Category Archives: Spiritual life

All things work together for the one who loves God, even…

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There are those who say that they will have a question for God if they make it to heaven, such as what’s the deal with wood-ticks and mosquitoes and wasps and hornets and yellow jackets. Myopic. And not recognizing the perfect ecosystems which we go about destroying. Mostly, it’s just not having a bit of humility, not wanting to open one’s eyes and be directed to the Creator by His Creation.

Meanwhile, this bit of stinging horror pictured above is just under the eves of the carport, just where I open the car door, so that when I stand up, all in black, these beasties think they are under attack, just inches away. I often feel them smashing into the “baseball” cap I wear. It’s their favorite spot no matter what I do, year after year. I’m allergic to such critters, a hereditary condition. Sorry, but I got out the ol’ wasp spray.

People say that Saint Francis wouldn’t like harming such innocent creatures, but that’s only because of the myths that have grown up around Saint Francis. No wimp, flowers in the hair hippie he, no, no, no. Go ahead, read the rule for his fledgling community that he wrote. Remember, he was deacon, and had courses in the law of the Church such as it was at the time. He is precise. He wants his friars in heaven. He wants them to be crucified to themselves and the world so as to live for Christ Jesus.

  • “But Father George, you’re talking about being crucified to yourself and to the world and you’re afraid of a little sting? Bwahahahahahahaha!”

I know. I know. But it’s just that a little sting could do me in right quick.

  • “But Father George, you used to have bee hives!”

Well, I never said I was always prudent in having no fear of anything. And these beasties are different than bees.

Our Lord says that we will have no questions when we enter, please God, into heaven. But I insist that I will have a question, but it will be merely rhetorical. When something bad happens to us here on earth, we tend to ask, perhaps with some bitterness: “Why is it always me?”

When we enter, please God, into heaven, it seems to me that we will be so thankful and so awestruck at the love and goodness and kindness of the Lord, that we will ask the same thing: “Why me, Lord? I am a useless servant who only did what he had to do.”

And you know what that is? Going to Confession. Oooo! That stung, didn’t it? ;-) But don’t be afraid of a little sting. The happiness of the grace of absolution, just so wonderful.

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Notes about the rectory garden…

There are now three spaghetti squarrrshes. You’ll notice that in the lower right squarrrsh there’s a little worm hole. Not to worry. I’ve found that the worms (protein!) generally don’t burrow further than the outside shell, and you can easily extract a small bit of the shell before microwaving[!]. This Spring – 2021 – I ate through the remainder of last years squarrrsh – Autumn of 2020 – that I had sitting on a shelf in the kitchen. They were perfectly fresh. Five minutes of microwaving, say, a quarter (lengthwise), made for perfect al dente spaghetti, as it were. Great!

The seeds for these spaghetti squarrrsh came from the ones I was eating the following Spring. While I was microwaving, I ran out and planted the seeds I had gouged out of the squarrrsh and watered them. And now there are so many more. God is good.

Meanwhile, I was complaining about there being no bees. Well, that’s changed. I saw about a dozen today. So, they’ve discovered the garden.

So impatient, I was also complaining about there being only a few October Bean pods. Now I count fully one hundred.

The tomatoes are putting out lots of fruits, the count – which I shouldn’t do (Remember when King David did that?) – the count is at about 60 having harvested about a dozen already.

Today was the last pickings of the asparagus patch. That needs to grow into a huge forest once again.

The lettuce all of a sudden took off…

Blah blah blah ? ? ?

HERE’S THE DEAL:

The Lord God made us in such manner that as we go through unrepeatable minutiae dealing while with that which is utterly mundane, such as manure from Cooper the mini-horse next door, so as to fertilize any garden, or whatever it is, if we do any and all of that with the love of God, walking with, say, Saint Joseph and our Blessed Mother, with our Lord Jesus, with our angels guardian, with agility of soul, purity of heart, interceding, say, for the whole of the Mystical Body of Christ, so that heart and soul is opened up in love for the whole of mankind especially in midst of the sorry state that we are in, well, these unrepeatable minutiae become an occasion to come away for a little while with the Lord, but at the same time already at the ready to assist those who call upon us.

ALSO, AND JUST TO SAY:

I’ve been doing this all on my own. But when I was at one of the ordinations recently I was at table afterward with a gentleman who asked about gardening. I explained what I was doing and he asked if he knew what was happening in and Charlotte. Um… No… He was more amazed. He said that there is a grass roots movement (grass is the wrong word) of Catholics, particularly home-schoolers, to have big gardens, starting small, but say, enough when you got good at it to have provisions, say, for a year. He said that there is a prudent “prepper” side to this, but the main motivation – as it should be for everything in our lives – is to let the gardening speak to you about God. This isn’t at all a hippie thing. Rather, it is ferociously about Romans Chapter One, wherein Saint Paul says that the whole of creation speaks to us about the Creator. This takes a certain humility. And this leads to a kind of epiphany that God is good and kind in every way, and that He is with us even in all the unrepeatable maneuverings of manure from Cooper the mini-horse.

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Rattler’s rattle rattles plot twisting. [Update: Father Gordon’s humor.]

Whenever I put up a picture of a snake and say it’s a Timber Rattler (common here in Western North Carolina, especially on the road where I was) there are those who say that that’s impossible, a conspiracy theory, an exaggeration, just more unnecessary drama, all in a laudatory effort, methinks – PLOT TWIST – to normalize the presence of rattlers (which, to be sure, I love to see around as well). I don’t want to step on them. But I also don’t want to run over them. I love to see nature in full force.

The fake nay-sayers will say that surely I didn’t see the tell-tale pattern, or if I did, it was merely being sported by an immature Eastern Racer (Black Snake) or some such.

Then they’ll that surely I wasn’t close enough to see if it had a triangular head, you know, like this:

But then, still pretending to doubt my insistence, will say that is surely didn’t have an actual rattle, and add that some snakes can shake their tails with no rattles and make them kind of sound like rattles (true!). But, then there is this:

Now what? Baiting someone to think that this is not a Timber Rattler and so is therefore great for using in a humorous selfie like this?

image

[In the picture immediately above, that IS a Black Snake. But Father George is wearing a black shirt…] But what happens then – and this is the purposed intention of those deceitfully shrieking about conspiracy theories and exaggerations – what happens then is that I’ll pick up what is really a Timber Rattler and I’ll get bit by that serpent and die. [In speaking with Father Gordon this morning, he quipped that “it is unclear who was about to bite whom.” Hahaha. :-) I walked or rather slithered right into this. :-) ]

ANALOGY TIME!

  • “Father George! Father George! You’re exaggerating! You’re a conspiracy theorist! You’re melodramatic! Stop saying that Covid-19 vaccines are taken from living organs of human beings (aborted alive for this reason), because, you know, that means that you, Father George, are taking away our good feelings for getting Covid-19 vaccines! You meanie! You old meanie! Those were miscarriages taken out of dumpsters and, you know, stuff like that! Father George, you’re like that old Serpent, the ancient dragon and Satan, lying about doctrine and morality like you do. Father George, there is no sin, there is no Savior, there is no heaven, no hell, and therefore no Satan, no ancient serpent!”

And these people bait even the elect to fall into sin, getting bit by the demonic rebellion against the Living Truth that the Divine Son of the Immaculate Conception is.

But then, plot twist:

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Filed under Humor, Nature, Spiritual life

Advent: Watch!

Glazed eyes about Jesus’ admonition to us that we are to “Watch!” Just step back a bit from the ongoing chaos, out of kilter emotions, the darkness, whatever distance we think we are from God, and see that Jesus has a good grip on our souls and is bringing us close to Himself, to Heaven, to give as a gift to our Heavenly Father. Don’t let the mere residual effects of original sin fool you into thinking that you are left behind. We ARE too weak to follow Jesus, but that is why we are not our own saviors: Jesus is our Savior. We are to watch Him save us, grabbing us out of the quagmire so that His grace is sufficient for us, so that His strength shines out through our weakness. And this is the joy of the Holy Spirit, to watch Jesus save us. And in this way we can be humbly thankful, walk with Jesus as the friends He called us, right to heaven. That is our hope. We must have hope. Advent is all about this longing, this hope. The saints called this longing a painful anguish as they so very much desired to be in heaven with Jesus to praise and thank Him. Let that most holy anguish carry you right to Jesus, so as to watch! So, very joyful, all this, however somber, always standing with Mary in vigil.

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Homily: You SHALL love the Lord thy God with your ALL. Meanwhile a thief came in…

This is about methodology for doing an examination of conscience. It’s rather Christocentric, as it should be in order to do it with any success.

Meanwhile, before the end of Sunday Mass someone removed all the voter guides and prayers for people to vote according to proper morality which respects life from conception to natural death and which respects the free exercise of religion, etc. They were all put back after everyone had left, maybe after having listened to this very sermon on a proper examination of conscience. I will personally hand these out this coming Sunday (November 1, 2020). I had a copy of the voter guide, showing people, and a copy of the prayer, to which everyone listened. The guide and the prayer come from Priests for Life, Father Pavone, for whom I have a great deal of respect.

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The measure you give…

The above was sent in by a reader. I agree entirely. Hahahha.

Meanwhile, speaking of cats, let’s remember that all the saints are trying to live as one with the King of kings, the Lord of lords, the Prince of the Most Profound Peace, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, the only One standing after the battle, albeit with scars:

The measure He gave was everything, which is what He demands of us:

“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD; and you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. And these words which I command you this day shall be upon your heart; and you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” (Deuteronomy 6:4-7)

It’s His love and His truth that He draws un into.

P.S. I just noticed that I have a Dog administration-tag for dog posts on the blog, but no administration-tag for cat posts. Hmmm. I’ll still a dog-person. Pope Benedict was a cat-person. I guess we all have to be Lion of the Tribe of Judah persons. :-)

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“What the hell? You’re retreating? Now?”

Or, one might ask, more politely:

  • “Heavens! You’re going on retreat! How wonderful!!!”

All the priests of Charlotte Diocese ( + – ) are on retreat this week, though not together, but alone with Jesus, you know, because of Covid-19, they say. We’re supposed to be doing up a retreat on our own this week however we might make that work. So far, lots of emergency sacraments and what not.

But my Vicar Forane was quick to point out that Masses in the parish church should be cancelled, and they are, so that I might get a chance to slow down, offering the Holy Sacrifice in the rectory chapel. Great!

What this also means is a break from screen time. Less phone. Less of everything. I did have to edit Father Gordon’s post early this morning, and I thought it might be polite to put up this post. That’ll be about it for some days. But don’t think I don’t have some incisive comments that are on the back burner and also provide an occasion of ad hoc prayer. But a tech break is what I needed in conjunction with a spiritual retreat.

Did not Jesus say to His apostles: Come away, by yourselves, for a while…

Meanwhile, this past Sunday at 6:00 AM Adoration:

Happy Feast Day of Our Lady of the Rosary, Our Lady of Victory! Rather than write about that just today, it’ll be better, on retreat, to pray more of the Rosary. Yay!

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Organic gardening: more beasts & preying or praying?

These guys, in the tomato patch, go after Horn Worms.

And these guys pray, that is, prey on their prey, this time in the asparagus patch:

No pumpkin patch this year.

But there is a vineyard tended by ὁ γεωργός (georgos – George), the Tiller of the Ground, the Farmer, the Vinedresser. “I am the vine and my Father is the Vinedressor” (John 15:1).

So, some praying needs to be going on in this Garden of Eden turned Gethsemane.

It’s 5:15 AM on a Sunday. Usually up by 2:00 AM. But now it all starts:

  • 5:20 AM Feed the dogs!
  • 5:30 AM Run up to Holy Redeemer church in Andrews
  • 6:00 AM Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament (during which Confessions are heard). There’s also prayers such as a Rosary and the Breviary.
  • 7:00 AM Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament followed by the Litany of Humility etc.
  • 7:10 AM Race to Prince of Peace church in Robbinsville across the mountain
  • 7:35 AM Set up for Exposition and Mass
  • 8:00 AM Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament (during which Confessions are heard while there is also a Rosary)
  • 8:30 AM Holy Mass
  • 9:30 AM Race back to Andrews
  • 10:30 AM Confessions
  • 11:00 AM Holy Mass
  • 12:30 PM Chat with the counters
  • 1:30 PM Head out for Communion Calls, Last Rites, etc.
  • About 7:30 PM more or less. Collapse, after feeding the dogs.

Oh, did I mention that the Fathers of the Church repeated many times that the seedbed in the garden of the Lord is watered by the blood of the martyrs? Yes. We thank them for their prayers and guidance.

PS: I suppose those using Covid-19 to smash down religious rights will be apoplectic about such admissions as are made in this post, perhaps until they realize that this is the smallest parish church ever.

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When Padre Pio met Saint Michael. When Father Byers knew nothing at all.

elijah judas tree

Elijah with the flaming fiery sword on Mount Carmel, Israel.

[It’s 2020. This was written now eleven years ago. It was Padre Pio’s feast day the other day, on September 23. /// BTW, today marks 26 years in prison of Fr Gordon MacRae. Hail Mary… St Michael the Archangel… ]

You can read things dozens of times over the years and just not “get it” at all. That’s me. But this year when I read the following letter of Padre Pio, I was mesmerized. I now know a bit more just how much I absolutely don’t know anything about the spiritual life. I have written academically about that of which he speaks, the flaming sword wielded by the angels at the end of Genesis 3. The suffering I went through to accomplish the academic feat on a level of historical philology, involving many, many years of library rat-ness, not REsearch but rather original hard work, agony, really, is nothing at all compared to what Padre Pio understood in an instant by experiencing personally this fiery sword which I have only come to know academically. I am, to date, the only one to have accomplished this academic feat through the centuries, through the millennia. I’m pretty proud of it – and that’s a sin – and I am trying to get over it. It helps to have come to know someone who was alive in my lifetime who experienced precisely, personally, exactly what I described on a merely academic level.

I am vindicated by Padre Pio’s experience. At the same time, on a spiritual level, well, I am thrust to the ground in deep humiliation, for I obviously know nothing of the spiritual life. But at least I know that I know nothing. These days, that’s something. And it’s way more than enough to ask for this great saint’s help. Apologies are given in advance for the inadequacy of [my comments] below. You can see from my Coat of Arms (thanks to Elizdelphi! No words on the banner yet) that I am grateful to have written about the sword of which Padre Pio speaks…

GEORGE DAVID BYERS - COAT OF ARMS - revision

From the Letters of Saint Pius of Pietrelcina, priest (Epist. I, 1065; 1093-1095)

I will raise my voice and will not stop imploring him

“Out of obedience I am obliged to manifest to you [obviously, his religious superior] what happened to me on the evening of the 5th of this month of August 1918 [Vigil of the Feast of the Transfiguration of Jesus] and all day on the 6th [Feast of the Transfiguration].

cherub-sword-eden

“I am quite unable to convey to you what occurred during this period of utter torment. While I was hearing the boys’ confessions on the evening of the 5th [making them saints!], I was suddenly terrorized by the sight of a celestial person [an angel] who presented himself to my mind’s eye [So, not an apparition, but entirely spiritual. People think angels are all fluffy chiffon pastels and cute. Pio speaks of torment and terror, and this angel is from heaven!]. He had in his hand a sort of weapon [“weapon”] like a very long sharp-pointed steel blade which seemed to emit fire. [This is the sword mentioned in Genesis 3:24. My academic, pedantic translation of this three-fold double-reverse verb is this in context: it is the sword which “turns-into-its-contrary-by-way-of-the-fiery-grace-of-enmity-against-Satan-and-by-way-of-friendship-with-God-whatever-is-presented-to-it.” Thus, if we were to try to grasp at the fruit of the Tree of the Living Ones, the work of this sword, of this grace, wielded by the angels, would turn that, with our assent, into humbly receiving the Fruit of the Tree of the Living Ones, that is, the Eucharist. This is also the sword with which the Carmelites depict Elijah. See their fiery coat of arms below. This is also the sword mentioned by Teresa of Avila. This is pre-eminently the sword of Saint Michael…] At the very instant that I saw all this, I saw that person hurl the weapon into my soul with all his might. [Seeing that such an angel could crush the entire universe if given permission from the Most High, this is saying really a lot…] I cried out with difficulty and felt I was dying. I asked the boys to leave because I felt ill and no longer had the strength to continue. [What an understatement of all time. They must have been scary for him.] This agony lasted uninterruptedly until the morning of the 7th. I cannot tell you how much I suffered during this period of anguish. Even my entrails were torn and ruptured by the weapon, [“weapon”] and nothing was spared. [“nothing” – and here I try to hang on to this and that. And in doing that I am totally lacking in generosity. I’ve done nothing in my life. I’ve not laid down my life as so many have done. Pio is going through his purgatory all at once, 40 some hours for him, and much more than any purgatory: he is bringing souls to heaven by his life becoming an intercession for all of us. What would I do, I who surely have a purgatory lasting until the end of time?]

discalced-carmelite-coat-of-arms

Elijah’s fiery sword on the Discalced Carmelite Coat of Arms

“From that day on I have been mortally wounded. [“mortally wounded…” And this is no longer his wound, but that of humanity, with Pio now being in solidarity with Jesus on the Cross even as Jesus is in solidarity with us, loving us while we are yet sinners, drawing all to Himself as He is lifted up on the Cross. And we watch with Him…] I feel in the depths of my soul a wound that is always open and which causes me continual agony. What can I tell you in answer to your questions regarding my crucifixion? My God! What embarrassment and humiliation I suffer by being obliged to explain what you have done to this wretched creature! [For we do nothing to save ourselves. Jesus is our Savior. We come to realize this. We are nothing. He is all. He shows us what He has saved us from, and not just us, me, but we see how He has saved all of us as we gain some heightened perspective on the cross.]

padre-pio-stigmata

“On the morning of the 20th of last month [two weeks later], in the choir [making the traditional thanksgiving prayers after Mass], after I had celebrated Mass I yielded to a drowsiness similar to a sweet sleep. All the internal and external senses and even the very faculties of my soul were immersed in indescribable stillness. Absolute silence surrounded and invaded me. I was suddenly filled with great peace and abandonment which effaced everything else and caused a lull in the turmoil. All this happened in a flash. While this was taking place I saw before me a mysterious person similar to the one I had seen on the evening of August 5th. [We entertain angels and even the Son of Man and do not know it. How much the angels reflect the Son of Man! And the fiery love of God, issuing from the throne of the Most High, from the Heart of Him who loves us so much, is just that fierce on that sword which transforms us utterly in God’s love.] The only difference was that his hands and feet and side were dripping blood. This sight terrified me and what I felt at that moment is indescribable. I thought I should die and really should have died if the Lord had not intervened and strengthened my heart which was about to burst out of my chest. [We are utterly weak. It is all Jesus.] The vision disappeared and I became aware that my hands, feet and side were dripping blood. Imagine the agony I experienced and continue to experience almost every day. [He speaks also and especially of his embarrassment, for he, as all of us from Adam until the last man is conceived, caused those wounds in our Lord. How is it that he, Pio, or any of us could share such wounds of love for all those Jesus has redeemed and wills to save?] The heart wound bleeds continually, especially from Thursday evening until Saturday.

PADRE PIO SEAL OF CONFESSION

Padre Pio reprimanding the Bishop about the Seal of Confession.

“Dear Father, I am dying of pain because of the wounds and the resulting embarrassment I feel deep in my soul. I am afraid I shall bleed to death if the Lord does not hear my heartfelt supplication to relieve me of this condition. Will Jesus, who is so good, grant me this grace? Will he at least free me from the embarrassment caused by these outward signs? [The embarrassment, mind you, is more than enough to end his life on this earth.] I will raise my voice and will not stop imploring him until in his mercy he takes away, not the wound or the pain, which is impossible since I wish to be inebriated with pain, but these outward signs which cause me such embarrassment and unbearable humiliation. The person of whom I spoke in a previous letter is none other than the one I mentioned having seen on August 5th. He continues his work incessantly, causing me extreme spiritual agony. There is a continual rumbling within me like the gushing of blood. [This Hebrew description of this sword in Genesis 3:24 (which I think I am the very first to translate pedantically, as it really is just that difficult), the sword which the angel is mashing around inside Pio is variously and wrongly translated as the twirling sword, the sword which moves about this way and that, etc., is, instead, again, “the sword which causes that which is presented to it to be transformed into its contrary.” Again, we are not to grasp arrogantly for the Fruit from the Tree of the Living Ones, though we can humbly receive its Fruit (the Eucharist from the Cross).] My God! Your punishment is just and your judgment right, but grant me your mercy. Lord, with your Prophet I shall continue to repeat: O Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger; do not punish me in your rage! Dear Father, now that my whole interior state is known to you, do not refuse to send me a word of comfort in the midst of such severe and harsh suffering.” [If it were I who had to respond to such a religious superior, knowing I know nothing, but despite that, I would say that in our very reception of mercy we must show mercy to the rest of the members of the Body of Christ, those whom Jesus has redeemed and wills to save. Our suffering is occasioned by the lack of others, lack of faith, etc., but it is not their cross we carry, but instead we come to know what we would be like if we ourselves were to be without the grace of our Lord and therefore our own lack of faith, etc…. and our remaining in friendship by the grace of God in such horrific circumstances acts as an intercession for those who are truly without faith, etc. This is drawing all to Christ on the cross in solidarity with Jesus, who does this by His grace. He, the Head of the Body does this, but we are members of that Body and we are with Him. Jesus said that He would draw all to Himself when He is lifted up (on the Cross). If we only knew! If we only knew! Now Pio had his eyes opened, his soul torn open, his hands and feet and heart torn open. But it’s all Jesus. Jesus’ love taking on our lack. Embarrassing to us? Yes. And we run away. Pio couldn’t run any more. The angel presented himself, and, fiercely raising his weapon of God’s love… I know nothing. Saint Pio: help this donkey-priest to come to know Jesus! Help all of us priests! Help all whom Jesus wants to transform in His love!]

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Filed under Confession, Missionaries of Mercy, Priesthood, Saints, Spiritual life, Vocations

Distracted shooting & distracted praying: Distraction is the way to go.

Distracted shooting:

Not having practiced in, like, forever, 30 minutes of the day off was given to doing up a session of double-taps “to the head”. Best was 1.51 seconds with a chambered Glock 19 from a serpa holster carried appendix. Even that was so much slower compared to back in the good old days when Walmart was still selling Federal FMJ brass target rounds for cheap (the only thing that works in my Glock 19 Gen 4). Way too many of the double-taps were over two seconds. Not practicing often means slowing down, at least for me. But catching up on edginess just a bit is always good. Catching up on accuracy just a bit is always good. The 7″ Styrofoam pie-plates were out 25 feet.

This session, unlike any other since first acquiring any gun for the first time in my life (still in my third year) the enormous benefit of distraction came into play. Worms were falling like tender snowflakes. Un-staged distractions help constitute the best way to practice. It’s the difference between being edgy with sterile indoor range conditions (and no one cares about that, especially the entitled criminal element) and something much more attuned to real life where distractions are always abundant (like bullets hitting you one after the other). For great distraction for a good practice session, try tent worms falling on your sights with no warning:

Disgusting waves of tent caterpillars are munching their way across Michigan | News Hits

Practicing in this way provides the opportunity to learn to power through distraction and let adrenaline do it’s job by zeroing you in on the necessary at that moment.

Distracted praying:

If you haven’t noticed yet by this time in your life, we have a fallen human nature that suffers the effects of original sin chosen with the sin:

  • Weakness of mind
  • Weakness of will
  • Emotions and feelings all the hell over the place not following reason any longer
  • Sickness
  • Death

It’s only justice that we suffer the effects of sin chosen with the sin. Jesus calls such distraction our cross which we are not to deny, not to suppress, not to escape, but which we are to recognize, pick up and carry, not battling these things so directly as if we were our own saviors, but rather, as Jesus said, following Him, concerned with Him, with Him being more important that any stupid weakness of our own. The more we really try to try really hard to battle our distractions, the more we really try to really try hard to be our own saviors, the more frustrated we are in the midst of our lack of strength to do any such battle: we fall into the distraction we are battling by paying attention to it instead of to Jesus, following Jesus.

Look, all the saints were trained up to be saints in the midst of ongoing weakness and distraction. We are weak and distracted in this life until we die. Jesus told us to carry our cross daily, meaning until we die, but not looking at the cross (we already know it’s there) but instead looking to Him, thanking Him that – wow! – He really had t0 reach far into this fallen world to grab us to bring us to heaven. Thank you Jesus. Seeing all my distraction all the time helps me to understand just how far you had to reach to get me. Thank you so very much for re-creating me as your friend, as you said.

To do all that mercy in justice, Jesus had to come among us, show us damned cynics His goodness and kindness and truth, baiting us to test all that to see if it was verifiable. He knew we would show Him our worst, tortured death, what we deserve ourselves. He took our place, the Innocent for the guilty, now having the right in His own justice to command His heavenly Father as He died, thus passing our cynical test: “Father, forgive them!”

  • “But I am a worm, and no man; A reproach of men, and despised of the people.” (Psalm 22:6)

Actually, it’s not “worm”. In Hebrew this more precisely refers to “maggot.” Jesus cited this psalm on the Cross.

Here’s the deal, the saints were trained up with ongoing distraction in prayer and everything else by assenting in grace to grace grabbing their souls so that the greater love of God’s own love within us holds God as being more important than ourselves: the distraction is still there but who cares? That’s not what’s important. In fact, distraction helps us thank Jesus and walk with Him no matter the distraction.

This is a victory of the joy of the Holy Spirit in our souls. Yes. True joy of the Holy Spirit in the very midst of distraction. Yes. I love it. This is the victory of Jesus. He is risen from the dead, and working on our souls. He is truly risen.

Anecdote: I knew a guy who was overwhelmed with distraction and wanted some psych advice about this, and from the wrong crowd at the Gregorian University. I tried to dissuade him. Nope. He went, and came straight back, all the smarter as to why I wanted him to avoid them. They said that they would take away all his weakness, all his distraction, making him a fake automaton, mere Styrofoam. He exclaimed to them, immediately walking out: “No, that’s the only thing I have left, and you’re not going to take that away from me.” He was super wise, knowing that our our Lord uses our weakness to make us saints.

Saint Paul sums it up in his typical shorthand way of speaking and writing:

  • “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13)

Get it? Use the very temptation to instead bring you closer to Jesus, remaining, by grace, closer to Him than every before.

This is the difference being arrogant, coming up with our own escapist way of salvation – “Let me pretend to be super-balanced and let me congratulate myself!” – and being humble, submitting to the cross of the consequences of original sin, which our Lord commands us to do: “Take up your cross!” Who the hell are we to tell Jesus “Non serviam! I will not serve!”? That’s what Satan says. We are not to say that we have progressed in the spiritual life because we think we have successfully suppressed any trace of weakness so that we have fake-saved ourselves and don’t need Jesus. That only leads to an explosion of arrogance and cynicism.

Humbly submitting to our punishment by not caving to ongoing temptation but in the face of it assenting to the saving grace of Jesus is joy in the Holy Spirit. Much better, that.

Are you also a worm and no man, like Jesus? Takes a bit of humility, doesn’t it?

But then we are trained up in matters spiritual, never congratulating ourselves for saving ourselves, thanking Jesus instead, and seeing ever so much more incisively how far He had to reach to get us, which is all the m0re reason to thank Him humbly, walking with Him, right to heaven.

Be trained up in the midst of distraction, whether you are target practicing or growing by leaps and bounds in the spiritual life.

And for all nay-sayers out there, who congratulate themselves that they are in a mystical union with the Most Holy Trinity, and have absolutely no distraction whatsoever, that they actually have the beatific vision already (and there are many like that), remember good old Saint John of the Cross, who, responding to a question from a novice in the spiritual life – and this is my paraphrase, obviously – said that our fallen human brains will always be going a zillion miles an hour, but we are trained in the midst of that distraction to assent to paying attention to that which, to He whom is more important; the distraction continues, but the soul learns by grace to stay with Jesus, the God of gods, the Lord of lords, the Prince of the Most Profound Peace, even in the midst of our distraction, He who will come to judge the living and the dead and the world by fire. Amen.

P.S. And if all the good that carrying a Glock will get me is that I have been able to make an analogy for the spiritual life by using tent worms while target practicing, so be it. I’m good with that. Absolutely. :-)

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Army worms? Tomatoes don’t care. I don’t either. Analogy.

There are responses, like wasps and such, but you have to like having wasps around. They never really bothered me, so I’m good with them. There have been only a few. I don’t mind them, even though they do a bit of damage to some of the tomatoes. I just cut out the bad parts and eat the rest:

After the rains the tomato plants have really been growing, putting out many more tomatoes and much bigger tomatoes altogether, faster than any infestation of army worms can go after them.

Analogy with the spiritual life: we might have tons of weaknesses and such, but the love of the Lord by which He draws into the grace of His friendship, can grow stronger in us so much faster than any weaknesses and such, allowing us – if we so choose – to stay super close to Jesus, in all humble thanksgiving, thanking Him, with joy, that he would take us out of this fallen and ever so aggressive world with all of its aggressive monsters, usually with just two legs, and on to heaven. Thank you Jesus.

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Flowers for the Immaculate Conception (situational awareness, ed.)

Now that’s a situational awareness beast! He’s saying: “Hey! There are some flowers for the Immaculate Conception! Let me rush to see them closer up!”

But then there’s another kind of situational awareness, spiritual, about the Corpus Christi Mysticum, as Pius XII called it, the Mystical Body of Christ, what Saint Paul simply calls the Body of Christ, with Jesus as the Head of the Body and we the members of the body.

If we go about all self-entitled with… self-entitlement… entirely unaware of the Body of Christ, whether Jesus or we the members of the Body, we’re not spiritually situationally aware. If we love Jesus, then we keep the commandments, learning necessarily to depend not on a strength we don’t ourselves have, but on Jesus’ strength which He will draw us into, His love, His truth.

We will walk in sanctifying grace, humbly thankful to Him who saves us from being the minions of self-entitled Satan. Being in His life, His grace, we see more clearly, in contrast, just how far Jesus had to reach to get us in this sorry world, just how far we were from God, how wrapped up we were with ourselves, entitled, we thought, to do so. But we stay with Jesus, looking to Him, praising Him.

We learn how to carry our own cross of weakness better in looking to Jesus, following Him. Seeing the darkness more acutely in the light of Christ, our very lives become an act of intercession for the the other members of the Body of Christ. We begin to recognize that love of God is an act which in itself is also love of neighbor. We do not decapitate Jesus, saying we love Him while we discard the rest of the Body of Christ. It’s one act of love, for Head and members, the one Body of Christ. Only He is divine. Only He is God. But we are drawn up to be one with God. In that we desire that all get to know the Head of the Body as they are called to do. One act of love.

It is in this way that we are spiritually situationally aware. Our lives become – to repeat this – acts of intercession for the whole Church.

This is NOT about weird extra-sensory perception. This is about having a vision of reality as it is, that is, a vision from the Cross, one with Jesus as He lifted up on the Cross, then, as He said, drawing all to Himself right across Calvary, right across all of hell broken out. This is not frightening for the one who is drawn into this love thanks alone to Christ Jesus. We witness His glory. We witness His love and truth.

And in this spiritual situational awareness one is brought up into the joy of the Holy Spirit, if but our very lives become a sacrifice, a life of friendship with God in a world that is aggressively set against God, a life of friendship with God while we are still subject to weakness, darkness, seeming distance from God. But as we stay with the Head of the Body by His strength, by His love, by His truth, this reaches out to others to bring them closer to Jesus than they are, whether very close or, for now, very far away.

And that’s all very much much a flower for the Immaculate Conception. There was no one more spiritually situationally aware than she was and is for all of us.

So, in my own lowly beastly way, as in the picture above, I exclaim: “Hey! Look! There’s a flower for the Immaculate Conception, another soul that must be on its way to heaven!”

Flowers… so… if you didn’t know… we’re always talking about the Rosary, with each Hail Mary being a flower for the good mom of Jesus.

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“Be the Gray Man” he said. Lessons from Laudie-dog. Just be the idiot, blood red.

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Above you’ll see Laudie-dog patrolling the impossible tunnel she’s made through the Jasmine vines, which don’t much offer her concealment while she takes in the situation of the neighborhood. After negotiating otherwise non-navigatable labyrinthine pathways, she shows herself victorious, quite content with herself, as if bragging about her over the top skill sets. Here she is, way down the fenceline in the other direction:

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The lesson, if you didn’t quite get it, is about how to be the “Gray Man”, someone who melts into the crowd unnoticed. Most people don’t get this at all. Take note that however much Laudie-dog is low-key, not drawing attention to herself, she doesn’t mind sticking out from her surroundings. I mean, she’s red, right? Take the hint about how to do the Gray Man thing the right way.

UBL (bin Laden, CIA “trained”) and his fellow terrorists were caught for trying too hard to be the Gray Man, you know, using different phones at different locations, never twice the same, so very careful. Not great training there. That was the clue: way too careful, way too gray, way too nothing. That’s tradecraft without common sense. No one does that. Ever.

Much better to be the bumbling idiot, like Laudie-dog is so very cleverly demonstrating above. No smarter dog than she. “Do the Gray Man thing” a friend suggested to me recently. Fine. But no. Yes and no. In my experience, the guy trying way too hard be the Gray Man sticks out in a crowd as if wearing a red jump suit. No, no. I’ll just play the idiot and in that way be the Gray Man… because there is always an entirely dismissable idiot or two in any crowd that everyone overlooks, because… you know… they’re just idiots.

I’m really good at it, because, you know, I have a lot of practice. It’s natural for me to be the idiot. Not being afraid to be the fool can save one’s life. I’ve done it a number of times.

Anecdote which I think I’ve mentioned before. I sometimes go out on a friend’s private back ridge somewhere in the heart of Appalachia here, doing up tactical pistol courses (FBI instructor, pre-2001 Air Marshal course, the SEAL course, and a number of LEO qualification courses for a change-up, etc.). Lots of fun. But three times a visitor came along on the opposite ridge, not so far away, who, not liking the sound of serious tactical pistol courses going on (definitely NOT just some haphazard target practice), decided to have some fun. He could see me out in the open but he was concealed. I wasn’t being the idiot while practicing, right? I was rather overt in some skill sets. I thought I was alone. “He” (I guess a male) sent some rather speedy rifle rounds my way, each of which smashed through even a half-dozen large branches in the forest. No mere AR can do that. And while those came quite close, above and to the two sides (the zoooosh sound the bullets make next to your head is rather unmistakable), he was just looking for me to – I suppose – shoot back, giving him an excuse. Running was impossible. Shooting back was impossible. I sat down right where I was, in the open and played the Hallelujah Chorus of Handel’s Messiah on my little phone speaker. The forest was dead quiet, and so that could actually be heard as if in a sound room even at a distance. I’m such an idiot. Who does that? Only an utterly dismissable idiot would do that. Must be a mistake with who this is, then. All shooting stopped. Each time. I’m such an idiot.

Be the Gray Man. To do it, don’t try too hard. Be the idiot. You’ll be utterly dismissable. I do. And I am dismissable, therefore invisible, gray, therefore still alive.

TO THE POINT: But when it comes to being the Catholic Priest, I don’t play politics. All the truth is proclaimed, always, to everyone, no matter what. If we do that, we’re not the Gray Man. We’re targets. Great. We’re idiots in the eyes of the world in that case, but this time not dismissable. As Saint John Paul II said, there have been more martyrs in this last century than in all the other centuries put together. When it comes to being Catholics, let’s not be afraid to be blood red. Not quite hidden, not quite the Gray Man:

Passion of the Christ - crucifixion

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Bait so as to receive: how very Kryptos. Plot twist. Jesus reveals our identity.

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The picture above, taken at a parishioner’s house, is of Alex Trebek decades ago. Yes, there are re-runs of game shows from a lifetime ago. I just thought this particular scene was humorous and so took a picture of it. Sorry for using poor “Shadow” the other day as bait so as to watch the the knuckleheads show themselves. And they did. It is to laugh, out loud too.

Sorry if this is all a bit Kryptic. Some are bewildered at such Kryptesque posts that mention my “Shadow,” the guy who has been “established with secured identity” by those in DS-Rosslyn, with my own identity. The analogy for the continuing bewilderment that comes to mind is the befuddlement over seemingly entirely outrageous statements of POTUS Trump that he makes correctly but without revealing important circumstances. Like clockwork, over the space of a week or two, this exercise in baiting has the knuckleheads go full apoplectic and show themselves for who they are, and then after they make fools of themselves, good old Trump reveals the rest of the story as Paul Harvey would say. Checkmate. They know they’ve been had. In my own little world the rest of the story may or may not be revealed in this lifetime. I’m working on it, and I’m having fun while doing it, laughing all the way, even if the subject matter involves otherwise stunningly illegal arms transfers and rather shadowy characters and endless violence and loss of life. My “Shadow” might well be revealed even while exaggeratedly attempting to remain hidden, an unexpected plot twist. I digress.

This kind of entertainment – and it is just that, for me, entertainment – takes up about 0.00001% of my free time. I write about it because it’s all so stupid. It just is what it is. And I cannot, cannot, cannot write about what happens the other 99.99999% of my free time, not to mention what happens in my full-on priestly activities in confession, in spiritual direction, all that for which I actually live. Don’t get the wrong idea.

You have to know, I absolutely love being a priest, all of the priestly everything about visiting the sick, providing Last Rites, doing up funerals, and preaching!

Oh my! I love preaching. I learn about the Sacred Scriptures pretty much only while I’m preaching, that is, not so much any preparation, if any, but in the actual preaching. I’ve often spoken of this with my confessor. He has the same experience in being brought into a crushing-uplifting reverence before the Living Truth of Jesus by the Holy Spirit while preaching. I guess that’s how the Lord tells us that we’ve said enough and need to move things along, because… after that… we can get choked up, and simply not be able to say anything more. Preaching from the heart? This is more like putting one’s useless heart aside, because, look… look at that Sacred Heart of Jesus… In trying to reveal what is otherwise hidden in the Mystery of God’s love for us – plot twist – our own inadequacy otherwise hidden also to ourselves is – plot twist – revealed before the Light that comes into such darkness. Such Light! I love it, but…

This kind of thing is almost annoying. Take for instance the Consecrations at Holy Mass. I can usually get through the first, but by the second I have to battle with all my might from getting choked up in the presence of the Most Sacred Mysteries – the ultimate Kryptos – of our Lord’s ever so hidden love for us. I am a weak and useless and simple man. So, there we have it, a plot twist. Who we are, our identity, is revealed not when we claim an identity, but when we stand ever so simply before our Creator. We are revealed for who we are. Jesus strips us of our fear in which we stupidly try to hide ourselves. Fear is not an identity. Being forgiven reveals who we are before our Redeemer because He forgives by pouring into us the created presence of the Most Holy Trinity otherwise called sanctifying grace. How to say it?

“Hidden.” That’s “Kryptic.” Watch what happens the other way. The dear Lord, by way of His goodness and kindness and the Living Truth that He is, lays open our souls before His majesty. We know who we are when like the Apostle Thomas , we place our finger into the marks of the nails, and our hand into the gaping wound in His side that was made on Calvary by the sword of the Roman soldier.

Plot twist? Oh yes. And the games human beings play in this world which congratulates itself on being clever and shadowy? It is to laugh, but also to cry, for there is altogether too much game playing and violence and not enough of being drawn into the Living Sacred Mysteries of God’s Love and Truth, of Jesus, who will come to judge the living and the dead and the world by fire.

And if you feel lost in all this seeming convolutedness, like it’s all still too Kryptic, let some piercing eyes cut right into your very soul revealing how you stand before God, for her soul was pierced through that the thoughts of many hearts might be revealed (see Luke 2:35).

pieta

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There’s “I’m watching you…” and then there’s “I’m watching you…” LOL?

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There’s a local thug and buffoon who’s been aggressively doing up the fingers in the eye thing to me on various and sundry occasions so as to say, I guess, that he’s watching me. Sometimes people get upset just because you don’t fall into line with their train-wreck-lives, frustrated that there is someone who won’t conform to their idiocy. That tells me that there a lot of people who do bow down to any bully who happens along. Kinda creepy, that, all of that. But it also makes me laugh out loud.

Situational awareness is all about assessing situations with a view to deescalation and avoiding trouble if possible. With this kind of silliness, you just let people hang themselves (that’s a trope, by the way), and they do just that, being too self-confident, too powerful in their own eyes, way too narcissistic. Give it time and it takes care of itself.

What I find humorous is the realization that there really are people who are unaware that angels guardian see all, that God sees all. I mean, I tried to be this way in decades gone by. I mean, there were youthful days of idiocy in my life whereby there was even a Sunday or two that I didn’t go to church, to my everlasting regret. I failed in escaping God and my angel guardian. God, who sees all, with the angels, impressed upon me His presence, and brought me quite forcefully by His grace to go to Confession.

While it is sad to see those who are still oblivious in their lives, I see their weak-nothing-aggression as failing before God’s grace. I have hope that they will come around. I laugh previous to any conversion in the hope that they will also take up God’s prompting to turn their lives around. Surely they will laugh at their own antics in time to come. I don’t laugh AT such people. I laugh WITH such people. They just don’t know it, yet.

Meanwhile, it is, in fact, the Lord Himself, who, seeing all, will come to judge the living and the dead and world by fire. The Lord is, to be sure, deadly serious:

  • “The Lord laughs them to scorn” (Wisdom 4:18). Yikes!

Pick up your Catholic Bible and look up that oft-neglected passage, taking note of the context. You will find out that, for the Lord, this is no laughing matter. Not at all.

Being situationally aware that God sees all, that our angels guardian see all, brings situational awareness in general to an entirely different level. I recommend it.

Conclusion? Go to Confession!

 

 

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Mt 5:39 turning other cheek: meaning

Warning: Bad language. Violence. The following monologue is what I’m after:

  • No! No! No! No! No! No! No! Con paz! Con paz! Soerte la pistola! Tirala! Pregunto, paisano: quiere morir?
  • Super loose translation: No! No! No! No! No! No! No! With peace! With peace! Take your gun! Throw it down! I ask you, my friend: Do you want to die?

That’s the CIA/FBI team at the El Paso/Ciudad Juarez border. They end the threat of the cartel idiot deadly aggression. That’s the kind of turning the other cheek that I’m talking about!

But is that what Jesus means by turning the other cheek? You remember the passage:

  • Offer no resistance to one who is evil. When someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other one to him as well. (Matthew 5:39)

“Offer no resistance.” That’s the specious politically correct translation of the New American Bible, which belongs to the Confraternity for Christian Doctrine, which is itself under the thumb of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. The translation needs some examination. If we depend on our weak and cowardly fallen human nature, proffering “offer no resistance” would seem to be correct, especially in view of the immediate and purposed parallels of the larger passage related by Matthew (5:38-42):

  1. When someone strikes you on (your) right cheek, turn the other one to him as well.
  2. If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic, hand him your cloak as well.
  3. Should anyone press you into service for one mile, go with him for two miles.
  4. Give to the one who asks of you; do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow.”

So, the translation “offer no resistance” would seem to be right and just. Indeed, Jesus prefaces all these remarks by saying:

  • “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, BUT I SAY TO YOU…” (Matthew 5:38)

In other words, Jesus is specifically rejecting a merely equal and opposite reaction, the “tooth for tooth” modus operandi elsewhere promoted in the Sacred Scriptures inspired by the ever truthful Holy Spirit:

  • “Limb for limb, eye for eye, tooth for tooth! The same injury that a man gives another shall be inflicted on him in return.” (Leviticus 24:20)
  • “Do not look on such a man with pity. Life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, and foot for foot!” (Deuteronomy 19:21)

Jesus is not pitting Himself against the Holy Spirit, for such instruction regarding the gravity of sin against our very brothers is holy, true, just and fitting for pedagogy regarding the one supreme teaching on forgiveness provided by Jesus when He put Himself in our place, taking on the sentence of death we deserve for our sin against Him, the Innocent for the guilty, Life for life (He died on the Cross), eye for eye (the Shroud of Turin seems to depict the crowning with thorns also piercing His eyes), tooth for tooth (He was beaten beyond recognition on His face, His mouth), hand for hand (recall the nails of the crucifixion), and foot for foot (recall the nails of the crucifixion)!” We have to know how serious the sin is if we are going to correctly ask for forgiveness and be prepared to receive it fruitfully.

In view of the sins of all crucifying our Lord Jesus, we all deserve everything we get. The great saints emphasize this with a passion. Yes. But is this what anyone is talking about, Jesus or the saints? Should we just give up and say that “offer no resistance” is a good translation and be done with it?

I don’t know about you, but my entire spirit rebels against all of this seeming doormat stuff of questionable translations. Just because we are forgiven and we are to forgive others, that doesn’t mean that we just throw justice out the window. Jesus stood up for Himself over against the scribes and Pharisees, turning the tables with a word, but with ferocity. Jesus also stood up for us, His little flock. So, what are we to think of all this? Is it too difficult? This is important. Let’s take a deeper dive into the ever enthralling words of the Holy Spirit about the Incarnate Word of God, Christ Jesus.

What if that “offer no resistance” thing actually meant something else altogether? What if the actual literal Greek μὴ ἀντιστῆναι followed by the dative means “To make a stand over against a very particular thing”? Ha ha!

Making a stand over against a very particular thing IS NOT EQUATED with a merely equal and merely opposite reaction:

  • Being merely reactionary implies that we have nothing to add to over against unjust aggression except more aggression of the same unjust sort. We’re not to stoop to that level, you know, the ol’ “I’LL SHOW YOU!” That helps no one. And it says that we are controlled by the other person entirely, ever so predictable. Our identity then lies in reaction: we are vacuous nothings.
  • Instead, making a stand over against a very particular thing embraces love in truth or “tough love” as some call it. It’s not a reaction, but a way of being a true friend, a good parent, how to bring someone out of the quagmire, enabling them to grow, even in the midst, necessarily, of letting a needy person know that they are on the wrong path.
  • Also, making a stand over against a very particular thing doesn’t rule out offering pardon to someone who needs pardoning. In fact, it is necessary. You can’t forgive something that you hold to be good. Someone is not able to take in forgiveness if they are convinced they are not doing any wrong ever. Someone is not able to forgive if they are convince no wrongdoing was committed. Take the liberal-knucklehead priest who, upon hearing a confession to murder said that that’s not a sin at all, that the person will not receive absolution because there was no sin in the first place. How frustrating is that?
  • Just to say: being a doormat, encouraging people to commit unjust aggression, is no favor to the other person or to yourself. Don’t be the doormat. Forgive real iniquity. Make sure the other person knows you’re not being a doormat.

Yikes! So, let’s examine those parallels offered by Jesus to see if they are really about being a doormat. When we go through these, you’ll see how easy it is to drink the Kool-Aid of the nicey nice crowd, but also how good it is to follow Jesus with integrity:

(1) “When someone strikes you on (your) right cheek, turn the other one to him as well”:

Keep in mind that the idea here is that we are dealing with unjust, violent aggression. In this situation, turning the other cheek has nothing to do with weakness, but rather everything to do with challenging to a fight: Is that all you got? No, really, show me your worst, and then when you’ve shown me your worst – with me having turned my other cheek to you to give you a fresh target – I will then give you some instruction about how things really are. In the following video (language and the kind of violence Jesus Himself is talking about), a girl is struck on her cheek, hard. The Star of David tattoo guy steps in to be the other cheek that is turned. The black-vest guy had already jacked up the stakes with another strike as deadly threat: “I’m the guy who decides if you’re going to walk out of here alive.”

Jesus’ advice is about not backing down to unjust aggression against the innocent. It’s about stopping an ongoing threat by showing bullies that they are actually nothing more than cowards. There are so very examples of this in the Gospels, wherein Jesus demonstrates how cowardly His opponents are, for instance, by raising Lazarus from the dead in front of the murderous Herodians, or by having the guy with the withered hand come out front and center against the hateful. In both instances the Herodians and the hateful immediately plotted to kill Jesus. That’s what cowards do. See Mark 3:6; John 12:10, etc. Might we suffer for this? Sure. No one said that “Take up your cross daily” was a walk in the park.” Solidarity with those who suffer has consequences. But this also leads to repentance and salvation for aggressors such as with the Centurion on Calvary (Mark 15:39). I have many stories. Oh my. There are so many cowards who instantly run when you stand up to them. Some do feel guilty are return to the Lord.

(2) “If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic, hand him your cloak as well”:

Keep in mind that the idea here is that we are dealing with unjust acquisition of private property by someone who hides behind the cover of corrupt attorneys and corrupt judges. Keep in mind that those listening to Jesus in sincerity are not those who have tons of money to burn on litigation. Handing over a cloak as well has nothing to do with weakness. It is an insult, highly sarcastic: Oh, so you think that ripping people off is what life is all about. Well, let me just seal you in your stupidity. Here, take my cloak as well, you stupid little fool. No, really! Take it! It is God Himself who will come to judge the living and the dead and world by fire. Jesus will take care of bringing such people around if they want that. But Jesus doesn’t want us wear ourselves out with resources we don’t have on people whose only joy in life is to make others miserable. It’s not the tunic or cloak, but the power to inflict misery that they are after. Anecdote: I know people who will spend tens of thousands of dollars to litigate about their entitlement to be a pain in the neck. I remember one in particular who gifted an ultra-cheap CD player to another someone decades ago. The recipient of decades ago gave that CD player to me quite recently. I received it graciously, but, having no need for it, I in turn, gave it immediately to charity. I even had the permission of the original recipient to do this. WELL, the original purchaser of decades ago freaked out, recalculated the cost of that CD player in today’s money, something like 35 dollars and 47 cents ($25 at the time?), and demanded I pay it back, with interest, and I had better pay this immediately or else! I instantaneously offered to drive hours on end to deliver the few dollars, in coins, to the penny. Ha ha ha. I called the bluff. That offer was forthwith rejected. I have done this many times in such situations. It’s just about guaranteed that the bully-coward will back down. Don’t think this is being a doormat. This is inflicting a huge burden of guilt upon them whether they think so or not. This is meant to bring them around for eternal salvation.

(3) “Should anyone press you into service for one mile, go with him for two miles”:

Keep in mind that the idea here is that we are dealing with unjust aggression, this time by the government. “Being pressed into service” is a terrible translation. The word is extremely technical in Greek: καὶ ὅστις σε ἀγγαρεύσει. It refers to temporary and immediate enslavement, dropping everything you’re doing, regardless, that very second, until even your health is going to be destroyed. The image is that of a relay race, handing off a baton, so that a courier is delivering a message from, say, an emperor to a mere vassal king. As the runner comes to the point of death, he hands this off to another who is under pain of death, of course, to take up the chasing of the wind. If a citizen shows himself exemplary with no complaint, and in fact doubles what is terribly unjustly expected of him, it is a challenge to the corrupt political powers that be. It rips the heart out of the person who is inflicting unjust expectations. I’ve seen this uncountable times: when unjust politicians come across an actually honest citizen, their physical and mental health suffers, sending them into a downward spiral until we just don’t hear from them anymore. Yep. But also this is meant to bring about the repentance of the bully-cowards who are fearful of themselves.

(4) “Give to the one who asks of you; do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow”:

All the previous parallel examples of Jesus deal with unjust aggression. They’ve been progressively jacked up: (1) personal; (2) public litigation; (3) governmental tyranny.

With number (4) in the series, we are not falling back to some merely personal as some sort of delving into the literary convention of “inclusion” (that which is found both at the beginning and end). No. The intensification of the series continues. Here, there is an involvement of God. Rather unexpected? No. The other examples involved unjust aggression. But we are such tender snowflakes that we don’t know what unjust aggression is as opposed to that which we would throw tantrums of imaginary micro-aggression tantrums against, such as with someone rightly asking for a loaf of bread to feed his kids in Covid-19 times instead of him stealing a loaf of bread. Just give the guy a loaf of bread and be Bishop Charles-François-Bienvenu Myriel in your benevolence toward Jean Valjean. Or else! This time we’ll be forced to man up because God Himself will force our lack of will, our lack of sympathy, our lack of charity and faith. And if we go so far as to take a pledge, such as a man’s cloak (back to #2 above!) then we will give it back to him, or else you will face the wrath of God Himself. Jesus is citing Exodus 22:25-26:

  • “If you take your neighbor’s cloak as a pledge, you shall return it to him before sunset; for this cloak of his is the only covering he has for his body. What else has he to sleep in? If he cries out to me, I will hear him; for I am compassionate.”

When God Himself says “I will hear him”, it means that God will smack down the un-compassionate person harder than any personal attack, harder than any public litigation, harder than any governmental litigation.

In other words, Jesus has no time for idiot narcissists in their unjust aggression.

In other words, Jesus wants to make sure we are not the idiot narcissists who, in a self-serving confusion, conflate unjust aggression with a genuine and humble request.

Jesus wants us to stand up against unjust aggression in the manner in which we can do this according to the circumstances. He doesn’t want us to waste the opportunity of an unjust aggression; Jesus wants us to provide the aggressor with a lesson in whatever way we are able in the circumstances.

But we had also better make sure we are not the unjust aggressors. God will forgive us if we forgive others.

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Gardening: unknown unknowns

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Choanephora cucurbitarum. Yep. That’s what that is. But blurting out a fancy name doesn’t mean I know what I’m talking about. This spaghetti squash was about an inch and half long before being attacked. I gingerly picked it and tossed it out. I ain’t not wanting them thar spores overwintering in my garden no-how, nope, not ever. I don’t know what can be done about this when everything is still in bloom, or how to purify the soil for the next year…

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And then there’s human error. A great friend with unlimited amounts of energy got a bit too close to a tomato plant. Surprisingly, a week later, the plant is still going strong. We’ll see. I might get some used tires to protect from innocent mistakes. My fault, too. I baited that weed-eating by not not weeding as I should, as is evident from the photo above. But what do I know? I know so little that it is unknown to me what the unknowns might be.

Donald Rumsfeld put it best:

  • “Reports that say that something hasn’t happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns—the ones we don’t know we don’t know. And if one looks throughout the history of our country and other free countries, it is the latter category that tend to be the difficult ones.”

More unknowing from my first time gardening experience:

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Placing spaghetti squash over the house supports instead of keeping them on the ground turns out not to be a good idea. The spaghetti squash will, of course, get huge, and perhaps break the vines, so that all is lost.

And then there’s this – what? tomato rust? – I don’t know:

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Is that a bug which does that? Like this one? Also over on the cucumber…

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I think this is what happens in the wake of such a beast:

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But what do I know? And even if I knew, I wouldn’t know what to do about it.

It seems to me the Lord said something about this:

  • “This is how it is with the kingdom of God; it is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land and would sleep and rise night and day and the seed would sprout and grow, he knows not how.  Of its own accord the land yields fruit, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. And when the grain is ripe, he wields the sickle at once, for the harvest has come.” (Mark 4:26-29)

The Lord is so good. Despite the vast ignorance that is mine, I have been harvesting really almost too much asparagus daily for months, so much squarrsh that there is now about 30 one-pound bags of it in the freezer, heaps of cucumbers, multiple spaghetti squarrsh, at last count about 80 tomatoes, one of which I’ve already harvested.

The Lord makes it easy. We can survive. As time goes on we get more clever about it, and are more successful if we work together, lest we suffer from the thistles from the neighbor’s garden, he also suffering from the thistles from our gardens.

There is one known unknown, however, and that’s that we do know that the extent  of the Lord’s goodness and kindness for us is almost entirely unknown to us. The Lord is soooo very good, soooo very kind.

When running out to the garden for something to eat it’s a great consolation to discuss such matters with the dear Lord.

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gardening and walking with the Lord

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That picture was uploaded from the garden June 1, 2020. I was amazed. Gardening is an encouragement to walk with the Lord, to be a co-worker in the garden He planted, as we read way back in Genesis, the Lord desiring that we till the ground, walking with Him.

BTW, however much walking with the Lord is mocked, that walking with the Lord, such as to Emmaus, is not bad and evil. Gardening, walking with the Lord, can be a very fruitful time with the Lord during the day, in the evening, in the morning. Walking with the Lord does not necessarily imply progressivism or anything dialectical, or any kind of tolerant-of-all-mortal-sin-so-called-accompaniment”. We are to pray always. Always means always.

The Lord said that to enter into the kingdom of heaven we are to be like children. To be thankful to the Lord for His creation takes the heart of a child. In this violent drug town I’m quite sure that there are very few who see the paradise in which we live, the mountains and streams and national and state forests and stunning biodiversity.

Meanwhile, the three squarrrsh groupings have continued to grow, edging on 4 feet high and 12 feet wide:

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I’m guessing they’re starting to give up as it’s now mid-July and they’ve really been pumping out the squarrrshes, requiring harvesting twice a day. If it’s your first time gardening, this is a good first plant to plant.

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Meanwhile, the spaghetti squarrrshes are getting way to heavy for their own good. I’m taking the advice of hammocks for the ones which have gotten themselves into impossible situations. And, yes, those are tiny zip-ties. :-)

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The 5-gallon bucket tomato plants are doing well, relatively speaking. These were grown from seeds. There were five seeds thinned out to three plants for each bucket, still too many… but now I know. If you can see them, there are seven tomatoes from this bucket at the moment. These plants are only 1/3 the size of the store-bought seedlings transplanted and given tomato cages. Here’s one of those, also seven tomatoes:

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One of my gardening parishioners laughed when he found out I was taking a census of tomatoes on the plants, saying that they would soon be uncountable. It’s only mid-July and there is a tomato, an early girl, already turning color:

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I know. I know. Gotta do up some weeding, which is not work, btw, if you’re “walking with the Lord.”

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Rectory garden delights day by day

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Besides the Squarrsh (two “Rs”) and Cucumbers and Asparagus, there are some 40 tomatoes at last count on the tomato plants, none of them anywhere near being ripe yet.

Watering and harvesting takes but a few minutes. And for me its a chance to unwind a bit, walking with the Lord in His garden, being thankful to Him. Is that a prayer as well? Yes, it is.

I recommend gardening, even inside if you have no outside space. It’s beneficial on so many levels. We were created to be co-workers with God in His creation. Adam is to “Till the ground”, as his name indicates, being the verbal form for the soil itself. It’s just right.

And if one thinks this to be superfluous in desperate times of Covid-19 insanity lockdowns, of Marxist rioting, of anti-Police defunding, on and on, such normalcy of gardening, if you will, is one of the most practical things one can do.

The most practical thing one can do is pray. Yes. Oh, Confession too.

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Coronavirus High Holy Days Humor in a real Prison while we’re on lockdown

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Pilate in the center, Jesus in light, Barabbas in the dark.

When Pilate asks whom the people want him to release, as was the custom during the High Holy Days, the people shout repeatedly: “We want Barabbas! We want Barabbas!”

Jesus is the Divine Son of the Father, laying down His life for us, the Innocent for the guilty, taking on the punishment each one of us deserves so as to have the right in His own justice to have mercy on us. Hours before, in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed to His Father: “Abba! Father!”

Jesus, the Divine Son of the Father is passed over in favor of Barabbas, whose name, in full irony, means “Son of the Father.” And so are we all created and now redeemed as children of our gracious Heavenly Father.

Has any of us ever said about anyone anywhere, “Better him than me”?

Meanwhile, the people, all of us, received what we wanted: Barabbas.

And then this is what happened to Jesus before being crucified:

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Notice the clever film editing: Jesus, who was at the right hand of the political powers that be, is now on the left hand of the political powers that be.


Humor: So, in prison, two good friends, Father Gordon MacRae and Pornchai Maximilian Moontri, celebrated Palm Sunday Mass with the reading of the Passion. Max took all the parts except Jesus and the Narrator, meaning he also had, for instance, the crowd.

Max, you have to know, is from Thailand, and grew up speaking Thai until 11 years old, when he was effectively stolen away to Maine, being a horrific saga that has turned out well in the end. The point is that he doesn’t have perfect English Pronunciation of Hebrew, which means that… drum roll… wait for it…

At the point where the crowd yells: “We want Barabbas! We want Barabbas!” Max instead reads, entirely innocently: “We want Baber-Ass! We want Baber-Ass!”

Father Gordon said that he somehow contained his laughter. I would have laughed so loudly the guards would have had to show up in force.

This is one of those epic, epic moments in the life of Jesus’ little flock. A story that will surely be told in heaven, hopefully with also a redeemed and saved Barabbas listening.

Meanwhile, on this Friday of Easter week – every day like Easter Day…

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