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Saturday, August 02, 2014

Today's Gospel: Mt. 13:54-58

It's actually the next day when you will read this, but you can't rush these things! Anyway, I could hardly keep from jumping to conclusions, which means for me, cross-references. I didn't flip there, no; I did recall that in another place, Jesus is said to have added, "But blessed is he who takes no offense at me." That was the thing that jumped out: "And they took offense at him."

In the prologue of John's Gospel, we read, "He came to his own, but his own did not receive him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God..." There's something about Jesus.

He mentions that God's prophets have a rough time among their friends and family; it is incongruous, really: We've known you since you first breathed, and you now lecture us? But it's more than just human pride; God seems to use the mundane to do the extraordinary, and we're still not used to it. And not only this, but Jesus was no common sinner. Better still, he is the hope of Israel, her prophet, priest, and king par excellence, and so the Savior of us all.

"Who do you say that I am?" Jesus is asking us this without asking here. "And he did not work many mighty deeds there because of their lack of faith." He never did signs and wonders to prove anything; faith is its own miracle, and it sees beyond the common. It reaches out to touch the unseen God.

Friday, August 01, 2014

Just Get It Over With

Read this. He may have a doctorate, but he's very confused. "Tradition" isn't just a card you play; it's a recognition that God has broken into the normal course of human events to say something, something that transcends us by the fact of Him saying it. This is one of the chief characteristics of revelation; it is given by God, and in the case of supernatural or special revelation, could not be otherwise known. If I may digress for a moment, one reason why some Catholics reject the false "Scripture vs. Tradition" dilemma is that Sacred Scripture, though uniquely God-breathed, is Tradition.

That may shock you, but stay with me. Were not the Scriptures of the New Covenant composed as the written version of the apostolic kerygma concerning Jesus? Being careful to remember that the Sacred Scriptures are of divine origin, and in consequence, completely free from error, we must say this. The Scriptures are human in that sense, that real people encountered God in the normal course of events. This is why Newman begins with the Incarnation when he makes the case for doctrinal development; it is the ultimate expression of God's love for us, and a vindication of our humanity; he was humbled and certainly humiliated, but no longer would "human" be automatically synonymous with weakness and failure. He took on our nature and elevated it. I digress. Alleluia!

And I say "Scriptures of the New Covenant" with intention. God in Christ was reconciling the world to Himself before any of the Apostles or their company put pen to paper. The Church of the New Covenant received and was sustained by His Eucharistic presence before anybody read anything about it. God and His People, the basic outline of history in redemption. I'm indebted to Dr. Scott Hahn for that point.

It would be deeply unhistorical to appeal to certain formulations in history, while spurning all innovation or development. That's just it, though: Leithart can't really tell us the difference between a development and a corruption, because he rejects the Church, the new People of God, in whose life and doctrine the distinction can be made in a principled way. So he must on the one hand accept everything since the Protestant revolt (its animating principle being the primacy of conscience and individual interpretation) as a development, while appealing to the authority of the Catholic Church against what he regards are the nastier fruits of that individualist position. The appeal to history isn't wrong; it's just often ad hoc.

Sooner or later, one has to face the axiom: One cannot be both the arbiter of divine revelation, and a humble receiver of it at the same time. To say that ever-new understandings of what God has said in Christ may break forth is to accept the principle of development. To be a Catholic truly is to accept the Church which is Tradition's guardian, by the will of God. Why would any Christian, no matter how brilliant, be allowed to define "Church" or "faith" for himself?

Still The Same Old Kid

I haven't grown up much. I'm 34, and I'm a bit silly, if you know me. I love to laugh, and tease my friends. The truth is, I'm incredibly sensitive, and pretty emotional. I probably don't forgive as often or as well as I ask for it. Lord, have mercy!

One thing that makes me vulnerable is the deep wounds from tragic, sudden death. It happened more than I care to recount. I lost two father-figures just this way. A high school friend. Others. You can't know what this is like unless you know.

Mixed in here was the loss of my Dad, Rick Kettinger, when I was 9. We weren't going to win an intact family award as it was, but I realize as I go that this affects me more than I would want. I've blogged about this before, but Nicole DeMille posted about her mom again, and it got me thinking. (And feeling, quite frankly.)

I think back to my favorite movies and stories, and they have Dad Issues subplots. I don't like Top Gun for the action and sex appeal; I love Top Gun because I identify with "Pete Mitchell" and the story of his Dad, lost over Vietnam when Pete was about my age. Do you remember when "Goose" died? ("Nick Bradshaw", was it?) The scene that is forever burned on my soul is when Pete meets Goose's wife after he died. She's obviously destroyed, and as a side-note, she got famous, Meg Ryan, because of this supporting role. Anyway, it's not her I remember. It's Goose's little son, sound asleep in the chair. And I think, "If this were real, that kid won't even know what hit him when he wakes up." And he won't. Worse than the pain is the mental block that just happens to a small kid, just to get through something like this, and then, you feel guilty, because you didn't feel bad enough, or you didn't appreciate Dad when he was there. I feel this every day.

I still want my Dad to be proud of me, even though he's gone. He surely can't live up to my idealized picture of him, and yet I try. They say to Pete Mitchell, "Is that why you fly like you're second-best up there?" And I hear myself say, "You're [expletive] right." Or flying against a ghost. They accuse him several times, and it's true.

I can't recall if he was speaking to the commander, "Viper," or to his love interest "Charlie." But I remember Mitchell describing his father's loss this way: "The stink of it was, he screwed up. No way. My Dad was a great fighter pilot." I feel the weight of those final words every time. All sons do it: they idealize their dads, even if they don't deserve it. Not that I would know. Yet I imagine what I would like to be as a father, and it always comes out something like wanting to be worthy of their love, even if we know only grace could make it so.

A few scattered thoughts, if I may. I hope when you sleep tonight, you can meditate on the Father's unending love for you and us, even if--or especially if--you carry wounds like mine.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Today's Gospel: Mt. 13:47-53

There is a lot of talk about "pastoral" sensitivity these days, and it's not altogether bad. But Jesus comes along and shoots it straight. It's about two things: heaven, and hell. What sort of life do we lead? Do we seek mercy when we need it? Do we give it when others need it?

Jesus alone is Savior and Lord. We can talk about ignorance that is invincible and inculpable until we are green in the face, but it doesn't change this simple fact. More than any other desire, I wish to be found in Him. What do you desire? Do you see things as they are in these simple terms?

Let's keep it simple, and our hearts open, and we will not be thrown outside.

5 Thoughts For Today

5. Seriously, who broke the Cardinals?

4. SAN DIEGO!

3. In other news, I am heavily in favor of the NFL's Raiders moving to San Antonio. The Raiders would become immediately relevant (and good not long after). Can you imagine the fan cross-pollination with the Spurs? I'm sorry; I meant to say, "the reigning NBA champion San Antonio Spurs." My bad.

2. The book dies today. Today. Not tomorrow. Not Saturday. Today.

1. I actually like Mexicans, and think we should have more of them (immigrants). So any discussions about "protecting our borders" need to take account of: 1. the natural right of people to settle where they will; 2. the obvious fact that citizenship for people who come here is better for everyone than non-citizenship; 3. the fact that the federal government can't walk and chew gum at the same time, much less prevent highly determined and desperate people from getting where they want to go. If that makes me a proponent of "amnesty" or punching my ticket for Liberal Land, so be it. I've tried to take the opposite position many times, just for the sake of exploring the issue, and all I get back is frothy, mindless nativism. Thanks for the help, guys.

If we need to have a discussion about the fact that it's easier for an undocumented immigrant to receive assistance than for a citizen, let's do that. And let's blame the Democratic Party. Because they should worry about how the government they sell us works, instead of shilling for the killers at Planned Parenthood.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

5 Thoughts For Today

5. Welcome to the Cardinals, Justin Masterson! [That ERA is truly hideous.--ed.] The change of scenery will help. [I hope so.--ed.]

4. Utter the slightest word that what we want at any given moment is not our final end, and the Acton Institute will freak out, and call you a Stalinist. [Exaggeration much?--ed.]

3. Bryan Cross wrote: " Dylan writes, "This has had the ill-effect that those dissatisfied with the product are more likely to go “church shopping” or, perhaps, take an entrepreneurial model and start their own church or denomination. But what is the alternative?" He then proposes a dilemma: the only alternative to ecclesial consumerism is coercion, which is obviously untenable. So instead of complaining about consumerism, claims Dylan in his penultimate paragraph, churches need to offer a better product than their ecclesial 'competitors.' But Dylan's "either ecclesial consumerism or coercion" dilemma is a false dilemma. In advancing such a dilemma, Dylan misses Fr. Dwight Longenecker's point. The problem with consumerism is not desire per se, but disordered desire, underwritten by the assumption that there is no standard or basis for the right ordering of our desires. This is the assumption on which a consumeristic culture is built, and is the reason why such a culture fosters the proliferation of disordered appetites, much as Plato described in Republic Book VIII. The tendency in disordered appetites, is precisely toward greed, narcissism, self-gratification, and the instrumentalization of others in lust and abuse. The remedy to consumerism is not coercion, but virtue, which includes valuing the truth and the common good over the demands of our lower appetites. I've written about ecclesial consumerism at the link below." (Which is here.) For my part, I hadn't even noticed this; I was just slightly paranoid that Cross wants to take away my chicken sandwiches! But seriously, I think a good Catholic fight about markets and the common good would be highly useful. [This isn't it.--ed.] No; you're right. We have work to do.

2. I have pulled a muscle in my back. I knew I wasn't that out of shape. But now, I'm more disabled than normal. I can't get out of bed on my own.

1. I discern a movement of my appetite toward a box of SweetTarts. Is this gluttony? Good thing I don't have any.

Today's Gospel: Mt 13:44-46

I decided to spend 15 minutes with the Gospel reading. I saw that it was very short, and thought, "Oh, boy, here we go," meaning that it's very hard to sit still in silence for most of us. A wise priest told me to read slow and repeatedly; whatever jumps out is what the Holy Spirit wants to talk with you about.

If you don't mind me saying, the thing that occurred is that I don't love God this much. Do you ever have a victory against a temptation, and think, "Whew! I didn't lose"? It's more like relief. But the truth is, we can't stay there for long. Pleasing God and keeping the commands will become dull and boring, if we do not ask God to increase our love.

I need eyes to see the end, and its everlasting joy. Frankly, my heart most often says, "Surely I in vain have kept my heart pure."

Come, Holy Spirit...

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Who's This Matt Walsh Guy?

Just kidding. Seems like a nice gig, actually. Share your opinions; make money. I'm not really going to share a great deal of my opinions about Matt Walsh. I think it'd be more helpful to talk about myself.

If I had to pick one non-fiction book (besides the Sacred Scriptures) that has impacted the way I think about the world and my place in it, it would have to be "Radical Son: A Generational Odyssey," by David Horowitz. It wasn't the information; it was him; the way he experienced life as the son of Communists will move you. Just trust me on this. And I sat there as one born at the dawn of Reagan, and thought, "This is still where the fault-lines are. I have felt this way; I know these people."

The outlook of a conservative who thought he was something else--or wanted to be--is astonishment. It feels like you've been "mugged by reality," as the saying goes, and it's hard when the (seemingly) obvious is staring us all right in the face, and an entire group of people apparently is invested in denying reality. On the other hand, everyone thinks that, I suppose.

I still think most "progressives" spend most of their energy trying to shame and silence others, and deny reality. Matt Walsh is a guy speaking for a generation who got tired of being told to sit down and shut up. That snarkiness, that anger, comes from being told you disagree because you're a bad person too many times. We're talking politics, because we need to. It makes (white) Christian evangelicals uncomfortable, because they've been political for a long time without acknowledging it, or thinking critically about it.

Matt Walsh is shrill, partly because he firmly believes if someone doesn't fight back, we'll all be crushed under the wheels of "progress." If he read the pastor's post, he'd say, "You can be "nice", but I'll be free." This is why he shouts the obvious, and why he's not terribly nice about it. All the Christian concern about "tone" sounds like capitulation. So, I'm not saying he's not a jerk. I'm saying that I understand him. I've felt those feelings. I'd like to tell Johnny Progressive to stick it where the sun don't shine, frankly.

But that isn't what Jesus would do. And that introduces quite the challenge for people like me and Matt Walsh.

What Is Love?

Everybody just wants to be loved, they say. But what is it? Sex? Friendship? Service? Sacrifice? Yes, and much more we could say. If you love anything, you put its good before your own. People don't change that equation. Sometimes, the most loving thing a person can do is go away for awhile, or maybe for good.

It doesn't feel good, most times, if that happens. But feelings--while powerful and often good--don't always tell the whole story. Bad things (or good things at the wrong time, or in the wrong proportion) often feel good. The demands of the Good, the True, and the Beautiful sometimes feel like torture.

No matter what anyone tells you to the contrary, we are not simply animals. Those who live to maximize pleasure and avoid pain are actually very confused. It's pretty much completely backwards from reality. How did Westley say it? "Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something."

You are loved, right now, more than you could receive or accept. If ordinary people love us--spouses, brothers, friends, etc.--it had better be ordered to the greater Love. If not, it's just in the way.

You can't pawn off your need for the Father's love on someone else; they can't possibly fill it, and they'd die trying, if it went that far. But God so loved the world that he gave us His only Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life. What's this "believing"? It's not any great mystery; it's to agree the words He says are true, and to order everything, as far as we are able, to obtaining that promise. Easier said than done. Yet I know no greater Friend to help me, and to help me learn.

I want to be more personal and direct, but I don't want to embarrass anyone. I only know that it seems like no one told you the truth: When the Father says "I love you," He doesn't take it back. He doesn't come up short. May the Holy Spirit be the healer of broken hearts of all kinds today!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Always

Somebody asked me what my favorite karaoke song is. It's this one. It's got a great lead vocal, and it's what would be quintessential R&B for the next 20 years: lush, melodic, and you remember the chorus. They probably would have done more of this, but somebody went, "Wait! We're a funk band!" Anyway, I had to listen to it. And then I thought, "You know what else I wanna hear?"

"Always," by Atlantic Starr. Yes, I know. Shut up. I wanted to just listen to it, but I know what this song does to me. I made it 1:40 before I started singing along. I'm sorry. But not.

I hope that if I get married, I'll be slightly more realistic. On the other hand, we need romantics and saps like me. Maybe we're ruled by neo-Malthusian, faux-estrogen hawking overlords because we've believed the lie that there is no role for feelings, on the one hand, and that permanence is unrealistic or stupid, on the other. (Consequently, another error is to give feelings an absolute primacy that is understood to be greater than the sacred vows.)

5 Thoughts For Today

5. The problem with "Mrs. Columbo" was not that it was bad; it's that the whole premise required that she and Columbo got a divorce. Not cool.

4. For the record, I'm not afraid of Teh Muslims breeding. I consider it a noble rebuke to our neo-Mathusian, faux-estrogen hawking overlords.

3. Holy mother Church is always pretty confident she can woo anybody.

2. Yes, I watched the whole ceremony. It ruled, pretty much. I have more to say later.

1. What happened to the theme song of Magnum, PI in the third episode of season 1? Truly hideous.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Field Of Dreams

You may know this is one of the "Trinity" of my favorite movies. I won't make any grandiose claims about its place among the great baseball movies, because, frankly, I probably haven't seen them all. What I can tell you is that baseball is more than just a game for many of us, and "Field Of Dreams" is our movie.

The father-son thing is huge. This dynamic makes the movie go. I read the book it's based on, and I don't recall it there, but it's the only reason this crazy ghost-story involving baseball works. Regret, forgiveness, family, and healing. I wonder if anyone can identify with that?

It goes way beyond the climactic scene; I noted that the protagonist, Ray, was born in 1952, the same year as my father. The last full year of my dad's life was 1988, the year this movie was released. Later that fall, the Dodgers would win the World Series, and my dad would see it. Just like Ray, his team was the Dodgers.

I still can't root against the Dodgers. Not even last year, when they stood in the way of the World Series for my Cardinals. I actually shed a tear when we knew we'd have to go through the Dodgers. I said out loud, "Hey Dad, either way, we win!"

I don't even know if he ever saw the movie. I'd like to think he'd love it. In any case, nearly everything that moves me on a human level is in that movie in one way or another. Every time some critic says they slather on the sentiment a little thick, I want to punch him. You don't know what you're being flippant about, buddy.

"Hey...Dad? You wanna have a catch?"