25 July 2009

Ruling as slaves from an emptied tomb

St James the Apostle: 2 Cor 4.7-15; Matt 20.20-28
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
Sisters of St Mary of Namur

None of us can claim—come the end of this life—that we didn't know. We knew. How could we not? It's not in the fine print or in the interpretation. There's no need to guess or wonder. Jesus says again and again that following him is a dangerous gamble against the probability that trial and tribulation await us. That you will bear a heavy cross and find yourself nailed to it is the best bet you can make. Your cross may be intensely private or spectacularly public; you may be nailed to a physical or mental affliction or, quite literally, to an actual cross—or a prison cell or by a bullet. However you end, by whatever means you are lifted up on the cross, you will not go alone. Nor will you go in any way bound. Paul writes to the Corinthians: “We are afflicted in every way, but not constrained; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed...” Afflicted, perplexed, and persecuted, we are nonetheless freed from constraint, despair, and destruction. So long as we “always carry about in the body the dying of Jesus,” we carry the hope of God's “surpassing power,” the treasures of a life—an eternal life—lived in Christ. But first, we must drink from his chalice “so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh.” The most delicate sip is death. But what must die for us to live?

The mother of James and John pushes her sons to the front of the apostolic line, pushing past the other disciples in the hope that Jesus might secure their positions as leaders in the kingdom to come. We can almost hear the sorrow in Jesus' voice when he says, “You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the chalice that I am going to drink?” Perhaps a little apprehensive or embarrassed, or maybe sensing that their elevation is at hand, James and John respond, “We can.” Though they believe that they are about to take their places of honor, Jesus tells them that to rule is to serve: “...whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave.” Jesus is doing more here than turning his students' expectations about inherited social power upside-down. He is telling them—all of them and us as well—that we best live a life of authority, power, and influence when we die to self in him and rise again with him to serve God by being slaves to one another for his sake. We will rule, but we will rule as slaves from a throne built on an emptied tomb.

Remember what Paul teaches the Corinthians, so long as we “always carry about in the body the dying of Jesus,” we carry the hope of God's “surpassing power.” What power we receive from carrying in our bodies the dying and rising again of Christ is not the power of princes or merchants; it is not the authority of law or money. The power we wield when we live as both tombs for his resurrected body and tabernacles of his abiding presence is the “spirit of faith,” the fire, the force, the nerve of believing, trusting, and hoping in the audacious truth that we are once again free to live as the children of his Father. From this truth, all blessings flow in abundance.

What must flow from us then? Paul points to the Psalms: “I believed, therefore I spoke.” Because we strive to live in the spirit of faith, we speak the Word and do his work as servants not kings, as slaves not masters. We are raised from a living-death to a life in Christ to work as stewards of the kingdom, proxies for heaven, prophets and priests at the altar, offering ourselves as sacrifice for the salvation of the world. We know this. How could we not? Our Lord hangs on his cross for us; he is raised from his tomb for us; he sits at the right hand of the Father for us. Though we are afflicted, perplexed, and persecuted, we are nonetheless freed from constraint, despair, and destruction. We are free to serve in the spirit of faith; and so, believing ,we speak; trusting, we work, hoping, we become hope and rule as the least of his, if we but will it.

Oppositional Conformity

Had to share this. . .

Researcher Condemns Conformity Among His Peers (NYT: Science)

“Academics, like teenagers, sometimes don’t have any sense regarding the degree to which they are conformists.”

So says Thomas Bouchard, the Minnesota psychologist known for his study of twins raised apart, in a retirement interview with Constance Holden in the journal Science.

Journalists, of course, are conformists too. So are most other professions. There’s a powerful human urge to belong inside the group, to think like the majority, to lick the boss’s shoes, and to win the group’s approval by trashing dissenters.

[. . .]

I remember when I first realized that even rebels have their need for conformity. I was teaching a freshman writing class in 1994. Several of my students had adopted the Standard Issue Grunge Uniform for College Students. They had also adopted the Standard Issue Anti-establishment Opposition Ideology (SIAOI). One student loudly denounced the frat-boy mentality of the university and went on to articulate all the talking points of the comfortable academic Left. Of course, at the time, I was delighted. But being constitutionally contrarian ,I challenged his points and noted (to my own amazement) that his dress and ideas were formed very precisely AS a way of opposing the establishment. Wasn't it reasonable to suggest that his whole outlook (and outfit) was determined by the frat boys he claimed to loathe?

In my long experience in the academic world, I can bear unflinching witness to the fact that perhaps the only group more conformist than leftist academics resides in barracks and salutes superior officers.

24 July 2009

We are all farmers now

16th Week OT: Ex 20.1-17; Matt 13.18-23
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
Sisters of St Mary of Namur

Having cleared the field of brambles and bush and dug out all the stumps and stones; and having spread barrels of composted mulch and wet undigested leaves over the never-before tilled up ground; and having taken the measure of the field with stake, string, and poor eyesight, the farmer now considers whether it is better to plant this spring's seed in neatly planned rows or to sow the seed in handfuls and let nature's chance decide this garden's most fertile design. A garden expertly rowed is kept freer of parasites and weeds. But nature's design is more fruitful, yielding more, if less perfect, fruit. Weeds and parasites need their homes too. But should it fall to the farmer to labor for the livelihoods of aphids, worms, and the contagious dandelion? How ought he to sow this season's seed? He knows that the ground is in some places rich and in others sandy; in some places there is only a lighting shading of potash coating gravel, and in others a few square feet of deep, black dirt. No matter how he chooses to sow, some of the sparing seed will multiply and blossom, and some will fall between the stones and dry brittle-dead. Knowing now what he must do, the farmer reaches into his bag of seed and begins. . .

Much like this contemplative farmer, our Creator looked upon His creation and considered the most fruitful means of planting the seeds of His saving Word. With Moses waiting on His presence at Mt Sinai, our Lord chose to sow His seed in the neatly measured rows of the Law, carving for His people a garden of commandments in stone. With the seed planted and prophets sent as gardeners to the field to pull the weeds, the harvest, in full bloom and ready for the reaper, produced twelve tribes, a nation, and a priesthood. But this abundant yield was not enough. The hard labor of the prophets and the dedicated work of the priests could not help every seed find fertile ground. The fields must be better prepared, the seed made more robust, and the work of a few given to many, many more.

Making good on His plan to increase the yield of every season's harvest, our Lord planted one seed, a single germ of His Word, in the fields of the world. Knowing that even this divine seed might fall on dead ground, He sent His chief gardener, John, to better prepare the soil. John baptized the rows with water. He watered the open ground. He watered the wilderness and the deserts. And all the while, he announced the imminent planting of the Father's single seed. And when that seed came among the fields, he watered him too. Within days, this seed produced twelve more and those twelve grew a harvest of thousands. Those thousands grew to millions and those millions grow even now to billions.

As gardeners of the Lord's fields should we be more fervent about sowing the seed of the Gospel or a field's ultimate harvest? Should we spend the days of a season weeding weeds and crushing parasites, or preparing more ground, sowing more seed? Some fields receive seed more readily in neatly planned rows. Others produce better fruit among thriving competitors. Parasites can fertilize a dull field, building the strength of the soil in the struggle to survive. However, a field left untended will go wild and produce nothing more than inedible, native fruit. As gardeners, what is the work we must do? And what do work do we leave to the spirit of God? Can we leave a dead field unseeded. Can we coax infertile soil to grow fertile seed? Can we ever abandon a field as hopelessly barren? Not this season. Not today.

Our work is the work of broadcasting the Word, flinging handfuls of ripe seed to the fields of the world. Row up rows if you like. Or sling your bagful of seeds to the wind and watch them settle where they may. You can tend the ground with water and mulch, or take it as you find it. On the day of harvest, the last task, the final work is the Lord's. It is for him to judge the quality of the fruit. Our job is to make sure the seeds are well-planted and tended to the limits of our gifts. Come evening, the farmer's reward is always worth the work of his day.

23 July 2009

How high is too high? (UPDATE)

Oops. . .

One of the nurses at the sisters' convent took my B.P. this morning: 172/110.

Is that too high?


[NB. A reader asked, "Are you kidding?" I am not kidding about the BP reading. I am kidding when I ask whether or not this reading is too high. It is.]

UPDATE: Thanks to all the folks who left comments. . .I am doing fine. There are at least two factors immediately contributing to the spike in my BP: 1) almost six days w/o my HBP meds; 2) adjusting to a less-than-wholesome diet, i.e. something less than the stripped down, no fast food diet of Rome. I seriously doubt my daily intake of biscuits and pork gravy and the six cuban cigars I smoke everyday have anything to do with it. ;-)

Occult knowledge, hidden treasure

16th Week OT (Thur): Ex 19.1-20; Matt 13.10-17
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
Sisters of St Mary of Namur

If you were ask a corporate communications expert to rate the efficiency of using parables as a means of training new company executives, she would likely rate this particular pedagogical method somewhat several notches below zero. Parables are inherently vague and thus subject to a variety of potentially conflicting interpretations. Not good for the bottom-line. Of course, the business world has its own problems with using plain language to convey important ideas: action item, buzz-worthy, incent, pushback, and monetize. The grammatical sin of nouning verbs and verbing nouns has turned our beloved English language into a viper's nest, a linguistic Sodom and Gomorrah. Even in Catholic religious life we fall to the lusts of the demon-god, Jar-gon: missional, outreaching, lived-experience, and re-visioning. As the teacher of a New Way to God, Jesus relied on ancient images, old words; he taught his disciples using familiar metaphors and comfortable similes. He also used the dodgiest of all teaching methods, the parable. Though sometimes tempting listeners to hear and hold contradictory interpretations, parables provide at least one vital service to the preaching of the Gospel: room to grow and flourish out of the fertile ground of a Biblical witness. Those who hear hear the ancient story of God's loving-kindness for His people. They hear Him offering to anyone who will listen and answer the deal of an eternal life-time.

The early Church was challenged by a variety of gnostic sects that laid claim to “occult knowledge” of Jesus' teaching. Claiming to know the hidden truth of our Lord's teachings, these first-century New Agers read today's gospel passage from Matthew and argued that not just anyone could hear the parables and understand them—one must have the secret keys to unlock the parables' treasures. Those without the key may “look but do not see and hear but do not listen or understand.” The gurus of the gnostic sects thought they alone possessed the keys to unlock the kingdom's mysteries. They were willing to share. . .for a price, of course. The orthodox faith of the apostolic Fathers is offered to all for free. Just look and listen.

When asked why he uses parables to teach the crowds, Jesus answers: “Because knowledge of the mysteries of the Kingdom of heaven has been granted to you, but to them it has not been granted.” How quickly do we draw the wrong conclusions from the fact that the disciples are given special knowledge? Too quickly. True, the disciples are given special access to “knowledge of the mysteries.” Special access not exclusive access. Because they have been given much, they receive more. But they receive more because they have freely received all that Christ has given them. A gift is not a gift until it is received as a gift. Bribes, compensation for work, incentives—none of these is a gift. They all describe monetary exchanges for services or stuff. Jesus says that access to the mysteries is granted to all who first receive the gift of seeing and hearing the goodness and beauty of God's everlasting gift of recreation in divine love. Those who listen to his parables with ears blessed by an abiding hope in him hear the truth play like an orchestra. To understand we must first believe.

Parables cannot obscure the vision of those who receive and use God's gifts. Freely given and freely received, God's graces sharpen the eyes and unstop the ears. The truths of salvation embedded in the metaphors and similes of Jesus' parables jump out at the faithful heart. Longing to be grasped and put to use, these truths thrive abundantly in the soil of an obedient soul. There are no riddles or puzzles to solve. No secret codes to decipher or mysterious occult rituals to perform. The keys to our Father's treasure-house hang freely on the hook of faith. First, trust in His Word of Life and then take away with as much gold as you can carry. The test of the true apostle is this: how much of that gold will you surrender to those who hunger for the health and wealth of His love?

22 July 2009

Parlay vue Fransay?

Can anyone out there suggest a good beginner's text for learning to read French?

I don't need to speak French. . .just learn enough grammar to pass a translation test using a dictionary.

Thanks, Fr. Philip

Running ahead of the Lord

Mary Magdalen: Ex 16.1-5, 9-15; John 20.1-2, 11-18
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
Sisters of St Mary of Namur

The former provincial of the friars in England, Allen White, quotes a homily preached by Dominican mystic and philosopher, Meister Eckhart: “There are some who follow God: these are the perfect. Others walk close by God, at His side: these are the imperfect. But there are those others who run in front of God, and these are the wicked.” Fr. White then argues that “the true place for a disciple is not in front, not even alongside, but behind.” I dare say that our sister, Mary Magdalen, in her mourning at the tomb and upon seeing her Lord alive, would disagree—the true disciple lives by clinging to the resurrected Christ. Fortunately, for a world primed to receive its consummation in the ascension of Christ to his Father, Jesus knows that holding on to him will not bring his Word to the waiting world. He tells Mary, “Stop holding on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and tell them, 'I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'” And Mary, always the obedient disciple and friend of Jesus, does just that: “[She] announced to the disciples, 'I have seen the Lord...'” Of course, our brother, Allan White; our sister, Mary Magdalen; and our Lord Jesus are all correct. First, seduced by truth and awed in love, we follow behind Christ as his disciples. Then, knowing that he is risen and relieved that our mourning is at an end, we cling to him resurrected. Finally, in obedience and with hearts nearly splitting in joy, we go out to preach, announcing for all to hear: “The tomb is empty! We have seen the Lord!” What we cannot do is run ahead of God.

As one of the patronesses of the Order of Preachers, Mary Magdalen is often styled “the First Preacher,” “the Apostle to the Apostles.” She is sent to those who were sent to announce that Christ has left his tomb alive and well and is making his way to the Father. She reports to the apostles “what [Christ] told her.” We might call this report the “First Post-resurrection Homily”! Though Mary Magdalen ran ahead of the other women to complete her mission, she did not—indeed cannot—run ahead of the Lord. As a woman who follows behind Christ as a disciple and as a mourner who clings to him at the tomb, Mary brings her vocation as an apostle to its fulfillment by running alongside Jesus as the first preacher of his victory over death. Mary runs to the Twelve with the Word of Victory; a herald like John, she trumpets the resurrected Lord's advent, his coming again to this life before going back to his Life Eternal with the Father.

Let the apostle of the resurrection, Mary Magdalen, be our template, our exemplar. We cannot run ahead of God. We are not grasping for God when we overreach His saving Word; instead we find ourselves running headlong into self-serving fantasy and deadly deceit. Attempting to live beyond the beauty of His truth,—uniquely and finally revealed in Christ—we do nothing more than establish a virtual life of ego-made slavery to whim, trend, and chaos. Mary clings to her resurrected Lord and calls him “Teacher.” His constant lesson to anyone who will follow is: come to the Father by doing His will. . .anything less is idolatry—the worship of impermanent things, alienating philosophies; the celebrity we confer on false prophets and gurus; and the pleasure we get from works done in the name of own sense of justice. We cannot run ahead of God and be his faithful preachers.

If you have ever found yourself panicked by the apparent absence of the Lord in your family, your convent, your Church, your own life, weeping at what might look like an abandoned tomb and crying out, “They have taken my Lord, and I don't know where they laid him,” remind yourself of this: I followed behind the Lord as his disciple. I clung to him at his his resurrection. Then ask yourself: Am I running to those who hunger for his Word to announce the advent of New Life in him, or am I missing his presence because I am running ahead of his saving Word, leaving behind everything I have been taught, everything that I know to be the truth. If you were to stand still for a moment and look behind you, would you see his 21st century students following your obedient example, or would you see the Lord in the distance, calling you back to walk again victorious at his side?

21 July 2009

Generosity & Humility

As I proceed along the difficult path toward completing my thesis in philosophy of science and religion, I am--as always--deeply grateful to my Book Benefactors for their support.

Recent activity on the WISH LIST keeps me humble in the face of such generosity!

Many, many thanks. . .I will offer tomorrow's Mass for the intentions of those who have been so kind in sending me these much-needed books.

Fr. Philip, OP

Do you duck, run, or do His will?

16th Week OT (Tues): Ex 14.21-15.1; Matt 12.46-50
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
Sisters of St Mary of Namur

How does a woman become a mother? Or a man a brother? How do any of us become who we are in relation to someone else? Why does it matter who we are related to? Beyond knowing who shares our genetic material in a family—and who might be able to donate a kidney—familial relationships grant to each an identity beyond the self. In spite of modernist efforts to rip us as individuals out by our historical roots, we are not just “a me” freely floating in an abstracted social space. Each of us is “a me” grounded in “an us” and granted the liberty to branch out even further into a more generous “we.” The “we” all of us enjoy as members of a family comes about through conception and birth; we are given to a particular man and woman through pro-creation. Through no fault of our own, we have the families we have in virtue of Mother Nature's spinning the genetic roulette wheel. The genes land where they land and here we are, complete with a lineage, a heritage, and an inheritance. We do not choose our families nor can we truly leave them behind. What then does Jesus mean to teach us when we says, “...whoever does the will of my heavenly Father is my brother, and sister, and mother”?

The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob picks out the Hebrew slaves in Egypt to be His people, His nation. He is their uncreated origin, and they are—by design and covenant—His children. Like a father, God leads, teaches, disciplines, and provides for His children. He frees them from slavery, marching them across the desert to a place promised them as their own. Once in the promised land, the children establish a nation, a family grounded in the sacrificial worship of their Father under a revealed Law. Though they are ruled on earth by a priesthood and a king, they are ruled from heaven by the One Who took dirt and breathed into each a divine breath. With the words of the prophets, God's family moves inexorably toward the coming of His kingdom, a dominion governed by His Son, the promised Christ. Those not chosen by God to be members of His people are called Gentiles, unclean outsiders, those not of the covenant. In this closed family there is no way in except by the accident of one's birth and one's adherence to the Law once born.

When Jesus makes the shocking claim that “...whoever does the will of my heavenly Father is my brother, and sister, and mother,” he is directly undermining the fundamental rock of the older covenant; he is teaching those who follow him that God's family is no longer made up of those born to the Hebrews, those who follow the Law of Moses. Being a son or daughter in the divine family is now a matter of will, of aligning one's intended purpose and daily acts with the revealed will of the Father. Do His will, become a child of His kingdom. It is really not possible to overemphasize the truly radical nature of this teaching. Jesus is upending centuries of deeply carved instinct and practice. The unclean, the outsiders, those not of the covenant are offered the chance to join God's family not only as members but as heirs, beneficiaries of His earthly treasure and heavenly wisdom.

A good Jewish boy, like a good southern boy, knows that he risks endangering his life by saying things like, “Who is my mother?” There is no way to speak this question without simultaneously ducking for cover. Even as he speaks, he can hear the wind of the cast-iron skillet whizzing toward his head. And he can hear the indignant voice of his mother yelling, “I'll tell you who spent nineteen hours in labor giving birth to your smart mouth!” Jesus risks the skillet and his own mother's hurt when he denies her to the crowd. For us, the risk is more than worth the price of a bruised motherly ego and a bump on the head. It is worth our inheritance as sons and daughters of a infinitely generous Father. It is worth “me” given the chance to become “we” in the family of the One Who made us, freed us, and draws us in His glory toward a land promised to all who will but do His will.

20 July 2009

Here's your sign...

16th Week OT (Mon): Ex 14.5-18; Matt 12.38-42
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
Sisters of St Mary of Namur

Redneck comedian, Bill Engvall, does a comedy routine that Jesus would have appreciated. Amazed at the dumb questions people will sometimes ask, Engvall says that these folks ought to be required by law to wear signs that read, “I'm Stupid.” That way the rest of us would know not to rely on their dimmed lights for illumination. For example, Engvall says, “Last time I was home I was driving around I had a flat tire, I pulled my truck into one of these side-of-the-road gas stations, the attendant walks out, looks at my truck, looks at me, and says, 'Tire go flat?' I said 'Nope, I was driving around and those other three just swelled right up on me. . .Here's your sign.'" Imagine for a moment that signs like the one Engvall advocates were used to point us to other risky folks—“I'm Gullible,” “I'm Passive-Aggressive,” “I'm Irascible.” I shudder to think what sign would get hung around my neck! If Engvall were to be transported back to the first-century to follow Jesus around, what sign would he put around the necks of the Pharisees? They ask Jesus for a sign. What would it say? “We're Skeptical”? “We're Scared”? “We're Hard-headed”? Our redneck comedian would be very disappointed to hear Jesus say, “"An evil and unfaithful generation seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it. . .” Well, that just ruins the whole show, doesn't it?

And that is precisely what Jesus wants to do—ruin the Magic Show that the Pharisees demand to see, a show that will prove to them once and for all that Jesus is who he says he is. We might think that another healing miracle or another water-to-wine act would bring the Pharisees around to Jesus' side. But Jesus knows that no demonstration of divine power will open an “evil and unfaithful heart.” Much like the high priests of Scientistic Materialism in our own day, the Pharisees are bound to a way of being and a method of seeing that inherently blinds them to any reality not accounted for in their dogmatic worldview. So, even if Jesus levitated, changed into a walrus, or unveiled to each of them the Mystery of the Trinity, they would neatly secure their controlling paradigm with a perfectly reasonable explanation. The Way of Christ is walked in faith; trust is the first step, not the availability of material evidence.

Why is this so? Why not give our doubting hearts and closed minds every advantage in coming to the faith? This question assumes that material evidence will give us an advantage in deciding to follow Christ to the Cross. Is this the case? Material evidence would be extremely helpful for coming to faith if we begin by accepting that all physical beings and processes are created by a loving God. But that begs the original question, doesn't it? We can't accept that we are creatures unless we first accept that there is a Creator, and thus the circle of doubt continues. Well, why doesn't God just download evidence of His existence and the nature of His being into our brains? Why not create us as believing creatures and skip over the need for signs and wonders? Trust is an act of a free will; faith is freely given and received. There is no such thing as being compelled to trust or forced to have faith. For the believer, evidence is weighed in the presence of God and judged according to His gift of human reason.

Jesus doesn't refuse to give the Pharisees a sign of his identity out of spite or competition. He wants them to believe because they have come to trust in the God they claim to worship. He wants them to grow in compassion, charity, and hope because they have come to have an abiding faith in the One Who has revealed Himself in the enduring witness of their ancestors. If each and every Pharisee must see a miracle in order to believe, then all they will ever believe in is the miracle. This is not enough to live the hard life Christ promised to his followers. Witness a miracle and you still have to reason your way back to the miracle's source. There is nothing definitive about signs and wonders unless they are witnessed by faith.

The questions asked by the Pharisees are more than simply stupid. Jesus says that they reveal “an evil and unfaithful” heart. So, the sign around the necks of the Pharisees would need to read, “I'm Evil and Unfaithful.” To change those signs to “I'm a Believer” takes more than assenting to the evidence of provided by signs and wonders. It takes an act of will to trust in the Divine Worker of those signs and wonder. It takes an act of hope that the promises of God are fulfilled in the coming and coming again of His Son, Christ Jesus.

Building from Crisis: Bishops of Honduras

Below is an excerpt from a public statement made by the Bishops' Conference of Honduras regarding the removal of Zelaya from office. The statement was read on TV by Cardinal Oscar Rodríguez Maradiaga, SDB, July 4, 2009:

Building from Crisis: A Statement from the Bishops' Conference of Honduras

[. . .]

2. In the face of the situation of the last few days, we refer to the information which we have sought in the appropriate public records of the State (the Supreme Court of Justice, the National Congress, the Public Ministry, the Executive Power, the Supreme Electoral Tribunal) and many organizations of civil society. Each and every one of the documents which have come into our hands show that the institutions of the Honduran democratic state are valid and that what it has executed in juridical-legal matters has been rooted in law. The three powers of the State--Executive, Legislative, and Judicial--are legally and democratically valid in accord with the Constitution of the Republic of Honduras.

3. The Constitution of the Republic and the country’s administrative organs of justice lead us to conclude that:

a. In accord with what is considered in Article 239 of the Constitution of the Republic “Whoever proposes the reform” of this article “immediately ceases to hold his post and remains disqualified for ten years for any public function.” Therefore, the person sought, when he was captured, no longer held the position of President of the Republic.

b. Dated June 26, 2009, the Supreme Court of Justice, unanimously named an already sitting judge who issued an arrest warrant for the citizen President of the Republic of Honduras, who was supposedly responsible for the crimes of: AGAINST THE FORM OF GOVERNMENT, TREASON AGAINST THE FATHERLAND, ABUSE OF AUTHORITY AND USURPING OF FUNCTIONS to the detriment of the Civil Administration and the State of Honduras, the former stemming from the Legal Summons presented by the Public Ministry.

[. . .]

The entire statement can be found here.

Also, a Catalan language newspaper in Spain is reporting that police in Honduras have seized 45 computers from Zelaya's Presidential House that contain pre-programmed referendum results. The computers were programmed to indicate that by an 80-20 percent margin, Hondurans favored calling a convention to amend their constitution to allow Zelaya a second term as President.

I wonder how many of those votes came from Chicago's cemeteries?

19 July 2009

Good sheep make good shepherds

16th Sunday OT: Jer 23.1-6; Eph 2.13-18; Mark 6.30-34
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
Sisters of St Mary of Namur

Shepherds all over the world must quake in their sandals when they hear Jeremiah prophesy: “Woe to the shepherds who mislead and scatter the flock of my pasture, says the Lord. . .against the shepherds who shepherd my people [the Lord says]: You have scattered my sheep and driven them away. You have not cared for them, but I will take care to punish your evil deeds.” If these malicious sheep-herders don't flinch in fear at this warning, they should! They have taken on not only the hard work of keeping their sheep safe from the wolves, they have placed themselves squarely in the sight of the sheep's owner who watches his flock with an unblinking eye. What the Lord knows and the shepherds should know is that the dangers of the wilderness loom all the more ominously when the flock is divided. One set of shepherd's eyes cannot keep watch over a flock separated by hungry wolves. The lambs are the first to die, but the killing rarely stops there. And so says the Lord: “I will appoint shepherds for them who will shepherd them so that they need no longer fear and tremble; and none shall be missing...” The Lord has done more than appoint responsible shepherds for his flock; He has sent us the Good Shepherd who keeps the flock together, creating in his own body one flock, one people. Woe to the wolves who would divide his flock and woe to any of the Lord's shepherds would let the wolves among his sheep!

Jesus, the Good Shepherd, and his disciples are exhausted and hungry because they have been preaching the Word and healing the sick for many days. They retreat to a deserted place to grab a snack and catch a quick nap. Leaving in a boat to find a moment of peace, they are astonished to find that a vast crowd of clamoring souls waiting for them when they arrive. Mark tells us that when Jesus sees the crowd “his heart [is] moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he [begins] to teach them many things.” Not yet made one flock in Christ, the vast crowd is united however in achieving a single purpose: they are in pursuit of the Truth—a truth that binds and heals in the binding.

Hungry for a Word of healing and compassion, those in the crowd are relentless in chasing down Jesus and his disciples. They are sheep without a shepherd. Men and women without protection, without a teacher. They have been abandoned by their appointed shepherds who rule them from the temple with the legal commentary and ritual minutiae. They are mislead and scattered by shepherds who attend to nothing but their own power and prestige. No longer born or raised in compassion, the people of the crowd seek after a better way, another path to their Lord's affections. In the preaching and good works of Jesus they see and hear a way to be one people again, living and loving under the merciful eyes of their God. What they do not yet understand is that the way of Christ they hope to follow will lead them into a flock larger and more robust than any they have ever imagined possible. This is just one of the many true things that Jesus has to teach them.

Many years after Jesus looks out over the vast crowd with compassion and teaches them the way to salvation, Paul writes to the young church in Ephesus, reminding them of their of spiritual history, calling to mind again their fallen state before the coming of Christ. He writes, “You were dead in your transgressions and sins in which you once lived...All of us once lived among them in the desires of our flesh...and we were by nature children of wrath...Therefore, remember that [you] were at that time without Christ, alienated from the community of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, without hope and without God in the world.” Dead in sin. Children of wrath. Alienated from Israel. Strangers to the covenants. Without hope. Without God. Without God in the world until the Word of God was made flesh and dwelt among us as one of us. Having devastated the Ephesian pride by retelling their mournful history without Christ, Paul goes on to teach them one true thing: “...through [his] flesh, [Christ] abolish[ed] the law with its commandments and legal claims, that he might create in himself one new person in place of the two...” This new creation brings the Father's two children together in peace—His chosen people and the people who choose Him: all of Israel and the Gentile world. One person—one body, one soul made whole again in Christ.

The unity we enjoy as sheep in the Good Shepherd's flock binds us and heals us in the binding. No longer outside the promises of the covenant, we as a Body live and love with one heart and one soul, burdened by nothing more than a lightened load carried under the well-worn yoke of a Master Craftsman. And though our unity—more often than makes for a good witness—creaks under the strain of theological and cultural differences, we can look toward the ultimate fulfillment of our created purpose to be Christs for the world and find—if nothing more—a blueprint, a promise for what it looks like to stand before the throne of God and sing His praises with one voice, to worship in His glory as nation, a people, a priesthood of prophets and kings. But if we live now dreaming only of a perfected future, we fail to do the work of the apostles; we fail to go out and teach everything that the Lord as taught us. Who will hear the Word if no one speaks it? Who will speak the Word if no one is sent.

We are sent to speak the Word of reconciliation and peace to the world to hear. Not words of passive forgetting or surrender, not words of capitulation and withdrawal from conflict, but the Word of God Who created us to love Him and one another. As brothers and sisters in Christ we are both sheep and shepherds, leaders and the led. If we will to be good shepherds, then we must will to be good sheep. And as faithful leaders, we will listen eagerly to the warning Jeremiah sends from the Lord: “Woe to the shepherds who mislead and scatter the flock of my pasture...” The wolves circling the flock are called by many names: Indifference, Violence, Relativism, Scientism, Repression of Freedom, Slavery to Material Desire, New Ageism, and many, many others. The immediate and most effective means of confronting these wolves is the teaching of Christ in his Church, the ancient and unbroken teaching of many true things.

We are no longer a vast crowd clamoring after Jesus and his disciples for healing in the truth. He has given us every truth we are capable of hearing. Our task now is to grow in our hearing so that our understanding may overflow in love, and by overflowing in love, draw us closer and closer to the holiness we were made to enjoy.