More Sober Vigilance

Today’s Readings:

Omnes enim vos filii lucis estis, et filii diei: non sumus noctis, neque tenebrarum. Igitur non dormiamus sicut et ceteri, sed vigilemus, et sobrii simus.

For all of you are children of the light and children of the day. We are not of the night or of darkness. Therefore, let us not sleep as the rest do,but let us stay alert and sober.
1 Thessalonians 5:5-6

We have it here again, that combination of Sober Vigilance that is so important to the Apostolic conception of the Christian life.

Satan never says, “Hey, let’s do this awesome bad thing.” He uses the “Hey, let’s do this less-good thing” over and over until you’re doing a bad thing.

I have this problem: I want to be in bed by 9:30. I love writing these daily meditations, but, really, about now (8:34 PM as I write) I should stop and set about my evening prayers and getting ready for bed… so that I can get to bed by 9:30.  But these meditations are a good thing – for myself, and for my readers. They touch people, they invite people into relationship with Christ. But, in the end, if I start writing at 8:30, it’s going to be 9:30 before I’m done. There’s the teeth brushing and the bed making and, tonight, the putting away clothes from the dryer.

Then I skip my bedtime prayers and tell God I’m sorry and go to sleep.

See? A less-good-than.

In the Angelic Warfare Confraternity, the 8th daily prayer is for our power of estimation:

Grant that we may quickly sense dangers to chastity and instinctively flee from them, that we may never turn away from higher, more difficult, and more honorable goods for the sake of sinful self-indulgence.

And tonight at a meeting discussing the Ignatian exercises, the group leader pointed out that it’s discipline that leads us to self-control.

So, with those passing thoughts, I’m going to be sober and vigilant. It’s 8:43PM now.

Asking your prayers.

(Stick it, Satan.)

I’ve never been to me…

Today’s Readings

Si quis vult post me venire, abneget semetipsum, et tollat crucem suam, et sequatur me. Qui enim voluerit animam suam salvam facere, perdet eam: qui autem perdiderit animam suam propter me, inveniet eam.
Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
Matthew 16: 24b-25

It’s not quite as fun as it was all cracked up to be. In the end, there were no blessings for being free – if by free you mean, “You ain’t the boss of me.” For all there were were more things left to wander about and the distinct paranoia of our modern world, the Fear of Missing Out.

We have only one job in all of this. What if one job is more like watching bread rise than being Katy Perry’s Fireworks?

At the middle of the Rosary there’s the Mystery of the Carrying of the Cross. It’s come to me lately that that’s really all there is: this is the only part of Our Lord’s Passion we’re asked – nay, commanded – to emulate. Yes, we’re to die with Christ, and yes, we’re to be baptised, and yes we’re to eat this bread and drink this cup, but the only part of the Passion we’re told, specifically, to repeat, each in our individual life, is this one thing: Carry the Cross.

This is Christianity: carrying the cross.

It’s not about “finding my passions” or “doing what I do best for God”. It’s not that “Jesus has a plan for your life” (and he does, but he’s not going to show you…). You have free will, you have choices to make. Wake up in the morning and carry the cross.

This passage is very Psychological. Reading these verses, you might remember another translation that asks “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world if he lose his soul.” The greek word is ψυχή psyche, used over and over:

For whoever wishes to save his psyche will lose it,
but whoever loses his psyche for my sake will find it.
What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world
and forfeit his psyche?
Or what can one give in exchange for his psyche?

Psychological – not in the sense of modern mental onanism that tries to find the “me” in all this and “fix it”, but rather in the classical, Christian sense. You have a Psyche. It’s not the “soul” living in you like the Platonists and the Gnostics taught, nor is it the Mind like the Greeks imagined: it’s your very self. You are a union of body and spirit, of Matter and Eternity. Your Psyche is this presence of place and time that is your fulcrum into the Cosmos. You. We are not souls living in matter, but rather matter living in souls.

And if you try to hog all the stash, you will die.

We are created in the image of God whose entire being is self-emptying, kenosis. Not self abnegation, but emptying AS self. This is what God IS. And so are we… unless we miss the point.

So very much of our modern world is about finding my me-ness, and being that. Well, guess what, your me-ness is about giving it away. Literally, that’s what we call Love. Wiling the good of another until you sacrifice all of you for it.

Jesus says that when you find it and be it, you will die.
But when you give it away… then you actually live.

What if the very thing you thought was your me-ness was a black hole that sucked in everything and everyone until there was nothing left but a yawning maw of pride and bullied corpses of your enemies? Then you die.

What if the very thing you thought was your me-ness was only skin deep, was driven by hate, was a sociological and unscientific construct that had nothing to do with either biology or history. What if it made you push away everyone and everything in the name of a dream of some sort of revenge of the underdogs. But you could only love people like you. Then you die.

What if in the end, all you had left was your few treasured possessions and an illimitable sense of you’ll never catch me! Then you die.

Me is not in the getting, the having, the experiencing, the sexing, the dancing, the working, the pain-avoiding, drug-taking, fear-filled-zombified thing the world calls “life” and “reality TV”.

There’s no me there at all.

We’re going to die so fast that we don’t have time to wait to give it all up. Take up the cross and walk. This is the me that we are each offered.

St Paul takes if further than Jesus, telling us to offer our bodies as sacrifices too.

And in the end, where there is nothing left but the divine and eternal life that is the very act of kenosis enfleshed in each of us – at that point when we are surrounded by so much joy that we don’t miss our toys and our games – at that point we say with Jeremiah, “you seduced me, Lord, and i let myself be seduced.”

But it will not feel that way here, now – or, maybe not for the next few centuries. For if you speak out the World of YHVH today, you will – like Jeremiah – feel as though you’ve been sucker punched. To actually preach the Gospel in word and/or deed is to step out of the world and to actively critique it. To Love in the fullest sense, in the Gospel sense, anyone at all is to will the Good, the True, and the Beautiful into their lives – even if they don’t want it. (Yes, there are good, better, and best ways to do this, and they vary with the person… but to not do it at all is so much not-love as to be hate.)

And to love like that – to pour out your life, your heart, your soul, your art, your job, your whole being in love for another person – is to find life, is to be life, is to be the image of the Father, of whom the Son is the Icon, and by whom we are made to share this eternal outpouring with the world. And when we do that – and the world spits it back into our face, or our friends leave us in disgust and hatred, then we will say with gusto, faces buried in our elbows, bitter pints of IPA on the table, “Lord, you seduced me… but I let myself be seduced.”

As Catholics, we know that Jesus doesn’t promise us success or victories. We know there are no full wallets in the Kingdom of heaven. We know that there are no full bellies, no full closets, and no full mouths. But there are full hearts pouring eternity into each other.

We may not yet have our bodies on the line, but soon, it is possible, that we shall.

And then it is us who must love beyond life itself. Willing the good of all – even when they don’t want it. We have only to walk away from Love to die… but we are seduced into living instead. This is who we are. Christians are the ones who will die to show they love their murderers, to embody the love they feel for whomever is in front of them. Before of a society that will offer a pinch of incense to any Caesar that promises to liberate them from any sense of obligation, we will throw ourselves under the bus, jam the gears like so many Luddites, and stuff our bodies into the air vents to seal out any poison lest anyone else die. We are seduced. We can only love more.

We must make our bodies, our minds, our pride, our sense of self, an offering all to Christ in his person and in the person of our neighbor. The ever living Christ is as near to us as one seat over on the bus, the shopping cart in front of us at WalMart, the door just down the hall.

That’s when we are finally loving, we will have psyche then. Each and all of us.

We are seduced.

Into carrying the cross daily out of service: We don’t want them to have to go too far when they need a place to nail us up.

How not to be a useless servant


Today’s Readings:

Et inutilem servum ejicite in tenebras exteriores.
Throw this useless servant into the darkness outside
Matthew 25:30a
We all have gifts. Some of us use them. Some of us run away from them. I posted this a day or two ago, from Cardinal Newman:

God has created me to do Him some definite service; He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission — I never may know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next. Somehow I am necessary for His purposes, as necessary in my place as an Archangel in his — if, indeed, I fail, He can raise another, as He could make the stones children of Abraham. Yet I have a part in this great work; I am a link in a chain, a bond of connexion between persons. He has not created me for naught. I shall do good, I shall do His work; I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place, while not intending it, if I do but keep His commandments and serve Him in my calling.

The thing that I see there, that is the most important, is that Blessed John Henry doesn’t send you out on some Vocational Discernment Weekend, nor does he say you need to go hide in the desert until some vision strikes you: only, I shall be a angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place, while not intending it, if I do but keep his commandments and serve him in my calling,  by which last he means “in my daily work”.
Elsewhere in this same book, (Meditations and Devotions) he offers a very simple rule of life – as quoted by the Catholic Gentleman – to direct us all on the way to Sainthood. Not nominal least common denominator mushiness, mind you, but full on sainthood:
  • Do not lie in bed beyond the due time of rising;
  • give your first thoughts to God;
  • make a good visit to the Blessed Sacrament;
  • say the Angelus devoutly;
  • eat and drink to God’s glory;
  • say the Rosary well;
  • be recollected; keep out bad thoughts;
  • make your evening meditation well;
  • examine yourself daily;
  • go to bed in good time, and you are already perfect.

To this I would add this simple rule, offered by Alexander Schmemann in his journals (Mindul that he was writing privately, but to a hypothetical reader who was craving monastic obedience as the magic panacea for whatever it is that ails you):

  • get a job, if possible the simplest one, without creativity (for example as a cashier in a bank);
  • while working, pray and seek inner peace; do no get angry; do not think of yourself (rights, fairness, etc.). Accept everyone (coworkers, clients) as someone sent to you; pray for them;
  • after paying for a modest apartment and groceries, give your money to the poor; to individuals rather than foundations;
  • always go to the same church and there try to be a real helper, not by lecturing about spiritual life or icons, not by teaching but with a “dust rag” (cf. St Seraphim of Sarov). Keep at that kind of service and be–in church matters–totally obedient to the parish priest.
  • do not thrust yourself and your service on anyone; do not be sad that your talents are not being used; be helpful; serve where needed and not where you think you are needed;
  • read and learn as much as you can; do not read only monastic literature, but broadly (this point needs more precise definition);
  • if friends and acquaintances invite you because they are close to you–go; but not too often, and within reason. Never stay more than one and a half or two hours. After that the friendliest atmosphere becomes harmful;
  • dress like everybody else, but modestly, and without visible signs of a special spiritual life;
  • be always simple, light, joyous. Do not teach. Avoid like the plague any “spiritual” conversations and any religious or churchly idle talk. If you act that way, everything will be to your benefit;
  • do not seek a spiritual elder or guide. If he is needed, God will send him, and will send him when needed;
  • having worked and served this way for ten years–no less–ask God whether you should continue to live this way, or whether change is needed. And wait for an answer: it will come; the signs will be “joy and peace in the Holy Spirit.”
You can grow and use all your gifts this way. 

And if you can’t then try again. Be faithful in piety and love, God will give you ways to use your gifts and you will see them and fulfill them.

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…

The Voices in My Head


Today’s Readings:

Vigilate ergo, quia nescitis qua hora Dominus vester venturus sit.
Stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come.
Matthew 24:42
I have my phone, essentially, turned off all the time. I have my spam filters on high on my email. I never answer the phone if I don’t know who is calling (caller ID is our friend) and never open emails unless something is supposed to be here, now, about that thing there. 
So why do I accept ideas no matter what they offer?
I know a lot of people (perhaps you do, too) who say they might miss an important email or call. They talk to anyone who rings the phone, they open and click around in every email.
They also get viruses and get hacked a lot.
In NYC, there were these people that would hear their apartment door buzz and just press the “open” button: buzzing in whomever was there. They never worried about this door person robbing them – they were home, big and strong. But, really, the people in danger were the elderly and the alone in the other apartments. Someone would hear a knock on the door and then get beat up. Or someone would turn a dark corner in the stairwell. Boom.
Letting in anything and anyone is a recipe for danger in a lot of cases. In today’s parable, Jesus uses the same word he will, later, use in the Garden. (Matthew 26:40) “Could you not watch with me?” and St Peter will use this word in his Epistle, telling us to “be sober and vigilant.” (1 Peter 5:8) And at the end of time, it is the word used to remind us, “Blessed is he that watcheth”. (Revelation 16:15)
The Greek is γρηγορέω grégoreó. The Latin is Vigilate. Although it means “vigilant” and “Wakeful” and “Watchful”. Just as “falling asleep” means “dying” this also means “Alive.”  I think The NABRE gets the message best with “STAY AWAKE!” Heads up, eyes bright! Keep the homefires burning.
You don’t know when Jesus is coming back, stay on your toes.
That sounds like “Jesus is coming, look busy.” In fact, there’s something else before this – at least in St Peter’s text, it’s “Be sober”.
The Parable of the Wicked Servant who goes out and abuses the others needs to be thought of as something out of Inside Out, or Ratatouille, or the granddaddy of the concept, Herman’s Head. Think, as well, of this verse from the Psalms:
Blessed be he that shall take and dash thy little ones against the rock. (136:9), the wicked servant is doing the same thing… but he’s doing it to the wrong things.
The Fathers saw that passage from the Psalms as referring to taking wicked thought and dashing them against the Rock of Christ. By staying awake and sober we catch the evil thoughts as they begin and dash them in pieces against Jesus.
The reverse is when we let the wicked servant (our passions) get in there and dash everyone else about and bully them into submission to his lust (or pride, or envy, or greed..) If the wicked servant is running the show, when Jesus shows up, it’s too late. But if we are sober, vigilant, AWAKE, we can catch these things before the get in motion, at all.
Frederica Mathewes-Green once compared evil thoughts to messages tied to rocks thrown through the windows of our mind by the evil ones. The trick is to pick up the rocks and throw them back out without reading the messages: to get the stuff out of your mental house before it infects other things. We each know how quick that can be, I think, although the time will be different depending on the situation, the sin, the setting. The ramp is short and sweet: oh, hey, look at this.. that sounds fun.. omg… too late.
It’s like that for sex and anger for me, anyway.
So, you don’t open and click on all the emails. You don’t answer your phone all the time. Why do you respond to this?
Letting the wicked servant beat up everyone, getting his own way, it a bad place to be in. The servant gets used to running the show. Everyone else gets used to being bullied. In the end, no one get’s what they need or want. Even the bully misses out. (Only Satan gets lucky.) Being watchful, all the time, is how it’s avoided (being sober is the way to be watchful, but that’s another essay.)

All comes from God

via GIPHYToday’s Readings:

Ita loquimur non quasi hominibus placentes, sed Deo, qui probat corda nostra.
Even so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God, who proveth our hearts.
1 Thessalonians 2:4b

In thinking about this passage in the context of St John’s decollation I was thinking about how many times St John is pictured as yelling (especially in motion pictures). It’s not enough that John say the truth, he has to yell it out. Herod: you’re an adulterer. Herodias, you’re committing incest. That could have been whispered and his head would come off. The weak are ever afraid of the truth. The emperor’s new something or other.

Today’s world is no less volatile, yet we imagine that we are all emperors, each of us with our fragile little egos inflated, waiting to be popped by a neighbor so that we can yell, “Off with their head!” And so how often do we speak as pleasing men (at all). I’m not talking about topics like sex and marriage here. I’m talking about all the ways we cater to those over us, to those whom we don’t care to bother, offend, engage…

Yesterday I was sitting on a bus with a friend. We were discussing food and things when two teenagers sate down across from us. They were unable to cope with our high falutin topic and so began to make fun of us. This bothered me to no end. So I clammed up. My friend continued talking about beers and such, but I was rather monosyllabic until the kids left the bus.

That was my pride coming into play. But that what it is when we speak to please men: it’s always our pride. How is it so? When we are only concerned for our Job, or our care for the family, or not wanting to get into arguments, or what not… how is it prideful to say something that keeps the peace? If the legitimate issue is “To keep the peace” there may be hope here, but most time it’s not to keep the peace so much as to not cause trouble, or, to not get into trouble. Fear is pride in another form. How so: I don’t want to do anything here that I can’t control. Especially if it’s a matter of moral or truthfulness, I should always trust God when I speak up for his side of the equation. But even when it’s not so important, not trusting my personal safety and my life (in all respects) to God seems… prideful.

This is not the same thing as “God will bless me because I’m his child” nor is it the Prosperity Gospel or any other form of it. Rather this is saying God will bring all things to my salvation. It’s ok. I’m in his hands. Even so, we are commanded to speak with prudence, charity, and a care for the weakest brethren.

So, if you’ve reached sme sort of decision, something that needs to be said, or you’re engaged in a good heart to heart with a friend and just can’t bring yourself to say one thing, or you disengage from a conversation because your companion is oblivious to the snarky kids; then you have started to pay attention to men rather than God.

Now, what has any of these things to do with St Paul or with St John’s head?

If you cave on the little things, you will cave on the big ones. If you’ve done no practicing at all on not letting pride and fear run you life when the going is awkward then when the going is rough, you’ll hide in your pride and fear all the more faster.

I was reading Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman yesterday afternoon, his Meditations and Devotions. This prayer speaks to this theme, I believe:

O, my God, I will put myself without reserve into Thy hands. Wealth or woe, joy or sorrow, friends or bereavement, honour or humiliation, good report or ill report, comfort or discomfort, Thy presence or the hiding of Thy countenance, all is good if it comes from Thee. Thou art wisdom and Thou art love — what can I desire more ? Thou hast led me in Thy counsel, and with glory hast Thou received me. What have I in heaven, and apart from Thee what want I upon earth ? My flesh and my heart faileth : but God is the God of my heart, and my portion for ever.

That line, “Wealth or woe, joy or sorrow, friends or bereavement, honour or humiliation, good report or ill report, comfort or discomfort, Thy presence or the hiding of Thy countenance, all is good if it comes from Thee.” How unlike us is that line… “It’s all good if it comes from God.”

We do like to think some things come from God. But what about those other things? Clearly that’s Satan.

But no: it’s all coming from God. Certainly God works with our Free Will, but that said, how many times do we run away from something we’re afraid of simply because it’s out of our hands? How many times do we not want something, do we walk away from higher, more difficult, and because I want to indulge my fears or my social hopes; because it’s not in our control?

King, Country, & a la Carte Catholicism

Today’s readings:

I will thrust you from your office and pull you down from your station. On that day I will summon my servant Eliakim, son of Hilkiah; I will clothe him with your robe, and gird him with your sash, and give over to him your authority.
Isaiah 22:19-21a
I joined the Holy Name Society a couple of weeks ago. Actually, I had quite the week: joining Holy Name, Angelic Warfare, and the Rosary Confraternities. As all three of those societies are under the O.P. it was a Dominican Trifecta! 
The Holy Name Society, though, was a bit of a surprise to me. Here’s a part of the Holy Name Society pledge:

In honor of His Divine Name
I pledge myself against perjury,
Blasphemy, profanity and obscene speech.
I pledge my loyalty
To the flag of my country.
And to the God given principles
Of freedom, justice and happiness.
For which it stands.
I pledge my support
To all lawful authority
Both civil and religious.

Adopted in 1937, we were not really fighting anyone yet, neither communists or fascists. But we (Catholics) were dealing with a lot hate-filled sentiment that imagined we were out to try to get the Pope to rule the nation. We were happy to even promise that was not the case.

Even today, however, the Catechism of the Church teaches, The authority required by the moral order derives from God: “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore he who resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.” (❡1899) And again, “God’s fourth commandment also enjoins us to honor all who for our good have received authority in society from God.” (2234)

Once upon a time President G. W. Bush claimed God put him in office. This is true. It is equally true of Mr Obama. And Mr Trump. God’s providential mercy has left us here on purpose. We don’t get the leaders we deserve, because God is merciful. We get the leaders we need to work out our salvation in fear and trembling.

A lot (a majority?) of us want peace, stability, equality, liberty, and fraternity. God wants us saved.

So we Catholics honor the leaders God gave us.

But what about when they are idiots?

Well, we got, really, only two choices. The commandment is clear: Honor the idiot anyway because God said so.

And there’s the entirety of today’s reading from Romans:

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How inscrutable are his judgments and how unsearchable his ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord or who has been his counselor? Or who has given the Lord anything that he may be repaid? For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

Elsewhere St Paul says, “All things work for our good.” So, mindful he was saying that under Nero the Nutty, I think we’re in good shape to be saying the same thing under Our Orange Mr Bultitude.  We just don’t know how. And we have to admit that we don’t know. We have to trust that, like in Isaiah’s text, God’s totally got this. “I will thrust you from your office and pull you down from your station.” When we pray, we can be heard. Plus we have another leader. If the Church is the Kingdom of God, by which template all earthly kingdoms are judged, then we have a leader above all other leaders, one we should follow no matter what.

But we don’t like to, do we?

On the left are those who reject the Church’s teaching on Sex, on the right those who reject the Church’s teachings on economy. Avarice (greed) is a much a sin as Lust and usury will damn you near as quick as fornication. What are we to do when our political choices are between the forces of Amoral Economic Justice with Lust, or Sexual Purity with Amoral Greed?

We must live our lives secure in our faith: those who pick one side over the other, giving up half the goods offered us by God, have already lost the struggle.

And so we come in the Gospel to our Foundation.

Tu es Petros.
Hier stehe ich.

Scribes AND Pharisees


Today’s readings:

Dicunt enim, et non faciunt
For they preach but they do not practice.
Matthew 23:3b
Oh this is so rich. The Greek word play is between “using words” (logos) and “making” (poetas). They use their words, yeah, but they’re certainly not poets…
As a Catholic (and before, as Eastern Orthodox) a common lament heard all over the place from all sorts of people: to my liberal friends, I am too conservative. To my conservative friends, I’m too liberal. The Church can’t fit into modern cultural categories very easily. This thing of “loving the sinner but hating the sin” leaves us sort of stranded a lot. We have to welcome all comers – especially the outcasts who don’t fit into any of society’s power agenda. But we leave none of them unchanged. When you realize the important struggles are not about power, your heart opens to Love.
I hear the word Pharisee thrown around a lot. No one gets called a “Scribe”. But there are a lot of folks accused of being Pharisee. Yet, in Jesus’s time, those would have been the Good Guys for a lot of the culture. They were the liberals. You could play with the Bible in their tradition. You could make up stuff based on cultural guesses. They were sticklers about the rules they made up, but they were way more liberal about it than the other party, the Sadducees. These were literalists – only what was in the Bible, thank you: none of that finagling around! If the Sadducees were fundies, the Pharisees were more, pardon me, Jesuitical.
In one of my favorite stories from the Talmud, the liberal camp – meaning the camp that says they can debate the meaning of words – wins an argument with God who admits defeat by saying “My children have bested me.”

In one way of looking at things, the division between Jews and Christians is simply this: one group of Rabbis says Jesus is the Messiah. Two other groups of Rabbis (both Conservative Sadducees and liberal Pharisees) say he is not the Messiah. In the end the Pharisees win the debate within Judaism, even recasting the scriptures to fit their modes of debate. The Messianic rabbis drifted off and became the Church.

And so there: they preach and yet they do not practice. Sure, they are using all their words… but they don’t know what those words actually mean.

On the Road to Emmaus, Jesus opens the minds of Luke and Cleopus to his presence in all the scriptures. Jesus wants us to listen to the teachings of Israel. But he wants us to know what those teachings really mean – not the empty words of the Pharisees, or the Scribes, or the Sadducees.  We cannot find our common ground with either the fundamentalist Sadducees of our time who would deny the mysteries of our faith, or with the liberal Pharisees of our time who would deny the doctrines God has revealed. We’re not to fall in the fundamentalist literalism of either the left or of the right. We must hold fast to both words (the logos) and the poetry (poetas) of scripture and tradition, the both/and of Catholicism.  We must follow our vocational call to the poetas, the poetry and dance of the real meanings of the scriptural words.

The poetry of the Logos, the making of all things new, is the rite of the Faith dancing through the world. We spin like dervishes, opening our minds and hearts to the wisdom of God’s Holy Spirit. Bread is made flesh. Wine is made blood. God made man. What is old made new.

God has opened the eyes of the blind. Meanwhile those who claim to see are shown to be liars who walk in darkness.

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.

The Bible Fulfilled.

Today’s Readings:

“We have found the one about whom Moses wrote in the law, and also the prophets, Jesus son of Joseph, from Nazareth.”

John 1:45b
I wrote the text about the Blessed Virgin earlier this week, using this text as a model; the text, per the NCRegister, of the video I’ve added at the end. There is no book of the Bible that is not about Jesus, not about the Gospel. There may be other stories, sure, but unless you’re reading the only story there is, you’re missing the point.

Jesus Christ is in every book of the Bible.
In Genesis, Jesus is the Seed of the Woman.
In Exodus, He is the Passover Lamb.
In Leviticus, He is the Priest, the Altar, and the Lamb of Sacrifice.
In Numbers, He is a Pillar of Cloud by day and the Pillar of Fire by Night.
In Deuteronomy, Jesus is the Prophet, like Moses.
Come and kneel before Him now.
In Joshua, Jesus is the Captain of Our Salvation.
In Judges, He is our Judge and Lawgiver.
In Ruth, He is our kinsman Redeemer.
In 1 and 2 Samuel, He is our Trusted Prophet.
In Kings and Chronicles, He is our Reigning King.
In Ezra, He is the rebuilder of the broken down walls of human life.
Come and kneel before Him now.
In Nehemiah, Jesus is our Restorer.
In Tobit, He is the Messenger of New Life.
In Judith, He is Weakness Turned into Victory.
In Esther, He is our Advocate.
In 1 and 2 Maccabees, He is the Leader who dies for God’s law.
Come and kneel before Him now.
In Job, Jesus is our Everliving Redeemer.
In Psalms, He is our Shepherd.
In Proverbs, He is our Wisdom.
In Ecclesiastes, He is our Hope of Resurrection.
In the Song of Songs, He is our Loving Bridegroom.
In Wisdom, He is the emanation of God’s thought.
In Ecclesiasticus (Sirach), Jesus is our security.
Come and kneel before Him now.
In Isaiah, Jesus is the Suffering Servant.
In Jeremiah, He is the Righteous Branch.
In Lamentations, He is our Weeping Prophet.
In Baruch, He is the Mercy from the Eternal One.
In Ezekiel, He is the One with the Right to Rule.
In Daniel, Jesus is the Fourth Man in the fiery furnace.
Come and kneel before Him now.
In Hosea, Jesus is the Faithful Husband forever married to the sinner.
In Joel, He is the One who Baptizes with the Holy Spirit of Fire.
In Amos, He is the Restorer of Justice.
In Obadiah, He is Mighty to Save.
In Jonah, He is our great foreign missionary.
In Micah, He is the feet of one who brings Good News.
Come and kneel before Him now.
In Nahum, Jesus is our stronghold in the day of trouble.
In Habakkuk, He is God my Savior.
In Zephaniah, He is the King of Israel.
In Haggai, He is the signet ring.
In Zechariah, He is our Humble King riding on a colt.
In Malachi, Jesus is the Son of Righteousness.
Come and kneel before Him now.
In Matthew, Jesus is God with us.
In Mark, He is the Son of God.
In Luke, He is the Son of Mary, feeling what you feel.
In John, He is the Bread of Life.
In Acts, Jesus is the Savior of the World.
Come and kneel before Him now.
In Romans, Jesus is the Righteousness of God.
In 1 Corinthians, He is the Resurrection.
In 2 Corinthians, He is the God of all comfort.
In Galatians, He is your liberty. He sets you free.
In Ephesians, Jesus is the Head of the Church.
Come and kneel before Him now.
In Philippians, Jesus is your Joy.
In Colossians, He is your Completeness.
In 1 and 2 Thessalonians, He is your Hope.
In 1 Timothy, He is your Faith.
In 2 Timothy, Jesus is your Stability.
Come and kneel before Him now.
In Titus, Jesus is Truth.
In Philemon, He is your Benefactor.
In Hebrews, He is your Perfection.
In James, He is the Power behind your Faith.
In 1 Peter, He is your Example.
In 2 Peter, Jesus is your Purity.
Come and kneel before Him now.
In 1 John, Jesus is your Life.
In 2 John, He is your Pattern.
In 3 John, He is your Motivation.
In Jude, He is the Foundation of your Faith.
In Revelation, Jesus is your Coming King.
He is:
The First and the Last.
The Beginning and the End.
He is the Keeper of Creation and the Creator of All.
He is the Architect of the Universe and the Manager of All Time.
He Always Was, He Always Is, and He Always Will Be Unmoved, Unchanged, Undefeated, and Never Undone.
He was bruised and brought healing.
He was pierced and eased pain.
He was persecuted and brought freedom.
He was dead and brought life.
He is risen and brings power.
He reigns and brings peace.
The world can’t understand Him.
The armies can’t defeat Him.
Schools can’t explain Him and the leaders can’t ignore Him.
Herod couldn’t kill Him.
The Pharisees couldn’t confuse Him.
The people couldn’t hold him. [This is where the clapping begins]
Nero couldn’t crush Him.
Hitler couldn’t silence Him.
The New Age can’t replace Him.
And Oprah can’t explain Him away.
He is Life, Love, Longevity, and Lord.
He is Goodness, Kindness, Gentleness and God.
He is Holy, Righteous, Mighty, Powerful, and Pure.
His Ways our Right, His Words Eternal, His Rules Unchanging, and His
Mind is on me.
He is My Redeemer, He is My Savior, He is My God, He is My Priest, He is My Joy, He is My Comfort, He is My Lord, and He rules my life.