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.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Engendering Truth

The human person, made in the image and likeness of God, can hardly be adequately described by a reductionist reference to his or her sexual orientation. Every one living on the face of the earth has personal problems and difficulties, but challenges to growth, strengths, talents and gifts as well. Today, the Church provides a badly needed context for the care of the human person when she refuses to consider the person as a "heterosexual" or a "homosexual" and insists that every person has a fundamental Identity: the creature of God, and by grace, his child and heir to eternal life.
Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, 1986

Pope Benedict XVI penned the above statement in a letter to the bishops of the Catholic Church over twenty years ago when he was Prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith. At that time, gay marriage was not yet a civil reality, but the pressure on the Church and government authorities to define same sex attraction as a protected class was growing both in the United States and in Europe. One can read the Cardinal's entire letter here.

For two generations, the gay community supported by a liberal media, the entertainment industry, a goofy psychological profession, and an ever politically correct public education system, has attempted to force feed the idea that acting upon same sex attraction is not only perfectly normal, but actually worthy of protected class status. Anyone who dares to oppose such a notion quickly gets branded as ignorant and xenophobic at the least or gets labeled as a homophobic bigot. Such is the defensive language of intolerance to promote the "gay agenda" that ironically seeks tolerance for its subscribers.

The Catholic Church does not consider same sex attraction as a sin in and of itself. The Church rather goes deeper and looks at the dignity of the person and the deposit of truth so clearly defined in sacred scripture and tradition. Despite the culture's preference which ebbs and flows from one century to the next, the Church in her wisdom recognizes that the truth does not change. How can any faith claim authenticity when it allows itself to be ruled by the whimsies of current day public opinion?

There simply exists no getting around the truth revealed in sacred scripture. In Genesis, one reads about the depravity of Sodom and Gomorrah and the destruction the befell them because of their embracing homosexual behavior. Leviticus states clearly that those who engage in homosexual behavior are excluded from the People of God. St. Paul in his letters to the Corinthians and the Romans uses homosexuality as an example of moral excess that has blinded humanity. Christ himself defines in Mark's Gospel the things that defile a man. Included in His laundry list are fornication, which covers the heterosexual crowd, and licentiousness, which includes homosexual activity.

So when the Church takes a stand against what has been so clearly revealed as a disordered use of the gift of sexuality, it does so not from a throne from which condemnation is heaped down upon the sinner, but rather as an act of love and concern that all may experience the grace of Christ to enter into the beatific vision of God.

It was in this spirit that the Pope addressed the Roman Curia. The following excerpt (his entire address can be read here) has evoked a vitriolic response from the gay community.

Since faith in the Creator is an essential part of the Christian Credo, the Church cannot and should not confine itself to passing on the message of salvation alone. It has a responsibility for the created order and ought to make this responsibility prevail, even in public. And in so doing, it ought to safeguard not only the earth, water, and air as gifts of creation, belonging to everyone. It ought also to protect man against the destruction of himself. What is necessary is a kind of ecology of man, understood in the correct sense. When the Church speaks of the nature of the human being as man and woman and asks that this order of creation be respected, it is not the result of an outdated metaphysic. It is a question here of faith in the Creator and of listening to the language of creation, the devaluation of which leads to the self-destruction of man and therefore to the destruction of the same work of God. That which is often expressed and understood by the term “gender”, results finally in the self-emancipation of man from creation and from the Creator. Man wishes to act alone and to dispose ever and exclusively of that alone which concerns him. But in this way he is living contrary to the truth, he is living contrary to the Spirit Creator. The tropical forests are deserving, yes, of our protection, but man merits no less than the creature, in which there is written a message which does not mean a contradiction of our liberty, but its condition. The great Scholastic theologians have characterised matrimony, the life-long bond between man and woman, as a sacrament of creation, instituted by the Creator himself and which Christ – without modifying the message of creation – has incorporated into the history of his covenant with mankind. This forms part of the message that the Church must recover the witness in favour of the Spirit Creator present in nature in its entirety and in a particular way in the nature of man, created in the image of God. Beginning from this perspective, it would be beneficial to read again the Encyclical Humanae Vitae: the intention of Pope Paul VI was to defend love against sexuality as a consumer entity, the future as opposed to the exclusive pretext of the present, and the nature of man against its manipulation.
Pope Benedict XVI
Address to Roman Curia, December 2008

Pope accused of stoking homophobia after he equates homosexuality to climate change!

That was the headline of the London Times. Prodded by gay activists, this paper and many others in the mainstream media completely overlooked the entire address made by the Pope in favor of promoting "the agenda." That the Pope dared to touch on the new religion of secular humanity, global warming, was doubly sinful. What the paper fails to mention is that not once did the Pope refer specifically to homosexuals, gays, lesbians, or transgenders. He simply stated the truth and the gay community drew its own conclusions as the Pope's message conflicted with the reality of their own lives.

Christ hung out with the sinner, but He did not revel in their sins. He did not condone it, nor did he condemn. Rather he sacrificed himself so that all may have the opportunity to repent of their disordered and often evil ways that do come from man, and to be with Him in Heaven, the state where one spends nearly all of eternity, save the seven to ten decades one lives upon the earth.

Which should the Pope and Church be more concerned with; the expression of an ultimately self-indulgent behavior that has a limited life-span, or encouraging all of humanity to seek the ultimate fulfillment of one's purpose which is to spend an eternity with a loving God?

Saturday, December 20, 2008

For the Love of Christ

For the love of Christ controls us, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died.
2 Corinthians (RSV) 5,14

This passage of St. Paul loses some of its punch in the modern English translations of sacred scripture. Looking at that word control in the Latin Vulgate the word used here is urget, which means to press or to bear hard down. So Christ's love does not manipulate as many in modern culture interpret that word control, but rather Paul is so keenly aware of this love, this charity of Our Lord; it is so plainly obvious that it traverses continuously in his soul, and he is compelled to act upon it.

For the love of Christ!

These days if one hears that phrase proclaimed it's usually done in anger. There stands good reason to believe that the person uttering it has found himself in a state of frustration and exasperation. And while it borders on taking Our Lord's name in vain, it does prove interesting that when one uses that expression they're often thinking, "What in the world compelled you to do that?!" What spurred one on to do what was likely a very foolish thing? What was so danged urget?

Either through faith, reason, or physical evidence, one believes in the love of Our Lord. But perhaps as one enters this final week of Advent the question to meditate upon is does one really love Christ? When one says one loves Jesus, what does that really mean?

For many, Christ remains an intellectual exercise. They agree with what He teaches and consider His story a good one to reflect upon and even draw upon; however, some of it seems a little impractical for modern living. Ask this person if he loves Christ, and he more likely gives an answer that reflect he loves the idea of Christ versus actual divine person.

Others love Christ for what he did for them. An evangelical Christian for example might love Our Lord for having gained him salvation under the philosophy of once saved always saved. This person would certainly say he loved Christ, but in a sense has his gaze more towards the future heavenly encounter with this savior of the past.

For the Catholic Christian, to love Christ is to love Him in the present moment. Jesus is not just some ancient historical figure or someone one meets only in the hereafter. He is the divine, incarnate person of the Trinity whom one encounters in the now. At mass the mystery of faith proclaimed is "Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again." Notice the past, present and future of that statement, particularly that Christ is risen. It's not "Christ died, Christ rose" as if one is remembering a lesson of theological history. The proclamation stands as a statement of fact that remains ever present.

The ultimate, most intimate encounter with Christ in the present gets reserved for the Holy Eucharist when one physically encounters the body, blood, soul and divinity of Our Lord. As one approaches Christ in this sacrament, one should truly examine just what kind of relationship one has with Jesus. Is it similar to that of a close friend, or is it distant? Does one extend the reverence and respect one might have when approaching a benevolent king, or does one go through the motions as if one was in line at the supermarket?

Beyond the mass as one speaks to Our Lord in prayer is the conversation one-sided? Does one cultivate silence to give Jesus a chance to get a word in, or has prayer become a routine with only slightly more importance than brushing one's teeth every day? When reading sacred scripture, does one read the word of God like a bride reading a love letter from her husband, hanging on every thought and revelation, or does one spend more time in an academic exercise of exegesis?

What does one mean when one says one loves Jesus?

Imagine if a wife's conversations with her spouse were all one-sided; that when she wrote him a note or letter he spent more time reading between the lines than experiencing the sentiments and meaning contained within; that when the two became one flesh, it was treated as a casual or perfunctory affair no more meaningful than taking out the garbage. Would anyone look at that and call it a healthy, loving relationship? And yet the above often describes exactly many believer's approach their relationship with The Christ.

As the celebration of the birth of Jesus approaches, let all take a few moments each day to examine what stage one finds oneself in one's relationship with Him. And upon reflection if one discovers, as no doubt all especially this author will, an area where love for Jesus is lacking, perhaps one can start with the basics.

Imagine one's disposition in holding a newborn baby. There is a unique joy and sense of wonder in cradling a baby in one's arms. Now imagine the child one so carefully rocks in one's arms is Baby Jesus. Savor the moment...and let the love grow from there.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Humility. It Still Works

For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life, is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world passes away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides for ever.
1 John (RSV) 2:16-17

The headlines of the day reflect a world largely ignoring St. John's statement of fact from sacred scripture. The translation of this passage sometimes gets a bit misconstrued in our sex-centric culture. That word "lust" has taken a near exclusive carnal definition in American vernacular; however, John had a much broader definition in mind. In point of fact, the Latin of this passage uses the word concupiscentia, meaning to desire ardently or to long for. This could mean any material thing.

The governor of Illinois, Rod Blagojevich (aka Blago) certainly had his eye on the earthly prize of money and punted his career and his life as he knew it. So blinded by the arrogance that so often manifests itself among people of power, it's doubful he ever paused to consider that pride comes before the fall. (Proverbs 16:18) Even by Chicago standards, Blago and his coconspiritors sunk to a new low.

Then there is the case of prominent Wall Street trader Bernard Madoff, who built a very successful, legitimate investment firm but remained unsatisfied by the blessings of the Almighty. He had respect among his family and peers until yesterday when it was revealed that his latest venture was actually a 50-billion dollar Ponzi scheme. Interestingly enough, it was his sons who turned dad in. Perhaps equally fascinating, Madoff's victims, completely ignored the imprudent practices and red flags of his firm. Only concerned with their returns, they never stopped to ponder just how they were generated. Lust of the eyes indeed.

Ford, GM, and Chrysler have made thier imperfect act of contrition to Congress as they seek absolution from the American tax payer. After years of making cars that they wanted to make versus what the consumer market desired, they are now all flirting with bankruptcy. The failure of these corporations would hurt the economy and prove devastating to the millions of workers connected to the industry. And yet, despite the poor decisions at the top, the rank and file of the UAW must shoulder an equal share of the blame. An unwillingness to accept a more realistic compensation and benefit package meant that America's trinity of automakers was less able to compete with foreign competitors.

As sensational as these news stories have become, they do to a large extent reflect the reality that a culture that turns its back upon God and the love of Christ simply is not sustainable. Left to his own devices, his own fallen concupiscentia, man destroys himself. And it does not take a great effort to follow the way of Our Lord. Consider if in the three scenarios above one simple element had been added from the start. It is a quality that defines God's own step into humanity. It's called humility.

A good dose of humility and Blogo and Madoff are free, rich men, and the Big Three automakers are not bothering the taxpayer to bail them out. The challenge remains that everyone, especially powerful men, have a real problem with humiliation. They fail to see that real power lies not in one's ability to exert it, but rather in one's will to set it aside and humble oneself as a servant. Jesus saved a world doing that.

St. Augustin once said that Mary conceived Christ in her heart, mind, and soul before she conceived Him in her body. As one prepares for the final two weeks of Advent, let all prepare the way of the Lord by discovering the power of humility which proves a potent antidote to the deadly sin of pride.