Who is getting into heaven: the narrow gate, the locked door and the banquet

Jess theses statement in LukeLet us first begin this discussion with the Shema, “Hear Israel, God is Almighty, God is One, Love God with all of your hearts/לְבָבְךָ, all of your animate being, and with all of your measure.” The Hebrew word for heart is לְבָ.   לְבָ is a plural form.  ךָ is a singular case ending meaning “Your.” “Your,” is singular, and hearts is plural. Tradition states that this is because we each have multiple hearts, propensities, desires. Some of these are good, and some are not so good. God calls us to love him with all of these. This means turning negatives into positives. It also means seeing the good and the not so good in everyone we meet, seeing God’s image in everyone we meet, our friends, and our enemies. נַפְשְׁךָ or soul, is our animate being. I asked a rabbi what the difference between soul and blood was. He pointed out they are the same thing. Blood is the only organ that touches every other organ,  and at the same time. It touches every cell at the same time. It permeates all of who we are. מְאֹדֶךָ at its root means measure. If we measure ourselves with our strength, it means strength. If we measure ourselves with our wealth, it means wealth. If it means out patriotism, our community, it means all the resources of our community in the service of God.

This brings us to our second step. How do we love God? What do we give someone who literally already has everything? This person is God. We respect what is his, in particular what is made in his image, each other.

Pro-lifeTo this comes the question of who will be saved. “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” Mark 16:16 Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” John 14:6.

“.שני כתובים המכחישים זה את זה, עד שיבוא הכתוב השלישי ויכריע ביניהם”

“If two passages contradict each other, this contradiction must be reconciled by comparison with a third passage”

The third passage is Matthew 22:37-39. “You shall love the NAME, your God, with all your hearts, with all your anima, and with all your measure. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

The second is like it. The second is like the first. We show our love for God by the way we treat each other. I show my love for God by looking for his image in every person I see. I assume, sometimes in spite of the evidence, we have evil inclinations too, that everyone, including my worst enemies, the Hitlers, Stalins, Reagans, Bushes, Nixons, and others in the world are getting into heaven.

I love them. Hebrew has two key words, “Abba, which we all know means father. The second is Ha Bah, or to welcome, to welcome into our lives and our hearts. The third is A Ha Bah, and this means love. We welcome even the worst monsters of history into heaven.

St. Francis and the leperThe Shema, above, Deuteronomy 6:4-9, begins with the love of God and seeing God’s image in everyone. We begin with love of God first. Surely, “Love of God,” means being like any lover and wanting to tell everyone about our lover, our Father, and wanting everyone on the planet to know about him.

Love of neighbor means seeing God in everyone and wishing everyone to know the father and to be with him in heaven. Who do we exclude? Those who are not in our club? Those who not in our political party? Those who are not in our religious club? Once we exclude, we reduce love, and once we reduce love, we restrict ourselves from the banquet. That is what Jesus tries to tell us.

So, what of those who are not in our religious club? What of them? I assume they are getting into heaven because I love them, welcome them to my religious club, and into heaven. What if I am wrong? God alone gets to choose who gets into heaven and I am not God. Even if I can cite a rule, like Mark 16:16 and John 16:6, I still presume to take God’s role and engage of idolatry of self, when I exclude others.

The same rule applies to immigration. If I exclude others from the nice things of this nation, in the next kingdom, I restrict not them, but myself. If I assume all are getting in, I am probably wrong, but God sees my love, my desire to include all, and sees himself in that. “In the measure in which you judge you will be judged.” Matthew 7. He makes a deal with us in this passage, and I take him up on that deal. In the measure in which I judge, love of all, welcoming all, I hope I will be judged, and welcomed into heaven. That is what Jesus tells us today.

What does it mean to be prudent during this Twenty-Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time

Jess theses statement in LukeThe children of this world are more prudent in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light.  Make friends for yourselves with dishonest wealth, so that when it fails, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings. The person who is trustworthy in very small matters is also trustworthy in great ones; and the person who is dishonest in very small matters is also dishonest in great ones.

Those who think the Second Coming is very near argue it is OK not to take care of this planet. After all, it is going to be trashed soon anyway. What does it matter? It is like the scene on the movie, “Titanic.” Who cares if the heroes crash through the Titanic walls? The ship is sinking anyway.

Those who do not know the ship is sinking, who live only in this world, are more prudent in dealing with their own generation that the religious, the children of light. They do not know their ship is sinking, so try to take care of it. They still guard and keep the garden, if only because they realize it is in their long-term interest to do so.

CosmosThe great question before us today is, “If we cannot take care of this planet, why should God think we will take care of the next one?” Jesus argues Kal vahomer/Light and Heavy. “If we cannot take care of the lesser things, this planet, why should his father think we will care for the next one?”

We are God’s stewards on this planet. If, therefore, you are not trustworthy with dishonest wealth, who will trust you with true wealth?  If you are not trustworthy with what belongs to another, (God) who will give you what is yours?  No servant can serve two masters.  He will either hate (Grind teeth at) one and love (Welcome) the other, or be like glue to one and tread upon the other. You cannot serve both God and mammon.”

How are we God’s stewards? Hear this, you who trample upon the needy and destroy the poor of the land! “When will the new moon be over,” you ask, “that we may sell our grain, and Sabbath, that we may display the wheat? We will diminish the ephah, add to the shekel, and fix our scales for cheating! We will buy the lowly for silver, and the poor for a pair of sandals; even the refuse of the wheat we will sell!”


Amos is not describing people who think they are bad men. They are the proper men of their age. They do what they think is right. They work on the bottom line of double entry accounting. Keep the overhead low. That means low wages, minimal regulation, and minimal government. St. Paul spoke for these people last week, in the second reading. “I was once a slanderer, a persecutor and arrogant. In his unbelief, he thinks he does the right thing.

It comes down to Deuteronomy 30 and Luke 7 “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. I call heaven and earth today to witness against you: I set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life/Boker Chaim…”  “Jesus turned to the woman and told Simon/Peter, “Do you see this woman?”  Luke 7:44. Our leaders, our corporate executives, love to sit in their offices and calculate the bottom lines on their budgets. They love to figure those standard deviations to see if their charges are cheating in any way. Who is producing average, and who is in that second standard deviation, one way or the other? Jesus says, “Stop all of that. Go out among your charges and try leadership once in a while. If you do, you will not see the cheating. Your people will be like glue to you, seeing Persona Christi in you. They will see your choosing life, and they will follow your example.” Modern leaders are so busy looking for the lack of trust to enable trust.

Pro-lifeThe problem with our leaders is that they are great for planning, organizing, staffing, and controllership. They would not know leadership if it bet them on the nose. They do not see the woman. They see the bottom line. They do not see people; they see concepts. They are so hung up on the bottom line, concepts, they cannot see the flesh and blood people standing in front of them. Jesus saw that in Simon Peter, and he sees it in us today. Their people are not like glue to them; because they tread upon them. God envisions societies, which are glue to one another, welcoming one another, and looking to God/Love as their head. When will we learn to be that?

The Prodigal Son and the Baal Teshuvah


PovertyOur Gospel for this Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time does not say anybody in the Prodigal Son’s family is aware of how he spent his money. Our translation describes his life as one of dissipation, a life squandered. We have our fundamentalist understanding to describe the literal translation. It is an “Unsaved life,” a life of doing what unsaved people do. He squandered his money. The other reading is that his life was not safe. He went from the security of home to the unsecured life of the big city and in the process lost his money.

We should try to find the Hebrew and Aramaic to see which word or phrase Luke translates. If we assume he was bilingual, coming from the equivalent of the Yiddish quarter of Antioch, and translated to the best of his ability, the word or phrase he translated as “Unsaved,” was “Shallow Knee Samaria.” The rough translation of this is “Unguarded.” In support of this translation is that Shallow translates as, “Not,” and as, “Lax, at ease.” The prodigal son is at ease in his squandered life. More interesting is, “Knee Samaria,” which translates as guarding, as in, “Make a fence around Torah.” God makes a garden and commands Adam and Eve to guard it and to keep it. “Knee Samaria,” also translates as, “Sediment, lees.” As such, Jesus could have a pun on ,”Sediment/the pods on which the swine fed,” and this concept of guarding Torah, how the younger son lives his life.  The prodigal son lived an unguarded, unprotected life.

A Semitic reading of the text points out how the younger son leaves the protection of his Jewish homeland and goes to Gentile lands, a distant/non-Jewish land. The older son is  right in saying that the younger son did something wrong. He lived a Gentile lifestyle. The proof, our story later gives us, is that he lived with pigs, something Jews would never do, but Jesus never tells us how the elder son knows his brother lived with pigs.

According to one opinion in the Talmud, the repentant sinner is greater than one who has never committed any grievous sin. He is the Baal Teshuvah, the Master or Repentence. There are two kinds of penitents: the sinner who repents out of fear and the sinner who repents out of love for God. Once the former has repented his sins are considered as if he had committed them unintentionally. When a sinner repents out of love his deviations are counted as if they had been virtues. The deviant who returns knows the alternate way, and its consequences. The deviant who returns understands the temptations and can therefore have compassion on others making the same mistake. The cradle Catholic/Protestant Christian/Jew/Muslim, does not. The deviant who returns has seen God’s love in a way the cradle religious has not. Therefore, the Baal Teshuvah is greater than the cradle religious.

Population fifths 2

“The elder son became angry, and when he refused to enter the house, his father came out and pleaded with him. He replied to his father, ‘When your son returns who swallowed up your property with prostitutes, for him you slaughter the fattened calf.”

Our passage only has the elder son mention prostitutes. To conjecture how he might know this, we make the same mistakes the Pharisees and grammarians do. In our Catholic Catechism we read, “2477 Respect for the reputation of persons forbids every attitude and word likely to cause them unjust injury.He becomes guilty: – of rash judgment who, even tacitly, assumes as true, without sufficient foundation, the moral fault of a neighbor; – of detraction who, without objectively valid reason, discloses others faults and failings to persons who did not know them.”

This is in reference to the Eighth Commandment again. Jesus intentionally uses a vague word to describe the sin of the younger son. The elder son assumes the younger hung around with prostitutes. When we assume the poor are poor because of something they did, without investigating and finding “Sufficient foundation,” this violates the Eighth Commandment.

How did these people get in poverty? Were these all prodigal sons who went wild on their own, having nobody to blame but themselves? It does not matter. Is the younger son sincere in his repentance? The key line is, “Coming to his senses he thought, ‘How many of my father’s hired workers have more than enough food to eat, but here am I, dying from hunger.” Is his motivation, sincere repentance, or desire for food? Elizabeth Kuebler Ross gives this answer.  Grief has five stages, denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Repentance is the acceptance stage. The younger son is getting ready to bargain, stage three. He is not at acceptance.

His father only cares about his return. For his response, read Isaiah, 65:24 “Before they call, I will answer; while they are yet speaking, I will hear.” Lamentations 5:21 is in the Amidah, the Jewish standing prayer Jesus complains about when he complains about the long rabbinic prayers. “Bring us back to you, the Name that we may return.” Repentance is a two-step process. The son comes home bargaining for food. The father responds in love. This brings love, and with this, repentance, after the party the elder son complains about.

Jesus criesThe address of this passage is to the elder sons, the Pharisees and the grammarians alive today, those who believe in the protestant work ethic. They are guilty of the idolatry of self. They worked hard all these years. They served God and the system and not once did they disobey orders. If we think we have what we have because we earned it, Jesus speaks to us.

Look where the younger son is at the start of the story. Look where the elder son is at the end of the story. Each is outside of the house. The party is in the house. When we exclude others, we are the outsiders, not they.

In Gospel reading for the Third Sunday of Lent we read how Jesus confronted the Separated Ones/Pharisees on the subject of the tower, which fell on those in Siloam and the blood Pilate mingled with his sacrifices. In that passage, Jesus tells us, “Those eighteen people who were killed when the tower at Siloam fell on them. Do you think they were guiltier than everyone else was who lived in Jerusalem? By no means! If you do not repent, you will all perish as they did!” Quit blaming those who suffer for their problems, or you will be next.

Wh0 is Israel? Israel, as Genesis 32:29 tells us, “Then the man said, “You shall no longer be named Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with divine and human beings and have prevailed.” Israel is not the older son, those who have never really struggled with life and with God. Israel is those who have suffered. Who is Jewish?  Genesis 29:35 “Once more she conceived and bore a son, and she said, “This time I will give thanks to the NAME,” therefore she named him Judah.” Judah means thanks. Those who are Jewish give thanks to God. They put God first, before all things, and credit God, not themselves for all they have. Jewish is not so much an ethnic group, as a way of thinking.

“One is not a Jew outwardly. True circumcision is not outward, in the flesh. One is a Jew inwardly, and circumcision is of the heart, in the spirit, not the letter; his praise is not from human beings but from God.” Romans 2:28-29

AnnaLuke mentions 18 in chapter 13 twice. Why 18? Hebrew, Greek, and Latin, use letters for numbers. “18” in Hebrew is Chi, life. The father tells his older son, “My son, you are here with me always; everything I have is yours… Your brother was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.” Life is the issue here. Let us stop making excuses for allowing suffering in our world. Let us love God with all our hearts, all our animate being, and with all of our measure. Let us use all the tools at our disposal to end poverty in our nation and in our world.

Catholic Action/never repealed, of Salt and Leadership

Salt flats from federal governmentJesus tells us, “What king/Melech marching into battle would not first sit down and decide whether with ten thousand troops he can successfully oppose another king advancing upon him with twenty thousand troops?” We do discuss politics on occasion.

“Salt/מלח/ is good, but if salt itself loses its taste, with what can its flavor be restored? It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; it is thrown out. Whoever has ears to hear ought to hear.” The Hebrew word for a messenger or an angel is מַלְך. מַלְך translates as Melek, and מלח translates as Melech/ hard “CH.” Melek and Melech sound the same in Hebrew. “The message is beautiful, but if the message looses its taste, how can that taste be restored.”

The message is not external to us, a sound. The message is internal to us. It has a taste. The Kalos is alas. If the kalos becomes a moron, (the Greek word really is moran) how can it be arithmetic.” The Greek word is arithmetic. It means growth. How can we preach the message Melek, if the message loses its taste in us? Our task as Christians is to bring the message to the world/Cosmos. Cosmetic also comes from the Greek, and it is the technique of bring order, the cosmos, to the cosmos. That is the Christian message.

This past week I had the task of discussing Catholicism to a non-Catholic. He had recently talked with a church going Catholic, an advanced member of a Catholic men’s fraternal organization. That man had discussed politics with this non-Catholic. That church member had described her opponent as “Crooked…” and “Dishonest…” John Kennedy had once said, “My brother Bob doesn’t want to be in government – he promised Dad he’d go straight.” He also said, “Mothers all want their sons to grow up to be president, but they don’t want them to become politicians in the process.” Being dishonest seems to be part of the job. If politicians were honest about when the troops would land on D Day, the landings would not have gone so well. Politics is a game of chess. The goal is to keep the other side guessing your intentions. By engaging in name calling, this Catholic took his salt, his message, and threw it on the ground and ground it into the dirt. He chose to be juvenile and mean spirited. The non-Catholic saw this and recognized it for what it was. We must always be salt, examples for the world. Even if the charge of dishonesty is true, it is, When they go low, we go high.”

When we discuss politics, we need to discuss Kavanah//intention. We need to discuss if we promote life, bring the message/Melech salt to the world. Deuteronomy 30 tells us that the message is not over there, wherever that is. It is in our hearts. We have only to look into our hearts to find it. It is Boker Chaim, choosing life in every moment of our lives. It is looking at the poor and asking, “What can I do to promote life for this person?” It is looking at the immigrants on our shores and asking, “What can I do to promote life, life in all of its potentiality, for this person. Do my economic and political affinities promote life, at every stage of life?

ThanksgivingA Pope of blessed memory once wrote, “Truly, all of us in the Church are called to form that unique Body, whose Head is Christ; “closely joined,” as the Apostle Paul teaches, “and knit together through every joint of the system according to the functioning in due measure of each single part.” [1] The Body increases and gradually perfects itself in the bond of charity. Now, if in this work of “building up the body of Christ”[2] it is Our primary duty to teach, to point out the correct way to follow, to propose the means to be used, to admonish and paternally exhort. It is also the duty of Our beloved children, dispersed throughout the world, to heed Our words…”
He also wrote, “We wish to recall those numerous works of zeal for the good of the Church, society, and individuals under the general name of “Catholic Action,” which by the grace of God flourish throughout the world… The field of Catholic Action is extremely vast. In itself it does not exclude anything, in any manner, direct or indirect, which pertains to the divine mission of the Church.

The force of the evangelical counsels is so powerful that it strengthens and firmly establishes the precepts of the natural law. The fruitfulness of the doctrine and morality taught by Jesus Christ is so limitless that providentially it sustains and promotes the material welfare of the individual, the family, and society… They seek to restore Jesus Christ to the family, the school and society by re-establishing the principle that human authority represents the authority of God. They take to heart the interests of the people, especially those of the working and agricultural classes, not only by inculcating in the hearts of everybody a true religious spirit (the only true fount of consolation among the troubles of this life) but also by endeavoring to dry their tears, to alleviate their sufferings, and to improve their economic condition by wise measures. They strive, in a word, to make public laws conformable to justice and amend or suppress those which are not so. Finally, they defend and support in a true Catholic spirit the rights of God in all things…

This concession places a duty on all Catholics to prepare themselves prudently and seriously for political life in case they may be called to it. It is of the utmost importance that the same activity be extended to a suitable preparation and organization for political life. This was already recommended by the Circular of December 3, 1904, issued by the general Presidency of Economic Works in Italy. At the same time the other principles which regulate the conscience of every true Catholic must be inculcated and put into practice. Above all else he must remember to be and to act in every circumstance as a true Catholic, accepting and fulfilling public offices with the firm and constant resolution of promoting by every means the social and economic welfare of the country and particularly of the people, according to the maxims of a truly Christian civilization, and at the same time defending the supreme interests of the Church, which are those of religion and justice.

Our USCCB website tells us that there are 250 Catholic Colleges and Universities in our land graduating 70,000 students each year. Our great excuse for our current situation is that there is nobody to vote for. Maybe we need a synod to discuss why we have not followed the words of our Pope of Blessed memory in this document, IL FERMO PROPOSITO, and developed leaders we can vote for. One side insists the poor are like caviar, ready to be sliced and diced before we are born. The other insists the poor are like fish, “Wait until they are sufficient size, then they are fair game.” The theory is that we must choose the lessor of two evils. To choose the lesser of two evils is still to choose evil. Jerry Garcia of the Dead. The Catholic choice is to renounce that false choice. It is to choose life. Choosing life and choosing the lessor of two evils are not the same thing. Why have we not developed ourselves to run for office and promote the General Welfare, which has been Catholic Social tradition since at least the fourth century? Have we not had enough time? The Pope wrote these words in 1905 and our Catholic Colleges and Universities have been around at least since that time.

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 it 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. Welfare is those who travel well, helping all aboard the ship to make it to port. 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.