I am divine, you are dibranches.

JMJ

The Readings for Wednesday in the 5th Week of Easter (B2)
St Athanasius, BDC

Omnem palmitem in me non ferentem fructum, tollet eum, et omnem qui fert fructum, purgabit eum, ut fructum plus afferat.
Every branch in me, that beareth not fruit, he will take away: and every one that beareth fruit, he will purge it, that it may bring forth more fruit. 

The Clash paraphrased this verse very well in 1982, singing: If I go there will be trouble and if I stay it will be double. For those of an earlier generation (or different genre), Lynn Anderson was a bit more poetic with I beg your pardon, I never promised you a rose garden. Both artists reminding us that  Our Lord taught: love is not about warm fuzzies, but rather about a lot of work.  Jesus expects that our relationship with him will be rocky – for us. He’s already done the hard work though. He could not love us any better: he loves you just the way you are.

Still, there is something required of us. He likes our praise and worship, but he wants more than words. One of the Desert Fathers said, if you will it you can become wholly fire. This is what Jesus wants. If you’re on fire, he says. Show me. But we are, perhaps rightly, scared of fire. We know it’s going to burn. We know it’s going to not leave us unharmed, unchanged, unscathed. Jesus knows that life is not tried, it is merely survived if you’re standing outside the fire. It may look good to live fast, avoiding attachments, but it is the attachments, the pain, the struggle that grind down our edges, that make us into smooth, reflective surfaces to return his light.
We want, pardon the analogy, vegan love: warm feelings, romance with no meat, no death, no struggle. Jesus bled and died for this love. And wants us to eat his flesh and drink his blood. And to be honest, he expects us to die for it too. So like he says, it’s gonna be tough to stick around here, but it’s tougher still for the sticks that get cut off. When it comes to love, it’s not moonlight, it’s fire, or it’s fire.

Thing is, we’re prone to go the easy way. Jesus knows that when we can’t be with the one we love, we will love the one we’re witheven though that just gets really old after a while.  When we do it my way find ourselves craving more and more but getting less and less. We suffer from this silly idea that love will fill me up, complete me, make me all the me I’m supposed to be. Real love does that, yes, but only by destroying all of you, making you into the full human being God made you to be. You’ll be you, alright, but you’ll be totally changed, totally different. Because you’ll be Christ.

Love hurts. Yes. So why not pick the love that lasts forever?













Verba Vitae

JMJ

The Readings for the 2nd Wednesday of Easter (B2)

Ite, et stantes loquimini in templo plebi omnia verba vitae hujus. 
Go, and standing speak in the temple to the people all the words of this life. 

What are omnia verba vitae hujus? What are all the words of this life? Is this the idea you have of a corner evangelist? When you hear such do you hear him speaking the words of this life? In Greek the phrase is ῥήματα τῆς Ζωῆς ταύτης rhemata tes Zoes tautes… the phrase is used elsewhere, in John. When, after explaining the Eucharist, all the folks get disgusted because Jesus really says “eat my flesh” and “drink my blood”. And folks leave. And Jesus says to the 12, “Are you going to leave too?” and they say “you have the ῥήματα ζωῆς, the rhemata Zoes, the words of life”. 

That’s not an accidental parallel for there are other Greek words that mean “life” or even “Way of Life” and there are other Greek words for “word”.  Rhemata means “teaching” rather than a literal word. Zoe, in the scriptures, is the divine life, given to us by Grace. It’s very different from the life of simply “breathing”. That life ends. Zoe is the life of God which never dies. The whole purpose of the Christian Way is to replace mere breathing with actual living, with Zoe.

The Rhemata Zoes. Go into the temple and speak all the Rhemata Zoes to the people. Jesus has the words of Zoe in John, but the Apostles are commanded to speak about this Zoe… and since we’ve just been hearing in the preceding chapter about the Christian Community’s patterns of living together, holding all things in common, of praying and making Eucharist together, this is this Zoe. This community acting this way is the Christian life: not a sinner’s prayer and hope to see you next week, nor a come to mass and go home alone sort of thing at all. But live together, sharing all things, doing in Jesus’ name all the things that get done.

That is this life. It is shared, from the get go. Pope Francis said, in the Apostolic Exhortation released recently: We are never completely ourselves unless we belong to a people. That is why no one is saved alone, as an isolated individual. Rather, God draws us to himself, taking into account the complex fabric of interpersonal relationships present in a human community. 

The pope continues, 

14. To be holy does not require being a bishop, a priest or a religious. We are frequently tempted to think that holiness is only for those who can withdraw from ordinary affairs to spend much time in prayer. That is not the case. We are all called to be holy by living our lives with love and by bearing witness in everything we do, wherever we find ourselves. Are you called to the consecrated life? Be holy by living out your commitment with joy. Are you married? Be holy by loving and caring for your husband or wife, as Christ does for the Church. Do you work for a living? Be holy by labouring with integrity and skill in the service of your brothers and sisters. Are you a parent or grandparent? Be holy by patiently teaching the little ones how to follow Jesus. Are you in a position of authority? Be holy by working for the common good and renouncing personal gain.[14]

15. Let the grace of your baptism bear fruit in a path of holiness. Let everything be open to God; turn to him in every situation. Do not be dismayed, for the power of the Holy Spirit enables you to do this, and holiness, in the end, is the fruit of the Holy Spirit in your life (cf. Gal 5:22-23). When you feel the temptation to dwell on your own weakness, raise your eyes to Christ crucified and say: “Lord, I am a poor sinner, but you can work the miracle of making me a little bit better”. In the Church, holy yet made up of sinners, you will find everything you need to grow towards holiness. The Lord has bestowed on the Church the gifts of scripture, the sacraments, holy places, living communities, the witness of the saints and a multifaceted beauty that proceeds from God’s love, “like a bride bedecked with jewels” (Is 61:10).

16. This holiness to which the Lord calls you will grow through small gestures. Here is an example: a woman goes shopping, she meets a neighbour and they begin to speak, and the gossip starts. But she says in her heart: “No, I will not speak badly of anyone”. This is a step forward in holiness. Later, at home, one of her children wants to talk to her about his hopes and dreams, and even though she is tired, she sits down and listens with patience and love. That is another sacrifice that brings holiness. Later she experiences some anxiety, but recalling the love of the Virgin Mary, she takes her rosary and prays with faith. Yet another path of holiness. Later still, she goes out onto the street, encounters a poor person and stops to say a kind word to him. One more step.

This life of Holiness, the Rhemata Zoes… it continues. We should speak it always and everywhere.


Pray the Day Away

JMJ

The Readings for Wednesday in Easter Week (B2)

Argentum et aurum non est mihi : quod autem habeo, hoc tibi do .
Silver and gold I have none; but what I have, I give thee.

In a funny book from 1987 called Life: A Warning, by Stephanie Brush, a lacklustre sequel to her 1985 comedic tour de force, Men: An Owner’s Manual, the author pointed out that everyone knows airplanes can’t fly. In the back of every winged tube there is a meditation room filled with monks chanting. These invisible do-gooders are the ones who keep the planes in the air.  The pilots are all insane folks on Xanax made to believe they are flying the machines to keep the humble monks out of the spotlight. This is a humorous retelling of the Jewish story that there is a secret Minyan of Righteous Men whose prayers keep the world together.  Prayer, that is, when it is doing what it should be doing. (I’m not sure now: this could have been in the chapter on why not to fly in Life: A Warning or else in the chapter on why not to date a Pilot in Men: An Owner’s Manual. ¯_(ツ)_/¯ Finding either book in the 50¢ bin at Goodwill would be a fun find.)

The online world is awash in prayer requests and promises of prayer. I belong to a men’s group online and we fast and pray each Friday for intentions brought up in the group, yet not a day goes by when at least one of my brothers doesn’t have a request: a job hunt, a family crisis, a relative who has fallen asleep in the Lord, or one who is about to. Facebook is like that, as well: friends and friends of friends asking for prayers or forwarding requests for prayer. 

What are we to do? We could live life daily just scrolling through Facebook. I know some folks do that anyway without prayer ever coming up.  Still, taking the requests as well intentioned, what are we to do?

There is one more thing even more common than online requests for prayer: that’s the actual need for prayer. Scroll through Facebook or your local newspaper, a national rag like US Today or just read the streams of news coming off of Google Plus, the New York Times, SF Gate, wherever.  The actual need for intercessory prayer is huge. We are surrounded by a culture devoid of the realization that it needs all of our prayers at every moment.

I’ve seen how many folks will walk up to a priest (or monk) in religious garb and just ask for prayer. The power of the robes it is (because I’m was no more a righteous monk than I am a righteous tech worker). People will stop you in WalMart or at a stop light. People need prayer, but that’s not what I’m talking about. 

Peter and John walk into the Temple. Stop me if you heard this one… and they meet a beggar asking for alms. Instead they pray him to wholeness. Yes, they work a miracle, but that’s the same thing: just a shorter time to resolution. What is it like to pray for the world unasked and unmarked? Again, I’m not talking about being asked to pray: but what did you do when you heard about (pick a shooting crisis) in the news feeds on that day? Did you stop and intercede for the shooter, the victims, the police, the families, and those at home watching terrified? I didn’t. I usually start getting angry at how fast the political commentaries show up – which makes me no different from the political commentators, or the protesters, all with each our own self-righteous anger. 

What did you do when the war broke out in fill in the blank under President fill in the blank? Was your first thought In the Name of Jesus of Nazareth… or was it to take sides for or against the war?

In the story from the Gospel, the walkers to Emmaus, St Luke and his buddy, St Cleopus, meet Jesus and don’t recognize him. They talk to Jesus about all that’s happened recently in Jerusalem. It’s especially funny when the boys are like ‘You have to be the only person in Jerusalem who doesn’t know these things that have happened recently.” And Jesus is all, Quae? What things? Jesus doesn’t need to hear the news, of course because he is the news. Rather he wants to illustrate the story with his wisdom. He has to open their eyes to the real meanings of everything in the scriptures. 

We need that same gift of wisdom to understand the real meaning of gun violence, sweeping the homeless off our streets, and the Spotify IPO. All of these have meanings and all of these need prayer.

What I have I give thee…

It is the responsibility of the Church to be the Body of Christ in the world, to be the divine master acting. Each of us have a duty, a religious obligation to pray through the world daily. To walk around praying the rosary, to offer a Hail Mary or a Jesus Prayer for everyone that crosses our virtual, real, or newsreel paths, to elevate a meeting at work with a silent Pater Noster or Gloria Patri. The homeless, begging on the street, should be prayed for at all times. But so should the woman fighting with her partner on the Subway, the person driving the broken shopping cart in  front of you at Ingles, Fortino’s, Key Foods, Publix, or King Super. Can you pray your way through the Newspaper, or the next election cycle, not worrying about who’s on whose side, but rather learning that all are God’s people, all need redemption and all need your prayers?

What would it be like to end the day with so many prayers said?

Like a Swiss Army Knife

JMJ

The Readings for Wednesday in the 4th Week of Lent (B2)

Dedi te in foedus populi, ut suscitares terram, et possideres haereditates dissipatas; ut diceres his qui vincti sunt : Exite; et his qui in tenebris : Revelamini. Super vias pascentur, et in omnibus planis pascua eorum.
[I have] given thee to be a covenant of the people, that thou mightest raise up the earth, and possess the inheritances that were destroyed: That thou mightest say to them that are bound: Come forth: and to them that are in darkness: shew yourselves. They shall feed in the ways, and their pastures shall be in every plain. 

I looked at these verses long and hard last night. In fact, after drafting a couple of paragraphs that sounded really angry, I fell asleep on the sofa. And woke up and said… nope.

But tonight at Mass, as the reader said “I have given thee…” it came to me, like a punch. A pow.

This prophecy of Christ.
Must be true of his body.
Where has God given you?
If you are a member of Christ’s body, this must be true of you.
Where has God given you?

What people’s language do you speak that no one else speaks?
What unreached tribe have you been sent to?
Where can you – and only you – say “Come forth. Shew yourselves”?

Some of us are called like St Ignatius to travel to China to save the souls of the lost in a far corner.
Some of us are called to the bodega down the street.
Some of us are sent like St Dominic to release a tribe of heretics from the chains they forged for themselves.
Some of us are sent to our family of Episcopalians at Christmas.
Some of us are called like Blessed Stanley Rother to translate the Liturgy into a Language never used before.
Some of us are called to speak the language of the Gospel at a union local, or even a local bar.

We are all called to be apostles. If this prophecy is true of Christ, it is true of you.
What set of tools do only you have?
What book of the Gospel has been written for you to read only to those who are trained up to hear it?

“This is what the past is for! Every experience God gives us, every person He puts in our lives is the perfect preparation for the future that only He can see.”  – Corrie ten Boom.

Where are you set for? How finely tuned are you to be the voice of God in that one place that you are where no one else can speak?

Ready!
Sent!
Gospel.

You want fries with that?

JMJ

The Readings for Wednesday in the 3rd Week of Lent (B2)

Nolite putare quoniam veni solvere legem, aut prophetas : non veni solvere, sed adimplere.
Do not think that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets. I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. 

It’s Lent, so I’m thinking about food. If Jesus is not destroying the law, why are we not keeping Kosher? This is a good question. It begs others – like Kosher according to whom? or what time period? Even in settled days the definitions of kosher were evolving.  Jesus would have been able to drink a milkshake with his burgers. 

It is a commonplace, sadly, to say that Jesus ended the Jewish law, aka the Covenant of Moses.  Jesus himself says he did not come to destroy, but to fulfill the law and, if you think we’re freed from the law, read down a few verses where he says “You’ve been taught do not kill – but I say don’t even get angry. You’ve been taught, don’t commit sexual sin, but I say don’t even imagine it.” Jesus doesn’t have easy rules to replace the old ones. His rules are, actually, harder. Today’s reading stops short of the threat, Dico enim vobis, quia nisi abundaverit justitia vestra plus quam scribarum, et pharisaeorum…Unless your justice abound more than that of the scribes and Pharisees you’re not getting into heaven.

Yes, Jesus takes away our sins, but that doesn’t mean we should keep on sinning.  So, you may ask, why do we eat shrimp scampi in Lent?

The best way to phrase that question – in order to come to a good answer – is by whose authority to do we eat Shrimp Scampi in Lent? 

In Acts 15:28-29 we find the authority. The Apostles meet as the Church and come to a decision. They are discussing what part of the Law should apply to Gentiles who want to follow Christ: 

Visum est enim Spiritui Sancto, et nobis nihil ultra imponere vobis oneris quam haec necessaria : ut abstineatis vos ab immolatis simulacrorum, et sanguine, et suffocato, et fornicatione, a quibus custodientes vos, bene agetis.

For it hath seemed good to the Holy Ghost and to us, to lay no further burden upon you than these necessary things: That you abstain from things sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication; from which things keeping yourselves, you shall do well. 

It seemed good to God and to us… The Holy Spirit guides the Church, or so Catholics believe. You can, if you wish, decide otherwise. But to do so is to embark on a long and tortuous road. You can find folks who say God told them to ordain women, the Church says no; God told them XYZ used to be wrong, but now it’s right, the Church says no. You can find folks who say any number of things contrary to the Church. Some even say we should still avoid work on Friday night and Saturday and still keep a kosher house. They fail to realize that Jesus would have been able to eat Cheeseburgers. Shrimp Scampi is right out, though. To that the Church says no.

So, by whose authority do we eat Shrimp Scampi? If you are Catholic, yes you follow the Church, but the Church has it on God’s own authority.

You you feel otherwise you make other choices.

it is an act of faith to say this is God’s authority. It is no more an act of faith now, when the Catholic Church is the largest religious organization in the world than it was in the 1st century, when the Catholic Church was about 5,000 people or even earlier when it was 12.

It is a claim you must either take to heart or reject. Rejecting it opens up a whole world of possibilities. Taking that claim to heart opens up a whole lot more.


Can we? Yes we can!

JMJ

The Readings for Wednesday in the 2nd Week of Lent (B2)

Ecce ascendimus Jerosolymam, et Filius hominis tradetur principibus sacerdotum, et scribis, et condemnabunt eum morte, et tradent eum gentibus ad illudendum, et flagellandum, et crucifigendum…
Behold we go up to Jerusalem, and the Son of man shall be betrayed to the chief priests and the scribes, and they shall condemn him to death and shall deliver him to the Gentiles to be mocked, and scourged, and crucified…

Jesus says, “all these bad things will happen to me” and then Mrs Zebedee says, “Take my boys with you.” But she doesn’t do it like Hannah does in the Old Testament – offereing her son unreservedly to God; nor does she do it like Solomonia does it in Maccabees – urging her sons to martyrdom. Rather, Mrs Zebedee says, “After all these bad things happen, let my boys come and sit with you in your kingdom.” Something ain’t right.

But Jesus takes pains to set it right, offering a way out: Can you, he asks, drink the same cup as I? Yes, we can! OK, then you shall… but I can’t give those seats away to anyone. That is my Father’s job. This is, pardon my pun, crucial. Jesus does offer us rewards, yes: but he asks of us everything and offers no shortcuts.

One huge purpose of Lent is to learn to give up things. That we want them at all is a reason to give them up.  Such wanting, such or constant craving, is an offense against our human freedom. We are  divinely appointed as free to make choices: our first choice being to submit even our freedom to God’s will. Cravings, desires, lusts, all impinge on our freedom. They impinge upon what is properly our only desire: union with God. Anything that comes prior to that desire is out of its proper order. It is disordered.

So we give up things which are otherwise good to learn to say no to our body’s desires. Simply wanting something is no reason to just get up and get it. We give up sinful things all the time, right?  But we train up our wills, slowly, by saying no to silly things (like meat, or fish, dairy, eggs, oil, etc)  so that eventually we can give up big things like disordered choices and sins that run amok aka the passions

Jesus wants us to drink the cup of his passion. Full stop. Even though he can’t promise the seats on his right and his left, he can promise us crosses just like his and penance tailored to fit. 





se3

Whales Tales

JMJ

The Readings for Wednesday in the 1st Week of Lent (B2)

Et factum est verbum Domini ad Jonam secundo.
And the word of the Lord came to Jonas the second time.

The first words in the Book of the Prophet Jonas are “Et factum est verbum Domini ad Jonam…” and there follows two chapters of Jonas running away from God. There’s a boat. And there’s a whale of a storm. And there’s a whale, of course. Then there’s a long Lament that makes everyone so sad that the whale spits out the mournful prophet. And none of that is the point. In fact, if you get hung up in the first two chapters, debating where Jonas was in all this or where the sea was or how big was the whale, then you’re totally going to miss the point. The whale’s a red herring.

But then there is “Et factum est verbum Domini ad Jonam, secundo….  (it does the same thing in Hebrew, the same opening repeated with the addition of only one word.) This is one of the best punchlines in the Bible. 

Secundo

God loves to give second chances.  In fact, the whole book of Jonas is about Second Chances. The whole city of Nineveh gets a second chance. And Jonas does too. 

Secundo.

Almost, when Jesus talks about the Sign of Jonas, I can hear him say, “This generation will be given a second chance…”

Today’s verse before the Gospel get us into the act:

Even now, says the LORD,
return to me with your whole heart
for I am gracious and merciful.

So what path have you walked down that you thought was so right… but turned out being wrong. How far did you make it before turning back? 

Unto the Beasts that Perish

JMJ

The Readings for the 5th Wednesday of Ordinary Time (B2)

Omnia haec mala ab intus procedunt, et communicant hominem.
All these evil things come from within, and defile a man. 

In the world of Middle Earth, every race has their own language: there’s dwarvish, two different elvishes, orkish, something called the Black Tongue, and several humanish languages as well. There could come a problem if you wanted everyone to hangout together, though. How do they talk to each other? Tolkien included something called the Common Tongue, whereby all the races could talk together. It’s the Lingua Franca of Middle Earth, the way to do business.  Evidently the phrase, “Lingua Franca” refers to “Italian-Provençal jargon with elements of Spanish, French, Greek, Arabic, and Turkish formerly widely used” in the Levant, which is perfect! I think today of how so many different varieties of English are spoken in the “Anglosphere” on top of so many other local languages from Hindi to Hebrew, from Inuit to Irish. 


In Jesus’ Day the Common Tongue was not Latin (as the Royal Tongue of Rome) but rather Greek. It was the common, shared language of businessmen in much of the world since the days of Alexander the Great. It had devolved a bit, picking up bits and pieces here and there. The Dialect of Greek thus spoken is called Koine, or common Greek as opposed to Classical or Attic Greek. It was the common language of the lower classes as well as of those who travelled. This language, Koine, is important: it’s what the New Testament is written in. It’s the language of the Greek Liturgy


It’s also an adjectival form of the word Jesus uses here as a verb, κοινόω, koino, meaning “to make common” but rendered as “Defile”.


I think this is important because (although they are sins) in this passage Jesus list a lot of things that make a man common: 


Ab intus enim de corde hominum malae cogitationes procedunt, adulteria, fornicationes, homicidia, furta, avaritiae, nequitiae, dolus, impudicitiae, oculus malus, blasphemia, superbia, stultitia.

For from within out of the heart of men proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. 

Again, although they are sins, here Jesus list them as things that make a man common.


But the verb koino doesn’t refer to “common” as in common tongue or shared (community) property. Common here is a very particular thing, one is made common after one has been made holy: 

A chalice sanctified for the Mass used as a receptacle for beer pong or tiddly winks.
A steak dinner served on an altar.
Priest’s robes used for a Halloween Costume.
A wedding ring melted down and used for a septum piercing.
Taking something holy and using it for a common, everyday, unholy (not always “anti-holy”) purpose. 
What is interesting about this passage is that it means Jesus is equating the idea of ritual impurity with what we would see as sin.

This is why it is easy to avoid issues of kosher food in the Church, whilst still worrying about the parts of the Mosaic code that talk about sex – even when they come in the same couple of verses. Why it’s ok to not worry about mixing linen and wool, but divorce is right out. It’s the things outside the body that don’t matter. Things inside make us common. How do they make us common?


Psalm 49 (in the Coverdale) closes with this image: Man being in honour hath no understanding but is compared unto the beasts that perish.
Homo, cum in honore esset, non intellexit. Comparatus est jumentis insipientibus, et similis factus est illis.

This is how far we are fallen in our passions, our sins, our use of the holy for everyday things. We are beasts. We use all the things of this world as people who live in this world and so we are defiled (made common) by them. Jesus calls us back: to come out of the things that defile us. He calls us to use the things of this world not as they are used here, but as steps to God; to use things as they were intended by God in creation before the fall. To use things to their telos, their intended end.


Lent is coming (in 1 week). Now we are in what is traditionally a time of “carnivale” which means “goodbye, meat”.  Carnival made good sense: it was a way to use up all the meat and dairy products one had – but was not going to be able to use until Easter. So, as good stewards, we are called to use them up rather than waste them. So what started as a just and decent use (by sharing) of superfluous goods became, over time, an excuse for surfeiting. 


The time of abstaining that should lift us up becomes just more excuse to party. Now we have the party even without the fast.

What were we before?

There’s the thing. We were created to be in the Image and Likeness of God. We were intended to stand at the celestial heights, the Queens and Priest-Kings of Creation. We were called to be “a little lower than the angels” but we have fallen from there.  


We are become common. 

The Prison of Our Minds

JMJ

The Readings for the Memorial of St John Bosco

Wednesday, 4th Week of Ordinary Time (B2)

Et non poterat ibi virtutem ullam facere, nisi paucos infirmos impositis manibus curavit, et mirabatur propter incredulitatem eorum.
And he could not do any miracles there, only that he cured a few that were sick, laying his hands upon them. And he wondered because of their unbelief. 

What do you make of this? It sounds, does it not, like I might hinder God if I refuse to believe in him. “God is not there, so I don’t have to worry about him” is the Credo sine qua non of the current aeon. I know those who would argue that it is a non-credo, but it is a credo. You have to believe there is no God, for you cannot use scientific methods to prove it irrefutably.

It will not surprise you (if you read along) to know that the Greek has a different tone than the Latin. But in this case, it’s very subtle. For, in fact, the Greek word, ἀπιστία, apistia, means unbelief. The Latin is correct in rendering it as incredulitatem. We might today say incredulity or a lack of gullibility. But that Greek word, apistia is, again, our friend the a- suffix meaning “not”, and that Greek word, pisteo, meaning “Trust”.  The word, in a literal rendition, means a lack of trust, or not-trusting. So, yes, it is a lack of credulity, but it means a lack of trust.

We have a marvelous example of this in C.S. Lewis’ The Last Battle. I won’t give too many spoilers, but by way of set up, the Good Guys and the Bad Guys are fighting and the Dwarves have decided they are not going to pick a side. “The dwarfs are for the dwarfs” is their motto. So they sit on the sidelines of the last battle until they are captured and thrown through a door to certain death (so it is assumed).  In fact, the door is the gateway to Paradise. And all others who enter the door find themselves in a garden with Aslan himself; the Good Lion, the Messiah figure. But the Dwarfs are all trapped in darkness, sitting on the ground grumbling. Finally Aslan agrees to do something even though he knows it won’t work.

Aslan raised his head and shook his mane. Instantly a glorious feast appeared on the Dwarfs’ knees: pies and tongues and pigeons and trifles and ices, and each Dwarf had a goblet of good wine in his right hand. But it wasn’t much use. They began eating and drinking greedily enough, but it was clear that they couldn’t taste it properly. They thought they were eating and drinking only the sort of things you might find in a Stable. One said he was trying to eat hay and another said he had got a bit of an old turnip and a third said he’d found a raw cabbage leaf. And they raised golden goblets of rich red wine to their lips and said, ‘Ugh! Fancy drinking dirty water out of a trough that a donkey’s been at! Never thought we’d come to this.’ But very soon every Dwarf began suspecting that every other Dwarf had found something nicer than he had, and they started grabbing and snatching, and went on to quarreling, till in a few minutes there was a free fight and all the good food was smeared on their faces and clothes or trodden under foot. But when at last they sat down to nurse their black eyes and their bleeding noses, they all said: ‘Well, at any rate, there’s no Humbug here. We haven’t let anyone take us in The Dwarfs are for the Dwarfs!’
‘You see,’ said Aslan. ‘ They will not let us help them. They have chosen cunning instead of belief. Their prison is only in their own minds, yet they are in that prison; and so afraid of being taken in that they can not be taken out.’

Their prison is only in their own minds, yet they are in that prison; and so afraid of being taken in that they can not be taken out.’


That’s the folks in Nazareth. Jesus is unable to help them because they won’t let him do so. It’s not that their lack of faith takes away Jesus’ magic power: rather their unwillingness to cooperate makes it impossible for Jesus to act at all.

Think of how many other stories involve people coming to Jesus, or people asking for something, or people being brought to him (even against their will). In the traditional understanding of the Church this action is called synergia, or synergy: we must act with God. God is playing the music, but we must dance… often out in space where there are no visible means of support. And we must do so full in the Trust that God’s got this.

For each of us, our prison is only in our own minds, yet we really are in that prison; and so afraid of being taken in by others that we can not be taken out of our prison by hook or by crook. Failure to let ourselves out dancing leads to even the music fading. Doing so makes the music stronger and more present each time. 

God says to each one of us (over and over), May I have this dance? God wants to be present through you with your friends, in your family life. God wants to be present through you at work and at your Church, but – although he can easily find someone else to do the work, no one would come to the tasks with your gifts, with your skills and memories, with your relationships in time and space. God can find someone else’s gifts and use them. But he’d really like yours.

What say you, will you sing and dance to Jesus lead?

I have a cunning plan…

JMJ 

The Readings for Memorial of St Francis de Sales, BCD
Wednesday, 3rd Week of Ordinary Time (B2): 

Et fidelis erit domus tua, et regnum tuum usque in aeternum ante faciem tuam, et thronus tuus erit firmus jugiter.
And thy house shall be faithful, and thy kingdom for ever before thy face, and thy throne shall be firm for ever. 

I’m certain that, if God had wanted to become Man, he could have just done it.  That is the whole point of God, is it not? Rather better than Nike, just thinking it is to have it have been done already.  Just… oops already done. What we know of God in the Old Testament, though, after that Great Poem of Creation, the Hexaemeron, is that God prefers to work in relationship: walking in the Evening with Adam, lamenting the death of Abel, reaching out to Noë and his Kin; Abraham and his family, Lot and his, the sons of Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and all their generations. Moses and Aaron, and all the 12 Tribes of Israel, all coming together out of Egypt. 

This God doesn’t just do things for people or to people: he does things through and with them. This Great God of ours is in love with us.

So it is right and just that, to start the movement towards the final act, he begins by promising David an eternal throne. From that promise, we are set careening at a positively Orthodox speed down the Road to the Final Apocalypse when that Davidic throne will hold the Lamb that was Slain from before the Foundations of the World and every tribe, every nation, every knee will bend and every tongue in heaven and on earth and in hell will proclaim, to the Glory of God the Father that JESUS CHRIST IS LORD!

God, had he wanted to become Man, could have, you know, just done itBut that would be magical at best and meaningless, more than likely. God needed to work with us and in us and through us. God needed a family history. God had work to do: to arrange everything so that when the Incarnation Happened, everything would be in order.

1 Particular Man
1 Particular family.
1 Particular clan.
1 Particular ancestry.
1 Particular set of roots (Bet-Lechem. House of Bread, get it?)

Marriages to arrange, and adulturies to account for, and tribes to be lost and empires to rise and Alexander had to find India to open the way there and Augustus, for one Brief Shining Moment, and then cue star, cue shepherds, cue terror, cue state sponsored torture, cue… you.

When I think of all the things that lined up to make you or me possible – and that’s without any divine signals, signage, or stars. I just got born in the city that Margaret Mitchell wrote about about 100 years later… and I’m not yet sure of the stories around my birth. But I think they may be true. What about yours? At least as easy? 

God had to literally (pun intended) write history to make this one happen. When the people of Israel whinged for a King… because the Judges were generally not a good choice… that was all part of a Cunning Plan. It stretches back at least to Abraham, but it was first mentioned in the Garden of Eden. 

To get to this one Particular Man.

And now you… this one Particular Man… and you. How are you here reading these words? What do you need yet to do to get in on this cosmic dance?

This whole thing’s a setup, see? A setup of a scandal of particularity of cosmic and universal proportions. And it involves you. The sooner you see that the better things will get. Let go.  Come along for the ride.

The water is fine.



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