Category Archives: Religion

Listen to Ezechiel

The Prophet Ezechiel, Rubens

We usually look to the gospels or other parts of the New Testament in our lectionary for wisdom day by day. The Old Testament readings don’t seem as relevant as the New; the words themselves– “old,” “new”– suggest that.

The Fathers of the Church, though, preached a lot from the Old Testament and reflected on it more often than we do. For one thing, they saw in the Old Testament an image of the church. We need to reflect on our poor church these days.

In today’s gospel reading (Matthew 19,23-30) Jesus says that the rich will find it hard to enter the kingdom of heaven. Who does he tell that to? To his disciples with Peter as their spokesman.

During his ministry Jesus was cautious about saying anything the Romans and those occupying Palestine might see as meant for them. He’s careful about social or political statements that could end his ministry quickly. Look what happened to John the Baptist.

The Prophet Ezechiel (Ez. 28,1-10) in our Old Testament reading today, however, isn’t afraid to criticize the rich and powerful of his time. Even as he faces the dark world of his own people, he inveighs against the Prince of Tyre, a small Phoenician kingdom entrenched along the Mediterranean Sea, where Lebanon is today. Smart traders and skillful politicians, they saw themselves as a model society for that part of the world.

Did the Jewish ruling class, in exile in Babylon, see Tyre as a model for rebuilding Jerusalem? Ezechiel sees too much of Tyre’s unjust ways and arrogance to buy into becoming a nation like them.

Even when your own world is dark, don’t lose your voice for criticizing social issues affecting others, Ezechiel seems to say. While you struggle with your own sins and failures, keep struggling to promote a just society throughout the world. God’s call is to work for its good.

In this “moral catastrophe” we’re in as a church today because of child abuse, I hope we and our episcopal leadership, facing our failures, won’t abandon other areas of social justice, like immigration and poverty.

Listen to Ezechiel.

St. Bernard

August 20th we remember St. Bernard, a spiritual teacher who never goes out of date. Here he summarizes the two stages of contemplation.

“The first involves humbling ourselves before God: “Heal me, Lord, and I shall be healed; save me and I shall be saved. And again, Lord, have mercy on me; heal my soul because I have sinned against you.

Then, leaving sorrow and ourselves behind, it’s time to “abide rather in the Spirit of God with great delight. No longer do we consider what is the will of God for us, but rather what it is in itself.

Under the guidance of the Spirit who gazes into the deep things of God, let us reflect how gracious the Lord is and how good he is in himself. Let us join the Prophet in praying that we may see the Lord’s will and frequent not our own hearts but the Lord’s temple; and let us also say, My soul is humbled within me, therefore I shall be mindful of you.

These two stages sum up the whole of the spiritual life: when we contemplate ourselves we are troubled, but our sadness saves us and brings us to contemplate God. That contemplation in turn gives us the consolation of the joy of the Holy Spirit.

Contemplating ourselves brings fear and humility; contemplating God brings us hope and love.”

20th Week of the Year b

Prv 9:1-6/Eph 5:15-20/Jn 6:51-58 (119)

20 Monday Saint Bernard, Abbot and Doctor of the Church
Ez 24:15-24/Mt 19:16-22 (419)

21 Tuesday Saint Pius X, Pope
Ez 28:1-10/Mt 19:23-30 (420)

22 Wednesday The Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Ez 34:1-11/Mt 20:1-16 (421)

23 Thursday
[Saint Rose of Lima, Virgin]
Ez 36:23-28/Mt 22:1-14 (422)

24 Friday Saint Bartholomew, Apostle
Rv 21:9b-14/Jn 1:45-51 (629)

25 Saturday
[Saint Louis; Saint Joseph Calasanz, Priest; BVM]
Ez 43:1-7ab/Mt 23:1-12 (424)

Illegibles (1)

Contemplative Philosophy

There’s no inner room if you take the outer room in with you.

Jesus doesn’t ask you to buy a raffle ticket.

If a church can’t survive on passing a basket it can’t survive.

If a church can’t survive it shouldn’t.

If a church doesn’t survive it’s no longer (or never was) a church.

The best thing the Catholic Church could do is start new parishes. Not combine existing parishes. Not renovate. Not restore. Not rebuild. Not even resurrect.

Establish. Brand new parishes. With no history or patrimony except the Virgin Tradition of the Saints.

Crucifix woven from hay.

Altar constructed of straw.

Tabernacle able to decay.

Penance is to offer up what time-alone desires.

Sacrifice is to give away what you’re told to cherish.

To one who believes penance and sacrifice are delight.

hd hain

July 2018

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Ezechiel, for those over Thirty

We‘re reading the Prophet Ezekiel at Mass these days. Early Jewish scholars considered him hard to read; only those over 30 should read him, some said. We have the same difficultly. The lectionary for today, Friday in the 19th week of the year, offers a shorter version of Ezechiel’s story of the young infant girl “thrown out on the ground as something loathsome, the day you were born thrown out to die.” Not a pretty story to look at.

It’s a story harsh to hear and hard to understand. Infanticide, a form of abortion. child abuse, gender discrimination, prostitution, ingratitude, forgetfulness of God. Ezechiel describes his own society in dark terms. Yet, all the while God is there.

“You became mine, says the Lord GOD.Then I bathed you with water, washed away your blood, and anointed you with oil. I clothed you with an embroidered gown, put sandals of fine leather on your feet; I gave you a fine linen sash and silk robes to wear. I adorned you with jewelry… You were exceedingly beautiful, with the dignity of a queen.”

“But you were captivated by your own beauty,
you used your renown to make yourself a harlot,
and you lavished your harlotry on every passer-by,
whose own you became.”

“Yet I will remember the covenant I made with you when you were a girl,
and I will set up an everlasting covenant with you,
that you may remember and be covered with confusion,
and that you may be utterly silenced for shame
when I pardon you for all you have done, says the Lord GOD.”
{Ezechiel 16, 1-69)

The story of the abandoned girl is a story of sin and redemption. All the while God is there.

Ezechiel was a priest brought captive to Babylon along with King Johoiachin and members of the Jewish elite after the Babylonians crushed the Jewish revolt against them in 597 BC. Nebuchadnezzar, the Babylonian king, left Zedekiah to rule in Jerusalem, but Zedekiah revolted five years later. The Babylonians had enough and destroyed Jerusalem completely.

The Jewish elite in Babylon were convinced God would never permit Jerusalem to be destroyed. It was destroyed. Then they were just as convinced their city would be rebuilt quickly and they would rebuild it.

God will take care of it, not you; in God’s time, not yours, Ezechiel insists.

Hard times then and now bring out different responses. God is absent, some say. Hard times are blessed times, Ezechiel says. God is more present than ever in hard times.

Hard times give rise to quick solutions. “This is the answer, I am the answer,” some say. God is the answer, Ezechiel says.

Hard times cause fingers to point blame. “The politicians did it.”
“The liberals, the conservatives did it.” “Look into your own heart,” Ezechiel says, “and ask God for a new one.”

Look at the hard times, don’t ignore or hide from them, but see them with the eyes of God, the prophet says. “Thus says the Lord GOD,” I swear I am coming… I will claim my sheep…I will save my sheep…I myself will look after and tend my sheep.” (Ezekiel 34,1-11)

Good words for us today?


Contemplative Philosophy

The only offering is spending time. Not work. Not words. Not posts or pages. Stop it all. Time alone. Time being. Existence. Come what may. Could that be the only offering I am to make? Only contribution. Life spent in interest. In what’s good. With goodness. No preconceived notions what it looks like. A hiking stick. Evergreen. Nothing but interest. Not service. Not preaching. Not helping. Not writing. Not making. Not producing. Not part of a team. Only interest. Only footprints of varying weight. Or perhaps none at all.

Howard Hain

December, 2017

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