The Franciscan Rule and the Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time


Cypess treesJesus began speaking in the synagogue, “Today this Writing is fulfilled in your hearing.” All spoke highly of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They asked, “Isn’t this the son of Joseph?” He told them, “Surely you will quote me this proverb, ‘Physician, cure yourself,’ and say, ‘Do in your native place the things we heard were done in Capernaum.”

010One minute the crows sings his praises, and the next, they are a lynch mob. Do we do the same? Do we sing the praises of our favorite leader, so long as he tells us what we want to hear? When he compares us with the Pharisees, or other villains, do we change course and become a lynch mob? What of other prophets, speakers of the truth. When they tell us what we want to hear, do we follow them, to our own doom, if need be? This is something for each of us to reflect upon.

“Capernaum,” comes from the Greek. We have a similar word, “Cypress.” Also related in the Jewish concept of Yom Kippur, or the “Day of Atonement. “ Think of Kippur, “Atonement” in relation to the cypress trees. They provide shade, and from the point of view of someone looking down from on high, “God,” they hide, or cover the faults of the people who are below.

Be a RippleIsaiah 40 begins, “Comfort/Naum, comfort/Naum, my people, says your God. Speak to the heart of Jerusalem. Proclaim to her, her service has ended; her guilt is expiated. She has received from the hand of the NAME double for all her deviations.” The Synoptic Gospels use this passage to begin speaking of John the Baptist. Capernaum speaks of the comfort coming from atonement. The Israel Department of Tourism writes of the village, “The remains… were identified in 1838 by Eduard Robinson as Capernaum of the New Testament… The site was acquired by the Franciscan Fathers at the end of the 19th century, who conducted excavations.”

Our Secular Franciscan Rule states, “United by their vocation as brothers and sisters of penance, and motivated by the dynamic power of the gospel, let them conform their thoughts and deeds to those of Christ by means of that radical interior change which the gospel itself calls conversion. Human frailty makes it necessary that we carry out this conversion daily. On this road to renewal the sacrament of reconciliation is the privileged sign of the Father’s mercy and the source of grace. Giovanni Francesco di Bernardone. Chapter 2 Section 4 of the Secular Franciscan Rule.

habit“Do in your native place the things we things we heard were done in Capernaum.” This is impossible. The miracles require faith and faith causes interior conversion. The crowd wants radical change, but it does not want conversion. Our second reading for the Fourth Sunday in Ordinary time states, “At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror…. At present, I know partially; I shall know fully. Faith, hope, love remain; but the greatest of these is love.”

We see things partially. The Ethics of the Fathers states, “When sitting in judgment, do not act as a counselor-at-law. When the litigants stand before you, consider them both guilty; and when they leave your courtroom, having accepted the judgment, regard them as equally righteous.”

When people come before this judge, they see things partially, as in a mirror. When they leave court, we have a grander picture. We are reconciled to community, and are righteous.The purist proof that we are wrong is when we are so certain we are right that we do not have to listen to the other side. Being a Tzaddic, being a truly charitable person, means being willing to listen to the other side, asking, “Where does the other side gets its point of view? How can it be so certain of its right, it insists upon going to court? It is only when we are willing to undergo this radical transformation that we can become charitable, wise, as individuals, and as a nation.

It is all about love. Love, in Hebrew comes from a root. Ha Bah, sounds like the bleating of sheep and refers to the Lamb of God, who is to come. Ha Bah means to come. Abba, means father, the one who is to come. A Ha Bah is love.

ST. FrancisSt. Paul writes, “Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, it is not pompous, It is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things. Love never fails.”

Jesus requires this radical transformation for healing. St. Francis requires this radical transformation on a daily basis for healing. Love means welcoming the other person into our hearts and into our lives, daily, early and often. Love means seeing each other as imperfect brothers and sisters, people we have to live with, in our home, whether our home be our dwelling, our city, our state, nation and world. Love means welcoming Muslim, Jew, atheist, or other religious, because they are fellow human beings. Love, God requires no less. “God is love,” I John 4:8.

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, or “What is a man’s due?”


384309_549304955086309_357628736_n“As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ. In one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons, and we were all given to drink of one Spirit.” I Corinthians 12:12-13 Second Reading for the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

“As among the different sounds which proceed from lyres, flutes, and the human voice, there must be maintained a certain harmony which a cultivated ear cannot endure to hear disturbed or jarring, but which may be elicited in full and absolute concord by the modulation even of voices very unlike one another. Where reason is allowed to modulate the diverse elements of the state, there is obtained a perfect concord from the upper, lower, and middle classes as from various sounds. What musicians call harmony in singing, is concord in matters of state, which is the strictest bond and best security of any republic, and which by no ingenuity can be retained where justice has become extinct.” St. Augustine, City of God, Book 2, Chapter 21.

one hundred piece orchestra

St. Augustine voices the Western definition of Justice when he writes it is giving every man his due. City of God, Book 19, chapter 4. There is one important thing wrong with this definition. In practical terms, what is any given man’s due? Augustine goes on to write, “There is in man himself a certain just order of nature, so that the soul is subjected to God, and the flesh to the soul, and consequently both soul and flesh to God.” In writing this Augustine refers to the intellectual tradition of the Greeks which has God, first, reason second, and the flesh third. Augustine may also have Deuteronomy 30:11-14 in mind.

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.”

CosmosIn Book Three Chapter 8 of his Confessions St. Augustine compares the Ten Commandments to a lyre. Just as the lyre is made of groupings of three and ten strings, so the Ten Commandments are made of the first three referring to God, and the second seven referring to man’s relations with each other. In Augustine’s writing, at least in the book, “The Complete Works of Saint Augustine,” “Music,” appears 71 times. “Concord,” appears 39 times, 10 times in Book 19 alone. Harmony appears 42 times 14 times in our Chapter 19, alone. Justice? It appears in every Book of the City of God, a grand 493 times.

moonSt. Paul tells us in our Second Reading for the Third Sunday of Ordinary time that we are to view our community as an organic whole. St. Augustine reminds us that our community is to be based upon harmony. We have all heard musical groups based upon harmony and have heard how beautiful this can sound. When asking what a man’s due is, we have only to ask, “Will the final product sound harmonic to God’s ears. As we look to the large and growing gap between the rich and poor, in this nation, and in our world, we need only ask, “Is this harmonious to God’s ear?” There is no magic formula here. Tubas are louder than flutes, much louder. The goal is not to make the tuba sound like a flute. If we could, there would be no need for a tuba player. The goal is not to make business executives into plumbers, or vice versa.

habitIn English, we have several basic concepts: Vocation, Profession, Job, and Occupations. The goal is to eliminate jobs and occupations and replace them with Vocation and Profession. Our Vocation is our calling from God. It is not something we take upon ourselves. It is not something we choose. God calls us to these things. This is what St. Paul tells us in the second reading. Likewise, professions are the way we profess our faith in our vocations. As such, professions come from God, and not from ourselves. Again, this is the heart of our second reading. Leaders are just part of the body, no more or less important than the other parts. This does not mean they should be paid the same, or differently. Tubas have different needs than flutes. They also cost more. Likewise synthesizers, pianos… We all have different needs so need to be paid differently.

What is each man’s due? Look to the final product, the final opus. The goal is, as a nation, and as individuals, to conduct the total symphony of communal life to make a work pleasing to God.

Psalm 80, the Our Father, and the Fourth Sunday of Advent


Raphael presentation in the temple

When the days were completed for their purification according to the Torah of Moses, they took him up to Jerusalem to present him to KYRIE, just as it is written in the Torah of the KYRIE, “Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the KYRIE…” Luke 2:22-38

When Christ came into the world, he said, “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; in holocausts and deviation offerings you took no delight. I said, ‘As is written of me in the scroll, behold, I come to do your will, O God.“ Hebrews 10:5-10 Second Reading Fourth Sunday of Advent

8919_1243228163516_2601477_nChristianity has had a love/hate relationship with liturgy. Moses lays out the foundations of liturgy in Exodus 22, in Leviticus, and in the Psalms. The prophets condemn liturgy. Genesis 4: 1-4, the story of Cain and Abel, gives the first recorded use of liturgy and explains the why of this love/hate relationship. Cain brings an offering to the NAME from the fruit of the ground. Abel brought the fatty portion of the firstlings of his flock. Abel brings from the first of the flock. Cain, whose name means upraised/prideful one, brings his whatever. The contest rests upon the key word, “first.”

The Jewish understanding of liturgy, from Leviticus, tells us what we bring as sacrifice represents ourselves. The leader brings his bulls, representing leadership. The poor, as related in Luke, bring doves, representing the suffering of these birds in sacrifice. We bring who we are, and who we are manifests itself by what we do. Cain brings his whatever, not making sure that what he brings is the best of what he has. When we give each other presents, the general rule of thumb is not to bring what we like. We bring what speaks to the relationship. God asks for the gift we bring to him to speak to our relationship with him by doing his will.

Words of InstitutionWhen we pray the Our Father, we ask, “Our Father,” the first words speak to the relationship of father, and we, as children of the church, his bride, to our relation as children. “Who are in heaven…” Heaven is the air. We like to think of heaven as up there, somewhere, but the air is here. As the air blows as wind, coming and going as it wills, as John tells us in his Gospel, God calls us to breath in this wind, allow it to remain within us, and move us to heal and transform.

“Dedicated is your NAME.” We dedicate God’s Name, not by words we say, but by what we do. You represent your family by your actions, whether you like it, or know it, or not. When we behave well, we dedicate God’s name by being an example. Others dedicate God’s Name saying, “I teach you customs and precedents as the NAME, my God, commanded me, that you guard to do them in the land you are entering to possess. Guard them carefully, for this is your wisdom and discernment in the sight of the peoples, who will hear of all these precedents and say, “This great nation is truly a wise and discerning people.” Deuteronomy 4:5-6

PovertyIn Hebrew and Aramaic, prayer is a reflexive verb. It is sitting down with God and asking him to work with us as we do his will. “Your will be done, your will be done…” This is a request that he give us direction to do his will. Then comes his will. “Give us this day our daily bread.” The Greek for “Daily,” most properly translates as, “Over being.” It is the bread of over being or spiritual bread. As “daily bread,” the emphasis is upon, “Us.” It means we ask God to help us make sure all of us have the bread we need to live and survive as human beings. This is not subsistence living. This is living with the over bread, the bread of being human, with all it means to be human. We pray for the where withal to make sure all people on this planet have sufficient for their needs.

563670_4908488437728_2091044043_nThen we pray that we forgive others as God forgives us first. We pray, “Lead us not into temptation.” King David, in Proverbs 30:10 says it well, “Two things I ask of you, do not deny them to me before I die: Put falsehood and lying far from me, give me neither poverty nor riches; provide me only with the food I need (daily bread); Lest, being full, I deny you, “Who is the NAME?” Or, being in want, I steal, and profane the name of my God.” This fulfilled is being lead not into temptation. “Evil?” The Hebrew word means rot. God wants a healthy world. God put us on this planet to guard it and to keep it. He wants our best.

When we give our best, God loves and looks down well on our liturgy as it is bringing the best of ourselves into his presence. When we do less. When we give second best to our world, not making sure all have sufficient to their needs, now and into posterity, taking care of our planet, God does not look well upon our liturgy. This is today’s lesson.

Being baptized in the Holy Spirit and fire, sounds nice, but what does it mean?


John the BaptistOur Gospel reading is in three parts, representing John the Baptist, the crowd, and Jesus. Of John the Baptist, our Gospel speaks, “I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals.” Jesus will later say of John the Baptist, “Among those born of women, no one is greater than John; yet the least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.” There is great humility here.

Of the crowd, “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” “Spirit” is Latin for breath. In the Aramaic, “Fire,” and “Man,” are the same word. Aramaic has two words for “Man,” as does German. In German the two words are, “Der Mann,” and “Der Mensch.” In Aramaic, “Adam,” and “Ish,” “Adam” is any man. “Der Mensch,” and “Ish,” are a different story. A Mensch is more than a man. He is a man who follows God’s will. Our readings are about baptism in the Dedicated Breath, this Holy Spirit.

WindThe third part of our Gospel is about Jesus setting the example. The man of fire with the Holy Spirit, is “Bone of my bones, flesh of my flesh.” He sees in everyone, no matter how big, or how small, how like us, or how not like us, how repulsive in our view, or how appealing, a piece of himself. Of Jesus first, but also of us, our first reading says, “Here is my servant whom I uphold,
my chosen one with whom I am pleased, upon whom I have put my spirit; he shall bring forth justice to the nations.. A bruised reed he shall not break, and a smoldering wick he shall not quench, until he establishes justice on the earth…” To you, Isaiah speaks. The primary reference is Jesus, but Jesus is first example to us. “I, the NAME, called you for the victory of justice, I have grasped you by the hand; I formed you, and set you as a covenant of the people, a light for the nations, to open the eyes of the blind, to bring out prisoners from confinement, and from the dungeon, those who live in darkness.”

_49482272_caters_lightning_new_york_01

“Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she with silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore…” Our Statue of Liberty takes up the same message as Isaiah and John the Baptist. Put aside the pomp and ceremony of idle rites. Rites are not idle when they teach, with their primary emphasis being upon actions. The coastlands await our teaching, the words of our New Colossus.

Of Brit, covenant, one expert writes it means, “circle, ring, chain, to cut a ring out/make a ring, to enter into the ring, and therefore a covenant.” Dictionary of Targumim, Talmud and Midrashic Literature, page 194 God sets us as a Brit, a ring, around the people. He sets the example of what we should be.

doveOur Gospel speaks of the Holy Spirit coming upon us in fire. The Holy Spirit then descends upon Jesus. St. Paul writes, “The concern of the flesh is death; the concern of the spirit is life and peace… you are in the spirit, if only the Spirit of God dwells in you… those who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God… The Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if only we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified/doxology with him.” What is a doxology but speaking well of someone. When do people speak well of us? When we act like brothers and sisters, taking care of one another, being a light for the nations, opening the eyes of the blind, bringing prisoners from confinement, from the dungeon, those who live in darkness.” There is no room here for a nation with 5% of the world’s population an 25% of those in prison.

When we fix this God will say of us as he says of Jesus, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

Catholic Speaker


Charles W. Gill O.S.F.

Mr. Charles Gill is a passionate speaker and author who wrote the book, “STARTING OVER: This is the beginning of the sweet message, but what is the beginning. Charles brings fresh and insightful looks into the Gospels, which come from reading Torah and Gospel in light of Judaic Studies, and reading in light of Hebrew and Greek. He has completed the academic portion of his M. Divinity degree from Loyola University with a 3.529 GPA, and has extensive study from Kent State University with a 3.0 GPA. He is a college graduate from Kent State with a degree in Philosophy and a 3.01 GPA.

Leading a hard life has taught him how God’s love helps him to overcome even the greatest of obstacles. His Judaic Studies showed him how to take even the most negative aspects of ourselves and turn them into positives. His knowledge of the faith and his ability to teach has allowed him to encourage others to strive for how God calls each person to the universal priesthood of the faithful. Charles is an active member of his Catholic parish, St. Thomas Cathedral in Reno Nevada.

Charles Gill would be open to discuss how to apply the four pillars of the Catholic Faith, Torah and Gospel, to catechesis and diocesan development. He is also open to discussing ecclesiastical development over the centuries, and today. His training also includes how the sacraments and Catholic ethics developed over the centuries and how to apply them today.

Charles and his wife Linda currently reside in Reno Nevada with their miniature Aussie, Joey.

The grizzliest definition of the Trinity you will ever read


lionI was once a young man, sitting quietly with my wife, my teenage boy, and my little girl of the same age. Soldiers came to our home, banging on the door, and demanding we open. The door sprang open; the soldiers entered, grabbed us, and took us to see some man in a dress. He accused us of treason as we refused to give our head of state due respect, bowing to him, and pledging only him allegiance.

They took us downtown, to the coliseum, and forced us to enter the hallowed halls. It was dark inside as we walked through dimly lit corridors. The soldiers and the dogs knew the way; they had an advantage. As we walked, we could hear the howling of lions and the gnarling of bears. Overhead, we heard the roar of the great crowd. Finally, we got to a huge garage type door. The solders forced my wife, my children, some twenty or thirty others church members they had also gathered and myself, to disrobe. It was hard to disrobe in the dark, especially with all of these other people present. The task completed, the garage door rose, and there was a blinding light.

The dogs and the soldiers forced us to enter the light and then disappeared into the darkness. The door closed. There we stood, naked to the world. The lions pranced around us, telling us in their own tongue how much they were ready for their meal. I kept asking myself why we were doing this as one lion put his eye upon me. Was I doing this because I believed in a man, a Jew, God I disdain Jews, who died for treason a couple of hundred years ago?

The lion yelled as I cocked my head. There was nothing else to do. I could see another lion, as he grabbed my charming wife by the neck. Blood splattered from her as the lion picked her up and gave her a shake. My lion reared up, ran its gargantuan paw down my side, tear flesh with every inch. Her massive mouth filled my view; I saw nothing but tonsils, mouth and teeth. Her head moved to the right and I felt this massive jolt of pain as her head pushed mine to the left, and her teeth crashed into my clavicular joint. The warmth of blood, my life poured down my side.

Was I doing this because Marcion was right, Jesus was just some ghost and did not really die at all? I hope I am undergoing this ordeal for something other than a phantasm. I could feel my body as it became colder, and the lights began to grow dim. Was it the Donatists who said such things? The lion twisted my body and I could see a lion as it chewed upon the chest of my darling little girl. I hurt so bad; both my wife and my daughter were giving up their life, and all because of my faith in this Jesus, this Jew, from so long ago. Was I better than my daughter, or she better than me, because I am older, she younger, me male, she female?

My lion twisted his massive neck in a new direction and I could feel my arms as they dangled at my side, twitching with each twist of his neck. I thought, this anguish is because my Jesus is half God and half man, like the Nephilim of Genesis 6. They all died in a flood; I am to die because some Son of God who did not manage to take a daughter of men, like my son over there, died at the hand of my government? The lion twisted again, and I could see as a lioness lunching on the loins of my little boy. Another lay lounging with the liver of the lad I wished to be a lawyer, an expert in Latin Law.

The lion shook his massive head and I felt my feet as they moved up into the air. Maybe, I thought, there is only One God, as Jesus said in his Great Commandment. If that is the case, the One God died that fateful day. In that case, Friedrich Nietzsche was right. God has died. The mouth of a lion wraps around my neck because my God died?

The lion twisted again, shaking his massive head as I concluded, there must be another alternative; there must be some way to understand why I undergo this ordeal. Jesus must be, at the same time, all God and all Man. How can I prove this? My arms dangle and twitch with every shake of this beast, every nerve in my body sends messages my brain does not want to hear, and I am to prove this new, novel, idea.

The lion twists its massive head again, and the vertebra of my spine crushes against one another, splintering, forced to go the ways vertebra are not meant to go. In the dim light left within me, I see my wife’s lion as she pulls the insides out of her. My lion does the same to me, only I can only feel as they fall, full of blood to the ground. I then look and see a blinding light. Ahead of me ascends my son, now seeming to be whole and complete. He no longer seems to be male, but something better. Also ahead of me, higher, is my daughter, no longer female, but something better. Next to me ascends my wife, now no longer my wife, but something better. I had felt cold before, though it was the coliseum, in Italy, in Rome, in June. It should have been hot. Now it was warm, but not too warm. There was this overwhelming feeling of welcome and warmth all around me.

Then there was this party, a grand feast. Food of every kind is present. Inside this presence we felt all around, it felt like a flame, a flame which did not burn. It seemed like the flame of which I was inside danced all around as it enveloped all of us in love. Likewise, I started to flame, as did all who were around, but the flame did not consume us. It romanced us and licked us, and made us feel at home. Then I thought of my lion, and decided, “Let him enjoy his meal, as I enjoy mine.” I drank from the wine and ate the bread sitting before me.

Imaginative remembering


As I worked at an animal facility while being abused by a Senior Chief Petty Officer in the Name, I suffered the feeling that I was in a world that was surreal and the rules did not apply. It caused me to question my understanding of Basic Right and Wrong and to define the concept as what re-orients us in a time of crisis, when the world is surreal and the rules do not apply.

I attended a Lutheran Church studying the Documentary Hypothesis. I was doing my own re-evaluation of my values. That meant looking for the Ten Commandments, finding it in three places, and the Ten Commandments were different in all three places. As I counted I found fifteen commandments. The first rule of a counselor was to confuse the patient. Mission Accomplished!

Courtesy Holy Land Pilgrimage GalilleeJesus, uses the Jewish count, “You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; you shall not defraud; honor your father and your mother.” If Jesus combines our last two, how does he get Ten Commandments?

Imaginative remembering is about how the Jewish community took the customs, judicial precedents, and folkways of the surrounding neighborhood and incorporated it into their legal code. For Jesus, the first commandment is, “I am the Personal Name your Almighty Judge, who brought you out of the land of Egypt/Oppression, out of the house of menial labor.

Deuteronomy adds, “The Personal Name, our Almighty Judge, cut a Social Contract with us at Horeb; not with our fathers did the Personal Name cut this Social Contract, but with us, each of us, alive, here, this day.” “An Unsettled God,” relates imaginative remembering includes the social contract. The second is that God creates his nation from the outcasts of society.

To remember what it was like to be there and your rescue, is to get that pit in your stomach when others suffer and do something. The Passover is our liturgical celebration of that rescue. The surrounding nations had precepts for helping the poor. Israel added the reason, and made in central to the Social Contract. If everyone remembers oppression, they become too engrossed with saving the oppressed to oppress him.

The Jewish Fritz Pearls and his Gestalt therapy emphasize talking in the present tense. This is an important part of imaginative remembering. Imaginative remembering is how the Jewish community distorts time. The Jewish community created the concept of the Physical Presence, their escape from Egypt.

Another part of imaginative remembering is, “Hear, you who struggle with God! The Personal Name is our Almighty Judge, the Personal Name is One! You shall love the Personal Name, your Almighty Judge, with all your hearts, and with your whole anima, and with your whole measure.” The word for hearts,“ לְבָבְךָ” has a second “בָ” making it plural. The ending means “You,” and is singular. We each have more than one heart. “Ecclesiology for a Global Church,” mentions how Freud was also Jewish. We each have more than one heart, inclination. Our inclinations are by themselves neither good nor evil. It is how we use them that makes them good or evil.

The bully convinces his victim, he gets what he deserves. Exodus 1 quotes Exodus 1:10, “Starting in Genesis 47, and using the thinking of the modern bully, we can show how Pharaoh “Deal wisely with them.”

In his book, “A Theological Introduction into the Old Testament,” Walter Brueggemann, re-introduces the concepts of form and source criticism. In the process, he relates how scholars attribute Genesis 1 to a Priestly source. It begins:

בָּרָא אֱלֹהִים בְּרֵאשִׁית

Genesis 2:4 begins:

בְּיוֹם עֲשׂוֹת יְהוָה אֱלֹהִים–אֶרֶץ וְשָׁמָיִם

We notice אֱלֹהִים in both passages, but the second passage adds, יְהוָה indicating a second author. Walter Brueggemann relates how there is great debate about the various forms used in Torah. Ever watch Bob Ross and his “Joy of Painting?” The order of how he painted his landscapes is like how the Priestly source drew in his order for creation. Genesis 1 could simply be a verbal landscape to introduce us to Genesis.

Hebrews 4 speaks of Genesis 2’s Sabbath Rest as a type for a coming Sabbath Rest. II Peter 3:8 speaks of one day being a thousand years. From this comes the allegorical interpretation of creation being six thousand years old. The landscape hypothesis makes more sense.

Genesis 2 speaks of the four rivers. The first is Pishon; which winds through the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold. Some have noted how Troy, north of Israel, had bountiful amounts of gold. Others note a dried up river bed in Saudi Arabia, also famous for its gold.

The name of the second river is the Gihon, and winds all through the land of Cush. Cush is in Africa, south of Israel. The name of the third river is the Tigris; east of Asshur. The fourth river is the Euphrates. Geometry points to Israel as Eden.

Genesis 3 has the tree of knowledge of good and rot. Jeremiah 10 prohibits following the way of the nations. This is the apple from the tree of knowing good and evil. It knows other ways of doing things, other than the ways of Ha Shem. When we look at early depictions of the cherubim and the fiery revolving sword east of the Garden of Eden, we note how very similar they are to the Assyrian soldiers, from the east. Likewise, Cain travels east, toward Babylonia, where God puts a mark on him so that those in the east, Babylonia and Assyria, not kill him.

Genesis 1-11 is an allegory to explain the Babylonian and Assyrian exiles. When we read the Song of Songs in Hebrew, we notice how much the Bride resembles the temple, in poetic language. Ruth, on the surface is about a farm girl from Edom. From the Jewish perspective, that she is not Jewish, with the story written at a time when Ezra commanded Jews not to marry non-Jews, speaks volumes.

Abraham, he feeds his three guests a non-kosher meal. If Halachic comes before Haggadic, if Ezra comes before this story, this part of the story at least, is an attack upon the dietary rule against eating meat and milk products together. Haggadah as a form is polemic, one group in dialectic against the other. Torah is dynamic debate, not statute, and ordinance.

I sat at a coffee table with several friends, including a fundamentalist, and a Jewish lady. As we discussed things, an atheist came up and asked if God could create a rock so big he could not pick it up. Schooled in Philosophy, the fundamentalist launched into the standard defenses, which the atheist quickly destroyed. Then he went after little Pam.

She simply said, “God threw horse and rider into the sea; then came Assyria, strong and mighty, then mighty Babylon, Greece, Rome, the inquisition and the Nazi régime. They are all gone now. If God is Almighty, All knowing, and All Present, I do not know. One thing I do know; I am picking no fights with him.” The atheist walked away.The Western God is Trinitarian, three in one, mystery. The Jew says:

Rabbi Eliezer said: If the law is as I say, let it be proven from Heaven. A Heavenly voice rang out: What do you want with Rabbi Eliezer. The law is in agreement with him in all areas. Rabbi Yehoshua got up on his feet and declared: ‘Torah is not in Heaven.’ What does ‘It is not in Heaven’ mean? Rabbi Yirmiyah said: Since the Torah was already given at Sinai, we pay no attention to Heavenly voices. It is written in Torah: ‘After the majority one must follow.’ Rabbi Nathan met Elijah the Prophet and asked him: What was God doing at that time when His Heavenly voice was disregarded? Elijah answered: He laughed: My children have triumphed over me. My children have triumphed over me.

Sholom Aleichem’s, Tevye the dairyman, had Job-like conversations with God: “O God, All-powerful and All-Merciful, great and good, kind and just, how does it happen that to some people you give everything and to others nothing?” Even in the middle of his prayer, Tevye would interject his own personal comments: “Thou sustainest the living with loving kindness, and, sometimes, with a little food.” Tevye could even be somewhat sarcastic at times: “With God’s help, I starved to death three times a day, not counting supper.”

In the Bible, we see God accepts and even welcomes criticism. Abraham told God: “Shall the Judge of the whole world not act justly?” God’s manifests his sense of irony by telling Abraham to name Isaac. Abraham laughed when he heard that he, and Sarah, his 90-year-old wife, would have a child. The Hebrew name Yitzchak means ‘he laughed,’ a name showing our God has a sense of humor.

The Israelites are able to cross safely. When the Egyptians follow they become stuck in the mud and as the waters come rolling back over them, they drown in the sea. The angels break out into song, relieved that the Israelites are finally safe. God sees the angel’s rejoicing, but God isn’t pleased. “My creatures are drowning in the sea and you sing songs.”

The angels were supposed to have a somewhat broader perspective. They should have kept their awareness of the spark of God that is in every person, even the Pharaoh himself. They should have remembered God’s teaching, “it is not the death of the Russia/wicked/those thinking themselves first, I seek, but only that he should turn from his evil ways and live.”

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The ancient Midrash is preserved in our Passover seder rituals even to this day. When we come to the retelling of the ten plagues, we pour some wine out of our cup, or some families take a little bit of wine with their finger at this point. We show God that we understand that our cup of joy cannot be filled to the brim, as long as others, even if they were our enemies, have lost their lives.

This is the Jewish God.

We need to read Torah as a text in constant tension with itself


What would happen if the US government collapsed? First Texas, and then the states of the South secede from the union because of the politics we see today. After a few years, the great fear of the conservatives came true; the ultra orthodox Muslims came and imposed Sharia Law.

courtesy Dor Smeltzer Beacon 3

This would cause chaos as Christian conservatives fought this. After another couple of decades, the Chinese came in with a more Buddhist understanding and decided to allow the Americans decide upon their own laws. Let us also allow that the liberals are correct in arguing that global warming is the case. After all this time expired, the main cities along the eastern seaboard are now under water. To correct the problem requires building walls around the cities and pumping out the water. After the radical Muslims, leave the country, exiles returning from all over the world decided to build these walls and impose a strong central government.

Conservatives would object to the strong central government to China, and China would ask the Americans to prove they are in fact a nation, a people. We are of course, not one people. We are westerners, New Englanders, Southerners, people of the Midwest, and Mid-Atlantic, among other places. We are African-American, Hispanic, German, Irish, Anglo-Saxon, and more. We are rich, poor, conservative, and liberal. Not all of the people assembled would support building the city walls around Washington D.C. Still, they would want China out of America, so they could have their decentralized government.

declaration-of-independenceLiberals, and others with a bent for nostalgia, would want the walls rebuilt. Some would desire a strong centralized government headquartered in D.C. while others went with strong chieftains, governors, for the various states. Some would push for strong moral, Blue Laws, while others pushed for strong Social Justice Laws. The age old fights between these diverse groups would flare up again.

As the leadership meeting in Washington writes the statement of who we are as a people, they must first convince all these disparate groups that we are one nation. The second audience, China, or its officials looking over the process, would see the approval by the people of the document, agree that we are a nation, or the disapproval, and deny the request to rebuild the walls and historic places of the nation.

Of course, this could never happen. On the other hand, it did, when Persia conquered Babylonia in 538 BCE. Tradition states the men of the Great Assembly then reconstructed Torah as we have it today. They also created the shell of the Jewish Liturgy, which evolves into the Catholic Mass. If these men did reconstruct Torah as we know it, what would Torah have?

First, we would expect a work by committee, and it would look like the proverbial work by committee. Under pressure to create a document, these men would write one, but we would see them sniping at each other in the text. This explains much of the contradictions we now see in our text. Because these men could not agree before 587 BCE, when the Babylonians came, they would not likely be able to agree afterwards. Still, needing to develop a text, they would enmesh competing traditions into the text, so each could have their side in the final text.

Ezra is sometimes accused of having been a legalist who gave excessive attention to the letter of the law. This would imply Ezra used his influence to cause חלק Halacka, or the walk, to come first in our text. This would imply Ezra used his influence to cause חלק Halacka, or the walk, to come first in our text. הַגָּדָה‎, “telling,” or story to back up or dispute חלק Halacka.

Abraham rushed into the tent and told Sarah, “Quick, three measures of fine flour! Knead it and make rolls.”

He ran to the herd, picked out a tender, choice steer, and gave it to a servant, who quickly prepared it.

Abraham got some curds and milk, as well as the steer that had been prepared, and set these before the three men. He waited on them under the tree while they ate.

You will not boil a young animal (Gadi) in its mother’s milk.

You will not slaughter an ox or a sheep on one and the same day with its young.

If, while walking along, you come across a bird’s nest with young birds or eggs in it, in any tree or on the ground, and the mother bird is sitting on them, you will not take away the mother bird along with her brood.

Jews do not serve meat and milk products together to this day, and this is the reason. Also, it teaches us to be humane, and not serve mother and child together. The problem with the rule as doctrine is that it tends to replace the meaning for the rule.

Abraham has to push Sarah to kneed the flour, as she is more interested in what the men, the messengers of God have to say. There is something more going on here, and it is in what Abraham chooses to serve his guests. After all, why should we care what a Bidoun Arab served guests three millennium ago? Bidoun is Arabic for homeless, and Abraham was at that point a wondering, stateless, Arab, from what is now Basra Iraq.

If חלק Halacka or the walk came first, the writer of this story gives the details for a reason. “Abraham did it; it must be OK to mix these products together for a kosher meal. Didn’t the angels eat it too?” We would expect different versions of the same folk tradition to be in our text, as in the story of the flood. Did the animals come in two by two, or seven pairs of Kosher, and only single pairs of non-kosher?

If you only put in one tradition, not only would you alienate the representatives present, but also the mothers with their children outside, expecting the text to relate their tradition.

Southern representatives would want to snip at their northern counterparts, but not too hard. Therefore, we see the story of the Golden Calf, Exodus 32, referring not to the time of Moses, but to the time of Jeroboam, in I Kings, 12:26-31.

We would also expect to find Brothers Grimm and Nursery Rhymes in our text. We would expect poetry and grand literature. We would expect real history, written at the eighth grade level, Paul Bunyan, George Washington and his dollar crossing the Potomac River, along with his cherry tree.

Walter Brueggeman writes in his book, Prophetic Imagination: Revised Edition (p. 68). Fortress Press. Kindle Edition, “Second Isaiah presumably lived through and knew about the pathos of Lamentations and the rage of Job.8 Nevertheless, he goes beyond pathos and rage to speeches of hope and doxology. Second Isaiah has indispensable precursors in Jeremiah and Ezekiel, as Thomas Raitt has made clear.

Jeremiah of course wrote Lamentations. Second Isaiah presumably lived through and knew about the pathos of Lamentations. Second Isaiah and Jeremiah therefore presumably knew each other.

This has profound effects upon the correct way to read Torah.

Jeremiah and Second Isaiah together, poets of pathos and amazement, speak in laments and doxologies. They cannot be torn from each other. Reading Jeremiah alone leaves faith in death where God finally will not stay. And reading Second Isaiah alone leads us to imagine that we may receive comfort without tears and tearing. Clearly, only those who anguish will sing new songs. Without anguish the new song is likely to be strident and just more royal fakery.

Reading Torah chapter and verse, “This is the law; this we must do,” would be out. Instead, we need to read Torah as a dynamic text, a grand dialectic, of people struggling to find God and create a community in the face extreme adversity. It means we read the various parts of the text in extreme tension, one with the other. It means to ignore the tension is to misread the text.

The prologue to the Ten Commandments reads in most translations:

Moses summoned all Israel and said to them, Hear, O Israel, the statutes and ordinances which I proclaim in your hearing this day, that you may learn them and take care to observe them. The LORD, our God, made a covenant with us at Horeb; not with our ancestors did the LORD make this covenant, but with us, all of us who are alive here this day. Face to face, the LORD spoke with you on the mountain from the midst of the fire, while I was standing between the LORD and you at that time, to announce to you these words of the LORD, since you were afraid of the fire and would not go up the mountain:

I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall not have other gods beside me.

This is usually cut to “You shall not have other gods beside me,” when listing the Ten Commandments. Properly translated from the original Hebrew, the text reads:

Moses summoned all those who struggle with God and told them, Hear, you who struggle with God, the customs and what comes from the lip of God, I proclaim in your hearing, this day, that you may learn them and guard to do them. The Personal Name our Almighty Judge, cut a Social Contract with us at Horeb; not with our fathers did the Personal Name cut this Social Contract, but with us, all of us, alive here, this day. Face to face, the Personal Name spoke with you on the mountain from the midst of the fire, while I was standing between the Personal Name and you at that time, to announce to you these words of the Personal Name, since you were afraid of the fire and would not go up the mountain:

I am the Personal Name your Almighty Judge, who brought you out of the land of Oppression, out of the house of Menial Labor. You shall not have other saviors beside me.

A custom is by definition, not a written code. It comes from below, the masses. It is the accumulation of unspoken tradition passed on from generation to generation. “That which comes from the lips applies to what comes from above, the judicial precedents coming from the leadership. It is by definition an anachronism for these two words to be here. Custom and judicial precedent come into being over time, and cannot be given at any one point in time.

Jeremiah, Ezra, Nehemia, the men of the Great Assembly, the Gospels, St. Paul, and the other prophets disagree with one another, as do most tenets of custom and judicial precedent. What comes to us is not statute and ordinance, but custom and tradition. Never having been debated or thought out fully, these often contradict one another. The truth is not in one custom, but in the tension between customs. It does not even sound right, speaking of one custom. It is in the debate between custom and judicial precedent. This is how God wants it.

To read only one side of the story, whether it is “J,” “P,” or “E,” is a grand mistake. Finally, it means we need to look for this historical anomalies in our text, so we might understand the text for what it is, a statement of culture, a culture far more advanced than ours, and not as history.

Talking about God in times of suffering


In his book, “On Job: God-Talk and the Suffering of the Innocent,” Fr. Gustavo Gutiérrez Merino, O.P. argues that the central tenet of Job is found in the Job 1:9, “The Great Accuser answered the Personal Name, “Is it for nothing that Job looks to God?” Father Fr. Gustavo Gutiérrez misses some key points in his reading of Job, some of which support his argument, and some of which should take the reader in a different direction. The Gospel of St. Luke does tell us in Luke 17:7-10:

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“Who among you would say to your servant who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, ‘Come, immediately; take your place at table’? Would he not rather say, ‘Prepare something for me. Put on your apron; wait on me while I eat and drink. You may eat and drink when I am finished’? Is he grateful to that servant because he did what was commanded? So should it be with you. When you have done all you have been commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do.”

The problem is that our Gospels also tell us in John 15:11-16 “I told you this so my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete. This is my Mitzvah: love one another as I love you. No one has greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do my Mitzvah. I no longer call you Avodim/servants. An Avod does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends; told you everything I have heard from my Father. It was not you who chose me. I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain. Whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you.”

Which account is the right one? Are we all simply servants doing the will of an unkind master? Do we follow the rules as Fr. Gustavo Gutiérrez seems to argue, “For nothing?” Is this our lot in life, or are we friends? Which is it? One of the seven rules of Hillel is “Kayotze bo mimekom akhar.” Two passages may seem to conflict until compared with a third, which has points of general though not necessarily verbal similarity.

cart before the horseFr. Gustavo Gutiérrez puts the cart before the horse and this is his first mistake in translating his work. We are not the humble servants who do the work “For nothing.” We are not the humble servants who simply say, “We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do.” There is a reason we are obliged to do the work and this is where putting the cart before the horse comes into play. “It was not you who chose me. I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain.”

“Why were the Ten Commandments not written in the beginning of the Torah? A parable was given. To what may this be compared? To a king who entered a province said to the people, ‘May I be your king?’ The people told him: ‘You have not done anything good for us to rule over us.’ What did he do? He built the wall for them, he brought in the water for them, and he fought their wars.

He told them: ‘May I be your king?’They replied: ‘Yes, yes.’ Likewise, God brought the Israelites out of Egypt, divided the sea for them, sent down manna for them, brought up the well for them, brought quail for them, and fought for them the war with Amalek. Then God said to them: ‘Am I to be your king?’ They replied, ‘Yes, yes.”

St. Luke writes well within the tradition of Deuteronomy and the Ten Commandments.

Moses summoned all those who struggle with God, telling them, Hear, you who struggle with God, the customs and correct judicial precedents, which I proclaim in your hearing, this day, that you may learn them and guard to do them. The Personal Name, our Almighty Judge, cut a Social Contract with us at Horeb; not with our fathers did the Personal Name cut this Social Contract, but with us, all of us, alive, here, this day. Face to face, the Personal Name spoke with you on the mountain from the midst of the fire, while I was standing between the Personal Name and you at that time, to announce to you these words of the Personal Name; you were afraid of the fire and would not go up the mountain: I am the Personal Name your Almighty Judge, who brought you out of the land of Egypt/Oppression, out of the house of Avodim.”

“It was not you who chose me. I who chose you…” I rescued you from oppression first. That is the main point. We do not serve, “For nothing.” We serve because he served first. He rescued us from oppression and now he asks us to return the favor for all those other on this planet who suffer. That is the point of Job.

Speaking of God from The Suffering Of The Innocent,” is the original title of Fr. Gustavo Gutiérrez’ work, “On Job.” His main point is that there is a right way of speaking about God. In his argument, he seems to agree with Fr. Francisco at our Cathedral in Reno Nevada. There is a rhetorical form the B.A.G. refers to as “Ironic Inversion,” in which a word is said to mean its opposite.

As it applies to “Job,” Satan continues his point, “Have you not surrounded him and his family and all that he has with your protection? You have Barack the work of his hands, and his livestock are spread over the land. Now put forth your hand and touch all that he has, and surely he will Barack you to your face.” Father Francisco, and by extension, Fr. Gustavo Gutiérrez argue that in the first case, “Barack/Bless” is meant to be taken literally. In the second case, the context dictates “Barack,” must be taken as meaning its opposite.

Job chapter 1 ends, “Job said, “Naked I came forth from my mother’s womb, and naked I go back there. The Personal Name gave and the Personal Name has taken away; Barack/blessed be the name of the Personal Name!” Job, according to the argument, again reverses course and uses Barack in its literal sense of “To Bless.”

The Great Accuser answers the Personal Name in chapter 2, “Skin for skin! All that a man has he will give for his life. Put forth your hand and touch his bone and his flesh. Surely he will Barack you to your face.” According to the Biblical commentators, the writer reverses himself again, and uses “Barack” in this alleged “Ironic Inversion.” Job’s wife also tells him, “Are you still holding to your innocence? Barack God and die!” The reason for doing using this “Ironic Inversion” is not clear. Hebrew does have a word meaning “To curse.”

The writer of Job uses it in chapter 3:1, “After this, Job opened his mouth and cursed /קַלֵּל his day.” The Septuagint translates Barack as “Eulogize.” It uses “κατηρασατο,” which means to curse. If Ironic Inversion applies here, why the Septuagint does not apply it is not clear. The Artscroll book of Job calls Ironic Inversion, “Euphemism.”

Using the K.I.S.S. Principle, instead of positing the writer moving back and forth in interpreting the same word to mean itself and its opposite, when the writer is aware of a perfectly legitimate word meaning the opposite of “Barack,” it makes more sense to posit that the writer means for Barack to mean the same in all cases.

This leaves the question, why does Satan say, “Now put forth your hand and touch all that he has, and surely he will Barack you to your face,” twice. Why does Job’s wife also tell Job that if he blesses God, he will die? Job says, “Job spoke out: Perish the day on which I was born, the night when they said, “The child is a boy!”

For Job, at this point in the story, dying would be a blessing. For Job’s wife, if Job dies, he takes his bad luck with him, and that is a blessing. More important, it sets up what for Fr. Gustavo Gutiérrez is the main point of his work.

Our God is not a God who wants empty blessings. Our God is a God who wants us to get down and dirty with him and argue with him. Midrash states:

Rabbi Eliezer said: If the law is as I say, let it be proven from Heaven. A Heavenly voice then rang out and exclaimed: What do you want with Rabbi Eliezer, since the law is in agreement with him in all areas. Rabbi Yehoshua then got up on his feet and declared: ‘It [the Torah] is not in Heaven.’ What does ‘It is not in Heaven’ mean? Rabbi Yirmiyah said:

Since the Torah was already given at Sinai, we therefore pay no attention to Heavenly voices. After all, it is written in the Torah itself: ‘After the majority one must follow.’ Rabbi Nathan met Elijah the Prophet and asked him: What was God doing at that time [when His Heavenly voice was disregarded]? Elijah answered: He laughed and said: My children have triumphed over me. My children have triumphed over me.

Sholom Aleichem’s unforgettable character, Tevye the dairyman, had Job-like conversations with God: “O God, All-powerful and All-Merciful, great and good, kind and just, how does it happen that to some people you give everything and to others nothing?” Even in the middle of his prayer, Tevye would interject his own personal comments: “Thou sustainest the living with loving kindness, and, sometimes, with a little food.” Tevye could even be somewhat sarcastic at times: “With God’s help, I starved to death three times a day, not counting supper.”

In the Bible, we see even though God is perfect, He seems to accept and even welcome criticism. Abraham had the temerity to tell God: “Shall the Judge of the whole world not act justly?” This may God’s manifests his sense of irony by telling Abraham to name Isaac. Abraham laughed when he heard that he, a one-hundred-year-old man, and Sarah, his 90-year-old wife, would have a child. The Hebrew name Yitzchak means ‘he laughed,’ a strange name for an individual.

Job demanded to confront God and know the reason for all his suffering. Job angrily railed against the injustice that he perceived when he said, “He destroys the simple/Tam and the Russia/those who think themselves first.” God answered with magnificent sarcasm: “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth.

God appears to enjoy negotiating with mortals. The most famous example is that of Abraham “haggling” with God to save Sodom and Gomorra from destruction:

Abraham: “What if there are 50 innocent people in the city? Will you still destroy it?”

God: “If I find 50 innocent people in Sodom, I will spare the entire area.”

Abraham: “Suppose there are 45?”

God: “I will not destroy it if I find 45.”

Abraham: “What if there are 40?’

God: ‘I will not act if there are forty.”

We see the same in relation to superiors in the New Testament. Mary, a poor woman from the Boondocks, tells Elizabeth, the rich woman whose husband qualifies to enter the Holy of Holies, “He has shown might with his arm, dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart. He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly. The hungry he has filled with nobility; the rich he has sent away empty.”

Elizabeth probably could not help but feel the comments were directed against her. A chapter later, Mary receives the same in kind, “When Jesus’ parents saw him, they were astonished, and his mother asked him, “Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.” Jesus told them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” This shows the same clear argumentative style.

The Jewish tradition, which comes into the Catholic Christian tradition, is not that of a cold, stoic father figure who insists upon pure obedience. Rather, he is a warm, caring father figure who wants honesty. There is a proper time to bless God, and a proper time to argue with him.

There is a proper time to tell jokes with him and proper times to be his friend. During wild party times, it is not proper to bless God, as Job 1:4-5 relates. Times of suffering are not times to bless God either, at least without mentioning qualifications. “Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked I will return; the Personal Name gave, and the Personal Name takes away;”

The point at question when discussing the proper meaning of “Barack” in Job is the very personality of God. It has ramifications in the way we counsel parishioners. Is God the Stoic high and Almighty, pure everything good, a god with no personality? Is God like us, brash on occasion, a caring father, a real character who wants to be down with us and be like us?

If God is the former, there is no room for debating with God. He is all knowing and has all the answers. If the latter, he might still be all knowing, but he gets down to our level and wants to hear our cries and our complaints. He wants us to yell at him when things are not going well. That is the very point of Job.

As the article, “Put the academics aside and your heart will tell you what the command of God is,” and Romans 2:14-15 tells us, God wrote the law and put it into our hearts. He expects us to use our understanding of the law. That means he wants us to confront him when things are not right, and do something about it.

“Barack” blessed be the name of the Personal Name. We therefore do not need to posit some “Ironic Inversion” to interpret the passage. Rather, let us have bold conversations with our God, scolding him when we think he needs it, joking with him when it is appropriate, and giving him a blessing when we are filled with joy. We then go out and rescue others, not to receive a reward, but because we have already received it.

The Eighteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time helps us define Christian


Put to death the parts of you that are earthly: immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, the greed that is idolatry. Stop lying to one another, since you have taken off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed, for knowledge, in the image of its creator.

voiceSt. Paul, in this passage talks about a physical death. In baptism, and in the Eucharist, we die with Christ, and in baptism and the Eucharist, we rise with Christ. Our Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time Second Reading tell us, “If you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Think of what is above, not of what is on earth. You died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

Gustavo Gutierrez, in his Book “On Job: God Talk and the Suffering of the Innocent” translates Job 17:15-16 in this way: “Where then is my hope? Who can see any happiness for me? Unless they come down to Sheol with me, all of us sink into the dust together.” He says it well. Unless we die with Christ, we cannot understand the suffering of others. Happily, through baptism and the Eucharist, we die with Christ; we suffer with him.

8919_1243228163516_2601477_nIf we fully participate in the Eucharist, if we really feel the pains of Jesus’ death, we rise with him, and we come to understand the suffering of others. St. Paul speaks of the identity of Idolatry in our second reading. St. Paul describes it in this way, “greed that is idolatry.”

Our Blessed Pope Francis also speaks of Idolatry. Faith by its very nature demands renouncing the immediate possession which sight would appear to offer; it is an invitation to turn to the source of the light, while respecting the mystery of a face, which will unveil itself personally in its own good time. Martin Buber once cited a definition of idolatry proposed by the rabbi of Kock: idolatry is “when a face addresses a face which is not a face. In place of faith in God, it seems better to worship an idol, into whose face we can look directly and whose origin we know, because it is the work of our own hands.

Courtesy Holy Land Pilgrimage  coin from 66-73 bce He goes on, “Before an idol, there is no risk that we will be called to abandon our security, for idols “have mouths, but they cannot speak” (Ps   115: 5). Idols exist, we begin to see, as a pretext for setting ourselves at the center of reality and worshiping the work of our own hands. Once man has lost the fundamental orientation, which unifies his existence, he breaks down into the multiplicity of his desires; in refusing to await the time of promise, his life-story disintegrates into a myriad of unconnected instants. Idolatry, then, is always polytheism, an aimless passing from one lord to another.

Idols are the work of our own hands. They are not necessarily something we posit that is out there, or up there, or down there. They are anything we make with our hands. They cause us to put ourselves at the center of all reality, because we posit ourselves, and not God as the force who made them. As Pope Francis states, our orientation breaks down into the multiplicity of our desires. We fail to see the big story of God’s creation and we focus on the short term, the myriad of unconnected instants. We pass from one lord, possession, to another.

dollar-billThe Jewish Creed comes from three places in Torah. Deuteronomy 6:4-9, Deuteronomy 11:13-21, and Numbers 15:37-41. The last is the most telling for our readings for Our Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time:

Speak to those who struggle with God; tell them that throughout their generations they are to make tassels for the corners of their garments, fastening a violet cord to each corner. When you use these tassels, the sight of the cord will remind you of all the Mitzvah of the Personal Name and you will do them, without prostituting yourself going after the desires of your hearts and your eyes.

You will remember to do my Mitzvah and you will be dedicated to your Almighty Judge. I, the Personal Name, am your Almighty Judge who brought you out of the land of מִצְרַיִם/Oppression/Egypt to be your Almighty Judge: I, the Personal Name, your Almighty Judge.

Going after the heart and the eyes is juxtaposed with God. It is either one or the other. Greed, putting possessions first, is idolatry. When we die with Christ, we put that away. We put on a new focus, being Christ like. That is what Christian means. It comes from Christ, with a stem meaning to be like-ian. To find out what that means, we need to read the Gospels to find out who Jesus was/is and what he did. Then we need to copy that.

Later in Colossians 3, St. Paul describes the Christian life, “Put on, as God’s chosen ones, dedicated and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and long suffering, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Personal Name forgives you, so must you also do for others. Over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection/Shalom. Let the peace/Shalom of Christ control your hearts, the /Shalom/ peace into which you were also called in one body. Be thankful/Eucharistw/Eucharist. This is what being Christian means.