Saturday, December 31, 2011

Details

Still chugging along at the Bible in a Year program.  I'm actually behind, but I blame the surgery.  And the holidays.  And a small bit of distraction perhaps.  I've been reading two sections a day to catch up.  In any event, I am now in Exodus.  You may recall a version of Exodus made in 1956.  There are some critical differences between the movie and the Bible, but one of the ones you might be thankful for was the lack of detail.

The book of Exodus has a lot of detail.  How to make the Tabernacle.  How to make the priestly vestments.  How do do this and how to do that.  And it is all from God, so it is very important.  One could read it and just assume it was the "fluff" God used to fill out the middle of the story, or we could remember that everything God does and says has a purpose.  God put the details in there on purpose.

I've copied the entirety of Chapter 27 of Exodus below, but let's look first forward to Leviticus 10.  In this chapter, two of Aaron's sons get the details wrong.  Perhaps they thought it was just "fluff" as well, or maybe they just messed up, but in any event, it didn't go well.  And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his censer, and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the LORD, which he commanded them not. And there went out fire from the LORD, and devoured them, and they died before the LORD. (Lev 10:1-2)

Now we get a lot more grace than that, but we must remember that God really does care about the details.  He isn't suggesting we get around to His way of thinking when it is convenient and do it in a manner that meets our needs and wants.

Here's an example from Exodus on the details:
And thou shalt make an altar of shittim wood, five cubits long, and five cubits broad; the altar shall be foursquare: and the height thereof shall be three cubits. And thou shalt make the horns of it upon the four corners thereof: his horns shall be of the same: and thou shalt overlay it with brass. And thou shalt make his pans to receive his ashes, and his shovels, and his basons, and his fleshhooks, and his firepans: all the vessels thereof thou shalt make of brass. And thou shalt make for it a grate of network of brass; and upon the net shalt thou make four brasen rings in the four corners thereof. And thou shalt put it under the compass of the altar beneath, that the net may be even to the midst of the altar. And thou shalt make staves for the altar, staves of shittim wood, and overlay them with brass. And the staves shall be put into the rings, and the staves shall be upon the two sides of the altar, to bear it. Hollow with boards shalt thou make it: as it was shewed thee in the mount, so shall they make it.

And thou shalt make the court of the tabernacle: for the south side southward there shall be hangings for the court of fine twined linen of an hundred cubits long for one side: And the twenty pillars thereof and their twenty sockets shall be of brass; the hooks of the pillars and their fillets shall be of silver. And likewise for the north side in length there shall be hangings of an hundred cubits long, and his twenty pillars and their twenty sockets of brass; the hooks of the pillars and their fillets of silver. And for the breadth of the court on the west side shall be hangings of fifty cubits: their pillars ten, and their sockets ten. And the breadth of the court on the east side eastward shall be fifty cubits. The hangings of one side of the gate shall be fifteen cubits: their pillars three, and their sockets three. And on the other side shall be hangings fifteen cubits: their pillars three, and their sockets three. And for the gate of the court shall be an hanging of twenty cubits, of blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen, wrought with needlework: and their pillars shall be four, and their sockets four. All the pillars round about the court shall be filleted with silver; their hooks shall be of silver, and their sockets of brass. The length of the court shall be an hundred cubits, and the breadth fifty every where, and the height five cubits of fine twined linen, and their sockets of brass. All the vessels of the tabernacle in all the service thereof, and all the pins thereof, and all the pins of the court, shall be of brass.

And thou shalt command the children of Israel, that they bring thee pure oil olive beaten for the light, to cause the lamp to burn always. In the tabernacle of the congregation without the vail, which is before the testimony, Aaron and his sons shall order it from evening to morning before the LORD: it shall be a statute for ever unto their generations on the behalf of the children of Israel.
(Exo 27:1-21)

Friday, December 30, 2011

Sirach 5

Sir 5:10  Be not anxious for goods unjustly gotten: for they shall not profit thee in the day of calamity and revenge.
Sir 5:11  Winnow not with every wind, and go not into every way: for so is every sinner proved by a double tongue.
Sir 5:12  Be steadfast in the way of the Lord, and in the truth of thy judgment, and in knowledge, and let the word of peace and justice keep with thee.
Sir 5:13  Be meek to hear the word, that thou mayst understand: and return a true answer with wisdom.
Sir 5:14  If thou have understanding, answer thy neighbour: but if not, let thy hand be upon thy mouth, lest thou be surprised in an unskilful word, and be confounded.
Sir 5:15  Honour and glory is in the word of the wise, but the tongue of the fool is his ruin.
Sir 5:16  Be not called a whisperer, and be not taken in thy tongue, and confounded.
Sir 5:17  For confusion and repentance is upon a thief, and an evil mark of disgrace upon the double tongued, but to the whisperer hatred, and enmity, and reproach.
Sir 5:18  Justify alike the small and the great. 


Sometimes I think if I could remember even a few verses from the Bible for more than the time it takes to read them, the day would go a lot better.  All of this makes perfect sense now, but some time when I'm standing there and thinking about saying something I shouldn't or being hasty in my talk in general, I won't remember.  All I can do is to continue to pray, read, and practice! 

Kindle Again

Almost 2012!  That means we have 12ish months to the Mayan apocalypse.  Or 6-8 months to the solar storms that may kill us all!  One just never knows what 2012 may bring.

Today though, I have more clippings from my Kindle.

Here's a book I'm now not sure I finished, though I liked it, The Spirit of the Liturgy .  By Pope Benedict, this is really, really good stuff.
The narrative of the golden calf is a warning about any kind of self-initiated and self-seeking worship. Ultimately, it is no longer concerned with God but with giving oneself a nice little alternative world, manufactured from one’s own resources.

I also read The Great Divorce (quite reasonably priced on the Kindle at Amazon I might say).  I love CS Lewis.  This is an odd work that I can't really explain, but I found it interesting and several quotes stood out for me.  Below, he's talking about if our wrong beliefs can be excused if they are sincere.
Of course. Having allowed oneself to drift, unresisting, unpraying, accepting every half-conscious solicitation from our desires, we reached a point where we no longer believed the Faith. Just in the same way, a jealous man, drifting and unresisting, reaches a point at which he believes lies about his best friend: a drunkard reaches a point at which (for the moment) he actually believes that another glass will do him no harm. The beliefs are sincere in the sense that they do occur as psychological events in the man’s mind. If that’s what you mean by sincerity they are sincere, and so were ours. But errors which are sincere in that sense are not innocent.
Here's another.  It plays on one of the ideas in the book that Heaven is the only true reality.
The choice of every lost soul can be expressed in the words “Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven.” There is always something they insist on keeping even at the price of misery. There is always something they prefer to joy—that is, to reality.
Here's a nice one on where our focus should lie.
There have been men before now who got so interested in proving the existence of God that they came to care nothing for God Himself…as if the good Lord had nothing to do but exist! There have been some who were so occupied in spreading Christianity that they never gave a thought to Christ.
On the dangers of worshiping anything other than God, even including the good things God gives us:
There is but one good; that is God. Everything else is good when it looks to Him and bad when it turns from Him. And the higher and mightier it is in the natural order, the more demoniac it will be if it rebels. It’s not out of bad mice or bad fleas you make demons, but out of bad archangels. The false religion of lust is baser than the false religion of mother-love or patriotism or art: but lust is less likely to be made into a religion.

My favorite, though the most disturbing...
There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, in the end, “Thy will be done.” All that are in Hell, choose it.
The awesomeness of Heaven compared to Hell
And yet all loneliness, angers, hatreds, envies and itchings that [Hell] contains, if rolled into one single experience and put into the scale against the least moment of the joy that is felt by the least in Heaven, would have no weight that could be registered at all. Bad cannot succeed even in being bad as truly as good is good.


One I've started but haven't finished is the Introduction to the Devout Life by St Frances de Sales.  One of the questions is if one has to withdraw from the world or go into full time ministry to fully embrace the Christian life.  He notes that we must do what we're called to do, where we're called to do it, and forcing ourselves into some other state may be disastrous for us.
S. Gregory dwells on how Lot, who had kept himself pure in the city, fell in his mountain solitude. Be sure that wheresoever our lot is cast we may and must aim at the perfect life.


I'm in the midst of The Problem of Pain, also by Lewis.  The first few chapters were hard to read and understand, but it really picks up about a quarter of the way into the book.
If even a pebble lies where I want it to lie, it cannot, except by a coincidence, be where you want it to lie. And this is very far from being an evil: on the contrary, it furnishes occasion for all those acts of courtesy, respect, and unselfishness by which love and good humour and modesty express themselves. But it certainly leaves the way open to a great evil, that of competition and hostility. And if souls are free, they cannot be prevented from dealing with the problem by competition instead of courtesy. And once they have advanced to actual hostility, they can then exploit the fixed nature of matter to hurt one another.

We want, in fact, not so much a Father in Heaven as a grandfather in heaven—a senile benevolence who, as they say, ‘liked to see young people enjoying themselves’, and whose plan for the universe was simply that it might be truly said at the end of each day, ‘a good time was had by all’...I do not claim to be an exception: I should very much like to live in a universe which was governed on such lines. But since it is abundantly clear that I don’t, and since I have reason to believe, nevertheless, that God is Love, I conclude that my conception of love needs correction.

The great spirit you so lightly invoked, the ‘lord of terrible aspect’, is present: not a senile benevolence that drowsily wishes you to be happy in your own way, not the cold philanthropy of a conscientious magistrate, nor the care of a host who feels responsible for the comfort of his guests, but the consuming fire Himself, the Love that made the worlds, persistent as the artist’s love for his work and despotic as a man’s love for a dog, provident and venerable as a father’s love for a child, jealous, inexorable, exacting as love between the sexes.

The problem of reconciling human suffering with the existence of a God who loves, is only insoluble so long as we attach a trivial meaning to the word ‘love’, and look on things as if man were the centre of them.


Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Sign of the Cross

The other day a friend and I were talking about people who make the sign of the cross as a joke as part of normal conversation.  It has been on my mind since, and I've put some thought into why it might be bothersome.

If you've not seen it, it is hard to describe, but normally it comes about if they are "blessing" the activity of someone else or indicating someone has "blessed" something they are doing.  Instead of saying "He said it was okay," they might say, "He said it was okay" and make a sign of the cross in front of them. 

This confuses me.  Oddly, it offends my friend, and she's not even Catholic.  I'm not offended unless the person is obviously intending it to be a mockery of the Catholic faith, as opposed to something stupid someone does to be funny.  I can usually tell.  Regardless, I never find humor in it.

By the year 200, we have writings showing that Christians were using the sign of the cross.  We use it now for blessings, as part of prayer, in baptism, and at other points for other reasons.  Catholics use it a lot.  It isn't just employed by Catholics, the same article notes Protestant denominations that use it.  Some do it somewhat differently, and the Orthodox church goes "backwards" from what I'm used to.  In any event, it is still used by a significant portion of the world's population to denote something holy, as opposed to something funny.

A fast Google search reveals not much in the way of official reason why not all Christians retain use of this physical form of prayer.  Most note it was dropped after the Reformation because it was "Catholic," and I could see that.  I think both sides of the aisle probably dropped things that were associated with the other, for good or ill.  Some may also think it could be used by the superstitious, which is also true, but just like all things it can be thought of wrongly or correctly.  In any event, many other Christians do not use it.  One might theorize a grand scheme by which those who don't use it as prayer use it to mock those who do, and perhaps a few might, but that doesn't seem to be the norm.

I find its use in jokes to be odd on many levels.  First of all, it is a tradition that dates back to at least 200.  They were probably using it before then, but they didn't write it down.  This is what the early church was doing, so even if we choose to stop doing it, I'm not sure mocking it is particularly useful.

Second, many use it during baptism or use it while saying what most people say during baptism, "In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit."  That's kind of an important phrase.  Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: (Mat 28:19).  Whatever we think about baptism, most Christians don't mock it.  Also, it involves the CROSS, which no Christian should mock.




I don't personally find it funny, though I am not offended usually.  When I make the sign of the cross, I am reminded of my own baptism and also that I am set apart for the Lord.  While I find peace and happiness in that, I don't think it appropriate for use in the mundane jokes one might make.  At best, it seems akin to making fun of the way someone else prays.  That's just not really funny.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Sirach 5

Sir 5:1  Set not thy heart upon unjust possessions, and say not: I have enough to live on: for it shall be of no service in the time of vengeance and darkness.
Sir 5:2  Follow not in thy strength the desires of thy heart:
Sir 5:3  And say not: How mighty am I? and who shall bring me under for my deeds? for God will surely take revenge.
Sir 5:4  Say not: I have sinned, and what harm hath befallen me? for the most High is a patient rewarder.
Sir 5:5  Be not without fear about sin forgiven, and add not sin upon sin:
Sir 5:6  And say not: The mercy of the Lord is great, he will have mercy on the multitude of my sins.
Sir 5:7  For mercy and wrath quickly come from him, and his wrath looketh upon sinners.
Sir 5:8  Delay not to be converted to the Lord, and defer it not from day to day.
Sir 5:9  For his wrath shall come on a sudden, and in the time of vengeance he will destroy thee. 


In summary, we're not as awesome as God.

This weekend, my sister showed me this article at USA Today: Many say, "So What?" to God, Religion

This is a disaster for Christians, says Scott McConnell, director of LifeWay Research. "If you're not worried about heaven, you won't notice or care if Jesus is essential your salvation. You're not thinking about any consequences," McConnell says.
I have to wonder if the "disaster for Christians" part is a quote from Mr. McConnell.  It isn't a disaster for Christians - it is a disaster for those who are apathetic.

Monday, December 26, 2011

More from my Kindle

I hope today finds you warm and well rested from the excitements of yesterday.  I also hope at some point you stopped to ponder the greatest gift of all eternity - Christ.  If not, skip this post and go read the nativity story in Luke.  The blog will wait.

If you're interested in writing fiction, I recommend Writing Fiction For Dummies .  Not that I've ever been published at writing fiction, so it isn't like I have an expert opinion.  But I liked the book.  I also liked this quote.
Writer's block is what happens when a writer tries to write in both creative mode and editing mode at the same time. Don't do that! It's like driving with your foot on the gas and the brakes at the same time. Creating a little and then editing a little is okay — just don't edit it before you've actually written the words! As the old saying goes, get it written; then get it right.


A nice motivating feel good book is Applause of Heaven.  I really liked this one.
If all of that is true, if I know that one of the privileges  of fatherhood is to comfort a child, then why am I so reluctant   to let my heavenly Father comfort me?
Why do I think he wouldn't want to hear about my problems?   ("They are puny compared to people starving in  India.")
Why do I think he is too busy for me? ("He's got a whole  universe to worry about.")
Why do I think he's tired of hearing the same old stuff?
Why do I think he groans when he sees me coming?
Why do I think he consults his list when I ask for forgiveness   and asks, "Don't you think you're going to the well  a few too many times on this one?"


I read the Papal Encyclical God is Love while on vacation in October.  Probably not what you'd consider vacation reading, but I found it absolutely fascinating.  I have several of the Pope's books, and the ones he rights for all are very good to read.  I have some of his harder textbook stuff as well, but it is over my head.
Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.
I like this next one, as it talks about why things don't seem like "rules" when one loves God.  Doing the right thing for someone you love isn't burdensome; it is just something you do because you love them.
Love of God and love of neighbor are thus inseparable, they form a single commandment. But both live from the love of God who has loved us first. No longer is it a question, then, of a “commandment” imposed from without and calling for the impossible, but rather of a freely-bestowed experience of love from within, a love which by its very nature must then be shared with others.
On our charity
With regard to the personnel who carry out the Church’s charitable activity on the practical level, the essential has already been said: they must not be inspired by ideologies aimed at improving the world, but should rather be guided by the faith which works through love (cf. Gal 5:6).
And my favorite, regarding Marxism.
Part of Marxist strategy is the theory of impoverishment: in a situation of unjust power, it is claimed, anyone who engages in charitable initiatives is actually serving that unjust system, making it appear at least to some extent tolerable. This in turn slows down a potential revolution and thus blocks the struggle for a better world. Seen in this way, charity is rejected and attacked as a means of preserving the status quo. What we have here, though, is really an inhuman philosophy. People of the present are sacrificed to the moloch of the future—a future whose effective realization is at best doubtful. One does not make the world more human by refusing to act humanely here and now.




Let's finish with The Lord of the Rings again!
Other evils there are that may come; for Sauron is himself but a servant or emissary. Yet it is not our part to master all the tides of the world, but to do what is in us for the succour of those years wherein we are set, uprooting the evil in the fields that we know, so that those who live after may have clean earth to till. What weather they shall have is not ours to rule.

I tried to save the Shire, and it has been saved, but not for me. It must often be so, Sam, when things are in danger: some one has to give them up, lose them, so that others may keep them.

I will not say: do not weep; for not all tears are an evil.

Feast of Saint Stephen, First Martyr

Today is the feast of Saint Stephen, First Martyr.  Readings are here.

St Stephen was one of the first deacons in the church.  You can read some information about him at New Advent, but really the only information we have about him comes from the Acts of the Apostles, chapters 6-7  It tells of the need for deacons, his selection, and his speech and subsequent stoning.  Telling it like it was ended poorly for Stephen on this earth, but he knew where he was going in the end.

And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration. Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables. Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.

And the saying pleased the whole multitude: and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolas a proselyte of Antioch: Whom they set before the apostles: and when they had prayed, they laid their hands on them.

And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith. And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people.

Then there arose certain of the synagogue, which is called the synagogue of the Libertines, and Cyrenians, and Alexandrians, and of them of Cilicia and of Asia, disputing with Stephen. And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit by which he spake. Then they suborned men, which said, We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses, and against God. And they stirred up the people, and the elders, and the scribes, and came upon him, and caught him, and brought him to the council, And set up false witnesses, which said, This man ceaseth not to speak blasphemous words against this holy place, and the law: For we have heard him say, that this Jesus of Nazareth shall destroy this place, and shall change the customs which Moses delivered us. And all that sat in the council, looking stedfastly on him, saw his face as it had been the face of an angel.

Then said the high priest, Are these things so? And he said, Men, brethren, and fathers, hearken; The God of glory appeared unto our father Abraham, when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Charran, And said unto him, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and come into the land which I shall shew thee. Then came he out of the land of the Chaldaeans, and dwelt in Charran: and from thence, when his father was dead, he removed him into this land, wherein ye now dwell. And he gave him none inheritance in it, no, not so much as to set his foot on: yet he promised that he would give it to him for a possession, and to his seed after him, when as yet he had no child.

And God spake on this wise, That his seed should sojourn in a strange land; and that they should bring them into bondage, and entreat them evil four hundred years. And the nation to whom they shall be in bondage will I judge, said God: and after that shall they come forth, and serve me in this place.

And he gave him the covenant of circumcision: and so Abraham begat Isaac, and circumcised him the eighth day; and Isaac begat Jacob; and Jacob begat the twelve patriarchs. And the patriarchs, moved with envy, sold Joseph into Egypt: but God was with him, And delivered him out of all his afflictions, and gave him favour and wisdom in the sight of Pharaoh king of Egypt; and he made him governor over Egypt and all his house. Now there came a dearth over all the land of Egypt and Chanaan, and great affliction: and our fathers found no sustenance. But when Jacob heard that there was corn in Egypt, he sent out our fathers first. And at the second time Joseph was made known to his brethren; and Joseph's kindred was made known unto Pharaoh. Then sent Joseph, and called his father Jacob to him, and all his kindred, threescore and fifteen souls. So Jacob went down into Egypt, and died, he, and our fathers, And were carried over into Sychem, and laid in the sepulchre that Abraham bought for a sum of money of the sons of Emmor the father of Sychem.

But when the time of the promise drew nigh, which God had sworn to Abraham, the people grew and multiplied in Egypt, Till another king arose, which knew not Joseph. The same dealt subtilly with our kindred, and evil entreated our fathers, so that they cast out their young children, to the end they might not live. In which time Moses was born, and was exceeding fair, and nourished up in his father's house three months: And when he was cast out, Pharaoh's daughter took him up, and nourished him for her own son. And Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and in deeds.

And when he was full forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brethren the children of Israel. And seeing one of them suffer wrong, he defended him, and avenged him that was oppressed, and smote the Egyptian: For he supposed his brethren would have understood how that God by his hand would deliver them: but they understood not. And the next day he shewed himself unto them as they strove, and would have set them at one again, saying, Sirs, ye are brethren; why do ye wrong one to another? But he that did his neighbour wrong thrust him away, saying, Who made thee a ruler and a judge over us? Wilt thou kill me, as thou diddest the Egyptian yesterday?

Then fled Moses at this saying, and was a stranger in the land of Madian, where he begat two sons. And when forty years were expired, there appeared to him in the wilderness of mount Sina an angel of the Lord in a flame of fire in a bush. When Moses saw it, he wondered at the sight: and as he drew near to behold it, the voice of the Lord came unto him, Saying, I am the God of thy fathers, the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. Then Moses trembled, and durst not behold.

Then said the Lord to him, Put off thy shoes from thy feet: for the place where thou standest is holy ground. I have seen, I have seen the affliction of my people which is in Egypt, and I have heard their groaning, and am come down to deliver them. And now come, I will send thee into Egypt. This Moses whom they refused, saying, Who made thee a ruler and a judge? the same did God send to be a ruler and a deliverer by the hand of the angel which appeared to him in the bush.

He brought them out, after that he had shewed wonders and signs in the land of Egypt, and in the Red sea, and in the wilderness forty years. This is that Moses, which said unto the children of Israel, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear. This is he, that was in the church in the wilderness with the angel which spake to him in the mount Sina, and with our fathers: who received the lively oracles to give unto us: To whom our fathers would not obey, but thrust him from them, and in their hearts turned back again into Egypt, Saying unto Aaron, Make us gods to go before us: for as for this Moses, which brought us out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him. And they made a calf in those days, and offered sacrifice unto the idol, and rejoiced in the works of their own hands.

Then God turned, and gave them up to worship the host of heaven; as it is written in the book of the prophets, O ye house of Israel, have ye offered to me slain beasts and sacrifices by the space of forty years in the wilderness? Yea, ye took up the tabernacle of Moloch, and the star of your god Remphan, figures which ye made to worship them: and I will carry you away beyond Babylon.

Our fathers had the tabernacle of witness in the wilderness, as he had appointed, speaking unto Moses, that he should make it according to the fashion that he had seen. Which also our fathers that came after brought in with Jesus into the possession of the Gentiles, whom God drave out before the face of our fathers, unto the days of David; Who found favour before God, and desired to find a tabernacle for the God of Jacob. But Solomon built him an house. Howbeit the most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands; as saith the prophet, Heaven is my throne, and earth is my footstool: what house will ye build me? saith the Lord: or what is the place of my rest? Hath not my hand made all these things?

Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye. Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers: Who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it.

When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth. But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.

Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord, And cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man's feet, whose name was Saul. And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.




Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Readings are here.

New Advent has some interesting history and thoughts here.

Really though, today is for spending time with family and celebrating the birth of our Lord, Jesus Christ.  I find it difficult to even wrap my head around the idea that the God who created the universe would so lower Himself to join us in this mortal existence, just so He could die for us a few decades later.  Mind blowing, really.  And something to be incredibly thankful for!

Merry Christmas readers!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Sirach 4

We are rapidly approaching Christmas!

Sir 4:23  Son, observe the time, and fly from evil.
Sir 4:24  For thy soul be not ashamed to say the truth.
Sir 4:25  For there is a shame that bringeth sin, and there is a shame that bringeth glory and grace.
Sir 4:26  Accept no person against thy own person, nor against thy soul a lie.
Sir 4:27  Reverence not thy neighbour in his fall:
Sir 4:28  And refrain not to speak in the time of salvation. Hide not thy wisdom in her beauty.
Sir 4:29  For by the tongue wisdom is discerned: and understanding, and knowledge, and learning by the word of the wise, and steadfastness in the works of justice.
Sir 4:30  In nowise speak against the truth, but be ashamed of the lie of thy ignorance.
Sir 4:31  Be not ashamed to confess thy sins, but submit not thyself to every man for sin.
Sir 4:32  Resist not against the face of the mighty, and do not strive against the stream of the river.
Sir 4:33  Strive for justice for thy soul, and even unto death fight for justice, and God will overthrow thy enemies for thee.
Sir 4:34  Be not hasty in thy tongue: and slack and remiss in thy works.
Sir 4:35  Be not as a lion in thy house, terrifying them of thy household, and oppressing them that are under thee.
Sir 4:36  Let not thy hand be stretched out to receive, and shut when thou shouldst give.


Reverence not thy neighbor in his fall.  Obviously, we're all sinners.  But we shouldn't be going around honoring sin.  We're not to be ashamed to say the truth (verse 2).  Say it like it is, in other words.  If something is a sin, we should identify it as such.  The Bible knows nothing of political correctness.


Thursday, December 22, 2011

Kindle Clippings

I have 36 pages of clipped quotes from my Kindle going back through May.  I'm not sure what purpose they serve to keep unless I share them here with you!  So we'll be going through some of those here soon.

The first is from The Five Love Languages for Singles , by Gary Chapman, though it is a quote I found there instead of something poignant from the text.
"I don't remember that the Lord ever spoke  of success. He spoke only of faithfulness in love. This is the only success that really counts." Mother Teresa
I did really like that book, by the way.  I've read it and the original The Five Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts, and both had very good information even for friendships and family relationships.


I also have a great one by Beth Moore in  Get Out of That Pit: Straight Talk about God's Deliverance .  Loved this book!   This one is about how forgiveness is not a feeling.
Forgiveness   is not about feeling. It's about willing. No stronger force  exists. Forgiveness was the force that kept Christ, by His own  submission, nailed to that cross.
And later,

Forgiveness is not passivity, dear one. It is power. It is the  ability to withstand the pressing, quaking gates of hell. Take  this power and wield it. It's your right as a child of God. In  the power of Jesus, first you will it and soon you'll feel it.
So there.


These next few come from I Don't Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist , which was interesting and had some very good points, but I did not recommend at the time because I found the attitude to be somewhat off.  Still, truth is truth.
God has provided enough evidence in this life to convince anyone willing to believe, yet he has also left some ambiguity so as not to compel the unwilling. In this way, God gives us the opportunity either to love him or to reject him without violating our freedom. In fact, the purpose of this life is to make that choice freely and without coercion. For love, by definition, must be freely given. It cannot be coerced.
True.
Some people choose to suppress the truth rather than live by it. In fact, we humans have a fatal tendency to try to adjust the truth to fit our desires rather than adjusting our desires to fit the truth.
True.
Why do we demand truth in everything but morality and religion? Why do we say, “That’s true for you but not for me,” when we’re talking about morality or religion, but we never even think of such nonsense when we’re talking to a stock broker about our money or a doctor about our health?
True.
When you get right down to it, there are only two possibilities for anything that exists: either 1) it has always existed and is therefore uncaused, or 2) it had a beginning and was caused by something else (it can’t be self-caused, because it would have had to exist already in order to cause anything). According to the overwhelming evidence, the universe had a beginning, so it must be caused by something else—by something outside itself. Notice that this conclusion is consistent with theistic religions, but it is not based on those religions—it is based on good reason and evidence.
True.


And for something connected to religion but not speaking directly at it, we have one of my favorite books of all times (or books, to be accurate), The Lord of the Rings , by Tolkien.   Here are two of my favorite quotes.
‘I wish it need not have happened in my time,’ said Frodo. ‘So do I,’ said Gandalf, ‘and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.

‘Elves seldom give unguarded advice, for advice is a dangerous gift, even from the wise to the wise, and all courses may run ill.





Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Sirach 4

Sir 4:12  Wisdom inspireth life into her children, and protecteth them that seek after her, and will go before them in the way of justice.
Sir 4:13  And he that loveth her, loveth life: and they that watch for her, shall embrace her sweetness.
Sir 4:14  They that hold her fast, shall inherit life: and whithersoever she entereth, God will give a blessing.
Sir 4:15  They that serve her, shall be servants to the holy one: and God loveth them that love her.
Sir 4:16  He that hearkeneth to her, shall judge nations: and he that looketh upon her, shall remain secure.
Sir 4:17  If he trust to her, he shall inherit her, and his generation shall be in assurance.
Sir 4:18  For she walketh with him in temptation, and at the first she chooseth him.
Sir 4:19  She will bring upon him fear and dread and trial: and she will scourge him with the affliction of her discipline, till she try him by her laws, and trust his soul.
Sir 4:20  Then she will strengthen him, and make a straight way to him, and give him joy,
Sir 4:21  And will disclose her secrets to him, and will heap upon him treasures of knowledge and understanding of justice.
Sir 4:22  But if he go astray, she will forsake him, and deliver him into the hands of his enemy.


Wisdom is an important topic in both Proverbs and Sirach.  God's wisdom is the only wisdom that matters, and the wisdom we should seek.  Our own wisdom must come from God to be true and useful, and if we rely on our own understanding without God's wisdom and guidance it will be disastrous.  We see that happen all the time in the history of Israel, and we see it now as our world logics our way into murder and other sin on the grounds of reason.  That's how we end up with the sin of abortion, among others. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Hello Tuesday

We're less than one week out from Christmas!

I found this link very useful.  The New Translation: What's Changed and Why.  It addresses all the changes to the Mass and explains what has changed and why.  I know I'm still getting used to it.  About half the time, I say "and also with you," instead of "and with your spirit."  I do like the new word choices though, even if they are less familiar.

Thanks to my recent medical adventure, I'm a bit behind on my Bible reading but I am catching up quickly.  Stay tuned for more in depth posting!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Sirach 4

Sir 4:1  Son, defraud not the poor of alms, and turn not away thy eyes from the poor.
Sir 4:2  Despise not the hungry soul: and provoke not the poor in his want.
Sir 4:3  Afflict not the heart of the needy, and defer not to gibe to him that is in distress.
Sir 4:4  Reject not the petition of the afflicted: and turn not away thy face from the needy.
Sir 4:5  Turn not away thy eyes from the poor for fear of anger: and leave not to them that ask of thee to curse thee behind thy back.
Sir 4:6  For the prayer of him that curseth thee in the bitterness of his soul, shall be heard, for he that made him will hear him.
Sir 4:7  Make thyself affable to the congregation of the poor, and humble thy soul to the ancient, and bow thy head to a great man.
Sir 4:8  Bow down thy ear cheerfully to the poor, and pay what thou owest, and answer him peaceable words with mildness.
Sir 4:9  Deliver him that suffereth wrong out of the hand of the proud: and be not fainthearted in thy soul.
Sir 4:10  In judging be merciful to the fatherless as a father, and as a husband to their mother.
Sir 4:11  And thou shalt be as the obedient son of the most High, and he will have mercy on thee more than a mother. 


These verses are aimed at how we treat the poor and afflicted.  God hears the cry of the poor, as stated multiple times.  We're called to look after those who need us, not those who don't.
For I was hungry, and you gave me to eat: I was thirsty, and you gave me to drink: I was a stranger, and you took me in: Naked, and you covered me: sick, and you visited me: I was in prison, and you came to me. Then shall the just answer him, saying: Lord, when did we see thee hungry and fed thee: thirsty and gave thee drink? Or when did we see thee a stranger and took thee in? Or naked and covered thee? Or when did we see thee sick or in prison and came to thee? And the king answering shall say to them: Amen I say to you, as long as you did it to one of these my least brethren, you did it to me.
(Mat 25:35-40)

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Fourth Sunday of Advent & Psalm 44

If it has been quiet around here lately, it is because I was preparing to have my gallbladder removed last week.  It had stopped working, and so as it did not love me anymore, I dumped it.  It went fine and I'm feeling well.

Today is the Fourth Sunday of Advent.  Next week is Christmas!  Christ was probably not born on Christmas of course, but it is good to celebrate His birthday sometime.  It was only the biggest deal in all history up to that point; and with the exception of his death, resurrection, and Second Coming, will be the biggest deal in all history after that point.  And those things wouldn't happen without the birth, so it is a pretty huge deal!

Readings for today are here.

Palm 44
To the chief Musician for the sons of Korah, Maschil. We have heard with our ears, O God, our fathers have told us, what work thou didst in their days, in the times of old. How thou didst drive out the heathen with thy hand, and plantedst them; how thou didst afflict the people, and cast them out. For they got not the land in possession by their own sword, neither did their own arm save them: but thy right hand, and thine arm, and the light of thy countenance, because thou hadst a favour unto them.

Thou art my King, O God: command deliverances for Jacob. Through thee will we push down our enemies: through thy name will we tread them under that rise up against us. For I will not trust in my bow, neither shall my sword save me. But thou hast saved us from our enemies, and hast put them to shame that hated us. In God we boast all the day long, and praise thy name for ever. Selah.

But thou hast cast off, and put us to shame; and goest not forth with our armies. Thou makest us to turn back from the enemy: and they which hate us spoil for themselves. Thou hast given us like sheep appointed for meat; and hast scattered us among the heathen. Thou sellest thy people for nought, and dost not increase thy wealth by their price. Thou makest us a reproach to our neighbours, a scorn and a derision to them that are round about us. Thou makest us a byword among the heathen, a shaking of the head among the people.

My confusion is continually before me, and the shame of my face hath covered me, For the voice of him that reproacheth and blasphemeth; by reason of the enemy and avenger. All this is come upon us; yet have we not forgotten thee, neither have we dealt falsely in thy covenant. Our heart is not turned back, neither have our steps declined from thy way; Though thou hast sore broken us in the place of dragons, and covered us with the shadow of death. If we have forgotten the name of our God, or stretched out our hands to a strange god; Shall not God search this out? for he knoweth the secrets of the heart. Yea, for thy sake are we killed all the day long; we are counted as sheep for the slaughter.

Awake, why sleepest thou, O Lord? arise, cast us not off for ever. Wherefore hidest thou thy face, and forgettest our affliction and our oppression? For our soul is bowed down to the dust: our belly cleaveth unto the earth. Arise for our help, and redeem us for thy mercies' sake.





Friday, December 16, 2011

Sirach 3

Sir 3:27  A hard heart shall fear evil at the last: and he that loveth danger shall perish in it.
Sir 3:28  A heart that goeth two ways shall not have success, and the perverse of heart shall be scandalized therein.
Sir 3:29  A wicked heart shall be laden with sorrows, and the sinner will add sin to sin.
Sir 3:30  The congregation of the proud shall not be healed: for the plant of wickedness shall take root in them, and it shall not be perceived.


Sir 3:31  The heart of the wise is understood in wisdom, and a good ear will hear wisdom with all desire.
Sir 3:32  A wise heart, and which hath understanding, will abstain from sins, and in the works of justice shall have success.


Sir 3:33  Water quencheth a flaming fire, and alms resisteth sins:
Sir 3:34  And God provideth for him that sheweth favour: he remembereth him afterwards, and in the time of his fall he shall find a sure stay.


Verse 30 speaks about the plant of wickedness taking root in the proud congregation, and how it is not perceived.  Proverbs also speaks of people wandering into darkness and not even realizing it because they aren't paying attention to God.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Memorial of Saint John of the Cross

Reading are here.

John of the Cross at Wikipedia and John of the Cross at New Advent.  This John is not the same John that was with Jesus, but a man much later in time (1542-1591).  I link to both because Wikipedia gives an easy to read summary, and New Advent is much more thorough but harder to read.

And yes, I am aware I don't do this on all the different days of the year.  Yesterday was the Memorial of Saint Lucy.  Some days I do, some days I don't! 

Sirach 3

Sir 3:19  My son, do thy works in meekness, and thou shalt be beloved above the glory of men.
Sir 3:20  The greater thou art, the more humble thyself in all things, and thou shalt find grace before God:
Sir 3:21  For great is the power of God alone, and he is honoured by the humble.
Sir 3:22  Seek not the things that are too high for thee, and search not into things above thy ability: but the things that God hath commanded thee, think on them always, and in many of his works be not curious.
Sir 3:23  For it is not necessary for thee to see with thy eyes those things that are hid.
Sir 3:24  In unnecessary matters be not over curious, and in many of his works thou shalt not be inquisitive.
Sir 3:25  For many things are shewn to thee above the understanding of men.
Sir 3:26  And the suspicion of them hath deceived many, and hath detained their minds in vanity.


It is not required we understand all the mysteries surrounding God.  Indeed, we cannot.  Take the Trinity for example.  Yes, we can think on it and examine it, but it isn't like we'll ever truly understand the whole picture there.  When I think too long about the concept of eternity, I get a headache.  It breaks my little engineering mind.  Many can be led off the path by the insistence they understand something or it isn't true.  Isn't that why science does not recognize God now? 

Monday, December 12, 2011

Sirach 3

Sir 3:12  Glory not in the dishonour of thy father: for his shame is no glory to thee.
Sir 3:13  For the glory of a man is from the honour of his father, and a father without honour is the disgrace of the son.
Sir 3:14  Son, support the old age of thy father, and grieve him not in his life;
Sir 3:15  And if his understanding fail, have patience with him, and despise him not when thou art in thy strength: for the relieving of the father shall not be forgotten.
Sir 3:16  For good shall be repaid to thee for the sin of thy mother.
Sir 3:17  And in justice thou shalt be built up, and in the day of affliction thou shalt be remembered: and thy sins shall melt away as the ice in the fair warm weather.
Sir 3:18  Of what an evil fame is he that forsaketh his father: and he is cursed of God that angereth his mother.  



My dad and I have joked about this passage.  Verse 15 appears to tell the children not to abandon their father if he goes crazy in his old age!  My dad isn't crazy (yet), but we had a good chuckle at this one.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Third Sunday of Advent and Psalm 43

Readings are here.

The second reading calls us to pray without ceasing.  I can barely breathe without ceasing I get so distracted, so this one is hard for me.

Psalm 43

Judge me, O God, and plead my cause against an ungodly nation: O deliver me from the deceitful and unjust man. For thou art the God of my strength: why dost thou cast me off? why go I mourning because of the oppression of the enemy? O send out thy light and thy truth: let them lead me; let them bring me unto thy holy hill, and to thy tabernacles. Then will I go unto the altar of God, unto God my exceeding joy: yea, upon the harp will I praise thee, O God my God. Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God.
(Psa 43:1-5)

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Links and Psalm 35

Two links and a Psalm for today!  Yes, we've already had this psalm.  But I liked it this week.

Link 1:  Vatican II and Star Wars.  Possibly a little over done, but then he compares Jar Jar Binks to... well.  Just go read it yourself.

Link 2:  Sodom and Gomorrah ExcavatedAs soon as the session was over, I was the first to raise my hand.  "Did you find any arrow heads?  Signs of invasion?  What happened to them?"  The lead archeologist paused for a moment.  "I didn't want to go there," he said.  Another pause. "I'm preparing material for publication."  Pause.  "All I want to say 'on camera' is, they appear to have been wiped out in a 'heat event'."

Nice.

A Psalm of David. Plead my cause, O LORD, with them that strive with me: fight against them that fight against me. Take hold of shield and buckler, and stand up for mine help. Draw out also the spear, and stop the way against them that persecute me: say unto my soul, I am thy salvation. Let them be confounded and put to shame that seek after my soul: let them be turned back and brought to confusion that devise my hurt. Let them be as chaff before the wind: and let the angel of the LORD chase them. Let their way be dark and slippery: and let the angel of the LORD persecute them.

For without cause have they hid for me their net in a pit, which without cause they have digged for my soul. Let destruction come upon him at unawares; and let his net that he hath hid catch himself: into that very destruction let him fall. And my soul shall be joyful in the LORD: it shall rejoice in his salvation. All my bones shall say, LORD, who is like unto thee, which deliverest the poor from him that is too strong for him, yea, the poor and the needy from him that spoileth him? False witnesses did rise up; they laid to my charge things that I knew not. They rewarded me evil for good to the spoiling of my soul.

But as for me, when they were sick, my clothing was sackcloth: I humbled my soul with fasting; and my prayer returned into mine own bosom. I behaved myself as though he had been my friend or brother: I bowed down heavily, as one that mourneth for his mother. But in mine adversity they rejoiced, and gathered themselves together: yea, the abjects gathered themselves together against me, and I knew it not; they did tear me, and ceased not: With hypocritical mockers in feasts, they gnashed upon me with their teeth.

Lord, how long wilt thou look on? rescue my soul from their destructions, my darling from the lions. I will give thee thanks in the great congregation: I will praise thee among much people. Let not them that are mine enemies wrongfully rejoice over me: neither let them wink with the eye that hate me without a cause. For they speak not peace: but they devise deceitful matters against them that are quiet in the land. Yea, they opened their mouth wide against me, and said, Aha, aha, our eye hath seen it.

This thou hast seen, O LORD: keep not silence: O Lord, be not far from me. Stir up thyself, and awake to my judgment, even unto my cause, my God and my Lord. Judge me, O LORD my God, according to thy righteousness; and let them not rejoice over me. Let them not say in their hearts, Ah, so would we have it: let them not say, We have swallowed him up. Let them be ashamed and brought to confusion together that rejoice at mine hurt: let them be clothed with shame and dishonour that magnify themselves against me.

Let them shout for joy, and be glad, that favour my righteous cause: yea, let them say continually, Let the LORD be magnified, which hath pleasure in the prosperity of his servant. And my tongue shall speak of thy righteousness and of thy praise all the day long.
(Psa 35:1-28)

 


Friday, December 9, 2011

Sirach 3

Sir 3:1  The sons of wisdom are the church of the just: and their generation, obedience and love.
Sir 3:2  Children, hear the judgment of your father, and so do that you may be saved.
Sir 3:3  For God hath made the father honourable to the children: and seeking the judgment of the mothers, hath confirmed it upon the children.
Sir 3:4  He that loveth God, shall obtain pardon for his sins by prayer, and shall refrain himself from them, and shall be heard in the prayer of days.
Sir 3:5  And he that honoureth his mother is as one that layeth up a treasure.
Sir 3:6  He that honoureth his father shall have joy in his own children, and in the day of his prayer he shall be heard.
Sir 3:7  He that honoureth his father shall enjoy a long life: and he that obeyeth the father, shall be a comfort to his mother.
Sir 3:8  He that feareth the Lord, honoureth his parents, and will serve them as his masters that brought him into the world.
Sir 3:9  Honour thy father, in work and word, and all patience,
Sir 3:10  That a blessing may come upon thee from him, and his blessing may remain in the latter end.
Sir 3:11  The father's blessing establisheth the houses of the children: but the mother's curse rooteth up the foundation. 


Fearing the Lord and honoring parents is linked.  I like how in 7 it is said that obedience to the father comforts the mother.  It is also tied to how the grandchildren turn out.  That seems to make sense, if we never know how to honor our parents we probably won't be able to set an example of honoring to our children.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Readings are here.

And now I could attempt to summarize 2000+ years teaching regarding the Immaculate Conception of Mary.  This would subsequently involve discussion of original sin, baptism, salvation, etc.  Or I can link to Wikipedia.
The Immaculate Conception of Mary is a dogma of the Roman Catholic Church, according to which the Virgin Mary was conceived without any stain (in Latin, macula or labes, the second of these two synonymous words being the one used in the formal definition) of original sin.[1][2] It is one of the four dogmata in Roman Catholic Mariology. It is completely distinct from the Virginity of Mary and the virgin birth of Jesus, though it is a popular mistake to confuse them. Mary is sometimes called the Immaculata (the Immaculate One), particularly in artistic contexts.[3]

The proclaimed Roman Catholic dogma states "that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin".[1] Being always free from original sin, she was from the start filled with the sanctifying grace that would normally come with baptism after birth. Although widely-held since at least Late Antiquity, the doctrine was not formally proclaimed until Pope Pius IX did so in 1854 in Ineffabilis Deus.
Long story short:  God designated Mary from her conception to be prepared to carry His son and today we celebrate that miracle and the fact God is awesome.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Sirach 2

Sir 2:14  Woe to them that are of a double heart and to wicked lips, and to the hands that do evil, and to the sinner that goeth on the earth two ways.
Sir 2:15  Woe to them that are fainthearted, who believe not God: and therefore they shall not be protected by him.
Sir 2:16  Woe to them that have lost patience, and that have forsaken the right ways, and have gone aside into crooked ways.
Sir 2:17  And what will they do, when the Lord shall begin to examine?
Sir 2:18  They that fear the Lord, will not be incredulous to his word: and they that love him, will keep his way.
Sir 2:19  They that fear the Lord, will seek after the things that are well pleasing to him: and they that love him, shall be filled with his law.
Sir 2:20  They that fear the Lord, will prepare their hearts, and in his sight will sanctify their souls,
Sir 2:21  They that fear the Lord, keep his commandments, and will have patience even until his visitation,
Sir 2:22  Saying: If we do not penance, we shall fall into the hands of the Lord, and not into the hands of men.
Sir 2:23  For according to his greatness, so also is his mercy with him.


The Bible does a pretty good job with comparing and contrasting, doesn't it?  Bad things for those who do not believe in or fear the Lord, good things for those who do.  

Note also it continues to go back to God's mercy.  I've heard people say that the Old Testament God was different than the New Testament God as He had no mercy.  God is the same always!  He has always been, and continues to be, a perfectly just and merciful God.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Links!

Happy Advent everyone.  Let's do some links.


What kneeling on a department store floor taught me about gratitude.  I love this woman.  She's funny and brilliant and really honest.  A great combination!


Smile the Melts Misconceptions.  This is awesome.  Little girl with down's syndrome is a model.  Beautiful baby!!

Jesus Christ, the New Temple.  This is really good about Jesus, but also talks about Mary.  I had never heard some of this before.

Feeling down?  Best Motivation Video Ever below.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Sirach 2

Sir 2:7  Ye that fear the Lord, wait for his mercy: and go not aside from him lest ye fall.
Sir 2:8  Ye that fear the Lord, believe him: and your reward shall not be made void.
Sir 2:9  Ye that fear the Lord hope in him, and mercy shall come to you for your delight.
Sir 2:10  Ye that fear the Lord, love him, and your hearts shall be enlightened.
Sir 2:11  My children behold the generations of men: and know ye that no one hath hoped in the Lord, and hath been confounded.
Sir 2:12  For who hath continued in his commandment, and hath been forsaken? or who hath called upon him, and he despised him?
Sir 2:13  For God is compassionate and merciful, and will forgive sins in the day of tribulation: and he is a protector to all that seek him in truth.


We go back here to the fear of the Lord idea and how important it is to our relationship with Him.  We fear the Lord, we believe Him, and we hope in Him.  This always turns out well!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Sirach 2

Sir 2:1  Son, when thou comest to the service of God, stand in justice and in fear, and prepare thy soul for temptation.
Sir 2:2  Humble thy heart, and endure: incline thy ear, and receive the words of understanding: and make not haste in the time of clouds.
Sir 2:3  Wait on God with patience: join thyself to God, and endure, that thy life may be increased in the latter end.
Sir 2:4  Take all that shall be brought upon thee: and in thy sorrow endure, and in thy humiliation keep patience.
Sir 2:5  For gold and silver are tried in the fire, but acceptable men in the furnace of humiliation.
Sir 2:6  Believe God, and he will recover thee: and direct thy way, and trust in him. Keep his fear, and grow old therein. 


One thing to keep in mind in the midst of thinking about all this testing and tempting is what is said of it in 1 Cor 10:13:
There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.


Friday, December 2, 2011

Evening Prayers

I've mentioned I use the Universalis app on my iPhone for the Liturgy of the Hours.  I don't do all the prayers, and actually may only do one during the day if I have time.  But I do enjoy the night time prayers.  My favorite part is the following prayer:
Protect us, Lord, as we stay awake; watch over us as we sleep; that awake, we may keep watch with Christ, and asleep, rest in his peace.
I don't know why, but I really like reading that right before I go to bed.  It is pretty near the end of the Psalms and prayers for the evening, and it seems like would be a lot better short prayer to say than say, "Now I lay me down to sleep."  (though that one does have a truly valid intent).

In researching this prayer, I also found some other lovely evening prayers.  This one is from St Augustine:
Watch, O Lord, those who wake or watch or weep tonight, and give your angels and saints charge over those who sleep. Tend your sick ones, O Lord Christ. Rest your weary ones, bless your dying ones, soothe your suffering ones, shield your joyous ones, and all for your love's sake. Amen. 
There are more complicated prayers out there but I do like a nice short one too.  Nothing too fancy or theologically complex.

Many people find they pray better in the morning than any other part of the day, but I am not one of them.  I much prefer the evening, as I feel I have more to talk to God about.  I'm also more awake!  In the morning, my prayers usually revolve around sleeping and how much I like it.  It is good to say good morning to God and give Him my day, but I just don't have much to offer in the way of deep thoughts.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Sirach 1

Happy December!

Sir 1:33  Son, if thou desire wisdom, keep justice, and God will give her to thee.
Sir 1:34  For the fear of the Lord is wisdom and discipline: and that which is agreeable to him,
Sir 1:35  Is faith, and meekness: and he will fill up his treasures.
Sir 1:36  Be not incredulous to the fear of the Lord: and come not to him with a double heart.
Sir 1:37  Be not a hypocrite in the sight of men, and let not thy lips be a stumblingblock to thee.
Sir 1:38  Watch over them, lest thou fall, and bring dishonour upon thy soul,
Sir 1:39  And God discover thy secrets, and cast thee down in the midst of the congregation.
Sir 1:40  Because thou camest to the Lord wickedly, and thy heart is full of guile and deceit.


I really like that incredulous word in 36.  Don't be unwilling to accept or trust fear of the Lord.  Synonyms include mistrustful, unbelieving, and skeptical.  One of the guys in my RCIA group noted that this all seems like a pretty cheap ticket on our part.  He's happy to take it though.  We should be also and not doubt that the simple things proclaimed to us are true, just because they are simple.

And of course it touches on our lips, which tend to get us in trouble.  Mine do, for sure.  Sirach has a whole section and more dedicated to the problems we can cause with our mouths.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Feast of Saint Andrew, apostle

Today is the Feast of Saint Andrew!  Readings are here.

You may be familiar with St. Andrew's Cross.  It is a diagonal cross, like an x.  It is found on many flags.  It is named as such because St. Andrew was supposedly crucified on a cross that was an "x" instead of a normal "t."  It is also known as a saltire, which I did not realize until reading the Wikipedia article.  That article has a small selection of flags you can look at from around the world displaying this image.

But today is not about his flag, but about him!  From New Advent:

The name "Andrew" (Gr., andreia, manhood, or valour), like other Greek names, appears to have been common among the Jews from the second or third century B.C.

St. Andrew, the Apostle, son of Jonah, or John (Matthew 16:17; John 1:42), was born in Bethsaida of Galilee (John 1:44). He was brother of Simon (Peter) (Matthew 10:2; John 1:40). Both were fishermen (Matthew 4:18; Mark 1:16), and at the beginning of Our Lord's public life occupied the same house at Capharnaum (Mark 1:21, 29).

From the fourth Gospel we learn that Andrew was a disciple of the Baptist, whose testimony first led him and John the Evangelist to follow Jesus (John 1:35-40). Andrew at once recognized Jesus as the Messias, and hastened to introduce Him to his brother, Peter, (John 1:41). Thenceforth the two brothers were disciples of Christ. On a subsequent occasion, prior to the final call to the apostolate, they were called to a closer companionship, and then they left all things to follow Jesus (Luke 5:11; Matthew 4:19-20; Mark 1:17-18).

Finally Andrew was chosen to be one of the Twelve; and in the various lists of Apostles given in the New Testament (Matthew 10:2-4); Mark 3:16-19; Luke 6:14-16; Acts 1:13) he is always numbered among the first four. The only other explicit reference to him in the Synoptists occurs in Mark 13:3, where we are told he joined with Peter, James and John in putting the question that led to Our Lord's great eschatological discourse. In addition to this scanty information, we learn from the fourth Gospel that on the occasion of the miraculous feeding of the five thousand, it was Andrew who said: "There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fishes: but what are these among so many?" (John 6:8-9); and when, a few days before Our Lord's death, certain Greeks asked Philip that they might see Jesus, Philip referred the matter to Andrew as to one of greater authority, and then both told Christ (John 12:20-22). Like the majority of the Twelve, Andrew is not named in the Acts except in the list of the Apostles, where the order of the first four is Peter, John, James, Andrew; nor have the Epistles or the Apocalypse any mention of him.

From what we know of the Apostles generally, we can, of course, supplement somewhat these few details. As one of the Twelve, Andrew was admitted to the closest familiarity with Our Lord during His public life; he was present at the Last Supper; beheld the risen Lord; witnessed the Ascension; shared in the graces and gifts of the first Pentecost, and helped, amid threats and persecution, to establish the Faith in Palestine.

When the Apostles went forth to preach to the Nations, Andrew seems to have taken an important part, but unfortunately we have no certainty as to the extent or place of his labours. Eusebius (Church History III.1), relying, apparently, upon Origen, assigns Scythia as his mission field: Andras de [eilechen] ten Skythian; while St. Gregory of Nazianzus (Oration 33) mentions Epirus; St. Jerome (Ep. ad Marcell.) Achaia; and Theodoret (on Ps. cxvi) Hellas. Probably these various accounts are correct, for Nicephorus (H.E. II:39), relying upon early writers, states that Andrew preached in Cappadocia, Galatia, and Bithynia, then in the land of the anthropophagi and the Scythian deserts, afterwards in Byzantium itself, where he appointed St. Stachys as its first bishop, and finally in Thrace, Macedonia, Thessaly, and Achaia. It is generally agreed that he was crucified by order of the Roman Governor, Aegeas or Aegeates, at Patrae in Achaia, and that he was bound, not nailed, to the cross, in order to prolong his sufferings. The cross on which he suffered is commonly held to have been the decussate cross, now known as St. Andrew's, though the evidence for this view seems to be no older than the fourteenth century. His martyrdom took place during the reign of Nero, on 30 November, A.D. 60); and both the Latin and Greek Churches keep 30 November as his feast.

St. Andrew's relics were translated from Patrae to Constantinople, and deposited in the church of the Apostles there, about A.D. 357. When Constantinople was taken by the French, in the beginning of the thirteenth century, Cardinal Peter of Capua brought the relics to Italy and placed them in the cathedral of Amalfi, where most of them still remain. St. Andrew is honoured as their chief patron by Russia and Scotland.
MacRory, J. (1907). St. Andrew. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.Retrieved November 20, 2011 from New Advent: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/01471a.htm

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Sirach 1

Sir 1:22  The fear of the Lord is a crown of wisdom, filling up peace and the fruit of salvation:
Sir 1:23  And it hath seen, and numbered her: but both are the gifts of God.
Sir 1:24  Wisdom shall distribute knowledge, and understanding of prudence: and exalteth the glory of them that hold her.
Sir 1:25  The root of wisdom is to fear the Lord: and the branches thereof are long-lived.
Sir 1:26  In the treasures of wisdom is understanding, and religiousness of knowledge: but to sinners wisdom is an abomination.
Sir 1:27  The fear of the Lord driveth out sin:
Sir 1:28  For he that is without fear, cannot be justified: for the wrath of his high spirits is his ruin.
Sir 1:29  A patient man shall bear for a time, and afterwards joy shall be restored to him.
Sir 1:30  A good understanding will hide his words for a time, and the lips of many shall declare his wisdom.
Sir 1:31  In the treasures of wisdom is the signification of discipline:
Sir 1:32  But the worship of God is an abomination to a sinner.


If you're following along in an RSV or NRSV or NAB, this is different than what you have.  The why to the inevitable question is a subject for another time, but just FYI for now.

This part goes on to talk more about the fear of the Lord and wisdom, and how pride prevents us from knowing God.

Monday, November 28, 2011

We hate you. Do it again.

Still stuck on the Pharisees thing from two weeks ago.  This time, with a new twist.

Then was brought unto him one possessed with a devil, blind, and dumb: and he healed him, insomuch that the blind and dumb both spake and saw. And all the people were amazed, and said, Is not this the son of David? But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, This fellow doth not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub the prince of the devils.

And Jesus knew their thoughts, and said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand: And if Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself; how shall then his kingdom stand? And if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your children cast them out? therefore they shall be your judges. But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you.
(Mat 12:22-28)
This time, Jesus tells them why they are wrong.  I'd probably be pretty annoyed by then if I were him, but then they get even more aggravating:

Then certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying, Master, we would see a sign from thee.
(Mat 12:38)
Seriously?  SERIOUSLY?  I mean, what does it take around here?  It isn't like the man has been slacking off and failing to perform miracles.  Maybe they wanted a different type of miracle, or maybe they just wanted to confirm what they had already seen.  In any event, they just wanted to see more. 




This feeling hasn't gone away.  Many refuse to believe in God because He just hasn't done enough for them, in their estimation.  He's not as apparent as they need Him to be in order to satisfy their desires.  But then again, those of us who do believe often demand more of God than we thank Him for.  Are we ever satisfied with what God has provided for us?

Sunday, November 27, 2011

First Sunday of Advent and Psalm 42

Today is the First Sunday of Advent!  Readings are here.  Don't forget, today is the day we start using the new Mass responses.  My church had already started with the new music.

Still concerned / confused about the new word choice?  Here are some informative links.
Roman Missal.  This is at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.  Provides an overview and plenty of links to other material.
Roman Missal Changes.  This is a whole blog dedicated to the changes.
What Does the Prayer Really Say.  Father Z has posted lots about the new translation.  This link goes to just that tag.

We're just moving toward a more accurate translation.  There's nothing wrong with the way we've been doing it, but the new language allows us to better understand what is meant.  If you still don't know about all of this, remember one thing.  Liberals apparently hate the new language.  That alone is enough to make me a fan.

In any event, I hope your parish has been reviewing this and talking about it lots as the time has approached.   Just a few weeks ago, the couple behind me were using the old version of the Gloria.  Once they figured out we had switched, they also assumed we had switched the words, so they took out the pew card and used the new version of the Creed.  I was so thrown off!  Be prepared this weekend to use the wrong words, and have others throw you off by doing the same.

Psalm 42
To the chief Musician, Maschil, for the sons of Korah. As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God. My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God? My tears have been my meat day and night, while they continually say unto me, Where is thy God? When I remember these things, I pour out my soul in me: for I had gone with the multitude, I went with them to the house of God, with the voice of joy and praise, with a multitude that kept holyday.

Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted in me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance. O my God, my soul is cast down within me: therefore will I remember thee from the land of Jordan, and of the Hermonites, from the hill Mizar. Deep calleth unto deep at the noise of thy waterspouts: all thy waves and thy billows are gone over me.
Yet the LORD will command his lovingkindness in the daytime, and in the night his song shall be with me, and my prayer unto the God of my life. I will say unto God my rock, Why hast thou forgotten me? why go I mourning because of the oppression of the enemy? As with a sword in my bones, mine enemies reproach me; while they say daily unto me, Where is thy God? Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God.
(Psa 42:1-11)


Saturday, November 26, 2011

Sirach 1

Sir 1:11  The fear of the Lord is honour, and glory, and gladness, and a crown of joy.
Sir 1:12  The fear of the Lord shall delight the heart, and shall give joy, and gladness, and length of days.
Sir 1:13  With him that feareth the Lord, it shall go well in the latter end, and in the day of his death he shall be blessed.
Sir 1:14  The love of God is honourable wisdom.
Sir 1:15  And they to whom she shall shew herself love her by the sight, and by the knowledge of her great works.
Sir 1:16  The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and was created with the faithful in the womb, it walketh with chosen women, and is known with the just and faithful.
Sir 1:17  The fear of the Lord is the religiousness of knowledge.
Sir 1:18  Religiousness shall keep and justify the heart, it shall give joy and gladness.
Sir 1:19  It shall go well with him that feareth the Lord, and in the days of his end he shall be blessed.
Sir 1:20  To fear God is the fulness of wisdom, and fulness is from the fruits thereof.
Sir 1:21  She shall fill all her house with her increase, and the storehouses with her treasures. 


Fear of the Lord is found all over the Bible, and rightly so.  We are called to fear the Lord, and it really makes a lot of sense since God created everything including us is the ultimate judge on where we end up for all eternity.  And to think, we can get nervous just talking to our bosses here on earth!

Reading this and other passages though, this fear of the Lord is not the same fear one associated with being afraid as one falls off a cliff or the same fear associated with getting shot at.  This is a healthy, respectful fear.  I've heard it said an earthly representation of this is the fear we may feel toward our fathers, if our relationship is healthy with them.  We love them and they love us, but they're not the ones we want to see if we do something stupid.

I wrote about this earlier here.  As I mention there, I love the fact that fear of the Lord is learned

Friday, November 25, 2011

Family Drama

I'm reading through Genesis again as part of the Bible in a Year plan I'm doing.  I'm in the midst of reading about the family drama that was central to the beginnings of Israel.  As I noted earlier, this is better than an episode of Jerry Springer.  The birth of the 12 tribes of Israel was more complicated and dramatic than a group of five teenage girls all in love with the starting quarterback locked in an eight by eight room watching chick flicks.  But God used it all to His glory and ultimately our salvation.

Today is a day for football, leftovers, shopping and some serious drama.  People who go shopping may be sleep deprived when they encounter other shoppers seeking the same deals and all can easily become rabid in their competitive quest to win the prized Tickle Me Elmo.  People who have to work are aggravated they have to work with all the crazy people that show up in such a frantic state.  There is an increase in domestic violence cases starting with Thanksgiving - I guess the lumpy gravy can throw some people over the edge.  And that's just the major stuff that gets reported; probably every family has known its fair share of lower level drama over the holidays when we are supposed to be merry and thankful.

Sin isn't new.  It isn't a new invention we have brought upon ourselves in the 20th century.  Suffering was not a recent development in the evolution of mankind.  Sin and suffering have been around since Adam and Eve, but we have to remember that God has the power to bring amazing, incredible, unthought of and unsought after miracles out of this chaos we call drama.

I just read this article by Peter Kreeft.  I highly recommend it and look forward to its subsequent parts.

From the moment of our birth, human nature includes two incompatible elements – the presence of pain, and the demand for its absence. We all have pain, and we all hate pain. Buddha's First Noble Truth, and Freud's pleasure principle. What is pain? It is the disproportion between desire and satisfaction. In the words of England's richest philosopher, "I can't get no satisfaction." And "You can't always get what you want."

The modern secular West tries to get the satisfaction; the ancient mystical East tries to get rid of the desires. The West tries to conquer the pain; the East tries to conquer the fear of the pain. Our common problem is that our desires are greater than our satisfactions. The West tries to change that disequation by bringing satisfactions up to the level of desires – of course, this never works – while the East seeks the same end by the opposite means of bringing desires down to or even below the level of satisfaction. And this does work, but only for the practiced Yogan or enlightened Buddhist. East and West both give us roads for escaping the problem. They're opposite roads, but they both escape the disproportion between desire and satisfaction, which is the formula for pain, or suffering.
I love how he talks about both the West and the East and how different cultures attempt to solve the pain problem in different ways.  Nothing is sufficient without God though.  God can make sense of the drama in our lives.  God can make amazing use of the world's sins and sufferings, including yours and mine.

So today, let's try not to cause any drama, and be in service to our King.  Let's also remember that when drama comes, God will be there too.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Knowing God versus knowing about God

Fr. John Riccardo gave a talk at a local non-denominational church (local to him, I assume) about knowing God.  Really quite good, and comforting.  He has some great audio talks on a variety of subjects here.

Now then, let's see if I can get this thing to embed...


Father John Riccardo at Kensington 5/28/11 from Kensington on Vimeo.

Thanksgiving

I am thankful for the Creator, for this world we live on and for the food we eat and the fact we exist.  I’m thankful God sent His son to die on the cross for us and for our sins so we can enter into Heaven.  I’m also thankful for Heaven, because that’ll be even better than here.  I’m thankful God is still with us via the Holy Spirit and we can communicate with God though prayer.

I am thankful for the Catholic Church, provided by God for us and our benefit to help guide us along our path here on this world.  I love my German shepherd, Pope Benedict.  I’m thankful for my bishop and priests, and not just in a general way.  I really do like them and am happy to see them at church.  I’m thankful they pray for me and for everyone else.

I’m thankful for my parents, who didn’t have to have me.  I don’t think it crossed their mind not to though, and so I’m thankful they did and they put up with me for so many years.  I’m thankful they raised me so well, and find different lessons I’m more and more thankful for every year.  I’m thankful they taught me to do the right thing without ever even considering, much less counting the cost.  I’m thankful they taught me to have integrity and respect others who have it as well.  I’m thankful they talked to me about God, because even though I wandered away for a bit, I always knew I could come back to my Heavenly Father.

My siblings were not expecting a little sister, and I was pretty annoying, and so I’m thankful they did not accidentally leave me on some road trip.  I’m thankful for their friendship, and thankful they married wonderful people who I rarely call my “in laws” because they’re just like my brother and sisters.  I’m thankful for their children, who are turning into intelligent adults who are fun to be around.  And I’ll be thankful for the lessons they teach their children, even if their children are not yet old enough to do the same quite yet.

I’m thankful for the rest of my family, from my aunt and uncle who are always calling in to check on me to my grandparents, only one of whom I really knew.  I’m thankful for my cousins, who I liked before I knew what the word cousin meant.  I’m thankful for the “aunts” and “uncles” who were never related to me officially but still had the authority to correct me and desire and ability to mentor me.

I’m thankful for my friends, who have absolutely no obligation to put up with me when I’m crazy but still do anyway.  They help me in all my activities and correct me when I stray from the right path.  They are wonderful examples and great people, and I’m thankful they are around.



I’m thankful for this country.  While I think we’ve hit a rough spot of late, this blog wouldn’t be possible without the freedom we enjoy.  The simple idea of freedom is something to be thankful for and the fact we have it is incredible.  I’m thankful for the people who have made that possible, from the patriots at the beginning of the country to the service men and women of today.  We all know the quote “Give me liberty or give me death,” but most of us are fortunate enough to not actually know what the lack of liberty really feels like.

I am thankful for my job, my house, and my dog.  Though I know I could survive without them because I have everything I need with the people mentioned above.

What are you thankful for today?