For I will re-establish my covenant with you, that you may know that I am the LORD, that you may remember and be ashamed, and never again open your mouth because of your disgrace, when I pardon you for all you have done.
ABSOLUTION IS A CURIOUS THING. Outside of the Catholic Church the stereotype is that someone can commit any sin at all – even be Hitler – and, if he goes to confession, he would be absolved of that sin. In fact, the stereotype is true. It needn’t be terribly nuanced. Even Hitler, should he repent of his sins, would be forgiven and absolved of them by the authority of the Church.
Thing is, we don’t want it to be that way. Sure, we don’t want it to be that way for mass murders and mega-haters, but we don’t want it to be that way for those annoying people on the bus nor for that annoying driver on the freeway this morning. Many don’t want it to be that way for parents of noisy children in Mass. And, if we’re really honest, most of us don’t want it to be that way for ourselves either. The Holy Prophet Ezekiel understands why, too: the more we’re aware of the sins we’ve committed, the more ashamed we are by God’s love for us.
This requires full awareness, humility, and comprehension: it takes an arrogant fool can think he actually deserves absolution. But being made aware of the infinite atonement, of infinite love, of infinite grace, as well as the need for it means one is weak. God is in control: we are called to let him be so. But it can hurt: there is danger here. Not only our pride can be hurt. This is one time where “asking for help” is a sign that one is not only weak but completely in the wrong and unable to get out of it.
God is Love (1 John 4:16, etc) and this love is a “consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:29). Balance those. The pain that comes from being loved that much is purgative, atoning. The infinite love, in itself, make it possible to bear the love until we, too, are love.
SAINT CLARE WAS granted a vision of Mass on Christmas Eve so that she could participate without being present. The Mass was projected on the wall of her cell by the Holy Spirit, allowing her to see and hear the beauty of the Mass as it happened. For this reason, she was named the patroness of Television and, later, of computer screens. There is also a patron of the Internet: St Isidore of Sevile. Some also think that, should he be made a saint, Bl. Carlo Acutis may share this patronage. St John Paul picked St Isidore because of his connection to education. There was a time when we kept thinking the internet was going to be good and educational.
Those were simpler times.
I’ve been slowly disconnecting from the internet, at least as far as social media. Twitter is gone. Instagram is gone. FB will go soon enough. I mean, the Blog is still here – been going since 1998 or so. But what else do I need?
Bishop Barron and others are really urging us to engage on the internet, to engage and “evangelize the culture”. Clare and Francis, along with Benedict would say otherwise. I wonder what St Dominic would say. Certainly, he called his friars to be connected in a way – that was the whole reason his friars went to University. But in those days even universities were an arm of the Church. Did Dominic want his friars to go live in Albigensian towns, learn their code words, blend in and hope for the best? Or was Dominic’s strategy more like the yelly-screamy people on the internet today, always trying to win an argument? I think all of these questions are answered with a strong no.
I’ve known a lot of choir directors (pretty much every last one since High School) that can’t handle silence. Every element of the liturgy must be covered with noise – singing or playing. Any movement of the clergy must be “played over” like some 1930s melodrama or soap opera. When the musicians can’t handle silence, the people never learn silence.
When there is no silence, there is no prayer. That’s the clue I want to share: so much of our life is filled with noise and what we need is silence. St Clare used her “television” one night out of her entire life of prayer to help her in prayer. We find it hard to go 2 mins in silence. But without silence, there is no prayer at all. How can we use for evangelism something that literally prevents the one thing needed for evangelism? We can’t: it’s impossible to use noise to evangelize. All we end up making is more noise.
How can we be a sign for the people if we look just like them, do nothing different, show no other part of the world? Should we not, instead, look like exiles from the culture around us, dig a hole in the wall, show the folks around us there is a way out?
St Dominic is said to have always spoken either to God or else about God. This is good advice for his children as well.
Just as an act of Examination, what is the percentage of your words online and off that could be said to be about God or to God?
THE DEACON St Lawrence was the patron saint of the Orthodox monastery where I tested my vocation as a monk. I don’t have one. But it was in conversation with one of the Oblates of that monastery that I learned something important. Sitting on the porch one evening, listening to me give voice to my complaint and struggle, the oblate was supportive. Only when there were guests around to care for did I feel like I was doing my “job” as a monastic. Apart from one or two moments during the year, there were only guests for two weeks during the summer. The rest of the time I felt kind of useless. “Brother,” said the Oblate. “You need to be a friar. The only problem is there are no friars in the Orthodox Church.”
By friar he meant someone who was living out a vocation that was both contemplative and active: present in the world, but in a contemplative way. Even before friars did this, holding in tension the cares of this world with the things of eternity, it was the Deacons of the Church that did this. St Lawrence, holding the wealth of the Roman Church in trust for the poor of Rome is a perfect example.
Lawrence was arrested by the Roman Authorities convinced that he had great wealth. And he agreed that the Church had this wealth and that he (Lawrence) had access to it. When it was demanded of him he gave it over freely: the poor of the Church. The treasure of the Church is the people. Very often even the people fail to recognize this.
It’s not enough to engage in good works – for we must do them sacramentally. Further, for some of us, it’s never enough just to contemplate the beauty of the Lord unless we’re doing so in the active service of others. Jesus says we must serve and follow. Lawerence did both as a deacon is called to do. Friars, as well, do both.
Serving without faith is not enough: for no one is saved by works. But yet, faith without works is dead. If you’re following Jesus you’re serving.
God did not create money in his image. No work of art will ever enter the Kingdom of God. No Church building will be found in heaven. There is no Temple in the New Jerusalem: for the Lord God and the Lamb are, themselves, the Temple (Revelation 21:22).
Man is the image of God. In the Body of Messiah, man is the Temple here. Lawrence knew that the riches of the Church are the poor. When you see man rejected in the world, when you see humanity destroyed by the sins of life in this world, your heart should break. When drugs destroy the brain and sex addles the passions, when anger distorts the family, when greed corrupts the heart of a worker, we should be broken to see the Dwelling Place of God so desecrated.
Yet, by the same token, the Church is not a social services agency. It is not the Church’s place to fix the world. In fact, if the world could be fixed it wouldn’t need the Church: there are many agencies who would do it much better if it could be done. But every political movement has realized, eventually, that the world is broken. A friar, a deacon, any Christian does not move through the world trying to fix it, but rather to heal the human icons of God who struggle through this sinful world, to teach them to bear up manfully the cross they have and to live in love with their neighbors. The world is fixed from the inside.
For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own likings, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander into myths.
These are the readings for the Solemnity of Our Holy Father Dominic as assigned by the Order of Preachers in their liturgy. There’s another set of optional readings for the Memorial of St Dominic in the Roman Missal. In most places today’s readings will be those of the 19th Monday in the C2 cycle.
ST PAUL’s teaching to St Timothy could have been written yesterday. Hardly a day goes by on Catholic Social Mediae when some Self-Proclaimed Teacher doesn’t say something to lure the masses to their doom. That teacher could be trying to marshal up some anger in a political ploy or swirl a vortex of hate around the Pope. He could be offering some Option to escape all this or be offering some liberal mainline pablum to absolve everyone of sins that are politically incorrect to call out. Or any one of these could be unmasked as a hypocrite driving their own ambitions rather than the salvation of souls. Yet St Paul’s words prove this problem is 20 centuries long. More, scripture will show us the Church has been dealing with “prophets” like this all the way back to the Sons of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram. The Church is always splitting into Camps and there’s aways someone willing to listen.
At the time of St Dominic it was the Church’s pride that was causing the split. Another thing that might sound very modern: wealthy cleargy living immoral lives were causing a scandal and driving people out of the Ark of Salvation into the arms of heretics. Think of how many people left the Church over the sexual abuse scandal or Cardinal McCarrick. Think of those scandalaized by politicians not living the faith or those who use the Church as a way to curry votes.
Dominic knew the answer was to double-down on the orthodox faith and the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience. He knew that actually living the faith in its fullness was the only way to draw people back to the Church. To make the faith attractive one needed to live it – thereby proving it was livable – and to live it with joy.
The secret is in the Gospel reading today. In John 8:12 Jesus says he is the light of the world. However today, in Matthew 5:14, he says his followers – we- are the light of the world. These are not contradictory sentences for, in our baptism, we are members of him. As he is light of light, we are, if you will, light of light of light. We are sons of the Father in the Son of God. Our function is to be light here, wherever here happens to be. As lay folks we can be light in our jobs, in our families, in the subway, in the bodega, in the bars, at the disco, even in internet chat rooms. We are called to be the light. Dominic knew his sons and daughters, in order to be the light, would need to live the Gospel fully.
What would it take to be light where you are? How can the Gospel be lived more fully in your life? I don’t know these answers – only you do. In my own life it’sbeen a gradual awakening to the promptings of the Spirit. When I wrote – nearly 20 years ago now – “What if everything I think I know about myself is wrong?” I didn’t know what the answer would look like. It’s possible you don’t know either.
That night [The Passover] was known beforehand to our ancestors, so that, with sure knowledge of the oaths in which they put their faith, they might have courage.
IT’S INTERESTING TO READ THIS passage from Wisdom together with the call to faith (in Hebrews) and Our Lord’s command to “be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.” It’s the contrast that makes it interesting: the followers of the Son of Man do not know when he will return. But we must act anyway. None of the folks listed in the “By Faith” passage of Hebrews knew. But they were called to act anyway. “All these died in faith. They did not receive what had been promised but saw it and greeted it from afar.” The Israelites, however, before the Passover, were told to pick an unblemished lamb from their flocks on the tenth of the month and, four days later, their redemption would be accomplished. “It is the Lord’s Passover. For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the Lord.” (Exodus 12:11b-12). The Israelites, says Solomon in the book of Wisdom, were thus given courage. They could put their faith in this unseen promise of God.
Why does Holy Mother Church call this to our mind today – these unseen things together with this one seen thing?
Perhaps, in her wisdom, she knows that we grow weary in our watch. The first lesson calls us to see that Ancient Israel only needed to wait four days. The second lesson reminds us of all our forebears who died without ever receiving the promise and yet they went gladly forward in faith. Yet we can – from our vantage point – see that their faith was not in vain: for the promises made to them have been fulfilled in the Messiah.
So we, too, might be strengthened in our watch by being thus reminded and so encouraged in our life – and death – even if we do not see the promises made to us yet come to fulfillment.
When I was in High School there was a promise made by some radio preacher guy that Jesus was coming back in April of 1980. I thought my foster mother was a bit wonky for believing this guy (for no one knows the day or the hour) but the closer we got to the date in April of that year the more insistent she got that he was right. I was surprised to find how many of my fellow students also knew of this preacher guy. As much as the Teenage Me couldn’t be bothered to show an adult that I actually cared about such things, I let her hug me before I left for school that morning. She was convinced we’d be seeing Jesus before I got home.
I had a Math Test at about 3PM that day.
And just in the middle of the test.
A trumpet blew.
My breath caught.
A trumpet was sounding from rom a car in the parking lot.
My friend, Linda, and I looked at each other across our papers and then the moment passed. She silently shook and we finished the test.
I’ve often tried to imagine what it would be like to live in that tension every day. What would matter to me and what would not matter at all? My Foster Mother still made breakfast and coffee that Tuesday. She sent me to school with lunch money. The clothes were cleaned and supper was ready that night just as expected.
We see all the other promises of God fulfilled save this one. How can we manage not to live as if this may happen at any moment? How can we let ourselves fall into sin mindful that at any moment we could die and be called to judgement? How dare we turn the eyes of our soul from our internal contemplation of the Father for even a moment, knowing that that may be the moment of Parousia, and we will not be ready?
St John Chrysostom included in his Eucharistic Prayer (called the Anaphora) thanksgiving for “the cross, the tomb, the resurrection on the third day, the ascension into heaven, the sitting at the right hand of the Father, and the second and glorious coming again.” In the Eucharist, all of time collapses together from both ends of eternity to here. There is only one eternal Sacrifice offered by the Son to the Father. At every Mass, we stand in that one offering at the end of time before the Father where the Messiah is all in all and the Kingdom is handed over to the Father. It happens at every Mass so how much more should we not be ready always?
BY A STRANGE COINCIDENCE of calendars today’s Feast of the Transfiguration of our Lord (on the Gregorian Calendar) is falling on the Hebrew date of the Ninth Day of the month of Av. (This year, since the 9th is a Sabbath, the commemoration is moved to the 10th day of the month.) The 9th Day of the Month of Av is the date on which the Temple of Solomon was destroyed by the Bablonians. And it was the day on which the Romans destroyed the second temple. A number of other sad events are commemorated on this day, making it a day of fasting and mourning. Since mourning is forbidden on the Sabbath, this year’s “Ninth” is actually on the Tenth, as noted above. The coincidence of the 9th of Av and the 6th of August strikes me as one worthy of meditation for a number of reasons.
Today is the anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima, with the follow-up bombing of Nagasaki tomorrow. That’s a transfiguration and destruction of a sort engineered by man. I no longer believe the “number of lives saved vrs number of lives lost” arithmetic that is used to justify the bombings: we can never know what would have been. We can only know the evil that happened, among which was the raising of two whole generations in perpetual fear of nuclear war. That’s the power of the nuclear deterrent.
Another level of meditation is found in the time Jesus said “if you tear down the temple I will raise it up in three days.” As the Gospel adds, “he was speaking of the temple of his body” (John 2:21). Building on that level we are all part of the Body of Messiah (I Corinthians 12:27), each believer is a part of the Temple he raised up. And each one of us has a body that is the Temple of the Holy Spirit (I Corinthians 6:19).
There is a tradition in Judaism of reading a passage from Isaiah on this Shabbat (before the Fast) that describes what is called “The Third Temple”. This is interesting to me because some protestants view any “third temple” as an act prefiguring their literal reading of the Book of Revelation, so the Tish B’Av has in it some future apocalypse overlap as well. Although the major break between Jews who followed Yeshua and Jews who did not do so would not come until the 13os (when Bar Kochba was given Messianic titles) somehow the destruction of Jerusalem refocused the Church almost entirely on the Parousia: we have no earthly home anywhere.
There’s a mosaic in Ravenna, Italy. Floating over a grassy field filled with sheep, safely grazing, a cross is surrounded by a field of stars and radiant light. It’s indicated (pointed to) by radiant beings. There are trees. It’s beautiful and nothing like a Crucifix as we might see in a Church today. (When a Crucifix was first presented – in a Greek Church – the Latin Bishop thought it might be scandalous.) In the center of the cross there’s the Face of the Crucified, shining in glory. It is, as I mentioned yesterday, an image of the Cross as the glory of the Messiah.
Now, look again. On either side of the floating Cross are symbols of the Torah and the Prophets, Moses to the left and Elijah to the right. There are three sheep, Peter, James, and John. And a hand comes from heaven. This is the Transfiguration depicted as a Crucifixion.
The Apostles who had seen the Transfiguration ran away at the Crucifixion even though the latter was intended to be a comfort to them during the former. If he is God, as he is in the Transfiguration, then all things point to him even the darkest time of his Crucifixion. In fact, the latter, more than the former, is his glorification. Yet, they still ran away.
The meditation arises that things that are good might be seen as bad, and things that are bad might be seen as good. And, furthermore, what we think of as bad and good might not be, really, those things. God’s ways might be as far above us as we can imagine and then more.
Of course, none of this will apply next year, when the calendars do not overlap in the same way. (Next year the Fast is in July.) But this year, seeing Christ Glorified in the Darkness, we must ask:
When things get dark how can we refrain from running away before the light breaks through?
THERE IS A PHRASE in the Catechism that gets bandied about, that drives me bonkers. In the English there is a mistranslation. That seems important. Here’s the paragraph in Latin:
Gloria Dei est ut haec manifestatio et haec communicatio Suae bonitatis, propter quas mundus creatus est, in rem ducantur. « Praedestinavit nos in adoptionem filiorum per Iesum Christum in Ipsum, secundum beneplacitum voluntatis Suae in laudem gloriae gratiae Suae » (Eph 1,5-6). « Gloria enim Dei vivens homo, vita autem hominis visio Dei. Si enim quae est per condicionem ostensio Dei vitam praestat omnibus in terra viventibus, multo magis ea quae est per Verbum manifestatio Patris vitam praestat his qui vident Deum ». Finis ultimus creationis est ut Deus, « qui conditor est omnium, tandem fiat “omnia in omnibus” (1 Cor 15,28), gloriam Suam simul et beatitudinem nostram procurando ».
Right here: Gloria enim Dei vivens homo, vita autem hominis visio Dei. It’s a quote from St Irenaeus of Lyon. Even though I quote it in Latin, the Latin is only the Catechism: St Irenaeus wrote in Greek. I’m searching for – but cannot find – a copy of the Greek. I realize at the top of this post that all that follows may be overturned by one Greek quote with a reference link.
Anyway, in the official English translation, it gets rendered as the oft-quoted “the glory of God is man fully alive; moreover man’s life is the vision of God.” Please note there is no superlative in the Latin. Nor is there in any of the other European Languages:
French: Car la gloire de Dieu, c’est l’homme vivant, et la vie de l’homme, c’est la vision de Dieu. German: Denn Gottes Ruhm ist der lebendige Mensch; das Leben des Menschen aber ist die Anschauung Gottes. Italian: Infatti la gloria di Dio è l’uomo vivente e la vita dell’uomo è la visione di Dio. Spanish: Porque la gloria de Dios es que el hombre viva, y la vida del hombre es la visión de Dios. Portoguese: Porque a glória de Deus é o homem vivo, e a vida do homem é a visão de Deus.
Each of these translations says that the Glory of God is “the life of man” or “a living man”. But there is no superlative. No “fully alive” in any of these things.
The reason it makes me bonkers is that “fully alive” sounds so much like “follow your bliss” and in the hands of the nefarious it turns into permission to out, loud, and proud, and in the hands of the misled it becomes pablum.
Glory though… let’s look at glory. In Greek, the word “glory” usually means radiance and shining light. The word itself, “Doxa” comes from a root meaning to “appear” and it has more to do with the visual experience of something. The Glory of God, therefore, is a “bright shining light” and it’s something that can blind us or reflect on our faces (as with Moses).
In Hebrew, the word is “Kavod” and it has little to do with a shining light. It means “weight”. It’s something felt rather than seen. God’s presence is, as it were, pressing down on us from above. The head covering traditional for Jewish males can be seen as the hand of the Holy One pressing down.
This weight – this reality – is felt in the presence of the pillar of fire pressing down from heaven. Here is something more real than the reality we have or see. This reality is our life. Turn in contemplation: this glory is the life of man. To rest in this light, to rest under the intense weight of this Presence is to become real. To dodge it is to miss the mark, to fall into oblivion.
In Yeshua this reality becomes both present to us and one of us. The Glory of God, the weight, the more-real-than-any-of-us, the Existing One, the One-Who-is, the Alpha and Omega, the Aleph and the Tav, enters our world as one of us.
Jesus the God-man.
Although I don’t think the line from St Ignatius bears this weight fully, I have heard one Orthodox priest say that the proper translation is “The Glory of God is the life of a man” with the man in question being Jesus. I’m ok with that reading as long as it is not the only meaning. It leads us to where I want to go:
Jesus’ act of self-emptying led from the Trinity, to the silence of the Womb of the All-Holy Virgin. God unable to speak, the word of God with only a baby’s cries. God with dirty diapers. God with daily chores. God with acne. Deny yourself. God with favorite foods and, most likely, not favorite ones. (“Young man, eat your auntie’s sweet potato surprise, and don’t forget to say ‘todah’“). God with stage fright on the day of his Bar Mitzvah. God taking up his daily life daily.
Just as we are all called to do. God making a sacrament out of every action man can make. Taking out the garbage? God has done this. Dozing off. God’s been there. God is so in love with you that he has done this. The life of man. It is God’s glory.
But that is not all: for on the Cross he was lifted up – it called it his glorification. It is his throne. And so daily we must walk in the way Yeshua walked: because he, in his person, is God walking among us. As the Cross was the Glory of Messiah it must be our Glory as well. As the cross bore the weight of Messiah it must bear our weight as well.
DR FRANK PETERS (nee SJ) was one of my religion professors at NYU. He taught one of two required courses for religion majors (such as I was at the time). One course was called Hinduism, Buddhism, and Taoism, taught by Dr Jim Carse. Dr. Peters taught Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. He also wrote the textbook. (We didn’t have the book: we were his beta program.) One day in class we discussed the development of doctrine in Judaism through Rabbinic Debate. A student mentioned offhandedly on the way out of class that this process of development is how we get from “don’t boil a calf in its mother’s milk” (Exodus 23:19) to having different dishes for meat and dairy. The next class was an hour lecture on that exact evolution, prompted by the student’s comment. We traced how a very explicit command to not cook a very specific dish became an entire culture, along with the no-pork rule. Jesus could not have had a bacon cheeseburger, but a cheeseburger would have been fine at that time. It was an hour of Rabbinic jurisprudence placing “fences around the Torah” (chumrah) as the saying goes, then fences around the fences, and then fences around the fences around the fences, ad infinitem, until meat and dairy needed two dishes and, in some very wealthy homes, two kitchens (four, if you had different kitchens for Passover as well).
At the end of the hour of really enjoyable nerdery (at least for the student who asked the question) Dr Peters was asked directly, “Will this be on the final?” The answer was a guarded no (it was not on the final) but the method of research – and the method of chumrah – were both important to know.
It highlights, though, a Jewish way of reading the law. Let’s dig in.
The assumption in Rabbinic Judaism, at least since the time of the Exile, has been to avoid breaking the precepts of the law by adding defensive laws around the law. Thus, lest we accidentally cook a calf in its own mother’s milk, we shall outlaw cheeseburgers as well. If it is a sin to work on the Sabbath, let’s define exactly what is work and what is not work, and say that we must stop doing these things ten minutes before Sabbath begins and that we cannot do them at all until at least ten minutes after Sabbath ends. It’s important to note that, over time, violating even these fences around the Torah came to be seen as equal in magnitude to violating the Torah itself.
And, to be honest, many Christians read the law the same way. My current stress point is how many men wear baseball caps in Church. I don’t really care about women and head-coverings, but I was raised to take off my hat or cap when I pray, when in church, when the sacrament (or an icon) passes in an outdoor procession, when the flag passes in a parade, or when a political leader passes: the mayor, the president, etc. This is simple respect. Yet I know there are some cultures where the reverse is true: to present oneself without one’s head covered would be to claim authority. The US is not such a place. And I stress myself out wanting to run over with a ruler and swat them. Is the law not only to be obeyed but also to be protected by my actions? Should I work to pass civil laws to protect the Law of God from being violated?
This way of reading law, however, does not sound like what God promised Jeremiah. “I will put my law within them, and write it on their hearts.”
The question to ask is whether or not the “law in our hearts” is a duplication of the 613 laws of the Torah. Should I not be thankful that someone is in Church at all and not worry about their clothing?
That leads us to wonder, more directly, what the purpose of the Torah was. Is Torah a law code or something else? The word, “Torah”, means instruction. Is it there to teach us certain legal things or is there something else going on?
I have not worked all this out yet (the Church is still doing so, actually). So we need to open end this meditation off this springboard: IF the instruction was to draw everyone towards God in the death of Messiah, it’s not really a question of bacon cheeseburgers.
THIS PERICOPE always intrigues me: there’s no Canaan. There’s no province of Canaan, there’s no area of Jesus’ world with this name. How do we get a Canaanite Woman?
One possibility is that Matthew is wrong here. Many outside the Church (and some inside, tbh) would love for that to be the case. We could then just ignore things as we felt like it. See: this Gospel has errors. That’s not a path I want to take, but we should acknowledge this mention of an ahistorical “Canaanite” opens up that question.
Remembering that Matthew was writing his Gospel to a primarily Jewish community, then two other possibilities arise for our meditation.
The Church has had lots of chances to change something that was “wrong” in Matthew’s Text. Other Gospels refer to her as a “Syrophoenician Woman“. The Church has refused to harmonize this passage meaning that this is something we should consider as is, not “as an error”. I mentioned a few posts ago that the medical term for being uncircumcised was a slang term for Gentiles among some Jews with whom Paul was talking. Paul condescended to use the vulgar term to say circumcision does not matter anymore. Is it possible that, among the Jews to whom Matthew was writing, “Canaanite” was a slang term for Gentiles living in the geographical area of Israel? (Interestingly, it was also a term used for supporters of what we now call “Zionism” at the beginning of the 20th Century.) I’ve no way to check on that idea, but hold that in thought for a moment: I don’t want that to be the real meditation today, but it does add an interesting, spicy take to my point that follows:
Could Matthew have been making a point that Jesus came not just for Jews but for everyone? This was a point of contention in the earliest days of the Church, of course. Should Gentiles become Jews first before they can follow the Messiah? The Church’s answer was a profound no. It seems one way to read this passage is to see the Apostles (Jews) saying “send her away, she’s annoying”. Then Matthew’s text allows Jesus to show he is, at heart, a Dominican, by making a pun: “Canaanite” “dog”. Get it?
Jesus seemingly rebuffs her in order, the Fathers all agree in saying, to provoke the cry of faith from her: “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.” Her act of faith saved her and her daughter, as well as the Apostles and us.
That is the second point for meditation today: what seemingly negative things in your life are being allowed by God in order to provoke a cry of faith from you? I’m coughing from Covid right now. I can’t begin to understand how this thing has come to pass – not to me – but to all of us. What Was God doing in 2019 and 2020 when all this started? Among other things was he provoking a cry of faith from us?
Do you remember the Urbi & Orbi blessing that Pope Francis gave at the beginning of the Lockdowns? A blessing for the City and the World. I watched it live in my basement apartment, moved profoundly by the Holy Father’s act of Faith, giving the world a blessing as only the Vicar of Christ on Earth can do: leading the entire world in an act of spiritual warfare, a cry of faith. The entire world… we are never told what might have been if that action had not been taken. I believe profoundly that the world was changed that night and the plague was stopped. That was a miracle.
By an act of faith. But it was most important that it be done publically, out loud, as it were with all the police cars sounding their sirens as the Sacred Host was raised in blessing. The Holy Father’s act of faith saved all of us.
St Paul makes the point that all things work for the good of those who love the Lord. There is only one good: union with the Lord. So all things, accepted with the cry of faith, can draw us closer to God. The Canaanite woman shows how her faith grows: she goes from call out to Jesus from a distance to drawing close and worshipping him. Sometimes that thing that seems like a no from God can really be a yes if we but see the opening to ask correctly.
The third point for our meditation is why? What is the need for your cry of faith? Is it primarily for you or is it for others?
Why are you being provoked by something negative in your life to cry out in faith to God? You may never know. You may be a change needed in the whole world. You may be a story for future Christians to read. You may be the inspiration of others who are sick as well.
Someone on the Vatican Liturgical Commission, Probably
MY PARISH IS CELEBRATING the Solemnity of the Dedication of the Church this Sunday. It’s not the 18th Sunday for me. So, there.
As you know I like to look at the verses that were skipped and see if we can figure out why. In the first reading there was not really anything skipped: the missing verses get used elsewhere and Ecclesiastes 1:2 is being used as an introduction to the Very Goth verses from chapter 2. In the reading from Colossians, though, something was skipped. It might be read as if the missing verses, as a whole, probably made someone a bit squeamish.
Put to death, then, the parts of you that are earthly: immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and the greed that is idolatry. Because of these the wrath of God is coming. By these you too once conducted yourselves, when you lived in that way. But now you must put them all away: anger, fury, malice, slander, and obscene language out of your mouths.
There’s a double command to stop doing these things. And there’s a notice not only that you (the Colossians) once did those things… but also you “lived that way”. And there’s a list of the things. The NABRE renders the things (in verse 5) as “immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and the greed that is idolatry”. The Greek for the first one is “porneia” and it means exactly sexual immorality as you might expect. The words rendered as “impurity“, “passion“, as well as the phrase “evil desire” are also related to sexual lust. With these in mind, “conducted yourselves” and “lived that way” has a whole other meaning for our modern ears, I think. I’m sure this passage made someone a little jumpy.
While Sunday sermons are not that place for specific things like this, Sunday Blogposts are.
The verb in the phrase “lived that way” comes from the same root as “Zoe” which, in most of the NT, is used to refer to the Life that God shares with us. Normal, sinful man does not live a “zoe” but rather shares a “bios” with all living things and he tries to pretend it’s a Zoe. That’s why he eventually dies. Zoe, though – God’s life – is eternal. So, it’s interesting that Paul uses a word that sounds like divine life to indicate the life of sexual sins here. Some of us know from intimate experience how especially sexual sins can literally seem like life – and a very abundant life at that! Our entire Media industry seems devoted to celebrating this misunderstanding of sex. We use the media to deaden our reaction to sin, to hypnotize ourselves into thinking some part of this is normal, some part of this is “really living”. And if you go deep enough, you begin to excuse the other parts as well: I can’t say anything about them because I’m just as… what? Bad? No no no. We’re all equally good! Now we’re really living!
Paul says some of the folks in Colossae used to do all these things – but now, they no longer do. And he commends them to continue to “put off the old man with all his practices”. It was the old man that did these things. WE have moved beyond that now, and Christ is all in all. In other places he says it’s best to not even name those sins that people used to commit.
Our new self (in the Gender Inclusive style) or “the new man” as the Greek says, is Christ himself. I’ve been meditating on the Holy Name recently looking at the Hebrew. The name “yeshua” is the same word as salvation, “yeshua”. So, Jesus’ name is literally salvation. Salvation in Hebrew and in Greek implies being “made whole”. We’re made whole in working out our salvation. Jesus is the fullness of humanity and when we put on “the New Man” we become more than we were in terms of virtue and health, and less than we were in terms of sin and disorder. We find in Messiah our Zoe instead of our old, earthly way of living.
Yet this is not an all at once kind of thing. Only when Christ – our Life – appears, then we shall know ourselves fully. It’s a process. As the Didache says – “do what you can”. It’s a growth.
However it is a timely thing. Paul notes the “the wrath of God is coming.” And Jesus says this as well in his Parable of the Barns. We should not take the Didache’s advice to “do what you can” as permission to do nothing. We start where we are and then we grow into our full stature. Even that is in God’s time, not ours. The only call is to more forward, not to stagnate.