All I Want is My Fair Share

JMJ

The Readings for Monday in the 29th week of Ordinary Time (B2)

Videte, et cavete ab omni avaritia…
Take heed and beware of all covetousness…

The Gospel is messy: it doesn’t color between the lines we’ve drawn. Who in this brief Gospel story of familial dysfunction gets your sympathy? We’re not told if we’re talking to the younger or elder brother. My guess is younger because the elder would normally get it all – but see Jacob and Esau, or Isaac and Ishmael. Fathers can be capricious. We don’t know but maybe the man is the eldest son of a second wife or the eldest son in fact, by a mistress though, rather than the wife. Who knows? Who gets your sympathy? My late younger brother (along with many of his friends) was a bully. I rarely see things in these internecine incivilities without that memory coming into play. I tend to pity the one standing in front of Jesus. I often wondered why I was the one that wanted to go to church, but my brother was the one who got to beat me up. So I don’t necessarily see this as an issue of “justice” because my younger brother often got away with a lot of stuff.
What would Jesus say? The answer is one that is certain to annoy anyone who thinks the Gospel is only about “social justice”. Jesus doesn’t even ask the brother who’s right and who’s wrong or what might be going on. He says, simply, don’t covet.
Aslan would remind us we never get to know what might have been, what could have been, or even what would have been. All we can know is what is (and what was). So yes, I had a brother who was a bully, but that’s what providence has dealt. It’s created some interesting memories and mental dynamics in my life. However to fight back, to blame, to demand fairness would have only complicated things, and perhaps have lead Jesus to offer me some interesting parables. This says nothing about what he would have said to my brother… or anyone else involved. This is always only in the the first person.

St John Chrysostom directs us to this in another way…

The sins of the rich, such as greed and selfishness, are obvious for all to see. The sins of the poor are less conspicuous, yet equally corrosive of the soul. Some poor people are tempted to envy the rich; indeed this is a form of vicarious greed, because the poor person wanting great wealth is in spirit no different from the rich person amassing great wealth. Many poor people are gripped by fear: their hearts are caught in a chain of anxiety, worrying whether they will have food on their plates tomorrow or clothes on their backs. Some poor people are constantly formulating in their minds devious plans to cheat the rich to obtain their Wealth; this is no different in spirit from the rich making plans to exploit the poor by paying low wages. The art of being poor is to trust in God for everything, to demand nothing-and to be grateful for all that is given.

Mindful, this is from the same Saint who teaches that both rich and poor alike rely too much on having stuff and not enough of God. This same saint teaches it is the duty of the rich to share in humble thankfulness for all they have and the duty of the poor to be humble in their reception of charity. The same saint teaches that laws do nothing for charity, as only a change of heart brings about charity…
See? The Gospel is really messy and doesn’t fall neatly into modern political parties.

Jesus asks, “Who made me the judge (literally, the divider) over this?”

In the first person singular and plural the Gospel offers no justice at all. In talking to Christians the only thing we’re promised is hate and eventually death. However we are to do justice – by which the Biblical writers do not mean “pass laws, march in the street, fix things”. We have a huge problem with those sorts of activism. Because we know God wants to save everyone: rich and poor, men and women, all races, all religions, all tribes, nations, and tongues. God doesn’t have time to care about our political squabbles.

In the life of Sts Cyril & Methodious we learn: That is why we generously endure offenses caused us as private people. But in company we defend one another and give our lives in battle for our neighbors, so that you, having taken our fellows prisoners, could not imprison their souls together with their bodies by forcing them into renouncing their faith and into godless deeds.
The Gospel is very messy. Our problem today seems to be that we are unwilling to “endure offenses caused us as private people”. We instantly demand justice and “our fair share”. Jesus accuses us (in the first person) of being covetous. Our job is to defend the weak, feed the poor, shelter the lost, but never to assume that is us we’re talking about there.

Lord, can we ask you something?

JMJ

The Readings for the 29th Sunday of Ordinary Time (B2)

Magister, volumus ut quodcumque petierimus, facias nobis.
Master, we desire that whatsoever we shall ask, thou wouldst do it for us.

This came up last night at St Dominic’s. It was a surprise to realize, but the Apostles – in fact James and John, two of the “Big Three” insiders – were making a secular power grab here. Could have been one of the Borgia Popes for this moment. And so they thought that Jesus was going to be a secular king… and these Fishermen and sons of a fisherman, wanted to be on either side of the throne. Just not getting it: God’s kingdom doesn’t work that way. Fr James, the preacher, used it to point out that the Church has been dealing with sinners in leadership roles from the very beginning.

James and John, thinking they’re in at the start of some popular movement that will overthrow the government want to make sure they’re in good with seats secured on the new ruling junta.  They want to make sure they have options that can be exercised when this new startup IPOs. They want their share of that first day stock boom.

They want their share. You know, Jesus doesn’t yell at them. This is not like when Peter said, “Don’t go to the cross”. They are mistaken – but only in some part of the equation. Jesus is a king. And he will drink a cup. And they, too, will drink it… They will get their share.

They are wrong in the application though.

So… I want to suggest something: that being wrong in the application may not be as bad as taking the cross out entirely. James and John don’t get the same response as Peter.

There are those who think their faith requires them to make political actions and movements. There are those who feel their faith urges them to take out civic power. Jesus has some hope for them that, in fact, they will drink his cup with him.  James, you know, dies a martyr’s death. John lives a long life of martyrdom, caring for Jesus’ mother, going to prison, exile… but he dies an old man praising Jesus.

And when the others hear about it, they get all uppity and in each other’s faces. Jesus has to shut them up with a teaching moment: You know that those who are recognized as rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones make their authority over them felt.

This was also true among the Jews as well in Jesus time: for they had several generations of Maccabees who were a Theocracy – where the king was also the high priest. Then they had client kings who were Jewish at least by birth, but had no sense at all of stewardship or shepherding over the people. The Herods were the most recent of these kings, Jewish in name only and despised by the people.

Christian leadership requires the Cross. This leader is there not as a pusher and mover, not a cowboy with a cattle prod. A Christian leader has to woo, has to call by name, has to give his life for the sheep. Leadership in this role is about sacrifice. It’s about self-emptying. It may be next to impossible to be a Christian Civil Servant, but it’s not forbidden.

In some cases a Crown worn right has made a King a Saint.

But there are those who take the cross out of Christianity. Peter said the cross wouldn’t sell. They don’t mind the politics (as long as they agree) but they don’t want any, you know, sacrifice or conversion. Penance doesn’t play in Peoria. It doesn’t pay well in DC. There are those who ignore the cross even as they use it as a label for their own purposes. They too, don’t want any conversion or sacrifice. They want prosperity and “justice” rather than kenosis. Their politics leads to victory for “us” and an end to “them”. The Cross is for all – or else it is for none. These would not drink the cup of Jesus if they had a choice. It has no meaning, in fact, it may be opposed to all they stand for.

Jesus calls them Satan

I got my Liberty License

JMJ

The Readings for the memorial of St Theresa of Avila, Doctor of the Church
Monday in the 28th Week of Ordinary Time (B2)

Itaque, fratres, non sumus ancillae filii, sed liberae : qua libertate Christus nos liberavit. State, et nolite iterum jugo servitutis contineri.
So then, brethren, we are not the children of the bondwoman, but of the free: by the freedom wherewith Christ has made us free. Stand fast, and be not held again under the yoke of bondage. 

Paul does some strange things with his argument and I want it to be evident:

Abraham had two sons. God promised him a son, but because of human concupiscence, Abraham was impatient and slept with his slave woman, Hagar. She bore him a son. Then the promised child was born to his wife, Sarah. He drove out the slave woman, again because of human sin: his wife was jealous. But God saved that child as well. Of Sarah by Isaac came all the tribes of Israel. Of Hagar, the slave, came by way of Ishmael, all the gentile tribes of the middle east.

It should be evident that the Ishmaelite tribes of gentiles were not under the law of Moses while the Israelite tribes were under the law. Yet Paul uses these same tags of Israelites and Ishmaelites to describe the Freedom of Christians (Israelites) as compared to the slavery of those under the law (Ishmaelites). It’s an interesting rhetorical inversion, a literal head-over-heels, topsy-turvy place where suddenly Jews who reject Messiah become gentiles while the Gentiles who accept the Messiah are plugged into the New Covenant along with the Jews.

But Paul is making this argument to say Christians are not under the law…

One, however, would be a fool if one imagined that Paul is saying there are no rules for Christians. I’ve been a fool like that. My freshman year in College was spent at a small, evangelical Christian school in down-state New York. We had a pledge we had to sign, saying we’d not drink, dance, smoke, join secretive oath-bound organizations, or use traditional playing cards.  (Those were the words… clearly playing poker with Tarot cards was fine… and while we were not allowed to join Greek-Letter fraternities, the number of professors/alumni/administrators who were Freemasons was actually astonishing.) So, we had this pledge. And in October of my freshman year I wrote a long letter to the student paper referencing – among other passages – this bit from Galatians to say we didn’t need to follow any rules.

I made the classic mistake of confusing Liberty in Christ for License to sin.

Sin is actually slavery. We are trapped in our own brains, in our own lusts, in our own desires. We cannot be the self-giving, the self-slaying, the self-sacrificing images of God that we’re intended to be. We are set free…

We are only free if we flow in the will of God. This is what Paul is saying. For the covenant of Sinai was the will of God – but no more. Paul invites his readers to move into the new covenant of freedom in the will of God. But not “there are no rules”.

Our modern Secularizers are telling us this. That religious rules that impact “freedom” (by which they mean license) must be done away with. They are seeking to enslave us to the world, the flesh, and the devil while calling evil things good, things of darkness as things of light. 

The Men of Nineveh – who heard a few whispers from Jonah and repented – will rise up and condemn us, for we hear the preaching of God himself, and yet persist in our sins and even demand that the Church change to accommodate us.

An Ontological Illusion.

JMJ

The Readings for Saturday in the 27th Week of Ordinary Time (B2)

Quicumque enim in Christo baptizati estis, Christum induistis. Non est Judaeus, neque Graecus : non est servus, neque liber : non est masculus, neque femina. Omnes enim vos unum estis in Christo Jesu.
For as many of you as have been baptized in Christ, have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek: there is neither bond nor free: there is neither male nor female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. 

This is not a passage about social justice. 
At all. Forgive me that I have, often, fallen into this as well.

Every day a devout Jewish Man would wake and say these three blessings (among many others):

ברוך אתה יי’ אלהינו מלך העולם שלא עשני גוי
ברוך אתה יי’ אלהינו מלך העולם שלא עשני אשה
ברוך אתה יי’ אלהינו מלך העולם שלא עשני עבד


Baruch Atah ha-shem, elohenu melekh ha-olam she-lo esani goy.

Blessed are you, Lord, Our God, King of the universe who has not made me a gentile.
Baruch Atah ha-shem, elohenu melekh ha-olam she-lo esani isha.
Blessed are you, Lord, Our God, King of the universe who has not made me a woman.
Baruch Atah ha-shem, elohenu melekh ha-olam she-lo esani eved.
Blessed are you, Lord, Our God, King of the universe who has not made me a slave.

Thus a Jewish Man, bound to the obligations of the Torah and the Covenant, thanks God (blesses him) for giving him this heavy duty. Which was no onerous task, but rather an honor.  I’m not a gentile, so I have this duty. I’m not a woman, so I’m not excused from this duty (as by child birth, or other womanly functions). I’m not a slave, so I am free to fulfill these tasks. It can sound flaunty, or even triumphant, but a slave or a woman is excused from some duties of the Torah. A gentile is not obligated to any of them at all. A Jewish man must adhere to the whole thing – and if not in his person, than in the persons of his family for whom he is responsible.

Blessed are you… indeed. That’s a way to wake up.


Here St Paul turns those blessings on their head. He says everyone who has been baptized into Christ has put on Christ… and that all divisions have ceased.


Neither Jew nor Greek (Gentile), Neither slave nor free. Neither male…

Paul’s whole argument is against dividing the community. Don’t break off into cliques, don’t use the world’s titles for you to divide yourselves. Don’t use the world’s titles to define yourselves. And he uses quite a list:

Jew and Gentile is a primary division in the Jewish world. (Most Gentiles did/do not care.) Slave and free is a primary division in the Gentile world, though. Even being a former slave or the child of former slaves is a blot against one in the Roman world.
Then Paul throws a twist in the phrase, he does not say, in Greek, there is neither male nor female for that biological division God is credited with making in the beginning – before there were Jews, before there were slaves.

What he does say in Greek is There is neither male and female. And as the Jew/Goy line is intended for his Jewish readers and as the Slave/Free line is intended for his Roman readers, Male+Female is intended for all… Paul is saying none of the divisions we see in the world matter. 

Even the most primary of divisions that has been since the beginning of the world – since Genesis 1:27, actually where the phrase “male and female” is also used – this division is now healed. We are all now, in the Body of Christ, made into the New Man, the New Adam, which is Jesus himself. We are not to stand opposed in anyway, one tribe against another, one class against another, nor even one sex against another. In Christ, the curse of the Garden is undone. “…thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.”

The Morning Blessings that established one’s Identity in the world are null. One’s only identity now, in Baptism, is Jesus. The only thing that matters now is this: 

In baptism, we have put on Christ Jesus and are all one in him.

As I noted at the top of the week, I’m reading Galatians now not as if the Judaizers, as they were called, are trying again to graft the Jewish Torah back into Christianity (as they were in Paul’s day) but rather as if we might be dealing with “secularizers” who are trying to graft some other alien structure into Christianity. There are those who want to graft in “White American Capitalist Republican” in here. There are those who don’t really care about anything in there but “White”. There are those who seek to graft in other social divisions, based on class, sex, desires, race… all the things we use in our “Identity Politics” are irrelevant.

If we are baptized into Christ, all are one in Christ. Coming into the Church we have to give all that up. Obviously it does not end: even in St Paul’s day, one was still either a salve or a free person. But the division, the failure of unity, is no longer real. Again, this is not a teaching on Social Justice. This is a radical teaching on the unity of the Church, a radical reformation of who you are. St John Chrysostom says, 

If Christ be the Son of God, and thou hast put on Him, thou who hast the Son within thee, and art fashioned after His pattern, hast been brought into one kindred and nature with Him… he does not stop there, but tries to find something more exact, which may serve to convey a still closer oneness with Christ. Having said, “ye have put on Christ,” even this does not suffice Him, but by way of penetrating more deeply into this union, he comments on it thus: “Ye are all One in Christ Jesus,” that is, ye have all one form and one mould, even Christ’s. What can be more awful than these words! He that was a Greek, or Jew, or bond-man yesterday, carries about with him the form, not of an Angel or Archangel, but of the Lord of all, yea displays in his own person the Christ. Source

Those who are not so baptized may do as needed or wished. This is not about their choices or lives. 

Those who are initiated by those holy waters into Christ “display in their own person the Christ” and all those other bits are mere labels we add to ourselves are only so much mammon to be tossed out, ignored.

This holds true in other places like Romans, where Paul begins to note lists of sins not as “noun/verb/object” phrases, but as verbal nouns: people whose very identity has become the doing of something. Paul says that won’t work any more. In fact he says if we hang up our “identity” in the doing of something, we’re damned. Only a human being can become a Christian. These other labels prevent that. We have in the mystery of Baptism (and in the Mystery of the Holy Eucharist, and in the Mystery of Matrimony…) literally bounded ourselves to the Messiah not in the abandonment of ourselves, but in the fulfillment of ourselves. We free ourselves from false “identities”, from illusions of selfhood, and become how God made us to be.

No longer let us say “Blessed are you Lord for having made me not like all these other folks…” but rather let us say, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under the roof of the house of my soul… but enter and make me yours. Make me you.”



What Spirit is We Should Be.

JMJ

The Readings for Thursday in the 27th Week of Ordinary Time (B2)

O insensati Galatae, quis vos fascinavit non obedire veritati, ante quorum oculos Jesus Christus praescriptus est, in vobis crucifixus? Sic stulti estis, ut cum Spiritu coeperitis, nunc carne consummemini?
O senseless Galatians, who hath bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been set forth, crucified among you? Are you so foolish, that, whereas you began in the Spirit, you would now be made perfect by the flesh?

We begin with the Spirit… but we think we can fix it all with the flesh.

Remember: we’re the Galatians in this reading. We have heard the Gospel. We know the message of salvation, of forgiveness, of healing. We know freedom from the three primary failures of the World, the Flesh, and the Devil. But when someone comes along that preaches a “Gospel” more pleasing, one that makes it easier just to get along, one that gives us the freedom to cave in (just a little, ok?) to the World, or the Flesh, or the Devil… only just a little… Instantly we go after that one. We begin with the Spirit, yes. But the Spirit is hard, very hard. I think we get tired. We don’t want to keep trying.
If Paul was writing on the Internet, this would be typed with caps lock ON. O INSENSATI GALATÆ. I think the AV and the RSV get it a little better here:

O FOOLISH GALATIANS! WHO HAS BEWITCHED YOU?
Who has tricked you into thinking that there needs to be a compromise (in the name of “RELEVANCY”) with the world? Who lured you into accepting a different Gospel than the one that Christ won for us, the one the Apostles preached to us, the one the Church has held for 2,000 years? It is a long, hard journey to Sainthood, but we are all called to it.

Paul’s references to the “works of the law” are important for – as I noted on Monday – he was talking about something old being brought into the newness of life found in the Gospel. But our law, our modern rules, seem new to us: we’ve only just invented these modern ideas of what is no longer sinful. We’ve only just discovered that we could make our own rules and no one else had the right to tell us otherwise.

Foolish Galatians, every last one of us.

For Satan was telling those very lies in the Garden of Eden. Pagans, Gentiles, and even Jews and Christians from all over the world and through all of history have taught those very things. We are still weaving something very old brought into the newness of life.

And that old message has always.

Always.

Always.

Led away from the faith.

Our Modern Laws, our “newly discovered truths” are the same lies we’ve always heard whispered. “Your eyes will be opened, and ye will become as gods yourselves, knowing good from evil.”

Who has bewitched us?

We have bewitched ourselves into accepting the easy path. The harder path is the Gospel.


(The Waterboys Spirit)

Don’t Dubia The Import of This

JMJ

The Readings for Wednesday in the 27th Week of Ordinary Time (B2)

Cum autem venisset Cephas Antiochiam, in faciem ei restiti, quia reprehensibilis erat.
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.


Sit Anathema Sit

JMJ

The Readings for Monday in the 27th Week of Ordinary Time (B2)

Si quis vobis evangelizaverit praeter id quod accepistis, anathema sit.
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

Yes, Virginia, there are Angels. OK, Maryland.

JMJ

The Readings for the Memorial of the Guardian Angels
Tuesday in the 26th Week of Ordinary Time (B2)

Videte ne contemnatis unum ex his pusillis : dico enim vobis, quia angeli eorum in caelis semper vident faciem Patris mei, qui in caelis est.
See that you despise not one of these little ones: for I say to you, that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father who is in heaven. 
When I was 2, I wondered away from my grandmother’s front porch. I made it all the way to the corner by the Presbyterian Church in Fort Gaines, GA. This was a full block away. I was standing on the corner watching the traffic – I wasn’t on the sidewalk. I was on the curb – when my grandfather, coming home from work yelled at me out of his car window. 

I ran all the way back to a switching on the porch. God only know what could have happened to me standing on the corner there. But thank God Grandpa showed up! (I didn’t think so at the time, because no one likes a switch…)
That every individual soul has a guardian angel has never been defined by the Church, and is, consequently, not an article of faith; but it is the “mind of the Church”, as St. Jerome expressed it: “how great the dignity of the soul, since each one has from his birth an angel commissioned to guard it.” (Comm. in Matt., xviii, lib. II). St Basil says, “Beside each believer stands an angel as protector and shepherd leading him to life.” And the Catechism, citing St Basil, adds, “Already here on earth the Christian life shares by faith in the blessed company of angels and men united in God.”
These angels… 
I told this story the other day, about getting caught in a blizzard on the freeway and I had forgotten it entirely. Its never come up since it happened (in January, I think, of 2007). I was driving from Hamilton, Ontario, to Richmond, Virginia. I had stopped at a rest area in Maryland to get a nap. It was a lovely night. When I awoke there were about 3 inches of snow on my car… carefully backing out and moving along the freeway, there were about 8 inches within an hour. I was going about 15 miles an hour and there was no one on the highway but me. Ok, I’m stupid. There are no hotels, no gas stations… nothing.
Anyways…
This 18 wheeler comes along side of me… and then pulls in front of me…  then  slows down to match my speed. It was a lot easier driving in one of his tracks, let me tell you. We’re going down a mountain and the truck turns on a blinker. I’m not stupid by this point I do the same thing. I follow the truck off on a ramp. We get to the intersection at the ramp and he signals a right turn. I do the same. He drives into the intersection, and I turn right… and he goes off through the other ramp back on to the freeway. I look, and there’s a hotel. 
That’s my impression of how guardian angels work. And no, I’m not saying that the Trucker was actually an Angel. Nor my grandfather. But something made that truckdriver act that way, even though I’m sure that he only used his CB to locate a hotel and led me there. Something brought my grandfather home at exactly the right moment – or maybe kept me safe until he go there.
That’s an Angel acting their part.
Mine stays very busy.
Here’s a performance of Britten’s The Company of Heaven. It’s one of my faves…

What’s love got to do with it?

JMJ

The Readings for the Memorial of St Vincent de Paul
Thursday ihthe 25th Week of Ordinary Time (B2)

Deus, qui sacrae legis omnia constituta in tua et proximi dilectione posuisti…
O God, whou founded all the commands of your sacred Law upon love of you and of our neighbor…

As I’ve mentioned before Dom Mark advises preachers to “preach the propers”. I’ve been wrestling with this idea all week and it finally hit me when I saw that the memorial of St Vincent de Paul was upon us. The name of St Vincent de Paul is probably most often connected in our minds with one of the most active charities in all the world, which, itself, is part of the Largest Charity Organization in the world, in all history.
No Christian can even claim the name if there is no active charity in their life. we do this each to our ability and our calling: in his latter days my grandfather gave away literally the entire family inheritance to a Church in his tiny town in north Georgia. The blessings of that action still rebound to our family. God gave us stuffonly to give it away, to share with others, with those who have nothing. Even when I think I have nothing, I always meet someone who has less. Our charity, though, is not our love.
Fr Z notesthat this prayer came into the Roman mass via an ancient Italian liturgical tradition and he sites a passage in St Matthew which seems to be the source of this prayer:

“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?

Poets of the Logos

JMJ

The Readings for Tuesday in the 25th Week of Ordinary Time (B2)

Mater mea et fratres mei hi sunt, qui verbum Dei audiunt et faciunt.
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.