Nothing so Deep


The Readings for the 5th Friday of Ordinary Time (B2)

Et suscipiens in caelum, ingemuit, et ait illi : Ephphetha, quod est, Adaperire. Et statim apertae sunt aures ejus, et solutum est vinculum linguae ejus, et loquebatur recte.

And looking up to heaven, he groaned, and said to him: Ephpheta, which is, Be thou opened. And immediately his ears were opened, and the string of his tongue was loosed, and he spoke right. 

Corrie Ten Boom said of God, there is no pit so deep that He is not deeper still. She was speaking of Ravensbrück concentration camp, near Berlin. How one can come to that conclusion in a concentration camp… is proof of Faith.

Physical darkness (blindness) is a thing that comes up in the New Testament, but Jesus’ healing stories are also (as Bishop Barron points out) spiritual stories, stories that can apply to you and me in our day to day world. Today’s Gospel is no different. We each live in a darkness, imprinted on our minds. But, the Psalm says, “Even darkness is not dark to you.”  
Think of Helen Keller, alone in a world with no light or sound…

This healing is so much more than just “Zap! Here’s your talking and hearing back.” Ephaphtha says Jesus not just may your mouth and ears be open… But rather, May your very being be open to the imprint of the Logos of God. Do you see now? 

He was speaking plainly.

How awesome is our God! Modern medicine, indeed no medicine we have imagined can do this. What is there that God cannot restore to its rightful telos, its lawful use, its natural end?

Et loquebatur recte…Do you know what this healing means? Think how awesome is our God. Look: a mute man has never formed words. His tongue and his muscles are not used to making vowels and consonants. Now… This mute man is deaf. He’s never heard words. His very mind is not even used to the concept. Words? People use words? 

There is no pit so deep that He is not deeper still.

We do try though, to dig deeper pits every day. In a class on Ignatian spirituality and the 12 Steps, I was challenged to offer my emptiness to God. What thing in me has had me asking for healing but still, I hold on to it. In my case it is fear. Offer your fear to God. What? This is the most broken of things: I want to be cured of it. Really: Offer it to God. Stop digging this pit for yourself because you’ll never get out. Offer it to God. (Corrie also said, “Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God. 
When a train goes through a tunnel and it gets dark, you don’t throw away the ticket and jump off. You sit still and trust the engineer.” Again, remember: she’s been through Hitler. I get nervous when someone emails me about a spelling mistake.)

The writer of I Kings (or III Kings, depending on how you count) is saying Recessitque Israel a domo David, usque in praesentem diem. And Israel revolted from the house of David, unto this day.  Israel and all of the rest of us, Sister. Except for you, Sister. You’re right with God.

I’m not though. And God in his grace is constantly taking away 10 parts of our kingdom so that we can once again focus on him. God in his mercy knows what we can’t handle – even if we think we can. 

There is no pit so deep – even the ones we dig for ourselves – that He is not deeper still. If I offer even my empty fears to God, my empty ears, my empty lips, my empty mind… Can God bring them to Telos?


What I did for Love


The Readings for the 5th Thursday of Ordinary Time (B2) 

Tunc aedificavit Salomon fanum Chamos, idolo Moab, in monte qui est contra Jerusalem, et Moloch idolo filiorum Ammon. Atque in hunc modum fecit universis uxoribus suis alienigenis, quae adolebant thura, et immolabant diis suis. 
Then Solomon built a temple for Chamos the idol of Moab, on the hill that is over against Jerusalem, and for Moloch the idol of the children of Ammon. And he did in this manner for all his wives that were strangers, who burnt incense, and offered sacrifice to their gods.

A temple for Chamos… and of course, you remember Moloch… It’s fun to make an example out of Solomon’s wives. If Shakespeare wrote in Yiddish we might, today, have Di Frey Froyen Fun Shlomo. and it would be a Cecil B. epic as well.

But all joking aside, what does Solomon have to teach us? How much time do I have…

When you let even good desires draw you away from the one desire that is important you end up building temples for Moloch. Yes, they’re on another mountain. You may keep them outside of the sacred precincts. But you pay for them. If you had that money could you not have given it to God?

What thing in your life do you love more than God? What thing in your life can (probably has, at least once) kept you away from Mass? Fear (people will know I’m a Catholic)? Pride (I don’t want them to see me like this)? Thing crazy little thing called Love (she would never understand, we can skip today it’s fine)? Greed (I have a chance to work overtime)? Power (I can go to Mass anytime but this meeting is important)? Health (it’s better to take care of my body at that hour of the morning)? 

Whatever it is, whatever that one thing (or more, in my case) is: that’s a temple to Moloch on the mountain opposite.

God is Gracious.

But you have to go tear it down.

And the time you spent building it? Is gone.

Unto the Beasts that Perish


The Readings for the 5th Wednesday of Ordinary Time (B2)

Omnia haec mala ab intus procedunt, et communicant hominem.
All these evil things come from within, and defile a man. 

In the world of Middle Earth, every race has their own language: there’s dwarvish, two different elvishes, orkish, something called the Black Tongue, and several humanish languages as well. There could come a problem if you wanted everyone to hangout together, though. How do they talk to each other? Tolkien included something called the Common Tongue, whereby all the races could talk together. It’s the Lingua Franca of Middle Earth, the way to do business.  Evidently the phrase, “Lingua Franca” refers to “Italian-Provençal jargon with elements of Spanish, French, Greek, Arabic, and Turkish formerly widely used” in the Levant, which is perfect! I think today of how so many different varieties of English are spoken in the “Anglosphere” on top of so many other local languages from Hindi to Hebrew, from Inuit to Irish. 

In Jesus’ Day the Common Tongue was not Latin (as the Royal Tongue of Rome) but rather Greek. It was the common, shared language of businessmen in much of the world since the days of Alexander the Great. It had devolved a bit, picking up bits and pieces here and there. The Dialect of Greek thus spoken is called Koine, or common Greek as opposed to Classical or Attic Greek. It was the common language of the lower classes as well as of those who travelled. This language, Koine, is important: it’s what the New Testament is written in. It’s the language of the Greek Liturgy

It’s also an adjectival form of the word Jesus uses here as a verb, κοινόω, koino, meaning “to make common” but rendered as “Defile”.

I think this is important because (although they are sins) in this passage Jesus list a lot of things that make a man common: 

Ab intus enim de corde hominum malae cogitationes procedunt, adulteria, fornicationes, homicidia, furta, avaritiae, nequitiae, dolus, impudicitiae, oculus malus, blasphemia, superbia, stultitia.

For from within out of the heart of men proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. 

Again, although they are sins, here Jesus list them as things that make a man common.

But the verb koino doesn’t refer to “common” as in common tongue or shared (community) property. Common here is a very particular thing, one is made common after one has been made holy: 

A chalice sanctified for the Mass used as a receptacle for beer pong or tiddly winks.
A steak dinner served on an altar.
Priest’s robes used for a Halloween Costume.
A wedding ring melted down and used for a septum piercing.
Taking something holy and using it for a common, everyday, unholy (not always “anti-holy”) purpose. 
What is interesting about this passage is that it means Jesus is equating the idea of ritual impurity with what we would see as sin.

This is why it is easy to avoid issues of kosher food in the Church, whilst still worrying about the parts of the Mosaic code that talk about sex – even when they come in the same couple of verses. Why it’s ok to not worry about mixing linen and wool, but divorce is right out. It’s the things outside the body that don’t matter. Things inside make us common. How do they make us common?

Psalm 49 (in the Coverdale) closes with this image: Man being in honour hath no understanding but is compared unto the beasts that perish.
Homo, cum in honore esset, non intellexit. Comparatus est jumentis insipientibus, et similis factus est illis.

This is how far we are fallen in our passions, our sins, our use of the holy for everyday things. We are beasts. We use all the things of this world as people who live in this world and so we are defiled (made common) by them. Jesus calls us back: to come out of the things that defile us. He calls us to use the things of this world not as they are used here, but as steps to God; to use things as they were intended by God in creation before the fall. To use things to their telos, their intended end.

Lent is coming (in 1 week). Now we are in what is traditionally a time of “carnivale” which means “goodbye, meat”.  Carnival made good sense: it was a way to use up all the meat and dairy products one had – but was not going to be able to use until Easter. So, as good stewards, we are called to use them up rather than waste them. So what started as a just and decent use (by sharing) of superfluous goods became, over time, an excuse for surfeiting. 

The time of abstaining that should lift us up becomes just more excuse to party. Now we have the party even without the fast.

What were we before?

There’s the thing. We were created to be in the Image and Likeness of God. We were intended to stand at the celestial heights, the Queens and Priest-Kings of Creation. We were called to be “a little lower than the angels” but we have fallen from there.  

We are become common. 

Mitis et Humilis Corde


The Readings for the 5th Monday of Ordinary Time (B2)

Factum est autem, cum exissent sacerdotes de sanctuario, nebula implevit domum Domini, et non poterant sacerdotes stare et ministrare propter nebulam : impleverat enim gloria Domini domum Domini.
And it came to pass, when the priests were come out of the sanctuary, that a cloud filled the house of the Lord, And the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud: for the glory of the Lord had filled the house of the Lord. 

In 1985 or maybe 86, activists attended mass with John Cardinal O’Connor at St Patrick’s Cathedral in New York. They prayed alongside of everyone, stood for the hymns and sat silent and respectful through the sermon. (One Episcopal Priest in collar stood for the whole sermon and got his picture in the paper as a protesting priest… but he wasn’t Roman Catholic… a thing never quite made clear.) Then, at communion time, one of the activists received the consecrated Host and threw It on the ground, and trod It underfoot. 

A visibly shaken – in fact near tears – Cardinal retrieved the dirty and broken Host from the floor and consumed It before continuing to give out communion.

The God of the Old Testament scares folks. Don’t worry: I’m not going to get into that odd 2,000 year old heresy, always new, always wrong idea that Jesus was somehow theologically different from the God of the Old Testament. I mean, the God of the Old Testament tends to show up in clouds and lightning; floods and tornadoes, earthquakes and fiery wheels. 

Cute baby, cooing with angels; Jesus grows up and heals folks. He says (some) nice things. He’s very different from the fiery wheels. He’s relatable. He’s not (often) scary. He’s also funny. He disses his family. He jokes his friends. His miracles are (mostly) ones we all would like to see. And he has a cool, righteous anger. Whips? Who hasn’t wanted to use whips sometimes to clear a room, maybe even a room at church?

But the orthodox, historical Christian, is that this Jesus is the same God as that Fiery Wheels guy. In fact, the Orthodox will tell you full on that it was Jesus (pre-incarnation) who was walking with Adam. It was God the Son who made the universe (all things were made by him and without him was not anything made that has been made). If you are alive (in him was life…) it is because of God the Son. That’s Jesus.

So the Christian teaching is, a bit, scary. Just a bit… but there’s this other thing: Jesus’ humility. We hear this said, over and over, but we do not understand, we do not get what it can mean for the God of All Creation, the Lord of all Time and Space to be humble. He was humble in his passion, subject to spittings, torture, and death.

Come to Adoration.

Kneel in silence before the One Who Is. 
The God of gods
Lord of lords
King of kings
Summum et Perfectisimum Bonum (the Totality and Perfection of Good)

Present in fullness of Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity…

In a flat disc of bread. That can be subject to torture and being spat upon, or trod upon. Mute and omnipotent, the Word of God accepts still our blasphemy and mocking.

This is the God of the New Testament and of the Old.
Before you.
This is love.
The face of eternity.
The heart of grace, wounded for us.

Tunc ait Salomon : Dominus dixit ut habitaret in nebula.Then Solomon said: The Lord said that he would dwell in a cloud. But here is a Greater Thing than Solomon ever had or imagined.

Fully God, fully subject to human violence, also to Human Love, the humility of God on display, the Majesty of Infinity made finite and real by his will.

This is Love.

And now, the good news


The Readings for the 5th Sunday of Ordinary Time (B2)

Nam si evangelizavero, non est mihi gloria : necessitas enim mihi incumbit : vae enim mihi est, si non evangelizavero.
For if I preach the gospel, it is no glory to me, for a necessity lieth upon me: for woe is unto me if I preach not the gospel. 

In HBO’s brilliant work, Rome, there is a newsreader. He’s a reasonable portrayal of the mass media of the day: go stand in the town square and read off the reports from around the empire. He’s often used to report action taking place off camera or to highlight spin. He also gets some of the best lins: No prostitutes, actors or unclean tradesmen may attend.

He is an Evangelist. 

Evangelium, good news, is the political spin of the day. When the Armies of Rome had conquered yet another city, they would send criers into the city (and back to Rome) to announce the Good News: Rome has conquered Cisalpine Gual! This is Good News, right? Civilization  has welcomed another people into her fold. The Emperor would style his decrees as Good News and send out Evangelists to announce them.

Good news! My lover now a god and you must worship him! Also my horse.

Into this culture comes the truth of God’s liberation. God has invaded, set up his tent among us, and is taking on souls all over the world. The army of conquest marching forward… in love under the banner of the Cross, the invincible weapon of peace.

When Paul says Omnibus omnia factus sum, ut omnes facerem salvos I became all things to all men, that I might save all, what does he mean? Notice that the things he lists are all the things of this world that divide us one from each other. We pull ourselves apart when God would unite us. Paul doesn’t say “to the licentious I became as one with license.” This is not an invitation to build a bridge to more sin or to participate to prove how cool we are.  But at the same time, it is an invitation to realize the weaknesses we all have. We can comfort those beaten by bullies, even if the things that led to the beating are, themselves, sins. God is not calling us to build up sinners by participating in their sins, but to reject sin in all its forms. 

This is the advancement of the subversion of the enemy’s ways: all the things that used to lead to death now lead to life. And the sin that used to lead us further and further away is now defeated in grace – and the struggle to do so is, itself, salvific.

The evangelium, the good new is that this world has been conquered. It’s no longer like what St Job says: it’s not despair, it’s blessing. Even the people who are struggling against us are building up our salvation. The war has been won: liberation is now.

This month’s public bread is provided by the Capitoline Brotherhood of Millers. The Brotherhood uses only the finest flour: true Roman bread for true Romans.