Sacred Heart Solemnity

In the first reading at Holy Mass today, we read, “It was not because you are the largest of nations that the Lord set His heart on you and chose you…It was because the Lord loved you and because of His fidelity.” (Deuteronomy 7:7-8)

Charles Bosseron Chambers Sacred Heart of JesusWhy does the Lord love us?

Does He love us for our good looks?  For our many achievements and splendid exploits?  Does He look at how well we cook, or how well we drive, or how well we play cards, or tennis—did He see all that, from heaven, and then fall in love with us, because we are so charming and wonderful?

Did He see us excelling in virtue, shimmering with perfect honesty and generosity and prudence and a sensible diet—did He see all this from heaven, and then say to Himself, ‘Well, gosh!  How lovable these human people are, how can I help myself but love them?’

Well, no.  Negative.  God does not love us because we are great.  God does not love us because we are successful.  He does not love us because we are clever, or nice, or athletic, or talented, or generous, or hard-working.  We can lay no claim to His love; we do not deserve it; we have not earned it.

Not being great—being pathetic little lumps of clay that sometimes can’t even manage to tie our own shoelaces properly; who often turn left when all the signs clearly read, ‘Danger ahead! Turn right immediately!’ being small-brained, small-hearted, whiny, petulant, little nincompoops—being all this and less, we nonetheless receive the free and all-conquering love of God.

He loves the morally, spiritually, and psychologically bankrupt.  And then He makes us beautiful and interesting and worthwhile.  He loves the small into greatness.  That’s the way He is.

All it takes is looking at a crucifix for one moment to remember that He loves us, and how He loves us.

Why?  Why did He become man and die on the Cross for us?  Why did He allow His heart to be pierced by the soldier’s lance, so that every last drop of His Precious Blood flowed out?

We hear the answer in the second reading at Mass today:  God loves us because God is love (I John 4:8).  His love is the origin of all things.

Pawns of the Force

From our first reading at today’s Holy Mass, taken from St. John’s first letter: The one who acts in righteousness is righteous, just as he is righteous.

Now, who is this ‘he?’ He is the incarnate Son, the eternal Word made flesh, the revelation of the triune love of God, Jesus of Nazareth.

We go on to read: Whoever sins belongs to the devil…the Son of God was revealed to destroy the works of the devil.

Luke on approachTwo points.

1. St. John’s fundamental message in his letter is: God is light and love; hatred and darkness come from the devil.

There really is a Force, and it really has a dark side. And the dark side really has exercised destructive power over the human race from the original Fall of man.

But God came in the flesh to do battle with the devil and defeat him. So light and love have triumphed and are triumphing.

2. These fundamental underpinnings of moral reality give us the humility we need to achieve true happiness. We human beings do not possess the greatest intelligence, nor the most-powerful wills, in the cosmos. God and the devil both have more smarts and more power than we do.

So human freedom doesn’t mean you or me acting independently. It means you and me co-operating with the divine grace of the incarnate Son of God, Jesus. And His grace is: Love. Selfless love. The love He showed on the cross.

Yes, morals involve making personal, independent decisions. We don’t obey like dogs or donkeys. We can sin, or we can act righteously, and it lies in the power of our knowledge and freedom to choose one or the other.

But our personal, independent moral decisions take place in this far-greater context: the cosmos-sized battle between good and evil, in which God is conquering the devil, by the power of Jesus Christ’s love, for the salvation of the world.

When we recognize that we are, so to speak, little players in the much larger game of good vs. evil; when we perceive that the drama of history is in fact God playing chess with the devil, then we can peacefully and happily take our place as pawns.

Let me allow the good Lord to use me for good. I can trust that all will be well. I don’t need to see the grand scheme; that is for God alone to see. I just need to love my neighbor with Christian love right here and now.

L’esprit de la 11 janvier and the Spirit of Jesus

Mass Unity Rally Held In Paris

The Lord Jesus went to the synagogue.

Why? Why bother with such things? “Organized religion.” Why not just pray to my God in my own totally personal way?

Lord Jesus lived the divine law in every respect. And, as St. John puts it, “whoever loves God must love his brother.”

Maybe some of us remember how, a year ago, France suffered a terrorist attack. It wasn’t as big as the one this past November, but it was pretty awful. A few days later, millions of people came together in Paris. They experienced a deep sense of unity and common purpose. They called that sense l’esprit de la 11 janvier, “the spirit of January 11.” In the face of cruel violence and destruction, they found hope by coming together.

My point is: If we really want hope, we have to come together. If we really want to know who we are, we have to come together. If we really want to make contact with the kind of solid foundation that can give us a firm footing, even when evil tries to stare us down–we need to come together. Because that firm footing comes only from solidarity with others.

Now, rallies can be great. But the truth is that God Himself has given us the perfect way of coming together. The Holy Mass.

We come together not just one time, or even just once a year, but every week, every day. We come together to share the spirit. And it’s not just l’esprit de 11 janvier, as good as that spirit may be. No: we share an infinitely greater spirit. The Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ.

He is the One Who truly unites, Who truly overcomes all the sin and evil of this world. The true source of hope for our human race.

We can’t make it alone. We need Him, and we need each other.

Love vs. Shibboleths

Megyn KellyThe Scripture passages for Sunday’s Holy Mass read like: Just in case you didn’t get the message already, Love, Love, Love!

The word appears 19 times in the readings. 19 times. And that’s just in the second reading and the gospel. The word ‘love’ 19 times. So, we get the message, I hope.

God is love. The law of God: love. Christ’s commandment: love. They’ll know we are Christians by our love. Love is all you need. Gimme love, love, love, love, crazy love.

We got it.

Continue reading “Love vs. Shibboleths”

I John 2:27

el greco st john evangelist

The anointing that you received from him remains in you, so that you do not need anyone to teach you.

Do not need anyone to teach you. So maybe I should hang it up. But the irony is: We need a teacher to understand this verse.

The Lord anoints us with divine love through the sacraments. Christ’s love dwells in us, moving us towards God.

The context of this verse from John’s letter: False teachers had tried to confuse everyone, denying the divinity of Christ, and calling good acts evil and evil acts good.

All of us have experienced this, I imagine: ‘Experts’ trying to tell us something that ain’t so. Justifications, based on questionable theories, for deeds that a child can see are wrong.

That is not teaching we need. We want to be taught by the one absolutely bankable expert, namely God. Starts with: Do good. Avoid evil. Do good, and avoid evil. Pretty simple.

What about: ‘Have grand plans and schemes and theories?’ Not necessarily. Probably not. Just do good and avoid evil.

Re-starts with: The Blood of Christ cleanses us of our sins. Moves forward with: Do good; avoid evil; stay humble; love the Lord.

St. John on Cain and Abel

Beloved, this is the message you have heard from the beginning: we should love one another, unlike Cain who belonged to the Evil One and slaughtered his brother. (I John 3:11)

Sin entered the world shortly after the creation. Immediately sin began to have its effect. We began to kill each other in the first generation.

Why did Cain kill Abel? Because he hated him.

Why did Cain hate Abel? Abel had done Cain no wrong. Except:

Abel pleased God with the sweet-smelling sacrifice of his own humble righteousness. Abel lived in peace, loving God and his brother. His simple heart beat evenly, without any disordered desire. Abel wanted nothing but to please God. From this, the quiet joy of his soul flowed out.

Cain lived in fear. He did not have the sweet-smelling sacrifice of his own righteousness to offer.

He had made compromises with the uprightness of his soul. Cain wanted to please God, but he also wanted to please himself. So he did not offer the best of what he had.

With Abel standing next to him, Cain faced a choice. Either do violence to myself, discipline my desires so as to give God my whole heart. Or do violence to the one who makes me look bad.

Now, the second option obviously makes no sense. What could make Cain look worse than killing his righteous brother? A sinner cannot expunge goodness from the face of the earth so as to stop looking bad by comparison. As the Lord said, “Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground!”

But that’s the thing. Sin doesn’t make sense.

That is, it always makes perfect sense from the limited and benighted point-of-view of the sinner. But the lies of the Great Seducer have obscured the simple truth from that particular point-of-view, replacing calm and reasonable honesty with the chaos of self-justifying passion and pride.

The hardest work in the world, the labor of our lives from the first dawnings of consciousness to our final breath, is this: To keep our eyes on the truth.

The way we came to know love was that He laid down His life for us. (I John 3:16)

Truth. Love. Crucified God.

Let’s keep our eyes on this, and then we will be able to see everything else.

Spiritual Movie, Spiritual Death

Indeed, the Son of God was revealed to destroy the works of the devil. (I John 3:8)

Will it sound too grim if I wish you all well–during another year of strife? Will it sound even grimmer if I remind you that not all of us will be on earth on New Year’s Day, 2013?

I do not wish you unnecessary struggles. After all, at every Mass, the priest prays on everyone’s behalf that the good Lord would deliver us from all distress. The priest prays that He Who promised peace to His Apostles would fulfill his will in us and grant us peace.

But why did St. John have to write his letters? Why, after all, did all the human authors of the New Testament documents feel the need to write?

In this world, we will have troubles, says the Lord. “But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

God took our human nature to Himself, became man, set His feet on the earth, showed signs of His divinity with miraculous wonders—and we proceeded to crucify Him.

The Apostles wrote because the beautiful and simple Word of Truth had been, in certain quarters, distorted and maliciously misunderstood. They wrote because a battle ceaselessly rages between the pure love of God the Father and the agonizingly confusing destructiveness of the Evil One.

Continue reading “Spiritual Movie, Spiritual Death”

What is Love?

It was not because you are the largest of nations that the Lord set His heart on you and chose you…It was because the Lord loved you and because of His fidelity. (Deuteronomy 7:7-8)

God does not love us because we are great. God does not love us because we are successful. He does not love us because we are clever, or nice, or athletic, or talented, or generous, or hard-working. We can lay no claim to His love; we do not deserve it; we have not earned it.

But if God does not love us because we deserve it, if He does not love us because we are so wonderful, then why does He love us?

We know, of course, that He does love us. All it takes is looking at a crucifix for one moment to remember that He loves us, and how He loves us.

Why? Why did He become man and die on the Cross for us? Why did He allow His heart to be pierced by the soldier’s lance, so that every last drop of His Precious Blood flowed out?

God loves us because God is love (I John 4:16). His love is the origin of all things.

But when we say, ‘God is love,’ let’s think carefully about precisely what we are saying. It is not that we are born knowing what true love is, and then we see Jesus and expertly identify a good example of true love. It is not like we are the teacher, and He is the student, and we give Him the grade of A+ for loving us.

No—it’s the other way around. We have no idea what true love is until we fix our eyes on Jesus Christ. We can say that God is love because God has taught us what love is.

And He does more than teach us. He also gives us the grace and strength to love like Him, to return love for love. He has loved us first. Let’s love Him back with all we have.

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).

Little Contribution, Big Contribution

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

If you want to catch a nice fish, you get up early, take your reel, bait the hook, and cast the line.

God provides: The fish, the water, the earth, the sky, the light, the motion of the water, the air you’re breathing, the motion of the earth on its axis, the nutritional value of the fish, the proper functioning of all your muscles, organs, and senses, etc., etc.

If you want to get to heaven, God provides: Heaven, earth, the atoning sacrifice, all the necessary graces, everyone He sends to help you on the way, all necessary teaching and sustenance, and, of course, yourself.

All we have to do is: get up, give thanks, and stand in the right place.

…Are you kidding me? The defending national champs got beat by the College of Charleston? Sweet!

…Will we miss Jim Zorn? No.

He did, in fact, follow our advice. But he followed it too much.

Everything unraveled under him because he instilled no fear. Without fear, there is no discipline. And to instill fear in those under your authority, you have to be a lot more in touch with reality than Coach Z ever was.