The Bible says nothing directly about most contemporary bioethical issues. Authors of Scripture could never have imagined organ transplants or the creation of human life in a Petri dish. Thus, the Bible does not tell us directly whether we should engage in such practices.
Yet, the Bible is never without relevance for human decision-making in any area, since it helps us to understand who the human person is, what our destiny is and what we should do to achieve that destiny.
Pope John Paul II undoubtedly carefully chose the title for his encyclical on bioethics, calling it Evangelium Vitae, the Gospel of Life, or the Good News of life. All human beings naturally value life, we naturally know that it is wrong to deliberately kill innocent human beings and that it is good to heal the sick and relieve the suffering of those in pain. But Christians know more. We know the good news that every human being is sacred and that we are destined for eternal life. And we know that suffering has redemptive value.
Because their whole vocation is directed towards healing, health care professionals are very close to Jesus. Health care professionals are helping to bring about the kingdom. Christ said, "And preach as you go, saying, 'The kingdom of heaven is at hand.' Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons" (Mt 10:7, 8).
In respect to beginning of life issues, Evangelium Vitae cites such key scriptural passages as "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the Earth" (Gn 1:28), and "You formed my inmost being" (Ps 139:13), and "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born, I consecrated you" (Jer 1:5). That John the Baptist leapt in his mother's womb at the sound of the voice of the mother of his Savior is a powerful biblical portrayal of the fullness of life of the unborn. Modern science provides the scientific proof of the humanity of the unborn but it does not "discover" the humanity of the unborn. It confirms what Scripture reveals.
In respect to end of life issues, Evangelium Vitae tells us that our faith will sustain us in times of great suffering. Psalm 116:10 states, "I kept my faith even when I said, 'I am greatly afflicted.'" Believers who suffer and who unite their suffering with that of their Savior on the cross and those who are dying should have confidence that Christ says to them what he said to the good thief: "Today you will be with me in Paradise" (Lk 23:43). Health care professionals are like Mary the Mother of God, Mary Magdalene and St. John who stood at the foot of the cross of Jesus. Every suffering person is close to Jesus and to be close to those who suffer is to be close to Jesus.
John Paul II in his encyclical Salvifici Doloris (On Salvific Suffering) states that "suffering unleashes love." Those who are suffering provide us with an opportunity to show our love. True Catholic bioethics attempt to guide health care professionals to ensure that their care honors the deepest truths about the human person.
While the Bible says nothing about such issues as embryonic stem cell research or assisted suicide, bioethicists steeped in the teachings of the Bible will find invaluable assistance for discerning the morality of such practices.
Last time we talked about discernment – what it is, and how to go about it. This month we will be looking at the big question, How do I discern God’s call for my life?
I. Discovering My Identity – Who(se) Am I?
The weakness of the present moment is that when we first think of finding our mission in life, we think of an action, of doing things. It is telling that one of the most popular books in the last ten years is Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life. We are all striving to do things that are meaningful. We seek to fill our lives with purposeful actions. You may ask, “What’s wrong with that?” Nothing really, it is a good thing, but it’s not the best thing, and it certainly isn’t the first thing we should be striving for. What we should be striving for first and foremost is an identity-driven life. Your first call is not to go out on mission – your first call is to discover and live your identity. Who am I called to be? Who I am is best answered by knowing Whose I am.
Our very identity is a relational reality. In a relationship is where I discover my truest identity. This can be traced back to God. The first person of the trinity is God the Father. Father is a relational title – to be a Father means there must also be a son. Our first vocation is to discover the identity we have in our relationship with God. How do we find it? It’s written in our hearts. We were not just created by God, we were created FOR God. Augustine called this Capax Dei – our capacity for God. Apart from our union with God, we can’t have any insight into our identity. CCC §25.
If we take a look at the Scriptures, we see the importance of identity as expressed in the concept of naming. Peter was born Simon and called that until Jesus reveals to him who he really is – Peter, Rock. Abram becomes Abraham, Jacob becomes Israel. Your deepest identity is who God names you to be. This shows up in the concept of holiness and mission in Chapter 5 of Lumen gentium. “The classes and duties of life are many, but holiness is one – that sanctity which is cultivated by all who are moved by the Spirit of God, and who obey the voice of the Father and worship God the Father in spirit and in truth.”
This call to union with God in love gives rise to a further call, and provides the basis for the call you have for how to live your life, as articulated by Pope John Paul II in his call to the lay faithful. How we live in union and communion with God determines how we go forth and live in communion with others.
II. How do we know that God has a plan for our lives?
In Jeremiah 29:11-14 we read this message from the Lord to the Israelite captives in Babylon: “For I know well the plans I have in mind for you, plans for your welfare, not for woe! Plans to give you a future full of hope. When you call me, when you go to pray to me, I will listen to you. When you look for me, you will find me. Yes, when you seek me with all your heart, you will find me with you, says the Lord, and I will change your lot; . . .”
This passage contains three truths: 1. God has a plan for your life; 2. You can know the plan He has for you – He doesn’t hide it from you; 3. You must do your part – ask, seek and knock with all your heart. But we have to remember, God’s plan comes to fulfillment in His time and in His way. God’s will WILL be done in your life – you can’t thwart Him. If you do, He will do something greater. He will redeem it.
III. How Can We Know the Mind of God?
If we are rooted in the relationship we have with God, and if we desire above all else to come to know him better by asking, seeking and knocking, and if we accept that our mission flows from holiness, and not from some self-identified desire of our own, then:
1.We will come to experience as a fruit of holiness a co-natural knowledge with God. We will come to know what God knows. We can come to know what God wants for us. (See 1 Peter 1:12-15) As St. Thomas Aquinas taught, you can have the experience [i.e. come to know] of the other person through love.
2.St. Augustine said something to the effect of “Love God and do what you want.”To love God is expressive of a yearning, a desire. As I will to give myself to God, I experience a union with God’s will. This gives rise to a desire to do what God wills me to do. God will cause a willing to do what God wills! Thus, the fruit of this union is the natural willing of a supernatural will.
Remember: Christ said “You did not choose me, I chose you.” It is not our call for our lives; it is God’s call for our lives. The idea that is so prevalent today that “You can be anything you want to be, or do anything you want to do” is not true. What is true is that you can do anything that God intends for you. The message we should be giving to our kids is, “I wonder what God has intended for you in giving you this particular gift.” The question should be, “Lord, what have you chosen for me? Help me to understand what it is you want for me.”
IV. How do I recognize what I’ve been chosen for?
While you should pay attention to exterior indicators, you should pay more attention to those indicators that come from within you. By exterior indicators, I mean those people who may offer advice or opinions of what your talents are, or what you should do; those circumstances or experiences or opportunities that may be directing you one way or another. St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, developed a method of discernment that involves removing yourself from exterior realities and putting ourselves in quiet circumstances with proscribed prayers a course of contemplation.
We may not all experience a life call as being imposed on you. Our heart’s desire exists in the deepest center of our being. It is a desire that you discover in you that is not from you – God has etched it on your being. When you allow that to come out, you will experience a sense of a call fulfilled. It is an interior, personal correspondence to an exterior sense of being called by the Lord. We have to distinguish between desires that pull you at the surface, your appetites, your “I” – who you are by birth, environment, talents and the call for your life that God has implanted on your heart.
V. How do you know if you are stalling at the level of your own “I”?
We have to strive for “indifferencia” (Ignatius) - the state of being indifferent. By indifference I don’t mean “not caring about”. I mean open and receptive, not attached, willing to be led. To test your indifference, ask yourself four questions posed by Antonio Rosmini, a 19th century priest, philosopher and theologian.
1. Would you be happy with or would you prefer a long life or a short life?
2. Would you be happy with or would you prefer sickness or health?
3. Would you be happy with or would you prefer riches or poverty?
4. Would you be happy with or would you prefer fame or obscurity?
If you can answer that you would be happy with any state listed, and would not prefer any particular one, then you have achieved “indifferencia”.
Contrast this to the “Prosperity Gospel” that has gained in popularity over the last several years. The central idea here is that what the Lord prefers for you is health, riches, fame and long life. How about that unhealthy strain of Catholic thinking that goes like this: “Oh Lord, I know you want this sickness for me, I know you have ordained it, so I will suffer through it because it is what you want. Or, “I know I’m poor because I don’t deserve any better.” Indifference is saying, “Lord, I prefer what you prefer. Whatever you want for me is what I want for me. This sets us up to say, “What I long for is to be open to receive what I have been chosen for.”
St. Alphonsus de Ligori, the founder of the Redemptorists, taught that we must have filial trust in the Lord in the major decisions in our lives. God will not let you be deceived. (As long as you are not deceiving yourself!) Entrust yourself entirely to God. When you know Whose you are, it will be enough.
VI. How will we know when we are called by God?
Let’s look at the characteristics of a call by looking at the call of Abram from Genesis 12:1-4.
1. “The Lord said to Abram” – The Lord calls US. He takes the initiative. We must be listening.
2. He communicates to us – He doesn’t hide. He won’t be trying to keep it from you, or make you guess. It’s personal to you – He calls you by name.
3.“Go forth from the land of your kinsfolk and from your father’s house.”Responding to a call will stretch us. It will take us out of our comfort zone. Abram was commanded to leave the land of his kinsfolk. When you are called, expect to leave those places that you know or where you are comfortable.
4. “To a land that I will show you.” Often when we have a call or a mission, we are called to “follow me.” That is where the trust comes in. We don’t have to know the outcome or the end point. We don’t have to know where we’re being led. The most important thing to know is Who is leading you. Complete fidelity is required of us in making a daily decision to follow Him.
5. “I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you. I will make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.” Living out our call brings us to a place where we will do something great for God, and we will be blessed. By following the Lord’s lead, we will be led to a greatness that is immensely beyond what is humanly great. Not only will you be blessed, but you will be a blessing to others.
6. “I will bless those that bless you and curse those that curse you.” As you strive to live your life according to God’s plan, expect resistance and persecution. The world will resist you, because it will not want the light of God shining on it, on the darkness that exists there.
7. “All the communities of the earth shall find blessing in you.” We all share a common human nature. When you are faithful and living out your call, you release an impulse of “Yes” to God that reverberates throughout the earth and the whole Body of Christ. Your “Yes” touches all of humanity.
8. “Abram went as the Lord directed him.” We have to obey. Obedience in Latin means “to listen”. We must do what He asks completely and obediently. Abram not only responds completely and immediately when God tells him to leave the land of his forbearers, but he responds in the same manner when he is called by God to sacrifice his son. What is Abram’s response? “Ready!” In return, God honors His obedience by sparing his son.
9. “and Lot went with him.” We are not called just as individuals to go it alone. There may be one or many who are called to walk with you – to offer you support or encouragement. We do not have to rely on our won wisdom and strength. God will provide those to accompany us.
10. “Abram was seventy-five years old when he left Haran.” Abram probably thought he was not the right person for this call when he first heard it. He must have thought he was too old for this task. God is not stopped by self-imposed limitations.Don’t think God is done with you just because you think you are too old or too young, or you’re not educated enough, or you can’t speak well enough, etc. God doesn’t call the qualified. He qualifies the called. He requires less awareness of our abilities, and more awareness of our inabilities. Mostly, He requires that we make ourselves available.
11. “Abram took his wife Sarai, his brother’s son Lot, all the possessions that they had accumulated, and the persons they had acquired in Haran.” The Lord provided a community for Abram to accompany him along the way. God was saying “I will provide a home for you along the way, until you reach the destination I have ordained for you.” We too are on the way – our lives on earth are part of the journey to the home God has ordained for us. We are provided with a community to journey with us so that we will have a home along the way, but the culmination of our mission is not here. Our mission ends in the Promised Land of Heaven.
Wow! Our call is no less important than that of Abram’s. The key is not to miss it – to be on our toes, in constant contact, listening. We have to know our identity as established firmly in our relationship with the Father, so that when He calls our name, we will respond, with unwavering trust and humble indifference, “Ready!”
By Dr. Tom Curran
Easter was over two weeks ago, and although we are still in the Easter season, many of us have moved on to the next thing. Holy Week, in particular the Triduum, seems like a distant memory. The busyness of our lives has carried us away from the empty tomb, but before we leave the scene of Christ’s passion, death and resurrection there is a message in this Easter season that we must hear loud and clear, a message that we need more than any other. If we miss this, we miss the essence, the heart, the foundation of all that Christ came into this world to teach us.
Read what the Catechism of the Catholic Church has to say about this season:
“Beginning with the Easter Triduum as its source of light, the new age of the Resurrection fills the whole liturgical year with its brilliance. Gradually, on either side of the source, the year is transfigured by this liturgy.” CCC 1168
Your year has been transfigured by the Easter Triduum! Some of you may be saying, “Oh really? I haven’t seen any evidence of that yet!” Read on:
Therefore Easter is not simply one feast among others, but the “Feast of feasts,” the “Solemnity of solemnities,” just as the Eucharist is the “Sacrament of sacraments” (the Great Sacrament). St. Athanasius calls Easter “the Great Sunday” and the Eastern Churches call Holy Week “the Great Week.” The mystery of the Resurrection, in which Christ crushed death, permeates with its powerful energy our old time, until all is subjected to him.CCC 1169
Wow! Something great – something powerful – something extraordinary has just happened in our lives. Our year has been transfigured; our time has been co-opted and subjected to the One who subjected Himself to death on the cross on our behalf. All this happened just a few weeks ago. Why aren’t we still reeling? Perhaps because we don’t recognize that the God who came down among us, who walked our earth, who subjected himself to our torments, is walking with us still today. Perhaps we don’t know in the depths of our hearts the God who cares deeply for the details of our lives, the God Who wants to draw near to us, Who is looking down on us, Who sees every burden we carry and longs to carry them with us. Perhaps because we don’t know our identity as His children – as His precious sons or daughters. How can we recognize God working in our lives? How can invite Him to draw near to us? How can we know the peace that He intends for us – that same peace He breathed upon the apostles huddled together in fear in the upper room on Easter Sunday? The answers lie in the events of the past few weeks.
By reflecting on the Holy Triduum – Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday - we can learn where we have come from and where we are going. More importantly, we will discover who we are and Whose we are. If you noticed, the Gospel of John that was read on Holy Thursday doesn’t tell the Last Supper story of Jesus taking bread and wine and breaking and blessing and sharing it with the disciples. Instead, at the Passover meal, Jesus washes the feet of the apostles. Why were the apostles upset at this action? Because this was a filthy job – and it was left to the lowest household slave. Jesus, Who is Lord and God comes among us to do the task of the lowliest servant. In the account of the washing of the disciple’s feet in John 13:3, it says that Jesus was fully aware “that he had come from God and was returning to God.” Jesus knew His identity – He knew where He had come from and where He was going. Until we know ourselves as sons and daughters of God, we will not know our identity, and we will not know where we are going. We have ways of locating ourselves – we are born in this time, in this family, in this place, we have this job, we do these things well. But at the foundation, these things do not identify who we are, or whose we are because they are not connected to where we’ve come from or where we’re going.
Most people don’t think about who they are, much less Whose they are. Our lives are so complicated and busy. Moments like Divine Mercy Sunday that occurred the week after Easter, just fly by. What does it mean to us? We need to stop and take account, and focus on our relationship with God. We need to open our minds and hearts to Him, and invite Him in. One way to do this is to keep a journal. Journaling is associated with the concept of reflecting. Through reflecting we can get a greater sense of clarity about who we are.
Good Friday is one of the real mysteries of our faith. This day that Christ died on the cross – the central sacrifice that is celebrated and for which we give thanks in the Mass, the source and summit of our faith- is the only day in the liturgical calendar that Mass is not celebrated. If we don’t reflect on this, the meaning and significance passes us by. Why do we call this day “Good” Friday? We recognize that by His death, Jesus has saved us from death, and has redeemed us from our sins, but our reflection shouldn’t stop here. Jesus turned dying for our sins into something great. Tragedies happen in this world, often in ways that are defy understanding. But Good Friday shows us that God is so powerful, so big, that no matter what tragedy clings to our lives, no matter what trials were are faced with, God is greater. There is nothing so horrendous or threatening that God can not overcome it. He is always victorious. He can turn even the most devastating situation, if we give it over to Him, to good. He wins every time. That’s what Good Friday means. If we don’t get this right, we miss everything. By our sins we betray Him, we flog Him, we crown Him with thorns, we crucify Him. What does He do? He begs His Father to forgive us. He prays for mercy for us.God takes the worst thing we ever did and He turns it into the greatest thing He ever did.
If you look at the bad things you have brought upon your life or that have come upon your life, you must believe, God is bigger than anything you can do or fail to do. God wants to overcome your trials with His life. He is saying, “I am with you. Do not be afraid.”
Of all the events of the Triduum, Holy Saturday gets the least amount of attention. What do we do to commemorate Holy Saturday? Hans urs von Balthasar, a favorite theologian of mine, and a contemporary of Pope John Paul II, has written that all theology begins on Holy Saturday. Why? This is the place where the Son of God goes the furthest away from God and begins the turn back to God. In Jesus’ life, passion and death, Jesus comes to earth in the Incarnation and lives among us until it is His hour, when He enters into His passion and death. When He descends to the dead, He undergoes our punishment for sin. What is that? Separation from God. Theologically, this is called hell. Jesus not only undergoes identifying with our sin, He also takes on the effects of our sin. We don’t think about what happens to Jesus on Holy Saturday. The redeemer, in His solidarity with the dead, has spared them the experience of everlasting separation from God. He has shown a light to them. Jesus, Who was always “Yes” to God, had to take on Himself all those who say “No” to God, as well as all the effects of their “No” to God.
Before the redemption, death was an eternal “No”. Jesus’ “Yes” is greater than any man’s “No” to God. Jesus turns back all the forces in this world that would be a “No” to God. He takes all that is “No” in us and transforms it into a “Yes.”
All of us, at one time or another, have said “No” to God. Not only through sin, but in our refusal to give to God all that we have and all that we are. The good and the bad. In our lives, in our marriages, in our work, in our relationships with our loved ones, why do we say “No”? Why do we resist believing? He wants to draw near to us. He wants to wash our feet. He wants to triumph over our tragedies. Give to Jesus all that is “No” in you, in your marriage, in you relationships and beg Him to turn the corner back to God. His “Yes” is bigger than any “No”. He has crushed death and permeated time to show you who you are and Whose you are. No wonder we shout “Rejoice!”
Into Your hands Lord we commend our lives, each a story, unique, spellbinding, full of the drama of Your passionate love. God the Author is our alpha beginning, who seeks to direct and compose our days and turn each page, into a reflection of God's love. "The author of life you put to death, but God raised Him from the dead, of this we are witnesses." (Acts 3:15) God's Word today in the tale of His endless love, shows us the now cured crippled man who "clung" to Peter and John... in amazement"(v11), astonished to see his life story change from woe to joy the revelation of God's signature mercy. The disciples direct us to see the One who penned the life of "Abraham, the God of Issac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers" (v13) the God who charactered YOU+ May we rejoice knowing Lord, that each chapter of our lives, the joyful, sorrowful, luminous and glorious mysteries, are capable of telling the story of Your love to the world, if we let You edit, impress and grant You full artistic license.
Use this day Lord, to reveal Yourself in the script of our daily dramas, making Your Words in our flesh, acted out in love. Grant us patience dear God, to trust in the unfolding of our days to know, "God has brought to fulfillment what He had announced through beforehand" (Acts 3:17). Let You hand be upon us Lord and as You turn each page anew each dawn, turn us from sin so that we "be converted, that your sins may be wiped away and that the Lord may grant you times of refreshment and send you the Christ already appointed for you." (v19) May our lives illustrate that we are "happy...people who acclaim such a King, who walk, O Lord, in the light of Your face, who find their joy every day in Your name, who make your justice the source of their bliss." (Ps 89) Let us be O' Master Creator, like Saint Theresa of Calcutta put it, "I am a little pencil in the hand of a writing God who is sending a love letter to the world!"
From Confession: Five Sentences that Will Heal Your Life
By Dr. Tom Curran
We are at the midpoint in our Lenten journey, and the readings this weekend contained messages of humility, repentance and reconciliation. Sunday’s gospel was the beautiful story of the Prodigal Son, who returns to his home in shame, only to encounter a loving father who has longed to see him, and who throws a great banquet upon his return. Why does this gospel appear at this point in this season of Lent?
We have readied ourselves to participate in Christ’s passion, death and Resurrection through our Lenten sacrifices and penances. We have gone into the desert, and sometimes, we’ve come from the pigsty. We’ve meditated upon our condition, and found that we do not want to remain where we are, away from God. It’s time to start home, to be reconciled with our Loving Father, and repent of the many ways in which we have turned our backs and have squandered our inheritance as His children. We are summoned to acknowledge our sinfulness, and to cry out to the Lord, “Abba, forgive me. I have sinned against you.”But that is not the surprising message of the story of the Prodigal Son. What we need to be reminded of at this point in our desert experience is that God our Father is waiting to be reconciled to us, and not just waiting patiently, but impatiently watching, running to us with open arms the minute He sees our approach.
Where will we meet our Lord to reconcile with Him as He waits with open arms? The confessional. He waits there to heal us, and to bring us a peace and a joy that this world cannot give. Unfortunately, many Catholics do not view Confession as something life-giving or “enjoyable.”In fact, Confession is generally seen as a chore – an unloved and unavoidable requirement. What if we connected going to Confession with going to the doctor’s office when we are sick? I may not want to go to the doctor, but I’m smart enough to know that if I don’t, I won’t get the treatment I need to get well. My condition may get worse. What I would not do is run from the doctor’s office.
Confession is your doctor’s office. Your divine Physician, Jesus Christ is at work in His ordained son, the priest, waiting to restore you to health. If I don’t reveal my spiritual sickness, the effects of those sins will only get worse. Maybe if we had a better understanding of the impact of sin our lives we would move away from seeing Confession as an unavoidable requirement that we run from, to an appointment with our Divine Physician that we run to.
What are the symptoms of spiritual sickness, and the effects of sin, even venial sins, on our lives? Sin darkens our intellects, weakens our will, disorders our passions and increases concupiscence. What does that mean?
1. Sin darkens our intellect. To have a darkened intellect means that the truths of faith I used to see so clearly, accept so readily and experience so profoundly become diminished, obscured and confused in my mind. To believe that God exists, that He loves me and that He has a plan for my life is critical to how I live my life as a Catholic Christian. When I sin, it impacts how deeply these truths live in me. When I begin to lose my grip on the truth, other ideas and falsehoods begin to confuse and cloud my thinking. I find myself asking, “Does God really love me? How could He? I’ve done such hateful things. Why would He want to have anything to do with me? Does He even exist at all?” Those are some of the ways sin can impact our thinking by clouding our minds and intellects.
2. Sin weakens the will. To have a weakened will means that in the face of a decision to do something virtuous or godly, or to avoid something evil, we find we lack the capability to will to do what we want. Choosing to sin, even once, saps us of some of the strength we need to resist that same sin the next time we are tempted by it. Choosing to sin weakens our capacity to say “no” to sin and “yes” to God. Committing a particular sin will eventually become a habit, making me a slave to it. I end up in bondage to sin the ways slaves were shackled, with no way to escape. My will has become too weak. I certainly didn’t want or plan on the bondage to sin I experience. But sin has an addictive quality, and over time it leaves us powerless before it. What we have done is freely chosen to gradually destroy our freedom to say “no” to sin, one choice at a time.
3. Sin disorders the passions. When you read the word “passions” think appetites or desires. What do I hunger for? What am I pulled toward? When I live a holy life, my passion is in peaceful harmony, all of them urging me towards God, or to do what honors God. When I sin, the tranquil ordering of desires is disturbed, like a rock thrown in a still, calm pond. Sin sends ripples into my passion, creating a wave that would carry me away from God, or from doing what would honor God. We experience this in daily life all the time. I desire to eat in a healthy way and I desire to eat another piece of chocolate cake. I see the beauty of God’s creation in a beautiful woman, and I desire that woman in lustful ways. I desire to celebrate my good friend’s success and I am envious over what she has and I am secretly jealous of it. The conflict of desires. Committing a sin, even a venial sin, increases the disturbance of the desires that live in us, so that we lack the harmony, order and peace that God intends for our lives.
4. Sin increases concupiscence. Concupiscence is a fancy term referring to the urge towards sin that results from sin. The Catechism of the Catholic Church also refers to concupiscence as the tinder (or igniter or kindling) for sin (1264). Sin is extremely combustible, and we are putting our spiritual lives in danger when we give into sin. It’s not safe to play fast and loose with any sin, even venial sins. They just might explode in ways that damage ourselves and others, especially those nearest and dearest to us. This is so true and obvious that it’s amazing we settle for sin so easily. Think of any of the seven deadly sins and see how giving in to any one of them not only increases the urge toward that sin, but how much weaker our resistance becomes to that sin’s explosive character. Anger is the clearest example. Do you know someone prone to anger, or maybe you are yourself. Give in to anger easily for a day or two, and see how quickly anger becomes your primary response in tense situations, particularly with loved ones.
Any sin, even venial sin, is a spiritual disease that devastates the soul. The longer you let these spiritual diseases live in you, the more damage is done. The good news is that Jesus Christ, our Divine Physician, has provided us with Confession as a place where He will minister His cure for our deadly disease and all its effects. Confession is not just a requirement in cases of mortal sin, but it is an incredible remedy for the effects of each and every sin. If you only go in for a yearly check-up, it’s better than not going, but going in every couple of months is far better, before the disease can really take hold. Confession is meant for us in our everyday struggles, those daily faults where we stumble and fall, as well as in the case of “big” sins. Jesus Christ is waiting in the confessional to meet us with open arms, to console us, to heal us and to set us free. Why would we run from that?
Sunday’s gospel took us into the desert with Christ, as He begins His forty days of fasting and prayer. Our forty days began last Wednesday, and I don’t know about you, but a lot of the momentum I experienced on Ash Wednesday with regard to the traditional Lenten practices of fasting, prayer and almsgiving is dissipating. The one I’m struggling with the most is fasting. I started off with a bang. In fact, my Lenten observance was an extension of what I had already discerned God calling me to do in my 2010. I was going to get in physical and spiritual shape. I began changing my eating habits in January, I started working out, and I had a complete physical with all the required tests to determine that my overall health was good. As I approached Lent, I was excited. I could now start getting in shape spiritually, starting with fasting. I was already on the way. I was just going to be a little more intentional. Guess what? What had been sailing along so beautifully for several weeks got derailed. I got sick, and I lost my energy. I was weak, and my lower calorie diet wasn’t helping. I was struggling to finish an important project that was overdue, and I was working long hours and not getting enough sleep. Once again I was reminded by our good and gracious God that what I intend to do will never be enough. I need Him. On my own power and strength I cannot do it.
As I gear up to begin this week anew, I want to share with you some of the Church’s teachings about the traditional Lenten practices, and offer some tips and insights to aid you in this journey through the desert. There will be setbacks. The key is to persevere, and to look to the One Who is looking at me.
The three traditional penances in the tradition of the Catholic Church are prayer, fasting and almsgiving. I would like to focus on the one that gets the least attention and is the most misunderstood: fasting. We have gotten away from the practice of fasting. There is a general understanding that this is something that the Catholic Church has cut back on since Vatican II, and so it’s not something that should concern us. Some people fear it can be harmful to your health if you’re not careful. True enough, so always fast with care. But contrary to what many believe, fasting does not mean going without food entirely, nor is it just eating bread and drinking water. Fasting is rooted in sufficiency –it is about eating what is sufficient, not what satisfies. The Church recommends that when fasting in Lent, you eat one full meal and two partial meals that don’t equal another full meal.
When you fast, the Church proposes that you eat what is sufficient for your situation. Thus, an offensive lineman on a football team would eat a lot more on a day that he is fasting than I would on an ordinary day. To fast is to eat in a healthy way, but only eating what you need to take in, not what you want or desire to eat. There is a radical difference between eating what is sufficient and eating what is satisfying. Fasting is not about eating nothing; it is about eating only what you need.
The Church requires fasting from us only on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday (with exceptions regarding who is supposed to fast, for example, those between 18 and 60 years old), but recommends fasting and abstinence much more frequently. Why? Fasting provides us with an increased capacity to say “No” to the desires of the flesh. It gives us the strength to resist those things that want to move in and take over in our lives. When you begin to restrain yourself from things you want to indulge in, you will find those inclinations and desires come roaring back with ferocity. Fasting is a tool to tame the lion.
Today the traditional penances like prayer, fasting and almsgiving associated with growth in the spiritual life have been set aside. As a result, we lack spiritual power and growth. We are not advancing as we should in our spiritual lives. We are weakened in our ability to uproot sin and resist the draw towards evil deeds. Do you want to gain strength in your spiritual life and in your ability to resist the pull towards sin? Do you want to reach the heights of holiness? Try fasting.
Here are some benefits to fasting:
You will enjoy increased health. By becoming healthier, you are honoring God, yourself, your spouse and your kids.
You will enjoy increased energy, which will allow for more time and better focus on your life’s mission, both in work and in your personal life.
You will come to realize solidarity with your spiritual brothers and sisters who have no choice about whether and what they will eat today. You can stand with those in desperate situations in Haiti, Iraq, Afghanistan and all the troubled areas where children and families suffer from hunger and deprivation every day.
As you say “No” to your body, the life of the spirit will begin to emerge. Fasting is a form of spiritual training and asceticism. As you begin to experience the hunger for food, what will awaken in you is your desire for the Lord, for the desires of the Spirit that have been smothered by your excesses.
As you put to death the desires of the flesh you will see the desires of the flesh diminishing. You will then see other desires in your life for things that aren’t godly will begin to diminish.
Fasting is a weapon of the powerless to release God’s power. When you are faced with worldly situations and spiritual attacks that are beyond your strength, fast. When you do, God’s power will become manifest and clear a path to freedom for you.
Why would we not fast? We want to grow in holiness! Fasting will help us remove those blockages in our lives that prevent us from growing in the spiritual life, and keep us from coming closer to God. But let’s be clear – You will not understand the power of fasting until you fast. Reading about it will never suffice. You will not be convinced of the strength of those attachments to food and know how weak you are to resist them until you fast . . . and fail. You will not realize that by satisfying your desire for food, you cover over and sometimes smother your deeper desires for God and for spiritual things.
To help you in your Lenten journey, and to encourage you to try this very effective aid in growing in the life of the spirit, I’ve included some insights and practical tips to successful fasting:
Don’t be surprised if on the first day of fasting, your body is complaining by lunchtime (if you even make it that far!) even if you haven’t made much of a change in your eating for the day. A lot of what happens in fasting is in your head as much as your body.
Choose to fast in a way that involves a real sacrifice or challenge, but not one that will weigh so heavily that it’s too much for you. For example, if you’re a coffee drinker, on a day of fast, drink tea rather than coffee. Or if you take cream and sugar in your coffee, drink it black. If you eat breakfast, choose something that will nourish you with satisfying you – oatmeal instead of a bagel with cream cheese or a donut.
Fast intentionally, that is, with a plan. Don’t just float into your day of fasting. Think through and plan when, what, how much, where and with whom you are going to eat. Don’t set yourself up for failure!
Replace some of the time you would have spent preparing more elaborate meals and in eating, with prayer, especially reading your Bible. When Jesus was tempted in the desert by the devil after fasting for 40 days, He said that man did not live by bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God. Consider the reading of Scripture as a form of nourishing your spirit. Fasting is traditionally connected with prayer.
Take the money and time you save through fasting and put it at the service of a good cause. This connects your fasting in some way to almsgiving. We do this in Lent when we put the money we’ve saved from eating differently into a special collection for those who are poor and hungry in the world.
Don’t stay up until midnight on a Friday in Lent and then eat a large meatball sub with chips and a coke. I speak as one with authority, because I did that one year. As the clock struck midnight, I took the largest bite I could manage of that sub. Let’s just say that this was not a good example of correct fasting. I followed the letter of the law, but missed out on the spirit of it, and got a big stomach ache to boot!
Don’t expect fasting to ever get easy, but expect that the difficulties you face in fasting will become acceptable. You will see over time that your ability to restrain yourself from eating increases.
While I have only mentioned fasting from food, fasting can also take on many other forms: fasting from talking negatively, watching television, using the internet, playing video games.
You might also fast from choosing what is easy or comfortable. This might involve little acts of penance like sitting up straight rather than sitting back comfortably in a chair.
Fast as a means of addressing a social evil like abortion. Fasting is the weapon of the powerless. God moves in power when we fast and pray.
If you are serious about incorporating fasting into your spiritual life, seek out good counsel, preferably from a trained spiritual director. Don’t let the world know you are fasting, but do let someone who is spiritually mature know, so you don’t rely on your own discernment about what is healthy and appropriate.
Whatever form of fasting you engage in, please remember that the key to all acts of penance are that they are to be done in union with Jesus Christ. All of our acts of satisfaction are to be offered up and drawn into His perfect act of satisfaction, His death on the cross.
The fruit of all this? A deeper desire to know God. Growth in holiness. A closer relationship with the One Who, at every moment and in every place, draws near to us. (cf. the Catechism of the Catholic Church, § 1) Who wouldn’t want that?
We are well into the first month of 2010 and I have to ask, “How are your resolutions working out for you? If you answered “Great!” you are decidedly in the minority. In fact, if you made a New Year’s resolution at all, you are in the minority. The percentage of Americans making New Year’s resolutions in the last few years is less than 50%. It wasn’t always this way – in the past as many as 88% of us made New Year’s resolutions. What happened? It may have something to do with success rate of this endeavor – less than 10% stick to and achieve their goals. What are we doing wrong? Maybe what we resolve to do for ourselves is not what God has resolved to do in us. Read that sentence again. Now, let’s ask a different question, What is God’s resolution for your 2010? Because, rest assured, He has a plan for your 2010. In fact, God has had a plan for your 2010 for all eternity. He has resolved to move in your life in 2010. The drama is whether you will recognize what it is He wants to do, and whether you will make room for Him to do it.
If you are open and ready for a fresh start and a new beginning to your 2010, believe that God has given you the graces to accomplish it. He has given us what we need to hear and obey Him in this moment, and it’s up to us to recognize and respond to what He intends to do in our lives. Know this: He has shaped and molded our lives for this moment in time. You were born into this world at the precise moment He ordained, and He has led you down certain paths and graced you with certain gifts, not just for yourself, but so that you could be a blessing to others. You have an unshakeable, unavoidable stewardship that accompanies the gifts that God has given you. You have been given these gifts freely, but they come with a cost. You are to use them for others.
Do you want this year to be different? Resolve to do what God would have you do this year. Do you want a new perspective for your life? Know that 2010 is no ordinary year. There is no ordinary day in 2010. Every day God has a plan for you that encompasses what He has in store for you this year. Are you willing to be led into the 2010 God has waiting for you? Here are some tips to help you to discern what God has in mind for your year:
1. Dispose yourself to hear what God has in mind for you. Ask Him every day in prayer. Find a quiet place, and spend a few minutes alone. If that’s too hard, pray when you first wake up, before you are even out of bed. Approach your loving Father and give the day over to Him. Ask Him to send His Holy Spirit to lead you into your day. Pray, “God, please help me to recognize what You are doing and saying in my life today, and for this whole year. Reveal that to me.”
2. Try to read Scripture frequently, every day if possible. Read a short passage a couple of times. If you read it with your mind open to God speaking to you, you will begin to notice certain things that keep jumping out at you, things that strike you.
3. Find a way to name what God is saying to you. How will you know what it is? When you begin to pray for what God has resolved to do in your life, you will see things showing up. Do you discover that you are irritable more often? Impatient? Perhaps God is resolved to bring you peace or patience, and is calling you to work on and pray for these virtues. Come up with a theme for your year.
4. Don’t be surprised if what starts showing up is not something that you had determined was an important goal or area in your life that you wanted to work on this year. It may be that something that you have been putting on the back burner for some time, thinking that there were other, more important, more pressing things you needed to be doing. This happened to me this year. What kept showing up as an area where I needed to change some things was not what I expected, nor had even given much thought to in the last few years.
5. When you start saying “Yes” to God, watch out! You may be invited by the Lord to
stretch in a way you never would have imagined. You may be called to give of yourself sacrificially in a way you never dreamed you could or would. In my experience, those calls do not come when we are feeling strong and confident. More often, they come when we have nothing. It’s at those moments that God can move and accomplish what He needs to in our life without our resistance, without our crowding or blocking Him out. When this happens – keep a good attitude. Remember, you will not be relying on your own strength. God has given you the graces, He has placed you in this moment, and He wants you to have the best 2010 even more than you do!
At this time of the year when it is dark and getting darker, cold and getting colder, we may find ourselves confronted with external challenges that seem to have few solutions. Many are suffering financially in this period of economic distress, health issues plague many more, families are rocked by addictions, or problems in marriages. During this season of Advent, we are called to go internally, to go within to find the strength we need to live outside in the world.
This is a fitting moment for the reality of Advent. As the first of the six liturgical seasons in the Church calendar, Advent is the beginning of the Church’s new year. Unlike New Year’s Day, which is always January 1st, the Church’s new year does not begin on a fixed date but on a fixed relationship. Advent begins four Sundays before Christmas so the beginning is tied to a fixed date, i.e., Christmas, but the date itself fluctuates.The idea that the beginning of Advent has no meaning in and of itself, but only in relationship to Christmas is profound, and it mirrors the human condition. Our lives do not have a meaning or purpose in and of themselves, but only in relationship to Christ being born into our lives.
During Advent, we reflect on the coming of Christ – the beginning of all things. We look forward with great longing to Christ being born into our world and our lives. We will never be fulfilled in our lives if we seek fulfillment in ourselves. We will only find fulfillment when Christ is born in us. God created the world precisely so that Christ could be born into it. The same is true for us – we were created so that Christ could be born in us. If we live in the world, we are born, we live, we grow old and we die. If we allow Christ to be born in us, we allow Christ to take us through death to our resurrected life in Heaven.
The following are some Advent reflections taken from a homily delivered by Pope Benedict XVI on the eve of the First Sunday of Advent.
1. Advent comes from the Latin word adventus which means “coming”. It also means “presence” or “arrival”. In ancient times, adventus was a technical term used to describe the arrival of someone with authority - a functionary or official, or a visit from a king or emperor to a province.
2. But it could also signify the coming of the divinity, which comes out of concealment to manifest itself with power. How often do we find ourselves in the situation where we want to cry out, “God I need you to come close! I need you to manifest yourself. Come out of concealment and come into my situation.” The early Christians took both meanings: Christ the King is coming and Christ is coming out of concealment as One with authority, with the power of the Lord of the universe.
3. We need to be reminded that God is here. He has not left us alone. Although we can’t see and touch Him, He is here and He comes to visit us in multiple ways. He has not withdrawn from our lives. Once we know this, our lives will change forever. Most people have an idea of God as distant – as an overseer who watches from afar, and does not interject Himself into our lives on earth. In Advent, the Church intends to change that outlook. God comes to us each day and is involved in the details of our lives. He enters our lives and wants to address us. How do we know that? Visitatio.
4. Visitatio means visit. Thus, the idea or concept of Advent includes the idea of visitation or visit. God visits us – He enters our lives and wants to address us. So why don’t we experience Him? What makes it difficult for us to be aware of His presence? Because we spend our time absorbed in doing. Society, with its many activities, possesses us. The amusements of the world trap us. Our time and attention is taken up with our interests and entertainments.
When Joseph and Mary realized the baby was coming, where did they go? They went to find a place to stay – a warm, safe, comfortable, peaceful place to give birth to the baby Jesus. What were they met with? “Sorry, no room.” Did the innkeepers in Bethlehem understand Who they were turning away? Did they know what it would mean for their lives if they had given shelter to that nondescript couple? How could they turn them away? We would never do that! We would throw open the doors, welcome in Joseph and Mary. But in reality, what do we say every day when we could be welcoming Christ into our lives? “Sorry, no room.” Too busy – our lives are too taken up with our activities and pursuits. We don’t have room to fit in a prayer time, or to go to daily Mass or adoration.
Why didn’t the innkeeper let them in? Because he didn’t NEED to let them in! Business was great – everyone was traveling for the census, the money was flowing in. He was full up – he didn’t need any more customers. He was doing just fine without Joseph and Mary – without Jesus. Just like us. When do we crowd God out? When everything’s going fine. When we don’t need Him. When we’re doing just fine on our own.
Do you want God to take up residence in your life? Ask Him to come in. Every day. Set aside some time each day for prayer, to read the Scriptures, to attend Mass, go to Adoration, say the rosary. How important is this? Do you want more peace in your family? Welcome the Prince of Peace. Do you want more joy? Welcome the source of joy into your life, into your marriage. Why don’t we make time for prayer? Because we don’t value it. But believe me; until Christ comes to birth in our lives, our situation is dark and getting darker, cold and getting colder.
5. In Advent, we are invited to pause in silence to grasp a presence. We are not asked just to pray, but to pray in a particular way – by pausing in silence. Think of how we usually pray – we are talking, petitioning, pleading; in short, we are so busy making noise it would be difficult to hear anything, or to sense a presence. You have to learn how to be present in silence. It is not easy. It’s like running a marathon. You wouldn’t dream of just heading out the door one day to run a marathon. It takes many weeks and months of training. You build up to it. To learn to pause in silence to grasp God’s presence takes practice. If you want a greater knowledge of that presence, you have to learn to be still and know that He is God.
If you learn how to discover Christ’s presence in your life, you can then come to know that every event of every day is a gesture that God directs to us; a sign of the care that He has for each one of us. He will come to be born in us, to bring His light and His warmth. He will be for us Emmanuel – God with us, and our lives will never be the same.
Henri de Lubac (1896-1991), a French Jesuit priest, is considered one of the greatest theologians of the 20th century. While a teacher at the Catholic Faculties of Theology in Lyons, his pupils included Hans Urs von Balthasar. His books and writings greatly influenced the Second Vatican Council, and he was admired by both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI. Although he was never a bishop, Pope John Paul II elevated him to Cardinal in 1983, a testimony to the depth of his holiness and the brilliance and profundity of his writings.
The Discovery of God has been described as Henri de Lubac’s most personal writing. It is not an easy read, but it is a book that has fed my mind and my soul for over twenty years. I would like to share with you some excerpts from this exceptional work. In the first two
quotes de Lubac addresses the questions of modern skeptics who would deny the existence of God, or who seek scientific evidence of His existence. The result is a diagnosis of the current spiritual condition of our culture. We just prefer to put ourselves first. It’s not that we cannot see God; we just choose not to see Him. We lack the sensitivity to recognize how God is working in the world. We have lost the “taste” for Him.
1. So in the matter of God, whatever certain people may be tempted to think, it is never the proof of God which is lacking. What is lacking is [the] taste for God. The most distressing diagnosis that can be made of the present age, and the most alarming, is that to all appearances at least, it has lost the taste for God.
2. Man prefers himself to God. And so he deflects the movement which leads to God; or since his is unable to alter its direction, he persists in interpreting it falsely. He imagines he has liquidated the proofs. He concentrates on the critiques of the proofs and never gets beyond them. He turns away from that which convinces him. If the taste [for God] returned, we man be sure that the proofs would soon be restored in everybody’s eyes, and would seem . . . clearer than day.
So where can we find the taste for God? Henri de Lubac says that God calls out to us – God beckons us, speaks to us in the depth of ourselves, in the empty place in ourselves. We have an ache for God, an emptiness, and God longs to fill it. To find a taste, we need to look within, because nothing in the world can fill the void.
3. Abyssus abyssum invocate. Deep calls to deep. The abyss of God’s overflowing fullness calls out to us – those who are an empty chasm, a fissure in our hearts that seems to be bottomless. Our ache for God cries out to God’s waterfall of life that fills us to overflowing.
4. The first language God uses to communicate to me is creation. Being created by the Word, everything which comes from Him is a word and speaks of Him. It is for me to attend and to answer – but the initiative is not mine.
God takes the initiative in calling out to us. Everything that is created cries out “I am not my own cause”. It cries out and points to God as the Creator, if we have eyes to see.
5. To reject God because man has corrupted the idea of God, and religion because of the abuse made of it, is the effect of a sort of clear-sightedness which is yet blind. For surely the holiest things are inevitably destined to be the victims of the worst abuses.
This is a perspective we need to hear today. We all have an idea of God in our mind, our own specific idea of Who or what God is. It’s so fundamental to our thinking that it’s difficult to reflect on – we can’t get our minds around it – it’s rooted in our minds, but also obscure. For this reason, it can be easily corrupted. It takes real intellectual effort to hold on and develop our idea of God. In our world we also see religion abused – people who practice religion inauthentically, hypocritically or self-righteously. We can clearly see the abuses, but do we carry the thinking through to the end, past the negatives to the intrinsic good of religion? The idea of the holiest things being subject to the worst abuses is profound. It’s so easy to dismiss holy things as “out there” or “outdated” or “weird”. It takes real effort to appreciate what’s really at stake – to see through to the supernatural reality present.
6. When we meet a saint we are not discovering at long last an ideal, lived and realized, which had already been formed within us. A saint is not the perfection of humanity – or of the superman – incarnate in a particular man. The marvel is of a different order. What we find is a new life, a new sphere of existence, with unsuspected depths - but also with a resonance hitherto unknown to us and now at last revealed. We are shown a new country, a home we had originally ignored and as soon as we perceive it we recognize it as older and truer than anything we had known and with claims upon our heart.
Our call is to be a saint. Saint means holy – it is an attribute of God. There is something or Someone at work in the life of the holy ones, in the life of a saint. There is a radiation that shines forth of an uncreated order, an order not found in nature, a supernatural order. It’s way more than being kind, or moral or upright. It’s Christ living, working, shining through a person. It’s a divine reality showing forth - a new sphere of existence – a glimpse of Heaven.
The other night we went to a Sounders playoff game at Qwest field. We had parked some blocks from the stadium, and although the game was more than an hour away, the streets were packed with fans in bright green jerseys and green and blue scarves. The closer we got to the stadium, the more electric the crowd became – it was energy and adrenaline, alcohol and testosterone – a typical amped-up sports crowd. Once inside, the noise and excitement grew and remained steady throughout the two-hour event. As we left after the game, I watched the crowds pour out into the streets, masses of people red-faced and hoarse, heading home more jubilant than not because we hadn’t lost, only tied.
It you have attended a major sports event; you know what I’m talking about. This night though, as I watched the great crowd pour out into the street, I was struck by the thought of all these people devoting so much time, energy, money and emotion to attending a soccer game. To just being at an event to watch people they don’t even know, play a game. Don’t get me wrong – I love sports too. I’ve spent my share of money, emotion and time watching and supporting sporting events. I was just struck suddenly by the thought that we owe everything we have to God, and we don’t pay him a fraction of the homage we paid to those strangers playing a game for our enjoyment. I thought of what it would be like to see thousands upon thousands of people waving banners and standing together, proclaiming their affiliation to God. What would it be like to gather and heap praise upon Him with all the enthusiasm we possess? To be totally caught up in that excitement and praise? To know that you had the best ticket possible to the greatest event ever?
The truth is that we have access to the greatest event ever. We have been invited to join the whole community of Heaven, gathered around the throne of God singing and voicing their praise and excitement, joy and gratitude. Will we respond with the time, energy, dedication and devotion it will take to gain admission?
I was thinking the other day about the “Catholics Come Home” project that is coming to the Seattle area next spring. I saw an ad for it in Arizona a couple of years ago, and it was so effective and so beautifully done. My thoughts went immediately to those I know who have left the practice of the faith, and I remember thinking that I wished they could see something like that.
There are many reasons people leave the Church. And having once left, I think there’s a fear of coming back. Many remember a repressive Church, or a stern Church or an unloving Church. Many have taken paths that have led them away from the Church’s teachings, and have found an easier acceptance in a culture that demands little of them. Unfortunately for many, it’s not just the institution that is abandoned, but their relationship with Christ. When it’s been so many years, with so many roads traveled far from the Way, to think of coming back seems too hard, the distance too far.
The good news is that coming back doesn’t require trudging back to some far off starting point and beginning again. In fact, the minute you turn around, the minute you turn back to Christ, He is right there. It’s like when your kids were little and they would take off, with you right behind, and they would turn abruptly, and you’d be right there. They didn’t have to search for you; they didn’t have to run all the way back. You were with them every step of the way.
I was thinking of the gospel story of the shepherd who leaves the 99 sheep to go rescue the one lost in the wilderness. We have all been that one sheep lost in the wilderness at some time in our lives. How great our joy and relief when He finds us! And what did the shepherd do with the lost sheep? He lifted it up on his shoulders and carried it the long distance back to the fold. Catholics coming home can expect no less.
Got flowers flowers - plant
purple and gold
came with a card
got home - pitchfork thingy
card was gone
unopened fell off
God sends us gifts
God has given us a gift in purple and gold - Lent
receive it, without the card, without the message
might remain unopened
might miss out
The disciples of John approached Jesus and said,
"Why do we and the Pharisees fast much,
but your disciples do not fast?"
Jesus answered them, "Can the wedding guests mourn
as long as the bridegroom is with them?
The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them,
and then they will fast."
If i my voice sounds scratchy
screaming a lot last night
not crying out in prayer to God
not yelling at my kids
UW FIGHT SONG
The song has earned acclaim worldwide. The San Diego Journal stated that, "It is generally agreed that 'Bow Down' is the greatest college fight song."
Kari and I went to the Washington Huskies play the Arizona Sun Devils
Great game, close game, OT game, amazing ending and the Huskies pulled it out by 3 pts.
love the crowds they are into it
amateur vs. professional
crowds really into it
lover vs. professional
four love languages - Gary Chapman - Monday
texting going on... hand held cell phones
hold it up and point phone open pt it and then madly type in stuff
At Mass - not paying attention
not understanding the names of the players
not "Bowing Down" as Huskies Fight song promotes
Pope Benedict XVI message for Lent 2009
wrote it back in December 11
Here's the message from the Vatican website
MESSAGE OF HIS HOLINESS
FOR LENT 2009
"He fasted for forty days and forty nights,
and afterwards he was hungry" (Mt 4,1-2)
Dear Brothers and Sisters!
At the beginning of Lent, which constitutes an itinerary of more intense spiritual training, the Liturgy sets before us again three penitential practices that are very dear to the biblical and Christian tradition – prayer, almsgiving, fasting – to prepare us to better celebrate Easter and thus experience God’s power that, as we shall hear in the Paschal Vigil, “dispels all evil, washes guilt away, restores lost innocence, brings mourners joy, casts out hatred, brings us peace and humbles earthly pride” (Paschal Præconium). For this year’s Lenten Message, I wish to focus my reflections especially on the value and meaning of fasting. Indeed, Lent recalls the forty days of our Lord’s fasting in the desert, which He undertook before entering into His public ministry. We read in the Gospel: “Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted for forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was hungry” (Mt 4,1-2). Like Moses, who fasted before receiving the tablets of the Law (cf. Ex 34,28) and Elijah’s fast before meeting the Lord on Mount Horeb (cf. 1 Kings 19,8), Jesus, too, through prayer and fasting, prepared Himself for the mission that lay before Him, marked at the start by a serious battle with the tempter.
We might wonder what value and meaning there is for us Christians in depriving ourselves of something that in itself is good and useful for our bodily sustenance. The Sacred Scriptures and the entire Christian tradition teach that fasting is a great help to avoid sin and all that leads to it. For this reason, the history of salvation is replete with occasions that invite fasting. In the very first pages of Sacred Scripture, the Lord commands man to abstain from partaking of the prohibited fruit: “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die” (Gn 2, 16-17). Commenting on the divine injunction, Saint Basil observes that “fasting was ordained in Paradise,” and “the first commandment in this sense was delivered to Adam.” He thus concludes: “ ‘You shall not eat’ is a law of fasting and abstinence” (cf. Sermo de jejunio: PG 31, 163, 98). Since all of us are weighed down by sin and its consequences, fasting is proposed to us as an instrument to restore friendship with God. Such was the case with Ezra, who, in preparation for the journey from exile back to the Promised Land, calls upon the assembled people to fast so that “we might humble ourselves before our God” (8,21). The Almighty heard their prayer and assured them of His favor and protection. In the same way, the people of Nineveh, responding to Jonah’s call to repentance, proclaimed a fast, as a sign of their sincerity, saying: “Who knows, God may yet repent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we perish not?” (3,9). In this instance, too, God saw their works and spared them.
In the New Testament, Jesus brings to light the profound motive for fasting, condemning the attitude of the Pharisees, who scrupulously observed the prescriptions of the law, but whose hearts were far from God. True fasting, as the divine Master repeats elsewhere, is rather to do the will of the Heavenly Father, who “sees in secret, and will reward you” (Mt 6,18). He Himself sets the example, answering Satan, at the end of the forty days spent in the desert that “man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Mt 4,4). The true fast is thus directed to eating the “true food,” which is to do the Father’s will (cf. Jn 4,34). If, therefore, Adam disobeyed the Lord’s command “of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat,” the believer, through fasting, intends to submit himself humbly to God, trusting in His goodness and mercy.
The practice of fasting is very present in the first Christian community (cf. Acts 13,3; 14,22; 27,21; 2 Cor 6,5). The Church Fathers, too, speak of the force of fasting to bridle sin, especially the lusts of the “old Adam,” and open in the heart of the believer a path to God. Moreover, fasting is a practice that is encountered frequently and recommended by the saints of every age. Saint Peter Chrysologus writes: “Fasting is the soul of prayer, mercy is the lifeblood of fasting. So if you pray, fast; if you fast, show mercy; if you want your petition to be heard, hear the petition of others. If you do not close your ear to others, you open God’s ear to yourself” (Sermo 43: PL 52, 320. 322).
In our own day, fasting seems to have lost something of its spiritual meaning, and has taken on, in a culture characterized by the search for material well-being, a therapeutic value for the care of one’s body. Fasting certainly bring benefits to physical well-being, but for believers, it is, in the first place, a “therapy” to heal all that prevents them from conformity to the will of God. In the Apostolic Constitution Pænitemini of 1966,the Servant of God Paul VI saw the need to present fasting within the call of every Christian to “no longer live for himself, but for Him who loves him and gave himself for him … he will also have to live for his brethren“ (cf. Ch. I). Lent could be a propitious time to present again the norms contained in the Apostolic Constitution, so that the authentic and perennial significance of this long held practice may be rediscovered, and thus assist us to mortify our egoism and open our heart to love of God and neighbor, the first and greatest Commandment of the new Law and compendium of the entire Gospel (cf. Mt 22, 34-40).
The faithful practice of fasting contributes, moreover, to conferring unity to the whole person, body and soul, helping to avoid sin and grow in intimacy with the Lord. Saint Augustine, who knew all too well his own negative impulses, defining them as “twisted and tangled knottiness” (Confessions, II, 10.18), writes: “I will certainly impose privation, but it is so that he will forgive me, to be pleasing in his eyes, that I may enjoy his delightfulness” (Sermo 400, 3, 3: PL 40, 708). Denying material food, which nourishes our body, nurtures an interior disposition to listen to Christ and be fed by His saving word. Through fasting and praying, we allow Him to come and satisfy the deepest hunger that we experience in the depths of our being: the hunger and thirst for God.
At the same time, fasting is an aid to open our eyes to the situation in which so many of our brothers and sisters live. In his First Letter, Saint John admonishes: “If anyone has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, yet shuts up his bowels of compassion from him – how does the love of God abide in him?” (3,17). Voluntary fasting enables us to grow in the spirit of the Good Samaritan, who bends low and goes to the help of his suffering brother (cf. Encyclical Deus caritas est, 15). By freely embracing an act of self-denial for the sake of another, we make a statement that our brother or sister in need is not a stranger. It is precisely to keep alive this welcoming and attentive attitude towards our brothers and sisters that I encourage the parishes and every other community to intensify in Lent the custom of private and communal fasts, joined to the reading of the Word of God, prayer and almsgiving. From the beginning, this has been the hallmark of the Christian community, in which special collections were taken up (cf. 2 Cor 8-9; Rm 15, 25-27), the faithful being invited to give to the poor what had been set aside from their fast (Didascalia Ap., V, 20,18). This practice needs to be rediscovered and encouraged again in our day, especially during the liturgical season of Lent.
From what I have said thus far, it seems abundantly clear that fasting represents an important ascetical practice, a spiritual arm to do battle against every possible disordered attachment to ourselves. Freely chosen detachment from the pleasure of food and other material goods helps the disciple of Christ to control the appetites of nature, weakened by original sin, whose negative effects impact the entire human person. Quite opportunely, an ancient hymn of the Lenten liturgy exhorts: “Utamur ergo parcius, / verbis cibis et potibus, / somno, iocis et arctius / perstemus in custodia –Let us use sparingly words, food and drink, sleep and amusements. May we be more alert in the custody of our senses.”
Dear brothers and sisters, it is good to see how the ultimate goal of fasting is to help each one of us, as the Servant of God Pope John Paul II wrote, to make the complete gift of self to God (cf. Encyclical Veritatis splendor, 21). May every family and Christian community use well this time of Lent, therefore, in order to cast aside all that distracts the spirit and grow in whatever nourishes the soul, moving it to love of God and neighbor. I am thinking especially of a greater commitment to prayer, lectio divina, recourse to the Sacrament of Reconciliation and active participation in the Eucharist, especially the Holy Sunday Mass. With this interior disposition, let us enter the penitential spirit of Lent. May the Blessed Virgin Mary, Causa nostrae laetitiae, accompany and support us in the effort to free our heart from slavery to sin, making it evermore a “living tabernacle of God.” With these wishes, while assuring every believer and ecclesial community of my prayer for a fruitful Lenten journey, I cordially impart to all of you my Apostolic Blessing.
From the Vatican, 11 December 2008.
Turkish air flight - tragedy and miracle
tragedy - loss of life - 9 dead
miracle - so many more could have/would have died were it not for the heroism of the pilots
they gave his life and saved so many others
saw photos and read story online shortly after it happened
seems like such a far distance away
why don't we sense any connection with those people
that which was almost halfway around the world from me ... a world away
brought close to home
four Boeing employees on the plane
from puget sound
email - one of them is a member of my parish, daughter sings with my kids in the choir
I know them by sight - say hi to each other
all of a sudden it got really personal
find out - coaching Boeing - all work on the program of the executive I serve as a coach
praying for Mike Hemmer
not knowing outcome - two or three of the Boeing employees have died
not know - critical injuries - pray
for the families of the res
while looking it up on the internet - since Wednesday - other people have died tragic deaths
Catholics "do" Lent well. We get Lent in a way that we don't get Advent, Christmas, Easter and Ordinary Time. We feel it. Are you feeling me? It is deep in our bones.
But I think because it is so deep and we are so accustomed to it, that we might miss its meaning.
Lent comes from an Old English word meaning "springtime" (the Catholic Encyclopedia explains the origin of the word "Lent" here)
There's an entire blog right there on the idea that what we are involved in is a "springtime" during Lent. Why? Because what appears dead is about to burst forth into life.
How? I'm no gardener, but I do know that for many plants, bushes and trees, the maxim is "pruned to bloom". There is some serious pruning that goes on... not for the sake of pruning, but so that there will be the greatest amount of blooming.
Even on Ash Wednesday, especially on Ash Wednesday, it's important to encounter the beauty of God's creation as it blooms.
You may be aware that the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, a pro-abortion Catholic, met with Pope Benedict XVI, a pro-life Catholic, yesterday. Their competing comments and George Weigel's Commentary on their comments are worth reading.
From the office of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi:
It is with great joy that my husband, Paul, and I met with His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, today. In our conversation, I had the pportunity to praise the Church's leadership in fighting poverty, hunger, and global warming, as well as the Holy Father's dedication to religious freedom and his upcoming trip and message to Israel. I was proud to show His Holiness a photograph of my family's papal visit in the 1950s, as well as a recent picture of our children and grandchildren.
Today's guest on SI is one you won't want to miss. The interview is excellent... if I do so myself, and I DO say so.
I rely upon Star Trek's opening monologue... "To boldly go..." and linked it to our call as Catholics to (boldly) "Go and make disciples..."
FYI During the program, I played clips from the following links: