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Friday, September 28, 2007

Speaking plainly

One of the many gifts that comes with parenthood is the opportunity to learn so much. Trying to explain something to a seven year old often encourages deep thinking -- because you usually need to be precise and perfectly honest. The latter can be tricky. It is perhaps still part of this generation of parents to focus on our children's self-esteem almost to the exclusion of every other consideration. It is not a well thought out strategy. My son can be very fixated on a perceived injustice, even as he understands, when you ask him to reconsider, that the status quo is fair, and what he is asking for is completely unfair. How am I to respect his strong feelings in the matter?

I found myself unable to do anything more than to speak plainly. 'No, son. That is completely wrong.'

Even as I must make allowances for what he feels, I realized five minutes into our second conversation on the matter that there was no further explanation possible. I also realized that kids can stubbornly put their foot down for the wrong things, and all I can do is tell him that we can't let things lie like that. My Father in Heaven tells me such things everyday, too. And I can only lift my hands up in prayer and beg for the grace to simply do as I ought to. Even if my heart is still set on something I know is wrong.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Passion and Sins of Omission

In meditating upon the sorrowful mysteries of the Rosary, I stumbled upon this thought today: the Lord was the victim of neglect by his closest friends in that darkest of hours. It is commonly true that Catholics are taught to see in the crucifix the fruit of our own sinfulness. Our sins were the nails, the crown of thorn, the whips, and the weight of the cross. Our sins were the spits and the blows upon the Lord. But I usually don't think about sins of omission. But in that darkest of hours, the Lord was abandoned by his friends, who could not even stay awake for one hour even as he was sorrowful unto death.

St. Josemaria Escriva challenged the reader in his little book on the Rosary, asking the reader to consider carrying the cross for Jesus, if only partially. This is about gratitude, not works-righteousness. The founder of Opus Dei said

 "If anyone would follow me...Little friend: we are sad, living the Passion of Our Lord Jesus. –See how lovingly He embraces the Cross. –Learn from Him. –Jesus carries the Cross for you: you...carry it for Jesus."

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Take care how you hear

Today's commentary on the Gospel reading (from Dailygospel.org), attributed to St. Augustine of Hippo, focuses on Christ's words of caution, to "take care how you hear". I'm not sure that the commentary addresses the entirety of the reading from Luke 8:16-18, but it's apt nonetheless. There are periods when I blog nothing for days because I indulge myself and enjoy being in the audience. My favorite blogs and sites are linked in the side menus, and they do say more than I could, and in better quality, too. Perhaps Christ's warning works both ways indeed: we should take care how we hear, so that we do not become stagnant, reading and hearing and.. producing nothing. That which rings true cannot lay hidden while there is one who might find the grain of truth in what we might witness to, to their advantage. And so we should indulge in more listening, which is prerequisite to whatever we might produce.

So the question is this: what do we read and/or listen to?

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Living faith, living love

From today's Liturgy of the Hours via Universalis.com:

Mid-morning reading (Terce)1 John 4:16 ©
We ourselves have known and put our faith in God’s love towards ourselves. God is love and anyone who lives in love lives in God, and God lives in him.

Noon reading (Sext)Galatians 6:7 - 8 ©
What a man sows, he reaps. If he sows in the field of self-indulgence he will get a harvest of corruption out of it; if he sows in the field of the Spirit he will get from it a harvest of eternal life.

Afternoon reading (None)(Galatians 6:9-10) ©
We must never get tired of doing good, and then we shall get our harvest at the proper time. While we have the chance, we must do good to all, and especially to our brothers in the faith.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Thursday, September 13, 2007

WIth eyes too shut to see

There's a Filipino joke I once read about a drunk who couldn't find a toilet but really had to go -- in a public place. His friend told him to relieve himself right there and then. The man refused, being rightly embarassed, since the streets were still busy with people walking by. His friend calmly told him "just close your eyes and they won't be there anymore."

It's supposed to be funny, but when perfectly sober people take the same advice, it isn't funny anymore -- especially when the act they should be ashamed of is to end somebody's life. Fr. Frank Pavone writes about a group of children who were reported to the police for dumping things off a bridge, things that should make you cringe to even behold, much less handle as if they were of no consequence. But people do so, and worse, they cause them to be dumped like that -- with their eyes wide shut, it seems.

[CE Editor's Warning: "This article contains some graphic passages describing aborted babies and may not be suitable for all readers."]

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Remember 9/11

The Happy Catholic is remembering, and so is Christopher Blosser and many others. I think Christopher's post, covering specific persons in that tragedy is very apt. We easily forget the individuals from the sheerness of the event, but we must never forget. These are sons, daughters, fathers, mothers, husbands, wives -- all of whom are individually precious in the eyes of the God who made them.

Love, love, love

It hasn't been a good day. Three of us sent off a paper to a tier one conference and .. mine was rejected. Not enough analysis. Didn't consider this or that. It's a bad idea. Sigh. And then I read the following from the Liturgy of the Hours (courtesy of Universalis), and then things aren't as bad as they seem, because they're not as important as they seem.


Mid-morning reading (Terce) 1 Corinthians 13:4 - 7

Love is always patient and kind; it is never jealous; love is never boastful or conceited; it is never rude or selfish; it does not take offence, and is not resentful. Love takes no pleasure in other people’s sins but delights in the truth; it is always ready to excuse, to trust, to hope, and to endure whatever comes.

Noon reading (Sext) 1 Corinthians 13:8 - 13

Love does not come to an end. But if there are gifts of prophecy, the time will come when they must fail; or the gift of languages, it will not continue for ever; and knowledge – for this, too, the time will come when it must fail. For our knowledge is imperfect and our prophesying is imperfect. In short, there are three things that last: faith, hope and love; and the greatest of these is love.

Afternoon reading (None) Colossians 3:14 - 15

Over all these clothes, to keep them together and complete them, put on love. And may the peace of Christ reign in your hearts, because it is for this that you were called together as parts of one body. Always be thankful.

There were recent waves made about Blessed Mother Theresa having prolonged periods of doubt. Apart from the fact that some people simply do not understand sanctity, the journey of faith and dark nights of the soul -- which lifted towards the end -- they also conveniently ignore one unassailable truth about this mighty figure of our times: she was a bastion of love for the least loved. That can never be taken away from her, and by all accounts, that will never be overlooked by the God whom she served so well.

[Link to First Things article by Fr. Groeschel found via Intentional Disciples.]

Monday, September 10, 2007

The journey

I am still astounded that some Christians might not believe in the free will of man. I was told by a Calvinist once that there is no Scriptural proof for free will. Readings like those below, however, cannot be ignored. The first reading, is particularly apt here. St. Paul enjoins Christians to make the effort, presupposing that Christians are free to do so or.. not.

  Mid-morning reading (Terce) 2 Corinthians 13:11 ©
  Brethren, be joyful. Try to grow perfect; help one another. Be united; live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you.
  Noon reading (Sext) Romans 6:22 ©
  Now you have been set free from sin, you have been made slaves of God, and you get a reward leading to your sanctification and ending in eternal life.
  Afternoon reading (None) Colossians 1:21 - 22 ©
  Not long ago, you were foreigners and enemies, in the way that you used to think and the evil things that you did; but now he has reconciled you, by his death and in that mortal body. Now you are able to appear before him holy, pure and blameless.

[Liturgy of the Hours Readings from Universalis.]

Sunday, September 09, 2007

To be his disciple..

Commentary on today's Gospel reading (Luke 14:25 - 33), courtesy of DailyGospel.org, by Philoxenes of Mabbug (? c.523), bishop in Syria, Homilies, no.9 (cf SC 44):

Listen to God’s voice prompting you to leave yourself behind to follow Christ and you will be a perfect disciple: “Whoever does not forsake all he has cannot be my disciple.” What have you to say? What answer could you give to that? All your uncertainties and questions fall flat before that single word; the word of truth is the exalted path by which you will make progress. Again, Jesus said: “Whoever does not renounce all his goods and take up his cross to walk after me, cannot be my disciple.” And to teach us to renounce not only our goods - to give him glory - and the world - to confess him before men - but our life too, he added: “If anyone does not renounce himself, he cannot be my disciple.”… In another place he said: “Whoever hates his life in this world keeps it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, my Father will honour him,” (Jn 12,26). And he then said to his own: “Get up, let us go,” (Jn 14,31). By this word he showed that his place is no more to be found here below than that of his disciples.

Lord, where then shall we go? “Where I am, there also let my servant be,” (Jn 12,26). If Jesus cries out to us: “Get up, let us go!” who will still be so foolish as to consent to remain with the dead in their tombs, dwelling among captives? So every time the world tries to detain you, remember Christ’s word: “Get up, let us go!” So long as you are living, this voice will be enough to stir you. Every time you feel like sitting down, settling, being content to stay where you are, call to mind that voice saying to you insistently : “Get up, let us go!”

We shall have to go, anyway. But go as Jesus went; go because he has told you to and not because death has carried you away in spite of yourself. Whether you like it or not you are walking the road of the departing. But leave at the word of your Master and not simply because you have to. “Get up, let us go!”… Why delay? Christ also walks with you.

I found myself uncomfortably confronted by today's Gospel reading, not because I thought it too demanding, for what demands can be too high for everlasting life in the presence of God, forever possessing peace and joy beyond words to describe? What confronts me is not the Lord but my own inadequacy to his just challenge. I have been both unable to renounce myself completely and have several times started building and stopped mid-way. If no one else finds this laughable, I know at least that I do. Lord, lend me your Spirit that I may get up and go with you!

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

One body

These readings come from today's Liturgy of the Hours:

Mid-morning reading (Terce)1 Corinthians 12:4 - 6

There is a variety of gifts but always the same Spirit; there are all sorts of service to be done, but always to the same Lord; working in all sorts of different ways in different people, it is the same God who is working in all of them.

Noon reading (Sext) 1 Corinthians 12:12 - 13

Just as a human body, though it is made up of many parts, is a single unit because all these parts, though many, make one body, so it is with Christ. In the one Spirit we were all baptised, Jews as well as Greeks, slaves as well as citizens, and one Spirit was given to us all to drink.

Afternoon reading (None) 1 Corinthians 12:24 - 26

God has arranged the body and that there may not be disagreements inside the body, but that each part may be equally concerned for all the others. If one part is hurt, all parts are hurt with it. If one part is given special honour, all parts enjoy it.

Divorce and hardness of heart

The Curt Jester offers a very sober commentary on divorce, and a close look at which side of the debate hardness of heart may be found.

Monday, September 03, 2007

The Challenge of Christ

In today's Gospel readings (Luke 4:16-30), Jesus appears to have deliberately provoked the angry response from his audience in the synagogue of Nazareth:

  And all spoke highly of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They also asked, "Isn't this the son of Joseph?" He said to them, "Surely you will quote me this proverb, 'Physician, cure yourself,' and say, 'Do here in your native place the things that we heard were done in Capernaum.'" And he said, "Amen, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own native place. Indeed, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah when the sky was closed for three and a half years and a severe famine spread over the entire land. It was to none of these that Elijah was sent, but only to a widow in Zarephath in the land of Sidon. Again, there were many lepers in Israel during the time of Elisha the prophet; yet not one of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian." When the people in the synagogue heard this, they were all filled with fury.
So it seems that the audience was largely approving at first, and then, one might object to the Lord's provoking words. A cross-reference to Mark 6:1-6, however, clarifies that they were already provoked to begin with:
  When the sabbath came he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished. They said, "Where did this man get all this? What kind of wisdom has been given him? What mighty deeds are wrought by his hands! Is he not the carpenter, 3 the son of Mary, and the brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?" And they took offense at him.
Perhaps it isn't presumptuous to consider the way Jesus reads the hearts of the people in his audience. Here he reads skepticism and perhaps a little contempt, that comes from familiarity. Not that any of us are exempt from such human reactions.

So, yes, the Lord seems to provoke the fury deliberately, but this is the challenging side of the gospel. The double-edged Word is presented as a dividing line between an open heart and one that is closed. Despite the works of Christ, he is greeted with skepticism. What then is left to say, except that the good news will now be given to more open hearts?

Lord! That today I may listen to your voice and harden not my heart!