Monday, August 6, 2012


'Whoever divorces his wife and marries another is guilty of adultery against her. (Mark 10; 11)
[Same teaching in Matthew and Luke]

 9 Now I say this to you: anyone who divorces his wife -- I am not speaking of an illicit marriage -- and marries another, is guilty of adultery.'  10 The disciples said to him, 'If that is how things are between husband and wife, it is advisable not to marry.'  11 But he replied, 'It is not everyone who can accept what I have said, but only those to whom it is granted.  12 There are eunuchs born so from their mother's womb, there are eunuchs made so by human agency and there are eunuchs who have made themselves so for the sake of the kingdom of Heaven. Let anyone accept this who can.'   (Matt. 19; 9 - 12)
21 Jesus looked steadily at him and he was filled with love for him, and he said, 'You need to do one thing more. Go and sell what you own and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.'  22 But his face fell at these words and he went away sad, for he was a man of great wealth.  (Mark 10; 21-22)
56 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me and I live in that person.  57 As the living Father sent me and I draw life from the Father, so whoever eats me will also draw life from me.  58 This is the bread which has come down from heaven; it is not like the bread our ancestors ate: they are dead, but anyone who eats this bread will live for ever.
59 This is what he taught at Capernaum in the synagogue.  60 After hearing it, many of his followers said, 'This is intolerable language. How could anyone accept it?'   61 Jesus was aware that his followers were complaining about it and said, 'Does this disturb you?  62 What if you should see the Son of man ascend to where he was before?   63 'It is the spirit that gives life, the flesh has nothing to offer. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.
64 'But there are some of you who do not believe.' For Jesus knew from the outset who did not believe and who was to betray him.   65 He went on, 'This is why I told you that no one could come to me except by the gift of the Father.'   66 After this, many of his disciples went away and accompanied him no more.  (John 6; 56-66)
This is a long introduction to prepare you to reflect on my position about what seems to be the prevailing opinion about the Mercy of Jesus.  This is not just among Catholics, but among Christians as a group.  It is not just in the pews, but occupies the pulpit as well.   I permit myself to use a sports analogy, "On any given Sunday..." you can talk to a Christian and hear that God is so kind and merciful that we can all rest assured that He will see to our Eternal reward when the time comes.  In the Catholic world that translates very often in this way, "God and His Son, Jesus, are all loving and they love us so much that they forgive us all our weaknesses.  When we go to Mass and we tell God that we are sorry for our sins and ask for His forgiveness, He forgives us.  Besides, there we are at Mass, so it is evident that we love Him too.  We make a resolution to go to confession when we have the opportunity.  God forgives us and He certainly doesn't want to exclude us from Communion.  So it is OK to receive Communion.  Oh, and yes, we will get around to that confession, don't worry.

Jesus was never so wishy-washy as that.  I have presented the three pericopes above to you to show you that Jesus is one tough customer.  Jesus never said, "Oh, that's really hard.  Here, let me explain it to you.  What I really wanted to say was..."
NIX.  When people walk away from Jesus, He lets them go.  He doesn't run after anybody.  There are many examples in the Gospel and even in the Old Testament.  God helps His chosen ones, He is always there.  His love always trumps the Law.  The trump, however, as we all know, is only worth one trick per hand.  Plus, and it's a big plus, you can only play it if you are straight with the law.   It is very clear that if we don't play the hands that He gives us as He intends them to be played, the Trump can have reached its limit.  
Start with Adam and Eve.  Consider Noah's son Ham.  See what happened at Babel.  Samson sure is a tragic figure.  King Saul sure got his.  David too.  God showed mercy, and he sure let them feel the iron fist that he carries in his velvet glove.
Have you read the prophets lately?  See what He did to Jonah.  Listen to the instructions that He gives Isaiah.  Hosheah had a tough row to hoe.  Elijah had to run for his life.  Jeremiah had to escape to Egypt.  You do realize that only one of the twelve apostles escaped a violent death, do you not?
Naturally, the love trump card only gets put on the table when it will fulfill the practice of the law.  It is meant to make the practice of the Law convert itself into a life of love.  There are many who are called to  make this conversion.  They feel comfortable holding the railing that leads them up the stairs.  As we see quite often in the Bible, when God calls for a life of love, abnegation and zeal,  the slave to the Law backs off and enjoys the comfort of the mechanical life of obedience rather than to risk the inspirationally creative life of love.  We see that every day.  So many are surrounded by the walls of the 10 commandments and never go further than following them.  St. Paul says somewhere, If that kind of behavior would be enough, Jesus Christ would not have had to die.  But the 10 commandments in and of themselves are not strong enough to save us.  We have to live a life of loving service, just as Jesus did if we are to make it through the Pearly Gates.  We have to go beyond the Law.  We, like Jesus, have to fulill the Law by injecting it with spiritual love.  That's the road to heaven.
Jesus even told one young man who had obeyed the commandments all his life from a very young age, ..."That is not enough.  What you have to do now is to go, sell all that you have, give the proceeds to the poor and come and follow me."  The guy walked away and never came back.  Did Jesus call him back?  No way.  He told his disciples, "It is harder for a rich man to go to heaven than for a camel to walk through the eye of a needle."  Jesus doesn't play games.  he doesn't negotiate.  He loves, He pities, He gives mercy, He forgives, He heals, He feeds his fellow man, He defends the poor and He preaches love for His Father in heaven.  Negotiate he does not do.  He does not expect us to do so.  Remember this when you go to my funeral.  It will keep you from crying.


No, it is not Christmas.  Not even close.  It is right in the middle of Summer.  I am right in the middle of the first absolute period of perfect downtime that I can remember ever having in my adult life.  I am enjoying the physical downtime, but the mental wheels have never stopped.  Here I am visiting someone who lives some 500 miles from us and she doesn't remember the WEP Code of her wireless email broadcaster.  So, I am writing this in Word and getting it ready for the oven.  When I get back to my working cave, I will unleash it on all you unsuspecting denizens of Dion’s sandbox.  I have decided that this is going to be one of those semi-religious, totally moral offerings.  I am sharing time with an intimate friend who is a very special person indeed.  She is admirable.  She is a person who is a pillar of righteousness on the model of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to say nothing about Jesus Himself. 

Like the couple in the representation on the upper right quadrant of the page, she had to make a choice once that was similar to the one that Joseph and Mary had to make.  You can read all about them in the Good Book, Matthew 1; 18 – 25.  Can you imagine what it was like to get pregnant out of wedlock in a society where you could get stoned to death?  Can you imagine what would have happened to Joseph had he been found out as the protector of such a woman?  Read the paragraph and imagine what Mary and Joseph had to go through in trying to make up their minds about how to thread that needle and still stay alive.  They did it.  They made the choice for Life.  Not just the Life in the womb, but theirs as well.  Now, that was a Choice.  Our beloved friend did not have to dig that far down into herself to make the choice for life that she did, but given the social environment in which she made the choice, it was not easy. It never is.  Not for anybody.
She made the choice for life at the sacrifice of her own. Under her singular circumstances, she knew that she would have to take herself and the child through life alone.   No, she was not in the imminent danger of being stoned.  As far as we can tell, she was not in danger of dying.  Neither was the new being in her womb.  She chose life when she could have just as easily chosen death.  Yes, it could have been easy.  In some ways, that is.  In some ways it could have been easier than nurturing life.  But in the mind, heart and soul of the righteous person who was confronted with the choice, life was the only acceptable path.  Yes, even to the detriment of her very own reputation.  She did it.  Like Joseph, she let the other party completely off the hook.  Like Joseph, she saved three lives and now all three can celebrate the wonder of life in some kind of comfort. 
The child is no longer a child.  A loving daughter, yes, who is now an accomplished adult.  Not just an adult, but one who has a family of her own and even in these lean times, can claim a modicum of comfort and security that allows for the safe and warm upbringing of her own child.  Her own mother humbly celebrates her choice for life in a modest level of comfort that she can maintain through the loving support of her immediate family and her own professional accomplishments. 
Yes, the choice of life before and after conception is the choice for life and gusto in this world.  The choice in favor of life is not made on the spur of the moment.  The choice in favor of life is made on the way to adulthood.  The choice in favor of life is an eternal vow that develops in the very mind, heart and soul of the maturing human.  The choice in favor of life is a non-negotiable position in favor of the entire human community, not solely in favor of an individual.  The choice in favor of life is the most generous choice that any human can make for the sake of the larger human community.  The world is enriched by EVERY new life that is created.  Yes, I say that without reservations. 

Furthermore, and in conclusion I say without reservations that every choice for death causes the impoverishment of the human community, be it through abortion, adult homicide, war, civil punishment, suicide or whatever other category I have overlooked.  I am celebrating the courage and the love of my dear friend, her wonderful child and the other lives that have been touched and influenced by these deeply righteous, richly human people.  We should all be this powerful in our expression of the gift of human freedom.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012


GENESIS 4; 10 - 15
10 'What have you done?' Yahweh asked. 'Listen! Your brother's blood is crying out to me from the ground.
11 Now be cursed and banned from the ground that has opened its mouth to receive your brother's blood at your hands.
12 When you till the ground it will no longer yield up its strength to you. A restless wanderer you will be on earth.'
13 Cain then said to Yahweh, 'My punishment is greater than I can bear.
14 Look, today you drive me from the surface of the earth. I must hide from you, and be a restless wanderer on earth. Why, whoever comes across me will kill me!'
15 'Very well, then,' Yahweh replied, 'whoever kills Cain will suffer a sevenfold vengeance.' So Yahweh put a mark on Cain, so that no one coming across him would kill him.

Tonight I lay there full of thoughts and feelings that were not really from me but from Above.  They were sprouts from an endeavor that consumed a lot of my time today.  It would not go away because it is related to my Vocation.  It is a Vocation that just will not go away.  It has been with me since about age 5 or 6.  It has taken some strange twists and turns.  Through all the tergiversations it always settles back where it started and points to where it is going.  The direction is always the same, but it's the road that changes.  
Tonight, I think that God has shined the light on the situation.  The beam of that Divine Light stopped and pointed straight at the Mark of Cain.  The Mark of contradiction.  The Mark that indicates that God still loves you and still is punishing you every day of your life.  The Mark turns out to be a burden and a relief at the same time.

When I left the Altar, it was then the moment when a lot of spiritual blood fell to the ground rather than be borne up into the Realm of the Eternal King.  It was at that moment that I had swapped out the perfect first born for the simple fruits of the earth.  It was then that I cut the throat of the person that I was to become a restless wanderer.  The blood of that person cried out to God then and does so every day since then.  Every day since then the Mark of Cain signals that here is someone who is accompanied by God at every step of the way.  It is also the sigh that because God is there by his side, let it be a warning to you to be careful.  This is a person who has blood on his hands and it is not the blood that fell from the Cross.  It is the blood that he spilled from his very own throat.

Cain never did leave the earth.  The earth however never gave him any more power over it.  I never left the Church and She never left me.  She "reduced" me to the state of laity, but She could not remove the Mark of Cain that God put on me.  She took away the power of the Altar but she could not take away the power of prayer, faith, hope and love.  What a contradiction!  What a blessed contradiction!  Who can figure out what God does?  Who can figure out why God does anything that He does?  He tells Cain that his brother's blood cried out to Him from the ground that drank it.  He then refuses to reclaim Cain's life from him in revenge.  He takes away his primary talent of livelihood, but doesn't take away his freedom to go and learn something else.  The Mark of Cain is from God and because it is from God, it never goes away.  It is always there to remind those who carry it that they have found favor with God through the back door, so to speak.  God keeps us around because He still has something for us to do.  

So Cain couldn't farm any more.  With God protecting Him, Cain surely went out and learned some other "trade."  Who knows?  Maybe he was the first blacksmith; or maybe the first jeweler; or the first lumberjack; maybe a carpenter or a tailor of grass skirts.  Who knows?  whatever it was, it was pleasing and helpful to the rest of the people around and they therefore were glad that they didn't kill him because of that Mark.  It's like me.  I carry that Mark too.  No denying it, it is a mark of opprobrium.  Believe me, there are times when it ain't pretty.  But I know one thing, as long as they get to see that Mark, they know that God is on my side.  Hey wait!  I know that God is on my side.  He may not be too happy about it, but He's stuck with me.  As we say in French, "He finds a way to make arrows with whatever wood he can lay His hands on."  So, it's an interesting position to be in.  

I have known for a long time that God has something for me to do.  I know that I don't always do it the way He would.  Sometimes I get the very definite proof that He sneaks around behind me and chages it more to His liking when I'm done.  I have learned not to get into a snit about it.  I just tell Him, "Thanks, Pop.  You're right, it does look better that way."  
sometimes I say, "Why don't you erase that stupid ol' Mark?"  He just frowns and let's me figure out a way to make it work.  Actually, He and I get along pretty good now.  It's gotten so He even helps me to find ways to make it work for me.  Not always, though.  After all, He has to remember that He's got me on parole, right?  

The one big thing that I have to give Him is this.  His Bride, Holy Mother the Church gave me this two page document in very formal Ecclesiastical Latin that has about 15 "Thou shalt not's" in it.  I don't remember them all, but I do know this:  thanks to Cain's Mark, there are only about three that anyone, including me, even care about.  All the others are just there in case I step out of line and try to cover the Mark with my wind-breaker.  Whenever I hear people say nasty things about Mother Church, I get buzzed.  I know that she has her birth marks, but I also know that she respects that Big One that I carry around, so I defend her as much as I can.  She too knows that I am on parole for life, so she cuts me some slack and I appreciate it.  Sometimes I have to ask myself if her operatives cut me the slack because not too many of them can read and understand Latin any more :-)  No matter to me, slack is slack, in English and in Latin.  I'll take it.  It makes me appreciate the Mark all the more.

ow that you know my true attitude about this whole thing, you also know that there is absolutely no need to cry at my funeral.