Category Archives: Faith

Healthier Brain, More Peaceful World

Dear Folks,

In discussions about making this a less violent world, the subject of mental health comes up. Then it usually vanishes, and people move on. Partly, I think people get uncomfortable dealing with this subject, as if it is somehow shameful. We need to get over this. The brain is an organ and gets sick like any other organ. I would also think it is a big issue without a simple solution, and we like quick and simple solutions. How can we keep the conversation going?

How can we have some fruitful discussion about our mental health system, and how does our system need restructuring? What resources would be needed for some good outcomes? People who know more than I do need to be pushing these questions.

Of course, just as we know that heart health is not just a matter of thoracic surgeons, cardiologists and statins, but also fruits, vegetables, and exercise, so we recognize that mental health is not just about the mental health professionals, but healthy practices. As we think about how people are taught to brush and floss their teeth, and how we are taught nutrition principles, should we not be trying to develop some more common mental hygiene practices?

My training in psychology is pretty rudimentary, but there are some places to start.

One place is in relationships. So many are lonely now. So many describe the pain of toxic relationships. Can we talk about what makes a healthy relationship, and how to form them?

Another place is how we react to events in our lives and how we weave them into a narrative.

What meaning we can find in our good experiences and bad experiences? Viktor Flankl, in his wonderful book, “Man’s Search for Meaning,” talks about the human response to suffering. As a Psychiatrist and a survivor of Nazi concentration camps, he has a special authority to talk. He said that people who are more resilient in horrible situations are people who find meaning in them.

Many today do not have a strong enough vision of life to help them find meaning in bad situations. Many would agree with Macbeth: “Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more: it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing (Macbeth Act 5 Scene 5).” Or, as Monty Python said so eloquently, “Is life just a game where we make up the rules as we’re looking for something to say? Or are we just really spiraling coils of self-replicating D.N.A.?” Not a strong vision to give you hope when life gets really hard, and our hearts get broken.

This is a good time to talk about Christianity. A relationship with Jesus and discipleship in the Gospel is the most powerful approach I’ve found, not only to find meaning in suffering, but even power in suffering. We see our lives woven into a larger story of salvation, and that casts a different light on everything, the bad and the good. Many who go to church, and many who have wandered away from church, have not found that to be the case. I would suggest that many have been taught an enfeebled, mush version of Christianity that is has no power to transform lives. It is for those who take Jesus seriously to help others find what Jesus is really about. As Peter Kreeft said in “Jesus Shock”: “If you think Jesus is boring you have the wrong Jesus.” The better we know Jesus, the better we can share Jesus. If you want a better world, the best first step is always to fall more deeply in love with Jesus.


Fr. Jim

Families Building Civilization

Dear Folks,

If we are serious about building a less violent world, we need to take a look at fatherless families. According to everything I’ve read (see for some data), children who grow up without their fathers are significantly more likely to live in poverty, have

behavioral problems, become drug addicts, commit crimes, and many other things. I’ve been told that boys learn from their fathers how to be men and how to treat women, while daughters learn from their fathers what to expect from men.

There are many single parent families that are doing great things, and there are some fathers that are not doing a good job, but it can still be true that encouraging families with both the father and mother present and engaged can build a better world.

Someone told me that her observation was that some parents see their children more as accessories than as their central life vocation. Such parents drop off their kids at school, and maybe at church, and act as the primary teachers of their children. However, many parents are taking their responsibility very seriously and see themselves as the first mentors, protectors, and advocates for their children. How can we help and encourage them?

I’ve heard some voices that suggested that parents shouldn’t have a say in (or even know) what their children are getting taught because they weren’t trained like teachers are. However, I’ve heard some teachers saying please, please, please would parents be

more involved in their children’s education. How can we help and encourage them?

For many years it was clique that in movies and TV shows the father of the family was either a doofus or a jerk, and everyone knew better than him. How might that have helped form the notion that fathers were not that important to have around. I’ve been told by a

number of sources that the way the welfare system is structured, it is actually encouraging the mother to raise children without the presence of the father. If that is true, how can that be changed? How can it be structured to encourage active presence and participation of both parents? I have been told it will never be changed because keeping people poor and dependent is big business. I figure systematic change can only happen when enough people rise up and decide not to stand for it. I don’t know where to start, but I refuse to believe it is impossible.

It has been said that “Love is love.” It is a true statement, but not all love relationships are the same. The relationship between husband and wife is different from father and son, from mother and daughter, between cousins, between brothers, between brother and sister, between two good friends, and so on. Each has a different nature, makes a different contribution to society, and is expressed differently. I would suggest that the relationship

between a man and a woman, committed to a permanent exclusive relationship of love that is ordered toward the generation and nurturing of children makes a unique contribution. If

that is true, how can society privilege this relationship, encourage it, strengthen it, and value it? Our future, and our hope for a better world, may depend on it.


Fr. Jim

Want a Better World? Start with “what does ‘better’ mean?

Dear Folks,

This is the second of a series of articles on building a less violent world. If we want a better world, we need to have an idea of what “better” means. You may think this is obvious, but I challenge you to think again. What seems obviously true to me might seem obviously false to someone else.

The book “Why Johnny Can’t Tell Right from Wrong” by William Kilpatrick tells of values clarification in some school programs, where they teach children to form their own value system. He mentioned how shocked teachers were by the value systems they came up with.

“The Abolition of Man” by C. S. Lewis describes how, back in the 1940’s, people were already working to deconstruct our value system without considering the results (“They laugh at honor

and are shocked to find traitors in their midst”). Since then things have gotten stranger.

Imagine a society where most people have a fuzzy, undefined, inconsistent view of right and wrong, and when something happens that feels wrong to them, they scream, and if they can get

enough people to scream with them, they can dominate the conversation. Now stop imagining, because I think we have arrived. Why are we surprised that such a society has so much violence? If people excuse violence when they are sympathetic to the cause, why should they be surprised that people will use violence on the other side? If we believe in standards of behavior, it needs to be consistent with our allies and our opponents. It is easy to call out our opponents; it is more important to call out our allies and remind them they are hurting the cause.

When we disagree and are angry, we need to reject violence. We need to reject name calling. If we need to avoid reading people’s hearts, and saying because they disagree with us, they don’t

care about goodness. If we are frustrated that they reject our position, we need to make a better case for our position. We may think we’ve made a good enough case to convince any

reasonable person, but they clearly don’t think so. We can insult the other people, or we can make a better case. We need to do things that will move the conversation forward.

So often we see people talking past each other. When I see someone saying, “I long for a country where people love their children more than their guns.” I know that moves us away

from anything constructive. The very people they most want to convince are going to read that and say, “they have not even tried to understand our point of view. We need guns to protect our

children.” On the other hand, simply posting, “What part of ‘shall not be infringed’ don’t you understand?” is not going to help. It reinforces their opponents’ belief that they don’t care about

stopping violence. Wouldn’t it be so much more helpful to make a better case, that our proposed solution would actually make things better. Once again, it may seem obvious to us, but the opposite might be obvious to other intelligent people of good will. Our reasoning seems to us to be more reasonable, but we all have an unconscious thumb on the scale pushing us in that

direction. It will take much patient, persistent work to develop common messages about behaviors that build a better society.

Imagine a society where parents, teachers, entertainers, political leaders, and church leaders all reinforced a common message to reject violence and destruction to make our points, to build

constructive and respectful dialog, to value growing in virtue over gratifying desire, to value problem solving over complaining, and to respect the law and law enforcement? Would that be

a less violent society?


Fr. Jim

From Cain and Abel to a More Peaceful World

Dear Folks,

As we celebrate the Easter season, we remember it is a time of new hope and new possibilities. As we read Acts of the Apostles, we see things happening that the early Christians would not have thought possible at first.

There is so much violence in our world. I sure would like for there to be less. When there is a particularly horrific incident it will often dominate the news for a while. Then different people will repeat their usual talking points. Various groups will talk past each other, and then nothing changes. I think we could do better. Short term, we can harden targets and make them less vulnerable. The deeper solution is not being so good at creating savages.

We have to have a less violent culture, a more peaceful culture, or no law can save us, and civilization itself is in the balance. I think there are some concrete things we can do. We have to decide what kind of people we want to be. It would involve looking at our own behavior (let none of us assume we are guiltless). It will involve what kind of messages that we send, and what kind of messages we encourage (calling out people on our side would likely be more effective than calling out our opponents; the other side is easy to dismiss). It will require considerable thought on how we as a society encourage good behaviors and discourage bad behaviors.

Particular issues would include:

• Support law enforcement, and value law and order.

• Build a strong sense of right and wrong.

• Combat fatherlessness.

• Stop talking past each other.

• Don’t condemn or demean our opponents; make a better case for our position.

• Keep our feelings and thoughts in perspective: just because I’m angry about something important doesn’t give me license to be destructive. Just because my cause is right doesn’t mean I have license to be destructive. We can work toward a better world, but we can’t expect to fix everything in our time. Building a better world is an intergenerational project.

• Build empathy, especially with people who see things differently, and reject objectifying groups or individuals. Avoid ridiculing people we disagree with.

• Reject using others’ behavior as an excuse to misbehave ourselves.

• Have the same standard of behavior for those we agree with and those we don’t; not condemn destruction when we disagree with their cause, and condone or dismiss it when we agree with the cause.

• Value growing in virtue over gratifying desire.

• Have some serious humility about how much we understand and how much we don’t: maybe even people we disagree with have some things to teach us.

In the weeks to come I’ll try to expand on these issues. I hope it may stimulate some thought and some discussion. Civilizations do rise and fall, but when they fall, it causes much suffering. It would be worth a lot to keep ours going.


Fr. Jim

Abandon all Hopelessness

This is Easter!

“Christ’s resurrection was not a return to earthly life, as was the case with the raisings from the dead that he had performed before Easter: Jairus’ daughter, the young man of Naim, and Lazarus. These actions were miraculous events, but the persons miraculously raised returned by Jesus’ power to ordinary earthly life. At some particular moment they would die again. Christ’s resurrection is essentially different. In his risen body he passes from the state of death to another life beyond time and space. At Jesus’ resurrection his body is filled with the power of the Holy Spirit: he shares the divine life in his glorious state, so that St. Paul can say that Christ is “the man from heaven” (1 Corinthians 15:35-50). (Catechism of the Catholic Church #646).”

We humans tend to think that the best we can hope for is more of the same, but a little nicer. Many eastern religions envision an eternal cycle of reincarnation, and the best that you could hope for is being reincarnated in a higher caste, and there was always a chance that you could be reincarnated as a dung beetle. On rare occasions, television and movies would give some vision of heaven, not intending it be serious, of course, but what you’d see is pretty pathetic. In fairness, one could never do justice to heaven in a movie, not only our technology but our minds are far too feeble for such a task.

Part of having faith in God is trusting Him to keep His promises, including the promises we don’t completely understand and that He will not disappoint those who hope in Him.

In my office I have a sign that says, “Abandon all hopelessness, ye who enter here.” The greater our faith, the more we can endure the world disappointing us, because the One in whom we trust will come through. The less we trust the world to make us happy, the more we trust in God, the more we can endure the world failing us, whether in the form of other people, including people in the Church, our government, our society, our families, our health, our money, even our own wills (I continue to be a sinner, and much as the devil would like me to give up, God invites me to keep trying to be faithful). We still have to grieve loss; our faith does not make it easy but does prevent us from giving up. Jesus received the full force of the evil in the world and emerged triumphant. He can conquer the evils that threaten and attack us. During Easter we are called to celebrate. As we fasted and did penance during Lent, so we feast during Easter. Our goal, of course, is not just partying for partying’s sake (though it is a good thing) but witnessing to the world our joy in God’s great victory over evil. We also seek to deepen our confidence in the Jesus’ victory, so we can live as victorious people. We will read a lot of Acts of the Apostles during the Easter season. We think of Acts as the sequel to the Gospel of Luke and the history of the early Church. It is also about how people act when they believe in the power of the resurrection. They were a tiny group, had few resources, and were surrounded by a very hostile culture. No one could stop




Fr. Jim

The Holiest Week

Dear Folks,

Today we begin Holy Week. Holy Week is the super bowl of the Catholic faith, and we get to the center of the Christian story. It begins with the triumphal entry into Jerusalem, the last

supper, the crucifixion, the time in the tomb, and the resurrection. Everything before this is leading up to this, and everything after this is because of this. During this week we try, as much as we possibly can, to avoid other meetings and other projects so that we can focus on this, our central mystery.

It begins with Palm Sunday. Jesus comes into His city as a triumphant king amid hosannas, but humbly, on a donkey instead of a mighty horse. We bless palms to be used throughout the year,

a sign of praise to Jesus, and for next Ash Wednesday we will burn them, a reminder of the fragility of our devotion (how quickly humans can go from “Hosanna” to “Crucify Him”). We

read the passion narrative from the Gospel for the year (this year, of course, is Matthew).

On Tuesday at the Cathedral, we will celebrate the Chrism Mass. Traditionally this was done on Holy Thursday morning, but it is celebrated on Tuesday evening so that more people can

participate. Even so, we can only have a cathedral full of people attending (as a priest, I get an automatic seat; it’s one of the perks of being a priest). We will bless the holy oils we use throughout the year. We have three holy oils (Don’t let anyone tell you they are WD40, 10W30, and Oil of Olay: that is not true). The oil of the sick is a sign of God’s healing, and is used for anointing the sick, and I keep a small container of it in my car just in case. The oil of

catechumens is a sign of God’s strength to fight evil and is used for people preparing for baptism. The Sacred Chrism is the holiest of the oils and is a mixture of olive oil and balsam perfume. It is a sign of the Holy Spirit, and is used at baptism, confirmation and the ordination of priests. During the Chrism Mass, the priests renew their priestly commitment, and the bishop reminds the people that priests need lots of prayers (he is not wrong).

On Holy Thursday we begin the Triduum, and that is one celebration that takes place over three days. It begins with Mass of the Lord’s Supper, celebrating the institution of the Eucharist, as

well as the institution of the priesthood. The Gospel is the washing of feet, and often the celebrant washes people’s feet at Mass. After the prayer after communion, we usually have a procession with the Blessed Sacrament, place it in a reserve chapel, adore Him, and leave in silence (don’t forget the silence). We don’t have a closing blessing because the liturgy does not end; it simply pauses until the next day.

Good Friday is the one day of the year we don’t have Mass. We begin in silence. We read the passion narrative from the Gospel of John. We have solemn intercessions. We show special respect and affection for the cross upon which Jesus won our salvation. We have a communion service with hosts that were consecrated on the previous day. We depart in silence. Then on Saturday we have the Easter vigil. By Church law it begins after sundown. I shall not

describe it; one should witness it, if at all possible. It’s the greatest night of the year.

I encourage as strongly as possible, for everyone to attend to Holy Week as best as their situation allows. What we celebrate is the center of everything.


Fr. Jim

Watching the “Jesus Revolution”

Dear Folks,

I recently saw the movie “Jesus Revolution.” It’s a fictionalized documentary of a real event, a Christian revival in the 1960s. It involved a Baptist Church that has grown stagnant, and then some hippies showed up. The pastor embraced their presence and sought to connect with them and involve them. This upset some of the long-standing members of the Church who liked things the way they had been. The pastor chose to keep connecting with the newcomers and working with a hip young preacher (played by Jonathan Roumie, the guy who plays Jesus on “The Chosen”), and some of the long-standing parishioners left. They chose their comfort zone over evangelization. The Church gradually grew

enormously, though not without difficulty (of course).

The movie makes the point that the young people had been lied to. They were told that casual sex would bring them love and that LSD would connect them to transcendence (LSD, Lysergic Acid Diethylamide, was a powerful and dangerous hallucinogenic, and we were all amazed that one drop would be a dose. We had no idea that fentanyl would be coming). When some found that it didn’t work, they were open to another message. Many were brought to embrace Jesus.

Now comes the question, what should we do today. We know that young people have been lied to, being told that casual sex and drugs will make them happy, that feelings are the highest measure of reality, and the meaning of life is something they make up for

themselves. Many are depressed, many are lost, and there are an alarming number of suicides. It sure would be nice to bring more of them to Jesus.

An important thing to note is that modern young people are not hippies. They are children and grandchildren of hippies, and they have very different perspectives. It would be a terrible mistake to assume that we can attract them by doing what we think we would have wanted when we were their age.

A lot of young families are drawn to more traditional, more reverent liturgies. If you go to where the Old Latin Mass in celebrated, you will find lots of young people. I don’t suggest

that the solution is that we all go back to the Missal of 1962 (I don’t know how to do it, and I never studied Latin in the seminary), but I suggest that what we were taught in the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s could stand to be questioned, and that being willing to move out of our

comfort zone for the sake of the mission of the Church.

I’m not arrogant enough to say I’ve figured out exactly what will bring in droves of young people (and why should you believe me anyway?). I am bold enough, however, to suggest some principles:

• We accept that being a parishioner does not mean being a customer, but a coworker in mission.

• Therefore, it is not about our preferences, at least not primarily.

• Programs and gimmicks have not succeeded in making deep change. We need to examine our own behavior, and how we act as ambassadors of Jesus.

• As I’ve said before, we can all work on doing a better job of telling the Gospel story (learning in practice what is effective in connecting to people), working together as community (welcoming, inviting, and reconciling), worshipping God (yes, we can get better), and helping people in need.

• We can start small. We can learn something new about our faith and share it. We can tell someone something good about our faith community. We can introduce ourselves to someone in church that we don’t know. We can create a holy moment (show someone a bit of the love of God).

• Laughing at the pastor’s jokes is encouraged but not required.

If we do what we can, God will use us.


Fr. Jim

Jesus Is More Than They Thought

Dear Folks,

Today we our Gospel talks about the Transfiguration.

The Bible looks at mountains as a place to encounter God and especially receive instruction. “The Lord said to Moses, ‘Come up to me on the mountain and, while you are there, I will give you the stone tablets on which I have written the commandments for their

instruction”, Exodus (24:12). We remember he also goes back up the mountain for backup copies after Moses smashes the originals in response to the Golden Calf business (Exodus 34). Elijah gets marching orders on Mount Horeb (Mount Horeb is another name for Mount Sinai) in 1 Kings (19:8). Isaiah prophesied that “the mountain of the Lord’s house” will be a place of instruction (see Isaiah 2:2-3). Jesus goes up the mountain to give the Sermon on

the Mount (Matthew 5:1).

We see that Jesus only takes Peter, James, and John up the mountain. It appears that not all disciples are equal, and certain gifts are given to some and not others. Galatians 2:9 tells us

that Peter (“Cephas” is Aramaic for “rock”), James, and John were considered the “pillars” of the early Church. We see that they get special moments with Jesus, but we also see particular stories of their failures. Only Peter, James, and John were brought to witness the raising of the daughter of Jairus (Mark 5:37). Peter gets out of the boat when Jesus is walking on water (score one for him), but his faith wavers and he fails (Mat 14:28- 31). Jesus rebukes James and John for wanting to call down fire on an inhospitable Samaritan town (Luke 9:54-55). Right after the third prediction of the passion (!) James and John want the best seats next to Jesus in the Kingdom (Mat 20-28). They still didn’t get it.

We all remember Peter’s denial of Jesus three times on Good Friday (Mat 26:69-75). Peter, James, and John are the three that Jesus takes with Him to the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36-46), and they fall asleep. Once again, they fail. We learn that some gifts and some spiritual experiences are given to some but not others. If

we see others getting things we didn’t get, we have no cause to be jealous: they don’t necessarily have an easier road. We have no cause to be ashamed either: it doesn’t mean we have failed. If we get some great mystical experience or some great gift, we have no cause to be proud: we didn’t earn it. We just follow Jesus however we can (see John 21:18-23).

What is this great instruction that is given on this great occasion? First of all, it is the appearance of Jesus Himself, shining like the sun and clothes unnaturally white (Mat 17:2). A voice from the cloud says, “This is my beloved son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him (Matthew 17:5).” That’s it. The great revelation is Jesus Himself. He is the new Torah, the new Law, the great revelation of God, the way to live in covenant with God.

How does this fit into our Lenten journey? During Lent, we want to focus especially on Jesus. We can spend extra time reflecting on the Gospels. We can spend extra time before the Blessed Sacrament. We can spend extra time reflecting on Jesus’ presence in the midst

of our activities through the week, as we try to make what we do acceptable gifts to offer through Him. However important we thought Jesus was, He’s more important than that.


Fr. Jim

What Does Jesus Mean?

Dear Folks,

The Gospel readings from last Sunday and this Sunday have Jesus issuing some serious challenges. How do we respond in practice? There are some big questions. People might look at His words and say they are not practical, and then they skip over them. That would be very bad. If we can be unaffected by Jesus’ words, we are a failing at discipleship.

Jesus talks about anger: “But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment…(Matt 5:22).” Does this mean we should never be angry? We read what Jesus said in Matthew 23, and He sounds pretty angry to me. When Jesus flips over tables and drives the money changers out of the temple, He seems pretty angry then too. What are we to think? We read in Ephesians 4:26-27: “Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun set on your anger, and do not leave room for the devil.” There is a right way to be angry, when it is based on love, and we see our loved ones doing self-destructive things. This leads to seeking to help if one can. In Matt 23, after Jesus is angry, He weeps over Jerusalem. Under loving anger there is profound sadness.

Jesus speaks about divorce, and we see parallels in Matt 19:1-12, Mark 10:1-12 Luke 16:18, and 1 Corinthians 7:10-11. Only Matthew has the clarification that it is not applicable to illicit unions, which we find expressed in the Church’s practice of declaring certain unions did not achieve a permanent sacramental bond. This happens when something was defective in the way the union was formed. It is controversial and very messy, but the best way we know to find justice and hold to the truth. The key takeaway is approach marriage with all the seriousness that can be mustered. It’s doing something that cannot be undone.

We come to the issue of self-defense. In Matt 5:39, Jesus says, “Offer no resistance to one who is evil…”. If we take it the way it first sounds, not only do we then renounce war and self defense, but never call the police, lock our doors, or use password on our computers, for they are

all resistance to those who are evil. This can’t be right. Letting the world be ruled by predators, terrorists, and bullies does not seem like loving all people. Not only does that mean a lot (awful lot) of innocents get hurt, but the perpetrators are encouraged to lose their souls.

In 1Samuel 25, Abigail prevents a war between David and her husband Nabal (Abigail is a Biblical heroine worth knowing about). In verses 33-35 David seems happy and relieved that he did not do all that killing. It sounds like he didn’t want to but felt compelled to. I think that was common in Biblical times (and is not unknown in our time) when the cycle of revenge did so much harm and neither side really gained. Jesus liberates people from that compulsion.

The Catholic Church has held the right of just war, of enforcing the law, and of sometimes a right, even a duty to defend self or another against an unjust aggressor. Violent defense is always the last resort, and we still have concern for the good of the unjust aggressor. That is why, when even the most horrible villains are caught, we must still respect their human dignity. Their lives are still sacred. We don’t torture them, whatever they have done. This is why the Church has been leaning away from capital punishment since the time of Pope Saint John Paul. It is better they be alive so they can repent (see Ezekiel 18). If I had my may, the worst criminals would be put into a cell and then pipe in EWTN, Word on Fire, and Augustine Institute videos. Victory over evil is greatest when a sinner becomes a saint. That is our goal.

Blessings, Fr. Jim

Reaching for the Sky

Dear Folks,

There has been a lot of conversation about the relationship between the Old Testament and the New Testament. Some have even claimed that the Old Testament has a God of wrath, and the New Testament has a God of love, even though there is a good deal of love in the Old Testament and a good deal of wrath in the New Testament.

There is also paradox about the Law. Jesus says in our Gospel this Sunday, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfil (Matthew 5:17),” but the letter to the Ephesians says, “For he is our peace, he who made both one and broke down the dividing wall of enmity, through his flesh, abolishing the law with its commandments and legal claims, that he might create in himself one new person in place of two, thus establishing peace (Ephesian 2:14-16).” Does this pit the Gospels against the epistles? No. A paradox is an invitation to look deeper into the texts and the issues they are dealing with so we can have a deeper understanding.

We remember that God started with a very rough, barbaric tribe and formed them over time. We see development of thought in the Old Testament from earlier writings to the later ones. In the earlier writings, there is an emphasis on being separate from the other nations so as not to be contaminated by their evil ways and being very harsh about it. Later writings would talk about compassion for other peoples, and Mount Zion being a beacon for all the nations (See the book of Jonah, Isaiah 2, and Psalm 87).

When a plant takes root underground, it is preparing for what is to come. When it breaks out above the ground, it is not abandoning its root, but building on it. Jesus’ teaching on the Mount was built on Old Testament foundations. For example, if we read Psalm 24, we see that “Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God” was not an entirely new idea. Reading Psalm 37 we see that “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land” was also familiar.

The law says that parents are required to feed their children and are sanctioned if they neglect to do so. The parents I know, however, aren’t motivated by the law or its sanctions, but by love for their children, and it would be unthinkable not to feed them. They are beyond they law, not that they would break it, but because they are following a higher, even more demanding principle.

We remember the Old Testament and the New Testament are the work of the same God and part of the same plan of salvation. It does not represent God changing His mind, but rather Him taking us to a new level of development. We start out learning very basic principles, and expectations get greater as we grow. In Jesus, God’s plan is unveiled, and we are called to something that is humanly impossible. It is literally impossible to live the Christian life by our own power. We are completely dependent on God’s grace. We must come to Him constantly to transform us, and then it is wonderfully possible (see Matthew 19:25-26). In that way, we can reach for the sky.


Fr. Jim