The Abominable Bride

JMJ

The Readings for Saturday in the 16th Week of Ordinary Time (B2)

Liberati sumus, eo quod fecerimus omnes abominationes istas.
“We are safe; we can commit all these abominations again”


The Hebrew word used in this line for “Abomination” is תּוֹעֵבָה to’evah, a specific class of ritual and societal uncleaness in the Jewish law, related to certain acts of impiety such as idolatry, and eating unclean foods, certain sexual acts, and the sacrifice of children. In short, a description of nearly every popular Catholic politican and not a few popular clergy in the news. It’s not pretty. And yet on a given Sunday in San Francisco, you can see one such politician receiving the Blessed Sacrament unmolested in her parish church. And yet… crisscrossing the country and visiting Hollywood, Washington, DC, or Boston, one can see the same thing in Orthodox churches. If only my former ecclesial home were seen to be as important as Rome by the media, more would be said about suicides in seminary, Bishops touching things they should not touch, monastics arrested and sent to prison, and sex parties with Metropolitans. And goodness only knows what goes on in Eastern Europe, Turkey, and the lands around Palestine. Everyone says, “We’re safe. We can do these abominations again.”

To’evah, abomination, is also used of charging interest on a loan. In current English usage, usury usually something like loan sharks, payday loans, or medical billing practices. But in the Bible charging any interest at all is morally equal to rape and idolatry. For this reason, until recently, Christians were forbidden to be bankers at all. By the Church. It was a curious dual Antisemitism that forbade Christians to do so, but allowed the industry to continue in the hands of Jews, but then the Church changed her mind when the historic banking families became wealthy enough to interest Christians in the business. Still, given the housing situation in many parts of the country, the lack of care for the poor, the lack of food, the lack of medical care… Even outside of sex acts and worshiping the Golden Calves of the president, we’re all safe, right? We can do these abominations again.

In the end both lungs are spotty if not out and out cancerous. The bride is abominable. The sex part draws attention, but listen to the left criticize the Church’s teachings on sex or listen to the right criticize the Church’s social teachings. It’s all the same a la cart Catholicism, it matters not if you like the Surf and Turf or the Vegan side of the buffet.

What’s to be done?

The Gospel speaks to us now. 

The Kingdom of heaven may be likened to a man who sowed good seed in his field. While everyone was asleep his enemy came and sowed weeds all through the wheat, and then went off. When the crop grew and bore fruit, the weeds appeared as well.

Is that not a perfect description of the Church, taken side by side with today’s prophetic passage? There is one fault though: our weeds (Tares in the Greek – a specific kind of weed that looks exactly like the wheat but happens to be poisonous) are not condemned to be always weeds. In the Church of God, I can be a tare today and good wheat tomorrow. God’s grace can get to me after a lifetime of taredom and restore me to righteous wheatiness in no time. But you have to admit, we have some weeds in the amber waves.

The slaves of the householder came to him and said, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where have the weeds come from?’ He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ His slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’

There are not enough Holy Hot Pockets in Hades for all the folks I would put there. And certainly an enemy has done this. Let’s get’em!

Jesus replies…

‘No, if you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them. Let them grow together until harvest;

And remember what I said: we’re not plants. I’m a mess today, but I may be all filled with grace later. We can stand or fall by our depending on God’s grace or our failure to do so. Jesus doesn’t want us to go on Church purity drives that kick out the sinners. They’re the whole reason the Church is here. The tares need coaxing into wheatiness. We’re all transitional forms forms of saints.

The bride has to stay a mess: and yes, there are those who will find themselves in purgatory here and now. It may be God’s way of making them into wheat. And I don’t understand it, but then, I’m not God and I don’t have to understand it. 

By the same token, none of us can be more merciful than God, but collusion with sin is neither mercy nor love. I know how I would want to reach out with the pruning hooks and so I’m thankful that’s not my job. I condemn myself thereby. Even now, in light of recent scandals, some of my friends who did not believe “gay” was an ontological category are calling for all “the gays” to be kept out of/leave the priesthood, tossing out their own sense of the Church’s teachings in their anger.

We wrestle not with flesh and blood, says St Paul. But against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness.

For those of us not called to serve as judges in the Church – and that’s probably all of us reading this blog, at least, we are called to pray for “the Tares” and also for those harmed by them. We are called to try – at least – to love them all back to God. There are those who have spiritual authority to take other action, and that may happen. But even then, our job is to pray and work for healing. Acting through righteous anger will not cause the world to say, “See how these Christians love each other.” But rather it will make us just like the world. We can be a part of Rage Culture too.

Yet never worry. God knows his own.

At harvest time I will say to the harvesters, “First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning; but gather the wheat into my barn.”

It is most important to keep this in mind. As the whole thing seems to go to hell in a hand-basket, over and over again, our job is to pray and live faithful lives. To be virtuous even when the shepherds fail, to be trusting in the one who, in the end, will gather us into his barn.

Though the cause of evil prosper, yet the truth alone is strong; 
Though her portion be the scaffold, and upon the throne be wrong;
Yet that scaffold sways the future, and behind the dim unknown,
Standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above His own.


In the end, the Bride is beautiful. It is she whom God came and sought, it is she for whom he died. Her beauty, unseen even now, has ravished all of heaven and wooed her creator to come. But it was a beauty he gave her… and he knew it was there, even when she fell so low. He knew he could raise her up with himself.


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How many are you worth?

JMJ

The Readings for the Memorial of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha, Virgin.
Saturday in the 14th Week of Ordinary Time (B2)

Nonne duo passeres asse veneunt? et unus ex illis non cadet super terram sine Patre vestro. Vestri autem capilli capitis omnes numerati sunt. Nolite ergo timere : multis passeribus meliores estis vos.
Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father’s will. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. 

This became a most-beloved passage when Fr Yakov mentioned that the sparrows in question are being sold as “Street Meat”: grilled on skewers and offered as snacks. If this were modern day New York, Jesus might be saying, “You’re worth more than many hot dogs.” If this were San Francisco, he might say tacos or pupusas. The parallel would hold because Jesus was talking to poor folks who would eat Street Meat. To reach today’s hip crowds in SF, he might have to say “IPAs” or maybe Vape Hits.


The “sparrows” bit is intended as some sort of comfort offered for the rest of the pericope, though. Jesus is saying, “They hate me… and you’re neither sinless nor God in the flesh. So they are really going to not like you one bit.” This follows on the texts from yesterday and the day before about how troublesome it’s going to be to preach. Rely fully on God – not on your money belt, not on your social connections, not on your religious connections! God may or may not rescue you from the folks howling at your feet, but God will save you.


On the one hand, stop acting (or not) in fear: What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and yet forfeit his soul? On the other hand, don’t be a hypocrite: if you don’t believe that God’s got this, how can you preach this Gospel at all? If you find yourself making decisions based on fear (as I do) then you need to reevaluate your position: Why would the Evil One take any action against you since you’re so willing take action against yourself? You’re doing his work for him! And if you’re telling others to trust in God when he is not the source of your strength and satisfaction, how long will you keep setting yourself up for failure?

What are you afraid of? His eye is on the sparrow (or the IPA) so he must be watching you as well. It is in order to prevent us from falling into this repudiation that he reminds us of our values before God.


These passages were first spoken to the Apostles as they were sent out on their mission. And they apply to us now. We are the ones who are to confess him before others. How do we do this? The Greek text makes it clear. To “confess” or (to “acknowledge”, says the milder NABRE) is homologeo, literally to “say the same”.  But another way to read that is to note that it’s using the root “logos”: to be of the same Logos as Christ. To be in the mind of Christ. This is why the Spirit tells us what to say – for we share one mind with Christ.

We must speak with Christ’s words before others. That’s hard, right? To heal, to forgive, to bless and not curse. It’s so much easier to triumph, to lord over, to gloat. If we fail to say the same as Jesus before others, if we repudiate him by our words or our actions, he will do the same to us. 

Then we’ll be worth bupkiss.

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So many. So many…


JMJ

The Readings for Saturday in the 12th Week of Ordinary Time (B2)
The First Martyrs of the Holy Roman Church

Et omnes male habentes curavit : 
And all that were sick he healed

And all that were sick, he healed… that “all” there is the Greek word, πάντας pantas, meaning all. It drives some folks bonkers. They can rant their way through that. They want to argue for what is called double predestination: that God has doomed some men to Hell already. So when the Bible says Jesus died for “all” obviously he didn’t die for all meaning, you know, all. He died for a handful of people like, you know, us. I’ve seen a marked argument from some that “all” only means some… As if God wants to not set the world aright so much as to keep it from lurching so sharply to one side. So, clearly, Jesus heals only ever other one, or maybe one out of every 3 that comes to the door. 

Or he heals all.

There are just a handful of healings recounted in the Gospels. We have two in our reading today, but the important part of this story is what happened that night when all that came by were healed (where all means all).  We can imagine that Jesus spent the better part of 3 years ignoring everyone, with the occasional “zap” to keep up the headlines. Or maybe God went around doing what God does: fixing things that we had broken.

The Fathers say that Jesus weeping at the grave of Lazarus was not weeping in the human sense, mourning for the loss of someone (because Jesus already knew he would raise him up) but rather the tears of God weeping over what human sin had done to the world and how well death reigned. 

It seems possible that there were many such heart-rending moments for the God-Man, seeing the depths to which people whom he loved dearly were driven. Imagine the pain of God at seeing his own mother’s grief at the death of her husband; or seeing her grief over his own passion and death. And I can imagine the young Jesus sweeping though a crowd and healing everyone just because everything must be set right. And when he goes out in the morning to pray and regather his energies, it is because he is literally exhausted. Remember he once slept in a boat in the middle of storm.

This is the humility of God, coming at us as one of us and yet being God. Pouring out his all and his everything for us even when it means the total loss of strength, the total exhaustion of his flesh, the running ragged of this mortal coil. This is God saving us with every fiber of his being. Every ounce of his strength.

Yet we like to hold a little bit back. Instead of coming at God with all that we have, we need to keep this one place (or maybe two places) in our lives “in control” right? For me it’s usually things around sex but for others it may be work or money. It comes up anytime one says, “Yea, I’m Orthodox, but…”  or  “My family is Catholic, but…” What ever comes after “but” is a place we’re holding off from God. It’s one place we’re not giving our all. It’s the ballot box, or the doctor’s office. It’s our relationship with our in-laws or our boss. It’s, “Let me cheat on my taxes, it may be immoral, but I’ll give more money to the Church.”  It’s like a Mafia Don willfully committing the same sins over and over again because he knows confession is easy. Or Politician saying she can get more votes by supporting a few non-Catholic things… and be in power to do overall Good, right?

The problem with our logic is that holding back doesn’t save us. We need to imitate the God who gave up everything – and continues to give it all up. 

All here, means all.


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The yoke’s on Elisha…


JMJ

The Readings for Saturday in the 10th Week of Ordinary Time (B2)

Cumque venisset Elias ad eum, misit pallium suum super illum qui statim relictis bobus cucurrit post Eliam.
 Eli’jah passed by him and cast his mantle upon him and [Elisha] left the oxen, and ran after Eli’jah. 

The call of Elisha is this strange thing, is it not? Elijah (who had been told a few verses earlier of this plan) simply walks up and tosses his poncho over a man ploughing with oxen and walks away. The man follows. It’s a subtle sign. It works. But there’s one more test: Elijah says “Go back. What have I done to you?” But Elisha knows and follows. Elijah is yoking Elisha with the call of God. This is the meaning of the action.

This comes after the previous scene where there’s an Earthquake! and Fire! and a Wind Storm! and then a faint whispering sound. It’s that last one that will make your hairs stand up: it was God. Drop a scarf on the guy… this you say is a call? 

How subtle are God’s actions in our lives! 

The difference between the destruction of the Prophets of Ba’al and the call of the Prophet Elisha is astounding. God may decide to act, once in a while, in showy miracles. I tend to want showboat events: lightening flashes, or visions in dreams, handwriting on the wall, or audible conversations with Ghostly Presences, but God gives us a nudge, a whisper, a silent and persistent intention; a sense of something more. Those other things can often be distractions. I probably would have wanted to run out after the Earthquake or the Fire. I would have responded to the Big Show. God’s got better things planned, though.

God wants better things for us, as well: don’t swear, says Jesus, just say yes or no. A big show of words can be useful or it can be distracting, but it doesn’t mean more. In fact, given the traditional spiritual counsel to silence, yes or no can be a lot of talking indeed.

A reminder from yesterday: it is the relationship that matters. Getting out, being social, joining in prayer with the community, fellowship with our sisters and brothers, and being the servant to each other. We strain ourselves to do big things, when all we need to do is love. We want to be the flash mob doing  a Mozart Mass in the mall when all we need is someone to lead the carol sing at the seniors’ home. 

When God drops a mantle on you, are you tossing it off in a fit of fan dancing and showmanship, or do you say, let me kiss my folks goodbye? I love that Elisha kills his yoke of kine and feeds the neighbors. When God calls you away, he doesn’t absolve you of your relationships. He improves them.

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A Catechesis of Despair.

JMJ

The Readings for  in the Week of Pentecost (B2)


Et offerebant illi parvulos ut tangeret illos. Discipuli autem comminabantur offerentibus.
And they brought to him young children, that he might touch them. And the disciples rebuked them that brought them. 

When Judgement Day comes many folks who are by human eyes judged as mortal sinners in recent votes in Ireland will be forgiven, I think.

It was not they who taught the people to kowtow to the wealthy Brits under Victoria, nor to support the Nazis in the Spanish Civil War. It was not the voters who abandoned the people to support the occupying powers (on both sides), or who fled when the scene got too hot. It was not the people who abused women and children outside of wedlock, nor was it children who abused the clergy.

Votes driven anger at what should be holy, and caring, loving, grace-filled, liberating and majestic, but was instead grubbing, lost, abusive, enslaving, and perverse may be, in the end, forgiven. For how can they know the truth if they have never heard it? How can they hear it if it is never preached to them? All they have been taught has led to despair.

The death of millions may lay on the hands of the Church.

Light one candle.

JMJ

The Readings for Saturday in the 7th Week of Easter (B2)

Domine, hic autem quid?
Quid ad te? tu me sequere. 
Lord, what about him?
What is that to you? You follow me.

Peter, with a growing sense of… something… turns around and sees the Evangelist John taking notes like some Cub Reporter. Peter – who has just been given his prime directive – looks back at Jesus and says, What about him? It could mean, What’s his prime directive? Or it could mean: Why’s he standing there? What’s he doing? Does he always follow you around taking notes? Do you have a job for him? Did he betray you too? It could even mean, He didn’t betray you like I did, why not bother him with this stuff about feeding your sheep?

Jesus says, Like you should care. Follow me.

When I was Orthodox, advice like this came in handy during Lent: don’t let someone else’s fasting (or lack of fasting) influence yours. It’s so easy to get hung up on how they are doing it wrong. This is especially true if they are actually wrong. Because then the question becomes, Why are they getting away with it? And after that is uttered (mentally, at least) in all its judge-y glory, the very next question is, Can I get away with it too?

Except fasting – Catholic or Orthodox – is not about food. Fasting in the Christian tradition is about training the will. God has said all foods are clean. But it is tough, is it not, to forego something when it looks so good! That thing may be meat. That thing may be ice cream. That thing may be TV shows on Saturday night when you should be doing lectio for the Sunday readings. Fasting is important because it trains your will to avoid the big things later.  And the one thing you should never do when training the will is turn to Jesus and say, Domine, hic autem quid? Yea, what about him? That’s what I want to know…. Jesus pats you on the head and says, Zok nit kin vey, Zuninkeh, Don’t worry my little one. Fardinen a mitzveh, Do a good deed.

The problem is that this worrying about the other guy can continue.  A lot of my friends ask why they should be chaste when so many people in the Church are not. The question assumes two things: that the asker knows exactly what is going on the person’s moral life and that morality is a majority vote when it is not. The question assumes that one’s salvation is not as important as other people’s fun. The question is best translated, Shouldn’t we all be damned together? This is a far cry from Peter’s question, true, but who of us is going to meet an apostle talking to Jesus? When we ask, “What about that guy?” We are not asking, “Why is he going to live forever?” but rather, “Why does he get to have hamburgers in Lent?” or, more likely, “Why does she get to support abortion and still take communion?” or “Why do they get to live together and have sex and still work as the parish secretary and choir director?” “Why does he get to be such a crass, rude, and inconsiderate so-and-so and still get to be president and hailed by Christians?”

While this may all be the fault of bad clergy, and the reality of mob-rule, the church is filled with humans: and that includes the clergy.  All these humans need your virtue more than you need to sin. Your  virtue, practiced in the praise of God, will elevate them – and the world around you. Your sin is only more of the same grey swamp. But one lit candle will change it all. Don’t fall prey to the darkness. Don’t curse it either. Change it.

Feed my sheep. 

Sometimes it’s totally needed

JMJ

The Readings for Saturday in the 4th Week of Easter (B2)

Verba quae ego loquor vobis, a meipso non loquor.
Pater autem in me manens, ipse fecit opera.

The words that I speak to you, I speak not of myself. 

The Father who abideth in me, he doth the works.


The Father speaks… the Father does… the Father abides in me. And elsewhere, “I and the Father are one.”

Jesus is God acting for us, but equally important: Jesus is God acting with us. This is so central to Christianity: the incarnation. If Jesus is not God, Christianity is entirely meaningless. What we have left – without the incarnation – is a few platitudes you can get from Socrates, the Hebrew Scriptures, Lao Tzu… pretty much anyone, really. And they are spoken by a total nut case that repeatedly makes the blasphemous claim that he is God. I don’t need a nut case to teach me to love my neighbor, neither do you.

But if Jesus is God acting for us, acting with us, then something important is happening.

Once I read a book called Why the Jews Rejected Jesus. Drawing on primary sources, the writer claims – happily enough –  it was because of all the things we believe about him as Christians. The man made blasphemous claims. He misinterpreted scriptures. He made poor political choices. He was a nut case.

So you have a choice to make: to side with those who say all these claims are false. Or to side with those who say all these claims are true. To say he never made these claims is a red herring: both his enemies and his friends say he made these claims.

You choice is who do you trust.

Elsewhere St Paul says that in rejecting Jesus, the people of Israel allowed the Gospel to be brought to the Gentiles. Today’s reading from Acts is the same: Vobis oportebat primum loqui verbum Dei : sed quoniam repellitis illud, et indignos vos judicatis aeternae vitae, ecce convertimur ad gentes. To you [the Jews] it behoved us first to speak the word of God: but because you reject it, and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold we turn to the Gentiles. 

Paul says, elsewhere, that he would give anything to bring his own people to the Gospel. But he knows God will work that out in the end – and through their rejection, a beautiful thing has happened. The Gospel has gone into all the world. And this has come up in the last few days’ readings: the persecution in Jerusalem spread the Church all over the Eastern Mediterranean world. The persecution in Damascus and Antioch pushed the Church to the edges of the known world. In rejection the Gospel is not weakened, but rather is pushed further in God’s grace.


We forget that in Christ we are not doing things, but rather letting God do through us. We are not speaking or teaching, but rather letting God teach through us.  Our success or failure is not on the worldly plan (did we keep that Job, get that mortgage, win the big game) but rather on the heavenly plan; Was the Kingdom of God advanced?

This is only true because this was God acting with us; because Jesus is God acting with us. In the Gospel we are drawn out of the machinations of this world, out of the power plays in this world, into the action of God. We don’t just “get a job” by “acing an interview”. We get a new group of souls to shepherd. We don’t simply find a a new home, or get a lucky parking space: we are given a new mission field. When we turn to these places (instead of God) as sources of comfort, as possessions instead of commissions, we compromise our souls. It takes full on rejection to get us back on track.

Tertullian says, The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church. We needn’t go that far, but if we need that reminder, it is God’s grace that brings it to us. Let us be open to that dance. 

Where you from?

JMJ

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

The Commemoration of St Patrick, Apostle to Ireland

Numquid et tu Galilaeus es?
Art thou also a Galilean?

An Anglican clergyman once told me that whenever he heard a Southern Drawl he immediately assumed he was talking to someone unlearned. I tend to feel the same way about anyone who has a “Lon Guyland” accent, to be honest, or someone with an “oh, now, dere ya go” upper midwest twang. I can’t fault him for it, but I can decry it in myself. We are all parochialists – and we stay that way now, perhaps even more so in our divided country, sussing out where someone is from while trying not to racially or culturally profile them. But still, doing so. We like folks to be like us. 

The term “Galilean” stayed pejorative until the 4th Century AD. For all I know it is, once again, a Hebrew way of saying “hick” or “redneck”. They may really despise the Samaritans, but those twangy, redneck sailors are a fish basket of deplorables.

In point of fact, this is classism. We make assumptions about learning and earning, potential and actualized, based on simple cultural clues. It is as insidious as racism, but because it is a secret tool of all of us, it is rarely decried.

We see the same regional classism at several points in the Gospels: it starts with can any good thing come from Nazareth? and continues up to today’s readings (and will go beyond). Folks in the Gospel – even good folks – are worried about what will happen when we let in those others and they start to run things their way.

This continues in the Body of Christ to this day: be it the odd liturgical warring between the Slavs and the Greeks in the east or the Irish and the Italians in the west, or the liturgical music wars: Eagle’s Wings vrs Palestrina. (I’m only just now making peace with the idea that the Boomers should be able to die in peace and take their vernacular, emo music with them untrammeled.) But even within these camps, do we sing a Godspell Mass or a U2Charist? Do we do Haydn or Missa Luba? If you’ve never heard the latter, Congolese masterwork, please, give a listen at the end of this post!

As humorous as all this is, it’s filled with two sets of assumptions: 
1) They are different and wrong.
2) We’re doing things right.

When these are over even liturgical adiaphora like music, ultimately these are merely matters of humor and I might want to write out a story for the Reader’s Digest. When these are over the person, however, these are anything but funny. If I make assumptions about you based on cultural clues I’m reading, I’m detracting from the image of God in you. If I’m making racist assumptions, that something many of my friends understand and can call me out on. But if I’m making classist assumptions,most all of my friends are in the same class. We all do make the same assumptions. It is much harder to navigate around that – because we all have the same blinders.

Earlier this week I said a couple of things: if this is true of Christ it is true of you; and also, where are you sent? These gifts that you have that no one else has? The same Giver of all Good Things has given all these gift. To despise any one is belittle the image of God. To react to anyone – especially an enemy – with anything other than an active veneration of that image, that icon of the divine in them – be it a coworker, a stranger on the street, a homeless person, a clerk in the store, whatever – is to fail in love and to again crucify the Archetype of that icon.





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God’s Bearhugging Boy

JMJ

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

Erant autem appropinquantes ei publicani, et peccatores ut audirent illum. Et murmurabant pharisaei, et scribae, dicentes : Quia hic peccatores recipit, et manducat cum illis. Et ait ad illos parabolam istam.
Now the publicans and sinners drew near unto him to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes murmured, saying: This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them. And he spoke to them this parable. 

There are actually three parables in response to this complaint about receiving sinners and eating with them.


The first is about the man with 100 sheep but one goes missing.

The second is about the woman with 10 coins, but one goes missing.
The third is this one, today’s reading, about the man with two sons – and one goes missing.

In all of these the story is about something that was lost, that was marked as terribly important, that was returned at risk. But the prodigal son is different: for the Father doesn’t go looking for the Prodigal, but rather waits patiently for him to come home. That is also a risk. But I think we need to look at all three episodes as a package: there’s a difference between a sheep, a coin, and a son. 


This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.


A sheep is a (somewhat domesticated) animal. They are a bit stupid – they can float away if the water gets too deep around them while they are eating. They tend to follow the being in front of them. They can get caught in briars like some sort of gigantic, four-legged, bleating, velcrosaurus. (One of these was caught earlier this week as a replacement for Isaac.) You do have to go looking for them. You never know what might have happened.


As for a coin, an inanimate object, we know this is here in the house somewhere. I’ve only just forgot where I put it. This will drive me crazy until I find it. I must have dropped it and… yes, here it is under the fridge. It could also be between the cushions on the sofa. I love sofa cushion searches after a party! In the Fraternity House at NYU this was practically a fund-raising function. 


This man welcomes sinners and eats with them. 


Well, yeah. And Jesus replies, “If you lost a sheep, you’d go looking for it, right? If you lost a coin, wouldn’t you go looking for it as well? And you’d have a party either way (at least inside)… right? A wayward child is very different.”

Brothers and Sisters, we are neither sheep nor coins in three individual stories: we are the lost child in the final episode of one long tale. We are generally not stupid like sheep nor inanimate like coins. We are willful, wayward, well-loved, and welcomed home.

This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.


The Prodigal a long way off is not yet fully reconciled to the ways of his father. He hasn’t yet been through even his planned confession: certainly not recognized the fullness of the wrongs he’s committed. He’s a long way off – and the Father runs to meet him. Jesus welcomes us home. In fact, nearly the moment we turn to him, he’s at our side guiding and guarding. The saints would go further: before we turn to him he’s there as well. How can this be, given the doctrine of Free Will? Imagine you are on a river in a rowboat: you can easily row against the current and go anywhere you want. You can also ride the current. The analogy breaks if you press it too hard, but it works well enough. The Holy Spirit is always there (“everywhere present and filling all things” as the Byzantine rite has it). We’re unable to escape. But we’re always able to ignore.

In se autem reversus, returning to himself. The Greek says “having come to himself”. The things of this world that attract us (sex, drugs, rock and roll, or just a good job, a home, a white picket fence, a spouse, some kids, and a couple of dogs) are not us. Each us us, even the most faithful spouse and parent, the most efficient worker, and/or the hardest partier, are  all able to do these things but not to be them. This is not us: our actions are not who we are. Our actions help form us, yes, but they are not who we are. We wake up one day and say, how did I get here?  Then you have begun the real journey home.


Quis, Deus, similis tui, qui aufers iniquitatem, et transis peccatum reliquiarum haereditatis tuae? Non immittet ultra furorem suum, quoniam volens misericordiam est.
Who is a God like to thee, who takest away iniquity, and passest by the sin of the remnant of thy inheritance? he will send his fury in no more, because he delighteth in mercy. 

The publicans and sinners begin to “draw near” and Jesus runs out, grabs them with both hands in a huge carpenter’s arms bearhug and says, “Hey! I got some food here to share…”

This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.

Jesus reply is essentially, “These are not sheep, these are not lost coins. These are people whom my Father made and with whom I am honored to eat. And over food, I may draw them ever closer the one loves them and calls them home…”

Go and do thou likewise.

THEM

JMJ

The Readings for Saturday, the 1st Week of Lent (B2)

Ego autem dico vobis: Diligite inimicos vestros, benefacite his qui oderunt vos, et orate pro persequentibus et calumniantibus vos.
But I say to you, Love your enemies: do good to them that hate you: and pray for them that persecute and calumniate you.

I am thankful that we have finally learned how wrong Jesus was here. We know, now, after 2,000 years of feeling guilty about hating folks, that if someone says or does something we don’t like that we should politically silence them entirely, we should boycott them, we should belittle them in public and elect politicians who will bully them on our behalf. 

No. Wait. My sarcasm always fails in pint.

But seriously. We rarely find hate among the civilized folks any more. No one has the emotional depth to actually hate. We can be nearly clinical in our niceness as we seethe with righteous opposition though. Our passive aggression is only topped by our schade freunde and both are best served chilly and callused.  We don’t have the depth to hate. Just to wound without killing.

Yes, I could be talking about purely secular politicians (I think of the recent presidential race as entirely made of of surrogate bullies) but I’m actually talking about the Church. I’ve seen some pretty stupid stuff done in the Church in my day, from ECUSA to the UMC, from the OCA/ROCOR battle to the Mtr Phillip vr the Tradies battle, to getting an earful from a Roman Catholic deacon who thought I was walking away from a Latin Mass. We Christians have some choice names for our Brothers and Sisters in Christ. We may not like the communists or whomever is on the Other Side of a political battle, but we save what passes for hate these days for someone who might be in the pew next to us.

And when that emotion is directed at us we respond in kind.

It’s not hate so much as it is a de facto (and de operare) ex communication.


Only the Church can do Excommunication, friend. If the Church hasn’t done so yet, maybe the rest of us should lighten up? We all know the Church is wrong for letting Them stay here. But neither you nor I are Pope, so what will you do about them?

To love means to will the good of the other. How do we will the good of “The Other” who is into singing Eagles Wings and Liturgical Dance? How do we do we will the good of “The Other” who women should cover their heads in Church and that everyone should learn Latin? How do you will the good of someone who says a Faithful Catholic can use birth control? or, if you are that person, how do you will the good of someone who thinks you’re going to hell?

This is really how this needs to be phrased.

I don’t really care how you feel about someone who disagrees with you on Gun Control or immigration if you can’t Love the person who is praying next to you.