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Tuesday, April 28, 2020

The Muse II


I love you, he says
Confused, stumbling over words
Prayerful supplicant

I seek clarity
Whispers the poet, and wisdom
She smiles invitingly

Red lips part slightly
Revealing sharp teeth, bright-white
Like diamonds flashing

Lead me to the truth
By your beauty, and goodness
Your willing servant, I

He says, withdrawing
Drugged as the lotus eaters
Hallucinating

She opens her eyes
Deep-blue pools, like cobalt fire
Burning without light

She embraces him
The wretched poet, victim
Drowning in the night



Sunday, April 26, 2020

A Homily - The Third Sunday of Easter (Year A)


First Reading – Acts 2:14, 22-33 ©
Responsorial Psalm - Psalm 15(16):1-2, 5, 7-11 ©
Second Reading – 1 Peter 1:17-21 ©
Gospel Acclamation – Luke 24:32

(NJB)

The Third Sunday of Easter (Year A)


Listen!

It is a disservice to the memory of Jesus and to the way he taught, the way he would have us live by, to make of him a figure of mythic power and a demi-god.

Be mindful.

Jesus was a man, as Peter says; he was a Nazarene. His preaching was a sign of God’s goodness, he spoke the truth and lived a humble life, he called us to the path of justice, and demonstrated what justice was through his constant humility, compassion and kindness.

His life itself was a miracle; he performed no feats of magic.

Remember this:

Jesus’ death was a political murder. He was crucified by the Romans, on behalf of the Herodians and the Sanhedrin. Upon the death of his body he entered into eternal life with God, as all of God’s children do.

There is no doubt of it.

Consider the worlds of the psalmist.

Trust in God, faith and confidence are their own reward.

God is good, and all that is good flows from God, as everything flows from God.

Look for the good of God in all creation, in everything that unfolds for you.

There are no alien gods, there are no foreign gods, as the psalmist refers to them, there are only misconceptions of the one God, each and every one of us carries is responsible for our own.

All of our cherished but errant images of God are merely idols, whether they are made of metal, of stone, of wood or of words, whether they are painted on canvass, or merely colored in the mind, they are idols.

Know this:

God calls all of Gods children to God’s self, no one is left out, the true God calls us from the center of our heart, speaking through the masks we use to personify the divine.

Be mindful!

The apostle is right when he tells us to be scrupulous, to be careful; we are to take care, not only when you are away from home, but to be careful and wise in all things.

The apostle is wrong when he says: by the blood of Jesus a ransom was paid for us. There was no ransom, God forgave us all of our sins, God forgave us freely.

In freedom we received it.

Be mindful!

If the example that Jesus gave you was ever alive in you, you must know that it is just as corruptible as anything else in this world. It is easier to turn your baptism toward an evil purpose than it is to turn an evil act toward the good.

Just because you have been baptized does not mean that you are incorruptible, God will not prevent you from sinning, from sinning more and on greater degrees.

But God will forgive you in the end.

Ransom was not paid to free anyone from sin, or any way of life. Jesus was not a sacrificial lamb, the cross upon the hill of Calvary were not analogs of the sacred altar in the Holy of Holies. God, the creator of the universe; God does not desire blood sacrifice or burnt offerings, or the smell of animal fat rising to the heavens, these are human machinations. Such things are wholly ineffectual, and the product of magical thinking, of immature minds, and immature cultures.

Jesus of Nazareth, though he was the Christ; he was a man like any other.

Consider the Gospel for today.

From the earliest days of the Church the apostles and the Gospel writers became confused with questions about who Jesus was, about his rank among the prophets, about his historical connection to Moses, about the proof of his ministry that could be found in the scriptures.

In their confusion they began to make up stories to validate their claims, it was all unnecessary, and the lies they told brought the nascent Church down terrible paths to disastrous ends, completely contrary to the way Jesus taught.  

Be mindful.

Jesus did not perform miracles to prove to anyone that he was a child of God, such things never happened. What Jesus did was stress the fact that we are all the children of God, even the leper and the thief, the unmarried woman and the outcast.

The only miracle he performed was to convince his followers that this was true, and to bring dignity to the lives of the unfortunate.

Jesus did not come to work magic, flash signs and show wonders, because that is not how God, the creator of the universe, that is not how God works in the world.

The core truth in this Gospel passage is not the long story about encountering Jesus, or listening to him expound the scriptures, offering proofs and arguments to prove to the disciples who he was.

The signal truth is this, “They recognized him in the breaking of the bread.”

Listen!

The disciples had the opportunity to see Jesus in the man they encountered on the road, but they did not see him in the stranger.

They had the opportunity to see him in the faith of the woman at the tomb, but they could not understand it and they refused to recognize her.

Jesus was dead and yet the way which he personified remained, the living witness of God’s intentions for creation, from the beginning to the end of time.

The disciples were finally able to see the way, they finally saw it when they broke bread with the stranger they encountered on the road.

They found the way in community, they found it once they humbled themselves.

The way is sharing things in common. The way is love.


First Reading – Acts 2:14, 22-33 ©

God Raised this Man Jesus to Life, and All of Us Are Witnesses to This

On the day of Pentecost Peter stood up with the Eleven and addressed the crowd in a loud voice: ‘Men of Israel, listen to what I am going to say: Jesus the Nazarene was a man commended to you by God by the miracles and portents and signs that God worked through him when he was among you, as you all know. This man, who was put into your power by the deliberate intention and foreknowledge of God, you took and had crucified by men outside the Law. You killed him, but God raised him to life, freeing him from the pangs of Hades; for it was impossible for him to be held in its power since, as David says of him:

I saw the Lord before me always, for with him at my right hand nothing can shake me.

So my heart was glad and my tongue cried out with joy; my body, too, will rest in the hope that you will not abandon my soul to Hades nor allow your holy one to experience corruption.

You have made known the way of life to me, you will fill me with gladness through your presence.

‘Brothers, no one can deny that the patriarch David himself is dead and buried: his tomb is still with us. But since he was a prophet, and knew that God had sworn him an oath to make one of his descendants succeed him on the throne, what he foresaw and spoke about was the resurrection of the Christ: he is the one who was not abandoned to Hades, and whose body did not experience corruption. God raised this man Jesus to life, and all of us are witnesses to that. Now raised to the heights by God’s right hand, he has received from the Father the Holy Spirit, who was promised, and what you see and hear is the outpouring of that Spirit.’


Responsorial Psalm - Psalm 15(16):1-2, 5, 7-11 ©

Show us, Lord, the path of life.

Alleluia!

Preserve me, God, I take refuge in you.
  I say to the Lord: ‘You are my God.
O Lord, it is you who are my portion and cup;
  it is you yourself who are my prize.’

Show us, Lord, the path of life.

I will bless the Lord who gives me counsel,
  who even at night directs my heart.
I keep the Lord ever in my sight:
  since he is at my right hand, I shall stand firm.

Show us, Lord, the path of life.

And so my heart rejoices, my soul is glad;
  even my body shall rest in safety.
For you will not leave my soul among the dead,
  nor let your beloved know decay.

Show us, Lord, the path of life.

You will show me the path of life,
  the fullness of joy in your presence,
  at your right hand happiness for ever.

Show us, Lord, the path of life.

Alleluia!


Second Reading – 1 Peter 1:17-21 ©

Your Ransom was Paid in the Precious Blood of Christ

If you are acknowledging as your Father one who has no favourites and judges everyone according to what he has done, you must be scrupulously careful as long as you are living away from your home. Remember, the ransom that was paid to free you from the useless way of life your ancestors handed down was not paid in anything corruptible, neither in silver nor gold, but in the precious blood of a lamb without spot or stain, namely Christ; who, though known since before the world was made, has been revealed only in our time, the end of the ages, for your sake. Through him you now have faith in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory for that very reason – so that you would have faith and hope in God.



Alleluia, alleluia!

Lord Jesus, explain the Scriptures to us.
Make our hearts burn within us as you talk to us.

Alleluia!


The Gospel According to Luke 24:13 - 35 ©

They Recognized Him at the Breaking of Bread

Two of the disciples of Jesus were on their way to a village called Emmaus, seven miles from Jerusalem, and they were talking together about all that had happened. Now as they talked this over, Jesus himself came up and walked by their side; but something prevented them from recognising him. He said to them, ‘What matters are you discussing as you walk along?’ They stopped short, their faces downcast.

Then one of them, called Cleopas, answered him, ‘You must be the only person staying in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have been happening there these last few days.’ ‘What things?’ he asked. ‘All about Jesus of Nazareth’ they answered ‘who proved he was a great prophet by the things he said and did in the sight of God and of the whole people; and how our chief priests and our leaders handed him over to be sentenced to death, and had him crucified. Our own hope had been that he would be the one to set Israel free. And this is not all: two whole days have gone by since it all happened; and some women from our group have astounded us: they went to the tomb in the early morning, and when they did not find the body, they came back to tell us they had seen a vision of angels who declared he was alive. Some of our friends went to the tomb and found everything exactly as the women had reported, but of him they saw nothing.’

Then he said to them, ‘You foolish men! So slow to believe the full message of the prophets! Was it not ordained that the Christ should suffer and so enter into his glory?’ Then, starting with Moses and going through all the prophets, he explained to them the passages throughout the scriptures that were about himself.

When they drew near to the village to which they were going, he made as if to go on; but they pressed him to stay with them. ‘It is nearly evening’ they said ‘and the day is almost over.’ So he went in to stay with them. Now while he was with them at table, he took the bread and said the blessing; then he broke it and handed it to them. And their eyes were opened and they recognised him; but he had vanished from their sight. Then they said to each other, ‘Did not our hearts burn within us as he talked to us on the road and explained the scriptures to us?’

They set out that instant and returned to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven assembled together with their companions, who said to them, ‘Yes, it is true. The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.’ Then they told their story of what had happened on the road and how they had recognised him at the breaking of bread.



Saturday, April 25, 2020

Unrestrained ID, Invincible Ignorance and the Unassailable Ego - Editorial, The Week in Review


Analysis, Commentary, Opinion
04.25.2020

Unrestrained ID – Invincible Ignorance and the Unassailable Ego

I have been watching the news all week, watching as protesters march on State Capitals, watching as groups of men armed with their AR-15’s protest in the streets, at the private residences of governors, I have been watching people screaming for their right to ignore the pandemic Corona Virus that has now killed over fifty thousand Americans.

I have been watching them as they block access to hospitals. I have been listening to them as they demand the right to reopen their businesses, the right to exposing themselves and their customers, their families and their friends to a pathogen that kills people in horrible ways.

All across the country there are places where the infection rate is stable or declining, where the death rate is stable or declining, and there are places where the opposite is true.

I listened to a woman from Georgia on the news angrily justify her choice to reopen her business and expose herself to the threat even though her husband is at home battling cancer. She says she “hopes” it will be okay, she “hopes” she is making the right choice, but she just “can’t” stay at home any longer, and the governor has given her permission to reopen her store.

I have been watching and listening to countless other more responsible people state their intentions to do the right thing, stay home, isolate, remain distant, but the numbers are telling us that twenty percent of the country just can’t keep their needs in check, they feel them, viscerally, the need to feed their impulses unchecked.

There are tens of millions of people spread across the states who do not care about themselves, who do not care about you, who do not care about their families. They just can’t imagine that they could be wrong

Their ignorance is deadly. It will be the death of many. The governors of states like Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee, will soon be experiencing what is happening in South Dakota, their rate of COVID infections will be rising, the body count will be mounting, and because they possess these unassailable egos they will cast the blame on something else, they will call their dead martyrs who died not for faith, but to reopen an economy that never helped them in the first place.

It is pathetic, and sad, and cruel.

The rest of will watch as those governors turn the populations of people they have been entrusted to care for into a social experiment producing lessons for to do, and what not to do.
And the band played on…

Thursday, April 23, 2020

William Shakespeare - The Bard


I was in the tenth grade the first time I read a play by Shakespeare. It was the first quarter of the school year, we read Romeo and Juliet aloud in class.

I quit going to high school the following quarter. I was not much in the habit of participating in school unless the subject interested me, most of it did not.

Rather than doing the work that my classmates were concentrating on I would usually sit quietly and read whatever was on my personal reading list, at that time in my life it was usually something in the genre of science fiction or fantasy, it might be a piece of classical history, metaphysics or mythology.

From my first encounter with Shakespeare I knew that he interested me. I took a reading role in class and I enjoyed the way the girls looked at me, because my allocution was good.

I realized that there was something special in Shakespeare, the mere mention of his name generated gravitas, so I began to read more of his plays, some of them like Hamlet and Mac Beth I would read over and over again, committing long tracks of his prose and many of his sonnets to memory.

If Chaucer is the father of the English language, and Boswell the midwife of the modern era, then Shakespeare is its high priest.

Later, in my adult life I steeped myself in his writing, carefully reading every word he ever wrote, as well as commentaries on his prose and verse, to include an exegesis of the philosophies contained therein.

Shakespeare’s expositions on the human condition are rivaled by few, but the sheer beauty of his composition sets him apart from everyone, which is why we call him The Bard.

There are many who claim that Shakespeare did not write all of the works attributed to him. Some who claim that he did not write any of them; it does not matter to me whether any of those conspiracies are true, it is only the work that matters, the body of it that we have inherited from his and have assigned to his authorship, the great works that will last through the ages. 

These words below are among the works that have made him a hero of mine:

Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow,
Creeps in its petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time.
And all our yesterdays are but lighted fools,
on the way to dusty death.

Out…out brief candle,
For life is but a poor player,
Who struts and frets its hour on the stage,
And then is heard no more.
It is a tale told by an idiot,
Full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.


Given First - 2020.04.23

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Earth Day is my Birthday


All of our eggs are in one basket, I have said it before.

We live here, all of us-all-together and we have no place else to go.

The world is a big place and it can take a lot of damage, but the ecosystems we depend on are specialized and fragile. The world itself will survive many things that we individually and our bio-systems collectively cannot.

We are in peril, and that has never been more obvious to our generation than right now, in the era of COVID-19.

We are responsible for the care of this world. It is a sacred obligation, we have been charged with its care by our holy books, and more importantly under the aegis of common sense.

We are responsible for and to each other, we live together in this common-wheel.

The care of the world is a categorical imperative; if we do not care for it, the world may just shrug us off, or shrug just enough that a calamity will ensue that will alter our future destiny forever, changing our cultures, our languages, even our DNA.

Listen!

There are natural disasters pending, they are built into the structure of the planet, into the thinness of the mantle, and in conjunction with the heat emanating from deep within our planet’s core.

There are massive volcanoes, and there is continental drift, the geological forces at work just below our feet could easily destroy us all.

If we allow it.

There are calamities heading our way from outer-space, celestial bodies sailing through the ether, already on a collision course with Earth. There are asteroids and comments that we will collide with us, if we are unable to work cooperatively to change their course, these certain eventualities will overwhelm us. They are baked in, such disasters are existential threats.

Foreseeable events also represent opportunities for the advancement of science, and the unification of humanity. Given enough time, it is possible that we could even harness the power of the greatest volcanoes, turn their destructive energies to the benefit of humankind, or move the near Earth objects that threaten us from our path, capture them for their mineral wealth.

We need time, but more than that we need a willingness to understand these challenges, and rise to them.

We face other threats right now, immediate threats, viral pandemics, and threats of our own making.

We are changing the climate, the planet is warming.

Our oceans are becoming acidic, we are changing their salinity.

We are filling our atmosphere with toxins.

Glaciers are melting, sea levels are rising

We are polluting our freshwater lakes, rivers, and streams.

We are losing topsoil, our forests and our coral reefs.

Our stewardship is failing.

We are divided, against each other…by greed which drives a short sighted political mindset, seeking and succeeding at turning people against their long-term interests.

Politicians and their wealthy patrons, silence and undermine our scientists, they cast doubt on any field of inquiry which might lead to a curtailment of their industrial enterprises, or their short-term profits.

They treat the Earth and all of its resources like it is a grab-bag full of goodies, opened for them to plunder, like children with a big stick whacking at a piƱata.

Those in the most powerful positions treat the rest of us the same way, we are not people to them, we are assets, expendables. You can hear their spokespeople cajoling their followers right now, attempting to convince them that “saving” the “economy” is worth the cost of millions of lives, our children and our grandparents, our brothers and sisters, our mothers and fathers, husbands and wives.
They are actively trying to convince us that we should accept the risk, like buying into a lottery, blithely ignoring the statistics that suggest the virus, if left unchecked, will kill between one and three percent of us.

They would sacrifice millions and millions of lives for their “economy”.

Our stewardship is failing.

We are failing.

It is Earth Day 2020, and all of our eggs are in one basket, the basket is fragile, and there is no other.

Earth Day is my Birthday.

04.22.2020

The Feast of Saint Leonidas, the Father of Origen - A Reflection


Little is known about this martyr from the early 3rd century except that he was beheaded by the Egyptian prefect Lactus in 202 CE, during the reign of the Roman Emperor Septimius Severus.

He would not be worthy of mention except for the fact that he was the father of the great philosopher and theologian, Origen.

Origen is considered a father of the church, but he is a controversial figure. His writings were condemned during the reign of the Emperor Justinian, though he himself was not officially anathematized, all of his work was, at the Second Council of Constantinople in 553 CE.

Nevertheless, Origen’s work remained influential, guiding the thinking of the Church for centuries, and continuing to influence us into the twenty-first century.

But he is not a Saint of the Church and therefore we cannot celebrate his feast day, so I have chosen to celebrate him through his father.

Origen’s doctrine of apocatastasis is likely the particular teaching which caused him to fall out of favor with the hierarchy of the Church. Though it did not happen in his own day, but three hundred years later, after Christianity had become the official religion of the Roman Empire, this doctrine began to be seen as dangerous, and heretical.

The Doctrine of apocatastasis instructs the believer in the understanding that all things emanate from God, and will return to God in the end, even the devil and his angels.

For Origen this understanding was merely the logical conclusion of the basic faith commitments that were held by all Christians in his time. We should note that these basic faith commitments are also held by most Christians today, and throughout the history of the Church, as they are succinctly set forward in the prolog to John’s Gospel.

Origen was not attempting to teach something radical or new, he was expostulating on the faith as he had received from his teacher Clement of Alexandria.

The doctrine of apocatastasis implies a theology of universal salvation and ultimately it was seen as a challenge to the authority of priests and bishops, to the Christian Emperor to the logic of the sacramental system, as delineated by Saint Augustine in the fifth century and subsequently accepted in its entirety by the Church and the whole magisterium.

Origen’s work was condemned, and he was marginalized because of the way the threat the hierarchy perceived as being axiomatic to his teaching.

It was pure unadulterated hubris on the part of the Church.

Origen followed in his father’s footsteps to a martyr’s death c. 252 – 254 CE, during the persecutions of the Roman Emperor Decius. He was imprisoned and tortured and died after being released at the age of sixty-nine.

He was a philosopher and a theologian unparalleled in his day.



Given First 04.22.2020

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Home on the Ocean


My shattered self
Memories, like old mirrors
Set in a collage

Incongruous tiles
The pieces of me, fragments
Float on the surface

Rising in the swell
The flotsam of my life, trash
Jetsam and debris

I bath in blue pools
The threshold of ice and fire
A place of healing

Port in the North Sea
The rising sun sets in you
The moon following

Stare into the stream
Rest beside the silver brook
Dwell in the current

Flow into the sea
Oceanic memory
Hunting the kelp beds

Raise the sails and fly
Drifting on the tides of time
My ghost left behind