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.

The Palm Sunday Paradigm

 

… many believed in Him when they saw the signs which He did, but Jesus did not trust Himself to them, because He knew men. 

Palm Sunday is a bittersweet story because we know how it ends.

The same Jesus Who is greeted with hosannas at the start of the week, is betrayed with cries of “Crucify Him!” at the end of that week.

People will disappoint you, people will betray you, people will turn on you. That is the Palm Sunday paradigm and it is a fact of life.

The rest of that paradigm is that we — you and I — are the people in that statement.

I will disappoint. I will betray. I will turn on friends.

And so will you.

No one of us, no matter our station or our degree of piety, can traverse this life without being disappointed, betrayed, and turned on. Likewise, no one of us can traverse this life without disappointing, betraying and turning on others.

The point I am making is that Jesus was right when he told us, You can’t judge.

Can you imagine how we look to Him, with all our squabbling and finger-pointing? I can see Him, standing there, looking at the angry people around Him, upbraiding and shouting accusations at one another, “You, can’t judge,” He tells them. You, specifically you, with your many sins and fallen nature, can not judge.

To Jesus Christ, we must look like a bunch of toddlers, shoving and punching over a toy.

And that is the message of Palm Sunday. We, who say we love Him so much, will say “Crucify Him!” ourselves. Those of us who live in this time will not literally stand before Pilate, gazing at the physical wreckage of the Man who has been beaten almost to death, standing there bleeding and wearing a crown of thorns and shout “Crucify Him!”

We will live that betrayal of all that’s holy in our cruelties and petty meannesses to one another.

We hurt one another so savagely and so completely without remorse. I published a post a couple of days ago, in which I linked to a video of Pope Francis, giving a powerful homily against the sin of gossip. An enclosed place like the Vatican is probably honeycombed with destructive gossip.

I think all churches are. We exclude and isolate one another with our spiteful gossiping. And we don’t do it by accident. Gossip is as much a deliberate and destructive attack on another person as actually, physically, hitting them.

There are, of course, far splashier ways to betray our intimate others than gossip. Adultery comes to mind as a for instance.

The point is that Jesus, when He stood beside Pilate, beaten, humiliated and alone, was us. He stood in for humanity, suffering at the hands of humanity. He was raped, trafficked, starved, homeless, aborted, euthanized, murdered, battered, slandered, cast out, cast off, dehumanized suffering humanity.

When we go to church and proclaim our pious Christianity, we are the crowds shouting hosanna as He enters Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.

When we turn on, betray and abandon one another, we are the crowd, standing before Pilate.

When someone betrays you or hurts you, remember that Our Lord understands everything you feel. Take your humiliated rage to Him and ask for His help.

On the other hand, when you do these things to other people, you should likewise take your sin to Him.

He Who committed no sin became sin for our sake. He understands the separation from God, the empty darkness of self-righteous self-justification that sin brings into our hearts. He Who committed no sin became sin for our sake. He knows what we suffer because of our sins. He understands the plunging depths of separation from God and the darkness that enters our souls because of our sins.

Take your sins to Him and ask for His forgiveness.

Whether your are doing your turn as the sinner or you are going through a time as the one sinned against, remember that you can and will exchanges places many times over the course of your life. You will sin against other people, and they will sin against you.

There is only One Who understands the full depth of hopeless depravity that this is, and Who also has the power to free us of it and heal us from it.

The Palm Sunday paradigm is the paradigm of the crowd. It is a week, framed at one end with Hosannas! and at the other end with shouts of Crucify Him!

The Palm Sunday paradigm is us. All of us, without exception. It illustrates in stark black and white lines why, without a Savior, we are lost.

 

Seek Him this Christmas

The true meaning of Christmas.

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The Reason for the Season

This is the second day of Christmas, which is not too late to reflect once again on the Reason for the season.

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Faith Challenges of 2013: Repenting of My Self-Sufficiency

This has been the year of two living popes.

It’s been a year of new mass shootings, government shutdowns, spies turned whistleblowers and the revelation that our government is doing everything but looking up our skirts and down the fronts of our blouses in its efforts to spy on and criminalize the entire American populace. I’m not ruling the skirts and and blouses part out, but we have no confirmation of that.

It’s been the year when the Supreme Court drop-kicked DOMA and took gay marriage off the leash, the year when we the people actually got our fill of senseless war and stopped the bombing in Syria. It was the year when the economy rotated in place and a big piece of my part of the world was blown to smithereens.

There’s been the flop of the Obamacare start up; the push for gun control and a nervy stand-off in Texas over a commonsense pro life bill that would simply require abortion clinics to provide the same levels of safety to their patients as any other free-standing surgery clinic.

My brother-in-law died, leaving my sister as one of the walking wounded. My mother has been in and out of the hospital.

And me, I’ve just kept on passing bills and writing blog posts. I still haven’t lost weight and I still can’t make my hair do one single thing that it doesn’t want to do. I have taken up piano lessons, and I am the proud possessor of a new camera.

Life, as they say, goes on.

One surprise to me has been how hard it is to blog about matters of faith and still keep my religion. I’ve spent years dealing with that very thing as a legislator. The process of getting whammed around because of my beliefs has toughened my faith and made it stronger. But I’ve also found, as I’ve started writing about it, that it has made me more than a little impatient with people who aren’t as willing to go out there on the ice for Jesus as I am.

I’ve forgotten how I was before the pro abortion people made me the target of an orchestrated campaign of character assassination. They forced me to choose over and over between them and Jesus, between the Democratic Party and Jesus, between having friends at work and Jesus, between anybody even speaking to me on the job and Jesus. I’ve forgotten what it was like back in the days when I hadn’t been called every ugly name I can think of.

Who was I back then?

I honestly can’t remember.

All I know is that talking about these things with you good people here at Public Catholic and witnessing your attempts to work through them yourself has acquainted me with the simple fact that I’m different now than I was before these things happened to me. I see the world differently than I did before I chose Christ in an active way during adversarial politics.

One of the purposes of this blog is to provide a forum where we can work through the process of finding our voice in the face of the often daunting ugliness of attacks on the faith in this post-Christian society of ours. It’s ironic how often the blog and I get targeted by people who make it their business to attack Christians and Christianity. That can be disruptive to what I’m trying to accomplish here, but it is, in its own backhanded way, a great privilege.

Whenever anyone targets me for personal attacks and vendettas because of my stand for Jesus, I am blessed.

But this blessing leads me to the faith challenge that has troubled me most of this past year. It is easy to get caught up in these attacks and start feeling besieged. Instead of drawing me closer to Christ, that kind of thinking can build a barrier between me and Him.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of regarding these things as being about me. It’s also easy to fall into the parallel trap of trying to deal with them on my own.

One of the surprising pitfalls of blogging about faith is that I can spend too much time talking about Jesus and cheat myself of time spent talking to Him. It seems some days that the more I talk about Jesus the less I talk to Him.

This tendency to talk about Christ without talking to Christ is a dangerous road to take. I think it would lead me inevitably down the path of becoming my own little g god. I could eventually come to a point where I lose my relationship with Jesus and begin to lecture and hector about Him without any guidance or input from Him. These attacks from the Christian-bashing peanut gallery — and my own temper — push me hard down that path.

That would be disaster, not for you who read the stuff I write, but for me. I can not allow anything to come between me and my relationship with Christ, even if that thing is my attempt to stand for Christ. I can’t because to lose Christ is to lose life itself and all that matters.

The only way I know to avoid this is by retreating. I don’t mean by not writing this blog. I mean by not making the writing of this blog into what passes for my relationship with Christ. The life of a Public Catholic should be mostly Catholic and only a little bit public.

What I mean is that any public statements or actions about my faith should be the outflow of a fruitful walk with Christ that is mostly hidden and that is nurtured, sustained and informed by the quiet times of simply being with Him. If most of my faith is what people see, then it is an anemic and ultimately destructive excuse for real faith. The way to achieve this kind of fruitful walk with Christ is not by pushing on, but by making regular, nourishing retreats away from the public part of life.

This is similar to the lesson that I learned in how to live a real life while in public office. I had to withdraw and go home to my real life. You have a real life by living one. By the same token, you have a real relationship with Jesus Christ by spending time with Him.

I am not talking about going to mass, although going to mass and partaking of the Body and Blood of Our Lord is essential. I am talking about spending time in prayer, and by that I mean mostly just being with God. I certainly don’t mean dumping out a laundry list of wants and needs and then going back to your busy-busy life. Prayer is, or it should be, mostly companionship. Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is a wonderful way to get some alone time with God. But it’s not necessary, if it’s not do-able.

I experienced the profound conversion that changed my life while I was driving my car on the way to Enid Oklahoma to make a speech. God is with you, always. You only have to start talking to Him.

I’m still learning the blogging ropes. At the same time, I’m also trying to learn how to live my first vocation, which is simply and always to love Jesus and let Him love me. The challenge to my faith in 2013 has been the surprising reality that I need to learn how to speak about Jesus in a public forum and then just go home to Him the rest of the time.

I think talking about this on this blog is highly appropriate. It is, after all, called Public Catholic and is dedicated to helping all of us, you and me both, learn to live our faith in the public side of our lives. We live in a society where the public debate, the media and most educational institutions are dominated by an anti-Christian viewpoint that is not the least bit ashamed to engage in Christian bashing that rises to a discriminatory level. We have reached the point where at least in some quarters verbal abuse and hazing directed at Christians is considered a form of righteousness.

Every one who stands for Jesus is going to pay a price.

The only way this blog can help to empower Christians to find their voice for Christ in the face of that overt and ugly resistance is if we talk honestly to one another. We need, all of us, to base our efforts to speak for Jesus on a real faith that is nourished and sustained in the private side of our lives.

Nobody told me this rock was out there under the blogging water when I began doing this. I did not realize that I would learn that I had to repent of my self-sufficiency. I had to hit the rock of spiritual dryness and feel the unpleasant thunk all on my own.

For all I know, the other Christian bloggers here at Patheos have never come up against this. I tried a few months ago to talk to a priest about it because I thought that, of all people, a priest who has to go out there and wear his faith on his collar all the time would understand. He just stared at me like I was speaking Klingonese.

I decided then that I was on my own with this, or, rather, I was on my own with Jesus. But that’s how I became a Christian in the first place; just me and Jesus.

What that means for me is making time for the simple things: Pray the Rosary, read the Bible, go to mass. I can leave the heavy lifting to the Holy Spirit. I don’t have to sustain my relationship with Christ by my actions. All I need to do is stop ignoring Him in my zeal to defend Him and simply talk to Him. I am a child of God, and like all true parents, He will always answer when I call.

Do You Believe Jesus is Alive?

 

Never forget that we are resurrection people.

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Making a Holy Advent: Allow Christ to Enter into Our Lives

Don’t waste Advent. It’s a wonderful season that allows us to prepare for the coming of Our Lord, as well as look forward to His coming again.

The words for Advent are: Peace, Hope, Joy, Love.

Don’t waste Advent. Live it and allow Jesus to be born again in your heart.

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Conversion Story: Jesus Came to Heal the Broken Hearted, and I Had a Broken Heart

 

This is a beautiful testimony of conversion to Jesus. In a way, it’s a rescue story.

Notice this young man’s discussion of his friends who led him to Christ by their example, witness and loving invitation. That is a potent form of evangelization. It is what Pope Francis is trying to teach us. The question is, do we have the ears to hear?

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Evangelii Gaudium Cliff Notes: Part 1, The Call

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When Jesus Washed My Sins Away

 

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