The Home We Belong In

What does ‘prodigal’ mean? Right. Recklessly wasteful. Lavish, extravagant—but in a destructive way.

The son asked for his inheritance, and the Father let him go. The young man sought adventure. He wanted to see, to experience, to know about the world beyond his home.

Bilbo_handsThe older brother had no such sense of adventure. For this reason, we like him less. His younger brother might have squandered his inheritance in a thoroughly undignified manner. But at least the prodigal son never whined, never pouted like a baby. The older son seems not to have appreciated just how wonderful his father’s house really was.

The father anchors the whole parable, an infallibly wise and loving presence. If going off for an adventure, like Bilbo Baggins—if that were a sin in and of itself, then the father would never have allowed the younger son to go.

But he did let his son go. He gave his son the money. You are a free man, my son. Go as you wish. The world is yours.

This father, we see, knows the world. He knows that the world is, indeed, a place of adventure. Dangerous, yes. Hard to navigate all by yourself, yes. But fundamentally evil? No.

Continue reading “The Home We Belong In”

His Dwelling with Us

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Let’s start with an antithesis. On the one hand, God dwells everywhere. Nothing could exist at all if it were not upheld immediately by God’s power. On the other hand: We cannot see; we cannot grasp; we cannot know God.

See? Antithesis. Both true. God everywhere. But everything we see, know, conceive: not God. Human beings search constantly for God, Who is everywhere.

Then: God began to work with us to help us deal with this problem. He drew close to the ancient Israelites. He gave them His holy name to invoke. He led them out of slavery to their homeland. He established a dwelling place with them. The Ark of the Covenant.

Continue reading “His Dwelling with Us”

Five Years: the Real Problem

rehobo postcardGreetings, and happy fifth anniversary to this ridiculous little weblog. 780,000 visits so far. Ad majorem Dei gloriam.

Hope everyone rejoiced yesterday when our Lady was crowned with surpassing glory.

Is it not the case that our need to be reconciled with God–the silent, mysterious, seemingly absent, yet omnipresent God–is the real problem of the whole of world history? –Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth

Sabbath Homily–with Compendium, too

Just in time for your summer vacation, if you are fortunate enough to be able to enjoy one…

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The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath. (Matthew 12:8)

Whenever the Lord speaks about the sabbath, I try to take note.* [Scroll down or CLICK for a compendium of all the notes I have taken lately.]

Because I, for one, am not good at keeping the sabbath. I daresay that few of us really do it well.

One the seventh day, the Lord gazed upon all the good things He had made. He took delight in the grand spectacle. His work of creation complete, He rested in perfect contemplation.

DanielThe irony of sabbath rest is, of course, that for spiritually slothful people, it is simply impossible.

Sabbath resting comes from the interior peace of knowing that I have generously tackled the task entrusted to me for the past six days. Then, on the seventh, the Lord helps me to recognize that all that work is really His; the task is bigger than me alone

Because it is God Who truly brings about completion and fruition, sabbath resting in the power of God is the only real rest that a human soul can find.

Now, we know that the Lord Jesus spoke infrequently, and rather cryptically, about His identity. Pope-Emeritus Benedict XVI has a chapter in his book Jesus of Nazareth about this fact, and he tries to explain the significance of Christ’s use of the phrase “Son of Man” to refer to Himself.

The prophet Daniel spoke of the coming of the Son of Man on the clouds, ushering in the everlasting sabbath of true peace and worship. And Christ referred to this Himself, during His night trial on Holy Thursday, before a few members of the Sanhedrin. “You will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.” For these words, above all, the Lord was condemned—as He knew He would be.

Benedict Jesus of Nazareth InfancyThis mysterious “Son of Man,” the Christ—He is man ‘in full.’ He is man, having attained the full good and purpose of man’s existence. The Son of Man is Lord of the sabbath not just because He is the Creator Who instituted the sabbath in the beginning—which He is—but also because He, Christ—and He alone—truly offers man a sabbath.

Who will give us rest from our weariness, besides Jesus Christ? Who else has come down from heaven, reconciled us as a race to the Father, and then returned to heaven, preparing a place for us there–a place with a perfectly human “shape,” a place to be filled by each of us as the men and women “in full” that we can be, by the grace of Christ?

The Son of Man is Lord of heaven. In heaven, may it please Him to get us there, we will find the true sabbath that our soul’s seek. And in the meantime, when we know that there is a heaven; when we know that, in the Heart of Christ, an eternal sabbath of peace opens up like an ocean—when we know all this above all the other things we know, including the contents of all our endless To-Do lists—when we know Jesus, we can find a way to rest a little and give it all over to God now.

Continue reading “Sabbath Homily–with Compendium, too”

More Questions

Last year, when we heard the reading from St. John’s gospel about the “woman in anguish because her hour has arrived” (16:21), we discussed the agony and ecstasy of childbirth.

Benedict Jesus of Nazareth InfancyWe talked about how each of us gave one poor woman a great deal of strife when we started our life on earth. And we discussed how we try to make it up every year, by sending flowers on the second Sunday of May.

In the end, when the birth pangs of this pilgrim life give way to the repose of our true life with God, we will see the unveiled face of Christ. And, as He tells us, we will have no more questions.

But this very statement of the Lord’s—that in heaven we won’t have any more questions—this very statement teaches us something crucially important. Until we get to heaven, we have to keep asking questions.

Here’s one example. In his book Jesus of Nazareth, Pope Emeritus Benedict tries to explain the Beatitude, “Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness.” Benedict considers the prevailing contemporary view regarding salvation, namely, as he puts it:

Everyone should live by the religion—or perhaps the atheism—in which he happens to find himself already. This, it is said, is the path of salvation for him.

We have all heard this, more or less, I think.

But Benedict responds to this prevailing view with this question: “Does someone achieve blessedness and justification in God’s eyes because he has declared his own opinions and wishes to be the rules of his conscience?”

In other words, did Jesus say, “Blessed are they who decide for themselves what rules they ought to follow?”

No, He did not say this. The Pope Emeritus points out in his book that the only way to find blessedness is to arouse one’s conscience by seeking God, by striving to learn God’s rules.

Learning the Catholic faith in its entirety may very well demand even more struggle and effort than giving birth. Not to take anything away from the ladies. But I think giving birth is a cakewalk compared to learning the Catholic faith in full.

If we have stopped asking questions about what God wants from us, if we have stopped seeking to learn more—if our minds are standing still while we are still here on earth, then we have not learned the Catholic faith in its entirety.

Pope on John the Baptist

At this time of year, we meditate on the mysterious role of St. John the Baptist.

Two brief insights from our Holy Father’s book about the gospels:

1. John the Baptist inherited the hereditary Old-Covenant priesthood from his father Zechariah.

Benedict Jesus of Nazareth InfancyIn addition to being hereditary, the old priesthood was also episodic. You ministered in the Temple for your period of service; then you went back home to your ordinary daily life.

In other words, you were not always a priest. Sometimes, you stood in the Temple to pray and offer sacrifice. The rest of the time, you did other non-liturgical, non-sacrificial things.

John, however, lived out his inherited priesthood in a new way. He consecrated himself for life—and for constant priestly exercise. John the Baptist offered God the sacrifice of his entire heart, mind, soul, and strength in the temple of the desert.

John thus formed the bridge between the priesthood of the Old Covenant and that of the New. The Lord Jesus inaugurated a universal priesthood that operates like John exercised his. All of us who have been baptized into Christ have received the priesthood by which everything we do, everything we are, everything we suffer—all of it can be offered to the Father as a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving. For the holy priests of the new People of God, there is no moment of human life that does not have eternal significance.

2. St. John fulfills the mission of Elijah, which is precisely to declare that the fullness of time has come.

All the preceding work of creation and history served as a preparation for the moment that had now arrived: God Himself was coming to the earth in Person.

Therefore, the appearance of Elijah, in the person of John the Baptist, means: Prepare!

When the in-laws come over for turkey or ham, we dust the house and straighten up. But the time has now come for the visit of Almighty God Himself.

…Click HERE for a compendium of all of St. John the Baptist’s sayings.