"A [preacher] who does not love art, poetry, music and nature can be dangerous. Blindness and deafness toward the beautiful are not incidental; they necessarily are reflected in his theology." —Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
The bishops of the US conference (USCCB) will be electing their president next week. The custom of the conference is to elect the vice-president in the previous term as president. In this case, following custom, they would elect Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tuscon.
The media (Catholic and secular) are reporting that Bishop Kicanas defended the ordination of a man later convicted of child molestation. Various Catholic blogs have drawn attention to these reports and have asked the USCCB to seriously consider whether or not Bishop Kicanas is fit for the post of president.
Around the highways and streets of the US, you will occasionally see a bumper-sticker that reads: “CAUTION: In case of Rapture, this car will be empty!” Most cradle Catholics have never heard of the Rapture. Those of us who are converts from Protestantism know the term all too well. The Rapture is an end-times event where those who are “saved” will be jerked into heaven, leaving behind empty cars, offices, airplanes, and churches. This event is a sign that the God's judgment on the world has begun and those remaining must endure the Tribulation—the reign of the Beast, the anti-Christ, and the Battle of Armageddon. Exactly how all of these events play out—which comes first, who must suffer what—is the subject of intense debate among believers in the Rapture. Whole Protestant denominations have been founded on one or another interpretation of these prophesied events. Catholics have been more or less spared all this speculation b/c the Church has always taught that events described in the Book of Revelation are best understood as a form of Jewish literary apocalypticism used by John to narrate historical events that took place in the first century of the Church. John used the highly symbolic images of Daniel, Ezekiel, and others to encrypt the history of Rome's persecutions of the early Church in order to protect and encourage Christians. If all of this is true, how do we understand this morning's gospel? Jesus seems to be saying that when judgment day arrives, some will be taken and others will be left behind. Is he describing the Rapture?
Yes and no. Yes, he is certainly describing events that correspond to what some believe to be the Rapture. But he is not describing a one-time event that occurs at the end of the world. What Jesus is describing is the one event that happens to us all—death. We will all die and face judgment. Being prepared for that inevitable event is the point of Jesus' teaching. Worrying about End Time disasters and fanciful apocalyptic mysteries is pointless. The purpose—the only reason—for living a Christian life is to become more and more like Christ. At the moment of death, the moment of judgment, God will recognize those who have embodied the spirit of Christ and welcome them to His kingdom. Or He will honor the free choice of some to reject His love and allow them an eternity set apart from His presence. This process of death and judgment happens quite literally thousands of times a day. Every time someone dies. Speculation about some future end-time snatching of believers from their daily lives misses the whole thrust of Jesus' teaching here. Even the disciples seem to miss the point. They want to know where these events will take place. What does Jesus say? “Where the body is, there also the vultures will gather.” And where is that exactly? Jerusalem? Rome? Peoria? In so far as people living in these cities die everyday, yes. But death comes to us all regardless of where we live. Wherever there is a body, death will come and judgment follows; therefore, Jesus urges us: be ready, always ready to account for your life in Christ, being sure that you have lived as close to him as your gifts allow.
More politicization of the DoJ. . .not only is this sort of thing probably illegal, it is certainly politically stupid. Doesn't it occur to these folks that one day. . .probably real soon. . .they aren't going to be in charge anymore and then it's going to be the other side's turn to shine the light on their foibles?
N.B. Since I will be in the U.S. from Dec 2010 to Oct 2011, I've changed the shipping address on the WISH LIST.
Moon Bat Alert! Why are these dinosaurs allowed to spread their nonsense at a Catholic parish? Would Call to Action or the Women's Ordination Conference invite Archbishops Chaput or Burke to one of their conferences?
Here's one reason CA is having to borrow $40 million a day just to keep up with the state payroll: a list of state agencies. Check out the comments too for a list of MA state agencies!
Also, No Bailout for California! Working in a rehab facility taught me two important behavioral truths: 1). past behavior is the best indicator of future behavior; 2). bad behavior that never results in bad consequences will always be repeated.
As is painfully obvious, I'm an American and not only an American but an American from the deep south of the U.S., specifically, Mississippi and Texas. This means that my already distinctly American tendency to live life in a big way is intensified by that distinctly southern tradition of exaggeration, making that which is already too much even bigger. Big cars, big houses, big swimming pools, and, of course, big meals! Even our lives in Christ way down in the American south tend to be exaggerated. Megachurches, Hollywood-style Sunday services, Christian theme parks, and the occasional pentecostal tent revival. We enjoy a large faith, an all-consuming preoccupation with all things biblical and apocalyptic. But like the super-sized meals we love, a super-sized faith can be dangerous, especially when that faith is measured in terms of quantity. You can hear preachers—Protestant and Catholic—telling the sick that they will be healed if only they have “enough faith.” Or that a new job or a real estate deal will come if you just “believe enough.” This idea that our faith is about quantity seems to be reinforced by this morning's gospel. Jesus tells the apostles that they must forgive an offending brother as many times as he might ask for forgiveness. They say to Jesus, “Lord, increase our faith.” Jesus' response to this plea tells us that when it comes to faith, to trusting in the Father's promises, size doesn't matter.
Now, you might say here, “Well, if faith the size of a mustard seed can uproot a tree and replant it in the sea, then faith the size of a mountain could stop the planet from orbiting the sun!” You could say that. . .but you would be missing the point entirely. The apostles ask Jesus to increase their faith so that they can accomplish a seemingly impossible task, i.e. forgiving an offending brother every time he asks to be forgiven. Jesus' answer to this request tells us plainly that it is not the size or amount of our faith that matters, but the intensity, the integrity with which we exercise it. A big hammer is not a good tool if it is improperly used. A smaller hammer expertly used can be an excellent tool. So, the question is not “how big is your faith?” but rather “with what degree of strength and skill do you wield your faith?”
In the same way that good tools must be sharpened, oiled, cleaned, and properly stored, so our faith must be expertly honed and maintained. We have on hand the expertise of the Church Fathers, the saints, the sacraments, the magisterium, and we have one another. All of these are specifically designed to assist us in keeping our trust in the Father's promises brightly polished, razor sharp, and squeaky clean. When we make full use of them, use them regularly, sincerely, and with an eye toward our ultimate end, our faith can only be strengthen. The tallest tower can collapse with time. The biggest monument can erode away. But our faith—even faith the size of a mustard seed—is invincible, indestructible if take care to use every godly gift we have been given.