It just fell through, bang smash!

JMJ


The Readings for Monday 2 Advent (Year 2):
Lætabitur deserta et invia, et exsultabit solitudo, et florebit quasi lilium. Germinans germinabit, et  lætabunda et laudans.
The land that was desolate and impassable shall be glad, and the wilderness shall rejoice, and shall flourish like the lily. It shall bud forth and blossom, and shall rejoice with joy and praise.
The Byzantine Liturgy refers to the “barren church of the Gentiles” being made fruitful by the Gentiles coming to Christ. We are the wasteland made fertile, we are the desert filled up with joy and flowers. We are the promised joy and praise. Sadly, to get here, we had to go through some rough spots: we keep fighting with Israel. Yet, since we are following Israel’s God, we are, also, followers of Israel. 
They are the ones making strong our feeble hands and feet, giving us courage: yet the failure of Israel, first to evangelize as the prophets urged, and then to recognize the promised Messiah when he came, left us in reversed positions: as the Church of the Gentiles blossomed forth, it becomes the means for saving Israel. This also foretold in Isaiah, I think: for the Holy Road to God’s kingdom runs through our lands, our blossoming desert. All the redeemed of the Lord walk on this Gentile Road – not just the Gentiles. Those returning to Zion will walk there, ie, those who have gone astray, but now come home to the Messiah.
But we’re not only evangelizing verbally and with our lives: we are called to evangelize in our prayers. And that’s what the Gospel is about today.
Jesus sees the faith of the friends and says to the man on the stretcher, your sins are forgiven. Because of the faith of the friends.

Who are you bringing before Jesus? I don’t mean you need to physically drag someone to Church (but that can’t hurt!) I mean, in prayer. Who do you bring before Jesus in Eucharistic Adoration? Whom do you plop down before the feet of God himself, in silence?

Apart from our personal witness – that is, our lives, words, piety, etc, I think the two things most effective in obtaining the conversion of sinners are Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, and committing the person to the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin. In this regard, Mary is one of the Friends with us, together we drop our friend through the roof before our Lord.

Whom do you dare bring before the Lord in this way? Whom dare you not so to do?

I think this is crucial, this element of prayer, in the conversion of our friends and family, the conversion of those whom God has placed in our path: we must place them in God’s way. It is our faith that will save our friends. It is our faith that will fill up the desert with life and manifest the blessings of God’s grace to the world.

Flame. It… Flames

JMJ


The Readings for Sunday 2 Advent (Year B):
Adveniet autem dies Domini ut fur: in quo cæli magno impetu transient, elementa vero calore solventur, terra autem et quæ in ipsa sunt opera, exurentur. 
But the day of the Lord shall come as a thief, in which the heavens shall pass away with great violence, and the elements shall be melted with heat, and the earth and the works which are in it, shall be burnt up.

The Graphic Parts of this reading – which are graphic indeed (more like Raiders of the Lost Ark than Clue) are not the important parts.

The important part precedes the  graphic. 

The Lord is not being dilatory over his promise, as some think; he is only giving you more time, because his will is that all of you should attain repentance, not that some should be lost.

God’s entire purpose is our salvation. Your salvation. God is holding off on the biggest fireworks show ever waiting for you. For me. Come home.

Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling—
  Calling for you and for me;
Patiently Jesus is waiting and watching—
  Watching for you and for me! 

Come home! come home!
  Ye who are weary, come home!
Earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling,
    Calling, O sinner, come home!

The babe in the manger, crying and cooing. How can you turn away? The mother nursing. Joseph watching, benign and serene. Here, in this place of animal fodder and

Behold your God.

In the end, when there are flames and fire, it will be too late. But now, when there is time. The way to Zion is clear. In this desert that is our world, in the waistland of here, our God comes to us with comfort: tender words of mercy.

Why should we tarry when Jesus is pleading—
  Pleading for you and for me?
Why should we linger and heed not His mercies—
  Mercies for you and for me? 

Come home! come home!
  Ye who are weary, come home!
Earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling,
    Calling, O sinner, come home! 

St Peter calls us out: if God is waiting patiently for us to come home and if we are waiting patiently for the world to end in fire, how should we behave? How patient, how loving, how eager to  outdo each other in virtue and humility should we be?

Even though God tarries, we should not. Let us strive together, sister and brother, that together we might win.

Time is now fleeting, the moments are passing—
  Passing from you and from me;
Shadows are gathering, death-beds are coming—
  Coming for you and for me! 

Come home! come home!
  Ye who are weary, come home!
Earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling,
    Calling, O sinner, come home! 

And God’s prophets are even now ascending the steps to heaven, lighting the second candle of Advent, and proclaiming the Gospel from pulpits in every corner of the land. With the Psalmist, let us say with commitment, I will hear what God has to say, for he speaks  peace to his people. Near indeed is his salvation to those who fear him, glory dwelling in our land. Kindness and truth shall meet; justice and peace shall kiss. Truth shall spring out of the earth, and justice shall look down from heaven.

This is our God, this voice of Love.  Can you not hear it? Can you not respond with the virtue he seeks? Will you now harbor one corner of darkness in your heart… or will you not turn it all over to him, to use and make as he sees fit.

Oh, for the wonderful love He has promised—
  Promised for you and for me!
Though we have sinned, He has mercy and pardon—
  Pardon for you and for me!

Come home! come home!
  Ye who are weary, come home!
Earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling,
    Calling, O sinner, come home!
 
All of Jerusalem is emptying out to hear the Good News. The entire countryside is gone to hear this preaching. Why are we still sitting here? All we need to is acknowledge our sins and move on. But in this day when there are no sins, that’s the most impossible step ever.
But the choir has a few more verses, and we can all still come home.
It’s Sunday: Go to Mass.
Come home.

How to Win at Quidditch by Trying Really Hard.

JMJ

The Readings for Saturday 1 Advent (Year 2):
Erunt oculi tui videntes præceptorem tuum. Et aures tuæ audient verbum post tergum monentis: Hæc est via; ambulate in ea, et non declinetis neque ad dexteram, neque ad sinistram.
With your own eyes you shall see your Teacher, While from behind, a voice shall sound in your ears: “This is the way; walk in it,” when you would turn to the right or to the left.
In the Harry Potter universe, Quidditch is the Wizarding World’s version of Football. It’s terribly exciting and, although I have no desire at all to imagine a group of snarky, self-satisfied differently-evolved string pullers behind the scenes (it’s how a whole generation learned to hate baskets of deplorable, merely human muggles), Quidditch is something I wish I could see. Flying brooms, goals, a boundless playing field, and multiple pathways to victory. There’s only one way to win, of course: get the most points. But there are so many ways to get points. Yes, grabbing the tiny gold ball might win the game for you – but not if the other team has more points. But that catch always ends the game. But who wins?

We will see our Teacher before us and hear a voice directing us. When the heart is ready, the teacher will come, or so say one or another group of American  new age folks (OK, Rick Springfield). What should we do when the teacher is here?

Patience.

I’m constantly running, looking for the right place (which is always over there, never here). So What do we do when the teacher is here?

There will be a voice behind you, saying “This is the way. Walk in it.”

Here’s a couple of different options: one is very popular among Christians of all stripes just now. In this pattern everything is there, the perfect vocation, the perfect spouse, the perfect choices. God has a plan for your life. Your job is simply to discern the right choices and make them. God has awesome laid out for you. This is the way; walk in it.”

There’s this other option: in this one the way is the way of Salvation. You have to end the game saved. How you play the game is up to you, though. Will you try for ordination? Will you get married? Will you struggle as single? Will the end come in a career path in tech? Is pilgrimage your route? Will the end of the game be the retirement villa or homelessness?

What if the path is only the way of the Cross?

Thomas Merton was prepping to enter the Franciscan Order. He was quite convinced that he should: they’d let him teach college, he’d have a home, and three squares, and he’d go to mass and pray. In fact, he was already teaching at the Franciscan College. He’ just have to move wings in the dorm.

But several hours away by train there was this Trappist monastery that called out to him. He’d have to give all that up, all the set up, all the easy change… and actually do something.

In the end Merton’s choice was driven by the realization that the Franciscan path was too easy, that it required no sacrifice to do it.  If God wanted him to give up everything, he couldn’t do it by holding most things in reserve.

So he ditched it all. And thus became the great spiritual teacher we know today. What a blessing it was for all the world that he decided to simply walk the way of the Cross. It “triggered” all of his Charisms, it made all his gifts manifest. That decision: I will give up everything, made him who God called him to be.  Note: he didn’t wrestle with the ideas of that last thing. That last thing just happened.

The teacher is before us (Christ, hanging on the Cross) and there is a voice that says, “here’s the path, walk in it.” It only goes to one place: Christ on the Cross.  There’s only one way to win, of course: get the most points. But there are so many ways to get points. This path, though, only goes to the firey end of all our lives.

When you die, will you have been saved?

When in Rome…

JMJ
The Readings for Thursday 1 Advent (Year 2):
Dixit Jesus: Non omnis qui dicit mihi, Domine, Domine, intrabit in regnum cælorum: sed qui facit voluntatem Patris mei, qui in cælis est, ipse intrabit in regnum cælorum.
Jesus said: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the Kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.

Not everyone who says “Lord, Lord.” It’s tempting, isn’t it: to assume that means someone else.

But Christianity’s teaching “Do not judge” leaves us with a conundrum. Unless it is your calling to adjure and preach, all sins are in the first person, only. Even if it is your calling to preach, condemning others directly is never a good way to preach – although it can work sometimes. No… I am the only sinner I know. All others are Christ.

So, not everyone who says, “Lord, Lord” will enter the kingdom… that means me. Sins are in the first person: it is I, saying “Lord, Lord” who are in danger of damnation. And so, with that heated introduction, to our topic:

Quia incurvabit habitantes in excelso; civitatem sublimem humiliabit: humiliabit eam usque ad terram, detrahet eam usque ad pulverem. Conculcabit eam pes, pedes pauperis, gressus egenorum.
For he shall bring down them that dwell on high, the high city he shall lay low. He shall bring it down even to the ground, he shall pull it down even to the dust. The foot shall tread it down, the feet of the poor, the steps of the needy.

I’ve posted this before, forgive me, but One day in 2010 Cam Miller, Rector of Trinity ECUSA in Buffalo, NY, teaching an adult ed class on the Gospels, asked us to list “classes of people” in the Gospel stories and, as we were confused, he started a list on the board with 1, 2 and 3. Then we figured out the pattern and got the rest of it:
  1. Jesus
  2. The Apostles
  3. The Women
  4. Jews
  5. Jesus family
  6. Samaritans
  7. Pharisees
  8. Tax Collectors
  9. Sadducees
  10. The Scribes
  11. Clergy
  12. Lepers
  13. Sinners
  14. The Army

We came up with a few more as well. Then Cam asked us “Who are we?” The Apostles was a logical choice. But Cam pointed out that’s who we would want to be, but, as far as the story goes… “Sinners!” Yes, that’s true, but I mean, in terms of current parallels none of these categories fit. Who are we, in terms of history as we sit here in Buffalo, NY, in the middle of winter?

All of these people, in the Gospel story, live in Judea (he used the Anachronism of “Palestine” but set that aside for this post). Judea is an outlier province in the Roman World where taxes are collected and olives are harvested. It is not, however, a place where olives are eaten – they are sent away. It is a place where bad politicians get sent by the Emperor for “special assignments”. It is a place where “Keeping the Peace” is a imperial command that is impossible to keep and one’s own death sentence.

Do we live in 1st Century Judea? (NO!)
Ok, then where are we?

Americans, in terms of the Gospels, are none of the people in Judea. We’re not in the story at all except as an “unseen hand”. We are most closely paralleled to Rome, to which all taxes go, all goods are sent, and from whom no secrets are hid. We are the gobblers and thieves who send out armies to “keep the peace” only so much as it benefits us (where “us” is defined as the bankers and companies that keep Americans shopping). We are Rome. What little good others get from our benignity is because we get a greater good from it. We do not send Charity so much as we send blood money. We speak of the Law of Supply and Demand as if we had not imposed it on the world with our guns.

In the end, Christian morals and ideas about purity, morality, equality, justice, and the Kingdom of God undercut the Roman Empire so much she had to start killing the followers of this new cult.

Please, God, it were so now.

In a fit of realism, as I type this on a cheap computer, sitting under lights lit by energy paid for by farmers in Kansas, sipping coffee made by underpaid farm workers in various parts of the world, wearing clothes sewn by hands well sweated in Target and Kmart, I wonder what can ever be done. I have a lot of stuff I didn’t work for. I have a lot of stuff paid for by the blood of others. Even the foods I eat are harvested by the hands of wage slaves who come to our country because we have ruined theirs with our our politics and trade agreements. St Paul says to all of us, “Such people we instruct and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to work quietly and to eat their own food.” Yet we have, instead, become Rome. We are the rulers of the world, the exporters of the violence that moved west with a Young America. We are the killers and the spoilers. What Marshal will stop us?


I know that some part of the world thinks we may have elected our own Nero or Caligula. Although either would be disastrous, neither were anywhere near the end of the Empire. In fact, they were the beginning of the seriously bad part. But I do fear the wrath when it comes. And it won’t be God, as such (although by his will): it will be by the hands of those we’ve chained to the machines that make our stuff.
One day, and please God, soon: they will say of America, as they say of Rome, The foot shall tread it down, the feet of the poor, the steps of the needy.
And maybe, like Rome, this will be our Salvation; But Rome is the Eternal City, and we only need one. I have no hope this will be so. For the Christian revolution cannot possibly come to a country that thinks, already, it is Christian, where we are all bound in our individualism and our greed to make choices: I value a whole lot of things more than the Gospel. I’ll wager you do as well.
Not all who say, Lord, Lord…

It’s all sin. Come and feast.

Happy St Nicholas Day!

JMJ
The Readings for Wednesday 1 Advent (Year 2):
Et accesserunt ad eum turbæ multæ, habentes secum mutos, cæcos, claudos, debiles, et alios multos: et projecerunt eos ad pedes ejus, et curavit eos.
Great crowds came to him, having with them the lame, the blind, the deformed, the mute, and many others. They placed them at his feet, and he cured them. 
Matthew 15:30

In a world where we don’t want to imagine there is sin… it helps to realize what sin is. We want to think of sin as a moral infraction, a “breaking a rule” and, in some ways, this is the case. But it is not a breaking of a rule the way that one might cheat on ones taxes or sneak out of work early. Sin is a failure to be what was intended but not by us, not even by a set of rules, but rather by God in God’s overarching pattern for all things. St Augustine calls it, “an utterance, a deed, or a desire contrary to the eternal law.” And if we take deed or utterance as symbols, Jesus is erasing a lot of sin here.

In the 9th Chapter of St John’s Gospel, Jesus is asked “Rabbi, who sinned: this man or his parents that he was born blind?” Jesus reply that it was neither does not undo the idea that being born blind is an offense against the created order, that the design of God requires everyone to see God’s works and, seeing them, to praise God for them. There is no moral infraction – but the sickness of sin leads us to a world where someone might be born unable to see and praise God.

In today’s passage it is all the mutos, cæcos, claudos, debiles, et alios multos,  the mute, the blind, lame, and the weak, and many others.  These are all parts of God’s creation but human sin has left them alone, lost, weak. I don’t mean that human sickness is caused by sin, (That’ll make you blind!) but rather that all of our losses are because of sin. Sin is in the world, ergo there are failures.  Jesus sets them right.

In my youth there were preachers aplenty who said AIDS was God’s punishment on “the gay”. I know these folks still exist, but in my youth they were very common even in what we think of as mainline and liberal denominations. I once walked out on one preaching at NYC’s Cathedral of St John the Divine. Their god has sloppy aim: for in punishing gays he also got homeless mothers, and unborn children, It is wrong to say that disease was sent to punish you. It is totally right, however, to say that all disease, all sickness, all poverty, all homelessness, all need and necessity, all cripplings, all maimings, all murders, all violence, all war, all natural disasters, all – for all we know – super novas and the asteroid belt are all the result of sin and the war our soul center has waged against God for ever.

Jesus is coming to set things aright – not to heal people like a magician, to show the power of God (which only begs the question of why tsunamis and why AIDS and why I missed the bus this morning and was late again and got fired as a result). Jesus miracles are not a sign of Magic that you and I somehow missed, but rather each miracle and all of them together, is a sign of what God wants the world to be.

Only our sin keeps it from being so.

And so, Advent. The coming of Christ to save us, to judge us, to set us free, and condemn us – what is this hope then? The sign of the kingdom that is the Mass:

Et faciet Dominus exercituum omnibus populis in monte hoc convivium pinguium, convivium vindemiæ, pinguium medullatorum, vindemiæ defæcatæ. Et præcipitabit in monte isto faciem vinculi colligati super omnes populos, et telam quam orditus est super omnes nationes.

A time is coming when the Lord of hosts will prepare a banquet on this mountain of ours; no meat so tender, no wine so mellow, meat that drips with fat, wine well strained. Gone the chains in which he has bound the peoples, the veil that covered the nations hitherto; on the mountain-side, all these will be engulfed.

Come to Mass. Bring your failings, your weaknesses, sins, losses, maiming, and broken breads to lay at Jesus feet. and see this  restoration, this Kingdom of God in action… only our sin keeps it from being so.

See the Watch Swing Back and Forth

 

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JMJ

The Readings for Sunday 1 Advent (Year B):

Videte vigilate et orate nescitis enim quando tempus sit
Take ye heed, watch and pray. For ye know not when the time is.
The first Sunday of Advent is the first Sunday of the Church year. It is purely #churchgeek humor to say “Happy New Year” today. In those places where the Church Calendar held sway over the secular world, it is March 25th that is the new year. The 1st Sunday of Advent is a good place to begin  liturgical books, yes: but it was not always so. Some places had multiple books in use, some places had more than four Sundays in Advent. However, as the Roman Rite became the standard through the western world, and – especially after the Reformation – as there was more standardization around liturgical publications, this was the first Sunday listed in the book.
Advent is intended to liturgically replicate the waiting of the people of Israel for the promised Messiah. Since we know Messiah has come, it’s sort of hard to replicate the waiting. Liturgical piety has, therefore, tended to focus a lot of this season on the Final Advent, the coming of Christ as Judge. So we have today’s readings, where Isaiah has the people begging for God to come to them, or St Paul thankful that God will keep the Corinthians firm in their faith “until the end”. Jesus calls out to us, WATCH!
Isaiah has the Israelites mourning, Quare errare nos fecisti Domine de viis tuis indurasti cor nostrum ne timeremus te? Why hast thou made us to err, O Lord, from thy ways: why hast thou hardened our heart, that we should not fear thee? But that’s not the way to negotiate with God, right? To blame him for leading us astray. God calls us forward to himself. He does so in gentleness and peace – if we want to wander around on our own, he lets us. We are stranded not because he misled us in the wilderness, but because we rejected clear instructions and guidance. Jesus calls out to us, WATCH.

Jesus knows that the Holy Trinity neither leads us into sin, nor gives us permission to sin. God lets us go, though: he never holds us back, although he calls to us constantly. If we want to go another way, it’s easy enough. This is why the command is “Watch”! The Greek is ἀγρυπνέω agrypneo, coming from the words for “not sleeping”. The Greek word for sleep, hypno, is where I want to go today: because our modern spin on “hypno” is much closer to what Jesus is talking about than simply sleep.

Hypnosis: being so distracted by something that you don’t notice anything else. We spend our days hypnotized by our computers, our phones, our sex lives, our politics, our food pictures: anything but thinking about what is really important. This is sleep. This is death. The thing is, watching a screen for a couple of moments can mean hours in the real world! It can be as simple as waiting for a bus… but your eyes are glued to the screen and your finger is numb from the cold. And you’re trapped.

It’s easy for us to see the electronic hypnosis that most of us use (some of us are employed to create it), but this is only a second-degree of hypnosis. The world, itself, is a distraction, a huge sleep machine that draws us away from God, away from each other and, in the end, away from our very selves. I’m not just avoiding you, God, the world, and everything. I’m avoiding me. We know this to be true because we have a God-shaped hole in our hearts. The entirety of Creation tends Godward – except for us. We tend to trend away and we do so while convinced that we are driving towards something.

It’s easy to explain this graphically. If the universe is nearly an infinity (or close enough to infinity to make no difference) it’s mathematically impossible for two specks to drive towards each other and touch. Only by moving Godward, towards a new infinity, can any of us come closer to each other. Anything that keeps us away from that other infinity destroys our chances at making it here, now.

And then we die.

As I was writing that a retweet came across my feed: my friend retweeting the AP that a ICBM had been launched by North Korea. That’ll snap your attention to, let me tell ya!

God doesn’t harden our hearts to make a point. But he won’t stop us from running away to harden them ourselves. And our Judgment Day lament of “God why did this happen?” will not go over well.

What have you done to at least soften your heart a little? How much time do you have left?

When was the last time you said I love you and meant it, sacrificially willing the Good of the other? When was the last time you went to confession and really humbled yourself before the Lord? When was the last time you shrugged your shoulders on a Holy Day of Obligation and said, “That doesn’t really matter?” When was the last time you tossed out the Church’s 2,000 years of teaching on Abortion or Race or Welcoming the Stranger and said, “I can vote any way I want”?

When I count to three and snap my fingers, you will wake up.

Or die.

WATCH!

Never be Thrown Away



From: Meditations and Devotions By Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman

Section 3:2

God was all-complete, all-blessed in Himself; but it was His will to create a world for His glory. He is Almighty, and might have done all things Himself, but it has been His will to bring about His purposes by the beings He has created. We are all created to His glory — we are created to do His will. I am created to do something or to be something for which no one else is created; I have a place in God’s counsels, in God’s world, which no one else has; whether I be rich or poor, despised or esteemed by man, God knows me and calls me by my name.

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

3. Therefore I will trust Him. Whatever, wherever I am, I can never be thrown away. If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him; in perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him; if I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him. My sickness, or perplexity, or sorrow may be necessary causes of some great end, which is quite beyond us. He does nothing in vain; He may prolong my life, He may shorten it; He knows what He is about. He may take away my friends, He may throw me among strangers, He may make me feel desolate, make my spirits sink, hide the future from me — still He knows what He is about.

Colloquy: O Adonai, O Ruler of Israel, Thou that guidest Joseph like a flock, O Emmanuel, O Sapientia, I give myself to Thee. I trust Thee wholly. Thou art wiser than I — more loving to me than I myself. Deign to fulfil Thy high purposes in me whatever they be — work in and through me. I am born to serve Thee, to be Thine, to be Thy instrument. Let me be Thy blind instrument. I ask not to see — I ask not to know — I ask simply to be used.