Here we are at the end of the year and the beginning of a new one. Only a few hours to go as I write this. At this point in time it feels like "2020" will eventually become a curse word ("Oh yeah? Well, 2020 you!"). To be "2020'd" would mean to be inundated with a series of trials one after another.
This is one of the reasons why I have not written anything in so long. There is not too little to write about, but rather too much. Yes, I have been busy (as usual), but that is only a small factor in it. To take my point in the previous paragraph, we have been "2020'd" and we have survived. Yes, there are many that have had their faith shaken, and every family has experienced some kind of trial over the last year (my own family has had its share of suffering).
We have survived, but having been inundated with all the crazy stuff of 2020 (election fraud, lies about covid, riots promoting anarchy, etc.), we now appear to live in a "land of foreigners". Things have changed so radically since the end of 2019 that in some ways things are barely recognizable. This is obvious to even the most casual observer. Yes, those in the liberal media do not want us to see it ("just shut up and eat what we give you!" they tell us), but it is not hard to realize the truth if you are willing to look around. Those who think everything is going fine, are either ignorant or deceived (and I am not sure which is worse).
When we find ourselves in a situation like this, whether or not we can change the course of events, we need to start living in reality. We no longer have a nation that is at peace with Christianity. This has been fading for a few decades now, but in 2020 it took a leap forward. The socialists have made sure of that (including, especially, those who are socialists but do not call themselves by that name).
There are numerous passages in the Old Testament that speak of what it means to live in a "foreign land", and that is much like what we are dealing with today. Yes, we may be able to turn the tide someday, but until we do, we cannot live in a "fairy land" pretending that things are "just peachy". We have to be realistic and acknowledge that this is what God has chosen for us for the time being.
New Year's resolutions are a helpful way of rethinking the path we are on and committing ourselves to do better in the future (something like the Church's practice of Advent and Lent). As we all look forward to a new year with hopes and dreams that things will be better than 2020 (maybe? please?!), let us each resolve to accept the challenges that the Lord has chosen for us, and to meet them with faith, hope and love.
If we can change hearts and bring about a genuine repentance in America then praise God for that; but if not, then we must accept the fact that America will be led by someone who resists the Catholic faith, and that means that we have to be "on our toes" and realize that he (or she) will likely come after us. Are you ready? Are you working to stand fast today? Tomorrow may be too late. Keep the faith.
Thursday, December 31, 2020
Here we are at the end of the year and the beginning of a new one. Only a few hours to go as I write this. At this point in time it feels like "2020" will eventually become a curse word ("Oh yeah? Well, 2020 you!"). To be "2020'd" would mean to be inundated with a series of trials one after another.
Wednesday, November 18, 2020
Insane events do not necessarily call for insane responses, but that does seem to be what many people in America are doing today. If I had been told 30 years ago what the year 2020 would be like, I would have laughed and thought it was "conspiracy theory" doomsday stuff. It is funny how crazy ideas are only crazy until they come true (the best fantasy and sci-fi writers could not make this stuff up). Who would have imagined that politicians (and those who wish they were politicians) would use a sickness that has something like a 98% survival rate (according to the numbers that they are actually telling us!) to enforce draconian rules on American society? This is the exact kind of behavior that our forefathers were trying to get away from when they founded America!
So then, if "insane responses" are not what is called for today, then what is called for? Readiness, preparation, thoughtful consideration of the possible futures, and lots of prayer is what is called for. Have you asked yourself what you would do if the rulers said attending Mass is illegal (as many have already done in some places and are starting to do again)? I do not mean temporarily, but what if they said it was the new law of the land: no more religious observances? We would not be the first of God's people to be told that we cannot practice our faith.
A few days ago in the readings for daily Mass, we were given a few of those "letters to the Churches" that Jesus had St. John send to some parishes in Asia Minor (Revelation chapters 2 and 3). We were only given a few of the letters for our readings, but it is worthwhile to go back and read all seven of them. They give us Jesus' words to Churches that are in the beginning of a persecution. He criticizes their compromises, encourages their faithfulness, and warns each of them that presumption of their status before God is foolish. No one is promised that their faith would never falter.
That is truly a message that each of us needs to hear today. It is so easy to say you agree and then point to "that guy over there" whose faith could falter (presuming that one's own faith never could). As with many things, an "insane response" would be either over-reacting or under-reacting. Both will have bad results, but an overreaction will unnecessarily place a target on your back. People will notice you far too soon. Yes, when we react to a collapsing society by insisting on faithfulness, they are going to notice us eventually, but you do not want to give them any assistance in that.
Some have also questioned where we draw the line in our obedience. Many times in Scripture we are told and given examples of God's people saying "no" to Caesar, Pharaoh and other tyrants. We always are to obey God first, but whenever the civil (or in these days "uncivil") authorities demand that we disobey God, then they lose and He wins. If there is a conflict, our submission to Christ takes precedence over our submission to the state. I am not saying anything new here; this can be found multiple times in God's written Word, and in Catholic theology.
A line has to be drawn in the sand, and that means a line has to be drawn in our hearts. This coming Sunday is Christus Rex (Christ the King); my favorite day in the liturgical year. We draw the line in our hearts when we recognize that Christ is King right now. This is true not just potentially or figuratively, but in reality. Many in the Church tend to downplay this truth because they are uncomfortable with the idea of any sense of triumphalism. Yet, Christ is triumphant -- He already conquered His enemies on the cross and is now working to place them under His feet (cf. 1 Cor 15:25 from the readings for this Sunday). Do you believe that?
An insane year does not call for insane responses, but acknowledging the authority of Christ over all things might seem insane to some (especially those who believe everything the media tells them!). It is not. It is the only response that faithful Catholics can have in days like this. America and many other countries are trying to commit suicide. We might not be able to stop it from happening, but we can survive it and come out on the other side with a strong faith. I say it once again: stand fast!
Friday, October 30, 2020
As most of you know, Catholic priests are not supposed to tell the faithful who to vote for in an election. There is a long story that goes with this, and there are different sides to the issue. Regardless of whether that was a good decision by the Bishops or not (and I am glad to discuss with anyone), there is a proper distinction that should be made when we think about the idea of "clergy involved in politics".
First, the position of the Catholic Church is that clergy are called to minister, primarily, to the laity. They are supposed to be training the faithful in how to interact with the world (i.e. in holiness). This does not mean that clergy are never supposed to interact with the world, but that it should not be their primary activity. This is the reason why clergy are ordinarily not allowed to hold political office or be engaged in the selling of secular commerce; they are to be "apart" from the world.
The laity, on the other hand, are specifically called to be involved in the world. They are supposed to be engaged in the activities of commerce, political influence, and other secular activities. In doing this, they are called to be "salt and light" for the world from within the world's spheres. I am not making this up -- go look at the catechism and canon law.
This separation of duties helps each to recognize their own unique role in the world, and also keeps each one active in their own sphere of influence. Therefore, when you hear someone complain that a Bishop or Priest has not stepped up and said something against an unjust political practice or some other sinful behavior, it is not exactly an accurate criticism. It is the duty of the laity to be standing up and proclaiming the gospel in the public sphere, and not exactly the clergy. Yes, clergy do so at times, and they will be right there at Right to Life marches (etc.) but if the clergy make that their primary focus (teaching the world), then they will fail to guide and teach the faithful in the Church.
With that said (like I already mentioned), I am not supposed to tell you who to vote for. I can, however, tell you what various politicians and their parties stand for. And that is what I wish to do here:
Enjoy, and please tell others (it is your duty, after all!).
Wednesday, October 28, 2020
Now, this is exasperating! Usually people who turn away from the Catholic faith have reasons. That is becoming less and less the case these days. I am sure you have encountered it in some way, even if you do not realize it. Many today do not want to think. No, I am not saying that many do not want to "think about certain things" (there are many things that we should not want to think about). What I am saying is that many people do not want to think at all. I have mentioned before that the age of rational discussion between differing parties has ended; this is now becoming more and more clear.
When you try to respond to someone's rejection of the faith and they say, "I know you believe that" or "you have no proof, that's just your opinion" or, with that stunningly brilliant piece of wisdom: "so?!", then you know that they do not want to think. You can make a perfectly cogent and compelling argument for someone like this, and he will likely just ignore it. Remarkably, those with this frame of mind will usually view themselves as brilliant; presuming that they have come up with an insurmountable argument. They believe that there is nothing you can say to them since they can just profess apathy and then proceed to ignore you.
It is this growing response that I refer to as "the shield of ignorance and the sword of arrogance". The shield of ignorance is not a true means of defense. Yet those who wield it think that they can defend themselves with it. It actually does no more than salve their consciences. They wish to live blindly, and think they have found a way to justify it. To say "I do not care" or "that is your opinion" is not a means to defend against anything. You can have no care that something is a deadly poison, but if you consume it you will still die. The fact that it is someone's opinion that Jesus Christ is Lord and Judge of all does not thereby mean that it is not true. Every truth is the same as someone's opinion. A shield of ignorance is like a shield made out of spider webs.
The sword of arrogance is also a fake weapon. Like ignorance, arrogance has no actual usefulness other than to intimidate people. Might does not make right, nor does arrogance prove one's opinions. Yet those who wish to live blindly like to proclaim loudly that they are superior (in order to hide some hated personal inferiority) so that they can continue to refuse to accept the teachings of the Church. They use this arrogance as a "sword" and seek to thrust it at us whenever we approach them with the truth. "I don't have to believe you because you are a [insert any category here]"; this is the highest form of prejudice men can fall into. Yet, because it is not a true weapon, it is comparable to being attacked with a sword that is made out of gelatin.
Those whose minds are stuck in this kind of thinking are showing that they really do not understand the Catholic faith. Most of them are rejecting a false idea of God rather than the true God merely because they refuse to think (at all) about what they are doing. It is not impossible to get through to those who think like this, but it is hard. Their "shield of ignorance and sword of arrogance" are very large in their minds because it allows them to live their lives with blinders on. This means that you have to connect with them where they are at: wallowing in their "feelings". Truth might not get through, but goodness and beauty can.
Goodness is shown in loving God and loving others. It is shown in being deeply committed to the faith in spite of what others say about it. Goodness is the working of the Holy Ghost in our lives so that we can overcome evil. Beauty is certainly physical (God has ordained a standard of what is beautiful, even if we do not yet understand it), but it is not merely physical. You can "feel" beauty, but it is most clearly recognized in what we see (whether it be a thing, or an action). Beauty is seen in the appearance of hope and an encouraging word in a time of trial. Beauty is what we call it when someone is willing to sacrifice their own desires for the sake of strangers. Show them goodness and beauty.
As we seek to bring the gospel to the lost, we have to deal with societal changes and corruptions as they come. Sometimes we are not going to be able to show the truth to someone because they refuse to open their own eyes and see it. Yet, unless the person is dead, their heart will still be open (even if they do not realize it). Appeal to them with holiness. Appeal to them by living out your life in the grace of Christ and be an example of righteousness. Righteousness and godliness are always beautiful; keep showing these things, and you will touch the hearts of those who do not know our Glorious Lord.
Thursday, October 15, 2020
In an old science fiction comedy movie from about 20 years ago, there is a scene where a scientist makes a comment about some visiting aliens. He says, "by definition, an advanced species will be peaceful". Soon afterward, the aliens land on the Earth and proceed to try to destroy every person on the planet. The irony is sometimes missed since the two scenes are a few minutes apart, but the point is clear if you make the connection. That is, however, the way most people today tend to think: technology equals peace and happiness.
Wednesday, October 14, 2020
Tuesday, October 13, 2020
Although they were not dealing with a world-wide pandemic in today's gospel reading, it is interesting how there is application from it to our current situation. I am not going to speak to the legitimacy of many of the common claims about the Coronavirus outbreak (but there is serious reason to doubt much of the rhetoric), I think that we should all make sure that we are dealing with things in the way that our Lord Jesus wants us to do.
In the gospel today, a Pharisee criticized Jesus. Apparently the disciples had failed to wash their hands before eating (a standard Jewish practice). Whether for ritual or hygienic reasons, it makes no difference; he and other Jews wanted Jesus to have His disciples wash their hands. His response is interesting for our modern context. He does not say that they should not wash their hands (following proper rules for ritual practices is always correct, and good personal hygiene is also good and right). He does, however, say that the Pharisee was "majoring in minors".
Our Lord tells him that he was a "fool" because he was so concerned with a practice of lesser importance that he neglected his spiritual health. Jesus says that the Pharisees might have looked nice and clean on the outside but inside they were full of "wickedness". He is, of course, speaking about priorities. What is your priority? Do you ever ask yourself if there is a conflict between your choices regarding the Coronavirus, and your choices regarding your faith? Which one, really, is more important to you? Your actions will reveal where your heart is at (regardless of what you may say verbally).
I know that I have said this many times before, but it bears saying again, because there are quite a number of people who are imbalanced in this. They live in constant fear of catching a virus (which may or may not be deadly for them), but have very little fear of God (something our faith tells us is necessary). Do you have the same concern for proper reception of the Eucharist as you do for avoiding getting sick?
Our Lord does want us to be physically healthy; no doubt about it. Yet, in the gospel He does not pull any punches. Being more concerned about what is "outside" (our personal health) than what is "inside" (our spiritual health) is a "foolish wickedness". In Scripture, we see many times that we can only control a small bit of our physical situation, but we (by the strength of Christ) can control our spiritual well being by the choices we make in our spiritual disciplines. St. Paul says in one place that bodily health is a good thing, but that spiritual health is what really matters for eternity (1 Timothy 4:8). Do we really believe that?
What are you focusing on right now? Do you have the same amount of concern for your spirit as you do for your body? Or is one more a priority in your life? If so, which is it? We are all going to die someday; nothing can stop that (unless you are one of those alive on the day of the Second Coming of Christ). We can only put off mortality for so long, and the more effort we put into that action the less we will put into our eternal state. This is not an issue of finding a balanced ratio, it is an issue of what really matters when you stand before God. The strongest, healthiest person in the world has no hope on Judgment Day if he did not follow Christ above all else.
Tuesday, September 22, 2020
I am not a expert on statistics, but I have had a few courses in statistical analysis and critical thought, and something is not adding up. I would greatly appreciate it if someone (anyone) had an answer to this, and could explain it to me. Let me begin by using an illustration (as I do so often). If, hypothetically speaking, 10,000 people moved into the city where I live (current population about 15,000), then you would expect the population to grow, right? Even accounting for the usual number of people who move out of a city in a given time period, an influx of that size would be noticed in the overall numbers, right? Let us imagine for a moment, that after that influx of 10,000 into a population of 15,000, that a census was done and it was found that the current population was 14,000. You would stop and ask, "what?!" That does not seem to make much sense, does it?
Compare that with our current "pandemic". There is a statistic called Crude Death Rate ("CDR") that gives the numbers per 1,000 people that die in a given time period. As a reference point, the CDR in 1919 (at the height of the Spanish Flu) was about 17 (17 people per every 1,000 in the world died that year). At the peak of the Black Plague, the CDR was estimated at about 500 (i.e. 50% of the world's population). In 2019, the CDR for the entire world was 7.8. In 2020 (after and including the onset of Covid), the CDR for the entire world (i.e. including all deaths for any reason whatsoever) is estimated that it will reach 7.7 (go look it up).
If we compare that with America, the numbers are only a bit different. In 2019 the CDR for America was 8.8, but the current number for the year of 2020 so far is 8.3. Am I missing something here? Seeing these numbers made me ask a question: how many deaths are occurring for things like heart attacks, cancer, lung disease, etc. Interestingly, the totals for those common fatalities are all down recently. This cannot be due to Covid. It is not as though a spread of a deadly virus suddenly cures tons of people of common fatal conditions.
If Covid is killing as many people as we are told, then we would expect even a small increase in the CDR, would we not? Yet, both worldwide and in America there is a decrease, not an increase. Someone is not telling us something here. We might presume that if people were traveling less, that it might decrease the numbers of death by car accident, but it would not impact the physical ailments that take people's lives.
Therefore, what is going on? I would expect with almost a million deaths to the "novel Coronavirus" (not to mention all the supposed suicides and other deaths caused by the despair that Covid has led to), that the CDR would go up; even just a little bit. Yet, that does not appear to be the case. If we throw into the mix all of these recent admissions that people have been "fudging the numbers" (i.e. calling certain deaths Covid, when that was not the actual cause), then something is not right. As my Grandma once said, "something stinks and it ain't the septic tank".
Consider it this way: in late 2019 things are going along as usual; people are dying at the normal CDR of 7.8 per 1000. Then a new virus shows up and begins taking lives in addition to those already dying of all the other maladies. That does not lead to a decrease in deaths (a CDR of 7.7), it leads to an increase in deaths. If, somehow, someone can explain how it works that Covid leads to less deaths in the world, then how is that a bad thing? A virus shows up and some people die of it rather than from other causes, but the end result is that less people are dying overall; that does not sound like something to run in terror from.
Without a clear explanation of why there are "so many people dying of Covid" and yet less people dying overall than last year before Covid, we really need to keep our eyes open. It appears that we are being lied to, and that someone is using this for a less-than-godly purpose. We have known that civil governments have lied to us in the past, but we do not always know the reasons. Whatever it may be, we need to persevere in our faith at this time. We need to recognize that there is a good possibility that someone is preparing to catch us off guard.
Whatever comes against us, if our faith is strong, then we can endure. If our faith is weak, we will give in to the wicked rulers and follow their lead. Will you stand fast? How will you respond when they encourage you to deny Christ? How will you respond when they demand that you deny Christ? You might save your life if you deny Him, but your eternal state will not be so pleasant.
Then they will deliver you up to tribulation, and put you to death; and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. And then many will fall away, and betray one another, and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because wickedness is multiplied, most men’s love will grow cold. But he who endures to the end will be saved (Matthew 24:9-13).
Tuesday, September 15, 2020
I took a short ride on my motorcycle this afternoon. I like the back roads; I never drive in the big cities. Flying past the farms on a two-wheeled mechanical beast and seeing the countryside sprinkled with cows and horses is one of the most relaxing experiences (at least to some). This is true until something starts to rattle on the motorcycle. It was only my fly-screen (a very small "windshield"), but I needed to pull over and make sure it was not going to fall off.
There I am on the corner of "N" and "M" highway, just down the road from the community of Possum Trot (not joking, there really is a Possum Trot, Missouri; it has an abandoned school and one house!). I was not really worried; you can ride a bike without a fly-screen but I stopped the bike and got off to check the bolts. After about a couple minutes a truck came by. The driver slowed down and looked over and signaled to me, asking if I was OK or needed help. He was a complete stranger, and might not pay attention to me in any other context, but he slowed to see if I needed help.
Is this simple act of neighborly help disappearing today? I am not asking whether it ever occurs (I know it does), but whether it is fading away. It seems that there is a growing hatred of others everywhere in American society. Those rioting in various places in these USA do not seem to protesting anything of real substance. They just seem to want to create more hatred. This is not helping us to overcome prejudice and bigotry. We all know this; it is nothing new. Yet, do we know how far we ourselves have fallen in this? Are we Catholics becoming just as hateful and disrespectful towards those whom we do not like?
How do you think about the lapsed Catholics who are running for political office? It is one thing to refer to them as lapsed, and entirely another to use vulgarity when referring to them. Do we speak about those who clearly want to promote the destruction of our society with similar hatred? I ask this question, but I am not really needing an answer because I have heard it multiple times. Disdain and anger are voiced by Catholics towards those who do not hold the faith (sometimes of their own fallen brethren).
Just for a moment think of the politician that you like the least. Now imagine what you would do if the two of you were in an elevator together and he (or she) was in need of your help. Would you genuinely reach out to help him with the love of Christ? If you are not certain that you would, then you likely are part of the problem of spreading hate. Jesus never said it was OK to be hateful toward those that we dislike, but we all know it can be very hard not to get upset at sin (it is, after all, aggravatingly stupid!). Yet our anger just drives people away and does nothing to bring others to conversion.
How do we treat one another these days? Are we still willing to be kind to strangers in need? And if we are willing to stop and help someone whose vehicle broke down, would we also be willing to help someone whose soul has broken? That is what we are dealing with when someone comes against us with sinful foolishness. Although many (if not most) are probably not willing for us to help them with their eternal salvation, we will never get the chance if we do not try. Have you tried to reach out to someone blinded by their sin and lead them to the saving Grace of Christ Jesus? They are all over the place; you cannot miss them; go find one and ask God to help you show him Who his Redeemer is.
Wednesday, August 12, 2020
So then, at this point, someone reading this is wondering whether I am a socialist, or some other kind of traitor to our country. Have no fear, few things could be further from the truth. I love my country; I love it enough to point out its weaknesses (in hopes of fixing them). If anyone is curious (although I have said this before elsewhere) I am closer to a constitutional monarchist, but America is my home, and I love her (warts and all).
The words that begin the preamble to our Constitution are "We the people". Every American child learns about them in school: big gigantic letters, standing tall so that no can miss them. This is often a prideful point for many. "We" made this government; it was not made "for us" I have heard people say. Not everyone realizes that the concept of the people independently setting up their own governmental structures comes more from Jean Jacques Rousseau (who was not faithful to his Catholic education) than from anything distinctively Catholic.
When someone says "we the people" in their reference to the creation of a governmental structure, they are asserting their own authority to create their own authority (no, that is not actually a tautology). Although many Catholics may not recognize it, this is a decidedly protestant way of thinking (which should not surprise us since all of our founding fathers were protestant). Yes, there are many differences here and there, but protestants pretty much all agree that authority begins with the people. Whether it is Baptists ruling by committee, or Episcopalians ruling by a vestry, it is not much different.
Of course, there will be some protestants who object to this. They will say that my experience (in multiple denominations over a span of 22 years) is not universal. Yet, when the protestant principle of private interpretation is coupled together with the fact that most protestants see Christianity as a buffet style religion ("pick and choose what you like") it is hard to deny.
In contrast, the Catholic position has a different way of viewing the subject. Although not always well articulated (especially in places where there is a push to have more and more "lay leadership" in the Church), the Church teaches that power comes from God and should be determined by what He says first. In 1878, Pope Leo XIII wrote Quod Apostolici Muneris, where he said:
Hence, by a new species of impiety, unheard of even among the heathen nations, states have been constituted without any count at all of God or of the order established by him; it has been given out that public authority neither derives its principles, nor its majesty, nor its power of governing from God, but rather from the multitude, which, thinking itself absolved from all divine sanction, bows only to such laws as it shall have made at its own will.It is all quite clear, but notice especially the final statement. Those of this mind only bow to laws that they themselves made by their own will. You do not need to be an atheist in order to behave in this manner. There are many who claim that they want to serve God and yet will only serve Him when He commands those things that they already want to do or believe. True, the Declaration of Independence does make mention of a "Creator" but it only does so in reference to the freedom he has given to us and not in any sense of our accountability to him.
That final detail is a crucial point to realize. In essence it is saying clearly that "God gave us freedom to do what makes us happy" but never acknowledges that God calls us to obedience to Him and requires us to live by the principles that He has laid out (including in the area of political decisions). If it had done so, it would have been hard to start with "we the people", and the first words would likely be "thus says the Lord" followed by a reference to God granting us His grace to "have dominion" in this world (e.g. something about kings from the book of Proverbs).
It is interesting to note that the American Constitution has no reference to God at all. Many people have noticed this before me, and the usual explanation of this is that the Constitution is a political document and there is no need to refer to God when designing your own political sphere. Presuming you are rejecting the Catholic position, then that would be true; but not for us. Including reference to "the Creator" in the Declaration of Independence, but leaving Him out of the Constitution is like saying, "God gave us freedom to rebel against England, but from there we make our own choices". I wonder what Pope Leo XIII would say about that?
No, the Scriptures do not lay out for us a specific plan of political theory. Yet, that does not mean that we can ignore what the Scriptures say about good and bad politics, or what they say about where authority is derived from. If that had been included in our Constitution, bill of rights, and the Declaration of Independence, what might our nation look like today?
I have heard that when the Confederate States of America were setting things up at the beginning of the War Between the States, they also rejected such references to the Lord and His authority. Selfishness just seems to breed further selfishness. Where would be if all our forefathers had made a Catholic choice in these areas? And how might the hearts of Americans be impacted by this important truth? These questions need to be asked, and we need to consider them as we see the turmoil America is in today.
Monday, August 3, 2020
Here is a funny little detail about all this Covid stuff going on: I do not remember the last time that we were feeling perplexed about some odd and seemingly unorthodox comment made by Pope Francis. This does not mean that he has not made any odd comments, just that we have not heard about them; our attention has been focused elsewhere of late. We have been more worried about riots, and communist takeovers, and toilet paper shortages! It is funny how a simple thing like a pandemic can change your perspective.
I have seen, more than once, that the fear of Pope Francis' (apparently) unorthodox comments and behavior, is often worse than the actual outcome of his unorthodox comments and behavior. One comment he made a couple years ago caused quite a few people that I know to respond with serious worry. They were concerned that the end result was going to be a total collapse of Church authority and an open acceptance of immorality in the Church. The actual result? well, I am not even sure that most people remember that he said it.
It is good for us to be concerned about something that our Holy Father says if it sounds contrary to the Catholic faith; we are called to be "wise as serpents and innocent as doves" in our lives. This means that we are foolish if we do not take notice at some of these things. We can, however, go overboard and spend more time fretting about what is happening than trusting our Lord to help us through it. To live in fear about something Pope Francis says or does (or any clergyman for that matter) is to live in disobedience to Christ's encouragement to trust Him in all things.
Fear is exactly what the devil wants to inspire in us, and it does not matter to him what we are afraid of, just so long as we are truly afraid of something other than God. Fear cripples us and prevents us from being able to grow in faith. We end up making decisions based more on what we fear than on the power of God (which is stronger than anything that we can ever fear). This is not the way to live.
Yes, we are supposed to be concerned about bad things happening, so that we can respond to them with wisdom and holiness. Responding to them, however, does not mean hiding in a back room, whining, and wringing our hands together because we have no confidence in our God. After all, ask yourself right now, what has greater influence on your decisions in life (especially the major ones)? Is it something that someone does or says, or is it our Sovereign Lord Jesus Christ? Are you taking as many precautions, right now in your life, to protect your soul as you do to protect your body?
This can be seen in many ways today. I have said it before, and I will repeat it often because few seem to recognize this. Worrying about what the Covid can do to you has far worse long term effects than what the Covid can actually do to you. Jesus said to trust Him and not to worry! The fear of the virus is worse than the virus itself. This may cause some to be upset at me (that is certainly not my goal), but: we cannot live in fear -- dying from a virus is not as bad as turning away from Christ and ending up in eternal Hell. I have seen many people who are cowering in fear and willing to do just about anything to avoid physical death, yet it seems that very few are willing to do much of anything to avoid an eternal death.
Do not give in to the devil. Turn away from him and place your full confidence in Christ. Our Lord does not want you to live in fear of anything in this world. Jesus is still on His throne, and He still rules over all. Develop the virtues of faith and hope; faith in the promises of Christ, and hope in His great power and love.
Friday, July 31, 2020
This does not happen to me often, and I do not want to give the impression that I am something special because of it, but it did happen and it stayed with me. I was praying for my parishes recently and pleading with the Lord that He would grant a particular request. In the midst of my prayer, I was overwhelmed with an "inner voice" that spoke to me. It was not merely an impression, but specific words that I could repeat out loud. In my heart I heard: "Don't presume to tell God what's needed here, as though you know more than He does; God knows what is needed, and He will always give exactly what is needed and it may not be the same as what you want!" Then as the words finished, I was struck by the realization that it was not the Lord Who was speaking to me, but rather the Blessed Virgin. Like a Mommy wagging her finger and saying "shape up kiddo!"
I had to change my perspective in that prayer. I knew how to pray rightly, but was not doing so at that moment. I quickly adjusted and said, "Lord, I think this is what is needed, but You know best." We have to do that at times in our lives: readjust our perspective on what really matters, and what the Lord considers valuable. In the gospel reading last Sunday we are told about a pearl of great value, and we all know that the ultimate Pearl is none other than Christ Himself. Yet, once we realize that truth, then we also must follow along and submit all our "values" to Him for that very same adjustment I referred to above. This is a hard task, but it is essential (and somewhat natural) for those who see Christ as that Pearl of ultimate value.
How do you determine whether you are keeping Christ as the most important and valuable thing in your life? Ask yourself quickly: "How do I make spiritual decisions?" If you are deciding on spiritual matters based on convenience then you can be sure that you are not keeping Christ first. Whether it is Mass attendance, prayer, Scripture reading, or any other spiritual discipline, we cannot decide our engagement with them based (even the slightest bit) on convenience. In essence, every decision must begin with the question "what will please Christ the most?" If we begin with any other question, then we will fail to obey our Lord (sorry, but this is guaranteed).
So then, quickly ask yourself, what is your "pearl of great price". What are you willing to give up everything to get? If it is not Christ Himself, then you are not walking in faith. If we place anything else first then that thing becomes an idol to us. It was St. Augustine who said, “idolatry is: worshiping anything that ought to be used, or using anything that ought to be worshiped.” When we get things upside-down in our spirituality then idolatry always happens.
What we have to consider now is the state of things in our nation. Things are looking quite bad, and they are only getting worse. We should not be surprised if things degenerate to the point of there being a severe trial and persecution against the Church. How we will respond will depend largely on whether Christ is first in our lives, and whether we have allowed Him to order all our other "values". If things get bad and we do not have Christ as our "Pearl" then we will not endure. If He is indeed the most important thing in our lives, then we can endure anything. As St John Vianney said, "for those whom God loves, trials are not punishments; they are graces." My dear brethren, pursue that priceless pearl which is Christ Himself. Then, and only then, can you stand fast in whatever comes our way. God bless you!
Saturday, July 4, 2020
Regardless of who said it first (and there are various debates about it--I won't bore you with them), the following quote is amazingly insightful.
A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largess from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship...The average age of the world’s greatest civilizations has been about 200 years. These nations have progressed through this sequence: from bondage to spiritual faith, from spiritual faith to great courage, from courage to liberty, from liberty to abundance, from abundance to selfishness, from selfishness to apathy, from apathy to dependence, from dependence back again to bondage.Notice the first half of the quote before the ellipsis. That is always the danger of democracy -- voters with bad hearts. Give freedom of choice to people without a conscience and they will almost always choose evil. Yet, it is the second half of the quote that I want you to be thinking about more. Most of you know that I like studying history. The pattern listed here can be seen in numerous civilizations of the past. Ancient Rome is one of the most obvious; and there are volumes written to lay it out for us.
So then, we should be asking ourselves, what stage are we at here in America? After all, we are well past the 200-year mark that it mentions. Most would admit that we appear to be past apathy and heading into dependence. Of course, there is not a guarantee that we will move smoothly through these stages; any one of them could occur quickly and last only a short time, but that is not usually the case.
We have been forced into depending on the government for many things, and (by our own choice) we have manufactured various devices that force us to depend on them as well. Not all dependence is bad, but the current "nanny state" in these USA is certainly not encouraging faithful and diligent hard work. You can see dependence encouraged all over this land, and many of our politicians appear to want even more of it (they call it socialism--as if that were a good thing--but it is just another form of tyranny). This runs contrary to the basic principles of the Catholic understanding of subsidiarity and solidarity. Every time I mention how problematic Social Security and Welfare are (most specifically because they discourage family unity, parental responsibility, and basic hard work) people respond with, "but how else will they get the money they need?" It rarely occurs to people that there is another way.
So as we continue to go through this decline in our civilization, it is helpful to know that there are certain patterns that we can expect. And maybe, just maybe, this time we could prepare ourselves to move away from the phase of bondage to a new spiritual faith much quicker. Maybe, just maybe, parents could see the errors of the previous generations and decide to be faithful in how they raise their children. Maybe, just maybe, our penitence will be a part of turning this land of America into a new land of greater holiness that will not follow the pattern in the quote above. Remember, God loves doing miracles for His faithful people.
Tuesday, June 30, 2020
What else did you miss? Did you miss the community of the Church? We here in southern Missouri have had public Mass celebration available for a few weeks now. In this, we are still required to practice social distancing (which should be called anti-social distancing!). Things are looking ugly in many places, and though not as bad here, it is still tense; everyone is a bit nervous about what will happen in the near future to our nation and to our Church. Which, however, are you more concerned about? Are you more concerned about the coming disintegration of this falling nation, or about the potential persecution on the Church (which always seems to come along with societal break-down)?
Considering the new normal that we are moving into, we want to be sure, as I said before, that we are moving into our Lord's new normal and not just falling into line with the world's desire to create a new normal from its own selfish motivations. I said in a previous post that the Kingdom of God does not grow the way that the world thinks (we looked there at the "how" of Kingdom growth). Politics and physical institutions may be related to the growth of the Kingdom, but they are not the heart of the Kingdom. Now we need to consider another vital aspect of Kingdom growth: the "where".
If you are one of the many Catholics who comes to Mass but really does not connect with anyone else in the parish, then you are working against the primary place of "where" Jesus is working. Just because you are attending the Mass does not mean that you are truly engaged with the community of the parish. You can be in a crowded room and still be "alone". The people you worship God with should not be strangers. No, you do not need to be best friends with every member of your home parish, but if you have no friends there, something is not right. Scriptures tells us that a parish is a small "body of Christ" and that the parts of the body cannot ignore each other (1 Corinthians 12:14ff).
Where do we find the center of all spiritual growth? It is always in the Church. That does not mean that only the Church grows, but it does mean that everything else is merely a by-product of the growth of the Church. The Church is not exactly equated with the Kingdom; rather it is the "region" where the Kingdom is experienced most clearly. With this being the case, that should inform how we think of the Church. Do you think of the Church as one of your hobbies? I hope that is not the case. The Church is the center of the Catholic life. That is not a new idea, but it is not always lived out in the lives of Catholics today.
How are you involved with the community of your home parish? Where do you find your best friends? What do you think about first when you think about Church? Is it just that thing you do on Sundays, or is it the center of your life? I am not exaggerating with that last statement. Some think that only priests and religious should have the Church at the center of their lives, and that is not true. To be clear: I am not saying that the laity are supposed to be at the Church 23 hours and 59 minutes of every day, but how do you make your decisions through the week? Does the Church come last in your plans?
It is in the Church that we find the grace to keep us moving on the path to Heaven. It is the Church that tells us how to obey our Lord, and it is in the Church that we find others who are on the same path (who can help us on our journey). It is possible to make the Church an essential duty, but not a major portion of our lives. It would be comparable to one of those 24-hour allergy pills -- some people really need to take them, but they ignore it for the rest of the day. When Catholics make Church the center of their lives, they find that their lives begin to have greater peace, and challenges become easier to bear. Our Lord Jesus rules over all creation for the sake of the Church (Ephesians 1:15-23); let us love it as much as He does.
Saturday, June 27, 2020
Friday, June 26, 2020
Whenever this type of chaos is promoted in a society, the Church is usually the first to get attacked. What will those attacks look like here in these United States? I cannot predict, but I can say that we have an idea if we just look at the past. Think, for example, of how the communists treated the Church in 1917 when the Blessed Virgin appeared at Fatima. During times like those (and we may be saying "times like these" here in America pretty soon) when there are people who attack the Church directly, what should be our response? We can either turn away from the Church and save our skin; or we can deepen our commitment to the Church.
Yet, we must ask the question: how easy is it to deepen our commitment in the time of persecution if our commitment is weak beforehand? The answer is: not very easy at all. Whenever a society begins to have internal strife like we are experiencing today, there is always something going on in Heaven. What I mean is, our Lord is doing a work down here on Earth, and He is likely including the heavenly host of angels in the effort. There is a war going on and we are at the center of it.
I hear, almost daily, more and more people talking about these events like they are a clear sign of the end of the world. Yes, many of these things are awful, but that does not mean necessarily that the world is about to end. A thousand years ago there were even more trials going on and people all over Europe thought for sure that the world was about to end. Obviously, it did not. Yet, that does not mean that they were wrong to ask the question. In fact, the very asking of the question will often encourage people to look more deeply into their hearts to ensure that they are right with the Lord.
Have you been doing any of that introspective self-examination lately? If not, it may be too late someday. The world does not have to end for things to get really bad. Whatever happens, God is going to dividing up the "sheep and goats" (and some of this has already begun to happen). Those whose hearts are not really committed to Christ and His Church are either going to trickle away, or they will leave in a "huff" because someone let them know that they have to repent of their sins. When this division occurs it sometimes just looks like typical disagreements, but God is purging His Church of those who refuse to follow Him.
Look at what St. Peter said right before the persecution under Nero Caesar (who murdered Peter):
For the time has come for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God? (1 Peter 4:17).God always judges His own "household" before He turns to the world. This is because He loves us and wants us to be able to repent. St. Peter also said:
The Lord is not slow about his promise as some count slowness, but is forbearing toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance (2 Peter 3:9).So then, He gives us time to get our souls right, but that time is limited; He does not wait forever. So I encourage all of you: time to get your spiritual health taken care of. If you are struggling right now (with anything) do not let it wait until later to work on it. Now is the time; today is the day to put in the effort. The world may not end tomorrow, but we never know when God will call each of us to account.
Saturday, May 16, 2020
Many think that Jesus said to his disciples: "If you love me, you will keep my commandments (at least most of them; or at least the ones that are convenient; or maybe just a couple that you happen to like; well, tell you what, just do your best and I'll overlook the rest)." Is that what Jesus said? Our Lord did say the first part: "If you love me, you will keep my commandments" but the last part in the parentheses, that was entirely made up (and we all know it). If we know this to be true, why do some live like they thought that the last part was what He really said?
We make excuses. That is the real reason, and we all know that just as well. We look at one of His commands and decide that we know better, or that it does not apply to us. That may be how we reason through it, but it is not right (and we all know that as well). There is no excuse, no doctrinal twisting, no turning a blind eye, that can change the fact that our Lord calls us to obey His commandments and says that if we do not, then we really do not love Him.
For those who know this and submit to it (even if they struggle with it), Jesus promises a great help. He knows that we are unable to obey Him on our own, and He says He will provide for us the very thing to help us to get through the struggle. It is as though our Lord said, "you have to obey Me, and if you are willing to do so, I will give you the means to do so: My Holy Spirit". Those who do not really want to obey will not take advantage of the Spirit and so, for them, the obedience is impossible. Yet, for those who are willing, the help of the Spirit is the means by which they can obey.
This means that the Holy Spirit of God is the very key to the faithful life. Did you obey God recently (I am sure you did), then you did it by the power of the Holy Spirit. Did you disobey God recently (admit it, you probably did), then you did it because you did not take advantage of the Helper that Jesus promised. He even said that the Spirit would be with us always (meaning especially in those times of temptation and trial) and that the world could not receive Him. The world does not accept the help of the Holy Spirit because the world does not want to obey God in the first place.
Finally, we must realize that the Holy Spirit is the very means by which we can make sure that our obedience stems from love for God and not merely from a sense of duty (which is good, but not a sufficiently holy obedience). This is why Christ says "if you love Me you will obey". Love and obedience go together hand in hand. They are two parts of one whole and for us to imagine that we can love God without obeying Him is a grave misunderstanding. Obedience without love is cold and superficial with no real commitment. Love without obedience is merely a sentimental feeling (and not true godly love). So, as our Lord said, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind; this is the first and greatest commandment". Let that always be our goal. In the Name ✠ of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
Saturday, May 9, 2020
In the gospel, Jesus begins by telling us, "let not your hearts be troubled". Our Lord knows that this world will bring us trouble (cf. John 16:33), and He wants to help us overcome it so He gives us this reminder that we can (with His help) deal with what the world sends at us. So let me ask it again: what are you troubled by? We are getting closer to having Mass being public once again, but it will not likely be just like it used to be. In fact, it appears that we will be required to do things a bit differently in order to avoid spreading this plague among the parish community.
Does catching the virus "trouble" you? Are you worried about it? It can be fatal for some, so it appears that there is genuinely something to be troubled by. Yet, when Jesus said not to be "troubled" He was not referring primarily to plagues and diseases. The context of the gospel shows clearly that He was speaking about our eternal destiny. This does not mean that Christ does not care about our physical well being; of course not. Yet, they should not be equal concerns in our hearts. Physical health is important, but it does not directly impact whether we are right with God; that is an internal status.
In other words, He was concerned about how we deal with our spiritual condition. How much do you "trouble" about whether you are in a state of grace? Which are you more worried about? Your spiritual health, or your physical health? If we seek to have extra rules and directives to help keep us physically healthy, how much more should we seek to protect our spiritual health? The Church has rules for these things (remember the Precepts of the Church?). How many rules and guidelines does the Church have for the right reception of Holy Communion? What if we were to apply them to ourselves with the same rigidity that some are insisting on with "social distancing" rules?
Now to be clear: God does not want us to live in fear about our spiritual well being because He is able to take care of us (that is the point of the gospel!). That, however, does not mean that we are to ignore our spirituality and only spend time working on our physical health (for He can take care of that too!). Both are important, but which is the one that matters for eternity (1 Timothy 4:8)? When our gracious Lord tells us not to "be troubled" then we need to take that to heart -- fully and completely.
Do not let your hearts be troubled: not about your spiritual well being. Do not let your hearts be troubled: not by a virus either (even if it is deadly!). With Jesus as our Lord (Who can conquer anything and everything that worries us) we do not need to go through life fearful. When we come together again to participate in the Mass as a parish, let us each make sure that our greatest concern is that we are right with God and that we are working to glorify Him in all we do. With that as our goal, we have nothing to worry about. In the Name ✠ of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
Thursday, May 7, 2020
As we seek to examine that first detail of "how" to move forward towards a godly "new normal", we have to acknowledge that God's word comes first, and our own ideas can never be allowed to do so. In other words, in many of life's challenges, our Lord has already laid out a plan for how to deal with things, but we frequently ignore it and choose to follow our own (human) wisdom instead of God's (divine) wisdom. Step one in learning how to be faithful is admitting that God knows more than we do and then doing our best to act accordingly.
Therefore, if we are asking the question as to "how" we accomplish a new normal that accords with the Kingdom of Christ, we must first see the way that His Kingdom actually grows. Many times in Scripture we are told that the Kingdom of Christ is (at least for now) a spiritual Kingdom (predominantly). This means that the Kingdom of Christ does touch on the physical realm; it is just as much a law of Christ that we do not commit adultery as that we be reverent when in the presence of the Eucharist. The primary means, however, for the growth of the Kingdom of Christ in this world is spiritual.
The Kingdom grows through changing men's hearts first, and then afterwards it changes society's laws, for only when hearts have changed can societal norms and laws be fully effective. Therefore, we need to be very cautious when we are seeking to make "physical" changes to our surroundings, so that we ensure that we are not making those changes our first aim (not that we should not make those changes, but that they need to be kept in their proper place). To be specific: influencing the political realm is important, but it is not our first and most important work. If your membership in a political party is more important to you than your Church membership, then something is seriously wrong with your faith.
In fact, this necessary balance is so crucial to the work of the Kingdom of God, that we could say that the local society will develop rightly if the Kingdom of God is already growing. This is so because the Kingdom always impacts the institutions around it. Even societies that are heavily influenced by wickedness can be changed by just a few faithful within that society (think of God's willingness to spare Sodom and Gomorrah if there were "at least 10 faithful people in the city"). It might take some time, but the Kingdom of Christ always wins in the end.
As the world systems develop and change over time, the Church should be the primary influence on those systems. This is, obviously, not always the case, but it is the ideal that we are supposed to aim for. When the opposite happens, we are in trouble. Today, we find that many in the Catholic Church (both laity and clergy) are listening to the world and worldly wisdom (sometimes equated with "science") more than to the Word of God. Whenever this happens we will see people within the Church trying to abandon the past and change Church teaching (e.g. much of what is coming out of the German Bishops these days).
Politics and political theory should not be excluded from this. It is not a neutral practice that is allowed to go any direction the people desire. The Church has spoken about political theory in various places, and although she does not advocate one political system over others, there are a few practices that she has directly stated are evil (such as socialism!). Therefore, politicians and those involved in civil leadership should be looking to the Church and asking what is the right way to do their job, but that is not what is happening. The fault is not entirely with the politicians; it can also be found in the fact that many (even Catholics) are treating the political sphere as though it were the ultimate authority in society. NO; as in "N", "O". Not true; never was, never will be.
Once we begin to see clearly in our heart, soul, and mind, how God wants us to move toward holiness (in the spiritual realm first, and the physical realm as a direct consequence) then we will be able to move forward. As with my mechanic friend, if he used the wrong method to repair the car, he would not have gotten far. The Catholic Church as a whole is currently not doing well at growing in holiness, which implies we are not using the right methods. Do not ignore the physical realm, but also do not allow it to become the primary means of spreading the Kingdom of God.
Saturday, May 2, 2020
In today's gospel, we are told about Jesus' activity as our "Good Shepherd". The foundational truth here that we each need to recognize is that He says He calls us each "by name". This means that all who are baptized must acknowledge the call of God on their lives. He calls each one of us (not just the clergy, or a few laity who are more devout, but all), and tells us that we must serve Him, and Him alone. This might sound like I am overstating the obvious, but that is not the case. Just because someone is one of Jesus' sheep, does not guarantee that he will not listen to the enemy. When Jesus calls us each by name, He is saying, "you are my sheep, and if you want Me to protect you, you have to follow Me and no one else."
This entails, of course, that we do not listen to the "robbers and thieves" that He warns us about in the gospel reading. This is harder than it seems because the devil never speaks to us with 100% lies; he always sprinkles a bit of truth in with His lies so that we will more easily fall for it. It is often hard for us to discern just what we are being told by the world, and that is why God gave us the Church. Yes, it is true that not everyone in the Church agrees on everything, but the Church's official teachings do not change; ever. We can be confident of that one certainty (if a teaching appears to have changed, then either we have misunderstood it, or someone misinterpreted something).
Here is an easy test to check your spiritual "pulse" on this subject. Ask yourself right now: if Hollywood actors and actresses disagree with the Church, who will you believe? If your doctor disagrees with the Church, who will you believe? If astronomers disagree with the Church, who will you believe? If college professors disagree with the Church, who will you believe? If politicians disagree with the Church, who will you believe? The Good Shepherd tells us to "flee from the thieves and robbers" who want to lead us astray, and though not all of those listed above contradict what God has said through His Church, when they do contradict we must stand fast with God's truth and listen to Him alone.
We all have to admit that there are times in our lives when we do listen to others that we are not supposed to be listening to; when we give heed to the errors of the world and then fall into sinful behavior. Our Good Shepherd is loving and cares for us. He will not leave us to the wolves if we willingly return to Him and seek His help. He promises to save us if we will hold fast to our commitment to Him (regardless of what the world might do or say). Do not allow the world to bully you and pressure you into compromising your faith. They are the ones who came to "steal and kill and destroy". Jesus Christ, our Good Shepherd is the One Who came to give you an abundant life; follow Him and Him alone. In the Name ✠ of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
Thursday, April 30, 2020
We truly have become a remarkably selfish society. The problem (the really big problem!) is that Catholics do not seem to be immune to this great evil. We are supposed to be the "salt of the Earth" and keep these things from happening, and yet we seem to be helping this all to get worse. This sounds a lot like the numerous instances when Israel was punished in the Old Testament for not fulfilling her calling, and the New Testament tells the same story of some of the individual Churches as well (cf. Rev 3:14ff).
I said to someone the other day that I was looking forward to a return to normal. That was not actually true. What used to be "normal" (especially for Catholics today) is not what I want to return to. The selfishness that has so pervaded everything (not just politicians and actors, but everyone!), is not the "normal" that I want to return to. Sadly, most of those who are swimming in their own selfish behavior are unable to see just what they are doing. When we start getting past the "stay at home" orders, and the suspended Masses, and wearing surgical masks in public we need to be ready to accept a "new normal".
The "new normal" for the world appears like it will be fairly totalitarian (unless some of these politicians give up their lust for power). Regardless of what the world does, however, we need to be more faithful than we were before this plague came upon us. That means that we need a "new normal" that is distinctly and unashamedly Catholic. I am talking about a new normal that leaves behind the errors of the last half-century and returns to the roots of our faith.
Something has to change, or something is going to break. We cannot imagine that we can go on compromising our faith and that God is just going to ignore it and then make everything OK in the end. It seems like the modernist Catholics presume that we just need more modernism, and the traditionalists presume we just need more traditions. Although the traditionalists are far closer to the truth than the modernists (we do need to return to our historic Catholic faith--like that found in the Catechism of Trent), both are basically wrong.
It is not the outward actions that make us right with God (that was the error of the Pharisees 2000 years ago), but our inward hearts. The outward actions are what can help to guide our inward hearts to be right with the Lord (or, adversely, they can lead us away from God). If our outward actions humble us and exalt Christ Jesus, then they will be helping towards holiness (and the new modernist practices simply cannot do this).
The devil wants us to get caught up in the pursuit of anything other than the work of becoming a Saint. No matter what the details are, if he can accomplish this, then we become selfishly ineffective for the gospel. As Bishop Fulton Sheen one said:
The poor frustrated souls who are locked up inside their own minds keep their little egotistic heads too busy and their selfish hands and feet too idle.Can you say "ouch"? If that statement does not come across like a smack in the face, then you missed it (and you should read it again). He wrote this half a century ago, and it has come true; not just for a few odd individuals, but for the majority of the world (even of the baptized).
If we merely keep doing things the same way we have been doing them, then we will be "locked up inside" our own minds, as the brilliant Bishop said. When that happens, all we can see is our own ideas and thoughts, and, consequently we become closed to the guidance and prompting of the Holy Ghost. As I said above, something has to change. If we do not turn away from the world, we will end up turning with the world (and that is not the narrow path that leads to Heaven).
Hence, what we need is a reassessment of our practices to ensure that they are actually guiding us toward greater holiness and usefulness in the Kingdom of Christ. Many of the presumed habits of the 20th century got us into this; continuing them is not going to get us out of this. In order to move in this "new normal" direction, we need to be able to answer a few basic questions. For example, we already know "who" "when" and "why". We are to work, right now, because it determines our eternal destiny. Yet, we have to dig deeper to ask a few other questions; like "how to grow?", "where do we grow?" and "what are we to grow?"
I hope I have sparked your interest in this subject. It needs to be examined with hearts that are open to the commandments of God and His truth. We each need to accept the call of the Lord on our lives, and be willing to suffer for His sake; anything less is not the faith that the Saints were willing to die for, but some counterfeit invented by the evil one. I want to return to this idea in subsequent posts (one for each question), so come back for more later...
Saturday, April 25, 2020
Here we have another instance of those who knew Jesus before His death and resurrection seeing Him but not recognizing Him. What could possibly have kept them from recognizing Him this time? Last week the Apostles did not recognize Him because they were focused on their own desires and interests. This week is different though. The two disciples were somewhat overwhelmed by everything that had occurred (as they described to Jesus in the gospel reading). As St. Augustine once said about these disciples:
"They were so disturbed when they saw him hanging on the cross that they forgot his teaching, did not look for his resurrection, and failed to keep his promises in mind."This is important for us to see because we often get overwhelmed by difficult things in our lives as well.
Yet, that is not the main thing that we should see in this gospel passage this Sunday. I want us to consider instead when it was that the disciples recognized Jesus. We are told it was "in the breaking of the bread". This is not an accident or a coincidence. Our Lord clearly wanted to use something to jar their memory, and He chose to use a normal part of life that made them think of His divine providence for them. We do not know if they recognized the "breaking of the bread" as a reminder of the Eucharist (since Jesus had only instituted the Eucharistic celebration a few days before His death) but for us today, what is more significant than God's provision for us in the Sacraments (and the breaking of bread obviously mirrors the celebration of the Eucharist)?
In any of those times when we are caught up by the challenging events of life around us (as we are today with this viral plague), we can easily miss the work of Christ in our lives. Yet, even while we are unaware of what our Lord is doing, He comes along side us, as He did with these disciples, and walks with us in our troubles and pains. This means that He is often already there before we even pray and ask Him to come and help us (remember that the next time you think God is not helping you where you need it!). He speaks to us with love, and sometimes even tells us where we have been wrong and foolish. As much work as He willingly does for us we still do not see it for what it is right away. It takes something deeper and more profound to shake us and wake us up.
When we are confused and trying to believe what the Church tells us about our Blessed Redeemer, Jesus Himself comes along side us and walks with us. He does it because He loves us; because He loves you. Only when we are willing to look beyond those things that are confusing us and look attentively for the work of Christ, can we see that God's hand is in all these things. Yet, this will only happen if something first catches our attention and helps us to think about God's provision for us; about how He has protected us, provided for us, and (most especially) given us His grace. Then, and only then, do we see what He is doing!
Therefore, my dear people, look for Him this week. Expect our Savior to be with you and ask Him to help you see that He is there. Ask Him to reveal Himself to you by reminding you of all the great works that He has done in your life so that you can see the great works that He is doing right now. You may think it is just the daily trials of these crazy days that we live in, but God does not see it that way. He sees you trying to get through this confusion and pain, and He wants to accompany you and have you recognize Him. Pray specifically for Him to send that special event that will help you to see exactly what He is doing, and have hope that He will answer that prayer. Then, do not let anything get in your way of seeing Him present with you. In the name ✠ of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
Saturday, April 18, 2020
That is actually the way that it is supposed to be, though we do not usually think of it like that. You need to understand that all the other 51 Sundays of the year are designed to be a "little Easter" and therefore are patterned after the original source for Sunday Mass: Easter Day. Easter is the norm, and the others are the copies (so that we can continue to celebrate the resurrection of Christ every Sunday of the year). So it is not a "let-down" exactly; it would be better to say that on Easter we return to "normal".
This does not mean, however, that we are supposed to allow ourselves to get bored with the normal pattern of Sunday Mass; especially this Sunday. The Easter season goes from Easter Sunday until Pentecost (May 31st this year), but the seven days after Easter are counted as part of Easter. This means that we are still celebrating Easter today; do not think that it has ended. Today being "Divine Mercy Sunday" is the conclusion of the real Easter celebration (this is also why you did not need to practice your weekly Friday abstinence last Friday).
In the gospel reading for today, Jesus set this pattern for the Apostles. He came to visit them first on the "evening of the first day of the week" (the first Easter). In other words, He came on the Sunday of His resurrection. Then He came "eight days later" (on "Divine Mercy Sunday") and appeared to them once again. He came to them as He comes to each of us on every Sunday (even if we cannot gather for Mass!). He comes to you and your family today. He approaches you in your very homes and says "Peace be with you".
When He comes to you today, He wants to find you keeping the pattern of Sundays. He wants to see you doing all you can to maintain the Lord's Day as a day of rest and worship. He wants you to say the rosary, or read the Scripture readings for today. He wants to find you being with your family (as much as you can). He wants to find you remembering that wherever we are, whatever we are doing, and however difficult the times are that we are going through, that we acknowledge that He is our Lord, and that "this is the day the Lord has made, let us be glad and rejoice in it". And He wants to give you His peace. In the name ✠ of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
Sunday, April 12, 2020
Jesus, when He was born into the world, He was “intruding” because He is not a creature, yet He took on human flesh. When He raised from the dead, He was “intruding” into the normal pattern of death, because dead people usually stay that way. When He comes into our hearts, He is “intruding” because it is not in our fallen nature to allow someone to tell us what to do. Yet, in all these things, He is not an evil intruder, but a “Holy Intruder”. He comes to bring goodness and holiness.
When Jesus first stepped out of that tomb on Easter morning, He was intruding into a world that have never seen a genuine, eternal, resurrection body before. He was bringing something fully new, and that was our very salvation all wrapped up in Him Who is our Savior. Let us each approach Him today with humble hearts, recognizing that we each need Him to do some “intruding” in order to drive away our sin, and fill us with His grace and mercy. In doing this, we can each rejoice fully in His resurrection and what it means for us. He comes into our lives so that we can come into His life. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
Saturday, April 4, 2020
I had to get my cholesterol checked a couple months ago, and I knew it was not going to go well. First of all, I do not do well when I get blood taken (usually I get light headed and dizzy). Second of all, I had to fast from midnight until after the test, and I always have difficulty with fasting (again, light headed and dizzy). Put those two things together and I was sure it was going to be unpleasant. I am sure you all know what happened: I almost passed out after they finished taking blood. I knew what to expect, but I also knew I needed to do it, so I went anyways (although I did try to come up with a few dozen excuses not to go!).
Have you ever had something unpleasant that you wanted to get out of, but went ahead with it because there was something powerful pushing you in that direction? When Jesus entered into Jerusalem on that first "Palm Sunday" He knew exactly what it was going to lead to: His crucifixion. Yet, He went through it anyway. I cannot imagine what it would have been like for Him to ride on the back of that donkey and know that those shouts of praise were going to turn into shouts of "crucify Him" in just a few days.
We are told by St. Paul in the second reading for today that Jesus willingly accepted what He had to suffer. He did not use His divine power to free Himself, but,
. . . emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross.What He endured was far worse than my petty little dizziness at my blood test, and Christ did it not just for Himself, but for every one of us. You, me, and anyone who obeys Him.
We can experience similar things in our lives. People may like us one day, and then turn against us the next day. This is a reminder that nothing in this world really is secure apart from God Himself. When He entered into Jerusalem to the praises of the multitude, there was no pride in Him; He was perfectly aware of the weaknesses of men, and knew that even His own disciples would fail Him. Because this world is fallen, everything in this world is weak, and if we place all our hopes in the things of this world, or even the people of this world, they will fail us as well. It is only our precious Lord Who will never fail us.
In this time of plague, what are you spending most of your time thinking about? Is it the weak things of this world -- those things that can fail us? If so, you are probably experiencing some depression right now. Jesus knows exactly how weak this world is, and He wants us to look to Him for our true strength, but if we focus on weak things, then we begin to doubt that He can really help us. This is the very opposite of what He went to the cross for: He wanted to deliver us from these weak things, and bring us into His presence for all eternity.
Instead of focusing on things like: the empty shelves at the store, the unemployment rate going up, or the continual stream of new rules about how to deal with this, we need to remind ourselves (every day) how amazing it is to focus particularly on the unlimited love of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ! He did not falter when it came time for Him to endure a horrible death. He did it, not because it was just the right thing to do; He did it because He had such great love for you and me. He did it because He knew that it would lead to many souls being able to spend eternity with Him -- which is something He truly loves!
When we think about what Jesus did for us, we all need to realize that we ourselves are just like the rest of those who failed Him. We might praise Him joyfully one day, and then the next day we choose a horrible sin; with no regard for how it hurts Him. Only when we realize and admit our failings and sins can we find true deliverance. Jesus knew we were all sinners, that was the point of the cross: to save sinners. This is why we must return to Him every time we fail Him; we go back and ask His forgiveness in Confession, and He always joyfully grants it. He knew what each of us would do, and He still went to the cross. He was willing to do all that because of His great love for us. Let us each realize and accept that great love so that we can find His grace and forgiveness. He willingly chose to undergo a painful passion and death for us, let us each willingly accept it and rejoice in it; both now and forevermore. ✠
Friday, March 27, 2020
There is the story about the homeless man who was helped by a group of people from a nearby Catholic Church. When asked about his experience, he said, "I am so glad I was homeless. I never would have met these loving people or been able to be blessed by them if I had been a rich man." What an amazing perspective. He saw the work of God in his life, and how it was more powerful because of the suffering that came before. There are many things in our lives that are only seen well through the eyes of suffering.
In the gospel reading for today, we are all familiar with the story. Jesus comes and raises His friend Lazarus from the dead. We are certainly supposed to see an encouragement in this for us to be confident of our own resurrection which Jesus promises to all the faithful. Yet, there is also an important principle involved in this. Although we only have the stories of a few people whom Jesus raised from the dead, He was always doing the work of resurrection.
The work of resurrection that Jesus is doing (even now) can be seen in many different things. Whenever He comes to us, He is bringing us eternal life. That means that He is always bringing new life into situations and events that were dead. We might look at something and think that there is no hope of any good happening, but our Lord often has other plans. The Apostles' response to Jesus choice to visit Lazarus after he died shows that they were not sure what Jesus could do, but they certainly did not appear to expect Lazarus to raise from the dead.
When we look at our current situation, it might seem somewhat hopeless. It is easy, as I have said before, to slip into a depressing attitude about what we are going through. Not being able to go to Mass might seem like a "death" since you are being kept back from the very source of life that God gives to us in the Eucharist. Yet, the testimony of today's gospel should make us recognize just how God does things. We could even go so far as to say that God likes bringing life into situations of death. Remember: Jesus waited two days after hearing about Lazarus' sickness and said it was for the "glory of God" -- He intentionally let Lazarus die so He could raise him from the dead.
Since our Lord knows what He is going to do in every situation, He does sometimes wait for bad things to happen so that He can intervene in what is happening and show His glory to us, and thus help us to come to love and serve Him better. We are told in another place in Scripture that some Jews rejected the miracle of Lazarus being raised and still did not believe in Christ. We must not be like them; we have to watch for the work that God will do or we could miss it.
Both Mary and Martha said to Jesus that He could have stopped Lazarus from dying (which He could have), but Martha still had faith that Jesus could do something to help after Lazarus died. Which action of God really is more amazing? Is it more powerful for Jesus to stop a trial from happening, or for Him to allow it to happen, and then do a miracle in overcoming it? Obviously the latter. This is because, as I said before, God likes sending new life into situations where all we see is death and hopelessness.
So even though Jesus may not be raising the dead right now, that does not mean that He is not planning on doing a wonderful work for us. It may not be something that everyone sees, but like His own resurrection, it will be something that can be appreciated by those who love Him and believe in Him. Our current experience may seem quite scary for some, and for others it may seem like a "death" of a sort. Jesus, however, is setting things up to bring us life; you can be sure of it. Hold on to your faith; keep hoping in Christ; and, like Martha, trust that Jesus can always do a great work in the midst of our suffering. ✠