Who do you say I am? Say it in pantomine.


What do the readings for the Twenty-Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time have to do with these photos?

DadJesus asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” They replied, “John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others one of the Naviim/prophets.” He asked, “Who do you say that I am?”

Take out the names of those listed, and put in the name of your father and other relatives. Along the way Dad asked his children, “Who do people say that I am?” They replied, “You are just like Uncle Dick. Others say you are like Uncle Tom, still others one of the other uncles in our extended family.” This changes the passage but it makes a powerful point. Can you describe God or Jesus in the same way you would describe your father. God is the ultimate father. What is he like? What does he stand for? What is his personality like?

“Parents have the first responsibility for the education of their children. They bear witness to this responsibility first by creating a home where tenderness, forgiveness, respect, fidelity, and disinterested service are the rule.” (CCC 2223) Jesus goes on, “Jesus summoned the crowd with his disciples and told them, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” Our Gospel tells us, we must take on the same personality as Jesus. If we do not know or care about who Jesus is, what he is like, what his personality is, how can we strive to become like him?

558680_4898175579913_954615946_nIt was impossible to upset my father. He would either say when I told him a lie, “I heard that story before…that is what I told my dad and he did not believe me either,” or the ever popular, “Boys will be boys… and dads will be dads. ” It was OK to be imperfect. There is a natural consequence. Jesus was perfect, but only quotes scripture to Satan and the Pharisees. Jesus knows human temptations. In the Navy in New York Harbor for the bicentennial, a gay sailor would always say when he saw others make mistakes, “Welcome to the human race.” God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are like this. The Trinity expects us to act like this.

James writes, “If a brother or sister has nothing to wear has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well, ” but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it? Faith without works is dead.”

courtesy Dor Smeltzer Beacon 3 Nation comes from Latin and shares the same root as nativity. Nation means, family,  born together by common heritage. The extended family, the rest of nation and humanity, has a role in supporting the nuclear family. We make sure none hunger, thirst, lack adequate clothing, housing, healthcare, or transportation. We tell people who Jesus is, not by our words, but by our actions.

Put the academics aside and your heart will tell you what the command of God is


“Gird your loins and light your lamps and be like servants who await their master’s return from a wedding, ready to open immediately when he comes and knocks. Blessed are those servants whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival.”

So begins the Gospel reading for our Cathedral in Reno Nevada, this Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time. How do we get ready? What does God ask us as Americans, and as Catholics to do?

courtesy Dor Smeltzer Beacon 3

I teach you the customs and correct judicial precedents as the Personal Name my Almighty Judge, commanded me, for you may guard them in the land you enter to possess. Guard them and do them, for this being the midwife of your mind and building up of your thoughts in the sight of the peoples, who will hear of all these customs and say, “What nation has mighty ones so close to it as the Personal Name, our Almighty Judge, is to us whenever we call upon him? What great nation has customs and correct judicial precedents that are as charitable as this whole teaching I set before you, this day? Deuteronomy 4: 5-8

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 30:11-14

courtesy Dor Smeltzer Beacon 8The Personal Name, your Almighty Judge, will bless you abundantly in the land The Personal Name, your Almighty Judge, will give you to possess as a heritage. There shall be no one of you in need, if you but listen to the voice of The Personal Name, your Almighty Judge, and carefully observe this entire Mitzvah I enjoin on you today. The Personal Name, your Almighty Judge, will bless you as he promised, you will lend to many nations, and borrow from none; you will rule over many nations, and none will rule over you.

If one of your kindred is in need in any community in the land which The Personal Name, your Almighty Judge, is giving you, you will not harden your heart nor close your hand against your kin who is in need. Instead, you shall freely open your hand and generously lend what suffices to meet that need. When you give, give generously and not with a stingy heart; for that, The Personal Name, your Almighty Judge, will bless you in all your works and undertakings. The land will never lack for needy persons; that is why I command you: “Open your hand freely to your poor and to your needy kin in your land.” Deuteronomy 15:4-11

Most scholars now agree how these words were not likely written by Moses, but by some unknown author at one of two dates.

The grammarian Shaphan informed the king, “Hilkiah the priest gave me a book,” and then Shaphan read it in the presence of the king. When the king heard the words of the book of the law, he tore his garments. He then issued this command to Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam, son of Shaphan, Achbor, son of Micaiah, Shaphan the grammarian, and Asaiah the king’s servant: II Kings, 22:10-13

This comes from chapter 22 of a 25-chapter book. At the book’s end, the Babylonians come and the era of the kings was over. Most scholars view the book in question to be our book of Deuteronomy. Some scholars date Deuteronomy even later, during the exile. In either case, the book does not look forward to the ideal state, but backward, trying to find out what went wrong. How did the society founded by God himself, and with such high ideals, as related in Deuteronomy 4, so deviate from what was supposed to be?

“There shall be no one of you in need… if you but listen to the voice of The Personal Name… The land will never lack for needy persons,” as Deuteronomy 15 tells us. The key phrase is, “if you but listen to the voice of The Personal Name…” What does that voice say? “It is something very near to you, in your mouth and in your heart, to do it. Deuteronomy 30:11-14 “I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life!…” Deuteronomy 30:19. God knows how we will not keep this Mitzvah. Therefore, there will be needy in the land. Therefore, we must strive to return to God by helping the needy. This is choosing life.

We often find it easier to live by the written law book than to follow the dictates of Deuteronomy 30, which is part of the written law book. Jesus meets a young scholar with this very problem.

A Torah scholar who stood up to test Jesus, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus replied, “What is written in the law? How do you read it?” He replied, “Love the Personal Name, your Almighty Judge, with all your hearts, with all your anima (that which animates you), with all your measure, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus replied to him, “You have answered correctly; do this and you will live.” Because he wished to justify himself, he told Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?”

The scholar, even in the Greek, does not ask Jesus, but tells him the question. For the scholar, this is an academic question, demanding an academic response, not the serious answer to a question. Jesus chooses to avoid the academics, and force the scholar to answer his own question. We all know what the truth is; we simply need to put our mental concepts out of the way and listen to our hearts. Jesus loves to get his disputants to put their mental concepts to one side, and listen to their hearts. This is but one example of the effort.

Deuteronomy 30 tells us we already know the answer to the question. We must merely put the academics aside, the rulebook aside, and look into the rulebook of our hearts.

As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up, knelt down before him, and asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus answered him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You will not kill; you will not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear vain witness; you will not defraud; hold as important your father and your mother.”

This version is interesting because Jesus combines what St. Augustine calls the last two commandments in “On the Exodus,” into one commandment. This means, that for Jesus to have Ten Commandments, he must find one elsewhere in the passage. Where is it?

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 LORD 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:

Remember, “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.” You will remember what it was like to be there, and you will remember your rescue. When you do this, when you see others suffering, it will bring back bad memories, and you will do something to stop that suffering.”

This is the essence of Deuteronomy 30; this is what makes Israel, the perfect society; this is what Jesus talks about in the story of the Samaritan. Put the academics aside and your heart will tell you what the command of God is, as individuals, as Americans, as Catholics, and as Christians.

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.

 

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


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

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

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

Ron, “What”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

מַעֲשֵׂה יָדָיו בֵּרַכְתָּ וּמִקְנֵהוּ פָּרַץ בָּאָרֶץ”

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

Now comes the key part:

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

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

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

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

In chapter 2:

וַתֹּאמֶר לוֹ אִשְׁתּוֹ, עֹדְךָ מַחֲזִיק בְּתֻמָּתֶךָ בָּרֵךְ אֱלֹהִים וָמֻת”

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

Davis Creek Park 2 Jeff Thompson

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

אַחֲרֵי כֵן פָּתַח אִיּוֹב אֶת פִּיהוּ וַיְקַלֵּל אֶת יוֹמוֹ”

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

Eliphaz hits on the same points:

“הֵן בַּעֲבָדָיו לֹא יַאֲמִין וּבְמַלְאָכָיו יָשִׂים תָּהֳלָה

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

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

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

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

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

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

Moses summoned all those who struggle with God and told them, Hear, you who struggle with God, the customs and judicial precedents which I proclaim in your hearing, this day, that you may learn them and guard to do them. The Personal Name our Almighty Judge, cut a Social Contract with us at Horeb; not with our fathers did the Personal Name cut this Social Contract, but with us, each of us, alive, here, this day… I am the Personal Name your Almighty Judge, who brought you out of the land of Egypt/Oppression, out of the house of menial labor.

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

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

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

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

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.”

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Think of what is above, not of what is on earth. You have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ your life appears, then you too will appear with him in importance. You have taken off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed, for knowledge, in the image of its creator. Colossians 3:9-10

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

As we die with Christ, and rise with Christ, we encounter the reference we need to live the game of life


The article, “These are the things we need to consider in the Reno Diocesan Synod,” makes an interesting point about the Ten Commandments, as translated directly from the Hebrew. The Prologue to the Ten Commandments states:

Lancaster_County_Amish_03Moses summoned all Israel and told them, Hear, You who struggle with God, the customs, חֻקִּים and correct judicial precedents,מִּשְׁפָּטִים I proclaim in your hearing, this day, to learn them and guard to do them. The Personal Name 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.

Seder plate smallThe interesting thing about customs חֻקִּים and judicial precedents מִּשְׁפָּטִים is that they develop over time. By definition, they could not have come directly to Moses at Horeb. How does Torah say this? All the customs חֻקִּים and judicial precedents מִּשְׁפָּטִים, which came over time, came at Horeb. This is because, as the Jewish people relive their salvation at Passover, and we relive ours in the Eucharist, we relive the Passover, the Passion event, again, for the first time, each time.

“These are the things we need to consider in the Reno Diocesan Synod,” makes the interesting case that customs, חֻקִּים, come from below. Judicial precedents, מִּשְׁפָּטִים, come from above.

“Called Together: An introduction to Ecclesiology” discusses a ‘60s dispute between Stanley Hauerwas and John Courtney Murray, S. J. We note how Hauerwas is a Mennonite. Those of us from Easter Pennsylvania note that the Mennonites are a group much like the Amish. They represent the emphasis on customs, חֻקִּים. They focus upon living their lives and letting their lives be examples to all people.

On October 2, 2006, Charles Carl Roberts IV took hostages and shot ten girls (aged 6–13), killing five, at West Nickel Mines School, an Amish one-room schoolhouse in the Old Order Amish community of Nickel Mines, a village in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Forgiveness and reconciliation in the response of the Amish community was the Amish norm practiced, even in this brazen case. The community did not establish rules for the grander community; it practiced them and in the process gave an example for the larger community to follow. This is the teaching of Stanley Hauerwas.

The Amish have a problem, the same problem of the Spartans of later ancient Greece. Very people desire to be Amish, and the National Geographic program, “Out of Order,” reveals the very real temptation to leave the community for the earthly temptations of life. Like the Spartans, Americans view the Amish as a quaint sect, and not the prime example for all to follow. This leaves us with John Courtney Murray, S. J. Murray speaks of three principles:

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The first principle is the distinction between the sacred and the secular orders of human life. The whole of man’s existence is not absorbed in his temporal and terrestrial existence. The power of government does not reach into this higher sacred order of human existence.

The second principle is the distinction between society and state. Historically, this distinction developed out of the medieval distinction between the ecclesia (christianitas) and the imperium.

The third principle is the distinction between the common good and public order. It follows from the distinction between society and state. The common good includes all the social goods, spiritual and moral as well as material, which man pursues here on earth in accord with the demands of his personal and social nature.

The pursuit of the common good devolves upon society as a whole, on all its members and on all its institutions, in accord with the principles of subsidiarity, legal justice, and distributive justice.

Public order includes three goods, which can and should be achieved by the power, which is proper to the state. The first is the public peace, which is the highest political good. The second is public morality, as determined by moral standards commonly accepted among the people. The third is justice, which secures for the people what is due to them.

UntitledOf course, how does one define what is due to any other person? The article, “Aristotle and the NFL point our way to distributive justice,” correctly points out how vague the concepts of distributive justice and what one is due really are. Further, what subsidiarity, means in practical terms is also a matter of dispute.

The Capitalist, the Communist, and the Anarchist all believe that subsidiarity means no government at all, at least as it relates to economics. For the socialist, “He who governs least, governs best,” “Henry David Thoreau’s Civil Disobedience” means government control of all. To argue for more control than is necessary, is to argue for waste. To argue for less is irresponsible. The problem with John Courtney Murray’s theory, and most Social Contract theory, is that it does not define “subsidiarity” in practical terms, or “The least.”

Judicial precedents, מִּשְׁפָּטִים, morality from above suffers precisely because it is not able to define its terms. What we need is what the Ten Commandments call for, a healthy mix of custom, חֻקִּים and judicial precedent, מִּשְׁפָּטִים, with a referent that helps to define the terms. The Ten Commandments define that reference.

“Remember, “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.” When your son asks you, “What do these witnesses and customs and judicial precedents mean,” which the Personal Name, our Almighty Judge, has enjoined on you, you shall say to your son, “We were once servants of Pharaoh the oppressor in Egypt, the land of oppression, but the Personal Name brought us out of there with a strong hand and wrought before our eyes signs and wonders, great and dire, against Egypt and against Pharaoh and his whole house.

Remember what it was like to be there, and remember your rescue. That is the reference. That is the reference for both the customs, what comes from below, and that is the reference for the judicial precedents, what comes from above. “Do to others whatever you would have them do to you. This is the law and the prophets.” This may not have the certainty of judicial precedent judges might like.

We realize that what we have is Picasso in our lives. We present our Picasso, knowing that others have Van Gogh in their lives. We show our Picasso and allow them to show their Van Gogh. We do not get into the first View of John Courtney Murray, presuming that our world view is the correct one. We believe that with faith; we do not know it as fact.

Myrtle point baseballSociety is much like a baseball game. We all know what the rules are, what constitutes a strike, a ball, a hit, or a run, but when we stop to apply the rules, we do just that; we stop. The game ends, at least for a moment. The goal is for the game to continue. For that, we need custom, חֻקִּים. We need to look to the Amish, with all of their quaintness, to see how they play the game.

As the article, “These are the things we need to consider in the Reno Diocesan Synod,” points out, we very much need the sacraments, in particular the Eucharist. This is how we bring Mt. Sinai, and the cross into present time. As we relive our escape from Egypt and as we die with Christ, and rise with Christ, we encounter the reference we need to live the game of life, as individuals, and as a society.

We need both, to be the social ethic, the sample to others, and to teach the social ethic. We become the social ethic through what happens at Mass, reliving in present time the escape from Egypt and our escape, by dying with Christ and rising with him in the Eucharist.

New_Colossus_manuscript_LazarusNot like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

As Americans and as people of the Judea-Christian faith, we remember what it was like to be oppressed, and we remember our rescue. We remember slavery in Egypt, the Great Potato Famine, the Great Revolutions of 1828 in Europe, the slavery of the Deep South, Jim Crow, the Trail of Tears of the Cherokee, the 1200 who died in Bangladesh over the course of the past year, and more. We then remember our rescue and when we see others suffering we do something.

Reliving all of this in present time, remembering who our rescuer is, Love itself, and then doing something is the essence of all morality and all there is to the great mystery of our faith. There really is no more. When we do this we become like Stanley Hauerwas and become church. We become the example with our customs all want to follow. As a society we participate in the great marketplace of ideas John Courtney Murray, talks about, showing our Picasso. We speak both with our actions and with our words.

We view justice and the role of government as St. Augustine did, City of God, Book II, Chapter 21, along with Cicero and Scipio, as an orchestra. We strive to create concord. We promote life for all people, pre-born, and post born, where life is life lived in the image of God,for all people. This is where judicial precedent comes into the formula. This is what we need to emphasis during our diocesan synod.

These are the things we need to consider in the Reno Diocesan Synod


Some approaches to ecclesiology suffer from a clearly inadequate awareness of the Church as a mystery of communion, especially insofar as they have not sufficiently integrated the concept of communion with the concepts of People of God and of the Body of Christ, and have not given due importance to the relationship between the Church as communion and the Church as sacrament.[i]Lake Tahoe

Sometimes, however, the idea of a “communion of particular Churches” is presented in such a way as to weaken the concept of the unity of the Church at the visible and institutional level. Thus it is asserted that every particular Church is a subject complete in itself, and that the universal Church is the result of a reciprocal recognition on the part of the particular Churches. This ecclesiological unilateralism, which impoverishes not only the concept of the universal Church but also that of the particular Church, betrays an insufficient understanding of the concept of communion.[ii]

Bernard Lonergan writes:

With Einstein, Newton’s absolute time vanished, and there emerged as many standard times as there are inertial reference frames that are in relative motion.[1]

Our mural in Reno Nevada
Our mural in Reno Nevada

Deuteronomy 5 writes:

Moses summoned all Israel and told them, Hear, You who struggle with God, the customs, חֻקִּים and correct judicial precedents,מִּשְׁפָּטִים I proclaim in your hearing, this day, to learn them and guard to do them. The Personal Name 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.

The interesting thing about customs חֻקִּים and judicial precedents מִּשְׁפָּטִים is that they develop over time. By definition, they could not have come directly to Moses at Horeb. How does Torah say this? All the customs חֻקִּים and judicial precedents מִּשְׁפָּטִים, which came over time, came at Horeb. This is because, as the Jewish people relive their salvation at Passover, and we relive ours in the Eucharist, we relive the Passover, the Passion event, again, for the first time, each time.

Courtesy Holy Land Pilgrimage Galillee

William Graham Sumner discusses customs in his book, “Folkways.” He tells us, “I also took up again the Latin word “mores” as the best I could find for my purpose. I mean by it the popular usages and traditions, when they include a judgment that they are conducive to societal welfare, and when they exert a coercion on the individual to conform to them, although they are not coordinated by any authority.”

Customs חֻקִּים come from below. “Social Theory and Social Structure” discusses the Robert Merton’s idea of manifest and latent functions. The latent functions come from below and are the mores which we often do not even think about. The manifest norms are the rules coming from external sources, employers, the Vatican, and the state. They are the laws of William Graham Sumner.

In society, the norms and folkways, the latent rules which rule our lives, do not always agree with the manifest rules. Employers often write rule books for their organizations only to find employees place these rule books on a shelf and do things the way they have always been done. In his article, “On the Church,” Cardinal Walter Kasper discusses this in reference to a discussion by then Cardinal Ratzinger, “On some Aspects of the Church Understood as Communion.” By definition, correct judicial precedents מִּשְׁפָּטִים come from above.

Baron de Montequieu gave us the tripartite division of government, executive, legislative, and judicial branches. Moses and the Semitic people had something very similar. They had the executive branch, the king, and they had the judicial branch, the judges and the rabbis who interpreted the sacred writings in light of their times. They had no need of a legislative branch. All laws came from Moses at Sinai.

Cardinal Kasper correctly relates how he is in the middle of a great debate, not between the from the masses, but from the manifest and latent norms, between the folkways and the laws. If there is a debate between the norms and the laws, between how the masses interpret Sinai, and how the judges, the Vatican interprets Sinai, it means one or the other, or more than likely, both, is not properly influenced by the spirit of Sinai.

For judicial precedents מִּשְׁפָּטִים to be correct, they must spring from Mt. Sinai, which we relive in concrete form, for the first time, each time we celebrate the Eucharist. The customs חֻקִּים and the laws must spring from the same source. Leaders must come from the masses. Deuteronomy 17:14-17 explains the rules for picking leaders. It tells us the leadership must come from the masses.

Further, they must be like the masses, without much wealth. They must come from the same folk as the masses, so the share the same folkways.They must share the same near death experience as the masses. For Jews, that is Passover. For Christians, it is dying and rising with Christ.

For those who experience the Near Death Experience of Passover, receiving the Ten Commandments at Sinai, and the cross of Christ, no proof of the authenticity of the judicial precedents is necessary. For those who do not experience this Near Death Experience, no proof is sufficient.

Yes, we must have judges to make those correct judicial precedents מִּשְׁפָּטִים. Correct judicial precedents come from above. The Ten Commandments tell us that from the beginning, there are rules which guide our behavior, both from higher authority, correct judicial precedent, מִּשְׁפָּטִים and from below, חֻקִּים custom.

Einstein was Jewish and his understanding of time was Jewish. It is like a big wormhole that connects each time we celebrate Passover and Eucharist. It makes no sense to discuss if the universal church is prior to the particular churches. Through Passover and Eucharist, we leave time. When there is no time, there is no before and after.

Courtesy Holy Land Pilgrimage Mary's well Ein Kerem Jerusalem

Ontologically, the Church-mystery, the Church that is one and unique, precedes creation, and gives birth to the particular Churches as her daughters.[iii] From of old I was formed, at the first, before the earth. Proverbs 8:23. This is the claim Pope Benedict claims for Holy Mother Church; she is Wisdom incarnate. She is the formal cause of the world. She is apart from time.

Most of us misunderstand what is going on in the Eucharist. In the Eucharist, we depart from time and we relive the exodus from Egypt, again, for the first time, each time. That is why we have the incense, to remind us that we are at Mt. Sinai, in the 120 degree dry heat, on a volcano, again, for the first time. We are on the cross, with Jesus, hearing the taunts and the jeers of the crowd.

We die with him, and we rise with him. That means we have to be Jesus on the cross, suffering with him. That means we must understand who the Semitic Jesus is. Do we? Do we understand what it would mean to be a Semitic Jesus? Do we understand his time and his place?

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

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

How can the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ transform us into himself if we neither know or care who he is? What are we transforming into? Are we transforming into the first century Semitic Rabbi who healed people without cost, who hung around tax collectors and deviants, who had a preference for the poor, who had a mother who recited the Magnificat condemning the rich to a rich relative, and who died rather than engage in violence?

Are the claims of a conservative Jesus who favored the rich and supported owning guns true? Would we be willing to sit next to Jesus, a long haired homeless man of Near Eastern/Palestinian origin, who spoke a strange language, at the bus station, on an airplane, on a bench at the mall or a local park?

Our Lady

The Blessed Virgin Mary is the model of ecclesial communion in faith, in charity and in union with Christ. “Eternally present in the mystery of Christ.” She is, in the midst of the Apostles, at the very heart of the Church at its birth and of the Church of all ages. Indeed, “the Church was congregated in the upper room with Mary, who was the Mother of Jesus, and with his brethren. We cannot therefore speak of the Church unless Mary, the mother of the Lord, is present there, with the Lord’s brethren.”[iv]

Courtesy Holy Land Pilgrimage  Sea of Galillee 2

Revelations 12:17 tells us, “The Sea Monster became angry with the woman and went off to wage war against the rest of her offspring, those who keep God’s commandments and bear witness to Jesus.” As Catholics, we believe the child of Revelations 12:5 is Jesus, and therefore the woman is Our Blessed Virgin.

If we experience the time warp, the wormhole, the Passover, and the Passion of Christ, and rise with Christ, we do put on the new person, as St. Paul says, and this causes us to keep God’s commandments and in the process, bear witness to Jesus. No proof of the authenticity of magisterial pronouncements is required. If not, no proof is sufficient.

We are the bride of Christ. Jesus is the groom. I Corinthians 12:12-26 speaks of us being one body with many parts. Our Blessed Virgin is our mother. Galatians is right in telling us we are all one in Christ Jesus, Abraham’s descendant, heirs according to the promise. This being the case, we should all at least know each other’s names.

Do we notice the flowers and the candles, the dimmed room, and all the elements that make for a romantic dinner? This meeting is supposed to be personal and intimate. Is it? Do we know the Semitic Jesus, Our Blessed Virgin, a first century Jew? Do we know each other? Why is it that everyone loves a lover, but nobody loves the proper people who leave Mass on Sunday morning? If people love lovers and we are lovers of God and each other, should they not love us and want to be like us too?

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Quoting Galatians 3:28-9, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus and if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendant, heirs according to the promise,” Pope Benedict tells us that we are not strangers.

When we attend Mass, do we know the name of the person sitting next to us? When we go to coffee and donuts after Mass, do we know the name of the person we are sitting next to? Does Father come down to join us? Are we really strangers in the same room? These are the things we need to consider as we undergo the Reno Diocese Diocesan Synod.

[1] Letter To The Bishops Of The Catholic Church On Some Aspects Of The Church Understood As Communion http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_28051992_communionis-notio_en.html

 [ii] ibib

[iii] ibib

[iv] ibib

There are more important languages to learn than Latin


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dei Verbum, from Vatican II states:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Reno, we had a discussion with a university professor part 2


In Reno, We Had a Discussion with a University Professor Part 1 answers why Torah was written, by whom and for whom. It was written to prove Israel and Judah were one people. It was written to convince the Jewish people, and to the Persian satrap who represents China. It also explains many of the contradictions in Torah. It was written to disparate groups, all of whom had to be appeased.

Our Cathedral in Panorama 2

In the conversation with a university professor, we discussed some of these disagreements. Jewish law prohibits eating meat and milk products. Genesis 18 tells the story of how Abraham fed three strangers, angels. He fed them meat and milk products. Why should we care what some sheepherder fed three strangers, four thousand years ago? 2 Kings 18 tells the story of finding what was probably our book of Deuteronomy. This book gives the command against mixing milk and meat products. As such, it comes before Genesis with the story of Abraham feeding meat and milk to angels. The virtues of this rule must have been subject to debate and our story of Abraham reflects this debate in the community.

Exodus 6:20 reflects how Moses’ father married his aunt. Exodus 20:12 tells us to honor father and mother. Leviticus 18:12 commands that we not marry our father’s sister, exactly what Moses’ father did. Tradition relates that Moses wrote this rule, in essence condemning his father. Further, the Ten Commandments, is written to the people of Israel, whose parents were not worthy to enter the Promised Land. Honor your father and mother.

This can cause a lack of faith. We must put our silver Torah through the flames so that we can grow. We must test the spirits to see if they are true.

Our test shows how the founding fathers of post-exile Israel/Judah, were comfortable with ambiguity and were writing a dynamic and truthful text about who they are as a people. It reflects a dynamic community who were passionate about their faith traditions. It is like our nation is a dynamic community. Each region of our great nation, each ethnic and economic group, and our groupings of rural, suburban, and urban peoples are passionate about our traditions.

We see the same thing in our New Testament, as was related in the conversation with the university professor. St. Matthew relates the story of the star of Bethlehem. Most scholars date this star as coming in the spring and fall of 7 B.C.E. Scholars also date the Passion as being 1 April, of 33 of the Common Era. That means Jesus was born in the fall, Yom Kippur or the feast of atonement of 7 B.C.E. It also means Jesus died when he was 40. The temptation scene in 4 Matthew and in Mark reflect 40 days of temptation, one for each year of Jesus’ life.

Luke states Jesus was 30 when he died. Further, if we date Gabriel appearing to Zechariah on Yom Kippur, when the High Priest entered the Holy of Holies, and count nine months, John was born in June of the following year. Luke tells us Jesus was born six months later, in December, as in December 25. John tells us Jesus is not yet 50. John also tells us how Jesus said he would destroy the temple and raise it in three days, but the temple refers to his body. The Pharisees confused his reference with the temple, which was 47 at the time. In John, Jesus was 47.

The university professor protested, accurately, that most do not care when Jesus was born.

What is important is that the first century Christian community was comfortable with ambiguity, up to and including when and where Jesus was born. It was comfortable with different understandings of key words and ideas. There was room for disagreement on key issues. None of the Gospels have Jesus explicitly say how old he is. The narrative, not the dialogue, implies that in Matthew, Mark, and John, and states it in Luke. The narrative states the tradition of the particular community of the gospel writer, not the actual age of Jesus.

What is important is to whom our texts were written. Our texts were written to people who were comfortable with disagreement, and who looked to the bigger picture, who they were as a people. Elijah, after all, would come and straighten out the details later. Our Torah and New Testament were written by people who were passionate enough about their faith traditions to relate them, even if they caused ambiguity.

Most scholars agree, St. Mark probably wrote first and that St. Matthew and St. Luke used St. Mark’s Gospel as a guide while writing their gospels.

We need to notice how St. Luke begins his gospel, “Many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the events that have been fulfilled among us. Those who were eyewitnesses from the beginning and rowers of the word have handed them down to us. I too have decided, after investigating everything accurately anew, to write it down in an orderly sequence for you.”

 

St. Luke claims to be one writer among many of those who “Have undertaken to compile a narrative of the events…” The fact that he follows St. Mark so closely implies St. Mark is one of those witnesses. There were many traditions floating around, and St. Luke is following good theological reflection to discern which stories are best attested. He believes, based upon his research, that Jesus was 30. St. Mark, getting his word from St. Peter, believes he was 40. Like St. Luke, St. Matthew also gets his word from St. Mark. The difference is that he follows St. Mark’s dating. St. John is on his own.

Also, St. Matthew and St. Luke probably wrote from the same city, so probably knew each other.

This means they were passionate enough to relate their disagreements about how old Jesus was born, and when he was born, but also understanding enough to allow the other understandings to exist beside theirs.

This also gives us an understanding about God. Our God is a God who allows for disagreement, yet is passionate and calls us for be passionate about what we believe, but not at the expense of forcing our beliefs upon others.

Our God is a relational God who believes in E Pluribus Unum, from the many ideas of him, one. Peace, a true sense of tranquility within our communities is to be our main goal. Our question this Lent is, “Do we allow room for legitimate disagreement?

Jesus tells us how a house divided against itself cannot stand. In our pluralistic society is there room for, “Scripture (My denomination’s interpretation) says it; I believe it; that settles it?” Is there room for St. Matthew and St. Mark to believe Jesus was 40, St. John that he was 47, and St. Luke that he was 30? Is this the essence of our faith, or is the cross and the moved stone on Sunday morning the essence of our faith?

Can we put the details aside and allow John the Baptist/Elijah to give us the correct details later, or must we undergo what happened to first Israel, and then Judah, and undergo the humiliation of figuring it all out in committee under the oversight of a foreign satrap?