Turning Our Backs on the Beloved World

noah-covenant

Our first reading at Sunday Mass reminds us about the covenant between God and Noah after the ancient flood.  As we read in Genesis, when God Almighty had decided to flood the earth completely, He did it with divine sadness.  He had made the world to be beautiful.  But Satan had befouled creation with so much sin and degradation that only a fresh start could get things back on-track. [SPANISH]

The flood didn’t mean the end of everything.  The same human race that God had created originally, and the same animals–all would survive, and provide a new beginning, after the flood.  But only one ark-full.  One isolated, solitary ark floating on the surface of an endless sea.

Now, we Catholics love the world.  We do not despise anything that God has made.  We know that He made everything to thrive, to flourish.

God made this cosmos—gave it a beginning, but not an end.  He made the world to endure forever, as an eternal temple of His light.  He even made the devil good, beautiful, powerful, vastly intelligent. God made Lucifer not for malice, but for love.

Lucifer, however, willed otherwise.  He willed destruction.  He wills the degradation of the world. And the devil has such skill in wreaking havoc that the world, which we love, which belongs to eternity—this world, at one point, justly got submerged under an endless sea.  God covered the earth with enough water to drown everyone and everything that didn’t make it onto the ark.  Not because God hated what He made, but because Satan had done his evil work so well.  All of the devil’s destruction had to be destroyed, in order that the world could thrive again. So the flood came.

christ-fastingNow, all of this happened to foreshadow of the mystery of Christ, and of Baptism into Christ. To begin Lent, we have to ask the question:  Where do we find the Kingdom of God?  In this world, or in another world?  Here, or somewhere else?

Yes.

The Lord Jesus went out into the ark of total solitude for 40 days.  He turned His back on the world, as if it were covered with an endless sea of water. We Catholics follow Christ into that ark of Lenten solitude, into the ark of self-denial.  We turn our backs on things like ice-cream and champagne.  We get into the ark of Lenten separation from the normal comforts of this earth.

The ark doesn’t have wifi or cable.  The berths on the ark do not have featherbeds.  But our Lenten observances do not involve self-loathing, nor world-hating.  We don’t hate ice-cream or champagne.  At least I don’t.  We don’t hate the world.  We don’t hate ourselves.

But the fact of the matter is:  The Enemy has enough power to just about ruin the world.  He has enough power to just about ruin us.  And He’s clever enough to ruin us with things so apparently innocuous as tvs, phones, ice-cream cones, donuts.

We do not undertake our Lenten penances with glee.  God did not gleefully flood the earth in the days of Noah.  God wouldn’t have flooded the earth at all, except He knew that, after forty days and forty nights of endless rain, He would set the rainbow in the clouds again.  Everything would start fresh and happy, with all the creatures from the ark standing on the fertile ground.  Birds singing and flowers starting to grow, like they had back in the Garden of Eden.

We undertake our Lenten penances because we love ourselves enough to hate how weak we can be.  We love the world enough to hate how it can lead us to make big mistakes in it. The world needs a big wash-down.  We need a big wash-down.

The world will never grow into the Kingdom of God, unless we love it enough to turn our backs on it for 40 days.  And we ourselves won’t make it to the divine Kingdom that this world will one day be, unless we deny ourselves and take up our crosses during Lent.  With the same kind of loving courage that led the Lord Jesus out into the desert.

Knowing the Meaning of “Love”

baptismchristgreco1I guess we could formulate the fundamental question of life in various ways.

Like “Why do I exist?” Or “Where is all this headed exactly?”

But one question that seems to distill everything to its essence would be:

Does God love me or not? Does God love and care about us bipeds with opposable thumbs, or not?

Massive catastrophes can and do befall the human race, leading us to suspect that the Omnipotent One does not love. Bomb-cyclone winter weather events. Sicknesses and early deaths. Think about all the people who drowned in the Great Flood. And even Noah and his family probably got sick and tired of floating on all that water.

But then God gave a sign about the answer to the question, Does God care? He gave a sign that the answer is Yes. A dove. The dove returned with an olive branch in its beak. Yes, God justly punishes sin. But that is not His primary interest. He more-ardently renews the earth with His mercy.

We say, “God is love.” We don’t really know what that means. We don’t know what the word ‘God’ means. And we don’t really know what the word ‘love’ means.

But we do not remain altogether baffled, because: The dove descended upon Christ. God and love: Christ reveals the truth of the matter. The Holy Spirit is God, is love, is fire and uncompromising justice, and comfort and healing oil and a gentle breeze.

Did the Flood make sense to the people who drowned? Or even to Noah and his family on the ark?

If we think we can even formulate the fundamental question of life—let alone answer it—without the one man Jesus Christ, living and real, Who has a Church; if we think there’s some science of reality, and of love, other than Him…

Well, I don’t know. But I’ll venture to predict that any other basis for coping with reality will ultimately collapse under the weight of reality itself.

On the other hand: the beloved Son, in Whom the Father is well pleased; the One Who knows how to say, Abba, Father; our Lord Who underwent the exodus of Calvary: He will assure us, with the witness of His indubitable beauty, that God does indeed love.

Lent and the Ancient Flood

noah-covenant

Seems like history repeats itself. Almost the same gospel reading as at Sunday Mass four weeks ago. This time, to begin Lent, let’s focus on the first part of the reading.

The Spirit drove him out into the desert, and he remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan. He was among wild beasts, and the angels ministered to him. (Mark 1:12-13)

The Lord Jesus fasted for forty days, sequestered from the world, totally isolated in the desert. In His solitude, He entered into spiritual combat with the Enemy of our human nature, the corruptor of creation.

Our first reading this Sunday reminds us about the covenant between God and Noah after the ancient flood. As we read in Genesis, when God Almighty had decided to flood the earth completely, He did so with divine sadness. He had made the world to be beautiful. But Satan had befouled the earth with so much sin and degradation that only a fresh start could get things back on-track.

The flood didn’t mean the obliteration of the earth. The same human race that God had created originally—and the same laws of nature, same animals, etc.–all would survive, and provide a new beginning, after the flood. But only one ark-full. One isolated, solitary ark, on the surface of an endless sea. Everything else had to be washed clean altogether.

noe's arkNow, we Catholics love the world. We do not despise anything that God has made. We know that He made everything to thrive, to course with vigor, to flourish.

God made the cosmos—gave it a beginning. But not an end. He made the world to endure forever, as an eternal temple of His light. He even made the devil good, beautiful, powerful, vastly intelligent. God willed that Lucifer would endure forever as a vessel of divine glory.

Lucifer, however, willed otherwise. The Enemy wills destruction. And he wills the degradation of the world with such skill and such dexterity that the world, which we love, which belongs to eternity—this world, at one point, justly got submerged under an endless sea. God covered the earth with enough water to drown everyone and everything that didn’t make it onto the ark. Not because God wills destruction. But because Satan wills destruction so well. All his destruction had to be destroyed, so that life could thrive again.

I said we would focus on the first part of the gospel reading, instead of the second part, which we just read four weeks ago. But we have to consider the second part of the reading a little bit. We cannot just skip over the most decisively important reality of life, namely the Kingdom of God is at hand (Mark 1:15).

To begin Lent, we have to ask the question: Where do we find the Kingdom of God? In this world, or in another world? Here, or somewhere else?

Yes.

The Lord Jesus went out into the ark of His total solitude for 40 days. He turned His back on the world, as if it were covered with an endless sea of water. Not because He hates the world that He made, but precisely because He loves it the way He does. He loves it enough not only to lay its foundations, but also to redeem it and make it new, even after the Enemy had laid waste to it.

champagneWe Catholics follow Christ into the ark of Lenten solitude, into the ark of self-denial. We turn our backs on things like ice-cream and champagne. We get into the ark of Lenten separation from the normal comforts of this earth.

The ark doesn’t have wifi or cable. The berths on the ark do not have featherbeds. But our Lenten observances do not involve self-loathing, nor world-hating. We get onto the ark of Lent for our own version of Christ’s divine reason for fasting during the original Lent.

We don’t hate ice-cream or champagne. At least I don’t. We don’t hate the world. We don’t hate ourselves.

But the fact of the matter is: The Enemy has enough power to just about ruin the world. He has enough power to just about ruin us. And He’s clever enough to ruin us with things so apparently innocuous as tvs, phones, ice-cream cones—even apparently harmless snacks, like donuts.

We do not undertake our Lenten penances with glee. God did not gleefully flood the earth in the days of Noah. God wouldn’t have flooded the earth at all, except He knew that, after forty days and forty nights of endless rain, He would set the rainbow in the clouds again. Everything would start fresh and happy, with all the creatures from the ark standing on the fertile ground. Birds singing and flowers starting to grow, like they had back in the Garden of Eden.

We undertake our Lenten penances because we love ourselves enough to hate how weak we can be. We love the world enough to hate how it can lead us to make big mistakes in it.

The world needs a big wash-down. We need a big wash-down.

The world will never grow into the Kingdom of God, unless we love it enough to turn our backs on it for 40 days. And we ourselves won’t make it to the divine Kingdom that this world will one day be, unless we deny ourselves and take up our crosses during Lent. With the same kind of loving courage that led the Lord Jesus Himself out into the desert.

Greetings and Goodbyes

lebron-shaqSo you are saying: “Now the Cavaliers have a lock on the 2010 title.” You are saying the LeBron-Shaq juggernaut will be unbeatable.

I defy these auguries.

Preacher predicts: The Wizards will be a better team than the Cavs in 2009-10…

…Click here for a priest-blog far superior to this pathetic endeavor. The reason it is a better blog is because the blogger is a better priest…

Father Tom King, S.J.  1929-2009
Father Tom King, S.J. 1929-2009
…In 1999, The Hoya newspaper declared that Fr. Tom King, S.J. was Georgetown University’s “Man of the Century.”

He was an irrepressible man of zeal and love. He alone kept Georgetown from falling off the Barque of Peter. He lived in a state of perpetual suspension between heaven and earth.

He is the first Catholic priest I ever spoke with in my life. If it weren’t for him, I would probably still be waiting tables for a living.

Rest in peace, Father King! I will never forget you. Please pray for your unworthy spiritual sons!

…Here is my sermon bidding farewell to the year of St. Paul:

Continue reading “Greetings and Goodbyes”

Unity, Diversity, Universal Apostolate, and Ovechkin

noah-covenantIn the Bible, the book of Genesis recounts the beginning—the beginning of the world, of the human race, and of the Chosen People of God.

The first eleven chapters of the book recall what happened before the Lord called Abraham to be the father of the holy nation.

Continue reading “Unity, Diversity, Universal Apostolate, and Ovechkin”