The Bible ends with a poignant verse.
Come Lord Jesus, cries in a voice that resounds in the heart of every Christian.
Two thousand years ago, the conquered children of Israel looked forward to Him, even though they didn’t fully understand Who He was, and they certainly misunderstood what He would do.
The prophecies of the Christ begin in Genesis when God tells the serpent He will set enmity between the serpent and the Woman, that she would crush his head, and he would strike at her heel. This was not, note, a prophecy of Eve’s life, but of Mary, the New Eve whose quiet birth, unmarked as it was by the larger world, was the door opening on our salvation.
With Mary’s Immaculate Conception, the primal hope of the garden before the fall reawakened in human existence. It was given back to us as a free and totally unmerited gift by God. It set the stage for the coming of His Son, the long hoped-for Messiah.
Prophecies of Jesus began at the beginning, in the Garden, and are woven throughout the many thousands of years of history that tell the tales of His family in the book we call the Old Testament. It is the story of God, raising up a people by first calling one man to leave his home and go out into the wilderness.
It began, as these things always do, with a family; in Abraham’s case, a troubled and often sinful family that nevertheless trusted God. Not everything Abraham did was right, but he believed the Lord’s promises, and Scripture tells us that God “reckoned that to him as righteousness.”
There is a message in this for all of us. That message is simply that we need to trust God and follow Him without placing the unreachable burden of perfection on ourselves. Righteousness is found in trying to do God’s will and trusting our lives and our salvation to His mercy. Whatever we lack in ourselves and our efforts, He will supply. All we need to do is trust Him and do our best.
But how does God supply the lacks? How does He reach across the unfathomable gulf between our finiteness and His infinite transcendence? He did it by doing the unthinkable, by taking on human flesh, being born of a young woman and living, suffering and dying as one of us. Jesus was foretold over and over again throughout the Old Testament, but, as Steve Jobs famously said, it’s impossible to connect the dots going forward; you can only connect them looking back.
In the case of the many prophecies of Jesus the Christ, the prophecies of His second coming are intertwined with those of His first coming. The triumphant Lord of all history is foretold alongside the Suffering Servant of Calvary. Connecting those dots going forward was as confounding to the people of that day as connecting the dots of the Second Coming are to us. Theories and theology abound, and all of them are, to a great extent, educated guesses.
People of Jesus’ day skipped over the Suffering Servant prophecies and misinterpreted the salvation prophecies to weave together an interpretation of a warrior king who would make the nation of Israel into the dominant world power. They tried to connect the dots going forward and came up with a political interpretation which, while it comforted them in their sufferings as a conquered people who occupied the bottom rung on a significant trade route for the Roman Empire — The trade route mattered to the Romans. The people who lived there, not so much. — was wildly inaccurate.
They took comfort in the promised messiah of their own interpreting who would place his foot on the back of the Roman neck and make the Israelites the rulers of the world. Although this inaccurate interpretation comforted them in their daily problems, it led them into the mistake of missing the real Messiah when He actually came to them.
Nothing in their grandiose imaginings came close to the lowly carpenter’s son, born of a virgin in a stable and then forced to flee into exile soon afterwards. They were unprepared for parables and stories urging them to love and care for one another and talking about a Kingdom that would grow like a tiny mustard seed or the leaven in bread into something they could not fathom.
The idea that the Messiah would be executed like a common criminal and then rise from the dead only to leave the whole enterprise of Kingdom building in the hands of 12 men chosen from ordinary fishermen and tax collectors made no sense according to the false interpretation they had believed for so long.
And so the cornerstone of the new Kingdom became the stumbling block for God’s chosen ones. They, the apple of God’s eye, the ones from whom salvation comes, turned aside from their own salvation while the prostitutes and sinners, the rabble and riff-raff of outsiders, walked right in.
Advent is the season we set aside to consider these things. We know about the first coming of Christ. The dots are in our past, where we can see the pathway they form with clarity. We have the Church to explain these things to us, and we have 2,000 years of Christian teaching to make them clear.
So long as we confine our Advent meditations to mulling over the First Coming of Christ and think about our personal piety and our need for repentance and conversion, we are on fairly solid ground. We know what is expected of us as His followers. We know the story of God made man for our salvation.
But we are not at the end of the story. We still await the fulfillment of the prophecies. We are somewhere along the long row of dots that connect the planting of the mustard seed and the final harvest. We are, all of us, awaiting the day when He comes again.
Perhaps more to the point, we are traveling along our own road of life, journeying from birth to grave. We know — know — that our end of time is always imminent. One day our souls will be required of us, and none of us knows the day or the hour that will happen. That will be our end of time, when we go to Him, even if He has not yet returned to us.
Advent is the prophetic pot, simmering. It is a few weeks set aside for us to contemplate the mystery and the majesty of Christ coming. We have the history of His First Coming and the probably seriously misunderstood promises of His Second Coming, all intertwined with the certainty of our departing and going to Him.
We can’t — any of us — connect the dots looking forward. But we don’t have to. All we have to do is follow in the footsteps of Abraham, or Mary or Stephen or Priscilla or Paul or the woman with the hemorrhage or the blind man who would not deny Him and was put out of the Temple for his fealty. All we have to do is just believe Him and follow Him and trust that, even if the dots don’t connect in meaningful ways for us looking forward, they will be form a pattern of salvation when we look back.
Advent is a good great time to consecrate however much of our lives we have left to His Mercy. Trust and obey the old hymn says. There is no other way to be happy in Jesus.
Truer words were never spoken.
Spend a few minutes this advent contemplating the dots going forward into your eternity as well as those going back to the Immaculate Conception and to the stable. Are we living in the End Times? Perhaps. But in truth, it doesn’t much matter if we are.
Each and every one of us is living in his or her “end times” every single day. There is absolutely nothing to fear in this if you trust and obey. God’s mercy, which was poured out on all humanity from the wounded side of Jesus, is greater than our weakness, stronger than our failures, more loving than all our fears.
Just put your hand in His and let Him lead you Home. There is no other way.
Nobody knows but me.
That is the lament of victims of discrimination and violence throughout time.
They are trapped in the unimaginable alone experienced by people who fall into the hands of human monsters. It is impossible to describe the depth of terror, horror, pain and absolute, total and complete isolation that is part of the shock of being helpless in the hands of satan’s disciples on this earth.
The survivors can’t tell of it, not really. Because if they try, there are no words. Because if they try, they find that they are speaking to blank walls of incomprehension and denial.
The rest of us don’t want to hear these stories because they remind us of our own deep helplessness. People who have never looked into the pitiless eyes of satan in another person’s face and known that they were his to do with as he chose, do not want to consider that the only thing separating them from a similar fate is geography or chance.
There is nothing special about American Christians that we have not been subjected to the violence that attacks other Christians around the world. We are not more faithful. We are not more holy. Quite the opposite.
The difference between them and us is a matter of government. It is not innate in ourselves. The tightening noose of social discrimination that Christians face here either is a harbinger of worse to come or not, and that, whether we want to accept it or not, does depend on us.
We can choose to fight back and not go there. We can boycott the products of media outlets that defame us. We can speak out about our faith and defend ourselves.
Christians who live in places where killing Christians is always a question and not an anathema, live their lives under a genocidal Sword of Damocles.
We can not turn our backs on them and their stories of great suffering because it upsets us to be reminded that satan walks the earth in human form. We must not avoid them for fear that satan will come at us through the rage we feel over their suffering, that standing witness for them can open a doorway to satan in our own hearts.
People are suffering and dying for Christ, and it is our vocation in these times to stand witness.
Christians in the Middle East and in much of Africa are suffering their own Shoah. They are being annihilated and driven from their homes. They are being kidnapped, raped and sold into slavery.
The satanic barbarity of ISIS, Boko Haram, the Islamic Brotherhood and al-Qaeda are a testament to what giving your heart to satan and following him can turn people into. These men who do these things are fallen, fallen, fallen. They are satan’s disciples.
They are fallen, but the Christians they murder are lifted up. They are martyrs to Our Lord in the same way that Christians have been martyred for Jesus throughout our history. They are His saints. Every Christian that ISIS and Boko Haram murders goes to heaven. And each one of their murderers — unless they face the horrible reality of what they have done and repent from the heart — is destined for the flames of eternal hell. They will burn there alongside Hitler, Pol Pot, Idi Amin, Stalin, Osama bin Laden and all their followers.
No matter how they lie to themselves, these things they do are not of God. They are from the pit.
Our job, dear brothers and sisters, is to stand witness to our fallen brothers and sisters in Christ. We must tell their stories. We must lift them and their sacrifice up because they are being lifted up in the exact way that Our Lord was and for the same reason, so that the world can see them and be healed by turning to Him.
We need healing desperately in this world, and that healing we need can only come from one place: The Cross.
When we witness the violent persecution of Christians, we are seeing a re-enactment of Calvary in our world right in front of our eyes, today. Every Christian who suffers and dies at the hands of these satanic human monsters is Christ crucified again in real time in front of our eyes.
Can you wait with me one hour? Jesus asked Peter, James and John.
Will you run away from me again? He asks us. Will you shout crucify Him! as they did? Or, will you just walk away and hide your faces because bearing witness hurts too much?
We must stand witness to these our brothers and sisters in Christ who are suffering and dying for Him. We must. It is our charge, our call and duty. It is our vocation before God.
We must write about them and develop a literature for them as the Jews did for those who died in the Holocaust. Because this is another holocaust. It is the holocaust of Christians in an entire region of the world.
Satan’s lessor disciples; the ones who make fun of Christian persecution and who try to bully into silence those of us who must bear witness, are our small cross. Their carping bits of nastiness should be meaningless to us. Offer up whatever pangs you feel for those who have died and pray for those who do this, then keep on keeping on bearing witness to the truth of this martyrdom of a whole people for their faith in Christ.
It is painful and exhausting to stand witness to atrocity. But we must do it, and we must do it in the Lord.
Any lessor action would be running away from Him all over again.
Nuns Off a Bus. Sisters, arriving at the Benediction.
I don’t know what to say about the whole “black mass” deal.
They did their uggidy-buggidy thingamajig.
I didn’t get near it. And I’m not going to get near it now. If you want to read about the uggidy-buggidy black mass and the brain-dead fools who attended it, google is ready when you are. You’ll find none of that here.
I went to the Holy Hour and Bendiction conducted by Archbishop Coakley. I suppose I could begin writing about all this by telling you that, based on what I experienced, this was a real deal.
I had a hard time getting to the Holy Hour and Benediction. All day the day before I experienced the most dreadful spiritual crisis I have been through since I converted to the Catholic Church. My mind was deluged with negative thoughts, to the point that I began to wonder if I even was Catholic or had a right to enter any Church.
Then, at mass that evening, I prayed and prayed and it let up.
Later that night, I got hit with a sudden and rather violent gastrointestinal thing.
It was at that point that I finally recognized old scratch.
The next day, I thought about skipping the whole Benediction. I felt so terrible, and now I was tormented with thoughts that I might meet a particular person there who had hurt me in the past and who I dread ever seeing again.
I prayed, and knew that I needed to go.
I told a friend of mine that all this made me feel as if the devil thought that if Rebecca Hamilton showed up at this Benediction he would be cast back into hell. I told her that if other people were getting a dose of what I was getting, I feared that the church might be empty.
But, despite all this, I went.
And what I experienced was the Presence and Love of Christ.
There were a lot of young people wearing red t-shirts with Oklahoma on the front. The back read Sooner Born, Catholic Bred.
That’s a play on an Okie saying: I’m Sooner born and Sooner bred and when I die, I’ll be Sooner dead.
The prayer service was, for me, an exorcism of sorts. I prayed more deeply than I have in many months, and during the praying I went down into the seamy side of my own soul and confessed sins I had walked into that service not knowing I was harboring. It was cleansing, renewing and deeply, deeply humbling in the most beautiful way possible.
I think the reason that the devil had such a good go at me before the Benediction was that he had his claws hooked into me already. Writing about ISIS, seeing the photos of what they’ve done to people, is a gateway for satan. That came on top the raw hurt and anger I have about a gay friend of mine who dumped our lifelong friendship (which was as close as family; he was my brother) and who then went out on the internet to attack me — all over gay marriage. Then, there was that person I mentioned, the one I was afraid I would encounter at the Benediction. I had allowed myself to become a seething pit of resentment because of them.
The first two, personal, things, made me an easy target. But ISIS, which is satanic through and through, raised it to an active rageful anger. ISIS, Boko Haram, and all their stepbrothers, are satanic. Their beheadings, rapes, kidnappings, buying and selling of women and children, church burnings and genocides are just as much a black mass as what happened in Oklahoma City yesterday. When they say they do these things in the name of God, they add unspeakable blasphemy on top of their unspeakable actions.
The difference is that, for all its crudity, satan takes off his mask in the black mass and comes out as himself. When he gets inside people and uses them as his instruments on a governmental scale, what you get is Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot, ISIS, Boko Haram and al-Qaeda. I don’t know what you get when he comes out as himself as he did yesterday (except a carny sideshow conducted by a convicted rapist) but I do know that Christ is fully able to cast him down with a flick of the finger. I experienced that in a profound and deeply personal way yesterday.
I don’t know about the other people at the Benediction, but I needed what I got there. I barely managed to force myself to go, and what I experienced was a deeply cleansing encounter with Our Lord. It was, for me, a small and much-needed exorcism.
I was in the overflow in the church gymnasium. I got there an hour early, and the gym was already mostly full. I sat on a folding chair on what was then the back row. Later, they added more chairs behind me.
The Eucharistic Procession. I was near the back of the line.
I took bad photos with my iPhone and settled in. It wasn’t until the Benediction entered into its first time of private prayer that I plunged, head first, into a dialogue with Jesus. I found myself, my real self, in that time of prayer. I saw my sins, my need to forgive and how deeply God loves me. One thing that came to mind is so simple and powerful.
Before I went to the Benediction, I prayed and asked if, considering how really lousy I was feeling, I had to go. And He answered me.
Think about that.
God, the God who made the deep reaches of space and time and everything there is everywhere there is, stooped down and answered me. Who am I that God should notice my existence, much less engage in dialogue with me and answer my prayers?
He cares. He cares about us. He loves you and me and everyone else. Think about that, my brothers and sisters. Let it roll around in your mind and consider the magnitude of what it means to say, I prayed and He answered me.
He loves each and everyone of us. He enters into dialogue with us, despite our silly and limited little brains and our flawed and sinful souls. He loves us.
Let me say that again: He loves us.
By their fruits you shall know them.
Jesus said that. And it is true.
The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. St Paul told us that, and it is also true.
When I read that list, I know — know — how far I am from truly walking with the Lord. God offers me love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. I nibble at these things, like someone sampling a salad bar.
But I save a huge portion of my spiritual plate for resentments, angers, self-righteousness, fear, blame and shame.
The truth is, to the extent that we cling to and protect ourselves, we deny ourselves the free gifts of the spirit. We have to lay it all down on the altar and trust Him.
That doesn’t, never has, come easily for me. I am not a trusting person. If I ever was a trusting person, happenings in my life have knocked it out of me. It is as if someone somewhere decided to teach me one thing and then to reteach it over and again throughout my life: You can’t trust people.
People will turn on you on a dime. People will abandon you when you are in disgrace. People will betray your confidences, search out and display your shames and, when you need them most, deny they ever knew you.
Does that sound familiar? It should. I began that paragraph writing about my own life experiences, and ended it with the realization that I was also writing about the Passion of Our Lord.
He wants to love us.
Why, I do not know.
But He does. And He wants it so much that He became one of us and allowed us to treat Him the way we do one another. He allowed satan to gloat and howl with delight as He was humiliated, stripped, tortured and murdered.
If the degradations of humanity that take place at the hands of satan’s disciples in ISIS, Boko Haram and all the other haters of humanity that stalk our world are a black mass, then, they also are, despite their evil intentions, the reenactment of His Passion. The victims of ISIS are the ultimate Eucharist, in human form. When I am writing about the victims of ISIS, and all its evil twins, I am writing about Him, and His Passion.
Satan intended his little uggidy-buggidy carny show to harm Christ. He can’t get at God, so he tries to get at God through us. He can do that because God loves us.
I allowed myself to become so overwhelmed by the evils of our day, and the sadness of humans hurting one another in my private life, that I gave him purchase in my own soul.
If the black mass was meant as a way into our world for satan, it backfired, at least where I am concerned. I experienced a little exorcism at the Benediction yesterday. God brought me back, snug against His side once again.
For this I am both awestruck and grateful.
Archbishop Coakley, holding the Host aloft.
Yesterday I took a nap.
I woke to my outraged son, wanting to know why I hadn’t answered my phone.
It seems that while I was sleeping, my 89-year-old Mama took off. She wandered the neighborhood until a wonderful neighbor took her in. The only thing Mama could get straight enough to tell her was my phone number.
But I was asleep. The phone was on the bed beside me. Just in case. I vaguely remember dreaming about the phone ringing. But it didn’t wake me. All my life, I’ve slept deep. I guess yesterday, I was sleeping really deep.
Somehow — I’m not sure how — the neighbor managed to contact one of my sons at work. He left his job and — in his own words — drove like the proverbial bat to get to Amah.
Amah, meanwhile, was fine. She was having a chirpy little old lady good time, visiting with the neighbors.
It turns out that Mama has been traveling the neighborhood at night. She’s been getting up at 3 or 4 in the morning and going to neighbor’s houses and getting them up to chat. They bring her home and we don’t know anything about it.
This is my nightmare scenario so far as Mama is concerned. If she starts wandering — and it appears she’s well into her wandering phase — I don’t know how to take care of her.
We’re reconfiguring things as I write. She’s getting a gps necklace. And we’re putting alarms on all the doors alert the police and should even get me awake and moving. We’re also reconfiguring the front door and garage doors so she can’t get out at night. She can go into the back yard all she wants. But not out the front.
I’m also going to sell some property to get the money to hire people to babysit with her when I have to be gone in the evenings. She goes to adult day care — a heaven-sent program that saves lives and money by allowing families to keep their elderly and disabled family members at home and still hold down jobs — during the day. A family member is with her most of the rest of the time.
But, we need someone to babysit once in a while, too. It’s the easiest baby sitting in the world; just dial up the sports channel, get Mama a diet Coke and make sure she doesn’t wander out the front door.
I can’t tell you how much I love Mama. We all do. The whole family is 100% involved in taking care of her. I am not some martyr for Mama who is doing all this alone. My sons do an enormous amount of the Amah care, and they do it cheerfully, lovingly and without complaint. My husband gets into it too.
Mama is a family project of love.
I hope that God gives us many more years with her. I’ve prayed at times when she was sick, asking for more time. But that is in His hands. My main prayer, which I pray fervently and often, is that Mama will be happy and not suffer. I trust her life to God. I know where she’s going when it’s time.
About a week ago, while we were out on Mama’s daily drive and ice cream run, she told me that she loved her “job” (adult day care) and that she enjoyed our drives so much. She took a few laps on her ice cream cone, then smiled. “I’m very happy,” she said.
That’s everything I ever wanted.
There are two kinds of people who obsessively watch porn.
Those who enjoy it.
Those who believe it.
Either way, porn is addicting and degrading. Porn is based on degrading a group of people for the titillation of those who get off on the degradation.
Both those who watch porn because they enjoy it, and those who believe it, will become addicted to it if they don’t pull back from it. That alter world where degradation of other people reigns will take them over and the day will come when they find they can’t just turn it off.
The difference between those who watch it for the titillation alone, and those who get so wound into it that they believe it, is the difference between doing harm to oneself and doing harm to others.
The porn believers can become dangerous as they seek to act out the things they have watched. Every prostitute I’ve ever known has told me about painful and rather hideous things johns did to them in attempts to live out things they’d seen in porn. Rape victims report the same stories.
I would guess that the international sex tourism industry finds its customers among porn believers. Acting out fantasies of degrading other people can take porn believers over. That leads to every kind of horror for their victims.
These same assessments also apply to intellectual porn. All the demagogues of all the eras and epochs of history instinctively knew this. They could, by producing the mind porn of hate politics, gain power. It was — and is — as seductive to the demagogue as to the demagogues’ followers.
The practice of moral and intellectual demagoguery gets votes. It ups ratings, sells books and pleases advertisers. It also confers a kind of heady, ego-driven power over other people.
There are, as usual, two kinds of people who obsessively watch this intellectual porn or listen to it on the radio.
Those who get off on the titillation it provides.
Those who believe it.
The trouble with demagogic porn is that it never, ever, claims to be a fantasy. Point a finger at sexual pornographers and one of their first defenses is that “it’s not real.”
But the purveyors of intellectual porn always, always, always claim that what they are saying is factual and true. They can get away with this because it usually is based on facts. What they leave out is that the facts are carefully selected to promote one viewpoint and that the facts are mixed with a lot lying implications.
Here is a case in point:
The sudden incessant discussion of the supposedly all-new “border crisis” is moral and intellectual porn. It is obvious demagoguery.
This story gets ramped up every bi-election season. Then, after the votes are counted, it goes away. It is being put out there right now because we are in a bi-election season.
It is political demagoguery, designed to gain power. It is also intellectual and moral porn of the worst sort.
The problem of people coming over America’s southern border illegally is real. The trajectory of children crossing the border alone has taken on a 70 degree angle. It has gone up, and is going up.
However, the wild stories about gangs meeting them at the border to recruit them and how one in four of them are “criminals” are untrue. They are being told to ratchet up the emotions and build the outrage past rational thought. The constant 24/7 drumbeat of hysteria about this issue is manufactured for political reasons.
One of the simplest and most effective things we could do to stem this tide of people crossing into our country illegally would be to severely punish the business interests who hire them. If they couldn’t find jobs, a lot of this would go away.
If you try to pass a law like this, the business interests will work against it with all they’ve got. And they will win, especially if the people who are running the show at the time are Rs. I’m not just saying this. I’ve seen it. I can also verify with court actions taken by business interests to attack such laws.
We also need to look past the Rio Grande and consider why they’re coming. We spend billions “building” countries in other hemispheres. Perhaps we should take a more serious look at our own.
However, this is all talk. Nobody is going to fix the border problem. Nobody wants to fix it. Just try to act on either of these two suggestions and watch who will object. It will be the same people who own the media that runs this bi-election immigration frenzy.
This reportage is demagoguery for political purposes.
It is moral and intellectual porn designed to whip people around. It uses fear and hatred of other people to get viewers worked up past the thinking point and keep them there until November. It turns good people into the face of ugly. At that point, it is impossible to reason with the viewers and believers of this porn. They are irrational.
The easiest and simplest way to avoid falling into the porn trap (whatever the type of porn) is to follow the teachings of the Catholic Church.
No other church will take the stands on issues where the public is all whipped up against them. Other denominations follow the zeitgeist. It pains me to say this, but all I have to do is consider the sounding silence I’m hearing from everyone but the Catholic Church right now, and the ugliness I’ve seen on this one issue from various clergy in the past.
If you want to go to heaven, do what the Church teaches. If you want to follow Christ, then turn off the porn.
What these media people are doing by deliberately whipping people up into mass hatred in order to change how they vote is deeply immoral. It is anti-Christ.
If you blindly follow them, you become immoral and anti-Christ, right along with them.
My delete file is bulging with ugly, bitter and downright crazy diatribes against both me and the Catholic bishops because I dare to say this.
So be it.
I am a Christian. I am a Catholic. I choose Christ.
It is my responsibility as a Christian, Catholic blogger who chooses Christ to say this. If nobody listens, that’s on them.
I received a blanket email from the USCCB last night, asking me to contact my United States Senator in opposition to S 2578.
S 2578 is the little ditty that Majority Leader Reid and his cohorts have dreamed up to overturn the Hobby Lobby decision.
The USCCB also has a notice on their web site that provides background and a clear-cut statement of reasons behind this opposition. As a member of the Democratic Party, I wish to apologize for this attack on religious liberty by some of my party’s leaders. I also ask all Catholics who read this to consider taking action at the grassroots level to begin to process of converting this party back to what it should be, which is the party of working people.
I’ll talk more about what Republicans need to change in their party in other posts.
Nobody gets off the hook here. We’re Americans. Government of, by and for the people, means that we are at least partly responsible for this mess, if for no other reason than that we haven’t used the power we have to set things straight.
I’m going to do my best to track votes on S 2578 for you. It’s a litmus test on religious freedom. If your senator votes for this thing, there are no ameliorating circumstances. R or D, it makes no difference. They have attacked our First Freedom.
In the meantime, here is the USCCB article, in full.
Cardinal O’Malley, Archbishop Lori To Senate: Oppose Bill That Attacks Religious Freedom