Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Don't Give Me What I Want

Have you ever been watching a show, or heard a song where someone said, "God Bless America" or something similar? It should make the pious heart uncomfortable, but not because there is anything wrong with a certain patriotism. Instead, we are made uncomfortable because we know that God is bigger than whatever we imagine to be truly majestic, noble, or otherwise worth preserving.

God is Being as such. If you perfectly understand that which you worship, it is not God you worship. If God perfectly agrees with you on every matter, you're not talking with God. I get the sense from some people that God is more like a powerful, benevolent pet dog, instead of the Almighty.

As for us, we don't make sense to ourselves. You might be hung up some way, and lamenting that you'll never get out of some situation, or stop doing x, but it's not really about that thing, is it? We need to open up to God, tell him what we fear, because that's what's really holding us back. We theologians have a saying: You can't give what you don't have. No one should ever say in any final way, "I need to be more loving, etc." because you cannot simply flip a switch, and be what you are not. We need God to fill us. We need to experience Him, and then we can share from the overflow of His abundance.

The worst parts of ourselves are right on top. True, a lot of people spend a lot of energy appearing to be good on the surface. Yet our instincts are never far. "I need a drink," "I need pie," and the like are pretty obvious. Ever wondered what's underneath?

Underneath are the great desires, which all boil down to one: to know, and to be known by the only One who matters. Once we start talking to God, He uncovers these desires, and lets them run free.

Indeed, Lord, do not give me what I think I want, for what I think I want is far less than what You know is for my good.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

What Is "The Gospel"?

I see it all the time: "Now that's the gospel!" Or the reverse. It seems like people know what they are talking about, but I noticed earlier in my Christian life that "the gospel" happened to correspond to whatever moral sense of self a person wanted to project.

We should say that the gospel is that which pertains to the revelation of Jesus Christ. That seems reasonable. It however becomes important for us to know the difference between revelation and human opinion, and to know the means by which we receive revelation. So long as Christians--Catholic and non-Catholic alike--disagree on the content of revelation, and on the means of receiving it, it is profitable and urgent to engage in ecumenical dialogue concerning those matters where we differ.

Ecumenism is dialogue for the purpose of reaching agreement in matters of revealed truth, whether faith or morals. It is not merely a celebration of those areas where we already agree, nor is it the act of pretending we already agree. Our confessions and practices plainly say otherwise. Let it be marked by charity, friendship, and genuine affection, but these are not compatible with deception, or willful refusal to acknowledge the truth of our disunity.

Sooner or later, if we care about revealed truth, we will say, "This is the gospel, and this is not." No technology mixed with friendship will allow us to evade the fact of mutually exclusive tenets.

Note to Catholics: If the universal Catechism says one thing, and the Bishop of Rome himself says another, go with the Catechism, especially after all attempts to harmonize it with what we know come up short. And yet, do so with trembling. He's the Vicar of Christ, and we are not. Moreover, we should be unafraid to acknowledge our great affection for him as the shepherd of our souls. One burden this places upon you and me is to pray for him, believing firmly that the Holy Spirit will guide the Church into all truth.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Now Hear This!

Under the heading, "Separated Or Divorced Persons Who Have Not Remarried," I give you Familiaris Consortio, 83 in its entirety:

"Various reasons can unfortunately lead to the irreparable breakdown of valid marriages. These include mutual lack of understanding and the inability to enter into interpersonal relationships. Obviously, separation must be considered as a last resort, after all other reasonable attempts at reconciliation have proved vain.

Loneliness and other difficulties are often the lot of separated spouses, especially when they are the innocent parties. The ecclesial community must support such people more than ever. It must give them much respect, solidarity, understanding and practical help, so that they can preserve their fidelity even in their difficult situation; and it must help them to cultivate the need to forgive which is inherent in Christian love, and to be ready perhaps to return to their former married life.

The situation is similar for people who have undergone divorce, but, being well aware that the valid marriage bond is indissoluble, refrain from becoming involved in a new union and devote themselves solely to carrying out their family duties and the responsibilities of Christian life. In such cases their example of fidelity and Christian consistency takes on particular value as a witness before the world and the Church. Here it is even more necessary for the Church to offer continual love and assistance, without there being any obstacle to admission to the sacraments." [emphasis mine]

We should be rightly solicitous that the teaching about remarriage after divorce be upheld, and God willing, more deeply understood. But we should also remember this teaching: that it is the ongoing adultery of remarriage that constitutes a grave offense against charity, and not the fact of having been divorced. I heard of a beloved deacon denied the sacrament after being abandoned, and it broke my heart. The teaching from Pope St. John Paul II is clear enough here that such misunderstandings should not have taken place.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Christ The King

There are hundreds of would-be claimants to the throne of Jesus Christ the King. Maybe even in our own hearts. I used to worry more than a Christian should. I would never appear to be a worrier; I'm much too practiced at piety for that. And I realized that the besetting sin of my life had (and has) its root in control. That is, pride. If we want to be saints, we must surrender. The Lamb will make us kings and queens to our God, if we will stop trying to do it ourselves.

Think of all the kings of the earth, who have no use for Jesus, and the humble handmaiden who birthed Him. And people are looking around at these mighty men, crying, "Save us!" and they can't. Or they won't.

Enter Jesus. More power than we possibly imagine, but he still has no beauty or majesty that we should regard him. But something underneath the anxiety, almost like a whisper, calls out to us. This is peace. We hear His voice, and follow, as we were destined to do.

The world is full of noise, and people as fearful as could be. Nothing has really changed, in a way. But now, we become intercessors, because we know that the terrors of this world count for nothing. Christ is King, and Him alone.

Friday, November 20, 2015


The Lord Jesus cleansed the Temple, and John quoted the prophet: "Zeal for your house will consume me." He cleanses us in the Eucharist every time we receive Him worthily. As I go along, I have become more thankful for this. We should be able to say with a moral certainty that we are free of mortal sin, and we have recourse to the Sacrament of Reconciliation to recover the grace of our baptism, if not. Even so, we are constantly reliant on the cleansing blood of Jesus.

I was attempting to recollect after Mass today, when I was informed that there was smoke in the Cathedral Basilica, and I needed to leave. It's a big place. I didn't see anything obviously wrong, so I kept going, and tried not to worry. I made a joke to myself: "Are we sure it's not the shekinah? [The glory of the Lord, which filled the Temple after Solomon dedicated it]

A person in Christ who is keeping the covenant is like the Temple, when the Lord's glory filled it. I might not even feel that way, depending on what is going on. But it's the truth. That's faith: a certainty in things which are unseen. If God tells me I am the place where His Spirit dwells, who am I to disagree?

Thursday, November 19, 2015

This Is What I Remember

I don't remember much from the day they buried my father. I remember skipping the funeral Mass, but going to the burial. I was 9 years old. This is what I do remember: "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever."

I know now that it is an expression of Christian hope that I did not yet possess. There is a difference, mind you, between hope, and presumption. Presumption is grounded in self-regard; hope is grounded in the promises of God.

What a beginning! Let's above all give thanks that God's promises grow ever clearer, and that all else fades.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Rising Like Incense

Here's a text from the book of Revelation, namely, chapter 8, verses 3 and 4: "And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer; and he was given much incense to mingle with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar before the throne; and the smoke of the incense rose with the prayers of the saints from the hand of the angel before God."

I must admit, I haven't routinely thought of prayer as being this powerful. But what if it is? Suppose we are the agents of mercy before the final judgment. If you knew it only took one prayer between life or death, you'd offer it, wouldn't you?

When that seventh seal is broken, Heaven will fall silent for half an hour. The place of eternal singing and joy. That is The Day The Music Died. I don't really know what judgment will be like, but I don't want to be on the wrong end of it.

The Christian life isn't complicated; it's learning to praise God and give him thanks now, because everything that does not do this will pass away.