Wednesday, May 22, 2013
It seems somewhat silly to quote someone who was quoted in a magazine which quoted his words from yet another magazine, however when something is said well, it deserves to be spread around.
In the latest edition of First Things magazine, it quoted Scottish philosopher John Haldane’s interview as printed in 3:AM Magazine. Haldane, speaking about how Catholics think differently (or at least differently than the liberals at 3:AM Magazine), said: “Catholics learn … to draw distinctions.” The distinctions, for example, “between the value of an office and the quality of its occupants; the content of the message and the character of the messengers; the dignity of persons and the wrongfulness of human actions; adherence to truth and tolerance of disagreement among truth-seekers; and between what is attainable naturally and what requires grace.”
I’ve never read a more precise, succinct description of true Catholic thinking.
On another matter, if you are a reader of quality thinking, you might also like another article at the beginning of the June edition of First Things. It speaks about the decline of Solidarity between the top 20% of American society and the bottom third, a growing gap on moral, cultural, and social issues. “Today’s cultural elites promote a nonjudgmental ethos that often makes ordinary people embarrassed to express strong moral views. The result is often tepid, tentative exchanges by people fearful of sinning against political correctness.” And then it states this: “The successful upper middle class now lives at a distance from everyone else. This distance cannot be overcome by increasing taxes on the rich, because it’s a social as much as an economic gap that separates us. In fact, it’s a dangerous temptation to imagine that redistributing wealth suffices.” What I think the author is saying is that what once was valued in this country (by those who worked their way to the top) as the “Protestant work ethic” has been replaced with a “work ethic,” in which religion (Protestant or otherwise) contributes to no meaning or value in one’s life. The article is correct in stating that passing money around will not solve that problem.
Tuesday, May 21, 2013
The DVD which the men’s group watched this morning had a college professor speaking about early Church history. I wasn’t paying particularly close attention his words, as I (rightly or wrongly) felt I was pretty familiar with the topic, but then he said something which, to me, sounded like fingernails squeaking on a blackboard: “This event happened in the year 440 of the Common Era.”
Perhaps my emotions were more on edge because of my recent dream experience about college professors (the topic of my last post), but the term “Common Era” always has irritated me. Dreamt up by college professors, the designation of CE and BCE to replace AD and BC are blatant advertisements of 1) I don’t accept that Christ (or God) was the center of any history, and 2) I will teach this in my classroom, and you WILL also designate history in these terms, OR ELSE!
All I can think of to say about such men (without calling them names) is: What arrogance!
I know there are exceptions, but I have personally met many college professors (and even have a few as friends), and I have read about the feelings of many others, and the word “arrogant” does adequately summarize their worldview. Because they have some extensive KNOWLEDGE --- often on only a single subject --- they believe they have WISDOM, and they preach on worldviews often far beyond their designated area of instruction. This example of their refusal to recognize terms used for centuries, to recognize that Jesus Christ WAS an important turning point in history, is a refusal to recognize the wisdom of the ages. And if relegating the billions who have lived before you as ignorant compared to you isn’t arrogance, then I don’t know what is.
Most college professors these days believe they have every right to expound their view of truth to the young minds they are charged with. They seek not to form them into thinking minds, but to form minds which think like them. While blatantly ignoring or denigrating God, they act as if they were gods. Like gods, they view themselves as on a creative mission, not to create something out of nothing, but to mold young minds into their view of wisdom. They can’t understand that Wisdom is Truth, and Truth is Beauty, and so they look at the minds they have molded as their masterpieces, not seeing how warped they really have become.
In their wisdom, they were ignorant. They saw as beautiful what they themselves were, even as Lucifer did. And they sought to lead others astray to their way of thinking.
Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea. (Mark 9:42)
… just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them … (2 Peter 2:1)
If you can’t accept these words as reasonable, if you can’t take the time to research on this topic yourself, then at least take the time to watch the movie, EXPELLED, by Ben Stein. I write these simple words to demonstrate a simple example of who we are sending our children to be educated by, and an indication of what they will become --- which is why I also seek to promote a true Catholic college education, to create true THINKING minds in our youth.
Monday, May 20, 2013
I concluded my last post here with a question: Considering the way in which so many of us are “looking out for number one,” are we that much different than Judas? I titled that post “Was Judas a Good Guy?” not intending to say that he was, but to bring out the point that all of us think we are good guys. Even the worst of us thinks that whatever we do, we do for a good reason. It is not in man’s nature to hate himself, but to love himself and only see the good in himself.
Would that we could look at our neighbor in the same way and only see the good, as in the manner in which Jesus saw his neighbor. It doesn’t seem natural for us to love others that way, but then: He came to teach us how to love.
Most of us ARE like the apostles before Pentecost. We know Jesus is a prophet, perhaps even God, but we don’t know the full truth of his message or his life. We see Jesus healing many people, and we hear him say that if we only have faith in him all things will be possible, but what things do we think of? We think of those things we want for ourselves. We pray: “Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief,” but I think our belief is in his miracles and so we call on him to work miracles for us, and our unbelief is in that he expects similar great things from us, too. He wants us to be one with Him, with a precious Life flowing not only from him, but from us --- together. He sends his Holy Spirit to dwell in us that we might love as he loves: that we might love the Father and our neighbor --- together.
This is the belief that he asks: that we trust in him, and in his trust in us. He asks that we live our life with a self-giving love, as he did, freely giving to others wherever we are, in whatever we do. In our role as parent, as teacher, as neighbor, as citizen, or as a stranger passing on the street, first and foremost we should see Christ in all we whom we meet, and we should love them. We should act, not thinking of what we want or need for ourselves, but first and foremost in love.
That is what God wants from us.
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I awoke with a start on Pentecost Sunday morning. The 8:45A mass I attend lets me sleep hours beyond than my normal waking time, but so often my internal alarm clock says: NO; it’s time to get up. And as I lay there in bed, I remembered vividly the dream I awoke from, and there was a fire in my heart: and in my mind, I wanted the dream to continue.
I had dreamt of seeing two old college professors in the library. They were looking over a section entitled: The New Evangelization. I heard them laughing and talking loudly, like they wanted to broadcast their opinions for all to hear. “Look at this nonsense,” one said, as he looked at CDs and books on the shelves --- ones, I noted, that I had heard and read, and recommended. “These people have no idea who God is! I can’t wait to get some of the youths who are being fed this trash into my classroom. I’ll prove to them that there is no happy God like this presents.”
“God is God!” he said loudly. “They don’t even understand the concept of God. By definition, man cannot know the mind of God. God means all powerful, not all playful! (If there even is a God,) He created everything and set it all in motion, and his creative actions have evolved to where we are today. Even the Catholic Church has come around to accepting evolution as a thing of God. This New Evangelization talks about people finding some new relationship with God, as if he’s changed! No, what these young minds need to accept is that MAN has changed, and the man of today is not the man God first created so long ago. Man is now so much better, so much wiser.”
“We need to teach these young minds not to go out and have fun and dance with God,” he continued, “but to go out and use the talents we now have, to use new scientific discoveries and reason to finish the plan of creation, to change the world. This is the task of the educated mind: to make the world a place of no more pain and no more suffering, to ensure that everyone has their fair share of God’s gifts. This is how God wishes us to honor him.”
At that point I couldn’t contain myself any longer, and I walked firmly over to where they were loudly advertising the wonderful truths taught in their classrooms. “You talk so proudly about how far man has evolved, but listening here to your self-congratulatory babble, I think I now understand those who say that man is no different than animals; I think you’re both poster examples of that thinking.”
Not used to being talked back to, the two stood and faced me, and were about to start to “put me in my place,” but I wouldn’t hear any more of their tripe.
“You talk of man evolving to the point where his science and his reason can change the world to how he wants it, but this isn’t any evolved man. You’re describing the first man in the Garden of Eden who wanted to change the world to the way he wanted. You’re describing his son who killed his brother for what he wanted (and I suspect you’d probably approve similar actions, in order to create a “fair” world). You’re describing the Roman Empire which gave the people all they wanted, in order to keep them happy. They too wanted no more wars and accepted a Senate who decided what was best for them (not unlike our Congress of today), only what they decided most often was what was good for themselves --- (probably like you: What are your salaries, anyway?) You talk of giving man all that he wants, but your science and your reason can’t begin to measure or obtain what man wants most: he wants love.”
“You say man cannot know the mind of God, yet you claim to know man’s destiny as intended by God, and you desire to bring it about. So then you (and only you) know what God has intended? You hypocrites! You liars! You self-deceivers! You claim to know what you tell us cannot be known. Even the blind leading the blind listen for sounds around them, but you listen only to yourselves.”
And with that, I awoke with a start. (And I’m guessing my blood pressure was up.) Glancing at the alarm clock, I saw that I had at least an hour before I needed to arise, and so my thoughts went back to that dream, and then they drifted to the date: Pentecost Sunday.
I spoke in my last post about how self-giving love is a unique focus of the New Testament. I think this is a key point which Judas – and perhaps even most of the rest of the apostles and disciples --- didn’t understand about Jesus. He came to give us “new life,” and he said he WAS “the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” He said that he had to leave so that the Holy Spirit could come, but what did the Holy Spirit bring at Pentecost? What changed?
Catholics have a prayer to the Holy Spirit: “Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of the faithful, enkindle in them the fire or your love.” The Fire of Your Love came at Pentecost. Love is what changed; a self-giving love came upon the apostles and into the world, and it was of such intensity that they could only experience it as a fire. Love is what changed them.
In the Old Testament the Ten Commandments set man in obedience to God’s laws, but Jesus came to clarify further the meaning of those commandments. A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. (Jn 13:34-35) This is what so noticeably set the preaching and actions of the Christians apart: they loved one another. St. Augustine said it simply: “Love, and do what you will.” We can study the Bible and Jesus, we can study science and reason, but love and the understanding of true love, a self-giving love, is a gift, a gift of the Holy Spirit. It is a love which drives all the actions of one who loves. It is the innermost desire of our life, and what Jesus promised us would be ours, in union with the Trinity, forever. And it first entered the world of common man on Pentecost.
O God, you are my God, for you I long;
For you my soul is thirsting.
My body pines for you
Like a dry, weary land without water.
So I gaze on you in the sanctuary
to see your strength and your glory.
For your love is better than life. – Psalm 63:1-3
For you my soul is thirsting.
My body pines for you
Like a dry, weary land without water.
So I gaze on you in the sanctuary
to see your strength and your glory.
For your love is better than life. – Psalm 63:1-3
I’m not sure that Psalm-writer knew the meaning of love as it is known in the New Testament. The Old Testament people were concerned with their individual relationship with God, and that “God is on our side.” They wanted a Messiah who would lead them to change the world, but we now know that what we need in order to change the world is the Holy Spirit, as he came on Pentecost. It is not for us to design a world of perfection, but rather to trust in the words Jesus said, not that God created us and now we must change the world --- alone, but rather trust in what he said to us: “I will be with you always.” And together, we can change the world.
He said he’d give us living water that we might never thirst again. He did not mean we’d become like a reservoir full of water and so we’d never want for more. Rather than just giving tons of water to us, his gift was to change us, to be like Him. We don’t become like dammed waters, but rather like a free-flowing river, so that the Spirit’s unending waters flow to us and through us, to our neighbors. His love is a giving love; when we receive it we also readily give it.
Each morning I pray: “Make me a channel of your peace.” In one sense, I mean that literally.
I got up and went to mass on Pentecost morning. Looking around the church, I had the feeling that I was at an Ohio State football game, as the bright red color was everywhere and on everyone. (Note to self: You need to buy a bright red shirt.) You could say that we were rooting as a team at mass, or as a family.
If we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. (1Jn 4:12) If we would love perfectly, as Jesus taught us, we would love one another. If we still have a trust in God, if we can get beyond only wanting things for ourselves, and if we would really want to make the world a better place, we would first pray that the Holy Spirit might also come upon us, that we might love as Jesus loved, and that we might be a channel of his peace ---- and not of our will.
This, I believe, is what God wants from us.
Friday, May 17, 2013
We celebrated the feast day of St. Matthias this past week. Matthias was the man chosen by the apostles to replace Judas. Some of the men at the local prayer breakfast joked that Matthias might have been worried at being picked to replace Judas. Perhaps he thought: “Good grief! I hope I’m not like him!” I opined that I wondered if the apostles, having been stung by a traitor and thief in their midst, might not have eyed Matthias (and indeed each other) a little more warily: “Could you give us a statement of Revenues and Expenses each month, Matthias --- audited by one of us? And in the future, could anyone who finds reason to visit the high priest in the middle of the night talk to Peter first --- we already had one betrayer in our midst, ha-ha.”
Maybe that’s how things happened after Judas’ betrayal and Jesus’ death and Resurrection. We’d like to picture the apostles as saints doing only saintly things, but we must remember that they were men. And we only have to look in the mirror to know how men are.
But what of the man, Judas? What kind of man was he, and what was he thinking? He betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver --- greedy bastard, we think. But was that the whole story? Why did he do that?
Was Judas a bad guy? If he had kept the thirty pieces of silver, would he have joined Saul in leading the persecution of Christians? And what would people have thought of him then? Might he not have become a highly respected Jewish leader? Weren’t there other leaders who betrayed those who spoke against the state or against the temple leaders, and weren’t they rewarded for being such good citizens and Jews? Couldn’t you imagine Saul saying to the Jews: “You say you traveled with this Jesus and he was the Messiah, well, let’s hear from another man who traveled with him, and saw him up close for what he really was. Judas, come up to the podium and speak. Tell us, was he the Messiah?”
Judas undoubtedly thought he was looking out for himself, true, but he may also have thought he was looking out for the state. The Messiah was expected to lead the Jewish people, bringing to them power and riches --- a time of plenty. Judas could see he wasn’t going to get rich from this guy’s preaching, and many temple leaders did say he was committing blasphemy, so why not betray him. Wasn’t that a good thing to do?
Judas did what many people of that day thought they were supposed to do, to serve the state and church and make a good life for themselves. Tax collectors, kings and high priests, we may look at them as bad sinners today, but in their day they may not have been loved, but they were respected.
The word “love” began to have a new meaning in the New Testament, with Jesus. In the Old Testament, there were a dozen words for love with varying meanings, but in the New Testament the word “love” almost always meant a self-giving, “agape” love. In fact, the Greek word for erotic love, “eros”, is never used in the New Testament at all. If Judas confused love with respect, there were many Jews who followed the books of the Old Testament who might have thought likewise. And many of them thought of the commandments only as ways to ensure that they were personally closer to God. “I want to love/respect God, and I want God to love/respect ME, so I obey the law.” For the Jews, this was good and proper thinking. But Jesus came to change that way of thinking, and Judas didn’t get it --- and perhaps many of the apostles didn’t get it either, in that time prior to Pentecost. When Jesus voiced the two Great Commandments, love God and love neighbor, the scribe responded to him: “You are right, Teacher, … to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” And then “Jesus saw that he answered wisely.” It was a wise man, Jesus said, who recognized that the commandments were about love for others, and not to ensure love of self. This was new thinking.
Looking back throughout the Old Testament, what is the predominant thing we see? I think it is individuals wanting things better for themselves, and thinking they deserved it. Adam and Eve’s sin, Cain’s sin, well, you can go on and on. They are all about someone trying to get what they want. And then God intervenes and seems to tell the people that HE must come first, not them. And so they slowly come to accept that: Give God what He wants ---- so that He will give me what I want.
I wrote a post a while back on CD I listened to titled: Trust in God. It was a talk by a Fr. Thomas Richter. I perchance (?) saw it and listened to it again this week (I need to write myself a memo to listen to this talk more often; it’s very good). One of the things that caught my attention was when Fr. Richter talked about our relationship with God. Some people, he said, think they can grow in holiness by becoming self-reliant. The pray for something they want, get it, and then they don’t need God anymore. They think they are to do everything for themselves and, when necessary, ask God to help. (They appear not too different from the Jews.) They don’t get it, he said. Without God, they can do nothing for themselves. They don’t need to turn to God in their needs; they need to trust in God for everything, for a God who loves them as a Father wishes to give them everything.
Judas might have been respected as a good guy in Jesus’ day, by many if not most people. “Looking out for number one” was a virtue. Are things so different these days? So often in our country we hear Church leaders speaking of America and Europe being in a “post-Christian” era. Perhaps this would be better described as being a “pre-Christian” era. It appears that many of us believe the thinking of Judas is good thinking. It appears that we have forgotten, or perhaps we never really learned, the lesson of Christ.
He came to teach us to love; He came that we might have eternal life. And the one who “gets this,” he is a wise man. And he trusts in the Lord. Always.
And he is not anxious.