29 April 2011

Two new arrivals

Arriving in the mail today. . .

An Introduction to Scholastic Theology


Heavenly Questions

Mille grazie to my anonymous book benefactor!

God bless, Fr. Philip

P.S.  These two books could not have come at a better time. . .Today, I "concelebrated" a non-Eucharistic funeral service with two Protestant ministers and a complicated wedding (well, complicated for me, anyway).  

Kicking back and reading 'til bedtime!

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28 April 2011

The Audacity of Christ

Easter Octave (Th)
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Joseph Church, Ponchatoula

Yesterday, we read the story of Jesus appearing to a few of his disciples on the road to Emmaus. After he “opens their eyes,” allowing them to see him for who he is, he vanishes. The disciples say, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?” They hurry back to their brother and sister disciples and report this encounter with their resurrected Lord. In the middle of their testimony, Jesus appears! He says, “'Peace be with you.' But they were startled and terrified. . .” We can only imagine the shock of seeing the dead and resurrected Christ in their midst. Imagine the confusion, the relief, the fear—all these bound up in a desperate hope that their teacher had rejoined them to continue his mission. Noting their terror at his appearance, Jesus says, “Why are you troubled? And why do questions arise in your hearts?” Ummmm, b/c you were dead and in the grave for three days and now you're walking around and talking us? Is that a good enough reason to be startled and terrified? The disciples' experience with the Risen Lord can be seen as a pattern for our lives as disciples. Having met Christ “on the way,” we come away from the meeting burning with zeal and eager to give our testimony. But once we realize what our encounter means for us and for the world, we are startled by the audacity of what God has done, what He is doing; then, we are terrified until Christ appears among us and prays, “Peace be with you.”

On Easter morning, when the angel appears at the tomb, Mary Magdalene and Mary are “fearful yet overjoyed.” When Jesus appears to the disciples after the resurrection, they are “startled and terrified.” But then he shows them the wounds on his body, and they are “incredulous for joy and [are] amazed.” Fearful, overjoyed, startled, terrified, incredulous, and amazed. Exactly the combination of emotional reactions we'd expect from rational people confronted by the resurrection of a beloved friend all thought long dead and buried. With their minds spinning for any plausible explanation and their hearts pounding with fear and wonder, they must've looked like first-century tourists standing in Times Square. What else can Jesus say but “peace be with you”? They needed his peace; they needed his reassurance. He had sent them out to teach the world all that he had taught them. Then he was executed. Now he's back! Alleluia! He's back. But he won't be with them for long. He has yet to ascend to his Father, so his visit is welcomed but brief. In the short time that he has with his friends, Jesus reminds them that his death and resurrection is nothing new, nothing at all surprising. He opens their minds to the scriptures, renewing in them his charge to them to go out preaching the Good News of repentance and God's mercy. 

Our own lives in Christ follow this familiar pattern, this ebb and flow of wonderment and fear. Zeal followed by disappointment; clarity followed by confusion; amazement followed by incredulity. But when we open our minds to Christ's spirit, embed ourselves in scripture and the sacraments, dedicate ourselves to prayer and penance, disappointment, confusion, and incredulity always give way—again—to zeal, clarity, and amazement. The disciples saw and touched his wounds. We have his body and blood in the Eucharist. The disciples listened to the Word read and preached. We hear his Word read and preached. They evangelized the known world. We are charged with evangelizing a world they could not know. Christ suffered death and rose from his tomb so that the Good News of God's mercy to the repentant sinner could be proclaimed to the whole world. To his friends in Emmaus and to his friends here in Ponchatoula, Jesus says, “Peace be with you. . .You are witnesses of these things.” Go out—startled, terrified, overjoyed—go out and tell the whole world!

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26 April 2011

Coffee Cup Browsing

Recycler-in-Chief celebrates Earth Day in style!  Burn 53,300 gallons of jet fuel.  Clogs L.A. streets with his limo and a 30 vehicle-motorcade. 

Send greetings on every Muslim holiday on the calendar. . .Earth Day greeting. . .but nothing for Easter.    Maybe this omission explains this pic? :-)

Just being nice ain't enough:  "The religions that grow, succor and motivate people to perform heroic acts of service are usually theologically rigorous, arduous in practice and definite in their convictions about what is True and False."

A question of fairness in the U.K. It's not about not helping those in need; it's about not surrendering our freedom to bureaucrats and politicians who use "poverty" to gobble up power.

"Dirty weeds" can't be recycled. . .Clean up your trash, granny!!

The Zombie Apocalypse begins in CA, specifically SanFran. . .more specifically, last week.

Secure your wireless access or the Black Helicopters may be circling your house in the near future.

Two things the Left loves:  Green-ism and taxes.  Why not combine the two?  YEA!

"Parking Tickets" for all those time you go to WalMart and some @#$% has managed to take three spaces!  (Yea, bad parking is just one of the things that cause me to need whisper a quick Act of Contrition.)

Profound sayings from the Wisdom of the Ages.  My college friends used to say about a particularly clueless colleague, "He's a stump in the rain."  Also, we liked, "All flash, no film."

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25 April 2011

Can your testimony be bought?

Octave of Easter (M)
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Joseph Church, Ponchatoula

A lot of money changes hands in the week that Jesus is betrayed and put to death. Judas gets his thirty pieces of silver—the price of a slave—for ratting out his friend and teacher. The Roman soldiers who witness the empty tomb get a large bag of coin for lying about what happens to Jesus' body. The story they are paid to tell—that the disciples stole his body in the dead of night—“still circulates among the Jews to the present day.” Apparently, the chiefs priests and elders got their money's worth! It's curious though that they thought it necessary to concoct a mundane conspiracy in order to explain Christ's resurrection. If they truly believed that Jesus was a fraud, and if they believed that most people would agree with them, why go to the trouble and the expense of paying off the Roman guards to lie? Simply offer an alternative explanation for the body's disappearance and let the rumors fly. Doubt is a powerful virus in the body of truth. It replicates and spreads, infecting every fact it touches. My guess is that the chief priests and the elders were worried that Christ really had been resurrected and that a great many of their followers would believe this truth. Paying off the Romans guaranteed that their alternative theory would be grounded in “evidence”—the false witness of the tomb's guards. Regardless of their motivations, there's a deeper story here: we are all too willing and able to sell our testimony to the highest bidder. 

One of the constant pressures one surviving and thriving in a largely secular culture is the temptation to give a little when it comes to bearing witness to the gospel. Christ said himself that he came to bring a cleaving sword. That his message would divide, persuading many and angering most. The history of the Church in the world bears this out. Even when the institution of the Church held near absolute political, social, and economic power in the West, Christ's uncompromising teachings on the necessity of repentance and his commandment to love caused trouble. Nothing undermines our sense of social balance, our need for justice, more radically than Jesus' order that we must forgive one another as many times as it takes. Common sense demands a limit to the number of times I must forgive the same sin! Whoever told you that following Christ has anything at all to do with common sense lied to you. Don't let the devils of convention, practicality, and good manners tempt you into selling your testimony for thirty pieces of silver. In the long run—the longest run—it's a really bad bargain.

Judas sold his loyalty. Christ was resurrected anyway. The soldiers sold their integrity. Christ's church thrives anyway. Two thousand and eleven year later, the truth of the empty tomb is still proclaimed around the world. The priests and elders had hoped that an alternative theory and a large sum of money would keep the truth from getting out. Didn't work. However, their resurrection conspiracy theory still has a chance of succeeding. All they need today is for us to weaken and fall prey to the cultural predators who circle our wounded Body. All they need is for us to stumble once or twice over our sins and give up on the notion that we are forgiven; to surrender the gospel of mercy to common sense, science, politics, or political correctness. Doubt will see its chance to infect the truth, and we'd be tempted to accept the offers to sell our testimony, to lie about our Christ. If we remember that we are already bought, already paid for, we can dismiss these devils. We belong to Christ and there's not enough silver in the cosmos to pay for what is free.

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A Prayer of Gratitude for Easter

For the Easter season to Pentecost:

Father, our Abundant Provider and generous Lord: In You I live and move and have my being.

Everything I am and everything I have is Your blessing. This day I offer it all to Your service. 

Thank you, Lord, for this season of my life, for the gifts You have given me, for those I love and who love me in return. 

Thank You, Lord, for Your creation, for Your revelation in scripture, for our salvation in Christ Jesus, for the holiness I await in the coming of the Holy Spirit, and for the Church that will rise from the tongues of fire. 

Make gratitude my constant prayer, Father, so that I may live as a Living Blessing for others. I ask all these in name of our Easter Lord, Jesus Christ! Amen.

from a 2006 homily

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24 April 2011

Do not be afraid. . .Joy overwhelms!

Easter Sunday (A)
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Joseph Church, Ponchatoula

You know what has happened all over North America, South and Central America; all over Europe and Russia; in China, Japan, and Australia; in Washington, London, Rome, and Tokyo; you know what has happened in all of creation: from our beloved ball of dirt and water, circling the sun to the edge of space-time itself; from massive stellar nurseries to the theoretical objects of our scientific imaginations. You know what has happened. Our Lord is risen! Alleluia! Our Lord is risen indeed! Betrayed, arrested, mobbed, mocked, whipped, and nailed to a cross as a criminal, he died, was buried, and on the third day, he rose from the tomb and appeared to two of his most loyal disciples, Mary Magdalene and Mary. “[F]earful yet overjoyed, [they] ran to announce [his resurrection] to the disciples. And behold, Jesus met them on their way and greeted them.” Through their fear and in their joy, Mary Magdalene and Mary hear him say, “Do not be afraid.” Christ message to all of us, to all of creation, on this Easter Sunday morning is: do not be afraid. You know what has happened: our Lord is risen. He is risen indeed. We have nothing to fear.

On this Easter morning 2011, it seems that we have much to fear. We hear that men, women, and children are dying in wars in Libya, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Government troops are killing protesters in Syria, Yemen, Bahrain, and Egypt. Civil wars rage in half a dozen African nations. Earthquakes and tsunamis have devastated Japan. A severe drought lingers in central and western Europe. Closer to home, we are still struggling with the destruction of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and the BP oil spill; wildfires burn across Texas; tornadoes in Missouri laid waste to whole neighbors and the St. Louis airport; unemployment continues to rise, and we are threatened with a national and international economic collapse. Set along side these natural and economic disasters are the man-made disasters of our cultural decline: abortion; the failing family; governmental assaults on marriage and child-rearing, personal achievement and responsibility; and our own battles within the Church to teach and preach the apostolic faith with a clear, authentic voice. We have much to fear. But the Lord is risen, and his message to us this morning is: do not be afraid! 

Mary Magdalene and Mary are afraid. An angel of the Lord visits them at their teacher's tomb. The angel appears like lightning. His garments are as white as snow. He rolls back the stone of the Lord's tomb and announces to the frightened sisters, “Do not be afraid! I know that you are seeking Jesus the crucified. He is not here, for he has been raised just as he said.” He tells them that Jesus is going to Galilee. “[F]earful yet overjoyed, [they run] to announce this to his disciples.” Fearful and overjoyed, they run to announce the resurrection of their Lord. They meet Jesus on the way, and he says, “Do not be afraid.” Unsaid, b/c it needs no saying, is our Easter theme: “Be overjoyed!” And once again Mary Magdalene and Mary serve as gospel examples for Christ's 21st century disciples. Mourning their teacher's brutal death, overwhelmed by fear and grief, the sisters approach his tomb only to find that his promise of his resurrection from the dead has been fulfilled. Strengthened by the angel's proclamation of the empty tomb and his admonition not to be afraid, the sisters run to announce spread the good news, and along the way, Christ finds them. Christ finds them as they run to do his work. He does no less for us, finding us along the way as we do the work of faithful disciples.

It seems that we have much to fear. Wars, natural disasters, economic collapse, rampant disease and social decline. And even if we tempted to fear, we do not have time to waste on the luxury of being afraid. Fear paralyzes us; it freezes our hearts, draining our spirits of the joy we need to do Christ's work. Fear confuses us; it clouds our reason, depriving our minds of the clarity we need to seek out and find God's wisdom. And fear deceives us; it lies and cheats and steals, obscuring God's truth; it offers nothing but ulcerous worry and desperation. We cannot afford the luxuries of despair, anxiety, or confusion. As the redeemed children of the Father and the adopted brother and sisters of the resurrected Lord, we cannot surrender the time, energy, talent, or treasure to feeding the fantasies of fear. We have too much to do. Too many have yet to hear God's promise of mercy to the repentant. Too many have yet to see the miracles of new life in Christ. Too many have yet to taste the food and drink from the altar of thanksgiving. Too many for too long have spent their lives in debilitating servitude to sin and death. Unafraid and overjoyed and in the name of the Risen Christ, we are charged with spreading the Good News that all of creation—from the smallest points of matter to the largest stellar clusters—all of creation—man, woman, and child—stands redeemed by the sacrifice of Christ on the cross and his empty tomb. 

Do not be afraid. Do not be afraid of ridicule, or persecution, or death; do not be afraid of your failures, or your flaws. Joy overwhelms. Joy overcomes all obstacles, breaks all barriers. Set your minds on the sure knowledge that Christ's victory is complete. As one Body, the Church, with one heart and one mind, we proclaim with one voice that our Lord is risen from the dead as he promised! Death is defeated. You have died in Christ. A new life in him awaits. “When Christ your life appears, then you too will appear with him in glory.” With Mary Magdalene, Mary, John, with all the disciples then and now, set out to announce to the world that our Lord is risen, and that he waits for us all to join him. There is nothing to fear. The battle is won; the war is over. Victory goes to our King. From an empty tomb, victory has always and will always go with the Risen Christ!

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Placing ourselves on the side of Reason, Freedom, & Love

An excerpt from the Easter Vigil homily of our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI:

[. . .]

In the opening words of his Gospel, Saint John sums up the essential meaning of that account in this single statement: “In the beginning was the Word”. In effect, the creation account that we listened to earlier is characterized by the regularly recurring phrase: “And God said …” 

The world is a product of the Word, of the Logos, as Saint John expresses it, using a key term from the Greek language. “Logos” means “reason”, “sense”, “word”. It is not reason pure and simple, but creative Reason, that speaks and communicates itself. 

It is Reason that both is and creates sense. The creation account tells us, then, that the world is a product of creative Reason. Hence it tells us that, far from there being an absence of reason and freedom at the origin of all things, the source of everything is creative Reason, love, and freedom.

Here we are faced with the ultimate alternative that is at stake in the dispute between faith and unbelief: are irrationality, lack of freedom and pure chance the origin of everything, or are reason, freedom and love at the origin of being? Does the primacy belong to unreason or to reason? 

This is what everything hinges upon in the final analysis. As believers we answer, with the creation account and with John, that in the beginning is reason. In the beginning is freedom. Hence it is good to be a human person. 

It is not the case that in the expanding universe, at a late stage, in some tiny corner of the cosmos, there evolved randomly some species of living being capable of reasoning and of trying to find rationality within creation, or to bring rationality into it. 

If man were merely a random product of evolution in some place on the margins of the universe, then his life would make no sense or might even be a chance of nature. But no, Reason is there at the beginning: creative, divine Reason. 

And because it is Reason, it also created freedom; and because freedom can be abused, there also exist forces harmful to creation. Hence a thick black line, so to speak, has been drawn across the structure of the universe and across the nature of man. 

But despite this contradiction, creation itself remains good, life remains good, because at the beginning is good Reason, God’s creative love. Hence the world can be saved. Hence we can and must place ourselves on the side of reason, freedom and love – on the side of God who loves us so much that he suffered for us, that from his death there might emerge a new, definitive and healed life.

[. . .]

H/T:  Whispers

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