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You Know that You Know

18 Oct

man in praise

You know how it is. You read the same Scriptures over and over again. But one day, you read the same section or verse and a bright light comes on.

It’s a new insight.

When I was first in the Charismatic Renewal Movement, some thirty years ago, there was an expression which celebrated enlightenment or a deeper understanding:

“You know that you know that you know.”

Recently in praying the Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary, I enjoyed such a moment. It was during the second mystery, the one which celebrates the Ascension of Jesus into heaven.

I have always known that Jesus ascended to the Father in his complete humanity: body, blood, and soul.

But this time, I realized anew that our redeemed human nature was now eternally present before the Father. Jesus is there, in his humanity as well as in his divinity.

In a real sense, we are there also—because, baptized in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, we now become the Body of Christ, we are in him in heaven and here on earth as the Holy Spirit continues to sanctify us and give us wisdom, courage and understanding.

The point is, at least for me, that I must never become too “familiar” and too “comfortable” with traditional prayers.

They never run out of blessings and enlightenment.

 

 

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The Audacity!

23 Feb

Dog Tags on Flag

Take  Back America!

What next? What other crazy government action might be in store for us? It seems we already have a surplus of government goof-ups.

But, this one takes the cake: The feds made a move toward invading the newsrooms of major media ostensibly to see how they operate, how they select news and decide what is newsworthy.

Apparently, this has been shelved (for the time being?). This idea is in direct violation of freedom of speech and the freedom of the press, both of which have kept America, so far, from the hands of would-be dictators.

Go figure. This is the same government that pushed through Obamacare without the bill being read by lawmakers. We can still hear Pelosi saying, “We have to pass it so we’ll know what’s in it.”

What’s in it? If I read correctly, here are three gems that should shock your socks off.

  • Carte blanche for the feds to go into your bank accounts, and even withdraw funds.
  • The government can access your health care records.
  • People 76 years of age and older are not treated for cancer unless it’s a previous condition.

The audacity!

I’m not playing politics when I say it is time to take back our country and subject our government to the will of the people.

One major obstacle to that desired goal is the American public: Apparently too many of our younger people are ignorant of our history and the glory and power of the Declaration of Independence and our Constitution.

To too large a degree, we’ve lost five critical elements to sustain a free society—responsibility for oneself, the importance of the ballot, a sense of community, concern for our neighbor, and, the courage to take a public stand against evil, even if you have to stand alone.

I am convinced that only one thing can save this nation—and that is a religious revival, a rediscovery of God and his wisdom expressed so freely in the Sacred Scriptures and the lived experience of his people.

When I read a certain Scripture, I can’t help but think of our once great nation, our nation that was a world leader instead of a foggy reflection of what it used to be. We can substitute the U.S. in place of Israel:

          But my people did not listen to my words;

                    Israel did not obey me.

          So I gave them over to their stubbornness of heart;

                    they followed their own designs.

          But even now if my people would listen,

                    if Israel would walk in my paths,

          In a moment I would subdue their foes,

                    against their enemies unleash my hand.

          Ps 81:12-15

We do not pray for the death of our enemies. We do pray for peace—and for conversion of heart for ourselves and all people.

How’s this for an action plan?

  • Renew our relationship with God and other believers;
  • Worship God with sincere hearts;
  • Embrace his Word in the Bible;
  • Steep ourselves in the graces offered through his Church;
  • Unleash our tongues in public praise of God and our witness of what he has done in our lives, and,
  • Tell Washington bureaucrats, of whatever party, office or function, that we are taking our country back.

What do you think?

Racism

20 Jul

Spirit4_Vivid

As the old Cursillo song goes, “All in color and so must all love be,

in every bright color, to make our hearts shine.”

At the outset, let me state clearly that I refuse to use the terms Polish-American, French-American, African-American, German-American or any other hyphenated-American.  We are American or we are not. It’s time to come together in peace and harmony.

A bit of persona history

Back in the 1950s and into the Searing Sixties, I was up to my ears in the fight for civil rights for all U.S. citizens.

That was back in the Lafayette, La. diocese – and the Catholic paper was The Southwest Louisiana Register.

I wrote passionately about the injustices to black Americans. One of my efforts was a 32-week series called “Register Social Studies” in which I outlined the disparity in income, education and general well-being of whites compared with those who, regrettably, are now called African-Americans. The series was used by the Office of Economic Opportunity to help organize the War on Poverty in Louisiana. The Catholic Press Association of the United States and Canada gave the series the coveted award for “Best Campaign in the Public Interest.”

In a court case in Lafayette, I testified against the district attorney and for the Southern Consumer’s Cooperative – a movement among black farmers to use “strength in numbers” to achieve fair prices for their produce.

However, not everyone was impressed.

  • Some of our states’ rights and segregationist friends dubbed our Catholic paper The Congo Chronicle.
  • A number of Old Timers in the priesthood did their best to ostracize the paper and anyone connected with it.
  • I received a death threat for my troubles – but, as you can see, I’m still here. (By the way, when I came to The Florida Catholic in 1969, the paper strongly supported farm workers – and, here in Florida I received more threats.)
  • I think some of my relatives were about to have me committed.

We’re not brothers

After the Civil Rights bill became law, two or three of us white lay people met with a black priest who was strongly supportive of our efforts on behalf of black Americans. In that session, I mentioned something like, “Well, Father, you and I are brothers.”

He drew back, looked me right in the eye and said evenly and emphatically, “We are not brothers. You’re white and I’m black.”

I was stunned and deeply hurt.

I would again go to bat for the civil rights of black Americans – if it were necessary.

Discrimination has diminished

However, contrary to the strident voices of such “leaders” as Al Sharpton and the somewhat color-blind NAACP, ACLU, and the Congressional Black Caucus, white discrimination against black people has diminished markedly.

  • White people helped put Barrack Obama in the White House – twice.
  • White people have voted for black governors, state legislators and U.S. congressmen and senators.
  • In the Catholic Church, we have black priests, some as pastors, in predominately white parishes.
  • Our schools are integrated – and much is left to be done in equality of education across the board.
  • I perceive that a growing number of professionals are persons of color.

Do we still have racial discrimination and hatred in our nation? Of course – and not all whites who discriminate against or hate blacks are members of the Klan. And not all blacks who hate or distrust whites are members of quasi-military groups preaching discord and violence.

I grieve over the death of young Trayvon Martin. However, I find it unconscionable that his death has become a springboard for condemnation of our justice system and what appears to be a general distrust of all whites.

I find utterly regrettable and harmful the national angry reaction over the Zimmerman-Martin verdict in Sanford, Fla. and the silence or reaction of so-called black leaders when blacks rape and/or kill white people.

Racism has two colors

Racism? Yes. And many white people are guilty. But if you listen to their rhetoric and study the sometimes subtle bias, the charge falls also to Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, the NAACP, ACLU, and several high level black politicians in Washington, D.C.

The real enemy is hopelessness – a hopelessness born of ignorance and an engrained sense of being victims, the latter promoted by some leaders whose income may well depend on continued strife between cultural and racial differences. The battle has to be fought in the “hood” and the “slums” and the “backwoods” as well as on Main Street U.S.A.

In the troubled areas of our cities, a major problem is lack of personal responsibility. Men get women pregnant and go away. This is totally irresponsible as well as unconscionable. This breakdown of personal, moral discipline is at the core of most of America’s problems.

This is where a lot of our corrective efforts should be targeted. If we do not build up the moral character of people and strengthen family life we are lost.

Conditions are not what they were back in the 1950s and 1960s. We’ve made progress.

Let’s build on that progress – and not tear it down.

The Creche and the Cross

30 Nov

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The message of the cross is complete absurdity to those who are headed for ruin, but to us who are experiencing salvation it is the power of God (1 Cor 1:18).

The greatest paradox of all time is the justice of the Cross of Christ. It is the ultimate expression of God’s sense of justice.

There is a lot of excitement as people prepare for Christmas – Black Friday and beyond, frenzied shoppers looking for just the right gift at the best price; plans for various office and community celebrations; families decorating their homes inside and out announcing their joy in the season.

It’s so easy to forget, is it not, that the crèche of the Christ Child foreshadows the cross upon which he will die – fulfilling God’s sense of justice.

Justice? What’s just in the terrible crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth?

Even from the time of the prophets, God clearly states he does not want the death or condemnation of sinners, but their salvation:

Do I indeed derive any pleasure from the death of the wicked? says the Lord. Do I not rather rejoice when he turns from his evil way that he may live? … As I live, says the Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked man, but rather in the wicked man’s conversion that he may live (Ezekiel 18:23; 33:11).

I will make you a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth (Is 49:6b).

And in the New Covenant, God’s justice is verified in the life, passion and death of Jesus Christ:

“Go and learn the meaning of the words, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.”  … “Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.” … “I have not come to call the righteous to repentance but sinners.” (See Mt 9:13, Mk 2:17 and Lk 5:32.)

So, for God, justice is eternal salvation for all peoples of all times. That singular and pure sense of justice is the real reason we rejoice in the birth of Jesus of Nazareth – the Messiah, our Savior, our brother and our Lord and God.

If that eternal reality is ignored, shopping frenzies are reduced to nothingness; Christmas parties can be celebrations of nothing more than the usual; decorations are mere declarations of secularism.

In our Catholic faith, the four weeks before Christmas are the season of Advent. During Advent, we are called to reflect deeply on the meaning of Christmas – the birth of the Savior of the world. Jesus is our Lord and our Savior.

May this Advent Season be a source of ever deeper revelation of God’s love for you and all the people of all times. May his sense of justice become our very own.

Sin as Injustice

29 Sep

The cross stands revealed as the Tree of Life — and the sacrifice of Jesus brings salvation and healing to all who believe.

God’s commandments are more invitation than imposition.

He cannot and will not impose his will on the people he created to be free – free to make decisions, to love or to hate, to help or to harm, to build or to tear down.

The Ten Commandments, for example (Deut 5:6-21), call us from bad choices into the fullness of who we are as human beings – creatures who are made in the image of the Creator, creatures destined for everlasting life. For example, God says we are not to have strange gods placed before him. If we do abandon God for other “gods” such as power, fame or fortune, we reject the true God who calls us into being.  God’s commandment, to acknowledge and to worship him, is an invitation to the fullness of life, to peace of mind and heart.

As it says in the Catholic Catechism, “Only in the knowledge of God’s plan for man can we grasp that sin is an abuse of the freedom that God gives to created persons so that they are capable of loving him and loving one another” (No. 387).

Perhaps it is helpful to look at sin as a question of justice – and justice being a profound expression of love.

God says we are not to steal. Okay, I don’t steal; it isn’t right to take what belongs to another person. Right.

God says we are not to commit adultery. I don’t commit adultery. It’s isn’t right to endanger my marriage or another couple’s marriage. Right.

But in both cases, it is a question of justice – justice born of love. It is unjust to the person or persons offended. It’s an injustice to yourself, for you have turned your back your personal source of life and love. It’s an injustice to God because you are denying him the love, honor and obedience you owe God for your very existence and for his love for you.

Of course, temptation is tough. Human nature, tainted by sin, rebels in the face of commandments seen as imposition instead of invitation.

Perhaps it would be helpful to compare the Beatitudes (Mt 5:1-11) with the Ten Commandments.

For example:

I am the Lord your God. You shall not have strange gods before me (the first Commandment).

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (the first Beatitude)

You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor (Dt. 5:20).

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied (Mt. 5:6).

I’ve found Mother Teresa’s brief reflection quite helpful. It seems born of both the Commandments and the Beatitudes.

            The fruit of silence is prayer.

            The fruit of prayer is faith.

            The fruit of faith is love.

            The fruit of love is service.

            The fruit of service is justice.

            The fruit of justice is peace.

 

 

Whatever Happened to Sin?

28 Sep

Perhaps it’s time for a real close look at the reality of sin — what it is and do we recognize sin for what it is?

“We just never hear about sin from the pulpit anymore – all those teenagers having experimental sex and young adults just living together and single women getting pregnant so they can have a child.”

That from a good Catholic woman who feels the stress and confusion of so many Catholics as they consider what their children and grandchildren are inheriting from our own generation.

However, there are more than sexual sins. For example, there are the sins of pride, intolerance, prejudice and greed.

Where did sin go? It’s still here, but somehow we don’t easily recognize it anymore. I have an observation about this:

Vatican Council II was filled with the wisdom of the Holy Spirit. It confirmed the Tradition of the Church and proclaimed anew the importance of Scripture in daily life as well as in worship. The council also set the Church smack dab into the world with all its beauty and ugliness – just as did the Son of God who became one of us and lived and still lives in the beauty and ugliness of the contemporary world.

In the local parish following Vatican Council II, we became involved in “implementing the changes” – for example, updating the liturgy and involving lay people in parish management and in ecclesial ministries. I think that we became so involved in “implementing” that we did not either grasp or pursue the major thrust of the council which, as I understand, was to bring us into the fullness faith . That fullness means we were to embrace the will of God and bring truth into the world of politics, economics, industry, education and marketing. We may not have understood that we were to embrace the world in all its beauty and ugliness.

This immediate and parochial concern, along with the decrease in priestly and religious vocations and the influence of horizontal mobility on our congregations, weakened our response to the outward thrust of Vatican Council II. Note especially a feverish increase in pluralism and an equally feverish increase in moral decay, insecurity in the face of war between nations and warring political parties here at home. The growing impact of secular media, amoral if not immoral, on the modern family also eats away at our faith.

So, do we need to refresh our memories about what sin is and is not?

Without the knowledge Revelation gives of God we cannot recognize sin clearly and are tempted to explain it as merely a developmental flaw, a psychological weakness, a mistake, or the necessary consequence of an inadequate social structure, etc. Only in the knowledge of God’s plan for man can we grasp that sin is an abuse of the freedom that God gives to created persons so that they are capable of loving him and loving one another (Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 387).

Sin is as varied as an international buffet – but sin is not limited to what you choose or ignore as sin. A Christian cannot form a good conscience by personally deciding what is right or wrong without God’s truth at the center of such decision.

Perhaps we all need to examine our own druthers where the Gospel and Tradition are concerned. It’s easy to point fingers at others, but it’s not so easy to live a holy life and to love other sinners enough to help them come closer to God.

Finally, we need to live our faith out there in the beauty and ugliness of the contemporary world, giving witness to God’s merciful love and the unimaginable gift of his calling us into the very essence of his own divinity.

In praise of a little light

23 Sep

Sometimes, in deep troublesome times, light begins to pierce the darkness. In my own life, that light came through others — wife, children, parents, priests and friends.

I remember times of great struggle when we began our family. Driving a garbage truck for the City of Groves, Texas paid very little. Sometimes I’d get discouraged. My Uncle Joe told me something that kept me going: “You work hard, stick with it, do your job and you will soon find things are better.

My parents were cut from the same bolt of cloth: “Do everything you’re told to do, do it with a good face, and if you can, do more than they ask you to do.”

Then there were the times when I really messed up — like the time some friends and I ran our horses through a field of watermelons simply because the owner was different from us.

I moped around for a couple of days and my Mama knew something was up. “What’s wrong?” she asked. I didn’t answer. “Okay, what did you do?”

I told her. She was silent a while, then said, “You know that was wrong. We taught you better than that. You must go to confession and promise never to do that again.”

So, I did what she said. But, as I think back, Dad should have taken me to that farmer and made me apologize and work for him. That didn’t happen. The farmer was black and we were white.

Before you condemn my parents and me for racial prejudice, enter into the setting: Southwest Louisiana, 1947. Black people were considered inferior. Dad and Mama suffered criticism from their own relatives for what kindness they extended.

For example, during the early morning hours of cotton picking season, the sacks of picked cotton were heavy with dew. Dad would not subtract the traditional two pounds for dew. And I recall them inviting the workers into the house for lunch rather than leaving them outside to sit in the dirt under the trees.

A little light is better than total darkness. My folks used to say, “Well, they’re not like us but they are human beings and they have to save their souls just like us and we should not mistreat them.” This somewhat limited nod to equality was itself that bit of light in the darkness — that and the gentle counsel they and others have given me over the years.

Later in life, in the 1960s,  I would be writing about the evils of prejudice and in support for the Civil Rights Act; I marched in memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I would hear the snickers of friends and see my elders looking disappointed me in. And I would do it again if the need arose.

Two points:

1. White people were themselves victims of segregation — not anywhere close to the victimization of black people, but victims, too,  because they  were fearful of differences and so prejudiced they missed the dignity and wonder of other human beings.

2. Gentle counsel works. St. Augustine wrote a forceful and insightful admonition to pastors in his own time — and the lessons hold true today, for all of us, not only for pastors:

People who need advice or correction “must not be deceived by false hope nor  broken by fear.

                   (Liturgy of the Hours, Book IV, Page 281.)