Perpetual Adoration


The Readings for the 16th Wednesday, Tempus per Annum (C2)
Memorial of St Apollinaris, bishop and martyr

Then the LORD extended his hand and touched my mouth, saying to me, See, I place my words in your mouth!

Jeremiah 1:9

LET’S OPEN UP with an episode of Catholic Stuff You Should Know. I’ve forgotten the episode number, but it blew my mind. A seminarian and two priests were talking:

Seminarian: You invited us for a bike ride
Priest 1: I thought it would be fun
Seminarian: But then you gave us the silent treatment
Priest 2: you did your holy hour
Seminarian: you put your headphones on and the first half of the ride was totally silent

And I’m thinking to myself, “Holy hour? On a bike ride? With headphones? What would Fulton Sheen say?”

That one off-handed comment left me thinking, though. Or, caused me to pick up something I’d begun before: how close do you need to be to the Blessed Sacrament to engage in Adoration?

The monstrance is usually an enclosed container of glass so it’s not “air-to-eye” contact. But also it’s not even eye-to-eye contact as you can do adoration when the Eucharist is in the closed tabernacle. There are some churches that are quite large so “from the other end of the same room” means half a block away or more. But you don’t need to be inside: Fulton Sheen himself reported doing a Holy Hour from the Church parking lot when the doors were locked.

And so, if you can be a block away and outside… why not on your bike?

Can you realize, where you are, that you are in the presence of God? Is the Sacramental Presence in the Tabernacle – body, blood, soul, and divinity – any less real than the living presence of God in your being, at the very root of your beingness? Is the Consecrated Host – the actual presence of God – any less real to you than the living presence of God in your life? Can you live in an ongoing act of Spiritual Communion?

In today’s readings, Jeremiah has an experience parallel to Isaiah’s Hot Coal moment, to the same ends, but in another format. And it reminded me of Jesus’ statement, “For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you.” (Matthew 10:20). But there are other similar movements in scripture:

And Moses said unto him, Enviest thou for my sake? would God that all the LORD’S people were prophets, and that the LORD would put his spirit upon them!

Numbers 11:29

For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel
after those days, declares the Lord:
I will put my laws into their minds,
and write them on their hearts,
and I will be their God,
and they shall be my people.

Jeremiah 31:33 / Hebrews 8:10

And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams:

Joel 2:28 / Acts 2:17

Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart.

II Corinthians 3:3

How can we read these and not want to engage in a deeper relationship? How can we hear what God has planned for his people and not want to dig in? If these are the intentions of God how can we not crave and desire these intentions to be manifest in our lives?

Instead of my earlier question, “Can you live in an ongoing act of Spiritual Communion?” Let us try a better one: Dare you not make the attempt? God is ready for you to do so. The word is very near… why not speak to him?

It may change your life entirely, in fact, it is assured to take you out of step with many things you possibly hold dear now. But if you have an ongoing, active, conscious conversation with the Living God, would that not surpass at least a little of what you’d lose?

Bike Riding Holy Hour Now, Y Not?

Always distinguish.


The Readings for the 16th Monday, Tempus per Annum (C2)

You have been told, O human, what is good, and what the LORD requires of you: Only to do justice and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God.

Micah 6:8

AT TIMES the entirely orthodox language of the Church sounds rather like the language of the world. It’s not that the Church is too close to the world: rather it’s just that the world has come close enough to the Church to try and confuse Christians. This is dangerous and we need to be on the lookout at all times. Lest “even the elect might be deceived” (Matthew 24:24). Today is one of those times and the “almost worldly language” is do justice.

First, let’s say what it is.

The Hebrew phrase used in Micah is asot mishpat. Asot means “to do” well enough, but mishpat does not mean Justice or righteousness. It does mean judgement. The LXX (ποιεῖν κρίμα poein krima) and the Latin Vulgate (facere judicium) carry this meaning as well. Do a judgement or, more to the point, make a division. Almost every English translation puts in here something about “justice”. And while the way to that idea is clear in the words “division” or “judgement”, there is a direct route from the choice for “justice” to being tripped up by the world.

The world has a decidedly different idea of “justice” than God and worse, the world’s idea of Justice is always changing. At the present time, “justice” in the world includes the right to murder innocent lives in the womb, to help them die later in life, and to deny any meaning to the words “man” and “woman”, or to our bodies. That’s “justice” in the world now.

Needless to say, that’s not acceptable to Christians: God’s law is the deciding factor for what is “just” or not. But, again, that’s not what this verse is saying.

When the late Robert Christian, OP, was consecrated as Auxiliary Bishop for our Archdiocese he gave a brief thank you talk at the end of the service. During that talk he used a phrase that I instantly committed to memory (because it seemed so important). Later I learned it was a very traditional part of the Dominican teaching and theological repertoire, often attributed to St Thomas Aquinas:

Rarely affirm, seldom deny, always distinguish.

It’s that last bit about distinguishing that gets to the heart of what is intended by Hosea by mishpat: it’s not “do justice” (and especially not in the au courant sense of “there is no truth, everyone is right”). Rather it’s an adjuration to distinguish between the things that are important to our final end (that is, for our salvation) and to be able to move forward as needed.

On the most recent episode of Clerically Speaking Fr Harrison pointed out that we often answer ideological questions by jumping to the opposite ideology. Alternatively, if someone has bought into an ideological form of Catholicism, everyone with whom one disagrees is clearly from the opposite ideology. You can see this on the Bird App as people accuse brother and sister Catholics of being Nazis and Marxists. While there are a few of each, certainly, it seems evident that “when I point one finger at you I’m pointing four back at myself.”

So we have to learn to parse things out. To distinguish.

When someone is using a given ideology – Fr Harrison used Gender Ideology in his example – rather than simply jumping into reaction formation, we may want to try and understand what has caused the other person to go so far afield. When they ask for “justice” we want to distinguish between sin and sinner, between what we can legitimately do (with a goal of bringing about a mutual conversion to a deeper faith) and what we cannot do that would involve damning all parties involved.

During my RCIA class, someone asked our teacher if they were required to believe all these dogmas before they became Catholic. In my newbie state I was disappointed that the teacher took 45 mins to say “not really”, but in the fullness of the answer, we are required to assent to them. It may take a lifetime to reach full faith in them. There’s ongoing growth in the faith and one needn’t be perfect to become Catholic.

We need to learn that the real goal of any human relationship is not to “be 100% right and argue the other party into submission” but rather – walking humbly with our God – to bring everyone (ourselves included) closer to God’s Kingdom one step at a time. We need to distinguish the path and through mercy, that is, God’s Grace, we can come forward together.

Come in and sat a spell.


The Readings for the 16th Sunday, Tempus per Annum (C2)

The mystery hidden from ages and from generations past. But now it has been manifested to his holy ones.

Colossians 1:26

CLOSING (ALMOST?) EVERY video & podcast they make, the folks over at the Bible Project recite their Doctrinal Position: “We believe the Bible is a unified book that leads to Jesus.” They use typology and historical study to make this point in over 150 videos translated into 13 languages as they walk us from Eden to Eternity, underscoring both its cultural context and its current applications. And they do most of it in a way that is illuminating and yet wonderfully transparent: they are teaching, yes, but they take us on a voyage of discovery where they are (usually) only a step or two ahead, showing us the way. They are not deigning to download their vast learning “at us” but rather inviting us to learn along with them.

In our Sunday readings Paul takes that same tack: what the Apostles are preaching is the “mystery hidden” from all who came before. Now it’s made fully known to the saints: “Christ in you, the Hope of Glory”.

The Messiah is the fullness of the message God has sent to us. He has come not to destroy the law or the prophets but to fulfill them. He is the key that unlocks the fullest meaning in all of the scriptures and if you read a passage and think “this doesn’t point to Jesus at all” then you’re reading it wrong.

But it’s a lifetime of study.

The Bible can be deceptively easy. Look at the reading from Genesis: Abraham says to the three strangers (that is, to God), “Sit here in the shade while I get you something to eat.” Then he gets some bread, cheese, and meat and serves it to them. Which sounds good, I guess. But the Bible makes it clear that he asks his wife to make bread – at least a couple of hours worth of work – and, in the meantime, he kills a calf and roasts it. So, maybe 6 hours? This all happens in the space of a few verses of Genesis, but it takes most of the day: starting at “while the day was growing hot” and going to supper time. Did God spend the night before walking on towards Sodom?

In the Gospel, instead of Abraham and Sarah with God, we have Mary and Martha with God. These latter two also struggle with what God is saying to them. Yet they offer hospitality to God and welcome into their home the Infinite One whom all the heavens cannot contain.

Then you must sit with it for a while.

Mercy, not sacrifice, as we read earlier this week. But didn’t God give us (or Israel, at least) a long list of sacrifices and rituals? Yes, but what happened first? The people after having agreed to the Covenant popped off and worshipped the golden calf, breaking the Covenant even before they had received the Tablets of the Law from Moses. God says he’s going to destroy them and start over, but his anger is appeased by Moses’ intercession. No sacrifice needed: the people were saved by prayer and mercy, that is, grace. Jesus, God in the flesh, is not a new plan: it was the plan all along for God to be mercy for us. He loved us even while we were sinners.

And waits only for our hospitality to reveal himself in the mystery that has been hidden through the ages.

What Did We Do?


The Readings for the 15th Saturday, Tempus per Annum (C2)
Memorial of Our Lady of Mt Carmel

On that day a satire shall be sung over you.

Micah 2:4a

AT THE END OF the wonderful Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971), Mr Wonka reads the riot act to Charlie and his Grandfather. “All offers shall become null and void”. Grandpa says, “We’ve not broken any rules” and Wonka screams out “WRONG!” It’s all there in black and white, clear as crystal. In today’s passage from Micah, the prophet makes it clear as crystal that when things go bad (as they are about to do) it’s Israel’s own fault. In fact, to read the Old Testament from the get-go, when things go bad, it’s your own fault.

Today’s reading is another place where the lectionary is actually different from the text they link to. Not sure what’s going on here. I confess I was kind of excited about “a satire shall be sung” because singing satires a part of the Irish Bardic tradition. (And also part of modern politics that I greatly enjoy.) Other translations, though, make the point a bit more literally (“make a proverb of you”, “mock you”, etc). Imagine, “Yeah, the South was like Israel after God got done with ’em.” But it was all Israel’s fault: not God’s. It’s what you might call natural consequences. There actually is a plan for the universe. When you step outside of that plan things fall apart. God needn’t do anything to “punish” you: it just happens. God opens a way through the sea for his beloved, and you chase after his beloved… you drown. Quid pro quo. He didn’t open that pathway for you. If you are God’s beloved (Israel) and you act like any other pagan nation, then you get the same reaction: “you shall have no one to mark out boundaries by lot in the assembly of the LORD.” You erased the boundaries the Lord set so you don’t need them… and they go away and stay away.

Parents do this: you want to go out until 4 PM the next day? OK… but you still need to do your chores, so get up. Is that punishment or natural consequences? You go to work hung over and you can’t do your job so you lose it. Punishment or the natural consequence of not being able to do the job?

I think of this a lot right now. People “sing a satire” at the Church. Are we like the innocent martyrs of the 1st few centuries, or is there something else going on? I think the Church seems more like Charlie at the end of the Chocolate Factory. There’s actually a lot that has gone on. I’m not talking about the politically correct things that people complain about – specific doctrines being out of step with modern times or actions taken 1000 years ago by people in a different culture (also out of step with modern times). Things like abortion and sex are the excuses that people give for disliking the Church, sure, but is it possible that the boundaries are not there because we erased them in other ways? Can we honestly look at our history even in the last 50 years or so and say there’s nothing that might provoke “natural consequences”?

Again, this has nothing to do with what they say about us. This has nothing to do with what they claim to want to change about the Church. It’s uncomfortable. But is it possible there is something to repent of, something to love us through that might make the Church better, more-healed and more-healing in the long run?

A Psalm on this topic.

The Liberal One.


The Readings for the 15th Friday, Tempus per Annum (C2)
Saint Bonaventure, Bishop, Confessor & Doctor of the Church

I say to you, something greater than the temple is here.

Matthew 12:6

NASTY RELIGIOUS PEOPLE in today’s Gospel are trying to make the Disciples follow their mean nasty rules. Americans – and the west in general – don’t like rules. So we read this passage in our favor and along comes the Liberal Jesus to tear up all their rules and say, “Begone! You have no power here!” And we’re thankful for that, right? It’s a good fund raiser and you may hear it from a few pulpits today.

In his Jesus of Nazareth, Pope Benedict XVI takes issue with those who would imagine the Good Jesus of the West as fighting against the Old Religious Baddies. In the context provided by the whole chapter, instead of tiny little snippets, the Pope Emeritus shows that Jesus is not being liberal here, at all. He’s being God. (I had posted a paper about this passage a while ago, along with a follow-up on the image of a yoke.)

Today, what can we learn about the Apostles in this passage? What can we draw into our own life?

The Apostles are doing what any poor person is allowed to do: walk through a field and pull the grains off the stalks, rubbing them together in hand to get the chaff off before chewing the grains. To do this on the Sabbath, though, is not allowed. Jesus then has some back and forth with the religious leaders. Yet it was his comment on the Temple that spun my brain out into lectio land.

What is the Temple? Well, yes, the house of God. But it is the meeting-place of heaven and earth. It is a new Eden in typology: surrounding the fiery presence of God (that is, the Tree of Life) there are sculptures and woven curtains depicting cherubim, plants, and animals. All of the Temple liturgy represented bringing all of Creation before God for a continual act of renewal, even the individual offering were intended to sanctify daily life, bringing all things in Israel within the Divine Sphere.

But wait, there’s more.

As the Holy of Holies was the center of the Temple, and as the Temple was the center of Israel, so also was Israel the center of the world. Israel was not only “being holy”, if you will, but also modeling holiness to the world. Israel’s mission was to be a holy people set apart for the Lord of Hosts for the purpose, as God promises Abraham, of being a blessing to all nations.

When Jesus says he is more important than the Temple, this is his claim. He is mindful of all of this. As the God-Man he is the place where heaven and earth meet. In his person all of creation is continually presented to God the Father in a continual act of renewal and thanksgiving. In his person blessings are showered down on Israel and the world.

But wait: there’s more.

In John 2:21, we hear of the “temple of his (Jesus’) body”. Paul says that we are “members of his body” (Ephesians 5:30). Then, in 1 Corinthians 6:19, we are reminded that our bodies are the temple as well. What is true of Jesus in his person is intended to be true of us in his grace.

This is, certainly, something Greater Than the Temple. And it’s not at all related to Jesus throwing dishwater on the nasty religious laws.

Like Jimmy Carter said…


The Readings for the 15th Thursday, Tempus per Annum (C2)
Memorial of St Kateri Tekakwitha, Virgin

Your name and your title are the desire of our souls.

Isaiah 26:8

NOT REALLY SURE What the lectionary crafters are doing here. The translation “your name and your title” is an odd turn of phrase. It’s not even in the actual NABRE where Isaiah 26:8 is rendered as “name and memory”. It’s not in the Hebrew or the Greek or the Latin. Most English translations seem to follow suit.

You’d think that the translation choice is the interesting part, right? But no: not really at all.

“Desire of our souls” is, to me, the best part. The word rendered as “desire” can, in Hebrew, also indicate lust. Certainly no moral judgement, but that’s how strong “desire” is here. That is the desire that Isaiah speaks of. “We’re enacting your laws, God. Keeping sabbath, feeding the poor, etc. But we lust after your name and your presence, your memory and your honor. No really. We’re serious.”

As you do the work of God in your life, can you say your heart lusts after God’s glory? If not why not? What do you lust after more than God’s glory?

Just going to leave that there.

ABBAbandonment Issues


The Readings for the 15th Wednesday, Tempus per Annum (C2)
Memorial of St Henry, King

No one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him.”

Matthew 11:27b

TO WHOM DO YOU PRAY? I’ve been wrestling with this a lot lately. So much Christian prayer is addressed just to “God” or “Lord” that no deeper thought needs to be added. In the Byzantine/Orthodox tradition, a lot of prayer is directed to “Christ, Our God”. There are also a lot of prayers directed to the Holy Trinity. In both East and West there is a devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus. (This is also active in the Protestant Tradition.) For East and West, though, the Liturgy/the Mass is directed to God the Father. And I’ve been wondering what I do with the rest of my prayers.

Of course, the Our Father is directed to God the Father.

But generally, when not reaching out to Jesus or the Saints, I think I find myself praying to the more nebulous “God” or “Lord”. These are respectable titles, of course, but they are only titles. Jesus and Saint Paul urges us to pray to the Father. The Pauline formula urging us to cry “Abba, Father” (Romans 8:15). Although Abba is “Daddy” in Hebrew, in Aramaic it is the more-formal “Father“. So, which one was Paul thinking in when he wrote the Greek? I don’t know. The name isn’t the issue for me, though. It’s the relationship.

I have never known my natural father, Arnold Bailey. In as much of the family story as I know, he departed before my younger brother was born when I was less than 1 year old. Although my Mom’s father, Kenny, stepped in and Mom remarried later to my Stepfather, it’s been the absence of my “birth father” that’s always been present, if that makes sense; the presence of absence. My Stepfather is amazing. My late Grandfather was wonderful. Some theories regarding healthy families and child formation suggest that a baby boy needs to bond with his father before the age of 2 in order to have a healthy understanding of male relationships. While this speaks to the importance of a stable family, it also leaves me talking to my therapist about why I have no mental conception of “Father” at all. And thus, I theorize, why I’ve no mental conception of God the Father beyond theological abstraction.

This first started percolating in my brain as a result of a comment made by the professor in our Christology Class. She had said that we are to be sons (of God) in (God) the Son, resting in him and participating in his contemplation of the Father. This is really just an extension of the Mass in which we participate in the Son’s worship of the Father. (In this sense, contemplation and worship are the same things really, mostly overlapping like a Venn diagram.)

How, I wondered, am I resting in the Son and contemplating the Father? And even in my confusion, I was assured that it was right and this is where we are as Christians. So much so that I understood instantly: like John rests in the bosom of the Messiah at the Last Supper, so we too are resting. Jesus calls us friends and CS Lewis says friends do not gaze at each other, but rather stand side by side, gazing at the same thing. So we rest in the bosom of the Son – like John the beloved – gazing at the same thing in the same direction as the Son, that is towards the Father.

This is what Jesus means by “anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal” the Father: it is us. He has called us to himself exactly for this purpose. This is why the Church as Mother struggles with her children: she has fewer and fewer men as Fathers. We live in a culture filled with “Daddy Issues”. At base our issues around sexuality and gender are exactly this, but also our issues with authority, abuse, and power: these are all best addressed in terms of our relationship with God the Father who, alone, can heal them.

Resting in the Son, sharing our one human nature with him, we share also in the eternal dance of the Trinity. We gaze upon the Father in love and awe. We join in the aspiration of the Holy Spirit. We die to self and to false conceptions of self (for we still have sin) yet we are raised to walk in Newness of Life. We hold open our hands to pour out this love on all who come to us in the world.

So it is revealed that Who I Pray To, even though too abstract and risky for me to name, has been waiting for my weakness to call out, bearing with me in his love, and only too wonderfully happy to welcome me (again) when I came to myself and ran to him.

As St Francis (along with so many others) said, “Henceforth, I will have God as my Father.” And so the thing I thought I didn’t have… by virtue of my relationship in Jesus… I had all along.

Turn, turn, turn, will be our death.


The Readings for the 15th Tuesday, Tempus per Annum (C2)

Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty deeds done in your midst had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would long ago have repented in sackcloth and ashes.

Matthew 11:21

WHOA, there! Jesus is being rather a downer, ne c’est pas? Things surely are not that bad, that rejecting you makes us worse than Sodom? As I noted last week, actually yes.

The punch lines comes in the readings tomorrow – in the way that the Lectionary has of breaking the Gospel into bits too small for much content. But I’m ok with moving slow – this passage wasn’t in the pre-Vatican II lectionary. So, it’s a better thing to get it at all!

But Jesus is on a bit of a tear here. WHat have these cities done that makes them worse the Sodom?

They rejected Jesus.

And it’s possible that it’s hard to think of cities rejecting religion. We’re so used to thinking of religion as a personal thing that imagining a whole city guilty of rejecting the Gospel is impossible in our culture. Yet we see it all the time: whole swathes of people reject things. You can’t say many people in my city of San Francisco would have welcomed the most recent former President had he shown up here. It’s possible, then, to imagine a group of the same individuals coming – collectively – to individual choices which result in the whole city rejecting Jesus.

But if that’s how it is for the cities… how is it for the individuals? Cities can’t be sent to hell, although they can be destroyed. How will it be for the individuals who make the choices, one by one?

What are the choices we make to accept or reject the great things done in our midst?

It’s easy to run after teachers – clergy or theologians – who say what we want to hear. How do we know we’re hearing the truth if all we hear makes us feel comfortable? That’s a bad analogy because the same thing can be said of liberals and conservatives, of right and left. We all go running after teachers who say what we want to hear – even if it’s very hard to hear. And being made uncomfortable is not the only proof of the Gospel. (Paul says making someone stumble in their walk to God is proof of not-Gospel.)

Today’s reading from Isaiah has the key, I think. Of all the enemies, the Kingdom of Judah had, in today’s reading the worst is coming: their own brothers in the Northern Kingdom of Israel. You cannot have a kin-slaying and think God’s going to be happy.

God sends the Prophet Isaiah out to the King of Judah. God says to be courageous. And he closes “Unless your faith is firm, you shall not be firm.”

Giving in to the taunts of the world around us does not make us successful in the world or at-peace with the world. The world has no faith at all – not even in itself. The world does not believe in truth and every policy, decision, action, and choice is built only on shifting sand. What holds true today will not be true tomorrow in the world. And woe to the man who holds on to “today’s truth” once tomorrow gets here: he will be called a hater for not keeping up. If you think I’m making this up, even 15 years ago “trans” wasn’t a thing on the gay radar. 30 years ago, I can tell you a trans rights activist was booed off the stage in NYC because of the need to “keep the issue focused”. Same-sex marriage was invented whole cloth in 2008 or so. No one even thought of it before because it was “aping” heterosexuals and who wanted to do that? The agenda changed though – overnight – and it will change again. The same is true of nearly all worldly cultural issues. What gets canceled today is the glorious revolution of tomorrow.

Unless you have a firm faith you will not be firm.

Again, the punchline is in the next set of readings so I will stop there. That’s the answer but not the application.

Turn on. Tune in. Drop out.


The Readings for the 15th Monday, Tempus per Annum (C2)
Memorial of St Benedict, Abbot

“Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.

Matthew 10:40

THIS WHOLE PASSAGE can seem strange. Swords, dysfunctional family fighting, etc. Ranks up there with the cut off your hands and gouge out your eye part. The other day on the Clerically Speaking podcast, Episode 178, Producer Nick (who is, suspiciously, a lay person) said he wanted to hear prachers address the strange parts of Scripture. But, I suspect, we can only do that if we’re rather fundamentalist about the whole thing. The statement about swords in verse 34 could be taken in a vacuum, but that’s not how Jesus said it or how Matthew recorded it. The NABRE parses this out into 3 different sections but there’s no reason to do that at all. Verse 34 is explained over the next 9 or 10 verses, in verse 40 it reaches its apotheosis (pun intended).

The Holy Trinity dwells in our Hearts. This is the gift of Baptism, yes, but also God is our beingness. His is the action that makes our being be. We are not part of God (in that Eastern Wooji-Wooji kinda way) but rather God is the Creator and Sustainer of us in each and every moment and action of our lives. Without Baptism we live disconnected from this reality. Through Baptism that connection is restored, turned on, if you will, although we can continue to ignore it. By way of analogy, before Baptism, the radio in the car was broken. Baptism turns on the Radio. After Baptism, while it is possible to turn the volume way down, the radio keeps playing. (I hate when my parents do this on long drives!)

Jesus runs down a list of things we might use to turn the volume down. We’ll go through it 3 times: family (v37), worldly obligations (v38), and even making up our own identity in our pride (v39). To tune into Jesus, we have to drop out, giving up our ideas about what we owe to others (v37), about what we owe to the state (v38) as it was the state that gave the Cross to Jesus, and what we owe to ourselves (v39).

Turn the radio back up. Jesus is to be our source (v37), our life (v38), and and our end (v39).

Eventually, we can say with Brother Laurence, “The time of business, said he, does not with me differ from the time of prayer; and in the noise and clutter of my kitchen, while several persons are at the same time calling for different things, I possess GOD in as great tranquillity as if I were upon my knees at the Blessed Sacrament.” And again, “Sometimes I consider myself there, as a stone before a carver, whereof he is to make a statue: presenting myself thus before GOD, I desire Him to make His perfect image in my soul, and render me entirely like Himself.”

And then it will truly be as Jesus promised, “whoever receives you, receives me, and whoever receives me, receives the one who sent me.”

When we mediate the presence of Christ in an active, living way to those around us, when we turn the radio up and blast it, those around us experience Christ himself in our fellowship. They, too, are drawn to tune in to the same station on their radio.

Very Near Indeed

Image excerpted from “Hillel and Shammai
From The Czernowitz Haggadah series, Oil on canvas, by Alexander Vaisman


The Readings for the 15th Sunday, Tempus per Annum

Jesus said to him, “What is written in the law? How do you read it?”

Luke 10:26

LET’S FIRST LOOK at Moses, speaking in Deuteronomy. Our NABRE translation uses the pronoun “it” in verse 14: No, it is something very near to you. However, the Hebrew says, “The word is very near you.” It uses the Hebrew Word Devar which can mean a spoken word, an action, a teaching, a command, a reason. It makes sense that in Greek it’s often rendered as Logos. Moses insists the Word is very near. It’s in the hearts of the people of Israel and they need only do it.

The Word (Devar) must mean something other than the Covenant itself. The Word is not about laws, about do’s and don’t’s. Devar is something in the heart.

There’s another implication as the Bible unfolds. In Hebrew translations of the New Testament, Devar is the word used in the 1st chapter of John’s Gospel.

הַדָּבָר לָבַשׁ בָּשָׂר

Hadabar lavash basar, the word became flesh (literally “meat”). The Devar is very near to us all. And as the Devar is the second person in the Trinity, he dwells, together with the Father and the Spirit, within our very beingness, within our heart, as Moses said. We need to bring ourselves into relationship with God within our lives.

Jesus the Devar in the Flesh, makes the same point in the Gospel: Jesus asks “What is written in the Law?” But the conversation moves to what is written in the young man’s heart.

Jesus is not stepping outside of the bounds of Judaism here. During the period called “Second Temple Judaism” (generally circa 4th Century BC – 2nd Century AD) there were a number of different schools of thought within the Jewish Community. These went across the spectrum from what we might think of as “liberal” (in that they denied some of what we might consider important Jewish tenants) to what we might think of as “conservative” in that they look more like what we see as traditional Judaism today. Curiously, in their own time, the labels (if they had ever used such – which they did not) would have been reversed. Judaism was a wide spectrum of traditions and practices, some with more or less respect for the temple, some with more or less respect for the religious hierarchy, and some with more or less literal understanding of the law. Two of these schools of thought were “House of Hillel” and the “House of Shammai”. Among the questions on which they disagreed was the question of “the greatest commandments”. They both agreed that Loving God with heart, soul, and strength was the first commandment. Shammai said the second commandment was to observe the Sabbath. Hillel, however, said the second was to love your neighbor. Hillel won within Judaism’s discussion of this and – in today’s Gospel – Jesus (along with his interlocutor) is clearly siding with Hillel. (He sides with Shammai in other places though…)

The Samaritan is not a Jew, he’s usually the “bad guy” in Jewish Stories. But he knows enough (in his heart) to do the righteousness required by the law even though he is outside the covenant. He has the Devar written on his heart so he can bring it into place in his life.

Both testaments are telling the same story, moving us to the same place: the Word of God must be written in our hearts to have any effect.