Blessed Paradox

I received a telephone call this morning. I was not quite awake, and distracted on top of that, and I didn’t catch the caller’s name right away. Okay, I didn’t really catch his name until he was giving me his website and email, and the conclusion of our conversation. It was that of a fairly well-known priest.  The idea that a “celebrity priest” would be calling me for any reason still has me greatly amused, several hours later.

In the course of the conversation, he told me about his writing, and explained a bit of the theology behind it. It made sense, and I’m going to go looking for one or two of his books. There’s always that effort to find a balance —

Like, the amazing paradox that Jesus is our friend. . . even as He is also the Creator of the cosmos.  Not a buddy who’ll hold your beer and laugh while you attempt something amazing stupid-risky and possibly sinful, but the friend who’ll set your beer on the ground, grab you by both shoulders so you have to look him in the face, and tell you, “Don’t be an ass!”

Aslan is not a tame lion, after all.

We need to remember both — especially when we go to Mass/church. Dress appropriately, behave like we’ve got some sense, teach our children to be quiet and to be reverent, too.  It’s a good thing to view Jesus as our friend, with all the intimacy and warmth that conveys — but we err if we forget just Who it is Who has deigned to call us “friends.”

 

 

Reading St. Paul

A lot of people don’t like Paul. I love him. I find him not a bigot or a sexist, but a great loving teddybear of a man who is devoted to helping the Gentile converts live fully as Christians.

Remember: the Gentiles weren’t “protestant Jews” but pagans — a polytheistic, brutal and depraved people. When they accepted Christ, they embraced a paradigm shift of a magnitude I don’t think we in the Christian/postChristian era can fathom.  Paul is devoted to teaching and encouraging and perfecting those people in that conversion.

When you find yourself bristling at something Paul says, like women keeping silence, or about subjecting herself to her husband, think back and say to yourself, “Okay — these people were former pagans.  How had they lived? And what is Paul telling them to do differently? How is his counsel making them nobler, more Christlike people?”

Sometimes the answer might pop into your mind right away, sometimes you have to resolve to just wait and let the connection come later.

On Recovering the Culture

Last night, in my blog post, I said I think our culture is past the point of no return, and that we are presently on a Search and Rescue mission. I then woke up, in the middle of the night, and I think it’s the Holy Spirit reminding me that He transformed civilization under more daunting conditions, 2,000 years ago, and will do it again —

BUT BUT BUT BUT BUT
1) We must recover our zeal for Christ, a zeal to match that of the early Christians, who carried the Gospel through the entire world, even when doing so meant their physical death.

2) And men must step up and lead the way. We women have a role to play, but we cannot do a man’s job with a man’s strength and skill. Men *must* exert their physical and moral strength and courage, and make a public stand for Christ. Without masculine leadership, Christians cannot recover our influence in the world.

 

Devotional Bible reading Part Four

“Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ,” said St. Jerome. So let’s look at this foundational step toward a devotional life: a daily devotional reading of Scripture.

I’ve already discussed choosing a translation here, and choosing a Bible here, and there’s nothing I’d change about that, really. If you’re a Protestant, I know the NIV is very popular right now, but the NASB (New American Standard) ranks better on translation accuracy, is also a pleasure to read and is easy to navigate. There are still the die-hard King James adherents, but even in the nearly-200 years since what we know as the KJV was updated, language has undergone enormous shifts which can be misleading:  I once heard a preacher give a sermon on “The Prodigal’s other son” — he didn’t realize the Prodigal Son (not Prodigal’s son) was about the younger son, or that a “prodigal” is another name for a money-waster.  “Suffer the children to come unto me” is another example, as “suffering” means something completely different there than in our modern usage.  No, if you’re going to read the Scriptures, you’d better know the words it contains, so unless you’re a language or literature scholar, I’d bypass the KJV.

So how to begin?  A lot of people follow a Lectionary schedule, and read the passages marked for the day’s Mass readings.  This is a good place to begin –

However, I believe we need to have a sense of Scripture in context, of a Book as a whole, which is how it was written — which means we need to engage in a Book study.  Each Book of the Scriptures (and Bible comes from the word biblia, which is the root for most European language’s word for library: bibliothèque) was written independently of all the others.

So I’d recommend you choose a Book of Scripture, begin with Chapter 1, Verse 1, and read it through. Start with one of the Gospels, perhaps, or one of the shorter books of the New Testament. And get a sense of the whole message contained in each Book.

I suggest you read the Psalms and Wisdom Literature separately.  The Divine Office, or Liturgy of the Hours, is built from the Psalms; you might read a Psalm a day (or a part of a long Psalm), and a chapter or a set number of verses in your other reading.

For the time being, I recommend avoiding, in the Old Testament, the Books of Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy (which are the Law, the Census, and speeches of Moses), while you get a stronger sense of the drama of the Historical narratives (Genesis, Exodus, Joshua-Esther). The Wisdom literature and Prophets are easier to keep focused on, too.  As you are becoming grounded, you can read a few verses of Leviticus, Numbers, or Deuteronomy as an introduction, or for research — I just suggest you postpone reading straight through those, for the present; because they’re not narrative, they can be discouraging — just what you do NOT want to encounter, early on in your reading!

In the New Testament, I would likewise suggest waiting before tackling Revelations.

I also recommend you pace yourself. I believe it’s better to read for comprehension and retention, and a “Read the Bible through in a year” program just doesn’t lend itself to those.

Reading the Bible doesn’t have to be daunting or intimidating or mysterious; in fact, it’s quite a thrilling endeavor.

New Year, Resolutions?

January 1, 2019. Another year, and the push to make new resolutions for a “New Year, New You” for the coming twelve months, mixed with the jokes about broken resolutions and the unending cycle of same.

For us as Catholics, the year begins with Mass – not for a new year, but to honor the power of the Incarnation through the fiat of Mary, in a grand Solemnity. I cantored for a local Mass last night, and played at the chapel for another, this morning. This is a very good way to begin.

We are in a grave time of crisis, and we have important choices to make. Our culture is running mad. Children are being exploited as sex objects, even applauded for being transgender or a drag queen on national television, for all our children to see and to think should be imitated or looked up to.  Local libraries and bookstores are promoting reading hours with drag queens — again, to influence our children and to lure them into a false glamour, to rob them of their innocence.

There is an increasing push to criminalize reparative therapy:  the gay lobby insists, very loudly, that it is impossible to change one’s gender preference and that reparative therapy is abuse of a criminal degree — while they insist that one can overcome biology to change one’s own gender.

Public schools are promoting these ideologies, and even taking children to begin the process of “transitioning” — without parental consent.  Parents who oppose these manipulations of their children are being charged with criminal acts and losing their children to the State.

It’s being reported than nearly 14,010,000 babies were aborted in the past year.

The hallmarks of paganism are human sacrifice and sexual depravity.

More and more, Christians and those who hold traditional moral and social values are being scorned, persecuted, punished in the public square.

And even our beloved Church, which is supposed to be the safeguard of all things holy, and the example of sanctity in the world, is embroiled in one controversy and crisis after another — as princes of the Church protect one another from accountability for grave misdeeds, and promote individuals who defy Church teaching in order to promote deviance in the name of “love” and “acceptance.”

We can’t even take our own pontiff seriously, any more, for whatever words he might utter about homosexuals being kept from the priesthood, he promotes and protects the apologists for the homosexual lifestyle and punishes those who actually hold faithful to the Magisterium.

So, in this coming year, I propose that we must be resolved:

  1. to make an oblation, an offering, of our lives to God.
  2. to live faithfully to Christ, even in isolation, even in defiance of the tsunami of atheism and insanity that is pouring in on us.
  3. to know our Faith better, day by day, through diligent study of the Scriptures and works of the Magisterium (beginning, in conjunction with the Scriptures, the Catechism)
  4. to foster a greater love for Christ, through an increase in prayer and devotional time, so that the whole of our life might be a continual, unceasing prayer and praise
  5. to practice the Works of Mercy – which includes the often-uncomfortable Works of rebuking sinners and instructing the ignorant
  6. to guard our minds and hearts against the influence of the Evil One
  7. to do all in our power to protect our homes and families from evil influence
  8. for those who are married to pray together as a couple, and those with children to incorporate the family rosary and prayer in your daily routine
  9. for those who are not married to find prayer partners with whom you will unite in prayer and service, holding one another up to God and to accountability
  10. to serve faithfully in the Church Militant in that sphere of life to which we are called, and in which we daily live.

Frankly, I think our culture has gone past the point of no return. I don’t believe we can recover the innocence and purity of past generations.  I believe we are now on a Search And Rescue mission.

Let us do our very best.

Vivat Christus Rex!

Advent, 2018

Tonight marks the beginning of a new liturgical season, with the Vigil for the First Sunday of Advent. I love this time of year!  Even more than January 1, with the calendar’s New Year, this is a season of reflection, evaluation, course-correction, and preparation.

For what? For living our lives more faithfully for God.

I am taking stock of my various roles and responsibilities (a couple of new ones, this year) and looking at how to be more effective in performing them. From my housekeeping (always a weak point) to time management (too many games on Facebook) to the sacramental life (how long has it been since I went to Confession? It’s important to confess venial sins, too, before they grow into a nasty problem), the way I treat people I encounter during the day . .  everything counts.

After all, Advent is the time to “Prepare ye the way of the Lord” — not just as He is born in Bethlehem but also as the King of Kings — and Lord of our hearts.

 

Stewardship for the Rest of Us

The talk I’d like to be able to give to my parish:

Over the past several weeks, we’ve heard some inspiring stories from some wonderful people who serve our parish in a variety of ways. These stories have celebrated the goodness of God and challenged us to give back to Him from the blessings with which He has gifted us.

But some of us are living a different sort of life. We’re broke. Our health is poor. We are weighed down with grief and bereavement, and sometimes with estrangements. In a variety of ways we are just barely hanging on for dear life. We’d like to give something to God, but all we can see in ourselves is emptiness, pain, and lack.

My dear friends, when this is all you can see, then this is what you give.  Catholics have a wonderful saying: “Offer it up.” We are a people who believe that God is not limited by our limitations. We are a people who base our lives on the hope of a Divine Economy which takes our sufferings and transforms them into something redemptive.   And out of our brokenness, God will give us something we can give back to Him.

Many years ago, I knew a precious woman who was so crippled with arthritis that, when her youngest child was born, she was unable to hold him. But this same woman had a rich and powerful prayer life, and she was an effectual intercessor. Your sufferings may prevent you from teaching CCD, your poverty may prevent your contributing to the offering basket as you would like — but God will open to you ways of serving Him:  in prayer. In counseling and comforting. In encouraging.  All our gifts are needed to fulfill the purpose of the Body of Christ. Even the ones you don’t know you possess.

So begin where you are. “Lord, I am empty, so far as I can see. But please take my life and use it for Your Glory. I make an offering — an oblation! — of my life to You.”

Amen.