Universalis, About this blog

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Preach from the Rooftops: Evangelium Vitae at Twenty

Preach from the Rooftops: Evangelium Vitae at Twenty

So how do we preach the truth to a world that can be vehement in denying that there is such a thing as Truth? I remember reading a book years ago about beings who started out perfect until they stumbled into this paradox of lying. Why a paradox? Because they use words which, while intended to convey only truth, can be bent to convey lies instead. But I think today's challenge to evangelization is not only this paradox caused by relativism. Not only can people repulse the truth by clinging to the notion that objective truth does not exist -- itself a paradoxical assertion -- but we've been fed too much from the font of feelings. It's akin to relativism, but it is its own form of poison: one's emotional instincts are equal or superior to one's reason. While I think we do benefit from being honest with ourselves as far as how we feel about things, it is the gravest mistake to let emotions take the wheel.

How do we evangelize such a crowd? I think we can simply take it on faith that all we can do is to proclaim in season and out of season, and let the seeds fall where they may, all the while building families and friendships and communities in all charity and hope. It's the formula that the Apostles left us with and which the Church had applied across the generations all over the world. It works or (sometimes) it doesn't. A wise man somewhere wrote that our mission is to be faithful, not effective. I have the power, by God's grace, to be faithful. The effectiveness is largely out of my hands anyway.

Monday, March 23, 2015

The Adulteress and St. Mary Magdalene

Today the Gospel reading was about the adulteress that was brought before Jesus in order to trap him (John 8:1-11). I was reminded of how the identity of this woman had often been conflated with St. Mary Magdalene. Then it struck me that whoever this woman truly was, this shameful past can be seen, in the end, as a cause for joy and rejoicing - not because such a past is in any way glorious, but the victory of mercy and repentance is. I think it is entirely human to dwell on a given moment but Christians are called to take a longer view. St. Josemaria Escriva refers to enlarging one's view until it is universal or Catholic. I think I need to start doing so in earnest, because I am often incredibly short-sighted. If the notion of sin should ever pop into my head, I should probably immediately think "Mercy!" Because, seen from the other end, sin really doesn*t have the last word. I must have read that from Mark Shea somewhere, or G. K. Chesterton. It is the sort of thing they had probably written about already. Not to mention, Jesus himself said this to the woman to tie off that dreadful episode: "Neither do I condemn you.. Go and sin no more." It slso seems fitting to point out these last words (among others) of his as he was dying: "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do."

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Repentance, not signs

In today's readings, Jesus seems exasperated that many were more interested in signs while he, and John before him, and the prophets before him, were preaching repentance. They demand spectacles when they are offered reconciliation and peace. It is like speaking to an obstinate offender who refuses to confront the truth in himself: he would change the topic, counter the argument off on a tangent, attack the speaker to deflect and misdirect; anything but the topic at hand. In this generation of societies that once upon a time proudly declared themselves Christian, the same topic is even more urgent for deliberation: who is Jesus? He is neither spectacle nor one of many gurus. Both man and God, he is reconciliation and peace; he is healing and life.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Deny yourself, take up your cross daily and follow

A thought struck me from today's Gospel reading (Lk 9:22-25) and a reflection from DailyGospel.org: is it true that there is no other way to escape the cross that we are inevitably challenged with everyday except to reject virtue? Is it inevitable that rejecting sacrifice means embracing sin? Can one only carve out perfect comfort and self-indulgence from injustice to or neglect of others? Hmm..

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Living in the moment.. from the perspective of eternity

How did Jesus at Gethsemene consider the sacrifice he was being asked to make? Reflecting on how one might have considered things (in the first sorrowful mystery of the Rosary), it occurred to me that a long view -- a very long view -- helps one to see beyond the agpny of the moment. A cynic would argue that Christians are fools for giving things up for the sake of the promises of eternal happiness. However, a longer view of things makes sense of it. The question, as always, is one of faith: can we trust the one who makes the promise? We can quantify years or decades of sacrifice and see how small that is compared to eternity, but faith, as always, is a gift that one must ask for daily -- and live in each moment (in the backdrop of eternity).

Thursday, November 27, 2014

The baptism of John and the Baptism of Christ

A thought struck me as I prayed the first Luminous mystery of the holy rosary: the sequence of events, where John was already baptizing for repentance, followed by Jesus' own baptism, reflected the incompleteness of repentance. Anyone can come to a state of contrition, even to a firm commitment to change. But it's not enough. Without Jesus, it doesn't go as far as it can. Jesus makes that conversion incarnate. In him, a transformation into children of the Most High is made flesh. And so we become.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Comedy and Faith

Today my friends and I laughed t up over the videos of three standup comic routines. A couple did poke fun at Noah, Church, the Bible and, yes, Christ. What did I think of all that? I must say I found most of that quite hilarious.

The swearing was unfortunate, though, since they were not necessary. Rowan Atkinson was outrageously funny without any swearing at all. All he had to do was wear a vicar's alb and read from what appeared to be a Bible. He read bits of the gospels heavily rewritten with modern phrases to comic effect -- all while wearing that serious expression that only he seems able to wear that elicits so much laughter (without resorting to toilet humor at that). Danny Bhoy was far more uproarious but with that slightly innocent, whimsical flair. Yes, he swore, and yes, he made fun of Noah's dilemmas and, yes, one bit about Christ on the cross -- "at least he could stretch his legs!" -- compared to the punishingly cramped pews he complained about as a young boy.

On reflection, one might ask if a Christian should have objected to the lack of reverence. My answer would be that it wasn't a battle that needed apologetic fighting. There was nothing theological to respond to, no questions to answer. None of the comedy was malicious. Even the bit about the cross was, at worst, insensitive to a torture victim, but that's it. Sure, there was obviously a bad caricature about hymns that exalt God and supposedly denigrates man -- in fact, the point of the Incarnation was a mission to make man divine, but this was no dialogue on faith matters. There may be an element of trivializing the gospels in Rowan Atkinson's skit, but it is ignorant, not malicious. None of the kids were watching and all who did watch were fairly mature 40-something Christians who were not, I think, scandalized.

At the end of the day, that is the danger, I think. Would we all start becoming irreverent now? Not likely. We can handle a little comedy, I think. It does, perhaps, remind us that there are many out there who see something funny in something they do not understand. But when they do come to understand it, there is plenty of room for comedy -- without going anywhere near blasphemy.

I also have to remember that the spirit of the anti-Christ is in denying the Incarnation and Christ's successful rescue mission. Not in laughing at skits of Noah turning away the vermin among the animals, nor of disciples losing their appetite after being told that one of them was a traitor. There should be a place and time when the caricatures can be resolved though, hopefully if those who trivialize the Way will be intrigued enough by real examples of Christians among them to ask questions. That will be our cue. And then, if they hear and obey, then we can all laugh together at the irony and incongruence of that.