Archive for the ‘Adam and Eve’ Category

“I Believe in God”

February 20, 2021

1st Sunday of Lent

“I believe in God,
  the Father almighty,
  creator of heaven and earth.
  I believe in Jesus Christ,
  his only Son, our Lord.”

Thus begins the Apostles’ Creed, the earliest known Christian creed. Like the later Nicene Creed, it opens with a statement: “I believe” which in Latin is “Credo,” and from this the Church’s authoritative summaries of our Christian Faith are called creeds. The Apostles’ Creed is so named because it is rightly considered a faithful profession of the Faith the apostles believed and preached. Since our return to public Masses, we have been proclaiming the Apostles’ Creed together on Sundays and solemnities. For this season of Lent, I am going to do something I have never tried before. Beginning this Sunday and continuing through the 5th Sunday of Lent, I will be preaching a homily series on the Apostles’ Creed. Week by week, we will unpack this, “the oldest Roman catechism,” and explore its meaning and implications for us. The Apostles Creed begins, as all things began, with God.

I believe in God. The whole creed speaks of God, and when it also speaks of man and of this world it does so in relation to God. Each passage in the creed tells us more about him, much like how God has progressively revealed himself to us, who he is and what he is like, more and more throughout salvation history. Who is God? God is the fullness of Being and of every perfection. God is without beginning and without end. God is Truth who cannot lie. The beginning of sin and of man’s fall was due to a lie of the tempter who sowed doubt concerning God’s word, faithfulness, and love. God is love. God’s very being is love. By sending his only Son and the Spirit of love in the fullness of time, God has revealed his innermost secret: God is an eternal exchange of love between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. They call us to share in their personal communion of love now and forever, but the choice whether to respond is ours.

I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth. God the Father is the Father of all. He is the origin of everything, of the Holy Trinity in eternity and of all Creation in history. The Father fashions the material universe and the spiritual realms distinct from and outside of himself, and by his gift he creates new life inside of them, including the angels and us. God the Father is transcendent authority, perfectly just, while providing good things and loving care for all his children.

The story of Noah’s Ark and the Great Flood from the Book of Genesis communicates important truths. God is our Creator with sovereignty over all he has made. He is holy and hates sin in his creatures. God’s Great Flood aims to wash away sin from the face of the earth and then begin anew through a new covenant with Noah. Yet the consequences of the Fall were neither cured nor cleansed; Noah and his household carried sin with them onto the ark and humanity’s waywardness continued after they disembarked.

This represents a cautionary tale for us against a common human error or misconception about how evil might be cancelled or conquered in this world. In 1945, the Russian writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was sentenced to a Soviet forced labor camp for his criticism of communist tyranny. After his release he went on to write his most famous work, “The Gulag Archipelago.” In it, the Christian Solzhenitsyn shares this true insight:

“If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”

We can and should work for change in this world, but advocacy for changing evils “out there” will prove ultimately futile without accompanying spiritual change within us. But how are we to accomplish this most difficult transformation inside our own hearts? Human history and our personal experience show we cannot achieve this on our own, so how shall we be saved?

I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord. On the cusp of his fruitful public ministry,

“The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert,
  and he remained in the desert for forty days,
  tempted by Satan. He was among wild beasts…”

After the Fall of man, the garden paradise is replaced by a desert. The animals, formerly tame in the Garden of Eden, have become wild in our fractured world. Humanity now had a great debt with God it could not pay, a vast chasm between him and us we could not cross. The first Adam died unatoned, but a new Adam has come. The Eternal Son of God entered time and space and became human to reconcile God and man and establish a new covenant between us. Jesus comes to undo the Fall, dwelling in the desert among the wild beasts, to be tempted by the ancient serpent, the devil. Jesus comes to reclaim the crown that Adam had lost. Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, would be the Lord of all. He comes and proclaims:

“This is the time of fulfillment.
  The Kingdom of God is at hand.
  Repent, and believe in the gospel.”

During these forty desert days of Lent, Jesus invites you to approach him, asking his forgiveness in the Sacrament of Confession. He invites you dwell with him, spend time with him, encountering him through daily prayer and the Holy Eucharist. Jesus would accompany and strengthen you in your earnest battles against temptation, growing you in his virtues. And he would perfect your love, forming you in his likeness, preparing you for more fruitful works on earth and for the supreme, communal joy of Heaven. Now is the time for Confession, for prayer, for the Mass, growth in virtue, and growth in love.

The Holy Spirit would lead you out to Jesus during this desert retreat of Lent. And everything Jesus does for you, everything he does within you, is to lead you back to God our Father. I believe and proclaim that this is the Father’s will for you. Yet, despite all of almighty God’s infinite, omnipotent power, only you can freely choose whether to answer him with your “Yes.”

When Demons Speak

January 31, 2021

4th Sunday in Ordinary Time

“The Devil Tempting a Young Woman” by André Jacques Victor Orsel, 1832.

Eve in the Garden of Eden, Jesus in the synagogue at Capernaum, and St. Paul on the roads of Greece each encountered demons speaking. The words of these rebellious, fallen angels are dangerous because they cleverly combine facts and falsehoods to mislead us toward sin and division. Jesus called the demonic warlord, Satan, the Devil, “a murderer from the beginning… a liar and the father of lies,” and the Book of Revelation identifies him as “the ancient serpent… who deceived the whole world.

Satan was the serpent who approached Eve and asked, “Did God really say, ‘You shall not eat from any of the trees in the garden’?” The woman answered the serpent: “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; it is only about the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden that God said, ‘You shall not eat it or even touch it, or else you will die.’” But the serpent said to the woman: “You certainly will not die! God knows well that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods who know good and evil.

The tree’s attractive fruit looked useful for nourishment and wisdom, so Eve took and ate it; and she gave some to her husband who was with her, and Adam ate it too. It’s true that they did not die in that instant and they did gain new insights into evil and its absence, but by this act of mistrust and disobedience toward God the grace and harmony of original holiness died within them. Adam and Eve were now separated from God, divided from each other, and doomed to suffer and someday die. The devil’s half-truths led them to this.

Another demon was inside of a man at the synagogue in Capernaum as Jesus taught there in today’s gospel. The unclean spirit cried out through the man in front of everyone, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are – the Holy One of God!” It’s true that Jesus is indeed the “Holy One of God,” but what effect could hearing the demon’s other words have on the townspeople? “What have you to do with us… Have you come to destroy us?” The demon insinuates that Jesus is there to condemn and destroy, that all sinners should fear God’s Holy One and flee or fight the Christ who has come to save them. Jesus rebuked the demon, saying, “Quiet! Come out of him!” The unclean spirit could not resist Jesus’ command, and after a convulsion and a loud cry the man was freed. Demons are untrustworthy spokesmen to proclaim Christ and his gospel.

About twenty years later, while St. Paul was doing missionary work in Greece, he and his companions met a slave girl who had a demon. The demon would pronounce oracles through her, generating large profits for her owners. (Demons reportedly do not know the future, but using their very high intelligence and powers of observation they can make keen guesses.) The girl began to follow Paul and his companions, shouting: “These people are slaves of the Most High God, who proclaim to you a way of salvation!” She did this for many days and Paul became annoyed. He turned and said to the demon, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And the demon left her at that moment.

So what was wrong with what the demon was saying through the girl? In addition to yelling the message at inappropriate times, it contained a subtle, fatal flaw which – if uncorrected – could undermine the saving work that Paul was doing: “These people are slaves of the Most High God, who proclaim to you a way of salvation.” If the Good News of Jesus Christ were merely a way of salvation, then you could take him or leave him, and opt instead to choose some other saving path. But as St. Peter preached, “There is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved.

As it was in the beginning and in the days of Jesus and his apostles, demons are still in our world today. Your baptism into Christ gives you great personal protection against them. You belong to Christ, so you should not be afraid, but I want you to be aware that the demons continue sowing seeds of sin and division in our time. Where are the demons active today? Where do we see the most harmful confusions and divisions? In so many teachings of our Catholic Faith the truth is a “both/and,” while the demonic errors and divisions of our time stem from false “either/or’s” and half-truths.

The demons either say that you need not change at all because you are loved by God, or that God will not love you until you become perfect. The truth is that you are loved by God as you are and called to repent and grow. The demons either tell you that God does not desire your happiness, or that you are entitled to avoid all suffering. The truth is God wills your greatest happiness and because of this he will lead you through trials. In this world, the demons encourage us to condemn one political party or politician and ignore the faults of the other, when the truth is both are flawed.

The demons don’t want you to see and promote full truths: that pregnant women need to be helped and unborn children must be protected; that immigrants should be welcomed and the rule of law should be respected; that all people are made for love, for intimacy with others, and sexual relations are meant only for holy matrimony; that there exists a God-given right to private property and a moral obligation to share with the needy; that we should live freely and use our freedom to honor God while safeguarding the good of others. Other examples are abundant around us.

Where there’s smoke there’s fire, and where truths are widely twisted and truncated demons have been at work with their old half-truth tricks. So do not conform to the demon-fueled factionalism of this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind in the teachings of Jesus Christ and his Holy Catholic Church, that you may know and do the complete will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.

The New Eve

December 8, 2020

Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception

Eve was the first woman. God created her like Adam, a finite but flawless and sinless creature, destined to become the biological mother of the entire human race. But then an angel, a fallen angel, Satan in the form of a snake, visited her to suggest that she should disobey God’s will. Eve said yes to sin, and then Adam joined her, and through them the whole human race fell.

Their grave sin caused Adam and Eve to lose paradise, but their futures were not without hope, for God spoke in their hearing a prophesy toward that wicked, deceiving serpent, the devil. God declared, “I will put enmity (that is, I will put hostility) between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will strike at your head, while you strike at his heel.” Who is this offspring, this descendant, this son, who strikes back at the devil? It’s Jesus Christ who defeats the devil by dying on the Cross. Adam sinned, causing us to die. But St. Paul calls Jesus the second Adam, the new Adam, who obeys God and does not sin so that we may live forever.

If Jesus is the new and second Adam, then who is the new and second Eve? Who is the woman whom the devil hates most; the mother whose offspring crushes the serpent’s head; a woman created by God as a flawless, sinless creature? This New Eve was visited by angel too, a holy archangel named Gabriel, to ask that she would accept God’s will. And the Blessed Virgin Mary answered, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” The New Eve’s obedience was later echoed by the New Adam. In the Garden of Gethsemane, in his garden of temptation the night before he died, Jesus said, “Father… not my will but yours be done.” Eve said yes to sin, Adam joined her, and through them the whole human race fell. Mary and Jesus say yes to God, and through them the whole human race is redeemed.

Imagine if you could design, could create, your own mother. Wouldn’t you make her the sweetest, kindest, most lovely, and most loving woman that you could? Well, Jesus is God and he did create his own mother for himself, and Jesus shares his mom with us as well. Eve became the biological mother of all the living, but Mary is the spiritual mother of all who live in Christ. Through her sinless soul, completely filled with God’s grace, Mary knows and loves each one of us as her own children. So today, we her children rejoice and celebrate with holy Mary, that God chose her to be our New Eve, the Immaculate Conception.

Satan’s Old Tricks — 1st Sunday of Lent—Year A

March 3, 2020

After his baptism in the Jordan, but before the start of his public ministry, Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. Did Satan realize at that time that Jesus was God? He says, “If you are the son of God… If you are the son of God.” But if Satan knew, it’s strange that he would attempt the impossible: to try tempting the all-holy God into sinning and doing evil. Old Testament prophesies allude to the promised Messiah, the awaited Anointed One, as being “Son of God.” God says in the 2nd Psalm:

“I myself have installed my king
on Zion, my holy mountain….
You are my son;
today I have begotten you.”

And in Psalm 89, God says:

“He shall cry to me, ‘You are my father,
my God, the Rock of my salvation!’
I myself make him the firstborn,
Most High over the kings of the earth.”

Old Testament Jews had been told their Messiah would at least figuratively be the Son of God; so, whether or not Satan knew Jesus was divine, he at very least suspected that this man from Nazareth was the Christ.

Jesus evidently went on to tell his apostles of the devil’s temptations in the desert—for how else would anyone know to write about them in the Gospels? There may have been additional temptations, but three are retold in Matthew and Luke’s Gospels. Jesus is on the verge of beginning his public ministry. What kind of Messiah will he be? The devil’s three temptations seek to corrupt his mission from the start. Satan seeks to lead the Christ off track so as to derail the plan of God. He did this first in the lush Garden of Eden, and here he seeks to do it again in the desert.

If you are the Son of God,” Satan says, “command that these stones become loaves of bread.” Jesus was hungry, but if he does this miracle the next question may be, “So you feed yourself, do you? How now can you refuse to give bread to everyone?” Satan wants Jesus to be a materialistic Messiah who must focus on nourishing bodies to the neglect of their souls. Jesus calls his disciples to practice material charity; today the Catholic Church is the largest charitable organization in the world; teaching, healing, clothing, housing, feeding, but this is all of secondary importance to its spiritual work. For what would it profit us to have all of our material needs fulfilled if our spiritual needs went unaddressed and we ultimately died separated from God? How do these things personally apply to us? Well, did the recent stock market drops ruin your week? Or are you too afraid or possessive to share, to tithe, to give to good causes? Or are you too busy working to pray? Jesus answers, “One does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.

Next we hear how the devil takes Jesus to the roof edge atop the temple in Jerusalem and challenges him: “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down. For it is written: ‘He will command his angels concerning you’ and ‘with their hands they will support you, lest you dash your foot against a stone.’” Satan is quoting Psalm 91. This goes to show—and serves as a warning—that not every Bible quote teaches what some people claim it does. True Scripture interpretation must be in union with the mind of Christ, and one with the Body of Christ, that is his Church.

God does not want Jesus to jump off buildings, but the devil wants the Messiah to demand that God protect him from all harm or hardship. Satan wants Jesus to be a Christ who is unwilling to suffer, who will refuse to drink any bitter chalice. The devil knows doing God’s will in this broken world will necessarily entail some sufferings for his faithful ones. If Jesus is unwilling to sacrifice then God’s people will never be saved. Are you trying to force your plans upon God? Are you pleased to serve God only so long as you experience no pain? Are you demanding that your salvation come without embracing your cross? Jesus answers, “You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.

Lastly, we hear the devil takes him up to a very high mountain, and shows him all the kingdoms of the world in their magnificence, and says, “All these I shall give to you, if you will prostrate yourself and worship me.” Satan wants Jesus to be a compromised Messiah who will pursue good things by doing, by serving, evil. The tempter says, “It’s only a little thing, just lay down, just say the words, just take a small bite, everything will be so much easier and better if you do.” Or else the tempter lies in the opposite extreme direction, “You have no choice – it’s a sin but there’s no other way – this must be done!” What sins do you still commit in hopes that good will result? Where do you bow down and side with Satan against the will of God? Jesus answers, “The Lord, your God, shall you worship and him alone shall you serve.

By God’s providence, the temptations of Jesus in the desert foreshadow Christ’s Passion to come. Jesus is not a materialist Messiah, changing stones to loaves of bread. But, beginning at the Last Supper, he feeds the world by changing bread into himself “for the life of the world.” Jesus is not a Christ who refuses to sacrifice. At the Temple he endures trail and condemnation by the Sanhedrin and accepts the bitter chalice of his Passion according to his Father’s saving will. And Jesus is not a compromised Messiah, committing sins for false and illusory gains. Christ becomes the magnificent, sinless king of all nations, atop Mount Calvary enthroned upon the Cross.

In this season of Lent, in these forty days of penance, we are in the desert with Jesus, learning from him, and being strengthened by him, so that we can stand straight and strong and not fall for the temptations and traps of the enemy, the same tricks he used against of Adam and Eve, that he attempted with Jesus Christ, and that he still uses in our day. This Lent, instead of falling for Satan’s same old tricks, let us grow closer to Jesus Christ in relationship and resemblance, closer in his friendship and closer to his holy likeness.

Returning to Dust & Rising From the Ashes

March 11, 2019

Funeral Homily for Daniel G. Zwiefelhofer
by Fr. Victor Feltes on March 7, 2019

The Fall of Mankind and Expulsion from Paradise
by Michelangelo on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel

Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” These words were heard many times yesterday on Ash Wednesday as ashes were applied to foreheads. There is another phrase the ash-bestowing minister can say, but “remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return” is the classic option. Where does this phrase come from? It’s from the story of Genesis, following the Original Sin, the Fall of Man.

When Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden, punishments were placed on them and their descendants. To the woman God said, “I will intensify your toil in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children.” And to the man God said, “In toil you shall eat the ground’s yield all the days of your life. Thorns and thistles it shall bear for you, and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you shall eat bread, until you return to the ground, from which you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” And God announced a punishment upon the wicked serpent too: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will strike at your head, while you strike at his heel.”

We still feel the consequences of sin and observe of the brokenness of our world. Birthing babies is painful and raising children is challenging. Daniel learned these truths firsthand alongside Marion. And, as a lifelong farmer, Daniel experienced firsthand that farming is hard work. Growing food, from beasts or fields, demands the sweat of one’s brow. And today, after eighty-one years of life on this earth, we gather for Daniel’s funeral; for we are dust, and to dust we return. If these things were all that we saw and knew we would be left in sad despair, but this is not the end of the story; for Genesis, for Daniel, or for us.

I mentioned earlier that there’s another phrase option for ash-distributors to say on Ash Wednesday: “Repent and believe in the Gospel.” The Gospel is a message of living hope and it was proclaimed from the beginning. The Church teaches that the Protoevangelium, or “First Gospel” promising salvation was announced in the Garden of Eden. Recall how God said to the serpent, in the presence of Adam and Eve: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will strike at your head, while you strike at his heel.” This is speaking to more than the natural hatred between humans and deadly snakes – it’s a prophesy. That “he,” the offspring of the woman, was to be Jesus. The ancient serpent, the devil, struck out at Jesus’ lowly flesh (as at Jesus’ heel) in the Passion. But Jesus the New Adam, triumphed through his Passion, death, and resurrection, crushing the enemy’s head.

Jesus is the New Adam. Tempted in a garden (the Garden of Gethsemane) Jesus did not falter. Called to lay down his wife for his bride (the Church) Jesus did not balk. And by the sweat of his brow (even sweating blood) he has provided her bread, in the Most Holy Eucharist, which is himself. He accepted a crown of thorns from a world turned against him, but by his toil of carrying his Cross Jesus has produced a fruitful yield on earth. Jesus was placed into the dust of the earth — entombed at death, but Jesus was not abandoned to the dustbin of history. The New Adam triumphs over death.

And the New Eve, his bride the Church, continues (with toil and pains, but also with joy) to bear forth children who live and die with faith in Christ, like Daniel. And, as Daniel’s prophetic namesake says in our first reading, “Those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake; and some shall live forever…” Likewise, in our second reading, St. Paul proclaims to the Thessalonians: “We do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, about those who have fallen asleep, so that you may not grieve like the rest, who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose, so too will God, through Jesus, bring with him those who have fallen asleep.” The first Adam, by sinning, and gave death to all his descendants. But Jesus Christ, the new faithful Adam, offers life to all who follow him.

On Ash Wednesday and at any funeral, we are reminded that are dust and to dust we shall return. But we must also remember to repent and believe in the Good News of the Gospel. As night lead to dawn and sleep to arising; as winter leads to spring and Lent leads to Easter, so the dying of friends of Jesus leads to joyful resurrection.

The Mercies of Two Adams

February 24, 2019

In our second reading this Sunday, St. Paul compares the First Man to the Last Adam. In our Gospel, that Second Adam (Jesus Christ) shares teachings on forgiveness which have reshaped the world. Catholic spiritual tradition holds that when Jesus descended to the Abode of the Dead on Holy Saturday he found Adam and announced that the gates of Heaven were now open to him and all the Old Testament’s friends of God. If Adam went to Heaven we know he practiced forgiveness himself because Jesus says “if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions.” I’d like to begin by reflecting on three people from Adam’s life whom he had to forgive; and each one has a practical lesson for us touching on forgiveness.

One person Adam had to forgive was his wife, Eve. “She saw that the [forbidden] tree was good for food and pleasing to the eyes, and the tree was desirable for gaining wisdom. So she took some of its fruit and ate it; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.” Adam had to forgive her for doing this, but he also had to seek her forgiveness. He had been charged by God with protecting her and the garden. He was with her as the Serpent spoke, and he failed in his duty. Adam and Eve had to forgive each other.

Now a foolish person insists that other people are completely at fault one hundred percent of the time. After a conflict, even if I didn’t sin (even if I did nothing intentionally that I knew to be wrong at the time) I can still reflect upon how I could have expressed myself or handled the situation better. Mistakes are not sins—we can only sin on purpose—but we should learn from our mistakes.

Another person Adam had to forgive was his son, Cain. Because he felt snubbed, Cain was filled with jealous anger towards his brother. “Cain said to his brother Abel, ‘Let us go out in the field.’ When they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.” This was the first recorded murder, and Adam had to forgive his son for it.

In 1981, Mehmet Ali Ağca shot the pope in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican. St. Pope John Paul the Great nearly died, but two years later after he had recovered he went to visit his would-be assassin in prison. I remember being amazed as a kid in CCD class to learn that the pope sat at an arm’s length from the unshackled man who almost killed him in order to personally forgive him. Significantly, the pope did not ask Italy’s leader or government to release Ağca at that time. Ağca served twenty-nine years in prison until his release in 2010. Similarly, God showed his mercy and did not destroy Cain the murderer, but God did place punishments on him.

Sometimes withholding punishment is not kindness because we need discipline, to experience just consequences for our actions, for our own good. As the Letter to the Hebrews says, “whom the Lord loves, he disciplines; he chastises every son he acknowledges. … At the time, all discipline seems a cause not for joy but for pain, yet later it brings the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who are trained by it.” Mercy and forgiveness do not rule out experiencing any consequences.

A third person Adam had to forgive is one you might not expect: Adam had to forgive the Serpent. Was the wicked Serpent sorry for what he had done? No, but Adam had to forgive for Adam’s own sake. Unforgiveness is a bitter poison we drink in hopes of hurting someone else. Renouncing our claims to vengeance against another actually sets us free.

Jesus said we must forgive to be forgiven ourselves, but some people think they can’t forgive because they think forgiveness means something it doesn’t. Forgiveness is not to say that the sin wasn’t wrong, or that it’s no big deal, or that it doesn’t hurt anymore, or that it never really happened, or everything can go back to how it was before. Forgiveness means loving someone despite their sins, even if prudence may require us to keep a healthy distance from them (as with the Devil.)

Does God hate that ancient serpent, the Devil, the father of lies and a murderer from the beginning? Amazingly, no. As the Book of Wisdom says, “you [Lord] love all things that are and loathe nothing that you have made; for you would not fashion what you hate. [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…” God hates what Satan does, but loves him still. God hates the sin, but loves the sinner. In the end, the wicked will not be annihilated, made to no longer exist, but given the disassociation and space away from God they desire forever. God hates no one and neither should we.

In several places in the New Testaments, St. Paul draws parallels between Adam and Jesus. St. Paul wrote the Romans: “just as through the disobedience of one person the many were made sinners, so through the obedience of one the many will be made righteous.” The First Adam gave life to all his descendants, and the Last Adam gives life to all who follow him. The Old Adam, by his selfish sin, condemned the world; but the New Adam, by his holy self-sacrifice, redeems us. The First Adam, as we have seen, practiced forgiveness, but Jesus Christ is personified Mercy.

Consider how autobiographical Jesus’ Gospel teaching on forgiveness is. Jesus says, “To the person who strikes you on one cheek, offer the other one as well.” During the Passion, at his Jewish trial before the Sanhedrin, “they spat in [Jesus’] face and struck him, while some slapped him, saying, ‘Prophesy for us, Messiah: who is it that struck you?’

Jesus says, “From the person who takes your cloak, do not withhold even your tunic.” “When the [Roman] soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his clothes and divided them into four shares, a share for each soldier. They also took his tunic, but the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from the top down. So they said to one another, ‘Let’s not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it will be…’

Jesus says, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” The religious leaders sneered at Jesus as he hung on the Cross. Even the soldiers jeered at him. But Jesus prayed for them saying, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.”

Jesus says, “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you,what credit is that to you? Even sinners do the same.” St. Paul wrote to the Christians at Rome, “God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.

Jesus says, “If you lend money to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, and get back the same amount. But rather, love your enemies and do good to them, and lend expecting nothing back; then your reward will be great and you will be children of the Most High…” Jesus gave of himself knowing that many would give him nothing in return, he loves sinners knowing that many will not love him back. But Jesus is his Father’s Son, merciful as he is merciful, loving as he is loving, good as he is good, and generous as he is generous. And Jesus invites us to also be children of the Most High like himself.

So let’s be generous in every way towards Jesus, who gives us mercy, our every blessing in life, and his very self in the Eucharist. Jesus’ teaching at the close of today’s Gospel is true not only for financial giving but for every gift to God, for God is never outdone in generosity: “Give, and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap. For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.” Let us be merciful and generous like Jesus is towards us.

A Persistent, Predictable Trend

May 2, 2015

Wedding Cake Man and WifeIn the garden, the first married couple was approached by the tempter. He sowed distrust of God and His teaching within their minds and hearts. He told them to decide for themselves what was good for them. So they ate the fruit that God had warned them about, and they tasted its consequences. Yet God did not abandon them.

The early Church was not unaware of contraceptive means and methods. She insisted that acts of marital union must not be cut off from an openness to life. Before 1930, all Protestant denominations agreed, but one by one their positions changed. By 1968, some were surprised that Pope Paul VI upheld the Church’s teaching in Humanae Vitae. The pope warned that contraception would lead to increased fornication, marital infidelity, disrespect toward women, and government coercion. The world did not listen.

What has come from our culture intentionally severing an openness to life from its lovemaking? It has led to millions of children having single mothers because fathers considered themselves under no obligation. It has led to the death of millions of “mistakes” before they could be born. Contraceptives promised to make families stronger, but broken marriages are widespread.

The contraceptive mentality has progressed so far that many no longer see physical complimentarily as essential to marriage at all. How will children be impacted if new forms of marriage become the law of the land? If marriage is merely an emotional bond between persons, why should it be limited to pairs? Marital union between one man and one wife is a gift from God for love and life. And what God has joined, we human beings separate to our own harm.

We see the Sexual Revolution becoming an open war against the Bride of Christ and her sons and daughters. As Chicago’s Cardinal Francis George, who passed away last month, once said, “I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison, and his successor will die a martyr in the public square. His successor will pick up the shards of a ruined society and slowly help rebuild civilization, as the church has done so often in human history.” Trials await us. Yet, anchored in the truth, our hope always remains, for God will not abandon us.

Three Temptation Tactics — 1st Sunday in Lent—Year A

March 8, 2014

Readings: Genesis 2:1-7, Matthew 4:1-11,

1. Observe the focus of the devil’s first temptation against Jesus:

He fasted for forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was hungry. The tempter approached and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become loaves of bread.”

The devil attacks Jesus where he perceives him to be the most vulnerable.  The tempter behaves as St. Ignatius of Loyola describes in his Rules for Discernment:

[The enemy of our souls] behaves as a chief bent on conquering and robbing what he desires: for, as a captain and chief of the army, pitching his camp, and looking at the forces or defenses of a stronghold, attacks it on the weakest side, in like manner the enemy of human nature, roaming about, looks in turn at all our virtues, theological, cardinal and moral; and where he finds us weakest and most in need for our eternal salvation, there he attacks us and aims at taking us.

Imagine your king has made you the captain in charge of your walled-city’s defenses. Having lived there your whole life and having witnessed many previous sieges against the city, you should know its vulnerabilities well. Before the next hostile siege (which will surely come) would it not be wise to petition the king to reinforce wherever the walls are weak and to send the troops he can provide, and for you yourself to be an especially vigilant watchmen at the place where the next attack is most likely to come?

So it is for us. We have a lifetime of experience to know where we are weakest. Therefore, we should pray to the Lord to provide his strengthening grace where we are weak and to send his angels to help defend us, and to be especially vigilant at where the next temptation is most likely to come.

2. Imagine if Eve had said, “What you say, Serpent, is very different from what the Lord told us. My husband and I will discuss this with him the next time he visits us.” That would have entirely derailed the serpent’s wicked plans. Again, St. Ignatius:

[The enemy of our souls] acts as a licentious lover in wanting to be secret and not revealed. For, as the licentious man who, speaking for an evil purpose, solicits a daughter of a good father or a wife of a good husband, wants his words and persuasions to be secret, and the contrary displeases him much, when the daughter reveals to her father or the wife to her husband his licentious words and depraved intention, because he easily gathers that he will not be able to succeed with the undertaking begun: in the same way, when the enemy of human nature brings his wiles and persuasions to the just soul, he wants and desires that they be received and kept in secret; but when one reveals them to his good Confessor or to another spiritual person that knows his deceits and evil ends, it is very grievous to him, because he gathers, from his manifest deceits being discovered, that he will not be able to succeed with his wickedness begun.

Therefore, we should bring our secret, hidden temptations out of the festering darkness and into the disinfectant light with a spiritual person we can confide in.

3. Observe how Eve responds the serpent’s sinful suggestion:

The woman saw that the tree was good for food, pleasing to the eyes, and desirable for gaining wisdom. So she took some of its fruit and ate it…

The more Eve entertained the serpent’s temptation the more inevitable her fall to sin became. Contrast this with Jesus’ unyielding responses to the devil, including:

“Get away, Satan! It is written: The Lord, your God, shall you worship and him alone shall you serve” Then the devil left him and, behold, angels came and ministered to him.

As St. Ignatius says:

The enemy acts like [an unvirtuous] woman, in being weak against vigor and strong of will. Because, as it is the way of the woman when she is quarrelling with some man to lose heart, taking flight when the man shows her much courage: and on the contrary, if the man, losing heart, begins to fly, the wrath, revenge, and ferocity of the woman is very great, and so without bounds; in the same manner, it is the way of the enemy to weaken and lose heart, his temptations taking flight, when the person who is exercising himself in spiritual things opposes a bold front against the temptations of the enemy, doing diametrically the opposite. And on the contrary, if the person who is exercising himself commences to have fear and lose heart in suffering the temptations, there is no beast so wild on the face of the earth as the enemy of human nature in following out his damnable intention with so great malice.

Therefore, let us be firm and uncompromising against temptation from the start, giving it no opportunity grow on us. Instead, let us focus on doing that vice’s opposing virtue. In the face of such firmness, the temptation will depart.

The “In Brief” Catechism On “The Fall” (CCC #413-421)

September 9, 2013

“God did not make death, and he does not delight in the death of the living. . . It was through the devil’s envy that death entered the world.” (Wisdom 1:13, 2:24).

●  Satan or the devil and the other demons are fallen angels who have freely refused to serve God and his plan. Their choice against God is definitive. They try to associate man in their revolt against God.

●  Although set by God in a state of rectitude man, enticed by the evil one, abused his freedom at the very start of history. He lifted himself up against God, and sought to attain his goal apart from him.

●  By his sin Adam, as the first man, lost the original holiness and justice he had received from God, not only for himself but for all human beings.

●  Adam and Eve transmitted to their descendants human nature wounded by their own first sin and hence deprived of original holiness and justice; this deprivation is called “original sin.”

●  As a result of original sin, human nature is weakened in its powers, subject to ignorance, suffering and the domination of death, and inclined to sin (this inclination is called “concupiscence.”)

●  “We therefore hold, with the Council of Trent, that original sin is transmitted with human nature, “by propagation, not by imitation” and that it is. . . ‘proper to each.'” (Pope Paul VI)

●  The victory that Christ won over sin has given us greater blessings than those which sin had taken from us: “where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.” (Romans 5:20).

● Christians believe that the world has been established and kept in being by the Creator’s love; has fallen into slavery to sin but has been set free by Christ, crucified and risen to break the power of the evil one.

Eve Prefigures Mary

April 23, 2013

Tempted by a demon, Eve distrusted God, leading to our fall.
Greeted by an angel, Mary trusts God, leading to our salvation.

Eve was “the mother of all the living.” (Gen 3:20)
Mary’s offspring are “those who keep God’s commandments and bear witness to Jesus.” (Rev 12:17)

Because of her sin, Eve was covered with dirt. (Gen 3:19)
Because of her faith, Mary is clothed with the sun. (Rev 12:1)

Adam Prefigures Jesus

April 22, 2013

From the side of sleeping Adam, the woman Eve was fashioned.
From the blood and water flowing from his pierced side, Jesus’ Church is made.

Adam was tested in the Garden of Eden.
Jesus is tested in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Adam was naked without shame because of his innocence.
Jesus is stripped naked before dying his innocent death.

Adam may have failed to protect Eve and Eden because he feared the dragon-serpent’s violence.
Jesus is willing to suffer and die to save his Church and the world from the devil.

The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil revealed right and wrong to humanity.
Jesus’ cross shows us the greatest acts of love and evil in all of human history.

Teachings Hardly Heard — 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time—Year A

July 10, 2011

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.

United Hearts — The Kristopher and KayLee Schnitzler Wedding

July 4, 2011

Kristopher and KayLee, when you chose this day, July 2nd, to be your wedding day you were probably not aware that you were choosing an extra special date. We unite your hearts today in holy matrimony amidst Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Yesterday was the Solemnity of His Sacred Heart and today is the Memorial of her Immaculate Heart. We celebrate these two feasts so closely on the calendar, one after the other, because no two human hearts are so intimately united in a perfect love. I present them to you as role models for your love

Mary and Jesus were mother and Son. They were never married in the way we think of marriage, so how can they be role models for your marriage? In Jesus and Mary, we see the perfect man with the perfect woman, we see the New Adam together with the New Eve, we see the King and Queen of Heaven and Earth. Jesus is the Bridegroom and Mary is the flawless image of the Church, which is His Bride. By seeing how Jesus loves her and how Mary loves Him we can learn much about how men and women are to serve and love each other.

How does Jesus love Mary? For one thing, he listens to her. He is receptive to her wants and needs. It was true at the wedding feast of Cana, He worked a miracle to provide wine at her request, and it is still true now in heaven, where she continues to ask for good things for us. A good husband must be receptive to his wife’s wants and needs. On the other hand, in what manner do you think Mary asks things of Jesus? Mary does not nag Jesus, asking Him in plaintive tones. She doesn’t sit next to Jesus in Heaven and sigh, “I see you still haven’t taken care of the garbage down there.” Instead, I imagine she says to Him, “It would make me very happy if you would do this for me.” A good wife must allow pleasing her to be her husband’s joy, not his burden.

A good husband must die to himself in many ways for his family, and a good wife must support him through his sacrifices. Look how Jesus goes to the cross and offers Himself for the good of Mary and her children. He suffers for her and lays down his life for her. And how does Mary support Him? She is right there, at the foot of the cross, faithful and consoling. God gave Eve to Adam as a partner, to support him in the garden. Mary continues to be a helpmate to Jesus in His work of harvesting the vineyard of this world. A good husband lays down his life for his wife and a good wife must support him through his sacrifices.

From the cross, Jesus make Mary the mother of all Christians. He desired Mary to be the mother of many children, and now, Mary’s motherhood is perhaps her greatest joy. A good husband and wife must be open to children. This is the will of God for you and He will bless you with joy for saying “Yes” to Him.

The worship of God and following His will was at the center of the relationship between Jesus and Mary. Every Sabbath they came to join the worship at the synagogue (the Church of their day) and every day they said prayers and remained close to God. So too, God must be at the center of every good marriage. You must come to Mass every Sunday and pray every day. Good husbands and wives share the same mission in life, to assist each other and their children in getting to Heaven.

From earth to Heaven, Jesus led Mary through life with love, and Mary faithfully followed Him. A good husband must have the integrity not to phone it in, but to lead, and a good wife must have the courage to follow that lead. Kristopher and KayLee, May the hearts of Jesus and Mary reign in your homes. May you model their virtues on earth. And may you draw each other, and your children, to share their heavenly joy forever.

Man and Wife — Thursday, 5th Week of Ordinary Time—Year I

February 10, 2011

God cast a deep sleep on the man and made for him the woman of his dreams. God fashioned her from his rib, perhaps because it was the bone closest to his heart. This reflects her dignity, for the man was made from mud while she was made from flesh. Woman is God’s final and ultimate creation.

The man beholds her with joy and names her, just as he had named every animal. This authorship is a sign of his authority, not to manipulate nor humiliate, but to lovingly lead and to care for what is entrusted to him. (The fact that “the man and his wife were both naked, yet they felt no shame,” reveals that they completely trusted and respected each other.) As Christ loves His Church, so husbands should love their wives.

History Ryhmes — Solemnity of Christ the King—Year C

December 22, 2010

As Mark Twain said, “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.” Throughout the story of our salvation, we see history rhyming time and again.

In the beginning, when God created the first man He saw that it would be good for him to have a partner, a mate, a bride. So the Lord put the man into a deep sleep, removed his rib (perhaps because it was the bone closest to his heart,) and fashioned from it the first woman. When Adam awoke and saw, he happily exclaimed, “This one, at last, is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh!” In our first reading today, the people of Israel come to David and declare, “Here we are, your bone and your flesh. [Be our king!]” Here we see God’s people, Israel the bride, coming in joy to greet her husband, the king.

In days past, Saul had been Israel’s king, the one anointed by God’s prophet Samuel. But as time passed, King Saul became proud and loved himself to the contempt of God. After many transgressions, Samuel announced to Saul God’s judgment, “The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you this day, and has given it to a neighbor of yours, who is better than you.” Saul rightly guessed that his replacement would be the young man, David, and he set about to have him killed. When David wisely fled for his life, Saul gathered a posse to hunt him down.

One night, David and his right-hand man, Abishai, snuck into the camp of Saul and his men. They came right up to where Saul laid, but the men “remained asleep, because the Lord had put them into a deep slumber.” Abishai begged in hushed tones, “Let me nail him to the ground with one thrust of the spear; I will not need a second thrust!” David replied, “the Lord forbid that I touch his anointed!” David would not thrusting a spear through the side of God’s anointed. Instead, David took the spear and water jug which lay at Saul’s head and went to a remote hilltop. From there, David cried out: “Why does my lord pursue his servant? What have I done? What evil do I plan? [I could have killed you!] Here is the king’s spear! Let an attendant come over to get it!” After that Saul acknowledged that he had betrayed David’s innocent blood and went away. Later, Saul committed suicide in a battle lost to the Philistines and God’s people came to David to ask him to be their king. David had refused to take the kingship by force, and God graciously bestowed the kingdom upon him.

About 1,000 years later, another Christ or Messiah came, the true Anointed One of God. Like David, Jesus also refused to slay his opponents and take His kingdom by force. This confused and disturbed many who believed in Him. Some speculate that Judas betrayed Jesus into the hands of the Jewish leaders so that Jesus, His back pinned to the wall, would be forced to show his power. When Judas realized that he had betrayed innocent blood he did not seek out Jesus’ forgiveness, but despaired and killed himself.

As Jesus hung on His cross, making it the new tree of life, He was the New Adam, naked without shame. Jesus was surrounded there by all sorts of people. Some of them where disciples who had believed in Him, but they stood there fearful of their allegiance becoming known. Scribes, Pharisees, and religious rulers stood there who should have acknowledged Jesus as their Christ, but they disregarded His words. The Roman soldiers there were doing their duty, and perhaps didn’t feel much about Jesus one way or the other. However, one person there on Calvary was unafraid to speak out in truth and faith. He was a condemned man crucified beside Jesus. This man said, “We have been condemned justly… but this man has done nothing criminal. Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus replied to him, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” We call this man “the good thief,” and indeed he was, for in the last hours of his life he managed to steal Heaven.

What would we have done if we had been there? What sort of witness would we have given? It is impossible for us to go back to that time—history doesn’t repeat itself, yet our present does rhyme with the past. A senior at Columbus recently told me that he always tries to get other students to come to Mr. Kitzhaber’s youth events because, in his words, “they’re really fun!” But most students decline, replying “that’s a Jesus thing.” Are we ashamed or afraid to be identified as Christ’s followers? How many people today are like the scribes and Pharisees of the past by ignoring Christ teachings as they are taught through his bride, the Church? And how many Catholics fulfill their duty, by saying their prayers and going to Mass, but do it without much joy? What would we make of a bride who appeared indifferent and bored with her groom on their wedding day?

History doesn’t repeat itself, but salvation history does rhyme. In our day, will we resemble the timid disciples, Jesus’ religious opponents, the indifferent guards, or the faithful and courageous, good thief? Without fear, let acknowledge Jesus as our God. With obedience, let us heed the words our King speaks to us through His Church. With joy, let us approach Christ as our Bridegroom, like a bride on her wedding day.