Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Supreme Court and Marriage

A while back, I wrote this post when Senator Portman flip-flopped on "gay marriage":
Most of it still seems relevant, saving me from having to rewrite essentially the same thing.

With last week's Supreme Court decision, there is much hysteria over the issue. I am glad I am not on facebook. As people of faith, we are likely looking forward to a future of much persecution. Also in front of us, is much work. As people of faith, all the baptized should become well versed in what the Church teaches but especially WHY the Church teaches what she does. It is up to us, with God's help to bring the culture to conversion.

With that in mind, I will add one thing at this time.  Sins are called sins because they are bad for me. God, Church, and grandma do not just declare certain actions to be wrong or sinful arbitrarily. Fornication and sodomy are bad for the human person, body and soul. I heard an interesting statistic the other day that men living the gay lifestyle have an 8,000% higher risk of rectal cancer. Reproductive organs are designed to be coupled with the reproductive organs of a person of the opposite sex. They are not designed for other organs such as those of the digestive system. If we use our cell phones to drive nails into the wall, we will get some nails in place but we will soon be shopping for a new cell phone. Problems with fornication are not as obvious but affect us on a much deeper level. In my Sunday homily, I pointed out that the desire of some to legalize "gay marriage" is a symptom of a much larger problem.

The reason governments began to regulate marriage in the first place is because they realize that new citizens come from this union of husband and wife, and this family setting is the building block of a stable society. Some in government positions seem to have forgotten this. Children have enough issues already. Raising children is difficult enough already. The last thing we need to do is add another layer of confusion. The bishops state this well in the links provided below. Because of the contraceptive mentality, thus rendering the marital act sterile, governmental focus on marriage has shifted to affection and companionship as if they were its essence. These things are effects of marriage but certainly not the essence that we find in the unitive and procreative meanings of marriage at its core.

This is a link to a statement from the USCCB on the issue.

This is a link to a statement from the Most Reverend Dennis M. Schnurr, Archbishop of Cincinnati.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Media bias against pro-lifers

Matt Swaim pointed this out earlier this week on the Son Rise Morning Show.
The pro-life community around the world mourns the loss of Dr. John C. Willke. The press release from Right to Life of Greater Cincinnati, and the story from National Right to Life show Dr. Willke to be a joy-filled and courageous leader whose life's work could be summed up in a single word: love.
If you get your news from the mainstream media, you will likely get a warped view of this loving, courageous pro-lifer. The story the Associated Press ran at the passing of Dr. Willke shows an obvious bias against the pro-life movement. Instead of "pro-life" they use "anti-abortion" which is no big deal. But already in the first sentence of the story they misrepresent Dr. Willke with a half-truth of something he said back in 1999. He did not say "women can resist conception from a sexual assault" as if it is something that can be controlled consciously. The story continues with some facts about his life and some nice quotes. Then by the 10th sentence it once again brings up the quote from 1999, which is a blatant misrepresentation, and continues it for several more paragraphs. It is obvious to me that the agenda of the AP is to paint Dr. Willke as a quack who had weird ideas. I remember, in the early 2000s, reading about studies showing that in instances of extreme trauma, like the assault of rape, women conceived less frequently than in normal consensual instances as a subconscious defense mechanism. The AP tries to make it sound like Dr. Willke was saying the woman could turn fertility off or on like a switch consciously, which was not the case at all. The only person the AP story quotes in regard to medicine is a pro-abortion person who is not even a doctor. Of course her agenda is to characterize every pro-lifer as a kook. It seems to me the AP is trying to tarnish the legacy and smear the reputation of this pro-life pioneer who asked: "Can't we love them both?"

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Filthy Shades of Grey

The Most Reverend Dennis M. Schnurr, Archbishop of Cincinnati, sent an email to all his priests asking us to inform our congregations of the "destructive message of this movie and to highlight the beauty of God's design for loving relationships between a husband and wife in the bond of marriage."

Since the evil one cannot create anything, in his frustration and hate for God the Creator, he uses God's created beauty and corrupts it into vehicles for evil. In this case, Hollywood is using the feast day of Saint Valentine, who exemplified Christian virtue and died a martyr's death for it, the ultimate act of love, as the occasion to offer the world a medium to take it further away from virtue and further from true self-giving love.

The Archbishop points out: "The story line is presented as a romance; however, the underlying theme is that bondage, dominance, and sadomasochism are normal and pleasurable. In the story line, a young Miss Steele is urged to sign a contract becoming a sex slave and agreeing to an abusive and degrading relationship. This movie is in direct contrast to the Christian message of God's design for self-giving and self-sacrificing love, marriage and sexual intimacy. The movie is a direct assault on Christian marriage and on the moral and spiritual strength of God's people."

He has not said it, but if I am connecting the dots correctly, it seems to me that a person who hears the Archbishop's teaching on this matter and still goes to see this movie commits a grave sin.

On a similar note, every year at this time, companies like "Pure Romance" ratchet up their advertising. What a misnomer! There is nothing pure about it. Plus, a real man interested in true romance will be willing to lay down his life for his bride rather than use her body for his own gratification. Otherwise he is no better than a selfish boy in a candy store.

Thank you Archbishop! I am blessed to have you as my spiritual father.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Culture of Death

Some may try to argue that a culture of death does not even exist. It most certainly does. If human lives can be taken for the convenience of another, the culture of death remains. I found this article very informative. I remember a few years ago, the House voted to end tax-payer funding of Planned Parenthood, but the Senate failed to do so. I pray this vote comes up again sooner than later to end it. Until then, we are all complicit.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Wedding Garment - Sunday Homily

St. Augustine says that the wedding garment is the response to the commandment to love God and neighbor. It is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from a genuine faith.

He contrasts this love with a much lesser love. It’s amazing to see that people were distracted from God in Augustine’s time just as they are now. He died in the year 430. That’s over 1500 years ago. You’ll be amazed at just how similar people 1500 years ago were to us now. Augustine says the love of the wedding garment is not the love for play actors. Just like now many are obsessed with what actors in Hollywood are up to. That’s why People magazine exists. He says the love of the wedding garment is not love for their favorite charioteers and huntsmen. That’s just like now. Sometimes we overemphasize sports. Sports are good things. Our ability to play them is God’s gift. So sports can be played in a way that gives Him the glory but that’s not always the case. When I was in Honduras one summer, I could tell the priest kept preaching about soccer. I couldn’t understand all the Spanish but I kept hearing that word futbol. He said some of the men there will neglect their families and get all wrapped up in watching soccer.

Very often, we hear our Lord refer to Heaven as the eternal wedding feast. It’s actually His most favorite analogy. God wants to be married to us, in a sense. He wants to be closer to us than a husband is to his wife. At a wedding feast, we have a bride and groom. A marriage of bride and groom has taken place. In Heaven, a marriage is taking place: The marriage of Christ the groom with His bride the Church, That’s us!

God calls all of us to the wedding feast. In fact, God is calling and reaching out to us nonstop. That’s the topic of the Lord’s parable in today’s Gospel. We respond by keeping on our wedding garment. In the parable, the guest without the wedding garment is probably a Christian who loses his zeal and becomes complacent. This is the character who concerns us.

Upon arrival at a wedding feast, each person is issued a wedding garment. If a guest would have the nerve to take off the garment during the wedding feast, this would be a huge insult to the bride and groom. It would show that the guest is not interested in their marriage and is just along for the ride, maybe to get the free prime rib. Even though the guy insults the king by taking off the wedding garment, notice how the king continues to reach out to him. He even calls him “friend.” But in his stubbornness, he refuses to respond. The New American Bible says that the wedding garment is the repentance, change of heart and mind, that is the condition for entrance into the kingdom. And it must be continued by a life of good deeds.

We know that God is the giver of all good gifts. This includes the things we enjoy. One of these gifts is our freedom. This freedom or free will that God gives us is awesome. But in that freedom, we are also free to reject God. And it’s sad that so many of us reject Him.

Just by noticing the beauty of creation, we should enjoy the certain hope that the next life is going to be even more awesome than this one. But in our freedom some of us choose the things of this world and reject the hope of the next. We become satisfied with the status quo.

Even though we have the tendency to reject God because of our fallen nature, He will always continue to provide for us the most bountiful feast of his Son. We just have to choose it. We just have to keep on our wedding garment. We have to show God that we are still interested in a relationship with Him.

Sometimes we become complacent like the guy without the wedding garment. We may be tempted to think that as long as we show up at Sunday Mass we’re OK. But the Lord calls us to go deeper in our relationship with Him. He calls us to trust Him completely.

At a recent archdiocesan conference, I heard a talk by Author Sherry Weddell. She recently wrote a book called Forming Intentional Disciples. A disciple is a learner, a pupil, a follower of a certain teacher. The one we follow of course is Jesus. An intentional disciple makes a conscious commitment to follow Jesus in the midst of His Church as an obedient disciple and to reorder one’s life accordingly. That’s what it means to keep on the wedding garment. Sherry walked us through the levels of commitment to reach this ideal. The vast majority of people get scared and disengaged on the way. We get scared, distracted by the world and take off the wedding garment.

The wedding garment keeps us genuine. It keeps us from putting our faith in the Sunday Mass compartment. The love of God permeates every aspect of our lives. As Christians we put our faith into everything we do, not just Sunday Mass. We put our faith into our jobs, our families, how we deal with others in society.

The wedding garment shows that we are 100% aligned with God. When we respond, He gives us the grace we need to keep the wedding garment on. It’s good to enjoy the abundance of God’s creation. Like the fine foods and choice wines that Isaiah mentions in the first reading. We should be a happy and joyful people. We have been redeemed and we should act like it. And St. Paul tells us in his letter to the Philippians that we just heard: Abundance or hunger does not matter. We are still called to remain faithful. I can do all things in him who strengthens me. We should rejoice in knowing that we can do all things in God who has strengthened us.

I don’t know what the wedding garment looks like, but people will notice when we have it on because of our joyful witness. And God brings us to the feast to enjoy rich foods and choice wines for all eternity.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Reflection on Matthew 22:1-14

I didn't like the bulletin insert from a certain publishing company's website, so I took a crack at writing a quick one myself:

From the way things unfolded in history, we can see what the Lord was teaching in the parable of the wedding feast. First, St. Matthew tells us Jesus is speaking to the chief priests and the elders. He is inviting them to conversion. Of course, the king in the parable represents God. He dispatches servants to summon the invited guests. From history, we know the servants represent the Prophets and the invited guests were God's chosen people, the Jews. The Lord's parable would have cut to the heart of the chief priests because they know that their own ancestors killed the Prophets. And Jesus is showing them that the Jews are largely not responding. In the parable, the king sends his servants to invite "whomever you find." This means that not only the Jews are invited, but the Gentiles are too. Jesus sent his disciples to the whole world--Jews and Gentiles--with the Good News of salvation. God invites, but we must respond. All guests are given a wedding garment when they come into the feast. The refusal to put it on illustrates a refusal to respond fully to the invitation of the host and is an insult to the host. In his infinite mercy, God continues to reach out to us like the king reached out to the man without the wedding garment with the words: "my friend" in the midst of insult. Still he refused to respond. How can we respond to God's love today?

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Jesus and the Canaanite woman - Sunday homily

This passage about Jesus and the Canaanite woman produces some of the funniest biblical commentaries.  Commentators range from the mildly crazy to the ludicrous.  For example: One says the woman caught Jesus off guard. Another says Jesus insulted her. One says it “depicts the woman as an aggressive single parent who defies cultural taboos and acts to free Jesus from his sexism and racism by catching him in a bad mood with his compassion down, besting him in an argument, and thereby becoming a vehicle of his liberation…” In my high view of Christ, I disagree with all those.  I say he knows her faith, and he knows the thoughts of his disciples.  So He says their thoughts to show it to them. 
We see a major shift of great significance happening in the Gospel today and it is supported by both of the other readings and the psalm.

As today’s Gospel begins, it seems that salvation is only for the Jews, or as Jesus calls them: “The lost sheep of the house of Israel.” So that’s the historical mindset at the time. Only a few will be saved. Then after the Canaanite woman persistently asks that Jesus heal her daughter, we see that salvation is for all peoples.

Isn’t this good news? Only the Jews were going to be saved, but now the nations can be saved. That includes us. That should bring us great joy. We get a glimpse of this every time we participate at Mass. As the priest says the words of Jesus consecrating the wine that becomes His Precious Blood, he says: “[It] will be poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins.” Not just a few, but many. Salvation is offered to many nations, not just one. Salvation is offered to the multitudes. That’s awesome!

Our first reading and psalm both predict this shift that the nations will have the opportunity for salvation, not just the Jews. Several hundred years before Jesus, Isaiah foretold that foreigners would come to the Lord’s holy mountain. Isaiah called God’s temple a house of prayer for all peoples. This is a new idea for that time. And St. Paul supports it in our second reading when he points out that the Gentiles are offered salvation.

What does this mean for us? The Gospel is our invitation to accept the Lord Jesus and have faith in Him. We are also called to imitate the faith and perseverance of the Canaanite woman.

We see at first, Jesus is hesitant to heed her request and heal her daughter. Why? Is He testing her? Maybe.  But he is definitely allowing her to be a witness for his followers. He is even allowing her to be a witness for his closest disciples. We know these guys. Sometimes their faith was weak. With great perseverance the Canaanite woman is a witness to faith in Jesus.

We could acknowledge that having a chronically ill or possessed child would have been a terrible trial for the Canaanite woman, and it could even have wrecked her spirit thus sending her into the despair of defeat. Then it looks like Jesus may be adding insult to injury. But he knows her heart. He knows she has faith. And that faith is a game changer. She does not despair in her difficulty, but she perseveres.

St. John Paul II says faith is the adherence of the intellect to the Truth revealed, a submission of the will, and our gift of self to God. This Canaanite woman had all three of these aspects of faith. She had adherence to the intellectual idea of Jesus as Messiah. She called him Lord and Son of David. She had submission of the will and offered her gift of self to God. In great humility, she risked ridicule and discomfort approaching Jesus asking him to heal her daughter. In humility, she acknowledges her own insignificance and it pleases the Lord. When Jesus used the analogy of feeding dogs, she didn’t pipe in and say: Hey, wait, how dare you insult me?” In her great humility, she said even the dogs get the scraps.

In her humility, she was able to show great faith. And her faith seemed far more advanced than even some of Jesus’ closest disciples. They would learn that salvation is offered to all who believe in the Lord and keep His commandments. Our national origin and social condition don’t matter.

God has offered both Jews and Gentiles a common path to salvation through the cross of Jesus Christ. All have sinned. All need salvation.

All have been offered salvation in Christ.

We see a really awesome parallel happening: In the mystery of the Incarnation, God takes on human flesh. He uses the human to bring us to divinity. He is using this opportunity with the Canaanite woman to bring the disciples to a greater righteousness.

Jesus already sent the 12 to the lost sheep of Israel. Now, He is getting them ready for a wider ministry. They have great work to do. They have to learn to be a conduit not obstacles for people to meet the Lord.

Eventually, at the end of Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus finally sent his disciples to make disciples of all nations. He gives the Church its universal mission, its catholic mission. The Lord gives all of us that same opportunity to be witnesses to him with our faith.

The faith and perseverance of the Canaanite woman moved Jesus. Our faith and perseverance move Jesus as well. Jesus’ silence makes her belief that much firmer. Can we persevere in prayer through the silent times?

This Eucharist gives us the grace and strength to witness to our faith in Jesus every day. Let us be insistent in that faith and persevere in prayer. Let us respond by acting on that faith in our daily lives.