Monthly Archives: November 2022

Be Awake

Dear Folks,

We begin advent, a journey of waiting and preparing to be more welcoming to God. I challenge everyone to take a look at how we understand prayer and how we pray. It involves attentiveness to God’s presence. Jesus emphasizes the need to stay awake.

In our second reading, St. Paul says “You know the time; it is now the hour for you to awake from sleep. For our salvation now is nearer than when we first believed (Romans 13:11).”

Obviously, this does not mean that we should stop sleeping, sell our beds, fill up on coffee and try to be awake 24/7. We are still human and cannot function that way. So what does it mean?

“Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life, and that day catch you by surprise like a trap (Luke 21:34-35a).”

Notice two sources of drowsiness: pursuit of pleasure and anxieties of daily life. This should remind us of the parable of the sower (See Matthew 13:1-23). Seed that is sown on rocky ground withers because of some tribulation or persecution. Seed that is sown among weeds is choked by worldly anxiety and the lure of riches.

Perhaps being drowsy involves being so focused on the pleasures we pursue and the tasks and worries that pursue us that they fill our whole mind, and we start to think they are all that there is. We have heard stories of those who would spend all their time either at work or at the golf course and lost contact with their families, and they became strangers. The idea is not to remove all pleasure from our lives, nor to neglect our tasks, but to put them in proper context of our relationship with God. Heaven knows we struggle to balance the parts of our lives that are always competing for our attention, and they can be overwhelming. On vacation I read a book called “Juggling Elephants” about sorting your life like you were a ringmaster coordinating a three-ring circus.

I would ask you to consider some questions:

What if prayer is more important than you have thought it is?

What in our behavior shows that God is a dear friend to us?

Do we treat Him like a dear friend?

What if everything depended on a bit more prayer each day?

Is there anything else we do that we can shave just a couple minutes off from to make just a couple more minutes for prayer?

Even a brief minute attending to the presence of God several times a day can make a difference. What if we resolved this advent to make a bit more room for God every day? We might be surprised, first that we can do it at all, and second, how good it is to do it.

Saint Gianna Beretta Molla, patron Saint of doctors, mothers, and unborn children, pray for us and for our nation. Help us be attentive to God’s presence in everyone, especially the weakest and most vulnerable.


Fr. Jim

Strength in Weakness

Dear Folks,

Today we celebrate Christ the King. In our Gospel today (Luke 23: 35-43), we see Jesus portrayed as King, but appearing as unkingly as it is possible to appear. This is the great paradox of Christianity, that the greatest of all victories was won by what looked like the greatest of all defeats. This defies the wisdom of the world and turns it on its head. “The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God (1 Corinthians 1:18, though I encourage you to read the whole chapter).”

In the Second letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul is dealing with a challenge. He had taught the Gospel to the Corinthians, but then some others came and claimed to be better apostles with a better Gospel. They called St. Paul weak, and unworthy of following. They boasted about how wonderful they were by comparison. St. Paul said he could boast too, and then talked about being imprisoned, flogged, shipwrecked, and similar things that were normally not cause for boasting. He accomplished great things because he was willing to be a suffering servant.

This is not possible without a close relationship with God. Christianity does not work as a project, as a set of beliefs and tasks. It is a love relationship, or it is not Christianity. Our Scribe and Pharisee friends tried to make it a project, a set of beliefs and tasks, but their hearts remained closed. “Although if I should wish to boast, I would not be foolish, for I would be telling the truth. But I refrain, so that on one may think more of me than what he sees in me or hears from me because of the abundance of the revelations. Therefore, that I might not become too elated, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, an angel of Satan, to beat me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me, but he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.’ I would rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell within me. Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Corinthians 12:6 -10).”

By the way, I’m very unhappy with the passing of Proposal 3. I’ve talked to a number of people who are also unhappy and would like to do something about it. We all can recognize that what we have been doing hasn’t been getting us where we need to go. I’ve connected with a few people on a project to shift the culture. The first step will be to pray (of course!), and I don’t mean saying a quickie prayer and getting to business, but serious time with God. Then we can talk about action, and I suggest that we work messages that promote empathy for unborn children. I’m tentatively calling this the “Notice Human Life Project.” Much more to be figured out, but this is a beginning.


Fr Jim

Destruction of What We Take For Granted

Dear Folks,

As we get toward the end of the Liturgical year, we talk about endings. In “Avengers: Endgame” Iron Man famously said, “Part of the journey is the end.”

Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21 are the apocalyptic chapters. John, instead of a chapter, gives us the Book of Revelation or Apocalypse. “Apocalypse” comes from the Greek for “removal of the veil. “Revelation” comes from “removal of the veil” in Latin. Apocalyptic writing tends to use bizarre imagery and lots of numbers. It is to unveil the meaning of what is happening. It is not meant to help us figure out when Jesus is coming again.

These chapters in Matthew, Mark, and Luke start with Jesus talking about the destruction of the temple, move to dealing with persecutions, and ending with the coming of the Son of Man. This finishes Jesus’ public teaching, except Matthew adds chapter 25 with three parables about the last judgment. The prediction of the destruction of the temple was amazing to people. It had been destroyed once before in 586 B. C. by the Babylonians, so it was not without precedent, but that was a long time ago, and the temple was the most stable thing they knew of, and the center of their cultural and religious life. In the year 70 the Romans did destroy it and destroyed much of Jerusalem.

In Apocalyptic writing, there are some key points:

• Anything of the earth might be destroyed.

• We will see virtue punished and evil rewarded.

• It might look like God’s side is losing.

• We will be tempted to give up.

• God’s plan is actually unfolding, and He wins, but it might not look like it until the end, so..

• Most Important: Don’t give up!

In a culture that is increasingly hostile to the Christian faith, Christian belief, and Christian values and accusing us of being oppressive and hostile to human rights, we have to get better at sharing God’s teaching in a way that shows its goodness, beauty, and truth. Many Christians have shared Christian faith and values in a way that makes sense to them but does not make sense to others who have been steeped in the mindset of society. We live in a society in which killing babies, mutilating confused children, and defining marriage out of existence is seen as compassionate, and opposing it is seen as cruel. We have to start at the beginning, on the dignity of every human life, empathy for those different from us, and how being human means something much deeper than following our feelings and desires. We have to show God’s love by example and do better than we have been doing (whatever we have been doing, it clearly is not enough).

We have to bridge the gap between the Christian world view and the society’s perspective. One of the great champions of this is St. Paul, and I recommend his talks in Acts 17, Acts 22, and Acts 26. Much to be done, and we are just getting started. “Let us not grow tired of doing good, for in due time we shall reap our harvest, if we do not give up

(Galatians 6:9).”


Arguments for Persuading Anti-abortion People to be Prochoice

Dear Folks,

If we want people to think something they haven’t thought before, we need to tell people something they haven’t heard before. This is about approaching people from a different angle. What do you think?

Arguments from a Pro-abortion Person to Convince an Anti-abortion Person to Become Pro-abortion

Now that Roe v. Wade has been overturned, the future of abortion will be greatly affected by the work of legislating, and how people can persuade others. Some might call me a traitor for giving this to the other side, but in the interest of elevating the conversation I think it is worth doing.

There are, of course, some techniques guaranteed not to work. Slogans like “no uterus, no opinion” are going to accomplish nothing. Anti-abortion people believe they are defending basic human rights, and no where else do people accept the notion that you must be personally involved or effected to defend human rights. Besides, they would just respond, “already born, no opinion.” Likewise, accusing people of forcing their religious beliefs on others will make no sense to them. First of all, there are Christians, Jews and atheists who think it is wrong to kill human beings before they are born. Furthermore, the Catholic Church forbids kidnapping and armed robbery, and I haven’t heard anyone (yet) say we should repeal the laws against kidnapping or armed robbery in the name of separation of church and state. Accusing pro-lifers of not caring about those who are born is also futile: it is so contrary to our experience we can’t begin to take it seriously. So many pro-life people are doing wonderful things to help all sorts of people (and imagine how much more we could do if we didn’t have to expend so much time and energy on this issue).

One needs to do one of two things: either convince them that an unborn child is not a live human being with a right not to be killed, or that the mother has a right to kill the child rather than carry him or her a little longer.

To make the case that an unborn child, a fetus, is not a living human being worthy of protection, it will do no good to just refer to him or her as a clump of cells. They have heard too many quotes from embryology textbooks saying when the egg is fertilized a new human life begins, and they’ve seen too many of those high-tech pictures of fetuses, and they are so beautiful. Many have turned away from abortion just by seeing their babies on ultrasound. The argument about viability is not going to be impressive either. No one had shown a basis the principle that being dependent makes one less of a person. In fact, usually being more helpless generally increases the duty to defend and care for someone.

People have put forward the argument that even if fetuses are living human beings, one can’t oblige their mothers to carry them, just as one can’t oblige someone to give a lifegiving blood or kidney donation, but there are a couple of problems with that position. First, abortion is not just a matter of not helping, but of actively killing. A counterpoint to the blood donor analogy has been suggested: imagine taking your boat out several miles from shore, and you realize that a toddler has wandered into your boat and hid. You have a choice: put up with the toddler on your boat until you get back to shore or pick him up and throw him overboard. Would you say that one is entitled to throw the toddler overboard because one cannot be obliged to help someone else? There is another issue: do parents have obligations to their children that other relationships do not carry? I think many would say yes. The case would have to be made that one’s right not to help another is so strong that it entitles one to kill someone rather than be forced to help. There is another concern: it has generally been understood that parents have responsibility to their children that people in general don’t have toward strangers. Parents can be prosecuted for neglecting their children. What is the future of civilization if that principle is rejected? It will not be enough simply to keep repeating that bodily autonomy is important. One needs to make a case that it entitles one to kill an innocent human being. If you can make a convincing case for that, you have a chance of turning the tide.

We pro-life people are not going away, and we are nowhere near running out of motivation. More are joining the movement all the time. If you want to give us second thoughts, you will need to tell us something we haven’t heard before.

Blessings, Fr. Jim