As one looks at the healthcare debate as a person with medical training one wonders why the people debating the issue do not follow the medical models already in place. The models currently in place were in use during the Vietnam War. They use a simple formula. First, if the person is walking, talking and complaining about where they hurt, they are tagged as “Green” patients and are put to work or sent to an area for treatment later.
The second group is the red group requiring immediate medical care. Medical personnel treat these people first. The third group is the orange group. They require urgent care but do have the same immediate need for care as patients in the first group. The yellow group requires care, but treatment is not critical for life and limb. The black group is the group who are either already dead or will soon be so.
As it relates to health insurance and required health insurance there is another category. That is elective or non-elective medical treatment. The S.T.A.R.T program is about non-elective treatment. It identifies treatment required for life and limb. Non-elective medical care would include cosmetic surgery and such needs as reproductive health, code for birth control, and other treatments not required for life and limb.
If the healthcare plan had incorporated S.T.A.R.T. and distinguishing between elective and non-elective treatments, the healthcare mandate would require treatments only in the non-elective category. Further, it would only require healthcare for the first four groups in the S.T.A.R.T. category. There might also be conditions set for the green category in the S.T.A.R.T. model. To keep healthcare costs low, it should also cover preventative healthcare.
This would be the base or mandated health care insurance plan. All employers would be required to provide their employees with at least this plan, and all citizens would be required to have at least this model. Citizens could opt for plans that are more expensive include elective medical treatments. They could include plans that included people in S.T.A.R.Ts black group. Employers might even be required to offer these more expensive plans, but they would not be required to pay for them. They would only be required to pay for the basic plan. The government would subsidize the basic plan if required, but not the more expensive plans. If a person to be insured opted for a more expensive plan, the employer and the government would only have to pay the cost for the basic plan.
If a court ruled that a hospital must treat a person in the black category, the government would be required to cover the cost for that coverage. It would not be fair to require a hospital to pay for court-mandated coverage, nor would it be fair for a patient, his family, or his insurance to cover court-mandated insurance. The courts are part of the government. The government is requiring the treatment; let the government pay for that treatment.
Any long-term solution to the healthcare problem must address the conditions of poverty in this country. The article, St. Augustine, the City of God, and Shalom Aleichem receive the Holy Spirit,” also relates the appalling percentage of how the income the poorest 50% of the population receives dropped from 27% in 1968 to 19% of total income today. That wealth all went to the richest 20% of the population. We must address this income inequality for healthcare costs to drop. There simply is no alternative. Sadly, if we addressed this poverty issue in a meaningful way it would be the first time in 44 years. The question is, when will we decide healthcare is too expensive and needs to be addressed?
At our Cathedral in Reno Nevada we will soon celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity. Non-Christians argue God is either One, or Trinity. “Can God create a rock so big he cannot pick it up?” Christians reply with the ontological argument, “Imagine the perfect thing. To be perfect implies existence. This perfect being/God must exist.” Does God exist or not?
St. Thomas Aquinas, the patron of our humble parish, St. Thomas Aquinas Cathedral said. “Reginald, I cannot, because all that I have written seems like straw to me.”
God is Three in One. We are discussing the Transcendent and logic. We speak gibberish because we speak of a transcendent religious experience. When confronted with the question of the rock so big God could not pick it up, a rabbi replied, “I don’t know. I do know he parted the Red Sea, drowned the Egyptian Army, defeated the Babylonians, they are no longer here, and the Assyrians, also gone, the Greeks and Romans, all gone, and I stand here before you today, a rescued, free man. If God is that powerful, I am not picking any fights with him. Are you?”
We live in the world of paradox. We must express the inexpressible to each other, to our children and the world. The Jewish community’s religious experience is Sinai/Horeb. Deuteronomy 4, read at our Cathedral Holy Trinity Sunday, and Deuteronomy 5:1-7 relate this experience. Catholics experience an identical religious experience whenever we attend Mass.
St. Paul tells us, “You died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” “You were buried with him in baptism…” When Acts 9 discusses the conversion of St. Paul it looks like a near-death experience. There is the sudden immersion in a powerful light and communication with the light.Acts 9:3 Acts 9 relates how St. Paul talks with the light and nobody else hears anything. The discussion is solely between God and St. Paul. When St. Paul says we died with Christ and are buried with him, he is to be taken literally. As a community of people who died, we try to talk about our experience with this transcendence.
What proof do we have this happened? The Near-Death article relates how science researched near-death experiences. It could neither prove nor disprove them. That leaves the Catholic; Christian community describing what is beyond science.
Romans 8, the chapter most strongly speaking of the Holy Spirit in Romans tells us, “Those who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. You did not receive a spirit of menial labor to fall back into fear; you received a spirit of adoption, through which we cry, “Abba, Father…” If only we suffer with him to be made important with him.”
Just like with the Jewish community at Sinai, God chooses us to be heirs, inheritors of the new Garden of Eden, the new land of Israel. We are a community of people who died. There is no room for fear. “What will separate us from the love of Christ? Will anguish, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword?” We are already dead and buried. We are a community crying “Abba, Father!” “Abba” comes from “Ha Bah,” the Lamb who is to come. “Abba” also comes from “Ah Ha Bah,” “Love,” in Hebrew.
Does this mean our suffering is over? Not yet! as St. Paul tells us. Suffering continues. Just like the Jewish community which relives their suffering in Egypt through the Passover Seder, we relive our death, burial, and resurrection in the Liturgy of the Eucharist, through the Anaphora, as we call upon the Holy Spirit to join us in reliving Jesus death and our death with him, and in the narrative, which recounts that death. Death? Been there and done that. Let us get along with life, for ourselves and for each other.
Deacon Joe Bell delivered the homily at our Cathedral in Reno Nevada this Pentecost Sunday stating, he was raised Catholic but had at one time converted to the Pentecostal religion. He found he was not receiving the full fruits of the Holy Spirit and returned to our Catholic faith. The theme of his talk was, “Jesus told them, “Shalom Aleichem. As the Father sent me, I send you. Receive the Holy Spirit.”
The Pentecostals put full emphasis upon the Holy Spirit, stressing the Spirit entering our lives causing us to see the white light of the Spirit, and speak in languages. Joe Bell noted there is something more mundane about the Spirit filled life missing in this understanding of the Spirit. He related how many ask how they can find the way of the Spirit in their lives.
English has two words related to the Spirit filled life. The first is vocation, from the Latin, vocationem “a spiritual calling,” from vocatus “a calling,” past participle of vocare “to call.” The second is profession, from, the old French profession, from the Latin professionem, “a public declaration,” from professus (profess). The meaning of an occupation one professes being skilled in comes from early the 15th century.
Joe Bell related how, if we want to find out how to be Spirit filled, all we need to do is find out what we enjoy doing. He is a schoolteacher. That is what he enjoys doing. That is his calling. That is his profession. That is how he is Spirit filled. Writers show we are spirit filled through our writing and our love of writing.
Deacon Joe discussed how the full reading of Jesus’ talk includes from Genesis 2, “He breathed on them saying, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” Jesus is breathing the Divine Spark into man just as his father did at the beginning of creation. The purpose is not for Christians to play harps and sing Halleluiah. The purpose is tending the garden. “Jesus told them, “Shalom Aleichem. As the Father has sent me, I send you.” Jesus sends us to tend his garden. We show our gifts of the Holy Spirit by the way we tend this garden.
“What it means to be spiritual at Pentecost” discusses how Jesus uses gardening to relate the meaning of Spirit filled. The Spirit filled soil is soft aerated soil. Aerated is Latin for Spirit filled. The Holy Spirit gives us the gifts to tend his garden.
Deacon Joe Bell related the gifts of the Holy Spirit from Isaiah 11:2, “The Spirit of the Personal Name will rest upon him, the Spirit of talent, and building (people) up, being like a tree (soft on the outside which comes from bring strong on the inside) the Spirit of being a gentleman. (Gabriel means strength of God and being a gentleman. The idea comes from the knight’s code of honor.) The gift of the Spirit is also knowledge (assemblage of facts) a looking to God and a Spirit of looking to God.”
The fruits of this Spirit are love, joy, tranquility, long spiritedness, sweetness, and a loving heart, faith, hope, deep spiritedness and Zen. Galatians 5:22-23. All of these word to create concord in community. With concord comes peace. “Shalom Aleichem.” Spirit makes the soil soft, so all can grow and prosper, not a select few. The Spirit filled life is all about this. As God sent Jesus to promote this ideal society, Jesus sends us. “Shalom Aleichem. As the Father sent me, I send you. Receive the Holy Spirit.”
In the City of God, Book 2, Chapter 21, St. Augustine quotes Scipio, the general who defeated Carthage. “As among the different sounds which proceed from lyres, flutes, and the human voice, there maintains a certain harmony a cultivated ear cannot endure to hear disturbed, but which elicits full and absolute concord through the modulation of voices unlike one another. Where reason modulates the diverse elements of the state, there is a perfect concord from the upper, lower, and middle classes. This is similar to the various sounds musicians call. In matters of state, this is concord, the strictest bond and best security of any republic…”
Section 2136 of Our Catechism relates, “The duty to offer authentic public service to God concerns man as individual and social beings.” We are social beings. Part of tending that garden is tending the needs of each other. Our goal is creating that harmony society calls concord.
Jesus tells his followers, us, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose failures you forgive are forgiven them; whose failures you retain are retained.” The passive voice allows the object of the sentence to remain ambiguous. If you forgive the failures of others, they are forgiven. In the second part of that sentence, it does say “them.” It does not say whose failures are retained.
We need to go to Matthew 7:1, “As you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you.” If we retain others failures, it is not their failures that are retained, but ours. Jesus, a Jew tells us, “Have I got a deal for you? If we want our failures forgiven, we must forgive others.
It is not just God’s forgiveness we are after. We are after the forgiveness of everybody who will be in the garden to come. St. Augustine tells us in Book 4 Chapter 15, “It is greater felicity to have a good neighbor at peace, than to conquer a bad one by making war. Your wishes are bad, when you desire one whom you hate or fear should be in such a condition that you conquer him. We see this has cooperated much in extending the empire, making foreigners so unjust that they became people with whom just wars must be carried on, and the empire increased.” We make foreigners unjust. They are not naturally that way. If we have a beef with our neighbor, we can be sure he had one with us first.
The article, “Barbara debates Ken about the sound of silence part II, relates how we failed over the past 40 years to pressure employers to pay a living wage. Instead, the article shows how using free market economics the percentage of income the poorest 50% of the population receives dropped from 27% in 1968 to 19% today. In the video, Fareed Zakaria points out that universally, market based healthcare plans cost more than government-run programs.
This rapid increase in poverty and the symptoms going with it required a mandate to address the need of many to access health insurance. The devil is in the details. Some secular people want birth control coverage, which we as Catholics oppose. We caused this fight through negligence. We caused this fight through negligence. We forced our neighbors into anger. Now we have the fight of the HHS mandate.
For St. Augustine’s orchestra to work, we must allow God to be the conductor, and we must strive for concord. We must strive for that society where all have what we need. The article, “Are you ready for some baseball in the Garden of Eden? discusses the game of life and this concord. When we play the game of life, the rules do not matter. We are too busy playing the game. When we stop to discuss the rules, the game ends, if only temporarily. God calls us to play the game of life. God calls us to Shalom Aleichem, As the Father sent me, I send you. Receive the Holy Spirit.” The choice is ours, fight and discord, or Shalom and Harmony. What is our choice?
At our cathedral in Reno Nevada and on our mural, a lamb proudly sits upon the four rivers of life. To the right is an American working class family. To the left stands John the Baptist with Malachi who holds the scroll, “Behold the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” A Basque community resides in Reno. Many Basque folk raise lambs, resulting in many lambs residing in Washoe County. They also bred the Australian shepherd as their sheep dog. Jesus talks about the true shepherd being willing to lay down his life for his sheep.
There are many people in Reno, who know why St. John mentions 153 fish in the readings for the Friday of the Seventh Week of Easter. “This relates to Pythagoras and his mystical theories.” Pythagoras and his mystical theories founded a new religion based upon numbers. St. John and Jesus would tie their religion to a Greek cult? Why would a Jewish teacher talking to Jewish fishermen on the shore be discussing esoteric Greek philosophy?
“Simon, son of Jonah, do you love me more than these?” The Aramaic version reads “Jonah.” Following the Gospel of St. Matthew where Jesus gives St. Peter the keys to the kingdom, Simon Peter is Simon Bar Jonah.” When Jesus says, “Do you love me more than these?” what do “these” refer to? The apparent reference is to the 153 fish. There are no unnecessary details in Torah or Gospel. Study of Talmud shows no cases where 153 is a significant number in Jewish numerology. The reason St. John quoted “153” is lost to history, yet “153” is central to understanding “these” and therefore the passage.
“Simon Bar Jonah,” implies Simon Peter is the acknowledged head of the church. Another point of confusion is St. John 1:1. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Some read St. John in terms of Stoic philosophy. The “λόγος” or word is universal reason, bringing self-control. The Greek ideal is “ἀπάθεια” or “peace of mind.” It transliterates into English as “Apathy.” Most New Testament translators translate ἀπάθεια as, “disobedience,” a valid translation when put in context. Why would Jesus use the Stoic ideal as disobedience if he borrows from the Greek religion and philosophy?
The Aramaic word for “Lamb,” and the Aramaic word for “Word,” is “Omer.” “In the beginning was the Lamb, and the Lamb was with God, and the Lamb was God.”
“Do you love me more than these?” Peter responds, “Yes, Personal Name, you know that I love you.” Jesus commanded, “Feed my lambs.” The Aramaic is “Omer.” Jesus calls Peter, the fisherman and son of Jonah the prophet sent to Nineveh or “Fish City.” His followers are the little sheep who follow him and Jesus the Good Shepherd identifies with his sheep.
The Aramaic word for “Love,” is “Racham.” The Hebrew and Aramaic root is “A woman’s womb.” Jesus asks Simon Bar Jonah if he has motherly compassion for him. Jesus rephrases the question each time to drive home the point; good leaders care for those who work for them. We look in dismay when we read that in 1968 the poorest 50% of the population received 27% of all income, but today only receive 19%. The solution of one political party is to give the richest 20% who receive 71% of all income and who control 85% of all wealth, a free hand to further exploit the poorest 50%.
Deuteronomy 16:20 tells the community following God, “צֶדֶק צֶדֶק” have in your gates. “צֶדֶק” means both “Justice” and “Charity.” The community must have charity for its poorest citizens. This is not optional, but justice. The Jewish gate is where the judges met to decide cases. The story of Ruth gives us the example of judging at the city gate. Judges/leaders have a mandated role to care for the poor, as Psalm 72 and 82 in Hebrew made very clear.
Deuteronomy 17 states, “Set a king over you whom the Personal Name, your Almighty Judge, chooses. Set someone over you from the nearness of your own brothers; do not set over you a stranger, no brother of yours… He will not accumulate silver and gold.”
We must choose leaders like us, not so wealthy as to be the Bane of the world. They must know how much a loaf of bread costs, a gallon of milk, and gasoline. They must know how many homes they own. Their funds must not be at a Swiss bank. Jesus tells St. Peter to be a leader who identifies and takes care of his charges, who represents him as Good Shepherd. Let us hold our leaders: business, secular, public, and religious to the same standard.
The first reading for Pentecost Sunday tells us what Spirit filled means. John begins his Gospel,“In the beginning was the Omer, the Omer was with God, and the Omer was God.” “Omer” in Aramaic means both “Word” and “Lamb.” Our Cathedral mural contains a figure representing the Omer, the Lamb, and the word of God. John continues, “What came to be through him was life…” Under the Lamb are the four rivers of life from the Garden of Eden. St. John continues, “To those who accepted him he gave power to become children of God…born not by natural generation nor by human choice nor by a man’s decision but of God.”
In Deuteronomy 5:1-7, God had recently rescued the Jewish people from menial labor in Egypt, just as he rescued us from the menial labor and the poverty of 18th and 19th century Europe. He tells us, “The Personal Name, our Almighty Judge, made a Brit/Social Contract with us at Horeb. Not with our ancestors did the Personal Name make this Brit, but with us, each of us who are alive, here, this day… I am the Personal Name your Almighty Judge, who brought you out of the land of Egypt/Europe, out of the house of menial labor.”
The Jewish people did not choose their rescue. God chose them as he chooses us today. The Passover Seder expresses the Physical Presence of that escape, personal for each Jew. The Eucharist comes from the Passover Seder. It expresses our rescue through the Passion and death of Jesus, lived for the first time, each time. Rescue from what?Our second reading discusses what Spirit filled means. Hebrew and Aramaic readings of the second reading help us. “Ish” means fire and is one of the two words for a male. One word for male is Adam as man comes from the ground. “Ish” means man as having a divine spark, a divine fire within him. An Ish is a Tzaddic, someone who has the divine spark to go beyond the law.
God rescues us, but from what? St. Paul tells us, “The works of the flesh are obvious: porn, uncleanness, being a threat to self and others, and idolatry. The works of the flesh also include use of the pharmacy (the Greek word is pharmacy), grinding of teeth, rivalry, jealousy, outbursts of fury, acts of selfishness, dissensions, factions, occasions of envy, drinking bouts, orgies…”
When Jesus rescued us, he rescued us from these faults. The Holy Spirit filling us means doing their opposite. These are love (welcoming each other into each other’s hearts as a community,) joy, tranquility, long-suffering, kindness, generosity, faithfulness,gentleness, and self-control.” Hebrew and Aramaic words for hate mean grinding our teeth, which comes from being tense. Spirit filled means being relaxed and feeling tranquility in the midst of our long-suffering. When the Holy Spirit fills us, we become a community. We become what Yiddish folk call a “Mensch” and a Tzaddic. We go beyond the letter of the law to show the divine spark by fulfilling the spirit of the law. We become a family with Our Blessed Virgin as Mother and God as Father.
Jesus teaches us in, “The wolf of Gubbio, Legion, and the parable of the sower.” Beautiful soil is aerated soil. It is spiritual. It has air in it, making it soft, loving/welcoming others. It is joy filled, passing its joy to all animate life. It is long-suffering and kind in that it shares it nourishment with all life. It is faithful, trusting God to prove nourishment to replenish itself. This allows it to be gentle. It has self-control, knowing God will provide.
As we look for the perfect Tzaddic, we look at Joseph-the-Worker, earthly father of Jesus. Our Cathedral has a statue of him standing to the right of the altar, behind Father giving his homily. St. Matthew records of St. Joseph, “Joseph husband of Mary, a Tzaddic,unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly.”
St. Joseph trusts the messenger. St. Joseph puts Torah with its mandates aside. He does what is right to save his wife, and show the divine spark. Before he knows who the child is, he wishes the best for his bride. This is Tzedakah. This is what Spirit filled means. If we have the fire, the Menschenheit, of the Holy Spirit, we will be Tzaddic. We will be soft in spirit/aerated, following the example of Joseph the Tzaddic/ the Worker.
As we look at our mural at our Cathedral in Reno Nevada, we notice the young family standing next to that Omer/Lamb of God. It is the modern American family, the family following the example of St. Joseph and striving to be community. Are we up to the task?
The Sunday of the Ascension Father Francisco began his homily by talking about a recent trip back to his home islands in the South Pacific. While there, there was an earthquake. The women ran around like chickens with their heads chopped off while most of the men ran around in a panic. Father Francisco and others from California thought it was a normal day. Those on the island compared it with the rumblings before a volcanic eruption and reacted.
One man was an exception. He simply walked out of his house and looked up into the sky, reminding Father Francisco of the angels who told the apostles, “Men of Galilee, why stand looking at the sky? This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven.” The Polynesian people, like most indigenous people, see the world as a concrete whole. What affects one part affects the whole.
Father discussed racers who win by a head and ranchers who herd hundreds of heads of cattle. Do they herd heads of cattle or the whole cow? Father also mentioned Secretariat, the horse who always started out last, and who often won one by a nose. All too many of us started out last, and strive to catch up in the race on life.
The Saturday before Father’s homily, a young man named Ken approached a person he viewed to be a liberal barbarian, Barbara and asked about the HHS Mandate, expecting an apology for the slight or at least uncomfortable squirming. This article changes all names to protect the guilty. Instead, Barbara asked, “Where was the church when I was fired for being a liberal and a Catholic?” Ken debated, “The two are unrelated!” Barbara replied, “They are both examples of religious persecution. The world is a concrete whole. What affects any one of us affects us all.”
Ken continued his debate, “What happened to you happened in the past. We live in the present.” Barbara volleyed, “A preacher once said, ‘First, they came for the communists, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist. Then they came for the trade unionists; I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist. They came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew. They came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me.” Barbara also fired back, “The context for, “Where was the church?” The homily of this preacher is the same. We have not changed. We pay a terrible price for our deafening silence.
In 1969, some 28.7% of the population was in labor unions while the poorest 50% of the population brought home 27% of all income and the unemployment rate was a staggering 3.5%. The unemployment rate has not been that low since. The figures are from the US Department of the Census. At present, the poorest 50% of the population brings home 19% of all income and the unemployment rate is 8%. The poorest 50% of the population do not bring home enough income to generate sufficient demand to create jobs.
The richest 20% of the population, bringing home 71% of all income do not buy things, but stocks, bonds and annuities. This is like buying used car titles. It does not help the auto manufacturer, who receives none of the profits from the car title sale. Even if it did, the purchase creates no demand for cars and therefore does not create jobs. The silence of the church is deafening.
The Tea Party is famous for calling all who support any government regulation socialists and communists. It is a name, which causes many liberals to lose their races for public office, and their jobs. First, they came for the communists. Barbara in a deep debate with Ken part I refers to the famous quote from Pastor Martin Niemöller on this very subject.
Only around 11% of the population now work in unions. Next, they came for the trade unionists. People lose their jobs because they are Arabic or Muslim. Barbara complained she lost a job, her employer citing she was a liberal and a Catholic. Next, they came for the Jews, and others not of the capitalist mold. Barbara next argued, “Now they are coming after you and you squawk because nobody is left.”
Barbara agreed that government control of healthcare is probably not a long-term solution to the problem, even though VA hospitals train 60% of doctors. The military and other government institutions probably train a majority of the rest. Barbara argued that the solution was a repeal of Taft/Hartley and building society from the ground up.
Ken argued the solution was Free Enterprise and allowing the bottom, small business to let loose and create jobs. Barbara countered, “The bottom is not small enterprise, private large business, or public big business. As Adam Smith, the founder of capitalism argued; all real value is labor. The bottom is labor. The bottom is labor, not business owners, who will only hire people when there is demand.”
Further, Ken’s solution shows that he has not changed. He argued earlier that we should forget his mistakes of the past. Now he argues that we can count on his making the same mistakes in the future. This is not only Sadism, it is insanity.
To agree with this premise is Masochistic. It agrees; the abuse these people suffered and suffer every day is OK. Barbara argued how this argument shows how Ken just does not get it. He chooses not to understand.It was business run amuck which hurt Barbara. Why would she consider giving them a blank check to do it again? This is tantamount to arguing in favor of more silence, more of that deafening silence.
There is no need to sacrifice our children, children of our common mother, Our Blessed Virgin, people like Barbara, on the altar of the market god, whether we call him Baal, or Mercury, Roman god of merchants and thieves, or the Greek god, Hermes. On the mural of our Cathedral in Reno Nevada, to the left of the altar, is a portrait of Abraham preparing to sacrifice Isaac.
At the end, God tells Abraham not to sacrifice his only son. Immediately to his right is Melchizedek, the charitable king who offers up the bread and wine. To the right of our altar sits Jesus serving the bread and wine to St. Peter, and St. John as St. Paul looks on. To the right of this view is St. Tarsicius the first martyr of the Sacrament. He is to the right because Jesus is the last true sacrifice, not our children at the hands of some market.
Barbara pointed out that there are 225 Catholic Universities not including 26 law schools. These universities graduate 70,000 graduates each year. Ken argued that not all of the students are Catholic. Barbara asked, “Surely there are at least 537 who support the entire teaching of the Catholic Church. We should find, develop, and promote these people for public office. This is the solution to our problem.
At a recent class at our Cathedral in Reno Nevada Father Francisco discussed with the class the fact that our Cathedral is very much like the early church of St. Matthew and St. Mark. Our Cathedral is two faith communities that are very much one, E Pluribus Unum. One faith community is that of the Hispanics; the other the Anglos, the Italians, the Germans, and the Irish.
Scholars place the writing of the Gospel of St. Matthew sometime in the late first century in the city of Antioch, the capital of Syria. Early Christian tradition identifies St. Luke, the writer of Luke’s Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles as a Syrian from Antioch, mentioned in the New Testament in Colossians 4:14, Philemon 24 and 2 Timothy 4:11. These two Gospel writers almost certainly each other and almost were commenting on each other’s work as they wrote their Gospels. The Syrian church, just like our Cathedral, had two faith communities. One was the main line community of St. Luke, mostly Greek, and the other the Jewish community of St. Matthew. They made up the grander Christian community of Antioch Syria.
Our first reading for the Solemnity of the Ascension is from the Acts of the Apostles. It reads, “When the apostles gathered together they asked Jesus, “HaShem, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” Jesus answered, “It is not for you to know the times or seasons the Father established by his own authority. You will receive power when the Dedicated Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
We need to read closely the location St. Luke presents, “In Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria.” “Samaria” refers to the region of the Samaritans, which no longer exists. The address is to the first century local people. The distance from Jerusalem, Israel to Antioch, Syria, is about the same as Reno Nevada to Bakersfield California.
Our Acts reading includes the sentence, “When the apostles gathered they asked Jesus, “HaShem, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” Luke has the sentence in his Gospel, “The apostles asked Jesus, “Teacher, when will this happen? What sign will there be when all these things are about to happen?” One sentence alludes to the other. The Gospel passage is called the “Eschatological Discourse,” the “Mount of Olives Discourse,” and other titles. The Mount of Olives Discourse begins with the widow’s mite as a statement of Christian ethics, and ends with a statement that the event happened at the Mount of Olives. In St. Matthew begins with a statement that the events happened at the Mount of Olives and ends with a statement of Christian ethics, the “Address to the Nations,” Matthew 25:31-46.
In the middle of his Mount of Olives Discourse St. Matthew has the interesting statement, “Many will be led into stumbling; they will betray and gnash their teeth at one another.” In Hebrew and Aramaic, the word for “Hate” and the word for “Tooth” is the same word. When we hate we become tense and grind our teeth. Therefore, “Hate” and “Tooth” come from the same concept. St. Matthew writes, “Because of the increase of Russia/thinking themselves first, the love of many will grow cold.
This is much like Jesus’ teaching in the parable of the sower as related in, “The wolf of Gubbio, Legion, and the parable of the sower.” The seed the falls in the weeds are the Russia/those who think themselves first and deserving of a greater share of the world’s resources than everyone else. They are the richest 20% with 80% of the nation’s income and 85% of the nation’s wealth.
As to the time the Mount of Olives Discourse refers to, St. Luke’s Mount of Olives Discourse relates, ““Before all this happens they will seize and persecute you, they will hand you over to the synagogues” Any anti-Christ today would find synagogues to be a poor choice to put people on trial. They do not have legal authority anywhere, including in Israel. The time must be in the first century.
Jesus tells us in the Mount of Olives Discourse, “You will hear of wars and reports of wars. These things must happen, but it will not yet be the end. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be famines and earthquakes from place to place.” We must keep in mind that in the generation of Jacob, Joachim, and Anne, the grandparents of Jesus Roman and Parthian armies were marching against each other. This included Mark Anthony and Cleopatra who went met in Tarsus, the home of St. Paul.
With the help of King Herod, Rome removed the Parthians from Jerusalem in 37 B.C. Only one generation removed from all of this fighting, Jesus, and his contemporaries knew what war meant. Jesus and his contemporaries were much like someone in northern France or in Belgium in ’39. They knew what war meant and what would happen when it came. The apostles knew how the Romans did things.
Jerusalem had a crowd control problem in the first century. Tens of thousands of people came to the city every Passover to celebrate freedom. When Acts 1 tells us that men dressed in white told the apostles that Jesus would come the way he left, the Aramaic word for “White” also means “Freedom.” The Sanhedrin was on edge at Jesus’ trial and so willing to convict Jesus was because they knew it was only a matter of time before Rome got tired of the Sanhedrin’s crowd control problem. When they did, they would do something about it.
Matthew 21 has an interesting statement about people talking. One asks another, “What is this?” The response is in essence, “Here is another Messiah. This one is from Galilee.” The Sanhedrin and the Romans knew it was only a matter of time before some Messiah did get a large enough following, and then war would come. Jesus warns against this. “Do not follow these war messiahs.” Israel, like Nevada, lies in the midst of fault zones. Africa is separating from Asia. That is why the Red Sea is where it is. All Jesus is telling his followers is that it will be a long time before he returns, but his kingdom is growing in the present, if they will it.
Therefore, when we read the Mount of Olives Discourse, we need to look, not at the great middle of the passage, but at the beginnings and the ends of the passages, at our role in promoting the reign of God. We need to be like the widow with her mite, not like the Romans with their might. We need to be like the sheep who graze gently in the field, not like the goats who gorge on everything and pride in their might. We need to be a spiritual community, always soft and compassionate towards others, not grinding our teeth, envious of what the other guy has.
At our Diocese of Reno, Nevada Cathedral, we can look up from the altar to see a statue of Jesus Christ as he ascends into the clouds. If we look higher we can see the image of the dove, symbol of the Divine Wind, the Holy Spirit as it rushes to descend upon us. Ascension Sunday is all about this. Jesus ascends into the clouds so the Holy Spirit may descend upon us, giving wisdom.
Our Gospel tells us, “Jesus told his students: “Go into the entire Cosmos proclaiming the Good News to every creature. Whoever believes and is baptized is saved; whoever does not believe is condemned.”
The passive voice in sentence construction is interesting. It does not give us the agent of the action. “Whoever believes and is baptized is saved.” “Whoever does not believe is condemned.” Hebrew and Aramaic do not have past or future tense to their verbs, and St. Mark almost certainly thought in Aramaic. Christians like to think the agent of the action in relation to saving and condemning is God. The agent of the action could simply be those who are saved and condemned. They choose not to be part of the web of the world.
Freethinking atheists such as Adam Smith came up with his “Law of unintended consequences.” Everything is inter-related, anything acting on any one-thing acts upon all. Nobody knows all the consequences of all our actions; there must be unintended consequences.
Native Americans teach us “Mitakuye Owasin,” “All are my relatives.” “All” means all of creation. We are all part of the garden, although man has the divine breathe within him. When we choose not to be part of the garden by condemning others, the only people we really condemn are ourselves. If we do not believe God is in control and must take action ourselves, we take ourselves out of the garden. We condemn ourselves.
Our second reading takes up St. Paul’s argument, “Live in a manner worthy of your calling/vocation/ profession. With all humility and gentleness, with patience, bear with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of the Spirit/Divine Breath through the bond of peace: one body and one Spirit, as you were also called to the one hope of your calling; one Personal Name, one faith, and one baptism.” We are all one. As we look down with the Holy Spirit from above our altar, we see Jesus Christ welcoming us to the garden. We also see the altar. It is no coincidence that our Gospel reading begins, “As the eleven were at table, Jesus appeared to them and rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart.”
The table is the table of the Eucharist. The Eucharist is the place where we are all one under the One Personal Name, with one faith and one baptism, one near death experience with that prisoner dying next to Jesus who rises with Jesus into Paradise, the Garden of Eden. If we cannot do it here, why should God think we could do it in the coming Garden of Eden? The article “The wolf of Gubbio, Legion, and the parable of the sower,” relates how what separates poor soil from rich soil is that rich soil is spiritual. It has air in it. As a result, it is soft and pliable. “Jesus appeared to them and rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart.” We need to be soft and pliable. Are we up to the task? Do we come to the altar to become spiritual? Do we come to the altar to become, “spiritual,” in the sense of pietistic? We decide!
Father will read part of the Last Supper Discourse from the Gospel Reading for the Sixth Sunday in Easter at our Reno, Nevada Cathedral. Above him and slightly to his right is a statue of St. Joseph the Worker, spouse of Our Blessed Virgin who stands to the far left of nave. Father Francisco is one of the most educated priests in our Diocese of Reno. He knows Hebrew, Greek, and some Aramaic. He knows the history behind Jesus’ words, “I know longer call you workers.” The allusion Jesus presents to us is the escape from being menial labor, common, bound workers in Egypt. Almighty Judge brings these workers to Mt. Sinai/Mt. Horeb and lays out the foundations of a new community:
The Personal Name, our Almighty Judge, made a social contract/Brit with us at Horeb; not with our fathers did the Personal Name make this social contract/Brit, but with us, all of us, alive, here, this day. Face to face, the Personal Name spoke with you on the mountain…, while I was standing between the Personal Name and you at that time, to announce to you these words of the Personal Name… I am the Personal Name your Almighty Judge, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, the house of menial labor.
God speaks to the Jewish people in the exact same way Jesus speaks to his apostles in the Farewell or Last Supper Discourse. The Jews were slaves, servants, menial laborers of Pharaoh in Egypt, rescued by God for his service. The apostles, poor folk, were laborers to their overlords in Israel, rescued by Jesus into his service. God speaks to the Jewish people face-to-face, פָּנִים בְּפָנִים, literally face-in-face, as a friend. Jesus speaks to his followers face-to-face. God creates the foundation for a new community, the Judeo-Christian community.
Catholics and Protestants debate in Reno, Nevada concerning whether salvation comes by faith or works. Reading New Testament salvation in light of Torah salvation provides the answer. “It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit.” Salvation comes first; fruits/works necessarily follow. The Jewish people did not choose God. Exodus 9:1 reads, “שַׁלַּח אֶת-עַמִּי.” The Hebrew literally reads, “Send my people out.” The Greek is, “ἐξ-απόστειλον.” The English letters are “Ex-apostle.” “Apostle” means, “sent.” Jesus ties the apostles as representatives of the Jewish people.
The Ten Commandments properly begin, “I am the Personal Name your Almighty Judge, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, the house of menial labor.” Jewish commentary relates how the implied word is, “Remember.” “Remember what it was like to be oppressed in Egypt.” In the Jewish Seder, predecessor to our Eucharist, the Jewish community remembers in first person present terms, oppression in Egypt. The Jewish Seder places its participants so there is no leader. All serve each other as equals. They are no longer workers/servants, but friends. Jesus does the same with his apostles in the Eucharist. The Last Supper of the Last Supper Discourse is this Jewish Seder. We are no longer workers/servants, but friends.
This brings us in a strange way to Our Blessed Virgin, and St. Joseph the worker. The Aramaic word for friend, as used in the Peshitta for this passage is “Racham.” “Racham” is Aramaic and Hebrew word for a woman’s womb. It means to stimulate the maternal instinct,” as Rabbi Jastrow informs us. It is the Hebrew word for “Mercy.” Revelations 12:17 relates of the New Christian community, “The Taanah became angry with the woman and went off to wage war against the rest of her offspring, those who keep God’s mitzvah and bear witness to Jesus.”
The women in Revelations 12 can only be our Blessed Virgin. Her offspring/children are all of those who keep God’s mitzvah and bear witness to Jesus, not with words, but with what they do. They show God stimulated their maternal instincts by saving them. They now bring this maternal instinct into the world. We do not love to get into heaven. We love because we are already there. The sense of gratitude for God’s loving us causes us to love each other. If we do this, we can forget the rest of the Ten Commandments. Our gratitude will motivate correctly.
Were you in Egypt? Have you suffered the pangs of the sweatshops and the oppression of poverty? Were you at Calvary? Eucharist brings the Jewish Seder and the Passion of Jesus into the first person present. If not, you are not fully participating in the Eucharist.
At our Cathedral in Reno Nevada, there is an interesting mural. Also, at the very center of our altar is a copper tube with a lid. We call this a tabernacle and in it we keep the center of our faith, Jesus Christ. The Gospel reading for Thursday of the Fifth Week of Easter states, “As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love. If you keep my Mitzvah, you will remain in my love”
We remain in the love of God by participating in the Eucharist. This means coming together as a community, dying with Jesus, and rising with him as he continues to live his life through us after we exit into the grander civic community.
What strikes us as we look at the tabernacle in the mural and upon the mantle with its tabernacle is their shape. They both look like Noah’s ark, and the ark in which the Shechinah of God lived in as the Jewish community traveled to the Promised Land.
Confusion exists among Christians as to what laws Christians are obliged to listen. Acts 15:7-21 addresses this confusion, “We ought to stop troubling the non-Jew who turns to God. We should tell them by letter to avoid pollution from idols, unlawful marriage, the meat of strangled animals, and blood.”
There are three sets of law in the Torah. The first is in Genesis 9, the second, Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5. The third is the remainder of the 613 laws in Torah. The first set of rules belongs to all human kind. When we compare Genesis 9 with Acts 15, we find strong similarities. The essence of the ruling in Acts 15 is how only Genesis 9 binds non-Jews.
The second set begins, “Moses summoned all Israel and told them, Hear, Upright of God, the customs and correct judicial precedents which I proclaim in your hearing, this day.” It also states, “Not with our fathers did the Personal Name make this Brit, but with us, all of us, alive, here, this day.
Deuteronomy 5 states, “I am the Personal Name your Almighty Judge, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of menial labor.” If we are not personally rescued from Egypt, these rules does not apply to us. The only people rescued from Egypt were Jews. God designed Deuteronomy 5 and the rest of the rules to make Jews Jewish. We are not Jewish.
God also designed Deuteronomy 5 and Exodus 20 to make the Jews a community with an identity. That identity is the same identity that America strove to be until recently. Our identity is written upon the Statue of Liberty in the words of the New Colossus. They are also written in the words of the Battle Hymn of he Republic, in particular the last verse, the verse where Christ is mentioned. It is the identity of people rescued from over there to over here, wherever over there might be. We remember our rescue with gratitude and pass on our rescue to others, in particular the rest of the community.
Acts 15 tells us, “We believe we are saved through the grace of the Personal Name, Jesus, in the same way as they were.” We have a different rescue, similar to the first, but not identical. God rescues us the same way he rescued the Jewish people. God rescued Noah in the ark this same way.
There was a time of oppression; there was water, the flood, the parting of the יַם-סוּף, the Sea of Reeds, and the water of our death to our old selves in baptism. There is the water and the blood of Jesus’ death and resurrection. There is the water of the Atlantic Ocean and the ark of the slave ships and the steamers which brought us over here. There was the direct action of God in each case.
Most important is that each rescue was the rescue as a community. The Brit or contract is not just with God and Noah, between God and Moses, or even between God and Jesus. The contract is with God and all life, between God and the Jewish people; and a contract with God and all humanity.
St. John tells us, the contract has not changed. It begins, “Remember your rescue from over there, wherever over there is.” That includes the oppression of Europe in the 19th century as related on our Statue of Liberty, and the sweatshops of the world, from Egypt until today. That is why the Jewish community has the Passover Seder. They remember in first person/present terms their oppression in Egypt.
We do the same in the liturgy of the Eucharist with its narrative. That is also why we have our Palm Sunday liturgy. That is why we have the Fourth of July and Thanksgiving Day. In the Eucharist we remember Jesus’ death and our role in it. We remember our death and resurrection through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
If we remember our rescue, how can we attribute our rescue to anyone else? How can we take the name of our rescuer lightly? How can we allow others to do so or cause others to do so through our bad example? How can we not remember the anniversary of our rescue once a year at Easter, and once a week at Mass?
If we really remember what oppression is like, how can we allow others to be oppressed? To die? To have their possessions stolen? Their spouses abused? Their name trampled? That is through individual criminals and through corporate greed, not paying a living wage, unsafe or unhealthy, physical or emotional, working conditions. How can we allow them to be defrauded?
This article argues the Ten Commandments no longer apply? Is not following this new commandment following those same commandments? By doing these things we live in Jesus’ love. This is the commandment Jesus gives us each Easter, each Sunday, and each day. The essence of the law is love, through remembering our rescue and seeing in our neighbor’s oppression, our oppression.