Monday, May 9, 2011

Fruits of the World

Galatians 5:22-23 "... The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such there is no law."

Against the fruit of the Spirit, there is no law, but the World produces its own fruit. And it labors hard to usurp the Spirit's place in the soil of our hearts.

The fruit of the World is fear, envy, timidity, ambition, flattery, power, cowardice, agression, and comfort.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Momma Mary and Birthday Parties

"Happy Birthday!"
It's something we have all exclaimed at one point or another. Most of us have also joined into a sung chorus of "Happy Birthday to you!" many times throughout the years. It's simply a normal thing we do for one another. We celebrate that our friends and family have spent another year with us. We celebrate them as persons who are irreplaceably unique and precious to us. Singing to or about our loved ones is a rare but precious tribute to all that they mean to us. It is a pearl necklace, brought out on special occasions, when normally we just adorn our relationships with scattered photographs and idle conversation.
Perhaps it is our readiness to sing to and about Mary that leaves so many people ill-at-ease with our love for her. I imagine that if I went to a friend's home and found him singing to his mother about how wonderful she is, I do believe that I might find it off-putting. But even more that that, we speak about our Mother Mary in supernaturally glowing tones and turn to her so readily in times of trial that a Catholic man must be a momma's boy indeed!
What might be my response to all of this perfectly understandable discomfort and unease? "Y'all just don't understand." If you understood how wonderful my Momma is, you would know why I can't stop talking about her. When I think of my Momma Mary and how she gave me my Savior the Lord Jesus, how can I not want to sing to her? When I think about my Momma Mary and how she lived her whole life chaste and pure, how can I not want to sit and talk with her? When I think about my Momma Mary and how she had to watch her most beloved Son die but never left Him, how can I not talk about her nobility and grace to everyone I meet?
More than all of the wonders of Mary's holiness and loveliness that we know from times past, the reason that we hold her in the highest of regards even today is that she never ceased to be that preternaturally loving mother. "Never was it know that anyone who fled to [her] protection, implored [her] help, or sought [her] intercession was left unaided." (Memorare) Our Momma Mary brings additional light to our lives, not a light that replaces or competes with that of her Son, but one that nonetheless adds something to counteract that darkness which always sits ready to invade our hearts. Our Lord said to us truly that He "came that [we] might have life and have it more abundantly." (John 10:10) I have to believe that part of His plan from the beginning was to give us so wonderful a Mother, who gave us so great a Redeemer.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Fathers and Sisters

In vocations circles, you will often hear priests speak about the religious sisters who inspired them to pursue joining the ranks of the presbyterate. If you listen and watch with well-attuned senses, you will notice a deep and abiding affection accompanying those stories. This is not by mere chance. It is a product of both who and what they are, and it comes from the deepest wells of self-identification.
The priest accepts, by the imposition of the bishop's hands, not just a new job or sacrament, but also the imposition of a new personal identity. The priest never needs to be introspective or searching in order to find himself; he needs only to look at the cross. He accepts the identity of an alter Christus, another Christ. The priest's personal self-realization is not in finding whom he was born as, nor even whom he was born again as, but rather in finding the deeper reality of the Great High Priest. The priest seeks out the profundity of the person who gave order to the universe and freely gave his life to reconcile sinners to God the Father. In the Son of God actively dying on the cross, gloriously Resurrected, and mercifully present to us in the Sacraments, the priest learns all he needs to know about himself. The innate gifts that the Lord has placed within him will shine forth and be all the more effective the more he allows himself to be filled with and acted through by the Life of God the Son.
The religious sister likewise has little to question when it comes to her calling. From the earliest days of the Church, young women sought to cleave to Christ as a more evangelical calling than that of Christian Matrimony, to live in that total consecration to God in which all the Church will share in the Heavenly Kingdom. Throughout the ages, from Ambrose and Augustine to Pius XII and John Paul II, the Church has called the religious sister forth with the Veni Sponsa Christi and affirmed that the consecrated virgin is a true spiritual bride to Christ. This, then, is her calling: to be about the life of the Bride of Christ, the Church. It is not surprising, then, that we find the consecrated virgin laboring in all the aspects of the life of the Church, especially in the care of God's children and in tending to the wounds within the Body of Christ. Whether in schools, hospitals, or homes for the aged, religious sisters everywhere are giving themselves devoutly to their spiritual families for the sake of their Heavenly Spouse. As the sister gains clarity from this understanding, we, the rest of the Church, gain clarity of vision as to our own identity as the Church.
We regularly parrot that the Church is not structures, hierarchies, and buildings--though She does employ them for the salvation of souls, but rather the Church is the spiritual reality of all those faithful who are united to Christ, most fully in Heaven, but also those of us below united to Him through the sacraments and ardent love. The joy, peace, and love that radiate from religious sisters is instructive to us. Though, in fidelity to our own callings, we may be bound by earthly labors, our hearts should be just as fervently devoted to the Lord.
To get back to our original topic, remember that the priest takes upon himself the identity of another Christ. Likewise, the consecrated virgin or religious sister takes upon herself the identity of another Bride of Christ. Though their deepest love and exemplar is in Heaven, the deep and abiding affection priests and sisters have for one another, collectively and individually, is logical given the personal realities that penetrate their lives. Though this chaste, vicarious love is rationally sensible, the innocence and joy with which it radiates is also profoundly beautiful and continues to stir my heart each and every time I encounter it.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

20110516 New (Lord's Prayer 3)

The Priest's Embolism (expansion of a petition) after the Lord's Prayer

Deliver us, Lord, from every evil, and grant us peace in our day. In your mercy keep us free from sin and protect us from all anxiety as we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Evil is real. There’s two main sources of evil: demons and us. Evil is when things are not the way God made them to be. If your leg breaks, that’s evil because you count on your leg to be stable and help you move about. But it’s not as bad as when we choose to do evil. Something bad may have happened to your leg, but when we choose to sin and do evil, we are freely choosing to break our relationship with God. Demons will work hard on us sometimes to push us to sin. They do this because they hate the fact that God chose to become one of us and because we have the freedom to return to God and be forgiven by Him. They are stuck in their evil and hatred and therefore resent us, even though they hate God.

It is important to remember our lesson of justice. Justice is treating each person or group of persons as they should be treated. It is also important to remember that it is justice that leads to peace and not the other way around. You cannot create justice simply by avoiding conflict. Justice is an exercise of love conquering fear. We seem to have an evolutionary push to try and get all we can out of everyone we can. Love for others helps us to get past the fear that we might get hurt or go without and take care of others first. In loving others first, we work to bring justice into our homes, communities, and society.

Only by grace can we do all of these great things. Grace is the life of God shared with us. Grace is God giving us His strength. God is able to give us all the grace we need to love others as we should and avoid sin because God IS Goodness and Love.

It can still be hard to trust in God, though. We know how weak we are, and it’s hard to accept that even God can make us strong enough to be a saint. Even so, it is never good to spend time worrying about something difficult in your life and whether you will be able to overcome it. Rather, take that anxiety and channel it into preparing for trials and struggles. Prepare for the hard things in life like Noah prepared for the flood, but know that God is your strength and protector like David did when he faced Goliath.

Faith, hope, and love are what we call the “theological virtues.” We call them this because they deal with God. We have faith in the one true God. We hope in Him to deliver us from evil and into the heavenly kingdom. And we strive to love Him and love our neighbor as Jesus commanded.

20110416 New (Nicene Creed 3)

For our sake He was crucified under Pontius Pilate; He suffered, died, and was buried. On the third day, He rose again in fulfillment of the Scriptures; He ascended into Heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and His kingdom will have no end.

Even though He was betrayed, tried, convicted, and executed by earthly authorities (the Romans, Pontius Pilate specifically, King Herod, the Jews of Jerusalem in general, and the Sanhedrin and Judas Iscariot in particular), these parties are not the only ones involved in the death of Jesus.

Firstly, Jesus freely offered Himself. Jesus had within Himself the power to escape, but He chose to endure His sufferings so that He might redeem us. It is in this that the awesome power of God becoming man is shown. As a man, Jesus is able to be truly obedient and sinless but is able to suffer the evil and die the death that all of us sinners are due. As God, His self-sacrifice is an infinite gift: to all men in all places at all times.

If sacrifice is the main principle of worship, then the main principle of priesthood is offering the sacrifice for the people and sharing the grace of the sacrifice with them. Jesus is our great highpriest. He is our greatest teacher, He is our greatest king, and He offered the greatest sacrifice, His own life, and continues to share with us the grace of that sacrifice.

When Jesus appointed His twelve disciples (Apostles) to continue His ministry on Earth, He did so at the Last Supper. In blessing the bread, He said that it was now His Body, given up for us. In blessing the wine, He said that it was now His Blood of a new covenant. He then told His disciples to do the same. Jesus sacrificed His Body and Blood to make a new covenant with us. The Eucharist that we celebrate at Mass is that sacrifice brought into our lives, to each one of us in churches throughout the world for the last two thousand years and on into the future.

Even despite all the miracles Jesus worked, we might still doubt Him if not for one thing. Jesus rose from the dead. He showed us that He is truly from God, and, then, at His Ascension into Heaven, He showed us where He is going. Remembering that Jesus is man, we see as well that if we accept that He died in our place, we can rise to new life with Him and find our destiny in Heaven as well.

We must commit ourselves to Him and to righteousness, however. We all have some guilt for His death because He died for all our sins. As such, our lives are His alone to judge.