Indiana’s Religious Freedom Law and Holy Week

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Waiting for the Lord

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Waiting for the Lord

Indiana’s governor is at the center of a firestorm because he signed a religious freedom law.

I am aware that any Catholic blogger, especially a Catholic blogger who writes about politics, should be all over this.

But I’m not going to do it. Not this week.

This is Holy Week, and I need the time with Christ. I think a lot of other people do, too. Sad to say, this issue, and its many ramifications, is not going to go away. Religious freedom is under attack in this country.

I could easily write a strong post about this, as well as the outrageous attempt at intrusion into Church governance that is occurring in San Francisco.

However, this is Holy Week.

I write this blog for one reason: To contribute to the work of equipping Christians to stand for Christ at the intersection of public life and faith. However, I understand something that I’ve seen a lot of Christian culture warriors forget: This is not about changing the culture to our viewpoint. It is about faithfulness to Christ.

We must take time to be with Jesus. That means, among other things, deep prayer on a daily basis, reading the Scriptures every day, and mass as often as you can get there. It also means relaxing a bit and trusting Him.

I’ll say this again: This is Holy Week.

This is the week when God showed all the world for all time the depth, width and breadth of His love for us.

We are in a serious struggle to retain religious freedom in this country. The reason we are in this struggle is not because we have failed at power politics — although by every objective criteria, we have failed.

We are in the situation of fighting for religious freedom in a culture that engages in Christian bashing because we have failed in our mission to be the light. While we were blasting away at our enemies with the full-tilt ugliness of power politics, we forgot that our first call is to bring people to Christ.

Redemption is not won at the ballot box. Redemption was won once and for all by Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ at the cross.

This is Holy Week, when each of us should be thinking on that Cross. We should consider, for at least one week, the miracle of our salvation. We need to ponder and appreciate the unfathomable mercy of a God who poured out His life’s blood in an agony of public shame, humiliation and torture that we might be washed clean by that blood and given eternal life.

It is no accident that this final Passover on Calvary took place at the time of year when the first Passover is celebrated. In Egypt, the Israelites slaughtered a perfect lamb and then marked their doorways with the blood of the lamb so that the angel of death might pass them by. Scripture tells us that it was “the Lord’s Passover.”

When Jesus approached John the Baptist at the Jordan, John announced Him by saying, “Behold, the Lamb of God.” This was a clear prophecy of Jesus’ Passion. It was also a public testimony that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God.

Jesus is our Passover from death to life. He is the perfect lamb whose blood redeems all humanity with one perfect atoning sacrifice. If we are marked with His blood, the angel of death will pass us by.

Jesus died that we might have eternal life. That is how much He loves us. It demonstrates as nothing else can the depth of His mercy towards us.

This is Holy Week. We need to think on these things, to take time apart from the yelling and carrying on of political fighting and pray for guidance and strength in how we proceed in the days ahead. Because we are not called to leadership in the broader world. We can called to followership in the Kingdom of God.

We need to go to the cross and kneel there in the dirt and blood of our own sinfulness and be converted to an ever deepening life of following Him, wherever that leads, whatever it costs.

We are going to be called to much more than ballot box Christianity. We have a harder task before us than political activism. We must convert the culture for Christ, and we must do it one person at a time.

This is Holy Week.

Take time to worship, pray, meditate and recommit to the fight ahead. Consider the viciousness of the attacks the Governor of Indiana is suffering and understand who is behind them. You are not part of that dark army. Turn your back on replying with equal viciousness.

Go to the cross and fit yourself for this battle by believing that this Jesus who is dying there is Lord of all creation. Understand that even though He is God, the God, He will not force us to follow Him. We, like Mary when the Angel Gabriel stood before her, must give our fiat to His grace and His dominion over our lives.

Give Him your will. Decide to do what He wants from now on instead of following your own understanding. Do the holy thing, even when it’s not the smart thing as the world reckons smartness. Enlist in the Lord’s army for real.

We need to be far more holy than any of us have been up to now. We need to become true disciples.

We can only do that if we follow Him without question. Trust and obey, the old hymns says. There is only one way to be happy in Jesus, and that is to trust and obey.

Scripture tells us that if we draw near to God, He will draw near to us.

Draw near to God this week. Therein is our strength and our power. We will not win this fight if we battle for our own selves and our goals. Forty years of political fighting that has left us with dust and ashes is proof of that.

We will only succeed in our call to convert the culture if we yield up ourselves and become part of that great army of the cross. Our message is salvation paid for by the incomprehensible price of the death of God.

That is our faith. It is who we are. It is who we must be if we are to be pleasing to Him. Before we convert the culture, we must first be converted ourselves.

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Still Sick and It’s Holy Week. To the Point Blogging Ahead.

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Chauncey Davis

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Chauncey Davis

My asthma and what for everyone else would be an obnoxious cold have conspired against me. I’m still sick and need to focus on recuperating for the next few days.

It’s nothing a round of antibiotics and steroids won’t cure. But I’ve enjoyed this garbage as much as I can stand. I’m going to cooperate with the medications and take care of myself.

What that means is that my blogging this week will be short and to the point. Unless something grips me beyond all restraint, I will focus mainly on the business at hand, which is our walk down the via dolorous with Our Lord.

This is the week that we were purchased from satan’s hand. If you doubt the value of every human being — including both you and the person who annoys you the most — consider the price that God paid to redeem us.

I hope that every one who has the health and the freedom to do so will attend the Triduum services this week. I know it’s long, but the Vigil Mass on Saturday is a wonderful experience, too.

The Divine Mercy Novena begins on Good Friday. I’ll post the prayers for that, even if I don’t do anything else. I’m praying that you will choose to pray this Novena and then avail yourself of the great gift of the feast of Our Lord’s mercy on Divine Mercy Sunday.

Be well my friends, and love Jesus. The events of this week are why we are here together, In His Name.

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Judas, called Iscariot

Then Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, who was one of the twelve.

According to the folks at the History Channel, NatGeo and other purveyors of revisionist Christianity, Judas Iscariot was a well-meaning, misunderstood victim of his own good intentions.

Every year at this time, we are treated to shows that expose us to experts we’ve never heard of before expounding on how Judas didn’t really mean it. He was, they tell us with remarkable certainty, just trying to provoke Jesus into defending Himself and starting a revolution. Judas wanted a warrior messiah who would throw off the Roman yoke and return Israel to the glory days of Kings David and Solomon, they say.

Instead, he got this gentle healer and teacher who refused, as Scripture tells us, to bruise a reed.

So, Judas took things into his own hands. He set Jesus up with the intention of having Him throw off his attackers like Samson slaying the Philistines. What he got instead was a crucified Lord and guilt that destroyed him.

It’s difficult, 2,000 years later, to determine Judas’ intentions. Whatever he intended to happen, his failure of faith doomed him in the end.

Notice, I do not say that his betrayal of our Lord doomed him. I don’t say it, because that didn’t do it.

Peter betrayed Jesus, as did all the Apostles except John. Peter suffered the ignominy of denying that he even knew Jesus. He denied Jesus repeatedly, and then, at the critical moment, when he was actively cursing Jesus, he turned and saw his Master looking at him while he did it.

That black night was such a welter of misery and betrayal. It was, as Jesus said, Satan’s hour.

There is such poignance to the things Jesus said during this time. The hurt echoes in the statement, Judas, do you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?

Think about it for a moment. Judas knew Him. He had traveled with Him, ate with Him, followed, listened and been near Him for years. He’d seen the miracles, experienced the love. Then, whatever his motives, he betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. And he did it with a kiss.

Jesus’ sadness, not for Himself, but for Judas, reverberates down the centuries. Judas, do you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?

But it wasn’t the kiss the doomed Judas. It wasn’t the thirty pieces of silver or the betrayal. It was Judas’ lack of faith.

In the final analysis, the thing that separates Judas and Peter is faith.

Is it faith, or is it weakness to turn to God with our sins and confess them to the depths of their utter blackness? Is it faith or is it brokenness that makes us throw ourselves on His mercy and seek forgiveness we know we do not deserve and can never earn?

It is lack of faith, or is it pride that keeps others from admitting their crimes against God? What causes one person to seal themselves inside their sinfulness and die there, while another reaches out like they were drowning and grasps the nail-scarred hand?

I think all these things are factors to differing degrees with different people. But in Judas’ case, it was most likely a lack of faith. Judas had no pride when he went to the priests and threw the money at them. “I have betrayed an innocent man,” he said.

He had no problem admitting the truth of what he had done. He just didn’t admit it to the right person. The priests, now that they had their prey, no longer found Judas useful. “What is that to us,” they replied to his anguished admission. “See to it yourself.”

One might ask what kind of priests these really were who would turn away a sin-sick man so coldly. But such a question would be redundant. They were corrupt priests who had plotted, bribed and bullied their way to the execution of an innocent man in order to preserve their delicately balanced position of power in occupied Israel.

Did they know this innocent man was God? I don’t think so. After all, Jesus, when He prayed for them, said they know not what they do.

But they did know He was innocent. They did know the lies, bribes and political maneuvering they had committed to bring about His death. They knew what they had done, and they were, as Jesus described them earlier in His ministry, indifferent with great hardness of heart. 

Judas confessed his sin. But he confessed it to the wrong person. He went to corrupt priests who told him to “see to it” himself.

Peter, after enduring what must have been unbearable grief and shame, took his sin to Christ.

Judas could and would have been forgiven. All he had to do was humble himself and ask for it of the Man he had betrayed.

The lesson in all this for us is not so much that we should never betray a friend — although that is certainly a worthwhile lesson to learn. The lesson is that, no matter what we have done, we can find forgiveness in the merciful heart of Jesus.

No matter what we have done. No matter how many times we have done it. No matter how horrible or trivial it is. We are sinners. And we need the forgiveness of the only One who has the right to forgive. We need tthe forgiveness of the Living Christ.

Confession is not a way of sidestepping this forgiveness, it is a conduit of its grace. The priest does not and cannot forgive us. He does not and cannot confer newness of life on us. Those things come only from Christ Jesus.

Confession is a simple and accessible way to meet the Risen Lord. it is contact with Christ through the graces of the Church.

However, the healing comes from one place only, and that is the Heart of Our Lord. Even though we should all go to confession, we should never wait to take our sins to Jesus.

If you have sinned — and we all have — turn to Him immediately and ask forgiveness. Then, go to confession when it’s available to you.

Then, Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, Scripture tells us.

Simon, Satan has asked to have you, that he may sift you like wheat, Jesus warned Peter.

Satan had his day with both these men. One of them emerged stronger, the rock on which Christ would build His Church.

The other went out and hanged himself.

They both repented of their sins, and grieved them deeply. The difference is who they asked for forgiveness.

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Pope Francis: Jesus’ Suffering was not a Mistake


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I’m Not Feeling Politics Right Now. It’s Holy Week and I Want Jesus.


I’m not feeling politics right now.

We’ve got wars and rumors of wars over a large swath of the world. Pro life people are battling killer legislation in Colorado and corporate raiders are raiding the public treasury everywhere and in every way they can. There are runaway bishops to write about, as well as a stand up bishops who are trying to fight the fight.

We’ve got cowards, brave people and martyrs.

There is no end to the politics I could write about.

But I’m not feeling it.

What I am feeling is a deep, aching hunger for the balm of Gilead, the peace that passes all understanding, the comfort of the everlasting arms.

It’s Holy Week, and I want Jesus.

Do you ever feel the aloneness of this life? Does it weigh on you at times that we are, each of us, the heroes of our own stories, but that we don’t matter much in the great scheme of time and history?

Even great people, on whom the fulcrum of the human story turns for a while, are, as Shakespeare said, just actors on a stage that play their parts and then go on to be forgot.

How many times today have you thought about Euclid, or Elizabeth I, or Franklin Roosevelt? When was the last time George Washington or Robert E Lee crossed your mind?

These people made us what we are. The 300 who died at Themopylae, provided a gasp of time that allowed the Greeks to win the war and save Western civilization in its seed. But what are their names to us now?

I am not writing this to convince you that Solomon was right when he moaned “Vanity, vanity, all is vanity.” Because he wasn’t right.

What he was expressing is the hopelessness of a world that ends at the grave, where the good we do is washed away by the harm we do and the harm we do is accounted to us without mercy forever.

Solomon was describing a world without second chances and without transcendent hope. Eat, drink and be merry he told us, for all is vanity. Nothing we do matters. We are but a passing vapor.

That is life without Christ. It is a futile, hopeless round of good times, bad times and diversions that end in dust and nothing. If we are animals in a world where the biggest and the meanest make all the rules and winning and triumphing over one another is the only thing, then life itself is both cheap and useless.

What does it matter if we exploit the weak and reduce their lives to suffering, poverty and shame? Why is there any reason to object when we kill the innocent for our convenience?

After all, we are just animals, animated things, who are passing through and then will be no more. In a world without transcendence and forgiveness, anything is possible except peace.

I’m not feeling politics right now, because politics is, like all our other human endeavors, doomed to fail as an answer and an antidote for our hopelessness. There is no balm, no peace, no second chance, without Christ.

It is as simple as that. Only Jesus Christ and His Passion, His suffering, His willingness to bring ultimate transcendence into our world and our lives by taking on our finiteness, can open the door for us to more than the nothing we are without Him.

Christ not only saves us from our fallenness and offers us eternal life, He redeems the dailiness of our lives and the bottomless despair of ultimate meaningless of which Solomon spoke.

Instead of a plaintive cry that “all is vanity,” we are lifted by the sacrifice of Calvary onto a level of existence where everything we do matters in the halls of eternity.

Even the birds of the air fall under God’s loving eye. The hairs of our heads are numbered in His sight. We are not just animated things, carrion flesh waiting to rot. We are eternal beings, made in the image and likeness of the God who breathed all existence into existence with a single word.

I’m not feeling politics right now. I’m feeling a deep yearning for Jesus. I am longing for the balm, the peace, the hope that lies on the other side of Calvary.

But first, I must traverse the painful path of Holy Week. I need, to the bottom of my sin-sick soul, to walk the ugly path of human shame that is the crucifixion. We killed God. We murdered our Creator. We lied about, tortured, mocked, shamed and did our best to destroy the only Hope we have.

The ultimate stain on humankind was also its salvation. We murdered God, and He used that act of damning depravity to redeem us from ourselves.

Politics is one of our pitiful attempts to transcend our fallen state. But, given our fallen state, politics always becomes corrupted by our venalities and cowardices. I’ve written about the cowardly acts of men in high places quite a bit these past two weeks. The truth is, I have more than a passing acquaintance with the weaknesses of princes.

But nothing I have known can touch the combination of cowardice and cold-blooded corruption that led to the final sacrifice of the last Passover Lamb.

We need to bow down before the cross this week. It is, as Scripture says, the Lord’s Passover. It is the door opening on the way out. The cross is the price of our sins. It is the Lord’s ultimate Passover by which we are saved from the absolute and final death that we deserve.

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Pope Francis: Preaching the Gospel Through Word and Deed

Pope Francis will use prayers written by two Lebanese young people when he leads the Stations of the Cross on Good Friday.

.- Pope Francis will celebrate a full schedule this Holy Week, including washing the feet of youth detainees and leading the Stations of the Cross at the Coliseum.

His six main events are: Chrism Mass at Saint Peter’s Basilica on Holy Thursday morning, followed by Mass at a youth detention center that evening, a Communion service and Stations of the Cross on Good Friday, Easter Vigil Mass on Saturday evening and Easter Mass on Sunday morning.

Pope Francis will start the week by celebrating Chrism Mass on March 28 with cardinals and other clergy from Rome at Saint Peter’s Basilica. During the Mass, the Pope will consecrate the oils that will be used throughout the year for Baptism, Confirmation and Anointing of the Sick.

In keeping with his practice in Buenos Aires, he will celebrate Holy Thursday Mass at Casal del Marmo youth detention center, instead of the Basilica of Saint John Lateran.

When he was the Archbishop of Buenos Aires, then-Cardinal Bergoglio celebrated the Mass in a prison, a hospital or a hospice for the poor and marginalized people. This time around he will be with youth offenders and will wash their feet.

On Good Friday, March 29, he will preside over a Communion service and the Veneration of the Cross in St. Peter’s Basilica at 5:00 p.m. local time.

The pontiff will then go to the Coliseum to lead the Stations of the Cross at 9:15 p.m. The prayers for the 14 stations were written by two Lebanese youths with the help of Cardinal Bechara Rai.

The Vatican chose the young Arabs to highlight the suffering of Christians in the Middle East and the growing urgency of their situation.

After the procession around the Coliseum, Pope Francis will give a speech to people gathered there and impart his apostolic blessing.

On Holy Saturday, the Pope will celebrate the first of two Easter Masses when he holds the Easter Vigil in St. Peter’s Basilica.

He will bless a fire in the atrium of St. Peter’s Basilica and enter in a procession with the Paschal candle singing the Easter Proclamation.

The Pope will then concelebrate Mass at 8:30 p.m. local time with the cardinals and impart the sacrament of Baptism, which is traditionally done in churches worldwide at this time of year.

On Sunday at 10:15 a.m. Pope Francis will celebrate Mass at St. Peter’s Square, which will finish with his “Urbi et Orbi” greeting and blessing from the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica. (Read the rest here.) 

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