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Sunday 8 December 2013

Rejecting the Gospel of Christ-Part Two

St. Peter, the first pope, at one time rejected Christ and Christ's Gospel. This fact, recorded in all four Gospels, reminds us of the reality of Christ's Passion and Death-that all, but John and Mary, rejected Him, the God-Man, in His hour of suffering.

This point, of the rejection of Christ, is the second point in my little Advent mediation today. Here is the passage first.

John 18:15-27

15 And Simon Peter followed Jesus, and so did another disciple. And that disciple was known to the high priest, and went in with Jesus into the court of the high priest.
16 But Peter stood at the door without. The other disciple therefore, who was known to the high priest, went out, and spoke to the portress, and brought in Peter.
17 The maid therefore that was portress, saith to Peter: Art not thou also one of this man's disciples? He saith: I am not.
18 Now the servants and ministers stood at a fire of coals, because it was cold, and warmed themselves. And with them was Peter also, standing, and warming himself.
19 The high priest therefore asked Jesus of his disciples, and of his doctrine.
20 Jesus answered him: I have spoken openly to the world: I have always taught in the synagogue, and in the temple, whither all the Jews resort; and in secret I have spoken nothing.
21 Why asketh thou me? ask them who have heard what I have spoken unto them: behold they know what things I have said.
22 And when he had said these things, one of the servants standing by, gave Jesus a blow, saying: Answerest thou the high priest so?
23 Jesus answered him: If I have spoken evil, give testimony of the evil; but if well, why strikest thou me?
24 And Annas sent him bound to Caiphas the high priest.
25 And Simon Peter was standing, and warming himself. They said therefore to him: Art not thou also one of his disciples? He denied it, and said: I am not.
26 One of the servants of the high priest (a kinsman to him whose ear Peter cut off) saith to him: Did I not see thee in the garden with him?
27 Again therefore Peter denied; and immediately the cock crew

One can assume that fear prompted St. Peter into denying Christ. Peter did not want to be crucified as well. That could have happened, although St. John, who stayed around Christ, was not arrested.
What is it about suffering which makes people want to run away? The great saints all suffered, but in our climate of comfort, these saints may have been ignored by Catholics today.
The list is long. 
The second reason St. Peter could have desired to avoid suffering, besides his desire not to experience physical pain himself, was that he simply did not love Christ enough to stay with Him.
Most of us have loved someone. We want to be with that person even in dark times. But, that means giving up our own comfort zones, our own expectations.
It means joining with and in the suffering of another.
for love is strong as death, states Song of Songs 8:6. 
But, if we do not love, we shall daily, hourly flee death. I am convinced that the cult of conformity has destroyed the once strong Catholic ability to stand back from daily temptations to forget Christ and follow Him. Most are following the world, the flesh, and the devil. 
I am going to write a long mini-series on preparing for death, something Catholics use to think about daily.
This practice died after the changes following Vatican II. Sadly, with the heresies of communism, socialism, materialism, consumerism, utopianism taking over the imaginations of so many Catholics, the real Gospel message has been forgotten.
Love creates the life of the kingdom of God, not politics, not the avoidance of suffering.
To be continued....

Rejecting the Gospel of Christ-Part One

Recently, I have been reflecting on the Passion of Christ. This, oddly, is my Advent reading and study. What has struck me over and over are two points I would like to share this morning.

The first is that Christ, as God-Man, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, was calling the Jewish people to a completely new emphasis in their faith, which was foretold by the prophets (Advent readings abound), but mostly ignored.

The reason the prophecies were ignored and finally rejected, and the fact that this rejection led to Christ's suffering and death, provides us all with a simple reflection for our own times.

Christ was not the political, military Messiah the Jews had come to prefer. Like so a many at the time of Christ, liberation no longer meant freedom from sin, but from oppressors. The materialist, utopian ideal of a Jewish nation dominated the imaginations and aspirations of the people, especially under the harsh rule of the Romans (one of many harsh rulers, of course).

I have traveled in recent years to five countries and have discovered that the ideal of utopianism has supplanted the hope of the kingdom of God. This is one of the great evils of both socialism and communism. Political realities are important, but not at the expense of the ignoring of spiritual realities. If some Catholics talk about money and politics constantly, and do not talk about God and His Plan for us all, their hearts are simply in the wrong place.

The Kingdom of Man has replaced the Kingdom of God in their hearts.

Matthew did quote Isaiah 9, the great Messianic prophecy, in his Gospel-but what did Matthew mean?

Matthew 4:12-17

12 And when Jesus had heard that John was delivered up, he retired into Galilee:
13 And leaving the city Nazareth, he came and dwelt in Capharnaum on the sea coast, in the borders of Zabulon and Nephthalim;
14 That it might be fulfilled which was said by Isaias the prophet:
15 Land of Zabulon and land of Nephthalim, the way of the sea beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles:
16 The people that sat in darkness, hath seen great light: and to them that sat in the region of the shadow of death, light is sprung up.
17 From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say: Do penance, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
Look how Matthew skillfully place Isaiah 9 in the context of the Kingdom of Heaven, which is an internal, spiritual kingdom. Of course, if one truly repents, is purified and reveals the virtues of this kingdom, things would change- but not all.
Too many Catholics, including priests, stress the exterior changes and ignore the interior repentance needed. 
Too many Catholics are too busy, too noisy, not listening to the real call of the Messiah in their hearts.
To be continued....

Why is it that the EU is not getting it right?

Enda Kenny rumor of the day- EPP nomination for EU Council President may be his.

Irish comments welcomed...

Doctors of the Church 2:15

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Part Sixteen on the Doctors of the Church and Perfection-Lawrence of Brindisi

A man's holiness and walk in perfection may be sensed and even defined by works. Lawrence of Brindisi shows a  high stage of holiness in his ability to bring together the love of God with preaching, a call he answered in several countries in Europe. Here, he is calling on priests, specifically, to preach the Word of God so that people may come to perfection. He notes that the theological virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity are fed, are encouraged in the Scriptures.

Two points for those seeking perfection from this snippet, are that the reading of Scripture is absolutely necessary in the pursuit of perfection. This is one reason why priests and religious, such as the Benedictines, make time daily for the Lectio Divina. I am convinced that without the daily reading and pondering of Scripture, holiness is impossible.

Secondly, for the person seeking perfection, all sin must be overcome. The daily reading and pondering of Scripture aids, like water in the desert, this victory over sin. There is a grace in reading the Scriptures daily.

The highlights are my own. I am aware that there is a twelve volume set of his writings in print, but not on line.

Therefore, a snippet from the work, Preaching is an apostolic duty

There is a spiritual life that we share with the angels of heaven and with the divine spirits, for like them we have been formed in the image and likeness of God. The bread that is necessary for living this life is the grace of the Holy Spirit and the love of God. But grace and love are nothing without faith, since without faith it is impossible to please God. And faith is not conceived unless the word of God is preached. Faith comes through hearing, and what is heard is the word of Christ. The preaching of the word of God, then, is necessary for the spiritual life, just as the planting of seed is necessary for bodily life.

     Christ says: The sower went out to sow his seed. The sower goes out as a herald of justice. On some occasions we read that the herald was God, for example, when with a living voice from heaven he gave the law of justice to a whole people in the desert.

     On other occasions, the herald was an angel of the Lord, as when he accused the people of transgressing the divine law at Bochim, in the place of weeping. At this all the sons of Israel, when they heard the angel's address, became sorrowful in their hearts, lifted up their voices, and wept bitterly. Then again, Moses preached the law of the Lord to the whole people on the plains of Moab, as we read in Deuteronomy. Finally, Christ came as God and man to preach the word of the Lord, and for the same purpose he sent the apostles, just as he had sent the prophets before them.

     Preaching therefore, is a duty that is apostolic, angelic, Christian, divine. The word of God is replete with manifold blessings, since it is, so to speak, a treasure of all goods. It is the source of faith, hope, charity, all virtues, all the gifts of the Holy Spirit, all the beatitudes of the Gospel, all good works, all the rewards of life, all the glory of paradise: Welcome the word that has taken root in you, with its power to save you.

     For the word of God is a light to the mind and a fire to the will. It enables man to know God and to love him. And for the interior man who lives by the Spirit of God, through grace, it is bread and water, but a bread sweeter than honey and the honeycomb, a water better than wine and milk. For the soul it is a spiritual treasure of merits yielding an abundance of gold and precious stones. Against the hardness of a heart that persists in wrongdoing, it acts as a hammer. Against the world, the flesh and the devil it serves as a sword that destroys all sin. 

Are you snowed in?

The past week has been a huge posting week. I always take advantage everyday of the wifi which I can find and I do not anticipate having options except day by day.

So, if you are need things to read, just look at the past week.

God bless you all, especially my brothers and sisters snowed in somewhere.

Lord, have mercy on the United States

Meanwhile, more than a dozen states that have set up their own exchanges plan to spend tens of millions in taxpayer dollars funding community group “assisters” to promote their marketplaces. Many of those “assisters” could also include local Planned Parenthood affiliates, providing additional streams of Obamacare funding to the largest abortion provider in the nation. The District of Columbia awarded $375,000—one of the largest “assister” grants in the District—to Planned Parenthood Metropolitan D.C. to help enroll citizens in the District’s state-based health care exchange.
Likewise, California, Minnesota, and Vermont have awarded a total of over $700,000 to local Planned Parenthood affiliates to aid individuals’ enrollment in their exchanges, and many more states will likely follow suit.

It is possible that many individuals and families who would otherwise object to paying for abortion coverage may not even be aware of the surcharge on their insurance. Obamacare regulations allow insurers to disclose the existence and amount of the abortion surcharge only at the time of enrollment, and that warning may be as little as a single sentence in a massive plan document.[4] The rules also prohibit issuers from itemizing the additional charge for abortion coverage on premium bills.

For those living in the 27 states without opt-out laws, individuals and families wishing to avoid health plans with abortion coverage could have few or no options in their state’s exchanges. In general, they could either:
  • Enroll in a health plan that includes abortion coverage. Many individuals and families enrolled in such plans will be forced to pay an additional abortion surcharge, with limited disclosure of the additional payment’s existence.
  • Enroll in an exchange plan or private plan that does not include abortion coverage—if one is available. Some individuals may be able to enroll in exchange plans in which the issuers have chosen not to cover elective abortion. Individuals and families could ostensibly also enroll in private coverage in an exchange that does not include abortion. But there is no guarantee that those abortion-free plans will provide overall benefits comparable to the plans that include abortion coverage.
  • Enroll in the federally run multi-state plan that will not include abortion coverage. One of the multi-state plans sponsored by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is required to exclude abortion coverage. However, OPM is required to offer those plans in only 60 percent of state exchanges in 2014, eventually offering coverage in every state by 2017.[5] There is no guarantee that this option will be available in every state during the first few years of Obamacare implementation or remain an attractive option thereafter.

Thought for The Second Sunday in Advent

Romans 15:4-9

For what things soever were written, were written for our learning: that through patience and the comfort of the scriptures, we might have hope.
Now the God of patience and of comfort grant you to be of one mind one towards another, according to Jesus Christ:
That with one mind, and with one mouth, you may glorify God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Wherefore receive one another, as Christ also hath received you unto the honour of God.
For I say that Christ Jesus was minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers.
But that the Gentiles are to glorify God for his mercy, as it is written: Therefore will I confess to thee, O Lord, among the Gentiles, and will sing to thy name.

One translation reads, in the first part, Everything that was written long ago in the scriptures was meant to teach us something about hope from the examples scripture gives of how people who did not give up were helped by God. And may he who helps us when we refuse to give up, help you all to be tolerant with each other, following the example of Christ Jesus, so that united in mind and voice you may give glory to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

I love this part of Romans as the words encourage those who are going through hard times to persevere in prayer and hope. With so many distractions and negations of the inner life around us, it is important to cling to these words of St. Paul.
Tolerance is not accepting sin, but being patience with ourselves, caught up in sin, and with others as well.
St. Paul is so real in his words for us today.

Doctors of the Church 2:29

St. Basil wrote these words on gratitude.  I would like to describe a dear friend of mine who is full of gratitude, a forgotten virtue.

She is one of the most peaceful and gracious persons I know. I have rarely heard her complain in the long years I have known her. Sadly, as we do not live close to each other, I do not see her often, but let me describe this good, Catholic woman.

She is grateful for her entire life, including the time when she was far away from God. Her re-version to the Catholic Church began a life of gratitude.

She always praises God for all things, all the gifts in her life. She knows she has earned nothing. He has given all.

She never, never complains. She may state facts about her health, (which is not as good as one would like), just to let me know what is happening in her life, but she does not complain.

She never speaks negatively about anyone. If she must share something serious, it is always in an attitude of intercessory prayer. She does not spread gossip or negativity about anyone.

She never complains about the weather, the economy, and is positive about God working in our times, albeit through hardships.

Her attitude is one of complete gratitude to God for life, her children, her husband, her daily work.

She knows from where all good gifts come. And, she thanks God for all these.

Because of being out in the world shopping for food and other chores, I have overheard many conversations of very many unhappy people. I want to say to those who have lived in Iowa their entire lives, "Why complain about the weather? It has always been this way?"

I am convinced that complaining and a lack of gratitude come from pride-a person wants something to be or to go in a certain way, and if life does not meet the demands of that person, that person is not grateful.

We live in a time of trial, but we can even be grateful for that, as saints come out of tribulation.

St. Basil writes this:

What words can adequately describe God’s gifts? They are 
so numerous that they defy enumeration. They are so great 
that any one of them demands our total gratitude in 

Yet even though we cannot speak of it worthily, there is one gift which no 
thoughtful man can pass over in silence. God fashioned man in his own image 
and likeness; he gave him knowledge of himself; he endowed him with the ability 
to think which raised him above all living creatures; he permitted him to delight in 
the unimaginable beauties of paradise, and gave him dominion over everything 
upon earth. 

Then, when man was deceived by the serpent and fell into sin, which led to death 
and to all the sufferings associated with death, God still did not forsake him. He 
first gave man the law to help him; he set angels over him to guard him; he sent 
the prophets to denounce vice and to teach virtue; he restrained man’s evil 
impulses by warnings and roused his desire for virtue by promises. Frequently, 
by way of warning, God showed him the respective ends of virtue and of vice in 
the lives of other men. Moreover, when man continued in disobedience even 
after he had done all this, God did not desert him. 

No, we were not abandoned by the goodness of the Lord. Even the insult weoffered to our Benefactor by despising his gifts did not destroy his love for us. On 
the contrary, although we were dead, our Lord Jesus Christ restored us to life 
again, and in a way even more amazing than the fact itself, for his state was 
divine, yet he did not cling to his equality with God, but emptied himself to 
assume the condition of a slave. 

He bore our infirmities and endured our sorrows. He was wounded for our sake 
so that by his wounds we might be healed. He redeemed us from the curse by 
becoming a curse for our sake, and he submitted to the most ignominious death 
in order to exalt us to the life of glory. Nor was he content merely to summon us 
back from death to life; he also bestowed on us the dignity of his own divine 
nature and prepared for us a place of eternal rest where there will be joy so 
intense as to surpass all human imagination. 

How, then, shall we repay the Lord for all his goodness to us? He is so good that 
he asks no recompense except our love: that is the only payment he desires. To 
confess my personal feelings, when I reflect on all these blessings I am 
overcome by a kind of dread and numbness at the very possibility of ceasing to 
love God and of bringing shame upon Christ because of my lack of recollection 
and my preoccupation with trivialities. 

Persecution Watch in Russia

Doctors of the Church 2:14

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Part Fifteen: The Third Franciscan Doctor of the Church, Lawrence of Brindisi

The Capuchin had a brain the size of a planet. Not only did he excel in the usual studies of his time, (1559-1619), but he knew most of the European languages as well as the Semitic languages, making him not only a Biblical scholar, but beloved of the Jews, many of whom he converted.

I remember him as the chaplain of the Imperial Army which fought in the great Battle of Stulweissenburg,  As the Catholic Encyclopedia notes: To pit 18,000 men against 80,000 Turks was a daring undertaking and the generals, hesitating to attempt it, appealed to Lorenzo for advice. Holding himself responsible for victory, he communicated to the entire army in a glowing speech the ardour and confidence with which he was himself animated. As his feebleness prevented him from marching, he mounted on horseback and, crucifix in hand, took the lead of the army, which he drew irresistibly after him. Three other Capuchins were also in the ranks of the army. Although the most exposed to danger, Lorenzo was not wounded, which was universally regarded as due to a miraculous protection. The city was finally taken, and the Turks lost 30,000 men. As however they still exceeded in numbers the Christian army, they formed their lines anew, and a few days later another battle was fought. It always the chaplain who was at the head of the army. "Forward!" he cried, showing them the crucifix, "Victory is ours." The Turks were again defeated, and the honour of this double victory was attributed by the general and the entire army to Lorenzo.

But, it is because of his great inner life of contemplation that I include him in this series on perfection and the Doctors of the Church. Again, to be declared a Doctor of the Church, besides great holiness, the saint must have produced writings which the Church can recommend. Again, I quote the Catholic Encyclopedia on line:

The known writings of St. Lorenzo of Brindisi comprise eight volumes of sermons, two didactic treatises on oratory, a commentary on Genesis, another on Ezechiel, and three volumes of religious polemics. Most of his sermons are written in Italian, the other works being in Latin. The three volumes of controversies have notes in Greek and Hebrew.

I am also amazed at the energies of such great saints in producing so many works while preaching, teaching, doing missionary work, organizing and running an order and in Lawrence's case, fighting battles.

In the next post, I shall highlight some of his writings.