Enter your email below to subscribe
Seek, and you will find
We have acquired two Great Pyrenees, both still puppies, though one is at least 70 pounds and 24 inches tall at the withers (withers – strange word, that). Mostly because we complained so much about a neighbor’s dog barking in the middle of the night almost directly into our bedroom window (or so it seemed at 2 am) that they gave their dog to one of their children, I am paranoid about my dogs barking.
So, I let them out in the morning, get them fed, and about the time they start to get restless, around 6 ish, I go sit outside and say my morning prayers from the four volume Liturgy of the Hours. As a lay Dominican, I have committed to saying the morning and evening office in community with all Dominicans, in spirit, if not in person.
Since the Dominicans are the Order of Preachers, perhaps this is practice. No, I am not a priest, and will not be giving any homilies. But, preaching comes in many forms, from just talking to people, to writing blogs, and to giving talks at church retreats, etc. With Yeti and Ghost, I experience what many preachers experience. I say my prayers out loud to them, and they fall asleep.
I like the practice of the saying of the Hours – as I get older, I appreciate the seasons, the rhythms, our cyclical reality. During Lent, the first psalm on Friday is Psalm 51. It is a wonderfully timely psalm for Lent and for Fridays.
Also, the responsory after each reading on each day is the same through Lent:
God himself will set me free, from the hunter’s snare.
— God himself will set me free, from the hunters snare.
From those who would trap me with lying words
— and from the hunter’s snare.
Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost
— God himself will set me free, from the hunter’s snare.
Every time I read that, I feel a little better about things.
Some Late Thoughts on the Election
(CARROLLTON, TX – Cradle of Civilization) I have been reading a book by Rev. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P., titled, REALITY, A Synthesis of Thomistic Thought. He was examining Aquinas’ review of Aristotle’s Politica. Lagrange comments that in the nature of man Aquinas finds “… the origin and the necessity of a social authority…” He says also that Aquinas distinguishes between good governments and bad. The three good forms are going to be something of a surprise to many. The are: monarchical, rule by one, aristocratic, where several rule, and democratic “where the rule is by representatives elected by the multitude.”
But these forms of government may degenerate: monarchy into tyranny, aristocracy into oligarchy, and democracy into mob-rule. Interestingly, Aquinas finds that while a monarchy is the best form of government, to reign in tyranny he believes a mixed constitution, which provides, “at the monarch’s side, aristocratic and democratic elements in the administration of public affairs,” is prudent.
I hope this sounds familiar to all – it is basically the original form of our own government as set up by the founding fathers: A president (monarch), the Senate (aristocracy), and the House (democracy). Remember, in the original design of our government, the Senators were not elected by popular vote, but were elected by the state legislatures, the aristocracy, if you will. This was true until the 17th amendment in 1914. And to stretch it even further, originally, there was no term limit on the king, I mean the president.
Now, for this to work, voters have to vote, and they should know why they are voting for whom or what is receiving their vote. This is why, in the beginning of this country, in order to vote you had to be a landowner. A landowner was likely to be educated and have a rather pragmatic world view. They also had a vested interest in how the country is run, were likely to spend some time understanding the issues, and vote responsibly. Of course, in that time, it would also mean the voters were white males.
Today it may seem that we have a lot of people voting who have no business voting – and doubtless some may wonder if we shouldn’t go back to having to earn your franchise based on criteria beyond simply having attained the age of 18. Lagrange notes Aquinas’ thoughts on this, though not in the same context:
On the evils of election by a degenerate people, where demagogues obtain the suffrages, he remarks, citing St. Augustine, that the elective power should, if it be possible, be taken from the multitude and restored to those who are good. St. Augustine’s words run thus: “If a people gradually becomes depraved, if it sells its votes, if it hands over the government to wicked and criminal men, then that power of conferring honors is rightly taken from such a people and restored to those few who are good.”
The key words there being, “if it be possible”, and “to those few who are good.” In our country it is not possible for many reasons, not the least of which are the real specter of disenfranchising everyone but white males, and that reaching consensus on who are “the good” is unlikely.
So, what is the answer? Especially in this day and age where many elected officials seem to suffer from role dysphoria, “I was elected to the role of public servant, but I am dissatisfied with this role, and inside I feel my true role, the real me, is that of master.”
Many look for a structural fix – term limits, for example. But, to borrow from P.J. O’Rourke, asking Congress to limit their terms would be similar to asking teenage boys to voluntarily give up their whiskey and car keys. It won’t happen without some kind of force. And that means what has been termed an Article V convention. This requires the state legislatures to call a convention to limit terms. I hope you see the problem. The state legislatures are filled with folks who have designs on federal positions. To put it simply, it ain’t gonna happen.
What is far better is when the voting public limits terms through the power of their vote. But then we get back to the problem of voting by people who vote emotionally, instead of rationally.
The only real answer is proper education of the voting populace. But that is another can of worms. Who educates them? And to what standards?
The Unjust Steward
This past Sunday, the Gospel reading was Luke 16:1-13. In this reading, a steward, (a trusted servant responsible for the household of his master), has wasted his master’s goods. He is told to prepare an accounting, as he will be removed from his position. In something of a panic, he calls in his master’s debtors and reduces their debts to curry favor with them that he might have some recourse after losing his position. On its face, he appears to continue to mismanage his master’s affairs, again for his own benefit. And then we have this odd reaction from his master:
“The master commended the dishonest steward for his prudence…” Luke 16:8a
This is followed by Jesus saying to the Pharisees: “And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous mammon, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal habitations.” Luke 16: 9
So, am I the only one that was ever confused by this? Looks to me like Jesus is telling us to lie, cheat and steal to gain heaven. I’ve never been particularly enlightened by any of the homilies I’ve heard on this either. Most times the focus is on the earlier reading from Amos, which talks about how the people “observe the Sabbath” by not selling and cheating in the marketplace, yet, their hearts and minds are focused on when they can resume their dishonest lives instead of on the worship of God. Let’s face it, there is a lot of material to work with there, in our time as much as 2000 years ago.
And then some kind of attempt is made to tie in the other reading and the Gospel into a social justice theme.
But, I just get stuck on Jesus telling the Pharisees to buy their way into heaven.
There is a practice called lectio divina, a way of praying with Scripture. It involves slowly reading, more than once, more than twice, a passage. It involves letting some word or phrase soak in, something that calls your attention. It involves meditation and contemplation. By meditation, practically speaking, is meant to attempt to immerse yourself, see the people, imagine the smells, the weather, feel the heat or cold, the sandals on your feet, the rough bench or whatever, as you sink into the scene. By contemplation, practically speaking, is meant to listen with that certain inner self to whatever might come to you.
For me, this also entails reading a couple of different study bible translations and reading the commentary. I had gone back to do that this morning and it hit me. Charles Dickens has written the best commentary on this Gospel reading, A Christmas Carol.
Think of the master in this parable as God. Think of all of us as stewards of God’s creation, responsible for the proper use of our master’s belongings. Think of how we waste God’s manifold gifts.
If the master is understood to be God, and if we understand that everything is gifted to us, and we see how we use and abuse and misuse our gifts, then we are all unjust stewards at some level, and Scrooge is the quintessential example. He has used his gifts to amass wealth to the detriment of others. Scrooge is shown his own grave by the Ghost of Christmas Future. And if dying is seen as “losing our position” as stewards of God’s household, then is not Scrooge’s actions Christmas morning (and everyday after) the same as the unjust steward when he reduces the debts owed to his master? And do we not commend Scrooge for his prudence? As Dickens noted: “…and it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge.”
Scrooge tells the ghost of Jacob Marley that he was always a good man of business. The response:
Business!’ cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again. “Mankind was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business. The deals of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!”
I think I understand the parable now.