So, about this wall…

JMJ

The Readings for Friday in the 5th Week of Easter (B2)

Vos autem dixi amicos : quia omnia quaecumque audivi a Patre meo, nota feci vobis. 
I have called you friends: because all things whatsoever I have heard of my Father, I have made known to you. 

One thing I often heard in dating relationships was that I have “bad boundaries”. After many years in failed relationships I finally learned what these were in the course of two conversations divided by 5 years. In one, a friend was telling me about a certain “Creepy” sort of person who one might meet who wants to become close friends as a result of a sexual encounter. In another conversation, a different friend, was telling me he was never that sort of person. He always had “good boundaries”. Both of these folks wondered why anyone wanted to be emotionally intimate just because sex had happened. I realized I was the person they were speaking about: the one that thinks sex must imply some sort of connection.

In The Lost Language of Cranes the protagonist, Philip Benjamin, has a falling out with his romantic partner who tells him “you need me too much. Half way across this city in the middle of the day I can feel you needing me.” Or words to that effect. I saw this once when it was on PBS in the early 90s, so I may not have the worlds right, but that scene stuck with me. Haunted me. In fact in my memory it’s the only words I can remember from the movie. But exactly what’s wrong with needing someone? Decades later when relationships were ending I’d still say I don’t get it… what’s wrong with needing someone? 


I have called you friends because whatever I’ve learned from my father I’ve made known to you.

As a hopeless romantic, I always had bad boundaries. And I have often wondered why that was (even before I had the terms down). Why did I “fall in love” or become emotionally attached? What if, however, these terms are intentionally in divine logic? What if what is generally seen as an enjoyable biological function is, in fact, a deeply spiritual and kenotic act of self-destruction? Would it not be natural for there to be no boundaries after it?

Jesus shares literally all of himself with us: body, blood, soul, and divinity. He shares with us all that the Father has given him and names us as friends, using a Greek word (philos) that implies non-sexual relationships based on common experience. The implication that there is a huge amount of intimacy, of union, that comes long, long before physical intimacy happens. Letting sex come first (which does happen from time to time) and yet denying the rest of intimacy: that is the odd choice. As Robert Anton Wilson makes clear in the Illuminatus trilogy, as well as in Schrodinger’s Cat: the Universe Next Door, sex is the ultimate breaking down of the boundaries, the end of the division, the unitive wholeness of humanity. Saying, at that point, “you need me too much” is like the river saying it shouldn’t need water. Having opened that door, slamming it shut again is the real bad boundary. 

At the end of this Gospel reading, Jesus says we should love one another, using a different Greek word now: agape. Unlike philia which is based on common experience, Agape is an act of will, and it is not something we can do alone: it is possible only by God’s love through us. Our love tends to be about gratification and validation. God’s love is about self-pouring out – into us, to overflowing and then out of us into others.

The intimacy offered to us in friendship, or even in the sexual union, is only a foretaste of the intimacy made available to us in the act of Eucharistic Communion. Here the divine fire of heaven enters our spiritual and physical bodies to destroy all that is not of the same divine origin. Uniting us fully and finally to the source and summit of that fire. The act of communion is the sacramental union of your soul with the divine dance at the end of Dante’s Paradiso XXXIII

ma già volgeva il mio disio e ’l vellesì come rota ch’igualmente è mossa,l’amor che move il sole e l’altre stelle. (Par. 33.143-45)

but my desire and will were moved already—like a wheel revolving uniformly—bythe Love that moves the sun and the other stars.

A final note. When Dante reaches the end of his vision and is granted the sight of the universe bound together in one volume, what entrances him is not plain Oneness but all that multiplicity somehow contained and unified. His heart is set on seeing and knowing that multiplicity, an otherness that is still stubbornly present in the poem’s penultimate word. God is the love that moves the sun and the other stars: “l’amor che move ’l sole e l’altre stelle”.
Much has been written about the transcendent stelle with which the Commedia ends; let us give due weight as well to the adjective that modifies those stars, the poem’s penultimate word, altre. Dante believes in a transcendent One, but his One is indelibly characterized by the multiplicity, difference, and sheer otherness embodied in the “altre stelle”—an otherness by which he is still unrepentantly captivated in his poem’s last breath. (Source)

We, dear sisters and brothers, are to be those altre stelle, the other stars moving in God’s light. The act of theosis will burn down all the walls left. We move from friends to lovers of the Divine source of Love. Heaven is an infinite dance without boundaries. 

When the heart is ready the teacher will come.

JMJ

The Readings for Thursday in the 2nd Week of Easter (B2)

Surgens autem quidam in concilio pharisaeus, nomine Gamaliel, legisdoctor, honorabilis universae plebi, jussit foras ad breve homines fieri, dixitque ad illos…
But one in the council rising up, a Pharisee, named Gamaliel, a doctor of the law, respected by all the people, commanded the men to be put forth a little while. And he said to them…

The Church’s tradition, celebrated especially among the Orthodox and Byzantine Catholics, is that Gamaliel and his son were converts and the former, at least, is a saint. The translation of his relics is celebrated on 2 August. The Church’s tradition is that Gamaliel buried St Stephen on his own estate after the latter was stoned.

In a lot of ways, Acts is really the story of St Paul with this long intro. We tend to forget: Gamaliel was St Paul’s teacher. So, somewhere in this room of angry men, yelling for blood and demanding the death of the Prince of the Apostles… somewhere here is one Sha’ul of Tarsus. How else do we know these words at all? The “good guys” are out of the room. Paul is here, listening, and hearing the words of his Teacher speaking here, maybe taking notes, a transcription, as it were. Later it is Paul who tells these words to Luke.

And so, deeply tonight as I was thinking about this, I was struck by the image of St Gamaliel praying for his student… as he stomps off angrily to Damascus.

If you’ve seen the movie, Paul, Apostle of Christ, there’s a lot of violence: the movie makes much of St Paul’s blood-lust directed at these odd followers of this Jesus. In Acts, the Latin says spirans minarum, et caedis, breathing out threatenings and slaughter… and as I write I’m seeing Gamaliel kneeling in prayer for his student’s conversion. And praying in all righteousness that God would show the light to this angry young man, Sha’ul.

Do you ever think of prayer as the first weapon of Evangelism? If you love someone so much you want to win them for Christ, how can you not pray for them – by name, not in the Abstract. Not all of us are called to be Evangelists: that is one of the gifts of the spirit, yes, but some are called to it and others are not. But all of us are called to go and make Disciples. Discipleship starts way before evangelism. Before the evangelism, before the preaching, before the Romans’ Road to Salvation, have you prayed for that soul? Have you got down and begged God to show his light to someone, or are you trying to elbow you way through the crowd to beat God to the punch?

St Gamaliel, pray for… who would you name here?

His Ways are Very Different

JMJ

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

Factus est nobis in traductionem cogitationum nostrarum. Gravis est nobis etiam ad videndum, quoniam dissimilis est aliis vita illius, et immutatae sunt viae ejus.
He is become a censurer of our thoughts. He is grievous unto us, even to behold: for his life is not like other men’s, and his ways are very different.

I keep wondering if the Righteous Man really is like this or if the Others actually feel this way about him. I do not legitimately know. I know how the elders of Israel felt about Our Lord, even though he’d done little more than make discomfiting claims. Stephen annoyed them as well. The issue seemed to be that both Jesus and those who came after him riled up the people. But no one gets riled anymore. As a late Archbishop of Canterbury once said, “When St Paul preached they had riots. When I preach, they have tea.”

When Billy Graham passed away I heard only a very few people get cranky: most who remembered him at all just fondly remembered America’s pastor (or the Queen’s favourite preacher). Many of the cranky seemed to confuse him with his son who does more politics than his father ever did.

Yet I know that from the White House to Hollywood neither our political leaders nor our cultural ones are any more moral than Nero’s Rome. St Paul would have lots to say to us, but nothing new. The author of the Book of Wisdom was writing about pagans around Israel, but also about sinners inside Israel. So there’s nothing new to say there, either.
Did meeting St John Paul or St Teresa of Calcutta have any effect on either the Reagans or the Clintons? I doubt it. When (ECUSA) Presiding Bishop Ed Browning called President GHW Bush before the war on Iraq, President Bush said “Talk to Barbara, she’s the religious one” and slammed the phone down. That’s about the gruffest thing I’ve ever heard from a politician  to a religious leader, but it’s an outlier as far as data points go. For most political leaders (including the current crop, around the world) it’s a scoop of ice cream to be seen with a religious leader: an afternoon of platitudinous mummery leading nowhere.  
Did the righteous ever make the unrighteous feel as described in this passage? Were the righteous ever ever righteous enough to annoy by their mere presence? Knowing that they killed Jesus, I guess it is to be expected if anyone should get that far along in the path but, apart from all the priest and nuns killed by Reagan-supported troops in Latin America in the 80s, there seems to be no attempt to undo the righteous. (To be clear, I’m not including myself at all. I doubt I could discomfit anyone.)
But, I wonder: what the heck are the righteous doing wrong?

3

No pain. No gain.

JMJ

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

Dixit ergo Judas fratribus suis : Quid nobis prodest si occiderimus fratrem nostrum, et celaverimus sanguinem ipsius? Melius est ut venundetur Ismaelitis, et manus nostrae non polluantur : frater enim et caro nostra est. Acquieverunt fratres sermonibus illius.

And Juda said to his brethren: What will it profit us to kill our brother, and conceal his blood? It is better that he be sold to the Ismaelites, and that our hands be not defiled: for he is our brother and our flesh. His brethren agreed to his words. 

Almost three thousand years after this text was written, “Ishmaelite” was another term for a follower of Mohammed, but at the time of this story, the Ishmaelites are just another clan of the same family. Remember that Ishmael was the other (older) son of Abraham. Isaac, his younger brother, was the father of Jacob and the grandfather of Joseph and his brothers. The Ishmaelites are merely the cousins from another part of the country. They seem to be doing well for themselves, as traders. Nu? We should give them something to trade.

To recap, Israel begins with Abraham running away from his city to a foreign land. His son is nearly slain in child sacrifice. His grandsons fight over their birthright, and his great grandsons engage in child trafficking. We’re off to a good start. 

Joseph is seen by the Church as a prophetic foreshadowing of Christ. His story is read in both the Eastern and Western rites of the Church in the “middle weeks” of Lent; in the west this is so in both lectionaries, for the “New Mass” and the traditional rite. Joseph, as foreshadow, is important because he is sold into slavery and, as we shall see, overcomes temptation and sin, yet is a wise prophet and, in the end, liberator of his people. And he gets one of the most famous lines in all of prophecy.

But for me, today, it’s important to note that we’re selling the boy to our cousins.  All parts of Abraham’s family were connected and, so, without playing on the family politics, it seems to me that more than just the brothers must be seen as acting here. With brothers like this, who needs bullies?

God uses crap like this. 

When we turn this over to God, he uses it. If you know the rest of the Joseph Story (closer to Easter) you know that Joseph eventually says, forgiving his brothers, you thought you were doing me an evil deed but God used it for good. That’s the best line ever.

Did Joseph feel that way early this morning, wandering out to the brothers in the fields and getting kidnapped? I really doubt it. In fact, I doubt he felt that way ever. But he must have been praying and trying to grow in righteousness until he realized that was what was up.

That’s what we’re called to do when stuff is breaking around us. We are called to pray and do righteous things. Wisdom will grow with patience until in the end the meaning is clear.

The same stone which the builders refused 
 is become the head-stone in the corner.
  This is the Lord’s doing 
 and it is marvellous in our eyes.

What is true of Jesus is true of all of us: the weakest link is God’s point of access. Whilst bad, yes, the stuff that’s happening around us is for our salvation – and the salvation of others as well. And it seems the place we are weakest is the place we can be made the strongest by God’s grace. All the pain makes a strong cornerstone: all the weight is supported there.

In the end we will see: it’s all been marvellous.

PS: Around the internet, looking for a nice pic of that “marvellous in our eyes” text, I’m so surprised at the number of folks who credit to Queen Elizabeth I without noting that she was quoting the Psalms. Around SF there are posters just now citing a Gospel text as if it were spoken by Abe Lincoln. I find that amusing as well.

Nothing so Deep

JMJ

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

Et suscipiens in caelum, ingemuit, et ait illi : Ephphetha, quod est, Adaperire. Et statim apertae sunt aures ejus, et solutum est vinculum linguae ejus, et loquebatur recte.

And looking up to heaven, he groaned, and said to him: Ephpheta, which is, Be thou opened. And immediately his ears were opened, and the string of his tongue was loosed, and he spoke right. 


Corrie Ten Boom said of God, there is no pit so deep that He is not deeper still. She was speaking of Ravensbrück concentration camp, near Berlin. How one can come to that conclusion in a concentration camp… is proof of Faith.

Physical darkness (blindness) is a thing that comes up in the New Testament, but Jesus’ healing stories are also (as Bishop Barron points out) spiritual stories, stories that can apply to you and me in our day to day world. Today’s Gospel is no different. We each live in a darkness, imprinted on our minds. But, the Psalm says, “Even darkness is not dark to you.”  
Think of Helen Keller, alone in a world with no light or sound…

This healing is so much more than just “Zap! Here’s your talking and hearing back.” Ephaphtha says Jesus not just may your mouth and ears be open… But rather, May your very being be open to the imprint of the Logos of God. Do you see now? 


He was speaking plainly.


How awesome is our God! Modern medicine, indeed no medicine we have imagined can do this. What is there that God cannot restore to its rightful telos, its lawful use, its natural end?


Et loquebatur recte…Do you know what this healing means? Think how awesome is our God. Look: a mute man has never formed words. His tongue and his muscles are not used to making vowels and consonants. Now… This mute man is deaf. He’s never heard words. His very mind is not even used to the concept. Words? People use words? 

There is no pit so deep that He is not deeper still.


We do try though, to dig deeper pits every day. In a class on Ignatian spirituality and the 12 Steps, I was challenged to offer my emptiness to God. What thing in me has had me asking for healing but still, I hold on to it. In my case it is fear. Offer your fear to God. What? This is the most broken of things: I want to be cured of it. Really: Offer it to God. Stop digging this pit for yourself because you’ll never get out. Offer it to God. (Corrie also said, “Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God. 
When a train goes through a tunnel and it gets dark, you don’t throw away the ticket and jump off. You sit still and trust the engineer.” Again, remember: she’s been through Hitler. I get nervous when someone emails me about a spelling mistake.)

The writer of I Kings (or III Kings, depending on how you count) is saying Recessitque Israel a domo David, usque in praesentem diem. And Israel revolted from the house of David, unto this day.  Israel and all of the rest of us, Sister. Except for you, Sister. You’re right with God.


I’m not though. And God in his grace is constantly taking away 10 parts of our kingdom so that we can once again focus on him. God in his mercy knows what we can’t handle – even if we think we can. 


There is no pit so deep – even the ones we dig for ourselves – that He is not deeper still. If I offer even my empty fears to God, my empty ears, my empty lips, my empty mind… Can God bring them to Telos?


Ephaphtha!

Perverse and Foolish

JMJ

The Readings for Friday, 1st Week of Ordinary Time (B2):

Non enim te abjecerunt, sed me, ne regnem super eos.
For they have not rejected thee, but me, that I should not reign over them.

God sounds rather downcast here. Give them what they want…

Except I think that would be a lie. God’s making a point to Samuel: that he should not be downcast. God is right. The Jews are rejecting his direct rule and asking for a king that they should be like the other nations. God has a plan here. And even though the Jews think they have a better idea, God is bringing salvation out of even that normal human urge to look like everyone else.

God warns them.

This will be the right of the king, that shall reign over you: He will take your sons, and put them in his chariots, and will make them his horsemen, and his running footmen to run before his chariots, And he will appoint of them to be his tribunes, and his centurions, and to plough his fields, and to reap his corn, and to make him arms and chariots. Your daughters also he will take to make him ointments, and to be his cooks, and bakers. And he will take your fields, and your vineyards, and your best oliveyards, and give them to his servants…. And you shall cry out in that day from the face of the king, whom you have chosen to yourselves: and the Lord will not hear you in that day, because you desired unto yourselves a king.

They don’t care so God gives them the Royal Schmuck, Saul, and says, “Don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

But then Saul goes out of his way to offend God… and God sends the people David.

Then from David came the Messiah. And Jesus is God’s final answer to the Jews asking Samuel for a King.

They are not rejecting you – they are rejecting me… so I will be their King anyway.

This is God’s wisdom, God’s majesty: I will bring salvation out of even your errors.  Hindsight is 20:20, yo. What would have happened if the Jews had not asked for a king? It’s not important. What we have is God’s history as it has happened now.

And when we see the Tapestry woven from human sin and divine grace we are overwhelmed with God’s love for us. Each time we ran away the pattern was seemingly rewoven to include that. Or did we only feel we were running away?

Last night at Evening prayer this came rushing in as we sang this poetic setting of the 23rd Psalm by Henry W. Baker, in Hymns An­cient and Mo­dern (London: 1868):

The King of love my Shepherd is,
  Whose goodness faileth never;
I nothing lack if I am His,
  And He is mine forever.

Where streams of living water flow
  My ransomed soul He leadeth,
And, where the verdant pastures grow,
  With food celestial feedeth.

Perverse and foolish oft I strayed,
  But yet in love He sought me,
And on His shoulder gently laid,
  And home rejoicing brought me.

In death’s dark vale I fear no ill
  With Thee, dear Lord, beside me;
Thy rod and staff my comfort still,
  Thy Cross before to guide me.

Thou spread’st a table in my sight;
  Thy unction grace bestoweth;
And oh, what transport of delight
  From Thy pure chalice floweth!

And so through all the length of days
  Thy goodness faileth never;
Good Shepherd, may I sing Thy praise

  Within Thy house forever.

That third verse in italics up there… singing that I lost it: couldn’t sing. Cuz that line “perverse and foolish oft I strayed” is like my motto for the last 50 years.  Yet there I was, standing in a Dominican Community singing vespers, in a Roman Catholic Church. How? Well, if you read a long you know how. But so overwhelming was God’s mercy and my sense of his love for me…

God gives us what we want, weaving anew (or in spite of, I can never tell) our many missteps. And the great dance that is created has one final goal, one final ending which was also read at vespers last night:

There is cause for rejoicing here. You may for a time have to suffer the distress of many trials; but this is so that your faith, which is more precious than the passing splendor of fire-tried gold, may by its genuineness lead to praise, glory, and honor when Jesus Christ appears. Although you have never seen him, you love him, and without seeing you now believe in him, and rejoice with inexpressible joy touched with glory because you are achieving faith’s goal, your salvation. (I Peter 1:6-9 – Liturgy of the Hours)

It is all to that end: the goal of faith is not our happiness in this world, not some Witchy Peddler of a great get rich quick secret of manifesting our dreams, nor some Royal Schmuck of a politician that rooks us all for racist fools: rather our Salvation – including the politicians and racists and the witchy peddlers and all of us. God’s out to save us all, no matter how perverse and foolish we are. 

Sheep are smelly, stupid creatures that, if not minded carefully, will feed to close to rushing waters and get carried away. (Their wool traps air, and makes the buoyant.) We may not always smell, but any political rush will sweep us along.

Jesus – whose very name means salvation – is God’s only answer to our plaintive, toddler cry “leave us alone!”. God has sent a human being to us. Fully Human, this being is also God.

Why We’re Doomed

JMJ

The Readings for Friday 3 Advent (Year 2):

Fecit potentiam in brachio suo;
Dispersit superbos mente cordis sui.
Deposuit potentes de sede,
   et exaltavit humiles.
Esurientes implevit bonis,
   et divites dimisit inanes.
He has shown the strength of his arm,
and has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones
   and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
   and the rich he has sent away empty.

Christianity was a revolution in Roman society because it taught the poor that they could care for themselves by sharing what little they had.

From the beginning, though, the Rich, also welcomed at God’s table, had trouble. So much of their lives had been spent acquiring stuff and holding on to stuff, that it was hard to shift gears. Ananias and Sapphira sold some property – which means they had it to sell in the first place. But they couldn’t bring themselves to give the money to the Church.

The Corinthians couldn’t bring themselves to even share meals with the poor and the slaves who were limited in their time to come and go. Paul yelled at them and changed their communion rites.

The wealthy church in Rome was so decadent that Benedict left.

Francis…

This list goes on.

One thing about 21st Century Capitalism: everyone is the poorest. Nearly no one in America has any conception of anyone under them in the pecking order. All of us, though, know someone higher up. We are quite willing to mark ourselves are “one of the 99%” or whatever you want to call it, but we’re all pretty equal down here. It’s them folks, up there, that you have to watch out for.

I learned this while protesting my oppression. I’m in a class of people who tend to have higher income, more college degrees, better homes, and more disposable income than many Americans. But, you know, I’m oppressed. And I never figured out why the children of slaves couldn’t see that.

We’re all equal down here. It’s those folks up there you have to worry about.

What I’ve discovered over the years is that everyone needs someone to hate and, recently, it’s been the rich. So: it can’t be me. Don’t hate me! I live in a basement apartment with one place to sit and and I sleep on the floor. OK, I pay more for my basement than my parents have ever paid in monthly mortgage payments, Rogue Ales are my house wines, and I get new stuff whenever I want. But I’m one of you.

We’re all equal down here. It’s those folks up there you have to worry about.

And then one day I realized I was those folks up there. Most of the world doesn’t care who I voted for in the recent election. Most of the world sees major personal differences between our various presidents, but most of the world sees no economic or policy differences. Yes this one is brash, that one is colored different, that one over there seems quite and stupid. But we’ve never changed our north star: economic hegemony over the entire world so that we can have all the stuff.

We’re way up there.

Until recently that was clear.

The thing about the pecking order is, though, the higher up you get the harder you have to peck to keep the masses under you.

And so, it’s only logical, that someone would eventually start pulling the rug out from under the feet of the middle class, even the upper middle class.

The proud are being scattered now in our conceit.
Rich people, turning against rich people, to fight it out over tax refunds and exemptions.

We are doomed.

We’re getting what we deserved. For while we were fighting with each other about “abortion rights” and saying we were “being oppressed” by cake bakers, we were just killing off the living in other parts of the world in order to have cheap plastic junk at WalMart.

When the poor are “lifted up” it won’t be any of us reading these pages. The Meek and the Lowly are not writing these words, nor are the hungry using their smart phones to read it.

We are doomed.

Not my president, we say. Even as we call him all the names he calls us. Even as we refuse to put forward candidates who will work Justice, Love Mercy, and Walk Humbly with God. I’m with Her we say in self-righteous indignation, as neither she (nor her husband) ever did anything to fix the problems of the poor in this country or in others. Mostly in others, really. For every trade agreement only made it worse, feeding the pockets of the rich, and allowing some of us to pretend we were rich because we got more stuff.  And all the while dumping on the poor; the real poor. And now that the poor are running around the world in terror from the horror we (or our proxies) have built in their countries, we build walls to keep them out.

We are doomed.

All the while we deploy our cheapest political tricks: divide and conquer. Your women should be free like ours. Your political minorities are way more oppressed than ours.  We can fix it. Regime change, Neoliberalism, cheap electronics, it doesn’t matter.

We are doomed.

We are doomed because one day (again) the God we claim to believe in will do what he always does: casting down the mighty from their thrones and lifting up the lowly. Filling the hungry with good things he’s going to send the rich (that’s us) away empty. Starving. Lost. Dead.

Maybe that will save us. So, come quickly, Lord. And stir up the crap again.

Give me oil in my lamp keep me burnin…


Today’s Readings:

Et quæ paratæ erant, intraverunt cum eo ad nuptias, et clausa est janua.
Those who were ready went into the wedding feast with him. Then the door was locked.
Matthew 25:10
There’s a reason this is a wedding feast, above and beyond any of the other possible events: you don’t come late, or poorly dressed, to a wedding feast. You just don’t. When you do, it’s a country music song, and it’s a hit… because you don’t do it.

But we’re an egalitarian society (or we pretend to be) and it’s perfectly alright to show up to the wedding late – it’s just a religious sham anyway. Let me in to the party, dang it.
It’s just not nice to keep people locked out just because they ran out of oil or, to be honest, the oil was running low. But it wasn’t gone. They just wanted to borrow some. Those selfish prigs said no.
So – to do honor to the bridegroom – they ran out to buy some (on the chance, mind you, that they would run out… they hadn’t run out yet…)
And that manipulative scum of a boyfriend locked them out.
At least that’s what it sounds like to us modern folks. Those five women with no oil do not know how lucky they are! They are only pounding on the door because the have been acculturated to do so. What they need is a vacation in the good old US of A.  We know how to treat guests here.
But I think we miss a major lesson in the first verse of this chapter. Tunc simile erit regnum cælorum decem virginibus. The kingdom of heaven is like ten virgins. Before the Parousia, all these people are the Church together. The kingdom of heaven is the Church.
The foolish virgins are just as much a part of this party as the wise ones. The foolish ones heard the same teachings as the wise ones. They worshipped the same God, had the same sacraments, celebrated the same feasts as the wise ones. They got distracted though. They decided the bridegroom wasn’t coming. They had all day to get ready. They had all night to rest up. Instead though, they neither got ready nor did their shopping early. When the time came, they could have bothered. They didn’t though. But now that he’s here… now they think better get ready.
All of Christianity seems to divide into these wise and foolish virgins. I’ve met wise ones and foolish ones in the UMC, the ECUSA, the PCUSA, the OCA, the AOCANA, and the RCC. I’ve met them both in the nondenominational world, and in the indy Cath world.
Across the board, in each one of these groups, there’s a group that is all sticklers for the particulars that make one a Roman Catholic as compared to the OCA. There’s an Organization that will tell you what is special about ECUSA as compared to the ELCA, or why the UMC is unique among the churches. And in each body there’s a second group that doesn’t do that very well at all. Their uniform doctrine is “let’s all get along, none of that matters.” Whilst claiming the name Christian, after a while they even let go of nearly everything that identifies a Christian as one: beginning with our uniform and historic focus on sexual purity (viz teachings on sex outside of sacramental marriage, birth control, abortion, and divorce) and progressing right up to the foundational dogmas of Trinity, Incarnation, and Eucharist. All Foolish Virgins are all alike. Across the board. The sticklers can’t seem to agree on if there is such a thing as baptismal regeneration, but they know Jesus is God in the Flesh.
I know I’ve staked my soul on the teachings of the Catholic Church, but I have rather more in common with someone who has made the same stake on Luther or Cramner than I do with someone who supports the Concordat. All foolish virgins are all alike, and they are all boring. I’ve been in all these places and lots of people asleep in the light.
This is why the foolish virgins are knocking on the the door and asking to be let in: they know what they are missing. They remember the promises that are made at baptism. They have heard the legitimate teachings of the faith all their lives. Yet they rejected them, walked away, found other teachers that would satisfy them by saying things like ‘that’s not a sin’ and ‘do whatever you want, but just love…” But they knew it wasn’t the Church. They knew, inside, that there was a place they were supposed to be.
And in the end, too late.  They made so many choices, picked their way through so many things, that, that sudden realization that oh, it’s all true…


Populus tuus populus meus

Today’s Readings:

Quocumque enim perrexeris, pergam, et ubi morata fueris, et ego pariter morabor. 
Populus tuus populus meus, et Deus tuus Deus meus.
For wherever you go, I will go, wherever you lodge I will lodge. 
Your people shall be my people, and your God my God.
Ruth 1:16B
Ruth says this after being married to Naomi’s son for quite a while. Ruth is familiar with Jewish practices, Jewish piety, and Jewish oddness by this point. She is, certainly, “the stranger dwelling among” God’s people. She’s willing to make this step because she knows God’s people will care for her, will support her in her journey, but also because she knows Naomi will need her help, will need her support, will need her (Ruth’s) strength on the rest of the journey. This is a conversion out of love for the Jewish people and for the Jewish faith. This was not a conversion out of fear, or out of obligation. This was not a conversion running away from Moabitish religion, but rather a moving towards family, towards community, even perhaps towards the relative freedom a woman might have in Judaism compared to the more pagan sorts of religion practiced in the area.
Adults who come into the Catholic faith, likewise, may come for many reasons: some good, some bad. But once you’re here, there’s some things you need to be honest about, realistic about, truthful about. When you converted you got this – not “also”, not “as well”, but this is what you converted to.

Community: the Catholic Church is huge. I don’t mean large. I mean huge. There are catholics everywhere and in large numbers. There may not be enough to fill up a pew in your local parish right now… but come Easter, there are a lot of Catholics. There are Catholics at work, you just don’t know it. There are Catholics on your softball league, in your bowling alley, at your bank, in your kids’ scouting groups, on the bus in your commute. In fact, the only group noticeably larger than Catholics in all these areas is going to be people who call themselves “ex catholics”. The Catholic Church is HUGE. Cross yourself at a diner. You may project a bit of self-conscious embarrassment, but the largest feedback you’re going to generate will be, “I’m Catholic. Wait, should I/Why didn’t I/I’m glad I didn’t cross myself like that guy.” When I started to cross myself at work for lunch so many Catholics “came out of the sacristy closet” and started to cross themselves too! In fact, I was Orthodox at the time and doing it backwards.  Nobody cared: they started to do it.
Do it, and see what happens: these people are now your people.
Struggles: my church has been classed as one of the “most beautiful in America”. But the parish I worshipped at in Columbus, GA, was compared (by their now late Bishop) to a Pizza Hut. God’s still there. The Holy Father yesterday said that we should celebrate Vatican II by “overcoming unfounded and superficial readings, partial receptions and the practices that disfigure it.” I’m down with that, because following the documents of V2, we should all face East, be using chant and not guitars, and taking communion on the tongue not the hand.
But some people think it means exactly the reverse. shrug These people are now your people. No family is 100% harmonious 100% of the time. And this family is huge and you’re going to need to wear a flame-retardant suit sometimes, online and off.

When you’ve journeyed far and yet have come home, you know, somehow, you may have betrayed someone along the way. Somewhere some person or other may feel hurt at your joy. So what can you do? Ruth knew her obligations were not in Moab. She had to wait. Because this God was now her God. Naomi was a Jewish woman, faithful daughter of Israel. Ruth, though, was a Gentile.

That’s your job now – my job – for the Church is Israel and yet we are those Gentiles recently come in. This God is now our God. Whither the Church goes, whither Naomi goes, we go with her. Where she lodges, we lodge. Her people are now our people. Her God is our God.

In love you stand up and profess that what the Catholic Church believes and teaches, this is what you accept, follow, and live. You don’t get to dine a la carte, either. You’re stuck with the whole nine yards. (Else, why are you here?) You can’t say you didn’t know. Ruth may have had pork as a child, but I’m sure she gave it up long before saying, Populus tuus populus meus. You need all of the commandments before the two greatest make sense.

We’ve known for a while that this was right, but now we have to live it. We’ve known that this is God’s house and the Gate of Heaven. Loving God and neighbor means living this way now.

Now we are here. On this road of wandering with Israel, we are now home.

You gotta dance.



Today’s readings:
The seed sown on the path is the one who hears the word…
Matthew 13:19
In Matthew (as we heard on Sunday) seeds are not the abstract “Word of God” that they are in Luke and Mark. Seeds are symbols of us who have received the Word. Often you hear sermons on this parable (from the parallel versions) and the focus seems to be “what kind of dirt are you?” In this telling, though, the story is more abstract, the symbols more threatening. For, the sower sows symbols of us… where we are.  
Any of us can be any of these seeds after any grace filled moment of conversion. It has nothing to do with the sower.
It’s you.
So, are you the one who hears the word of the Kingdom without understanding it?
Are you the one who hears the word and receives it at once with joy but has no root?
Are you the one who hears the word, but then worldly anxiety and the lure of riches block it out?
Or are you the one who hears the word and understands it and bears fruit?
The Word of God does not get into your soul without God putting it there. But that’s not enough: it’s then up to you. You.
You have to do something.
What can you do? Hear. Understand. Bear fruit.
That’s your job. God’s done his. 
You should start with the commandments we got in the first lesson. The rest can come later.
No other gods and no adultery are the big ones today, I think. But your milage may vary. 
How do you dance this dance with God? Trust me: telling me he doesn’t care what you do, or he won’t mind if you’re about to break a few rules, or he won’t care if you’ve go a few extra deities… that’s just you talking to yourself.
But if you’ll dance with God, he will lead. We are all feminine to his masculine. We are all the followers to his lead. Wherever he leads, you should follow.