The Readings for Thursday in the 27th Week of Ordinary Time (B2)
The Readings for Wednesday in the 27th Week of Ordinary Time (B2)
But when Cephas was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed.
Paul has spent the better part of the first chapter (and some bits of chapter 2) laying out his bona fides. He’s legit. Yes, he had a private revelation, but he took it to the Church in Jerusalem and they all backed him up – Peter, James, and John. That is to say the inner circle inside the College of Apostles. They agreed with him, with his message, and his reaching out to the Gentiles. You can read about this in the book of Acts. The Council of Jerusalem was formative – not only for the early Church, but for the next 2,000 years.
And yet, a short time later, when Peter shows up, he tries to back-track. And Paul gives him what-for. Yes, he’s still Peter. And yes, he’s still the head of the Church, the Rock. In fact Paul plays up that fact in this passage, calling him “Cephas” (which is “Rock” or “Peter” in Aramaic). And so here, the Rock, is wrong. And the other Apostles do not fear to call him out. It’s ok. It’s ok to note when the leader is wrong.
I hear, lately, a lot of folks saying that we can’t question the Pope. Oddly enough, these tend to be Pro-whichever Pope is in office folks. The Tradies liked Benedict. The Liberals like Francis. So when someone might criticize a speaking engagement of one or the other Pope (or of St John Paul II, Bl Paul VI, St John XXIII, or Pius X – XII, etc) the reaction is sadly predictable along party lines.
And yet Paul stand up and says, in faciem ei restiti, quia reprehensibilis erat. I got up in Peter’s face because he was wrong.
The Papal Defenders seem to think that questioning the Pope and actually, you know, expecting an answer, is wrong. Those asking questions seem to think failure to ask would be a greater sin. Taking as a given the best intentions on the part of both the askers and the asked (we are Christians, after all), one has to assume that there are good reasons for concern when otherwise obedient sons and daughters stand up, with apostolic fervor, and get in Peter’s face.
The Readings for Monday in the 27th Week of Ordinary Time (B2)
If any one preach to you a gospel, besides that which you have received, let him be anathema.
Paul is reaching out to the Galatian churches. (Galatians = Gauls = Celts living in Asia Minor… ) Paul is hurt and angry that people to whom he, himself, has taught the Faith are being hoodwinked by false teachers. These false teachers are showing up and telling all of Paul’s Gentile converts that – contrary to Church teaching – in order to really be a Christian, one must first be a Jew. Men have to be circumcised, folks must keep kosher (as it was then understood), no working on the Sabbath, etc.
This argument may seem arcane to us, and perhaps a bit of “uber-geekery”: in fact it’s very important as the problem persisted well into the days of the Christian empire. It persists even today, with folks not only asking why Christians don’t follow Jewish Customs, but actually teaching that we should, even demanding it. Although these are often rather recent protestant movements (none are really older than the last 100 years), a Catholic parallel might be to see these other preachers as the sedevacantists movement of their day. They were so convinced the Church was wrong that they totally denied the validity of what was being taught.
Paul was convinced that these folks were going to lead his Baby Christians astray. Taking that parallel as valid, though, (and you can stop here if you don’t) I don’t think were in any danger of having a sedevacantist takeove of the Church. I don’t think we even need to fear a Trady Tradboy take over of the Church. The other end of the Spectrum gets very Sede too, however.
The liberals reject the teaching of the church as much as the conservatives. The left side of the nave drifts into sedevacantist thought just as quickly as the right. And, especially here in America, but also in Europe and Australia, it is this side that is leading the Church astray into another Gospel.
The folks advocating for inclusion of the gay agenda in the Church, the folks advocating for ordaining women are not the dangerous ones, to be honest. Both of those would take serious movements in the hierarchy to accomplish. In order to change the teaching of the Church on sex and sexuality, for example, the Church would literally have to claim a new revelation.
The dangerous folks though, the sedevacantists, are the ones who say – even with out a change – let’s ignore the Church and do our own thing.
These folks are all over the Church. They quietly ignore church teachings and advise others to do so. When challenged they (rightly) reply they have never taught against the Church. But rather than mis-stating the truth, they have not stated it at all. They have not “made folks uncomfortable”. They have “accompanied them” and have passed along their own lukewarm faith. They are in pulpits, and teaching positions, leadership roles, and the hierarchy all over the place. (The same is true among Protestants and Orthodox as well.)
The easiest disguise for these folks is secular politics. They create red herrings out of secular political issues and accuse each other of failing to live up to the Gospel of Peach by fighting with their brothers and sisters over political disagreements. They move towards embracing the “sexual revolution” and accuse others of being sexists. They move towards rejecting church teachings on economics and accuse others of being communists. They reject church teachings on peace and accuse others of not being patriots. They want the secular gov’t to do something specific (which may be a moral good), but refuse to see that the Christian faith may move others to do the same thing by another route.
These folks are preaching another Gospel. They are not adding to the Gospel new rules like St Paul’s opponents, but rather they are leaving out huge and important parts of the Gospel. As we move through Galatians, I think it will be possible to speak of these new sedevacantists as well. Paul was worried about Judaizers. We must worry about Secularizers. Same heresy, but now Blue instead of Red. Anathema Sit, anyway.
“When many Christians will be lovers of heresies, and wicked men will persecute the clergy and trample spirituality and justice under foot, this should be the sign that Antichrist shall come without delay.”
St Birgitta (Briget) of Sweden
The Readings for the Memorial of the Guardian Angels
Tuesday in the 26th Week of Ordinary Time (B2)
The Readings for the Memorial of St Vincent de Paul
Thursday ihthe 25th Week of Ordinary Time (B2)
“But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they came together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question, to test him. ‘Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?’ And he said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets’” (Matthew 22:34-40).
And there’s this citation from St Thomas Aquinas’ commentary on the passage:
When man is loved, God is loved, since man is the image of God.
So what is love?
St Thomas has us there, as well: To love is to will the good of another.
Good, also: is very well defined. God is good. God is the ultimate good. Yes, charity and acts of service are important, but God is the final and and goal of all being: if you’re not willing someone else to God-wards, you are not acting in love.
As Fr Z points out, “All of the Law is summed up in Jesus’ two-fold command of love of God and neighbor. The first part of the two-fold law is about unconditional love of God. The second follows as its consequence. We must cultivate our different loves in their proper order. God comes first, always. Always.”
We have it in our mushy liberal hearts that “love” has something to do with “don’t judge me”. We have set up the idea that God wants us to open the doors and let everyone in, like a 24/7 Denny’s. Love is not a “second hand emotion” but rather the driving force that created the universe. It sends us to hell and back in service to another person. It will not settle for second best. It weeps over the addict anddraws her away from her addiction. It can be gentle, nearly passive; or love can be tough to the point of self-destruction in the name of rescuing another.
We cannot love another by simply saying, “Do what ever makes you happy”. For our end and ultimate Good is God. And to walk away from God in any way is not to be acting to one’s own Good.
But how do you will the good of another and yet woo them? How do you notcondemn and yet not condone? How do you call someone Godward without pushing them away?
The Readings for Tuesday in the 25th Week of Ordinary Time (B2)
My Mother and Brothers are those who are hearing and doing the Word of God.
Jesus, like his brother, James, makes much of those who Hear AND Do. James and Jesus both link up the same Greek words for this (James 1:22 and here in Luke 8:21). Although the English wants a pronoun as an object here, neither the Greek nor the Latin have one: the Latin says “Who the Word of God hear and do” and the Greek says “who the word of God are hearing and doing.” (I Stand to be corrected on the tenses there, but I think I read aright.)
This is important because the Greek word that Luke (and James) picked here for “word” is not the usual one that means “teaching” but rather “Logos” which means far more. One might say the “Mind of God”, or even the “Organizing Principle of God”. The very pattern of God woven into all of Creation. This Logos is so important that it is, in fact, a title of Jesus, who is called the Logos incarnate. Through Luke, Jesus (and also St James) are inviting us to hear-and-do the Logos using a Greek word (poieo) meaning “maker” or “creator”. They are inviting us to become poets of the Logos.
This theme runs through Jesus’s teachings in so many ways: not burying your talents, not hiding your light under a bushel, not stepping out of God’s moral plan for you life. Hearing-and-doing the Logos makes so much more sense than “Following your bliss”. St James said on Sunday, “You ask but you do not receive because you ask to satisfy your passions”. The primary message of the Cross is that your life is not about you. You don’t get to do anything you want. You get to do what you were born to do which is to serve as God served when he lived among us.
We don’t like that. Americans far prefer rebels, as I noted about yesterday’s readings. Even though she spent her entire life in humble obedience to the Church – even kicking out a cofounder who wanted to get married after his divorce – Dorothy Day is remembered as a Rebel. Double Ditto for St Francis. Faithful children of the church are not welcomed models for us today. We don’t like to think of Dorothy as a “supporter of patriarchy” nor Francis of Assisi writing pained letters about sloppy liturgics. We want hippies and uppity women to make our history. Jesus wants poets who can dance within the pattern laid down by God, his Father and ours.
Jesus says that hearing-and-doing makes one his Mother and his Brother. James, his brother, says the same thing. And Mary, his mother (but James’ stepmother) would know full well what dancing with the Logos can mean. But James and Jesus, now, they get this from Mary’s Husband, Joseph the Craftsman. He knew how to work with wood like a poet. He knew how to work with the grain of wood, how to make beauty in tune with nature. And yet, because he worked with his hands, he would have been part of an underclass in both Jewish and Roman cultures.
The true artisan knows that about his craft, bread-baking, wood working, wordsmithing, iron mongery, gardening, child-rearing, music, stained glass… we all participate that way in the Divine Nature as we mirror the Divine Craftsman. Jesus calls us to participate in that ongoing creative process as that image of God in us is our salvation.
Go be poets of the logos. Work out your salvation.
The Readings for Monday in the 25th Week of Ordinary Time (B2)
Envy not the unjust man, and do not follow his ways.
America has a problem with rebels. We started with the violent overthrow of our lawful king. We used advanced wordplay to justify what only a couple of generations before would have been a sin. Indeed our whole Anglophone culture is based on the same sort of thing, really. For what was the English schism if not the overthrow of a lawful authority?
We like rebels. But we fail to recognize that all rebels are the same: the essential argument is always, “I will do what I will. This shall be the whole of my law.” This non-argument is used to justify even contradictory ideas: like belief in evolution and also in non-reproductive sex. We rebel against any form of authority including our own. And we envy the folks who do it best: we want to emulate them.
Why can’t I inherit, we ask, all of my money from my parents, ruin every business I touch, cheat on several of my spouses, be emotionally abusive, lie, cheat, gamble, and still be President and a hero to millions?
America has a problem with rebels. All of our movies (even the good ones) are about rebels: what is It’s A Wonderful Life about if not fiscal rebellion? Gone With The Wind is not just about “The Rebel South” but also about a woman rebelling against social norms and running her own life. The Korean war was about a Rebel General. MASH is commentary about rebels in the Vietnam War disguised as a story about rebels in the Korean War. We think the Rebellion in Star Wars is the Good Guys. In our mythology, Jesus was a rebel. We pay no attention to the fact that he adhered to rather traditional Jewish teachings on many front and that even some of his more “rebellious” lines are from one or another Jewish rabbinical tradition. Jesus is not a rebel, but he does have peculiar opinions.
We see this play out in the Church as well: as the entire America Church is filled with Rebels of one sort or another. Yes, there are the liberal sorts who toss off moral strictures, but there are the conservative sorts who align themselves with Steve Bannon and stick up for political leaders who abuse women. These are all our Rebels against the Pope. There are in Orthodoxy white supremacists who won’t even let their women dress in traditional, Orthodox ways because it looks “too Muslim.”
We like rebels – even the ones we say we don’t like.
The problem is that this leads us to some awkward places in our moral life. If we elevate these folks so high on our cultural ranking, where does that leave us, faithful Catholics, who try to adhere to the moral order propounded by our Church exactly because it is the moral order propounded by our Church? Yeah, sure, there’s an element of “rebel” in it because in today’s world looking like Davey and Goliath, or Ward and June Cleaver (or even the Brady Bunch) is a rebellion of a sort. But it is an acquiescence to an authority as well. There is no such thing as a Christian Anarchist.
Unless you’re a rebel.
The Readings for the 25th Sunday of Ordinary Time (B2)
Let us see if his words are true, and let us test what will happen at the end of his life; for if the righteous man is God’s son, he will help him, and will deliver him from the hand of his adversaries… According to what he says, he will be protected.
You want to see something funny? In 1970 when the Russian Communists wanted allies in the USA, they made the Russian Orthodox Church give what’s called “Autocephaly” or Self-governance to the Orthodox Church in America. This instantly created a weak, but real money funnel to the USSR via the Church. There were spies (US and USSR) on all sides. It was a fun political move that had nothing to do with the maturity of the American Church and for the longest time it even caused a rupture of governance: for many of the other self-governing Orthodox Churches refused to recognize the action that Moscow had done without talking to anyone (save the Soviets). Last I paid any attention the Patriarch of Constantinople still doesn’t officially recognize it.
Now the Moscow Patriarchate, using the same ploys under Putin, is mucking about in the Orthodox Church in the Ukraine and Constantinople wants to give Autocephaly to the Church there to protect it from Russia. Russia sees this as against her political goals (of slowly invading the Ukraine by attrition) and so the Russian Church is threatening to break off communion with anyone who dares contravene them in this dispute. Pot, this is the Kettle. You’re black.
Meanwhile… the Catholic Church is having a scandal of global proportions over gay sex happening in seminaries and clergy molesting folks of all ages. Some folks are accusing Francis of participating in the cover-up, which I can see. But some huge portion of this scandal’s rooted strength is part of Christians forgetting what “upholds my life” means. We started to think it meant cultural relevancy. We started to think it means communion for the divorced and remarried, for blessing gay couples, for allowing birth control when it was “my conscience” leading me. We started to think it means blending in to the culture instead of standing out. We’ve even convinced ourselves that “Standing out” is just some sort of prideful, Pharisaical anti-Christian action. Don’t judge me.
Both lungs of the Church are breathing the same bad air. It’s amusing to hear Istanbul and Moscow accuse each other of trying to be “pope” whilst Rome has the most un-papal Pope in recent memory. Yes, the Pope rules a small city state, and yes the Patriarch of Constantinople runs a smaller one, but still, it is one. Meanwhile the Patriarch of Moscow runs the liturgical ministry of Putin’s government. In America, a la carte, most of us just make up our own as we go – and both sides of the Political Spectrum are trying to subvert as many churches as possible into being the American form of Putin’s Commissars. Omnes Habent Papae.
Jesus turns to us and says “What were you arguing about on the way?”
There is this sense, I think – not only among Non-Christians, but also among a certain subset of Christians – that the Christian life is supposed to be a good and blessed life. There’s the prosperity folks, of course. There’s the “God has a plan for your life” people. There are the Calvinists – who taught us that if God is blessing you (with the goods of this world) then you’re among the righteous. This led, quickly to nearly everyonedeciding to work hard so that they would have the goods of this world and, therefore, be evidently righteous in God’s sight. These all gave rise to the non-Christian folks who believe this is what Christianity is about. They ask (rightly, by this theology) why is it that there are so many poor folks? Why is it that evil exists? Why is it that believers fall under the evident curses of the modern age, War, STDs, and the Internet, just as easily as anyone else? Also those who clearly believe this lie are the statisticians who set out to discover if either religious people are happier than others or if they are unhappier. Equally believing this are those who cite those studies as backing them up as either believers or non-believers.
To this the orthodox Christian has to reply, “Blessing, Schmessing. God said I’d end up dead just like him.”
The Apostles themselves fell for this prosperity-power stuff: that’s why they were arguing on the Road. They thought “Whoa, if Jesus is King, who do I get to be?” I think I’ve even heard preachers say this today: You’re a prince or princess, live like it!
We have our ideas of success and we want to live up to them. It’s no wonder that’s what folks think the Gospel really is.
The Lord will uphold my life (as the Psalm for today teaches). He will uphold my cause. He will defend me from the ungodly who seek my life. But my success is not God’s purpose. God’s purpose is my salvation – my wholeness in his own divine life, Zoe; not my adherence to the standards of success or prosperity or even secular ideas of legality and justice. My only telos or purpose is my living with God for eternity and my living with you in love, here and now; the operative part being In Love. God is love. If I can learn to love you now, to love others, to love all… then when the eternal fires of God’s very being encompass me I’ll be fine.
When I say, The Lord upholds my life, you might think I mean “I’ll get what’s due me”. And you might want to sit back and see if I get rich as Croesus, or powerful as Putin. Will I no longer be tortured by the law or oppressed by haters? Nope… The Lord upholds my life means my life becomes one with his. In fact, if those things happen to me (wealth, power, or having my head cut off) that’s God saving me. That’s what it means to “uphold my life”: to take even the means of torture and failure (in the eyes of the world) and turn them into the gate of heaven.
The Lord upholds my life means that even if I do follow him, I can still make bad choices, bad business decisions, bad relationship choices. I can still be killed, tortured, nailed to a stick and left to die in the sun, shoved in a borrowed tomb and prevented from even defending myself. But that’s God saving me.
More importantly, the folks who “hate my life” who are the “ungodly” are not other Earthlings: for God wants to save them too – as do I. The only enemy I have are the demons. When a human attacks my faith, or undermines my position; when I or others sin and detract from the faith, regardless of any human culpability, the actors are the demons who seek to destroy everything God has made. Man is foremost on that list: if we can forget love for a few moments and kill each other over some political squabble, the demons have won.
The bad air in the Church’s lungs, east and west, is demon-scented. It’s filled with notes of pride, and mammon-power. It’s wafted with compromise and temptation. It all comes from hell. It’s only the skillful application of filters that keep us from smelling the sulfur. We take each other to court, break off communion, lead each other into sin; we deck our halls with balls of folly and hate each other for naming them so. Keep the Christians at each other’s throats. The demons have done their work well.
We must turn to each other in Love.
We must be little children – of no account, no power, seen and not heard.
Then we must draw each other into that Fire that is God’s purpose for us.
If we do not do it, he will do it for us. He will turn this Church right around and take us home. That’ won’t be pretty. It will hurt. But we will deserve it.
The Readings for the Memorial of Sts Andrew Kim Tae-gon,
& Paul Chong Ha-sang, and Companions, Martyrs
Thursday in the 24th Week of Ordinary Time (B2)
Remittuntur ei peccata multa, quoniam dilexit multum. Cui autem minus dimittitur, minus diligit.
Many sins are forgiven her, because she hath loved much. But to whom less is forgiven, he loveth less.
It took me years, decades to realize what he said to me. I mean “your sins are forgiven” is clear. But what did I know? I’ve been finding them at ever turn lately. Deeper and deeper. When he said I had loved much, I thought he was laughing at me. For I have. I was not running away from my sins… they were still in my pockets that night at his feet. What sins I had done? I was just living a fun life. There was the long sexual history, of course, but that turned quickly into a pharisaical judgement of folks who didn’t have that history. There was the condemnation of all my sexual partners, the instant feeling of superiority, and the realization that I could always just go to confession. And I knew what it was all about. But I needed to condemn and forgive myself as well.
Sure, I had dissed my parents to pull this off, but it was so important when I did it, right? They were oppressing me into their cultural models of virtue and binding me to the slavery of the middle class. Of course I got out of that house and blew off the family as quick as I could! It has taken most of the last three decades to make up for that. Forgiveness is nothing without healing. “Saved” is the same Greek word as “made whole” and damn it all but I realized I needed my family to be whole. Still, for the longest time, even after he touched me, I didn’t care about them. They were always trying to hold me back. And now I had found the real liberation. This Jesus was the freedom I had always craved. Goodbye, Pops.
Then, later, when I realized what my history had done to me, I struggled to reconcile who I was becoming with who I had been. This guy had reached in and broken all my crutches. But I had used them for so long, that I was literally limping. I would wake up and cry out, How can he do that to someone? Take away all that’s ever been important and leave them alone? And I was not alone because he was still, right there: his hand on my head, my tears falling. My hands holding. My lips kissing.
I still needed so much to wash his feet and to know this wasn’t another hallucination, another lover that took what he wanted and left.
And I found his feet everywhere I looked. And found myself washing them and kissing them over and over. And I realized these were men I had used to get away, to free myself. Sure, I took their money, but sometimes I didn’t cuz it was fun. I had made them all into idols and toys… to fill the broken, empty place where Jesus should be. Idols of lust. Idols of liberation. Idols of personal satisfaction. Idols of gosh this is fun tonight. And each man failed to be that replacement for the one thing needed. Each man fell short, and I had to replace him too. There are no Alphas anywhere. Now that Jesus was here where he belonged I could even love these men, even pray for them, beg God to show them some part of wholeness; some path to wholeness. It took forever for that to dawn on me: restored relationships means even restoring these that had been my destruction. God’s restoration, his love acting through my love, means healing even these broken lives and hearts.
When it all crashes down, when you hit rock bottom, sure, it’s easy to see what good a love like Jesus’ can do for you. But when you’re not at rock bottom, when you’re only aware that something, somewhere, has gone horribly wrong… Love like Jesus offers is only the beginning of a long, slow, climb up. Yes, there glimpses of glory and flashes of light, but mostly, it’s just a trudge up out of the pit I dug for myself. Jesus is here walking with me, but I have to walk. It’s no less deep because I didn’t hit the extremity.
In the latter times, I felt a call unexpected. Could I just, a little, find something good in the past and bring it with me? And that painful last grip of darkness still clings to me. Can I not just maybe find someone that I can take comfort in (read “use” and “self gratify”). I have loved much, and I have also lost much.
I can be forgiven all of it. But I have to let it all go.
And there’s this long, slow trudge, still: where nearly everyone needs my forgiveness and where, I need theirs. And I have to be loving: because what the kids call “slut shaming” is a real thing. We don’t shame folks out of their sins. We love them. For most of them, it was a loss of love or a quest for love, or a demand for love on “my own terms”, that took them there in the first place. Only Jesus can be that love. And your heart has to open, has to draw them forward, has to let Jesus love them through you.
When he said I had loved much, I thought he was laughing at me. For I had. But decades later, I saw what he saw: I was not running away from my sins… they were still in my pockets that night at his feet. I was running to him. I had heard that this man – above all other men – was capable of being Love so I had to run and give him a chance. I never expected forgiveness. What did I need forgiving for? I was in a place I had chosen. But this love that he saw… that he knew inside his own child. This love that his love awoke in everyone who reached out to him.
This love is still becoming the meaning of my life. I’m still letting it unfold and finding new ways of kissing his feet.
The Readings for the 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time (B2)
I can almost imagine the Christians laughing.
Who would do such a thing?
James was saying, “look you would never do this… so why on earth would you think that believing was enough?”
Their children. That’s who would do this… we would do this. We make a mental masturbation out of the faith when we confess doctrines that have no power. When we can claim to follow Jesus but still give in to our sexual whims or anti-Christian ideas adopted from the cultures around us. When we say the things of Jesus, but do the things of the world we scribble on the toe tag of the faith.
The last thing any of us want to do.
Now get up, get out, and do.
Jesus say “Sacrifice everything” and most of us think of football and sneakers.
Our ancestors look at us fighting over sex and money scandals.
They see us in a continual, long, defeatist action of compromise.
Half the Church feeds the homeless but has no sexual morals. All this “pharisee” talk is distracting us from climate issues.
The other doesn’t give two flies about the homeless but can’t wait to purge the liberals out.
Where’s the church that loves the poor and calls the sinner to repent? Where’s the church that preaches the holy mysteries of the Gospel and calls all the world into
Where’s the church of faith and works?
Thoughts. And prayers. And Works.
Where’s the church that calls us to charitable actions of repentance and reparation? Where’s the prayer that leads to action? Where’s the weights to be lifted by hands energized (or wearied) by too much prayer?
Jesus, raise us from the dead.