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.