“This is priceless!” I told him each time. “Think how much you could share with others.”
Then, without thinking he’d seriously consider the idea, I dared to ask a pointed question: “So how’d you like a page on which to share your thoughts?”
“Sure! And it’s okay if you edit.”
“Works for me! And who knows? Maybe you’ll get around to writing that book you’ve always talked about.”
Speak to them of the great mercy of God…. Sometimes people are helped by your telling of your own lamentable past (St. Francis Xavier, SJ).
“Steven’s looking-glass” below includes (1) his introduction, (2) the fourth step, and
(3) his shared thoughts in descending order (most recent to oldest email).
Links of interest… Again & again… Aleteia… Audio Bible… Being Catholic… Bible diary… Bible Gateway… Books of the Bible… Catholic Digest (quiet moment) / Education Resource Center (CERC) / Exchange / Theological Union (articles)… Catholics in Alliance / on Call (newsletters)… Come pray the rosary… Daily bread / examen / meditations / reflections… dotMagis (Jesuit blog)… Elephant in the room… Future Church… Global Sisters Report… God only knows (song)… Gospel page (understanding)… Gratefulness… Ignatian spirituality… Irish priests’ statement calls for free, open discussion of church’s exclusion of women… Just call me López… Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR)… Mary McGlone… National Catholic Reporter… National Fellowship of Catholic Men… Pope Francis: Big heart open to God (reflections) / confirms finality of ban on ordaining women priests / is he campaigning for married priests… Saints: date / name… Sisters of the Holy Family (blog)… United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB): FAQs / home page… Vatican ends battle with U.S. Catholic nuns’ group (positive final report)… Word among us (WAU)… Word for every season (Bergant)… Word on fire… Year of Mercy makes sense only if you haven’t lost the sense of sin…
In 1871, Lewis Carroll wrote Through the Looking-Glass, his sequel to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. The story itself is a mirror-image of the first book, giving an ironic twist in that the title means more than just the portal through which Alice passes back into Wonderland. The irony of the mirror-image continues in the story as Alice faces events and creatures that are opposite of the expectations she had from her first experience in Wonderland.
A looking-glass is another name for a mirror, an object we use to examine ourselves. But as Lewis Carroll observed in his allegory, a mirror does not always reveal the truth because the images are reversed, and there may be flaws or distortions in the glass or the reflective backing. Furthermore, like Alice, we may find ourselves in a land of fantasy and make-believe hidden in the mirror, looking at ourselves as we want to see things, not as they are. We are all familiar with the old English proverb, “The eyes are the window to the soul.” Is it possible to look into a mirror and see one’s own soul? Or do we see a world of make-believe we have created for ourselves and call it vision?
If we study the lives and teachings of saints, we may notice that there are greater similarities than differences in their meditations and approaches to prayer, how they allowed God’s presence to enter them, and how they handled God’s role for them. St. Ignatius of Loyola, St. Teresa of Avila, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Anthony of Padua, and St. Benedict all dissected their lives in detail, painfully honest with themselves and God in their contemplations, agonized as they relived their sins, and embraced a life of permanent penitence. But they also found that they had to silence the voices and sounds of the world in order to hear the voice of God in their hearts. And they had to hear and understand that voice in able to translate that experience into words and practices that inspire us to this day.
I will share with you some of my “Aha!” moments in my journey of discovery. As I contemplate the readings from the daily Mass, as I delve into the musings of those who have preceded me in this examination of self, as I discover the voice of God speaking within me, I’ll note and post them. It’s as much therapy for me as it is documentation of my extraordinary transformation. Perhaps these thoughts will inspire you to enter into a similar examen following the Ignatian spirituality method that I find fits me best. Perhaps you will find the imagery of Teresa of Avila’s interior castle more meaningful and will progress from room to room as she did. Or you may prefer to embrace a Benedictine renunciation of one’s own will and follow a lifestyle of obedience and community. What works for me may not be suited to you. Seek, and you will find your way. I hope you will chase the threads to the source materials, read the Scripture or original work for yourself, then take that book learning to your special place of solitude, let silence surround you, and allow God’s presence to be known. After all, listening is the common thread.
The accidents of life separate us from our dearest friends, but let us not despair. God is like a looking-glass in which souls see each other. The more we are united to him by love, the nearer we are to those who belong to him (St. Elizabeth Ann Seton).
The fourth step
“Hi, my name is Steven, and I’m a sinner.”
Alcoholics Anonymous introduced the remarkable and powerful twelve-step process in dealing with alcoholism. It has been adopted and is used in all of the most successful treatment programs for addictive behaviors. Whether that be alcoholism, drug abuse, gambling, sexual addiction, overeaters, workaholics, or uncontrolled shopping, the method works. As one embraces the twelve steps, the recovering addict is encouraged to join and participate in meetings of similar people, to draw strength and solace from knowing that he or she is not alone, and to support each other in the resolve to break the addiction— and to forgive each other when human weakness causes us to fail. Meeting attendees are encouraged to give testimony and share their experiences, removing the shroud of secrecy that gives the demon its power. We rise, greet our friends, identify ourselves by first name only, and admit to our addiction.
“Hi, my name is Steven, and I’m a sinner.”
- Are powerless over [our behavior] and our lives have become unmanageable;
- Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity;
- Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood him.
The remaining nine steps are proof that the first three steps were sincere and that we are indeed on the road to recovery. But we are never fully recovered. We must remain vigilant and actively involved in recovering from our addictions for the rest of our lives. The demon is always in us, just waiting for us to stumble. So it is a permanent conversion to an altered lifestyle.
“Hi, my name is Steven, and I’m a sinner.”
This is the relentless laying out of all the evil and trauma and pain we have caused, listing those whom we have harmed directly and indirectly, the money wasted, the crimes committed, the horrors inflicted. It is traumatic, gut-wrenching, inevitably results in tears and sobbed apologies and self-loathing. But, like confession, it is the beginning of reconciliation of self to God and others, and it evokes incredibly strong desires for penitence and restitution. If the first step is the true beginning, the fourth step is the beginning of the end.
“Hi, my name is Steven, and I’m a sinner.”
There’s a pattern here. Study the lives of the contemplative saints. They all went through a transformation that is remarkably similar to a twelve-step program— life out of control (in their perception, at least), only God can restore it, turned that life over to God, and examined every portion of their lives with relentless and painful honesty in order to open themselves to God’s Word. Think of St. Paul. There was no greater persecutor of early Christians than Saul of Tarsus, but a vision of Christ left him blinded for three days; and after his sight was restored by Ananias, he made his decision to convert and become one of the most active Christian missionaries in history. The remainder of his life was the result of his personal moral inventory and compulsion to make restitution for his prior life. In the Ignatian examen, we make a daily inventory of our actions, how they reflected and acknowledged God’s presence in everything, or where we failed to do so. We accept the Holy Spirit, thank God for his mercy and love, and affirm our intent to follow his intentions the following day.
So let’s get started….
“Hi, my name is Steven, and I’m a sinner.”
A man who governs his passions is master of his world. He must either command them or be enslaved by them. It is better to be a hammer than an anvil (St. Dominic).
Re: New Year
The Church spends too much time venerating Mary without accepting and adopting females. Marian worship has become a cult-like practice that is widespread. Yet the “Mother of God” and the “Mother of the Church” is not an inspiration to the male-dominated hierarchy to truly accept the role of the female at the very core of Christian existence.
It is immaterial if there was any marriage or physical relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene, but it is unarguable (to me) that he loved her deeply and gave her at least equality with the remainder of the disciples. Society 2,000 years ago was even more male-dominated, so the Gospels and all of the disciple stories are male. At least the ones that have been published and accepted. Yet the Coptic Church in Egypt holds papyrus scrolls that contain the Gospel of Mary. This demands greater understanding and more sunshine within both Western and Orthodox Churches.
In Genesis 1:27 we read that on the sixth day “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” Note that, in the first part of the sentence, “man” and “him” are collective and singular; but in the second phrase male and female are specific, and the pronoun becomes the plural “they.” And BOTH are in God’s image. Created in equality. Both in God’s image. Take it to the next logical step— in referring to God as a “he,” we also use the collective singular, which by convention is male. But God is BOTH male and female at the same time.
Therefore the male-centric Church is socially driven, not divinely inspired. No revelation here, but denial does not pass muster.
Imagine a world 2,000 years ago when Mary gave birth to God’s DAUGHTER! But society would have suppressed her even more than Jesus, so the only way to gain public recognition was for Jesus to be male.
Was Jesus’ human side and the norms of that society responsible for his elevation of twelve male disciples in the public forum while the equally devoted and knowledgeable females were kept in the background? I suspect it is a function of the authors of the gospels and the New Testament books, all of whom were male, doing a bit of selective laundering. They were human only (not divine) and could not foresee the ramifications of their personal biases. But, in His infinite wisdom, God insured that they recorded enough clues for us to piece together a forensic trail.
Similar to the Marian devotions, I see similarities in the Catholic dealings with saints. Bishop Robert Barron pointed out that they offer varied testimonies to holiness and dedication to God, similar to the choirs of angels, all parts of the songs of praise and thanksgiving so that we may explore and find examples that are meaningful to ourselves. But they are not ends unto themselves. I think the Church should downplay them a bit to retain the purity of the message.
The ceremonies of the Mass are comforting and offer a commonality that make it possible for us to celebrate in any language and in any country. I am confident that I would be more comfortable at a Mass in Swahili than at the ones at the CTA (Call to Action) conference. Those were out of my comfort zone— as a Catholic.
The Mass of the Episcopal Church is quite similar to the Catholic one, but it is far more egalitarian, pays attention to the dynamics within its societies and congregations, and reflects today’s world much better. They do not get wrapped around the trans-substantiation axle or demand formal confession and directed penance. They may be within the comfort zone.
Protestants spend more worship time on message and scripture and less on tradition and ceremony. But I am not sure that there is any such thing as a Baptist or Methodist or Presbyterian “life” the way that Catholicism is all-encompassing in daily events. It’s a Sunday thing. Of course, that is probably true for the vast majority of Catholics, too. But we wear medals and carry our rosaries or chaplets with us, so I believe that Catholicism is a more dominant presence in life.
I have been Protestant, although not a devout one. I have been nothing and for a long time espoused world pantheism. The roots of Catholicism held me when I wandered, as there was always something truly special about attending Mass. It is only late in life that I have become a devout Catholic. That does not mean that I am a good Catholic, since I routinely fail the image-of-Christ test.
I can see attending service at Central Christian Church as an enhancement to my Christianity, but only in addition to Mass. It cannot replace Catholicism.
I may be able to embrace Anglicanism. But it is the strength of the Marian and saintly devotions I derided above that give Catholicism its unique flavor. I enjoy the strength and comfort they provide to so many. I do not see people wearing their Anglicanism publicly the way we wear Catholicism.
My church is flawed, but it can be fixed and reformed from within. Not in my lifetime and not for decades upon decades. There is no instant gratification here. Revolt will not work; and revolution must be gentle, subtle, and pervasive from the bottom up. CTA has it right in some ways: stay Catholic, stay committed, stay the course. I don’t care for the synthetic services, but the movement is valid.
The relationship between God and the clergy and the laity is triangular, not linear. The clergy has inserted itself between us (the people) and God even though they are supposed to be our mentors, facilitating our direct relationship with God, enhancing that conversation. They fail in many ways, both bureaucratically and individually. But we should not condemn them en masse.
Bullies win only when permitted to do so. Pope Francis has somewhat altered that positional relationship, though he, too, fails in some ways. We’re taking baby steps, and I am sure he has to avoid some things that he perceives as threatening to the very structure of the Church as a whole. Popes have initiated schisms in the past, so he has to be somewhat pragmatic. I credit him for both moving the Church in a better direction and reinforcing the Vatican II processes. I would have liked to have seen him clean house and make the sweeping changes I believe he wants, but he has to survive in that den of thieves to insure that his changes become institutional.
Of the world’s population, 1.6 billion people (23%) are Muslim, while 16% is comprised of 2.2 billion Christians and 1.1 billion Catholics. Although Christians have common origins, the relationship between Catholic and non-Catholic Christians is not an easy one. Similarly, although Islam is a peace-loving religion and part of the Abrahamic culture to which Judaism, Christianity, and Islam belong, theirs is not a friendly relationship. There are 13-14 million Jews worldwide, so they don’t count statistically; but we have to keep these numbers in mind when we demand that the Pope make radical changes. He faces a hostile external environment in a 3:1 ratio just from those religions with common roots. He also faces a huge inertia problem in changing the course of the number of Catholics, not all of whom espouse the things he wants to do, especially at the higher levels of the clergy. I applaud what he has accomplished, regret what he has not, but try to temper my disappointment with compassion.
I like what you showed me last night in the the Word among us.
In today’s gospel some of the Pharisees asked John…, “Who are you?” (John 1:19). Surprisingly, John responded by saying who he was not. It wasn’t until after they had pressed him further that he replied, “I am the voice of one crying in the desert” (John 1:23).
Deep in our hearts God asks us the same question: “Who are you?” Not just your name, but who are you? Of course, [God] knows the answer, but he wants to make sure you know it as well. So let’s take a look at who God says that you are.
You are loved… (Jeremiah 1:5).
You are irreplaceable… (Jeremiah 1:5; Psalm 139:13-16).
You are part of God’s family… (Romans 12:5; 1 Corinthians 12:12).
You are a dwelling place of the Holy Spirit… (1 Corinthians 3:16).
Who are you? You aren’t Jesus, but neither was John the Baptist. Like John, however, your whole life can be a voice announcing Jesus’ goodness.
Take these truths with you today. Remember who you are and to whom you belong. Stand firm when other voices tell you something else. And be ready to remind other people who they are as well (January 2017, p. 22, excerpt).
I am NOT Christ, but I can strive to be more like Him. That makes a pretty good resolution for the New Year.
For believers, His arrival is a glorious gift; salvation has come. But for the ancient enemy of mankind, Christ’s arrival is his undoing. The Incarnation is the worst news for Satan and his cohorts. Thus, from the start, the Babe of Bethlehem is pursued for destruction. His disciples also are targeted. He is the Prince of Peace who is unwelcomed by those who revel in discord. For some believers Advent is experienced as a little Lent— a trial and test of faith. This is consistent with the challenges that arose even before His divine birth. One, holy, silent night in Bethlehem is a defining moment in salvation history and a decisive moment of us personally. Will we truly honor and serve Him as the Lord of our life? Will He reign in me? (Catholic Exchange).
At the second sentence, I flashed on the prayer to St. Michael and how similar the solicitation in it was to her suggested reward for embracing the Child Jesus at this season.
I fast-forwarded to today’s Middle East and the proliferation of terrorism. What is the purpose of terrorism? Is it simply terror itself? I’ve had difficulty with this, looking for the more human ulterior motive. Surely, there must be some financial reward, some kind of physical pleasure, or aspiration to power and control beyond an incomprehensible joy in killing. I think back to the Somali colonel I met who described his need to “look into my enemy’s eyes as he dies,” and I start to get it. These people believe that by taking from others their most precious commodity, life itself, and by witnessing the end of that life closely and personally, they draw power and strength from the deceased. It is chilling to the bone, and the reality is that I was— and we are— faced with an evil that is at odds with our values and our sense of humanity.
But roll Ms. Beckman’s article and terrorism all together, put it in the context of our petition to St. Michael, and it begins to coalesce.
“Do thou, O Prince of the heavenly host, by the power of God, thrust into hell Satan and all the evil spirits who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls.”
Terrorism appears to be the manifestation of the real presence of the devil in the world. Naysayers to miracles and the canonization of saints demand hard proof of their sanctity. For those who similarly deny the influence of Satan, the proof is undeniable.
Christ was born to do just that: thrust Satan into hell. We pray to St. Michael; but, like all prayers to saints, we simply ask for saintly intercession with God to achieve the ends of that prayer. So our prayer is to God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Was the world a worse place 2,000 years ago than it is now? God’s reason for sending us Jesus then is one of those mysteries known only to them. But the world did not pay much attention to him then, just enough to kill him. So the evil of today does not imply that the second coming is nigh. Nor does it mean that Jesus has to come back for us to get the message and embrace the light.
A child is born, a Savior. His power enables each of us to thrust into hell Satan and all the evil spirits. The battle is not to be fought and won with swords or automatic weapons but with faith and internal strength. It is a world war, but it is fought one soul at a time.
Christ is Lord!
This morning’s article from Catholic Exchange is fairly heavy-handed. It requires some concentration, but we really espouse what she is saying. We approach it from different perspectives, but we identify.
There is a take-away message that is somewhat obscured as well as shouted. It’s less the commercialization of Christmas than the softening of reality with the colored lights and lovely songs. Some of the sappy movies capture part of it.
Life was hard, cruel. Jesus was not born into wealth as befits a king but in a manger. His life would be adequate but far from extravagant. The movies have a happy ending; but Christ died in agony, although the Resurrection is certainly a triumph of joy. We are and should be an Easter people: Christ had to be born for the rest to happen, but the big event is Easter.
I think of the Baptisms at Our Lady of Guadalupe where it appears to be about how the family can come together and dress up (mostly inappropriately); where it is obviously about gifts to which an infant is oblivious, photos, and keeping the Catholic tradition alive.
Then I recall other Baptisms we have observed where there is joyous celebration about anointing a child as priest, prophet, and king; where there is a brief homily about our communal obligation to see that this soul carries out that commissioning; and where we participate in the Baptismal pronouncements.
The more fundamental Baptisms are much more meaningful to me.
Anyway, good article. It would make a wonderful case study for Bible study.
Re: USCCB Daily Readings
Wrong! Today’s gospel (Matthew 1:1-17) is in error. All of the “father of…” listings lead to Joseph, who had nothing to do with the creation of Jesus. Joseph was the chaste spouse of Mary but not the Father of Jesus. This is Joseph’s genealogy, not that of Jesus. This has nothing to do with Jesus being a “Son of David” as foretold.
Go to Luke 3:23-38 to read Mary’s genealogy from Nathan, son of David, not Solomon. It is confusing because it cites Joseph up front— with the caveat “as was thought”— then follows Mary’s linage.
Either way, the prophecy is fulfilled.
And it got me to delve into the Bible, so the power of God’s inspiration of man is again demonstrated.
Re: Catholic Exchange quote
The first necessity is to find in your soul a respect for your vocation. Once you have this sense of mission, this sense of dedication to a cause more worthwhile than any purely personal claim, the rest can follow. Prayer, self-sacrifice, loyalty, perseverance, and in fact the whole list, come spontaneously to the soul who concentrates upon the vocation over the hill. These virtues come spontaneously… but, of course, this does not mean that they come easily (Dom Hubert van Zeller, Holiness for Housewives and other Working Women).
The quote uses the word vocation, which keyed the memory of something Fr. Pete said a couple of years ago that was truly formative for me.
Marriage and Holy Orders are sacraments of service, a covenant with God and another person (either a spouse or an ordaining bishop) to subordinate oneself to the needs of others.
I pulled up the definition of vocation: (1) a particular occupation, business, or profession; calling; (2) a strong impulse or inclination to follow a particular activity or career; (3) a divine call to God’s service or to the Christian life; (4) a function or station in life to which one is called by God: the religious vocation; the vocation of marriage.
Yep, there it is in plain writing. Backwards. The priorities are exactly reversed. And I was guilty of interpreting it the way the definition has it, thinking of myself first as Navy officer or corporate VP or Assistant Director.
But I am a husband, your spouse, in a covenant made with you and God, witnessed by Bishop Carmody and family. I am a Catholic man of faith working for the Church and others through service. And the rest is immaterial, really.
It’s sad that I put us through what I did before my awakening and real conversion. Yet, it’s a joy that I am on the right path with my strength increasing.
For you, it must be like a teacher finally seeing a stubborn child finally “get it.”
My response… I don’t think this way. I see personal growth differently. Even in the classroom I didn’t have moments when I said “they’ve got it.” Each step led to another in a long series that I might not be around for, so we just kept going.
Ah, good point. Understanding is not a destination. We never arrive. We just add depth and complexity. Except for death, but even that is a process of transformation.
But what I “get” is the reversal of my definitions of vocation so that the important is first and foremost. I used to get upset when you would say that God comes first in your life. Now I’m content to be in the same sentence.
Re: Catholic Digest quiet moment
And the obverse is also true…
Begin with the ugly, which leads you to the bad, which will repel you and push you toward the truth.
And there may be the point in life when they intersect and it stops being a push, but a pull. Then victory is assured.
The siren song of the devil can convince us that ugly is beautiful. One has to stop listening and start seeing.
Re: Tasty morsel [to our Bible study group]
Received: Thursday, November 19, 2015 8:28 AM
As a blogger in the WordPress realm, I subscribe to a lot of WP blogs. So I receive delectable tidbits here and there as they come in, like “St. Joseph protector” today from Sr. Kathryn who quoted Pope Francis on St. Joseph. Juicy nuggets!
The words “let us protect Christ in our lives” have this ol’ pea brain ricocheting on so many tangents that I think I’ll sit here at my thoughtful spot and savor the moment.
Hopefully you’ll have time to enjoy the message, too.
Steven’s response to the group, 9:30 AM
I fell in love with Deli’s brain first, and the rest followed naturally. We don’t always bounce in the same direction, but we both make quantum leaps and can keep up with each other. So her sending out this on the role of St. Joseph as protector got me on my own thoughtful chain that took me to Mary, the ultimate example of God’s kingdom that we discussed last night.
The kingdom is one of truth. In order for us to be part of that kingdom, we must submit to the truth and honor God and his desires. Mary takes that to an entirely different plane— one we can never attain, but one we can emulate as much as possible.
Okay, there’s the obvious, when Gabriel announces she will have a child by the intercession of the Holy Spirit. She had the option to say, “No way.” But she accepted God’s will.
When Joseph her beloved spouse died, she could have turned to Jesus and told him, “Bring him back!” But she accepted God’s will.
When she met Jesus as he was carrying his cross to Golgotha, she could have told him, “Get out of line and come home!” But she accepted God’s will.
When Jesus was hanging on the cross and “gave” her to John, she could have said, “I think not! I already have a Son. Now get down off of that cross this minute!” But she accepted God’s will.
And, when God took her body and soul into heaven to rejoin her Son at the Assumption, she did not die. She accepted God’s will with joy.
Pretty high standard.
But as a member of the kingdom, I am avowed to embrace the truth and accept his will. But I also have to twist the “let us protect Christ in our lives” a bit.
May Christ protect us in our lives as we hold him in our hearts.
Received: Wednesday, October 14, 2015 9:20 AM
The Catholic faith is like a lion in a cage. You don’t need to defend it— you simply need to open the cage door (Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen).
So I verified the quote and found these nuggets:
It takes three to make love, not two: you, your spouse, and God. Without God people only succeed in bringing out the worst in one another. Lovers who have nothing else to do but love each other soon find there is nothing else. Without a central loyalty life is unfinished (
And I had an epiphany: Because God gifted us to each other (as he gifted SG first to me and now to you), the third sentence in the second quote does not and will not apply, ever.
Interesting or, perhaps, predictable. I flashed on the same things for pretty much the same reasons.
Fulton Sheen’s comments are so right on. It takes a bit of mental manipulation to figure out that celibate priests and bishops experience love with all of the joys and despairs that it brings to lovers.
I found the emptiness, sought to fill it, and, as he said, kept discovering there was “nothing else.” And it was not enough. Not until I allowed God to participate, then to reign, was I able to experience the fulfillment love promises.
So, yes, it takes three.
A physical picture: A stool with only two legs cannot stand.
I just get a kick out of the way God repeats the message in case you miss it the first time.
Re: NYT: New species
Received: Thursday, September 10, 2015 7:49 AM
Just as I give thanks and praise every day for you, for the sanity you have brought to my life, and for opening my mind and heart to God.
I did not see this. Thank you! I’d like to watch the NOVA presentation, so would you set it to record? I wonder how wide the crack in the cave was. Were the bodies of the small and slim dead dropped through whole or did they have to dismember them?
I was awake from 0406 until after 0530. Did a lot of thinking about the retreat, how special the meditation garden is, and how it will be nice to embed ourselves in the religious home of the SOLTs.
And got to thinking along a line that is probably a topic for the “looking-glass”…
“God created mankind in his image; in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (Gn. 1:27).
So, if God created mankind in his image, and he created them male and female, which image is more properly God’s— the male or the female?
From genetic science, we now know that a male is merely a sperm donor in the grand scheme of life. It is easy to create conditions for human reproduction without any male contribution at all. We would then have a wholly female human race. There is no potential for the reverse because the male body cannot support gestation. So a fairly substantial case can be made that the God-like image is female.
That aligns with our images of Mother Earth, the nurturing nature of females, the sanctity of the Virgin Mary, and our understanding that male dominance is the result of female selection of those males more capable of protecting them and their babies— stronger, faster, smarter— with the rather unfortunate long-term societal result of male domination of most of humankind.
Archaeologists dig and discover bones and relics and early tools and argue over the Australopithecus and Homo origins of man and try to figure out where the point of transition was between lower forms and true man. Creationists reject all of that and argue that the six days of creation in Genesis is true despite the absolutely overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
The question lingers, “At which point in evolution did God inject the human soul into the animal to create what we now call mankind?” And, oh, by the way, is the correct deity image male or female?
Going back to genetic science, the necessity for two separate contributions of genes to create a new individual insures diversity within a species and a more robust new generation. Even amoeba combine genes and do not divide asexually all the time. Male and female humans reflect the rest of life as we know it. Plants, lobsters, robins and people are identical in that respect. It takes two to tango. If we are going to find a satisfactory answer to what image, we’ll need to take a different approach.
All humans, no matter whether urban New Yorkers or Yemeni Bedouins or Australian Aborigines, share four universal traits: (1) language and cognition, including a sense of the future; (2) myth, ritual and aesthetics, including the search for understanding of a Higher Being; (3) society, including a moral code; and (4) the use of technology, including some form of tools to hunt, farm, or build.
Suppose that the image of God is not physical but something less tangible. Suppose, just suppose, that
- a sense of the future anticipates eternity and the existence of heaven;
- the search for a Higher Being is the quest of the soul to be unified with God throughout that eternity;
- the moral code reflects God’s knowledge of good and evil, right and wrong; and
- the use of tools enables us to imitate God’s creativity and inventiveness and desire to make things (and us) better.
Suppose the image of God is what we really are in our essential beings, not what gender we carry around or what we look like?
Some things get complicated, such as the existence of evil and sin. But God created everything in his image out of his own free will; so we, in his image, are endowed with that free will, the ability to choose. Some of the angels that God created chose badly and fell, hence the presence of Satan in the world and in some of us. God could eliminate that, but that also removes the free will; and then we are no longer in his image. So there are Adolph Hitlers and Saddam Husseins in the world, just as there are fallen angels not in this world. And they are all in his image.
Our ability to manage ourselves and the application of those four universal traits within ourselves determines how we relate to others, societies, and the world; and they, in turn, judge us to be good or evil, just as God will do eventually. In order to be in God’s image, we must have free will and the ability to choose our thoughts and actions, and as a result, evil will exist in the world. It’s not that God allows these things. God despises them, but to remove them makes us lesser beings and no longer in his image.
The universal traits are not gender-specific. They are human, reflect all of mankind, and are as God wanted us and created us. Is this not what the Church has been trying to teach us? Our relationship to each other should be far more than a reaction to someone who is hot or a hunk. We are all children of God “created in the image of God, male and female.”
I am past concern about whether God is male or female. The answer is yes. Our gender is merely a means to keep the species diverse and strong— in God’s image.
As to did God give us a soul, the answer again is yes. We have always had it. It’s part of God’s creation just like everything in the universe, just like all that we have yet to know about. Am I saying that rocks and water and the hot gases of stars have souls? Maybe. God created them in His image, too. We became mankind through evolution— part of God’s will, by the way. We did not at some point evolve into God’s image but have always been there. Am I too good to share eternity in heaven with a rock? Not if that is God’s will.
For the literal creationists: Since God is limitless and his presence through eternity is a constant now yet the universe is finite with a beginning and an end and boundaries, how is six days different from six billion years— not to you, but to God?
So, to live as we are created, in the image of God, we must
- accept our eternal existence and understand that physical death of this male or female body is merely a transition to a new state;
- strive to be worthy of unification with God after that transition;
- show worthiness by embracing God’s commandments and using our free will to choose good; and
- work to improve ourselves, each other, and our world to make that part of God’s creation over which we have influence more worthy and reflective of him.
Oh, yes! And continuously thank and praise God. After all, he created us in his image so what greater gift could one hope for?
Re: God, the Jews, & Jesus
Part of the answer, of course, is “Only God knows, he has his reasons, and he ain’t telling.”
But I imagine a bunch of rabbinical Jews standing before God and arguing, arguing, arguing with him. “What do YOU know about being human? Do you have an idea how hard it is to keep those commandments? What do YOU know about being hungry or poor or being a slave?” On and on. Nagging, berating, rejecting judgment.
So God sighs, gives in to the pressure, and sends his son to us so that he, God, can experience human life: from conception through death, from hell to heaven.
What a painful death! A life going from a blessed child to an outcast, loved and vilified at the same time, then the days before the resurrection when he knows hell through his separation from God. All human experience, including after death, now part of his body of knowledge.
After the ascension Jesus and God reunite so that the father knows fully from the experiences of the son. And God’s compassion is now rooted in “I know, my child. I know.”
Could be the makings of an interesting short story. Maybe a good homily.
Today’s reading from Isaiah (25:6-10) is amazing. In a few lines he captures prophecies of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes, the wedding at Cana, the ripping of the temple veil when Jesus dies on the cross, and his death for the forgiveness of sins. No wonder he is your fave.
Re: God’s message
Every day I get a message. I am learning to discern them. Some are more potent than others. Some hit me between the eyes, while others are subtle and require contemplation to recognize. Today’s message is one of the former.
Thomas Aquinas defined hope as the stretching forth of our desire toward a future good, even if that good is difficult to attain… hope means choosing to act in ways that lead me closer to what is good and loving, even though the future is often unknown and beyond my control. Why should we hope, even in the midst of personal struggles and difficulties? Why not succumb to despair…? One great reason for hope for the future is recalling how God has been with us in the past. We cannot see into the future and know exactly how God will bring good out of difficulty. However, we can remember when and where God has brought good out of past suffering (Ignatian Spirituality).
Not giving into despair (i.e., the darkness) is far more difficult when God is present only as lip-service, not as a true guiding light. And that’s how I behaved. Without God truly present, I succumbed. I gave into pleasure as a personal, greedy good (small g), not into God as the ultimate Good (capital G). Transient without comfort and like all offerings from the Dark One— a black hole from which there is no easy escape— it demands more and more. Behavior that is opposed to the “good and loving” of Aquinas leads to self-disgust and despair, a cycle that continues to repeat itself as relief from the despair is sought. There is no satisfaction.
When one embraces God and the light, there is more than hope. The future remains “unknown and beyond my control,” but God’s will is accepted gracefully— no— gratefully and enthusiastically. That leads to trust and confidence, a state where hope becomes belief and faith becomes understanding and knowledge. Proof is the demand of unbelievers, whereas praise and thanksgiving are our gifts to God, small and unworthy tributes that they are. But the ability to pray and give him glory are honor and privilege.
I am blessed. Thank you for leading me to this place.
Re: Reflection on reflection
After Mass is over, after the retreats are ended, after our pilgrimages to the Solanus Casey Center (SCC) and the shrines are over, we experience something similar to astronauts returning to earth.
We go through “re-entry.” We re-enter life as it exists outside of these things— the mundane, the temporal, the earthly, the routine, the real work of life and living.
We have left the seclusion and isolation, no longer embraced by the contemplative surroundings, and deal with distractions from what has been our focus. In some ways, we are invigorated by those experiences; in other ways, drained.
Thinking on it, I am somewhat envious of you because so much of your day is spent in a contemplative state. Yes, researching. Yes, fixing links and editing photos to post. Yes, with laundry and house work and the exercise regimen as part of it. But also exploring the lives of saints and immersing yourself in the Word of God, communicating with religious and the faithful, providing comfort and support to those who hurt and are seeking solace. You have less of the real world to deal with. But, then, you have to deal with me; and that erodes any envy very quickly.
Like the author of today’s reflection, I would like to remain in the cocoon. The thought of a cloistered monastery where I could be isolated from the material world and spend my days in advancing my understanding of scripture and theology is appealing at times. But the entering argument of the reflection was “What are you going to do when all that’s left is an empty tomb?”
Well, for starters— rejoice! The tomb is empty because Christ has risen. The promises are fulfilled, and hope has become certainty.
If Jesus is to be our role model, we need to understand that his work really began after the Resurrection.
Yes, he worked miracles and spoke to the crowds and gave us the Lord’s prayer and the Beatitudes and the example of his Passion before he died. But the apostles did not really start to understand until after he breathed the Holy Spirit into them (Jn. 20:22).
Between the Resurrection and Pentecost, Jesus appeared to the apostles to help them relate his truths to the prophecies and writings of the Old Testament. Even after all they had experienced, the apostles struggled to understand. Yet, the immersion in Jesus’ teachings plus the infusion of the Spirit fifty days later enabled them— a small band of ragamuffins, simple people— to form his Church and defeat the Roman Empire.
Jesus’ disciples caught fire and spread the gospel. Certainly, the conversion of St. Paul on the road to Damascus was part of that original missionary zeal.
Similarly, when we leave the cloister and re-enter the world, we should not mourn the loss of Jesus. Rather, we should do God’s work using the knowledge and fire within us the way Saints Teresa of Avila, Anthony of Padua, Francis, Ignatius, and Mother Teresa did.
Mass is over, yes, but with a rejoicing in the commission to serve the Lord.
I know you internalized this long ago and that my awakening to what it means to really be Catholic is not revelation to you. But, by writing about the experience, I make meaningful connections that become part of my core as I evolve. After all, I am an afternoon harvester in the Lord’s fields, but if I keep the message and work hard for him, I can deliver the full measure for him.
Jesus said to Peter, “Upon this rock I will build my church, and the jaws of death shall not prevail against it” (Mt. 16:18).
By definition, a church is a religious institution, place of worship, or group of worshippers. Only, the Jews have congregations that worship at synagogues and temples; Islam has mosques for the faithful; and membership is loose, fluid, and not particularly aligned. And nothing parallels church in either the Hindu, Buddhist, or Shinto religions.
A church is uniquely Christian, tends to be bonded (often anchored to a particular physical location), and has identity. But we Catholics conceptualize further by differentiating between— though still belonging to both— Church and church.
Evangelization, too, is a Christian activity stemming from Pentecost when the first apostles committed to spreading the gospel; but consider this… The Old Testament, full of conversion by conquest, does little, if anything, to promote God and the Jewish faith. Yet, the New Testament, with its promise of hope through the teachings of Jesus, has believers proselytizing unceasingly.
What a legacy!
I need to pursue these thoughts more. There is much to be learned.
Link of interest… When all that’s left is an empty tomb
For the third year following our pilgrimage to the Solanus Casey Center I’ve been quite contemplative. So, naturally,
St. Augustine’s powerful treatise in today’s “Office of Readings” has really struck a chord in me.
The image of exchanging hospitality is one I grew up with, so it’s an ingrained thought process in me. Christ served the meal of his own body and blood, sacrificing that for us; so I have an obligation to repay that by serving myself up in kind. Yes. That’s what dying to self really is.
And contemplation has led me to understanding that Sierra Grande (SG) has become my refuge as it has been yours for thirty years. It’s where we should be.
A place of refuge is not always free from strife or attack. It has to be defended at times, but it is the place where peace and serenity abide. SG has become home much more so than any place of abode I have had in my life. But, until we’re there for good, we can hang out at the beach for a while, take advantage of it, and enjoy it more than we have. Mea culpa.
Finally, the contemplation and reflections on myself are finally getting to root causes for my behaviors. I’m understanding a lot about why I was what I was and why I am what I am— now. The what I was and am was not that difficult, but drilling down to the why’s was involved, took on obscure causes, and has been painful.
Again, I have to thank Solanus Casey for his example and gentle guidance. The process mostly worked backwards from the HARD question I asked myself, “Is my evolving into a ‘real’ Catholic a true conversion and response to the Holy Spirit, or is it superficial and temporary? Will I stay my present course? Or will I revert to darkness?”
I had to figure out what it is about God that was so attractive all of a sudden. A significant part was looking at you and your faith and figuring out why you are so solid, comparing my life experiences to yours, and finally recognizing what was missing in me but present in you. I tried to satisfy the void in myself with superficiality and temporal stuff, whereas you were anchored in faith. But, by opening myself to God, he filled my emptiness.
We both owe a huge debt of gratitude to your father. He has been your rock. The love you have for each other has never waivered, untouched even by his death. That is the example for me to finally understand the lifelong love I should have exchanged with God but missed out on for so long. He has always been there, waiting for me.
The story of my life would be titled “The Afternoon Harvester,” taken from the parable of the laborers in the vineyard (Mt. 20:1-16).
I’m still a work in progress, but a good work nonetheless.
Thank you for never giving up.
Re: Words to ponder
Thanks to our recent participation in the Dominican Laity instruction and learning gatherings, we were introduced to the Liturgy of the Hours at Vespers. That was fascinating and inspiring, so that led to a deeper investigation.
Now we know it is also known as the Divine Office. This seems to imply a procedure followed by the religious, and this makes sense because the Dominican Sisters bring it to the committed laity. But an even deeper probe revealed that the four volumes of the three-to-seven times daily readings are known in the religious circles as the “Breviary.”
Wait a minute!
I attended a Jesuit high school; and it was typical to see the priests, brothers, and those still in seminary slowly walking the halls of the school or the central courtyard between classes or when not on the podium studying the verses in their Breviaries. It was a mysterious rite, and we (students at the school) got the impression that this was something that only those who had taken religious vows could partake of.
I’ve carried this belief with me for decades and never pursued the Divine Office until recently, but why would we not be encouraged to engage in the ritual or reading scripture and contemplations multiple times a day?
In Islam, the faithful face Mecca five times a day and kneel and pray to Allah, and this is similar. And just as meaningful a commitment to prayer and speaking with God.
I actually feel that the Church has been hiding something wonderful from me!
In the process I discovered Universalis— the site that makes the Divine Office available to any internet-connected computer or as an application (app) for the smartphone— so I now have it on both my work and home PCs as well as on my smartphone.
Last Thursday, we attended a wonderful presentation by Dr. Neil DeGrasse Tyson (Director of the Hayden Planetarium); and, while waiting in the balcony for the show to start, I quietly immersed myself in Vespers. And I can just as easily enjoy the digital Bible on my cell phone, too!
How cool is God to give us the technology and the resources to do all of this?
That got me to thinking of how we give praise and glory to God when good things happen, but ask “How can a good God allow this?” when bad stuff happens. The first action is appropriate, but the second is narrow-minded and requires a consciously evil God who is actively involved in happenstances on earth. But our different reactions are based on our human experiences and that human instinct for self-preservation cited above. We cannot attribute to God human characteristics even though we are made in His image.
God is all-loving and all-giving. That is why we have our universe and our lives. So we should not assume God’s intention or tolerance of evil but thank and praise Him when either good or bad happen because He gave us the world and our souls. We should glorify Him for the natural laws and system within which we were created and exist, within which we attempt to counteract bad and foster good. But we should also keep the big picture and thank him for life as evidence of His love and giving and relegate the individual events to Newtonian dynamics of the world— actions and reactions based on trains of events that have been in process for millennia and not a specific intervention by a loving or vengeful God. Many of us offer thanks to God for the crosses we carry, but this takes our thought process to a higher level of thanking God for the privilege of merely being alive to carry that cross.
Some folks do this instinctively, are happy no matter what takes place, and are naturally joyful through trial and tribulation. Perhaps they are closer to God, or perhaps they just were born with a better understanding of the non-attributable nature of most worldly events.
There are exceptions, of course. Miracles happen that indicate the direct involvement of God, which means He is aware of and willing to act in the world. The dark counterparts, however, are human or natural. There are people like Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin, Caligula, Pol Pot, and Saddam Hussein who are evil incarnate, who destroy whole populations and inflict cruelty beyond belief. There are volcanoes and tsunamis and hurricanes and earthquakes that take thousands of lives. There is no evidence of Godly intervention that would make these evil miracles—they are all explained by natural phenomena.
Let’s back up a bit to the larger picture. Heaven is not a place but a state of being where we are unified with God and exist at the highest level of all-encompassing love. By the same token, hell is not a place but a state of being where we are denied unification with God and suffer being unloved and unwanted. That’s why Dante’s deepest circle was cold. He understood the nature of absence of love!
And where there is celebration and glory to God for our lives and everything in them, we are filled with love and willingness to give of self. Where there is not, there is the lack of those characteristics, and that is the void into which Satan enters.
As a side note, some skeptical scientists are always seeking proof that there is a God. White light is composed of all of the wavelengths in the visible spectrum together, the whole light spectrum filled with everything. True darkness is the absence of light of any wavelength. White is associated with good; black with evil— in all human cultures. Is this an accidental parallel? Is it evidence of Divine creation? Or is it an instinctive human reaction to being filled with everything and attributing goodness to it and disliking a void and giving it badness?
Does God not fill us with everything? And do we not recognize this as good? And isn’t God capable of going beyond our limits of knowledge and understanding and provide more than we are capable of deciphering?
Think about it.
We have St. Bernadette’s visions at Lourdes. There is Juan Diego at Tepeyac when Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe spoke with him. St. Francis of Assisi was blessed with Christ’s stigmata. Solanus Casey was able to save Chevrolet from bankruptcy in 1925 and restored Claire Ryan’s ability to walk. There is evidence of God’s hand in good things whether we can understand them or not. Despite its flaws, the Catholic Church is a very rigorous inquiry into candidacy for sainthood, and they are able to audit the events to nothing less than God’s intervention. These things cannot be traced to natural laws, to human physical or emotional causes, or to sleight-of-hand. They are a filling, a gift of love. The white light of the soul.
But where is the counterpart on the negative side? Where is the audit trail that tracks specific evils to God’s intervention? That does not exist. Evil events cannot be traced back to God’s intervention in the world. There is no trail even to Satan, when it comes to that. But there is proof of the void, a lack of some essential human characteristic that allows individuals to go bad. Obviously, it’s a lack of love for God and others, a lack of self-giving and more. One can say that God made the universe, therefore the natural phenomena that are destructive are His fault, but that is not at all similar to the healings and visions because the specific and direct hand of God is not there, merely an aggregation of natural events that can be traced to the laws of physics.
So today has all the earmarks of being one of trials and tribulations.
Thank you, God, for giving me this beautiful life.
The second paragraph of today’s meditation on the gospel is really good. It captures the problem with the fire-breathing, Bible-thumping Protestant preachers. Repentance is all about love, not hellfire. It is about forgiveness and drawing closer to God and his love, not fear of punishment. In economic theory, it’s a pull system, not a push one. We’re going to, not running from.
And, as Pope Francis is pointing out, to be effective apostles need to be humble, simple, require the charity and compassion of the people, and rely on their embrace and hospitality. Bring the people to God through example and his word, not by lavish gifts or money. If we get it, why don’t the cardinals and bishops?
Ah, they get it— they just don’t want to give up the good life to become real missionaries. Seems to me that Jesus did not have all that luxurious a life, and he certainly did not die in splendor. If the priest’s life is to follow in Christ’s footsteps and live by his example, Francis has it right. Exactly what I would expect from a Jesuit.
I’m really enjoying being a convert to Catholicism. What’s particularly enjoyable is that it is a journey that has no destination in this life. It is an opportunity to grow and gain understanding every day— one that provides encouragement to go on because it includes the realization that the answer to “are we there yet” is “no.”
I used to wonder why folks constantly studied scripture and readings and the same kind of thing over and over. Now I find the gems in passages I thought I knew and wonder why folks do not study scripture and reflections. I regret not starting long ago but also realize that I had to be what I was in order to become what I am.
I followed the crooked path, not the straight one. But I did recognize my insanity, and I did try a different approach to my life; and it is having different results, and I am a different person.
I let go and let God.
Hmmm, a lesser trinity? You, me and God? The closer I get to God, the closer I get to you; and the more aligned my life is, and the easier it all becomes. Interesting musings.
Today’s first reading was moving. Even though David’s son Absalom had gone bad and was trying to kill him and take the kingdom away, David still loved him and mourned his death. The symbology of how God loves us and mourns when we turn against him is obvious, but then David turned the victory into national mourning just as the entire kingdom of God weeps when we sin. Very powerful stuff. Then we leap to Jesus telling us not to weep for the dead child because she lives, and there is forgiveness for sin that brings us to life in God.
Can you tell I’m really enjoying the readings and reflections?
The grind of daily life that crowds and obscures Jesus Christ in our life is sometimes daunting and seemingly insurmountable. It is in these situations that friends are indeed blessings from God. The paralytic himself could never go near the Lord. There were too many people like him wanting an audience with Jesus, but he was carried on the shoulders of his friends. On the strength of his friends’ perseverance their efforts led him directly in front of the Lord who cured him.
Let us thank God for friends who care enough to carry us towards the Lord when our own faith fails us. And may we, too, be their support when they, in turn, experience paralysis in their lives.
It’s not so much that we fail, but that we are so much stronger together; enforce each other; and, even if our interpretations differ, are united in Christ and the Church.
Re: dot-Magis – Ignatian Spirituality
This is really good. REALLY good! The concept of indifference to God’s gifts is obscure, but it is sensible when placed in this context. It’s like forgiveness. We must forgive others in order to forgive ourselves, so we must be “indifferent” to the gifts already received in order to be receptive and appreciative of the ones God offers us today. This has nothing to do with thanking God for the gifts we already have. Instead, it is all about going forward with new graces.
I made a copy to take with to Saturday’s day of prayer and reflection.
I did not recognize that church is uniquely Christian. We Catholics use the capitalized Church to refer to the formal institution and the smaller one to refer to the generic concept. It also applies, of course, to the body of Christ, the people organized into a church. But there is no equivalent in Judaism (where there are various sects and congregations and Temple but no church per se) or in Islam or any other following.
Then on page nine, the article on prayer tells us about “talking to your dad.” Aha, another glimmer of light! I had a frequently adversarial relationship with my father. We never had intimate, personal conversations, never soft and loving. Read the last paragraph. That’s how I feel about Segy, and I’m sure it’s how my dad felt about me— but he never said it or even got close. I’m not going to let this opportunistic recognition go by. I’m going to repeat this paragraph to him. But the point is that talking lovingly to my dad was never part of my life, and so it may account for my not being centered in prayer. Like Pharaoh, my heart was hardened. And despite repeated failures of that to work, I still applied it.
And that leads to page twelve, “receiving and giving.” I give the advice to “never jump until you know where you’re going to land” and/or “never run from, but always run to.” Nice words, but I did not use them for my own personal relationship with God (which did not really exist until a couple of years ago anyway).
WAU tells us that more than turning away from sin, we must turn toward something. With neither life nor prayer, and without a meaningful father figure, there was a void there. Not something or someone to turn to.
Now I have a big, forgiving dad to talk to. And I do. I also have you as a mentor and guide on my journey, so I thank you for your patience
Finally, more words of wisdom: “We may never achieve perfection, but we can keep asking our Father for his help— and he will keep giving it to us” (the Word among us, Jan 2014, p. 12).
Link of interest… Christian Church
I’m still having problems with purgatory. I understand the logic of the Church, but it still seems incompatible with a loving and forgiving God. Perhaps it’s more of a final exam at the end of life on earth. When the soul finds itself separated from God in this realm called purgatory, the options are to praise God for his mercy in allowing it to progress through this suffering to finally be united with him or to curse God for not giving it the joy of immediate access to him. Thus, God is able to make the real judgment of worthiness. So it is NOT a purgation of sin from the soul, but a purgation of unworthy souls at the gates of heaven.
Your concept of hell and purgatory being here on earth also has merit. That has the benefit of establishing their finite status, whereas purgatory in an afterlife is not compatible with the concept of eternity and timelessness. How long a piece of infinity is carved out for purgation?
Next, on the concept of the Jewish Messianic Age where evil and sin no longer exist and all worship and praise God and act according to his laws— isn’t that heaven? It is not possible that there will ever be that state on earth simply because only God’s direct influence on every human being at the same time could ever make that happen. This would not be the result of a Messiah, a human to lead the people, but on God and the host of angels to force it on us. And how is that compatible with free will? God will have to take that away for us all to exist in a continuously praising and worshiping state.
In reality, it’s a case of shooting the messenger or, in this case, crucifying him. If the receivers exert the free will given them by God and reject the message, does that make the Word any less valid? In actuality, it is the messenger that was rejected, not the message, because he threatened the stable hierarchy of the temple and the Jewish-Roman bureaucracy. But is this a failure of God to provide the Messiah or a failure of the people to accept him?
This is a case of bad Messiah management. Although the Sadducees and Pharisees of 2000 years ago are blamed for rejection of Christ as the Chosen One, they really blew the opportunity to neutralize him. Think about it. All they had to do was declare Jesus a modern prophet. (The latest prophets prior to him were Malachi, Zechariah and Haggai in the fifth century BC). The New Testament would then be subject to the condensation and consolidation of the other prophetic texts and become the Book of Jesus, and Christianity would have never become more than a cult around one of the prophets, eventually to have the same status as those who embrace Isaiah, for instance.
Look at how many other prophets worked miracles and suffered bad deaths. Isaiah was sawed in half; Jeremiah, stoned; Ezekiel, martyred by the Chaldeans; Amos, tortured and martyred. So make Jesus a prophet who was martyred by the Romans. Even the resurrection could have been downplayed as a failure of the Romans to properly complete the task of martyring a prophet, and the ascension of Jesus is not new either. There are eight precedents in Judaism, including Serach, Enoch and Elijah, who were taken bodily into heaven by God.
On the other hand, maybe Jesus was the Messiah. Remember the guy who posed the statement that Jesus was either a liar, crazy, or right? Jesus may not have brought the Messianic Age to the entire world, but he sure brought it to mine. He is MY Savior! Amen.
Anyway, I have taken note that the martyrs of Christendom were prayerful, generally mild, thoughtful, steadfast, often seekers of conversion, and true believers. The etymology of the word martyr means witness; and they witnessed their faith in God and Christ through their testimony, dying for their steadfastness in this witnessing.
In contrast, the present-day martyrs on Islam are masked to hide their identities and use bombs and guns to kill and injure others, often children and innocents, and they die in hatred, not love of God. Surely, this cannot be God’s will.
When I took in today’s readings, the message from Haggai was personal. Let me use the translation from my Bible at work. I think it has deeper meaning.
Now thus says the Lord of hosts: Consider your ways! You have sown much, but have brought in little; you have eaten, but have not been satisfied; you have drunk, but have not been exhilarated; have clothed yourselves, but not been warmed; and he who earned wages earned them for a bag with holes in it (Hg. 1: 5-6).
This grabbed me, as do many passages, with their message aimed at my heart, to remind me of the way I was and why I needed to change— and why I must stay changed.
But on a global scale, the passage also applies to the terrorists of Islam. Fear and death fulfill nothing, but the now silent witness of those who testified lives on.
God’s mysterious ways have given me good contemplative materials for this evening’s fellowship with my ACTS brotherhood. For in reality, Haggai the prophet was railing against the Jews for building their own homes and lives but allowing the temple of God to fall into ruins. My mission for this evening is to help build the Church and the kingdom of God.
And so I ask myself if I am willing to sacrifice all in order to bear witness as did the early Christian martyrs. Are my faith and strength strong enough to testify in the face of persecution and death? Am I really willing to follow in the footsteps of Jesus knowing that it could lead to my personal Golgotha?
I hope I never have to be tested by the physical torments of the martyrs; but I, like all of us humans, am being tested daily. We’ll find out how we did after death.
Now I lay me down to sleep…. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.
As always, when I pause and really immerse myself in the readings, there is inspiration— and often hard truth that I must embrace. In today’s preparation for Sunday’s readings sent to us by the Catholic Theological Union (CTU) is a reminder of what you have been trying to get into my head and heart since we met.
One aspect of being an insider is not always appreciated, and that is the need to be disciplined. If we truly want to belong to the reign of God, we must act accordingly. The author of the Letter to the Hebrews calls our attention to this. We must be trained in righteousness, and this is not always pleasant. Many of us need to rid ourselves of selfishness and arrogance. Others need to cleanse their hearts of bias and discrimination. Our baptism conferred on us the responsibility of witnessing to the entire world the glory of God. People… should be able to recognize God’s goodness in the way we live our lives and the manner in which we interact with them. This… may well be the narrow gate through which we must pass if we hope to sit at the table in God’s kingdom (Bergant, 2010).
Yes, different words, but the same message that you again gave me last night. I will continue to do better and will eventually get there. Thank you for your patience and realization that I am not a sponge like a child and have many decades to overcome before I will have soaked up all you offer.
The parable in today’s gospel is one of my favorites. It, too, ties into what you mentioned last night. When God sorts us all out, those who failed to recognize your value will be behind you. “So will it be: The last will be first; the first will be last”
Why are there still people standing idle at the eleventh hour? Because no one picked them. Why didn’t they get picked? Possibly because no one wanted them. It is likely that not being picked was no fault of theirs. When a landlord comes looking for potential laborers, it is the strongest and the most youthful that he wants. Landlords who did not get the best workers would have to choose the second best. The weakest, the oldest, and the sickly would be rejected. Not only would they not get picked, but they would also become objects of ridicule and humiliation by others. How would these workers find a job? How would they feed their family if no one picked them? Wouldn’t some landlord have the heart to be generous to these unfortunate people?
God, the landlord, will. He comes looking for people even up to the eleventh hour. He would pick those whom others have not picked. He would pay them the same wages he had promised the strongest and the proficient. On his land, he does not go by efficient working, but by inclusive loving. Do we have any objections? (National Shrine of St. Jude Bible Diary, 2013).
The Word among us adds this:
The real issue isn’t one of payment— whether it’s money, recognition, or some other reward. The real issue is the vineyard (July/August 2013, p. 71).
Your labor is in God’s vineyard. How marvelous to have that calling and be able to work in his field! I am more like the prodigal son. I still struggle in the pig sty at times, but I am also returned to my Father and have received his forgiveness and his joyful embrace.
The parables are parallel and have a similar message: Even the wayward and/or the late arrivers are welcome in our father’s field (house).
I expected to be tired this morning; but I’m energized, feeling very positive…. It’s an opportunity to “let go and let God” point me where he wants me. A time to be silent, listen, and be patient.
Re: Retreats are the talk of the week, I guess
In today’s CTU Sunday reading preparations, the passage from Isaiah mentions the Levites. So my inquiring mind kicked in, since I’ve been thinking so much about Church and theology.
- I know that Levite refers to a lineage from Levi, but what does that really mean?
- How do Levites relate to Pharisees and Sadducees?
- What exactly are Pharisees and Sadducees, and why did Jesus take them on? Why were they enemies to him and each other?
- And who are the Sanhedrin?
- How does this Jewish stuff from 2000 years ago fit into the history of the Church and Western civilization?
Wikipedia is such a great tool! Now that I have a basic grasp of the Levites, I have to go back further before Levi to answer more questions.
Peter eventually did become the rock on which Jesus built his church, but it certainly didn’t happen overnight!
Isn’t this the story of our lives as well? We have all had times of transfiguration….. But, when we get back to reality, we find we are still basically the same person. We may be a little more charitable or a little more forgiving. But we still have parts of our lives that need to be converted.
You may call this a depressing thought. But, really, it’s a grace! For it’s then we realize how much we need Jesus and how much more transformation we can still experience. Seeing where we still fall short doesn’t have to drive us away from the Lord. If anything, it should push us closer to him. It should move us to receive him with more hope and more trust in his grace…. Come to him— and let him keep changing you!
The old saying is that life is a journey. We only arrive when it ends. And another existence begins/continues. Transformation, too, is a process. I’m evolving, finally, in the right direction. Thank you for helping to guide my path.
What ticks me off, and what I don’t understand, is that he is allowed to play while suspended. Pending his appeal.
Hey, baseball! Make it sting!
Suspension is suspension, and you appeal while out of the game just like working folks have to do when there is a problem at our work. But Mr. Brooks also hit a personal nerve.
My theory would be that self-preoccupied people have trouble seeing that their natural abilities come from outside themselves and can only be developed when directed toward something else outside themselves. Enclosed in self, they come to believe that their talents come from self, are the self. They have no outside criteria that tells them what their talents are for or when they are sufficient. Locked in a cycle of insecurity and attempted self-validation, their talents are never enough, and they end up devouring what they have been given (2013).
Yes, precisely. Acknowledging God’s origin of my abilities and applying the talents and energies to His service broke my insecurity and my need for self-validation. Still, I’m a work in progress and always will be until I return to God. But I’m allowing you and Father Casey to guide me in becoming other-focused.
Link of interest… The A-Rod Problem
Re: St. Anthony
In fact, if the gospel we proclaim remains obscure, it is obscure only for those who go to their own destruction. The god of this world has blinded the minds of these unbelievers, lest they see the radiance of the glorious gospel of Christ who is God’s image (2 Cor. 4: 3-4)
It’s kind of convoluted, but I reversed the statement and made it personal: I had to be open to the light in order to be enlightened, and only then was the truth of the gospel revealed. Today, too, WAU’s meditation is on focus. That’s another way of viewing it. Absolutely! Part of walking in the light— the radiance of Christ.
Tomorrow we’ll be able to wish St. Anthony a belated happy birthday in person. How exciting is that! And Sunday I’ll be able to thank Father Solanus for leading me home.
Ready to roll!
Re: Having no habits
“The habit of having no habits” is excellent. It is much more complex than it appears at first reading. I’ve been through it several times, and I find another nuance each pass. I think the core is that God is a constant presence if we emulate Jesus, not a niche in the day or week that is reserved for God. Not a habit in behavior but simply a part of being, the real core of attitude that is reflected in behavior.
However, the practice of reserving a place for God in the day or week should not be cast aside. Priests and nuns have spiritual routines to help them maintain their connectedness. These are not habits, though. They are conscious times to focus and center themselves. It is not for show as are many habits. The examen at the end of the day is a routine as I see it, not a habit, and it is to review, find missed opportunities, and resolve to rectify them tomorrow. My morning coffee is a habit, less chemical than procedural to get my day planned and started.
I think I get it. It’s a good thought piece.
I can do without the coffee, although I’d be irritable for the first few days. I can’t do without God in my life.
And I was brought to all of this through you. Thank you!
If you didn’t pick this out of the NY Times daily, it’s worth a read. Interesting how Luhrmann goes ninety to nothing down the road toward skepticism and then U-turns at the end.
This week’s readings are also interesting and sort of fall in line with the op-ed article. In trying to hear God’s voice through the words and acts of the apostles in the earliest days of the church, there are as many questions as there are answers.
God’s chosen people for thousands of years were the Jews. It’s not difficult to understand that the Jewish hierarchy and bureaucratized empowerment created a top level of wealth-and-power-loving men who viewed Jesus as a threat to the stability of their place and religion and why they would want him eliminated. It’s also easy to appreciate that Jesus and the apostles would find easy recruiting in the Gentiles who had been rejected for so long by the Jews but who were openly accepted by this new group. But was this also a rejection of the Jews by God as they clung to their old practices and failed to embrace the new message of love and inclusion? Or was it merely taking the easier route to gain a congregation to embrace and spread the message? It was God’s plan, obviously; but how did that get involved in the human decision-making?
As Paul and Barnabas negotiated with the other apostles regarding what the Gentiles should do to be accepted, were they intentionally rejecting much of the traditional Jewish practice and teachings that had become so hateful to the Gentiles? They were Jews themselves, but they obviously determined that it would be futile to try to convert the Gentiles to Judaism first and then make them followers of Christ. In particular, he removed the dictate that men submit to circumcision, a very daunting proposition to an adult male and a definite deterrent to conversion via Judaism where it had become non-negotiable. The dietary restrictions were rather simple and merely good health practices, so that simplified following Christ greatly. So was this a rejection of Jewish practices or a more practical removal of the primary obstacle to participation in this new religion? Were they lowering the bar to membership in the club? Was the apparent rejection of Judaic practices also an attraction to the Gentiles?
Why was it that so few of the Jews were accepting of Jesus? Of course, we have our own experiences that tell us it is incredibly difficult to convince a person to reject the faith they were brought up in and embrace another. But was this a reflection of a higher level rejection of the Jews by God, sending his son to seek a following in other peoples and then to cement it by having the Jews kill him? Were the Jews simply standing by their faith of centuries? Were their hearts and minds hardened by God (as he did with Pharaoh)? Or was God setting up a temptation to test them? Why is it that the Jews who were witnesses to the miracles and heard the words of Jesus still rejected him, while the Gentiles who got the story mostly secondhand through the proselytizing of the apostles embraced it all? Was it that the Gentiles were hungry for order and a savior while the Jews were standing by their prophets?
When we participated in the Passover, we saw the beauty and majesty of those millennia of traditions and how it draws family and friends together, refreshing the foundations of the Jewish faith. But, had the Jews embraced Jesus, we would have had the full meal deal. Think how awesome that could’ve been!
We’ll never know, but these things do send me into prayer so that I try to hear the voice of God. You’re deeper into mystical prayer than I am, so your thoughts will be intriguing.
Re: Daily meditation
Subject: Faith— not emotion
We walk by faith, not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7).
For a while we are fully aware of God’s concern for us. But then, when God begins to use us in his work, we begin to take on a pitiful look and talk only of our trials and difficulties. And all the while God is trying to make us do our work as hidden people who are not in the spotlight. None of us would be hidden spiritually if we could help it. Can we do our work when it seems that God has sealed up heaven? Some of us always want to be brightly illuminated saints with golden halos and with the continual glow of inspiration and to have other saints of God dealing with us all the time. A self-assured saint is of no value to God. He is abnormal, unfit for daily life, and completely unlike God. We are here not as immature angels, but as men and women, to do the work of this world. And we are to do it with an infinitely greater power to withstand the struggle because we have been born from above.
If we continually try to bring back those exceptional moments of inspiration, it is a sign that it is not God we want. We are becoming obsessed with the moments when God did come and speak with us, and we are insisting that he do it again. But what God wants us to do is to walk by faith. How many of us have set ourselves aside as if to say, “I cannot do anything else until God appears to me?” He will never do it. We will have to get up on our own without any inspiration and without any sudden touch from God. Then comes our surprise. We find ourselves exclaiming, “He was there all the time, and I never knew it!” Never live for those exceptional moments— they are surprises. God will give us his touches of inspiration only when he sees that we are not in danger of being led away by them. We must never consider our moments of inspiration as the standard way of life— our work is our standard.
Re: Daily meditation
Not all of these meditations strike to the bone, but this one certainly does. I had not heard of this passage from Matthew before now. The entire Chapter 23 is a condemnation of the Pharisees, and it’s powerful stuff.
The really interesting concept is that God has closed some doors as a result of our own actions, and those doors did not have to be closed. That’s a higher level concept than I’ve been thinking on. Yet, He always opens other doors to help guide us along His preferred path.
The next level of understanding must be that some doors can be opened through our free choice even though God prefers that they be closed, but that will result in God closing doors that were previously opened to us. Action-reaction, always a balance between open and closed. And another level of understanding points toward some of the rooms (St. Teresa’s seven dwelling places) having more than one door so that we can enter through different routes. So, even though God has closed a door, it does not mean access is always denied, just that the easy or most desired path is barred.
I imagine some rooms as octagonal with eight doors so that, if one door closes due to my actions or by God’s decision, I may still be able to get there through other means. Most likely the process will be more involved and complex, calling for greater perseverance and commitment— the price of my sin or the need to prove myself. This proof is not to God because I do not believe He tests us; but, after sinning and closing doors, I have to prove myself to myself and to others impacted by me for the alternate door to open.
I also imagine some rooms with only one door: Heaven, which will be open or closed at the time of our deaths; and, for me, the Deaconate (Holy Orders), which I had assumed would be open until I unworthily attempted to enter and found it closed.
Today’s meditation says, “God never again opens the doors that have been closed;” but I disagree with that.
While some rooms, such as the room containing God’s grace, may have only one door and can be closed temporarily, it can be repeatedly opened through repentance and God’s forgiveness. So perhaps it is a room with an infinite number of doors instead of just one.
I do know that this room is easy to enter and even easier to remain in when living by the Commandments and letting God’s light illuminate the way.
St. Teresa’s castles are starting to make sense.
Subject: Daily meditation
“If you… had only known on this day what would bring you peace— but now it is hidden from your eyes” (Lk. 19:42). Jesus entered Jerusalem triumphantly and the city was stirred to its very foundations, but a strange god was there— the pride of the Pharisees. It was a god that seemed religious and upright, but Jesus compared it to “whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean” (Mt. 23:27).
What is it that blinds you to the peace of God in this your day? Do you have a strange god— not a disgusting monster, but perhaps an unholy nature that controls your life? More than once God has brought me face to face with a strange god in my life, and I knew that I should have given it up; but I didn’t do it. I got through the crisis by the skin of my teeth, only to find myself still under the control of that strange god. I am blind to the very things that make for my own peace. It is a shocking thing that we can be in the exact place where the spirit of God should be having His completely unhindered way with us; and yet we only make matters worse, increasing our blame in God’s eyes.
“If you… had known….” God’s words here cut directly to the heart, with the tears of Jesus behind them. These words imply responsibility for our own faults. God holds us accountable for what we refuse to see or are unable to see because of our sin. And now they are “hidden from your eyes” because you have never completely yielded your nature to Him.
Oh, the deep, unending sadness for what might have been! God never again opens the doors that have been closed. He opens other doors, but He reminds us that there are doors which we have shut— doors which had no need to be shut. Never be afraid when God brings back your past. Let your memory have its way with you. It is a minister of God bringing its rebuke and sorrow to you. God will turn what might have been into a wonderful lesson of growth for the future.
And, yes, there’s you. If you have felt Jesus’ presence in your life, you are a witness. If you have been healed by Jesus, either physically or spiritually, you are a witness. If he has helped you find joy or peace in your life, or if he has helped you overcome a destructive habit or restored a broken relationship, you are a witness. Your very life is hard evidence. Your faith, your commitment, and your desire to do what is right and to honor the Lord is proof to the whole world that Jesus is risen from the dead.
Until I read this, I never contemplated that I am actually able to testify to the Resurrection, that Christ lives in the world and in me. Yes, in some obscure way, I appreciated that Jesus was part of me; but this is more profound and offers me a more concrete and relevant conceptual framework. It adds to the rather amorphous influence of Solanus Casey and allows me to use myself to make it tangible. Adds another layer to the “Body of Christ.”
And there was this reading today: “You, Lord, are all I have, and you give me all I need; my future is in your hands” (Ps. 16:5).
I felt it deeply, praised and glorified Him for all he has given me, and offered my future to Him as I have done over this past year. Then I realized that this is really your devotion, what you have said since I met you. We are truly becoming more aligned, even though you remain skeptical.
The transformation and the opening of my eyes and my heart continue. Still a work in progress, yes, but the emphasis is on progress.
I know from your talk about last night’s dream that you fear the devil is knocking on my door again. But, as Father Philip taught me, Jesus will always answer that door for me. And Solanus Casey is ever the faithful doorkeeper.
Re: dotMagis— Ignatian Spirituality
This is REALLY profound. Jim Manney captures it when he writes of the need to fix our broken lives.
God bathing us with blessings, like the sun shining on the earth, like a fountain flowing with an endless stream of water. All is grace— even sin is grace.
I understand what he meant. We are free to sin, just as we are free to NOT sin. And not sinning is freeing to the soul and the mind and allows the joy of God’s grace to fill us. The real power of forgiveness is that it gives us the strength to live free of that stain and burden. True penitence means not only the resolve to avoid sin but actions and behaviors that demonstrate the full internalization of that resolve. Demonstrate to self, to others, and to God the sincerity of change.
I think it’s why the combination of Solanus Casey and my renewed association with the Jesuits has been so transforming. Father Casey is the complete compassionate confessor, pure empathy and love, an example of humility and gentleness. The Ignatian approach is more intellectual and cognitive, more disciplined, yet leads to the recognition of the presence of God in all things natural and mundane, in everyone and everything. For me, it’s balanced.
Still a work in progress, but these constant nuggets of wisdom keep my commitment refreshed. Nourishment for my soul, not merely food for thought.
P. S. Methinks Pope Francis embodies the simplicity and vows of poverty taken by both Jesuit and Capuchin orders and hence captured the hearts of so many so quickly. It will be interesting to see what happens when the Curia crosses swords with the logic and intellect of that Jesuit mind behind the childlike face.
This is really well done.
Link of interest… A Vatican spring?
Re: Daily devotional
In today’s devotional, we read about Ann Voskamp’s discovery of the single Greek word, chairo— a word that puts joy and grace at the center of thanksgiving— and how her process of giving thanks for a thousand gifts brought her to joy.
But check out the symbol attached. We routinely see it in the Catholic Church. It is the superimposition of the Greek letters chi and rho (so close to chairo in sound). The letters refer, of course, to ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ, which isChrist in Greek. This Christogram also symbolizes Jesus’ crucifixion through the letter X (chi) in addition to the reference to our Messiah, our Christ.
Christ puts joy and grace at the center of our thanksgiving.
Coincidence? Or part of God’s master plan that there should be such similarities? At least to our ears not trained in the subtleties of Greek letters and pronunciation. This is a glorious message for us to contemplate and celebrate.
Viva Cristo Rey!
Subject: Today’s devotional: Ann Voskamp’s “Giving thanks”
Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me” (Jn. 11:41).
A tragedy left a family with a void that nothing could fill. A toddler chasing a cat wandered into the road and was run over by a delivery truck. A 4-year-old watched in shocked silence as her parents cradled the lifeless body of her little sister. For years, the cold emptiness of that moment encased the family in sadness. Feelings were frozen. The only comfort was numbness. Relief was unimaginable.
Author Ann Voskamp was the 4-year-old, and the sorrow surrounding her sister’s death formed her view of life and God. The world she grew up in had little concept of grace. Joy was an idea that had no basis in reality.
As a young mother, Voskamp set out to discover the elusive thing the Bible calls joy. The words for joy and grace come from the Greek word chairo, which she found out is at the center of the Greek word for thanksgiving. Could it be that simple? she wondered. To test her discovery, Voskamp decided to give thanks for 1,000 gifts she already had. She started slowly but soon gratefulness was flowing freely.
Just as Jesus gave thanks before, not after, raising Lazarus from the dead (Jn. 11:41), Voskamp discovered that giving thanks brought to life feelings of joy that had died along with her sister. Joy comes from thanksgiving.
Lord, I thank you that you have the power to raise the dead. May the feelings of joy that arise from our thanksgiving be seeds of grace to those who are afraid to feel.
The joy of living comes from a heart of thanksgiving.
Reflection: For good reason, these have been hard times for people in authority. Many events in the recent past have revealed the painful shortcomings and sinfulness of our leaders, political as well as spiritual. There has been a crisis of credibility within the Church. However, the solution is not to bitterly attack the Church or walk away. Our leaders may not always live up to their billing, but the Gospel they preach, the Truth they teach, and the sacraments they administer are foolproof and do not fail. Hence, Jesus exhorts us to do and observe whatever they teach, even when their lives are not always worth imitating. It helps to keep in mind that all of us are wounded by sin and stand in need of forgiveness from God and one another. God alone is the only perfect master, father, and leader in whom the word is the same as the deed. The Church is one, holy, catholic, apostolic, and sinful. For we, sinful human beings, make up the Church. We do not redeem ourselves; we are redeemed by a love greater than our sins. Such understanding may heal many wounds and mend many lives.
I had to go over it a couple of times and re-read the gospel from Matthew to appreciate this fully. It also ties in nicely with the editorial in the NY Times today about the Church and the stupidity of celibacy.
Multiple messages, but all pointing to understanding and following God’s word. I would have missed much of this had you not spoken this morning. I was pre-conditioned to acceptance.
I recall you telling me that you remain silent during the part of the Mass where the congregation says, “For the kingdom and the power and the glory are yours now and forever,” because it is not really part of the Lord’s Prayer. It got me to questioning where that came from since I did not recall it in the old Mass before Vatican II.
It turns out that our memories were correct. It was added to the Order of the Mass in 1969. Because this phrase does not exist in either reference to Jesus’ instruction in the Lord’s Prayer (Mt. 6:9-13, Lk. 11:2-4), the Catholic Church does not consider it part of the Lord’s Prayer. It is a doxology that is separated in the Order of the Mass by the embolism (not a blood clot, but an embellishment prayer spoken or sung by the priest): “Deliver us, Lord, from every evil….”
The phrase was added to the Lord’s Prayer in the Anglican Book of Common Prayer when it was created in 1662. Unfortunately, the Greek manuscript they used as the basis was not an authentic Roman Catholic one, but a translation from the Byzantine Eastern Orthodox Church. The Byzantine Church incorporated what is known as the Didache, or the teachings of the twelve apostles, into the prayers and ceremonials of the Mass. The Didache was assembled in the 1st or 2nd century AD, most likely contemporary with the writing of the New Testament. In the Didache, Old Testament quotes were interspersed with the apostolic teachings. The real basis of this phrase is from the Old Testament (1 Chr. 29:11) as Solomon was proclaimed King to succeed King David and as David was preparing the materials to build the Great Temple in Jerusalem.
Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all.
The Didache has two major sections. The first six chapters are devoted to the Two Ways, one of life and one of death. The second paragraph, chapters seven through ten, deals with the rituals to be observed. Chapter 8 addresses fasting. In this section, followers of Christ were enjoined not to pray with their Judaic brethren but to recite the Lord’s Prayer three times daily. This practice celebrates God through Jesus and should be done “for thine is the power and the glory forever,” grabbing the quote from Chronicles but shortened to justify the Christian practice of non-Judaic prayer.
So, it’s a classic case of the Bible and Mass being human creations— not verboten quotes or edicts from God/Jesus— and that modern ceremonials and translations are an amalgam of history and traditions that have been millennia in the making.
I’ve been digging to find out if there were a way to pursue graduate studies in divinity or theology online. Not that I have come up with anything. All are seminary-based or fully residential only. And none nearer than San Antonio anyway.
Link of interest… New Pope? I’ve given up hope
Re: Ash Wednesday
The Bible Diary reflection is also neat. I like the concept of Lent being like a GPS guiding us back on route to our ultimate destination. Good imagery.
Psalm 51 is in today’s readings. Very meaningful, both to me at any time (now) and at the beginning of Lent. The whole thing, not just the verses that are cited.
I note that David Castillo copied the full text of the WAU meditation for his broadcast today. That’s okay; it’s a good message.
Thank you for all your work in posting the readings and links. It’s all very special. Your utmost for His highest.
And related to the traditions of Lent and the WAU reflection, Lent is not about giving up, but giving in. A time of contemplation and true penitence in anticipation of the Resurrection. And today’s gospel also admonishes us to do this and speak to God in the privacy of our rooms, not as a public event. I guess it’s the difference between wearing Catholicism like a robe or living it as a personal relationship with God. The social and community aspects are great, but it is the quiet spirit that keeps us close and in unity with Him.
Interesting dynamic. In my effort to adopt constant and true penitence, I’m really absorbed in becoming more Catholic, learning more about the Church and ceremonies (really, the meanings behind them) and saints and scripture. I’m seeking the words and phrases that strike into my heart and soul not glossing over the heavy stuff, but spending time with it and letting it sink in. I’m converting myself from show Catholic to religious. With a great deal of help, encouragement, and support from you.
I like it. It feels good. Deeply satisfying and comfortable.
My response… Your ideas are posted already. Great thoughts to be shared!
And I think it’s show Catholic not to religious but to spiritually focused.
I guess it’s the difference between “wearing” Catholicism like a robe or “living” it as a personal relationship with God. The social and community aspects are great, but it is the quiet spirit that keeps us close and in unity with Him.
This is why I don’t like to wear my ACTS bracelet. One can do more good by simply blending in, as in, when in Rome do as the Romans. For me it’s not about belonging to a group of Christians (Catholics) but to simply be, talk, and do. It’s all about quietly building community within God’s kingdom without calling attention to myself, although you know that once something strikes my passion I become a babbling brook.
Re: Ash Wednesday(continued)
In the meantime, I use the trappings of Catholicism to keep me anchored and to remind me of my restored commitments to God and to you. I don’t wear my ACTS bracelet to show off to others but to keep myself focused on the visitations by the Holy Spirit with which I have been blessed. The minor irritation it causes when I rest my wrist on the pad at the computer is a constant reminder that I am loved and forgiven but must remain prayerful, penitent, and mindful of my dependence on God’s strength to remain strong myself. It’s difficult to put on in the morning, a reminder not only of the bad times and how I struggled against myself, but also that I finally was able to don the mantle of God’s grace. It’s even more difficult to take off in the afternoon, and that is my sign of promise and constancy. When I put my medal on in the morning, I pray quietly for God to please be my co-pilot through the day. I have a rosary with me so that, when I put my hands in my pockets, I am reminded of the power of prayer and devotions and that the intercession of Mary and the saints will support me. When I am facing a tough situation or have my patience tried, I touch the stone cross in my pocket, remind myself of the true cross and how Christ carried it for me, and my troubles pale to insignificance.
You don’t need to do these things to remain anchored. Maybe I don’t either, but they all help me stay connected to the light, to the new strength I have, to remind me of the miracle at the Solanus Casey Center. I find them comforting, meaningful. They are not for show but for life, real life.
In the past, when I was not a good person or a genuine Catholic, I’d wear my ashes today and make a show of it. Really fake.
When you pray, do not be like those who want to be seen. They love to stand and pray in the synagogues or on street corners to be seen by everyone. I assure you, they have already been paid in full. When you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father who is with you in secret; and your Father who sees what is kept secret will reward you.
When you fast, do not put on a miserable face as do the hypocrites. They put on a gloomy face, so people can see they are fasting. I tell you this: they have been paid in full already. When you fast, wash your face and make yourself look cheerful, because you are not fasting for appearances or for people, but for your Father who sees beyond appearances. And your Father, who sees what is kept secret will reward you (Mt. 6: 5-8, 16-18).
I now find that I am more repentant by not having the ashes on my forehead throughout the day. Odd and interesting psychological twist to that, being more humbled by not displaying the ashes than if I wore them.
Anyway, I use these as tools to help me remain spiritually focused. It works for me.
Re: Magic word
Nevertheless, God created us with a desire for him, and we won’t find true rest until we put him first in our lives— until we imprint upon him. When we do, we will find all our desires being met. And not only will we find ourselves satisfied, we will also learn all the survival techniques we need to live in this fallen world.
The key words are true rest. That’s what I have found. When you ask me if I’ve been good, I’m actually surprised at the question. I am absolutely sincere when I say nothing every crosses my mind any more. I understand the skepticism, and I’ve gotten to the point where the questions don’t bother me— they do come from love as well as the need to be vigilant. But I just don’t go there. My thoughts and desires do not wander down that path. And the reading tells me why, giving me a word to describe my quietude. I have found rest in God, walk calmly with Jesus. No more seeking elsewhere for what was given to me at home. God really has gifted us with each other. Rest is just the perfect word.
Thank you, Lord!
P. S. The other words that work for me are the peace and calm that come from being in tune with God’s will and standards and doing right by you. Life is very good. I’m surrounded by you, men who share my God, and men who share my work. I’d like to add kids and g-kids to the mix; but that is up to God, not us. In the meantime, I’m keeping good company. And making good decisions. I’m number three.
Re: Spot on
Today’s reflection from the Bible Diary is spot on.
Upon seeing Jesus, the man living amidst the tombs runs toward him, only to beg him not to torment him. Thus we find a double internal movement: a movement toward God as well as away from God. This man is not alone in this experience, though. Most of us experience a similar double movement. Our hearts are made for God, and we long for him. Yet, when we are before God, we recoil and shy away, not wanting God to touch us and upset out familiar and comfortable ways of living, even when we know that those ways are less than wholesome. Thus, we too feel like a legion, pulled apart by many conflicting movements within us.
Presumably, the townsfolk in today’s gospel felt the conflicting movement as well. They resolved the conflict by choosing their pigs and their familiar ways of life and asking Jesus to leave. The man amidst the tomb was braver and more blessed: he chose to be healed and became a missionary witnessing to what God could do to human lives. Let us pray for courage like that of the man amidst the tomb.
How appropriate the use of pigs! Like the people in the village, I wallowed amongst the pigs even though I had heard the voice— weakly. But through the intercession of Solanus Casey, I chose to be healed. The miracles of Christ happen totally in an instant, but it took a lot longer for me to make the conversion. I did not have the benefit of Jesus’ presence, body and soul, to cast out my demons. Legion left reluctantly, fighting all the way.
Thank you. Thank God for opening my heart, mind, eyes, and ears to the light. And thanks to Father Casey for being the instrument of God’s forgiveness.
Re: Elephant in the room?
By the way, Vatican II created the more modern, softer church, the one being recalibrated back from some of the new liberalism. It was part of the proceedings of Vatican II that created the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith on December 7, 1965. However, this is the oldest of the Roman Curia and was initially created in 1542—
As the Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Roman and Universal Inquisition!
Links of interest… Elephant in the room… Future Church… Mary Daly exposed the slimy underbelly of religion’s treatment of women… Pope Francis confirms finality of ban on ordaining women priests… Women can be priests… Women deacons… Women want to be deacons, want clergy to speak up about it
Re: Word of God
First he said, “Sacrifice, offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire nor were you pleased with them”— although they were required by the Law. Then he said, “Here I am to do your will” (Heb. 10: 8-9).
Admittedly, you and I are not strict interpreters of the Bible, seeking deeper meaning in what is written and recorded, with greater credence given to Christ’s modern words than to the more ancient oral history that ultimately became the Old Testament. To me, this scripture has strong implications that the Law is a human creation, an effort by man to codify what primitives believed would keep the people faithful (and healthy as regards many of the dietary prohibitions). I read that Jesus tells us, as we know, that all of those sacrifices are meaningless and inadequate for God but that the sacrifice of Jesus is worthy and was the will of God.
I don’t think I mentioned it, but several months ago I heard a priest on NPR talking about the impact of Jesus’ crucifixion on mankind. Contrary to what is espoused, that his death obtained forgiveness of sins for the world, he explained that Jesus left us a legacy of guilt. Starting with the Centurion present at his death, we have come to realize that
- Jesus was a genuinely godly man whose death on the cross was a horrible mistake,
- society had, in fact, done an incredibly evil act in the name of God,
- that act was the result of jealous, greedy, self-serving leaders of the Jews who were acting in a secular role, not a religious one,
- these wicked men had actually duped Pontius Pilate into doing something stupid in abrogating his power, and
- we are left with the burden of that sin, replacing original sin— only magnified.
Christianity, in particular Catholicism, therefore, becomes the practice of penitence for this societal sin; and the Christian religions have been at the center of western societies, imposing much greater morality on governments, peoples, and the way we interact with each other as we continue to seek forgiveness for this most egregious sin against God: the murder of His Son.
In the spirit of God working in mysterious ways, this is the real miracle of the Death and Resurrection, that the burden of guilt we carry is a means to radically alter the behavior of man, to deny our baser instincts, and to work for a higher order. Westerners do not see the same ethos in other societies, and we react with abhorrence to the popular and governmental violence in many non-Christian cultures. But when we examine these societies, we also find the workings of God in such men as Ghandi, Buddha and Confucius.
Yet, when we look at the cultures available to God, only the Jews had an adequate base of Law and the proper behavioral norms to allow Christ to impact the world. He could not have emerged from a Buddhist or Confucian world because there was no central god-spirit to become the conduit between God and man in the form of miracles and wonders. Islam followed Christ four centuries later, acclaimed both Old and New Testaments as divine revelation but also incorporated a looser sexual morality, violence, assassination, hatred of the Jews, and an-end-justifies-the-means philosophy that preclude it from being an overarching moral force in the world. By the way, the reason Islam hates the Jew is because the Jew will not allow himself (herself) to be conquered or subjected, even in captivity or slavery.
“Here I am to do your will”— all the more reason for me to remain penitent and beg for God’s forgiveness.
In checking out some of the points I wrote about earlier, I came across this about Mohammed.
Although it is a Catholic interpretation of Islam, it appears to be reasonably unbiased and factual.
I have found other ideas that are like a Tea Party depiction of Obama, and those I rejected. Nevertheless, the article makes for an interesting read.
Re: Saul to Paul
Today’s first reading, Acts 22:6-16, is one that we’re familiar with and have heard countless times: Saul being blinded by the revelation and light of God, converting and becoming the Apostle Paul, and regaining his sight through the intercession of Ananias. It has led to the religious retreat experience “On the Road to Damascus.”
I’ll never experience it as merely an interesting story again. It is deeply personal: I mirror Saul’s conversion.
Let’s call my awakening “On the Road to Detroit.” Same God, same story, same transformation. And same end of persecution not only of Christ and his will, but also of you.
How will you recognize the spirit of God? Any spirit recognizing Jesus as the Christ who has taken our flesh is of God. But any spirit that does not recognize Jesus is not from God, it is the spirit of the antichrist. You have heard of his coming and even now he is in the world. You, my dear children, are of God and you have already overcome these people, because the one who is in you is more powerful than he who is in the world. They are of the world and the world inspires them and those of the world listen to them. We are of God and those who know God listen to us, but those who are not of God ignore us. This is how we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error as well (1 Jn. 4:2-6).
Easy to misread this and think that John was writing about the Spirit of Jesus in the world. But he is really talking about the spirit of the antichrist that is in the world whereas the Spirit of Christ is in us— not the world. John separates those who are of the world and those who are of God. I get it! And have been there in the world with the worldly. Now I am here with God and the Spirit of Jesus is in me. I work and function in the world as we all have to do. (Even those in cloistered monasteries are not totally divorced from the world). But through the Ignatian discipline, I am seeing God’s work and presence in more and more things for man’s handiworks do not come without the enabling power of God.
Then, the reflection.
Pointing out people’s unwillingness to change, Anthony De Mello comments: “People don’t really want to be cured. What they want is relief; a cure is painful” (Awareness). Jesus would have none of it. His message today is clear, direct, and to the point: “Change your ways. The Kingdom of heaven is near.” No ambiguities there, and no scope for ifs and buts.
Yuppers— in spades! But cures are possible. Pain turns to joy, fear to resolve, doubts to abiding faith, and the Kingdom will be embraced here on earth.
Then WAU focuses on repentance and Matthew 4:17.
Through the intercession of Solanus Casey, I now understand that repentance is profoundly different from being sorry for my sins at Reconciliation. Penitence and penance are galaxies apart. I get it again. Finally! The former is a lifestyle that wraps around profound sorrow for sinfulness as a human; the latter is specific and related to individual sins.
There are a million different ways to witness to the kingdom of God, but one element is a constant in all of them: trust. Nothing testifies to the kingdom more than a heart that is at rest in God, a heart that faces the challenges and trials and even tragedies of life by looking to the Lord for his help and guidance. Nothing speaks more powerfully than a person who takes his or her sadness, anger, grief, and frustration to the Lord and finds the grace to rise above it and know peace.
The point about trusting the Lord as key to repentance and relief from our burdens does not get enough air time. I know what it is like to be untrustworthy— and untrusted. Now I’m reaping the rewards for that behavior, being trustworthy but still untrusted. I begin to feel a portion of God’s pain and disappointment. But I know that it is justified in my case, and I accept it as one of my crosses. It is not justified for God, however. We say, “Give it up to God;” but we could empasize the trust aspect and delve into it more, help others feel safe in God’s embrace. It’s not that people need to rise above it, as was written in WAU, but to accept God’s presence as a partner in carrying the burden: He will not fail to shoulder any and every burden with us. Our good friends are there for us when we need them, regardless of convenience for them. We trust that they will show up for us when we call. And God? He’s always there. We don’t even have to call, just move over and let him ease the weight on us.
Back to Anthony De Mello. Yes, a cure can be painful. But a cure is permanent, and the pain passes. Relief is temporary, the sickness remains, and the cumulative pain is much greater than that experienced in being cured. Relief leaves the disease untreated, masks the symptoms, and hides the illness that is separating us from God. Take the cure: true penitence, rejection of the antichrist present in the world, and accepting Christ’s message to change by trusting in God’s enthusiasm to help us, his children.
One verse past today’s readings:
Now that I am old and my hair is gray, do not abandon me, O God! Be with me while I proclaim your power and might to all generations to come
And so He is. These words of King David ring true for me. And the readings today highlight more elderly figures in scripture. I don’t think of myself as such, but I am. But I am now becoming able to truly speak with the wisdom of years— actually of millennia as I explore becoming a messenger of God.
God is good— all the time! All the time— God is good! Alleluia!
An interesting article on Catholic education.
No way, Jose! At least not in the Diocese of Corpus Christi [where requirements are becoming more and more stringent… and exclusive].
Re: Already fun
The readings today are some of my favorites. Joseph is my hero. He embodies faith and trust in the Lord. He disappears from history after Jesus wanders away from the family and is found teaching in the temple when he was twelve. He must have died before Jesus did because Jesus told John, “Behold your mother;” and John took her into his home as protector, hence, no Joseph. But his willingness to accept the word of the angel and to stand by Mary confirms his absolute love for her. It would be interesting to write a historical novel about the life of Joseph, create the events from his perspective.
Hope you’re having a wonderful day.
Today’s gospel passage (Mt. 1:1-17) gives us the genealogy of Jesus. The meditation in the Word among us elaborates on it, but erroneously. The gospel is almost certainly valid, but the meditation and the interpretation by the Church based on this scripture is wrong.
Joseph, the father-figure in Jesus’ life, was of the House of David; but following a patrilineal descent from Abraham through David does not get us to Jesus. Jesus was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and Mary. Joseph was not the biological father, so there are no genes of David passed down to Jesus through his line. Had Jacob been the father of Mary, the lineage would be there.
It appears to be one of the most perfect examples of the male-centric society of the day and how females were (and are) subservient to male dominance. We can’t have both Mary, ever virgin and Jesus, son of David by Joseph’s line.
If we follow Matthew. But not so fast. There is a different genealogy given in Luke
3:23-38. In the first verse, Luke cites Jesus’ lineage starting with Joseph and then jumping to Jesus’ maternal grandfather, Heli (aka, Joachim, a function of the translation of the name from Hebrew through Aramaic through Greek and Latin to English). And that takes us back to Nathan and David. So both Mary and Joseph were of the House of David. Therefore, Jesus is in fact a legitimate son of David, just via a matrilineal heritage. (You go, girl!)
I also found this bit of absurdity:
For thousands of years, every human child has been born with an inherited sin nature and sinful flesh (Rom. 8:3). This is a result of our sinful first parents, Adam and Eve to whom we are all genetically related. Each generation (without exception) has sinned (Rom. 3:23) and passed on its sinful nature and the curse of death, to each succeeding generation (the biblical doctrine of imputation of sin; Rom. 5:12-19). There is only one exception in history. Although Jesus grew in the womb of Mary, in the same manner as any baby, he was different from all other babies. It appears that he was not genetically related to either Mary or Joseph, for both had an inherited sin nature. Jesus was sinless, and one may reasonably assume without genetic flaw, since he was to serve as the spotless and sacrificial Lamb of God.
Ever since the Creation, each subsequent life has been created at the moment of conception. Scientifically, the new entity begins at the moment the DNA of man and woman combine. This was not the case with Jesus. As a spirit and part of the Trinity, Jesus existed before the creation of the world. In fact, John reveals that he is the Creator
Furthermore, the physical body of Jesus as born in Bethlehem was clearly a special creation of God, placed in Mary’s womb. This is the biblical doctrine of the Virgin Birth.
Thus, neither Christ’s spirit nor his body must have resulted from the DNA of Mary’s egg or from any man’s sperm. Both would have contained inherited genetic defects and the sin nature. As Scripture tells us, Jesus was truly the Second Adam. The first Adam was a special creation of God (not related to any human being), and so was the second Adam (Rom. 5:12-19). Jesus was just as fully human as the first Adam. And just like the first Adam, he had no sin nature, no inherited sin, no sinful flesh, which has always been passed from one generation to the next since Adam and Eve’s sin. He was absolutely pure and without sin— from the day he was born, till the day he died. He had to be— he was the Lamb of God, without blemish or spot, sacrificed for sins (Jn. 1:29).
This ties original sin to genetic code, that it is embedded in the makeup of the human genome. Sorry, I can’t make that leap. If that is true, then by extension of the logic, the very soul of a human would also be encoded. I find it hard to believe that God tweaked the human genetic make-up to insert an original sin gene in there, and I cannot accept the implication that the soul itself is in the code.
The Catholic Church got around the problem by establishing the Immaculate Conception, that Mary was born without original sin and so could not pass it on to Jesus (obviously no problem with original sin in the Holy Spirit). It was a belief from antiquity that Mary was born without original sin, although it was not officially established as Church dogma until December 8, 1854, by Pope Pius IX. But the Immaculate Conception is just as much a leap of logic as is the concept that Jesus had no genetic code from Mary. If God could intervene in Saint Anne’s conception to create a sinless Mary, why did he not do that earlier to create a sinless human species? Which begs the question about why God created original sin in the first place, sin to be passed down.
Conclusion? It’s human contrivance.
But the source of the problem is the belief that we all inherit original sin from the willful actions of Adam and Eve. C’mon! Do we REALLY believe that a baby is born in a state of sin? We tie Baptism to the need to forgive that original sin, but how much more powerful it is to focus on Baptism as the commitment of the child to being raised as priest, prophet and king, as we pledge during the ceremony. Now that’s a Sacrament worthy of God!
Ummm, how about all of the people who lived before John the Baptist introduced the process of washing away original sin? Were they condemned to hell? Including all of the prophets who were obviously favored by God?
I believe we need to refine the original sin concept. I believe that the belief has its origins in the Old Testament of God, the one of fear and domination and fiery justice. Original sin should evolve from that of an inherited blemish on the soul to being an acknowledgment of the very nature of humans, i.e., the tendency to be willful and self-centered, to break the Commandments and to stray from God through our own sins, not those unwittingly inherited through thousands of generations past. Thus, original sin is not an actual stain on the soul at conception and/or birth, but that inherited human trait to challenge authority, to be independent, and, therefore. to sin in thought, word, and deed.
That is better aligned with the loving and forgiving God we worship, resolves all of those issues about Mary’s sinless status in order to be the Mother of God, and would give the Sacraments greater purity without contrivances that are difficult to understand or explain— or justify.
More musings from a voice in the wilderness walking toward the light, seeking wisdom.
From today’s contemplation on the gospel… How extraordinary it is that we exempt the Church from judgment! As if everything in the gospels was about Jewish clergy only. “I am with you always, even to the end of time,” Jesus promised (Mt. 28:20). Does this mean that he always supports us as we are? Does it mean that we can behave any way we like? I dare say it does not. He is with us always, yes, to challenge us even more severely than he challenged the Temple, more severely because we claim to speak in his name.
And those who challenge the Church today are acting as Christ would. Insurrection? Why yes! In the image of our Savior! And to reinforce the message for those who are able to link these things together is today’s psalm.
[The Lord] comes to rule the earth. He will rule the world with justice and the peoples with his constancy (96:13).
Ahem! Stand fast, LCWR! Even King David approved.
I would love to do graduate studies in theology. There is nothing convenient, but I may dig into it.
This link was in today’s Ignatian message. Please take the time to scroll through the photos and read the captions. They are an extraordinary body of work.
In many ways, your work with the camera is like this. You capture the work of men’s hands, and we can extrapolate the people from the photos of the churches from them. You also capture the real people at Mass and other environments, thus creating your own photographic testimony.
I’m so privileged and honored. You have no idea how proud I am of what you are doing. Your utmost for His highest.
[The] fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified their flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also follow the Spirit (Gal. 5:18-25).
Yes, we live “above the law,” not in a nefarious or evil way, when we follow the Spirit. By your magic of threes, I have been distinctly touched three times by the Spirit; and it finally took hold. Yes, I still struggled to free myself from the chains of sin, but you would not let me give up— you would not give up!
The simplest code of law is the Ten Commandments. That encompasses all other details and the voluminous works of man. How marvelous is that? How marvelous that is! But following that law places us above the law, binding ourselves to a strict code frees us from the need for law.
Tell me God does not have a sense of humor! Even in his laws!
Then read Psalm 1:1-2. Lovely, and so nicely reflected in Paul’s writings to the Galatians about a thousand years later.
I see, I see, I see how you get so wrapped up in chasing the threads from one to another. It’s such a beautiful challenge.
Very interesting stuff going on behind the scenes.
Seems the beloved John Paul II, the public picture of inclusiveness, compassion, and humility, felt strongly that the results of Vatican II were being interpreted too liberally, and he started pulling the church back. He and then Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) believed that there was not a need to bring the church into alignment with modern societies and that the conservatives should rule the day in easing back to pre-Vatican ways, leaving the new vernacular translations of the liturgy in place, however.
The American Bishops were the most liberal and outspoken in desires to reform Catholicism, so he reigned them back.
Not addressed by NPR, but fairly obvious, is that in some ways, the sex abuse scandals served a purpose by enabling them to take a hard line, to rid themselves of some liberals, and to gain support for an increased authoritarian role. Pope Benedict took this recidivism to a new level, and I believe that the Vatican-enforced recent revision of the English liturgy is part punishment for being too far astray and part a reflection that the post-Vatican English translation was looser than the counterparts in other nations where more conservative bishops were in charge after Vatican.
The current crop of bishops is more conservative by the design of the Holy See, and that will deepen as long as Benedict is pope. The conservatives have the power, so we can anticipate further regression when his successor is chosen.
We will not see female priests, marriage for priests, or even recognition of contraception. We’re going backwards, and that is by the deliberate intent of the Church hierarchy. The not so cute phrase that Catholicism is a religion untouched by 2,000 years of progress is increasingly accurate. The pope’s use of the Council of American Bishops in usurping the lead of the women religious is intended to put female activists in their place and to suppress the efforts to truly modernize Catholicism. What has not been made obvious is a process whereby the bishops have inserted themselves into the selection of candidates for the female religious orders and are allowing only conservative, strict interpreters of scripture to be chosen for the orders, thus regressing them from within and eroding the power and authority of the leaders. Of course, this is all fully justified by the Bible.
Wives should be subordinate to their husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is head of his wife just as Christ is head of the church, he himself the savior of the body. As the church is subordinate to Christ, so wives should be subordinate to their husbands in everything. (Eph. 5:21-24)
Female religious take Jesus as their spouse, thus becoming subordinate to him (so far, okay). But the pope is the modern emissary of Christ and the successor to Peter, so they are to be subordinate to the pope. (This is where it goes wrong, just as a marriage is not a subordinate, but a supportive partnership.)
I am obliged to observe that the passage from Ephesians was written by St. Paul whose words are not those of Jesus recorded in the gospels.
And I must also observe that the male-dominated hierarchy of two millennia past has evolved into something more egalitarian and enlightened regarding the capabilities of women, that there was no concept of overpopulation where babies are born to die of starvation, that AIDS was not a reality in all nations. Earlier societies needed large families for two reasons: free (slave) labor for the farms/family enterprises and growing masses of the faithful to contribute to the coffers of a controlling religious hierarchy.
Suppression of the conversation does not make the subject go away. In fact, it forms a pressure cooker over a high burner, and it has the potential to explode in the face of the Church. We saw that model in Czarist Russia— it led to the Bolshevik Revolution and the creation of the Soviet Union. We saw a resumption of the pattern in the Soviet Union, leading to the creation of the gulags and the NKVD to spy on the nation’s own people and enforce political correctness, all of which eventually collapsed. The list goes on and on: Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge, South Africa under apartheid, Haiti under Papa Doc Duvalier and the Tonton Macoute.
Now don’t go getting on a bandwagon about these being evil regimes with corrupt leaders— it’s the methodology, not the personalities.
The point is that the use of positional power to enforce a path that is unpopular with the vast majority, is not supported by that majority, and is alienating that majority is self destructive. The successful path lies through open discussion, willingness to evolve in harmony with society, and a celebration of devotion to God. Do we believe that a Church with an Old Testament model of a feared God who takes vengeance on sinners is going to work in today’s world? We speak of Jesus and love and forgiveness and acceptance, yet we reject gays and deny that women can be just as devout and effective as men in the priesthood and refuse to admit that marriage can not only remove the sexual pressures from a celibate clergy but can improve their holiness and enthusiasm to serve the faithful.
The Church is losing membership because it is losing credibility. Do the Bishops and the Vatican think that Catholics are so stupid that they will not see the disconnect between what is being said and what is being practiced? Hello? Catholics, especially younger ones, are voting with their feet! You’d think the Protestant Reformation would be a learning experience for an organization that is so focused on its history and traditions.
Consider Ignatius of Loyola and how he dealt with disagreement.
Sadly, it looks like we gray heads will die without seeing the great transformation unless there is an internal revolt and schism. If there is, I’ll be going with the breakaways. And I would not be a bit surprised if the next Martin Luther wears a habit and goes by the name: Sister.
Tell me, if you know all: Which is the way to the dwelling place of light, and where is the abode of darkness…? (Jb. 38:19).
Reading today’s scripture I feel sort of an envy for Job. I wish I’d had his faith and strength through my days. But it is never to late, and though far from being a Job, my resolve and commitment to God’s way are growing and giving me dignity that is finally deserved in some small measure. After abiding in the dark for so long, I know that God is the way to the dwelling place of light.
Then, in WAU, the message continues.
[The Book of Job] is not the last word on this subject…. In a certain way it is a foretelling of the Passion of Christ (Blessed John Paul II).
Jesus, though innocent, endured bitter suffering, including betrayal by close friends. And, in his suffering, he not only redeemed us, but also revealed the redemptive power implicit in all hardship and pain.
What do you do to reassure someone that a particular drink contains no poison? You drink it yourself first, in front of him. This is what God has done for humanity: he has drunk the bitter cup of the passion…. At the bottom of the chalice, there must be a pearl. We know the name of that pearl: resurrection! (Father Raniero Cantalamessa, papal preacher).
Yes! The persecution of Job by Satan and the questioning by Job’s friends is the foretelling of Jesus. And Jesus was in so many ways the demonstration that the resurrection is not a hollow promise, that we can drink from the cup safely.
I’m thinking about my own blog again. Maybe I’ll take it up after ACTS, although now that I’m done with the talk, the hard preparatory work is done. I think. Maybe get some lessons on WordPress tomorrow?
Re: Early day
Wives should be subordinate to their husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is head of his wife just as Christ is head of the church, he himself the savior of the body. As the church is subordinate to Christ, so wives should be subordinate to their husbands in everything.
This is one of the most infuriating passages in the entire Bible. It is used by so many to continue the repression of females. We know that it is merely reflective of the male-centrist society of that time and that the progress of civilization makes it an artifact that can pretty well be discarded. Yet, the Catholic Church continues to include it in the readings that everyone will hear rather than replace it with something more appropriate. How symbolic that is of the Good Ole Boys’ Club?
But I have given it some thought. This passage that is given the authority of God is not that at all. It is not the Word passed through to us via a prophet of the Old Testament. Nor is it the more modern Word of God given to us by Jesus in the gospels. No, this was written by Paul in his letter to the Ephesians. It is merely an exhortation by one man to a segment of the population in that region. As with everything else in the Bible, it has to be put into context:
- Ephesus was the second largest city in the Roman Empire with about a half million people living there.
- It was a product of the Hellenistic (Greek) culture that had only become Romanized a short time before Jesus lived.
- The Temple of Artemis in Ephesus was considered one of the seven wonders of the world. You can check out some things about Artemis (Greek; Diana, Roman).
- Artemis was a powerful goddess, committed to virginity, and possessive to the point of violence— and, as the goddess of the hunt, had some lethal capabilities.
So, given that context, Paul appears to be recommending to the women to dial it back a bit, break away from the Artemis traditions and adopt the gentler (and, yes, more subordinate) ways of Christians. But, then, the men of Christianity are far removed from the violent and blood-thirsty Roman males; so it is less one-sided than it appears at first glance.
Wouldn’t it be nice if the Church would encourage this interpretation to be spoken from the pulpit? And even better to replace this reading with something that is more pertinent to modern society? Certainly, to disavow its use as a weapon against women! Of course, they would have to WANT to do that.
Re: dotMagis – Ignatian spirituality
The series of letters to an atheist are marvelous. I encourage taking the time to read through them. Can’t be skimmed easily. But very insightful and thought-provoking. In the last one, the link appears to Ignatius’s and Saint Teresa’s methods.
Once we realize that our words will always fail to say enough, we can move to a position of listening. Awed at the sheer existence of the world, standing in wonder at its gratuity and beauty, we may begin to listen to see if the Author has anything to say to us, if the Creator is attempting to solicit our friendship and draw us into some type of relationship. All of theology builds upon this position: the human being as an enabled listener who awaits, patiently, a word of revelation (Duns, 2012).
The questions are delightful as is the journey to discovering that there is an answer but not an explanation. “Why is there anything?” is better stated as “Why is there NOT nothing?” I also love the concept that the Creator of “everything” cannot be part of the everything that was created but must of necessity be outside that realm. Every entity owes existence to some prior entity until we get back to nothing, so there must be something that created something out of nothing.
I need to finish up with the Interior Castle readings, but it looks like Thomas Aquinas’s
Summa Theologica is on my reading list now.
Re: Holy Family Sisters’ blog entry
If you’ve been following developments within the U.S. Catholic Church, you know that there’s been a spat between the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR: American nuns and religious laity) and the Church hierarchy, from the Pope down to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Many issues are involved, and a history of the argument is way beyond the scope of this blog page. Some of the elements include:
- Not only LCWR’s failure to parrot the Vatican’s strong position against abortion, but also support for contraception as a necessity to cope with the earth’s burgeoning population, a proliferation of STDs, and acceptance of the reality of practices among the faithful that now casts them into the darkness of being habitual sinners.
- Questioning the relevance and value of priestly celibacy in the face of continuing sexual scandals in the Church.
- Encouraging the acceptance of homosexuality and gay marriage, recognizing that this is not threatening to heterosexual marriage.
- Questioning the prohibition against females attaining the priesthood and pointing out that this is a relic of society that’s persisted for 2,000 years.
The Vatican took a dim view of these and placed the LCWR under the oversight of three American Bishops as representatives of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, previously known as the Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Roman and Universal Inquisition dating back to 1542.
The LCWR met to consider how to deal with this, and their report was published today.
Here’s the heart of it as I read it:
The assembly instructed the LCWR officers to conduct their conversation with Archbishop Sartain from a stance of deep prayer that values mutual respect, careful listening, and open dialogue. The officers will proceed with these discussions as long as possible, but will reconsider if LCWR is forced to compromise the integrity of its mission.
I wondered if the Archbishop would deal with them and embrace the same values the LCWR officers were bound to exhibit? If he were closed, tried to be authoritative and dictatorial, and was not receptive to the open dialogue, this would clearly show that LCWR will reconsider the conversation rather than compromise.
Good for them!
Whether acknowledged by the Church or not, the support for LCWR is widespread, or at least for their pertinent questions even by those who have never heard of them. We need to have this conversation, publicly, courageously, honestly, and without rancor because it’s not about God!
Instead, the dilemma is about man, in particular men of the cloth who rule with an iron hand and perceive dialogue as a challenge to their positional power.
The Church hierarchy fails to realize what has been obvious to government and business for decades, that the only way to be free is to free others; and the only legitimate source of power is to empower others. The more freedom and power one gives to others, the more both are returned— willingly, enthusiastically, and loyally.
Repression of dissent and failure to engage opposing parties in dialogue is a recipe for certain revolution. The LCWR is being denied the right to intelligent thought and is being told to be quiet and obey, even though Catholic doctrine may be the wrong thing for the human race.
Did we learn nothing from Martin Luther?
Unfortunately, rather than engaging or attacking, Archbishop Sartain sidestepped the issues completely.
The National Catholic Reporter perspective is also enlightening.
The Church has created a crisis by distancing itself from reality and society. This is a self-induced wound, and the Church just may bleed to death.
We will see how this conversation goes when and if it continues, but the imperium of the Church is alienating many and faces a schism. Denial will not make it go away.
Again, this is neither about God nor about faith!
Links of interest… Band of Sisters (documentary)… Best choice for pope? A nun… CACG salutes the nuns on the bus… National Catholic Reporter: Bishop: Total
re-examination of Catholic faith, culture needed (May 28, 2012)… Nuns on the bus… Women and spirit
Re: Ignatian Spirituality
I know you don’t always read the daily from Thinking Faith, but Andrew Pinsent’s “Jesuits and the ‘God particle'” (August 3, 2012) is a must-read.
So, the Jesuits developed the “Big Bang!” Yet some physicists say it proves there is no God. Seems to me it kind of validates Genesis, only about fourteen billion years ago rather than as the creationists want us to believe. Not incompatible— I suspect God’s days are not exactly driven by the rotation of this miserable little planet.
Very cool stuff!
So, after reading the WAU meditation which spoke of the death of Joseph, I went on a quest. No firm answer, but here is the best summary.
A few days ago, in one of the meditations or readings, I came across a reference to the tomb of Mary being located in the Garden of Gethsemane. Coincidence with the agony of Jesus, or another of God’s ironic twists? But it made me wonder why there was a tomb given the Assumption. Hmmm. Well, we still have the sepulcher where Jesus was laid even though it was empty after the Resurrection. But I thought Mary was assumed at or before the instant of death.
Not so. Like Jesus, three days elapsed. In the 3rd century, the tomb was believed to be in Gethsemane. Later it was determined that she was buried in the Kidron Valley, near the Mount of Olives, just outside of Jerusalem. Here’s a really good summation.
I’m starting to think it’s time we made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Not sure if I want to tag along on a tour or put together one of our own. Benefits to both approaches.
I can get serious about it.
What say you?
This morning I received an email with a video purportedly reflecting the values of the Catholic Church. Thinly veiled in religion, the video was right wing Republicanism, definitely Tea Party, but not what I would hope reflects mainstream Catholicism or Americana. It was too biased, too political, too anti-administration. It nagged at me all morning. Then my lunchtime reading got my attention after dealing with that video. One of my professional journals had an article on the subject of ethics that made things click.
The two most common theories of ethics are as follows:
- Consequentialism, or the utilitarian approach: We should make decisions that result in the greatest good for the greatest number of people.
- Universalism, or the deontological approach: We should always do what is right, regardless of the associated outcomes.
The problem lies in that ethical behavior adopts principles from religion, culture, upbringing, society, personal convictions, education, and many psychological influences. There is tremendous divergence. A big, ethical dilemma for one person is not an issue for another.
Business analysts like to simplify the matter by forgetting the formal theories and asking two questions: (1) Would I do this if my family knew about it? (2) Would I do this if it were published in tomorrow’s newspaper?
The recent actions of the Catholic Church to turn back some of the advances brought about by the Second Vatican Council are troubling to many, myself included. The theories of ethics give some insight into why this is so and why that video bothered me so much.
The church (small c) is the body of Christ, the congregation of believers. Although referred to in the singular, it is a collective for the millions who comprise that body. Emotionally and rationally, therefore, the leaders of that church should make decisions based on the utilitarian approach to benefit the largest number of the faithful.
However, the Church (capital C) is also an organization with thousands of years of tradition, authority, and responsibility. Although representing a collective, it is a singular entity that has its origin in the designation of Peter as the rock. The authority of this entity can be traced back through Biblical history to the Ten Commandments, the basis of modern society’s legal systems, and the clearest, most concise definition of right and wrong that has ever been created (perhaps in and of itself sufficient cause for belief in a Higher Being). By this definition of Church and its foundation on God’s laws and Biblical history, decisions should be based only on what has been clearly defined as right regardless of the outcomes.
So, the Church is driven by different fundamental principles, depending on how that church is defined. What the Second Vatican Council did was soften the differences by encouraging involvement of the faithful in the celebration of the Mass and by adoption of vernacular wording that was inclusive and welcoming. It expanded the management of the organization itself through participation of lay expertise, and it engaged in open dialog between itself and other faiths. We felt that there was a oneness between the greatest good and right, that we were being acknowledged as the church, that we were brothers and sisters in faith and practice.
What has taken place in recent years is a more rigid delineation of right and wrong. Despite the infinite shades of gray that are created by the previously mentioned influences on ethical behavior, the hierarchy of the Church has resumed defining matters as black and white. An increasingly universalism approach has been taken. As evidenced by the imposition of the rewritten English Missal, the clergy are once again Fathers who exert authority over their children. The Church (capital C) is right, and that’s it. Further discussion is neither invited nor tolerated.
And this is where the Church’s position starts to fall apart.
Is it right to cover up the actions of priests who molested children for decades to protect the image of the Church, to fail to confess those sins, to ignore justice and the law— the law of God and of man? Is it right to bury the financial mechanics of the Church behind obfuscation and religious immunity? Is it right to place the female religious orders under the oversight of three (male, of course) bishops to attempt to silence some of our most dedicated, intelligent and thoughtful servants? Is it right to clutch tradition so tightly that we strangle innovation and relevance to society? Is it right to watch not only our young people fail to embrace Catholicism, but also to watch our elders with decades of commitment turn away in disgust? The lip service to right belies the legitimacy of the Church’s hierarchy to dictate that there be no shades of gray and that the greatest good is always subservient to that right— but only as the hierarchy defines right when and as it pleases. That’s the same kind of rigidity and intolerance that we decry in fundamentalist Islam where infidels are beheaded for belonging to the wrong sect, merely a matter of degree, not character.
- It is NOT ethical to deny birth control to people and allow the population of nations and even the entire human race to breed itself into starvation.
- It is NOT ethical to deny humans preventive measures (condoms) against AIDS and bring about widespread illness and death because that has the side effect of controlling conception.
- It is NOT ethical to transfer pedophile priests to another parish where their predation is allowed to continue— and be covered up.
- It is NOT ethical to fail to engage in dialogue and manage a thoughtful, meaningful evolution of our church in harmony with that of society.
- It is NOT ethical to claim that religious freedom in America is being jeopardized (when it is not) and to deny medical insurance to millions of low-income families when there is a simple, proven model operating in Hawaii that solves the dilemma.
Sorry, Father, but “because I say so” doesn’t get it.
We obviously have a real and painful credibility gap here. There are a lot of us Catholics taking a long, hard look at the Church (capital C). It’s time that the Church did the same to itself. We don’t need a Third Vatican Council, just an understanding and acceptance that the Second Council was on the right track.
We need to embrace, not suppress, those efforts once again to recapture the minds and hearts of the faithful who are our Body of Christ and who want to remain within the church.
Link of interest… Fifty years later: Revisiting Vatican II
Re: Reading (continued)
So, after I read the article on ethics, I spent quite a bit of time on the rant and deleted a bunch of stuff that I wanted to write, since it didn’t fit or was too much of an attack instead of an exhortation.
Then did some work, picked up the magazine again, turned the page, and—
This one’s on integrity in leaders, written by a guy who had been a priest in a monastic order for fifteen years before entering business. Wow! Is God sending me material or what? This one is great, and he included his email. I want to engage him in the big conversation. He’s got one REALLY ironic comment embedded in the article. I’m bringing it home for you to read. I’ll know you got to it when I hear you laugh. Insightful stuff, but merely puts into words what you live and have taught me.
And later on, another article on ethics that has a four-cell matrix that NAILS the church! Although kind of a theoretical essay, it also draws a picture of what has been happening to me during my transformation over the last few months. Not there yet, but progressing.
Having a conceptual framework developed by others to wrap my personal reality around is a very powerful and positive thing for me.
Less lip service, more life service.
Thank you for helping me on this journey.
Re: Bible Diary
So often, when others speak, our brain is filled with what we are going to say in response, in elaboration, in challenge, or in anger. We do not really listen so that the mind and heart is allowed to hear the other. We’re filled with our own noise.
But this is what Teresa of Avila really means by listening to the silence. It means making an empty space in ourselves so that God can fill it with His love, His imagery, His peace.
For me, it also means emptying myself of sins and evil presence, creating that space for the Holy Spirit to reside in me, to allow me to listen to Jesus, to hear God’s voice. That’s the big change for me, to not be filled with self but to create that space, that invitation to enter and be present, to truly listen to the Word.
What a marvelous image! I’ll use it over and over again. And I’ll make sure there is space for Him.
Miracles so often happen in the midst of brokenness, inadequacy, and failure. In fact, those experiences would seem to be God’s preferred location for the work of transformation.
Then: “[We] meet someone who is vain, ambitions, even arrogant, and certainly of dubious moral standing.”
And: “The man… gradually discloses a history of vulnerability and imperfection. The more the vulnerability is revealed and acknowledged, the more the power of divine light increases, penetrating the brokenness to create the rainbow.”
A few thoughts: How ironic yet truly miraculous that I was educated by the Jesuits in high school, still consider that the real root of my intellectual abilities, was separated from their teaching and influence for decades by a lifestyle of idiocy and sin; yet, through the intercession of a dead Capuchin monk and good friends, have been brought back into the fold.
The words of paragraph two I copied above are true. I felt it in Detroit, and it grows daily.
I know God is smiling with us as we give thanks and praise for His intercession.
God kept opening doors for me, and I kept closing them. Finally, I walked through into His room and found there are more doors to more beautiful rooms that are opened to me. Jesus is walking with me, giving me constant counsel. Solanus is coming along with us, and he’s closing the doors behind us. He’s my doorkeeper! We’re not going back, only forward into the light.
You took on a nearly lost cause— me. You persevered through years of rejection, and you have prevailed. I am far from polished, one of the rough-cut crosses we saw in a garage one night, but I am taking on the shape of the husband you asked for in your letter to Santa.
My response… I disagree. We need to remember. Our past keeps us on our toes not because it’s waiting to pounce on us if we waver, but because it’s what keeps us safe from falling off the edge if we get too close.
Re: López (continued)
Don’t let the sins live on in your memory! Let them go!
Although remembered, the sins must die; and we must let the sins go so they no longer have power over us.
It’s the same with resentments. Once we let them go, they no longer own us.
Do we remember the sins? Yes, of course, and we remain penitent. But being penitent does not mean we have not done penance and been forgiven. Being penitent means we constantly renew our commitment to never repeat the sins; but, instead of begging for forgiveness, the penitent is now thanking God for that forgiveness. Instead of doing penance, we are doing good deeds. Penance looks back on sin; penitence looks forward to glory. And doing those good deeds for the right reasons, as a means to convey blessings to others and share our good fortune with others and to encourage them to join in praising Him.
We have to remember the dark to appreciate the light; but we have to focus on and experience joy by living in that light, not dwelling in the dark. We have to take the life out of the sins so they remain dead and powerless. And that’s what I mean about the myth of euphoric recall. Once the sin is truly recognized for what it is and acknowledged and rejected, there is no pleasure in the memory, only hurt. It is neither helpful nor healthy to wallow in the misery of the sin, but it is marvelous and uplifting to revel in enlightened freedom from the dark burden and to experience the intense pleasure of God’s grace and presence in us throughout the day.
It’s not a half full or half empty thing. It’s all about being completely filled with God and there being no room for the demons.
You’re entitled to disagree, of course. But this is what works for me and is keeping me enthusiastically on the right path.
My response… Yes. In the classroom it’s disliking not the child, but the misbehavior.
Re: Wow WAU
This is incredible! Wow! WAU! Wow! Accepting forgiveness is not easy. But it also is not free, as I now really understand. It means being penitent for the rest of my life so that I can celebrate that forgiveness for eternity. But this is a wonderful picture of how it works.
And also check out Psalms 50:14-15. It was the same in the time of David as it was when Jesus walked among us, and as it is today.
Having a great day! Hope yours is peaceful.
The Bible Diary has a nice translation of part of today’s gospel.
As you enter a house, wish it peace. If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; if not, let your peace return to you (Mt. 10:12-13).
It does not say to curse the house or wish it ill, merely let your peace return to you. That is perfectly Jesus, and much richer than the Good News Translation. I really like that way of phrasing it.
In Hosea 11:2, referring to Israel, the Lord said, “The more I called them, the farther they went from me.” But in the WAU meditation, the response of God’s children, aka Israel, is extrapolated to the way children tend to respond to parents. How true it is for our children. It goes on in verses four and five.
I drew them to me with affection and love. I picked them up and held them to my cheek; I bent down to them and fed them. They refuse to return to me….
It makes me want to cry.
Re: How are you doing?
By engaging in deep, meaningful self-examination and penitence, I’ve discovered that the concept of euphoric recall is fatally flawed. By that I mean that if the memories of doing wrong and evil causes euphoria, creates pleasure in the mind of the recaller, then there has been no conversion or commitment to changed behavior, certainly no alteration of mental and emotional processes. However, if the slightest recall causes pain and self-loathing and instantly initiates a series of prayers for forgiveness, renewed vows to forever avoid such behavior again, and a powerful desire to never experience such recall again, then there is reason to believe that the person has in fact undergone some kind of transformation. Character? Soul? Total change of heart? Call it what you will, but the response is radically different from that one known as euphoric, and it is neither pleasant nor enjoyed.
You told me long ago that it was baloney, and now I know that you were right.
So, there are no thoughts or temptations. Neither has anything to offer but misery.
It is the best write-up about the examen I have seen. I’ll want to read it over and over again. For me, the key point is that we examine consciousness, not conscience, and look to connect out consciousness with God throughout the day in every action and thought. Conscience is a relationship to following good versus evil, the mental and emotional aspect of behavior, but not as pervasive.
Welling up in the consciousness and experience of each of us are two spontaneities, one good and for God, another evil and not for God. These two types of spontaneous urges and movements happen to all of us. So often the quick-witted, loose-tongued person who can be so entertaining and the center of attention and who is always characterized as being so spontaneous is not certainly being moved by and giving expression to the good spontaneity.
If only intellect and energies could be channeled!
Anyway, I thought you would like Aschenbrenner’s perspective. I think I want to get the entire publication— I have a short list of things I’d like to get from the Loyola Press, and this is one of them.
A hard heart is able to prevent anything and everything from entering the mind; it is like a deadlock. It says that black is white and white black, and so it cuts you off from the truth. When you are cut off from the truth, what is left? Pure blind will alone. It is like switching off the headlights of your car and then driving fast in pitch darkness. Dangerous? Yes, very. There is nothing so dangerous as to close your eyes to the truth. Even if the truth is sometimes terrible, it is infinitely better to look at it than to close your eyes. You can learn something while your eyes (and your mind) are still open but with closed eyes, you hurl yourself to destruction, bringing others with you.
I was immediately reminded of your comments on penitence, the need to review the sins to remain aware of them and to avoid repeating them. Until very recently, I did not differentiate between penitence and penance; but I have it now. And I get the need to remain ever vigilant, and that has to be based on awareness; and, in that way, the past bad behavior does help control the present good by being so sorry for that evil that I will never venture in that direction again.
But there was something else in the reflection that nagged at me. Ah, then I saw the link: “It is infinitely better to look at it….” That is very much the point of the fourth step in the twelve-step program: We make a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves. And that is unpleasant, painful. It’s so much easier to simply accept God’s forgiveness, push it all into the dark recesses of the past, and forget it. In essence, closing my eyes, making it go away. Nyet! That merely risks that it will be repeated because the memory of the pain experienced and caused fades over time. But if a wound is not allowed to heal completely, it remains painful and we are constantly aware of it— and try to protect it, to prevent further injury. Thus healing becomes a lifelong process, just as the addict is recovering but never cured. And fearless becomes the operative word— ignore the pain, refuse to descend into denial and dishonesty, and accept the truth as it is revealed. Then I am able to use that for leverage to insure the path is never followed again.
This constant examination, my own personal form of the Ignatian examen is working. I’m starting to get it. You’ve been doing this for many years, so you’re well ahead of me. Your routine is still a new experience for me, but I am really beginning to appreciate the power and beauty of it. I’m hoping to become too Catholic very soon!
My stone cross is out of my pocket and on the desk in front of me. I note that there is a lightning bolt where Jesus’ head would be, and the stone has a marking that reminds me of the wound in his side. There is the image of Jesus in this cross for me. I am mindful of my sins and use that mindfulness to remember that Jesus suffered and died for those sins. I know that if He had the strength and will to do that for me, I have the strength and will to honor you in His name. And I do.
“There are two guarantees of a wise rule of conduct: the thought before action and self-command afterwards” (St. Ignatius of Loyola).
© Deli Lanoux, Ed.D. and Shared thoughts…, 2008. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Deli Lanoux, Ed.D. and Shared thoughts… with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.