What is faith, or anything else is what the Demons do.


John the BaptistYou believe that God is one. (Deuteronomy 6:4-9 Mark 12:28-34) You do well. Even the demons believe that and tremble. Do you want proof, you ignoramus, that faith without works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered his son Isaac upon the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by the works. Thus, the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called “the friend of God.” James 2:19-23

Our first reading for the Second Sunday of Lent is that passage James refers to in his letter. James correctly points out that there is something more to faith than saying we have it, or we love Jesus, or we attend Mass every Sunday. Our Gospel notices the difference as well, as does our second reading.

Pope Francis UN“Faith,” comes from a Hebrew word, one we use every Sunday and close all of our prayers with. From the Latin, it simply means trust. It is not so in the Hebrew. The root word in Hebrew is, “Amen.” The root is “Emit.” The three radicals (in Hebrew, the letters are radicals) are “A,” “M,” and “T.” “A,” is the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet, “M,” the middle letter, and “T,” is the last letter. “A,” stands for leadership, “M,” for water, (as in Baptism,” and “T,” for the cross. These come from the shapes of the letters in that language.

Another way to present the idea is that when we have faith, we orient everything we have toward God. In our second reading, St. Paul notices this. “Many, as I have often told you and now tell you even in tears, conduct themselves as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction. Their God is their stomach; their glory is in their “shame.” Their minds are occupied with earthly things.”

Be a RippleCompare this with Abraham who, like the Egyptian monks of two millennia ago, leaves all he has and strikes out into the desert. Compare this with the Egyptian slaves who head out into the desert and become the Hebrew nation. God becomes the beginning, the middle, and the end of their lives. This is faith.

We read in the Gospel for the Second Sunday of Lent, “As they were about to part from him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good that we are here; let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” He did not know what he was saying. While he was still speaking, a cloud came and cast a shadow over them, and they became frightened when they entered the cloud. Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my chosen Son; listen of him.”

The allusion is to those Hebrew slaves in Exodus 19:16-18:

Seder plate smallOn the morning of the third day there were peals of thunder and lightning, and a heavy cloud over the mountain, and a very loud blast of the shofar,* so that all the people in the camp trembled. Moses led the people out of the camp to meet God, and they stationed themselves at the foot of the mountain. Mount Sinai was completely enveloped in smoke, because the NAME had come down upon it in fire. The smoke rose from it as though from a kiln, and the whole mountain trembled violently.

Exodus goes out of its way to show the trauma and the life changing aspects of the event. Luke does the same in the transfiguration. For the Hebrews, from then on, everything points to God. From now on, everything will point to Christ From now on, every action will be living in Christ, in present time. From now on, the goal in life will be living the commandments given on chapter later, for the Hebrews.

APTOPIX ICELAND VOLCANOOur commandments are not written on stone, or on paper. They are written on our hearts. In the original Greek, God says, “This is my beloved Son, listen of him.” That is, read of him and copy what he does, what he thinks, how he lives, and whom he loves. Doing this orients us for the present, and for the future.

When we live this new life, the cloud envelopes us. The Greeks called the perichoresis, or living in the cloud, which is God. It is the Divine Dance with God. It is all consuming. We need to notice the next event after the transfiguration we read about today, in each of the Gospels. It is Jesus healing the epileptic. To truly be spiritual is to act on the spirituality. It is going out to heal and transform the world. This is faith in Jesus Christ. Anything less is what the demons do.

The first Sunday of Lent and God’s Command to us. For anything less we need to repent.


Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame, with conquering limbs astride from land to land;

69717_470024576383223_55557459_nHere at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame is the imprisoned lightning, and her name Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand glows worldwide welcome; her mild eyes command the air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame. “Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she with silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

‘My father was a wandering Aramean who went down to Mitzraim/land of oppression with a small household and lived there as an alien, but there he became a nation great, strong, and numerous. When the Egyptians maltreated and oppressed us, imposing hard labor upon us, we cried to Kyrie, the God of our fathers, and he heard our cry. He saw our affliction, our toil, and our oppression. He brought us out of Egypt with his strong hand and outstretched arm, with terrifying power, with signs and wonders; and bringing us into this country, he gave us this land flowing with milk and honey.

545458_4517494093973_668055366_nThe readings for this First Sunday of Lent should give us pause. Our founding principles as a nation and our Judean Christian principles are very much the same. We were rescued from over there to over here. God calls us to remember our rescue and the blessings he gives us.

Our second reading has St. Paul allude to Deuteronomy 30. “What does Scripture say? The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that is, the word of faith that we preach.” This comes from Deuteronomy 30, “Kyrie your God, will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you will love Kyrie, your God, with your whole heart and your whole being, in order that you may live…this command I give you today is not too wondrous or remote for you. It is not in the heavens, that you should say, ‘Who will go up to the heavens to get it for us and tell us of it, that we may do it?’ Nor is it across the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will cross the sea to get it for us and tell us of it, that we may do it?’ No, it is something very near to you, in your mouth and in your heart, to do it.

PovertySome argue that when we see repulsive people we are naturally repulsed and so we should avoid those people. That is not the way of St. Francis or Pope Francis. They teach us that if we look behind all the faults of the person before us, and that nasty smell, some do have that nasty smell, and the ragged clothes, and the drug needles… we will see the image of God. The word of God is not in our head. It is in our heart. Circumcising the heart means learning to have compassion on those who do all the nasty things we abhor. It means loving people, not because of who they are, but sometimes in spite of who they are. Why, because they are fellow brothers and sisters. They are nation/people born together, by common heritage if not blood, place of birth, language…

In learning the art of writing, we learned to have a nice, snappy, introduction, follow it by a thesis statement, and then give the body of our paper. In Matthew and Luke, the nativity stories are that snappy introduction. For the thesis statement Mark tells us, “At once the Spirit drove him out into the desert, and he remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan. He was among wild beasts, and the angels ministered to him.”

Mark loves to say, “At once,” with everything. Then comes his thesis statement, “he remained in the desert forty days, tempted by Satan. He was with the Chai (from the Hebrew/living beings) and messengers/angels, ministered to him. Matthew simply states of his thesis statement, “Then the devil left him and, behold, angels came and ministered to him.”

John the BaptistThis is their thesis statement. The rest of the book is about Jesus was tempted by Satan/the Devil, with wealth, power, and temptations to tempt God. Luke drops this thesis statement in favor of, “The Spirit of Kyrie is upon me. He anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to Kyrie.” This is the message of the New Colossus and the Statue of Liberty. This is the message of our second reading. In I Kings 17:19-21 we read, “Elijah told her, “Give me your son.” Taking him from her lap, he carried him to the upper room where he was staying, and laid him on his own bed. He called out to Kyrie: “Kyrie, my God, will you afflict even the widow with whom I am staying by killing her son?” Then he stretched himself out upon the child three times and he called out to Kyrie: “Kyrie, my God, let the life breath return to the body of this child.”

This way of healing only appears in one other passage in all of Scripture. This relates to the woman of Zarephath, who Jesus mentions just after our Gospel reading. The other place this type of healing is used? It is just after Jesus mentions this woman, when Jesus heals Peter’s mother in law. The Gospel is very near to us. It is about healing. It is about loving God by taking care of his planet, whether we like it, or know it, or not. It is loving everything in God’s planet, sometimes in spite of who the person in front of us is. We love them and care for them because they are God’s creation, not because of what they did or might do. For anything less, we need to repent.

We love God with all of our hearts, animate being and measure. Government is but one more tool in our arsenal for doing this. Some argue our charity should be through the government. They have best view for knowing how to do this. They are wrong. Some argue taxing us to feed our neighbor is wrong. This is also against Catholic teaching. God calls us to use all of our resources. This includes the government, but a whole lot more. It includes all of our resource.

This is the thesis of the Gospel, and this is what God commands us to do. Are we up to the task?

No word for, “Mine,” in the Semitic languages, and what it means to Catholics


I, the NAME, have called you for the victory of justice, grasped you by the hand; formed you, and set you as a Brit of the people, a light for the nations, to open the eyes of the blind, bring prisoners from confinement, and from the dungeon, those who live in darkness. Reading from, “The Baptism of the Lord”, Isaiah 42 The reading from Deuteronomy 4:5-8

John the BaptistI teach you the customs and precedents as the NAME, my God, has commanded me, that you may guard them in the land you are entering to possess. Observe them carefully, for this is your wisdom and discernment in the sight of the peoples, who will hear of all these statutes and say, “This great nation is truly a wise and discerning people.” What great nation is there that has gods so close to it as the NAME, our God, is to us whenever we call upon him? What great nation has customs and precedents, just as this whole Torah/teaching I set before you this day?

God calls us to be the example to the world. This passage also calls to mind what this nation used to be:

Statue of liberty lighning strike“Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she with silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Both ancient Israel and the US were founded upon a concept of justice as remembering what it was like to be there, wherever “Over there,” was for our ancestors, and our rescue to over here. God calls us to the victory of Justice, but what does justice mean?

Charlton T. Lewis, and Charles Short in ,”A Latin Dictionary,” write how Pliny relates how “Jus,” “Justice,” comes from the juice of the purple fish. The same dictionary then relates jus is that which is binding or obligatory; that which is binding by its nature.” Just as the juice of the purple fish is binding, pardon the pun, so is justice.

ambroseSt. Aurelius Ambrosius defines justice in his work, “On The Duties of the Clergy,” Chapter 28, section 130, “Justice has to do with the society of the human race, and the community at large. What holds society together is divided into two parts—justice and good-will, which also is called liberality and kindness. Justice seems to me the loftier, liberality the more pleasing, of the two. The one gives judgment, the other shows goodness…Philosophers considered it consonant with justice that one should treat common, that is, public property as public, and private as private. This is not even in accord with nature, nature has poured forth all things for all men for common use. God has ordered all things to be produced, so that there should be food in common to all, and that the earth should be a common possession for all. Nature, therefore, has produced a common right for all, but greed has made it a right for a few…

St. Aurelius Ambrosius then relates how Moses wrote: “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness, and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.” Genesis 1:26 These philosophers have learned from our writings that all things were made subject to man, and, therefore, they think that all things were produced also for man’s sake… That man was made for the sake of man we find stated also in the books of Moses, when the Lord says: “It is not good that man should be alone, let us make him an helper for him.” Genesis 2:18…

In accordance with the will of God and the union of nature, we ought to be of mutual help one to the other, and to vie with each other in doing duties, to lay all our advantages to bring help one to the other from a feeling of devotion or of duty, by giving money, or by doing something, in some way or other; the charm of human fellowship may ever grow sweeter among us.”

Sockeye, aren't they just gorgeous fish  Christina CookJust as Jus, the juice of the purple fish, is binding by nature, so is our nature as social animals binding upon us to help one another. Tommaso d’Aquino, OP (1225 – 7 March 1274), writes in his summation of Theology, “Ambrosius says (De Office of the Clergy. i): “Justice has to do with the fellowship of mankind. For the notion of fellowship is divided into two parts, justice and beneficence, also called liberality or kind-heartedness.” Therefore liberality pertains to justice.” Second Part, Question 117, of Liberality, Fifth Article, On the Contrary.

“The giving of beneficence and mercy proceeds from a man having a certain affection towards the person to whom he gives: this giving belongs to charity or friendship. The giving of liberality arises from a person being affected in a certain way towards money; he desires it not nor loves it: when it is fitting he gives it not only to his friends but also to those whom he knows not.” IBIB, Reply 3. What separates charity from liberality is related to whether or not the giver knows the recipient he is giving to. Liberality/justice, is giving to the recipient whether or not he knows him.

It is this sense of giving that defines the community of Isaiah 42, Deuteronomy 4, the grand words on the New Colossus, the writings of St. Aurelius Ambrosius, and St. Tommaso d’Aquino. There is no room here for tough love, or saying, “This is mine, and the state has no right to take it to feed the poor,” and no room for the concept of property as a private matter and therefore liberality being voluntary.

St. Augustine behind the altarThe beginnings of Penance and how this relates to Justice also quotes St. Aurelius Augustinus Hipponensis as relating how Justice relates to an orchestra. Justice as about making the music of harmony and concord. Again, there is no room here for “This is mine,” and therefore liberality is inherently voluntary, or I don’t have to give, so I will not. We need to remember, in Hebrew there is no word for “Mine,” “Yours,” or “His.” All they can say in the Semitic languages is, “It is to me,” or “it is to you,” or “It is to him.” It is “To me,’ presumes a “To me, for what,” “To you for what,” and “To him, for what.” God is the ultimate owner of all and he gives for a purpose. Like any employer, when the job is not done, the employer is free to fire, and then hire someone who will do the job.

The Latin Mass and What It Means to be Apostolic


On several different occasions now, this writer has had the ill fortune of hearing people argue in favor of the Latin language in Mass. In our Nicene Creed, we state we believe in “One Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.” “Apostolic has a three-fold meaning.

One ugly kid 2Isaiah ends his passage for this Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time, “He touched my mouth with it, “See, now that this has touched your lips, your wickedness is removed, your sin purged.” Then I heard the voice of the NAME, “Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?” “Here I am,” I said; “send me!” From the Septuagint, “ἤκουσα τῆς φωνῆς Κυρίου λέγοντος· τίνα ἀποστείλω, καὶ τίς πορεύσεται πρὸς τὸν λαὸν τοῦτον; καὶ εἶπα· ἰδοὺ ἐγώ εἰμι· ἀπόστειλόν με.” “Hearing the voice of Kyrie saying, ‘Who shall I send/apostle and who shall I send out to this people?’ I said, ‘See, hear I am, apostle me.”

We are apostolic in the sense we are sent out, evangelical. How can we be evangelical, how can we follow Jesus’ mandate in Matthew, “Go, make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to guard all that I have commanded you. Behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age,” how can we call people to community knowing when they attend our meeting, Mass, they will not understand many of the words, as they are in a foreign language, Latin? In the first sense of the term, apostolic, the Latin Mass prevents us from being apostolic.

St. Irenaeus, in his “Against Heresies” gives us a second understanding of “Apostolic,” when he writes:

Pope Francis UNTradition derived from the apostles, of the very great, the very ancient, and universally known Church founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul; as also the faith preached to men, which comes down to our time by means of the successions of the bishops… The faithful everywhere, as the apostolic tradition has been preserved continuously by those faithful men who exist everywhere.

St. Paul writes in our second reading, “I handed on to you as of first importance what I also received: Christ died for our deviations, in accordance with the Scriptures; that he was buried; that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures; that he appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve…whether it be I or they, so we preach and so you believed.”

Three Popes“So we preached and so you believed,” sums up the second meaning of being apostolic. We listen to the teaching of the Pope, our Bishop, and our elders/priests. Priest comes from the Greek, not Latin, presbyter, and means elder. “Deacon,” is also Greek, not Latin. We are the Roman Catholic Church because we claim St. Peter and St. Paul as the founders of our limb of the greater body of Christ. “Church,” is Greek for Kyrie Oikos, or house of God, not Latin. “Parish,”is Greek, not Latin, and means place of travelers. We are apostolic because we are faithful to those traditions as presented by Peter, Paul, and the apostles. They spoke Greek, Aramaic, and possibly Hebrew, not Latin.

The article, “The beginnings of Penance and how this relates to Justice, argues, “James did not know what a sacrament was. “Sacrament,” is Latin, not Greek . The closest the Greeks had, and the one the apostles used is the word from which we derive our word, “Mystery.”In his chapter on the beginnings of the Christian Sacraments Martos writes,
“Common to all of these (Greek) cults was the mysterion, a sacred ritual in which the myth was symbolically presented and its meaning was revealed. In everyday Greek, mysterion meant something hidden or secret, and it had no particularly religious connotation. But the central ritual of each of these cults was in fact something that was hidden, since it was closed to those who had not been initiated into the religion, and so it could be called a mysterion.” He also quotes Theodore Of Mopsuestia, “Every sacrament points to invisible and ineffable realities by means of signs and symbols.”

The Whole idea of Mass and the Eucharist in particular is to enter these mysteries. The New Testament uses “Sacrament, not once. It uses some form of “Mystery” 28 times. Ephesians and Revelations each use the term 4 times, and it is used often in I Corinthians. Jesus himself uses the term in Matthew 13 and Luke 8, in relation to the Parable of the Sower.

Greek has another interesting word on the subject, “Eusebia.” This is the feeling of religious awe we should receive when we attend Mass, when we understand the words, and the words in a different sense, as we meditate upon the murals, statues, and other works of art in our Cathedral.The idea is to gain this religious awe and in the process enter into the mystery. When we do not understand the words at the heart level, and this happens when we hear the words in a foreign language such as Latin, we love this Eusebia, this sense of religious awe.

Latin can, in a sense, be part of this Eusebia, if we understand the words. When we do not, it becomes part of a feel good religion that is everything Jesus preached against. Luke 20:45-47 Mark 12:38-40 A better analogy is that of fruit and its sugar. Fruit is very good for us. Sugar gives it flavor. When we do not understand Latin and insist on singing it and hearing it at Mass, we are like those who eat fructose instead of eating fruit. We want the flavor and the rush, but do not want the Eusebia, the participation in the mystery which comes with it.

Matthew 6 has Jesus say, “When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see them.In praying, do not babble like the ethnics, who think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them. Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” He then gives the Our Father. A chapter before he writes, “Let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No’ mean ‘No.’ Anything more is from the evil one.” Jesus is a man of few words and he wants all of our words to mean something.

Our authority for speaking of sacraments is the living tradition handed on to us by the Church Fathers.When we emphasize this tradition as coming from Tertullian who writing around the year 210 first used the Latin word sacramentum, we date our faith as coming from the third century, and therefore not the apostles. With the emphasis on Latin, we give credence to the arguments that we are not apostolic.

Tertullian gives our third definition of apostolic:

LectionaryThey (The apostles) in like manner founded churches in every city, from which all the other churches, one after another, derived the tradition of the faith, and the seeds of doctrine… that they may become churches. It is on this account only that they will be able to deem themselves apostolic, as being the offspring of apostolic churches.

We are apostolic because we are members of one of the churches founded by the 12 apostles, not because we sing or speak in Latin. Latin is a change, and makes us less apostolic. Our heritage ultimately come from Hebrew. One source on Jewish prayer writes:

Words of Institution“The most important part of prayer is the introspection it provides. Accordingly, the proper frame of mind is vital to prayer. The mindset for prayer is referred to as kavanah, “concentration” or “intent.” The minimum level of kavanah is an awareness that one is speaking to God and an intention to fulfill the obligation to pray. If you do not have this minimal level of kavanah, then you are not praying; you are merely reading. In addition, it is preferred that you know and understand what you are praying about and that you think about the meaning of the prayer.”

Chi RhoIf we speak in Latin, and do not know the meaning of the words, we are not fulfilling our religious obligation. Our Kyrie Eleison is Greek, not Latin. The Chi Rho we see everywhere in our Cathedral, is the first two letters for “Christ,” in Greek. “Liturgy,” is a Greek term, not Latin. Fundamentalists like to argue, “Liturgy,” does not appear in the New Testament. It does, in Luke 1:23, II Corinthians 9:12, Philippians 2:30, Hebrews 8:6, and 9:21.

As we prepare for the Liturgy of the Eucharist we have an “Anaphora” which is related to our word, “Phosphorus.” “Phosphorus,” is a light carrying element, or Photos, Phorus/carrying. These are both Greek terms, not Latin. “Lucifer,” is the Latin form for “Light Carrier.” In our  Mass, inside our Anaphora, we have an “Anamnesis,” another Greek term. We speak of “”Mnemonic,” devices to help us remember things. “Ana,” is a Greek term for “Above.” “Anamnesis,” is something coming from God, through the Mass, to help us remember Christ’s dying and resurrection. It also helps us to remember our dying and rising through participation in the Eucharist. Eucharist is a Greek term meaning, Thanksgiving. The main parts of our Mass, are Greek, not Latin.

One person, arguing for Latin, argued for the Sanctus, part of our reading for the Fifth Sunday in Ordinary time. “They cried one to the other, “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts! All the earth is filled with his glory!”

This comes from our first reading, from Isaiah, who spoke Hebrew. It reads in the original language, מְלֹא כָל-הָאָרֶץ כְּבוֹדוֹ קָדוֹשׁ קָדוֹשׁ קָדוֹשׁ יְהוָה צְבָאוֹת, “Chodesh, Chodesh, Chodesh, the Name of Sabbaoth. Full is all Earth with your distinction,” not, “Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus Dominus Deus exercituum ; plena est omnis terra gloria ejus.” The Latin is a good translation, but still, a translation.

The Sanctus is also called the “Epinikios hymnos. In Greek: Eπινίκιος ὕμνος, or the “Hymn of Victory.”) In the liturgy of St’s Basil and St. John Chrysotom the Psalm goes something like, ” Ἅγιος, ἅγιος, ἅγιος Κύριος Σαβαώθ· πλήρης ὁ οὐρανὸς καὶ ἡ γῆ τῆς δόξης σου, ὡσαννὰ ἐν τοῖς ὑψίστοις. Εὐλογημένος ὁ ἐρχόμενος ἐν ὀνόματι Κυρίου. Ὡσαννὰ ὁ ἐν τοῖς ὑψίστοις.” This speaks to the Greek, not Latin, source of the prayer. John of Revelation also took this prayer, from Isaiah, and placed it in Revelation 4:8. To show how old it is, Judaism still places this prayer, in Hebrew, after the third Benediction of the Standing Prayer, the Amidah. Jesus and the Apostles almost certainly recited it as part of their liturgy. It is apostolic.

Our Gospel adds an important part to our understanding of being apostolic. When Isaiah gets the call, he grumbles of being a man of unclean lips. In our Gospel, St. Peter does not brag about being an apostle, a missionary. Average people compare themselves with others, and seeing their faults, reason they are not so bad, maybe even good. They come to think of themselves as greater than others are. The truly great people compare themselves with God, and find themselves wanting.

“Apostolic,” means being missionaries, sent out into the world to make it a better place, in God’s image, in Jesus’ image. Apostolic means being a member of the grander community of saints with a lineage going all the way back to the first apostles. Being apostolic means being Christian, like Christ, and like the apostles, not saying Mass in Latin.

The Franciscan Rule and the Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time


Cypess treesJesus began speaking in the synagogue, “Today this Writing is fulfilled in your hearing.” All spoke highly of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They asked, “Isn’t this the son of Joseph?” He told them, “Surely you will quote me this proverb, ‘Physician, cure yourself,’ and say, ‘Do in your native place the things we heard were done in Capernaum.”

010One minute the crows sings his praises, and the next, they are a lynch mob. Do we do the same? Do we sing the praises of our favorite leader, so long as he tells us what we want to hear? When he compares us with the Pharisees, or other villains, do we change course and become a lynch mob? What of other prophets, speakers of the truth. When they tell us what we want to hear, do we follow them, to our own doom, if need be? This is something for each of us to reflect upon.

“Capernaum,” comes from the Greek. We have a similar word, “Cypress.” Also related in the Jewish concept of Yom Kippur, or the “Day of Atonement. “ Think of Kippur, “Atonement” in relation to the cypress trees. They provide shade, and from the point of view of someone looking down from on high, “God,” they hide, or cover the faults of the people who are below.

Be a RippleIsaiah 40 begins, “Comfort/Naum, comfort/Naum, my people, says your God. Speak to the heart of Jerusalem. Proclaim to her, her service has ended; her guilt is expiated. She has received from the hand of the NAME double for all her deviations.” The Synoptic Gospels use this passage to begin speaking of John the Baptist. Capernaum speaks of the comfort coming from atonement. The Israel Department of Tourism writes of the village, “The remains… were identified in 1838 by Eduard Robinson as Capernaum of the New Testament… The site was acquired by the Franciscan Fathers at the end of the 19th century, who conducted excavations.”

Our Secular Franciscan Rule states, “United by their vocation as brothers and sisters of penance, and motivated by the dynamic power of the gospel, let them conform their thoughts and deeds to those of Christ by means of that radical interior change which the gospel itself calls conversion. Human frailty makes it necessary that we carry out this conversion daily. On this road to renewal the sacrament of reconciliation is the privileged sign of the Father’s mercy and the source of grace. Giovanni Francesco di Bernardone. Chapter 2 Section 4 of the Secular Franciscan Rule.

habit“Do in your native place the things we things we heard were done in Capernaum.” This is impossible. The miracles require faith and faith causes interior conversion. The crowd wants radical change, but it does not want conversion. Our second reading for the Fourth Sunday in Ordinary time states, “At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror…. At present, I know partially; I shall know fully. Faith, hope, love remain; but the greatest of these is love.”

We see things partially. The Ethics of the Fathers states, “When sitting in judgment, do not act as a counselor-at-law. When the litigants stand before you, consider them both guilty; and when they leave your courtroom, having accepted the judgment, regard them as equally righteous.”

When people come before this judge, they see things partially, as in a mirror. When they leave court, we have a grander picture. We are reconciled to community, and are righteous.The purist proof that we are wrong is when we are so certain we are right that we do not have to listen to the other side. Being a Tzaddic, being a truly charitable person, means being willing to listen to the other side, asking, “Where does the other side gets its point of view? How can it be so certain of its right, it insists upon going to court? It is only when we are willing to undergo this radical transformation that we can become charitable, wise, as individuals, and as a nation.

It is all about love. Love, in Hebrew comes from a root. Ha Bah, sounds like the bleating of sheep and refers to the Lamb of God, who is to come. Ha Bah means to come. Abba, means father, the one who is to come. A Ha Bah is love.

ST. FrancisSt. Paul writes, “Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, it is not pompous, It is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things. Love never fails.”

Jesus requires this radical transformation for healing. St. Francis requires this radical transformation on a daily basis for healing. Love means welcoming the other person into our hearts and into our lives, daily, early and often. Love means seeing each other as imperfect brothers and sisters, people we have to live with, in our home, whether our home be our dwelling, our city, our state, nation and world. Love means welcoming Muslim, Jew, atheist, or other religious, because they are fellow human beings. Love, God requires no less. “God is love,” I John 4:8.

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, or “What is a man’s due?”


384309_549304955086309_357628736_n“As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ. In one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons, and we were all given to drink of one Spirit.” I Corinthians 12:12-13 Second Reading for the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

“As among the different sounds which proceed from lyres, flutes, and the human voice, there must be maintained a certain harmony which a cultivated ear cannot endure to hear disturbed or jarring, but which may be elicited in full and absolute concord by the modulation even of voices very unlike one another. Where reason is allowed to modulate the diverse elements of the state, there is obtained a perfect concord from the upper, lower, and middle classes as from various sounds. What musicians call harmony in singing, is concord in matters of state, which is the strictest bond and best security of any republic, and which by no ingenuity can be retained where justice has become extinct.” St. Augustine, City of God, Book 2, Chapter 21.

one hundred piece orchestra

St. Augustine voices the Western definition of Justice when he writes it is giving every man his due. City of God, Book 19, chapter 4. There is one important thing wrong with this definition. In practical terms, what is any given man’s due? Augustine goes on to write, “There is in man himself a certain just order of nature, so that the soul is subjected to God, and the flesh to the soul, and consequently both soul and flesh to God.” In writing this Augustine refers to the intellectual tradition of the Greeks which has God, first, reason second, and the flesh third. Augustine may also have Deuteronomy 30:11-14 in mind.

This Mitzvah, I give you today is not too wondrous or remote for you. It is not in the heavens, that you should say, “Who will go up to the heavens to get it for us and tell us of it, that we may do it?” Nor is it across the sea, that you should say, “Who will cross the sea to get it for us and tell us of it, that we may do it?” No! It is something very near to you, in your mouth and in your heart, to do it.”

CosmosIn Book Three Chapter 8 of his Confessions St. Augustine compares the Ten Commandments to a lyre. Just as the lyre is made of groupings of three and ten strings, so the Ten Commandments are made of the first three referring to God, and the second seven referring to man’s relations with each other. In Augustine’s writing, at least in the book, “The Complete Works of Saint Augustine,” “Music,” appears 71 times. “Concord,” appears 39 times, 10 times in Book 19 alone. Harmony appears 42 times 14 times in our Chapter 19, alone. Justice? It appears in every Book of the City of God, a grand 493 times.

moonSt. Paul tells us in our Second Reading for the Third Sunday of Ordinary time that we are to view our community as an organic whole. St. Augustine reminds us that our community is to be based upon harmony. We have all heard musical groups based upon harmony and have heard how beautiful this can sound. When asking what a man’s due is, we have only to ask, “Will the final product sound harmonic to God’s ears. As we look to the large and growing gap between the rich and poor, in this nation, and in our world, we need only ask, “Is this harmonious to God’s ear?” There is no magic formula here. Tubas are louder than flutes, much louder. The goal is not to make the tuba sound like a flute. If we could, there would be no need for a tuba player. The goal is not to make business executives into plumbers, or vice versa.

habitIn English, we have several basic concepts: Vocation, Profession, Job, and Occupations. The goal is to eliminate jobs and occupations and replace them with Vocation and Profession. Our Vocation is our calling from God. It is not something we take upon ourselves. It is not something we choose. God calls us to these things. This is what St. Paul tells us in the second reading. Likewise, professions are the way we profess our faith in our vocations. As such, professions come from God, and not from ourselves. Again, this is the heart of our second reading. Leaders are just part of the body, no more or less important than the other parts. This does not mean they should be paid the same, or differently. Tubas have different needs than flutes. They also cost more. Likewise synthesizers, pianos… We all have different needs so need to be paid differently.

What is each man’s due? Look to the final product, the final opus. The goal is, as a nation, and as individuals, to conduct the total symphony of communal life to make a work pleasing to God.

Raphael presentation in the temple

Psalm 80, the Our Father, and the Fourth Sunday of Advent


Raphael presentation in the temple

When the days were completed for their purification according to the Torah of Moses, they took him up to Jerusalem to present him to KYRIE, just as it is written in the Torah of the KYRIE, “Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the KYRIE…” Luke 2:22-38

When Christ came into the world, he said, “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; in holocausts and deviation offerings you took no delight. I said, ‘As is written of me in the scroll, behold, I come to do your will, O God.“ Hebrews 10:5-10 Second Reading Fourth Sunday of Advent

8919_1243228163516_2601477_nChristianity has had a love/hate relationship with liturgy. Moses lays out the foundations of liturgy in Exodus 22, in Leviticus, and in the Psalms. The prophets condemn liturgy. Genesis 4: 1-4, the story of Cain and Abel, gives the first recorded use of liturgy and explains the why of this love/hate relationship. Cain brings an offering to the NAME from the fruit of the ground. Abel brought the fatty portion of the firstlings of his flock. Abel brings from the first of the flock. Cain, whose name means upraised/prideful one, brings his whatever. The contest rests upon the key word, “first.”

The Jewish understanding of liturgy, from Leviticus, tells us what we bring as sacrifice represents ourselves. The leader brings his bulls, representing leadership. The poor, as related in Luke, bring doves, representing the suffering of these birds in sacrifice. We bring who we are, and who we are manifests itself by what we do. Cain brings his whatever, not making sure that what he brings is the best of what he has. When we give each other presents, the general rule of thumb is not to bring what we like. We bring what speaks to the relationship. God asks for the gift we bring to him to speak to our relationship with him by doing his will.

Words of InstitutionWhen we pray the Our Father, we ask, “Our Father,” the first words speak to the relationship of father, and we, as children of the church, his bride, to our relation as children. “Who are in heaven…” Heaven is the air. We like to think of heaven as up there, somewhere, but the air is here. As the air blows as wind, coming and going as it wills, as John tells us in his Gospel, God calls us to breath in this wind, allow it to remain within us, and move us to heal and transform.

“Dedicated is your NAME.” We dedicate God’s Name, not by words we say, but by what we do. You represent your family by your actions, whether you like it, or know it, or not. When we behave well, we dedicate God’s name by being an example. Others dedicate God’s Name saying, “I teach you customs and precedents as the NAME, my God, commanded me, that you guard to do them in the land you are entering to possess. Guard them carefully, for this is your wisdom and discernment in the sight of the peoples, who will hear of all these precedents and say, “This great nation is truly a wise and discerning people.” Deuteronomy 4:5-6

PovertyIn Hebrew and Aramaic, prayer is a reflexive verb. It is sitting down with God and asking him to work with us as we do his will. “Your will be done, your will be done…” This is a request that he give us direction to do his will. Then comes his will. “Give us this day our daily bread.” The Greek for “Daily,” most properly translates as, “Over being.” It is the bread of over being or spiritual bread. As “daily bread,” the emphasis is upon, “Us.” It means we ask God to help us make sure all of us have the bread we need to live and survive as human beings. This is not subsistence living. This is living with the over bread, the bread of being human, with all it means to be human. We pray for the where withal to make sure all people on this planet have sufficient for their needs.

563670_4908488437728_2091044043_nThen we pray that we forgive others as God forgives us first. We pray, “Lead us not into temptation.” King David, in Proverbs 30:10 says it well, “Two things I ask of you, do not deny them to me before I die: Put falsehood and lying far from me, give me neither poverty nor riches; provide me only with the food I need (daily bread); Lest, being full, I deny you, “Who is the NAME?” Or, being in want, I steal, and profane the name of my God.” This fulfilled is being lead not into temptation. “Evil?” The Hebrew word means rot. God wants a healthy world. God put us on this planet to guard it and to keep it. He wants our best.

When we give our best, God loves and looks down well on our liturgy as it is bringing the best of ourselves into his presence. When we do less. When we give second best to our world, not making sure all have sufficient to their needs, now and into posterity, taking care of our planet, God does not look well upon our liturgy. This is today’s lesson.

Drunk in the Spirit, turning water into wine


Champagne_uncorking_photographed_with_a_high_speed_air-gap_flash“They have no wine.” Jesus told her, “Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother told the servers, “Do whatever he tells you.” Now there were six stone water jars there for Jewish ceremonial washings, each holding twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus told them, “Fill the jars with water.” They filled them to the brim. Then he told them, “Draw some out now and take it to the headwaiter.” They took it. When the headwaiter tasted the water that had become wine… the headwaiter called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves beautiful wine first, and then when people have drunk freely, an inferior one; but you have kept the beautiful wine until now.”

AnnaOur Gospel for the Second Sunday in Ordinary Time has two messages. First, we must read of Jesus’ relation with his mother in much the same way we look at the typical relationship between an ethnic mother from Brooklyn with her child. An Anglo child would never speak to his mother as Jesus does with his mother. In a typical ethnic neighborhood, this is normal. We first see this brash way of speaking when Our Blessed Virgin first meets Elizabeth, when the two women are pregnant. There, we need to keep in mind that Elizabeth, as wife of a priest who gives service in the temple, was probably wealthy. The Magnificat about condemning the wealthy. As Our Blessed Virgin was brash with Elizabeth, so Jesus us brash with his mother.

wine

“There were six stone water jars there for Jewish ceremonial washings, each holding twenty to thirty gallons.” As a point of reference, the human body, if empty, holds about thirty gallons. The ceremonial washings we ritual washings of purification. The passage tells us to do penance. When we drink the ceremonial water of penance, the water washing through us becomes wine. “When the people have drunk freely, an inferior one…” This is because the people are drunk and will no longer no the difference.

This is what penance does for us, when it is sincere. We become filled as with wine. We act like we are drunk. Our first reading sums things up:

“You shall be called “My Delight,“ your land “Espoused.” The NAME delights in you and makes your land his spouse. As a young man marries a virgin, your Builder shall marry you; as a bridegroom rejoices in his bride so shall your God rejoice in you.”

Linda's Wedding PhotoWhy is it that the whole world loves a lover, but nobody loves a churchgoer? We call the beginning of our liturgy the Introductory Rites, the Entrance, the Greeting, the Penitential Act, the Glory to God, and the Collect. The Penitential Act gets us ready for the Glory to God. In the Penitential Act we drink the water of those thirty gallons. We then sing the Glory to God. We become the virgin, the Bride of Christ, who marries the young man, Jesus. Our Builder, God, marries us. We become the Bride of Christ. God rejoices in us, and we in him. We then go out into the world and express that love. The question for us, “Are we married to Christ or not?” “Are we the bride of Christ or no?”

Narthex plantWhen we leave our Cathedral, it is through the Narthex. The Narthex is a plant, but not just any plant. Prometheus used the Narthex to bring fire down from the gods. Let us drink down the fire of the Holy Spirit this Sunday and leave Mass to go forth to love and serve God by bringing his wine to the world.

Being baptized in the Holy Spirit and fire, sounds nice, but what does it mean?


John the BaptistOur Gospel reading is in three parts, representing John the Baptist, the crowd, and Jesus. Of John the Baptist, our Gospel speaks, “I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals.” Jesus will later say of John the Baptist, “Among those born of women, no one is greater than John; yet the least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.” There is great humility here.

Of the crowd, “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” “Spirit” is Latin for breath. In the Aramaic, “Fire,” and “Man,” are the same word. Aramaic has two words for “Man,” as does German. In German the two words are, “Der Mann,” and “Der Mensch.” In Aramaic, “Adam,” and “Ish,” “Adam” is any man. “Der Mensch,” and “Ish,” are a different story. A Mensch is more than a man. He is a man who follows God’s will. Our readings are about baptism in the Dedicated Breath, this Holy Spirit.

WindThe third part of our Gospel is about Jesus setting the example. The man of fire with the Holy Spirit, is “Bone of my bones, flesh of my flesh.” He sees in everyone, no matter how big, or how small, how like us, or how not like us, how repulsive in our view, or how appealing, a piece of himself. Of Jesus first, but also of us, our first reading says, “Here is my servant whom I uphold,
my chosen one with whom I am pleased, upon whom I have put my spirit; he shall bring forth justice to the nations.. A bruised reed he shall not break, and a smoldering wick he shall not quench, until he establishes justice on the earth…” To you, Isaiah speaks. The primary reference is Jesus, but Jesus is first example to us. “I, the NAME, called you for the victory of justice, I have grasped you by the hand; I formed you, and set you as a covenant of the people, a light for the nations, to open the eyes of the blind, to bring out prisoners from confinement, and from the dungeon, those who live in darkness.”

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“Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she with silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore…” Our Statue of Liberty takes up the same message as Isaiah and John the Baptist. Put aside the pomp and ceremony of idle rites. Rites are not idle when they teach, with their primary emphasis being upon actions. The coastlands await our teaching, the words of our New Colossus.

Of Brit, covenant, one expert writes it means, “circle, ring, chain, to cut a ring out/make a ring, to enter into the ring, and therefore a covenant.” Dictionary of Targumim, Talmud and Midrashic Literature, page 194 God sets us as a Brit, a ring, around the people. He sets the example of what we should be.

doveOur Gospel speaks of the Holy Spirit coming upon us in fire. The Holy Spirit then descends upon Jesus. St. Paul writes, “The concern of the flesh is death; the concern of the spirit is life and peace… you are in the spirit, if only the Spirit of God dwells in you… those who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God… The Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if only we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified/doxology with him.” What is a doxology but speaking well of someone. When do people speak well of us? When we act like brothers and sisters, taking care of one another, being a light for the nations, opening the eyes of the blind, bringing prisoners from confinement, from the dungeon, those who live in darkness.” There is no room here for a nation with 5% of the world’s population an 25% of those in prison.

When we fix this God will say of us as he says of Jesus, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

A Christmas Carol, a character study


Americans in particular have a great tradition of watching the Dickens classic, “A Christmas Carol.” In our tradition Mr. Ebenezer Scrooge is a rather shallow character, a miser, who cheats his own employees out of fair wages, and pinches his customers for every penny he can get out of them. We fail to see how this short story is a character study we have much to learn from.

LectionaryScrooge tell his nephew, “”Merry Christmas!  What right have you to be merry?  What reason have you to be merry?  You’re poor enough… What’s Christmas time to you but a time for paying bills without money; a time for finding yourself a year older, but not an hour richer; a time for balancing your books and having every item in ’em through a round dozen of months presented dead against you…? “Much good may it do you!  Much good it has ever done you!”’ These words are from a man who has known poverty.

There are two ways of dealing with poverty, after we have climbed out of it. The first is to fear its return. This is the approach of Scrooge. The approach guarantees poverty continues, for someone. God gives refresher courses. If we do nothing to end poverty, poverty may find us again. The second is to fight to make sure none suffer in the future. This is what the angels teach Scrooge. A Christmas Carol is about.

Read the lines closely. “A time for paying bills without money.” “A time for finding yourself a year older, but not an hour richer.”  “A time for balancing your books and having every item in ’em through a round dozen of months presented dead against you…?”  This is a man who understands the futility of doing without. This is a man who understands  the quiet desperation of working all year and having nothing to show for it but bills. This is from Scrooge, before his conversion, not Bob Cratchid.

There is no room in A Christmas Carol for the conflict theory of Karl Marx, though both Charles Dickens and Karl Marx wrote at the same time. Scrooge’s nephew, Fred, owns a home with two floors and employees at least one servant, in the original novelette. Dickens places Fred into his story to show how economics is not the issue here. Good will to all men is.  “Scrooge,” comes from our word, scrounge, and means one who scrounges, or scavenges for everything.

Scrooge pays Bob Cratchit 15 shillings a week. This equals £ 360.69, or $547.24. Assuming a 40-hour workweek, workweeks were longer then, this is $13.68 per hour. This is the salary even Scrooge views as being incredibly stingy. What would Scrooge think of refusing to raise the minimum wage to $10 per hour? Are we as stingy as Scrooge, arguing anyone should be paid as little as this? Alfred Adler wrote of early recollections in relating how a patient expresses his current self through his recollections, and A Christmas Carol is a story about recollections.

“Scrooge recognizing every gate, and post, and tree…;Shaggy ponies now were seen trotting towards them with boys upon their backs, who called to other boys in country gigs and carts, driven by farmers. All these boys were in great spirits, and shouted to each other, until the broad fields were so full of merry music, that the crisp air laughed to hear it…”The school is not quite deserted,” said the Ghost. “A solitary child, neglected by his friends, is left there still.” Scrooge said he knew it, and he sobbed.”

We condemn Scrooge, but we make him. We make him when we see the solitary child among us and do not make a special effort to make that child a member of our community. That is true, whether that child be 5, 10, or 100.

John the BaptistWhen “A Christmas Carol speaks of Scrooge’s friends, Scrooge says, “”Why, it’s Ali Baba!” Scrooge exclaimed in ecstasy. “It’s dear old honest Ali Baba. Yes, yes, I know. One Christmas time, when yonder solitary child was left here all alone, he did come, for the first time, just like that. Poor boy. And Valentine,” said Scrooge, “and his wild brother, Orson; there they go. What’s his name, who was put down in his drawers, asleep, at the Gate of Damascus; don’t you see him…? ” The man thought he was dreaming, but he wasn’t. It was the Parrot, you know…!”

Scrooge’s friends are characters in novels. Scrooge is an obsessive compulsive who cannot find friends in the real world. He finds friends, first in novels, then in money. The novel continues with Scrooge’s sister, Fran, “Father is so much kinder than he used to be, that home’s like Heaven!” Scrooge’s only recollection of his father was as not so kind. In this regard, he is like Charles Dickens. Home is where father is kind. Scrooge has never known heaven, or home.

One ugly kid 2Of his real friends we only read, “”Dick Wilkins, to be sure,” said Scrooge to the Ghost. “Bless me, yes. There he is. He was very much attached to me, was Dick. Poor Dick. Dear, dear.” Implied, something happened to Dick Wilkins, and it hurt Scrooge deeply.

The real essence of this novel? Scrooge tells his sweetheart, “”This is the even-handed dealing of the world!” he said.” There is nothing on which it is as hard as poverty; and there is nothing it professes to condemn with such severity as the pursuit of wealth!” “You fear the world too much,” she answered, gently. “All your other hopes have merged into the hope of being beyond the chance of its sordid reproach. I have seen your nobler aspirations fall off one by one, until the master-passion, Gain, engrosses you. Have I not?”

Scrooge fears poverty, and he fears human contact. His sweetheart notices this. Scrooge decides to be above the turmoil of daily life, apart from it. He chooses the cold of no human contact over the pain that comes with it.

Scrooge fears the poor as well. The U.S. represents 4.5% of global population but nearly 30% of its total Gross Domestic Product, its wealth. Of this, the richest 20% of the population controls 80% of the wealth. We build fences on our southern border to keep out the poor from the poorer nations to our south and we speak of making sure no non-Protestants enter our border. As Catholics we know of this. We remember the signs of, “No Irish need apply,” and “No Italians need apply.” We know this was in reference to the Irish and Italians being Catholic, non-Protestant. We know of the same for African Americans. If you are of the wrong ethnic group, you are not welcome in America. Now it is Hispanics and Semites. Arabs are Semitic stock. This is all based upon a fear Dickens condemns in the strongest terms.

We live in gated communities and we engage in white flight from our cities to hide ourselves from poverty, just like Scrooge. Still, poverty remains close, in the lives of Bob Cratchid, our employees. We fear contact with our employees, so do not seek them out when planning out our, and their, future.

Like Scrooge, we count our money and we fear those not like us, those who have not. We watch A Christmas Carol every year, but we do not see Scrooge in ourselves. We speak of being God’s stone for transforming the world. Ebenezer comes from the same root of Lazarus, the helper of El, Allah, God. The Hebrew word for “stone,” is “Eben.” Ebenezer means God’s stone. We would be God’s stone. Would we also be Ebenezer?

PhanuelIn the original Greek, Mark 4:24 has a great line, a mixed metaphor, usually translated out. “See what you hear.” If we look for the cold heartedness of others in the world, we will find it.We have interesting puns reflecting this in English. Mean people are mean because they are average. Vulgar people are vulgar for the same reason we have a Vulgate Bible. We of the bourgeois fear the average stock.

Scrooge finds his classmates cold and heard. They are, leaving him in the classroom by himself. They choose not to see the suffering of a little boy under a harsh father. There is no mention of a mother. Kinder and gentler people would see the child in the classroom and find him a mentor child to bring him into community. Do we look for the outcasts of our society and try to bring them into community before they become Scrooges, or criminals of all kinds?

The story juxtaposes Scrooge with Christ. Jesus goes out into the world in all the ugliness the Scrooges of this world sees and it costs him his life. Scrooge hides from it, and in the end, he dies the living death of isolation. Look for the good in people, because it is there, then promote the general welfare.