Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Positivity and Manure

Heard a great homily by Fr. Jack Shuler about our orientation as disciples - whether our eyes are full of hope and fixed on Jesus or on the negative things all around us. There were two brothers, one the epitome of positivity and the other of negativity. Their father, hoping to help each of them look at the world a bit more realistically, thought long and hard about what he would give each of them for Christmas. When Christmas morning finally arrived, the father watched expectantly as his pessimistic son opened his gift - a brand new, top-of-the-line, Rolex Watch. The father expected joy, but the pessimistic son was downcast. He immediately handed it back to his father, "I can't accept this. It's too much; knowing my luck I'll break it by this evening." The father turned to watch his starry-eyed, positive son unwrap his gift...a piece of manure. The father was taken aback when the boy started hopping up and down in excitement, "Dad, I can't believe it! Where's the pony?"

Man, I like that. What an awesome way to see the difficulties and sufferings we deal with - precursors to something awesome.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Unscientific Thoughts on Confession

I'm telling you up front, this isn't a scientifically verifiable observation or even anything remotely like it - just something that struck me:
The Sacrament of Reconciliation, or Confession, is a sacrament that has fallen into general disuse over the past 40 years - almost simultaneously with the loss of stigma surrounding seeking help from a counselor/therapist. Why is it that we American Catholics will "bear our souls" in therapy but not in the confessional? It's interesting to me. The other thing that strikes me is that when I watch the news, it seems like our society is struggling with more and more dysfunction, like we're "upping the ante" every year. Granted, there are obviously a myriad of other factors that went into making today's society. But one of are most frequent solutions to human behavior today is to recommend therapy. Well, we've got more therapy...but simultaneously more dysfunction. Less Confession, more dysfunction.

What is it that Confession brings to the table that therapy doesn't? (And I'm not knocking counseling/therapy - valid discipline, good tools - I highly recommend it.) But Faith tells me that at root, humanity's problem is spiritual. And while therapy can be good, it's not a sacrament - it can't cut through feelings and thought patterns to make a change directly in the soul. Applying only natural means, in the hopes of curing a supernatural problem, has to end in futility. Confession requires that we recognize that there is such a thing as sin...does the world know what that is anymore?

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Sunday Snippets -- a Catholic Carnival

Offering for Sunday, August 9, 2009: It Is What It Is

Suffering = Hope

Romans 5:3-4 has been brought to my attention in two different books this week, and if that doesn't make it bloggable, I don't know what does. Fr. Charles Arminjon was the first to bring it up, footnoting it as a reference, to his attention getting statement that if we suffer, then we have great reason to hope in God. Lets read those verses in their entirety:
We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.
Yep, Arminjon got it right: God allows us suffering, to call forth the image of His Son in us, and that gives us reason to hope that we will be confirmed in His Life eternally. We find this same idea in the Epistle to the Hebrews too:
It is for discipline that you have to endure...For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant; later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it...God is treating you as sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children, and not sons (12:7,11,8)
Discipline in which all have participated? That's right, ALL:
Although he was a Son, Jesus learned obedience through what he suffered; and being made perfect he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him...About this we have much to say which is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing (Hebrews 5:8-11).
Touche, oh writer of Hebrews! Suffering, not perfectly understood yet endured, while living our lives with faithfulness to God's will is redemptive! What does that mean for the person going through an unwanted divorce? For the person laid up in the hospital? For the child whose father yells too much? Whatever the difficulty, our lives have to be lived in union with Jesus - we have to try as hard as we can to manifest Jesus' words and behavior in the midst of the suffering. I started this reflection with Romans 5:3-4. Let me recap it, but carry on through verse 5, because it is the key:
Suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us!
It's not about our endurance, our strength - it's about God's! We Catholics know we're not saved by faith alone, but we do rely on God's grace alone to carry us through to Heaven. ("Christ in you, the hope of glory." Colossians 1:27) Our hope isn't in ourselves, but in Jesus. Like Paul, we accept our share in "Jesus' sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that if possible [we] may attain the resurrection from the dead" (Philippians 3:11).

So "word up" to Fr. Charles Arminjon for his pithy little, "suffering = reason to hope." There's a whole lot of Scripture and theology squeezed into that little equation. You know, another gal you might have heard of was pretty fond of this same book by Arminjon, Therese Martin... St. Therese of Lisieux. She read it at 15 and referred to it as "one of the greatest graces of my life." Not a bad endorsement.

Monday, July 13, 2009

B.A. Baracus Award

And the B.A. Baracus Award for 2009 goes to Benedict XVI, for his presentation of the Church's most recent document on bioethics, Dignitas Personae, to Barack Obama! You da man Benedict,
you DA MAN!

(Note: Referring to Benedict as "da man" is in no way a slight to Josh Huddleston, whose "da man"-ness is firmly in place and apparent to all.)

Saturday, July 11, 2009

John Paul and the Sacred Heart

For the past couple of weeks I've been reading from a book put out in 1992 by Our Sunday Visitor, Pope John Paul II Prays the Litany of the Sacred Heart. It's a powerful little book, the reflections of the Pope upon the 33 invocations of this profound, but often neglected (in my own case), prayer. Allow me to share just a few lines from over 80 pages of the Pope's insights:
Heart of Jesus, sacred temple of God, have mercy on us.
"The Heart of the Man Jesus Christ is therefore, in the trinitarian sense, the "temple of God": it is the interior temple of the Son who is united with the Father in the Holy Spirit by means of the unity of the divinity. How inscrutable is the mystery of this Heart which is the "temple of God" and the "tabernacle of the Most High." (p.33)
Heart of Jesus, burning furnace of charity, have mercy on us.
"The burning furnace gradually expends itself. The Heart of Jesus, on the other hand, is an inextinguishable furnace. In this it resembles the "burning bush" in the Book of Exodus...In fact, the love which burns in the Heart of Jesus is above all the Holy Spirit, in which the God-Son is united eternally with the Father."

Sacred Heart of Jesus, make our hearts like unto Yours. Amen.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Creed & Mysteries

Just noticed something this morning: the correlation between the words of the Creed and the Rosary's Glorious Mysteries.

"I believe in the Holy Spirit" - Descent of the Spirit at Pentecost
"...the resurrection of the dead" - Mary's assumption into Heaven
"...and the life of the world to come" - Mary's coronation

Friday, July 3, 2009

I Got Schooled

Sure did - by an elderly gentelman walking into Mass. He was ahead of me, but I caught up to him quickly; he had stopped to rest on his cane for a moment. I didn't want to insult him in any way, but I felt I should stop and ask if he needed a hand getting inside. He pulled an electrolarynx from his pocket and used it to tell me, with a smile, "No, I'm fine. I just need to take a moment." The image of him struggling to make it to a weekday Mass impressed me a great deal though. Most mornings, I can't make it because of work or activities with the kids...but on the mornings that I am free, why don't I always get there? Jesus is there, anxious to be with me - me! And I have something more important to do? I've got to get my head on straight.

Doubting Thomas, or Grieving Thomas?

In the Catholic Church, today is the Feast of Thomas the Apostle. Thomas, of course, has come down to us in history as "Doubting Thomas," the skeptic among the Apostles, because of his statement "I will never believe [He has been raised] without probing the nailprints in His hands" (John 20:25). When I heard the account read again at this morning's Mass though, skepticism wasn't what I heard in Thomas' voice - it was grief.

Two days before, from afar, Thomas had witnessed Jesus' crucifixion. The man on whom he had pinned all of his hopes for the future was brutally murdered in front of him! Instead of God's kingdom breaking in and setting the world aright, Thomas saw it all destroyed. So when the other Apostles started telling stories about Jesus being raised from the dead, Thomas couldn't just grab onto it. Thomas was in shambles at that point - no, the only thing that could restore his hope was to lay his hands on the Body that had been tortured and killed. The Lord left Thomas in that darkness for another week, but at the time God perceived to be best, Jesus did come to him, "Take your finger and examine my hands. Put your hand into my side. Do not persist in your unbelief but believe!" (John 20:27).

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

"We're Not Worthy!"

That line was going through my head last night. I haven't posted a blog in quite awhile - getting that book out to the public has taken a lot of time, on top of just being a dad. This past weekend was a good one for the book though. A positive review on Catholic Exchange sold some paperback copies as well as generated emails requesting PDFs in places as far away as Perth, Australia, and Lisbon, Portugal! I was happy, but much to my surprise, a bit scared too. It hit me: "Who am I to speak about Jesus? I have so far to go in being a worthy representative. What if someone who reads the book meets me down the line and thinks, 'Him - he wrote this?'"
All I can really say is: Lord, I really want this book to be a tool in Your Hands, a help in opening others' eyes to all that You have for them. Just please don't let me be a stumbling block on anyone's road to You.