Friday, August 22, 2008
This is the second Sunday that important revelatory spiritual events take place. None of them occur in the "Holy Land" but in The territory of the pagans, the "others", like the Greeks and the Romans. Last Sunday we heard the story of the Canaanite woman with the daughter possessed by demons. This Sunday we hear the confession of Peter. Next Sunday we are going to hear about Peter begging Jesus not to go to Jerusalem. Jesus is then going to tell Peter, "Get behind Me, Satan." Whoa! Where did that come from? Read on.
In these three Sunday stories, geography is important. Jesus is spending some time in the mixed territory of the Greek and Roman empires. There are very few Jews here (Hebrews). Jesus and His people are over 100 miles to the north of the spiritual heart of the Promised Land. The Temple is 4 or 5 days of foot travel away. The people who are approaching Jesus are "foreigners", not of the chosen people, yet they confess His Divine Power in front of His Jewish disciples. These disciples who are Orthodox Jews (Hebrews) of proper religion and blood. The "foreign" people stand up in front of Him and ask for what they need. They bargain with Him and they get what they request. Next Sunday, Peter, the tough guy, the ONE who has been told that he is the Rock, the foundation of the new community is going to act just like a real Jew, he is going to say, "Don't talk like that, nothing like that is going to happen to you." Yup, this is the same Peter who asked to walk on water but who doubted once his feet got wet. This is the same Peter who heard the Syro-Phoenician woman tell Jesus, "Even the dogs eat from the droppings of the king's table." All this is happening in territory that is not spiritually orthodox. Did Jesus make a mistake by coming here? NO. Jesus is the quintessential missionary. Son of David, Son of God does not camp out in Jerusalem (City of Peace), he grows up and preaches in the land of Israel, not in the land of Judah. He goes to Jerusalem to fulfill the law that says that all Jewish men must go to the Temple to pray at least once per year. The rest of the time He operates in the North, in Galilee. He spreads the message to the Chosen People and the "foreigners" in the North showing them that He is sent by the Father to EVERYONE, not just to the sons of Judah but to all the people of God. He shows them that the fisherman takes all that he catches on board and sorts it out when he gets to the dock. He teaches them that God chose them for a purpose, and the He is among them to teach them what the purpose is.
Finally, at the end He goes to Jerusalem and meets the rabid community of the Chosen People around the Temple. They capture Him and do Him in by using the Roman military to carry out the deed. This fulfills the history of the prophets sent by God to the Chosen people...they preached and were killed because of the hardness of heart of the people.
These Gospel stories are geography lessons. They are stories of revelation. They are also history lessons of where the Chosen People of God settled and how they related to Him. The people of the North (Israel) were considered to be hicks and red-necks by the snobs of the South (Judah).
Listen to the stories that are being recounted at the Sunday Masses this month. Matthew is telling us a lot. He is telling us that the revelation of God is not meant only for a select few, but for EVERYONE, circumcized or not; born in Judah or born in Syria, Phoenicia or Rome.
If you want to have a better understanding and a greater appreciation of the revelation contained in the Sacred Scripture, read the map every time you read the Bible. Try not to die before you get to meet Jesus on His home turf.
Remember that you heard it here. It will help you to hold back your tears at my funeral.
Thursday, August 14, 2008
Remember the blog post about yoga? We stated the position of the Church about yoga. We even quoted a document from the Vatican. There are people to this day who will not read us because they think we are some kind of right wing organization. Why, even the archbishop of Los Angeles has said some nice things about yoga, so there.
Remember the one about lying? We clung to the tight line and said that lying was wrong, even just a little bit no matter what. We got swatted for that one too. After all, everyone lies, sometime. My position is, unless you're lying to the Gestapo or the SSS to save some poor waif's life, it's wrong. There see, I made a concession.
We all know deep down that killing is wrong, but do you remember the blog post in which we said that it is wrong to perform an abortion even to save the mother's life? We took heat from that one too. Sam Brownback who brought it up to begin with really caused a dust storm over it.
Permit me to go out of the "No Crying at my Funeral" box a little bit and talk about bribery. We all know that it is wrong. It is so wrong that we cluck our tongues when we see the situation that the third world lives in because of the rampant bribery that takes place there. We are all very sure that it doesn't take place here. Really? Are we sure why the telecom companies got protected? Why we don't have autos that run on hydrogen yet? Why the fleet average of the major auto makers has gone up out of sight over the last decade? Why just about all the construction contracts in Iraq have gone to one or two companies? We know in our hearts that there are plenty of right hands being washed by the left ones in the whole mess, now don't we? Yes we do. These observations have all contributed to dulling our consciences to the hard, cold edge of the Truth. We all think that it is OK to lie, cheat and steal, just a little bit from anyone and everyone because it makes our life easier. So what conscience are we left with when it comes time to vote?
Is it the conscience that says that abortion is wrong? Is it the one that knows that an unprovoked war is wrong? Is it the one that gets angry at the misuse and exploitation of our natural resources? Is it the one that abhors bribery in any form, even lobbying? Is it the one that gets inflamed at the thought that there are people who bend the law with impunity because they have gobs and gobs of money? Is it the one that lashes out at the injustice of wasted food when it is very clear that if the world cared more, hunger could be appeased by perhaps as much as 50%? Is it the one that gets enraged at the uncaring "professionals" who run our schools so incompetently that even high school graduates have to take remedial reading classes before going to college? Is it the one that gets frustrated into rage when the shambles of our medical care system lets hundreds of thousand people die every year because they can't afford to get the care that they need? I ask again, what conscience are we left with when it comes time to vote?
Do we vote for the Evangelical Christian who will support Israel at any cost? Do we vote for the Catholic who thinks that open borders are the only way to live? What about voting for the Republican who decides that every living person in the United States should have an identification card? Then there's the Democrat who will go all out to assure that there will be a constitutional amendment making way for same-sex marriage? What about the Baptist who is kicking and scratching every day of his life to preserve the electrification subsidies of his section of the country although there isn't a single nano-watt more needed there? Oh, I nearly forgot, what about the person who is more in favor of growing more corn for fuel than for supplying the food chain? Will your conscience allow you to vote for the candidate who will vow to pass legislation to euthanize all abandoned pet animals? Yes, what conscience are we left with when it comes time to vote?
We are only left with the conscience that we allow God to enlighten for us. Life is too complex for us to do it on our own. The activist will fight on and vote one way; the pacifist will vote another way; the monk will see things differently; the mother will have her conscience and the father his. The only way to make this a little more understandable is to remember that God is the equalizer. We have the duty to study, research and learn about as much as we can. The bottom line is what we learn from God by living close to Him. Even the best candidate cannot know everything. Politics is too big and too complex. Only God can enlighten us, both, politician and plain citizen alike. Only a close relationship with God can bring the peace that we pray for. It is paradoxical, but the more we abandon of ourselves to God, the more successful we become in enlightening our conscience concerning the morality to be practiced on the public stage. In and through God we find light and strength. Is that the conscience we will have whenit comes time to vote?
So, when you hear or read this again, "Vote Your Conscience", hope and pray that what you have in your heart is God, and what you have is His finger hitting the screen to the right choice. It is impossible to be a one issue citizen. It is impossible to be a one issue candidate. All we can hope to be is one with the Truth, the Truth who lives in us. That is the kind of unity that can bring peace to the nation and to the world.
Now, I know it is not safe to talk politics in front of strangers, but I did anyway. Anyone who can be that brave (or that foolhardy) won't have anyone crying at his funeral. Right?
Thursday, August 7, 2008
Every week at ParishWorld.net we have a Burning Question for all of you readers. We do go to some lengths to make these questions relevant to the meaning of what it is to be a real disciple of Jesus Christ. This week, we were the ones who got the Burning Question, not in the public forum, but in the form of a personal e-mail to the publisher. We therefore offer you, the readers of ParishWorld.net, the considered opinion of our publisher on the topic, "To Vote or NOT to Vote."
Some of you may remember that some months ago during the primary season there were a lot of comments about whether or not Catholics could vote for a "pro-choice" candidate. Do you remember that discussion? There was even some space dedicated to it here. The topic comes up again, briefly in the following exchange, but it doesn't swallow the discussion.
As the theology editor for this publication I am comfortable with the ideas thrown before you in this presentation by the publisher. If it means anything to the publisher's friend, I have to say that I am in accord with the spiritual position of Mr. Arida on this topic.
All of you, Edgar included, must feel free to make your comments about this question. We ask you to keep them objective and to make them polite.
So, let's follow this opinion about voting that was stated in response to a position that was, in paraphrase, I can't find a candidate who holds my moral views, so I am not going to vote. Were I to vote, should I vote against candidates instead of abstaining?
My Election Advice to a Friend - round 1
I would like to share with you an email I sent in response to a question by a friend.
Not voting is always a choice you can make over making the wrong vote. So a revenge-vote for or against any candidate is never a good thing. If you can't make up your mind, sit this one out.
That being said, let me point out that elections are not all about politics and economics. It's also about what you believe your heart tells you about our God. For once, consider making this election about your Christian faith and which candidate you feel can best exemplify what we as Catholics really stand for. For once, look at this election from the point of view of our faith. Life is not the only God issue during these elections but it is the key issue – respect of Life from conception to death. Ask yourself which candidate will best bring forward the Kingdom of God in our United States for the next four years. This will change the way you will look upon this election. For in the end, what is good for the Lord is good for His people.
As you ponder this, don't ask yourself what Jesus would do. Ask yourself, what Jesus would want you to do. Try to come to grips with yourself with this with your conscience as your guide and see how this whole election process can take on a whole new perspective. I encourage you to cast your vote. For once, let's put our trust in the Lord regarding this one.
I hope this helps.
Keep the Faith. Peace.
Publisher & Editor in chief
It is evident here that the one driving issue was abortion. Respect for life. OK, as the theology editor, I buy the concept that this is a fundamental Catholic moral issue. After all, God spared Cain's life didn't He? But there is more to it than that. In the United States we think nothing of having a capital punishment law in our culture. We think nothing of holding people captive even without any definitive proof that they have committed a crime. We think nothing of sending work off-shore so that we can get the results at a lower price at the cost of the welfare of our very own community. We think nothing of permitting automotive companies to enslave us to an oil-based fleet of vehicles rather than to force them to apply technologies that have been available for years to spare us from the monopoly of oil. We think nothing of a government that passes laws and then does not expend any effort in the enforcement of them. Talk about "Cafeteria Catholics"...we are in a country supposedly founded on the "rule of law" yet we vote people into office who scoff at the very concept. We think nothing of having the prescription drug companies lobby our legislators into enacting laws that are detrimental to our ever being able to institute a universal health care system. Yes, we are a "Cafeteria law enforcement country".
For those of you who think that this is new. Please consider this:
The prophet Amos who preached 800 years before the coming of Jesus decried the government's treatment of prisoners. What was happening? The prisoners were being released
into slavery to third person countries (The common allies of the Israelites against the enemy defeated by the Israelites.) Is there a relationship there between us and the the prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay? How about the prophet Jeremiah who raled at the practice of Child sacrifice in the Valley of Hinnom at the foot of Mount Moriah, the high point of Jerusalem? There is never a single issue election. There are many more examples in the Bible, but I won't take up the publisher's space! We Catholics have to vote according to our conscience, formed as it is by the revelation of the Lord Our God given to us through the pronouncements of Sacred Scripture and of our Holy Mother the Church.
Now, let us look at round 2
If you base your vote on what your conscience tells you, works only in theory, try to listen to a democrat or a republican candidate will flip flop, depends on the polls, for example, abortion. Democrats tend to favor abortion, but on the other hand consider also the carnage created by war, and the lies that railroad us to what we have now, a job well done..morally, what will you consider less evil? It just boils down to; we need more oil to fuel our SUV's and blame the whole world for everything that ails us..
Our faith and belief in God and what is right is not - as you put it – theoretical. It is a way of life, a choice we make. Our Christian lives and the way we live them are never perfect, they never were, they never will be. No one among us is perfect. But we try – all of us do – and we try hard. Because in the end we are judged – and this, my friend, is not theoretical - on how we live our lives according to His will. Have faith, Edgar. God will make all things right in the end. He always does. All He asks is we put our trust in His will.
Think this election over clearly and consciously. Look into your heart and really talk to Jesus. Ask him what he wants you to do. (Remember it’s not what Jesus would do but what you think Jesus would want YOU to do.) Put your Catholic faith to heart and believe that His will is the right thing for all of us.
This conversation will be between Him and you; no one else will be involved. Our whole life boils down to love for God and love for others. It boils down to love and respect for Life as God gave it. Your relationship with Jesus has always been between Him and you. And this election is no different. God’s plan for mankind and the salvation of the world was never a theoretical hypothesis. He gave all of us – you and I included – the free choice to do His will. Or we can choose not to. It is our individual choice.
Please don’t think of this as a guilt trip, Edgar. No one will know how you voted or who you voted for or for what reasons. It’s between you and Him. All I’m offering you is a different way of looking at this coming election. When the choices and issues are muddled, it’s always a good think to go back to the constant – God and his infinite love for each person, His infinite love for Life. How you discuss that with Him is between Him and you. It’s what praying is all about.
Re-think the issues from this new perspective. It could give you the answer you’re looking for. Who knows? You just might discover answers that will go way beyond this simple matter of elections at hand.
Kindest regards, my friend. God bless you and your family
Keep the Faith. Peace.
Publisher & Editor in chief
"OUR CATHOLIC FAITH -
Learn it. Live it. Share it."
That is the opinion of our publisher. We leave it to you to think about it. Upon leaving you, we remind you of this: if you vote your conscience, you will be able to defend yourself at the "city gates" (a book of psalms expression). If you play games with your conscience, you will always be wondering where the Truth can be found. So go out and vote and be forever at peace with your own seriously considered decision.
That is my final say about this. All that I can say now is, if you vote, and vote your conscience with strong, none negotiable conviction, this will comfort you to the point where you will not have the least little inclination to cry at my funeral.
Friday, August 1, 2008
The entire environment told the same story. From the white drape enveloping the casket, the white suit worn by Elvira, the saintly widow, white vestments on the eight priests who concelebrated the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the signing of "Allelluia" and the lilting tones of the carefully chosen music, all was hope and thanksgiving. The sharing of the peace was a true blessing of one to the other and all eight of the priests made their way to Elvira's pew to hug her and bless her and the rest of her family. We went to the communion stations to partake of the sacrificed body of Christ, knowing that He was also carrying Bob with Him.
After the Mass and the final blessing of the remains, we heard the eulogy of Elvira, delivered by a beloved chosen emmissary. It is reproduced here, with Elvira's permission.
"Bob is a wonderful husband. In our 35 years and 8 months of marriage, he probably got angry only three or four times. He is a very patient person. He is always there for me whenever I need something. During our married life together he was very caring, especially when I had to go into four types of surgery. We did not have all the luxuries in life, but we were able to manage for we both worked and helped each other. He would always say 'Thank you' in every little thing you would do for him. I gave him his haircult since we got married in 1972, and he would always say, 'I feel 10 pounds lighter' after the haircut.
"We have our senior moments and who doesn't when you get to be a senior. We both love to go bowling, play bingo, visit different casinos, play the penny machines, and when he passed out, it happened in a casino, although I was not beside him or near him when it happened.
"On behalf of Bob's family and I, I would like to thank you all for showing your gratitude. I will always cherish and keep all your prayers and sympathy in my heart. God has been good to us. He always directed us to the right path, and provided us with everything we need. I will love Bob forever, and we will see each other in the next life."
It is good for all of us to be able to look up and see Bob in heaven. He is a good example for us all. Yesterday was more like "Haec dies quam fecit Dominus" (This is the day the Lord has made). Yesterday we saw God in a new light because Bob showed us a side if Him that we hadn't seen before.
No, I did not cry at this funeral. Frankly, not too many of us did. Bob was that kind of guy.