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, January 24, 2009

The Great Escape

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, that through these you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of passion, and become partakers of the divine nature.
For this very reason make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.
2Peter(RSV) 3-7

The City of Portland Oregon awaits to learn the decision of its mayor, Sam Adams, as to whether he will resign from office over the revelation of his homosexual affair with a young intern. The fact that the mayor is gay does not shock anyone as he has always been open about that. What has landed Mayor Adams into hot water is that during his campaign he lied about a tryst with an eighteen-year-old student. The mayor is forty-five, and all indications seem to point to the fact that he courted the boy for a couple of years while he was still a minor, and, best case, waited until the lad turned of legal age before making his move.

Adams was not able to escape the corruption of the world brought on by his concupiscence. It's interesting that somewhere in his conscience he knew that what he was doing was wrong. Had he been completely comfortable with the situation he would have boldly proclaimed during his election bid that he had this consensual affair with a person of legal age and that the press should mind its own business. Oddly enough, Portlanders would have respected that. The fact that the mayor bordered on being a pedophile is okay, but that he lied about it is really bad.

Only in Portland.

In modern society, there seems to exist a notion that the proper way to express one's sexuality lies somewhere between hedonism and puritanism. The struggle is finding that right balance between those extreme standards. This may explain why so many struggle in this area. The scale itself is weighing the wrong thing. While everyone has the license to express their sexuality wherever, whenever, and with whomever one wishes, their exists the reality that not everyone has the authentic freedom to do so.

What if one examined the gift of sexuality from the standpoint of vocation? Each person is called in life to a specific state of being. For most it is married life; for some single; and a select few are called into the priesthood or consecrated religious life. What is the purpose of sex in each of those vocations?

The answer for the married and the religious is pretty obvious, but for the single person living in this modern world where family friendly check stands at the grocery store are created so little Suzie does not read the cover of Cosmo and a host of other womens' magazines which try to lure readers with headlines on their covers promising how to be a better slut, it can get a bit confusing. The inculcation of the message that sex outside the covenant of marriage is normal and acceptable has permeated nearly every aspect of modern life, save the Church.

This is not a new struggle. Scripture and even history is replete with examples of people led astray by their abandoning of virtue in favor of vice. It never ends well. Cultures that turn sex into a consumable item neglecting its true purpose don't endure. There exists a real lack of sustainability or moral progress when the very dignity of the human experience wanders too far from the Divine's design.

Sex is not a vocation, an entitlement, or even a passion to be repressed. It is a gift given by a loving God for a specific purpose within a specific calling. One can break the cycle. One can escape the corruption. The Catholic Church's first pope, Peter, reminds all that Christ is the way back to the authentic relationship with God and humanity where one finds true peace.

Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you? If any one destroys God's temple, God will destroy him. For God's temple is holy, and that temple you are. Let no one deceive himself. If any one among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, "He catches the wise in their craftiness," and again, "The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile."
1 Corinthians (RSV) 3:16-20

St. Paul wrote the words to the Corinthians who whose culture in their day makes modern day Las Vegas look like Vatican City. Note that one doesn't encounter Corinthians, today. Their way of life did not endure and faded into history, but the Church has thrived and her values and virtues have withstood the test of time as their genesis resides with God.

The great escape is then lies in the fleeing to the virtues leaving the vices to the fallen world.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Sins That Cry to Heaven

In any case we clearly see, and on this there is general agreement, that some opportune remedy must be found quickly for the misery and wretchedness pressing so unjustly on the majority of the working class: for the ancient workingmen's guilds were abolished in the last century, and no other protective organization took their place. Public institutions and the laws set aside the ancient religion. Hence, by degrees it has come to pass that working men have been surrendered, isolated and helpless, to the hardheartedness of employers and the greed of unchecked competition. The mischief has been increased by rapacious usury, which, although more than once condemned by the Church, is nevertheless, under a different guise, but with like injustice, still practiced by covetous and grasping men.
Pope Leo XIII
Rerum Novarum, 3
May 15, 1891

When Gioacchino Vincenzo Raffaele Luigi, aka Pope Leo XIII, penned these words, little could he have known that his encyclical on the condition of labor in the world could easily be adapted to many of the problems facing the world today. With the Industrial Revolution still reverberating throughout the world and the seeds of communism and socialism beginning to germinate, the common, everyday man found himself caught in the crossfire of intellectualism and capitalism. Man's suffering was the impetus for the Pope's letter to the world.

Fast forward a century and some odd years, and what has really changed? Have not public institutions and laws distanced themselves even further from God and religion? Have employers become anymore compassionate? And what better term than rapacious usary describes the practice of creditors who charge interest rates of over thirty percent when a borrower falls behind regardless of the circumstances surrounding the delinquency?

It's hard to find a time in history when so many of the sins that cry to heaven as identified by the catechetical tradition outlined in the the Catechism of the Catholic Church have been so amplified. These sins are as follows: the blood of Abel, which represents the murder of the innocent; the sin of the Sodomites, which represents the perversion of human, sexual love; the cry of the people oppressed in Egypt, which represents those held in human bondage; the cry of the foreigner, the widow, and the orphan; and the injustice to the wage earner.

What proves disheartening is that so many of these sins have been declared as normal by a culture that has distanced itself from God. For example, if one were to count the number of people living in the states of California, Oregon, and Washington, one would still be about four million people shy of the number of American citizens murdered by abortion since Roe vs. Wade made abortion legal in all fifty states. Fifty million souls is the best estimation of that number, and that will likely accelerate when President Elect Obama signs into law the Freedom of Choice Act, which effectively removes nearly all restrictions at the state level on this civil act of murder.

The sin of the Sodomites comes into focus with the proliferation of not only laws that legitimize disordered sexual behavior but also in the media that attempts to normalize its practice. Where once gay couples were featured in prime time shows as way to show the program's sophistication and also to simply titillate the audience, now one can hardly find a program that does not introduce the gay theme into the plot. Even home improvement shows that feature couples trying to fix up a house have their token gay couple fixing up a bungalow.

There are more human beings in slavery, today, than at any other time in human history. That fact doesn't make the nightly news because it happens in places far removed from Western culture to people in the third world. Were slavery happening in Nebraska versus India, a loud hue and cry would ring out across the land. God sees this injustice even if the West ignores it.

Yet the West does embrace another form of slavery. One of the many factors that has led to the economic downturn has been the culture's enslavement to materialism. The line between want and need has all but disappeared. If one wants it then one must need it and even be entitled to it. This is a form of human bondage that keeps one away from the authentic freedom found in the Gospel.

"And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: `The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God's creation. "`I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of my mouth. For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing; not knowing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. Therefore I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, that you may be rich, and white garments to clothe you and to keep the shame of your nakedness from being seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and chasten; so be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.
Revelation 3:14-20

Laodicea was an early Christian community which got its name from Antiochus II when he colonized this area of modern day Turkey around 260 B.C. He named the city after his wife. More importantly is the fact that the sin of Laodicea was simple ambivalence. Such is the exact condition that America finds herself in, today, with regard to faith. Her faith is neither hot nor cold but rather secondary to the secular whims of the day. The fruit of this mystery will place his hand on Sacred Scripture as he is inaugurated as President of the United States this week.

And while the Evil One likely is reveling in the hypocrisy of the spectacle about to unfold, perhaps the best Christian response for now is the simple prayer prayed at a mass somewhere in the world every hour of every day...

Lord have mercy.
Christ have mercy.
Lord have mercy.