Pilgrims

Many prophets and kings desired to see what you see. (Luke 10:24)

A state of mutual incomprehension exists between Catholic and non-Catholic, which I would like to try to clear up.

For instance, regarding baptism. Apparently, many non-Catholic Christians see baptism with water as unnecessary, a purely external ritual. We, or course, revere Holy Baptism as the essential instrument God uses to make us His children in Christ.

baptism-holy-card1The non-Catholic school of thought revolves around the idea that the salvation of my soul ultimately turns on my act of faith in Christ my Savior, my Redeemer. Hence the question, “Are you saved?” And the answer, “Yes! Because I confessed Christ as my Savior, Redeemer and Lord!”

We Catholics recognize, of course, that Holy Baptism entails faith. Baptism is the original sacrament of faith. When infants get baptized, someone must profess the faith and promise to teach the faith to the child as he or she grows up.

But I think the central point of mutual incomprehension is this: We Catholics assume that God exists, and operates, and accomplishes great wonders, beyond the scope of what our minds contain.

We do not understand religion as something fundamentally inside my own mind. Instead, we think of ‘faith’ as: a mind reaching out towards the infinitude of God.

I can say, “I believe in Jesus Christ as my Savior and Redeemer,” and, of course, I do. And it pleases God when I believe that and profess it. But my saying something about what I have in my own mind, at this or that moment in my life, doesn’t definitively settle anything. The matter of my salvation won’t get settled until I draw my last breath. And God alone controls when that will be.

The non-Catholic emphasis on what I think equaling religion has a mirror image: the secularist school of thought which holds that it is absurd for us Christians to claim that Christ alone brings salvation to mankind. “How arrogant and provincial to limit God to your own religion!”

Now, it would indeed be absurd for us to think that Christ alone brings salvation, if the salvation brought by Christ depended completely on what this or that individual thinks or says at this or that moment.

But that definition of religion is foreign to us Catholics, and that makes the supposedly absurd and provincial aspect of Christianity disappear. God becoming man, and the Blessed Virgin giving birth to Him in Bethlehem, is the central fact. Not what any individual human being says or does about it. The almighty power of the one, true God accomplished this fact, the Incarnation. The total effect of this fact–namely the salvation of the world—extends way, way, way beyond what my mind can grasp.

What we can grasp is: We walk through life as pilgrims. I think that this idea of us human beings as pilgrims is the key, if we want to try and clear up the mutual incomprehension between Catholic and non-Catholic.

We human pilgrims have a relationship with the unknowable God, based on what He has revealed to the human race by becoming a man in Israel 2,000 years ago. This God Himself knit us together in our mothers’ wombs and set us on our pilgrimage. And our journey leads towards Him.

That’s what we Catholics understand “religion” to mean, I think: Living as holy pilgrims, heading towards the divine mystery revealed by the star of Bethlehem.

A few, many, multis

“Lord, will only a few people be saved?”

“Take this, all of you, and drink from it. This is the cup of my blood… It will shed for you and for all.”

Sounds familiar, right?

Starting in a month:

Take this all of you, and drink from it. For this is the chalice of my blood…It will be poured out for you and for many.

If you asked Albert Pujols, ‘Do you own just one first-baseman’s glove?’ he would probably answer, ‘No. I have a few of them.’ By which he would mean: More than one.

Just like if you asked me, ‘Did you ever see the original Star Wars?’ I would say, ‘Yeah. I have seen it a few times.’ Meaning more than once and less than 55 times.

If you asked Imelda Marcos if she owned a few pairs of shoes, she would say, “Oh, many, many.”

I promise that this will be the last time I discuss the revised translation of the Missal. At least for a few days. But: We will soon encounter this change in the words of consecration, and it may prove a bit of a stunner.

Christ is one. He saves many. From one married couple of First Parents came many sinners. In the Body of Christ, one Head gathers many members to Himself: one Savior, many saved.

Everybody knows that we priests consecrate the Host and the Chalice with the words of Christ, which He spoke at the Last Supper.

When He spoke them the first time, He probably used a language called Aramaic, which was the common tongue of the Holy Land then.

When the Apostles first celebrated Mass, as the Lord had commanded them to do, in the various corners of the world to which they had journeyed, they used the common languages of the different countries, including both Greek and Latin.

In Latin, when the priest consecrates the Chalice, he says that the Blood of the new and eternal covenant is shed “for you and pro multis.”

Best way to dress for Halloween

Christ, the new Adam, the firstborn of the new creation, died not for Himself, but pro multis, for a lot more than one, “for many.”

‘For all’ will become ‘for many.’ The Blood poured out for many.

This does not mean that the Church now officially teaches that Christ died for fewer people than we used to teach that He died for. The Lord wills that all be saved. Almighty God offers the gift of salvation to all, no exceptions.

But not all accept it. Some—indeed, many—act as if a loose affiliation with God will suffice. “We ate and drank in your company, and you taught in our streets…My grandmother said the Rosary every day…My uncle is studying in the deacon program…I’m a die-hard Notre Dame fan…”

Evildoers, I never knew ye.

He invites all. He poured out His blood for many. He died for us. We owe Him everything.

Instructions for Lent

Pretty cool cover of a lovely song:

Here is a homily for the First Sunday of Lent:

In the original Lent, the Lord Jesus spent forty days praying and fasting in solitude. The devil came to tempt Him. Christ rebuffed the devil by quoting Scripture three times.

1. “Man does not live by bread alone.”

2. “You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him alone will you serve.”

3. “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.”

Let’s see who is really on-the-ball. When the Lord quoted these words of Scripture, which book of the Bible was He quoting? All three verses come from the same book.

Continue reading “Instructions for Lent”

More of Holy Father’s Message…

We can detect…a permanent temptation within man: to situate the origin of evil in an exterior cause. Many modern ideologies deep down have this presupposition: since injustice comes “from outside,” in order for justice to reign, it is sufficient to remove the exterior causes…

This way of thinking – Jesus warns – is…shortsighted. Injustice, the fruit of evil, does not have exclusively external roots; its origin lies in the human heart, where the seeds are found of a mysterious cooperation with evil.

“Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Ps 51,7).

Indeed, man is weakened by an intense influence, which wounds his capacity to enter into communion with the other. By nature, he is open to sharing freely, but he finds in his being a strange force of gravity that makes him turn in and affirm himself above and against others: this is egoism, the result of original sin.

Adam and Eve, seduced by Satan’s lie, snatching the mysterious fruit against the divine command, replaced the logic of trusting in Love with that of suspicion and competition; the logic of receiving and trustfully expecting from the Other with anxiously seizing and doing on one’s own (cf. Gn 3, 1-6), experiencing, as a consequence, a sense of disquiet and uncertainty. How can man free himself from this selfish influence and open himself to love?

…Conversion to Christ, believing in the Gospel, ultimately means this: to exit the illusion of self-sufficiency in order to discover and accept one’s own need – the need of others and God, the need of His forgiveness and His friendship. So we understand how faith is altogether different from a natural, good-feeling, obvious fact: humility is required to accept that I need Another to free me from “what is mine,” to give me gratuitously “what is His.”

May we all humble ourselves, and accept the salvation won for us by so generous and sweet a Savior!

Assaulted?

Touching the rock of Calvary. Photo credit Nicky Morrison.

“That day will assault everyone,” says the Lord (Luke 21:35).

The Lord Jesus is saying that the day of judgment will assault everyone.

But let’s ask ourselves this question: Do the days already assault us now?

Does the alarm clock make an unwelcome sound? Does the morning news assault me? Is pulling out into traffic like being assaulted? Am I thoroughly pummeled by mid-morning?

An assault leaves the victim stunned, paralyzed, dazed, passive. An assault knocks the wind out of you, sucks the energy out of you, bewilders you. An assault can make a person lose his way, lose track of where he was headed. Immediately after an assault, it is impossible to focus on one’s goals; it is impossible to focus on the future. There is just pain and confusion.

The roughest part of everyday life can be boredom. The assault can be the oppression of deadening routine. Life comes at you slow—so slow that it hurts with a dull pain, like after a body blow.

What happens when even the special, fun things feel old? Like when you don’t feel like doing any daggone Christmas shopping?

“That day will assault everyone.”

Continue reading “Assaulted?”

Holy Name is Tops

Here is the pastor’s homily for September 27, 2009 at…

Holy_Name_Church_and_RectoryHOLY NAME CATHOLIC CHURCH

920 Eleventh Street, N.E., Washington, D.C.

Confessions: 2:30-3:30 Saturdays
Masses: Sunday 8:00 a.m. and 11:00 a.m.
Saturday 8:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m.
Monday through Friday 7:30 a.m.

(202) 397-2525

Whoever is not against us is for us. –Mark 9:40

Let us consider what a blessing it is for us to have a parish consecrated to the Most Holy Name of Jesus.

Continue reading “Holy Name is Tops”

Explanation of First Corinthians 2-3

 

http://www.usccb.org/nab/bible/1corinthians/1corinthians2.htm

St. Paul preaching in the town square
St. Paul preaching in the town square

We are not born knowing how to live.  We do not have a built-in “philosophy of life.”  In order to learn how to think, how to judge situations, and how to make decisions, we listen to what other people say, and we try to find some kind of wisdom.

 

These days we can watch talkshows, or read newspaper columns, or surf the world-wide web in search of wisdom.  But in ancient times, people sought wisdom by listening to wandering teachers who went from town to town, speaking in public squares to anyone who would listen.  These teachers presented themselves as philosophers, and curious people came out to listen to what they had to say and to ask questions.

 

In his first letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul tries to explain the difference between the teachers of the Church and these philosophers.  The Apostles have not come to the city of Corinth to teach a “philosophy of life.”  They are not offering advice, tips to increase self-esteem, or dietary hints.

 

The Apostles have come, St. Paul insists, to bear witness to something that has happened, something that affects everyone on earth.  God has become man, and He has done what needs to be done for all sins to be forgiven.  The Son of God died on the Cross for us, and then He rose again from the dead.  This happened.  The Apostles came to tell everyone that this happened, and for no other reason.

 

This section of I Corinthians is very illuminating and encouraging for us, because we are up against the same problem.  We are surrounded by the suggestion that Catholicism is one “philosophy of life” among many; it is a “tradition” that is good for a lot of people, but not for everybody.  Christianity is one of mankind’s “great religions.”  The preachers and teachers of the Church must fit in; we must take our clerical place alongside all the preachers and teachers of all other religions, and Oprah, the Dalai Lama, Richard Simmons, and the yoga instructors of the world.

 

To this, St. Paul replies:  We do not offer yoga instruction, or self-help classes of any kind.  St. Paul insists:  I am not a philosopher; I have nothing whatsoever of my own to teach you.  I am not an expert of core-muscle toning or low-carb desserts.

 

I came to tell you that your Creator, the Almighty One Who made you out of nothing, died on the Cross for you, so that you can go to heaven.