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Lord, make me an instrument of your peace . . .

22 April 2015

I seek ???

So many folks today are searching for meaning in their lives.  Because of the values of our secular society, they look for satisfaction in the accumulation of wealth, power, prestige, or sexual conquests.  But so many folks remain unsatisfied in their search.  They have all of these things, but still want more.  It is an unfortunate reality that accumulation of material things really never satisfies the basic human search for meaning and truth. 
This search is not at all helped by the modern philosophy that maintains that one can select, like a cafeteria, those things that have meaning and purpose for their lives without out regard to others.  Modern society not only embraces this relativism but encourages folks to be selfish about their lives.  One is encouraged to look better, have more, be more, by acquiring all of the latest gadgets, vehicles, clothes, makeup, body spray, toothpaste, prescription drugs -- and the list is endless.  But it never seems to satisfy, because folks continue to search for the next "greatest thing" in their lives.  "If only....." or "I'll be happy when ....." have become the plainsongs of the modern age.
Well, why does this search even exist?  Why do folks need to "find" that one thing that will satisfy their every need?  What are they looking for, really??
I think that each of us, through our creation as humans, is embedded with a natural thirst for something bigger and better than ourselves -- something that will provide us with the raison d'ĂȘtre for life.  This search is our essence and is manifest from the very beginning of our lives deep in our mother's womb.  If we are not shown a way to relieve this thirst, then we will make up an answer; and, modern society has created consumerism to satisfy this quest for meaning. 
I suggest that never will we find satisfaction through consumerism or any other modern ploy.  They will only provide little moments of happiness, albeit fleeting.  We need something much more satisfying to ease this essential tension in our soul.  I think that the Psalmist says it best in this little excerpt: 
2As the deer longs for streams of water,a
so my soul longs for you, O God.
3My soul thirsts for God, the living God.
 Psalm 42
Yes, we need something much bigger than our selves.  Inherent in our inner being, our soul, is this drive, this search, this thirst for a living water that will satisfy our longing.  You see, when we decide to exert our natural freedom of choice, we often choose a path that does not bring us to satisfaction; rather, we get only that fleeting joy of accumulation of things. 
We should aim for a higher goal; and that goal is a life centered on "the living God" -- not the gods of power, wealth, prestige, or sexual conquest.  The "living God" provides us with "living water" that will fully quench our thirst.  And, we find this "living God" in all those people we meet every day -- the poor, the lost, the homeless, the prisoner, the hungry, the destitute, the marginalized.  Virtually, everyone we meet has some issue that can be identified by a broad definition  of these categories.  But, each of us must first get out of ourselves, center our purpose on the other, and change the direction of our lives. 
We can do this because we accept that there is a "living God" who loves us so much that he constantly showers us with His grace.  But, we have to acknowledge His love and respond accordingly.  And Jesus tells us how:
 15i “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”                                                                              Mark 1
5Jesus answered, “Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit.d                                                       John 3
 35* Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.q. . . . 37Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and I will not reject anyone who comes to me,                                                                                                          John 6
So, if we are searching for something to satisfy that natural thirst in our inner being, we have the answer: give our lives to Jesus -- not the Jesus of selfish "Christians" who have succumbed to the world's ways, but the Jesus preached in the Bible -- the one who loves us all, but still admonishes us to straighten out our lives ("repent and believe" & "go and sin no more").  So, we can satisfy that inherent thirst, but the "rules" still apply; we can't just do what ever feels good and expect that the "living God" will be happy with that.
But, when we give our self over to this way of life, we find a new freedom that is so satisfying that we cannot describe it except:
1A psalm of thanksgiving.
Shout joyfully to the LORD, all you lands;
2serve the LORD with gladness;
come before him with joyful song.
3*Know that the LORD is God,
he made us, we belong to him,
we are his people, the flock he shepherds.a
4Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
his courts with praise.
Give thanks to him, bless his name;b
5good indeed is the LORD,
His mercy endures forever,
his faithfulness lasts through every generation.
Psalm 100
May God Give You Peace!

On the death of Cardinal George

Cardinal Francis George, at his residence in Chicago, talks with Tribune reporter John Kass about choosing a new pope.
Chicago Tribune Photo during interview
I didn't know Cardinal George of Chicago all that well.  It is only through his writings, speeches, and news articles that I became familiar with him as a Cardinal, pastor, and priest.  I had worked with his predecessor, Cardinal Bernadin as part of the Catholic Conference of Illinois representing the Diocese of Springfield-in-Illinois.  I must admit that I was, and still am, quite a fan of Cardinal Bernadin.  So, when he died and Bishop George was appointed to Chicago, I was skeptical about what he would be like.
Well, I was not disappointed at all!  In Father Barron's fine article about Cardinal George, he enumerated many of the accomplishments of Cardinal George, but what stuck me most, and what I observed over his years as the leader of the Archdiocese, was how he confronted modern society with the calm passion of our Catholic faith and showed us how to live in this society while retaining our Catholic values.  He showed us how to live; he taught us how to remain faithful to our faith; he explained why we must remain faithful; he challenged those who compromised our trust in priests by strongly addressing those who had strayed from the true path; and, he led us to a deeper understanding of the challenging, yet fruitful theology explained to us by Pope St. John Paul II, the Great.
Even though I didn't know him well, I celebrate his ministry and hope that I can live up to his expectation for us as faithful Catholics in the United States.
May the perpetual light shine and May God Give You Peace, Cardinal Francis George.

07 April 2015

A New Life

We are celebrating Easter 2015 right now.  We celebrate all week because this is such an important event in, not only our individual lives, but in the history of the world.  There is no doubt in my mind that something very important happened 2,000 years ago that began the process of creating this Christian faith and the Church that continues to profess its mysteries and glory.
It is hard for me to believe that such a rag-tag group of people from an insignificant place in the Roman Empire made such an impact upon society unless something very, very dramatic changed their lives.  Can you just imaging Peter, John and James getting together on Saturday after the crucifixion and figuring out how to steal the body and then begin this movement?  Or, this guy named Saul who was on his way to Damascus to persecute this small group of Jesus people being so dramatically changed so quickly that he became one of the new movements strongest apologists and evangelists?  No, it had to be something miraculous and dramatic.  They really did see the Risen Lord!  They really did see Him in his changed body, the kind of body that we will all see one day.  They witnessed the aftermath of the Resurrection and it completely changed their lives forever.  They changed from men afraid to bold men (& women) prepared to risk everything, even death, to proclaim this wonderful message of grace, hope, and life.
That's why I believe the Easter Story.  It is not some fairy tale.  If it were, I just can't see how it would have grown to be such a large organization in the present time - something like 2.1 billion people profess to being Christian - 33% of the world's population!
That's why I believe that there is more to life than gaining more money, power, prestige, and things than any one else.  That's why I believe that turning our lives around and placing the needs of others is more important than anything else.  Because Jesus showed us how to sacrifice ourselves for others with his remarkable example.  Not only that, but
16For God so loved the world that he gave* his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.k 17For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn* the world, but that the world might be saved through him.
John 3
The LORD God had been sending this message of love for so many hundreds of years, but determined that the only way that he could get the message across was to send his Son to show us the way.  And how we have misrepresented that message of love, gift, grace, and joy over the centuries.  But it doesn't have to be that way.
In today's society, where so many people pursue their own trivial, selfish pleasures, we can still make a difference.  If each person who claims to be Christian will just return to the message of grace, love, forgiveness, compassion, and charity that the LORD God sent through Jesus, we can begin the dramatic change that started this movement so many centuries ago.  This remains our challenge.  In so doing, I believe that we can find a way to create the kind of country that our founders sought in the late 18th Century.
May God Give You Peace!

06 April 2015

Indiana & "It is finished "

There are those who are screaming at the top of their lungs about the so called discrimination of the recent law passed in Indiana.  In their fervent ardor for their particular cause, they have succeeded in doing to others what they claim will happen to them through the implementation of this law, e.g., the closing of a small pizza shop due to discriminatory harassment by vocal protestors.   I'm wondering who the bigots are.
Are we witnessing the end of civil society?  Has the First Amendment reached its climax and the pursuit of the original white settlers dream, the freedom to practice one's faith and the freedom of speech, expired?  Will people of faith and Good Will a minority be subjected to the same kind of harassment and prejudice directed toward similar folks throughout history? Do we need to form Ghettos where people of faith can live amongst themselves and in peace unhindered by the secular "righteousness" demonstrated so recently in Indianapolis?
OK - are you hot under the collar now?  Good!  That was the point!  Now, before you get all disturbed and hurl your iPad across the room, just wait a minute and read on.
The Constitution does grant folks the right to worship as they choose, in First Amendment.  In fact it says (in part)
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;
As long as one worships quietly and stays sequestered in their church, there are no problems.  "The free exercise of" clause seems to really be the sticking point, doesn't it?  So what kind of latitude does that give a person who says that they adhere to a Christian belief and own a business anyway?  Well, I'd like to suggest that if they single out a specific group of people to exclude from their business, they are wrong; especially if they base it upon a single verse of Leviticus (18:  22).  Rightfully, they should not do business with all of the categories in both Leviticus 18 and 19, some 66 verses and 60 or so prohibitions.  In addition, if they consider what Jesus said, then they should include thoughts as well.  Shucks, that list would cover the entire front door! (How would you like the job of asking someone trying to enter a business where you work if they have slept with their neighbor's wife?)

Or, are we just talking about the so called "gay marriage" issue?  Well, that is a horse of a different color, one might say.  In a pluralistic society, like the US, used to be, government has the right to recognize any grouping it wishes for awarding tax benefits.  Until recently, the words "marriage & family" carried a specific historic definition of the nuclear family, meaning a father (man),  a mother (woman), and children (parents being legally married).  Because this had been a stable definition for centuries, the government, in its all-foreseeing wisdom, created tax laws and other rights around this concept.  People of the same sex living together was not a factor when these "tax incentives" originated.  
As society has moved to a freer definition of this family unit, various groups have demanded similar rights for their family unit.  Government does have the right to grant those rights based upon its own principles of equality. Unfortunately, government has erroneously appropriated the word "marriage" to define that group of rights.  The difficulty is that for centuries folks have associated marriage with the "family unit" of a man (father), a woman (mother) (both married), & children. Many, because of their religion (and not just Christian) believe that this "family unit" was created in the very beginning of time.  One could easily support this view; even so, the civil legal practice of marriage existing for 4,000 years or so does seem a rather convincing argument for the traditional definition of marriage. Government, rightly, should have and still can, select a different terminology to define its tax unit, e.g., civil union, and that should apply to all who wish to have the benefits bestowed by the government for the "family unit".  (NOTE: "civil union" is probably too emotionally charged now and way too simple for the government; they would use some other government speak designation like BECON - Basic Economic Unit of the Nation. Gotta have an acronym.)  Those who want to be "married" in the traditional sense will have to conform to the Church's definition and rules to achieve this sacramental title.  The idea of "marriage" is and should be a specific sacramental concept controlled by the tenets of the faith group and in no way regulated by the government.
But that logical approach and possibility doesn't address the current furor over "religious freedom".  How do we address this controversy?  I suspect that one thing that folks need to address is the concept of truth.  What is truth?
Well, philosophers have trying to answer that question for quite some time now.  Just a few days ago, the Church commemorated the trial of Jesus in which Pilate asks this very question:  "What is Truth?"  George Weigel writes in his Roman Pilgrimage:

Jesus's testimony to truth before Pilate is particularly striking in the cultural circumstances of the early twenty-first century, in which, for many, the only secure truth is that there is no such thing as the truth, only partial and personal truths. 
One group, working on their answer to this question over the last 4,000 years, have recognized the supremacy of Adonai and His tenets as the ultimate truth in the universe - the foundation of the Judeo-Christian faith.  The philosophy that has developed around these tenets is much like the "scientific laws" that we recognize today, only these tenets are called the "natural law".  They define a just society and detail how folks should act and interact in that just society. Now, granted, some of those tenets were based upon the nomadic and agrarian societies and probably are no longer applicable to modern living, but their basic principles of human interaction are quite valid even today.  Throughout history, other groups have held differing views and have tried to impose their beliefs upon people of good will; but most, if not all, of those other societies no longer exist.  Oh, certainly, their ideas recycle, but the "natural law" folks have persisted, largely due to the caring and selfless nature of their tenets when properly lived.
Oh, yes, there have always been some rotten apples in the barrel.  That's one of the natural laws, I think; but the basic ideas of caring for others before yourself have more than proven the test of time.  Today's society seems bent on reversing these time worn tenets and, once again, is trying to force its ideas of personal prerogative and pleasure upon all of society - as it were, forcing all peoples to worship its gods - power, money, possessions, greed, sexual "freedom", and so on.  One might ask, how is this any different from the Christian or Jew or Muslim insisting upon their code of conduct?

Over and over again, these selfish tendencies of society have been the downfall of many a civilization.  Nevertheless, today folks are insistent that all must believe as they do with regard to many issues that are just plain contrary to this "natural law".  And we who endeavor to live by this law are vilified as bigots.  No - we just have a completely different system of beliefs that are based upon 4,000 years of history and have been validated many times over those 4,000 years. 
So, how do we resolve this conflict?  Well, first, let's remember that the idea of the First Amendment is that all are free to "exercise [their religion]".  Secondly, the true Christian of today will not alter their views because society demands it; but, also the true Christian will demonstrate grace, forgiveness, and charity, even though they believe the acts of the person are contrary to their beliefs about social mores - following the example of Jesus Christ - just as Pope Francis is trying to demonstrate.   Third, it is apparent that society will not divert its progress towards a more secular, all-inclusive system of relationships.  What a conundrum we have!
It appears that, once again, people of Good Will are faced with persecution by society because we do not and will not accept these concepts of morality.  I am sorry, folks, but a system built upon 4,000 years of practice just will not compromise its structure because you say so.  For those who point out Pope Francis' comment, "Who am I to judge?" and that Jesus didn't condemn the women caught in adultery, please remember that implied by the Pope and stated by Christ is
"Then, neither do I condemn you.  Go and sin no more."                       John 8: 11

As long as society does not accept the concept of sin, then this clash of moral imperatives will continue to occur.  The Bible is full of stories about this clash of ideals.  People of Good Will must persist in their belief of the rightness and truth of the tenets of the LORD God.  We will just have to take our lumps, as it were. 
However, the story that has the most poignant conclusion is the Easter story.  Jesus did come to the world, sacrificed his life for our sins, and rose again in the glory of Easter.  His final statement on Calvary, "It is finished," is the clue that the sins of mankind are wiped out and that we can have a new life in Christ--a life that will give so much greater satisfaction that the enticements of modern living; and, His resurrection fully demonstrates what is waiting for us - a new life; a body transformed into a glorious one; an eternal celebration of the good that God made us for in the first place.  Some may denigrate this event, but something happened 2,000 years ago that changed the world dramatically.  George Weigel writes (Roman Pilgrimage):
These things happened; but they are pregnant with meaning, and the interplay of event and meaning is the key to grasping that this is indeed the axial moment, the turning point of human history.  Moreover, this "moment" is so rich in meaning that it will continue to resonate throughout history.
Because of these beliefs, I will never stop loving those who think differently.  I will never stop praying for them to finally understand that what they seek is right before them, but is not in the selfish gratification of today's allurements.  I will never stop loving those,  especially members of my family, who are living the same sex life.  I will never stop recommending, to those who ask, Pope St. John Paul II's Theology of the Body as a reference as to why we believe the way that we do and what the appropriate response is.  I will never stop recommending, to those who ask, the life promoted by the Courage Apostolate.  I will never stop challenging those who call themselves Christian to look at the fullness of Jesus testimony and live by its principles.  I will never stop calling on all people to stop yelling at each other, to sit and talk, and really try to understand the "other side" without condemnation, bigotry, and judgment.

May God Give You Peace!!