Teenage Adventures

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Super-Bowl-XXII MVP Doug Williams

Today we keep the 130th anniversary of the holy death of St. John Bosco. Among many other accomplishments, Don Bosco published an apologetics magazine. Catholic Readings defended Catholic faith and practice, using extensive Scripture citations. To protect and fortify the souls of teenage boys, Don Bosco became a famous media mogul. He is the first canonized saint ever to have been interviewed by a newspaper reporter.

Now, speaking of teenage boys… Today we also mark the 30th anniversary of the greatest of all the Super Bowls, number XXII, which took place under the open sky, in San Diego, California.

don bosco catholic readingsIn those simpler times, the late 1980’s, it could come to pass that a middle-class lawyer in Washington, D.C., might find himself in possession of two Super Bowl tickets, through a business connection. He might think of giving those two precious tickets to his enterprising 17- and 15-year-old sons.

Those sons might buy cheap airplane tickets with their part-time-job money. They might learn the San Diego public transit system. The boys might, with their own eyes, then behold Doug Williams the Great making mincemeat of the Denver Broncos defense, in a resounding 42-10 MVP performance. The boys might have seats right behind the very end-zone in which the Washington Redskins scored five touchdowns in the second quarter. Then, the young men might catch a bus to the airport, then a red-eye flight back east, and find themselves in school before the first bell rang on Monday morning—which was the one stipulation their mother made in order to grant her permission for the trip.

Such adventures could happen in 1988, and they did. In those days, we did not suffer from as much fear of the outdoors as we do now. I’m not sure the world was really any safer then. But dads like ours had faith in Providence, so they weren’t afraid to let their teenage sons travel clear across the country on their own, to go to the Super Bowl. Also, my brother and I were tall and big and maybe a little cleverer than most 17- and 15-year-olds.

Anyway, Don Bosco knew that publishing his magazine involved risking his life. Mid-19th-century Italy was no safe place for a well-known zealous Catholic priest. In those days, people got beat up in the streets for defending the papacy. But Don Bosco prized the souls of his young readership over his own mortal life.

Faith in Jesus’ Father can, and does, give you the kind of courage that can turn life into an adventure.

Mark White Redskins fan

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Sed Contras for Both Sides in the Amoris Laetitia Debate

Side 1: Conscience must guide the mature Christian. God speaks to us there, with the voice of the “aboriginal Vicar of Christ.” If my conscience does not accuse me, God does not accuse me. If my conscience bids me do something, God bids me do it.

amoris-laetitia-coverA good shepherd of Christ’s flock empowers, encourages, and facilitates obedience to conscience. There lies the true path to Christian freedom, to intimate friendship with God.

BUT! We sinners spend a great deal of our lives doing things which quiet the voice of conscience. We can render it practically inaudible. Attaining the discipline and fortitude we need to hear God speaking in the inner sanctuary, and promptly obey–that entails a long, hard struggle. No one is born with that kind of discipline and fortitude.

A good pastor must help his sheep anticipate judgments which conscience will make after the rush of passion has passed, after our self-justifications have all exposed themselves, in the cool light of day, as shallow half-truths.

God has given us a moral law, which clearly and unmistakably prohibits sex outside of marriage. A shepherd who does not repeat and emphasize God’s clear law to someone who asks for guidance–someone who knows perfectly well that his or her mind suffers from the buffets of passion and self-imposed confusion: that’s no shepherd at all.

Side 2: A second marriage, without an annulment of the first, always involves adultery. Marriage binds for life. The vows express this, echoing the teaching of Christ. Christ’s teaching about life-long marriage touches on the very heart of the Christian mystery, the Eternal Law of love. We human beings fail to stay faithful, but the triune God does not. God’s holiness makes lifelong marital fidelity possible, fruitful, beautiful; He makes Holy Matrimony an image of heaven, of the wedding day of the Lamb.

BUT! The law of the Church provides a set of criteria according to which a judge may declare wedding vows to be non-binding. Diocesan tribunals issue declarations of nullity every day. Christ is always faithful to a marriage that was properly established in the beginning. But not every couple succeeds in properly establishing the bond, because of something lacking at the time. A declaration of nullity implies no moral judgment on anyone. But it does mean that wedding vows become non-binding.

No one has ever proposed that the operations of diocesan tribunals are infallible. Here’s what the Apostolic See has said:

The discipline of the Church, while it confirms the exclusive competence of ecclesiastical tribunals with respect to the examination of the validity of the marriage of Catholics, also offers new ways to demonstrate the nullity of a previous marriage, in order to exclude as far as possible every divergence between the truth verifiable in the judicial process and the objective truth known by a correct conscience. (Letter Concerning the Reception of Holy Communion by the Divorced and Remarried Members of the Faithful, September 14, 1994)

 

“To exclude as far as possible every divergence between the truth verifiable in the judicial process and the objective truth known by a correct conscience.” Therefore, some divergence is inevitable. Not everyone who should have an annulment does in fact have one.

By the same token, no one can judge his or her own annulment case. That’s a basic principle of law: You can’t render a just judgment on a case in which you have a personal interest.

Therefore, it seems to your unworthy servant that the question left before us by chapter 8 of Amoris Laetitia actually is:

Can anyone legitimately appeal to a judge–other than the duly appointed Judicial Vicar of the diocese–to apply the criteria by which we can conclude that a wedding vow does not bind?

In other words, can a parish priest effectively grant annulments? That would seem to be the ultimate meaning of the Holy Father’s suggestion that pastors can help couples in second marriages reach the point where they could receive the sacraments.

If the answer to this question is Yes, then we face a serious problem: It will no longer be possible to know for sure whether or not someone is married. Marital status is a matter of public record. But if a priest other than the duly appointed Judicial Vicar (or his delegate) renders a declaration of nullity, that anonymous judge has no real means by which to publish his decision. We would no longer have accurate records regarding the sacrament of Holy Matrimony. Things could change in the lives of the people involved–one of them might ultimately want to marry someone else–and we would have no way of knowing whether or not that is possible. A mess.

If, on the other hand, the answer to the question is No, then we continue to have the same problem that we have had: Literate, educated, and relatively well-to-do people can and do successfully use the annulment process. But uneducated, illiterate, poor people? Not so much. The effect: Education and affluence give people an advantage in receiving the sacraments. Not good.

May the good Lord help us! No one ever said any of this was going to be easy.

Demon Emetic

gadarene demoniac

We read narratives in the four gospels about five instances when the Lord Jesus cast demons out of people. The gospels also refer to other cases, without narrating them.

Now, I’m no art historian. But in my limited study of illuminated gospel manuscripts, I have noticed an interesting style in drawings of Jesus casting out demons. Many medieval artists show the demons exiting through the mouths of the possessed people.

There’s a drawing of Christ on the hillside, with the Gadarene demoniac, with a demon emerging from the possessed man’s mouth. And pictures of a demon exiting the mouth of the man in the synagogue in Capernaum.

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blue field demoniac

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Forgive me; I don’t mean to get gross. But these pictures suggest vomiting. It’s like Christ’s power acts as an emetic, driving the power of evil out of the system in a violent convulsion. Hurry, get the bucket! Then: relief. A moment of peace and quiet. Followed by the resumption of normal, healthy bodily operations.

The Catechism says that Jesus’ exorcisms anticipate His great victory over the “ruler of the world”—the victory He won on the cross. The coming of God’s Kingdom means the defeat of Satan’s.

A great convulsion of evil, of undeserved suffering—of genuine ugliness; a moment of terrifying grotesqueness—the innocent Lamb, lacerated, bruised, bloodied to the bone, stretched out under the cruel sky. Who could stand to watch it? They cried and hid their eyes.

But then: the peace of Christ. The world made right and whole again. Healthy life resuming—undying life, which nothing can crush.

Making a Commitment

Ghent Altarpiece Adoration of the Lamb

In our second reading at Sunday Mass, we will hear St. Paul giving advice about how to choose between getting married and consecrating your life to God in virginity or celibacy. This is what we call “vocational discernment.” [Spanish.]

We all have the same ultimate vocation, namely to unite ourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ in His paschal sacrifice, to become one with the Crucified. In this sense, we all have the vocation of monks, namely to prepare ourselves well for death.

That said, we each have our own particular, unique path to tread towards heaven. To follow it, we make decisions—big ones, that determine the whole course of our lives, and small ones. One thing we all know for sure is: We’ll never get to heaven if we don’t make a decision to dedicate ourselves to loving others, in some stable, committed form of life.

People have spoken for over thirty years now of a “vocations crisis” in the Church—the fact that in many parts of the world we don’t have enough priests, and the nuns are dying out. You don’t have to tell me about it. I will have my fifteenth anniversary of ordination this spring. For ten precious months, back in 2009-2010, I was the pastor of just one parish. Since then, I’ve always had two parishes to worry about.

Fra Angelico ordinationSo we need more priests, and we desperately need more nuns. But that’s not really the heart of the ‘vocations crisis.’ The more profound problem is the widespread hesitation young people have about making any kind of lifetime commitment at all.

Now, let’s not immediately condemn this as weakness or cowardice on the part of Generation Smartphone. The kind of commitment we’re talking about here, be it in marriage or consecrated life in the Church—these commitments involve what we call ‘institutions.’ And the wisdom of experience teaches us that human institutions all have problems.

The Church has infallible perfection–when it comes to Her faith and the grace that Christ delivers through Her sacraments. But as a human institution, governed by fallible men, the Church makes many painful mistakes.

And of course we know that there’s no such thing as a perfect marriage. Year after year can go by, and the same misunderstandings, the same fights, the same problems with the in-laws. We know from the statistics that the largest percentage of homicides involve domestic disputes. But it’s actually a miracle that the percentage isn’t higher.

So let’s sympathize a little with the fear of commitment that young people seem to have these days. But let’s also probe a little deeper into what “fear of commitment” really means. Where, after all, will I learn to love in the Heart of Christ, if I never make a commitment in marriage or the consecrated life?

It’s not about the human institution involved being perfect—we can’t reasonably expect anything in this pilgrim life on earth to be perfect. The duty we have as Christians is to love until it hurts anyway, like Jesus loved until it hurt. The imperfection of the human institutions doesn’t make that duty any less urgent—it makes it more urgent. Just because the priesthood, or consecrated life, or marriage all involve painful difficulties, confusion, and profound contradictions of how I thought my beautiful life would go—that doesn’t mean that any Christian can legitimately go running away from these institutions.

wedding ringsTo the contrary, it means that anyone who knows how seriously God takes my every decision; who knows that I’m here on earth for a reason, namely to love as Christ loved, unto death—anyone who knows these things can and must stride forward confidently and make a commitment that focuses me on loving and serving others, to the point where I can learn to forget about myself.

Now, can we succeed in marriage or the consecrated life on our own power? Of course not. We rely totally on God. And not only does He give us what it takes to stick to our commitments, He actually manages to turn the whole hum-drum business into a great daily adventure. The adventure of Christian love.

After all, the Crucified is the one, true, everlasting Bridegroom. As a pilgrim man, he took no woman for His wife—not because He hated women or marriage; He hardly hates the very means by which He brings us all into the world in the first place. No, He took no individual wife because the whole human race makes a part of His wedding banquet. His Bride is us: His people, His earth, His cosmos—all of it destined for nuptial communion.

We priests and deacons often have to urge potential brides, and even grooms, to remember: “It’s not all about the wedding day; it’s about the rest of your lives.” True enough. Except that it is all about the wedding day—the wedding day of the Lamb. The Day when death and sin will be no more, and we’ll never get tired and cranky, or misunderstand each other, or fight–and the dancing will go on forever.

Not a Democracy

Fra Angelico ordination

Back in Apostolic times, some pagans of Asia Minor venerated the fertility god Dionysus. They kept a festival in honor of Dionysus in the latter part of January. One year, during that festival, they killed St. Timothy. That’s why we keep his memorial at this time of year, right after the anniversary of St. Paul’s conversion to Christ.

In his letter to Timothy, St. Paul refers to how he laid hands on him, consecrating him as a Church official. Also, yesterday was the 53rd anniversary of Winston Churchill’s death. Churchill, who famously said: “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the other forms.”

winston-churchillNo doubt, democracy has a stabilizing effect. And it corresponds to the dignity of the human person to have a vote. But the Church can’t be a democracy, and here’s why.

She has a King. Jesus Christ is the source of all ministry in His Church. He is the one true “official” of the Church, and He appoints Church officials by His own sacred means.

We participate in the life of the Church for a reason: to submit ourselves fully to Christ’s rule. For us members of the fallen human race, freedom from the slavery of sin comes only when we submit ourselves to Christ.

So we can’t think: This Church ought to reflect the votes of the members. We can only think: This Church ought to reflect the will of Her divine Founder.

We can’t think: I have the right as a human being to influence the constitution and laws of the Church. We can only think: I have the right as a human being to receive the good things that Jesus Christ gave to His Church when He founded Her.

We can’t think: The Church would have a more-stable life if only a majority vote could determine its rules and who the officials are. We can only think: The Church, in spite of all the vagaries of human history, has had a more-stable life than any other institution known to man. We can only credit that to the work of the divine Spirit Who does, in fact, govern Her.

Mental Prayer and PB & J’s

Soil that receives the seed, allows it to grow, and then brings forth fruit thirty-, sixty-, a hundredfold. As the Lord explained, that fertile soil represents “those who hear the word and accept it.”

Representation_of_the_Sower's_parableThe Word: Jesus Christ, the Person. Those who hear Him. Those who hear the gospels, and think about them regularly. Those, in other words, who live under the “roof” of the Church, venerating the Son of God, rejoicing in the salvation He won for us, and striving always to participate in His unfathomable love.

The Lord gave me the gift of mental prayer at a young age. I know I had it by age twelve, since I have a vivid memory of writing a poem about the Lord Jesus for a seventh-grade English assignment.

But Christian mental prayer is no extraordinary, esoteric gift—at least not for people raised in the Church. It was just the simple fact that my parents made sure I was where I was supposed to be every Sunday morning. So I heard the gospel readings, and I found them interesting. I found Him interesting—Jesus Christ. More interesting than anything else, even including basketball. My middle-school existence consisted, therefore, of Christian mental prayer at chance moments, and endless shoot-arounds, lay-up drills, and three-on-threes.

Seriously, though, let’s listen to St. Francis de Sales. They laid the Gentle Doctor to rest 395 years ago today, so January 24 makes an especially good day to listen to him. That said, a lot of people make their way toward heaven by studying the teaching of St. Francis de Sales every day. …Anyway, he wrote:

Children learn to speak by hearing their mother talk, and stammering forth their childish sounds in imitation; and so if we cleave to the Savior in meditation, listening to His words, watching His actions and intentions, we shall learn in time, through His Grace, to speak, act, and will like Himself.

Christian mental prayer—which is the highway to heaven—involves absolutely nothing that the average bear doesn’t already have in his or her life. The opposite. Christian mental prayer is like sandwiches, folding laundry—like making sure there’s milk in the fridge—it’s the homiest, most day-to-day thing, for a practicing Catholic. When we are where we’re supposed to be every Sunday morning, the gospels become part of the way we think, feel, react, and speak.

Once we reach adulthood, however, we do become susceptible to Word-choking distractions in life. So we must set aside time for the Lord every day, time for meditation on the gospels–at least a few minutes.

May the good Lord help us to do that. So that He can bear His fruit in us.

Whose Future is it?

unbornForty-five years ago today: Roe v. Wade.

On the one hand: To many of us it seems obvious that procured abortion involves the snuffing-out of an innocent life. All of us began to be “human” at the moment of our conception in our mothers’ wombs. The more science studies prenatal life, the more Neanderthal does the reasoning of Roe v. Wade appear.

On the other hand: Many others consider it obvious that the freedom to choose for oneself must trump all disagreements about when human life begins. The freedom to choose must trump all disagreements about what God wills. If pregnant women could not procure abortions when they decided to do so, this would not truly be a free country, according to these presuppositions. “Authority” cannot legitimately interfere with family matters.

–But what about the pictures on the ultrasound?! What about the unique and unrepeatable DNA?! What about all the support that pro-life pregnancy centers can and do offer any pregnant woman willing to reckon with the truth?!

None of that touches the point, the other side would say. At least, I think that’s what the other side would say. None of that reaches the heart of the matter. This disagreement doesn’t have to do with scientific facts or practical problems, like who’s going to pay for the diapers. This disagreement has to do with God.

Or, to be more precise: It has to do with, Who is God? Many, many people—the spiritual sons and daughters of the 20th century—these people consider it perfectly obvious that the god of this world is Man. After all, we see no other. Man must control his own future. Man must make life comfortable for himself. Who else will? The realistic person acknowledges that man has no heavenly protector—so man must protect himself!

Problem is that this desperate battle that man fights to make life comfortable for himself inevitably leads to violence. When all we see is a violent cosmos in which life has to fight to survive, then we wind up considering human acts of violence to be par for the course.

Yes, we pro-lifers have science on our side. But, fundamentally, what we stand for is this: God will provide. The future of the human race does not ultimately lie in our hands. It lies in much better hands. We can reckon with the uncomfortable facts of reality–like the fact that many babies face an insecure future—we can reckon with all this, and not have recourse to violence, because we trust in God.

So: May we always trust Him. May we always welcome the strangers and sojourners that He sends. May we never do violence because we can’t find comfort in our future prospects. The future does not belong to us. It belongs to Someone much better.

In the Kingdom by Faith

 

The Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe. (Mark 1:15)

Faith. Faith in the divine Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Not blind faith, or against reason–believing in the Kingdom of God actually makes more sense than anything else, all things considered. But nonetheless we must believe in what we cannot see, in order to enter the Kingdom of God. Faith is the only entrance. [Spanish.]

xt-kingWhat we see is: signs. We see love at work in this world. We see kindness and mercy. We see new beginnings and peaceful harmony, in quiet little corners. We see brothers and sisters who hunger and thirst for justice, willing to sacrifice themselves for others. We see how faith in what we can’t see makes the people we can see admirable and beautiful.

So we see signs of the heavenly life of God’s kingdom. But we don’t see it, the thing itself. Doesn’t mean it ain’t real. Nothing could be more real than the love that unites the Father and the Son–the same love that unites us, when we repent and believe. Nothing could be more real than heaven. But for us, for now, this wonderfully real thing is something in which we believe, rather than something we see. And by believing, we come to know and understand everything else that is worth knowing and understanding in life.

We believe that this kingdom–the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom of Christ–we believe that it involves the triumph of truth and justice. Parents have to teach their children that life isn’t fair. But in the Kingdom of God, it is. The One Who sees all, knows all, and balances everything equitably: He is the One Who assigns everyone his or her place and apportions all the goods in the Kingdom of God.

elgrecochristcrossIn the Kingdom of God, cheaters never prosper; liars never get away with it; evil deeds never get swept under the rug; the proud never crush the weak. In God’s kingdom, humble honesty always wins the reward it deserves.

Maybe you’re thinking: Father, what kind of other world is this? You say it’s real, but what you’re talking about sounds like a fantasy. The kingdom where compassion unites everyone of pure heart–that seems like a mere dream world, compared to the planet we actually know about.

Here on planet Earth, generations pass, and we don’t seem to learn any lessons about justice. Babies continue to get killed in the womb, racists continue to send orphans back to war zones, and husbands and wives still don’t know how to communicate with each other. What could possibly unite this fallen world with the supposed divine kingdom of Jesus Christ?

Ok. Reasonable question. Here’s the answer. Two things can and do unite planet Earth with the Kingdom of God.

1. The Cross. Jesus conquered the cosmos and became her king using one weapon. The most powerful weapon ever wielded. A weapon that makes both Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump look like little rocket men by comparison. The Cross.

By stretching out His arms on the cross, Jesus overcame all the evil of this generation, and every human generation, with one, single, definitive divine act. The world as we know it, with all its sins that cry to heaven for justice–this world, and the Kingdom of Heaven governed by the Prince of Peace: these two realms have a bridge between them. An open bridge, free of all tariffs and border control. The Holy Cross of Jesus’ sacrifice. Which brings us to…

2. Prayer. “Thy Kingdom come.” It might seem like the Kingdom of God only exists in some kind of fantasy realm of pure imagination. But, in fact, the Kingdom of God actually lies just one prayer away from right here.

Jesus always dwelt under the protection of His heavenly Father; He always lived in the Kingdom of God. Even as He hung on the cross, gasping for breath, in the bitterest agony. He cried out, “Abba, Father!” And Jesus knew that the Father heard Him.

Same goes for us. The Kingdom comes when we pray. We live in the Kingdom of God–when we pray. We might think our faith is faltering; we might think our hearts have become impure, when we cry out in desperation or confusion. But, actually, that is precisely when our prayer to the Father is the most intimate and holy–when we are the most desperate, and the most confused.

Lord, Your kingdom come! We can’t do it alone. We don’t know what we’re doing. Lord Jesus, we need a king, and we need it to be You.

The Green-Eyed Monster

Othello and Iago by Solomon Alexander Hart
“Othello and Iago” by Solomon Alexander Hart

Saul kept a jealous eye on David. (I Samuel 18:19)

From the desk of Snowbound Father Mark… A summary of Question 36 of St. Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica, part II-II: De Invidia.

Goodness makes us rejoice. Evil makes us sorrow.

We naturally want honor, a good name, a good reputation–and the prosperity that tends to go with a good reputation. But when we focus too much on winning the esteem of others, we grow vain.

We observe that sometimes people enjoy prosperity and a good reputation because they deserve it. But sometimes the unjust and undeserving prosper, and that makes us indignant.

When we meditate on the truths of the Christian faith, we recognize that success and prosperity in this world is one thing–relatively short lived. On the other hand, success and prosperity in the pursuit of holiness and eternal life–that’s another thing. That’s worth pursuing with zeal, with jealousy. May we all jealously strive to get to heaven.

While we do, we’ll forget about vanity. And we’ll learn to accept the fact that this world deals out rewards and punishments in an amazingly unfair way.

Divine love rejoices when anyone prospers with the truly beautiful goods of eternal life–with virtue and genuine excellence. By the same token, divine love sorrows and feels pity whenever a neighbor suffers.

When, on the other hand, we lose sight of the real goal of all our striving, and seek only success and recognition in this world, then we live in a state of competition with our peers. We sorrow at the neighbor’s achievement and excellence–because I think his or her success somehow harms me, makes me look like a loser by comparison.

Now, even good people experience twinges of envy–these twinges are venial sins. But if I forget heaven, grow vain, and let the green-eyed monster take over my my mind, I will gossip; I will tear down; I will hate. And then I will heartlessly rejoice at the misfortune of the one who has excelled me.

The rule to measure ourselves by: The loving, merciful person does not envy anyone–except the saints in heaven, whom he hopes to join. But the envious person shows no mercy.

Looking for God, Experiencing God

baptist-greco2

“What are you looking for?” The first words of Jesus recorded in the gospel of John. Christ asks this question of those who follow Him. Andrew and the other gentleman literally followed Christ–after they saw Him walk by and heard St. John the Baptist call Him the “Lamb of God.” [Spanish.]

“What are you looking for?” Christ asks us the same question, we who propose to follow Him as His disciples, here and now, 2018. What are we looking for?

How about: “We’re looking for God.” We seek our Maker, our Lord. We seek His true and eternal goodness and beauty. We behold His works: the splendid visible creation, and the great mystery of ourselves. We see from His handiwork that God has unimaginable power and knowledge. We long to share in His wisdom. We know that we can have no peace without His friendship.

St. Andrew and the other gentleman answered Jesus’ question by calling Him “rabbi.” A rabbi taught the Law, the wisdom of God. By addressing Jesus with this title, they said pretty much what we just said. That is, “Jesus, sir, teach us about God.”

They added a question of their own. “Where are you staying?”

Now, on the one hand, it’s a strange question to ask the Son of Man–Who had no place to rest His Head, Whose only true dwelling is with the Father. But, on the other hand, the question expresses genuine earnestness. It means: ‘Teacher, we want to learn from you, not just as religious tourists chasing curiosities. We want to follow You as real disciples, living in intimate closeness with You. We will give up our own homes, and we will make our home at Your feet.’

Can we say the same? We said that we follow Christ because we want God; we know that only God can give us true happiness and peace. Can we join St. Andrew and St. Peter in putting everything on the line for the sake of learning God’s wisdom from Jesus? Everything: all that we thought was ours, all that we thought we knew. Can we renounce every ounce of pride and self-satisfaction and put ourselves humbly at Jesus’ feet?

aquinasHe demands no less. “Come and see,” He says. According to St. Thomas Aquinas, this means: Come, follow Me, and experience true union with God. Experience it, because it cannot be explained using words alone.

Christianity is not something in which you can dabble. It’s not a hobby. It involves an all-encompassing experience of God’s revelation in Christ.

Yes, to be sure, the baby Jesus is lovable and cute. And God became just such a baby so as to communicate the indescribable tenderness and gentleness of His love.

But the cute baby grew up to become the High Priest Who baptizes with the unquenchable fire of the Holy Spirit. He grew into the rabbi who taught doctrine so demandingly sublime that His rivals came to hate Him for it, and they wanted Him dead.

Now: How can we possibly experience what Jesus demands that we experience? Namely, His Holy Spirit working in our souls, giving us an intimate union with Almighty God. Putting us in communion not just with the heavens and the earth, but with He Who made the heavens and the earth.

Well, if you expect me to have a complete answer to that question, think again. I’m hardly qualified to discourse about such holiness.

But we can say this much: We experience the work of the Holy Spirit in our souls when we stay close to Christ in His Church. He speaks to us through the Scriptures and all the words and works of the Sacred Liturgy; He fills us with His grace through the sacraments.

Yes, it’s amazing that this humble building of ours could house such mystical activity. It’s incredible that these simple ceremonies we do here actually involve God incarnate ministering to us. It’s hard to believe that we unremarkable individuals could find ourselves caught up in the work of the Holy Spirit of God. It’s amazing. But it’s true.

So let’s stay faithful to it. What more can we do, other than stay faithful? We can’t claim to understand the works of God. We certainly don’t know of anything more wonderful. So let’s stay faithful, and the Holy Spirit will do His work in us.