and Jesus said I Am. What do you think He meant?

640px Christ Pantocrator Deesis mosaic Hagia Sophia

Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons

 

And Jesus said

I AM the way.

I AM the bread of life.

I AM the light of the world. 

I AM the good shepherd.

I AM the door.

I AM the way, the truth and the life. 

I AM the true vine.

I AM the resurrection and the life.

Before Abraham was, I AM.

What do you think He meant? 

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Charlie Hebdo Roundup

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Book cover photo from Amazon

Some days, the news speaks for itself. 

This is a roundup of stories about and reactions to the terrorist attack on the Paris newspaper Charlie Hebdo yesterday. 

Charlie Hebdo Attack: Man Turns Himself In, Two Brothers Still Sought. 

French Police Converge on small town after Paris attack suspects seen

The Pen vs the Gun

#JeSuisCharlie — Will Clemency and Kindness Prevail over Extremism? 

Muslims segregated from French society in growing Islamist mini-states

Charlie Hebdo and a Broken Europe    … France faces rising tide of Islamophobia 

Charlie Hebdo Enrages French Catholics 

Charlie Hebdo’s history of challenging and angering fundamentalists

Dante: Mohammed in Hell

See Covers Published by Charlie Hebdo

Charlie Hebdo’s Muslim Cartoons

Charlie Hebdo’s Mysterious last tweet before the attack

The author on Charlie Hebdo’s latest cover imagined a France under Islamist rule

‘Islamophobic’ Michel Houellebecq book featured by charlie Hebdo published today.  I don’t speak or read French, but I’m ordering the book, anyway; in support of free speech. 

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Terrorists Attack Paris Newspaper. Twelve Reported Dead.

Masked gunmen shouting Allah Akbar shot and killed 12 people and critically injured 4 others at a Paris newspaper earlier today.

Reportedly armed with a Kalashnikov and a rocket launcher, the attackers are said to have hijacked a car, run over a pedestrian and shot at police officers in their escape from the scene. Two police officers are reported to have been killed.

The target of the attack was a satirical publication called Charlie Hebdo, which in 2012 reprinted cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed that had created a furor when they were originally printed in a Danish publication. This week Charlie Hebdo featured the book “Soumission” by Nichel Houellebecq, which imagines a France that is ruled by an Islamic government.

President Francois Hollande called the attack, “An act of exceptional barbarism … against a newspaper, meaning (against) the expression of liberty.”

The White House condemned the attacks “in the strongest possible terms,” and British Prime Minister said in a tweet, “We stand with the French people in the fight against terror and defending the freedom of the press.”

From Ricochet:

If I sound incoherent, it’s because I am shaken. The reasons will be obvious.

I had no intention of reporting on this from the scene of the Charlie-Hebdo massacre. I was walking up Boulevard Richard Lenoir to meet a friend who lives in the neighborhood. But the moment I saw what I did, I knew for sure what had happened. A decade in Turkey teaches you that. That many ambulances, that many cops, that many journalists, and those kinds of faces can mean only one thing: a massive terrorist attack.

I also knew from the location just who’d been attacked: Charlie-Hebdo, the magazine known for many things, but, above all, for its fearlessness in publishing caricatures of Mohamed. They’d been firebombed for this in 2011, but their response — in effect — was the only one free men would ever consider: “As long as we’re alive, you’ll never shut us up.”

They are no longer alive. They managed to shut them up.

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Pope Francis is Writing an Encyclical on the Environment, and Both Sides of the Political Spectrum are Sharpening their Knives

Pope francis

Copyright Thierry Ehrmann, Flickr Commons, used with permission.

So, Pope Francis is going to write an encyclical on the environment, and the right wing heretics, the left wing heretics, the corporatists and the nihilists are sharpening their knives.

It would be a hopeful sign, that so many of our culture warriors and mega money-men are seemingly besotted with the pope to the point of losing all common sense.

It would be.

Except …

They are not besotted with the Pope as the Vicar of Christ. They are interested in him and his every little word because he has power, and power is what they are all about.

Pope Francis does not have the power to push a button and melt down mountains. He cannot sign an agreement and send the industrial base of a great capitalist nation to a communist nation. He can’t raid a national treasury and put the coin in his own pocket. He can not write a statue or issue an order and with his terrible swift pen KO the family, human life at its beginning or the tenuous hold on respect held by our frail elderly and disabled.

Nope.

Pope Francis can not do any of those things. What he can do is speak directly to the conscience of billions of Christians by telling them the plain facts of what Christ meant. He has the power to take the phrase “the least of these” and tell us who the least of these is and what we must do for them. He can remind us that Jesus said it more than once and He said it without equivocation that if we ignore “the least of these” we will not see heaven.

Pope Francis can define for us what, specifically, following Christ means in our world today. He can elucidate for us what the Scriptures mean when they tell us that we are our brothers’ keeper and that we have dominion over the earth.

We live in a time when corporatists are raping the American economy for their gain, while they also rape the planet on which we all live. At the same time, nihilists are selling us a cant of destruction of the family, the devaluation of human life and bloated social programs that not only do not heal the wounds our indifference to human beings have inflicted but are increasingly becoming a means to attack the rights and freedoms Americans enjoy.

Does anybody besides me see that these two things are not opposites? They are different verses of the same song, and that same song is the satan-inspired ballad of the pit, the cultural refutation of the value, dignity, worth and meaning of human life. The fact that one side does it for corporate interests and the other side does it for nihilistic interests makes no real difference. Dead is dead and we are killing ourselves in the service of these false gods of our politics.

Patheos writers from every quarter comment about this, each in their own way.

Frank Schaeffer recently published a passionate article in the Huffington Post in which he repented of and disavowed his religious right past. I think he got his politics a bit wrong when he said, … the American right is not about politics as most people understand politics but about religious absolutes. 

That may be the zeitgeist viewpoint, but from my vantage of having just completed 18 years in public office, it seems simplistic to the point of silliness. The right side of the political coin is not in any way about religious absolutes. Religious absolutes are what they use to sell their corporatism. Religious absolutes are their vote-getting machine.

Now, I know well that there are many sincere Christians who are part of the right side (let’s call them Republicans and stop the cuteness) of the political spectrum, precisely because they were chased out of the left side (Democrats) as punishment for their belief in God, in particular for their belief in His demand that we honor the sanctity of human life.

I’ve lived this nonsense, up close and personal, for quite some time. I can’t tell you how many times my fellow Democrats have uninvited me to be a member of their party because I am pro life.

I understand the flight of so many Christians to the Republican party. I also know that a good number of Republican office holders are devout and sincere Christians.

But, religious absolutes are not what the puppet masters who beam candidates into office on a beam of corporate money — in short the puppet masters who own and run the Republican Party for their own interests — are about. In fact, at least here in Oklahoma, a good many of the top tier Rs that I’ve known have been atheists, big donors to Planned Parenthood, etc.

Politics is not, ever, about religious certitude. It’s about getting power and keeping power and using power for corporatist purposes. It’s about raiding the treasury of public monies and public power which was built by the people and should be used for the people and putting it into the pockets of a few.

Buying a legislature or a Congress by putting them in office with a few million dollars is a cheap investment for controlling the American government and bending it to your own greedy and ruthless will.

On the other side, the side where Mr Schaeffer has found his new hallelujah, the vote-getting machine is aimed at the don’t-wanna-folllow-no-rules crowd. The Democratic Party, which was once the party of working people and the great builder of economic diversity and hope for this country, has become the purveyor of nihilism and the destruction of human life.

If it’s a bad moral idea, you can be pretty sure that the Ds will latch onto it and claim it as a human right before too long. Abortion, embryonic stem cell research, gay marriage, egg harvesting and the intellectual tyranny of political correctness are their vote getting machine.

Again, I know many people who still cling to the working-class roots of the Democratic Party. They truly are about a living wage and building an economy with American manufacturing, American labor and American know-how. I know a good number of elected Democratic officials, including, not so long ago, myself, who feel this way.

They/we are to the Democratic Party what the pro traditional marriage people have become to the Republican Party; someone to be tolerated and used, but also, when policy is made, ignored.

The American people are a bit like Mr Schaeffer in that they flip from one of these extremes to the other, in search of someone who will listen to them. Every few years they toss out whoever is in office and elect a new batch of wing nuts from the opposite political spectrum. Then, after the people they elect ignore the people who elected them and follow the the corporatist pipers who paid for their campaigns, we the people wearily, and with a deepening sense of hopelessness, toss them out and try again.

How does anyone keep putting their faith in princes in the face of this? More to the point, how does anyone keep chasing after what Elizabeth Scalia calls “Strange Gods”, in this case the false idol of political salvation, year after year, election after election?

What does all this have to do with Pope Francis and his as-yet unwritten encyclical on the environment? In truth, it doesn’t have much at all to do with the encyclical itself, and that is the primary cause of all the carrying on about it in the two wing-nut camps that seek to define Western society in their own image.

They are not dealing with the actual encyclical, and they never will. What they are doing now is rehearsing and readying. They are softening us up for the tsunami of propaganda that will be unleashed when the encyclical is published.

Right wing nuts are afraid that Pope Francis might write something that says that they (gasp, shock, rage) might be in need of conversion. Left wing nuts are hopeful that this is so. Both of them intend to ignore the actual encyclical and write their own version of it when it comes out.

What they both want out of the deal is political advantage in order to solidify their control of the American government to be used for their own destructive and America-destroying purposes.

Pope Francis has the power of speaking as the Vicar of Christ and these politicos and their mouthpieces want to harness that power to their own anti-Christ uses. That makes him the object of their hatred and delight, another person thingy to massage and lie about until they drain him of his relevance and can’t use him anymore.

Mark Shea wrote a post yesterday in which he noodled with what this might mean to Catholics like us who are living our walk with Christ in these times. He rightly notes that certain members of the clergy are infected with this disease of defining Jesus by their politics along with the rest of the populace. They veer to the left, or to the right, whittling Jesus down into a caricature of the R or the D, and teaching their hapless parishioners to do the same.

Mark is the writer Catholic righties love to hate. He’s fought the good fight of speaking against both both torture and abortion, of being against corporatism and socialism, of saying that the right to life goes seamlessly from conception to natural death and that hunger, poverty, corporate wars and nihilistic debauchery that kills are co-promotors of the culture of death.

That is a most Catholic position, and it is also the one position most likely to make everybody, everywhere in the political firmament mad at you.

Because the little g gods of political fealty require a serious jettisoning of Christian baggage as the price for that comfortable feeling of finding cheap grace and easy salvation in your voter registration card. It does not matter which party you chose. If you follow its teachings instead of Jesus, you are on the broad path that leads to destruction.

That is Frank Schaeffer’s mistake. It was his first mistake when he blindly took off after the Rs in the name of Jesus, and now it’s his second mistake when he blindly attacks them and takes off after the Ds. I do not know this man, but based on this article, it seems that he is making the same mistake, over and again.

What I call The Political Heresy, which is the practice of looking for God in your politics, is, in my opinion, the primary heresy of contemporary America.

I would put it above nonsensical claptrap such as claiming that killing people with abortion and euthanasia is a human right, or that harvesting women’s bodies for eggs is women’s rights. I would also put it above the other claptrap of claiming that Jesus was a corporatist, and that what He really meant all along was blessed are the rich.

I do that because The Political Heresy is a first cause of both these things. What makes it a first cause is that it shifts our loyalty and our followership away from Christ Jesus and places it on the propagandized musings of well-paid think tanks and media outlets who are designed and employed to confuse, delude, misinform and otherwise lead us away from Him.

Pope Francis is writing an encyclical on the environment, and both sides of the political spectrum are sharpening their knives. Because they don’t care about Jesus. And they don’t care about the future of this planet. And they don’t care about people.

They care about getting and keeping power.

And everything else they say is a lie.

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The epiphany of the Epiphany: The Wise Men r Us

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Copyright: Wonderlane used with permission.

The wise men r us.

By that I mean they are that vast reach of overlooked humanity that had no part in God’s Covenant with Abraham. The wise men are you and me, who will be, at long last and as St Paul put it, “grafted” onto the original tree of life that God planted when He raised up first a man and his wife, then their family, and finally, a people, to be the flame of flickering light in the darkness of fallen humanity.

We sorta know the story of the Wise Men. We’ve seen it acted out in Christmas pageants when, at the end of the story of Jesus, Mary, Joseph and the manger, three little boys walk in to the tune of We Three Kings. They are wearing bathrobes made of shiny fabric and carrying three boxes marked “gold,” “frankincense” and “myrrh.”

The little boys put their boxes next to a makeshift manger which holds a doll wrapped in a baby blanket. Meanwhile a little girl, dressed in a her mother’s bathrobe and a little boy dressed in his dad’s, look on. The shepherds are already there, along with a couple of little girl angels.

It’s Christmas and the people rise to sing Joy to the World with the gusto of those who know in their hearts that this story, however simply it is told, is true.

These Christmas pageants are simple, fun and they do tell the essential story. But the layers upon layers of meaning that the story holds are not touched. That’s to the good, of course, since belief lies not in layers of understanding but in the simplicity of ultimate truth.

Christmas is about the end of the endless night of ultimate hopelessness. It is the story of The Light breaking into human history. As such, the simplicity of small-church Christmas pageants are all we need to tell the story.

But for those who want to look past the dust jacket on the story, the questions and the answers are there. Before Jesus, God’s direct work with humanity had been limited to this smallish family turned nation that He had settled smack along the most important trade route of the ancient world. The bread basket of Egypt, the spices and riches of the East, traveled along this narrow way near the sea on their journey to Europe.

Rome fed off this route, as had numerous empires before it. Of all the places in the ancient world, the one most likely to be fought over, invaded, battered and beaten, was this one. Why did God put His people here?

My guess is that it was because the story of the Jews is not just the story of the Jews. It is the story of Jesus’ family. The Bible itself is, from the first page to the last, the story of Jesus, of God’s redemption of us, all of us, everywhere. He chose to send His redemption first through a man and his wife, then through a family and finally through a single nation.

When Jesus was born, He repeated the story and went back, once again, to a man and woman, a husband and wife. It seems that God always begins His beginnings with humanity with family.

The Chosen people were chosen, as God told Abraham, “to be a blessing.” They job was to bring that first flickering point of light to the world at large. The nation of Israel was in the one best place best situated for sending the message of redemption to the whole world. The location that made it a perilous location of great political and economic interest, also made it the perfect jumping-off place for spreading the Good News outward until it met itself circling the globe.

Thus Jesus, when He finally came, was a Jew, born to Jews in a vassal Jewish nation residing in the crook of the elbow of the ancient economy.

He was, from the beginning, the Light of the World. Not, notice, the light of the Jews. Jesus, a Jew, born of Jews, came for every person who walked the planet. Salvation came from the Jews, but it was for us all.

That is the meaning of the Epiphany. It is the underlying message of God calling three wise men to, as the hymn says, “traverse afar” in their quest to find Him. These men were not Jews. They were us, the unsaved sea of humanity that had been, up until then, standing outside the door.

The epiphany of the Epiphany is that we are part of the story now. Salvation came from the Jews, but it is no longer theirs alone. From the beginning of Jesus’ earthly life, He called all humanity to Himself. It began with three men who followed a star and it is unfolding to this day.

Pope Francis surprised the pundits this week by raising up cardinals from far-flung locations about the world, many of which are places where Christians suffer desperate persecution. The mustard seed is just being planted in some of these lands. Those cardinals are the successors to the wise men.

… the Gospel must be preached to all nations, Jesus told us.

And it will be.

And it is.

Like every other story of humankind, the story of our salvation begins with a man, a woman, and a baby. It begins with a family, and it ends with eternal life.

Mixed into this story is the tale of three wise men who “traversed afar” to pay homage to a newborn king laid in a manger in a stable. They visited the Romans’ vassal king of that land, King Herod, on their way to Him. In doing so, they alerted a ruthless and insecure man to a potential threat. Their indiscretion cost the lives of innocent children, executed by King Herod in a drive to safeguard his throne against prophecy. They were the trigger that sent Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus into exile in Egypt.

Their part in the story of salvation, was germinal in every way. But the most important part of it is also the most often overlooked. The wise men were not Jews, they were not of the Chosen people. The blood of Abraham did not flow in their veins. But God called them and guided them and over a long journey led them … to Him.

In this way, the epiphany of the Epiphany is that we are welcome at the table now. The doors to God’s salvation opened wide on that night when He was born, allowing any who will take the step to enter in. It began with a star, a journey and a baby.

Because the wise men r us.

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Pope Francis Appoints 15 New Cardinals from Everywhere

Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons. http://www.presidencia.gov.ar/

Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons. http://www.presidencia.gov.ar/

… and the Gospel must first be preached to all nations. Jesus Christ

Pope Francis announced the appointment of 15 new cardinals today.

The Holy Father chose men from all around the globe, representing such places of Xai-Xai, which is the capital of Gaza Province in Mozambique. He appointed new cardinals for Myanmar, Thailand, Viet Nam and Ethiopia.

He also appointed a couple of new cardinals to Italy and one to Portugal. None of the new cardinals were from the United States.

What does this mean? Americans, who are prone to interpret every move by just about anybody in terms of American politics, are quick to denounce/applaud the list of new cardinals based on whether they see the Holy Father’s appointments as “progressive” or not.

However, there is a more accurate way to look at the actions of the Vicar of Christ, and that is through the lens of Holy Scripture. What Pope Francis did is not political in the one-off news cycle way that most Americans see everything he does. It is prophecy, being fulfilled right in front of us.

Turn to Chapter 13 of the book of Mark and let your eye drift down to verse 10. Chapter 13 of Mark concerns what big-word talkers call eschatology. Eschatology, which is a word so unmelodious and awkward that I detest saying it, is the study of what most people call “the end times.”

Right in the middle of Jesus’ prophecy of the end times we find a verse that sticks up in the flow of warnings of dislocations, tragedies and persecution like a rock jutting through white water. It’s almost as if Jesus took a breath and said it, then launched back into the litany of the persecutions to come, But first, the Gospel must first be preached to all nations, he said.

This flat statement, this caveat to the Second Coming, will be reflected later, when He gives what Protestants call The Great Commission just before He ascends into heaven.

… go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And I will be with you until the end of the world. Jesus Christ

It is the leaven in the bread, the mustard seed. This preaching of the Gospel to all nations is the Kingdom coming that precedes His return. It is the first cause, the primogeniture of what must happen. First, the Gospel must be preached to all nations.

First.

If you give up the politics-and-power centric view of all things for just a moment and remember that Pope Francis is in fact and in truth the Vicar of Christ, then these appointments make all kinds of prophetic sense. They are not a political statement about the United States. They are simply an acknowledgement of the fact that the Gospel is indeed being preached to all nations.

These appointments are prophetic, not in the sense that they make prophecy, but in that they are footsteps in the long march of prophetic history from the garden to the day when God will return as King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

I’m not someone who gives a lot of thought to the end times. I certainly do not devote myself to Eschatology, which is the formal study of such. My end of time is coming straight at me as I spend the days of my life, one at a time. I will die not too far in the future, and when I do, I will stand before God. I do not fear that day because, to quote St Paul, I know whom I have believed, and I trust that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him against that day.

In other words, when I stand before God, my only defense of my misspent life will be that Jesus died for my sins. Like the lintels of the doorways in Egypt, I am marked by the blood of the Lamb. For that reason, and for that reason alone, death will pass me by.

I don’t obsess over the end times. But I have read the Bible and I am aware of the world around me. I know that the prophetic clock is ticking. I don’t expect that I will see Him descend with a shout in this life. But I would have to be totally ignorant of both Scripture and the events of the last 100 years to be unaware that these prophecies are falling, click, click, click, like a row of slow-motion dominoes.

There is no cause for apprehension or obsession in this. It just is. God will do these things in His time and His way. Our part is simply to do what we are told, to be faithful with what He has given us. Speaking for myself, that’s more than enough.

When we read the political/zeitgeist/temporal interpretations of things like the appointment of these new Cardinals, it’s wise to remember that Pope Francis is not a member of the United States Senate. He is not the head of a brokerage firm, and he is not planning to throw his zucchetto in the ring and run for president, prime minister or any other political what not.

He is, simply, the Pope, which is to say that He is the Vicar of Christ. He’s Jesus’ priest. The only way to understand Pope Francis’ actions is to stop our political confabulating and take a look at The Book. If we do, we will see that Jesus — Who is the real boss of the Church — said quite plainly that the Gospel must be preached to all nations. 

That’s what’s happening. And our universal Church — along with our faithful Protestant and Orthodox brothers and sisters — is a conduit of that ever-widening, all-encompassing circle of grace.

From Vatican Radio:

 (Vatican Radio) At the Angelus on Sunday, Pope Francis announced the names of fifteen Archbishops and Bishops whom he will raise to the dignity of the Cardinalate on February 14, 2015. In addition, the Holy Father announced that five retired Archbishops and Bishops “distinguished for their pastoral charity in the service of the Holy See and of the Church” would also be made Cardinals.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Note: I misquote Bible verses from memory. Since I have read many different translations of Scripture, and since I read the Bible every day, I don’t misquote any one translation.

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If You’re Catholic, Christmas Isn’t a Day. It’s a Season.

Copyright: Rebecca Hamilton. All Rights Reserved.

Copyright: Rebecca Hamilton. All Rights Reserved.

Catholics don’t regard Christmas as one, big rousing day of overeating and gift giving.

We see it as a joyful season of the Church. It lasts right up until we celebrate the visit the Wise Men paid to the baby Jesus.

That kind of season thinking is hard for Americans, tied as we are to jobs and paychecks. We feel lucky if we can get off work long enough to celebrate that one big day. But a “Season?”

No can do.

I understand this well. I’ve never been able to really “do” a Church season. I was too beset by other things. But I’m going to attempt doing Christmas the Catholic way this year, which is to say, that I’m going to do a bit of extended Christmassing.

Our family had the really big deal one-day celebration along with everyone else yesterday. We did mass on Christmas Eve; present opening and feasting on Christmas Day. It was beautiful. And wonderful. And blessed in every way.

Now, I’m sitting here in my housecoat after having cleaned the kitchen floor and eaten a piece of leftover chocolate cream pie for breakfast. I also dusted The Precious and took a look at my office.

My office has become the place I put things I plan to do later. It’s cluttered with stacks of books I plan to read, and paintings, plaques and other framed thingys I brought home from my office at the capitol six months ago.

I walked in there, flush with the anticipation of free time to “do” things and thought, “I need to hang those paintings/plaques/whatnot and I need to buy bookshelves for those books and put them in the music/prayer room that I want to create in the room where The Precious lives.”

Then I thought, “Nope.”

It’s Christmas Season and I’m not going to spend Christmas Season working. I’ll Do It Later.”

Of course “I’ll Do It Later” is why those books are stacked up and the paintings/plaques/whatnots are stacked against the wall.

But it is Christmas Season, the first real, live Christmas Season I’ve had the opportunity to take since I converted.

I am going to do my best to just bask in the miracle of God made human, of a Heavenly Father Who loves you and me so much that He came down here to live in the muck with the rest of us as the adopted baby boy of a humble carpenter. Our Lord and Savior Who was born as an outcast in a conquered land, born in a stable and Who had a stone manger for His first crib, is born again this Christmas season in our hearts.

I want to ponder, without the intrusions of our beautiful day of celebrating, the miracle of His birth. I want to consider that the great I Am Who made everything, everywhere, consented to be one of us, and that He gave us this beautiful message that being one of us, meant, from the beginning, that He was one of the Least of These.

I sit here in my comfortable chair in a house with central air and heat that is so efficient I have to step outside to know if the weather has turned cold or not. I wonder what it was like on that cold desert night, in a cave/stable.

The shepherds came — shepherds, not kings, not even the local rabbi — but shepherds, dressed in the same clothes they wore when herding sheep and sleeping on the ground. They came because the angels sent them, choosing, once again, to emphasize that this newborn King was not a king of palaces and pomp, but the Son of a God Who loves us all, loves us each and every one, and Who is not, never has been and never will be, a respecter of persons.

Angels from on high announced the coming of the Good Shepherd to humble shepherds who were tending their flocks in the fields.

This is our salvation.

This is who we are called to be. We are the leaven in the Kingdom, the mustard seed, the salt of the earth. We have in our hearts and in our knowledge of Him, the Pearl of Great Price, the only hope that exists for suffering, dying humanity.

The Hope of the World spent His first night in a stone manger in a stable with his two humble earthly parents. The Shepherds came, because, out of all the people roundabout on that night, the angels were sent to them to announce His birth.

“In getting and spending we lay waste our powers,” William Wordsworth wrote.

We have to make a living. There is no way around that. Jesus Himself worked for most of His earthly life at the trade of carpenter. He did not eschew work.

But we are not the things we make with our labors, nor are we the sum of our income or our passing achievements. Our “powers” reside in our ability to love and live and create life that is worth living for ourselves, our families and our world.

Labor is part of that, but only a part. The thing which gives it dignity, which makes it worth doing, is that ability to build people by raising our children properly, and by living lives of honesty, love, dignity and faith. Our lives take on value and eternal meaning to the extent that we live them in Him, through Him and for Him. Every good thing follows from that.

I know most of you who read this will be at work today. I also know that, for the first time, ever, I have the opportunity to do it differently from that.

I’m going to take off a few days this Christmas season and ponder the miracle. I’ll pray for those of you who don’ t have this opportunity. Remember that no matter what work you must do, the purpose and the meaning of it is not in the paycheck. The purpose and the meaning of our work is always in our love for Our Lord and the good we bring to this world by loving other people.

I will moderate comments, so feel free to continue your discussions. I’ll be back January 7, after the Epiphany of Our Lord.

 

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Merry Christmas from My House to Yours

Merry Christmas my friends.

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Copyright: Rebecca Hamilton. All rights reserved.

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Heaven on Earth

Christmas and The Precious.

Does it get any better?

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Copyright: Rebecca Hamilton. All Rights Reserved.

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It’s not the Notes. It’s the Music.

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Copyright: Rebecca Hamilton. All Rights Reserved


A reader at an on-line piano site that I’ve begun to frequent asked where to find sheet music for a composition called “Storm at Sea.”

This composition is required playing for an annual exam given to piano students.

Writing Public Catholic has sharpened my Google skills, so I went out on the internet and found links to the sheet music for this guy. Then, just out of curiosity, I went to YouTube and looked up various performances of it. What I found was a startling exposition of why playing piano is not about the notes. It’s about the music.

I found several young people who were obviously playing this piece as part of their exam. I won’t use them as examples. What I’ll do instead is show you two highly competent versions of this simple little piece.

The first is by Kathleen Theisen.

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Does that interpretation make you want to run out and get a copy of the sheet music so you can play this yourself?

It doesn’t me. There’s nothing wrong with this, not a single note out of place. But it sounds like a music exercise, or at least it does to me. There’s nothing interesting or intriguing about it.

Now, here is the same music, played (complete with toy whale) by the man who wrote the piece; Steve Nehrenberg.

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It’s still a simple piece of music, but, all of a sudden, it is music. This is something it would be fun to play.

The difference is story, which is to say the difference is music. Notes are what you practice at the beginning of learning a piece of music for the purpose of getting to the point that you can actually play it as music. So long as you’re just playing notes, no matter how accurately, you are not making music.

I need to apologize to Kathleen Theisen. She has many videos on YouTube, which demonstrate her enormous musical artistry. It’s just that in this particular piece of music, and in my uneducated opinion, Mr Nehrenberg brings the music to the notes. He tells the story.

The reason I love playing the piano is that search for the story in the notes. I’m working right now and have been since last June, on a piece of music that was far above my abilities when I began it. It has been a matter of learning the music note by note, measure by measure, of playing it slowly one hand at time until my mind knows where the notes fall, then putting the hands together, and then slowly beginning to tell the story in those notes.

After six months, I am still piecing it together and working toward the day when I can, as Mr Nehrenberg did with this piece, bring the music to the notes of the whole piece. In the meantime, I’ve learned an enormous amount of music theory, just by studying the underlying structure of this piece.

Listen to the ways that these two people play this simple music. Do you hear a third way you would like to play the notes, another, slightly different, story you would make them tell?

It’s not the notes. It’s the music.

And the music is in you.

 

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This Christmas is Going to the Dogs

The girls are heading out for last-minute Christmas shopping. The patio-destroying pup is on the left.

Copyright: Rebecca Hamilton. All Rights Reserved.

Copyright: Rebecca Hamilton. All Rights Reserved.

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The Skinny on Christmas

Photo Source: morgueFile.com

Photo Source: morgueFile.com

The Skit Guys give us the skinny on Christmas.

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Left the Puppy. Pet Her and Stuff

My son left his puppy in our back yard early one morning before anyone got up.

He texted this message: Left the puppy. Pet her and stuff.

The rest was rock n roll.

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Copyright: Rebecca Hamilton. All Rights Reserved.

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Billy Graham: Are You Ready for Heaven?

This is longer than most videos I post. But it’s well worth the watch.

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Victim Blaming and Catholic Hating: What is Our Response?

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Photo Source: by Chodra from MorgueFile.com

It starts as soon as we can toddle out of our cribs. It rears its ugly head on playdates and in day care and mother’s day out.

By the time we’ve gotten to first grade, “it” is full-blown and set in concrete.

The “it” I’m referring to is the sad human practice of setting aside a member of our group for isolation which turns neatly into group attacks and shunning. Anytime there are more than two people in a group, one of them is going to be the outsider.

When we allow ourselves to give full vent to our Lord of the Flies side, this ugliness rapidly and inexorably becomes bullying and attacking the ones we’ve singled out. There is almost no low to which people will not sink when it comes to group attacks on the hapless outsider.

That, and not lust, is what leads to outrages such as groups of high school jocks, gang raping the mentally challenged girl. It was behind an incident I remember from my own high school years. Several of the the school football players, (why is it so often athletic teammates?) held down a mentally challenged boy and shaved his head in the school hall.

That incident taught me a lot about people, and what it taught me has proven to be ever-true.

I didn’t know what was happening while it was going on. I rounded the corner to go to my journalism class and found the hall completely blocked by a crowd of students. They were yelling and jeering; shoving and jostling.

My journalism teacher, a smallish young woman, was on the periphery, trying to fight her way to the center of the crowd. She was yelling “Stop!”

No one paid attention to her. At one point, one of the jocks reached out and shoved her back. Meanwhile, our school principal and vice principal, both good-sized men, stepped around the corner, saw what was happening, and turned and walked away.

I didn’t know what was going on until the crowd quieted and broke up. Then, I saw the boy, lying on his side on the tile floor, crying like a broken child.

He was mentally challenged. From what I saw, he spent his days in school alone, drifting through his “education,” by being passed on by teachers who just gave him grades. A few weeks before this happened, he had taken to wearing an odd haircut. Nothing really outlandish, just long and, as was his wont, kind of klutzy.

Now, he was lying there crying, with his head shaved, bits of his hair lying on the floor beside him.

It was a huge school. I don’t know this boy. Didn’t know him then. I have no idea where he is now or if he ever got past this assault and the awful humiliation those jocks visited on him. I never saw him again after that day. For all I know, his parents removed him from the school.

They might as well have because it was clear from the first moment that no one except that one hapless and ultimately helpless female teacher was going to come to his rescue. In fact, what happened afterwards was, even though I didn’t know it at the time, a classic of victim blaming/shaming.

No one reproached the letter guys (what we called the school jocks, named for the “letter” on their athletic jackets) for what they had done. The talk around the school, with the single exception of that one journalism teacher who was outraged, was all about how he “deserved” it, how he’d been “asking for it,” by showing up with that hair cut.

It was a lesson that the girls of the school knew well. Those same football players who had shaved the boy’s head lined up outside the cafeteria every day before lunch. The girls of the school had to walk a gauntlet to get to their food.

Letter boys lined both sides of the hall, leaning back and watching the girls go by. There were catcalls and harassments to swallow before we got to our mashed potatoes and jello salad.

A number of the girls complained about this, in fact they complained several times. But those same male principals who turned around and walked away when the jocks were attacking the boy, also turned studiously deaf ears to requests to bring an end to the line up.

That’s what we called it. “The line up.”

Things are no better today. The bullies and jerks of this world still feel free to isolate and attack with impunity. And the rest of us still take a look, turn and walk the other way.

Cowardice in the face of group censure is as strong in the human psyche as the fear of falling. We human beings are not the fastest or the strongest. We don’t have 3 inch claws or fangs jutting down. At the same time, we are big. We can’t be satisfied with a repast of small prey. We’ve got to go after the big stuff.

God made us, from our beginning, reliant on our wits and on one another. The devil does the rest.

The need in each of us to be liked and accepted, to be part of a sheltering group, quickly becomes a keening wail when it is denied. That’s why blaming the victim is such ubiquitous fiction. Because it shelters the group from taking on the group leader, and in far too many instances, the group leader is the bully on the block.

We don’t just find ourselves by accident as part of groups that are run with ruthless disregard for the weak by the biggest and meanest. We tend to actively chose it.

We do this first by following whoever moves. The male psyche in particular is inclined to follow action of any sort. I’ve spent my working life in the company of groups of men and I’ve seen this dynamic play out many times.

We do it second by feeling threatened ourselves when someone else becomes the group goat. We know, whether we will admit it or not, that the ubiquitous “they” who is leading the attacks on this person, can and will turn and attack us if we try to come to their rescue. Besides, we secretly like seeing people get whittled down to size and put in their place. As they shrink, we feel bigger by comparison.

Victim blaming is nothing more nor less than a form of cohesion building within a group. It is a kind of exemplary discipline meted out not so much to the hapless victim as to the group members who line up and join in the victim blaming/shaming. The message is, get with the program or, next time, it will be you.

The Lord of Flies dynamic is the basic dynamic of human groups. It is the single most potent organizing structure we possess: That of uniting against a common enemy. If there is no common enemy, we create one out of the weakest or the easiest to isolate among us.

The internet, with its anonymity, challenges our need to be part of a group. So we form groups around tiny bits of our personalities, such as a single belief or attitude. Then we begin the process of identifying who we can single out and attack as a group activity.

The Vatican recently called internet bullying “a new form of violence.” In that same discussion, internet bullying was defined as “repeated verbal or psychological harassment carried out by an individual or group.” It includes, “mockery, insults, threats, rumors, gossip, disagreeable comments or slander.”

Does that sound familiar? It should, because one group of people who have been singled out for more than their fair share of this stuff is Christians, in particular Roman Catholics.

I could give you quote after quote, headline after headline, in which, if you replaced Catholic with any other group, the public outrage would be over the top. But not us. We are the new people that it’s fun to hate; the new organizing common enemy of quite a number of internet groups.

The question for us — and it is a question that speaks to our survival — is whether or not we will allow the bullies to cut individuals out of our group and then harry them down to the ground. Are we going to join our attackers when they play blame the victim?

Because if we do that, we might as well hang it up. We are salt that has lost its savor. And we are going down.

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Breaking: ISIS Murders 150 Girls and Women in Iraq. Boko Haram Kidnaps 100 Villagers in Nigeria.

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Photo Source:  FreeDigitalPhotos.net

ISIS, the Taliban and Boko Haram seem to be in a race for the title of most barbaric terrorist.

Boko Haram specializes in attacking schools and churches and killing, kidnapping, raping and selling children. Four hours ago, Boko Haram attacked a village in Northern Nigeria, killing at least 33 people and kidnapping at least 100 others.

The Taliban attacked a school in Pakistan this week, killing 141 people, most of them children. Now it turns out that ISIS has murdered 150 women and girls for refusing to have sex with them and for refusing to enter into “Jihad marriage” with them.

“Jihad marriage” sounds like another name for rape. So, I guess that makes them mass murderer/rapists. No need to fancy this up with talk about jihad and such.

They’re murderers. They’re rapists. They are satanic. All of them.

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The Only Thing Sensitive About Late-Term Abortion is Justifying It

medium_2972690293.jpg She killed her baby in the 28th week of his or her life because the ultrasound revealed that it would have a deformed hand.

There was no way to just deliver this baby and have it die like she wanted. It had to be actively killed. Because, you see, a baby at 28 weeks has every chance of living a long and full life if it is born.

This is how we get the grisly procedures that involve jamming a needle through the mother’s abdomen and into the baby’s heart to administer poison to stop the baby heart from beating. It’s how abortionists came up with such fine things as saline abortions which supposedly burn and poison the baby the death before birth, and d&c abortions which dismember the baby as part of the abortion process and then remove it from the mother, piece by piece. It’s also how the “safe” procedure of partially delivering the baby and then puncturing its skull to drain out its brain before it is fully born came to be.

Note that all of these procedures — each and every one of them — is much harder on the mother than simply delivering the baby alive would be.

The trouble is, once the baby is born, killing it falls within the legal definition of murder. Before it’s born, it is not considered a human being, so killing it is, well, a “right” of both the mother. That is the horror of legal fictions concerning who is — and is not — a human being.

So, this lady decided to kill her baby in its 28th week. Because somebody saw a deformed hand in an ultrasound.

The article I will cite below discusses this murder of an innocent child, giving cultural reasons for why it had to die. Because, you see, even though Mom and Dad live in Australia now, they are from China and they’ve seen Chinese discrimination against the disabled. So, they reasoned, it was best for their baby to die.

This is the logic of abortion in a nutshell. People discriminate against the disabled, so the solution is to kill the disabled. Societies sin against women by, among other things, tolerating violence against women including rape, allowing job discrimination against people with families and children, as well as pregnant women, and many other ways. So, the solution is — you got it — kill the baby.

The logic of abortion is much the same as the logic of euthanasia, as the logic of embryonic stem cell research, as the logic of genocide as the logic of discrimination itself. “These people” (whoever they are) get in the way of “us” (whoever “us” is) so it’s ok to kill them. In fact, it’s a positive good to kill them. In fact, it’s a “right” to kill them.

It benefits all society to cleanse it of them and be done with them. They are a “burden.” They are not human. They are in the way. They bring it on themselves. They are vermin. They are in need of our death-dealing “mercy.”

When an abuse as egregious as killing a baby in its 28th week of life because it has a deformed hand occurs, the “ethicists” jump in to remind us that this is a “complex, difficult and sensitive issue.”

What’s complex about discrimination against the disabled? What’s difficult about firing — or not hiring — a woman because she is pregnant? What’s so sensitive about the fact that women can not walk down the streets of the world and feel safe from sexual assault?

What, pray tell, is the major malfunction in us — not the baby, but us — that our first and only response to our sins of discrimination and violence is to solve the whole thing by killing the innocent?

Did anybody ever think of attacking the discrimination, the prejudice, the violence instead of the baby? I know that working to end discrimination and violence seems like a tougher boogie. It’s not neat and quick like killing.

After all, the murder of an unborn child is done in a clinical situation behind closed doors. The baby body is disposed of, the parents go on, feeling “relieved,” and the medical personnel pick up their paychecks. Job done. Problem over.

Except it’s not. Because the discrimination and violence that set up this nightmare in the first place still remain. We haven’t stopped these horrors. We’ve accommodated them with an even greater horror.

Abortion does not end the evils it claims to address. It cooperates with them and enables them. It increases discrimination and violence to the utter depths of legalized murder. And it degrades whole societies to the level of murderers in the process.

This article is a read-it-and-weep testimony to the brain fog of those who inhabit the world of abortion apologetics. They can’t justify this murder of an innocent child and they will not admit that it is, in fact, murder.

So they trot out the pathos of the parents who killed their baby and the excuse words, “complex, sensitive, difficult.” Then, they ladle on a spoonful of Catholic-bashing like gravy covering over rotten meat.

Perhaps what they’re really saying is that it’s complex, sensitive and difficult to come up with an argument that justifies killing a child because it has a deformed hand.

From brisbanetimes.com.au:

A NSW couple who fought to have their pregnancy terminated at 28 weeks after discovering the foetus had a physical abnormality has revealed the inconsistency and fear surrounding decisions over late-term abortion in NSW, where the procedure remains a criminal act, punishable by ten years jail.

Mother-to-be Cindy was 23 weeks pregnant when the first indication there might be a problem with the foetus emerged. What followed was a two-month long nightmare that started with the couple facing bureaucratic hospital delays that pushed back further scans for two weeks.

They say they are still haunted by the silence that filled the ultrasound room, when, more than six months pregnant, the scan confirmed their fears: their child was suffering from a deformity, one that would cripple its left hand.

Frank told Fairfax Media when the problem, called ‘ectrodactyly‘, or cleft hand, was diagnosed, a week passed before Cindy was told it was she would not be allowed a termination.

“I was really, really depressed,” Cindy said. “I couldn’t think about anything else but the baby, and I felt I had been abandoned.”

Frank and Cindy said they were not told why the termination was not allowed. However, ectrodactyly is not life-threatening and may only affect the hand, and NSW Health guidelines state the prognosis for the foetus should be considered in the case of terminations where an abnormality is present.

But Cindy – who grew up in China and spoke to Fairfax Media with Frank interpreting – felt immensely guilty about giving birth to a child with a disability. She believes she must be to blame for the condition.

“I grew up with many people who were disabled, and… there was discrimination,” she said. “I didn’t want my child to be discriminated against. The problem is… obvious because it is the fingers, and I think the child would have a very hard life.”

After two weeks where Frank watched Cindy’s depression grow deeper, Westmead referred her to Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, where her pregnancy was terminated at 28 weeks.

By that stage, if the foetus had been born prematurely there is every chance doctors would have kept it alive.

photo credit: Ray Dumas  at Creative Commons 

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What Do You Hope For?

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