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

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.


200 Mysteries

JMJ

Rosary Sunday (Our Lady of Victory)

This is a special feast for the Dominicans: it even trumps Sunday. That said, I don’t know the readings for today. The Rosary is a compendium of the entire Gospel. In prayer it unites us with Christ, it unites us with his mother, the first of the Praying members of the Church. It unites the Church in petition to God the Father and it defeats the hosts of the heathen in our hearts, in our actions, in Lepanto, and anywhere else they may be.

The Mysteries of Joy

I. The Annunciation.

Hail Mary full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God…

  1. … betrothed of Joseph…
  2. … in the house of Nazareth…
  3. … greeted by the Archangel Gabriel…
  4. … pondering his words of greeting…
  5. … hearing that you might have a child…
  6. … asking how this shall be…
  7. … hearing the Holy Spirit will overshadow you…
  8. … hearing of your cousin Elizabeth…
  9. … consenting to cooperate in God’s plan…
  10. … conceiving God in your womb…
…pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of our death.

II The Visitation.

Hail Mary full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God…

  1. … leaving the house in Nazareth…
  2. … going into the hill country to visit your cousin…
  3. … greeted by Elizabeth…
  4. … pondering her words of greeting…
  5. … seeing she who was too old now great with child…
  6. … from whose womb God greeted his forerunner…
  7. … filled with the Holy Spirit…
  8. … moved to magnify God in song…
  9. … helping Elizabeth to bear her son John…
  10. … carrying God in your womb…
…pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of our death.

III The Nativity.

Hail Mary full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God…

  1. … leaving Nazareth with your betrothed…
  2. … traveling through the country to Bethlehem…
  3. … rejected by all in Bethlehem…
  4. … taking shelter in a cave with a manger…
  5. … whose birthgiving made a cave a shrine…
  6. … whose birthgiving made a trough a throne…
  7. … whose birthgiving was hymned by angels…
  8. … whose birthgiving was adored by shepherds…
  9. … whose birthgiving was worshiped by kings…
  10. … who bore for us God the word…
…pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of our death.

IV The Presentation.

Hail Mary full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God…

  1. … leaving Bethlehem with your child…
  2. … traveling to Jerusalem with your family…
  3. … the ark bringing God to his Temple…
  4. … obeying with God the covenant he made…
  5. … greeted by Simeon…
  6. … hearing your Son would be a sign of contradiction…
  7. … hearing your Son would cause the rise and fall of many in Israel…
  8. … hearing a sword would pierce your heart…
  9. … greeted by the Prophetess, Anna…
  10. … pondering all this in your heart…
…pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of our death.

V The Finding in the Temple.

Hail Mary full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God…

  1. … leaving Nazareth with your family…
  2. … traveling to Jerusalem to keep the Passover…
  3. … obeying with God the covenant he made…
  4. … leaving Jerusalem with your husband…
  5. … finding the Child Jesus is not with you…
  6. … searching for him everywhere…
  7. … finding him after three days…
  8. … asking him why he has treated you thus…
  9. … hearing he was about his Father’s business …
  10. … to whom God was subject as an obedient child…
…pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of our death.

The Mysteries of Light

VI. The Baptism.

Hail Mary full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus…

  1. … leaving home in Nazareth…
  2. … traveling to the trans-Jordan…
  3. … entering the water…
  4. … hearing John ask for baptism…
  5. … telling John “we must fulfill all righteousness”…
  6. … God, baptized by the servant he had made…
  7. … on whom the Holy Spirit descended like a dove…
  8. … of whom a voice from heaven said “this is my beloved son”…
  9. … whom John named the Lamb of God…
  10. … led of the Spirit into the Desert…
…Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of our death.

VII. The Wedding at Cana.

Hail Mary full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus…

  1. … Holy Mary, Mother of God, leaving home in Nazareth…
  2. … Holy Mary, Mother of God, invited to a wedding at Cana in Galilee…
  3. … Holy Mary, Mother of God, coming with your Son and his Disciples…
  4. … Holy Mary, Mother of God, concerned because your friends had run out of wine…
  5. … Holy Mary, Mother of God, telling Jesus…
  6. … Holy Mary, Mother of God, hearing your son ask what is this to us? …
  7. … Holy Mary, Mother of God saying “do what ever he tells you”…
  8. … telling the servants to fill jugs with water. Holy Mary, Mother of God…
  9. … changing the water into wine for the feast. Holy Mary, Mother of God…
  10. … the best wine, brought to Israel when all wine has run out. Holy Mary, Mother of God…
…pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of our death.

VIII. Preaching the Kingdom.

Hail Mary full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus…

  1. … proclaiming the Good News of the Kingdom of God…
  2. … feasting with sinners…
  3. … healing the sick…
  4. … casting out demons…
  5. … making the blind to see…
  6. … making the deaf to hear …
  7. … making the dumb to speak…
  8. … raising the dead…
  9. … forgiving sins…
  10. … restoring communion…
…Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of our death.

IX. The Transfiguration.

Hail Mary full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus…

  1. … calling to himself Peter, James, and John…
  2. … going to Mt Tabor in Galilee…
  3. … transfigured before them…
  4. … his face shining with light…
  5. … his clothes more white than any fuller could make…
  6. … speaking with Moses and Elijah …
  7. … whose apostles were terrified…
  8. … overshadowed by a cloud…
  9. … of whom a voice said, this is my beloved son, hear him…
  10. … telling Peter, James, and John not to say anything until after the Resurrection…
…Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of our death.

X. The Eucharist.

Hail Mary full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus…

  1. … going to Jerusalem for the Passover…
  2. … sending his disciples ahead to prepare a place…
  3. … coming to the upper room…
  4. … washing the feet of his apostles…
  5. … taking bread, blessing, and breaking it…
  6. … giving his body to his disciples and through them to us…
  7. … taking the cup and blessing it…
  8. … giving his blood to his disciples and through them to us…
  9. … commanding us to do this in memory of him…
  10. … sending Judas out into the night…
…Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of our death.

The Mysteries of Sorrow

XI. The Garden.

Hail Mary full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus…

  1. … coming to a garden with his disciples…
  2. … calling Peter, James, and John to come with him further in…
  3. … withdrawing a bit from them to pray…
  4. … finding them asleep and gently rebuking them…
  5. … begging that this cup might pass from him…
  6. … finding them asleep and gently rebuking them…
  7. … sweating blood…
  8. … praying not my will, Father, but thine…
  9. … waking his disciples…
  10. … betrayed by a kiss from Judas and arrested…
…Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of our death.

XII. The Pillory.

Hail Mary full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus…

  1. … tried by Pilate and sentenced to scourging…
  2. … led away by soldiers…
  3. … stripped of all his garments…
  4. … bound to the pillar…
  5. … lashed with leaded whips…
  6. … lashed with leaded whips until he was ripped open…
  7. … lashed with leaded whips until he was ripped open and the blood freely flowed…
  8. … wounded on all parts of his flesh…
  9. … cut down from the pillar…
  10. … collapsing wounded onto the dirt…
…Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of our death.

XIII. The Crowning.

Hail Mary full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus…

  1. … passed out on the ground…
  2. … kicked by soldiers…
  3. … slapped by soldiers…
  4. … spit upon by soldiers…
  5. … dressed by soldiers in a purple robe…
  6. … crowned with a plaited, thorny crown…
  7. … mockingly hailed as King of the Jews by soldiers…
  8. … returned to Pilate…
  9. … whom Pilate condemned to death at the request of the mob…
  10. … whom condemning, Pilate released Barabbas…
…Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of our death.

XIV. The Carrying.

Hail Mary full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus…

  1. … Given his cross to bear…
  2. … falling to the ground…
  3. … carrying his cross…
  4. … consoling the women of Jerusalem…
  5. … falling to the ground…
  6. … whose face was wiped by Veronica…
  7. … whose cross was shared by Simon…
  8. … greeting you, his mother…
  9. … falling a final time…
  10. … coming to the hill of Golgatha…
…Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of our death.

XV. The Cross.

Hail Mary full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus…

  1. … arriving at Calvary…
  2. … stripped of his garments, ripping open his wounds…
  3. … stretched onto the hard wood of the Cross…
  4. … his hands and feet were pierced…
  5. … whose cross was raised…
  6. … mocked by one thief, hailed by the other…
  7. … seeing you and his beloved friend…
  8. … commending you to his disciple and all of us to you as our mother…
  9. … who cried out, “It is finished”…
  10. … who died upon the cross…
…Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of our death.

The Mysteries of Glory

XVI. The Resurrection.

Hail Mary full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus…

  1. … trampling down death by death…
  2. … harrowing hell, raising our first parents together with all the righteous…
  3. … greeting Joseph in Hades and taking him to Heaven…
  4. … greeting the women in the garden…
  5. … greeting Mary Magdalene in peace…
  6. … greeting you in love and joy…
  7. … greeting Peter in forgiveness…
  8. … greeting the Disciples in teaching and the breaking of bread…
  9. … greeting the Apostles in surprise…
  10. … greeting Thomas in truth…
…Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of our death.

XVII. The Ascension.

Hail Mary full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus…

  1. … calling his Disciples to Galilee…
  2. … worshiped by his Disciples even though some doubted…
  3. … to whom all power in heaven and on earth has been given…
  4. … sending his Apostles out into all the world…
  5. … sending his Apostles out into all the world to preach the Gospel…
  6. … sending his Apostles out into all the world to baptize all nations…
  7. … sending his Apostles out into all the world to make disciples of all…
  8. … promising to be with us until the end of all ages…
  9. … ascending to heaven to sit at the Father’s right…
  10. … who will return in the same way to us…
…Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of our death.

XVIII. The Descent of the Holy Spirit.

Hail Mary full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus…

  1. … commanding all his people to gather in prayer…
  2. … present whenever two are three are gathered in his name…
  3. … sending to his Church the Holy Spirit…
  4. … sending to his Church the Holy Spirit from the bosom of the Father…
  5. … sending to his Church the Holy Spirit resting in him…
  6. … sending to his Church the Holy Spirit in tongues of fire…
  7. … sending to his Church the Holy Spirit with the power of speech…
  8. … sending to his Church the Holy Spirit uniting all tongues divided at Babel…
  9. … sending to his Church the Holy Spirit to fill us with Life…
  10. … sending to his Church the Holy Spirit uniting us as his Body in the world…
…Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of our death.

XIX. The Death of Mary.

Hail Mary full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God…

  1. … coming to the end to your life…
  2. … asking to be buried in Gethsemane…
  3. … asking your Son to bring the Disciples, your sons, to you…
  4. … receiving ten Apostles in joy…
  5. … parting to your Son…
  6. … leaving the Church in sadness…
  7. … born to your tomb in Gethsemane…
  8. … whom Thomas, arriving late, begged to see one last time…
  9. … when they opened the tomb you were gone, leaving only roses…
  10. … sitting at the right hand of your Son, full of grace in body and soul…
…pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of our death.

XX. The Coronation of Mary.

Hail Mary full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God…

  1. … Queen of Angels…
  2. … Queen of Patriarchs…
  3. … Queen of Prophets…
  4. … Queen of Apostles…
  5. … Queen of Martyrs…
  6. … Queen of Confessors…
  7. … Queen of Virgins…
  8. … Queen of All the Saints…
  9. … Queen of the Family…
  10. … Queen of Peace…
…pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of our death.

Fisking St James

JMJ

The Readings for the 26th Sunday of Ordinary Time (B2)


Come now, you rich, weep and wail over your impending miseries.

Remember that we – in the USA – are the rich. Doesn’t matter how much you earn, doesn’t matter how much you make or how many kids you have. Married? Single? On Welfare? If you’re reading this over the internet you have more money than huge swathes of the world. 

Your wealth has rotted away, your clothes have become moth-eaten, your gold and silver have corroded,

Yet, you know it’s worthless. You know it has no power to buy happiness, no power to buy love. You know it can facsimilate both. And you’re probably ok, at least sometimes, with the imitations. They are not so expensive as to be prohibitive.

and that corrosion will be a testimony against you;
it will devour your flesh like a fire.

You may know – and not care – or you may not know: they are killing your soul. Each indulgence in those facsimiles preps you for hell. We have only two choices in this world: practice for living in heaven or practice for living in hell.

You have stored up treasure for the last days.

Which will it be? Heavenly treasure or hellish? You may enjoy either – but it will be in the same place, for you will be in the eternal presence of God.  God is a consuming fire: will it mean that you are holy fire yourself or will you be consumed?

Behold, the wages you withheld from the workers

In Apple’s factories, in the restraunts where you did not tip, in the clothing factoris that filled up WalMart and JC Penny’s, in the factories you closed, the Casinos you shut down, the neighborhoods you gentrified shoving out the poor… 

who harvested your fields are crying aloud;
and the cries of the harvesters
have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts.

In your fields now your food lies rotting because you refused to pays the laborers their due, and now have shut the gates against even the poor whose money you stole. You are surrounded now by the very rot of your wealth.

You have lived on earth in luxury and pleasure;

Yet you did not pay full price. The dirt and pollution of your glut you left for others to clean, your landfills hide your superfluity of filth, your streets are filled with your squalor.

you have fattened your hearts for the day of slaughter.

And when the revolution comes you wil be too fat to run.

You have condemned;
you have murdered the righteous one;

he offers you no resistance.

For he dies in the womb so that you can have a “rich and full life”. 

The Lord will uphold my Life.

JMJ

The Readings for the 25th Sunday of Ordinary Time (B2)

Videamus ergo si sermones illius veri sint, et tentemus quae ventura sunt illi, et sciemus quae erunt novissima illius. Si enim est verus filius Dei, suscipiet illum, et liberabit eum de manibus contrariorum… Erit enim ei respectus ex sermonibus illius.

Let us see if his words are true, and let us test what will happen at the end of his life; for if the righteous man is God’s son, he will help him, and will deliver him from the hand of his adversaries… According to what he says, he will be protected.


You want to see something funny? In 1970 when the Russian Communists wanted allies in the USA, they made the Russian Orthodox Church give what’s called “Autocephaly” or Self-governance to the Orthodox Church in America. This instantly created a weak, but real money funnel to the USSR via the Church. There were spies (US and USSR) on all sides. It was a fun political move that had nothing to do with the maturity of the American Church and for the longest time it even caused a rupture of governance: for many of the other self-governing Orthodox Churches refused to recognize the action that Moscow had done without talking to anyone (save the Soviets). Last I paid any attention the Patriarch of Constantinople still doesn’t officially recognize it.

Now the Moscow Patriarchate, using the same ploys under Putin, is mucking about in the Orthodox Church in the Ukraine and Constantinople wants to give Autocephaly to the Church there to protect it from Russia. Russia sees this as against her political goals (of slowly invading the Ukraine by attrition) and so the Russian Church is threatening to break off communion with anyone who dares contravene them in this dispute. Pot, this is the Kettle. You’re black.

Meanwhile… the Catholic Church is having a scandal of global proportions over gay sex happening in seminaries and clergy molesting folks of all ages. Some folks are accusing Francis of participating in the cover-up, which I can see. But some huge portion of this scandal’s rooted strength is part of Christians forgetting what “upholds my life” means. We started to think it meant cultural relevancy. We started to think it means communion for the divorced and remarried, for blessing gay couples, for allowing birth control when it was “my conscience” leading me. We started to think it means blending in to the culture instead of standing out. We’ve even convinced ourselves that “Standing out” is just some sort of prideful, Pharisaical anti-Christian action. Don’t judge me.

Both lungs of the Church are breathing the same bad air. It’s amusing to hear Istanbul and Moscow accuse each other of trying to be “pope” whilst Rome has the most un-papal Pope in recent memory. Yes, the Pope rules a small city state, and yes the Patriarch of Constantinople runs a smaller one, but still, it is one. Meanwhile the Patriarch of Moscow runs the liturgical ministry of Putin’s government. In America, a la carte, most of us just make up our own as we go – and both sides of the Political Spectrum are trying to subvert as many churches as possible into being the American form of Putin’s Commissars. Omnes Habent Papae.

Jesus turns to us and says “What were you arguing about on the way?”

There is this sense, I think – not only among Non-Christians, but also among a certain subset of Christians – that the Christian life is supposed to be a good and blessed life. There’s the prosperity folks, of course. There’s the “God has a plan for your life” people. There are the Calvinists – who taught us that if God is blessing you (with the goods of this world) then you’re among the righteous. This led, quickly to nearly everyonedeciding to work hard so that they would have the goods of this world and, therefore, be evidently righteous in God’s sight. These all gave rise to the non-Christian folks who believe this is what Christianity is about. They ask (rightly, by this theology) why is it that there are so many poor folks? Why is it that evil exists? Why is it that believers fall under the evident curses of the modern age, War, STDs, and the Internet, just as easily as anyone else? Also those who clearly believe this lie are the statisticians who set out to discover if either religious people are happier than others or if they are unhappier. Equally believing this are those who cite those studies as backing them up as either believers or non-believers.

To this the orthodox Christian has to reply, “Blessing, Schmessing. God said I’d end up dead just like him.”

The Apostles themselves fell for this prosperity-power stuff: that’s why they were arguing on the Road. They thought “Whoa, if Jesus is King, who do I get to be?” I think I’ve even heard preachers say this today: You’re a prince or princess, live like it!

We have our ideas of success and we want to live up to them. It’s no wonder that’s what folks think the Gospel really is.

The Lord will uphold my life (as the Psalm for today teaches). He will uphold my cause. He will defend me from the ungodly who seek my life. But my success is not God’s purpose. God’s purpose is my salvation – my wholeness in his own divine life, Zoe; not my adherence to the standards of success or prosperity or even secular ideas of legality and justice. My only telos or purpose is my living with God for eternity and my living with you in love, here and now; the operative part being In Love. God is love. If I can learn to love you now, to love others, to love all… then when the eternal fires of God’s very being encompass me I’ll be fine.

When I say, The Lord upholds my life, you might think I mean “I’ll get what’s due me”. And you might want to sit back and see if I get rich as Croesus, or powerful as Putin. Will I no longer be tortured by the law or oppressed by haters? Nope… The Lord upholds my life means my life becomes one with his. In fact, if those things happen to me (wealth, power, or having my head cut off) that’s God saving me. That’s what it means to “uphold my life”: to take even the means of torture and failure (in the eyes of the world) and turn them into the gate of heaven.

The Lord upholds my life means that even if I do follow him, I can still make bad choices, bad business decisions, bad relationship choices. I can still be killed, tortured, nailed to a stick and left to die in the sun, shoved in a borrowed tomb and prevented from even defending myself. But that’s God saving me.

More importantly, the folks who “hate my life” who are the “ungodly” are not other Earthlings: for God wants to save them too – as do I. The only enemy I have are the demons. When a human attacks my faith, or undermines my position; when I or others sin and detract from the faith, regardless of any human culpability, the actors are the demons who seek to destroy everything God has made. Man is foremost on that list: if we can forget love for a few moments and kill each other over some political squabble, the demons have won.

The bad air in the Church’s lungs, east and west, is demon-scented. It’s filled with notes of pride, and mammon-power. It’s wafted with compromise and temptation. It all comes from hell. It’s only the skillful application of filters that keep us from smelling the sulfur. We take each other to court, break off communion, lead each other into sin; we deck our halls with balls of folly and hate each other for naming them so. Keep the Christians at each other’s throats. The demons have done their work well.

We must turn to each other in Love.
We must be little children – of no account, no power, seen and not heard.
Then we must draw each other into that Fire that is God’s purpose for us.

If we do not do it, he will do it for us. He will turn this Church right around and take us home. That’ won’t be pretty. It will hurt. But we will deserve it.

So Very Much Love

JMJ

The Readings for the Memorial of Sts Andrew Kim Tae-gon,
& Paul Chong Ha-sang, and Companions, Martyrs

Thursday in the 24th Week of Ordinary Time (B2)

Remittuntur ei peccata multa, quoniam dilexit multum. Cui autem minus dimittitur, minus diligit.
Many sins are forgiven her, because she hath loved much. But to whom less is forgiven, he loveth less. 

It took me years, decades to realize what he said to me. I mean “your sins are forgiven” is clear. But what did I know? I’ve been finding them at ever turn lately. Deeper and deeper. When he said I had loved much, I thought he was laughing at me. For I have. I was not running away from my sins… they were still in my pockets that night at his feet. What sins I had done? I was just living a fun life. There was the long sexual history, of course, but that turned quickly into a pharisaical judgement of folks who didn’t have that history. There was the condemnation of all my sexual partners, the instant feeling of superiority, and the realization that I could always just go to confession. And I knew what it was all about. But I needed to condemn and forgive myself as well.

Sure, I had dissed my parents to pull this off, but it was so important when I did it, right? They were oppressing me into their cultural models of virtue and binding me to the slavery of the middle class. Of course I got out of that house and blew off the family as quick as I could! It has taken most of the last three decades to make up for that. Forgiveness is nothing without healing. “Saved” is the same Greek word as “made whole” and damn it all but I realized I needed my family to be whole. Still, for the longest time, even after he touched me, I didn’t care about them. They were always trying to hold me back. And now I had found the real liberation. This Jesus was the freedom I had always craved. Goodbye, Pops.

Then, later, when I realized what my history had done to me, I struggled to reconcile who I was becoming with who I had been. This guy had reached in and broken all my crutches. But I had used them for so long, that I was literally limping. I would wake up and cry out, How can he do that to someone? Take away all that’s ever been important and leave them alone? And I was not alone because he was still, right there: his hand on my head, my tears falling. My hands holding. My lips kissing.

I still needed so much to wash his feet and to know this wasn’t another hallucination, another lover that took what he wanted and left.

And I found his feet everywhere I looked. And found myself washing them and kissing them over and over. And I realized these were men I had used to get away, to free myself. Sure, I took their money, but sometimes I didn’t cuz it was fun. I had made them all into idols and toys… to fill the broken, empty place where Jesus should be. Idols of lust. Idols of liberation. Idols of personal satisfaction. Idols of gosh this is fun tonight. And each man failed to be that replacement for the one thing needed. Each man fell short, and I had to replace him too. There are no Alphas anywhere. Now that Jesus was here where he belonged I could even love these men, even pray for them, beg God to show them some part of wholeness; some path to wholeness. It took forever for that to dawn on me: restored relationships means even restoring these that had been my destruction. God’s restoration, his love acting through my love, means healing even these broken lives and hearts.

When it all crashes down, when you hit rock bottom, sure, it’s easy to see what good a love like Jesus’ can do for you. But when you’re not at rock bottom, when you’re only aware that something, somewhere, has gone horribly wrong… Love like Jesus offers is only the beginning of a long, slow, climb up. Yes, there glimpses of glory and flashes of light, but mostly, it’s just a trudge up out of the pit I dug for myself. Jesus is here walking with me, but I have to walk. It’s no less deep because I didn’t hit the extremity. 

In the latter times, I felt a call unexpected. Could I just, a little, find something good in the past and bring it with me? And that painful last grip of darkness still clings to me. Can I not just maybe find someone that I can take comfort in (read “use” and “self gratify”). I have loved much, and I have also lost much.

I can be forgiven all of it. But I have to let it all go.

And there’s this long, slow trudge, still: where nearly everyone needs my forgiveness and where, I need theirs. And I have to be loving: because what the kids call “slut shaming” is a real thing. We don’t shame folks out of their sins. We love them. For most of them, it was a loss of love or a quest for love, or a demand for love on “my own terms”, that took them there in the first place. Only Jesus can be that love. And your heart has to open, has to draw them forward, has to let Jesus love them through you.

When he said I had loved much, I thought he was laughing at me. For I had. But decades later, I saw what he saw: I was not running away from my sins… they were still in my pockets that night at his feet. I was running to him. I had heard that this man – above all other men – was capable of being Love so I had to run and give him a chance. I never expected forgiveness. What did I need forgiving for? I was in a place I had chosen. But this love that he saw… that he knew inside his own child. This love that his love awoke in everyone who reached out to him.

This love is still becoming the meaning of my life. I’m still letting it unfold and finding new ways of kissing his feet.

Thoughts and Prayers

+JMJ+

The Readings for the 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time (B2)


Vade retro me Satana, quoniam non sapis quae Dei sunt, sed quae sunt hominum.
Get behind me Satan, you’re not thinking as God does, but as men do.


At vigil Mass on Saturday night I had the second reading: that passage from St James. Well practiced and ready to proclaim. I think I did good. 


But I sat down having heard it come out of my own mouth.  And I finally heard what James was saying.  We hear it as an accusation today because we don’t feed the homeless and we are, exactly, inclined to say “sorry, no change but here’s my thoughts and prayers.” James was talking to a church that cared for the poor, that fed the hungry. James’ church was known for her charity. James was speaking in hyperbole to a church that would never leave a homeless person hungry on the street. He was saying… look, Faith without works? You might as well say “Sorry, no change, but here’s my thoughts and prayers…”

I can almost imagine the Christians laughing. 

Who would do such a thing?
James was saying, “look you would never do this… so why on earth would you think that believing was enough?”

Their children. That’s who would do this… we would do this. We make a mental masturbation out of the faith when we confess doctrines that have no power. When we can claim to follow Jesus but still give in to our sexual whims or anti-Christian ideas adopted from the cultures around us. When we say the things of Jesus, but do the things of the world we scribble on the toe tag of the faith.


Jesus says “take up your cross”.

The last thing any of us want to do.

Do something, damn it.
Peter says “Don’t do that.”
Jesus you have to do something.
Peter says,”You do enough already… and if they kill you, what will they do to us?”
Jesus says, “You’re Satan”.
The vocations director says “Discernment is an Action Verb”.
My spiritual director says, “You’re a writer? What are you going to do about it?”
My diet doesn’t run itself.
But my inner demon says, just sit here. Stop. You’ll be fine.
It’s not enough to want to be chaste.
You have to do it.
You can’t just believe in the virtues.
You have to acquire them.
Read your office.
Pray hard.
Now get up, get out, and do.
No pain
No gain.
And lots of Satan.


Jesus says “Take up your cross” most of us tend to simply want to wear it like a fashion item.
Jesus say “Sacrifice everything” and most of us think of  football and sneakers.

Our ancestors look at us fighting over sex and money scandals.
They see us in a continual, long, defeatist action of compromise.

Half the Church feeds the homeless but has no sexual morals. All this “pharisee” talk is distracting us from climate issues.
The other doesn’t give two flies about the homeless but can’t wait to purge the liberals out. 
Where’s the church that loves the poor and calls the sinner to repent? Where’s the church that preaches the holy mysteries of the Gospel and calls all the world into 

Where’s the church of faith and works?

Thoughts. And prayers. And Works.

Where’s the church that calls us to charitable actions of repentance and reparation? Where’s the prayer that leads to action? Where’s the weights to be lifted by hands energized (or wearied) by too much prayer?

Jesus, raise us from the dead.

Idols of the Post-Moderns

JMJ

The Readings for Our Lady of Sorrows
Saturday in the 23rd Week of Ordinary Time (B2)

Sed quae immolant gentes, daemoniis immolant, et non Deo. Nolo autem vos socios fieri daemoniorum : non potestis calicem Domini bibere, et calicem daemoniorum; non potestis mensae Domini participes esse, et mensae daemoniorum.
But the things which the heathens sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God. And I would not that you should be made partakers with devils. You cannot drink the chalice of the Lord, and the chalice of devils: you cannot be partakers of the table of the Lord, and of the table of devils. 

The image above is from the cover of one of my favourite political books, the T.A.Z. or Temporary Autonomous Zone. For a while in the early 90s, I could practically recite the thing. It seemed the perfect image to head up this post.

Paul can be of two minds about the pagan deities in the cultures he visits. On the one hand, there is no such thing as “Hermes” or “Magna Mater”, so the idol is nothing. It’s unimportant. We should pay it no mind at all. On the other hand, the “energies” or “things” that draw humanity to worship idols, that foment fear and superstition in men’s minds: these are demons. So, on the one hand, we know that food offered to idols is – literally – food held up in front of a bit of wood or waved under some metal. Might as well be cooked over wood or in a metal pot for all the “juju” that’s in the idol. But on the other hand there are demons involved in the delusion. 

Paul tells us that if you find something in the market, go for it. But if someone tells you that it was sacrificed to idols, then you shouldn’t eat it. The issue is that there’s no “demonic activity” in the meat. But there are demons tempting others – and you – and even accidental visual collusion is still collusion with the demons.

We don’t have a lot of metal or wooden idols in our world any more. So where do we find the demons lurking? 

In Ephesians we find Paul telling us we “wrestle not with flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” We’ve made our own idols I think. License and selfish desire, concupiscent ideologies, and false spiritualities all lead us astray. I think it would be easy to make an idol out of some adult entertainment stars, but we’re never that poetic. And demons hate actual art. We’d rather make an idol out of a flag, a football team, or an addiction. For St Paul all the idols of Crete or the Areopagus were also centers of cults: communities of folks. But for us, with our isolation, our internet, our buffering, and introversion, we find that our cultus has room for only one or two.

As with the idols St Paul knew, the thing, itself, is nothing. Drugs, Apple Pie, Chevy Trucks, Hell’s Angels, Cats…  The thing, itself, is nothing. But the energies that draw us and hold us to the thing, the desire to craft identities around it (instead of our God-given identity in Christ) that’s the “powers and principalities” that we’re fighting against. These rulers of darkness draw us into their orbits and force us into isolation, away from each other, away from people who worship differently. Today we’ve even developed drugs so that we can listen more carefully to our preferred voices, shutting out all else. When these demons get their hooks into us it can take decades before healing can begin.

This, then, is the cost of this much more subtle, more more personalized content that’s passing for idolatry today. Against this Jesus stands as a “sign of contradiction”. Jesus is not about “me” but about “us”. Jesus calls us out of our isolation into communion, out of our pallid humanist ideas of “equality” and into constantly kenotic communities. The weaker leads, the stronger serves, the wiser learns at the feet of the fool. God is love: a fiery all-consuming, all-engaging, all-dancing act of self-giving. And we need to be that as well or we’re nothing at all like God. The demons hate this.

The image above, as I noted, is from the cover of one of my favourite political books, the T.A.Z. or Temporary Autonomous Zone. It seemed the perfect image to head up this post as it is clearly of an idol that was constructed by an artist. It’s a sort of thing the occult community used to call “Chaos Magic”. It means nothing to anyone save the artist that made it. But for the rest of us it is beautiful, maybe. Tonight, as I was typing the final lines of this post… I took off my contacts and sat back down to the computer. Only then did I see the demons in the image. I’ve had this image in my possession for nearly 30 years only now, liberated from the book and propped up on my blogpost did I see them. 

We do not share our demonic communions with anyone at all anymore. Except the demons.  And they like it like that. Divide and conquer. 

The Courthouse at Apophatics.

JMJ

The Readings for the Memorial of St John Chrysostom
Thursday in the 23rd Week of Ordinary Time (B2)

Si quis autem se existimat scire aliquid, nondum cognovit quemadmodum oporteat eum scire.
If any one imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. 

There is a strong tradition of negation in Christian theology: of things we cannot know. We travel down this path quietly, patiently, humbly. The first step is abandoning childish ideas of God – Santa Claus, Magic Maker, Karmic Thunder Clap. We have to mourn the passing of these false gods. And then we let others die as well, the divine Therapist, the Matchmaker, the Life Pattern Writer. We give up each of these false gods for the purpose of knowing God as he has revealed himself.

But there are Johnny Rebs of this process too: they want to jettison everything, even the things God has revealed about himself. They want to strike out on their own and they insist that nothing can be known.

Imagine if you introduced yourself to me and I insisted that, even so, I cannot know your name because I cannot trust my knowledge. Or maybe you’ve told me your name, and I insist that I’ve discovered your name is actually something else because I sat alone in silence looking off into space and heard a voice saying, “The reader’s name is Zaphod.” So when you said, “Hi, I’m Samantha!” My response was “I can’t grasp knowledge about you at all, but I’ve understood your name is actually Zaphod.” Perhaps you introduce me to members of your family who back up your ludicrous claim of being named “Samantha”.  And I point out to them that their life-long association with you does not undo the need for humility and submission to the Unknowable, whose name is actually Zaphod. 

There is a strong tradition of negation in Christian theology. In fact, to claim that I know anything at all about God is silly. God as the very Is of being, the act of essence, the totality of real, the negation of unreality, the loss of nothing… is all beyond my comprehension (even though I have good, poetical mystic words to use).  I have words, but I can’t know it.

But to say God can’t reveal things about himself, to say that God can’t interact with us in any way, shape, or form is to deny the Incarnation. Even the most apophatic of Byzantine mystics will tell us that God is in relationship with us, that in his energies, he is knowable. I might actually go further, but the Neo-apophatics, these folks would deny the very existence of God as “unknowable.”

This is the state of most liberal Christian theology today: this trying to call Samantha Zaphod. My experience in the Episcopal Church and among liberal Orthodox and Catholic folks is that this tradition of negation is used, most often, to make room for heresy. “My personal point of view is just another Christian point of view because God is unknowable.” You can’t tell me I’m wrong: God can’t be known. James Martin is no different from Katharine Jefferts Schori or, at least recently, in terms of sexuality, Kalistos Ware. Free for all… 

St Paul has a whole other point for this: we can know nothing therefor we should be as conservative and careful as possible. Paul is quite sure there is no such thing as “Zeus” or “Hecate” and that eating meat from their temples (which is free…) is a good way to get a good meal. But someone might see him being “free in Christ” and be scandalized. So he will give up meat. Forever.

But it doesn’t mean he will let Christ be worshiped alongside Zeus because, “hey, we can’t know, right?” Paul’s quite clear about God’s revelation to the Church. Faith is not the same as Knowledge. Faith, rather, is the submission of my experience to the Church’s corrective teaching. If I’ve experienced God in a field of dandelions, that is good. But if I insist, then, that God is a dandelion, or this field of dandelions, or that God lives in this field in a sacramental, focused way. The Church is going to step in and say “No” to that. Faith is accepting that the Church’s position is an important, corrective part in this equation. The Church is the control group in my religious exploration.

God says, in the Psalms, “Be still and know that I am God.” The Hebrew word there is to “know in the Biblical Sense” as they used to say. It’s the same word for the sexual intimacy between man and wife. But also between Eve and the Apple. With God – as with Good and Evil – the experience is the knowledge. We can know something in book learning. We can stalk someone on the internet and think we know them. But we won’t know them until we are face to face.

When I surrender, when I stop rebelling and return to the divine union of God and Man that is the Church, when I give up my slavery to my own reasoning, then I can actually know – by revelation – what cannot be known by searching. When I come before God not in Questing Mode, but rather in Adoration Mode – adore from the Latin, “Ad – Ora” or mouth-to-mouth/face-to-face – then I can know God and be known by him, as two lovers to each other.





Wei Wu Wei

JMJ

The Readings for Wednesday in the 23rd Week of Ordinary Time (B2)

Et qui utuntur hoc mundo, tamquam non utantur : praeterit enim figura hujus mundi. 
And they that use this world, as if they used it not: for the fashion of this world passeth away. 

The Greek in these verses is interesting and a lot of English translators (and St Jerome, as well) build it in parallels:


Those married as not married

Those weeping as not weeping
Etc

The same verb is used in the positive and negative form. It’s nearly like Lao Tzu’s “Do Not-Doing”. Cry not-Crying, Rejoice not-Rejoicing. Own not-Owning… So they get to Verse 31 and keep the parallel going: use not-using. Except that’s not in the Greek. Unlike the earlier verbs the writer doesn’t just say something and not-something but rather χρώμενοι xromenoi and καταχρώμενοι kataxromenoi where kata adds the meanings to over-use, to use fully, to use up. The Greek says “Use the Kosmos without using-up the Kosmos” or even use without abusing the Kosmos.

There is a difference between using the good things of this world and abusing them, between blessing God for a good vintage of wine and getting blotto. There are intended uses (the telos) of God’s blessings and then there is abuse of them. CS Lewis covers this in Perelandra. There are fruit so good, so refreshing that one is filling, but a second – when it’s not meal time, nor otherwise needed – would be sinful, an act of gluttony. Food is like that on earth. Sex is like that: for God gave it to us for a purpose and we’ve discovered myriad ways to over use or abuse it. Earlier in Chapter 6, Paul gave us a list of people who kataxromenoi everything to the point of becoming their overuse for Paul uses the verbs as nouns. He adds, “They will not inherit the kingdom of God”.


That’s what it means to kataxromenoi: to use up something so much as to become identified with the using of the thing. 

It is to be noted that “Kosmos” does not mean “the planet, the orbiting stars” etc. It can mean that, sure, but it means “the system”, or, literally, the arrangement. The ordered harmony of the stars but also the system of Empire, the way the world is governed. We’re not to do that: think of people who say “American then Catholic”, or who break it down even further and say “Kennedy Catholic” or some other political styling; anyone who hyphenates. When we let the worldly system define our faith, we’ve drifted into καταχρώμενοι and away from the faith that is described as “Catholic” that is, whole. 

The Catholic faith is her own Kosmos, or rather she is the breaking-in of a new Kosmos on this one. The form of this Kosmos is passing away… as the new one, the Kingdom of God, breaks in. We can use even the political system of this world as long as we don’t become hacks in it. We can enjoy the food as long as we don’t become gluttons, we can have sex adhering to the divine plan. We are to be the advanced, covert (yet somewhat overt) force of an invading army.  We are the spies with Joshua in the Promised Land. We are, as Lewis notes, in occupied territory. We can’t be going native.