Thursday, January 26, 2017

A House Divided Cannot Stand ... Or Can It?

Our nation is divided on so many issues these days.  Women’s rights, gay rights, conscience rights, rights of the unborn, rights of illegal aliens, civil rights, gun rights, and on and on.  In the middle of it all, we heard, in a gospel message at Mass on Monday, January 23, these words of Jesus Christ:  “And if a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.  And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.”  (Mk 3:24-25).  We find the same message elsewhere in Sacred Scripture.  So, all of this division has me worried.  I have a few thoughts today on how to cope so that this democracy can come through still standing.

It is not necessarily a bad thing to let one’s partisan position be known.  For example, in December, 1773, to protest British rule, taxation without representation, etc., colonial activists boarded a ship in the Boston harbor and threw 45 tons of tea overboard in what came to be known as the Boston Tea Party.  Today, that much tea would be worth about $1,000,000.  Ultimately, the colonists won independence from Great Britain and our nation was born.  I think you would agree that that was a good thing.

This week, we have crowds of people participating in marches in Washington, D.C., one in support of women’s rights and one in support of the right to life of the pre-born.  It is the right of American citizens to organize in this way to protest our government’s decisions on these matters.  Also, we have just come through an election cycle that suddenly switched us from a government led by a liberal politician to one led by a conservative businessman.  Citizens on both sides of this partisan divide are concerned for our future, since the conservative businessman has such a divisive manner about him.  The fact is that this man did get legitimately elected, despite what some are saying about the process.  The American people have spoken.

My thoughts today are about what we need to do now in order for our democracy to thrive again.  In the midst of the protests, we need to accept it.  All of it happened according to our constitutional process.  It is a time to protest, yes, but it is also a time to accept and move on.  I’ve noticed that media sources continue to try to get us riled up.  I get Facebook posts from organizations such as “Occupy Democrats” and “Conservative Nation” publishing stories that are undignified and sometimes patently false.  I can think of only one purpose in these actions – to get our citizens riled up and divided.  I can’t help but think that this is the kind of discord that Christ was speaking of when he made his statements against division.  If that is true, then we have a democracy that will not stand, that has no future.

In 2008 and 2012, I was on the losing side in the election.  It was disheartening to be sure, but each time, I was buoyed up by the fact that another election would be held in four years, and if history is any indication, my side would bounce back.  And it has, admittedly with a man that scares me, but it has bounced back just like it did for the liberals in 2008 after eight years of conservative rule.  This thing goes in cycles.  Conservative principles are not always the answer.  Liberal principles are not always the answer.  But what IS always the answer is acceptance and dignity.  All of us want our nation to continue standing.  Let us take that to heart.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Water ... In Space and Time

Today my background in science is showing through  in my thoughts.  Specifically, it is the hydrologic cycle, or the water cycle, that I am thinking about.  Water continuously cycles between the liquid and vapor states and back again.  On the surface of the earth, we see liquid water in our oceans, lakes, rivers, and ponds.  This water is continuously evaporating, winding up in air as humidity and clouds.  Then, when atmospheric conditions are right, thunderstorms occur and the water in the air become liquid water again and rains down upon the earth, becoming part of our oceans, lakes, rivers, and ponds once again.  Water is absorbed into the earth and is used by plants and trees.  It may also wind up as ground water, which can then be used by us humans for drinking and cleaning purposes.  It may also be used by manufacturing processes.  Such water may wind up once again as surface water and participate directly in the hydrologic cycle.

The water vapor in the air can be transported across land and water by wind.  This means that water that was once found on the surface in the United States may later be found and participate in the hydrologic cycle on other continents at a different time.  Which brings me to how this topic fits in with the usual theme of this blog.

There are virtually an infinite number of water molecules in all this water.  Imagine that some of the molecules of the water that you used to make your coffee today was transported here through the air from the Holy Land.  These same molecules may have previously been used in, for example, the baptism of Our Lord in the Jordan River, or been part of the blood and water mixture that flowed from the side of Christ when he was struck by the lance while on the cross. 

Water is also a product of the chemical reaction that takes place in an internal combustion engine.  So the hydrogen and oxygen atoms that make up some of that infinite number of water molecules on earth were originally part of gasoline.  This gasoline was originally part of crude oil.  This crude oil originated from decaying plant and animal life that folded into the earth over time.  So, perhaps some of hydrogen and oxygen atoms that make up the water molecules found in your morning coffee was part of the plant and animal kingdom found in the paradise of Adam and Eve.  One thing we can be reasonably sure of is that none of the water, or the hydrogen and oxygen atoms, in your cup of coffee came from somewhere outside the immediate environment of the earth.  The reverse is also true.  The earth is its own ecosystem.  Nothing leaves (except spaceships) and nothing new is introduced (except meteorites).   

Oh, yes ...  it is so much fun to think about stuff like this.  It reminds me an old TV commercial advertising a particular brand of gasoline.  It ended with the phrase:  “Remember that that dinosaur gave his or her all to that tank of gas.”  We can also say:  “Remember that in that cup of coffee we may find some amazing, even holy, things.  God’s creation is really something, isn’t it?

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Father, Thy Will Be Done.

How can one not have thoughts today about the conservative vs liberal mess in our modern world?   Try as I might, I cannot shake from my mind the things that dominate the headlines today in that regard.  In almost every way, I am an ordinary American, living day to day working, sleeping, eating, reading, playing, getting by, watching TV, going to sporting events, shopping, attending daily Mass.  Well, I said in ALMOST every way.  Attending daily Mass is not so ordinary, probably.  More on that later.  But how should I react?

Watching the presidential election process play itself out has been painful.  The pain began years ago when it became obvious that each side in Washington was obstructing the other when it came to passing legislation.  President Obama, clearly upset with "obstructionist" Republicans, went the way of a dictator and used his power of executive orders to put his agenda into place.  The Republicans, on the other hand, clearly not wanting the liberal priorities to be passed, blocked any progress with all possible measures at their disposal.  The word “compromise” was never heard anywhere.  They became like little children on a playground fighting for their own personal idea of how things should be.  And this continued into the election season in a big way, resulting in two nominees that repulsed many citizens on both sides.  And, speaking of the word repulsed ... in the time since the outcome of the election has been realized, both sides are leveling appalling and salacious allegations against the other.  These little children need discipline!  Spanking is in order!  The election is over!  Grow up!

And now we have news coming from the Vatican that is eerily similar.  Pope Francis has demonstrated a seemingly liberal bias with his recent exhortation Amoris Laetitia, which seems to call for an end to longstanding policies against divorced and remarried Catholics receiving the Eucharist at Mass.  A conservative group of cardinals has called for clarification, publicly saying that there can be no change in said policies.  Whoa!  Slow down!  We have the promise of the Holy Spirit guiding Christ’s church in matters of faith and morals until the end of time, so let’s pray for guidance and not let this dispute get out of hand!

So here I am sitting at my desk with anxious Thursday Thoughts swirling about.  What do I make of all this stuff?  I find myself offering my daily Mass for our civil and religious leadership to discover the will of God in all the confusion.  After all, that is part of how Jesus responded when his disciples asked Him to teach them how to pray:  “... thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”  So let us try not be ordinary in the face of these issues.  Pray for the will of God to be done.  Amen!    

Thursday, January 5, 2017

In this World of 2017, It Is Not Easy

Today, I’m thinking about the message of repentance in the gospels.  In Matthew’s gospel, John the Baptist is quoted as saying “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”  (Matt 3:2).  In Mark’s gospel, we have the following:  “John the Baptist appeared in the desert proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.”  (Mark 1:4).  Luke had a similar message:  “He [John] went throughout the whole region of the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.”  (Luke 3: 3).  In John’s gospel, John the Baptist said of himself:  “I am ‘the voice of the one crying out in the desert, “Make straight the way of the Lord …”’  (John 1: 23).  A little while later, Jesus also got in on the act:  “From that time on, Jesus began to preach and say, 'Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.'”  (Matt 4: 17).  And, in Mark's gospel:  “The kingdom of God is at hand.  Repent, and believe in the gospel.”  (Mark 1:15).

It would seem that the people in region of the Jordan River in Judea were in serious need of repentance back in the year 30 A.D.!  John even called the Pharisees and Sadducees a “brood of vipers.”  (Matt 3: 7).  And John was successful in his mission: “People of the whole Judean countryside and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River as they acknowledged their sins.”  (Mark 1:5).  Jesus, too, was drawing crowds and they listened to Him:  “And all spoke highly of Him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from His mouth.”  (Luke 4: 22).  But, as you know, eventually the crowds turned against and caused his death.  In the end, however, He triumphed.  He rose from the dead.

Okay, but what about today, 2017 A.D.  Well, I’m afraid that we are still in need of serious repentance.  The words of John and Jesus regarding repentance are just as relevant today as they were 2000 years ago!  We are a brood of vipers just like the Judeans.  Even though we may be baptized and even though we may acknowledge our sins, we sin again and again become in need of serious repentance.  Just like the Judeans in the time of Our Lord, we turn against God and crucify his Son all over again.   It is part of the human condition, our fallen nature. 

How do we escape from this cycle of sin, repentance, forgiveness, sin, repentance, forgiveness … ?  How is it that we will, one day, rise from the dead and enjoy eternal life in heaven?  My thought is that we need to get much more serious about this, our eternal destiny.   In times of temptation, we need to turn to prayer.  We need to acknowledge our Redeemer as the Savior of the human race and pledge to sin no more.  We need to become holy.  It is hard in this world of 2017, but if we seek Jesus and his message, He will assist us.  Of that I’m am totally convinced.  What we will have as our eternal home depends on it.  Amen