Closing Out the Fiscal Year

Ledger

Getting ready to close the fiscal year here. FY 2018-19 ends in four days.

Thanks be to God, and to the goodness of people’s hearts, we have solid and healthy books in our two parishes here. We hope for better years, to be sure—years of expansion and building and new evangelical initiatives. But FY 2018-19 has been solid for us, financially. Thank you, kind Lord above.

What about FY 2018-19 for the larger Church? How do those books look? Not just financials, but how about the all-around viability of the institution?

Since we have eyes to see and ears to hear, we know that the Catholic Church, governed by Pope Francis and the bishops in communion with him, closes FY 2018-19 with a catastrophic deficit. A credibility bankruptcy.

The institution that commanded universal respect, that steadied the stormy tumult of antagonisms in this world; Holy Mother Church, governed by wise, honest, kindly grandfathers, whom we can trust to teach us the right principles—that institution vanished from the face of the earth during FY 2018-2019.

We could see it coming a year ago. The Pope and the Cardinals of Washington, New York, and Newark, NJ, announced at the end of June last year that some New-Jersey dioceses had secretly settled claims of sexual abuse against Theodore McCarrick.

It was an amazing admission–an inadvertent acknowledgement of utter hypocrisy, of a fundamental contradiction of all the stated promises of the past twenty years. They made the announcement only because they had to, because two lawyers working in New York uncovered an accusation against McCarrick that no one could hide.

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The world needed a good, extensive, honest explanation of what happened. A year has passed now. And we have gotten the opposite of a good, honest explanation.

Not easy to deal with. It’s like one of those dystopia novels or movies coming true. A nuclear bomb went off, the electric grid went down, and now we have to find a way to survive in the Catholic wilderness. A band of people who still believe in Christ and His mysteries, wandering around like the Israelites in the desert.

Now, the Lord promised Abraham descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky. Because of Abraham’s righteous faith. Abraham rolled from one fiscal year into the next without worrying about anything other than: Let me obey God more faithfully.

Abraham was old and sterile, with no earthly prospects of a future. Time would seem to have foreclosed on him. But he believed anyway. We can, too.

Abraham’s Reasoning

titian-christ-and-the-good-thief

Jesus, remember me, when you come into Your kingdom.

In our parishes, we have sung that verse throughout Lent. We read the verse on Palm Sunday once every three years. St. Luke, alone among the four evangelists, recorded the plea of the repentant criminal on the cross next to Jesus’. [Spanish]

Jesus, remember me, when You come into Your kingdom.

Making this plea required heavenly faith. The criminal said these words to a wretched Galilean rabbi, so near death that he obviously would not survive another hour, with no apparent prospects whatsoever of coming into any known kingdom.

Even to begin to fathom the depth of the faith involved in the criminal’s plea, we have to back thousands of years.

God promised Abraham descendants as numerous as… the grains of sand on the seashore or the stars of the sky. Even though Abraham and his wife had long since left their childbearing years behind them.

God gave them Isaac. But then what happened? God asked Abraham to offer Isaac in sacrifice. Abraham prepared to obey.

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Now, Abraham believed that God would make good on His promise to give him and Sarah countless descendants. And Abraham willingly prepared to sacrifice their only heir. How do we possibly figure that? Hebrews 11:19 gives us the answer. Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead.

Jesus, remember me when you come into Your kingdom.

In a way, Abraham said these words to Christ–since only Abraham’s faith could move anyone to say them to the rabbi hanging on the cross. The criminal saw Christ dying in pure innocence, out of love for the Father and for us, as the pleasing sacrifice that Isaac represented, until the angel stayed Abraham’s hand. And the criminal reasoned that God could raise His Son from death.

Everyone with the faith of Abraham, then—all of us, arcing as we are toward our own inevitable death, gazing at Christ dying on the cross in agony, with no earthly hope—we plead with the perfectly pure, but utterly forsaken One. We reason that God has the power. Jesus, remember us, when You come into Your Kingdom.

And, with blood dripping into His eyes, with hardly any strength in His diaphragm left, even to inhale enough oxygen to speak, He calmly assures us: You will be with Me in paradise.

Good News

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Thank you, dear reader, for praying. The judge ruled to keep the family together, here in the United States. Praise the Lord!

…You may remember that we had a theme for Passiontide last year: The failure of faith involved in the Sanhedrin’s condemnation of Jesus for blasphemy.

This year, let’s focus on one aspect of Abraham’s faith. We and the Sanhedrin have failed to believe something, and this lack of faith caused Christ’s Passion. But, of course, God brought great good out of that evil.

Abraham simultaneously believed that God would give him countless progeny through his son Isaac, and that God demanded Isaac as a sacrifice.

Either Abraham was utterly irrational, or he reasoned that… [Hint: Hebrews 11:19]

Abraham and a March-on-Washington Partnership

us-capitolGod established His alliance with Abraham and promised a wonderful future. Abraham’s faith in that future makes him our father in faith. He willingly left behind everything that was familiar to him, in order to obey God.

Abraham rejoiced to see the day of Christ. The Messiah fulfilled the promises God had made so many centuries before.

So: On the one hand, Abraham’s all-consuming faith, which freed him to pursue the mysterious future God had prepared. On the other hand, the reward of that faith.

Now, what is it? The reward of faith? What can we call it, other than life? The day of Christ = the day of Life. Not toilsome life as we know it now—ephemeral, fleeting, dangerous, burdened by one anxious care after another. No. The life of Christ crucified and risen is life liberated from all these diminishments. Life primordial; life full of promise; endlessly youthful life.

Which brings us to: the youthful spokespeople for this Saturday’s “March for Our Lives.” They paint an evocative picture in their speeches. Where would the lost friends and classmates be now, had they lived?

The students killed in Florida last month would be preparing for mid-term exams. The little children killed in Connecticut in 2012 would be in middle-school. The high-schoolers killed in Colorado back in 1999 would be parents themselves, with their own children in elementary or middle school.

unbornLife. A future. Doesn’t it seem utterly obvious that this March-for-Our-Lives rhetoric could also take into account the other young victims of unjust violence—the little ones who never lived to see the light of day at all?

I myself am just old enough not to have to number the classmates and confreres that I might have had. I was already 1½ by the time Roe v. Wade came down.

But everyone younger than me has to live with the Roe-v.-Wade ghosts. The victims of violence who might have been childhood friends, or co-workers in the first job, or the Mr. or Mrs. Right that you could never find.

Christ came to reward faith with life. Our Gospel is the Gospel of Life. Can’t we imagine a better day, if all the true advocates of life could unite? If we could stand up together for all the innocent victims of violence that could have–and should have–lived to see the sun rise this morning?

God Wills Peace

Abraham ascended Mount Moriah, prepared to sacrifice his son Isaac. Let’s focus on the purity of Abraham’s mind at that moment; his willingness to perceive the truth about Almighty God, and submit to that truth.

lippi abraham knife strozzi chapel

God wills peace. Not to descend into Kum-baya here, but we Christians take for granted what the incarnate Son has revealed. Christ came as the Prince of Peace. God does not thirst for anyone’s blood.

We Christians take this for granted. As do all the sons and daughters of Christians cultures, who also take it for granted, perhaps without recognizing that mankind learned this from Jesus Christ. The peacefulness of God is not “self-evident” to us. To the contrary, mankind has made a science out of projecting onto God our own bloodthirstiness, our own interior violence. And we have invented countless violent religions to appease our imaginary violent gods.

Also, if we think that’s just a thing of the misty, unenlightened past, we deceive ourselves all the more. Mankind has offered more human sacrifices in the 20th and 21st centuries than ever before. The 20th and 21st centuries are awash with innocent human blood, spilled to appease the imaginary gods that rule the technocratic oligarchies of modernity. Like the Third Reich. Or the Soviet Socialist Republic, or the Chinese Communist state, all of which offered human sacrifices in the millions to appease the fantastical, violent god of a perfectly structured modern society. And of course the most prolific human-sacrifice religion ever is called, “The Woman’s Right to Choose.”

Serving such a false, violent god is precisely what Abraham did not do. Abraham consecrated Mount Moriah to the truth about the God of peace. Abraham did not allow our violent, fallen human nature to influence his thinking about God. Rather, Abraham simply allowed God to influence his thinking about God. And Isaac lived.

Obeying God means practicing peace. True peace, of course: the peace of good order, governed by truth. But the most-fundamental truth of all is: God wills peace.

Abraham, Forty-Two Generations, Christ

Jesse Tree Matthew Genealogy

Everybody know that Holy Mother Church prays all day, every day—celebrating Mass and singing all the psalms and canticles of the Bible in The Liturgy of the Hours?

Everybody know that She sings three particular canticles every day, without fail? Before bed, the Canticle of Simeon. In the morning, the Benedictus of Zechariah. In the evening, the Magnificat of the Blessed Virgin.

What do the Benedictus and the Magnificat have in common? They both mention one person in particular by name. The Lord “swore and oath” to this person, “made a promise” to him, when the great history of our salvation began.

Correct! Abraham.

The genealogy of Christ at the beginning of St. Matthew’s gospel offers us much more than just a series of tongue-twister names. It gives us the true context of Christmas.

Not that we need to memorize all the ancestors from Amminadab to Mannaseh to Shealtiel to Eleazar, instead of decorating the house. But we do need to ponder the utterly ancient tradition of faith that surrounded Bethlehem, and the manger, like an atmosphere.

At the mall, we won’t see signs that read: “Special Deals for the Fulfillment of the Promises Made to Abraham!” But if we want to know what the Bible says Christmas means; if we want to know what the saints of the all the Christian ages have thought that Christmas means, we need to imagine Abraham, forty-two generations earlier, in a world that had forgotten God.

God broke the silence of the heavens then. “Abraham! We shall be friends! I promise your people a glorious future.”

After forty-two generations of struggling to hold on, of believing in good times, and during the exile; believing during the reigns of good kings and bad; during the times of honest prophets and lying false prophets—the time finally came, the fulfillment of God’s promise.

The ancient Israelites didn’t have to hold on for 42 shopping days. They held on for 42 generations. Then, when a few of them had been trained by all this long preparation to have enough faith to grasp what was happening, God Himself became a child of Abraham.

What is a Jubilee Year?

Pope Francis at Holy Door St Peters

Is it when the Georgetown Hoyas beat the Syracuse Orange? We present another answer, from the Holy Bible…

In the beginning, the human race dwelt in paradise. God freely gave us everything we need.

But our First Parents fell. The human race became slaves of the devil, condemned to death. Malice and contempt entered into our relations with each other.

Before the Fall, our First Parents could easily understand themselves as children in the divine household, endowed with life through the infinite generosity of the omnipotent Creator. But as sinners we learned to put our selves at the center of all our reckonings. We human beings took up the business of ruthlessly competing with each other. We learned to deal harshly with others, seeking individual advantages at every turn.

We can pick up this story at the beginning of the book of Exodus. The fallen human situation manifests itself completely in the fate of the Hebrew people in Egypt.

Continue reading “What is a Jubilee Year?”

Nature, Sterility, and How Love Really Wins

Rebecca at the Well Pellegrini
Rebecca at the Well by Pellegrini

Abraham, our father. He had a son, Isaac, as we read at Holy Mass today. Bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh, and of his beloved wife Sarah. By the miracle of human nature.

The fundamental theme of our Holy Father’s encyclical letter is: Everything is inter-connected. God’s Wisdom permeates. The Creator wills the harmony of the cosmos, and He has endowed all His creatures with a part to play in the beautiful symphony, which sounds to His undying glory.

The word we have for the wise ordering of each part of creation: Nature. All creatures have a ‘nature.’ The things that exist are not just atoms in a random cloud. They are atoms united according to the genius of God. That genius has given us creatures a ‘nature,’ a fruitful path to follow.

Abraham never claimed to be perfect. But he followed one guiding light: the fruitful path laid before Him by God. When Isaac came of age, Abraham had one preoccupation: May my son, too, follow the path indicated by God.

Pope Francis pulls no punches in his encyclical. The human race faces a dire crisis. Because we have departed from that path. We have put ourselves in God’s place. The result? Sterility.

us_supreme_courtExtinction of species. Desertification of land. Hopeless poverty for millions. Exploitation of the weak, because the masters of the machines have no real vigor of their own.

I mean no offense by pointing out the following. Even a gay person–at least one who lives in something other than an utter fantasy world–would have to acknowledge it. Nothing could be more fundamentally sterile than the idea of ‘gay marriage.’ The slogans have it that today’s Supreme-Court ruling means that ‘love wins.’ But, actually, sterility won.

The oxymoron of ‘gay marriage,’ however, is not the only fundamentally sterile thing. It still seems like a silly sideshow, to be honest with you, from where I’m standing. Maybe I’ll go to jail someday for refusing to perform a ‘gay wedding,’ but I regard that as the least of my worries. Divorce, abortion, artificial contraception, wage slavery. Godless hopelessness. These things do the real damage. The act of sodomy is a fundamentally hopeless act, to be sure. But so is looking at pornography, or littering. And those sins are a lot more common.

We have to choose. We have to choose to walk with Pope Francis, and with St. Francis, and with Christ–poor, chaste, and obedient to the Father.

The path of what is beautifully natural always lies before us. We just have to kneel down before God, in order to keep our eyes fixed upon it.

Father and Mother in Faith

We Catholics call Abraham “our father in faith.” Abraham, that we read about in the Bible, in the book of… Genesis.

dore_abraham_isaac471x600Our first reading at Sunday Mass, from Genesis chapter 22, illuminates how Abraham became our father in faith. Namely, by establishing the People of God. And by obeying God with complete self-abandonment.

Abraham had received his long-awaited child, the son through whom he was to become the father of countless descendants. Sarah had given birth to Isaac, and the child had become the joy of Abraham’s waning years.

Then, the God Who had given the child demanded: “Offer the boy to me as a sacrifice.”

Our father in faith responded: “Thy will be done, Lord.”

Actually, Abraham didn’t say anything at all. He simply did as he was told. He believed in the providence of God, who could give, and take away, as He determined to give and take away.

As they walked up Mount Moriah, Isaac asked Abraham, “Father, where will we get the lamb for the sacrifice?”

We can well imagine that only Abraham’s immense emotional strength enabled him to answer. By strength of will, he held back his tears. With his humble, saintly faith, he answered his boy, “God Himself will provide the victim for the sacrifice, son.”

Now, Abraham uttered an unwitting prophecy here. Not only did God send an angel to tell Abraham to stop, after he had lifted the knife to slaughter Isaac. Not only did God provide a ram with its horns caught in a thicket. God eventually provided the Victim for the ultimate, genuinely pleasing sacrifice: His only-begotten Son, the joy and glory of the eternal Father. God’s Son became the Victim for our sins on the wood of the cross.

So when Abraham answered Isaac, he unwittingly uttered a prophecy about the coming of Christ. Abraham spoke not with knowledge and understanding of what was to come, but rather with faith.

By doing so, by reaching out in pure faith to God, Abraham did the thing that seems, on the face of it, to be impossible for mankind to do. Abraham, a humble human being, a man with a limited lifespan, limited knowledge and experience, an eater of bread cakes and other such grainy delicacies of nomadic life, a man with plenty of calluses on his feet: Abraham did what seems impossible. By his own act, he touched God.

Now, Abraham did not touch God with his finger. God cannot be touched like an elevator button, or a guitar string, or an iPad. In fact, we could go through all five of our senses, and we would find no means by which we could connect immediately with God Himself.

bl-virg-detailOur tongues can taste wonderful things, like deep-fried fresh whiting, slathered in tartar sauce. Such experiences make us declare, Blessed be God! for His work of creating delicious fish. But a breaded filet of whitefish is not God.

We can smell fabulous odors, like rosewater, or the bouquet of aged Kentucky whiskey. And smelling such things can make us declare, Blessed be God! for giving us oak to make barrels to hold such concoctions. But the smell of fine potpourri, or fine spirits: these smells are not God.

Not only did Abraham not smell, taste, feel, or see God. Abraham didn’t have any clear thoughts about God. Abraham did not conceive a picture of God, or come to conclusions about Him. Abraham did not know God. He certainly did not understand Him. He held no idea in particular about Him.

Abraham simply believed: God, the great, the almighty, the unknowable—He provides. He provides. Abraham reached the transcendent God by the most sublime act of which we humble, dusty human beings are capable: faith.

The most sublime human act, which countless washer-women, farmers, grease-monkeys, line-cooks, convicts in prison, truck drivers, and obscure high-school band teachers accomplish each day: believing in God.

When we believe, we reach God. We reach Him the only way we can, during this pilgrim life. By faith we have contact with the reality that is greater than this entire universe. By faith, we “touch,” so to speak, eternity. Which means that faith truly involves eternal life. Our faith is the beginning of our eternal life with God.

We call Abraham our father in faith, and we venerate and love him for it. But our mother in faith is of course even more important. No one lived the faith of Abraham more purely, with more total self-abandonment; no one is more truly a “daughter of Abraham” than the Blessed Virgin Mary.

From her earliest days, Mary gave her Yes to God. Without knowing, without understanding, without seeing. She touched God with her total faith. She held fast to Him with such a firm grip, in fact, that she became a completely open vessel of His graces and gifts.

Abraham stood ready to see his son sacrificed. But in the end, Abraham did not have to endure that. Our Lady, on the other hand, stood courageously and lovingly by the cross while her son became the Paschal Lamb, shedding His Precious Blood for us.

Lord, we believe! We believe in You! Help us to share the faith of our father Abraham and our mother Mary.

Epiphany Family

Rubens "Melchior the Assyrian"
Rubens “Melchior the Assyrian”

The Gentiles are co-heirs. (Ephesians 3:6)

St. Paul wrote these words from the point-of-view of someone who put the population of the world into two categories, namely ______s and ___________s. ‘Gentile’ means non-_____, someone not descended from ____________.

Now, before we get all righteous about the us-vs.-them approach, let’s call to mind the following fact. Human beings always divide the world into two categories of people, namely: people I can talk to in my language, and people I can’t. It doesn’t make someone racist, or evil, or prejudiced, if he or she tends to associate with people who speak the same language, as opposed to people who don’t.

St. Paul nonetheless declares: The Gentiles, who do not speak our language: they are co-heirs.

Co-heirs. Will also inherit. Inherit what?

abrahamSt. Paul himself answers the question. “The promise.” Dear brother Jews, guess what? The Gentiles inherit the promise right along with us.

The promise made to Abraham that we would become a nation more numerous than the sands of the seashore and the stars of the sky. And that all the world will find a blessing in us.

The magi at the crib represent the Gentiles, as I think we all know. And, of course, that means they represented us at the crib–since very few, if any, of us can claim to descend from Abraham genetically.

In other words: the promises and the blessing have come to rest on us, too–us Gentiles. We get counted among the stars in the night sky that belong to our father Abraham.

Many of us have spent time meditating on this: the language we use to speak to each other has more to it than just a functional, purely practical aspect. Our language saves us from the unimaginably terrifying prospect of not belonging: not belonging to any family, not belonging to any people, not belonging to anybody at all. People have long regarded exile as a fate just as bad as death. To dwell on this earth utterly alone, without a people, without a family: Horrible.

baptism-holy-card1In the time of the Old Covenant, belonging to the family of God had its distinctive marks. The Hebrew language, the Holy Land, and, of course, the definitive sign: all the men were __________________.

Now that the New Covenant has come, what is the definitive sign of belonging to the family of God? ________________.

Not all Catholics have the same language. But we have some fundamental things in common, like…Celebramos la misa. La queremos a la Virgen. Pensamos en que el padre habla demasiado a veces.

God has made us co-heirs of His good things, of His blessings. We do not make the pilgrimage of earthly life alone. We belong to the family of God.

What year is it now? Well, in our family it is 2015, since it has been 2,015 years since…

Ok. In our family, what’s a person supposed to do on Sunday mornings, or late-Saturday afternoons? Go to Mass!

And every morning, first thing; and every night, before bed–what do we do, in this family? Pray! Once a month, we examine our consciences and go to…

Listen, let’s plan on doing a lot of things together as a family this year. Mass every week. Lots of praying. Special feast days, which we can learn all about by carefully studying the AD 2015 Epiphany Proclamation.

Happy 2015! Let’s thank God that He has given Himself to us, so that we can be His people, and that He has given us each other, to be a family.

epiphany triptych