06July

Peace Conquers War

Taken from Catholic Exchange
by Dr. Mark Giszczak

Peace Conquers War

July 6, 2014

Zech 9:9-10

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/070614.cfm

We hate war. War takes away the good things of life: family, abundance, peace, and security. We only have to read the front page of the newspaper to hear about more “wars and rumors of wars.” In this Sunday’s first reading from Zechariah we see the Messiah coming to banish war and establish peace forever.

Context

This reading is just two verses from Zechariah 9. It comes in between a prophecy of judgment on the enemies of God’s people and a promise of salvation for them. At this point in their history, God’s people, the Jews, have suffered under various foreign powers for several generations. They long for the restoration of their independence under the leadership of a legitimate heir to the throne, a king descended from David. Zechariah’s portrait of the Messiah entering the city and his invitation to rejoice point to the fulfillment of these hopes.

A King

The coronation of a new king is a moment of rejoicing. One need only look back on the Prince William and Kate Middleton wedding for an example of what this kind of rejoicing might look like. A new king means a new era, new hope, vindication for the oppressed. This Messiah king—the anointed son of David—is called tzadiq (righteous) and noshua (having salvation). He is righteous or just in that he is the legitimate heir, and he is righteous before God: the perfect combination. His quality of noshua indicates that he comes to bring salvation, just like Joshua, whose name means “the Lord is salvation.” The new, messianic king brings God’s vindication to his people who are oppressed. The new king will re-establish the right reign of justice. Here we see how appropriate it is for this passage to come in between the announcement of judgment and the prophecy of salvation: justice and salvation go hand in hand. A good king with God’s authority will judge oppressors and save those who are oppressed.

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27June

The remembering of faith for conversion—is there hope for our contemporary world?

Taken from The Catholic Servant, June 2014
By Professor Douglas Bushman

The remembering of faith for conversion—is there hope for our contemporary world?

A child getting lost in a store—this is a familiar scene in movies. Mom tells her rambunctious boy to stay very close to her. With all the honesty of intention he can muster he promises to do so; no one wants to get lost. But he is a little boy, with a very short attention span. Soon he finds himself fascinated by the sight and sound of things around him. First one step toward an especially enticing display, then a second, a third and a fourth … until unexpectedly, unintentionally he realizes that he is separated from his mother. He had forgotten her, but suddenly he remembers her. This memory makes him aware of his own dependence on her, and, without her, his fundamental vulnerability. Not knowing how to find her, he begins to cry.

Straying from God by sinning bears several resemblances to this episode. The significant difference is that the Old Testament accounts of sin concern adults, not children. Time and again the chosen people become spiritually lost, even after stern warnings. Moses was an expert in religious psychology. He keenly grasped people’s propensity to get distracted, to forget God, and to neglect their duties to God. This is why he exhorted the chosen people not to forget the marvelous works that God performed to liberate them from slavery in Egypt. “Take heed, lest you forget …” is a refrain in Deuteronomy (vv. 4:9, 23; 6:12). To obey the Law of the Lord, Israel must maintain a lively memory of the great works of liberation. “Take heed lest you forget the LORD your God, by not keeping His commandments and His ordinances and His statutes.” (Deut. 8:11) Failure to keep God’s commandments is the certain sign that the people have forgotten God.

For Israel, the crisis of faith is precisely this disjuncture between a God-centered yesterday and a God-absent today. Faith in God’s marvelous works is supposed to shape His people’s future, to give direction to their freedom, the very freedom that is God’s gift. But they forget it is a gift. They take hold of their freedom as if it were not fragile and easily lost, as if God had nothing to do with it. They are like the prodigal son, who took hold of his inheritance and used it without any concern for, or reference to, his father. He cut himself off from his father, his father’s faith, and the entire tradition of faith that the father wanted to pass along to him. Leaving them behind in forgetfulness, he lives as if he could create his life ex nihilo, with no thought to his past. The intensity of his focus on the pleasures of the present cut him off from any memory of his father and his past. Until, that is, he began to suffer. He found out that freedom without memory self-destructs. Reduced to a terrible loss of freedom, he suddenly remembers his father’s house. Suffering is the catalyst for the kind of remembering that leads to conversion.

This connection between suffering and a salutary re-activation of memory is the key to understanding the mission of the Old Testament prophets. They always repeat the warning of Moses. When the people forget God—and the certain indication of this is that they do not care for the poor and they worship other gods—the prophets function as the conscience of the people. The goal of their preaching is to rekindle the people’s memory. And if the exhortation to remember is not heeded, they predict a purifying calamity that will elicit a salvific remembering and a return to God, like that of the prodigal son. For the prophets, the first step in conversion is an act of faith that remembers.

Pope St. John Paul II, for whom conversion was a central theme of his pontificate, was attentive to this great biblical theme.

In order to make concrete the gravity of the accusation and thus elicit a conversion that flows from the sincerity of the heart, Moses appeals to the memory: “Think back on the days of old, reflect on the years of age upon age.” (Deut. 32:7) In fact, biblical faith is a “memorial,” namely, a rediscovering of God’s eternal action spread over time; it is to make present and effective that salvation that the Lord has given and continues to offer man. Hence, the great sin of infidelity coincides with “forgetfulness,” which cancels the memory of the divine presence in us and in history. (General Audience, June 19, 2002)

The crisis in faith today is staggering: millions of baptized Catholics going weeks, months, even years without attending Mass, the unparalleled act of commemoration of the marvelous works of love that God has done for them. He created them and became a man to reveal what authentic human fulfillment is, namely, to be loved by God and to love Him and love others as Christ has loved us. He died on the Cross in order to prove His love and to make this fullness of life possible. He established His Church on the foundation of the Apostles so that the truth of His revelation and the power of His Resurrection should become His gift to them in Baptism.

For these millions, there is no room for God in their consciousness because it is filled to overflowing with preoccupations with things of a “world that is passing away.” (I Cor. 7:31) God has been crowded out by an obsession with things that cannot satisfy their deepest aspirations. The words of Jeremiah apply: “They have forsaken Me, the source of living waters; they have dug themselves cisterns, broken cisterns, that hold no water.” (Jer. 2:13) They do not turn to the source of the water that gives life, namely, the pierced side of Jesus. (cf. Jn. 7:39; 19:34) They live as if God did not even exist, as if He had never done anything important enough to call to mind. They give their minds over to degrading trivializations, and then perhaps they remember Him when they need someone to blame for such a pitifully shallow existence—as if the prodigal son’s father were responsible for the plight of his son who had misused his freedom!

Today we speak of the influence of culture. Cultures carry values and quite effectively transmit them. To live in a culture is to breathe the air of its moral values. It is an ironic sign of the times that in our culture so much attention is given to concern over the quality of the air we breathe while the toxicity of the moral air—a culture of exhilaration (think of the rush of extreme sports, drugs, and gambling), hedonism, consumerism, relativism, a culture of death—is not only accepted but defended as congruent with human dignity and rights.

Just as the prodigal son could remain forgetful of his father so long as his money lasted, a God-less secular culture can only captivate and seduce people so long as the economy makes possible the prospect of unlimited pleasures. When that hope betrays them, the memory of God suddenly appears to fill the void of this betrayed hope. We witnessed this when there was a significant uptick in churchgoing after 9/11. Does this mean that we can only wait until there is a calamity that will force people to remember God? It may come to that, and for this reason it is vital that mature disciples of Christ make Him present wherever there is severe suffering: hospitals, war zones, famine areas, etc. But this is by no means inevitable. The strategy of the popes of the New Evangelization—Paul VI, John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Francis—is much more than an updated version of the strategy of Moses and the prophets. The goal is always the same, namely, to prompt an act of memory of faith. But the New Evangelization focuses on what Moses and the prophets could only point to as a future promise, namely, Jesus Christ.

Jesus is the “perfect man” Who reveals to us the fullness of life to which we are called. In Christ, we are all called to bear witness to this fullness of life. This is why Pope John Paul kept repeating that we are all called to holiness. Holy men and women who are fully alive in Christ are living evidence of the power of God’s love. Their witness to a fully human life is the most powerful inducement for otherwise sleeping memories of God to wake up. This is why Pope Benedict XVI, in particular, and after him Pope Francis with his apostolic exhortation The Joy of the Gospel, have challenged those with living faith, that is, those who remember God daily, to live in the joy of the gift of Holy Spirit so that people who do not know this joy may encounter it and compare their pitiful pleasures to the deep and abiding joy of living in the certainty of being loved. The witness of Christian holiness, love, and virtue is the catalyst by which dormant memories come out of hibernation to remember God and His promises, to pass judgment on their foolishness, to hope anew in His promises, and to return to their Father’s house.

Douglas G. Bushman, S.T.L., is Professor of Theology at the Augustine Institute in Denver, Colorado, where he holds the Pope St. John Paul II the Great Chair of Theology for the New Evangelization.

27June

God's Perfect Timing

Taken from Catholic Exchange
by Dr. Mark Giszczak

God's Perfect Timing




















June 29, 2014

Acts 12:1-11

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/062914-day-mass.cfm

When you find yourself on death row, awaiting a show trial, chained up in a prison with sixteen guards, it is probably time to let go and prepare to meet your Maker. But “God’s perfect timing” might just interrupt your preparations. People often refer to “God’s perfect timing” to help us deal with the delays, failures and disappointments of life. However, in certain cases, his timing can work the opposite way, undoing what seems to be an inevitable disappointment. In this Sunday’s reading from Acts 12 for the Solemnity of Ss. Peter and Paul, we find St. Peter apparently about to die, until God interferes with apparent inevitability.

Context

Peter is arrested by Herod Agrippa’s agents right before Passover. Herod has put one of the “pillar apostles,” James, to death by sword. Peter would expect to follow his fellow apostle to martyrdom quickly. Herod is on a persecution rampage to please the Jewish authorities at Jerusalem, and nip the nascent Christian movement in the bud. Herod’s violence reminds us that the Church was born in the midst of opposition and persecution. He arrests Peter at the time of Passover, a feast at which Jewish pilgrims would gather in Jerusalem. Herod’s purpose is probably two-fold: he wants to prevent a key Christian leader from preaching to the crowds at Passover and he wants to put Peter on a show trial to ingratiate himself with the opponents of Christianity and as a warning not to join the new movement.

Power of Prayer

When Peter, the Rock, is arrested, the Christian community does not launch a protest or a war, but they get down on their knees and pray. Acts describes the Church’s prayer for Peter as ektenes, “intense, zealous, instant.” They are praying hard and fast that Peter will be protected from a seemingly imminent fate. Praying in the face of such a situation would be a tough proposition. It would be easy to give up and start praying for a swift end rather than for deliverance. But the early Christians kept believing and interceding for Peter’s rescue. Their faithful determination (and their results!) can teach something about how to pray.

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20June

Forgetting to Remember

Taken from Catholic Exchange
by Dr. Mark Giszczak

Forgetting to Remember



















June 22, 2014

Corpus Christi

Deuteronomy 8:2-3, 14b-16a

http://usccb.org/bible/readings/062214.cfm

Too often, we forget. People used to tie strings around their fingers to remember, but now we have all sorts of buzzers, beeps, ringtones, iCals, and even text message reminders to help us remember our appointments, pay our bills on time, and get where we need to go. Remembering, and remembering at the right time, is a perpetual problem. On this Sunday’s feast of Corpus Christi, in the first reading we are reminded to remember—to remember all the great things God has done for us, his people.

Context

The whole book of Deuteronomy portrays Moses’ final pep talk to the people of Israel before they cross the River Jordan to take possession of the Promised Land. He retells the story of the journey through the desert and their deliverance from Egypt. He reminds them of how God has demonstrated his love and power by setting them free and leading them in safety to a new land. He also warns themagainst forgetting in the future.

Trial by “What’s it?”

Before he encourages the people to look forward, Moses asks them to look back on God’s faithfulness. The Lord tested his people “by affliction,” specifically by the affliction of hunger. They say the quickest way to a man’s heart is through his stomach—I guess God knows this to be true! When we’re physically hungry our will can hit a serious testing point. God tests his people in order to “find out” their intention to keep or to break his commands. After a time of afflicting hunger, he sends heavenly manna to his people.

Now manna in Hebrew simply means “What is it?” because it was a food no one had ever eaten it before. Ironically, even Jesus talks about manna as “bread from heaven” (John 6:32) but here Moses tells us that God sent the manna specifically to show his people that “not by bread alone does one live, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of the LORD.” The trial of the Israelites by hunger, then by the mysterious “What’s it?” food from the sky was meant to help them recognize their dependence on God for their whole life.

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16June

St. Anthony’s Fish and the Mission to Creation

Taken from Catholic Exchange
by Dr. R. Jared Staudt

St. Anthony’s Fish and the Mission to Creation


















Just before His Ascension, Jesus commanded the Apostles to “go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature” (Mk 16:15).

Today is the feast of St. Anthony, in whose life we see one of the most poignant responses to Jesus’s command. After his rejection by a group of heretics in Rimini, St. Anthony preached to the fish: “Listen to the word of God, O ye fishes of the sea and of the river, seeing that the faithless heretics refuse to do so” (The Little Flowers of St. Francis of Assisi, ch. 40). St. Anthony preached to the fish about the great many blessings God had given them and how they needed to honor him in response. The account continues: “At these words the fish began to open their mouths, and bow their heads, endeavoring as much as was in their power to express their reverence and show forth their praise.” Pleased with the reverence shown by the fish, St. Anthony responded: “Blessed be the eternal God; for the fishes of the sea honor him more than men without faith, and animals without reason listen to his word with greater attention than sinful heretics.” The people of Rimini were converted by this great sign.

St. Anthony’s actions are not an isolated instance, but directly follow the example of St. Francis’s preaching to the birds and many other examples of how the saints exercised dominion over all of creation. This mission toward creation is a direct response to God’s command in Genesis 1: “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth” (v. 28). God clearly intends for humanity to exercise not only a cultural, but also a spiritual dominion over all of creation.

Jesus gave some other examples of this dominion in the Gospels: the calming of the sea, walking on the water, the withering of the fig tree, etc. The most drastic could be found in the passage: “For truly I tell you, if you have faith the size of amustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you” (Mt 17:20). This could be considered a hyperbole to exhort us to strengthen our faith in the midst of difficult or impossible situations. For the saints, however, it is more. St. Gregory Thaumaturgus (the wonderworker), for example, moved a mountain through his prayers to make way for the construction of a church. A Coptic saint, Simon the Tanner, also successfully came to the assistance of the Christians of Egypt who were threatened with death by the Sultan if they could not follow this passage of the Gospel literally.

Other examples of dominion can be found in the Old Testament and the lives of the saints: Joshua’s halting of the Jordan River and even the sun; the Prophet Elijah’s stopping of the rain; the assistance of a raven to St. Benedict; the friendship of the lion with St. Jerome and the wolf with St. Francis; St. Rose of Lima’s truce with the mosquitos and St. Martin de Porres’s with mice. The list could continue indefinitely.

What does this show us? The Gospel has power not only for salvation, but also for God’s glory in creation. God wants us to exercise dominion in healing and perfecting the world. He wants the Gospel to shine forth in all the world.

Continue reading at Catholic Exchange
15June

God of the Second Chance

Taken from Catholic Exchange
by Dr. Mark Giszczak

God of the Second Chance




















June 15, 2014

Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity

Exodus 34:4b-6, 8-9

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/061514.cfm

Sometimes we mess up. Hopefully, most of the time our errors are small, easily fixed, or even overlooked. But sometimes we mess up big, really big. The people of Israel found themselves in that kind of spot. They had seen God’s power deliver them Pharaoh and the Egyptians; they miraculously crossed the Red Sea; he appeared to them in thunder at Mt. Sinai, and yet they fail. They set up a false idol, the Golden Calf, and worship it at the base of the mountain while Moses is receiving the law from God. Oops.

Context

This Sunday’s Old Testament reading presents a scene right after God’s people have sinned against him by worshiping the Golden Calf. After that happens, Moses stalks down the mountain and smashes the two stone tablets of the law in anger. Then he intercedes before God on behalf of the people, and the Lord offers to renew the covenant and write on a new set of stone tablets. Here Moses brings two fresh tablets (clean slates!) before the Lord on Mt. Sinai and awaits a revelation.

The setting for the scene looks a lot like the giving of the Ten Commandments in Exodus 19—20, but here Moses encounters God alone. The people as a whole are not hearing his voice. Moses acts as covenant mediator. The Lord shows up in power, with the full force of his presence before Moses. The Lord repeatedly declares his holy name: YHWH.

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08June

Baptism by Fire

Taken from Catholic Exchange
by Dr. Mark Giszczak

Baptism by Fire













June 8, 2014

Pentecost

First Reading: Acts 2:1-11

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/060814-day-mass.cfm

When we hear Jesus encourage his disciples to go evangelize, often we get discouraged. We reflect on our weakness, our failures, our many unsuccessful attempts to proclaim the word. We fear being rejected, ignored, or persecuted. Sometimes our words fall on deaf ears. When we experience the power of God’s love and want to share it with others, our efforts are frequently frustrated. In today’s celebration of Pentecost, however, God offers us a reality far greater than our own attempts. He offers us the power of the Holy Spirit to proclaim his message of good news and invite others to share in the victory of Jesus.

Context

Pentecost was a Jewish feast before it became a Christian one. It was celebrated fifty days or seven weeks after the feast of Passover and was called the Feast of Weeks or Shavuot (Hebrew for “weeks”). Similarly, Christians celebrate Pentecost fifty days after Easter. The word “Pentecost” simply means “fiftieth.” The Jewish feast entailed special grain offerings and animal sacrifices tied to the grain harvest (Lev 23:15-22). The feast also came to commemorate the giving of the law at Mt. Sinai and Jewish men would come on pilgrimage to Jerusalem to celebrate the feast together. That is why Acts tells us that Jews from every nation had come to Jerusalem for the feast.

A Fiery Prayer Meeting

While Acts 2:1 only tells us that “all” were together in “one place,” we can extrapolate from 1:12-14 that the one place is the upper room and the people present are the apostles, the women disciples of Jesus, and Mary the mother of Jesus. Traditional icons of Pentecost show Mary in the middle of the apostles when the fire from heaven descends. The disciples encountered the Father in all their prayer and Scripture reading. They had come to know the Son as he walked the earth, but now they are visited by the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity. Previously, the Holy Spirit was manifested as a dove (Mark 1:10), but now he comes as a “rushing violent wind” (my translation) and as fire. The sign of wind matches the words for spirit in Hebrew (ruah) and Greek (pneuma), which can be translated as “breath, wind, or spirit.” Jesus even teaches that “the wind blows where it wills, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know whence it comes or whither it goes; so it is with every one who is born of the Spirit” (John 3:8). Wind is a deliciously approprite symbol for the Holy Spirit who empowers, impels, inspires, and yet cannot be restricted or captured.

The tongues of fire, which came to rest on the disciples, are the fulfillment of John the Baptist’s prophecy about Jesus, that he would “baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire” (Matt 3:11 RSV). Frequently, fire serves as a powerful metaphor for God’s working in the soul. Fire is strong, destructive, beautiful, terrifying, and mysterious. These connotations explain the description of God as a “devouring fire” (Deut 4:24) and his appearance to Moses in the burning bush story. Now, at Pentecost, God reveals himself in the sign of heavenly fire to pour out his power on his disciples so that they might become true witnesses to the ends of the earth.

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30May

Clinging to the Past & Stomaching Change

Taken from Catholic Exchange
by Dr. Mark Giszczak

Clinging to the Past & Stomaching Change


















June 1

The Ascension of the Lord

First Reading: Acts 1:1-11

http://usccb.org/bible/readings/060114-ascension.cfm

When things change, we often look back and wish that they wouldn’t have. Change, even good change, can be hard to stomach. Repetition, familiarity, and predictability make us feel comfortable. But Jesus does not want us limited to our “comfort zone.” Instead, he challenges us with an exciting, dynamic, yet change-prone mission: to proclaim his message to the ends of the earth.

Context

The first reading for this Sunday, the Feast of the Ascension, comes from the very beginning of the Book of Acts (1:1-11). The book is addressed to “Theophilus” (lover of God), as is the Gospel of Luke. Theophilus may be a historical person, perhaps a patron, the high priest named Theophilus, or a general title for any Christian. At this point in Luke’s narrative, Jesus has risen from the dead, appeared many times to his disciples, and now is returning to the Father. The scene unfolds at the Mount of Olives near Jerusalem. Jesus offers his last words to the apostles before leaving them.

Clinging to the Past

This reading gives us a taste of the apostles’ desperation to hang onto the past. Jesus’ number one instruction to them is, “Wait!” Clearly, this is not what they have in mind. Once Jesus departs, they will be tempted to go back to Galilee, forget about the whole Messiah thing, and settle back in to a life of fishing. It would be very easy for them not to wait, but to return to the past, to what is familiar and comfortable.

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28May

Pop Culture and the New Evangelization

Taken from Crisis Magazine
by Dr. R. Jared Staudt

Pop Culture and the New Evangelization


















What should we make of pop culture? It surrounds us and shapes us in many ways. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? Does it take us away from the Gospel or can it be used to advance the Gospel in the New Evangelization? Let’s look at cases for and against pop culture and then try to strike the right balance.

Cases against

Josef Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope-Emeritus Benedict XVI) very briefly treats pop music in his work, Spirit of the Liturgy: “On the one hand, there is pop music … aimed at the phenomenon of the masses, is industrially produced, and ultimately has to be described as a cult of the banal”(148). The cult of the banal would keep us trapped in the ordinary, flat, and boring aspects of life. It doesn’t move us beyond to an experience of the transcendentals – such as truth, beauty, and goodness. He also wrote, elsewhere, that Christian art “must oppose the cult of the ugly, which says that everything beautiful is a deception and only the representation of what is crude, low and vulgar is the truth, the true illumination of knowledge.” We cannot deny that the cult of the ugly has largely grown to dominate our culture and even the Church in some respects.

Roger Scruton, a British philosopher, in his book Modern Culture, also argues along these lines, insisting on the priority of high culture over the popular: “It is my view that the high culture of our civilization contains knowledge which is far more significant than anything that can be absorbed by the channels of popular communication” (2). Pop culture has descended from folk cultures into a “commercialized mish-mash” (3). Nonetheless, Scruton recognizes that pop culture still essentially helps cultivate our identity.

I have also written, elsewhere, questioning the extent to which pop music can be used for evangelization. Pop culture is largely banal, and much worse than that, it largely contains a damaging moral message. Rather than profound truth, goodness, and beauty, we largely find there ugliness and cacophony, made all the more so by its technological medium.

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27May

Do We Cower or Preach?

Taken from Catholic Exchange
by Dr. Mark Giszczak

Do We Cower or Preach?


















May 25, 2014

Sixth Sunday of Easter

First Reading: Acts 8:5-8, 14-17

http://usccb.org/bible/readings/052514.cfm

If one of your close friends was unjustly condemned and then stoned by a mob, would you feel like going on a mission trip to a nearby town? Philip the Deacon (or the Evangelist) surprises us by his audacity in the face of persecution. After St. Stephen’s martyrdom, rather than cowering, cowtowing, hiding or hightailing, he sets out to proclaim the Gospel boldly.

Historical Context

This Sunday’s first reading from Acts 8 immediately follows the death of Stephen at the hands of Saul’s mob. Persecution of such ferocity is designed to discourage whatever religious behavior it condemns, but Philip is undeterred. While he does not re-engage the Jerusalem Jews in an evangelistic dialogue, he goes to the “city of Samaria” to proclaim Jesus’ message. This city had been the ancient capital of the northern kingdom of Israel, and had become a city of some political importance in the Roman period, being renamed “Sebaste” by the emperor Augustus. The “city of Samaria” was the capital of the whole region also called Samaria—kind of like Oklahoma City being the capital of Oklahoma. The city is about 65 miles north of Jerusalem, so Philip might be headed there to avoid the knife-edge of persecution, but ends up attracting even more attention.

Fulfilling the Expanding Plan of Salvation

As the capital city, Samaria represents the whole region by the same name. What happens in the city, happens on behalf of the region. It also represents the Samaritan people, the remnants of the ten northern tribes who had been forced to intermarry with other nations. Philip’s decision to preach there is not random, but it is rooted in Jesus’ last words to the apostles recorded at the beginning of Acts: “…and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8 NAB). The ten tribes seemed to have been lost, but now Philip’s proclamation of the gospel in the Samaritan territory will make them the first to hear the gospel message besides the Jews. Philip’s preaching fulfills the words of Jesus, and the prophecies in the Old Testament which refer to bringing all the tribes back to the Lord in the land. The lost tribes have been found!

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21May

Why Dawson Opposed Our Bourgeois Mind

Taken from Crisis Magazine
by Dr. R. Jared Staudt

Why Dawson Opposed Our Bourgeois Mind

















“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon” (Mt 6:24).

This Gospel passage provides us with proper framework to evaluate Christopher Dawson’s controversial essay, “Catholicism and the Bourgeois Mind.” Dawson is not an economist and is not writing an economic treatise. As an historian of culture and ideas, he is criticizing a particular mindset or spirit which has fundamentally shaped and governed the modern world. Dawson’s central thesis throughout his corpus is that religion is the very heart of culture. He recognizes that today our heart is not religion, but rather wealth. The problem is not capitalist economics, but rather the mind or soul with which it is practiced and the lack of a genuine religious framework to guide it. For Dawson, the bourgeois soul worships wealth and earthly prosperity above God, and thus practices a new secular religion.

Dawson’s essay caused quite a stir when it was republished by Crisis in January 2012. In particular, Jeffrey Tucker and John Zmirak forcefully rejected Dawson’s claims, while Gerald Russello somewhat cautiously defended him. The debate has resurfaced recently as Zmirak has republished his article with a new title,“Christopher Dawson’s Economic Blindness,” with Dale Coulter responding on First Things (which I recommend reading alongside of this piece). I would like to respond to Tucker and Zmirak before offering my own defense of Dawson.

Jeffrey Tucker does not directly respond to Dawson’s claims. Rather, he attempts to justify bourgeois culture by appeal to two of its general effects, an argument which is subject to the fallacy of appeal to consequences. However, he offers no direct defense of the bourgeois mind that produced these effects, which, once again, is what Dawson attacks. Although we can recognize the desirability of sleeping in a comfortable bed and, of course, of a longer life expectancy (the two effects that Tucker emphasizes), we can still ask the question: “what will it profit a man, if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life?” (Matt 16:26).

If the bourgeois mind is bent on comfort and earthly prosperity above all else, we have to question its accomplishments. The problem is that the bourgeois mind makes the goods of the earth an end in themselves. Our life on earth, however, is a means to a greater end, our only final end, which is life everlasting. A short life expectancy in the midst of an impoverished, but happier and holier culture would certainly be preferable to a long life expectancy in the midst of a culture bent on self-satisfaction and spiritual destruction. The life of sanctity is rigorous, and as Dawson says, we have to “choose the difficult and hazardous way of creative spiritual activity, which is the way of the saints.”

Continue reading at Crisis Magazine
20May

Our Relationship with the Lord Entails That we Have a Faith That Remembers

Taken from The Catholic Servant, May 2014
By Professor Douglas Bushman

Our Relationship with the Lord Entails That we Have a Faith That Remembers

[Editor’s Note: This is the first article in a series written by Douglas Bushman.]

In the Old Covenant, God’s great lament is that His people are prone to spiritual amnesia. “My people have forgotten Me days without number.” (Jer. 2:32; see also Jer. 13:25; 18:15; Ez. 22:12; 23:35; Hos. 13:6). The sign of Israel’s forgetfulness is infidelity to the covenant. God’s analysis is that they disobey His commandments because they have forgotten the great works He performed in order to set them free from slavery in Egypt. Such forgetfulness is astounding to consider. The ten plagues, the parting of the sea and swallowing up of Pharaoh’s army, the pillar of fire, manna, water from the rock, and the bronze serpent—how could such wonders fade from a people’s memory? How could they forget that were it not for God’s intervention, they would still be slaves?

It all began in the Garden of Eden and the drama of man’s capacity to forget God and the great works that demonstrate His love. The evil one knows that as long as Adam and Eve remember the works of God’s love—all of creation, making them in His image, providing for all their needs in the garden, the graces of original justice—they will quite naturally obey His commandment. The key to obedience is the conviction that the God Who gives the commandment is a God of love.

Knowing this, the evil one distracts Eve from recalling all the evidence of God’s love. He does not ask her about God, at least not directly. Rather, his question is designed to focus her attention on the content of what God commanded. He accomplishes this by exaggerating the commandment: Did God say that you are not to eat any fruit from any of the trees? That would appear to be a contradiction, an absurdity unworthy of God. Why make trees with enticing fruit in the first place, only to forbid their being eaten? Eve’s mind is attentive to this, and she corrects the serpent. Of course, God would not act irrationally so as to prohibit all of the fruit; just this one fruit is prohibited.

She should have said: By attributing to Him something that is unworthy of His love and wisdom, you are impugning the God Who has proved His love for us. Since this commandment comes from Him, I know it is holy and just and good. (see Rom. 7:12) But this was not her response. It is already too late. She has forgotten God and all of His works, and at this precise moment the off-limits fruit becomes alluring in a way it never could so long as she kept in mind the works of God that prove His love and wisdom.

The same dynamic of forgetting occurs in the sins of King David. For him, the forbidden fruit is another man’s wife. His intense desire for her makes him forget, precisely at this moment, what he should remember. He should remember all that God had done for him by calling him to be king and by giving him victory over his enemies. As if he were providing the necessary inoculation prior to David’s sins, the prophet Nathan had spelled out the Lord’s great works on behalf of the king. (II Sam 7:8–16) Very significantly, after his sins, Nathan repeats these benefactions (II Sam. 12:7–8) in order to set up the haunting question: “Why have you despised the word of the LORD?” (II Sam. 12:9) David should have remembered all that the Lord had done for him, but he did not. And the result is that he sinned. David is like St. Peter, who could walk on water so long as he kept his eyes on the Lord, remembering His miracles and teachings. The moment he redirects his gaze, the moment he forgets the marvelous works of Jesus, he begins to sink. David, too, sank into sin because he failed to keep the eyes of his soul on the Lord by remembering all the Lord’s benefits. Perhaps the fruit of the great king’s conversion is the well-known verse: “Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits.” (Ps. 103:2) Truly, mature faith that does not fail to remember the Lord’s benefits is the key to victory over sin.

St. Thomas Aquinas confirms this biblical theology of forgetting that leads to sin when he teaches that every sin is accompanied by a certain kind of ignorance. He specifies that this ignorance is deliberate. That is to say that in every sin there is a decision not to attend to what one is both able to attend to and should attend to. In other words, the interior dynamic of sin entails a deliberate act of shutting out of one’s memory precisely the relevant truth that bears upon an action.

The examples of Eve and David, and St. Thomas’ analysis of the culpable forgetting that leads to sin, help us to see much we can learn by reflecting on the biblical theme of faith that remembers. The articles to follow in this series will build on this foundation by showing the wisdom of Moses about the necessity of remembering in faith, by showing that the Blessed Virgin Mary is the perfect model of the faith that remembers, and by reflecting on the significance of the Lord’s injunction to celebrate the Eucharist “in remembrance of Me.” (Lk. 22:19; I Cor. 11:24–25)

Douglas G. Bushman, S.T.L., is Professor of Theology at the Augustine Institute in Denver, Colorado, where he holds the Blessed John Paul II the Great Chair of Theology for the New Evangelization.

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
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