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, July 26, 2009

The Would Be King

"It's good to be the King."

Mel Brooks, playing King Louis XVI, delivered that line in the 1981 comedy film History of the World Part I . Kingship as displayed in the film was one of a court full of beautiful, buxom women, gluttonous amounts of food, tons of money, sex, and supreme power over everyone. It was a life of leisure and only the cares in one's mind mattered.

The lure of power, a kingship over people or even just an individual, has always been a powerful temptation for man. It may even be his greatest tempter. Satan snagged Adam and Eve with the promise that they would be like God. Given where they were and the state of communion these first parents shared with God, the devil had no choice but to go for the jugular if we wanted to tempt them. They were in want of nothing material. They had it all, already. Yet Lucifer was able to convince them without trying all that hard that their situation could be better still.

Satan played this card again with Christ when he tempted Him in the desert. He offered Our Lord a kingship over all the world. That the offer was made indicates the depths to which the devil had fallen. Such pure arrogance to have shamelessly tempted one's own creator in this way. One wonders if it was the last instance of hope the evil one ever experienced? For failing here all he could do was attempt to destroy the physical incarnation of The Christ. The Lord's will and spirit were now proven impenetrable.

Christ is the incarnation of God, and along with that He brings the most supreme evidence of the humility of this Loving Father. That God willed to walk with humanity should be enough. Why is one not completely blown away and thunder struck with awe by the historical fact that Jesus, son of God, dwelt among mankind? That alone should be enough for one to ponder what Our Father is all about. If Christ had not said anything; if he had not told the parables; if he had not performed the miracles; if he had not healed the sick or raised the dead; if had just simply appeared and man was somehow able to experience the grace of faith that Jesus of Nazareth was the incarnate God, would not humanity still be asking the question, "What does it mean?"

Yet just as it proved insufficient for Adam and Eve, so it goes for their ancestors. But unlike the serpent in the Garden of Eden, Christ can back up His words when He proposes that it can be better still. The devil offers sovereignty over all temporal things in exchange for subjecting oneself to the many pleasures of the world. Christ offers communion, true oneness with God, and He offers this not as an exchange of goods but as a covenant of love. The pleasures then become a blessing of the covenant, in many ways ancillary in nature, versus a means to an end.

One gets offered diabolic kingship every day. The Seven Deadly Sins (pride, envy, gluttony, lust anger, greed, and sloth) are a good starting point to see when one has been invited to such a coronation. Some days, most days perhaps, one will say yes to the offer to be king even if it's in a little way. Often times one is king for a day or even a moment. Is one lustful or prideful or envious all of the time? Likely not.

The things that we love tell us what we are
St. Thomas Aquinas

What does one love? The answer to that question probably indicates what kind of king or servant one has become. The more one loves those things that are of God, the less of a king one soon realizes one has become.

The devil is, if nothing else, persistent. He continuously offers the blessings of God as the ultimate destination. It remains a subtle disordination of the gifts God bestows to humanity, and when one is tempted to be a would be king of this sort, Our Savior gives the best response.

Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself.
John 6:15

They mystery of why God allows temptation to exist may very well be that it provides one the opportunity to move closer to Him. For temptation is simply a choice offered, and if one chooses The Almighty more often than not, then one quickly sees the folly of Mel Brooks' character. It's not good to be the king, rather as St. Paul might have said,

"It's good to be the slave!"

Saturday, July 04, 2009

A Walk in Integrity

As these United States celebrate being two hundred and thirty three years young, today, Psalm 26 seems most appropriate to reflect upon.

Vindicate me, O LORD, for I have walked in my integrity, and I have trusted in the LORD without wavering. Prove me, O LORD, and try me; test my heart and my mind. For thy steadfast love is before my eyes, and I walk in faithfulness to thee. I do not sit with false men, nor do I consort with dissemblers; I hate the company of evildoers, and I will not sit with the wicked. I wash my hands in innocence, and go about thy altar, O LORD, singing aloud a song of thanksgiving, and telling all thy wondrous deeds. O LORD, I love the habitation of thy house, and the place where thy glory dwells. Sweep me not away with sinners, nor my life with bloodthirsty men, men in whose hands are evil devices, and whose right hands are full of bribes. But as for me, I walk in my integrity; redeem me, and be gracious to me. My foot stands on level ground; in the great congregation I will bless the LORD.

Imagine a painting of Uncle Sam kneeling before a cross and praying the above prayer. Set aside for a moment that politically correct police who would castigate anyone who would dare link America with God, and imagine in principle, a nation committed to the entreaties of the psalmist. It would be a nation that recognized that indeed it is one nation under God. It would be a nation whose leaders recognized their culpability not to just the electorate; not just to the Constitution; but most of all to the Almighty, and they would govern accordingly.

A theocracy is not what is being desired here. They rarely work as man's propensity for a lust for power tends to pervert the original design on which a theocratic government might be established. Just take a look at Afghanistan before the Taliban were thrown out of power. Instead, what if the government was conceived on a foundation of justice, true justice as in the cardinal virtue, for all? Oh, that's right, it was.

Vindicate me, O LORD, for I have walked in my integrity...

Indeed, integrity seems like such a rare commodity in American politics and leadership these days. The firm adherence to any position, especially a moral code, proves difficult when constituents demand governance by popularity versus prudence. And having demoted God to the realm of possibility versus absolute truth, the politician soon finds no integral ground in which to plant his flag. The shifting sands of relativism form an ever shifting, tenuous base.

How interesting that while America celebrates her Independence from England on July 4th, that word, independence, finds no home in sacred scripture. Not once in the Old or New Testament does the word appear. Yet integrity is found over twenty times.

A cursory reading of the Declaration of Independence reveals a document so full of integral proclamations that it very easily could have been called the Declaration of Integrity. It speaks of self evident truths and unalienable rights. God, the One God, figures prominently as the one who bestowed these gifts. In point of fact, He is mentioned in the first two sentences, and there is zero mention of a separation of Church and state.

Vindicate me, O LORD, for I have walked in my integrity...

Today, a kind of thinking espoused by Oprah Winfrey has gained some popularity. It's called by many names, but basically it is a perverted form of Sufism, the Islamic mystical practice of drawing close to the Divine in order to purify oneself. Oprah and her cadre of New Age gurus she promotes takes it a step further and dismisses God as a being. Instead all are God and the struggle to discover one's self is far more important than the worship of a single entity.

Under Oprah, when one is with a Muslim, one becomes a Muslim. When one is with a Buddhist, one becomes a Buddhist. When one is with a Hindu, one becomes a Hindu. And when one is with a Christian, well, out of charity for the poor soul stuck in naivete, one becomes an evangelist for enlightened self-interest.

This is germane to this look at integrity as it highlights the challenge the country faces. Bereft of a core set of values given by a just God, on what ground does this nation stand? Without God as the light, the walk in the clearly defined path of integrity turns into a wandering in the wilderness.

God bless America. Please, God, bless America.