(1) The Early Christian Social Experiment and (2) Reluctant Belief

04/18/2015

Two very separate thoughts about Saturday’s Easter weekday readings.

As the number of disciples continued to grow, the Hellenists complained against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. – Acts 6:1

Last weekend, we learned of the great social experiment of having “everything in common,” with all believers not claiming ownership to any possessions as their own and “distribut(ing) to each according to need.”

Today, we see why this type of social/communal arrangement works in theory only. It may work in heaven.

(I have my doubts that it ‘works’ even in heaven, but let’s leave that for another commentary.)

It appears that some of the widows were… shall we say, treated as being a little less equal than others. Depending on whose interpretation of this scripture passage you read, more work was expected of the Hellenistic Jews than the native Hebrews, or the Hellenistic Jews were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food, or perhaps more likely, a combination of both.

The Apostles dealt with it and empowered seven men to help make it work. But the greatest lesson is that, even among the community of believers, there was a problem with executing this equal distribution of goods.

Human beings have attempted — for tens of centuries — to distribute equally to each according to their need. And there’s always a problem with it. Why? What? How?

Human beings get in the way.

Human emotion. Prejudice. Discrimination. Judgment. Envy. Dishonesty.

The list is endless.

It is because we are human that this type of system cannot work. On earth and (maybe not) in heaven. (Although the rules up there would be markedly different, n’est-ce pas?)

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When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they began to be afraid. – John 6:19

Jesus had just fed the five thousand. He knew people would come to “make him king by force,” which of course was contrary to his mission. So he withdrew, away from the crowds.

Left to their own devices, what were the apostles supposed to do? They did what they knew best. They went fishing.

But they picked the wrong night. The seas were rough. The miracle worker wasn’t there to help them out of the rough waters.

Or so they thought.

Remember, at this time, Jesus had not risen from the dead. He was performing astonishing works in front of their disbelieving eyes. Just hours before, he fed thousands of people when all the apostles were able to rustle up were a few handfuls of food.

And now, caught in the middle of a storm, came this man, walking on the water!

What would you have thought?

What would your senses and human intellect have told you?

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Thanks for taking some of your precious time today to read my thoughts. My intention, beginning Friday, April 17, 2015, is to post a brief, daily meditation based on the readings from the day’s Catholic liturgy. Well, I didn’t even make it through Day Two without a slip-up. The excerpts are from Saturday, April 18, 2015, and I’m backdating my post. I would appreciate your help and encouragement. This is something I’ve been called to do for some time. I’m finally embracing it. Forgive me for procrastinating, Father. On this post and on getting my thoughts out to the world.

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Mass For Life and Cat Boxes

01/22/2015

Where do you find your inspiration? In the shower? Just before drifting off to Never Never Land? (“Where’s my pen????”) On the morning commute?

The older I get, the more ‘things’ happen to me and around me, the more I realize that if I prayed 24 hours a day, that wouldn’t be enough. But certainly not practical.

Also makes me contemplate the truth about Practicality.

So, being the practical sort of guy I am, I look for ways to fit more prayer into my daily routine.


Don’t pray enough? What times in your day lend themselves to prayer? Brushing teeth? Dishes? Cat boxes? Tinkling?


There are not many chores more humbling than cleaning pet excrement, whether it’s shovel and bucket in the back yard or scrubbing caked kitty clay off the tile floor.

The only dogs in my life are canine cousins and granddogs (is that a word? Caution! “Dave-ism!”)

This dog lover is now one cat short of becoming a crazy cat lady. With seven cats, cleanup is a real chore. And lends itself to extended prayer time.

Speaking of humbling, it doesn’t get much more so than kneeling on the cold basement floor, litter dust wafting amidst the oxygen molecules, beads of sweat dripping to the floor, hoping the clay doesn’t find its way underneath fingernails while scrubbing the floor.

It’s a perfect time to pray.

While I’m partial to spending that time listening to recorded versions of the Rosary and the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, today’s routine was unusual.

I’m normally up at 4 AM on weekdays, ready to leave the house by 5:30 to either see my first client or humiliate myself on the racquetball court at LA Fitness. Thursday is normally racquetball day.

https://i2.wp.com/www.lafitness.com/Pages/images/slide-img/Image-Rotator-21L.jpg

Today, one of our opponents was out of town and the other down with an injury, so my partner and I decided to cancel. I needed to catch up on sleep, so I took advantage, slept in until 6. Today was going to be an office day, all day.

I managed to stay out of Kathy’s way (mostly) as she prepared for work and left by 6:20. Got the cats fed listening to and saying the Rosary and Chaplet, feverishly trying to remember everyone I promised to pray for, leaving the rest in God’s hands.

Daily Mass is normally aired at 7 AM, so I planned to listen as I trudged downstairs to tackle the cat boxes.

I forgot that today is the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. I forgot that today is the March for Life in Washington, DC. Mass broadcast began at 6:30. It was celebrated at the National Basilica in Washington in conjunction with prayers for Life and recognition of the day.

So I picked up the Mass in the middle of the homily.

My pro-life conviction has solidified as my prayer life has intensified. I heard the words of the Archbishop. I scooped and scrubbed and cleaned. I got lost in the words, the prayers…

When I think about our attitude toward abortion, I often think about the Jews rounded up by the Nazis and summarily murdered and tortured. Hundreds of thousands were fully capable adults. But age didn’t matter. Young and strong, old and frail, all were subject to their captors’ cruelty. The prisoners were helpless because of overwhelming force.

Who is more captive, more frail, more vulnerable, than an unborn child?

How can we treat them so callously? How can we not care? How can we not defend and protect them? How are they any different than any other abused infant? To the former, we (as a society) argue for choice and reason. To the latter, we act as prosecutor, judge, and jury, and our reaction to the abuse is often rage.

What’s the difference?

Mass ended. EWTN then began broadcast coverage of the March for Life.

On my hands and knees, I listened to stories of women who had experienced abortion. I heard how science now provides evidence that a 20-week fetus feels pain. I listened to young men and women share their reasons for attending, about their lack of sleep, and how the cause was so much larger than the inconvenience. I heard a report from the Chicago March for Life from Sunday, January 18.

I thought about the countless children who would never be born. Who were never permitted to breathe fresh air, hear and feel the crunch of snow, taste ice cream, smell fresh cut grass. I thought about the women who never became their mothers. The painful agony of regret that will plague them to the grave. Who will never hear their baby’s cry. Or laughter. Or first word. Or “Mama, I love you.”

I heard from three women who were born because their mothers were raped.

I heard from a doctor who was an abortionist until his young daughter was killed in an auto accident.

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I thought about my sister’s stillborn baby.

Why do we consider that beyond tragic, but we don’t believe it’s tragic when a woman (or man or parents or other “concerned loved ones” who influence her decision) chooses — willfully, knowingly — to “terminate” a life, but rather argue that she is making a rational and acceptable decision?

What are we doing? When will it stop?

I’m compelled to say a whole lot more about this. In the weeks and months ahead, you can count on it. And that may not to win me many friends. So be it.

20150122_195611[1]Sometimes, you have to embrace the excrement.

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If you’re considering an abortion:

pregnancyline.com

www.ewtn.com/prolife

http://hopeafterabortion.com/

http://rachelsvineyard.org/

 


Would You Die For What You Believe In?

01/16/2015

Would you die for what you believed?

Could you?

I’ve told you before that I listen to at least a portion of the Mass on EWTN almost every day (TV when I can and radio when I’m on the road). Today, I listened on the radio as I drove to my next appointment.

Today is a feast day for the Franciscans, honoring five early followers of Saint Francis who martyred themselves instead of renouncing their faith.  Father Leonard Mary celebrated Mass today. He used his homily to give a brief history of the martyrs and how they were tempted by their captors before being killed. Father Leonard then mentioned something called White Martyrdom. White Martyrdom is not a physical death, he explained, but a dying to oneself.

The comparison was clear. How can we martyr ourselves in our everyday lives?

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Later this morning, sitting in Panera before my next personal training session, I overheard a gentleman telling his companion how Catholics had … oh… let’s call it, “a damaging way” of looking at sin, and how sharing that perspective with others is harmful to the way other people live their lives.

What?!?

I couldn’t get my headphones shoved into my ears fast enough. I needed music. Loud music. I didn’t want to listen to what this man was saying, kind and soft-spoken though he was. Despite his demeanor, his opinion — at least on this matter — didn’t strike me as kind and gentle, but rather reckless and damaging. I wasn’t angry, but I was upset at what I perceived as some egregious misconceptions.

I was trading text messages with my son, Stephen, at the time that I happened to overhear this conversation. I fired off a text message to him, expressing my exasperation over what I heard.

After I sent it, I decided that my words were so clever, I had to post them to Facebook.

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I’m a member of a small, Christian Facebook group whose purpose is to “uplift and encourage (others) through the Gospel of Christ” (that’s a paraphrase of the mission statement). Today, the founder of the group, Mariane, continued and concluded a series of reflections on moving “from darkness to light:”

“I wish that we were all full of light and love and good works always. But no, we’re still sinners, imperfect, we’re still influenced by our flesh, the world and the voice of Satan…

“… there is the aspect of free will. We need to say YES to Jesus and God’s will and say no to the devil and our flesh every day. We need to die in our flesh every day (1 Cor 15:31).”

I read Mariane’s words just after my “clever” text to Stephen. Before I almost posted my “clever” words to my Facebook page.

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I briefly thought about speaking up. But what would I have said? Would my “clever” words to the gentleman have been constructive? Or provocative? Would I have properly seized the moment, as Saint Paul preached, and attempted to “walk into the light?” Or would my response, in that awkward, uncomfortable moment, have demonstrated to the world that I have not — yet again — died to the flesh?

Shoving the earbuds against my skull proved to be the more prudent, if only merely accidental, course of action.

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Father Leonard is right. White Martyrdom is possible. Any day. Every day.

Consider how challenging it is to die to the flesh at any given moment.

Then contemplate the lives — and deaths — of those who make the ultimate Earthly sacrifice.


Sleeping Late, Feeding the Cats, Sin, and Love

01/10/2015

I feel so sorry for our poor cats. Weekends are a real crapshoot. During the week, they’re used to eating between 5:15 and 5:30 in the morning.

Last night, I watched the nightmare from Edmonton others would refer to as a hockey game. It wasn’t over until 11:30 or so.

(Well, some would argue it was over long before that…)

I cannot just turn off the television after watching the Blackhawks play – especially when they lose so decisively – meander into the bedroom, plop myself down, and fall peacefully to sleep. No. There’s a certain ‘unwind time’ necessary for this hysterically casual observer.

Plus, there’s always some reason to sneak into wake up every cat as I walk into the kitchen, even it’s only to shut off the lights over the sink and stove.

Well… last night was no exception. Lady Jay led the charge, looking at me hopefully with those sad green eyes, groaning a raspy meow. Did I bother to give her a morsel of food? HAH! Not me! Their unthoughtful Daddy squeezed his way through the feline masses and left them all on the edge of starvation.

Despite the fact that multiple bowls of dry food were a mere inches (okay, okay… a couple of feet) away.

Before dawn, I woke up, got up to check the clock. 6:30. Fleeting thoughts of staying up and starting the day crossed my mind.

Naw. Too many nights of four and five hour sleep this week laid their grip on me. I crawled back under the covers.

Two hours later, the sun – which actually decided to make a brief appearance this morning – nailed me straight in the eyes. I stirred and made an effort to get out of bed. That woke Kathy, who looked at the clock (I can’t see more than a foot in front of me without my contacts or glasses) and remarked at how nice it was that we both slept until 8:30.

EIGHT THIRTY?!?

Half my morning was over! Forget the cats, I’m usually either done with my second breakfast or desperately seeking the nearest morsel of food by 8:30.

I was definitely “behind my time,” to quote Bob Cratchit. And the cats knew it.

Part of my morning ritual is to pray. That usually occurs, in part, while I’m feeding my little babies.

Weekends are a little different. EWTN is a Catholic television network. Morning Mass is generally offered every morning at 7:00. I try to watch the Mass both Saturday and Sunday.

Before I went to bed, I changed the channel to Comcast 119. In the morning, I could either watch live or rewind and watch later. EWTN broadcasts in low definition digital, not HD, so you can rewind the DVR for a couple of hours without formally recording the program, versus the 30 minutes of live TV that’s ordinarily captured from the typical DVR.

Fr. Wade Menezes of the Fathers of Divine Mercy has been saying Mass all week while the Franciscan Friars of the Eternal Word were on retreat.

Fr. Wade gives a most powerful homily, or sermon. He is blunt, direct, matter of fact.. he quotes scripture or the Catechism and tells it like it is. He pulls no punches. But make no mistake, he is a delightful human being.

Today’s first reading was the end of the First Letter of St. John. In his homily, Fr. Wade discussed John’s emphasis on love in his first epistle. He discussed how the Ten Commandments emphasize love of God (the first three commandments) and love of neighbor (the final seven commandments). He examined sin and its relationship to the love of God. He discussed the differences between mortal and venial sin and the benefits of frequent reception of the sacrament of confession.

Certain thoughts resonated:

  • Sin destroys or wounds love, our love for God and love between human beings.
  • Sin injures man and wounds human solidarity.
  • Frequent confession increases one’s humility, tends to help control bad habits, and leads to greater self control in daily living.

When Fr. Wade said that both venial and mortal sins can be forgiven by confession, it made me cry. It made me realize the overwhelming love of God for each and every one of us.

At the beginning of Mass, the people participate in a Penitential Rite, a form of contrition for our sins. One of the optional prayers begins “I confess to almighty God, and to you my brothers and sisters, that I have greatly sinned…”

And then I spontaneously blurted “sometimes I like to, sometimes I want to, and sometimes I can’t help myself.”

And that’s precisely why frequent confession is so essential. We sin all the time. All day every day. It’s part of the human condition.

Does that mean we are bad? No. It simply means we are human. We are not God or gods. We are poor sinners. Sinners who need the mercy of our loving God. To repair our relationship with love.

So as I listened and performed my weekend morning ritual, I finally finished repairing my relationship with the cats. They got their food around 9:20. Yeah, I tend to get distracted.

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Learn more about Father Wade at http://fathersofmercy.com/priests/fr-wade-menezes/ and more archives of his work at http://fathersofmercy.com/author/fr-wade-menezes/


EWTN as “Bad For Catholics?”

09/04/2014

I was alerted to criticism of EWTN ( Eternal Word Television Network) yesterday. EWTN is a Catholic television and radio network. A gentleman named Michael Voris, who posts to YouTube under the name ChurchMilitantTV, took the network to task for being too liberal, too Modernist, since forcing Mother Angelica to the sidelines years ago.

I was stunned. I had never heard anything that remotely suggested this.

That led me down a path of discovery this morning and to some websites that were totally off my radar. I was stunned to view and read about EWTN as “whitewashed,” “sanitized,” “Modernist (or maybe more accurately ‘post-Modernist’),” etc., and how Mother Angelica was systematically forced from leadership and control of the network.

I’m not a holy roller. I’m a casual student of the Church, more for my own spiritual growth, that of my children and my family. But I think I have at least a rudimentary handle on what God wants us to do.

I think I remember an epistle verse something along the lines of “if they’re with Christ, they’re with us.” That’s an absolutely horrible paraphrase, but like I said, I’m not a Church scholar!

I’ve watched and listened to many of the regular shows on EWTN. Just read a follow-up comment on a blog post criticizing the show Crossing The Goal, just to pick an example. I’ve watched the show. Not one of my favorites, but if it brings one man closer to Christ, isn’t it worthwhile? The Journey Home, in which host Marcus Grodi, himself a convert to Catholicism, interviews a guest about their journey to — or back to — the Catholic faith, is a magnificent show!

I watch and listen to EWTN every single day. I rediscovered it four or five years ago. It’s been a fixture in my life ever since. With the accessibility of listening to EWTN Radio or now even watching EWTN TV on my phone, there’s no excuse in the world for not making prayer and God a part of every day and being able to focus my thoughts or prayers or study in a specific way. At least for me.

I awake to the Chaplet of Divine Mercy Monday through Friday and I try to watch or listen to at least a portion of the Mass daily if I cannot physically make it to church (which is most days because of my schedule). What a wonderful resource for the average Catholic who isn’t going to spend more than an hour or two in prayer or even simply contemplating their faith. And how many of us, really, are doing that on anything close to a daily basis?

Not once have I thought of EWTN as “bad television” or “sanitized.” I have never caught them in a “liberal” moment. I have specifically heard them cover, discuss, and yes, even criticize some of the liberal movements within the Church. The National Catholic Register (newspaper) seems to take on liberal issues without much problem. Aren’t they wholly owned by EWTN?

The average Catholic, who is already (and still) struggling with the language of the new Missal, is looking for faith answers, for meaning in their own pathetic existence. For me, life is enough of a struggle. I believe in my heart of hearts that the Roman Catholic faith is the true faith as handed down by Jesus Chris through Saint Peter and all the succeeding popes. Hundreds of millions of Christians don’t agree with me.

Should I criticize them for being wrong? What good purpose would that serve?

I know I should go back and correct my previous observation, but I liked the way I said it. You know, the ‘epistle’ that says “if they’re with Christ, they’re with us.” Well, it’s not an epistle. It’s Mark’s Gospel. Jesus says to John (Mark 9:40) “For whoever is not against us is for us.”

Let’s continue to educate and debate one another. Let’s continue to passionately persuade. But let’s not waste time criticizing whatever is clearly not contrary to our own understanding of Truth.

As for me, I will always believe that God is pure Love and pure Mercy. We’re going to screw up just about every second of every day. But if we humbly, earnestly, honestly, passionately plead for forgiveness, let’s not “despair, nor become despondent, but with great confidence, submit ourselves to (God’s) holy will.”

Okay?


“A Psalm of Life”

01/19/2013

Art is long, and Time is fleeting,

And our hearts, though stout and brave,

Still, like muffled drums, are beating

Funeral marches to the grave.

In the world’s broad field of battle,

In the bivouac of Life,

Be not like dumb, driven cattle!

Be a hero in the strife!

Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant!

Let the dead Past bury its dead!

Act, — act in the living Present!

Heart within, and God o’erhead!

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, “A Psalm of Life”


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