Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Five Nuggets Of Boisterous Blather

5. Well, yes, I'm excited. The greatest quarterback of all time, joining his buddy, the greatest tight end of all time. Now, don't get me wrong: I admire Coach Belichick and the entire Patriots organization. I honestly do. But anyone is curious to see what ol' Tom Brady has left in the tank. He'll be 43 before they start.

4. I'm excited in that awkward way, among struggling people who think maybe tackle football isn't a good idea.

3. This stupid pandemic! It's awfully hard to gain experience teaching, when the schools are closed.

2. Meanwhile, if the Catholic schools don't hire me, I'm happy to go to the public schools. I shall preach among the Gentiles. [That's offensive.--ed.] Blame St. Paul, not me.

1. This stupid pandemic! Right now, the greatest tennis marvel of the last 22 years, Roger Federer, is just sitting at home, aging. It makes me so mad. I love him. No, seriously.

The Good Is Diffusive Of Itself

15 years ago today, Bryan Cross became a Catholic. And then, the rest of that immediate family did as well. I would not have become Catholic without Bryan and Carol, and the grace they came to me through them. It's not really about them, though. It's about God, and His mercy.

Without prejudice to what is going on of great value in the other Christian communities, and communities in other religions, it sure seems like God is calling his children back to the Catholic Church. Granted, the Church's apologists have celebrated converts from day one. Also, the Protestant separations are particularly painful for us here in the West, but also for everyone united to the successor of Peter.

I was just thinking that all of us will probably be joyfully stunned by the way God has used us to touch people with the good news of Jesus. In my mind, it was like when you're watching a football game, and they show a "coaching tree" that stems from a coach they want to praise. Sometimes, they do it with quarterbacks, particularly with those who have attained a legendary status while they still play. Bryan Cross's coaching tree is really big.

Believe it or not, there are people who don't like him. More than that, they don't like the apostolic work he has done. For a Catholic audience, I might have said, "They don't like the fruit of his apostolate," but frankly, I didn't even know that word until I became a Catholic, so I chose "apostolic". If the frustration with that work is rooted in a firm commitment of conscience, I suppose I cannot object. But I do think that circumstances are causing Christian people to re-examine the solidity of particular commitments with regard to dogma that may be said to be keeping them out of full communion with the Catholic Church.

All of us must commit ourselves to continuing to be attentive to the voice of the Holy Spirit, especially in Sacred Scripture, and if we find that God who cannot lie is prompting our hearts to ask questions we cannot answer, we must find the answer, no matter what it costs. And it is not a nebulous quest for "my truth" and "your truth," because the Blessed Trinity is a God of order. The God of the Bible is the God of history. The reason history--so to speak--pulls one away from the Protestant Reformation is that the God of faithfulness never stopped speaking, never stopped preserving his people, and never stopped preserving the dogmas which they would profess. And it is a mistake to read the Scriptures against the Catholic Church, because the Scriptures ultimately are the voice of that God speaking to that people--His family--in the house that he built for them. More than this, the Church is the house that we are.

Let me stop speaking poetically, and bring it back to the brute facts. Without a mechanism to preserve what amounts to a "counter-dogma," there is no reason to suppose that any contrary opinion has any divine sanction or force. I myself did not know what to do with the edifice of what appeared to be the Catholic Church and its dogmas, before considering its authority. I do know that without knowing that my counterclaims were rooted ultimately in divine speech and authority, it would have been unreasonable to continue holding them as true in conscience, in matters so grave as these. As a result, the most sensible thing to do is to return to what is known in common. Either God is the origin of everything held in common, or human beings are the ultimate origin of everything that is common, and everything that is distinct. Yet if human beings are ultimately the origin of what is purportedly supernatural, that is a naturalism which ends in atheism. Atheism, it goes without saying, is not an acceptable option for those who believe in Jesus Christ. Therefore, we must find and acknowledge any structure or authority that we find which preserves dogma that we know and hold in common. We will find later that we have to decide what is a legitimate development, and what is an accretion, but we don't actually have to work too hard to find the ancient Church. They wrote to us, and to each other. This is not news for many of you. When it starts to show a coherence and a pattern which challenges our own assumptions about our continuity with the ancient Church, then it can become very challenging indeed.

I did not intend to write a treatise. Suffice it to say, my favorite thing about being a friend of Bryan Cross, and a good number of his associates--familial and otherwise--is our unity in the truth. We continue to share the goal of uniting all Christians in one Church, not only conceptually, but visibly. This is my hope, and this is my thankfulness for this day.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

The Wayward Son Longs To Return

I don't know what you are feeling, but I am feeling lost. This pandemic is intensifying the feelings of being superfluous, and even in the way of something, or someone. We tend to call the famous story, "the parable of the prodigal son," but as has been pointed out to me in numerous sermons since I was a very young adult, perhaps the heart of the story is the generosity of the father. I will not absolve myself of responsibility, but largely we are in a "far country" not of our own making.

I have never felt as nostalgic as I do right now, but it seems different than nostalgia at other places and other times. I am longing for something very simple and very normal, for a life we knew and understood only months ago. I have no heart or courage for a culture war, with respect to what we ought to do; I only know that I don't think things can stay the same for much longer.

I am a strong personality, with a well-defined sense of purpose. It seems as though that purpose has been snatched away. I cannot say that I was full of joy and purpose before the pandemic came. I had been relying on the certainty of faith, because I am not aware of a great reservoir of sensible consolation.

I hesitate to make any grand promises, but I don't think I will ever grudgingly go to Holy Mass ever again. How central to my sense of reality is the Holy Sacrifice! What a refuge in time of trouble! Simply to be present near the altar. I must confess, I have hardly watched any live stream of the Mass. If the sacred pastors require it of me, I will comply. Short of that, it's not the same. If we should ever doubt our sacramental sense of the world, we would do well to remember this time, when the empty gnosticism of a disembodied Christianity was laid bare for all to see.

Comfort your people, O Lord! Please start with me.

5 More Rejected Biden Campaign Slogans

5. Biden 2020: Not Completely Hopeless With Whites

4. Biden 2020: Like Family At The Holidays: You're Going, And That's Final

3. Biden 2020: The Midwest Is Not Just An NCAA Tourney Region

2. Biden 2020: My Twitter Will Be Cat Videos

1. Biden 2020: The Stuff I Forgot Is Better Than The Stuff He Says Intentionally

Monday, April 20, 2020

Unchanging Love

I read Ephesians this morning. I have to say, I don't necessarily feel like I'm seated in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus right now. And yet, I sense that I am indeed being lavished with grace. The only thing that the enemy of our souls can do is to try to convince us that Jesus made a mistake when he died on the cross for you and me. God shows his own love for us in this: that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. I'm not even going to quote it; maybe sometimes we need to read it in plain words, as if it were spoken by a friend, because it is and has been.

I need the sacraments so badly. We had almost been in a habit of saying that we took them for granted, and then they were taken away. We found out that indeed we have taken them for granted. This quarantine stuff is getting to me. It's probably true that I don't like people that much, but this is a crazy level of isolation.

The most foundational reality is that God's generous attitude toward me, and all the rest of us, has not changed. Therefore, I more than likely need to change my attitude toward myself. There are certain people who are cavalier about life, and cavalier about sin. They don't need to hear about forgiving themselves. But some of us do.

I told the Lord the other day that I may pretend that I'm happy being a sinner, but I'm no more convincing than Peter was. He needed that restoration from Our Lord, as surely as he needed air. The grace we receive is a little more indirect than we had become used to, but it is very much available to us. If we desire something better for ourselves than we take in our worst moments, then we should ask God to deepen that desire. My supposed distance from the Lord may only be a feeling, just as fleeting and ephemeral as a mood.

Touch us and heal us, O Lord, your beloved lepers. We who are outside the camp will find you there, and there, go into the inner rooms of the heart of God.