14 December 2007

Not for just any reason...

St. John of the Cross: 1 Cor 2.1-10 and Luke 14.25-33
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
Church of the Incarnation, Univ. of Dallas

A great crowd travels around with Jesus. In this crowd are the intellectually interested, the superstitiously curious; those hungry for bread and holiness; those thirsty for hope and some good news. Traveling with him are those who beg his healing touch, his soothing word. Some truly believe, some only half-believe but are willing to gamble. Still others are itching for a magic show; or eager for some violence, wait on the Romans to show up and give Jesus and his heretical cadre a good beating. Jesus knows their hearts, their minds. He knows their needs and their ambitions. He also know what it will take for any one of them to truly Follow his Way…as opposed merely traveling with him. Always intent on telling the truth, he turns to them and says, “If anyone comes to me without hating his [family and friends] and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple […] everyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple.” Disappointment, anger, frustration, fear, despair—all of these must surged out of the crowd and washed over our Lord as he stood there simply speaking the truth: nothing merely human—not wisdom or curiosity or desperate need—provides sufficient reason or support for picking up a cross and following Christ. Why then would anyone shoulder a cross and struggle behind a man condemned to a criminal’s death?

Paul writes to the Corinthians, confessing to them that when he came to them, “proclaiming the mystery of God, I did not come [to you] with sublimity of words or of wisdom […] I came to you in weakness and fear and much trembling […], not with persuasive words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of spirit and power…” Exactly! Paul went to the Corinthians to show them God not to argue for God or to sway them to God with florid rhetoric. It was human wisdom that he sought to overthrow—the narrow, servile, belly-centered idolatry of the Self that held the Corinthians in slavery to sin. Paul understood as a matter of his own experience and history that no philosophy, no argument, no scholastic allegiance could persuade him to pick up voluntarily a cross and walk behind Jesus, the condemned rebel and King of the Jews. What Paul understood as a matter of his experience and history is that following Christ to his cross and beyond is a matter of “spirit and power,” a matter of finding yourself unfinished, incomplete and desiring, longing from the very roots of your being to be finished, to be completed. How can you be convinced to desire your completion? How can anyone persuade us to seek out our perfection, especially when our lack of perfection, the incompleteness of our lives is so obviously and painfully debilitating?

Why then would anyone shoulder a cross and struggle behind a man condemned to a criminal’s death? For the stark and perhaps terrifying reason that to do anything else leaves us barren, stunted, and wanting. Can you imagine needing to follow Christ? Needing to find yourself behind him? Is that need about intellectual assent? Is that need about cataloging propositional assertions of doctrine? No! Our need for Christ is the need of the starving for food, the need of the lonely for friends, the need of the imprisoned for hope. This is why Jesus seemly sets the bar so high to become his disciple…. not out of elitism or a desire to torment us, but rather out of what he knows to be the cost of satisfying—truly satiating—the gnawing emptiness that only he can fill.

It is his life, his death that quiets our need; his life, his death that feeds our broken lives what they need.

12 December 2007

The Door!

Thanks to Mark Shea I have rediscovered The Wittenburg Door!

Way back in the 80's when I was a LibProt, I subscribed to the Door. The mag was quite literally a photocopied, hand-folded, black and white typed (yes, TYPED!) little rag that put me on the floor laughing every time.

Fair warning: if you don't have a sense of humor about religion. . .avoid this site at all costs. You will NOT be amused.

From the site:

Top 10 Reasons For Subscribing to The Wittenburg Door:

10. You can’t spell Wittenberg either.

9. You can’t tell the serious interviews from the real ones.

8. You want to become part of a grand tradition: the few, the proud, the theologically confused.

7. Because humor has coexisted with religion since Balaam conversed with his ass. (Numbers 23: 28-31)

6. You may go to hell if you don’t.

5. There are no dirty pictures (with the sole exception of the 1996 Polaroid of W.V. Grant’s bare ass, which is not to be confused with the ass in Numbers 23).

4. The only dirty words are safely hidden in King James verses (see repeated juvenile references to Numbers 23).

3. Your mother told you not to.

2. You can discover the only person in your town likely to go on a date with you (based on our demographic profile of roughly 1.8 readers per city).

1. If you come here all the time and never subscribe to the magazine, your name and contact information will be given to a Benny Hinn telephone prayer counselor who believes you’re a billionaire.

11 December 2007

Lupe! Pray for us...

Prayer to Our Lady of Guadalupe

Our Lady of Guadalupe, mystical rose, intercede for the Church, protect the Holy Father, help all who invoke you in their necessities. Since you are the ever Virgin Mary and Mother of the true God, obtain for us from your most holy Son the grace of a firm and a sure hope amid the bitterness of life, as well as an ardent love and the precious gift of final perseverance.
In the spring of 1981, I went with my junior Spanish class to Mexico City. During a visit to the newly opened shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, I received my vocation to the priesthood. It took me seventeen years to finally say yes to God's call. . .and I am very happy to have come to my senses!

I consider Guadalupe my Patroness and ask for her intercession with our Lord for the health and safety of family in Mississippi and my friends all over the world...

Philosophy humor


Hilarious philosophy humor: Kant vs. Nietzsche: Who's Better for America?

I'm still sitting on the fence. . .maybe Aquinas will make a late entry on the Libertarian Party ticket!

Remember: moderation in all things. . .including moderation.

10 December 2007

Our faith, your healing

2nd Week Advent (M): Isa 35.1-10 and Luke 5.17-26
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St Albert the Great Priory

In his 1944 existentialist play, No Exit, French philosopher, Jean-Paul Sartre declared, “Hell is other people.” On one of the last episodes of Angel, the main character, Angel, a vampire with a soul turned private detective, the one who dated Buffy on her show, acquires a magical ring that allows him to travel to Hell where he intends to confront Satan himself. In a not-so-Dantesque device, he rides a service elevator straight down to Hell itself. After a lengthy ride down, the doors open, our hero is poised to do battle with every kind of vile demon imaginable. Instead, when the doors open we see the exact same street scene we saw when our hero got in the elevator. Apparently, Hell is wherever you are and the demons we battle do not always live in That Special Place. One more: that wonderful Twilight Zone episode with Anthony Burgess. Burgess plays an impatient, bespectacled misanthrope librarian who just wants to be left alone to read his books. War breaks out and he survives the destruction of mankind. He rejoices b/c, as the last man on Earth, he now has all the time he needs to read. While celebrating on the steps of the New York Public Library, he fall and breaks his only pair of glasses. Perhaps Hell is no other people.

Jesus teaches his disciples that there is a connection to be made between sin and sickness. He heals the paralyzed man by forgiving him his sins. This causes the persnickety Pharisees to fall all over themselves accusing him of blasphemy for daring to presume that he can forgive anyone’s sin. The point of the scene is to show us Christ’s healing power and to reinforce his claim that he is the Messiah. That’s evident. But what we might overlook is the small detail that makes this scene truly instructive. The paralyzed man is carried by his friends to the house where Jesus is teaching. Because they cannot reach him through the crowd, they climb over the crowd to the roof of the house and lower the man through the ceiling on a stretcher. The man’s friends lower him to rest directly in front of Christ as he preaches. Luke writes, “When Jesus saw their faith, he said [to the man] ‘As for you, your sins are forgiven.’” Did you catch that?

The genius of our faith is the bizarre religious notion we borrow from our Jewish ancestors that we are saved as a body and not as individuals—as a nation, a people, a tribe and not as Me Alone. We are in-corp-orated—that is, embodied—into the Body of Christ through baptism. We live out our spiritual lives by attending to the regularly celebrated public sacraments of the Church. Jesus heals the paralyzed man not because the man is particularly pious or holy or because he is a great benefactor of Jesus’ ministry. Jesus heals the man of his sin and sickness because of the faith of his friends! Their trust in God, their hope in the healing power of truth and mercy, their love of their friend moves Jesus to act.

Quite literally, the man’s friends “make straight the path of the Lord” and they walk that path straight to Jesus, carrying their paralyzed friend. So that the Pharisees might know that he is who he says he is, our Lord, says to the man, “I say to you, rise, pick up your stretcher, and go home.” And he does, thus letting us all, all flesh, all nations see the salvation of God. Sartre would have seen these men and their love for him as Hell. Angel would have walked into that house and observed a mundane image of the devil’s lair. Our librarian friend with the broken glasses would regret his impatience and long for someone to read to him. In their isolation and despair, these men would find their “definitive self-exclusion from the presence of God.”

We cannot come to Christ alone. We cannot baptize ourselves. Forgive our own sins. Nor can we bear witness to God’s healing power if we stand alone. Therefore, let astonishment seize you and glorify God to all flesh, all nations. Though you have seen incredible things up til now, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

09 December 2007

Book Apologia

Just a few minutes ago I rejected an anonymous comment made on my post, "Shameless Christmas Book Begging."

The commenter criticized me for spending so much time on this site asking readers to purchase books for me. Fair enough. I'll address this below.

The commenter also made a comment about my future assignment in Rome that leads me to conclude that the commenter can only be a fellow Dominican-- one w/o the guts to sign his name. Very sad indeed.

I rejected the comment b/c it uncharitably speculated about my superiors motivations for assigning me to the Angelicum in Rome. 'Nuff said.

Now, do I book-beg too much? Yes, I do. Or, rather, I beg more than people are probably used to hearing priests/religious beg. But here's what you need to know:

1). As a mendicant, I am supposed to beg. I could set up a donate button and harp on that.

2). No one is required to buy me anything. In fact, if I had to guess I would say that 90% of the books purchased for me in the last two years have come from the same ten readers.

3). No one is required to read the "begging posts." Just skip them.

4). Many readers have written to tell me that they have found excellent books of poetry and theology from looking at my lists.

5). I frequently get emails from readers asking me what I want or could use for Christmas/birthday/ feastday, etc. It's prudent to have a gift registry ready to go.

6). I get books sent to me that aren't on my list.

7). The books I have received from benefactors are books I would have purchased for myself anyway. It would have taken longer given the amount we receive per month for a stipend. . .

8). All of the books I have on my lists are for my professional development and the benefit of those who read/listen to my homilies. My university students also frequently benefit from the gifts I receive here b/c I use the texts in class lectures.

Thanks for the great books! Keep 'em comin'!

God bless, Fr. Philip, OP