What Separates Mary from Martha

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Eleventh and the Fifteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time

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

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

This pic says it all

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

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


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

This brings us to our first reading for the Fifteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Deuteronomy 30, again, this time versus 10-14. “This command that I enjoin on you today is not too mysterious and remote for you. It is not up in the sky, that you should say, ‘Who will go up in the sky to get it for us and tell us of it, that we may carry it out?’ Nor is it across the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will cross the sea to get it for us and tell us of it, that we may carry it out?’ No, it is something very near to you, already in your mouths and in your hearts; you have only to carry it out.”

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

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

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

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

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

Fourteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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