Food for the Dogs…

JMJ

The Readings for the Feast of St Dominic
Wednesday in the 18th Week of Ordinary Time (B2)

Non est bonum sumere panem filiorum, et mittere canibus.
It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs. 

It’s a long standing bit of church-geeky wordplay that takes St Dominic’s name and turns his friars into Domine Canes the Dogs of the Lord. Yet they come by it honest, for before he was born, his mother the Blessed Jane of Aza, had a vision of a dog carrying a torch as it ran through a field, catching all things on fire. A Benedictine priest told her that her son would be a preacher, setting the world on fire for Christ.

Dominic’s first and longest standing outreach was to the Albigensian heretics of Southern France. These were, essentially, a Manichean revival, teaching that physical things were bad. Physical here includes the body. Spirit trapped in a physical shell… this is a familiar teaching to many, but it is not Christianity. The Church teaches that humanity is a spirit-flesh hybrid, and that our physical selves are as important as our spiritual and mental makeup. This is why Christians believe in “carnis resurrectionem” and “resurrectionem mortuorum”, that is the resurrection of the flesh from the dead. Since they believed the flesh to be evil, the Albigensians did not believe in the physical resurrection at all. Bringing the Gospel to these folks was a lifelong process for Dominic. 


So on to other word play. Matthew’s Canaanite Woman.

It’s important to know that at the time of this story there were no Canaanites because there hadn’t been a Canaan for thousands of years.  It’s as much of an anachronistic misnomer as is calling Jesus as “Palestinian” for there was no province of “Palestine” at this time. Matthew’s well-trained Jewish audience would know who the Canaanites were and, since they spoke Greek, they would have enjoyed comparing the  woman as a κυνάρια, kynaree-a (canine) and a Χαναναία, a kananaia (Canaaanite).

Equally wrong would be calling Jesus a racist because of this story. (I suspect Fr Martin has already lined up his Jesuitical tweets in this regard.) The lack of actual Canaanites in this time period means there’s more than an historical/literal point here. If Jesus is God he is setting up the scene, and everyone is falling into play: Jesus solicits a show of faith from the woman just as he does from others. At Matthew’s telling, Jesus uses wordplay to force his audience to listen again. “Did he just say that?”

There are other cases of word play in Matthew’s Gospel. I think they are important. Matthew’s community is being taught something that is lost on us, perhaps because we no longer need it in our preaching. Or because we are easily offended.

Yet there is something here.

Jesus is reaching out to the Gentiles very early and using them as examples of faith. Matthew’s community probably gets mildly scandalized here. Even more so when the Centurion’s servant is described in terms of pederasty. Matthew seems to want his community to see there’s nothing wrong with reaching out to the Gentiles who, in fact, can be better at this faith game than the Jews. And he uses word play to call them out.

So back to Dominic, whose Albigensian preaching became the first really good example of enculturating the Gospel. The preachers and teachers of the heretical movement were poor ascetics. The people could see in their leaders a holiness of life that they could not see in the wealthy Catholic prelates and even parish priests, with their huge carriages and houses and domestic staffs. Dominic knew that the first thing he’d have to have was a community of preachers whose lives reflected the poverty that these folks had come to expect of their religious leaders.

So the followers of Dominic became poor that they might reach the poor, and well educated to debate with the folks who were preaching the heresies. The dogs of the Lord begged for their bread crumbs and lived lives that the locals could see as holy.

They didn’t become Albigensians, but they did find in the heresy something good, something of value that they could carry with them to bring the Gospel more fully home to these folks. It matters not that they have to give up worldly splendor and comforts to preach. In fact, as it turns out, that’s one of the greatest goods of the Dominicans, their ability to move through the world unencumbered by the things of this world and although this is a clear teaching of the Gospel, they begin using it to combat its misuse among the Albigensian communities.

This is how the Gospel must be preached today: finding the good in things (even if it is misused) and calling it out to draw others deeper into the fullness of the Spirit.



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Jesus in the Sky with Prophets

JMJ

The Readings for the Feast of the Transfiguration

Non enim doctas fabulas secuto notam fecimus vobis Domini nostri Jesu Christi virtutem et praesentiam : sed speculatores facti illius magnitudinis… Et hanc vocem nos audivimus de caelo allatam, cum essemus cum ipso in monte sancto.
For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty…. we heard this voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. 

A question comes up every year around Easter: how can we know? Where is the proof?

Truth be told we take a lot of folks at their word, over and over. We never ask for more proof than their spoken word, even when it’s obvious (to anyone paying attention) that some story or other is clearly fabricated. There are whole websites devoted to disproving fabrications and there are, equally, whole websites devoted to dispensing fabrications. Yet, not to put too fine a point on it, none of these websites ask their owners (or even their readers) to pay the price of their truth with their very lives.

We live in an age when religious martyrdom has been given a bad rap. Only insane folks die for their version of religious truths. Sane religious folks are to be differentiated from the nuts that fly planes into buildings or park trucks in front of government offices. Lunatics kill themselves to make a point. Regular folks live and let live and don’t bother with messy things like doctrines. That’s not, actually, what martyrdom means. Killing oneself or oneself and a whole lot of others, is not what makes a martyr.

Being slain for or because of one’s faith does, however.

So it would be possible to look around the globe today and find folks of several religions who are killed exactly because of their religions or, in the line of duty described by their religions. A Jew slain in their Synagogue, a Native American defending tribal sacred grounds, a Christian killed while she was praying at a shrine. These are all martyrs. The Royal Martyrs of Russia are of this sort, as are very many slain by the Communists. The right wing militias supported by the US have given us a lot of these as well, especially in Latin America. President Reagan deserves the title of “Martyr Maker”.

There are also martyrs of a sort very commonly understood: people who are ordered to recant their faith and do not – and so are slain. Communists, Fascists and other forms of paganism have given many faiths – including Christianity – a lot of these. Likewise the English have given the church a lot of these. Queen Elizabeth I deserves the title of “Martyr Maker” as well.

St Peter – and the other witnesses to the life of Jesus – are, in fact, martyrs of a different sort. Their witness, their confession lies at the root of all the others. These 11 men (and 400 or so others) insisted that what they had seen had actually happened. And not one of them recanted even though every last one save John, could have purchased their very lives by that recantation. 

We have seen this. St John adds, “We have handled this with our hands”.

Yet today it is popular to deny the authority of the witnesses.
To say the tales are fabricated.
To insist that the stories must have been written down long after the reported events.
To demand any number of options that make it easy for the stories to be untrue.

It’s not enough to say St Paul didn’t write his letters, we have to image St Titus was a lie as well, or St Timothy. The whole thing is made up.

Well, OK. 

The theory that Jesus’ body was taken down from the cross and fed to garbage dogs (forgive me) and that’s why there is no body is a self-contained and non-contradictory way to read the possibilities. But then what about the Resurrection? Well, those were stories the failed followers of the guy told themselves in their guilt at deserting him.

OK.

Except who goes to their death for a lie – knowing it’s a lie? And while yes, you may be able to get one or two folks to do that, who gets 12? Who gets 400?

You can’t prove that this thing, this Christ event did not happen. But you can believe it to be a lie, yes.  Are you wiling, personally, to go to your death to say you know it didn’t happen? Can you get 400 folks to join you (who are not equally inspired by their own religious faith)?

A man who believes in nothing will fall for anything. But he won’t die for it.

The Apostolic martyrs paid with their lives the cost of their beliefs. And in so paying, they brought hundreds, thousands in to experience the change of life that only Jesus can give. The first experience of the light of Mt Tabor that comes with baptism and is renewed – every day – at Mass and confession.

Today’s feast gives us a goal for all this. This image of Jesus, the Son of God, glorified in his flesh, this is what God has in store for all of us. It’s not enough for God to become a human baby, urinating on himself, or defecating on the ground and wiping his bottom with his hand. Nope, that’s not enough of a scandal. God has opened the gates of intimate union with his divinity to all of us. This glorified God-Man we see before the Apostles today is a sign of our own theosis, our divinization. As we are he has become so that as he now is, we can become by his grace in the future.  

This participation in God – as God participates in our humanity – is a thing unimagined and yet making so much sense: that we would be able to return, in Christ, to a place not only before the fall, but to our intended place in spite of the fall. This makes the whole of history into a unified story arc with Christ as the creator, corrector, and culmination.

The Transfiguration is not only a sign of Christ’s coming triumph in the Gospel texts, it is a sign of our coming triumph in the world to come.

Each martyr from St Stephen down to those slain on a beach by ISIS have paid with their lives not for their taste of this life, but to prove that they had done so. Their death pays for others to taste it, for us to taste it as well.

A blessed feast!
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Leeks! Onions! Fleshpots!

JMJ

The Readings for the 18th Sunday of Ordinary Time (B2)

Utinam mortui essemus per manum Domini in terra Aegypti, quando sedebamus super ollas carnium, et comedebamus panem in saturitate

Would that we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots and ate bread to the full.

We’ve been slaves for 400 years. They know nothing but this life for generations. Suddenly there is freedom. Freedom… is hard. You have to make choices nearly every single day. And you have to be responsible for them. You can’t say My master made me do that and walk away from it. You have to own it. The Bible is filled with folks passing the buck. Here… demanding God feed them… I always wondered why God didn’t, instead, teach them how to hunt.

The Israelites were never good hunters. Warriors and farmers, yes. But not hunters. Seems like it would have been a logical choice. And we know there were sheep and other animals with them: because they made sacrifices. So why yell at God? Why demand that he feed us? I love the line, “God should have just killed us in Egypt… we could have died there where there were things to eat. Unlike here. Did God have to bring us this far on our feet to kill us?” 
The Jews here suffer from a sort of Stockholm Syndrome. Everything wasn’t so bad as all that under the Egyptians, right? Even now we could probably get back in their good graces. And, yes, it was hard making all the bricks and, yes, they did take away our straw. But they fed us every day.
Then God feeds them. Later they will start to kvetch and moan about the manna itself: we never knew a miracle could be so boring…
Why didn’t God leave us alone? Why did he have to bring us out here? This question crosses my mind all the time. If God just wanted to save me could he not have zapped me with “Save Juice” whilst leaving me in my drunken collegiate stupor? Did he have to take away the sex? Could I not have had snuggles on the sofa and also high mass?
We think we love our captors. But we fear freedom.
That’s the issue, really. We’re afraid of the freedom that God has for us and we’d rather go back to slavery.
Deponere vos… veterem hominem, put off the old man qui corrumpitur secundum desideria erroris. who is corrupted by his erroneous desires. Renovamini autem spiritu mentis vestrae,
and be renewed in the spirit of your mind. Your old desires enslaved you. We must get new brains entirely broken off from the way the world thinks, the way the world feels, the way the world interacts with others who are in the world as well. Egypt is this world.
When we stand in church crying for “More relevancy” or “let me do the things I want” we are like the Jews, crying to go back to Egypt. We’re saying, Freedom is too hard, I’ll take slavery: slavery to my own desires, my own  disordered passions. Paul gives us a good description:

They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart; they have become callous and have given themselves up to licentiousness, greedy to practice every kind of uncleanness. 

It’s a perfect picture of the world in which we live, a perfect picture of Eqypt.  We have been liberated from it… yet we always have fond memories. And always want to go back. This desire is so strong that there are a lot of folks – in both the Orthodox and Catholic communities – who are intenet on telling me how opressed I am. That they do this to cover their own choices, to justify their Egyptian side trips never dawns on them. They think they are being compassionate, when they are trying to sell me back to Egypt.

Tomorrow, the 6th, is the feast of the Transfiguration. That’s what we’re all called to be now, in Christ.

But really, addiction is so much easier than freedom.


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I see your 22, and I raise you 67.

JMJ

The Readings for the Memorial of Saint John Vianney, Priest
Saturday in the 17th Week of Ordinary Time (B2)

Judicium mortis est viro huic, quia prophetavit adversus civitatem istam, sicut audistis auribus vestris.

This man deserves death; he has prophesied against this city, as you have heard with your own ears.

Prophesy against “The City” (be it Jerusalem, or San Francisco, or any part of the City of Man in general) can bring one up on charges of death. John calls out Herod for his adultery and gets beheaded. You’ll get that when you call out a popular, strong leader with rich friends. America has been no fan of being called out since at least the Jackson administration.

So, you have to be careful if you want to speak about The City… make it look like you’re saying something else.

The Holy Father is again taking flak from the right. At issue is a recent change to the Catechism.  Now, first and foremost the Catechism is not an infallible document. It’s edited and changed as needed.


The current text in the Catechism says:

2267 The traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude, presupposing full ascertainment of the identity and responsibility of the offender, recourse to the death penalty, when this is the only practicable way to defend the lives of human beings effectively against the aggressor 


If, instead, bloodless means are sufficient to defend against the aggressor and to protect the safety of persons, public authority should limit itself to such means, because they better correspond to the concrete conditions of the common good and are more in conformity to the dignity of the human person.
 

 
Today, in fact, given the means at the State’s disposal to effectively repress crime by rendering inoffensive the one who has committed it, without depriving him definitively of the possibility of redeeming himself, cases of absolute necessity for suppression of the offender ‘today … are very rare, if not practically non-existent.‘[John Paul II, Evangelium vitae 56.] Emphasis added

A proposed revision to paragraph 2267 reads, in full:

Recourse to the death penalty on the part of legitimate authority, following a fair trial, was long considered an appropriate response to the gravity of certain crimes and an acceptable, albeit extreme, means of safeguarding the common good. Today, however, there is an increasing awareness that the dignity of the person is not lost even after the commission of very serious crimes. 

In addition, a new understanding has emerged of the significance of penal sanctions imposed by the state. Lastly, more effective systems of detention have been developed, which ensure the due protection of citizens but, at the same time, do not definitively deprive the guilty of the possibility of redemption. 

Consequently, the Church teaches, in the light of the Gospel, that ‘the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person,’  and she works with determination for its abolition worldwide. Again, emphasis added.

Now, following on how it was previously explained as something whose met requirements were “very rare if not practically non-existent” we’ve moved to a new place of “inadmissible”.

What’s changed?

The bit about the dignity of the human person is not changed. Nor have the requirements regarding absolute necessity. Nope… that has not changed either.  What has changed is the possibility of necessity and requirements being met. So I don’t think the Pope is changing Church teaching so much as he’s making clear his sense that the 53 Countries that allow the death penalty can’t meet the requirements.

And so he’s preaching against The City, but he’s making it look like he’s preaching against the Death Penalty. 

He’s saying there’s no country in which he can assume both fair laws and unbiased decision making (in courts and in laboratories) coupled with the existing ability to actually detain someone safely. Some will debate that last point, but we have a lot of safe storage now.

And given our track record in America (and some other places too) of racist assumptions in crime and punishment, including – but not limited to – lynchings, unjust arrests, police killings, corrupt judges, tampered evidence, manufactured evidence, turned off body cams, blue collusion, non-peer juries, faked prison suicides, division of families, detention of innocents, revenge killings, and neighborhood race-based raids unseen since the Japanese Internment… I think it’s a fair accusation. 

We wouldn’t know justice if it bit us in the ass. 

The issue is the application, not the teaching. The govt has legitimate rights and powers. But salvation is more important. In this way we return to the early stance of radical support for the Gospel: where even the monastic fathers of Egypt said it was better to hide a criminal from the police, and so give him a chance to repent, than to turn him over. The latter would only mean his death. It is selfish to waste someone else’s soul for a false sense of security. They were speaking of a Christian govt in a Christian empire. It’s not that way now, not at all, not here nor anywhere. We have a duty to protect lives.

Don’t worry. In the same way the left ignores teachings on sex the right will ignore this teaching as well. And they’ll both insist they’re being faithful Catholics whilst hating on the others.

Pray for the souls of the departed, especially those slain in 

Afghanistan
India
Nigeria
US
Iran
Japan
Taiwan
Kuwait
Zimbabwe
Libya
Thailand
Guyana
Uganda
Bangladesh
Iraq
Indonesia
Botswana
UAE
Bahamas
Cuba
Belarus
Yemen
Saudi Arabia
Vietnam
Syria
Egypt
South Sudan
DRC
Ethiopia
China
Sudan
Comoros
Somalia
Barbados
Malaysia
Chad
Pakistan
Oman
Singapore
St Kitts and Nevis
St Lucia
Bahrain
North Korea
Equatorial Guinea
St Vincent and the Grenadines
Palestinian territories
Trinidad and Tobago
Lesotho
Antigua and Barbuda
Belize
Dominica
Jamaica
Jordan

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A sting of pearls…

JMJ

The Readings for St Alphonsus Liguouri, Bishop & Doctor of the Church
Wednesday in the 17th Week of Ordinary Time (B2)

Gloriatus sum a facie manus tuae : solus sedebam, quoniam comminatione replesti me. Quare factus est dolor meus perpetuus, et plaga mea desperabilis renuit curari? facta est mihi quasi mendacium aquarum infidelium.
Under the weight of your hand I sat alone because you filled me with indignation. Why is my pain continuous, my wound incurable, refusing to be healed? You have indeed become for me a treacherous brook, whose waters do not abide!

Jeremiah has figured out that following this God leaves us alone, broken off from the world and the objects of ridicule. And yet God sends us back into the world. Jeremiah says it’s like being tricked. A few chapters later (20:7) he’ll utter these sorrowful, rich words:

Seduxisti me, Domine, et seductus sum : You have seduced me, Lord, and I let myself be seduced : fortior me fuisti, et invaluisti : factus sum in derisum tota die, omnes subsannant me. I am become a laughing-stock all the day, all scoff at me. 

Even for someone deeply in love with God as a Prophet the question can appear, from time to time, “Why can’t I be normal?” I don’t think this is the same thing as, “Can I go back to Egypt?” Many faithful folks dwell in the Suburbs, if you will, of Mammon City. I think of the idea of Israel here, where faithful, pious Jews could dwell in their prayer and their daily lives, sanctifying time, but certainly living in it. Jeremiah and all the prophets down to John the Baptist live beyond the edge. This love stings. And I think it’s ok – even expected a little – for them to want to have something normal.  Sure, serving God is great and all, but why do I have to go all the way?
Simile est regnum caelorum… Iterum simile est regnum caelorum…
The Kingdom of Heaven is like… and again the Kingdom of Heaven is like… 

The preacher apologizes if he misspeaks here, but everyone misses a very fine point here. These two images come together for a reason, a very important reason.

In the first of these Similes (quite literally in the Latin, Simile est) the Kingdom of Heaven is likened unto a Treasure Hidden in a Field. And when someone – say you or me – finds the Treasure, we sell everything to buy the Field.

But in the second one, the Kingdom of Heaven is not the pearls. The Kingdom of Heaven is like a Merchant who goes looking for pearls. And when He – say Jesus – finds the pearls – say you or me – he sells everything he has to buy the pearls.

See?

This Love is worth everything for God who gave everything, even his life, to capture the Pearls of Great Price: you and me. Can you see here how greatly God loves us? Can you see here why it is that we must also give up everything and all things less to take possession of this Kingdom? So greatly are we loved, how can we not love back?

We might think we can go back to being normal. But no… once you taste this love, once you see this light, nothing else can ever be the same. Sins that used to be fun… dull. Things you used to think were love… turn out to be dross. Even the legitimate enjoyments of the world seem brief and passing when viewed in their right perspective. What we have here, real though it is, in its pains and even in its joys, it a shadow of the real stuff.  My beloved has paid for my reality.
This love cost God everything to buy the pearls…

For us to offer anything less than everything in return seems a bit selfish, n’est-ce pas?


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Subversion!

JMJ

The Readings for Monday in the 17th Week of Ordinary Time (B2)

Aliam parabolam locutus est eis : Similis est regnum caelorum fermento, quod acceptum mulier abscondit in farinae satis tribus, donec fermentatum est totum.
Another parable he spoke to them: The kingdom of heaven is like to leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal, until the whole was leavened. 

During the great fire of 1906, so the story goes, Mrs Boudin ran into the family bakery to rescue a bit of the sourdough that was rising at that time, so that the strain of yeast in the 65 year old bakery could be continued. That strain is now 149 years old and still an SF favourite. It only take a little leaven. 

Reaching the end of Christendom is scary for some folks. These folks define Christendom as a Majority World View and that majority is certainly passed away in the US, by falling off on the left and on the right. It died in Europe a painless death of under-use. Although it is thriving in many places, it is often woven in with leaders who would just as soon sell out for more power and mammon. Speaking ill of Putin got an Orthodox Parish in New York City slapped by the OCA. Catholics who are on the Trump train think the rest of us are fake Catholics. Christendom is dead, if by Christendom you mean the power to enforce our morality on folks who are not Christians by using the Gov’t. Gov’ts don’t care about us if we don’t vote for them or else keep them in power. 

Truth is, they never did.

Yet St Paul tells us to “honor the king” and “obey the laws” as long as they don’t contravene the Law of God. And in that respect he’s right – because he says the reason to do this is to get people to speak well of you and want to look into the Gospel.  Jesus says, “Let your light shine before all that they may see your good deeds and praise God.” St Paul takes the Roman Marriage and twists it into a loving relationship of equals. He wants to use it to convert the world. He turns slavery into Christian witness. He wants slave owners to do more than just treat their slaves as equals in Christ. He makes “law abiding” a way to preach. Jesus tells his disciples to be wise as serpents and to make friends of unrighteous mammon. Be in the world, but not of it. Two millennia later, the Christians of the CCCP were praying for the Soviets in the exact same words they used to pray for the Czar, asking that the Gov’t would keep order so that the Church could live the Gospel.

Subversion, my friends. That’s what this is about: subversion. 

The Gospel is leaven, designed to change the world from the inside, or, as the Dominicans say, Grace builds on nature. God takes bread and makes it into His Body. God takes a sinner and makes her into a saint. God take humanity and makes it into himself. None of these by committing violence to the folks involved, but rather by leavening their loaf, by making them, from the inside, into what they are supposed to be. This is why there can be no Benedict Option. To abandon the world would be to rob the world of leaven. 

Still this is not the way to victory. The death of Christendom only means a chance for us to die more often. “Actually I am a Christian,” Tolkien wrote, “and indeed a Roman Catholic, so that I do not expect ‘history’ to be anything but a ‘long defeat’— though it contains (and in legend may contain more clearly and movingly) some samples or glimpses of final victory.” (Letters 255).

The Apostles and all the Church Fathers tell us that no matter how hard we work to build God’s kingdom here, the end will be the Kingdom of Antichrist and darkness.

But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of stress. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, inhuman, implacable, slanderers, profligates, fierce, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding the form of religion but denying the power of it. 2 Timothy 3:1-5a

It’s not going to be pretty, either: Indeed all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil men and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceivers and deceived.  And that “holding the form of religion” bit means that these folks will be (or at least claim to be) Christians. We have these today: folks who say the teachings of the church are impossible to keep, or who insist that a group or class of person can’t keep the teachings of the Church so the teachings must change. In this they deny the power: of God to work, of the redemption of Christ to save, and of the human person to cooperate with grace. 

The Council of Trent foresaw this:  

If any one saith, that the commandments of God are, even for one that is justified and constituted in grace, impossible to keep; let him be Anathema. Canon XVIII

So we’re right on target.

The Prophet Jeremiah’s underwear is an amusing story. It’s how these people will end up. But for the time, we have to even subvert the downward motion: for God intends it for our salvation. Being the leaven in the world, means being the sourdough of God. All we need is one pinch saved from the fire. Only a remnant will save the whole world.


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The Abominable Bride

JMJ

The Readings for Saturday in the 16th Week of Ordinary Time (B2)

Liberati sumus, eo quod fecerimus omnes abominationes istas.
“We are safe; we can commit all these abominations again”


The Hebrew word used in this line for “Abomination” is תּוֹעֵבָה to’evah, a specific class of ritual and societal uncleaness in the Jewish law, related to certain acts of impiety such as idolatry, and eating unclean foods, certain sexual acts, and the sacrifice of children. In short, a description of nearly every popular Catholic politican and not a few popular clergy in the news. It’s not pretty. And yet on a given Sunday in San Francisco, you can see one such politician receiving the Blessed Sacrament unmolested in her parish church. And yet… crisscrossing the country and visiting Hollywood, Washington, DC, or Boston, one can see the same thing in Orthodox churches. If only my former ecclesial home were seen to be as important as Rome by the media, more would be said about suicides in seminary, Bishops touching things they should not touch, monastics arrested and sent to prison, and sex parties with Metropolitans. And goodness only knows what goes on in Eastern Europe, Turkey, and the lands around Palestine. Everyone says, “We’re safe. We can do these abominations again.”

To’evah, abomination, is also used of charging interest on a loan. In current English usage, usury usually something like loan sharks, payday loans, or medical billing practices. But in the Bible charging any interest at all is morally equal to rape and idolatry. For this reason, until recently, Christians were forbidden to be bankers at all. By the Church. It was a curious dual Antisemitism that forbade Christians to do so, but allowed the industry to continue in the hands of Jews, but then the Church changed her mind when the historic banking families became wealthy enough to interest Christians in the business. Still, given the housing situation in many parts of the country, the lack of care for the poor, the lack of food, the lack of medical care… Even outside of sex acts and worshiping the Golden Calves of the president, we’re all safe, right? We can do these abominations again.

In the end both lungs are spotty if not out and out cancerous. The bride is abominable. The sex part draws attention, but listen to the left criticize the Church’s teachings on sex or listen to the right criticize the Church’s social teachings. It’s all the same a la cart Catholicism, it matters not if you like the Surf and Turf or the Vegan side of the buffet.

What’s to be done?

The Gospel speaks to us now. 

The Kingdom of heaven may be likened to a man who sowed good seed in his field. While everyone was asleep his enemy came and sowed weeds all through the wheat, and then went off. When the crop grew and bore fruit, the weeds appeared as well.

Is that not a perfect description of the Church, taken side by side with today’s prophetic passage? There is one fault though: our weeds (Tares in the Greek – a specific kind of weed that looks exactly like the wheat but happens to be poisonous) are not condemned to be always weeds. In the Church of God, I can be a tare today and good wheat tomorrow. God’s grace can get to me after a lifetime of taredom and restore me to righteous wheatiness in no time. But you have to admit, we have some weeds in the amber waves.

The slaves of the householder came to him and said, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where have the weeds come from?’ He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ His slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’

There are not enough Holy Hot Pockets in Hades for all the folks I would put there. And certainly an enemy has done this. Let’s get’em!

Jesus replies…

‘No, if you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them. Let them grow together until harvest;

And remember what I said: we’re not plants. I’m a mess today, but I may be all filled with grace later. We can stand or fall by our depending on God’s grace or our failure to do so. Jesus doesn’t want us to go on Church purity drives that kick out the sinners. They’re the whole reason the Church is here. The tares need coaxing into wheatiness. We’re all transitional forms forms of saints.

The bride has to stay a mess: and yes, there are those who will find themselves in purgatory here and now. It may be God’s way of making them into wheat. And I don’t understand it, but then, I’m not God and I don’t have to understand it. 

By the same token, none of us can be more merciful than God, but collusion with sin is neither mercy nor love. I know how I would want to reach out with the pruning hooks and so I’m thankful that’s not my job. I condemn myself thereby. Even now, in light of recent scandals, some of my friends who did not believe “gay” was an ontological category are calling for all “the gays” to be kept out of/leave the priesthood, tossing out their own sense of the Church’s teachings in their anger.

We wrestle not with flesh and blood, says St Paul. But against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness.

For those of us not called to serve as judges in the Church – and that’s probably all of us reading this blog, at least, we are called to pray for “the Tares” and also for those harmed by them. We are called to try – at least – to love them all back to God. There are those who have spiritual authority to take other action, and that may happen. But even then, our job is to pray and work for healing. Acting through righteous anger will not cause the world to say, “See how these Christians love each other.” But rather it will make us just like the world. We can be a part of Rage Culture too.

Yet never worry. God knows his own.

At harvest time I will say to the harvesters, “First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning; but gather the wheat into my barn.”

It is most important to keep this in mind. As the whole thing seems to go to hell in a hand-basket, over and over again, our job is to pray and live faithful lives. To be virtuous even when the shepherds fail, to be trusting in the one who, in the end, will gather us into his barn.

Though the cause of evil prosper, yet the truth alone is strong; 
Though her portion be the scaffold, and upon the throne be wrong;
Yet that scaffold sways the future, and behind the dim unknown,
Standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above His own.


In the end, the Bride is beautiful. It is she whom God came and sought, it is she for whom he died. Her beauty, unseen even now, has ravished all of heaven and wooed her creator to come. But it was a beauty he gave her… and he knew it was there, even when she fell so low. He knew he could raise her up with himself.


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Here is Deep Water

JMJ

The Readings for the Memorial of Joachim and Anna, Grandparents of God
Thursday in the 16th Week of Ordinary Time (B2)

Obstupescite, caeli, super hoc : et portae ejus, desolamini vehementer, dicit Dominus. Duo enim mala fecit populus meus : me derelinquerunt fontem aquae vivae, et foderunt sibi cisternas, cisternas dissipatas, quia continere non valent aquas.


Be appalled, O heavens, at this, be shocked, be utterly desolate, says the LORD, for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns, that can hold no water. 


There are a lot of Catholic Devotions out there! A lot of spiritualities! Each one is supported by the church, approved, and growing. It’s not a case of once-size-fits-all. Do you like to study and underline passages in books as you think about them? You may be a Benedictine. Do you like to do that on your Kindle while you read in a group? You may be a Dominican. Do you prefer to set the books down and picture yourself in them from memory? You may be a Jesuit. Do you prefer to toss the books out the window and live the Gospel in the streets? Franciscan. It’s a thing: there are online online tests about which religious order your personality fits into. 

Coming from a tradition of one-size-fits-all, this has been eye opening to me. Catholic means whole. If there is something of good, of God in a tool, it belongs in here. There’s meditation, chanting, and silence enough to put any ashram to shame. There’s praise and worship music, baroque stringed adventures, a capella vocal harmonies, and Russian four part chanting enough to put the entire world to shame as mute.There’s a myriad of litanies, vocal prayers, novenas, pilgrimages, books on mass intentions, patristic writings, meditations on the Psalter,  teachings on centering prayer, mystical saints teachings on gardening… There’s enough liturgical variation (just on the books, alone) to make us all eschew the idea that there’s one right way to do Catholicism. 

It’s in light of this buffet of spiritual treasures, this feast for the soul, that I’m always confused at folks who need to shun “organized religion”. This is hardly that, save as a library is organized or a hardware store. You can totally mix and match here. Why did shallow wells of your own when you can plumb the depths of humanity’s spiritual treasures here? Each one plugged into the illimitable riches of a 2000-6000 year old tradition. This water is deep and fresh. And the deeper you go, the deeper it is.

Today is the feast of the Parents of the Blessed Virgin, who were the Grandparents of God. And the thing that calls out to me today is the Rosary, for my friend Tim, spoke on this on Tuesday night, and also this Rosary is my spiritual home. This has become a daily prayer. It, too, gets deeper the further in you go, until you’re lost in visions and depths, stars and great abysses of joy. And when I’m in a room full of people praying this together i can hear the echoes of the children at Fatima and Lourdes, of the mobs surrounding them, simply kneeling and whispering

Hail Mary, full of Grace;

The prayer of the entire church from the Archangel to now. Here to participate in freely, by anyone with a hand and a heart/brain/mouth to say the words. 

A podcast (?) or a conversation I heard (?) last week drove home the point: when Jesus says the “gates of hell will not prevail against” his Church, he uses a word that can’t be about gates… overpowering is not something gates do. Gates do not attack they defend. Gates can be overpowered though. And in that war someone might prevail. Jesus means for us to be on the attack in this spiritual warfare! And since this is a great prayer for walking either a lone or in a group, it comes to me that it’s a great way to conquer as well. What if you could walk the streets of your city or town claiming them for Jesus and our blessed Lady as you walked: simply praying the Rosary and fighting off the demons.


What if armies of prayerful folks could leave Mass on a Sunday and  reclaim whole stretches of their city just by walking home and praying the Rosary as they went? What if walking became your regular mode and you might spend your morning and evening walks to and from the office battling demons and waging peace on your town. 

We consecrated the Archdiocese to Mary last year, maybe we should begin to consecrate the streets, one by one, letting the deep waters of God’s grace fill up our city. Or yours.


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Sé do bheatha, a Mhuire, atá lán de ghrásta, tá an Tiarna leat. Is beannaithe thú idir mná agus is beannaithe toradh do bhroinne, Íosa. A Naomh-Mhuire, a Mháthair Dé, guigh orainn na peacaigh, anois, agus ar uair ár mbáis. Amen.

So is the Hail Mary in Irish.

Quis ut Deus?

JMJ

The Readings for Tuesday in the 16th Week of Ordinary Time (B2)

Who is a God like thee, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance?
Quis, Deus, similis tui, qui aufers iniquitatem, et transis peccatum reliquiarum haereditatis tuae? 


Who is a God like thee?
Gratitude post.
Who is a God like thee? 
Tim, the Warrens, Eric and Claire, Tony and Garry, and the OPL, the COM, Courage, and some folks at work, and the folks from college I still know. My online friends that to pray with and work with, to cowrite with and once in a while meet with. My job and apartment both by shear miracles in which to continue being happy and at peace. St Dominic’s, my home, and Star of the Sea parish, my quite place of prayer and adoration. 

Who is God like thee?

Thankful for being debt free, and for my kitteh. For all the beautiful places I have lived, and for odd twists and turns along the broken road, for my broken self, and the blessings that has given me, the mission, the fields white with harvest. For praying in Knock, for sitting in cemeteries, for Jim and Dave, for the fraternity, for that visit that afternoon to NYU in the fall of 1982. friends who don’t talk to me and old friends who do.

For folks who feel like they are my enemies, even though having an enemy would seem a great  luxury. For parents and grandparents and great grandparents. For family crossing now into three centuries. For roots and wings, for food.

For confession and penance, for absolution and struggles, for  pains and discomforts, for challenges and distractions.  For builders and shakers down. For weavers and unweavers. For Blue Ridge Mountains and Polk Gulch. For ddddddddddddddddddddddd,,,,,,,,,,,,mmmmmmmmmmmm and falling asleep at the keyboard.  For podcasts, for tech support as a mission, for icons and prayer corners, for D&D and dice.

Who is a God like thee?

For rainbows and for, for earthquakes and fires, for the Barbary Coast Trail, for ice cream and red sauce, spumoni, and Zabaglione. 

For salmon and shrimp, for chicken and biscuits, for biscuits and gravy, for sausage gravy.

For Giants Baseball and Mets Baseball, for anyone who can beat the Yankees and anyone who will try. For The Dubs and the A’s for bad grammar and poetry.

For La Boulangerie and Pretzel Croissants, for Ukes and who is a God like unto thee?

This is just stuff today…

What will tomorrow bring?

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The Israel of God

JMJ

The Readings for Monday in the 16th Week of Ordinary Time (B2)

Popule meus, quid feci tibi? aut quid molestus fui tibi? Responde mihi. Quia eduxi te de terra Aegypti, et de domo servientium liberavi te, et misi ante faciem tuam Moysen, et Aaron, et Mariam.

O my people, what have I done to you? In what have I wearied you? Answer me! For I brought you up from the land of Egypt, and redeemed you from the house of bondage; and I sent before you Moses, Aaron, and Miriam. 

These words are the refrain for the hymn, sung on Good Friday, called the Improperia or the Solemn Reproaches. The text is written as if spoken by God from the cross. For example:

I led you out of Egypt, from slavery to freedom, but you led your Saviour to the cross.

I led you from slavery to freedom and drowned your captors in the red sea, but you handed me over to your high priests. 

This is one of those hinge moments, however. We can’t have it both ways.

These sung lines are often cited as a case of antisemitism. That can only be true if you A) understand the teachings of the church; and B) assume we reject them whole cloth. For the teaching of the Church is that Israel is the chosen people of God and that in Christ, we Gentiles are grafted into that relationship. We become Israel not instead of but rather also. These verses and others which seem to criticize “the Jews” but, in fact, are read by Jews as a complex mea culpa for other things not dealing with Messiah, cannot then be read as only speaking of any perfidy of the Jewish people at the time of Christ, but must refer to the entire people of God and how we all constantly betray him. Yes, for we, too, have been led from slavery to freedom, yet we lead Jesus daily to the cross by our actions and our words.

God asks, today in Micah, that the mountains and hills listen to his argument against Israel (that is, us…) and he has one, surely. The common point in all these instances and in the Gospel where Jesus is talking to “an evil and unfaithful generation” (us) is that “Israel” means to wrestle with God. Yes, God would like us to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God. But we are much more likely to struggle like Jacob did the night before God made him lame and changed his name to “he who fights with God.” That’s our expected function. Not that we ever win, really: but God wants us to submit even though he knows we won’t, because it’s hard. The wrestling always ends the same way it did for Jacob. God puts Jacob’s hip out of joint and blesses him.

There is but this required of us: do Justice, love Mercy, and walk humbly with God. For most functions today, Justice means “revenge”, mercy is unknown, and humility before God (or anyone) is brushed aside. Sunday’s post noted that Catholicism is hard. At Confession yesterday before Mass the priest’s comments surprised me and to be honest I spent much of Mass whining to Jesus about it. So, at least I was praying sorta… but as I was kneeling before communion I imagined this conversation: My Lord, this is too hard. What am I to do? And Jesus responded, “My child, it know it’s hard, but you are, still, alive.” The wrestling match ended that way.

All of that was demanding a sign. We want things to be different, yes, but we want them to be different in the way we want them to be rather than in God’s way.  We want Justice where “our side” wins. Mercy shown only when we feel like it. The only sign we’re going to be given – the Sign of Jonas – has been given to us already. The men of Nineveh are waiting for us to respond to God without grumbling. The Queen of the South wonders that we cannot hear wisdom when it is offered.

When will we stop struggling?