The Readings for Thursday in the 4th Week of Easter (B2)
Hujus Deus ex semine secundum promissionem eduxit Israel salvatorem Jesum,
Of this man’s seed God according to his promise, hath raised up to Israel a Saviour, Jesus.
Of this man’s seed. This one guy. God doesn’t do abstractions. God does particularities. One particular family (Abraham, not Lot), one particular son (Isaac not Ishmael, Jacob not Esau); one People, Israel; one particular tribe, Judah. One Family, Jesse. One Son, David. One Family, One Son, One God: Jesus.
This is the thing that always drives people crazy: the God of the Bible does not work in vague abstractions but in solid particularities.
Our lives are rather the same: being very devoid of abstractions and filled with particularities. This makes sense for we are made in God’s image. But what child, if asked, would ever say, “I’m a toddler”? Would she not rather say, “I’m two and three quarter years old!” Only with vanity does culture teach us how to say “Twenty Nine Again…” We confuse data points with reality, forgetting that data is made up on anecdotes and anecdotes are people. Lives. Human lives of particularities.
God doesn’t care about data points: God loves you.
Christianity: the doctrine that an infinite, omniscient, and omnipotent person created a universe literally billions of light years across, filled with a near infinity of galaxies, stars, planets, and even, maybe, beings all to have a deeply personal and intimate relationship with you.
Particularities. Not Abstraction.
You, my dear reader, are not a data point.
I watch my “hit meter”. I don’t know much about my blogger stats, but I do know that when I use the Arabic word for the Greek ascesis or the Slavonic, podvig; when I use the Arabic word I can get a few extra hundred hits. I don’t know who they are, they are all Data Points. But my average is about 40-50 hits per post. Hits. Clicks. Views. Actually: People, right? Abstractions are cool and all, but each view is actually a pair of eyes with one brain behind them. There is one person, one image of God reading my blog.
How much of life is only abstractions rather than particularities? How many times are we willing to see the forest, but not the trees? How many websites make choices based on percentage points rather than pain points; on click bait and not content? How many media companies make choices based on eye balls and not morals? How many politicians make promises based on polls and not values?
If you clicked through to this post from Facebook or Twitter it was because some Media Data put my post in front of your eyes. And you clicked: making a data point in someone’s dossier on you. And me. This is not a privacy rant: I don’t care. I have to use social media to evangelize just as St Paul did. But I’m never writing for abstractions: only for persons.
God has created you, Dear Reader, for a purpose, a mission. God has given you a specific set of experiences, of challenges, of gifts, of weaknesses, to be of particular use in a certain way at a certain time. You are not a random accident waiting to happen. You are a particularity, a scandal of particularity, whom God loves deeply and personally.
A challenge: as God raised up one man of one house of one tribe of one people, can you move through the world focused instead of diffused, looking at instead of “seeing”, connecting with persons instead of “being present”? Can you be one person talking to one person, not points in a continuum?
The Readings for St Mark, Evangelist
Wednesday in the 4th Week of Easter (B2)
Sobrii estote, et vigilate : quia adversarius vester diabolus tamquam leo rugiens circuit, quaerens quem devoret : cui resistite fortes in fide.Be sober and watch: because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, goeth about seeking whom he may devour. Whom resist ye, strong in faith.
The Devil is at once very popular today and also totally ignored. I know a couple of bars in San Francisco named after the Darker Powers and I can vouch for the presence of same in them. But the folks otherwise occupied in those spaces probably think it’s spooky and cool to have a “mythological” name. Who’s scared of that old crap anyway?
This is where the Roaring Lion looks like just a big kitten. Get drunk, take home a demon. It’s fun.
160. We will not admit the existence of the devil if we insist on regarding life by empirical standards alone, without a supernatural understanding… He is present in the very first pages of the Scriptures, which end with God’s victory over the devil. Indeed, in leaving us the Our Father, Jesus wanted us to conclude by asking the Father to “deliver us from evil”. That final word does not refer to evil in the abstract; a more exact translation would be “the evil one”. It indicates a personal being who assails us. Jesus taught us to ask daily for deliverance from him, lest his power prevail over us.
161. Hence, we should not think of the devil as a myth, a representation, a symbol, a figure of speech or an idea. This mistake would lead us to let down our guard, to grow careless and end up more vulnerable. The devil does not need to possess us. He poisons us with the venom of hatred, desolation, envy and vice. When we let down our guard, he takes advantage of it to destroy our lives, our families and our communities. “Like a roaring lion, he prowls around, looking for someone to devour” (1 Pet 5:8).
This short text opens Compline (a.k.a. Night Prayer) every night in the Extraordinary Form. At my former Monastery we chanted it in the Relic Chapel, before processing into the Oratory and we followed it with a nightly rite of mutual forgiveness at which each member of the community bowed to the floor before every other member of the community – individually – and asked forgiveness of any sins that might have come to pass during the day. (To be clear that rite of mutual forgiveness is a community tradition and not common in other Western Monasteries, but it was very well placed here.)
Elsewhere St Paul says, “Sol non occidat super iracundiam vestram. Nolite locum dare diabolo.” Let not the sun go down upon your anger. Give not place to the Devil. This rite of Mutual Forgiveness and “adversarius vester diabolus” go together in a very real way. The end of the day, the wrapping up of business, and Satan waiting to devour one: it’s all connected somehow.
Our Ancestors (like Sts Mark, Peter, and Paul) would have been in bed not long after sundown. Our ancestors engaged in something called segmented sleep: so once the oil burned low or there was no candles, everyone went to bed. They woke up in the middle of the night and cogitated for an hour or so. They reproduced. They plotted. Then went on starlit strolls. Then they went back to sleep until sunrise. This sleep pattern is so ingrained in humanity that we still wake up in the middle of the night. (For us it’s a torture: we’ve probably only been in bed an hour or so. Or else we’re going to get up soon. We turn on the lights, get up and read or eat.) Anyway, I digress: this segmented sleep, and this nocturnal waking, for anyone who has gone to bed with any sort of anxiety or strong emotion, you know that you wake up usually in the full throes of that very same thought pattern.
St Paul knows that going to bed with sinful thoughts, or anger, or some other rupture of communion means that when you wake up at 1:00 AM to ruminate, this is going to be all you’re thinking about. Anyone who has ever had a spouse or partner sleeping next to them whilst, they themselves rehashed the argument from dinnertime over and over knows what this is about. Why wake up your sleeping spouse when you know what s/he would say anyway? Let the argument run in your head. You can get angry at them all by yourself.
The Cuddly Kitten might start to roar a bit more now.
This is why we have to resist the Devil “fortes in fide” or strong in faith or, as the Greek should be translated: steadfast in Trust. The next text is the key: knowing that the same affliction befalls your brethren who are in the world. We are all going through this nightly and constant temptation. We are all called to pray for each other, to help each other struggle. We have to cheer each other on when we are winning and send each other back to the battle when we are losing the ascesis, the struggle, the jihad. We are called to do this together. There is no I in “Saved”: it’s a team sport. We all do it together or it doesn’t happen.
We are never completely ourselves unless we belong to a people. That is why no one is saved alone, as an isolated individual. Rather, God draws us to himself, taking into account the complex fabric of interpersonal relationships present in a human community. God wanted to enter into the life and history of a people.(Gaudete & Exsultate)
No one is saved alone. It’s an all-or-nothing option. Satan knows if he can trip you up in your late night anxiety attacks, or in your petty cubicle turf wars if he can get you, he can get a few of your friends too. Lions know: go for the weak ones. You can get the whole flock going one at a time.
This is where mutual forgiveness comes in: because any sin hurts all of us. Any sin is a sin against God and everyone else. My personal peccadilloes are damaging (and damning) to all of you. Before I sleep I need forgiveness from all of you – and you need it of me. Thus, be fore we sleep, we can restore unity and communion to the whole body. We can heal the divisions that only serve as points of entry to the Devil.
Your duty to be firm in trusting Jesus doesn’t just help you: it saves the whole flock.
The Readings for Tuesday in the 4th Week of Easter (B2)
Quousque animam nostram tollis? si tu es Christus, dic nobis palam.How long dost thou hold our souls in suspense? If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly.
The Feast of the Dedication. Jesus is chilling in the temple at Hanukkah. The crowds are like, “Really, Say Something”. His reply is “When I speak you don’t listen. When I perform the prophesied signs, you ignore them.” I’m reminded of the folks who eliminate sayings they don’t like from the Bible and then say, “But Jesus never claimed to be God…”
These are the answers we have, the text that we have, the Jesus we have. You can do do the Bible what Peter Jackson did to Lord of the Rings, or you can settle in and wrestle with it, with the claims it makes, with the pictures it paints. But really we do this all the time, right? The addict who ignores all the signs of her addiction. The couple that ignores all the signs of their relationship’s demise. The young Christian who ignores how dangerous sex is to his prayer life. The parish that ignores the culture outside until everyone is dead inside and no new members come in.
When something makes us uncomfortable we are willing to get so deep in denial that if we could come up for air we’d see the Pyramids.
Jesus says that his sheep will see what’s going on and understand. But if we’re not of his sheep we won’t get it. Well that makes it seem like a lot of folks are congenitally out of the picture, right? That’s not what he’s saying at all. Yet to become a sheep you have to take a risk: step out of line with the world and try trusting Jesus.
If you won’t accept any answers only because they were not the answers you wanted, then you’re never going to find Truth. You can sit on the sidelines and say “Show me” and “Prove it”. Or you can watch folks walking on fire and try it yourself.
The only thing you have to lose is the fear.
The Readings for Tuesday in the 3rd Week of Easter (B2)
Ego sum panis vitae.I am the bread of life.
In the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer 1979 there is a Eucharistic Anaphora that includes the lines:
Deliver us from the presumption of coming to this table for solace only and not for strength; for pardon only and not for renewal.
Yesterday, however, I heard a sermon at 6:30 mass which cut me to my quick and added another “for…. only and not for….” to the list. In fact it’s the only thing that should be on the list.
Fr Justin said that Christ is not a “Costco and Kaiser Permanente combined”. I realized that I have been – for several years, really – been coming to communion for the effects of the sacrament, but not for the reality of it. I’ve not been coming for Christ, himself.
I long for healing from my sins. I crave salvation and eternal life. I want reunion with those gone from me. I’ve a long list of intentions, too: prayers for those dealing with addiction, for friends in family problems, for the homeless, for peace, for the intentions of our Holy Father, Pope Francis, etc. But how have I come for solace and renewal, for pardon and strength, and yet not been coming for Christ, himself?
Ego Sum. I am. God’s divine name. I am the Bread of Life. Jesus, himself.
This is the gift of the Eucharist. All those other things may happen but it is Christ, himself, the flesh of God, born of Mary; this is the miracle of Grace that comes to us in the Mass: Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. Yes, I know that. I never forgot it. But it was not why I was there.
Jesus says qui venit ad me, non esurient. He that cometh to me shall not hunger. But we should not come to him so that we are not hungry. We come to him. Then we are not hungry: Jesus wants us to want him for himself, to love him because of Love. Because he first loved us. We can be gold diggers looking for a sky-bound sugar daddy.
We have a generous and a gracious God who gives us his very self.
Why relish the bread of life for the side effects?
The Readings for Thursday in the 2nd Week of Easter (B2)
Surgens autem quidam in concilio pharisaeus, nomine Gamaliel, legisdoctor, honorabilis universae plebi, jussit foras ad breve homines fieri, dixitque ad illos…But one in the council rising up, a Pharisee, named Gamaliel, a doctor of the law, respected by all the people, commanded the men to be put forth a little while. And he said to them…
The Church’s tradition, celebrated especially among the Orthodox and Byzantine Catholics, is that Gamaliel and his son were converts and the former, at least, is a saint. The translation of his relics is celebrated on 2 August. The Church’s tradition is that Gamaliel buried St Stephen on his own estate after the latter was stoned.
In a lot of ways, Acts is really the story of St Paul with this long intro. We tend to forget: Gamaliel was St Paul’s teacher. So, somewhere in this room of angry men, yelling for blood and demanding the death of the Prince of the Apostles… somewhere here is one Sha’ul of Tarsus. How else do we know these words at all? The “good guys” are out of the room. Paul is here, listening, and hearing the words of his Teacher speaking here, maybe taking notes, a transcription, as it were. Later it is Paul who tells these words to Luke.
And so, deeply tonight as I was thinking about this, I was struck by the image of St Gamaliel praying for his student… as he stomps off angrily to Damascus.
If you’ve seen the movie, Paul, Apostle of Christ, there’s a lot of violence: the movie makes much of St Paul’s blood-lust directed at these odd followers of this Jesus. In Acts, the Latin says spirans minarum, et caedis, breathing out threatenings and slaughter… and as I write I’m seeing Gamaliel kneeling in prayer for his student’s conversion. And praying in all righteousness that God would show the light to this angry young man, Sha’ul.
Do you ever think of prayer as the first weapon of Evangelism? If you love someone so much you want to win them for Christ, how can you not pray for them – by name, not in the Abstract. Not all of us are called to be Evangelists: that is one of the gifts of the spirit, yes, but some are called to it and others are not. But all of us are called to go and make Disciples. Discipleship starts way before evangelism. Before the evangelism, before the preaching, before the Romans’ Road to Salvation, have you prayed for that soul? Have you got down and begged God to show his light to someone, or are you trying to elbow you way through the crowd to beat God to the punch?
St Gamaliel, pray for… who would you name here?
The Readings for the 2nd Wednesday of Easter (B2)
Ite, et stantes loquimini in templo plebi omnia verba vitae hujus. Go, and standing speak in the temple to the people all the words of this life.
What are omnia verba vitae hujus? What are all the words of this life? Is this the idea you have of a corner evangelist? When you hear such do you hear him speaking the words of this life? In Greek the phrase is ῥήματα τῆς Ζωῆς ταύτης rhemata tes Zoes tautes… the phrase is used elsewhere, in John. When, after explaining the Eucharist, all the folks get disgusted because Jesus really says “eat my flesh” and “drink my blood”. And folks leave. And Jesus says to the 12, “Are you going to leave too?” and they say “you have the ῥήματα ζωῆς, the rhemata Zoes, the words of life”.
That’s not an accidental parallel for there are other Greek words that mean “life” or even “Way of Life” and there are other Greek words for “word”. Rhemata means “teaching” rather than a literal word. Zoe, in the scriptures, is the divine life, given to us by Grace. It’s very different from the life of simply “breathing”. That life ends. Zoe is the life of God which never dies. The whole purpose of the Christian Way is to replace mere breathing with actual living, with Zoe.
The Rhemata Zoes. Go into the temple and speak all the Rhemata Zoes to the people. Jesus has the words of Zoe in John, but the Apostles are commanded to speak about this Zoe… and since we’ve just been hearing in the preceding chapter about the Christian Community’s patterns of living together, holding all things in common, of praying and making Eucharist together, this is this Zoe. This community acting this way is the Christian life: not a sinner’s prayer and hope to see you next week, nor a come to mass and go home alone sort of thing at all. But live together, sharing all things, doing in Jesus’ name all the things that get done.
That is this life. It is shared, from the get go. Pope Francis said, in the Apostolic Exhortation released recently: We are never completely ourselves unless we belong to a people. That is why no one is saved alone, as an isolated individual. Rather, God draws us to himself, taking into account the complex fabric of interpersonal relationships present in a human community.
The pope continues,
14. To be holy does not require being a bishop, a priest or a religious. We are frequently tempted to think that holiness is only for those who can withdraw from ordinary affairs to spend much time in prayer. That is not the case. We are all called to be holy by living our lives with love and by bearing witness in everything we do, wherever we find ourselves. Are you called to the consecrated life? Be holy by living out your commitment with joy. Are you married? Be holy by loving and caring for your husband or wife, as Christ does for the Church. Do you work for a living? Be holy by labouring with integrity and skill in the service of your brothers and sisters. Are you a parent or grandparent? Be holy by patiently teaching the little ones how to follow Jesus. Are you in a position of authority? Be holy by working for the common good and renouncing personal gain.
15. Let the grace of your baptism bear fruit in a path of holiness. Let everything be open to God; turn to him in every situation. Do not be dismayed, for the power of the Holy Spirit enables you to do this, and holiness, in the end, is the fruit of the Holy Spirit in your life (cf. Gal 5:22-23). When you feel the temptation to dwell on your own weakness, raise your eyes to Christ crucified and say: “Lord, I am a poor sinner, but you can work the miracle of making me a little bit better”. In the Church, holy yet made up of sinners, you will find everything you need to grow towards holiness. The Lord has bestowed on the Church the gifts of scripture, the sacraments, holy places, living communities, the witness of the saints and a multifaceted beauty that proceeds from God’s love, “like a bride bedecked with jewels” (Is 61:10).
16. This holiness to which the Lord calls you will grow through small gestures. Here is an example: a woman goes shopping, she meets a neighbour and they begin to speak, and the gossip starts. But she says in her heart: “No, I will not speak badly of anyone”. This is a step forward in holiness. Later, at home, one of her children wants to talk to her about his hopes and dreams, and even though she is tired, she sits down and listens with patience and love. That is another sacrifice that brings holiness. Later she experiences some anxiety, but recalling the love of the Virgin Mary, she takes her rosary and prays with faith. Yet another path of holiness. Later still, she goes out onto the street, encounters a poor person and stops to say a kind word to him. One more step.
This life of Holiness, the Rhemata Zoes… it continues. We should speak it always and everywhere.
The Readings for in Easter Week (B2)
Neque enim quisquam egens erat inter illos.
For neither was there any one needy among them.
They will know we are Christians by our love, y’all. So where are there needy folks sitting in the pew next to you, or on the bus next to you, wait: I bet you drive to work. You don’t notice unless they ask for money at the exit ramp, I bet.
By a blessing of liturgics we get the same lesson from Acts as we had on Sunday. Even if you think the idea of “holding all things in common” is anachronistic, surely this idea of “no one needy among them” must be a good and moral end, right? Yet the poor you will always have with you will be quoted by some wag. The wags who quote the poor you will always have with you you will always have with you. And while he’s rattling off scripture he’s damning his own soul.
Our oddly American fascination with my stuff is a moral infection with multiple vectors. We labor for money to buy stuff: this is not wrong. But the infection arises when the labor is not for its proper end (provision for the family, the church, and the needed, together with the expiation of sin [qv: Adam and Eve]) and, instead, made as a means to get even more stuff, as is done with Marketing and all the other tools of late-model capitalism. Our desires wake and the acquisition of stuff for the sake of stuff, to appear wealthy, to match our neighbors, etc) takes over. We need more stuff to “feel safe” to be “secure”. We hoard our money and our stuff.
We want to buy stuff at the best value. The end result is foreign labor making cheap stuff which is good value in the short term, but bad value in the long term. We are happy buying a $3 gadget at WalMart instead of a $10 gadget somewhere else, even though it won’t last, was made overseas by slave labor (or robots keeping even the slaves unemployed). The end results are social injustice and junk in landfills. The exception to this being electronics where we are happy to pay top dollar because it feels better and looks better. Ironically it was made by the same slave labor and the electronics companies are getting rich of your band consciousness. And poor workers are no better off working on things we pay $5k for than they are working on things we pay $5 for.
Do I want a new $10 off-market watch that tells time, or do I want a $400 apple watch made by the same folks for the same environmental damage? That’s an easy one: I work in tech so I know which one I’d pick!
We’ve made our money and we’ve bought our stuff, certainly it stops there? Sadly: no. For there is always more stuff to have. Children raised by parents who said “no” – because they were too poor to say “yes” – very often want to say “yes” to their own kids all the time. Curiously, anyone raised by parents who always said “yes” suffers from the same problem. Our homes fill with stuff as quickly as a hoarder’s shed or a meth addict’s mobile home. Meanwhile, the needy are sitting right next to us on the bus, in the pew, or in front of our office.
Lending to people who can repay the loan and the favor is not charity.
Think it through: how much is it costing you to read these words? Electricity, internet, Google’s data sponge, the device you are using, with it’s own data sponges, the social cost (unless you’re really alone, there is an icon of God, a human being next to you whom you’re ignoring, even on the bus. All this is only the beginning.
There was no needy person among them.
How do we get there as a Church? While this may seem abstract for you know, just one of Huw’s political rants, I firmly believe this will be a crucial question for us in the near future. How do we get to a place where they know we are Christians by our Love, by our Love?
These co-ops could acquire housing, build out and save, and, in time, take care of others. As singles marry, bringing other folks into the co-op, they stay in the community, raising their children as Catholics among other Catholics. These growing communities sharing all things in common, could care for the elderly in the parish, the sick, the homeless. They could form the front lines in Catholic Social Outreach.
Singles come in all ages, not just young adults, but also the divorced, the widowed, the single parents, the same-sex attracted trying to live (as all these singles) chastely. This is a healthy mix that would prevent these communities from becoming speed dating societies (as many young adult ministries do). These would require true Christian charity often missing from our world. These would call us to actively live our baptismal vows with our Sisters and Brothers to the end that we could even live in Love and Charity with our neighbors. They will know we are Christians by our Love.
Could we do it?
The Readings for the Annunciation
Ecce ancilla Domini.
Behold the handmaiden of the Lord.
Our Mother, the Holy Church of Rome, will not allow a feast or Solemnity to impinge on the period between Palm Sunday and the 2nd Sunday of Easter. Anything that needs to be celebrated in that time gets bumped to the first available weekday. Since the 25th of March was Palm Sunday this year, the Annunciation is celebrated today.
But I’m going to keep this short. Here’s a question for your meditation:
What kind of omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent God leaves the entire fate of the human race and all of salvation history hanging on the response of a 13 year old poor child from the backwoods of the occupied Roman world?
The Readings for 2nd Sunday of Easter (Domenica in Albis) (B2)
Nec quisquam eorum quae possidebat, aliquid suum esse dicebat, sed erant illis omnia communia. Neque enim quisquam egens erat inter illos: Dividebatur autem singulis prout cuique opus erat.
No one said that aught of the things which he possessed, was his own; but all things were common unto them. For neither was there any one needy among them: distribution was made to every one, according as he had need.
This is one of those idyllic scenes in the New Testament that gets either ignored or latched on to, with no context. It is usually ignored by a class of persons we shall, today, call conservative capitalists. They choose to ignore huge swatches of Catholic Social Teaching in favor of a cross between Ayn Rand and Ronald Reagan, tempered with a piety circumscribed by denial of human causes of Climate Change, the Latin Mass, and protests at Abortion Clinics; giving lip service to social doctrines whilst shopping at Amazon.
This is latched on to by a class of persons we shall, today, call liberal capitalists. They choose to ignore huge swatches of Catholic Social Teaching in favor of a cross between Marx and Bernie Sanders, tempered with a piety circumscribed by devotion to the Democratic Party, Taize meditation, and pronouncing foreign names as if they were native speakers of those foreign languages; giving lip service to moral doctrines whilst shopping at Amazon.
But both classes of persons fail to note that here – and everywhere else in the Bible, Old and New, Greek and Hebrew, the primary teaching about stuff is it’s not yours, it’s God’s. The secondary teaching about stuff is When you have God’s stuff you’re supposed to act like God does, and just keep giving it away.
I remember a speech given by a former president, reminding folks that none of the jobs in this country could be performed, none of the wealth accumulated save for the work done on roads, electrical wires, water pipes, etc. Even the people who build roads, hang wires, and lay pipes rely on the work done by others. It truly takes a village to do literally anything at all. We don’t own our success. We don’t own anything, really, from a theological point of view. Although we can own stuff from the world’s point of view. We also own stuff from a moral and ethical point of view. If we didn’t own it we couldn’t give it away, morally or ethically. Yet, precisely because it is God’s Stuff we are supposed to act with it as God would act with it. Not as we might want to act, not as we might even will to act.
We are obligated by Catholic Social Teachings to build a just society – and that includes a just sharing of resources. It’s the sharing that’s hard. Not only for us: but for much of our political communities. Most of us are out for justice for me. When do I get my fair share? All I want is what I have coming to me. Sure, when I get that, I’ll be happy to fight for you as well. But me first.
Most Americans are, globally considered, not poor. Compared to the vast majority of persons in God’s image, all of us are swimming in squandered wealth and resources. Although often hindered by police injustice and political machinations, our poor have available to them vast resources undreamed of by the populations of many countries. Although our medical system is nearly barbaric as far a resource distribution goes, the content of our system is quiet amazing. The existence of our grocery stores, our corner bodegas, our veggie stands, and farmers’ markets just astounds anyone visiting our country.
We are surrounded by food and payday should mean “let me go buy everything I can and give it to the poor” and, instead, payday usually means I can have a few extra beers. Although I was moved by the Occupy protests of a few years ago, and continue to be inspired by young people who takes risks in caring for the poor, the truth is that most of us (including me) have more money invested in the electronics that keep us connected to the internet 24/7 than we give away to the poor. And most of us (including me) have arguments for why that is so: I made up six while I typed this sentence, one for each homeless person sleeping on the street I will pass on my way to 6:30 Mass tomorrow.
The early Church held all things in common and we know they also shared them not only with themselves, but with others outside of the Church community. They cared not only for themselves, but for others who came to them, for babies, the elderly, and the sick all abandoned on hillsides and in forests whom they brought in and nursed back to health. (One Catholic writer opined that this constant exposure to germs and illnesses made the Christians, overall, healthier than the pagans, and so, less likely to die when epidemics struck, etc.) The wealthy Christians opened their homes to their brothers and sisters. These house churches became the loci for communities that put down historical roots. Some are still major churches in Rome 2,000 years later.
But we do like our stuff.
And we do like our myth of self-creation.
And we love the story of self-made wealth.
And in the end we love self more than other.
But we’re happy to put a $20 in the plate every now and then as we put motion-activated water sprouts in our Cathedral doorways to prevent the indigent from sleeping there.
Happy Divine Mercy Sunday.
The Readings for Thursday in Easter Week (B2)
Tunc aperuit illis sensum ut intelligerent ScripturasThen he opened their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures.
The first three classes of my (original) RCIA group, meeting in Columbus, GA, were spent addressing the Church’s teaching on the Bible. Since we were in the Bible Belt, talking about how Catholics talk about the Bible is crucial. We don’t think the thing fell down from heaven, highlighted passages in red and yellow, ready to go. And nearly every discussion in that class, no matter what the question was, usually ended up with the asker saying something like “But the Bible says…” and Fr Brian would have to bring them gently back to “but the Church says…” sometimes over a couple of discussions.
So today’s passage from St Luke – wherein Jesus has to enlighten the Apostles so that they understand the scriptures – might be especially troublesome to such a one, or to anyone who thinks they can divine the sense of Scripture just by reading it. There are other such passages after the Resurrection, such as yesterday’s reading when Jesus was at Emmaus. St Paul and Jesus rarely say anything in the first person singular. It is to the whole Church, to All Y’all, that the Spirit is given.
I attend a weekly meeting of a bunch of Catholics. I’m not there every week, but I try to be. In fact I will go tonight! I hope it’s there tonight, but I may not be. Some Thursdays around holidays it gets a little hard to schedule. But anyway, there’s a member of the group who talks about Bible as if he were a Fundamentalist. From time to time we have a heated discussion where I’m happy to cite from my religious journey, but he is only willing to say “go read the Bible, that’s not in there…” A couple of weeks ago he wanted to quote “Vatican 2” to me, but that at least, I was ready for! (Thanks, Fr Brian!)
You really might like to read the document, Dei Verbum (18 November 1965). But I’ve got the important passage below. I’ve added emphasis.
8. And so the apostolic preaching, which is expressed in a special way in the inspired books, was to be preserved by an unending succession of preachers until the end of time. Therefore the Apostles, handing on what they themselves had received, warn the faithful to hold fast to the traditions which they have learned either by word of mouth or by letter (see 2 Thess. 2:15), and to fight in defense of the faith handed on once and for all (see Jude 1:3) Now what was handed on by the Apostles includes everything which contributes toward the holiness of life and increase in faith of the peoples of God; and so the Church, in her teaching, life and worship, perpetuates and hands on to all generations all that she herself is, all that she believes.
This tradition which comes from the Apostles develop in the Church with the help of the Holy Spirit. For there is a growth in the understanding of the realities and the words which have been handed down. This happens through the contemplation and study made by believers, who treasure these things in their hearts (see Luke, 2:19, 51) through a penetrating understanding of the spiritual realities which they experience, and through the preaching of those who have received through Episcopal succession the sure gift of truth. For as the centuries succeed one another, the Church constantly moves forward toward the fullness of divine truth until the words of God reach their complete fulfillment in her.
The words of the holy fathers witness to the presence of this living tradition, whose wealth is poured into the practice and life of the believing and praying Church. Through the same tradition the Church’s full canon of the sacred books is known, and the sacred writings themselves are more profoundly understood and unceasingly made active in her; and thus God, who spoke of old, uninterruptedly converses with the bride of His beloved Son; and the Holy Spirit, through whom the living voice of the Gospel resounds in the Church, and through her, in the world, leads unto all truth those who believe and makes the word of Christ dwell abundantly in them (see Col. 3:16).
9. Hence there exists a close connection and communication between sacred tradition and Sacred Scripture. For both of them, flowing from the same divine wellspring, in a certain way merge into a unity and tend toward the same end. For Sacred Scripture is the word of God inasmuch as it is consigned to writing under the inspiration of the divine Spirit, while sacred tradition takes the word of God entrusted by Christ the Lord and the Holy Spirit to the Apostles, and hands it on to their successors in its full purity, so that led by the light of the Spirit of truth, they may in proclaiming it preserve this word of God faithfully, explain it, and make it more widely known. Consequently it is not from Sacred Scripture alone that the Church draws her certainty about everything which has been revealed. Therefore both sacred tradition and Sacred Scripture are to be accepted and venerated with the same sense of loyalty and reverence.
10. Sacred tradition and Sacred Scripture form one sacred deposit of the word of God, committed to the Church. Holding fast to this deposit the entire holy people united with their shepherds remain always steadfast in the teaching of the Apostles, in the common life, in the breaking of the bread and in prayers (see Acts 2, 42, Greek text), so that holding to, practicing and professing the heritage of the faith, it becomes on the part of the bishops and faithful a single common effort.
But the task of authentically interpreting the word of God, whether written or handed on, has been entrusted exclusively to the living teaching office of the Church, whose authority is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ. This teaching office is not above the word of God, but serves it, teaching only what has been handed on, listening to it devoutly, guarding it scrupulously and explaining it faithfully in accord with a divine commission and with the help of the Holy Spirit, it draws from this one deposit of faith everything which it presents for belief as divinely revealed.
It is to this that I assented when I entered the Roman Catholic Church a year ago: I believe and profess all that the holy Catholic Church believes, teaches, and proclaims to be revealed by God. If this is not so, why would I bother? The idea that I can still make it up as I go along haunts me though. I’ve read the Bible. I know what that passage really means. I can do what I feel is right here. I’ve been doing things my way for so long (even in the Orthodox Church) that I want to do more of the same now. One Orthodox publisher asked me over pizza once why the Catholics didn’t buy his books. Well, because your stuff isn’t approved. But that didn’t dawn on him because most of the clergy he knew didn’t function that way.
Closing with one more passage from Dei Verbum: It is clear, therefore, that sacred tradition, Sacred Scripture and the teaching authority of the Church, in accord with God’s most wise design, are so linked and joined together that one cannot stand without the others, and that all together and each in its own way under the action of the one Holy Spirit contribute effectively to the salvation of souls.
One cannot stand without the others.
There needs to be a 12 Step Program for Sola Scripturas.