1

Messianic Prophesies: Daniel 2: 44-45

Beginning our Advent look at Messianic prophecies for this year, a series which we began in Advent 2011 and continued in 2102, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016, the earlier posts of the series may be read here, here, here ,here, here, here, here, here , here here, here, here, here , here, here, here , here,   here, here here, here, here ,  here, here here, here , and here we come to Daniel 2:  44-45:

 

44 And while those empires yet flourish, another empire the God of heaven will bring into being, never to be destroyed, never to be superseded; conqueror of all these others, itself unconquerable. 45 This is that stone thou sawest none ever quarried, that fell from the mountain-side, bringing clay and iron and bronze and silver and gold to nothing; this was a revelation the king’s grace had from the most high God himself of what must come about; true was thy dream, and this, past doubt, the meaning of it.

 

Saint Augustine says of this passage:

And they asked him, What then? Are you Elias? For they knew that Elias was to precede Christ. For to no Jew was the name of Christ unknown. They did not think that he was the Christ; but they did not think that Christ would not come at all. When they were hoping that He would come, they were offended at Him when He was present, and stumbled at Him as on a low stone. For He was as yet a small stone, already indeed cut out of the mountain without hands; as says Daniel the prophet, that he saw a stone cut out of the mountain without hands. But what follows? And that stone, says he grew and became a great mountain and filled the whole face of the earth.  Mark then, my beloved brethren, what I say: Christ, before the Jews, was already cut out from the mountain. The prophet wishes that by the mountain should be understood the Jewish kingdom. But the kingdom of the Jews had not filled the whole face of the earth. The stone was cut out from thence, because from thence was the Lord born on His advent among men. And wherefore without hands? Because without the cooperation of man did the Virgin bear Christ. Now then was that stone cut out without hands before the eyes of the Jews; but it was humble. Not without reason; because not yet had that stone increased and filled the whole earth: that He showed in His kingdom, which is the Church, with which He has filled the whole face of the earth. Because then it had not yet increased, they stumbled at Him as at a stone: and that happened in them which is written, Whosoever shall fall upon that stone shall be broken; but on whomsoever that stone shall fall, it will grind them to powder.  At first they fell upon Him lowly: as the lofty One He shall come upon them; but that He may grind them to powder when He comes in His exaltation, He first broke them in His lowliness. They stumbled at Him, and were broken; they were not ground, but broken: He will come exalted and will grind them. But the Jews were to be pardoned because they stumbled at a stone which had not yet increased. What sort of persons are those who stumble at the mountain itself? Already you know who they are of whom I speak. Those who deny the Church diffused through the whole world, do not stumble at the lowly stone, but at the mountain itself: because this the stone became as it grew. The blind Jews did not see the lowly stone: but how great blindness not to see the mountain!”

15

Pal Jesus is a Myth

Jesus told his disciples this parable:
“A man going on a journey
called in his servants and entrusted his possessions to them.
To one he gave five talents; to another, two; to a third, one–
to each according to his ability.
Then he went away.
Immediately the one who received five talents went and traded with them,
and made another five.
Likewise, the one who received two made another two.
But the man who received one went off and dug a hole in the ground
and buried his master’s money.

After a long time
the master of those servants came back
and settled accounts with them.
The one who had received five talents came forward
bringing the additional five.
He said, ‘Master, you gave me five talents.
See, I have made five more.’
His master said to him, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant.
Since you were faithful in small matters,
I will give you great responsibilities.
Come, share your master’s joy.’
Then the one who had received two talents also came forward and said,
‘Master, you gave me two talents.
See, I have made two more.’
His master said to him, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant.
Since you were faithful in small matters,
I will give you great responsibilities.
Come, share your master’s joy.’
Then the one who had received the one talent came forward and said,
‘Master, I knew you were a demanding person,
harvesting where you did not plant
and gathering where you did not scatter;
so out of fear I went off and buried your talent in the ground.
Here it is back.’
His master said to him in reply, ‘You wicked, lazy servant!
So you knew that I harvest where I did not plant
and gather where I did not scatter?
Should you not then have put my money in the bank
so that I could have got it back with interest on my return?
Now then! Take the talent from him and give it to the one with ten.
For to everyone who has,
more will be given and he will grow rich;
but from the one who has not,
even what he has will be taken away.
And throw this useless servant into the darkness outside,
where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.'”

Matthew 25:  14-30

One of the more appalling aspects of Christianity in the past half century is the growth of viewing Jesus as some sort of insipid forgiveness machine, a pal Jesus who will ever give us a thumbs up, no matter how wretched our behavior.  The Gospels give us a very different portrait of Jesus.  The above reading is typical:  a Jesus who expects much of us and who will punish those of us who fail to match His expectations.  In many ways the above is a terrifying passage because it is so at odds as to common perceptions of Jesus.  The prime mission of the Church is to convey the Truth of Christ, and if popular perceptions of the Second Person is any guide, the Church is failing appallingly, currently, at that task.

We must also recall the love of Christ of course which rescues us from the sin of despair.  However, like any love worthy of the name it requires much of us.  Christ calls us to take up our cross and follow Him.  It is almost a trite statement today.  In his time it was shocking, fully as shocking as a priest telling us that we must take up our electric chairs, or gas chambers, and follow Christ.  The early disciples of Christ knew how demanding, and sometimes dangerous, it was to follow Christ, and yet they did so.  May we have a fraction of their wisdom, faith and raw courage.

2

Virgins and the Thief in the Night

Jesus told his disciples this parable:
“The kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins
who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.
Five of them were foolish and five were wise.
The foolish ones, when taking their lamps,
brought no oil with them,
but the wise brought flasks of oil with their lamps.
Since the bridegroom was long delayed,
they all became drowsy and fell asleep.
At midnight, there was a cry,
‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’
Then all those virgins got up and trimmed their lamps.
The foolish ones said to the wise,
‘Give us some of your oil,
for our lamps are going out.’
But the wise ones replied,
‘No, for there may not be enough for us and you.
Go instead to the merchants and buy some for yourselves.’
While they went off to buy it,
the bridegroom came
and those who were ready went into the wedding feast with him.
Then the door was locked.
Afterwards the other virgins came and said,
‘Lord, Lord, open the door for us!’
But he said in reply,
‘Amen, I say to you, I do not know you.’
Therefore, stay awake,
for you know neither the day nor the hour.”

Matthew 25: 1-13

I have always liked the ending of the Church year, as we focus in the readings on the Four Last Things:  Death, Judgment, Heaven and Hell.  In the above reading our Lord, in His usual manner of a parable, sketches out for us His Second Coming and the Final Judgment on the Last Day.  Saint Augustine interprets this for us:

 

They wished to go to meet the Bridegroom. What is the meaning of to go and meet the Bridegroom? To go with the heart, to be waiting for his coming. But he tarried. While he tarries, they all slept. What is all? Both the foolish and the wise, all slumbered and slept. Think we is this sleep good? What is this sleep? Is it that at the tarrying of the Bridegroom, because iniquity abounds, the love of many waxes cold? Are we to understand this sleep so? I like it not. I will tell you why. Because among them are the wise virgins; and certainly when the Lord said, Because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold; He went on to say, But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. Where would you have those wise virgins be? Are they not among those that shall endure unto the end? They would not be admitted within at all, Brethren, for any other reason, than because they have endured unto the end. No coldness of love then crept over them, in them love did not wax cold; but preserves its glow even unto the end. And because it glows even unto the end, therefore are the gates of the Bridegroom opened to them; therefore are they told to enter in, as that excellent servant, Enter into the joy of your Lord. What then is the meaning of they all slept? There is another sleep which no one escapes. Remember ye not the Apostle saying, But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that is, concerning them which are dead? For why are they called they which are asleep, but because they are in their own day? Therefore they all slept. Do you think that because one is wise, he has not therefore to die? Be the virgin foolish, or be she wise, all suffer equally the sleep of death.

7. But men continually say to themselves, Lo, the day of judgment is coming now, so many evils are happening, so many tribulations thicken; behold all things which the Prophets have spoken, are nearly fulfilled; the day of judgment is already at hand. They who speak thus, and speak in faith, go out as it were with such thoughts to meet the Bridegroom. But, lo! war upon war, tribulation upon tribulation, earthquake upon earthquake, famine upon famine, nation against nation, and still the Bridegroom comes not yet. Whilst then He is expected to come, all they who are saying, Lo, He is coming, and the Day of Judgment will find us here, fall asleep. Whilst they are saying this, they fall asleep. Let each one then have an eye to this his sleep, and persevere even unto his sleep in love; let sleep find him so waiting. For suppose that he has fallen asleep. Will not He who falls asleep afterwards rise again? Therefore they all slept; both of the wise and the foolish virgins in the parable, it is said, they all slept.

8. Lo, at midnight there was a cry made. What is, at midnight? When there is no expectation, no belief at all of it. Night is put for ignorance. A man makes as it were a calculation with himself: Lo, so many years have passed since Adam, and the six thousand years are being completed, and then immediately according to the computation of certain expositors, the Day of Judgment will come; yet these calculations come and pass away, and still the coming of the Bridegroom is delayed, and the virgins who had gone to meet him sleep. And, lo, when He is not looked for, when men are saying, The six thousand years were waited for, and, lo, they are gone by, how then shall we know when He will come? He will come at midnight. What is, will come at midnight? Will come when you are not aware. Why will He come when you are not aware of it? Hear the Lord Himself, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons which the Lord has put in His own power. The day of the Lord, says the Apostle, will come as a thief in the night. Therefore watch by night that you be not surprised by the thief. For the sleep of death— will you, or nill ye— it will come.

Our time for preparing for the Second Coming of Christ is during this life.  Rather than speculating as whether we live during the Last Days, let us focus on the certainty that the Last Day will come upon us either before or after we taste death.  The exact time is the Lord’s and not ours.  Ours is the duty for us to prepare our souls for this inevitable event, whether it comes in the next second or a billion years from now.

 

 

2

Seat of Moses

Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his disciples, saying,
“The scribes and the Pharisees
have taken their seat on the chair of Moses.
Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you,
but do not follow their example.
For they preach but they do not practice.
They tie up heavy burdens hard to carry
and lay them on people’s shoulders,
but they will not lift a finger to move them.
All their works are performed to be seen.
They widen their phylacteries and lengthen their tassels.
They love places of honor at banquets, seats of honor in synagogues,
greetings in marketplaces, and the salutation ‘Rabbi.’
As for you, do not be called ‘Rabbi.’
You have but one teacher, and you are all brothers.
Call no one on earth your father;
you have but one Father in heaven.
Do not be called ‘Master’;
you have but one master, the Christ.
The greatest among you must be your servant.
Whoever exalts himself will be humbled;
but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”

Matthew 23: 1-12

 

When Peter first met with Christ he told Him to leave him, because he was a sinful man.  Perhaps Peter had many sins on his soul, but I think it more likely that he simply was not a learned man and was unable to keep, or even be aware of, the myriad ritual purity laws of the Jews, and thus he regarded himself as sinful and unclean as a result.  Judaism had largely been reduced to a system of avoiding ritual impurity by the time of Jesus, and only a man, a Scribe or a  Pharisee, who devoted himself to the study of the Law, could possibly keep the hundreds of laws that Jews had to observe if they were to be kept free from ritual impurity “sin”.  The greatest of the Rabbis understood that mercy and justice were much more important to God than the observance of the endless minutiae of the Law governing ritual impurity, but as the general reaction of the Scribes and the Pharisees to Jesus indicates, their voices were in the minority.

Jesus acknowledges that the Scribes and the Pharisees were the leaders of the Jewish religion.  (As usual Jesus ignores the Sadducees who ran the Temple.  Presumably they were so far from God that it was not worth His time speaking against them.)  He bids the people to do what they say but not to follow their example.  By their works they demonstrated how far their hearts were from what Moses had taught, let alone Christ.  Christ respected the office held by the Pharisees, the seat of Moses that they had assumed, but constantly attacked them for failing to live up to that office.  Words of special meaning to Catholics in this year of grace 2017.

 

9

Christ and the Law

When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees,
they gathered together, and one of them,
a scholar of the law tested him by asking,
“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?”
He said to him,
“You shall love the Lord, your God,
with all your heart,
with all your soul,
and with all your mind.
This is the greatest and the first commandment.
The second is like it:
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”

Matthew 22: 34-40

 

 

The first commandment recited by Christ is taken from the Shema, the prayer recited by the Jews morning and night.  All his Jewish listeners would have known it by heart and His choice of it should have been unsurprising to his interlocutors.  They would also have not been  surprised by  his addition of a second commandment which required loving your neighbor as yourself.  The commandment is taken from Leviticus 19: 18.  The great Rabbi Hillel, who died when Christ was a child, stated the commandment negatively:  What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow: this is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn.  Saint Paul, who doubtless was quite familiar with the teachings of Hillel, echoed this teaching:  For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. Galatians 5: 14.

If the answers of Christ were fairly obvious, why was the question asked?  Probably to test His knowledge.  Did this small town carpenter know the teaching of Hillel?  Perhaps to find fodder to accuse Him of heresy.  Whatever was the motivation, Christ yet again revealed Himself as completely supportive of the heart of the Jewish Law.  Normally Christ opposed it  only in regard to the Jewish ritual purity laws, at least as they had been interpreted.  Where he differed with a Jewish teaching outside of ritual purity, normally He increased the severity of the Law, forbidding divorce for example, or proclaiming that a man who looked lustfully at a woman was guilty of adultery.  Christ would add to the Jewish law and shore it up, but He came not to do away with it, but rather to perfect it.

 

“Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.”

Matthew 5: 17

5

Rendering Unto God and Caesar

The Pharisees went off
and plotted how they might entrap Jesus in speech.
They sent their disciples to him, with the Herodians, saying,
“Teacher, we know that you are a truthful man
and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth.
And you are not concerned with anyone’s opinion,
for you do not regard a person’s status.
Tell us, then, what is your opinion:
Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?”
Knowing their malice, Jesus said,
“Why are you testing me, you hypocrites?
Show me the coin that pays the census tax.”
Then they handed him the Roman coin.
He said to them, “Whose image is this and whose inscription?”
They replied, “Caesar’s.”
At that he said to them,
“Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar
and to God what belongs to God.”

Matthew 22: 15-21

 

While He was present on Earth, Jesus gave us God’s view of our mortal condition, and it often startled those who heard of it.  Typical was the trap lain for him involving paying tribute to Caesar.  If Christ had said pay no tribute, he would swiftly have been arrested by the Romans and condemned as a rebel.  Tell the people to pay the tribute, and He would have been regarded as a collaborator, one of those Jews who sided with the hated Roman rulers.  I assume whoever thought up this trap regarded it as foolproof and perhaps, in human terms, it was.  Jesus however demolished it with contemptuous ease.  He asked to see a Roman denarius, which had the face of Emperor Tiberius.  No doubt this made many Jews in the crowd squirm.  They hated the Romans, but Roman coins were in common usage.  Pious Jews would have hated handling the denarius because it blasphemously asserted that Tiberius was the son of the Divine Augustus, the Senate having proclaimed him a God.  (Ironically Tiberius was personally uneasy with the idea of being a God and the Senate did not proclaim his divinity after his death.)

One can imagine the anticipation with which the crowd awaited what was about to happen.  Christ had said almost nothing about the Roman occupation, as if it did not exist, or was simply too inconsequential for Him to notice.  Now He was being forced to take a stand on the central political issue of Jewish life.

Jesus inquires whose face is on the coin.  No doubt his interlocutor thought He was playing for time:  “Caesar.”

The words that Christ then spoke are obscured by our familiarity with them.  Israel had no tradition of separating religion from secular rule.  The rulers of Israel were judged as good or bad depending upon whether they had adhered to the worship of Yahweh.  The Kings of Israel and Judah had often been in severe conflict with prophets sent by God.  The Maccabees  were leaders of a religious revolt against the Seleucid Empire.  Herod had been condemned for his many atrocities and impieties.  The Jews longed for a Messiah to free them from the rule of Rome and bring about a Jewish utopia where God would rule His people.

Thus when Christ told the crowd to render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar and unto God the things that are God, he presented them with the stunning idea that there was a sphere of life which was a secular ruler’s, outside of the sphere of existence that was God’s.  We have been working out the implications of this divine revolutionary idea ever since.

7

A Divine Wedding, Justice and Hell

Jesus again in reply spoke to the chief priests and elders of the people
in parables, saying,
“The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king
who gave a wedding feast for his son.
He dispatched his servants
to summon the invited guests to the feast,
but they refused to come.
A second time he sent other servants, saying,
‘Tell those invited: “Behold, I have prepared my banquet,
my calves and fattened cattle are killed,
and everything is ready; come to the feast.”‘
Some ignored the invitation and went away,
one to his farm, another to his business.
The rest laid hold of his servants,
mistreated them, and killed them.
The king was enraged and sent his troops,
destroyed those murderers, and burned their city.
Then he said to his servants, ‘The feast is ready,
but those who were invited were not worthy to come.
Go out, therefore, into the main roads
and invite to the feast whomever you find.’
The servants went out into the streets
and gathered all they found, bad and good alike,
and the hall was filled with guests.
But when the king came in to meet the guests,
he saw a man there not dressed in a wedding garment.
The king said to him, ‘My friend, how is it
that you came in here without a wedding garment?’
But he was reduced to silence.
Then the king said to his attendants, ‘Bind his hands and feet,
and cast him into the darkness outside,
where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.’
Many are invited, but few are chosen.”

Matthew 22: 1-14

 

‘Beyond a doubt the elect are few.’

Saint Augustine

 

 

Jesus, meek and mild, basically sums up the contemporary image of Christ.  Jesus is a forgiveness machine, a divine Barney the Purple Dinosaur who loves us just the way we are.  If more people read the Gospels these days, this type of lie would quickly be smashed beyond recognition.  In the above excerpt from the Gospel of Matthew, Christ talks about how His Father is readying the marriage of His Son to His bride, the Church.  The invited guests, most of the Jews, are refusing to appear at the nuptials.  God responds by bringing to those who refuse His invitation the legions of Rome to destroy Jerusalem.  In the meantime, substitute guests, the Gentiles, are invited to the wedding feast.  So far so good, but then God the Father sees a guest who has not suitably prepared himself for the feast and casts him into the outer darkness (Hell).

The above analysis of this passage is how most Catholics would have interpreted this passage before the day before yesterday historically.  It is filled with violent imagery of doom that is so much a feature of the Gospels as the justice of God exacts the penalty of sin.  Christ came to save us from this justice by repentance, conversion and penance.  Hell is an ever present reality in the teaching of Christ, as is the judgment of God.   His mission is to save as many as He can from the everlasting fires and the worms that do not die.

How many of us have ever heard a sermon like that?  I can recall a handful half a century ago.  For every one such sermon, I have endured hundreds filled with the type of feel good pablum that is the hallmark of Catholic preaching in these decadent days.  The desperate urgency that the best priests have always felt to save as many as they could, has been replaced by confusion, cheap mercy and grace, and, too often, a yawning indifference.  Of course our clergy are not solely to blame.  They are taken from a laity that mostly sleep walks toward the cliff at the mouth of Hell.

The words of Christ at the close of the above passage never fail to send a chill through me:  “Many are invited, but few are chosen.”  Words to live and die by.

 

 

2

Of Vineyards, God and Abraham Lincoln

Jesus said to the chief priests and the elders of the people:
“Hear another parable.
There was a landowner who planted a vineyard,
put a hedge around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a tower.
Then he leased it to tenants and went on a journey.
When vintage time drew near,
he sent his servants to the tenants to obtain his produce.
But the tenants seized the servants and one they beat,
another they killed, and a third they stoned.
Again he sent other servants, more numerous than the first ones,
but they treated them in the same way.
Finally, he sent his son to them, thinking,
‘They will respect my son.’
But when the tenants saw the son, they said to one another,
‘This is the heir.
Come, let us kill him and acquire his inheritance.’
They seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him.
What will the owner of the vineyard do to those tenants when he comes?”
They answered him,
“He will put those wretched men to a wretched death
and lease his vineyard to other tenants
who will give him the produce at the proper times.”
Jesus said to them, “Did you never read in the Scriptures:
The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
by the Lord has this been done,
and it is wonderful in our eyes?

Therefore, I say to you,
the kingdom of God will be taken away from you
and given to a people that will produce its fruit.”
Matthew 21: 33-44
Our Lord references Isaiah in this parable.  Seven centuries before Christ Isaiah had warned Judah that the wrath of the Lord was kindled against them, a Vineyard that failed to produce fruit.  This warning was ignored, as the lamentable history of the Jews ended in repeated foreign conquest, punctuated by the heroic revolt of the Maccabees that ended in civil war, tyranny and the Rule of Rome.  Small wonder that the Jews of the time of Jesus were ever on the watch for a Messiah from the House of David who would free Israel from foreign chains and bring the pure worship of God.  However, as Abraham Lincoln would note eighteen centuries after Christ, “The Almighty has His own purposes”.   The Messiah came, largely unrecognized by the Jews, and did bring about the pure worship of God, but mostly by the despised gentiles, including the hated foreign occupiers of Rome.
We Men do our best with our wits to understand the ways of God, but as the Bible truly notes, His ways are not our ways.  What we perceive as disasters He may well perceive as building blocks to carry out a vast divine plan that we simply cannot discern in our brief lives and with our fallen intellects.   Our task in our lives is to carry out His will, as best as we can discern it, but to always recall that God may be intending something entirely contrary to what we wish and hope for.  This is a fact that is often hard to accept, but, as Lincoln also noted,  “as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.”
5

Tax Collectors, Prostitutes and Our Shocking Gospels

Jesus said to the chief priests and elders of the people:
“What is your opinion?
A man had two sons.
He came to the first and said,
‘Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.’
He said in reply, ‘I will not, ‘
but afterwards changed his mind and went.
The man came to the other son and gave the same order.
He said in reply, ‘Yes, sir, ‘but did not go.
Which of the two did his father’s will?”
They answered, “The first.”
Jesus said to them, “Amen, I say to you,
tax collectors and prostitutes
are entering the kingdom of God before you.
When John came to you in the way of righteousness,
you did not believe him;
but tax collectors and prostitutes did.
Yet even when you saw that,
you did not later change your minds and believe him.

Matthew 21: 28-32

 

We sometimes do not appreciate the power of a Bible text due to a lack of historical knowledge.  That is the case where Jesus notes that repentant tax collectors and prostitutes were entering the Kingdom before the chief priests and elders.  The shocking nature of this statement would have been immense to those who heard Jesus.  For the Jews of the time of Jesus family and ritual purity were everything.  A harlot was severed from her family and her paid fornications made her unclean and everyone who had the slightest contact with her unclean.  The destruction of the Temple by the Romans was blamed in the Talmud upon widespread prostitution and the same prostitution was regarded as a sign that the Messiah would soon come.  That the Messiah would allow prostitutes into His presence would have seemed to many pious Jews as a sick parody of their beliefs.

As for tax collectors, well, I doubt if “revenuers” have ever been popular people in any society.  However, tax collectors were especially hated by the Jews as collaborators with the Romans and parasites who ground the substance of their fellow Jews for the benefit of their occupiers.  The Romans sold the rights to collect taxes throughout their empire to syndicates.  These syndicates, often with powerful Senators as silent partners, would then have the right to collect taxes from the subject populations in a region.  The more they could wrench from people usually living at a subsistence level, the higher their profit margin.  Thus tax collectors like Matthew earned an enmity far greater than our term tax collector can convey.

Jesus highlighted the unlikely converts He was making in order to demonstrate the power of the grace He was bringing and the terrible misunderstanding of the Jewish religious establishment of what God demanded for salvation.  The Gospels seem so familiar to us that we fail to understand how shocking they often are, a shock that was fully intended by Christ.

 

1

Saint Augustine and the Canaanite Woman

At that time, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon.
And behold, a Canaanite woman of that district came and called out,
“Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David!
My daughter is tormented by a demon.”
But Jesus did not say a word in answer to her.
Jesus’ disciples came and asked him,
“Send her away, for she keeps calling out after us.”
He said in reply,
“I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
But the woman came and did Jesus homage, saying, “Lord, help me.”
He said in reply,
“It is not right to take the food of the children
and throw it to the dogs.”
She said, “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps
that fall from the table of their masters.”
Then Jesus said to her in reply,
“O woman, great is your faith!
Let it be done for you as you wish.”
And the woman’s daughter was healed from that hour.

Matthew 15: 21-18

 

 

 

 

1. This woman of Canaan, who has just now been brought before us in the lesson of the Gospel, shows us an example of humility, and the way of godliness; shows us how to rise from humility unto exaltation. Now she was, as it appears, not of the people of Israel, of whom came the Patriarchs, and Prophets, and the parents of the Lord Jesus Christ according to the flesh; of whom the Virgin Mary herself was, who was the Mother of Christ. This woman then was not of this people; but of the Gentiles. For, as we have heard, the Lord “departed into the coasts of Tyre and Sidon, and behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts,” [2593] and with the greatest earnestness begged of Him the mercy to heal her daughter, “who was grievously vexed with a devil.” Tyre and Sidon were not cities of the people of Israel, but of the Gentiles; though they bordered on that people. So then, as being eager to obtain mercy she cried out, and boldly knocked; and He made as though He heard her not, [2594] not to the end that mercy might be refused her, but that her desire might be enkindled; and not only that her desire might be enkindled, but that, as I have said before, her humility might be set forth. Therefore did she cry, while the Lord was as though He heard her not, but was ordering in silence what He was about to do. The disciples besought the Lord for her, and said, “Send her away; for she crieth after us.” And He said, “I am not sent, but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” [2595]

2. Here arises a question out of these words; “If He was not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel, how came we from among the Gentiles into Christ’s fold? What is the meaning of the so deep economy [2596] of this mystery, that whereas the Lord knew the purpose of His coming — that He might have a Church in all nations, He said that He was not sent, but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel’?” We understand then by this that it behoved Him to manifest His Bodily presence, His Birth, the exhibition of His miracles, and the power of His Resurrection, among that people: that so it had been ordained, so set forth from the beginning, so predicted, and so fulfilled; that Christ Jesus was to come to the nation of the Jews, to be seen and slain, and to gain from among them those whom He foreknew. For that people was not wholly condemned, but sifted. There was among them a great quantity of chaff, but there was also the hidden worth [2597] of the grain; there was among them that which was to be burnt, there was among them also that wherewith the barn was to be filled. For whence came the Apostles? whence came Peter? whence the rest? Continue Reading

3

Life in a Time of Tares

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Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field:

But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way.

But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also.

So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares?

He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up?

But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them.
Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.

Matthew 13: 24-30

 

 

In any farming community, farmers being human, feuds will sometimes grow up between farmers and their families.  The Romans understood this, and so they had a law forbidding anyone from sowing tares, darnel, in a wheat field.  A ryegrass, darnel is indistinguishable from wheat in the early stages of development and only when they are both mature can wheat be readily distinguishable from tares.  It takes little imagination to see Jesus as a boy, working in the carpenter shop of Saint Joseph, and hearing one of the farming clients of Joseph ranting about how an unknown enemy of his had ruined his wheat field by planting darnel in it.

Christ has shaped out of this unpleasant example of rural life, a parable which says much about the human condition.  It would save time if we all wore signs saying “good”, “evil”, “both”, “making up my mind”, but we do not.  Until revealed by deeds, the side chosen by each of us each day remains a deep secret, often to the person making the daily choice, sense the capacity of man to deceive himself is bottomless.  But God knows, and ultimately we each reap the harvest of our deeds.  So with us individually, so our societies, our political institutions, our churches and all the other manifold ways in which we humans gather together.  Enough wrong choices and the tares are in charge, lording it over the wheat.  Saint Augustine noted this long ago: Continue Reading

1

One Solitary Life

All the armies that have ever marched All the navies that have ever sailed All the parliaments that have ever sat All the kings that ever reigned put together Have not affected the life of mankind on earth As powerfully as that one solitary life

From One Solitary Life

I am an historian, I am not a believer, but I must confess as a historian that this penniless preacher from Nazareth is irrevocably the very center of history. Jesus Christ is easily the most dominant figure in all history.

H. G. Wells

O felix culpa quae talem et tantum meruit habere redemptorem

Exsultet, Easter Vigil

Continue Reading

12

Christ and History

 

I’ll tell you what stands between us and the Greeks.  Two thousand years of human suffering stands between us! Christ on His Cross stands between us!

Michelangelo, Agony and the Ecstasy (1965)

 

 

 

Popular historian Tom Holland, whose work I have admired, writes how his study of history led him back to Christianity:

 

By the time I came to read Edward Gibbon and the other great writers of the Enlightenment, I was more than ready to accept their interpretation of history: that the triumph of Christianity had ushered in an “age of superstition and credulity”, and that modernity was founded on the dusting down of long-forgotten classical values. My childhood instinct to think of the biblical God as the po-faced enemy of liberty and fun was rationalised. The defeat of paganism had ushered in the reign of Nobodaddy, and of all the crusaders, inquisitors and black-hatted puritans who had served as his acolytes. Colour and excitement had been drained from the world. “Thou hast conquered, O pale Galilean,” Swinburne wrote, echoing the apocryphal lament of Julian the Apostate, the last pagan emperor of Rome. “The world has grown grey from thy breath.” Instinctively, I agreed.

So, perhaps it was no surprise that I should have continued to cherish classical antiquity as the period that most stirred and inspired me. When I came to write my first work of history, Rubicon, I chose a subject that had been particularly close to the hearts of the philosophes: the age of Cicero. The theme of my second, Persian Fire, was one that even in the 21st century was serving Hollywood, as it had served Montaigne and Byron, as an archetype of the triumph of liberty over despotism: the Persian invasions of Greece.

The years I spent writing these studies of the classical world – living intimately in the company of Leonidas and of Julius Caesar, of the hoplites who had died at Thermopylae and of the legionaries who had triumphed at Alesia – only confirmed me in my fascination: for Sparta and Rome, even when subjected to the minutest historical inquiry, did not cease to seem possessed of the qualities of an apex predator. They continued to stalk my imaginings as they had always done – like a tyrannosaur.

Yet giant carnivores, however wondrous, are by their nature terrifying. The longer I spent immersed in the study of classical antiquity, the more alien and unsettling I came to find it. The values of Leonidas, whose people had practised a peculiarly murderous form of eugenics, and trained their young to kill uppity Untermenschen by night, were nothing that I recognised as my own; nor were those of Caesar, who was reported to have killed a million Gauls and enslaved a million more. It was not just the extremes of callousness that I came to find shocking, but the lack of a sense that the poor or the weak might have any intrinsic value. As such, the founding conviction of the Enlightenment – that it owed nothing to the faith into which most of its greatest figures had been born – increasingly came to seem to me unsustainable.

“Every sensible man,” Voltaire wrote, “every honourable man, must hold the Christian sect in horror.” Rather than acknowledge that his ethical principles might owe anything to Christianity, he preferred to derive them from a range of other sources – not just classical literature, but Chinese philosophy and his own powers of reason. Yet Voltaire, in his concern for the weak and oppressed, was marked more enduringly by the stamp of biblical ethics than he cared to admit. His defiance of the Christian God, in a paradox that was certainly not unique to him, drew on motivations that were, in part at least, recognisably Christian.

 

“We preach Christ crucified,” St Paul declared, “unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness.” He was right. Nothing could have run more counter to the most profoundly held assumptions of Paul’s contemporaries – Jews, or Greeks, or Romans. The notion that a god might have suffered torture and death on a cross was so shocking as to appear repulsive. Familiarity with the biblical narrative of the Crucifixion has dulled our sense of just how completely novel a deity Christ was. In the ancient world, it was the role of gods who laid claim to ruling the universe to uphold its order by inflicting punishment – not to suffer it themselves.

Today, even as belief in God fades across the West, the countries that were once collectively known as Christendom continue to bear the stamp of the two-millennia-old revolution that Christianity represents. It is the principal reason why, by and large, most of us who live in post-Christian societies still take for granted that it is nobler to suffer than to inflict suffering. It is why we generally assume that every human life is of equal value. In my morals and ethics, I have learned to accept that I am not Greek or Roman at all, but thoroughly and proudly Christian.

Go here to read the rest.  As faithful readers of this blog know, I love history.  The story of Man absolutely fascinates and enthralls me.  Stephen Vincent Benet put it well in The Devil and Daniel Webster:

 

And he wasn’t pleading for any one person any more, though his voice rang like an organ. He was telling the story and the failures and the endless journey of mankind. They got tricked and trapped and bamboozled, but it was a great journey. And no demon that was ever foaled could know the inwardness of it—it took a man to do that.

In that grand story, amidst the great parade of human events, divinity enters in with Christ.  His impact on history is beyond description.  Atheist H.G. Wells summed it up:

“I am an historian, I am not a believer, but I must confess as a historian that this penniless preacher from Nazareth is irrevocably the very center of history. Jesus Christ is easily the most dominant figure in all history.”

Some recent historians attempt to replace BC and AD with the ludicrous Before the Common Era, BCE, and Common Era, CE, attempting to ignore that the only reason we have a “Common Era” is because of Christ.  Christ is the dividing point of history, and only fools deny it.

 

 

 

18

Who Do We Say That He Is?

 

My bride and I are teaching a CCD class of fifth and sixth graders.  The kids are a joy:  inquisitive and bright.  One of the topics last evening was the Trinity.  When we came to Jesus we described him as the Son of God.  One of our students later asked if Mary was the only human conceived without sin, what about Jesus.  I replied that Jesus was also conceived without sin, but that we could never encompass Jesus just among humans since he was both God and Man.  My bride then quoted Scripture:  “A Man like us in all things but sin.”  The great question for all of us remains that one posed by Jesus twenty centuries ago:  “Who do you say that I am?”  Christopher Johnson, a non-Catholic who has taken up the cudgels so frequently in defense of the Church that I have named him Defender of the Faith, at his blog, Midwest Conservative Journal, attacks one of the most common mistaken answers to that question by contemporary leftists:

 

You know what would be awesome, asks New York Times über-douche columnist Nick Kristof.  If Christians didn’t have to believe a bunch of stupid rules and stuff:

One puzzle of the world is that religions often don’t resemble their founders.

I now officially have a bad feeling about this.

Jesus never mentioned gays or abortion but focused on the sick and the poor, yet some Christian leaders have prospered by demonizing gays.

Whoa, whoa, whoa.  Slow WAY down there, cowboy.  “Demonizing gays?”  Really?  You really want to go there, Nick?  News flash.  For 2,000 years, Christians taught that homosexual activity was a sin.  There, I said it.  And if you think that telling someone that his alcoholism is destroying himself and his family or suggesting that maybe he might want to think about not doing his best friend’s really hot and quite underage daughter on a regular basis is “demonizing,” then yeah, guilty as charged, Nick.

It’s what actual Christians are supposed to do.

By the way, Nick, if you’re interested, here’s a partial list of other stuff that Jesus “never mentioned.”  Genocide, overdue library books, racism, recycling, fracking, using fossil fuels, running with scissors, Mohammed, nuclear war,  jaywalking, preventing global warming, preventing global cooling, preventing global lukewarming, the “human right” of men who claim that they’re women to use women’s rest rooms, Donald Trump, “Islamophobia,” Whole Foods’ criminally-excessive mark-up, why anyone anywhere thought Seinfeld was funny, gender pay equity, Hillary Clinton, the inanity of Twitter, the fact that über-airhead Maureen Dowd still has a New York Times column, “homophobia,” the fact that St. Louis doesn’t have an AHL team while Chicago, Toronto and San Jose do, suicide bombings, political corruption, “transphobia,” the University of Oregon’s football uniforms, driving while intoxicated, blogging while intoxicated, putting free tampons in men’s bathrooms, the NFL, etc.

Do you see where I’m going with this, Nick?  Of all the weak arguments in the leftist Christian arsenal, the “Jesus never said anything about it” dodge is pretty much the single weakest arrow in their quiver.  But Nick’s not worried.  Because he’s got some serious Christian firepower backing him up.

“Our religions often stand for the very opposite of what their founders stood for,” notes Brian D. McLaren, a former pastor, in a provocative and powerful new book, “The Great Spiritual Migration.”

“No wonder more and more of us who are Christians by birth, by choice, or both find ourselves shaking our heads and asking, ‘What happened to Christianity?’” McLaren writes. “We feel as if our founder has been kidnapped and held hostage by extremists. His captors parade him in front of cameras to say, under duress, things he obviously doesn’t believe. As their blank-faced puppet, he often comes across as anti-poor, anti-environment, anti-gay, anti-intellectual, anti-immigrant and anti-science. That’s not the Jesus we met in the Gospels!”

McLaren is as much of a Christian as Oprah Winfrey.  Nick’s piece just gets dumber and dumber so I’m going to bail out now.  But I’ll leave you with the fact that while there are a lot of sins that Jesus never directly mentioned, there were quite a few sins that He did mention.  And none of that latter group of sins, Nick, will sit well with Millennials.

Take adultery.  According to Jesus, adultery is not just bumping uglies with that hot woman you’re not married to.  If you see a woman in the grocery store, say, and you think, “Boy, what I wouldn’t give to be able to hit that” then congratulations.  You’re officially an adulterer.

Murder is bad?  So is being angry with someone.

Just can’t keep your eyes off this really hot divorced chick one pew over?  Not such a hot idea.

And then there’s this.

But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man.  For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies.

That’s the real Jesus, Nick.  Not the one that people like you and Bri-Bri invented to deaden your consciences. Continue Reading

1

Christ and History

quote-the-birth-of-christ-is-the-central-event-in-the-history-of-the-earth-the-very-thing-c-s-lewis-86-78-06

Walter Russell Mead at The American Interest, who normally writes on purely secular topics, has an interesting Christmas column up:

 

The Christian claim about the Virgin Birth is meant as a radical announcement that Christianity is different. Christianity is not another ‘how-to’ manual telling people how to act vis-à-vis the Creator. It’s not about what kinds of foods are holy and what kinds are impure. It’s not about how to wash your hands or which way you should face when you pray.

 

 

Christianity is much more than a group of people trying to fulfill the teaching of a revered founder; it is a community of people gathered around a world changing hero. Jesus came to save and not just to teach. He did not fulfill his mission by giving the Sermon on the Mount; he fulfilled it by dying on the cross and by rising from the dead.

 

 

More, Jesus could not have fulfilled this mission if he was simply a heroic man. The human race has many heroes and history is filled with the examples of people who gave their lives for others. You can to go the Normandy beaches and see row upon row of graves of people who gave their lives that others might live and be free. Jesus accomplished more through his death because he was more than just another human being; the gospel writers and the Christians who accept their testimony believe that Jesus was also the Son of God. It was God who died upon that cross, God who took the responsibility for human sin, God who drank the cup of human suffering to the bottom.

 

 

The story of the Virgin Birth isn’t there to set up the Sermon on the Mount as the Greatest Moral Lecture in the History of Mankind. It is there because it communicates the deepest, most important truth about Jesus: that he was a human being, but more than a human being as well. It is not an accidental detail or an embellishment; it is not an awkward defense against an embarrassing rumor. It is not the result of scientific ignorance about how babies are made; it is a statement about how this particular baby was different from all the rest.

 

 

That is the main theological point that Luke’s account makes. But he had another end in view, and this is also something to remember as we think Christmas through. The story of the Virgin Birth isn’t just a story about Jesus.  The gospels are also making a point about Mary and through her about women in general. Ancient Christian writers frequently referred to Mary as the Second Eve. The first Eve, as just about everyone knows even today, was Adam’s wife. According to the first book of the Bible (Genesis), she yielded to the temptation of the serpent in the Garden of Eden to disobey God and taste the forbidden fruit. Adam went on and tasted it for himself; ever since then men have been blaming women for all the trouble in the world. For millennia men have used the Biblical story and similar stories and folk tales to justify the second-class status to which women have been historically relegated in much of the world. (In some parts of the world, poorly behaved and uneducated young men call their vicious harassment of women “Eve-teasing.”)

 

 

The figure of the Virgin Mary marks a turning point. She is the Second Eve, the one who said ‘yes’ to God when he asked her to be the mother of his son. When God really needed help, the Bible teaches, he went to a woman, not to a man. And the woman said ‘yes,’ and out of her faith and obedience came the salvation of the world. Continue Reading

4

Christ as the Greatest Black Swan: Explaining the Unexplainable

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The fourth and final part of our Advent look at Jesus as the greatest Black Swan event in human history.  Go here to read part one, here to read part two and here to read part three.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb, in his 2007 book The Black Swan, took a look at the impact of events in history for which our prior experiences give us no inkling.  Taleb states three requirements for a Black Swan Event:

First, it is an outlier, as it lies outside the realm of regular expectations, because nothing in the past can convincingly point to its possibility. Second, it carries an extreme ‘impact’. Third, in spite of its outlier status, human nature makes us concoct explanations for its occurrence after the fact, making it explainable and predictable.

The all important question about Christ is the one He asked.  Who do you say that I am?  In trying to make sense of Christ and his ever present impact upon this world, that is the question that is ever addressed.

A popular answer among some atheists is that Christ never existed.  This has always been a minority position since the evidence for the historicity of Christ is so overwhelming, especially for a figure who lived in obscurity.  Written accounts by His followers were drafted within decades after His death.  Non-Christian accounts, notably Tacitus, mention Christ.  His followers in Rome are persecuted within thirty years after His death.  Attempts to get around all this involve large amounts of conspiracy theories, ignoring inconvenient facts and academic hand-waving.  Regarding Christ as a myth may satisfy a semi-educated atheist, but it simply is not an intellectually honest position. Continue Reading

6

Christ as the Greatest Black Swan: At the Center of History

quote-alexander-caesar-charlemagne-and-myself-founded-empires-but-what-foundation-did-we-rest-the-napoleon-bonaparte-338750

“I am a historian, I am not a believer.  But I must confess as a historian that this penniless preacher from Nazareth is irrevocably the very center of history.  Jesus Christ is easily the most dominant figure in all history.”

H.G. Wells

 

 

 

The third part of our Advent look at Jesus as the greatest Black Swan event in human history.  Go here to read part one and here to read part two.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb, in his 2007 book The Black Swan, took a look at the impact of events in history for which our prior experiences give us no inkling.  Taleb states three requirements for a Black Swan Event:

First, it is an outlier, as it lies outside the realm of regular expectations, because nothing in the past can convincingly point to its possibility. Second, it carries an extreme ‘impact’. Third, in spite of its outlier status, human nature makes us concoct explanations for its occurrence after the fact, making it explainable and predictable.

“Extreme impact” is such an understatement if used in reference to the impact of the coming of Christ on the History of Man.  Such an outcome would have been considered impossible judging strictly from the facts of His life.  A brief three year preaching ministry in a backwater of the Roman Empire, born a member of a conquered and widely despised people.  Opposed from the start by the leaders of His people and ignored by the Roman occupiers, His movement was strangled at its inception by His death on the Cross.  All but one of His Apostles fled from Him in panic, desperate to deny any connection with a clearly doomed cause.  Few lives seemed more complete a failure than did that of Christ when His body was deposited in a borrowed tomb.  His destiny seemed clear:  to be forgotten by History, not even a footnote.  Then came the Resurrection, His appearances after the Crucifixion, and his movement experienced a glorious dawn.

However, the odds against this movement accomplishing anything of note remained quite daunting.  No powerful supporters; no homeland embracing their faith;  cultures, both Jewish and Gentile, which were hostile to the preaching of the Gospel;  countless other religions which were well-established and intolerant of a new rival;  disputes quickly arising to split the movement, and the list of handicaps for these Christians as they were soon called was a lengthy one. Continue Reading

9

Christ the Greatest Black Swan: The Unexpected Expected Messiah

Delphic-sibyl

 

 

The second part of our Advent look at Jesus as the greatest Black Swan event in human history.  Go here to read part one.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb, in his 2007 book The Black Swan, took a look at the impact of events in history for which our prior experiences give us no inkling.  Taleb states three requirements for a Black Swan Event:

First, it is an outlier, as it lies outside the realm of regular expectations, because nothing in the past can convincingly point to its possibility. Second, it carries an extreme ‘impact’. Third, in spite of its outlier status, human nature makes us concoct explanations for its occurrence after the fact, making it explainable and predictable.

In regard to the first test of a Black Swan event, was the coming of Jesus unexpected?  The Old Testament is studded with texts that predict the coming of the Messiah.  Go here, here, here ,here, here, here, here, here , here here, here, here, here , here, here, here , here,   here, and here to read a handful of them.  These messianic interpretations were not merely Christians reading back into Scripture references to Christ.  For centuries before Christ Jews had debated and argued about whether a Messiah sent by God was coming and what he would be like if he came.  Greatly simplifying a very complex historical debate, most Jews who believed in a Messiah expected a scion of the House of David who would re-establish, with the help of God, the Jews as a great people ruling themselves.  A minority of Jews thought the Messiah might be humble and meek, the “suffering servant” of Messiah, while most Jews regarded such passages as a prophetic reference to the weak state of the Jewish nation.  A handful of Jews, some of the Essenes, believed that the Messiah had come about a century to a century and a half before the Christian Era and would come again.

Intriguingly some Romans believed about the time of Christ that some great change was about to enter the world.  One of the odder stories in the history of Rome is the purported purchase by the last Roman King Tarquinus Superbus.  Sybil means prophetess in Greek.  Lines of women prophets established themselves at various locations throughout the Greek world and were frequently consulted during times of crisis.  As the story goes, the Cumaean Sybil, located near Naples, offered to Superbus nine books of prophecies of the history of Rome written in Greek hexameters at an exorbitant price.  When he declined the offer she burned three of the books and repeated her offer.  The King declining again she burned three more books at which the King met her price for the final three books.  God alone knows what grains of truth are in this story.  What is quite historical is that the Roman Senate did have Sybilline Books, or rather scrolls, of prophecies, closely guarded by the Roman state and consulted in times of peril as to the religious observances that must be undertaken to avert the peril.  Kept in the temple of Jupiter on the Capitol the original books were lost when the temple burned in 83 BC.  The Senate rounded up prophecies from other Sybils to replace them, and the new Sybilline books were placed in the restored temple to Jupiter.  Consul Flavius Stilicho ordered these books burned in 408 AD as they were being used by adversaries of the government. Continue Reading

7

Jesus as the Greatest of Black Swan Events

rara avis in terris nigroque simillima cygno

Juvenal

The completely unexpected in history has always fascinated me.  Nassim Nicholas Taleb, in his 2007 book The Black Swan, took a look at the impact of events in history for which our prior experiences give us no inkling.  Taleb states three requirements for a Black Swan Event:

First, it is an outlier, as it lies outside the realm of regular expectations, because nothing in the past can convincingly point to its possibility. Second, it carries an extreme ‘impact’. Third, in spite of its outlier status, human nature makes us concoct explanations for its occurrence after the fact, making it explainable and predictable.

Unlike Mr. Taleb I think true Black Swan events, based upon the criteria he sets forth, are rather rare in the history of mankind.  Normally they fall down on the first element.  Taleb, for example, views the fall of the Soviet empire as a Black Swan occurrence.  I disagree in that the dissolution of the great colonial empires of the West had been a salient feature of the post World War II world.  Totalitarian controls allowed the Soviet Union to delay the process, but once the reins were loosened, and the threat of mass violence was no longer on the table, the dissolution came rapidly.

The Coming of Christ into this world is the greatest example of a Black Swan Event that I can think of, and over the remainder of this Advent we will see how looking at the Incarnation through this mental prism can give us a new appreciation of how unlikely, and startling, the impact of Christ on History has been.

Before we do this, let us take a moment to recall to mind the world into which Christ was born. Continue Reading

14

Cause the Media Tells Me So

 

Strong advisory in regard to the above video which shows the Jihadi murderers of ISIS publically executing an accused adulteress as she begs to see her children one last time.  Why does not the West treat the Jihadists around the globe with the only argument that seems to make any impression upon them:  superior fire power?  A commenter at Father Z’s blog gives us an answer:

Because I stay informed through the modern media and keep up on political commentary, I recognize that Muslims killing people for religious reasons is an extreme rarity, committed by isolated individuals or small extremist cells. I refuse to let this single incident cloud my impression of Islam.

The man in the picture no doubt fired the shot and then fled, as those around him must have been planning to apprehend him. Since Islam is the religion of peace, I know they were not supporters of his. Or perhaps he was merely defending himself from western oil profiteering, and he’s being unfairly portrayed as a terrorist.

In contrast, Catholics are constantly bombing abortion clinics, assassinating doctor’s, and forcing themselves into private citizens’ bedrooms to sabotage their contraception. Then again, is this any surprise in an organization who’s charitable contributions are less than $200 billion in most years?

In fact, over the last 30 years alone, more Catholic priests have been credibly accused of child sexual abuse in a country of merely 300 million people than the number of Muslims who have killed people northern Iraq and southern Syria combined going all the way back to last Thursday.

Similar statistics help re-assure us not to apply the self-righteous generalizations we direct at Catholics at Boko Haram in Nigeria; Hezbollah in Lebanon; Hamas in Palestine; Al Shabaab in Somalia, Etheopia, and Kenya; Abu Sayyaf, MILF, and others in the Philippines; the Taliban in Pakistan and Afghanistan; Jaish-e-Mohammed, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Harkat-ul-Mujahideen, and others in India, the Arab Mujahideen in Chechnya, and all the other peaceful groups I’m forgetting at the moment.

I apologize that my digression does not respect the gravity of the picture. It’s just that when I see the contrast between how the media treats Islam in the face of Islamist terrorism on one hand, and acts like excerpting casual remarks by the Pope about how it’s unwise to provoke crazy people in a way that makes it sound like he made an official declaration that the recent attacks in France were justified on the other hand, I get a bit touchy.

May this woman rest in peace, and God provide for her family. Continue Reading

10

Pal Jesus Won’t Save You

Buddy Christ

“A God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross.”

H. Richard Nieburh

 

One of the more distressing aspects of the times in which we live is a widespread and fundamentally incorrect response to the eternal question first asked by Christ to His Apostles, “Who do you say that I am?”  The question of course contained the answer:  Christ is forever “I AM”, the creator of all that was, is and will ever be, our eternal Master and the source of all love and hope.

This Christ has been transformed into Pal Jesus, an instant forgiveness buddy, who wouldn’t dream of imposing commands on anyone, and who loves us just the way we are.  Pal Jesus always forgives us, whether we ask for it or not, whether we seek to amend our lives or not.  He never tells us to go and sin no more.  This Christ, who, to paraphrase Chesterton, wears a new face of goofiness, is in stark contrast to the Christ presented to us in the Gospels who bids us all each to take up our Cross and follow Him.  Father Richard Heilman at One Peter Five gets at the heart of  this modern variant of a very old heresy:

And yet isn’t that exactly what has become of us? Consider this sobering analysis of our present condition from columnist Jeffrey Kuhner at the Washington Times:

For the past 50 years, every major institution has been captured by the radical secular left. The media, Hollywood, TV, universities, public schools, theater, the arts, literature — they relentlessly promote the false gods of sexual hedonism and radical individualism. Conservatives have ceded the culture to the enemy. Tens of millions of unborn babies have been slaughtered; illegitimacy rates have soared; divorce has skyrocketed; pornography is rampant; drug use has exploded; sexually transmitted diseases such as AIDS have killed millions; birth control is a way of life; sex outside of wedlock has become the norm; countless children have been permanently damaged — their innocence lost forever — because of the proliferation of broken homes; and sodomy and homosexuality are celebrated openly. America has become the new Babylon.

This cultural assessment is bleak. And I believe that underlying it all is a deeper evil, a more ancient and intractable error which gives rise to all the rest. Many have pointed to “Modernism” as the heresy of our times. Modernism, while it takes many forms, is basically a break or rejection of our past in favor of all things new. And, while it seems evident that our Church is fully infected with the heresy of Modernism, I believe that it, too, is a symptom of this more fundamental threat.

What am I referring to? Something that impacts the very nature of human existence and the opportunity for our salvation. Lacking an official name, I call this monster, “Stealth Arianism.” Students of history know that the Arian heresy – the worst crisis in the Church before our present age – was rooted in the belief that Jesus Christ was merely a created being, not equal to God the Father.  Stealth Arianism follows the same fatal error, but with a twist: while the Arians of the fourth century openly denied Christ’s divinity, today‘s Arians will profess Jesus as God, and yet through their actions deny it. In other words, they don’t even know they are heretics. Many even believe that they are doing God’s work in their attempts to elevate Christ’s humanity at the cost of His divinity.

You see, once we diminish the identity of Christ as the Son of God, we are left to view Him as simply a historical figure that was a nice guy, a respectable teacher and a good example for how we are to live. Religion is then reduced to a nice organization that does nice things for people as we seek a kind of psychotherapy for self-actualization. And this is not only not what He came to give us, but it’s something He made sure to leave no room for.

In his Christological examination, Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis makes the case plain:

I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: “I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.” That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.

Over the past 50 years, the Stealth Arians have done everything within their power to remove from our lived experience of Catholicism anything that would point to the divinity of Christ, and the supernatural quality of our faith. Everything has been stripped from our churches – sacred art, sacred architecture, sacred music, and the sacred elements of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass – and we are left in the barren desert of the banal. It is no wonder many Catholics think nothing of approaching the Most Holy Eucharist dressed in a t-shirt, shorts, and flip-flops, and grabbing the host like they’re reaching into a bag of chips. As Flannery O’Connor said, “If it’s a symbol, to hell with it.” It’s more surprising that these individuals even bother to attend Mass at all. Continue Reading

4

One Solitary Life

All the armies that have ever marched

All the navies that have ever sailed

All the parliaments that have ever sat

All the kings that ever reigned put together

  Have not affected the life of mankind on earth

As powerfully as that one solitary life

From One Solitary Life

I am an historian, I am not a believer, but I must confess as a historian that this penniless preacher from Nazareth is irrevocably the very center of history. Jesus Christ is easily the most dominant figure in all history.

H. G. Wells Continue Reading

25

If the Modern Media Had Covered Christ

Wanted  Jesus

 

 

 

 

 

 

From Jennifer Roback Morse at Aleteia:

 

 

 

The headlines swirled around the Levant as itinerant preacher Jesus of Nazareth reportedly excuses both prostitutes and the men who frequent them. The latest controversy came when Jesus, whose followers believe is the Son of God, retold the story of a family whose younger son had squandered the family inheritance with prostitutes.

Roman observers speculate that this is a sign of a new openness to Roman social mores.

Lucius Gaius Paterculus, spokesman for the Herod Administration, said, “We have always found these Hebrews amusing, with all their sexual hang-ups.  This is the Roman Empire; they need to get with the times. Prostitution is not so bad. Maybe this Jesus preacher will turn the tide and lead these backward people into the modern world.”

Earlier this spring, Jesus created a sensation when he protected an alleged adulteress, and even broke bread with her.  

Reuben bar Timeus told the Guardian, “I recognized my father in that story Jesus told.  He can’t disguise the characters in his parables enough to hide the fact that he was talking about my putz of a brother and my pathetic father. I’m considering a slander suit. This Jesus guy should keep his mouth shut and show some respect to our family.” Continue Reading

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Easter and History

I am an historian, I am not a believer, but I must confess as a historian that this penniless preacher from Nazareth is irrevocably the very center of history. Jesus Christ is easily the most dominant figure in all history.

H.G. Wells

How many movements throughout the history of Man have flourished briefly and then vanished into everlasting oblivion, forgotten entirely by History or relegated to the briefest of footnotes?  From a human standpoint that was clearly the fate of the movement started by the carpenter/rabbi from Galilee following His death on a cross.  His followers had scattered and went into hiding at His arrest.  He was denied by the mob, their choosing a bandit and murderer over Him.  Condemned by the foreigners occupying His country, His people observed His death by mocking Him.  The idea that He had founded a “Church” that would spread around the globe, altering all of human history, and causing Him to be worshiped as God by billions of people would have struck any neutral observer as mad ravings.  Yet that is precisely what happened.  Continue Reading

21

Does Jesus Hate Our Religion?

I encourage my students (past and present) to ask questions and seek the truth, and sometimes some will take up the challenge. Last week we saw the challenge of prior Myths to our belief in the historical Jesus Christ.  This week we have a Christian challenge to Christian religion. I would like to again tap into the collective genius that is American Catholic blogosphere to see what shakes out. I don’t think Christianity could have survived as a loose-knit band of solo believers/wanna-be disciples.  Surely the Bible would never have been standardized. I see Jesus as one who puts all religious persons on notice- to not be hypocritical or without compassion. But in my read He doesn’t throw out the baby of religion with the bathwater of failing pharisees.  I am pointing my students to this blog to consider your arguments and thoughts- so be polite and thoughtful regarding those who may be reading who are young questing souls- not sure of the spiritual landscape just yet.

10

What Did Christ Look Like?

 

Go here for the full version of the above video.  This was originally broadcast  on December 24, 1968 on the CBS show Sixty Minutes.  An artifact demonstrating how greatly our culture has changed for the worse in four decades.  I believe that Harry Reasoner who narrates the video was not a Christian, but the power of the image and reality of Christ shines through the video nonetheless. Continue Reading

5

One Solitary Life

I am an historian, I am not a believer, but I must confess as a historian that this penniless preacher from Nazareth is irrevocably the very center of history. Jesus Christ is easily the most dominant figure in all history.

                                                       H.G. Wells

 

 

Here is a man who was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman. He grew up in another village. He worked in a carpenter shop until He was thirty. Then for three years He was an itinerant preacher.

He never owned a home. He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never had a family. He never went to college. He never put His foot inside a big city. He never traveled two hundred miles from the place He was born. He never did one of the things that usually accompany greatness. He had no credentials but Himself…

While still a young man, the tide of popular opinion turned against him. His friends ran away. One of them denied Him. He was turned over to His enemies. He went through the mockery of a trial. He was nailed upon a cross between two thieves. While He was dying His executioners gambled for the only piece of property He had on earth – His coat. When He was dead, He was laid in a borrowed grave through the pity of a friend.

Nineteen long centuries have come and gone, and today He is a centerpiece of the human race and leader of the column of progress.

I am far within the mark when I say that all the armies that ever marched, all the navies that were ever built; all the parliaments that ever sat and all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man upon this earth as powerfully as has that one solitary life.

 

I know men and I tell you that Jesus Christ is no mere man. Between Him and every other person in the world there is no possible term of comparison. Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and I have founded empires. But on what did we rest the creation of our genius? Upon force. Jesus Christ founded His empire upon love; and at this hour millions of men would die for Him.

                                           Napoleon

 

 

 

5

The Coming Open Rebellion Against God Part II

In my first article The Coming Open Rebellion Against God, I spoke of a time where God would reveal his omnipotence and some would simply leave their faith behind.  Why? Because just as in John 6, some would say it simply doesn’t make sense and walk away. Some have prayed that if only God would show His omnipotence; many would fall on their knees and believe. I truly believe the time is coming when some of our intelligentsia, including clergy will see the hand of God and say; “No thanks, this doesn’t mesh with my worldview.”

Father Dwight Longenecker recently wrote a review of the movie The Rite Starring Sir Anthony Hopkins, a movie somewhat inspired by a real life Italian exorcist. The movie was given praise by many Catholic writers including Father Longenecker for actually showing the Church in a positive light. Perhaps this was due to the film’s producers using a California based exorcist Father Gary Thomas who actually was present at the filming of the movie. In a key passage Father Longenecker pondered the fact that far too many in this modern rationalistic world see the idea of the devil and demonic possession as beyond them, even though if they truly followed their rationalistic approach, they would come to see that there simply was no medical or scientific explanation for some cases. Sadly, for too many the sin of pride all too often is their downfall.

Recently Father Gary Thomas was interviewed by Leticia Velazquez of Catholic Exchange; some of his remarks about the way in which the teachings of the Church with regard to evil were defiantly rebuked by some within the Church including bishops were more than a little disconcerting. This movie review of The Rite by Father Raymond Schroth SJ associate Editor of America Magazine is one such example. As you can see, the devil is so passé to Father Schroth SJ. It hardly jibes with the high mindedness of those to which he and his urbane friends associate. Check out the comments section in the article, some of the comments left are as elitist and depressing as his treatise on who God is and who He should be.

George Weigel has noted the sad state of some quasi dissident bishops that Pope John Paul II and now Pope Benedict XVI have had to confront. They came from a mindset that preferred the adulation of the dissident intelligentsia of the Ivy League rather than the working class Catholic roots from which many came.

With regard to Jesus and the devil, Jesus spent a good deal of his time fighting the devil and his minions, but alas those who don’t believe in such things seem to indicate that Jesus and the Gospel writers got it wrong, Jesus was not fighting demonic powers but those who were dealing with bouts of depression and epilepsy. According to these liberal dissident elites, Jesus was the precursor to Dr Phil and Deepak Chopra helping those poor seemingly possessed people get their groove back and find their Zen destiny. Never mind what the Church teaches on the subject or the fact that both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI have specifically spoken of evil and the needs for more exorcists in the Church, these elites know better. Talk about hutzpah, Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI have been labeled as intellectually brilliant, even by their detractors, but no matter to those who don’t believe in such archaic things as the devil. Perhaps we should ask those in the Church, especially in the Church Hierarchy, if you don’t believe what Jesus said about the devil and the manifestation of evil, what else don’t you believe? Continue Reading

9

One Solitary Life

Here is a man who was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman. He grew up in another village. He worked in a carpenter shop until He was thirty. Then for three years He was an itinerant preacher.

He never owned a home. He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never had a family. He never went to college. He never put His foot inside a big city. He never traveled two hundred miles from the place He was born. He never did one of the things that usually accompany greatness. He had no credentials but Himself…

While still a young man, the tide of popular opinion turned against him. His friends ran away. One of them denied Him. He was turned over to His enemies. He went through the mockery of a trial. He was nailed upon a cross between two thieves. While He was dying His executioners gambled for the only piece of property He had on earth – His coat. When He was dead, He was laid in a borrowed grave through the pity of a friend. Continue Reading

2

E. J. Dionne & Maureen Dowd Are Playing With A Dangerous Fire

In a recent column Washington Post columnist, E J Dionne noted that the Tea Party movement is a great scam. Quite an indictment coming from the self described progressive Catholic who still thinks government can never be big enough and the Church should tell the faithful more about the teachings of the agnostic Saul Alinsky than that of 2,000 year old teachings of the Catholic Church. Dionne has made it his business to comment on all matter of politics and religion for quite some time. His partner in left wing chicanery is New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd who never hesitates to go for the jugular.  Though she says he she comes from humble Washington DC roots, you would never know it by how she mocks those who really came from humble surrounding and never forgot it. She probably grew up with many Sarah Palin’s and Christine O’Donnell’s around her. Yet, I doubt she mocked many to their face as she gleefully does now to the backs of Palin and O’Donnell.

Dionne and Dowd seem to have it backwards, they don’t think citizens should voice their views about the fallacies of liberal Big Government, but they do believe everyone knows better than the divine about religion. This is quite common for liberals who often seem to think they are divine. Dionne and Dowd are part of a movement who thinks they should control government and religion, and those who disagree with them are often labeled as unintelligent; the worst sin as far as liberals are concerned. However, who is the unintelligent one? Big Government has never worked. It has only brought huge debt which has to be repaid by future generations. Individuals who go into debt face a series of tough measures. Yet Dionne and Dowd seem oblivious to this and advocate the same disastrous path for the government, the end result being tough measures for everyone.  In other words Big Government is a disaster that doesn’t work.

However, Big Government isn’t the only disaster Dionne and Dowd advocate. They want the Catholic Church to turn her back on its 2,000 year old teachings and embrace the Dictatorship of Relativism, so named by Pope Benedict XVI. Dionne and Dowd are happy to embrace dissident Catholics who espouse this sort of thinking. It seems Dionne and Dowd are more comfortable with the views of Marx, Alinsky and Freud than they are with Christ, St Paul, St Thomas Aquinas, St Joan of Arc and Pope Benedict XVI. Continue Reading

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The Jesus The Professional Left Chose To Ignore

Jesus Christ has always been an enigma to those on the left. Some liberal idealists embraced Him; many others on the radical left did not. Some on the radical left actually attacked Jesus by either saying He didn’t exist (a rather strange way of dealing with someone) or claiming he was demented. However, after World War II a rather cunning adaptation of Jesus was embraced by the Professional Left.  The solution thought up by the Professional Left was as simple as it was devious; simply say Jesus was one of them.

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At Marian Apparition Locations, Great Trials & Tribulations Often Occur Before & After

Marian apparitions have always been a sign of God’s love. It truly is one of His greatest graces, which physically shows us the Blessed Mother along with her love, words of encouragement and warnings about the world in which we live. Sometimes the Church Militant heeds her call, but sadly often it doesn’t. This article will only cover a handful of Church approved apparitions (this can be a little tricky, more on this later,) but what it will show is that often the Blessed Mother appears in lands that have experienced great suffering with often more suffering to follow. Her message to bring the world closer to her Son and live according to Jesus’ teachings is one of God’s greatest graces, something that is often met with violent, evil attacks. The miraculous events surrounding her appearances often take place in the presense of great vistas; a window of sorts into God’s loving handiwork. The said could be said about Jesus at The Transfiguration and the Sermon on the Mount.

Something to keep in mind before we begin; during the early days of the Church investigative bodies were the last thing the Church was worried about at a time when the Church was trying to literally stay alive during an array of persecutions. Following the Protestant Reformation, a more detailed structure emerged for investigating appartions. They often took a long time to investigate in order to prevent any hoaxes. Most reported modern day apparitions are not approved. In the 20th Century only 8 of the 300+ reported apparitions were approved. This link from the University of Dayton, a Marianist institution, which houses the largest collection of Marian Apparitions, might be a helpful.

The year was 1300. Though parts of Spain remained under Islamic control, a liberated area, near the Guadalupe River would reveal an amazing find. A cow herder named Gil Cordero would be told by the Blessed Mother to dig, and there he would find holy treasure. Though laughed at by his fellow villagers, his faithful dig yielded a secret burial vault that would house many relics including that of a lifelike carving of the Blessed Mother. It was said to be carved by St Luke and transported to Spain in the sixth century by Bishop Leander, a relative of Pope Gregory the Great.

The vault had been placed there as Islamic armies were making their way to Spain.  The lifelike carving, which still exists today, was said to have been processed through the streets of Rome around the year 590 AD, at the direction of Pope Gregory the Great. He had been given the famous carving while he was Papal Legate in Constantinople.

The famous pontiff had ordered this procession during a terrible plague and famine that had engulfed the city, some one hundred and fifty years after the Roman Empire had collapsed.  As the procession ended, the assembled crowd saw the Archangel St Michael sheathing his sword, signifying that the famine and plague were over. (One can still see the statue of the Archangel St Michael atop the Castel Sant Angelo which commemorates this momentous event.)  The carved statue of the Blessed Mother was then sent to Spain where it remains today, seemingly unscathed after spending years underground during the Muslim conquest.

Years later a young Italian navigator named Christopher Columbus would come to pray at this now famous shrine. He was at the end of his financial rope in seeking backing for a “new way to India.” Soon after his prayer, he was granted an audience with King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella and the rest is history. Few know about this religious side of Columbus. Even fewer know that when he first caught sight of what would be known as the Americas, he had minutes before ordered his crew to pray the Rosary. In gratitude, he named one of the islands he discovered for the site at which his prayers were answered back in Spain, the isle now known as Guadeloupe. Continue Reading

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Rank and File Conservatives & The Conservative Intelligentsia United In Outrage Over Mosque Near Ground Zero, Not So With Same-Sex Marriage

The proposed mosque set to be built near Ground Zero, site of the September 11, 2001 attacks has brought a sweeping condemnation from both rank and file conservatives and the Conservative Intelligentsia. Now that President Barack Obama has weighed in the matter, seemingly supporting the effort, one can only imagine how this will be used in the fall elections. However, a rift has appeared to have been opened concerning the views of the rank and file conservatives and the Conservative Intelligentsia following the ruling of Judge Vaughn Walker over same-sex marriage. Many of the conservative intelligentsia, along with the establishment wing of the Republican Party has either been silent or voiced the view that the wished the whole gay marriage issue would simply go away. This has led to bewilderment from some conservative voices.

The best Catholic tie in with the efforts to build a mosque on Ground Zero came from the famed conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer, who is Jewish. In his opposition to the mosque being built near Ground Zero, he correctly pointed out that Pope John Paul II ordered Carmelite nuns, who were living right next to Auschwitz, to move closer to a nearby town, since the site had become a rallying point for Jewish identity. Krauthammer correctly pointed out that Christians had been murdered there too and the nuns were doing the heroic deed of praying for the souls of those who were viciously murdered. However, Krauthammer pointed out that the late Polish pontiff felt that it created the wrong perception.

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MUNIFICENTISSIMUS DEUS

1. The most bountiful God, who is almighty, the plan of whose providence rests upon wisdom and love, tempers, in the secret purpose of his own mind, the sorrows of peoples and of individual men by means of joys that he interposes in their lives from time to time, in such a way that, under different conditions and in different ways, all things may work together unto good for those who love him.[1]

2. Now, just like the present age, our pontificate is weighed down by ever so many cares, anxieties, and troubles, by reason of very severe calamities that have taken place and by reason of the fact that many have strayed away from truth and virtue. Nevertheless, we are greatly consoled to see that, while the Catholic faith is being professed publicly and vigorously, piety toward the Virgin Mother of God is flourishing and daily growing more fervent, and that almost everywhere on earth it is showing indications of a better and holier life. Thus, while the Blessed Virgin is fulfilling in the most affectionate manner her maternal duties on behalf of those redeemed by the blood of Christ, the minds and the hearts of her children are being vigorously aroused to a more assiduous consideration of her prerogatives.

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4

WJBA? In 2010 Would Jesus (Along With His Apostles & Saints) Be Arrested For Hate Speech?

A few short years ago the mere suggestion that the Son of God, His Apostles and Saints would face arrest for hate speech would have seemed absolutely ludicrous. However, events have spiraled out of control across the western world. In his opinion that strikes down California’s recently voter approved marriage law, Judge Vaughn Walker wrote that those who speak in the name of religion to put across their views that same sex marriage is wrong are “harmful to gays and lesbians.”

Across Europe and Canada, faithful Christians speaking out for traditional marriage face the threat of being hauled off to court for citing the teachings of the Catholic Church and various Evangelical Churches. Where will this all end? Some see a great persecution coming against the Christian faithful. Though possible, one need remember that the Christian faith always grew when persecuted.

The Catholic Church has long taught that some individuals have an inclination toward same sex attraction; they are to be loved as all people are to be loved. The Church teaches that these feelings are not to be acted upon. The Church goes on to teach that all individuals are given a cross to carry in this world and for those who are same sex attracted; this is their cross. An organization exists for those who are same sex attracted called COURAGE. It has many chapters and members.

Recently a profile was done in The New York Times on same sex attracted Eve Tushnet, the Ivy League educated Catholic daughter of Harvard Law professors. She has chronicled her growth in Catholicism and the logic of the Church’s teachings on sexuality. For years the Catholic Church took some heat from some quarters of Christianity for not stating that anyone who is same sex attracted would be going to hell. The Church now is facing a maelstrom of vitriol from those who claim the Church hates homosexuals.

For the Church to change her teachings would be to deny not only what Christ said (Matthew 11:20-24,) but his Apostles, not to mention Saint Paul’s lengthy discourse on the subject (Romans 1:26-28, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10.)  In addition to the Apostles and saints, there is a rich history of saints writing on the subject, particularly the Early Church Fathers like Saint Augustine, St Justin Martyr, St. Basil and St John Chrysostom as well as Church intellectuals like St Thomas Aquinas, Saint Albert the Great (the greatest scientist of his time,) along with mystics like St Catherine of Sienna to name but a few. To say that the greatest minds of their respective eras were all wrong is simply breathtaking.

Many who disagree with the Church tend to forget that homosexuality was much more common and approved of by the Roman government in the early Christian era than it is even in 2010. Many in the upper echelons of Greek and Roman culture experimented with all sorts of sexual practices. It would have been far easier for Jesus, the apostles, saints and popes to approve of this conduct than it would to disapprove of it. Christianity might have grown at a faster pace. However, there was a reason for this swimming against the tide, and the faithful accepted it.

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Anne Rice Breaks Up With Christianity

I quit being a Christian. I’m out. In the name of Christ, I refuse to be anti-gay. I refuse to be anti-feminist. I refuse to be anti-artificial birth control. I refuse to be anti-Democrat. I refuse to be anti-secular humanism. I refuse to be anti-science. I refuse to be anti-life. In the name of …Christ, I quit Christianity and being Christian. Amen.

And with that announcement, Anne Rice publicly renounced her identity as a Christian on Facebook.

I’m compelled to wonder, however — who is the more preferable and honest of the two?

  • The “Anne Rice”‘s of the world — who recognize their open disagreement with traditional [Catholic / Orthodox] Christianity, and agree that they can no longer identify themselves as such because the moral positions they hold are fundamentally incompatible?
  • The “Nancy Pelosi”‘s of the world, who publicly repudiate various traditional moral positions of [Catholic / Orthodox] Christianity, yet simultaneously proclaim themselves “practicing Catholics” (up and including the reception of the Eucharist), and yet relegate their disagreements as “differences of opinion”?
20

Margaritaville Christianity; God's Way Or Our Way?

As Europe emerged from the Dark Ages, a growing populace happy for good news and grateful for these positive turn of events in their lives openly and without apology made the Catholic faith the center of their lives. They believed in the Word of God, even if they couldn’t read or write. They hung on to every word of those who could read. Even during the workday, if at all possible those working in the fields would briefly slip into town to see the priest raise the Host during the Consecration at Mass. Though their lives were full of toil and often misery (they weren’t allowed the liberty of attending daily Mass) the people of this era used any opportunity they could to make religion a part of their daily life.

Fast forward a thousand years and we can certainly see that daily life has shifted some 180 degrees. Many of the elite often snicker or poke fun at those who are serious about their faith. Even those who are considered serious in their faith pursuit, often hide the true extent of their faith, for fear of being called a holy roller.

The secular talking heads tell us that we should be more like the modern world we are trying to help and change. Religion should be more like the popular culture they tell us. We should try to glean words of wisdom from thinkers like Voltaire, Marx, Freud and Alinsky and entertainers like Madonna, Lady Gaga or even Jimmy Buffet. Yet, have these secular talking heads ever taken their own advice? Have these leftists ever thought, “why was Pope John Paul II, Ronald Reagan or Margaret Thatcher so popular? What could we learned from them? “ (For more on this read my column, If You Like What The Political Left Has Done To Politics, Look At What The Religious Left Has Done To Religion (Left It In Tatters) along with my article, The Construct of Rebellion.

Some might say wasn’t Jesus somewhat of a cultural outcast, like modern day pop culture figures? Well Jesus certainly enjoyed some fun; otherwise he wouldn’t have been at the wedding feast performing his first miracle by turning water into wine no less. However, he was hardly the type of person that endorsed the “its Five o Clock somewhere lifestyle.” He forgave the woman caught in adultery, but told her to “sin no more.” Incidentally, she probably had more clothes on than some who show up at church on Sunday. However, that’s another story.

Our educated world makes excuses for the behavior of those pop stars like Lady Gaga who make edgy and sacrilegious videos and show up in public (at the New York Yankees club house) clad only in undergarments. Those illiterate peoples that lived in Europe one thousand years ago were smart enough to know that despite the corruption they knew existed in the Church, they were far better off listening to the Teachings of the Church than the whims of the world in which they lived. They and their forbearers had witnessed violent feudal warlords that had plunged Europe into centuries of horrific darkness; a darkness that we face today if we listen to the sirens of militant secularism who want us to return to the dying days of Rome.

We often forget it was in those dying days of Rome that many of the elites longed for the days of their elders, when Christianity was outlawed and orgies were commonplace at homes of the movers and shakers of Roman high society, and violent spectacles took place at the coliseum. Today their descendants are gaga over the likes of Lady Gaga, and treat abortion as if it were some sort of coming of age ritual. Continue Reading

4

A Meek Response to Pro-Choice Rage

Thaddeus M. Baklinski of LifeSiteNews.com reported on a verbally violent encounter in Vancouver, Canada of  presumably a pro-choice/pro-abortion proponent yelling derisive invectives towards pro-life protesters.

The pro-life protesters did not respond to the taunts and intimidation.

They humbly took the abuse until the violent abuser left the scene.

What these protesters did by responding the way they did is a fine example of being meek.

Blessed are the meek: for they shall possess the land.

— Holy Gospel of Saint Matthew 5:4

The following is from the Catholic Encyclopedia of 1907 explaining this Second Beatitude:

Inasmuch as poverty is a state of humble subjection, the “poor in spirit“, come near to the “meek”, the subject of the second blessing. The anawim, they who humbly and meekly bend themselves down before God and man, shall “inherit the land” and possess their inheritance in peace. This is a phrase taken from Psalm 36:11, where it refers to the Promised Land of Israel, but here in the words of Christ, it is of course but a symbol of the Kingdom of Heaven, the spiritual realm of the Messiah. Not a few interpreters, however, understand “the earth”. But they overlook the original meaning of Psalm 36:11, and unless, by a far-fetched expedient, they take the earth also to be a symbol of the Messianic kingdom, it will be hard to explain the possession of the earth in a satisfactory way.

[Warning:  The YouTube video below this fold is full of profanity and other disturbing language.]

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Half a Million Pilgrims Flock to See Our German Shepherd in Fatima

A beautiful musical video showing Papa Bene in Fatima celebrating Mass.  Courtesy Rome Reports TV News Agency.

TV news show from NetNewYork reporting on the Pope’s visit to Fatima.  Courtesy NetNewYork’s Channel.

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Blind Girl Saw Invisible Powers That Permeated the Vatican and Pope John Paul II

At a time when so many are down on the Church, it’s interesting to see through the eyes of a young girl — a blind girl who had mystical vision.

Let’s back up and say this comes from a book by a medical doctor named Dr. John Lerma, who specializes at the Houston Medical Center Hospice in tending to patients as they near death.

Dr. Lerma has had tremendous experiences with these patients — documenting the many who see angels or deceased loved ones and have glimpses of the eternal as they approach the threshold.

But what we’d like to focus on today is a different kind of supernatural experience that occurred when a ten-year-old girl named Sarah who had been blind since birth as a result of atrophic optic nerves was taken to St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. This was an Easter Sunday nearly two decades ago.

“I marveled at the multitude of loving sounds that Bernini’s dramatic design was exuding,” recalled Sarah nineteen years later as she lay dying of cancer. “As I walked through the towering, ornate door of St. Peter’s Basilica, I was drawn by an alluring vibration toward the chapel to my right.

“What I was allowed to hear was beyond awe.

“The vibrations and frequencies, now a part of my entire being, were the remnant echoing sounds of sadness replaced by utter joy and exuberant love from the statue where Jesus was heard to be lying on His mother’s lap after being crucified. I knew I was now standing in front of Michelangelo’s most honored statue, the ‘Pieta.’ Feeling some unfamiliar loving force take hold of my hand, I took hold of my mother’s and followed with total faith. I told my mom not to worry and to trust me, as there was an angel leading us to our next spiritual experience.”

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I'm So Tired of Hearing Jesus' Name in Vain (Tiger Woods Should Apologize Again)

Be warned- the video above re-plays Tiger Woods unleashing his fury over his golf game with abusive, offensive language.

I’m not interested in getting into the whole sordid Tiger Woods’ womanizing issue- I am, however, ready to start challenging the whole phenomena of using the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, as some kind of throw-away profanity. It doesn’t really matter what the religious make-up of the blasphemer is, but it seems to me that when a Buddhist like Tiger Woods decides it is fair-game to throw out the use of Jesus’ name in a derogatory way on National TV- well this should be a teachable moment.

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Neal McDonough: Bravo!

An actor, a faithful Catholic, willing to lose a role in a TV series because he won’t do sex scenes?  Surely not in this day and age?  Guess again!

Neal McDonough is a marvelous actor who elevates every role he plays, whether it’s in Band of Brothers or Desperate Housewives. So when he was suddenly replaced with David James Elliott 3 days into the filming on ABC’s new series Scoundrels earlier this week, there had to be a story behind the story. The move was officially explained as a casting change. But, in fact, McDonough was sacked because of his refusal to do some heated love scenes with babelicious star (and Botox pitchwoman) Virginia Madsen. The reason? He’s a family man and a Catholic, and he’s always made it clear that he won’t do sex scenes. And ABC knew that. Because he also didn’t get into action with Nicolette Sheridan on the network’s Desperate Housewives when he played her psycho husband during Season 5. And he also didn’t do love scenes with his on-air girlfriend in his previous series, NBC’s Boomtown, or that network’s Medical Investigation.

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Christianity and the Miraculous

Today, Palm Sunday, and throughout the rest of Holy Week, we devote ourselves to the central mysteries of our faith as Christians: Christ’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem. The Last Supper, which instituted for us the mystery of the Holy Eucharist. The suffering and death of Christ on the cross. His resurrection on the third day.

These miracles are the very center of our faith. As Saint Paul said, if Christ did not rise from the dead, then our faith is in vain. Or to paraphrase Flannery O’Connor’s use of rather more modern parlance, “If it isn’t true, to hell with it.”

This central miracle, Christ’s death and resurrection, is the miracle which gives our faith meaning and sets it radically apart from the “he was a good man killed by the authorities for standing up for the poor” substitute which some propose. For if Christ was not God, if He did not rise from the dead, if He did not offer to us eternal salvation, then “he was a good man” is no half-way-there substitute. The resurrection is a miracle so unlikely, so scandalous that we must either embrace it wholly or reject Christianity with scorn. The events of Holy Week are not something we can accept half-way, and by accepting them we accept something which goes utterly and completely beyond the natural and predictable world. A miracle.
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Married Priests From the First Centuries Practiced Celibacy

The practice of celibacy in the priesthood is apparent in the years following Jesus’ resurrection.  Single priests and priests who were married abstained from sex, of course with approval from their wives. Just as Jesus chose celibacy giving up a family in order to give himself to mankind, priests are called by God to imitate Jesus. In fact, the priest is able to better serve all people because he is more available.

Monsignor Angelo Amato of the Prefect of the Congregation of the Causes of Saints states:

“Jesus was chaste, virgin, celibate and he defended it. His virginity distanced him from others, but it’s what made him able to show, compassion and forgiveness to others.”

Thus priests are called by God to imitate Jesus in this discipline.

By the end of the fourth century Pope Saint Siricius pushed for a celibate priesthood in order to maintain continuity with earlier centuries.  Later this became a discipline* in order to carry out the tradition of celibacy, thus priests could not marry in the Catholic Church.

Video courtesy Rome Reports.

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* The Eastern Orthodox still allow their priests to marry, but they must be so before entering the seminary and are not allowed to become bishops.

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Lent 2010; The Tide Continues To Turn Toward Catholic Orthodoxy

As we work our way through Lent 2009, we need to rejoice in the turning tide. Though there has been much negative news about the Catholic Church this past decade, much of the negative news had its roots in actions taken during the 1960s and 1970s. Yet, the seeds of the good news planted during the pontificates of Pope John Paul II and now Pope Benedict XVI is just now seeing its shoots and blossoms become visible to the naked eye.

What are the shoots and blossoms?  They can be seen in increasing vocations to the priesthood and religious life, and the strong orthodox nature of these new, young priests. A new crop of Catholic bishops is also boldly showing their orthodoxy, which often befuddles and mystifies the mainstream media and the secular culture in which we live. In addition to this, many in the laity have for years now been writing and blogging about the desperate need for Catholic orthodoxy in a world full of hurt and self absorption. Many ask how can the Church possibly grow when the Church’s active laity, especially the young along with those who serve her in ordained and professed ministries, are so different from the culture in which they live? It is that culture in which they live that causes them to see the wisdom in Christ’s words and the Church He started through the first pope, the Apostle Saint Peter.

There were fewer shoots and blossoms in the 1970s when the seriousness of the Catholicism was questioned after the Church seemed to be trying to be relative, whether it was related or not, thousands of priests and nuns left their vocations. However, starting in 1978 with the election of Pope John Paul II, the tide began to turn. All of the Polish pontiff’s hard work began to be seen in the shoots and blossoms of events like World Youth Day 1993, which was held in Denver. Later in his pontificate thanks to events like World Youth Day, vocations to the priesthood and religious life began to increase.

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Ash Wednesday Address by Pope Benedict

Pope Benedict XVI’s Ash Wednesday Address in English:

Here is the complete text of the Pope’s message:

Dear Brothers and Sisters,today, Ash Wednesday, marks the beginning of the Church’s Lenten journey towards Easter.

Lent reminds us, as Saint Paul exhorts, “not to accept the grace of God in vain” (cf. 2 Cor 6:1), but to recognize that today the Lord calls us to penance and spiritual renewal. This call to conversion is expressed in the two formulae used in the rite of the imposition of ashes. The first formula – “Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel” – echoes Jesus’s words at the beginning of his public ministry (cf. Mk 1:15). It reminds us that conversion is meant to be a deep and lasting abandonment of our sinful ways in order to enter into a living relationship with Christ, who alone offers true freedom, happiness and fulfilment.

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Cardinal Newman on Fasting

“And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He was afterward an hungered.” Matt. iv. 2.

{1} THE season of humiliation, which precedes Easter, lasts for forty days, in memory of our Lord’s long fast in the wilderness. Accordingly on this day, the first Sunday in Lent, we read the Gospel which gives an account of it; and in the Collect we pray Him, who for our sakes fasted forty days and forty nights, to bless our abstinence to the good of our souls and bodies.

We fast by way of penitence, and in order to subdue the flesh. Our Saviour had no need of fasting for either purpose. His fasting was unlike ours, as in its intensity, so in its object. And yet when we begin to fast, His pattern is set before us; and we continue the time of fasting till, in number of days, we have equalled His.

There is a reason for this;—in truth, we must do nothing except with Him in our eye. As He it is, through whom alone we have the power to do any good {2} thing, so unless we do it for Him it is not good. From Him our obedience comes, towards Him it must look. He says, “Without Me ye can do nothing.” [John xv. 5.] No work is good without grace and without love.

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