16May

Love & Responsibility — The Law of Gift

Taken from The Integrated Catholic Life
by Dr. Edward Sri

Love & Responsibility — The Law of Gift



















How does a person know if he is in a relationship of authentic, committed love or just in another disappointing romance that will not stand the test of time? That’s what John Paul II — then Karol Wojtyla — addresses in the next section of his book, Love and Responsibility, when he discusses the two sides of love.

According to Wojtyla, there are two aspects of love, and understanding the difference is crucial for any marriage, engagement, or dating relationship. On one hand, we have what’s happening inside us when we’re attracted to a person of the opposite sex.

When boy meets girl, he experiences a number of powerful feelings and desires in his heart. He may find himself physically drawn to the beauty of her body or constantly thinking about her in an emotional attraction. This inner dynamic of sensual desire (sensuality) and emotional love (sentimentality) largely shapes how the man and woman interact with each other, and it is what makes romance, especially in its early stages, so thrilling for the couple involved. Wojtyla calls this first side of love the “subjective” aspect.

Yet, while this is one aspect of love, it is not to be equated with love in the fullest sense. We know from experience that we can have powerful emotions and desires for another person without in any way being committed to them or without them being truly committed to us in a relationship of love.

This is why Wojtyla puts the subjective aspect of love in its proper place. He wakes us up and reminds us that no matter how intensely we experience these sensations, it is not necessarily love, but simply “a psychological situation.” In other words, on its own, the subjective aspect of love is no more than a pleasurable experience happening inside of me.

Continue reading at The Integrated Catholic Life
16May

Divorced and Remarried are Called to Heroism…

Taken from Crisis Magazine
by Dr. R. Jared Staudt

Divorced and Remarried are Called to Heroism…


















The universal call to holiness is considered by many to be the most important development of the Second Vatican Council. The main location of this call is the fifth chapter of the Council’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium:

Thus it is evident to everyone, that all the faithful of Christ of whatever rank or status, are called to the fullness of the Christian life and to the perfection of charity; by this holiness as such a more human manner of living is promoted in this earthly society. In order that the faithful may reach this perfection, they must use their strength accordingly as they have received it, as a gift from Christ. They must follow in His footsteps and conform themselves to His image seeking the will of the Father in all things (§40).

Therefore, all the faithful of Christ are invited to strive for the holiness and perfection of their own proper state. Indeed they have an obligation to so strive. Let all then have care that they guide aright their own deepest sentiments of soul (§42).

Those familiar with the spiritual life know that holiness is not easy. It requires a death to oneself, which Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange describes in his The Three Ages of the Interior Life. It entails going through the purification of the senses and the soul, in order to reach the perfection of charity in union with God.

However, I have also heard some claim that the universal call to holiness means that holiness is now accessible to all without the arduous path of growth in the spiritual life. I would describe this as a dumbing down of the interior life. We see it most often in the confessional: “you shouldn’t feel bad for this sin,” “this is not really sinful,” “you don’t really need to do what the Church commands,” etc. I have heard all too often of confessors condoning masturbation, contraception, rejecting guilt, and denying the need for regular prayer and penance. This is a grave disservice to the soul, to say the least. Everyone is called to be a saint, which means that everyone must deny oneself, take up the cross, and radically follow Christ.

Continue reading at Crisis Magazine
16May

Serving the Poor, Serving the Lord

Taken from Catholic Exchange
by Dr. Mark Giszczak

Serving the Poor, Serving the Lord


















May 18, 2014

Fifth Sunday of Easter

First Reading: Acts 6:1-7

http://usccb.org/bible/readings/051814.cfm

Should we serve the Lord or serve the poor? Sometimes we face this question because we simply lack time. What’s more important: daily prayer or volunteering at the local homeless shelter? Is giving to the parish or giving to charity higher on the list? Early on in the life of the Church, the apostles confronted a similar conundrum (Acts 6:1-7). Part of their ministry included distributing food to the poor, but as the community became larger and larger, it was hard to ensure an equitable distribution of goods.

Social Context

To understand what’s going on here, we have to dig into the social context of the problem. First, the Jerusalem community is divided into “Hellenists” and “Hebrews.” Since no Gentiles had become Christians at this point, the simplest explanation is that the Hellenists are Greek-speaking Jews and the “Hebrews” are Aramaic-speaking Jews. The Greek-speaking widows are “being neglected in the daily distribution” (6:1). But what is that? Why widows? In the ancient world, there was no life insurance and women generally did not have employment outside the home. In many cases, widows could not even legally inherit whatever their husbands had left behind for it would be designated for a male heir. What this means is that when a woman’s husband died, she would have to rely on other relatives, extended family and the wider community for financial support. In the tight-knit early Christian community (Acts 2:42; 4:32-37), the widows would have relied on the group for their daily sustenance—a kind of early Christian welfare system. Sadly, natural biases could sneak into the group and those appointed by the apostles to distribute food could easily be swayed by considerations such as whether someone speaks the same language. While understandable, such prejudice is not Christian.

Notably, the idea of taking care of poor widows was a constant social concern in the Old Testament (Exod 22:22; Jer 7:6; Zech 7:10). In fact, the poor in the Old Testament are often regarded as those to be cared for (Deut 15:11) and giving to them is seen as a good deed (Ps 41:1). These Jewish roots of care for the poor were contrary to Roman values that looked down on the poor, neglected them or even manipulated them by buying their “friendship” with money. The Christian ideal of caring for the poor, which the apostles exhibit in this passage, has deep Jewish roots that oppose the wider cultural values.

Continue reading at Catholic Excange
11May

Cut to the Heart

Taken from Catholic Exchange
by Dr. Mark Giszczak

Cut to the Heart


















May 11, 2014

Fourth Sunday of Easter

First Reading: Acts 2:14a, 36-41

http://usccb.org/bible/readings/051114.cfm

Sometimes when you hear a great speaker, you wish you could grab his message, put it in a package and bring it home with you. We even talk of a “take home message,” being the three or four points that the speaker hopes you’ll remember. We can’t remember everything, and even if we record a speech on a digital voice recorder, we still can’t keep it in our heads all the time. So…if a message powerfully impacts us, what can we do? How can we respond? In this Sunday’s reading from Acts, St. Peter gives us the answer.

Context

This Sunday’s reading might sound like the beginning of St. Peter’s Pentecost speech, but it is actually the end. The Lectionary borrows the opening narrator’s comment to set the stage. Here Peter is cashing in the results of his scriptural argument from Joel 3 and Psalm 16 to his fellow devout Jews. He has argued that the Holy Spirit has arrived to fulfill God’s promises, that Jesus was raised from the dead in fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies and the concluding thesis of his speech is that God has made Jesus “both Lord and Christ.” These two terms each deserve an in-depth explanation.

Lord

Kurios can simply mean “lord” or “sir,” but here I think it brims with deeper connotations. First and foremost, it is a word for God. In fact, this word, kurios is used to translate the unpronounceable name of God in the Greek Old Testament. YHWH is translated as kurios. By saying that God made Jesus kurios, Peter is not saying that God merely granted him an extra-special title of nobility like “sir” or “duke,” but that Jesus is YHWH himself, the Lord. Secondly, kurios was a title of the Roman Emperor, the highest civil authority. While Peter is not claiming Jesus is a secular ruler, his authority does challenge (and trump) that of the pagan Roman Empire. Jesus’ kingdom will eventually triumph over all human authorities.

Continue reading at Catholic Exchange
07May

Break Out of the Box: Technology and Prayer

Taken from Catholic Exchange
by Dr. R. Jared Staudt

Break Out of the Box: Technology and Prayer


















Smash the TV! John Senior provides this bold directive in his book, The Restoration of Christian Culture. “Smash the television set. The Catholic Church is not opposed to violence; only to unjust violence; so smash the television set” (22). I’ve taught this text numerous times to students and most immediately recoil and claim that this advice is too harsh and over the top. Even if some should smash their TV, Senior’s statement is at least a call to question the control that technology has over our lives. Do you need to smash media’s dominance?

In particular, Senior argues that TV has

two principal defects . . . its radical passivity, physical and imaginative, and its distortion of reality. Watching it, we fail to exercise the eye, selecting and focusing on detail—what poets call “noticing” things; neither do we exercise imagination as must in reading metaphor where you actively leap to the “third thing” in juxtaposed images, picking out similarities and differences, a skill which Aristotle says is a chief sing of intelligence. . . . There is nothing on the television which is not filtered through the secular establishment.

Senior’s answer is to sit around the fire as a family, singing good music and reading good literature. Rather than experiencing reality through an isolate filter, he wants us to experience it directly, especially within the context of the home. TV intrudes on family life and fundamentally changes it.

The main thrust of Senior’s argument is that technology is not neutral, but its use shapes and molds us. This same claim has been presented by Neil Postman, in his book Technopolgy, where he argues that “the uses made of any technology are largely determined by the structure of the technology itself—that is, that its functions follow from its form.” We have surrounded ourselves with a host of media technology—not only TV, but mobile phones, constant music, and especially the internet—to the point of saturation: “When the supply of information is no longer controllable, a general breakdown in psychic tranquility and social purpose occurs. Without defenses, people have no way of finding meaning in their experiences, lose their capacity to remember, and have difficulty imagining reasonable futures” (72).

Continue reading at Catholic Exchange
06May

Hope in the Face of Death

Taken from Catholic Exchange
by Dr. Mark Giszczak

Hope in the Face of Death

May 4, 2014

Third Sunday of Easter

First Reading: Acts 2:14, 22-33

http://usccb.org/bible/readings/050414.cfm

What now? That would be the question on the minds of the apostles as they watched our Lord ascend into heaven. Has the story ended? Should we just go home? But Jesus commanded them to wait for the Holy Spirit in Jerusalem. When the Spirit comes in power on Pentecost, they get their answer: proclaim the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus to everyone. They find their mission and the next chapter in the story. In fact, Luke tells us that his gospel is about what “Jesus began to do and teach,” implying that the Book of Acts is what he continued to do and teach, but this time it is through the apostles empowered by the Holy Spirit.

Context

The Lectionary provides a segment of St. Peter’s speech on Pentecost for this Sunday’s first reading. More of the speech will be read next Sunday. On Pentecost morning, the apostles are filled with the Holy Spirit and now they stand before the crowds in Jerusalem to preach the resurrection for the first time. In this passage, we get to listen in on Peter’s first evangelistic homily. Peter’s preaching here can be distilled to four essential ideas: fulfillment, mercy, prophecy, and resurrection.

Fulfillment, Not Fad

Peter is speaking to Jewish men who know the story of Israel, the law of Moses and the writings of the prophets. He therefore must convince them of Jesus’ messianic identity in accord with the Old Testament. The Jewish authorities had condemned Jesus as a blasphemer, an innovator, an imposter who “made himself equal to God.” Peter’s task is to show that Jesus is the logical next step, the fulfillment of Israel’s story, not just a passing religious fad. He highlights Jesus’ works of power, which demonstrate that he comes from God and verify his message. God “commended” Jesus by granting him the power to do these works.

Continue Reading at Catholic Exchange
29April

Salvation and Super Heroes

Taken from Crisis Magazine
by Dr. Michel Therrien

Salvation and Super Heroes



















This past weekend I enjoyed seeing the latest installment of Marvel’s Avenger franchise, Captain America: Winter Soldier. I must confess that I have a somewhat juvenile curiosity toward these recent rounds of “super” mania films. I don’t care so much for the over the top action and violence sequences, but it is quite intriguing to see how CGI technology has brought to the big screen what only imagination could grasp in my youth, although maybe that’s not such a good thing for young people today. As a moral theologian, however, the gratification of these movies extends deeper. The physics of Marvel’s universe is pretty awesome; but the ethics is even more thought provoking.

One thing truly appreciable in these films is their honest attempt to tackle some serious social issues. Whether it’s the problem of true justice vs. vigilantism in the recent Batman films, or the responsible use of power in the Spiderman franchise, or as we see in Winter Soldier, the trust issues surrounding information technology and government surveillance, the superhero industry is admirable in its engagement with some rather critical social problems.

The central motif in Winter Soldier is, as we would expect from Captain America, the totalitarian assault on human liberty, which for the screenwriters, originates today in the threat of political conspiracy and the hegemony of information technology. How do we preserve liberty in an age of industrial power, the web, world government, and the dictatorship of relativism? Is this even possible? In the movie, Captain America embodies the kind of moral and principled integrity that provides the only real hope for confronting the agents of evil. But here’s the question with which the movie left me wrestling. Is the affront to human liberty the root evil of our times? As Americans, we are always inclined to answer yes to that question. But is it so?

The first thing that struck me as I exited the theater is the irony of the Captain America narrative. Liberty is only ever destroyed by the conspiracy of modern industry coupled with the politics of power and social control—in a word, conspiratorial violence. Liberty is never lost by sensual desire and disordered love. And moreover, it’s ironic how the tactics of the enemy are the only available means for defeating the bad guys. To conquer evil and restore liberty, one just has to have more power at their disposal, although directed toward a good end. Because of this moral assumption, our beloved superheroes can only conquer evil by greater industry and power, assisted of course by more effective espionage and political maneuvering. In Winter Soldier we see this exemplified by those true conspirators of liberty that uphold the ideals of the S.H.I.E.L.D initiative. For those who have seen the film—though I dare not ruin it for those who haven’t—it is evident that the guardians of liberty are, in the end, able to triumph (kind of) because they prove themselves more powerful and clever than their adversaries. The further irony, though, is that evil is never finally eradicated—not that we really want it to be! That would be boring entertainment.

Continue reading at Crisis Magazine
28April

Is God Dead? Have We Killed Him?

Taken from Crisis Magazine
by Dr. R. Jared Staudt

Is God Dead? Have We Killed Him?


















Nietzsche isn’t exactly the kind of guy you expect to show up in a papal encyclical. All the more so does it seem odd to refer to him as a prophet. Nonetheless, recent popes have referred to him somewhat often, using him as a referent for our current social and philosophical situation. In one of his few audiences, John Paul I referred to Nietzsche’s lack of sympathy for the Christian ideal:

Not everyone shares this sympathy of mine for hope. Nietzsche, for example, calls it “the virtue of the weak.” According to him, it makes the Christian a useless, separated, resigned person, extraneous to the progress of the world (Sept. 20, 1978).

It was quite an audience, also referring to Dante, St. Francis de Sales, Augustine and Aquinas on hilaritas, and Andrew Carnegie.

Pope Benedict referred to Nietzsche somewhat frequently, including in his important address to the Curia on Dec. 22, 2008, while commenting on World Youth Day: “This is what makes life joyful and free, uniting people with one another in a joy that cannot be compared to the ecstasy of a rock festival. Friedrich Nietzsche once said: ‘The important thing is not to be able to organize a party but to find people who can enjoy it.’ According to Scripture, joy is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit (cf. Gal 5:22).” In his first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est, he situates his treatment of eros in relation to Nietzsche’s rejection of the supposed Christian negation of eros:

According to Friedrich Nietzsche, Christianity had poisoned eros, which for its part, while not completely succumbing, gradually degenerated into vice. Here the German philosopher was expressing a widely held perception: doesn’t the Church, with all her commandments and prohibitions, turn to bitterness the most precious thing in life? Doesn’t she blow the whistle just when the joy which is the Creator’s gift offers us a happiness which is itself a certain foretaste of the Divine? (3).

Finally, we see Nietzsche setting up Pope Francis’s first encyclical in similar fashion (though presumably through the influence of Benedict):

The young Nietzsche encouraged his sister Elisabeth to take risks, to tread “new paths… with all the uncertainty of one who must find his own way,” adding that “this is where humanity’s paths part: if you want peace of soul and happiness, then believe, but if you want to be a follower of truth, then seek.” Belief would be incompatible with seeking. From this starting point Nietzsche was to develop his critique of Christianity for diminishing the full meaning of human existence and stripping life of novelty and adventure. Faith would thus be the illusion of light, an illusion which blocks the path of a liberated humanity to its future.

In these cases, we see Nietzsche acting as an important foil for the popes. He represents a key figure in the modern recasting of Christianity as a force that destroys the greatness of humanity, by succumbing to a false hope, love, and belief.

Continue reading at Crisis Magazine
27April

My Encounter with John Paul the Great

Taken from the Chastity Project
by Everett Fritz

My Encounter with John Paul the Great



















Nine years ago, I found myself in Rome, waiting in line with millions of people, hoping to get a glimpse of the late Pope John Paul II. John Paul was a hero of mine and I happened to be traveling through Europe when he passed away. I immediately changed my plans and traveled to be part of the celebration and mourning of this great saint. The scene in Rome was surreal. The line into St. Peter’s stretched all the way out of Vatican City, across the Tiber River and around the neighborhoods of Rome. People were singing, chanting for John Paul II and there were homemade signs and flowers all over the Vatican that said Santo subito! [Saint now!].

After several hours of waiting, I arrived inside St. Peter’s, where I had a few moments to pay my respects to the late John Paul II. I’ll never forget the moment, because I broke down sobbing. John Paul II had an enormous impact on my life, which is remarkable considering this was the only time I had ever come in contact with him.

Continue reading at Chastity Project
27April

Radiant Christian Community

Taken from Catholic Exchange
by Dr. Mark Giszczak

Radiant Christian Community


















April 27, 2014

Second Sunday of Easter

First Reading: Acts 2:42-47

http://usccb.org/bible/readings/042714.cfm

During the Easter season, the Lectionary avoids the Old Testament and sticks with the Book of Acts to supply the First Reading. The idea is to concentrate on the fulfillment of the Old Testament in the New. The life of the early Church, as portrayed by Acts, reveals what a post-resurrection life can and should look like. The particular passage chosen for the Second Sunday of Easter briefly sums up the life of the early disciples from the day of Pentecost onward.

Context

This passage, Acts 2:42-47, falls right after St. Peter’s Pentecost speech. The Holy Spirit has come upon the apostles, then Peter preaches to the crowds in Jerusalem, after which 3,000 people are baptized into the faith. After this event, our author, St. Luke, offers us a window into the life of the first Christians. The Lectionary gives us a sneak preview of the resurrection results of the first apostolic ministry, but then will go on to fill in the back story by presenting snippets of Peter’s speech over the next two Sundays.

The Essence of Community

St. Luke tells us that the first Christians “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (Acts 2:42 RSV). These four elements, which might seem like a bare list, actually frame the essentials of the Christian life. The “apostles’ teaching” consists of the Gospel message and Christian doctrine. We can hear their lessons in the Bible and in the teaching of the Church. “The fellowship” or koinonia (in Greek) indicates the loving communion that believers have with one another. This fellowship is not mere camaraderie or some sort of club, but rather it indicates the kind of unity for which Jesus prayed, “that they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee” (John 17:21 RSV). This kind of heart-to-heart fellowship takes time, which is why Luke tells us that the Christians devoted themselves to it. They devoted their time to loving one another.

In addition, the first Christians frequently participated in “the breaking of the bread,” not a mere meal, but a Eucharistic celebration, the first Masses ever said. Lastly, the disciples take part in “the prayers.” Oddly, the text does not say that they simply prayed, but that they used “the prayers.” Since they were gathering together daily in the Temple, some scholars have suggested that “the prayers” refers to the psalms, songs, and prayers offered to the Lord at the Temple. In our day, we can engage in these kinds of “prayers” in the Liturgy of the Hours, the Rosary and other kinds of prayers the Church provides. The four things to which the disciples devoted themselves, teaching, fellowship, Eucharist, and prayers, are the building blocks of the kind of life that Christians can and should live in light of Jesus’ Resurrection and the descent of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost.

Continue reading at Catholic Exchange
23April

Saint John Paul II, Alive Among the Saints

Taken from Catholic World Report
by Douglas Bushman

Saint John Paul II, Alive Among the Saints


















At the outset of his Petrine ministry and several times thereafter, Pope Wojtyla told us that his pontificate was dedicated to the faithful interpretation and implementation of the Second Vatican Council. He also told us that central to the renewal of Vatican II is the universal call to holiness. “[T]his call to holiness is precisely the basic charge entrusted to all the sons and daughters of the Church by a Council which intended to bring a renewal of Christian life based on the Gospel” (Christifideles Laici, 16).

The Jubilee of the Year 2000 was the occasion for him to reassert: “Holiness…has emerged more clearly as the dimension which expresses best the mystery of the Church. Holiness, a message that convinces without the need for words, is the living reflection of the face of Christ” (Novo Millennio Ineunte, 8). In keeping with his constant exhortation to read and to study the texts of Vatican II, he appealed to all to “rediscover the full practical significance of Chapter 5 of the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium, dedicated to the ‘universal call to holiness.’”

“[T]he heart of holiness is love” (Ecclesia in America, 30), that is, participation in divine life in and through Christ’s paschal charity, which is the soul of the apostolate, the inner dynamism of all ministry, apostolate, service, and mission. “[T]he call to the mission derives, of its nature, from the call to holiness” (Address of May 15, 1998). At the same time, holiness is the ultimate goal of the Church’s activities. For this reason, “all pastoral initiatives must be set in relation to holiness” (Novo Millennio Ineunte, 30). “[I]n the life of the Church every call to action is a call to holiness” (Address of May 3, 1984).

“Now, no less than in the past, the call to holiness must be the chief concern of all the Church’s members” (Ad limina address of May 26, 1992). This is the primary way of participation in the life and mission of the Church, the foundation for every other vocation, without which ecclesiastical activity is deprived of its vital principle. Holiness is the key to the New Evangelization.

Evangelization in the third millennium must come to grips with the urgent need for a presentation of the Gospel message which is dynamic, complete, and demanding. The Christian life to be aimed at cannot be reduced to a mediocre commitment to “goodness” as society defines it; it must be a true quest for holiness. We need to re-read with fresh enthusiasm the fifth chapter of Lumen Gentium, which deals with the universal call to holiness. Being a Christian means to receive a “gift” of sanctifying grace which cannot fail to become a “commitment” to respond personally to that gift in everyday life. It is precisely for this reason that I have sought over the years to foster a wider recognition of holiness, in all the contexts where it has appeared, so that Christians can have many different models of holiness, and all can be reminded that they are personally called to this goal. (Letter to Priests, Mar 25, 2001)

Continue reading at Catholic World Report
19April

Reading the Bible in the Dark

Taken from Catholic Exchange
by Dr. Mark Giszczak

Reading the Bible in the Dark

April 20, 2014

Easter Vigil

Seven OT Readings: Gen 1:1—2:2; Gen 22:1-18; Exod 14:15—15:1; Isa 54:5-14; Isa 55:1-11; Bar 3:9-15, 3:32—4:4; Ezek 36:16-17a, 18-28.

When my friend went to the Easter Vigil for the first time and started hearing the many readings, he thought for a moment that they were going to read the whole Bible! At Easter, we might expect a lot of New Testament texts, but instead the Church presents us with seven Old Testament readings and eight responsorial psalms. That’s 15 Old Testament texts in one sitting—talk about an Old Testament extravaganza! Interestingly, on Easter morning, zero Old Testament texts are read, except for the super-Alleluia Psalm 118.

Praying and Waiting in the Dark

The Easter Vigil always reminds me of those long car trips my family took when I was young. We would get up before dawn and get on the road so we could make it to our destination by nightfall. At the Easter Vigil, we gather at church in the dark. We wait, watch, hope and pray in the dark. Praying in the dark might seem kind of strange, and reading tons of the Old Testament in the dark might feel even stranger. But, all the waiting, watching, and hoping has a purpose, a direction, a fulfillment. The lengthy and numerous Old Testament readings prepare us and teach us. They re-tell the story of salvation so as to direct our minds toward its ultimate goal, its consummation in the resurrection of Christ. The liturgy itself offers a rhythm of reading, psalm, prayer, then reading, psalm prayer, so we can enter into the cadence of waiting and allow our hearts to slowly swell in preparation for the resurrection. While we listen, we feel the last moments of fasting and penance giving way to the glorious celebration of Easter.

Salvation’s Story

If we have been listening attentively to the Old Testament readings throughout Lent, we have already encountered the story: the Fall, Abraham, the Exodus, the kingship of David, the resurrection future and the Suffering Servant. But now the Church presents to us the resurrection logic of the universe. By starting with the creation account of Genesis 1, the Lectionary points out that all of creation, all of reality was pointing toward this moment, that the destiny of the universe is somehow tied up in Jesus’ resurrection. The readings for the vigil pick up the story and retell it in its grandest dimensions: God’s creation of everything, the near-sacrifice of Isaac, the deliverance of the people of Israel from Egypt, the prophet Isaiah’s announcement of God’s merciful recall of his people from exile, and Ezekiel’s proclamation of cleansing.

Continue reading at Catholic Exchange
17April

Down the Slippery Slope: A Timeline of Social Revolution

Taken from Crisis Magazine
by Dr. R. Jared Staudt

Down the Slippery Slope: A Timeline of Social Revolution



















It is certainly not breaking news to assert that America is in cultural decline. Many aspects of this decline have been widely documented: the breakdown of the family, threats to life, and ever increasing secularization.

My intent in this article is to draw together the consistent progression of this cultural decline so that we can step back and examine the path of the social revolution that has been underway in America for some time. As we see, the undermining of family and life is not something new.

I have broken the following timeline into several stages. That is not to say that the only developments of this time concerned a single matter. Rather, the name marks the major turning point of that stage. I have also included a few international events, when they seem indicative of broader social change.

Continue reading at Crisis Magazine
12April

The Paradox of Suffering

Taken from Catholic Exchange
by Dr. Mark Giszczak

The Paradox of Suffering

April 13, 2014

Palm Sunday

First Reading: Isaiah 50:4-7 http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/041314.cfm

“Anything worth living for is worth dying for.” It is hard lesson for us to learn. No one wants to go around dying, but of course, we all know that truly living for someone or something besides ourselves isn’t very easy either. The prophet Isaiah thrusts aside our hedging by presenting us with a stark contrast: a disobedient people who can’t even find their mother’s divorce certificate from God (Isa 50:1) and an obedient servant who willingly proclaims God’s message of repentance and deliverance in the face of terrible suffering (Isa 50:4-7ff). The passage selected for the First Reading is the words of that Suffering Servant.

Speaking of Tongues

This section of Isaiah begins with a self-description, starting with the tongue. It sounds a lot like other OT poetic passages where the poet describes his tongue and speech at the beginning of his song (Pss 35:28; 45:1; 51:14; 71:24; 119:172). Here though, the prophet Isaiah is not describing himself, but putting these words in the mouth of the Suffering Servant. The Lord has entrusted a special message to this servant. Indeed, his tongue is “well-trained” (50:4). The Hebrew word here, limud, is rare and indicates the kind of knowledge that results from discipleship. The point is not that the Servant has been inspired in the moment, but that his message is the result of a long period of training. He has been trained in righteousness, in the law of God.

Rousing the Sleepy and handing on the message

When the Servant goes to describe the purpose of his training, he surprises us. His “tongue training” is for the purpose of waking up the sleepy. His goal is to rouse, encourage, sustain and wake up others. He does not want to merely give people information, but to put heart into them. Isaiah is teaching us that encouraging is not just a gift, it is a skill. The Servant has learned how to rouse the weary. Of course, the kind of slumber we’re talking about is not mere physical sleep, but spiritual stagnation, acedia, sloth. The Servant will wake people up out of their sleepy spiritual approach to life.

The Servant emphasizes his role as handing on a message from God. “Morning after morning” the Lord speaks to him and day after day, he faithfully conveys the message he hears to others. So his mission involves both listening and speaking. God “awakens” his ear and conveys a message to him. Faithful listening leads to faithful speaking. One must first be awakened in order to awaken others. The Servant consciously passes along a message, a difficult message of repentance, a call to return to the Lord, but also a message of hope and restoration. He insists also on his fidelity. He says “I have not rebelled; I have not turned back.” However, his faithfulness to God’s message will cost him.

Continue reading at Catholic Exchange
04April

God, the Tomb Robber

Taken from Catholic Exchange
by Dr. Mark Giszczak

God, the Tomb Robber










April 6, 2014

Fifth Sunday of Lent

Ezekiel 37:12-14

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/040614.cfm

I like to think of God as a tomb robber. He does not strike me as a masked bandit plundering valuable artifacts from an Egyptian tomb for sale on the black market. Rather, he robs something much more important from the tomb: people! God does not steal mere dead bodies from tombs; instead, he restores the life of the dead person, revivifying the body and bringing back the person’s spirit.

Sneak Preview of Lazarus

In this Sunday’s reading from Ezekiel, we get a sneak preview of the gospel account of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. The great prophet tells us in advance that God wants to “open graves” and cause people to rise out of them. Lazarus is a case study in what this kind of power looks like. God reverses the seemingly unreversible problem of death. What the prophet foretells in the first reading comes to fruition in the Gospel reading.

Bony Context

Now in the context of Ezekiel 37, this little passage serves as the interpretation of what has come before, Ezekiel’s famous prophecy of the valley of the dry bones. The Lord gives the prophet a powerful vision of dead, dry bones, strewn about in a valley as if a battle had taken place there long ago. The prophet emphasizes how many there were (“behold, there were very many”) and how dead and dry they were (“and lo, they were very dry”). After showing Ezekiel the bones, the Lord commands him to prophesy to the bones, to speak God’s life and spirit into them. Immediately, they start to click together and the Lord covers them in sinews, muscles and skin. Finally, Ezekiel prophesies and God’s spirit comes and fills them.

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