Friend, Come Up Higher

Pretty soon we will be knee-deep in parables.

Here’s a homily from the 2007 archive to enhance our summer-wedding-season experience:

When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not sit down at the place of honor, in case someone more distinguished than you has been invited by your host; and the host who invited both of you may come and say to you, “Give this person your place,” and then in disgrace you would start to take the lowest place.

But when you are invited, go and sit down at the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he may say to you, “Friend, move up higher;” then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at the table with you. For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous. (Luke 14:7-14)

According to St. Luke, this is a parable. Of course we know that a parable is an image or set of images from everyday life which Christ used to help us to grasp the invisible reality of the Kingdom of God. The Lord’s parables may not be easy to understand, but we can usually recognize one when we hear it.

Why, then, do these words of Christ sound a lot more like good advice than a parable?

Continue reading “Friend, Come Up Higher”

The Kind Beginning of the Culture of Life

The Lord Jesus worked His first miracle in Cana, a small town in Galilee, near Nazareth.

Two months ago, I was in the town of Cana. All the couples in our pilgrim group renewed their wedding vows in the church built on the spot where the Lord turned water into wine.

Church of the Miracle at Cana

Then we went on to the Sea of Galilee, where we spent the day. In the evening, we got on the bus to head back to Nazareth, where we were staying. On the way, the perfect thing happened.

We had to pass through Cana on the way back. The region of Galilee is rural countryside. There are not a lot of roads, and the roads are narrow. The only way from the Sea of Galilee to Nazareth is through Cana.

So we drove back into Cana, and, like I said, the perfect thing happened: We got stuck in a traffic jam.

It took us 40 minutes to get through two traffic lights. There were just too many cars and not enough road. Rush hour in Cana of Galilee.

This was the perfect thing to happen. The miracles of Christ are things that really took place, in this very world of ours, where traffic also occurs. The world where Jesus worked miracles, and the world where you and I get stuck in traffic: It is the same world.

Alveda King

In the town where we sat at a red light for half an hour, the God-man went to a wedding of poor people.

The family had done everything within their means to provide for their guests. Now they were confronted with an embarrassing situation.

What Christ did for them is very revealing.

Let us first take note of what He did not do. He did not say, “It’s just as well the wine ran out, because these people have already had more than enough fun.”

No. He did not frown. He smiled. He turned water for ritual purification into an enormous amount of choice table wine. The joy and revelry did not end. The Son of God kept it going.

The fact that our Lord did this is revealing for two reasons. First: It reveals the kind of human heart He has. His Heart is generous. He does not measure His kindness. He does not give with one hand and take with the other. He just loves.

Bl. Columba Marmion, O.S.B.

The second thing His action reveals is even more profound. The loving kindness of Christ the man reveals to us the infinite divine love of Christ our God.

We can neither perceive nor imagine the love of God. God’s qualities are altogether beyond the capacities of our little minds. But the human love of Christ give us a glimpse of the ineffable divine love. One of the saints put it like this:

Nothing so much attracts our poor hearts as to contemplate Jesus Christ, true God as well as true man, translating the eternal goodness into human deeds.

In Christ, the unknowable eternal goodness turned water into wine for a poor family in the little town where we sat in traffic. We cannot know God by ourselves, dear brothers and sisters. But Jesus reveals Him. And we see the sweet truth: God is kind.

Now, it is no accident that this revelation took place at a wedding.

The Lord Jesus was not destined to marry on earth. He came to die for the sins of all the children of Adam and Eve.

But He worked His first miracle at a wedding to show us this: God loves marriage and child-bearing. Yes, when we are born, we are born sinners. But it is still a good thing to be born. The human race is meant to be fruitful, to multiply, to fill the earth. Christ came to save everyone ever born.

The miracle at Cana, then, was the beginning of what we call the “Culture of Life.” Christ showed us that day: God wants babies to be born.

This is what the March for Life is about. It is a continuation of the wedding at Cana.

Speaking of births, yesterday would have been Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s 81st birthday. Dr. King has a niece named Alveda. She recently wrote the following message to us:

I work in the civil rights movement of our century — the right of every one of every race to live.

I am asking you to join me. Let me tell you why. Abortion and racism are evil twins, born of the same lie…

Racism springs from the lie that certain human beings are less than fully human…So it is with abortion.

Racism oppresses its victims, but also binds the oppressors, who sear their consciences with more and more lies until they become prisoners of those lies. They cannot face the truth of human equality because it reveals the horror of the injustices they commit…So it is with abortion.

Racism is a way to gain economic advantage at the expense of others. Slavery and plantations may be gone, but racism still allows us to regard those who may keep us from financial gain as less than equals. So it is with abortion.

Listen: Dr. King was killed before Roe v. Wade made abortion legal on January 22, 1973. But you know that if he were still alive, he would be marching on Friday.

If any of us think that the pro-life cause is not our problem, not our fight to fight, we need to think again.

Dr. King would be yelling at us right now. He yelled a lot louder in the pulpit than I ever do.

He would yell, “Get yourself up! Stand up for what you know is right! Every little baby in the womb—every black one, every white, yellow, or red one—every last one has the right to be born!”

Pictures Worth…

When traveling in the Holy Land, you need a knowledgeable guide.

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Raouf Karborani

IMG_0434We had a perfectly delightful trip on the bus…

We visited the ruins of Herod’s Ceasarea on the sea.

While we were there, we meditated on St. Paul’s explanation of his teaching, which the Apostle gave when he was being tried at Caesarea.

We headed north to Haifa, where we prayed at the cave of Elijah. Then we visited the beautiful Bahá’í Gardens.

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IMG_0504From there, we went to Cana to visit the church of the Lord’s first miracle. He changed water into wine at a wedding.

All the married couples renewed their wedding vows.

Then we came to Nazareth to settle in for the evening. Tomorrow we will visit the place where the Lord became man, and where He grew up. We will also climb Mt. Tabor to visit the site of the Transfiguration.

…Without Father Golas and the photographer, today would hardly have been as memorable.

More to come…

By the way, I KNOW that I will miss the first two Hoyas’ games of the season. Pilgrimages to the Holy Land come first.

Tuesday Evening Quarterback

frank earnest

I have been on a nice, long hot-air balloon ride. Just got back, and I found my computer under a basket in the attic…

I.
Let’s go back to the beginning of September:

eighth stationThe first part of the Redskins’ season was supposed to be easy.

After a near-certain loss to the Giants in the season-opener, it was supposed to be five gimmees before the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday, October 26.

Now the waning days of October are upon us. A whole lot of people are crooning the Redskins Blues.

But let us call to mind these words of our Lord:

Weep not for me but for your children. If this is what they do when the wood is green, what will they do when the wood is dry? (Luke 23:28,31)

Green wood (Weeks 2-6): Rams, Lions, Bucs, Panthers, and Chiefs
Dry wood (Wks 7-16): Eagles, Broncos, Cowboys, Saints, Giants, etc.

3-13 is a rosy scenario for this Redskins season. Pardon me while I get back in the balloon…

II.
The Lord Jesus helped us out by explaining life in His perspicacious parables.

For example: The one about how we are like servants awaiting our master’s return. Here is how it begins:

Gird your loins, and light your lamps, and be like servants who await their master’s return from a wedding, ready to open immediately when he comes and knocks. (Luke 12:35-36)

The Lord is urging us to be ready for the Final Reckoning, of course. But there is more.

wedding cakeI had always thought that the master could have been gone for any reason. Gone for a wedding, or gone fishing, or gone to find better football players on another continent, or gone on a weather-balloon ride–whatever. The point is that he is gone, and he could return anytime.

But of course it matters where he is. There are no throw-away lines in the parables of Christ.

The Master has gone to a wedding.

He took our human nature up to heaven. The angels rejoice. God has betrothed the human race to Himself. The Bridegroom stretched out His arms on the cross and won His Bride, and now the heavens are drunk with sober joy. They are dancing and singing the canticle which is too sublime for sound.

When He returns, He will be coming from the heavenly wedding banquet. He will bring the dew of angelic festivity with Him when He comes. He will be wearing the smile of the happy, chaste groom.

III.
A-Rod is OUT OF HIS MIND!!! (Click hot-link, and scroll down to 2009 post-season batting stats.)

ALCS Yankees Angels Baseball

Good People Oppose Same-Sex Marriage

The United States Catholic Conference prepared an excellent Q&A on this subject. I am not trying to re-invent the wheel.

Nonetheless, I would like to tackle the problem from the point-of-view of: What should good people do about this?

So here are some indisputable answers to some crucial questions. (I would be very glad for your comments and additions.)

Vademecum on the right to “same-sex Marriage”

scales_of_justice1. What are the duties of a good person who fights for justice?

All good Christians must love everyone, and all people are bound to be just. No one has a right to impede the legitimate freedoms of another without good reason. Christians are bound to will the good of others and to do everything possible to help other people get to heaven.

2. Is there an individual right to marriage?

No one has an absolute right to marriage, because it is impossible to marry without a consenting partner. The freedom to marry is NOT, therefore, an individual right. An unmarried man and an unmarried woman–who are not related–are free to marry.

3. In order for all people to be truly free, must we permit anyone who is not married to marry anyone he or she wants to marry, regardless of sex?

Entering into marriage involves a renunciation of freedom. Married people are not free to marry, and they have obligations to their spouse and children. The vows of marriage explicitly renounce freedoms; in other words, they impose duties.

dag-blondIt makes no sense to speak of the right to marry as a “freedom.” It makes more sense to think of marriage as a solemn duty undertaken for the good of others.

4. Is sex good or evil?

The conjugal union of husband and wife is beautiful, albeit fraught with pitfalls because of human weakness.

Sodomy is inherently ugly. Sodomy is itself a pitfall for people suffering with same-sex attraction.

Sex outside of marriage is selfish. It is not an option for good people.

5. Who has the authority to make laws about marriage, and where does the authority come from?

Civil laws have binding force insofar as they harmonize with the law of God. The state, which enacts and enforces civil laws, arises because of marriages and families.

In other words, marriage is an institution more fundamental than the state. The state has no prerogative to govern marriage. The Church alone has the prerogative to do so.

The Church may concede to the state some practical aspects of marriage law. But no authority can change the constitution of marriage, because marriage is marriage because of the way God made things.

6. Why can’t a man marry a man or a woman marry a woman?

A couple is not married until the marriage is consummated. Acts of sodomy cannot consummate marriage.

7. What is wrong with a man attempting–even though it is futile–to marry a man or a woman attempting to marry a woman?

Such a ceremony would make a mockery of a beautiful and sacred thing. The marriage of baptized Christians is a sacrament of the love of Christ for His Church. An attempted ‘gay marriage’ is therefore a sacrilege, an injustice to all married people, and a crass charade unworthy of any self-respecting civilized society.

…Now, because discerning minds recognize that confusion about marriage has arisen because of two widespread evils, here is a short appendix:

no-divorce18. Can married couples get divorced?

Wedding vows include promises for life. The commitment of marriage terminates only with death, as the vows themselves say.

Bad circumstances can arise which require spouses to separate–even for indefinite periods of time–but divorce is impossible.

9. Can people have babies in any way other than the old-fashioned way?

For a child to be conceived in any way other than through sex between husband and wife is unjust to the child. Everyone has a right to be conceived in his or her mother’s womb, as the result of his parents’ loving embrace. In disputed cases, the rights of children always trump. In vitro fertilization is therefore unjust, and all good people must oppose it.

Invitation to Advent

The Church spends the four weeks before Christmas neither shopping nor clinking champagne glasses.  She waits for God to come.

St. Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face
St. Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face
St. Therese of Lisieux professed her Carmelite vows on September 8, 1890.  She received her veil on September 24.

As it happened, on October 1, her cousin Jeanne married a young doctor.

The new nun Therese must have received an engraved invitation to the wedding in the mail at the convent. Of course she could not attend, since she had now entered the cloister.

Therese recounts in her autobiography how the coincidence–her profession of vows and her cousin’s wedding–moved her to amuse herself by composing her own wedding invitation. (Of course, no one saw this invitation until St. Therese’s autobiography was published after her death.)

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Letter of Invitation to the Wedding of Sister Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face

God Almighty, Creator of Heaven and Earth, Sovereign Ruler of the Universe, and the Most Glorious Virgin Mary, Queen of the Heavenly Court, announce to you the Spiritual Espousals of Their August Son, Jesus, King of kings, and Lord of lords, with little Therese Martin…

Monsieur Louis Martin…and Madame Martin…wish to have you take part in the Marriage of their Daughter Therese…

Being unable to invite you to the Nuptial Blessing which was given on Mount Carmel, September 8, 1890, (the heavenly court alone was admitted), you are nevertheless asked to be present at the Return from the Wedding which will take place Tomorrow, the Day of Eternity, on which day Jesus, Son of God, will come on the Clouds of Heaven in the splendor of His Majesty, to judge the Living and the Dead.

The hour being as yet uncertain, you are invited to hold yourself in readiness and to watch.