The Pope, the Word & the World

The Pope, the Word & the World October 6, 2008

At the end of the sky is the rising of the sun;

to the furthest end of the sky is its course.
There is nothing concealed from its burning heat.
(Psalm 19)

How funny. Not funny, “ha-ha” but funny “strange.” And good.

The pope announced last week
that he would begin a televised reading of all 73 books of the bible beginning yesterday. Spare me notes arguing about the number of books in the bible – I’m not going to get mired down in apologetics – and just stick with me.

So, think about it – right now GOING OUT OVER THE AIR – from Rome, is The Word. In its entirety, whole and complete, without any books tossed aside or neglected.

Who rules the air? Who does St. Paul call “the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that now works on the children of unbelief…” in Ephesians 2:2?

That’s right.

This is a battle. There are things seen and unseen. Right now we see a battle being played out, politically, economically and socially. But there is another battle being played out as well – all around us, borne on the invisible air. I think Benedict is brilliant in doing this. The Word being breathed into the air, unabridged, and the Holy Spirit rides on the breath. This is very cool.

And then today, the whole world financial picture runs precarious, and Benedict steps up and says, essentially, “it is better to take refuge in the Lord, than to trust in princes…” (Psalm 118;9)

Pope says world financial system “built on sand”.

Pope Benedict XVI today said that the global credit crisis shows that the world’s financial systems are “built on sand” and that only the works (sic) of God have “solid reality”.

… ”He who builds only on visible and tangible things like success, career and money builds the house of his life on sand”. He added: ”We are now seeing, in the collapse of major banks, that money vanishes, it is nothing. All these things that appear to be real are in fact secondary. Only God’s words are a solid reality”.

I love that: “only God’s words are a solid reality…” and this very day the Pope has people reading that Word out to the world.

It doesn’t really matter if no one listens. Some will, some won’t. The major portion of the Word will be read to no audience at all. But by the very act of reading it – of sending those words forth, on the air – the power of the Word is unleashed, and will still be efficacious. Just as a prayer said when one is tired, distracted and woebegotten is as much a prayer as one said fervently, there is power in this act of Benedict’s, as the prophet Isaiah foretold: So shall my word be, which shall go forth from my mouth: it shall not return to me void, but it shall do whatsoever I please, and shall prosper in the things for which I sent it. (Isaiah 55:11)

Do you remember President Bush’s first inaugural address, wherein he quoted John Paige in a letter to Thomas Jefferson, “Do you not think an angel rides in the whirlwind and directs this storm?

The operative word there may well be “directs.” While things may feel very chaotic right now, I feel confident that all things are working to God’s purpose and glory, and so I am enormously consoled and watching with great interest – and I urge us, again, to prayer and fasting.

Prayer and Fasting: If you cannot “fast” in the classic manner, consider fasting in a different way. Give up a cigar, or chocolate or a particular treat you’ve been looking forward to. Make a sacrifice – but a real one, even if it seems trite to you; offer it up for the triumph of good over evil in this battle that you know is being fought all around us. Yesterday I really, really wanted oatmeal for breakfast and my husband, noting how badly I wanted it, said “if you want it that badly and you’re fasting, perhaps you should give it up.”

He was right. I offered it up and had something I did not want, instead.

That sounds silly, doesn’t it? But the truth is, this is all a part of the “training exercise” that I think we’re being called to with our fasting and prayer: to try self-abnegation instead of self-gratification, to deny ourselves instead of instantly answering every desire of our hearts. In this way we start to separate the wheat and chaff that have accumulated in our own lives, indeed within our very souls. The oatmeal is a good example. I wanted it, I craved it; I did not need it. I lived without it. I said “no” instead of “yes” to myself and I survived.

The eyes of all wait upon thee; and thou givest them their meat in due season.
Thou openest thine hand, and satisfiest the desire of every living thing
— Psalm 145, KJV

It’s a small thing. But we may find ourselves, soon, being asked to do with less and less, and to give up more and more – to increasingly turn away from the world, in all of its illusions, and toward The One who Is and Was and Ever Shall Be (curiously enough, that is not Barack Obama). Best to train for that, and discipline ourselves a bit. Best to reconnect with the truth that Pope Benedict sends our way – along with the Word – this very week: only the Word is a solid reality.

Pray for the good. Pray for the victory of good over evil. And while we’re at it, let us not forget to pray for President Bush, surely the most put-upon man of the last 100 years. Even I – sadly – was tempted to forget that last week. But then I remembered this (H/T Michelle Malkin) and snapped out of it.

I’ll have more to write about Bush later, but keep in mind, he has had a role to play, here – a difficult one that has required unfathomable humility: he’s been the sheep to the slaughter, opening not his mouth in his own defense. There is power and purpose, I am sure, in that as well. I’m going to write more on that tonight, so check back.

Meanwhile – I like this psalm and leave if for you as I head out to Adoration. You can get a taste of that here, thanks to these fine ladies, and how odd, when you stop to think of it, that last week, their benefactor had offered the flower donation “for the intentions of President Bush and Pope Benedict XVI.”

More things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of…

In today’s Liturgy of the Hours, for Day Prayer we read:
The law of the Lord is perfect,
it revives the soul.
The rule of the Lord is to be trusted,
it gives wisdom to the simple.

The precepts of the Lord are right,
they gladden the heart.
The command of the Lord is clear,
it gives light to the eyes.

The fear of the Lord is holy,
abiding for ever.
The decrees of the Lord are truth
and all of them just.

They are more to be desired than gold,
than the purest of gold
and sweeter are they than honey,
than honey from the comb.

So in them your servant finds instruction;
great reward is in their keeping.
But who can detect all his errors?
From hidden faults acquit me.

From presumption restrain your servant
and let it not rule me.
Then shall I be blameless,
clean from grave sin.

May the spoken words of my mouth,
the thoughts of my heart,
win favor in your sight, O Lord,
my rescuer, my rock!

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