20 April 2018

Sonnet XV Good Friday. 3PM.


The darken'd Sun turns sharply to the West
The crying women now a muffl'd sound
The crowds still gaping silent stand around
The Roman circus ceases to molest

The body nearly now by life unbound
Unseen the Angels horror gathering now
Penultimate redemption's dying bow
In spittle blood and urine stains the ground

Divinely plan'd this death he will endow
With life enclos'd in Jesus holy grasp
And univers'ly shared in dying gasp
Tho questing Faith sees not nor questions how

As Satan opens Hell For Heaven's guest
The victor's crying Consumatus Est!

++++

This is my last sonnet for 2018... but more will come. There's 16 more, I think, in the list for Holy Week.

17 April 2018

I want you. To want me.

JMJ
The Readings for Tuesday in the 3rd Week of Easter (B2)
Ego sum panis vitae.
I am the bread of life.

In the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer 1979 there is a Eucharistic Anaphora that includes the lines: 
Deliver us from the presumption of coming to this table for solace only and not for strength; for pardon only and not for renewal.
Yesterday, however, I heard a sermon at 6:30 mass which cut me to my quick and added another "for.... only and not for...." to the list. In fact it's the only thing that should be on the list.

Fr Justin said that Christ is not a "Costco and Kaiser Permanente combined". I realized that I have been - for several years, really -  been coming to communion for the effects of the sacrament, but not for the reality of it. I've not been coming for Christ, himself.

I long for healing from my sins. I crave salvation and eternal life. I want reunion with those gone from me. I've a long list of intentions, too: prayers for those dealing with addiction, for friends in family problems, for the homeless, for peace, for the intentions of our Holy Father, Pope Francis, etc. But how have I come for solace and renewal, for pardon and strength, and yet not been coming for Christ, himself?

Ego Sum. I am. God's divine name. I am the Bread of Life. Jesus, himself.

This is the gift of the Eucharist. All those other things may happen but it is Christ, himself, the flesh of God, born of Mary; this is the miracle of Grace that comes to us in the Mass: Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. Yes, I know that. I never forgot it. But it was not why I was there.

Jesus says qui venit ad me, non esurient. He that cometh to me shall not hunger. But we should not come to him so that we are not hungry. We come to him. Then we are not hungry: Jesus wants us to want him for himself, to love him because of Love. Because he first loved us. We can be gold diggers looking for a sky-bound sugar daddy. 

We have a generous and a gracious God who gives us his very self. 

Why relish the bread of life for the side effects?

13 April 2018

When the heart is ready the teacher will come.


JMJ
The Readings for Thursday in the 2nd Week of Easter (B2)
Surgens autem quidam in concilio pharisaeus, nomine Gamaliel, legisdoctor, honorabilis universae plebi, jussit foras ad breve homines fieri, dixitque ad illos...
But one in the council rising up, a Pharisee, named Gamaliel, a doctor of the law, respected by all the people, commanded the men to be put forth a little while. And he said to them...

The Church's tradition, celebrated especially among the Orthodox and Byzantine Catholics, is that Gamaliel and his son were converts and the former, at least, is a saint. The translation of his relics is celebrated on 2 August. The Church's tradition is that Gamaliel buried St Stephen on his own estate after the latter was stoned.

In a lot of ways, Acts is really the story of St Paul with this long intro. We tend to forget: Gamaliel was St Paul's teacher. So, somewhere in this room of angry men, yelling for blood and demanding the death of the Prince of the Apostles... somewhere here is one Sha'ul of Tarsus. How else do we know these words at all? The "good guys" are out of the room. Paul is here, listening, and hearing the words of his Teacher speaking here, maybe taking notes, a transcription, as it were. Later it is Paul who tells these words to Luke.

And so, deeply tonight as I was thinking about this, I was struck by the image of St Gamaliel praying for his student... as he stomps off angrily to Damascus.

If you've seen the movie, Paul, Apostle of Christ, there's a lot of violence: the movie makes much of St Paul's blood-lust directed at these odd followers of this Jesus. In Acts, the Latin says spirans minarum, et caedis, breathing out threatenings and slaughter... and as I write I'm seeing Gamaliel kneeling in prayer for his student's conversion. And praying in all righteousness that God would show the light to this angry young man, Sha'ul.

Do you ever think of prayer as the first weapon of Evangelism? If you love someone so much you want to win them for Christ, how can you not pray for them - by name, not in the Abstract. Not all of us are called to be Evangelists: that is one of the gifts of the spirit, yes, but some are called to it and others are not. But all of us are called to go and make Disciples. Discipleship starts way before evangelism. Before the evangelism, before the preaching, before the Romans' Road to Salvation, have you prayed for that soul? Have you got down and begged God to show his light to someone, or are you trying to elbow you way through the crowd to beat God to the punch?

St Gamaliel, pray for... who would you name here?

11 April 2018

Verba Vitae


JMJ
The Readings for the 2nd Wednesday of Easter (B2)
Ite, et stantes loquimini in templo plebi omnia verba vitae hujus. 
Go, and standing speak in the temple to the people all the words of this life. 

What are omnia verba vitae hujus? What are all the words of this life? Is this the idea you have of a corner evangelist? When you hear such do you hear him speaking the words of this life? In Greek the phrase is ῥήματα τῆς Ζωῆς ταύτης rhemata tes Zoes tautes... the phrase is used elsewhere, in John. When, after explaining the Eucharist, all the folks get disgusted because Jesus really says "eat my flesh" and "drink my blood". And folks leave. And Jesus says to the 12, "Are you going to leave too?" and they say "you have the ῥήματα ζωῆς, the rhemata Zoes, the words of life". 

That's not an accidental parallel for there are other Greek words that mean "life" or even "Way of Life" and there are other Greek words for "word".  Rhemata means "teaching" rather than a literal word. Zoe, in the scriptures, is the divine life, given to us by Grace. It's very different from the life of simply "breathing". That life ends. Zoe is the life of God which never dies. The whole purpose of the Christian Way is to replace mere breathing with actual living, with Zoe.

The Rhemata Zoes. Go into the temple and speak all the Rhemata Zoes to the people. Jesus has the words of Zoe in John, but the Apostles are commanded to speak about this Zoe... and since we've just been hearing in the preceding chapter about the Christian Community's patterns of living together, holding all things in common, of praying and making Eucharist together, this is this Zoe. This community acting this way is the Christian life: not a sinner's prayer and hope to see you next week, nor a come to mass and go home alone sort of thing at all. But live together, sharing all things, doing in Jesus' name all the things that get done.

That is this life. It is shared, from the get go. Pope Francis said, in the Apostolic Exhortation released recently: We are never completely ourselves unless we belong to a people. That is why no one is saved alone, as an isolated individual. Rather, God draws us to himself, taking into account the complex fabric of interpersonal relationships present in a human community. 

The pope continues, 
14. To be holy does not require being a bishop, a priest or a religious. We are frequently tempted to think that holiness is only for those who can withdraw from ordinary affairs to spend much time in prayer. That is not the case. We are all called to be holy by living our lives with love and by bearing witness in everything we do, wherever we find ourselves. Are you called to the consecrated life? Be holy by living out your commitment with joy. Are you married? Be holy by loving and caring for your husband or wife, as Christ does for the Church. Do you work for a living? Be holy by labouring with integrity and skill in the service of your brothers and sisters. Are you a parent or grandparent? Be holy by patiently teaching the little ones how to follow Jesus. Are you in a position of authority? Be holy by working for the common good and renouncing personal gain.[14]
15. Let the grace of your baptism bear fruit in a path of holiness. Let everything be open to God; turn to him in every situation. Do not be dismayed, for the power of the Holy Spirit enables you to do this, and holiness, in the end, is the fruit of the Holy Spirit in your life (cf. Gal 5:22-23). When you feel the temptation to dwell on your own weakness, raise your eyes to Christ crucified and say: “Lord, I am a poor sinner, but you can work the miracle of making me a little bit better”. In the Church, holy yet made up of sinners, you will find everything you need to grow towards holiness. The Lord has bestowed on the Church the gifts of scripture, the sacraments, holy places, living communities, the witness of the saints and a multifaceted beauty that proceeds from God’s love, “like a bride bedecked with jewels” (Is 61:10).
16. This holiness to which the Lord calls you will grow through small gestures. Here is an example: a woman goes shopping, she meets a neighbour and they begin to speak, and the gossip starts. But she says in her heart: “No, I will not speak badly of anyone”. This is a step forward in holiness. Later, at home, one of her children wants to talk to her about his hopes and dreams, and even though she is tired, she sits down and listens with patience and love. That is another sacrifice that brings holiness. Later she experiences some anxiety, but recalling the love of the Virgin Mary, she takes her rosary and prays with faith. Yet another path of holiness. Later still, she goes out onto the street, encounters a poor person and stops to say a kind word to him. One more step.
This life of Holiness, the Rhemata Zoes... it continues. We should speak it always and everywhere.


10 April 2018

A Community of Christians in Charity with the World



JMJ
The Readings for in Easter Week (B2)

Neque enim quisquam egens erat inter illos.
For neither was there any one needy among them.

They will know we are Christians by our love, y'all.  So where are there needy folks sitting in the pew next to you, or on the bus next to you, wait: I bet you drive to work. You don't notice unless they ask for money at the exit ramp, I bet.


By a blessing of liturgics we get the same lesson from Acts as we had on Sunday. Even if you think the idea of "holding all things in common" is anachronistic, surely this idea of "no one needy among them" must be a good and moral end, right? Yet the poor you will always have with you will be quoted by some wag. The wags who quote the poor you will always have with you you will always have with you. And while he's rattling off scripture he's damning his own soul.


Our oddly American fascination with my stuff is a moral infection with multiple vectors.  We labor for money to buy stuff: this is not wrong. But the infection arises when the labor is not for its proper end (provision for the family, the church, and the needed, together with the expiation of sin [qv: Adam and Eve]) and, instead, made as a means to get even more stuff, as is done with Marketing and all the other tools of late-model capitalism. Our desires wake and the acquisition of stuff for the sake of stuff, to appear wealthy, to match our neighbors, etc) takes over. We need more stuff to "feel safe" to be "secure". We hoard our money and our stuff.


We want to buy stuff at the best value. The end result is foreign labor making cheap stuff which is good value in the short term, but bad value in the long term. We are happy buying a $3 gadget at WalMart instead of a $10 gadget somewhere else, even though it won't last, was made overseas by slave labor (or robots keeping even the slaves unemployed). The end results are social injustice and junk in landfills. The exception to this being electronics where we are happy to pay top dollar because it feels better and looks better. Ironically it was made by the same slave labor and the electronics companies are getting rich of your band consciousness. And poor workers are no better off working on things we pay $5k for than they are working on things we pay $5 for.


Do I want a new $10 off-market watch that tells time, or do I want a $400 apple watch made by the same folks for the same environmental damage? That's an easy one: I work in tech so I know which one I'd pick!


We've made our money and we've bought our stuff, certainly it stops there? Sadly: no. For there is always more stuff to have. Children raised by parents who said "no" - because they were too poor to say "yes" - very often want to say "yes" to their own kids all the time. Curiously, anyone raised by parents who always said "yes" suffers from the same problem. Our homes fill with stuff as quickly as a hoarder's shed or a meth addict's mobile home. Meanwhile, the needy are sitting right next to us on the bus, in the pew, or in front of our office. 


Lending to people who can repay the loan and the favor is not charity.


Think it through: how much is it costing you to read these words? Electricity, internet, Google's data sponge, the device you are using, with it's own data sponges, the social cost (unless you're really alone, there is an icon of God, a human being next to you whom you're ignoring, even on the bus. All this is only the beginning.


There was no needy person among them.


How do we get there as a Church? While this may seem abstract for you know, just one of Huw's political rants, I firmly believe this will be a crucial question for us in the near future. How do we get to a place where they know we are Christians by our Love, by our Love?

The image at the top of this post is of a housing Co-op that I used to live in, in Buffalo, New York. It's not a religious org. But it is a model that - in experience and  actions - is rather like the communities discussed in the Book of Acts. What if singles in local parishes banded together to form housing co-ops on the same model?

These co-ops could acquire housing, build out and save, and, in time, take care of others. As singles marry, bringing other folks into the co-op, they stay in the community, raising their children as Catholics among other Catholics. These growing communities sharing all things in common,  could care for the elderly in the parish, the sick, the homeless. They could form the front lines in Catholic Social Outreach. 


Singles come in all ages, not just young adults, but also the divorced, the widowed, the single parents, the same-sex attracted trying to live (as all these singles) chastely. This is a healthy mix that would prevent these communities from becoming speed dating societies (as many young adult ministries do). These would require true Christian charity often missing from our world. These would call us to actively live our baptismal vows with our Sisters and Brothers to the end that we could even live in Love and Charity with our neighbors. They will know we are Christians by our Love.


Could we do it?

09 April 2018

Mamma Don't Allow no Kyriopascha 'Round Here


JMJ
The Readings for the Annunciation
(Transferred)
Ecce ancilla Domini. 
Behold the handmaiden of the Lord.

Our Mother, the Holy Church of Rome, will not allow a feast or Solemnity to impinge on the period between Palm Sunday and the 2nd Sunday of Easter. Anything that needs to be celebrated in that time gets bumped to the first available weekday. Since the 25th of March was Palm Sunday this year, the Annunciation is celebrated today.

But I'm going to keep this short. Here's a question for your meditation:

What kind of omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent God leaves the entire fate of the human race and all of salvation history hanging on the response of a 13 year old poor child from the backwoods of the occupied Roman world?

08 April 2018

Yeah, You Didn't Build That

JMJ
The Readings for 2nd Sunday of Easter (Domenica in Albis) (B2)
Nec quisquam eorum quae possidebat, aliquid suum esse dicebat, sed erant illis omnia communia. Neque enim quisquam egens erat inter illos: Dividebatur autem singulis prout cuique opus erat.
No one said that aught of the things which he possessed, was his own; but all things were common unto them. For neither was there any one needy among them: distribution was made to every one, according as he had need. 

This is one of those idyllic scenes in the New Testament that gets either ignored or latched on to, with no context. It is usually ignored by a class of persons we shall, today, call conservative capitalists. They choose to ignore huge swatches of Catholic Social Teaching in favor of a cross between Ayn Rand and Ronald Reagan, tempered with a piety circumscribed by denial of human causes of Climate Change, the Latin Mass, and protests at Abortion Clinics; giving lip service to social doctrines whilst shopping at Amazon.

This is latched on to by a class of persons we shall, today, call liberal capitalists. They choose to ignore huge swatches of Catholic Social Teaching in favor of a cross between Marx and Bernie Sanders, tempered with a piety circumscribed by devotion to the Democratic Party, Taize meditation, and pronouncing foreign names as if they were native speakers of those foreign languages; giving lip service to moral doctrines whilst shopping at Amazon.

But both classes of persons fail to note that here - and everywhere else in the Bible, Old and New, Greek and Hebrew, the primary teaching about stuff is it's not yours, it's God's. The secondary teaching about stuff is When you have God's stuff you're supposed to act like God does, and just keep giving it away.

I remember a speech given by a former president, reminding folks that none of the jobs in this country could be performed, none of the wealth accumulated save for the work done on roads, electrical wires, water pipes, etc. Even the people who build roads, hang wires, and lay pipes rely on the work done by others. It truly takes a village to do literally anything at all. We don't own our success. We don't own anything, really, from a theological point of view. Although we can own stuff from the world's point of view. We also own stuff from a moral and ethical point of view. If we didn't own it we couldn't give it away, morally or ethically. Yet, precisely because it is God's Stuff we are supposed to act with it as God would act with it. Not as we might want to act, not as we might even will to act.

We are obligated by Catholic Social Teachings to build a just society - and that includes a just sharing of resources. It's the sharing that's hard. Not only for us: but for much of our political communities. Most of us are out for justice for me. When do I get my fair share? All I want is what I have coming to me. Sure, when I get that, I'll be happy to fight for you as well. But me first.

Most Americans are, globally considered, not poor. Compared to the vast majority of persons in God's image, all of us are swimming in squandered wealth and resources. Although often hindered by police injustice and political machinations, our poor have available to them vast resources undreamed of by the populations of many countries. Although our medical system is nearly barbaric as far a resource distribution goes, the content of our system is quiet amazing. The existence of our grocery stores, our corner bodegas, our veggie stands, and farmers' markets just astounds anyone visiting our country.

We are surrounded by food and payday should mean "let me go buy everything I can and give it to the poor" and, instead, payday usually means I can have a few extra beers. Although I was moved by the Occupy protests of a few years ago, and continue to be inspired by young people who takes risks in caring for the poor, the truth is that most of us (including me) have more money invested in the electronics that keep us connected to the internet 24/7 than we give away to the poor. And most of us (including me) have arguments for why that is so: I made up six while I typed this sentence, one for each homeless person sleeping on the street I will pass on my way to 6:30 Mass tomorrow.

The early Church held all things in common and we know they also shared them not only with themselves, but with others outside of the Church community. They cared not only for themselves, but for others who came to them, for babies, the elderly, and the sick all abandoned on hillsides and in forests whom they brought in and nursed back to health. (One Catholic writer opined that this constant exposure to germs and illnesses made the Christians, overall, healthier than the pagans, and so, less likely to die when epidemics struck, etc.) The wealthy Christians opened their homes to their brothers and sisters. These house churches became the loci for communities that put down historical roots. Some are still major churches in Rome 2,000 years later. 

But we do like our stuff.
And we do like our myth of self-creation.
And we love the story of self-made wealth.
And in the end we love self more than other.
But we're happy to put a $20 in the plate every now and then as we put motion-activated water sprouts in our Cathedral doorways to prevent the indigent from sleeping there.

Happy Divine Mercy Sunday.





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