawn folks who are both afraid of the homeless and quick to call the police. According to Christian Teaching. we have an obligation to bring the Gospel to everyone, rich and poor We have an obligation to heal the wounds in our society as well. We are called  to unite the broken bits into one. This is not an easy task when the sides are not only alienated, but are also made to be at odds with each other.

This is where the Church is needed, I’m convinced, and perhaps not only in SF.  She needs to be an advocate for Justice, and a salve on the societal wounds. St Joseph, as the universal patron of the Church, is needed: respecter of the poor, advocate for the laborer – even one who is unemployed, model of protective care for the family and for the Church, his intercession as we work to resolve these issues in our world is needed. 

Some random trivia: the Main Feast of St Joseph is 19 March, the traditional day (and Pre-schism, for what it’s worth). But that is always in Lent – and sometimes in Holy Week. So it often gets played down and, sometimes, transferred to another period after Easter. In a desire to give St Joseph a proper feast… (quoth the wiki):

Between 1870 and 1955, an additional feast was celebrated in honor of Saint Joseph as Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Patron of the Universal Church, the latter title having been given to him by Pope Pius IX. Originally celebrated on the third Sunday after Easter with an octave, after Divino Afflatu of Saint Pius X (see Reform of the Roman Breviary by Pope Pius X), it was moved to the preceding Wednesday (because Wednesday was the day of the week specifically dedicated to St. Joseph, St. John the Baptist and local patrons). The feast was also retitled The Solemnity of Saint Joseph. This celebration and its accompanying octave were abolished during the modernisation and simplification of rubrics under Pope Pius XII in 1955.
At the same time, Pope Pius XII established an additional Feast of “St. Joseph the Worker”, to be celebrated on 1 May, in order to coincide with the celebration of International Workers’ Day (May Day) in many countries.

This extra feast was a First Class Feast among the Dominicans at least in 1962 (as it is in the Extraordinary Form, still)… not sure what it is now. In the General Roman Calendar, this is an Optional Memorial which means it hasn’t any readings assigned to it. So it takes the readings of the day.

Through many tribulations… Joseph had those. But St Joseph embodies two other virtues that make him difficult to swallow for those who might otherwise celebrate 1 May: silence and patience. The walk to justice is not achieved by stealing from either side to give to the other, but rather by coming together to work for a resolution. Repentance and forgiveness are needed for healing. St Joseph’s patience, prayer, and labor, make a difficult model for us to follow. But he is no different than any other Christian saint in this respect. 

A blessed feast!

The Medium is the Message


JMJ


The Readings for Monday in the Fifth Week of Easter
The Feast of Pope St Pius V

Even with these words, they scarcely restrained the crowds from offering sacrifice to them.

This scene of the Lystrians offering sacrifices to Zeus and Hermes is one of my favorite events in all of the New Testament outside of the Gospels. It’s so funny, so embarrassing to the apostles that it must certainly be true: why would you make such a mortifying story?

Anyone who has been involved in teaching for a while can certainly understand this story. A message so life-changing might lead to a crush on the teacher. This teaching came with a miracle, a sign of spiritual power, but it’s clear that none of the teaching sank in, or if it did, the miracle nearly destroyed everything.

This event reminds us that the medium is the message: Since the gospel is proclaimed in action and word, in fact, we are the media. Paul and Barnabas did nothing other than fall prey to what might be called a cultural bias among the Greeks. The Jews have a different understanding of Miracles, they know that God does them through people. To the Greeks, a Miracle is a sign of the gods acting here. They get all swept up in the presence of power and they begin to do things to flatter the egos of the actors whom they assume are gods. They are like children who bring presents to a teacher to woo her into giving them better grades. This is how we tend to act towards powerful people: we try to get their attention and get them to help us or to give us stuff. Ethical people in power do what the apostles did, and try to redirect the worship to the right person.

Unethical teachers, however, are swayed by the gifts not into giving more presents to their students, but rather into taking advantage of their students. Much of our recent history is of corrupt teachers, corrupt media ruining the message. This is what the sex abuse Scandal is all about: ego, pride, and power where there should be kenosis, humility, and charity.

We are used to thinking of the Gospel as words on a page, or perhaps a book carried in procession at Mass. But the Gospel is good news. It is in fact you that is the Gospel. Your words, your actions, your driving, your comments on Facebook, your deep data, your voting habits, the way you love your spouse, the way you care for your children, the way you act in your community; all of these things define the Gospel for those around you. Long before anyone ever even picked up a Bible to look, these things all either proclaim Jesus to those around you, or they failed to do so.

Jesus says, the word you hear is not mine, but the word of him who sent me. Would that that were true of all of us every day.

I in you.


JMJ

The Readings for  the 5th Sunday of Easter (B2)
Among the Dominicans, The Feast of St Catherine of Siena

Ut credamus in nomine Filii ehe Catechism Tjus Jesu Christi : et diligamus alterutrum…
We should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ: and love one another…

Believe and Love. The words in Greek are  and πιστεύω pisteuo and ἀγαπάω agapao. To Trust in the name of Jesus and to Love, which, as Strong’s puts it, “to have a preference for, wish well to, regard the welfare of” another. The Catechism ❡1766 cites St Thomas who, in turn, is citing Aristotle: amare est velle alicui bonum. To love is to wish good to someone. In Italian today, one would use “ti voglio bene”, literally, “I will you good” to say “I love you” to anyone in a non-romantic, non-sexual way. 

Trust in the Name of Jesus and will the good of others. That’s such an easy… such a hard thing to do. 

But the Gospel gives us the meaning, the essence, if you will, behind these Johannine accidents. 

Dixit Iesus: Ego sum vitis, vos palmites : qui manet in me, et ego in eo, hic fert fructum multum, quia sine me nihil potestis facere.
Jesus says: I am the vine: you the branches: he that abideth in me, and I in him, the same beareth much fruit: for without me you can do nothing.  

We can do nothing at all without Jesus. In fact, agape – that divine sort of love – is Jesus loving in us and through us. We can’t do that at all. Our human nature won’t let us open up to that sort of self sacrifice, that sort of self-emptying. We want to put ourselves front and center. I love you. ME. This is me loving you. Love me back. 

That’s not agape: that’s a new species of selfish.

I recently finished Corrie Ten Boome’s The Hiding Place and I’ve started on the sequel, Tramp for the Lord. Listening to Corrie struggle with loving is so educational. She knows she is supposed to love the Nazis, supposed to love the person beating her up, but she can’t. So she prays to Jesus to love through her. Suddenly she’s winning a soul for Christ, leading them to Salvation. 

That’s love. Bringing another closer to Christ is the only good there is: if I open my heart to Christ, he can Love you through me. And if I do my job right, the person being loved won’t even see me, but only Christ.

When we draw near to the Sacrament, it’s not for something that we should ask. We should be there to unite ourselves to Christ. All the other things will fall into place if we are there to unite ourselves to Christ. And Love (which is God) will be the natural outgrowth of that action; disinterested, unselfish, agape.  The Eucharist, bearing the accidents of bread and wine, but the essence of Christ, make us into itself: bearing the accidents of our presence in the world, but in essence Christ himself. We are the Body of Christ… if we let our ego out of the way.

Trust in Jesus – like Corrie did – and let him Agape through you to win souls for his Kingdom.