525 Years Old, But Still Young

christopher_columbusFirst Mass celebrated in America. Said by a priest who traveled with Christopher Columbus, the second time Columbus sailed the ocean blue. Five hundred twenty-five years ago, on the Solemnity of the Epiphany. Celebrated in what is now the Dominican Republic. [Spanish]

Pope St. John Paul II traveled there for the 500th anniversary, twenty-five years ago. He preached on a verse from the first reading for Epiphany, “Rise up in splendor, Jerusalem! Your light has come.”

Pope said:

The light has shone from Jerusalem, and its brightness extends to all the nations of the earth. We give thanks to God that the light of life and hope has illuminated the paths of the peoples of America, who were born into the Christian faith five centuries ago.

By the power of the Holy Spirit, the redeeming work of Christ has been present here, through the missionaries who obeyed Christ’s command to preach the Gospel to every creature and crossed the ocean to announce the message of salvation.

Actually, Epiphany 1494 was the first Mass in America for which we have a written record.. During the thousand years before that, a seafaring Irish priest, or a Christian Norseman, may very well have said Mass in Greenland or Newfoundland, Canada. In fact, in 1925, archaeologists found the ancient ruins of a cathedral near the southern tip of Greenland.

Anyway: New year. AD 2019. We always start a new year by coming to the manger to adore the baby Jesus, like the wise men did. And what do we find? The newness of God.

Rubens Melchior.jpg
Rubens “Melchior the Assyrian”

We may have been celebrating Mass in this hemisphere for 525 years, or more, but it doesn’t get old. 2018 may have been a tough year, a terrible year. But 2019 starts fresh anyway. Because God gives the grace of the newborn Christ to us. God shines the light, clarifies everything, and inspires us with this:

‘Here is my Son, given to you! An innocent Lamb, Who speaks divine wisdom. A humble child, Who will lead you forward as your invincible champion. He is pure God and a son of Adam, like you.

‘The human race is old, tired, and confused. But He is not. You are older, more tired, and more confused than you were a year ago. But He is not!’

Villalpando MagiWe can start fresh here, at the crib, with the magi. We can lay everything down. We can take a little rest in the bottomless quiet and peace of Jesus in the manger. Then we can stand up and march fearlessly forward into 2019.

He’s got the plan. He’s got the necessary holiness. He’s got the right goal for us, and the right means to the goal. This world belongs to Him. We belong to Him. He is the heaven, the beauty, the goodness of life. He is God giving us that heaven, that beauty, that goodness. He is God giving us His own godliness, as a pure gift. A gift to us old, tired sinners.

‘Here, old, tired sinners. Here you go; all yours: My gift to you! My only-begotten, born of the Virgin. He is mine; He is Me, the image of the invisible God. And He is yours now, too! All yours.’

We do not begin this new year alone. God help us if we did. We have every reason to imagine that 2019 will bring even more pain and confusion than 2018 did. This isn’t some Fantasy Land speech I’m giving.

But, whatever 2019 brings, we face it as members of Jesus’ body. We face it with Him. With the new, ever-young Adam. The passing of the years takes no toll on Him. Which means it takes no toll on us, either; no toll on the redeemed Christians we truly are. We can safely fall in love with 2019 right here and now, fearing nothing. Because this year belongs to Christ, and so do we.

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New Year, New Bishop, New Leaf

Wise, old men of different races came searching for a child whom the heavens had taught them to seek. They came looking for a unique king, newly born. The divine king, the One Who could unite the whole world, and give the human race the friendship of heaven. [Spanish.]

epiph 2018And here He is, the baby. In the arms of His virgin mother. Had the wise men thought that the newborn king would have a virgin mother? A mother like Mary–a poor, humble woman from an insignificant town? Had the magi imagined that the king of the world would have a foster father who was so dusty, and had such calloused hands, as St. Joseph; a man who did not own a single cushion to put on the meager furniture he had made for his household?

We don’t know what the travelers from the East expected exactly. But we know what they found–the king in his mother’s arms, with the carpenter nearby. Together these people form the scene that we now contemplate, the scene with which we begin every year. The arrival of the wise men at the feet of the baby Jesus: this marks the new year with it’s number, so to speak. We find ourselves 2,018 years into the revelation of divine light that shone on the face of Christ.

We don’t know what triumphs and tragedies may await us this year, in our little lives. To be sure, not all of us will celebrate Epiphany 2019 here on earth. We had a bishop named Francis Xavier DiLorenzo on Epiphany 2017. But not today.

But we also know this for sure: We belong to the scene we contemplate. We belong to the “thing” that began 2,018 years ago: the life of God made man, born of the lovely, humble Virgin. We ourselves make a part of His life–the earth’s great Teacher, High Priest, and true King. We belong to Him, because we belong to His Church. We will live this year, 2,018, with whatever it brings, as members of Jesus Christ’s household, His family, His very Body.

Bishop Barry Knestout portraitAnd it’s a big year for the Catholic family here in the little diocese of Richmond, Virginia. For four weeks now, if you’ve paid careful attention to all the prayers during the consecration of the Host and Chalice, you’ve heard mention of someone called “Barry, our bishop-designate.” This is the final Snday when we will call him that. Next Sunday, Barry will be simply “our bishop.” On Friday the Archbishop of Baltimore and Pope Francis’ representative to the US–not to mention some other Cardinals and Bishops–will come to Richmond to install Barry Knestout as our shepherd.

Now, the sitting bishop of a diocese doesn’t necessarily have a large impact on the lives of the Catholics in the parishes. The biggest thing is that, for good or ill, the bishop assigns the priests. Dear, late Bishop DiLorenzo inflicted me on Rocky Mount and Martinsville not once, but twice. So you have him to thank. Or not thank. God rest his soul.

But even though the bishop may wind-up being only a name to most, he nonetheless occupies an important place in our lives. We cannot remain united with the holy scene we contemplate at Christmas and Epiphany without the bishop. He unites us not only with the Church spread throughout the world, but also with the Church that extends back through time, to Her original foundation by Jesus Christ Himself.

And Barry our bishop wil have many quiet but highly important decisions and judgments to make. So we owe him our fervent prayers.

A new year and a new chapter in the two-century history of our diocese: a good time for us to take stock of our spiritual lives and make some resolutions–or renew the resolutions we made before, and which we have kept with varying degrees of success.

Anyone ever read St. Francis de Sales’ Introduction to the Devout Life? He says that our spiritual lives are like a clock.

Now, St. Francis de Sales lived four hundred years ago. They had clocks back then, just not electric ones. And of course no cellphones. So you had to wind your clock. Everyday. And you had to take the clock apart completely, and clean it, every year.

Let’s do the same with our spiritual lives. A good, thorough evaluation of how we pray and how we commune with God. A good cleaning of the gears, and a fresh winding-up.

How about a humble suggestion from your pastor? Let’s all resolve to pray everyday, without fail, during 2018. And go to Mass every Sunday, without fail.

Epiphany to the Skeptics

Moses encountered God at the burning bush, and the Lord revealed His own name. The tetragrammaton. A word which pious Jews will not pronounce. Obscure ancient Hebrew, with a practically indecipherable meaning. God’s ancient name…how do we put it in Latin? Ipsum esse per se subsistens. In English? He Who Is. Of old, God declared His name: “I am Who am.”

Moses burning bushNow, if anyone else said something like this, we might wonder about his or her social skills. “Hi. Nice to meet you, I’m Father Mark. And you are?” “I am Who am!” “Okay…”

But God rightly taught Moses a very important truth by saying this incomprehensible name. We cannot comprehend God. We cannot claim to know the ‘god-ness’ of God. He is He Who is. Which makes exactly as much–and as little—sense to us as it should.

Who are we to demand more information from the One Who made us out of nothing? After all, if He were not Who He is, we wouldn’t be who we are. We wouldn’t exist, if God did not freely give us existence. There wouldn’t be any air, much less trees, and the earth, and milkshakes and snow and stuff. God is Who He is, namely He Who is. And comprehensible things, like chickens and hamburgers, can and do exist because God the incomprehensible gives life and being to everything that exists and lives.

The obscurity and incomprehensibility of the name God gave to Moses confirms the wisdom of the religious skeptic, the agnostic. The one who doubts human assertions about God. The one who doubts pagan charlatans, soothsayers, snake-oil salesmen, and all the other irrational frauds who spout endless nonsense, claiming to have a divine mandate to do so. Teaching us to make deals with the Almighty, or even play little tricks on Him. So that I can get rich or healed or find a new boyfriend or girlfriend—all through my astute negotiations with the Lord.

To all the mega-church prattle about getting rich quick through faith healings and emotional exuberance, the religious skeptic or agnostic responds: Why should anyone believe any of that? Why should anyone believe a single thing Pastor Paula White says? How can anyone claim to know so much penny-ante trivia about the great and majestic God? Like that if you give somebody a high-five at the right moment during a praise song, you’ll then certainly become the president of your own company? Please! says the skeptic. Give the unknown God a little more respect than to think He can be manipulated to conform to our own selfish dreams!

Villalpando MagiWhen God said, My name is Yahweh, He meant: Don’t claim to know what you don’t know about Me. If you think I make sense to your small-time mind, you’re on the wrong track.

God makes perfect sense to the holy angels. But we human beings don’t have the intellectual wattage to grasp just how much God makes sense. God makes so much sense that He makes the things that make sense to us seem like they don’t make any sense at all. Remember: Blessed are the poor, the hungry, the thirsty, those who mourn, the meek, and the persecuted.

Now, if God had stopped speaking to mankind after He told Moses His ineffable name, then every intellectually honest person would have to be an agnostic. We would have to regard religion skeptically. We would hesitate to accept anyone’s claims about the unknowable God. We would distrust all the pagan priests and fortune tellers and tea-leaf readers of this world.

But the unknowable God did not stop teaching us about Himself after answering Moses’ question about His name. To the contrary, that episode at the burning bush was just the beginning.

The ancient Israelites who followed Moses held fast to their faith in the unknowable, transcendent God. And they did what honest agnostics must do: They waited for a moment when the Unknown might make Himself more known. No honest agnostic can deny to God the prerogative to reveal Himself if He so chooses, when He chooses, in the way He chooses.

So the Israelites waited, eschewing the pagan nonsense of their worldly neighbors. And then God did what no one expected. He Personally became a human being. He Who is is a man, born of a woman, the Blessed Virgin Mary, of Nazareth in Galilee, whom the magi visited in Bethlehem. The Unknown made Himself known by becoming Jesus.

Yahweh Hebrew
The ancient Tetragrammaton

Consistent agnosticism requires a lot of intellectual discipline. But believing in the Incarnation requires much, much more. We believe in the God-man. If it hadn’t happened, we’d be agnostics and skeptics. But it did happen. God revealed His own divine light, a light brighter than ten million gazillion suns. And that light shines on the face of Jesus. That light shines through Jesus’ eyes.

God has eyes and hands and feet. God has what we have—all of it, except sin. God could have continued to dwell in mysterious obscurity, remaining the ineffable “He Who is” forever. But He chose to become a child, a boy, a carpenter, a rabbi, an innocent man wrongly condemned, a victim of cruel crucifixion, a dead man, and a man who rose from the dead.

The unknowable God reveals Himself. So the agnostic discovers true knowledge of God. The skeptic discovers something to believe in.

We don’t believe in empty promises. We believe in Jesus, and His promises. God became the son of a pauper couple, Who took up His bitter cross, because His kingdom is not of this world. Nothing could be more intellectually demanding than believing in this incarnate God. Which, to any true skeptic, makes it all the more certain that it’s absolutely true.

20 C+M+B 16: Myrrh and the Liturgical Year

Three_kings magi map

The wise men offered Jesus gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Gold, because He is a king. Frankincense, because He is a priest. Myrrh for His burial.

With their gifts to the baby, the magi revealed the full mystery of the life of Christ, even while He lay in the manger. This baby reigns as God. He has consecrated Himself as High Priest of the human race. He will offer the sacrifice of His own death on the cross.

On Epiphany, we look forward to celebrating the full mystery of Christ, as the liturgical year unfolds before us. The pilgrim Church lives through the passing of time by celebrating the entire human life of the eternal Word, through our annual feasts and seasons of the full calendar year.

Let’s ask ourselves one question, on Epiphany, as the Christian liturgical year begins; let’s ask ourselves this: When we say “the mystery of the life of Christ,” what do we mean?

We’re not talking about a whodunnit mystery, to be sure. Nor are we talking about some kind of “mystification” of Jesus’ life, as if we Christians took it upon ourselves to add something gripping and theatrical to an otherwise unremarkable human life. No. We deal in facts, when we celebrate our Sacred Liturgy. Historical facts which, taken together, make up the “mystery” of Christ’s entire pilgrim life.

liturgical-cycleOne particular fact must begin our explanation of what we mean by the “mystery” of Christ. Namely, Jesus’ utterly unique identity.

At every moment, many babies get born, all of them beloved of God. But among them all, Jesus alone is God made flesh.

A great mystery of faith, the Incarnation. But, as I said, not a mystification. Quite the opposite. God became man to de-mystify Himself, to reveal Himself to us. He took our human nature to Himself for a reason, a divine reason we can begin to grasp when we contemplate all the events of Christ’s life.

Why did God become man and live a human life? God did not suffer from boredom or loneliness. He hadn’t run out of cellphone data, and decided to become man in order to visit the Verizon store to get more.

No. He became incarnate for us. To save us. To give us hope, and a future beyond death. To show us why He made the universe in the first place: For us.

This divine reason–God’s unconquerable generosity and love–this divine reason for the Incarnation makes all the mysteries of Christ’s pilgrim life shine with their true meaning.

Did God need to learn how to speak Aramaic and read Hebrew? No. But Jesus learned how to speak and read in order to show us that learning to speak and read means something wonderful. It’s part of the way to heaven.

Did God need a table and chairs? So He became a carpenter to make them for Himself? No. Jesus became a carpenter to show us that daily hard work makes a part of the way to heaven.

Did God need friends or fame or loaves or fishes? No. But Jesus won friends and fame, multiplied loaves and fishes, worked other miracles, made enemies–and died at their hands–all for us. To open for us the great door that leads to God.

We love the baby Jesus, with His Mother and St. Joseph, with the animals and shepherds. When the Christmas season ends, we say goodbye to the crèche with sadness. But a true Christian can never be sentimental about Christmas.

On the eighth day of His life, they circumcised Him, and He shed the first drop of the Precious Blood He was born to shed. On the twelfth day of His life, the magi arrived, and one of them offered oil to anoint Him for burial. Christmas does not mean endless nicey-nice. Christmas marks the beginning of the mystery of God living a human life and dying a human death for us.

The mystery of Christ’s life must be a mystery because the final goal of His mission is so transcendent. If God became man solely to distribute Home-Depot gift cards, no mystery would surround the business. We’d get the gift cards, redeem them for some 2×4’s or gardening equipment, and be done with it.

But God became human so that we human beings could share the life of God. When we know that Jesus became man for that reason, grew up and worked for that reason, taught and healed the sick for that reason, instituted the sacraments, died, and rose again for that reason–when we study the events of the life of Christ as the mysteries of divine love that they are–then the idea of sharing the life of God becomes less and less mystifying. And more and more real.

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

Too Cold for School

SA182The Snow Man, by Wallace Stevens

One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;

And have been cold a long time
To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
The spruces rough in the distant glitter

Of the January sun; and not to think
Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves,

Which is the sound of the land
Full of the same wind
That is blowing in the same bare place

For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.

[…Here’s a little homily I would have given the chillens today, but for the school-canceling chill. I had my chalk at the ready to 20 C + M + B 14 all the classroom door lintels.]

In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son. (I John 4:10)

When our need for a Savior was great, God sent His Son, born of a virgin.

Is Christmas over? In church, Christmas lasts for almost three weeks. The shepherds came to visit the baby, and who else? The wise men.

wise-menThe wise men were wise about the stars. They found Jesus by following the… The wise men also were wise about knowing their need for a Savior was great. They beheld the great love of God—not that we have loved God, but that God has loved us and sent His Son to save us.

Anybody get any presents? Anybody eats any cakes or pies or Christmas cookies? I got some Christmas cookies, and they were delicious, and now they are all gone. And pretty soon, even in church, someone will take down the Christmas decorations.

But: There is one thing about Christmas that does not end. The fact that God loved us. And sent us His Son to wash away our sins and give us life. The wise men, wise as they were, were wise enough to know that they needed Christ. The wise men were wise enough to know that they were not wise enough to save themselves. Let’s be that wise, too. Let’s dedicate 2014 to letting Jesus love us and lead us closer to heaven. He does not ask for perfection. He simply asks for daily obedience.

After all, Jesus looks at us, and—what do we read?—He looks at us, and His Heart is moved with pity. He loves us, teaches us, feeds us. At Christmas and all year long.

King of the Jews

epiphany
20 C + M + B 14

“We have come to do homage to the newborn King of the Jews.”

The king of the Jews. Let’s pause to consider the significance of the phrase.

The Jews came out of Egypt, with Moses leading the column. Eventually, they reached the Holy Land. Then generations passed. The Jews confronted military challenges. The Lord raised up the generals that the people deserved, based on their faithfulness. Stay pious, and you get good generals to lead the army. Follow pagan gods, and I abandon you to the hands of your enemies.

These generations passed, and the Jews had conflicts among themselves. So the Lord raised up judges to help settle disputes, based on Moses’ law. Again, when the people lived in the fear of God, they got good judges. When they followed the pagan religions, their judges took bribes.

winston-churchillOne thing the Jews never had, from Abraham for fourteen succeeding generations—they never had a king. One of the more heartbreaking passages in Scripture can be found in I Samuel 8, when the Israelites begged the prophet to anoint a king for them to lead their armies. They wanted to be like the other nations, like the other kids. The other kids get cellphones, and the other nations have kings, so we want one.

Samuel prayed, and the Lord said to him, “Old, faithful servant of mine, they are not rejecting you. They are rejecting Me.”

To be a people that has only the invisible God for a king: certainly that would be a holy people, and a realistic people. After all, we are a lumpy race, prone to foibles, failings, and foolishness. Who among us has what it takes to stand as a paragon, an exemplar of humanity, a royal?

But God gave Israel a king—meanwhile predicting that the nation would live to regret the request. And they did. Saul disobeyed the Lord. David came closest to the ideal: beautiful, brave, cunning, exuberant, and musical. But he fell from grace, and lust made a schemer and a murderer out of him. His son Solomon achieved great wisdom, but then he, too, fell. The glory of the royal house of Judah passed away from the earth—apparently forever.

Herod
Herod
When the magi arrived, asking the supposed King of the Jews where the King of the Jews was, a thick irony hung in the air. Herod could have said, “Um. The king of the Jews? I know you fellas ain’t from around here. But did you notice the crown? The throne? Did you notice the framed papyrus from the Roman Senate, addressed to Herod, King of the Jews? I’m not kickin’ butt and taking prisoners around here just for the fun of it.”

But they didn’t have that conversation. Then the travelers from the east did see the King of the Jews. They followed the star to the manger. And then the strange concession that God had made so long ago, the strange concession He made in choosing a king from among the people—it finally made sense.

On the one hand, Yes, it is true: The only way for a people to grow holy is to serve God Himself as the king. God is the only real king. Yes.

But, on the other hand, also true: Mankind needs a human king. We need a king from among our race. Jesus is the king Who fulfills both of these. He is the divine human King.

Now, as we know, the divine and human King of the Jews founded no political organization or party. He founded a Church, which is every bit as lumpy and prone to foolishness as any other human organization, and yet somehow manages to let the Holy Spirit guide Her through every bump and turn of history. The society founded by Christ has extended Herself to every society. The King reigns over a universal Church.

Like the magi, we come to do our homage to the King of the Jews. We have citizenship in His kingdom and do our duty as knights and ladies of His realm.

Here, in this part of the world, we live in a vast and venerable republic, constituted as a nation to be a democracy. IMHO, we should remind ourselves frequently of the immortal words of Winston Churchill. With one sentence, he gave us the right perspective on the work of Thomas Jefferson and Co. Churchill said, “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the other ones.”

That Jesus, born of Mary in Bethlehem—that He is the divine King: this will be true throughout 2014, and 2015, and every other year, until there are no more years, and His kingdom comes, and God is all in all forever.

The things we hear about on the news: They may or may not be true today, may or may not be true tomorrow, almost certainly won’t be true this time next year.

The great number puts everything in perspective. 2014. Two thousand fourteen. 2,014 years since Obamacare was passed? No. 2,014 years since the Redskins had a playoff win? No. 2,014 years since Columbus discovered America? Or since Bill Gates founded Microsoft? Or since Mahatma Gandhi liberated the people of India from colonial rule? No.

2,014 years since the most important thing that ever happened. 2,014 years since the Virgin gave birth to the King of the Jews, to our divine King, our brother Jesus, Who reigns on high.

80’s Baltimore, the King, and the Babies

The Bedroom WindowFor a Holy-Name-of-Jesus homily (and some other enjoyables), click HERE.

For an early-bird experience of this Sunday’s homily, read on below…

For a thoroughly captivating mid-1980’s glimpse of Lady Grantham when she was still a young waitress in Fells Point, back when Mt. Vernon Square was still on the way to an Orioles game, and shimmered with cigarette ash, and driving around Baltimore could make any movie worth watching, and some scripts still coursed with drama of Hitchcockian richness, with characters that taught you things about yourself, if you are over 18, consider downloading/renting/honestly obtaining “The Bedroom Window.”

“Where is the king?” (Matthew 2:2)

The question fell a little awkwardly on the ears of the courtiers in Jerusalem. Because these eminent foreigners, thoroughly powerful and renowned, had asked the king where the king is. Awkward.

Herod
Herod
Where do we find the king? Might be a little awkward if we showed up in Washington and asked around, with the same question. Hey, Mr. President. Hey, Senators, Congressmen, Where’s the King?

Might be more than awkward. We might find ourselves locked-up. Citizens! This is a democracy. No king here. Spend some time in this padded room thinking about it…

The wise men sought the king. They knew Herod was not he. We, too, know perfectly well that the king we seek does not do cable-news interviews on any network.

But the human soul seeks her king, and always will seek Him, until she finds Him. That fact is no less true now than it was 2013 years ago. Doesn’t matter if we human beings live under a hereditary monarchy, or a republican democracy, or as islamist theocracy, or a communist-party oligarchy, or a dictatorship of relativism. We have no real peace until we find the king and do Him homage. Until we find Him, our own souls gurgle and froth with ungoverned chaos, like a destabilized nation ripe for a coup d’état.

The wise men, as you know, did not simply ask, Where is the king? They asked, “Where is the king of the Jews?”

Continue reading “80’s Baltimore, the King, and the Babies”

ἐπορεύθησαν Pro-Lifers

Huge Hoyas game today. In Morgantown WV. Against the Brokeback Mountaineers. If you need emergency pastoral care in Franklin or Henry counties, please make sure it’s not between 12:00 and 2:00 p.m. Thanks. (Kidding.)

After their audience with Herod, the magi set out for Bethlehem.

Literally, the magi eporeuthesan. Whenever this Greek verb appears in the New Testament, it indicates a journey of some distance, a removal from one’s usual location. The word suggests a pilgrimage.

The 2,012th year of grace lies open before us, like a spiritual New World to discover. Where will we go? Where will the star of Christ lead us?

The Lord expects us to share the attitude the magi had:

Lead on, heavenly light. We will follow. Shine wherever you will. We won’t complain about the rigors of the trip, about sore feet or weary bones. We will not lament the comfortable homes we left behind to follow after you. No. To reach You, O Christ of God—to reach You will reward every effort we make. All the hardship will seem like nothing.

Of course, the magi knew what they were doing when they left their homes to follow Christ’s star. After all their long journey, what did they find? They found a beauty beyond what they could have imagined. God, the Lord of the heavens, had become one of us. And He did not sit on a terrible throne, lording it over His subjects with wrath and fire. No. He lay in a manger, a cooing child, smiling up at them.

Continue reading “ἐπορεύθησαν Pro-Lifers”

Purgatory Pain

If you feel like re-living the experience of reading the explanation I gave of I John 5:4 when we read it at Holy Mass last year, click here

…Painful Hoya loss last night. But we will live to fight another day. Huge game against Connecticut on Saturday.

And there are other things that cheer a guy up, like:

1) It does a heart good to see the Holy Father celebrate Mass on Epiphany in an even more beautiful Roman fiddleback chasuble than the one he wore last year.

2) In Spe Salvi, the same excellent Pope gives the most exquisite one-sentence explanation of Purgatory I have ever read.

The Pope is explaining I Corinthians 3:12-13:

No one can lay a foundation other than the one that is there, namely, Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, or straw, the work of each will come to light, for the Day will disclose it. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each one’s work.

The Holy Father proposes that the fire of Purgatory may be nothing other than the gaze of Christ.

He gazes upon us with perfect justice and perfect love. His gaze discloses all truth; nothing is hidden; all falsehood is laid bare. For most of us, this will be agonizing.

But there is hope: The gaze of perfect justice is also the gaze of infinite love. He demands pure truth BECAUSE He loves us so much. As the Pope puts it:

The pain of love becomes our salvation and our joy
(Spe Salvi 47).