How to Treat the Richest 1 Percent

Chrysostom Screaming at the Empress

JMJ

The Readings for the Memorial of St John Chrysostom, Doctor
24th Tuesday, Tempus per Annum (C2)

As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ.

I Corinthians 12:12

TODAY is the Memorial of St John Chrysostom. By many lights, he is one of the greatest homiletic interpreters of St Paul. He’s a saint to whom any preacher should pray before presuming to preach. Although I’ve never felt him an especial patron, in terms of models and heroes, he’s certainly one I’d like to emulate for his relationship with the Holy Scripture, as is evident in his homilies, was one a personal friendship. And I would seek to cultivate that relationship, to – as the old prayer says – “read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest” the Bible. In fact, that is what this blog is mostly about.

But to do that – or to do anything in Christ at all – we must follow St Paul’s advice at the end of today’s readings. “Strive eagerly for the greatest spiritual gifts.” And he’s about to show us, although the lectionary cycle will be interrupted by tomorrow’s Feast of the Holy Cross, so I don’t feel like I’m spoiling anything by revealing his end goal: the greatest Spiritual gift is love. We have nothing if we haven’t love. And without love, all we have is worthless – even if we are Apostles, Prophets, Wealthy, Poor, man, woman, slave, free, it matters not. If we have not love, it’s worthless.

John Chrysostom is known for preaching an unvarnished Gospel: if he saw it in the text, it came out of his mouth. But he is also known for having no political savvy: so when he preached against sin, he was clear about what he was condemning. When he preached against greed the wealthy felt conviction individually and personally. He preached using what we would call, today, “hate speech”. If one was a sinner within earshot, Chrysostom had a gift of zeroing in on precisely the right words that would make you feel that your sin was, exactly, sin.

Today we dodge that.

Pray for the greater gift of love, though.

No sinner can be comforted in their sin by love.

No wealthy man can be comforted in his wealth by love just as no one can be comforted in their sexual sins by love. No married couple can be told by love it’s not their fault they picked “fur babies” over children for “economic” reasons. No couple can be told by love it’s ok their not sacramentally married in the Church.

But yet the very act of telling them requires love. John only got to screaming when people who should know better refused to listen.

Inside the Church, see, we’re all sinners. And so we are all parts of the body. Addiction (to sin) is a real disease. But we do not struggle alone: the entire body struggles together. And so the Christian standing next to us at Liturgy or sitting in the next pew is as much a Christian as anyone else in the room even if they refuse to see their sin, even if they are lost in the darkness of a past and cultural present that seemingly leaves them no choice but to choose their sin as their identity. They are part of the body and they must be loved into the fullness of the Gospel – even if they think they have it now.

How? As I said, tomorrow is the feast of the Holy Cross. No spoilers. But the answer is love.

The Wholly Name

JMJ

The Readings for the 23rd Tuesday, Tempus per Annum (C2)

Everyone in the crowd sought to touch him because power came forth from him and healed them all.

Luke 6:19 (NABRE)

WHEN THE ANGEL Spoke to Mary (in Luke 1:32) she was told she would have a Son and she should call him Jesus. Later, that same angel shared with Joseph, “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21) The linkage of the name “Jesus” to “Joshua” is usually emphasized, the latter meaning “the LORD saves” and “Iesus” is the Greek form of Joshua. But there is something deeper. Much deeper. Jesus was not named in Greek. And while “Iesus” is the Greek form of his name, in Hebrew the name is Yeshua. However, add a silent “h” sound and change the accent and we get ‘yeshuah’ which means Salvation.

It’s not that “Jesus Saves” as the bumper sticker has it, but rather that Jesus is Salvation in his person. What is “Salvation” though? What is the meaning or the content, if you will, of being saved? The Gospel today points it out: There’s calling, there’s accepting the call, there’s the renaming. There’s hearing the teaching and there’s healing.

Please note that everything in this is a sort of dialogue. Jesus calls, we accept the call and Jesus renames us. Jesus teaches and we accept the teaching then Jesus heals us. The whole Gospel is encapsulated in one pericope of 7 verses if we but use our eyes to see it. But salvation is a dance in which God leads, but we follow, in which God heals, but only what we offer him for healing, in which God loves us and gives us the grace to love him in return.

When we open our ears to the call of Jesus and allow ourselves to be drawn into the dance, our entire identity is changed: we go from being trapped in worldly ideas about who we are to entering into a right relationship with God. When I was Chrismated into the Orthodox Church, as the priest was wiping off the sacred oils from my face and eyes, he said to me – quoting St Paul – “you are washed, you are sanctified, you are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.” This was my new identity and I was even given a new name – for St Raphael, the Bishop of Brooklyn. As a saint stands in right relationship to God, so – by the prayers of many – I may one day grow into the fullness of that right relationship. But I have to forego all the things that hold me to the world.

There is no part of me (or perceived part of me) that I can point at and say, “But that one thing I will keep.” I can no longer base my identity on anything that is mine – only on Jesus, who is not Mine save that I am his. And to be his I have to let go of all the brokenness I value, all the things that I think make up “who I really am”. I must let Yeshua be my yeshuah. I must let Jesus be Jesus to me.

Otherwise all this is in vain. Jesus will make me whole but only when and as I let him. If I hold back he will not force his way in – but then I will not be saved.

In the end the things that I thought of as I, me, and mine that are not part of Jesus were never mind in the first place. And the things that are missing from the fallen me, will be found in him and will be mine for all eternity as our love deepens to infinity in contemplation of the Father.

Everything That Is Missing | כל מה שחסר
Shilo Ben Hod

Lyrics in Translation:

Verse 1
I won’t seek what is missing
But I will search for the One who fills
In a dry or fertile land
More than anything, I need You only
Even life is not good
If at the end people die without knowing You
If I could choose anything, I’ll choose You

Chorus
It’s better to lose everything, just to gain You
And to pay the price, in the end everything is Yours
To go all they way until the end, because only in the end I’ll meet You
And then everything that is missing, will be completed in You

Verse 2
I’m not searching for all the answers
But I’m asking for the truth that is in You
When confusion rules or there is clarity
Above all, let me know You
All of the miracles won’t help
If people never experience Your love
If I could choose anything, I’ll choose You

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Turn, turn, turn, will be our death.

JMJ

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.

Some Magic Bennies

JMJ

The Readings for the 13th Tuesday, Tempus per Annum
– Memorial of Saint Irenaeus, Bishop and Martyr

They came and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us!  We are perishing!”

Matthew 8:25 (NABRE)

EARLIER POSTS HAVE DISCUSSED the link between the prayer, “Lord have mercy” and olive oil. It’s an ongoing theme. But in today’s reading the apostles cry out “save us” (soson) which carries the meanings, also, of “heal us” and “make us whole”. These meanings (save/heal/make whole) are also carried in the the Hebrew word, and this last happens to be Jesus’ name in Hebrew, but that’s not where I’m going today. Let’s talk about Ben Franklin. Mr Franklin’s first name means “son of the right hand” and his last name means “free landholder” and is a word used by the Anglo-Saxons to describe their Norman Conquistadores, but that’s also not the point today.

Ben once did an experiment where he calmed the ripples on a body of water by adding olive oil. He then went a little bonkers, trying to figure out how much water would covered (and calmed) by a teaspoon of oil. Makes me think of angels and pinheads!

The link between Jesus calming the sea and the idea of mercy being olive oil and oil on the water is where I’m going.

This image comes to mind when I pray any version of the Jesus prayer:
– the ByzCath on, “Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.”
– the one from the period of English Persecution, “Iesu, Iesu, Iesu, have mercy on me”
– or in Latin, Iesu, Iesu, Iesu, esto mihi Iesu

I see Jesus spreading the oil of the Holy Spirit out on the water to calm the sea.

But lately, I’ve also heard him chide me, “Have you no faith at all? Why are you afraid?”

After more than 50 years in this journey with Jesus, I want to say, “Why are you afraid?” I have learned, time and time again, that even when it’s a mess that I have made all by myself, God’s actually in charge. The full meaning of “lead us not into the test” is not “don’t give me more than I can handle” but rather, “Don’t put me in a place where I think I can fix it… cuz I will try and that will make it worse! If you’re going to put me someplace, put me someplace where only you can fix it, and give me the grace to trust you more.”

Lord give me the faith to let you fix things – and to let you fix them in your own time and way. You’ve never let me fall and you won’t start now. But let me only walk where you would have me walk (or sail, if that’s what you want). When the going gets tough, let me keep on going because you’ve got this. Cast your oil on the water – or not – as you see fit. I know you won’t let go even if I slip and slide.

I may never end up where I thought I was going – or where I want to go – but I will end up where God would have me be.

That’s enough.

Pigcasting

JMJ

The Readings for the Memorial of Saint Aloysius Gonzaga

Don’t cast your pearls before swine.

Matthew 7:6 (NABRE)

APART FROM THE EPONYMOUS comic by Stephan Pastis, this verse usually means don’t give something important to those who don’t know how important it is. It pairs well with “don’t give what is holy to the dogs”. In our reading today, skipping over a few verses, the comment about pearls in verse 6 is seemingly linked to the Golden Rule in verse 12, however it is not so in the full text. peals, swine, and dogs are sandwiched between yesterday’s comment about taking planks out of our eyes before trying to help brothers with their splinters (in verse 5) and the skipped-over verses beginning in verse 7 with “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” Then, several verses later we get to the Golden Rule. Either we have a laundry list of aphorisms or else all of this is actually linked together in a way we’re not yet seeing.

It’s time to put on our meditation caps. What follows is only my meditation, a sort of lectio whilst writing. You may use it as it or springboard off in another direction. Jesus isn’t exactly a fortune cookie of aphorisms, though, so I think these two lines need a larger context. For this reason, we should pull back a bit to a wider view.

As I mentioned yesterday, Jesus does not assume everything in the Church will be hunky-dorey. Later in Matthew (18:15-17) he gives us a way to deal with brethren (and sistren) who get out of hand. So Jesus knows some in the Church will go wrong: later (7:21) he says, “Not everyone who calls me Lord is actually in the Kingdom.” St John Chrysostom, in his commentary on Matthew, highlights not the lack of the splinter in my brother’s eye, but rather the beam in my own. He says this is a call to forego our own sins so that we can confront an errant brother.

In this light, “take the beam out of your eye first” is not an abstract idea but a direct command. Then, having purified your heart, you can discern in the Spirit if your bother is able to hear your rebuke. If he is unable to hear it at all, Chrysostom says, you are casting your pearls before swine to even try. You are giving what is holy (your attention, your teaching, your time) to the dogs.

But, the passage continues, you know if someone asks for something good, God will give it to them. Pray for your brother or sister engaged in sin. Beg God for their salvation. They may not yet be able to hear you, but God can always hear you. This is important for us: for we know many around the Church in error who won’t listen. Even clergy. Every rainbow we see this month in Church is a reminder.

So we pray. And we struggle. We work out our salvation in fear and trembling and – once the beam is out of our own eye – we can prayerfully discern what to do about others in their sins. But first, work on the beam.

The Perfect Name

JMJ

The Readings for the 11th Tuesday, Tempus Per Annum (C2)

So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Matthew 5:48 (NABRE)

BE PERFECT JUST as Our Father is Perfect. Father’s Day is this coming Sunday. Are you able to be anything like your father? I mean in some ways, maybe. And in some ways you may be better, but are you able to be like your father? How much more can we be like our Heavenly Father? Look, I have never known my natural father – I’m asking these questions coming from that very dysfunctional family situation. How can I be like my father, whom I’ve never know. How can I be like God, my Heavenly Father, whom I cannot know at all like I could know my natural father – but I don’t. Wait. Jesus why are you giving us an impossible command?

Because that’s what salvation means.

The Greek word translated here as “perfect” is τέλειος teleios from the word, τέλος telos. It means not only to be “brought to completion” but also to achieve the perfect or intended end. The telos of a thing is determined by its nature – put there by God. The Greeks would look for the logoi of things which can bring us to the Logos of God. The Latins have us looking at essences and natures, but it’s the same process: the base of each person and thing is something created by God. Why was man created? To achieve our perfect end, our telos. What is our telos? Baltimore Catechism, Q6: Why did God make you? God made me to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him for ever in heaven. That is our proper end, our proper telos: to know God, to love God, to serve Him and to be happy (blessed) with him for ever.

The real question is how? How are we to get to our perfect end and thus be like God? Jesus gives us that answer later, using the same word (τέλειος).

Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect (τέλειος), go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.

Matthew 19:21

If you would be perfect… let’s step back a few verses… Jesus rehearses some of the ten Commandments – all the ones dealing with your neighbor: “Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not bear false witness, 19honor your father and mother, and love your neighbor as yourself.” (v. 18). He leaves out all the commands about God… or no he doesn’t. He adds, “Come follow me”. Loving your neighbor is not enough for perfection. We must follow Jesus (that is, God) in order to fulfill the rest of the covenant.

But we know the truth. We’re all sinners who have fallen short of the glory of God. (As an aside, does that mean we are trying to reach God in his Glory – but we miss. Or does that mean God wants to share his glory with us, but we keep falling short?)

Jesus uses this same word (telos) from the Cross in John 19:30. He announces “It is finished” by saying “It’s been telos-ed”. What has been finished? We have – humans. We have been perfected in Christ. I have an essay do in a week and a half on Atonement, so don’t expect me to go too far down that road. But I will say that Jesus – God-Man – is the one that makes it happen. And you can see it in his name. “Come follow me…” Let’s use the Bible as meditation literature.

My friend, Steve, reminds me of the Evangelical addage, there’s nothing more dangerous to the faith than an man with a Greek Dictionary and an interlinear Bible. I may be about to prove that in Hebrew as well.

In Hebrew Jesus Name, as you’ve probably heard, is “Yeshua.” Via Latin and Greek we can get to either Jesus or Joshua. So, you can think of all the ways the story of Joshua might foreshadow the story of Jesus. But I want to stick to the name itself.

Yeshua is linked to the meaning savior and salvation. Now salvation (in both Hebrew and Greek, as well as in Latin actually) has the meaning of “deliver” as well as “healing” and “making whole”. Please keep that in mind. Yeshua gets this meaning because the root of Yeshua is the Hebrew Word, “Yasha” meaning to save (deliver, rescue, etc) which is also linked to the meaning of “make whole” or “heal”. So, somehow, Jesus Yasha-s us: he makes us whole. Jesus name, via the root Yasha, is also linked with the word “Hosanna” which means “please save (us)”, It’s a word cried out to God and to the Kings of Israel. And because Yasha is linked with Hosanna, it’s also linked with two other important words: Moshiah (for example in Deuteronomy 22:27) which is a hominim for Moshiach, or Messiah. This last means “anointed” only, and has no direct link to Yasha or to “moshiah” but the words are within a breath of each other (moshiah and moshiach). They come together in meaning by way of homonymnity. And so “Jesus Christ” or “Messiah Yeshua” literally is the name of the Savior meaning the Saving One who is the Salvation of YHVH.

We are perfected (made whole) in following Jesus.

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.

You’re doing it wrong

Bl. Stanley Rother saying Mass in a traditional chasuble with a Guatemalan scarf.

The Readings for the 1st Tuesday,
Tempus per Annum (A2)

Factum est autem, cum illa multiplicaret preces coram Domino, ut Heli observaret os ejus. Porro Anna loquebatur in corde suo, tantumque labia illius movebantur, et vox penitus non audiebatur. Aestimavit ergo eam Heli temulentam, dixitque ei : Usquequo ebria eris? digere paulisper vinum, quo mades.
As she remained long at prayer before the LORD, Eli watched her mouth, for Hannah was praying silently; though her lips were moving, her voice could not be heard. Eli, thinking her drunk, said to her, “How long will you make a drunken show of yourself? Sober up from your wine!”

JMJ

Among the Orthodox, I’m sure it will not surprise you to learn, there are Liturgy Wars. I found this to my great horror after a while in Orthodoxy. There is a phase for converts (it took me about 2 years to outgrow) where “my parish does it right” and everyone certainly does it the same way. My time was compounded by visiting very similar places when I traveled. This led to “My parish is right and anything else is clearly wrong.” But that was followed by about 8 years of “there must be someone who does it right…” because I began to develop a list of things that are clearly wrong: pews, first and foremost. Skipping parts of the liturgy – everyone does this – was increasingly horrifying to me. A part of the morning service of Matins which at my on parish took 15-20 mins to do might take 3-5 mins at some places, or even less! Then I discovered that my own parish skipped a bunch and that part of the service should take about 45 mins on a short day – say a normal Sunday – and maybe 1h15 or even more on a Holy Day! We were all doing it wrong. Listening to us Orthodox criticize each other you might think we were all Eli yelling at Hannah for being drunk.

The third phase of this was the realization that doing what your Bishop told you to do was the right way to do it. Some Bishops allowed more latitude than others, but as long as one was within the limits established by Episcopal oversight, no pun intended, one was ok. Things got hella wonky when I drifted into the Orthodox Western Rite communities where seemingly anything goes and every pastor is his own liturgical Episcopos. The Latin phrase sui generis, meaning “alone of its class” and usually applied to special exceptions to general rules, was invented for the Orthodox Western Rite. No one really does what the Bishops say – although everyone starts with the same collection of books.

All this by way of lead-up to my becoming Catholic. The alleged post-conciliar chaos was one thing that had kept me from becoming Roman Catholic when I fled the Episcopal Church in 2002. But here it was in Orthodoxy too. There are even some Orthodox Churches with altar girls and – roughy speaking – open communion. There are “liturgical archeologists” who make stuff up because “the ancient church” did it. Orthodoxy had all the same mess as the Roman Church, so why fight it? I became Catholic. I also mellowed a lot.

I love a good Latin Mass: I go to one almost every week. I find praying my way through 2 hours of intense liturgy to be quite wonderful. There are those partisans of the Latin Mass who say that the other form of the Mass, the Novus Ordo, is not valid at all. There are even some who say the 1962 Missal is wrong and that we have to go backward in time to the next missal (or the one before that…) Sadly, there are some vice versa feelings too. And there are some in either camp who freak out when they see the Novus Ordo done with elements of traditional liturgy at all. As much as I love the Latin Mass, it’s this last – Novus Ordo with all the trad stops pulled out – that is my favorite. I was Episcopalian for long enough that this most Episcopalian of Catholic liturgies feels like “home” to me.

Go to a Christmastide Mass at St Patricks in SF and see all the blue LED lights and gobs of fake flowers. Try the Chinese New Year Mass with the Dragon. There’s the dancing Gospel at St Paul of the Shipwreck, and the two guitars and a flute at St Dominic’s at 5:30 PM. See the Divine Liturgy in (mostly) Russian style at Our Lady of Fatima and the Latin Mass at Star of the Sea. This is only the beginning: the glory of the Catholic Church. While there are some who would insist that they are right and all the others wrong but each liturgy is filled with Catholic hearts raised heavenward.

Yet we are all Eli convinced the others are Drunk Hannahs who are doing it wrong. The joke was on Eli because it was his own sons who were doing it wrong and it was Hannah’s son who was to replace them. Those in power were about to be thrown down, as is God’s way.

What shall we do with our liturgical diversity as blessed by our bishops?

Give thanks to the Lord our God for it is right and just.

SNAFU

Our greatest boons become our greatest banes. The more we prop up, the more falls down. Yet we continue, refusing to listen.

The Readings for the 30th Tuesday, Tempus per Annum (C1)

Scimus enim quod omnis creatura ingemiscit, et parturit usque adhuc. We know that all creation is groaning in labor pains even until now;

JMJ

Have you ever had a bad manager or a boss who couldn’t lead? Hopefully, this is not now! If you remember, a broken leader ruins everything. Man was intended by God to have the place of kingship in Creation; to rule in God’s name (and some think, possibly, in God’s power) over the world. But man fell. Paul says all of creation suffering s because of us: the fall of man broke everything. This doesn’t mean that plants and animals are stained by original sin but rather that the management is so dysfunctional that everything else sucks.

What’s that mean for us? We can’t know. Everything is broken – even the tools we have available to us (as of perception and expectation, experience and knowledge) are all disordered. What we see, what we find out, what we can know is limited not by our ability but by our broken perception. Life feeds on life now – not just animals, but humans as well, and when we die our bodies compost and rot and our souls depart. This is not as it should be: we don’t know what it should be, but we know it’s wrong. Our very heart cry out – even watching Wild Kingdom we know that the cute animals are going to get eaten. Yet, we know the predators have to eat as well. We can’t reconcile this. Could we have if we had been the rightful kings of creation?

Even when we try to fix things we make things worse. What have we done in the last half-century to fix things? What has not made things worse? Recycling seemed like a good idea, but it’s not working unless shipping all our plastic to China seems like a way to save oil. We’ve tried to save plants and animals by carving out tiny strips of their homeland, like reservations on which they can be trapped in dwindling populations. We find more and more ways to do things we don’t need: like travel, shop, consume luxuries, and be offended. Yet we do so at great expense to our world and yes, I know I’m saying this on a computer.

Our greatest boons become our greatest banes. The internet is a warehouse of porn and child abuse. Airtravel destroys our atmosphere. Cars ruin our lives. Electricity starts fires, kills birds, and ruins our sleep cycles. Our ability to produce huge quantities of food has resulted in nutritional deficiency, addiction to sugar, and perhaps even genetic damage. Our technology destroys older cultures, habitats, and our own jobs. Our democracy elects demagogues. Our freedoms become license. Our liberty becomes hate. The more we prop up, the more falls down. Yet we continue, refusing to listen.

Softly Jesus whispers about the kingdom, Simile est fermento, quod acceptum mulier abscondit in farinae sata tria, donec fermentaretur totum. It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of wheat flour until the whole batch of dough was leavened. Take it from a San Francisco baker: Jesus wasn’t talking about a packet of yeast, but rather sourdough. Jesus knew from his Mother how to bake bread. You have a pinch of yeasted dough from the last batch that you keep. You put that into the new batch and the whole thing turns into yeasted dough. Take a pinch of dough and save it for next time. We are that pinch of dough, Christians. A little leavening in the societal dough results in the whole thing rising.

What are we doing about this?

In which I find myself agreeing with Jack Chick…

The NABRE text might as well say, “Jesus only rolled his eyes and said ‘Oy’ whilst making a ‘W’ with his fingers.”

JMJ

The Readings for the Feast of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, Virgin & Doctor
Tuesday in the 26th Week, Tempus per Annum (C1)

Et conversus increpavit illos, dicens : Nescitis cujus spiritus estis. Filius hominis non venit animas perdere, sed salvare. Et abierunt in aliud castellum.
And turning, he rebuked them, saying: You know not of what spirit you are. The Son of man came not to destroy souls, but to save. And they went into another town.

I have no idea why these verses are missing from the NABRE. Research indicates they are missing from the RSV with a note that “other ancient authorities” have them. So they are in the Vulgate and in the Textus Receptus, in the Douay and in the KJV. I think this may be a valid variant: otherwise we have an odd moment where Jesus rebukes someone but we are not told what was said.

Jesus wants to proclaim the good news to this village but because of their sectarian politics, they won’t even let him in the gate. John, the Beloved, wants to call down fire from heaven. The NABRE text might as well say, “Jesus only rolled his eyes and said ‘Oy’ whilst making a ‘W’ with his fingers.” Instead, Jesus responds, “I didn’t come to destroy but to save.”

There’s a lot of folks today who want to call down fire. They are angry at stuff in the church, they are angry at stuff in the world. However, like John, our anger is misplaced. It’s not the people we’re fighting with. We’re trying to save the people: unto their last breath, we should be working and praying for their salvation: praying, loving, preaching, teaching, and being Church as we model the kingdom and God’s love for them. Jesus did not come to destroy but to heal, the Greek uses the word σῴζω Sozo which means “heal” and “save”.

We can’t do God’s Kingdom if we insist on doing things that Jesus wouldn’t be doing. How many radical activists (of any extreme variety) are born because we fail to be the Kingdom of God? Yes, I know that the sex scandal drives many away from the Church and our doctrines are, themselves, the cause of anger. The Truth will do that. Read about this protest in St Patrick’s Cathedral in NYC.

Most folks rejecting the Gospel are not doing what happened in NYC or even recently in Mexico City. Rather I mean how many terrorists were born in Ireland because the Church was failing the people by siding with their wealthy oppressors? How many more when the Church supported the Fascists in Spain? How many more are lost when political power drives the Church in Russia, the US, in Germany, to side with hypocrisy for the sake of fancy watches, dinner invites, and “being seen”? When the future founder of the Muslim Brotherhood spent two years in the US, how did we fail to model the Kingdom and draw him in? What would have happened if we hadn’t allowed Christianity to be equated with middle class, white, mid-century values?

St Therese’s feast is perfect for this passage. She says, “Love proves itself by deeds, so how am I to show my love? Great deeds are forbidden me. The only way I can prove my love is by scattering flowers and these flowers are every little sacrifice, every glance and word, and the doing of the least actions for love.” Rather than calling down fire, she asks us to pray for sinners in this way in her Holy Face Prayer for Sinners:

Eternal Father, since Thou hast given me for my inheritance the adorable Face of Thy Divine Son, I offer that face to Thee and I beg Thee, in exchange for this coin of infinite value, to forget the ingratitude of souls dedicated to Thee and to pardon all poor sinners.

It’s easy to blame the people in Samaria for rejecting Jesus because of their sectarian politics. John wanted to blame them. Jesus had other plans though. When the fire came from heaven at Pentecost it saved Samaria and the whole world.

Although the protesters in NYC were way out of line not everyone is acting like that. When someone in the middle of their journey rejects the Gospel is it sometimes possible that it is because we didn’t offer the Gospel in the first place?

By way of Postscript: My friend and sometime BYOB Theology Co-Host, Drew Ludwig, has shared this article about the missing verses via Twitter. There are several ancient texts (of great import) that do not contain the missing verses.