The Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time, or “Why Eighteen?”

LectionarySt. Paul tells us in 2 Timothy 3:15-17, “From infancy you have known sacred writings, capable of giving you wisdom for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All of the writing is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for refutation, for correction, and for training in justice/charity; one who belongs to God may be competent, equipped for every noble work.” This implies every word in Torah is necessary.

The Reading for Saturday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time has unnecessary detail. “Some people told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with the blood of their sacrifices.”  “Those eighteen people who were killed when the tower at Siloam fell on them.” Luke does not tell us how many Galileans died, and does not count the “Some people.”

Identical-Twins1Eighteen is an odd number to count, until we learn how in Jewish parlance Chai is a symbol that captures an important aspect of Judaism. The letters Het (ח) and Yud (י) add up to the number 18. The Het has a value of 8 and the yud has a value of 10. Eighteen is a popular number that represents life.” In verse 11, the crippled woman was in the synagogue for the same 18 years. There is something to this eighteen.

fig_tree21“Three,” stands for completeness in Jewish thought. Three plus One is a number cluster that signals the fulfillment of God’s plans (Amos 1; Daniel 7:25, Proverbs 6:16-19, 30:18-19). This detail is here to teach something. When the gardener in our story talks about waiting a year, he adds three years to one more year, to allow God the change to bring the plant/mankind, to completeness/health.

Donkey Jenny and foulIn this crippled woman’s healing, there is discussion about whether or not it is proper to take an animal and lead it out for watering. Talmud/Sabbath/128 explicitly allows this. Jesus then argues from Kal Vahomer, heavy and light,  humans are more important than animals. The important issue is life. Life is more important than the rules because the rules are about promoting life. This is the reason for eighteen being mentioned three times in this passage, and no place else in the Gospels, or New Testament.

Seder plate smallJewish liturgy for Passover has the four sons. One asks, “The wise child asks: What are the testimonies, customs, and precedents which Kyrie our God commanded us?” The foolish one asks, “The foolish child asks mah zot, what is all this? And you should: ‘teach him the laws of Passover.” The wicked child asks: ‘what is all this work to you?’ He says to you and not to him. He separates himself from the community. You should set her/his teeth on edge (hak’he et shinav) and tell him God did this for me when I went out of Egypt, for me and not for her/him. Had he been there, he would not have been redeemed.”

It is with this that we read Jesus’ response about the crippled woman. “This daughter of Abraham…” She is coming to life. She is a member of the community. You are too strung out on the rules. In the process of trying to exclude the Galileans killed by Pilate, the eighteen killed by the tower, and this woman, the only people you really exclude are yourselves. This is why Jesus says, “If you do not repent, you will all perish as they did!” In essence, no, they did not suffer because of anything they did, but if you do not get your act straight, you are next.  Do not say, “They suffer because…” When we do, we only cut off ourselves. Choose life, choose being a member of a vibrant faith community.

Pope Francis at the UN

40759_168586576501331_100000499694318_509990_7405809_nIf God is transcendent, he transcends logic. If he transcends logic, he transcends words. If he transcends words, he transcends anything we can say about him. God is also imminent, caring about each person. If God is transcendent, we are obliged to see his transcendence in each person and in the environment. Our Pope told us in his address to the UN, Mankind as chemical and biological components. He is part of the planet, yet spiritual.

Our Pope went on to discuss ramifications of these words. When Jesus gives the parable of the Sower in Mark 4:24, he says, “See what you hear. “ Luke 7:44 has, “Jesus… told Simon, “Do you see this woman?” This idea was a component of our Pope’s speech. Our Pope tells us how the focus must be upon the individual person and not on the abstractions of vocation, ethnic group, or religious preferences. Mark 7:31 begins the story of the deaf man. Mark 8:22 begins the healing of the blind man. In Mark 8:22, the key word is “Trees.” The Hebrew and Aramaic, for “Tree” and four “Councilor,” is “Eights.” The first time Jesus touches the blind man he sees Tees/councilors/ professions/abstractions. The second time he sees differently. He sees humanity as human. Our Pope calls us to the same.

Pope Francis UNOur Pope begins the heart of his presentation, condemning the unlimited power of our technology. He points relates sciences knows the Catholic doctrine of “Natural Law” as the “Law of Nature.” He condemns the unchecked use of “Natural Law.” “Brothers should stand by each other; this is the first law; keep a true bond between you always, at every time because if you fight among yourselves, you’ll be devoured by those outside.”

He mentions, “A true “right of the environment” does exist for two reasons. First, human beings are part of the environment. We live in communion with it, the environment itself entails ethical limits which human activity must acknowledge and respect…. Second, every creature, particularly a living creature, has an intrinsic value, in its existence, its life, its beauty and its interdependence with other creatures. We… believe the universe is the fruit of a loving decision by the Creator, who permits man respectfully to use creation for the good of his fellow men and for the glory of the Creator…”

Christina Cook 2Our Pope calls us to constant reformation and adoption to approach our final-end, God. He speaks of seeing the humanity in each person. From this comes the desire to eliminate war, global exploitation, capital punishment, and a host of other evils. As he addressed Congress, our Pope speaks of the constant need to look to the general welfare, a technical term used in Catholic Theology and in Secular and Catholic Moral Philosophy. This is the same common good mentioned in our Declaration of Independence and in our Constitution. Our Pope calls to see ourselves as integral parts of our environment, constantly looking for the common good, and to communion with God.

The healing of the Leper, and John’s healing of the blind man point the way to the healing of the paralytic

ParalyticA leper came to Jesus kneeled down and begged him, “If you wish, you can make me clean.” Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand, touched him, and said, “I do will it. Be clean.” The leprosy immediately left him, and he was clean.

If we do not know Hebrew/Aramaic, we will miss the important part of the passage. “וַיָּבוֹא אֵלָיו אִישׁ מְצרָע. Exodus 1:1, “ וְאֵלֶּה שְׁמוֹת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל הַבָּאִים מִצְרָיְמָה.” “These are the names of the sons of Israel when they came to Egypt.” Notice the shape of the last letters of both passages. “מְצרָע.”

The word for Egypt and the word for Leprosy is the same word. The Hebrew word for Egypt is the word for Oppression, anywhere, at any time. The Hebrew word for a wasp is “מְצרָע.”

“Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may preach there also. For this purpose have I have come.” Jesus preaches freedom from oppression, and this healing points the way.

Jesus heals the blind manHere is the story of the blind man in John’s Gospel.

His disciples asked, “Rabbi, who deviated, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither he nor his parents deviated; it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him.” He replied, “The man called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes and told me, ‘Go to Siloam (Sent/“let my people go) and wash.”

We see reference to the Exodus, just as we did in the healing of the leper. The Semitic origins of the Gospel are all through the Gospels when we know where to look for them. The important thing to notice, however are how there are other reasons for suffering than punishment.

Prodigal sonOne more story is required before discussing the paralytic, the story of the prodigal son, Luke 15: 11. Notice, the older son’s behavior.

In no place does the story relate how the older son came to know how the younger one lost his money. We, know it was squandered, but as far as the older son knows, he invested well, but lost anyway.

In Deuteronomy’s Ten Commandments, the word for “False,” as in, “Do not bear false witness,” is the same word used in “Vain,” as in “Do not take God’s name in vain.” Vain witness is saying something, improvable true or not. The older son does just that. He does not know how the younger son lost his money, but tells a tale anyway.

ParalyticThey came bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. When Jesus saw their faith, he told the paralytic, “Child, your errors are forgiven.” Some grammarians sat, asking, “Why does this man speak that way? He slanders. Who but God alone can forgive errors?”

Jesus said, “Why are you thinking such things? Which is easier, to tell the paralytic, ‘Your errors are forgiven,’ or, ‘Rise, pick up your mat and walk’? That you may know that the Son of Man has authority to forgive sins on earth, rise, pick up your mat; go home.” Many have undertaken to guess the sin/error of the paralytic. This presupposes he has one, just as the older son in the prodigal son story presupposes that his returning younger brother must have squandered the money.

In, “Rise, pick up your mat and go home,” Jesus plays the domineer role. “Do this; do that; do the next thing.” The process continues. Assuming the paralytic’s guilt, the grammarians also continue the process.

The paralytics paralysis would be from guilt, not error, if he were the victim of child abuse. The only cure would be to undo the decades of abuse for real and imagined faults. Jesus would be correct even if the child is guilty of no more than anyone else is. “Child, your errors are forgiven.” This addresses how guilt paralyzes the child.

For the healing to work, the paralytic must believe Jesus has the authority to forgive his real or imagined error. Whatever he did wrong in the past will succeed now. He must feel empowered. A third thing that is required is that he must know what to do next. With Jesus’ choice of empowerment, the child’s sense of gratitude will show him what to do next. No more directions are required. Love/gratitude for the weight of past abuse being lifted impels him ever forward.

“That you may know that the Son of Man has authority to forgive sins, rise, pick up your mat; go home.” In the Psalms and Ezekiel, “Son of Man” refers to all people. All have the authority to forgive sins/errors. “Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may preach there also. For this purpose have I have come.” Jesus leaves the village. He cannot empower the child. If the paralytic is going to be empowered it is going to have to be by those who remain, us.

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.”

Seder plate small

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.

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.


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.”


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.

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.


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.”