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Thursday, November 26, 2020

Thanksgiving, the Via Negativa

Today is Thanksgiving, a secular holiday; nevertheless, Thanksgiving is sacred to most Americans.

 

Many of us write reflections on this day, posting memes that express to the world the things we are thankful for, and that is nice, conscientious, appropriate. We have much to be thankful for as Americans, and we should never forget it.

 

A heartfelt expression of gratitude is always welcome, even the gratitude that is expressed in general for the many things we receive from those we love, by whom we are loved, for the things we are given that make our lives more comfortable, more challenging and more meaningful.

 

It is never inappropriate to thankful.

 

To express gratitude is to make one’s self humble; it is to acknowledge our reliance on others for making us into the people we have become.

 

Thanksgiving is a day for humility; therefore, be gracious. Be thankful…insofar as you are able, in-so-doing you will be following the way of the wise.

 

In theology there is something known as the apophatic tradition. In this tradition it is understood that God, by whatever name you call the creator the universe (of all that is and all we are), that God dwells in a mode of being that is beyond human understanding.

 

The apophatic tradition tells us that God is shrouded in mystery, a state of being that mystics describe as the cloud of un-knowing.

 

According to the apophatic tradition, we are not able speak in the affirmative about what or who God is, because God, the eternal and infinite, God will not be circumscribed by the finite constructs of human thought and language.

 

We are not able to posit meaningful assertions about the nature of the Divine; what we are left with is the via negative, the way of understanding who God is by stating what God is not.

 

In keeping with the via negativa, I am in the custom of forgoing the traditional giving-of-thanks, even though I am truly grateful for my friends and compatriots, I am grateful for everyone in my life, grateful for all of those who inspire me, who love me and who are patient with me every single day.

 

I am grateful for you.

 

For thanksgiving I follow the via negative, the negative way, and express what I am not thankful for.

 

I am not thankful for the coronavirus and COVID-19.

 

I am not thankful that 260,000 Americans have died from this virus, with thousands more dying everyday.

 

I am not thankful that there are more than 20,000,000 million Americans out of work do to safety measures we have had to take in order to fight this pandemic.

 

I am not thankful that tens of millions of Americans refuse to participate in those safety measures, that they do not care for the lives and safety of their neighbors, or their families or even themselves enough to wear a mask, and keep distant from one another.

 

I am not thankful that the track record of the United States is the worst in the world for dealing with this crises, that with four percent of the population we have twenty percent of the deaths.

 

I am not thankful that Donald Trump lies about these facts and figures as a means of trying to avoid responsibility for his dismal failures.

 

I am not thankful for the food lines that stretch for miles in some communities this holiday season so that families can have something to put on the table to celebrate the good things in their lives.

 

I am not thankful that the economic relief which the entire country is in desperate need of receiving is being held up by the political machinations of Mitch McConnell the senate majority leader and his caucus of heartless, short-sighted republicans.

 

I am not thankful that in the Fake President, Donald Trump, continues to divide us by class, culture, color, and is desperately trying to overturn the results of the election he just lost by 7,000,000 votes, and counting

 

I am not thankful for their collective failure of Congress to protect the constitution, or for the individual members who have forgotten their oath of office.

 

I am not thankful for our failures of leadership.

 

I am not thankful for white supremacy, and domestic terrorism.

 

I am not thankful for terrorism anywhere. I am not thankful for the religious fundamentalism that drives it. I am thankful neither for the fear that spawns it, nor for the fear it generates

 

I am not thankful that there is hunger in our bountiful world. I am not thankful for the greed and the sloth and the bad public policy that fosters it.

 

I am not thankful for willful ignorance, for anti-rational, anti-intellectual, demagoguery. I am not thankful for the cultural relativism that has promoted it, for anti-objectivism, for liars.

 

I am not thankful for Donald Trump. I am not thankful for my fellow Americans who voted for him, I am not thankful for his allies in congress or people anywhere who continue to support him.

 

I am not thankful for the media outlets, the reporters, the editorialists who failed and continue to fail to take the threat Donald Trump represent to our Democracy seriously. I am not thankful that they abdicated their responsibilities as the gatekeepers of society, as the so called 4th Estate, allowing his corrupt and criminal regime to cause so much harm to ordinary people.

 

I am not thankful for his corruption of the rule of law.

 

I am not thankful for our government’s continuous assault on our population of immigrants and refugees, for the way we have abdicated our responsibility to care for the asylum seeker.

 

I am not thankful for these things.

 

I am not thankful that there is so much more to add to this list.

 

Did I say that I am not thankful for white supremacists? I did, but let me say it again…I am not thankful for them or their apologists, both their soft supporters and their ardent advocates. I am not thankful that they have had a seat at the table in the Trump administration, I am not thankful for the normalization of that kind of hate in our society.

 

I am not thankful for that.




 

 

 

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Saint Katherine of Alexandria - Patron Saint of Philosophers

As a Roman Catholic Theologian, and a student of philosophy, Saint Katherine of Alexandria is my patroness.

 

I have this image of her, painted by the renaissance master Raphael tattooed on my right arm.

 

Her legend tells us that she was born in Alexandria, Egypt around the year 287 CE, and that she died as a martyr during the reign of the Roman Emperor Maxentius c. 305.

 

She was broken on the wheel; she was tied to it, impaled on its spikes, and crushed beneath it as it was rolled through the streets.

 

Katherine was only eighteen years old but gifted with a rare intellect. She was from a wealthy family and used her fortune to hold salons where she invited pagan philosophers to debate with her and other Christian scholars on matters concerning the central tenets of the faith and the doctrines of the Church.

 

Katherine is always depicted in the saffron and ochre robes of the philosopher, which had been the tradition throughout the ancient Near East and Hellenistic Civilization since at least the time of Socrates (mid-fourth century BCE). It is likely that these colors, and their association with philosophy come from the Buddhist missionaries travelling west from as early as the sixth century BCE.

 

Given First 11.25.2020




Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Certainty

Craftsmen of language

Wield instruments of reason

Penetrating myths

 

Poetry blossoms

Like flowers on the parchment

Before they decay

 

Insight and meaning

Sculpted in fragile symbols

Words dissemble, quick

 

Delicate sonnets

Battered by analysis

Bruised petals dropping

 

A poem seeking light

Wilts and withers in the heat

Choked by certitudes




Sunday, November 22, 2020

A Homily - The Thirty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A), The Solemnity of Christ the King

First Reading - Ezekiel 34:11-12, 15-17 ©

Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 22(23):1-3a, 5-6 ©

Second Reading – 1 Corinthians 15:20-26, 28 ©

Gospel Acclamation – Mark 11:10

The Gospel According to Matthew 25:31 - 46 ©

 

(NJB)

 

 

The Thirty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A), The Solemnity of Christ the King

 

 

Consider the words of the prophet, this is the divine injunction: Carry out the will of God, the impetus for which is in your heart.

 

Be forgiving.

 

Be just.

 

Be mindful.

 

Be humble.

 

Be watchful.

 

Be caring.

 

Look after the well-being of all who come your way; as you treat the stranger, so do you treat God, the creator of the universe.

 

Know this!

 

God looks out for everyone, the whole of the flock, humanity, is in God’s care, and God is determined not to lose a single one of us. God will seek out the lost, bring back the stray, heal the wounded and strengthen the weak.

As the psalmist says:

 

God, the creator of the universe, God is shepherd to us all.

 

If we walk in the ways of God, we will be as a shepherd to our sisters and brothers.

 

Whatever it is that we experience of lack, our time in this world is not the end of all things. It is transitory. If we are hungry, we are hungry only for a time. If we thirst, it is but for a moment.

 

Trust in God and find peace therein. In the end you will be fulfilled.

 

It is not only because God loves you that God guides you, but it is for the God’s own sake that God blesses you.

 

The power of death and sin are temporary, it is only God that endures forever, and we are the children of God, the divine dwells within us.

 

If God has set a table before you, share it with the world; turn enemies into loved ones.

 

Be mindful of the apostle’s words.

 

The Apostle has a deep liking for circular arguments. The reading for today begins in circularity. Paul insists that Christ must be raised from the dead or his faith, and the faith of Christians everywhere is in vain, because the faith of Christians everywhere is not in vain, he says that we must believe that there is a resurrection, and the risen Christ is the proof of it.

 

This is not a reasonable argument. Set it aside, because it has no bearing on the main point of this passage.

 

The main point is this:

 

Sin and death enter through the world from a single point in time, and it is another singularity that brings sin and death to an end.

 

Adam causes the fall, Christ lifts creation back up.

 

The scope of their work is equal and includes the totality of all living beings: past, present and future.

 

Listen to the apostle; who understand the ways of God. We are created all-together as one. We are one creation in God. In our failures and our faith we are one. 

 

Remember this!

 

God is not a king, a prince or a lord.

 

The Church, following in the way Jesus taught, can never be the extension of a royal dynasty, and should not be seen as one.

 

The reading for today contains much of what is true, and much that is false.

 

Let us begin with this:

 

Jesus is not a king, nor is he an emperor.

 

Jesus is our brother, Jesus is a friend.

 

The glory of Christ is expressed in his mercy, you will not find Christ seated on a throne, commanding armies of angels, with the nations assembled before him.

 

It is the duty of all Christians, of all who would follow in the way of Jesus to reject such images. They lead to fallacies.

 

What is true is this:

 

Our love and fidelity to God and Christ is expressed in how we treat one another; rich or poor, weak or strong, right or wrong.

 

Among the ancient Hebrews, both the sheep and the goats were integral to their community, the Hebrews tended and cared for flocks of each. Both the sheep and the goats belonged to the community..

 

We are one human family, we are not sheep and goats, we are never divided by God, we are only divided by each other.

 

We must reject all such efforts to divide us.

 

In our human family there is good and bad, there are right and wrong. We are called on to foster the good, and forgive the bad. We are called by Jesus to forgive even those who do us harm.

 

 

First Reading - Ezekiel 34:11-12, 15-17 ©

 

The Lord Will Judge Between Sheep and Sheep

 

The Lord says this: I am going to look after my flock myself and keep all of it in view. As a shepherd keeps all his flock in view when he stands up in the middle of his scattered sheep, so shall I keep my sheep in view. I shall rescue them from wherever they have been scattered during the mist and darkness. I myself will pasture my sheep, I myself will show them where to rest – it is the Lord who speaks. I shall look for the lost one, bring back the stray, bandage the wounded and make the weak strong. I shall watch over the fat and healthy. I shall be a true shepherd to them.

 

As for you, my sheep, the Lord says this: I will judge between sheep and sheep, between rams and he-goats.

 

 

Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 22(23):1-3a, 5-6 ©

 

The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.

 

The Lord is my shepherd;

  there is nothing I shall want.

Fresh and green are the pastures

  where he gives me repose.

 

The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.

 

Near restful waters he leads me,

  to revive my drooping spirit.

He guides me along the right path;

  he is true to his name.

 

The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.

 

You have prepared a banquet for me

  in the sight of my foes.

My head you have anointed with oil;

  my cup is overflowing.

 

The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.

 

Surely goodness and kindness shall follow me

  all the days of my life.

In the Lord’s own house shall I dwell

  for ever and ever.

 

The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.

 

 

Second Reading – 1 Corinthians 15:20-26, 28 ©

 

Christ Will Hand Over the Kingdom to God the Father; So that God May Be All in All

 

Christ has been raised from the dead, the first-fruits of all who have fallen asleep. Death came through one man and in the same way the resurrection of the dead has come through one man. Just as all men die in Adam, so all men will be brought to life in Christ; but all of them in their proper order: Christ as the first-fruits and then, after the coming of Christ, those who belong to him. After that will come the end, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father, having done away with every sovereignty, authority and power. For he must be king until he has put all his enemies under his feet and the last of the enemies to be destroyed is death, for everything is to be put under his feet. And when everything is subjected to him, then the Son himself will be subject in his turn to the One who subjected all things to him, so that God may be all in all.

 

 

Gospel Acclamation – Mark 11:10

 

Alleluia, alleluia!

 

Blessings on him who comes in the name of the Lord!

 

Blessings on the coming kingdom of our father David!

 

Alleluia!

 

 

The Gospel According to Matthew 25:31 - 46 ©

 

I Was Naked and You Clothed Me; Sick, and You Visited Me

 

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘When the Son of Man comes in his glory, escorted by all the angels, then he will take his seat on his throne of glory. All the nations will be assembled before him and he will separate men one from another as the shepherd separates sheep from goats. He will place the sheep on his right hand and the goats on his left.

 

‘Then the King will say to those on his right hand, “Come, you whom my Father has blessed, take for your heritage the kingdom prepared for you since the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave me drink; I was a stranger and you made me welcome; naked and you clothed me, sick and you visited me, in prison and you came to see me.” Then the virtuous will say to him in reply, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you; or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and make you welcome; naked and clothe you; sick or in prison and go to see you?” And the King will answer, “I tell you solemnly, in so far as you did this to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me.”

 

‘Next he will say to those on his left hand, “Go away from me, with your curse upon you, to the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you never gave me food; I was thirsty and you never gave me anything to drink; I was a stranger and you never made me welcome, naked and you never clothed me, sick and in prison and you never visited me.” Then it will be their turn to ask, “Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty, a stranger or naked, sick or in prison, and did not come to your help?” Then he will answer, “I tell you solemnly, in so far as you neglected to do this to one of the least of these, you neglected to do it to me.”

  

‘And they will go away to eternal punishment, and the virtuous to eternal life.’

 

 

The Thirty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A), The Solemnity of Christ the King




Saturday, November 21, 2020

General Strike, Part I - Editorial, The Week in Review

Analysis, Commentary, Opinion

11.21.2020

 

General Strike – Part I

 

 

I have been warning about this situation for months; the fake president is pretending he did not loose the election, and he is trying to steal it. He intends to overturn the election which he lost by more than six million votes.

 

He and his supporters claim that there was voter fraud, but they cannot show any proof of it in court, in fact they are not even trying.

 

The Trump campaign pretended to make legal showings over the past few weeks but they lost or withdrew their claims in every case.

 

Now they are relying on wild conspiracy theories and pure propaganda pushed through the Q platform to influence their voters, as well as the week minded office holders that Trump has swayed with his influence.

 

Having lost the vote, and having lost in court, they are now looking for a political victory. They are seeking to sew enough confusion to provide their allies with political cover so that the election ends up in the house of representatives where republicans have a numerical advantage and could theoretically invalidate the will of the majority.

 

I have been warning for months that Trump and his enablers are willing to destroy the Republic and do away with representative democracy, now they have shown their hand, they are nakedly attempting to do it, they do not care if we see it. This is a strategy developed by Steve Bannon, the Fake president along with Rudy Giuliani is fully engaged in a campaign to carry it out, and every single silent republican office holder, from dog catcher to the Senate Majority leader is helping them do it.

 

We cannot let this happen.

 

The fake president is calling county election officials attempting to intimidate them into carrying out his will, and succeeding in some small measure. He has called state legislators to the White House to do the same. He and other republicans have vilified their fellow republican secretaries of state for not throwing out votes in Georgia.

 

This is madness and it must be stopped.

 

I have been complaining about Donald Trump since he entered the race to become President. I was despondent when he won the election in 2016, I wanted to see him impeached and removed from office for his blatant criminality, and then brought before the bar of justice.

 

I did not get my way, though he was impeached he was not removed from office, and I accepted this because that is the way our system works.

 

We were told that the remedy for dealing with Trump was to vote him out, and we did!

 

Now he is refusing to accept that outcome and he threatens to destroy the American experiment because of it.

 

What are you prepared to do to stand in the way of this?

 

If there is a delay in certifying Joe Biden as the president Elect and this results in a delay beyond December 8th in allowing his transition team to begin their work in earnest, then we must shut the entire economy down.

 

General Strike, Wednesday December 9th.





Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Doris Lessing – Author, Nobel Laureate

I first encountered Doris Lessing’s writing when I was serving in the Navy, stationed at the Naval Hospital at the Marine Corps Air Station in Cherry Point, North Carolina.

 

I plucked one of her books off the shelf in the library, having no idea who she was or how significant her work had been to twentieth century literature.

 

The book I selected was from her science fiction series, Canopus in Argos, I took the first book in that five part series off the shelf, titled: Shikasta and I read it over the next few days.

 

Reading Shikasta filled me with a kind of existential pique. Her characters were so real, the questions they grappled were profound, especially to me at that time in my life, and the response she gave to those questions moved me.

 

Through her characters she addressed the philosophical questions and fundamental truths that mattered to me most:

 

What is the nature of reality?

What is the purpose of existence?

What is the meaning of life?

 

Doris Lessing did not attempt to answer these questions the way that a philosopher would, by presenting a set of propositions with arguments for and against, laid out in a treatise or an essay.

 

She presents them in narrative, through the choices her characters make and the consequences they face, and the way they reflect on them.

 

I soon discovered how influential she was in English departments all around the world. Every literature major I met was familiar with her famous work, The Golden Notebook.

 

As I read more deeply into her collection, I found myself more interested in her examination of more subversive topics, Memoirs of a Survivor, Briefing for a Descent into Hell, and The Good Terrorist.

 

It was then that I discovered how much of a radical this woman had been, and I was grateful to have been able to encounter her through her literature.

 

She won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2007.

 

 

Given First - 2020.11.17


I first encountered Doris Lessing’s writing when I was serving in the Navy, stationed at the Naval Hospital at the Marine Corps Air Station in Cherry Point, North Carolina.

 

I plucked one of her books off the shelf in the library, having no idea who she was or how significant her work had been to twentieth century literature.

 

The book I selected was from her science fiction series, Canopus in Argos, I took the first book in that five part series off the shelf, titled: Shikasta and I read it over the next few days.

 

Reading Shikasta filled me with a kind of existential pique. Her characters were so real, the questions they grappled were profound, especially to me at that time in my life, and the response she gave to those questions moved me.

 

Through her characters she addressed the philosophical questions and fundamental truths that mattered to me most:

 

What is the nature of reality?

What is the purpose of existence?

What is the meaning of life?

 

Doris Lessing did not attempt to answer these questions the way that a philosopher would, by presenting a set of propositions with arguments for and against, laid out in a treatise or an essay.

 

She presents them in narrative, through the choices her characters make and the consequences they face, and the way they reflect on them.

 

I soon discovered how influential she was in English departments all around the world. Every literature major I met was familiar with her famous work, The Golden Notebook.

 

As I read more deeply into her collection, I found myself more interested in her examination of more subversive topics, Memoirs of a Survivor, Briefing for a Descent into Hell, and The Good Terrorist.

 

It was then that I discovered how much of a radical this woman had been, and I was grateful to have been able to encounter her through her literature.

 

She won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2007.

 

 

Given First - 2020.11.17