27 March 2010

Tea Partiers are the true democrats

Ethan Epstein gets it exactly right:

The much-maligned Tea Party represents that democratic ideal. It’s diffuse, unstructured, disorganized, and oftentimes confused. It’s messy. Sometimes it’s ugly. But it’s real. The Tea Party has done what ACORN never could: it has unified and engaged a significant group of Americans who have felt disaffected and underserved by their political class. That is democratic, in the truest sense of the word.

My European brothers here in Rome simply cannot understand the Tea Party movement.  For that matter, they cannot understand Americans.  All of them have been raised under socialist Nanny States and they see absolutely nothing to fear in absolute governmental control of their lives. . .that is, so long as the government is doling out the entitlement goodies.  With declining birth-rates  among native-nationals and increasing immigration rates from Africa and the Middle East, these entitlement programs will bankrupt the E.U. in a matter of decades.  Can anyone say, "Greece"? I knew that you could.

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26 March 2010

Reality-check on anti-Obama rhetoric

The Dems and their media helpers are whining about the increase in anti-Obama/anti-Democrat rhetoric on the right.

Here's a reality-check for them:

Bush Hitler (925,000 images)

Bush Stalin (325,000 images)

Bush Fascist (226,000 images)

Bush Dictator
(326,000 images)

Bush Anti-Christ
(112,000 images)

Bush Satan (321,000 images)

Assassinate Bush (626,000 images)

Impeach Bush (92,000)

Bush Monkey (916,000 images)

Bush Joker (112,000 images)

35% of Democrats believe 9/11 was Bush's doing

"Death of a President," an Bush-assassination movie that won six international prizes

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Just a few updates. . .

Still no word on my mom's biopsy.  Continued prayers are much appreciated.

I will be teaching two courses at the University of Dallas second summer term (July 12-Aug 12):  Understanding the Bible (M-Th 4-6pm) and Religion & Science (M-Th 6-8pm).  R&S will be an upper-level undergrad/grad seminar and the Bible course is a freshman/sophomore core course.

The WISH LIST has been updated.

Only three more French lessons!  WooHoo!!!  Then, I am on my own. . .

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The lies vegans tell

I've always had a very odd sense of humor. . .for some reason this Demotivational Poster is hilarious.


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Coffee Bowl Browsing

If you are feeling put-upon by the world's problems, watch this video.  It features the Notre Dame marching band.

Ah, the stench of left-liberal (in)tolerance in Canada!

Weak, overwhelmed, and bought. . .Stupak becomes a verb of derision.

Good News!  Castro loves ObamaCare. . .so, REJOICE!

Collapsing in waves of maidenly vapors:  Dems quaking in "fear" over a few mildly insulting quips from their employers.

Also, predictably, most of the "violence" against Dems is fabricated.  The coffin left on a Dem's lawn?  Nope.  Story retracted.  A rock thrown through a Dem's office?  Really?  His office is on the 30th floor.

And if they can't find any real violence to report, they try to provoke some.

On the Holy Father and the media attempts to smear him with the WI abuse scandal.  Fr. Z. is really, really not happy.

And you think you have car problems. . .

12:34. . .This weird clock-thing happens to me all the time.  I also look at the clock almost everyday at 5:26. . .my birthday (May 26th).  Freaky.

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25 March 2010

Loved beyond death (2007)

Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord
Isa 7.10-14, 8-10; Heb 10.4-10; Luke 1.26-38
Fr. Philip N. Powell, OP
St. Albert the Great Priory, Irving, TX

A sign for us as deep as the nether world and as high as the sky! A sign as bright as the collective angelic glory and as generous as the bounds of the cosmos! Isaiah tells King Ahaz that the Lord’s sign of His favor, the seal of His loving covenant is this: He will come to us with meat and skin and bones by the womb of a virgin and she and her husband will name him Emmanuel, “God With Us!” And why do we need this sign? Isaiah reports that “[King Ahaz’s heart] and the heart of his people shook as the trees of the forest shake before the wind” when they heard that their powerful neighbors were coming to wage war against them. Our God, wearied by their anxiety, showed Isaiah this sign of His enduring presence. Our God is always with us! And so we celebrate today the angelic announcement to Mary the Virgin that our Lord has fulfilled His promise and is here with us now. Christ has come into the world, and he has come to do the Father’s will.

John Paul II wrote in his letter to women, Mulieris dignitatem (1988), “Do we not find in the Annunciation at Nazareth the beginning of that definitive answer by which God himself ‘attempts to calm people's hearts’?” No one here will be surprised when I say that ours is an age of anxiety, an era of raw psychic upheaval and potentially deadly spiritual negligence. The truths of the faith that set us firmly on the Way often find us disbelieving, mistrusting, uncaring, and wearied by constant assault. The news that our neighbors might be arrayed against us, ready for ideological warfare, seems almost predictable and expected. Isn’t the culture circling us, moving in, coming closer and closer, strangling us, pushing us to the edge of irrelevance? Aren’t we seeing the end of the Christian West, the coming reign of Baal in America? And Mohamed in Europe? Surely, if we are not winning, we must be losing!

Truly, our hearts are anxious and wearied. But what we are anxious about? What wearies us? Maybe you are worried about the decline of the Christian West. This is U.D. after all! But if I had to bet my stipend I would say that most of us are wearied by trails slightly less dramatic than the collapse of the Enlightenment Project into postmodernity. Say, small things like money, relationships, children, family, work, health, spiritual well-being, academic success. These things will gnaw at our trust, nibble ever so gently at our peace, until we are weary and it looks as though our enemies are arrayed against us and God Himself is paying no attention.

The Annunciation of our Lord’s conception to Mary at Nazareth is God’s announcement to us that He is with us. Always with us. Always has been. Always will be. Our Lord did not write new laws for us to assure us of His presence. He did not send yet another prophet to preach His love, to proclaim His fidelity to His covenant. He came Himself. He came Himself to tell us that He loves us and to seal the deal of our salvation with His own body and blood. His wrecked body on the cross is our one sacrifice for all of us, for all of our sins. And his resurrection from the dead is our assurance that we will never be alone. He was born of a virgin and named Emmanuel, “God With Us.”

We can hear in the angelic annunciation to Mary the beginning of God’s definitive answer to our unsettled hearts. Where’s the rest of His answer? The Paschal Mystery! The rest of Emmanuel’s life as a preacher and healer; his teaching the truth of the Father’s mercy; his life with his mother and father and friends; his betrayal by those same friends; his trial before the priests and Pilate; the beatings, the ridicule, the pain and blood. Of course, the Cross. And the Empty Tomb. Here’s our answer: we are loved beyond joy, beyond truth, beyond family and friends; we are loved beyond Law, beyond pain and death; we are loved by Love Himself.

Gabriel said to Mary, “The Lord is with you!...Do not be afraid, for you have found favor with God.”

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Summorum Pontificum applies to the Dominican Rite too

Interesting news about the Dominican Rite of the Mass from St. Joseph's Province, USA:

". . .after the motu proprio, should Dominican priests who celebrate in the Extraordinary Form celebrate the Dominican Rite, since Dominicans generally did not celebrate the Roman Rite before 1969?

The Liturgical Commission of the Province of St. Joseph studied this question, concluding that it would seem more fitting that a Dominican who desires to celebrate an older form of the Mass would do so according to the Order’s own liturgical tradition rather than stepping outside it, and that this be done in a way that is properly integrated into our fraternal life. It is clear that the Prior Provincial or the Master of the Order may grant permission for such celebrations pursuant to the 1969 rescript from the Congregation for Divine Worship.

After the issuance of Summorum Pontificum, a series of questions about whether that document applies to other Latin rites was propounded to the Ecclesia Dei Commission (the Commission of the Holy See charged with the authority to oversee the application of the motu proprio). In May of 2009, after a query originating in the Archdiocese of Milan about the Ambrosian Rite, the Commission indicated that Summorum Pontificum applied not only to the Roman Rite, but to all of the Latin rites, and therefore that priests of Milan could celebrate the Mass according to the Ambrosian Rite of 1962. In subsequent correspondence, they further clarified that this also held good for the Dominican Rite of 1962."   

IOW, just as all priests are now permitted to celebrate the Extraordinary Form of the Mass, Dominican priests are permitted to celebrate the Dominican Rite.

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24 March 2010

Tweaking the priest

Walking to and from French class near the Piazza Navona is always something of a mini-adventure.  Among the throngs of people packing the streets are beggars, con-artists, tourists, schoolchildren on field trips, hawkers. . .you name it, you'll see it. 

Yesterday, while walking through the Largo Argentina I noticed a disreputable fellow in my path trying to get the attention of passers-by.  He was holding something that I couldn't quite make out.  He noticed me as I got closer and broke out into a big, silly grin.  Of course, another con-artist!  Preparing myself to tell him "No, thanks," he came up to me and handed me a handbill.  Relieved that I didn't have to explain why I couldn't part with euros I didn't have, I nodded and stuffed the bill into my book bag.

It wasn't until later in the evening, when I emptied my bag, that I understood why he was grinning when he handed me the flier.  It was an ad for Nora Thai's Massage Center! 

Cheeky git.

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ObamaCare: "...to control the people."

Democrat Representative John Dingel in an interview with WSJ on ObamaCare:

Let me remind you this [Americans allegedly dying because of lack of universal health care] has been going on for years. We are bringing it to a halt. The harsh fact of the matter is when you're going to pass legislation that will cover 300 [million] American people in different ways it takes a long time to do the necessary administrative steps that have to be taken to put the legislation together to control the people.

Those of us who didn't drink the Hopey-Changey Kool-Aid two years ago have known all along that "health care reform" is really just a front for turning citizens into wards of the Nanny State.

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23 March 2010

Vatican Two & the abuse scandals

I think Mr. Warner may be holding back here. . .or, maybe not:

Catholic Sexual Abuse Scandal:  time to sack trendy bishops and restore the faith
by Gerald Warner

It has become fashionable to claim that the sex abuse scandal currently afflicting the Catholic Church is “its biggest crisis since the Reformation”. Oh, really? Tell me about it. The abuse issue is just a small part of the much larger crisis that has engulfed the Church since the Second Vatican Catastrophe and which is more serious than the Reformation.

Abolish clerical celibacy? The last thing a priest abusing altar boys needs or wants is a wife. There is no compulsory celibacy in the Church of England, but that has not prevented vicars and boy scouts furnishing gratifying amounts of copy to the tabloid Sunday papers for the past century. Celibacy goes against the grain of today’s “unrepressed”, “non-judgemental”, let-it-all-hang-out attitude to sex; its continued existence is a reproach to the hedonist Western world; so Rome must be persuaded to abolish it – likewise its condemnation of divorce, abortion, contraception, homosexuality and all the other fetishes of liberal society. Dream on, secularists.

“Irish abuse victims disappointed by Pope’s letter.” Of course they are. They were disappointed by it before they had read it, before it was even written. Any other response would diminish the power they find themselves wielding against the Church. Have they a legitimate grievance? In most cases, yes. They have a ferocious grievance against the “filth” (Benedict XVI’s term, long before he came under public pressure) who defiled them and treated them like animals.

How could clergy transgress so gravely against the doctrines of the Church? What doctrines? These offences took place in the wake of Vatican II, when doctrines were being thrown out like so much lumber. These offenders were the children of Paul VI and “aggiornamento”. Once you have debauched the Mystical Body of Christ, defiling altar boys comes easily.

The “neglected” sacraments and devotional practices that the Pope says could have prevented this did not just wither on the vine: they were actively discouraged by bishops and priests. In the period when this abuse was rampant, there was just one mortal sin in the Catholic Church: daring to celebrate or attend the Latin Tridentine Mass. A priest raping altar boys would be moved to another parish; as for a priest who had the temerity to celebrate the Old Mass – his feet would not touch the ground.

There was a determined resolve among the bishops to deny any meaningful catechesis to the young. That is the generation, wholly ignorant of the faith, that in Ireland achieved material prosperity in the “Celtic Tiger” economy. Initially it still attended Mass (or what passed for Mass) out of social conformity. Then the sex abuse scandal gave Irish post-Vatican II agnostics the perfect pretext for apostasy: tens of thousands who had never been abused, nor met anybody who had, found an excuse to stay in bed on Sunday mornings.

The abusive priests are not the only hypocrites. “I am so shocked by the abuse scandal I am leaving the Church.” Right. So, the fact that some degenerates who should never have been ordained violated young people – in itself a deplorable sin – means that the Son of God did not come down to earth, redeem mankind on the cross and found the Church? This appalling scandal no more compromises the truths of the Faith than the career of Alexander VI or any other corrupt Renaissance Pope.

Should bishops be forced to resign? Oh yes – approximately 95 per cent of them worldwide. These clowns in their pseudo-ethnic mitres and polyester vestments with faux-na├»ve Christian symbols, spouting their ecumaniac episcobabble, have presided over more than sexual abuse: they have all but extinguished the Catholic faith with their modernist fatuities. They should be retired to monasteries to spend their remaining years considering how to account to their Maker for a failed stewardship that has lost countless millions of souls.

Benedict XVI should take advantage of a popular wave of revulsion against the failed episcopate to sack every 1960s flared-trousered hippy who is obstructing Summorum Pontificum. It is a unique opportunity to cull the hireling shepherds and clear away the dead wood of the Second Vatican Catastrophe. It is time to stop the apologies and reinstate apologetics; to rebuild all that has been destroyed in the past 40 years; to square up to liberals and secularists as so many generations of Catholics did in the past; to proclaim again the immutable truths of the One True Church that, in the glory of the Resurrection, can have no legitimate posture other than triumphalism.

I generally agree with Mr. Warner.  His tone isn't going to win him any friends, but the overall assessment of the scandal is correct.  

One distinction that we must keep in mind:  the actual teachings of Vatican Two vs. the way those teachings have been held hostage by the revolutionary elite.  I daresay that 90% of what gets called "Vatican Two reform" these days is anything but what the Council Fathers actually teach in the documents themselves.  

JPII and BXVI have dedicated their pontificates to restoring an authentic understanding of the Council as one exercise in the continuing, historic ministry of the magisterium.  Nothing in the documents of VC2 contradict VC1, Trent, Latern IV or any other Council.  This is why VC2 must be read in a way consistent with those Councils.  BXVI has rightly called us to a "hermeneutic of continuity" and away from the "hermeneutic of rupture" that has plagued the Church since 1965.


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I do nothing on my own

5th Week of Lent: Readings
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
SS. Domenico e Sisto, Roma

Imagine going to a dinner party and finding yourself seated next to a complete stranger. This stranger, impeccably polite, introduces himself by telling you his name, occupation, nationality, and religion. You, also flawlessly polite, respond by telling him that you are Sister Mary Margaret, a Catholic religious from Kenya, and that you are a high school principal studying for a teaching degree at the Angelicum in Rome. While you are speaking, the stranger nods. He makes all the polite noises of someone listening. He smiles. Imagine that at the end of your short introduction, he looks you squarely in the eye, and asks, “So, who are you?” How would you answer him? You might wonder if he was he was really listening. Maybe his English isn't all that great, and he misunderstood. Or he could be asking you a deeply philosophical, profoundly existential question about your purpose in life. You are confused. You have revealed all he needs to know, so why is he asking this bizarre question? Who are you?

Confronting the inquisitive Pharisees, Jesus finds himself (once again!) in this exact situation. He has told them all they need to know about who he is. He is telling them all they need to know about who he is. He says, “You belong to what is below, I belong to what is above. You belong to this world, but I do not belong to this world.” He tells them that he is “I AM.” He even tells them that if they do not believe that he is I AM they will die in their sins. Surely, the most educated men in the land, men deeply rooted in scripture, cannot have missed the reference to Moses and his encounter with God during which God Himself says, “I AM.” Yet, that is exactly what happens. They ask Jesus, “Who are you?” In answer, Jesus tells them that “'. . .the one who sent me is true, and what I heard from him I tell the world.'” 

Do they understand now? John writes, “They did not realize that he was speaking to them of the Father.” They did not realize. Are they hard of hearing? Linguistically disabled? Or is it that their hearts and minds are clouded by sin, their eyes and ears rendered useless by pride and fear? If what Jesus is saying is true, they have much to lose. In fact, they have everything they treasure in this world to lose! They cannot hear, cannot see because hearing and seeing the truth that Jesus lays before them, the truth that he has been laying before them from the beginning, this truth—that he is the Lord—destroys their world. Who wants to hear that in order to gain eternal life, you must lose your worldly life, forfeit everything you treasure in this world?

The stranger sitting next to you at dinner introduces himself as Christ Jesus, I AM, sent from the Father. You know that he is telling you the truth. After politely listening to you introduce yourself, Christ looks you squarely in the eyes and asks, “Who are you?” What do you say? If you have lost everything, surrendered all for his sake—name, status, purpose, heritage, pride, fear—given it all away, you should answer, “I am Christ too.” Then, with Christ, you can introduce yourself every time you are asked, “I do nothing on my own. . .The one who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, because I always do what is pleasing to him.”

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22 March 2010

Repeal it!

The CITIZEN PLEDGE

"I hereby pledge that if any federal health care takeover is passed in 2010, I will support - with my time, money, and vote - only candidates who pledge to support its repeal and replacement with real reforms that lower health care costs without growing government."


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What you cannot surrender

5th Sunday of Lent: Readings
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
SS. Domenico e Sisto, Roma

Being a faithful Christian is often a dangerous balancing act, one of those stage shows where a seemingly reckless juggler throws a knife, a flaming ball, and a revved-up chainsaw into the air and keeps them flying for the entertainment of the audience. Lose concentration, glance away for even a second, breath at the wrong time and all those sharp, burning, ripping objects come crashing into you with the weight of gravity! Not since the early days of the Maryland Colony, or the Know-Nothing Klansmen of the 19th century have faithful Catholics found themselves at the center of attention as we are right now. Juggling the competing demands of the public square, the Church, the individual conscience, the Body of Christ is on stage, under the spotlight, with an audience holding its breath just waiting for the edifice of our faith to come tumbling down in ruin. What is it that we are juggling? Global clerical sex scandals. Pro-abortion Catholic politicians, clergy, religious. Threats of being driven from the public square by anti-Christian secularists. Internal battles over the morality of torture and war. The death and decay of the Body of Christ in Europe and Canada. The encroachment of radical Islamists into the U.K., the Netherlands, France, and Italy. And global media attacks on the Holy Father himself. Look away, breath at the wrong moment, lose concentration for even a second and all these volatile elements crash into the Body, causing terrible wounds. How do we keep our balance, keep our concentration? How do we perform on stage without injuring ourselves? Jesus says to the crowd that accuses a woman of adultery, “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” When no stone is thrown and no one condemns her, he says to the woman, “Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on do not sin any more.”

What does the adulterous woman and her accusers have to do with the Church and our current predicament? We might say that the woman is the Church and the crowd is the world clamoring of our condemnation. But we could also reverse these roles and say that the Church is the crowd lusting after the death of a sinner and the world is the accused woman. Who fits which role largely depends on what century, what decade we are trying to understand, what situation we are analyzing. Of course, if you've spent even an hour trying to follow Christ on his way to the cross in Jerusalem, you know that the Church can be both accuser and accused, self-righteous and condemned simultaneously. Essential to the life of the faithful Christian living in the world is the precarious balancing act of being at once a condemned sinner forever forgiven and a righteous critic of sin. It seems that the Church gets into these aggravating, public confrontations with the world precisely because we freely acknowledge our failures yet steadfastly refuse to stop calling a sin a sin. In other words, we do not excuse our sins and the sins of the world by defining away Sin nor do we cloister ourselves away from the world by claiming to be sinless. 

Jesus was the first juggler who taught us the dangerous balancing act of living in the world as faithful Christians: boldly challenge the integrity of our accusers; be the first to acknowledge our sins; forgive one another and our accusers in mercy; and sin no more. Leave any one of these out and the whole juggling act becomes a very messy, very public moral wreck. We see this wreck over and over again when bishops and priests cover for one another when rightly accused of sexual abuse. We see it when we fail to confront unrepentant dissent from basic Church teaching in our universities, seminaries, and houses of formation. We see it when our bishops refuse to call pubic figures to account for their anti-life, anti-marriage, anti-family votes in Congress and Parliament. We see it when those charged with defending and teaching the faith displace our faith with scientism, therapeutic models of human actualization, the false idols of New Age and neo-pagan mysticism, secular political ideology, and the murderous morality of utilitarian ethics. But we see it most acutely, feel it most intensely when we ourselves, each of us, sin and fail to forgive, or forgive and fail to call the sinner to repentance.

When Paul explains the righteous he shares through Christ, he is quick to add, “It is not that I have already taken hold of [righteous] or have already attained perfect maturity, but I continue my pursuit in hope that I may possess it. . .” Here Paul gives us the key to interpreting the Christian experience of living in the world but remaining apart from it. We must lay claim to the real possibility of being righteous and all the while readily confess our distance from it. We cannot achieve this balance if we refuse to call sin Sin. Nor can we achieve this essential balance if we see ourselves as sinless victims persecuted by the vengeful crowd. The adulterous woman committed adultery. She is guilty. Jesus did not challenge the crowd to prove her guilt nor did he lift the ancient prohibition against adultery when he forgives her. Rather than condemn the crowd for their sinfulness, he challenges their integrity as judges and executors. In effect, he said, “Yes, this woman is guilty of adultery. But you yourselves are guilty as well. Why should you be the righteous judges and executors of this sinful woman when you are as guilty as she.” Sin is still sin. For the woman, for her accusers. Sin is still sin. And yet, both are forgiven.

As the Body of Christ, living as sinners among sinners, we are charged with being those who—despite our sin—acknowledge the reality of righteousness, the goodness of its pursuit, and the possibility of achieving it. Despite the scandals, despite the dissenters, despite the false idols, we must work against the temptation to relieve ourselves and others of the burden of calling our failures Sin. We must also resist the equally appealing temptation of lightening our load by believing ourselves to be without sin, without flaw. In the frenzy of juggling the elements of living day to day as sinners in pursuit of righteousness, we have no other refuge for respite than Christ himself. Paul writes, “I consider everything as a loss because of the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have accepted the loss of all things and I consider them so much rubbish. . .” What lost things are we clinging to? What rubbish do we hoard and call treasures? As a Church, are we worried about our reputation? Our assets? Our numbers in the pews? Do any of these better condition us for the marathon that leads to righteousness in Christ? Are we worried about the loss of influence? The reduction of political power? The grief of persecution and trial? We've always known that following Christ means that we must walk the Sorrowful Way with him to the Cross. Why mourn the dangers of a path we ourselves have chosen to follow? Where's the integrity in that?

Leading our march toward Jerusalem this last week of Lent is the question that will lead us on through Holy Week and to the Cross: what are we most afraid of losing? As a Church, what is it that we simply cannot see ourselves giving up? As individual members of the Body, what is it that we will not relinquish? If we can name this idol, if you can name your idol, watch and know that we will all, you yourself, will be called upon to sacrifice whatever it is, to make it holy by surrendering it for the love of Christ. If we cannot or will not sacrifice, count all as loss for Christ, then our balancing act is rigged from the beginning. The knife is dull. The chain saw has no blade. The fire is bright but does not burn. If there is no risk, there is no reward. No danger, no possibility of victory. Those in the audience who eagerly await our failure heckle our performance b/c they believe that we would never truly put ourselves at risk, never truly court defeat for the sake of Christ. We can either prove them right or prove them wrong. We can either follow Christ as we have vowed to do, or we can follow the cynical expectations of the world and give them a show. If we truly count all things as loss in Christ, then our choice is crystal clear.

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21 March 2010

Homily: 4th Sun of Lent (repost)

4th Sunday of Lent: Joshua 5.9, 10-12; 2 Cor 5.17-21; Luke 15.1-3, 11-32
Fr. Philip N. Powell, OP
St. Paul’s Hospital, Dallas, TX

Can you smell the wood of the cross from here? It’s still too far to see…just the smell of it is closer. Just about eighteen days more in this desert and we will be there to see him nailed to the wood. Then it will be the scent of wood and blood. Maybe vinegar and sweat as well. And some stinging smoke from the trash fires. And more caking dust. Will you run with the disciplines from Gethsemane? Will you walk with him along the sorrowful way and jeer with the other invisible bodies, adding your cowardly squeak to all the other taunts and cries from those he loved and fed and healed? Will you deny him to protect your safety, to conceal your once-professed love? Will you betray him? Of course you will. And so will I. It is what we do when given the choice to die for a friend or live for a cause. These moments of truth-telling make prudence easy and courage foolish. Praise God then that He does not wait for us to come to Him but rather comes to us first. His memory is holy and ours in need of sanctification.

Paul teaches the contentious Corinthians that “…God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting their trespasses against them and entrusting to them the message of reconciliation.” So, we are forgiven and then given the ministry of forgiveness to spread in the world, the work of bringing together those split apart, broken under, distant and made alien. The first reconciliation is with God. No other bond of friendship or love makes the least bit of sense outside the bond of love that our Father has for us. That we love is His doing. We cannot love without Him. And without love we can know nothing of Him or His creation—nothing about ourselves, others, or the things of this world. Just beyond the moment of creation itself, to be reconciled to God through Christ Jesus is the primitive move of love. Nothing stands before His love and remains broken, sick, injured, lonely, or distant…nothing, that is, but the stubborn refusal to be loved.

And why would anyone refuse to be loved by Love Himself? To be loved by God is to be changed forever. Clenched fists, an obstinately set jaw, a cold-heart do not easily release control to airy promises of safety and bliss. Even divine promises of safety and bliss. This an anxiety so profound that the Legions of Hell are frightened for us—even they believe! But we are capable of choosing still whether or not we will be changed forever by our desire for God or left squalling helplessly in our mulish refusal at the door to eternal darkness. There are worse choices than betrayal. There is the decision against love. And then crippling despair.

Though reconciliation with God is first, it is not the only reconciliation required of us. To love God is something too easily left in the world of forms, the merely abstract gesture of good will toward divine being. Something more concrete, more worldly is required of our love. We must be reconciled to one another in Christ. The Prodigal Son returns to a party thrown in this name. His father welcomes him home without reservation because he is the father’s son. Despite the son’s gross irresponsibility and near criminal immorality, the father opens his arms to receive the wretch, drapes him in his finest robes, slaughters a fat calf, and celebrates the feckless life of this reprobate. Sorry. I’m with the obedient brother on this one. Why the celebration? The natural consequences of the son’s irresponsibility are absolutely just. He wasted his inheritance, scattering it like seed on sand, and reaped the bitter harvest. He deserves his fate. Yes, exactly, he deserves his fate and his father’s harsh judgment! But he receives mercy, forgiveness, and a welcome home party. He is reconciled in love b/c he was dead and now lives. B/c he was lost and now he is found. Our faith is about excess and waste, overflowing love and beautifully squandered gifts. There is nothing pretty or genteel about the cross. Nothing efficient about the empty tomb. Love reconciles like a thunderstorm soaks dry earth.

We will betray Christ before he reaches the cross. Despite our fervent fasting and pristine prayers, despite our honest intent and good will, despite everything we did, do, and will do during Lent, we will come to the decision that it is best to live for the cause than to die for our friend. And we will go on…to be reconciled to God, to one another, and to become the ambassadors for Christ that Paul urges us to be. We will remember our betrayal as a sign of weakness, anxiety, sin. We will recall again and again the exact moment we did not speak up for Christ, the exact moment we let some insult to his faith slide by, the exact moment we chose to be his enemy dressed as his friend. We will remember when we choose to blend in with the crowd, to throw a stone or two on the sorrowful way, to shout a curse at his stripped and bleeding back. We will remember our betrayal. But he won’t.

Can you smell the wood of the cross? There are many more steps between here and now and the foot of the tree. The hot sand blows stinging hard and everything and everyone you’ve left behind calls to you out of friendship to come back. What’s ahead after all? Blood, bits of flesh, spit, gall, deception, cruelty, violence…your betrayal of a friend. You can turn back now. Do it. Just for a second. Look back to Ash Wednesday. What do you see? Hot promises? Eager intentions? A hunger for holiness? I’m going to do it this time!? Sure. And will you? Not likely. You’ll make it to the cross alright. But you won’t make it there any holier than when you left on Ash Wednesday. Do you think the purpose of Lent is to make you holy? Holier? The purpose of Lent is to show you your need for God. You will make it to the cross b/c God wants you at the cross. Holy or not. Your dieting and fasting and fussing about prayer and alms are at best distractions if they don’t serve to clear up God’s will for you: smell the wood, then see the wood, then taste it. Then feel it against your skin, your hands, your back and feet, feel it—burning, wet, raw, sharp. You are Christ. Lent is not your time to flee from weakness and temptation. Run to them! Lent is your time to pray like the Prodigal Son, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and you, I no longer deserve to be called your son…” And then wait for God the Father to forget your sins and drape you in His finest robes and slaughter the fattest calf to welcome you home again.

Sniff the air. The cross is coming closer. The cup is full. Will you drink from it? Or will you pour it into the desert sand?

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Homily: 3rd Sun of Lent (incomplete)

[Holy Week is almost upon us, so I'm posting this homily even though it is incomplete.  I hope someone out there benefits from it!]

3rd Sunday of Lent
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
SS. Domenico e Sisto, Roma

If you listen to female stand-up comics long enough you will eventually hear one or more of them ridicule men for being irrationally incapable of asking for directions. Husbands, fathers, brothers would rather wander lost in the wilds than stop at a 7-11 and ask the clerk how to get to where they are going. According to the comics, it all has to do with a fear of showing weakness during the hunt, a fear of admitting that their testosterone-enhanced ability to sense true north is defective. Given enough time, the Man assures his Woman, the Right Way will be revealed, and he will follow it to the promised destination. For her to nag him about stopping for directions, he insists, is a sign of mistrust, an admission of faithlessness. He knows where they are going. How they get there and when is irrelevant. But even scarier than the prospect of asking for directions is the possibility of having to turn around and start over. Turning around means that his inability to find the way has been compounded by a mistake, a mistake that can only be made right with a new beginning. As sensible as this sounds, you must remember that turning around and starting over raises the chances that the worst possible outcome might come to pass: he gets lost again. Isn't it better to wander lost, endure a little embarrassment, and eventually find the way than it is to start over and risk losing the path all over again? Jesus answers, “No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will perish.” Turn around and start over. If you are lost, it is better to go home and set out again.

What is the hardest part of repentance? Most of us would say that actually giving up our favorite sin is the most difficult part. But before we can give up our favored sin, we have to admit that this sin is a sin, a deliberate act of disobedience against God—otherwise, there is no compelling reason to give it up! At some level we know that lying, stealing, cheating on a spouse is wrong but we are usually eager to judge the degree of wrongness against the harm it causes. It was small lie to help a friend. I stole from a greedy insurance company. My spouse really doesn't care if I cheat. If the harm caused by our sin is less than the imagined good that results from it, we might consider it wrong but not Wrong. This sort of moral reasoning makes sense in a world where we measure good and bad as a delicate balance between pleasure and pain, harm and help. If more people are helped than harmed then we judge an act good. If not, we say our actions were bad. In this world, our goal is to cause more pleasure than pain. Starting over makes no sense because any pain we might cause is easily balanced by causing an equal amount of pleasure. Steal from the insurance company and give the money to a charity. Cheat on a spouse and then volunteer to cook dinner for a month. The idea of true repentance never enters the equation because there is no Right Way from which we might stray.

In a world where there are no objective moral standards, no gods to offend, no eternal consequences for good or a bad behavior, weighing harm against help is undoubtedly an excellent method of moral reasoning. For Christians, no such world exists. Our world, the world created by a loving Father, redeemed by His Son, and infused with the Holy Spirit, is a world of objective moral law and eternal consequences. And there is most certainly a god to offend. For us, the reality of sin and necessity of repentance is as real as trees, rocks, and the air we breath. There is no escaping the possibility, if not the probability, that we will get lost on the Way, that we will falter in the work we have vowed to complete. If sin looms large in the Christian heart so does the opportunity for repentance and the assurance of forgiveness. There is no shame in admitting defeat, turning around, doing penance, and making a fresh start. Even so, we are sometimes inclined to resist the call to repentance and persist in failure. Like the husband, brother, father who will not admit that he is lost and refuses to ask for directions, we stubbornly hold out hope that we will find the Way on our own. This is a lonely, frustrating, and ultimately futile means of finding our way Home. . .

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B.O., dissent, and the ObamaCare Sisters

Is B.O. promoting dissent within the Church?  Hey, if it helps him force all American taxpayers to pay for elective abortions, why not?

WASHINGTON, DC, March 18, 2010 (LifeSiteNews.com) - White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs revealed to reporters today that President Barack Obama actively promoted the Catholic Health Association's public break with the American Catholic bishops to support his health care legislation.

Gibbs also suggested that the CHA and the Leadership Conference of Women Religious' (LCWR) break with the U.S. Bishops has provided legitimate political cover for pro-life Democrats to switch their votes from "no" to "yes."

"I think over the past twenty four hours we have seen strong indications from those in the Catholic Church that support our belief that the legislation is about health care reform, and that it shouldn't and doesn't change the existing federal law [on abortion]. The Catholic Health Association and the order of nun's support is very important," Gibbs told reporters on the White House lawn for Thursday's press conference. 

Read the whole article.

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