26 May 2018

A Catechesis of Despair.

JMJ
The Readings for  in the Week of Pentecost (B2)

Et offerebant illi parvulos ut tangeret illos. Discipuli autem comminabantur offerentibus.
And they brought to him young children, that he might touch them. And the disciples rebuked them that brought them. 

When Judgement Day comes many folks who are by human eyes judged as mortal sinners in recent votes in Ireland will be forgiven, I think.

It was not they who taught the people to kowtow to the wealthy Brits under Victoria, nor to support the Nazis in the Spanish Civil War. It was not the voters who abandoned the people to support the occupying powers (on both sides), or who fled when the scene got too hot. It was not the people who abused women and children outside of wedlock, nor was it children who abused the clergy.

Votes driven anger at what should be holy, and caring, loving, grace-filled, liberating and majestic, but was instead grubbing, lost, abusive, enslaving, and perverse may be, in the end, forgiven. For how can they know the truth if they have never heard it? How can they hear it if it is never preached to them? All they have been taught has led to despair.

The death of millions may lay on the hands of the Church.

25 May 2018

Who is gonna keep you outta glory?


JMJ
The Readings for Friday in the Week of Pentecost (B2)
Nolite ingemiscere, fratres, in alterutrum, ut non judicemini. Ecce judex ante januam assistit.
Grudge not, brethren, one against another, that you may not be judged. Behold the judge standeth before the door.

I heard a sermon earlier this week that struck home hard: paraphrasing the Lord's Prayer, the priest says, "Lord, forgive me my sins as I forgive..." and he asked us to fill in the blank with our worst enemy, or the person who most easily makes us angry. I confess the latter category is my family, and I bring this up in confession often enough. This one I'm working on. But enemies? I had to struggle with this. I don't really have enemies.

The Greek, though, and the Latin here, used by St James, is much stronger than Father's homily: because it's a weaker verb. It's not who do I hate, or who makes me angry.  The Greek is στενάζω stenazo to groan or to sigh - specifically within oneself, unexpressed. Who, St James asks, makes you tense up and roll your eyes?

That's the person that stands between you and salvation. How do you get passed that?

I don't have any enemies (that I know of) but I have a lot of things that make my eyes roll, and a lot of things that make me sigh heavily. And when I say, "things" I mean people.

St James tells us not do do this with the brethren, but, of course, we know from Jesus not to do it at all. James calls us out for doing this to the brethren, thought. You always hurt the ones you love. Folks that don't matter don't mind. We can look at the crazy lady in the cash register line at the Piggly Wiggly and just say, "Bless her heart...." but when it comes to the crazy lady singing and off key and off tempo soprano in the pew behind us, Christian charity goes right out the door. The horrors of sex on the tv can be resolved by changing the channel with nary a blink, but someone wearing the wrong clothes in Mass deserves a bit of whispering.

The thing that kept me writing this post all day is how many times I wanted to put in true stories of people in Church who make me angry.

The same, I think, holds true at the office, no? And maybe the Piggly Wiggly?


24 May 2018

But our Money says "In God We Trust..."

JMJ
The Readings for Thursday in the Week of Pentecost (B2)
Ecce merces operariorum, qui messuerunt regiones vestras, quae fraudata est a vobis, clamat : et clamor eorum in aures Domini sabbaoth introivit. Epulati estis super terram, et in luxuriis enutristis corda vestra in die occisionis. 
Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out; and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on the earth in luxury and in pleasure; you have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. 

James is certainly condemning the wealthy of Rome, here. They held an economic and cultural hegemony on the entire world at that point. Economic because all wealth flowed to Rome for consumption, but cultural as well, because anyone who pretended to be wealthy pretended to be Roman. And they exported their culture by force: tying their ideas about morality, freedom, politics, and economy to any process of local advancement: you want to be king in your country, make it Roman. So James is not only speaking of Romans, but also of Jews (and others) who pretended to wealth, aping the standards of Rome.

The story of Sodom and Gomorrah will be familiar to you, if only because you have been exposed to the horror story version or the sexualized version in some movie or TV show. You may also know the Bible Version in Genesis 18 and 19. Americans (religious or not) are prone to taking brief passages of the Scripture to make their point and ignoring what comes first and follows after. It is, however, the context that makes the story - not the meaning we add to it. Sex is not the meaning. 



The Icon above is generally styled "The Holy Trinity" and it was painted by St Andrei Rublev (1360-1430). Done in 1425, the theme is more properly called "The Hospitality of Abraham" because it shows the three Angels visiting Abraham and Sarah, as recording in Genesis 18:1-8ff:
And the Lord appeared to him in the vale of Mambre as he was sitting at the door of his tent, in the very heat of the day. And when he had lifted up his eyes, there appeared to him three men standing near to him: and as soon as he saw them, he ran to meet them from the door of his tent, and adored down to the ground. And he said: Lord, if I have found favour in thy sight, pass not away from thy servant. But I will fetch a little water, and wash ye your feet, and rest ye under the tree. And I will set a morsel of bread, and strengthen ye your heart, afterwards you shall pass on: for therefore are you come aside to your servant. And they said: Do as thou hast spoken. Abraham made haste into the tent to Sara, and said to her: Make haste, temper together three measures of flour, and make cakes upon the hearth. And he himself ran to the herd, and took from thence a calf, very tender and very good, and gave it to a young man, who made haste and boiled it. He took also butter and milk, and the calf which he had boiled, and set before them: but he stood by them under the tree. 
This story of Hospitality is the prologue to the story Sodom. After a wonderful conversation where Sarah laughs at God, the three men get ready to go.
And when the men rose up from thence, they turned their eyes towards Sodom: and Abraham walked with them, bringing them on the way. And the Lord said: Can I hide from Abraham what I am about to do: Seeing he shall become a great and mighty nation, and in him all the nations of the earth shall be blessed? For I know that he will command his children, and his household after him, to keep the way of the Lord, and do judgment and justice: that for Abraham’s sake, the Lord may bring to effect all the things he hath spoken unto him. And the Lord said: The cry of Sodom and Gomorrha is multiplied, and their sin is become exceedingly grievous. I will go down and see whether they have done according to the cry that is come to me; or whether it be not so, that I may know.
Traditional, very conservative Jewish Biblical commentary is filled with many entirely non-sexual reasons for that cry that ascended to God: greed, abuse of slaves, injustice, pride; lack of care for the poor that was so extreme you could be punished for feeding the homeless  -  like in Fort Lauderdale and some twenty other locations in the USA. St James sees in Rome this exact pattern.

The Midrash tells two tales of righteous women who dared extend a helping hand to beggars and were put to death:
Two maidens of Sodom met at the well, where they had both gone to drink and fill up their water jugs. One girl asked her friend, “Why is your face so pale?” Her friend answered, “We have nothing to eat at home, and are dying of starvation.” Her compassionate friend filled her own jug with flour, and exchanged it for her friend’s jug of water. When the Sodomites found out about her act, they burnt her to death.
A second tale:
It was announced in Sodom, “Whoever will give bread to a poor person will be burnt at the stake.” 
Plotit, the daughter of Lot, who was married to a prominent Sodomite, once saw a poor man who was so hungry that he was unable to stand. She felt sorry for him. From then on, she made sure to pass him every day on her way to the well, and she would feed him some food that she had stashed in her water jug. 
People wondered how the man managed to live. Upon investigation, they discovered her act and prepared to burn her. Before she died, she turned to G‑d and cried, “Master of the world, carry out justice on my behalf!” Her cries pierced the heavens, and at that moment G‑d said, “I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached Me.”
Moderns with a more liberal political agenda like to make much of such stories and say Sodom was destroyed for violations of the Desert Code of Hospitality. This is truth! The Synagogue lays the Hospitality of Abraham for the three angels specifically in sharp contrast to the lack of hospitality in Sodom. These texts are read every year together on the same Sabbath. We can learn much meditating on how Abraham (and, later, Lot) treats the Three Strangers, who happen to be the Holy Trinity in Christian typology and iconography, as compared to how all others in Sodom treat the same Three Strangers.

This understanding is good and true as far as it goes but, of course, words matter: when we moderns hear “hospitality” we do not hear “matter of life and death in the desert” but rather “Grandma was always a gracious hostess” or something about Waffle House, and a number of Yelp stars. No matter how many times it might be explained, the divine obligation of care for the stranger (regardless of culture or divinity) is totally lost as a social responsibility in today's culture. In rejecting Syrian refugees, or Latin American children, in abandoning the poor, the homeless, the jobless youth, America becomes another Sodom. 

Such hospitality, in the better places, is relegated as an obligation to the state and forgotten by individuals and, God help us, even by Churches. In the worst places, like Sodom and Fort Lauderdale, it is outlawed all together. Even Churches in Fort Sodomdale fail to protest. The Churches in San Francisco which, for other - entirely wrong - reasons, is often compared to Sodom, are again failing the poor, as we have not only a Temp Mayor, but an entire crop of politicians who are literally sweeping the poor off our streets in the name of the Rich. In fact, some churches are playing along. Some are not, really. St Bonaventure's has converted parts of their physical plant to care for the poor of the neighborhood, installing even showers in the church. Meanwhile, St Mary's Cathedral has installed showers outside... But if all the faith leaders of SF were to ban together to protest the treatment of the poor, would the Catholic Mayor of SF listen? Or would he be swayed by the lamentations of the Rich, who are scared of the poor, who are discomfited by the poor, who need a safe space from the poor. 

Our treatment of the poor and the stranger is exactly - as in the case of Abraham - how we treat God.

America's Sodomy goes even further. Our electronic devices, our clothing, even our food is the product of a virtual slavery in which we hold the entire world. Sometimes the slavery is not very virtual at all. There is nary a tomato sold out of season in the USA that is not the product of indentured servitude. Our clothes and all our cheap stuff we justify by saying "we are giving them jobs" when, in fact, they managed to get by for millennia without our jobs, but now need jobs because we have forced our economic system on them in the name of our security. 

So deep is our problem that I have to type this - and you have to read it - on the very products of our slavery. And we both have to feel good about it: because how else would we even communicate now? Most (all?) Catholic Apostolates make unquestioning use of electronics that are built, in the same way as our Christmas ornaments, by impoverished wage slaves in third world dictatorships held in place by our economic choices. How can that be that the Gospel should ride on the backs of slaves? San Francisco's entire economy is built on this part of our hegemony. 

James is certainly condemning the wealthy of Rome, here. But James is condemning America as well. We hold an economic and cultural hegemony on the entire world at this point. Economic because all wealth flows to America for consumption, but cultural as well, because anyone who pretends to be wealthy pretends to be American. And we export our culture by force: tying our ideas about morality, freedom, politics, and economy to any gov't charity. So James is not only speaking of Romans, but also of Americans who pretend to wealth - even Christians - and are aping the standards of Rome.

23 May 2018

Deus Vult!

JMJ
The Readings for Wednesday in the Week of Pentecost (B2)
Si Dominus voluerit. Et : Si vixerimus, faciemus hoc, aut illud. 
 If the Lord will, and if we shall live, we will do this or that. 

I watched the Pope Francis movie last Saturday. One of the things it did was provide a huge amount of context for some of the Liberal Press' favourite Francis quotes. The one that got me in the solar plexus was a rather loaded question about "the gay lobby" in the Church. It was presented on the airplane in rather oleaginous manner by an obsequious woman who felt she had to ask "permission to ask a question about a very delicate matter..." and then asked His Holiness how he was going to "confront the gay lobby in the church". In the days of my political activism, having heard many such questions, I would have said "hater". In this case, I won't say that because being close to power makes us all very odd - as does being a journalist. Every journalist wants the Power to Say Something and to get kudos from their fellows for getting a good quote.

When confronted by such a disingenuous question the Pope let fly. The question, which, for all that it was well-oiled and fully pumped up with big words, really should be translated as, "Will you tell gay people to get out of the church?" The reply - now well known - was sound bitten as "who am I to judge?" Yet in full context the reply was a reminder to the journalist, to everyone on the flight, and to the rest of us, that God calls us all to holiness. There were quotes from the catechism, and a good bit of puffing from the Holy Father. It doesn't matter where you start the walk, or how long it takes to get there, it's where you end that's important. And the Pope was asking in reply that if someone who identifies as Gay is sincerely seeking the Lord, who is he (or any of us) to judge? There are a lot of folks in the Church - gay and straight - who are not seeking the Lord at all. We have more to worry about. Yes, who am I to judge, but also, who are you to judge? 

Within the last couple of days Pope Francis has said something that has been reported as "God makes some people gay."  I've been asked what I thought about it and, since I don't believe in ontological differences based on sexual desire, I think it's a fair question for me. And, coincidentally, here comes today's reading from St James:
Behold, now you that say: Today or tomorrow we will go into such a city, and there we will spend a year, and will traffic, and make our gain. Whereas you know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is a vapour which appeareth for a little while, and afterwards shall vanish away. For that you should say: If the Lord will, and if we shall live, we will do this or that.
This passage reminds me that we don't get to pick the events in our lives. We only get to pick the way we react to them. There is a line used by the Orthodox to discuss both the Fall of Constantinople to the Turks and also the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia: these God allowed to happen to the Church "because of our sins".  Oddly this same line is never used to discuss the sack of Constantinople by the Latins which can be traced exactly to a political power play inside the Byzantine world that resulted in a bunch of Angry Latins. Does God allow political falls or not? Am I who I am because God made me this way? Does such formation happen at such an early age that it's not possible to answer such a question?

It God wills and we live, we shall...

We are not trapped into our choices: but we are not in control of events. Does God make your parents get divorced? Or does God allow it to happen? Is some part of the "what makes me gay" having been raised by a single mother? Or having been abandoned by her? The divine pattern is not what makes us: it is the matrix in which we are made by our choices and our dance. 

In the larger context of Catholic teaching the Pope has said nothing new. God made me. God loves me. Because I have been raised by Christian parents in a Christian context this is not news to me. Even though my family and my churches growing up had some messed up ways of showing that love, they inculcated that knowledge in me. The older I get, the more I realize that my identity, my sense of self, my actions must all be in response to that primordial knowledge. God made me. God loves me. While I have some seriously rough places of selfishness, of dysfunction, of brokenness, of scars from my past - caused by others and by my own bad choices - I have a daily choice: do I act from those places, or do I act from the knowledge that God made me and God loves me? 

I can freely decide to make any corner of my being the very center and prime directive of my life. Or if God wills and we shall live,  I can act from that knowledge that God made me and God loves me.

I'm with the Pope on this one.

21 May 2018

Cheating on my Husband.

JMJ
The Readings for Tuesday in the Week of Pentecost (B2)
Adulteri, nescitis quia amicitia hujus mundi inimica est Dei? quicumque ergo voluerit amicus esse saeculi hujus, inimicus Dei constituitur.
Adulterers, know you not that the friendship of this world is the enemy of God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of this world, becometh an enemy of God. 

When James uses the word "adulterers" here, he means we are not being faithful to our relationship with God. We may think we're being polyamorous but God wants us all to himself. We're cheating on him.

I never know how to navigate this. Look sex I can handle. Racism, Ecology, Peace, Justice... this I can handle. But when someone asks me where I want to be in 5 years time, the answer has always been "closer to heaven". In as much as I've always wanted to be a priest, I don't have any map for success, or any idea of what it would look like. Increasingly, though, as that goal seems less and less likely, I've listened to my friend, Steve Robinson: 

  • I need to be an adult: 
    • pay my bills, 
    • say my prayers, 
    • support my parish, 
    • and love my parents. 
In as much as the Church's preferential option must be for the poor, my every breath must be exhausted defending them, supporting them, sacrificing for them. Since I am a single man with no family to support I have more of an obligation to do so than someone with kids and the added vocational direction of supporting his family.

But every paycheck that comes in means I can buy more toys, or save for my future. Every meeting with a manager is a chance to succeed, every business deal with a deal worth making.

And I don't know what counts as friend of this world in this context. When I sit in my own apartment not only do I feel alone most nights, I also feel like I'm wasting money. The question for me is not should I be living in a community and donating more money and time to the mission of the Church but rather how can I make this happen?

This is the part is that is most painful for me: the part that feels like a failure. I've become successful and so as much as I thank God for this success, I also feel like a hypocrite in doing so. It's not an ambivalent relationship to worldly success but rather a train wreck of an illicit affair. Back in September I posted all that follows: it's a way to not be an adulterer. It starts with a quite from Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman:

God has created me to do Him some definite service; He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission — I never may know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next. Somehow I am necessary for His purposes, as necessary in my place as an Archangel in his — if, indeed, I fail, He can raise another, as He could make the stones children of Abraham. Yet I have a part in this great work; I am a link in a chain, a bond of connexion between persons. He has not created me for naught. I shall do good, I shall do His work; I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place, while not intending it, if I do but keep His commandments and serve Him in my calling.
The thing that I see there, that is the most important, is that Blessed John Henry doesn't send you out on some Vocational Discernment Weekend, nor does he say you need to go hide in the desert until some vision strikes you: only, I shall be a angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place, while not intending it, if I do but keep his commandments and serve him in my calling,  by which last he means "in my daily work".

Elsewhere in this same book, (Meditations and Devotions) he offers a very simple rule of life - as quoted by the Catholic Gentleman - to direct us all on the way to Sainthood. Not nominal, least-common denominator mushiness, mind you, but full-on sainthood:
  • Do not lie in bed beyond the due time of rising;
  • give your first thoughts to God;
  • make a good visit to the Blessed Sacrament;
  • say the Angelus devoutly;
  • eat and drink to God’s glory;
  • say the Rosary well;
  • be recollected; keep out bad thoughts;
  • make your evening meditation well;
  • examine yourself daily;
  • go to bed in good time, and you are already perfect.
To this I would add this simple rule, offered by Alexander Schmemann in his journals (Mindul that he was writing privately, yes, but to a hypothetical reader who - like me - was craving monastic obedience as the magic panacea for whatever it is that ails you):
  • get a job, if possible the simplest one, without creativity (for example as a cashier in a bank);
  • while working, pray and seek inner peace; do no get angry; do not think of yourself (rights, fairness, etc.). Accept everyone (coworkers, clients) as someone sent to you; pray for them;
  • after paying for a modest apartment and groceries, give your money to the poor; to individuals rather than foundations;
  • always go to the same church and there try to be a real helper, not by lecturing about spiritual life or icons, not by teaching but with a “dust rag” (cf. St Seraphim of Sarov). Keep at that kind of service and be–in church matters–totally obedient to the parish priest.
  • do not thrust yourself and your service on anyone; do not be sad that your talents are not being used; be helpful; serve where needed and not where you think you are needed;
  • read and learn as much as you can; do not read only monastic literature, but broadly (this point needs more precise definition);
  • if friends and acquaintances invite you because they are close to you–go; but not too often, and within reason. Never stay more than one and a half or two hours. After that the friendliest atmosphere becomes harmful;
  • dress like everybody else, but modestly, and without visible signs of a special spiritual life;
  • be always simple, light, joyous. Do not teach. Avoid like the plague any “spiritual” conversations and any religious or churchly idle talk. If you act that way, everything will be to your benefit;
  • do not seek a spiritual elder or guide. If he is needed, God will send him, and will send him when needed;
  • having worked and served this way for ten years–no less–ask God whether you should continue to live this way, or whether change is needed. And wait for an answer: it will come; the signs will be “joy and peace in the Holy Spirit.”
You can grow and use all your gifts this way. 

And if you can't then try again. Be faithful in piety and love, God will give you ways to use your gifts and you will always see them and fulfill them.


Now: I fail in this daily, but I don't feel like a "failure" in this. All I need is more folks to join me.


Shine! Shine, O New Jerusalem

JMJ
The Readings for Mary, Mother of the Church
Monday in the Week of Pentecost (B2)
Diligit Dominus portas Sion super omnia tabernacula Jacob. Gloriosa dicta sunt de te, civitas Dei! Numquid Sion dicet : Homo et homo natus est in ea? et ipse fundavit eam Altissimus.
The Lord loveth the gates of Sion above all the tabernacles of Jacob. Glorious things are said of thee, O city of God. Shall not Sion say: This man and that man is born in her? and the Highest himself hath founded her. 

In the Eastern Rite, there is a hymn sung at every Divine Liturgy during the Easter Season. In part, it runs:

Shine! Shine
O, New Jerusalem!
The glory of the Lord
Has shown, on you!

This hymn, seemingly (and truly) about the City in the book of St John's Apocalypse, is in fact a hymn about the Mother of God. In full it runs like this:



The Angel cried to the Lady full of Grace
Rejoice, O Pure Virgin! 
Again I say: Rejoice! 
Your Son is risen from His three days in the tomb! 
With Himself He has raised all the dead! 
Rejoice, all you people!
Shine! Shine 
O New Jerusalem! 
The Glory of the Lord 
has shone on you! 
Exult now, exult 
and be glad, O Zion! 
Be radiant, 
O Pure Theotokos, 
in the Resurrection of your Son!


The interplay of images is important: the New Jerusalem is the Church; it is also the Theotokos, the Dei Para, Mary, the Mother of God. Mary is the birth-giver of God, the church is his body, Mary is the Mother of the Church. In the Resurrection of Christ, the Church rises from the dead as well and Mary, who is both a member of the Church and the Mother of the Church, draws us all upward in her sinlessness. This rich interplay of images is brought to the West today with a new feast, instituted by Pope Francis: the Memorial of Mary the Mother of the Church.

The title itself predates the feast going back before the Schism between East and West. Yet liturgically this title had to wait until Pope St John Paul II added the "Mother of the Church" to the Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary in 1980.

All of the Psalms are prophecy of Christ: so, taking the city of Jerusalem as a type of the Blessed Virgin, we see in today's Responsorial Psalm that the Lord loves the Gates of Zion above all the houses of Jacob. Zion here is Jerusalem, and so the Blessed Virgin herself. Zion is the Church as well, as the Eastern Hymn says, called to Exult not only in the Resurrection of Jesus, but also in the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit, poured out on her in all fullness, and on all the Church in the feast of Pentecost, making a great chiasmas of the Christ Event.

This man is born in her (in Mary) is Christ, but all of us are born in the Church, that is, in Mary. We are her daughters and sons in that we are children of the Church. As the Church is our Mother, so is Mary. The Font is the tomb of Christ, the womb of the Church where we are born anew. The altar is the tomb of Christ, and the table of the Holy House, where our Mother feeds us. The Gates of Zion are round about us. Here is an 11th century image from the Monte Cassino Psalter of the Church as Mother. Mater Ecclesia, (as opposed to Mater Ecclesiae, Mother of the Church).


And so this feast ties a lot of things together: Mother, Mary, Church, Body of Christ, and us as Children of Church, Children of Mary, Sons and Daughters of God in Christ.

I am not even yet adding to this tapestry the Holy Mystery of the Eucharist in which we are the Body of Christ, fed on the Body of Christ, within the Body of Christ. Christ who is both God and Man, uniting in himself the Divine and the Human, the spiritual and eternal, the celestial and the earthly, feeding us himself, into that same divine dance shared by the Holy Trinity.  Created by God the Father, redeemed in Love by the God the Son, and overshadowed in Love by God the Holy Spirit. We are, as St Basil says, creatures of dirt given the vocation to become divine.

Maria, Mater Ecclesiae, ora pro nobis!

19 May 2018

Light one candle.

JMJ
The Readings for Saturday in the 7th Week of Easter (B2)
Domine, hic autem quid?
Quid ad te? tu me sequere. 
Lord, what about him?
What is that to you? You follow me.

Peter, with a growing sense of... something... turns around and sees the Evangelist John taking notes like some Cub Reporter. Peter - who has just been given his prime directive - looks back at Jesus and says, What about him? It could mean, What's his prime directive? Or it could mean: Why's he standing there? What's he doing? Does he always follow you around taking notes? Do you have a job for him? Did he betray you too? It could even mean, He didn't betray you like I did, why not bother him with this stuff about feeding your sheep?

Jesus says, Like you should care. Follow me.

When I was Orthodox, advice like this came in handy during Lent: don't let someone else's fasting (or lack of fasting) influence yours. It's so easy to get hung up on how they are doing it wrong. This is especially true if they are actually wrong. Because then the question becomes, Why are they getting away with it? And after that is uttered (mentally, at least) in all its judge-y glory, the very next question is, Can I get away with it too?

Except fasting - Catholic or Orthodox - is not about food. Fasting in the Christian tradition is about training the will. God has said all foods are clean. But it is tough, is it not, to forego something when it looks so good! That thing may be meat. That thing may be ice cream. That thing may be TV shows on Saturday night when you should be doing lectio for the Sunday readings. Fasting is important because it trains your will to avoid the big things later.  And the one thing you should never do when training the will is turn to Jesus and say, Domine, hic autem quid? Yea, what about him? That's what I want to know.... Jesus pats you on the head and says, Zok nit kin vey, Zuninkeh, Don't worry my little one. Fardinen a mitzveh, Do a good deed.

The problem is that this worrying about the other guy can continue.  A lot of my friends ask why they should be chaste when so many people in the Church are not. The question assumes two things: that the asker knows exactly what is going on the person's moral life and that morality is a majority vote when it is not. The question assumes that one's salvation is not as important as other people's fun. The question is best translated, Shouldn't we all be damned together? This is a far cry from Peter's question, true, but who of us is going to meet an apostle talking to Jesus? When we ask, "What about that guy?" We are not asking, "Why is he going to live forever?" but rather, "Why does he get to have hamburgers in Lent?" or, more likely, "Why does she get to support abortion and still take communion?" or "Why do they get to live together and have sex and still work as the parish secretary and choir director?" "Why does he get to be such a crass, rude, and inconsiderate so-and-so and still get to be president and hailed by Christians?"

While this may all be the fault of bad clergy, and the reality of mob-rule, the church is filled with humans: and that includes the clergy.  All these humans need your virtue more than you need to sin. Your  virtue, practiced in the praise of God, will elevate them - and the world around you. Your sin is only more of the same grey swamp. But one lit candle will change it all. Don't fall prey to the darkness. Don't curse it either. Change it.

Feed my sheep.