The more prosperous nations are obliged, to the extent they are able, to welcome the foreigner in search of the security and the means of livelihood which he cannot find in his country of origin. Public authorities should see to it that the natural right is respected that places a guest under the protection of those who receive him.
Political authorities, for the sake of the common good for which they are responsible, may make the exercise of the right to immigrate subject to various juridical conditions, especially with regard to the immigrants’ duties toward their country of adoption. Immigrants are obliged to respect with gratitude the material and spiritual heritage of the country that receives them, to obey its laws and to assist in carrying civic burdens.
Archive for the ‘Human Dignity’ Category
According to 2nd Vote, a consumer research app, the following corporations have all made direct contributions to Planned Parenthood—the group which sold and performed more than 327,000 abortions in our country last year:
It is not a sin for a person to use the products or services of these Planned Parenthood supporting companies (since the customer’s connection to abortions is so very indirect and remote.) However, it might do good for many of us to cease, wherever possible, giving these companies our business and to let them know our reason why. For example:
Dear Sir or Madam,
It has come to my attention that your company has given direct contributions to Planned Parenthood, a group that has killed millions of innocent human beings. Because of this, as far as possible, I will no longer be your customer and I will encourage others to do likewise. I urge your company to reconsider its support of Planned Parenthood.
[Links to each company’s feedback page are provided above.]
Finally, it should be noted that the largest single contributor to Planned Parenthood is not any of these companies, but our own government. In the 2013-2014 fiscal year, Planned Parenthood received $528.4 million in taxpayer-funded health service grants and reimbursements. Efforts to end this public funding of Planned Parenthood are also worthy of our support.
Source: The Daily Signal – “Meet the 38 Companies That Donate Directly to Planned Parenthood”
Readings: Ezekiel 2:8-3:4; Matthew 18:1-5, 10, 12-14
The Lord GOD said to me: “As for you, son of man, obey me when I speak to you: be not rebellious like this house of rebellion, but open your mouth and eat what I shall give you.” It was then I saw a hand stretched out to me, in which was a written scroll which he unrolled before me. It was covered with writing front and back, and written on it was: “Lamentation and wailing and woe!”
He said to me: “Son of man, eat what is before you; eat this scroll, then go, speak to the house of Israel.” So I opened my mouth and he gave me the scroll to eat. “Son of man,” he then said to me, “feed your belly and fill your stomach with this scroll I am giving you.” I ate it, and it was as sweet as honey in my mouth. He said: “Son of man, go now to the house of Israel, and speak my words to them.”
How can a message of “lamentation and wailing and woe” taste sweet in the prophet’s mouth? Ezekiel found the message sweet because it meant God was neither blind nor indifferent to the evils in his midst and that these evils, one way or another, would not continue forever. Either sincere conversion or painful events would soon check his people’s wickedness. This was the prophet’s consolation. Jesus says:
If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them goes astray, will he not leave the ninety-nine in the hills and go in search of the stray?
In the parable of the Lost Sheep, we focus on the lost sheep’s consolation while forgetting the ninety-nine’s desolation. The flock may fare just fine, but they will find the experience quite unsettling. Jesus tells us:
Whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me.
It is not the will of your heavenly Father that one of these little ones be lost.
For forty years, the people of our land have intentionally and legally ended the lives of roughly one million unborn children annually. What would the opposite of receiving Jesus look like, if not this? Jesus warns us:
See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father.
This represents a warning, because God’s angels are fearsome and righteous creatures. Let us earnestly pray for our country’s conversion to a culture of life. Yet we too share Ezekiel’s consolation, for one way or another, this evil in our midst will not go on forever.
Like the rains that come down from heaven to water the earth, so we are called to live lives of self-gift, fruitfulness, and peace. Jesus comes down from heaven to give us life, to free us from futility and slavery to corruption. But sometimes when Jesus preaches, people hear without understanding and the evil one steals away the seed of truth He sows. For others, worldly fear and the attraction of riches prevent Jesus’ word from bearing fruit. But when His word lands on a person of openness and discernment, it bears a great fruitfulness for that person and others.
What are teachings that we as Catholics have tended to hear but not understand, to glace at but never really examine. What are the teachings of Jesus Christ’s Church which we hardly hear with our ears and toward which we are most tempted to close our eyes? These are the issues about which clergy are most hesitant to preach. Nevertheless, Jesus wills that we hear these things with our ears, understand them with our hearts, and be converted, that He may heal us. Please pray now, for the grace of the Holy Spirit, that your heart may receptive to His word.
One area about which we hardly hear with our ears is the harm in sensual or romantic fantasizes.
For men, this temptation tends to be toward indecent images. For women, it tends towards things like romance novels. With these things, a person looks at another, or imagines being with another, without ever touching them, but that does not make sensual or romantic fantasies o.k. or harmless. Recall how Jesus said, “Everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
What is the harm in these things? Real love is only found and shared in the real world. Sensual or romantic escapism leaves behind those we are called to love. Compared to these fantasies, no real man or woman, no wife or husband, can possibly measure up. These fantasies can be addictive and they change the way we look at and relate to others in daily life.
If books, magazines, or movies tempt you in this way, throw them out. If the internet is the gateway to fantasy, place near the monitor a picture of someone you love. Commit yourself to loving the real people in your life, for that is the only place where real love is found.
Another topic about which we hardly hear is the harm of contraception.
In the beginning, upon creating the first man and woman, “God blessed them, saying: ‘Be fertile and multiply.’” To unite husband and wife in love, and to bless the world with new human life, God designed the one-flesh marital embrace. God created and wills this embrace for life as well as love. Contraception, however, separates life from love, to the harm of both. This must not be done for as Jesus said, in the context of marriage, “What God has joined together, no human being must separate.”
Forms of contraception are not new, they’re actually quite ancient. And from the start, the Catholic Church has recognized the wrongness of intentionally contracepted acts. In fact, as late as 1930, all Protestant groups agreed with Catholics on this principle (before they began to splinter off.) If the constant teaching of the Church of Jesus Christ is not persuasive enough, consider the fallout of contraception.
A contracepting couple closes off their marriage, their embrace, to life. Therefore, if they unexpectedly conceive a child, the little one is not felt to be a gift from God but a mistake. Whenever the surprise blessing of a child is considered to be a curse, love for that child is wounded, and even the unspeakable becomes tempting.
Contraception also threatens the love of couples. Pope Paul VI foresaw this danger, as he wrote in Humanae Vitae, “It is also to be feared that the man who grows accustomed to contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a woman, and, disregarding her physical and psychological equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires, and no longer as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection.” Contraception separates life and love to the harm of both.
What then does the Church ask couples to do; to have as many children as they physically possibly can? No—For serious physical, psychological, economic, or social reasons, a couple may limit their marital embraces to her cycle’s naturally infertile periods. This is called Natural Family Planning (or NFP) and its methods, when used as directed, are as effective as the pill. But unlike the pill, Natural Family Planning has no unhealthy side-effects, is not an abortifacient, and conforms with God’s will. Practicing NFP is fruitful within marriage, whether God blesses a couple with more children or not.
A third subject about which we do not hear is the harm of fornication, or partaking of the marital embrace without the covenant of marriage.
Body language speaks, and the message of the body in the marital embrace is one of total self-gift. It says, “I joyfully give myself to you, all of me, completely and forever.” Fornication, however, makes this language of the body a lie. Unless a relationship has been sealed, before God and the world, in the bond of marriage, either one of the couple can back out at any time, and the couple knows this. It’s always in the back of their minds. For this reason, these couples tend to repress anger and complaints, avoid facing problems in their relationship, and put off the hard questions about their future together.
The embrace of man and woman naturally forges strong emotional bonds between the couple. In marriage, that’s a good thing, but before a marriage this clouds judgment and can plaster over serious flaws, serious cracks, in a bad relationship, at least for awhile. And what if their embrace conceives a child they don’t think they’re ready for? The woman, to preserve the relationship, may be tempted or coerced toward an unspeakable choice she’ll always regret.
Cohabitating couples can slouch into marriage; sometimes the man doesn’t really choose marriage so much as finally give in to others’ expectations. Then, after their wedding, nothing really seems different from before, and psychologically, the assumptions of their dating relationship carry into the marriage. Once their wedding day (which wasn’t as special for them as it should have been) drifts further away into the past, and marital difficulties inevitably arise, the old idea, the old escape hatch of breaking up and moving out, naturally returns, increasing the risk of divorce.
Fornication and cohabitation expose a person to emotional and spiritual pains, decrease one’s chances of marrying the right person, and increase one’s chances of divorcing in the future. No matter where you are in your dating relationships, Jesus Christ calls you to pre-marital chastity, for true love is found in purity.
A final topic about which we hardly hear is the harmfulness in acting out according to one’s same-sex attractions.
As the Catechism of the Catholic Church notes, “The number of men and women who have deep-seated [tendencies of this kind] is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.”
It is important for all of us to remember that a temptation, whatever it is, by itself, is not sin. Unless we go out looking for temptation, we are not responsible for the temptations which our genetics, upbringing, or environment send our way. What important is how we respond to our temptations, whether we give in to them and fall, or if stand strong with God like His saints before us.
As a Christian, and a fellow sinner, it would be wrong for me to look down on anyone. God loves everyone like He loves me. But at the same time, it would not be loving for me as a follower of Jesus Christ to say that acting out on one’s same-sex attractions is o.k. or harmless. The Old and New Testaments and the constant teachings of Christ’s Church are clear.
People of the same sex may be friends, even the dearest of friends with each other, but they’re not meant to be lovers. Man and wife were made each other. Their masculine and feminine differences compliment and complete each other and husbands and wives, as mothers and fathers. This is seen physically, in their marital embrace and in the conception of new life; but also psychologically and spiritually as well, in faithful marriages that last a lifetime. Persons of the same sex do not have this complimentarity and to ignore truth this leads to suffering, for such relationships are unhealthy for one’s body or soul. The tragically higher rates of promiscuity, transmittable diseases and cancers, domestic violence, drug and alcohol abuse, depression, and attempted suicide, point to the brokenness of these lifestyles. (And one notes that these comparatively higher rates are found not only in our country, but also aboard, like in the Netherlands where such relationships are more common and much more socially accepted.) Jesus calls these brothers and sisters of His and ours to a different, better, happier way of life.
Regardless of our temptations, there is hope. Freedom from sin and joyful peace are possible for all of us, by the grace of Jesus Christ the support of one another. For example, Courage international is a Catholic organization which ministers to help those with same-sex attractions live chaste and happy lives. For more information about Courage groups in our area, or about how to enroll in Natural Family Planning classes see me after Mass or give me a call. If you are cohabitating and wish to return to chastity but you don’t know how you as a couple can practically achieve it, talk to me. God has solutions for those who seek His will. May the seeds of Jesus’ teachings find rich soil in your hearts and bear an abundant harvest for you and for others.
What is the most important and the most famous sentence ever coined in the English language? I believe it was a declarative sentence, of thirty-five words, published two hundred and thirty-five years ago today.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Like a passage of Sacred Scripture, this sentence from the Declaration of Independence was more profound, and would effect more providential good, than its human authors ever imagined.
In their original context, these words from the Declaration of Independence were written to justify the American colonies’ separation from the English crown. At that time, many people believed in the divine right of kings, that a monarch had been invested by God with supreme authority to rule. There was precedent for this in the Old Testament, where God chose Saul, David, Solomon, and others to rule His people as anointed kings. In declaring that “all men are created equal,” the Founding Fathers were rejecting the idea that some men are born royal while others are born common. They further asserted that God Himself endows every man with certain rights, and that any government which deprives men of these rights may be justly replaced by its people. In this way, the signers justified the American Revolution.
How much did the Founding Father reflect on how their words about the equality of all men applied to men of color, such as those enduring intergenerational slavery? How much did they consider what these God-given rights required for the female segment of mankind? I would say that these words, like a passage of Sacred Scripture, carried truths more profound than their human authors knew.
These were providential words, for they have been, and continue to be, instrumental in the work of advancing and defending the rights and dignity of all people, from conception to natural death, in our country and around the world. Wherever our nation has failed to embody these words, we look back with shame; but wherever we have honored human dignity, these represent our proudest moments. Martin Luther King Jr. called these words our nation’s creed, and like him we have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights….”
This Fourth of July, let us thank God for this great gift to our country. Let us praise God for endowing each one of us with dignity and rights which every person and every government must respect. And in the future, let us remember and remind our neighbors, that if our country allows government and men to become our gods, human dignity and human rights will be swiftly brushed aside. Like the Psalmist, may our country always say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress,my God, in whom I trust.”
The Blessed Virgin Mary may have been just 13 years old when the angel Gabriel announced to her that she would give birth to Jesus. She shows us that even if you are young, God can still do big things with you, if you say “Yes” to Him.
On May 13, 1917, three Portuguese children were praying the rosary after lunch in a field on a clear blue day. The eldest was Lucia, age 10, and she was with her cousins, Francisco and Jacinta, ages eight and seven. Suddenly, they saw two bright flashes. They looked up and saw “a lady, clothed in white, brighter than the sun…” The Lady smiled and said, “Do not be afraid, I will not harm you.” Lucia asked her where she came from. The Lady pointed to the sky and said, “I come from heaven.” Lucia asked what she wanted. The Lady said, “I have come to ask you to come here for six months on the 13th day of the month, at this same hour.”
On July 13, the incredibly beautiful Lady appeared again. Lucia asked her who she was, and for a miracle so everyone would believe. The Lady answered, “Continue to come here every month. In October, I will tell you who I am and what I want, and I will perform a miracle for all to see and believe.” Then she taught them this prayer: “Oh my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell. Lead all souls to Heaven, especially those in most need of Thy Mercy.”
At noon, on October 13, 1917, some 70,000 people were gathered in the field. With a flash of light, the Lady appeared to the children and declared, “I am the Lady of the Rosary.” Some spectators cried out and the crowd turned their eyes upward to the cloudless sky, and they gazed on the sun without the least discomfort. They saw it tremble and danced in a miraculous way.
Mary, Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta teach us this lesson: Even if you are young, God can do big things with you, if you say “Yes” to Him. Let us pray that we would be open to doing God’s will every day.
“During those days Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, ‘Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy.’” (Luke 1)
Imagine how St. Elizabeth must have felt to have Mary, Mother of God, walk in through her door. Elizabeth could not see the tiny Jesus, a fetus in Mary’s womb, but she was convinced that He was hidden there. How would you treat someone if you knew that Jesus was hidden inside of them?
Blessed Mother Theresa cared for the poorest of the poor in the streets of Calcutta, India. Despite years of strenuous physical, emotional and spiritual work, Mother Teresa seemed unstoppable. Though frail and bent, with numerous health problems, she always returned to her work, to those who received her compassionate care for more than 50 years. How did she do it? She could do it because she encountered her beloved Christ both in times of prayer and in the people she cared for. Mother Teresa remembered Jesus’ words, “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40) Mother Teresa loved others as if they were the Lord Himself.
Blessed Mother Teresa and St. Elizabeth teach us this lesson: Jesus is present in your classmates here at school, so you should always be welcoming and loving toward them. Let us pray for the grace to love others in this way.
In his youth, Francis had been quite rich, the son of a wealthy merchant, yet he sensed that there was more to life. He put his former life behind him and devoted himself to following Christ. One day, at Mass, the Gospel told of how Christ’s disciples were to possess neither gold nor silver, nor traveling items, but were to exhort sinners to repentance and announce the Kingdom of God. Francis took these words as if spoken directly to himself, and as soon as Mass was over he threw away what little he had and went forth at once, exhorting the people of the country-side to penance, brotherly love, and peace. He was poor, but clearly happy, and others were attracted to join his movement. By the time of his death, hundreds had joined his religious order. On October 3, 1226, St. Francis died a penniless, but happy man.
St. Francis of Assisi loved Christmas. In fact, one story tells of how he petitioned the Holy Roman Emperor to make an edict that grain and bread should be provided to birds, beasts, and the poor this day, so that all God’s creatures would have occasion to rejoice in the Lord. St. Francis also invented the Christmas tradition of making a model of the nativity scene. These nativity scenes, called Crèches, remind us that even though Christ was rich in Heaven, he became poor when he was born on earth in a barn. Yet, Jesus was a happy man, despite his poverty.
Jesus and St. Francis teach us this lesson: You do not need to be wealthy in order to be happy. Let us pray that we may be content and happy with the riches that we have.
In the year that Jesus was born, “there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout” and he longed to see the Messiah who would save God people. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would indeed see the Christ before he died and Simeon trusted and hoped in that promise.
One day, the Spirit inspired him to come into the temple. When he say Mary and Joseph carrying in the baby Jesus to offer a sacrifice for Him, Simeon “took him into his arms and blessed God, saying: ‘Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in sight of all the peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.’” (Luke 2)
What are the promises the Lord has made to us? Do we trust and hope in these promises? Simeon teaches us this lesson: That we ought to trust and hope in the Lord’s promises, for all of them will be fulfilled in the sight of all someday.
This is a true story, the story of a Catholic mother of three whose oldest son joined an anti-Catholic religious cult. It started him down a path of sinful pride and many sensual sins. It broke her heart and for years she prayed tearful prayers for his conversion.
She even asked the bishop to intervene in winning over her son. He counseled her to be patient, saying, “God’s time will come.” When she persisted in asking, the bishop (perhaps busy with many other things) famously reassured her: “Go now, I beg you; it is impossible that the son of so many tears should perish.”
That mother was St. Monica, and that son of hers, who was lost and found, was the great St. Augustine. Sts. Monica and Augustine teach us this lesson: that your persistent prayer can help people to find Christ. Let us pray for someone that we know, that he or she may be drawn closer to Jesus Christ.
In relating to God (especially in prayer) it is important to know who and what we are. In short, each one of us is Loved, Limited, Sinful, and Good. These are four truths of our human nature.
1st Truth: You are Loved
The Denial: “God doesn’t love me.”
This Denial’s Consequences: Sadness, Anxiety, Resentment
The Truth: God created you in love and holds you in love. Jesus loves you, and Mary, angels, and saints (on earth and in heaven) love you, too.
The Fruit of Living in this Truth: Peace, Trust, Love
[Lord,] you love all things that are and loathe nothing that you have made; for what you hated, you would not have fashioned. And how could a thing remain, unless you willed it; or be preserved, had it not been called forth by you? But you spare all things, because they are yours, O LORD and lover of souls, for your imperishable spirit is in all things! (Wisdom 11:24-12:1)
God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us. (Romans 5:9)
This is my commandment: love one another as I love you. (John 15:12)
2nd Truth: You are Limited
The Denial: “I don’t need God. I can do anything, if I just believe in myself.”
This Denial’s Consequences: Pride, Frustration, Folly
The Truth: You are, and will always be, God’s limited, finite, and dependent creature.
The Fruit of Living in this Truth: Humility, Patience, Communion
When I see the heavens, the work of your hands, the moon and the stars which you arranged, what are we that you should keep us in mind, mortal man that you care for him? (Psalm 8:4-5)
If the Lord does not build the house, in vain do its builders labor; if the Lord does not watch over the city, in vain does the watchman keep vigil. In vain is your earlier rising, your going later to rest, you who toil for the bread you eat: when he pours gifts on his beloved while they slumber. (Psalm 127:1-2)
I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing. (John 15:5)
3rd Truth: You are Sinful
The Denial: “I don’t have any real sins.”
This Denial’s Consequences: Impenitence, Corruption, Sin
The Truth: Even after baptism, concupiscence remains, inclining you to sin.
The Fruit of Living in this Truth: Contrition, Conversion, Sanctification
No one is good but God alone. (Mark 10:18)
…All have sinned and are deprived of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23)
If we say, “We are without sin,” we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we acknowledge our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from every wrongdoing. If we say, “We have not sinned,” we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. (1 John 5:8-10)
4th Truth: You are Good
The Denial: “I’m worthless.”
This Consequence: Sadness, Shame, Despair
The Truth: Your human nature remains good, despite wounds and weakness.
The Fruit of Living in this Truth: Joy, Hope, Fruitfulness
Then God said: “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. … God looked at everything he had made, and he found it very good.” (Genesis 1:26,31)
[The Gentiles] show that the demands of the law are written in their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even defend them on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge people’s hidden works through Christ Jesus. (Romans 2:14-16)
Finally, some true and helpful things to remember about God’s attitude towards you:
- God not only loves you, He likes you, too.
- God works all things for the good of those who love him (Romans 8:28); including every evil that befalls you and your own past sins.
- God is easily pleased, and hard to satisfy.
You may recall my mention of one of my favorite professors at seminary, Dr. Perry Cahall. And I remember him telling us one day in class, “If, someday when you’re a priest, I hear that you got into the pulpit on Trinity Sunday and tell the people, ‘You know, the Trinity is a mystery, and so there’s really nothing we can know or say about it…’ I will hunt you down like the dogs you are.” This is my first homily on Trinity Sunday, and I’m going to make sure I give Dr. Cahall no reason to come after me.
The Trinity is a mystery, but that doesn’t men we know nothing or can say nothing about this central mystery of our Faith. In Catholic theology, a “mystery” is not something which is unknowable to us, it is just something which our human reason could not have discovered on its own.
Imagine if you came upon a sophisticated and well-written mystery novel. It’s so good that you can’t put it down. But as you get towards the end, you discover that the last couple chapters of the book are missing. You noticed some clues as the story unfolded, but without those last pages you can’t figure out the identity of the one “who did it.” You might try to find the ending in another copy of the book, but what if no other copies existed and no one had ever read the ending before? Your only hope would be to speak with the author. The author could tell you the rest of the story. The author could unveil the mystery for you and reveal the identity of the one “who did it.” Like that in sophisticated mystery novel, our God has placed clues throughout creation and His Old Testament interactions with His People. Yet, it was not until the coming of Jesus that the “who done it” was plainly revealed: God, the Author of the universe, is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Today I would like to talk about some common questions people have about the Trinity. For instance, how is God both one and three, and then what difference does the Trinity make?
Some people have trouble with the concept of the Trinity because they think it is the claim that “one equals three” in God. However, this is not what we believe about the Trinity. The number one does not equal the number three, not in God or anywhere else, and not even the omnipotent power of God can make a logical contradiction true.
We believe one God, comprised of three divine persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. God is one What, as three Who’s. There is one divine nature, but three divine knowers, three divine willers, and three divine actors. We do not believe in three anonymous forces, but three loving persons. There is no God apart from or beyond these three persons.
Now the Father is not Jesus Christ. Jesus is not the Holy Spirit. And the Spirit is not our Father. They are distinct persons. Yet, at the same time, each possesses the fullness of the divinity: perfect goodness, infinite beauty, perfect knowledge, infinite power, perfect mercy, and infinite love. We do not worship three gods, but three eternal persons who comprise one God.
The belief in the oneness of God was firmly instilled into the Jewish people. This conviction helped to keep Israel from falling into the worship of false gods and experiencing all of the evils that brings. For instance, Israel’s Canaanite neighbors were idolaters, who worshiped mere objects as gods that could make them happy. They practiced child sacrifice, killing their own children in hopes of receiving greater blessings in this life from the gods. And they had temple prostitution, in which promiscuous sexuality was as hailed as sacred.
Notice how our society has become more and more like those pagans as it has drifted from belief in the one true God. Our worship of objects which we think can make us happy is called materialism, or consumerism. Our human sacrifice, done in hopes of greater blessings in this life, is called abortion. And some have raised up sexual promiscuity as the way of greatest freedom and happiness.
The Jews were spared all of these evils so long as they clung to their conviction that “All gods are not the same, and we are to worship only one.” The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Even to this day, observant Jews pray a prayer twice daily called the “Shema Yisrael,” from a passage in Deuteronomy:
“Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! Therefore, you shall love the LORD, your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength.”
Jews remain Jews today because they do not believe that Jesus is the promised messiah, or the Christ, the one for whom they have been waiting. Sometimes they criticize Christians saying we are not really monotheists, but polytheists, who believe in three gods: “The LORD is our God, the LORD is one!”
Yet, revealingly, the word that God inspired in this Old Testament passage (“The Lord is one”) is not one of the words in Hebrew which always means numerical and solitary oneness (such as “yachid” or “bad”.) Instead, the Holy Spirit selected a word which usually means a unified oneness: “echad.” This word (“echad”) is the same word used in Genesis, where God says of man and woman, “the two shall become one flesh.” In their union, the persons are as one being. And recall, God had said, “Let us make man in our image , after our likeness. …[And] God created man in his image; in the divine image he created him; male and female he created them.” When husband and wife become a unified one, as one couple, in time, they are in the image and likeness of the Father, Son, and Spirit, who have are a unified one, as one God, eternally.
So what difference does the reality of the Trinity make for our lives? The Trinity shows us that God is not a solitary individual, isolated and alone. God is a loving communion of persons. This is the reality we come from, and this is the reality we are called to, in this life and the next.
In our post-modern age, some people talk about “the meaning of life” as if it were some kind of joke, or an unsolvable mystery beyond our capacity to discover or know. But we Christians believe we know the meaning of life, for it has been revealed to us. The meaning of life is the loving communion of persons. The loving communion of persons is what gives our lives meaning and it will be our primary delight forever in Heaven. Love is the reality we come from, and the reality we are called to.
‘Hear, O Church of God! The LORD is our God, the LORD is a unified one! Therefore, you shall love the LORD, your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength.’ Love the Lord your God, who is Father, Son, and Spirit, and become like the God you love.
Simeon’s eyes looked upon a baby and foresaw our salvation in Him. When we look back today, at the centuries past, we can see that Jesus Christ has indeed been a light for all the nations.
Even if one were to look at Jesus of Nazareth without the eyes of faith, any fair assessment of history must name Him and the Church that He founded as the greatest cause for good in human history. Jesus Christ came and was the light for a darkened world.
For example, in the ancient world, women’s status ranked near that of slaves, but Jesus showed a reverence towards all women, even intimately involving them in His ministry. Christianity noted His example and began to acknowledge women’s dignity and equality as persons.
While the ancient world wielded total dominance over slaves, Christianity professed slaves’ equality as persons before Christ. (In fact, several early popes were former slaves themselves.) Christianity told masters that they would be held accountable at the Judgment for the good or bad treatment of their slaves, for Jesus had said, “Whatever you do to the least of my brothers you do to me.” The abolishment of slavery came gradually, but it finally came as the result of Christians’ efforts in light of Christ.
Infanticide was common in the ancient world. Sometimes the unwanted little one was physically disabled, or female, or merely inconvenient. But Jesus treasured all children, and He said, “Whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me.” So Christianity renounced infanticide and would later establish orphanages and promote child adoption.
Jesus showed concern for sick persons and healed them. Jesus also feed hungry crowds. So Christianity has established hospitals and soup kitchens. Today, as throughout the centuries, the Catholic Church is the largest charitable organization on earth.
An eye for an eye was the ancient law, and hating one’s enemies comes naturally, but Jesus did not seek revenge. Jesus said, “Love your enemies,” and He prayed for His enemies from the cross. Many Christians have followed His example, promoting peace and reconciliation.
Jesus taught his wisdom to great crowds of men and women, the poor and rich, the young and old, so Christianity established schools and universities. Today the Catholic Church educates more children than any other scholarly or religious institution and you are a part of this number.
Our Marshfield area Catholic schools exist today because of Jesus Christ, the greatest person who has ever lived. The public schools have Jesus to thank for their schools, too, but they are not allowed to speak His name. But we can speak His name, and we can thank Him like Simeon here today, for coming into our darkened world and shining His saving light.
Persons are always a mystery to each other. You could be lifelong friends with someone, and never exhaust their mystery. Husbands and wives can be married for fifty or sixty and still surprise each other. Persons are always remain a mystery because our thoughts and minds, our motives and hearts, are hidden from each other. Realizing this, we should be very careful about the conclusions we arrive at about others.
Eli [the priest,] thinking her drunk, said to her, “How long will you make a drunken show of yourself? Sober up from your wine!”
She is pouring out her heart as a saint before him, but Eli thinks she is a drunk. (This is not one of the greatest moments in history for priestly pastoral ministry.) It’s wrong to get drunk, and it would be o.k. for Eli to tell her so if she were, but she’s not. Eli doesn’t understand her. He doesn’t even understand what’s happening right in front of him. Oftentimes, we’re just like Him. Another example of arriving at false conclusions in seen in the Gospel:
In their synagogue was a man with an unclean spirit; he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us?
The demon doesn’t understand Jesus’ motives. The demon looks at things in terms of power, control, and domination, not love. The demon thinks that no one can be better than himself. Thus, Jesus is a threat that must be knocked down.
It’s not our style to accuse and criticize people so directly. We’re too timid for that. When someone commits a fault or offense, how likely are we to go to them face to face about it? How much more likely are we to complain to someone else about it out of their presence?
What’s wrong with speaking negatively about others? For starters, what we think we know is often false, like we saw with Eli. And even if the report is true we judge uncharitably, like the demon. Speaking negatively about others is also unhelpful. Jesus says in the Gospel. “If your brother sins against you, go to him in private.” This can clear up many misunderstandings and result in a solution. Instead, we may talk to everyone in the world about our burden besides the one person we actually need to. Finally, speaking negatively about others, even in private, wounds unity. Even if your criticisms never find their way back to the person which they are about, harm is still done. The person you are speaking with will wonder to themselves, “Does this person talk about me behind my back to others? How small of a fault on my part would that take?”
At times you will be misunderstood and people will speak ill of you, especially if you are faithful in following Jesus Christ. But as for your part, never speak a bad word about anyone, unless it is really necessary. Live in this way and people will respect & love you for it. People will notice, as they did with Jesus, and say, “This person does not speak like the others. They speak like Jesus Christ.”
When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, she cried out in a loud voice and said, “How does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” Who am I that the Lord would come to me? Who are we that the Lord God would become one of us?
Lord, in the words of the psalm, when we see the heavens, the work of your hands, the moon and the stars which you arranged, what is mankind that you should keep us in mind, mortal man that you care for us? Yet you have made us little less than gods; with glory and honor you crowned us when, for us men and for our salvation, your Son came down from heaven, and by the power of the Holy Spirit He was born of the Virgin Mary and became man.
We tend to think of the idea of God becoming a human being as the most natural thing in the world, but the event of the divine and eternal Second Person of the Trinity taking on human flesh (what we call the Incarnation) is probably the most remarkable thing that has ever happened; even more remarkable than our creation or redemption. That is why we bow profoundly when we recall the wonder of the Incarnation in our profession of faith each Sunday. “For us men and for our salvation, He came down from heaven. By the power of the Holy Spirit, He was born of the Virgin Mary, and became man.”
Who are we that the Lord God would become one of us? Who am I that the Lord would come to me? Who we are and why Christ came to us can be summed up in this: we are sinful, limited, loved and good. This sums up human nature in four words. We are sinful, we are limited, we are loved by Him and we are good.
We need Christ as our savior because we are sinful. Even though we know what is right we freely and frequently choose what is wrong. Our sin hurts us, one another, and our relationship with God. He has come for us because we cannot save ourselves.
We are limited, finite creatures. We can forget this or deny this, but it only leads to our own frustration and failure. We are not God, and God doesn’t expect us to be—that’s His job. We must remember that we are limited, in need of His help and help from one another.
When are we are human beings most fully alive? Not as isolated loaners, but in communion with others. Even the hermit in his desert hut needs spiritual communion with the Lord and His Church if he is to be a complete and happy person. Remember the Unabomber? He lived in a remote shack too, but without this essential communion with God and neighbor.
Though we are sinful and limited, we are also loved and good; for God has lovingly made us good, in own His image and likeness. When we prefer ourselves to God, denying our dependence on Him and scorning Him by our sins, this goodness may be wounded and obscured, but it is never abolished. Jesus Christ always sees this good in us, and He always loves us for it. He loves you for who you are now and for the person He knows that you can become with His help. You are sinful and limited, but never forget, that no matter what, you are loved by Him and good.
We are sinful, limited, loved and good. Knowing this makes us Christians the salt of the earth and shows us how to pray. In fact, the word “salt,” S-A-L-T, sums up the four varieties of Christian prayer: Sorrow, Asking, Loving, and Thanks
We pray in sorrow for our sins.
We pray in asking for our needs.
We pray in love for God loves us.
And we pray in thanks for all He gives us.
I am sinful, so I say “I’m sorry”
I am limited, so I say, “Please.”
I am loved, so I say, “I love you.”
And I am good, and richly blessed, so I say, “Thank you.”
Who are we that the Lord God would become one of us? Who am I that the Lord would come to me? We are sinful, limited, loved and good. So let us prayerfully prepare for the imminent coming of the Lord, Jesus Christ, our God made flesh this Christmas, with sorrow, asking, love, and thanks.
There are many things wrong with our society and the world, but how are we to go about changing them? One approach was presented by a fellow named Saul Alinsky. He, and his highly-influential 1971 book entitled Rules for Radicals: A Practical Primer for Realistic Radicals, have been popping up a lot lately. Reading his list of 11 rules you can see how they are widely used in politics & culture today.
The dedication of the book reads like this: “Lest we forget at least an over-the-shoulder acknowledgment to the very first radical: from all our legends, mythology, and history (and who is to know where mythology leaves off and history begins — or which is which), the first radical known to man who rebelled against the establishment and did it so effectively that he at least won his own kingdom — Lucifer.”
I doubt Alinsky believed in the devil at all. He probably wrote that because it was a clever and effective attention-grabber for his book. But the book’s dedication was truer than he realized. The book recalls the first rebel’s rejection of the kingdom of God and then goes on to explicate rules which often reject the approaches embodied and advocated by Christ, whose approaches the world often considers too impotent to defeat evil in the world.
The tactics this book advocates are often the same used by demons in spiritual warfare against us—a war fought on the battlefields of our hearts and minds, for the defense or the capture our souls.
Consider, for example, “Rules for Radicals #1: Power is not only what you have, but what an opponent thinks you have. If your organization is small, hide your numbers in the dark and raise a din that will make everyone think you have many more people than you do.” And, “Rule 9: The threat is more terrifying than the thing itself.” Demons fight us most effectively when they deceive us into imagining they are more powerful than they are. In fact, the only real weapon they have against us is to play on our fears, for we protected against demons in Christ.
Rules for Radicals # 4: “Make opponents live up to their own book of rules.” Alinsky writes, “You can kill them with this, for they can no more obey their own rules than the Christian church can live up to Christianity.” In following this rule, one follows the example of the Great accuser, the devil, who (as the book of Revelation says) night and day accuses us before God for sins. Alinsky’s charge against Christians, that the Christian Church cannot live up to Christianity, blends the truth and lies, just like the words of the demons when they speak to our thoughts.
The truth is that we are God’s servants, that we care deeply about Christ’s teachings, and that all of us commit sins, sins that we would say we truly oppose. But, like the psalmist, we pray for God to cleanse us from even our unknown faults. And from wanton sin especially, we sincerely ask the Lord to restrain us; to not let it rule us, so that we may be blameless and innocent of serious sin. Even though we do not yet follow Christ perfectly, we are truly made better people, more Christ-like, through our relationship with Him.
Yet demons want us to convince us we’re all hypocrites. They want to make us silent, out of shame for our sins, about what is right and what is wrong. They would even cause us to give up on trying to live-out lives of perfect love. Though we are sinners, we trust in God’s mercy and love. Jesus was always merciful toward sinners who acknowledged their guilt and He enabled them to become more perfect through a relationship with Himself.
Rules for Radicals #11: “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, polarize it. Don’t try to attack abstract corporations or bureaucracies. Identify a responsible individual. Ignore attempts to shift or spread the blame.” Alinsky writes, “One acts decisively only in the conviction that all the angels are on one side and all the devils on the other.” You’ve seen this polarizing tactic employed through the media, and you see it all the time. It’s called the politics of personal destruction.
It is the demonizing of individuals who we don’t agree with. Christians must not be indifferent to wrongs wherever they are committed, but when it comes to persons, what Christians seek and pray for is the conversion of sinners, not their destruction. “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.”
Do tactics like those which Saul Alinsky laid out actually work at effecting change? The answer is both Yes and No. Lots of influential people use them because they make lots of noise and heat and angry waves; they can end people’s careers, and they can extort institutions into making concessions. The power of these tactics makes them a strong temptation. But temptations they remain, for they do not have the power to bring about the kingdom of God.
Is the Church interested in social change? The Church is very much interested in social change, just like Jesus was, but we follow the way of His example. Allow me to present another influential writer of the 20th century, as an example, someone who was interested in radical social change of the Christian sort: Pope John Paul the Great. He is rightly called “the Great” for he must be counted among the greatest men of the last century.
Consider how he opposed the great evils and injustices of the communist empire. John Paul did not deal in deceptions. He spoke the truth, because he believed that the truth is powerful enough to set us free. He cared deeply and passionately about the grave injustices being committed, but he never seemed hateful because he was driven by true Christian love. He taught that some actions are wrong, even unspeakably wrong, but that all persons are worthy of love, and he radiated this love of God for all to see through his smile. His focus was not in personal attacks, but in speaking the truth to the human consciences. He insisted that all people should be given the recognition of the dignity and the rights they have from God: to live, and live freely, to speak the truth, and live the truth.
This is what he did, and the communist dictators literally trembled before him. When the communist leader of Poland welcomed the pope to his homeland in a speech at the airport broadcast on state-controlled TV, the dictator’s voice, and the paper he held in his hand, both quivered. The pope was so powerful against them, simply with the message and example of Christ, that the communists tried to kill him in St. Peter’s square, but the Pope miraculously survived the bullets, and forgave his would-be assassin.
By the mercy and the power of God, and in no small part through the words, deeds, and prayers of Pope John Paul the Great, the Soviet empire, which did so many evils for the sake of a utopia that never came to be, that empire ended; not with the fire of a thousand nuclear blasts, but with a harmless dying gasp. It was miracle, a peaceful victory for Christ and the Kingdom of God.
There are many things wrong with our society and the world, but how are we to go about changing them? Pope Paul VI said, “If you want peace, work for justice.” It’s good to work for justice, and we must work for justice, but we must remember this: true justice comes through the way of peace, the way embodied by our Lord, Jesus Christ. So whose example will we be dedicated to as we work for change in the world; that of Lucifer or that of Jesus Christ?