15 April 2011

Thanks for the book. . .

My thanks to the kind HancAquam Book Benefactor who sent me Fr. Congar's book,  True and False Reform in the Church.  The invoice had no name or return address on it!

You are in my prayers. . .God bless, Fr. Philip

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13 April 2011

Coffee Bowl Browsing

Looks like that Historic Budget Deal B.O. and the GOP are pushing is really just more smoke and mirrors.  Figures. 

150 "Catholic" colleges have ties to Planned Parenthood.   If one book by one theologian can get the attention of the USCCB Cmte on Doctrine, then 150 Catholic colleges frolicking with the nation's largest baby-killer ought to stir up a little action.

Several more Catholic colleges participate in a conference aimed at "Creating an inclusive environment in higher education for LGBTQ students and studies.”  NB:  you may find some of the language offensive. 

"Lady Gaga provokes Catholic ire". . .which is EXACTLY what she was hoping to do.  Much like the predictable dissent from the Catholic Left, the whole point of "courageously challenging the hierarchy blahblahblah" is to get the hierarchy (or its surrogates) to yell and scream at you publicly so your CD/book/concert sales increase.  No such thing as Bad Publicity.

Excellent survey of the common myths surrounding the Crusades. . .if you have relied on movies, TV, and popular history for your Crusades info, you don't know much at all!

A report from two Philly shrinks on those 21 priests suspended b/c of abuse allegations:  "The result of the investigation was that the charges were not substantiated against many of those 21 priests. Then, these priests were notified and there was no disruption of their priestly ministry. The failure of the Archdiocese to communicate these facts to the public is difficult to understand. The public falsely believes these priests are guilty."   
Chicago's "Fr. Hollywood" pitches a fit and threatens to leave the Church if he doesn't get his way.  Methinks someone needs a time-out and a nap.   

Men vs. Women. . .the first joke is the best!

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11 April 2011

Judging vs. Being Judgmental

5th Week of Lent (M)
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Joseph Church, Ponchatoula

What's the difference between “making a judgment” and “being judgmental”? In ordinary English usage, we “make judgments” all the time. We judge the distance between cars when driving. We judge the amount of salt we use when cooking. We make a judgment about how much money we can spend this month on books. If making these sorts of judgments makes us judgmental, then we are in some serious trouble. “Being judgmental” is something far more dangerous than just deciding which pair of shoes to wear to work, or whether or not to have another cup of coffee. Ordinarily, we say that someone is “being judgmental” when it becomes clear that he or she is prone to accusing others of sin, collecting evidence against them, pronouncing a guilty verdict, and then demanding a harsh sentence for their sins. We usually say that this self-appointed judge and juror is “being judgmental” even if the person he or she is accusing is obviously guilty of sin. In other words, the fact that the accuser is right about the accused in no way lessens our sense that the accuser is “being judgmental.” We hear all the time that we shouldn't be judgmental, that we shouldn't condemn sinners for their sin, or even say out loud that this or that act is sinful. Our gospel scene this morning would seem to indicate that none of us is virtuous enough to call sin sin; that none of us is nearly holy enough to pass judgment on another. Cast the first stone, you who have no sin!

I'll confess right now: I won't be throwing any stones. But does the fact that I won't be throwing any stones b/c of my sin prevent me from making decisions about whether or not someone else has committed a sin? Let's hope not. I'd be worthless in the confessional and useless as a spiritual director. And not only that but it would be difficult for me to carry out my baptismal duty to seek and execute justice when an injustice threatens God's peace. If we are not careful, we might allow our fear of being called “judgmental” poison our sense of justice by making us indifferent to suffering. How can I condemn the brutal rape and murder of women and children in the Sudan w/o “being judgmental”? How can I call child prostitution sinful if my sense of justice is crippled b/c I fear being thought of as judgmental? If I can't throw stones, how can I seek justice for those who suffer b/c of the sins of others?

Jesus is extraordinarily subtle in his handling of the woman accused of adultery. He sees the whole scene laid out before him very clearly. His enemies are trying to trap him. If he condemns the woman w/o a proper trial, then he stands guilty to violating the Law. If he frees her, he is guilty of violating the Law. What does he do? He chooses not to play the game his enemies have laid before him. Instead, he tests the woman's accusers to see if there is anyone among them worthy of serving as a proper judge, “Cast the first stone, you who have no sin.” No one throws a stone b/c no one wants his or her life examined for worthiness. No one wants to be measured by the standards the Pharisees are using to measure the accused woman. Once all her accusers have fled, Jesus says, “I do not condemn you. Go and sin no more.” He doesn't recuse from passing judgment. He doesn't say that she is innocent of sin. Nor does he say that adultery isn't a sin. He judges her act, calls it sinful, and grants her mercy. And this is exactly what we are charged with doing: calling sin sin and then freely granting mercy to the sinners. We do this b/c the standards we use to judge others will be used to judge us. We do this b/c when we are sinned against, we want the sin to be named and condemned. But in order to fulfill our baptismal vows, we must free the sinner with mercy. How else can we make God's mercy known? How else can we hope to stand before the crucified Christ and give him thanks for our freedom from death?

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10 April 2011

Dummies Guide to Catholic Zombies

[A bit long-winded this morning. . .]

5th Sunday of Lent (A)
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Joseph Church, Ponchatoula

Brothers and sisters, I bring you some dramatic news this morning! While we have been enjoying this weekend's Strawberry Festival, reports have come in from all over the world that the dead walk among us. They've been sighted in all the world's major cities, shambling around dressed like the living, pretending to be the living, doing the ordinary things that the living do. They are difficult to spot since their demeanor is easily confused with those who still cling to life. They go to work, eat their family meals; go to school, church, the grocery store; they even attend festivals, mimicking the behavior of the still-living festival-goers. The media have given these deceased mimic a group name. They are called simply, “The Dead.” If a more specific label is called for, they attach a prefix, “the Irish-American Dead,” or “the Jewish Dead,” or “the Muslim Dead.” Personally, I find these labels unhelpful and rather boring, so I've decided to refer to them as Zombies. So, yes, Zombies walk among us, and more specifically, Catholic Zombies walk among us and pray among us and go to communion among us. In fact, there are probably several right here this morning! Otherwise normal looking, normal sounding Catholics who shamble around in their living bodies without a living spirit. What animates them, what gives them the appearance of being alive is uncertain. What is certain is that they are truly dead, and that their bodies are a walking grave. What can be done for these poor spiritless creatures? They must be freed from what binds them to the grave; freed from the walking death of sin.

In the story of Lazarus' resurrection, we have an abridged version of the Dummies Guide to Catholic Zombies. This handy guide helps us to identify, diagnose, and treat those among us who appear to be alive in Christ but are actually long dead to his spirit. Of note in the Guide is the warning on page 23 that calls our attention to an uncomfortable truth: “The Catholic Zombie virus is virulent and unpredictable. It can infect anyone at anytime. It attacks the Catholic's sin-immunity response system, replicating its viral disobedience-DNA and leaves the spirit of Christ defense network incapable of properly responding to temptation. No one is immune. Even the holiest Catholic is susceptible to infection and re-infection.” As a start to the recovery process, the Guide refers both the infected and their care-givers to John 11.1-45, the story of Lazarus' resurrection, and to Romans 8.8-11, Paul's short treatise on the relationship between the spiritually dead and Christ. These two passages make it clear that the truly living—those who live in Christ, body and soul—live b/c they dwell in the Lord's righteousness, believing wholeheartedly in the Lord when He says to them, “O my people, I will open your graves and have you rise from them. . .Then you shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves and have you rise from them, O my people!” Working backwards from cure to disease, the Guide reports that those most susceptible to infection by the Catholic Zombie virus are those who allow their Christ defense network to become weakened through inattention to personal prayer, the sacraments, good works, and holy reading. Working from disease to cure, we can see that the best treatment for the Zombie Catholic is personal prayer, the sacraments, good works, and holy reading. In other words, the best treatment is prevention.

To get a better grip on how we can prevent the spread of the Catholic Zombie virus more effectively, let's look at Lazarus' resurrection story and tease out exactly how prevention works. Probably the most obvious tact to take in preventing the spread of the virus is to ensure that everyone around you knows the basics of good spiritual hygiene. For example, when Lazarus' sister, Martha, asserts to her brother's physician, Jesus, that Lazarus would rise again on the last day, Dr. Jesus says, “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.” After this brief revelation, Jesus asks Martha, “Do you believe this?” She responds, “Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.” So, the first step to prevention is a profession of faith in the Christ, the Son of God. By believing in the Christ, who is the resurrection and the life, we can bolster our resistance to the Catholic Zombie virus and ward off the onslaught of temptations that comes from doubt. 

Another step in good spiritual hygiene is obedience to the Christ. The Guide points out that obedience is not a matter of mindless compliance with rules and regulations. Obedience starts by trusting Christ's wisdom and believing in the promises of his Father. Listen first, then act. Lazarus emerges from his tomb after having been dead for four days. Martha, Mary, and the disciples all play essential roles in his resurrection by obeying Christ. Jesus says to the disciples, “Let us go to back to Judea.” And they do. He asks to see Mary. And she runs to him. He asks to see Lazarus. And they take him to the tomb. He orders the tombstone removed. They obey. He cries out, “Lazarus, come out!” And he does. Finally, with the newly resurrected Lazarus standing before him, Jesus says, “Untie him and let him go.” We know that Jesus' intervention here works as prevention b/c John reports, “Now many of the Jews who had come to Mary and seen what he had done began to believe in him.” Belief in the Christ is the first step in preventing the spread of the zombie virus! With belief comes repentance and with repentance comes the overwhelming mercy of God. Once we have come to depend absolutely on God's mercy, obedience to His Word is not only no longer a burden, it is a privilege—a privilege that inoculates believers against the weaknesses of doubt, anxiety, and pride. 

The final step in good spiritual hygiene is hope in the resurrection. The Lazarus story contains a very odd scene. Jesus is informed that Lazarus is sick and on the verge of death, John reports, “. . .when [Jesus] heard that [Lazarus] was ill, he remained for two days in the place where he was.” His friend is deathly ill and Jesus decides to hang around Bethany for two days. Hardly the reaction we would expect. Later on, Mary chastises Jesus for the delay, saying, “Lord, if you had been here,
my brother would not have died.” The Jews who went with Mary to visit Jesus, upon seeing Jesus weep for the grief of the sisters, say, “Could not the one who opened the eyes of the blind man have done something so that this man would not have died?” Why did Jesus delay visiting his dying friend? To instill in his disciples the virtue of hope, to bolster in them an immunity to the despair that death often brings. When he first heard that Lazarus was dying, Jesus says, “This illness is not to end in death, but is for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Lazarus' resurrection from the tomb serves to show the disciples (and us) that death is not an end for the believing soul. The hope of life after death renders the Catholic Zombie virus inert. With a deeply held hope in Christ, we too will hear him order us out of the tomb and tell our family and friends, “Untie him and let him go.”

The Catholic Zombie virus is deadly. It can kill the spirit of Christ in us and leave us to walk among the living and the dead. The best treatment is prevention. Personal prayer, the sacraments, good works, and holy reading. But none of these are effective without a firm belief in the Christ, a willingness to obey his commands, and the good habit of hoping upon the resurrection. If you are dead inside, take heart, b/c the Lord has promised, “O my people, I will open your graves and have you rise from them. . . I will put my spirit in you that you may live. . .thus you shall know that I am the LORD. I have promised, and I will do it, says the LORD.”

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