Translate

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Star Wars Is Better Than I Thought

I'm a Trekkie, always have been, always will be. But in light of the new Star Wars movie out, I have had a chance to watch the original trilogy, and most of the prequels, excluding Episode I. The thing that strikes me the most is the tragedy of the fall of Anakin Skywalker. We're supposed to like him, and we do. When the great Sir Alec Guinness as Obi-Wan Kenobi tells us Luke's father was "a great Jedi, and a good friend," that needs to have weight behind it, and I have to say, the prequels accomplish that well.

What that brings about is clarity regarding the end of Episode VI, Return of the Jedi. This is not a wholly evil, static character; this is a man in slavery to sin, and to the emperor. His gradual loss was subtle. It's realistic. It's easier to think evil people just are; it's more unsettling to realize becoming evil involves a series of little capitulations.

Just think: an entire civil war begins, because one powerful Jedi knight turns to the dark side. May we realize our noble calling, and avoid the same fate.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

A Momentous Birthday

It's my brother's 35th birthday. 3 years ago yesterday, we lost Jenny O'Reilly to leukemia. I didn't know her well, but I wanted to. She was the kind of person who inspires the fiercest loyalty, and it's entirely legitimate. Maybe only the good really do die young.

We should make a fuss about birthdays, as much as possible. Death is so capricious, you know. We may not get the chance. It's Jenny's birthday, too. Someone said she wanted to celebrate that one with Jesus. I wouldn't put it past her.

Heaven is the birthday party that never ends. End of discussion. Atheism sucks, for the mere fact that the pale shadow of things here is supposed to suffice. We know it won't. Sports leagues don't take years off, precisely because they are the closest thing to perpetual joy the human heart knows, outside of God.

Worth a thought.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

We Used To Be The Smart Ones

Remember when "race-baiting demagogue" used to be Al Sharpton? Remember when we could credibly claim liberals were guided by emotion, instead of reason? Those were the days. How ridiculous and unserious does someone have to be, before we stop listening?

Somewhere, someone confused contrarianism with conservatism. As long as somebody appears to hate the "right" people, it's kosher. What?

There is always a market in the age of new media for a dissenting view. The trouble is, we've got to know the difference between going against the grain of the conventional wisdom, and going against reality. There will always be someone who disagrees with what "respectable" people say. The problem today is, we didn't assume that person was right, just because they exist, and now it seems we do.

I hear this chatter that we're going to "make America great again." America has been great this whole time. The people who made America great came to Ellis Island, and their kids fought back fascism in the second great war. They probably didn't speak English when they got here. I'll tip my cap, anyway.

Later, some folks fled communism, and America was still that beacon of freedom. Of course we have problems; there are always problems. But America's doors have always opened out. The blessings of liberty are not talents to be buried in the ground.

Don't give me star-spangled selfishness, and call it "patriotism." Don't make us fearful and miserly, and call it civic virtue. I'm still an American exceptionalist. It seems to me that some folks waving the flag are really pessimists and thieves. Liberty for me, but not for thee. What a shame! We can do better than this.


Sunshine On My Shoulders

I went to Mass this afternoon. It's cold today, but I was glad to go back. Between being sick, and the rain, I was only able to go when required. I saw some people, I prayed, and then as I stayed near the Lord for a few moments, a woman wished me a Merry Christmas. After that, she put her hand on my head as if to bless me--a completely Catholic thing to do--and said, "Thank you, Jesus."

Later, I walked over to the office, where I am creating the post you are now reading. The receptionist said to me, "You're always a ray of sunshine when you come over. I love it!" "Aww, thanks," I said, "you are, too!"

Lord Jesus, I give you the peace and joy of this day. Have mercy on us, and on the whole world.

Happy Birthday, Dad

I wish you were here. I think you'd like my friends. I can hear you and John saying that a man with true friends can make it through anything. I try to be like you to this day. There isn't much I remember, but I know you're the kind of man who gets mourned by people you fired. You're the kind of man who makes mistakes, but gets second, third, and fourth chances, because people know a good heart when they see one.

I pray for you often. Funny thing is, in the Church, I feel closer to you each day. I think you might reconsider a few things, knowing what you know now. John said you thought church people were hypocrites and liars. I knew I'd find a place to fit in!

The pain is less now, because I've done everything you would have hoped. I hope I'm like you: a man people are glad to know. I don't wonder what you'd think, because I know. A son rests easy, knowing his father is proud.

You'll have to forgive me, though: I still can't root for the Dodgers.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Chains Shall He Break

"O Holy Night" owns me. By far, it's my favorite Christmas song. Not bad for an apostate and a Jew, eh? (If the stories of its provenance are true.) It's so powerful, it need not even be performed with distinction to move the spirit. If you have followed the blog at all, you may have noticed that I choose a phrase from this song every year at this time.

If faith, hope, and love we have in any measure, we confess that He alone is Lord, and there is no other. No state of affairs, no injustice stands, when and where He is king. The next time you are invited to open your heart to Jesus, realize what it means: it's a coup d'etat. The cross is the shape of His love, and being found in the likeness of human flesh--as a baby, no less--is the shape of His empathy.

I doubt a conquered people have ever been so dignified, in the history of mankind. This is what Jesus wants to do. The question comes to us, "Will you surrender?" Yet in this surrender is victory. The only death is to self and sin. Indeed, even itself.

Some folks worry about a "Social gospel." They say we should concern ourselves with the spiritual. Then again, if it doesn't potentially change everything, it's not the gospel. Merry Christmas.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

The Chair Lives!

There just happened to be a guy, working with another mobility company, who just happened to have the cable I needed. At this point, I'm not even surprised. The worse it looks, the more certain it will be an expression of the Lord's faithfulness.

You can take it to the bank.

How many times would I worry, trying to control things out of my control? We can get in a bad way spiritually really fast, when we are anxious. That's why God says not to be anxious about 500 times. Learning to trust Him is the hardest lesson.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Broken Wheelchair

My power wheelchair broke last night. The joystick. That seems important.

I guess I lose track of how many little things God providentially holds together. I'm not much, humanly speaking, without my wheelchair. Well, make the best of it, and give thanks for those friends that hold me up.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Worries

You can hear and read "Do not be anxious about anything..." any number of times, and still not possess what you are looking for. It's not about knowing St. Paul's letter to the Philippians, or any number of other texts. Instead, the question is whether I believe God is bigger than whatever troubles me.

So, when I pray, I should ask God to increase my trust in His goodness and wisdom. I may or may not be relieved of any burden, but I will see its lightness, in comparison with God.

I will fear no evil, for you are with me.

Side-Bar: Yes, Muslims and Christians worship the same God. As I understand the explanations of the philosophers, if Christians and Muslims agree that the Creator is the God who revealed Himself to Abraham, then the referent is the same. The two groups do not agree on what He revealed subsequently, nor on the import of that content, but there were not two separate gods who spoke to Abraham. At the least, we have a basis for discussion, since the referent is the same. As someone pointed out, if we deny that Muslims and Christians worship the same God, owing to the fact that Muslims deny the Trinity, we would have to say that Jews and Christians worship different gods. The consequences of that conclusion are inadmissible for the Christian.

He Blows Where He Wills

The Holy Spirit. I'm continually surprised by what he does, and to whom he bestows his gifts. Well, at least the measure of the gifts.

Sometimes we forget He is a Person of the Blessed Trinity. We forget he loves us, as does the Father, and the Lord Jesus. There is a lot of stuff in the theology of the Church, in our myriad devotions, and countless other things.

Let us never forget, however, that this is a love story between God and his people. God and us. I realize the great gift of the practice of pastoral theology: I get to tell the story as many different ways as possible.


Friday, December 18, 2015

Catholic, Republican, And Enjoying It

Certain joyless scolds feel compelled to remind us that the 240-odd members of the Republican House caucus are not all orthodox Catholics. Really? Hold on, I have to sit down. Even the Jesus-loving, Bible-thumping Protestants aren't going to ordinarily fuss about Planned Parenthood regarding contraception. Even if 80 members were willing to die on that hill, it would go nowhere. You need 218 votes to pass anything. How many good things would you be willing to sacrifice in an omnibus bill to prove your Catholic fidelity?

I fully understand that the Republican Party is out of step with the social doctrine of the Catholic Church. So are the Democrats. I could sit on the sidelines, morally preening about that, or I can fight for the best articulation of those principles as I can.

If you don't think participation in the political process is fruitful, you should just say that, and talk about something else. I don't have a burning urge to tell other people they are failures. And yeah, I'd vote for Romney/Ryan again, given the same choice. Because politics is still the art of the possible, even for a Catholic.

Jesus, Take The Wheel

Really, I just wanted the more impressionable among you to listen to Carrie Underwood for an hour. Ha! But seriously, the whole thing hints at an important truth: it's not about believing things God revealed with a special intensity--though that's good, too--it's about surrendering to God.

I'm hoping that as my life goes on, my faith is not something I hold on to in spite of trials, but I see them all as vindications of His wisdom and goodness. I guess that's easy for me to say. My life hasn't been hard, comparatively speaking. If getting to Heaven were like playing The Oregon Trail, God made me the banker.

I truly don't want to get to the end of my life and say, "Oh, yeah. I was a Christian, too." I want to say, "I did Your will, I carried the cross, and I had fun, too."

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Really Quick

This is a phrase I use a lot. Most people do, when there are multiple things to do, and maybe you are meeting someone in the midst of it. "I'll just do [such and such] really quick, and I'll see you over there at 5:30, cool?"

I don't do anything really quickly. I should just stop saying it. Better yet, I should stop believing that I will be able, or it is wise to move faster doing anything today than it was yesterday. That's not the way it works with a disability. And I'm sure being old, or having health problems works the same way.

Some say it teaches me patience. I would like to think so. But the battle to see everything through the eyes of Christ takes place on the strangest fields. I don't feel very patient, when I drop something I can't pick up. Or when I can't grab something I want to hold. I become very conscious that in fact I am disabled. I ask stupid questions like, "Why is this so hard?" or petulantly assert, "This should not be this hard!"

And then you laugh at yourself.

People get some combination of impatient and concerned when they see a person struggling with a small thing. I don't mind help now and again, but then again, I do. It's probably pride. I have to win at everything. That blasted button or zipper or whatever it is is not going to win if I have anything to do with it. And when I win one of these things, I act like I'm Roger Federer, and I just won Wimbledon. Oh, you may not see it, but it's there.

If Purgatory were not a sensibly painful cleansing that we have been told it is, I know what mine would be: I'd be assigned to button shirts, hopefully learning not to swear.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Republican Debate Last Night: We Can (And Should) Do Better

I won't recap it for you; you can watch or read at your convenience. What deeply concerns me is the lack of a coherent ethical framework through which we examine problems. In that sense, though many or all of the people on the stage could be people of good will, they will find themselves reacting, instead of deliberating.

The most overriding Christian principle, the one that animates every facet of human knowledge, both natural and supernatural, is the dignity of the human person. We start and end here, precisely because humankind's destiny lies with God, whose very image man is. In light of that reality, this foreign policy debate was a shambles. Certain actions would be out of bounds by their very nature. Indiscriminate bombing of whole cities, with a near-certainty of large civilian casualties, cannot be done. And the mere suggestion that the deliberate killing of non-combatants might be acceptable is abhorrent. I take the time to put it in Christian terms, because so many of the aspirants claim to be followers of Christ. I'll be direct: A Christian, given the choice of death or slavery, or winning a war by gravely immoral means, should always choose the former. As much as I love this country, that  needs to be said. In fact, America has been greatest when she remembers this. If the sole moral criterion of any action is that our enemy is more evil than we are, we will find that our pretended superiority is just that.

In terms of refugees, all manner of healthy debate as to exactly how best to assist people in trouble while maintaining a reasonable level of safety can be expected, and even encouraged. One thing the fundamental dignity of the human person requires, however, is that we do not remain neutral. No persons, regardless of religion or nation of origin, become non-persons by those very facts. So, even if large numbers of immigrants and refugees cannot be safely accommodated here, we can assist diplomatically, economically, and even militarily if necessary, so that human beings may simply live. This is not ethical rocket science.

We seem also rather hung up on exactly how many practitioners of Islam are radically violent or anti-Western, and the sensible notion that most Muslims are peaceful, as if merely stating that plain fact renders one naive and politically correct. I rebut such foolishness by simply pointing out that we are not being invaded by armies, (though you may well be correct to say we are at war) so, the vast majority of Muslims are peaceful. What the West has endured are highly visible attacks on innocents by small groups of people, surely calculated for attention, and terrorizing non-combatants, hence the term. Indeed, these jihadists have shown a willingness to attack other Muslims with nearly as much ferocity. That's all the proof we need as to the question of whether we are at war with Islam. Of course not. This is a form of Islam. I have neither the knowledge, nor authority to tell you what "true" Islam should be, but its own lack of authority strongly suggests that perhaps there is no good answer. In any case, peace-loving free people everywhere do have the moral authority to decide, in a pluralistic society, which forms of Islam with which they can co-exist. We are surely joined in that effort by countless Muslims themselves. If it is naive and "liberal" to say all this, so be it. I would personally note that professed Christians cowering in fear before a religion they believe to be man-made, and incomplete at the very best, is unbecoming. Nor is it Christian in any sense to believe that the solution to this inhuman specter is mainly in human power. It is possible I have misread the Scriptures, but I think not.

I'm not going to vote for the one who talks the toughest. You don't need to promise to keep me safe, because you can't do that. I don't need you to tell me who I should be afraid of, because man cannot take the peace that comes from God. I want to know that you respect me enough not to pander to me as some selfish, paranoid xenophobe. Though the second world war didn't morally vindicate every aspect of American conduct, I do know that Americans gave their lives for those they did not know, most of whom they would never meet, because they believed that hatred, death, and slavery should never be the lot for any person. Liberty claimed but not shared is no liberty at all.

The Courage Of Their Convictions

I still have a great abiding love for our American political process, and for affairs of state in general. It's very easy to be cynical, or even downcast, because so little seems to be trending toward statesmanship, foresight, and courage.

I have always said that if I ever sought office, I am committed to plainly stating what I really believe, by God's help, unconcerned with what honesty would cost. Nuance is often required, in order to fully appreciate all the costs and benefits of one thing or another. Also, when one tries to meaningfully interact with those who disagree, or who might, it shows respect for them, and for legitimate questions they have. Still, I believe that the greatest aid to clarity, to principle, and to learning is to answer a direct question with a direct answer. Let qualifications and the like be appended like notes to the frank reply to a "yes/no" question. How much disappointment would this alleviate? I think a lot.

I realized the day I lost respect for Chuck Hagel. It was not because he and the media styled him a moderate. It was not because I thought he was wrong. It was when he would not own his own words on a subject, because he believed stating them, and even daring to defend his own views, would be unpopular. May I never be afraid to take the heat, if I believe I'm right.

It is true that we must recover an all-embracing ethics in many respects. Almost equally important will be the willingness to make an argument. Those who irrationally despise me won't respond to a logical argument anyway.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Still Not Afraid Of Muslims

I was sort of lurking on Confirmation Sponsor Guy's Facebook post today, and he shared his thoughts and feelings about hearing a Muslim colleague talk about anti-Muslim bigotry since the attack in California. I was moved second-hand, so I can only imagine how stirring that was for him.

The main reason I have no reason to fear Muslims is that God is God. Whenever we have a somewhat    scary moment in the car, or whatever you like, I have a funny saying: "It's been a good run." It sounds  a bit flippant in mother's ears at times, but beyond the humor of it, there is real truth: we are not in control of our lives. I could die before I finish this post. We don't know. All that we can do is be near to God in the present moment. I lost my father in a moment. I lost another man who stood in for him in a moment. My high school friend, James. Death can't be the worst thing. I know. Never to have loved, and therefore, never to have lived, is the worst outcome of a life.

I want to be able to say that I didn't bury the talent in the ground. Without denying the fullness of faith in Christ Jesus in the Church--really stop and ponder this--what if the face of Christ in the least of these belongs to a Muslim?

Monday, December 14, 2015

Love Is The Answer, Volume 7000

I was deeply moved by this. I know the truth, and I'm not ashamed of it. If straight-up Catholicism arouses actual opposition from those who should defend it, like the saints, I should rather suffer for my piety than make others suffer in my display of it.

All the clergy can know they are in my prayers, in any case.

Father, give us holy priests! Moreover, give us teachable hearts. If it pleases You, may we have filial affection for those in authority over us, as it accords with holiness. Through Our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever, Amen.

Monday

There are days when the spiritual practices you've been doing just don't appeal. I didn't want to go to Mass. I don't have to go. But seen from another angle, maybe I do. Spiritual progress doesn't just happen. If I think that it has anything to do with me, and not the Lord, uniquely present in the Eucharist, I am mistaken.

If my friend wasn't sick, we'd have walked there like we always do. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Once you know what a war you are in, you don't say, "Oh, that'd be nice" in reference to daily Mass. You start counting the hours until the next Eucharist.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Some Things Don't Go Together

Bitterness and love are opposed. The former destroys the latter. If any of us think we have a right to hold resentment in our hearts, as if against me, and me only have they sinned, we will never find peace.

When real injustice has been done, though, it leaves a wound. You can definitely forgive, by the mercy of God. But that wound needs a special grace of the Holy Spirit, and it doesn't usually come right away.

We can start really living as children of God once we know deeply that the sins against us often lie, and that those lies have never been true, whatever they say about us.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Leaders

I have heard it said, "I am glad I'm not Catholic, because the leaders say x," or failed to say whatever else. That will not do. What is true, and how do you know? Dogmatically, that is. It doesn't matter that you think John Piper is as rock-ribbed and courageous as anyone you have heard. We're not voting for president, we're trying to determine what God said, and what to do about it.

The funny thing about being open to learning from the early Church is that there is a Church. I'm not really in union with them, if I pick and choose when they were right, and when they were wrong. I'm simply refining my own judgments, so I can get in on that cultural influence, and have large bookshelves. I could even write for First Things.

Those Fathers, man. They'll mess you up. In a good way.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Knots

God doesn't force people to do things. If one wants to hold on to a vice, or a sinful attitude, freedom is freedom. "It's a big one," I said, but not for God. I could see that I'm being called to intercede in a believing way, not simply because there is nothing else to do.

I can certainly say that I have prayed out of habit or duty. But what if I actually believed God could change a heart?

What if I did the works of mercy because I believed in the mission of Christ, and not for the merit?

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Peace

What is peace? I think practically, it's when you no longer feel beholden to forces beyond your control. You know that you belong to God, and nothing in the world can change that. There's a part of my favorite baseball movie, Field of Dreams, where Ray realizes he's being called to Boston, but they are broke. His wife Annie lays it all out there, and sighs, "We could lose this farm." It always sounded half-hearted to me, as if we're supposed to know that he should go to Boston.

Obedience is going to Boston, when it seems like a really bad idea. Holiness is knowing that the farm counts for nothing. Whatever it symbolizes in our lives, we surrender in loving trust to God.

What if the saints are simply those who trusted in God's sovereign love despite all apparent reasons not to? It's not beyond us, if we simply believe that God is God, and there is no other.

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Read It Like This: Laudato Si, And Pacem In Terris

If you see a pope referencing an encyclical from a predecessor, you should read that document. Right away, (article 4) Pope Francis mentions Pacem In Terris, the 1963 encyclical from Pope St. John XXIII. This is the part of the saint's encyclical that really caught my attention:

"From this it is clear that no State can fittingly pursue its own interests in isolation from the rest, nor, under such circumstances, can it develop itself as it should. The prosperity and progress of any State is in part consequence, and in part cause, of the prosperity and progress of all other States." (Pacem In Terris, 131)


I think this is the interpretive key for Laudato Si. Earlier, Pope St. John wrote, quoting a predecessor himself,


"The wealthier States, therefore, while providing various forms of assistance to the poorer, must have the highest possible respect for the latter's national characteristics and time-honored civil institutions. They must also repudiate any policy of domination. If this can be achieved, then "a precious contribution will have been made to the formation of a world community, in which each individual nation, conscious of its rights and duties, can work on terms of equality with the rest for the attainment of universal prosperity." (Pacem In Terris, 125)


Pope John had already reminded us that wages sufficient for the dignity of families pertains to justice, not mercy. In echoing this, Pope Francis is not offering a pious opinion in Laudato Si; he is repeating the social doctrine of the Church.


It is this interconnectedness in solidarity that forms the basis of the urgency to care for our common home. Indeed, the common good both natural and supernatural, points toward our destiny with God. Those who deny that the common good exists will naturally reject any spiritual aspects to their economic and social lives, but the children of the Church make no such assumption.

Evolution Notes

As far as I know, a Catholic may hold to a theory of evolution provided that he:

1. Profess God as Creator and sustainer of all things;

2. That Adam and Eve really existed as our first parents;

3. That the soul is infused directly by God.

Some folks want to be so "with it" that they forget that some conceptions move from scientific theory to unjustified philosophical speculation.

(I'm happy to be uncommitted on the question of creation versus evolution.)

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Immaculate Conception

Today, we honor the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. She is the Ark of the New Covenant, the Temple where the Lord dwells within. Uzziah died when he touched the old Ark, foolish to believe that the Lord needed his help.

As it was then, the Lord does not need us, but by a singular gift of grace, invited Mary to participate in the plan of salvation. As we do so, we echo her "yes" to God, and to ponder more deeply the mysteries of His mercy.

Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee!

Monday, December 07, 2015

Rise And Walk

Did you catch the Gospel today, from Luke 5:17-26? The paralytic's friends lower him through the roof to meet Jesus. The Lord was deeply moved at that sight. I think of all the people who lowered me through the roof, so to speak, so I could meet Jesus. How many times was the Lord moved with love?

The best way to repay them is a holy life. I don't want their prayers, works, and sufferings to be wasted.

I heard in the first reading that I will leap for joy. I don't understand. I couldn't possibly. Yet perhaps Heaven is the place where we will revel in things we didn't know we missed.

Saturday, December 05, 2015

Not With Swords Loud Clashing

The extremist militants cannot defeat us, if we are firmly committed to deeds of love and mercy. Compassion and sacrifice have no meaning to this ideology, but human hearts are made to recognize it.

We have been playing a deadly game since we were attacked, believing that we could kill them all. That with superior force, we could defeat all who would threaten us. It's a trap, a snare of the evil one.

Certainly, all who keep watch in our defense are engaged in a noble task. But in the end, only Christ will be victorious. And if they see Him in us, they cannot help but bow the knee. We say it rightly, that such evil is almost unfathomable. That is right. It's deeper than these people, and their designs.

Friday, December 04, 2015

Lockbox

Some people keep their brains in a lockbox. They never use it. Too many people, especially those in positions where intelligence and wisdom are critical, just don't have it. I've decided Robert Reich is one of those people. There were a million things wrong with the war in Iraq, from whether it was morally justified, to whether particular actions in its conduct were moral. Fair enough; we could discuss that for weeks, and I'd likely agree with much of it. What I will not abide is the claim that Saddam Hussein did not possess weapons of mass destruction. He most certainly did. There are people disarming his vicious designs as we speak, and making sure that no one steals raw materials used in their construction.

Bush absolutely told the truth on this point. Whether that constitutes a sufficient cause for an invasion and occupation is certainly debatable. I'm just tired of political arguments that are, "We should do x, because so-and-so is a bad person, and he opposes it." You don't know Dick Cheney; it may comfort you to think he is an unfeeling troll that no sane person loves, but that isn't remotely true, and, more importantly, that's not a real argument for anything. Same goes for our current president. The merits or demerits of whatever he proposes have nothing whatsoever to do with how you personally feel about him. Just think on that.

Besides, who is Reich trying to convince? He's not running for anything. Other folks seem so firmly convinced that Republicans are morally defective, why bother burnish your alleged conservative bona fides? I'd just rather not argue with someone so certain of his moral superiority.

I would hope that I could listen with some detachment to Hillary Clinton. She might say something useful.

If People Need Help

I have heard some chatter that the attacks in California and France prove that accepting Muslim refugees is dangerous, and that those who oppose it are being prudent. Well, a hearty congratulations for desiring peace and safety. In other startling news, human beings need food and water to live. I have never actually met anyone who thought being a victim of terrorism was a good thing. So, charity at least demands that we not accuse the welcomers, let's call them, of being unaware or unconcerned about the risks of extremist violence.

If it were actually to come to pass that a few million people had nowhere to go, and they needed to come here, you just do it. This is America, and some of us actually believe the talk: this America idea is pretty awesome. This is a place where dreams really do grow wild, to borrow a phrase. After all precautions have been taken, there isn't much else that could be done. But I know that this freedom isn't a thing you clutch tightly, jealously guarding its treasure. Indeed, "the West" would not exist without America.

But who are we, if we live in fear? And if we dare to say this is a Christian nation, as questionable as that may be from any one vantage point or another, we know what this demands: we would gladly risk being killed, in order to do kindness in the Name of Him who saved us, either without knowing that it was well received, or knowing it certainly wasn't. Don't ask what Jesus would do, because you surely know "cautious" does not describe Him.

I will not use the phrase, "politically correct," because people use it as a pejorative, and as an excuse to hold irrationally fearful and bigoted opinions in the guise of "telling it like it is," but some part of the conventional wisdom as to the number of extremists and sympathizers could be significantly wrong, higher than optimists of a certain stripe care to contemplate. In the end, however, it's of marginal relevance, because there is no military force in the universe that, purely by its efforts, can destroy an evil idea. We know this as Christians, and yet we can be fond of trusting in proverbial horses and chariots more than we ought.

I refuse to be afraid of Muslims. I have a better chance of getting killed by a bus than a jihadi, and by a lot, at that. This is not to say that we ignore what's happened, or swear off vigilance, but we must also stop believing that whatever a person is conditioned to do is what they must do. Have we forgotten the stories of God's mercy and power? Did Christ not make his enemies into friends?

He walked right into a trap, on purpose, to save you and me. He gave a blanket pardon to those present (and all of us) in the midst of the gravest injustice ever committed.

I might die in a terrorist attack. If I did, it would be a tragedy. But I hope I would die doing what I know to do: love God, and my (Muslim) neighbor.

Thursday, December 03, 2015

Sickness

Any way you look at the events in California today, the truth is plain to see: we have an existential crisis as a society. All the killings in general, they mean that people see no value in just going on. It's one thing to waste one's life in pleasure; it's quite another to see the vanity in that, but to go toward evil.

Whether radical Islamic terrorism or just revenge, these outbreaks of violence all over our society manifest a deep spiritual sickness that cannot be hidden. When great purposes do not find their fulfillment in God, sinful people with the means unleash Hell on Earth.

This is bigger than we realize. In fact, prayer is not only effective, it's the best thing to do. A policy or program can't tell us who we are, and ought to be. Talking with God can. For all of us.

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Your Pledge To Me

I realized as I surveyed the Catechism the other day that I'm still wounded from sins I committed in the past. It seems as though our enemy wanted to say I was unworthy to commune with our Eucharistic Lord on account of it. But I had examined myself; indeed, I had communed a couple or three dozen times on other occasions, with no cause for fear.

I finally resolved to renew my repentance the next time I celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation That way, the enemy will have more coals on his head, as I use his provocations to praise God's mercy even more!

The priest at Mass today said that the Eucharist was Christ's own pledge that he wants us with him in Heaven. Unless I've decided I've got something better to do, (which I haven't) I'm going to rest in that promise.

If your guilt doesn't even make sense, you don't have to pretend that it does. That's scrupulosity, another one of Satan's lies.

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

It's Not A Fight

If you've spent any time following politics, you know that the organized parties decide what Good People are supposed to believe, and then they tell us who the Other is, and that the Other hates everything good and right, or at least wants to take it from you. And on it goes.

It should not be so with us, for we are the Body of Christ. As the days move along, as I endeavor to make my impersonation of a theologian all the more convincing, I have only 2 categories for theological reflection: "True/False," and "Clear/Unclear." It's not like a sports team; there is no reward for particularly intense subjective feelings about one thing or another.

I might know the snarky nickname for that other Catholic periodical I don't read, but I don't have to use it. I heard Jesus loves those people, too.

What are we doing, fretting about others? I'm not a saint yet; are you? At best, we're getting wound up about things that will perish, and at worst, we are acting against God, and our destiny.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Find A Friend

You can't possibly replace a person who loves you more than you do. Whatever it was that brought you to that person, nourish and cherish it as much as you can. Give thanks. Pray for that person. It's obviously grace which allows this friend to give more than seems possible.

I am blessed with many such friends, it seems. Whatever I could say or do would not be enough. In this way, our friends are Christ to us. Would you, or could you, run out of thanks to give Him?

And so it goes. Let the earthly joy between friends multiply, and serve as a sign of the eternal friendship to come. Amen.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Advent

I needed this Advent. I could feel Love waiting to burst forth, and I could not contain my hope that it would swallow up everything and everyone. But then the homily was about searching for God, and I knew that the longing would persist.

You can't replicate a Catholic Advent. You just can't. It's like winning the World Series 10 times, when we get to the Nativity. If the saints longed for God, I think I understand. And the Church makes it so easy for us. Just show up. Paying attention is even better.

The world without God is like Garden State: you find a few people you don't mind lying and dying with, until your time on this sick, sad, rock is finished. But with Immanuel...? It's no wonder why we sing.


Saturday, November 28, 2015

Things That Don't Matter

I don't care what shape Reese's Peanut Butter Cups come in. I don't care about Starbucks. The biggest War On Christmas is in our souls, yours and mine. Which is not to say that rampant secularism is good. It is to say, rather, that the front lines are closer than we think.

Ghandi and President Obama are right about one thing: be the change you want to see in the world. We Christians know you can't just do that; you need help. Lord, help us to be your peace in the world. Amen.

Pretty sure I don't even know how the Spurs did last night. I'm absolutely certain that I won't also say, "Man, I didn't play enough video games while I was here!" Will I die if I fail to get current on Grey's Anatomy? Tell me seriously if you actually think St. Peter will check your Netflix queue.

Which is not to say, "Let's all live in a cave, and forsake the world!" No. It means that as I watch Timmy dunk a basketball, or I behold the beauty of a woman, it all points to a glory we cannot possibly imagine. And that good things may conspire with my imperfect will to deny me eternal happiness.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thankful

For what am I most thankful? I am completely surrounded by people who love more than they expect to be loved. It truly puts me to shame. Communion with God is always before me as the highest goal, and all I need to do is decide whether to go along.

And that this quest for holiness takes place in relative ease is no small gift. I will spare you the schoolmarmish tributes to soldiers who can't go home, but suffice to say, I have no excuse for failing to praise God. Not that anyone does.

I guess today is like every day: learn what matters, and how not to waste your life. I'll keep trying.

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

Shekinah

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.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Rain Down

I love the rain. Now that I'm Catholic, I can think of it as God's holy water. Isn't that the real meaning of the fact that he sends rain on the righteous and the wicked alike? Holy water is a sacramental, and sacramentals dispose us favorably to receive greater graces. It is for us to believe that God is mercy, and we will see greater things than these.

Don't miss a chance to thank the Lord. There may be a greater thing after the rain.

Monday, November 16, 2015

We Need Real Change

The pope speaks rather forcefully in Laudato Si about our technocratic paradigm of economic and social organization. It doesn't take much awareness of the social doctrine to understand the numerous problems with that paradigm. When your favorite presidential candidate doubles down on the paradigm, it causes chagrin. Apparently, we need fewer philosophers, because they don't produce anything, says Marco Rubio.

On the contrary; philosophers remind us of first principles, and to make arguments, instead of having them. Back to the point, you wish to lead a party whose greatest achievements led human beings out of soul-crushing slavery, but you seem to want to trade one slavery for another. It doesn't do any good   to rescue a man from the socialist state in order to sell him to the corporate one.

The great genius of limited government is in allowing people to find the best solution to a problem themselves. The true conservative does not question the legitimacy of government as such, but makes a prudential judgment about when it's not necessary. If the Republican Party continues to chase macroeconomic indicators and growth in the abstract without reference to the common good, it has nothing to offer the American people.

The real flourishing of people, from the least to the greatest, must be actively sought, not assumed to have taken place. We cannot continue to listen to economists and philosophers who believe the common good is fictitious! We cannot speak endlessly of morality, while believing that markets and transactions within them are morally neutral.

Economic growth is not opposed to community, but it is when sought as the primary goal of economic organization. There are no better technocrats; we have to change our goal.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Words, Words, Words

Blogging from a phone. This is an exciting experience, one with which I am unfamiliar. I wonder how this is going to go, since it is hard to think and talk, while editing whatever mistakes this thing will make.

Forgive me for any transcription errors, although I have now switched to composing by hand, because Siri turns off the Hall and Oates. Not cool, Siri. Not cool at all.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Certain Of What We Do Not See

I do not sense that the way of the gospel is the better way, but I know it. I will never tell you that I enjoy this road more than the other. If I told you that the harder path is more pleasing, I'd be lying.

The problem is that people have been told they will be happier if they take the harder road. It depends on what you mean. Ultimately happier? Of course. Happier the way people tend to think? No. We've all been doing an evangelistic bait-and-switch, and then we wonder why people think we are fake.

The narrow way is brutal, long, steep, and lonely. But the only one who can fill that gnawing existential loneliness in our souls has also taken the narrow way. In fact, He is the Way.

It has always seemed like something is wrong with the world. Something wrong with us. We can either pretend it isn't there, or take the red pill, as it were.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

A Guy Walks Into A Bar

I don't know why the car honked; I had the right of way. The dude yelled at the driver, and asked me to have a drink. Sure, I said.

If I'm being completely honest, I think I talked about myself too much. He didn't seem to mind. And I never met a Parisian with no trace of a French accent. I want to ask him about this.

I had a good time. I also thought after some reflection that God had a purpose in this meeting, that I should pray for my new friends, this man and wife. Most people don't know what they want, and what they think they want is not what they really want. We have loads of crap underneath what we show to the world, or even what we show to ourselves.

The other interesting thing is that people think religion involves the suppression of desires. On the contrary; true religion trades surface desires in for deeper and better ones. Let's not be afraid to dream, to tell God the deepest things in our hearts. If they are true, nothing will hold them back, in the end.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

I Must Be Powerful

A priest said to me and some assembled friends last night that St. Josemaria Escriva was tempted with the basest, most vile things as he advanced in the spiritual life. I'm in good company, I thought. I truly don't know what is around the corner, but I am fully aware of the difference between the suggestion of evil, and being conflicted in the will.

That's not to say I can afford to be complacent, but it is to say that grace offers a clarity, a purity of desire, that the pursuit of virtue in the absence of grace cannot offer, however noble.

I was reflecting after receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation last night. If the revelation of Jesus Christ represents reality, then most of the world and most of the people in it wander in darkness. I was sad at this, almost inconsolably, and then a great affection for the Holy Father took over my heart. Certainly, he loves the children of God, but he intensely loves the wandering, and the lost. If we pray for him, and we lift his intentions to God, then we love the lost and wandering also.

It's almost as if nothing will be left, except the Sacrifice of the Mass. In the darkest times, not even this. Lord, help us to see your coming Day with simplicity and clarity.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Nothing Is What It Seems

I've been reading The End Of The Present World, And The Mysteries Of The Future Life, by Fr. Arminjon. It's not for the faint of heart, or maybe it is, if you know what I mean. I suppose the theme of my life lately is that things which seem important aren't, and things which seem small are the most significant.

I came back from Mass thinking, "I'm going to eat that Campbell's vegetable beef soup to the glory of God!" I had the same thought when I turned my key to unlock the door, and on and on. I suppose it could be a bit dramatic, but truly, when is the last time you ate a Skittle thinking of God's glory? What if that moment defines your destiny?

I'm not surprised, anyway, that this is the book beloved by St. Therese, and that she was the one to remind us to do little things with great love. There isn't anything else. The way this world appears lies to us, saying, "Life will go on, much as it has. You have time. Even if you don't, to have existed is triumph enough." Not so. Don't waste your life. Seek God while he may be found.

Monday, November 09, 2015

Scars

We're all carrying the scars, the battle wounds from this life as a disciple of Jesus. Whether they are self-inflicted or not, they don't heal over in a day. Some, not even in a lifetime. Even if words of forgiveness have been spoken, even if we're actively seeking to be a blessing through prayer or otherwise, that which caused the pain can still come to our minds. I can taste the bitterness. I can imagine the opportunities to settle the score, to voice my hurt. And I know that is the old man that has been crucified with Christ trying to reassert himself.

Yet you and I don't have to surrender. Just because I feel a certain way at a certain time does not mean that my firm resolution to love is false. It means that I must overcome my feelings to continue doing what grace has prompted me to do.

One other thing: I think I better understand what it means to forgive in Christ. We can forgive unilaterally in a certain way, not allowing the sins of others to define our participation in the love of Christ. But saying this could make it seem like we deny the wrongs done, or the gravity of them. On the contrary; we unilaterally forgive precisely because sin has eternal consequences. I choose to be an agent in your redemption, unnamed person who wronged me, because the true consequences of what you've done are much graver than my wounds. Indeed, if no one interceded, that person would be alone and in straits more dire than any wounds I could inflict.

In this case, the wounds are fresh, and they are ongoing. But it is the ever-present reality of judgment that persuades me that what I am owed pales in comparison to what God is owed! I will not leave a person I love without an advocate, no matter what has been done or said to me.

Thursday, November 05, 2015

What Will Your Verse Be?

No one plans to die when they die. A few lucky people end up suffering some kind of prolonged illness, and friends and family have the opportunity to keep vigil and wait.

What would you do if these are the last moments of your life? Is your activity at this moment consonant with what you want your story to say?

I have tended to think of sin as bumps in the road, mere blips on the radar of life, and perhaps in the grand scheme, against the backdrop of God's mercy, that's what they are. But never forget: Sin is choosing death instead of life. When death itself knocks at the door, do you want to be acting against yourself, and against the God who made you, and will raise you to life on the last day?

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Politics, Shmolitics

I saw a thing the other day that a Catholic political group "blasted" Paul Ryan for his alleged departures from Catholic social doctrine. And for all we know, he is out of harmony with the teaching. That's neither here nor there, at the moment.

My concern is that discussion about anything is being replaced by the ostentatious display of moral disdain for people. This is not the same as an argument. An argument goes like this:

A minimum wage insulates people from unforeseen difficulties, and rewards honest work, keeping people out of abject poverty.

The current minimum wage in the US does not suffice to provide for basic needs, for individuals or families.

Therefore, the minimum wage should be increased.

That's an argument. It may be a good one or a bad one, but if you wish to dispute it, dispute the premises or the conclusion. We don't do that; we dispute each other. We sort of decide in our own tribes what Good People are supposed to believe, and then we viciously attack the Other as morally defective. Rinse, repeat. It may be that some fault in reasoning or moral judgment has taken place in any one case, but I think many grow weary of having to assert their own good will in every case. We can do better.

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Return From Exile

I have returned! My one reader is surely thrilled. I'm sure you missed my penetrating insights into Hall & Oates, a band who hasn't released a studio album since at least we liked Dick Cheney. [Some people have never liked him.--ed.] But those are the people who dislike Top Gun and Applebee's, and they are not my kind of people. [Did you seriously combine those things?--ed.] Yes. Unabashedly.

I guess we missed talking about a few things. The pope was here. That's seriously exciting stuff. I love that guy. Is it crass to say that? People I greatly respect think there are perfectly valid reasons to critique him that don't involve YOUAREACOMMUNISTSTOPTALKING, and I'm sure that's so. Like episcopal appointments. Whatever. Against the long view of history, criticizing episcopal appointments feels like being a huge fan of Family Feud, and nonetheless hating Richard Dawson's ties. No one will care. They will say you have an unhealthy fascination with trivialities.

Suppose Cardinal So-And-So is on a bullet-train for the most intense fires of purgation at best. What does you or I clucking about it do? I can't think of anything. Doesn't it suffice to say, "Position X with respect to re-marriage and Communion is unclear thusly" and be done with it? If we understand the true teaching, and why it is so, we will keep believing and doing as we have done. In order to fully embrace what Jesus has for us, we all need conversion. That is not a clever excuse to despise someone. The Church is not a WWE pay-per-view.

A lot of folks who are fond of shaming others want it to be a total humiliation for the arrayed forces of laxity. Only one problem: Jesus loves those people. He's saving the score-settling for the end. I guess we should, too.

I don't know, kids. I just went through another All Souls,' and it struck me that Jesus doesn't give up on the stubbornest buffoon. At least from our vantage point, not even after death! Food for thought.

Friday, September 18, 2015

I'm Like Ed Sheeran, Just Thinking Out Loud

I had a friend who posted something about Eucharistic Adoration. This is by far the weirdest (Western) Catholic thing. Because the consecrated Host is the body, blood, soul, and divinity of the Father's dearly beloved Son, we worship Him. The whole matter is a yes/no question: it's either the most salutary thing you can do, other than perhaps Mass, or it is idolatry. There is no middle ground.

The unique challenge of being confronted with the Catholic Church's claim to be the Church Christ founded, the one to which we are bound as children to their mother, is that you actually have to consider whether it's true. The dice are loaded, in the sense that to challenge the claim with some prior hermeneutic, which by the Church's own admission it would and could never satisfy, is begging the question. If a man is convinced by Scripture and by reason that the claim cannot be true, he has not actually considered it, if it be a prior decision. In a certain sense, intellectual honesty requires uncertainty, in order to investigate.

It could be true, he says. In such a case, everything the Church teaches as revealed is true by definition, for God revealed it, and appointed the Church to promulgate it, and to engage itself in loving contemplation of that revelation. It also stands to reason that, given the foundational place of the Church (however conceived) in the Sacred Scriptures, to refrain from joining that Church which Christ established and protects by his divine power, is most unwise, to say the least.

It could be false, he says, in which case the pretense to universal jurisdiction is the most odious error, and anything which emerges as a development from the presumption of that false authority must be rejected, and firmly. To merely be doubtful of the truth of a claim does not make it false. To be hopeful that a certain claim is true likewise does not make it true. This breaks no ground, I trust.

One reason I was willing to set aside a particular hermeneutic or set of doctrines as the rule of faith by which I judged Catholicism false is that my set of convictions at the time--Reformed Presbyterianism, typified in the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms--could no more prove itself true than could any other. It is what I was taught by men and women I loved and trusted, and they loved God and me (God-willing, anyway) in the same way. I had no reason to believe that system of doctrine was mostly false, but if I am honest, I had no basis to believe it was entirely true, either. Anyone who has ever said, "Let God be true, and every man a liar," or, "Our confession is not the Bible" is actually conceding the point: We don't have the full truth, and we can't. In that case, it seems rather foolish to hold up the system as some high-water mark in theology, when practically and systemically, one cannot say it is infallible. If numerous formulations of doctrines in all their iterations are presumed fallible by the very fact that they are created, manipulated, and promulgated by people, whose stain of sin cannot be doubted, how might one of those systems--no matter how exalted and pure--be in its particularity the canon by which Roman theology is shown false? I'm not persuaded by the fact of commonality between Protestants in the nature of their objections against Rome, because those groups could all be wrong in a similar fashion, as easily as it could and has been argued they are correct. Each group and system cannot be right in the same way at the same time, with respect to Catholicism. One may believe he alone, or with any number of fellows, is correct, but this is very hard to maintain, given that numerous other systems retain a plausibility that disallows that kind of exclusivism. I'm not saying that the mere existence of other systems and men to profess them means mine is false. Rather, I am saying that there is nothing unique to one like my own that rules it out, or rules in its favor.

Each community is similar, practically and methodologically, which makes the existence of mutually exclusive doctrines nearly unexplainable. The fact that people rush to insist that these variances are "non-essentials" seems arbitrary, and could just as well be a method of coping with the fact of disunity, and the reality of an unwinnable argument. After all, a non-essential doctrine is a pretty bad candidate for a "distinctive," in the parlance of dogmatists. We call them "distinctives" because we think they are important.

If the Scriptures are perspicuous, why can't people using them, with the same basic hermeneutical assumptions, agree on what they say? It will not do to suppose that, having mutually decided not to condemn each other, one has in fact proven that the variances are non-essential! I would argue that the existence of the separate communities, which contain some people at least who would not welcome a pan-Protestant merger, amply demonstrates that agreement on what is essential has not been achieved.

And if in fact the reality of the Fall means that I'll never in this life attain to the authorial intent of any one passage, or the Bible as a whole, why would I presume to turn its words on the Catholic Church in righteous fury? What good is a perspicuity to which I have no access? It seems to me that humility and dogmatic uncertainty are not the same, and a myriad of deceptions flows from supposing that they are.

One final thing: Suppose the Catholic Church is not the Church Christ founded. Suppose for the moment the question, "Which one is the Church Christ founded?" is the wrong question, because there isn't one, at least not visibly. This would mean that the communities themselves existed for no reason, at least as guardians of truth. We'd be arguing about distinctives we'd have no means to assess. Moreover, if there were some common truth, it would exist outside every single visible community.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

I Won't Vote For Carly Fiorina

She's not pro-life, and by that, I mean she believes in exceptions. In a certain sense, there is no point in being anti-abortion at all, if you fundamentally don't understand why it's morally unacceptable. The center of the question is whether the fetus is a person. If she is, you can't kill her at any stage. If she isn't, there's nothing regrettable and tragic about it at all. All this Serious Talk about limiting abortion is just noise, if we do not contend with the central question.

You have the power to do what you will with your own body and life, but you do not have the right to destroy someone else's. That's pretty simple. People are fond of cluttering it up with emotional appeals to other ideals, etc. but it's not hard, ethically.

I'll work with anyone to limit abortion, but understand that I do so with the ultimate goal of removing this stain from the conscience of America, by never again permitting the death of these innocents at our hands.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Don't Give Up. Don't Ever Give Up.

That's the theme for today. We all fail, and often worse than we'd imagine on better days, in better times. But we know that the love of Christ is stretching out toward us, His pierced hand meeting ours at just the time when we have nearly given up.

Right now, you may think you are the worst person who has ever lived. Suppose you are. And now realize that Christ died for you, and He would do it again.

May I never speak to anyone without knowing this, that deep heart-knowing that makes us children.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Man-Made Tradition

It can be argued that what belongs to what Catholics call "Sacred Tradition" are traditions of men. In fact, people argue this all the time. The polemics are not new. However, an important step in the process of accepting divine revelation is the ability to distinguish in a principled way between divine revelation, and human opinion.

When a Catholic apologist says, "Sola Scriptura collapses into Solo Scriptura," what he's saying is, "There is no principled way to distinguish between divine revelation, and human opinion." Revelation is received. It is intrinsic to the purpose of the human person to receive revelation as the beginning of communion with God, his or her ultimate end. If he cannot distinguish between revelation and human opinion in his own hermeneutical process, by what means will he judge that the Catholic Church has adopted traditions of men, against God's word?

It's no doubt appealing to say, "We're all sinners," when faced with what I call the Noltie Conundrum; it's interesting to note that the reality of the Fall is not acknowledged at every step of the process. When a Sola Scriptura adherent needs an unimpeachable dogma against something he believes to be false, he curiously forgets the "chaos" he has acknowledged.

For my part, infallibility is the distinguishing mark of divine revelation, in contrast to human opinion. So, if none of the ecclesial bodies possesses a charism of infallibility in any circumstances--the unstated premise of Sola Scriptura--then the individual must possess it. Even if that conclusion could be supposed, the person cannot know whether he is exercising that charism, because he can't distinguish between divine revelation and human opinion.

My friend Davis Evans of Melbourne, Florida, this rabbit-hole goes pretty deep.



Sunday, September 13, 2015

Here It Is

I may be a little bit excited for the Federer-Djokovic match this afternoon. Roger Federer has no real pressure, beyond what he puts on himself. If he loses, there is no shame. He's still the greatest of all time. Were he to win, his legend would grow even beyond its bounds now. I have never seen anything like this in sports. This would be like if a 44-year-old Muhammad Ali knocked out Mike Tyson in 1986. Actually, no, that doesn't quite get it; no one would think a Federer victory is a shocking upset. But if an old Ali kept legitimately fighting for the world title, if he inspired fear and respect from his younger opponents, and not simply respect, you'd get an idea of what we're seeing with Federer.

This will be the 27th time Federer plays in the championship match of a 128-person, single-elimination major tournament. He's won 17; he's lost 9. If Djokovic wins, he'll have the same number of wins as Federer has losses. You have to beat 6 other men just to get the chance to win or lose. You can't take anything away from Federer; he's re-defined dominance. It's another testament to Roger's longevity and greatness that Djokovic's dominance is measured in beating him.

Sooner or later, Federer will only be an icon, a symbol, not the living, breathing terror he is now. Take a moment to appreciate what you see. We may never see it again.


Saturday, September 12, 2015

This Isn't Actually Hard

I read one of those stupid millennial dating articles from a woman. Of course it didn't work out. I don't even know where to start. I could be just too old for this stuff, but I can solve your problems in 2 easy steps. Ready?

1. Don't have sex with him. It's not entirely true that all we want is sex, but the worst parts of us do, at the wrong times, and for the wrong reasons. If you want to know what a man is made of, tell him the pot of gold is at the end of the marriage rainbow, and not before. If he gets mean about this, run. If he moves heaven and earth just to watch you fail a pottery class, actually enjoys watching your shows no matter how stupid, and generally forgets other women exist, it could be good.

2. Don't live together. I know everybody says the opposite; everybody is wrong. Ask old married people what the secret is. I'll bet this is one. There is no incentive for a man to pledge his whole self if he's playing house already. When you're not sexy anymore, or too annoying, etc. he's out the door. How obvious does this need to be, before there is a widespread re-thinking? You can't really coax a man into marriage. If you do, he may resent you. Even if it seems to work, you don't get from "It's just a piece of paper" to, "Mom and Dad are celebrating 60 years!" You just don't.

I get it; you don't care for the religious doctrine lurking underneath what I'm saying. Fine. Believe or disbelieve whatever you want. If you want to try something different, try this. What is there to lose? "Serial monogamy" sounds like a new daytime soap to replace "Passions" on NBC. How's that working out for you?

US Open Update

A wise person leads with this. Hilarious and charming. In the other women's semifinal, Simona Halep of Romania, the number 2 seed, was upset by another unseeded Italian, Flavia Pennetta. What are we doing here, making wine?

Over on the men's side, the world number 1 and top seed, Novak Djokovic, rolled into the final in straight sets over the defending US Open champion, Marin Cilic. Seriously, though, this dude is scary. If he wins, that will be his third major this year, and 10th for his career.

In the other semifinal, the great Roger Federer rolled over 2015 French Open champion and fellow countryman, Stan Wawrinka, in a mere 92 minutes. Wawrinka is the guy who upset Djokovic in the French Open final to prevent him from being in position to win all four majors in a calendar year (the "Grand Slam"). Wawrinka is the 5th ranked player in the world; Federer made him look like a qualifier.

If Roger Federer wins, it would add an all-time leading 18th major to his total, and his 6th US Open. He is certainly cementing his legacy as the greatest male player of all time. For guys this great, there is no prime, no twilight, and no seeming end. What if he simply retires because he is bored? On the other hand, he is driven to dominate. He does it with great class and respect for opponents, but he's a fierce competitor. I think he wants to be the world #1 player again, and he believes he can be. It's patently absurd that he's #2 at this stage, anyway. Why not? I'll never question Federer again. His run to the Wimbledon title and reclaiming the #1 ranking was just as unlikely in 2012, but he did both.

That was more than 3 years ago now. All the way back in 2010, the media began to ask, "Is the greatest ever finally done winning major titles?" No. And his greatness is proved by being a consistent threat to win more in 2015. We can take nothing away from these other recent major champions, most of which are new in reaching this elite level. But don't bury the lede, as they say: "Federer Still Here, As Great As Ever."

You need to tune in, while you still can. I'm going to keep saying it, because the man is 34, and there's nothing really left to do in tennis, except reclaim the mountain upon which he stood, briefly unchallenged. Tennis is a deceptively brutal sport, and stays at the top are brief, unless you are Roger Federer. Age gives way to youth, unless you are Roger Federer. When Andre Agassi made his remarkable run to the final of the US Open, it was Federer who beat him. 10 years ago.

Tomorrow at 3 PM CDT, we have a chance to see if time can be defied once again. It's deeper than you realize, though: it's not a Cinderella story; Federer has made it seem commonplace for guys in their 30s to play for major titles. It isn't, and it never will be. Unless you are Roger Federer.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Hurrying Slowly

I've been packed to move for weeks now, but it's being held up. My crucifixes are packed, also. You don't realize how weird this is until it happens. A Catholic home with no crucifix is not a home. Surely only a church without the Blessed Sacrament is worse.

I don't want to write about 9/11. Most of what needs saying has been said. I think I learned the wrong things from it. We might complain that some "liberals" lionized and infantilized Muslims after the attack; it's just as likely we lionized and infantilized ourselves.

The purest and best lesson is that life is fragile, and not guaranteed. We always need reminding. Red said, "Get busy livin', or get busy dyin.'" He might have said, "Get busy lovin', or get busy hatin.'" It's all the same thing.

Peace be with you!

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

When I Was Done Being Astonished

Then I started to think about what was said here. The title certainly grabs one, and the title uses decidedly Catholic words like, "teaching authority," and "Church." Does this suggest that some segment of Protestants, as represented by Swain and Rishmawy, are moving toward us in the Catholic Church? Perhaps it is rather for those men to argue that the real distance between themselves and the Catholic Church is not as great as some suppose. The reader must decide, upon reflection, if a real change in the Protestant position has taken place.

Rishmawy correctly notes some measure of evangelical and Protestant suspicion of "churchly teaching authority", owing to the Protestant affirmation of Sola Scriptura and the Scripture as the "Word of God." He affirms the traditional Protestant formulations, but insists that still more could be said about the teaching authority without recognizing the magisterium, viz.,the authoritative teaching office, of the Catholic Church, or being captive to "what this means to me" in a small group Bible study. He writes, "No, many Reformed have recognized that God has given the Church in its broadest and narrower institutional expressions the task of representatively serving Holy Scripture."

Scott Swain, in the book Trinity, Reading, and Revelation, summarizes William Whitaker's answer to the question of the role of the Church with respect to the Scriptures within Whitaker's work, A Disputation On Holy Scripture, as follows:

1.      1.“First, the church is the witness and guardian of the sacred writings, and discharges, in this respect, as it were the function of a notary.” God has entrusted the Scriptures to the church for safekeeping, to guard and protect them from corruption or harm (cf. Deut 31:9; Rom. 3:2). Again, though, just because Israel was entrusted with the tablets of the covenant, that does not mean they established or authorized the covenant, but they themselves were governed and authorized as God’s people by them.
2.      2. “The second office of the church is, to distinguish and discern the true, sincere, and genuine scriptures from the spurious, false, and suppositious” (cf. 1 Cor. 14:37; 2 Thess. 2:1-2). The Church, again, doesn’t authorize or establish the canon, but it does recognize it. In other words, the Scriptural texts have their authority before the Church says so, but the Church is given the Spirit of God in order to recognize which texts possess that authority. As Swain says (possibly paraphrasing Whitaker), a goldsmith is trained to recognize gold, but his recognition doesn’t make the gold what it is.
3.      3. “The third office of the church is to publish, set forth, preach, and promulgate the scriptures; wherein it discharges the function of a herald, who ought to pronounce with a loud voice the decrees and edicts of the king, to omit nothing, and to add nothing of its own” (c. Isa. 40:9; Rom. 10:6; 2 Cor. 5:19). Whitaker’s quote is fairly clear, but the point is, the text of Scripture is supposed to be read, preached, and passed on. That does require a body of people committed to its dissemination and faithful transmission.

4.      4. “The fourth office of the church is to expound and interpret the scriptures; wherein its function is that of an interpreter. Here it should introduce not fictions of its own, but explain the scriptures by the scriptures” (cf. Mt. 13:52; Rom. 12:6; 1 Cor. 14:3, 29; Eph. 4:11; 2 Tim. 2:15). The Church is called to interpret the Scriptures and give their sense, not adding or subtracting, but attempting to humbly and simply explain the Word of God. This happens in all sorts of ways, but especially in the giving of preachers and teachers who take the apostolic message and explain it to the people of God, much as Ezra did the returned exiles.
      
      It's not my purpose to critique each of these points here. I would note that the Catholic Church's understanding of the primacy of Sacred Scripture as uniquely God-breathed does no violence to its understanding of revelation originating in God, but delivered in two modes: Sacred Scripture, and Sacred Tradition. The humility of the Church's guardianship answers many of the objections offered here. I commend Dei Verbum, chapter II, article 10 and chapter V to Mr. Rishmawy and others.

      Swain concludes by writing, "the church is that community created and authorized by the Word of God in order that it might obediently guard, discern, proclaim, and interpret the Word of God." Such a statement could be affirmed by a Catholic, but for the fact that "Church" is not being defined visibly. Without a visible Church, the various "institutional expressions" have no meaningful connection to one another, but are discrete members of a set. Also, asserting the existence of a universal Church is only an assertion, if the particular expressions are not actually parts of the whole. Rishmawy essentially concedes this point in distinguishing between those "institutional expressions" and the Church in its "broadest" sense. The universal Church is invisible, according to Rishmawy. In terms of authority, then, the particular communities exercise some authority; the universal Church cannot, for it is only a mental construct. Even the particular communities have only a pretense of authority, since any individual may challenge and refuse submission to any particular body, on the basis of "Scripture." Sola Scriptura remains at bottom the primacy of individual interpretation, and any hope of institutional control or authority is illusory, having accepted the premise. "Solo Scriptura" cannot be distinguished in a principled way from Sola Scriptura, and as a result, the old dispute and its contours remain unchanged.

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Bad Religion?

They tell you that faith shouldn't be a cloak for intolerance, and I agree. Yet what does that mean? I don't think faith obligates you or me to send money to Creflo Dollar, either, and I'm sure you agree. It seems to me, though, people like when faith provides the sentimental padding to whatever they already agree with; they are decidedly less tolerant when it obligates people to say, "No."

The Bible says faith is a certainty in things unseen. Another thing I'm certain of, based on the reality of those things, is that I couldn't sell you a Playboy, or bake you a gay wedding cake. It hasn't come up. I also couldn't attend your wedding if you've been divorced, and are now being re-married, if your first spouse is still alive. "Re-marriage" is adultery, after divorce from a living spouse.

Separation from someone you're married to is acceptable; there could be a thousand good reasons for this. It could take the form of a civil divorce. Divorce doesn't exist in the mind of God, though. There are those Christians, typically Protestants, who think that adultery creates an exception to the divorce prohibition; not so. You can separate, but divorce doesn't exist.

If it comes up that I can't do or say something, based on Christian teaching, it's not because I don't like you, or want you to be happy. I want everyone to be happy. Supremely so, in fact. In what does true happiness consist? I think most people are used to defining "happiness" however they like. The true definition must be misplaced, in the same place as the true definition of "intolerance."

True happiness consists in knowing and loving God, and being with Him forever. I think a lot of people barely tolerate religion; they think that at best, it's a set of quaint, superstitious beliefs that old people and foreigners have, but they really don't matter. Friend, if you could even imagine what unending joy looks like, or will feel like, you wouldn't ask me why I can't bake you a cake.

What if that supernatural world is not only real, but more real than so much of this world which passes away? I'll bet you'd live differently. I'll bet a lot of people would.

Many people who look happy right now are actually inconsolably sad. They have adopted as their central motto, "Life sucks, and then you die." That's why they are the life of the party now. They are busy sucking every last drop of pleasure out of this life before it ends.

We're not supposed to die. The fact that nearly all of us have or will just tells us we have a problem. Sinning is choosing death instead of life; that's why it's wrong, and/or stupid. On the other hand, we are oriented to chase goodness; the only problem is, the compass is broke.

Monday, September 07, 2015

Revenge Of Roger?

John Isner, the 13th player in the world, and an American with a massive serve, is perfectly capable of beating Roger Federer tonight. Supposing however that Roger is much better, and will play like it, is no great reach. He'd get Thomas Berdych in the quarterfinals if the seeds hold, which could be a tight match, but he should win. Andy Murray has to play French Open champion Stanislaus Wawrinka in the quarterfinals. World number 1 Novak Djokovic would play either 2014 US Open champion Marin Cilic, or Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, either of which would be a dangerous quarterfinal match for him.

Federer could lose any of these matches, of course, but he has dominated both of his potential semifinal opponents in Wawrinka or Murray. Even if Djokovic were to prevail in another final--having beaten Federer in the previous 2 Wimbledon finals--it would be an enduring testament to Federer's longevity and greatness. If Djokovic were to win his 10th Grand Slam title and 3rd this year, he would begin to enter the conversation as one of the greats of all time.

If Federer were to win the US Open, he would cement his claim as the greatest male player ever, being 4 major titles clear of his idol, Pete Sampras, and the most legitimate rival claimant to his status, Rafael Nadal. There is simply no parallel to what Federer has been able to do: remain so near to the pinnacle of tennis at such an advanced age. There are evidences that he is not as dominant as during his peak from 2003-09, but we are 6 years clear of that window, and still talking about Roger Federer as a legitimate threat to win a major title. It is quite simply the most amazing, improbable thing I've ever seen in sports. Perhaps Jack Nicklaus winning the Masters at 46 in 1986 is close, but he didn't routinely stand in the way of his rivals before and after his triumph as Federer has been able to do. His Wimbledon triumph in 2012 was rather unlikely, or so it seemed, and yet here we are.

However it turns out, thank you, Roger. You have been the greatest of all time, but also done it with great class and respect, toward the game, and toward your fellow competitors. I have been privileged to watch these past few years. My only regret has been not following closely when you were the undisputed champion of your sport.

Saturday, September 05, 2015

I Don't Have "Straight Pride"

I don't consider myself straight, as we understand the term. I confess that marriage was made for one man and one woman, alone. If I call myself "straight," all I'm telling you is that my tendency, for good and bad, would be to have sexual relations with women. If I have another category "gay," I'm validating homosexual relations on equal terms, without meaning to. Then the issue becomes like sports teams, like the Red Sox and the Yankees. You have your team and culture, and I have mine. We do this all the time in politics; we get really tense and passionate when we think the others want to take the little parcel we've carved out for ourselves. We're just animals, after all. We fight the hardest when cornered.

This reality about marriage is not supernatural as such, but it fits with a worldview that accepts, and even suggests, that such things which would not and could not be known by reason alone have been revealed. I won't hide that from you.

Still, it stands to reason that things we might consider supernatural truths at first thought could simply be natural truths that are repeated. Why would a God who's allegedly revealing things beyond human reason repeat things that are within our reason's grasp? Because we need to know those things, and in general, we are stupid. Consider humbly if you would that perhaps the "sheep" motif in the Bible is not really a metaphor at all.

I don't argue against gay marriage, or any other thing, from fear. I am afraid of some of its advocates, though. Even a virtuous society needs to be free enough for people to be wrong, and maybe find a better way later on. People stomping around screaming, "Bigot!" at every opportunity doesn't exactly remind me of the land of the free, and the home of the brave.

Definitely not the brave. But that stands to reason, too. Even relatively nice people like Conor Friedersdorf need to continue insisting they are on "the right side of history." If people stop marching and yelling for 5 minutes, they might realize they've been running from some things, and they might hear the still small voice. We can't have that.


Rafael Nadal

The 14-time major champion was defeated in 5 sets at the US Open. His world ranking has dropped to 8, despite being considered one of the informal "Big Four" (Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Andy Murray, and Nadal).

Before you get all misty about what he once was, consider that he owns a 33-10 head-to-head match record against Roger Federer, widely considered the greatest of all time. Nadal has won the French Open 9 times. 9. Nobody ever has won more than 7 at any major tournament. Stew on that for a moment.

Indeed, the 33rd-ranked male player in the world had to play the match of his life in order to prevail. That is greatness. At times, losing makes it easier to see than winning.

The time may be drawing to a close for he and other greats who came on the scene at the dawn of the twenty-first century. Yet I'm sure the victor would echo what another man said upon upsetting Federer some years ago, when asked about Federer's alleged decline: "I wish I could decline like that."


Friday, September 04, 2015

Go Rest High On That Mountain

I found out that a friend from high school succumbed to drugs and alcohol. I didn't know him well at that time, but a few years ago, he worked for me as a personal assistant. It was already starting to grab him then, but his fundamental goodness shined right through. I think he came to regret letting the drugs make him let me down. I just hope I did enough to encourage him in the love of God.

Addiction is horrible, because once you are physically addicted to a thing, it's even stronger than what you want. People may have long ago decided that they couldn't fill that emotional hole with a substance, but they can't get out. It takes a ton of support, prayer, and a mighty effort.

Maybe the hardest thing while watching it happen is not taking their failures as people too personally. They will have to account for those things once they get clear, but there is no amount of anger that will make it work. And if you're not careful, you'll poison your own soul with that anger. It's one of those times where we need to recognize anger as sadness, and just be sad.

People are crying out for love. That's how it starts. The booze or the pills don't judge me, or tell me I'm not good enough, people think. Then they're stuck.

The truth is, even if a friend, parent, or lover wounds us somehow, that hole in ourselves is too big for any person to fill. It's the reality of existence. What is my purpose? What's this life for? Does it matter? The highest love is the kind that makes us friends with God Himself. It's the kind that makes people forgive killers, rescue enemies from burning buildings, and so forth. But all the other loves come from God, too. God is Love.

I'll miss you, Brett. Here's hoping we can laugh again together.

Thursday, September 03, 2015

5 Thoughts For Today

5. It's like Goodell went, "I mean, nobody really likes Tom Brady, anyway, right?"

4. "Evidence? We don't need no stinkin' evidence!"

3. Always wear a helmet when riding a bike. Any bike. Anywhere.

2. Seriously, though, helmets. In other news, does anyone know why we don't spell it "helment"?

1. Nothing says "We take sin seriously" like a paltry opportunity to unburden yourself of it once a week for 45 minutes on a Saturday. Yes, it's changing in many places, as well it should.

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

I Walk The Line

If you're in the business of telling the truth, it can be a funny thing. Most truth-tellers are the sorts of people that have the obvious staring at them, and at least it appears no one else has noticed. He takes no special note of those who have a vested interest in keeping things as they are; he has a higher obligation.

If you didn't know, I believe I am one of those people.

The unique challenge is that an even higher obligation exists: to love as God loves. These things are closely related, of course. You can't love anyone by telling them lies, even comforting ones. Jesus is Truth Himself, so when you speak the truth, you are leading someone to Jesus.

Still, we can be so fond of "telling it like it is" that we believe our own hype, that somehow the world needs us, and our special brand of frankness. Dear friends, we could be dead in the next few moments. Every time I see a sad post on social media about a sudden death, I am reminded. It is simply foolish to believe that any order we can bring to disorder, any fight that we can make against the forces of evil, really has anything to do with us at all, ultimately.

In light of this, how silly does a man look, when he has already risen above where his talents would take him, by the mercy of God, and he wastes that precious platform chattering about others' failure to meet his arbitrary standard of reasonableness or sanity?

If I had a chance to meet the late Sen. Paul Wellstone, (D, MN) I might have known he was one of the most liberal elected officials in the US. I may have been given an opportunity to share with the Senator where his philosophy transgressed the moral law. Maybe. If he asked me outright. In that unique encounter with an actual person I am meeting for the first time, my slapdash opinions about his politics would take a backseat to at least trying to know and love this person in the best way possible. We think small talk is a waste, but it isn't. It's not only a way to build trust, it's a way to receive it. Anyway, were I to behave as though Paul Wellstone were waiting for me and my brilliance, I doubt we'd talk long.

 What do we do if a person makes a career of this arrogance? What if the truth-teller becomes intolerable? Never forget: even now, we walk the line of friendship and challenge. Some care nothing for friendship.