At the link here you will find an excellent article about the moral code engrained in the pro-life movement. The article also examines the tricks used by the pro-abortion side so that they don’t have to engage the legitimate questions posed by those from the pro-life side. This is the first time I have read anything from the author of the article – Mene Ukueberuwa – but I will definitely be looking for more of his articles to read.
Memorial of St. Agatha
And when they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret, and moored to the shore. And when they got out of the boat, immediately the people recognized him, and ran about the whole neighborhood and began to bring sick people on their pallets to any place where they heard he was. And wherever he came, in villages, cities, or country, they laid the sick in the market places, and besought him that they might touch even the fringe of his garment; and as many as touched it were made well.
“…immediately the people recognized Him…”
Why is it that the people immediately recognized Jesus? The people had heard of a miracle worker who could bring healing to those who are sick. And this is why they sought Him out. At this time they did not know who Jesus really was. After all, that was a point for His miracles, that the people could gradually come to understand who He is – the Son of God. But they did not know this at this time, they only knew what He could do. They recognized Him only as the the fulfillment of their desires. In essence, when they saw Him it was as the answer of “what can you do for me?”
Now let us ask in what way did St. Agatha recognize Christ? Her recognition of Christ was completely different from the people in today’s Gospel. When she looked upon Christ it was not as the one who would bring fulfillment to her desires. Instead, when she looked on Christ she recognized the object of her desire. Her question to Christ was not “what can you do for me?” but, “what can I do for you?” She had a proper understanding of who Jesus Christ is – the Son of God and Lord of the Universe. And it is through this proper understanding and through her recognition of Christ as the object of her desire that she received the grace from God to endure her cruel martyrdom.
As Christians we too are called to recognize Christ in the way that St. Agatha did: as the One who is the object of our desire. In our pilgrimage of faith, though, we all begin at different points along the path of following Christ; some of us are closer to those in today’s Gospel and others are closer to St. Agatha. But unlike those in today’s Gospel, who may be excused for recognizing Christ incorrectly as merely the fulfillment of their desires, we must learn to always recognize Christ as did St. Agatha – the true Object of our desire and to whom we should only ask, “What can I do for you?”
Sermon for the Third Sunday after the Epiphany
January 21, 2018
We are currently in the midst of the Octave of Prayer for Christian Unity. This yearly prayer for the unification of all Christians is much more, though, than just a pious practice. Indeed, to pray and work towards the unification of all those who believe in Christ is our duty as Christians.
We begin each day in this octave of prayer by quoting the words of our Lord, “That they all may be one, as Thou, Father, in me and I in Thee; that they also may be one in Us; that the world may believe that Thou hast sent me.” I would say that through these words we should be able to see that Christ not only desires unity amongst His followers – He even demands it. Our unity is to be a sign to the world of the truth of the Gospel, so that all the people of the world may come to believe in and follow Jesus Christ as their Saviour.
Now while it is true that the unity Christ prayed for is a reality within the Church and will never be lost, we, the sinful creatures that we are, can – and do – continue to cause division amongst ourselves. And when we do this the people of the world see it, and it leads to their disbelief and rejection of the Truth. We need to understand that in these self-sustained divisions we are not just hurting ourselves, we are in addition leading others away from Christ. Christ came that all mankind might be brought to a saving knowledge of the Truth. He came that all people might come into communion with the divine life of the Trinity. It should therefore be a very sobering thought that our actions towards one another could keep someone off that path to God.
Now when we observe the actual state of all those who believe in Christ, what do we see? We see division upon division of Christians all over the world; even here at our own parish we can see division. This division causes our Lord pain and it should be painful for us as well, and especially during this Octave of Prayer. And while we may not be able to single-handedly heal all the rifts amongst Christians around the world, we can most certainly do what is necessary to heal the divisions within our own parish and begin to heal the division between this parish and the Archdiocese.
Over this past year we have suffered a great deal of trauma from circumstances we know all too well. This has caused anger and outrage for many of us. And while we may have a right to be upset about all that happened last year we do not have a right to hate.
In today’s Gospel our Lord says, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the Gospel.” This repentance of which He speaks is not just a turning away from doing wrong. Instead, it indicates a change of heart – a rejection of our fallen nature and a continual becoming more like Christ. And the only way that is possible is by conforming our wills to the will of God. But this will never be possible if we continue to hold onto hatred and refuse to forgive.
And yet, we continue to hang on to anger and unforgiveness in at least one form that I want to discuss today: that of grumbling and murmuring. To give this a name we might call it a spirit of discontent. Now in one sense I can understand this attitude. What happened last year to this parish caught us off guard. When something like that happens we can become defensive. And from that defensive position people can easily give in to the spirit of discontent. But truly we have nothing to be discontent about.
Through God’s grace and wonderful blessing, the Pope put this parish where it belonged – in the Ordinariate, which is what we as a parish were praying for by the way. As a result we’ve been blessed with a new bishop that understands and appreciates who we are as a parish; in addition, we have also received a new pastor. So there are three things that happened very close together: a new diocese, a new bishop, and a new pastor. Any one of these would lead to changes – changes that perhaps some of you don’t like. But these three things happened almost at once and so with it there have been many changes. But instead of a spirit of gratitude at God answering our prayer for entry into the Ordinariate, what do you suppose that I am hearing? “Well, I don’t like this or that. All these changes are ruining the parish.” This is the spirit of discontent and it comes from the evil one. Therefore, when we speak this way we are sinning.
The Church teaches that sin by itself injures the unity of the Church. How much more so when the sin is directed against our fellow Christian? And if our own personal sin leads to division in the Church, then why are we constantly blaming someone else as the source of all our perceived problems?
Christ has called us to unity, but that is only possible through love and forgiveness. In other words, we must be like Christ who from the Cross forgave those who crucified Him. And we must love others as He did by wanting what is best for all people, even those who hurt us, or do things we don’t agree with, and by putting their needs above our own.
In the Gospel today our Lord called Peter, Andrew, James, and John to follow Him. “Follow me,” as followers of Christ, these are words He addresses to us everyday. But to be a follower of Christ you must heed the words I’ve said today about rejecting the spirit of discontent, and about forgiveness and love. Our Lord calls you to follow Him. No one can answer the call for you, you must do it on your own.
Two men, William [W] and Thomas [T], are speaking to each other:
W – I tell you, things can't possibly be as you say. Just listen and I will explain.
T – But you cannot explain; for the two us to come to any agreement there would have to be common ground between us and if things are as you say, then that is not possible. And yet the fact we are having this conversation proves that it is.
W – Well now who's talking nonsense? What on earth do you mean?
T – First, let us get our facts straight. You've said that we cannot know the reality of things outside ourselves, correct?
W – No, that is not what I said.
T – Of course it is! You said that you can't be sure that an oak tree in Oxford is in any way similar to one in Italy.
W – Yes, I did say that.
T – If you can't know that they are similar in any way then how is it that you can refer to both of them as oak trees or as trees at all? If we cannot know there is anything similar about them then we can't know enough to even refer to them with the same word 'tree'. With this way of thinking all of reality begins to break down. What if the individual thing I am referring to with the word 'tree' is actually a cat and what you are referring to with the same word 'tree' is actually a butter knife? If this were the case then our conversation right now would be pure nonsense. And yet this is obviously not true because you do agree that our conversation right now is intelligible, right?
W – No, I don't.
T – ?!?
And thus William proves for us that Nominalists are schizophrenic; using words which truly represent something in reality while denying the existence of that very reality.
Today is my sixth anniversary of ordination to the priesthood. Interestingly, I came across the following quote in Transformation in Christ:
The question of whether I feel worthy to be called is beside the point; that God has called me is the one thing that matters.
Transformation in Christ, p. 168
Am I good enough or qualified enough to be a Catholic priest – nope. But as von Hildebrand has pointed out that is not the right question. The question for each and every one of us is this: what has God called me to do? First of all, He has called each and every one of us to salvation. This begins in Baptism and continues in a life lived in accordance with the teachings of Christ, which comes to us through the Holy Scriptures and the teachings of the Church.
But also we each have something specific to do in this life. Has God called all men to be priests? No, but He has called all people to something. Bl. John Henry Cardinal Newman explains it best:
God has called me to do Him some definite service; He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission – I may never know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next.
I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons. He has not created me for nothing. I shall do good, I shall do His work.
It seems to me that those who in this life do not know their mission simply haven't asked the question: what does God want me to do? They just go through life doing what they think 'has' to be done without thinking of the most important things – such as why are we here at all? God has called each of us to something, otherwise we wouldn't exist at all. I don't know what He has called you to do but I do know that He has called you. It is your job to find out.
Sermon for the Twenty-fourth Sunday after Trinity
November 15, 2015
The sun comes up in the east and it does so every day. Its rays wake up the sleepy world with every new morning and we go about the business of the day without a second thought. The sun comes up and goes down in an apparent never ending cycle. And the cyclical nature of this everyday occurrence makes us think it will go on this way forever.
And yet, science tells us that the sun is just a big ball of exploding gas, which will eventually run out of fuel. And even though this may not happen for another billion years we still know that it will happen. Perhaps we don’t worry about it because we know it will never affect us – that’s something for someone else to worry about.
Continuing on with this theme of the sun, listen again to the words of our Lord, “…in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light.” These words of our Lord are confirmed by modern science – which shouldn’t be surprising – eventually this world, and in fact the entire universe, will come to an end. It is true that we may not see the end of the world in our lifetime but the only reason for that is because we would be dead. So either death or the end of the world will come to each of us, and yet we continue on with our lives like Nero fiddling amongst the fires of Rome – just going about our business like nothing is happening. Why is it that we are so complacent when we know the end will come? Are we all just crazy like that ancient Roman dictator?
In order to understand this complacency within us – and to wake up to the need to overcome it – let us look for its explanation in our lives. To do this let us ask the following question: why do we live our lives as if life will never end? To answer this question let us consider the alternative to a life lived as if it will never end – its opposite would be an oversensitivity to the approaching end demonstrated by the person who lives every day in constant fear that the next moment will be his last. Some people do in fact become trapped in this way of thinking and it can be crippling to the point that you don’t even want to venture outside, much less go to work and have a normal life. Most people, though, don’t succumb to this because deep down we all really want to be happy. After all, God made us to be with Him forever in eternal bliss and so we are naturally drawn to what will make us happy.
As a result of not knowing when the end of our life will come and instead of living our day-to-day life in constant fear of the end, most of us try to go about our day as happily as we can. But as time continues to go on day after day we get comfortable in our various routines and eventually push out of our minds that the end will one day come. We do this because to think of such things is too much of an interruption in the little realms of false happiness that we have created for ourselves. And so we become complacent and think, “Everything is ok – there’s nothing to worry about. The sun will continue to come up in the east.”
In order to overcome this disordered way of thinking we must learn to transcend this transitory life so that we may see that this life does not go on indefinitely. The routine of our daily life can make us think that it will, but we must remember what our Lord tells us plainly today – “heaven and earth will pass away.” But then what is left for us? Are we to continually worry and fret that the next moment might be our last? No, not at all.
Eventually, the sun will set on this temporary life and it will not return. And both the forgetfulness of the coming end and the perpetual fear of it come from an inordinate focus on this world, as if this world is all there is. That is why it is crucial for us to always remember that our true home is not here – it is in heaven. To be with God forever is the true end for all of mankind – it is the reason He created us. And our Lord tells us today that when He returns “He will send out the angels, and gather His elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.” But to be part of that immortal elect we must choose to follow Him during this mortal life; in doing so we will be able to remain joyful in the day-to-day of our existence here on earth while also looking with anticipation towards the end when our Lord returns in glory.
October 8, 2015 – Thursday in the Eighteenth Week after Trinity
Readings: Malachi 3:13-4:2a; Luke 11:5-13
And I tell you, ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.
Luke 11:9, RSV-CE
Today’s Gospel reading must be read as a whole. Otherwise, “ask, and it will be given you” would be understood incorrectly. (For instance, I have asked for a Ferrari many times, but I still don’t have one.) In addition, if we do not read the entire passage we might think that if we persistently annoy God enough with our prayers then He will give us what we want, like the importunate friend in the Gospel.
On the other hand, persistence in prayer is necessary; not because our prayer changes God’s mind, but because it changes us. As St. John Vianney said, “Prayer is union with God.” However, our persistence must take the form of always seeking that which we truly need from God, with the understanding that all we need comes to us from Him. Far too often, though, we continue to ask for a stone, instead of the bread that God desires to give us. But, the more we become transformed into the image of Christ, the more natural it will become for us to ask for what is in accord with the will of God.
At the end of today’s Gospel, Jesus tells us that God will give to us His Holy Spirit. And God gives us the Spirit because, as St. Paul tells us, “we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us” (Romans 8:26b) and “the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” (Romans 8:27b)
So yes, ask and you will receive, but remember that you will receive based upon what you truly need, not what you think you need.
Today is the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, which is also known by the name Our Lady of Victory. This feast is a commemoration of the naval victory at the Battle of Lepanto of Catholic forces against Muslim forces on October 7, 1576. The Pope at the time, Pius V, had asked all Catholics to pray the Rosary for success in battle and therefore instituted the feast in honor of the victory.
The victory of this battle was decisive and halted the further expansion of Islamic Turks into the European side of the Mediterranean Sea. However, this battle has been over for a very long time. But there is another battle being waged right now in which we still need Mary’s prayers, and that is the battle for each of our souls.
In this battle for our soul from where does our ultimate victory come? It is from Christ because He is the one who has definitively defeated Satan. And those of us who have been baptized into Christ’s death and Resurrection can share with Him in His voctory, if we allow Him to work through us. And how do we cooperate with Him in this way? By saying, in union with our Blessed Mother, “let it be to me according to your word.”
Sermon for the Eighteenth Sunday after Trinity
The USCCB has designated today as ‘Respect Life Sunday’. To many people this may sound synonymous with bringing an end to abortion. But while ending legalized abortion is a major component of respecting life that is not all there is to it. Now it seems obvious to me that such a designation on this Sunday would not be necessary if our country did in fact respect life. But it does not. Quite the opposite is the actual case for what our country believes about human life. There are numerous words that we could use to describe how our society, especially those in power, view human life – they disparage it, denigrate it, despise and disregard it, and have the utmost contempt for it. In short, our society dis-respects life. And we all, to a greater or lesser extent, are guilty of this disrespect for human life. But in order to understand just how deep this disrespect for life goes in our society, we must first understand what it means to respect life. I would define the respect for life as having a due regard for the rights and dignity of all mankind, whether they be born or unborn. Therefore, if we have racist tendencies, thinking we are better than someone else on the basis of skin color, then we are showing disrespect for that person’s life. And while not everyone is a racist, I think this example can help us to see how each of us, even if we are pro-life, is susceptible to a disrespect for the life of others. Now I don’t want to sound as though I am trying to belittle the concern we should have about abortion – I am not. Instead, my purpose is to try to show that there is an underlying problem within our society that leads to at least a tacit acceptance of abortion by many people in our country.
It seems to me that everyone expects to be given the respect their life demands and so you would think that they would desire this same respect for all other human life. But we know that this is not the case and, therefore, must ask why? Why do people not respect the life of their fellow man? There are several things that lead to a disrespect for life. One major component in our lack of respect is a lack of thankfulness for the life we have been given by God. People often take life for granted; in other words, we do not question how we came to be. And because we gloss over that question of how we came to be, we never acknowledge that we did not create ourselves. But in our lives, we must pause and consider the world around us. Where did the universe and everything in it come from? Do we really believe that it is all just chance? Absolutely not! We believe that it is God who created everything, including ourselves, and we need to constantly remind ourselves of this fact and be thankful. It is this lack of thankfulness that exists in our society, though, that is linked to another reason for its disrespect for life, which is this: we do not consider what the ultimate meaning of our life is.
Going back to the first point, if we never consider where it is that we came from, then we will never ask the next logical question: where are we going? Our Lord, and His Church, teaches us that our end, our telos, the reason for our existence is to be with God forever. Out of His infinite love God created mankind in order to be with Him in an everlasting communion of love. And even after mankind sinned, God sent His Son as the expiation for our sins in order to reestablish that communion of love with us. But if we take our life for granted then we will never see beyond this world and into the next. In fact, it would be impossible to do so. And if this world is all we can see then we will start to believe what the world and the devil would have us believe about our life – that we are just a collection of atoms with no ultimate purpose or meaning.
And yet, everyone desires for their life to mean something. And so we try to fill that void by getting as much as we can for ourselves. After all, if we are just a collection of atoms with nothing special about us, then that means that there is nothing special about anyone else. And then we come to view others as obstacles that are just in the way of obtaining the things we think we have a right to possess. And it is this selfishness that has led us to where we are now – over 40 years of sacrificing the unborn so that we can get the things that we want! In regards to this plague of abortion many people have been shocked in the last several months by the undercover videos about Planned Parenthood selling body parts. But I ask this – why are we shocked?! The purpose of that organization has always been to make money from the destruction of human life so why are we surprised that they have found new ways to make money off of it? The real thing that we should be surprised at is the fact that legalized abortion still exists! But we have become numb to the fact that abortion exists and therefore tacitly accept it. But we can do this no longer.
In order to overcome this we must come to an understanding that we all, born and unborn, are much more than just the sum of our parts. If we were the sum of our parts, then we could take the appropriate ratios of elements that make up the human body, put it in a blender and push puree – and voila you would have a new human. But that is not possible because there is a source of life underlying all those parts. Consider, for instance, what happens when someone dies – the body starts to decay. And the reason that the body starts to decay is because there is no longer any unifying principle within the body. In other words, the life has gone out of the body. And this unifying principle that brings life to the body is what we call the soul.
When a man and woman come together in bringing forth new life, they contribute the genetic material necessary for a new, unique person. But that which gives life to the new body – the soul – comes from God. Therefore, if on this Sunday we want to begin to truly respect life – that being to give our due regard for the rights and dignity of all people both born and unborn – then we must remember where life comes from and be thankful.
You are the salt of the earth. What do these words imply? Did the disciples restore what had already turned rotten? Not at all. Salt cannot help what is already corrupted. That is not what they did. But what had first been renewed and freed from corruption and then turned over to them, they salted and preserved in the newness the Lord had bestowed. It took the power of Christ to free men from the corruption caused by sin; it was the task of the apostles through strenuous labour to keep that corruption from returning.
From a homily on Matthew by St. John Chrysostom
In this section from yesterday’s Office of Readings, St. Chrysostom is quoting our Lord from the Sermon on the Mount: “You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltness be restored?” (Matthew 5:13, RSV-CE). One interpretation I have heard of this passage is that it means we, as Christians, are supposed to add ‘flavor’ to the society in which we live. While this seems like a questionable understanding to me, there may be some truth in it. But there is a problem – if we are flavoring a society that is already rotten then it is not going to taste any better. Therefore, it seems to me that St. Chrysostom’s interpretation – of salt as a preservative of that which is good – is a better understanding of what our Lord is trying to convey.
Before we continue we must deal with an obvious question: is our society rotten? There are many who would say that we, as a nation, are actually on the right path because now there is marriage ‘equality’, gender sensitiveness (evidenced by the acceptance of Bruce Jenner’s ‘new identity’), and other re-interpretations of moral norms. Those in favor of these things would tell us that truth is what we make it: the sky is blue only because I call it blue and I can just as easily call it orange. But just calling it by a different name does not make it so and common sense, which is not so common anymore, tells us that this is true. Maybe this is wishful thinking, but I think that a majority of people still have common sense. And if they were asked to take a critical look at the moral degradation of our society over the last 50 years or so, then they would have to agree that our society has indeed become rotten – in the least, parts of it have become so.
So, what do we do? Is there a way to fix our society as a whole? I suppose if we had an absolute monarchy with a moral and just leader then he could do away with all laws that are immoral and unjust. But we would still be faced with the problem of what to do with those people in our society who still believe in that which is immoral and unjust because they think it is a good thing: such as abortion or ‘marriage equality’. The number of people who truly believe in these things as good is considerable and just enacting proper laws is not going to change their mind. And so we would still be left with a cancer in our society – a cancer of a wrong understanding of mankind. And unless the cancer is cured our society will never be healthy. Instead, the cancer will continue to bring with it a certain amount rottenness to the whole of our society.
This brings us back to the quote from St. Chrysostom. Salt does not turn that which is rotten into something edible. And in a similar manner, just having Christians in a rotten society does not make that society healthy. But there is something, or rather Someone, who can bring healing to the individual members of our society: Jesus Christ. Notice that I say ‘individuals’. Even if we conformed all laws in this country to the teachings of the Church it would not be the same as bringing all the members of our society to Christ. Usually, when something is rotten there is nothing that can be done except to throw it away. But because of what Jesus Christ has done for us even the most rotten person can be renewed and made whole. And it is one of the duties of those who believe to tell the non-believer about Christ and to try to help them see the Truth.