Plumb and Level

“The Plumb Line and the City” (portion) by Clark Fitzgerald at Coventry Cathedral

JMJ

The Readings for the 13th Thursday, Tempus per Annum
– Memorial of the First Martyrs of the Holy Roman Church

But never again prophesy in Bethel; for it is the king’s sanctuary and a royal temple.

Matthew 8:25 (NABRE)

SUNDAY I was able to attend Mass at our Cathedral. This was the first time I’ve been there for a Sunday. The homily was quite good, calling us all to being Catholics who confess the Whole Faith and to avoid becoming “Catholic, but…” Most interesting was the way the preacher linked “Catholic, but…” to all extremes in the Church from the “Catholic, but traditionalist” which I took to mean those folks who reject the Novus Ordo Mass and have serious doubts about Pope France, as well as those who are “Catholic, but I reject…” certain teachings. It was interesting to me (as well as edifying) that he saw fit to warn us about both camps and saw them as equally dangerous.

Notice that the priest in our reading who warns Amos about the King’s Anger is also the priest who reported Amos to the King. Although it was not read on Wednesday because of the Solemnity, today’s reading follows on the passage where Amos sees a plumb line or a “plummet” as the NABRE has it. It’s a sign of how out of whack everything is in Israel: nothing is right and God can see it.

See, I am laying the plummet
in the midst of my people Israel;
I will forgive them no longer.

Amos 7:8

The Man In Charge, Amaziah, didn’t want Amos rocking his boat so he kicked him out. But, also, he didn’t want the King to think he was coddling this troublemaker, so he reported him. It’s very likely that if Amaziah had not reported Amos someone else would have. But if Amos is doing God’s work, shouldn’t Amaziah have listened? And he’s a priest and so should know better, right?

Recent events have dropped a plumbline into the middle of the Church and our nation. I don’t mean to take a side on the recent court case, for I believe that was as pyrrhic a victory as we could have ever imagined. See this essay by my brother in Christ. This sentence is so good that I quote it to urge you to read the entire essay: “Furthermore, to ban abortion (which, of course, Dobbs only permits, but does not do) without any jurisprudence of natural law, without any teleology of nature, and without ascribing any meaning to the human body is only accidentally similar to the Divine Law on one subject.” Then from that sentence, I harvest this but one phrase to continue on: accidentally similar to the Divine Law on one subject.

When Amos’s prophecy drops a plumb line in the midst of Israel it shows how out of kilter all of Israel is when compared to God’s law. The recent court decision, “accidentally similar to the Divine Law on one subject” can now serve the same purpose for it shows out totally out of whack literally everything else (including our pro-life movement) is when compared to God’s law. We cannot but fail to see how we’ve propped up an entire social order on liberal economic assumptions but have done nothing to correct the social order (save by one very minor cosmetic action). Most of the folks I know rabidly supporting abortion at this time are not, themselves, going to benefit from this decision: they are too old, they are male, they are not married, or, they don’t have sex with women. But they recognize that this decision puts a kink in the liberal social order which they know is of a piece. The lack of plumb is not visible to those who have eyes to see.

And so they cry foul to the prophet and, at the same time, report the prophet to the authorities just to be on the safe side. When the full extent of Catholic Social Teaching includes not only sexual issues, but also injunctions against usurious capital, hoarding of wealth, and lack of hospitality to the stranger (eg), people who pick from the list like a menu will object to those who insist on the whole banquet. The banquet itself contains many things that we just can’t have in our modern world, like the absolute dignity of all persons as defined by God, and not by our economic system.

We are entering a phase in the late decline of our society when those – Clergy or Laity, politicians or pundits – who say they are “Catholic, but…” will begin to point fingers at actual Catholics to protect themselves. They will be like Amaziah: seeking to protect their social standing they will tell the prophets to hush up – and report them to the Authorities. Those who insist on the whole faith (that is the meaning of Catholic – whole) will find themselves to be rather like Amos in the coming days. Let us pray to be whole.

It will be an interesting time.

To Kingdom Come

JMJ

The Readings for the 11th Thursday, Tempus Per Annum

Thy kingdom come

Matthew 6:10 (AV)

MINDFUL THAT the original texts (in Hebrew and Greek) had no punctuation, I want to challenge you to read the Lord’s prayer here with a colon instead of a line break, comma, or full stop.

Thy kingdom come: thy will be done on earth as in heaven.

The implication being that it is somehow the doing of God’s will that brings about the kingdom. This follows on yesterday’s idea of doing everything for God (and not for worldly praise), and also on Jesus’ call that we “be perfect”. To be who we are called to be we must be within the will of God.

There are many who imagine the “Kingdom Come” to be some kind of economic left, inclusive, woke utopia filled with repressive laws that keep everyone pressed into a Hippier Boomer mold but, you know, Catholic. There are others who think it will be filled with repressive laws that keep everyone pressed into a mid-20th Century, white, middle-class, American mold, everyone looking like Ward and June Cleaver but, you know, Catholic. Both of these visions, left and right, imagine the state enforcing whatever form of politics is needed to make everyone pretend to be Catholic. No one seems to care about changing the hearts needed to make the Kingdom actually come. But that’s what’s needed. Forcing everyone to “do God’s will” by law is legalism, pure and simple. It can damn more than save.

But how does the colon change things? How is doing God’s will bringing the Kingdom? What is God’s will, anyway?

St Paul has the answer to the second question in a way that also answers the first:

God wills that all men should be saved.

I Timothy 2:4

Prior to this Paul has us praying for kings and all in authority – even at a time when they were killing Christians. Mind you, not praying toend their government, but to change their hearts that all might be saved (that is, made whole). The will of God is that all come to a saving knowledge of the truth (that is, Jesus) and when that is on Earth as in heaven then the Kingdom will have come.

That’s what we pray for.

But do we act for it? We tend to think, “If we build it, they will come.” But that’s not at all how it works. If we build the Kingdom before we bring people to Jesus, we’re just Walt Disney. It’s bringing people to the saving knowledge of God that builds the kingdom. Doing God’s will brings about the kingdom – not the other way around.

One in the Spirit, One in the Lord

Readings for 7th Thursday after Easter (C2)

…so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me. And I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may be brought to perfection as one.

John 17:21-23a

JMJ

THERE IS A LOT going on here! We’ve got Trinitarian theology, Christology, soteriology, doxology, and evangelical proclamation. There’s one other in there picking up on all the above: human anthropology. This might surprise you. But it’s that phrase “brought to perfection” that’s our punchline.

Before we get to the punchline though…

Our Lord prays for some surprising things: we are to be one in exactly the same way that the Son and the Father are one. That’s not hyperbole, it’s a command. Church is called to model before the world the unity present in the Holy Trinity. Three persons in one nature and consubstantial. Humans are not consubstantial. But there is only one nature. We all share the same human nature (together with Jesus). We are not each an isolated individual. There are not multiple ways of being human, or different types of humanity. (This is why St Paul classes some sins as “paraphysis” or “against nature”: we are all of one nature.) Yes, we are fallen because of sin, but God calls us back to the originally intended unity in Jesus.

To this end, Jesus has shared with us his glory. You may be tempted to think of that in terms of the Transfiguration or in the way Moses’ face was glowing as he came down from Mt Sinai. That would not be totally correct. The glorification of God is the Cross. Christ has given us his cross and shared with us his glory. What that means is that now human life – itself – this pathway to death is now the road to the throne of glory. It’s not that some human lives (or perhaps a few) have been rerouted or mended. Remember we all share the same nature. God has walked this path with us now: the road leads from the womb to the tomb, yes. But God has glorified it.

And so we are all called to unity in God’s Spirit of Unity. Pentecost, coming upon us this Sunday, is the gift of unity poured out upon us. We rest in the Holy Spirit who gives us all the spiritual presence of the Holy Trinity dwelling within us, around us, through us, and between us. Yet only as we love for he himself is love.

We are called to live out this unity however we fail. Yet we are called to this unity. Not just some of us – all of us. And it is not just a calling. It’s what we are made for!

It relies on the Greek word τελειόω (teleioó) – to bring to perfection – and from there on the root word τέλειος (teleios) – to perfect. Jesus prays to “bring us to perfection”. You can read it as “to complete” but you must include the meaning of “correct” as in: to bring to the correct and intended (or planned) completion. Jesus is praying that his followers will be brought to their perfection as humans meaning the ultimate end for which God made us, that is the ultimate perfection for which God made humanity at all. God made man “to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him for ever in heaven.” (Baltimore Catechism 1 Q6)

The reason this is anthropology is this teleology, as it’s called, is not only for Christians. The right end for all humanity is to know God, to love God, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him for ever in heaven. And this is how far we fail when we fail to model this for others: that the world fails to see the light for its salvation. If we who claim to be in Christ do not make it so, then those who are unable to see Christ at all will never see Christ until it’s too late.

The solution is not more outreach but rather reaching in. We need to bring our hearts deeper to God so that, as the song says, “they will know we are Christians by our love.” That is, as the verse says, “see how these Christians love each other.”

Now… I look at Catholic social media or even the way I gossip about my friends, and I wonder if that love is present in my life. If someone looked at my life would they say they are amazed at how I love people?

I don’t know. There’s still a lot of work to do.

How about your life?

What really scares you?

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

Certus sum enim quia neque mors, neque vita, neque angeli, neque principatus, neque virtutes, neque instantia, neque futura, neque fortitudo, neque altitudo, neque profundum, neque creatura alia poterit nos separare a caritate Dei, quae est in Christo Jesu Domino nostro. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

JMJ

All right, yes. It is All Hallows’ Eve; in fact as I write it is after first vespers. But this reading at Mass this morning made me cry. There is nothing that can separate us from the love of God. I’ve been thinking about this all day. Nothing can separate us from the love of God. And yesterday’s reading said all things are working for our good. Follow st. Paul’s argument in this chapter:

The flesh is weak. We are born in the Flash and we are tempted by the flesh. Yet through adoption in Christ, we are children of God, Children of the spirit. And in this adoption in this Grace we are victorious. And so everything that was bad before now only leads us closer to God. Everything that was a threat before now is completely destroyed. Paul, of course, is not saying that we cannot be hurt by the sword but he is saying the sword cannot hurt anything important.

You may remember Orwell’s 1984. I don’t remember a lot of it, but Room 101 sticks with me. In Room 101 the state applied torture to the worst traitors. The torture was the thing the traitor most feared: “the worst thing in the world.” For the hero of the book, Winston Smith, the worst thing is rats. He is tortured (by fear – not by physical pain) into saying that his lover, Julia, should be fed to the rats instead of him. That’s all it takes: giving up of his love: making his own avoidance of pain to be of more importance than her experience of it. Once he had thrown Julia under the bus he didn’t need to be tortured anymore. He was let go.

I wrote yesterday, if I lose Jesus, literally nothing else matters. If I gain Jesus, literally nothing else matters. Paul, today, tells us as long as we walk forward through anguish, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, the sword, death, life, angels, principalities, the present, the future, powers, height, depth – forward always in faith – we will be victorious. Paul knows that the flesh will chicken out at any one of those things, or pride might make us “buck up” despite our fear. Paul wants us to know that the Love of God in Christ is the only thing that matters.

What scares you? I don’t mean, are you scared of heights or Stephen King movies. What really scares you? What conversations make you feel backed into a corner over your faith? What scares you the most about having to be a confessional Christian at some point? Losing your job? Losing your home? Losing your ability to support your family or yourself? Paul was writing to a people who could lose their life – and did – by the hundreds. And he was telling them that, yes, you could die. But that there was a more important victory gained by that death. I think he would say the same to us: yes, all that you fear is possible – and more. But so what, he would continue, you still have Christ!

Tomorrow’s feast of All Saints can be called the feast of all those who didn’t give a fig for things that scared them. I’m not saying they didn’t get scared, mind you, but they went forward anyway. Sometimes that can just be war or a social injustice. They picked up their cross and manfully strode forward even though they knew, in the end, on that cross they would be nailed down.

It’s All Hallows’ Eve: a night filled with scary things that shouldn’t scare Christians at all. But there are many things in this world to be afraid of. Still: not worth a fig compared to the glories yet to come. What have we to be afraid of that Jesus has not already conquered?

Impossible.


JMJ

The Readings for the Memorial of Saint Benedict, Abbot
Thursday in the 13th week Tempus Per Annum (C1)

Pro salute enim vestra misit me Deus ante vos in Aegyptum.
It was for your salvation that God sent me before you into Egypt.

Yesterday’s writing may have seemed a bit out of character for me. I’m a placid, poetical sort of writer usually. Nu? I have dark corners too.

So I will wonder again: is this statement of Joseph’s absolution or just a statement of fact? To a mystic, a statement of fact is rare and Joseph, the dreamer of dreams and the reader of omens, is certainly a mystic.

Dylan’s lyrics, continuing from yesterday. It’s the refrain:

I see my light come shining
From the west unto the east
Any day now, any day now
I shall be released

I was walking home from a bar late one night – oh, actually it was about 5 am – with my housemate Rick. It was one of those snowy nights in the middle of winter in New York City when, with the snow falling, there is absolute silence. It’s one of the few things I miss about New York City. This weather. This silence. Anyway, walking. Rick was trying to figure out this song phrase that was running through my head. Rick was very good with Broadway musicals but this one was escaping him. We found out later it was actually a TV Musical that had been on once when we were kids in the late 60s. One word of one song was stuck in my head still in 1995. I could even sing it.  “Imm-poss-ible.” I was certain it must mean something, if only we could figure out why it was stuck there.

Rick said, “There must be something in your life that doesn’t mean something else.”

“Why?” I asked.

Joseph could see his light come shining. He knew that sooner or later he would be released. Yet, he never was. To the end of his days, he was this Hebrew captive in the house of Pharaoh. He was even given a slave name meaning the “The God Speaks so He Lives.” You can read it to mean that Joseph could hear meanings in things… which Pharaoh understood to mean that some deity was speaking to Joseph… or did it mean that Pharaoh (the God) had decided this slave could live? It seems highly likely it was the latter. Joseph was in prison about  orto die… and the god-king spoke and let him live.

If you read the story of Joseph in Genesis close enough, it sounds as if this Hebrew slave is the beginning of the idea that Pharaoh owned the entire land of Egypt. The Egyptians sold their goods and their property to Pharaoh through Joseph in exchange for food during the seven year famine.  And thus Pharaoh – not Joseph – became very rich. Joseph was still Pharaoh’s slave. And through Joseph, all of Egypt, too. And Israel.

I see my light come shining
from the west down to the east.

Dylan was on to something: he was a good mystic too. We all journey from the west to the east in search of more light. Jews and Christians face east to pray: that is the proper orientation – get it? – of synagogues and churches. But everything means something else. Who will help the widow’s son?

When Joseph says that God sent him there, is he stating fact, or mystery? Why do they have to be separate? Joseph’s claim on us is that he is so broken. Joseph is a victim trapped in his victimhood. There is literally nothing Joseph does after he is sold into slavery where he is not a Slave. To highlight: Joseph made his brothers promise that even if he died he would they would take his bones with them back to the promised land. Take his bones. He chained them by their promise to his corpse. I am still a slave who can do nothing. You must take me out of here.

Is it not possible in the sacramental world that fact and mystery are the same thing?

Have you ever looked at recursive formulae in mathematics? After the cth failed attempt, resend the frame after k · 51.2 μs, where k is a random integer between 0 and 2c − 1. It’s like a magic box filled with mirrors, an onion in reverse, where each layer in is bigger than the one outside.

You can get lost in there, meditating on it. Why does a fact have to rule out a mystery? Recursion says they are the same thing, more and more as you go deeper and deeper.

Joseph is both slave and Liberator. Joseph is both Egyptian and Hebrew. Joseph is at one time Jacob’s son and Pharaoh’s son.  Then, by a chiasmus in the text, Moses is those things as well: slave and Egyptian, Hebrew and Liberator, son of Pharaoh’s daughter and son of Israel’s daughter too.

I see my light come shining
From the west down to the east.

Fact and mystery become the same thing in a sacramental universe; because by a glorious chiasmus in the text Jesus is these things as well: slave and Liberator, human and divine. Then in the Gospel Jesus becomes the chiasmus, and we become those things for those around us.

Any day now. Any day now.
I shall be released.

Now, Daddy! Now!

JMJ

The Readings for Thursday in the 12th Week Tempus Per Annum:

Thus, after Abram had lived ten years in the land of Canaan, his wife Sarai took her maid, Hagar the Egyptian, and gave her to her husband Abram to be his concubine.

First, Abram didn’t quite follow God’s instructions to leave his family. He brought along his nephew, you know, just in case. Now Sarai notices that she hasn’t yet had a child so she gives Abram her slave. This foundation story in the Old Testament is filled with people making up for what they feel God is lacking. God has to pick up the pieces and fulfill his part of the Covenant even when his human friends decide they want to do it their own way.

This is the same thing that Adam and Eve did: instead of waiting for wisdom to grow in them and with them, they took it. Eating the fruit on our own terms is never the right answer – but we all do it. When Adam and Eve did it they got kicked out of the garden. But God was really desperate to get this Abram dude to father Israel and to bless the world. So every time Abram makes mistakes God – not very politely – steps in and slaps him on the wrist. Then God picks up the pieces. Some of the best stories in the Old Testament come from the shattered pieces that God has to pick up.

Today’s shattered pieces involve this Egyptian slave, Hagar, and her child. God has to pick them up. They are left alone in the desert. It’s one of the funniest things in this passage: Sarai first says, “Here take my slave.” And then like a housewife in a 1950 sitcom, she changes her mind and says, “You did this to me.” “Women!” Says Abram, looking at the camera. “Am I right?” Then he shrugs his shoulders and does what his wife wants. So God has to go into the desert and find this woman and her child and rescue them.

I bet you’re looking forward to next week when the shattered pieces will involve Lot, Mrs. Lot, Sodom, and Gomorrah. I know I am.

Anyway, the entire story of Abram seems to be about someone who should be trusting God and yet fails to do so at every turn. Everything God promises God does. But Abram, rather like Varuca Salt, wants it now, Daddy, NOW! And so Abram’s story is not just about God’s Divine Providence, it’s also about God’s Divine Providence responding to our continual f****** up, pardon my asterisks.

God’s Providence happens anyway. For we still continue on like Abram.

No matter what we do, no matter which choices we make, God’s Providence will always happen. We can imagine that we have a vocation to the ministry and find ourselves 55 years later blessed beyond compare even though we’re not ordained. We can imagine that we should be doing great things at every turn and failing and find ourselves blessed beyond compare, even so. Because even when we’re not faithful, God is always faithful.

This is the message of the entire Bible – which humanity has yet to learn. God is working his purposes out. We can help him or we can try to hinder him. We can do either of our most common tricks: “Yes I will help,” we say. But we do not. Or “No, I will not help” we say. But we try to anyway, under our own energy – instead of God’s. But even then God’s Divine Providence will bless us beyond compare.

Jesus says, “Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock.” Most of us, it must be said, will fail in either the listening to these words or in the doing of them. Still, God is faithful nonetheless. God is faithful to his word. He cannot not act on it because his speaking is his doing. God’s word, Jesus, is a doing. The word of God, Jesus, says “light” and light is. God’s word is action. God’s action is reality. When God speaks his faithfulness performs the speaking. Even when we are not faithful God is.

This is not the Prosperity Gospel.

God’s promises are hardly ever for mere material blessing. St Paul says God’s purpose is to will the reconciliation of everyone. And so everything must be seen as working towards that end. If that requires poverty or death, war, earthquakes, famine, whatever… they will come to be.

Our faithfulness requires that we trust God even then. As we will be blessed beyond compare.

A Trick of the Tongue

JMJ

The Readings for Tuesday in the 7th Week of Easter:

Paul was aware that some were Sadducees and some Pharisees, so he called out before the Sanhedrin, “My brothers, I am a Pharisee, the son of Pharisees; I am on trial for hope in the resurrection of the dead.” When he said this, a dispute broke out between the Pharisees and Sadducees.

St Paul is a seed of dissension in the Sanhedrin rather than a source of unity. Jesus said of himself, “I came to bring a sword rather than peace… to kindle a fire on the Earth.” It sounds as if St Paul is taking this role upon himself in this trial. See: when you preach the gospel, when you spread the kingdom, the entire purpose of your life is to do your mission. Other things must become tools for that purpose, means to that end. Paul speaks here not only the truth, but the truth in such exactly a way that it causes tension. Yes, he’s on trial for the resurrection of the dead, but he’s here about the Resurrection of Jesus, not the general resurrection. What we have here is pronoun trouble. This is one of my favorite scenes in all of the New Testament! 

With that trick of the tongue, that double entendre, a violent, sectarian argument breaks out and Paul is suddenly whisked away to safety, leaving the elders to argue amongst themselves in an argument that continues until this very day. It’s funny: This playing of the Pharisees against the Saduccees is how the Gospel is spread. In the safety of his cell, Paul is given the mission for the rest of his life:

The following night the Lord stood by him and said, “Take courage. For just as you have borne witness to my cause in Jerusalem, so you must also bear witness in Rome.”

In Rome as well, standing before Nero, Paul’s entire modus operandi is not to score courtly or rhetorical points with Caesar, but rather to spread the Gospel. By the time Paul dies there are Christians in Nero’s own house. The seeds were planted for the final victory – but that looks nothing like what the world thinks of as “victory”.

St Paul played one half of the system against the other half. Why? To spread the Gospel. This was acceptable. St Paul then turns the Roman system on its head to spread the Gospel further. St Paul claims his Roman citizenship to keep himself from being killed so that he can preach the Gospel. In the end, St Paul takes advantage of his Roman citizenship to bring the Gospel to Rome. Glory to God for all things. 

Jesus told us to be as innocent as doves and as wise as serpents. This is what he means. This world game, this world’s rules, this world’s entire system is set up like a three-card Monte table that only the Church can beat. Everybody else will lose if they try: everybody else will lose their souls. If the Church stands up and takes the system by the reins she can steer the whole thing to heaven. They won’t like it. That’s their problem. They mightn’t like the process too much, but they will love the ending. 

St Paul shows us what should be the Christian’s attitude towards politics – both secular politics and religious politics. When dealing with unbelievers or a secular State the outcome is irrelevant in terms of worldly victory. The entire purpose is to spread the Gospel. We can never lose sight of this end: Preach the Gospel to all gentiles. That’s the only purpose of our life! We can have as much fun with the system as we care to have since the world’s system there for our purposes and not for their vainly imagined purposes. In the Incarnation, God changed the rules of play without changing the field of play. The way to eternal life, to love, to peace, lies exactly in what the world, the flesh, and the devil thought of as the Path to Destruction. Now we die to live and we sacrifice to have.

The purpose of the secular state is to keep the peace. Why? For the spread of the Gospel. The purpose of the king, the president, the congress, the state house, the mayor, the city council, the Peoples’ Soviet, the Duce is to keep order. Why? For the spread of the Gospel. The entire purpose of the secular law (in God’s plan) is to spread the Gospel. It has nothing to do with rights and nothing to do with freedom. The content of the law is unimportant. It has nothing, nothing, nothing to do with anything that this world thinks of as important. The entire purpose of the secular order is to hold the world in peaceful stasis in order to leave the Church alone to do her work spreading the Kingdom of God.

(We must be careful in the system called “Democracy”: for what we think of as “the Christian vote” often comes at the price of “The Christian Soul”. The world system is not there to do our work for us. We cannot legislate (or elect) the Kingdom. I would honestly rather live under a dictatorship than to go even once more through the sort of electoral choices we’ve had since my childhood. It would probably be better for the Church’s mission, too. That’s my own opinion, but I think the strength of the faith coming out of formerly Soviet Russia, compared to the faith in the “free” West will hold up my point. Even thus, some may call me “unChristian” because I’m being “Unamerican.”)

There is a flipside to this. The men of the world play this game for pointless markers: political victories, secular power, money. The Church plays this game for the salvation of souls and must pay with the lives of her people. We are configured to die like Jesus did. It’s possible the only way to get your neighbors into heaven is to let them see you give your life in love for your spouse and children. It’s possible the only way to raise your children in the faith is to stay at home, cut the family income in half so that they can be properly raised in the faith. We have to give up on all the counters of the world’s success. When we do that, we win. This is the flip side of Tertullian’s recognition that “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” The world’s system is the plaything of the church: even when it thinks it’s doing us harm, by God’s grace we win. When science-ists lash out at Bishops on YouTube, people have to go listen to the Bishops’ videos. When Senator Kamala Harris said that the Knights of Columbus were a rabid fringe organization she sparked hundreds if not thousands of men – including your host – had to go look into the Knights.

This is how we have to make choices in the world. As long as we direct our lives to the End assigned to us by God, the other things will fall into place. As the Psalmist says “I have never seen the children of the just begging for bread.” Of course, you’ve often seen people begging and one must assume that some of them are Christians, right? However, the Psalmist means that God takes care of us. “All things work for the good of those who love the Lord,” says St. Paul elsewhere. And again, “Nothing can separate us from the Love of God in Christ Jesus.”  

The whole point of this is that where Jesus is we may also be… and we want, pray, and work to bring as many others with us to that point with us as we can.

Count as Loss.

JMJ

The Readings for Thursday in the 31st week of Ordinary Time (B2)

But whatever gains I had, these I have come to consider a loss because of Christ. More than that, I even consider everything as a loss because of the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.

Is there a way to safely look at all of life that went before Jesus and recognize it has no value? Literally, none.

What once was the very meaning of success. What once was the end goal and target of political aspirations, of angry yelling and screaming in the halls of power… is now anathema. And what once was the assumed end goal is now out of reach.

What was once a stumbling block, is now the focal point. What was once the hated enemy is now home. What was once a bastion of oppression has become the greatest liberty, the greatest joy, the richest dreams, the most potent strength.

What was once the easiest thing to get
 Is now the last thing, least, unimportant thing.
What was love turns out to be nothing.
What was everything turns out to be lost.
And what was never on my mind at all
 Is always there, always pushing forward, always driving homeward.
How at 20 could one be so blind?
And how at 50 could so much light still only be the smallest portion possible?
How is Light never at 100% finally?
How is there always more love?
How can Truth ever unfold into more?

Once nearly everything was freudian and sexual.
And sarcasm.
Meaningless.
Now it’s deadly serious.
And filled with Joy.

And this, they say is only the beginning.

And pains and white water all serve to sever connections. Loss and loves all bend to one direction. Even the joys of life like sunrises and winter chills only point one way. And it is foolish to kick against the goads.

One day I will wake up and drop this all and won’t care to do so. One day the light will turn up so bright that it will burn and I won’t mind. One day the love will pierce through like steal in my hands, my feet, my head, my side…. my heart.

And I will will finally know as I am known.

And only the grace by which I stand…

will be left at all.

Please, be it so.

Amen.

All are welcome!

JMJ

The Readings for Thursday in the 29th week of Ordinary Time (B2)

In caritate radicati, et fundati, ut possitis comprehendere cum omnibus sanctis, quae sit latitudo, et longitudo, et sublimitas, et profundum : scire etiam supereminentem scientiae caritatem Christi, ut impleamini in omnem plenitudinem Dei.
That you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have power to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fulness of God.


Paul holds out to the Ephesians – and passing them, now hold out to us not the pale and powerless possibility of “heaven”; not “pie in the sky, by and by when you die” but here, now. No harps and crowns just now: power! The Power to comprehend divine fire in breadth, fire in length, fire in height, fire in depth.  This is what the Greeks call “Theosis”:  impleamini in omnem plenitudinem Dei, to be filled with the fullness of God.

I’ve sat in discussions with faithful Catholics who cannot imagine this is the Church’s teaching. For they only know they should follow the rules, do penance, and hope for something better in the future. They call this teaching of the saints and scripture blasphemy, as they fear traditional worship with its focus on glory. They hide behind guitars and call us all to just get along… 

They are like so many Orthodox who are hung up on “Did you have cream in your coffee this day in Lent?” These Orthodox speak of every mouthful of food taken without first a prayer, gagging us in the afterlife. They say that every drink of wine taken on fasting days will drown us… they wave toll houses at us to keep us from heaven. And they say they know “Theosis” – but say Catholics are in error for teaching Purgatory… meh. There are cancerous growths of legalisms in both lungs of the Church.

St Paul offers us that all divine, all embracing, all changing Love that is called “Agape”. Yes, Love welcomes all… But no one can join Love without changing. This Love – a him, not an it – welcomes all to a constant conversion. Jesus tells us, “Ignem veni mittere in terram.” I am come to cast fire on the earth. Set the world ablaze Lord! Again as at Pentecost when the very fire of God in golden tongues will fall on all flesh. Arise and blaze across all time and space and burn – yet do not consume – us all in Love.

This is not easy work. And there is no peace in this love. Becoming saints is a lifetime of hard engagement a lifetime of sacrificing self will, of giving up all that comes in the way, of moving apart from all that would hold us back. From now on a household of five will be divided, three against two and two against three; a father will be divided against his son and a son against his father,  a mother against her daughter and a daughter against her mother… coworkers from coworkers, neighbor from neighbors, even fellow parishioners against each other as one says “The Gospel” while the other says “The Compromise”. We stand on the edge of the Spiritus Gladius, the Sword of the Spirit… and we dare not fall to one or the other side. 

And yet… and yet… we know we have to use both hands: one reaching for Jesus, while the other reaches out to bring our friends. For none of us go alone. It would not be Love if we were alone. This is ecstatic Love, call us and all out of ourselves. We must call all along with us. We must dance forward in a great reel or Dionysiac Procession: the ancient Tripudium of three steps forward, one back. No one can know the Liturgy in all its holiness of heaven striking earth with fire… and not be set aflame. It matters not if there are guitars or drums, Byzantine or Gregorian chant: when heaven moves, the earth will follow.

When you know the breadth and length and height and depth of God’s infinity how can you hold it back from others? If you are fire yourself, how can you prevent the fire from spreading by the very touch of your eyes on those around you?

Oh dear friends, have you seen it like a fire wrapping a bush that is burned yet not consumed, this love that falls down on us like a gentle, driving, roaring monsoon? We are awash in grace and Love and nothing stands between us and this… save ourselves. There is no other Love without it. And with this Love, there is nothing else. 

Wrapped in prayer, swathed in light, and holding God himself in your mouth and soul, can you not know that here and only here is Love. 

What Spirit is We Should Be.

JMJ

The Readings for Thursday in the 27th Week of Ordinary Time (B2)

O insensati Galatae, quis vos fascinavit non obedire veritati, ante quorum oculos Jesus Christus praescriptus est, in vobis crucifixus? Sic stulti estis, ut cum Spiritu coeperitis, nunc carne consummemini?
O senseless Galatians, who hath bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been set forth, crucified among you? Are you so foolish, that, whereas you began in the Spirit, you would now be made perfect by the flesh?

We begin with the Spirit… but we think we can fix it all with the flesh.

Remember: we’re the Galatians in this reading. We have heard the Gospel. We know the message of salvation, of forgiveness, of healing. We know freedom from the three primary failures of the World, the Flesh, and the Devil. But when someone comes along that preaches a “Gospel” more pleasing, one that makes it easier just to get along, one that gives us the freedom to cave in (just a little, ok?) to the World, or the Flesh, or the Devil… only just a little… Instantly we go after that one. We begin with the Spirit, yes. But the Spirit is hard, very hard. I think we get tired. We don’t want to keep trying.
If Paul was writing on the Internet, this would be typed with caps lock ON. O INSENSATI GALATÆ. I think the AV and the RSV get it a little better here:

O FOOLISH GALATIANS! WHO HAS BEWITCHED YOU?
Who has tricked you into thinking that there needs to be a compromise (in the name of “RELEVANCY”) with the world? Who lured you into accepting a different Gospel than the one that Christ won for us, the one the Apostles preached to us, the one the Church has held for 2,000 years? It is a long, hard journey to Sainthood, but we are all called to it.

Paul’s references to the “works of the law” are important for – as I noted on Monday – he was talking about something old being brought into the newness of life found in the Gospel. But our law, our modern rules, seem new to us: we’ve only just invented these modern ideas of what is no longer sinful. We’ve only just discovered that we could make our own rules and no one else had the right to tell us otherwise.

Foolish Galatians, every last one of us.

For Satan was telling those very lies in the Garden of Eden. Pagans, Gentiles, and even Jews and Christians from all over the world and through all of history have taught those very things. We are still weaving something very old brought into the newness of life.

And that old message has always.

Always.

Always.

Led away from the faith.

Our Modern Laws, our “newly discovered truths” are the same lies we’ve always heard whispered. “Your eyes will be opened, and ye will become as gods yourselves, knowing good from evil.”

Who has bewitched us?

We have bewitched ourselves into accepting the easy path. The harder path is the Gospel.


(The Waterboys Spirit)