Category Archives: Uncategorized

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

Eucharistic Culture

In Timothy O’Malley’s “Becoming a Eucharistic People” he talks about developing a Eucharistic culture. Vatican II’s Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (Gaudium et Spes), we read, “The word ‘culture’ in the general sense refers to all those things which go to the refining and developing of man’s diverse physical and mental endowments (Gaudium et Spes 53).” If you have ever gone to a different country with a different culture, you notice some differences that are not official policies, but taken for granted. In some countries people are more expressive emotionally, and in other countries more reserved. In some, punctuality is extremely important, and in others they tend to be more relaxed. When we grow up in a particular culture, we tend to pick up its assumptions, habits, and attitudes without thinking about it, and it seems normal and natural. It can be a surprise that elsewhere people think and do things differently. Our culture becomes a lens through which we look at everything.

We are called to build a Eucharistic culture, as Pope Benedict said, “Christianity’s new worship includes and transfigures every aspect of life: “Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor 10:31).” Christians, in all their actions, are called to offer true worship to God. Here the intrinsically eucharistic nature of Christian life begins to take shape. The Eucharist, since it embraces the concrete, everyday existence of the believer, makes possible, day by day, the progressive transfiguration of all those called by grace to reflect the image of the Son of God (cf. Rom 8:29ff.). There is nothing authentically human – our thoughts and affections, our words and deeds – that does not find in the sacrament of the Eucharist the form it needs to be lived to the full. Here we can see the full human import of the radical newness brought by Christ in the Eucharist: the worship of God in our lives cannot be relegated to something private and individual but tends by its nature to permeate every aspect of our existence. Worship pleasing to God thus becomes a new way of living our whole life, each particular moment of which is lifted up, since it is lived as part of a relationship with Christ and as an offering to God. The glory of God is the living man (cf. 1 Cor 10:31). And the life of man is the vision of God. (Sacramentum Caritatis 71).” Whatever we do, we are called to do as a Eucharistic people.

What is the culture of your faith community?

Do parishioners see themselves as customers in the church or disciples and coworkers in mission?

Is there a sense of awe and reverence about the sacred or is it more casual? How aware are people of their fellow parishioners, their fellow worshippers?

Do people act differently when they enter the worship space, or is it treated the same as any other room?

Is there a connection between participation at Mass and life? Is Eucharistic adoration common, or only for a few?

This is only a taste. There is much more to be said about what it means to be a Eucharistic people and what it means to build a Eucharistic culture. That will be in the future.

Blessings, Fr. Jim

Jesus who Reconciles

Dear Folks,

As we continue to celebrate the Easter season, we encounter the risen Jesus in John 21. It is worth looking at it a little closer.

We see an echo of Luke 5:1-11, when Jesus called Peter, James, and John. After a night of catching nothing, it was morning (See Luke 1:78), Jesus calls them to put out their nets again. As with several of the resurrection accounts, they don’t immediately recognize Jesus. They bring in a very large number of fish (153!), but unlike in the Lucan account, the net is not tearing (John 1:11). Scholars have said that in those days there were 153 different species of fish, and this is a foreshadowing of the Church being able to hold all kinds of people together (when there is a schism in the Church, that is a result of human failing, not a limitation of God’s Church).

Jesus calls them to bring some of the fish they had caught, but he already had bread and fish cooked on a charcoal fire (John 21:9-13). This makes no sense at first, but it echoes all the accounts of multiplying loaves and fishes, in which He calls them to bring forth what they have, but it is He who feeds. This is a paradox in Christianity: it is all the work of His grace, but it requires every last bit of effort that we have. Grace is not an excuse to slack off, and our efforts do not allow us to boast before Him as if we had accomplished something that He has not given us.

Notice it is a charcoal fire (details matter in John, and we must keep our eyes sharp). Remember John 18:18, in which Peter was warming himself around a charcoal fire when he was denying Jesus. Psychologists tell us that our sense of smell is the most powerful sense for evoking emotional memories. Do you think his three-fold denial was on Peter’s mind? Weighing heavily on him? Hmm. Jesus does not address the denial directly, but calls for a three-fold affirmation, each time bringing a call to take care of Jesus sheep (we remember that Jesus is the good shepherd as He taught in chapter 10). Jesus reconciles with Peter and sends him forth as shepherd. The gift he was given was not just for his sake, but for the sake of Peter’s service to the mission of the Church. Going through Acts of the Apostles, we see that God will protect Peter and Paul again and again, but still allow them to suffer and eventually be martyred. It is about what serves the mission.

As an Easter people, we come to Jesus confidently, knowing that He has won the victory. We can bring our sinfulness to be reconciled, knowing that the gifts we receive are not just for our sake, but so that we can serve the mission of the Church. We are called to put forward our mightiest effort, but know it is He who wins the victory. To be an Easter people is to be a people of mission.

Blessings, Fr. Jim

Spirit of Peace

Dear Folks,

As we continue the Easter season, we reflect on how to be an Easter people. Our Gospel last Sunday has two parts: the giving of peace and the Holy Spirit for the sake of reconciliation and showing Thomas something to help him believe. My thought on this is how we as Christians should be reconcilers, and that will help people believe, Jesus said to Thomas, “Blessed are those who have not seen, but have believed (John 20:29).” This does not mean they believe without reason. People may not see the wounds of Christ, but if they see that our behavior is different from the general population because of our faith, then they will have grounds to believe that what we say about Jesus is real.

One of the ways we can strive to be different is being better reconcilers and peacemakers. There is a lot that can be said about how to do that (and I have tried on different occasions). Easter is a good time to talk about how peace can grow from being less concerned with our own desires and more concerned with pleasing God.

St. Paul teaches, “If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Think of what is above not what is on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God (Colossians 3:1-3).”

If our desires are paramount, our desires will always get in the way of each other. “Where do the wars and where do the conflicts among you come from? Is it not from your passions that make war within your members? You covet but do not possess. You kill and envy, but you cannot obtain; you fight and wage war. You cannot possess because you do not ask. You ask but do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions (James 4:1-3).”

Even if we are fighting for God’s truth, against the forces of evil, we do it as people of faith. We can spend ourselves generously to build goodness without the desperation that comes from thinking it all depends on us. We remember people thinking they could save the world without God (I’m thinking of Hitler, Stalin, and Mao) who were sure they were building a better world and that they were so important that they should have no limitations. They killed millions because they thought the tradeoff was worth it. We do what we can do, careful to show that we love even those who oppose us, knowing that God Himself will bring about the victory. The greatness of our cause calls us to higher standards of behavior, not lower. Church people have done nasty stuff when they have forgotten that.

We remember that the ability to do this depends on the Holy Spirit. We are not just celebrating the great season of Easter (though that would be plenty in itself), but also preparing for the great feast of Pentecost. This is a time to reflect and consider how our relationship with the Holy Spirit is enabling us to live as an Easter people.

The gifts of the Holy Spirit (from Isaiah 11) are wisdom, understanding, knowledge, council, fortitude, piety, and fear of the Lord. The traditional explanations of the first four tend to be a bit subtle, but I think they boil down to knowing that God is more important than anything else, understanding how that affects the way we look at life, and what is life is truly of value, seeing how it all connects, and knowing how to respond. Fortitude is the strength actually to do what we now know we should do (based on the first four). Piety is a sense of awe toward God and attentiveness to Him. Fear of the Lord is, of course, not about fear in the usual sense, but a deep desire to be pleasing to God and a deep horror of displeasing Him.

The fruits of the Holy Spirit (from Galatians 5) are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

As we prepare for Pentecost, we can pray regularly for the Holy Spirit to increase these attributes in us, that we may better live as an Easter people, may better be peacemakers, and may better be witnesses of the Gospel to the world.

Alleluia! Fr. Jim

How are We Called to Respond?

Dear Folks,
Our Gospel today is about the servants who were given talents and sent to invest them. It is
a reminder that to be a Christian is to see oneself as a servant of God, entrusted with
resources of various kinds
Here at St. Charles and St. Joseph – St. Mary, we are adjusting to having one priest instead
of two. The people at Our Lady of Consolation in Rockford are having a similar
adjustment. For years we had a full-time vocation director, but now he is also assigned to a
parish. There are still two slots that are empty, and priests are driving back and forth to fill
in temporarily. We have just received word that one of our colleagues is going on a leave
of absence. Things are tight. What comes next? If you look at our seminarian poster, we
see that if all the men currently in theology become priests (God willing), we can have nine
priestly ordinations in the next four years. According to my calculations, there are nine
priests currently running parishes who will turn seventy in that time and be eligible to retire
(go to senior status). How many will retire? Some have already shared their plans to do so,
but we shall have to see. We also have seven priests who are currently running parishes
who are already over seventy. How long will they continue? We shall see. In any case, the
priest situation promises to be interesting for the next several years.
Do I have your attention?
Whenever we are faced with a challenging situation, there are two questions that are worth
asking: “What is God trying to teach me here?” and “What sort of response is God calling
me to make?”
Our community, of course, can rejoice that a man who grew up here was recently ordained
a priest, and we have another man in theology. This does not mean that we can sit back,
however. The issue is larger than this.
There are two things that we can do: We can learn how to be a stronger Church with less
priest power, and we can be a Church that better nurtures vocations to the priesthood. When
people think of nurturing vocations to the priesthood, many start and end with cornering a
young man and saying, “Have you considered becoming a priest? You’d make a good
one.” (By the way, no one in church said that to me. I wasn’t really looking like priest
material when I was growing up.)
We should first recognize how many young people are not excited about Church in
general. If they are not excited about Church, why would they consider the priesthood, no
matter how much people suggest they consider it. If they believe that what priests do is
really important, really worth doing and makes a difference in the world. We can all
contribute to that. I believe the most important thing I can do in this regard is to be a
healthy, happy, effective priest who is living a life worth living. Everyone else can help by
treating as important the things that priests are about. The more a young man is surrounded
by adults, especially men, who are excited about the liturgy and most especially the
Eucharist, the more they can believe the priesthood is worth doing. The more they are
surrounded by adults, especially men, who are excited about learning more of the Catholic
faith, the more they can believe that priesthood is worth doing. The more they see adults,
especially men, who are zealous for the mission of the Church, the more they can believe
this is worth doing. The more they see men dedicated to growing in holiness, the more…
You see the pattern?
As we consider the talents that God has given us, and how He is calling us to invest them,
this is something we might keep in mind.
We are not helpless. We can build a glorious future.
Blessings,
Fr. Jim

God and Caesar

Dear Folks,

Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s, as Jesus says in our Gospel this week: Matthew 22:15-21. Christians cannot ignore the government and how it runs, but must remember there is a higher authority. We are called to follow the law except when it requires us to break God’s law in the slightest way. St. Thomas More was a faithful Catholic, who tried to follow the law, and when it became impossible to do his job and be faithful to God, he resigned from his job. The king did not let that lie and had him executed. His final statement was: “I die the king’s good servant, but God’s first.”Christians are called to exercise our voices as citizens, not because we seek to force others to follow our faith, but because our faith, properly practiced, gives us a deep sense of human good, and a sensitivity to the cause of human flourishing and to the lives and dignity of all people, especially the marginal.For many years since the forming of the United States, many Christians worked to abolish slavery, impelled by their Christian faith. Those who were pro-choice about owning slaves said that such people could believe what they wanted, but should not force their Christian beliefs on others, and the government should not interfere with such decisions. Many thought the abolitionists did not understand the complexities of the issue, and should be focusing more on other moral concerns. There were, of course, other moral concerns to deal with at the time, but this issue was special: It explicitly set aside a group of human beings as not being worthy of human rights, and so could be treated in a way we would object to being treated ourselves. Those who tackled the issue changed the course of history, and we now regard them as heroes. As we look back, we do not admire those who were personally opposed to slavery, but did not want to force their beliefs on others. In our current situation there are important issues that call for a serious response, but the solutions are not obvious, and people of good will might disagree. We need to do something about violence, but good people can have different ideas about whether more gun control laws will do more good or more harm. We need to care for the poor, but we can disagree about how to best do it. We can agree we want everyone to have access to health care and disagree about how best to do it (more government administration or more free market solutions?) Eight years ago Bishop Barron did a very interesting YouTube video called “Bishop Barron on Paul Ryan and Catholic Social Teaching” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tq8KRIkGtLQ. It talks about striking the balance between the values of solidarity and subsidiarity, and how different takes on that balance can lead good people to differ on how we best help the poor, and what role government might play in it. That said, if we use that as an excuse to do nothing, we will answer to God for it (Matthew 25: 31-46! Could Jesus have been any more emphatic?).We need to find a way to improve our system for processing immigrants. We need to ease and heal race relations, and deal with violence in the streets. I have written some thoughts about these issues, but it seems that much (most?) of the conversation is about saying how bad the situation is, sharing slogans, and assigning blame. I’m not seeing nearly as much rational discussion about how to move things to a better place. I think it would be helpful to tone down the rhetoric, cool the anger (James 1:19-20), hear each other’s concerns, and try to work together. It might be helpful to be careful about believing what we hear, because sometimes the narrative can get ahead of the facts. In our society, we have a right and a responsibility to help move our country to a place that better promotes flourishing for all people. Blessings,Fr. Jim

Giving God His Grape

Dear Folks,
In our Gospel this Sunday, Jesus continues to call the nation of Israel, particularly the
leadership, to account for their behavior and lack of faithfulness. Matthew chapters 19 –
22, they are testing Jesus and He is testing them. He will unleash judgement in chapter 23,
and finish that chapter by weeping over Jerusalem and their refusal to respond to
Him. When we are angry at someone we love, underneath that layer of anger is a deeper
well of sadness. Jesus said, “Blessed are they who mourn (Matt 5:4)” and now He shows
what that means.
Matt 21:33-43 reflects the history of Israel. God gave them the nation, and called them to
follow His teachings. Jesus compares God to the owner of a vineyard, who provided for his
vineyard owners, and calls for a return. God sent the prophets to call the people to
faithfulness, but many were beaten, mistreated, and some were killed. Jesus was the Son
who was sent, and He would be killed. This rejection of God’s call would have
consequences.
God has given us many blessings, and calls us to give a response, not because it would
benefit Him in any way, but because a love relationship with Him is the greatest good for
us, and we cannot be in such a love relationship without responding to His love with our
actions.
What are we called to do in response to God’s gifts? The Scriptures for our next three
Sundays will serve to highlight three areas of response: Worship, Christian citizenship, and
love of neighbor. These are, of course, interrelated (everything is connected to everything
else), but we will take them one at a time for clarity. These are not multiple choice, of
course. It is common nowadays for some people to pick the parts of the practice of the faith
that they like and leave the rest.
In any love relationship, we seek the presence of our Beloved, and seek to express directly
our love, admiration, and other aspects of our stance toward the one we love. We are not
fully responding to God without worship, and worship according to His teaching. The
central act of worship that God gives us is the Eucharist. We can discuss this in the context
of call to the banquet next week.
In any love relationship, we must be willing to do things that please our Beloved, and with
God that cannot omit helping people in need. Two of the ways we can do this are
exercising our citizenship driven by our Christian consciences, and directly helping others
with our resources. We can discuss these in the context of rendering to Caesar what is
Caesar’s and rending to God what is God’s, and the greatest commandment.
To be good tenants in God’s vineyard, we must have some understanding of how to grow
grapes. Imagine vineyard workers who did not understand how to plant, cultivate, and
harvest grapes. They might put in a lot of effort, but not produce much fruit. We have read
that in a recent Pew poll only 31% of those who call themselves Catholic hold the Catholic
belief about the Real Presence in the Eucharist. Robert Mixa in a recent Word on Fire blog
said, “The recent ‘State of Theology’ survey alarmingly demonstrates that US Catholics are
far from uniform in believing in the divinity of Christ. In fact, many tend not to believe in
his divinity. When confronting the statement ‘Jesus was a great teacher, but he was not
God,’ a shocking 30% of Catholics ‘agree,’ 27% ‘somewhat agree,’ 9% are ‘not sure,’ 12%
‘somewhat disagree,’ and 22% ‘disagree.’” These are among the most basic, fundamental
truths of the faith, and if we are going to be productive tenants in God’s vineyard, we shall
need to open (much) more widely the wonderful treasure that is the Catholic faith. This is
why I am such a fanatic about Catholics learning more about their faith (If you think I talk a
lot about it, you have no idea what I would be saying if I really opened up).
God is calling. How will we respond?
Blessings,
Fr Jim

Ministry of Healing Relationship

That all May be One

Dear Folks,
In our Gospel today, Jesus talks about dealing with conflict in the Church. He doesn’t spend a lot of time talking directly about how to do Church, so I figure Jesus thinks this
issue is especially important. I have addressed conflict resolution before, and will do it again, because I think this is a huge ongoing issue for the Church, for the nation and for the
world. I think it is worth spending time on it. We see so much anger and hate in our society, and it seems to be getting worse. There is much talk about racial reconciliation. I think
part of the solution is to develop our own reconciliation skills.
The first thing Jesus talks about is going directly to the person with which you have the issue. It can be tempting to go to other people and tell our side of the story to garner
sympathy, hoping to collect people on our side. It is crucial to resist and come to the person directly.
I think just as important is how we approach. How would we want someone to approach us when we are wrong? We might be tempted to say that we would never do such a thing, but
we can easily overestimate how well we know ourselves, and underestimate our ability to mess up in ways that can hurt people. To deal with these issues requires humility and
charity. It requires truly loving those people with whom we disagree. Only if we approach a conflict with sincere love for the other can we be doing the work of Christ. To suggest to
people they are wrong can cause pain, but it can still be loving. If we are approaching in love, we want to cause the least pain possible, and have the best possible chance of doing good. It is necessary but not enough to tell the truth. We must be intentional about seeking to make the situation better. We need to be aware of our anger and pain, but not ruled by
them. One of the problems these days is people venting anger for the sake of venting anger, and not directing their efforts toward solutions.
There are some Scriptures worthy of meditation. James 1:19 teaches us to “be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath.”
“Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun set on your anger, and do not leave room for the devil (Ephesians 4:26-27).” “No foul language should come out of your mouths, but only
such as is good for needed edification, that it may impart grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the holy Spirit of God, with which you were sealed for the day of redemption.
All bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, and reviling must be removed from you, along with all malice. And be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another as God has
forgiven you in Christ (Ephesians 4:29-32).”
“Do not return evil for evil, or insult for insult; but on the contrary, a blessing, because to this you were called, that you might inherit a blessing (1 Peter 3:9).” “But even if you
should suffer because of righteousness, blessed are you. Do not be afraid or terrified with fear of them, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give an
explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence, keeping your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who
defame your good conduct in Christ may themselves be put to shame (1 Peter 3:14-16).”
I have recommended Ann Garrido’s book Redeeming Conflict before. There are many books on how to deal with conflict, but I think if a lot of people have a common set of principles and a common vocabulary, that might make conversation easier.
Where in our lives can we begin?
Blessings,
Fr. Jim

Gift of Self

gift of self

Dear Folks,
Our second reading today is an immensely powerful text from Romans. When we hear Scripture, the danger is that we will hear it as something that sounds beautiful, but is very distant from our lives. If we really hear what St. Paul is saying it is about as fierce a demand as it can be.
“I urge you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God , to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship. Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect (Romans 12:1-2).” He is encouraging us to follow in the footsteps of Jesus when He talked about suffering and dying in our Gospel today (Matthew 16:21-27). This is Jesus’ first mention of His passion in the Gospel, and Peter objects. This is contrary to all his expectations, and did not fit at all with what he was expecting of “the Messiah, the Son of the Living God (Matt 16:16).” Jesus responds harshly, “Get behind me Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do (v. 23).” This echoes His words in the desert talking to the real Satan (Matt 4:10).” I expect this was a severe test for Jesus’ will: He would not have been any more anxious to get crucified than you or I would, and He was sharing this secret with His closest friends hoping they would get it and support Him, but He was disappointed. He had floated a similar concept before in chapter 10 while talking about the trials disciples would face “and whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it (Matt 10:38-39).” Very likely the saying floated right over their heads, seeming distant, perhaps a figure of speech, and was lost. When it got up close and personal it was a no go.
Notice Jesus talking about how God thinks and about how human beings do. This echoes St. Paul’s concern to be transformed by renewal of our minds so as not to be conformed to this age.
Here is the key: the mindset of the world, living according to the flesh tends to think about clinging to what we have, and perhaps acquiring more. God’s thinking is about giving ourselves away. Many people want to reduce Christianity to a call to be a little nicer and a little kinder. It is really about giving ourselves completely to God, and we are only able to do it because He giving Himself completely to us.
This is reflected in the Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on the Church in the Modern World “Indeed, the Lord Jesus, when He prayed to the Father, “that all may be one…as we are one” (Jn. 17:21-22) opened up vistas closed to human reason. For He implied a certain Likeness between the union of the divine Persons, and in the union of God’s sons in truth and charity. This likeness reveals that man, who is the only creature on earth which God willed for itself, cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of self (G.S. 24).”Throughout the Bible is the notion of sacrifice, a form of worship involving a gift to God. In the Old Testament there were animal and grain offering. Jesus became the ultimate sacrifice, offering Himself once for all (Hebrews 9:12; see Her 7:27). Romans 12:1-2 says that we are to offer ourselves (see also Colossians 1:24; 1 Peter 2:4-5; Ephesians 5:1-2). We do not add to His sacrifice, but become participants in it.
This is done sacramentally in the Eucharist and in action as we live the Christian life, Christian service, and at the proper time, Christian death. The Second Vatican Council’s document on the Liturgy says, “The Church, therefore, earnestly desires that Christ’s faithful, when present at this mystery of faith, should not be there as strangers or silent spectators. On the contrary, through a proper appreciation of the rites and prayers they should participate knowingly, devoutly, and actively. They should be instructed by God’s word and be refreshed at the table of the Lord’s body; they should give thanks to God; by offering the Immaculate Victim, not only through the hands go the priest, but also with him, they should learn to offer themselves too. Through Christ the Mediator, they should be drawn day by day into ever closer union with God and with each other, so that finally God may be all in all (S.C. 48).”
Can we hear the full weight of this call?
Blessings,
Fr. Jim

Rocky Truth

Dear Folks,
Today we read a Gospel about which there is much disagreement. Jesus says, “You are rock, and on this rock I will build my church (Matt 16:18).” Catholics tend to see this as Jesus giving Peter and his successors a unique role in the Church. Others view it differently, and there has been much conversation about that in the last 500 years.
I want to broaden the frame of the question a bit.
The context is first about God’s truth vs. popular opinion. Jesus starts the conversation with “Who do people say the Son of Man is? (Mat 16:13).” Lots of people had opinions, and
these opinions were wrong. Peter comes up with the right answer, and it came from God the Father (v. 17).
We tend to go by our experience, but our experience can lead us astray.
Holding to the truth has been a problem from the beginning. We see St. Paul, “I am amazed that you are so quickly forsaking the one who called you by the grace of Christ for a
different gospel (not that there is another). But there are some who are disturbing you and wish to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach
to you a gospel other than the one that we preached to you, let that one be accursed! (Galatians 1:6-8).”
From the beginning, it was held that Christianity is not only good and beautiful but true, in fact, the fullness of truth about God, and there was no new, improved truth coming later.
Throughout history, holding to the truth was a constant battle. In the early Church, there were voices claiming that Jesus is not God, but more like a super angel (Arians), while
others claimed the Jesus is divine, but never really became human (Docetists). In case that doesn’t get your head spinning, there was a group that said Christ is God and Jesus is human, but they are two different people, and the Christ came into Jesus at baptism and left before the agony in the garden (Nestorians). Each of these groups had arguments for their positions, and could point to different Scripture texts that they were sure supported that position. Each of these positions would have weakened the message of God’s love beyond our imagining, by which He came and paid the ultimate price for our salvation, with nothing to gain for Himself. This makes Christianity unique, but it is hard to swallow that God would be so loving and give such a gift, for it calls for a unique level of gratitude and challenges us to a unique standard of loving God and neighbor (think about it; it is mindstretching).
This has often lead to standing against what was accepted in society. In the 18th century, the Catholic Church forbade dueling, like the kind where Alexander Hamilton was shot. People said the teaching was ridiculous and unrealistic because a man had to defend his honor. In the early twentieth century, there was a push for eugenics, and the Catholic Church’s vocal opposition was called against science and destructive to the good of the human race. Fashions of thought come and go, but the truth remains.
We humans tend to start from our experience and our perceptions. The trouble is our thinking falls way, way short of God’s thinking. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
nor are your ways my ways – oracle of the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, my thoughts higher than your thoughts (Isaiah
55:8-9).”
Another problem is that we humans tend to believe that our point of view is obvious to those who would only look. This can lead to underestimating what it takes to teach the faith in a compelling way. Then people reject the truths of the faith because they find them unreasonable, when in fact, there is much more reason behind them, but they did not learn enough of it. As a result, many who call themselves Catholics will often give more weight to what society believes than to the Catholic faith.
This is why I’m such a fanatic for encouraging Catholics to learn more about their faith. It is such a wonderful treasure, and there are so many resources to help.
Blessings,
Fr. Jim