Law of Freedom

The perfect law of freedom. James 1:25

Our readings at Holy Mass this past Sunday focused our attention on the Law of God. Now we read from St. James’ letter about this law.

St. James had written, “The Father of lights willed to bring us to birth by the word of truth, that we may be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.”

‘The word of truth.’ Sounds like this word could very well be a law. Do our readings give us nothing but moralizing about keeping the Law? Duty. Submission. Law, law, law–maybe makes us think, ‘I don’t want to. But I will.’ Grudging obedience to the Big Man.

resurrectionBut let’s reflect a moment. We come to birth—spiritual birth, birth ‘from above,’ as the Lord Jesus put it—we come to this birth not by our own obedience, but by hearing the news that Christ has triumphed over death.

The ‘word of truth,’ the fundamental law, is Christ’s gracious gift.

For us that means liberation—the freedom for which He has set us free by His death, that we might share in His undying life. He won eternal life for us while we still languished in sin. His loving mercy, His indomitable will—not that we submit to limits, but that we thrive without limit in the kingdom of heaven—all this comes before we do anything. This is the word of truth by which we come to spiritual birth: Christ is risen.

Of course, to hear this word and to believe means submitting. It means saying to the wounded Jesus, Who loved us to the cross, ‘My Lord and my God.’

And we want to do good in return. We want to return love for love. So the Law, the perfect law of freedom, is: To love as Christ has loved us and given Himself up for us.

James’ Letter’s Message

Our first reading at Holy Mass today comes from the letter of the Apostle James.

How many of the twelve Apostles had the name James? We talked about this in the fall.

St James the Less El GrecoOne of the St. Jameses had a brother among the Apostles, namely…John.

The other James wrote the letter in the New Testament. He served as the first bishop of a very important city, the capital of the Holy Land…Jerusalem!

In his letter to us, St. James teaches us to have faith and put it into practice.

We believe in a good God, a God Who will help us when we ask Him to, Who will help us see the difference between right and wrong, and Who will give us the strength to do good.

When temptation comes—when we grow impatient, or angry, or cowardly, or deceitful, of self-indulgent—the Lord will help us overcome our weakness and act in the way that reflects who we really are, namely His beloved children.

What we have to do is pray. Spend time every day praying. When we pray regularly, the Lord trains us to love the right things.

Lord, help us to serve You faithfully! We want to get to heaven and love you forever. Give us the wisdom and strength to make the right choices, and build the right habits, that will lead us to the ultimate goal.

N.T. Diasporabrief #2

Depart from me Lord

St. Peter is often depicted as a simple-minded man who acted out of pure emotion.

But the fisherman’s first statement to Christ reveals something else.

After the Lord Jesus brought in a miraculous catch of fish, St. Peter fell to his knees and cried, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!”

These are not the words of a shallow individual. Peter could have said, “Yippee! We are going to make a lot of money today. I like your style, teacher.”

asia minorInstead, he reacted to a miracle the way a pious, prayerful man would. He reacted like someone who knew his religion well, like someone who prayed regularly.

…It is not surprising, then, that St. Peter also wrote a Christian Diasporabrief, like St. James the Less.

Unlike St. James, St. Peter specified his audience somewhat, addressing the dispersed tribes in Asia Minor.

And, unlike St. James, St. Peter did not write from Jerusalem.

Instead, he wrote from “Babylon,” which is how the Apostle referred to Rome. Babylon, of course, was the site of the exile of the Jews in the sixth-century B.C. It was the perfect metaphor to use in a letter to exiles, written by an exile.

May all of us exiles find our way home to the heavenly Jerusalem when everything is said and done.

…Everyone is raving about this new priestly vocations video:

Forgive me for being a curmudgeon. This video doesn’t do much for me. The music is too melodramatic.

Thoughts on the video? Are the Redskins going to be any good this year?


I know we all like to find little insights into the New Testament. P&BD readers tend to be New Testament junkies

Among the Apostles of Christ, two were named James. After the Lord ascended into heaven, one of the Jameses became the head of the Church in Jerusalem.

Rabbi Gamaliel, died A.D. 62
Rabbi Gamaliel, died A.D. 62
This James is known as “James the Less.” He wrote a letter, which is one of the 27 books of the New Testament.

St. Paul addressed his letters to the Christians of a particular town, like the Romans or Corinthians.

St. James, on the other hand, addressed his letter to:

“the twelve tribes in the Diaspora.”

The term Diaspora refers to Jews living outside the Holy Land.

Apparently, there were many letters written by Jewish religious authorities in Jerusalem to the brethren of the Diaspora.

The “Diaspora letter”–or Diasporabrief, as the German scholars call it–is a particular type of ancient Jewish literature. A Diaspora letter always urged Jews living among Gentiles to hold fast to the Covenant.

Perhaps St. James had these letters in mind when he wrote his letter. Likewise, the first readers of St. James’ letter might also have been familiar with “Diaspora letters.”

jewish diasporaThis makes St. James’ letter interesting not only for what it says, but also for what it does NOT say. It does not have the usual “Diaspora letter” content.

St. James’ letter does not urge the audience to keep the Mosaic law and the traditions of the Pharisees and rabbis. It does not encourage travel to the Holy Land. It does not pray for victory over the Romans (who were in the process of crushing the Jewish community in Israel).

Instead, St. James presents the teachings of Christ. The letter reads like a paraphrase of the Sermon on the Mount–a paraphrase given by someone who heard the Sermon with his own ears and learned to live in accord with it.

In other words, the letter of James IS a Diasporabrief. St. James intentionally imitated the rabbis. He was a rabbi, after all–a scholar and leader of Jews.

But St. James’ Diasporabrief was addressed to Jews who realized that the true Jerusalem is in heaven, and Jesus Christ is the High Priest of the Temple.

“Tone Deaf”


pope-pianoJohn Allen calls the skilled pianist in charge of our Church “tone deaf.”

Fifty members of Congress have written to His Holiness, telling him what to do.

Here is the letter I wish he would write back to them.

Continue reading ““Tone Deaf””

Beltway Battle #1: Check

Freeman to the hoop
Freeman to the hoop

Hoyas 73, Eagles 49.

Ed Tapscott, head coach of the Washington Wizards
Ed Tapscott, head coach of the Washington Wizards
They clubbed them.

A little history: The last time the Eagles beat the Hoyas was December 15, 1982. Eddie Tapscott was the A.U. head coach.

Also this post has an added bonus, thanks to the synergy of the P&BD experience:

Homily for the Second Sunday of Advent (i.e., tomorrow)

St. Peter tells us today: “Conduct yourselves in holiness and devotion, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God.” (II Peter 3:12)

Continue reading “Beltway Battle #1: Check”

Is There a Choice?

I think that everybody knows that I vote pro-life. No issue could be more grave than the protection by law of the innocent, defenseless unborn. I will vote pro-life until Roe v. Wade is overturned, until the day when, as the director of Vitae Caring Foundation Carl Landwehr put it in a speech I heard him give the other night, “abortion becomes unthinkable.”

As someone who shares in the shepherding ministry which the Lord entrusted to the Bishops of the Church, I hold myself responsible for clearly teaching not only that abortion is an evil of enormous gravity, but also that the right to life of the innocent unborn must be a part of the fundamental plan of any truly just society.

Bishop Kevin Farrell of Dallas, formerly of Washington
Bishop Kevin Farrell of Dallas, formerly of Washington
Considering all this, you would think that I would applaud the recent letter of our former Auxiliary Bishop Kevin Farrell, now Bishop of Dallas, and his brother Bishop Kevin Vann of Ft. Worth. These bishops spell out the morality of voting with admirable clarity.

They assert something, however, that I am afraid to say I do not think is true.

The Bishops carefully explain that the right to life of the innocent unborn is not a matter of prudential judgement, not something that can be weighed against other considerations. It MUST be decisive. Yes. I applaud the making of this crucial point. Thank God. This takes courage.

Then the Bishops go on to write that: “To vote for a candidate who supports the intrinsic evil of abortion or ‘abortion rights’ when there is a morally acceptable alternative would be to cooperate in the evil—and, therefore, morally impermissible.”

Bishop Kevin Vann of Ft. Worth
Bishop Kevin Vann of Ft. Worth
Now, morally impermissible means what it says it means. We cannot do morally impermissible things. If we do morally impermissible things knowingly and freely, our souls are in danger of damnation.

One can cooperate in evil in one of two ways, either materially or formally. Someone who vacuums the carpets in a medical office building where a doctor performs abortions participates materially in those abortions. But unless he intends to support the work of doing abortions by vacuuming the carpet, he does not formally cooperate. He might just be trying to earn a living, and this is the only job he could find. It is not a good situation, but at the same time it is not ipso facto a sin on his part.

If someone’s material cooperation in evil is “remote,” that is, not closely connected to the evil, then they do not bear moral responsibility for the evil.

Remote participation is permissible provided the person does not intend to be a part of the evil business. I could sin by intending to cooperate with something evil even if had practically nothing to do with it. An absurd example: If I planned to take a trip to a particular city BECAUSE they allowed same-sex “marriage” in that city, that would be a sin. But it is not a sin to go to San Francisco to see the Golden Gate Bridge.

Anyone who votes for a pro-“abortion rights” candidate participates materially in the evil. But if the voter does not vote for the candidate for this reason, but rather votes for the candidate for another reason, he or she does not formally co-operate with abortion. I would think that the material cooperation of a voter in an election for the President of the United States is certainly far enough removed from actual abortions themselves to qualify as “remote.”

Therefore, it is morally impermissible to vote for a pro-abortion candidate BECAUSE he is pro-abortion. Likewise, it is negligent to vote without considering the gravity of the right to life of the innocent, defenseless unborn. But I think that it is incorrect to say that anyone who votes for Obama commits a sin.

It is clearly a sin to vote for him because he supports legal abortion. But there are other reasons why people might choose to vote for him. I do not claim to sympathize with those reasons; I would be delighted to argue them calmly.

I think people ought to vote for the more pro-life candidate.

But I am NOT telling anyone how to vote. My point is exactly the opposite. We HAVE to avoid committing serious sins. But we do not HAVE TO vote for one candidate or the other. What we have to do is to stand before God and do what we believe is right.