But What If

The readings for the 13th Tuesday, Tempus per Annum

Amos 3:1-8; 4:11-12
Matthew 8:23-27

Quid timidi estis, modicae fidei?
Why are you terrified, O you of little faith?

JMJ

THIS MORNING, Fr Michael’s homily took this scene all the way back to the creation, reminding us that God’s first actions (on the first three days of Creation) were related to God calling order out of Chaos. Here Jesus is stepping into the role of Creator, calling order back into his creation. Another priest also reminded me that this was a Theophany: a manifestation of God. Jesus used the disciples’ lack of faith to show them who he was. It’s the standard homiletic reading of this text: I think it aligns firmly with the Patristic reading here as well. But I immediately asked, Is that all there is? I had the feeling that something was missing. I don’t know what, but…

The Disciples are terrified. I get that. These men who have been fishermen all their lives are seeing a storm – perhaps a once-in-a-century storm. Whatever is wrong they are terrified, so this seems to be more than the normal thing.

Yet, Jesus – God incarnate – is asleep in the boat. Will anything happen to them? I ask you here and now. Will anything happen to them? Even if they do not wake up Jesus, asleep in the boat, will anything happen to them? I think not.

In another passage written decades later, St Paul tells us that we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. The Apostles surely fit this description. So what would have happened if they had had faith to say, Goodness but this storm is bad. We have Jesus sleeping in the boat though, so everything is ok.” When they do wake up Jesus, he chides them. Why are ye fearful? O, ye of little faith. (Jesus uses the Greek neologism, ὀλιγόπιστος, oligopistos. It’s only found in the Gospels and it only refers to the Apostles, in other words, to us.) Why does Jesus snark here? I mean he does wake up… he fixes things… what complain?

I’ve been thinking about this in light of our problem with statuary.

No one but Unreconstructed Confederates cared when the targets were Confederate memorials. Yet even secular statues of men who happen to be saints seem to need defending by the Church and I’m wondering why. The storm, you see, rages all around us: is Jesus sleeping?

Pope Francis’ meditation on St Mark’s version of this story is important here:

The storm exposes our vulnerability and uncovers those false and superfluous certainties around which we have constructed our daily schedules, our projects, our habits and priorities. It shows us how we have allowed to become dull and feeble the very things that nourish, sustain and strengthen our lives and our communities. The tempest lays bare all our prepackaged ideas and forgetfulness of what nourishes our people’s souls; all those attempts that anesthetize us with ways of thinking and acting that supposedly “save” us, but instead prove incapable of putting us in touch with our roots and keeping alive the memory of those who have gone before us. We deprive ourselves of the antibodies we need to confront adversity.

In this storm, the façade of those stereotypes with which we camouflaged our egos, always worrying about our image, has fallen away, uncovering once more that (blessed) common belonging, of which we cannot be deprived: our belonging as brothers and sisters.

“Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?” Lord, your word this evening strikes us and regards us, all of us. In this world, that you love more than we do, we have gone ahead at breakneck speed, feeling powerful and able to do anything. Greedy for profit, we let ourselves get caught up in things, and lured away by haste. We did not stop at your reproach to us, we were not shaken awake by wars or injustice across the world, nor did we listen to the cry of the poor or of our ailing planet. We carried on regardless, thinking we would stay healthy in a world that was sick. Now that we are in a stormy sea, we implore you: “Wake up, Lord!”.

Pope Francis, Urbi et Orbi 27 March 2020

The storm. It’s breaking all around us and all we can think to do is scream back into the darkness. We did not stop at your reproach to us, we were not shaken awake by wars or injustice across the world, nor did we listen to the cry of the poor or of our ailing planet.

I think it’s strange that we have yet to connect (in our hearts) the terror of March with the anger of June. We don’t realize this is all one pattern.

Why are we still afraid?

The Holy Father continues, Faith begins when we realise we are in need of salvation. We are not self-sufficient; by ourselves we founder: we need the Lord, like ancient navigators needed the stars. Let us invite Jesus into the boats of our lives. Let us hand over our fears to him so that he can conquer them.

I find myself wondering why we are afraid… why we are ashamed. We have to confess our sins to be forgiven – we are Catholics and we know this. Why are we afraid to admit that the Mission system was part of a colonialist campaign by Spain, attempting to protect the West Coast from the Russians? Why are we afraid to admit that we destroyed a culture nearly a millenium old, replacing it with food, language, polity, and social structures alien to the locals? We wanted to make Christians out of them – that’s certainly Good – but we added to “Christian” the title of “Spaniard”. We wanted to make Spanish Christians out of them, as certainly as the earliest Church wanted to make Jews out of Gentiles before they could become Christians. Certainly, it was wrong this time as well? Why are we afraid to admit that? There might be sins that cause people to hate us. And we might have to repent.

Why are we afraid to admit that our alliances with false princes and potus-tates have left us mirroring the world, unable to work for its healing. We’ve become partisans. We can’t repent – that would mean we’re wrong. Instead of the Hail Mary we keep chanting the mantra about “The judges” even when the judges have betrayed us and given the lie to all our panderings. Instead of the Bride of Christ, we are only the call girl of Washington. What if this storm is our cross now and our redemption? What if we are only to let go… to remember Jesus is sleeping in the boat with us. All will be well if we but sacrifice our place, our power, our illicit lovers.

Embracing his cross means finding the courage to embrace all the hardships of the present time, abandoning for a moment our eagerness for power and possessions in order to make room for the creativity that only the Spirit is capable of inspiring. It means finding the courage to create spaces where everyone can recognize that they are called, and to allow new forms of hospitality, fraternity and solidarity.

Pope Francis, speaking in March, seems nearly prophetic now, reading his words in June. Why do we double down on our daily schedules, our projects, our habits and priorities? Now is not the time to screw our courage to the sticking place and tell the world where to get off in “all those attempts that anesthetize us with ways of thinking and acting that supposedly ‘save’ us, but instead… we deprive ourselves of the antibodies we need to confront adversity.”

Now is time to confess our sins, to embrace our cross, and save the world.

Day 108: On the Gospel Side

fixed it

JMJ

THERE WAS VERY LITTLE POLITICAL CHOICE in my household growing up: one was either Democrat or one was silent. My stepfather was brave enough, once or twice a year, to pick fights on this issue. I don’t think he ever actually voted Republican, but I think it was something. to fight over, in those adult ways that make children terribly uncomfortable at the dinner table. When Mom was on the NY State Democratic Committee, my Aunt June was on the CA State Republican Committee. And so, friends on two sides of the family, with the Cuomos and the Reagans. Life was odd for us from the 70s into the 80s. When I got to college, Mom made me register to vote, an honor I accepted under protest, and when I got my absentee ballot that year at my Evangelical Christian College in the suburbs of Westchester County, I held open the double-wide newsprint and scandalized my dorm-mates by voting, in a bright red magic marker, across the board on the Socialist Labor line. I sealed it up, dropped it in the mail. Twelve years later my Mom called one November and said she was happy to see I had voted again: she always knew my across-the-board red vote. I confusedly asked her why she checked on her 30 year-old son, who had not, in fact, voted since he was 18 in that one election. But at least I know that someone in my home district was keeping up my traditional voting patterns.

The next time I registered to vote was when an actual leftist was running for Mayor in SF. I don’t mean a Democrat, although he – like anyone else in this town that wants to get elected – was registered in that party. I mean a leftist. He didn’t want real estate or tech money, bankers or the old guard to decide things in SF. He wanted, you know, electoral power and civic justice, better city taxes, health care, and education, high pay for teachers, lower pay for cops… naturally, he lost.

These stories are to indicate I have no partisan bona fides at all. Which is appropriate for someone who thinks of themself as an Anarchist, although not in the stereotyped, Molotov Cocktail sense of the word. I consider the state a real construct, and I consider the social contract to be real (and even for me to be beholden to it). But I do not consider myself to be bound to it. I am an ontological Anarchist: my person is mine. But before you get all grumpy about American Atomism, I give my person to the only King that is, Jesus Christ. That involves submission to his will, in his church. How can I be an anarchist then, you may ask: because no one coerced me into doing so. Not even I coerced me into doing so, for you can only submit out of a grace freely given to all: you cannot be drawn by force, it is the ontological nature of the human soul to seek truth and, having found it, to submit.

Much of our recent shared experience has been political theatre.

By political theatre, I mean something to distract us. Anarchist theory suggests that any protests are part of the state’s system for letting off steam in order that the system can keep going. Protests are like a valve on a pressure cooker. When the system changes bedroom names and says “small gatherings – except protests” this seems to be exactly the case. We are watching only the existing system of injustice give vent to the energies raised by shelter in place and fear of the covids. Businesses all over the political spectrum are making official actions to publicly adhere to the current political vogue. This is virtue signaling in the purest sense of the word: unless there is systemic change, which is beyond the power of any business, this will all be for naught. But we will all feel good. Then we’ll go back to being productive. Even tearing down statues is only a political drama: we feed into it by defending the statues and performing exorcisms (while carrying the American flag, no less).

Political theater reached unheard-of heights when the current incumbent departed 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue under cover of pepper spray and twice went to church. The predictable reaction was for members of the opposition party to waive their Bibles like flags, dress in cloth stoles like clergy, and be seen to pray. Both of these scenes triggered a new round of sectarian violence in the Catholic internet. This came to a head, recently, when the crypto-schismatic Archbishop Vigano came out of crypto, openly siding with President Trump against the canonical head of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington, Archbishop Wilton Gregory. Catholics, online and off, lined up in predictable sectarian fashion under these two princes of the Church.

Another part of the Catholic Drama has been our reaction to the protests and riots that are happening around the nation. Sadly this is parsing out in predictable, sectarian fashion as well. Not only Roman Catholics, but also the Orthodox, as well as various ecclesial communities and denominations, have all divided (as we did in the US Civil War) and simply mirrored our society. This division and political mirroring is kind of humorous when it comes to most issues. I don’t care how you feel about the Second Amendment, you can’t make me believe there is a theological reason for that feeling. But you can try so I can enjoy the political theater. Ditto taxes, single-payer health care, and the designated hitter rule.

Racism, however, is different. The Church should not mirror society on the issue of racism. It is not a political choice: there is right and there is wrong. St Paul (and the first council of the Church at Jerusalem) made it clear: there is no race in the Church, all are one in Christ. Racism (directed against previously-Gentile Jewish Christians) was the first thing that the Apostles were asked to deal with. They had to appoint men (Deacons) whose job it was to keep things rightly ordered. Still, we know that for a long time, on the topic of racism, the Church has simply mirrored society. We have bad actors in the Church and we also have the rest of us. As someone mentioned, the issue is not that there are “bad cops” but rather that the “good cops did nothing”. This is us in our current situation: it’s not that there are not bad actors – we all know there are. It’s that the rest of us do nothing. Pope Pius XII compared American Jim Crow laws to Nazi Eugenics and Pope Francis refers to how our “…toleration of evil, which is injustice, tends to expand its baneful influence and quietly to undermine any political and social system, no matter how solid it may appear. If every action has its consequences, an evil embedded in the structures of a society has a constant potential for disintegration and death. It is evil crystallized in unjust social structures, which cannot be the basis of hope for a better future.” But most of us seem quite happy with our crystals.

This is not a matter of data: you can’t count the number of “racisms” and say it’s going up or down. This is a matter of failed personal relationships. This is a matter of doctrine, a matter of right and wrong. I respond to you differently because of some element (skin color, usually) that I can see. I treat you as less than a person (usually by treating you as less then me). That is racism. It’s not a data point. It’s a failure of love. Christians know this: we know all sin is a failure of love, a failure in rightly-ordered relationships between human beings, each other, and God.

But, as the church works for salvation – not of some, but of all, we must realize that everyone out there needs Jesus. BLM needs Jesus. PBA needs Jesus. It’s not our job to support one to the damnation of the other. The Church, in order to be the Church, must bring Jesus to all. You cannot be silent: a choice has to be made, to stand with – and spread – God’s kingdom, or to be outside it. When someone who says “there’s nothing wrong” gets blocked by a Bishop on Twitter, with which side do you stand? There are sides there. Really. Don’t stand on the side that says “some don’t need Jesus.”

The air is full of plans, and of pacts and proposals. Every wind that blows through press and air carries patterns for new leagues, Federal Unions, Spheres of Influence, and Hemisphere Controls, each of which is spread out on the bargain counter of the world, and offered at a price so cheap as to require only a little manipulation of politics and economics-but never a change of heart. Are we not still suffering from a mental “hangover” from the days of liberalism and the doctrine of the natural goodness of men? Does not the enthusiastic and fulsome praise we give to every three-hundred-word generalization prove that all we think the world needs is a few structural changes?

Ven. Fulton Sheen, Seven Pillars of Peace

It is a mark of the failure of the American system that our political spectrum tends to run from center-right libertarian to further-right libertarian. At the farthest left end of our political spectrum are those who say it would be okay to tax others for social goods – usually the “wealthy”. But no one ever says, “Sure, tax me 40% more to pay for social goods.” For most of us, our idea of Justice involves correcting somebody else. Racism, however, asks us to deal with our own, personal acts of injustice. We want the government with political authority to correct other people but we also want that same government to leave us alone. As such, we are nearly all center-right Libertarians. Racism- and classism – however, is always in the first person. How to I show favoritism?

The protests offer us only more statism: they don’t like the system in place (rightfully so), yet they only want to give us a new system. What is that new system? Do they know? They reject the idea of “absolute truth” so what is their idea of “justice”? Is it merely revenge? That seems to be the case sometimes. Without a stated goal, a desired outcome, the protests will be hijacked (as they already are) by people with their own agendas and more skill at leading crowds. The protests, the yelling, the iconoclasm are not Justice coming into focus. They are only a distraction. From what? From the only hope any of us have.

Jesus wants to give us life. I do believe that Jesus fixes racism – but only by changing our hearts. The Church cannot mirror the world in this. The Church must not mirror the world or she is lost. Fa and AntiFa, everyone needs Jesus. If the Church picks a side, everyone loses. This is not political theatre: this is the souls of everyone we reach with the Gospel. Bl. Pier said that we need social reform: he was speaking of a reform that was possible at that time, in his country, when the vast majority of his fellow countrymen understood that to mean Christian Social Reform. He was not advocating merely more politics, but Christian politics. We must do the same. We cannot be partisans in this: we must be Christians. It is not enough to decide which side is right enough: we need to preach the truth.

There was a tradition of socialism in Anglo-Catholic circles in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. An old website devoted to this subject still lives at the Internet Archive in all its early-internet glory: Anglo-Catholic Socialism. This quote, from Anglican Bishop Frank Weston, late of Zanzibar, ties it all together nicely in two ways:

Frank Weston, Anglican Bishop of Zanzibar

The Church of England stopped saying no to these “ritualists” but they got them out of the way. They stopped them from making too much trouble. In England they were assigned to the poorest parishes: sent into the slums and villages too far from the railways, they were assigned to care for sailors in the dockyards or miners. As Bishops they were sent to the fringes of the Empire, to people who didn’t speak English, to places where no one important ever went. Blessedly that only made stronger their sense of social justice, as we would say now. Serving the poor, the marginalized, the weakest of society, they built up huge, strong communities with their Tridentine (in English) Mass, their Breviaries, and Religious Orders that looked “more Catholic than Rome”.

Our “ritualists” tend to drift right. I’m not sure why. There are very few open racists singing On Eagle’s Wings or holding hands at the Our Father. But the actual texts of the Extraordinary Form are as Revolutionary as the Novus Ordo. There is no reason a person praying the Latin Breviary should not walk out of Vespers wanting to

Deposuit potentes de sede, et exaltavit humiles.
Esurientes implevit bonis, et divites dimisit inanes.

Cast down the mighty from their thrones and lift up the meek and the lowly. Fill the hungry with good things and send away the rich in their stupidity.
Full stop.

Yet they wave flags on their censors, cast aspersions with their aspergillums, and dismiss “social justice warriors” as a bunch of silly “snowflakes” and – at the same time “terrorists who are persecuting us and destroying everything that’s good”.

Where’s the Catholic Left? For that matter, where is the Orthodox Left that would bring us the promise of the Paschal Homily?

Enter all of you, therefore, into the joy of our Lord, and, whether first or last, receive your reward. O rich and poor, one with another, dance for joy! O you ascetics and you negligent, celebrate the day! You that have fasted and you that have disregarded the fast, rejoice today! The table is rich-laden: feast royally, all of you! The calf is fatted: let no one go forth hungry! Let all partake of the feast of faith. Let all receive the riches of goodness. Let no one lament their poverty, for the universal kingdom has been revealed. Let no one mourn their transgressions, for pardon has dawned from the grave. Let no one fear death, for the Saviour’s death has set us free.

Attributed to St John Chrysostom

Is there no one who will say a Latin Mass and then turn and lead a march? Is there no one who sees the connection between the Sacred Heart and the sweat of the poor, between St Joseph the Workman and the union organizers at Starbucks? Do you not see the link between the Litany of Loreto and Laudato Si?

I have been listening to a number of political Catholic podcasts recently. I have been interested mostly in the discussion of Catholic socialism which is been taking place on Twitter and in several podcasts. These tend to fall farther to the left than many of my friends and social circle. (By way of listing the resources, see the end of this post.) What I’ve noticed is that there seems to be a marked lack of political theatre, although there are some abstractions. When the Gospel gets too far from the person-to-person relationship it drifts into political abstractions and heresy. But these folks seem to realize that it’s based on relationship.

I’ve also been intrigued by the overlap of the integralists and the socialists – although they rarely talk to each other, seemingly. I’m on the outside looking in. Both want a society built on Catholic principles, but the former are vague about the endgame, while the latter are not vague at all. Yet both seem to avoid a statist version of their history, seeking rather something that fits well with my ontological anarchy. God seeks your salvation… but it’s only in relationship. Submit to this yoke of your own free will, not through coercion. But it will be encompassing. Racism must be destroyed in our relationships. If we cannot relate as equals before God, no law will fix this. But charity is not enough and we need social reform. That can only come through changing society into the image of God’s Kingdom, the Church.

And this last can only come when the Church stops trying to mirror society and, instead, seeks to change it.

Josias Rex

Tradistae

Links from this thread of posts & links on Integralism (The thread, by Fr Edmund Waldstein, O. Cist., maybe. there or not as the twitter comes & goes, but here are the articles.)
– 2014 Integralism
– 2015 The Good, the Highest Good, and the Common Good
– 2016 Integralism and Gelasian Dyarchy
– 2016 Integralism in Three Sentences
– 2017 An Integralist Manifesto
– 2018 Hans Urs von Balthasar’s Critique of Integralism
– 2018 What Is Integralism Today?
– 2019 Integralism and the Logic of the Cross

The Institute for Christian Socialism

This post on Catholic Anarchy

Day 100. Facie ad Faciem

JMJ

QUARANTINE’S FIRST TERRIFIED PANIC led to a tedium where days blent together in disordered shades of fog. This, in turn, parted like a curtain on a sort of political theater which allows us to pass the time with a modicum of excitement unrelated to our sickness or death. In my fear at the beginning of this excitement, I did not realize but I was watching political theater. Only as things settled into a new normal did I begin to realize that some of this was merely drama and entirely unnecessary. The Theatre has been (for me) most prevalent in the Church. My friends were not fighting for toilet paper or hand sanitizer, but they were arguing over how “The Rules” (health orders, etc) are “oppressing” the Church. There were some who felt otherwise, and so they fought online. I’ve learned that many who are Catholics and proud of our intellectual tradition become just as keen to deny science when it serves their political (theatrical) ends. Also, as wealthy, mostly-white Americans we have a very distorted view of what “oppression” actually is. This is playing out in our reactions to other cultural moments right now. While oppressed people are actually demanding justice, some – politicians, clergy, and laity – are simply reacting to the demand in a theatrical manner. This political theatre even though it’s inside the church had to be ignored as the worldly distraction it really is. Even the debate about socialism was only more political theatre.

One hundred days into this new cultural pattern things are more than beginning to fray around the edges. First, when I and almost all of my friends who lived through the 80s noticed the parallel with AIDS, it seemed sort of OK but even so, every reaction was fear-driven. Then, for a while, there was a depression that wasn’t letting go. One day I realized I could offer this cross to God – that I should offer it to him – and then things got markedly better. Then I learned that I have one extroverted quality above all others: processing things externally with the help of others. It’s not just being around others that’s important, but rather processing around others. Going to the park is not just fun, but the maddening crowd forms a meditative space where thoughts, feelings, and process all happen.

Additionally, my extroverted self is not just struggling to process things in public, but struggling to be seen from an external point of view: when you see me, I can be. Somehow this seems to be part of my struggles around intimacy, sex, friendship, and love. Being alone means for me non-being: how can there be any being if there is no validation, no interaction? This struggle arises at work as well as when a whole day goes by without any Slack interactions. How can today have gone well? No one spoke to me. In these mental habits living alone means never having time to think. Destructive, sinful patterns that come and go in my life are resurfacing and – like depression – it took forever to realize these are crosses that need to be offered up.

Writing to the Corinthians, in the concluding passages of “The Love Chapter” St Paul turns a curious phrase:

For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away… For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

1 Corinthians 13:9-10, 12 (AV)

We only know in part, he says, starting out, seemingly, with something theological, mystical, but then it suddenly jumps to first-person intimacy: Face to face, I shall know even as I am known.

The Greek here for face-to-face is πρόσωπον πρὸς πρόσωπον and yes, it means “Face to Face” but it also means so very much more. Πρόσωπον prosopon is the mask an actor wears in Greek theatre – which theatre was often a religious act. It means not just “face” (as in I put on a mask to look like someone else) but rather it means the entire persona that the actor became when wearing the mask. Prosopon means the intimate personhood of a being. Paul means here, person to person, divine to mortal, God to Man. What that would be like, Paul does not say here, although it is related to love, to charity, to agape. Yet in his next letter he has cause to use prosopon one more time. Saying that God has given us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face (prosopon) of Jesus Christ. In the very person of Jesus the Messiah, we have the very knowledge of the glory of God. In looking into the face of Jesus – the full prosopon of God – we are each revealed as prosopon. We have become ourselves, knowing as we are known. God sees us as subject of his gaze and offers himself as subject for ours as well.

The desire to be known which pretends to offer validation to me is but a corruption of this revelation that each of us – in his fullness – is known (and validated) exactly in this way by God. Not only that, but God does not seek just to see us in an omnidirectional panopticon. He’s not watching: he’s relating. He seeks to reveal himself to us, person to person. God reveals himself in the personhood, the prosopon of Jesus.

That this should be done in the context of an offered cross should come as no surprise since that’s the way God revealed himself to us, stretched out on the beams of a cross, pierced in hands and feet and side. That this should come a personal cost should be no surprise either, vide supra. That this should come as a gift of a very personal weakness, a very personal failing: that’s what we call grace.

Day 75. What Has Been Learned?

JMJ

Very early in this I learned that I can go quite a long time on autopilot without realizing this is not “the new normal” but rather this is the rut I let myself make and it’s only that I’m calling it the New Normal. For a while my two emotions were fear and snark. Sometimes, all up in there, God would manage to punch through with some emotions, like during the Papal Holy Hour. I wept like Tammy Faye in uncontrolled sobs. But mostly I was running on fear and snark. That was not the new normal: that was the rut.

For a while, my entire life was from the apartment, to Grace Cathedral’s Labyrinth, to Nob Hill Market, to back home.

If you had told me in February how important this would become to me, I would have laughed.

Labyrinths are curious. Why bother: it’s a walk in circles. But it forces you to watch your feet, to look down, to not be distracted. It’s perfect for praying a rosary or the Jesus Psalter. It’s a place for zoning out: in broad daylight, people will watch you like you’re a TV show. They will talk to you when you’re done as if you’re a TV star. Then they go on with their day. The first time I looked into the center and saw death, I cried. I’ve since become friends with her by walking into her at least once every other day or so. And praying.

The Market was another trip: do you remember the time before we washed groceries? Then they stopped taking cash. I learned how to make sourdough bread with a half teaspoon of commercial yeast that I’m still using to make things. It bubbles up nicely when I need it to.

Alone on the streets of SF before sunrise.

But there’s also been a slow, painful learning process.

First: I was taking mass for granted. It was a badge of honor that I was going to daily mass – not a daily coming into deeper relationship with God. This was something I did… a box to check off. Not a desire from my heart. Now that I cannot go (or rather, that I can only go on-screen) I’ve learned that you should only eat when you’re hungry.

Second: I’m really afraid of prayer. God teaches us a vocabulary. God gets us going… and then God rocks it. This thing happens when God reaches in and takes over. Grace works your prayer life like this scene from Close Encounters of the Third Kind (EMI 1977):

We are taking over this conversation… now.

But that’s terrifying. While there are few things as glorious, it’s also one thing as terrfying… even the prophets ran away from it. In a deep relationship of love, why do we hurt each other so? My child you cannot hurt me, but you are wounded by Love because you do not trust me. Light can only hurt if your eyes are not strong enough. But I can heal your eyes: and your heart. Only trust.

Third. We asked God to purify His Church but we didn’t really mean it. This is like the item above on prayer: When God has something to do, he does it. I’ve come to believe that’s what’s happening now. God is fixing things, refocusing things, getting things lined up for a future that may even be worse. These words from 1969 are familiar to some:

From the crisis of today the Church of tomorrow will emerge—a Church that has lost much. She will become small and will have to start afresh more or less from the beginning. She will no longer be able to inhabit many of the edifices she built in prosperity. As the number of her adherents diminishes, so she will lose many of her social privileges. In contrast to an earlier age, it will be seen much more like a voluntary society, entered only by free decision. As a small society, it will make much bigger demands on the initiative of her individual members. Undoubtedly it will discover new forms of ministry and will ordain to the priesthood approved Christians who pursue some profession. In many smaller congregations or in self-contained social groups, pastoral care will normally be provided in this fashion. Along-side this, the full-time ministry of the priesthood will be indispensable as formerly. But in all of the changes at which one might guess, the Church will find her essence afresh and with full conviction in that which was always at her center: faith in the triune God, in Jesus Christ, the Son of God made man, in the presence of the Spirit until the end of the world.

In faith and prayer she will again recognize the sacraments as the worship of God and not as a subject for liturgical scholarship. The Church will be a more spiritual Church, not presuming upon a political mandate, flirting as little with the Left as with the Right. It will be hard going for the Church, for the process of crystallization and clarification will cost her much valuable energy. It will make her poor and cause her to become the Church of the meek. The process will be all the more arduous, for sectarian narrow-mindedness as well as pompous self-will have to be shed. One may predict that all of this will take time. The process will be long and wearisome as was the road from the false progressivism on the eve of the French Revolution—when a bishop might be thought smart if he made fun of dogmas and even insinuated that the existence of God was by no means certain—to the renewal of the nineteenth century.

Father Joseph Ratzinger (as he then was) speaking on German Radio

But in the midst of the process it that really sucks, you know? We don’t like it. Worse some of us actually decided – after yelling and screaming about purifying the Church – that we needed to tell God where to get off – especially if he wanted to take out some other things in the process, like ‘Muruka.

Fourth, now that I can’t run away, I’ve realized that all the running away I did in the past was a form of suicide. I would reach a point of disconnect, or dislike, find myself trapped in some way or another, and then I would just go: dropping friends, religions, jobs, lovers, whatever… and reinvent myself. Except the self I’d reinvent was often someone else: a new name, a new religion, a new backstory. The old one was killed.

That’s… not a healthy thing. Not at all. And I’m only learning that now because I can’t escape. Where could I go that’s not here? Or like here? So now I just get out and walk 15 miles. In the past I would drive 400 miles, sleeping in the car, and figure out something to do before coming back (if I came back).

Fifth, American healthcare sucks, and we’ve now shown that to the world. Literally everyone knew this, but no one laughs at the bully until it’s safe to do so. Now it’s safe and we’ve made it clear: millions of people lost healthcare in this crisis, but only in America. Only because their bosses – on whom they depend for health care – were too stingy to care for their workers in times of loss. We need a nationalized – socialized – healthcare system now: from the local pharmacy and privatized “Urgent Care” clinics to the big HMOs and the Pharmaceutical companies. They all need to be torn down, nationalized, and purged. But we will not get it. The next crisis will be worse.

Before this all started in the States, one priest on FB was convinced that the only reason Italy was suffering was because – unlike America – Italy had very few hospital beds to care for the ill. Mostly because of Europe’s socialized Health Care. He didn’t care that per-capita number proved that Italy had more beds than America, or that even our medical experts were saying we didn’t have enough beds. That level of denial is common in America: we know we’re the best so if something bad happens it must be someone else’s fault.

That was before NYC started to bring in refrigerator trucks to hold the dead bodies that they had no other room for. That was before:

The population of China is 1.435 Billion people. They’ve had 4,634 deaths.
The population of the USA is 328.2 Million people. We’ve had 97,647 deaths.
How did we get ~24 times more deaths despite having only a 5th as many people?
We’re NUMBER ONE! USA! USA! USA! (Source).
There are other places with worse stats. We’re not the worst. I get that. But still.. we’re certainly not the best.

Sixth, the American Economy is dysfunctional AF. The cries of “only old people need to stay home”, “let’s risk the deaths…”, “keep our cities open!” and “Meat slaughtering is essential work – even if workers are dying” are, as one person on twitter put it, a sign that America, confronted with the classic Trolley problem elected to save the streetcar named capitalism at all costs. Sorry, wrong answer.

Finally, we really live in a banana republic.

In economics, a banana republic is a country with an economy of state capitalism, whereby the country is operated as a private commercial enterprise for the exclusive profit of the ruling class. Such exploitation is enabled by collusion between the state and favored economic monopolies, in which the profit, derived from the private exploitation of public lands, as private property, while the debts incurred thereby are the financial responsibility of the public treasury. Such an imbalanced economy remains limited by the uneven economic development of town and country, and usually reduces the national currency into devalued banknotes (paper money), rendering the country ineligible for international development credit.

Remember, civilized countries did far more than just give out $1k checks so that people could shop some more – to prop up the economy. All the Feds did was give us more money (as individuals) to give to Jeff Bezos (and some others). And while millions of us sat home unemployed, the stock market had one of its best months ever. That’s where we live. If the Caldera in Yellowstone blew up – because, you know, 2020 – the main loss would be elk, bears, and Old Faithful.

Trumpovationism

The Destruction of Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow. 5 December 1931.

JMJ

After the martyrdom of the Czar and his family, the Orthodox Church in what was becoming the Soviet Union wrestled for a while with various ideas about what was needed. In the Byzantine idea of polity, the Church and the State had always worked “in symphony” even though the idea usually manifested as State Control of the Church in reality: what the west called “Caesaropapism”. In Russia this played out as an ongoing power struggle between the Czar and the Patriarch of the Russian Church. In fact, Czar Peter forbade the election of any new Patriarch in 1700 and the Russian Church let that happen. So there was no Patriarch until the Bolsheviks killed Czar St Nicholas II in 1917 and let the Russian Church have a Patriarch again.

That’s where this story gets really odd. If the state can prevent your leadership from electing a Chief Bishop – and then, turn around and grant you permission to do so again 200 years later – how beholden to the state are you? Both the Church and the Russian State – Czarist and then Soviet – thought the answer was “Greatly Beholden”. So, in the 1920s and 30s, when Orthodox Clergy wanted to bring the Church more-closely into alignment with Soviet ideology, the Soviets encouraged this…

Not because Soviets thought that the proper manifestation of Christian Social Teaching was socialist; not because they thought that Marx had finally understood Christ more perfectly. Rather the Soviet Support for what was called “The Living Church” (Живая Церковь Zhivaya Tserkov) was to encourage a schism in the Church – in order to weaken the Church entirely. After a while, it was common for Soviet agents to influence internal Church politics by seeming to take “liberal” Church positions against the “conservatives” in the Church: things like allowing monastics to marry without giving up their church titles, or allowing Bishops to get married. Today they would have been pushing new definitions or marriage and sex or liberalized abortion laws. This was a political choice and not a theological one. When it became necessary to fight the Nazis, Joseph Stalin jumped theological tracks and began supporting the conservative majority in the Church to get them all fighting with him (and Churchill, etc) against Hitler. Later, again making a political choice, Stalin and his successors would persecute (or partially liberate) the Church in order to gain some political stepping stone.

This history is presented because America seems to be in a Trumpian Renovation period right now.

Entirely for his own political power (not for any theological position) the President has taken religious talking points. In that it results in some sort of political change in favor of Church teachings, I don’t think that’s bad, per se. But the overall effect is to lure a certain class of clergy and faithful into thinking they have to support the President no matter what. These are like the minority of Orthodox in Russia today seeking to make Stalin a saint. They remember the Great Leader’s overtures to the Church and so the Bad Things he did must be ignored. Our President has this same class of supporters in the Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant communities of America.

So I think it’s interesting that right now there is a fight between governors and the president over opening Churches. I remark that it’s interesting… but I don’t trust or agree with either side. While I can agree that many “liberal” politicians would rather the Church go away, the reality is the “conservatives” would drop us like a hot potato if they thought they could get more votes by doing so. We already see this in the area of abortion where Republicans are quick to talk, but slow to act and even many a Catholic Politician refuses to vote (as a matter of course) in keeping with the Church’s position. No, if they could get more votes and stay in power by doing so, they blow up Churches just like Stalin did and give their people swimming pools.

The real issue about opening the churches: If gov’ts allow houses of faith to be open for the spiritual wellbeing of their people it is a tacit admission that religion is a communal, not private affair. It follows that religion is a part of – with effect in – the public sphere. This is contrary to the entire enlightenment project and contrary to the stream of secular, atheistic culture. Religion is ok at home. Not in public.

Neither Trump nor the Democrats can allow for that save that it supports their political ends. Trumps was conservatives who think they have to vote for him because of abortion… while ignoring literally everything else about him as a person and the economic choices he makes. Democrats what liberals who think they have to vote for Biden (or Clinton, or Obama, or whomever) simply for the sake of healthcare or welfare, ignoring abortion and every other moral issue that comes up. At present, both sides are using the medical emergency and taxes to whip up support.

Contrary to any “Politicopapism”, the Church offers the Social Kingship of Christ: which requires the state to move her people towards salvation… or get out of the way while the Church does her job. So it is possible to see that a given politician’s support for something is a cynical ploy to get votes and yet, realistically to give that politician our vote now – knowing that next election we may have to get rid of him. It is possible to see that healthcare for all and a social safety net are part of the requirements of Catholic Teaching while realizing that abortion must be stopped and cannot ever – even momentarily – be considered “healthcare”. Siding with one politician over another will only lead to a schism in the Church, to participation in the Enlightenment project of weakening the Church.

Our current culture drives us apart, to consider “my needs” over and above anything else. Catholic Social Teach is exactly social and requires a community. It takes a village, actually, to live the faith. If we allow the politicians to destroy our social fabric in a Stalinesque move simply to divide and conquer, (if, God forbid, we should participate in it) we are following them – not Christ. We are seeing the new Living Church, and we are bound for death.

1997: Like PrEP but Covid

JMJ

Continuing the series of posts comparing this current situation to the AIDS crisis in the 80s, after 1985 and 1987 it seems good to skip a bit of time, to 1997 and today. The parallels continue to hold.

In conversation, recently, a friend and I were discussing the huge change that came over the Gay community in response to AIDS. Evidently this storyline is part of the “Television Version” and has some traction even outside the community. This story looks like this: in response to the health situation, the cities and states closed sex clubs and bathhouses and, as people started getting sick and then dying, the culture changed. Instead of focusing on sex, monogamous relationships became the pattern. Advocates for marriage took over the podium at events and in the public eye. Books like Virtually Normal came out. There was a lot of pushback against folks who were engaged in unsafe sex. There was widespread approval of the cities (and states) who closed the outlets for anonymous sex.

In this same time period, however, something else happened: in NYC was founded a group called Sex Panic! to demand something rather different: a return to the way it was before. They wanted to affirm all the previous expressions of sexuality that were common in the community and they wanted the freedom to return to them. This was the beginning of the mass popularity of such phrases as “sex-positive” and “polyamory”. Both had been around before, but they were not in the shared experience or vocabulary of a lot of folks in the community. As they became more popular in the community, they also gained traction in the wider population.

These two things – “Settle Down” and “Sex Panic!” – happening at the same time created a culture that wanted marriage – but also wanted to be able to have open marriages. However, AIDS was still a thing. Enter PrEP.

PrEP stands for pre-exposure prophylaxis (the taking of a prescription drug as a means of preventing HIV infection in an HIV-negative person). It means exactly that: a person who takes HIV medication on a daily basis in order to not-get HIV while they engage in sexual behavior that has varying degrees of risk. It’s not exactly a vaccine against catching HIV, but it’s basically the same thing: if there are enough of the drugs in your system, if you are exposed to HIV, you are safe. The drugs prevent the virus from gaining traction in your system. Coincidently, the same drugs seem to also have an effect in the battles against Covid-19. They are studying this now.

After all the cultural parallels noted between HIV and Covid, would it not be very rich if the solution were found in the same drugs?

Where we stand just now, as some things open, some states and cities open, is at the same cusp. We don’t have a vaccine, though. So lives are still at risk. But If we let the Sex Panic! side win, we’ll be right back where we started. The “Settle Down” side can’t win either: our culture needs to change, we cannot settle into working from home and letting the homeless die on our streets from a disease we kept outside.

Mind you, “herd immunity” is not the right answer since we don’t know what immunity looks like for this virus. For example: testing positive for the antibodies our bodies make to fight HIV means you already have it… not that you’ve fought it off. Untreated you will die. Is Covid that way? We don’t know. If you have it once, can you get it again? We think not… but are there different strains? If we’re immune to one, are we immune to the other(s)? Again, we don’t know.

But if we go into successive cycles of lockdowns, as seems possible, will there not be an economic collapse? I think so. Do we have a moral imperative to save lives – even poor, uncomfortable, jobless lives – over the economy.

Yes. YES AF. That’s the essential pro-life argument: a life is valuable, in God’s image, pro se – for itself. Economic conditions, etc do not overrule the value of that life, that icon of God.

But what we have learned, I hope, is we cannot go back to the way things were: our culture is sick. This virus is only a symptom. We need to fix wages, health care, politics, capitalism, trade…

This is not the time to settle down, either. This is the time to fight.

But in this time

JMJ

The Paschal Preface in the Roman Rite is only used from Easter to Ascension (or is it Pentecost? I don’t know). It’s present in the Novus Ordo nearly verbatim from the older order. Borrowing from Rome, the same text is also present in the 79 BCP for Episcopalians and in the People’s Anglican Missal for Anglo-Catholics of an older school. It’s a solid part of the Western Liturgical Tradition, both Roman and elsewhere.

It is truly right and just, our duty and our salvation, at all times to acclaim you, O Lord, but in this time above all to laud you yet more gloriously when Christ our Passover has been sacrificed. …Therefore, overcome with paschal joy, every land, every people exults in your praise and even the heavenly Powers, with the angelic hosts, sing together the unending hymn of your glory,as they acclaim:

Sitting at home earlier this week, livestreaming Mass, I heard that phrase again. And it struck me: …in this time above all… the phrase is there even in the Latin, …in hac potissimum… Even in this Covidtide above all. What does it mean to praise God in a time of plague?

Church history is filled with answers to this question. From the earliest Church that knew persecution in Rome, Africa, and Asia Minor, to the missionaries who brought the gospel and their own death to the farthest corners of the world. Through the Middle Ages where the Black Death rained on the church so hard that she changed the prayer called the Hail Mary, adding from then on the second half, “pray for us now and in the hour of our death” to the prayer. To the 80s where she ministered to those with AIDS the sick and the dying even when we didn’t know that touching people could not give you the disease. The church knows plague and the church knows how to praise God in these times.

Yet, to be honest, the church’s knowledge and her experience is not mine. I do not know how to do this. Do any of us know how to do this? How do we praise God in this time yet more gloriously? Looking back at blog posts before mid-March of this year is not a trip down memory lane, but rather trip in the TARDIS to some other part of the space-time continuum. Then something happened in the middle of that month and the tone changes. I confess I forgot how to praise God. Fear is a human emotion and it’s ok: even Jesus was afraid. But letting fear run your life is not: acting on fear is proof of a lack of trust in God. You cannot make prudent decisions if the only thing or the strongest thing is fear. Prudence requires faith. You can wear masks, socially distance, avoid public gatherings – even Mass, and stay safe out of fear. But it is better for you to do all of that out of prudence. You can also demand your freedom, breath on everyone, and march into state houses with guns. But that’s bravado: which is also fear. You would do none of those things out of prudence.

To be blunt: acting on even economic fear is evidence of a lack of trust in God. Acting on political fear is even greater proof of the same lack of faith. God and his Church have been victorious over several dictators, not by political action, but by grace, miracles, and prayer.

So. How to praise God in this time yet more gloriously? Can we be overcome with paschal joy and exult in God’s praise?

The clue is in that next line: overcome with paschal joy, every land, every people exults in your praise. The true joy of the Resurrection means that this life is not all, this world is not the end, or, as the preface for a requiem says, life is not ended, only changed. Paschal joy is unstoppable: not because it goes on after death but because death is no more.

In mid-March, death became very real. Not that anyone was dying around me – although I have no way of knowing until all the random phone calls and checkins stop, probably next year. But death was real: literally any one of us could have been dead in 14-21 days. It has taken most of April to weed out of my life the things that were fear-based instead of prudent. Washing hands is not fear based. Washing hands and wearing gloves and using sanitizer (maybe both before and after putting on the gloves, as one store made me do) is fear-based. That store now offers the choice (gloves or sanitizer): but for a week after shopping there I was terrified I was not doing enough. Even in normal times, some friends make folks take their shoes off before entering the apartment. Since there is no vestibule in this apartment, this is not a shared affectation. Until now. That started as fear-based, but it actually is prudent: I’ve noticed what tracks in on my shoes from The Streets of San Francisco and ewwwww.

So, how laud him yet more gloriously? How to praise him with great praise as Tolkien paraphrased on the Field of Cormallen, even – or especially – in this time?

He has shown us, people, what is good and what is required of us: do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God (Micha 6:8). I desire mercy and not sacrifice (Hosea 6:6). Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you (Matthew 5:44). Love one another as I have loved you: no one loves more than to lay his life down for his friends (John 15:12-13). This is how we might become even like Angels while on earth, who “excel in strength, that do his commandments, hearkening to the voice of his word” and are commanded to “praise the Lord” (Psalm 103:20).

This is our duty. No saint has ever signed a petition to “demand her rights” even to Sacraments. But almost all the saints have freely given up even their lives and their freedom to save others. No saint has ever unlawfully taken up arms to force others to change… in the name political Terrorism even cryptically named “Economic Liberty” whatever that is. But many a saint has laid down their lives to protect others from such terror. No saint has ever given up his trust in God out of fear of local gov’t’s or nameless, faceless, enemies to “take matters into his own hands.” These are the steps of those who are not praising God, but are only acting out of fear: not prudence.

Praise is an act of faith. An act of trust. And an act of humility. There is a reason the stereotypical image of “praise and worship” involves the exact same posture of those caught by the law. “Hands up” is an act of surrender. The surrender is required of those engaged in praise. It’s the definition, the physical and emotional reality, the sacrament of “walking humbly”. For Jesus it meant giving freely, being arrested in silence, bearing injustice, and death. That was his most-glorious praise of his Father. He did that not out of fear (even though he was afraid) but out of prudence and out of love.

What does our most-glorious praise look like?

Day 52. A Discomfiting Question: SSA, Pr0n, Theology of the Body

Back when feminism stood against porn.

JMJ

Back in the 80s there was this woman who was alway protesting in Midtown Manhattan, usually in the middle of the day when folks were about for their lunch. I did see her sometimes durning the morning rush hour. She was always around Grand Central Station, on the 42nd Street side, although sometimes as far up as 2nd Avenue near the Daily News building. Her message was simple: Porn is Violence against women. She had a sign or two that said this. And she had a petition. You could hear her yelling a block or so away, always the same two sentences:

PORN IS VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN and SIGN THE PETITION, WOMEN! (She didn’t want men’s signatures, I have one friend who tried.)

Nowadays “feminisim” tends to treat NSFW content as “liberation”. I wonder whatever happened to the woman who stood in her business suit inviting office workers to “Sign the petition”.

This is a continuation of the themes (but not a second part) to a post from back in February called Igotchu Babe. There are serious adult themes in this post, but I think it’s important. Proceed with that warning in mind. I ask your prayers for me. (Click the number 2 to keep going.)

NYC 1987: Mad as Hell

JMJ

This started with the idea that our current COVID crisis reminded me of the way we were dealing with AIDS in the 80s. In 1983 we were in denial in exactly the same way Americans were in early March 2020. In 1985 NYC was numb and scared. This time in 2020, it took America about two weeks to get here. The next stage is Anger. It took NYC two years to get to anger and, now, two weeks later in 2020 time, it’s 1987 all over again.

If you want to know the origins of our current idea of “political action” look to ACT-UP. It was founded in March of 1987, in the midst of the stunned silence created by the AIDS crisis. The essential attitude was “this is happening.” I admit the last thing I wanted to be reminded of (on most days) was AIDS. It was the silent elephant in the middle of every event, every party, every parade. But it was the last thing anyone wanted to do anything about, talk about, admit.

Although I had heard of ACT-UP already, my first exposure to them was when they disrupted a picnic. We had had a lovely political march up from Greenwich Village to Central Park for something or other. I seem to remember it was something to do with the UN. Anyway, we were all having a picnic in the big meadow in Central Park above Belvedere Castle. It was a nice afternoon when, through the trees on the western side of the park, came loud yelling and screaming. ACT-UP had gone up the West Side of the park, without a permit as was their wont, stopping traffic, getting arrested… and now had come bursting into our quiet event. And – to us, as it seemed at the time – acting out like petulant children. I and my friends – all NYU students – walked away. There were cops coming in, there was yelling and screaming.

For years after that event, I could not take ACT-UP seriously. We were doing the hard work – networking with politicians, civic leaders, etc. ACT-UP invaded St Patrick’s Cathedral and committed sacrilege. I got into a fight at NYU over that: I wasn’t even Catholic and I could see that was wrong. But petulant children always have parents that are spoiling them.

ACT-UP was driving social change – yes, sure. But they were doing it by using the tactics of bullies. And, point of fact, most of the things they were yelling about were not the real issue. 20 years later, we can see that some of their rallying points were – actually – not the right ones. Even John Cardinal O’Connor, whom they detested, was spending his night washing bedpans in AIDS hospices. But ACT-UP became the media’s accepted voice of gay politics in the same way that drag queens and leathermen were the media’s accepted image of gay pride parades. Ignoring thousands of women and men walking around in polo shirts, jeans, and comfortable shoes… it was the fringes that made the news. And, just as there were petition drives, phone trees, and even prayer vigils, it was the fringe that stopped traffic and chained themselves to traders on the stock market floor that made the news.

This is where we get politics today and is the real legacy of ACT-UP. This is the origin of that curious cross between Ghandi and Kent State that gives us shattered windows on main street in the name of peace. And it’s the source of streets filled with pink hats that do nothing more than fill streets with pink hats and feel smug about it. At one point, political action was seen as taking the high ground. MLK walking through the streets of and watching the walls of Jericho crumble in urban Alabama. ACT-UP taught us that taking the low ground got more press. And sometimes, that works. But it always made us feel good.

ACT-UP forced conversations that may sound familiar today: does someone die with AIDS or from complications arising from AIDS? How should we refer to AIDS patients? Can we refer to AIDS patients?

And, right on time two weeks after hitting the stunned silence of 1985, COVID has given us petulant children.

People are demanding we change the numbers because not everyone with. COVID is dying from COVID, as if mortality is that black and white. They are yammering about needing “herd immunity” when I don’t want to be exposed, do you? They demand we get to 15% exposure. (SF in lockdown, even so, seems to have gotten to 13% very easily.)

You know, we won’t know until 20 years from now how this new pack of petulant children has affected us. Will they commit sacrilege? They’ve been signing petitions for weeks demanding the bishops open up the churches again… will some flag waving harridan claiming to be an EM pry open the locked doors of a church and distribute communion in the hand to passers-by as an act of protest? Will a bunch of MAGA bros swarm out of the Marshal Vortext to bully bishops at the USCCB meeting or harass them online? We shall see.

We’re in the anger stage now. There’s no telling who will chain themselves to whom.

In two weeks it will be 1989. May 2020. What will happen then?

From the Seven Last Words

JMJ

This was a meditation was part of the Good Friday Seven Last Words at St Dominic’s Catholic Church in San Francisco. As a result of the current crisis, the meditations were recorded and posted on YouTube rather than preached from the pulpit. The video is shared at the end of this post.

I thirst.

Many of us as children have woken up at night and asked for a glass of water.

Maybe as a parent our child wakes up and asks: Mommy, can I have a glass of water? 

These words of our Lord, “I thirst” sound like that same cry. 

We wake at night, in the dark, alone, afraid: and we really want Mommy. But “I’m thirsty” is what we say: it makes sense, it’s the feeling we have… dry mouth… must be thirsty. But what causes it, in the middle of the night.

Is fear.

Just as if you were suddenly afraid for your life you would be suddenly dry mouthed. 

But no adult says, at that point, “Mommy, can I have some water?”

I thirst.

The eternal, Triune God, in the Second Person in Human Flesh, is crying out because of a dry mouth, part of the whole Flight or Fight thing that the same God built into us for our protection.

Here… it betrays him: it’s human weakness.

The God who made water. Who made mouths. Who made the nervous system. This God is afraid. This God is thirsty. This God… is about to die.

My heart breaks… this is love.

Was one of the first words ever taught to the Baby, the Word learning words, “yisemeh” – the Aramaic for “Thirsty”?  

His mother, standing there at the foot of the cross, hears her own baby again crying out “yisemeh”.  Can her heart not break remembering everything at that moment: from his first cry, to his first words, to the first time he woke up afraid, depicted in the icon of “Our Lady of Perpetual Help” where his sandal is flopping loose.

Eemma…Mommy… Yisemeh!

Brothers and Sisters. This is love.

In this time of danger.

In this time of death.

In this time of fear.

God knows… we are all thirsty. We cannot have the chalice. We cannot even come to mass. We cannot touch to hug, to hold or shake hands.

Some do this for safety, but we do not do this out of fear: rather it is out of love for our neighbor, for those who are weakest among us, for those who are most vulnerable.

Our priests, our Bishops, our Holy Father also feel this pain as they cannot do for us what they have been ordained and sacramentally ordered to do. 

Our hands are held back, our heart breaks, our love restrains us. Touch – when touch is most needed…

We thirst! We cry out to our mother, the Church who stands by watching and weeping for us.

Our God knows and understands: this is love.

In this time of danger.

In this time of death.

In this time of fear.

Christ our God has been here before us. Become of love, he has faced in mortal flesh, fear and death. 

And Jesus has the victory.

We thirst with him today…

He will make us victorious with him.