Sunday, September 14, 2014

Homily for the Triumph of the Holy Cross

Here are some random thoughts:
The serpent and the saraph.
Make a saraph and mount it on a pole,
and if any who have been bitten look at it, they will live.”
Moses accordingly made a bronze serpent and mounted it on a pole,
and whenever anyone who had been bitten by a serpent
looked at the bronze serpent, he lived.

It is interesting to me how the instrument of death, the thing that tortured the Israelites, becomes a ubiquitous sign of healing, an almost universal anthropological signification.  The thing that tortures heals. The thing that destroys creates.
Random thoughts:
Today on the 14th of September I always remember a priest/mentor of mine who died on this day now 18 years ago. He was the priest  the one that said to a timid, spotted young man: You should go to the seminary. You should be a priest. This is the priest that was also a raging alcoholic, but abusive only to himself. This is a priest who was so haunted by his past that he became a great priest in the midst of suffering. His wounds gave him an open heart and he died of a heart attack at the age of 45. I loved him in his woundedness.
Random thoughts:
I was looking at the opening hymn for last Thursday in the Breaking Bread hymnal. It was 657. My mind wandered over the page. I looked for a minute at 658. And this was the line from 658. Fountain of mercy, grace flowing free, streams of salvation, spilling with love from a tree. Then my mind wandered up to the cross here. Spilling with love from a tree. I have a wandering mind but Jesus seems fairly fixed on that tree.

Random thoughts:
Last week we remembered, perhaps with some fade in our memory, the events of September 11, 2001, now thirteen years ago. On that day, I was in Buffalo, New York giving a retreat for the priests of the diocese. I remember that day, the violence, the smoke, the tears, the response, the delay, the response, and then, no response, a numbness and then a dumbness. Swirling like ashes in memory thirteen years later, I wonder …
Can we find the face of the crucified Christ in the victims of the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and an isolated field in Pennsylvania?
I wonder if, as the point of impact was made, I wonder if Mohammed and Fayez and Saed and Hani and the others had a blinding vision of the Holy Cross. I wonder if there was an explosion of Truth for them and moments later they heard, well done good and faithful servants enter the joy of your Master, not for what they had done but in spite of what they had done. I wonder if we have an easier time believing that God can save Mohammed and Fayez and Saed and Hani or Hitler or Stalin or Osama Bin Laden than in believing that God can save me in my sins, my awful sins.
He can you know, he can save us? He already has knowing what we would do, knowing our petty crimes of terror, our crimes against humanity.
Isn’t that the exaltation of the cross?

I was struck, randomly, by something Fr. Peter said in his homily on Thursday: “Love is the daily crucifixion of ourselves to seek the good of those around us.”

Random Thoughts Indeed

What do we see when we look upon the cross?
Here in our chapel we see the Lord stretching out his hands and arms wide.  He is inviting in his agony, inviting us to enter a mystery, the mystery of his passion, his death and yes, his resurrection
Here in warm, wooden tones, the flesh of the Savior is rent, opening the avenues of divine life through his pierced hands, feet, head, side.

Here he inspires us day after day to follow his example of sacrifice and love. Here we fail day after day to follow his example of sacrifice and love and he heals us again and again in warm tones.
And that I believe is the exaltation of the Cross.
Or do see someone else on the cross?

The Man of Galilee or do you see your alcoholic father on the cross, the drunken abusive liar that wasted your youth, or Ward Cleaver who was so emotionally stunted that he couldn’t have cried out if the house was on fire.
Do we see Jesus, can you see Jesus in your father?
And that is the exaltation of the Cross

Do you see Jesus in your timid mother, the woman who could not save you because she could not save herself, the woman always living the half lie of its going to be okay when it was never going to be okay? But she pretended didn’t she, she knew how to pretend.
Do you see Jesus, can you see Jesus in your mother?
What do you see when you look at the cross?
Do you see your past, those lost years, those years spent floundering in questions masquerading as maturity when they were really questions that were the solutions, the resolution to live a lie dedicated to sex, to drugs, to hanging out which somehow transmogrified itself into hanging yourself from the noose of indulgence

Do you see Jesus in your past? Is that the exaltation of the cross, the quiet simple Jesus summoning us from across the sea of sin, the ocean of remembrance?
Do you see your old lovers, old schemers, old partners in crime?
How about old dealers, old reprobates?
Do we see in the cross our old self and wonder was Jesus there only to be reminded of the simple question that continues to haunt the backs of our minds today …
Can you see Jesus in the middle of your sin?
Do you see despicable lies and see his truth. Does the serpent become the saving seraph of salvation?
Can Jesus be found in the lie as much as in the truth? Can he be found in the coming back, in the act of contrition that sounds its dulcet tones, piercingly through the daily arrhythmia of cacophony.
Can the serpent become the healing saraph by raising it into contract with Christ?
Can I become the healing saraph, that thing that burns out of God’s beneficence?
Can I become the nail exploring the wounds of the man of God, exploring the streams of blood flowing down like rivers east of Eden?
Can I become the crown, the triumph masquerading as tragedy whose piercing allegations grasp flesh, hold flesh and let it go in a sea of sensate contrition?
Can I become the spear thrusting, mightily to release those twin reservoirs of water and blood, the water of my birth and baptism, the blood of my birth and sinful, sinless nature?
Can I become the blood, the life blood flowing into the world, spilling seductively on the ground, seductively and carelessly. Can I not care if it is MY blood that is shed, poured out for the life of the world because it is brothers and sisters, on that cross it was our blood poured out, our guilt laden blood, our tainted blood, our precious, golden, blood dropping like rubies to the earth from the body of the Son of Man. Isn’t that the exaltation of the Cross?

He emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
coming in human likeness;
and found human in appearance,
he humbled himself,
becoming obedient to death,
even death on a cross.
His randomness became transformation.
Can my randomness become sanctification?
Can my priest friend find peace in heaven?
Can the hymnal point the way to joy in coincidence?
Can 9 11 become a feast day?

Draw us up Lord, draw us up for by your Holy Cross you have redeemed the world.
That is the holy cross and all of those saints and sinners are drawn from North and South from East and West. They are drawn into the heart of the crucified Savior, into his warm, beating heart.
We find him in our suffering friends.
 We find him in those random places of life.
We find him in victims and in heroes.
We find him in the lost and forsaken
We find him in each other.
And that is the exaltation of Cross, drawn together from random thoughts into the geography of salvation, spread out across the bruised landscape of the human experience like farm squares in Kansas seen from high above, from 30 thousand feet.

That is the exaltation of the Cross strewn like scars across our wounded forms.
And it triumphs.
And we are saved.

And all our random thoughts are caught up like a whirlwind, caught up in a feast of bread and wine, His body and blood poured out for the life of the world, poured out for you and me.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Conference for Lay Students September 13th

Magda Olivero died this past Monday. She was 104 years old. I am sure that most of you will ask who Magda Olivero was and so, I will tell you. She was a great opera singer. In her early years she performed in many “new” operas by composers who today are considered part of the bygone romantic and romanticized era, composers like Cilea and Puccini. She was a very big deal in those days but she retired early in order to raise a family. Once her children were raised, she made the rather startling decision to return to the operatic stage at a time of life when most singers were gracefully exiting the cutthroat operatic world. Not so Magda. In her later years, she made her debut at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. She appeared on countless “bootleg” opera recordings of the time. And I was obsessed with her. Her voice was very sui generis. Like her near contemporary, Maria Callas, sometimes she was spectacular and sometimes she was spectacularly bad. She was never anything but thrilling. Those bootleg recordings were horded for capturing all of the wildness and craziness of an “Olivero” event. I wore out the grooves on many of mine.  Let’s skip forward to 1979. I was 16 years old in the Spring of 1979 and that year, as every year during that time, the Met came touring to my hometown of Memphis. For three nights, the Dixon Myers Hall was filled with the greatest singers, orchestra, conductors and productions the operatic world had to offer. As a young man absolutely obsessed with opera, it was the highlight of the year. I gave up going to my junior prom in order to obtain coveted tickets to the Met that year. It was truly a banner year because that year my obsession, Magda Olivero, was set to appear as Tosca. Also in the cast were a young Luciano Pavorotti as Cavaradossi and the old met stalwart, Cornell McNeil as Scarpia. Who cared? It was Olivero that was the draw and she sang Tosca that night thrillingly. She was 69 years old and the strange thing was: She was mesmerizing. I was awe struck. In some ways, in the memory, I still am. Of course, I am an opera geek and some of this means nothing to you. I was a teenager and teenagers always root for the underdogs. I was also a young man who needed heroes and heroines. I was a lonely boy who was more comfortable sitting in the darkened opera house living vicariously through those singers on stage. To me, Olivero was more important than any prom, though, I didn’t really know why then. But I will tell you this, Olivero continued to perform until she was 99 years old.
Undoubtedly you are asking at this point, what does this romp down memory lane have to do with us today, particularly as we inaugurate this new season not of Opera at the Met but of formation at Saint Meinrad. I might say the message is, you’re never too old to learn, and that would be an important message for some of the old divas and divos here today.

But I am thinking about something else in the message I, as rector of Saint Meinrad, would like to offer you this morning. In the book of Judges, we read: Go with what strength you have and save Israel.  That is an important mantra that I keep repeating to myself. I keep repeating it in talks I give. This morning I would like to offer a bit of amplification on this message from Holy Writ.
The challenge from Judges and the challenge for us is three fold in my estimation: Knowing my strength, naming my strength and using my strength.
I have recently been reading a very interesting novel titled, All the Light We Cannot See, by a fellow named Anthony Doerr. It is a penetrating novel and I highly recommend it. It is about two highly unlikely characters who find themselves together in the wake of the Allied attack on the island of St. Malo in the waning days of World War II, a little, blind French girl and a very young Nazi solider. They are fractured characters and their fractured nature is manifest in the short, choppy chapters of the book. We see their life and their adventure sideways, askew. They are broken and yet their ability to know their strengths and to combine their efforts is what saves them. They are saved in their weakness by relying on the strength of the other. Like my Magda, they used what strength they had to save themselves and they did it valiantly. None of us are without challenges but God uses those challenges to offer us options, new ways. I hope, at some level, that is why you are here.

Second is naming my strength. All of us need the power to name what God has given each of us. If you do not yet know what your gifts are I pray that you will let God reveal these strengths to you in prayer. Sometimes our gifts are occluded. We occlude them. We are so ashamed of ourselves that we do not want other people to see the wonder that God created in us. We are ashamed of the wonder. That is pride. Pride goes before a fall and we can lose ourselves when we fail to find God in ourselves, our sense of wonder caught up in his sense of wonder. When I can name my strength, I am transformed because in naming it, in naming them, I have recognized the essential truth about myself: I am wondrously, miraculously made. And then we must use our strength. God did not mean for us to bury our coins and ultimately there is only one place for using my strength.

Go with what strength you have and save Israel. When I grew up, or perhaps I should say as I am growing up I remember something that Cardinal Newman once expressed in his writing. I paraphrase: It doesn’t matter what gifts you have, use them. Use them for God’s glory and you will be doing the right thing. Or perhaps, St. Augustine will suffice: Love and do what you will. I had the chance this past week to chat with one of our client bishops. In that conversation we discussed the vision of formation for the priesthood. I mentioned to him how I occasionally bristled at the thought some theologates tend to promote, that is, to train their seminarians to all be alike, to a look-alike and think alike. I go back to Judges: Go with what strength you have and save Israel:

Perhaps you are a profound person of prayer.
Perhaps you are talented in the area of music or public speaking.
Perhaps you are a good listener. All of you, each one has some gift, some strength to offer for the service of God, to save Israel.
All of you also bring weaknesses.
Perhaps you have self-doubt.
Perhaps you have some form of addiction.
Perhaps you are cynical by nature.
Perhaps you are weak in some other way.
Go with your weaknesses as well.

Magda Olivero knew what strength she had and she wowed the world. She knew something essential, that is, that even in our strengths we can be weak and even in our weaknesses we can be strong. God asks one thing: Be yourself. That seems to be a good message for new beginnings.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Homily for the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Mary is back! I mean, she comes back periodically throughout the cycle of seasons, the days of the liturgical year.

She comes in various guises. Here she is this and here that.
She speaks various languages. French, Portuguese, Aztec.
Like apparitions she manifests herself to us at various times, under varying conditions.
She marches through March getting annunciated to. She is conceived without sin in December. She insinuates herself onto some poor man’s tilma. She gets some kids at Fatima all worked up. She pops out from under a rock at Massabielle in February. She does it all, says it all, understands it all.
It is a bit irritating. Just when we find a way to connect, she is suddenly seemingly someone somewhere else.

And we struggle to keep up. Perhaps we have to change if we are going to keep up. Perhaps we have to learn to speak new languages and move from the confining categorizations of our minds to rocks in Southern France, or southern wherever.
We are told from our childhood to love Mary, to pray with her, for her, in her, through her. We have wooden baby rosaries slapped into our hands. Here pray this. Get something from this.
We are told it’s easier to relate to her than to God; so go to Mary. She gets the reputation for being an easy in.
Yet I don’t think St. Joseph thought so. He wanted to get rid of her. He wanted to find a way to shut her down. To the uninitiated Joe, she was a bit of embarrassment. Would he be thought a cuckold?
Undoubtedly. Put her away quietly. Just control the mess.

But it would not be controlled.

Enter the angel with flapping wings and celestial dander.
Little houses in Galilee where getting quite the soteriological workout in those days.
What did the angel say?
“Joseph, son of David,
do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home.
For it is through the Holy Spirit
that this child has been conceived in her.
She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus,
because he will save his people from their sins.”
The first thing was embarrassing enough, but really this?
And what did Joseph do? What could he do?
He did not fear to take Mary.

Is it so with us? Are we fearless in taking up the rosary?
Do we want to chat with her in many languages?
Is Mary’s embarrassment our embarrassment as well?
Are we, like Joseph apprehensive about God’s plans for us.
Well, if we are, keep Our Lady at bay.
Because, frankly Mary, whose nativity we celebrate today is a kicker, a fighter, a screamer.
Some say: Go to Mary for comfort.
But brothers and sisters there is no comfort in Mary because the thing we frequently seek comfort from is our conviction that God is requiring something hard from us.
If we are divine cowards, I can assure you Our Lady has no time for that.
She lifts us up from our timidity  and what she does have is also what her divine son seemingly inherited from her.

She does have patience in perseverance.
Perhaps that is the greatest gift a mother can give.
The words of the Lord spoken through Micah the prophet apply to Mary’s son.
They might apply to Mary’s other children as well. That is, they might apply to us:
He shall stand firm and shepherd his flock
by the strength of the LORD,
in the majestic name of the LORD, his God;
And they shall remain, for now his greatness
shall reach to the ends of the earth;
he shall be peace.

Are our lives big enough to achieve her birth here and now? Are our churches wide enough? Are our cultures broad enough to take her in because, frankly, she’s back. She always comes back.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Rector's Conference II

As I continue my rector’s conferences this fall, I would like to spend some time, as I indicated in the first conference, looking at the question of obedience. Fr. Knott has said frequently that obedience is the issue most often overlooked in seminary formation. I agree. I also agree with Fr. Knott’s assessment that it is often the sticking point in the perseverance of a vocation. This morning I would like to look at the Rite of Ordination, which is for me, the primary theological source for considering questions of Holy Orders. I want to look at the rite to give us insight into this question.

  Do you promise respect and obedience to me and my successors? This is the bishop’s question to the man to be ordained. It is a question that is followed by a gesture, the first time this takes place in the rite of ordination. The bishop clasps the hands of the man to be ordained. In doing so they hold on together to the life force, represented in the pulse of the other. The bishop holds fast to me and I hold fast to him. It is a symbol of what must happen as a result of the promise being made. The bishop holds fast to my life force. And I hold fast to his and in holding fast to his, I gain access to the life force of what he represents, namely the life of the Church, its historical character and precedent, its living persons around the world. My life as a newly ordained person will stem from the transfer of vital energy from the hands of the bishop to my hands. And he receives from me my life energy, not to be held, or horded but through the handiwork of his office to be connected vitally with the life force of the Church, of other priests, of deacons, lay ministers and all of the People of God whose lives are inextricably bound up with his. The promise of obedience is made in holding fast. And I will need to hold fast if I am to fully live this charism of the Church.

  What is the essence of obedience? The Latin word, obedire, means two things, to hear and to listen. In English there is a slight difference in the meaning of these two words. Hearing is essentially a passive event, involving sound waves moving over the auditory mechanism of the person. As long as my ears are working properly, I can hear. But hearing requires no response. Again, it is passive. Listening is another thing entirely. I listen when I process what I have heard, when I place it in a context, when I, at least at some level, understand what I am hearing. Listening is an active concept, it requires attention and it is dialogical with that which is heard. Passive or active, however, obedire places us in a particular context, the context of relationship. These actions require relationships of varying depths. When I hear, I am in a kind of relationship with something outside of myself, be it ever so feeble, perhaps nothing more than mere sound. When I listen, I deepen that relationship. I am in a contextual relationship, an intentional relationship with the other who makes the sound. Philosophically, I would say the essence of obedience is relationship and by extension the recognition of a necessary relationality in the person, that is, the desire to recognize that relationship is essential to who I am as a person. I am, in this way obedient to the anthropological truth. There are a number of ways in which this relationship can be understood.

 Now I am thinking about the book of Fulton Sheen mentioned by Cardinal Collins a few times in his Day of Prayer conferences, The Priest is not His Own. Most of you have that book on hand. Go back and re-read the chapter on “The Spirit of Poverty”. Here I think Archbishop Sheen is making some roundabout comments on obedience in his discussion of the life of the priest. First, the spirit of poverty recognizes what we have. What are the riches of the priest? Here we do not think grossly about possessions but about things like the gifts God has given us, and the challenges. Obedience requires us to name our gifts, realizing that they may take the form of handi-capableness. When I am weak, then I am strong. But can we be obedient to that? Can we find that in our brothers? Can we learn to put up with their foibles and realize that we are so irritated by them because they represent us in such a raw way? Sheen says, so beautifully: “The function of all ownership is to extend personality. What I have determines who I am. Do my possessions free me or do they bind me?” This is where we see the connection of possessions and obedience. The rich man is not free for obedience because like the man in the Gospel he cannot leave it behind to follow the Lord. “Sell all that you have and give it to the poor.” Jesus said this and the man went away sad because he had many possessions. Are we in a relationship of obedience with our possessions, with our machines, our games, our favorite websites and blogs? Do not give your obedience to Paul or to Apollos, or to Siri or to Rocco. Give your allegiance to Christ, follow him alone and the possessions will either fall into line or they will fall behind. Give your crap away. That’s how I would say it and that is why I am not Jesus. But impoverish yourself this way. Give your blues away. Give your guilt away in confession. Give the degeneracy in your personality away. Give your obsessions away. Give your past away. Give your present away. Give your future away. When we are free of these possessions we can take up the mantle of discipleship. We can take up Elijah’s cloak without losing it in the whirlwind of the ascent of riches.

  What does Archbishop Sheen recommend in the courting of Lady Poverty? Give away. Not only your riches and vices give away your virtues. Virtue is only virtue, a gift is only a gift if we give it away. What God has given me is not my own. Sheen instructs in this way: Give away your time and talent. “The lazy priest always has less time than the zealous priest because the former is thinking in terms of the interruptions to his leisure, while the latter is seeking the opportunity to be another Christ. The priest’s time is not his own, it is our Lord’s. The more we enrich ourselves with time the more we impoverish the Kingdom of God.” And that is obedience. That is true listening to the cries of those in need, in the world, in our parishes, in this very place. Time spent building up the other, or building up myself for service to the other is the only time well spent.

  Obedience means we can seldom trust the voices speaking to us internally about our own desires and needs. Again Archbishop Sheen: “We are worthless servants when we have done our best. What are we then when we fail to do our best? We become unworthy to be his … priests.”

 I like very much Robert Moore’s lecture series on The Archetypes of Initiation. In his reflections on “Sacred Space” he talks about the ways in which a space can become de-sacrizlied. The one way, found in many cultures, is the consistent use of a space set aside for sacred activities being used for non-sacred purposes. There is something within us that finds it an affront if someone were to ask us to hold a raucous dance in the church. At least, I hope that is within us. We find it distasteful when church buildings are sold off to become restaurants or condos. Even more distasteful is when someone desecrates a sacred space through acts of violence. Yet, are our bodies not temples of the Spirit? Are not our people, those very sanctuaries for the presence of God? How can we use our bodies for non-sacred purposes and think it is permissible when we are appalled by the same treatment to a building. I go back for a moment to the collect for the dedication of a Church.

 Almighty ever living God, pour our your grace upon this place and extend the gift of your help to all who call upon you, that the power of your word and of the Sacraments may strengthen here the hearts of all the faithful.

”Now compare these words to the collect for ordaining priests or for marriage and your will see the same sentiment expressed. We are the church, the church is us. The building is important, it is vitally important but so are we. Remembering this essential connection is also an act of listening and obedience.

And if obedience is essentially about relationship, human beings have relationship written in the core of their being. Saint John Paul II in his Theology of the Body renewed this insight for our contemporary western cultural situation. In the modern and postmodern ideal, we are told that we do not need each other, that we can be lone rangers, that we should be completely independent and isolated from the mentality of the “herd”. For the late pope, this cultural message was conflicted because it denied the essential nature of the person as one necessarily in relationship with the other. Relationship is an anthropological truth and many of our modern woes have grown out of an attempt to deny the essential nature of this truth. Obedience, as an expression of essential relationality is the recognition, at a very basic level of what is true about myself. Obedience is telling the truth. Obedience is the expression of the truth that is written in the very fiber of my being. I cannot live authentically without an understanding of obedience. At its heart, this obedience is an intentional hearing the call of relationship that naturally resounds within me and responding to that call by actively pursuing the authentic nature of relationship. Obedience is also an expression of piety in the classical sense of being true to form, true to who I am as a person. It is an acknowledgement of my need for others, a need that is intense, a need that is absolute, a need that cannot be denied without damaging my nature. Obedience is also an expression of humility, of knowing the truth and living the truth of my reality. Obedience is an expression of my anthropological aptitude.

  How do we understand all of that? How do we do all of that? I would say not always very well. So be it. Last week I was reading a little book called: The Square Halo. It is a book about iconography. It is not very deep and not too philosophical or theological, in other words, just right for me. There is a good bit of discussion in the book on the different types of haloes found in Western art. For example, there is the triangular halo, only worn by God the Father and obviously representing the Holy Trinity. There is the octagonal halo worn by human personifications of the virtues. There is the symbolic halo, found quite often in paintings by Leonardo DaVinci in which he uses the composition, say the room in the Last Supper to create the halo effect around the heads of Christ or Mary. DaVinci also is rather daring in using symbolic halos for his secular subjects, usually in the form of a juniper tree. Side note: The juniper tree is a symbol of great journeys because of its twisted and convoluted form. That is something for us as well. There are also round halos which in painting are perfectly round in order they demonstrate the perfected state of the saints who wear them in heaven. Then there is the square halo. These are worn in art by living people, folks who are “on the way”. Unlike its counterparts, the square halo is not finished yet. Earth is imperfect, so are squares. Squares still have points that can jump out and stick people. Squares are harder to live with and keep on your head. Squares are who we are. We wear square halos. We are not yet perfect, but as is the case with our appropriation of obedience, we are on the way. We will never achieve perfect obedience in this world, the points of our halos, which often transmogrify themselves into little horns, get in the way. But we are on the way. Thank God, we are on the way.

And as we move forward we are given a little push by those round haloed folks, the saints whose prayers in heaven for us keep us anchored on the journey. Brothers and sisters let us push forward in faith amid the vicissitudes of this world’s many challenges. Let us push forward on the path of obedience through our love and concern for each other. Let us agree to be there for one another as we take risks, casting all our care on Christ who bore and bears so much of our lives of sin and compromise, and on his Blessed Mother into whose arms we cast ourselves daily as we say: Hail Holy Queen …

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Homily for Saturday September 6th

They say, there is one in every crowd and I more than halfway believe it. Every class, every subclass, every faculty, every seminary, every diocese, every monastery. There’s one in every crowd.
I have classified them: There is “ the Diogenes” the original fellow of this type lived in a bathtub in Athens. His modern counterparts have to question everything. Their favorite expression is: Well I don’t know about that.

There is the “John Locke” model. Show me the money, the evidence is their motto.
There is “the Hermione” those who can’t seem to hear a question without putting their paws in the air. The first thing out of his mouth is usually” OOO. OOO.
The pious, the hateful, the solipsist, the pigpen, the Eyore. They are types, and communities are filled with them.

I could go on and on, but we know them. They are there in class every day. They come to Mass. They live on our halls. They teach. They work on the staff. And they make life sticky, they are not like us. They are the ones who don’t follow the rules, at least they don’t follow my rules and thus breakthrough the barriers of  polite living at least as I am defining it today.
And we love to judge them, to them in little box. I’m coining a new word here: We pharisize them.
The old Pharisees looked at what the disciples of Jesus were doing.
The Pharisees are quick to judge the actions of Jesus and his disciples. They did this. They did not do this.
They worked on the Sabbath. They did not observe its precepts. Generic.
And of course judgments are generally generic, that is we love the action of judgment but are not too clear about the principles by which we judge.
 
And we do love to judge don’t we? In fact I would say that one of the products of original sin is the insatiable desire we have to put others in boxes, to categorize, to envelop our brothers and sisters into the confining manila folders of our demonic little filing systems.

Brothers and sisters, its how we control the ugly world around us, by shining the harsh light of judgment on the OTHER. When I shine a harsh light on a brother and sister, the fascinating upshot of that is that no one can see me in its glare. That anonymity makes us somehow feel better about ourselves.
And yet, what did Saint Paul say?
When ridiculed, we bless; when persecuted, we endure;
when slandered, we respond gently.
We have become like the world’s rubbish, the scum of all,
to this very moment.
To the other, to the other, to the other.
To the other in charity
To the other in compassion
To the other in recognition
To the other in fraternity
To the other in love
It is Paul’s ceaseless message.

We judge others like the Pharisees and find each other sorely lacking.
O brothers and sisters: When can we stop pharisizing and super-pharisizing?
What is interesting about today’s Gospel passage is that the judgmental Pharisees had no idea what the disciples were talking about. They did not concern themselves enough to listen. They were ignorant in the worst way.

Can we become a bit more ignorant in the best way? Can we become strong enough to say:
The Son of Man is Lord, even of our weakness, even of our pharisizing.