Tuesday, June 30, 2009

A coup in Honduras

Having watched the news regarding what's going down in Honduras, I thought I understood what was actually happening. Luckily I had the opportunity to read another side of the story on Emily Byer's blog. Please take the time to visit her blog and read this:


Sunday, June 28, 2009

Pope to celebrate Mass in St. Peter's Square with Patriarch of Constantinople in attendance

Pope to celebrate Mass in St. Peter's Square with Patriarch of Constantinople in attendance

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This will occur tomorrow and can be viewed on EWTN at 10:30am. Let us offer up this feast day for the unity of East and West.

Lead Kindly Light

This hymn sets to music what I believe to be a good representation of my post below entitled "Do not fear, only believe." I've included the lyrics:

"Lead, kindly Light, amid the encircling gloom, Lead Thou me on;
The night is dark, and I am far from home; Lead Thou me on:
Keep thou my feet; I do not ask to see the distant scene, one step enough for me.

So long thy power hath blest me, sure it still will lead me on;
I love to choose and see my path; but no, lead Thou me on.
I loved the garish day and spite of fears, pride ruled my will: remember not past years.

So long thy power hath blest me, sure it still will lead me on
O'er moor and fen, o'er crag and torrent, till the night is gone;
And with the morn those angel faces smile which I have loved long since, and lost awile."

"Do not fear, only believe."

Today’s Gospel reading (Mark 5:35-43) is very much in keeping with last week’s reading (Mark 4:35-41). Christ is not only revealed to us as the One to whom all things show obedience but also as the One in Whom we have no reason to fear.

Jairus was tempted to fear through the temptation of those who said to him, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?” The temptation is this: “Although He is here, there is nothing He can do to deliver you from your suffering.” It is a temptation that leads us to the loss of hope. Fortunately for us, Christ operates from a very different paradigm. This is revealed in his words to Jairus which are meant to counter the words of temptation: “But ignoring what they said, Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, ‘Do not fear, only believe.’” In other words, Jesus is not concerned with the latest thoughts on our present difficulties from the many commentators, talking-heads, and pessimistic family members and friends. His concern is that we do not fall into fear, for fear causes a lack of hope, and a lack of hope leads to a lack of perseverance. Had Jairus given in to the voices of despair surrounding him, he would have failed to lead Christ to his child.

An interesting point in the Gospel was made about Jesus’ treatment of those whose fear led them to doubt His power. In 5:37, Jesus allows only certain followers to continue with Him: “And he allowed no one to follow him except Peter and James and John the brother of James.” One can assume that since the others were left behind, that is, those who spoke only of fear and finality, they were in no condition to bring healing to anyone. Peter, James, and John, on the other hand, followed Him unquestioningly and in silence making them worthy witnesses to the power of Christ. Mark 5:40 reveals to us His reaction to those would mock His power: “And they laughed at Him. But he put them all outside…” I may be looking too deeply into this, but I wonder if there’s a connection between the “other side” to which Jesus invited his followers spoken of in last week’s gospel and the “outside” to which those who mock Him are relegated. The point, I believe, is that as long as we operate through fear, our eyes will always be ones that do not see, our ears ones that do not hear. Fear keeps us bound to the “outside”; faith and hope carry us to the “other side”. What this entails, though, is the trust in Him that allows us to abandon ourselves to His will, whatever it might be with the knowledge that whatever He does is done perfectly. There can be no other way better than His for He is Perfection Itself.

We must be willing to learn lessons in abandonment to Divine Providence if we ever wish to experience His power and glory without fear.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Music of Talking Beasts

I can't think of anything that could more perfectly illustrate what my previous 2 posts are about.

The Morality of Talking Beasts (Part II)

In Genesis, God revealed to us that we are made in His image. Through our own reasoning ability, we can come to know that God is Love Itself, Truth Itself, Beauty Itself, Logos Itself, and if we are images of Him, then we are logically images of Love, Truth, Beauty, and Logos. Since God is utterly simple by virtue of His eternal nature, then Love, Truth, Beauty, and Logos are one and the same in Him. There can be no distinction. The implication here is that Logos is Love. Logos is Truth. Logos is Beauty. The Word Itself cannot be anything but these, therefore our ability to commune through the spoken word, a gift from the Word Itself, must be a reflection of It. Our word must be an imago Dei just as we ourselves are imago Verbi. Herein lies the moral obligation that speech carries within itself. If it does not reflect love, truth, and beauty, it is not worthy of being spoken. In a sense, it does not deserve to even be given the title of ‘words’.

To take this further, we can understand the spoken word to be the extension of the intellect to another through symbols, and if the intellect is a faculty of the soul, one can even make the case that the spoken word is the extension of the soul to another. Again we are left with the fact that the human soul is an image of the divine God, so to extend the soul is to extend an experience of the divine. If such an extension is characterized by lies, manipulation, selfishness, and the elevation of ugliness through gossip, vulgarity and insults, then the spoken word turns out to be a misrepresentation of the Divine. To misrepresent the Divine is to commit blasphemy, hence the sinful nature of these things.

The inherent power of the spoken word comes from the fact that it finds its source in God Who is Power Itself. Because of this power, it must be guarded. Unfortunately, its obvious power has led many to abuse it for selfish gain. This can be seen as far back as the sophistic rhetoric that Socrates fought against. It can be seen as close as our television set. Simply watch any interview with nearly any politician and one will receive a crash course in the abuse of language. What’s most disturbing is when a society voluntarily elevates a man to the pinnacle of worldly power because he has the ability to abuse the spoken word in the most subtly vile way that he can. When a society reaches such a low point, all truth and all beauty become expendable vagaries in a land of sophistic relativism. It is the point at which the rupture of word and morality reach executive status. We are not the ones we’ve been waiting for. The rupture that we’ve elected for is not the change we can believe in. It is our destruction, for when we use the gifts within our human nature that makes us most like God for things for which they were never meant, then our own human nature loses something of its beauty. And if its beauty is so connected to its dignity, then that nature devolves and resembles something less than what it is. Anything less than the human nature God intended holds a closer resemblance to the Dumb Beasts that God created for our use.

“Treat them [the Dumb Beasts] gently and cherish them, but do not go back to their ways lest you cease to be Talking Beasts.” I wonder, have we allowed ourselves to be ruled by Dumb Beasts? Is it any wonder that the Democratic party’s logo (I cringe to use that word in this context) is a donkey, the proverbial beast of burden?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Morality of Talking Beasts (Part I)

In C. S. Lewis’ book The Magician’s Nephew, chapter ten of the story brings the role of speech into bold relief when Aslan commands the “Talking Beasts” with these words: “Treat them [the Dumb Beasts] gently and cherish them, but do not go back to their ways lest you cease to be Talking Beasts.” Aslan later teaches again with the words, “For jokes as well as justice come in with speech.”

It is no coincidence that in Genesis, God speaks all things into existence. Lewis, through Aslan, describes it more as singing, and for good reason, for singing holds within it a beauty that surpasses the simple utterance of terms. This beauty is such because it contains a harmony and pattern that elevates the mind and heart. This is what God planned for us when He sang the song of His creation. He intended the expression of the truth of His own beauty and goodness to be held within His creation brought into existence by His Word. The logos (word), therefore, is intimately and maybe even metaphysically bound to truth, beauty, and goodness.

God chose the Greek ‘logos’ to be the word, so to speak, by which He revealed the foundational principle by which and through which all things exist and continue to exist (cf. John 1:1-5). This was no accident, for ‘logos’ includes within itself the understanding of reasoning, that is, the faculty of logic. This naturally carries with it the implication of intelligibility and truth. That through which all things came to be and continue to be is Reason Itself, pure and utterly simple Intelligibility. This says a great deal not only about our universe but also about us who were made in the image of this creative Reason, this pure Word.

If word is the means by which God created all things, if it is a title He claims for Himself in John 1:1 as His very being, then our ability to engage in logical dialogue (sharing of logos) must carry within itself a great deal of weight. This weight is rooted in the fact that any ability to speak must necessarily be derived from the Logos that existed before all other things. If the Logos Itself created us, then His nature dictates to us that there is perfect rationale and intelligibility as to why He imbued us with this gift. The very fact that He is Logos means that our ability to speak is not a purely random chance event that arose out of eons of evolution. It has a purpose; it has a logos of it own.

In Part II of this topic, I will discuss the moral imlications of being made in the image and likeness of Logos.

Monday, June 22, 2009

The Silence of God...The God of Silence

It would seem that speaking about the silence of God would be counter-intuitive and maybe even counter-productive, but being that our human natures tend most easily towards counter-productivity, I’ll give it my best shot.

The God who spoke all things into existence and the God who continues to speak to us through Divine Revelation is the very same God who subsists in absolute silence. Silence is simplicity and God is absolute simplicity due to His eternal and completely independent subsistence. Could this be why God is most clearly heard in the silence of prayer? Is it any wonder that we expend our greatest efforts at escaping silence as much as possible? To be baptized into silence is to make ourselves vulnerable to Truth, for it is in silence that we come to know God. As the very creator of our human nature, He revealed to us the invaluable role silence plays when He tells us, “Be still, and know that I am God.” The stillness of silence aids our intellects in knowledge of Him. Greater knowledge of Him should naturally lead to a corresponding change in the will. This is the essence of conversion, and this is why prayer cannot be neglected. Is it that our human nature abhors silence because of its purgative effects? It seems as though there is something in our nature that tips us off to the fact that if we welcome the silence, we must also be willing to welcome change, thus, we see the corresponding effects of the fear of silence upon a culture in fear of change. We value access to hundreds of channels on the television. In this way, we are assured that we never have to turn off the television due to previously seen programs. If we do happen to pull ourselves away from the television and get into our cars, we have the radio to break the silence. Not only do we get to listen to poor excuses for music in our cars, we also get to listen to the trash being spewed out of other people’s cars.

I mentioned the connection of prayer and silence in the above paragraph as silence is the best environment for prayer. The reason for this is that the ultimate goal of prayer must be conversion and enlightenment (not in the Eastern sense). St. John Cassian, who lived from the mid-300’s to the early 400’s, recognized this in speaking about the effect upon the human soul by God as light both perceivable and communicable through silence in prayer:

The suddenness of the light stupefies it and robs it of speech. All its senses remain withdrawn in its inmost depths or completely suspended. And it is by inarticulate groans that it tells God of its desire.

The necessity of silence for communication with God is also according to our natures as images of Him Who is Silence, for if in His eternal simplicity He is silent, then by what better means can we who are images of Him reach out to Him? It is as though the silence is more expressive of ourselves to God than all the words we manage to mount up in oral prayer. St. Paul reassures us of the efficacy of our prayer even in the silence when he writes: “For we do not know how to prayer as we ought, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words (Rom 8:26).”

It is an unfortunate situation that our present cultural state is one characterized by a pathological obsession with noise which should serve as symptomatic enough to make a valid diagnosis: fear of silence is a fear of God, though not in the virtuous sense. It is ultimately a fear of Truth which explains the naïve and childish acceptance of the self-contradictory philosophy of relativism that thrives today. If we can just convince ourselves that Truth is determined by our perception of it, then we no longer have to listen to anyone or anything else. Without the need or appreciation for listening, there need not be silence. And if we hate the silence, then how can we love God?

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Peace! Be Still!

Today’s gospel taken from Mark 4:35-41 reveals things that are typically difficult for us to accept when we’re in the middle of our “storms”. There are a few elements from this passage that I would like to point out before discussing the inherent difficulties just mentioned:

1) Jesus’ invitation to go “to the other side”.
2) His seeming passivity during this process.
3) The storm itself.
4) His rebuke to those who questioned his love for them.

Jesus invites his disciples to journey to the other side, and the disciples accepted this invitation by “leaving the crowd”. On the purely literal level, there’s not much to see here, but the spiritual sense of scripture, I believe, reveals much. The ideal spiritual life of a Catholic is the constant acceptance of His invitation to both submit to and experience the “other side”, but I do not believe this phrase is only referring to what we understand as heaven, but also to the life of faith here on earth. It is a life in which we live as though we see that which cannot be seen, we believe that which we cannot fully know, we eat that which consumes us. Peter Kreeft says that Heaven haunts earth. Jesus invites us to be haunted in this way, but we must first submit. As the Gospel tells us, accepting His invitation requires leaving the crowd. The crowd represents all that is familiar and “safe” to us. It is those things that keep us mired in the here and now, those things that keep our eyes diverted from the hereafter. It keeps us from “seeing” that which cannot be seen. His invitation is a challenge to reject popular culture in order to be immersed in a whole new world. This is echoed by St. Paul’s epistle today in which he wrote, “So whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come.”

While the invitation may be compelling enough for us to accept, what many of us fail to predict is what we might perceive as His passivity, but His passivity should be seen as an act in itself. We read, “They took him with them, just as he was, in the boat.” Acceptance of His invitation is to be understood as an acceptance of Him. If we embark to the other side through faith, we cannot take with us anything else but the real Christ, for as he said in the Old Testament, “There is no other.” The implication of this is that the only ones that must change during the journey are us. We must take Him just as He is, just as He always will be. We cannot turn Him into the teddy-bear Jesus that turns a blind eye to our sins, nor can we turn Him into the distant God that remains aloof while sending people to hell simply because He enjoys it. There is no historical Jesus vs. scriptural Jesus. There is only He Who Is. His “passivity” is, therefore, an act that forces us to act. Are we man enough to take Him as He is? To do so is to allow ourselves to be swept up into the powerful storm that He is.

What of the storm? It is the means by which His power is made evident. From the spiritual vantage point, we know the storm to be the process by which we are made perfect. It forces us to call out to him, humbling ourselves before His power and dominion over all things. But we can call out in two very different ways. We can call out as a son to a father, or we can call out as His disciples did, as one stranger to another. There are some spiritual directors that will say foolish things regarding call out to Him in times of distress, and I used to believe them. What I’m referring to here is the advice, “It’s okay to get angry at God. It’s okay to demand an answer. He’s a big boy. He understands.” Scripture tells us something very different. We learn that to call out as a stranger unsure of His love for us, we invite upon ourselves a rebuke. In fact, the rebuke is a bit of a rhetorical question: “Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?” To call out in such a way is to reveal our lack of belief. His words to the storm may very well have been spoken to us as well. “Peace! Be still!”

Let us be willing to be paid the intolerable compliment of following Him to the other side.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Church: His Kingdom (Part III)

We have established with both scriptural and logical support that Christ the King has appointed men to both have and exercise a royal authority within this kingdom. And as are nearly all things in the Old Testament, we see a fulfillment of these things in the New, including the Kingdom. Christ the King is the fulfillment of the Old Testament kings, but what about the king’s “prime minister” about whom we read in Isaiah?

Isaiah 22:20-25: “In that day I will call my servant Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, and I will clothe him with your robe, and will bind your belt on him, and will commit your authority to his hand; and he shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and to the house of Judah. And I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David; he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open. And I will fasten him like a peg in a sure place, and he will become a throne of honor to his father’s house. And they will hang on him the whole weight of his father’s house, the offspring and issue, every small vessel, from the sups to all the flagons. In that day, says the Lord of hosts, the peg that was fastened in a sure place will give way; and it will be cut down and fall, and the burden that was upon it will be cut off, for the Lord has spoken.”

In this passage, God, through Isaiah His prophet announces to Shebna, the acting prime minister of the kingdom, that he will be replaced with Eliakim. The imagery used here to describe this passing down of authority through the abdicating and subsequent filling of the royal office is of utmost importance. Notice particularly the image of the key of the house of David, that is, the kingdom. It is significant because it signifies the authority of the king.

When considering the meaning of any symbol, a number of elements must be taken into account but most especially the practical use of the object that is doing the symbolizing. In this instance, a key is used to unlock a door for the purposing of entering a particular edifice. Upon entrance, by virtue of the possession of this key, one now has access to and consequently the use of everything belonging to the master of the house. Symbolically, the passing down of the key of a kingdom logically represents both access to and use of the prerogatives of the king himself. This is evident by its use in Isaiah. The context is clear. And the phrase, “he shall open and none shall shut; and he shall shut and none shall open” simply expresses the fact that whatever he does cannot be undone by anyone. His declarations are binding on those under his authority.

How do we make sense of this in light of the New Kingdom established by Christ? If the New Kingdom is somehow the fulfillment of the Old, did Jesus the true King ever pass down His own authority in the same manner? The answer is found in Matthew’s Gospel.

Matthew 16: 13-20: “Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, ‘Who do men say that the Son of man is?’ And they said, ‘Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter replied, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ And Jesus answered him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.’”

This is the key to understanding the key! Jesus Christ our King has passed down the key to the kingdom of heaven, His own authority, to the prime minister of His Kingdom. As a prime minister, Peter is simply filling an office, and as this office is a necessary part of His Kingdom, it will never pass away. Practically speaking, what is the function of this office? As our Lord tells Peter, he now has the authority of binding and loosing which is rabbinical terminology for exercising a teaching authority, a teaching authority that, in this case, cannot be overridden by anyone else, for it will be ratified in Heaven by the King Himself, bringing to light the corresponding phrase in Isaiah, “he shall open and none shall shut; and he shall shut and none shall open.”

Is this the extent of Peter’s new responsibility? Apparently not, for the Good Shepherd sees fit to further expound on this at a later time. John 21:16-17 recounts Jesus’ words to his new prime minister: “Feed my lambs”, Feed my lambs”, “Feed my sheep”. Not only must Peter teach, but he must also be a pastor, a shepherd. What’s striking is that in John 10, Jesus identifies Himself as the Good Shepherd, but John 21 reveals to us Peter as the new shepherd. Peter has become Christ’s representative on earth as both a teacher and a pastor making available to us both truth and life.

Another question should be asked with reference to Peter as the new shepherd. Is it reasonable to assume that when Jesus referred to His lambs and His sheep in John 21, that He was referring only to those who were alive at that moment in time living in that particular area? Of course not, for his lambs and sheep include all who believe in Him at all times and in all nations, bringing us back to what it means to be Catholic. The only way Peter could possibly feed all sheep at all times and in all nations is if his office was to be filled upon his leaving that office. Thus we get the successors of Peter, the popes, Jesus’ prime ministers.

So what is Jesus’ Kingdom but the Catholic Church?

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Church: His Kingdom (Part II)

The previous post ended with the question of who was designated to dispense the gifts of Truth and Life within the kingdom. As Jesus says in Luke 22:29-30, it is the Apostles that have been given this task and consequently the authority. In other words, the Apostles have been made rulers in the kingdom. They have authority within the kingdom, and they are to dispense truth through teaching and life through baptism and the Eucharist, which is sacrifice. As Jesus said in John 3:5, “Unless one is born of water and spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God,” and John 6: 53, “Amen, Amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you.”

We see, then, that not only is there Truth and Life in this kingdom, there is also sacrifice. There is the Eucharist. As St. John writes in Revelation 5:9, “You were slain and by your blood you ransomed men for God from every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on earth.” St. Paul also tells us in 1 Corinthians 5:7-8, “For Christ, our Paschal Lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us, therefore, celebrate the feast.” If there must be sacrifice, then there must be those elected to offer the sacrifice, and as we have seen, this sacrifice is Christ. So not only were the Apostles entrusted with dispensing Truth and Life, but they were also entrusted with the duty of offering the sacrifice of Christ, Who is Truth and Life. Consequently there can be no Truth and Life without sacrifice. They are one and the same. They are Jesus Christ.

Certainly this task was not to end with the Apostles. How can it if the kingdom is to have no end as Luke tells us in the first chapter, thirty-third verse of his Gospel? This fact alone makes it obvious that the authority given by Christ to His Apostles was to be passed down through the generations, so as to provide Truth, Life, and sacrifice for all in the kingdom, not just those present during Jesus’ life.

Being that these men were earthly but the kingdom was heavenly, how was it possible for them to bear such a burden so humanly unbearable while fulfilling it at the same time? It could only come to fulfillment with the infusion of a supernatural strength wrought by Christ Himself, that is, through the procession of the Holy Spirit. This is the only way possible that such natural men could accomplish a mission of a supernatural character. It is only the indwelling and, thus, the supernatural guidance of the Holy Spirit that could preserve both the kingdom and its mission from the natural interferences of men. We see this model even with Christ Himself, but this is not to say that somehow Christ needed the Holy Spirit to keep him from spoiling the mission of establishing His kingdom. As man with a finite human nature, Jesus required the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in order that His human nature may be disposed in such a way as to be able to perform His works as God. The finite human nature is simply not on its own disposed to perform the works of God. That takes an act of the Holy Spirit upon the human nature. This is supported by scripture when in Acts 10:38 we read, “God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, so that he went about doing good, and curing all those who were under the devil’s tyranny.”

The next post will deal with typology in regard to this new kingdom; how this new kingdom is a fulfillment of the old.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Church: His Kingdom (Part I)

I was recently engaged in a conversation with a very close friend about her fear of conversion to Catholicism. What seems to be holding her back is the difficulty of knowing that she will be targeted by non-Catholics, particularly those that are belligerently anti-Catholic. While her husband desires union with the Church, she hasn't shown much interest, yet she is already being targeted. She related to me that not long ago while sitting in a coffee shop, a young man (apparently one of the anti-Catholic, evangelical types) began a friendly conversation and asked where she attended church. She explained to him that she had been attending a Catholic church because her husband was converting. The man responded, "Don't let the devil take you out of the Kingdom of God."

This raises a good question: What exactly is the Kingdom of God and how do we recognize it when we see it? Are we sure we're part of it? The next few posts will deal with this question, and I intend to tap into the wisdom of Frank Sheed in order to do so.

Before answering these questions, full disclosure is in order. I believe the Universal Church, that is, the Holy Catholic Church to be His Kingdom, and hopefully, these next few posts will clarify why I believe that to be so.

If we ever wish to understand something we must first ask two questions: What is it? What is its function?

Before we treat these two questions regarding the universal church we should get a couple things out of the way. First, what does the term universal have to do with the term Catholic? Second, why do we call our church Catholic?

The first question deals with the relationship between the word ‘universal’ and the word ‘Catholic’. The relationship is this: Catholic means universal. ‘Catholic’ is the Greek and ‘universal’ is the Latin, both meaning the same thing. In both is the element of oneness, that is, all things being united as one. This should logically lead to another question: What do we mean by ‘all things’? What is it specifically? Our Lord gives us the answer.

Mt. 28:19-20: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and behold, I am with you always, to the close of the age.”

To answer the question of “what do we mean by ‘all things?’” Jesus tells us: all nations, all that He has commanded us (in other words, all teachings), and all times, thus we call our Church ‘Catholic’ because Jesus Christ established it to teach the truth to all nations until the end of time. ‘Catholic’ is the only word that can accurately communicate the oneness of all of these things. This is what constitutes the mission of the Church. This is what it is at its core. This is what makes it Catholic.

We can now move on to asking the more specific questions of what the Catholic Church is, how it is constituted, or more to the point: What was Jesus’ intention when he established His Catholic Church?

Based on the witness of Scripture, we can say that Jesus’ intention was that of a kingdom. In fact, this was the intention since His very conception in Mary’s womb. Consider what the angel Gabriel told Mary:

Luke 1:32-33: “He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

Elsewhere in Scripture, Jesus reveals his intention for what His Church is to be. Speaking to His Apostles in Luke 22: 29-30, He says, “As my Father appointed a kingdom for me, so do I appoint for you that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”

It’s clear that His intention for His Church is not to be that of a worldly kingdom. Consider what He tells Pontius Pilate when Pilate asks Him if He is the King of the Jews. Jesus answers Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world.” His kingdom is heavenly, not worldly, for if it is worldly it cannot be for all the nations. If it is worldly, then it cannot be without end as the angel said.

So we believe, with the overwhelming support of Scripture, that Jesus’ intention for His Church is to be a kingdom. But what is its function? As we read earlier, Jesus commissioned His Apostles to go to all the nations teaching them the truth until the end of time. The purpose of the kingdom is to provide the spiritual gifts of Truth and Life and the way to obtain these gifts. This echoes the words of Jesus when He tells us, “I am the way and the truth and the life.” If Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, and the Church’s mission is to dispense Truth and Life, then it is reasonable to conclude that the function of the Church, the Kingdom, is to make Jesus Christ available to all who believe.

The next post on this topic will begin by answering the question of who within the kingdom has been given this specific task of dispensing these gifts just mentioned.

An Intolerable Insult

WARSAW, June 16, 2009 (LifeSiteNews.com) – American pop-singer Madonna has generated a firestorm of controversy in Poland by scheduling her performance in Warsaw to coincide with a solemn religious feast honoring the Virgin Mary in the predominately Catholic nation.

Madonna brings her "Sticky & Sweet" tour, the eighth concert tour for the “Queen of Pop,” to Warsaw’s Bemowo Airport, on August 15, the day on which the Catholic Church celebrates the solemn Marian feast of the Assumption. On that day thousands of Poles traditionally make a pilgrimage to a Marian shrine known as the “Black Madonna” sanctuary in Jasna Gora, which is meant to honor the Virgin Mary, who is popularly credited with having delivered Poland from many crises in the nation’s history.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

A sign of contradiction

Testimony of Catholic paraplegic helped prevent four suicides

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In much the same way that Simeon prophesied about the mission of Jesus, this woman, too, was and continues to be a sign of contradiction. Her weakness is her power. Her infirmity and death truly meant life for others. This calls to mind the words of St. Paul: "Be imitators of me as I am of Christ." And again in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10:

"And to keep me from being too elated by the abundance of revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan, to harass me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I besought the Lord about this, that it should leave me; but he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' I will all the more gladly boast of my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me...for when I am weak, then I am strong."

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Ave Verum Corpus

Pope Benedict, in his book God is Near Us, draws out the connection between Christ’s death and the Eucharist, particularly in the second section entitled God’s Yes and His Love are Maintained Even in Death. Tomorrow we celebrate the Feast of Corpus Christi; reflection on the meaning of the Eucharist is in order.

Pope Benedict, recalling R. Bultmann’s proposition that Christ’s death may have been a failure, answers this with a rebuttal from scripture. Speaking from the heart of the Church’s Tradition, he holds fast to the fact that Christ’s death was Eucharistic in nature, a fact that can be ascertained by examining Christ’s words at the Last Supper. His Eucharistic prayer reveals the meaning of His death, the Paschal mystery that is the transformation of evil by the outpouring of Himself.

Before He ever institutes the Eucharist, He begins by offering a sign of what is to come. By the washing of the disciples’ feet, He places in bold relief what His Eucharistic prayer and death will accomplish: cleansing from sin by yielding to His love. Although we are dirty and unworthy, He condescends to us taking the form of a slave.

He then reclines with them at table and begins by saying, “This is my body…This is my blood,” whereby He further reveals the purpose of His death: the destruction of His flesh and the outpouring of His blood is the fulfillment of all of the Old Testament sacrifices. It is the perfect offering to the Father of a humble heart on our behalf. By saying also, “which is given for you…which is shed for you and for many,” He takes from Isaiah 53 thereby designating Himself as the Suffering Servant. In this, He fulfills the image of the exiled Israel by offering Himself in His suffering, but where Israel failed with regard to perfection, Jesus succeeded. As Israel was to represent all nations before the Father, Jesus represents all men. The pope writes: “He Himself is, so to speak, the pure representative, the one who does not stand on his own behalf, but stands before God on behalf of all.

Jesus continued: “This is the new covenant in my blood.” This constitutes the fulfillment of the New Covenant prophecy of Jeremiah 31:31. His blood, therefore, seals the New Covenant perfectly and eternally, and because this New Covenant was established for all men, the Eucharist, then, is the Father’s response to the yearnings of all religions. Christ Himself is the answer to all.

Such an answer has implications on the lives of all of us who have entered into Him. Our suffering, in union with Him, takes on a Eucharistic character. It becomes adoration and affirmation. Our bodies become His and this most substantially through reception of the Eucharist.

By examining the Eucharistic words of Christ, we can recognize that His death was not a failure, but was the means by which the greatest act of transformation tool place: in Him, death becomes life, adoration, affirmation, cleansing from sin, fulfillment of old covenants and establishment of new not for a select few but for all.

Friday, June 12, 2009

The Truth about Security and the Security of Truth

Materialism, being the raison d’etre of our present society, has proven itself to be the driving force for most decisions of most people. It is embraced as the means by which to obtain security, albeit an extremely false security as it is sought in that which is devoid of Truth.

Security is freedom from fear and anxiety as well as freedom from the danger of loss. This is clearly a good in the truest sense. There is not a sane person alive that would opt for insecurity over security. While understanding of how to obtain it may differ profoundly from one person to the next, the fact remains that security is good by its very nature.

To hold that security is good by its very nature should lead one to an even greater understanding of both God and security. Being that God is all-good, it is safe to conclude that the nature of security, which is good, receives its goodness from a certain source, that is, Security Itself – God. God also being Truth would necessitate that security can only be found in Truth. Through a simple method of substitution, we come to the realization that to be united to God is to be united to Security; in God, there is no fear or anxiety, nor is there any danger of loss. Conversely, to be separated from God (Truth) is to be united to fear, anxiety, and loss.

On a practical level, one can quickly ascertain the effects of materialism on the prevailing understanding of security and the means by which to obtain it. What is the reason that we buy and consume at an almost obsessive level? Why must our houses be turned into warehouses for our ever-expanding collection of stuff (for which we pay a great price) instead of a home for an ever-expanding family? The answer is that there is a certain perception of good in the possession of many things: increase in social status, establishment of a certain reputation, and an increase in options by which we amuse ourselves. Ultimately, these things are seen as synonymous with security – security for one’s reputation and social status, security in one’s ability to provide for oneself or family, even security to possess more through the inordinate amount of work done in order to make money that will be used to buy even more stuff.

The fundamental problem in the above philosophy is that the very thing that it seeks is the very thing that it destroys. It seeks security as the ultimate goal, yet in amassing a great collection of goods, that person has only increased the potential for loss. For the materialist, the greatest good is the possession of many things; therefore, the greatest fear of the materialist must necessarily be the loss of those things. At this point, what should be clear is that materialism is marked by increased danger of loss and the accompanying fear and anxiety. This marks the complete loss of security. In fact, one of the most telling signs of the insufficiency of materialism at gaining security is the constant need to gain more….and more….and more. Why more if security has been achieved? Can we not rest on our laurels once we’ve arrived at the goal? Clearly, the Goal has not been achieved. It has been avoided completely, and it is this Goal that haunts those who insist on substituting Him with every form of idol known to man, from statues in the ancient world to sex and money today. Francis Thompson may be the poster-child for this essay. In The Hound of Heaven, he wrote:

“I hid from Him, and under running laughter.
Up vistaed hopes I sped;
And shot, precipitated,
Adown Titanic glooms of chasmed fears,
From those strong Feet that followed, followed after…

They beat – and a Voice beat
More instant than the Feet –
‘All things betray thee, who betrayest Me.’”

To seek security in anything but the very source is to deny ourselves of that which we seek. Indeed, the more we seek it elsewhere, the more bitterly it flees and betrays us. We have assurance of the converse in the words of the Word Itself: “Seek first the Kingdom of God and all these things shall be added unto you.” In the non-canonical but creatively poetic words of Thompson, He reveals Himself to us as the goal that we desperately seek yet at the same time exclude in the words:

“Ah, fondest, blindest, weakest,
I am He Whom thou seekest!
Thou dravest love from thee, who dravest Me.”

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Prayer Request

I was recently informed about a young couple with a beautiful baby girl in need of prayer. She's less than a year old and in need of major heart surgery. She was born with a structural defect of her heart and the parents were told that if she doesn't have surgery within the next couple of weeks, she will probably die. So please stop what you're doing right now and send up an utterance.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Hound of Heaven

Following is the poem by Francis Thompson. I realize it's rather long, but it's certainly worth the read for those who haven't read it yet. It's worth another read for those who already have. The last three lines might be the best.

I fled Him, down the nights and down the days;
I fled Him, down the arches of the years;
I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways
Of my own mind; and in the mist of tears
I hid from Him, and under running laughter.
Up vistaed hopes I sped;
And shot, precipitated,
Adown Titanic glooms of chasmèd fears,
From those strong Feet that followed, followed after.
But with unhurrying chase,
And unperturbéd pace,
Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,
They beat—and a Voice beat
More instant than the Feet—
“All things betray thee, who betrayest Me.”

I pleaded, outlaw-wise,
By many a hearted casement, curtained red,
Trellised with intertwining charities;
(For, though I knew His love Who followèd,
Yet was I sore adread
Lest, having Him, I must have naught beside.)
But, if one little casement parted wide,
The gust of His approach would clash it to:
Fear wist not to evade, as Love wist to pursue.
Across the margent of the world I fled,
And troubled the gold gateways of the stars,
Smiting for shelter on their clangèd bars:
Fretted to dulcet jars
And silvern chatter the pale ports o’ the moon.
I said to Dawn: Be sudden—to Eve: Be soon;
With thy young skiey blossoms heap me over
From this tremendous Lover—
Float thy vague veil about me, lest He see!
I tempted all His servitors, but to find
My own betrayal in their constancy,
In faith to Him their fickleness to me,
Their traitorous trueness, and their loyal deceit.
To all swift things for swiftness did I sue;
Clung to the whistling mane of every wind.
But whether they swept, smoothly fleet,
The long savannahs of the blue;
Or whether, Thunder-driven,
They clanged his chariot ’thwart a heaven,
Plashy with flying lightnings round the spurn o’ their feet:—
Fear wist not to evade as Love wist to pursue.
Still with unhurrying chase,
And unperturbéd pace,
Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,
Came on the following Feet,
And a Voice above their beat—
“Naught shelters thee, who wilt not shelter Me.”

I sought no more that after which I strayed
In face of man or maid;
But still within the little children’s eyes
Seems something, something that replies,
They at least are for me, surely for me!
I turned me to them very wistfully;
But just as their young eyes grew sudden fair
With dawning answers there,
Their angel plucked them from me by the hair.
“Come then, ye other children, Nature’s—share
With me” (said I) “your delicate fellowship;
Let me greet you lip to lip,
Let me twine you with caresses,
With our Lady-Mother’s vagrant tresses,
With her in her wind-walled palace,
Underneath her azured dais,
Quaffing, as your taintless way is,
From a chalice
Lucent-weeping out of the dayspring.”
So it was done:
I in their delicate fellowship was one—
Drew the bolt of Nature’s secrecies.
I knew all the swift importings
On the wilful face of skies;
I knew how the clouds arise
Spuméd of the wild sea-snortings;
All that’s born or dies
Rose and drooped with; made them shapers
Of mine own moods, or wailful or divine;
With them joyed and was bereaven.
I was heavy with the even,
When she lit her glimmering tapers
Round the day’s dead sanctities.
I laughed in the morning’s eyes.
I triumphed and I saddened with all weather,
Heaven and I wept together,
And its sweet tears were salt with mortal mine;
Against the red throb of its sunset-heart
I laid my own to beat,
And share commingling heat;
But not by that, by that, was eased my human smart.
In vain my tears were wet on Heaven’s grey cheek.
For ah! we know not what each other says,
These things and I; in sound I speak—
Their sound is but their stir, they speak by silences.
Nature, poor stepdame, cannot slake my drouth;
Let her, if she would owe me,
Drop yon blue bosom-veil of sky, and show me
The breasts o’ her tenderness:
Never did any milk of hers once bless
My thirsting mouth.
Nigh and nigh draws the chase,
With unperturbèd pace,
Deliberate speed, majestic instancy;
And past those noised Feet
A voice comes yet more fleet—
“Lo! naught contents thee, who content’st not Me.”

Naked I wait Thy love’s uplifted stroke!
My harness piece by piece Thou hast hewn from me,
And smitten me to my knee;
I am defenceless utterly.
I slept, methinks, and woke,
And, slowly gazing, find me stripped in sleep.
In the rash lustihead of my young powers,
I shook the pillaring hours
And pulled my life upon me; grimed with smears,
I stand amid the dust o’ the mounded years—
My mangled youth lies dead beneath the heap.
My days have crackled and gone up in smoke,
Have puffed and burst as sun-starts on a stream.
Yea, faileth now even dream
The dreamer, and the lute the lutanist.
Even the linked fantasies, in whose blossomy twist
I swung the earth a trinket at my wrist,
Are yielding; cords of all too weak account
For earth with heavy griefs so overplussed.
Ah! is Thy love indeed
A weed, albeit an amaranthine weed,
Suffering no flowers except its own to mount?
Ah! must—
Designer infinite!—
Ah! must Thou char the wood ere Thou can’st limn with it?
My freshness spent its wavering shower i’ the dust;
And now my heart is as a broken fount,
Wherein tear-drippings stagnate, spilt down ever
From the dank thoughts that shiver
Upon the sighful branches of my mind.
Such is; what is to be?
The pulp so bitter, how shall taste the rind?
I dimly guess what Time in mists confounds;
Yet ever and anon a trumpet sounds
From the hid battlements of Eternity;
Those shaken mists a space unsettle, then
Round the half-glimpséd turrets slowly wash again.
But not ere him who summoneth
I first have seen, enwound
With glooming robes purpureal, cypress-crowned;
His name I know, and what his trumpet saith.
Whether man’s heart or life it be which yields
Thee harvest, must Thy harvest-fields
Be dunged with rotten death?

Now of that long pursuit
Comes on at hand the bruit;
That Voice is round me like a bursting sea:
“And is thy earth so marred,
Shattered in shard on shard?
Lo, all things fly thee, for thou fliest Me!
Strange, piteous, futile thing!
Wherefore should any set thee love apart?
Seeing none but I makes much of naught” (He said),
“And human love needs human meriting:
How hast thou merited—
Of all man’s clotted clay the dingiest clot?
Alack, thou knowest not
How little worthy of any love thou art!
Whom wilt thou find to love ignoble thee,
Save Me, save only Me?
All which I took from thee I did but take,
Not for thy harms,
But just that thou might’st seek it in My arms.
All which thy child’s mistake
Fancies as lost, I have stored for thee at home:
Rise, clasp My hand, and come!”
Halts by me that footfall:
Is my gloom, after all,
Shade of His hand, outstretched caressingly?
“Ah, fondest, blindest, weakest,
I am He Whom thou seekest!
Thou dravest love from thee, who dravest Me.”

Francis Thompson (1859-1907)

The Delusion of Belief?

I’ve recently had the pleasure to debate a self-avowed atheist via email. While I’m tempted to post his arguments (without his name attached), they’re a bit elementary. Most of his arguments for atheism consist of simply insulting belief in God’s existence as delusional. He even admitted that labeling Christianity as “delusional” is foundational to his argument, thus making his perspective unworthy of respect. He revels in his ability to use the phrase “fantastically arrogant” so many times in reference to belief in God that it’s become boring. Sounds like a page straight out of Christopher Hitchen’s playbook. He’s even resorted to claiming that a creator would have had to create the creator, and so on. How original. He drops names (philosophers’) like flies, but I wonder just how well-read he is for him to resort to such elementary arguments. What I post here is an argument that I put forth which he insists of sidestepping entirely:

From an atheistic perspective, you believe that all things in the world are governed and caused by the laws of biology, chemistry, and physics. Consequently, nothing that exists can function at all outside of these parameters. If all things in this world are governed only by the laws of biology, chemistry, and physics, then why do you dismiss belief in God as utter nonsense? For anyone to believe in God, such a reaction (the belief itself) must necessarily also be governed and even caused by the laws of biology, chemistry, and physics. You're the one that believes that nothing can be governed by anything beyond these. Do you think it's delusional for a lion to take down a gazelle? Of course not, because it's simply yielding to the laws that dictate its actions. Consequently, you're labeling as delusional literally billions of humans that are simply following these material laws. They apparently have no other choice than to believe, since it's these laws that caused it. And if it's possible to go against these laws, as you prove by your unbelief, then yet again we see the possibility of something beyond these laws at work. Anything that can operate beyond these laws is what we call supernatural, typically performed by what we call the spiritual. This then means that even your unbelief is a spiritual act. How ironic.

I’m presently waiting for his response. I’m sure it’ll be good.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Mountain Climbing

Today being the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, the Gospel reading was taken from Matthew 28:16-20. What particularly struck me in reading it was Matthew’s mention of “the mountain to which Jesus had directed them.” What’s the significance?

This imagery is evocative of the God of the Old Testament, the all-powerful God who time and time again made mountains the natural edifice upon which He revealed Himself to His people. In the New Testament, it fulfills this same purpose but reveals more. The disciples were commanded to ascend this mountain, and this ascension, I believe, serves not just a literal purpose in the scripture but also a spiritual one.

Upon ascending the mountain, the eleven apostles worshipped. Worship is unity with Him through submission. Submission was effected through the difficult ascension that was just made. What we see is the outline of the means by which mystical union with Him is effected. True worship and mystical union is brought about by “ascending the mountain” that he has called us to ascend. It is a denying of self, a self-sacrificing effort to rid ourselves of the horizontal in order to embark upon the vertical. This brings to mind Christ’s words, “And I, when I am lifted up, will draw all men to myself.” Christ was literally lifted up upon the cross, the cross that He carried up the mountain. In order to be brought up, we must first be brought low through suffering and a rejection of the flesh. It is as though Christ Himself, through this reading, is telling us, “I extend the same command to you. You must ascend! There is no other way to perfect the mystical union. Ascend! Rise above the world, the flesh, selfishness, lust, materialism, and seek out what is above for I am there.”

Though the apostles ascended with their backs to what was below, this did not magically remove doubt from their hearts. In fact, on a spiritual level, the effort of ascending may increase doubt, for it is an ascension into the unknown. The unknown becomes bearable, though, because of Christ’s words which seemed to have been spoken because of their doubt: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me…and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.” His authority is made manifest to us through submission to Him, and with the assurance of His authority comes the dispelling of fear and doubt. Christ pays us the intolerable compliment of extending the invitation of being made perfect, of entering deeply into Him and His mystery through worship. It is intolerable because of the mountain we must ascend. It is intolerable because of the Mystery Itself that we must dive into without thought for our own safety.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Homeland Security Beware: Radical Maritime Terrorists

I just finished watching a few minutes of Larry King interviewing the cast of Whale Wars, a group of activists who do what they can to prevent the hunting of whales. What I find extremely telling about our present culture is it's propensity to laud and honor radical extremists of the left type while labeling as potential terrorists activists on the right.

The inversion of values in our culture is obvious and has been for a long time, but it makes me feel better to point it out anyway. Let's compare and contrast the whale activists to pro-life activists. Pro-life activists have been branded as potential domestic terrorists because they reject the killing of unborn human beings so much so that they're willing to stand on sidewalks protesting in front of abortion clinics. Some of them actually go so far as to pray in front of the clinic. The most dangerous of them even attempt to dissuade women by offering them alternatives. The horror! Can you believe the lengths these people will go to force their agenda on the public?

The whale wars cast, on the other hand, are fighting a noble war with noble efforts. They risk their lives because they reject the killing of whales. They're willing to ram their boats into the sides of whaling ships. Some of them valiantly throw butyric acid onto the decks of the whaling ships. Other noble whale defenders bravely throw Methocel on the decks making it so slippery that the whaling crew is unable to walk upon it. It's inspiring to see the lengths they go in their acts of self-sacrifice in order to save whales.

To be fair, I must disclose the fact that in regard to whaling, I'm personally opposed to it, but I wouldn't want to force my beliefs on others. I think we should uphold the whalers' rights to kill as many whales as they want. In an effort to insure that their rights are protected, all regulations on whale-killing should be removed. Hell, even teenagers should be able to kill whales, especially baby whales. I would even propose the possibility of using federal taxes to pay for private whale-hunting expeditions. At some point in the near future, it would also be important to create a dialogue about mandating insurance coverage of whale-killing expeditions. But we really should do what we can to reduce the number of whale-killing.

The above is obviously tongue-in-cheek, but it truly is disturbing the see the trend in popular thought and culture. Imagine if pro-life activists threw acid at women walking into abortion clinics. What if they rammed their cars into clinics? What if...what if they bombed a clinic? Then they MUST be evil terrorists, right?

Check out the following link to get an idea of the tactics these wackos use to save whales: