The God We Worship (with Drama Update)

Dear Reader, we present (below) a two-month-old homily from the “Bates’ mailbag.” It has the mystery of Easter in it, if you look hard enough 🙂

…I have made as many phone calls to parishioners as I could, to wish everyone a happy Easter. I will continue with those, as best I can, through the Easter season.

One question has arisen in many of those conversations: ‘How are you, Father?’ As in, can you endure? With your ecclesiastical superior having openly asserted that you are a disobedient schismatic?

The homily below concludes with the update I gave two months ago. Things have changed since then: The virus came; I wrote the bishop; I turned my blog back on; bishop wrote to the parishes; my canon lawyer wrote the bishop, asking him to retract his letter.

But they have stayed the same. You can’t endure life in 21st-century America, and remain an orthodox clergyman, without some stubbornness in your soul.

I accuse no one but myself.

Please continue to pray.

[written 2/7/20]

El Greco Christ in Prayer

You are the light of the world. (Matthew 5:14)

The gospel passage we hear at Sunday Mass comes from the… Sermon on the… The Sermon on the Mount begins with the… We did not read the Beatitudes at last Sunday’s Mass, since the Feast of the Presentation took precedence. Which means we all have to go home and read the Beatitudes for spiritual reading. St. Matthew’s gospel, the beginning of chapter five. [Spanish]

The Beatitudes teach us where we can find true blessedness. They describe a kind of happiness that lies hidden from the world’s eyes. Poor in spirit, meek, merciful, pure-hearted, longing for justice and truth–there we find the invisible happiness of inner communion with God.

In Sunday’s reading from the Sermon on the Mount, we hear the Lord command us to let a light shine that will move people to glorify God. “You are the light of the world,” He tells us.

Two weeks from Wednesday, Lent will arrive. During Lent, we will celebrate the Stations of the Cross on Fridays, as we always do. A unique light shone from Christ throughout His pilgrim life. But when we imagine His bitter Passion and crucifixion, we see that light at its purest–the inner strength and serenity that Jesus possessed during His Passion.

What do we Christians believe in? We believe in that inner source that Jesus had, the divine life of the soul of Christ. That inner life gave Jesus the love by which He offered Himself to the Father, for us, on the cross. We believe that the inner source of Christ’s perfect life is God. In other words, the source of Jesus’ strength and serenity during the Passion—that is the God in which we Christians believe.

Passion of the Christ Today you will be with meAs we gaze at the fourteen Stations, we see that light shining in a great darkness. An intense paradox: These little sculptures depict a hideously dark sequence of events. If we didn’t hold the Christian faith, we wouldn’t want our children exposed to these images. When Mel Gibson made his Passion of the Christ movie, people complained about the violence. But Good Friday–the real, original day–it was an R-rated movie. If they gave a rating to our Stations of the Cross, it would have to be R.

But we look at this “movie,” and we see pure light. We have lovely churches—and, right in the center, with every architectural line converging on it–the rendition of a crucified man. To us, this is the brightest light ever to shine on earth. This is our God. Only the eye of faith can see the light of The Crucified. But we know that it shines brighter than any darkness. The Passion, more gruesome than any Hollywood horror movie… Yet we see the Light of the World shining.

That makes us the light of the world. It’s good to be nice, but being nice doesn’t make anyone the light of the world. It’s good to be smart, but being smart doesn’t make anyone the light of the world. When does our light shine before others and make them glorify our heavenly Father? When they see within us the same light that shone within Jesus on Good Friday.

The dark world needs something very desperately. Namely, our Christian interior life. We need a Christian interior life. How did Jesus give heaven to the human race? By living from the deep secret within Himself, His secret divine union with the Father.

We need to wall-off a sanctuary in our souls. We need an inner tabernacle that no exterior thing can touch. We need to cultivate the life of prayerful silence. The world needs us to do this.

How? How about at least fifteen minutes of absolute silence per day?

What is Christian meditation? It’s as easy as walking quietly from one Station of the Cross to the next. Or just trying to pay attention at Mass. Or opening up the New Testament and starting to read from Matthew 1:1. Or Matthew 5:1. Or Philippians 1:1. We can’t let the devil get between us and our Bibles. Whenever anyone picks up the New Testament and reads it, the world begins to change for the better.

…Thank you for praying for our bishop and me, when we met this past Wednesday. I’m still here. Thank God.

I wish I could tell you that bishop and I solved our problem. We see this situation very differently. He regards me as an angry writer. He considers my blog posts about the problems in the Church to be a scandal themselves.

I can’t see it that way. I think what I have done in my blog is: provide sober and well-documented accounts of the dishonesty of a number of bishops. I don’t think I am the scandal.

I begged bishop to reconsider his position. I have no desire to become some kind of martyr for free speech at his expense. But the fact is: he had a press release ready, about our meeting, before the meeting even started.

I rejoice that I am still here with you. I wish I could promise you that this drama has ended for good. But I can’t. I wish the things I wrote about on my blog weren’t true. But they are. May God’s will be done here.

Clean of Heart


Blessed are the clean of heart. (Matthew 5:8)  [click HERE for Spanish]

First, what does the Lord mean by heart? Does He mean the muscle? If you suffer from coronary artery disease, or mitral valve prolapse, or atrial fibrillation—does that mean that you have an unclean heart?

No. In the Bible, ‘heart’ means more than just the muscle. As the Catechism puts it, in the Bible the word ‘heart’ means the seat of moral personality. The heart has a spiritual dimension, involving our human search for truth and God.

That said, our hearts do, in fact, beat in our bodies. The Bible does not teach that we human beings have ethereal souls that just happen to find themselves trapped in clay. No. me, my heart, myself—it involves a mind and a body.

“Blessed are the clean of heart.” What then does He mean by clean? A ‘clean’ heart must mean: a mind and body perfectly united, and united with God.

Over the course of one 24-hour period this past week, I had a couple notable experiences which maybe will help illuminate this.

last-ritesFirst: I marched for life, in Washington, D.C. Like all of us who made the trip, I wanted to bear witness to God’s love for every human being. Pregnancy and birth might sometimes cause a lot of pain, and they always involve a mess of some kind. But pregnancy and birth are never ‘unclean,’ in the spiritual sense.

Sometimes babies get conceived after people make wrong decisions, even evil decisions. But a baby him- or herself comes to the world with nothing but pure divine love. There’s never been a baby that God didn’t want. That fact, that love—it trumps all judgment when it comes to any pregnancy. A baby, and the baby’s mother, always demand our pure love.

The judgment we can make involves recognizing abortion for what it is. The words “reproductive rights”—they’re nothing but an empty, purely hypothetical slogan. But abortion involves real, brutal violence. A pure heart doesn’t judge a mother for being a mother, nor a baby for being in the womb. But good judgment always excludes abortion.

I bring this up because it teaches us this: Our being alive, our being ourselves—it’s fundamentally clean. The all-pure God has willed that we exist. Therefore, to obtain Jesus’ promised blessing for the clean of heart—it can’t mean that something gets erased, as if it never was. Like a mother suffers through a painful, bloody mess to give birth, Christ suffered a terrible, bloody mess, nailed to a cross with thorns in His temples and scalp—so that we could be made clean, without being erased.

Which brings me to the second thing I did. I gave a little talk explaining the Catholic rituals that accompany death. Yes–a day in the life of a parish priest, my friends: the March for Life and a talk about death.

The most-important concept for understanding our ceremonies for the dying and the dead is this: Jesus Christ died and then rose in the body. So we will rise in the body, too. Right now we find ourselves, mind and body, in a sinful and mortal state. But undying bodily life awaits us, on the other side.

unbornJust one thing separates us from the clean, immortal life of the resurrected Christ. Purification, cleansing. Our dying and our death, when united with Christ through the sacraments, do not mean destruction. The Last Rites purify us as we prepare to die. Then after we die, the funeral Mass and the prayers and sacrifices of everyone grieving for us, and all the prayers we make for all the souls in purgatory—these help clean us up, to make us like Christ risen from the dead.

My fundamental point is this: God made us for purity of life, for the cleanness of a mind and body perfectly united–a heart living, loving, beating, united with God’s love. He did not make us for violence, nor death, nor oblivion. Who we are—fleshy creatures, walking around on two feet, male and female, full of life, guided by truth and love for everything really beautiful—who we are is clean.

But we live in this world under the sway of confusion, violence, and death. And all that confusion, violence, and death ultimately stems from our own human sins.

So we need purification; we need to be cleansed. We need discipline. We need to choose the more difficult and challenging path, to take up our crosses and follow the Lord. Let’s accept the plan that God has to purify our hearts, as it unfolds day by day. Because the path God leads us down is ultimately the path to pure love.

The Silence of the Saints

All Saints Fra Angelico

St. John received a vision of heaven.  As we hear in our first reading at Holy Mass today, one of the elders in the vision asked St. John to speak about the heavenly scene.  But he wouldn’t.  Instead, John confessed that he did not know.

As St. John had written in one of his letters, “Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed” (emphasis added).  As we sing in our psalm for today’s Solemnity, “Who can ascend the mountain of the Lord?”

The Catechism puts it like this (1026-27):

Heaven is the blessed community of all who are perfectly incorporated into Christ.  This mystery of blessed communion with God and with all the saints is beyond all understanding and description.  [emphasis added] ‘No eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor has the heart of man conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him.’ (I Corinthians 2:9)

The qualities outlined in the Beatitudes—poor in spirit, mournful about the sin of the world, meek, merciful, hungering and thirsting for righteousness, peaceful, and clean of heart… If we try to synthesize our idea of these qualities in a human personality, I think we could add one more:  Quiet.  Not loud.

We can safely say: when we try to put the teachings of the Sermon on the Mount into practice, we wind up speaking less.  We speak a great deal less than we would if we had never heard of Jesus Christ.

As we cultivate this quieter life, we can listen for the great, secret silence of heaven.  Yes, we know from reading Scripture that hymns of transcendent harmony resound up there, like rushing rivers.  But, from here, the music of heaven sounds like…silence.

That silence of the saints contains the great secret.  This unutterable secret lies at the very center of Christianity.  Anything and everything that we know—pumpkin pies, autumn-leaf-covered mountainsides, warm fireplaces, kisses from your honey—all these things, good and sweet as they are, are less good than heaven.  Heavenly goodness shines in the distance, the secret that defies all description and utterly exceeds the conception of man.

May we hold that secret in our Christian hearts by faith.  The secret of the saints is the goodness we strive for.  That secret makes life worth living.

Minding the Immigrants and Refugees

Blessed are you who suffer, who hunger, who mourn. Luke 6

Sermon_on_the_Mount_Fra_AngelicoTackling the profound mystery of these statements requires much more wisdom than I possess. But one thing leaps right off the page, even for an obtuse person like myself.

The Lord Jesus thought about the suffering people, the hungry people, the people in mourning. And He spent time with them and talked with them.

Inhuman cruelty can and does sneak up while we have our noses buried in our smartphones.

Like our neighbors who have to live without the basic benefits of citizenship—benefits we take for granted. Like looking to police officers for help. Like having our children apply for scholarships to go to college. Like having some recourse if we are exploited in the workplace, or abused, or fired unjustly, or cheated in a business transaction. Like having the possibility of defending our rights and claims in a court of law.

Right here in the beautiful counties of our parish cluster, we have plenty of neighbors who do not enjoy these basic prerogatives. We know from interacting with them that they themselves are no lawbreakers. What kind of country has this become, when the arrival of thousands of innocent children at our border becomes a reason not to treat Latin Americans more fairly? The children came armed with their perfect innocence and desperation, and our reaction is: Well, now we know we need to build higher walls and deport more people?

obama-prayingOr, while we fiddle with getting our Netflix subscriptions, another inhuman cruelty sneaks up: a jihad that enforces its will with a reign of terror that would have made the Nazi high command blush. Somehow a million+ refugees from Islamic State, with no roof over their heads, no schools, no businesses, no churches—snuck up on us somehow.

Those who suffer and mourn, who hunger and thirst. The Lord Jesus paid attention to them. If the books of the four holy gospels smell of one thing, they smell of the poor and the desperate. Christ had them on His mind. He has them on His mind. If they are not on our minds, then we are not sharing in the mind of Christ.

A decade ago we launched a war against Saddam Hussein. We fought the war in an earnest manner, I guess, basically. But we fought it for a false reason.

Now the groaning of all the Syrian and Iraqi refugees gives us a compelling and just reason to launch a war. But, to my mind, we seem a million miles away from being prepared to fight it in an earnest manner, a just manner. The legitimate reason for taking up arms is totally out-of-focus—namely, addressing the wrongs done to the countless innocents. And we appear to be incapable of learning this simple lesson of history: We cannot engineer our will from the air. That does not work; it just makes things worse and more complicated, and innocent people die. “Boots on the ground” is a stupid euphemism for actually fighting a war.

Are we justified in attacking the Islamic State? Is the Pope Catholic? Are we justified in imagining totally unrealistic scenarios in which we don’t have to fight the war, but just have to drop bombs from a convenient distance? No way.

May God help the leaders of the world to do what is right and just, in an honest way. Our job is to keep the suffering in mind, and pray like mad.

Miscellany + What the Jennifer Ehle Fan Notices

Archbishop Dolan with his second-grade teacher

Click HERE for Timothy Card. Dolan op-ed on Reforma Migratoria.

…Here’s a little homily for today:

The Lord Jesus chose His twelve Apostles. Then He stood to speak to a great crowd. Anyone know what He said to begin? The first part of the great sermon? The heart of His teaching?

Here’s a hint: “Blessed are…” The Beatitudes.

Ok. Let’s review from the beginning. I mean literally the beginning. The first man’s name was… The very first man. Starts with an ‘A’…

Adam and Eve sinned and lost God’s friendship. They lost their blessedness. But the Lord began a covenant with another man whose name starts with ‘A,’ namely… The father of the nation of Israel…

twin towersNow, God asked Abraham to leave his homeland and wander as a nomad. God demanded absolute obedience from Abraham. Truth to tell, God gave Abraham a pretty rough life, a life requiring enormous faith. But Abraham kept going, because God had given him such wonderful…

To Abraham, God had made magnificent…

“You will have descendants more numerous than the sands of the seashore and the stars of the sky. In your descendants, all the nations of the earth will be blessed.”

God promised Abraham that he would father a unique nation–the nation of salvation, the nation of blessedness. Abraham never completely understood the Lord’s promises. But he believed them. He believed them.

So maybe we could say: Lesson #1 we can take from the Holy Bible is this: God makes promises, and He keeps them.

Jesus’ Beatitudes promise us that if we dedicate ourselves to God, we will find His kingdom. In the meantime, we will suffer. We will be hungry. We will have to struggle to hold on to what is good and holy. When we dedicate ourselves to God, we find that other people wind up having more money and being more popular. Other people have fancy lives, while we wait on God in the cheap seats.

But: It’s worth it. God makes promises, and He keeps them. We read how power went forth from Christ, power that overcame sickness and evil. That power dwells in us, when we have faith.

Probably none of you young people can remember. Twelve years ago tomorrow, all of us older Americans had to look at death over our morning coffee. Because a catastrophic terrorist attack hit our country, almost out of nowhere. Over 2,000 innocent people died.

We needed spiritual power that morning. We needed to listen, as if for the first time, to Jesus’ Beatitudes. Yes, in this world, there is suffering. Yes, evil comes our way. But when we love God and seek His kingdom; when we try to make peace and act with justice; when we let go of the fleeting pleasures of life and reach out towards God’s eternal holiness: when we follow Christ, in other words, we have nothing to fear. Even death. We don’t even have to fear death, because the Lord has promised us eternal life.

Let’s pray for peace. Let’s hope for the coming of the Kingdom of God. Jesus keeps His promises. Blessed are we when we remember that.

kings-speech ehle rush firth

Be not afeard; the isle is full of noises,
Sounds and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not.
Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments
Will hum about mine ears, and sometime voices
That, if I then had waked after long sleep,
Will make me sleep again: and then, in dreaming,
The clouds methought would open and show riches
Ready to drop upon me that, when I waked,
I cried to dream again. (The Tempest, Act III, Scene 2)

Any run-of-the-mill Jennifer Ehle fan takes note of the fact that she and Colin Firth re-united in “The King’s Speech.”* Ehle plays Lionel Logue’s wife Myrtle.

Jennifer Ehle ElizaMyrtle says ‘perhaps’ exactly like Eliza did in the 1995 BBC Pride and Prejudice. Though, with only two short scenes with Lionel, Ehle hardly has the opportunity “to exhibit”–as Mr. Bennett would put it.

What would require a higher level of intensity in the Jennifer-Ehle-fan department: Noticing that the Pride-and-Prejudice reunion involves another actor, too.

Mr. Collins also appears in “the King’s Speech:” David Bamber plays the director of the Richard III production that Lionel does not get a part in.

But did any other Jennifer Ehle fan, while watching “The King’s Speech,” notice this? For the amusement of his sons, Lionel recites a speech from Shakespeare–Caliban’s speech, about the enchanted isle where The Tempest takes place.

Who dwells on the isle? Which innocent daughter of the resident magician? Miranda. And who portrayed Miranda in the Arkangel Shakespeare audio production?

Jennifer Ehle.

* I know the movie came out some time ago. But it just arrived at the public library.

Three Characteristics of the Former Way of Life

Do you also want to leave? (John 6:67)

The Lord Jesus asked His Apostles this question after many of the other disciples left and returned to “their former way of life.” The Apostles said, “No, Lord. You have the words of eternal life. We are not leaving.” But a lot of the other disciples left and never came back.

What had the Lord said, which made these other disciples take a walk? He told them that He came from God as the anointed Savior, the One for Whom Abraham, Moses, and all the prophets hoped. He told them that His Body and Blood, shed for the life of the world, would feed the human race unto eternal life.

He demanded an act of faith. Believe in Me. Believe in the divine food I will give. It is the flesh of God made man. Believe.

Some of His disciples could not make this act of faith. “Okay. Yes, he’s an impressive teacher. Yes, he works miracles. But does my worldview have room for a divine man who invites me to eat his flesh? I mean, I’m just a simple working stiff. Can I feature this scary-talking wise man, who calmly, gently, and lovingly insists that my sins will cost Him His life, but He will rise again and establish a Temple in heaven? Can I feature this? Not really. I like hamburgers, sleeping late on the weekends—all the normal stuff. I like watching t.v. I’m not cut-out for what this Nazarene preacher has in mind. Time to go back to the way things were before.”

Continue reading “Three Characteristics of the Former Way of Life”

Back-to-Work Week

Why does the Lord bless the hungry and curse the satisfied? Why does He afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted?

St. Paul has a good answer when he exhorts us: “Seek the things that are above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of the Father.”

The Lord has promised us that if we seek first the kingdom of God and its righteousness, then all that we need to survive will be added unto us, also. But we cannot expect great surfeits of earthly delight. Just the survivable minimum.

To seek the ‘above’ things requires significant investments of time and energy. God demands a lot. He leaves the spiritually slothful to fester in their ennui. Meanwhile, He beckons His friends to daily encounters with Him in austere silence and in self-sacrificing labor.

Christ blesses the hungry not because He wills that anyone starve, but because when we concentrate on what He commands us to concentrate on, we quickly run out of time and leisure for settling into a lot of long banquets.

He blesses those who weep not because He wants anyone to feel bad, but because loving God a little allows us to see how much more we could love Him, if only the heartbreaking dunghill of our sin weren’t in the way.

Christ’s curses of the lazy, concupiscent, and proud help to keep us on-task. And His promises shine brighter than His curses. If we seek Christ seated at the right hand of the Father, we will ultimately be comforted, we will ultimately be satisfied, we will laugh in the kingdom of everlasting joy.

He sits above the clouds, where it never rains on Labor Day. He grills steaks to perfection without any fussing over charcoal and lighter fluid. We will have an endless temperate summer evening, without gnats and mosquitoes, when our work here is done.

In the meantime, let’s get ready to put our noses to the grindstone for the Lord. We have to get ourselves ready to say our parts of the Mass in more formal English. We have to educate our young people in our religion. We have to welcome and indoctrinate newcomers to our church. Between now and Christmas we are hardly going to have a free moment.

But we will have a good time working for the Lord, staying spiritually lean and mean. Working for God is more satisfying than sitting around watching soap-operas. May we glorify Him in our prayers and our deeds.

The Sea Christ Sailed (and Walked on)

Mary Ann pics 3 020

Today we visited the sites of Upper Galilee.

There is a church built over the stone where the Lord set five loaves and two fish–before He multiplied them and fed 5,000 men and their families. The place is known as Tagbha, and the German Benedictine fathers have built an absolutely beautiful church, where we prayed.

Mary Ann pics 3 009
On the Mount of the Sermon
We ascended the Mount of “Sermon on the Mount.”

At the top is a Barluzzi church dedicated to the Beatitudes. We celebrated Holy Mass in the crypt and then strolled through the beautiful gardens.

A short distance away, we visited the Church of the Primacy of Peter. This church encloses the Mensa Christi, Christ’s Table, where the Lord cooked fish for some of the Apostles after He rose from the dead.

We were at the shore of the Sea of Galilee. Some of the pilgrims waded in and collected water, stones, and shells to bring to back home.

Mary Ann pics 3 015

Then we went to eat some fish caught in the Sea of Galilee. The fish were served with their heads. We played with the heads, using them as ventriloquist dummies.

After lunch, we took a breezy boatride, looking at the the entire Sea of Galilee—the scene our Lord Himself gazed upon two millennia ago.

Mary Ann pics 3 026
Synagogue in Capernaum
After the boatride, we visited the excavated town of Capernaum. We saw the ruins of the house of St. Peter, where the Lord Jesus lived for long periods of time and worked miracles.

We sat and meditated in the reconstructed ancient synagogue, built on the foundations of the synagogue where the Lord Jesus taught.

Mary Ann pics 3 017

Getting to Heaven and other news

National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden
Graft, a.k.a. the White Tree

Down on the Mall, they keep putting up sculptures that make you think of The Lord of the Rings.

They don’t mean to do it. In the spring, they unintentionally put up a sculpture of Shelob, the giant spider, in front of the Hirschhorn Museum.

Now they have accidentally installed a sculpture of the White Tree of Gondor.

“Graft” is what they call a Roxy Paine “Dendroid.” Very trendoid in the art world, apparently. Little do these modern sculptors know that they are setting the stage for the success of the quest…

tommy_sheppard…Painful loss for the Wizards this evening. (Maybe Shaq isn’t a liability, after all.)

But congratulations to Wizards V.P. Tommy Sheppard for winning the 2009 NBA Splaver/McHugh “Tribute to Excellence” Award!

…Here is a homily which some poor people had to endure on Sunday, All Saints Day:

Your reward will be great in heaven…You will be comforted…You will inherit the land…You will be satisfied…Mercy will be shown you…You will see God. (see Matthew 5:1-8)

These are Christ’s promises to us. Countless Christians have gone before us, and they have already seen these promises fulfilled. Today we salute the saints. They can attest that the Lord is faithful to His promises.

Up in heaven, the saints rejoice in the faithful goodness of God. Here are a few lines of their hymn:

Blessing and glory, wisdom and thanksgiving, honor, power, and might be to our God forever and ever…Salvation comes from our God, who is seated on the throne, and from the Lamb. (Revelation 7:10, 12)

The saints see the promises fulfilled, and they sing out praise to God. May our hymns harmonize with the hymn of the saints in heaven. We sing because we believe in the One who made the promises.

Sermon_on_the_Mount_Fra_AngelicoBut before we get carried away, we have to pause. To whom did the Lord make His sweet promises?

Blessed are…

The poor in spirit. They who mourn. The meek. The hungry and thirsty. The merciful. The clean of heart. The peacemakers.

This is what the saints were like when they were on earth: poor, merciful, meek, mourning, hungry, thirsty, pure-hearted peacemakers–like Christ Himself. Christ is the Blessed One, the Man of Promise. To be blessed, to inherit the promises, we must be like Him. We must be united with Him.

Every man who has hope based on Christ makes himself pure as He is pure (I John 3:3).

The saints have washed their robes and made them white in the Blood of the Lamb (Revelation 7:14).

To receive the promises, we must be purified. To be like Christ, united with Him, we must be washed clean of sin.

We may be humble and poor in spirit, but not humble enough. We may mourn the evils of the world, but we do not mourn them enough. We may be meek, but not meek enough. We may hunger and thirst for righteousness, but we are not hungry and thirsty enough. We may be merciful to our brothers and sisters in this world, but not merciful enough. Our hearts may clean, but they are not clean enough. We may make peace sometimes, but nowhere near often enough.

baptism-holy-card1At the moment after we were baptized, we were pure. For many of us, that was some time ago. Then it was God’s good pleasure to leave us on earth for a while. Our mission on earth is to do good and avoid evil, to be like Christ.

By God’s grace, we have done some good. We praise God for it. On the other hand, because we are weak and selfish, we have not always avoided evil. We have no one to blame for this but ourselves. The good is God’s, the evil is ours. The praise is God’s; the impurity is ours.

If only we could go back to the baptismal font, and get washed clean by the Blood of the Lamb again! If only we could meekly, mournfully approach the Prince of Peace—if only we could kneel before the Throne of Mercy, hungering and thirsting for righteousness, and have our hearts cleaned and refreshed!

If only…if only? Would the all-merciful, all-loving Lord leave us high and dry, with no way back to His life-giving waters? Would He make promises that could never be fulfilled, because there was no way to purify ourselves so we could inherit them?

Of course He would not do that. What did He say to the first priests? He said: “Whoever’s sins you forgive are forgiven them…Whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

confessionalAll Saints Day. Let’s consider the one thing that all the saints have in common. When they trod the earth, they were very different people. They became holy in different ways.

But they all confessed their sins. They were all humble enough to confess. They were not too proud. They were holy, but they knew they were not holy enough.

And they were not too proud to confess their sins to a priest. They were not too Protestantized to admit that the way God’s mercy works is by confessing to a priest.

So, let’s keep All Saints Day holy by singing our hymns of praise to God. Let’s echo the hymns of the saints as best we can. Let’s give the Lord all the praise and glory that are His. Let us salute the saints with joy. And let’s remember that the saints are the people who spent their lives confessing their sins.

Greedy and Envious? Try Poverty and Love

He found in the temple area those who sold oxen, sheep, and doves, as well as the money changers seated there. He made a whip out of cords
and drove them all out of the temple area, with the sheep and oxen, and spilled the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables…At this the Jews answered and said to him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?”
(John 2:14-19)

The Lord Jesus drove the greedy merchants and money-changers from the Temple. The Jewish leaders envied Christ’s authority and power. So in the gospel reading, we have seen both greed and envy. These are two of the seven deadly sins.

Continue reading “Greedy and Envious? Try Poverty and Love”