15 September 2007

Agreeing with God

24th Sunday OT: Exo 32.7-11, 13-14; 1 Tim 1.12-17; Luke 15.1-10
Fr. Philip N. Powell, OP
U.D. Freshman Retreat (Vigil) & Church of the Incarnation, Irving, TX

Listen here!

I wonder if I can get you to agree with me on a few ideas…

Can we agree that. . .

. . .God treats sinners mercifully?

. . .the grace of Jesus Christ is abundant?

. . .faith and love are abundant in Christ as well?

. . .Christ came into this world as a man to save sinners?

. . .the more sinful you are the more mercifully God’s treats you?

. . .Christ is patient w/our stubbornness, waiting on our repentance?

. . .once we have repented and come to Christ, that Christ will use you as an example to those who would come to believe?

. . .our Lord, who strengthens us in our ministry, the work we do for him, that he deserves our praise and thanks for his mercy, his love, his faith, and for patiently enduring our stubbornness? Yes? Good! You have confirmed the witness of St. Paul to Timothy.

Now you are ready to hear the gospel again: to the Pharisees and scribes who were wagging their bony, accusing fingers at him for eating with tax collectors and sinners, Jesus says: “…there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance.” I don’t think you have to be a U.D. math major to figure this one out! Why will there be more joy in heaven over one sinner’s repentance than the presence of ninety-nine righteous people who don’t need to repent? Here’s a hint: once you are found, once you are truly righteous, you are one of those in heaven rejoicing over the repentance of one sinner. . .

You’ve been very agreeable so far. Let’s see what else I can get you to agree with. . .

Can we agree that. . .

. . .we are prone to disobedience, hard-heartedness?

. . .we often “turn aside from the way” God points out to us?

. . .we fashion idols to worship, Something or One above God?

. . .we are on occasion a stiff-necked people, stubborn, cold, deaf?

. . .we often deserve God’s wrath, to be judge justly according to the Law?

. . .we have heard God’s promise of mercy and his promise to make His people a great nation, a royal priesthood?

. . .we are ALL subject to His mercy, totally dependent on His grace; utterly w/o a thing, a name, a place, w/o being itself if not for His gift of Himself to us? Yes? Good! You have affirmed the witness of Moses to the ages.

Now you are ready to hear the gospel again: to the Pharisees and scribes who were wagging their bony, accusing fingers at him for eating with tax collectors and sinners, Jesus tells them about a woman who finds her one lost coin. She calls her friends together to celebrate. Jesus says, “In just the same way there will be rejoicing among the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” Why will there be heavenly rejoicing over one sinner’s repentance? Here’s a hint: once you are found, once you are truly righteous, you are one of those in heaven rejoicing over the repentance of just one sinner. . .

Jesus did not die on the cross for the righteous. He did not come to heal the healthy, to cure the able, to save the saved. He did not take on flesh and walk among us and preach the Good News and teach the Father’s mercy. . .so that only the pure would benefit. Jesus’ life among us collected to him the blind, the deaf, the possessed, the hungry, the poor, the slave, the thrown-away, the tortured, the exiled and refugeed. He collected the leftovers, the scraps among us, those who get dropped and looked over. He also collected the clean, the well-educated, the religious, the healthy and wealthy, those lifted up and looked to, the welcomed and the celebrated. He collected women, men, children, soldiers, thieves, merchants, Gentiles and Jews, every nation, every people, every tongue. He collected them all…but he did NOT collect them b/c they were poor or enslaved or wealthy or exiled or religious. He collected them b/c they were sinners who saw in Christ the brilliance of God’s mercy, and they came to understand that they needed to repent, that they needed to turn away from their sin and walk the way God had pointed out to them.

THUS, therefore, and because then Jesus sits at table with those who need him. Surprise! The Pharisees then and our very own Pharisees now won’t sit at table for fear of contamination, for fear of becoming unclean by association. Fortunately, we know from Christ himself and from the magisterium of Mother Church that sin is not a virus nor is it a bacterium—sin is not transmitted by mere association! Grace, however, well, grace certainly is. Imagine that. The stain of sin, the impurity of disobedience is not transferable by walking among the sinful or talking to them or eating with them or even taking a class with them. And thank God for that! Otherwise, you righteous among us, imagine your life of loneliness, of isolation and utter abandon. Sure you’re clean, you’re pure but WOW according to Christ himself you are indeed unique among men. If you say you have no sin, you lie.

Let’s see if you are still agreeable. . .

Can we agree that. . .

. . .we all fall short of the glory we long for?

. . .we all walk among the thorns sometimes, that we all run with sinners on occasion?

. . .we all stumble, trip-up, go down on our knees racing to self-righteousness?

. . .we all fail to deserve Christ’s trust, Christ’s love?

. . .we all become depraved, become despised and outcast?

. . .we all—at one time or another—become arrogant, jealous, unloving, and, as a consequence, become apparently unlovable?

. . .we all need to be loved, need to be consoled, need to be lifted up in grace, gifted with God’s righteous, and made clean in Christ? Yes? Good! You have affirmed the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Now, you are ready to hear again the gospel: Deus caritas est! God is Love. God loves b/c He is Love. Love is Who He IS and what He does. He sent us His law and His prophets; and He sent His only child, a son, to become one of us so that we might become His children. God became Man so that we might share in the eternal of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. There is no other reason for the coming of Christ Jesus than this: that we might eat his Body and drink his Blood for our salvation. If you will follow him—take up your cross, stop wagging your finger at all those sinners out there, preach God’s mercy, teach his Good News in word and in deed, and put yourself in plain view of the shepherd, in easy reach of the Christ, and find yourself Found! You will be greeted as a repentant sinner, as a lost soul found and rescued.

Can we agree that Jesus is Lord? Yes? Good! Now, you are ready to be the Good News for the world. . .

14 September 2007

In name of the Father, and the Son, and the Mother-Destroyer

One of billions of Names given under heaven and on earth for our salvation:
Kali, Mother-Destroyer

The Exaltation (Triumph) of the Holy Cross: Num 21.4-9; Phil 2.6-11; John 3.13-17
Fr. Philip N. Powell, OP
St Albert the Great Priory & Church of the Incarnation

Much like the slaves recently freed from servitude in Egypt, “their patience worn out by the journey,” those called to research and teach the faith of the Church frequently give themselves over to complaining against God and “Moses”—those in authority over them. The freed slaves complain about being in the desert—no food, no water, no end to the sand and the long scorching days of wandering. Our more prominent theologians complain about a desert of sorts. They complain about the magisterium’s “version” of the faith, noting that rock-bottom fundamental doctrines, such as the Incarnation, the Resurrection, the Sacrifice of the Cross, the Blessed Trinity, are all excluding, rigid, authoritarian, privileged, and absolutist; and worse, these dogmas of faith of the Roman Catholic faith are white, European, and rational. Since these theologians are mostly slaves to fashion, they wander a desert of fleeting premises, trendy conclusions, and temporary commitments.

These theologians believe one conclusion dogmatically: the shifting sands of culture triumph over the Rock of faith everyday, all day. And so we read paragraphs like this one from Fr. Peter Phan of Georgetown: [The church would be very different] if the resources of other cultures are marshaled to reconceptualize the whole gamut of the church’s beliefs, liturgy, moral practices, and prayers. What if the God the church worships is depicted as a multi-ethnic, multi-racial, multi-colored, gender-inclusive Deity? What if Jesus is presented as the Buddha, the Guru…?[. . .] What if Mary is seen in parallel with Kwan-Yin, the Buddhist Bodhisattva of compassion? What if the Bible is read and interpreted in the context of other sacred writings such as the Hindu Bhagavad Gita, or the [Buddha-Dharma], or the [Muslim] Qur’an?” (full article)

Notice: we are to “reconceptualize the whole gamut of the Church’s beliefs, liturgy, moral practices,” etc. based not on any further revelation or a deeper understanding of the revelation we have—fulfilled and finished in Christ Jesus—no, we are to reconceive and alter the whole of our Christian faith based on the demands of alien gods, books of foreign theologies, and practices contrary to the faith. Listen again: You will have no other gods before me! Where is the uniqueness of Christ? Christ isn’t unique! There are hundreds of saviors, hordes of avatars! Where is Christ the final revelation of the Trinity? Christ is not the last word of an on-going, unfolding revelation! There are millions of unwritten bibles out there. Where is the exclusive claim that God the Father has on our allegiance as His children? Exclusive claims! We are inclusive, open, free…all the gods claim us! Are there differences in how various cultures live out their Christian faith? Of course there are! But the faith comes first. Culture is shaped by faith. Sand blows around the Rock. The Rock doesn’t shift and slide every time the wind blows!

Alright, enough of that. Why am I beating these theologians, er, I mean, dead horses? Today we celebrate the exaltation of the Holy Cross. The Triumph of the Holy Cross over sin and death. Oddly enough, we must be reminded on occasion that we owe our eternal lives to the single sacrifice of Christ on the Cross. He emptied himself. Son of God, emptied himself. Became a slave like us, for us. He humbled himself and made himself obedient to death. Even to death on a Cross—ignoble, criminal, unclean, despicable; he was executed. And because Christ did all of this freely—yes, with some anxiety, with some sense of having been betrayed…again—but because he commended his spirit to his Father for our sakes, “God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name…and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.”

Open your eyes to see, open your ears to hear: God loved His creation so much that He sacrificed His only Son, Jesus, on the cross. He did this so that everyone who believes in Christ might not die but have eternal life with Him. God did not send His only Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save us all through His Son, Christ Jesus. The final triumph of the Cross will never be the serene Buddha nailed to the wood of the cross or the gruesome Kali Destroyer sitting on the cathedral altar waiting for blood or a “gospel reading” from the elegant Koran. Never. The Son of Man, the Son of God “must be lifted up so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.” Jesus Christ—final, unique, singular, the one and only name given under heaven and on earth for our salvation.

With apologies to our impatient theologians who complain against God and Moses: to dispel any confusion, let’s hear it one more time: “God greatly exalted Christ and bestowed on Christ the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend…and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord…”

13 September 2007

Lest we forget. . .

From John Allen: Fr. Peter Phan under investigation. Read the article carefully. Fr. Phan has had two years to answer questions submitted to him by the CDF. 2 years. 24 months. 102 weeks. 730 days. What's my point here? If Fr. Phan's work is found to be inconsistent with Catholic teaching, his academic supporters will line up at the mike and denounce the CDF/Vatican Thugs for acting hastily w/o proper procedure and with an assumption that Phan is guilty. He has had the CDF's questions about his own work for two years! And he hasn't bothered to respond. I think the CDF is being very restrained.

from Dominus Iesus (which is Latin for "we don't know why we have to tell you that 2+2=4 but here it is...AGAIN!") :

1. The Lord Jesus, before ascending into heaven, commanded his disciples to proclaim the Gospel to the whole world and to baptize all nations:…"All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the world."

5. As a remedy for [the] relativistic mentality [that denies basic Christian belief], which is becoming ever more common, it is necessary above all to reassert the definitive and complete character of the revelation of Jesus Christ. In fact, it must be firmly believed that, in the mystery of Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Son of God, who is "the way, the truth, and the life,” the full revelation of divine truth is given: [. . .] "For in Christ the whole fullness of divinity dwells in bodily form.”

11. The Church's Magisterium, faithful to divine revelation, reasserts that Jesus Christ is the mediator and the universal redeemer: "The Word of God, through whom all things were made, was made flesh, so that as perfect man he could save all men and sum up all things in himself. The Lord...is he whom the Father raised from the dead, exalted and placed at his right hand, constituting him judge of the living and the dead." This salvific mediation implies also the unicity of the redemptive sacrifice of Christ, eternal high priest.

14. It must therefore be firmly believed as a truth of Catholic faith that the universal salvific will of the One and Triune God is offered and accomplished once for all in the mystery of the incarnation, death, and resurrection of the Son of God.

16. The Lord Jesus, the only Saviour, did not only establish a simple community of disciples, but constituted the Church as a salvific mystery: he himself is in the Church and the Church is in him. Therefore, the fullness of Christ's salvific mystery belongs also to the Church, inseparably united to her Lord. Indeed, Jesus Christ continues his presence and his work of salvation in the Church and by means of the Church, which is his body […]

17. Therefore, there exists a single Church of Christ, which subsists in the Catholic Church, governed by the Successor of Peter and by the Bishops in communion with him. The Churches which, while not existing in perfect communion with the Catholic Church, remain united to her by means of the closest bonds, that is, by apostolic succession and a valid Eucharist, are true particular Churches. Therefore, the Church of Christ is present and operative also in these Churches, even though they lack full communion with the Catholic Church, since they do not accept the Catholic doctrine of the Primacy, which, according to the will of God, the Bishop of Rome objectively has and exercises over the entire Church.

Thanks and Come Again

Thank You notes are going out in the mail this morning! I have been truly humbled by the generosity of my Book Benefactors. The campus ministry office staff can tell you--I am a kid on Christmas morning when the mail comes each day. . .and if nothing arrives for me, well, I get just a little pouty (just a little!!), then I get over when I pick up a great new volume of poetry or one of these tremendous volumes on medieval biblical exegesis.

U.D.'s English dept. hired a new American lit professor this semester, Dr. Andrew Osborn. Dr. Osborn earned his Ph.D. at UTAustin and also holds an MFA in poetry from Iowa (the #1 ranked creative writing program in the world). I am hoping that Dr. Osborn will be able to set up a workshop or two here at U.D. in the very near future (i.e., "near enough" for me to take one). And I'm hoping he and I will be able to work together on our writing...though, I have to say, given Dr. Osborn's education and experience in writing poetry, I am getting the better end of this deal (sssshhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. . .)

Check out the POETRY for Fr. Philip Wish List and you will find two recent additions to the list. These two books are designed to help writers get started, get focused and stay creative. You would be amazed at how useful some of these unexpected writing prompts can be!

Happy Thursday & God Bless-- Fr. Philip, OP

12 September 2007

Learning the Extraordinary Form

As always, Fr. Z. brings us the Good News:

Priest Training Latin Mass [sic] Workshops Announced

Bellevue, WA, Sept. 11, 2007 – The Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, in collaboration with Una Voce America, in response to overwhelming popular demand is happy the announce two additional workshops for training priests in the "Extraordinary Form" of the Roman Rite, to be conducted at Our Lady of Guadalupe Seminary during the Fall Semester of 2007. The first workshop will take place from Friday, October 5th through Tuesday, October 9th. The second will take place from Friday, November 2nd through Tuesday, November 6th. Available placements are limited so priests are urged to contact the seminary at their earliest convenience. The cost for each of these five day workshops is $300.00. All the fundamentals involved in learning the Traditional Latin Mass will be covered. Priests will receive a complete explanation with hands-on practice of the rubrics of the 1962 Missale Romanum as well as an introduction to Latin, traditional liturgical principles, and Sung Mass. A comprehensive materials packet will be provided including translations of the rubrics, audio CD’s with the recited texts of Low Mass and Celebrant’s chant for Sung Mass, and a demonstration DVD with examples of both Low and Solemn Mass.

To receive more information or to make a reservation, interested priests should contact:

Fr. Goodwin at (402) 797-7700 or email: seminary@fsspolgs.org

or write to: Attn: Mass Workshops, O.L.G. Seminary, P.O. Box 147, Denton, NE. 68339.

+ + + + + + +

No doubt individual priests and the good men of the FSSP could use some monetary assistance in pulling off this tremendous work. Please consider contacting Fr. Goodwin and offering to establish scholarships for needy priests wishing to learn the E.F. I'm sure he would be grateful for any donations made to the seminary as well. I met some of the FSSP seminarians on my summer trip to Serra Club convention in Atlanta, GA. Just solid young men! I had to resist the temptation, however, to check their I.D.'s. . .they are were all about 14 yrs old! :-)

11 September 2007

Woe is me...

IF only!

Mea culpa! Mea culpa!

I am WAY behind in sending out Thank You notes for all of the books I've received in the last three weeks.

My only excuse: Homer and his Iliad! (And preaching and teaching classes and marriage prep and confessions and staff meetings and three upcoming university-wide service projects and Serra Club duties and napping and watching Star Trek and goofing off on facebook and and and. . . .

O! Woe is me! (hehehehehehe. . .)

09 September 2007

Dogs of the Lord in Poland (WOOF!)

Dominicans in Poland

This Youtube vid of our Polish Dominican brothers is amazing! I have no idea what the captions say or what the song is about, but the images are fantastic. A friar told me once that in virtue of numbers alone, the Dominicans in Poland represent the future of the Order in Europe. My guess is that the OP's in Poland have maintained high standards for fidelity to Church teachings and Dominican traditions. This has all but guaranteed us a future in Europe.

St. Dominic is providing his Order with fresh faces and new voices for a faithful future.

Homepage for the Polish Province: Here.

Ready to be a convict?

23rd Sunday OT: Wis 9.13-18; Phil 9-10, 12-17; Luke 14.25-33
Fr. Philip N. Powell, OP
St. Albert
the Great Priory & The Church of the Incarnation, Irving, TX

Listen here!*

To lay a foundation for your faith, to plot out a plan for your successful growth in holiness, you must hate your mother, father, your wife, your husband, the children, your siblings, and even your own life; you must pick up and carry the cross handed to you and follow after Christ to the city dump and die an ignoble death as an unjustly convicted criminal; and you must renounce all of your possessions, anything you possess and everything that possesses you—stacked up stuff, ideas, habits, people, places, patterns of thought, passions, excuses, reasons. Everything.

Likely, you along with the rest of us slackers, while trying to build a holy life, will find yourself ridiculed by onlookers who shout: “HA! You guys started to build holy lives but you do not have the resources to finish!” Out of charity, we refrain from pinging them up side the head with a hammer. However, our anger at being ridiculed cannot burn away the knowing in our longing hearts that our poverty of spirit is not the blessing of the Beatitude: “Blessed are the poor in spirit…” No, our poverty, our lacking is a neglect and a failure and most likely the final bloom of cowardice.

Is this too harsh? Too difficult to hear? Am I just being mean? Jesus has just told the crowd following him that none of them can become his disciple unless they are ready to hate their families, die on the cross, and renounce all of their possessions. Is Jesus being harsh? Difficult? Just plain mean? Jesus is telling them and us the truth of what it means to be his disciple. What he is describing to them and to us is not a list of pre-conditions that we must meet before we become his disciples. He is telling us what we must be prepared for if we become his disciples. In other words, he is telling us this: “Come be my disciple. But know this: to be my disciple means forsaking those you love, dying with me on a cross, and separating from everything in favor of preaching the gospel. If you can handle that, then come on! If not, don’t bother b/c though you may start as my disciple, you won’t end that way.”

This teaching should be both familiar and confusing. Familiar in that you have no doubt heard this gospel passage read many times, quoted by spiritual directors and pastors, and probably printed on a prayer card or a poster. This teaching is likely confusing b/c it resembles nothing that we have been taught in the last thirty years or so. How many of us have heard that loving Christ, doing his will, teaching and preaching his gospel will likely get us thrown out of the family, hanged on a cross, and left destitute? Our contemporary Catholic Jesus is a mild-mannered social worker with a tendency to be a bit grandiose. Ultimately, he is harmless and urges us on in our efforts to build a community of spiritual consensus around vague notions like “justice,” “peace,” and “love”—none of which, of course, are very clearly defined in terms of Truth and all of which seem always to end up looking very political with a strangely partisan glow about them. Floaty Platonic Forms circling in the sky like ideological clouds never touch us down here, so Jesus says outrageous things like: “…anyone of you who does not renounce all of this possessions cannot be my disciple.” How strange that our mild-mannered social engineer with a utopian fetish seems so eager to exclude, to divide and conquer, and to set families against their members.

What does Jesus want from us? The quick answer: everything, all of it. The more complicated answer: Christ knows what lies ahead for him; he knows the Way he must travel is pockmarked with deadly-dangerous people, perilous trials, and a bloody end on the cross. And he knows that we who look to him now as the Christ—the one who satisfies our hunger for holiness, the one who heals our fractured lives—he knows that we will be sorely seduced, tempted beyond resistance to follow him, to walk behind him even now. And like his disciples then we find ourselves now in his increasingly seditious company. His disciples worsen their plight then if they, once seduced by his feast of grace, decide to be baptized, taught, and sent out as preachers of the Good News. What they had to be told then and we must be told now is that in order to survive spiritually, to keep the faith and to grow in holiness, they and we must want nothing but Christ, desire nothing but Christ, long for nothing and no one but Christ! Our hearts exclusively focused on Jesus; our minds thinking first and last of Christ; our bodies ready to be beaten, torn, burned, and killed for his sake and as a witness to the power and truth of the gospel, then we are prepared in this age or any age to be his faithful students. Christ died to give us the resources we need to finish building our righteous lives. Will we follow?

We must know and be warned: Jesus’ band of preachers and prophets and priests and kings is no merry band of do-gooders and smiley-faced bourgeois social engineers. They are men and women who were and will be, like Paul, imprisoned for the gospel. Made slaves of the Truth. Sworn to the Good. And brought to Beauty, brought to Him face-to-face. “And thus were the paths of those on earth set right.” And thus will our paths be made right.

I said earlier that our spiritual poverty, our lacking in strength is a neglect and a failure and most likely the final bloom of cowardice. Jesus knew that those who loved him as a teacher would betray him at his end. He knew he would die without his students. Despite his dreadful warning, they signed on and followed him. . .until following him required a price. But he knew this too, and he freely went to his death for them despite their cowardice, despite their failure of heart. In fact, he went to his death b/c of their cowardice. How else could he return and set them on fire with his Holy Spirit? The book of Wisdom is right about us: our deliberations are timid and our plans unsure, and we are weighed down with corruptible bodies and minds loaded with daily, yearly, and life-long worries. But we choose these; they are our decisions. And though we can scarcely understand the things of the earth and though we find difficult even that which is within our grasp, our Way has been set right by Christ. Now, will you follow him? Will you walk his Way? Sorrowful AND joyous!

Let’s end here: what do you love more than God? Who do you love more than God? What cross has been handed to you? Will you pick it up? Will you carry it? What possesses you? Who owns you? Will you claim the resources Christ died to give you? And finally, will you leave the prison of sin you have put yourself in so that you may be imprisoned in Christ?

If so, follow him.

*The low hum in the background is a fan I am using to keep me from dying of heat exhaustion while saying Mass. It will be a regular feature from now on. If it becomes too much of a distraction, let me know.