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Azariah’s Prayer

16 Aug

Reaching Up

Azariah took a prophetic look at his world,

a prophet must seek and hear his God.

In the Bible’s Book of Daniel, we are treated to the prayer of Azariah. He, Hananiah and Mishael refused to worship an idol created by King Nebuchadnezzar. (Here I use their Hebrew names rather than the ones by which the pagans called them. See Daniel 1:6.)

 Because of their refusal to worship an idol, the enraged king cast them into a fiery furnace. To the king’s amazement, he saw them walking around unharmed in the fiery furnace—and Azariah prophesied about the sinfulness of the Hebrew nation and the justice of God (Daniel 3:1-31).

The Sin of the Nation

In essence, Azariah states that, as a whole, the Hebrews abandoned God. They have ignored God’s will and law, his call to be one with him and to enjoy an intimate life of grace. In spite of all he has done for the Hebrew people, God is dismissed from the depths of the human heart; at best, he is merely acknowledged by external observance of the law; at its worst, his people worship idols and profane his holy Name.

Could we not today, here in our own world, and particularly in our own United States, pray that same prayer as did Azariah? Here, where God has so lavishly blessed our nation with so many good things?

We do indeed have our own idols—the desecration of marriage, hunger for money and power, sex for sex’s sake, and the fear of aging and the desire to look forever young. Just consider carefully the following TV programs: “Dancing with the Stars,” “Bachelor” and “Bachelorette,” “Two and a Half Men,” “Naked and Afraid,” “Dating Naked,”  and that general genre.

We Need the Prophetic Voice

We need prophetic voices, in our Church and in all society, to speak fearlessly, honestly and charitably about the growing darkness in our world.  The old concerns remain and, in my mind, deserve more attention in parishes and in families: Christian frugality, sexual morality, modesty in dress and language, and corruption in government.

And, of great importance, is the responsibility to teach, not  only the things that are sins, but the source of our moral convictions and the unhappy consequences of sin.

St. Augustine was very clear about the responsibility to preach truth. He said that preachers (and I suggest parents and teachers as well) must speak the truth. If they do, and the sinner dies, it is the fault of the sinner; if they do not, and the sinner dies, the preachers, parents and teachers bear the blame.

Jesus, help us to love you purely and passionately and to trust you completely.


We can’t both be right

17 May

The full Gospel demands faith in Christ. It demands discovering and preaching Truth.

“God is a God of the heart. Religions divide. Religions don’t count. You have to be Christian.”

This is the opinion of some Christians.

The opinion can’t defend itself. Christians who hold this opinion are saying: “It doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you believe on Jesus Christ.

 That opinion really  means, “What’s true for me is good for me. What’s true for you is good for you.”

That’s pluralism – everything goes; truth contradicts itself but that’s all right. Truth is what you make it. Just love Jesus.”

If you love Jesus, you want to believe in his full Gospel. You want to be one in faith, and one in truth. You want to believe that truth will set you free, that truth cannot contradict itself.

If you say my shirt is white and I insist that it is black, we can’t both be right.

If I say that in the Mass, bread and wine are transformed into the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ – and you say it is not so transformed, that it is only a symbolic devotion, we can’t both be right.

If you say it doesn’t matter what church you attend, and I say that it does matter, that Tradition and Scripture go hand-in-hand, we can’t both be right.

If you say faith resides in the heart, and I say faith is a gift to the intellect, that the heart is just a muscle, that love is a decision and you say love’s an emotion, we can’t both be right.

Pluralism denies the existence of objective truth. Oh, we can agree to disagree – but that flies in the face of Christ who said, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.”

There is no duplicity in Christ. Truth is truth.

Completed Catholic?

23 Apr

This is where I work. Some would say this is where I live. Whatever, here is where I struggle to discern what I should and should not blog about. Here is where I most often pray and get ideas (inspiration?) to send along to you, my dear family and friends.

You have probably heard the term “Completed Jew” which refers, from the Christian perspective, to a Jewish person who has accepted Christ as the Messiah, Son of God and Savior.

But when are Christians complete? How are they completed? More specifically, are you a Completed Catholic?

I asked a brother deacon to define a “Completed Catholic.” He, a committed evangelist, said that a completed Catholic would be one who has fully accepted Jesus Christ.

Ah, yes, with emphasis on fully accepted!

Pope John Paul II urged us to begin a “new evangelization” by helping all those Catholics in the pew to become fully converted, so in tune with Christ that they will want to tell others about their peace, joy and strength in the Lord.

As I am not yet quite complete, I have been able to recognize, in every parish in which I have preached, a large number of Catholics who are not complete. They are just done. They are done with first communion and confirmation, done with baptismal prep, done with marriage preparation — and done, too often, with regular worship at Mass.

So, what to do? In a word, refocus.

I don’t want to gore any sacred cows, but we Catholics have to broaden our understanding of Catholic Evangelization. It embodies the basic focus of Protestant and Evangelical evangelization.

 But we do have a bit more to talk about, explain and celebrate:

  • Our faith is rooted in the Resurrection of Christ, in the first Eucharist, the Lord’s Supper or Last Supper; it is rooted in the foundation of the Church on the Apostles and the succession of mission and authority through the laying on of hands.
  • We have authority in our Church — Pope and Bishops who carry on the work of the apostles, the mission of Christ.
  • We have the Sacraments — through which we are initiated into the Church and nourished and strengthened all life long. The Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist is foundational to our faith. Through the Mass, we hear God speaking to us in real-time; we stand beneath the Cross of Christ, witness his death and our salvation. Through the Mass, we also witness his resurrection and ascension and the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.
  • We have Tradition — from which we have Scripture, the very Word of God. We have, as the Body of Christ, an intimate experience of God spanning more than 20 centuries.
  • We have a close relationship with the saints — all saints, canonized and otherwise. We believe in the “communion of saints.” We share God’s life, light and love now —  though imperfectly. In heaven, it will all be perfect.

I wonder  how much we adhere to our faith and how often we thank God for the gift of our Church.

Am I, are you, a Completed Catholic? In what ways are we merely “done?”