Thursday, July 30, 2015

The Good and the Bad Fish

Today at Mass, the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 13, the chapter of the parables, is drawn to a close with the “Parable of the Net.”  The message of this parable is a shorter parallel to that of the “Parable of the Tares” found previously in this Chapter 13.  Both begin with similar phrases: “The kingdom of heaven is like …” and “The kingdom of heaven can be compared to …” - two phrases that I think would be good to ponder if you have ever wondered what the kingdom of heaven is like and what will happen on Judgement Day.

In these parables, the Lord admits that there are good and bad “fish” and good and bad “seeds” where His creation is concerned and that the bad “fish” and the bad “seeds” are the work of the evil one.  In both instances, the good and the bad will be separated “at the close of the age,” and the “righteous will shine like the sun in the presence of their Father” while the evildoers will be thrown into “the furnace of fire.”  

In the modern culture, the work of the evil one seems very apparent to me.  We have God’s Ten Commandments and Christ’s Catholic Church to guide us on our way.  But it seems to me that both of these are being ignored to a very large extent.  Very serious evils have crept into our society and have been accepted as the modern norm by so many people.  I’m thinking specifically of sins against the sixth commandment and sins against the Church’s moral guidelines relating to marriage and sexuality.  Gay marriage is the modern norm and is therefore okay.  Cohabitation before marriage is the modern norm and is therefore okay.  Infidelity within marriage is the modern norm and is therefore okay.  The use of artificial birth control is the modern norm and is therefore okay.  Aborting unborn babies is the modern norm and is therefore okay.  Decisions made by the Supreme Court justices are how things are today and these decisions are therefore okay.

It pains me to see the influence that the evil one is having on our modern culture.  The separation of the sheep and the goats, the separation of the good fish from the bad fish, and the separation of the wheat from the weeds will occur (via the angels) on Judgment Day and only those that have chosen the narrow gate will be saved.  Please get out your Bible (or go buy a Bible), read the following verses and draw your own conclusions:  Matt. 13:24-30, 36-43, 47-50.

Notice the open beaks in the picture below.  The call of sandhill cranes is loud, as I found out when I took the picture.  So is the call of the Catholic Church in these modern times.  If people would only hear it ...

My prayer for today:  Lord, I ask that you please open the eyes and ears of your people on earth.  Help them to recognize the evil that surrounds them and help them to live their lives according to your plan of salvation so that on Judgement Day, they may be among the righteous who enter the kingdom of heaven and shine like the sun in the presence of their Father.  Amen.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Forgive Us As We Forgive Others

Today I’m thinking about forgiveness.  In the prayer that Our Lord gave us, he suggests that we ask God the Father to “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”  Have you ever really contemplated these words?  We are to not only ask God to forgive us, but we ask him to forgive us in the same way that we forgive someone else.  We must practice forgiveness toward others to the same degree that we want God to forgive US. 

When was the last time someone wronged you.  When was the last time someone lied to someone else about you, did or said something just to intentionally hurt your feelings, or perhaps even physically harmed you to satisfy his/her own foolish pleasure.   Perhaps it damaged your reputation, or damaged your pride, or harmed you physically or emotionally to the point where you never fully recovered?  If you seek out this person and express your forgiveness to him or her, then you are forgiving those who trespass against you.  Now imagine God forgiving you in the same way for the times you have offended HIM in an equally serious way, such as when you commit serious sin.   Powerful!

Probably the most famous example in the history of the Catholic Church is the example of St. Maria Goretti, a young Italian girl who lived her short life in the 1890s.  When she was 12 years old, an acquaintance of hers made sexual advances to her.  When she refused him, he stabbed her fourteen times.  She forgave him before she died, and it had such a powerful effect on the young man that he converted to the Catholic Church and became a lay brother in a monastery while she became a canonized saint in the Church.  Her feast day was earlier this month, July 6.

Ah, forgiveness.  Powerful indeed!

Thursday, July 16, 2015

What is Truth?

Today I’m thinking about the famous dialogue between Jesus and Pontius Pilate found in the Gospel of John, Chapter 18, specifically verses 37-38, after Jesus speaks of his kingdom in the preceding verses.  It goes like this: “So Pilate said to him, ‘Then you are a king?’  Jesus answered, ‘You say I am a king.  For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth.  Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.’  Pilate said to him, ‘What is truth?’”  Today we find this question to be quite profound and we find different groups claiming different answers.

We Catholics claim that we have the "fullness of the truth," adhering to all that was revealed in Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition.  Protestants claim that the Catholic Church lost its way in the early centuries following the death of the last apostle and that the truth was re-discovered in the 16th century by the Protestant reformers.  Islam claims that Jesus was nothing more than a prophet and that the stories in the Bible are nothing more that human fabrications; that the real truth was delivered to Mohammed in the 6th century and recorded as the Quran.  Mormons claim to be Christian and that additional revelations were given to Joseph Smith in the 19th century and recorded as the Book of Mormon.  Then, of course, there are the atheists, who claim that God does not exist and that all of these recorded documents are nothing more than silly human fabrications.

So we come back to the Pilate’s question:  What is the real truth?  If there is no God, then the entire universe, including the evolution of man and his surroundings on earth, happened completely by “chance.”  As I’ve tried to show in previous postings to this blog, and despite the opinions of famous scientists like Carl Sagan, Stephen Hawking, and others, this seems to me to be completely out of whack with our observations. 

What about Islam (or any other non-Christian religion)?  While I have a great deal of respect for these religions, St. Peter answered this question in his famous speech to the Sanhedrin in Acts, Chapter 4, verse 12, speaking of Jesus Christ:  “There is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved.”  If you believe the Bible, apparently Christianity is it.

What about Protestantism, including Mormonism?  Numerous Scripture passages indicate that the Church established directly by Jesus Christ will last forever.  In other words, this Church will never be led astray and will last to the end of time.  For example, in Matthew, Chapter 16, verse 18:  “And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.”  Also, in Matthew, Chapter 28, verse 20, where Jesus said:  “And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”  He was speaking to a group of Catholics long before the Reformation happened.  Apparently Catholicism never has and never will be led astray.  The fullness of the truth is in the Catholic Church!

My prayer for today:  Lord, teach all your people on earth your full truth and help all of us to recognize it.  Amen.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Who We Are and Why We Are Here

Recently I saw a question posted on Facebook that went something like this:  “If you had the opportunity to sit on a park bench and have a conversation with anyone in the entire history of the human race, with whom would it be?”  I reacted in disbelief as I read the answers people gave.  Here are some examples:  “My now-deceased grandmother.”  “My deceased Uncle Joe.”  “Michael Jordan.”  My history professor from college.”  “My kindergarten teacher.”  “My high school football coach.”  My brother who died in Viet Nam.”  “Abraham Lincoln.”  “Hillary Clinton.” 

While I don’t doubt that these people were sincere and would indeed have a memorable conversation with the person they chose, I was shocked that no one chose a biblical  or religious figure as their answer.    

For example, any of the following persons would really increase my heart rate and give me a huge dose of adrenaline if I were to sit on a park bench and have a conversation with them.  I’m putting these in quotes as if they were my answer to the question.  “Jesus Christ (let’s say immediately after he rose from the dead and before anyone else saw him.)”  “The Blessed Mother (after she had her conversation with the Angel Gabriel and before she left Nazareth for her visit to Elizabeth.)”  “St. Peter (immediately after the experience of the Transfiguration.)”  “St. Joseph (soon after the birth of Jesus and after the visit from the shepherds.)”  I could also add St. Paul, St. John the Baptist, St. John the Apostle, and a host of others.  I’ve always thought how incredible it would be if I could be a “fly on the wall” in any famous scene in the New Testament.

I continue to be amazed at how secular our culture has become.  Few people seem to think of God or their eternal destiny these days.  I admit that I’m not perfect in that respect either.  We get so caught up in our everyday lives (our work, our families, our extra-curricular activities, the local and national news, etc.) that we don’t think enough about who we are and why we are here.  We are God's special creation and we are here to know God, to love and serve God, and to be happy with God in heaven.  It is so important to take a breather from time to time and just sit back and think about God and his creation, to read, to pray, and to consider where we are headed in terms of our eternal destiny.  

My prayer for today:  Lord, please help us to keep you uppermost in our minds so that we may strive to please you, to praise and glorify you, to give you thanks for all the precious gifts we have received from you, and to aim for heaven as our ultimate future home.  Amen. 

Thursday, July 2, 2015

The Gay Marriage Decision: Love Loses.

Christians who support the same-sex marriage ruling may point to Mark 12: 31 as a basis for their reasoning.  This passage includes the statement:  ”You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  Furthermore, they might go on to then utilize the now-popular hashtag “Love wins,” meaning that the Supreme Court ruling demonstrates our love of neighbor and so it is a good thing.  Rather, I believe it demonstrates the direct opposite, and so, love loses.  Let me explain.

It’s very simple, really.  In the past, when a man and a woman obtained a marriage license and subsequently received the sacrament of Matrimony, they then had our society's blessing to move in together and freely participate in physical acts of love-making.  The Church teaches that the couple then accepts children, if it is God’s will, and forms a family.  Lots of love involved and no sin, because the couple has acted according to the natural law and the God-willed, man/woman, bodily designs.  Love wins in this case, and love of neighbor, as expressed in the Mark 12:31, is affirmed!  With this new Supreme Court ruling, however, sin enters the picture because a same-sex couple that participates in physical acts of love-making goes against the natural law and the God-willed man/woman bodily designs.  Love loses because of the sin, and when sin is a result, Mark 12:31 is NOT affirmed ... we do NOT love our neighbor if we support sin entering their lives.

I must mention the Scripture verses presented immediately preceding Mark 12:31, which is Mark 12:29-30:  “The Lord our God is Lord alone!  You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.”  Jesus makes it very clear that love of God is paramount.  I would say our focus needs to be on love of God first (with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength) and then to let this guide us to proper love of neighbor.  This is when love truly wins.

By the way, it seems to me that co-habitation, sex outside of marriage, and the use artificial means of birth control all fall under these same principles.  I hope and pray that all my readers would give serious thought to their love of God before considering going forward with these other sinful actions.  Please see the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Article 6, for a complete discussion of Church teaching on the sixth commandment, including same-sex attraction and co-habitation.

Speaking of co-habitation, there is an irony in these latest developments.  For straight people, there is a trend away from marriage in favor of co-habitation.  For gay people, there is a trend away from co-habitation in favor of marriage.  Neither of these trends bode well for marriage for the sensible institution that it has been since ancient times.  I am probably too old to see a trend back to common sense in my lifetime, but I hope and pray that is what in store for our future.

My prayer for today:  “Lord, please instill in your humble human creatures here on earth an unflinching love for you, so that your will may be done when it comes to love of neighbor.  Amen.”

The photo is of the interior of the chapel on the grounds of the Monastery of the Holy Spirit near Conyers, Georgia.