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

Many mansions 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.

2And2more fusedfbwhmark zpsde870272

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 soft smile

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.) 

Christian Persecution: Six Quick Takes

Six 290x300

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

Idoppersecution

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

1. NIGERIA 

391284 242882725846310 1385215752 n

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

Cross Flag

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

2013041633

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

Armen1

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

0424 kidnapped syrian bishops full 380

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: 

China20house20church202005 300x225

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.)

 

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.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X