Being a nation of class


How many of us can list the Ten Commandments from the top of their heads? Not many sadly. When asked Jesus lists only the last six. Does this mean Jesus forgot the first four? The passage for the Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time begins with the rich young man running to Jesus asking him, “Good teacher…” Jesus responds, “Why do you call me good.” Greek has two words for “Good.” The first two Gospels almost always use Kalos,” or “ὅτι καλῶς.” “Hoti Kalos,” “This is beautiful,” from which we get “OK.” Jesus here uses “Agatha, having class.” John F Kennedy was famous for having class.

384309_549304955086309_357628736_nOne dictionary defines “Good” as, “In early Greek times, good, gentle, noble, in reference to birth. It also meant, “This early sense associated that of wealth and power.” The passage irony is Jesus speaking to the rich young man about what wealthy means.

Jesus lists those commandments. “Do not kill; Do not commit adultery; do not steal; do not bear vain witness; do not defraud.” The Talmud interprets the last two commandments as, “Defraud.” In Deuteronomy, the word for “false,” is used earlier for vain, as in “Do not take God’s name in vain.” It is possible to tell the truth, but not be able to back up one’s words; idle gossip is vain words.

Jesus goes back and mentions his fifth commandment, “Hold as important mother and father.” This is not acting in blind obedience. Hold them as important, learn from their experiences. Jesus then points to the four missing, which point to God.

Ellis Island courtesy of National Park Service. areal viewThe prologue to the Ten Commandments states,  “The Name, our God, cut a contract with us at Horeb; not with our fathers did the NAME cut this contract, but with us, all of us, alive, here this day.” Remember, “I am the NAME your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, the house of menial labor.” (2) Do not have other gods before my face. (3) Do not invoke the name of the NAME…  in vain. (4) Guard Sabbath…Remember you were once laborers in the land of Oppression… That is why the NAME, your God, has commanded you guarding Sabbath.”

8919_1243228163516_2601477_nThe  prologue points to remembering what it was like being over there (Europe, Latin America, Africa…) and to your rescue over here. “Give me your tired your poor…) To remember means making sure nobody suffers as we did. “It is not to your fathers, I give this command.” In Passover, Jews relive the Exodus in present time. In the Eucharist, we relive the Passion and death of Jesus, rising to new life, in present time. Thanksgiving Day is about Passover and Eucharist/Greek for Thanksgiving. This passage and Deuteronomy 6:5 command love and charity, as a nation. The rich young man cannot remember the first four commandments. By his order, Jesus points us to these first four. The rich young man’s god is wealth. Can people say the same about us? Are we a people of class or a people who need a class. God gives refresher courses.

Happy 4th of July! This guy posed for Terri and Larry Garside as they were coming down through Klamath Falls.

Talking about God in times of suffering


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

Seder plate small

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Abraham: “Suppose there are 45?”

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

Abraham: “What if there are 40?’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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


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

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

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

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

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

Cheeseburger

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

food laws

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

Its over so eat your chicken feed and forget Travyon Martin


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

Red hens courtesy Examiner Cheryl Hanna

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

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

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

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

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

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

I call heaven and earth today to witness against you: I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life, then, that you and your descendants may live. The command, the Mitzvah, is to always choose life. It is just that simple. The Mitzvah is to choose life from conception to the grave. This is what the evil Samaritan does. He is not so evil after all. He knows to choose life, and this is the essence of the true Torah.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We are pro-life just so long as it is convenient


At our Cathedral in Reno Nevada there was an interesting debate between a person who identified with the Tea Party and a more progressive person. The Tea Party Person began by discussing with another teacher, what he perceives to be the virtues of vouchers for public education. Yes, the Tea Party folk, who opposed bussing in the ‘70s, now want to promote busing their children to the school of their choice, so their children don’t have to sit next to poor children in the public schools.

We go to school to learn how to read, much as people did 3300 years ago.
We go to school to learn how to read, much as people did 3300 years ago.

The progressive felt the urge to point out “Resource capital, including parent education, parent income, and educational items in the home, was most predictive of academic performance.” This according to Ronald L. Mullis Florida State University, Tallahassee, USA, Richard Rathge North Dakota State University, Fargo, USA, and Ann K. Mullis Florida State University, Tallahassee, USA. Which school the child attended was not a major variable.

The progressive also felt the urge to relate how his father was a wiz in mathematics, graduating from an Auto Mechanics tech school in Klamath Falls, Oregon, Summa Cum Laud. This gave the progressive an advantage when studying that class in school.

Should this voucher system come in, the effect would be, middle class and upper class students, those with parents knowing the material, would bus themselves to the better schools. Lower income students, those without parents knowing the material, would not be accepted into these schools, so would remain in the inner city schools. The nation would become more racially and economically paralyzed, which is the true goal of the Tea Party movement, not pro-life.

This being the metropolitan area of Reno/Sparks, the progressive pointed out how McQueen High School is the regional powerhouse in football. All the quality players would want to attend McQueen High. The other players would have to settle for the rest. The decidedly second string and lower players would have to settle for Sparks High where they would have no chance of receiving the high quality coaching necessary to become quality players, have a winning season, or more important, receive a football scholarship.

The question our tea party representative could not answer, was how this disadvantage relates to the three “R”s” literature, language arts, and the logic of mathematics. The best students would attend Washoe High School and the rest would attend the rest.

The discussion then switched as the progressive noted how he just donated a hundred dollars in groceries recently purchased at Wal-Mart by a member of how family. In his home there is a family feud as the progressive opposes purchasing items at that store because of Wal-Mart’s human rights record. The progressive noted the 1,239 who died in the building collapse and the 112 who died in a fire this past year, and how Wal-Mart blocked safety provisions in its factories. He also noted there are other cases where Wal-Mart factories in Bangladesh have had fires and other catastrophes.

The Tea Party representative argued that he did value human rights, but sometimes it is inconvenient to do so.Elie Wiesel had the opportunity to interview the distinguished French Catholic author Francois Mauriac. In the course of the interview Mauriac spoke about his love for Jesus and his saving  death on the cross, the standard Christian verbiage about Catholic faith. Wiesel explains what happened next.

Giving in to an angry impulse, he closed his notebook and rose. “Sir, you speak of Christ. Christians love to speak of him. The passion of Christ, the agony of Christ, the death of Christ. In your religion, that is all you speak of. Well, I want you to know that ten years ago, not very far from here, I knew Jewish children every one of whom suffered a thousand times more, six six million times more, than Christ on the cross. Can you understand that, sir? We don’t speak about them.”

Of evil he said, “I think that evil has many faces, but I would say that all of these haves have masks, and beneath the mask there is indifference. That is what all the faces of evil have in common: indifference.”

Bonhoeffer wrote:

All people go to God in need, for help and calm and foot they plead.

That sickness, guilt and death may cease, all, Christians and Pagans pray for peace.

Some turn to God in God’s need and dread, a God poor, despised, without roof or bread.

By sin’s harm weakened and by death distressed, Christians stand steadfast by their God oppressed.

Other factors apply. The Tea Party representative argued that Wal-Mart did not kill all these thousands of people. Their supplier did, and they were just letting the market decide where they purchased their goods. They were not responsible. The Progressive pointed out that the market is not a thing, and properly speaking does not exist.

He related how the Tea Party representative was positing a super natural force capable of thought, it decides things, “Divine,” is the Latin word, who is in charge, who dominates the economy, (the Latin word is Dominus and is a name for God), and who cares about its decisions, “Theos,” is the Greek word. He was positing idolatry and in a Catholic Church.

The progressive also related that Wall-Mart is accountable for holding its suppliers accountable for their actions. If they do not, and they did not, people who shop at Wall-Mart are accountable to God for holding Wall-Mart accountable. Not doing so is a grave matter. If they have alternatives, it is willingly agreed to. If they know about Wall-Mart’s decision, it is with full knowledge.

The Tea Party representative changed the conversation, arguing that progressives do not like Wal-Mart because they are against unions. The Progressive countered how interesting it is that he, as a Tea Party Representative claims to be pro-life, but how the Union, who has no pro-life stand is standing up for workers in third world countries, who will not be unionized, so they can have dignified lives, but the Tea Party is making excuses for not doing so. The unions hold Costco out as an example about how to do it right, but they are only 15% union. Average pay for a cashier, Walmart, $8.53, COSTCO, $15.60. We need look no longer for the issue.

The Progressive also related how One Walmart’s Low Wages Could Cost Taxpayers $900,000 Per Year. There are four Wall-Mart stores in the Reno-Sparks metropolitan area, which means the Tea Party representative s paying part of the $3.6 million dollars Wall-Mart costs the tax payers in Reno Sparks alone.

The Tea Party representative argued that other stores also pay law wages. To this the progressive argued how the Unions fight hard to promote life for workers who are not members and likely will never be members. He, a person who claims to be staunchly pro-life comes up with nothing but excuses for corporate bad behavior. He also related that we should not allow abortion because we might not catch all the women choosing to have one.

We should not allow rape, burglary, and other crimes because we might not catch all the people engaging in these crimes. He concluded by relating how the Union fights for human rights, while the Tea Party fights to find excuses.

The labor unions, which do not claim to be pro-life travel thousands of miles to promote the lives of people who cannot help them in return. Pro-life people cannot travel an extra four miles, ten minutes, to shop at a store with ethics. For pro-life people, saving lives means two leisurely walks each year, carrying multi -ounce signs, around a Truckee Meadow. For Union people, it often means getting sprayed with tear-gas.

The conservatives accept Torah and Gospel except when it is inconvenient. Unions do not except Torah and Gospel as the law of the land, although they very much accept the Torah and Gospel law of love and solidarity as what the law of the land should be all about.The Tea Party and the pro-life movement are pro-life, so long as it is convenient, and that is just not good enough.

We need a faith that stands for God when it is inconvenient, when God suffers in the person of the people dying in Bangladesh, in the sweatshops of China and the third world, and in the chicken processing plants like in Hamlet North Carolina, or the Triangle Factory in New York. That clearly is not the conservative movement in America.

It is important to define church in light of Exodus Part 2


View of the Sea of GalileeWe come to Mt. Sinai, the shattered remnant of ex-slaves from the Deep South, from Egypt, from Ireland, from the wars of 19th century Europe, from 20th century Europe, from the poverty of Latin America, Africa, and Asia. We come to the synagogue, or the syn-with, Ago, leading, leading together, coming together, to participate in the great dance, perichoreo, χορεύω of life in the spirit of God. We come with our ethnic heritage and our WWII heritage, our boomer heritage and generation X heritage. We come to God as Americans, and most important as human beings.

As to the rules and how strongly we are to listen to them:

Amram married his aunt Jochebed, who bore him Aaron, Moses, and Miriam. Amram lived one hundred and thirty-seven years. Exodus 6:20

None of you shall approach a close relative to have sexual intercourse. I am the Personal Name. Leviticus 18:6

You shall not have intercourse with your father’s sister, since she is your father’s relative. You shall not have intercourse with your mother’s sister, since she is your mother’s relative. Leviticus 18:12

You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; such a thing is nauseating. Leviticus 18:22

The Jewish community was opposed to marrying outside of the Jewish community. Nehemiah 10:31 Exodus 2:16-21 relates how Moses married Zipporah, a Midianite, not a Jew.

Honor your father and your mother, that you may have a long life in the land the Personal Name your Almighty Judge gives you. Exodus 20:12

Moses passes a law against his father marrying his mother. Hold as important your father and your mother. He marries an outsider.

Remember Sabbath; dedicate it. Six days you may labor and do all your work, but the seventh day Sabbath of the Personal Name your Almighty Judge. You shall not do any work, either you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your work animal, or the resident alien within your gates. Exodus 20:8 I

Maccabees relates the interesting story. “Mattathias and his friends heard of it, they mourned deeply for them. They said to one another, “If we all do as our kindred have done, and do not fight against the Gentiles for our lives and our laws, they will soon destroy us from the earth.” So on that day they came to this decision: “Let us fight against anyone who attacks us on the Sabbath, so that we may not all die as our kindred died in their secret refuges.”

What makes this story interesting is that the Jewish nation had survived as a nation, from Moses, through the judges, the kings and the prophets, and never had to address the issue of foreign people attacking on Sabbath before. The injunction could not have been interpreted strictly before.

We also must relate the story of Acts 6:15-29. The question was on listening to the Jewish dietary laws. The decision was, “It is the decision of the Holy Spirit and of us not to place on you any burden beyond these necessities, namely, to abstain from meat sacrificed to idols, from blood, from meats of strangled animals, and from unlawful marriage. If you keep free of these, you will be doing what is right. Farewell.”

To understand this ruling we must read Genesis 9, the code of Noah. It reads the same. To require non-Jews to listen to Jewish law would constitute a change in the laws. The 613 laws of the Torah are designed to make one Jewish, not Christian. That is the decision of Acts 15.

It is important to define church in light of Exodus Part 1


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:

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 article then goes on to discuss the difference between customs, correct judicial precedents and how they relate to our lives. Another interesting question comes to mind; “How does this relate to ecclesiology? Does this relate to ecclesiology? After all, it was Jewish people on that mountain; the synagogue was not even around yet.

The first thing we notice is that Moses did not receive the Ten Commandments for himself. Nor did he receive them for himself and his offspring. He received them for all the Hebrew People. “Hebrew,” is Hebrew for homeless. It refers to all people who search for a homeland, a nation,  to be a people born together, by heritage if not by proximity of birth or blood. More specifically, it refers to the twelve tribes of Israel, those who struggle with God, who struggle to understand God.

Meadow in IsraelJudges 12 tells an interesting tale, the Shibboleth Incident. This story is important for understanding ecclesiology, and for that matter, understanding the correct pronunciation of Hebrew, because it relates how the tribe of Ephraim, as early as the judges, could be distinguished because they had no “SH” sound in their dialect. This means the tribes could distinguish themselves; they were different one from another. It also means there was not one correct pronunciation of Hebrew. Different tribes at different times had different correct ways to pronounce the terms.

What met at Mt. Sinai was not one tribe, but twelve. Cardinal Walter Kasper speaks of his perichoretic formula. This comes from χορεύω, which means to dance. Exodus 32:19 presents the penchant of the Jewish people for merriment and dance. On a more positive side, Karl Rahner speaks of the remnant, as in the remnant of the Jewish people who returned from Babylonian exile, the synagogue, which formed during the Babylonian exile, and the altar community.

As Americans, we need to think in terms of E Pluribus Unum. We might also think of a candle. Just as the flames of twelve candles dance around each other to form one large flame above the candles, the twelve tribes, who often fought one another, came to Mt. Sinai to form one large flame, one large community at Sinai. They never gave up being the twelve tribes; they never gave up being authentic about who they were, but still they joined together to become one large community, Israel.

Likewise, as Americans we are E Pluribus Unum; from the many, one. We never cease to be German, Jewish, Anglo-Saxon, Hispanic, Haitian, and more. We never cease being baby boomers, the WWII generation, or generation X. Still we are all Americans. Likewise, as Catholics, we join the grand dance as the altar community.

horse and carriage at south lake tahoeExodus 20-32 presents us with an imperfect community of twelve discernible ethnic groups with different customs and ways of speaking their words. Karl Rahner also speaks of the altar community, and at Mt. Sinai, with all of their difference, and with all of their faults, they still manage to say, if only for a moment, “All of this we will do.” Likewise, as Christians, we are not one community.

As a Christian community, “We are Parthians, Medes, and Elamites, inhabitants of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya near Cyrene, as well as travelers from Rome, both Jews and converts to Judaism, Cretans and Arabs, yet we hear them speaking in our own tongues of the mighty acts of God.” Acts 2:9-11

In the twenty-first century, we are all German and Jew, Irish and Ango-Saxon, Polish and Russian, Hispanic and Native American. If we come to Mt. Sinai as anything else, we come to Mt. Sinai as inauthentic. We lived through World War II, as German and as Jew. We came through Vietnam as the soldier who served and as the student who served by protesting. We came through the Iraq wars as the soldiers who served, and as the students who protested.

We remember what it was like when the only means of electronic communication in the home were the radio and the telephone. We remember when TV was the next big thing. We remember when color TV was the next big thing. We remember when MTV was the next big thing. We remember when stereo was in, and the transistor.

We remember when computers small enough to do our math homework filled a room. We remember when they talked about a mouse meant that nasty thing in the trap in the kitchen. Some of us can remember none of these things. Some can remember only some. We are all of these people. We are all different, and we are all one.

We all dance around the altar community of Sinai. If we come to Sinai pretending to be those who remember, or do not remember these things, we come to Mt. Sinai inauthentic. We come to Mt. Sinai, just as we are, without one plea.

We come to Mt. Sinai, the shattered remnant of ex-slaves from the Deep South, from Egypt, from Ireland, from the wars of 19th century Europe, from 20th century Europe, from the poverty of Latin America, Africa, and Asia. We come to the synagogue, or the syn-with, Ago, leading, leading together, coming together, to participate in the great dance, perichoreo, χορεύω of life in the spirit of God. We come with our ethnic heritage and our WWII heritage, our boomer heritage and generation X heritage. We come to God as Americans, and most important as human beings.

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.

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.