Born on the Forth of July and Tommy point our way to understanding the Book of Job

The scene is Arthur’s Bar in 1970, the Movie is “Born on the Fourth of July,” psychedelic lights present Montezuma’s Revenge, a Credence Clearwater “Suzy Q” type sound, amplified bass beat, a young local group, along with long hair, sullen demeanors…their gals dancing in strapless tops, chewing gum; working class mama with short hair in green t-shirts (“Sure I raise Hell, So what?”) and black shiny slacks; the papas in jeans, a hint of Presley in their hip rolls as they dance; college boys swilling beer in sweat shirts with signs on them, ‘Olympic Dining Team’, sockless loafers, long sideburns, the hair getting longer…

The Back Room – A Girl, Jenny, in jeans playing pool, cigarette to lips, lining up a shot. Ron is in his chair on the outside of a corner booth with Timmy, several beer pitchers in front of them. With them are two Guys in their 40’s, crew-cuts, windbreakers with ‘Brigadier Factory Renegades Baseball Team’ written across the back. A sign on the wall over them: ‘If you’re Drinking to Forget, Pay before you Start…’

Man#2, “Why don’t you shove it up your ass pal… okay? Just ‘cause you’re in a fuckin’ wheelchair you think everybody’s gotta feel sorry for you?

Ron, “What”

Man #2, “You ain’t the only Marine here. I was on Iwo Jima. We lost six thousand the first day. Se don’t go crying in your fucking beer to me. You served, you lost, and now you gotta live with it. You’re a Marine, Semper Fi, they didn’t pick you. You… you picked them so stop moaning and pissing about it.”

When we read the book of Job, we see much the same thing. Job says, “יְהוָה נָתַןוַיהוָה לָקָחיְהִי שֵׁם יְהוָהמְבֹרָךְ.” “The Personal Name gives and the Personal Name takes; the name of the Personal Name is Blessed.”

Job’s wife told him: ‘Do you still hold fast your integrity? Bless God, and die.’

Job told her, “You speak as one of the disgraced women speaks. What? Will we receive what is satisfying at the hand of God, and shall we not receive rot?’ For all this did not Job sin with his  בִּשְׂפָתָיו lips/judgments. Job next gives his first speech.

Eliphaz the Temanite begins his first speech, “You have instructed many, and made firm their feeble hands. Your words have upheld those who stumble; you have strengthened faltering knees. Now that it comes to you, you are impatient; when it touches you, you are dismayed. Is not your piety a source of confidence, and your integrity of life your hope? Reflect now, what innocent person perishes Where are the upright destroyed?

  Lion and lambAs I see it, those who plow mischief and sow trouble will reap them. By the breath of God they perish, and by the blast of his wrath they are consumed. Though the lion roars, though the king of beasts cries out, yet the teeth of the young lions are twisted; The old lion perishes for lack of prey, and the cubs of the lioness are scattered.

Some jump upon the words, “Those who plow mischief and sow trouble will reap them.” They compare this with Deuteronomy and the Law of Retribution. The problem is that Eliphaz speaks in the abstract. He does not accuse Job of anything.

Eliphaz says of Job, “You have instructed many, and made firm their feeble hands. Your words have upheld those who stumble; you have strengthened faltering knees. Now that it comes to you, you are impatient; when it touches you, you are dismayed. Is not your looking to God a source of confidence, and your hope “Hatikvah” (Hebrew: הַתִּקְוָה,”) “the וְתֹם דְּרָכֶיךָ”?”, the simplicity of your ways

There is no deviation, no sin mentioned here. He instructed many who suffered in the past. He made firm their feeble hands. He did all the right things. Now he suffers. No! Job is not guilty of anything in the mind of Eliphaz. Rather, Eliphaz stands in much the same position as the World War II Marine of Born on the Fourth of July. Though the lion roars, though the king of beasts cries out, yet the teeth of the young lions are twisted; the old lion perishes for lack of prey, and the cubs of the lioness are scattered. Here is Eliphaz’s charge against Job. Job is the old lion who has seen his better day. Now the young lions twist their necks around Job’s throat and the old lion roars in pain. Eliphaz’s charge against Job is simply that he is past his prime and he should get over it and let the next generation take over.

To the degree Eliphaz does accuse Job, we need to look at his words. Job is the violent one who received what he has by being the old lion, the dominant one. Eliphaz speaks to a man who lies in sackcloth and ashes and who recently lost all his children in several accidents.

Notice what Eliphaz says of his children, here and in the next chapter. “The cubs of the lioness (by implication, his wife) are scattered.” “May his children be far from safety; may they be crushed at the gate without someone to rescue.” If Job attributes these words to himself, Eliphaz’ words are biting to the core. This is the same man who sat with Job for a week, seven days and seven nights, in the biting cold and blistering heat of a Mid-east, desert day.

Davis Creek Park Jeff ThompsonJob says cold things of himself when he speaks of God giving and God taking away. The time for God’s giving seems to have come and gone, and now it simply God’s to take away,

Gustavo Gutierrez, in his book, “On Job, God-Talk and the Suffering of the Innocent,” misses a key play on words in Job that supports his position. In the Heavenly Court, and when Job talks to his wife there is a gross mistranslation of words that calls attention to the point Gustavo tries to make.

מַעֲשֵׂה יָדָיו בֵּרַכְתָּ וּמִקְנֵהוּ פָּרַץ בָּאָרֶץ”

“The work of his hands you bless, and his possessions are increased in the land.”

Now comes the key part:

וְאוּלָם שְׁלַח נָא יָדְךָ וְגַע בְּכָל אֲשֶׁר לוֹ–אִם לֹא עַל פָּנֶיךָ, יְבָרְכֶךָּ”

“Only send your hand out now and also that which is to him, if he will not to your face bless, “Barack” you. `

וְעָרֹם אָשׁוּב שָׁמָּה–יְהוָה נָתַן וַיהוָה לָקָח יְהִי שֵׁם יְהוָה מְבֹרָךְ”

“Naked/Clever I will return. The Personal Name gives and the Personal Name takes. The Name of the Personal Name is blessed.”

In chapter 2:

וַתֹּאמֶר לוֹ אִשְׁתּוֹ, עֹדְךָ מַחֲזִיק בְּתֻמָּתֶךָ בָּרֵךְ אֱלֹהִים וָמֻת”

Job’s wife told him, “Do you still hold to your תֻמָּתֶךָ your innocence, your simplicity?” “Barack,” bless God and die.

Davis Creek Park 2 Jeff Thompson

Are the words for blessing a cursing the same word? Just a few verses later, at the start of chapter 3:

אַחֲרֵי כֵן פָּתַח אִיּוֹב אֶת פִּיהוּ וַיְקַלֵּל אֶת יוֹמוֹ”

The Hebrew word for cursing is “וַיְקַלֵּל” It is not Barack.” Gustavo Gutierrez argues forcefully that one of the main points of the book of Job is that we need to talk properly about God in the face of human suffering. Here is the main point in favor of his position and he misses it. When we are suffering, the writer of Job argues, God wants us to be honest with God about our suffering, and not praise him, but give meaningful lament.

Eliphaz hits on the same points:

“הֵן בַּעֲבָדָיו לֹא יַאֲמִין וּבְמַלְאָכָיו יָשִׂים תָּהֳלָה

Only in his servants he does not amen/trust. In his messengers/angels he charges with Tehillim. Tehillim is the Hebrew Psalter, or Psalms of Praise,” not “Folly” as is most generally translated. Eliphaz, like Job’s wife, wants Job to fall back on empty praise, and that is something the honest Job is not willing to do.

Job’s response to all of this comes from the Rock Opera, “Tommy,” another anti-Vietnam War song. In his book, “On Job: God-Talk and the Suffering of the Innocent,” Gustavo Gutierrez makes the key point that Eliphaz and his friends are not mean. They, like the pre-disaster Job, as simply hopeless academics. In Job 16, and in his Chapter on “Sorry Comforters” in the section on “Two Theological Methods” Gustavo Gutierrez tells us, “The Speeches of Eliphaz and his companions take certain doctrinal principals as their starting point and try to apply them to Job’s case.” “Job likewise feels sure, not of a doctrine but of his own experience in life.”

Incorrectly, Gustavo Gutierrez tries to pin the problem on the Law of Retribution he finds in Deuteronomy.

This Mitzvah I give you today is not too wondrous or remote for you. It is not in the heavens, that you should say, “Who will go up to the heavens to get it for us and tell us of it, that we may do it?” Nor is it across the sea, that you should say, “Who will cross the sea to get it for us and tell us of it, that we may do it?” No, it is something very near to you, in your mouth and in your heart, to do it.

I today set before you life and good, death and evil. If you listen to the Mitzvah of the Personal Name, your Almighty Judge, I give you today, loving the Personal Name your Almighty Judge God, and walking in his ways, and keeping his Mitzvah, customs and Correct Judicial Precedents, you will live and grow numerous. The Personal name, your Almighty Judge, will bless you in the land you are entering to possess. If, however, your heart turns away and you do not obey, but are led astray and bow down to other gods and serve them, I tell you today that you will certainly perish; you will not have a long life on the land which you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess. I call heaven and earth today to witness against you:  I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life!”

The Law or Retribution is here. Look at what also is here. The Law/Torah/teaching is not in a rule book, carved in stone. The Torah is written in the human heart. It is written in experience, as Job tries to tell us. Another place to look is the Ten Commandments.

Moses summoned all those who struggle with God and told them, Hear, you who struggle with God, the customs and 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, each of us, alive, here, this day… 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.

The addition in the gloss adds, “You will remember what it was like to be there, and you will remember your rescue. “Choose life,” as chapter 30 states. Make life at its fullest for all people. That is the Mitzvah, not some Law of Retribution. That is what Job comes to understand. That is what all those who have suffered come to understand. That is what Eliphaz and his friends who have not suffered cannot understand. Suffering brings transformation.

Part of the Jewish Passover liturgy includes the words of chapter 6:20-23:

Later on, when your son asks you, “What do these witnesses, customs and correct judicial precedents mean, which the Personal Name, our Almighty Judge, enjoined on you, you will tell your son, “We were once servants of Pharaoh in Oppression/Egypt, but the Personal Name brought us out of Egypt with a strong hand and wrought before our eyes signs and wonders, great and dire, against Egypt and against Pharaoh and his whole house. He brought us from there to bring us in and give us the land he had promised on oath to our ancestors.

Our Eucharist comes directly from the Jewish Passover. The Passion occurred during Passover and the Last Supper was the Jewish Passover meal. The two are linked. In our Eucharist, we die with Christ and we rise with Christ. In the Passover the Jewish community relives the Exodus experience for the first time, each time, the celebrate Passover. This brings Torah, teaching into the present. This allows Deuteronomy 30 to apply. We see the suffering of others in our suffering at Passover/Eucharist. That calls us to act, and that is the whole point of the book of Job.

The conversion of St. Paul points the way to understanding Jesus’ baptism

In his book, “Into the Abyss of Suffering,” Kenneth Overberg quotes Mark 1:40-42:

Sockeye, aren't they just gorgeous fish  Christina CookA leper came to him and kneeling down begged him, “If you wish, you can make me clean.” Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand, touched him, and said to him, “I do will it. Be made clean.” The leprosy left him immediately, and he was made clean.

 Kenneth Overberg then states, “With a simple but profound touch, Jesus breaks down barriers, challenges customs, and laws that alienate, and embodies his convictions about the inclusive meaning of the reign of God.” [i]

On page 79, Kenneth Overberg mentions the Hymn of Colossians 1:

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. In him were created all things in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions, principalities or powers; all things were created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him, all things hold together.

Lake TahoeHe is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things he himself might be preeminent. In him all the fullness was pleased to dwell and through him to reconcile all things for him.”

The point of discussion in the book is whether the Jewish concept of redemption is central to Gospel and/or Epistle. In the Gospel, at least in the New American Translation, “Redemption occurs 11 times, Ransom, 9 times, and Expiation 4 times.

As a point of comparison, in the first sentence of Romans, the words Christ, Jesus, and God, occurs 4 times each. It is clear from reading this first sentence of Romans, that when St. Paul desires to emphasis an idea, he repeats the label/word of that idea.

Seder plate smallTherefore, we must conclude that the almost total absence of the words for redemption, ransom, and expiation in the Gospels and Epistles means that although the writers were aware of these ideas, they were not central to their Christology.

We notice that in his letter to the Colossians, which has the hymn in question, we also find mention of Mark, the cousin of Barnabas, the son of the prophet, the writer of the Gospel of St. Mark. St. Mark had in his earlier days traveled with St. Paul. Still, the vocabulary of the Gospel of St. Mark makes clear, how his greatest influence was St. Matthew, not St. Paul. St. Luke, in his writing makes his influence by St. Paul clear.

With this in mind, it is important to compare the baptism of Jesus with the conversion experience of St. Paul. The baptism of Jesus is particularly important because immediately after comes the thesis statement for the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, although St. Luke’s thesis statement is fundamentally different. In Matthew and Mark, the thesis statements are:

At once, the Spirit drove him out into the desert, and he remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan. He was among wild beasts, (in Aramaic Chai, or living things) and the angels (In Aramaic Melechim, which means messengers) ministered to him. Forty days could be interpreted as forty years, one day for each year of Jesus’ life. The star of St. Matthew’s nativity, is thought be a constellation of planets which occurred around 7 B.C.

If Jesus’ crucifixion was April 1, 33, when there was a lunar eclipse, and which was Passover and Good Friday, Jesus was 40 years old. The messengers would then refer to the twelve apostles. Their ministry was walking with him during his travels of healing. St. Luke states Jesus was 30 during the Passion, so he has a different thesis statement.

With this in mind, a close reading is important to find out how the temptation leads up to the thesis statement for the work. St. Mark relates, “On coming up out of the water Jesus saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit, like a dove, descending upon him.” “A voice came from the heavens, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

Here, Father, Son and Holy Spirit are all present. Jesus is being baptized. The Spirit is present as the dove, and God is present as the voice. Some would argue that the reference to the heavens being torn open is not to be taken literally. With this in mind, we look at St. Paul’s conversion.

“On that journey as I drew near to Damascus, about noon a great light from the sky suddenly shone around me. I fell to the ground and heard a voice, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ I replied, ‘Who are you, sir?’ He told me, ‘I am Jesus from Nazareth whom you are persecuting.’ My companions saw the light but did not hear the voice of the one who spoke to me.” Acts 22:6-9

We notice how the sky fundamentally changes in both stories. Only Jesus and St. Paul see the light, the change in the sky, and only Jesus and St. Paul here the voice, as a voice. St. Mark relates, “You are my beloved Son; with whom I am well pleased.” Compare this with the temptation scene which states, “Then a cloud came, casting a shadow over them; then from the cloud came a voice, “This is my beloved Son. Listen of him.” God speaks to Jesus, and not to the crowd with him, including John the Baptist, at Jesus’ baptism.

St. Paul, when read in Aramaic, shows a rather dramatic similarity with near death experiences. A near-death experience is a very unique and powerful experience that people sometimes report after a near-death episode. In such an episode a person is either clinically dead, near death. People experiencing this reported two types of experiences. Most reports are pleasurable, involving feelings of love, joy, peace, and bliss.

The “classic” experience includes four phases. However, each is unique. In the naturalistic phase, they became aware of the “natural” surroundings. They experience their bodies and the surrounding area from a perspective outside their bodies. In the supernatural phase, they experience meeting beings and environments that they do not consider part of the “natural” world. They experience a “life review.” The final phase is a return to the physical body.

Most say their experience changed them. Some changes happened right away, others more gradually over time. Many people who experience this need time to integrate the experience. Some people need months; others need years. We can see this in the experience of St. Paul. Before his encounter with Jesus, he persecutes the church. Afterward, he is one of the major forces promoting Christianity.

St. Paul tells us among other things, “We, who are Jews by nature and not deviants from among the ethnics, who know that a person is not justified Tzaddic, by works of Torah but through faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus that we may be justified Tzaddic by faith in Christ and not by works of Torah, because by works of Torah no one will be justified Tzaddic.” Galatians 2:16

It is important to note that the Hebrew word “Tzaddic,” also means charitable, and is used in the Middle Greek, and Aramaic reflexive tenses. “We, who are Jews by nature and not deviants from among the ethnics, who know that a person is not made charitable, by works of Torah but through faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus that we may made charitable by faith in Christ and not by works of Torah, because by works of Torah no one will be made charitable.” Galatians 2:16

If then 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 have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ your life appears, then you too will appear with him in importance. 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. Colossians 3:9-10

St. Paul speaks of a literal death. He speaks as one who has seen a physical, literal death. He also speaks of each person undergoing this death. We go back to that hymn of Colossians.

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. In him were created all things in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions, principalities or powers; all things were created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him, all things hold together.

This person, the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation, is the person who undergoes baptism at the hands of John the baptist, and in the process faces real death. He is both part of the Trinity, coming before all of creation, and truly man, able to experience real death. Jesus is the leader, undergoing the test first, himself, so that we might follow, walking through the valley of the shadow of death, Psalm 23, Luke 1:79 He does not lead us to death, but through death and into new life, a life where, having experienced death itself, we are able to see the suffering of others.

This is why the short ending of St. Mark is the original ending.

The young man told them, “Do not be amazed! You seek Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Behold the place where they laid him. Go and tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him, as he told you.” They went out and fled the tomb, seized with trembling and bewilderment. They said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.


Of course, if they told nobody and this is the end of the story, how do we know the story? We died with Christ and rose with Christ. We were physically present when Christ died. That is how we know. Now we put on the new person, having undergone the near death experience ourselves. Now, we know what it is like to die, to suffer, as others suffer. Knowing that suffering, God charges us, as individuals, and as a Christian community, to bring our rising to others. That is what St. Paul is all about, and that is what the Gospels are all about.


[i] Into the Abyss of Suffering, Kenneth R. Overberg, p 37


There are more important languages to learn than Latin

This past Sunday, the Sixth Sunday of Easter of 2013 saw a debate between an orthodox conservative and an avowed liberal. The conservative discussed a fellow parishioner who had kneeled while taking the blood of Christ, and had asked for the blessed chalice before in a complete kneeling state.

Lake Tahoe     This did not seem to upset the liberal in any way. The orthodox conservative next presented the view that Latin is the official language of the church and should be the preferred language to learn. The liberal argued for other languages to be the preferred language to learn.

Unlike Protestants, who believe in Solo Scriptura, Catholics and Semitic people have a strong preference for reading the divine writings in light of tradition. They receive this idea from the Ten Commandments, which begins:

Moses summoned all those who struggle with God and told them, Hear, you who struggle with God, the customs, and correct judicial precedents, which I proclaim in your ear, this day, that you may learn them and guard to observe them. The Personal Name, our Almighty Judge, cut a Social Contract with us at Mt. Sword; not with our fathers did the Personal Name cut this Social Contract, but with us, each of us, alive, here, this day. Deuteronomy 5:1-7

In the Summa Theologica, The Second Part of the Second Part, Question 81 noted how our word, “religion,” relates to the Latin understanding of the concept.

Religion may be derived from “religare” [to bind together], wherefore Augustine says (De Vera Relig. 55): “May religion bind us to the one Almighty God.” In addition to the founding of Rome itself, the Roman sense of authority comes from the sanctity of house and hearth. The Romans understood how the gods had Shekinah, (presence) lived among the Romans, so was re-ligatus, bond together in present time, through all time, with the people.

Scene from GalileeThe interesting things about customs, “הַחֻקִּים” and correct judicial precedents, “מִּשְׁפָּטִים,” is that they develop over time. They do not develop over night, and are therefore not the kinds of things Moses could have received at Mt. Sword. The Jewish tradition is that all the rulings that have come since are the customs and correct judicial precedents, which we are to view as if they came from Moses at Mt. Sword. Catholic and Easter Orthodox teachings mirror this ancient Semitic understanding.

The Ten Commandments begins by telling us, “Not with our fathers did the Personal Name cut this Social Contract, but with us, each of us, alive, here, this day.” To argue that the Roman Rite is somehow different from any other rite is to argue that it does not link back, tie back to Mt. Sword in present time. It is to cut the church off from its roots, both the roots of Sinai, and the roots of the cross.

This brings us to the idea of home and hearth. Revelations 12:17 tells us how the great sea serpent went off to wage war with the woman and her offspring, those who keep faith with the witness and the Mitzvah of God. Revelations 12:5 tells us how this woman gave birth to a male child, destined to rule all the nations with an iron rod.”

This child is clearly Jesus, so the woman must be our Blessed Virgin. We, alive, here, this day, are the offspring of Our Blessed Virgin, in present time, as are all those who lived from the time of Our Blessed Virgin until today. To argue for Latin, the Roman Rite in Latin is to cut ourselves off from this woman, Our Blessed Virgin, who almost certainly did not speak Latin.

The orthodox Catholic is correct in understanding that it is important for the blood of Christ not to fall on the floor. The liberal thinker was also correct in understanding that there is something more at issue here than wine, the blood of Christ falling on the floor. Through the Eucharist, we relive the Passion and death of Jesus Christ. We also relive the events of Mt. Sword, our rescue from oppression. We undergo a religious transformation from death to new life.

IsraelSt. Paul tells us in Romans 5 and Galatians 2, “We, who are Jews by nature and not deviants from among the nations, know that a person is not justified by works of Torah but through faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.”

St. Paul comes from the Jewish neighborhood of Tarsus, Turkey. The native language of the first century for that town was Koine Greek. On the other hand, St. Paul comes from the Jewish neighborhood of that town. We need to think of the late nineteenth century, and early twentieth century Brooklyn Jewish neighborhood. The people of Brooklyn spoke English.

horse and carriage at south lake tahoeThe Brooklyn neighborhoods, on the other hand, spoke the languages of the immigrants who lived there. The people of the Jewish quarter spoke Yiddish. When the more religious of that neighborhood went to college, they went to Yeshiva, most likely in Jerusalem. Likewise, St. Paul learned the Yiddish of his time, Aramaic. As a religious, he went off to Yeshiva in Jerusalem, the Academy of Shammai. There he learned Hebrew.

Thinking in Hebrew, St. Paul would have meant, using the Hebrew and Aramaic word for Justice, Tzaddic, We, who are Jews by nature and not deviants from among the nations, know that a person is not Tzaddic/made charitable by works of Torah but through faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus that we may be Tzaddic/made charitable by faith in Christ and not by works of Torah, because by works of Torah no one will be made charitable.”

Elsewhere, St. Paul tells us, “Put on the new self, created in God’s way in Tzaddic and dedication of truth.” The rest of the chapter, of which Ephesians 4:24, resides describes this Tzaddic as God means for us to live out our everyday life.

Deuteronomy 6:20-25 tells us what St. Paul meant by Tzaddic as well:

Incline Village homeWhen your son asks, “What do these witness statements customs and correct judicial precedents mean?” which the Personal Name, our Almighty Judge, enjoined on you, you shall tell your son, “We were once slaves of Pharaoh in Egypt, but the Personal Name brought us out of Egypt with a strong hand and wrought before our eyes signs and wonders, great and dire, against Egypt and against Pharaoh and his whole house.

He brought us from there to bring us in and give us the land he had promised on oath to our fathers. The Personal Name commanded us guard all these customs in fear of the Personal Name, our Almighty Judge, that we may always have as good a life as we have today. This is our justice/Tzaddic.

In our transformation, we no longer worry about the little things. Our neighbor in Christ is far more important than even the blood of Christ falling on the floor. Christ will protect his precious blood. During the Passion, far more blood that is precious fell on the floor, the Via Delarosa, than the few drops that might fall if the chalice spills. Yes, we do need to be careful with the precious blood, but the precious blood points to something even more important, human life as life lived in the image of God.

Meadow in IsraelThis brings us to the importance of Latin in Mass. For doctoral seminary, Latin might be an important language to learn, in order to read the Summa, the City of God, the Moralia, and other writings of the church fathers. If we plan to discuss theology with the church doctors at the Vatican, Latin could come in handy. For the rest of us, Latin is a great language of nostalgia, to help us remember the Tridentine Mass of Pre-Vatican II.

Presenting this view, brought the discussion of whether Jesus knew Latin. Interesting it was, that the liberal presented the view that Lake Galilee, where Jesus and the apostles did their preaching and fishing, is so much like Lake Tahoe. So interesting it is how the orthodox Catholic opposed this view. They are the same, inland, crystal blue lakes. They are lakes famed for being resort hot spots where celebrities and other rich folk lived out their lives. As such, to live in these areas, one almost has to be multilingual.

The “Church Language” of the first century was Hebrew. The language of the masses was Aramaic, which people of the time mistakenly referred to as Hebrew. As a rabbi, Jesus would have known both Hebrew and Aramaic. To be a fish trader on Lake Galilee one would almost certainly have had to know the language of trade, Koine Greek. St. Peter shows an understanding of this language in the two letters he wrote, and which are in our New Testament. James also shows fluency in Greek, in his New Testament letter, as does St. Paul, in his letters.

The question is about Latin. The Latin people had the ethnocentric trait Americans have. They sent their soldiers and state department officials to countries with no training in the languages or cultures of their conquests. If Jesus talked with soldiers as he did in Luke 7:1-10, it was almost certainly in Latin.

Further, in John 18:28-40 Jesus has a discussion with Pilate. If Pilate did not speak any language other than Latin, the discussion must have been in Latin. St. Mark calls the crazy man Jesus heals, Legion, a Latin name.

Dei Verbum, from Vatican II states:

God speaks in Sacred Scripture through men in human fashion, (6) the interpreter of Sacred Scripture, in order to see clearly what God wanted to communicate to us, should carefully investigate what meaning the sacred writers really intended, and what God wanted to manifest by means of their words. To search out the intention of the sacred writers, attention should be given, among other things, to “literary forms.” For truth is set forth and expressed differently in texts, which are variously historical, prophetic, poetic, or of other forms of discourse.

This means, the question is not, whether Jesus, or anyone else could have had an intelligent discussion in Latin, but in what language Jesus and the apostles thought, and that language was Aramaic. In the case of Torah, Navy, and Writings, that language is Hebrew. Because the oldest extant writings are in Koine Greek, Koine Greek has a claim for study.

It is important to notice how Greek, Latin, and the Semitic languages used the present tense. From our pre-Vatican II days, we use to interpret Matthew 3:1-2, “In those days John the Baptist appeared, preaching in the desert of Judea, saying, “Do Penance, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” English has what grammarians call the “dandy do.” The original word in Greek, Latin, or the Semitic languages can be interpreted as, “Repent,” “Be Penitent,” or “Do Penance.” In church language, “Do Penance” means going to confession and doing as the priest asks as one’s “Sign of contrition.” Those not knowing ancient languages were confused by this ambiguity.

Dei Verbum, from Vatican II tells us that we need to read the text in light of how the original writers understood the text. Our “Instruction on the Historical Truth of the Gospels,” tell us, “The sacred writers when composing them followed the way of thinking and of writing current amongst their contemporaries.” John the Baptist wrote long before confession, as we know it today, so could not have had this in mind as he preached. Contemporary translations correctly translate the text as “Repent,” and not, “Do Penance.” Learning Latin would help us understand the ambiguity of Pre-Vatican II history, but not help us much in understanding current translations of the Bible.

This brings the questions of which languages would be important to learn, for the serious Bible scholar. Clearly, Aramaic, Hebrew, and Greek make this list. Where does Latin fit in? Jesus probably spoke Latin, but “Legion,” is one of the very few Latin words used in any of the Gospels, and the New Testament never uses Latin in the context of explaining Christian doctrine.

The church fathers used Latin, but most of the Scholastic teaching is being replaced by German existentialist teaching through the writings of Johann Mohler, Karl Rahner, Richard Rohr, Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Bernard Lonergan. Learning German would be far more beneficial in the academic setting than Latin.

The goal of reading any ancient language is being able to present what we learn to the masses. That means learning French, German, Polish, Spanish, Tagalog, Vietnamese, Chinese, and with the rapidly growing African church, the African languages. Latin is way down the list.

We need to understand what is going on at Mass. We need to understand how we are not just taking in bread and wine. We are taking in the body and blood of Jesus Christ. That means know who Jesus Christ the first century Jew, and the Son of God is. That means enmeshing ourselves in the Semitic culture.

“Jesus is the same, Yesterday, today, and tomorrow,” Hebrews 13:8. “At the beginning, Personal Name, you established the earth, you are the same, and your years will have no end.” Hebrews 1:10-12.  The word of God did not change as the church moved from a Semitic group to the Latin church, as those who emphasis the Latin Rite would have us believe.

The difference between corporeal and spiritual food lies in this, that the former is changed into the substance of the person nourished. It cannot avail for supporting life except it be partaken of. Spiritual food changes man into itself, according to that saying of Augustine (Confessions 7.  Third Part of the Summa Question 73 Article 3

I found myself to be far from You, in the region of dissimilarity: I am the food of strong men; grow, and you will feed upon me; nor will you convert me, like the food of your flesh, into you, but you shall be converted into me. Confessions, Book 7, Chapter 10

Jesus was the great healer and forgiver. If we are to get into him, who is what we are to become, we need to become healers and forgivers.

We will be part of the land six feet under with Sean Hannity or six feet over with God part 1

These are the generations of the heavens and the earth at their creation. When the Personal Name, the Almighty Judge made the earth and the heavens there was no field shrub on earth and no grass of the field had sprouted. The Personal Name, the Almighty Judge had sent no rain upon the earth and there was no man to till the ground. A stream seeped out of the earth, watering all the surface of the ground. The Personal Name, the Almighty Judge formed the man out of the dust of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life. The man became a living being.

It may seem strange, discussing The Land: The Promise of the People of the Social Contract. Is not the Promised Land, the Promised Land, Israel, from Lebanon to the Red Sea? On the other hand, when we try to find the Garden of Eden, we find something interesting. As we look at the mural at our Cathedral, we notice how the Lamb stands atop four rivers. These are the four rivers of life from Genesis 2:4. Two of these rivers are easy to find, the Tigris and the Euphrates.

The third is a dry creek bed in western Saudi Arabia. The fourth defines the land of Cush, a land that stretches from Ethiopia and Somalia all the way to modern Libya. The Tigris and Euphrates are north and east of Israel. The Pishon and Gihon are to the south, east, and west. The land in the middle where we expect to find the Garden of Eden, is exactly where Israel sits today. The Garden of Eden is Israel.

Does not Genesis 3:23 tell us how God banished Adam and Eve from the garden? “God expelled Ha Adam, stationing the cherubim and the fiery revolving sword east of the Garden of Eden, to guard the way to the tree of life.” The apple in the story is the way of the nations. The Cherubim have a striking resemblance to the Babylonians who guard the way to Israel with a fiery sword, which devoured Jerusalem. Psalm 137 depicts the anger the Jewish nation had against Babylon for the destruction it reaped on Jerusalem.

The Garden of Eden is Israel in idealized form. It does not rain there. I mist comes up from the ground and waters the place. It is a garden, with plants and animals, there is no death there. Some think the writer of Genesis 2-4 was from Jerusalem and they identify him by his using the Personal name of God. All is ideal. Dr. Michael D. Coogan from Harvard Divinity School mentions the importance of soil, the land, and the people. Psalms 120-135 talk about the trip to the new Israel, the new Promised Land from Babylon.

Some in the pro-life movement notice that man becomes a living being when God breathes into them. They argue that life must therefore begin with breath. They forget that God does not breathe into Eve or her offspring either. Genesis 4:10, Deuteronomy 12:23, Leviticus 17:11, 17:14, and other places equate life/soul and blood. Blood is the only organ that touches each other cell in the body and it is present when the body has two cells.

Joshua Son of Nun/ a carpenter, with Peter Son of Nun the fisherman.

Moses and the people of Israel spend forty years walking through the desert on the way to the new Garden of Eden, the Promised Land. When they arrive, Joshua, whose name in Greek is Jesus, the son of Nun, the fish, takes the people into the Promised Land. Another Joshua, the son of a carpenter and who hangs out with fishermen, one of whom is Simon, who he calls Peter/the rock, he will call the Son of Nun, the fish.

The Jewish people have three fathers and four mothers with something to teach us part 3

Here are some interesting observations about Jacob: Abraham’s servant travels to  Laban and his clan to find an adequate spouse for Isaac. Abraham rejects Esau because he marries a local girl who follows the local gods. Rachel is Jacob’s favorite. Laban’s god and the God of Jacob are different gods. Genesis 31:19 tells us how Rachel stole her father’s false gods.

The Hebrew word for the household gods means soft or decayed, foul, obscene. Genesis 29:17 tells us how Leah’s eyes were soft, although the writer uses a different word for “Soft.” The hated one, Rachel,  is the pious one who gives birth to Judah, the Jews, and the Levites.

The reason for opposing marriage to Canaanites cannot be their false gods. Rachel had them. An important thread in each of the two stories about Abraham saying how Sarah is his sister, is how Abraham is prejudiced against, first Pharaoh, and then Abimelech. In both cases, he turns out to be wrong. When they learn the truth about Sarah and Rebeka, they do not try to kill Abraham or Isaac, but give them wealth. Pharaoh also gives Abraham’s descendants wealth when they leave Egypt.

When Joseph enters Egypt, it is on the basis that they are kin similar to sisters. They are really, married/holy. Entering Egypt, they leave the tribal concept of Justice and move to justice, as it relates to that which comes from the lips of God.

As they move toward Deuteronomy they will move to the concept of community Judaism and Christianity have today. We were all oppressed in the land of our ancestors, so when we see others suffer; we suffer with them and strive to alleviate their suffering. Abba/אב, means Father. Bah sounds like the baying of sheep, but it refers to the one who is to come, “Bah.” Jesus is the Lamb of God. A Ha Bah  refers to love, a love welcoming all people, Hispanic, African-American, African, Muslim, Arabic, Persian, Russian, all people. Abraham/E Pluribus Unum,  teaches us there is only room for love, welcoming all people, with all of their faults into our hearts.

The relationship between Abraham and Sarah was not the best. Abraham and Sarah were brother and sister. Some of the stories in Genesis may be a writer from the Northern Kingdom justifying the rules of Leviticus 18. The rule against marrying near relatives, in particular brother marrying sister may come from the grief Sarah suffered being married to her brother. Rachel marrying Jacob is a violation of Leviticus 18:18. The meal Abraham serves the angels on the way to Sodom violates the dietary law against eating meat and milk together.

To be asked to prostitute oneself, even once, even to save one’s spouse, would be humiliating. This works itself out in two generations. Isaac does the same.

We see how the strained relationship between Abraham and Sarah in Genesis 18:6. Abraham must push Sarah to make flour. He does not have to push his servants to kill the fattened calf, which they serve with dairy products. Genesis 18:9 relates how Abraham has his conversation with the strangers about Sarah being barren, a strong embarrassment for women in that era. This is a woman, a princess, who leads a very humiliating life.

Sarah pushes Abraham to engage in the act producing Ismail. Like Leah, she is a victim of the life forces around her, including her marriage. Still, she is an active agent. When the time comes, she will insist that her child be the child to inherit all that belongs to Abraham. Abraham never asks if she is willing to sacrifice her son. There is no mention of what happens when Isaac gets home, no mention of her becoming upset. She is a complex character.

She, like Leah is the victim of a dysfunctional family and this causes her to act in very dysfunctional ways. Leah’s children go on to become Israel as we know them today. One tribe, from Rachel’s womb is Benjamin. His tribe is wiped out, according to Judges 21:1-3.  The other child, Joseph marries outside the tribal clan. Her only other child, Joseph, married outside of the clan, as Esau did.

Rachel and Leah some up their existence in Genesis 31:14, “Rachel and Leah answered, “Do we still have an heir’s portion in our father’s house? Are we not regarded as outsiders? He not only sold us; he has even used up the money that he got for us!” They understand what it means to be property and human beings in the fullest sense of the term. Women hurt and bleed like the rest of us. Like all of humankind, we are individuals acting on and being acted upon, by very strong outside forces.

Moses and Zechariah move us from slavery to worship part 3

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame, With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name, Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“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.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Our Lady in the harbor and our Lady at our Cathedral speak to us about who we are as Catholics, and as Americans.

Pharaoh has not changed much in the six thousand years of recorded history. We look at those words from Deuteronomy. It is not to your fathers. The Jewish community derives their concept of the Physical Presence from this passage. Each generation relives, for the first time, each time they celebrate Passover, there escape from מִצְרַיִם. As A Theological Introduction to the Old Testament points out, they recline at table all as equals. They prepare dressed as free men, with the goods the Egyptians gave them. They eat foods reminding them of their oppression in מִצְרַיִם.

Catholics also have the concept of the Physical Presence, as do the Eastern Orthodox. For us it is also the Physical Presence of our escape from our old selves, our old adherence as victims to the double bind. Our escape is the body of Jesus Christ. It is no coincidence; Passover and Easter are from the same feast celebrated at the same time of year. We remember what it was like to be oppressed, to be in the double bind. When we see others suffer, we remember what it was like to be there, and we do something. This is justice. This is the national identity upon which Judaism and Christianity bases themselves. There is no room for tough love. If we remember this Mitzvah we can forget all the others, not because they do not apply, but because in fulfilling this one we fulfill all the others.

Deuteronomy teaches another lesson:

שְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ יְהוָה אֶחָד

 וְאָהַבְתָּ אֵת יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ בְּכָל-לְבָבְךָ וּבְכָל-נַפְשְׁךָ וּבְכָל-מְאֹדֶךָ

לְבָבְis the plural of לְבָ, heart. We each love God with all of our hearts, plural. We each have more than one. Jewish tradition takes a Freudian move here. We each have many inclinations, some which are good, some not so good. Inclinations of themselves in Freud are neither good nor evil. How we use them, make them good or evil. “The Personal name told Cain: ‘Why are you angry? Why is your face fallen? If you do well, will it not be lifted up? If do not do well, failure waits as a lion at the door; and its desire is for you, but you rule over it.” Part of Pharaoh’s deceit is to convince us that we deserve no better, we, not he, is the evil one. God teaches us to love God with our evil inclination. Our inclinations by themselves are neither good nor evil.

God, the “Personal” name speaks to us in our weakness, reminding us how to “reflect upon three things and we will not come to the hands of transgression. Know from where you came, where you are going, and before whom you are destined to give a judgment. From where you came–from a putrid drop; where you are going–to a place of dust, maggots and worms; and before whom you are destined to give a judgment before the supreme King of Kings, the Dedicated One, blessed be He.” We are a putrid drop on our way to becoming dust and ashes. God knows this and loves us anyway. He thinks we deserve better, all of us deserve better by virtue of God making us in his image. That is the lesson of Deuteronomy 6:4-9.

Exodus 20 relates of the temple, “An altar of earth make for me, and sacrifice upon it your burnt offerings and communion sacrifices, your sheep and your oxen. In every place where I cause my name to be invoked, I will come to you and bless you. If you make an altar of stone for me, do not build it of cut stone, for by putting a chisel to it you make it common.”

God wants to present to us an image, which our Cathedrals and parishes try to emulate. We descend from that back of the nave to the altar area, much as people climb down a hill. Then we ascend up to the altar, much as St. Peter ascended with Jesus to the transfiguration. We climb up and down the rolling hills to a volcano.

Our churches are often darkened to remind us of the volcanic cloud. We have incense, not to remind us of the sacrifices; Jesus is our sacrifice, but to remind us of the volcanic cloud. We have flowers to remind us of Jesus’ lilies of the field, here today and gone tomorrow, and the lilies on the way to Mt. Sinai. Our Mass is meant to be a transformational experience. We transform from slaves in oppression/Egypt, and through liberation we become a community in service to God through service to each other, a true community of worship.

This is part 3. For part 1 click here.

For part 2 click here.

Moses and Zechariah move us from slavery to worship part 2

A Theological Introduction to the Old Testament mentions how Exodus does not name Pharaoh. In Egyptian “Pharaoh” means “Great House.” In Hebrew, it means, “rupture, rift, tear, split.” Pharaoh is the one who ruptures and destroys. He is oppressor. A Theological Introduction to the Old Testament mentions how pharaoh represents the cosmic destroyer, the chaos from the beginning of time.

We climb the mountains and the hills to get to Martin Luther King’s mountain top to be transformed into a caring people, out for the welfare of others.

Gregory Bateson first used the term, “Double Bind,” which describes what Pharaoh was doing. “הָבָה נִתְחַכְּמָה,” “Come, deal shrewdly.” Torah does not tell us how Pharaoh did this, but Double Bind theory does. Abusers start the double-bind relationship by giving gifts or privileges. The primary injunction is, “You should like what you are getting from me!” When the victim accepts, victimization occurs. The secondary injunction is, “I am punishing you! If the victim shows any resistance, “You should have escaped from me earlier,” serve as the third level injunction.

Pharaoh told Joseph, “Settle your father and brothers in the pick of the land. Let them settle in the region of Goshen.” The Jewish people get the pick of the land, delta, and put sheep on it. The sheep probably despoiled the land, and when they did, victimization began. “We gave you the best of the land, and you despoiled it.” “You chose to be here.”

Genesis tells us the Hebrew people were shepherds. “All shepherds were abhorrent to the Egyptians.” Genesis 47 also relates how Joseph first impoverished and then enslaved the Egyptians, “Look, you did it to us first.” Jewish people could leave any time they wanted to. Moses left and found his way to Sinai. Aaron left as well. 1 Maccabees 7 relates how Rome came into Israel at the request of the Jewish people. Many times in history, people and nations have fallen for the double bind. Pharaoh received free-swimming lessons for his use of the tactic.

A Theological Introduction to the Old Testament tells us, “The Hebrew midwives, Shiphrah and Puah, deceived pharaoh.”[1] How many people know the names of the nurses present when they were born? How many people know the names of the nurses present when their leaders were born? Compare this with the total absence of any mention of the name of Pharaoh’s daughter.

The midwives saved thousands of lives at the risk of their own. Pharaoh’s daughter saved one life, and only when Moses’ humanity presented itself to her through the reeds. The consequences of oppression are not limited to the oppressors but extend to those the oppression benefitted. It is a harsh lesson to those who think avoidance of direct oppression of others is enough to allow them to avoid culpability.[2] Shiphrah and Puah are directly compared to Pharaoh’s daughter to put in bold face the absence of Pharaoh’s daughter’s name. Pharaoh’s daughter, by not confronting her father with his failures, by only saving one, is not worthy of direct mention.

As Zechariah mentions in his song, God saves us for a purpose:

He promised through the mouth of his dedicated prophets from of old, salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us, to show mercy to our fathers and to be mindful of his dedicated Social Contract. This is the oath Sheva, (as in Elizabeth) he swore to E Pluribus Unum or father, to grant us that, rescued from the hand of enemies, we might give public service. λατρεύειν (from where we derive our word, liturgy) to him without fear in divine completion/ὁσιότητι and צֶדֶקה before him all our days.”

All of the Jewish understanding of this key  צֶדֶקה comes from Deuteronomy 5:1-7 and Deuteronomy 6:4-9, the Shema, or the Jewish Creed.

Moses summoned all those who struggle with God and told them, Hear, you who struggle with God, the customs and correct judicial precedents (That which come from the lips שְׁפָּטִ) 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 Sword. Not with our fathers did the Personal Name cut this Social Contract, but with us, each of us, alive, here, this day… I am the Personal Name your Almighty Judge, who brought you out of the land of מִצְרַיִם out of the house of menial labor.”

מִצְרַיִם is related to the Hebrew word for Leprosy and the Hebrew word for a wasp. They are both oppressive. מִצְרַיִם means oppression and stands for any force, cosmic or otherwise, which oppresses us. A Theological Introduction to the Old Testament is correct in pointing out how Pharaoh and Egypt stand for the same.

For part one, please click here.

For part 3 please click here.

[1] Brueggemann, Walter; Petersen, David L.; Fretheim, Terence E.; Birch, Bruce C. (2010-03-01). A Theological Introduction to the Old Testament: 2nd Edition (p. 103). Abingdon Press. Kindle Edition.

[2] Brueggemann, Walter; Petersen, David L.; Fretheim, Terence E.; Birch, Bruce C. (2010-03-01). A Theological Introduction to the Old Testament: 2nd Edition (p. 111). Abingdon Press. Kindle Edition.

The treasury is being part of a living community

“When you pray, go to your treasury/ταμεῖον, close/κλείω/celebrate the door/θύρα/, and pray to your Father in secret/κρυπτός/crypt. Your Father who sees in secret will repay you.”

The key work is “treasury/ταμεῖον.” Treasury is not a place, but a value, an attitude, a way of being. The idea of this treasury shows itself when Jesus discusses pearls. “Do not store treasures on earth, where moth and meat/ βρῶσις destroy… Store up treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor decay destroys…. Where your treasure is, there is your heart.”

Jesus builds to a crescendo, discussing how the eye is the lamp of the body. We cannot serve two masters, God, and the market, that meat which destroys. Jesus tells us what to worry about, and it is not the things of this cosmos/ordered world. “Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own defect/ κακία.”

Stop judging, that you may not be judged. As you judge, so will you be judged.”

St. Luke takes up the theme, “Someone asked Jesus, ‘Tell my brother to share the inheritance with me.’ Jesus replied, ‘Friend, who appointed me as your judge and arbitrator?’ Jesus is about separating us from our things, not deciding who goes with what. In this election season in Reno Nevada, we hear all the ads from all sides. The candidates are after votes. That is where their treasure is. They desire us to judge their case.

Jesus tells us how this world is “defect/κακία.” Jesus calls us to something more. After telling us to judge, Jesus tells us how we can judge a tree by its fruit, a contradiction. Jesus is talking about this defective world. Matthew 7:6 begins a new sub-section within the Sermon on the Mount. “Do not…throw your pearls before swine, or they trample them underfoot, turn, & tear/ῥήγνυμι you to pieces.” This sub-section ends at Matthew 8:34, “The demons pleaded, “Send us into the herd of swine…” They came entered the swine, the herd rushed down the steep bank and drowned.” The pigs mentioned in Matthew 7:6 do as Jesus says. They take what is valuable, and cast in underfoot, drowning in the sea.

Matthew 9:17, “No one sews an ragged holy patch with new cloth. Its fullness pulls away from the cloak and the tear gets worse. People do not put new wine into old wine skins. The skins burst/ῥήγνυμι, the wine spills out, and the skins are ruined.” Matthew 7:6 uses ῥήγνυμι in reference to the pigs. ῥήγνυμι is mainly used in reference to storms, and there is the storm caused by a σεισμός/a seismic event, which threatens to tip over the boat Jesus is in. Catch, it is a “holy” ragged patch. We, the poor, are the “holy” ragged patch.

St. Matthew discusses the pearls in Matthew 13:45. “The kingdom of heaven is as a merchant searching for pearls… The angels will separate those who think themselves first/The Russia, from the charitable, the Tzaddic. He will throw the Russia into the furnace, where they will wail and grind their teeth.”

St. Matthew mentions this grinding of teeth in Matthew 8:12. Matthew 8:12 details just what the pearl is, and what Jesus wants from us. “Kyrie, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant will be healed. I am a person subject to authority, with soldiers subject to me. I tell one, ‘Go!’ and he goes; another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”

I too am a person subject to authority, with soldiers subject to me.” He is very small part of a grander whole. The centurion is an intermediary who cares for his charges. “The messengers will drive the children of the kingdom who do not see themselves as part of the grander whole into the darkness, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.” These people think of themselves first. They trust in themselves, not God or the grander whole. They must guard what they acquire.

The Jewish Passover Seder reads, “Your son will ask, “What do these testimonies, customs, and correct judicial precedents which the Personal Name, our Almighty Judge, enjoined on you, mean? You will respond, “We were once menial labor of Pharaoh in Egypt, but the Personal Name brought us out of Egypt with a strong hand… against Egypt… He brought us from there, to here, bringing us in, giving us the land he promised on oath our ancestors.”

Moses summoned all those who quarrel with God and told them, Hear, you who quarrel with God, the customs and correct judicial precedents I proclaim in your hearing, this day, to learn them and take care to guard them. The Personal Name, cut a Social Contract with us at Horeb; not with our ancestors did the Personal Name cut this Social Contract, but with us, each of us, alive, here, this day.”

The Jewish Passover Seder has four sons. The foolish one asks why “You” do these things. He is not a part of the community. The wise son asks why we do these things. He is a part of the community. ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. He is not the God of the dead but of the living.” The treasury is being part of a living community reaching back centuries and to God.

Please feel free to check out my Liturgy of the Hours website.

Be ἅλας to be ἁλιεῖς

Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the way to the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Ethnics, the people who sit in darkness have seen a great light, on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death light has arisen.”

St. Matthew wrote these words and they serve as the beginning of the Galilean Ministry. May in Reno, Nevada presuppose that Jesus and his followers were poor, fisherman by trade. Mary Magdalene, one of Jesus’ closest followers, present at his crucifixion, and at his resurrection. On the shores of Lake Galilee was a village, Magdala Nunayya, or the Tower of the fisheries. Mary Magdalene was from this village. In the Jewish War, 3:10, Josephus tells us the town, being a place of fisheries, was very wealthy.

Herod Antipas built Sepphoris, a town about nine miles from Jesus’ home at Nazareth. He also built his capital Tiberias on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee. Flavius Josephus wrote, “One may call this place the ambition of Nature.” Josephus also reported a thriving fishing industry at this time, with 230 boats regularly working in the lake. The Sea of Galilee was very much like Lake Tahoe, the lake on the Nevada, California border where all the rich people live.

This brings us to Matthew 4:15. “Galilee of the Ethnics,” tells us something very important about this region. “Galilee” is Hebrew for “Land of the Rolling Hills.” Galilee is the land of the rolling hills and it is the region of the Ethnics.

John 18:33 has Jesus and Pontius Pilate in extended dialogue. It would be less than feasible to expect a backwoods carpenter to discuss issues in Latin, the language of Pontius Pilate. The Romans had the same problem with their administrators that Americans have with their diplomats. The Roman Emperor picked people based upon their political positions, not their diplomatic skills. The Lingua Franca of the region was Koine Greek. The fishermen of that region, and by extension Jesus, were bilingual, speaking both Greek and Aramaic. Pilate, coming from that region, was bilingual, speaking Latin and Greek. The conversation was in their common language, Koine Greek.

Another intentional pun in St. Matthew comes in Matthew 9:16 and 9:24. The Aramaic word for wineskin and the Aramaic word for a little girl is, “טלית.” One does not poor new wine into an old wineskin. In the same way, the little girl rises into new life, not like she lived in the past. St. Matthew uses puns from both languages. He was bilingual, as were the other apostles.

If Jesus and the apostles were bilingual, and came from prosperous fishing villages, we must again look at who they were as people. They were not backwoods people like the back villages of Appalachia. They were sophisticated people from a place like Lake Tahoe in California and Nevada. We can look at the Gospels and see artisans in the art of writing.

The Gospel of St. Matthew relates, “Walking by the Sea of Galilee, Jesus saw two brothers, Simon, called Peter, and his brother Andrew, casting nets; they were fishermen/ἁλιεῖς. Jesus them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” They left their nets and followed him. He saw two other brothers, James, and his brother John the son of Zebedee. They were in a boat, with their father, mending/doing catharsis/καταρτίζοντα, their nets.”

A chapter later St. Matthew quotes Jesus, “You are the salt /ἅλας of the earth. If salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned? It is no longer strong for anything but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.” Fishermen/ ἁλιεῖς and salt/ ἅλας alliterate nicely with each other. This is an artisan at his craft. We are both the fishers sent out by Jesus and salt, which seasons the earth.

The kingdom of heaven is like a net thrown into the sea, which collects fish of every kind. When full, they haul it ashore and sit down to put what is beautiful into buckets. What is toilsome they throw away.” The fishermen, now fishers of men cast off their nets. Some they accept while others they cast off. The ones they accept have ἅλας, salt. The people the apostles accept add flavor to the world. They become fishermen, giving catharsis to the world. They mend the people, giving them the salt/flavor they need to survive in a very hostile world.

When the king came in to meet the guests he saw a man there not dressed in a wedding garment. He asked, ‘My friend, how is it that you came in here without a wedding garment?’ The man was reduced to silence. The king commanded his attendants, ‘Bind his hands and feet, and cast him into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.”

What did this hapless man do? What is the wedding garment? It comes back to being that ἁλιεῖς, that ἅλας. He did not have flavor. He was not that spice of life for others. In spite of the hostility of this world order, this cosmos, he did not flavor himself. He did not put on the new man. Somebody has to be the leader. When nobody else leads, when nobody else is the light of the world, remember, there are a billion stars in the sky. If the sun does not shine, let your star shine before men.

In this election season, we again complain that there are no leaders willing to promote Catholic Social Doctrine. We graduate 70,000 students from 225 Catholic colleges, universities, and law schools each hear and we have nobody to run for public office. We should provide that leadership, and not wait for others to do it for us.

God can make children of E Pluribus Unum from stones

Our Vatican II document, “Verbum Dei,” at our Cathedral in Reno Nevada tells us:

To search out the intention of the sacred writers, give attention among other things, to “literary forms…” The interpreter must investigate what meaning the sacred writer intended to express…in particular circumstances by using contemporary literary forms in accord with the situation of his own time and culture”

The Hebrew Hermeneutics St. Matthew used as a grammarian/scribe has a rule, “G’zerah Shavah.” This rule tells us, where the same words are applied to two separate cases, the same considerations apply to both.” St. Matthew tells us, “Do not tell yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you, God can raise up children to Abraham from these stones. The ax lies at the root of the trees. Every tree not bearing beautiful fruit will be cut and thrown into the fire.”

It is important to note, the Hebrew/Aramaic word for “Tree,” is the same as the Hebrew/Aramaic word for “Counselor.” When talking about trees, Jesus talks about the leadership of his time. The key word is “Stone.” The children of Abraham can come from stones, such as Peter/Petros/stone. One chapter later, The Great Accuser tells Jesus, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become bread.” If the tree refers to the leadership, the stone refers to the children of Abraham, the common people. Jesus’ temptation is to feed off the people, like the richest 1% feed off their employees today.

Jesus replies, “One does not live by bread alone, but by every word coming from the mouth of God.” One Hebrew word for justice is “שְׁפָּטִ,” which means lip. Justice comes from the lip of God. The quote is from Deuteronomy 8 and begins, “God allowed you to be afflicted with hunger, and fed you with manna, a food unknown to you and your fathers.” As Irish, Italian, German, and Polish Americans we must remember the suffering we received while living in Europe, in the sweatshops of the north, and in the slavery of the south.

The context of this passage is the Jewish 40 year walk through the desert, “Guard the Mitzvah of the Personal Name your Almighty Judge, walk in His ways, and look to Him.” Deuteronomy 8 goes on to tell us:

Guard to not forget the Personal Name your Almighty Judge, failing to guard his Mitzvah, correct judicial precedents, and customs… When you eat and are satisfied, have built fine houses and live in them… your silver and gold will increase, all your property will increase and you will become proud of heart and forget the Personal Name, your Almighty Judge, who brought you out of the land of Oppression…

That 20% of Americans bringing home over 70% of the wealth each year forgot. They forget the other warning, “You might say in your heart, “My own power and the strength of my own hand has got me this wealth.” Deuteronomy condemns the protestant work ethic, and rugged individualism. “The Personal Name, our Almighty Judge, gives you the power to get wealth, by fulfilling, as he has now done, the Brit he swore to your fathers.”

God put us on those boats to come to America. Too many Americans live in the other America, the ones who went off to Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan. They are Born, on the Fourth of July. They went to do the right thing. They suffer poverty, depression, alcoholism, discrimination, while draft dodgers who promote wars run for president and serve as president.

Jesus’ crucifixion echoes the words we read in the debate with the Great Accuser. Jesus addresses these words to the leadership of Israel in Jesus’ day, and our own leadership, political, in private enterprise, and religious. The temptation is in the Protestant work ethic and rugged individualism. God gives us wealth; we do not earn it.

The section ends with the Gospel of St. Matthew’s thesis statement. Jesus is tempted 40 days and 40 nights, one day and one night for each year of his life. The magi’s star appeared in 7 BC. Scholars firmly date the crucifixion at Passover, 33 A.D. St. Mark tells us how he lived with the Chaim, the living things, and the messengers/the apostles ministered to him. The Gospel, the story of Jesus’ walk as the apostles’ minister to him begins.

The next time we look at our Christmas tree, look at the ax marks. The next time we go camping in summer, look at the stones in the creek, and remember, God can make children of E Pluribus Unum from these stones.