Free-Will and Suffering

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Should God have ended the world when Adam and Eve sinned?

As I tell high-school kids, as soon as Adam and Eve had sinned…There were only three options that God had for a planet spiraling towards total sin:

1) Blow up earth to end both sin and free-will…or…

2) Turn people into robots that would automatically obey, so as to terminate free-will but keep the planet…or…

3) Send a rescuer who could transform the human state of suffering into redemptive suffering.

If you can think of a fourth option, let me know.  In the mean time, notice that only the third option allows for free-will.

Because option #3 allows for free-will to continue among both the good and evil people on this blue planet, it is the only option that allows for either love or harming people until the end of time.

For example, if a woman is choosing to offer up her suffering for her children after her husband was killed by a drunk driver, she can only choose to unite her redemptive suffering to Christ’s infinite merits of the cross precisely because she lives in a world where someone else can choose to drive drunk.  This is why widows must live side-by-side with drunk drivers until the final judgment.

We each have the option to continue the cycle of suffering and sin, or… we can choose to escape from that horrible cycle.  Baptism ends sin (original sin, at least, and actual sin in the lives of some saints) but suffering continues for them.  However, their suffering then ceases to have a certain mental pain, as God said to St. Catherine of Siena.  When you carry the cross God has allowed in your life, your suffering can become redemptive because it more easily fits with the merits of the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  With Christ, we escape the red patten to the left in favor of the orange trajectory, a different trajectory of suffering:

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This is only possible by the cross.  I put the cross in blue for two reasons. The vertical blue bar shows that Mary gave God the one thing He didn’t have: The ability to die. This symbolizes Christ’s incarnation and His approach to us. Secondly, our incorporation into the mystical body of Christ happens in the waters of baptism (the horizontal blue line.) As St. Peter writes, “It is baptism that now saves you.”—1 Pt 3:21. Suffering has little value in  itself until it be incorporated into the suffering mystical body of Christ. This happens at baptism, because it is at that moment that we receive all of the merits of the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Christ as a free gift of redemption.  The best description of death to oneself, baptism, and this new life can be found in Romans 6:3-11.

Death is the cycle to the left.  The requirement for new life is: a new life.  The gift of the cross is free (gratis) to us at the high price Jesus paid for us in his 17 hours of torture…nay, His whole life lived for us.  But, for salvation to be realized, we must cooperate.  The cross doesn’t offer an escape from suffering but it does offer an escape from sin, and that part is up to our cooperation with grace in living in our free will as we become transformed, divinized sons and daughters of God.

We are then given the chance on this earth to let our sufferings be united to those of Jesus (through Mary) so as to become participators in redemptive suffering.  Again, in itself, suffering has no value.  But joined to the cross, it helps redeem the world.  It helps pull more people out of the cycle on the left to the orange bar on the right.  This is all that the old-school (and now new-school) nuns meant when they said “Offer it up.”  It all comes from what the Apostle Paul wrote to the Colossians: “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of His body, that is, the Church.”—Col 1:24.

What is lacking or wanting in the suffering of Jesus?  Nothing except my participation.  It was 100%, but that 100% continues in His mystical body.  As long as sin continues on the earth, so also must the suffering of Christians.  It is a gift, not a burden, and it is joined to Christ’s sufferings at the nearest Mass.  That is why both the suffering of the Mystical Body and the Mass continue until the end of time.

At the final judgment, the left cycle will continue in hell.  However, the right trajectory will become heaven.

Here on earth, both cycles have to suffer.  So, if you have your choice between the devil’s eternal cross and Jesus’ temporary cross, why not avoid sin and choose the pattern to the right?

America’s Passion

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     Driving across the country just two days ago, I came into DC during the night.  Fireworks had already started over our Nation’s Capital.  As I drove, I had been listening to the unabridged version of the book that probably many of you have read:  Unbroken.  It’s the story of resilience of an American soldier from WWII named Louie Zamperini, liberated from a Japanese concentration camp.  (See above.)  Louie belongs to what Tom Brokaw called “The Greatest Generation.”  The Greatest Generation had what it means to be an American: passion.
     In The Greatest Generation, Brokaw interviews an older couple about divorce, and why divorce flattened future generations so severely.  The older woman’s remedy is a show-stopper:   “People don’t fight enough nowadays. They just give up.”  They just give up.  Somehow the passion to fight in marriage is better than silent back-stabbing or just floating into nothingness.  There was a passion in Zamperini and that generation that got them up in the morning.
   I think purity in marriage (or out of marriage) is tied to more passion, not less, ironically.  The attraction to sin is not due to a heightened sexual prowess, but the opposite:  Sorrow at a spiritual good.   We are tempted to experience the passion only offered by the stomach or lower organs.  But Zamperini and the “Greatest Generation” seemed to have a pan-passion for love, worship, service, sacrifice practical jokes, family, beer, singing choirs of angels, letters lost in the mail, resilience in POW camps….all the things that filled the life of those sung heros of Unbroken and unsung heroes of our country.
     At one point in a Japanese prison camp, the starving POW Zamperini was given an egg and a tangerine by a sneakily compassionate guard who did not want to see him starve.  Louie, near death, shares these two tiny treasures with his fellow bunk-mates.  He does this self-sacrifice act even before his conversion to Christ.  Louie, and many in that generation, put others before their own stomachs in dying for their brothers and country.  (“Could it be true — no, no, I can’t believe it — that in the world there are not men but bellies?”—St. Josemaría Escrivá, the Way #38.)
     Every generation laments lost generations of the past and complains that young whippersnappers don’t respect anyone.  But this time it’s different because we have undeniable statistical evidence that America has become slow, sloppy, and flabby.
So, here’s the solution:
     Passion is the key to purity and rebuilding this country.  “Flies don’t land on boiling water” said St. John Vianney.  Risk-taking-love will automatically lead to purity.  Try something crazy like tithing, going on mission, meeting all your neighbors who don’t talk to you, selling everything for a vocation to consecrated life, buying your wife flowers 7 nights in a row, giving most your money to the poor, destroying your TV, fasting:  This is the real passion that Jesus made us for. This is the passion Zamperini lived for—and doubled when he came to know Christ.
     There’s an intensity of heaven that only the passionate will inherit. It’s no wonder the pure in heart will see God: Flabby or bizarre patterns of libido will simply not be  passionate enough for heaven.
Happily, a true passion for a loud and messy life is still alive in America.  A family from here in Norther Virginia made headlines with this not too long ago:

The End of the Mass

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You might think that this is a grumpy-the-grump post on bad liturgy with a title like “the End of the Mass,” but it is not.  The “end” simply means the goal of something.  The Greek word telos was appropriated into the English to mean “the end term of a goal-directed process.”  For philosophy students out there, it’s the final cause.  What is the telos or goal or end of a pencil?  Writing.

What is the goal or telos of the Mass?

We will get to that, but—okay—permit me one grumpy-the-grump story in contrast.  Last year, I was traveling across Florida.  In Tampa, I stopped into a Church one afternoon.  I kindly told the secretary of the parish that I was a traveling priest and that I’d like to offer Mass.  She was confused, and asked if I had a group of people to join me.  Maybe a youth group?  When I told her that I did not have anyone else, she simply couldn’t imagine why I’d be offering Mass…and refused me.

She was a kind woman, but perhaps she believed that the Mass would have no value without people receiving Holy Communion.  Clearly, she did not have an evil will.  But this account demonstrates that theological ignorance can have the same outcome as a malicious will (eg. one less Mass in the world, in this case.)  Would that every Catholic Church secretary in the world read this single post!

The month of July has traditionally been consecrated and devoted to the Precious Blood of Jesus.  To learn the telos of the Mass would be a great resolution for this month.  To reveal those goals, I want to show the prayer that every priest (before Vatican II) would pray before the Mass.   It’s in Latin, but with the English there, too.  I give here my translation a bit more word-for-word:

I will to celebrate Mass and to confect the body and blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ, according to the rite of the Holy Roman Church, unto the praise of the omnipotent God and all the Triumphant Church, for my good and the good of the entire Church Militant, for all who have commended themselves to my prayers—in general and specifically, and for the happy state of the Holy Roman Church.  May the omnipotent and merciful Lord grant us joy with peace, amendment of life, space for true repentance, consolation of the Holy Spirit and perseverance in good works.

Jesus offers Himself in the sacrifice of Calvary at the Mass.  This prayer tells us, in the order of importance, the ends of the Mass, taking the italics below from the prayer above:

1) The Blessed Trinity: Unto the praise of the omnipotent God.

2) The priest: For my good.

3.) All the Saints: All of the Triumphant Church.

4) All the Catholics on earth: The good of the entire Church Militant.

5) Those who have generally given themselves to the prayers of the priest:  For all who have commended themselves to my prayers—in general.

6) Those who have commended themselves specifically to that priest’s prayers at Mass:  For all who have commended themselves to my prayers…specifically.

7) For the happy state of the Holy Roman Church.

Notice that at the end of that prayer, I ask God to “grant us joy with peace, amendment of life, space for true repentance, consolation of the Holy Spirit and perseverance in good works.”

I have done this prayer almost every day for five years, spoken right before I offer Mass.  It makes me think about why I’m doing it.  Jesus offers Himself first in an act of infinite love to the Blessed Trinity, even if the priest has no altar server.  That means that the priest offering Mass brings infinite value to the world when he offers Mass—alone or with thousands in attendance.  Another reason to ignore numbers is because the Mass has billions of angels in attendance, anyway.  One should really have a holy fear of God when you consider that at consecration even Mary adores, from the highest point in heaven.

When Church authorities put Padre Pio (see picture above) under interdict for ten years, prohibiting him from offering anything but a private Mass, was Padre Pio’s Mass of any less value during those ten years?  It’s my unproven opinion that Padre Pio’s suffering (conjoined to Christ’s merits in the Mass Pio offered) deferred the wrath of God from ending the world during two World Wars.

Mary told the children of Fatima, after the main apparitions, that souls fall into hell “like snowflakes” every day.  Thus, we can not hope that “all men be saved.”  The Mass is offered for the salvation of the world—whether or not physical people be in attendance or not.

Giving glory to God and the salvation of souls is the telos of the Church, whether or not anyone show up.  This is the theology that will determine if Mass be worship or entertainment.  This is the theology that informs every vocation:  that we must strive to please God, and not men.

Gay “Marriage”

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The topic of mercy in the confessional is a different topic from today’s Supreme Court Decision. First of all, I believe in infinite Divine Mercy. Every person is made in God’s image and likeness. Jesus Christ on the cross can restore that likeness of God to anyone—those struggling with same-sex attraction—as well as those struggling with other issues. That’s no problem for God.

But today’s Supreme Court decision is a problem of government regulation of family, so we’ll consider this in three sections:

  1. CIVIL RIGHTS
  2. CHURCH AND STATE
  3. THE CHURCH AS A WITNESS IN THE WORLD

I’ll be traveling across the country, so this will be my last post for a couple weeks.  That’s why it’s so long.  So take your time, or read it all in one gulp.

I. CIVIL RIGHTS

CNN’s opening story today shows a picture of a young African-American man waving a rainbow flag and the headline reads: “In a landmark opinion, a divided Supreme Court ruled Friday that states cannot ban same-sex marriage, establishing a new civil right and handing gay rights advocates a victory that until very recently would have seemed unthinkable.”

If it is truly a civil-rights issue, why has the media nearly ignored the fact that black Christians across the country nearly-categorically abhor the thought of gay-marriage as a civil rights topic like their own battle?  They find it offensive to compare sodomy to having black skin.  Consider the rapper Bizzle’s take on gay-marriage:

“Sayin’ it was the way you was born and I’m sure you lust like I do, just in a different form. But I’m married, so if I give into mine, I’m a cheater; if you give into yours, you just fight to make it legal…We were all born in sin. But Christ died so that we could all be born again.”

Let’s consider the African-American community outside of the rather predictable Bible-believing world of Pentecostals and Baptists.  Let’s consider urban, black California, and their take on gay-marriage as a civil-rights topic.  Did you know that in 2008, a whopping 70% of black voters voted against considering same-sex unions to be called a “marriage”?  This means that even non-Christian blacks do not see gay-marriage as the same as a civil-rights movement.

Finally, on the topic of Civil Rights, it’s important to realize that not all gay leaders in the world see the issue of gay-marriage as as one of Civil Rights. For example, the homosexual mayor of a French town believes the following about gay marriage:

“As a society we should not be encouraging this. It’s not biologically natural. We [gays] do not have the fertility, in the sense of making a baby. We have plenty of other forms of fertility..artistic, for example, and other forms of fertility..In my case, I feel I’ve connected with my village, and I’ve reinvigorated a village that was dying, fading. I know how to create ties within my community. In summary, the law I advise would be whatever’s best for the child. One must favor what is best for the child. Nobody can deny, I believe, that it’s best for a child to have a mother and a father who love each other as best they can.”—Jean Marc

Now whose civil rights are being considered? The children? Or only the parents?

Finally, before we get into the philosophy of marriage in the Church and State, let me give one more obvious statement: Sodomy was not legalized today. That has been legal for a long time. It’s about the control of the Church by the State that goes a lot deeper.

II. CHURCH AND STATE

Many people cite “the separation of Church and State” as an argument for gay-marriage. First of all, the term “separation of Church and State” is not in the Constitution, nor in the Amendments. It comes from a letter by Jefferson to a Church assuring the Christian community that the State would not trample the rights of the Church, not vice versa.

Since gay marriage is a biological impossibility (Since when do Christians despise science?) then the only question that remains is this: Is gay-union a government issue or a sacramental issue? If it’s a government issue, then yesterday’s decision regulated private acts. If it’s a sacramental issue, yesterday’s decision regulated public acts.

But we all know that private acts of marriage have been unregulated for some time in this country.

Thus, the government now regulates the public witness of marriage. In fact, the English word liturgy comes from the greek leitourgia, meaning a public act of worship.  If the witness of a “leitourgia” must answer to Obama, it’s only a matter of time before priests like me are put in prison. Bring it. Already a priest in Canada is in prison for this. Maybe he’s like the Apostle Paul: “Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one—I am talking like a madman—with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death.”—2 Cor 11:23.

Bring it. I decided to forfeit a family not to be fed cakes and pies by comfortable parishioners but to follow in the footsteps of my hero, St. Paul.

The reason the government is inept to rule on marriage is because marriage is based on matter and form, where the government repeatedly says that emotions can be shared by people of opposite or same-genders.
Of course they can.

However, “to define marriage as primarily an emotional relationship…would put the government in the business of defining and even regulating marriage.”

So, if love is primarily emotional, then the complementarity of man and woman in the marital embrace is not substantial to marriage, but accidental. If it’s accidental, then gender is a social construct, not one of biology. (You may have noticed that these are sacramental terms: Substance and accident.)

If love is simply emotions, then there is no problem with gay marriage. But the sacrament of marriage is founded upon natural law holding that that which is complementary is substantial, not accidental, especially (but not exclusively) within the act of procreation.

Where is love found? In the emotions or in the body? You might think that the Christian answer is “in the emotions.”  But it’s not.  This is because we’ll not be judged on our emotions, but rather “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive good or evil, according to what he has done in the body.“—2 Cor 5:10.  Or just look at a cross and wonder if feelings defined love then.  Rather, it was a body in sacrifice that those with same-sex attraction are invited to follow, as every Christian is asked to follow.  So much for discrimination.

Indeed, when God became man, everything we were to do in the body would take on supreme connection to real angels or real demons. There is no neutral moral act.

As of today, the government now regulates family.  If you think this is an exaggeration, consider the next step of liberal totalitarianism for a country a bit “ahead” of us is this:  German police stormed a homeschooling family’s house for homeschooling against the law.  This wasn’t in 1940.  It happened in 2013:

https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/we-are-empty-german-homeschooling-family-raided-four-children-seized-by-gov

Europe has already reached this level of totalitarianism, and oh, by the way, in Scandinavia few apply for gay marriage anymore.  They won that political battle many years ago and now monogamy isn’t so attractive to many gays.  It was all an attack on the traditional family, not civil rights.

Married people could sustain just as much persecution as priests, because now that the government regulates family life, this doesn’t just induce a permissiveness of gay “marriage ” upon society, but it also invites a new stringency of control upon sacraments and family-life.  For instance, not baking a cake with two grooms on it could land you in the slammer.  I’d rather be a priest in prison than a married-man in prison.  With today’s decision, I may end up there for refusing any battery of attempted-marriages (not just homosexual ones.)  That would make prison interesting!

III. THE CHURCH AS A WITNESS IN THE WORLD

Obama said today’s decision was “justice that arrives like a thunderbolt.” Let’s write about that: Justice that arrives like a thunderbolt. Some bishops today say that the universal Church is better than ever before. In Genesis 19, “God destroyed the cities of the plain,” Sodom and Gomorrah. But today, there was no fire from the sky today at the Supreme Court Decision. Maybe everything is okay.

Or maybe the silence found in Church and political leadership nowadays is the very punishment from God.

The reason I’ll bank on the latter is because the Bible makes it clear that the Jews sustained so many calamities precisely because of God’s singular love for them. He punished them quickly, on this earth, so that they would return to Him.  The nations who continue in their sin, unchecked, is apparently the worst punishment that God could bring upon a nation, according to the Bible:

Now I beseech those that shall read this book, that they be not shocked at these calamities, but that they consider the things that happened, not as being for the destruction, but for the correction of our nation [Israel.] For it is a token of great goodness when sinners are not suffered to go on in their ways for a long time, but are presently punished. For, not as with other nations (whom the Lord patiently expecteth, that when the day of judgment shall come, He may punish them in the fulness of their sins) doth He also deal with us, so as to suffer our sins to come to their height, and then take vengeance on us.”—2 Mac 6:12-15

What this means is that the nations that continue unchecked in their sins (no earthquakes or tsunamis) are actually storing up the fullness of God’s wrath, reserved for the afterlife. This is because their arrogance has blocked them from receiving the chastisements that a Father gives his son. The saints say that when Church or political leaders are silent, it is the worst punishment of God’s justice that we as a Church or nation can endure.

So, we have to remember that the early Christians in Rome weren’t threatened by the Emperor. They weren’t even threatened by a government putting priests or families in prison.  We American Catholics care way too much about politics. The early Christians in Rome didn’t care if the Emperor was Decius or Valerian. Both would hunt them down.  Thus, the Christian’s vocation is simple: Worship God as He deserves, and then get your family and a few neighbors to heaven. They really didn’t worry about the government as much as the state of their own souls. Selfish? No. Your soul will last longer than the United States of America.  St. Agnes’ soul has lasted longer than the Roman Empire.  Your soul (and later your body) will live forever in heaven or in hell, much longer than this crumbling country of the United States. So, just do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a perverse and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.—Phil 2:14-15

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Nota Bene: National acceptance of gay “marriage” has it’s entire root in contraception. You really should be pro-both or anti-both (as happily most Americans are.)  Both have globally separated babies and bonding. So, you can’t rip on those acting out same-sex actions (closed to life) if your heterosexual actions have been closed to life.  It’s no wonder, in a contraceptive society, that the smaller same-gender-attraction population has felt discriminated against.  In all charity, I don’t expect you to get this post if you don’t think contraception in marriage is devastating.  So, here’s the best mp3 to understand contraception—scientifically and religiously—in an hour:  http://www.janetsmith.excerptsofinri.com

Sons of Thunder

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By a strange turn of events, I have to spend a day in Istanbul while trying to get home from Spain—even though it’s the opposite direction.

The reason this is especially strange is because these two countries were evangelized by the brothers James and John, sons of a Galilean fisherman named Zebedee.  These two men became first century Apostles of Jesus Christ.  Jesus nicknamed them “Sons of Thunder” because of their attitude towards life.  After His resurrection, Our Lord sent St. James to Spain and St. John to Turkey (with His own Blessed Mother.)  I flew from James’ land to John’s land today, and I’m tryıng to navigate a keyboard set up for the Turkish language at 9pm here in the city center of Istanbul.

Now, it’s a Muslim country.  But did you know that for the first 500 years of Christianity, Turkey had a Christianity as booming and as heroic as the newly-converted Roman Empire?  The two centers of Christianity in the first 500 years of the Church were Italy and Turkey.  Constantinople was first evangelized by St. Andrew (Peter’s brother.)  Turkey then became the home of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. John the Evangelist.  Years later it was the home to St. John Chrysostom, the Cappadocian Church Fathers and countless heros of Byzantine Catholicism.  Except for Jewish converts, the most successful areas of conversion in the first 500 years of Christianity were Italy and Turkey.  Roman Empire and Byzantine Glory.

Now Turkey is 0.2% Christian.

What happened?  This great loss is usually blamed on Islam.  It is true that the violent conquest of Turkey happened as early as the very century of Mohammed (7th century.)  It was completed in the 15th century.

But Jesus is always faithful to His Church, especially in persecution, so something else happened.

We have to remember that Jesus speaks directly to the Turkish Churches in the book of the Apocalypse and warns:

I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for My name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.—Rev 2:2-5

This was evidently not an empty threat from Our Lord.  The light in Turkey would indeed extinguish.  It was lukewarmness that sunk the Church here in Constantinople/Istanbul, just like it is 20th century lukewarmness that has nearly sunk the living Faith within the country I just walked across, Spain.

How do I know it was lukewarmness and not Islam that has extinguished the fire in the two countries of the Sons of Thunder?  Because Spain is the only country in the history of the world that was conquered by Muslims and reconquered by Christians to again become a Christian country.  This reconquest was done by a woman, Isabel “la Católica,” an outrageously beautiful name, considering she came from a line of 800 years of Catholic kings attempting that very reconquest of Spain that Isabel (a married queen who knit her children’s own clothes and rode horseback alone at night in the rain to quell uprisings) finished once and for all in the 15th century.  She did it on horseback and in battle, but mostly on her knees.

The next three centuries then witnessed Spain evangelize most of the Western hemisphere.  In fact, this deed was also due to Queen Isabel “the Catholic” who took a risk on Christopher Columbus.  (She originally told him “No” and then sent her courier to inform him that she changed her mind when he was several kilometers outside the city.)  Whether you like Christopher Columbus or not, the point is that Islam didn’t ultimately stop the greatest Catholic nation in history from producing St. Francis Xaviers.  In fact, in some strange way within the permissive will of God, Islam helped the evangelization of the World.

Now, Spain has fallen to secularism harder than she ever fell to Islam.  This may sound like an exagerration, but I promise the following is true:  Almost every day on the Camino, a Spanish man or woman would see my Roman Collar and preach New-Age relativism to me (in Spanish) before I could ever explain the Gospel, or even say my name.  What St. James and Queen Isabel won heroically—what Islam could not extinguish but strangely fueled—has been trashed by the heresy and lukewarmness from within the Church, not without, especially in the past 50 years.

I’m not much of a patriot for the country that St. John Paul II called “the culture of death” (the USA) but after travelling the world the past year, I can glorify God for the USA for this reason:  We Americans have a hope for a renewal and restoration of the Faith which is greater than the hope of Spain or Turkey, (at least if grace keeps building on the nature of these countries’ attitude to Christ and His Church.)  Yes, miracles can change anything overnight (like Mexico from the miracle of Our Lady of Guadelupe) but right now, I’m proud to be an American.

But if the Catholic Church in the land of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Turkey) can nearly collapse, we must move beyond our extreme presumption of God Almighty and return in sackcloth and ashes to Him.  Better, we must return to our first love (see the quote from Apocalypse chapter 2 above.)   We need Sons of Thunder to do the works those men did at first.

Why did Jesus call them Sons of Thunder, anyway?  One example is this:  When a Samaritain village rejects Jesus, St. James and St. John have an idea:

His disciples James and John…said, “Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” But (Jesus) turned and rebuked them.—Luke 9:54-55

In regard to that passage, we have all heard a thousand stupid homilies that go something like this:  “The Apostles were Old Testament—all based in justice.  But Jesus was about to teach them about love.”

Here’s two reasons why that’s a silly homily:

1) Has anyone ever considered how or by Whom the Apostles thought (or knew) that they had the power to call down fire anyway?

2) Jesus chose fighters, not lovers.  He chose fighters to turn them into lovers.  Lovers of “the brethren” as John wrote.  Lovers of “Christ crucified” as Paul wrote.  Christ needed fighters who believed in something, precisely so Christ could turn these fiery-fishermen into lovers of the peace that only Christ can give.  He warned there would be no peace from compromise with the world.

Perhaps a 20th century fear of that zeal is why seminaries the past 50 years got so full of men acting out effeminate sexual-perversions.  Apparently it was worth it for dioceses to keep the sacraments flowing out and the money flowing in towards these charming men at the pulpit.  But the real test of a priest is how many men he has inspired to follow Christ into religious life or a holy seminary.  The Sons of Thunder cared more about spiritual multipication than the numbers of money or popularity raised among those making  sacriligious communions.  Just google St. James and Our Lady at Zaragosa if you think discipleship among priests is a new idea.

Globally, we will see the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, as she promised at Fatima.  But how many souls will be lost before then?  I believe that the USA, Africa and Asia will be called upon to bear the torch to rekindle the ancient faith in the world, but you must pray for priests who will be fighters and lovers…those who will fight the battle of love for the peace that only the cross of Jesus Christ can bring.  Peace with God the Father comes only from the sacrifice of Christ—the only One who can reconcile us to a God who is infinitely holy.  Divine Mercy and ancient Tradition.

The Church desperately needs priests who wıll not be simply charming and semi-orthodox, but Sons of Thunder.

Raise such men in your families.

Pilgrimage 5 of 5

Abraham_Bloemaert_-_The_Emmaus_Disciples_-_WGA02276

When I lived in a hermitage in Arizona called Merciful Heart Hermitage I was befuddled about why my hermit buddy named it Merciful Heart and then spoke so much of the Heart of the Father. “We only know of the Sacred Heart, not of the heart of the Father,” I silently thought.

But one day, in this very hermitage, I was reading the Gospel of St. John, and I noticed that the chest of Jesus (upon which the Apostle John listened to the heartbeat of love at the last supper) was the same Greek word (κόλπον ) as found much, much earlier in John 1:18:

No man hath seen God at any time: the only begotten Son who is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him.

That word “bosom” comes from κόλπον or kolpon from the noun kolpos.  It might sound feminine, but rather, it means the very core of any person´s chest, or perhaps his or her heart.  Again, this is that upon which St. John leaned the night Jesus was to die for him.  Total strength and intimacy in the Passion, in the Eucharist, yet total silence and contemplative gaze of Divine Love.

But what about John 1:18?  It means that there is a Heart of the Father to be spoken of, as my hermit had realized.  Still, we went deeper, for that day we found that κόλπον had a strange double-meaning in the Greek language.  It also means the bay of a sea. (See Acts 27:39 for proof of this.)  Put this on the back burner for a minute…

That word in the blue above “declared” is actually a past participle, ἐξηγήσατο, coming from the Greek verb exegeomai where we get the English word exegesis. The definition of exegeomai is “to narrate or recount, to draw out in narrative or unfold in teaching.” It was also used in more ancient Greek to include the interpretation of things sacred and divine, oracles and dreams.

Put this all together and John 1:18 is telling us in Greek: Jesus unfolds the entire narrative of the bay of the Father´s heart.

Jesus leads us to Our Father’s Ocean of Mercy by a full-unfolding of His own life which fulfills the Old Testament prophetically, and fulfills every twist and turn of our lives pre-emptively.  The Heavenly Jerusalem we all await is the Heart of the Father.

The narrative of salvation history is not unfolded under sodium-lights, but while walking a dirty path:

“`Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?´ And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, He interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.”(Luke 24:26-27)

Jesus says this on the road to Emmaus, the same title as the painting above painting by Abraham Bloemaert.  Here converge the Eucharist, the heart of Jesus, the heart of the Father…within the pilgrimage of mankind and the unveiling of salvation history.

Jesus shows how every prophetic utterance of the Old Testament, every betrayal, every twist and turn of salvation history redounds to the gulf of the Father’s Heart for mankind, the one bay that Jesus wishes to walk us back to, if only we’ll follow in His footsteps.

Pilgrimage 4 of 5

st james

When I think of angels in adoration of the Blessed Trinity, I think of how the angels´ adoration is: cosmic, undulating, unified to an inter-galatic degree of gyrating glory, power, light and effusion.

Then I wonder: How could I praise God like that? Hands up? Sing louder? Better music? Everything except the Mass actually comes up short in reality, and even then the full glories of the Mass are not known except to a few saints, this side of the veil.

Why exactly are we left in dust and ashes on earth while the angels know quite easily how to orbit God in weightless joy, combined with all the weight of glory?

The answer is pilgrimage. This is all training to praise God like that.  St. Therese wrote, “The world’s thy ship, and not thy home.”

If you remember from the last pilgrimage entry, we have to face the giants of the Canaanite tribes in order to get into the Promised Land. These giants are real-live demons threatening the New Covenant. As formidable opponents, we find a third of the angels fell before we were even conceived.  Before that, their level of glory was pre-determined by God. As their slots are now open, it is the glory of men and women to fill into higher and higher places of glory in heaven. But this won´t be based on who shot the best laser-beams at the DC Talk show.

Our level of glory in heaven (1 Cor 15:40-43) will be determined by our level of suffering (Rom 8:17) lived with love (1 Cor 13.) That is, sacrifical love will determine how high of a slot of glory we take in heaven that literally used to be held by a fallen angel. We, however, will have our bodies within this new heavens and new earth.

Why did God ever let us get to this valley of tears? Well, we banished ourselves from the Garden by rebellion, but the angel guarding paradise with the flaming sword became not only a justice, but a mercy of God. The return plan would take 4,000 years, but God is faithful. Now we are in that time which “many prophets and righteous people longed to see…but they didn’t see.” (Mt 13:17) Yes, we were sent out on an adventure by Our Father—one which can now be lost with the most serious of consequences—but He gave us His only Son as the companion for every step of the journey. The journey where? Home.  That’s where praise will be uninterrupted if we pass this gauntlet of a training phase.

This great departure and return has been called by St. Thomas Aquinas the Exitus and Reditus, the exit and the return to God.  It’s a giant circle that is dangerous and fun.   It is called by St. Maximilian Kolbe “Separation” and then “Union.” Either way, both show that we were set out on an adventure, a journey-quest, sent by God Our Father, with Jesus our brother to walk with us. The goal? Make it back home alive in a land of dangerous giants. Why must we leave home? Because our first dad, Adam, chose to leave home and chose death. Home was life. The pilgrimage was death.  But the pilgrimage was transformed into life by the Second Person of the Trinity becoming a human.

By the incarnation of the Divine Word, the second person of the Blessed Trinity, Jesus turned the pilgrimage into the beginning of life (and fun) if we walk it with Him. We are the prodigal, pilgrim sons and daughters. Our family (human beings) had to leave the garden and now we learn how to fight for love.

The phrase “Our kids are on loan from God” may be over-used among certain families, but I remember that the first time I heard it.  I was blessed because the family who said it really, really meant it.  I was stunned at the sincerity of the parents who told me that.  It was during my first year of priesthood. After Mass, I asked this family about their kids, and the parents said:  “We know that they’re just on loan from God.”  Perhaps that philosophy is the greatest medicine against the “cult of the child” that can fester a skewed adoration of one lone child.  It’s also great medicine against the opposite “We had a child to fulfill our emotional need” syndrome.  Both parenting techniques will lead the poor kid to a psychologist’s chair by the age of 14.

But if the kids are on loan from God, then the one goal is:  heaven… not Harvard, not Yale, not Wall Street.  Why would God trust anyone with the precious souls He has created?  This is the mystery of responsibility, how our actions have eternal outcomes.  But also we have to recognize the great mystery of the exitus and reditus of pilgrimage here.  The child goes forth (exitus) from her Origin (God.)  Then, the parents’ job is one:  Return (reditus) the child to her true Origin.  This is why God is Father as no man is father.   This giant circle is the pilgrimage of earth, and we have to get as many home safely as possible.

St. Augustine wrote “God promised eternal salvation, everlasting happiness with the angels, an immortal inheritance, endless glory, the joyful vision of His face, His holy dwelling in heaven, and after resurrection from the dead: no further fear of dying…He wanted, through His Son, to show us and give us the Way that He would lead us to the goal He has promised…It was not enough for God to make His Son our guide to the way; He made Him the Way itself, that you might travel with him as leader, and by Him as the Way.”

Thus, the glory on this earth will not feel like an angels´s spreading of the six-wings. Rather, it will feel like the arms stretched on a cross.

Pilgrimage 3 of 5

pilgrims

The Church Fathers compared the Jews´ time in the desert to a Christian’s pilgrimage on earth. This is to ultimately lead them to the Promised Land. For us, earth is training ground to be able to enter the eternal Promised Land, but the Old Testament shows that the giants to be defeated are too great for natural powers to conquer. It takes supernatural power to enter the land of milk and honey…not because milk and honey are hard to obtain, but because of the enemies that block us. This is why sanctifying grace is so important to enter into heaven. Grace is not the “Price of admission,” wrote Frank Sheed, but rather we (without supernatural grace) are in such a state that “our souls lack the powers that living in heaven calls for.”—Theology for Beginners, 67.

This is why our pilgrimage on earth is not only a punishment for our forefathers´ sin, but also an adventure in self-conquering. When we were in sin, like the Egyptians, we were addicted to the flesh pots of Egypt, the leeks, the cucumbers…really nothing too delicious except for the fact it’s in the past, I suppose, and prohibited. But baptism has us pass through the waters of the Red Sea to…not quite heaven.

Why? Because the Israelites must tarry in the desert for a long time.  So also, we Christians must tarry on earth.  It would constitute our downfall to conflate the desert (earth) for the Promised Land (heaven.)  This conflation is an easy trick that the devil has lain for the rich and confortable.  When I was in Kolkata, the city was so filthy, so full of poop and death and noise that no one could ever mistake it for heaven. But when I ride my bike through Greenwood Village and Cherry Hills Village along the Highline Canal south of Denver…I frequently think that is something like heaven.  And this isn´t the worst thing, occasionally. But it’s easy to get stuck in the penultimate vocation-location instead of the ultimate vocation-location of heaven.  The poor have this advantage over us.  And it’s not sentimental social justice.  It’s a real advantage against an eternal hell.

Still, God knew how hard it should be to live in the desert, not being at the final home. Thus, He gave manna from heaven.

Of course, this is the Eucharist, our main strength before we get to the Promised Land.

When the Israelites made it to the Promised Land, the manna from heaven stopped falling. Similarly, although heaven will be an eternal Mass of all beings crying HOLY HOLY HOLY, we will actually not receive the Eucharist in heaven because then we will be at

the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb, through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His servants will worship Him. They will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever. (Rev 22:1b-5)

On earth, we need the Eucharist to defeat the giants that guard the way to the Holy Land. If we triumph, we are His sons. Yes, we become sons and daughters of God at baptism, but something of the crowning depends on us, too, for Jesus says in the book of the Apocalypse: “The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son.” (Rev 21:7)

Pilgrimage 2 of 5

Jan_Wildens_Landscape_with_Christ_and_his_Disciples_on_the_Road_to_Emmaus

Do we walk this Pilgrimage of life alone?  Or perhaps alone with God? On the Camino in Spain, I frequently hear young and old people  say “Well, everyone has his own Camino!”  Indeed, St. John Paul II said that each person is a particular image and likeness of God. So, yes—that means everyone’s pilgrimage through life is equally particularized and beautiful. But I think the phrase “Everyone has his own Camino” would have confused JPII a little since he came from a tight-knit Polish family and group of friends, seminarians…notwithstanding the tremendous loss he suffered.

Furthermore, that phrase would have never been heard on this Spanish pilgrimage 800 years ago. Why? Because they always went in communities and families. This Protestant-individualization of walking through life “Me and Jesus” is actually relatively new.  Even in the early Church writings I see the Church mentioned as much as Christ was mentioned.

I’ve made some serious mistakes of thinking I could walk through my priesthood in lone-ranger mode. For example, I was betrayed by a brother priest.  When people found this out, he quickly ascribed his own decision to his superiors, and later to his subordinates. I had no defense system against these lies because I didn’t control the communications.  I wimped out in self-defense.

But my bigger mistake was having jumped-in alone years ago.  St. Thomas Aquinas defines pride as biting off more than you can chew. This was exactly my sin in waiting so long to join a community that believes the same things as I do, which I’m finally seeking.

Archbishop Chaput would always say, “Your faith is personal, but never private.”  So also, everything on this Camino of Life remains communal—personalized but not private.  I now want to live a public witness of faith—not just helping others—but in need of others I can trust, too.  This I have learned, being sick on pilgrimage.

Yes, even the disciples were sent out only two by two.

In Luke 24, Jesus is found walking the way to Emmaus not with one, but with two “Cleopine” disciples.  There is a particularization to each person’s “Life-Pilgrimage,” indeed—but never a total isolation…not even for those called to the hermetic life.  (Hermits must be those who live in the deepest communion with the Church triumphant, militant, and suffering.)

This communal aspect of our “Life-Pilgrimage” is seen in the painting above, Road to Emmaus, by Jan Wildens.  Notice that Cleopas is not walking with Jesus alone.  It is three of them, just as in Luke 24.  Some believe Cleopas’ fellow disciple of the Lord was Cleopas’ wife!

In any case, Emmaus starts this way:  Christ is already risen from the dead, but the couple is in a state of despondency. Christ reveals Himself and their hearts burn. They long…but only later are they completed in Him.

One of the strangest lines in the account is when Jesus “acted as if He were going farther, but they urged Him strongly, saying, ´Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.´” (Lk 24:28-29) Why did Jesus act as if He were going to keep going? I haven´t read the Church Fathers on this, but I’ll give my own guess:

He could go far beyond us. He could leave us in the dust, but He chooses to remain in the Eucharist and in the saints to walk this path with us. He shows us we have to wait for others.

Jesus shows the apostles the means not to stop suffering, but to suffer well when He sends the Holy Ghost. He promises to walk with them, not to give them all the answers about why they “have here no lasting city.” (Hb 13:14) Since mankind’s fall out of paradise, it never was meant to be lasting, anyway.

This is why St. Peter reminds us strangers and sojourners that we shouldn´t get attached to a titillating, crumbling city on earth: “Beloved, I urge you, as sojourners and exiles, to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul…Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in His steps.” (1 Pt 2:11,21.)

That word steps is so important for pilgrimage theology.  The avoidance of illicit pleasures isn’t just extinguishing desire, à la Buddhism, so our hopes for more, say, chocolate don’t go unfulfilled. Rather, it’s about the simple avoidance to attachment to Babylon when the Heavenly Jerusalem awaits.  Yes, have children in Babylon!  Enjoy the fruit of the land!  But Jerusalem, not  Babylon, is your home.

To launch from Babylon to Jerusalem, we ironically need to go about it with friends—despite the danger of attachments to  unhealthy friendships.  Yes, we must walk it with Christ and others in order to not become attached to the sweet, ephemeral, glittery rivers of Babylon (read: Madison Ave., or our own egos.)

What is this Heavenly Jerusalem?  That will be part 5…A few more steps before we make it there (scheduled for our arrival in Santiago.)

Pilgrimage 1 of 5

shell

This is a series not on my current pilgrimage, but on the Theology of Pilgrimage.  A priest-friend from Denver once said to me:  “Pilgrimage isn’t just another analogy for the Christian life.  Pilgrimage is the reality of the Christian life.”  That may not sound too profound at first, but the more I meditated on the Old and New Testament, the more I realized that every book of the Bible fulfilled these words.  It is no wonder that he had walked the Camino a few times.

I’m in Spain now, but when I wrote this post, I was flying from India to Spain.  Flying over the Red Sea, I look at the computer map of our location and I notice we’re directly south of the spot where Moses miraculously crossed with half a million Hebrews.

red-sea-crossing

That was 3300 years ago.  As I look through the plane window, I see the most majestic, mysteriously-straight clouds lighly separating me from the greatest Old Testament miracle.  I can even see the shores of the sea that God miraculously parted at the lifting of the hands of Moses…and then closed upon the armies of Egypt.

So, I have to wonder:  Why did God have the Israelites wander in the desert for so long before getting them to the promised land?  Of course, Scripture is clear it was a punishment for rebellion.  But there was also something to be learned within the pilgrimage:  It was to divest Israel from treating Adonai like another addictive-idol.

The book Grace and Addiction, although written by a non-Catholic, has an important commentary about loving God in freedom:

Full and freely chosen love for God requires searching and groping. What would happen to our freedom if God, our perfect lover, were to appear before us with such objective clarity that all our doubts disappeared? We would experience a kind of love, to be sure, but it would be love like a reflex. Almost without thought, we would fix all our desires upon this Divine Object, try to grasp and possess it, addict ourselves to it. I think God refuses to be an object for attachment because God desires full love, not addiction. Love born of true freedom, love free from attachment, requires that we search for a deepening awareness of God, just as God freely reaches out to us.—Grace and Addiction by Gerald May, p94

This is the theology of pilgrimage:  What it takes people of every vocation to die in sanctifying grace so as to experience the beatific vision.  It’s not all pain, but we’re going to see how detachment is God’s surgery in our life to remove idols of comfort so that He can have us behold Him forever.

In the next sections released on Saturdays (if I can find hostels with computers so as to write posts as I trek across Spain) we’re going to explore this detachment, this journey and the final destination.