30 July 2018

Subversion!

JMJ

The Readings for Monday in the 17th Week of Ordinary Time (B2)
Aliam parabolam locutus est eis : Similis est regnum caelorum fermento, quod acceptum mulier abscondit in farinae satis tribus, donec fermentatum est totum.
Another parable he spoke to them: The kingdom of heaven is like to leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal, until the whole was leavened. 

During the great fire of 1906, so the story goes, Mrs Boudin ran into the family bakery to rescue a bit of the sourdough that was rising at that time, so that the strain of yeast in the 65 year old bakery could be continued. That strain is now 149 years old and still an SF favourite. It only take a little leaven. 

Reaching the end of Christendom is scary for some folks. These folks define Christendom as a Majority World View and that majority is certainly passed away in the US, by falling off on the left and on the right. It died in Europe a painless death of under-use. Although it is thriving in many places, it is often woven in with leaders who would just as soon sell out for more power and mammon. Speaking ill of Putin got an Orthodox Parish in New York City slapped by the OCA. Catholics who are on the Trump train think the rest of us are fake Catholics. Christendom is dead, if by Christendom you mean the power to enforce our morality on folks who are not Christians by using the Gov't. Gov'ts don't care about us if we don't vote for them or else keep them in power. 

Truth is, they never did.

Yet St Paul tells us to "honor the king" and "obey the laws" as long as they don't contravene the Law of God. And in that respect he's right - because he says the reason to do this is to get people to speak well of you and want to look into the Gospel.  Jesus says, "Let your light shine before all that they may see your good deeds and praise God." St Paul takes the Roman Marriage and twists it into a loving relationship of equals. He wants to use it to convert the world. He turns slavery into Christian witness. He wants slave owners to do more than just treat their slaves as equals in Christ. He makes "law abiding" a way to preach. Jesus tells his disciples to be wise as serpents and to make friends of unrighteous mammon. Be in the world, but not of it. Two millennia later, the Christians of the CCCP were praying for the Soviets in the exact same words they used to pray for the Czar, asking that the Gov't would keep order so that the Church could live the Gospel.

Subversion, my friends. That's what this is about: subversion. 

The Gospel is leaven, designed to change the world from the inside, or, as the Dominicans say, Grace builds on nature. God takes bread and makes it into His Body. God takes a sinner and makes her into a saint. God take humanity and makes it into himself. None of these by committing violence to the folks involved, but rather by leavening their loaf, by making them, from the inside, into what they are supposed to be. This is why there can be no Benedict Option. To abandon the world would be to rob the world of leaven. 

Still this is not the way to victory. The death of Christendom only means a chance for us to die more often. "Actually I am a Christian,” Tolkien wrote, “and indeed a Roman Catholic, so that I do not expect ‘history’ to be anything but a ‘long defeat’— though it contains (and in legend may contain more clearly and movingly) some samples or glimpses of final victory.” (Letters 255).

The Apostles and all the Church Fathers tell us that no matter how hard we work to build God's kingdom here, the end will be the Kingdom of Antichrist and darkness.
But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of stress. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, inhuman, implacable, slanderers, profligates, fierce, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding the form of religion but denying the power of it. 2 Timothy 3:1-5a
It's not going to be pretty, either: Indeed all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil men and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceivers and deceived.  And that "holding the form of religion" bit means that these folks will be (or at least claim to be) Christians. We have these today: folks who say the teachings of the church are impossible to keep, or who insist that a group or class of person can't keep the teachings of the Church so the teachings must change. In this they deny the power: of God to work, of the redemption of Christ to save, and of the human person to cooperate with grace. 

The Council of Trent foresaw this:  
If any one saith, that the commandments of God are, even for one that is justified and constituted in grace, impossible to keep; let him be Anathema. Canon XVIII
So we're right on target.

The Prophet Jeremiah's underwear is an amusing story. It's how these people will end up. But for the time, we have to even subvert the downward motion: for God intends it for our salvation. Being the leaven in the world, means being the sourdough of God. All we need is one pinch saved from the fire. Only a remnant will save the whole world.


___

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29 July 2018

Domus Dei et Porta Coeli in Cor Civitatem

+JMJ+

There are some seriously beautiful Churches in this Catholic city. Some 25% of the population in the Bay is said to be Roman Catholic. That means there are more Catholics in this Bay Area than there are Episcopalians. Anywhere. Or Orthodox, for that matter. (How many of them go to Church is another thing entirely, as it is for the other groups.) That many folks means there are some Beautiful Churches here. There are some toasters as well, don't get me wrong, as well as some of those cyborg things that use holograms and floating statuary. Still this one seems a winner.



Built in the late 1920s, just before the Depression hit, just in time to support folks through that dark period, and refurbished and retrofitted in the 1980s, just in time to withstand the Loma Prieta quake, it's a miracle of community in the heart of this city. Doubly so, for the initial funding was from the community and it thrived through the Depression; and then, again, in the 80s, when the Archdiocese wanted it closed, the OP said not just no, but, O Heck No. And the community made the rebuild, and the retrofit, and the rebirth happen. I don't know if this is true, but I've heard that nearly 20% of the new Catholics in the Archdiocese come through this RCIA program. There are program events every night, there are multiple masses every day, the Daily Office is said here, weddings, funerals, baptisms, confessions, the food pantry, the homeless services, and open doors from 6AM to (at least) 9PM ever day. The friary hosts the Novitiate for the Dominican Province of the Holy Name. Speakers and clergy come from all over the world to talk about missions, spiritual topics, social justice, and to pray in what was once called, "The most beautiful Church in America". It still is in my book.


More than a Parish Church, this is home to so many folks, including yours truly. While I've felt at home before in other places, and even not at home at all, something here clicked in a way that no other place has. The homeless in the pews, the hippies with their patchouli, the couples, the ethnic diversity, the Spanish Passion Play, the Christmas Messiah Concert, the Old Ladies with their Rosaries, the faithful in the fellowships, the dozens of small groups that spontaneously form to care for each other, the mobs of folks that show up for the daily masses (I'm used to seeing 7 or 9 for a weekday service, not 60 or 70... 30 or more is normal at 6:30 AM) all combine to tell me the Holy Spirit is doing something here, in the Heart of the City, that is making all heaven rejoice.



Numbers are not everything. Growth is not the measure of the Holy and I would rather a tiny, faithful remnant than a stadium full of pretenders. But we're all sinners, and I can't tell anyone's pretending when I'm kneeling in the confessional or reaching out to receive the Body of Christ.


Deacon Jimmy asked in his Homily today how it was that each of us came to be there. I had heard of St Dominic's parish, of all places, from my Orthodox Goddaughter and her husband, he a cradle Catholic from this Parish. When I left the Monastery, my heart firmly fixed on staying in the West, and having arrived back in SF, my question was "Where can I continue the monastic practice of going to Daily Mass easily from my residence and then get to work?" Easily means one bus, and that was the case for me: the 22 Fillmore brought me every day from Potrero Hill to Saint Dominic's for 630 Mass and Morning Prayer. You'd almost think God set it up or something. My apartment now is also one bus away, although I have three buses to pick from now, and four buses coming back! That's how I got there. But what kept me coming back was three moments: talking with Fr Michael about becoming Catholic (when he convinced me that plugging into the community was the important thing); Fr Augustine Hilander racing me out of Morning Prayer one morning to intercept me at the door and invite me to chant the office with the others in Choir; and Michael O'Smith letting me co-lead a small faith group when I had been in the church less than 3 months and wasn't even officially Roman Catholic. These are all community related, if you can't tell.

And now there is a new community in the Dominican Tertiaries, or the Third Order, OP, or the Dominican Laity. (Today at Mass I heard us called the "Order of Preachers, Laity".)  I'm discerning my way yet, but that seems to be my best fit into this place.


I got there on the Second Sunday of Advent 2016. My best friend, Tim, says three days later I moved in. How could I not move into my home? If you pay any attention to my social media you know I cannot stop taking pictures of this place. I've seen it in every light and shade, and in as many different sorts of weather as we have here, including smog from wild fires. 


I've watch stars overhead, seen an Iridium Flare from the front steps, hidden from the rain, and knelt as the evening sun blinded me to the elevated Host at Mass. But there is something else, something, pardon the wordplay, Catholic here. Mass is filled with Anglican Hymns. Our Solemn Mass (11:30s on Sunday) is an Anglo Catholic's dream of vested choirs and smells and bells. Our low masses (6:30 and 8:00 AM and 5:30PM week-daily) are motions of high piety and prayer (rather than 15 minute Dine and Dashes) that lead folks to mini coffee-hours at the local bakeries or fellowship meals on the Fillmore. I run into people from this parish all over town. There are folks praying the Rosary and the Jesus Prayer here. There are Latin, English, and Spanish Masses. There's a guitar mass and a Taize mass. There may be more... who knows what God will do here? But everything is here from my past. It's as if God has prepared this place for an oddball on a journey home. 

And, so it is, that God willing, one of these will be mine soon:


A blessed Feast! 





28 July 2018

The Abominable Bride

JMJ

The Readings for Saturday in the 16th Week of Ordinary Time (B2)

Liberati sumus, eo quod fecerimus omnes abominationes istas.
"We are safe; we can commit all these abominations again"

The Hebrew word used in this line for "Abomination" is תּוֹעֵבָה to'evah, a specific class of ritual and societal uncleaness in the Jewish law, related to certain acts of impiety such as idolatry, and eating unclean foods, certain sexual acts, and the sacrifice of children. In short, a description of nearly every popular Catholic politican and not a few popular clergy in the news. It's not pretty. And yet on a given Sunday in San Francisco, you can see one such politician receiving the Blessed Sacrament unmolested in her parish church. And yet... crisscrossing the country and visiting Hollywood, Washington, DC, or Boston, one can see the same thing in Orthodox churches. If only my former ecclesial home were seen to be as important as Rome by the media, more would be said about suicides in seminary, Bishops touching things they should not touch, monastics arrested and sent to prison, and sex parties with Metropolitans. And goodness only knows what goes on in Eastern Europe, Turkey, and the lands around Palestine. Everyone says, "We're safe. We can do these abominations again."

To'evah, abomination, is also used of charging interest on a loan. In current English usage, usury usually something like loan sharks, payday loans, or medical billing practices. But in the Bible charging any interest at all is morally equal to rape and idolatry. For this reason, until recently, Christians were forbidden to be bankers at all. By the Church. It was a curious dual Antisemitism that forbade Christians to do so, but allowed the industry to continue in the hands of Jews, but then the Church changed her mind when the historic banking families became wealthy enough to interest Christians in the business. Still, given the housing situation in many parts of the country, the lack of care for the poor, the lack of food, the lack of medical care... Even outside of sex acts and worshiping the Golden Calves of the president, we're all safe, right? We can do these abominations again.

In the end both lungs are spotty if not out and out cancerous. The bride is abominable. The sex part draws attention, but listen to the left criticize the Church's teachings on sex or listen to the right criticize the Church's social teachings. It's all the same a la cart Catholicism, it matters not if you like the Surf and Turf or the Vegan side of the buffet.

What's to be done?

The Gospel speaks to us now. 
The Kingdom of heaven may be likened to a man who sowed good seed in his field. While everyone was asleep his enemy came and sowed weeds all through the wheat, and then went off. When the crop grew and bore fruit, the weeds appeared as well.
Is that not a perfect description of the Church, taken side by side with today's prophetic passage? There is one fault though: our weeds (Tares in the Greek - a specific kind of weed that looks exactly like the wheat but happens to be poisonous) are not condemned to be always weeds. In the Church of God, I can be a tare today and good wheat tomorrow. God's grace can get to me after a lifetime of taredom and restore me to righteous wheatiness in no time. But you have to admit, we have some weeds in the amber waves.
The slaves of the householder came to him and said, 'Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where have the weeds come from?' He answered, 'An enemy has done this.' His slaves said to him, 'Do you want us to go and pull them up?'
There are not enough Holy Hot Pockets in Hades for all the folks I would put there. And certainly an enemy has done this. Let's get'em!

Jesus replies...
'No, if you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them. Let them grow together until harvest;
And remember what I said: we're not plants. I'm a mess today, but I may be all filled with grace later. We can stand or fall by our depending on God's grace or our failure to do so. Jesus doesn't want us to go on Church purity drives that kick out the sinners. They're the whole reason the Church is here. The tares need coaxing into wheatiness. We're all transitional forms forms of saints.

The bride has to stay a mess: and yes, there are those who will find themselves in purgatory here and now. It may be God's way of making them into wheat. And I don't understand it, but then, I'm not God and I don't have to understand it. 

By the same token, none of us can be more merciful than God, but collusion with sin is neither mercy nor love. I know how I would want to reach out with the pruning hooks and so I'm thankful that's not my job. I condemn myself thereby. Even now, in light of recent scandals, some of my friends who did not believe "gay" was an ontological category are calling for all "the gays" to be kept out of/leave the priesthood, tossing out their own sense of the Church's teachings in their anger.

We wrestle not with flesh and blood, says St Paul. But against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness.

For those of us not called to serve as judges in the Church - and that's probably all of us reading this blog, at least, we are called to pray for "the Tares" and also for those harmed by them. We are called to try - at least - to love them all back to God. There are those who have spiritual authority to take other action, and that may happen. But even then, our job is to pray and work for healing. Acting through righteous anger will not cause the world to say, "See how these Christians love each other." But rather it will make us just like the world. We can be a part of Rage Culture too.

Yet never worry. God knows his own.

At harvest time I will say to the harvesters, "First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning; but gather the wheat into my barn."
It is most important to keep this in mind. As the whole thing seems to go to hell in a hand-basket, over and over again, our job is to pray and live faithful lives. To be virtuous even when the shepherds fail, to be trusting in the one who, in the end, will gather us into his barn.

Though the cause of evil prosper, yet the truth alone is strong; 
Though her portion be the scaffold, and upon the throne be wrong;
Yet that scaffold sways the future, and behind the dim unknown,
Standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above His own.

In the end, the Bride is beautiful. It is she whom God came and sought, it is she for whom he died. Her beauty, unseen even now, has ravished all of heaven and wooed her creator to come. But it was a beauty he gave her... and he knew it was there, even when she fell so low. He knew he could raise her up with himself.


___


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26 July 2018

Here is Deep Water

JMJ

The Readings for the Memorial of Joachim and Anna, Grandparents of God
Thursday in the 16th Week of Ordinary Time (B2)
Obstupescite, caeli, super hoc : et portae ejus, desolamini vehementer, dicit Dominus. Duo enim mala fecit populus meus : me derelinquerunt fontem aquae vivae, et foderunt sibi cisternas, cisternas dissipatas, quia continere non valent aquas.

Be appalled, O heavens, at this, be shocked, be utterly desolate, says the LORD, for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns, that can hold no water. 


There are a lot of Catholic Devotions out there! A lot of spiritualities! Each one is supported by the church, approved, and growing. It's not a case of once-size-fits-all. Do you like to study and underline passages in books as you think about them? You may be a Benedictine. Do you like to do that on your Kindle while you read in a group? You may be a Dominican. Do you prefer to set the books down and picture yourself in them from memory? You may be a Jesuit. Do you prefer to toss the books out the window and live the Gospel in the streets? Franciscan. It's a thing: there are online online tests about which religious order your personality fits into. 

Coming from a tradition of one-size-fits-all, this has been eye opening to me. Catholic means whole. If there is something of good, of God in a tool, it belongs in here. There's meditation, chanting, and silence enough to put any ashram to shame. There's praise and worship music, baroque stringed adventures, a capella vocal harmonies, and Russian four part chanting enough to put the entire world to shame as mute.There's a myriad of litanies, vocal prayers, novenas, pilgrimages, books on mass intentions, patristic writings, meditations on the Psalter,  teachings on centering prayer, mystical saints teachings on gardening... There's enough liturgical variation (just on the books, alone) to make us all eschew the idea that there's one right way to do Catholicism. 

It's in light of this buffet of spiritual treasures, this feast for the soul, that I'm always confused at folks who need to shun "organized religion". This is hardly that, save as a library is organized or a hardware store. You can totally mix and match here. Why did shallow wells of your own when you can plumb the depths of humanity's spiritual treasures here? Each one plugged into the illimitable riches of a 2000-6000 year old tradition. This water is deep and fresh. And the deeper you go, the deeper it is.

Today is the feast of the Parents of the Blessed Virgin, who were the Grandparents of God. And the thing that calls out to me today is the Rosary, for my friend Tim, spoke on this on Tuesday night, and also this Rosary is my spiritual home. This has become a daily prayer. It, too, gets deeper the further in you go, until you're lost in visions and depths, stars and great abysses of joy. And when I'm in a room full of people praying this together i can hear the echoes of the children at Fatima and Lourdes, of the mobs surrounding them, simply kneeling and whispering

Hail Mary, full of Grace;

The prayer of the entire church from the Archangel to now. Here to participate in freely, by anyone with a hand and a heart/brain/mouth to say the words. 

A podcast (?) or a conversation I heard (?) last week drove home the point: when Jesus says the "gates of hell will not prevail against" his Church, he uses a word that can't be about gates... overpowering is not something gates do. Gates do not attack they defend. Gates can be overpowered though. And in that war someone might prevail. Jesus means for us to be on the attack in this spiritual warfare! And since this is a great prayer for walking either a lone or in a group, it comes to me that it's a great way to conquer as well. What if you could walk the streets of your city or town claiming them for Jesus and our blessed Lady as you walked: simply praying the Rosary and fighting off the demons.

What if armies of prayerful folks could leave Mass on a Sunday and  reclaim whole stretches of their city just by walking home and praying the Rosary as they went? What if walking became your regular mode and you might spend your morning and evening walks to and from the office battling demons and waging peace on your town. 

We consecrated the Archdiocese to Mary last year, maybe we should begin to consecrate the streets, one by one, letting the deep waters of God's grace fill up our city. Or yours.



___

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Sé do bheatha, a Mhuire, atá lán de ghrásta, tá an Tiarna leat. Is beannaithe thú idir mná agus is beannaithe toradh do bhroinne, Íosa. A Naomh-Mhuire, a Mháthair Dé, guigh orainn na peacaigh, anois, agus ar uair ár mbáis. Amen.


So is the Hail Mary in Irish.

25 July 2018

MINE! MINE! MINE!


+JMJ+

The 14th of 15 in a Series of Meditations on the 15 daily intentions offered by members of the Angelic Warfare Confraternity.
Wherein we pray for the grace of self-surrender and that we may never hand over to God anything less than our entire lives
This is really the point of the whole thing, or at least the penultimate point: that we give over to God everything. This prayer moves it away from talking about sex and lust and moves us into talking about everything. We've asked for each of the powers of our soul to be cleansed and purified. We've asked that all our interactions with the world be set into a level and plumb status. And now we want to take that package and say, "Here, this is yours".  But we do like to hold on to a few things, right? We want to be miserly with our treasures no matter how small they are. They are our treasures. "MINE!" As Daffy Duck would say. 

This struck me earlier, walking from the office. I remembered watching a video by my bother in Christ, which opens with these challenging words: If we deny who God says we are then we are wrong. That came to me in the context of a Rosary and thinking about a showing of the movie Desire of the Everlasting Hills at my parish tonight so it started with prayer and sex, but I ended up thinking about my job. I've struggled for years to become a priest, but I'm still a layman, and doing quite well at it. But I want to demand of God that one thing there that he won't give me. I can't seem to surrender that part of my life.  There are so many other places where this plays out as well.

We are convinced that "my experience" outweighs God's teachings and, even when we give lip service to God being in control, we want to read our experiences to support our choices rather than God's teachings. You know: that I have 35 years of failed sexual relationships must mean that God has someone out there for me and I've just not met them yet. The definition of insanity: trying the same thing over and over, expecting different results. This does not apply here, right? I know what God wants for me.

We make up words to describe ourselves and our choices, even when the words contravene God's plan. Sometimes we dress up our contravention in words that look as if they were God's plan in the first place. Can I get this blessed, Father? It's just the same as that other thing. This is where that video rises up to challenge me: Look, the video seems to say. If it comes down to a pissing contest between your words and the inventor of words, God wins. If it comes down to a choice between what you think is going on and what God says is going on, God wins. If it comes down to a debate between you and your creator, God wins. Every time. Hands down. He has all the cards, all the plays, and all the moves. But, says one, surely I have freedom.

Yes. We have freedom. Our freedom is not one of license, however. There are two free choices are are equally free to make: on the one hand, we can do absolutely anything we want. On the other hand, we can surrender to God and do what he would have us do. This is really the only question there is in any choice, although it must be said in that in some choices it matters not. God doesn't care if I have the tuna or salmon on a Friday. Should I use fragrance free soap? God won't care as much as the neighbors on the bus. Equally good choices matter not. Personal taste, you know. Other times it's a total reversal, should I cheat you or cheat them? Should I speed through all the yellows or run red lights at the speed limit? Equally bad (in that they disrespect the rightful laws) choices are equally sinful. The choice is not to chose.

We have freedom. But that's what this prayer is about. Our whole purpose is not to make money, not to be successful, not to be the envy of our friends and enemies alike, not to die happy and well remembered. The very reason for our existence - Catholic or not - is to become saints. 

The measure to which we want to hold on to something short of sainthood is the measure to which we need this 14th prayer.

We need also, to pray, as St Ignatius prayed, 
Suscipe, Domine, universam meam libertatem. Accipe memoriam, intellectum, atque voluntatem omnem. Quidquid habeo vel possideo mihi largitus es; id tibi totum restituo, ac tuae prorsus voluntati trado gubernandum. Amorem tui solum cum gratia tua mihi dones, et dives sum satis, nec aliud quidquam ultra posco.
Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and my entire will, all that I have and possess. Thou hast given all to me. To Thee, O Lord, I return it. All is Thine, dispose of it wholly according to Thy will. Give me Thy love and Thy grace, for this is sufficient for me.
Take everything I have, God. You gave it to me, I give it back. (St Paul asks us "Why do you act as if anything is yours? Why do you act as if anything you have was not given to you?") We give it back to God and say, direct me, use me, fill me with your purpose, make me into your tool - even if it's only a spade in your garden, only a recycle bin on the edge of Glory, as long as I become what you want and need, I will be satisfied.

In this surrender, we find our weakness as well. We lay down our faults as well as our strengths. We give over to God all the places where we insist on trying to go it alone, but we also lay down the places where we are helpless. Where we hide from inspection. We lay down the brokenness we hide from our closest friends. These places are just as dangerous as the places of our pride. These places make us turn away in same, like Adam hiding his nakedness. Self surrender means the entire self.

God made you this way. For his purpose, for his plan, and for his glory. How can you not be who you are? But you can't be "who you are" without God. Without the source of our being, we are nothing. We are building houses on the sand and when the wind comes the houses will fall. We want nothing to do with building on the rock because we might have to answer for it. We're happy being "our own man" or "our own woman".  We look around and see Presidents and Performers doing it "my way" and we think, "Certainly I can be ok..."

Psalm 72 (LXX) / 73 (MT) has it out for them and for us:
....

But as for me, my feet nearly stumbled,
  my steps were on the point of going astray,
as I envied the boasters and sinners,
  envied their comfort and peace.
For them there are no burdens,
  their bellies are full and sleek.
They do not labour, like ordinary men;
  they do not suffer, like mortals.
They wear their pride like a necklace,
  their violence covers them like a robe.
Wickedness oozes from their very being,
  the thoughts of their hearts break forth:
they deride, they utter abominations,
  and from their heights they proclaim injustice.
They have set their mouth in the heavens,
  and their tongue traverses the earth.
Thus they sit in their lofty positions,
  and the flood-waters cannot reach them.
They ask, “How can God know?
  Does the Most High have any understanding?”
Behold, then, the wicked, always prosperous:
  their riches growing for ever.

We are the Psalmist, as we wander between God and Mammon, between Sainthood and mere satisfaction. We turn and look, finally, to a God who loves us but will not force us. We wait and pray...

My heart was sore, my being was troubled –
  I was a fool, I knew nothing;
  I was like a dumb beast before you.
But still I stay with you:
  you hold my right hand.
You lead me according to your counsel,
  until you raise me up in glory.
For who else is for me, in heaven?
  On earth, I want nothing when I am with you.
My flesh and heart are failing,
  but it is God that I love:
  God is my portion for ever.
Behold, those who abandon you will perish:
  you have condemned all who go whoring away from you.
But for myself, I take joy in clinging to God,
  in putting my trust in the Lord, my God,
to proclaim your works at the gates of the daughters of Zion.

In the end, we can struggle, we can be angry. We can come back. We learn only that in returning is peace. Submission to the divine dance wholly is the only way to dance at all. "Those who abandon you will perish: you have condemned all who go whoring away from you."

24 July 2018

Quis ut Deus?

JMJ

The Readings for Tuesday in the 16th Week of Ordinary Time (B2)
Who is a God like thee, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance?
Quis, Deus, similis tui, qui aufers iniquitatem, et transis peccatum reliquiarum haereditatis tuae? 


Who is a God like thee?
Gratitude post.
Who is a God like thee? 

Tim, the Warrens, Eric and Claire, Tony and Garry, and the OPL, the COM, Courage, and some folks at work, and the folks from college I still know. My online friends that to pray with and work with, to cowrite with and once in a while meet with. My job and apartment both by shear miracles in which to continue being happy and at peace. St Dominic's, my home, and Star of the Sea parish, my quite place of prayer and adoration. 

Who is God like thee?

Thankful for being debt free, and for my kitteh. For all the beautiful places I have lived, and for odd twists and turns along the broken road, for my broken self, and the blessings that has given me, the mission, the fields white with harvest. For praying in Knock, for sitting in cemeteries, for Jim and Dave, for the fraternity, for that visit that afternoon to NYU in the fall of 1982. friends who don't talk to me and old friends who do.

For folks who feel like they are my enemies, even though having an enemy would seem a great  luxury. For parents and grandparents and great grandparents. For family crossing now into three centuries. For roots and wings, for food.

For confession and penance, for absolution and struggles, for  pains and discomforts, for challenges and distractions.  For builders and shakers down. For weavers and unweavers. For Blue Ridge Mountains and Polk Gulch. For ddddddddddddddddddddddd,,,,,,,,,,,,mmmmmmmmmmmm and falling asleep at the keyboard.  For podcasts, for tech support as a mission, for icons and prayer corners, for D&D and dice.

Who is a God like thee?

For rainbows and for, for earthquakes and fires, for the Barbary Coast Trail, for ice cream and red sauce, spumoni, and Zabaglione. 

For salmon and shrimp, for chicken and biscuits, for biscuits and gravy, for sausage gravy.

For Giants Baseball and Mets Baseball, for anyone who can beat the Yankees and anyone who will try. For The Dubs and the A's for bad grammar and poetry.

For La Boulangerie and Pretzel Croissants, for Ukes and who is a God like unto thee?

This is just stuff today...

What will tomorrow bring?

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23 July 2018

The Israel of God

JMJ

The Readings for Monday in the 16th Week of Ordinary Time (B2)
Popule meus, quid feci tibi? aut quid molestus fui tibi? Responde mihi. Quia eduxi te de terra Aegypti, et de domo servientium liberavi te, et misi ante faciem tuam Moysen, et Aaron, et Mariam.

O my people, what have I done to you? In what have I wearied you? Answer me! For I brought you up from the land of Egypt, and redeemed you from the house of bondage; and I sent before you Moses, Aaron, and Miriam. 

These words are the refrain for the hymn, sung on Good Friday, called the Improperia or the Solemn Reproaches. The text is written as if spoken by God from the cross. For example:
I led you out of Egypt, from slavery to freedom, but you led your Saviour to the cross.
I led you from slavery to freedom and drowned your captors in the red sea, but you handed me over to your high priests. 
This is one of those hinge moments, however. We can't have it both ways.

These sung lines are often cited as a case of antisemitism. That can only be true if you A) understand the teachings of the church; and B) assume we reject them whole cloth. For the teaching of the Church is that Israel is the chosen people of God and that in Christ, we Gentiles are grafted into that relationship. We become Israel not instead of but rather also. These verses and others which seem to criticize "the Jews" but, in fact, are read by Jews as a complex mea culpa for other things not dealing with Messiah, cannot then be read as only speaking of any perfidy of the Jewish people at the time of Christ, but must refer to the entire people of God and how we all constantly betray him. Yes, for we, too, have been led from slavery to freedom, yet we lead Jesus daily to the cross by our actions and our words.

God asks, today in Micah, that the mountains and hills listen to his argument against Israel (that is, us...) and he has one, surely. The common point in all these instances and in the Gospel where Jesus is talking to "an evil and unfaithful generation" (us) is that "Israel" means to wrestle with God. Yes, God would like us to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God. But we are much more likely to struggle like Jacob did the night before God made him lame and changed his name to "he who fights with God." That's our expected function. Not that we ever win, really: but God wants us to submit even though he knows we won't, because it's hard. The wrestling always ends the same way it did for Jacob. God puts Jacob's hip out of joint and blesses him.

There is but this required of us: do Justice, love Mercy, and walk humbly with God. For most functions today, Justice means "revenge", mercy is unknown, and humility before God (or anyone) is brushed aside. Sunday's post noted that Catholicism is hard. At Confession yesterday before Mass the priest's comments surprised me and to be honest I spent much of Mass whining to Jesus about it. So, at least I was praying sorta... but as I was kneeling before communion I imagined this conversation: My Lord, this is too hard. What am I to do? And Jesus responded, "My child, it know it's hard, but you are, still, alive." The wrestling match ended that way.

All of that was demanding a sign. We want things to be different, yes, but we want them to be different in the way we want them to be rather than in God's way.  We want Justice where "our side" wins. Mercy shown only when we feel like it. The only sign we're going to be given - the Sign of Jonas - has been given to us already. The men of Nineveh are waiting for us to respond to God without grumbling. The Queen of the South wonders that we cannot hear wisdom when it is offered.

When will we stop struggling?

22 July 2018

The Flock is Scattered.

JMJ

The Readings for the 16th Sunday of Ordinary Time (B2)
Et suscitabo super eos pastores, et pascent eos : non formidabunt ultra, et non pavebunt, et nullus quaeretur ex numero
I will set shepherds over them who will care for them, and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall any be missing.

It's hard to be Catholic. Each of us knows this: there is something asked, something demanded of us - each of us has this thing and we know it. But, if we're doing it all wrong, we can see someone over there doing exactly the same thing with seeming impunity. It's so easy to judge that person over there for doing it. And then we are tripped up, ourselves, and it must be ok, right? So it is with the sex scandal. All in high places in the Catholic Church have always been sinners (we are all sinners) but some of them spectacularly so. A google of "bad popes" or "Irish nuns" will bring all kinds of stories. And no few news stories today - even within the last few weeks - will be found without much clicking.

No one has asked me about why I became Catholic in the light of the continuing sex scandal. But friends of mine have been asked that. Being Catholic is hard and the sex scandal is huge. It might have broken earlier, to be honest, if there had been electronic media in the 9th century. It might have broken in another church if the Soviets had been on their game. It might have broken in ECUSA if our clergy had not been married - because an abusive husband is surely just as bad as a pedophile, right? But society ignores that sin in a different way. And a married man who has sex outside of his marriage is pretty normal stuff even if it is with another man. Most of us never got around to talking about relationships of power-imbalance until it was too late. Ever wonder why a given ECUSA Bishop had to retire early?

And after hearing (in some cases, daily) preachers who say "don't do this", we discover that some were doing it quite often. Why should I bother refraining, right? Because I, at least, am not an abuser but rather a lover. I can see that over there is a huge sin. What is mine? And yet...

Each of us is a shepherd, really. The entire body of Christ, the entire Body of the Good Shepherd: we are all shepherds.  The flock you lead is your family, your friends, your coworkers. The people you see daily on the subway. God expects you - demands of you - the same love, the same care, the same purity of life and doctrine, the same self sacrifice and death from you on their behalf as God demands of his other priests in their place and time. We are all shepherds and when the shepherd falls, the flock is scattered.

When our sins are so small, you know what else is worrisome? Yes, I'm a Christian, but not like that. I have made some different choices, and it's all ok. And a few more sheep are lost... thinking either we are all hypocrites or else we're all liars. Or worse, they think they can continue in their sin as well. We try to be all modern and relevant and stuff but become pharisees who gain an convert and make him to be worse than he was before.

We are all shepherds. This is what the name "little Christ" means here. We are all priests, prophets, kings, and shepherds.

We must look out, and as Christ was coming back from retreat with his Apostles, we must be moved with compassion. For all around us are like sheep without shepherds. And we have been sent.
Kneeling in Church just before the communion last night, our cantor began one of those songs that "everyone knows" as far as Church goes. I didn't know it cuz I'm new here.
I will come to you in the silence
I will lift you from all your fear
You will hear My voice
I claim you as My choice
Be still, and know I am near
I am hope for all who are hopeless
I am eyes for all who long to see
In the shadows of the night,
I will be your light
Come and rest in Me
As I was near the front of the Church I had received the Precious Body and was waiting from the Chalice to come as the first refrain began.
Do not be afraid, I am with you
I have called you each by name
Come and follow Me
I will bring you home
I love you and you are mine
Hearing these words for the first time as one is drinking the Very Blood of God was overpowering. I was standing less than two yards from the Cantor as he sang them.

But then I knelt in my pew to say my thanksgiving for the gift of Christ's Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity, given to me, an unworthy sinner, a man with a past. And as Jeffrey finished each verse the congregation, slowly receiving their communion and filling in behind me, softly took up the refrain. More and more sang each time. until the song was a soft but insistent thunder of Love around me.
I am strength for all the despairing
Healing for the ones who dwell in shame
All the blind will see, the lame will all run free
And all will know My name 
Do not be afraid, I am with you
I have called you each by name
Come and follow Me
I will bring you home
I love you and you are mine
 
I am the Word that leads all to freedom
I am the peace the world cannot give
I will call your name, embracing all your pain
Stand up, now, walk, and live 
Do not be afraid, I am with you
I have called you each by name
Come and follow Me
I will bring you home
I love you and you are mine
Surrounded by my fellow sheep echoing the words of our Shepherd, I knew that I had come home, that I was surround by - yes, Sinners - who were in love with the same Shepherd. We are all growing into his likeness. Some of us fall... daily some of us fall daily. Yet we reach out, we raise up, we commune, we grow more and more.

But that's not all, comforting as it is. If we are not thus moved to be better shepherds, better Christs living in the world leading our little flocks to his, then we have failed. We are not failing as fabulously as a Medici Pope, and no one will file a lawsuit against us for malpractice over our personal impious peccadilloes, but we will lose some sheep. And God will have to say to us each, You have scattered my sheep and driven them away. You have not cared for them, but I will take care to punish your evil deeds.

Yet God will bring them home. 



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