Translate

Thursday, May 05, 2016

Christ Beside Me

I saw two of my favorite priests today. One has endured the great suffering of an unimaginable calumny, and the other is a noted spiritual director, barely older than me. The first man never let me forget the love of God, in those tough days of the second year of being reconciled to the Church. He asked me if I was still praying for him, and it was a true John the Baptist moment.

The second is terribly fond of me, and I would be tempted to dismiss that, but he's so holy that I have to question whether he knows something I don't. He talked during the homily about seeing with the eyes of Jesus. It lifts me to consider that he's on to something.

Christ has something special for each of us, no matter how much we hate ourselves. I could almost hear the Father's laughter, as he led me to the Sacrament of Penance yesterday. Let His love swallow up your unworthiness. Our sin is no less real, but grace lets us see the depth of mercy. And the bottom will not be reached.

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

The Glorious Freedom Of The Children Of God

When you receive mercy, you partake in this. There is no substitute. Yet part of the reason the sacraments are efficacious by the very fact of being performed is that we are not always conscious of being flooded with consolations. You really wouldn't want a sacrament to depend on how you felt about it, or about yourself in relation to God.

One basic objection to the whole sacramental economy is that one could argue that God has accomplished everything in Christ in such a way that insisting that a sacrament as a sacred sign is necessary for salvation denies the reality of what God does. This objection makes sense to me. In that case, though, it makes more sense to argue that we don't need sacred signs at all. Practically, they can only serve as word-pictures for teaching things about God's deeds, and a person could meditate on those deeds without the signs at all, and most certainly so, with the great gift of the Scriptures.

But is it true? Did God actually do things this way? If the Church Fathers are any true representation of  how Christians believed and lived in those days, then no. I suppose one could argue that the ancients had pale echoes of the true faith and practice, but overall, it was false until others purified it. Many argue exactly that.

As soon as one says, "We can learn a lot from the Fathers," however, only 2 possibilities are open: 1. One discovers the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church as visible, hierarchical, and sacramental, and submits to her, or 2. One undertakes to tell the Fathers exactly what they got right, and what they got wrong. Good thing they have you to set them straight!

Monday, May 02, 2016

Does Mercy Triumph Over Judgment?

I was at the Audrey Assad concert/revival meeting in my town this past Friday, and Audrey sang: "You delight in showing mercy/And mercy triumphs over judgment." This prompted a friend to turn to me and ask, "Does it really?" And all I could say was, "yes." It's right there in the book of James, chapter 2, verse 13. I thought it prudent, rather than doubt the rather frank preaching of countless saints, to explore the possibility that we do not understand mercy, if its triumph is understood in contrast with justice. Indeed, I think that St. James understands judgment there as synonymous with justice.

Justice is an obligation. Judgment falls at the failure to uphold what is due in justice. Mercy ameliorates the consequences due to sin. That is, one interesting aspect of mercy is that it acknowledges that sin has taken place. Sin exists. Mercy cannot exist if the real possibility of sin does not exist.

Therefore, any indulgence or forbearance that denies the truth of some moral standard as given by God is not mercy. St. James is basically telling us that, because of the merciful indulgence of God in Christ, we have less excuse than we did before. Because in the Church, the preaching of Christ and the sacraments mean that repeated, grave failures of justice may well show that we don't understand Christ at all.

But what is it about the state of mortal sin that merits everlasting judgment? A person in a state of mortal sin has knowingly, deliberately chosen to set himself against God as his final end. Mercy acknowledges God as the Truth to which man is destined, so the one who receives mercy cannot be in such a state.

God does not merely want the balance-sheet square between us and Him; he wants us to be beloved children and heirs. It is clear that he's gone well beyond justice in dealings with us.

Pride confuses mercy with justice, and claims that God owes something in strict justice to man, which is impossible.

Sunday, May 01, 2016

Matthew And Kate Got Married

I witnessed the marriage of my friends yesterday, according to the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite. I have no other comment on that in particular, except to say that I remain less familiar and comfortable with that Form than I'd like to be. A very good man I met invited me to attend that parish more regularly, but I have a special bond with the Cathedral. [If your bond is so special, why don't you register there?--ed.] Why don't you finish RCIA? [Touche.--ed.]

As I sat there among many of the most faithful Catholic families in my city, I had the sense of being the bad boy from the wrong side of the tracks. One day, I will be Tony to someone's Maria. On the other hand, holiness has but one end, so I do belong. As with many things in life, the spiritual life is not about where you start, but where you finish.

I think the biggest thing that would stick out to you if you were a random postmodern person off the street is how serious we were. You may have rolled your eyes when the father of the bride said marriage is under attack, but it is. And you may not see yourself as part of the attack, or as one of its victims, but that's the difference between perception and reality.

Even though I would never trade my story for another one, because I will be a masterpiece of God's mercy, I can say I know I'd rather live in the society I saw yesterday than the one of society at large. We keep saying the kids are alright, but they aren't. They're writing tell-all books, and longing for a family their parents never thought of giving them.

Thank you God, for Matthew and Kate. May they experience your everlasting fidelity, and be a sign of it, all the days of their lives. I ask this through Christ Our Lord, Amen.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Still Going

I'm still here. I had the thought once the other day that I felt like I was dead, but I realized the opposite is the case. I'm very much alive, in all ways, and this is why the trials of this life hurt so much.

If you hurt over things that are wrong, and things that are sad, you're alive. Take encouragement in that, if there is any to be had.

I don't know what's ahead, but I'm me, and I'm going to continue being me, insofar as that is good. We're going toward something beloved friends--Someone--and that promise, along with the hope that attends it, is greater than any sorrow.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Offer It Up?

Sometimes, it seems like all the suffering comes at once. I don't know about you, but I'm not feeling much like a royal priest offering his whole life back to the Father. I'm feeling like I'm being crushed.

There are days when your prayers are tears. Words are a luxury befitting happier times.

And the worst part is, my health is fine. My circumstances are just fine. No truer thing has ever been written: If you love anyone at all truly, you will suffer. And so I suffer the temptation to condemn myself, because there are much worse things than this. Then I remind myself that I've learned to downplay my feelings improperly my whole life. It is not true or right to pretend that I'm not hurting when I am. Even if the crosses are not all mine, I bear them too, because I love.

But I had this high and lofty thought on the way to Mass: if the vale of tears is doing this to me, how great is the joy that awaits us? Can you even imagine? Dear St. Paul, I recall you saying something! I'm hoping in this with all I have, though it's a pittance. These are my widow's mites; these are my last stand.

Do not go on further, Lord. Please stay.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

CCC, 2354: Pornography

I'll just leave you to read it, and think about it. Most of our movies today, though they may not be obvious examples of the subject, come very close to it, even if they are not. I'm not here to piously lecture anyone; the things that get people mixed up in pornography are varied, and it purports to fulfill real human needs, not simply for pleasure, but for connection. It's difficult to connect with real people, and the virtual world never says, "no."

You can get help from my friend Devin Rose, if you need it.

It does sadden me that it's so common. If Jesus took on human flesh so that we could have abundant life, how great is that life so many people are missing?

On the positive side, what glorious vistas of deep friendship and communion with God and others await us on the other side of this snare?

All you saints of God, pray for us!