Universalis, About this blog

Sunday, July 30, 2006

One Body, One Spirit, One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism and one God

That's a lot of ones. My first impression from last Sunday's readings was that the second reading (Ephesians 4:1-6) wasn't as closely aligned with either the first reading or the Gospel reading, as those two were. In the first reading (2 Kings 4:42-44), the miracle of the prophet Elisha, feeding a hundred men with twenty barley loaves and fresh grain, is a type of another miracle: when Jesus fed five thousand men from five barley loaves and two fish, which was related in the Gospel reading. The second reading from St. Paul's letter to the Ephesians does not talk about food, or feeding. It talks about what is perhaps the matter closest to my heart: the unity of the Spirit that St. Paul describes by saying,

"There is one Body, one Spirit, just as you were all called into one and the same hope when you were called. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God who is Father of all, over all, through all and within all."

St. Paul is talking about unity, but also providence, which fits the miracle of feeding so many with what realistically seems to be an insufficient supply of food.

There's this deep longing and sadness that stirs within me when I survey the scene of Chistendom today. Don't get me wrong. I sincerely believe that the one, holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church that is the mystical body of Christ subsists today in the Catholic Church. But there are Christians out there too. The Catechism states,

"In the churches and ecclesial communities which are separated from full communion with the Catholic Church, many elements of sanctification and truth can be found. All of these blessings come from Christ and lead to Catholic unity. Members of these churches and communities are incorporated into Christ by Baptism and we so we recognize them as brothers." (CCC 817-819,870)

Christendom divided brings to mind the sorrow I feel when my children bicker, especially over petty things. How small our disagreements must ever seem to our Heavenly Father!

Saturday, July 29, 2006

How will the Schism end?

We don't have a chapel in our university. We have a shared "Spiritual Centre" with communities of different faiths, but no chapel. Last Monday, I had to use the quiet room for praying the Rosary because the actual Centre is being used for Buddhist meditation sessions. The other day we had to ask the rabbi to vacate the Centre and take the quiet room because we were celebrating Mass. I confess that I have to check my sigh when I walk past the Islam prayer rooms which the university provided for their exclusive use.

Across the road is a Greek Orthodox Church. In that Church, they validly celebrate the Divine Liturgy. Inside is the Blessed Sacrament, the body, blood, soul and divinity of our Lord, Jesus Christ. I've been told that we Catholics are allowed to join in their liturgy, but not to receive Holy Communion therein. Apparently, the same holds true for Orthodox regarding our Mass.

I'd sure love to join in their liturgy someday. I bet they have plenty of space for a very small group devoting some time with the Theotokos, our Blessed Mother, meditating on the mysteries of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

How long, Lord?

Thursday, July 27, 2006

So, die already.

Culture of death indeed. Catholic Exchange picks up Pamela Winnick's column about her experience with medical staff encouraging her family to end her father's life. He wasn't dying -- in fact, he was getting better, he wasn't in a persistent vegetative state, and no one asked for the medical staffs' opinion. Yet one after another, they just kept suggesting it.

A couple of days ago, a friend of mine mentioned that he might prefer to be euthanized when he's maybe 75, when he feels that he would be too old to be of use. Why? He mentions how his existence would simply waste precious resources. Sounds fair, feels foul. After a short prayer, I plunged in.

There's something dreadfully wrong when he puts that decision on top of these two premises: that it's alright to take your own life for some greater good and that his life is his own. The first premise is plain wrong. What's a few hundred thousand dollars compared to one man's life? Money can be made with a bit of hard work (think superannuation and health insurance here) whereas a life once lost is .. gone. He's not talking about being terminally ill --I can understand DNR (do not resuscitate) decisions. Or a decision to reject chemotherapy if it will only marginally prolong life while reducing the quality of life. No, this says something about how the aged are viewed. It is the cold calculation of one who asks the aged: "Why should I keep you alive?" The second premise is disturbing for someone who believes in God. Is our life our own? No. We had nothing to do with our own creation, so why should we believe that our own death is exclusively ours to orchestrate? We may choose how we live our life, and that includes choosing to put our lives at risk at the service of others. How is this different from suicide or euthanasia? Simply put: there is no charity in the latter. There is no "good" in euthanasia because it does not benefit anyone. Also, if one were to wrest control over one's life so completely even in death, what role is there for God in the afterlife? I look at life and salvation as the story of a child who eventually realizes -- not without some anxiety -- that, for his father to give him a new and even better toy, he must first surrender the ones that he has been playing with. This life is not the pinnacle of our existence, and we won't get there if we don't let him get us there. Arrogating to ourselves the time of our death is telling God that we don't want him in our lives. If He has no role in our death, then perhaps He can have no role in our afterlife.

There's also another matter that had to be brought up. Saying that some principle is qualified by one's own free will does not make that principle correct. It just makes it relevant -- to whomever willed it freely. There are principles behind the decisions we make, even when we do not articulate those principles. For example, my friend believes in ending his life when he reaches old age for the sake of cutting costs. In doing so, he is agreeing that this principle is acceptable in some cases, i.e.,when it is his own decision. The problem with this thinking is that other people would find their own causes to support the same premise, ones that are relevant to them. Fascist dictators might believe that euthanizing the elderly, the infirm or the weak serves the greater good of the state. Fascist activists might believe the same thing for the unborn -- delivering too many of them depletes precious resources. You never know what else will one day present itself as just cause. Hey, if it works for you, right? It sure worked for those doctors who urged Pamela's family, one after another, day after day, to end their father's life. It works for them so, they believe, it should work for others too. After all, it's for the greater good. How long will it be before they believe that it is selfish for the elderly and their families to resist euthanasia and foil the greater good?

Relativism: when relevance replaces objective truth. But that's not how it should be. What's relevant to some is not so to others, and may, in fact, become irrelevant to the same person in the future. Objective truths are more powerful than relevance because relevance is too relative to be reliable.

Monday, July 24, 2006

A Catholic response to accusations of imposing our views

Father Tad Pacholczyk was recently asked by a US senator: "Father Tad, by arguing against embryonic stem cell research, don't you see how you are trying to impose your beliefs on others, and shouldn't we as elected lawmakers avoid imposing a narrow religious view on the rest of society?" He writes to explain:

  Two major errors were incorporated into the senator's question. First, the senator failed to recognize the fact that law is fundamentally about imposing somebody's views on somebody else. Imposition is the name of the game. ...
The second logical mistake the senator made was to suppose that because religion happens to hold a particular viewpoint, that implies that such a viewpoint should never be considered by lawmakers or enacted into law. ....
During my testimony, I pointed out how in the United States we have stringent federal laws that protect not only the national bird, the bald eagle, but also that eagle's eggs. If you were to chance upon some of them in a nest out in the wilderness, it would be illegal for you to destroy those eggs. By the force of law, we recognize how the egg of the bald eagle, that is to say, the embryonic eagle inside that egg, is the same creature as the glorious bird that we witness flying high overhead.

Read the full article by Fr. Pacholczyk here.

What the Lord asks of you..

From today's readings (via Universalis), this from Micah 6:1 - 8:

  What is good has been explained to you, man;
this is what the Lord asks of you:
only this, to act justly,
to love tenderly
and to walk humbly with your God.

To this, the accused may ask "will this save me from guilt, atone for 'what I have done wrong'?" Our hearts are in the wrong place if we focus only on what releases us from legal liability -- if a sign is all we want. What the Lord asks of us is as the prophet Micah tells us above. As the Gospel reading tells us (from Matthew 12:38 - 42), we must not focus on signs. Our Lord, God-with-us, came to us, preaching more than Jonah did, with wisdom more than Solomon had -- our hearts should be set on Christ. "What is good has been explained" to us by Christ, and with his authority, by His apostles. It isn't all about how we may save ourselves from the wages of sin. That is the beginning, an initiation, to be made clean, washed white as snow by the blood of the Lamb. There is much more than this in the will of God for us. For our Heavenly Father, in His love and mercy, wills for nothing less than eternal happiness and holiness for his children. We are redeemed through Christ's sacrifice, but He also sanctifies us, His spirit makes a home in our bodies, enabling us to do "what is good" and making us grow in holiness -- sharers of his divine nature (CCC 51).

In the recent Superman movie, Luthor rages against "gods" like Superman, who don't share. Well, our God shares everything with us, including His holiness. Not content with bringing us to the minimum level of holiness, which would be at the point when all sin has been washed away in us, His spirit makes a home in us, inviting us at every occasion to grow in holiness, so that there is no place left for sin to grow in us.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

What if Jesus...

.. were bishop of Amarillo, what would He do? That's the question asked by the pastoral message from Bishop John W. Yanta of Amarillo. Isn't this exactly what every Christian leader should ask themselves? After all, Christ is the source of all authority, as He is the Truth, and pastoring the faithful must have Christ at its foundation. So what happens when people find their teaching too hard? Some reflexively reject the teaching as being outdated or misapplied. Others dilligently look for loopholes and re-interpretations of Christ's words to suit their preferences. What we should really do in such situations is, first of all, to accept the possibility that we could be wrong, even in our deepest convictions, simply because Christ is the Truth -- and we can't expect to find it easy to say "yes" to all of that Truth. But it begins by recognizing that we do not know everything, which is also the best way to begin any journey of learning.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Whatever happened to truth in journalism?

Something really odd happening. Today, Inside Yahoo came out with the headline "Israeli Troops Raid Lebanese Village", but when you click the link, the news on my browser has a different headline: "Israel massing military on Lebanon border." And the story isn't about Israel attacking some village. There was something similar yesterday, again with Inside Yahoo (a little popup window that comes out when Messenger comes out). It comes out with some headline that mentions Israel, negatively, but when you check out the link, the headline (and the story) doesn't tie in.

What gives?

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Cry to Heaven

"Are there no more peacemakers? I ask: Is war inevitable? The course of history seems to confirm this fearful thought," he told more than 200 people at Our Lady, which was dedicated in May. "As Christians, we believe that war is not inevitable; people choose war, and people can choose peace. . . . Blessed are the peacemakers."

Lebanon's Cardinal Nasrallah P. Sfeir

Peace in the Middle East

I leave it up to more capable bloggers (like American Papist) to deal with the news and views about the war raging in the Middle East. Me, I just pray for the war to stop! Justice in this situation is not in black and white. When my kids are fighting, I just tell them (in a loud voice) that they must both stop or the fight won't end. Then we sort out who did wrong, and so on. Obviously, that simple tactic won't work here. In fact, nothing simple will work here. God help us.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Christian Hope

Lito over at Extra Nos invited me to take a look at his blog about what many Calvinists believe concerning (I assume) predestination and election. He was commenting on this bit from a Calvinist:

 So, to those of you who may be where I was at for so long--disillusioned, hurt, betrayed, bitter towards both men and God--I urge you to call upon the Lord and to not give up on Him. Though He may seem to tarry a long, long time, He will in time deliver you if you are indeed one of His sheep.

Lito's concern was about how the message of the Gospel, one of hope, can be compromised by the qualifier in the last sentence, if you are indeed one of His sheep. As Lito notes, one might get the notion that "you can only hope for deliverance if you satisfy the big IF."

No objections from me, nor from the Catholic Church. Our hope is neven in vain because we are truly predestined by God -- a loving God who is also our Father, Savior and Advocate -- therefore predestined to hope, not futility.

Which brings me to a thought I've had for a while now: there is a perilous (but apparently much unnoticed) deficiency of hope among many Christians. The very notion of a justification that is declared, not effected. A notion of righteousness that is worn as a vestment, not one that infuses the very heart of man. An implicit theology of humanity that refuses to put as much hope in redeemed humanity as God himself had done. A perception that humanity -- even redeemed and suffused with divine grace -- is entirely inimical to sanctity. To me, this is a betrayal of hope, an excess in humility that does not put enough hope -- and faith! -- in what the Incarnation was intended to do. God is saying "Children, I love you" to such an extent that He would give us His own son, the Lamb of God, to take away the sin of the world. On the other hand, this lack of hope responds "no, you couldn't". Instead of humbling ourselves, this goes too far and debases God's handwork: the redemption of mankind. The result? The belief by many that our predestination is a "programming" that contradicts the notion of free will. Among other things.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Traditions and keeping them

Oswald Sobrino on the case.

Serious stem cell questions -- but do they dig deep enough?

Michael Cook asks some very good questions about embryonic stem cell research and funding, but the one question which should have been asked wasn't: what about adult stem cells? What about umbilical cord blood stem cells? People have a right to know that adult stem cell research has had 58 successful applications in humans (link: PDF report lists them all), while embryonic stem cells have had ZERO. Embryonic stem cell research is a dismal failure after years of hype. Why is that being swept under the rug? And why are people being so amoral and uncaring over the destruction of human life in embryonic stem cell research?

Son of Krypton or Son of God: By Contrast

Jordan Bailor explains. Perhaps the one thing that the series "Smallville" got right in their adaptation of Kal-el's youth is the nature of sacrifice: pain endured for self-giving love, which is the one thing that makes Superman a remarkable character. Without that aspect of self-denial, he's just another expression of a yearning for power.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Asking for prayers for Mark Shea's mother

According to Mark, she seems to be fading fast. This would be a terrible time for his family right now.

Update: She's doing better. They don't really know why, but thank God she's doing better.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Fighting for our children

Parents compete for their children all the time. Me, I often find myself competing against TV programs that keep them preoccupied but teach them little. Or against junk food that keeps them happy now -- and hyper for short periods of time -- but ruin their appetites and, in small doses, ruin their health. Just last month, my wife and I shelled out almost $1000 AUD for Patrick's teeth (including four crowns). I was just thinking about how I have to compete against junk food (and TV ads for them) by being more creative in preparing good food for them. Then I rememebr some friends of mine, and many parents in today's postmodern world, who have no plans to raise up their children with solid, orthodox Christianity. They believe it is best to leave it up to their children to make decisions about their religious beliefs when they're old and mature enough to believe with conviction. That seems sensible to many. After all, children don't seem to "get" religion anyway. But something that always bugs me about that is that we parents have absolutely no problem with indoctrinating them in other areas. Reading. Writing. Maths. Coloring and other crafts. We force them to stop chewing on their crayons, or nibbling their sleeves or pillows or blankets. We force them into toilet training. We make them blow their noses with tissue. We make them wash their hands before meals. We make them go to school and do their homework. There are a lot of things we force them into, and they don't have a say. Our children need raising up. They don't get things by themselves. They need to be trained up because we are competing for their lives. Reason versus ignorance. Healthy living versus illness. Good food versus malnutrition. And yes, Christian faith versus whatever they encounter out there: New Age gnosticism, anti-Christian atheism, satanism, materialism -- if we don't train them up, they'll find their religion elsewhere, and they won't have had prior training to guide them.

Kids are sharp. They can see right through us. If we don't make our Christian faith an important part of their training and of our lives, they'll come away thinking that it isn't important, and does not have to be part of their lives. If we tell them that we want them to make that decision when they are old enough, we're telling them that it doesn't matter to us which one they choose. They'll come to believe that all religions (even atheism) are equally true. And if they're all true -- contradictions and all -- then nothing is true.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Lording it over creation or just another creature?

Yesterday, a friend of mine mused about a feeling of disquiet in how we human beings might be presumptiously giving ourselves an exalted rank over the other creatures of creation. I think there's nothing wrong with assessing things objectively about the gifts that God has lavished upon us. However, things should be seen in the proper perspective, based on an honest, unbiased and reasoned assessment. His disquiet has more to do with what we do about that assessment. For example, should that prompt us to overreach our place in creation? Should we assume that, since we are the pinnacle of creation, the rest of creation is intrinsically worthless, expendible for whatever purposes we might see fit? The answer is no, but this has nothing to do with the fact that mankind is blessed above all creation. We are. Facts are facts. But being human means that we go beyond facts and may choose to do right or wrong with them.

So what should we do with this perspective of man elevated above the rest of creation? Psalm 8 describes it: we should be humbled and grateful.

Life wins

Cheers all around for doctors who voted against euthanasia in the UK. No, they're not saying that suffering is good, nor that people should die in misery and without dignity. Palliative care is entirely about making their last days as comfortable and pain-free as possible. They simply do not want to encourage people to treat opt for suicide as a treatment for pain or anxiety. What the world needs to give the dying is love, comfort, and the alleviation of pain. Instead, some people paint a picture of dying as something shameful, and their "solution" is by telling them "hurry up and die already!" THAT is what supporting euthanasia essentially means.

What is Amnesty International up to?

Brian Saint-Paul shares this bit of news via the free e-letters of Crisis Magazine:

  Amnesty has done some marvelous work combating torture, slavery, state-sanctioned kidnapping, etc. Unfortunately, it looks like their ideology may soon overtake their mission.

You see, they're now considering adding abortion to the list of what they consider “human rights.”

Let me give you a little background...

Earlier this year, Amnesty polled its members on whether or not the organization should take an official pro-abortion stance. The group's Canadian, New Zealand, and British chapters have already voted for the change.

Of course, if the motion passes, it won't be the first time Amnesty has supported abortion. According to Reuters, six years ago, the organization joined other groups in lobbying the United Nations to include legal abortion in their declaration on women's rights.

If Amnesty does start supporting abortion in an official capacity, it would be devastating to their fundraising. But more to the point, it would show that the organization is less interested in their stated priorities, and more interested in furthering a Left wing agenda.

According to their Web site, Amnesty is working for “a world in which every person enjoys all of the human rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights standards.”

And yet, article 3 of the UN's declaration holds that “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.”

I remember talking to someone from AI a few weeks ago. He was stationed outside of Safeway with a collection box, and I asked him if he knew that AI was planning to actively support abortions. He said that abortions are legal in the State of Victoria, after all. Then he asked me if I was Roman Catholic, and of course I said that I was. Thus ends the whole conversation. All he cared about was to point out that I was against abortion because I was Catholic. To many, my views don't count and there is no need to discuss them. I am Catholic, after all.

To subscribe to the FREE CRISIS Magazine e-Letter, and get the latest news, views, and responses to current issues, send an e-mail to e-letter@crisismagazine.com and write "SUBSCRIBE" in the subject line.

Said the West to the East: "Psst.. are we there yet?"

Well, not exactly, but that's what I feel like asking: will the Schism of East and West finally end? Will the Holy Spirit finally bring the two lungs of the Church together again? Has the Lord finally relented, and have the lessons we needed to learn finally been learned, that the Church must be one, because so much is at stake? Will we now get past the fruits of our pride and lack of charity, and finally bear the fruits of unity that the world desperately needs to partake of?

Zenit publishes the full English text of the welcome address given by Papa Benedict XVI to visiting delegates of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. Here are some gems (that are thrilling to read):

  It gives me pleasure to welcome you in the words of the Apostle Peter: "Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours in the righteousness of our God and savior Jesus Christ: May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord" (2 Peter 1:1-2).
The fact that the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul is celebrated on the same day by both Catholics and Orthodox evokes our shared apostolic succession and ecclesial fraternity.

I am pleased to recall here how Byzantine hymnography attributes to St. Peter a title charged with meaning, that of "protocoryphaeus," the first in the choir who has the task of maintaining the harmony of the voices, for the glory of God and the service of his people.
May the Lord help us to move forward with renewed confidence toward the day when we will be able to celebrate together the holy Eucharist of the Lord, as a sign of full communion.