I Must Pray

Were there no glory and no resurrection/ 
a faithful priest I would resolve to be/
for with head bowed down and on bended knee/ 
I must pray, You are God, and I am not .


Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy

He will say, Here I am >>>

IS NOT this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?

THEN SHALL your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you, the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, Here I am.

IF YOU take away from the midst of you the yoke, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness, if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday.  [Isa 58:6-10]

Corporal Works of Mercy

1.  Feed the hungry.
2.  Give cold water to the thirsty.
3.  Shelter the homeless.
4.  Clothe the naked.
5.  Visit the sick.
6.  Visit the imprisoned.
7.  Bury the dead reverently.

THEN THE King will say to those at his right hand, "Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me."

THEN THE righteous will answer him, "Lord, when did we see thee hungry and feed thee, or thirsty and give thee drink? And when did we see thee a stranger and welcome thee, or naked and clothe thee? And when did we see thee sick or in prison and visit thee?" And the King will answer them, "Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me."  [Mt 25:34-40]

Spiritual Works of Mercy

1.  Admonish the sinner.
2.  Instruct the ignorant.
3.  Counsel the doubtful.
4.  Comfort the sorrowful.
5.  Bear wrongs patiently.
6.  Forgive all injuries.
7.  Pray for the living and the dead.

LET HIM know that whoever brings back a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.  [Jam 5:20]

GIVE INSTRUCTION to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a righteous man and he will increase in learning. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.  [Pro 9:9-10]

AND CONVINCE some, who doubt; save some, by snatching them out of the fire; on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.  [Jude 1:20-23]

BE NOT wanting in comforting them that weep: and walk with them that mourn.  [Sir 7:38; Douay-Rheims 1941]

PUT ON then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, and patience, forbearing one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other.  [Col 3:12-13]

"BUT I say to you that hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.  [Lk 6:27-28]

TO THIS end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his call, and may fulfill every good resolve and work of faith by his power.  [2Thess 1:11]

IT IS therefore a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from sins. [2Mach 12:46; Douay-Rheims, 1941]


Sun, Mast and Horizon

"These three agree"  >>>

In the golden age of sailing vessels, a mariner fixed his position on the high seas by triangulating the noonday sun, mast and horizon. With the aid of a sextant and a reliable timepiece, he could accurately determine both latitude and longitude. Hence, the sailor knew the location of his vessel and the distance remaining to port.  In his first epistle, the apostle John triangulates the believer, his neighbor and God to instruct the universal Church regarding the mystical Body of Christ: 

EVERY ONE who believes that Jesus is the Christ is a child of God, and every one who loves the parent loves the child. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments."  [1Jn 5:1-2]

Opting to forget or ignore your brother's sins over forgiving him is like throwing a lifeline to a drowning man with no intention of drawing him in. Silence in the face of sin is hardly the better part of wisdom; to the contrary, it is complicity in folly. 

Absent reconciliation with God and neighbor, it is humanly impossible to forget or ignore the consequences of sin. All sins are injuries, very many of which are life-threatening for one's eternal soul; all sins require divine healing.  The man who does not know God stumbles in the dark.  [cf. 1Jn 2:11]  Rudderless, he does not know where he is, nor can he see where he is going.

Filled with dread, he is helpless to resolve his anxiety. He does not know peace. Should he broach to, his most personal relationships will founder as well. Alternatively, perhaps he and those who depend on him will zigzag endlessly throughout life until exhaustion or famine overtakes them just outside safe harbor.  Reconciliation is never exclusive. Love and forgiveness are never secret matters. 

Love, if it is to bear fruit, must be deep-rooted and far-reaching. That the peace of Christ (1) may genuinely take root in your heart, pray that you "be strengthened with might through his Spirit in the inner man."  [Eph 3:16]  Pray in the Spirit for the power "to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God."  [Eph 3:18-19] 


Three Thin Trees - December 14 2009

Stings of love >>>

Three thin trees, bereft,
bleak thorns against the sky,
damn the collectivist intent
to deny charity its wreath/
Swiftly to be routed down
lest the olive yield a fruitful peace
across the soulless humanscape--
Shinar’s perch of bitumen and gold,
and the garroting of slaves
to tend their masters’ hands
in the dark festivities beyond/
By Levantine caressed, warm and wet,
bursts a cloud of bearded blooms--
white heat of verity and anvil
that empties tombs, seals bloody quarries/
Pray shake the crosier ever green
to solemnize stings of love,
yes clang of steel, perhaps anoint
a mother’s ground of mourning/


As Things Really Are (Part 2 of 2)

Very personal, far reaching >>>

Or was it? Was it just possible that Eve’s return to the starting point was not a willed birth into a new cosmic existence, still less self-divinization, but a grotesque circular fantasy leading her straight back to her creaturely nothingness? But not without a great price, however. In her mind’s eye, she danced naked in a cosmic palace of evolutionary consciousness. But in the reality of the tree’s shadow, a sign of things as they really are, she fell existentially into a toxic dump, the one we have come to know as the fall of humankind, a hell vastly larger than her imaginings.

Reacting to the weight of their own grave sin in the pale but sufficient light of shame (the last defense of what is authentically human), they ran away from their Creator). They literally fell  into the living God’s hands to their condemnation.  [cf. Heb 10:31]   The Sacred Scriptures are silent about God’s arched eyebrows when he saw the priceless fig leaf skirts and what they signified, the first of many things that man and woman would hide from each other.

From the aspect of relationship, we may appraise Adam's personal sin as the greater of the two. Adam, the precursor of prophets, kings and priests (and Christ himself) broke his intercessory relationship with God by valuing the creaturely Eve -- the image of himself -- more highly than the creator. The priestly custodian of God’s image and likeness betrayed all human beings by his failure to plead pardon for Eve and for all creation.

Eve, model and progenitor of the human race as mother of the living, sinned by stealing the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge for the purpose of self-empowerment. The consequences of her actions would gravely harm all generations of human beings. The fruit itself is quite irrelevant, what it stands for is not. Irrespective of which commandment or law is transgressed by human beings, there is no sin that does not offend both God’s sovereignty and original human innocence. At bottom, the least sin violates the sacred order, spiritual and temporal, that God’s law protects.

And the sacred order of things is first and foremost understood by human beings as that which is relational. The word relationship, absurdly cheapened in popular usage as “connection”, properly encompasses such goods as personhood, filiation, community, humaneness, charity, unity, vowed commitments, benevolence and the like.

The term “right order” means to be in right relationship with God and with all human persons. Contextually, it refers to being rightly oriented to the whole of reality. It is no exaggeration to say that grave sin is profoundly disorienting to the human person, making it difficult if not impossible for the sinner to see things as they really are. Sin offends the good, it offends the law that protects the good, and it offends the sacred order in which the good is situated.

Sin impairs the sinner’s eyes of faith. To the degree that a person sins, he is blinded to the pleasing and life-affirming order of the whole of reality. Moreover, the sinner loses spiritual depth-perception. He no longer can readily distinguish the difference between creation as a good and the particular good that God wills or does not will for him personally.

Interestingly, Adam and Eve's transgression against the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was the remote factor in their expulsion. The proximate factor was the threat that they would partake of the fruit of the Tree of Life and become a new breed of immortal transgressors:  “‘Lest man put forth his hand and take also of the Tree of Life, and eat, and live for ever’ -- therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden”.  [Gen 3:22-23]


As Things Really Are (Part 1 of 2)

Jaw-dropping sophistry >>>

The lives of Adam and Eve were sustained in virtuous conduct by God who granted them a share of his divine life. This share was sanctifying grace, the procession of a two-fold gift from God, an  “original holiness” and a participation in the mystery of the Holy Trinity.  [CCC 375]

The Genesis account relates that Adam and Eve possessed the fullness of intellect and reason. Both enjoyed free will and the liberty to act rightly or wrongly. They accepted God’s friendship and trusted his divine commands from the start—Do this, don’t do that. As a consequence, they had no experience of suffering or disappointment.

Throughout the age of innocence, the length of which is unknown, the intellect and will of the first human beings mirrored the divine goodness in whose image and likeness they were created.  [cf. Gen 1:26]

Adam, searching for a help-mate, rightly rejected all birds, beasts and fishes as unsuitable. By saying yes to intimacy with Eve, “bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” [Gen 2:23], he cooperated with God’s plan for human well-being. By saying no to the primary companionship of non-human creatures, he pleased God and magnified him in whose image and likeness he was created.

Eve who enjoyed good things to eat knew well what God commanded her and Adam:  “You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.” [Gen 3:3]  Tempted by the serpent (devil), she touched and ate fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Obsessed by self-interest, Eve convinced Adam to make her strikingly outrageous act of apostasy against God complete. As a consequence, the age of innocence vanished, and their idolatrous hearts convulsed with anguish and dread.

Eve rejected the God of creation and gravely wounded her relationship with Adam. The wretched Adam validated his companion’s sin and failed in his priestly duty as well. He neither corrected Eve nor interceded prayerfully on her behalf in God’s presence. One may speculate as to the narrative’s outcome if Adam had refused to conspire with Eve, seeking instead divine pardon for her and healing for the wounded creation. Would that he had. They would not recover from their joint self-mutilation.

Or one simply may dismiss the Genesis story as an primitive artifact of human neurosis. The gimlet eye of this prideful generation, to be sure, feasts on controversy as amaranth on a battle-field. Though certainly not the last word in human anthropology, the Genesis story rings with a dreadful truth, and rational men and women of good will should deal with it.

To understand the immense significance of Adam’s priestly failure to plead pardon before God on behalf of Eve and all creation, one must comprehend the magnitude of Eve’s sin, taking care to stipulate that if Eve were a simpleton, the story would never have been written.

Aggravated by the serpent’s temptations, Eve contemplated the idea of grasping equality with God. Again, stipulating Eve’s competence, she knew full well what she intended to do irrespective of the devil’s sinister persuasions. God’s commandment was clear:  “You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.”  [Gen 3:3]


Small World of Castles

A very long time >>>

Yes, yes, you see in certain persons a castle with a moat and draw bridge and arrows raining down from its ramparts. One may enter the castle occasionally when the ruler lowers the drawbridge, but the ruler will not come out. Those who build castles plan to stay in them for a very long time. Castles enclose a cramped world in which life revolves around the ruler. Everything is centered on defense. I don't see this as healthy for nations or families or individuals.


Loving God and Neighbor

"Liberty Bell of our faith" >>>

Like his love, God’s mercy free for the asking. Yet it's so precious that the sum of the world’s wealth cannot purchase it. To be forgiven is to be restored in a spirit of gentleness.  [Gal 6:1]  Restored to whom? To your God and your neighbor. For what purpose? For life-giving friendship. When your sins are forgiven, you can walk freely and confidently. When you are forgiven, death has no more power over your destiny. 

Jesus firmly declares that if you want to know greatness, you must love God ardently and your neighbor as yourself. The first of your "neighbors" is your parish Church and your very own family. But, in truth, your "neighbor" includes everyone you meet. God places “neighbors” in your path for divine reasons. God gives you neighbors to test you. He wants to know if you actually are living a holy way of life. 

And if you genuinely love God, you will love your neighbor. To truly understand and experience God’s transforming love, you humbly serve the persons that God has chosen to give to you, especially the poor. If you serve God and neighbor with great love, you will live and prosper. Should you serve merely yourself and treat others as utilities, you will surely rot and perish from the inside out.

The Great Commandment is the "Liberty Bell" of our faith, bestowing upon us a genuine freedom which no individual, group or government can take away. The sound of the bell is urgent calling us now even as we worship together. It rings across our land commanding the followers of Jesus Christ to make a profound commitment:  “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  [Mt 22:37-39]  

/OT Wk 14 /Cycle A /Jul 06 2014
"Come to Me, All Who Labor"  >>>

Sadly, a famine ravages our world, exhausting many individuals, breaking down the human family and threatening the collapse of entire nations. In the midst of our own wealth, people languish for lack of authentic love. 

Many are in grave danger because they are unable to receive love or to offer it to others in a meaningful way. For these souls, every tear carries a world of sorrow, every heartache confesses a wordless story of hopes dissolved, of dreams unfulfilled. 

At some point in life, each of us suffers a genuine crisis of love. Feeling ill-used at the very least, we may grow to doubt the purpose of our existence. The great sorrow of our age is the disintegration of our youth, many of whom carry a brutal burden upon their shoulders. 

Incredibly, many young people think they were created without the capacity to offer or to receive virtuous love, that virtuous love is not essential to one's character or humanity, and if construed as something more than utility, love is simultaneously futile and fatal. Not knowing what love is, or how to recognize it as genuine, they surrender to numbing confusion, ruinous conduct and poisonous self-reproach.  

As creatures who long for meaning, our egoistic appetites may become so powerful, that we fabricate reality even where none exists. Man will accept even the grossest substitutes for love, even to the point of doing violence to the natural law written in his heart. 

It is a mystery how human beings recoil from truth and commitment in the face of growing interior poverty, but when given the chance they will pounce on any fiction that rationalizes their clearly inferior values and destructive behaviors.


Phil Robertson >>>

"We all go six feet deep in the ground. The grave is a problem. So is sin. Jesus came down in the flesh and solved both of them. So for me, my household, I just think that (ah) we'd all be better off if we loved God and loved each other. At the end of the day, you will be happy, happy, happy." [West Monroe, LA 2013]
Heaven Is Very Close to Us >>>

God says, “Behold, I make all things new.”  [Rev 21:5]  Our true destiny is life, eternal life, and our God is a God of the living. In this life, we pray:

TO HAVE the eyes of our hearts enlightened, that we may know what is the hope to which Christ has called us, to know the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints. [Eph 1:18] 

I believe anyone who is spiritually perceptive, who realizes that there are other ways to see than by mere human eyesight, understands that angels and saints of heaven can see everything in heaven and on earth as God wills. They may see everything in the worlds of time and eternity because they are perfect.

The heavenly angels and saints are not in a “happy hunting ground” or “round-up corral” somewhere. They are much, much closer to us than we can imagine. The angels and saints and all of heaven, in truth, are as near as one’s outstretched hand. We mortals typically cannot see heaven. Our eyes of faith are weak, and we are not yet perfect:

EYE HAS not seen, ear has not heard, nor has it yet dawned on man what God has in store for those who love him.  [1Cor 2:9]  

Surely miracles are not thrown down to us here on earth from way up “there”. We speak of miracles which have the power to change who we are, what we do, and who we are meant to become. When God permits us to see great and beautiful things—even for a moment—we never forget. We are humbled to be so privileged. We want to share the “Good News” of our miraculous experience and awareness of God.

We want to hold on to the miracle in our lives—we don’t want to let go. In an instant, we comprehend how our world is so flawed and broken by sin and rebellion, and how very much we need God. I believe the great miracle is not so much the wonderful and miraculous “thing” that appears to our eyes to be unique and unrepeatable.


Saying "Yes" to God - Part 3 of 3

The test of faith infers a leap into the “hands of the living God”.  [Heb 10:31]  Pope Saint John Paul II expressed this thought sublimely when he wrote, “Allow (your) spirit to be overturned in order to make it turn towards God.”  [Reconciliatio et Paenitentia, no. 26 (1984)]  

Faith leads me to know “that what is seen was made out of things which do not appear”.  [Heb 11:3]  By faith, I reach for “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen”.  [Heb 11:1]  By faith, I accept citizenship in “a better country, that is, a heavenly one”.  [Heb 11:16]  By faith, I discern that the “goods” of the natural world are not good enough to effect my salvation.

Should I stubbornly withhold my assent to faith until the end, starving my unfortunate soul with a catalog of excuses and complaints longer than Les Misérables, I will deserve my eternal death for this pathetic reason, if no for none other:  The rebellious mind is always opposed to the “mind of Christ”.  [1Cor 2:16]  I may choose either rebellion or the peace of Christ but not both. And decide I must. If I choose the mind of Christ, it must increase. Anything else is a portal to selfishness and materialism, an intuition of death, and hence must decrease.

Therefore, the virtue of temperance involves a resounding yes as well as a powerful no. Keeping in mind the cautionary story of Adam and Eve, God calls me to say yes to the good that he wants. I am to say no to disobeying God and no to the good things and good people of this world that God does not will me to possess!  

"FOR OUR business is not to live many years, and to become learned, or to make a name in the world, but to walk to God, to get near to Him, to unite ourselves to Him . . . .

"LET US have a full realization of the drama which is being enacted, and in which we have to play our part. This drama fills all time and all space. It began, with the very beginning of things, in the angelic world, by an act of disobedience. This brought another in its train here below, one which has been repaired by the obedience of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

"ALL INTELLIGENT beings are ranged in two camps, those who obey and those who obey not; and the struggle of the two forces knows no truce. Each has its king, and he who claims to withdraw himself from obedience passes by this very fact under the domination of the other King. God for god, I prefer my own." (2)

The only way I may know the good that God wants for me is to pray and wait in silence for his salvation: “For we walk by faith,and not by sight”.  [2Cor 5:7]  Every human story reveals a longing to recover what was lost by Adam and Eve’s tragic immoderation. Like Adam and Eve in happier days, the human soul longs to walk with God in the cool of the evening breeze.  [cf. Gen 3:8]  

It is sanctifying grace alone that sustains my fundamental orientation to God and empowers my human will to collaborate with God for the sake of my own salvation. The grace-filled virtue of temperance empowers me to say amen decisively to God and the good that he wants, to keep his commandments, turning neither to the left or the right. Hence, God’s own glory illumines my path to him, purifying my unworthy soul by degrees “for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit”.  [1Cor 3:17-18]  

(1)  “Instinctively”, a word suggesting how deeply 1.) the primordial fall has permeated the souls of all the living, and 2.) the human soul longs to be reconciled and made holy

(2)  [COMMENTARY ON THE RULE OF ST BENEDICT Prologue by Dom Paul Delatte, Trans. Dom Justin McCann. London:  Burns Oates & Washbourne Ltd (1921) pp 3,5]  Dom Delatte, Order of St. Benedict, was third abbot of the Abbey of Saint-Pierre de Solesme and Superior General of the Congregation of Benedictines of France. The COMMENTARY was composed in 1913.


Saying "Yes" to God - Part 2 of 3

Whatever we may say about the problem of Adam, in some primordial sense he prefigured the priesthood of Christ as mediator between God and all the living. Because of his pastoral failure, therefore, Adam’s sin was the more abhorrent. Undeniably Eve inflicted a grievous wound to humanity. Adam, however, struck humanity’s death blow. His action was catastrophic, fatal and impossible to overcome.

Every human being from the age of reason upward has some intuition of death, if for no other reason than the experience of sin. Sin is death’s shill. I well know my human nature left to itself is mortally flawed, predisposing me to commit evil against God, myself and others.

When I sin, I invariably dismiss as irrelevant my bias toward self-interest. Moreover, I instinctively (1) appeal to some good to whitewash my sins, and worse, I grant myself immunity because I classify my sins as negligible when compared to grave moral and material crimes like, well . . . torture and genocide. I want to frolic and play with sins as if I were a child toying with fire until the day of catastrophe.

When will I stop hemorrhaging invaluable time and energy to legitimize my sins? How much longer will I shun the light and easy yoke  [cf. Mt 11:30]  of the Lord’s own sacrament? So many medications, injections, treatments, therapies, spas and gyms for the sake of mortal flesh that is as good as dead . . . and nothing, nothing for my immortal soul that languishes like a prisoner within! And who is my enemy? The Lord’s sacrament? The Lord’s priest? The kneeler? Or is the enemy myself! “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?”  [Rom 7:24]  

A habit of informed restraint contributes to the orderly lives of all men and women of good will. Unless it takes on a supernatural character and becomes a virtue, however, it remains ultimately palliative. Nothing less than the restorative is needed for the bewildered exhausted soul in the face of evil’s implacable assault. My soul needs a decisive intervention, a rescue as it were from a house on fire. It needs a trustworthy remedy if it’s going to be restored to full health. How can my soul take supernatural nourishment? What is the leaven that will make my soul rise?

To break the increasing power of sin and death strangling me in this present life, I must bend the knee  [cf. Phi 2:10]  before Jesus Christ, call on his name and receive the Spirit of Life. I must drink of the divine grace poured out for me by the Most Holy Trinity. I must take as my food the will of God. I must cooperate with the Divine Physician whom he sent to accomplish his Father’s works.  [cf. Jn 4:34]  Unless I change my thinking and my life for the better, my hope has no proper object.

I’ve heard that some persons lack the gift of faith. I’m not sure what this means but surmise that it refers to a soul who withholds faith, a soul for whom assent to God is perceived as a threat to both one’s identity and humanity. Some apprehension is understandable at the beginning of one’s journey to God. Does surrender to God mean I forfeit who I am? Will I lose my friends? Who might control me? What do I have to reveal? and so forth. Whom or what will I trust?


Saying "Yes" to God - Part 1 of 3

The lives of Adam and Eve were sustained in virtuous conduct by God who granted them a share of his divine life. This share was sanctifying grace, the procession of a two-fold gift from God:  “original holiness” and a participation in the mystery of the Holy Trinity.  [CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC) 375]

The Genesis account discloses that Adam and Eve possessed the fullness of intellect and reason. Both enjoyed free will and the liberty to act rightly or wrongly. Having no experience of trial or hardship, they accepted God’s friendship and trusted his divine commands from the start—Do this, don’t do that. Throughout the age of innocence, the length of which is unknown,  the intellect and will of the first human beings mirrored the divine goodness in whose image and likeness they were created.  [cf. Gen 1:26]  

Adam, searching for a help-mate, rightly rejected all birds, beasts and fishes as unsuitable. By saying yes to intimacy with Eve, “bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” [Gen 2:23], he cooperated with God’s plan for human well-being. By saying no to the primary companionship of non-human creatures, he honored God in whose image and likeness he was created.

Eve who enjoyed good things to eat knew well what God commanded her and Adam: “You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.” [Gen 3:3]  Tempted by the serpent (devil), she touched and ate fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Obsessed by self-interest, Eve convinced Adam to make her strikingly outrageous act of apostasy against God complete. Thus the age of innocence vanished, and their idolatrous hearts convulsed with anguish and dread.

Eve rejected the God of creation and gravely wounded her relationship with Adam. The wretched Adam validated his companion’s sin by doubly failing in his duty. He neither corrected Eve nor interceded prayerfully on her behalf in God’s presence. One may speculate as to the narrative’s outcome if Adam refused to conspire with Eve, seeking instead divine pardon for her and healing for the wounded creation. In the face of this generation’s incalculable human suffering, to be sure, such speculation is feckless and irresponsible.

Saying yes to lust and greed demands a corresponding no to the primacy of truth. Both grasped for equality with God and the sham promise of undeserved self-generated immortality. They decisively rejected God who alone names what is good and what is evil. Having cooperated with the serpent’s sinister attack on the dignity of their own personhood, God expelled the two offenders from Eden.

Tragically, humanity fell with Adam and Eve into perpetual suffering and death, losing all memory of intimacy with God. Many aspects of the Genesis story always will be debated, but perhaps common agreement could be expected on this point: The human response to faith is always personal, far-reaching and involves other persons. (To be continued ... )


Wrapping a Gift

When I preach at Mass what I’m really doing is wrapping a gift. The gift is the gospel. The homily is the wrapping. I don’t make or buy the gift or keep it for myself, but I try to present the gift in a pleasing way. The wrapping is not more important than the gift.
The gospel always outshines the homilist and his own thoughts. I present the gospel to you as Christ graciously directs me. His gift is the truth. The giver and the gift are the same. The response of a longing heart to the good news of Jesus Christ is a joyous moment. The one who trimmed the gift must stand aside.


Feast of the Ascension /Circle of the Son /June 01 2014

Jesus took five steps to cross the threshold from the temporal world into the realm of eternity. These five steps are: his Passover celebration (our first Mass), his passion and death, and his resurrection and ascension into heaven.

In the larger sense, these steps complete the gospel circle of the Son. They began, of course with the Lord’s incarnation. They encompass the meaning of his whole ministry and life. Jesus’ ascension to the Father's right hand is their culmination. One thing is crystal clear:  Jesus’ ascension is not an afterthought, it’s not a gloss, it’s not a fiction employed by the early Church to smooth out difficult post-resurrection questions.

It would not be an exaggeration to say that the ascension is the happy ending to an extraordinarily dramatic gospel story. Far from being a minor experience in salvation history, the ascension of Our Lord validates the new covenant made in his name. It is the “crown jewel” in God’s plan of salvation for the human race. The new covenant in Christ's body and blood achieves its consummation in Our Lord's ascension. We may understand this more perfectly by recalling the Old Testament figure Noah.

In primordial time, God cleansed the world by sending forth a great flood which destroyed sinful humanity and all living creatures except the faithful Noah, his household and the animals housed on-board the now legendary ark. As an affirming sign to Noah and his descendants, God placed a rainbow in the clouds. He promised that flood waters would never again purge all flesh-and-blood creatures from the earth--especially human beings.

But what about death? Isn’t death the inevitable “flood” which destroys all life? And from the ages of ages, to Jesus of Nazareth God entrusted this colossally important concern of fallen human beings. The Book of Acts recounts with superb precision how Jesus has defeated death once and for all . . .

. . . HOW GOD anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all that were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. And we are witnesses to all that he did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem.

THEY PUT him to death by hanging him on a tree; but God raised him on the third day and made him manifest; not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.

AND HE commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that he is the one ordained by God to be judge of the living and the dead.  [Acts 10:38-42]  

As the sign of the death of death itself, this Jesus who was resurrected from the dead was set in the clouds by God the Father as the everlasting celebration of his holy sovereignty over all things. Hence Jesus’ ascension to the father’s right hand is become the rainbow of divine mercy bridging both the temporal and spiritual realms with its splendid radiance.

To Peter and the gathered Church privileged to witness the Son's exaltation, and all who await the good news of redemption in Jesus’ name, this is the sign of the new and everlasting covenant which abolishes the power of death forever.

Absent Our Lord's ascension, his rising from the dead (no matter how spectacular) would be devoid of essential meaning. The ascension of Jesus Christ is man's assurance that the resurrection is credible. What was initiated at the moment of Mary's conception has achieved its fulfillment.

Christ's being raised to heaven is mortal man's definitive proof that a heaven awaits those who are faithful to God’s love and the path he has marked out for them. We have been purchased by the great price of Jesus’ passion and death and promised a share in his glory . We are heirs to the ultimate benefaction, Christ's resurrection from the dead!


"Free Gift of God" /Romans 6:23

There is always the temptation to talk too much in confession. If a penitent talks too much, he becomes an obstacle between God and the priest. If a confessor talks too much, he imposes himself between God and the penitent. The former is a distraction, the latter is dangerous.

Apart from serious cases, I believe that a penance should be light and easy, a few prayers that the penitent can offer before the Blessed Sacrament before going home. The confessor prescribes a penance to prompt the penitent to offer his gratitude to our Lord Jesus Christ who purchased his salvation at a great price.  [cf. 1Cor 6:20]  

A penance should be completed without undue hardship. Better that penance be performed before an altar and crucifix than behind the steering wheel of a car or worse. It is better to confess frequently while suffering profound aridity of soul than to make one hot and steamy confession in three and a half year’s time.

We go to confession with sorrowful hearts for having offended God. We earnestly expect that having been washed clean of sin that heaven’s entrance remains open to us. Then we do our penance. By his own flesh and blood the Lord has remitted the faithful follower’s undeniable and spectacular debts owed to God and his heaven. A believer must lovingly thank Jesus for this.

Jesus “the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world”  [Jn 1:29]  came that we “may have life and have it abundantly”.  [Jn 10:10]  The height, depth, length and breadth of “I AM” sustains us in forgiveness as God holds creation itself in being. No one may enter into God’s holiness to an abundant, eternal and perfect union with God but through him.  [cf. Jn 14:6]  

A penitent should do something more than say his penance for the good of his own and of the supernatural order. This is usually the case. Let him as well perform the spiritual and temporal works of mercy for the good of his own and the temporal order and these as a habit of life. [1]


"Do You Believe This?" /Lent Wk 05 /Cycle A /Apr 06 2014

1.  The Mount of Olives, familiar to most Christians as the starting point for Jesus’ jubilant procession into Jerusalem, its Garden of Gethsemane, and later his ascension to the right hand of God, proves to be the dramatic setting for still another miraculous event in salvation history. Lazarus, a friend of Jesus, becomes ill at his home in Bethany, a village situated on the east slope of the Mount of Olives (about two miles distant from Jerusalem).

2.  His sisters Mary and Martha send an intimate, revealing, yet discreet message to Jesus who is some distance away:  "Lord, he whom you love is ill."  [Jn 11:3]  Their words, spare and eloquent, witness their belief in Jesus' lordship and express feelings of tenderness and worry. For his part, Jesus mysteriously chooses to linger beyond the region of Judea, thereby giving full reign to the finality of Lazarus’ death. On the third day, approaching his decisive rendezvous at the cave in which his dear friend is interred, Jesus becomes deeply emotional.

3.  A number of years ago, late summer, I stood inside a small and complex ecosystem. I felt its cool atmosphere to be heavy and solemn. Not entirely quiet, the little grotto echoed with curious noises--the sound of sighing and varied little chirps. Intrusive voices disturbed its peace, however, which seemed to me disrespectful.

4.  The cave was a small room in the intensive care unit of a nationally known cancer center. The sighing came from a mechanical respirator, the chirping noises were beeps from a heart monitor and other equipment. These things sustained a dear friend and fellow seminarian on life-support. He was only 32 years old. His name was Jim. Only a few days earlier, he was the picture of health. A devastating leukemia cut him down within the span of one week, a brain hemorrhage the cause of death.

5.  I went straight to the hospital from the airport. I talked to Jim by phone from Toronto scarcely two days before, but I did not know what to expect. Lying there in his bed, he seemed to be resting. I could not grasp that he was clinically dead, that he would never open his eyes, or smile or get up again. My eyes saw what I wanted to see. What the nurses told me I did not want to hear. All I could trust was my faith in God. I asked God for more. I prayed to God saying, The victory is yours, help me to see with eyes of faith.

6.  I prayed in vigil at Jim’s bedside throughout the night. (His family chose not to stay for reasons I will never understand.) I was there in the morning when the medical staff disconnected his life support. The sighing of the respirator stopped. The rhythmic up-and-down movement of Jim’s chest ceased. The color of his complexion darkened immediately. The chirping of the monitor went on a dreadfully long time, going slower and slower until the alarm sounded in one long uninterrupted cry.


2004: Cardinal George's Ad limina address to Pope John Paul II

In his ad limina address to Pope John Paul II at the Vatican in 2004, Cardinal George spoke frankly about the United States and the Church:

…the Church in the United States is in great danger.
…anti-Catholicism has always marked American culture.

The public conversation in the United States speaks easily of individual rights; it cannot give voice to considerations of the common good.

The public conversation, like the political, legal and economic systems, is based on the generation of conflict between individuals and groups. Culturally, the right to sexual freedom is now the basis of personal freedom.

…the Church…is seen as an enemy of personal freedom and a cause of social violence.

The relation between the body of Christ which is the holy Eucharist and the body of Christ which is his Church passes through the sacrament of holy orders. A culture founded on the rejection of the sacrament of holy orders can grasp neither the Eucharist nor apostolic governance.

Americans know that we as a people can be generous, fair-minded and freedom-loving; we are slower to see that we can be arrogant, brutal and eroticized.

Is the mission of the Catholic Church to America one of fulfillment or healing? One of completion or forgiveness? The Eucharist is both, of course, and so must be the mission; but we are still struggling to find an approach to evangelizing which will open our culture and our country to the Holy Spirit and to the path of Christian discipleship. [Zenit.org JUNE 1, 2004]