Pope Francis: The Whole Journey of Life is a Journey of Preparation for Heaven

I have a friend who told me once that her goal in life was to go to heaven.

I found this a little startling at the time. I had always thought of going to heaven as more of a by-product than a goal. My view was something like “you follow Jesus and trust Him and going to heaven is a by-product of that.”

I had never considered that heaven might be a goal that you aimed for all on its own. However, this particular friend is such a good Christian and so deeply wise in ways that I am still learning that I never questioned that there was a truth I didn’t understand in what she had said.

Time has passed and she and I are both older. As usual, I am slowly coming around to the spiritual truth that she saw all along. Heaven isn’t something you can earn with your good works. It certainly isn’t a territory that you can seize by force. It is the destination of a life lived in Christ.

In a real sense, we are already citizens of heaven right now as we live out our time in this life. Following Jesus means walking the Way that leads straight through the Pearly Gates.

Pope Francis spoke of something similar to this in his morning homily yesterday. “The whole journey of life is a journey of preparation for heaven,” he said.

He was teaching about the Gospel passage which relates Jesus, telling the Disciples that He is going ahead of them to prepare a place for them in His Father’s house. Jesus was talking about his return to heaven and the Disciples ultimate destination of heaven.

Pope Francis applied what Jesus said to the disciples to the lives of every Christian. “Prepare a place means preparing our ability to enjoy the chance, our chance to see, to feel, to understand the beauty of what lies ahead, of that homeland towards which we walk,” he said.

I think what my friend was trying to tell me is something very like what Pope Francis said yesterday. If we live our lives properly, they are a preparation, a kind of getting in shape, for the life to come. 

I’ve always thought that is the real purpose of purgatory. I don’t see it as punishment, but as cleaning up, refitting us so that we can be happy in heaven. There is no way most of us are ready for heaven when we leave this earth. We need a way station of some sort to get our heads right for heaven.

But there are those, like my friend, who are close to being good to go right now. They’ve lived their lives pointing heaven-ward by following Jesus from the inside of their beings out to their smallest actions.

I’m the last person to be an expert on this, considering the way I’ve lived my life and the way I keep on messing up even now. I’m far from thinking heaven-ward. But I am slowly beginning to start.

It may be just that I’m getting older. It may be that the world in which I live is becoming increasingly hostile to Christians. But heaven is becoming more real to me.

I am beginning to realize that heaven is home. 

From CNA:

.- “The whole journey of life is a journey of preparation” for heaven, Pope Francis said during his homily at Friday morning Mass.

The Pope reflected on the Gospel passage from St. John for today in which Jesus tells the disciples not to be afraid or troubled because he goes to prepare a place in the Father’s house for them.

“Prepare a place means preparing our ability to enjoy the chance, our chance, to see, to feel, to understand the beauty of what lies ahead, of that homeland towards which we walk,” he remarked.

Members of the Vatican Typography office attended the Eucharistic celebration on April 26, alongside the Vatican Labor Office and Vatican State Police inside St. Martha’s House chapel.

The Pope noted that Jesus talks “like a friend, even with the attitude of a pastor.”

“Let not your hearts be troubled, believe in God, believe also in me,” says Jesus, according to today’s Gospel.

“In my Father’s house there are many rooms, if it were not so would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?” Christ asked the disciples.

The Pope called these “really beautiful words” and asked the congregation what they thought that “place” was like. (Read the rest here.) 

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Christian Persecution: Six Quick Takes

This week’s six quick takes on Christian Persecution include one that I’m not entirely sure about, another that deals with a 100-year-old genocide, and the usual dismal roundup of wanton killings, abductions and imprisonment of Christians around the globe. 

I think there are two reasons why Christianity is attacked. First, as President Obama said in a speech a few years ago, it is revolutionary. His complaint at the time was that the Sermon on the Mount, would, if it was followed, lead to disarmament.

Indeed.

Governments the world over have tried to control the revolutionary message of Christ in one of two ways: Co-opt it, or attack it. Hitler was an example of co-opting coupled with attacks against those who didn’t buy into his program, while Stalin and the Communist states are examples of outright attack.

That division seems to hold up right to this day and even here in America. Right wing politicians are more prone to claim their religiosity while attempting to twist the Gospels to support their goals and left-wing politicians tend to veer toward limiting religious freedom with ironic claims of inclusion and tolerance.

Christianity has a better record of standing up to outright attack than it does co-option. I suppose that’s only natural. If somebody punches you in the nose, you know you’ve been hit. But if they flatter you and tell you how great you are while they ask you to sign the title to your house away, it’s harder to catch. Or, at least it is for some people.

The second reason is that Christianity is attacked is that it is true. Jesus really is the Son of God. He really did die for our sins and He really did rise again on the third day. He really is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

It is politically incorrect to say that, but taking offense to the truth does not make it untrue. People resent the claims that Jesus makes on their hearts and their lives. They want to be their own little gods, but they are unwilling to admit what that means. So … they attack the only hope they have.

Pope Francis talks about satan more than is politically correct, even for a Pope. But he is right to do this. Christianity is attacked because it is the Light, and the darkness hates it.

This week’s quick takes focus mainly on the nose-punching type of attack on Christians, rather than the soft-soap of the co-opters. As always, there’s a heavy dose of persecution from the Middle East. I decided to include the Armenian genocide because these people have been forgotten in the name of political expedience. I’ve read that out of a population of 2 million Armenian Christians, 1.5 million were murdered. Their blood, like Abel’s, cries out from the ground. 

I also included a story about the Pentagon blocking the Southern Baptist web site. I had read about this in several places, but only decided to take it seriously (I’m still confused by it.) because Fox News carried it. Note: I was wise to doubt this story. The Pentagon has explained that their computer detected malware on the SBC website. They say they were not blocking the site. You can read about that here

Here are the Six Quick Takes about Christian Persecution this week. I hope that you read each of them prayerfully. 

1. NIGERIA 

 

18 More Followers Of Christ Slaughtered By Muslim Attackers In Christian Village Of Mile Bakwai

Morning Star News – “Hosea Mashaf was resting in his village of Chirang Mangor, Nigeria, when area Christian youths told him that armed, Muslim Fulani herdsmen were attacking the Christian village of Mile Bakwai.

The 45-year-old farmer and other Christians rushed to Mile Bakwai, three kilometers away in the Bokkos Local Council Area of Plateau State, the night of March 27 to see how they might aid the Christians there, he told Morning Star News.

‘When we got there, the gunmen had already retreated,’ Mashaf said. ‘I saw dead bodies scattered all over the village. I counted the dead bodies we recovered, and in all we had 18 Christians who were killed by the Muslim attackers.’

They found five of those bodies in a minibus, he said.

‘They were travelling in a bus back to our village when they ran into the attack going on at Mile Bakwai village,’ Mashaf said. ‘They were killed by the attackers when they shot at the bus, which crashed into a building, but the attackers went to the place where the bus was and shot the occupants. Five of them were killed, while two others were injured.’

Dead were Geofrey Mafuyai, 35; Mahana Jamok, 50; Arandon Yusuf, 18; Dung Dalyop, 38; and, Mbata Machif, 36. Maju Mahana, 25, and Nanle Enoch, 18 were wounded and received treatment at the ECWA Evangel Hospital in Jos, he said.

The 18 slain were members of Nigerian Baptist Convention, Christ Apostolic Church and Church of Christ in Nigeria (COCIN) congregations, sources said. The Rev. James Danladi Mahwash of the Bishara Baptist Church in Mile Bakwai village said five of his church members were killed, including the financial secretary of the Men’s Missionary Union of his church, 25-year-old Jamle Benjamin Sunday. (Read more here.)

2. USA

 

Pentagon Blocks Access to Southern Baptist Website

By Todd Starnes

NOTE: A reader passed along the Pentagon’s response to this. They say that the problem was a result of their software detecting malware on the SBC’s website. You can read that story here.

The U.S. Military has blocked access to the Southern Baptist Convention’s website on an unknown number of military bases because it contains “hostile content” — just weeks after an Army briefing labeled Evangelical Christians and Roman Catholics as examples of religious extremism, Fox News has learned.

The Southern Baptist Convention is the nation’s largest Protestant denomination known for its support of the pro-life movement and its strong belief in traditional marriage.

Southern Baptist chaplains reported that SBC.net   had been blocked at military installations around the nation. An Air Force officer told Fox News that when he tried to log on to the website he received a message that his Internet usage was being logged and monitored for trying to access a blocked site.

The censorship was made public after an Army officer tried to log onto the denomination’s website and instead — received a warning message.

“The site you have requested has been blocked by Team CONUS (C-TNOSC/RCERT-CONUS) due to hostile content,” the message read.

Team CONUS protects the computer network of the Dept. of Defense. The SBC’s website was not blocked at the Pentagon.

It’s unclear what the “hostile content” might have been. The SBC is pro-life and opposed to same-sex marriage. (Read more here.)

3. EGYPT

 

Egyptian Muslims murdering Christians with impunity

Ten people are dead following clashes between Muslims and Coptic Christians in Egypt. The people have been killed over the past few weeks which have seen spates of violence between Christians defending their churches and homes from angry Muslims. Few Muslim attackers ever face justice.

CAIRO, EGYPT (Catholic Online) – Clashes between Muslims and Christians have claimed 10 live in Egypt where sectarian violence between the groups has been renewed in the face of Mohammed Morsi’s administration.

The most recent spate of violence started after children drew crosses on the walls of an Islamic institute in Khosoos, just north of Cairo. That acts of children’s vandalism sparked a bloody retaliation from Muslims in which four Christians and a Muslim were killed.

At the Christian funeral, Muslims struck again, this time carrying on until they reached the Coptic cathedral and damaged the structure. More Christians were murdered. (Read more here.)

4. TURKEY

 

The Armenian Genocide and Turkey’s Attempt to Deny It

From 1915 to 1917 the Young Turk regime in the Ottoman Empire carried out a systematic, premeditated, centrally planned genocide against the Armenian people.  One of the documents authenticated by Turkish authorities in 1919 is a telegram sent in June 1915 by Dr. Sakir, one of the leaders of the secret organization that carried out the planning and implementation of the Genocide.  He asks the provincial party official who is responsible for carrying out the deportations and massacres of Armenians within his district: “Are the Armenians, who are being dispatched from there, being liquidated? Are those harmful persons whom you inform us you are exiling and banishing, being exterminated, or are they being merely dispatched and exiled? Answer explicitly….”

The evidence of intent is backed also by the outcome of the actions against the Armenians: it is inconceivable that over a million persons could have died due to even a badly flawed effort at resettlement.  Moreover, the pattern of destruction was repeated over and over in different parts of Turkey, many of them far from any war zone; such repetition could only have come from a central design.  Further, the reward structure was geared toward destruction of the Christian minority: provincial governors and officials who refused to carry out orders to annihilate the Armenians were summarily replaced.

More than one million Armenians perished as the result of execution, starvation, disease, the harsh environment, and physical abuse.  A people who lived in eastern Turkey for nearly 3,000 years lost its homeland and was profoundly decimated in the first large-scale genocide of the twentieth century.  At the beginning of 1915 there were some two million Armenians within Turkey; today there are fewer than 60,000.

Despite the vast amount of evidence that points to the historical reality of the Armenian Genocide, eyewitness accounts, official archives, photographic evidence, the reports of diplomats, and the testimony of survivors, denial of the Armenian Genocide by successive regimes in Turkey has gone on from 1915 to the present.

The basic argument of denial has remained the same, it never happened, Turkey is not responsible, the term “genocide” does not apply. (Read more here.)

5. SYRIA

 

Kidnapped bishops raise fears of Christian nightmare in Syria

ICC Note: Vatican spokesman, Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi, condemned the kidnapping of two archbishops and said Pope Francis is “following [the] events with deep participation and intense prayer.” The bishops were abducted by armed rebels on Monday in the village of Kfar Dael, near Aleppo, Syria while carrying out humanitarian work. The bishops are the most senior church leaders abducted in the conflict which has now killed more than 70,000 people across Syria. The kidnapping “is a dramatic confirmation of the tragic situation in which the Syrian people and its Christian community are living,” Lombardi said.

By John L. Allen Jr.

4/23/2013 Syria (National Catholic Reporter) – Rome on Tuesday reacted with alarm to the kidnapping of two Orthodox bishops in Syria, fearing it may mark the beginning of the nightmare scenario: that Syria will become the next Iraq, meaning the next Middle Eastern country where Christians emerge as primary victims of the chaos following the disintegration of a police state.

A Vatican spokesman called the kidnappings “a dramatic confirmation of the tragic situation in which the Syrian people and its Christian community are living.”

According to a report from the Asia News agency, the two bishops were stopped at gunpoint by armed men Monday on their way to the city of Aleppo. A catechist traveling with them was shot to death while the two bishops were forced out of the car and taken away.

The prelates involved are the Syriac Orthodox bishop of Aleppo, Msgr. Youhanna Ibrahim, and the Greek Orthodox Metropolitan of Aleppo and Iskenderun, Msgr. Boulos al-Yaziji. Both are well known in Rome as veterans of ecumenical dialogue with the Catholic church.

The identity of their kidnappers remains unclear, but sources in Syria say kidnapping of Christians has become a growth industry as various armed factions look for ways to fund their activities. (Read more here.)

6. CHINA: 

 

Seven House Church Leaders Sentenced to Prison

4/21/2013 China (ChinaAid) – Also in Henan, seven house church leaders were sentenced on April 1 to prison sentences ranging from three to 7-1/2 years, according to the well-known Christian lawyer Li Baiguang. Their defense lawyers received the verdict and sentencing papers just last week.

Han Hai, 7-1/2 year sentence, male, aged 60, previously administratively detained twice, was also sentenced to a labor camp for three years. Now held in the Ye County Detention Center.

Hu Linpo, seven year sentence, from Singapore, male, aged 49, the house church’s main preacher, was detained in 1989 for 30 days. Criminally detained on April 18 and is now held in the Ye County Detention Center.

Yang Lianbing, three-year sentence, male, aged 23, working in Zhengzhou. Now held in the Ye County Detention Center.

Zhang Mian, four-year sentence, female, aged 37, owner of the residence where the church meets. Criminally detained on April 20, now held in the Pingdingshan Detention Center.

Cao Xia, 3-1/2-year sentence, female, in her 50s, owner of another residence where the church meets. Police seized from her home CDs of Hu Linpo preaching and a computer used to make copies of the sermon CDs. Police also confiscated a Chinese-made Liebao SUV parked outside Cao’s home that belonged to a Christian man who was there to listen to the preaching. Cao was criminally detained on April 20 and is now held in the Pingdingshan Detention Center.

Wang En, three-year sentence, female, in her 20s, taken from Cao Xia’s home, said to have helped make copies of Preacher Hu’s sermon CDs. Held in the Ye County Detention Center.

Li Dan, three-year sentence, female, in her 20s, taken from Cao Xia’s home, probably for copying CDs. Held in the Pindingshan Detention Center. (Read more here.)

 

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Syrian Priest: Clinging to Christ and Serving the People of God

“Do you know what I have done to you?” Jesus asked the Disciples after He washed their feet on the night before His crucifixion. With this action and these words He initiated the servant priesthood.

Nowhere is servant priesthood more evident than in places like war-torn Syria. Two Syrian bishops were kidnapped earlier this week while they were on a mission to try to save others. Their fate is still unknown.

I cannot imagine the feelings of a parish priest in a country where the bishops are kidnapped and the flock is either running for its life or facing unimaginable realities. The word “shepherd” takes on a whole new dimension in circumstances like these. When priests stay and do not run in times of peril, when they continue to bring the sacraments and simultaneously work alongside aid workers to provide for the everyday needs of their people, they bring current reality to shine on what happened in that upper room 2,000 years ago.

Zenit recently published an interview with a priest from Aleppo, Syria. Aleppo is the near the place where the two bishops were kidnapped. I think it’s worth reading because it shows us what a true priest does in times of death and terror to both himself and the people God has entrusted to his care.

From Zenit:

On Clinging to Christ and Serving the People of God

Aleppo, (Zenit.orgRobert Cheaib 

A new escalation in the already untenable tension of the Syrian tragedy was reached Monday evening with the kidnapping of two bishops: Mar Gregorios Yohanna Ibrahim, Metropolitan of Aleppo of the Syro-Orthodox, and Mar Boulos el-Yazji, Orthodox Metropolitan of Aleppo.

A new burden of fear and of the unknown was laid on the already afflicted hearts of Syrian Christians.

What will happen after this new crossroads? ZENIT interviewed a priest who perseveres in his land and in his parish in Aleppo. To protect his safety and that of his relatives and of his community, the priest’s interview is published anonymously. He himself said to us: “My name is not important. What is important is that the voice and witness, the suffering and the hope of Christians is proclaimed.”

We wished to hear from him about the echoes of daily life in the shadow of the unknown, in the shadow of what he described as “organized” and systematic “disorder.” What surprised us was to learn that despite the dark and black cloud that hovers over the Syrian situation, there is, nevertheless, a glimmer of hope that does not stem from naïve optimism, but from a look of faith rooted in the words – which have now become experience – of Saint Paul: “Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will affliction, or anguish, or persecution, or hunger, or nakedness, or danger, or the sword? In fact, as he wrote: Because of you we are put to death daily, we are treated as sheep for the slaughter. But in all these things we are more than victorious in virtue of Him who has loved us.”

This cry of hope is not aesthetic lyricism, but a daily reality that is translated into a conscious choice: to stay, not for the land but for the people of God who – as Saint Augustine says – are making their historic pilgrimage “amid the persecutions of the world and the consolations of God.”

ZENIT: The war has imposed an “emergency calendar.” As a priest, what is your daily program?

Father N: In the present situation, pastoral work as we always lived it is suspect. It has become an endeavor of humanitarian aid. The pastoral visits and the various activities have taken on a different style precisely to respond to the present emergency situation. For instance, with the collaboration of the Syrian Committee for Development, we have transformed two schools into a place of reception for Muslim refugees, precisely to show that the Church is at the service of man, of every man, regardless of his ethnic or religious membership.

As regards the works of charity and relief of suffering, we collaborate closely as a parish with the Red Cross and with Caritas.

In any case, we continue to celebrate Mass in areas that are still inhabited, and we notice an increase in the daily frequentation of the faithful. Christians have begun to seek hope more, which comes from Christ risen from the dead!

I must stress also that very many priests are committed in a stable way beside the laity in the service of material support in the parishes and dioceses. (Read the rest here.)

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Pope Francis: The Church is a Love Story

The Catholic Church is a human institution. Human frailty and sin affect the Church just as they do you and me. 

“Wars of religion” are an example Pope Francis gave of this human frailty in action, a “wrong path … that is not the story of love.”

Despite the human weaknesses of the people who make up the Church, he said the Church itself is “a love story that continues thanks to the power of the Holy Spirit. All of us together are a family in the Church, who is our Mother.”

From CNA:

.- The Church is not merely “a human enterprise,” but rather “a love story,” said Pope Francis, and the faithful must remember that it is only in the path of love that the Church can grow.

The Church began “in the heart of the Father,” said the Pope at an April 24 Mass for Vatican Bank employees in the Chapel of the Casa Santa Marta.

“So this love story began, a story that has gone on for so long, and is not yet ended,” he explained. “We, the women and men of the Church, we are in the middle of a love story: each of us is a link in this chain of love. And if we do not understand this, we have understood nothing of what the Church is.”

Pointing to the growth and persecution of the early Church, Pope Francis stressed that the faithful must not compromise to get “more partners in this enterprise,” Vatican Radio reported.

He cautioned that “the Church does not grow by human strength” but through the path of love. (Read more here.)

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Cardinal Dolan Receives William Wilberforce Award

My idea of ecumenicism isn’t that Christians should try to undo the Reformation. My idea is that we should all stand up for Jesus together. 

When someone cuts one of us because we are Christians, as in Syria, Nigeria and in many other places, we all should bleed. When the freedom to follow Christ of any Christian is attacked, we should all stand together with our beleaguered brother or sister. When Christian bashers bash Christ, they are defaming my Lord and Savior and yours. We need to stand against them together.

That’s why I find it is important that Cardinal Timothy Dolan will receive the 2013 William Wilberforce Award this weekend. 

The award, which is bestowed by the Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview, has a decidedly evangelical origin. This doesn’t stop the organization from recognizing that Cardinal Dolan’s work for religious liberty is a Christian, rather than a Catholic endeavor.

Dr Timothy George, chairman of the Center, said that Cardinal Dolan has “taken a very courageous and bold stand” for conscience and religious liberty in the face of the HHS mandate.

“We’re concerned about the dignity of marriage, the sanctity of every human life, including children waiting to be born, and religious freedom,” he added. “On these particular issues as well a concern for the poor and the marginalized, Cardinal Dolan is a hero to so many of us.”

These are excellent words. Christians need to lay aside our petty differences and stand together for Jesus. If we do that, we will be unstoppable. 

From CNA:

.- Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York will receive the 2013 William Wilberforce Award this weekend from a group of Christians for his leadership in standing up for religious freedom.

“I resonate with Cardinal Dolan as much as any public religious leader in our country today,” Dr. Timothy George, chairman of the Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview which is bestowing the award, told CNA April 16.

“Cardinal Dolan has just been tremendous, he’s one of the major leaders not just of the Catholic Church in the United States today, but of all Christians, and really all people of goodwill.”

George, who is also a Baptist minister and dean of Beeson Divinity School at Samford University, noted that the prelate has “taken a very courageous and bold stand” for conscience protection and religious liberty in the face of the HHS contraception mandate.

“But that’s only one of a variety of concerns,” he added. “We’re concerned about the dignity of marriage, the sanctity of every human life, including those children waiting to be born, and religious freedom.”

“On these particular issues as well as concern for the poor and the marginalized, Cardinal Dolan is a hero to so many of us.”

The William Wilberforce Award was established in 1988, and honors those who “have done something significant, noteworthy and consequential to show the importance of a positive witness related to the values and character of the Christian faith in our time today,” George said.

Cardinal Dolan is the third Catholic to be given the award, following Father John Neuhaus in 1998 and Bishop Macram Gassis of El Obeid, in Sudan. (Read the rest here.) 

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Faith in the Trenches: The 911 Call You Will Never Forget

A mother who works as a 911 operator gets a call from her own house. The shooting victim is her son. This is a real-life walk of faith.

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Praise You in This Storm


Where is God when we’re hurting?

He’s right beside us.

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3 Quick Takes: Vampire Atheists, Jesus Stomping Class Assignments and Gay Marriage

Religious freedom and gay marriage have taken a couple of turns while we were looking at other things. Here are 3 Quick Takes.

1. Vampire Atheist Case Against 9/11 Cross Tossed by Judge

The bizarro case filed by American Atheists claiming that the sight of the 9/11 Cross caused them to experience  “depression, headaches, anxiety and mental pain and anguish” was tossed out of court by a federal judge. The case had sought to have the cross removed from the 9/11 Museum in New York City.

 

2. Florida Atlantic University Drops Charges Against Student Who Refused to Stomp on Jesus’ Name

Ryan Rotela, a devout Mormon student, refused to stomp on the name of Jesus as he was requested as part of a class exercise. After complaining to administrators, Rotela says he was suspended from the class. The university has now dropped all charges against Rotela and apologized.


3. New Zealand, Uruguay, legalize gay marriage. 

New Zealand’s Parliament voted 77-44 to legalize gay marriage on April 17. Uruguay Chamber of Deputies voted to legalize gay marriage on April 10.

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We are Going to Have to Learn to Live with This

 

We have to learn to live with this.

Aurora, Sandy Hook, the Boston Marathon.

The names are like a slow beat sounding out grief and sorrow.

They don’t cover the “smaller” tragedies and the near tragedies. They also don’t speak of the Amish girls, Columbine, Virginia Tech, Oklahoma City.

We talk about gun control, but gun control is no defense against pressure cookers loaded with ball bearings or rental trucks filled with fertilizer mixed with jet fuel.

In truth, we can not seal ourselves in a room small enough, we can not pass laws limiting enough to be safe. We are dealing with murderous humans. Humans are too smart for us to ever stop them with our prohibitions, metal detectors and regulations. We are like dogs, chasing our own tails with that approach.

Our society, our world, needs conversion.

But before we can even begin that basic task we have to face a single reality: We are going to have to learn to live with this. 

The “this” we must learn to live with is the steady beat of the murderous metronome of casual killing that has become part of the fabric of our lives. Whether the killer of the day is a mass murdering young man with a high-powered weapon, a terrorist with a recipe for mayhem or a serial killer hiding in the shadows, the thing that drives them is always the same. It is, as a reader of this blog said in an unconnected quote, an ability to “not consider the person” who will die.

Murder is made possible by a disconnect from the suffering of others. It is, in the final analysis, the most extreme failure of empathy. Not, notice, as we like to say, a “failure of love.” It is not necessary to love someone to refrain from killing them. But it is necessary to separate from their humanity, to objectify them and to not “consider” them and what you are about to do to them.

This nation has been raising up psychopaths the way we once raised up artists and inventors. At the same time, we live in a world of directed psychopathy that creates terrorism, which is nothing more than the murder of innocent civilians.

If we are ever going to change any of this, we will have to face the fact that we need to do more than reach for another quick fix through regulation, safety protocols and prohibitions. We can not give up enough of our freedoms to make ourselves safe from one another.

The only way to become safe from other people is to structure our society in such a way that we end the continuous abuse and disregard of our children. We must stop raising up psychopaths. To do that, we’ve first got to admit that we are doing something wrong. I see a complete refusal to acknowledge that running throughout our public discourse.

Even if we woke up tomorrow, resolved to re-shape our homes, families, schools and institutions along healthy, nurturing lines, it would take time to turn this vast ship of  disintegration away from its current path toward the rocks of social dissolution. Since there is very little hope that we will do this, we are out of alternatives.

We are going to have to learn to live with this.

If we are going to stay sane as individual people, we must accept the reality of our lives for what they are. That means accepting that Boston, Sandy Hook, Aurora, the Amish school girls, Virginia Tech, Columbine, Oklahoma City and even 9/11 are not isolated events. They are part of our national life. They are what happens. We have to face the horror of their having happened and add the certainty that they will happen again on top of it, then learn to live with this bitter knowledge.

I am not preaching and teaching a course in despair with this post. I am trying to bring us down to the hard cold reality of our situation.

We are going to have to learn to live with this. 

That does not mean that we have to learn to accept it. It means that we have to stop viewing each horror as a separate event and realize that they are all connected in the psyches of those who commit them. This indifference of killers to the people they kill is not new. The blood of innocents has cried out from the ground since people left the garden.

God gave us the only answer to this. Those of us who are Christians have it, if we will just use it.

We are going to have to get used to this, this blood-soaked world in which we live. But we do not need to dive into despair and hopelessness because of it. We must, for the sake of our sanity, stop letting these horrible events take us over and cast us down. We have to get used to it and live with it and move on past it.

We need to focus on the message that we as Christians are the only ones equipped to bring: There is no death. Life has meaning. Everything we do in this life matters in eternity. 

Get up off your bed of grief and despair and Catholic on. Turn off the tv and go to work. Take care of your family, clean your house, do your job and live. Pray for the injured, the dead and those who love them. If you are able to help them directly, do it. If not, you can help them best by maintaining the order and stability of the society in which they live.

We are going to have to learn to live with this. The time to begin is now. 

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Pope Francis: Do Not Get Into this Game of a Life of Complaints

Pope Francis gave a homily at morning mass a few days ago that hits this lady right between the eyes. 

It was about one of my favorite hobbies: Complaining. 

My husband and I sometimes joke about a former member of the Oklahoma House that we both know. If you gave this guy a check for a million dollars all he would do is gripe about the taxes. One of my husband’s jokes is that you can walk outside with this guy and remark that it’s a beautiful day and he would reply, “Yeah, but that makes for darn dark nights.”

I’m not in this man’s league when it comes to complaining and looking on the dark side, but I do have more than a small dose of the same disease. It can seem that focusing on the bad that might happen is a way to ward off disappointment when it really does happen. But in truth, all it does is ruin the good times you’re having now. If something bad happens, worrying about it ahead of time won’t make it hurt one bit less.

As for complaining, you can beat people down with too many complaints. You can blight their happiness and take away their joy. Constant complaining dampens initiative and makes people feel helpless when they’re not. You can push them down to their emotional knees and them hold them there with your carping and complaining and hand-wringing and whining.

I once knew a woman who was never able to just say “Thank you.” If her husband worked all day painting the house for her, when he was finished she would look at it and say, “We really need to re-seed the lawn” She didn’t mean to be a Debbie downer. In fact, I don’t think she knew what she was doing. It was habitual; something she probably learned as a child. But how sad for her that she wasted so many good moments by focusing on the negative, and how destructive to her relationships that she complained when she should have been complimenting.

This is where Pope Francis’ homily comes in. He preached on the Gospel story from St Luke about the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. These men were bereft and broken-hearted because of Jesus’ death on the cross. I have not been able to find the full homily on the Vatican web site. But here are a few quotes that resonated with me:

“And they stewed, so to speak, their lives in the juice of their complaints and kept going on and on and on with the complaining,” the pope said. “I think that many times when difficult things happen, including when we are visited by the cross, we run the risk of closing ourselves off in complaints.”

When all people can think of is how wrong things are going, Pope Francis said, the Lord is close, “but we don’t recognize him. He walks with us, but we don’t recognize him.”

Like the disciples joined by the risen Lord on the road to Emmaus, people can hear beautiful things, but deep down, they continue to be afraid, the pope said.

“Complaining seems safer. It’s something certain. This is my truth: failure,” he said.

But the Gospel story shows how very patient Jesus is with the disciples, first listening to them and then explaining things step by step, until they see him.

“Jesus does this with us, too,” the pope said. “Even in the darkest moments, he is always with us, walking with us.”

Complaining and griping — about others and about things in one’s own life — is harmful “because it dashes hope. Don’t get into this game of a life of complaints,” he said.

“Do not get into this game of a life of complaints.”

I need to print that out and put it on my bathroom mirror. The Holy Father is exactly right when he says that “when we are visited by the cross, we run the risk of closing ourselves off in complaints.” At least, he certainly is about me. My most public cross has been the many attacks I’ve endured for being a pro life Catholic Democratic elected official.

When I speak of deliberate slander and character assassination for gain, I am describing what was done to me.

instead of remembering that Jesus told us to “rejoice and be glad when men say all manner of evil against you falsely on my account,” I complained and whined and focused on my hurt and anger. “Great is your reward in heaven,” Jesus told us, but I concentrated on how much it hurt me at the time.

Pope Francis’ words cut right across my own behavior like a giant x mark. God gave me the opportunity to suffer just a little bit for Jesus, and for the babies. It was never a punishment. It was always a gift. I saw that some of the time. But far too often, I looked right past the honor of taking a hit for Jesus to my own anguish about how much it hurt.

Part of stepping out in faith means laying aside our complaints about the way the world reacts to us when we do it. In truth, when they attack us and revile us for standing for Jesus, they are handing us the Kingdom of Heaven. 

If we can just remember that, we’ll realize that there is nothing for us to complain about.

 

 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Jesus Christ

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