Truth

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April 7 – Saint John Baptist de le Salle

April 8 – Saint Julie Billiart

April 9 – Saint Casilda

April 10 – Saint Magdalene of Canossa

Truth

“The most wicked men are the most severe censors of the conduct of others, whether because of the disorder of their minds, or their hypocrisy, or their false zeal.”  (Note 1)

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“Jesus must be served while his time remained, and then, after his departure, be consoled by our service to the poor, whose care he accepts as if it is given to him.”  (Note 2)

* * * * * * * * * *

“Our difficulty today is that we are surrounded by good, well-meaning folks who are swept along in a stream of shallow options.  Not only is the good made increasingly difficult to do, it is even increasingly difficult to recognize at all.  It seems that affluence takes away the clear awareness of what is life and what is death.  I do not think the rich are more or less sinful than the simple and the poor, but they just have many more ways to call their sin virtue.  There is definite deadening of the awareness of true good and true evil.  In its place, we have mostly opinionated folks and sentimental opinions at that.”  (Note 3)

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“The Lord is my light and my salvation;

whom shall I fear?

The Lord is the stronghold of my life; 

of whom shall I be afraid?”

Ps 27:1 (RSV)

I’ve been away from this for a bit — we had a stomach bug that swept through the house.  I’m going to try to catch up, but I’m not really going to talk about anything but today’s meditations.  I read the others, but I just can’t get back to them right now.  My time is limited enough without sickness limiting it more.  Suffice it to say that they are good readings, and if you have the books, you should read them.

Both meditations today touch on the rich and the poor; and on the conduct of others as compared to self (one noting wicked men and the other the affluent).  Richard Rohr, OFM, is correct to say that the rich don’t sin more or less than the poor, but they have greater ability to disguise their sin as virtue, much like the wicked men who so harshly judge others for committing the same sins which they commit.  People will often blame the rich and point to the whole ‘camel through the eye of a needle’ quote (cf Mt 19:24; Mk 10:25; Lk 18:25).  I studied part of the book of Genesis under a visiting professor from Tel Aviv University.  He told us we always see the image of a camel trying to go through the eye of a needle, but that is not accurate.  The eye of the needle was a gate in Jerusalem that required a camel to squat down and be pushed through.  I’m sure it was some type of customs enforcement, but that was over 20 years ago and I don’t really remember it fully, nor want to look it up — just go with the anecdote!

There’s a lot to say on this, but I’ll confine myself to this.  Not all rich people are bad and not all poor people are good.  But the Truth is the Truth — we just have a hard time recognizing the Truth when the world persecutes us for believing in the Truth. The Church is a Church of persecution, just look at the attack in Egypt yesterday, Palm Sunday, and witness the plight of Christians in our (Christian) historic homelands.  We don’t see this type of persecution in the western world — the persecution here is more insidious:  a creeping relativism that attempt to destroy the Church by destroying Truth.  The sad thing is, in the historic Christian homelands, our brothers’ and sisters ‘persecution ends in martyrdom — all we see is a sliding back from Truth, and thus from Grace, and thus a descent into purgatory and even perdition.

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Notes:

1.  Jacques-Benigne Bossuet, Meditations for Lent, trans. Christopher O. Blum (Manchester, NH: Sophia Institute Press, 2013), 158.

2.  Bossuet, Meditations, 159.

3.  Richard Rohr, OFM, “Disguising Sin as Virtue”.  In Renewing Our Discipleship, Daily Reflections on the 2017 Lenten Readings for Mass, ed. Steve Mueller (St Louis, MO: All Saints Press, 2017), 41.

Vox Dei

Saint William of Eskilsoe

Vox Dei

“The same men here who pretend to be zealous against the idolatrous empire will have recourse to it against Jesus and even invoke it against his disciples.  If the support of the people is needed, Caesar is their foe.  If they need him to murder their enemy, Caesar is their friend.  Men judge what is just according to their passions, calling good things which satisfy them and even making use of political power to appease their passions, when its real purpose is to curb them.”  (Note 1)

* * * * * * * * * *

“Any relationship with the living God always leads to tension, conflict and failure and then to repentance and reform.  From repentance and reform, starting over again, comes a rebirth to holiness and renewal.  To this day all the spiritual descendants of Abraham struggle continually with their own reform and renewal.”  (Note 2)

* * * * * * * * * *

“There is a mountain out West I like to climb whenever I visit there.  As I climb I am wishing that when I get to the top I will have that small space to myself.  As much as they view and the rest, it is the silence that I seek.  For up there, where the wind whispers, the birds glide without care, and the earth curves away in every direction, it is in the quiet that I can hear the voice of God.

“…The first reading begins When Abram prostrated himself, God spoke to him.  There is no mention of anyone with him. Abraham, an old man, lying prone, is the very picture of giving oneself to God….

“…Amid serenity, the heart and mind open easily to God; monasteries and retreats, for instance, do not have Main Street addresses.  It is amid the noise of everyday life, and the influence of crowds and doubters, that it is not so easy.  But the voice of God is there amid the noise just the same as amid the quiet. He calls us always, and it is upon us to listen well — mountaintop not required.”  (Note 3)

I guess I could’ve titled this “Vox populi / Vox Dei”.  The voice of the people / The Voice of God.  That theme runs through all the readings today.  Bossuet talks of the vox populi being driven by passion against Jesus.  They want Jesus dead and out of they way, so they use the government against him, all the while appeasing their own masses by calling the Roman government idolators.  I believe it’s called playing both sides against the middle.  Unfortunately, what Bossuet speaks of the Scribes and Pharisees doing — using the government against Jesus — is so often what we ourselves do against our fellow citizens.  We want them to be generous, we want them to follow our moral code, so we use the force of the government to bind them to our ways — at gunpoint.  Because force is the weapon the government uses to make people submit — force and threats of incarceration.  It’s a travesty against our very humanity, and it is a travesty against God.  Vox Dei says, “Love your neighbor.”  It’s hard to say you love your neighbor when your hiding behind unjust laws to forcefully coerce them to do what you want, or to steal — yes STEAL — your neighbor’s money under the guise of taxes to pay for the charity you feel should be supported.  The problem is, you aren’t being charitable using the government force to steal and support your cause.  On the contrary, you are being tyrannical and violating the very moral code you swore to uphold as a Christian – predominately to love your neighbor.  You are sacrificing your Christian values in an attempt to uphold them.  The bad part of this is that, as we take more and more money to fund charitable projects (which, by the by, get funded less and less because politicians siphon that money off for other crony projects) the less charitable we become as humans and as a society.  People stop giving money to charities — why should they give?  The government is taking the money and doing it for them.  And, as they give less money, and they become less charitable, the cease to love their fellow man because the government will do it for them.  And we turn into a country of selfish and uncaring curmudgeons who have lost not one our Christian charity, but our Christian faith, and have sacrificed our very freedom on the altar of government.  Thus we cease listening to Vox Dei and instead focus on vox populi with our intent to help really becoming a shackle around our — and everyone else’s — ankles.

But I digress.

Vox Dei is hard to hear.  I have spoken before of listening to God and how I feel called to Adoration because of it.  The silence does make it easier — even easier when you’re actually in the presence of God.  But when you’re home with children running around, construction next door, traffic, AC going and all the other noises of everyday life, it’s really hard to hear God’s voice.  It doesn’t mean he isn’t talking you you, but it does meant discerning it is very difficult.  Honestly, I haven’t found a way to truly hear God outside of silence.  I know his voice is there, but I don’t know ho to pick it out in the cacophony of sounds in which it is hidden.  I think I actually do hear it, on a lesser, perhaps subconscious level, speaking to me through my conscience, guiding me away from wrong actions and towards right actions.  After all, our conscience is supposed to be the Holy Spirit acting within us.

In the end, Vox Dei should trump vox populi in our lives.  We’ve sacrificed enough human dignity on the altar of government, paid enough blood money to cronies, let’s reclaim our charity and dignity and listen to God’s voice and do his will, instead of listening to the voice of man.

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Notes:

1.  Jacques-Benigne Bossuet, Meditations for Lent, trans. Christopher O. Blum (Manchester, NH: Sophia Institute Press, 2013), 142.

2.  Father Benedict J. Groeschel, CFR, “Spiritual Growth is Hard”.  In Renewing Our Discipleship, Daily Reflections on the 2017 Lenten Readings for Mass, ed. Steve Mueller (St Louis, MO: All Saints Press, 2017), 37.

3.  Tom Verducci, “The Voice of God”. In Magnificat April 2017, Vol 19, No. 2, ed. Rev. Peter John Cameron, O.P. (Yonkers, NY: Magnificat, Inc, 2017) 93-94.

Freedom and Fear

Saint Vincent Ferrer

Freedom and Fear

“Jesus wants us free.  And where is this freedom created? It is created in dialogue with God in the person’s own conscience.  If a Christian is unable to speak with God, if he or she cannot hear God in his own conscience, he or she is not free.”  (Note 1)

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“In Ecclesiasticus it is written: The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom … [it] is gory and gladness and a crown of joy.  This fear, according to Saint Bonaventure, is a humble trusting reverence toward God, a willing obedience, a free voluntary veneration.  It is, further, a filial fear, afraid only of offending God, even in the least matter, refraining even from sins which would not separate one from God, only for the sake of not offending his infinite goodness in the slightest degree.”  (Note 2)

There are two basic themes in the readings today: freedom and fear.  When we thing of free, we think of the freedoms we possess based on our inherent human nature.  Jesus describes us as slaves to sin the Gospel, and says that ‘the truth will set you free’ (cf Lk 8:31-42).  We tend to think of that as telling the truth, but Jesus means it more in the sense of objective truth, the truth that only comes from God.  When we sin against God and are not repentant for it, we become slaves to our sin and are not free.  But, if we seek forgiveness, the truth — God — will set us free.  On a somewhat funny side, during yesterday’s homily on EWTN, Fr. Mitch was speaking on euthanasia.  He said, and I am ad libbing, “they tell you, sure, if you want to kill yourself, we’ll let you and even help you, it will be painless.  And it probably will be painless, until you get to hell.”  There is no freedom in taking your own life, because you kill a creation of God, and you can’t seek forgiveness for that sin.  You then are bound to your sin with no way of seeking recompense with God (remember the rich man from the parable of Lazarus and the rich man (cf Lk 16:19-31)). So, to truly be free, you have to live in Truth.

Next is fear of God.  People always take this as being afraid of the punishment and wrath of God, but that can’t be further from the truth.  Our fear of God should be borne out of a sense of awe, devotion, and reverence to God, and fear that we will do something contrary to his goodness.  Not because we fear punishment, but because we fear the disappointment it will cause someone we love so dearly.  It’s similar to the fear we have of disappointing someone we love here on earth, though to a much higher degree.  Fr. Peter always says, “if you’re coming to church because that’s what you’re supposed to do, and you sit in the same pew eery Sunday and you get nothing out of it except fulfilling an obligation to go to church, stop going, it is doing nothing for you.  you should go to church because you love God, and you fear God because you fear disappointing him.  If you’re doing it because it’s just another obligation, just stop going.”  What he’s saying is, you’re going to church because you’re afraid of going to hell if you don’t instead of being afraid that you’ll disappoint the one you love more than anyone else.  It’s a disordered view of fear, and a disordered view of freedom.  When I go to church, I go because I enjoy meeting Jesus sacramentally in the Eucharist, and because I enjoy spending that time in his presence.  Sometimes I have the added benefit of a good homily (ok, with Fr. Peter that is most of the time).  I do it out of my love for Jesus, because I want to spend that time with him and hear the Truth from the Gospel.

There is so much more that could be said on this, but I’ll boil it down to this:  The Truth will set you free — free from being a slave to sin, which make you free to participate in the communion of saints.  Our freedom is borne from a sense of fear — not fear of hellfire, but fear of disappointing the Truth which has truly set us free.

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Notes:

1.  Pope Francis, “To Make You Free”.  In Renewing Our Discipleship, Daily Reflections on the 2017 Lenten Readings for Mass, ed. Steve Mueller (St Louis, MO: All Saints Press, 2017), 36.

2.  Saint Vincent Ferrer, “How the Truth Sets Us Free”. In Magnificat April 2017, Vol 19, No. 2, ed. Rev. Peter John Cameron, O.P. (Yonkers, NY: Magnificat, Inc, 2017) 82.

Salvation

Saint Isadore of Seville

Saint Benedict the African

Salvation

“Envy is the black and secretive effect of a weak pride, which feels itself diminished by the very least achievements of others.  It is the most dangerous poison of our self-love, which begins by consuming the one who vomits it forth upon others and leads him to commit deeds most vile.  For pride is naturally enterprising and wants to shine, but envy hides itself under all sorts of pretexts and is pleased by secretive and dark ways.  Hidden lies, calumny, treason: every evil trick is its portion and cup.  It shines forth and brings forward against the just man — whose good reputation confronts it — every insult and mockery, with all the bitterness of hatred and the last excesses of cruelty.”  (Note 1)

* * * * * * * * * *

“To his enemies, the crucifixion seems to be the hour of their triumph and Christ’s defeat, but in fact it is the supreme our of his triumph.  When he seems to be more helpless than ever, he is, in fact, more powerful. He seems to be quite alone, quite defeated, dying a useless death at the end of a useless life, the tragic life of a poor deluded dreamer.  His plan of love for the world has failed utterly, he himself is a failure and his ‘Kingdom’ a pitiful delusion. ‘If I be lifted up, I will draw all to me,’ Jesus had said. Now he is doing just that, drawing all people to him because he was dying all of their deaths for them, giving himself to them in death.”  (Note 2)

* * * * * * * * * *

“The following short considerations … you can use with advantage at the moment of temptation.

“When attacked by covetousness he would think: Having once understood that nothing but God can satisfy the heart, I am convinced of the folly of seeking anything but this supreme good.

“In assaults against purity he would reflect: To what a dignity has my body been raised by the reception of the Holy Eucharist! I tremble, therefore, at the sacrilege I would commit by profaning with carnal pleasures this temple in which God has chosen to dwell.

“Against anger he would defend himself saying: No injury should be capable of moving me to anger when I reflect upon the outrages I have offered my God.

“When assailed by temptations to hatred he would answer the enemy: Knowing the mercy with which God has received me and pardoned my sins, I cannot refuse to forgive my greatest enemy.”  (Note 3)

I’m trying to figure out where today’s readings lead me, though I’m having some difficulty with it.  It is lent.  We are to be penitent, and I think they lead me to that conclusion.  Bossuet cautions us against envy and its insidiousness, “Renewing Our Discipleship” reminds us that regardless of how Jesus’ executioners saw him (including me, too, I am one of his executioners), whether as frail, weak or useless, in the end that sacrifice drew us all to him, and thus will draw us up to him, so long as we seek him and seek to be like him.  The Magnificat’s reading was the most poignant one for me.  It’s a short blueprint on how to tackle our sinful nature.  A blueprint that, no matter how much I don’t think I need it, I really do.  Just as I really need Christ.  Yesterday I heard that Satan cannot stand up to Mary (cf Rv 12:1-17). So, when you feel temptation, which is Satan, ask Mary to help — she will, and Satan must back down. So — I have a new hope in my fight against sin — and a new hope for salvation!

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Notes:

1.  Jacques-Benigne Bossuet, Meditations for Lent, trans. Christopher O. Blum (Manchester, NH: Sophia Institute Press, 2013), 136.

2.  Caryll Houselander, “Lifted Up For Us”.  In Renewing Our Discipleship, Daily Reflections on the 2017 Lenten Readings for Mass, ed. Steve Mueller (St Louis, MO: All Saints Press, 2017), 35.

3.  Venerable Father Louis of Grenada, “How Not to Die in Our Sins”. In Magnificat April 2017, Vol 19, No. 2, ed. Rev. Peter John Cameron, O.P. (Yonkers, NY: Magnificat, Inc, 2017) 70-71.

Judge Not

Saint Richard of Wyche

Judge Not

“Do not think at all about what other do; think instead about the account you must render of yourself.”  (Note 1)

“[N]ow see that you also judge without understanding.  You do know know the one whom you judge.  You do not see the interior.  You do not know his intentions, which may perhaps justify him. And if his crime is manifest, you do not know whether he will one day repent, or whether he has already repented, or whether he is one of those whose conversion will cause great rejoicing in heaven.  Therefore do not judge.”  (Note 2)

“Much more than she judges others, charity judges and condemns herself.  ‘You have no excuse, O man, whoever you are, when you judge another, for in passing judgment upon him you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things’ (Rom 2:1).  You judge yourself by your own mouth, and you pronounce your own sentence. ‘For with the judgement you pronounce you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get.’ (Matt 7:2).” (Note 3)

“To forgive is to break the vicious cycles of death by a fresh act of utter generosity.  Forgiveness is not play acting, not romantic religion, not casual hugs.  It is a decision to begin at a different place.  Without forgiveness, the world works its way to death and destructiveness, generation after generation.  Unforgivenness leads to death, both for the victim and for the perpetrator.  The news is not just that God forgives, but that God has created a people to have as its main, single business in the world the forgiveness of sins, the cancellation of debts, the breaking of the power of fear and date and death, in order to start again.” (Note 4)

Today’s readings:  Daniel 13:1-62; John 8:1-11

The two readings today are very similar, though a little different.  Susanna was accused of adultery by two men she wouldn’t submit to, but was vindicated and the men were punished in the manner they sought to punish her.  In the Gospel, the scribes and Pharisees brought a woman caught in the act of adultery to Jesus. (We won’t question how they caught her.)  When they asked Jesus about her sin, he bent down and started writing on the ground.  We don’t know what he wrote, but John thought it important enough to include.  Many scholars have speculated that he was writing the sins of those who were accusing her, and then said, “Let he who among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” (Jn 8:7 (RSV))  

Bossuet emphasizes this point in his mediation.  We judge people for their sins, all the while ignoring our own — even worse: committing the same sin yet judging someone else for it.  You see what you reap for that, just look at Susanna’s accusers from Daniel, and read Matthew 7:2.

Not judging people is hard — I mean very hard — probably one of the most difficult things we do, only exceeded in difficulty by forgiving others.  Not judging is an act of love.  We are supposed to love our neighbor, we don’t know their journey, just what we see in a slice of time, and then only the exterior.  Yet we condemn them with judgement born out of what?  Typically an attempt to expiate our own guilt for the same sins.  “I know I do that, too, but he’s much worse than I am.”  It’s the same sin, regardless of our take on whose is ‘worse’ — if that is even possible when speaking of the same sins.

But we forget about a couple of things when we rush to judgment:  intent (our law calls it mens rea) and repentance.

Intent is very important, though our legislatures seem to have forgotten that as they work to remove more and more mens rea requirements — a story for another time.  Intent can mean the difference between sin and no sin.  For example, terminal patients who receive morphine to alleviate their suffering.  We know morphine also shortens their life span, but the intent isn’t to kill them, it is to reduce their suffering. Don’t confuse this with giving someone a hyper-dose of morphine to end their suffering, that is nothing but intent to end a life.  There are many more examples of this, but I won’t go through them.  Suffice it to say that without proving intent, you don’t know if a person actually is committing a sin.

Second, repentance.  Jesus, God, forgives sins when we go to him with contrite hears and true repentance and sorrow for our sins.  We go to confession, truly sorry for our sins, we seek forgiveness and God cleanses our hearts and fills us with his grace.  When you judge someone, have they repented their sins and received grace? If they have, who are you to judge what God has forgiven?  Again, read Matthew 7:2.

When we judge others we fail to love them and we fail to love God because God’s command is to love our neighbor.  When we judge, we also show the sin in our life, because we tend to judge as a way to expiate our own guilt.  Instead, we should love our neighbor and support him with our faith and prayers and love.  You never know, as Bossuet said, your love could lead to their conversion and it could be one that causes great rejoicing in heaven.

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Notes:

1.  Jacques-Benigne Bossuet, Meditations for Lent, trans. Christopher O. Blum (Manchester, NH: Sophia Institute Press, 2013), 131.

2.  Bossuet, Meditations, 132.

3.  Bossuet, Meditations, 133.

4.  Walter Brueggemann, “The Challenge of Forgiveness”.  In Renewing Our Discipleship, Daily Reflections on the 2017 Lenten Readings for Mass, ed. Steve Mueller (St Louis, MO: All Saints Press, 2017), 34.

Resurrection

Saint Francis of Paola

Resurrection

“These three [young girl, widow’s son, Lazarus] to whom he [Jesus] restored life remained mortal.  What was left for him to do was to vanquish mortality itself.  It was in his own person that he would win so perfect a victory.  After he had been put to death, he rose, never to die again, and without having first seen corruption …. What was done in the head will be accomplished in the members.  Immortality has been assured to us by Jesus Christ.”  (Note 1)

“God calls us, implants divine life in the deepest center of our being at baptism and loves us into growth.  This is God’s own place, the deepest place of our being where god is wedded to our spirit, where God can act and give life and free us from all that hampers the true thrust of our will. God creates and gives us freedom as his continuing gift of love, and God alone can influence it from within, in no way violating or diminishing it.  Entombed Lazarus is a sign not simply of a certain group of people who had obviously closed their hearts against Jesus, but of each one of us.  This tomb is the place of resurrection, and if you believe, you will see the glory of God.”  (Note 2)

The thing I find most interesting today, which I’m probably missing a point somewhere, but nonetheless, is when Jesus is told that Lazarus is ill, the disciples don’t want to go and Jesus just says, “Lazarus is dead” (cf Jn 11:1-16).  As I read it, I read it through a lens of modern vernacular, and in my mind’s eye I saw Jesus listen to the whining of his apostles, roll his eyes and blurt out, in a loud voice over their whining, “Hey, guys, he’s DEAD! And I have to go show the world God’s glory in his death.”  I’m making Jesus out to be more emotional than he probably was, but you’d think by this point the Apostles would understand.  But they don’t — and they won’t really until Pentecost.  But that’s a different story.

Today’s meditations are about one thing that sets Christians apart form a lot of others — the resurrection.  We believe that when we die, our souls separate from our bodies and go to heaven or hell or purgatory.  At the end of time will be the resurrection of the body.  All will be resurrected and judged.  By resurrection, we mean body and soul — they will be resurrected, but in an immortal body vice the mortal one we currently possess (cf CCC 988-1019).  Bossuet says it clearly when he says, “What was left for him to do was anguish mortality itself.”  Which he did when he rose from the grave in his own resurrection.  Paul sums it up very well in his first letter to the Corinthians:

Death is swallowed up in Victory.

O death, where is your victory?

O death, where is your sting?

(1Cor 15:54-55 (ESV))

It’s interesting if you pay attention, that he readings seem to be running through the Nicene Creed, laying out the foundation of our faith.  “I believe in One God … I believe in Jesus Christ … I believe in the Resurrection….”  Perhaps that’s a good start for us, to read, really read, the creed and get a better understanding of our faith.  (If you’re really feeling like reading, read the Catechism, it lays out the entire creed and explains it in detail.)

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Notes:

1.  Jacques-Benigne Bossuet, Meditations for Lent, trans. Christopher O. Blum (Manchester, NH: Sophia Institute Press, 2013), 130.

2.  Maria Boulding, OSB, “God, Come Set Me Free!”.  In Renewing Our Discipleship, Daily Reflections on the 2017 Lenten Readings for Mass, ed. Steve Mueller (St Louis, MO: All Saints Press, 2017), 33.

Prophets

Saint Hugh of Grenoble

Prophets

‘He who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory; but he who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood’ (John 7:18).” (Note 1)

* * * * * * * *

“The difference is immense between what is produced form all eternity and what is produced in time. The former exists forever; the latter does not exist forever and is able to cease existing.  It is drawn forth from nothingness, and in itself is nothingness.  What a great difference there is, consequently, between coming from God as his work and coming from God as his Son! One is created, the other begotten.  One is drawn from nothingness and in itself nothingness.  The other is drawn from the substance of God and consequently is being itself.”  (Note 2)

* * * * * * * *

“Speak, then, speak O Jesus! Speak, you who are the word itself.  I see you in your words because they make me see that you are God.  But I also see your Father in them, because they teach me that you are God from God, the Word and the Son of God.” (Note 3)

 * * * * * * * *

“When my conversion memoir, Redeemed, was published in 2008, I thought, ‘at last my family and friends will get Christ! I’ve laid out the Good News, simply, accessibly, with depth and humor and joy!’

“What followed has been years of resounding silence.  I’m pretty sure not a single family member has ready by book, and if any friend has, he or she hasn’t much mentioned it.

“For a long time, I thought sadly and, I must say, a touch bitterly, A prophet is without honor in his own country.

“After a while though, I realized the operative point wasn’t that a prophet is without honor in his own country.  The operative point is that I wasn’t a prophet.

“What I could perhaps be, with a few further decades of pruning, was a someone with the humility to generate harmony, not discord.  What I could make be, if I devoted every last ounce of my mind, heart, soul, and strength to the task, was a friend.

“In John’s Gospel, the Pharisees hotly deny that Christ was a prophet, asking contemptuously, Can any good come from Galilee?  Afterwards, Each went to his own house.

“Knowing Christ, he was gathering his family and friends at one house — to share some good conversation and a meal.” (Note 4)

I thought the quotes today were very good quotes especially the second one on begotten, and the last one from The Magnificat Lenten Companion 2017.  The second quote because it broaches the divinity of Jesus, how we was begotten from the father from all eternity, not made from nothingness like man (cf Jn 1:1-2).  Aquinas makes a distinction between eternity and aeveternity in the Summa Theologiae.  I won’t get into that here, but it’s something interesting to read if you wish to take the time. (Here’s a link that can whet your appetite.)

The final quote was very interesting because she makes a very valid point.  Are we prophets? Or can we be prophets?  I find that question interesting and, as I muse on it, I find the author of this mediation to have a bit of a misunderstanding of what a prophet is — or perhaps I do.  I see the prophets as those to whom God reveals knowledge of himself and his will.  Christ, however, as the Son of God, fulfilled Divine Revelation (cf Cor 1:20; 3:13; 4:5), so we should be beyond a time of prophets and to a time of disciples and teachers (cf Pope Paul VI, Dei Verbum, 18 November 1965, § 4, 6, 7).  So, I’d say beware him who proclaims himself a prophet (cf Mt 24:11).

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Notes:

1.  Jacques-Benigne Bossuet, Meditations for Lent, trans. Christopher O. Blum (Manchester, NH: Sophia Institute Press, 2013), 123.

2.  Bossuet, Meditations, 123-24.

3.  Bossuet, Meditations, 125.

4.  Heather King, “This Is Truly the Prophet”. In The Magnificat Lenten Companion 4/1/2017.

He Who Has an Ear, Let Him Hear

Saint Stephen of Mar Saba

He who has an ear, let him hear (cf Rv 2:7)

“Instead of revealing things in part, as he did to St. Paul, Jesus explained everything to his Apostles.”  (Note 1)

“They [the Apostles] did not understand because they did not want to understand.  They saw clearly that they must follow their Master, and they did not want to know about he suffering that lay ahead for him, for fear of having a similar fate.”  (Note 2)

“For in his suffering and in our obligation to follow him and to carry our cross after him is our salvation. ‘Let these words sink into your ears.’” [cf Lk 9:44] (Note 3)

Consider how prone we are to self-deception. … ‘Leave this behind’, ‘deny yourself this pleasure’, ‘renounce your will,’: these things we do not hear.  We do not want to hear them or know about them….” (Note 4)

“The cause of their [the Apostles] astonishment was that they knew that the Scribes and Pharisees were seeking to put him to death, and that they could not comprehend his decision to place himself into their hands, and they following him trembling.  We fear to follow Jesus to the Cross.”  (Note 5)

“Such is man: the one who speaks the boldest is, often as not, shown to be the weakest when God abandons him to his own powers.”  (Note 6)

“The art of listening is at the heart of genuine prayer.  As we learn to listen with attention and sensitivity, all the events of our lives become encounters with the Lord, all events become prayer.”  (Note 7)

“For they reasoned unsoundly, saying to themselves,

Short and sorrowful is our life,

and there is no remedy when a man comes to his end,

and no one has been known to return from Hades.

Because we were born by mere chance,

and hereafter we shall be as though we had never been;

because the breath in our nostrils is smoke,

and reason is a spark kindled by the beating of our hearts.

When it is extinguished, the body will turn to ashes,

and the spirit will dissolve like empty air.

Our name will be forgotten in time,

and no one will remember our works;

our life will pass away like the traces of a cloud,

and be scattered like mist

that is chased by the rays of the sun

and overcome by its heat.

For our allotted time is the passing of a shadow,

and there is no return from our death,

because it is sealed up and no one turns back.

Come, therefore, let us enjoy the good things that exist,

and make use of the creation to the full as in youth.

Let us take our fill of costly wine and perfumes,

and let no flower of spring pass by us.

Let us crown ourselves with rosebuds before they wither.

Let none of us fail to share in our revelry,

everywhere let us leave signs of enjoyment,

because this is our portion, and this our lot.

Let us oppress the righteous poor man;

let us not spare the widow

nor regard the gray hairs of the aged.

But let our might be our law of right,

for what is weak proves itself to be useless.

Let us lie in wait for the righteous man,

because he is inconvenient to us and opposes our actions;

he reproaches us for sins against the law,

and accuses us of sins against our training.

He professes to have knowledge of God,

and calls himself a child of the Lord.

He became to us a reproof of our thoughts;

the very sight of him is a burden to us,

because his manner of life is unlike that of others,

and his ways are strange.

We are considered by him as something base,

and he avoids our ways as unclean;

he calls the last end of the righteous happy,

and boasts that God is his father.

Let us see if his words are true,

and let us test what will happen at the end of his life;

for if the righteous man is God’s son, he will help him,

and will deliver him from the hand of his adversaries.

Let us test him with insult and torture,

that we may find out how gentle he is,

and make trial of his forbearance.

Let us condemn him to a shameful death,

for, according to what he says, he will be protected.”

Error of the Wicked

Thus they reasoned, but they were led astray,

for their wickedness blinded them,

and they did not know the secret purposes of God,

nor hope for the wages of holiness,

nor discern the prize for blameless souls;

for God created man for incorruption,

and made him in the image of his own eternity,

but through the devil’s envy death entered the world,

and those who belong to his party experience it.

The Destiny of the Righteous

But the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God,

and no torment will ever touch them.

In the eyes of the foolish they seemed to have died,

and their departure was thought to be an affliction,

and their going from us to be their destruction;

but they are at peace.

For though in the sight of men they were punished,

their hope is full of immortality.

Having been disciplined a little, they will receive great good,

because God tested them and found them worthy of himself;

like gold in the furnace he tried them,

and like a sacrificial burnt offering he accepted them.”

(Wis 2:1 – 3:6 (RSV))

I titled today’s thoughts “He who has an ear, let him hear” for two reasons, as can be seen in the quotes from the meditations.  First, The apostles didn’t want to hear Jesus and his talk of what must befall him, because of their fear of the same thing happening to them.  Fear, as we all know, is a very powerful motivator.  Which is even more odd because the apostles all suffered martyrdom.  Second, we all don’t listen to God in our lives.  Prayer is about not only talking to God, but listening to what he has to say to us.  That’s very hard — trust me, I know.  But it’s very important, and I think it’s why I am so attracted to Eucharistic Adoration and the Holy Hour.  It gives me time with God to not only talk to him, but to listen to what he has to say to me — if anything.  Granted, I don’t go as often as I should or would like to, but as my situation changes in life, I will make it a point to go more — even bringing my daughter with me and teaching her the importance and beauty of Adoration and listening.

Today’s saint, Saint Stephen of Mar Saba, wrote a poem/hymn during the time of persecution of Christians by Islam in the Middle East.  To quote the website that speaks of it:

“Towards the end of his life, Stephen may have experienced persecution from the Umayyad and Abbasid Islamic Dynasties, when many monks of St. Sabas met their deaths. …One of Stephen’s hymns, Art thou weary, art thou languid?, was sympathetically translated by John Mason Neale in his Hymns for the Eastern Church (1862).  It shows the strength of heart of the monk and disciple who during the sad days when the Cross was bowing to the Crescent, accepted the way of his Lord”. (Note 8)

For some reason, I think it is important that I include this hymn/poem in this post:

Art thou weary, art thou languid,

Art thou sore distressed?

“Come to Me,” saith One, “and coming,

Be at rest.”

Hath He marks to lead me to Him,

If He be my Guide?

In His feet and hands are wound prints

And His side.

Hath He diadem, as monarch,

That His brow adorns?

Yes, a crown in very surety,

But of thorns.

If I find Him, if I follow,

What His guerdon here?

Many a sorrow, many a labor,

Many a tear.

If I still hold closely to Him,

What hath He at last?

Sorrow vanquished, labour ended,

Jordan passed.

If I ask Him to receive me,

Will He say me nay?

Not till earth and not till Heaven

Pass away.

Finding, following, keeping, struggling,

Is He sure to bless?

Saints, apostles, prophets, martyrs,

Answer, Yes!

(Note 9)

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Notes:

1.  Jacques-Benigne Bossuet, Meditations for Lent, trans. Christopher O. Blum (Manchester, NH: Sophia Institute Press, 2013), 118.

2.  Bossuet, Meditations, 119.

3.  Bossuet, Meditations, 119.

4.  Bossuet, Meditations, 120.

5.  Bossuet, Meditations, 120.

6.  Bossuet, Meditations, 121.

7.  Thomas H. Green, SJ, “Let Us See if His Words are True”.  In Renewing Our Discipleship, Daily Reflections on the 2017 Lenten Readings for Mass, ed. Steve Mueller (St Louis, MO: All Saints Press, 2017), 31.

8.  https://www.catholicireland.net/saintoftheday/st-stephen-of-mar-saba-725-794/

9. Ibid.

Is Life Fair?

Saint Peter Regalado

Is Life Fair?

“Is it possible that the Savior should rely upon the witness of St. John the Baptist?  He was only his precursor; he was not the Bridegroom, but the friend of the Bridegroom. He was not the Christ, but the one sent to prepare his way, one who was not worth to loosen the strap of his sandals.  Jesus nevertheless relies upon his witness to convince those who were unwilling to believe the Christ himself.  Yet John did not work a single miracle, while Jesus filled all of Judea with them.  John spoke as a servant, while Jesus, as Son, told what he had seen in the bosom of the Father.  ‘So weak are our eyes,’ says St. Augustine, ‘that a lamp suits them better than sunlight.  We seek the sun by the light of a lamp.’”  (Note 1)

“This is what the witness of St. John the Baptist is for: so that you may be saved so that you may yourselves be convinced.  Thus are the pride and hypocrisy of the chief priests and elders revealed.  They did not deserve that the Savior should say any more to them than they had already heard a hundred times and which those hundred times they had not believed.”  (Note 2)

Some thoughts on the meditations for today before I get into the meat of my discussion.  The first quote, talking about St. John the Baptist, immediately made me think of our lives, especially our lives in this modern world, where everyone wants to be the leader, everyone wants to be famous.  We pin all of our hopes and desires on being the CEO, the President, the movie star, the music star, the greatest ball player ……. WE forget that all of these things we aspire to be have a large support network of regular, every day people who support them and make them successful.  Without the support network, none of these famous and ‘successful’ (I use that term loosely) people would be where they are, of if they managed to get that far, they wouldn’t stay.  Some people have to be support people — actually most people have to be support people.  And that’s okay.  If everyone were ‘famous’ no one would be ‘famous’.  We just have to do our everyday jobs with joy and love.  God doesn’t care what your job is, so long as you do that job with love.  Saint Teresa of Calcutta said, “Not all of us can do great things.  But we can all do small things with great love.”

Bossuet’s point on the chief priests and elders having heard a hundred times is the same point Jesus was making with the parable of the rich man and Lazarus.  If they don’t listen to Moses and the prophets, they won’t listen to anyone else (cf Lk 16:19-31).

I read an article that If found most fascinating.  It touches on these points and talks about joy in life.  It is “Life’s Not Fair: Finding Joy by Accepting Things as They Are” by Sam Guzman.  I fall into this trap quite often, the trap of when things don’t go my way or life trips me up, or I suffer, I get completely bent out of shape.  It’s awful how much it messes with my head.  Mostly because I feel as though it should be easy and there should be no suffering.  I forget that suffering helps us to grow, and there will ALWAYS **ALWAYS** be suffering.  It’s how we respond to that suffering that is important.  My response in the past has been less than stellar…ok, just bad — especially during my Navy years (yes, I just crossed myself when I wrote that).  But, I’m trying to get beyond that, to a point where I realize that life will have suffering and my responsibility to myself, to my family, and to God, is to meet it with joy and to offer the suffering up for the holy souls in Purgatory.

We also can’t forget about the aspect of free will and actions having consequences.  I’m not referring to consequences like if you run a red light, you’ll get a ticket.  I’m referring more to second and third order effects of our actions, effects we typically don’t see, or even know about, but effects that happen, nonetheless.  The pollution that used to be dumped into rivers that causes cancer in successive generations of families and wiped out species or brought many to the brink of extinction — those are second and third order effects.  Sometimes our smallest actions have great effects — the $20 you gave to the homeless person who used it to buy a tent and thus had a place to sleep during a storm and didn’t get sick from the exposure (yes I know that could go to both ends of the spectrum, but we’re supposed to love and not question — and I prefer to focus on the good).  I ventured to free will because we are so wont to blame God for everything.  Sometimes things happen as fifth, sixth, seventh … order effects from our actions and from other people’s actions.  It’s unfortunate, but it is NOT God punishing us.  These are unintended consequences of a disordered world (disordered because of sin — sin is outside of the natural order of God) and man’s contributions to that disorder through sin.

This could go on and on, but I suggest reading the article and the comments.  (Read the comments?! are you crazy?! — Yes, really, read the comments, they are substantial comments for once.)  I want to leave you with some quotes from the article, just in case:

“People who lived before the advent of mechanized modernity were realists.  Far from anticipating a life of air conditioned comfort, they expected that life would be hard, even painful.  Making a living would unquestionably involve labor, sweat, and sacrifice.  There would be sorrow along the way.  yet far from depressing them, this expectation freed them to enjoy the leisure and simple pleasures they did have more fully.  When you expect things to be hard, you enjoy your ease the more.”  (Note 3)

“Yet, paradoxically, it is the very expectation that life should be pain-free that causes us the greatest suffering.  For pain in life is truly inevitable.  It will visit in one form and to one degree or another.  In the words of the ancient Salve Regina, we live in a ‘vale of tears.’ Trials are inherent in a disordered, fallen world.  The more we internally resist this unchangeable fact, the more anxiety and anger and bitterness the suffering we encounter causes us.”  (Note 4)

“The man who expects nothing sees redder roses than common men see, and greener grass, and a more startling sun.  Blessed is he that expecteth nothing, for he shall possess the cities and the mountains; blessed is the meek, for he shall inherit the earth.”  (Note 5)

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Notes:

1.  Jacques-Benigne Bossuet, Meditations for Lent, trans. Christopher O. Blum (Manchester, NH: Sophia Institute Press, 2013), 115.

2.  Bossuet, Meditations, 117.

3.  Sam Guzman, “Life’s Not Fair: Finding Joy by Accepting Things as They Are,” The Catholic Gentleman (March 28, 2017), at http://www.catholicgentleman.net/2017/03/lifes-not-fair-finding-joy-by-accepting-things-as-they-are/.

4.  Ibid.

5.  Ibid.

Charity and Love

Saint Berthold

Charity and Love

“And before speaking the word of resurrection to the dead at the end of time, he [Jesus] speaks the word of repentance to sinners now.”  (Note 1)

“…as Saint Augustine teaches us: ‘The soul is the life of the body, and God is the life of the soul.’ Just as the body dies when it loses its soul, so does the spirit die when it loses God.” (Note 2)

“Revenge resists the open-heartedness to which the gospel calls us.  Jesus, in these harsh terms [cf Jn 5:17-30], manifests the material character of God. … Forgiveness represents God’s tender side.  Tenderness is normally associated with feminine sensitivity.  God claims the feminine character for himself in a number of places in the Scriptures, as for instance, in Isaiah, ‘Even if a mother forgets the child of her womb, I will not forget you.”  (Note 3)

There are so many directions to go in thought today — metaphysics, theology, resurrection, teleology, parousia, metanoia — but I won’t.  Well, I might touch on metaphysics a bit — maybe.

We are souls – we are human persons who have a soul that is bonded with our flesh.  We were made in the image of God, and we were made to be in union with God.  Original sin took away the best part of the union, but we are promised that union again in the resurrection. I will admit I have to do more study on the resurrection and more study on judgment.  But, I don’t really want to get into those now.  We are beings with a soul, too many people deny that nowadays and see us as just better evolved animals.  They believe when we die, it is the end, our atoms and substance just scatter through the ground, other organisms consume our dead bodies and are in turn consumed by other organisms.  They have lost their souls not only in their thoughts, but in union with God.  They’ve hedged their bets and seek their reward in this kingdom, and then lose eternity when they lose the eternal bond with God.

As Christians, we have a responsibility to love them, anyway, and serve them, anyway.  Here in the west, it’s easy for us — our churches aren’t being blown up or desecrated, we aren’t being killed for being Christians, as is happening in our historic homelands.  But we have something much more insidious happening to us.  Our brothers and sisters are being martyred, and we’ve become like the church at Loadicea — neither hot nor cold, but lukewarm, and God will spit us out (cf Rv 3:14-17).  We rely on the government to tax our fellow citizens to provide the charity that we as Christians should be providing on our own, without government interference.  We clamor for the government to take care of the poor, the homeless, the indigent and healthcare, forgetting that providing these services by forcibly taking money from your fellow citizens is NOT charity, rather its quite the opposite — theft.  Not content to broadcast the light of the world, we debase ourselves to robbing our fellow citizens to expiate our guilt and provide for other citizens all the while calling it charity.  We see homeless people and we form committees and working groups to see how we can fleece our fellow citizens to ameliorate our guilt or to feel like Christians while doing exactly the opposite of what Christ would do.  The fishes and loaves were freely given by the boy, not impelled by Christ, and Christ used them to feed the multitude.  He didn’t form a committee or working group, he didn’t seek answers to why they were hungry or try to establish a tax scheme to collect money to feed them — he fed them.  No hesitation, no questions asked, he fed them.  The paralytic asked for healing — Jesus didn’t petition the government for a single payer health plan, he healed him.  Jesus performed corporal works of mercy with his own hands and heart, not through the institutions of the government, and not be fleecing his fellow citizens through tax schemes that amount to nothing more than theft and coerced participation — a very far cry from charity and love.  So, we’ve become like the church at Laodicea when we should be like the church at Smyrna (cf Rv 2:8-11).

We clamor for government to do more and more, and we, ourselves do less and less.  That is not charity.  It’s even less charitable when we realize that the works of mercy we wish the government to do, that the government empowers itself to do by fleecing its citizens, don’t really get done — but our political class taunts their efforts and blames the other side for failures, all the while growing richer and more powerful.  If we truly want to be charitable, we would strip these authorities from the government, regain our charitable natures and our love for our neighbor, roll up our sleeves and help them ourselves, just as Jesus did.  Jesus said, “if you love me, feed my sheep” (cf Jn 21:15-19), not force everyone to pay money into a system that does a half-assed job of it while making politicians and corporations more and more rich.

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace. 

Where there is hatred, let me sow love; 

where there is injury, pardon; 

where there is doubt, faith; 

where there is despair, hope; 

where there is darkness, light; 

where there is sadness, joy.

O, Divine Master,  grant that I

may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; 

to be understood as to understand; 

to be loved as to love; 

For it is in giving that we receive; 

it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; 

it is in dying that we are born again to eternal life.

—Saint Francis Prayer

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Notes:

1.  Jacques-Benigne Bossuet, Meditations for Lent, trans. Christopher O. Blum (Manchester, NH: Sophia Institute Press, 2013), 113.

2.  Bossuet, Meditations, 114.

3.  Thomas Keating, OCSO, “Can a Mother Forget Her Child?”.  In Renewing Our Discipleship, Daily Reflections on the 2017 Lenten Readings for Mass, ed. Steve Mueller (St Louis, MO: All Saints Press, 2017), 29.