28 April 2012

Will you stay or walk away?

3rd Week of Easter (S) 
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Dominic Church, NOLA 

Had I been a disciple of Christ 2,000 years ago and had he been foolish enough to ask me for advice on how to arrange for the salvation of his Father's human creatures and had he been doubly foolish and followed my advice, our means of salvation would be very, very different today. Let's just say that there would be no crosses, no nails, no suffering; far fewer demands for sacrifice and obedience; and our Masses would involve pecan pie, ice cream, and the swapping of funny stories about our (grand)kids. My point here is not to be irreverent. The Way we've been given by Christ is narrow but straight, difficult but doable. However, if given the chance to avoid the difficult stretches of the Way, or radically alter the course entirely and still make it to heaven, most of us would jump at that chance! Unfortunately, there's just the One Way to the heavenly feast and all the wishing in the universe cannot change this hard fact. Jesus says to the quarreling Jews, “. . .my Flesh is true food, and my Blood is true drink. . .whoever eats this bread [and drinks this blood] will live forever. . .Does this shock you?” 

Evidently, it shocked some of those who heard him, “As a result of this, many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer walked with him.” The disciples who walked away from this hard teaching probably did so b/c they did not understand what Jesus was teaching. How can we eat his flesh and drink his blood? That's cannibalism! Maybe some walked away b/c they understood that eating his flesh and drinking his blood meant sacrificing their lives to live in the radical love of God and others and this they could not do. Whatever their reasons for walking away, they were shocked and choose not to follow the Christ. Jesus' teaching on the means of our salvation is no less shocking for some today but for very different reasons. Those in the Church who are shocked/offended by Christ's teaching today find fault with what they see as his blindness to the diversity of human religious experience. They are disgusted with what appears to be a narrow intolerance of the different means of reaching for and grasping the Divine. They would ask Jesus, “Isn't it more loving to be open to and accepting of the variety of ways that people experience God and choose to worship? Why must you so exclusive, so disrespectful to different ways that people express their personal encounter with the Divine? Surely, we don't need to exclude those who take a different view of how we can achieve holiness?” 

Jesus answers, “The words I have spoken to you are Spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe. . .For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by my Father.” As much as we might like for the way to heaven to be paved with pecan pies, pick and choose beliefs, “free lifestyle choices,” and mix and match gods and goddesses, the hard truth is that Christ has given us A Way, The Way to eternal life and that Way begins and ends by following him. After some of his students walk away, Jesus turns to the Twelve and asks, “Do you also want to leave?” Peter the Rock answers for them, “You have the words of eternal life. . .We have come to believe . . .that you are the Holy One of God.” We are under no obligation to remain on the Way of Christ. But if we remain, there is just one path to follow, the holy means to our holiest end. If this truth is shocking, any of us can walk away and return to our former lives. However, if we choose to stay, we follow the Spirit who gives us the Word of Life! 

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26 April 2012


Thanks to  Peter J. K. for the Kindle Books!  Already started on one of them. . .good stuff.

Fr. Philip, OP

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Coffee Cup Browsing

Today's seminarians/vocations turning toward traditionalism?  No, it's more turning toward orthodoxy, i.e. "thinking with the Church."  Woe to dioceses and religious orders who refuse to see it.

25 Catholic blogs you may not be reading!

George Zimmerman's great-grandfather was black.  Makes no difference to me or any other rational person.  But the MSM/B.O. have a story about White on Black violence to tell.

Even the "Wise Latina" was skeptical of the Fed's case against AZ's anti-illegal immigration law.

The jealous god of academy tolerance:  universities fight to rid themselves of Christian student groups.

B.O.'s Labor Dept proposes outlawing kids doing their chores on the farm.  At 13, I would've welcomed my new Benevolent Federal Overlords. . .anything to get out of mowing the yard!

CNN's Don Lemon wanders off the Leftist Plantation and gets smacked by viewers.  Tells us all we need to know about CNN, Lemon, and the Left.

More goofy "new cosmology" in the L.A. archdiocese. . .and folks thoughts that Archbishop Gomez was gonna initiate The Great Crackdown after the Dark Mahony Years.

Just in case you thought same-sex "marriage" was about equality:  churches will be forced to host SMM under proposed city ordinance


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25 April 2012

That All-Important "But"

St. Mark
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Dominic Church, NOLA

 In one of his many post-resurrecction appearances, Jesus gives his cringing disciples their mission statement, “Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.” Short, sweet, nothing fancy. Get out there and teach everybody everything I've taught you. Mark's gospel doesn't record the disciples' reaction to these orders. Given that the disciples are scared witless of being executed; grieving Jesus' death; worrying about his missing body; and freaking out that their very dead Master is popping in and out of locked rooms, we can surmise that they are puzzled by his orders, probably ready to run for the hills and never look back. And then, once he delivers his orders, just to make things a tiny bit more stressful for the panicked disciples, Jesus disappears into heaven! Mark tells us exactly how the disciples react to this. . .and he uses just one word: “but.” “Then the Lord Jesus, after he spoke to them, was taken up into heaven. . .But they went forth and preached everywhere. . .” Heh. Maybe they weren't such pathetic cringers after all. Do we go forth and preach despite the obstacles, despite our fears? 

Let's examine this “but” a little more closely. Jesus goes “up” but the disciples go “out.” Jesus goes to the Father but the disciples go into the world. Jesus is “taken up” but the disciples “went forth.” Jesus “took his seat” at the Father's right hand but the disciples “preached everywhere.” That “but” tells us that the disciples didn't do what Jesus was doing at that moment. Jesus didn't take his students with him. None of them, at that moment, were taken up to heaven to sit at the Father's side. Something quite different happens. Once the disciples receive their mission, they go out to complete it. And Jesus joins them! Mark notes that while they were preaching “the Lord worked with them and confirmed the word through accompanying signs.” Perhaps the reason the disciples aren't overly concerned about their mission is b/c they remembered Jesus' promise to be with them always. Or, perhaps they had forgotten that bit, found some courage, went out to do their jobs despite their fears, and Jesus came along as he had promised. Either way, they hear and obey Christ's admonition, and he is with them as they complete their task. Can we do the same? Can we find our courage and go into the world, teaching and preaching the Good News, believing that we do so with Christ at our side? 

We can if we remember the all-important “but” of Mark's gospel. Jennifer is a first year resident at an inner-city hospital and specializes in OB-GYN. She is asked to perform an abortion. BUT she preaches the Good News with Christ at her side. Robert is a new teacher at a public school. His students ask him uncomfortable political questions about sex and marriage. BUT he preaches the Good News with Christ at his side. Susan is an physics grad student at a Catholic university. Her major professor is an atheist. BUT she preaches the Good News with Christ at her side. Jeff's children have rejected their faith and refuse to raise the grandchildren in the Church. BUT he preaches the Good News with Christ at his side. Preaching the Good News with Christ at our side is almost always something we do despite our fears, despite any apparent obstacles. Peter says, “Clothe yourselves with humility. . . Cast all your worries upon him because he cares for you. Be sober and vigilant. . .The God of all grace. . .will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” He will be with you always. You have no reason to fear. Go then into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature. 

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8 Themes of the LCWR Worldview

[NB.  Given recent developments on the CDF/LCWR front, I thought I'd repost about a piece from April of 2009 on some of the presidential addresses delivered at the LCWR annual assemblies.  2012 editions are bracketed in red.]

Again, waiting for my bowl of coffee to kick in, I did a little browsing on the website of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR). They have posted information about their annual assemblies, including the texts of the presidential addresses and keynote speeches.

I read through several of the keynote speeches, and I noticed a couple of themes (that's what we Old Lit Teachers do--look for themes). Here's just a few in no particular order:

1. "Mission": all of the addresses I read (four of them) exhort the sisters to mission. But never the mission of the Church that we would recognize as evangelization, that is, the preaching and teaching of the gospel that Christ gave to the apostles. The mission the sisters are exhorted to take up is always, always some form of left-liberal social engineering disguised as caring for Earth or insuring access to adequate health [care] for women.  ["Adequate health care for women" is usually U.N. code for "abortion/contraception," but the addresses do not speak to the issue directly.  The 2012 CDF document lauds the good work the LCWR does in promoting certain social justice issues but notes their total silence on the issue of abortion.]

2). Insularity: despite the exhortations to "mission," all of the addresses I read include broad descriptions of the history of women religious as a way of "situating" the experience of these women within their own "mission," in other words, they spend a lot of page space on talking to one another about one another's grand innovations after the VC2 and how these innovations are radically different from anything that's come before [Novelty for the sake of novelty is a mark of modernity in literature, art, architecture, etc.  Ezra Pound, "Make it new!"]. There's quite a bit of self-congratulation here, along with laundry lists of excuses why their missions have failed to produce global results. The villain in their failures, by the way, is always the hierarchy. Big surprise.

3). "Prophetic": as a corollary to their mission and insularity, the addresses harp on how "prophetic" women religious are in these innovations. As far as I can tell, "prophetic" means whatever they want it to mean. It clearly does not mean what the Church means by the term. If the examples used are typical, "prophetic" means something like "doing what we please and then accusing the Church of being too traditional, oppressive, and isolated from the world for not following our lead." Beware self-anointed prophets!  [The 2012 CDF document notes that public statements by the LCWR use "prophetic" in a way that "justifies dissent by positing the possibility of divergence between the Church’s magisterium and a “legitimate” theological intuition of some of the faithful."]

4). "We missed out": probably the most interesting theme is what I will call the We Missed Out theme. This theme arises in several discussions of the scientific and technological revolutions of the 20th century. Apparently, this theme is meant to demonstrate the superiority of a modernist worldview over and against a wholly Christian worldview. But what arises is a kind of lament that these women have somehow missed out on the revolutions and long to stir one of their own so as to feel somehow prophetic. I've found a similar theme in recent court opinions allowing same-sex "marriage"--judges too young to have participated in the heady days of near absolute judicial power during the civil rights era of the 60's invent a place for themselves in legal history by making what laws they can from the bench. We want to shine. . .but a light we ourselves generate.

5). Futility: without exception the addresses I read painted depressing portraits of women religious as a tiny rebel band fighting the Sheriff of Rome. As part of the insularity painted by these addresses is a tragic sense of loss and the futility of their "mission" in the face of overwhelming authoritarian oppression by men. Apparently, we are to believe that women religious in the U.S. are guerrilla-fighters engaged in a war of attrition against the Church. Unfortunately for them, the attrition is all on their side. Rhetorically, these portraits serve an important purpose: by painting themselves as righteous rebels fighting a losing battle against the Man, the sisters are able to both continue their rebellion and justify their material failures all the while claiming moral victory. Neat, uh?

6). Jesus ain't the Way: also without exception the addresses forthrightly deny Jesus' own claim that he is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. As a way of undermining the Church's legitimate mission of evangelization, Jesus becomes just another good guy with a really cool message of pacificism, egalitarian communal life, and a feminist concern for eco-politics. In one address, delivered by Joan Chittister, the arrival of mosques in historically Christian lands is celebrated as a great advance for liberty and the pursuit of religious diversity. She argues that worrying about the decline in numbers of women religious is a "capitalist question" and holds that the the decimation of covents and monasteries after VC2 is a good sign for the Church! Apparently, the complete loss of a discernible Christian identity among some women religious is to be celebrated as a movement of the Holy Spirit and a great advance in human-spiritual evolution.  [From the 2012 CDF document:  ". . .a prevalence of certain radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith in some of the programs and presentations sponsored by the LCWR, including theological interpretations that risk distorting faith in Jesus and his loving Father who sent his Son for the salvation of the world. Moreover, some commentaries on “patriarchy” distort the way in which Jesus has structured sacramental life in the Church; others even undermine the revealed doctrines of the Holy Trinity, the divinity of Christ, and the inspiration of Sacred Scripture."]

7). Monotonality: the addresses are uniformly written and delivered by women religious who tell the gathered sisters only what they wanted to hear. There were no addresses that seriously challenged any of the preconceived notions held dear by these women. Without exception. the meme's of "We Are the Future and Our Agenda is of God" is heard in terms of ecclesial revolution and theological dissent. Not one address challenged the sisters to rethink their assumptions along orthodox lines. Not one address asserted a theme, idea, theology, or political notion that would upset or stir the secular feminist pot these women are stewing in. Despite the constant harping on the need for a variety of voices to be heard in the Church and the desperate need for new ideas among God's people, these addresses repeated in predictable loops one stale feminist cliche after another. Ironically, the obstinate refusal to listen to different voices is routinely described as a failing characteristic of the male-dominated Church hierarchy! [Though I hope and pray the bishops appointed to help the LCWR meet with cooperation, I suspect that the lack of intellectual diversity among the sisters running the show will produce a lot of obstruction.]

8). New Stories: as a result of the We Missed Out theme, the addresses pull on recent developments in cosmology to construct "new stories" about creation, space-time, human evolution, and the role of consciousness in our pursuit of holiness. Of course, none of these new stories read like anything found in scripture, tradition, science, or Church teaching. In fact, the purpose of the new stories is to lay a narrative foundation for a particularly gnostic-feminist view of the human person that "frees" us from the confines of patriarchal thinking by re-situating the human race as just another evolved species living and dying in a vast cosmos. Routinely, the addresses privilege "new cosmologies" over and against our biblical narratives of creation and the end of space-time, and undermine God's Self-revelation in scripture. Rhetorically, the new cosmologies give the sisters a means of defying our Judeo-Christian tradition with the authority of modernist science. Unfortunately, their grasp of the scientific details of cosmology is woefully inadequate, leaving them to play with a pathetic parody of actual cosmological theories. [Thus, the invitation made to New Age guru and junk theologians like Barbara Marx Hubbard and her "conscious evolution."]

Let me point out here that the LCWR is a leadership conference. By no means am I attributing these themes or attitudes to all women religious in the congregations that participate in the LCWR. [From the 2012 CDF document:  "The Holy See acknowledges with gratitude the great contribution of women Religious to the Church in the United States as seen particularly in the many schools, hospitals, and institutions of support for the poor which have been founded and staffed by Religious over the years. . .While recognizing that this doctrinal Assessment concerns a particular conference of major superiors and therefore does not intend to offer judgment on the faith and life of Women Religious in the member Congregations which belong to that conference, nevertheless the Assessment reveals serious doctrinal problems which affect many in Consecrated Life."  So, the Evil Vatican Stomps on Poor Nuns meme and the All U.S. Sisters are Whack Jobs meme are both wrong.] I know sisters in LCWR congregations who fret about the feminist turn of their communities and lament the loss of their Christian identity to trendy New Age gnosticism. Younger women religious aren't buy this anti-Church junk food, choosing instead to nourish themselves on the vast variety of legit Catholic traditions well within the generous range of orthodoxy. My fisking here is directed at the addresses themselves and what they tell us about what the LCWR is hearing and/or wants to hear. As anyone who's a member of a large organization knows: leadership is often way, way out in front of those they lead. . .sometimes too far out. I think this is certainly the case with the LCWR.

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23 April 2012

An Unjust Law is No Law At All

Our First, Most Cherished Liberty, USCCB:

We are Catholics. We are Americans. We are proud to be both, grateful for the gift of faith which is ours as Christian disciples, and grateful for the gift of liberty which is ours as American citizens. To be Catholic and American should mean not having to choose one over the other. Our allegiances are distinct, but they need not be contradictory, and should instead be complementary. That is the teaching of our Catholic faith, which obliges us to work together with fellow citizens for the common good of all who live in this land. That is the vision of our founding and our Constitution, which guarantees citizens of all religious faiths the right to contribute to our common life together.

Freedom is not only for Americans, but we think of it as something of our special inheritance, fought for at a great price, and a heritage to be guarded now. We are stewards of this gift, not only for ourselves but for all nations and peoples who yearn to be free. Catholics in America have discharged this duty of guarding freedom admirably for many generations.

[. . .]

We need, therefore, to speak frankly with each other when our freedoms are threatened. Now is such a time. As Catholic bishops and American citizens, we address an urgent summons to our fellow Catholics and fellow Americans to be on guard, for religious liberty is under attack, both at home and abroad.

[. . .]

Religious liberty is not only about our ability to go to Mass on Sunday or pray the Rosary at home. It is about whether we can make our contribution to the common good of all Americans. Can we do the good works our faith calls us to do, without having to compromise that very same faith? Without religious liberty properly understood, all Americans suffer, deprived of the essential contribution in education, health care, feeding the hungry, civil rights, and social services that religious Americans make every day, both here at home and overseas.

What is at stake is whether America will continue to have a free, creative, and robust civil society—or whether the state alone will determine who gets to contribute to the common good, and how they get to do it. Religious believers are part of American civil society, which includes neighbors helping each other, community associations, fraternal service clubs, sports leagues, and youth groups. All these Americans make their contribution to our common life, and they do not need the permission of the government to do so. Restrictions on religious liberty are an attack on civil society and the American genius for voluntary associations.

[. . .]

It is a sobering thing to contemplate our government enacting an unjust law. An unjust law cannot be obeyed. In the face of an unjust law, an accommodation is not to be sought, especially by resorting to equivocal words and deceptive practices. If we face today the prospect of unjust laws, then Catholics in America, in solidarity with our fellow citizens, must have the courage not to obey them. No American desires this. No Catholic welcomes it. But if it should fall upon us, we must discharge it as a duty of citizenship and an obligation of faith.

[. . .]

An unjust law is "no law at all." It cannot be obeyed, and therefore one does not seek relief from it, but rather its repeal.

Read the whole thing. . .very enlightening.

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First, believe. . .then work!

3rd Week of Easter (M)
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Dominic Church, NOLA

Catholics love to do stuff. We love activity. Dinners, parish meetings, service projects, prayer groups, pilgrimages, collections, anything and everything that might bring about some Good in the world. We are repeatedly urge on by our bishops and priests to engage the world with acts of charity so that the work of God might be a witness to His freely given mercy. During Lent, we're exhorted from the pulpit to find a little quiet time, settle down from all our busyness, and spend some time alone with the Lord. Such exhortations wouldn't be necessary if we were a lazy lot given to lounging about. Doing good stuff is encoded in our Catholic genes. And with good reason: for us to be perfected in Christ, we must be fully committed to God's work—intellect and will; body, mind, heart, soul; all of our strength, all of our energy. So, when the people chasing Jesus and the disciples around the countryside find them and ask, "What can we do to accomplish the works of God?," Catholics sit up and pay attention. Jesus' answer, however, seems somewhat incomplete: "This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent." Our work is to believe?

 In the early fourth century, an insidious tendency slipped into the Church's spirituality from our Greek philosophical ancestry. Crudely put, the dominant wisdom in Greek culture urged folks to set aside their physical needs and focus on pursuing higher, purely intellectual goals. The body's demands on our time and energy were seen as not only unfortunate distractions but potentially deadly traps as well. The truly enlightened will transcend the physical world and dwell wholly in the realm of Ideas. When this bit of Greek wisdom entered the Church, it was given the name “Quietism” and its defenders taught that only by passively surrendering the self to the divine could we be saved. Like most heresies, Quietism contains a grain of truth. Surrendering one's will to God in the pursuit of holiness is an excellent first step. But it is just the first step. When Jesus tells the crowd that believing in him is what they must do to accomplish the work of God, he's teaching them the first step to take in the life-long task of working with God's love to bring about both individual and communal holiness. Believing in the Christ goes hand-in-hand with accomplishing Christ's work. 

Jesus always seems to bob and weave around straightforward questions and then answers the unasked yet more fundamental question. Today is no exception. The people in the crowd want to know what it is they must do in order to do God's work. They are wanting Jesus to say something like, “Feed the hungry, give alms, fast and pray, and go on pilgrimages.” But Jesus knows that if he gives them a Holy To-Do List, they will run off, do those jobs, and wait for holiness to find them. The more fundamental (and unasked) question he eventually answers is: who must I become in order to accomplish God's work? His answer: you must become a believer in the One sent by God to atone for your sins. In other words, before you begin the work of God, you must belong to God, otherwise your work will be in vain. So, yes, our first job is to believe in the Christ; then, once we have given ourselves wholly to the Father, our work in His Name will both nurture us in holiness and spread the Good News of His abundant mercy. Believing and sitting quietly is at best preparation for tackling God's To-Do List. But tackling that list without surrendering to God is work too easily frustrated by all-too-human vanity. To do God's work, we must first be God's people!

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22 April 2012

Do not be troubled. . .

3rd Sunday of Easter (2012)
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Dominic Church, NOLA

Let's set the scene: the Eleven are huddled together with some of the other disciples discussing Peter's encounter with the Risen Christ. In the middle of this excited discussion in walks the two disciples who had been on the way to Emmaus. They tell their astonishing story of meeting Christ on the road and how he revealed himself in the breaking of bread. So, we have a large group of people who knew Jesus, loved him, followed him all over the country, and were very much aware of what happened to him in Jerusalem. They knew of his death and that his tomb had been found empty. The reported sightings of Jesus after his death were not only exciting but terrifying as well. Could he really still be alive? And what if he were still alive? What do we do? Search for him? If he's still alive, the temple guards and Roman soldiers will be looking for him. Do we wait around 'til he shows? If the authorities find us with him, we'll be executed as rebels! Their excitement is poisoned by terror. Their love for Christ is tainted by confusion. Do they embrace excitement and love? Or terror and confusion? They believe but they are disbelieving. Why are they (we) troubled? 

The disciples are in a panic. At the peak of their confusion, Jesus appears in their midst and says, “Peace be with you. . .Why are you troubled? And why do questions arise in your hearts?” The disciples are “startled and terrified.” That's one way to put it. No doubt there is some screaming, some fainting, a few explosive cusses, maybe even a run the door! There they are, discussing Jesus appearances after his death. . .and he just shows up! The disciples believe they are seeing a ghost. Jesus offers no mystical explanations; no theological or philosophical argument for how and why he's there; instead, he casually tells them to examine him, “Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me and see. . .” John reports that the disciples were “incredulous for joy and were amazed.” Incredulous for joy. Disbelieving in their delight. Skeptical in their happiness to see and touch their Lord. They are amazed, astonished, surprised, a little shocked. Jesus does nothing to calm their surprise but he does offer them a remedy for their disbelief. He eats a piece of fish to show them that he is no ghost, to show them that he is indeed with them—body and soul. 

Why are the disciples troubled? They are criminals among their own people, running and hiding from the law. They are known to be followers of a heretic and rebel. Their Master has been convicted of sedition and blasphemy, tortured, and executed. The authorities know that his body is not in its tomb, and they've broadcast a story implicating his followers in stealing it. They sat at Jesus' feet for three years, listening to him teach, and they've heard him say that he intends to destroy the temple and raise it again in three days. Though they said that they believed he was the Messiah, events have unsettled this belief, leaving them with profound doubts and deep regrets. They are troubled b/c they have staked their lives and reputations on the word of an executed criminal who's dead body has disappeared from its grave. Yeah, they're troubled alright! And just to add to their trouble, this executed criminal starts appearing to them off and on. What are they supposed to believe? What are they supposed to do with all this trouble? If they go public, they end up on a cross. If they keep quiet, they risk disobeying the Christ and betraying him once again. In the midst of all this turmoil and spiritual violence, does the Master offer them any comfort at all? He does. Peace be with you. You are witnesses. 

After the disciples see and touch his risen body, Jesus says to them, “. . .everything written about me in the law of Moses and in the prophets and psalms must be fulfilled. . .These [were] my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you.” In other words, the disciples shouldn't be shocked at seeing and touching his risen body. Why? B/c he told them that he would die and rise again. Everything that has happened to him since they first met him was predicted and explained in the scriptures. They are surprised, disbelieving b/c they did not understand his teaching. Now that they have seen and touched him, “he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.” To understand the Scriptures—what we call the Old Testament—is to understand Christ. Jesus says to them, “Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day.” In Acts, we read, “God has thus brought to fulfillment what he had announced beforehand through the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer. . .God raised him from the dead; of this we are witnesses.” What the prophets foretold, the disciples witness. The Christ would suffer and die. He did. The Christ would be raised from his tomb. He was. Christ Jesus is the fulfillment of God's promise to send His people a Savior. We are witnesses. 

So, why are we troubled? We are troubled b/c—like the disciples—we believe and at the same time we are disbelieving! What's the difference between belief and believing? Belief is rigid, static, unmoving. Belief is saying Yes to a statement, “Yes, I believe that the Lord rose from the dead.” Belief can be captured in a word or a gesture. It can be automatic, easy, cheap. Anyone can assent to a belief and move on. Believing is something else entirely. Seeing and touching the truth of Christ goes beyond just reading about it or discussing it or being worried about it. Believing is what happens when we combine belief with witness. Believing is what happens when we do more than say Yes to a statement; it's what happens when that statement of belief becomes an act, a behavior, a habit. “Yes, I believe that the Lord rose from the dead. . .and here's why I believe it and how his resurrection has radically changed my life!” Believing is what happens when we embody Christ himself, become the living Word day-to-day; when we not only speak the truth and live it but also when we become essentially identified with it—unshakably attached to Christ that to separate ourselves from him is to die lost and alone. If we are troubled, it is b/c we believe Christ but we are not believing; we assent to his teachings out of convenience or old habits or b/c everyone else does but we do not live and breath as believing witnesses. 

Luke reminds his brothers and sister that they are witnesses to Christ's fulfillment of the prophets. They were there to see and hear and touch the Christ as he gave flesh and bone to the ancient words of God's prophets. We weren't there. Our witness as believing men and women is different. We live with the Holy Spirit of God burning within us and among us, consuming the fuel of our lives and spreading the good news of the Father's mercy everywhere we go. Our witness to Christ is laid bare in how we think, act, speak; how we move among family and friends; how we treat those who have sinned against us. We are vowed to both believe and to be believing. To both assenting to the truth and to giving that truth our hearts, minds, and bodies. The Lord is risen! And he is risen in each of us. Peace be with you. Touch and see the Lord among us and do not be troubled. The Lord is risen indeed!

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