Tolerance is not a Christian virtue

-from “The Old Evangelization” by Eric Sammons

Jesus Refuses to Tolerate Sin
Sometimes Intolerance is a Virtue

We are required to accept any lifestyle, any choice, and any depravity, all in the name of “tolerance.” This poses a problem when it comes to evangelization, for conversion involves rejecting certain lifestyles and choices; in other words, it involves being intolerant of sin.

We often fear that confronting someone about his sins will seem “un-Christian.” Yet Christ shows is that it is not, as we see from his encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well.

The encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:1-26)

“Now when the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John (although Jesus himself did not baptize, but only his disciples), he left Judea and departed again to Galilee. He had to pass through Samaria. So he came to a city of Samaria, called Sychar, near the field that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and so Jesus, wearied as he was with his journey, sat down beside the well. It was about the sixth hour.

There came a woman of Samaria to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food. The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans. Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep; where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, and his sons, and his cattle?” Jesus said to her, “Every one who drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst; the water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw.”

Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and he whom you now have is not your husband; this you said truly.” The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain; and you say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for such the Father seeks to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (He who is called Christ); when He comes, He will show us all things.” Jesus said to her, “I Who speak to you am He.”

Jesus and His disciples are passing through Samaria, whose inhabitants have a strained relationship with the Jews. They decide to take a break in the city of Sychar. As the disciples go off to refresh their supplies, Jesus rests next to Jacob’s well. A woman approaches the well, and Jesus asks her for a drink of water. As is typical for the Lord, he uses this ordinary sort of exchange as an opportunity to dive into deeper, spiritual realities. This tactic is itself a model for those who want to evangelize. We all have basic physical needs that everyone recognizes, but most people don’t recognize their great spiritual needs. So Jesus takes a physical need as an opportunity to launch into a more important discussion about spiritual needs:

Jesus said to her, “Every one who drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst; the water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw.” (John 4:13-15)

Starting with a simple request for a drink, Jesus leads the woman to ask for something herself, something far better: the water that leads to eternal life. She might not yet fully understand Christ’s words, but her interest is piqued. Likewise, within our own circle of influence we shouldn’t browbeat people with theology, but rather use our ordinary interactions with them to lead them to ask us about eternal matters.

What is especially interesting for our purposes, however, is the response Jesus gives right when He has the Samaritan woman on the cusp of discipleship. Before we look at that, think of how most of us would respond to someone looking for spiritual answers. We would bend over backwards to welcome him, and do all we can to answer his questions in a way that satisfies his curiosity but without giving offense. In short, we would strive to do nothing that might turn the inquirer away.

But what does Jesus say to the inquiring Samaritan woman? “Go, call your husband, and come here” (John 4:16). At first glance, it may appear that Jesus wants to include the woman’s whole household in this path to salvation. But we find this was not his purpose. The woman answers, “I have no husband,” and Jesus responds, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and he whom you now have is not your husband; this you said truly” (John 4:17-18).

Our Lord obviously knew that such a confrontation might lead her to reject Him, but His thirst for her salvation compelled Him to challenge her lifestyle.

Notice also that Jesus doesn’t over- or under-react to the woman’s immoral past. He confronts her regarding her marriage history, but He doesn’t launch into full-scale denunciations of it. He simply makes it clear that her lifestyle is not acceptable for one who would follow Him. This balanced approach is all too rare today.

In our evangelization efforts, we too often flee from confrontation. We are, frankly, horrified by the idea of pointing out another person’s faults. In a land where “Don’t judge me!” has become a mantra, we strive for a “live and let live” attitude towards all. This is, of course, legitimate in most cases. After all, if you’re attending your son’s Little League practice, you don’t turn to the parent sitting next to you and point out the spiritual dangers of adultery.

But if you’re guiding someone to a deeper knowledge and practice of the Catholic faith, his or her moral life must become a topic at some point. In the politically incorrect words of St. Paul, “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither the immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 6:9-10). If someone is living a life contrary to the gospel, he has erected a barrier to God which must be torn down, and as an evangelizer, you need to hand him the tools to begin the process. Gently and lovingly, you must help him confront and correct any lifestyle choices that block him from receiving God’s graces.

Of course, the same standard applies to us as well. If we do not acknowledge our own sins and bring them to confession, then we can’t confront others. This doesn’t mean we have to be perfect, but it does mean that we must recognize our faults and work to overcome them.

Confronting someone’s sins might lead to their immediate repentance—let’s call that the “Nineveh response”—or it might lead to repentance years or decades later—the “St. Augustine response”—or it might lead to no change in behavior—the “Sodom and Gomorrah response.” The response, however, is not our responsibility; we simply have a duty to show the way to eternal life. It’s up to each individual—my friend Leo or the Samaritan woman or your friend in a sinful lifestyle—to make the decisions necessary to take that path.”

Love,
Matthew

Mar 19 – Solemnity of St Joseph, Husband & Father, ite ad Joseph

-by Rev Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen, OCD, Divine Intimacy, Baronius Press, (c) 1964

Presence of God – O glorious St. Joseph, under your patronage, may my interior life grow and develop.

MEDITATION

Today the Church presents St. Joseph, the great Patriarch, to whose care God willed to entrust the most chosen portion of His flock, Mary, and Jesus. Because Joseph was selected by God to be the guardian of the family of Nazareth, the nucleus of the great Christian family, the Church recognizes in him the Guardian and Patron of all Christendom. Herein lies the significance of today’s Feast, which invites us to fix our attention on the mission entrusted to this great Saint in relation to Jesus and to the Church.

Aware of the great mystery of the Incarnation, Joseph’s whole life gravitated about that of the Incarnate Word: for Him, he endured worry, suffering, fatigue, labor. To Him, he consecrated all his solicitude, his energy, his resources, his time. He reserved nothing for himself, but completely oblivious of any personal needs, desires, or views, he devoted himself entirely to the interests and the needs of Jesus. Nothing existed for Joseph except Jesus and Mary, and he felt that his life on earth had no other raison d’être than his care of them. In this way he participated fully, as a humble, hidden collaborator, in the work of the Redemption; if he did not accompany Jesus in His apostolic life and to His death on the Cross–as Mary did–nevertheless, he worked for the same end as the Savior.

Having been the faithful guardian of the Holy Family, it is impossible that from the heights of heaven St. Joseph should not continue to protect the great Christian family, the universal Church, which, confident of his protection, and relying on his assistance, prays thus: “Sustained, O Lord, by the protection of the spouse of Your holy Mother, we beseech Your clemency … that by his merits and intercession You will guide us to eternal glory” (Roman Missal).

COLLOQUY

“O St. Joseph, happy are you to whom it was given not only to see and hear that God whom so many desired to see and saw not, to hear and heard not, but even to carry Him in your arms, to embrace Him, to clothe Him, to watch over Him…. O St. Joseph, what others have only after death, you had while still living; like the blessed in heaven, you enjoyed God and lived close to Him. You clasped to your heart the Infant Jesus, you accompanied Him in the flight to Egypt, you sheltered Him under your roof” (Roman Breviary).

“Oh, how sweet were the kisses you received from Jesus! With what joy you heard the little one lisp the name of ‘father,’ and how delightful to feel His gentle embrace! With what love did He rest on your knees, when His little body was worn out with fatigue! Love without reserve brought you to Him as to a most dear Son whom the Holy Spirit had given you through the Virgin, your Spouse” (St. Bernardine of Siena).

“O glorious Saint, it is a thing which truly astonishes me, the great favors which God has bestowed on me and the perils from which He has freed me, both in body and in soul, through your intercession. To other saints the Lord seems to have given grace to succor us in some of our necessities, but you succor us in them all…. If anyone cannot find a master to teach him how to pray, let him take you as his master and he will not go astray” (St. Teresa of Jesus, Life, 6).

May the life of the whole Church, as well as the interior life of every Christian, grow and prosper under your patronage, O Joseph, I place my spiritual life under your protection. You, who lived so close to Jesus, bring me to intimacy with Him, so that, following your example, I may serve Him with a heart full of love.”

Love, & the powerful patronage of St Joseph be yours,
Matthew

We are all going to die


-“Et in Arcadia ego” (also known as Les bergers d’Arcadie or The Arcadian Shepherds) is a 1637–38 painting by Nicolas Poussin (1594–1665). It depicts a pastoral scene with idealized shepherds from classical antiquity clustering around an austere tomb. It is held in the Louvre, Paris.

I volunteer in hospice, and with dementia/alzheimer’s patents. It is a profound understatement to say it is humbling, sobering, heart & thought provoking work. In particular, I volunteer for what is known as “vigil” service. This is providing others human companionship, on a continuous basis around the clock in the last hours or days, typically, of their lives. I would hope someone would do it for me. In particular, we try to relieve family members during non-waking hours, to give them rest and respite. To give them peace that their loved one is not alone, and should they pass when family, if any, is not present no one should die alone. Our work brings relief to both family and medical staff who have too much responsibility for others to offer this human compassion, although they desperately desire to offer it, during their regular duties.

I may read to patients/residents appropriately for their faith or lack of faith persuasion, particularly scripture, both Old and New Testaments, or just Hebrew scriptures if Jewish. But, if not religious, whatever text they may have of their own, that brings them comfort. If Catholic, I may say the rosary or Divine Office/Liturgy of the Hours/Office of the Dead for them. Sometimes, I play soft music. Often, those “actively dying” are non-communicative, but not always, most definitely not always. Hearing is known to be the last sense to succumb.

I also teach young people. It is a profound, lived experience in mid-life to spend the day with young people at the prime of the health and beauty, typically, their joyfulness, their silliness, their certain joie de vivre, their understandable lack of care about the future and their health, their strength, their goofiness, their playfulness, their love of talking to, with, and about each other, constantly, and then to journey just a few minutes to my service for the dying, their diminishment, their humiliation, shame, despair, at their profound inability to care any longer for self, let alone others; they who ruled the world a short time ago. It reminds me of one of my favorite poems, which I find myself self-repeating to myself, as I drive.

Ozymandias – by Percy Bysshe Shelley, Jan 1818

“I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:

And on the pedestal these words appear:
‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

So much for the glory of man.

Or, from my favorite poet, Sara Teasdale, “November”: “The world is tired, the year is old, the faded leaves are glad to die.” Yes, they are. Yes, they are. Yes, I will.


-by Br Reginald Hoefer, OP

“We are all going to die.

We were reminded of this on Ash Wednesday when the priest put ashes on our heads saying, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” We need to be reminded about the reality of our death because we forget so easily.

Our culture desensitizes us to the fact of dying. It makes death seem so commonplace as to be almost unbelievable—or, at least, so prevalent that we think it could never really happen to us.

We see this in action movies where the death of combatants costs nothing: sure, a couple of those soldiers got blown up, but we didn’t really know them; they weren’t really central to the story. The good guys win, and we forget about the dead. We also see it in video games where players can continuously get killed and then “re-spawn” at no cost.

The point of receiving ashes, then, is to remind us that we are going to die someday. But do we really let that sink in? If we don’t ignore the question, it should naturally occur to us to ask: “well, if I’m going to die, what’s next? Does my life really have any meaning?”

Obviously, for the Christian, the answer is a resounding “of course.” Our life is given meaning by the promise of an eternity of happiness with God, greater than anything beyond our wildest dreams. But life doesn’t just have meaning because of the promise of something we will eventually receive but currently lack.

Those in the state of grace possess immortality now by sharing in the eternal life of God Who dwells deep within the soul. St. Augustine says that God is “more inward in me than my inmost self.” When we recognize that the Undying One wants to dwell deep within us, we begin to glimpse the true meaning He can give to our lives. But we only arrive at this recognition if we open ourselves to this reality and conform ourselves to His love.

At baptism, this most intimate, immortal indwelling of God is planted in the soul like a seed. Through frequent reception of the sacraments (especially Holy Communion and confession), God cultivates this indwelling presence so that it will blossom into a fruitful tree when the soul reaches Heaven. But we forget so easily that His immortal life can be within us; and, as a result, we also forget the true meaning of our lives.

Our consumerist lifestyle tends to bury the question of our origin and our end: it’s a defense mechanism meant to self-medicate us against the fear of not having answers to such fundamental questions. But Lent is a chance to remember—not only our impending death—but the reality that the God who never dies can live within our souls and can invite us to share that life with Him.

So how does Lent jog the memory? The three pillars of Lenten (and, really, Christian) observance are prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Fr. Francis Martin teaches that we pray so that we can relate to God; we fast so that we can deprive ourselves; and this self-deprivation prepares us for almsgiving.

The idea behind this is that human beings are self-centered. We eat up everything: food, money, time, clothes, TV. But fasting counteracts that selfish tendency of our fallen nature. Depriving ourselves prepares us to give of ourselves and thus grow in charity (that is, love, the life of God within us). Counteracting our own selfishness prepares us, for instance, to be patient with those who annoy us and kind to those we can’t stand.

So fasting prepares us for almsgiving, but neither have a context without prayer—without recognizing and communicating with the God Who dwells deep in the souls of His faithful ones.

The lesson of Lent, then, is to remember death. But remember death so that you also remember that the immortal God wants to live within you so that you may share in His undying life. Doing so will remind you of the meaning of your own life.”

Love, & the joie de vivre,
Matthew

Mar 1 2017: Marie Collins, lone childhood clerical sexual abuse survivor on Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, resigns in frustration.

I heard Marie Collins speak and met her August 2 2014 at the SNAP Conference in Chicago, after her address. While I can never possibly claim to understand Marie’s level of frustration, if you want to be as happy and carefree, unscarred and unscathed a Catholic as possible, next best thing to totally disengaged, although I DO NOT believe that is a feasible, reasonable, or actual goal of being a Christian, look how the boss wound up, AND HE IS GOD!!!, NOT SO YOU & I, go to Mass, pay your tithes, shut up!, say your prayers, and NEVER DO ANYTHING ELSE!!!!!!!! You have been warned.

https://www.ncronline.org/news/accountability/lone-survivor-vatican-abuse-commission-resigns-frustration

https://www.ncronline.org/news/people/exclusive-survivor-explains-decision-leave-vaticans-abuse-commission

https://www.ncronline.org/news/accountability/cardinal-muller-responds-collins-and-defends-not-responding-survivors-letters

https://cruxnow.com/commentary/2017/03/05/problem-anti-abuse-panel-isnt-survivors-roman-curia/

https://www.ncronline.org/news/accountability/exclusive-marie-collins-responds-cardinal-mullers-allegations-about-abuse

Love, Lord have mercy!!!!,
Matthew

Clericalism – Fr. Richard G. Rento, STL

“We know that clericalism, a caste society, exists in the church when we recall how priests have been regarded as a class apart, a privileged minority, more than merely human, idols of a sort. The current sexual scandals certainly help to restore reality in that regard.

We see clericalism in our memory of the church into the 1960s that allowed its people to say not a single word in the entire Mass until it was over, when the three Hail Marys were recited!

Clericalism rules when intelligent men and women ask their priest, “Father, is it a sin for me to miss Mass because I will be traveling to Asia on the weekend?”

We are a clerical church as long as we have no say in the selection of our leaders.

We are all called to be yeast and salt and light in the real world of human beings; that is how we become the church of Jesus. Each of us—with no exceptions—is gifted in many wonderful, unrepeatable ways. Our task, our joy and fulfillment, is to share as generously as we can.”

We need an examination of our corporate, sorry not sorry for the loaded word, but its the correct word, in too many ways, tragically, of what elements of our corporate culture have led to Judas Iscariot tragedies betraying our brothers and sisters, the most vulnerable, and the Lord, our Master, throughout our history. We seem eager and at ease, confident, even, to identify, notice, categorize, dissect, and analyze, in excruciating detail the faults of “other”, but not ourselves? How very tragic. How very human, and sinful. Lord, have mercy.

Love, always praying for myself and our heroic ordained that we might always more faithfully imitate our Master, 1 Cor 9:27, pray for me, and may we join Him, together, in His Kingdom. His will be done.
Matthew

Mar 17 – St Patrick’s Slavery (5th century AD), from slavery to slavery


-by Br Irenaeus Dunlevy, OP

Similar to the Irish people, St. Patrick moved from slavery to slavery. Looking at the life of today’s celebrated saint, we see three modes of slavery which are emblematic of the people he helped save. St. Patrick and his flock have been slaves to humans, sin, and Christ. The life of Patrick shows us the healing and freeing power of grace which removed the yoke of man and sin and replaced them with the sweet yoke of Christ.

The opening words of St. Patrick’s most famous work, Confessio, read:

“I, Patrick, a sinner, very rustic, and the least of all the faithful, and very contemptible in the estimation of most men, had as father a certain man called Calpornius…who was in the town Bannaventa Berniae…where I conceded capture.”

St. Patrick was the son of a deacon and grandson of a priest—priestly celibacy wasn’t unanimous in the 4th century. Despite his family’s religion, Patrick accused himself of ignorance of God and of committing some grave sin which he never named. He blamed himself for his eventual capture and enslavement as he was shipped off to Ireland. As a slave, Patrick became a figure of solidarity for the Irish people, because the Irish have often suffered human oppression.

During the 17th and 18th centuries, many Irish entered into indentured servitude in order to find passage to America. One should not equate or conflate this type of slavery with the chattel slavery coming from Africa; St. Patrick escaped the latter. In lieu of their status as indentured servants, many Irish (among other poor Europeans) labored under the yoke of another human. Similarly, Irish immigrants during the Industrial Revolution met inhospitable conditions in their apartments and factories. While laboring under harsh demands, many Irish prayed to St. Patrick—a man who spent six years in slavery.

Patrick learned to pray to the Father in secret while he endured injustice. The Father gradually freed him from his sin and ignorance while he endured “hunger and nakedness daily.” Those six years of slavery helped him mature from his rambunctious youth. Patrick grew in love and fear of the Lord while learning Christian humility:

“Whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave.” (Mt 20:26–27)

After learning humility in the midst of oppression, St. Patrick confessed the mercy God showed him:

“The Lord turned His gaze round on my lowliness and took pity on my adolescence and ignorance and kept watch over me before I knew Him…He fortified me and consoled me as a father consoles a son.”

Eventually, the Lord visited Patrick in a mystical way and guided him out of captivity and Ireland. Patrick’s emancipation from slavery and sin encapsulates St. Paul’s words, “So through God you are no longer a slave but a son” (Gal 4:7). He rejoiced in the “glorious liberty of the children of God” (Rm 8:21). The saint praised the Lord for his liberation from man, but he praised God more for the grace that freed him from ignorance and sin. St. Paul’s words describe well Patrick’s conversion:

“But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.” (Rm 6:17–18)

Patrick was freed from two forms of slavery in order to become a slave of righteousness. Yet, this slavery is different, because it is tied to sonship and friendship. “No longer do I call you servants…but I have called you friends” (Jn 15:15). It is a paradox that one can be the son of God and a friend of Christ, and find freedom in obedience. Patrick’s life testifies to that truth, as he obeyed the Lord’s call and returned to the land of his captivity.

Patrick records a locution of the Irish people calling to him, “We call you, holy boy, that you come and walk farther among us.” Whereas before the Irish forced Patrick to the yoke of human slavery, here they beckon him to take on the yoke of Christ. The impassioned call helped create one of the greatest evangelizers in Church history and helped produce an emerald isle of the faith.

Today, merrymaking and lamentation seem a fitting response to Ireland’s patronal feast day. It’s a day of Masses, prayers, dancing, and, unfortunately, riotous drinking. The latter debauchery flies in the face of St. Patrick’s sanctity; indeed, the green-clad souls pounding green Guinness manifest the pagan world the saint brazenly entered. St. Patrick, a man freed from a twofold slavery, took on the yoke of Christ to liberate such as these still captive to sin. We can even now learn from his words:

“I had come to Irish gentiles to proclaim the Gospel, and to endure indignities from unbelievers…so that I might give up my freeborn status for the advantage of others…for His name.”

Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig dhuit,
Matthew

Twin sins: despair & presumption


-by Rev. Michael Schmitz | February 29, 2016, Archdiocese of Minneapolis/St Paul

Q. I teach young people who seem to think that, since God loves them, it doesn’t matter how they live.

A. This is a real issue, and I don’t think that the problem is limited to young people. I have met plenty of adults in my time who seem to exhibit the same disposition. What we are talking about are the “twin sins” of despair and presumption. I call them “twin sins” because both the temptation to deny God’s love and the temptation to presume upon God’s love are two sides of the same coin. They have a common root, and they also have a common remedy.

The problem with these twin sins is not that one takes sin too seriously and the other doesn’t take sin seriously enough. Although that would appear to make sense, it isn’t true.

That might even seem to make sense to you. Imagine that you are counseling a person tempted to despair of any hope because of their sins. Imagine someone who felt so awful for their sins that they just couldn’t dream that God could ever love them and raise them out of their brokenness. In that scenario, you might be tempted to advise them to “lighten up” about sin. You might be tempted to assure them that their sins “aren’t that bad.” (Note: there is such a thing as scrupulosity. But being scrupulous isn’t being sensitive to sin; that’s merely being holy. Scrupulosity is seeing sin where there is no sin.)

On the other hand, imagine one of the young people you mentioned. This kind of person claims to know something about God’s love. They might say, “I don’t have to be concerned with following God; He loves me no matter what.” If you were counseling a person in this state, you might be tempted to point out all of the ways that sin wounds the soul (and even often wounds the body!). You might point out all of the ways that sin destroys relationships and leads to death. It might be a very compelling thing to try to describe how truly ugly sin is. And that wouldn’t be wrong. All of those things are true. It might even be that your words could move this person’s heart and mind to take sin more seriously.

But I think that, in both cases, we are called neither to merely invite people to take sin less seriously nor to take sin more seriously. The lasting solution is to take the cross more seriously.

People tempted to despair do not need to take sin less seriously but to take the cross more seriously. If people take the cross of Jesus seriously, they know that there is no sin that Jesus didn’t die for. They know that they are not “beyond saving.” If a person really and truly takes the cross seriously, they would never question whether or not God loved them. Despair would be impossible.

Further, if people tempted toward presumption take the cross of Jesus seriously, they could not possibly dismiss the gravity of their sins. The cross is the price God paid for their sins. If a person takes the cross of Christ seriously, they have to recognize that it is their sin that moved the God of love to embrace suffering and death in order to forgive them.

Despair is the sin of Judas. It is ultimately rooted in pride. It says, “God’s love poured out on the cross is enough to save other people, but it cannot save me.” The person in despair sees the world with themselves at the center. If they would only be willing to realize they are not the center of reality, and that the saving cross of Jesus stands at the center of reality, they would realize they are both worse than they thought and that they are more loved than they could have imagined.

Presumption is the sin of our modern age. It is also rooted in pride. It says, “I do not need God’s (or anyone’s) help.” Or it says, “God understands all things. He will always forgive, even without my repentance.” If this person would only acknowledge that the consequence of each of their sins was the death of God Incarnate, they might not be so cavalier about the need to turn from sin and be faithful to the Gospel.

Ultimately, the answer to both despair and presumption is to take God seriously, to accept his love, and to accept his call to live a new life relying on his grace.”

Amen!

Love & joy,
Matthew

Integrity

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates.” -Deut 6:4-9

-by DeMarco, Donald, “The Virtue of Integrity”, Lay Witness Magazine, (October 1999).

We need integrity to become who we are, so that we can complement Gods gift to us with our gift to Him.

At the opposite ends of the moral spectrum are holiness and multiplicity. This pairing of polar opposites may seem odd at first, but it is solidly biblical. Holiness is so named because it represents wholeness or unity of personality. God is eminently holy and His saints are holy to the degree they emulate Him. According to traditional orthodox teaching, God, Who is the fullness of Being and of every perfection (Catechism, no. 213), has the character of simplicity. For St. Augustine, God is truly and absolutely simple. And for St. Hilary, God, Who is strength, is not made up of things that are weak; nor is He, Who is light, composed of things that are dim.

Going to pieces

Multiplicity is fragmentation, fractionalization, dispersion, dividedness. It is captured in the colloquial expression going to pieces. Multiplicity in this sense also corresponds to the notion of diabolical, which literally means going off in opposite directions. In Mark 5:1-20 and Luke 8:26-39 we read about the man who lived in the country of the Gerasenes who was possessed by an unclean spirit. The poor man was out of sorts, to say the least. He would howl and gash himself with stones. Quite literally, he was out of control. His fellow countrymen would bind him with chains and fetters. But he would break the chains asunder, tear the fetters to pieces, and be driven by the devil into the desert.

This poor man submitted himself to Christ, Who commanded the unclean spirit to declare its name. Legion, was the response, for many devils had entered him (Lk. 8:30). Christ then allowed the legion of devils to enter a herd of swine, approximately 2,000 in all, who then rushed with great violence into the sea and were drowned. This spectacle of mass disintegration was indeed terrifying to the swineherds who reported the event to their townsfolk.

Wholeness next to godliness

The difference between God and the devil is the difference between simplicity and multiplicity. We human beings cannot hope to achieve simplicity, but we can achieve integrity and avoid multiplicity.

A favorite theme among 20th-century writers is the fundamental moral importance of personal integrity. The word they often use to describe this state is authenticity. A person should be himself, they insist, and not divide himself into incompatible parts: one for himself and another for the masses.

Because our unity of personality demands the integration of its parts, there is always the possibility that we can break up (dis-integrate) into discordant pieces. But what are these parts that must be integrated if the person is to be whole? There are many lines along which personality can be unified. There is the integrity between word and deed, friendship and fidelity, private life and public life, mind and body, head and heart. But the integrity that is perhaps most basic to a human being is the one that binds one’s being to one’s behavior, endowment to achievement, or giftedness to response.

Claiming our inheritance

God has given us our inheritance and an inclination toward our destiny. We are free to reject this inheritance because we do not think it is good enough. Thus, we may spend our life envying others whom we judge to be more talented, intelligent, attractive, and so on. Or we may decide not to make the effort of claiming our natural inheritance so as to fulfill our destiny. The great Christian existentialist Søren Kierkegaard distinguished these two dispositions, respectively, as the despair of weakness and the despair of defiance.

We need integrity to become who we are, so that we can complement Gods gift to us with our gift to Him. Although we often lack integrity in ourselves, we are usually quick to recognize and denounce it in others. So it was with that great cinematic legend of yesteryear, the Lone Rangers trusty sidekick, Tonto, who instinctively distrusted the white man who spoke with forked tongue. We detest phoniness, hypocrisy, duplicity, double-dealing, and disingenuousness. We admire integrity, though we know that it often comes at a high price.

Specialization and bureaucracy contribute heavily to the process of disintegration. Politics is another area that poses a formidable challenge to anyone who wants to retain his integrity. On the abortion issue, for example, one commonly hears about politicians who are privately opposed but publicly in favor of it.

That’s entertainment?

Charlton Heston stood up at a Time/Warner stockholders meeting not too long ago and read the shocking lyrics of certain rock songs that passed for entertainment in the judgment of that corporation. He said that he expected he would never again be invited to make a film with Warner Brothers and would win many enemies, but that he had a moral obligation to do what he could to start cleaning up some of the filth that is demoralizing contemporary society. He announced to his stunned audience that his integrity meant more to him than his status in the eyes of Time/Warner. As he read the lyrics that were rife with sexism, racism, and violence, The Time/Warner executives, according to Heston, squirmed in their chairs and stared at their shoes. “They hated me for that.” Nonetheless, much good did result from his address.

The sacrifice of fame and fortune, to whatever extent, however, does not compare with the sacrifice of one’s integrity. In his impassioned speech to the stockholders, Mr. Heston would have done well to quote Kierkegaard: “Or can you think of anything more frightful than that it might end with your nature being resolved into a multiplicity, that you really might become many, become, like those unhappy demoniacs, a legion, and you thus would have lost the inmost and holiest thing of all in a man, the unifying power of personality?”

Love, pray for me,
Matthew

Temptation

-by Jimmy Akin, “A Daily Defense

Born with Temptations

Challenge: Why would a good God allow people to be born with temptations to sin?

Defense: This is a subcase of the problem of evil. It is mysterious, but we can discern the outlines of the solution.

Elsewhere we have covered other aspects of the problem of evil (see Days 7, 38, and 151). Here we look at the specific question of why God allows people to be born with temptations to sin.

One way of putting the answer is: God created mankind in a state of original justice or holiness. However, when our first parents turned away from God and committed original sin, they lost this holiness and human nature was corrupted in a way that made us prone to sin (CCC 375, 379, 405).

Although the causes were on the spiritual rather than the purely physical level, the situation is similar to that of a person with a healthy genetic code who, by recklessly exposing himself to radioactive material, damages his genes in a way that causes his offspring to be born with birth defects. In other words: We are born with temptations because we inherit the damage done to human nature by sin.

Although this answers the question on one level, it leaves the question of why God would allow this to happen. Here there is an element of mystery, because God could have prevented us from inheriting temptations. However, we can say the following:

(1) God takes our inborn weaknesses into account in assessing how culpable we are. Our culpability for sin is diminished when we are under strong internal pressures. “The promptings of feelings and passions can also diminish the voluntary and free character of the offense, as can external pressures or pathological disorders” (CCC 1860).

(2) God will not allow us to be separated from Him except by a truly free choice of the kind involved in mortal sin (CCC 1037).

(3) God gives us His grace to deal with temptations (1 Cor. 10:13).

(4) God subjects Himself to our weakness. In the person of Jesus, He subjected Himself to conditions like those we experience. “For we do not have a high priest [i.e., Jesus] Who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but One Who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin.” (Heb. 4:15, NABRE).

Love, pray for me,
Matthew

Humility


-by Ford Madox Brown, 1852–6, oil on canvas, 116.8 × 133.3 cm (46 × 52.5 in), with frame: 147.5 × 164 × 9.8 cm (58.1 × 64.6 × 3.9 in), Tate Britain Gallery, Millbrand in London, not on view. Please click on the image for greater detail.

Pride was the downfall of Satan/Lucifer and his demons.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” -Mt 11:28-30

-by Rev Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen, OCD, Divine Intimacy, Baronius Press, (c) 1964

Presence of God – O Jesus, You Who were so humiliated for us, teach me how to practice true humility.

MEDITATION

Charity is the essence of Christian perfection, for charity alone has the power to unite man to God, his last end. But for us poor, miserable creatures, whom God wishes to raise to union with Himself, is charity the ultimate basis of the spiritual life? No. There is something deeper still which is, so to speak, the basis of charity, and that is humility. Humility is to charity what the foundation is to a building. Digging the foundation is not building the house, yet it is the preliminary, indispensable work, the condition sine qua non. The deeper, and firmer it is, the better the house will be and the greater assurance of stability it will have. Only the fool “built his house upon the sand,” with the inevitable consequence of seeing it crumble away very soon. The wise man, on the contrary, “built … upon a rock” (Matthew 7:24-26); storms and winds might threaten, but his house was unshakable because its foundation was solid.

Humility is the firm bedrock upon which every Christian should build the edifice of his spiritual life. “If you wish to lay good foundations,” says St. Teresa of Jesus to her daughters, “each of you must try to be the least of all” that is, you must practice humility. “If you do that … your foundation will be so firmly laid that your Castle will not fall” (cf. Interior Castle [Mansions] for post on humilityVII, 4). Humility forms the foundation of charity by emptying the soul of pride, arrogance, disordered love of self and of one’s own excellence, and by replacing them with the love of God and our neighbor.

The more humility empties the soul of the vain, proud pretenses of self, the more room there will be for God. “When at last [the spiritual man] comes to be reduced to nothing, which will be the greatest extreme of humility, spiritual union will be wrought between the soul and God” (St. John of the Cross, Ascent of Mt. Carmel, II, 7, 11).

COLLOQUY

“O my God, You make me realize how far I must descend in order that my heart may serve as a dwelling-place for You: I must become so poor that I have no place whereon to lay my head. My heart is not wholly emptied of self, and that is why You order me to descend. Oh! I want to descend much lower so that You will be able to rest Your divine head in my heart and know that there You are loved and understood. O sweet, divine Guest, You know my misery; that is why You come to me in the hope of finding an empty tabernacle, a heart wholly emptied of self. This is all You ask” (cf. St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus, Letters).

O Lord, help me to excavate in my poor soul that abyss of humility which will attract the abyss of Your infinite mercies. Help me to descend, although my pride seeks to rise. Help me to recognize and humbly confess my nothingness and my weakness, although my pride desires so much to have me esteemed as something great. Help me to glory in my infirmities, although my pride always tends to glory in what is not mine, but Your free gift. How true it is, O God, that grace follows an entirely different road from that of nature! Give me the strength to travel on this way with courage, to swim against the current, the muddy, treacherous current of my pride. How can I succeed if You; do not come to help me? But I trust in You, Lord, because I know that You are always ready to uphold the weak who have recourse to You with trust; because I know that, if my pride is great, Your mercy is infinite and Your omnipotence is invincible; because I know that if “anyone is an inactive man that wants help, is very weak in ability and full of poverty, Your eye looks upon him for good, and lifts him up from his low estate and exalts his head” (cf. Sirach 11:12, 13).

O Lord, who is more “full of poverty” than I, who have not yet conquered my pride? Who then is in greater need of Your help?”

Love, pray for me,
Matthew

Summa Catechetica, "Neque enim quaero intelligere ut credam, sed credo ut intelligam." – St Anselm, "Let your religion be less of a theory, and more of a love affair." -G.K. Chesterton, "I want a laity, not arrogant, not rash in speech, not disputatious, but men and women who know their religion, who enter into it, who know just where they stand, who know what they hold and what they do not, and who know their creed so well that they can give an account of it."- Bl John Henry Newman, "Encounter, not confrontation; attraction, not promotion; dialogue, not debate." -cf Pope Francis, "To convert someone, go and take them by the hand and guide them." -St Thomas Aquinas, OP