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 kingdom of heaven is like a bottle of fine Champaign


“The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls. When he finds a pearl of great price, he goes and sells all that he has and buys it.

Champagne_uncorking_photographed_with_a_high_speed_air-gap_flash

The kingdom of heaven is like a net thrown into the sea, which collects fish of every kind. When it is full they haul it ashore and sit down to put what is good into buckets. What is bad they throw away. So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will go out and separate the Russia from the Tzaddic.”

Many run to this passage with the great Eureka moment. They found it; they found the pearl of great price in the person of Jesus Christ. They do not have a clue who Jesus is, and would not want to sit next to him on a jet airliner, but they find in him the pearl of great price. There is something else wrong with this interpretation of this passage. The kingdom of heaven is not like a pearl of great price. The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant searching for that pearl.

The kingdom of heaven is like a fine glass of Champagne. It cannot help but to boil over. In the same way, in the parable of the sower, just before this passage, the sower sows seed at will.

The people who sit in darkness have seen a great light,on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death light has arisen.” From that time on, Jesus began to preach, “Teshuvah, for the kingdom of heaven is near you, touching you.” Matthew 4: 16-17

I tell you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. Matthew 5:44-45

Go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, make this proclamation: ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Matthew 10:6-7

This Mitzvah I give you today is not too wondrous or remote for you. It is not in the heavens, that you should say, “Who will go up to the heavens to get it for us and tell us of it, that we may do it?” Nor is it across the sea, that you should say, “Who will cross the sea to get it for us and tell us of it, that we may do it?” No, it is something very near to you, in your mouth and in your heart. Deuteronomy 30:11-14

This is the merchant Jesus speaks of. The pearl is not the word of God, at least in this parable. You, the reader, are the pearl. Every person made in the image of God, that means everyone, is the pearl. The merchant is the Word of God, searching for everyone to return. The Hebrew word “חֵטְא” does not necessarily mean “moral failure,” “sin,” but failure in general. In the great fall, we found we failed. God does not so much care about that. He only seeks our return. We, you are the pearl of great price and Jesus gave his only son, he sold all, so his pearl might return. Will you?

The Second chapter of John tells the story of the wedding at Cana.

Now there were six stone water jars there for Jewish ceremonial washings, each holding twenty to thirty gallons.

Jesus told them, “Fill the jars with water.”

They filled them to the brim.

He told them, “Draw some out now and take it to the head waiter.”

They took it, and when the head waiter tasted the water that had become wine, without knowing where it came from (although the servers who had drawn the water knew), the headwaiter called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves good wine first, and then when people have drunk freely, an inferior one; but you have kept the good wine until now.”

The secret to understanding this passage is that the average person is about the same size as twenty to thirty gallons. When we receive penance, we become like Champagne that cannot help but to bubble over. That is the point to today’s readings. We need to be the type of person who cannot help but to bubble over.

The kingdom of heaven is like a great waterfall with water constantly falling over the edge. To understand this parable, we need to read the first parable in this series. “A sower went out to sow. As he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and birds came and ate it up.” If the Word of God is within us, if we are the sower, and the merchant, the word of God will flow from us, much like a geyser, not caring upon whom it falls. Through us, the word of God falls upon all kinds of fish/people.

Jesus proposed another parable: “The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a man who sowed good seed in his field. While everyone was asleep, his enemy came and sowed weeds all through the wheat, and then went off. When the crop grew and bore fruit, the weeds appeared as well.

The workers of the householder came to him and said, ‘Adonis, did you not sow satisfying seed in your field? Where have the weeds come from?’

He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ His slaves told him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’

He replied, ‘No, if you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them.”

Lolium_temulentum H. Zell authorDarnels

If the kingdom of heaven is the merchant, the question is about how we are to sow our seed, and spread the word. As our congregations prosper and grow, how are we to clean out the weeds that grow among our wheat? People of all kinds. Fish of all kinds will come to our congregation, looking for our pearl. Some will have honest intentions, and some not. Jesus answer is not to worry about that. God causes it to rain on the just and the unjust. The kingdom is all around us. The Champagne pours out of the bottle and falls on everybody.

As the people in the congregation grow, the dishonest ones will show themselves for who they are. At the time of the harvest, the messengers, us, will be called to separate the sheep from the goats. Matthew 25-31-Matthew 26:1

The angels/messengers/kings/Molechim, will go out and separate the Russia from the Tzaddic.” The Hebrew word, Russia, generally translates as “wicked.” It comes from the same root as “Rosh Hashanah.” This means ‘the first’ of the year.” “Russia” in this context, does not refer to the nation, but to an attitude, those who think themselves first. “Tzaddic,” in Hebrew, means both “just,” and “Charitable.” If fine Champagne, the word of God, is within us, we will not think ourselves first and in a position to judge others in the congregation, whether they are wheat or darnels.

Young_Wheat_crop_in_a_field_near_Solapur,_Maharashtra,_India Akshay.paramatmuni1987Wheat

The word within us is the Champagne, which falls upon everyone. The word within us is the uncontrollable geyser, which pours its joy upon everyone. That is the message of today’s Gospel. If the word is within us, people will see that Champagne pour from us and want to join the great post game party.

Again, similar is the Kingdom of Heaven to a commercial merchant seeking beautiful margaritas. When he finds a margarita of great price, he goes and sells all that he has and buys it.

What does he do after this? The Kingdom of Heaven to a commercial merchant seeking beautiful margaritas… The cycle repeats itself…

The  kingdom is not in the finding, it is in the seeking. It seeks us and asks us to seek it in return. 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. The Kingdom of Heaven is not in finding the pearl, but in the searching through Torah to find it.

“We speak a wisdom to those who are mature, but not a wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age who are passing away. We speak God’s wisdom, mysterious, hidden, which God predetermined before the ages for our importance, and which none of the rulers of this age knew; for if they had known it, they would not have crucified the Kyrie of weight.”

“I became a minister by the gift of God’s grace that was granted me in accord with the exercise of his power. To me, the very least of all the dedicated ones, this grace was given, to preach to the ethnics the inscrutable riches of Christ, and to bring to light what is the plan of the mystery hidden from ages past in God who created all things, so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the principalities and authorities in the heavens.”

Lolium_temulentum_002Darnels

The Gospel is not known, it is mystery. Our idea of sacrament comes from this word, “Mysterion,” Mystery. Matthew and Mark write in a way implying Jesus was forty when he died. Luke says he was thirty. John writes he was forty seven. Matthew implies Jesus was born in the fall. Luke implies it was at Christmas. We do not know which is true. The truth is not known; the truth is in the fog, and God likes it that way. If someone says they completely understand Torah or Gospel, they say they can see clearly in the fog. We know what to think of people who say they can see clearly in the fog.

One old rabbi once wrote how the Torah was written by men three thousand years and eight thousand miles distant from us. It should seem strange and distant from us. If it does not, we understand it wrongly. The truth is not in the finding; the truth is in the seeking. It seeks us, and if we are to be thirty, sixty, a hundred fold, we will seek it as well.

 

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.

Investigate the great sin of Sodom and see if we can find it in America


The Personal Name said: “The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great, their deviation so grave, that I must go down and see whether or not their actions fully correspond to the cry against them that comes to me. I mean to find out.”

What is the crime that was so great, and the deviation so grave that God felt compelled to investigate it?

Entering RenoLook at the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters were proud, sated with food, complacent in prosperity. They did not give any help to the poor and needy. Instead, they became arrogant and did things which made me nauseous and they did them before my face. As you have seen, I removed them. Ezekiel 16:49-50

Sherry's home at the ranchWhen the Personal Name saw how great the rot of human beings was on earth, and how every desire that their heart conceived was always nothing but rot, the Personal Name regretted making human beings on the earth, and his heart was grieved.

The Personal Name said: I will wipe out from the earth the human beings I have created, and not only the human beings, but also the animals and the crawling things and the birds of the air, for I regret that I made them. Genesis 6:5-6

The earth was mutilated before God, and the earth was filled with violence. God saw the earth, and, it was mutilated; for all flesh had mutilated their way upon the earth. Genesis 6:11-12

Hear the word of the Personal Name, princes of Sodom! Listen to the instruction of our God, people of Gomorrah! What do I care for the multitude of your sacrifices/Liturgies? says the Personal Name. I have had enough of holocausts and fat of fatlings. In the blood of calves, lambs, and goats I find no pleasure. Appearing before me, who asks these things of you?

Trample my courts no more! Bringing offerings is useless; incense is nauseating to me. New moon and Sabbath Services, calling assemblies, festive convocations with oppression, these I cannot bear. Your new moons and festivals I detest; they weigh me down, I tire of the load…I will not listen. Your hands are full of blood! Wash yourselves! Put away your misdeeds from before my eyes; cease doing rot; learn to do what satisfied me. Make correct judicial precedent your aim: redress the wronged, hear the orphan’s plea, defend the widow. Isaiah 1:10-17

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. Deuteronomy 30:11

The deviation of Sodom and Gomorrah is not hard to find, in the valley of the Dead Sea, or in the United States, Nevada, or Reno. Sorry, conservatives, but Torah has far better quotes against homosexuality. Sodom and Gomorrah have nothing to do with it. Legalism has everything to do with Sodom and Gomorrah, not sexual behavior. Basic civility has everything to do with the place, not what goes on in the bedroom.

Compare last week’s reading with this reading. Abraham serves non-kosher food to angels and they are satisfied. The dietary laws of the nation are less important than civility to strangers. Now compare this to this week’s readings:

Before they bedded themselves, the townsmen of Sodom, both young and old, all the people to the last man, surrounded the house. They called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to your house tonight? Bring them out to us that we may וְנֵדְעָה אֹתָם be crushed by them.” The נֵ in front of דְעָה makes it passive.

Lot went out to meet them at the entrance.

He shut the door behind him, and said, “I beg you, my brothers, do not do this rotten thing! I have two daughters who have never יָדְעוּ אִישׁ known men. Let me bring them out to you, and you may do to them as you please. Do not do anything to these men, for they have come under the shelter of my roof.”

They replied, “Stand back! This man, came here as a resident alien, and now he dares to give orders! We will treat you worse than them!”

Notice the importance of “The shelter of my roof.” We have the civility of Lot and his dealings with his neighbors, men who view him as a resident alien, much as we view Hispanics and Muslims today, Irish, Italians, Poles, Jews, and others a century ago. Lot would treat guests in his home better than he would treat his own daughters. As a punishment of a kind, his daughters will know him, in the biblical way. His neighbors will not know his guests.

Like so many in our nation today, we see an extreme paranoia. These people do not like strangers coming into their city/nation. Lot brings three more, and this is the issue. “Sodom and her daughters were proud, sated with food, complacent in prosperity. They did not give any help to the poor and needy.

Instead, they became arrogant and did things which made me nauseous and they did them before my face.” This nation has plenty for all, if only we can learn to share. This lack of civility, of Sodom, of our rich and powerful in every time and place is the great deviation of Sodom, and no more.Cheeseburger

What some Bidoun fed strangers three millennium ago relates to how we read Torah


In our Cathedral in Reno Nevada we read the first reading and the Gospel reading and find one very powerful thing in common.

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.

Sarah is much like Mary in this story and Abraham is so much like Martha. 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.

Cheeseburger

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.

As related in the article, “Its over so eat your chickenfeed forget Travyon Martin and the Zimmerman Trial,” Jesus confronts the young scholar using the parable. Dogma may be in the head of the legal scholar, but the truth is in his heart, and Jesus is about to put it in his mouth. Over time, dogma comes to trump reality, what we see with our eyes, hear with our ears, and feel with our own skin. A teaching designed to teach kindness even to animals has become a stale, cold dietary law. The writer of this story about the birth of Isaac, confronts this.

Abraham serves the three messengers of God, a non-Kosher meal and they do not object. As Christians, we like to speak of the Gospel truth. We quote the Bible chapter and verse like it is a law book. We refer to Torah, as law. “Torah,” in Hebrew, does not mean “Law,” but “Teaching.” There is an important difference.

We quote Deuteronomy 5: Moses told unto them: Hear, Israel, the statutes and the ordinances which I speak in your ears this day, that ye may learn them, and observe to do them.”

This is a bad translation, The Hebrew, הַחֻקִּים, does not translate as “Statute,” a legal term, but as custom. “הַמִּשְׁפָּטִים,” does not translate as “Ordinance,” but as “Judicial Precedent.” Think of Ruth, chapter four. Boaz goes to the gate with the other elders in the community and, as a community; they decide the case of Ruth. This is “הַמִּשְׁפָּטִים,” not the US Supreme Court.

This brings us to the first reading. Most scholars now agree that one of the twists of fate, Deuteronomy, which means “Second Giving of the Law,” was probably the first one given. Torah, the Five Books of Moses, is generally divided into three parts, Halacha, or “Walk,” Haggadah, or story, and Midrash, or interpretation. Deuteronomy, or “Walk,” probably came first. Then came the story to back up, and in the case of our first reading, contradict, the “Walk” of cold dietary law.

Israel does not mean, Ish are, El, or “Upright of God,” but “Ishar, El,” “Struggles with God.” Torah is the history of that struggle, as a community. It is full of contradictions; several different groups are engaged in debate in Torah, as to who God is and what he wants. It is a dynamic text, relating the dynamics of that struggle, and we need to read it that way.

Abraham’s feeding a non-kosher meal to angels relates part of the dynamics of that struggle. The writers of Torah as we have it were in dialectic/dialogue. To truly understand Torah we must enter that dialogue.

Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said, “Adonis, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.”

Adonis replied, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.”

One important hint, “Martha,” in Hebrew is the perfect tense of the verb, “Mary,” or “Teacher.” Both women have the same name. Martha is that part of us that wants statutes and the ordinances.

Mary is that part of us who wants Torah, teachings, things to meditate upon, narratives that teach things, and not required walks down some straight, “Iashar,” path. Mary desires to enter into the dialogue, and that means spending time with the text and the 120 writers who wrote it.

food laws

Statutes and ordinances are easy. Learning from Hagaddah and Aesop’s Fables, the customs and traditions of a people two to four thousand years and seven thousand miles distance from us takes time. Mary chose the better path, and it will not be taken from her. We err in not taking her path ourselves.

Its over so eat your chicken feed and forget Travyon Martin


When this writer was growing up he would often travel the 318 some odd miles from Levittown, PA to Vandgergrift, in the same state. When we would arrive, we would visit Aunt Bess, Uncle Dean, Margie, Sherlie, Robin and across the street, Aunt Betty, Uncle Sai, Debbie, Diane, Doris, and Danny. The hike across the street and up the hill on Uncle Sai’s property was well worth the trip. Aunt Betty made the best chicken. The spices were just right, not too hot, and not too bland.

Red hens courtesy Examiner Cheryl Hanna

Today, for the Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Father Matthew related a similar story of his growing up, from the standpoint of the chickens Aunt Betty and Uncle Sai were raising in their back yard, as my grandfather, Uncle Sai’s dad raised before him. Every Sunday, and every time we came to visit, Uncle Sai would go into the backyard, grab one of the chickens, and snap its neck. As Father Matthew related, the other chickens would understand the horror of losing one of their own. After some time, they would then go about eating their chicken feed. After all, Aunt Betty and Uncle Sai did take good care of them, only buying the best chickenfeed, building the best roosts, and the like. It is the same in our world.

Every once in a while we do lose one of our own, whether it be Rodney King, Yoshihiro Hattori, Timothy Thomas, Lt. William Calley and My Lai, the students at UC Davis, the students at Kent State University, those killed in the Triangle Shirtwaist factory, the Bangladesh factory collapse, the Hamlet fire, Katrina, the Deep Water Horizon, where ten died, and many, many more. Sadly, we sometimes lose one of our own who is unarmed at the hands of establishment folk, who get away with it. We see this in the case of the first three cases above and in the case of Travyon Martin. Father Matthew asked why we choose to go back to eating our chicken feed. It is a good question.

APTOPIX ICELAND VOLCANOSometimes, we find the system just too big and powerful to take on. That may be one of the reasons the Pharisees and the Sadducees in our Gospel reading, the story of the scholar of the law, choose not to confront Imperial Rome. Those of us in the American Middle Class find it easier to live our middle-class lifestyle than to confront injustice when we see it. It was Gertrude this week, not me, why bother. We forget that the generous people who give us those nice jobs this week, might just be fattening us up for next week.

There is another, more important reason, that brings us to the first reading for this Fifteenth Sunday of Ordinary time. That is the importance of Dogma, Doctrine, in Hebrew, Halakha, or walk, Torah or teaching. It is the code, written and unwritten by which we live our lives, sometimes conservative, and sometimes liberal. We love to live by this, and not what we see around us. Our first reading tells us:

This Mitzvah which 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.

declaration-of-independenceThe scholar tries to make excuses for what he is doing. He tries to hide behind the very legal code written to protect us, to protect himself what is right and wrong. Jewish tradition told the young scholar that he was not to go next to a corps. The priests and the levites were therefore liturgically correct in not approaching the man on the road. Jesus confronts the young scholar using the parable. Jesus confronts the young scholar using the parable. Dogma may be in his head, but the truth is in his heart, and Jesus is about to put it in his mouth.

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, then, that you and your descendants may live. The command, the Mitzvah, is to always choose life. It is just that simple. The Mitzvah is to choose life from conception to the grave. This is what the evil Samaritan does. He is not so evil after all. He knows to choose life, and this is the essence of the true Torah.

We see the same in the Travyon Martin story and in all the other tragedies mentioned above, and not mentioned. When we strip away the excuses and look at the incident with our own eyes, and our hearts instead of our dogma and our heads, we learn the correct answer, “choose life!” If we let this one go, Uncle Sai will be back next Sunday, or the next Sunday those strange people in that Rambler American station wagon show up.

Father Matthew also mentioned Matthew 25:31-Matthew 26:1, the Address to the Nations. “As you do to the least of these, you did it to me.” We see the same excuse making, in this story, as with the young scholar, “Adonoi, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?”

“We chose to hole ourselves up in our suburban neighborhoods and not see you hungry, thirsty, or in prison.” The minorities are not like us. We choose not to see them. They live over there. They are not my problem. We choose not to see that Matthew 26:1 begins the Passion. As we do to the least of our brothers, we do it to Jesus himself.

Father Matthew was mistaken on one key point. He chose the standard “dogma” which says none of us are worthy of the Kingdom of Heaven. This is standard Pauline dogma. The truth is that we are all worthy, but not because of something we did or did not do. In this point he is correct.

We know that what the law/Torah/teaching says is addressed to those under Torah, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world stand accountable to God, since no human being will be a Tzaddic/charitable/just in his sight by observing Torah; for through Torah comes consciousness of deviation. The Tzaddicim/charity of God has been manifested apart from the Torah, though testified to by Torah and prophets. Romans 3:19

Dogma, Torah, the Law, does not save us. Teddy Kennedy, quoted below, explained what does. Justification, becoming a Tzaddic, just, righteous, charitable before God, does not come from dogma, doctrine, right wing or left wing. Tzaddic comes from Deuteronomy 30. It comes from looking with our eyes and seeing wrong and trying to right it, seeing suffering and trying to heal it, seeing war and trying to stop it.

The future does not belong to those who are content with today, apathetic toward common problems and their fellow man alike, timid and fearful in the face of new ideas and bold projects. Rather it will belong to those who can blend vision, reason and courage in a personal commitment to the ideals and great enterprises of American Society.

Courtesy Holy Land Pilgrimage  Jordon RiverOur future may lie beyond our vision, but it is not completely beyond our control. It is the shaping impulse of America that neither fate nor nature nor the irresistible tides of history, but the work of our own hands, matched to reason and principle, that will determine our destiny. There is pride in that, even arrogance, but there is also experience and truth. In any event, it is the only way we can live.”

For the fortunate among us, there is the temptation to follow the easy and familiar paths of personal ambition and financial success so grandly spread before those who enjoy the privilege of education. This is being content with our chickenfeed. But that is not the road history has marked out for us.

Like it or not, we live in times of danger and uncertainty. But they are also more open to the creative energy of men than any other time in history. All of us will ultimately be judged, and as the years pass we will surely judge ourselves on the effort we have contributed to building a new world society and the extent to which our ideals and goals have shaped that event.

“What it really all adds up to is love — not love as it is described with such facility in popular magazines, but the kind of love that is affection and respect, order and encouragement, and support. Our awareness of this was an incalculable source of strength, and because real love is something unselfish and involves sacrifice and giving, we could not help but profit from it.”

When Jesus says, “Take courage,” this is what he means


After entering a boat, Jesus made the crossing, and came into his own town. People brought a paralytic lying on a stretcher to him.

When Jesus saw their faith, he told the paralytic, “Courage, child, your deviations are forgiven.”

69717_470024576383223_55557459_nScribes told themselves, “This man is slandering.”

Jesus knew what they were thinking, said, “Why do you harbor evil thoughts? Which is easier, to say, ‘Your deviations are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’?”

That you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive deviations he then said to the paralytic, “Rise, pick up your stretcher, and go home.”

He rose and went home. When the crowds saw this they were struck with awe and spoke well of God who had given such authority to men.

While he was saying these things, a leader came forward, knelt down before him, “My daughter has just died. But come, lay your hand on her, and she will live.”

Jesus rose and followed him, and so did his disciples.

A woman suffering hemorrhages for twelve years came up behind him and touched the tassel on his cloak.

She said to herself, “If only I can touch his cloak, I shall be cured.”

Jesus turned around and saw her, “Courage, daughter! Your faith has saved you.”

From that hour the woman was cured.

voiceDuring the fourth watch of the night, Jesus came toward them, walking on the sea. When the disciples saw him walking on the sea they were terrified.

“It is a ghost,” they said, and they cried out in fear.

Jesus spoke to them, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”

Peter replied, “Personal Name, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”

Jesus said, “Come.”

Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus.

Sockeye, aren't they just gorgeous fish  Christina CookHebrew has a rhetorical rule, “G’zerah Shavah,” “An analogy is made between two separate texts on the basis of a similar phrase, word or root – i.e., where the same words are applied to two separate cases, it follows that the same considerations apply to both.”

The key word is “Courage,” and St. Matthew uses the word only three times, all listed above. One other point needs to be noted in interpreting these passages and this is where our passages for the Thursday of the Thirteenth Week in Ordinary Time, the Fourth of July, 2013, apply for today.

Speak to the Israelites (those who quarrel with God) and 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 Mitzvah and you will do them, without prostituting yourself going after the desires of your hearts and your eyes. Thus you will remember to do all my Mitzvah and you will be dedicated to your Almighty Judge.

We must remember there are two women in the second story. The first is twelve years old, and the second has an ailment for twelve years. There are twelve tribes of Israel, a nation ill because wealth is concentrated in the hands of the few.

When the woman in the second story reaches out to the cloak, she does not reach out to a piece of cloth hanging from Jesus’ clothing. She reaches out to a tradition and all it represents, and has represented for two thousand years. It is now two thousand years since this woman reached out to that cloak. This is a tradition about how to make the perfect society.

We can be sure that St. Matthew puts the two stories together, and ties them with the key words, “Take Courage,” for a reason. God calls us to reach out for that cord, a cord commanding us not to reach out with our hearts and our eyes, following the ways of the world, but to strike out and strive to make the perfect community.

Jesus spoke to them, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”

Peter replied, “Personal Name, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”

Jesus said, “Come.”

Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus.

After doing so, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When it was evening he was there alone. Meanwhile the boat, already a few miles offshore, was being tossed about by the waves, for the wind was against it.

The wind, all too often seems to be against us. The wealthiest 20% of the population control 80% of the wealth. That means they also contribute 80% of all donations into the church coffers. They sit on all the boards, write the budgets, and are the main voices Father hears when he asks what needs to be in his homilies. We strike against them to our peril. Nothing is worse than spitting into the wind, as the old saying goes, yet that is what we must do.

Jesus commands us to get into the water with him. The next stop is Gennesaret, where Jesus healed the Legion.

After making the crossing, they came to land at Gennesaret. When the men of that place recognized him, they sent word to all the surrounding country. People brought to him all those who were sick and begged him that they might touch only the tassel on his cloak, and as many as touched it were healed.G’zerah Shavah applies again. There is the emphasis of the touching of cloaks, the symbol of what it means to be a nation, following God and not the ways of the nations, after the hearts and the eyes. There is the emphasis of healing other people. Our nation has similar traditions:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

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-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion, that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

In a sense we have come to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men would be guaranteed the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to open the doors of opportunity to all of God’s children. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quick sands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood.

We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

If America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!

Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!

Not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

When this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

When Jesus says, “Take courage,” this is what he means. He commands us to create a society where all people can say, “Free at last;” free from illness, free from poverty, free to be people made in the image of God. Are we this free people?