Thursday, August 28, 2014

Who Is Jesus Christ?

In the Gospels, Jesus asks a seemingly easy question: “Who do you say that I am?” (Mt. 16:15, Mk. 8:29, Lk. 8:20). It is not that Jesus is having either a moment of amnesia or an existential crisis. His reason to ask seems to be more of a PR question – do people understand who He is? St. Peter answers that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. His answer is correct, but Peter’s understanding of the answer is flawed, as he later reprimands Jesus on His prediction of His death and resurrection.
The question remains for us to answer, too. Who do we say that He is? If the claims of the Gospel are correct, we are commanded to answer. Jesus makes some bold statements! He claims to be the only way to God, that He is the Bread of Life that gives life to the entire world, that He and the Father are one. How can we understand Jesus’ proclamations? CS Lewis gives a wager, of sorts, that we can use to help answer both questions of who we say Him to be and who He is. If what He taught is not true, but Jesus believes it to be, Jesus is crazy, proclaiming false truths. If, on the other hand, Jesus knowingly is teaching what He knows not to be true, He is telling lies. But, if Jesus is telling the truth, He really is who He says he is. In short, Jesus is either a lunatic, a liar, or truly the Lord. He cannot be just a wise man, or a good teacher, or a sort of guru… He is either Lord or nothing at all.
So my answer to the question, “Who is Jesus?” He is Lord. He is the Savior of the world, and He is the Father’s loving offer of eternity. He is the one who offers Himself to the Father for us and is ever present to us. He is the Son of God made flesh. When we encounter Him, we encounter God, and Jesus reveals the Holy Trinity (the eternal union of the three Persons – Father, Son, and Spirit – in the one God). If this is true, how can we go about our lives unchanged, failing to see everything through the eyes of faith.
As CS Lewis also wrote, “Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important.” It is a bold claim! We must allow Him to be God, and allow Him and that faith inform our decisions and activity.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Meditation on Gospel of Nineteenth Sunday of Ordinary time

When life gets hectic, as it so often does, or when the storms of life whip up and attempt to rob me of my peace, I find myself turning to an image from Matthew 14:22-33. It is the scene of Jesus and Peter walking on the water. Jesus had just revealed himself as master over matter as He multiplied bread and fish a thousand-fold (feeding 12,5000-15,000 with what should have only feed 12-15 people). Now, after spending time in prayer, he shows Himself as Master of the elements as He walks on the water, and in the end, calms the wind. The apostles see Him, and are terrified – who can walk on water, and who can blame them for their fear? Jesus calms them, but Peter asks for proof, asking that Jesus command him to walk on water, too. Jesus calls him, and Peter leaves the boat’s safety (as relative as that safety is in the midst of the strong winds). He walks, but it is not long until human logic kicks in and he begins to notice the wind and wave, and begins to sink. He calls to Jesus, who is right there to save him.
Why does this give me comfort? I cannot help but to imagine that Jesus took Peter for a little walk on the water, calling him to deeper faith, telling him to keep his eyes on Jesus constantly. I cannot help but see Jesus and Peter almost dancing on the waves, with the two standing shoulder to shoulder, outer hand clasped to the outer hand. What an image of peace! Dancing on the water amidst the storm!
St. Peter was walking where we cannot humanly walk because he focused on Jesus. In the storms of our lives, do we focus on the wind and the wave, or the Savior who calls us to walk with Him? We think we have it all figured out, that our logic is flawless, that the safest place to be is in the boat, bunkered down. But Jesus calls us into a deeper safety – with Him, even out of the boat. When we learn to trust Him, we will find ourselves able to walk, perhaps even dance, in the midst of the storms of life, keeping our hearts focused on Him and remaining in His peace.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Some thoughts on the Hobby Lobby case

On Monday, June 30, 2014, the Supreme Court handed down a ruling that stated that closely-held for-profit corporations could not be forced to directly pay for insurance coverage for abortifacients against the owners’ beliefs. This is a victory for religious freedom, and not, in anyway, part of a ‘war on women’. Access to birth control is not hindered, rather the responsibility to pay is placed on the user, not the employer or insurance company. Beside this, Hobby Lobby, the chief plaintiff in the case, was willing to insure 16 of the 20 forms of birth control the HHS Mandate required, just not the four (Ella, Plan B, IUD and copper IUD) which are known to prevent implantation of a newly conceived life. As a Catholic, I cannot endorse the use of any of these covered birth control forms, even the 16 forms that Hobby Lobby would pay for, though. Most hormonal forms are carcinogenic, some come with high risk factors, and all interrupt the mutual self-gift of husband and wife in the marital embrace by holding back one’s fertility. The Church’s desire for sexual expression is that it is free, total, faithful, and permanent. As Paul VI prophesied in his Encyclical Humanae Vitae in 1968, the use of contraception would lead to a break down of families and society (divorce, cohabitation, etc), an objectification of women (the sex trade, porn, and ‘using’ of women), and sins against life (abortion and euthanasia).
Those opposed to the ruling seem to be on three issues. First, they see any limit of birth control, even abortifacients and direct abortion, as a limitation on their rights. Complicating this case is the employers' refusal to pay for them as the HHS mandates, a mandate that is illegal according to the Supreme Court as there are other less restrictive means. Access is not hindered, but, as it was before the ACA and HHS Mandate, if it is not covered by insurance, it is the patient's responsibility to pay for it. Note, too, that the ACA does not fully cover all medications, even lifesaving or necessary ones. Why should 'treatments' for optional activities be covered. Yes, it is a different worldview, but pregnancy is not a disease. Those that state that these forms protect against STDs need to look again - most of them do not, and certainly not the four that Hobby Lobby is refusing to cover.
They also claim that corporations are not persons (sad that they also say the unborn are also not persons with rights). Legally, corporations are described as persons, however they are not people. As a legal person, corporations can have views and values. The same people that decry this decision on this ground are boycotting other corporations, to punish them, that do not hold their personal values. Just look up Chik-filla or Mozilla/Firefox - the owners stated something again political correctness, and then held the corporation responsible! They cannot have it both ways!
Those opposed to the ruling suggest that it is none of the boss’s business - I could not agree more! It is not the boss’s business to pay for it. As a commentator put it, I have the right to have a gun - I do not have the right to force an employer to purchase it for me.
What is most disheartening in all of this is that the most effective form of family planning, that takes into account the purpose of sexual expression and the Catholic Faith, is not covered! Natural Family Planning teaches a couple the signs of fertility, and if they are mutually fertile, they can either choose to not be sexually active, or to accept the possibility of conception. It is cheap, reliable, and fully moral! What I love most is that it actually is scientific, and gives women especially knowledge of how their bodies work. It is not simply taking a pill to treat a healthy system as a disease. NFP is not contraception - it does not interrupt the sexual act because there is no sexual act. Can it be used immorally? Perhaps, if the couple is completely opposed to life and have a contraceptive mentality. This, however, does not make NFP immoral. For more information on NFP, see the USSCB'S page, a non-affliated site, the Creighten Model, the Couple-to-Couple League, or even the Health and Human Services information (note that they use the statistic the 1-25 couples practicing NFP may become pregnant, but this may include those that are using NFP to achieve pregnancy!)

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Pentecost

For our prayer, I am posting the Pentecost Sunday Sequence. It is a beautiful prayer of the Church.

Come, O Holy Spirit, come!
From Your bright and blissful Home
Rays of healing light impart.

Come, Father of the poor,
Source of gifts that will endure
Light of ev'ry human heart.

You of all consolers best,
Of the soul most kindly Guest,
Quick'ning courage do bestow.

In hard labor You are rest,
In the heat You refresh best,
And solace give in our woe.

O most blessed Light divine,
Let Your radiance in us shine,
And our inmost being fill.

Nothing good by man is thought,
Nothing right by him is wrought,
When he spurns Your gracious Will.

Cleanse our souls from sinful stain,
Lave our dryness with Your rain,
Heal our wounds and mend our way.

Bend the stubborn heart and will,
Melt the frozen, warm the chill,
Guide the steps that go astray.

On the faithful who in You,
Trust with childlike piety,
Deign Your sevenfold gift to send.

Give them virtue's rich increase,
Saving grace to die in peace,
Give them joys that never end. Amen. Alleluia.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Ninth Day of Novena to the Holy Spirit

We join in the final day of our novena.

NINTH DAY (Saturday, Vigil of Pentecost)

Thou, on those who evermore Thee confess and Thee Adore, in Thy sevenfold gift, Descend; Give Them Comfort when they die; Give them Life with Thee on high; Give them joys which never end. Amen

The Fruits of the Holy Spirit

The gifts of the Holy Spirit perfect the supernatural virtues by enabling us to practice them with greater docility to divine inspiration. As we grow in the knowledge and love of God under the direction of the Holy Spirit, our service becomes more sincere and generous, the practice of virtue more perfect. Such acts of virtue leave the heart filled with joy and consolation and are known as Fruits of the Holy Spirit. These Fruits in turn render the practice of virtue more attractive and become a powerful incentive for still greater efforts in the service of God, to serve Whom is to reign.

Prayer

Come, O Divine Spirit, fill my heart with Thy heavenly fruits, Thy charity, joy, peace, patience, benignity, goodness, faith, mildness, and temperance, that I may never weary in the service of God, but by continued faithful submission to Thy inspiration may merit to be united eternally with Thee in the love of the Father and the Son. Amen.

Our Father and Hail Mary ONCE. Glory be to the Father SEVEN TIMES.

ACT OF CONSECRATION TO THE HOLY SPIRIT On my knees before the great multitude of heavenly witnesses, I offer myself, soul and body to You, Eternal Spirit of God. I adore the brightness of Your purity, the unerring keenness of Your justice, and the might of Your love. You are the Strength and Light of my soul. In You I live and move and am. I desire never to grieve You by unfaithfulness to grace and I pray with all my heart to be kept from the smallest sin against You. Mercifully guard my every thought and grant that I may always watch for Your light, and listen to Your voice, and follow Your gracious inspirations. I cling to You and give myself to You and ask You, by Your compassion to watch over me in my weakness. Holding the pierced Feet of Jesus and looking at His Five Wounds, and trusting in His Precious Blood and adoring His opened Side and stricken Heart, I implore You, Adorable Spirit, Helper of my infirmity, to keep me in Your grace that I may never sin against You. Give me grace, O Holy Spirit, Spirit of the Father and the Son to say to You always and everywhere, "Speak Lord for Your servant heareth." Amen.

To be recited daily during the Novena

PRAYER FOR THE SEVEN GIFTS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT O Lord Jesus Christ Who, before ascending into heaven did promise to send the Holy Spirit to finish Your work in the souls of Your Apostles and Disciples, deign to grant the same Holy Spirit to me that He may perfect in my soul, the work of Your grace and Your love. Grant me the Spirit of Wisdom that I may despise the perishable things of this world and aspire only after the things that are eternal, the Spirit of Understanding to enlighten my mind with the light of Your divine truth, the Spirit of Counsel that I may ever choose the surest way of pleasing God and gaining heaven, the Spirit of Fortitude that I may bear my cross with You and that I may overcome with courage all the obstacles that oppose my salvation, the Spirit of Knowledge that I may know God and know myself and grow perfect in the science of the Saints, the Spirit of Piety that I may find the service of God sweet and amiable, and the Spirit of Fear that I may be filled with a loving reverence towards God and may dread in any way to displease Him. Mark me, dear Lord, with the sign of Your true disciples and animate me in all things with Your Spirit. Amen.

(To be recited daily during the Novena)

Friday, June 6, 2014

Eighth Day of Novena to the Holy Spirit

We join in the eighth day of our novena.

EIGHTH DAY (Friday, 7th Week of Easter)

Bend the stubborn heart and will, melt the frozen warm the chill. Guide the steps that go astray!

The Gift of Wisdom

Embodying all the other gifts, as charity embraces all the other virtues, Wisdom is the most perfect of the gifts. Of wisdom it is written "all good things came to me with her, and innumerable riches through her hands." It is the gift of Wisdom that strengthens our faith, fortifies hope, perfects charity, and promotes the practice of virtue in the highest degree. Wisdom enlightens the mind to discern and relish things divine, in the appreciation of which earthly joys lose their savor, whilst the Cross of Christ yields a divine sweetness according to the words of the Saviour: "Take up thy cross and follow me, for my yoke is sweet and my burden light.

Prayer

Come, O Spirit of Wisdom, and reveal to my soul the mysteries of heavenly things, their exceeding greatness, power and beauty. Teach me to love them above and beyond all the passing joys and satisfactions of earth. Help me to attain them and possess them for ever. Amen.

Our Father and Hail Mary ONCE. Glory be to the Father SEVEN TIMES.

ACT OF CONSECRATION TO THE HOLY SPIRIT On my knees before the great multitude of heavenly witnesses, I offer myself, soul and body to You, Eternal Spirit of God. I adore the brightness of Your purity, the unerring keenness of Your justice, and the might of Your love. You are the Strength and Light of my soul. In You I live and move and am. I desire never to grieve You by unfaithfulness to grace and I pray with all my heart to be kept from the smallest sin against You. Mercifully guard my every thought and grant that I may always watch for Your light, and listen to Your voice, and follow Your gracious inspirations. I cling to You and give myself to You and ask You, by Your compassion to watch over me in my weakness. Holding the pierced Feet of Jesus and looking at His Five Wounds, and trusting in His Precious Blood and adoring His opened Side and stricken Heart, I implore You, Adorable Spirit, Helper of my infirmity, to keep me in Your grace that I may never sin against You. Give me grace, O Holy Spirit, Spirit of the Father and the Son to say to You always and everywhere, "Speak Lord for Your servant heareth." Amen.

To be recited daily during the Novena

PRAYER FOR THE SEVEN GIFTS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT O Lord Jesus Christ Who, before ascending into heaven did promise to send the Holy Spirit to finish Your work in the souls of Your Apostles and Disciples, deign to grant the same Holy Spirit to me that He may perfect in my soul, the work of Your grace and Your love. Grant me the Spirit of Wisdom that I may despise the perishable things of this world and aspire only after the things that are eternal, the Spirit of Understanding to enlighten my mind with the light of Your divine truth, the Spirit of Counsel that I may ever choose the surest way of pleasing God and gaining heaven, the Spirit of Fortitude that I may bear my cross with You and that I may overcome with courage all the obstacles that oppose my salvation, the Spirit of Knowledge that I may know God and know myself and grow perfect in the science of the Saints, the Spirit of Piety that I may find the service of God sweet and amiable, and the Spirit of Fear that I may be filled with a loving reverence towards God and may dread in any way to displease Him. Mark me, dear Lord, with the sign of Your true disciples and animate me in all things with Your Spirit. Amen.

(To be recited daily during the Novena)

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Seventh Day of Novena to the Holy Spirit

We join in the seventh day of our novena.

SEVENTH DAY (Thursday, 7th Week of Easter)

Heal our wounds--our strength renews; On our dryness pour Thy dew, Wash the stains of guilt away.

The Gift of Counsel

The gift of Counsel endows the soul with supernatural prudence, enabling it to judge promptly and rightly what must done, especially in difficult circumstances. Counsel applies the principles furnished by Knowledge and Understanding to the innumerable concrete cases that confront us in the course of our daily duty as parents, teachers, public servants, and Christian citizens. Counsel is supernatural common sense, a priceless treasure in the quest of salvation. "Above all these things, pray to the Most High, that He may direct thy way in truth."

Prayer

Come, O Spirit of Counsel, help and guide me in all my ways, that I may always do Thy holy will. Incline my heart to that which is good; turn it away from all that is evil, and direct me by the straight path of Thy commandments to that goal of eternal life for which I long.

Our Father and Hail Mary ONCE. Glory be to the Father SEVEN TIMES.

ACT OF CONSECRATION TO THE HOLY SPIRIT On my knees before the great multitude of heavenly witnesses, I offer myself, soul and body to You, Eternal Spirit of God. I adore the brightness of Your purity, the unerring keenness of Your justice, and the might of Your love. You are the Strength and Light of my soul. In You I live and move and am. I desire never to grieve You by unfaithfulness to grace and I pray with all my heart to be kept from the smallest sin against You. Mercifully guard my every thought and grant that I may always watch for Your light, and listen to Your voice, and follow Your gracious inspirations. I cling to You and give myself to You and ask You, by Your compassion to watch over me in my weakness. Holding the pierced Feet of Jesus and looking at His Five Wounds, and trusting in His Precious Blood and adoring His opened Side and stricken Heart, I implore You, Adorable Spirit, Helper of my infirmity, to keep me in Your grace that I may never sin against You. Give me grace, O Holy Spirit, Spirit of the Father and the Son to say to You always and everywhere, "Speak Lord for Your servant heareth." Amen.

To be recited daily during the Novena

PRAYER FOR THE SEVEN GIFTS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT O Lord Jesus Christ Who, before ascending into heaven did promise to send the Holy Spirit to finish Your work in the souls of Your Apostles and Disciples, deign to grant the same Holy Spirit to me that He may perfect in my soul, the work of Your grace and Your love. Grant me the Spirit of Wisdom that I may despise the perishable things of this world and aspire only after the things that are eternal, the Spirit of Understanding to enlighten my mind with the light of Your divine truth, the Spirit of Counsel that I may ever choose the surest way of pleasing God and gaining heaven, the Spirit of Fortitude that I may bear my cross with You and that I may overcome with courage all the obstacles that oppose my salvation, the Spirit of Knowledge that I may know God and know myself and grow perfect in the science of the Saints, the Spirit of Piety that I may find the service of God sweet and amiable, and the Spirit of Fear that I may be filled with a loving reverence towards God and may dread in any way to displease Him. Mark me, dear Lord, with the sign of Your true disciples and animate me in all things with Your Spirit. Amen.

(To be recited daily during the Novena)

All are called by God to love Him.

All are called to serve Him.

Some are called to special lives of service,

to give witness to God's love through being a priest, religious brother, or sister.

Is He calling you?