Loving is not A Like and Share.

JMJ

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

Woe to you when all speak well of you, for their ancestors treated the false prophets in this way.

Luke 6:26 (NABRE)

THE NEED TO HAVE other speak well of one’s self is, perhaps not always as great as the need to have others speak well of one’s self in one’s own hearing. If word reaches us that so-and-so has said something bad it’s not, perhaps, as bad as if so-and-so had said it directly into our own ears. Possibly. At least for this writer, the constant quest for likes and shares has lead to the death of many a moment of spiritual growth.

More than that, the desire to have people speak well of one has, perhaps, become a way of life: we create tailored self-images on social mediae, sometimes multiple ones, to garner more likes. It’s not that one has a perfect life, but rather one has several perfect lives: social posting on FB, beautiful travel photos on Insta, a very wisdom-laden (or humor-laden) YouTube, a Twitter of perfect snark and spicy takes, and a blog of great vulnerability. They may not all weave well together, but different followers on different planets get views curated for them. And the like pour in. If one, like the present writer, works in tech as well, then one’s own job feels like that as well: doing something for the thumbs-up and for the pleasure of having people speak well within earshot.

Then I got a job where that’s not how things work at all.

Suddenly it was literally not about likes or shares, but about actual service to actual persons (which is what customer service – especially in tech – is exactly not about). Suddenly things were harder because there are real people expressing their own vulnerability and asking for help. And that does not always put people in the best of moods. And even that requires one to be loving.

Suddenly it got hard and that’s literally what it’s supposed to be: loving folks is not about likes and shares. In fact, it’s entirely antithetical to the culture created by likes.

One way to read Jesus’ list of blessing and woes is to see it as a commentary on the World vrs the Gospel. But another way to read it (in our present world) is just simply about the virtual world of the internet: the rich, the filled, the laughing, the being spoken well of are all virtual (because you can tell from Jesus’ words) they are all lies. If a blithering fool, lost in his sins and unaware of God, speaks well of you what value is it? If that same fool speaks ill of you because of God well, then, you’ve perhaps started on the pathway to Truth.

I don’t doubt that the internet is a new mission field. But, in some ways, we blunder into it unaware of the damage it does. We send n00bs in there, unprotected from the wiles of dopamine addictions, and wonder why they get looped into the culture – going native.

We’ve sent former alcoholics as evangelists on a tour of all the distilleries in Scotland. God bless you, go win some souls for Jesus out there among all the malts and barleys.

We should let only the most advanced monastics into the internets as evangelists, and even they might have trouble telling the virtual from the real, telling the likes and shares from the actual winning of souls. The latter is what Jesus sends us out to do, the former will cost us our own.

What You Need and Nothing More.

Gathering the Manna

JMJ

The Readings for the 20th Wednesday, Tempus per Annum (C2)
Memorial of St. Hyacinth of Poland, friar and priest

Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good?

Matthew 20:15 (AV)

THE PAIRING OF THESE TWO readings seems strange, or perhaps funny. The Gospel is about the landowner who – by modern lights – is very unjust and the 1st Reading is about shepherds who treat their sheep unjustly. Not seemingly unjustly by modern lights, mind you: they are actually unjust.

When the Israelites were told to gather the manna, each person in the family could gather a jar full of the stuff: larger families had more jars. But at the end of the day, what was not eaten could not be stored. You could gather the same amount, but no matter what you ate (or did not) you had to gather again tomorrow. Those who gathered too much had just enough. Those who gathered too little had just enough.

Gather one jar full (per person) eat what you want. Tomorrow you’ll need to gather again. God provides a superabundance, but you get exactly what you need.

The landlord in the Gospel paid what he should have paid. He did so for increasingly less work. We are never told what was needed, but, everyone got paid for the day.

I think about Jesus’ parable when people talk about “living wages”. We used to have something like living wages in this country. You see it in old movies: an employee gets married or has a kid and, because of the change in life, he asks. for a raise. We don’t think about this, but a system of “living wages” would do away entirely with “equal work for equal pay”. This latter is not just and ensures only that everyone gets the same wage: not that the wage is “living”. For what a living wage is for a parent of three kids is very different from the same living wage for a childless person. A living wage for a married person is less than that of a single person unless the married person is the only bread winner. A single mother with kids needs more to live than a bro living in a bro house. No one really thinks through the idea of “living wage”: it’s just political manoeuvering. So, notice that what we think of as “living wage” would require the boss to be “generous” and entirely “unfair” by modern standards. He would have to give more to someone who needed more – even if they were doing the same work.

Are you envious because I am generous? (NABRE)

God is infinite life bestowed on us in infinite love. Any sin (no matter how small) is a choice for death over life, for self rather than self-gift, for solitude rather than love. Yet when we return to God his gift is fullness it cannot be otherwise if the choice is made now, later, or even on the deathbed. God’s living wage is always this infinite life poured out on us. We do tend to want that for ourselves, but seeing it given to others can be really difficult, especially if the others have been unjust – even moreso if we have been the target of their injustice.

What do we do when our own forgiveness requires more of us? If yo’ve been given infinite love, what do you do with it? We are envious, sometimes, when God’s love is poured out. This is like the story of the servant who was forgiven – but cannot forgive (Matthew 18:21-35). This is the story of the older son who cannot forgive the prodigal brother (Luke 15:11-32). This is the story of the whole church in dealing with unjust sheperds. What do we do when they want to come back?

Serve & Follow

JMJ

The Readings for the Feat of St Lawrence, Deacon & Martyr
19th Wednesday, Tempus per Annum (C2)

Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be.

John 12:26

THE DEACON St Lawrence was the patron saint of the Orthodox monastery where I tested my vocation as a monk. I don’t have one. But it was in conversation with one of the Oblates of that monastery that I learned something important. Sitting on the porch one evening, listening to me give voice to my complaint and struggle, the oblate was supportive. Only when there were guests around to care for did I feel like I was doing my “job” as a monastic. Apart from one or two moments during the year, there were only guests for two weeks during the summer. The rest of the time I felt kind of useless. “Brother,” said the Oblate. “You need to be a friar. The only problem is there are no friars in the Orthodox Church.”

By friar he meant someone who was living out a vocation that was both contemplative and active: present in the world, but in a contemplative way. Even before friars did this, holding in tension the cares of this world with the things of eternity, it was the Deacons of the Church that did this. St Lawrence, holding the wealth of the Roman Church in trust for the poor of Rome is a perfect example.

Lawrence was arrested by the Roman Authorities convinced that he had great wealth. And he agreed that the Church had this wealth and that he (Lawrence) had access to it. When it was demanded of him he gave it over freely: the poor of the Church. The treasure of the Church is the people. Very often even the people fail to recognize this.

It’s not enough to engage in good works – for we must do them sacramentally. Further, for some of us, it’s never enough just to contemplate the beauty of the Lord unless we’re doing so in the active service of others. Jesus says we must serve and follow. Lawerence did both as a deacon is called to do. Friars, as well, do both.

Serving without faith is not enough: for no one is saved by works. But yet, faith without works is dead. If you’re following Jesus you’re serving.

God did not create money in his image. No work of art will ever enter the Kingdom of God. No Church building will be found in heaven. There is no Temple in the New Jerusalem: for the Lord God and the Lamb are, themselves, the Temple (Revelation 21:22).

Man is the image of God. In the Body of Messiah, man is the Temple here. Lawrence knew that the riches of the Church are the poor. When you see man rejected in the world, when you see humanity destroyed by the sins of life in this world, your heart should break. When drugs destroy the brain and sex addles the passions, when anger distorts the family, when greed corrupts the heart of a worker, we should be broken to see the Dwelling Place of God so desecrated.

Yet, by the same token, the Church is not a social services agency. It is not the Church’s place to fix the world. In fact, if the world could be fixed it wouldn’t need the Church: there are many agencies who would do it much better if it could be done. But every political movement has realized, eventually, that the world is broken. A friar, a deacon, any Christian does not move through the world trying to fix it, but rather to heal the human icons of God who struggle through this sinful world, to teach them to bear up manfully the cross they have and to live in love with their neighbors. The world is fixed from the inside.

Tough Love

JMJ

The Readings for the 18th Wednesday, Tempus per Annum (C2)

And behold, a Canaanite woman of that district came and called out, “Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David! My daughter is tormented by a demon.”

Matthew 15:22

THIS PERICOPE always intrigues me: there’s no Canaan. There’s no province of Canaan, there’s no area of Jesus’ world with this name. How do we get a Canaanite Woman?

One possibility is that Matthew is wrong here. Many outside the Church (and some inside, tbh) would love for that to be the case. We could then just ignore things as we felt like it. See: this Gospel has errors. That’s not a path I want to take, but we should acknowledge this mention of an ahistorical “Canaanite” opens up that question.

Remembering that Matthew was writing his Gospel to a primarily Jewish community, then two other possibilities arise for our meditation.

The Church has had lots of chances to change something that was “wrong” in Matthew’s Text. Other Gospels refer to her as a “Syrophoenician Woman“. The Church has refused to harmonize this passage meaning that this is something we should consider as is, not “as an error”. I mentioned a few posts ago that the medical term for being uncircumcised was a slang term for Gentiles among some Jews with whom Paul was talking. Paul condescended to use the vulgar term to say circumcision does not matter anymore. Is it possible that, among the Jews to whom Matthew was writing, “Canaanite” was a slang term for Gentiles living in the geographical area of Israel? (Interestingly, it was also a term used for supporters of what we now call “Zionism” at the beginning of the 20th Century.) I’ve no way to check on that idea, but hold that in thought for a moment: I don’t want that to be the real meditation today, but it does add an interesting, spicy take to my point that follows:

Could Matthew have been making a point that Jesus came not just for Jews but for everyone? This was a point of contention in the earliest days of the Church, of course. Should Gentiles become Jews first before they can follow the Messiah? The Church’s answer was a profound no. It seems one way to read this passage is to see the Apostles (Jews) saying “send her away, she’s annoying”. Then Matthew’s text allows Jesus to show he is, at heart, a Dominican, by making a pun: “Canaanite” “dog”. Get it?

Jesus seemingly rebuffs her in order, the Fathers all agree in saying, to provoke the cry of faith from her: “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.” Her act of faith saved her and her daughter, as well as the Apostles and us.

That is the second point for meditation today: what seemingly negative things in your life are being allowed by God in order to provoke a cry of faith from you? I’m coughing from Covid right now. I can’t begin to understand how this thing has come to pass – not to me – but to all of us. What Was God doing in 2019 and 2020 when all this started? Among other things was he provoking a cry of faith from us?

Do you remember the Urbi & Orbi blessing that Pope Francis gave at the beginning of the Lockdowns? A blessing for the City and the World. I watched it live in my basement apartment, moved profoundly by the Holy Father’s act of Faith, giving the world a blessing as only the Vicar of Christ on Earth can do: leading the entire world in an act of spiritual warfare, a cry of faith. The entire world… we are never told what might have been if that action had not been taken. I believe profoundly that the world was changed that night and the plague was stopped. That was a miracle.

By an act of faith. But it was most important that it be done publically, out loud, as it were with all the police cars sounding their sirens as the Sacred Host was raised in blessing. The Holy Father’s act of faith saved all of us.

St Paul makes the point that all things work for the good of those who love the Lord. There is only one good: union with the Lord. So all things, accepted with the cry of faith, can draw us closer to God. The Canaanite woman shows how her faith grows: she goes from call out to Jesus from a distance to drawing close and worshipping him. Sometimes that thing that seems like a no from God can really be a yes if we but see the opening to ask correctly.

The third point for our meditation is why? What is the need for your cry of faith? Is it primarily for you or is it for others?

Why are you being provoked by something negative in your life to cry out in faith to God? You may never know. You may be a change needed in the whole world. You may be a story for future Christians to read. You may be the inspiration of others who are sick as well.

Your act of faith never saves only you.

Horse Hockey!

JMJ

The Readings for the 17th Thursday, Tempus per Annum (C2)
Memorial of Bl. Stanley Rother, Priest & Martyr


Then every scribe who has been instructed in the Kingdom of heaven… brings from his storeroom both the new and the old.

Matthew 13:52

SCRIBES GET A BAD rap in the New Testament: basically lawyers, although their function might compare to a hybrid of our modern law professors and higher-tier court justices. Yes, they also copied sacred and royal documents, but they were very good at saying when something was kosher or not. They often sided with the Pharisees in the time of Jesus, but needn’t always do so. And, in today’s passage, we learn of a new type of scribe: one who is schooled in the Kingdom. And we know that’s a good thing. So, essentially, there’s a way in which the disciple of Jesus (one who is schooled in the Kingdom) must be as knowledgable as the scribes of the old teaching. There’s a way to be a follower of Messiah and be conbsidered a Scribe.

I’ve been reading A Rabbi Talks with Jesus by Jacob Neusner. To be honest, I’ve been struggling with it. The Rabbi assumes that for Jesus to be a faithful Jew he must be on the same path as Rabbi Neusner. To go someplace else (as Jesus does) is ok but… The “but” being, while that’s good for you, Jesus, it means you’re no longer a Jew. While I can see that that’s really the only way for a modern Jew to make sense of the Jewish/Christian conversation (and it’s really how many Christians read the conversation too) I don’t think we can look at the history that way. Jeremiah points us in a better direction:

Whenever the object of clay which he – the Potter – was making turned out badly in his hand, he tried again, making of the clay another object of whatever sort he pleased. Then the word of the LORD came to me: Can I not do to you, house of Israel, as this potter has done? says the LORD. Indeed, like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, house of Israel.

Jeremiah 18:4-6

At least in the Apostolic period (and maybe the Subapostolic period, too) there was a sense of, if you will, two rabbinic houses. Those Gentiles and Jews who followed Jesus’ interpretation of the Torah as compared to those Jews (and maybe some Gentiles) who did not do so. Paul and the other Apostles could teach in the synagogues. The Empire initially treated these “little Christs” as some sort of Also-Jews. There were some rabbis and scribes on both sides. The Messianic side insisted God was remaking Israel like a potter. The non-Messianic side said this was road apples and wanted to stick with the old tried and true ways of doing things.

Jesus says every scribe schooled in the kingdom knows how to weave the old and the new together as needed. Those scribes who rejected the Good News were stuck with the old things alone.

If the entire Bible is read as pointing toward Jesus, then everything points to Jesus. But for 2,000 years there have been folks who reject that reading.

Today is the memorial of my Patron, Bl. Stanley Rother. He is a Martyr for the faith. He was born in Oklahoma and died in Guatemala on this day in 1981. Stan was raised under the “old Mass” but he actually had trouble with Latin. When the new Mass was promulgated he translated the new missal as well as the New Testament into the native language of the Tz’utujil. He worked with the poor to teach them the faith as well as farming skills! He was accused (by Americans writing to the US Embassy and the Guatemalan gov’t) of being a radical preaching anti-government propaganda even from the pulpit. Yet Stan saw the Gospel as requiring the evangelist to be with his people, or – as Pope Francis now says – the shepherd must smell like the sheep.

This is weaving the Old and the New together.

We cannot ask “What would Jesus do” when it comes to our globalized culture of death, capitalism, climate destruction, injustice, and self-medication. He did not face this in his time. But we can, in faith, work like Blessed Stanley Rother did, to bring the Gospel to bear, weaving the old and the new. We believe Jesus to be the Messiah, the Son of God and God the Son. We carry his spirit with us in our lives through the sacraments and God’s Grace.

As God remakes things, like a MASH repitching the tent up the road, we can let God do his work through us. And by Faith we can be thrown in a new shape. Our scribes can bring out the old and the new together.

But like Stan that won’t make everyone happy. We will have to die.

Blessed Stanley our brother,
you poured out your life in service and spilled your blood as a witness
to the faithfulness of God’s love.
Those you loved so deeply and served so completely
knew you to be their pastor and their priest,
interceding for them as their open door to the presence of Christ.
Pray for us now and intercede on our behalf,
as we ask you to walk with us on our journey through life,
that the redeeming presence of Jesus,
might touch us now and restore us to wholeness and peace.
I ask in time of need
[state your need]
that your prayer accompany us; may the mercy of Christ,
echoed in your ministry and your martyrdom,
renew us and bring us the graces necessary to heal our brokenness,
illumine our darkness, and restore the losses in our lives,
that we may be, finally, one with you in praising God forever in heaven.
Through Christ our Lord.
Amen.

Missed Pearl

JMJ

The Readings for the 17th Wednesday, Tempus per Annum (C2)


When I found your words, I devoured them; your words were my joy, the happiness of my heart, because I bear your name, LORD God of hosts.

Jeremiah 15:16

SCRIPTURE STUDY has consumed the writer since the late 90s. In those days there was a (near) daily mailing of a short meditation based on the Episcopal Church’s Daily Office Lectionary, a two-year cycle of three daily texts. But, although I nerd out on the meanings of Greek words and Hebrew verb stems, it’s not the head that matters. It may astound you to hear a Dominican say that. But let’s look at the idea closer. One of the Four Pillars of the Dominican way of life is the pillar of Study. For this Dominicans often get accused of being all “in the head”. We are often seen as studious, and even scholastic in all the negative, angels-on-pinheads implications of that word. Yet, within the tradition, “study” as a pillar doesn’t lead to head-knowledge but rather to heart-knowledge or, as one priest said to me, “study should not be about understanding, but rather about wisdom.”

And so, the words of YHVH, in Hebrew devarim and in LXX Greek logos, are joy and happiness: they are not just something to nerd out on, but something to contemplate. If Bible study doesn’t make you pray, you’re missing the point!

And so Jesus talks about the Pearl of Great Price that the kingdom goes looking for. Please understand me: in the second parable today the “Kingdom of Heaven” is not likened to the pearl itself, but rather the merchant. What’s going on here?

Remember the purpose is to pray more…

In the first Parable, the kingdom is likened to the treasure found in the field. For me, this is Bible Study. When you dig into the Bible, you find the Kingdom… all you need to do is open the Bible and literally read anything – it will draw you into the Kingdom. So much so, that you close the book (bury the treasure again, as it were) and buy the entire field. You must get more. You need more NOW. Read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest those words, as the Anglican Collect says. We are pulled ever deeper and as we dig up the treasure again in the field we find there’s more and more hid there than we ever knew! We keep digging. And there’s always more.

What is the Kingdom? In Matthew’s literary tradition we don’t say “God” we say “heaven” so “Kingdom of Heaven” is the same as “Kingdom of God”. As I noted in an earlier post, the Kingdom is Jesus himself: in his person. When we dig in these scriptures, we find they all bring us to the Kingdom, that is, to Jesus.

But then we find something strange.

The Kingdom of Heaven is a like a merchant buying pearls.

Jesus was already seeking us. And having found the Pearl of Great Price – that is, you – he sold everything to get you. His Godhead, his life, his body, blood, soul, and divinity given to and for you. The Kingdom is not something we find (although it can seem that way) rather, He’s something that has found us. Has found you.

Loves you.

Pearl sang it best, “Won’t you come home…”

Perpetual Adoration

JMJ

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

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

Jeremiah 1:9

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Numbers 11:29

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

Jeremiah 31:33 / Hebrews 8:10

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

Joel 2:28 / Acts 2:17

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

II Corinthians 3:3

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

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

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

Bike Riding Holy Hour Now, Y Not?


ABBAbandonment Issues

JMJ

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

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

Matthew 11:27b

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Autobasileia 

JMJ

The Readings for the 14th Wednesday, Tempus per Annum

Go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, make this proclamation: ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.

Matthew 10:6-7

JESUS SENDS His disciples ahead of him to the towns the plans to visit: let them know the Kingdom is at hand. What is the Kingdom? The odd Greek title for this post, autobasileia, is (for me) the most compelling answer. We’ll get to the meaning in a moment, but first there are some other contenders for the meaning of “The Kingdom”.

Readers are probably very familiar with two very American, or at least Western, ideas of the Kingdom: both are political. First is that Jesus wants us to build the kingdom here and now. Pick your political model, left or right, woke or reactionary, prove that Jesus loves them and get to work. The Kingdom of God needs you to vote, shop, struggle in the political arena in only this way. To do else is to oppose God. The second option is a modification of the first: it assumes that America (or some other empire in the past) actually is the Kingdom and we need only get it right. Bring back the Hapsburgs, or Make America Great Again, or Why did Kennedy Have to Die, or any one of a hundred other political structures that should have been, could have been, can be again the Kingdom here on Earth.

Theses readings tend to provoke cries about the Separation of Church and State, but one rarely objects to political changes one likes in those terms. If my religion teaches no-abortion, but I ignore social justice issues, the Social Justice Warriors will cry about Church and State. But they will never notice my religion also teaches many of their SJW stances. I can work for racial integration because I’m a Catholic and no one will talk about Church and State.

Two other readings are less political: the Kingdom is in your heart. Ironically, this is the most modern and American reading. The Kingdom being “in your heart” means there’s no political reaction needed. You can do whatever you want, but it’s “in your heart” that counts. This is the Sunday Christian who is very pious at Mass and then evicts tenants on Monday, supports the Death Penalty, and abortion. But he is pious. The second non-political reading is “the Kingdom is the Church”. This also tends to result in apolitical non-activism. Just leave the Church alone and let us ride our horse-and-buggies as we avoid any contact with the world. This last reading, though, brings us closest to the meaning of the Greek word, and so we go there next.

Autobasileia is a title for Jesus, used by the Church Father, Origen and cited in this century by Pope Benedict XVI in his exhortation, Verbum Domini (that is, The Word of the Lord) ¶93:

The word and the Kingdom of God

Consequently, the Church’s mission cannot be considered as an optional or supplementary element in her life. Rather it entails letting the Holy Spirit assimilate us to Christ himself, and thus to share in his own mission: “As the Father has sent me, so I send you” (Jn 20:21) to share the word with your entire life. It is the word itself which impels us towards our brothers and sisters: it is the word which illuminates, purifies, converts; we are only its servants.

We need, then, to discover ever anew the urgency and the beauty of the proclamation of the word for the coming of the Kingdom of God which Christ himself preached. Thus we grow in the realization, so clear to the Fathers of the Church, that the proclamation of the word has as its content the Kingdom of God (cf. Mk 1:14-15), which, in the memorable phrase of Origen, is the very person of Jesus (Autobasileia). The Lord offers salvation to men and women in every age. All of us recognize how much the light of Christ needs to illumine every area of human life: the family, schools, culture, work, leisure and the other aspects of social life. It is not a matter of preaching a word of consolation, but rather a word which disrupts, which calls to conversion and which opens the way to an encounter with the one through whom a new humanity flowers.

Verbum Domini 30 Sep 2010

Please note that complete lack of warm fuzzies here: It is not a matter of preaching a word of consolation, but rather a word which disrupts.

The Kingdom of God, that is Jesus, is not something that stays home and minds its own business. The light of Christ needs to illumine every area of human life: the family, schools, culture, work, leisure and the other aspects of social life. When we rest in the kingdom (that is, Jesus) we become his action in the world. The Church, then, is a sacrament of the Kingdom, but not the whole Kingdom: which is Christ himself, the second person of the Trinity, and his action through grace in your life.

In this light, the parsing out of the reading from Hosea is interesting (thinking about the verses skipped).

In the text as provided for reading today (10:1-3, 7-8, 12) it sounds as if God had some trouble with Israel and they saw his anger (v8) and he closed out with some good advice (in v12). But taken all together with the rest of Chapter 10, v1-8 are about how bad Israel has been. Verse 12 is what they were supposed to have done instead. And God’s going to let them suffer the consequences of ignoring him.

I honestly believe we are there right now. God’s beginning to let us experience the consequences of ignoring him. And it’s only just beginning. The Bible Project folks call this “decreation” – an undoing of the blessings outlined at the beginning of Genesis. It’s a natural, logical consequence of ignoring God.

The people who want to keep Jesus in their hearts (but go on doing whatever they want) are leading us all amok. And it won’t be pretty because the Kingdom of God came near – we ignored him by searching for our own kingdoms, by trusting in our own power, making up our own rules, trying to decide on our own what was right and what was wrong.

The only hope is in the Gospel.

Repent – as the Alleluia Verse says – get a new mind, think different. Put your full trust (and all your actions) in the Good News.

Three Singers, One Song

JMJ

The Solemnity of Sts Peter and Paul, Apostles

It was the feast of the Unleavened Bread

Acts 12:3 (NABRE)

TODAY’S FEAST CELEBRATES TWO Men who sang the same song. They were both martyred for the song because they refused to change the tune when the empire demanded they do so. They didn’t change the tune even when their fellow Jews rejected them and tried to have them slain.

Peter gets arrested and an angel leads him out of prison. Roman prisons are (mostly) underground: holes in the ground like graves actually. What does this remind you of? So, it’s Easter and Peter gets loosed from his underground chains and returned to freedom. Who is this God that frees people from their chains? Peter never changed the Tune.

Paul’s moment of conversion, of course, was more like the Transfiguration than Easter. Like Peter, Paul got to see Christ in his glory. But Paul gave up his entire life – including his religion – to go teach about this man he saw once in a vision. He insisted that in some way we cannot fully understand Jesus had died for him. And then Paul went and died for Jesus. Paul never changed the tune.

The Roman Church has two patrons, Peter and Paul, whom tradition teaches were both martyred at Rome. They were only part of the crew, as it were: tomorrow we celebrate all the earliest Martyrs of Rome. If you listen to Folks Who Know Things™, they will let you know that Jesus was pretty cool but Peter and Paul got it all wrong. We all know of demagogues who preach falsities and lure others to their doom. People who want us to ignore the Church tell us that Peter and Paul were such men. They got it all wrong. Everything is fine. Follow your bliss and do your own thing. It’s only a pinch of incense after all.

Today’s solemnity celebrates two men who sang a common harmony, but there was a third voice in their song. In fact, the Third Voice was the driving force behind Peter and Paul. They only sang the songs that were written for them and their harmony would have fallen apart except for their Master, Jesus. It was he who composed the tunes and wrote the harmonies, who called them to sing, who gave them their voices, who blessed them with all the gifts they needed to do the work he called them to do. To ignore Peter and Paul is exactly to ignore Jesus, the Dominant Third Voice in this trio.

People who know things will try to tell you that Jesus was all about love and Peter and Paul ruined it.

People who say know nothing about love.