Obama’s glacier has shrunk at its usual glacial pace . . .

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What is he really thinking?

Did you notice the shrinking Alaska glacier that the President used this week as evidence that humans are causing catastrophic warming? Greenpeace Co-Founder Patrick Moore writes that “the glacier in Glacier Bay began its retreat around 1750. By the time Capt. George Vancouver arrived there in 1794 the glacier still filled most of the bay but had already retreated some miles,” and by 1900 “Glacier Bay was mostly ice-free.” Mr. Moore adds that all of this happened long before human emissions “could have had any impact.”

Life is just a series of photo ops.

Potty-mouth Obama

When can’t the president of the U.S. be quoted in a family newspaper? When he talks this way:

PRESIDENT OBAMA: The legacy of slavery, Jim Crow, discrimination in almost every institution of our lives, you know, that casts a long shadow, and that’s still part of our DNA…

Racism, we are not cured of it, clearly. And it’s not just a matter of it not being polite to say nigger in public. That’s not the measure of whether racism still exists or not. It’s not just a matter of overt discrimination. Societies don’t, overnight, completely erase everything that happened 200 to 300 years prior. [boldface added]

Don’t matter the context, Barack, don’t matter your simon-pure, lily-white good intentions. Don’t matter none o’ that stuff. Apologize.

You can lose your job over this. You know that, don’t you?

Today’s reading: The pope’s mother-in-law

The mother-in-law account in Luke, recounted also in Matthew and Mark, is a homey item. Burning fever dispatched, she got up and went about rustling grub for the itinerant preacher and others.

Simon Peter’s mother-in-law, of course. I suppose not too much is to be made of that as regards centuries-old discipline in the Western church, but still it’s a nice touch. Those were real people. The gospels are full of them.

Translations matter, as I have noted. In addition to the wonderful Ronald Knox version from the mid-’40s, we have the St. Paul Catholic edition of the mid-’90s, the work of the very helpful and near-anonymous Mark Wauck.

Tuesday of the Twenty-second Week in Ordinary Time: Plain and vivid talk, please

Today’s reading is another triumph of selectivity.

1 Thes 5:1-6, 9-11 is the menu for first reading. Why not verses 7 & 8? Is there something subversive there? Something offensive to pious ears? Improper? Distracting? Peculiarly first century and misleading if read to weekday mass goers?

Let’s have a look.

7Those who sleep go to sleep at night, and those who are drunk get drunk at night. 8But since we are of the day, let us be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love and the helmet that is hope for salvation.e

Well. The point is to be of the day.

5For all of you are children of the light* and children of the day.

Yes. That’s settled.

But the skipped-over part, as in getting drunk at night. That’s a reference that would make pewsitters sit up. It’s good, earthy talk, direct, which is good.

Let us be sober — take it several ways. One is not to be silly. Or foolish. Not act like damn fools if we can help it. Don’t be a jerk, taking on the breastplate of love and the helmet that is hope. Again plain talk and vivid.

Do the liturgical editors shrink from that? Do they think pewsitters shrink from it? I say put it out there. But what do I know?

Letter to everybody from James cut in pieces for today’s reading . . .

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Letter of James chapter 1, today’s 2nd reading, is a quite expurgated selection, bowdlerized, severely edited, censored so as neither to offend nor reward pious ears.

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 first fruits of his creatures. (verses 17 & 18)

Humbly welcome the word that has been planted in you and is able to save your souls. (21b-22)

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. (27)

Not quite nothing to reward: The last, oft-quoted paragraph is a stand-alone gem. Same for the “Be doers” ‘graph. But what’s left out is revealing.

For instance, vv. 19b-20, about habits of deliberation, in the Ronald Knox version:

You know this, my beloved brethren, well enough. It is for us men to be ready listeners, slow to speak our minds, slow to take offence; man’s anger does not bear the fruit that is acceptable to God.

Ready listeners. Slow to speak. Slow to take offence! Hits home. A great point by James, but left out.

Then v. 26, about knowing when to say nothing, again per Knox version:

If anyone deludes himself by thinking he is serving God, when he has not learned to control his tongue, the service he gives is vain.

Now the conclusion, v. 27, as in the day’s reading above, as Knox turned it:

If he is to offer service pure and unblemished in the sight of  God, who is our Father, he must take care of orphans and widows in their need, and keep himself untainted by the world.

Knox has the better translation, in my book. But going beyond that to the substance of James, when you preface v. 27 about orphans and widows with v. 26 about controlling the tongue, we gain a perspective.

James makes one equal to the other. Both he says are essential to serving God. So know when to keep your mouth shut while helping the needy. The courtliness of St. James requires it.

St. James, pray for us.

Mark, chapter 6: The dance, the promise, the beheading

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John the Baptist, model of conscience.

Spoke truth to power, as many self-righteous of this day claim they do, when they know nothing of the kind of power he faced, autocratic, middle eastern, first-century A.D., rule by whim of ruler.

Herodias the trophy wife gave the word to her dancing daughter, voluptuous, tempting, the coolest of chicks. Her stepfather Herod, a potentially decent sort, got lassoed. Had been drinking, the kid got to him (and his hangers-on, watching his every move), he promised the world or half of the part he controlled (I said POWER). The fool.

The angry mother told her. The head. She told the fool in charge, gulp. He liked John, liked to listen to him. John used the occasions not to butter him up but to admonish him. He was not going to back down, knew what was right and what was his duty. Very gutsy guy. Went with his conscience, angered the spiteful woman.

Now what? The others are looking at him. He had promised, had he not? What kind of king was that whose promise meant nothing? He swallowed hard. Turned to the hatchet man (not a figure of speech, as we use the phrase today), said get the head. Hurry up, chop-chop.

The daughter, learning how things are done, took the head on a platter (not figurative), and the mother smiled.

St. John the Baptist, pray for us.

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