Saturday, January 26, 2013

Sarcasm

I speak sarcasm fluently.  I've always known this, my friends have always known this, and people I probably don't even know understand this about me.  I've always enjoyed sarcasm.  Recently, I've discovered a few things about sarcasm.

The first is I never really have understood the definition of sarcasm.  I just assumed it was stating the opposite of the truth in such a manner as to imply the truth, if that makes any sense.  That definition is devoid of any particular malice.  But I've found what I just described could simply be irony, and that sarcasm always has an unloving element.  Just for Diane, I'll skip Wikipedia for my first source.  From Merriam Webster
1 : a sharp and often satirical or ironic utterance designed to cut or give pain
2 a : a mode of satirical wit depending for its effect on bitter, caustic, and often ironic language that is usually directed against an individual
If I may return to Wikipedia for just a moment though, I'd like to look at the word's origin.
The word comes from the Greek σαρκασμός (sarkasmos) which is taken from the word σαρκάζειν meaning "to tear flesh, bite the lips in rage, sneer "
That doesn't sound very pleasant.  If I'm honest with myself, while I'd like to assume my sarcasm is devoid of any malice, it usually isn't.  How often is it that I drift into sarcasm to prove a point so I can be right?  Or how frequently do I use sarcasm to make others laugh at the expense of another person?  This is no victimless crime - even if I'm mocking something silly we do at work, I'm basically implying the people in charge are morons.  The same people who sign my paycheck...

So what?  Why is this important?  Let's go to another source.
Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every joint with which it is supplied, when each part is working properly, makes bodily growth and upbuilds itself in love. (Eph 4:15-16 RSV) 
Speaking the truth in love.  That's really rather against the idea of sarcasm, isn't it?

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Afraid

We serve the God who created the Universe from nothing.  His power is infinitely large.  There is no space nor time not within His eyesight and power.  Nothing can escape Him.  He loves us so much that He sent His only Son to save us.  Even though we've done nothing to deserve this and done everything to avoid this grace, He still loves us that much.  Our ultimate goal is to spend eternity with God in Heaven.

If we know all of that to be true, then why do we live in fear of things or people here?  What sense does that make?  If a soldier in the service of a mighty king hid every time something scary happened, would we not call him a coward?  If we are in the service of the Almighty King, why do we act so cowardly?

And I say unto you my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him.
(Luk 12:4-5)

I make a lot of decisions based on fear.  I'm afraid of looking foolish, so I don't start up a conversation with the people next to me at church.  I'm afraid I won't get enough sleep so I avoid some late night conversation.  I'm afraid I'll just make the situation worse and so I avoid trying to resolve conflict.  I'm afraid I won't be comfortable so I fail to do what God is asking me to do.

There are others with this same problem.  Thankfully I do not face this situation, but some are afraid for their jobs and so they do not walk with integrity.  Some may be afraid for their future so they stay with a job they hate instead of following their heart.  Some may be afraid of the pain relationships can cause, so they avoid friendship and love.  A great many fears rule many of us.

I've previously written about this fear based decision making in 2011 here, here, and here.  I am ashamed to admit I haven't made much progress even though I so clearly identified the problem there.  It is a constant battle to remember the eternal and not allow fear to rule the decisions I make.  We certainly don't get much support from the world on this matter as we are ever encouraged to be afraid.  One need only look at the knee jerk reactions (by both sides) to the recent gun related tragedy to see how very afraid we have become.

In the 2011 entries, I quote a post by Jennifer Fulwiler.
Sadly, I think that decision-making based on fear is increasingly common as secularization sweeps through Western society. Some of the key tenets of the secular worldview are that this world is all there is, suffering is the worst evil, and each person can and should be completely in charge of his or her own destiny. If all of those things are true, then it starts to make sense to imagine the worst case scenario of suffering, and manage your entire life around avoiding it. Without a solid belief in an eternal afterlife, the redemptive nature of suffering, and the sovereignty of a loving God, it is the rare person who can engage in hope-based decision making.
The world wants us to be afraid.  If the media truly is satan's PR department, then this isn't surprising.  Satan wants us afraid.  Those who are afraid are cowardly in battle and do not courageously serve their Almighty King in the fight against evil.  If Jesus tells us not to be afraid, then encouraging us to ignore that command must logically be a mission by the evil spiritual world set against us.

There's a great quote in the trailer of the upcoming movie After Earth with Will Smith and his real life son Jaden Smith.  "Fear is not real. It is a product of thoughts you create. Do not misunderstand me. Danger is very real. But fear is a choice."  It seems from the trailer that the young man must set out alone on a mission in order to save himself and his father.  If he is overwhelmed with fear, he will not be able to accomplish his task and both will die.

We do face many dangers here for sure, but that does not mean we must be afraid.  We can be prudent about the danger without living our lives in fear.  We serve an Almighty King and nothing and no one has more power than He does.  We must not grant them that power over our lives.  We must not be afraid of the world if we are to carry out our mission.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Disturbing Normal

Today is the Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children.  Why today?  It is the anniversary of Roe vs Wade

Earlier this month, Matt Drudge of the Drudge Report tweeted the following:


That's a normal day in America.  And we all go on about our lives as normal, concerned for our own problems and concerns and schedule.  Meanwhile, we legally slaughter thousands of innocents.  And call it normal.

Please join in the prayer today for the legal protection of the unborn.  It seems like the least we can do.

It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish. - Mother Teresa

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Comfortable

We want to be comfortable in life.  This can mean so many things, but on a basic and daily level we want to be warm.  We want to be fed.  We want to have shelter.

We want our houses to be at just the right temperature and our internet to be high speed.  We want the larger TV with the better picture and the larger sofa with the softer cushions.  We want the nicer bed with the softer sheets and we want the fuzzy towels in the bathroom like ones you'd find at a hotel.  Most of us don't really like change, as that has been proven to make us very uncomfortable.  We want our nice comfortable life with our nice comfortable stuff and our nice comfortable schedule and our nice comfortable social interactions. Or maybe we want slightly different things, but in any event we want to meet our definition of comfortable.

We sometimes live as though our sole purpose is simply to attain the right level of comfort.  Then we can sit quietly and live our comfortable lives in safety and security, never risking a thing.  What are we being asked to do that we might be ignoring because it isn't comfortable?  What conversations are we avoiding?  What changes in our life?  What might God be asking us to do that interferes with our comfort?  I always find those are the things I pretend I didn't hear as they are the ones I don't want to do.  It isn't comfortable

I was talking to my dad several months ago as he was preparing to participate in a particular charity.  I asked him why, since I knew that thing made him uncomfortable.  He told me he'd been thinking about it, and it just didn't seem like God cared if we were comfortable.

If God calls us to do something, our comfort level may not be at the top of His list of concerns, regardless of where it falls on our list.  Jesus' mission didn't seem to account for His comfort, particularly there at the end.  If we look at all that the apostles gave up to follow Him, comfort wasn't on their list either.  When offered the choice between death by stoning or a comfortable rejection of the Truth, Stephen didn't pick comfort.

Is comfort my king or is God?

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Lies we believe

Paul wrote to the city of Corinth a few years after setting up a church there.  They were having some problems following those around them, as Corinth was filled with sin.  The city was so associated with sex that many slang words regarding fornication utilized the city name.  The early church there had a hard time ignoring those influences.

Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body. What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's.
(1Co 6:18-20)
Paul advises his readers to flee from fornication.  How would one go about doing that there, surrounded by sex?  Probably the same way we ought to go about it here, as we too are surrounded by sex.

44% of teens say they watch something other than what their parents want them to watch when they're not around, with 25% selecting MTV.  Only 15% of the shows with sexual content showed the consequences of sex such as pregnancy or STDs, highlighted abstinence, or the need for "safety."  The average amount of time a teenager watches TV is 4 hours a day, and 54% have  TV in their bedroom.  (source)  And that's just the television.  If you look around at the checkout isle, you can find plenty of sex; ranging from the obvious on the cover of Cosmo to the more subtle magazines with dipping necklines and important information on how to make your butt more desirable so men will like you.

Children and teens are obviously the most easily swayed by such material, but we adults are not immune.  A new pornographic video is made in the US every 39 minutes, and we are the larger producer of porn in the world.  40 million American adults admit to visiting pornographic sites, with 72% of those being male and 28% being female.  These aren't random unknown low class people either - 60% make more than $50,000 yearly.  It isn't a problem with just young adults as 65% are older than 35.  (source)

We are surrounded by sex.  When I taught confirmation classes, I would tell the girls it is a vast conspiracy to lead us to believe sex outside of marriage is good and holy and true.  Conspiracy theorists have nothing on satan, and the media is his PR department.

How many movies have you gone to this year that did not have sex?  How many TV shows have you seen?  How many magazines?  It is quite literally every where we turn.  And I think many of us assume we are safe because we're just going to "ignore it" or it "isn't that big of a deal."  Maybe "there's not that much in it."  We have accepted the abnormal as the normal and assume we can safely just ignore it and it won't affect us.  It slowly creeps in until we don't give it a passing glance, but it is there in our heads.  It has the ability to affect us deeply.


Paul describes our body as a temple of the Holy Spirit.  If we belong to Jesus, our body is literally God's temple.  God dwells within us.

Let's talk a bit about the temple from the Old Testament, where God existed in a special way with His people.  The entire building was built and maintained in such a way to help prevent the accidental defilement of the Holy of Holies.  There are entire sections in the Bible dedicated to the rules set up to prevent anything unworthy from entering anywhere close to this area. Bad things happened to Israel when they didn't maintain it or allowed idolatry to occur in it.  It was a big deal, to put it mildly.

We have a choice.  We can accept fornication in our lives and make the abnormal normal.  We can watch TV and movies that dignify the undignified and glorify that which is not holy.  We can actively allow ourselves to be surrounded by this evil.  Or we can flee fornication as Paul writes to those at Corinth and avoid such influences.  We can look for ways to change our environment and protect ourselves against this influence.

Does that mean we might miss the latest greatest movie?  Yes.  Does it mean someone might think we're kind of boring?  Sure.  But let's say we were entering combat and people were shooting at us.  One of our buddies suggests skipping the body armor and helmet because they look kind of stupid.  Is that advice we'd take then?
Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:
(Eph 6:10-17)
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
(Rom 12:1-2)

Monday, January 14, 2013

Too Busy for Prayer

Sometimes I find that I am entirely too busy to pray or read my Bible.  There is a lot going on in my life, with a big project at work and various other tasks to stay on top of, such as ensuring I make it to the Y daily.  These goals are all very important to me, and I think if I reduce the amount of time I spend with the Lord it isn't a big deal.  I suppose I could do it in the middle of the day when I'm driving, but there is music to listen to.  I could do it at other times when I have a few moments of nothing to do, but I'd rather think ahead to the next task.  I could even do it while I was running at the Y, but they have the TV on.   Throw in an Our Father, a Hail Mary, and a Glory Be when I wake up and go to sleep (if I remember) and I should be good to go.  Right?
But so much the more went there a fame abroad of him: and great multitudes came together to hear, and to be healed by him of their infirmities. And he withdrew himself into the wilderness, and prayed.
(Luk 5:15-16)
Here we have Jesus busily curing people of diseases.  I would imagine there were a lot of them based on other stories, and who wouldn't go visit Him as he could heal their wounds.  That is a very important task.  I might think it was more important than prayer because it is actually doing something, and all those people are more likely to believe in Him. But I'm not Jesus.  Jesus, who already knows God because He is God, stops what he is doing to go pray.  The commentaries note that the original language indicates he did this frequently, leaving His mission of healing to go and converse with the Father.
Every Christian needs a half-hour of prayer each day, except when he is busy, then he needs an hour.
~ St Francis de Sales

Friday, January 11, 2013

Suffering

I have a serious complex about suffering.  I don't like it.  Not that anybody really does, but I just get hung up on it.  Usually with regard to someone else, but all too frequently I can get in a nice selfish tizzy about my own suffering.

Everybody suffers mild and major problems, pretty much on a daily or even hourly basis.  Some are minor such as stubbing our toe or being mocked by someone who we don't even care about, and some are major like terminal illness or the loss of loved ones.  And there is everything in between.  Sometimes we do it to ourselves, as in the case of my sore arm muscles from lifting weights.  A more serious example might be any health consequences for poor choices.  Sometimes bad things happen that we did not personally cause, like if I was hit by a drunk driver on the way home one night.  And perhaps worst of all are sufferings that occur to those who did nothing to deserve the pain or even deserve any suffering at all as they are totally innocent, like babies.

On the whole, society strives against suffering.  We research in all sorts of fields, make laws in all sorts of areas, and work all the time to eliminate suffering.  Of course we are all called to reduce suffering and do what we can to help those afflicted with any kind of distress.  I think our problem, and I know my problem, is we want to make suffering go away entirely.  We'd like it if we could find some way to eliminate pain and suffering from our experience as humans.  This difference between what we want and what we clearly cannot have causes me a lot of stress.

If the wages of sin is death, and everyone sins, then suffering and death are inevitable.  There's no escaping it.  There's nothing to be done about it.  We might fix one medical problem but will always have another.  We might feel better about a relationship one day but have it cause pain the next.  No matter what we do, we will always grow older and die.  And no matter how much we hope and pray against it, bad things will continue to happen to for no apparent reason to people we know and love.

You'd think the knowledge of this inevitable state of life would make me take a more balanced, logical approach.  But no, I still strive against the idea of suffering.  It bothers me so much that if someone else is suffering, I'll suffer too in loss of sleep.  Suffering really bugs me.


I was reading this morning and reflected on the fact we can get so hung up on the suffering we experience here.  We spend so much time thinking about it, fearing it, and avoiding it.  And yet, it is not the most important suffering we have to worry about.  What is our time in suffering here compared to eternity?  Not much at all.

What kind of suffering would be worse?  Eternal suffering.  Spending all of eternity suffering, without hope, and without chance of escape.

And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
(Joh 3:14-17)

Jesus is the way out of eternal suffering.  All of us have sinned, and are deserving of the suffering we endure here and the suffering we would experience in hell as we have fallen short of the glory of God.  This suffering we fear and experience and struggle with now is nothing in comparison to the suffering Jesus has saved His believers from.


It really puts suffering we experience now into a different perspective.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Of Houses and Hobbits

Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on: you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of — throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.
~CS Lewis
We all have a few problems we know need fixing; areas of our life that could stand some "improvement."  It isn't any surprise then that those things change as we grow closer to Jesus and more involved with doing His will.  It does surprise us though when other things start happening.  Or at least it does me.  I like controlling my life, and ever since I started following Jesus, I've found I have less and less control over it.

I sometimes feel a bit like Bilbo Baggins at the first part of the Hobbit movie. Nice quiet life with everything nice and tidy and organized.  He thinks he is happy and most likely has plans for his life.  Safe plans.  Easy plans.  Respectable plans.

Then Gandalf shows up.  The conversation goes oddly and the wizard leaves.  Later, Bilbo gets a knock on his door and opens it to find a dwarf.  He lets him in, thinking it is polite.  He's followed by another dwarf.  They find his pantry and start helping themselves.  Soon his whole house is invaded by dwarves who eat his food, move his stuff, and generally stress him out.  The invite him on an adventure, and of course he wants nothing to do with it.  Adventures aren't very respectable.

Morning comes and he's changed his mind and Bilbo Baggins is off on an adventure.  It is a scary adventure!  There are plenty of times he and his companions are terribly scared.  They are uncomfortable and cold and miserable.  They are chased by all sorts of evil creatures and nearly die on several occasions.  At the same time, he's exposed to beautiful places and things and people he could have never imagined at home.

In the end, Bilbo returns home safely.  He's not considered respectable anymore, but  he's a totally changed hobbit.  Life looks different to Bilbo than everyone else.  And if you follow the story all the way through, Bilbo's little adventure leads to a much larger adventure for his nephew.  His task involves saving the whole world.  No small task!

Bilbo didn't see all this the night his house got invaded by the dwarves. He never would have imagined the adventure he'd have or the beauty he would see.  If he had been able to imagine the danger, he never would have gone.  In the end, this transformation of Bilbo affects him greatly as well as everyone around him.

My life with Jesus has been one wild ride, with plenty of adventures that have been both frightening and beautiful.  I am very happy!  And I'll try to remember this the next time something He's doing "hurts abominably," as Lewis writes.

The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Do it Anyway

People are often unreasonable, irrational and self-centered;
Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives;
Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies;
Succeed anyway.
If you are honest and sincere, people may deceive you;
Be honest and sincere anyway.
What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight;
Create anyway.
If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous;
Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, will often be forgotten;
Do good anyway.
Give the best you have, and it may never be enough;
Give your best anyway.
In the final analysis, it is between you and God; It was never between you and them anyway. 
Some attribute this to Mother Teresa.  Some say she had it on a wall at Children's Home.  It was probably written by someone else.  In any event, it is a wonderful thing to think about as we head into 2013.  Who are we attempting to work for this year?  Who are we attempting to glorify?  Is it others?  Ourselves?  Or God?  It is God who makes our work matter and God who gives us eternal life. 

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord

Today is the Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord!  Readings are here.  What does that mean?
The Epiphany is the manifestation of Jesus as Messiah of Israel, Son of God and Saviour of the world. the great feast of Epiphany celebrates the adoration of Jesus by the wise men (magi) from the East, together with his baptism in the Jordan and the wedding feast at Cana in Galilee.

In the magi, representatives of the neighbouring pagan religions, the Gospel sees the first-fruits of the nations, who welcome the good news of salvation through the Incarnation.

The magi's coming to Jerusalem in order to pay homage to the king of the Jews shows that they seek in Israel, in the messianic light of the star of David, the one who will be king of the nations.

Their coming means that pagans can discover Jesus and worship him as Son of God and Saviour of the world only by turning towards the Jews and receiving from them the messianic promise as contained in the Old Testament.

The Epiphany shows that “the full number of the nations” now takes its “place in the family of the patriarchs”, and acquires Israelitica dignitas (is made “worthy of the heritage of Israel”) [CCC 528]. 
I found that at Jimmy Akin's blog entry 9 Things You Need to Know about Epiphany.   

A lot of interesting facts and historical traditions can be found here, in The Epiphany is about Faith.  Did you know early tradition counted 12 wise men?  We think of three now, but the Bible never actually says how many.

Naturally I checked out Wikipedia on the Epiphany, and found what the Greek for the word means:
The Koine Greek ἐπιφάνεια, epiphaneia derives from the verb "to appear" and means "appearance," "manifestation." In classical Greek it was used of the appearance of dawn, of an enemy in war, but especially of a manifestation of a deity to a worshipper (a theophany).[10] In the Septuagint the word is used for a manifestation of the god of Israel (2 Maccabees 15:27).[11] In the New Testament the word is used in 2 Timothy 1:10 to refer either to the birth of Christ[10] or to his appearance after his resurrection, and five times to refer to the Second Coming.[10][11]
Thanks to Google, I also found out that the Pope apparently makes some priests bishops on this celebration, as he did in 2012 and again today.  Below is the beginning of that homily from today:
For the Church which believes and prays, the Wise Men from the East who, guided by the star, made their way to the manger of Bethlehem, are only the beginning of a great procession which winds throughout history.  Thus the liturgy reads the Gospel which relates the journey of the Wise Men, together with the magnificent prophetic visions of the sixtieth chapter of the Book of Isaiah and Psalm 71, which depict in bold imagery the pilgrimage of the peoples to Jerusalem.  Like the shepherds, who as the first visitors to the newborn Child in the manger, embodied the poor of Israel and more generally those humble souls who live in deep interior closeness to Jesus, so the men from the East embody the world of the peoples, the Church of the Gentiles – the men and women who in every age set out on the way which leads to the Child of Bethlehem, to offer him homage as the Son of God and to bow down before him.  The Church calls this feast “Epiphany” – the appearance of the Godhead.  If we consider the fact that from the very beginning men and women of every place, of every continent, of all the different cultures, mentalities and lifestyles, have been on the way to Christ, then we can truly say that this pilgrimage and this encounter with God in the form of a Child is an epiphany of God’s goodness and loving kindness for humanity (cf. Tit 3:4).
Finally I found this, "excerpts from sermons XXXI, XXXIII, XXXIV, and XXXVI on the Epiphany, by Pope Leo the Great (ca. A.D. 395-461)".  Check out that date!
The Epiphany a necessary sequel to the Nativity. After celebrating but lately the day on which immaculate virginity brought forth the Saviour of mankind, the venerable feast of the Epiphany, dearly beloved, gives us continuance of joy, that the force of our exultation and the fervour of our faith may not grow cool, in the midst of neighbouring and kindred mysteries. For it concerns all men's salvation, that the infancy of the Mediator between God and men was already manifested to the whole world, while He was still detained in the tiny town. For although He had chosen the Israelitish nation, and one family out of that nation, from whom to assume the nature of all mankind, yet He was unwilling that the early days of His birth should be concealed within the narrow limits of His mother's home: but desired to be soon recognized by all, seeing that He deigned to be born for all...

...The wise men from the East are typical fulfilments of God's promise to Abraham. Now the manifestation of this unspeakable mercy, dearly-beloved, came to pass when Herod held the royal power in Judea, where the legitimate succession of Kings having failed and the power of the High-priests having been overthrown, an alien-born had gained the sovereignty: that the rising of the true King might be attested by the voice of prophecy, which had said: "a prince shall not fail from Juda, nor a leader from his loins, until He come for whom it is reserved, and He shall be the expectation of the nations." Concerning which an innumerable succession was once promised to the most blessed patriarch Abraham to be begotten not by fleshly seed but by fertile faith; and therefore it was compared to the stars in multitude that as father of all the nations he might hope not for an earthly but for a heavenly progeny. And therefore, for the creating of the promised posterity, the heirs designated under the figure of the stars are awakened by the rising of a new star, that the ministrations of the heaven might do service in that wherein the witness of the heaven had been adduced. A star more brilliant than the other stars arouses wise men that dwell in the far East, and from the brightness of the wondrous light these men, not unskilled in observing such things, appreciate the importance of the sign: this doubtless being brought about in their hearts by Divine inspiration, in order that the mystery of so great a sight might not be hid from them, and, what was an unusual appearance to their eyes, might not be obscure to their minds. In a word they scrupulously set about their duty and provide themselves with such gifts that in worshipping the One they may at the same time show their belief in His threefold function: with gold they honour the Person of a King, with myrrh that of Man, with incense that of God...

 ...The perseverance of the Magi has led to the most important results. Led then, dearly beloved, into Bethlehem by obeying the guidance of the star, the wise men "rejoiced with very great joy," as the evangelist has told us: "and entering the house, found the child with Mary, His mother; and falling down they worshipped Him; and opening their treasures they presented to Him gifts, gold, frankincense and myrrh." What wondrous faith of perfect knowledge, which was taught them not by earthly wisdom, but by the instruction of the Holy Spirit! Whence came it that these men, who had quitted their country without having seen Jesus, and had not noticed anything in His looks to enforce such systematic adoration, observed this method in offering their gifts unless it were that besides the appearance of the star, which attracted their bodily eyes, the more refulgent rays of truth taught their hearts that before they started on their toilsome road, they must understand that He was signified to Whom was owed in gold royal honour, in incense Divine adoration, in myrrh the acknowledgment of mortality.

Such a belief and understanding no doubt, as far as the enlightenment of their faith went, might have been sufficient in themselves and have prevented their using their bodily eyes in inquiring into that which they had beheld with their mind's fullest gaze. But their sagacious diligence, persevering till they found the child, did good service for future peoples and for the men of our own time: so that, as it profited us all that the apostle Thomas, after the Lord's resurrection, handled the traces of the wounds in His flesh, so it was of advantage to us that His infancy should be attested by the visit of the wise men. And so the wise men saw and adored the Child of the tribe of Judah, "of the seed of David according to the flesh," "made from a woman, made under the law," which He had come "not to destroy but to fulfil." They saw and adored the Child, small in size, powerless to help others, incapable of speech, and in nought different to the generality of human children. Because, as the testimonies were trustworthy which asserted in Him the majesty of invisible Godhead, so it ought to be impossible to doubt that "the Word became flesh," and the eternal essence of the Son of God took man's true nature: lest either the inexpressible marvels of his acts which were to follow or the infliction of sufferings which He had to bear should overthrow the mystery of our Faith by their inconsistency: seeing that no one at all can be justified save those who believe the Lord Jesus to be both true God and true Man...

...The story of the magi is not only a bygone fact in history, but of everyday application to ourselves. The day, dearly-beloved, on which Christ the Saviour of the world first appeared to the nations must be venerated by us with holy worship: and today those joys must be entertained in our hearts which existed in the breasts of the three magi, when, aroused by the sign and leading of a new star, which they believed to have been promised, they fell down in presence of the King of heaven and earth. For that day has not so passed away that the mighty work, which was then revealed, has passed away with it, and that nothing but the report of the thing has come down to us for faith to receive and memory to celebrate; seeing that, by the oft-repeated gift of God, our times daily enjoy the fruit of what the first age possessed. And therefore, although the narrative which is read to us from the Gospel properly records those days on which the three men, who had neither been taught by the prophets' predictions nor instructed by the testimony of the law, came to acknowledge God from the furthest parts of the East, yet we behold this same thing more clearly and abundantly carried on now in the enlightenment of all those who are called, since the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled when he says, "the Lord has laid bare His holy arm in the sight of all the nations, and all the nations upon earth have seen the salvation which is from the Lord our God" and again, "and those to whom it has not been announced about Him shall see, and they who have not heard, shall understand."

Hence when we see men devoted to worldly wisdom and far from belief in Jesus Christ brought out of the depth of their error and called to an acknowledgment of the true Light, it is undoubtedly the brightness of the Divine grace that is at work: and whatever of new light illumines the darkness of their hearts, comes from the rays of the same star: so that it should both move with wonder, and going before lead to the adoration of God the minds which it visited with its splendour. But if with careful thought we wish to see how their threefold kind of gift is also offered by all who come to Christ with the foot of faith, is not the same offering repeated in the hearts of true believers? For he that acknowledges Christ the King of the universe brings gold from the treasure of his heart: he that believes the Only-begotten of God to have united man's true nature to Himself, offers myrrh; and he that confesses Him in no wise inferior to the Father's majesty, worships Him in a manner with incense.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

On Wikipedia and Goals

Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
(1Co 13:4-7 KJV)

Charity is patient, is kind: charity envieth not, dealeth not perversely, is not puffed up, Is not ambitious, seeketh not her own, is not provoked to anger, thinketh no evil: Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth with the truth: Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
(1Co 13:4-7 DRB)

Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
(1Co 13:4-7 RSV)

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
(1Co 13:4-7 NIV)

I posted four different versions on purpose.  Some of you read different versions, and that's part of the reason.  The other reason is I could stand to repeat that over and over and over again.  I'm still not sure I'd remember it or get it or hang on to it in my ADD head for more than 30 seconds.  It isn't that I'm a particularly mean person, but patience is not one of my strengths!


I learn all sorts of interesting things from Wikipedia.  In an article on theological virtues, it says of love/charity:
The English word love for the third and greatest of the virtues, ἀγάπη (agapē), was used by all of the English translators of the Bible in the 16th Century, including Tyndale (1534), the Bishops' Bible (1568) and the Geneva Bible (1560). It is also used by almost all current translations of the Bible, including the New King James Version, the New American Standard Bible, and the New International Version.

The King James Version (1611) and the Challoner Douay Rheims Bible (1752) prefer the more theological term Charity for the same idea of specifically Christian love.

More theological term?  What does that mean?  Well, head on over to the entry on charity...
Charity is held to be the ultimate perfection of the human spirit, because it is said to both glorify and reflect the nature of God. Confusion can arise from the multiple meanings of the English word "love". The love that is caritas is distinguished by its origin, being divinely infused into the soul, and by its residing in the will rather than emotions, regardless of what emotions it stirs up. 
The idea here is it isn't a feeling.  I don't need to feel like loving God today in order to serve Him.  I don't need to feel like loving my friends, family, and neighbors today in order to do God's will.  I need to pray for divine assistance in this area, and if it indeed resides in my will and not in my feelings, suck it up and apply my own effort into doing a better job.  I think that's "cooperating with God's grace," but it is the same idea.

Another and very important goal for 2013!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus

Today is the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus, apparently.  I didn't know that when I wrote it.  It works well though!  You can find more information about this feast here and here.
This Feast is associated with the Feast of the Circumcision, for it is when a child was circumcized that he received a name and was accepted as a son of Abraham and a full member of his family (the Feast of the Holy Family will come soon, after the Feast of the Epiphany on the 6th). So honored is His Holy Name that devout Catholics bow their heads (men removing their hats) at the sound of "Jesus" (or "Iesus" in Latin), both inside and outside of the liturgy. To protect the sacredness and honor due the Holy Name, when hearing the Name of the Lord taken in vain, it is right to pray "Sit nomen Dómini benedíctum!" ( "Blessed be the Name of the Lord"), to which the reply, if overheard, is "Ex hoc nunc, et usque in sæculum!" ("from this time forth for evermore!"). .
I recently added the Lighthouse Catholic Media app to my iphone.  This includes a full bible, and you can purchase the audio recording of any book.  It comes with the audio of John free.  

Lighthouse Catholic Media is probably better known for the audio CDs available at many parishes on a variety of topics.  My sister’s church has them out in front for purchase at basically the cost of the CD and packaging.  This app allows you to purchase these audio recordings for your phone.  It also includes a variety of free audio resources from St. Paul’s Center for Biblical Theology.  I’ve been enjoying the free download from there on the Gospel of John.

I did purchase the audio download on Confession by Father Larry Richards.  Father Richards was at a Steubenville retreat I attended with a local youth ministry, and he was a very dynamic speaker.  The audio recording was just as good, and I’d highly recommend it to anyone but especially those who are confused or hesitant about the Sacrament of Confession.  It is very encouraging.

One thing from his talk that has remained on my mind was his thoughts on not using God’s name in vain.  I’ve never had a problem with using God’s name in a curse.  I was always taught that was one of the worst things we could do.  It is also a bit preposterous anyway.  Usually we’re cursing at an inanimate object, so we’re basically commanding the God of the Universe to forever condemn to hell a useless piece of plastic or metal.  Asking others who frequent this phrase if that’s what they are intending to do usually makes them stop.  Worse, of course, is if it is used towards another human.  Then we’re demanding God send them to eternal suffering in hell.

Father Richards also noted that we shouldn’t use God’s name for no reason.  How often do we say, or overhear, “Oh my God!”  How often is that phrase really meant to invite God to the situation?  Are we really requesting divine assistance or thanking the Lord for whatever novelty caught our attention so abruptly?  Sure, if you see a car accident it might be a perfectly appropriate thing to say as you’d like God to assist.  Cute socks, a nasty bug, or a friend’s ridiculous statement probably do not warrant the same reaction.

We’ve allowed the name of our Creator to become another slang word.  There’s no particular moral issue with slang or altering the language to the time, though it might annoy some.  But why would we make common something holy? 

Lev_20:3  And I will set my face against that man, and will cut him off from among his people; because he hath given of his seed unto Molech, to defile my sanctuary, and to profane my holy name.

Lev_22:2  Speak unto Aaron and to his sons, that they separate themselves from the holy things of the children of Israel, and that they profane not my holy name in those things which they hallow unto me: I am the LORD.

Lev_22:32  Neither shall ye profane my holy name; but I will be hallowed among the children of Israel: I am the LORD which hallow you,

1Ch_16:10  Glory ye in his holy name: let the heart of them rejoice that seek the LORD.

1Ch_16:35  And say ye, Save us, O God of our salvation, and gather us together, and deliver us from the heathen, that we may give thanks to thy holy name, and glory in thy praise.

1Ch_29:16  O LORD our God, all this store that we have prepared to build thee an house for thine holy name cometh of thine hand, and is all thine own.

Psa_33:21  For our heart shall rejoice in him, because we have trusted in his holy name.

Psa_103:1  Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name.

Psa_105:3  Glory ye in his holy name: let the heart of them rejoice that seek the LORD.

Psa_106:47  Save us, O LORD our God, and gather us from among the heathen, to give thanks unto thy holy name, and to triumph in thy praise.

Psa_145:21  My mouth shall speak the praise of the LORD: and let all flesh bless his holy name for ever and ever.

Eze_20:39  As for you, O house of Israel, thus saith the Lord GOD; Go ye, serve ye every one his idols, and hereafter also, if ye will not hearken unto me: but pollute ye my holy name no more with your gifts, and with your idols.

Eze_36:20-22  And when they entered unto the heathen, whither they went, they profaned my holy name, when they said to them, These are the people of the LORD, and are gone forth out of his land.  But I had pity for mine holy name, which the house of Israel had profaned among the heathen, whither they went.   Therefore say unto the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord GOD; I do not this for your sakes, O house of Israel, but for mine holy name's sake, which ye have profaned among the heathen, whither ye went.

Eze_39:7  So will I make my holy name known in the midst of my people Israel; and I will not let them pollute my holy name any more: and the heathen shall know that I am the LORD, the Holy One in Israel.

Eze_39:25  Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Now will I bring again the captivity of Jacob, and have mercy upon the whole house of Israel, and will be jealous for my holy name;

Eze_43:7-8  And he said unto me, Son of man, the place of my throne, and the place of the soles of my feet, where I will dwell in the midst of the children of Israel for ever, and my holy name, shall the house of Israel no more defile, neither they, nor their kings, by their whoredom, nor by the carcases of their kings in their high places.   In their setting of their threshold by my thresholds, and their post by my posts, and the wall between me and them, they have even defiled my holy name by their abominations that they have committed: wherefore I have consumed them in mine anger.

Amo_2:7  That pant after the dust of the earth on the head of the poor, and turn aside the way of the meek: and a man and his father will go in unto the same maid, to profane my holy name:

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also

And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth. And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully: And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits? And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.

And he said unto his disciples, Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat; neither for the body, what ye shall put on. The life is more than meat, and the body is more than raiment. Consider the ravens: for they neither sow nor reap; which neither have storehouse nor barn; and God feedeth them: how much more are ye better than the fowls? And which of you with taking thought can add to his stature one cubit? If ye then be not able to do that thing which is least, why take ye thought for the rest? Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. If then God so clothe the grass, which is to day in the field, and to morrow is cast into the oven; how much more will he clothe you, O ye of little faith?

And seek not ye what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, neither be ye of doubtful mind. For all these things do the nations of the world seek after: and your Father knoweth that ye have need of these things. But rather seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you. Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.
(Luk 12:15-32)

It is easy to worry about our money.  We want to have money for everything we need, think we need, and want.  My wants occasionally slide into the “think we need” category.  Okay, occasionally may be an understatement.  What do we really need?

Reflecting on an earlier post, we don’t really need anything here.  As scary as it sounds, we can literally lose everything in this world and still be just fine.  Unemployment, loss of a home, and bankruptcy will not bar us from Heaven.  Dying of hunger, thirst, cold, heat, or even murder will not prevent us from eternity.  They’re all very short term problems, relative to forever.

But Jesus says that God will provide what we need.  It may not be all that we want or all that we even think that we need, but Jesus promises we will have what we do actually need.  It may not be what we need to fulfill our own plans, but it will be sufficient to accomplish His plans for us.

This doesn’t mean we can be lazy and sit around doing nothing waiting for God to send food.  We need to use our talents, as provided by Him, to earn a living.  But a lot of the stress associated with money would go away if we can remember that God has it covered.  He has a plan, and all the power to make it happen.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

2013

2013 sounds like such an odd year.  Maybe it is the 13.  I don't know; just doesn't sound right!  Nonetheless, hopefully we are all ready for it.  I pray this year brings all of my readers closer to the Lord, as that is the most important.  Aside from that, I do truly hope you have a happy and fruitful year.

My resolutions for the year include praying more, reading more, and working out more.  I've actually done fairly well on all three in the last week, though the third one has been slow due to the holidays.

One thing on my mind as we enter 2013 is the HHS mandate regarding certain coverages many Christians believe to be immoral.  I'd like to recommend you go shopping at Hobby Lobby this week. 

Today Hobby Lobby announced that they will not comply with this mandate to become complicit in abortion, which the Greens believe ends an innocent human life. Given Hobby Lobby’s size (it has 572 stores employing more than 13,000 people), by violating the HHS Mandate, it will be subject to over $1.3 million in fines per day.
There's a cause I can support.  Facebook has the support Hobby Lobby day as this Saturday, January 5th.