Thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary What it means to obey


Jess theses statement in LukeThe Gospel and the First reading for the Thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time involves the Shema. Shema means to hear and therefore to listen. Obey comes from the Latin form Ob Audio, which means to listen. Israel means to struggle with God and comes from Genesis 32:29.

The Name of God comes from Exodus 3:14, “God replied to Moses: I am who I am. This is what you will tell the Israelites: I AM has sent me to you.”

As for the dead being raised, have you not read in the Book of Moses, in the passage about the bush, how God told him, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead but of the living. Mark 12:26-27 quoting Exodus 3:6

“God of the living is in the Hebrew construct case. He is also the living God. He is the God who brings life understood in its grandest sense.

Our word, “God,” comes from two places and means largely the same thing. God comes from the Old High German got, German Gott, Old Norse guð, Gothic guþ),; perhaps from PIE *ghut- “that which is invoked” (source also of Old Church Slavonic zovo “to call,” Sanskrit huta- “invoked.”

Etymology of GodThe root word for “God in Hebrew means to point. It is that which one points to as the entity which saved them from their enemies, who carried them to their goals. On the negative side, El is who we point to in cursing, blaming them for our failures.

Seder plate small
Jesus’ last Supper recalls what it means to suffer, to be imperfect, to make mistakes.

“Listen, Israel.” This is not a simple allowing of sounds to enter our ears. It means meditation, contemplation. God addresses this with those who struggle with him, the scrub cattle of the earth who lead hard lives. It is for those who struggle to understand him and why their lives are the way they are.

The one who is who he is, in Hebrew tradition called The Name, Ha Shem, or Adonai, the leader, LORD, is the El in the plural/superlative sense. He is the one we point to, not the government, not our employer, not ourselves, nor our neighbors, or our spouse, or even our parents as children.

Some rabbis argue that “Other Gods,” is in the construct case so can be translated as the gods of others as in the gods who are others. If we come to Mass to be seen by others or do good works to be seen by others, they are our gods.

God is One. We can’t trust our one God or the Pantheon of Market, Militarism, and Money, the God of Mercury, Mars, and Moneto Juno. God is our ultimate goal and all else gets in the way.

“Love the one who is, the one you point to for salvation with all your hearts, with all your animate being, and with all your measure.” In the Hebrew Hearts is in the plural and your is in the singular. We all have multiple hearts, multiple inclinations. Hebrew speaks of the inclination to the satisfying and the rotten. Christians speak of having God’s image within us, his inclination within us, and Original Sin. Our mortal drives are not intrinsically evil, Freud would have us know; it is how we use them.

St. Francis and the leperHebrew for Father is Abba. The Hebrew for the one who comes the one we welcome into our lives is Ha Bah.  The Hebrew word for love is A Ha Bah. The second section of Shema tells us to welcome into our lives the one who is, with all our hearts, with our good inclinations and our evil ones. If we have many faults, we struggle with God often. We are Israel! Hebrew also speaks of the Baal Teshuvah, the Master of Penance. We, like the younger son in the Prodigal Son story, know what it is like to err. We are better than the angels because we know and they do not. Following AAs Twelve Steps, we work to bring that salvation to others.

What is the difference between Nephesh, animate being, soul, and blood? Leviticus 17:11, and 14. “Since the life of the flesh/Bashar/Gospel is in the blood.” “The life of all flesh is its blood. I have told the Israelites: You shall not consume the blood of any flesh. Since the life of all flesh is its blood, anyone who consumes it shall be cut off.”

Pro-lifeEvery animal with blood in it has life, from conception to the grave. Blood is the only organ touching every other organ. Blood is also the only organ that moves. “Living Water,” is flowing, moving water. The more something moves, the more life it has. The more vibrant and vivacious something is, the more life it has. The more blood moves through the body, caused by a more rapidly beating heart, the more life it has. God is the God of life, wanting all to have the maximum of himself, Life.

If we measure who we are by our wealth, and Americans do, God calls us to love him with our wealth. If we pride ourselves on our strength and the strength of our military, God calls us to love him with that. If we are patriotic, God calls him to love him with our patriotism, to vote for life for all people.

Words of InstitutionSo, what do we give someone who already literally already has everything? We respect what is his. God already owns everything. That means a real concern for our planet, for climate change, and the welfare of all that is around us. In particular, that means a real concern for Life. God is the God of Life, the Living God. Jesus tells us in Matthew 25:46 that as we treat the least of us we treat God. That means seeing the potentiality in all life and striving to help all people fulfill that potentiality. One is not more or less alive on either side of the vaginal tube. To vote for the lesser of two evils is to vote for evil.

A century ago, Pope Pius X whose picture is on our mural at St. Thomas Aquinas Cathedral, called us to Catholic Action and that means working to have candidates who support Catholic Social Teaching. Having nobody to vote for is not an excuse. We have had a century to recruit the seventy plus thousand students graduating from Catholic Universities each year, develop them in the faith, fund their political campaigns, and get them elected. We clearly have not. What we really need is a synod to get ourselves started again so we can do the job. As Martin Luther King Jr. said in his I Have a Dream Speech, “Now is the time for action.”

 

 

Thirtieth Sunday of Ordinary Time


Jesus told blind man, “Go your way; Lech Lech ah your faith has saved you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed him on the way. Gospel for the Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time.Jesus heals the blind man

Jesus tells the blind man to go his own way and the blind man follows him. He didn’t here the command to go his own way?

Now the Name told Abram, “Go out of your country, and from your kin, and from your father’s house, unto the land that I will show you.” Genesis 12:1

The Gospel really begins with Mark 10: 45. “The Son of man also came not to be served/dwelled with, but to dwell with, to serve, to attend, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

Jericho is Hebrew for the moon. Tam can mean to things. If it comes from the Greek it means value. Bar Timaeus could mean Son of Value. If it comes from the Hebrew, more likely, it means completeness and therefore perfection, innocence, or simplicity. When referring to Jacob and Esau Genesis calls Jacob Tam. He is the opposite of his brother, staying home, and studying the traditions of his family.

The Gospel refers to Jesus in two ways. Jesus Ben Nazareth and Jesus Ben David. Jesus means salvation. Ben means both “Son” and “To build.” One builds a home; one builds a son and a daughter until they are adults. “Nazareth means to guard or to bloom. In the Psalms of Salomon King Solomon says “Dodi Li U Ani Low.” “My beloved is to me and I am to him. “Dodi” “David” means beloved and romantic love.

Jesus calls Bar Timaeus. This calling is another word pregnant with meaning. The Latin is “Vocare” from which derive our word, “Vocation.” When we read the readings at Mass, the Hebrew word is again Car ah. It is proclamation an inviting to live the events, again, for the first time. moon

In our Gospel Jesus stands on the lifeless moon. The previous verse tells us this story is about his serving and not being served. A blind man, the son of Simplicity comes to Jesus screaming through the crowd for mercy. In Hebrew Mercy comes from the same word as Womb. He screams for a compassion only a mother can know for her children.

In Jewish liturgy where one sits is very important. The Rabbi, knowing the most, sits in the center. The further out one goes the less one knows and the less pure they are. The blind man begins the liturgy with a call for mercy, compassion. Jesus, Salvation, comes, bringing the fresh blooming of new life. People being who people are, then and now, try to stop the outcasts from receiving salvation. It is for the middle-class and not the outcasts.

Jesus does not simply ask for the crowd to call the man to come over to him, but uses that vocare. He invites Bar Timaeus the same way God invites Abraham. Lech Lech ah. It is not to instant gratification, wealth and riches. It is not to being Tam. He started with that. It is to leave those things and to leave modern day Basra, where Abram started, and to leave his family, everything he holds dear and to head out into the unknown.

The sheep of his flockIn Hebrew, seeing Rah, is related to being part of the flock, Rah, spelled differently. It is to be part of God’s flock and to proclaim salvation, Jesus to others. It is to a called life of mercy, being a womb for others, proclaiming how he was saved to others. It is being a son of love to others.

One last key word in the passage is faith. Faith and truth are the same word in Hebrew. True faith heals, not Jesus, according to the passage. Jesus brings faith and truth together. He brings us into contact with truth, reality, others, being in touch with others needs, seeing the world in its totality. The blind man then follows Jesus by going out into the desert as Abraham did. Are we up to the same calling?

The Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time and the American Revolution


Seder plate smallFor the Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time the Gospel and the second reading carry the main message. Luke’s version, properly translated, holds the key to the passage. “Who is greater: the one seated at table or the one who serves? Is it not the one seated at table? I am among you as the one who serves.”

That last question seems out of context with the conclusion and there is a reason. It implies the one sitting at table, the ruler, is the greater.

Koine Greek has no punctuation or word order to its grammar. The passage could just as well translate, “Who is greater: the one seated at table or the one who serves? It is not the one seated at table! I am among you as the one who serves.”

Chapter 1 verse 10 of the Ethics of the Fathers says, “Love work, loath mastery over others, and avoid intimacy with the government.” This comes from the cultural background from which Jesus lived and taught. A saying from this culture is, “Whosoever acquires a Jewish slave has acquired himself a master.”

James and John the sons of Zebedee ask, “Grant to us to sit, one on your right hand, and one on your left, in your glory/Chabod/importance.” The important one, the one with glory and honor is not the one sitting at table. Rulers throughout history found this out the hard way. Mary Antoinette and King Louis lost their heads over it as did Maximilien Robespierre when his grew too big.

King GeorgeKing George was right in the taxes he raised on the colonies. Someone had to pay for the French and Indian War. Up until the time of the Revolution the British were known for their hands-off approach to the colonies who largely governed themselves. King George saw himself as the important one. When a bunch of drunks threw tea into the sea, King George thought he had enough. He called the venerated Benjamin Franklin, at that point an advocate of the King and told him off, in public. Ben Franklin became an advocate of the Revolution.

The British saw the white man as God’s gift to humanity, the important race. Born in Liverpool, Robert Morris a Founding Father of the United States financed the American Revolution, oversaw the striking of the first coins of the United States, and signed the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union, and the United States Constitution. During the war the combined expenditures of Robert Morris towards the American Revolution and subsequent events would be in excess of $15,575,000,000 today not including materials and ships and the balance of the colonist would contribute $800,000. Along with Alexander Hamilton and Albert Gallatin, he is one of the founders of the American financial system. Did we notice how Morris was from Liverpool. He was Irish, not British. The Revolution was as much about Irish rights denied by the British as it was about taxes.

Friendly Sons of St. PatrickMorris was an honorary member of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick as was George Washington. This organization had five Revolutionary War generals as members and a commodore who was also an employee of Robert Morris. His head grew too big and he died in poverty, his house being used to plan the Crossing of the Delaware, and the Battle of Trenton.

Thinking you are the master race or the master nation has negative consequences. The British ended slavery in 1833 without an American Revolution. If the U.S. had not left the British empire, slavery here would have ended in 1833. The Native Americans sided with the British in the Revolution. The British promised a limit on westward expansion. If the American Revolution had not happened, Native American Nations might be prospering and not living on reservations. The U.S. with all its economic power would have entered WWI and WWII when Britain did. Think of the lives lost because King George was so full of himself.

This brings us to the first reading, “The NAME was pleased to crush him in infirmity. If he gives his life as an offering for deviation, he shall see his descendants in a long life, and the will of the NAME shall be accomplished through him. Because of his affliction he shall see the light in fullness of days; through his suffering, my servant shall justify any, and their guilt he shall bear.”

Simons mother in lawThose who have not suffered do not know what it means to suffer. That is why God crushes in infirmity. It is through infirmity that we see the light. The Jewish community has its Baal of Teshuva, or Master of Penance. This person, because he suffered for his faults is said to be master even over the angels. He is greater than the angels and all others he meets. Why? Because he knows what it means to err and how easy it is to err. He is meek and humble, always contrite, watching his step to make sure he does not err again.

What of those of us who have never really suffered. In our Mass’s Anamnesis we die with Jesus and we rise with him. We sit at Gethsemane and walk with him, denying him three times, recalling how easy it is to do. “I knew the great teacher, not this guy who made claims about destroying the temple, for God’s sake.” Through the Anamnesis we become Baal Teshuva liturgically, if we pay attention to Gospel and readings.

Jesus heals the blind manLet us therefore always remember who is the greater, “It is not the one seated at table.” It is the one who serves. Who is important, Mary Antoinette and King Louis, easily replaced by Maximilien Robespierre who was easily replaced by Napoleon, who was in turn easily replaced by others, or the people planting the potatoes for the Irish to eat or the wheat for the French of the Revolution to eat, sparing Europe the 19th and 20th century of constant war. Without the meek and humble worker, nobody eats. That is what Jesus tells us today.

Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time


Jess theses statement in LukeThe Pharisees approached Jesus and asked, “Is it lawful for a husband to divorce his wife?” He replied, “What did Moses command you?”

From the Sermon on the Mount.

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. 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.

Jesus replies, “What did Moses command you?” Torah does not change. Torah is both written and unwritten tradition. The teaching on divorce doesn’t change.

Great Assembly

What is the passage context? We are in a room with a large gathering of scholars and they ask Jesus his opinion on a key Torah passage. The passage is like our gun control issue.

“A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

The pro-gun nuts recite the second part of the passage but forget the first part.

We read the Ten Commandments, reciting the last six but forget the first four.

The passage reads, “When a man takes a wife, and marries her, if she finds no favor in his eyes because he found nakedness in her, he shall write her a bill of divorcement….”

The rabbis debated the meaning of “nakedness.” The school Jesus seems to quote defines nakedness as finding her naked with someone else. The other school focuses on “she finds no favor in his eyes,” and argues he can divorce her for no reason at all.

Father Ron Olson
God wants shepherds, not legal experts

“Because of the hardness of your hearts, he wrote you this Mitzvah. From the beginning, ‘God made them male and female. A man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ They are no longer two but one flesh/Bashar.

“Who is “Your” of “Your hearts?” Only scholars are present. “Your” must refer to them. They want hardness of heart, to read the Torah as lawyers. Jesus wants softness of heart, to read the passage of elders/counselors of the people.

The Hebrew for Gospel and for Flesh is Bashar. A man leaves his father and mother and joins to his wife, and the two shall become one Bashar/ succulent message/Gospel.’ They are no longer two but one Bashar/succulent message/Gospel.

It is not possible to be one Gospel, one succulent message when fighting. The Gospel is clear in saying our Blessed Virgin Mary was no older than twelve and a half years old when she married Joseph. Joseph was probably not much older. One thing we can count on teen agers to do is fight about petty things. Most couples married at about the same age as Mary and Joseph.

What keeps the couple from fighting? Extended family! A toddler escapes the house and runs across the street to the park… An uncle sees the act. What does he do? Blame the mother and tell her husband about it? If he’s smart and an elder of the community he investigates and finds the door does not have childproof deadbolts on the doors. He installs them and extended family expense, immediately, and worries about cost recovery later.

Word gets out that husband and wife are fighting. What does uncle do? He arrives with his wife and an uncle and aunt from the other family. They give sage advice on how they resolved their issues and one uncle advises, “Next time you have an issue, you get one of your aunts to referee this. Gills and Morses don’t fight like this. We have certain customs. Not hitting women is one of those customs. Not arguing is another. Talking things through rationally is a custom we both share. Could give a shit what your final decision is but following the Ethics of the Fathers, You come to us both perceived to be guilty, misunderstanding the situation, and you will both leave innocent, having re-established your marital bond.”

I can hear an uncle of the first-century saying, “No! You are not divorcing this girl because the eggs are a little greasy. Marriage is sacred. I’ll send Mildred over and show her how to cook eggs the way you like them. Now get you head out your ass and build that crochet stand she wants. If you forgot, come here, I’ll show you.”

Another rule, at least of the Gills and after investigation also of the Morse clan is that there is nothing the other guy can do that justifies bad behavior on the part of Gill or Morse clan members. “The other guy does it too? I’m not talking to the other guy; I’m talking to you and we don’t do those things. It is not our custom! Bend over!”

558680_4898175579913_954615946_nIn his homily, Bishop Calvo took great pains in stating how in first-century culture all property was transferred through the husband to his sons so it stayed in the extended family. The negative aspect of this rule is that if he evicts his spouse, she has no property and no way of acquiring any, other than marrying another.

Bishop Calvo than spent the bulk of his homily discussing how Jesus contemns the hardness of heart of a husband, also a teenager likely, who would discharge another human being to adultery or destitution.

One irony of this Pro-Life Sunday is that a second pervert joined the ranks of the Supreme Court the day before, yesterday. The rule of both coming in guilty, misunderstanding the situation, and leaving innocent, reconciled was not followed.

It is also hardness of heart to listen to women sharing rapes and near rapes in their past and to say they must have lied because the person listening to the charge likes the accuser. The standard excuses are always used, she must have done something to deserve it, reference the remarks about how there is nothing the other guy can do to justify bad behavior on the part of Gills or Morses.  She must have been paid to say this. How much do you need to pay a person with a doctorate to ruin her career and face perjury charges later? The ears and the eyes close and the rape culture continues.

Christine Blasey Ford, Deborah Ramirez, and Julie Swetnick stood by their accusations against Brett Kavanaugh. Misinformation propagated by conservative so-call news sites including conservative Catholic ones claim a single witness came forward who knows or knew Mrs. Ford and doubted her story. Torah is clear in stating a person is convicted on the basis of two or three witnesses. Mr. Kavanaugh had three accusers. Mrs. Ford had only one. These conservative news sites also claim Mrs. Swetnick withdrew her claims, also not true. Conservatives claim we should trust conservative news agencies we know have lied in favor of Mr. Kavanaugh and not trust three witnesses who claim he is guilty.

Supporting this man means you support the culture of death and politics over truth. It is just that simple. Support him before, during, or after attending a so-called pro-life rally and I don’t know what the rally is about and don’t participate. Bad behavior has consequences. If you don’t know what you support, I most certainly don’t.

statue-of-liberty-chainsThis writer actually heard a nun take this position just moments after the Bishop gave his homily in favor of the Me Too Movement and supporting women making these claims. She was completely blind to how the homily related to the Supreme Court case. As a result of her and people like her, we now have two known perverts on the Supreme Court, one confirmed in the month trying to bring awareness to sexual abuse.

This case has clear ramifications. I, an adult white male who has been bullied on the job and who found his stories not believed because he reported supervisor’s find the ramifications scary. Don’t report abuse because of the hardness of heart on the part of conservatives. They won’t believe you anyway. The best option is to put up with the abuse and find work elsewhere. There is no room for Bashar, being one flesh, part of the one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all, under these conditions. There is no room for sharing the Good News when your life has been deprived of the Good News by the conservatives. We then listen to them argue pro-life and can only say, “Sick Joke! If I believe that one, will you tell me another one?”

Sometimes we must make up our minds, do we support life and God, or do we support politics? As for me and my house, we serve God. We support the image of God in each and every person; we support life, and that includes the life of Christine Blasey Ford, Deborah Ramirez, and Julie Swetnick, and the millions of those like her, and me. Doing otherwise shows a severe hardness of heart. Again, when we show this hardness of heart those of us who have been abused must ask if we as Catholics support the culture of death or the culture of life.

Instead of this disaster we should be saying, “Americans don’t abuse other Americans. Americans don’t abuse, period. Americans remember what it was like to be oppressed in the land your Europe, in the sweatshops of the 19th century and the plantations of the south. Americans remember what it was to be lied to and about. They don’t share vicious gossip about those bringing negative reports, their life experiences. They investigate and find the truth. Americans take pains to make sure people do not suffer, or they used to. My, how things have changed.

Our synod had two problem categories. How does a sixty-two-year-old liberal and a forty something conservative define two key terms in the categories, “Family,” and “Priest.” Per conservative doctrine, family is one husband, one wife, God, and the children. For a sixty-two-years-old liberal, family includes the children’s children, grand-children… “Nation” is Latin meaning a people born together by common heritage. Extended family includes the entire nation.

“Priest” is Greek for, “Presbyterian/elder.” It ultimately comes from “Cohen,” any appointed official. Hierarch or Hierarchy is the Greek for the high priest. We use the term for secular leaders. Catholic Catechism 1539 “The chosen people was constituted by God as “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” Exodus 19:6.

LibertyWe are all priests, all sent out as husband and wife to bring Bashar, the succulent message to all God’s children. Those in the room with Jesus ask for a debate on the legal definition of “Naked.” Jesus argues, ‘You are all counselors, tasked with guiding young people in developing their families to be Bashar, bringing the Gospel, the Good News, the succulent message of love to each other and to their children.” Two people living in close proximity to each other always have differences. Each divorce represents a failure on the part of elders and priests, in fixing these differences. Get off the legal bullshit and serve the community,” Jesus says. Do we support the culture of death with divorce, bullying and the excuses that go with it, or do we support the culture of life.

The Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time


Jess theses statement in LukeThe first reading begins with a statement about the prophet hearing.” Being deaf and mute in the Gospels appear together; Jesus heals the deafness first and the muteness healing comes along for the ride.

Hastings’ Dictionary of the New Testament in its article under Deaf and Dumb argues, the Gospel writers use the same Greek term interchangeably for both deaf and dumb.

Along the way, Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” They replied, “John the Baptist, others Elijah, others one of the prophets.” He asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter replied, “You are the Christ.” The Son of Man must suffer greatly, be rejected by the presbyters/priests, the chief priests/Hierarchs and the scribes/grammarians, be killed, and rise after three days. Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him… You think not as God, but as humans.”

St. Francis and the leperWhy bring up a prediction of his passion right after Peter acknowledges Jesus as the Christ? I have two faults that are major in my communication, being wordy, and academic when a personal approach is called for. I was not allowed to attend the past Synod, why what I learned over the past decades is not open for discussion at Bible Study, and why the diocesan director of faith formation said there was no place for me in the Catholic Church.  I identify with Peter and Paul, worse at it than Peter. The people give human examples.  Peter/the leader, gives an academic one; Jesus is the Messiah, a title.

Father Abbot had a conversation with Deacon Peter. Father asked, “Who do the people say I am?” Deacon replied, “Some say you are St. Augustine, some Thomas Aquinas, others a great preacher.” Father Abbot asked, “Who do you say that I am?” Deacon replied, “You are the anointed of this parish, Vicar General of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Reno.

Father Abbot replied, “I have stage four renal cancer. Cysts grow inside my kidneys and are large. I suffer sharp pains constantly, along with in my liver, my spleen, and into my lungs where it metastasized and I feel great pain. I will be dead in six months.” Deacon rebuked him.

Simons mother in lawJesus looks for a personal response. Father John Bain called this a shared “Life Experience.” He looks for a response speaking of finding Jesus while fishing, healing his mother from a fever, the emotion of the healings, traumatic encounters with the hierarchs, the elders, and the grammarians, hearing Torah in a new and more personal way… Peter gives none of this.

Jesus expects the promise of prayers for help in dealing with this, a life experience of shared compassion. Peter gives none of this. We are only told of a rebuke. There is no mention of a pregnant pause. This is the great clown, Peter, Charles Wayne, Francis Augustine Gill, with diarrhea of the mouth and constipation of the brain, engaging mouth before putting brain in gear. This is Peter, Charles Wayne, Francis Augustine Gill thinking only of himself and how he will deal with life with no Jesus/Father Abbot around. This is how humans think.

Father Ron Olson.jpgIn the section immediately, preceding Jesus heals a blind man. The first time the blind man reports everyone looks like walking trees. The word for “Trees” and “Counselors” is “Eights.” Everyone looks like codgy, stodgy men. The second time “his sight was restored and he saw everything distinctly.” He saw people in all their humanity. This is how God sees.

A chapter earlier Mark mentions the healing of the deaf man. His hearing returns first and he speaks. Let us pray that I somehow learn to hear and to see, not the outside, but the inside, be like Father Ron Olson who thinks as God, always looking for the heart, able to look past the academics and the wordiness and to see the real person striving to connect. Let us learn to hear and see Jesus in our neighbor, striving, for a personal relationship with one big life experience from cradle to the grave.

Why the Priest Shortage and Why Another Scandal


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Our Gospel reading speaks to both our shortage of priests and the priest scandals of the present and past. First, it must be noted that some six and thirty years ago a Pastor Ken Denneke asked me to consider the religious vocation. This is the reason I learned to play piano and studied Philosophy in college. After completing that Bachelor-of-Arts and a year of graduate school in counseling, in preparation for seminary, the church changed its mind. Such is my life story.

This is not the reason I mention Pastor Ken Denneke. Pastor Ken was a married Lutheran minister. He left ministry to go into dentistry or something because his wife did not want to be parish first lady. He left ministry because he was married.

As I studied group dynamics I learned a powerful but obvious point. The same football teams and for that matter the same in other sports and organizations tend to do well year after year, regardless of who the players are. Change the system structure and the powerful teams become human again. Look at our first reading.

The wilderness and the parched land exult; the desert rejoices and blooms. As the rose it blooms abundantly, and rejoices with joyful song. The weight of the Lebanon is given to it, the splendor of the Carmel/vineyard and Sharon/ the Ishar/upright will see the weight of the NAME, the splendor of our God.

It is the wilderness and the parched among us who God calls to ministry to the rejoicing and the blooming. The passage speaks of the Lebanon. Without the “The” the passage refers to the state of Lebanon. With the “The” it refers to the color, “white.” White refers to the purification of the temple and therefore the temple, our Cathedral. The first reading then refers to Carmel, the vineyard of souls, the Sharon of the Upright.  

100_3846Deuteronomy 17:15 tells us, “Set over you a melech/messenger whom the NAME, your God, chooses. Someone from among your own kindred you may set over you as messenger; Do not set over you a man of distinction, who is no kin of yours.”

As best as I could find, this is the makeup of our priests. Protestant pastors are no different. Most responding ordinands (59 percent) completed college before entering the seminary. When we add the majors of Theology, Liberal Arts, Business, Science/Math and Engineering we have 75% of our college graduates.

Most of our ordinands are not coming from the wilderness and the parched among us but from those who can afford that college degree. Caucasian/European American /white ordinands are over-represented among responding ordinands, relative to their proportion of the U.S. adult Catholic population, while Hispanics/Latinos are under-represented.

Again, we have evidence that we are pulling from the middle-class, the established folk and not from the wilderness and the parched like Deuteronomy and our first reading demand.

Ordinands in 2016 are slightly more likely than other U.S. Catholics to have attended a Catholic elementary school. In a 2008 national poll conducted by CARA 42 percent of U.S. adult Catholics report having attended a Catholic elementary school, compared to 45 percent of ordinands who have done so. Ordinands are also more likely than other U.S. Catholics to have attended a Catholic high school (41 percent of ordinands, compared to 22 percent of U.S. adult Catholics), and much more likely to have attended a Catholic college (41 percent of ordinands, compared to just 7 percent of U.S. adult Catholics).

Catholic colleges are even more expensive than secular ones. We are not recruiting priests who are like us, nor are we recruiting priests who come from the wilderness, the desert, the parched land.

Think of Jesus’ parable of the sower. Over half of our priests were in education before, or business executives, accountants, computers, medicine, engineering, law, or government. We try to recruit priests from the seed that fell in the weeds and wonder at our failure.

The priests who sequestered themselves in their rectories? I suspect these are the priests who burned for companionship and acted on that desire in less than appropriate ways. Catch them before they start and if we can’t do that, at least get them into the public where we can see their behavior early and get them out of the ministry before they hurt our children.

Pope Francis UNWho recruited our priests? Number one is our priests. Then comes friends, parishioners, relatives, teachers, and our catechists. We got them active in church life early. They were in the Catholic youth group, alter servers, lectors, Extraordinary ministers, and catechists. This means our priests were out and among the people. They came to coffee and doughnuts, participated in adult and youth ministries, in particular of the wilderness, the parched land, and the deserted. They attended Eucharistic adoration, prayed the rosary, probably with a priest, and attended Bible studies, which we have far too little of.

When we recruit the right priests the eyes of the blind to God’s calling will be opened, the ears of the deaf cleared. In each healing of the deaf and mute, the deaf are always healed first. One must hear before he can speak. In the nativity, Zechariah does not believe so Gabriel makes him mute. He can’t hear the message so all he speaks comes out as gibberish. The lame, the outcast among us will listen to the voice of other outcasts when we recruit them. They can speak to the outcast in ways priests born and raised in established homes cannot. They can bring hope to the outcast, causing them to bloom in ways priests born into established homes cannot. They can relate to the hopelessness in ways priests who have never experienced hopelessness cannot.

Then it will be said of our Gospel reading, “He ordered them not to tell anyone. The more he ordered them not to, the more they proclaimed it. They were exceedingly astonished and they said, “He has done all things well. He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.” We will have more ordinands than we have schools to hold them and teachers to teach them. Until then, we wait.

Epiphany 2018


Jess theses statement in LukeI teach you the traditions and precedents as the NAME, my God, has commanded me, that you may observe them in the land you are entering to possess. Do them carefully, for this is your wisdom and discernment in the sight of the peoples, who will hear of all these traditions and say, “This great nation is truly a wise and discerning people.” What great nation is there that has gods so close to it as the NAME, our God, is to us whenever we call upon him? What great nation has traditions and precedents that are as just as this whole law which I am setting before you today?… the NAME spoke to you from the midst of the fire. You heard the sound of the words, but saw no form; there was only a voice. He proclaimed to you his brit, which he commanded you to keep: the Asher words, which he wrote on two stone tablets. At that time the NAME charged me to teach you the traditions and precedents for you to observe in the land you are about to cross into and possess. Deuteronomy 4:5-13

menorahSee, darkness covers the earth, and thick clouds cover the peoples; but upon you the NAME shines, and over you appears his importance. Nations shall walk by your light, and kings by your shining radiance. Raise your eyes and look about; they all gather and come to you: your sons come from afar, and your daughters in the arms of their nurses. First Reading for Epiphany

He inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They said to him, “In Beth lehem of Judea, for thus it has been written through the Navy: And you, Beth lehem, land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; since from you shall come a ruler, who is to shepherd my people Israel.” Gospel for Epiphany

All the readings for Epiphany concern the same thing, if we read the words in the original language, Hebrew and Aramaic. First, the Ten Mitzvah which come in Deuteronomy 5. Deuteronomy 4 speaks about them as the Asher Mitzvah. Asher, spelled with a “Y” means “ten.” The same word, spelled with an “A” means “Happy.” If one reads the ten commandments in Deuteronomy 5, one will find as many as 15 command statements, depending upon where one starts looking.

The Ten WordsRead Asher as meaning Happy. If we do and we follow the commandments to make sure everyone is happy, we will be a wise and discerning people. God will be close to us and people will speak of us as having the closest God, the only true God with us. When God is with us, darkness may cover the earth our first reading says. The NAME, God, will shine upon us and give us his light, the light which tells us to care for other people. People will come to us for that light, a light that produces a society of no poverty, no crime, nobody in want, no violence.

It’s interesting how the first commandment in the Jewish count is, “Remember, I am God your almighty who rescued you from the land of oppression, the land of menial labor.” Remember what it was like to be there and remember your rescue. If we truly do this, it will hurt us when we see others suffer. To avoid our own pain, we will get that knot in our gut and do something.

Seder plate smallWe will be too busy stopping the suffering of others, to kill, steal, kidnap, give false witness or desire what belongs to others. What of desire as being the force that drives the economy? The root is to stop others suffering. Trade that benefits all does not cause suffering. Compare that with Communism, Capitalism, and Anarchism, all of which exploit others for personal gain. The Ten Commandments are not in any of these so called economic systems.

Many point out how most Christians can’t name all of the Ten Commandments. Generally, we can only mention the last six. The story of the Rich Young Man in the Gospels is an example of this. The rich young man remembers the last five, then remembers command number 4. Jesus brings him back to the first four. If we start here, we can forget the last six, for the reason already stated. In following the first one, we naturally follow all the others.

ThanksgivingWe’re Christians. We start with Beth Lechem, our house of bread in the land of Judah, thanksgiving. That is our Eucharist, which also means thanksgiving, where we find our salvation in a piece of bread, the baby Jesus laying in a feeding trough. We all get the same sized loaf of bread in the Eucharist, and if we desire, the same sized sip of wine. We follow Jesus, and that means all have adequate food, clothing, shelter, transportation (we remember the Blessed Virgin’s walking the hundred miles to Jerusalem and to Nazareth), healthcare, that is what Jesus did most of the time, and education, what he did the rest of his time.

We make no excuses for not providing any of these. We don’t say, let the church do it, most only give a percent and a half of their income to charity, and we don’t say, let the government do it. Government tends to be too big. We listen to Jesus’ great commandment, to love God with all of our hearts, with all of our animate being, and with all of our measure. If we’re patriotic, that means using our government to do those things. If we really care for the poor, when we see people hungry, we do something. When we see private charities asking for donations for these causes, we contribute. That includes the church.

The question for this Epiphany is, “Are we like the wise men bringing our full measure, or are we like Herod, who would kill the babe in the name of promoting his own interests.

Fourth Sunday of Advent: Sheep without a Shepherd


Jess theses statement in Luke“It was I who took you from the pasture and from the care of the flock to be commander of my people Israel. I have been with you wherever you went, and I have destroyed all your enemies before you. And I will make you famous like the great ones of the earth. I will fix a place for my people Israel; I will plant them so that they may dwell in their place without further disturbance. Neither shall the children of perversion continue to afflict them as they did of old, since the time I first appointed judges over my people Israel. Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time First reading.

This reading talks about leadership and what it means for King David to be a leader. It brings to mind another reading, this one from Numbers.

The sheep of his flockMoses told the NAME, “May the NAME, the God of the spirits of all humanity, set over the community someone who will be their leader in battle and who will bring them out and bring them in, that the NAME’s community may not be like sheep without a shepherd.” And the NAME replied to Moses: Take Joshua, son of Nun, a man of spirit, and lay your hand upon him. Numbers 27:15-18

It is no coincidence that Jesus hung out with fishermen. “Nun,” is the Aramaic word for a fish. Joshua is the Hebrew word for Jesus, God Saves. Joshua is the first great shepherd after Moses and Joshua Ben Nun is Jesus. David, in his address to God asking to build a temple shows how he doesn’t get it. God doesn’t want great houses. He wants to go out before the people and be their leader.

The Hebrew word for a leader is כָּבֵד, which also means the liver, importance, and by extension, glory. There is a reason we speak of leading as lead. Lead is a heavy metal, and in Irish tradition also the important one. To show how Hebrew connects mind and body, “Cali” means the kidneys and is the place the Jewish people assigned for the mind. The leader is the important one because he’s the shepherd, the one who leads the people out and the one who brings them in.

 

salt
The Salary, Salt, of the rich is 70 times that of the poor in this country

Moses asks that the people not be as sheep without a shepherd, but regrettably today, that is precisely the case. We have people in high places who like to think they’re important. “The wealth disparity between upper and middle-income Americans has hit a record high, according to a new Pew Research Center Report. On average, today’s upper-income families are almost seven times wealthier than middle-income ones, compared to 3.4 times wealthier in 1984. When compared to lower income family wealth, upper income family wealth is 70 times larger.”

 

“Someone from among your own kindred you may set over you as king; you may not set over you a foreigner, who is no kin of yours.” Deuteronomy 17: 15

How can someone be of our own kindred when they bring home 70 times more than we do?

Luther Gulick in his Management theory lists 5 management skills: Planning, Organizing, Staffing, Directing, and Controlling/Accounting. If one looks at a typical M.B.A. program one will not find a single class required for this directing. One is also hard pressed to find classes in staffing. Luther lists in his understanding of Directing: Motivation, Leadership, and Communication. The typical M.B.A. program has no courses for these skills, either. Luther Gulick lists for Leadership, “Leadership is the ability of a manager to induce the subordinates to work with confidence and zeal.”

Jesus heals the epilepticFrom their training on, managers, plan, organize, staff and control, do accounting, use number to measure the non-measurable, human beings. They don’t lead because they don’t know how. They don’t shepherd the people because they don’t know how and don’t know who the sheep even are. The people are like sheep without a shepherd.

Leadership is the potential to influence behavior of others. It is also defined as the capacity to influence a group towards the realization of a goal. Leaders are required to develop future visions, and to motivate the organizational members to want to achieve the visions.

According to Koontz and o’ Donnell, “Leadership is the ability to persuade others to seek defined objectives enthusiastically. It is the human factor which binds a group together and motivates it towards goals.” Keith Davis goes on to say, “Leadership is its nature to understand the feelings and problems of the group as a whole as well as the individuals, and a leader should strive to satisfy the personal and social needs of his followers, which is very much expected by them. A

jm_200_NT1.pd-P7.tiff

Psalm 72: To Solomon “The end of the psalms of David, son of Jesse.” (This is King David’s advice, his last words to his son on how to lead the people.) O God, give your judgment to the king; your justice to the king’s son; That he may govern your people with justice, your oppressed with right judgment, that he may defend the oppressed among the people, save the children of the poor and crush the oppressor. May all kings bow before him, all nations serve him. He rescues the poor when they cry out, the oppressed who have no one to help. He shows pity to the needy and the poor and saves the lives of the poor. From extortion and violence, he redeems them, for precious is their blood in his sight.

Psalm 82: God takes a stand in the divine council, gives judgment in the midst of the gods. “How long will you judge unjustly and favor the cause of those who think themselves first? “Defend the lowly and fatherless; render justice to the afflicted and needy. Rescue the lowly and poor; deliver them from the hand of those who think themselves first.” The gods neither know nor understand, wandering about in darkness, and all the world’s foundations shake.

Simons mother in lawWho are these gods? “I declare: “Gods though you be, offspring of the Most High all of you, Yet like any mortal you shall die; like any prince you shall fall.” They were great managers. They had great plans, organized for them with zeal, even hired day laborers for their plans. Their accounting was top notch. They lacked leadership. They left their charges like sheep without a shepherd, just like our managers.

These gods are the princes, the managers of secular industry and the current federal government. Their job, and the job of all leaders is to do what David tells Solomon in Psalm 72 and God accuses the princes of not doing in Psalm 82. To find this fault he must live among the people, and listen to them. This is what Jesus does and this is what he calls our leaders to do.

When Moses asks for Joshua Ben Nun to lead the people, by using the shepherding analogy, this is what he means. This is what he means for Jesus, and by extension for us, and in particular for our leaders. There is no room here for making 70 times more than workers make. Those who do are not among us.

Jesus heals the blind manLeadership and by extension management includes leading people from the front. Jesus speaks of leadership in John 10: 2-4. This is also the passage where Jesus says he came to bring life and life to its fullest for his sheep. “But whoever enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens it for him, and the sheep hear his voice, as he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has driven out all his own, he walks ahead of them, and the sheep follow him, because they recognize his voice.” This is leadership. This is what Jesus did throughout his life, by being born in a feeding trough, the son of a homeless immigrant unwed mother, to feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, healing the sick, walking the roads looking for these folk, and the list goes on. Now let us follow his example.

Christmas in Incline Village Nevada

This Christmas, let us remember our leader, lying in a feeding trough, among us. Let us remember how we sing of the little drummer boy and the baby in the manger who heals the wounded lamb. From birth, this baby, an immigrant, the son of a homeless unwed mother, came to and for the poor. Let us be like him in our lives. Bring leadership to the people.

Third Sunday of Advent


Jess theses statement in LukeThe spirit of the NAME GOD is upon me, because the NAME has anointed me; he has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners, to announce a year of favor from the NAME, a day of vindication by our God. Isaiah 61: 1-11

When one writes essays or biographies one has an introduction, a thesis statement, the body of the story and the conclusion. Matthew and Luke’s introductions are the nativity. The Temptation follows this, and the thesis statement.

Matthew’s thesis statement is, “The Accuser left him and, behold, messengers came and ministered to him.

Mark’s thesis statement is, “He was in the wilderness forty days tempted of Satan; And he was with the living beings; And the messengers ministered unto him.

Each of these thesis statements are brief. The Accuser and the Pharisees in these stories play very similar roles. The messengers are the Apostles. The living beings are us, at least us in the person of the first century Jews.

menorahLuke’s theses statement patterns after our first reading. If we read the first chapter of The Ethics of the Fathers and compare it with a reading from St. James we see why this is important.

  1. Shammai would say: Make your Torah study a permanent fixture of your life. Say little and do much. And receive every man with a pleasant countenance.
  2. Rabban Gamliel would say: Assume for yourself a master; stay away from doubt; and do not accustom yourself to tithe by estimation. (Compare with James, “But he should ask in faith, not doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed about by the wind.)”
  3. His son, Shimon, would say: All my life I have been raised among the wise, and I have found nothing better for the body than silence. The essential thing is not study, but deed. And one who speaks excessively brings on deviation.

At first reading sections fifteen and 17 contradict each other. One says Torah study is important, the second states how its not important. Shimon may well have been our Simeon from Luke’s nativity, the one who greets Jesus in the temple when he’s born. Together with section fifteen it says that Torah study is important, but it means nothing if deeds don’t follow.

flamesJames tells us in his first chapter, “Be doers of the Word, and not hearers only, deluding your own selves. If anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a mirror: he sees himself, and goes away, and straightway forgets what manner of man he was. The one who stoops sideways into the Tam instruction of freedom, perseveres, and is not a hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, such a one shall be blessed in what he does.”

A key word hear means to stoop sideways, like one who is with a small child and stoops down to pay attention to that child. The person who stoops sideways is like Shammai who studies the Torah with diligence, reading it in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. He gets a master to explain what Torah means in light of tradition. [i]

James points to the essence of the question with is examples. The hearer of the word reads it for debate, to defend who he is as a person. He uses Torah to point to himself. The doer of the Word focuses meditates upon it. He looks at it from all angles. St. Augustine was once asked which version of the Bible was the right one. St. Augustine says of differing interpretations, “the examination of a number of texts has often thrown light upon some of the more obscure passages…[ii] In essence, St. Augustine says to read all the translations.

What separates Jesus from the rest of humanity isn’t that he read Torah, but that he did the Torah. He embodied it. It is Luke who has it right. It is interesting to note that Jesus never quotes Scripture to the masses. He says in the Sermon on the Mount, “You heard that it was said,” not “Scripture says.” In debating the Pharisees and Satan, he quotes Torah and the prophets early and often. He knew and studied Scripture. What set him apart was act.

 

Liberty
If you expand this picture out you can see chains at the feet of Liberty, the broken chains of slavery

What was the act? Now that is what our first reading is all about. “He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners, to announce a year of favor from the NAME and a day of vindication by our God.

 

This brings us to what it means to be a Christian. Do we not mean we were born of Christ? Does not St. Paul say, “So be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and handed himself over for us as a sacrificial offering to God for a fragrant aroma.” Therefore, to be like Christ is to love the poor as fellow children. That means not making excuses like, “The Church should do that and not the state,” and then give only 1.5% of our income as Catholics. Think this 1.5% isn’t accurate? Take your net pay, the pay on your last paycheck and divide that into how much is in that envelope you’re about to turn in. If it’s less that 1.5%, there’s your proof. If it’s about 2% you give what most protestants give. If it’s 4% you give about what most poor protestants give.

AMOUNT TO DONATE CHARTHow much should we give? Luke as John the Baptist say, “He said to them in reply, “Whoever has two tunics should share with the person who has none. And whoever has food should do likewise.”

Rather than give a precise figure, however, let us look at that first reading again. “The spirit of the NAME GOD is upon me, because the NAME has anointed me.” The Holy Spirit is within us. The Jewish Community notes how first God rescued the Jewish people from Egypt/Oppression. Then and only then does he take them to Sinai. It’s only when they are rescued that he gives them Torah/instruction. We don’t follow Torah to get to heaven/salvation. We follow Torah because we’re already there. How much we give is a litmus test of how much of that salvation, how much of God’s Presence in the Eucharist gets into our hearts, first through hearing the Word, and then by how much of him we receive in the Eucharist.

When Jesus is asked the first commandment he quotes, not the Ten Words, but the Shema. “Hear Israel, (You who quarrel with God) God is Almighty, God is One. Love God with All your Hearts, all your Animate Being, and with all your measure. If we’re patriotic, that means loving God with our patriotism, and that means helping God serve the people through the state. Yes, it means the church through Peter’s Pence and other forms of church charity. Yes, it means through volunteer work and donations to other charitable groups, but yes, it means with everything. God doesn’t want 10%. He wants ten time 10%. He wants it all and he wants it to serve the least of our brothers.

Remember the example of St. James. If we give to serve ourselves, we’re just looking in the mirror and then forgetting who we are. Then we become paranoid and think the world is out to get us. If we serve God first, if Torah and Gospel are our focus, we will prevail.

 

 

 

[i] Augustine, Saint. The Complete Works of Saint Augustine: The Confessions, On Grace and Free Will, The City of God, On Christian Doctrine, Expositions on the Book Of Psalms, … (50 Books With Active Table of Contents) (Kindle Locations 25349-25350).  . Kindle Edition.

 

[ii] Augustine, Saint. The Complete Works of Saint Augustine: The Confessions, On Grace and Free Will, The City of God, On Christian Doctrine, Expositions on the Book Of Psalms, … (50 Books With Active Table of Contents) (Kindle Location 25365).  . Kindle Edition.

 

Second Sunday of Advent


Jess theses statement in LukeAs we read the Gospel for the Second Sunday of Advent we first come the name of Isaiah. Isaiah in Hebrew is largely an alternate spelling of Joshua, which in English translates as Jesus. The story for Mark begins with Jesus and it ends with Jesus. Quoting Isaiah, Mark says, “Prepare the way of the NAME, make straight his paths.”

How do we do that? That is the question for the Second Sunday of Advent. The rest of the passage describes John the Baptist. Hebrew is an interesting language. It’s alphabet, like all Semitic alphabets has two letters with no sound, “Aleph” and “Ayin,” which resembles our “Y.” It has two “S,” letters and three “K’s. It also has two “Ts.”

A Hebrew word for the world, meaning a verdant place, livable place is “Table,” with one “T”. Its word for baptism is “Table,” with another “T.” The idea behind baptism is not punishment but preparing us for “Table,” the verdant, literally spiced place. “Baptism” appears twelve times in Torah and Prophets to translate “Table.” In every case but one the clear reference is to the priest dipping sacrifices. 2 Kings 5:14 could mean dipping or immersion. The word appears one more time, Job 9:31 where it clearly refers to plunging into a ditch.

John the Baptist“John the Baptist, in most of the remaining Gospel reading for today is described to look like Elijah. The Gemara cites another verse and interprets it homiletically. It is stated: “The NAME showed me four craftsmen” (Zechariah 2:3). Who are these four craftsmen? Rav Ḥana bar Bizna said that Rabbi Shimon Ḥasida said: They are Messiah ben David, Messiah ben Yosef, Elijah, and the righteous High Priest, who will serve in the Messianic era.” Sukkah 52:b

Elijah will be the herald of the eschaton. Messiah ben Joseph will wage war against the evil forces and die in combat with the enemies of God and Israel. In the Sefer Zerubbabel and later writings, after his death a period of great calamities will befall Israel. God will resurrect the dead and usher in the Messianic Era of universal peace. Messiah ben David will reign as a Jewish king during the period when God will resurrect the dead.

Of the righteous High Priest, one Targum says, “And Melchisedech, the king of Jerusalem — he is Shem the Great — brought out bread and wine, for he was a priest ministering in the high priesthood before God Most High.

jm_200_NT1.pd-P7.tiffJohn the Baptist points to Jesus who is a Carpenter, whose Father is Joseph, who dies in battle, some sources say against Rome, and against Gog which is Hebrew for “Roof,” and the Temple is one big roof. Elijah also points to penance as Elijah is a Teshuvah which means penance.

Our first reading gives the answer of what we are baptized to. “A voice cries out: In the desert prepare the way of the NAME! Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God! Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill shall be made low; the rugged land shall be made a plain, the rough country, a broad valley. The importance of the NAME shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together; for the mouth of the NAME has spoken.

As to what penance is penance to, we read Leviticus 14. This chapter is about the purification of lepers. In the Septuagint or Greek Bible, “Baptize” appears three times. The passage talks of dipping a living bird into the blood of a dead one. The dead one is dipped into running water. The original word, faithfully translated into Greek is “Living Water.” The Gospel of John will take this up when Jesus talks to the Samaritan woman.

White swan

We are baptized into life. The dead bird is sacrificed so we may live. Living is defined in this passage to. Living water is flowing water. It is water that shows the dynamics of what it means to be alive. St. John shows he agrees with this definition by also talking of living water. We get to this life by being what the Jewish people call “Tam.” This means perfection but in the sense of leading simple, humble lives where there are no people representing valleys, depressed, hungry, thirsty, and the like because all the mountains and hills, all the greedy people are made low. All the rough, vulgar, average people who are made rough by their pain will be made smooth. We will all be Tam, because God is ruler and all the rest of us are sheep. Are we up to the task of helping to build this world, or must God look for others?