The Apostolate of the Laity

Waxing philosophical in communion with one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church.

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Location: Portland, Oregon, United States

I am just a sinner who holds fast to the notion that every human being on the planet is the result of a thought of God.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

The Joyful Mysteries According to Luke

Luke was born premature at nearly 26 weeks of gestation. Through a lot of prayers and even more love, he has overcome many obstacles common to one born so young. Today, at a gestation age of just over 34 weeks, he continues to thrive in the Immediate Care Unit having recently graduated from the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. For his family and friends and his Godfather, who authors this blog, Luke is nothing short of a personified miracle.

Over the weeks, Godfather has visited him to pray the rosary. Luke has made amazing progress in learning this prayer, and he offers the following reflections on the Joyful Mysteries of the most Holy Rosary.

The Annunciation.
The fruit of this mystery is humility.

It was my guardian angel who first made aware that I existed while I was still inside what they tell me is a place called the womb. When I asked him who I was, he simply said,

"You, are an idea of God."

When I asked how I came to be, he replied that I was the result of a supreme act of love. I really don't understand these concepts yet, but my guardian angel assured me it was a good thing. I know there was a lot of joy when my mom announced to everyone that I existed. I could sense that I was wanted, and I couldn't wait to see these wonderful souls my angel kept referring to as my parents. My angel told me that I was already bringing happiness to this thing he called "the world." I didn't really know what that was as I was pretty happy where I was. I had the joyful feeling all throughout my being and when I asked my angel about it he smiled and said,

"You are blessed because your parents said yes to God just like Mary did when she was asked to be the mother of Jesus."

At the time, I didn't really know who any of these characters were, but I noticed a pleasant look upon my angel's face whenever I pray the Hail Mary Godfather taught me so I decided to just go with it.

As I pray this mystery I try to remember how blessed I am to be here simply because God loves me and my parents love me.

The Visitation
The fruit of this mystery is love of neighbor

One day when I was in the womb, I started getting these new sensations. My angel explained I was starting to hear. He described that calming, rhythmic beat as my mom's heart. I really liked it. What also was neat was when she would go visit people and they would ask about me. Sometimes I would try to leap up to say,

"Here I am."

Mom thought I was kicking her, but really I just wanted to meet all the wonderful souls that seemed to be just on the outside of my cozy room.

When I pray this mystery, I think about how many souls really love me and how much I love them. I can't do anything for them right now, but it seems that just my existence brings them happiness so I'll keep on doing that, you know, existing.

The Nativity
The fruit of this mystery is poverty of spirit

One day I decided I just couldn't wait any longer to come see all the wonderful souls who were waiting for me, especially my parents. My guardian angel told me I should wait longer, but there was so much love out there I just had to experience it. My angel sighed and said he would protect me along the way, but that the road would be difficult. As I started to make my way, suddenly I sensed things had changed. Mom seemed really anxious and I could hear Dad's feet pacing back and fourth. There were a whole bunch of new voices that my angel told me were doctors and nurses and then he lifted up his eyes. I asked him what he was doing, and he said he was praying. He reached and grabbed me by my ankles and said,

"I'm going to hold you here for a couple of days before I let you go."

I was a little upset about that, but then I also sensed Mom and Dad preferred that too. So reluctantly, I waited. After a couple of days, my angel let me go and I was surprised at how hard it was to get out. I thought about going back, but my angel said that was no longer possible. The noises started getting louder and I could hear Mom's heart beating harder. I emerged into the world and let out a cry which seemed to delight everyone, but gosh it was a lot colder out here. They wrapped me in blanket and laid me in a manger also called an incubator. I also sensed a lot of other souls around me. My angel told me that these were saints and that they were praying for me, too. This new place wasn't as nice as the womb. I kept getting poked and prodded and they stuck this thing up my nose to help me breathe. I never had anything like that inside of Mom.

When I pray this mystery, I try to remember how fortunate I was to have all those souls there to greet me, especially my mom and dad. They really, really love me, and I love them.

The Presentation
The fruit of this mystery is purity of mind and body.

It was only a few hours after I was born that Mom, Dad, a couple who I heard referred to as the Godparents, and new soul appeared whom everyone called Father. Was this God? My angel said that he was what we call a priest. His heart has been conformed to Christ.

"Who is Christ?" I asked.

"Wait and see," my angel smiled, then gazed upward in awe.

I heard the little portals of my incubator open and the hands of the priest rested above me. Then I heard him say,

"I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."

As he said these words little drops of water tickled my head, but suddenly I felt something wonderful. It's hard to describe the feeling of being new in every cell of my body. I discovered a new love. It was as if somehow all the love I had experienced was gathered to become one with something so much larger than me.

"What's happening to me?" I asked my angel.

"You have been claimed by Christ." he said.

"Can I see him?"

"Not yet. One day you will, but you can feel him holding you now can't you?"

"Oh yes! I feel him. I feel my mom and dad. And I feel all these other souls holding me up in prayer."

This is my favorite mystery to pray because I always remember how it felt to be in hands of Christ for the first time.

The Finding of Jesus in the Temple
The fruit of this mystery is 0bedience.

So many doctors and nurses have worked hard not to lose me. I don't really understand this. Where could I possibly go? I'm with my mom and dad. I'm with Christ. I'm will all these saints. I'm with these people called grandparents and aunts. My godparents seem to come by almost every day. With so many people looking over me, why is everyone afraid of losing me? Still, it's wonderful to feel the joy, the pure love whenever they come to visit. It's as if they discover me for the first time. They keep saying that one day I will go home. I don't really know what that is, but I hope all these wonderful souls will follow me there, too.

When I pray this mystery, I pray that I never get lost because how lonely it would be without the love that Christ as has given me.

My angel still prays with me and my Godfather, though it's getting harder and harder to see my angel and the saints. As I get better seeing with my eyes, my soul's vision seems to dim, but he assures me that he will always be with me and that makes me feel good. Christ seems to be with me all of the time. I can't wait until I'm old enough to learn more about him. Until then, I rest in his arms, even when Mom comes to hold me. Somehow he's able to hold us both at the same time. He's even held Mom, Dad, me, and this other guy they call my big brother all at once. I don't know how he does it, but I'm glad he does.

There are other mysteries of the rosary we pray. I don't understand the sorrowful ones other than it makes me sad that anyone would want to hurt someone so wonderful as Christ. My angel tells me that Christ died for my sins, but I don't have any sins yet. The one I did have, apparently got washed away when I was baptized. It's all a little confusing to me, but I'm told I'll understand better when I get older.

Sometimes I wish I had waited to come into the world, but that would have meant waiting longer to meet Christ and my mom and dad. I feel kind of like a celebrity with all the attention I've received. I even have my own blog now. Not many babies my age can say that.

My name is Luke, and I am loved.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Pleasing God

"Pleasing the Lord has love as it's background."
Pope John Paul II
General Audience of July 7th, 1982

Pleasing God sometimes seems nearly impossible. How does one give pleasure or satisfaction to a deity who remains eternally omnipotent, omniscient, and literally owns everything. Talk about a father who is difficult to shop for. What gift could one possibly buy that He doesn't have already? What item could one make that He hasn't already created? And yet throughout the Old and New Testament, one hears the call to strive for that which pleases the Lord.

The first step is to consider this word "pleasing" from a theological point of view. Ponder this question. Is God's happiness dependent upon the actions of humanity? It presents a bit of a prevarication in that to answer either "yes" or "no" to that question entails an exercise of submitting The Almighty to a kind of psychological profile. Given that humans are limited by the finite resources of their fallen, mortal existence, any attempt to say "this is what God thinks or feels" is theory at best and heresy at its worst.

Protestant theology tends to hinge on many scriptural suppositions that attempt to translate the divine word into a more palatable or explainable human experience. They mystery of Christ gets watered down for easier consumption. For example, when Christ says, "This is my body," He must have meant it symbolically. When Christ said, "upon this rock I will build my church," He really meant it to mean Himself not Peter. And at football games when the well-intentioned fan holds up the sign that simply says John 3:16, he is making a statement for sola fide. Luther conveniently altered the phrasing so as to state that belief in Christ was all that is necessary versus the more accurate translation which leaves salvation still in the balance. Calvinists take this "knowing" of God's mind so far as to presume not only salvation for themselves, but damnation for the reprobate.

Still another wrinkle rests in one's motive for making God happy. For many, pleasing God assuages a fear of hell. For others, getting on the good side of The Lord is their ticket to Heaven. In either case, the motive remains egocentric. One pleases God out of a desire for a positive benefit or a fear of a darker consequence. In fact a believer often gets discouraged when effort gets put forth that should indeed please The Father and what seems to get returned is either suffering or an unanswered prayer.

Pleasing God may seem difficult; however, Our Heavenly Father gave a model for His children to follow. The divine example remains in the reality that God actually incarnated Himself on Earth in the form of His beloved son, our Lord Jesus Christ, who told the people, "follow me." For pleasing God rests not within doing for oneself, but rather in the total donation of self in the same way Christ gave of Himself. If one wants to please God, one walks in the footsteps of Christ for no other reason than that one loves Him. To please God is to be in communion with Him free of selfish motives.

John Paul II hit the nail on the head when he described love as the background for pleasing Our Lord. For only with love can one truly gift oneself to God.

Monday, September 10, 2007

What's in a Name?

The year is AD 33. Standing at the top of the praetorium steps before Pontius Pilate, Governor of Judea, stands Jesus. He has been arrested for his activity in the area, and he can tell the crowd is restless. Pilate looks worried. The Roman soldiers appear a bit on edge, ready to quell any riot that might break out. Suddenly Pilate speaks to the crowd,

"I find no crime in him. But you have a custom that I should release one man for you at the Passover; will you have me release for you the King of the Jews?"

The crowd shout his name, and to his delight and surprise, the Roman soldiers suddenly release him. He never saw this coming. He is free, and his crimes are forgiven. The Jews cheer and the Sanhedrin, whom he never had much use for look very pleased indeed.

Is this a rewriting of the Gospel by some gnostic historian or anti-Catholic writer such as Dan Brown? No, the above is a true story.

For this Jesus who stood before Pilate was not the Christ, but rather a leader of the rebellion against the Roman occupation. His full name was Jesus Barab'bas. As Pope Benedict writes in his recent book Jesus of Nazareth, Barab'bas means "Son of the father," and up until the early 300's, his full name was used in the Greek translations. Later the translators dropped his first name and he simply became known as Barab'bas. He was not just some ordinary common criminal or a crazed psychopath as he sometimes gets portrayed in Hollywood. The Jewish people knew him. Many likely supported his cause as he promised them a way out from under Rome's heavy hand.

Barab'bas served a very clear purpose in the event that was Christ's passion. For the first time, at a critical moment, the Jewish people had a chance to choose between man or God, both in the flesh. The rebel promised salvation for the Jewish people through the forces of violence and war. The Christ called for a complete self-donation, which in many of the people's minds must have sounded like complete surrender to Caesar.

"...will you have me release for you the King of the Jews?"

For the Jew, the question was do your trust in man or trust in God? And just as in the time of Moses, when they had the choice of choosing God's word over the invented golden calf, they chose that which they could create over that which God had already created.

Everyday, man has this scene reenacted in the choices that define the human experience. Barab'bas has a new face, today. He comes in the form of exultant science and the religion of humanism with its gospel of relativism. Christ stands alone in this world save for a few loyal disciples and His mother who continue to brave the crowd. He stands before humanity with His same offer of redemption based in faith, hope, and love. And the response he receives from a self-reliant, stiff-necked, hardened-heart people is:

"Crucify him! Crucify him!"

No one really knows what became of Barab'bas. He never managed to overthrow the Romans. God used him for His purpose and the rebel disappeared from history. Yet Christ endures. Through the travails of the ages, many have come in his place and ultimately failed as he did, and still this Jesus of Nazareth continues to soften hearts and change lives and bring people to His father.

"...will you have me release for you the King of the Jews?"

Let all of mankind have the courage to answer Pilate with a resounding "Yes!"

Sunday, September 02, 2007

A Place in History

Alexander the Great. Julius Caesar. Napoleon. Genghis Khan. George Washington. Abraham Lincoln.

Those are all men who made their mark on history. They are giants of sorts. Their lives are studied in schools. Books are written about them, even movies made. Each of these people, and countless more, are remembered for the significance of their presence at certain critical times in the course of human events. Knowing that the victor usually gets the first crack at documenting the chain of events during a particular time period, history often has to be discerned by what facts one can know, and which assertions are products of the historian's bias.

One individual that seems to get left out of academia's study of great figures in human history is the one person, the one man, who by his very existence changed the course of the future in a way none of the great characters of the past could ever imagine. His name was Jesus Christ.

In his book, Jesus of Nazareth, Pope Benedict XVI gives an inspiring account Christ from both a historical and theological point of view. In essence, both disciplines are needed to understand who Christ is. Some 2,000 years ago this Jesus of Nazareth stepped onto the stage of man's recorded experience, and He accomplished in a few years of ministry more than any other human being had up to that time or ever will.

Yet He will not be found in any history text book used in public schools. Secular historians have literally set aside their own best practices in an attempt relegate Christianity to just another religion. To do otherwise would have profound implications on the meaning of their profession as a true historian would no longer be able to credibly leave out the fact that God exists, and that He dwelled among man. Ponder how such a revelation by the historian would shape the telling of future events.

From a practical historical point of view, Christ should not have even made an impact. His ministry was short-lived and ultimately His mission led to his execution by the Roman army. By any logical examination, one might conclude that Jesus was simply a rebel who finally went too far and was summarily dispatched from existence by a fairly ordinary means. Rome was no weaker because of Him nor was the Jewish nation threatened. It was not Christians who destroyed the Jewish Temple in A.D. 70, but rather infighting among the various factions within the ruling class and the Romans who finished what had already been started.

How could this man from a exceedingly unimportant region that was Nazareth make such an impact by being executed? As Pope Benedict writes in the forward of his book,

" early as twenty years or so after Jesus' death, the great Christ-hymn of the letter to the Phillippians reveals a fully developed Christology stating that Jesus was equal to God, but emptied himself, became man, and humbled himself to die on the cross, and to him now belongs the worship of all creation, the adoration that God through the prophet Isaiah was due to him alone."

The extraordinary fact that God lived among man makes the most logical explanation for how this radical religion could have ever developed, endured, and ultimately thrived. There was no earthly advantage for one to embrace Christianity in those first twenty years, and yet people did, often by the hundreds, and often at the greatest personal risk. Why? The historian must answer that question, and there really seems to be only one logical explanation. There must have been an event so incredible, so impactful, so over the top as to cause people to make this extraordinary conversion. That event was the encounter with the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God incarnate; God stepping into human history in a very tangible, undeniable way.

And His story continues. Were historians wanting to write about The Christ, they would forever be in a state of a work in progress. Christ lives, today. Christ comes to His people each and every mass in the Eucharist and the other sacraments of His Church. Yes, the victor does write the history, but in this case it is not the scholar who authors an accounting, but rather the priestly people who proclaim the Gospel.