Open Window

This morning while talking with a friend about the situations we find ourselves in she told me that for every door that closes God makes sure that at least a window is opened.  Jokingly I responded that I hoped it wasn’t an eighth floor window; as we all are very well aware, life throws us some very difficult situations – even for the most faithful.

Throughout his writings St. Paul shows us his constant and energetic mission to proclaim the Gospel.

But within his writings we see very human reactions: exhaustion, uncertainty (not about the faith but about the situations he finds himself in) as we hear in today’s reading from the Letter to Philippians ‘And I do not know which I shall choose. I am caught between the two.[1]; and yes even fear. ‘I came to you in weakness – and fear and much trembling…[2] he tells the Corinthians earlier.

It is not easy work being a disciple of Christ.  He demands much from His followers.  There have times when I thought that with St Paul’s statement in Corinthians ‘God is faithful and will not let you be tried beyond your strength; but with the trial he will also provide a way out, so that you may be able to bear it.[3] God might overestimate my limits.

But it is important to keep in mind that He doesn’t overestimate our limits. He doesn’t allow us to be overburdened, or overwhelmed. He gives us the necessary helps to make sure that doesn’t happen.  If these helps seem to be missing it is because of us – not God.

In our first reading this morning the Lord, through Isaiah, points out to us the key to finding these helps that He gives us. ‘Seek the Lord while he may be found, call him while he is near.[4] And He continues to tell us why: ‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are my ways above your ways and my thoughts above your thoughts.[5]  Look to Him who knows the full nature of things, knows the reality of situations, knows the totality; and trust in His omniscience.   But most importantly trust in His love for us.

The Lord is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger and of great kindness.
The Lord is good to all
and compassionate toward all his works.[6]

We proclaimed today in the Responsorial from Psalm 145 for all to hear; and we should allow our minds and hearts to hear it as well.  For when we seek the Lord, when we trust in His omniscience and His love then these trials, though not eliminated, will be within our ability to deal with. With God even an eighth floor window is no problem.

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[1] Phil 1:22-23
[2] 1 Cor 2:3
[3] 1 Cor 10:13
[4] Is 55:6
[5] Is 55: 8-9
[6] Ps 145:8-9

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Howling

Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross

Today we celebrate what to some might seem a gruesome thing.  The Cross of Crucifixion; the most advanced weapon of torture and death that the Romans could use. It is still considered a most heinous discovery by mankind.  It is a terrible mark on the history of mankind.

And on top of this we celebrate the one cross that was used by mankind to perpetrate deicide, murder of God.  That man could stoop so low as to kill their creator must have made Satan howl in delight. This should frighten us – that we could kill God; and maybe that is why God allowed Himself to be murdered.  Martin Luther, said ‘that man must be first be frightened of himself so he can find the right way.[1]  Our self-smug complacency allows Satan to lead us down a path to a Godless place.  We needed something strong to shake us out of that stupor.  In this case mankind wasn’t understanding what God was about, didn’t discern from almost two thousand years of revelation through the prophets just what it took to be with God.  But, God had the plan – He had the crucifix – He had love.  He came and let us see what Isaiah’s suffering servant prophecies meant.  The death of God, was the lowest point of mankind and the start of recovery.

So, back to the title of today’s Feast ‘The Exaltation of the Cross’ what are we exultant about?

God, taught us love.
We learned what love is about.  The cross showed us what love entails: concern for others, selfless activity on behalf of others, willing the good for those around us – sacrifice; and finding the joy that this brings.

God, is constantly with us.
By His cross we are in constant touch with our loving God.  We look to the crucifix and remember, and in remembering are spurred to embrace Him.  We can struggle with our lives and we can turn our view from the gift God has given us – BUT – it just takes us to look back at the Cross to understand who we should be, who we are now, and who can help us close the gap.  We are not alone in our journey.

And finally, as we exult the gifts that the cross enabled us to receive we can hear the howling of Satan through the ages.  We hear his howl that screamed across eternity the second Christ breathed His last.  The howl of rage, frustration and betrayal.  When Christ dies Satan realizes that his joy in God’s death, the ruination of mankind towards their creator and the creator towards them betrayed him.  God, with this act put death to death, eliminated the chasm between Him and His creation; brought the prodigal mankind home to the Father.  Lucifer would not bring mankind down with him – he would now be alone (to the extent that not all mankind would follow).

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[1] Martin Luther quote used by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) Salt of the Earth

Welcome to our family.

Though not a liturgical event, this evening is the vigil of the Nativity of our Blessed Mother.  For me it emphasizes the historical aspect of our faith.  Christians, especially Catholics celebrate the humanness of our faith and birthdays are one aspect.

As does Christmas, the Nativity of our Blessed Mother reminds me that the origin and the object of our faith entered into history, walked among us; and is still coming among us through the sacraments, through His real presence in the Eucharist and through family members (all we need do is look to Lourdes, Fatima, Champion Wisconsin, and on and on to see this).  We are not trying to follow some abstract set of mystical philosophical ideals to better ourselves or cleanse ourselves or escape from the physical realities around us – we are very much part of the world and we look to God who was and is also very much part this world as well.  This is very important for us to keep in mind as we introduce people to our faith – it isn’t a what; it is a who.  We aren’t adherents we are family members – we don’t ascribe we belong.

For me the first part of today’s gospel[1] reinforces this, Christ is actually giving his disciples some practical rules and procedures to deal with situations in their community.  He understands mankind since He is part of the human race.  It shows me that God is extremely reachable, knowable (to the extent that He lets us know Him) and relatable.

Reachable,
God is not only reachable He actually reached out to us first and eventually came among us.  He desires to walk with mankind in their struggles on their journey home.  He could have just stood at the goal line and waiting to see who among us would reach Him – He didn’t because of His love for us.

Knowable,
Walking among us God came into history and let Himself be known.  He allowed us to participate with Him in time and thus come to know and love Him in an intimate way which couldn’t have happened if He remained in heaven, aloof from us.  He allowed us to know (taste and see if you will), the object of our faith; the goal of our journey. God made Himself small and we can learn much from this act.

Relatable,
Because our God came among us, allowed us to know Him, be becomes relatable.  Our God doesn’t cause us to shy off fearfully into corner shadows; He exudes familial concern and approachability.  He desires a relationship with those He loves – us.

All of this boils down to some very, very good news: we are loved children of God. He desires this intimate relationship with each of us and He gives us family to help with this.  We have just come from (what I consider) a family celebration of birthdays, anniversaries, friendships, and shared lives; and now we are together celebrating as family with God.  It makes us joyful and gives us peace. It allows us to feel, albeit vaguely, what God has in store for us and that makes us hopeful.  This is why we should feel within us the need to bring our friends, who don’t know him, to him.  Our family can never be too big; our celebrations have room for many more.  In my heart I know of no better way to ‘love your neighbor as yourself[2] than to welcome them into my family.

Dear family – let’s bring our other friends to meet our reachable, knowable, relatable Father; let’s bring them into our family.

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[1] Today’s readings Ex 33:7-9,Rom 13:8-10, Mt 18:15-20
[2] Rom 13:9

Vigilance

22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time Cycle A[1] 

So, this past week we were given the 8th accommodation to the HHS mandate.  This new accommodation is nothing more than a shell game that continues to force people to violate their religious beliefs.

From the Center for Human Dignity at the Family Research Council:
“Effective immediately, this latest rule still orders charities, like the Little Sisters of the Poor, non-profit Christian colleges, like Wheaton College, and religious broadcasters, like EWTN to violate their consciences simply because they legally contract for health coverage. The government uses their contract as the basis to force their insurers to provide their employees with free contraception and drugs that can kill human embryos, against their sincere conscientious beliefs.”[2]

The 8th accommodation is also still playing games with how an institution is designated and needs to “file” for an exemption which brought this response from Daniel Blomberg, a lawyer for the Becket Fund, which represents Little Sisters of the Poor:

“It is disappointing that the government continues to treat religious ministries as not religious enough to deserve the same exemption it gives houses of worship.”[3]

This administration continues to push an agenda that is in opposition to many in this country, as well as in my opinion the constitution, with seemingly no concern.  Do they know that they are perpetuating evil by doing this?  Do they sit in Washington DC and various elitist think-tanks trying to do harm to mankind by cooperating with Satan?

No, I don’t believe so.

However, I do believe that they are adherents to an ideology that claims that governments and politics are the best and only means to address all inequities and evils in the world – in other words to bring about temporal redemption[4] of mankind.  This ideology is just one more flavor of the fruit that gave rise to theologies such as Radical Liberation Theology and the socio/political philosophies of Socialism and Communism.  None of those came about to bring evil to the world, just the opposite; but all of them frayed and dissolved because of an evil that is foundational to these theologies and political philosophies.  That evil, was pushing God from any and all dialogs and discernment processes.

In 1996 then Cardinal Ratzinger, speaking to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and presidents of the Doctrinal Commissions for CELAM (the Latin American Episcopal Conference) highlighted what happens when politics tries to be the sole vehicle of redemption. ‘The fact is that when politics want to bring redemption, they promise too much.  When they presume to do God’s work, they do not become divine but diabolical.[5]

We hear as much from Jesus in today’s gospel[6] when Christ tells Peter; ‘Get behind me Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.[7]  Mankind, when pushing God out of societal processes to rely only on themselves loses the divine initiative and protection from evil.

For the past 122 years (with the promulgation of Leo XIII’s encyclical Rerum Novarum) Holy Mother Church has increasingly lifted her voice to the social, cultural and political ills of humanity.  She has stepped forward to offer alternatives; never trying to force her ideas on mankind but always bringing truth to the dialog.  Her concern for the redemption of mankind, both temporal and eternal, is integral to her mission.  She is concerned for each of God’s people and His whole creation.  Recently, she has seen these socio/political ideologies take hold throughout the world and has spoken strongly against them, of what happens when mankind removes God from this dialog, and how governing ends up in the hands of the powerful and the others look from outside hoping for the best.  Politics becomes relativistic, positivistic[8] and utilitarian.  We only need look at the history of the 20th century for proof.

Holy Mother Church’s alternatives are never just academic exercises, they are brought about by real issues and can be applied – which means her alternatives always involve the lay faithful.

Brothers and sisters, I have talked before that our calling as modern apostles to go out ‘teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you[9] demands our participation in society, it demands our witness to the necessity of God in the national dialog and His Truth in politics and governance.  As Christ’s faithful we are compelled to show to others that with God our struggles will be addressed divinely; without Him our actions end diabolically – regardless of our intentions.

But in addition and maybe most importantly the HHS mandate saga shows us that our part in the socio/political dialog is also one of constant vigilance.  We cannot be complacent with apparent victories, such as the Hobby Lobby Supreme court decision, because they fade into history quickly and mankind moves forward. Christ’s rebuke of Peter in today’s Gospel reading comes immediately after Peter’s inspired declaration ‘You are the Messiah, the son of the living God.[10] It highlights that mankind, even the most faithful among us, needs to be reminded of God’s plan. My friends it is up to each of us to take up our crosses and herald His truth – to bring God back into the socio/political discourse time and time again – and never tire of this mission because if not us – who?

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[1] Readings for the day:  Jer 20:7-9, Rom 12:1-2, Mt 16:21-27
[2] Arina Grossu, Director for the Center for Human Dignity at the Family Research Council
[3] http://www.slate.com/articles
[4] Defined: deliverance; rescue.
[5] 1990 Guadalajara Mexico, Cardinal Ratzinger address to CDF and CELAM Doctrinal Commissions presidents.
[6] Mt 16:21-27
[7] Mt 16:23
[8] Defined as the theory that laws are to be understood as social rules, valid because they are enacted by authority or derive logically from existing decisions, and that ideal or moral considerations (e.g., that a rule is unjust) should not limit the scope or operation of the law.
[9] Mt 28:20
[10] Mt 16:16