Temples of the Nation


The Readings for Thursday in the 13th Week of Ordinary Time (B2)

Et dixit Amasias ad Amos : Qui vides, gradere : fuge in terram Juda, et comede ibi panem, et prophetabis ibi. Et in Bethel non adjicies ultra ut prophetes, quia sanctificatio regis est, et domus regni est. 
And Amazi’ah said to Amos, “O seer, go, flee away to the land of Judah, and eat bread there, and prophesy there; but never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the king’s sanctuary, and it is a temple of the kingdom.” 

It can be impossible to preach against the political order. Yet we need to hear it. We are Catholics first then whatever we are after that. We are Catholics who are sojourning in the US. It’s not that the current political order is worse than anything that came before (or will come after) but any political order will be missing the fullness of the Gospel. There’s always need to bring the secular order more and more in line with the Gospel. Even in those rare cases when the crown was supposed to be aligned with the Church, the need for constant correction was present. How much more so when the nation has no desire to be in sync, no self-orienting call to follow?

How do we deal in a nation that expects us to have public political opinions but not religious ones? Recently, at least, it seems as if we’ve been willing to have our only flags be our political opinions, even fighting with our brothers and sisters in Christ over politics rather than being one in Christ. Although we know that political opinions are religious ones, that there is no such thing as a “secular” topic, we are quite willing to judge our brothers and sisters over their politics devoid of religious content. We act as if the prime moral issue is voting for this candidate or that candidate. We don’t point out the theological issues, we don’t even use politics as a shorthand to make a religious comment. The politics are the issues – just as they are for our secular friends.

At Mass yesterday we opened with Faith of Our Fathers which is a perfect take on politics. It’s a song about our ancestors in England, when being Catholic meant death under the Martyr Maker, Queen Elizabeth I.

Faith of our fathers, living still
In spite of dungeon, fire and sword,
O how our hearts beat high with joy
Whene’er we hear that glorious word!
Faith of our fathers! holy faith!
We will be true to thee till death!

Our fathers, chained in prisons dark,
Were still in heart and conscience free;
And blest would be their children’s fate,
If we, like them should die for thee:
Faith of our fathers! holy faith!
We will be true to thee till death!

Faith of our fathers, Mary’s prayers
will win all nations unto thee;
And through the truth that comes from God
Mankind shall then indeed be free.
Faith of our fathers! holy faith!
We will be true to thee till death!

Faith of our fathers, we will love
Both friend and foe in all our strife,
And preach thee, too, as love knows how
By kindly words and virtuous life.
Faith of our fathers! holy faith!
We will be true to thee till death!

We are called to live the Christian Faith to our death – be that the red martyrdom of the sword, the white martyrdom of the vowed life, or the green martyrdom of the sacraments and self denial. By dying to self, and living to Christ, by loving our enemies and turning the other cheek, we will win the salvation of all. These are our prime endeavors – not voting for the right candidate (although that can be an important part of the deal). And we need to be willing to rebuke our leaders in the name of Christ – not in the name of political ends. It’s nice that Obama wanted something like universal healthcare, but no one challenged him in the name of Christ to make it a moral system, or to stop his other immoral actions. And most of us were just happy to get something.  It’s nice that Trump wants to appoint pro-life judges, but that doesn’t absolve him of the strident moral issues from other parts of the administration. Nor should it. 

So it’s impossible to preach against the political order. Even though they need to hear it. We should pray for each other – that we can become courageous. And then we should be willing to face exile and martyrdom for it. Otherwise we are only partisans and our churches temples of the nation instead of temples of God.  We make an idol out of political affiliation and we deign to weave into that idolatry our religious journey.

 We forget we are in the US but not of it. Catholics sojourning in the land of exile.


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There’s gotta be an easier way…


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

Locutus est autem Dominus ad Moysen, dicens : Vade, descende : peccavit populus tuus, quem eduxisti de terra Aegypti.
And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: Go, get thee down: thy people, which thou hast brought out of the land of Egypt, hath sinned. 

The Latin says they “have sinned”. But the Hebrew says, “They have corrupted themselves.” Yes, worshipping an idol is a sin… but more, it ruins one. It corrupts you.  The Hebrew word is not pretty at allThis is what sin does to you (all the ways this word is translated into English):

act corruptly (4), act…corruptly (1), acted corruptly (3), acted…corruptly (1), acting corruptly (1), blemished animal (1), corrupt (8), corrupted (4), depravity (1), destroy (69), destroyed (14), destroyer (4), destroyers (1), destroying (7), destroys (5), destruction (2), devastate (1), felled (2), go to ruin (1), harm (2), jeopardize (1), laid waste (1), polluted (1), raiders (2), ravage (1), ravaged (1), ruin (1), ruined (4), set (1), spoiled (1), stifled (1), waste (1), wasted (1), wreaking destruction (1).

And, at heart, all sin is Idolatry. 

It’s easy to make fun of the Israelites: they’ve just witnessed the Ten Plagues, they’ve crossed the red sea, they watch a pillar of cloud by day and fire by night talk to their leader and keep them safe, and yet, they decide maybe a golden calf would be good. If you’ll remember the story well, Aaron (whose last name was Martin, SJ) who knew the whole truth about this God, decided the People couldn’t quite handle the truth and thought it would be ok to give them something a little easier to swallow. So, misled by their religious leader, they forget, because of fear, everything they’ve seen and decide some gold is a better choice for themselves.

Yeah, it’s kind of easy to make fun of them, except that’s all of us, right?

We’ve seen God act. We’ve felt the power of God at Mass, in the Confessional, at Confirmation. We’ve seen God change lives, we know the story of the saints, we may even have deeply experienced Mystical insights. And yet, let someone (maybe named Martin, SJ) tell us there’s an easier way… and we’re all on it like so many flies around so many cows. We will make an idol out of any easier way we can find. And we destroy ourselves. Or maybe it’s politics, and we think the latest craze from prohibition to Trump is the way the Gospel’s gonna come to pass. And before we know it, we’re making the Gospel fit our new golden god, or at least his tiny fingers. And we destroy ourselves.

So yeah, it’s fun to make fun of the Israelites. But really: that’s us, there.

What’s got you idoling today?