His Holiness Who Talks About Other People’s Sins vs That Gasbag in Rome Who Talks about My Sins

Evangelii Gaudium is a convicting document.

If you read it with an honest heart, you will be moved by it to ask God’s forgiveness and to deepen your prayer life.

That’s exactly the effect it had on me. I dropped into prayer numerous times as I was reading Evangelii Gaudium. It brought me face to face with my own spiritual drift and self-absorption. It is a convicting document, if you let it be a convicting document.

It can also be a damning document if you read it with a self-righteous heart. You can deprive yourself of the Gospels if you chose to cling to your pet sins and condemn the Pope for pointing them out to you.

A good number of very devout Catholics are settling for a faux faith whose repository is in various web sites run by pundits with collars and pundits without collars, all of whom preach a narrow, self-satisfying Gospel focused on other people’s sins.

If we confine the Gospels to thou shalt nots about abortion and same-sex marriage, it’s easy for people who are not tempted to those sins to feel like their only sin is uttering a curse word when they accidentally hit their heads on the cabinet door while cooking dinner. By the same token, if we confine our fidelity to the Church to an exaggerated obsession with our disagreements with priests, bishops, and lately the Pope himself, we will miss our blessing entirely.

Some Catholics seem to have become the mirror image of those who judge God by whether or not He agrees with them. We live in a culture that refuses to repent of its sins and that demands that the Church validate its sins or be labeled a heartless bigot.

Sadly, more than a bit of this attitude has crept into the pews and behind the altars of the Church itself. There is a large segment of the Catholic faithful who refuse to accept the teaching authority of the Pope when he teaches something that disagrees with their politics, (either of the left or of the right, it doesn’t matter) or their private view of things.

The abortion issue in particular has led a lot of Catholics to assume that if the politics are right-wing, they are also righteous. Pope Francis, by pointing out that all politics, either of the left or the right, must be judged by the true compass of the Gospels, has shook these people to the core.

As I said in an earlier post, this business of slicing one or two sins out of the Gospels and using them to condemn political opponents while twisting and perverting all the rest of the Gospels to suit secular political goals, is heresy. It is not the Word of God that leads to eternal life.

Pope Francis is preaching and teaching the whole Gospel of Christ in all its radical, game-changing power.

Some Catholics judge the Pope by whether or not he teaches a Gospel that affirms them in their condemnation of others. They want him to do this without disturbing them by calling foul about their own pet sins. These unhappy folks are throwing away the blessings of faith with both hands. They are outraged and enraged by that gasbag in Rome who is telling them that they are in need of conversion just like everyone else.

The Pope goes from His Holiness, the Vicar of Christ who they follow because they are “loyal to the magisterium” to that illiterate and uneducated-in-the-ways-of-the-real-world meddler in the Vatican who should be ignored and even condemned. How dare he tell them what they don’t want to hear about things that they don’t want to change?

I think that a number of the pundits who are calling the Pope names like “Marxist” never read Evangelii Gaudium. I would guess that they either thumbed through it until they sighted the buzz words they wanted, or they had someone else do it for them. I know for a fact that the criticisms I’ve read of Evangelii Gaudium are untrue, self-serving and predictable.

I am flummoxed by devout people who want the Church to affirm them in their sins. Their hearts are so hard, their self-assertion so grim. Is that all Christ means to them? Does their “faith” in the teaching authority of the Church end where their politics or self-interest begins?

The teaching of the Church is a doctor that helps us diagnose our spiritual ills so that we can get well. Pope Francis is calling each and every one of us to the incredible joy of laying down the lead weight of darkness that comprises our false allegiances to the things of this world. He is calling us to follow Jesus without reservation. He is showing us how to be saints.

I, for one, want that. I want the joy of Christ. I want the true freedom of the Gospels. I want to follow Him.

Because I know the pit of sin and death He saved me from. Because I know the price He paid to do it. Because I know that the freedom of following Him is absolute and the joy of living and walking in His Heart is beyond words.

Finally, and most importantly, I want to follow Jesus because I love Him.

Pope Francis wrote a convicting document when he penned Evangelii Gaudium. It is a road map to evangelizing the world. In the Christian way, it asks each of us to begin this journey of evangelization by cleaning out our own souls first. It asks us to give up our pet sins for Jesus.

My advice to those who are willing to hear it is to stop following false popes who teach a self-satisfied self-righteousness and the bitterness that comes with it, and follow the real Pope.

You know who I mean: His Holiness, Pope Francis.

 

 

Evangelii Gaudium Cliff Notes: Part 1, The Call

Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always to the end of the world. Jesus Christ

 

Evangelii Gaudium is a call to you and me and every other Catholic on this planet to step out of our petty personal piety and evangelize the world.

There is a considerable body of support for this call throughout Christian history. The first and most important — in truth, the only support anyone needs — comes from Jesus Christ Himself in what He said in the words I put above.

Protestants call it the Great Commission, and a number of their denominations are built on living it out. Jesus Christ told His followers to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Just to put emphasis on it, He had, before His murder, cursed a withered fig tree for not bearing fruit. What did that fig tree do to Jesus, and what meaning does Our Lord’s action have for you and me? The tree was a symbol of all of us who do not bear the fruit of the Spirit in our lives. Jesus taught the same message over and over. Bear fruit, use the grace you are given to bring others to Me.

That, without the more negative allusions (I used the fig tree story, not the Pope.) is what Evangelii Gaudium is about. The Pope is calling us to do exactly what Jesus told us to do. He is calling us to bear fruit by converting the world around us. Evangelii Gaudium is a call, directly from Pope Francis to every Catholic everywhere, to shake the dust of self-absorption off our feet and take the message of the Good News of Christ to the world.

Pope Francis calls us first to remember our own salvation and to rejoice in it. Think about it for a moment. We are eternal beings who, because of the great sacrifice of Our Lord at Calvary, are given the opportunity to chose of our own free wills to spend our eternal life in the company of the God Who made us.

I experienced a touch of what that means at my own conversion experience when the Holy Spirit filled me with the divine love and rapturous joy of God. Heaven is for real, folks, and it is too wonderful to describe. We can spend eternity there in that joy and love. All we have to do is chose Christ.

But in this world that is stunted, deformed and perverted by the wiles of the evil one, heaven can seem a distant and irrelevant country. I have been fascinated for a long time by the fact that we are so much better at depicting hell in our art than we are at depicting heaven. Heaven, in the movies we make and the poetry we write, comes across more insipid than heavenly, whereas hell glows and glowers with its sadistic reality.

I think that is because this world is so blighted by the father of lies that in some ways, his dark version of things seems to be reality. If we want to see his handiwork, all we have to do is click on our televisions and punch in the number for any news channel.

“The world is too much with us … getting and spending we lay waste our powers,” Wordsworth wrote. That is true of every single one of us, including me.

Pope Francis is calling us in clear language that a fourth grader can understand to remember that we are more than “getting and spending,” and that there is more to every person than the evils they do. Evangelii Gaudium is an exhortation for us to remember our salvation and rejoice in it.

The Holy Father is asking us to remember that first love when the Holy Spirit filled us with Divine Joy. Joy is exactly the right  word for it. It was the word I used before I gave up trying to find words to describe what I experienced when Christ first hugged me to His heart.

Joy.

Joy beyond our ability to describe or comprehend. Joy based on love that is also beyond our ability to describe or comprehend.

That is what Pope Francis is calling us to in this great document he has written. He is asking us to set aside the “getting and spending” that lays waste our powers and live in the joy of being eternal children of the eternal God Who loves us beyond our ability to either describe or comprehend.

He is asking us to live in the joy of Christ and the peace that passes all understanding and then to exercise the generosity which is a natural outgrowth of that kind of living in our dealings with the lost and unwanted people around us. I have failed in this call as much as anyone I know. I am a mass of resentments and angers, ironically, many of them over the way I have been treated by those tormented people who reject Christ.

Reading Evangelii Gaudium was an occasion of convicting conversion for me. I have allowed myself to forget the joy I knew when I first met Him in my too-earnest attempt to follow Him and be true to Him. I, like everyone else, need to go back to what Christ called “your first love,” which is that moment when He loved me from life to death.

Then, I need to do as the Holy Father is calling me to do and share that love with those I encounter. That is the root and the beginning of the New Evangelization. It is the core message of Evangelii Gaudium.

Pope Francis did not write about politics. He wrote about Jesus and our call to bring all the world to Him.

Here in Pope Francis’ words, is what Evangelii Gaudium is all about:

The Joy of the Gospel fills the the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus. Those who accept his offer of salvation are set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness and loneliness. With Christ joy is constantly born anew. In this Exhortation I wish to encourage the Christian faithful to embark upon a new chapter of evangelization marked by this joy, while pointing out new paths for the Church’s journey in years to come.

Rush Limbaugh, Pope Francis and Frogs

Rush Limbaugh, who is nobody’s nominee for Nice Person of the Year, says that “somebody’s either written this for him … or gotten to” Pope Francis.

According to Mr Limbaugh, the Holy Father’s recent document, Evangelii Gaudium, is “pure Marxism.”

I’m going to write about Evanelii Gaudium in detail next week when we aren’t digesting turkey, spending time with our families and watching football. In the meantime, I want to toss this little bit of bile from Mr Limbaugh out there for your consideration.

I think it juxtaposes nicely with President Obama’s action of folding America’s Embassy to the Holy See into our Embassy with Italy. Mr Limbaugh’s comment and President Obama’s action form bookends of a sort. They illustrate both the right and the left wing angst that they cannot control the Pope.

Both the right and left wings of current political debate are Godless philosophies that try, each in their own way, to bend the Gospels into a perverted version of themselves that gives moral gravitas to the respective evils of their two socio-fiscal-political viewpoints. The left wing has confined itself to association with churches that bend the Gospels to suit Democratic Party Moral teachings, while the right wing has associated itself with those churches that edit the Gospels to suit Republican Party Moral Teachings.

Lately, the left wing has abandoned the churches altogether and headed out onto the ice of militant secularism. Even while their toady churches continue their slavish apologetics for what has increasingly become an amoral political viewpoint, they find themselves shunted aside as no longer necessary.

The right wing is a bit behind the curve on this, but not much. They are trying to ignore their religious supporters while still hanging on to their votes. It remains to be seen how successful they will be.

Mr Limbaugh, with his deft ability to say vulgar and hate-filled things, has pointed the way.

If the Pope, or any other Christian leader is going to preach a Gospel that includes moral imperatives relating to economics and concern for the poor, then that religious leader is no longer either useful or welcome at the right-wing party.

I’m not writing this to enrage my Limbaugh-following readers — although I imagine that will happen. I am writing it to point out to those who are willing to see it that a true follower of Jesus Christ is without a political country in today’s American landscape.

You can follow Jesus and His Vicar, or you can make up excuses for President Obama and Mr Limbaugh.

However, you cannot do both.

Either Jesus Christ meant what He said in those Gospels Pope Francis is trying to teach us, or He didn’t. Either Christ the Lord is your Lord in every aspect of your life, including your politics, or He is not your Lord at all.

Choose this day whom you will serve: The Rs. The Ds. Or Jesus Christ.

I am writing this in a hurry because I need to get ready to go to mass. This evening I will begin my own personal journey through one of the Church’s two great penitential seasons. Mass tonight marks the start of Advent, when we look at ourselves through a Gospel prism and confess both to ourselves and to our God the many ways in which we fall short of that Gospel ideal.

As such, it is an obvious time to consider where our loyalties in this world actually lie.

Do you love me more than these? Jesus asked Peter.

The question applies to you and me as we begin this Advent season. Who is your God? Does he stand behind a podium with an American flag as a backdrop? Does he wear headphones and spit out diatribes on the radio?

Or, perhaps, are we awaiting your God in this season of Advent, looking forward to the day when He will be born among us in a stable to a young carpenter and his innocent bride?

Do you love me more than these?

In this post-Christian America where Presidents can lie and everyone knows they are lying and no one cares, where commenters can rail against the Pope and still keep their cult-like followings, that question is not only salient, but urgent.

What is your answer?

From TheRawStory:

On his Wednesday radio show, Rush Limbaugh admitted being “befuddled” by the harsh words about “unfettered capitalism” released this week by Pope Francis.

… He also said that up to now he had admired the new pope, if he also thought that Pope Francis was putting on the “common man touch” a bit too thick. “I thought there might have been a little bit of PR involved there,” he said.

But … the pope’s latest Evangelii Gadium, or Joy of the Gospel

… didn’t sit well with Limbaugh. “Somebody has either written this for him or gotten to him,” Rush said. “This is just pure Marxism coming out of the mouth of the pope.”

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Pope Francis Dedicates 2015 to Consecrated Life

Pope Francis announced that 2015 will be dedicated to consecrated life.

His message to consecrated people is consistent with the message he has been delivering since his papacy began. He called them to “go out to frontiers, working first and foremost with people excluded from society … to avoid hypocrisy and clericalism and to develop a tender heart.”

This message is not just for the consecrated, but for all of us. It is a call to convert the world and to begin that work by following Christ in our own lives.

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Pope Francis Calls on You and Me to Evangelize the World

 

This is a video summary of Evangelii Gaudium, written by Pope Francis and issued by the Vatican yesterday.

It is, among other things, our — yours and mine — marching orders.

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Book Review: Sex and the Vision Thing

To join the conversation on Sex and the Single Christian Girl, or to order a copy, go here

Our culture teaches young girls to look at themselves as meat. I could dress that up by using less harsh language, but the dressing-up would be a lie.

From the time they are babies wearing trollop fashions, to the days when they sit in sex education classes that push dangerous contraceptives on them, including the morning after pill, young girls are taught that their first mission in life is to be sexually available and sexually used.

There is some linguistic dressing up of this message. It is termed “liberation” and “women’s rights.” But it’s not. It’s about using social pressure to coerce young girls into sexual behavior that, based on what quite a number of them have told me, they don’t enjoy or find sexually satisfying. It is the old double standard, flipped over and made even more destructive.

Christian girls end up caught in a social and moral conundrum. On the one hand, they hear that sex outside of marriage is a sin. On the other hand, they hear that they have a “right” to use sex the same way that men use it.

This explanation degrades the girls, as well as the boys. Every one has a sex drive. Every one is more than their sex drive. People want things that hooking up not only can’t give, but that hooking up prevents. Things like self-worth, love, commitment, stability and emotional security.

Even Christian parents have fallen into the trap of stripping the security of  a stable home and consistent family interaction from their children’s lives. Divorce destroys basic trust and security in children. Shooting from one activity to the next like a pinball destroys family time and inner peace. I won’t even go into the tsunami of damage that drugs and alcoholism do to children.

It has reached the point that girls who grow up in a stable home with parents who give them love and attention are the ones who are out of step with the culture. They are the girls who seem odd and out of place.

When everyone else is talking trash and getting laid and doing drugs, they’re the wallflowers who spend time in their dorm rooms or at home on Friday nights, wondering what, if anything, it profits them to live lives of purity.

Sex and the Single Christian Girl is written from inside that specific experience for those girls who live it.

The author, Marion Jordan Ellis, lived the life of growing up Christian and then throwing purity over for the hook-up culture. She experienced a radical conversion to Christ and then spent over a decade as a Christian single woman living in purity in a world that disses purity. When she finally met the Christian man who became her husband, she faced the new challenge of maintaining her chastity until she said “I do.”

The thing that sustained her in those years of single chaste living, and that she didn’t have when she slid into the hook-up culture, was vision.

Mrs Ellis makes the important point that a laundry list of “Thou shalt nots” is not enough to give a person the strength they need to follow Christ in our post Christian culture. She applies this directly and specifically to the situation of, as the title says, Sex and the Christian Single Girl. But the idea is equally applicable to all Christian living in a world and society such as ours, that is aggressively hostile to Christian values.

We can’t stand up to the culture by being against it. We have to be for something, and that something must be fueled by a deep and abiding passion. The answer Mrs Ellis offers is not the right answer, it is the only answer.

We are, all of us, beloved Children of the living God. Our lives are not our own. We belong to Him.

And we are worth more than the degrading behaviors that our culture teaches us are not only cool, but necessary and our “right.”

Hook-up sexuality is self-abuse.

It’s that simple.

Drug and alcohol abuse are a living death that, if they aren’t stopped, lead inevitably to a real death.

Divorce is ripping asunder the one flesh of soul and spirit that God has created in Holy Matrimony. It damages our children irrevocably, as well as impoverishing and grieving the husband and wife.

The answer to all this, is, as Mrs Ellis says, that vision thing. We do not see ourselves as the immortal beings of light that we truly are. We do not understand that we are made for eternity in heaven and that our every action in this life either adds to that future or it doesn’t.

Young women are worth more than the value our society has taught them to place on themselves. They are, first of all, Daughters of the King. They belong to Him and to themselves and, once they pass into adulthood, they are answerable to no one else. No one has the “right” to treat them as meat, including and most especially, themselves.

When I was little, I always knew, never doubted, that either one of my parents would die for me. I knew without a shadow or a flicker of doubt that my father would kill or die to protect me and that he would not hesitate about either one.

That is how parents feel and what they do. It is what our Father in heaven has done for us. When Christ hung on that cross at Calvary, that was God, dying to save each one of us. That is, as the Scriptures tell us, “the price” God paid for us.

Young women need to understand this about themselves and never forget it. Their salvation was bought at a great price that only a Father Who loved them would have paid. This culture teaches them that they are meat. But in truth and in fact, they are immortal beings of eternal light; daughters of the living God.

I recommend Sex and the Single Christian Girl to any young woman who is struggling with issues of chastity and self worth in this post Christian world. I also recommend it to parents of daughters who want to teach their girls how to live as the beautiful daughters of God that they are.

The Embrace that went Viral

 

I have a friend with this genetic disease. His daughter died of it. That makes this video even more poignant to me.

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When Jesus Washed My Sins Away

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Billy Graham: God Can Change the Past

I respect Billy Graham. He’s the real deal.

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Is It Possible to Have Individual Freedom of Conscience and Gay Marriage?

The debate is boiling down to a wall-punching, head-butting disaster. 

On the one side, there are gay marriage advocates who decry religious freedom and personal conscience exemptions to participation in gay marriage except for the most isolated cases, and even that quickly comes into question as discussions proceed.

On the other side, are gay marriage opponents who decry the loss of personal freedom of expression and religious liberty. They quickly move to a position of banning gay marriage to preserve their freedoms. 

Those who advocate each position have worked themselves into such a froth that they are incapable of civil discussion, much less actual compromise. I have been a victim of this myself. I lost a friend who I thought of as my brother, a friendship spanning decades of our lives and which had given both of us a great deal of love, loyalty, fun and support. He ended this friendship with the finality of an amputation because I could not support gay marriage. 

That is the level of acrimony and nastiness this issue raises. 

But in truth, the argument itself is based on considerations which have ample precedence in American life and jurisprudence to allow any and all of us to live together in harmony. America has a historic tradition of honoring freedom of conscience as it pertains to religious faith. The most poignant example of this is the exemptions we allow for those whose religious faith demands that they not participate in combat. 

We even extend this to people who are not members of a faith which demands it.

I know because a friend of mine obtained conscientious objector status after he was in the military during the Viet Nam war. He made this request based on his personal conviction that killing anyone was murder. It was not based on his faith, since he was a member of a church that did not teach this. 

The United States Army granted him conscientious objector status. I have also known Mennonite men who were granted conscientious objector status because of their faith. 

So why can’t we work out something for gay marriage? I am not talking about exemptions for established churches, even though that is absolutely necessary if America is going to be America. I am talking about preserving the conscience rights and right to religious freedom of all American citizens. 

Gay marriage zealots can be single-minded, intolerant and destructive in how they approach their cause. They resort far too often to labeling everyone who disagrees with them as bigots or some such and then excoriating and slandering these people and institutions in a concerted way that can only be described as character assassination. 

My own friend, who I would have trusted with my life, has gone on the internet and written things about me to hurt me. None of these things he’s said advance the cause of gay marriage. They are simple expressions of hatred because we disagree over this issue. 

I’m not sure what causes this level of ugliness. People who fought the great Civil Rights battles of the mid twentieth century did not engage in it, and the level of oppression and suffering they were battling makes any complaints that homosexuals have pale by comparison. 

Perhaps the difference is that Martin Luther King Jr led from a Gospel standpoint. He based his cause in the inalienable human rights found in the Gospels of Jesus Christ. People sang hymns, prayed and talked about how they were saving the soul of America before they left to face the firehoses that were turned on them in Civil Rights marchers. 

Their bravery and their powerful witness to their own humanity not only won the day, it did indeed, ennoble the soul of this nation. 

No cause can do that if it stoops to the level that some of the gay rights advocates have chosen in their work for gay marriage. There is no nobility in slander, name-calling and bald-faced bullying. There is certainly nothing of a higher calling in attempts to advance your desires by attacking and limiting the basic human rights of other people. 

That, at root, is what freedom religion and freedom of personal conscience are: Basic human rights. The freedom to believe in God and to follow your own faith is second only to the basic right to life and freedom from violence in the hierarchy of human rights. It is what separates us from the animals. 

Alone of all the creatures on this planet, we know that we are going to die. Also alone of all the creatures on this planet, we know that there is right and wrong and dignity to every human soul.

Can there be human rights for gay people and freedom of religion for everyone?

Certainly.

Is gay marriage a human right for gay people? I don’t think so.

To be honest, I think that gay marriage, if it is regarded as the same as marriage between a man and a woman, is a delusion. Two men or two women are not the same as a man and a woman. There are basic legal rights that gay couples should have, simply because the laws of America have to be for everyone. But marriage between two men or two women is simply not possible. We can all pretend and call it marriage. But that won’t make it so. 

The next question is, should gay people have the same civil rights as other Americans?

Of course.

Should every American, gay or straight, have the right to freedom of conscience and freedom of religion?

Absolutely. That’s not only imperative, it’s easily done if people of good will try to do it. 

We can work it out. We can even work it out if we change the definition of marriage. 

But will we?

I don’t know the answer to that. 

We have the means and the power. The last question is simply, do we have the will?


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