True Friends and Enemies

If the master of the house had known the hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. (Luke 12:39)

“Pachamama” by Arianna Ruffinengo

Everyone paid attention to the videos from Rome? Maybe someday our personal responses to this question will define us: Where did you stand, when they threw Pachamama in the Tiber?

But I would rather recount a conversation I had with a Mohawk man. On the Appalachian Trail, a few years ago. He’s a Christian, an Assembly of God preacher. We fell in with each other for a long stretch of walking and talking. He wound up spending a few days praying at St. Andrew’s in Roanoke, Virginia, then continued his journeys.

To generalize about “native American spirituality” or “Amazonian spirituality”—doesn’t seem like a good idea at all. You really can’t generalize, any more than you could generalize about “European spirituality” or “the spirituality of the Indian sub-continent.”

But can’t we say this: All orthodox Catholics, and most native Americans, of north and south, have something in common. We all acknowledge that the human race does not possess the greatest intelligence that exists. We God-fearing people revere the infinitely superior intelligence of our Creator, and the immeasurably superior intelligence of the angels, the non-material spirits–some of which are good, some of which are evil.

Cover of English edition of Pope Francis' encyclical on environment

Therefore we orthodox Catholics and native Americans also share this understanding: the Creator has endowed His material creation with an inherent order—and that order also surpasses our intelligence.

Not that we Catholics would say that trees, deer, and rivers have “minds.” But we recognize, along with native Americans, that Mother Nature possesses this endowment of organization, unity, and co-operation. Mankind forms but a part of this.

We human beings have a unique role—but not the role of mastermind. We must humbly respect the mystery of Mother Nature’s inner-connectedness; we must seek to co-operate with it ourselves; we cannot presume to understand it completely.

So, my point is: Why would we fight among ourselves, we God-fearing people who respect the Creator’s higher intelligence? When we not only have such crucial presuppositions in common, but also clearly face a common foe.

Namely, the school of willful blindness to the inherently religious dimension of human life. The technocracy. The oligarchy of materialists. That rejects prayer and sacraments as merely projections of inner psychological confusion. That prizes only bodily comfort. That cannot conceive of our human mission to co-operate humbly with God and His laws.

I didn’t just make up this take on the problem, during a walk in the woods with an Indian. This is a thesis that Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict both embraced, as we can see in the citations in Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’.

A non-Christian native American who reveres the inner mystery of Mother Nature has more in common with us orthodox Catholics than the people who run the world right now. Who know no gods other than man and money.

Christ: The Light of the American Nation, Part II (Laudato Si’)

We have to start by going back to the 90’s, and to the work that Pope St. John Paul II did to help us understand our continent and our heritage as Americans. 1992 marked the anniversary of…? Knights? In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue.

Pope St. John Paul II visited the island of Hispaniola to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the first proclamation of the Gospel in the New World. In his homily, the pope addressed himself to all the sons and daughters of “America,” from Canada to Chile and Argentina. He referred to his brother bishops “of America.” Continue reading “Christ: The Light of the American Nation, Part II (Laudato Si’)”

The Mass is the Oil

Pope Francis Patriarch Bartholomew Holy Sepulchre
Pope Francis and Patriarch Bartholomew together at the tomb of Christ

In the parable of the ten virgins, five of them had something, and five did not. Having that something made a great difference—all the difference. The five who had it entered the wedding feast. The five who did not found a locked door, and they heard God say to them, “I do not know you.”

Oil. Oil for the lamps. This is a parable. What does the oil represent?

Pope Francis and the bishops have made today the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation. The Holy Father issued a joint statement with the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople. A brief, penetrating, and captivating statement. Come to my Vespers talk on Sunday, and we will study every word of it [4:30pm, St. Joseph’s, Martinsville, Virginia. Parish dinner to follow!]

Right now let’s focus on one sentence. The statement of course exhorts all Christians to pray: to pray that all things in heaven and on earth will be restored in Christ, to thank the Creator and pledge our commitment to care for His handiwork. Then the Pope and Patriarch Bartholomew write:

An objective of our prayer is to change the way we perceive the world in order to change the way we relate to the world.

The oil in the parable is: prayer. And not just any prayer, but prayer in the Holy Spirit; prayer in which I, me, myself truly speak and communicate and open my heart, but not unilaterally. Rather: when I pray in the Holy Spirit I am myself only in co-operation with God.

So we can be even more precise: The oil is our regular celebration of the Holy Eucharist. When we participate in Mass, we pray—we ourselves, thanking God, asking Him for help, begging His mercy. But as much as the Mass is our work, much more so is it God’s. After all, in the Holy Mass, the triune Lord continues the Incarnation, and unites us to the mystery of His infinite love bodily. In the Mass, God makes our co-operation with Him as physically intimate as physical intimacy can possibly be. As Pope Francis put it in his encyclical on Mother Earth:

It is in the Eucharist that all that has been created finds its greatest exaltation…The Eucharist is the living center of the universe, the overflowing core of love and of inexhaustible life. Joined to the incarnate Son, present in the Eucharist, the whole cosmos gives thanks to God. Indeed the Eucharist is itself an act of cosmic love… The Eucharist joins heaven and earth; it embraces and penetrates all creation. The world which came forth from God’s hands returns to him in blessed and undivided adoration. (Laudato Si’ 236)

This is the oil we need.


In his encyclical on Mother Earth, our Holy Father, Pope Francis, encourages us to embrace a spiritual life like St. Francis’.  That requires “ecological conversion.”  Pope Francis writes:

First, that entails gratitude and gratuitousness, a recognition that the world is God’s loving gift, and that we are called quietly to imitate His generosity in self-sacrifice and good works. (paragraph 220)

God has freely given us the world.  He has freely given us ourselves.  He gives, out of love, not reckoning a balance sheet or including an invoice.  If we got a bill from the Lord–for our use of His golden sun, and the earth beneath our feet, and the gravity that keeps us attached, and all the cells He knit together out of nothing to make up our bodies; for the trees we look at and take shade under…  An invoice for all these things, and everything we owe Him for, payable on 30 day terms…  What could we put in an envelope, or send via electronic funds transfer?

st_francis_receiving_stigmata-400Which means:  true life for us involves giving God thanks with love and obedience, and trying to imitate His generosity.

I think we can say that we have had a rough summer as a nation.  And I don’t just mean that the Orioles have lost three in a row to the Yankees.  We have had a rough year, as a world.

We hear about people “radicalizing.”  Such-and-such person “radicalized,” and decided that God wills a terrorist attack.

We might think:  That’s insane!  But we delude ourselves and give ourselves false comfort if we dismiss terrorism as insane; if we dismiss attacks on the police, or on any defenseless people, as insane.  The attacks themselves have required sober and careful sanity in order to pull them off.

The “radical” idea that God wills terrorism is not insane.  It is wrong.  Altogether wrong.  It is untrue.

The spring of living water, the mystery revealed to the children of the Kingdom of Heaven is:  God loves with pure generosity.  More than a mother loves the babe at her breast, more than a husband loves his new bride, with more intensity than the heat at the center of the sun:  God loves every human being.

We need to radicalize.  Not just tolerance, but love.  Not simply justice, but self-sacrificing willingness to die, even to save the guilty.  Not just peaceful co-existence with each other, but going out in search of those who live in the shadows.

There’s only one answer to the confusion and fear that has filled the summer so far.  Radicalized Christianity.  What did the Lord Jesus know on the cross?  When He said, “Forgive them, Father,” and “Brother, you will be with me in paradise?”  He knew that God’s free generosity overcomes death itself.

Wrong religion concludes:  Let me kill others and myself for God’s glory.  Radicalized Christianity concludes:  “Even though I walk in the shadow of death, I fear no evil.  Because God comforts me.”

Independence-Day-Weekend Homily

Juan Epstein

Two hundred forty years.  Twelve score years.  Since…?

Yes, the Declaration of Independence.  But also, the same summer of 1776: St. Junipero Serra founded the California missions of San Francisco of Assisi and San Juan Capistrano, just south of Santa Maria de Los Angeles.

As we read at Sunday Mass, the Lord Jesus said, ‘The harvest is abundant. But it requires a lot of labor.’  We have worked at this USA thing for 240 years, expending countless, noble labors.  Working hard to communicate with each other, to cultivate a harmonious life together, to find and elect the right leaders, to educate our children, to step together into a hopeful future.

How can we not take pride in our USA?  By God’s grace, we share a genuinely sublime identity.  The eternal Son of God became man to reveal the love with which our heavenly Father made us.  Christ came to shine the divine light on: the sacred dignity of the human being.

This idea–the beautiful truth that our Creator has willed us all to exist and to thrive–that is the central, unifying idea of our nation.  That idea unites a huge, motley collection of pale- and swarthy-skinned people, in the common enterprise of the United States of America.

We read:  The Lord commanded His evangelists to say “Peace.” Peace to you.  Peace to your family, to your household, to your town.

The idea of human dignity offers us the one, true pathway to lasting peace. ‘Justice’–what does it mean?  Doesn’t it mean:  Respecting the true dignity of my neighbor?  Doesn’t it mean always remembering:  ‘This is God’s child, too.’ When we treat each other justly, what breaks out?

american-flagPeace.  Peaceful things, like cookouts, games of horseshoes, flowers growing in peoples’ gardens, young men and women falling in love and getting married, babies getting born, then growing up and going to school and learning things like Shakespeare and astronomy.

Christ came to teach us:  the heavenly Father never willed you to suffer though a wretched, hopeless, slavish life.  He wills that you live in full–occasionally enjoying things like fried chicken and ice cream, avoiding sin, and getting to heaven in the end.

By God’s grace, and the labor of the patient generations that have come before us, America has offered us a home where we can occasionally enjoy fried chicken and ice cream, avoid sin, and make our pilgrim way to heaven.

Am I right that the Christian concept of human dignity really is the crucial idea? Government by consent of the governed.  Life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness. Habeas corpus and trial by jury.  Freedom from unlawful search and seizure.  Free thinking, free assembling.  Praying and serving God according to my own well-educated conscience.

Human dignity.  The Creator endows every Tom, Dick, and Harry; every Beckah, Susan, and Sherri; every black, white, mestizo, olive-skinned, or chorizo-eating Puerto-rican Jew with the same dignity.  Child of God.  Our Founding Fathers declared this to be “self-evident.”  Sure.  It’s perfectly self-evident.  Provided you assume that Jesus Christ lives and breathes and teaches pure truth.

Now, we also read at Mass about how the citizens of the heavenly Jerusalem nurse at the abundant breasts of truth, justice, and peace.  Prosperity flows over the heavenly city like a river:  the prosperity of genuine brotherly love. The kind of genuine brotherly love that fits with a modest lifestyle and a small carbon footprint.

If we get a tiny, little share of that heavenly peace at a happy, multi-generational, American-family Fourth-of-July barbecue–how do we maintain such a peace?

It takes work.  Patient, humble labor.  The harvest is abundant–when the laborers labor.

As our Holy Father put it in his encyclical on Mother Earth, we must labor to find a new, 21st-century way of interacting with the land, the rivers, and the seas.  The 19th- and 20th-century ways have brought us to the brink of ecological disaster.

And we must labor for the rights of our neighbors to whom the promise of human dignity does not currently apply.  That, too, is the story of our nation: fighting for those to whom the American promise has not been kept.  From where I’m standing, right now that includes two large classes of people: innocent and defenseless unborn children and law-abiding undocumented immigrants.

May the Lord bless and protect our country.  We Americans have always hoped for a good future, first and foremost because the Lord has given us such a wonderful land to live in.  Why would we stop hoping now?

Yes, in this world, we will have troubles.  But Jesus has overcome the evil of the world.  So Christian hope does not disappoint.  Because God is real; His Christ is real; His Kingdom is real.  He says to His children:  Take pride in who you are; rejoice that your names are written in heaven!

Birthday Prayer

Cover of English edition of Pope Francis' encyclical on environmentIf only I’d had Catholic parents, maybe I’d have the name “Irenaeus…”    But you can’t get any better than St. Mark for a baptismal patron.

Lord Jesus slept. In a boat.  While the storm gathered and began to blow.

Does God sleep?  On duty?

A couple weeks ago, we read at Mass from I Kings about Elijah taunting the pagans about their false god, Baal.  “Perhaps he is asleep!”

But we get these taunts, too. Has God slept since the Ascension of Christ?  Or since the New Testament got finished?

Near the beginning of his encyclical on Mother Earth, Pope Francis explains something crucially important about the meaning of two words.  The word “nature” refers to: plants, animals, the earth, the sea, the weather, sharks, us (the human animals)—“nature” refers to all this, an orderly system governed by scientific laws.

But the word “creation…”  “Creation” means that “nature”—the beautiful system operating according to laws—exists for a reason.  A Person has willed that all of it exist.  And He continues to will that it exist, and He moves it toward a goal.  The great God, Who transcends nature, has created nature, for His reason.  And St. Irenaeus teaches us the reason—or rather, St. Irenaeus expresses the reason as taught by Christ, the Son of God:  The Creator receives His greatest glory by our reaching eternal life.  The Creator created that we might live.

St. Irenaeus
St. Irenaeus

The divine Trinity does not sleep.  He has laid down laws, and those laws require that human beings sleep sometimes.  Lord Jesus, a man, took a nap.  Forty-six-year-olds need naps sometimes, too.

But God, Who wills the existence of everything that is, at all times, does not sleep.  He works His perfect plan of peace and reconciliation.

Speaking of which…  Somewhere between 1/4 and 1/3 of my generation never had the chance to walk the earth and contemplate the beauty of nature as God created Her—because they got killed in the womb by abortionists.

May God gather all those souls to Himself, the classmates, friends, brother priests, companions in life I never had—because of the cruel abortionist’s knife.

Now that I’m on the downward slope of life, God can take me home when He wills.  But on my birthday, I pray: may He let me live to see the day when the nonsensical nightmare of Roe v. Wade gets taken off the books and put into the Museum of Human Evil and Folly, where it belongs.  May every baby have a birthday, like we, dear brothers and sisters, all had the wonderful privilege of having.

Prophets and the Environment

Holy Father's shoes participated in the canceled march in Paris
Holy Father’s shoes participated in the canceled march in Paris

Many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it. (Luke 10:24)

According to St. John Chrysostom, the prophets knew that Christ would come, but they longed to see what the Apostles actually saw—as in, Christ walking the earth, healing people, etc. The prophets knew that the Christ would reveal the truth about God, but they longed to hear the words which the Apostles actually heard, and which the Apostles and their successors have transmitted down the ages to us. In other words, the prophets received an interior vision of the coming Messiah, but that vision did not have the full clarity and beauty of Christ’s actual words and deeds, when He finally did come to the earth.

When it comes to predicting the future, we might reasonably trust the prophets a lot more than we trust the weatherman. When environmentalists trot out dire predictions, with precise water levels and temperatures in fifty years, or when they say that we had Hurricane Sandy and Winter-storm Pax because too many cars in Phoenix and Shanghai get less than 25 mpg—well, we might reasonably have our doubts about the precision of the calculations.

Cover of English edition of Pope Francis' encyclical on environmentBut that should not distract us from praying like mad for the complete success of the environmental talks underway in Paris during these first two weeks of Advent. Just because climate alarmists sometimes overstate their case doesn’t mean they are not on to something. You don’t have to be a scientist to recognize that we have a serious problem, we 21st-century citizens of the global industrialized technocracy.

A climate conference can’t make lions eat hay, or make it so that the babe can put his hand in the adder’s lair. We will have to wait for the second coming of Christ to fulfill those prophecies.

But we could take a huge step as a human family toward harmony with the laws of nature. The leaders of the world could recognize our common home for what it is: a gift from God. He has appointed us stewards, not masters, and the meeting in Paris could be a moment for the human race to acknowledge that truth.

Let’s pray that the conference will find a path to a better future, a future which our children and grandchildren will rejoice to see.

Digesting Laudato Si’ in the USA, Part I

The Inevitability of Priests

I have gone for a run and/or a walk in 38 of the 50 states (so far).  No ear-buds, and never a smartphone in my hand.  Pure and natural, touring these lands we occupy as a nation, on foot.

I would say that we can live in communion with God while traversing the earth here.  We can perceive by the beauty before our eyes (and the smells, and the songs of the birds and burblings of the brooks) that a Creator reigns.  And, in church, we can learn this wisdom: that the Creator sent His Son, Whose priestly sacrifice consecrated us.  So we can make our pilgrimage on the earth with upright consciences, on this soil of the USA.

Cover of English edition of Pope Francis' encyclical on environmentWe could say the same, of course, of every land which the Apostles and their successors have reached.  Our land has her own history, though.  I think we could divide American history into two ages: the period before English-speaking people took over, and the centuries since then.

(There was a brief interval, in some states, between the arrival of the Gospel in America and the takeover of the English-speakers.  Click HERE for more on that.  I offer this particular essay as a sequel to my July 1 homily on Fr. Junipero.  Forgive me–late July seems to bring essays out of me.)

The pre-colonial people did not know about the Christ.  I daresay, though, that they might have had more overall wisdom than we do, with respect to walking as upright pilgrims on these lands.  They could ask us:  Why do you live in these little airtight pods you live in?  Everyone travels by enclosed pods at great speeds, from the enclosed pods where you sleep and watch your personal tvs/use your personal websurfing gadgets, to the enlcosed pods where you use your own computer for eight hours, then travel by high-speed pod back to your other pod.

Sure, you have plenty of food, and air conditioning, and ritalin and stuff.  But your pod-enclosed existence strikes us natives of this continent as wretched. You have to travel great distances to national parks for a glimpse of the beauty and freshness in which we lived our whole lives.  We do not envy you.

Good points.  It seems to me that all the American institutions that involve something other than enclosed personal pods–institutions like cities, shopping malls, bowling alleys, the Boy Scouts of America:  little by little, they are failing, replaced by non-descript colonies of pods connected only to the internet and the highway system.  Only one institution really remains, impervious by Her very nature to pod-enclosure:  the Church.

tjeffersonChrist founded the Church to liberate the human race from sin, selfishness, worldliness, the dominion of Satan.  We receive the Gospel as the light of freedom, by which we can walk the earth with upright consciences, beholding true beauty, serving God and relating to Him as friends, seeking Him as our final goal by obeying the designs of His Providence.  We do this together, a band of people who share the deepest-possible bond:  we live from, with, and for Jesus Christ.

Christian freedom means coming out of the darkness–the darkness of knowing only vaguely about the Creator, confused by a lot of nonsense of purely human origin, powerless to master ourselves and live reasonably.  Freedom means coming out of this darkness into a place where the light shines.  The light shines in the Church of Jesus Christ, in her perpetual observances and activities, all of which revolve around Holy Mass.

“But, Father!” you may righteously interject, “What about Vatican II and Dignitatis Humanae?  Hasn’t the Church accepted the Enlightenment and acknowledged the fundamental freedom of the individual?  Don’t we teach now that individual freedom is what enables us to believe in the first place?  How can freedom come only from the Gospel, if we must have the freedom to believe in the Gospel when we hear it, to respond freely to Christ?  Don’t we have freedom by the dignity of our nature, even without the Church?  Also, don’t we Christians want to co-operate with non-Christians in the pursuit of the common good?”

Okay.  First of all, we have not left St. Augustine behind.  St. Augustine’s teaching still binds us.  The freedom with which our dignified nature can respond freely to Christ’s invitation to believe in Him–that freedom comes as a grace, through the Church.  (Regarding our co-operation with non-Christians of good will, I’m going to leave that to others to study; it’s not really my forte.  No comment regarding how easy it is to find non-Christians of good will these days.)

st-augustineWhen the English-speaking people came here, they had this idea:  Freedom means I get to decide.  If I get to decide, then I am free.  If I don’t get to decide, then I’m not free.  Going to church or not, listening to the priests or not, the free man decides.  Freedom means having that choice.

Meanwhile, an inescapable fact reigns in the Church:  our communion with the light of true freedom endures only while we frequent the sacraments.

Now, those of us who do try to frequent the sacraments often face a particular question, asked of us by those who don’t go to church.  We find the question odd.  They ask:  How can you accept papal infallibility?

And we’re like, What?  Do you have a problem with the idea that the Virgin Mary was conceived without sin, or that she was assumed into heaven?  It’s not as if the pope has ever infallibly declared anything controversial, really.

The actual issue, I believe, is this:  A parish priest does not possess the charism of infallibility; a good Catholic could ask his/her priest a question and then decide for him/herself that the priest gave the wrong answer.  But the parish priest has this little share in the charism of infallibility:  He possesses inevitability.

A Catholic can think his priest is boring, obtuse–a thoroughly patethic excuse (as many have thought these past four years in Franklin and Henry counties, Virginia).  But still the priest remains an inevitable fixture in the Catholic’s life.  No one can be Catholic without a priest.  (Which means no one can be Catholic without all the other people who have the same priest, too.)  Freedom does not mean the freedom to go through life without a priest, without participating in communal life directed by a priest.

The ceremonies of all the ritual families of the Church, eastern and western, all express one fundamental thing:  Faith that the Incarnation began in the womb of the Virgin and continues on earth in the Blessed Sacrament.  I think we can say that the rites and outward observances which we have–they all originally came into effect, in the earliest days, precisely in order to express this central principle of Church life.

To live in harmony with a priest (and all his other people, too) means participating in these observances.  Our ceremonies implant and nourish the Christian faith; by the same token, the faith makes the ceremonies make sense.  Church practices don’t make any sense without faith in the Incarnation and the Blessed Sacrament.  Submitting oneself to this, to the inner logic of the traditional life of the Church:  that is what liberates a soul from the interior slavery that we inherit as children of fallen Adam and Eve.

(It seems to me that all the side issues that gave rise to Protestantism have basically fallen by the wayside.  The late-medieval failures of clerical discipline that produced so much criticism have long since been addressed.  For at least a century and a half, the Apostolic See of Rome has given the Church inspiring leadership.  We Catholics have explained how we can agree with many of the original Protestant propositions.  Meanwhile, mainline Protestants find that they cannot avoid invoking ‘tradition.’  No reasonable person can really deny that the Catechism of the Catholic Church offers the world the synthesis of Christian doctrine.)

We walk this part of the earth, the USA, gazing at the Creator’s handiwork, purified in our consciences and animated by hope for eternal life, because we have communion with Christ through the mediation of a Catholic priest.

This is real freedom.  Our English-speaking forefathers would not have agreed (Thomas Jefferson, for primary example).  With all due respect to them, we have to regard them as wrong when it comes to priests and their inevitability.

The “freedom” to live outside the Church, estranged from the rites of the Incarnate God:  we cannot call that freedom.  In 2015, we can only call it paganism.  And we offer the invitation to everyone living that way:  come out of that darkness into the light in the Church!

Then we can come out of our pods.  We can live for more than fleeting moments of escapism, by way of leisure.  Together, we can stop wounding Mother Earth.  With respect to our ancestors who knew how to take care of Her better than we do–we can learn how to make them proud of us.

The first thing that has to go is the idea that “freedom” is about me, myself, and I.

Integral Ecological Sunday

Pope Francis Mass consecration

It is in the Eucharist that all that has been created finds its greatest exaltation…The Eucharist is the living center of the universe, the overflowing core of love and of inexhaustible life. Joined to the incarnate Son, present in the Eucharist, the whole cosmos gives thanks to God. Indeed the Eucharist is itself an act of cosmic love: “Yes, cosmic! Because even when it is celebrated on the humble altar of a country church, the Eucharist is always in some way celebrated on the altar of the world.” (Pope St. JPII) The Eucharist joins heaven and earth; it embraces and penetrates all creation. The world which came forth from God’s hands returns to him in blessed and undivided adoration… The Eucharist is a source of light and motivation for our concerns for the environment, directing us to be stewards of all creation.

On Sunday, our participation in the Eucharist has special importance. Sunday, like the Jewish Sabbath, is meant to be a day which heals our relationships with God, with ourselves, with others and with the world. Sunday is the day of the Resurrection, the “first day” of the new creation, whose first fruits are the Lord’s risen humanity, the pledge of the final transfiguration of all created reality. Sunday proclaims man’s eternal rest in God… The law of weekly rest forbade work on the seventh day, “so that your ox and your donkey may have rest, and the son of your maidservant, and the stranger, may be refreshed” (Ex 23:12). Rest opens our eyes to the larger picture and gives us renewed sensitivity to the rights of others. And so the day of rest, centered on the Eucharist, sheds its light on the whole week, and motivates us to greater concern for nature and the poor.

Laudato Si’ 236-37

The Force of the 12-Year-Old Girl

You don’t have to be a full-time soccer dad to know that, when your twelve-year-old daughter wakes up after having been widely reported dead, she’ll need something to eat.

Jairus the synagogue official loved his daughter. He also believed in Almighty God, and loved Him. The father loved God enough to think: The Lord does not will death and sadness; he does not wish me to lose my little girl.

Cover of English edition of Pope Francis' encyclical on environmentAnd the synagogue official had heard of Jesus of Nazareth. Jairus believed that all the goodness of the ancient Lord of Israel, Who had liberated the people from slavery, and fed them with manna in the desert, and made their daughters graceful as columns—all that goodness dwelt in the Galilean rabbi.

Let’s try to share Jairus’ mind. Dark house. Wailing mourners. His well-meaning neighbors, thinking they were doing him a favor by coming over to caterwaul and lament how sad and miserable the world is. How there really is no hope. Meanwhile, all Jairus can think is: I just want to give my little girl a sandwich and tell her she can go outside and play after she has had adequate time to digest. Why won’t she wake up?

How the mourners must have stared when Jairus declared his intention to stride out into the dusty sunshine in search of the Nazorean rabbi.

“What has gotten into him?” they thought to themselves. “This synagogue official always seemed so reasonable—until now. Grief has overcome his wits.”

Meanwhile, Jairus is thinking to himself, “I can’t take any more of this wailing.” And Christ couldn’t stand the sound of it, either. He put the mourners out of the house. After all, he had told Jairus: “Do not be afraid. Just have faith.”

Just have faith that twelve-year-old girls will continue to eat sandwiches and play soccer. Just have faith that death will not swallow our hopes. Have faith that summertime barbecues will mean peace and co-operation in families, and not misunderstanding and misery. Just believe that the heavenly Father loves His children. His loving Hands will give us life.

Up the stairs. To the little bed…

Talitha koum. Get up, little girl. I am the Lord of Life. I create day, not darkness. I bring healing, not woe. I want twelve-year-old girls to eat sandwiches and play soccer in the afternoon, not die and leave their fathers hopeless and bereft. Just co-operate with me, and all will be well.

nuclearLast week our Holy Father gave us an encyclical letter, as you probably know. Laudato Si’. Blessed be. Blessed may You be, all-powerful, most-holy Lord! May You be especially blessed through brother sun, sister moon, and sister Mother Earth. Blessed may You be, by life bubbling up everywhere.

Not to over-generalize, but: The 20th century bequeathed to us a fearful, dark outlook on things. The 20th century gave us ideas like: Nature deals in death, a law of the jungle; only the strong survive. Left to itself, nature unravels randomly and ends in chaos. Science and technology possess the ultimate power. Only our human know-how can organize and perfect the raw material. We can be ever more comfortable, if only we build better machines. Ancient religious traditions only stand in our way. 20th-century man thought that he could build better than God.

Let’s read one paragraph of our Holy Father’s encyclical…

A spirituality which forgets God as all-powerful and Creator is not acceptable… The best way to restore men and women to their rightful place, putting an end to their claim to absolute dominion over the earth, is to speak once more of the figure of a Father who creates and who alone owns the world.

The blessed, all-holy Lord does not will death and destruction. He has a plan, and He moves things to unfold for life and goodness, for grassy fields for 12-year-olds to play soccer on. Jairus the synagogue official knew: Wisdom demands my co-operating with the God of Israel, Who walked the earth to unite Himself with us.

The 20th century involved mankind trying to control everything. I guess we could say that trying to control all the forces of Mother Nature works just as well as trying to control all the forces of a 12-year-old girl. Better to try to co-operate with those forces, instead of trying to control them. After all, the forces in question are fundamentally forces of life. The forces of nature, set in motion by the Eternal Word, are forces of life.

Let’s pray that the 21st century will see the human race co-operating, instead of trying to control. The human race co-operating, working together towards a common good. Co-operating with God.