Ladylike Humanity

"The Singing Butler" by Jack Vettriano
“The Singing Butler” by Jack Vettriano

Perhaps we might ask: Why does the Church make us read the account of the virginal conception of Christ on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of His mother? After all, our children get confused enough about this. December 8 is the day when our Lady was conceived in the womb of St. Anne. But at Holy Mass we read about the day, approximately fifteen years later, when our Lord was conceived by the Holy Spirit.

Guess what? There’s a good reason.

Our Lady did not bear original sin. She did not have the self-destructive tendency that began, for the rest of us, in the Garden of Eden. Satan tempted our First Parents into disobedience of God’s law by telling them that they would become like gods.

Fundamental rule of life: God is God, and we are not. God, with infinite wisdom, has planned all of history. We have not done that. He guides everything toward the good, even bringing good out of evil. We do not do that. God has a mind that can exercise absolute sovereign control over all things. We do not.

Now, I am about to get myself in trouble with both the gentlemen and the ladies. I am going to throw both women’s lib and machismo right out the window at the same time.

The true nature of our race, in relation to our Creator: essentially feminine. Who is “The Man?” God. We are the lady. Our peace, our fulfillment lies in submitting to Him, accepting that He has the plan. On our own, we cannot conceive how our lives will work out. He can. On the great dance floor of life, God leads.

fra-ang-annuncOriginal sin involves the delusion that we are “The Man.” Forgetting that an infinitely stronger and wiser Power actually governs the world. Original sin involves forgetting how to be ladylike with respect to God. All the Lord asks of us is a sincere Yes. A sincere: I will follow. He takes care of the rest. But we delude ourselves into thinking that we can lead.

This is precisely what did not happen when the Archangel Gabriel came to visit the Blessed Virgin. The angel proposed something altogether wonderful, something our Lady never could have imagined.

If original sin had deluded her, she would have said, ‘No, thanks. I have other plans.’ She would have said: ‘I want to suit myself.’ She would have said what we human beings weighed-down by original sin tend to say: ‘Wait, I’m in charge here!’

But she said none of these things. She said what becomes us, as ladylike human beings, when The Man asserts Himself. She said Yes. So be it. I will co-operate.

God makes everything out of nothing. We can’t even conceive of that. When we receive what He has made with grateful love, however–like the Virgin received the angel’s message—when we say Yes, Lord; we will follow where You lead—when we do that, we share in the immaculate Yes. And the dance of life comes off beautifully.

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Chariot Race to Heaven

Goody's Martinsville NASCAR

Long before NASCAR, they held chariot races. Sometimes a team of two horses pulled the chariot.

Maybe you will rejoice to learn that, according to St. John Chrysostom, the gospel parable this Sunday actually narrates a head-to-head chariot race.

St John Chrysostom in St PatricksThe Pharisee drives one chariot. The first horse on his two-horse team: Righteousness! The Pharisee fasts, and he tithes, and he does them both above and beyond the call of duty. Jews were bound by divine law to fast once a year. He fasts twice a week! Jews were bound to give 10% of their agricultural produce. He gave 10% of his entire income!

No question. He is righteous. And righteousness is a fast horse.

Problem is, the second horse in the Pharisee’s team is…Pride. “Thank you, Lord, for making me better than other men.” And the particular breed of his pride? Contemptuous. “Not only, Lord, did you make me better than other men in general. You made me better than this particular loser standing in the shadows of the colonnade at the back of the temple courtyard.”

Continue reading “Chariot Race to Heaven”

Proud? Maybe. But also pretty Awesome.

A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and among his own kin and in his own house. (Mark 6:4)

The usual picture of conflict between Creator and created puts Proud Man versus God. Pride caused original sin. Pride leadeth to a fall. The most deadly infection a human being can contract is: too-big-for-his-britches disease.

Okay. But could it be that the problem with our sinful pride is not that it leads us to think too much of ourselves, but that it actually leads us to think too little of ourselves? Could it be that, when Adam and Eve ate the forbidden apple, they sold themselves tragically short? That they under-estimated what God had in mind for them?

The people took offense at Jesus. “He speaks heavenly wisdom and works miracles! But isn’t he just a Galilean hillbilly like the rest of us? Where does he get off being so grand? Who does he think he is? God?”

The omnipotent One, infinitely above us: He suffered death as a man, so that we men could hope for heaven. The crucified is God. God made the earth His own native place; He made every home and hearth, every grimy street corner, every place where a human being can find him- or herself—He made them all his own house.

God grew up alongside other Galilean children. God had no-count cousins who some Nazarenes chose to avoid. God learned how to talk from a carpenter and a teenage girl. God got hungry and thirsty; His feet got dirty; He drank wine with irreputable people.

Continue reading “Proud? Maybe. But also pretty Awesome.”

Abraham’s Household

If you remain in my word, you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.

–We are the seed of Abraham and have never been slaves to anyone!

Christ spoke firmly to Jews who claimed to believe in Him. How could He not have laughed out loud at their magnificent obtuseness?

Never been slaves to anyone? Have you ever read, say, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, or Deuteronomy? Have you ever sang a Psalm? Have you ever kept Passover—or Purim or Hanukkah? Our entire religion expresses gratitude to God for liberating us from slavery, you numbskulls! Even now, we live under the heel of the Roman Caesar. Please!

Instead of mocking them, though, the Lord cut right to the chase: My word has no room among you, because you live in a fantasy world of stubborn pride.

Christ and those to whom He spoke had in common their descending from Abraham according to the flesh. But Abraham himself did not have this. What Abraham had was an obedient heart. He knew that without the God of promises, he had nothing, was nothing.

So the Lord Jesus cut through to the foundations. There are really only two households, each ruled by a father who does not beget children by the flesh, but rather by spiritual communication.

The Father of Lies begets children by seducing them into unreasonable pride. Pride that cannot see the obvious.

For a Jew of the second-temple period to take pride in the history of his people’s fidelity to God would strike anyone who had ever actually read the Scriptures as ridiculous. The Scriptures do not recount the faithfulness of a stalwart people. They recount the patient, loving kindness of God towards His fickle, recalcitrant people.

This unfathomably merciful God has made Himself the Father of the other spiritual household, the household of obedience to the truth. Abraham never presumed to be the father of a household. Rather, the triune God made Abraham His child. Abraham co-operated by faith, hope, and love.

Now that the eternal Son of God has become man and done His work for us, let us live in His household by believing in, hoping in, and loving Him.

Pride of David, Humility of God

How exactly did David sin by ordering a census? It would seem that the simple act of counting the people does not, in and of itself, constitute a sin. God ordered Moses to count the people. Hence we have a book called…Numbers.

So David did not sin simply by ordering the count. The sin had to do with David’s intentions. Did he want the sword-bearing men counted because he had a mind to expand his realm even further, in order to bring greater glory upon himself?

David’s general Joab initially objected to the taking of the census. At this point in time, the king had reached old age. Joab certainly thought, with good reason, that there could be no sense in launching another military campaign anytime soon.

We admire King David as a beautiful and noble man. We also know him to have been weak and sinful, too. After all, who among us can claim immunity from pride and vanity?

So perhaps David ordered the census for vanity’s sake, and thus it was a sin.

It is a happy co-incidence, then, that we read about this—speaking of counting—on the 39th day after Christmas, which is the day before the baby Jesus was presented to the Father in the Temple.

If anyone has good, solid reasons to be vain and proud, that would be God. God would have every right to enter His Temple in splendor and state, with smoke and thunder.

But He did not do so. He did not even travel under His own power when He entered His Temple. He had not yet learned to walk.

Mid-winter is the time of year for blessing church candles, and for using blessed candles to bless people’s throats. With the April temperatures we have had, it hardly seems necessary to give St. Blase blessings. But let’s not jinx ourselves. The groundhog could still see his shadow.

But the point is this: The beautiful candle of divine humility has been lit. The Blessed Mother and St. Joseph carried Him in. Simeon did not cower in terror. Rather, the old priest saw a smiling divine baby, and he sang his canticle of peace. The promise of the prophets has been fulfilled with a quiet word of love; the Messiah has come, and He is, above all, gentle.

Pride and vanity spoil for war. Humility brings peace.

…But, speaking of war: Georgetown Hoyas. UConn Huskies. 7:00 p.m. No prisoners.

Canaanite Groveling

A Canaanite woman came and called out, “Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David! My daughter is tormented by a demon.” But he did not say a word in answer to her.

…“It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.”

She said, “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.” (Matthew 15:21-27)

The Canaanite woman addressed Jesus as ‘Son of David,’ and ‘Lord.’ In other words, she acknowledged Him as the Christ. She made no imperious demands, but simply stated the facts. She could hardly have been more humble.

But the Lord appeared to ignore her. She prayed; He remained silent.

Now, is God mean? Why would He remain silent when we pray?

Continue reading “Canaanite Groveling”

Provocation to Humility

Mt. Precipice, Nazareth

Jesus said, “I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah when the sky was closed for three and a half years and a severe famine spread over the entire land. It was to none of these that Elijah was sent, but only to a widow in Zarephath in the land of Sidon.

“Again, there were many lepers in Israel during the time of Elisha the prophet; yet not one of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.”

When the people in the synagogue heard this, they were all filled with fury. They rose up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town had been built, to hurl him down headlong. (Luke 4:25-29)

Last Sunday we read that the Lord Jesus went to the synagogue in Nazareth and announced to the faithful Jews in His hometown that He is the Messiah.

We might think that this dramatic revelation would have led to immediate euphoria. We might think that, when the Messiah revealed Himself to the people who had known Him since He was a boy, everybody would have believed, and rejoiced, and smiled, and hugged, and said nice things about each other.

But this is not what happened. The people in the synagogue doubted. “Isn’t this the son of Joseph?”

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For Man it is Impossible

For human beings it is impossible, but not for God. Mark 10:27

To fear the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

proud camelThe wise man knows that the peace of God surpasses all human understanding. The wise man knows that we find our peace in doing His will. God’s plan is perfect. God hears our prayers and answers them in the way that is best for us.

“For human beings it is impossible, but not for God.”

Many things are impossible for us human beings–like remembering all your computer passwords, understanding the tax code, or making pancakes that have fewer calories than celery.

Above all, the thing that is most impossible for us is to find true, lasting happiness in this world.

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Seven Deadlies Compendium, Etc.

blondie

I woke up this morning feeling basically okay with myself. But then I discovered that I agree with Ken Woodward…(If the comic strips appearing here are too small for you to read, you can see a larger size by clicking on it.)

stoning…According to the Law of Moses, capital crimes were to be punished by stoning to death.

The first stones were to be cast by the witnesses upon whose testimony the guilty party was convicted. Then everyone else could join in the stoning. By this violent act, the injustice of the crime would be purged from the nation.

God is perfectly just. He examines every heart. Before Him, no one is innocent.

But He has not cast a stone and done violence to the guilty ones. Rather, He subjected Himself to violence at the hands of the unjust.

By this violent act, our injustice is purged. We are not condemned to death.

devilGod restores justice; we are pardoned; we may live.

…Here is a little compendium of my sermons on the seven deadly sins…

Pride

Greed and Envy

Anger and Lust

Gluttony and Sloth

chaliceAlso, there are some new Bests above.

And I added a new feature above…a collection of the collections.

…I wish I could say that I am willing to take the sins of others upon myself, like our Lord.

I can say this, though: I do take the germs of others upon myself.

This is what communion under both species means for the priest: Taking the germs of the entire people upon yourself.

Humble Your Pride

Here is the first of four Lenten homilies on the seven deadly sins.

dore_abraham_isaac471x600God put Abraham to the test. He called to him, “Abraham!” “Ready!” he replied. Then God said: “Take your son Isaac, your only one, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah. There you shall offer him up as a holocaust on a height that I will point out to you.”

Early the next morning Abraham saddled his donkey, took with him his son Isaac, and two of his servants as well, and with the wood that he had cut for the holocaust, set out for the place of which God had told him.

On the third day Abraham got sight of the place from afar. Then he said to his servants: “Both of you stay here with the donkey, while the boy and I go on over yonder. We will worship and then come back to you.”

Continue reading “Humble Your Pride”