Life: A Perilous Journey A Reflection by Patrick Miron

  Life: A Perilous Journey

A Reflection by Patrick Miron

My friend, have you ever considered, or pondered just why we exist? I suspect that most of us have, even if only momentarily.  Many of us though have not given it deep thought, careful in depth consideration; perhaps concluding it’s “too profound,” or simply a waste of time?

Yet not knowing, not understanding the purpose of our existence is self-defeating. Even a “copout.” What we don’t know, can hurt us.

The Bible itself gives hints; like:

1Cor.9 Verses 20 to 27
“To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews; to those under the law I became as one under the law — though not being myself under the law — that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law — not being without law toward God but under the law of Christ — that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men that I might by all means save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings. Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it.
Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Well, I do not run aimlessly, I do not box as one beating the air; but I pommel my body and subdue it, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified”

Jesus Himself gives some helpful {and at times, frightening hints}:

Matt.10: 38 “and he who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.”

Mark 8:34 And he called to him the multitude with his disciples, and said to them, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me”

Luke 9: 23 “And he said to all, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me”

Which seem to contradict the following:

3John.1: 4 “No greater joy can I have than this, to hear that my children follow the truth.”

Jas.1:2 “Count it all joy, my brethren, when you meet various trials”

Heb.12: 2 “looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God”

Phil.2: 2 “complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.”

2Cor.8:2 “for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of liberality on their part”

Rom.15: 13 “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”

John.15:11 “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

Awhile back it came to me that a brief, but accurate description of “Life”, can be explained as being “The God Test.”  …. Humanity and the Universe are simply to complex, too profound not to have a reason for their existence.

Paul describes life as a “Race”, and Jesus interjects that “Life” will have its “crosses”, its trails and test.

From this we can conclude:

  1. There will be winners and losers
  2. That Life is by intent a challenge; a test
  3. That there are expectations {a sort of “do and don’t do guide.}
  4. That we are expected to be active participants; actively engaged in this endeavor; not mere spectators, but engaged participants.

 

What might Jesus mean when he tells us {repeatedly} to “take up OUR crosses?

Phil.2: 8 “And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross Luke.9 :23 And he said to all, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.Mark.8: 34 And he called to him the multitude with his disciples, and said to them, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. Luke.9: 23 And he said to all, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. Luke.14: 7 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me, cannot be my disciple.”

The First thing we must recognize is the literal message of these teachings. If we choose not to permit God to be in complete charge of our lives; we are unnecessarily, even foolishly adding to the burdens of our crosses.

Like choosing right verses wrong, good or evil or as Deut.30:  19 tells us: “I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse; therefore choose life, that you and your descendants may live” {meaning spiritually: Eternal heaven or hell.} Our choice.

It is because Life is “a God Test” that “crosses”, that is trials and hardships are to be expected. It is then our “test” to see if we are willing to accept them. If and when we do, without complaint; turning to our God with  humble trust: “Thy Will be done,” please give me {us} the grace to accept your Divine Will for me {us} at this time, that we open ourselves to grace, and even, if God wills this cross for me;  in humility, and in benign acceptance seeking God’s help in actually bearing whatever that cross might be.

Consider this reality:

Nothing, no matter how seemingly insignificant, to those occasional life-changes events that occur; not one of them takes place without God’s permission. There simply is no such things as “luck” {either good or bad}, or coincidences. Everything, yes everything that passes our life path and everyone we meet even briefly are a part of God’s life-plan for us. ….. A part of our “Life-Test.”

Take the people we meet for example. Every one of them crosses our path so that they might influence us, or that we might influence them, either for good, or for evil. ….. We may never know what a smile meant to some stranger, or a “God Bless you”, or even a “thank you”. …. And even within our families and workplaces we need to be aware that we are constantly on display, on stage as it were. Does this awareness then hold the potential to change our actions, our thoughts, our responses? It should.

Our words and our actions hold the potential to help someone, or to hurt someone; and we may not even be conscious of it.

Everything that happens to us, has a reason. It is either caused or permitted by our God.

1.    Permitted for God’s Greater Glory, or

2.    Permitted for at least the possibility of God’s greater Glory And our possible sanctification.

God is Glorified each time we make the “right” choice. When we choose good over evil.

But consider this: God is also Glorified even when we mess up and choose evil over good. How can this be?  ….. It is because God chooses to give to humanity alone, in all of the Created Universe, the opportunity to be sanctified {offered His grace], by giving each Soul an attached mind, intellect and freewill, thus enabling us to choose for ourselves, good or evil. So then by being enabled to freely choose, we are thereby obligated to choose wisely.

That exclusive ability to freely choose is what makes Life such a perilous journey.  ….. Take time to ponder just why humanity exist.

Isaiah 43: verses 7 & 21

[7] Everyone who is called by my name,
whom I created for my glory,
whom I formed and made.”

[21] The people whom I formed for myself,

      that they might declare my praise.

Heb.6: 10 “For God is not so unjust as to overlook your work and the love which you showed for his sake in serving the saints, as you still do.”

Rev.2: 23 “and I will strike her children dead. And all the churches shall know that I am he who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you as your works deserve.”

1 Peter 1: 17 “Now if you invoke as Father him who judges impartially according to each one’s works, conduct yourselves with reverence during the time of your sojourning, “

“ Matt.19: 17 “And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? One there is who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” 

Rom.2: 13 “For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified.”

God Bless you, and may He be permitted by us to guide our life’s-path!

Patrick

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5 Ways to Jump-Start Your Prayer Life  Elizabeth Scalia |re-blogged

 

5 Ways to Jump-Start Your Prayer Life

 Elizabeth Scalia

Wonderlane CC

If you are feeling stymied about prayer, do not be afraid; it doesn’t get any simpler than this

You know that niggling sense of need. You want to pray, but you’re stranded and doubtful. Maybe you think God doesn’t want to hear from you because you’ve kept your distance for a while.

Perhaps you practiced prayer once before, and you know that mature prayer is something more than simply petitioning God, but you’re not sure where to go with it.

Maybe you’re really busy and fear that pursuing “the practice of prayer” involves a commitment you cannot wholeheartedly enter into.

Or perhaps you’re simply hanging back on prayer because you’re afraid of “failing” at it.

Put your mind at ease. The only way to “fail” at prayer is to not even attempt it.

And there is no such thing as God not wanting to hear from you. So hungry is God for your company that he is, like the father of the Prodigal, always seeking the horizon for the merest glimmer of your appearance. God can and will speed up the encounter you seek — again, as in the parable — if you first make it clear that you desire it. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him” (Luke 15:20)

Our God is a great paradox of power and politeness; he is omnipotent yet stands at the door and knocks, courteously awaiting our consent and our opening. Having given us free will, he is always waiting for us to turn to him.

The kiss of God is attainable, and wholly by grace; our own effort need consist in very little more than the wanting to do the right thing, or admitting to the simple desire to pray. “I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you,” wrote Thomas Merton. If you can accept that true premise, then you can jump-start your prayer life in very simple ways.

1) Make the Sign of the Cross

When I was a little girl, I thought of the Sign of the Cross as a kind of “key” with which I could open and close my connection to God—a key to a portal, so to speak. My grandmother taught me to make the Sign of Cross whenever I heard a siren or saw an ambulance or any sort of emergency vehicle, and in my imagination that small act became a kind of delivery service: crossing myself became the means by which I pushed the need before my eyes (or ears) into that God-portal—imagine the intentions of strangers shoved into a pneumatic tube of prayer and sent off to heaven! I am older, now, but I still make the Sign of the Cross at those times. And when a name or need pops into my head, as I am working. Or when my own anxiety threatens to own me. I simply recognize what is before me: an ambulance, a need, a fear, an angry thought, and I cross myself and release it all into the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. It is a first and fast prayer and a good place to start.

2) Develop a habit of “spouting off” at God

Long ago we called it “ejaculatory prayer,” but we’re living in a much less mature, much more uptight era, so that word is best left unused, which is a shame because the image of prayer being forced from us (like water spurting from a pressured fountain-spout) is very apt. We can “spout off” prayers of a moment, and with just a few words. On hearing terrible news, we might think, My Jesus, mercy! Under stress, my mother used to exclaim, “Jesus, Mary and Joseph, help!” Those are prayers, and they are valid. But “spouting off” doesn’t always have to be about pressure and stress. We can spout our praise as well. In Henry Morton Robinson’s classic novel The Cardinal, Dennis Fermoyle, the motorman father of a future priest, would several times a day doff his hat and offer an ejaculation of praise as he passed local churches, saying, “Blessed be Jesus in the Most Holy Sacrament.” You can do that too, and easily. As you tuck the kids into bed, say, “O God, great are you and your creations.” Upon starting a chore: “Lord, my best for you!”; upon managing to get the bills paid: “Praise God from whom all blessings flow.”

3) Notice something beautiful

“Beauty will save the world,” wrote Dostoevsky, and this is true. Nothing rushed, nothing hurried, nothing ugly will bring us out of ourselves and give us an opening to meet with God, but beauty can and will. Leaving church yesterday, I noted a pretty red leaf, falling in an autumn swirl and landing just before me. I picked it up and put it on my dashboard and it got me noticing the trees as I drove home, gaudy in their last shout of color before baring their limbs for winter. That got me thinking about death and resurrection, and Christ’s restoration, “See, I make all things new …” The day became full of hope and the drive much more spiritually profitable from one leaf than it could ever have been with a radio-distraction.

Speaking of which:

4) Listen

Turn off the radio when driving. Turn off the TV while dining, even if you’re alone. Turn off everything and give your mind and spirit a chance to connect through a bit of silence. We are so bombarded with noise and images that the “small still voice” upon which God speaks cannot be discerned, or when it is, it seems terrifyingly intimate. It needn’t feel that way. “For me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned toward heaven…” wrote Saint Therese of Lisieux. For you it can be the same. In the din of silence, a simple surge: ”You have called me, Lord, here I am.” And then listen.

5) Sing

Saint Augustine said, “Who sings prays twice,” and there is something to that. You know the simple songs and hymns from your youth, and can probably access them easily. Even if you’re not hearing them at church these days, let them be a salve and consolation for you, but also a means of prayer. “Sing of Mary, pure and lowly, virgin Mother undefiled/sing of God’s own son, most holy, who became her little child/fairest child of fairest mother, God the Lord who came to earth/Word made Flesh, our very brother, takes our nature by his birth …” That’s a hymn, and a prayer, and good catechesis too.

If that’s not your speed, you can sing prayer in other ways; you can use the parts of the Mass, singing, “Kyrie Eleison/Christe Eleison/Kyrie Eleison” or a simple and ever-pertinent “Agnus Dei qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis …”

And if neither option suits, it’s always perfectly acceptable to fall back on something secular but supplicant, like these lines from Paul Simon’s “Some Folks’ Lives Roll Easy”:

“And here I am, Lord,
I’m knocking at your place of business.
I know I ain’t got no business here.
But you said, if I ever got so low, I was busted
You could be trusted …”END QUOTES

Why the Good Thief Doesn’t Justify Protestant Doctrines: by KARLO BROUSSARD re-blogged

Why the Good Thief Doesn’t Justify Protestant Doctrines

KARLO BROUSSARD

The Catholic Church has always looked to the good thief as an example par excellence of conversion (see Luke 23:39-43). This is why he is called good. But for some Protestants, the good thief, traditionally named St. Dismas, is good for a different reason than his last-minute conversion.

 

It would seem that his story justifies doctrines held by many Protestants. For example, Dismas was saved without baptism, which at first glance could give reason to believe that baptism is not necessary for salvation.

Another doctrine held by many Protestants that the narrative seems to justify is that works are not necessary for salvation. I remember several years ago, while I was sitting in the optometrist’s chair with the big tech-y glasses on, my doctor attempted to persuade me that the good thief didn’t do any good works to receive his reward of salvation, he simply had faith. My doctor was trying to use Dismas’s story to justify his belief that we’re justified by faith alone.

 

Finally, on the surface, the story of Dismas appears to justify the Protestant rejection of purgatory. How could purgatory exist, so the argument goes, when Jesus told Dismas he would be with him in heaven on that day?

 

Does the story of the good thief justify these Protestant beliefs? I don’t think so. Let’s deal with each in turn.

Saved without baptism

There are two reasons why Jesus’ promise to Dismas doesn’t prove that baptism isn’t necessary for salvation.

First, if Jesus intended for us to take the Dismas story as proof that baptism wasn’t necessary, then it would seem unreasonable for Jesus to command baptism in Matthew 28 and make it the condition for becoming a disciple. Moreover, Peter would have been acting contrary to Jesus’ command when he told the Jews present in Jerusalem for the feast of Pentecost to “be baptized . . . for the forgiveness of your sins” (Acts 2:38). {INSERTED BY PJM & Mt 28:19-20 where THEY; the Apostles, are commanded to Baptize the entire world}

The second reason is that although Jesus binds salvation to the sacrament of baptism, he himself is not bound to it (see the Catechism of the Catholic Church1257). The Church teaches that Jesus is able to communicate the grace of salvation in extraordinary ways when circumstances preclude receiving that grace through the ordinary means of baptism: {INSERTED BY PJM: LET US NOT FORGET BAPTISM OF DESIRE HERE}

 

Since Christ died for all, and since all men are in fact called to one and the same destiny, which is divine, we must hold that the Holy Spirit offers to all the possibility of being made partakers, in a way known to God, of the paschal mystery. Every man who is ignorant of the gospel of Christ and of his Church, but seeks the truth and does the will of God in accordance with his understanding of it, can be saved. It may be supposed that such persons would have desired baptism explicitly if they had known its necessity (CCC 1260). {INSERTED BY PJM SEE .ALSO 846, 847 & 848}

God is able to judge the human heart (1 Sam. 16:7). He knows whether a person is truly seeking the truth. And whatever truth a person is ignorant of, God knows if that person is responsible or not and will judge accordingly. Inasmuch as a person implicitly desires God, he implicitly desires all things that God wills, including the sacraments.

However, this does not mean baptism is not necessary for those to whom it has been revealed. According to Jesus, baptism is our new birth (see John 3:3-5) and he makes it the gateway for membership in his church (see Matthew. 28:19), which is his body (see 1 Corinthians 12:13).

Saved without works

What about Dismas being saved without works? Does this justify the belief that works have nothing to do with our salvation? By no means.

First, the objection betrays a far too narrow view of what good works mean. Sure, Dismas didn’t feed the poor or perform some other humanitarian work, but he did come to the defense of Jesus and proclaim Jesus’ innocence. Isn’t that a good work?

Moreover, Dismas repented. It would seem to me that both of these involve an act of the will animated by charity. Hence, James’ teaching would apply: “You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone” (James 2:24).

Second, even if one is inclined not to accept the defense of Christ’s innocence and repentance as good works, the fact that Dismas was physically incapacitated to do good works doesn’t affect the principle that good works are necessary for salvation. For example, I might have the flu and be physically incapacitated to go to Mass on Sunday, but that doesn’t mean the Sunday obligation doesn’t exist.

To use a more Protestant-friendly example, Paul says confession of Jesus’ lordship is necessary for salvation: “[I]f you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord . . . you will be saved” (Rom. 10:9). But what about the mute? Does their inability to confess with their lips mean that confessing Jesus’ lordship is not necessary for salvation? Of course not. Similarly, Dismas’s inability to perform good works doesn’t mean good works aren’t necessary.

Dismas showed his will was rightfully ordered toward the good. Had he the opportunity, I’m sure he would have done good works.

So, I guess my optometrist will have to find another argument to justify his position.

No pit stop necessary 

But what about the belief that this story disproves purgatory? If heaven is given to Dismas on that day, then no need for any sort of final purification, right?

If one means no final purification for Dismas in particular, then yes. But if one means no final purification absolutely, then no.

Even if we concede that Jesus was talking about heaven when he referenced “paradise,” and Dismas was going to receive heaven on that day without a final purgation, it wouldn’t disprove the existence of purgatory. The Church teaches that it’s possible to die in a state of holiness sufficient enough to bypass the final purification:

 

Each man receives his eternal retribution in his immortal soul at the very moment of his death, in a particular judgment that refers his life to Christ: either entrance into the blessedness of heaven—through a purification or immediately (CCC 1022).

A conversion which proceeds from a fervent charity can attain the complete purification of the sinner in such a way that no punishment [temporal punishment] would remain (CCC 1472).

Dismas may very well have gone through a conversion fervent enough to satisfy the temporal punishment due for his sin and thus have no need for purgatory. That’s fair game for Catholics.

But what if Dismas’s conversion wasn’t fervent enough? What if he still needed further purgation, which is what you might think, since Dismas was a criminal dying on a cross? Wouldn’t it seem reasonable that the ‘Don’ (the leader of a mafia gang) who repents on his deathbed would surely need to make up for his crimes? If Dismas needed further purgation, and he was given heaven on that day, then wouldn’t that disprove purgatory?

 

Once again the answer is no. The Church has never defined the exact nature of the duration for the final purification. The common understanding in the tradition of the Church is that it is prolonged, but it’s not necessarily a prolonged duration. For some souls it could be something akin to an instantaneous purgation (a very quick movement from potency to act).

 

So, even if Jesus is referring to heaven, and Dismas receives it on that day, it doesn’t follow that he wouldn’t have to go through a final purification. He could have experienced a quick refinement and still entered heaven on that same day.

Another response is that the argument assumes paradise means heaven, which is not the case. The Greek word for “paradise,” paradeiso, means “the abode of the blessed dead” (A Manual Greek Lexicon of the New Testament, 339), which at the time of Jesus’ crucifixion wasn’t heaven, since Jesus had not yet ascended. Such a place was the “prison” to which Jesus went after his death in order to preach to the spirits held there (see 1 Peter 3:19). He would not release those spirits until his Ascension: {INSERTED BY PJM: “THE LIMBO OF THE FATHERS}

 

When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men. In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is he who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things (Eph. 4:8-10).

So, it is in the abode of the dead that Jesus promised to be with Dismas on that day, not heaven. As such, Dismas could very well have experienced his final purification there—that is if he still needed purgation.

 

Conclusion

Although Protestants can agree with Catholics that Dismas was a good thief for his conversion, they can’t claim him as good for their doctrines listed above. In fact, the details surrounding Dismas’ conversion actually harmonize best with the Catholic understanding of salvation and the afterlife. Catholics, therefore, need not fear. We can still claim Dismas as our saint.

 

This article is reprinted with permission from our friends at Catholic Answers.

 

 

 

By Karlo Broussard

 

Karlo Broussard, a native of Crowley, Louisiana, left a promising musical career to devote himself full-time to the work of Catholic apologetics. For more than a decade he has traveled the country teaching apologetics, biblical studies, theology, and philosophy. Karlo has published articles on a variety of subjects in Catholic Answers Magazine, is a regular guest onCatholic Answers Live, and is an active blogger at catholic.com.

Karlo holds undergraduate and graduate degrees in theology from Catholic Distance University and the Augustine Institute, and is currently working on his masters in philosophy with Holy Apostles College and Seminary. He also worked for several years in an apprenticeship with nationally known author and theologian Fr. Robert J. Spitzer at the Magis Center of Reason and Faith.

Karlo is one of the most dynamic and gifted Catholic speakers on the circuit today, communicating with precision of thought, a genuine love for God, and an enthusiasm that inspires.

Karlo resides in Murrieta, CA with his wife and four children. You can view Karlo’s online videos at KarloBroussard.com. You can also book Karlo for a speaking event by contacting Catholic Answers at 619-387-7200.

Of Television – and Liturgy   Bevil Bramwell, OMI re-bloggged

 

Of Television – and Liturgy

One of the biggest consumers of time in our culture is television, whether on the home screen or our computers or on our phones. TV, in its various forms, delivers all kinds of experiences that suck us in, whether it’s watching sports or a drama, a detective story or a cute cat video. For convenience here, let’s just call all of this TV.

Since – obviously – TV claims many of our waking hours, with our complicity, when we could be doing other things, it demands careful attention. What might seem harmless collapsing in front of the TV after a hard day begins to raise issues that go way beyond merely wasting time. The great theologian Fr. Hans Urs von Balthasar, one of the first who studied entertainment theologically, says that “in [theater or TV] man attempts a kind of transcendence, endeavoring both to observe and to judge his own truth, in virtue of a transformation . . . by which he tries to gain clarity for himself.”

In other words, in TV, which is a kind of mirror on society: “Man [as a spectator] himself beckons, invites the approach of a revelation about himself [from the drama on the screen]. Thus parabolically, a door can open to the truth of the real revelation.” Even a nature video, for instance, can tell us something about the Creator if that’s the way we approach it. But notice that von Balthasar is expecting us to be actively responding to the light patterns on the screen.

By real revelation, he means the revelation of God that comes through Creation and, the presence of Christ, who is the fullness of revelation and is witnessed to in Scripture and the Tradition of the Church. He only says that the deeper revelation can happen, because what can also happen – and knowing how most of us watch TV, most often does happen – is that we are mesmerized by something shallow and unworthy of the dignity of the human person, which produces either a sluggish stupor or an adrenaline rush. Either way, it’s mindless passivity.

Actively responding, in von Balthasar’s sense, means approaching things with our minds fully engaged. We’ve all gotten accustomed, for example, to watching serious news reports interrupted by ads for weight loss programs or fast food deals, that mock real human suffering or serious catastrophes or reports of major historical events. We should not let this disconnect pass unnoticed because it subtly insinuates itself into our minds and hearts. The commercial structuring of the TV experience lacks the solidity of real life, which demands deliberate language and gestures for the really important things.

The great French Catholic poet Paul Claudel says that we go to the theater (or watch TV) to “learn about how things begin and how they cease.” Even an ordinary detective story teaches us something about life and death – particularly about the great void left when someone dies and the most the world can do is, perhaps, find the killer and exact justice.

Properly handled, the liturgy – strange as this may seem to many of us – should be the standard of how we treat important things; it is a steady corrective to TV’s superficial handling of human experience. It can be a school – provided we go dressed for the occasion and spiritually attuned – for learning to develop a proper sense of formality in the presence of the great human truths.

Understood in this way, the liturgy is not separated from life, but takes us into the disposition to see how things really stand, the beginnings and endings as God sees them.

Religion or even prayer are rarely part of television coverage of human tragedies and crises. But prayer and liturgy are – and ought to be – part of good times and bad for God’s creatures such as ourselves. Outside of the mostly secular newsrooms of the developed world, religion bulks large in the lives of people from various faith traditions all over the world.

Unfortunately, TV floods the viewer with inauthentic images of real-life situations. This is why the Church has always had her doubts about theater and other forms of entertainment, not just because they can be bawdy, but because of the false vision of life that they present in such convincing ways. It’s our task to remain vigilant, to maintain a different way of viewing things, even when the spiritual dimension has been suppressed.

We should recognize the role and value of theater (and TV) in cultural life. But responding authentically to what it brings us means actively maintaining a fully Christian perspective. Unlike the television, Christianity does not have an off switch. Being a Catholic involves learning to be a Christian in the world.

Watching TV is not a time-out from our role as followers of Christ. It is just another occasion to practice Catholicism. Will this program show me something of the beginnings and endings of man? Will it take me beyond the TV show to the horizon of the world the way God views it? Will I become a better Christian in the process by not sitting passively with my mind in neutral but rather making connections to the great vision of life, the one found in the psalms and in St. Paul’s Letters? END QUOTES

{NOT preaching here; I too am guilty of this…PJM}

 

What Is Wisdom and How Do We Get It? STEPHEN BEALE Re-blogged

 

What Is Wisdom and How Do We Get It?

STEPHEN BEALE

Wisdom, like virtue, is something that we are constantly being encouraged to acquire.

The call to wisdom is explicit in Scripture. “Teach us to count our days aright, that we may gain wisdom of heart,” says Psalm 90:12. “Get wisdom, get understanding!” urges Proverbs 4:5. Proverbs 8:11 declares that “wisdom is better than jewels, and all that you may desire cannot compare with her.” Such is its power that wisdom itself is depicted as calling out to men later in Proverbs 8.

The primacy of wisdom is also reflected in the New Testament, in verses like James 1:5 and Colossians 3:16.

What is wisdom? It seems related to knowledge but also quite distinct. In everyday parlance, wisdom implies a certain attitude or stance towards reality and issues in action of some kind. I may know that it is unsafe to venture into a crack house, but I am not a wise man unless I put that knowledge into action by actually avoiding such an excursion. A young man is foolish if he lives as if his earthly body were immortal. He is wise if he doesn’t.

In the Old Testament, wisdom is connected with God’s role as Creator. This is particularly clear in Proverbs. For example, Proverbs 3:19 states, “The Lord founded the earth by wisdom; He established the heavens by understanding; by his knowledge the depths burst apart, and the skies distilled dew.” In Proverbs 8 wisdom is cast as the essential companion of God as He undertook the work of creation:

I was there when He set the heavens into place;
When He fixed the horizon upon the deep;
When He made the heavens above firm,
the foundations of the deep gushed forth;
When He assigned the sea its limits,
So that its waters never transgress His command;
When He fixed the foundations of the earth (vv. 27-29).

The connection between wisdom and the act of creation is also reinforced in Job:

But ask the beasts, and they will teach you;
The birds of the sky, they will tell you,
Or speak to the earth, it will teach you;
The fish of the sea, they will inform you.
Who among all these does not know
That the hand of the Lord has done this?
… With Him are wisdom and courage;
His are counsel and understanding (Job 12:7-9, 13).

We can thus define wisdom as being the knowledge of the Creator in a twofold manner. First there is the wise plan according to which he made the heavens and the earth, the land and the seas, and all the living things that populate them. This in turns leads to a secondary knowledge: because He made all these things, God knows them intimately and perfectly—better than they know themselves, to the extent that creatures do.

But this definition leads us to a paradox. If wisdom is the applied knowledge of the Creator, then how can we ever hope to have it? Would not the pursuit of wisdom be an exercise in futility?

Even Scripture seems to raise this question, in a speech by God no less, in which he scolds Job:

Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundations?
Speak if you have understanding.
Do you know who fixed its dimensions
Or who measured it with a line?
… Who closed the sea behind the doors
When it gushed forth out of the womb,
When I clothed it in clouds. …
Who is wise enough to give an account of the heavens? (Job 38:4-5, 8-9, 37).

And yet Scripture beckons us on to seek wisdom. “The beginning of wisdom is: get wisdom,” says Proverbs 4:7.

Fortunately, Scripture does elaborate on how to do this.

The crucial key comes earlier in Proverbs 1:7, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”

Proverbs 4 then expands upon this point—if we understand wisdom to be one with God, as Proverbs 8 implies and John 1 confirms. “Extol her, and she will exalt you; she will bring you honors if you embrace her” (Proverbs 4:8).

The acquisition of wisdom is narrated in personal terms. Wisdom does not come from reading books, taking notes, or thinking great thoughts. Instead it comes from God. Specifically, it arises when we fear God.

This is exactly the type of response God’s scolding speech to Job cited above should elicit: a sort of holy fear, an awe and reverence. For the God-fearer this requires a stance of humility: a recognition that we don’t know the world as well as God does—that we cannot know the nature of things as He does. For us, then, wisdom consists in a kind of not knowing. It is knowledge of our own ignorance before the infinite knowledge of God.

We can then discern between two forms of wisdom: human wisdom and divine wisdom. Scripture supports this interpretation:

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
nor are your ways my ways.
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).

Likewise, in the New Testament:

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!
How inscrutable are his judgments and how unsearchable his ways!
For who has known the mind of the Lord
or who has been his counselor?”
(Romans 8:33, quoting several Old Testament texts)

What we doing here is speaking of wisdom analogously. Analogous ways of speaking are best explained by contrasting them with two other ways: univocal and equivocal. Univocal terms have one fixed meaning. For example, zoology always refers to the study of life. It does not have a range or diversity of meanings. On the other hand, the word bark can have two completely different and unrelated meanings: it can refer to a boat or the sound a dog makes. (My examples are borrowed and adapted from these two sources here and here.)

The third way of speaking is by analogy. Take the word stellar. Technically it is an adjective for stars, as in a stellar orbit. But we also use the word to talk about amazing things that really stand out, just as the stars stand out in the night sky. So I could talk about how Joe’s presentation is stellar. Now his presentation is completely different than stars—one is a ball of gas that emits light through nuclear fusion. The other is an arrangement of rational thoughts (one hopes at least) expressed through a series of symbols (letters, words, sentences) and images.

Yet the two are related. Like the stars, Joe’s presentation was exemplary in its brilliance, in a way that could not be ignored.

So it is with wisdom. Our wisdom is completely different than God’s: His thoughts are not ours. And yet they are related—this is the key insight of analogy.

In the case of wisdom, ours is related to God’s. His wisdom consists in perfect knowledge of the order of creation. Ours derives from knowing that we do not have such knowledge. What we do know is that we are but one small part of creation a mere individual creature within the cosmic order of creation. Thus both human and divine wisdom are related in that they entail a certain kind of knowledge about creation yet they are otherwise vastly different.

The principle of analogy then comforts us in our quest for wisdom. While we cannot arrive at divine knowledge, we can be confident we are on the right path. And while we cannot know all things, we know one important thing: that God does know all things. As our weakness is perfected in His strength, to paraphrase St. Paul, so also our ignorance is perfected in His knowledge. Or, put another away: our wisdom is made perfect in His END QUOTES

5 Sayings from the Desert Fathers that challenge us to be better Christians; by  Philip Kosloski Re-blogged

5 Sayings from the Desert Fathers that challenge us to be better Christians

Their sayings provide countless little lessons that are extremely profound and challenging.

The Desert Fathers were spiritual pillars of the ancient world and their sayings were first compiled into a volume called the Sayings of the Fathers in the 5th century. The Sayings provide countless little lessons that are extremely profound and challenging.

Here is another brief selection of five sayings from the Desert Fathers that challenge us to be better Christians.

When the same Abba Anthony thought about the depth of the judgments of God, he asked, “Lord, how is it that some die when they are young, while others drag on to extreme old age? Why are there those who are poor and those who are rich? Why do wicked men prosper and why are the just in need?” He heard a voice answering him, “Anthony, keep your attention on yourself; these things are according to the judgment of God, and it is not to your advantage to know anything about them.”

Someone asked Abba Anthony, “What must one do in order to please God?” The old man replied, “Pay attention to what I tell you: whoever you may be, always have God before your eyes; whatever you do, do it according to the testimony of the holy Scriptures; in whatever place you live, do not easily leave it. Keep these three precepts and you will be saved.”

Abba Pambo asked Abba Anthony, “What ought I to do?” and the old man said to him, “Do not trust in your own righteousness, do not worry about the past, but control your tongue and your stomach.”

Abba Agathon said, “Unless he keeps the commandments of God, a man cannot make progress, not even in a single virtue.”

Abba Copres said, “Blessed is he who bears affliction with thankfulness.”

Taking time to discover time … and the eternal: Peach Smith Re-Blogged

 

Taking time to discover time … and the eternal

There are moments, especially in the life of the spirit and the liturgy, where time has stopped; there is no time.

“What is time?” That was the wrong question for a 3-year-old to ask a father who had worked for NASA and who hung a gigantic periodic table over his children’s bunk bed. A measured, careful explanation followed of time being a thing that moved forward but that could still change in space and movement. Puzzled, the terms were tucked away for future exploration.

Some years later, we began attending a church built around 1100. The most fascinating aspect was the baptismal font which had not been spared the ravages of Cromwell’s men. The stone apostles still stood at the base, but their heads had been chiseled off. It fascinated me. Running my fingers over those gnarled marks I marveled at being able to touch time – touch something that had been made so many hundreds of years earlier. The smooth folds of the cloaks vs the jagged edges of the severed tops – it provided a physical connection to those eras. I still wondered – “Just what exactly is time?”

In college, the answers of the Physics professor on time were simple, and yet completely unsatisfying. In the Theology department we discussed Kant, Descartes and Leibnitz — the debate descending into whether we even existed, never mind understanding Time. But one day, in passing a rehearsal, the words of the conductor drifted out. “Breathe! You must suspend time!” I slipped inside to listen, and time truly stood still as the choir filled the high, echoing halls of the ancient university.

At the synagogue, searching for Truth, the deep, sonorous chant of the men opened an entirely new dimension of space. “Barukh ata Adonai Eloheinu …” As I probed the faithful, eager to understand this ancient faith, one young man explained that time was simply a mechanism for us to understand where we are in space. That said, however, the Shabbat is a day of complete rest, and time stands still on the sabbath. God rests, and so does time. “This is why,” continued the young man, “one can forget time in the synagogue, one can just be here and forget that there is time. There is no time when one is with God.”

There is no time when one is with God.

A year later, on a bitterly cold Christmas in the north of England, at a Benedictine Cistercian convent, the Father who had come to say Mass spoke about these still, cold convent walls as a place of refuge. A place where there was no rushing around, where one could leave the world for a while and get lost in the True Presence. “Time ceases, and all that matters is that you are in His presence.” He pointed out how, at Mass, the only thing that matters is remembering that Christ is with us, fully present in the Eucharist. We genuflect deeply. We never rush the words. The priest pauses at the Elevation. We all pause. There is no time. The organ would not play as it was so cold, so a sister played the hymns on a violin. When the sweet notes ended, the priest just stood at the altar for a moment, and once again, asked us all to lose ourselves in Christ.

In the United States, for many years, we attended Anglican services. They were said with the greatest reverence. The music was glorious and took you out of this world to a dimension almost hard to describe. But there was Something missing. An old priest gently helped me understand the emptiness and we came into the Church. But at the very first Mass, I wept bitterly. Between the irreverence at the altar, the chatting, the appalling music, what disturbed the most was the rush. Quickly, quickly, let’s get this over with! The hymns ended abruptly, the psalm shortened, the moment the music ended the priest jumped in without even a second delay. Here, Time was more important than God. I just wept.

Eventually, we came to a beautiful church where love for the Mass prevails, where one can get lost in the Adoration Chapel, and where the music reminds you how close the heavenly spheres are. Last Sunday, I had to attend a local Mass that my children have nicknamed the Fast-Food Mass. The music is played at top speeds, the homilies are very short. On that day, the priest took just one minute longer than usual to convey his message. But the moment he ended, the lady in front of me leaned forward and complained, “He always takes too long!” She flew out of the pew before the final hymn had even commenced.

St. Therese of Lisieux wrote, “Jesus, because He is Eternal, regards not the time but only the love.”

Time remains a mystery to me. But one thing has become clear – the absence of time is when in the presence of God, at a Mass said with reverence, when those notes of the Ave Maria wash down over the congregation. Then, there is no time at all. Perhaps that 3-year-old, when asking what Time was, just really wanted to know what timeless Love was.