Sunday, May 25, 2014

Wrath

Every morning I try to take in the daily Mass readings via my Logos software.  It has been hit or miss, but I know the day starts off better when I do it.

After I'm done reading that, I also try to read that day's entry in the Pictorial Lives of the Saints.  This daily devotional by John Shea from 1887 has a few paragraphs on a different saint each day of the year.  This has also been both educational and enjoyable.  

A few Fridays ago, this was the reflection of the day for St. Gregory Nazianzen: “We must overcome our enemies,” said St. Gregory, “by gentleness; win them over by forbearance. Let them be punished by their own conscience, not by our wrath. Let us not at once wither the fig-tree, from which a more skilful gardener may yet entice fruit.”

That was really annoying and not at all what I wanted to hear that morning.  Let them be punished by their own conscience, not by my wrath?  Seriously?  I was annoyed with someone and really wanted to tell them off.  I'm sure you know the feeling.  And of course we're just certain telling them off will make us feel better, will fix whatever problem they are having, and in general make the world a better place.  It is rough to get reminded before seven in the morning that you're wrong.  It is even rougher realizing that you're wrong about something eternal.  Nobody I know actively wants to mess that kind of thing up!

I sat on it all weekend and eventually did post it to my Facebook, more as a reminder to myself than anyone else.  Within a week or so another friend posted this picture and the following verses.

BergQuote

And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you. ~Ephesians 4:32

See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men. ~1 Thessalonians 5:15

Recompense to no man evil for evil. ~Romans 12:17

Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good. ~Romans 12:21

Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous: Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing. ~1 Peter 3:8

It is so easy to be mad with others.  We forget that we're not perfect either - we're all sinners.  We forget God loves that other person and wants for them to know Him and be with HIm forever, regardless of what we happen to think of them at the time.  We forget everyone has their own lives, issues, feelings, and problems that may cause them to act the way they do and then we forget to have compassion on them.  Sometimes it is good to be reminded of what we forget.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Oops. Let's do it again.

So Abijah slept with his fathers, and they buried him in the city of David; and Asa his son reigned in his stead. In his days the land had rest for ten years.  And Asa did what was good and right in the eyes of the LORD his God.  He took away the foreign altars and the high places, and broke down the pillars and hewed down the Asherim, and commanded Judah to seek the LORD, the God of their fathers, and to keep the law and the commandment.  He also took out of all the cities of Judah the high places and the incense altars. And the kingdom had rest under him.  ~2 Chr 1-5

In my last entry I wrote about how much I find in the Old Testament.  Reading about Asa is another example of an Old Testament story with applications to life right now.  King Asa was doing a great job when he starts off here, destroying the foreign altars and commanding the people to worship God.  He offers sacrifices to God and even dethrones his own mother (the king's mother was a big deal in the kingdom) for worshiping idols.    During his reign, he was attacked by the Ethiopians.  He called out to God and his army was delivered from the stronger force.  Everything seems to be going great for Asa before Chapter 16.

In the thirty-sixth year of the reign of Asa, Baasha king of Israel went up against Judah, and built Ramah, that he might permit no one to go out or come in to Asa king of Judah. Then Asa took silver and gold from the treasures of the house of the LORD and the king’s house, and sent them to Ben-hadad king of Syria, who dwelt in Damascus, saying,  “Let there be a league between me and you, as between my father and your father; behold, I am sending to you silver and gold; go, break your league with Baasha king of Israel, that he may withdraw from me.”  And Ben-hadad hearkened to King Asa, and sent the commanders of his armies against the cities of Israel, and they conquered Ijon, Dan, Abel-maim, and all the store-cities of Naphtali.  And when Baasha heard of it, he stopped building Ramah, and let his work cease.  Then King Asa took all Judah, and they carried away the stones of Ramah and its timber, with which Baasha had been building, and with them he built Geba and Mizpah.

At that time Hanani the seer came to Asa king of Judah, and said to him, “Because you relied on the king of Syria, and did not rely on the LORD your God, the army of the king of Syria has escaped you. 8 Were not the Ethiopians and the Libyans a huge army with exceedingly many chariots and horsemen? Yet because you relied on the LORD, he gave them into your hand.  For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show his might in behalf of those whose heart is blameless toward him. You have done foolishly in this; for from now on you will have wars.” Then Asa was angry with the seer, and put him in the stocks, in prison, for he was in a rage with him because of this. And Asa inflicted cruelties upon some of the people at the same time.

The acts of Asa, from first to last, are written in the Book of the Kings of Judah and Israel.  In the thirty-ninth year of his reign Asa was diseased in his feet, and his disease became severe; yet even in his disease he did not seek the LORD, but sought help from physicians.  And Asa slept with his fathers, dying in the forty-first year of his reign.  They buried him in the tomb which he had hewn out for himself in the city of David. They laid him on a bier which had been filled with various kinds of spices prepared by the perfumer’s art; and they made a very great fire in his honor.

~2 Chr 16

So, Asa goofs.  People do that sometimes.  When confronted, Asa threw the seer in the stocks instead of repenting.  It appears from this story he started being cruel to the people at the same time.  When he fell ill later, Asa refused to return to God and instead continued to rely on others.  The situation clearly went from bad to worse for Asa based entirely on his own response.

How often do we make a situation go bad to worse?  Maybe we don't actively go out and build idols to worship, but once we're on a roll we just let go of what we know is right.  I do it all the time.  Perhaps I'm not getting along with a friend and we've exchanged some snappy words.  I could stop and change the subject, but instead I may bring it up again just to get in a witty remark.  Maybe I've realized I'm on the gossip train and ought to get off, but instead decide to stay on it because I've already screwed up and this information seems awfully interesting.  Or a friend will correct me for doing something I shouldn't be doing, and instead of being thankful for the reminder I get annoyed and prideful.  These aren't all that uncommon - all three have happened this week.

It is perfectly acceptable to bail from bad behavior once we've realized we're there, no matter how long it takes us to realize it.  We can't take back what we've already done, but we can take charge of the next moment and ask that God give us the strength to do what is necessary.  

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Counsel from the Old Testament

I've been reading 2 Chronicles lately.  I know a lot of people find the Old Testament boring, but I'm not one of them.  Once I understood the basic outline of the story and began to see the connections to the New Testament, the Old Testament became a joy to read.  It is also full of lessons for life.

Look at what happened to Solomon's son, for instance.  Rehoboam inherited a significant kingdom following the death of his father.  All the tribes of Israel were under his rule.  It didn't take long for the young king to falter though:

And they sent and called him; and Jeroboam and all Israel came and said to Rehoboam, “Your father made our yoke heavy. Now therefore lighten the hard service of your father and his heavy yoke upon us, and we will serve you.”  He said to them, “Come to me again in three days.” So the people went away.

Then King Rehoboam took counsel with the old men, who had stood before Solomon his father while he was yet alive, saying, “How do you advise me to answer this people?” And they said to him, “If you will be kind to this people and please them, and speak good words to them, then they will be your servants for ever.” But he forsook the counsel which the old men gave him, and took counsel with the young men who had grown up with him and stood before him. And he said to them, “What do you advise that we answer this people who have said to me, ‘Lighten the yoke that your father put upon us’?” And the young men who had grown up with him said to him, “Thus shall you speak to the people who said to you, ‘Your father made our yoke heavy, but do you lighten it for us’; thus shall you say to them, ‘My little finger is thicker than my father’s loins.  And now, whereas my father laid upon you a heavy yoke, I will add to your yoke. My father chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions.’” ~ 2 Chr 10:3-11

When the old men who had helped his father didn't provide an answer that satisfied his ego, Rehoboam went to his younger friends.  Following their advice led to the permanent split between the ten northern tribes of Israel and the tribes of Judah and Benjamin.  Let's let that sink in for a moment.

This isn't to say the advice of our peers isn't valuable, but when we ignore the tested advice of those we know to be wise, we are asking for trouble.  It is so easy to fall in line with our peers and to do as they do or as they say.  We call this "peer pressure" to kids, but we are not immune as adults.  We can also find this in a much larger setting; namely whatever the current societal trend of the day is for the world compared to centuries of wisdom from the church and/or especially what we know from God.  How often do we see things as old fashioned or out of touch, just because they are old and no longer seem to meet our fancy?  As much as we hate to admit it, there is often wisdom in age.

This isn't the only time a king takes bad counsel.  In Chapter 24, Joash the king does fine so long as a faithful priest is there to help him.

Joash was seven years old when he began to reign, and he reigned forty years in Jerusalem; his mother’s name was Zibiah of Beer-sheba.  And Joash did what was right in the eyes of the LORD all the days of Jehoiada the priest. ~ 2 Chr 24:1-2

He does quite well "all the days of Jehoiada," collecting the proper taxes and rebuilding the temple.  But what happens when the priest dies?

Now after the death of Jehoiada the princes of Judah came and did obeisance to the king; then the king hearkened to them. And they forsook the house of the LORD, the God of their fathers, and served the Asherim and the idols. And wrath came upon Judah and Jerusalem for this their guilt.  Yet he sent prophets among them to bring them back to the LORD; these testified against them, but they would not give heed. ~ 2 Chr 24:17-19

That's a pretty epic change to go from building up the temple and the proper worship of God to outright idolatry, all on account of some suck ups.  The prophets from God even warned them, but to no avail.  The desire for the riches and praises of this world proved too much.

Perhaps it is easy to dismiss these stories as a bunch of idiots that lived way before us, thus falling into the same trap of ignoring the old just because it is old.  These aren't stories from long ago that have no parallel in our lives.  This kind of thing happens all the time and is an ever-present danger to those who would seek the Lord now.  Egos still exist.  We still crave the praises of others.  

So what are we to do to avoid this same path?  I'd say start with prayer, though of course I find myself lacking in that area daily.  We are also blessed with an abundance of wisdom if we're Catholic as the Church already has all those silly "rules" and pieces of wisdom we like to dismiss so casually if we don't understand them.  They're pretty safe to follow even if we can't explain them fully (though do make sure it is a general guideline and not something wacky one theologian came up with).  And we should take the time to find out why Christians have done something a particular way or believed something for 2000 years instead of throwing it into the trash as soon as MTV tells us it is wrong.  There's no need to reinvent the wheel here.  Know your values, why you have them, and how to apply them in everyday decisions.  Identify the people in your life who give good advice and those who don't.  Rely on God.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Interesting links

I recently found three, totally unrelated interesting links you might find useful.

First, Glenn Packiam's Blog had some information on Atonement Theories with a video of N.T. Wright.  I'd never had any idea there were different theories and then I found myself overwhelmed with trying to pick one.  I liked how this approached it.

Here's a response to Sarah Palin's suggested use of water boarding to baptize terrorists at the Deacon's Bench.  Did you know the Catholic Church teaches torture is intrinsically evil?  No matter how badly we want to torture the bad guys, it is wrong.  And also not cool to compare to a sacrament.  

How do we know the Gospels are historical?  This is at the Catholic Education Resource Center. I heard a similar question to this just the other day.  Do you have an answer?

Another question from that conversation, from a different person, was about the Catholic view of salvation.  Here's some interesting food for thought, as well as a link to an excellent summary written by a non-Catholic (at the time; he's since converted).

From today, an article about Pope Francis' homily: The Church is more than 'a university of religion,' Pope Insists.  “Let us ask: How is my witness? Am I a Christian who witnesses to Jesus or are a simple numerary in this sect? Am I fruitful because I bear witness, or sterile because (I am) unable to let the Holy Spirit lead me forward in my Christian vocation?”