Sunday, August 30, 2015

Catholic Lectionary Reflection, Sunday, August 30, 2015

soiled hands
Unclean Hands
... are often good for you...

"Unclean" foods are often good for you.

Alan: A preliminary note on The Catholic Lectionary.

Four biblical passages are read at every Catholic mass, a ceremony that re-enacts The Last Supper, and in the process reminds believers that personal sacrifice is essential to service. As living members of Christ's body, believers consume Yeshua's flesh and blood to "become what they eat" and, thus fortified, go forth into the world -- which is to say into the ongoing Incarnation -- to do the work of Love.

The "First Reading" is taken from the Old Testament, a compilation of Jewish pre-Christian books (the shortest, "Jonah," is comprised of 1500 words) that are revered as The Word of God but whose component parts are often disregarded by the magisterium (i.e., the official teaching mechanism of the church) because the divine inspiration of many Old Testamental passages has been definitively ecliped by the new covenant incarnated by Jesus of Nazareth. 

Seldom Sermonized Bible Quotes

The "Second Reading" is taken from the Psalms, whose (debated) authorship is traditionally ascribed to King David, a fellow with "warts" the size of watermelons. 

King David: Common Criminal, Or, Uncommon Criminal?

The "Third Reading" is usually taken from an "epistle" ("letter") written to early Christian communities around the Mediterranean basin. 

Most epistles were (at least according to tradition) written by Paul of Tarsus, a tent maker by trade. 

Paul is often called "The Apostle to The Gentiles." 

Although Paul never met Jesus prior to his crucifixion, his conversion to Christianity (after years of "hunting down Christians" as God-damned infidels) most likely took place between 33 and 36 A.D., shortly after the crucifixion. 

Many early Christian communities were located in present-day Turkey, Paul's home from birth through middle adulthood.

The "Fourth Reading" is excerpted from one of the four "canonical" Gospels written, according to tradition, by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

However, we know that these gospels contain many scribal redactions and were almost certainly subject to admixture by writers who saw themselves as "faithful to the tradition" of one or another putative evangelist.

Today, August 30, 2015, I will concentrate on the Gospel reading from Mark, the earliest and most curt/direct of the four traditional evangelists.

I will also touch upon the Second reading from the Epistle of James.

Catholic Lectionary Readings, Sunday, August 30, 2015

August 30, 2015 

Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 125

Reading 1 DT 4:1-2, 6-8

Moses said to the people:
“Now, Israel, hear the statutes and decrees
which I am teaching you to observe,
that you may live, and may enter in and take possession of the land
which the LORD, the God of your fathers, is giving you. 
In your observance of the commandments of the LORD, your God,
which I enjoin upon you,
you shall not add to what I command you nor subtract from it. 
Observe them carefully,
for thus will you give evidence
of your wisdom and intelligence to the nations,
who will hear of all these statutes and say,
‘This great nation is truly a wise and intelligent people.’
For what great nation is there
that has gods so close to it as the LORD, our God, is to us
whenever we call upon him? 
Or what great nation has statutes and decrees
that are as just as this whole law
which I am setting before you today?”

Responsorial Psalm PS 15:2-3, 3-4, 4-5

R. (1a) One who does justice will live in the presence of the Lord.
Whoever walks blamelessly and does justice;
who thinks the truth in his heart
and slanders not with his tongue.
R. One who does justice will live in the presence of the Lord.
Who harms not his fellow man,
nor takes up a reproach against his neighbor;
by whom the reprobate is despised,
while he honors those who fear the LORD.
R. One who does justice will live in the presence of the Lord.
Who lends not his money at usury
and accepts no bribe against the innocent.
Whoever does these things
shall never be disturbed.
R. One who does justice will live in the presence of the Lord.

Reading 2 JAS 1:17-18, 21B-22, 27

Dearest brothers and sisters:
All good giving and every perfect gift is from above,
coming down from the Father of lights,
with whom there is no alteration or shadow caused by change. 
He willed to give us birth by the word of truth
that we may be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.

Humbly welcome the word that has been planted in you

and is able to save your souls.

Be doers of the word and not hearers only, deluding yourselves.

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this:

to care for orphans and widows in their affliction
and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

Gospel MK 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

When the Pharisees with some scribes who had come from Jerusalem
gathered around Jesus,
they observed that some of his disciples ate their meals
with unclean, that is, unwashed, hands. 
—For the Pharisees and, in fact, all Jews,
do not eat without carefully washing their hands,
keeping the tradition of the elders.
And on coming from the marketplace 
they do not eat without purifying themselves. 
And there are many other things that they have traditionally observed,
the purification of cups and jugs and kettles and beds. —
So the Pharisees and scribes questioned him,
“Why do your disciples not follow the tradition of the elders
but instead eat a meal with unclean hands?” 
He responded,
“Well did Isaiah prophesy about you hypocrites, as it is written:
This people honors me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me;
in vain do they worship me,
teaching as doctrines human precepts.

You disregard God’s commandment but cling to human tradition.”

He summoned the crowd again and said to them,

“Hear me, all of you, and understand. 
Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person;
but the things that come out from within are what defile.

“From within people, from their hearts,

come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder,
adultery, greed, malice, deceit,
licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly.
All these evils come from within and they defile.”

Alan: Today's gospel reading (from Mark) is one of many New Testamental passages on which the Church has made little comment because it is "too hot to handle."
Viewed in almost any light, these Markan verses make clear that Yeshua is not only critical of tradition -- including highly-venerated Church tradition - but is contemptous of it. Even condemnatory.
I am particularly fond of the Spanish language translation of this passage which (as often happens) is quite divergent from the English language translation. 
The English language verse, "For the Pharisees and, in fact, all Jews, do not eat without carefully washing their hands, keeping the tradition of the elders" is rendered into Spanish as "Los fariseos y los judíos, en general, no comen sin lavarse antes las manos hasta el codo, siguiendo la tradición de sus mayores." 
The English "back-translation" of this Spanish language verse is very straightforward: "The pharisees and the Jews in general do not eat without washing their hands up to the elbows, following the traditions of their elders."
In one fell swoop, Yeshua makes clear that it is not just obsessive-compulsion over cleanliness rituals but that these rituals are in no way honorable just because they partake of a long tradition going back to Judaism's ancient - and honored - leaders.
When the Pharisees and Scribes -- which is to say Jewish hierarchs and Jewish scholars -- ask: “Why do your disciples not follow the tradition of the elders
but instead eat a meal with unclean hands?” (Jesus) responded,
“Well did Isaiah prophesy about you hypocrites, as it is written: This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines human precepts. You disregard God’s commandment but cling to human tradition.”
Alan: In vain do you "good people" worship me for you prefer traditions to God's commandments, which, in Jesus' teaching distill to these "Siamese twins" of loving God with all you've got and loving your neighbor as yourself. 
25 Just then a religion scholar stood up with a question to test Jesus. “Teacher, what do I need to do to get eternal life?” 26 He answered, “What’s written in God’s Law? How do you interpret it?” 27 He said, “That you love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and muscle and intelligence—and that you love your neighbor as well as you do yourself.” 28 “Good answer!” said Jesus. “Do it and you’ll live.” 29 Looking for a loophole, he asked, “And just how would you define ‘neighbor’?” 30-32 Jesus answered by telling a story. “There was once a man traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho. On the way he was attacked by robbers. They took his clothes, beat him up, and went off leaving him half-dead. Luckily, a priest was on his way down the same road, but when he saw him he angled across to the other side. Then a Levite religious man showed up; he also avoided the injured man. 33-35 “A Samaritan traveling the road came on him. When he saw the man’s condition, his heart went out to him. He gave him first aid, disinfecting and bandaging his wounds. Then he lifted him onto his donkey, led him to an inn, and made him comfortable. In the morning he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take good care of him. If it costs any more, put it on my bill—I’ll pay you on my way back.’ 36 “What do you think? Which of the three became a neighbor to the man attacked by robbers?” 37 “The one who treated him kindly,” the religion scholar responded. Jesus said, “Go and do the same.”
Alan: Kindness is at the heart of Yeshua's "Way" and anyone who seeks to put condemnation and punishment ahead of kindness may get high points for "keeping score" but none for neighborliness. 
"Their hearts are far from me. In vain do they worship me."
Punctilious effort to adhere to The Word of God not only falls short of the mark; it actually distances one from deity, enhancing the alienation between "believer/devotees" and the God who "seeks mercy, not sacrifice." 

"I want mercy, not sacrifice."
Matthew 9:10-13

Hey, Christian! How Many Of Jesus' Moral Stands Do You Approve? Take The Test! (Reprise)

"What Catholic Traditionalists And Other Christian Conservatives Don't Get"

G.K. Chesterton And Universal Salvation

"Justice Without Mercy Is Cruelty"
 Luiz Sergio Solimeo
These score-keeping pseudo-practitioners would be better off foreswearing "the camouflage cover" of religion in favor of behaving like a simple, unchurched Samaritans, even if unchurched people partake of an ethnic status that is considered reprehensible by almost all "The Punctilious."
In the end we need "metalevel analysis" which sees "organized religion" -- useful and beneficial in its way -- as attracting anal-retentive fuss-budgets who make it their business to "feel good" about themselves by stomping those "infidels" deemed to be beneath them.
Institutional leaders are... well... almost always institutionalists.
And therein lies the rub. 
Because institutionalists know how to rise within institutions, also knowing how to propagate institutional life by appointing other institutionalists like themselves, they participate in a way of life that constantly validates their institutional assumptions when even cursory examination of Yeshua's own teaching reveals his woeful view of religious career climbers.
Whatever Yeshua was -- and he did embody The Magnum Mysterium like no one before or since -- he showed no inclination to be anything other than an itinerant preacher and miracle worker, an essentially homeless person, unable to mind the niceties of purificatory rites and who was routinely vilified for his personal uncleanness, a fellow vilified for the uncleanness of the people whose company he preferred. 

Yeshua Excoriates Fellow Pharisees: "The Woe Passages"

"Twelve Steps For The Recovering Pharisee (Like Me)" By John Fischer

"Love Your Enemies. Do Good To Those Who Hate You," Luke 6: 27-42

"Do You Know What You're Doing To Me?"
Jesus of Nazareth

Alan: A quick note on today's second reading from the Epistle of James...

One of Webster's definitions of "widow" is "a woman whose husband leaves her alone frequently or for long periods to engage in a usually specified activity <a golf widow>."

Since this definition of widow fits women of color regularly reviled by "good Christians" I propose that "religion that is pure and undefiled before God" would have them taking "care of widows in their affliction."

"Pope Francis Links"

Pope Francis: Quotations On Finance, Economics, Capitalism And Inequality

Bill McKibben: "The Christian paradox: How a faithful nation gets Jesus wrong."

What's Wrong With The Abrahamic Religions: Absolutism, Scriptural Inerrancy, Bloodlust

Pastor John Piper "discusses the vexing problem of God ordering the mass killing of every Canaanite man, woman, and child."

Mistakes In Scripture: When The Bible Gets The Bible Wrong

"Is The Bible More Violent Than The Quran?"

Biblical Literalism: Not Only Impossible But Destructive Of Meaning And Souls

UNC-CH Professor Bart D. Ehrman:
Biblical Exegete And Former Christian Evangelical
The Bible and Textual Analysis

Seldom Sermonized Bible Quotes

"Amish Grace: How Forgiveness Transcended Tragedy," A Glimpse Of True Christianity

Time To Expunge Catholicism Of Traditions & Texts That Represent God As A Terrorist

"Trial By Ordeal: The Bloody Old Testamental Roots Of Modern Justice"

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