Monday, March 31, 2008

Pic of the Day!

Yes that is me. I'm blond now! I can feel my IQ dropping as I type... Or maybe it's because of the vodka. I don't usually drink vodka but since I heard blonds have more fun, I just had to drink some and party with the guys until at least 3 AM every night this past week!

I know the blond is a little different (compared to the my picture on the right side of the blog column) but I like to brighten things up for spring! Who knows, I may even keep it over the summer...

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Tree of Life

Okay so it's been a long holy week for me. It all built up to the Easter Vigil mass which was excellent! During the week I thought about something I wanted to post on but subsequently forgot.

I remember. So here it comes!

Back in Eden there were two big important trees: the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (that's the one Adam and Eve weren't to eat from) and the Tree of Life. Genesis tells us that Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden so as to not eat from the Tree of Life and live forever. Why's this? Because if they lived forever, they'd live forever in their fallen state! They weren't ready to eat from the Tree of Life...

With the coming of Jesus, the new Adam, humanity gets a second chance! Why do you suppose St. Paul refers to the cross as a tree? It's not necessarily because Jesus was nailed to a tree - but because St. Paul is alluding back to the Garden! Through the cross we have life - but in order to partake of the fruit adorning the Tree of Life we must eat from it.

That's right, we're taken back to the Eucharist. If you want to eat of the Tree of Life, you must eat the body and drink blood of Christ who himself said: "whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life..." (John 6:54).

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Atheists Believe in the Soul!

Atheism doesn't simply deny God, it denies one of his or her own existence. This is because what makes one a person is the spiritual soul. Without God there is no spiritual soul, no true self. All that exists is the body and that's all you really are.

But even the atheist tacitly believes in the soul!

Here's an example. An atheist goes to the doctor and is told he has cancer. Upset by the news, the atheist begins his radiation treatment. Of course, he tells his family and friends the news - though he doesn't ask for prayers!

Another atheist goes in for a standard psychological evaluation as part of his job. He is told that he has a mental illness. His reaction: "Don't tell anyone! I don't want people to think there is something wrong with me!"

In other words, the atheist with cancer is not embarrassed by the fact that there is something wrong with his body but the atheist with a mental problem is concerned because there could be something wrong with his soul!

Before I go, Let me make one qualification: someone can have psychological problems which are partially caused by chemical imbalances in the brain. Obviously this would be a bodily problem as well as a potential spiritual problem. The fact is, when people think of psychological issues, they realize deep down that there is something more real and more close to the heart of himself. When an atheist think like this, he is thinking of his spiritual soul and not simply his body.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Subjective and Arbitrary Morality

Liberals and Conservatives. Opposites right? Well not necessarily when it comes to morality. Oh but I’m sure on this point your saying: “What do you mean they're not opposite on morality. Liberals say you can do whatever you want and conservatives tell you that you have to play by the rules, following the law to the letter. How can you be any more opposite than that?! I answer that conservatives and liberals both believe that morality is subjective and arbitrary.

Let me explain.

Liberals believe that morality is subjective to the person making the choice. Right and wrong are determined by the actor. If one believes it is okay to eat a fattening cookie than it must be okay. If one believes adultery is okay, than it must be moral to commit adultery. However, if one later believes that adultery is wrong, then it becomes immoral – but in both cases only for the person making the choice, and they should never impose their morality on someone else. This subjective attitude towards morality makes morality quite arbitrary. Actions become moral or immoral based upon how one feels when he acts. Imagine if traffic laws worked this way! There’d be social chaos (and I’ll blog more on this chaos later)!

Conservatives also believe morality is subjective. But not to the one making the choice. Morality is subjective to God. He is the Law Giver Who makes morality. But this, carried to an extreme, makes morality arbitrary. If God makes laws, then he can change them whenever he feels like. Many Baptists and Christian fundamentalists (as well as Islamic fundamentalists) believe just this. One example they use is God’s command to Abraham to sacrifice his son. A Lutheran philosopher and theologian called this a “teleological suspension of the ethical” – that God made murder permissible. This “divine command theory” makes morality subjective to God and quite arbitrary. Without going into details, God was showing Abraham that this new religion would be one without the human sacrifices which were common in other pre-modern religions.

Over two thousand years before Protestantism, the father of philosophy, Socrates, met what you could call a pagan “fundamentalist” who believed this point as well. This man was on his way to court to have his father found guilty of accidental murder because he saw the gods do something similar in a myth. Socrates asked him a question: do the gods will something because it is good or is what they will good because they will it? Are the gods subject to goodness and thus bound to command what is good or are can they make up whatever they want and call it good because they are the powerful gods? Socrates’ belief undermined polytheistic belief by saying that goodness is above the gods and therefore we needn’t look to the gods for goodness but look to goodness itself in order to do what is right and just.

Catholics take up where Socrates left off and say that God’s nature is goodness; that although all Socrates knew were the immoral gods, we know the one God who is goodness itself. Not impersonal goodness but goodness as a divine attribute. Those who make morality purely subjective and arbitrary do injury to God and to the nature of man.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Preparation for Death: A Palm Sunday Reflection

Work has been so crazy. Family has been so crazy. Well, LIFE has been so crazy! As I said before, I needed some time to just think and relax. Thank goodness for the weekend! I’m caught up again on sleep – and I’ve pretty much spent the weekend on retreat in my room! I finished a great book on Socrates and then opened up the Collected Dialogues of Plato. I read the Apology of Socrates, the Crito (in which Socrates defends law and justice – even if it costs him his life), the Euthyphro (where Socrates connects faith, reason, and ethics), and the Phaedo (the death of Socrates and his proof for the immortality of the soul).

After reading the tragic tale of the last days and death of Socrates, it was curious that I ran across an interesting book…

It was after Mass tonight. I was looking through the parish library and noticed this book by St. Alphonsus Liguroi; it was titled: Preparation for Death. I grabbed it from the shelf, opened it up, and began to read. Oh, it’s not simply morbid, it’s truly death staring you in the face. It was filled with nice details not only about how your body decays after death, but also about how, after a relatively short time, the people you know forget about you and move on – and with their deaths, you fade out of memory altogether. Harsh, but true.

The bad news of death in its fullest always comes before the Good News of Christ and the hope He brings. So I decided this would be my Holy Week devotional reading.

When you think about it, this is exactly what’s going in the life of Christ this week: preparation for death. Death, however, is not the end. Not a hole in the ground, but a doorway to victory. We pass through Good Friday to enter Easter Sunday. And not just for Jesus, but for ourselves as well. His suffering transforms ours. In each suffering, we face a little death (and to some extent, these sufferings prepare us for death – the Final, Big Suffering). The Good News is that by dying in Christ we will also rise with Him. Christ has defeated death. Now we only fear it when think of the body and forget the soul – when we (like Peter) look to the waters below us and not to Christ in front of us.

When we keep out eyes on Christ, He will raise us up from death just as He raised up Peter from the deathly waters.

So that’s the key – or rather He is the key. So in response to my reality check from Tuesday, I answer (as always, what a surprise…) with: Jesus! I need to remember (and so do you in your own life!) that I don’t live for belongings (like my beautiful laser red Mustang!), or for my job, or for my parish, or for my family, and especially not for myself! In the words of St. Paul: “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).

I do not fear death. Instead, I will prepare to face it with Christ and in Him I will triumph over it.

Have a blessed Holy Week!

Works may not Justify me, but perhaps I can Justify Works…

That catchy little title above hit me a little while ago and I just had to put some words to it! That in itself is rather funny. A phrase just popped in my mind – rather like the first phrase of the Hobbit that popped into the mind of Tolkien. Just out of the blue. So I’m giving all this up as the work of the Holy Spirit.

The whole topic I’m getting at in the title is the role that good works play in justification and salvation.

I’m sure you’ve heard of the controversy: "Anti-biblical" Catholics believe in “earning” their salvation through good works while Bible Christians say that salvation is a gift of God’s grace through faith alone. After all, St. Paul himself said that “we believe that we are justified by faith, apart from the works of the law” (Romans 3:28).

Well there are two obvious problems in that oft-used Bible passage. First off, the “works of law” refer to Jewish ritual laws and not to the works of love. Most importantly, St. Paul is talking about justification, NOT salvation.

Here’s the catch: salvation is like a coin with two sides. On one side is justification and on the other side is sanctification. At baptism we are both justified (we have a right relationship with God) and we are sanctified (made holy). Venial sin, while not taking away our justification, will damage our relationship with God, making us less holy, less saintly (i.e. our sanctification). This damage is healed or purified through good works, penance, and the sacraments.

So what’s important to remember is that we cannot “earn” justification through good works but we can purify our souls through good works. The end of all this is our salvation. Faith is to justification what works are to sanctification. Salvation in the broader sense thus comes from faith and works.

And if you don’t believe I’ve justified good works, maybe St. Paul can help us: “For in Christ Jesus, neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love” (Galatians 5:6).

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Reality Check

Elements of my life seem to pass in phases. Sometimes I’m in a reading phase where I’ll read five-seven books a week. Other times in a writing phase where I could sit down and write for hours.

Right now I’m in a “weird” phase.

I read a lot. I write a lot. But the thing is, I work and pray a lot as well. Yesterday I left for work at 7:00 AM and arrived home from work at 11:00 PM. If you do the math, that’s a sixteen hour work day. During the day I was able to take some time for prayer in the adoration chapel adjacent to my office. It seems like a lot – but it’s just what Mondays are like for me. The rest of the week isn’t quite as packed!

But still, I really feel like I need to go on retreat somewhere for a week or so. I just would love to grab my rosary, Bible, catechism, code of canon law (that’s weird, I know), and the works of Plato, Aristotle, St. Augustine, and St. Thomas Aquinas and simply pray, study, and write for a solid week.

At the same time I need some simplicity. Christ commands us to be like children to enter his Kingdom. St. Thomas Aquinas called his many words about God a pile of worthless straw in comparison to beholding God’s glory and splendor. Sometimes I have too many ideas floating around my head! I need to focus on the beatitudes. Many Catholics know the truth and live good lives – but to become truly saintly, that is, beautiful, they must live out the beatitudes.

Humility is step one for both Socrates and Jesus. The poor in spirit are blessed (the first beatitude) because they realize that they are not God. In fact, without God our lives are meaningless and even non-existent. Humility produces faith – for only one who knows he needs God will be granted the faith to seek Him and rely on Him, day in and day out.

I’m not sure what’s to come next… I’m in the middle of preparing our parish’s Easter Vigil mass but after that I have a whole week off for spring break. So who knows what could happen? Well, God knows… and that’s just fine with me!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Hilarious "Theatrical" Productions!

Here in Minnesota a recent law was passed which bans smoking in public facilities – including bars. Now I have to admit, the last bar I went to before the ban was really, really smoky. At the same time, I understand that it is a bar after all and people smoke there! But regardless of what I think, smoking was legally barred there (pardon the pun).

Or was it?

According to the law, smoking can be allowed in a public building if it is part of a theatrical production. So basically actors on stage can smoke as part of the play.

Desperate to get attendance at bars back up to its former levels, owners have encouraged its patrons to come dressed up in costume and do some “acting” in order for them to smoke. Funny. Original. I love it.

Of course, state lawmakers are moving to strike them down with a new law and a $10,000 fine.

Check out the story.


I’m really not sure if this is going to become a habit of mine but I decided to write up some of my own thoughts on yesterday’s mass readings. I suppose these are usually the thoughts I have as I’m listening to the readings, somehow knowing that none of them will make it into the homily. Though I can understand that to the extent that the priest probably will want to avoid describing Greek words… Well, read on and tell me what you think because I think all this is easy to explain and quite interesting.

The obvious theme of the readings today was the resurrection of the body. Ezekiel, who prophesied that God himself would shepherd his people (Jesus Christ, the good shepherd!), speaks today of the fact that God will open our graves and give life to our mortal bodies.

St. Paul, however, in his letter to the Romans shows us the spiritual meaning of the resurrection spoken of in Ezekiel. Our first parents (and we along with them) die physically because they died first spiritually. St. Paul teaches elsewhere that death is a result of sin. Think of it this way, three metal pieces are connected together because of a magnet. Remove the magnet and the metal pieces fall apart. God is the magnet and our souls, bodies, and relationships with each other are the metal pieces. When our souls rebelled from God through sin, that severed relationship also severed the relationship we have with our bodies and with each other.

Only Christ can restore these severed relationships – but He does so through the work and grace of the Holy Spirit.

There are two verses in this passage which some have made quite controversial: “Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh; on the contrary, you are in the spirit” (Romans 8:8-9). The controversy I refer to is the body-soul dualistic controversy which states that the body (flesh) is bad while the soul (spirit) is good. This is the old Gnostic heresy that keeps creeping up every couple hundred years or so.

The two Greek words for flesh and spirit are sarx and pneumo. Ever heard of the word sarcasm (and I’m really not trying to be sarcastic here)? It comes in part from the Greek word meaning flesh, that is, sarx. It means the tearing of the flesh. Sarcasm can cut. Deeply. In a sense, sarx has a deathly feel to it. In the Bible, sarx means fallen human nature. Our living bodies which have only natural life and our souls which lack divine life. I’ll get back to the two lifes in a minute. Pneumo, on the other hand, is life giving. It means spirit – that is, air or breathe. When a man’s chest stops rising and falling we know his pneumo (spirit) has left his body.

The Spirit (pneumo) of God gives supernatural life to the person, elevating the natural, albeit fallen (sarx) life, to divine life. The Greek word for natural life is bios, from which we get the word biology. Through grace we receive zoe, or divine life. Once the soul receives this life and with it a renewed relationship with God, it is only fitting that the body and the communion of saved humanity (i.e. the Communion of Saints) should be renewed as well.

And if all those Greek words weren’t enough, how about two more: psyche and soma, that is, soul and body. The term psychosomatic stress refers to the fact that stress on the mind (or soul; psyche) can have dramatic impact on the body (or soma). There’s a HUGE difference between soma and sarx – so it’s very important for us in an anti-body society to remember that St. Paul is not attacking the body or natural bodily desires when he refers to the flesh. The flesh, however, can be very dangerous in the sense that our souls are very influenced by the desires of the flesh (fallen human nature). Before the Fall of Adam and Eve, our souls had full command over our bodies. Now, in fallen human nature, our bodies see cookies (which can harm us if too many are eaten) and says: “Yummy, I want that.” And even though we know we shouldn’t eat the cookie we somehow give in to the flesh. Get my point?

Well this post has gone on pretty long so I’m going to wrap up the Gospel quite quickly. Two points. First off, when Jesus arrives at the tomb of Lazarus, he weeps. He sees what sin has done in dividing the psyche from the soma, the soul from the body. This was not the way God designed it. Death is not simply a part of life. Death is not natural. Death is a result of the abuse of free will. It is our sinful choices which end our lives.

But the second point is that death (and pain) is not meaningless. Jesus says that he will use the raising of Lazarus “…for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it” (John 11). Here it is important to remember that Lazarus is not be resurrected as Jesus was. He is being resuscitated. He would one day die once more. My point is that if the death and resuscitation of Lazarus happened for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it, how much more so will our deaths and TRUE resurrections be?

Know that when you die, you die for two reasons: at first because of sin but now in Christ "for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it" – through your future resurrection in the same Christ. The Gospel (or Good News) always greatly overshadows sin (the bad news)! God is good!

Sunday, March 9, 2008

The Poor Witness of St. Stephen's

Remember St. Stephen in the Acts of the Apostles? He was the first martyr (Greek for "witness"), stoned to death for confessing belief in the Faith. In the Twin Cities, a schism has recently taken place in a parish named for St. Stephen.

The ridiculous reason: St. Stephen's cannot possibly serve the poor and celebrate a proper Mass. That's according to the two hundred parishioners and the
Star Tribune newspaper, anyway.

Okay, let's back up for a moment. Heretics and schismatics are running about all the time - why post on this issue? Well it's personal. First off, I went to school there for a year in 1st grade. Second, a good priest friend of mine (Fr. Joseph Williams) was just assigned there. He is one of the holiest men I know. His homilies are beautiful - he is never afraid to tell the truth with love and patience. Thirdly, the newspaper article was so blatantly in favor of heresy and schism that I felt it merited a response. Lastly, I thought only a moron could argue that a parish could not support both social justice and the bishop!

To give you an example of what's going on there, here's what the (biased) paper had to say: Masses there include: "...lay people giving homilies, dancing in the aisles with people who have mental and physical disabilities, gay couples openly participating in worship, along with ex-priests, ex-nuns and sundry other spiritual wanderers." A friend of mine told me that when a priest couldn't make it for mass, a nun stood up and announced she'd go ahead and celebrate it herself!

The situation at St. Stephen's has been this way since the 1960s! You may be wondering why it was allowed to go on this way... While that's a great question, what's most important is that our new Archbishop is awesome (Pope Benedict appoints great bishops!) and will not tolerate these liturgical abuses. A letter was recently sent to St. Stephen's, telling them to clean up the Mass.

The result: Revolt! The newspaper reports: The mass was "so 1960s. The new [mass] is more like the 1860s" - hmm, if he only he knew what an 1860s mass was like... Oh yeah, the "1960s" mass was never the mass of the Catholic Church!

The true heart of the problem comes from subjectivism. The people in question have subjectivized truth, believing what they want to believe and rejecting the truths God Himself as revealed. The article talks about the use of "inclusive" language, changing the Our Father to keep it from being masculine. This is obviously an issue of the truth of God's nature. If they don't know who God is, how can they know how to live or how to worship? "'We are supposed to learn how to 'pray right' or go away,' [Mary] Peters says. 'Well, we are going to pray the way we think is right. And we are going to go away. With great sadness. But we will still pray.'" People can gather and pray in many different ways - but the mass is not about doing whatever we feel like, it's about worshipping God. It's also about finding rythm in repetition - like the seasons or a heartbeat. The mass is not about being entertained or rejecting authority, it's about humility, service, and adoration.

Still, it bothers me to say that a parish cannot serve both God and the poor. Jesus gave the apostles the authority to act and speak in His name. Since the bishops succeed the apostles, when people reject them and their teachings, the people reject Christ. I work for a parish that supports social justice and still maintains a good mass - there's no reason why St. Stephen's can't do the same.

Prayer request: Please say a Hail Mary for Fr. Williams as he begins his new assignment at St. Stephens...

Pope Leaves Rome: Western Civilization Splits!

In a sense, many of our modern-day woes began in the 14th century when Pope Clement V moved the papal residence to Avignon, which today is in southern France. At a time when European countries were beginning to rapidly develop, the worst thing the Church could do was to seemingly ally herself to France and French dominance.

This of course, was not helped by the fact that Clement was French, grew up as friends of French King Phillip IV, was installed as pope in Lyon, France, and appointed several new French cardinals immediately after being elected. To make things worse, Pope Clement V bowed to the secular wishes of the greedy King Phillip, allowing him to falsely accuse and persecute the Knights Templar. These knights, by the way, were warrior monks who fought during the crusades to the holy land, living both lives of poverty, chastity, and obedience and also vowing to protect innocent pilgrims traveling to Jerusalem. While only several hundred defended Jerusalem at any one time, nearly 20,000 of them died during the war! Phillip wanted the Templar’s lands and possessions that were in France – and Pope Clement, in a cowardly act of appeasement, allowed the order to be annihilated. This is good example of the fact that while popes are infallible, they are not impeccable!

As nationalism grew in countries around Europe, national interests began to move the fledging countries away from the Catholic Church, which they feared was a puppet of the French. No self-respecting nation would listen to a pope if they feared his words were the words of the French king! This anti-Church and anti-pope position would lead intellectuals within these countries to attempt to justify the attitudes of their country.

The seeds of our modern culture crisis were thus being sown.

In England, an Oxford professor named John Wycliffe began to teach that the State should control the Church. His teachings would be used nearly two hundred years later to do just that: establish a Church of England run by the King with its foundation resting on the destruction of the sanctity of marriage. In case you forgot, King Henry VIII broke away from the Catholic Church in order to divorce his wife… Apparently Henry thought he was above both the Church and Jesus, Who utterly condemned divorce. Perhaps he forgot that the Church and Jesus are one, just as a head is one with his body or a groom is one with his bride. Oh well, Anglicans today are dealing with this issue once more in the gay marriage debate. Many are putting two and two together and are coming back into union with Rome!

Intellectually speaking, attacks on the Church could take two extremes: a liberal/secular extreme and a conservative/fundamentalist extreme. In the persons of William of Ockham and Jan Hus, we see both. William of Ockham rejected the classical scholasticism of the great saints like St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Anslem, and St. Albert the Great in favor of nominalism. Nominalism was the beginning of our culture's religious skepticism and reductionism. It denied transcendent ideas and essences – spirit begins to be reduced to mere matter. With this belief, the existence of God and the soul is extinguished.

Recall Hamlet who told his friend Horatio that there was more to reality than what could be discovered with our five human senses. In his case, he was saying that ghosts/spirits are real. Most pre-modern thinkers believed that there was more to life than the body. As the philosopher Peter Kreeft says: “But the modern tendency in the West is the opposite. It could be called ‘reductionism.’ It seeks to reduce rather than to expand the student’s objects of belief. This tendency is already clearly present in [philosophers] Bacon, Machiavelli, Descartes, and Hobbes. In fact, it began with William of Ockham’s Nominalism, the denial of objectively real universals, which even in the 14th century was called the ‘via moderna,’ the modern way” (emphasis mine). By adopting this view, the state is more important than the citizen – for the state will outlive the soulless citizen and it should be the secular state at the center of worship, not God.

This view was counterbalanced with what would become Protestant fundamentalism. Begun by the teachings of Jan Hus, faith was held higher than reason. He rejected the role of Sacred Tradition in knowing divine truth, claiming the Bible alone should be used. He denied the role of the Church and the Pope as well as the necessity of the sacraments. Though at first championed by local citizens, he was eventually condemned by the Church and burned at the stake. His teachings would be adopted by Martin Luther, who would be the founder of Protestantism – a breaking which would result in thousands of theologically contradictory sects.

The alliance between France and the Pope would culminate in the destruction of much of the Church in France during the French Revolution. Though the Pope returned to Rome through the intersession of the great saints Catherine and Bridgette, the French secularists of the 18th century will condemn Catholicism with their King.

The descendants of the secular and fundamentalist founders still attack the Catholic Church – but they have also grown into a particular hatred of each other. This is quite evident in the battle between faith and reason. The evolution debate is a good example of this. Fundamentalists preach a literal six-day Creation and an Earth which is only some thousands of years old. Evolutionists preach a materialistic-random chance universe of millions of years old. Both are wrong in their own way but both have some truth to them.

In the end, those who began a movement to attack Catholicism failed in their attempt and created a series of divisions which have come down to our day. Only in Christ, and the Church He founded, will the divisions cease and healing begin.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Quote of the Day

I came across this wonderful little quote of C.S. Lewis, the author of the Chronicles of Narnia: "You don't have a soul. You are a Soul. You have a body." I think it's very important to remember the truth of our own being.

Socrates and Plato, the great Greek philosophers who lived long before the time of Christ, taught a more radical view. They believed that the body was an non-essential extra. Death was freedom from the prison of the body. Though they went too far in this regard, they did understand the importance of the soul which their Greek counterparts failed to see.

In the end, Socrates could be falsely executed without fear. It wasn't that he wanted to die but rather Socrates had knowledge that no evil could be done to a good man. Both Socrates and Plato knew that the most anyone could do was to damage their bodies - but no one has the ability to harm another's soul directly. The most one could do is tempt another to damage to his own soul through personal sin.

Adam and Eve's eventual physical deaths did not result of an attack by the Devil, rather it was a result of their own sins due to the temptation of the Devil. Bad things can happen in life (from a sick reletive to having surgery) but it is up to us to decide how we shall act upon those hardships. Moreover, the grace of God is always available, especially in the Eucharist and in Confession, to help us have the strength to make the right decisions.

Do you have the humility to ask for help?

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Body and Soul

I gave a talk yesterday to a wonderful group of Catholic women. My focus was a general overview of theology and how it was very applicable to our daily lives. In a nutshell it all hinges on truth. We act upon what we believe to be true – but we don’t always get truth correctly. Thus the need for divine revelation to help us out! Truth, once known and accepted, will affect the way we live. If one really believes and accepts the fact that his or her body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, they won’t go out and use illegal drugs. So morality is dependant upon what is true. Sanctity is the result acting upon the true good. So the more we learn and the deeper our faith develops, the holier we will be!

Alright, I did notice something interesting in the follow-up questions related to other religions and atheism. Catholics acknowledge the importance of both the body and the soul. Pantheists, like Buddhists and Hindus, believe both the body and the soul are illusions. Atheists believe that that the body is real but the soul is an illusion. Spiritualists, like the Gnostics and New Agers, reject the body as evil but firmly believe in the importance of the soul. Protestants are (imagine this) hard to pin down! You find varying Protestants agreeing with each position!

Catholicism differs from Islam and Judaism (both of which do hold a high view of both the body and the soul) in that it has the doctrine of the Incarnation. God became a human being without ceasing to be God. No other religion has that one! Moreover, He became one of us so that we could share in His nature and be adopted into a family of God! Through the Incarnation, the Catholic Faith holds the highest view of man while also holding the only realistic view of the body and the soul.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Truth and Sacrament

I’m not sure if they used the really long reading from John at your parish today, but they did at mine! It seemed to me that the theme of the readings focused on truth and sacrament via light and matter.

As we approach Easter this year, I begin to recall past memories of the Easter vigil mass, the evening before Easter Sunday. It begins with a darkened church, the lighting of the Easter candle, and the spreading of light through the church. The deacon or priest will carry the burning Easter candle and proclaim: “Lumen Christi!” – the Light of Christ! Light and fire are symbols of the Christ and the Holy Spirit. While light resonates truth (and Christ who is truth), flame symbolizes the transforming power of the Holy Spirit.

St. Paul teaches in today’s reading that: “everything exposed by the light becomes visible,for everything that becomes visible is light.” Through our eyes comes the truth of things around us; without light we cannot find truth – we lose our way. Sins are dark and are done in darkness. So many try to keep their sins hidden from others and reject Confession when they need so badly to bring their sins to Christ and receive the transforming power of the Holy Spirit through grace. We must let the doctor see our wounds so that we may be healed. Sins are not only done in darkness – they are in themselves darkness. Just as truth comes through light, lies fill the darkness. In sin, we reject truth for the lies of the world, the devil, and the flesh. Moreover, we become addicts to the lie we tell ourselves, blinding ourselves in the darkness. In the light, we become light - we are fully conformed to Jesus Christ who IS TRUTH! Through truth, we follow the command of Elrond in the Lord of the Rings: "Become who you were born to be!"

In the Gospel, Jesus comes to free us, healing us of the blindness. But how does he do this? Through a proto-sacrament. After speaking to a blind man, Jesus spits on to the ground and takes up the wet clay, rubs it in the man’s eyes, and has him wash it out in the public Pool of Siloam. After this, the man can see and comes to faith in Jesus – and then worships Him. The imagery here is very sacramental. Jesus uses matter in his work to bring this man to faith. Particularly, it resonates of baptism, through which we can enter into the proper corporate worship of God at the Mass.

Confirmation is also prefigured in the anointing of David with oil in the first reading. Christ (which means “anointed”) will likewise be anointed by the Holy Spirit in his baptism by John - which echoes the anointing of the Kings of Israel. In our baptism and confirmation, we too share in this anointing as priests, prophets, and kings in Christ. Like Christ, we are called to prophetically proclaim the Gospel to all we meet and to serve (as kings ought) those in need. Lastly, as priests, we are called to share in the sacrificial sufferings of Christ, offering ourselves as a living sacrifice to the Father.

It’s a big job. Thank God for grace, truth, and the sacraments through which they come!