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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.