The Twenty-Second Sunday of Ordinary Time and the Statue of Liberty.


Words of InstitutionYou approach Mount/Are, Zion/Pile of Rocks, and the city/Eire of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem/City of Peace. You approach the myriad of messengers in panegyric, and the assembly of the firstborn enrolled in heaven, with God the judge of all, and the spirits of the just made Shalom, and Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant/Brit, and the sprinkled blood that speaks more eloquently than that of Abel.

We all remember writing comparison and contrast papers in English class. The passage St. Paul writes is one of those comparison and contrast papers. St. Paul first mentions the Jewish nation as it traveled to Mount Zion to receive the Ten Commandments.

Statue of liberty lighning strikeYou have not approached that which could be touched and a blazing fire and gloomy darkness and storm and a trumpet blast and a voice speaking words such that those who heard begged that no message be further addressed to them, they could not bear to hear the command: “If even an animal touches the mountain, it shall be stoned.” This refers to the Hebrews/Hebrew for homeless, as they approached Mount Zion. That mountain had the fire and the darkness caused by the eruption of that volcano. The storm and trumpet blast refers to the horns of the leadership as they marched toward that mountain. The people were afraid to approach Mt. Zion, as would anyone as they approached an active volcano.

He then speaks of God’s new nation as it travels to the City of Peace, Jerusalem to meet with the myriad of messengers/angels, apostles of the God of Life. St. Paul writes assuming the readers knows of the church leadership, referring to them as angels/messengers.

What God requires in this passage starts with verse 14. “Strive for peace/shalom with everyone, and for that sense of being special/married to God, without which no one will see Kyrie. See to it that no one be deprived of the kindness of God, that no bitter root spring up and cause trouble, through which many may become polluted.” It is the sense of bitterness that causes the Black Lives Matter Movement. We need to hear, not, “Black Lives Matter,” but “Our Lives Matter.” We need to feel that hurt as coming from some of us, and then address that bitterness, that hurt, with humility.

Arlington in springSt. Paul refers to God in this passage as “אֱלהִים חַיִּים, the God of Life. This passage calls us to be representatives of the God of Life, the one who brings life.  There is no room for bitterness or dissent here. There is only room for bringing community and the fullness of life to all people. Our God is the God of Life, Elohim Chaim. He calls us to bring life/himself, to all people.

Do not reject the one who speaks: our Pope, Bishops, and Clergy. Clergy comes from kleros “a lot, allotment; piece of land; heritage, inheritance. Our clergy reminds us of our heritage, as Catholics, and as Americans.  Give us your tired, your poor, those yearning to breathe free.”

If they did not escape when they refused the one who warned them on earth, how much more in our case if we turn away from the one who warns from heaven.  St. Paul uses Jewish rhetoric here, Kal Vahomer, Light and heavy.  We will not escape God’s wrath when God’s representatives preach it. How much more, will we not escape the warnings from heaven?

We who are receiving the unshakable kingdom should have gratitude, with which we should offer liturgy/public service pleasing to God in a sense of shame, modesty and caution or discretion.

Statue of liberty lighning strikeTherefore, St. Paul teaches us to strive for Shalom/tranquility/peace with all men. He calls us not to shake things up. Our Gospel for the Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time speaks of the same issue. We are to approach, do liturgy to God with a sense of shame, modesty and caution or discretion. We are to approach God in the Eucharist knowing we are dust and ashes. Our passage tells us, ““When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not recline at table in the place of honor.  A more distinguished guest than you may have been invited by him, and the host who invited both of you may approach you and say, ‘Give your place to this man,’ and then you would proceed with embarrassment to take the lowest place.

We create an unshakable kingdom when we do this. Everyone trusts everyone. Nobody rushes for the first table if the host must ask people to sit at the first table. This brings tranquility. Jesus then goes on, ““When you hold a lunch or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or your wealthy neighbors, in case they may invite you back and you have repayment. Rather, when you hold a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you. You will be repaid at the resurrection of the Tzaddicim/charitable/just.”

Jess theses statement in LukeNot like the brazen giant of Greek fame, with conquering limbs astride from land to land; Here 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!”

This is what God requires of us, approaching his home, the host, with humility and a sense of the sacred/being married to God. From this sense of humility, we reach out into the world to bring it healing, creating a sense of community that causes shalom/peace, a sense of safety. We need to remember that our God is a God of Life. Elohim Chaim. He calls us to bring life to all we see. Are we up to the task?

Defining the Narrow Gate, and Doers of Evil.


Cattle chuteNo Greek and Hebrew knowledge in the world will help us in translating the key word in Gospel reading for the Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time. Those who have been to the farm will understand what the key word means. The correct translation for the word translated as gate is not gate, but chute. Enter through the narrow chute. Chutes are not simple gates for moving cattle from one field to another. Ranchers use chutes to move cattle from the pen where they want to be to another pen where they do not want to be, generally for good reason. The place the cattle chutes leads to is generally for turning the young bulls into steers, the strongest of the lot into filet minion.

“Jesus passed through towns and villages, teaching as he went and making his way to Jerusalem.  Someone asked, “Kyrie, will only a few people be saved?” He answered, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough.”

Cattle chute 2When we are in a crowd, we think we see the shortcut leading into the field. What we really see is the cattle chute. We work violence, pushing and shoving our way to what we perceive to be the way to the field. Those strive to enter through the chute are striving to become filet minion. Luke 16:16 tells us the process, “The Torah/teaching and the Navy lasted until John;  but from then on the kingdom of God is proclaimed, and everyone who enters does so with violence. Those striving to enter the narrow chute are the martyrs.

Jesus tells us that the After People will be the Russia, and the Russia will be the After People.” In Hebrew, “Russia,” means head. Rosh Hashanah means the head of the year. Those who think themselves first, will be last. Those who think they are the after people will be first, in the eyes of God.

100_3144Jesus tells us, “I say to you, ‘I do not know where you are from. Depart from me, all you פּעֲלֵי הָאָוֶן/Pall Avon.’ There will be wailing and grinding of teeth. Jesus uses a Hebrew buzz phrase, doers of the crooked. The Greek Septuagint sometimes uses the Greek phrase,” οἱ ἐργάται τῆς ἀδικίας,” to translate the Hebrew, “Workers of Hamas.” Hamas is a Palestinian terrorist group, famed for violence. Hamas means violence. Jesus refers to those who would enter Utopia through violence.

We can take violence two ways. The first is an active tense. These are the people pushing and shoving to get into the chute, thinking it takes them to verdant pasture. They are strong enough to draw attention of the rancher, who then runs them through the cattle chute.

After the master of the house has arisen and locked the door, they will you stand outside knocking and saying, ‘Kyrie, open the door for us.’ Jesus tells those of us who would use violence, or our own skills to get where we want to go, “I do not know where you are from.” Those using their own skills to enter heaven, will say, “We ate and drank in your company and you taught in our streets.’ Jesus tells those of us saying ‘We attended Mass, eating and drinking with you, and being all kinds of Evangelical. Jesus tells this group, ‘I do not know where you are from.  Depart from me, all you פּעֲלֵי הָאָוֶן/those who would use force, or their own abilities to enter heaven or get their way in the world.”

Luke has Jesus speak of violence in the passive tense, those receiving the violence. “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough.” It takes a very strong man to be able to enter the cattle chute, knowing where leads. This is what Jesus calls us to.

People will come from the east and the west and from the north and the south and will recline at table in the kingdom of God. These are the people who are neither the Russia, nor the After People. These people view themselves as equals. God and Jesus want joy-filled people willing to sacrifice themselves for the General Welfare, or Well, Fare, as in Seafarer, one who travels by sea. We are a parish, Greek for traveler. We strive for the common journey of all humankind to be well, healthy for all.

Twentieth Sunday of Ordinary Time.


40759_168586576501331_100000499694318_509990_7405809_nJesus told the crowds, “When you see a cloud rising in the west you say immediately that it is going to rain; when you notice that the wind is blowing from the south you say that it is going to be hot—and so it is. Actors! You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky; why do you not know how to interpret the present time?

The Jewish kings of the first century before Christ established independence from the Seleucid Greeks, partly through Rome’s friendship. In 63 BC, a Roman army under the famous general, Pompey, after first extinguishing what remained of the Seleucid kingdom, marched into Judea. Pompey left the local political arrangements he found in Palestine in place. Within Judea, Pompey installed a member of the Hasmonean family, called Hyrcanus, as ruler. One of Hyrcanus’ high officials was Antipater the Idumaean.

HerodWhile pushing the frontiers of their empire outwards, the Romans were also involved in their own repeated bouts of civil war. The impact was felt in Judea.  The Jewish royal court split into bitter rival factions. Violent struggles repeatedly rocked the state. Antipater maneuvered himself into dominating the ruler. Antipater became a close friend of Pompey’s; and was soon the effective master of Judea. In 47 BC, Julius Caesar defeated and killed Pompey. Antipater swiftly switched his allegiance to Caesar, and led troops to Caesar’s aid, helping him to establish his power in the region. Caesar made Antipater a Roman citizen and appointed him governor of Judea. A rival assassinated Antipater in 43 BC and a coup brought his enemies to power. Judea’s new rulers were also hostile to Rome, and invited the Parthians, Rome’s great enemies, to occupy Judea. Antipater’s son, Herod, hurried to Rome, and persuaded the senate that he was the man they needed to be in charge of Judea. He would be loyal to Rome and further its interests in this unsettled region. The senate therefore appointed Herod King of the Jews. It took the Romans, supported by troops raised and led by Herod, three years of hard fighting to regain control of Judea. When finished they installed Herod as king.

Herod reigned over Judea until his death in 4 BC; navigated the treacherous power politics back in Rome. He was at first a supporter to Mark Antony, the Roman commander in the East. Antony was defeated and killed in a civil war with his rival, Octavian at the battle of Actium. Herod won Octavian over. Before the Battle of Actium, Anthony and Cleopatra traveled through Herod’s territory, moving north and to the battle.

As we read the details above, it is important to notice that armies from Parthia, Greece, and Rome had marched through and pillaged the landscape many times the century before Jesus. Jesus may or may not have known what war is, first hand. His parents and grandparents must certainly did, and they tried to teach their children what war is. It is ugly, blood and guts spilled out everywhere, fires burning from the looting, and much more.

Second_TempleMatthew’s Gospel reads, “In the evening you say, ‘Tomorrow will be fair, for the sky is red’; in the morning, ‘Today will be stormy, for the sky is red and threatening.’ You know how to judge the appearance of the sky, but you cannot judge the signs of the times.” Sailors to this day speak of, “Red sky at night is a sailor’s delight; red shy in the morning is a sailors bad mourning.”

See the signs of the times. Violence in our streets, in Dallas, Texas, where 5 police died. Alton Sterling, a 37-year-old father of five, became the 135th black person killed by police this year. Philando Castile became the latest addition. The clouds of the sky are red with blood. Red sky in the morning is a sailor’s bad warning.  Either we end the backbiting politics of liberal and conservative, minority against majority, and all the backbiting office politics in our places of employment, and in our clubs, or we will see the end of our nation. For those of us who are older, it may not come in our lifetimes, but it will come.

Jesus tells us to see the signs of the times.

The eastern world it is explodin‘, violence flarin’, bullets loadin’, you’re old enough to kill but not for votin’, you don’t believe in war, what’s that gun you’re totin’, and even the Jordan river has bodies floatin.’ Don’t you understand, what I’m trying to say? Can’t you see the fear that I’m feeling today? If the button is pushed, there’s no running away, There’ll be none to save with the world in a grave, take a look around you, boy, it’s bound to scare you, boy. Yeah, my blood’s so mad, feels like coagulatin’, I’m sittin’ here, just contemplatin’, I can’t twist the truth, it knows no regulation, handful of Senators don’t pass legislation, and marches alone can’t bring integration, when human respect is disintegratin’, this whole crazy world is just too frustratin’, and you tell me over and over and over again my friend, ah, you don’t believe we’re on the eve of destruction. the poundin’ of the drums, the pride and disgrace, you can bury your dead, but don’t leave a trace, hate your next-door-neighbor, but don’t forget to say grace, and you tell me over and over and over and over again my friend, ah, you don’t believe we’re on the eve of destruction.

Think of all the hate there is in Red China/North Korea! Then take a look around to Selma, Alabama/Dallas Texas, Falcon Heights, Minnesota, Baton Rouge, Miami Gardens, Florida/Trayvon Martin, Ferguson, Missouri, Eric Garner in New York, Timothy Thomas in Cincinnati and more! Barry McGuire wrote those words several decades ago, yet somehow; the song speaks to our times as much as it did to his. We need to look and see the signs or we will drive our bus into the concrete barrier along the way.

Another song from my generation also speaks for Jesus in the reading for the Twentieth Sunday of Ordinary Time, For What its Worth. “There’s a man with a gun over there telling me I got to beware I think it’s time we stop, children, what’s that sound everybody look what’s going down. There’s battle lines being drawn nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong. What a field day for the heat a thousand people in the street. They are singing songs and carrying signs mostly say, hooray for our side. It’s time we stop, hey, what’s that sound everybody look what’s going down. Paranoia strikes deep into your life it will creep it  starts when you’re always afraid you step out of line, the man come and take you away we better stop, hey, what’s that sound. Everybody look what’s going down. Stop, hey, what’s that sound everybody look what’s going down stop, now, what’s that sound everybody look what’s going down. Stop, children, what’s that sound everybody look what’s going down.”

The key words are about paranoia, mutual paranoia on both sides, liberal and conservative, black and white. When we look at the statements from our political leaders, they are striking. The liberals all pointed to the social disintegration caused by the excessive force of the police. The conservative ones, all pointed to the need for law and order, a phrase of Nixon coinage of the same era. They do not mention the African-American deaths.

Our signs need to stop saying, “Hooray for our side.” Start thinking about God’s side. This means seeing the tragedy of dead police, 136 dead blacks, the tragedy of abortion, and the tragedy of 24 thousand babies dying in the first year of life from a lack of nutrition and health care. It means working to end poverty, it means asking what our nation, and our Church is about. Most importantly, it means an end to the mutual paranoia on both sides, by trusting in God. Look at the signs, not of those protesting this or that, but of the signs Jesus refers to, armies marching this way and that, all the death and all the destruction that comes with it. Then it means working to end that violence. If we do not, Jesus was right when he predicted the events of Anno Domino 70. They will refer to Anno Domino 2017, if we do not change.

 

 

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time


LongfellowLuke 12: 42-48 is the Gospel for this Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time. It also reminds me of growing up in the mid-sixties. In ‘66 everyone except dad moved to Vandergrift, PA. Dad was not able to leave his job in Levittown, near Philadelphia, so mother moved with the kids to her old home town of Vandergrift. We now lived 320 miles from dad. One Friday evening mom was late getting home from her job. Dad was scheduled to drive up from Levittown.

53 Huckleberry LaneLeadership is a curse, not a blessing. In Book 19 of The City of God, Augustine tells us to take leadership positions with angst and what Kierkegaard called dread. The higher we are up the food chain, the more God requires of us.

Being the leader, I decided the house must look immaculate when dad arrived, so I pushed my three siblings to the breaking point, getting the house ready. I of course had the hardest job, so felt free to help myself to dad’s beer, chips and the like. I even had friends over to help drink, and push my siblings around. As evening became later, my friends and I got drunk. As we passed out, my siblings trashed the house. They looked out the window, gawking at every car going by, trying to listen for the sounds of dad’s American Rambler as it came down the road.

Luke 12 ends, “That servant knowing his master’s will but did not make preparations nor act in accord with his will shall be beaten severely; the servant who was ignorant of his master’s will… shall be beaten only lightly. Much will be required of the person entrusted with much; still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.”

I was eager to see dad, and mom for that matter, when she got home. In day to day life, on the other hand, I chose to put myself first. The focus in everyday life was toward myself and my interests. God calls us to put him first in the guarding and keeping of his garden, this planet. That in particular included his charges, all of his children.

Jess theses statement in Luke“Faith,” comes from a Hebrew word, one we use every Sunday and close all of our prayers with “amen/faith. 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. True faith is being in touch with all things. It is seeing the image of God, and his craftsmanship in each person, place, and thing we see.

My mistake was the same as Eve’s in Genesis 3. Eve answers the snake: “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden… God said, ‘You shall not eat it or even touch it…” Genesis 2 states, “The NAME, God ordered Adam, ‘You are free to eat from the trees of the garden except the tree of knowledge of the satisfying and the rotten. From that tree you shall not eat; when you eat from it…” The address is to Adam only, not Eve. God tells Adam not to eat of it. When Eve speaks to the snake, she adds to the command. Eve is not guilty of rebellion, but over-piety. I was not guilty of rebellion against our parents, but of being overly scrupulous, at the expense of others.

Four CausesAnother 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.” “Beware your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life. That day catch you by surprise like a trap and assault everyone. Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the imminent tribulations and stand before the Son of Man.”

God calls us to balancing our piety and industry with love of others. That day comes against all, so we must be mindful of others’ suffering. God will be far happier to find his children happily doing their share to keep the house in order. This includes making all happy. Remember, God looks forward to seeing his children in the window, looking for his second coming, but he also wants his house, our planet ready for his arrival.

The essence of Christian morality is…drum roll please…


human sellingThose of us who are in the medical field know the word, “Necrosis.” It means dead flesh. St. Paul tells us to put to death/necrosis, (literally) those parts of us remaining upon the earth. First mentioned is, “Porn.” The On-line Etymology Dictionary states the root idea of this word is that of selling.  In particular, it means the selling of people. A prostitute is someone selling him or herself as something less than human. We “have put on the new self, which is being renewed, for recognition of each other as being in the image of its creator.” Greek has two ways of saying something is made. The first, used in Genesis when God makes man, is “ἐποίησεν.” The word St. Paul uses in our Second Reading for the Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time is, “Ktisis.” This means a founding, as in a colony.

St. Paul does not speak of God as creator, as someone who builds a building. St. Paul speaks of St. Paul as a founder, someone who strives to create the ideal community and wants us to join him in the effort.

William Penn
William Penn: Founder of Pennsylvania

St. Paul speaks of an ideal community Christians are supposed to be trying to make. Christ is the foundation. We recognize Christ in each other. There is no buying and selling of people. Luke 7:44 has Jesus speak a great line when he chastises Simon Peter for being so Pharisaical. “Do you see this woman?” The answer is of course, no! He does not see her. He sees a porn/a prostitute, someone selling herself for a living. It takes two to tango as the old saying goes. If there is a seller, there must also be a buyer. If we refuse to buy, she cannot sell. Likewise, the homeless, desperate to do anything for food, clothing, shelter, transportation, healthcare, and the like. If we recognize/ἐπίγνωσιν the image of God in that person, we will not buy their dignity. We will help that person acquire their dignity, and the necessities of life,  as people God made in his image of God.

St. Paul then goes on to list impurity. When speaking of impurity he lists pathos/suffering. Pathos also means passion. We speak of Christ’s Pathos/Passion. One verse later St. Paul speaks of disobedience/A Pathos, or not having passion, not caring. God calls us to end Pathos/suffering from our society. He calls us to bring in Pathos, caring for all people in our society, which extends to everyone, and everything, on the planet.

St. Paul then speaks of the desire for sickness. St. Augustine asks, “what prudence, there is in wishing to glory in the greatness and extent of the empire, when you cannot point out the happiness of men who are always rolling, with dark fear and cruel lust, in warlike slaughters and in blood, which, whether shed in civil or foreign war, is still human blood.” City of God, Book 4, chapter 3.

St. Augustine behind the altar

St. Augustine then goes on,  “Your wishes are bad, when you desire that one whom you hate or fear should be in such a condition that you can conquer him.” That condition is being bad. This is the desire for sickness St. Paul speaks of.

St. Paul then speaks of the one who has or claims more than his due. That brings up the question of what a man’s due is. St. Augustine tells us, “Let them praise His Name in chorus.” What does “chorus” mean? A “chorus” is the union of singers. If we sing “in chorus,” let us sing in concord. If any one’s voice is out of harmony in a chorus of singers, it offends the ear, and throws the chorus into confusion. The whole world is now the chorus of Christ. The chorus of Christ sounds harmoniously from east to west. “Let them sing a psalm unto Him with tambourine and psaltery.” Why “tambourine and psaltery”? That not the voice alone may praise, but the works too.”  Expositions on the Book of Psalms: Psalm 149

As John the Baptist tells those around him in Luke 3, if you have more than enough and your neighbor has not enough, you are killing harmony and dissension. St. Paul speaks of that as greed.

St. Paul speaks of a real dying. St. Paul died on that Damascus Road, and he rose again. He spent the rest of his career speaking of a real dying and rising in Christ. Our Eucharist is our dying and rising in Christ. If we truly participate in this dying and rising, there will be fruits. The fruits of that message are simple, loving one another, caring for one another, and making sure we see Christ in one another. All the rest of Christian morality comes from that.

Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time and the Our Father


ThanksgivingThe First Reading for the Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time focuses upon Abraham’s discussion/prayer with God. We know the discussion. God wants to destroy Sodom and the cities in the valley. Abraham, a man of compassion tries to prevent it. The debate starts with the formula, “Will you destroy” for fifty, then forty-five, then forty, then thirty, then twenty, and finally for ten. Traditions says this passage is where Jewish tradition and later Christian and parliamentary tradition came up with the idea that a quorum is ten.

This is important as we read the Gospel reading. In the Gospel, reading Jesus gives us the Our Father. It is, “Our Father who is in Heaven, the/Ha, of/She water/maim. Water flows. God is in the flow of things. He is not up there. He is here. In Hebrew, prayer is a reflexive verb. It is in the Middle Greek, also a reflexive tense. Dialogue is reflexive. It is two people discussing things together. Abraham and the angels discuss things, together. That includes how to create a more perfect union, a more perfect world.

There's so much history in BostonDedicated is your name. This is not a statement of fact. This is a promise. We dedicate his name by how we live our lives. “Your kingdom come” is also not a request. It is a promise that we are bringing his reign by the way we live our lives. “Your will be done,” is also not a request. It is a promise that we will do his will. What is his will?

“Give us this day our daily bread.” It is not, “Give me my daily bread.” It is ‘Give us.” It is a promise that we will work together to make sure all have sufficient for their needs. “Forgive us our trespasses.” This is a promise that we will forgive the trespasses of each other and strive to create a stable, caring community. This is not the prayer of individuals. It is the prayer of the quorum, the community.

“Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from rot.” This is the promise that we will not tempt each other. “Do not subject us to the test.” This is a promise that we do not subject each other to meaningless tests. “If you then, who are Russia/think yourselves first, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Father in heaven give the

Holy Spirit to those who ask him?” He is not promising steak and potatoes. He promises the Holy Spirit. He promises the ability to discern how to create a more perfect union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity. The rest is up to us.

Be a Ripple“You were buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead. When you were dead in transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, he brought you to life along with him, having forgiven us all our transgressions; obliterating the bond against us, with its legal claims, which was opposed to us, he also removed it from our midst, nailing it to the cross.”

We are brothers and sisters now. We are natio- a people born together by common heritage, in baptism, with the common head of Christ. What is living in the Spirit? Acting like it. We are children of Abraham, Father of Many Nations. We are not all alike. As in any family, we all have our differences and our quirks. Being family means allowing everyone else to be who they are. As one man told me, “Always think you are the best person in the world, but don’t tell anybody. Help them to think the same thing about themselves. That is the Christian moral code in a nut shell.

What Separates Mary from Martha


Identical-Twins1What separates Mary from Martha in the Gospel reading for the Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time? First, we look at the names. In Hebrew, they are the same name. The root is “Mar.” Martha is a verb stemming from “Mar,” in the perfect tense. Mary literally translates, “My Mar.” We also read from the first reading, “The NAME appeared to Abraham by the oak of Mamre, or from Mar. There is something here Luke wants us to see. What is it?

The Jewish liturgy for Passover includes “Maror,” bitter herbs. Abraham takes Isaac to Moriah to sacrifice him. The Psalm 95:8, part of our Liturgy of the Hours, mention Meribah, same word, “Mar.” Ruth 1:20 has Naomi say, “No longer call me Naomi, but Mara,” There is that name again.

Seder plate small“Mar,” also has another meaning. Think of our nuns from the ‘50s and ‘60s. Remember the ruler across the knuckles. Remember going home and reporting the nun to your parents and how bitter some of them made our lives. They were strong and stronger when our parents found out what we did. The Modern Hebrew word for teacher is also “Mar.” “Mar,” also stands for a leader.

Mary and Martha are the same name. What separates the two women? The first reading gives us the answer. Abraham rushes into the tent and tells Sarah, “Quick, three measures of fine flour! Knead it and make rolls.” He runs to the herd, picks out a tender, choice steer, and gives it to a servant, who quickly prepares it.

Black AngusThen Abraham gets curds and milk, as well as the steer that had been prepared, and set these before the three men; and he waits on them under the tree while they eat. The problem is that Jews do not eat meat and dairy products together. Deuteronomy 14:21 and Exodus 23:19 state that meat and dairy are not to be eaten together. Psalm 119:89 says God’s word is eternal.  The rule about not serve meat and milk together did not come into existence when Moses wrote it. It had been there all along, since the creation of the world. How is it that Abraham serves meat and milk, and the angels eat and drink it?

The answer is that we confuse the rule with its application. Leviticus 22:28 states, “You shall not slaughter an ox or a sheep on one and the same day with its young.” Deuteronomy 22:6 has, “If, while walking along, you come across a bird’s nest with young birds or eggs in it, in any tree or on the ground, and the mother bird is sitting on them, you shall not take away the mother bird along with her brood.” The rule is compassion, not only for other humans, but also for all plant and animal life. It is seeing God’s handprint in everything.

The more any animal looks human, the less likely it is to be Kosher, in Jewish, and Muslim traditions. I also remember a very devout Muslim asking where he could buy meat. I told him Kroger’s. He told me the meat in that store was already dead. In Semitic tradition, you have to see the animal die to know that it did not suffer. The same rule applies in orthodox Jewish tradition. The rule is compassion. There is also the rule of hospitality. Abraham rushes to kill the steer. He rushes to get the milk and the other items for a feast. He has guests. This means the accidents of the rules are not that important. What is important is the rule, compassion, and hospitality. The divine is here.

Our Second Reading tells us, “Now it has been manifested to his holy ones, to whom God chose to make known the riches of the weightiness, of this mystery among the ethnic groups; it is Christ in you, the hope for weightiness.” When we partake of the Eucharist, Christ enters us. Christ is with Mary. In our faith tradition, we speak of the formal, efficient, material, and final causes. The Word of God is the formal cause of the universe. It is not putting liturgy before getting the work done. It is getting the work done by thinking smart, letting liturgy lead us to the most intelligent way to do the work.

When Jesus tells us in the Sermon on the Mount that until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place, he means Torah is the formal cause of the world. If any of it changes, the world passes away.

Four CausesThe Breath, the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit is the efficient cause working in our lives. We are the material cause. The final cause is Jesus working in us, bringing us to God, the ultimate final cause. When we do not have this, we are Sarah of the first reading, and we are Martha of the Gospel. Martha is anxious and worried about many things.  She is not tied to the Eucharist, and to God. She rushes after many things and gets no place. Martha is bitter, running in vain.

Mary is a leader, taking time to listen to the world around her, in particular the Word of God as she hears it through Jesus. If Mary misses a detail of the finery of etiquette, she is in the same position of Abraham who manages to serve meat and milk together, and God will consume her imperfect meal with pleasure.  Likewise with us; if we put the Eucharist and God’s Word first in our lives, even when we make mistakes, God will be with us in our meals and in our lives.

The Eleventh and the Fifteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time


“I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life, then, that you and your descendants may live, by loving the NAME, your God, listening to his voice, and holding fast to him.” Deuteronomy 30:19-20

As Christians we like to make mention of the famed 613 commandments of Jewish tradition. This is one of them., “Boker Chaim,” “Choose life.” How is this a command we can live with? What is life? When we speak of living we speak of more than subsistence.  We speak of going out and doing things, living. John 4:10 has Jesus answer the Samaritan woman, “If you knew the gift of God and who is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” Living water is opposed to stagnant well water which does not move. Living water moves. It is alive. There is something vibrant, vivacious, about it. So it is with life.

This pic says it all

A rabbi once wrote in the Jerusalem Post, and against abortion. All life is life in potentiality. Deuteronomy 30:19-20 tells us to look for that potentiality in all people.  The pro-choice crowd argued that life begins with the first breath. The rabbi argued from this, “maybe so,” but if the unborn is not alive, it is potential life and God calls us to bring this potential life to completion.” The pro-choice argument becomes mute at that point.

Then comes the person sitting very near our front door, hungry, without a home, and without adequate clothing or transportation. In a very real sense, that person is in the same position as the fetus, but is full of potential life. God commands, “Choose life,” for that person, for every person before us.

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A month ago, in our Mass for the Eleventh Sunday of Ordinary Time, we read of the deviant woman.  Simon would chastise Jesus for allowing this deviant under his table to wash his feet. Jesus asks, “Do you see this woman?” The answer is, “No!” He does not see her. He sees an occupation. He sees her past, not her.

This brings us to our first reading for the Fifteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Deuteronomy 30, again, this time versus 10-14. “This command that I enjoin on you today is not too mysterious and remote for you. It is not up in the sky, that you should say, ‘Who will go up in the sky to get it for us and tell us of it, that we may carry it out?’ 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 carry it out?’ No, it is something very near to you, already in your mouths and in your hearts; you have only to carry it out.”

The problem in our society, in Great Britain with Brixit, and with many other nations is that we do not see the woman. We see concepts: the Samaritan Woman, Muslim, Jew, foreigner, poor, lazy people, homeless, and the list goes on. The command of Deuteronomy 30 is clear, and it is simple. Take off the blinders and look.

St. Francis and the leperThat is what Giovanni di Pietro di Bernardone did when he saw a leper, Mitzrah Lebbroso, on the road. He looked past the sores covering Lebbroso, and past whatever Mitzrah Lebbroso did in the past. He saw instead, Mitzrah Lebbroso. In our Franciscan tradition we also read of Lupo Gubbio, Gubbio’s Wolf. Here is the classic example for those who would argue some are just too evil to love.  Here is the classic example of Giovanni di Pietro di Bernardone saying, “Not so fast.” Even here is someone to love.”

The answer to the great command of life is not in the sky, or in some foreign land. The answer is in our hearts, if we but first put away our concepts and look. Giovanni di Pietro di Bernardone and his heart gave him the answer to the moral question of the moment, the age, and all ages.

We all know the story of the Good Samaritan, or reading for the Fifteen the Sunday of Ordinary Time. A man travels from the City of Peace to the Moon. Jerusalem means, “City of Peace,” and “Jericho,” is Hebrew for, “the moon.” He falls upon robbers. Then a priest comes by. He does not see Vittima DiRapina, a human being. He sees ritual impurity. The same with the Levite. Then comes the Samaritan, the lowest of the low, with nothing to prove. Ritual impurity is not part of his life. He is Samaritan, not Priest or Levite.  All there is for the Samaritan to see is Vittima DiRapina, and that is who he sees.

He has no place to look for beautiful and noble behavior but in his heart. His heart told him what to do. We know the rest of the story. He not only takes care to make sure Vittima DiRapina lives, but pays his hospital bill as well. The lawyer, living in concepts, asks, “Who is my neighbor.” Jesus answer is clear. Put away the concepts! See the woman! See Mitzrah Lebbroso. See Vittima DiRapina! See Lupo Gubbio.  See them in every person you come across. You are repulsed by what you see? You are not looking hard enough. Every person has the image of God implanted within them. Every person is life in potentiality.

Fourteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time


8919_1243228163516_2601477_nI never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.  Neither does circumcision mean anything, nor does uncircumcision, but only a new creation.  Second Reading Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time.

The Thirteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time made very clear that the change God requires is a radical one. It is cutting up all of our oxen, all the wealth that we measure ourselves with, and give it to the poor. Now St. Paul argues for being a new creation.

The last letter of the Hebrew Alphabet is a Tav, and it is in the shape of a cross. The last letter of the Hebrew alphabet is Tav, representing Omega, as in God being the Alpha and the Omega. The tav is made of a  Dalet and a Nun. These two letters spell out the name of Dan. One who is humble says, “What [am I]? I am nothing before God.” We see this in Luke’s telling in his Gospel, Jesus tells Simon Peter, “Simon, “Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.” Simon replied, “Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing, but at your command I will lower the nets.” When they had done this, they caught a great number of fish and their nets were tearing. They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come to help them. They came and filled both boats so that they were in danger of sinking. When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at the knees of Jesus and said, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a deviant.”

buffalo soldiers When we look to the end, the Final Cause in Aristotle’s and St. Thomas Aquinas’ thinking, we become humble and all else falls into place. In the desert, the twelve tribes of Israel divided into four camps. When the tribes set out to travel, the camp of Dan was the last to proceed. If any of the other tribes left something behind, the tribe of Dan would collect and return it.

St. Paul uses the analogy of the body. A body has a head, hands, and feet. Our political, economic, and religious leaders think they are the head and the head is greater than the feet due to intellectual superiority. A head cannot reach its destination unless it is transported there by the feet. The tribe of Dan comprises the feet of the Jewish people. It represents the level of bringing the head to its destination. How? Through humility. Likewise, our lowest paid workers are the hands and feet of our organizations.

shoePlacing the heel of one’s foot inside a shoe, where it’s dark, represents the concept of accepting the yoke of Heaven in a cold, dark world. Just as the feet are the foundation and the support of the human body, so, too, accepting the yoke of the cross is our foundation as Catholics. Accept the humility to accept God’s will beyond question and beyond rational under­standing. Dan means “to judge.” Catholics must realize that we must judge every action before performing it in light of God’s will as expressed from as early as Genesis. In Genesis, God commands that we guard and keep his garden, in particular what is made in his own image, each other.

This only comes through humility. If a person were to rely only on his mind and intellect, he might succumb to arrogance and con­vince himself that one commandment or another is not important. For the “important” commandments, like not abortion, killing, except in the name of the state, and the like, he’ll follow the law to the letter. As for the “little” ones, like concern for the poor, or the environment, he does not have to be so scrupulous. The tribe of Dan comes to teach that true submission to God’s laws, with all their aspects and ramifications, requires self-judgment and humility.

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We need to see people suffering, here, around the world and act on it.

Dalet can mean both poverty (dal) and being raised up (dilisoni).The interpretation the dalet assumes is the result of the specific aspect of its companion nun. The letter nun represents deceit. There are two types of deceit. There is deceit, which ends in pain and destruction. “He repays His enemies  to make them perish.” The recipient is absorbed by the pursuit of pleasure. He is actually being deceived, because in the long run he will suffer.

Moses’ second in command is Joshua/Jesus Ben Nun. He is son of the fish. There is deceit that results in a person being rewarded and uplifted. John tells us of how Jesus was uplifted at Passover/Good Friday. When God created the world, He concealed Him­self within the laws of nature: the “ultimate deception.” When one toils to find the truth buried within the deception and restricts oneself to the Gospel life to do so, although this route may be temporarily difficult, one will ultimately find Go and forever bask in the pleasures of Paradise.

In our Sacrament, God conceals and reveals himself, to those who choose to see. Is the bread and drink before us the Body and Blood of Christ, or is it bread and wine? God conceals himself in the body and blood and we must strain our spiritual eyes to see him.

Noah was a tzaddik “in his generation.” The word בדרתיו, b’dorosov, can be broken up into two words: b’doro and tav. The sin of Noah’s generation was thus the letter tav, an excess of pleasure.

Our reading from Galatians begins, “You who are spiritual should correct that one in a gentle spirit, looking to yourself, so that you also may not be tempted. Bear one anothers burdens, and so you will fulfill the law of Christ. Each one must examine his own work, and then he will have reason to boast with regard to himself alone, and not with regard to someone else.

soilSt. Paul, going back to Luke’s reading Luke 5, tells us that we are to compare ourselves to God, not each other. When we compare ourselves to God, we realize just how humble we need to be. Luke 8:4-8 has the parable of the sower. The poor soil and the good soil are the same soil. What separates the good from the bad soil is how they change over time. The bad soil is trampled, becomes rock, or is filled with weeds. Good soil is soft, aerated. From the Fancy Latin, it is aerated. St. Paul teaches us in Galatians that we are to be the same, soft, realizing what it is like to be imperfect. We are to avoid the fault of deceiving ourselves into believing that because we are leaders/Christians/Catholics, that we are better than others are. We are instead to compare ourselves with God, then realize we are not that much different from the animals, but God loves us and has a place for us in heaven.

This brings us to the Gospel, where Jesus sends his followers out in pairs, carrying nothing extra, to remind them to be humble. Leaders, teachers, and the like, in public, economic enterprise, and even in religion are better than nobody else is. We are only called to guard and tend God’s world.

The Thirteenth Sunday of Ordinary time, and how it relates to how we live our lives.


Jess theses statement in LukeElisha left the oxen, ran after Elijah, and said, “Please, let me kiss my father and mother goodbye  and I will follow you.” Elijah answered, “Go back! Have I done anything to you?” Elisha left him, and taking the yoke of oxen, slaughtered them; he used the plowing equipment for fuel to boil their flesh and gave it to his people to eat. Elisha left and followed Elijah as his attendant.

So begins the first reading for the Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time. Our Gospel continues the theme.
To another he said, “Follow me.” He replied, “Lord, let me go first and bury my father.”
Jesus answered him, “Let the dead bury their dead. You, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”
Another said, “I will follow you, Kyrie, but first let me say farewell to my family at home.”
To him Jesus said, “No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God.” Luke 9:59-62

Be a RippleIf there is one thing the Semitic people are fond of, it is hyperbole. Jesus really does not mean literally giving up everything, does he? Let us look at that first reading. Elisha literally translate into English as, “My God is Joshua.” “My God is Jesus.” He asks for the same thing the people in the Gospel are asking. Elijah, “My God is THE NAME, says, “Go back! Have I done anything to you?” This is not permission to kiss father and mother goodbye. The passage does not tell us Elisha did any such thing. It only says he god Elijah’s message. “If you want to go back, go back. The prophet has done nothing for you. Go back and stay there. I will find someone else.”

Elisha then returns boils the flesh of the oxen with the instruments, gives it to the people, and they eat. Elisha then follows “My God is THE NAME.

Luke 18 has the passage, “How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” Peter then says, “We gave up our possessions and followed you.” Jesus then says, “There is no one who has given up house or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God who will not receive an overabundant return in this present age and eternal life in the age to come.” Luke 18 then tells us, “We are going up to Jerusalem and everything written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled.

Forrest GumpThere is no hyperbole here. Jesus talks of giving it all away and following him, just as Elisha did. Jesus is like Forest Gump out on the highway who say, “I think I will go home now.” St. Peter is like the man who says, “Now what are we going to do?” If we dismiss Jesus’ words as hyperbole, we set ourselves up like Peter, and the man in Forest Gump. We have not counted the cost.We have argued to ourselves that the stated cost is not the real one. God will give us what we want at discount in the end.

Elisha is the son of Shaphat/judgment, of the mist of the untilled ground. Abel-meholah also translates as, “Mist of the chorus singers.” Elisha the son of Shaphat, plows, with twelve yoke of oxen before him, and he with the twelfth. There are twelve tribes in Erez Israel. Elisha is the leader of those oxen, tribes. Our first reading tells us to separate ourselves from the common herd of humankind, the untilled ground of the common herd, and be special, different. We are no longer to be among the common herd of chorus singers who come to Mass every Sunday, sing the songs, take the host and go home. Our first reading tells us to be like Elisha, who say, “My God is Jesus, and then give up everything we have and give it to the poor, as Elisha does.

soilIn our Gospel, Jesus says, “Let the dead bury their own dead. What separates tilled ground from tilled ground? Tilled ground is aerated. From the Latin, it is spiritual. Tilled ground is soft and pliable. Untilled ground is hard. Untilled ground is as the chorus singers, who are more interested in singing the right song, following the rules for the sake of the rules. Jesus says of them, “let them bury their own dead.” Jesus calls us to be tilled ground. He calls us to be soft, pliable, kind to each other. He calls us to meet our neighbor where he is at, and lead him to Elijah, my God is THE NAME, through being the son of Tisbit, short for Teshuvah, repentance. That is what Jesus requires, and he means giving it all away, not living some middle class life style, and thinking of how good we are because we could live lifestyles that are more lavish.