Pro Invicem

JMJ

The Readings for Tuesday in the 30th week of Ordinary Time (B2)

Subjecti invicem in timore Christi.
Being subject one to another, in the fear of Christ. 

Paul opens up this passage with a command that gets lost in the shuffle of modern political readings of scripture. Focus on the command not on the elucidation. Serving… being subject to one another. How does that seem to us today?

Evidently, when two powerful males are introduced, the games of power mean that whoever extends their hands first means they are being subservient. Also evidently if you let someone go ahead of you on the Highway, you are indicating that you know you are blocking traffic. I’ve read (on twitter) that letting a woman enter a door before me is actually a sign that I am in control: I’m not being polite or subject to the other party.

Silly psycho-political games we play.

And yet, Jesus does say that whoever would lead… must be the servant of all. To use our broken ideas of Psychology, then… while Pope Benedict (above) washes the feet of folks on Maundy Thursday… Pope Francis must be making quite the power play by washing the feet of prisoners:


Or, perhaps, humility is a thing in itself and we should not let modern political babble confuse us.

We are to be servants of each other.  We are to be subject one to another.

This can be harder than it sounds. Social norms are as hard to navigate as white water rafting at night. Trying to figure out who’s in a room is enough for me: placing myself at the service of the least in the room requires figuring out who they are. I blurt out questions when it’s not my turn, don’t know when to jump into a conversation, can’t remember names to save my life, and (to be honest) struggle with other psychological issues that are not commonly acknowledged outside of certain Church documents but arise from the sins with which I struggle. So it’s a safe thing for me to just say to everyone in line, “you go first”. 

Our culture, on the other hand, wants everything to be “fair” by which they mean mostly “as long as I get mine…” Why should I come early and stay late? Others will do that. Why shouldn’t I get promoted at work before others? Why would that poor slob win the lottery when I need it more?

I remember reading a story of a pair of Orthodox nuns visiting a parish. You’ll need to know that in many modern Orthodox places monastics can be viewed with suspicion. This can be helped by some anti-monastic bishops… anyway… these two nuns were visiting a parish and were at coffee hour socializing with everyone else and suddenly a woman pointed at them eating and having a good time and said, “See, they are hypocrites. They come here to ask for charity, but then they take our food like a member of the parish and just laugh.” One nun stood up and and was offended. The other prostrated herself at the feet of her accuser and asked forgiveness. 

The second nun was subjecti invicem in timore Christi.

I love the stories of the Christian Martyrs whose faith was discovered because they were visiting Christians already in prison to bring them food or messages from home. When Christians actually do “Pro Invicem” we get in trouble. Christians get arrested for feeding the homeless, for sheltering Jews, for ignoring unjust laws, for hiding slaves, for helping refugees. We’ve been getting in trouble for this since Paul was hiding escaped slaves, emotionally bullying their masters into manumission and using the Church to subvert cultural paradigms all over the empire. As government and societies today are trying to force us back into slavery to pagan ideals of nationalism, immorality, and racism, I hope we stand firm.

But I hope we do so by subversion, by pro invicem… we must remember to love our enemies… because we don’t have any. Literally every political thing in the world is here to distract us from God, and it is supposed to look like “our enemies” are doing it  – so we blame the other humans – but we forget the only enemies we have are demons? Literally every political or “social justice” thing is a false flag op.

That person over there is not a demon, is a living icon of God. They may be wrong… they may need to be opposed or voted out of office or imprisoned for crimes, but they are also to be served by us. By serving them we will win them for Christ. We will win the world that way.

My Face Hurts…

JMJ

The Readings for Monday in the 30th week of Ordinary Time (B2)

Fornicatio autem, et omnis immunditia, aut avaritia, nec nominetur in vobis, sicut decet sanctos : aut turpitudo, aut stultiloquium, aut scurrilitas, quae ad rem non pertinet : sed magis gratiarum actio.
But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not so much as be named among you, as becometh saints: Or obscenity, or foolish talking, or scurrility, which is to no purpose; but rather giving of thanks.

The NABRE takes a dodge here… it says “Immorality or any impurity or greed” which is not what the Latin says, nor is it what the Greek says. The Latin refers to “Fornicatio autem, et omnis immunditia, aut avaritia”. That first word is fornication. We’re not talking about “immorality” in general but about sexual sins. The Greek is even more direct. The word used there is πορνεία porneia. It is the origin for our word “pornography” but its meaning is derived from the verb “to sell off”. We trade off our sexual morals for other things – money, yes, but also acceptance, entertainment, self-gratification. This is made even more clear by the words selected in the next verse (which are not so obscured by the NABRE) obscenity, or foolish talking, or scurrility make it all very clear, and also eliminate about 80% of the internet and 95% of comedic content since WW2.

Why is St Paul so opposed to us having fun?

Matushka Frederica Matthews has this great line in one of her books, I honestly forget which one, discussing our cultural abuse of irony and making everything funny, she says, “Can we stop smiling now? My face hurts.” As a culture we make a joke of literally everything. This has gotten worse in successive generations – what was once sacred is now ribald humor. And as this area gets burned over, we move on to the next one… we can now joke about literally anything religious, because no one cares about it – and those who do don’t deserve our sensitivity. Only in jest can we talk about such things.

Paul is warning us against doing that to one of the most sacred acts God has given for humans to do – to participate in God’s creative generation of space and time by bringing a new human soul, enfleshed, into the world. Making jokes about this cheapen it.

But there is a second reason as well. We are spiritual athletes. We are in training. There is a time and place for everything. Yet there is never a place for baseness, or scurrility. We have no reason to “keep in practice” for the things we used to do.

A friend of mine called me out for using as a self description a word which has become synonymous with a sexual subculture. I hadn’t realized how important that word had become to me. I may not use “gay” to describe myself, but I have a “totem animal” anyway, right? Why? Do I need that? Do I still need that word to be part of me? Do I still need to get all those in jokes? Those brain cells might better be left from something else, I think.

Chrysostom reads both of these meanings

Have no witticisms, no obscenities, either in word or in deed, and thou wilt quench the flame—“let them not even be named,” saith he, “among you,” that is, let them not anywhere even make their appearance. This he says also in writing to the Corinthians. “It is actually reported that there is fornication among you” (1 Cor. v. 1.); as much as to say, Be ye all pure. For words are the way to acts. Then, that he may not appear a forbidding kind of person and austere, and a destroyer of playfulness, he goes on to add the reason, by saying, “which are not befitting,” which have nothing to do with us—“but rather giving of thanks.” What good is there in uttering a witticism? thou only raisest a laugh. Tell me, will the shoemaker ever busy himself about anything which does not belong to or befit his trade? or will he purchase any tool of that kind? No, never. Because the things we do not need, are nothing to us.

Moral. Let there not be one idle word; for from idle words we fall also into foul words. The present is no season of loose merriment, but of mourning, of tribulation, and lamentation: and dost thou play the jester? What wrestler on entering the ring neglects the struggle with his adversary, and utters witticisms? The devil stands hard at hand, “he is going about roaring” (1 Pet. v. 8.) to catch thee, he is moving everything, and turning everything against thy life, and is scheming to force thee from thy retreat, he is grinding his teeth and bellowing, he is breathing fire against thy salvation; and dost thou sit uttering witticisms, and “talking folly,” and uttering things “which are not befitting.” Full nobly then wilt thou be able to overcome him! We are in sport, beloved.

There is a counter point, I think. One that is important for us in this age – that was not so important for Paul. While everything is funny – because it’s meaningless – everything is also taken far too seriously. CS Lewis and others have noted this tendency in our media, to stir up excitement for things that happen hundred and thousands of miles away while ignoring the things right out side. We get anxious over meaningless things about which we can do nothing, and then make light of things that are actually important.

So what would life look like if we took everything only as serious as it warranted, and yet took everything exactly as serious as is needed? What would life look like if one lived as if one’s salvation in Christ was the most important thing? Mindful that St Paul says that salvation entails a lot of things: obedience, humility, civic responsibility, passivity before abuse, charity, etc. What would life be like to live in that way?

All are welcome!

JMJ

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All I Want is My Fair Share

JMJ

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

Videte, et cavete ab omni avaritia…
Take heed and beware of all covetousness…

The Gospel is messy: it doesn’t color between the lines we’ve drawn. Who in this brief Gospel story of familial dysfunction gets your sympathy? We’re not told if we’re talking to the younger or elder brother. My guess is younger because the elder would normally get it all – but see Jacob and Esau, or Isaac and Ishmael. Fathers can be capricious. We don’t know but maybe the man is the eldest son of a second wife or the eldest son in fact, by a mistress though, rather than the wife. Who knows? Who gets your sympathy? My late younger brother (along with many of his friends) was a bully. I rarely see things in these internecine incivilities without that memory coming into play. I tend to pity the one standing in front of Jesus. I often wondered why I was the one that wanted to go to church, but my brother was the one who got to beat me up. So I don’t necessarily see this as an issue of “justice” because my younger brother often got away with a lot of stuff.
What would Jesus say? The answer is one that is certain to annoy anyone who thinks the Gospel is only about “social justice”. Jesus doesn’t even ask the brother who’s right and who’s wrong or what might be going on. He says, simply, don’t covet.
Aslan would remind us we never get to know what might have been, what could have been, or even what would have been. All we can know is what is (and what was). So yes, I had a brother who was a bully, but that’s what providence has dealt. It’s created some interesting memories and mental dynamics in my life. However to fight back, to blame, to demand fairness would have only complicated things, and perhaps have lead Jesus to offer me some interesting parables. This says nothing about what he would have said to my brother… or anyone else involved. This is always only in the the first person.

St John Chrysostom directs us to this in another way…

The sins of the rich, such as greed and selfishness, are obvious for all to see. The sins of the poor are less conspicuous, yet equally corrosive of the soul. Some poor people are tempted to envy the rich; indeed this is a form of vicarious greed, because the poor person wanting great wealth is in spirit no different from the rich person amassing great wealth. Many poor people are gripped by fear: their hearts are caught in a chain of anxiety, worrying whether they will have food on their plates tomorrow or clothes on their backs. Some poor people are constantly formulating in their minds devious plans to cheat the rich to obtain their Wealth; this is no different in spirit from the rich making plans to exploit the poor by paying low wages. The art of being poor is to trust in God for everything, to demand nothing-and to be grateful for all that is given.

Mindful, this is from the same Saint who teaches that both rich and poor alike rely too much on having stuff and not enough of God. This same saint teaches it is the duty of the rich to share in humble thankfulness for all they have and the duty of the poor to be humble in their reception of charity. The same saint teaches that laws do nothing for charity, as only a change of heart brings about charity…
See? The Gospel is really messy and doesn’t fall neatly into modern political parties.

Jesus asks, “Who made me the judge (literally, the divider) over this?”

In the first person singular and plural the Gospel offers no justice at all. In talking to Christians the only thing we’re promised is hate and eventually death. However we are to do justice – by which the Biblical writers do not mean “pass laws, march in the street, fix things”. We have a huge problem with those sorts of activism. Because we know God wants to save everyone: rich and poor, men and women, all races, all religions, all tribes, nations, and tongues. God doesn’t have time to care about our political squabbles.

In the life of Sts Cyril & Methodious we learn: That is why we generously endure offenses caused us as private people. But in company we defend one another and give our lives in battle for our neighbors, so that you, having taken our fellows prisoners, could not imprison their souls together with their bodies by forcing them into renouncing their faith and into godless deeds.
The Gospel is very messy. Our problem today seems to be that we are unwilling to “endure offenses caused us as private people”. We instantly demand justice and “our fair share”. Jesus accuses us (in the first person) of being covetous. Our job is to defend the weak, feed the poor, shelter the lost, but never to assume that is us we’re talking about there.

Lord, can we ask you something?

JMJ

The Readings for the 29th Sunday of Ordinary Time (B2)

Magister, volumus ut quodcumque petierimus, facias nobis.
Master, we desire that whatsoever we shall ask, thou wouldst do it for us.

This came up last night at St Dominic’s. It was a surprise to realize, but the Apostles – in fact James and John, two of the “Big Three” insiders – were making a secular power grab here. Could have been one of the Borgia Popes for this moment. And so they thought that Jesus was going to be a secular king… and these Fishermen and sons of a fisherman, wanted to be on either side of the throne. Just not getting it: God’s kingdom doesn’t work that way. Fr James, the preacher, used it to point out that the Church has been dealing with sinners in leadership roles from the very beginning.

James and John, thinking they’re in at the start of some popular movement that will overthrow the government want to make sure they’re in good with seats secured on the new ruling junta.  They want to make sure they have options that can be exercised when this new startup IPOs. They want their share of that first day stock boom.

They want their share. You know, Jesus doesn’t yell at them. This is not like when Peter said, “Don’t go to the cross”. They are mistaken – but only in some part of the equation. Jesus is a king. And he will drink a cup. And they, too, will drink it… They will get their share.

They are wrong in the application though.

So… I want to suggest something: that being wrong in the application may not be as bad as taking the cross out entirely. James and John don’t get the same response as Peter.

There are those who think their faith requires them to make political actions and movements. There are those who feel their faith urges them to take out civic power. Jesus has some hope for them that, in fact, they will drink his cup with him.  James, you know, dies a martyr’s death. John lives a long life of martyrdom, caring for Jesus’ mother, going to prison, exile… but he dies an old man praising Jesus.

And when the others hear about it, they get all uppity and in each other’s faces. Jesus has to shut them up with a teaching moment: You know that those who are recognized as rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones make their authority over them felt.

This was also true among the Jews as well in Jesus time: for they had several generations of Maccabees who were a Theocracy – where the king was also the high priest. Then they had client kings who were Jewish at least by birth, but had no sense at all of stewardship or shepherding over the people. The Herods were the most recent of these kings, Jewish in name only and despised by the people.

Christian leadership requires the Cross. This leader is there not as a pusher and mover, not a cowboy with a cattle prod. A Christian leader has to woo, has to call by name, has to give his life for the sheep. Leadership in this role is about sacrifice. It’s about self-emptying. It may be next to impossible to be a Christian Civil Servant, but it’s not forbidden.

In some cases a Crown worn right has made a King a Saint.

But there are those who take the cross out of Christianity. Peter said the cross wouldn’t sell. They don’t mind the politics (as long as they agree) but they don’t want any, you know, sacrifice or conversion. Penance doesn’t play in Peoria. It doesn’t pay well in DC. There are those who ignore the cross even as they use it as a label for their own purposes. They too, don’t want any conversion or sacrifice. They want prosperity and “justice” rather than kenosis. Their politics leads to victory for “us” and an end to “them”. The Cross is for all – or else it is for none. These would not drink the cup of Jesus if they had a choice. It has no meaning, in fact, it may be opposed to all they stand for.

Jesus calls them Satan

The Apostolic Life

JMJ

The Readings for the Feast of St Luke, Apostle and Evangelist
Thursday in the 28th Week of Ordinary Time (B2)

Nolite portare sacculum, neque peram, neque calceamenta, et neminem per viam salutaveritis.
Carry neither purse, nor scrip, nor shoes; and salute no man by the way.

I hear lamentations that some clergy – especially the newly minted sort – don’t know what “real life” is like. Why would we wish that on them, these men who are supposed to stand as physicians for our souls?
Should we not rather take their sacramental daze and build it out? Should we not rather work to be in their world?
Can we forget what the “real world” is like?
Can we recognize that even the folks from whom we steal wages by shopping at Amazon are God’s children?
The Apostolic life. What must it be like us in this day?
Can we in this day of technology and free sex find a way to abandon all goods and live the Gospel?
Is there a possibility of freedom in this world as slavery catches us in on every side?
Can we accept that the sins of the many do not permit even one extra sin?
Can we grant that it’s possible to have too much stuff?
Where will they hear the Gospel if they don’t want to hear it? Who will live that picture book for them?
If the Gospel only means treat your employees like dirt, your coworkers like tools, your bosses like kings, and your families like a chore, what makes us any different from anyone else who may rank the order differently… but will use the same words?
We are in the world and we are of it, can we not forget it?
Can we not realize that “all things in common” means “no one need be poor”?
Can we love without lust?
Can we lead without judging even those who lust to what is real love?
Can we forget what the real world is like and live the Gospel?
Can we let go of a mentality of porn so ubiquitous that we fail to see when “food porn” and “motor porn” and “shopping porn” are all real issues; can we realize that all “advertising” is just porn – designed to stir lustful passions for stuff that isn’t ours?
Can we let go of the pain, the cries of “What about me?” and the demand for “my fair share” and “what’s coming to me”?
Can we untangle the gospel from petty cries for merely worldly “justice”?
Can we redefine Justice as God’s Rule and not man’s rules?
Can we stop our theft from the future, our massive credit debt we owe to our children, our fellows, our neighbors?
Can we learn the very meaning of “to have” is “to share”?
Can we drop out of the social net without disconnecting from those we are called to save?
Can we forget the calls of “honor” and “respect” and “patriotism” that the world puts on us?
Can enough silence be made to give us time to hear God’s heart?
Can we leave behind the “real world” so as to save the real people who live in it?

There’s a little voice inside that calls me to pick up and go: to start walking to Mom’s and see if I can preach any Gospel along the way. By preaching I mean live. By living I mean love.

Can we?

I got my Liberty License

JMJ

The Readings for the memorial of St Theresa of Avila, Doctor of the Church
Monday in the 28th Week of Ordinary Time (B2)

Itaque, fratres, non sumus ancillae filii, sed liberae : qua libertate Christus nos liberavit. State, et nolite iterum jugo servitutis contineri.
So then, brethren, we are not the children of the bondwoman, but of the free: by the freedom wherewith Christ has made us free. Stand fast, and be not held again under the yoke of bondage. 

Paul does some strange things with his argument and I want it to be evident:

Abraham had two sons. God promised him a son, but because of human concupiscence, Abraham was impatient and slept with his slave woman, Hagar. She bore him a son. Then the promised child was born to his wife, Sarah. He drove out the slave woman, again because of human sin: his wife was jealous. But God saved that child as well. Of Sarah by Isaac came all the tribes of Israel. Of Hagar, the slave, came by way of Ishmael, all the gentile tribes of the middle east.

It should be evident that the Ishmaelite tribes of gentiles were not under the law of Moses while the Israelite tribes were under the law. Yet Paul uses these same tags of Israelites and Ishmaelites to describe the Freedom of Christians (Israelites) as compared to the slavery of those under the law (Ishmaelites). It’s an interesting rhetorical inversion, a literal head-over-heels, topsy-turvy place where suddenly Jews who reject Messiah become gentiles while the Gentiles who accept the Messiah are plugged into the New Covenant along with the Jews.

But Paul is making this argument to say Christians are not under the law…

One, however, would be a fool if one imagined that Paul is saying there are no rules for Christians. I’ve been a fool like that. My freshman year in College was spent at a small, evangelical Christian school in down-state New York. We had a pledge we had to sign, saying we’d not drink, dance, smoke, join secretive oath-bound organizations, or use traditional playing cards.  (Those were the words… clearly playing poker with Tarot cards was fine… and while we were not allowed to join Greek-Letter fraternities, the number of professors/alumni/administrators who were Freemasons was actually astonishing.) So, we had this pledge. And in October of my freshman year I wrote a long letter to the student paper referencing – among other passages – this bit from Galatians to say we didn’t need to follow any rules.

I made the classic mistake of confusing Liberty in Christ for License to sin.

Sin is actually slavery. We are trapped in our own brains, in our own lusts, in our own desires. We cannot be the self-giving, the self-slaying, the self-sacrificing images of God that we’re intended to be. We are set free…

We are only free if we flow in the will of God. This is what Paul is saying. For the covenant of Sinai was the will of God – but no more. Paul invites his readers to move into the new covenant of freedom in the will of God. But not “there are no rules”.

Our modern Secularizers are telling us this. That religious rules that impact “freedom” (by which they mean license) must be done away with. They are seeking to enslave us to the world, the flesh, and the devil while calling evil things good, things of darkness as things of light. 

The Men of Nineveh – who heard a few whispers from Jonah and repented – will rise up and condemn us, for we hear the preaching of God himself, and yet persist in our sins and even demand that the Church change to accommodate us.

An Ontological Illusion.

JMJ

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

Quicumque enim in Christo baptizati estis, Christum induistis. Non est Judaeus, neque Graecus : non est servus, neque liber : non est masculus, neque femina. Omnes enim vos unum estis in Christo Jesu.
For as many of you as have been baptized in Christ, have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek: there is neither bond nor free: there is neither male nor female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. 

This is not a passage about social justice. 
At all. Forgive me that I have, often, fallen into this as well.

Every day a devout Jewish Man would wake and say these three blessings (among many others):

ברוך אתה יי’ אלהינו מלך העולם שלא עשני גוי
ברוך אתה יי’ אלהינו מלך העולם שלא עשני אשה
ברוך אתה יי’ אלהינו מלך העולם שלא עשני עבד


Baruch Atah ha-shem, elohenu melekh ha-olam she-lo esani goy.

Blessed are you, Lord, Our God, King of the universe who has not made me a gentile.
Baruch Atah ha-shem, elohenu melekh ha-olam she-lo esani isha.
Blessed are you, Lord, Our God, King of the universe who has not made me a woman.
Baruch Atah ha-shem, elohenu melekh ha-olam she-lo esani eved.
Blessed are you, Lord, Our God, King of the universe who has not made me a slave.

Thus a Jewish Man, bound to the obligations of the Torah and the Covenant, thanks God (blesses him) for giving him this heavy duty. Which was no onerous task, but rather an honor.  I’m not a gentile, so I have this duty. I’m not a woman, so I’m not excused from this duty (as by child birth, or other womanly functions). I’m not a slave, so I am free to fulfill these tasks. It can sound flaunty, or even triumphant, but a slave or a woman is excused from some duties of the Torah. A gentile is not obligated to any of them at all. A Jewish man must adhere to the whole thing – and if not in his person, than in the persons of his family for whom he is responsible.

Blessed are you… indeed. That’s a way to wake up.


Here St Paul turns those blessings on their head. He says everyone who has been baptized into Christ has put on Christ… and that all divisions have ceased.


Neither Jew nor Greek (Gentile), Neither slave nor free. Neither male…

Paul’s whole argument is against dividing the community. Don’t break off into cliques, don’t use the world’s titles for you to divide yourselves. Don’t use the world’s titles to define yourselves. And he uses quite a list:

Jew and Gentile is a primary division in the Jewish world. (Most Gentiles did/do not care.) Slave and free is a primary division in the Gentile world, though. Even being a former slave or the child of former slaves is a blot against one in the Roman world.
Then Paul throws a twist in the phrase, he does not say, in Greek, there is neither male nor female for that biological division God is credited with making in the beginning – before there were Jews, before there were slaves.

What he does say in Greek is There is neither male and female. And as the Jew/Goy line is intended for his Jewish readers and as the Slave/Free line is intended for his Roman readers, Male+Female is intended for all… Paul is saying none of the divisions we see in the world matter. 

Even the most primary of divisions that has been since the beginning of the world – since Genesis 1:27, actually where the phrase “male and female” is also used – this division is now healed. We are all now, in the Body of Christ, made into the New Man, the New Adam, which is Jesus himself. We are not to stand opposed in anyway, one tribe against another, one class against another, nor even one sex against another. In Christ, the curse of the Garden is undone. “…thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.”

The Morning Blessings that established one’s Identity in the world are null. One’s only identity now, in Baptism, is Jesus. The only thing that matters now is this: 

In baptism, we have put on Christ Jesus and are all one in him.

As I noted at the top of the week, I’m reading Galatians now not as if the Judaizers, as they were called, are trying again to graft the Jewish Torah back into Christianity (as they were in Paul’s day) but rather as if we might be dealing with “secularizers” who are trying to graft some other alien structure into Christianity. There are those who want to graft in “White American Capitalist Republican” in here. There are those who don’t really care about anything in there but “White”. There are those who seek to graft in other social divisions, based on class, sex, desires, race… all the things we use in our “Identity Politics” are irrelevant.

If we are baptized into Christ, all are one in Christ. Coming into the Church we have to give all that up. Obviously it does not end: even in St Paul’s day, one was still either a salve or a free person. But the division, the failure of unity, is no longer real. Again, this is not a teaching on Social Justice. This is a radical teaching on the unity of the Church, a radical reformation of who you are. St John Chrysostom says, 

If Christ be the Son of God, and thou hast put on Him, thou who hast the Son within thee, and art fashioned after His pattern, hast been brought into one kindred and nature with Him… he does not stop there, but tries to find something more exact, which may serve to convey a still closer oneness with Christ. Having said, “ye have put on Christ,” even this does not suffice Him, but by way of penetrating more deeply into this union, he comments on it thus: “Ye are all One in Christ Jesus,” that is, ye have all one form and one mould, even Christ’s. What can be more awful than these words! He that was a Greek, or Jew, or bond-man yesterday, carries about with him the form, not of an Angel or Archangel, but of the Lord of all, yea displays in his own person the Christ. Source

Those who are not so baptized may do as needed or wished. This is not about their choices or lives. 

Those who are initiated by those holy waters into Christ “display in their own person the Christ” and all those other bits are mere labels we add to ourselves are only so much mammon to be tossed out, ignored.

This holds true in other places like Romans, where Paul begins to note lists of sins not as “noun/verb/object” phrases, but as verbal nouns: people whose very identity has become the doing of something. Paul says that won’t work any more. In fact he says if we hang up our “identity” in the doing of something, we’re damned. Only a human being can become a Christian. These other labels prevent that. We have in the mystery of Baptism (and in the Mystery of the Holy Eucharist, and in the Mystery of Matrimony…) literally bounded ourselves to the Messiah not in the abandonment of ourselves, but in the fulfillment of ourselves. We free ourselves from false “identities”, from illusions of selfhood, and become how God made us to be.

No longer let us say “Blessed are you Lord for having made me not like all these other folks…” but rather let us say, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under the roof of the house of my soul… but enter and make me yours. Make me you.”



What Spirit is We Should Be.

JMJ

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

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

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

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

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

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

Foolish Galatians, every last one of us.

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

And that old message has always.

Always.

Always.

Led away from the faith.

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

Who has bewitched us?

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


(The Waterboys Spirit)

Don’t Dubia The Import of This

JMJ

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

Cum autem venisset Cephas Antiochiam, in faciem ei restiti, quia reprehensibilis erat.
But when Cephas was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. 

Paul has spent the better part of the first chapter (and some bits of chapter 2) laying out his bona fides. He’s legit. Yes, he had a private revelation, but he took it to the Church in Jerusalem and they all backed him up – Peter, James, and John. That is to say the inner circle inside the College of Apostles. They agreed with him, with his message, and his reaching out to the Gentiles. You can read about this in the book of Acts. The Council of Jerusalem was formative – not only for the early Church, but for the next 2,000 years.

And yet, a short time later, when Peter shows up, he tries to back-track. And Paul gives him what-for. Yes, he’s still Peter. And yes, he’s still the head of the Church, the Rock. In fact Paul plays up that fact in this passage, calling him “Cephas” (which is “Rock” or “Peter” in Aramaic).  And so here, the Rock, is wrong. And the other Apostles do not fear to call him out. It’s ok. It’s ok to note when the leader is wrong.

I hear, lately, a lot of folks saying that we can’t question the Pope. Oddly enough, these tend to be Pro-whichever Pope is in office folks. The Tradies liked Benedict. The Liberals like Francis. So when someone might criticize a speaking engagement of one or the other Pope (or of St John Paul II, Bl Paul VI, St John XXIII, or Pius X – XII, etc) the reaction is sadly predictable along party lines.

And yet Paul stand up and says, in faciem ei restiti, quia reprehensibilis erat. I got up in Peter’s face because he was wrong.

The Papal Defenders seem to think that questioning the Pope and actually, you know, expecting an answer, is wrong. Those asking questions seem to think failure to ask would be a greater sin. Taking as a given the best intentions on the part of both the askers and the asked (we are Christians, after all), one has to assume that there are good reasons for concern when otherwise obedient sons and daughters stand up, with apostolic fervor, and get in Peter’s face.