Pope Francis, Holy Thursday and Us

For I was in prison, and you visited me.

Pope Francis will wash the feet of incarcerated young people tonight. Some of them have no faith. Others are Muslim. Many of them did not even know who the Pope was when they first heard he was coming.

Many Catholics, particularly those in prison ministry, are overjoyed by this act. But there are others who find it off-putting, even a bit scandalous. They expect the Pope to wash the feet of other priests, or at least other men, who are Catholic, Christian and probably important. I’ve read comments emphasizing that the young people whose feet the Holy Father will wash are nondescript boys and girls, many of whom are of no faith or Muslim.  They are people who won’t even appreciate the honor they are receiving.

But the Pope is only doing what Jesus did. He is seeking out those who are lost. It appears that this deep equality of all humanity that Our Lord lived and taught is as scandalous to some of us today as it was 2,000 years ago. But a failure to live this will kill the Church. We are not meant to be a closed-off, self-congratulatory faith that despises rather than serves those Jesus died to save.

People didn’t “appreciate” the honor of having God made flesh walking among them 2,000 years ago. The drama of Holy Week is a re-enactement of just how profoundly they didn’t appreciate it. Not even His own disciples really appreciated the honor they were receiving. No one, except His mother, understood what was happening.

Holy Thursday drives us back to the night when He was taken, to the moment when He gave us the Eucharist and instituted the priesthood. But He did not give us a priesthood created for palaces and fine things. It was and is and will always be a servant priesthood. It is priesthood of the kind that goes to prisons and washes the feet of young people who do not understand the meaning of what is happening any more than Peter did on that night in the Upper Room. When it ceases to be that, it ceases to be a priesthood of Christ and becomes a priesthood for itself.

The foot washing is a sign signifying that these young people — and all of us along with them — are children of the living God. It is a living memorial of the servant priesthood Jesus instituted in the upper room 2,000 years ago. If Christ The Lord could go down on his knees before a group of itinerant fishermen and tax collectors and wash their feet, why shouldn’t the Pope do the same for a group of incarcerated young people?

If the Son of God can submit to betrayal, false arrest, verbal abuse, beating, mockery, and a hideously painful, lingering death, then what makes us think that we’re so special?

When Jesus was asked questions similar to the ones that have been raised by those who oppose the Holy Father’s plans to go to the prison tonight, He answered them with a simple statement. The Son of Man came to save and seek the lost. I think He’s saying the same thing to us today and that Pope Francis is His voice.

At last, I get to meet someone who says he is my father!

One of the young people said that when they heard of the Pope’s plans. That statement, speaking as it does of a young person who has most likely led an unloved life, breaks my heart. It also fills me with gratitude that he or she can feel that way about our Holy Father. I am in awe of a Church whose leader can wield the power of a Pope yet move to touch and heal ones such as these. Only a Church whose true head is Christ Jesus could do that.

Two thousand years and counting, and the Gospel message of love, forgiveness and hope marches on to the ends of the earth.

How Do You Do Lent in a Time of Feasting?

Lent

It’s still Lent.

We’ve got a week and a half of the deepest, darkest passage in human history to relive. Jesus arrested, betrayed, beaten, tortured, shamed and murdered; that’s what lies ahead of us in these next days.

We are approaching the depths of Lent; the remembrance of humanity’s greatest crime against innocence in the flesh. And we are almost there. 

But how do you do lent in a time of feasting? 

Last week, the Papal Conclave elected the first non-European pope in 1200 years, the first American pope and the first Jesuit pope in history. That conclave turned the Catholic world upside down … and left it unchanged.

Pope francis

Pope Francis is the continuation of an unbroken line of popes going back to the moment when Jesus said “I will call you Peter.” The Church as a conduit of grace, a connection to the divine and a highway to heaven is untouched, unchanged and unchangeable. Despite the rancorous demands from some quarters that the Church re-write 2,000 years of Christian teaching to excuse the fashionable sins of our day, it will never do that. It has never done that; not for kings and princes, not for tanks and guns. 

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. His Church, despite its human failings, is like Him in that. Nothing that matters, nothing that’s central to what the Church is, changes, has changed, or will change. 

Last week, we elected a pope. Yesterday, he celebrated his inaugural mass. It has been a week of spiritual feasting, a time to get drunk on the Spirit and wave flags, cheer and experience the jubilation of this proof of His continued presence in our lives. 

How do we come down from that to Passion Week and the awful reality of the crucifixion? 

Transfiguration

Perhaps, we do it the same way Peter, James and John did when they came down from the mount of Transfiguration. They saw something that no one had ever seen before or since, at least not in this life. They saw the transfigured Christ in His glory, conversing with Moses and Elijah — the law and the prophets. They saw the promise of what is to come, of the meaning on the other side of the cross that they were to preach for the rest of their days. 

We saw a glimpse of that same promise in this election and inauguration. Not the transfiguration, of course, but the promise of what it meant when Jesus told us “I am with you until the end of the world.” He was promising us that when we are lost, He will call us without ceasing. When we are found, He will walk with us through whatever we must face. He will speak to us through the Holy Spirit in our deepest hearts. He will come to us in the Eucharist and forgive us in confession. In all the years of our lives, he will never leave us without a shepherd to guide us and teach us and show us the way to Him.

This past week of two living popes and one unchanging church has not been the same mountain-top view of the Transfiguration that the three chosen Apostles experienced. But it has been the Transfiguration that the whole wide world needed at this time in history. 

Now, we must, as the Apostles had to, come down from the mountaintop and turn our faces toward Jerusalem. It is Lent, and the way we do Lent in a time of feasting is to face the magnitude of our sins and the unbelievable mercy that God has shown us. 

This year, like no other, we have been given our own view of Transfiguration. 

White crucifixion

I Forgive You. Now Don’t Do It Again.

Cast the first stone scupture

My husband and I go to the Vigil Mass at our parish. Our pastor delivered a fine homily yesterday. It was based on the Gospel story of the woman taken in adultery.

He made a point that I’ve often thought myself, that the woman in this story was set up. You catch someone in “the very act” of adultery by being there. This outrage of the scribes and pharisees, which included demands that a woman be stoned to death, was fake outrage. 

The pharisees were so zealous to entrap Our Lord that they were willing to entrap and murder this poor woman along the way. I’ve always thought that the man with whom she had been caught in “the very act” of adultery was probably standing there with them, stones in his hand, ready to throw.

Such is the “mercy” of legal beagle clerics who care more for the trappings of religion than they do for the call to holiness that applies to every single person on this planet. They are so intent on following “the rules,” so focused on, as Jesus said, “cleaning the outside of the cup” that they leave the inside, which is their own souls, “filthy — full of greed and self-indulgence.”

I know because I’ve done it that human beings are capable of convincing themselves of anything. We can convince ourselves that we are holy. We can convince ourselves that our “personal morality” is, in fact, actual morality. We can make ourselves believe that our obsessions and fixations on the appearance of things truly are more important than their substance. We can, as these teachers of religious law did, forget our own sins and focus on the sins of others to the point of stoning them to death.

Today’s Gospel story has often been used against Christians by people who do not believe in Jesus and who do not follow Him. They confuse its meaning to say that we should go along with them in claiming that their sins are not sins and that, in fact, there is no sin. They want to twist the story to mean that their “personal morality” is, in fact, actual morality.

SwindleHeWhomIsWithoutSinCastTheFir

I don’t think that is what Jesus meant when He said, “Let him among you who is without sin cast the first stone.” The scriptures record the tantalizing but unexplained fact that Jesus knelt and wrote in the dust while He was speaking.

What was He writing? Was He perhaps writing the name of the man who had been with the woman when she was taken “in the very act?” Perhaps this man was the one making the demand that she be stoned. We don’t know. All we do know is that something happened that doesn’t often happen and these men became convicted of their own sins instead of the woman’s.

They dropped their stones and walked away.

This was not mercy on Our Lord’s part. It was the act that precedes mercy, which is to convict of us our own sins. We can not receive mercy for sins that we do not admit. We can not be forgiven without an understanding on our part that we need forgiveness.

The pitiful scribes and pharisees did not stay around to get the mercy they needed. They did not say, as Peter did, “have mercy on me Lord, for I am a sinful man.” They dropped their stones and went away to plot other evils for other days. They were temporarily foiled in their evil, not converted to the light.

Kissing jesusfeet

But the woman, the sinful, terrified woman whose death would have been nothing more than a means to an end for these sin-sick priests, what became of her? Again, we don’t know for sure. Was she the Mary Magdalene who stood at the foot of the cross and who was the first one to see the risen Christ? Many people think so. Was she the woman who kissed Jesus’ feet and washed them with her tears while he was at dinner with a Pharisee? Maybe.

All we know for sure is what Jesus said to her. I do not condemn you, he said. Now go, and sin no more.

He didn’t tell her that what she’d been doing, how she’d been living, was right. He didn’t tell her that she was without sin. He told her, “sin no more.”

That is God’s mercy. It is the mercy that does not lie to us by letting us slide past the reality of our sins. But it is a mercy that also doesn’t equate us with our sins. We are more than the evil we do. We are the errant children of the living God Who will always forgive us when we go to Him in humility and remorse for what we have done, but who will never do us the great disservice of telling us that what we’ve done is ok.

God tells us, like I told my own children, “Don’t do it again.” Don’t run in the house and break the lamp. Don’t hit your brother with a stick. Don’t commit adultery, lie, cheat, steal, rape or kill. Don’t do it again.

That is the mercy of God. It  is not the namby-pamby self-referencing whatever-is-popular-is-not-a-sin mercy our culture teaches us to demand of Him.

To obtain God’s mercy, we have to do more than put down our stones and go away to plot more evil. We have to want to change. Because, when it comes to our sins, He will always tell us, “I forgive you. Now don’t do it again.”

The Bible: Topping the Charts Again

I don’t watch tv very often. Too busy.

But when I do, I ignore the network channels altogether. The only exception is when we’re under a tornado alert. Then I watch Gary England on Channel 9 to learn which way to duck. 

Tornado

Other than that, I spend most of my viewing time in the bigger numbers on the viewing chart, far away from the oddball take on the world that the network channels provide. But I do read about television from time to time. (Go figure.) What I’ve read says that “viewers” are attracted to more up-to-date entertainment with lots of cursing, sex and degrading insults to women. 

Uh-huh.

Maybe the reason “viewers” tend to watch these shows is because they are the only shows being offered, and the kind of “viewers” who don’t like this trashy entertainment don’t watch at all. I can’t be the only person who doesn’t watch network programming. In fact, I know I’m not. In my circle — and that includes, family and friends — no one watches network programming.

We do however, all of us, every single one of us, watch Gary England when tornadoes are flying.

Gary england

Some of the rest of us (Not me. Not my girlfriends.) watch football. But that’s really it for our network tv viewing. The reason? There aren’t any shows on that we want to see. We aren’t entertained by what they’ve got. We tend to be insulted and disgusted by it. 

All this is a lead up to the surprising news that the series the Bible scored another hit this week. It came in first, beating out 60 Minutes, and The Walking Dead. 

Now, who, in this “post-Christian” world would have predicted that? After all, isn’t the Bible (the book, not the show) irrelevant, out-of-date and totally embarrassing? 

I remember shortly after Mel Gibson’s smash hit The Passion of the Christ came out, whoever it is that makes these decisions evidently decided that there was gold in that religion stuff. They put on a “Jesus” miniseries, presumably to try to cash in. My family tried to watch it, but we couldn’t make it through the first 15 minutes. Ever since then, “surfer Jesus” has been a joke line around our house to refer to the lame way that the networks approach our faith. 

Now that I’ve typed that line, it all comes clear. No wonder we don’t watch network tv. Except for tornadoes and football, the people who decide what to put on network tv don’t “get” us. I’m sure that they would regard me and mine as a bunch of religious fanatic, unwashed, redneck hill-billies to whom the truth has not yet come. 

The odd part is that we feel kinda the same way about them.

An article from The Baptist Press describing the success of the Bible series says in part: 

NASHVILLE (BP) — History Channel’s “The Bible” miniseries climbed back into the top slot in its third week Sunday (March 17), finishing No. 1 for the night among all broadcast and cable programs thanks to an increase in viewership. 

The episode drew 10.9 million viewers, better than its previous week of 10.8 million. It bested AMC’s “Walking Dead” (10.8 million) and CBS’ “60 Minutes” (10.2 million). 


The series was No. 1 among broadcast and cable shows in its first week but dropped to No. 3 in its second week. 

Unlike most History Channel documentaries — which generally cast a skeptical eye on the truthfulness of Scripture — the five-part, 10-hour miniseries has placed the Bible in a more positive light. The final two episodes will be broadcast over the next two weeks, wrapping up on Easter Sunday.  (Read the rest here.)

Pope Francis: When One Does Not Profess Christ, One Professes the Worldliness of the Devil

Img 606x341 1303 vaticano francis first

Pope Francis’ first homily was a call for the Church and all Christians to focus on the cross. 

My favorite quotes from it are:

  • We can build many things, but if we do not confess Jesus Christ, nothing will avail. We will become a pitiful NGO, but not the Church, the Bride of Christ. 

  • When one does not profess Jesus Christ – I recall the phrase of Leon Bloy – “Whoever does not pray to God, prays to the devil.” When one does not profess Jesus Christ, one professes the worldliness of the devil.

  • When we walk without the Cross, when we build without the Cross, and when we profess Christ without the Cross, we are not disciples of the Lord. We are worldly, we are bishops, priests, cardinals, Popes, but not disciples of the Lord.

  • I would like that all of us, after these days of grace, might have the courage – the courage – to walk in the presence of the Lord, with the Cross of the Lord: to build the Church on the Blood of the Lord, which is shed on the Cross, and to profess the one glory, Christ Crucified. In this way, the Church will go forward.

  • My hope for all of us is that the Holy Spirit, that the prayer of Our Lady, our Mother, might grant us this grace: to walk, to build, to profess Jesus Christ Crucified.

The full text of the homily, from the Vatican website is below. I put the quotes I took from it in bold. 

In these three readings I see that there is something in common: it is movement. In the first reading, movement is the journey [itself]; in the second reading, movement is in the up-building of the Church. In the third, in the Gospel, the movement is in [the act of] profession: walking, building, professing.

Walking: the House of Jacob. “O house of Jacob, Come, let us walk in the light of the Lord.” This is the first thing God said to Abraham: “Walk in my presence and be blameless.” Walking: our life is a journey and when we stop, there is something wrong. Walking always, in the presence of the Lord, in the light of the Lord, seeking to live with that blamelessness, which God asks of Abraham, in his promise.

Building: to build the Church. There is talk of stones: stones have consistency, but [the stones spoken of are] living stones, stones anointed by the Holy Spirit. Build up the Church, the Bride of Christ, the cornerstone of which is the same Lord. With [every] movement in our lives, let us build!

Third, professing: we can walk as much we want, we can build many things, but if we do not confess Jesus Christ, nothing will avail. We will become a pitiful NGO, but not the Church, the Bride of Christ. When one does not walk, one stalls. When one does not built on solid rocks, what happens? What happens is what happens to children on the beach when they make sandcastles: everything collapses, it is without consistency. When one does not profess Jesus Christ – I recall the phrase of Leon Bloy – “Whoever does not pray to God, prays to the devil.” When one does not profess Jesus Christ, one professes the worldliness of the devil.

Walking, building-constructing, professing: the thing, however, is not so easy, because in walking, in building, in professing, there are sometimes shake-ups – there are movements that are not part of the path: there are movements that pull us back.

This Gospel continues with a special situation. The same Peter who confessed Jesus Christ, says, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. I will follow you, but let us not speak of the Cross. This has nothing to do with it.” He says, “I’ll follow you on other ways, that do not include the Cross.” When we walk without the Cross, when we build without the Cross, and when we profess Christ without the Cross, we are not disciples of the Lord. We are worldly, we are bishops, priests, cardinals, Popes, but not disciples of the Lord.

I would like that all of us, after these days of grace, might have the courage – the courage – to walk in the presence of the Lord, with the Cross of the Lord: to build the Church on the Blood of the Lord, which is shed on the Cross, and to profess the one glory, Christ Crucified. In this way, the Church will go forward.

My hope for all of us is that the Holy Spirit, that the prayer of Our Lady, our Mother, might grant us this grace: to walk, to build, to profess Jesus Christ Crucified. So be it.

Military Under Fire: How Would the Repeal of DOMA and Gay Marriage Affect Military Chaplains?

How would the repeal of DOMA and the legalization affect military chaplains?

When you consider this president’s previous attacks on religious freedom, that is a sobering question.

This video from the Marriage Anti-Defamation Alliance discusses these questions.

YouTube Preview Image

 

Marriage March

Pope’s Last Angelus Message: The Lord is Calling Me to Climb the Mountain

The Holy Father gave his last Angelus meditation as pope to huge crowds today.

It was a beautiful good-bye, in which he said:

Dear brothers and sisters, I feel that this Word of God is particularly directed at me, at this point in my life. The Lord is calling me to “climb the mountain”, to devote myself even more to prayer and meditation. But this does not mean abandoning the Church, indeed, if God is asking me to do this it is so that I can continue to serve the Church with the same dedication and the same love with which I have done thus far, but in a way that is better suited to my age and my strength.

The complete text of the Holy Father’s Angelus address is below. You can find it on the Vatican Radio website:

Dear brothers and sisters!

On the second Sunday of Lent, the liturgy always presents us with the Gospel of the Transfiguration of the Lord. The evangelist Luke places particular emphasis on the fact that Jesus was transfigured as he prayed: his is a profound experience of relationship with the Father during a sort of spiritual retreat that Jesus lives on a high mountain in the company of Peter, James and John , the three disciples always present in moments of divine manifestation of the Master (Luke 5:10, 8.51, 9.28).
The Lord, who shortly before had foretold his death and resurrection (9:22), offers his disciples a foretaste of his glory. And even in the Transfiguration, as in baptism, we hear the voice of the Heavenly Father, “This is my Son, the Chosen One listen to him” (9:35). The presence of Moses and Elijah, representing the Law and the Prophets of the Old Covenant, it is highly significant: the whole history of the Alliance is focused on Him, the Christ, who accomplishes a new “exodus” (9:31) , not to the promised land as in the time of Moses, but to Heaven. Peter’s words: “Master, it is good that we are here” (9.33) represents the impossible attempt to stop this mystical experience. St. Augustine says: “[Peter] … on the mountain … had Christ as the food of the soul. Why should he come down to return to the labours and pains, while up there he was full of feelings of holy love for God that inspired in him a holy conduct? “(Sermon 78.3).

We can draw a very important lesson from meditating on this passage of the Gospel. First, the primacy of prayer, without which all the work of the apostolate and of charity is reduced to activism. In Lent we learn to give proper time to prayer, both personal and communal, which gives breath to our spiritual life. In addition, to pray is not to isolate oneself from the world and its contradictions, as Peter wanted on Tabor, instead prayer leads us back to the path, to action. “The Christian life – I wrote in my Message for Lent – consists in continuously scaling the mountain to meet God and then coming back down, bearing the love and strength drawn from him, so as to serve our brothers and sisters with God’s own love “(n. 3).

Dear brothers and sisters, I feel that this Word of God is particularly directed at me, at this point in my life. The Lord is calling me to “climb the mountain”, to devote myself even more to prayer and meditation. But this does not mean abandoning the Church, indeed, if God is asking me to do this it is so that I can continue to serve the Church with the same dedication and the same love with which I have done thus far, but in a way that is better suited to my age and my strength. Let us invoke the intercession of the Virgin Mary: may she always help us all to follow the Lord Jesus in prayer and works of charity.

I offer a warm greeting to all the English-speaking visitors present for this Angelus prayer, especially the Schola Cantorum of the London Oratory School. I thank everyone for the many expressions of gratitude, affection and closeness in prayer which I have received in these days. As we continue our Lenten journey towards Easter, may we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus the Redeemer, whose glory was revealed on the mount of the Transfiguration. Upon all of you I invoke God’s abundant blessings!

What if Jesus had said yes to Satan?

 Then the devil took him up and revealed to him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. “I will give you the glory of these kingdoms and authority over them,” the devil said, “because they are mine to give to anyone I please. I will give it all to you if you will worship me.”

What would the world look like today if Jesus had said yes to Satan?

What if, when Satan offered Our Lord all the kingdoms of the earth, Jesus had said yes?

What if, like the Saturday Night Live skit, dJesus, Our Savior had used his powers to force people to bend their knee to Him?

These questions strike to the heart of other questions. Why does God allow people to rape, torture and murder innocent children? Why would He allow cancer? Why doesn’t He stop us from harming one another so viciously?

Why, in short, does He tolerate a creation that rejects Him and what He has taught us to do and so often goes in the opposite and entirely cruel and destructive direction?

If He is God, why does He allow so much suffering?

I have heard people say things like this when they were in the extremities of pain and loss. Their question was not so much an accusation as it was a kind of prayer, a cry from the depths.

On the other hand, it has become fashionable in certain circles for privileged people to ask questions like these as a method of self-justification or simply as a way to attack faith. This  nonsense of blaming God for our sins is becoming an increasingly accepted way to brush aside personal responsibility for our actions. Instead of acknowledging what we have done wrong, we point out that someone else is doing just as bad or worse.

Who better to blame for all the sins of humanity than a God who has the power to stop us from harming one another and will not do it? So, the fashion of the day is misplaced blame. We hold God accountable for human depravity.

But what would happen if God stopped us from sinning? What would have happened if Jesus had been the kind of conquering messiah the Jewish people wanted? What, in short, would happen if God was more like us?

I am the first to admit that if I was God every rapist and child batterer on this planet would be a pile of ash. Poof! And they would be on their slimy way to hell.

But God doesn’t operate that way, even when we wish He would.

He was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where he was tempted by the devil for forty days. Jesus ate nothing all that time and became very hungry. 

Then the devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become a loaf of bread.”

Jesus said “No” to Satan’s offer of worldly power. He turned His back on the temptation to use His power for Himself, even for something as simple as turning stone to bread to eat when He was hungry. He said no to all of it, and by doing that took the first steps to the cross.

Our eternal salvation began with that series of “nos” to the prince of darkness and his tempting offers to make right with might.

The truth is that even when God directs us, he always leaves us the choice of saying no to Him. He sets before us life and death, and then He lets us chose. He gives us a radical type of freedom that allows us to literally do our worst, including mocking, criticizing and attacking Him.

When Jesus said no to the control of earthly kingdoms, He was also saying no to the use of force to convert us.

God’s Kingdom is made of free people who freely chose to follow Him. The narrow way is narrow precisely because so many people would rather go the way of power and license, of selfishness and greed rather than give themselves to a Lord Who chose suffering and death over all earthly power.

Why the cross? Why did Jesus have to suffer and die on the cross; beaten, tortured, mocked, naked and humiliated? Why was this necessary to save us? Why didn’t He just reach out and save us with a magical touch?

From the beginnings of Christianity to now the cross has been a scandal. It is the subject of mockery from today’s evangelical atheists just as it was the subject of mockery by the Romans. The Romans saw the cross as ignoble. It was shameful, a disgrace, to die in such a manner; proof that the person who suffered it was from the scum classes of society and essentially worthless. The idea that Christians claimed such a victim as their god was, to them, ludicrous.

Today’s atheists are not so class conscious. They hang their critiques on a distaste for the whole affair. They sneer at the bloodshed and suffering and rebuke Christians for what they claim is a morbid worship of death.

But in truth the cross was the greatest gift of love ever given to humankind. The cross was not the only way God could have saved us. But it was the only way He could have done it and left us free.

Frank Weathers, who blogs at Why I Am Catholic, published an interesting post a few days ago. He commented on the Saturday Night Live skit, DJesus, that mocked our Lord by casting him as a violent, vengeful killer who wreaked havoc on everyone who ever crossed Him. Frank raised the question, “What would things be like if Jesus had been this vengeful god the skit portrayed?”

I think another way to ask that question is, What would things be like if Jesus had said yes to Satan in the wilderness?

The answer is probably along the lines of Jesus as He is portrayed in the SNL skit, only much worse than anything we can imagine. People of the first century were accustomed to gods who hungered for power — over each other, and over human beings. Humanity had long worshiped various deities who craved death and demanded that their followers slaughter their children, captives and other helpless ones as sacrifices to them.

How is that so different from our current culture of abortion, euthanasia and meaningless wars? St Augustine said these early gods were in fact demons. If he was right, then it appears these same demons are working through people today. They have not changed their tactics. They have only changed their names and their arguments.

God doesn’t allow suffering. He allows us our freedom and we cause the suffering. God doesn’t rape and torture. He doesn’t send drones, tell lies and ignore the elderly, sick, poor and helpless in our midst. We do that.

What God does is allow us to choose who we will serve. Jesus was born in a stable and died on a cross to open a path to salvation and eternal life for us. He suffered all this because by suffering it  He could both redeem us and leave us free to reject the redemption He offered.

God lets us chose. He sets before us life and death and then He lets us chose. That is the way things are because on that day so long ago, Jesus made His own choice. He said “no” to satan and turned His face to the path that led Him to the cross.

Remember: Thou Art Dust

And the Lord God formed man from the dust of the earth … 

Ashes to ashes, dust to dust …

I am going to die.

You are going to die.

Public Catholic has enough regular readers that it is a statistical certainty that at least one of us, perhaps more, will die this year.

Our souls, as the Scriptures say, will be required of us.

We have unbelievers who post on this board who tell us that nothing awaits us when we close our eyes on this world, that we will simply drift into the nothingness of non-existence, go back to the dust from which we came, and cease.

Our ending, according to them, will be our end.

But this, quite simply, is not true. I doubt very much that the nonbelievers who say it actually believe it. They use it as a ruse to hide behind when dealing with the existential miseries that their bankrupt philosophy imposes on them. It is an odd and sad outlook on life that finds its comfort in a studied hope for annihilation.

The truth is, there is no death for us. We are immortal beings who will live on past our bodies. Most of us sense this in a deep and incontrovertible way that can either comfort or torment us, depending on what we do with this innate knowledge of our own natures.

God is real. I have felt and known Him. I experienced His Presence in my life as an inpouring of love that I neither expected or sought.

But — and this is something that so frightens unbelievers that they invariably become angry when you say it — the devil and his evil are also real. It is not fashionable to say that. I’ve had members of the clergy chide me and tease me for believing it. But I do not doubt the reality of a malicious personality that hates the light and craves annihilation. I have felt his presence, too.

“If you eat of the fruit, you will not die” he told the woman, and like all really effective lies, this one was partial truth. You will not die … today. That was the truth of it. Turn your back on God. Defy Him. Do your own thing. And you will not die … today.

God lies, Satan told the woman, just as he tells us today. God lies to you when He says “Thou shalt not kill, lie, steal, commit adultery or covet.” He doesn’t mean it when He says “Put no other gods before Me.”

He lies. Because he doesn’t want you to have the pretty things of this world, to be able to enjoy the sexual pleasures He created for you, to live as you choose with your own free and preeminent will. He lies, and you are a fool for listening to Him.

Because you are not dust. You are the Lord of creation, the master of your fate, the god of your own life. There is nothing to fear because there is nothing that matters. At the end of our days, there is nothing but nothing. We stop. And we rot. We are carrion meat that walks for a time. So we should, again as the Scriptures say, eat, drink and be merry.

Like all effective lies, this one contains a bit of truth mixed in with the untruth. “Eat and you will not die … today.”

“Ignore God now and there will be no reckoning … today.”

Because you are dust, and you will die, regardless of how you live. You can run ten miles a day and your heart will still stop at some unknown time in your future. You can eat spinach and beans and forego fast food and steak, but your arteries will still cease to pump blood on some day you don’t know yet.

You can break every moral precept in the Scriptures, and you will not die … today. You will live for a time and you may even appear to triumph over those who do not indulge their darker natures as you do. There will be no reckoning … today.

But God is real. He gives us every opportunity to turn to Him and live life His way. He lets us choose. He sets before us every day life and death, and He lets us freely choose which of these we want.

That is what Lent is about. It isn’t a matter of giving up candy or foregoing wine for forty days. It is not about wearing ashes on our foreheads like religious jewelry or meatless Fridays.

Lent is about conversion. It is about renewal by means of awareness that we need to be renewed. The penances of Lent are signposts to guide us to a knowledge that we are but dust and we have sinned, but that we are also immortal beings who will one day stand before the God Who made us.

Lent is a time of turning again to the roots of our being. It is going back to the garden and acknowledging that we too “are naked and ashamed” before God. We, too are, to paraphrase St Peter, “sinful men and women.” But instead of crying out as Peter did, “Depart from me Lord, for I am a sinful man.” We can say, “come close to me Lord, for I am your broken child.”

The difference is the cross. The difference between despair and trust is the certain knowledge that we are bought at a terrible price and we do not have to be masters of our own fate. We do not have to feel our way blindly through life with no idea of what is right and wrong. We do not have to die an eternal death. We can have life, and have it abundantly. Because of the cross.

Lent is a time of penance and reflection in which we take an honest look at ourselves and our tawdry righteousness. Lent is for turning back to the One who can save us from ourselves. We are preparing to go to the cross where we will stand in solidarity with the rest of humanity, united in our sinfulness and our great need of Him and His redemption.

Lent is not about giving up candy and meatless Fridays. It is rather our gentle foretaste of Gethsemane.

Pedophilia, Comments from the Pit, Cardinal Mahony and Following Jesus

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. Proverbs 3:5

 

I wrote Is Legalizing Pedophilia the Next Amoral Social Movement?  a couple of weeks ago.

The response to this post (along with another post about a transsexual teacher in a Catholic school) was one of the more sobering experiences I’ve had in a while.

Comments supporting pedophilia and basically saying that concerns for children in our schools was unimportant compared to the “rights” of transsexuals rolled in like a wave of sludge. They had a crazy-queezy quality that stayed with me, even after I deleted them.

I felt like needed to take a long shower, vacuum out my brain, and have my computer de-slimed.

I always intended to write another post about this, but I didn’t know at the beginning that I was going to include the self-serving excuses of a prince of the Church in my analysis.

Those pedophilia-supporting, child-trashing comments came from the pit. They are what people devolve down to when they lean on their own understanding. There is no bottom to human behavior once we stop feeling we have to answer to God.

If you doubt this, think back. Sixty years ago, even Planned Parenthood said that abortion was wrong because it took the life of a child.

Copy of an old Planned Parenthood brochure.

Now, anyone who says this in public can be sure that the pro abortionists will settle on them like blow flies, declaiming that a “fetus” is not a human being, and those who say otherwise are not only religious fanatics but woman-hating moral ingrates, as well.

Thirty years ago euthanasia was considered anathema; the stuff of scare tactics by those who wanted to push women back to the back alleys. I was among those who sneered when pro life people warned that the disrespect for life that legal abortion created would lead inevitably to a push for mercy killing. I thought they were nuts when they said this. Unfortunately, I was wrong.

We are now at the pass where it is not possible to make a statement in opposition to legalized medical murder without being jumped out by the pro deathers.

Likewise with gay marriage. Fifteen years ago, the idea was bizarre to most people. It was laughable. Now, people who try to defend traditional marriage will find their conversations hijacked by those who tell them they are “haters” and “homophobes” for thinking this way.

 

There. Is. No. Bottom.

As soon as we accept one depravity, sometimes even before we accept it, the push is on to deepen the moral pit under our feet and push us down to the next new low. Whatever we accept, there is another step down where the purveyors of moral destruction want to take us.

This is where we go when we try to create a moral code out of our own thinking and debate. We simply can’t do it. What we construct is not a fixed mark. It moves as we move it like a ball in a soccer match. Inevitably, our morality becomes a matter of what we can wrest from political action and media public relations. It changes according to what the richest and most well-connected say it is.

When we try to create our morality according to the fashions of the times, we will find that it changes according to those fashions and is dictated to us by other people who have an agenda that does not often jibe with what is best of us, our children, our country or our world.

That is why I’ve become simple-minded about my morality. I tried mightily to follow the dictates of what I thought was right and wrong in my past and I reaped a whirlwind of remorse as a result. I no longer believe in my own moral superiority. I am not and never want to be a moral leader. I am a follower.

The One I follow is Jesus Christ. But I don’t rely on my own understanding, even in this.

Do you want to know how to discern God’s will?

I will tell you.

Read the Catechism and do what it tells you. Follow the 2,000 year old teachings of the Catholic Church.

When you fail in this, go to confession. Then begin again.

That is the only way I know to reliably discern God’s will. It is a reliable, simple and absolutely correct way to know if what you are doing is right or wrong. The trouble is, it often tells you to do things that will get you in bad with your buddies, cost you inconvenience or worse still, get you shunned and mocked for being a religious nut.

Which leads me to the Prince of the Church.

I wasn’t going to write about Cardinal Mahony. I don’t want to now.

But I think this needs to be said. The Cardinal has made excuses for himself. He claims that back when he was transferring priests who had molested children, he didn’t know how damaging this was to the children in question. He even published a letter yesterday in which he said that he’d never taken a course on this topic, as if that somehow or other excused his behavior.

The problem wasn’t a lack of proper coursework. It also wasn’t bad advice from “experts.” The problem was that the Cardinal was not following Jesus.

Even now that he’s been caught, humiliated and excoriated, he clings to secular excuses for what is, among other things, a grave moral wrong. Instead of relying on his education and failure-ridden secular “specialists” and “experts,” he should have paid attention to the Gospels he proclaimed and the teachings of the Church he represented. 

The Cardinal, no less than the rest of us, appears to have been beguiled by the world. I repeat: When he did these things, he was not following Jesus. If he had been following Jesus, he would not have been able to continue on and on treating little children this way. He could not have done it. Even if he had ignored the Gospels and the Catechism, the Holy Spirit would have stopped him.

He was following the world, not Christ.

We need holy priests. We don’t necessarily need priests who are stars, or who are brilliant or who can raise a lot of money. We need priests who follow Christ, who preach Christ, who teach Christ and who believe in Jesus with their whole hearts. We need servant leaders who are not so much stellar leaders as faithful followers of the One they should be pointing to every day of their priesthood.

We — you, me, all of us — can not create or enforce a moral standard for ourselves. That’s like a book writing itself, a statue carving itself. We are too finite, too fallen, too selfish and caught in the narrowness of our own selves to even attempt such a thing. When we do, we always end in a moral train wreck, whether we have the humility to admit it or not.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding,” the Bible tells us.

Whether your are homeless and living under a bridge or a Prince of the Church, it’s good advice.

 


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X