When I was in the Canoe Club I did autopsies in the same place John Kennedy had his done. While doing one of these the Pathologist asked me if the deceased smoked. I did not know. He pointed to the man’s lungs and said he was a smoker. A quick look at the chart showed he was a smoker. Then he stated the man worried a lot. He pointed to the man’s adrenal glands and noted how withered they were. Worrying too much adversely effects these glands on the top of your kidneys.
The Adrenal glands produce hormones that control blood sugar, burn protein and fat, react to stressors, and regulate blood pressure. Two of the most important adrenal hormones are cortisol and aldosterone. The adrenal glands also produce adrenaline and small amounts of sex hormones called androgens, among other hormones.
This has a major impact on our First Reading for the Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time.
The NAME told Moses, “Speak to the whole Israelite community and tell them: Be holy, for I, the NAME, your God, am holy. “You shall not bear hatred for your brother or sister in your heart. Though you may have to reprove your fellow citizen, do not incur simple error because of him. Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against any of your people. You shall love your neighbor as yourself. I am the NAME.”
“Jesus said to his disciples: “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” The Hebrew word for “Eye,” is “I in.” It has the same root as “Evan,” which means “Perversion.” Then comes, the Hebrew word used for “Tooth,” is the same word our first reading uses for hate, “Shen.” As a verb, it means the grinding of the teeth. How we feel affects how our bodies operate. An alternate way of interpreting Jesus is “You have heard that it was said, ‘Perversion for perversion and hate for hate.’ but I tell you, offer no resistance to one who is rotten. When someone strikes you on your right cheek, turn the other one to him as well.”
Mark 4:24 says in the original Greek and Hebrew, “See what you hear.” Notice the mixed metaphor for emphasis. “The measure with which you measure will be measured out to you, and still more will be given to you,” Jesus continues to say. If you choose to hate, grind your teeth, the measure comes back over time as bodily ailments.
There is an alternate definition. When we say, “Eye for eye and tooth for tooth, whose eye and teeth are we talking about? We like to think that if he takes my eye, I have the right to take his. Prepositions are nasty things. In this case, the preposition is “For.” The passage could just as easily mean that if I take his eye, I must replace it. If I take his tooth, I must replace it. If I cannot do so literally, I must be his eyes as he walks and I must be his teeth, I must cut his food so he can eat his meals. This is tort law even today, and Jesus says he wants no part of it.
Matthew 19:1-12 is the story of Jesus debating the Pharisees on the issue of divorce. There were two major rabbinic schools at the time. The issue of debate was a biblical passage that stated one may divorce his wife for a condition of nakedness. One school interpreted this as Catholics do, that the spouse was found naked with another man. The other argued that this meant any cause whatsoever. Any exposed faults were naked faults and grounds for divorce. In virtually every case, Jesus sides with the second school, but not this one.
We want to argue that Jesus did not allow divorce at all. Then we look at John 8, the woman caught in adultery. There there is the Samaritan woman at the well, married 5 times and living with a man she is not married to. There are other cases in Scripture where Jesus looks kindly on even the worst cases of women caught in adultery. Clearly, Jesus understands divorce and women who are divorced. What is the issue for Jesus?
Who is Jesus debating? He is not debating divorced women or men. He is debating the lawyers. He argues against being litigious. The lawyers ought to be counselors looking for the causes the women in their society, and ours, being perceived to be naked and addressing those problems. He then puts the cosmic dimension on this by saying God marries people. Our perichoresis of marriage mirrors the perichoresis with God. There is no room for perversion for perversion and hate for hate. The goal is to find solutions.
St. Thomas Aquinas says of hate, “Hatred is dissonance of the appetite from that which is apprehended as repugnant and hurtful.” Hate is a bodily function and it has long term effects upon us when we choose to see wrongly. Catholic tradition teaches of odium abominationis, or holding qualities as nauseating and odium inimicitiae, or holding other people and things as inimical. Again, it is an appetite, a desire of the person feeling it.
Leviticus 19 begins by telling us we are to be Holy. Now, “Holy,” in modern English is a word with no meaning. It is a religious word we banter around to make ourselves sound religious.We say we are to be holy as God is holy, and we have no definition for holy.
This was not always so. Isidore of Seville tells us in his Etymologies, “A wise man called from the taste, because just as is fit for the taste of the taste of food to the discerning, so the wise man impart to the subject matter and of causes, of which each one is known, and the meaning of truth is present to us. The opposite of which is a foolish fellow, that it is without savor, nor of any and/or sense of discretion. From the old custom of the Holy One called him that they who had wanted to be purified, were touched by the blood of the victim, and from this the name of the holy they obtained them. The supreme, the Most High, as they were above them. The ‘Supreme Father’ mind is sweet.
We remember our reading from last week, ““You are the salt/Moloch of the earth/table. If salt/Moloch loses its taste/becomes Tephel. With what can it be seasoned/table? It is but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light/Aor of the world/B oar rayah. A city/Air set on a mountain/Are cannot be hid. Likewise, we are the Oar of the world B oar. B oar means the world. M oar means a pasture. We are the light of the pasture. We cannot hide a city, Air set on a mountain, Are.
Being holy for St. Isidore means being having a savor, something soft and sweet. St. Thomas Aquinas tells us in his Summa, the Second Part of the Second Part, Question 81, Article 8, “On one way it denotes purity; and this signification fits in with the Greek, for hagios means “unsoiled.” On another way, it denotes firmness, wherefore in olden times the term “sancta” was applied to such things as were upheld by law and were not to be violated. Hence a thing is said to be sacred [sancitum] when it is ratified by law.
In essence, St. Thomas tells us that to be Holy means to be separate from the world. The problem is that Hebrew has two words for this separation. The first is “Kiddush,” and the second is the word from which we derive the word, “Pharisee.” The Pharisees were the unsoiled, separate ones. The story of the Good Samaritan is about how this separation is not a physical separation. It is not about being better than everybody else.
Kiddish is the first stage of Marriage. When Mary was betrothed to Joseph, it was a full marriage in every way. The word they would have used to describe their marital state was Kiddush, Holy. Be separated from the common lot to be dedicated to God in a way that is similar to the husband and wife separating themselves from the rest of single people and joining themselves to each other and to God. The Hebrew word for a succulent cut of meat and for the Gospels is Bashar. The good news is savory, not firm and unfeeling.
I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. If you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors do the same? If you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not those beyond our regular number do the same?
Jesus appeals to the concept of family, the family of all people. We are all children of the heavenly Father. We are all imperfect human beings. We all suffer the heat of the sun and the cold and wet of the recent storms. We are all nation, from the Latin meaning a people born together by common heritage if not blood or place of birth. There is no room in this concept of family for grinding teeth or bearing grudges. We all have to live together.
St. Paul tells us, “let no one boast about human beings, for everything belongs to you, Paul or Apollos or Cephas, or the world or life or death, or the present or the future: all belong to you, and you to Christ, and Christ to God.” This is in Corinthians where people were breaking into factions. One faction was the St. Paul faction. St. Paul asks if he baptized anyone or if anyone was baptized in his name. He says, “No.” There is only one head of this house, and it is God. In fact, “Church,” comes from “Kyrie Oikos.” We sing the Kyrie, a song to God, the Master, Kyrie. “Church means the house of God, of whom we are the children. Remember, we all must live together. If we are going to be family, we must learn to be salt for each other, to savor one another, warts and all. We all have warts. The price if we do not do so? Our measure is given back to us. We damage our own bodies with our stress.
St. Paul begins, “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells/Shekinah/perichoresis within you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for the temple of God, which you are, is holy/dedicated in a romantic way to God. Holy means to be dedicated to God in the same way we are dedicated to our spouses, our children, our brothers, and our sisters.
Our Gospel ends, “Be perfect as God is perfect.” The Hebrew word for Perfect is Shalom. Be Shalom, be at peace with all men. That is God’s message for us today.