In the past few months of ministry I have had the unfortunate experience of burying many people who died, not of old-age, but because of sudden and unexpected medical complications. There is only one thing that is certain about this life, and death is its name. All of us are going to die, and as much as we would like to think we have control over this, we really do not. “For you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night” (1 Thes 5:2). All of this helped me to wake up a little-bit in my own spiritual life. Every once and awhile I am reminded of the tangible reality of my death before me, and I begin to reassess my priorities in life. When we face the finality of death there is no more time for repentance. Death brings a type of finality that is similar to the finality of wet-concrete transitioning into something hard. Once my soul is fixed in a particular way, it is that way for all eternity. The malleability in this life, within the context of grace and time, gives us the chance to be conformed to the image of Christ who teaches us what it means to be truly human. Continue reading
Repentance is difficult when we confront a sinful lifestyle or attitude we have been rooted in for a number of years. The difficulty with persisting in error is we begin to be wrapped up in our own accomplishments and understand our identity in the decisions we have made for our families, our Church, and our world. But what happens when we confront the voice of Christ who tells us that for much of our life what we have offered was nothing more than a weed rather than wheat? Imagine a priest who spent his time with a pastoral aspiration to bring others back to the faith and yet is confronted with a declining faith in a culture that has been inundated with his own philosophy. Imagine a child saying to their parents, “You didn’t raise me well, you made many mistakes, and I will never raise my children like you did.” Continue reading
When examining the temptations that Christ faced in the Desert we must consider how the devil was attempting to deceive and attack Christ. We sometimes read these temptations in a very superficial or worldly sense, but fail to examine the deeper and more profound implications. I would like to reflect on one particular temptation that Christ faced, and that is turning a rock into bread.
We all know that Christ was being tempted in the way of food because he had been fasting. But should we not go a bit deeper into this reflection than mere hunger? First of all, why was Christ fasting in the first place? What is the point of fasting? Continue reading
The Tower of Babel is a powerful reminder to all Christians alike that no matter what we create, it will never climb the skies to finally reach the heavens. There is nothing we can do to cross the infinite divide of heaven and earth to secure our own eternal happiness. Science can secure many things, but it will never quench our thirst for eternal joy and security in God’s Kingdom. Secular Humanism, offers us nothing more than a half-truth, run often by sentiments that proclaim “serve thy neighbour” but that neighbour is usually some ideology, rather than a real person, and the person is far away. We find it much easier to serve someone we don’t know and rarely have to talk to, than the difficult-to-handle, next-door neighbour. We are more in love with the idea of “humanity” than particular human persons. And finally, even if our love for our neighbour was good by a worldly standard and the cardinal virtues, it still would not suffice to bring us what we thirst for in the depths of our soul. We will die, and no human being can overcome that, along with the loved ones who depart. Apart from fond memories, embellished by our own desperation to hold onto something good, we fail to realize that the persons we love never really quenched our thirst for total fulfillment. Continue reading
In seminary formation we were introduced to a form of counseling called “Rogers.” At least that is how we refer to it. It might be considered “narrative therapy.” We are not qualified as therapists of course and that really is not our calling. However, this slight introduction has been quite helpful to my ministry, and has given me a moderate way to correct people while recognizing a perhaps sensitive nature that might not be open to correction.
As Ecclesiastes teaches us, there is a time for this and a time for that. We must be prudent in our discernment of what method we use to go about correcting one another. But one thing remains certain: we must be intentional about it, and not mastered by our own impulsiveness and anger.
I would like to introduce one method that is a bit indirect, and may not be used at all times, but is helpful at others. Continue reading
Sometimes people will quote scripture with regard to the penal laws in the old-testament, punishing people’s sins that are quite common-today. Amongst them is homosexual acts. Secularists and progressive Christians will point to the apparent hypocrisy of a Church that calls those living according to their sexual desires that do not follow the order of God’s design to repentance, while not also calling those who break other laws in the old testament that seem trivial today. As a result of such arm-chair theologians we get seemingly ironic yet ignorant memes such as the one in this blog-post.
Part of the theological problem is people have too few categories to assess the law and to understand it. Such an over-simplistic (dumbed-down faith) results from not catechizing people of common-sense distinctions with regard to the moral law and the juridical precepts which St. Thomas Aquinas and the Church clearly indicate were not intended to be perpetual, while the natural law is immutable. That is to say some laws were given by God for a time, and others are immutable. In the old-testament, often this distinction is not being clearly made, as the author lists the punishment for disobedience to all laws in general. Continue reading
Loneliness is a common phenomenon that every human being experiences, regardless of their own state in life. A person could be married, could be single with many friends, could be isolated, and could be busy. It doesn’t matter, because loneliness exists when friendships are not healthy as they could be.
Loneliness unfortunately also causes us to “react” in ways we didn’t even realize we could. We are starving for friendship and union with our neighbour, and when something provokes us or appears to be a barrier to filling that void, we are defensive or we retreat.
One of the modern lies that enflames loneliness in the culture today is an indifference to truth. Aristotle reminds us that true friendship is discovered in a common pursuit for the truth, and what binds both people is that which they seek in a united fashion. Theologically we know that this “truth” is actually not merely something facile and technical, but it is a Divine Person who is Love and Truth itself.
If friendship is the cure to loneliness and we live in a world of relativism, it means that human beings are indeed lonelier than they have ever been before. Some people today will parade pluralism as a form of “rising above the quest for truth” echoing Nietzsche’s “beyond good and evil.” Of course those who, believing that in transcending the quest for truth, as a truth of itself, will necessarily fall into such a contradictory blunder. Having a diversity of views is not always bad, but having a diversity of views that contradict each other is. And when there is no room for open dialogue, no willingness to learn from another or be open to another’s view, the door to that person’s soul and entire purpose is being slammed shut.
Another way of explaining it is as follows. The manner with which we perceive the world creates the world we live and breathe in. This is meant in a phenomenological context – or how one “experiences” relationships. This does not mean that our perceptions are in fact true for us and not for others, but rather our very subjective choices about our world view creates either the illusion or groundedness in reality. When a person has a totally different world view than you, it is as if, while they exist in the same room, they do not exist in the same world as you. You do not belong to their world, and they do not belong to your world. Each individual becomes an Island unto themselves, and if they are comfortable in their world, they will not dare listen to anything that could even prick the conscience to consider otherwise.
Living in two different worlds fosters a great and profound loneliness because man no longer has a unity of mind, and as a result no longer has a unity of heart. Friends, remember, truth defines whether love is genuine. If one has a “different truth” about love than the other, love itself exists in two different worlds not being conjoined to the other, but remaining divorced and separate as Islands unto themselves.
The great ache, therefore within man for love is founded upon the necessity of truth, and being indifferent to this only will foster the illusion of friendship under the guise of tolerance and sweeping the important issues under the rug. Christ, as a two-edged sword divides because he clarifies where people are actually standing-apart and demonstrates where reconciliation needs to take place. Therefore, in order for forgiveness and mercy to be manifest, it must be done in truth, in integrity, and not through anything else.
Today we live in a culture which seeks to have personal expression as its greatest virtue. Every individual has their own entitled freedom to define the truth for themselves. This, I have seen, has fostered incredible loneliness amongst faithful Catholics. I see Catholics who are filled with resentments (which is not a fruit of the Holy Spirit) because of the deep passionate loneliness of living in a Church where there is seemingly no consensus on what Love is. Driven by this thirst for validation of the truth, a shared world, men and women begin to emphasize conformity and obedience to Tradition as a tangible and sacramental means to experience true unity within the Church or culture. This does sometimes go to an extreme, whereby obsessions disproportionately causes such individuals to neglect charity in such a worthy pursuit. The Church which has seemingly supressed or neglected its traditions by emphasizing inordinately its uniqueness away from the universality of the Church (it’s a tension) is now being reacted to by those who are feeling isolated. One generation reacts to useless conformity done for the wrong reasons, and another generation reacts to lawlessness sought to empower each individual. The pendulum swings between both, and neither seek middle ground, each wants to be heard, and no one wants to listen. It is not being heard, not being understood, not residing in our own world, that we feel the sting of loneliness more than ever. Some might hush controversial discussions others might push it beyond what is reasonable: both are seeking unity by fleeing and fighting.
At the heart of it all is the ontological configuration of man to seek union with his neighbour and God since it is not good that man be alone. Man created for union unnaturally exists when he lives in a spiritually distinct world than others.
We haven’t even begun to mention the honour and glory due to our God. If we merely perceive seeking a united truth for the sake of the community, we nonetheless foster a totalitarianism whereby man must impose a truth upon others, as if truth were a positive law, by which he asserts. Community cannot be genuine if it is artificial as such, and only agreed to for the sake of unity, but not being grounded in reality as such. This means that an inclination towards giving God credit for what He is (Truth) becomes a matter of justice, rather than anything artificial. Speaking the truth about God thereby becomes the actual means to genuine unity with our neighbour, dismissing secular humanism as merely being a facile attempt to accomplish what can only occur through an explicit union with Truth itself.
Man’s quest for friendship amidst his fallen, lonely state, thus implies a seeking of the Friend-itself: Jesus. Human beings together, shaken towards this quest as their top priority will only develop a healthier relationship for it, because they will be not only grounded in the same world together, but one that is truly right and just, truly reasonable and rightly ordered, without which, love never remains truly genuine.
In reality, most people do not live entirely distinct from each other, and there is often great overlap. But the pain hanging out a limb through the window during a winter’s day, brings an absence of health to the entire body and can be gravely dangerous, despite the fact that the majority of the body is taken care of. The overlap is a good place to begin, but being indifferent to where truth is not shared is to kill the relationship eventually. Man was created for perfect union, not half-hearted union. Man seeks real love, not lazy love that is content with anything less. For men and women this is impossible, but with God’s Holy Spirit and the splint of Church doctrine, mankind can align itself to God’s truth and thus be assured of genuine friendship and not suffer the great poverty of loneliness.