“Be very careful. People wearing masks cannot be trusted.” Fezzik the giant, The Princess Bride
Humorous statements often contain a big grain of truth. And so I would like to conclude this most bizarre year in recent memory on a high note by reminding all why we are on this earth in the first place (and it’s not to make ourselves “safe” from germs). We have hopefully been observing Advent over the past four weeks to prepare, interiorly as well as exteriorly, for the coming of the Lamb of God who alone is able to bind up our wounds, but more importantly to remove the stain of our sins.
There is deep symbolism in those four weeks of waiting, anticipating, and watching for the dawn of our salvation. Those weeks may be said to represent the four epochs of human history which heralded the appearance of Christ, the Savior of mankind. Continue reading
Mary Beth Bonacci wrote a marvelous piece recently in the Denver Catholic titled, “On Toxic Masculinity.” It seems that in the current #MeToo climate, normal masculinity is routinely equated with being a racist, misogynist, or even rapist. But Bonacci bravely stands up for manhood. She notes, “I don’t believe masculinity is ‘toxic’. Masculinity is raw material, just as femininity is. Men can use their gifts for good or evil, just as women can. (But try using the term ‘toxic femininity’ in polite company and see what happens.) For millennia, the goal of society has been to channel those instincts, not to suppress them… But there seems to be a movement to neutralize masculinity entirely.” Rather than subscribe to some prescribed gender ideology, namely that men are basically rotten and women are always good, Bonacci rightly places the responsibility for actions on the individual, not on one’s gender. She reminds us that stereotypes are overly broad generalizations containing some small grains of truth that tend to be conflated to absurd proportions. But one thing is undeniable: men and women are cut from very different cloth, and with good reason.
Watching Peter Jackson’s poignant documentary on World War I, “They Will Not Grow Old,” I was reminded that male attitudes and behavior are little changed over the past 100 years, indeed the past 1,000 years. Men are generally the physically stronger sex but weaker morally. It is women who have historically provided the real moral strength in any society. But after 1918 the moral attitudes of women began to change in the West. Legal emancipation and the vote opened up a whole new sense of self sufficiency which, ever so gradually, morphed into today’s radical feminism. Continue reading
The modern-day Revolution is primarily a rejection not merely of the Christian social order but of God himself. He is, after all, the ultimate object of insurrection. And what is the nature of God’s supposed crime against humanity to warrants such rejection? The most common complaint lodged against him is that he allows pain and suffering in the world, and therefore he must be a cruel God. In light of the accusation we must honestly ask ourselves, is this a valid charge or a mere pretext?
We all experience some degree of suffering throughout life. This is an unavoidable fact of our human existence. And because there is suffering and yes, evil, many people conclude either, a) that God does not exist or, b) then he must be some kind of cosmic sadist bent on torturing hapless souls for no apparent reason. There is another side to the story, however, which is that human beings also enjoy an abundance of the good things that sustain life and give much happiness and joy besides.
We occupy a world of gratuitous abundance which too often we take for granted. The rains fall to water this fertile earth, thus providing us with food, fibers for clothing, medicine and much more. Then consider the countless natural resources which make our technical civilization possible. We have family, teachers, and friends who nurture us and enrich our lives. Most of all, the gift of life itself was bestowed liberally upon each one of us with no cooperation on our part. What about the particular talents, abilities, and creative drives not to mention the countless material goods that we enjoy and find fulfillment in? Consider the gift of time itself which provides us ample opportunity to grow and develop those talents? Do these things also not come from God? If so, he must be a very poor torturer, indeed. Continue reading
“Woe to the world because of scandals. For it must be that scandals come: but woe to that man by whom the scandal cometh.” (Mt. 18:7)
Once again we must endure a period of shame in the Church, much to the pain of all believers. Our Lord had predicted the inevitability of scandals, so we should not be overly surprised by them, especially in this post-Christian culture that too frequently dismisses sin as some outdated ‘medieval’ concept. But this ‘denial’ only contributes further to that sense of shock for many when confronted with the damaging effects of sinful behavior by persons in positions of trust. And there are still prelates so imbued with a worldly zeitgeist that they do not seem to understand that all sins, even so-called ‘private sins,’ must produce severe consequences. The fact remains that as members of the Body of Christ whatever one member does, even behind closed doors, will surely affect the whole body.
I was poignantly reminded of that ‘cause and effect’ dynamic this past week at a prayer breakfast in Denver to raise money for the support of persecuted Christians around the world. I sense that there is a real spiritual correlation between the sex scandals rocking the Church in the West and the vicious persecution of her other members in places like Africa and Asia. Could God be using anti-Christian terror perpetrated by ISIS, Boko Haram, Hezbollah, Communists regimes, and others as instruments of purification for His Church? If so then it would seem that the sins of those fallen clergy are being expiated by the blood of countless martyrs around the globe. This would not be unusual in God’s economy of salvation. After all, there have always been victim souls in the Church whose job it is to satisfy divine justice precisely for the salvation of others. Continue reading
One of mankind’s recurring delusions has been the idea that there exists somewhere in that nebulous void between good and evil; heaven and hell, a third option ~ some metaphysical ‘safe zone’ situated between God and the devil where one can safely park in undisturbed peace and comfort. People have long sought after such a material, earthly utopia, imagining that every new discovery or invention would someday provide the elusive key to human perfection and happiness here on earth. All advertising, in fact, is based on this subconscious human desire.
Modern man is not the first to pursue a material shortcut to happiness, however. Adam and Eve, our original parents, were the original targets of this sales pitch ~ and it was the very same ad man pitching instant happiness to them who continues selling the same soap today to whoever will buy. Continue reading
Today marks the 25th anniversary of my father’s death. Dad was a person of sterling integrity as well as tremendous love for my mother and their eight children. But the real legacy he left us was a deep respect for, and the unwavering pursuit of, truth. For dad the eternal verities were dearer than life itself. Perhaps I did not fully appreciate his true genius in my younger days, but time has a way of changing our perspectives. What astounds me today is that a quarter of a century has passed away which, in retrospect, feels like a year at best.
Back when my father was just a small child, Albert Einstein discovered the truth that time is not a constant but rather a variable. True, because for us time feels like something that becomes more compressed the longer we measure it. It behaves like those layers of silt and debris which settle and are flattened into geologic formations so that one inch of sandstone might represent 10,000 years of earth’s history. Continue reading
This is the final part of a four part series on Sacrifice. See previous posts for parts 1,2, & 3.
History is curiously cyclical. Approximately 1,500 years after Moses instituted the Jewish ritual sacrifice, it was ruthlessly cut off by the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD. Approximately 1,500 years after Christ instituted his Eucharistic Covenant, a group of Christian would-be reformers ‘discovered’ that cultic sacrifice was no longer something useful. In fact, many went so far as to brand it idolatrous. In doing so they disconnected the Mass from its ancient Jewish ancestry of Temple sacrifice ─ and 15 centuries of unbroken Christian Tradition. Sacrifice, the very heart of religion, was thereby dismissed as either mistaken or irrelevant. Continue reading
This is the third in a four part series exploring sacrifice. Press the “Previous” button for parts 1 and 2.
Sacrifice consists of three necessary elements. First it requires an Offeror. The one who offers sacrifice must have the intent to offer something of real value back to God. Secondly, sacrifice requires an Offering. The offering must be something pure if it is to be sanctified (made holy) in order to be presented before God. Thirdly, the sacrifice needs a Recipient, that is some divinity to whom the sacrifice is presented as gift. These three elements, Offeror, Offering, and Divine Recipient are essential to offering any true sacrifice.
But how can sinful humans make an acceptable sacrifice to an all holy God? The one who makes the sacrificial offering is called a priest and for a pure offering to be made we need a sinless high priest. That priest is Jesus Christ who instituted a new priesthood distinct from the old Levitical priesthood. “Like Melchizedek, you are a priest forever.” (Ps. 110:4). Continue reading
This is the second post in a four part series. Click the ‘previous’ tab for part 1
If you want to drive a committed Darwinian crazy simply mention sacrifice because sacrifice is one of those quirky human traits that seemingly undermine every law of natural selection, primacy, or utility. Still, it keeps reappearing in many guises. Worse, nobody particularly likes making sacrifices and yet some innate moral sense seems to compel us to do it at times. (And to refuse would only mean losing one’s self respect.) So why would selfish creatures like ourselves ever make sacrifices?
Sacrifice has been a fundamental component of religion for thousands of years, from ancient pagan cults even up to our own day. But what exactly is sacrifice? Unfortunately, the word itself has been greatly stretched from its original Latin root which literally means, “to make sacred or holy.” Continue reading
One of the joys of Christmas is bringing the presence of angels back to the forefront of our consciousness. Angels are wondrous beings who reflect the unfathomable glory of the Creator. Unfortunately, as too often portrayed in popular culture, they come off as some semi-human celestial hybrids trying to ‘earn their wings.’ (Think of Clarence in “It’s a Wonderful Life” or Billy Bigelow in “Carousel.”) On the contrary no angel ever had a body in some previous life nor shared in our human nature. Angels are purely spiritual beings created that way by God.
Perhaps the term ‘angel’ itself is misleading. St. Augustine observes that ‘angel’ is the name of their office, not their nature. In other words, it refers to their job description as messengers and servants of God. Continue reading