Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Postette vs. post

I appears that predictions about the promulgation of the Holy Father's encyclical were wrong. As for me, I have more than enough to keep me occupied for awhile. Things are progressing nicely here at the Institute. I have a lot of work once I get back. Given the hectic pace of my life, I am more ambivalent about it now than before. Nonetheless, I am determined. I think my ambivalence arises more from my uncertainty about having anything to really say in order to add to the discussion.

I long to ago admitted to being an ambivalent blogger. Through this experience I have learned that ambivalence really is more about being conflicted. Given that the issue becomes whether the conflict can be constructive. The name we often give to constructive conflict is dialectical tension. As the late Mark Searle once wrote: "tension creates energy". I am kind of counting on it.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Checking in

Monday, the Feast of Sts. Peter & Paul, which also marks the 58th year of his ordination as a priest, seems to be the day selected for the release of the Pope Benedict's long awaited encyclical, Caritas in Veritate (Love in Truth).

Tonight is a free evening here at the Institute in Pastoral Ministries here at Universitatis Sanctae Mariae. So off to eat with classmates, who over the years have become more than friends, true sisters and brothers in Christ.

I have a lot to enrich what I write here, but I have not had any time to process any of it.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Program note

UPDATE: My oldest son won the gold medal in the Utah Summer Games today in his age group (13-17) in Tae Kwon Do!

Tomorrow I am off to lovely Winona, Minnesota for my annual residency. I intensely dislike the day before leaving town. These days seem so hectic and provisional. I always get anxious. I have a little reading and some laundry to do yet.

It is the wettest June on record by far. In fact, I think we made that designation by the tenth of the month. It has been Pacific Northwest- wet here in Northern Utah. It is cloudy and rainy today, again. The rain is supposed to hang around until Wednesday.

I imagine I will post a few times while I am gone, but not much. In the meantime, Wednesday's post, "Peace Be Still!", is my reflection on this Sunday's Gospel, which is one of my favorite Gospel passages. If you're hungry for more, Deacon Greg has posted his Sunday homily over at The Bench.

Today, I found this link on a blog that everyone who is serious about discipleship, about following our Lord Jesus Christ, should explore regularly, Paths of Love. The link is to Seven Principles of the Spiritual Life. Enjoy.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Solemnity of The Most Sacred Heart of Jesus




Almighty and eternal God, look upon the Heart of your most beloved Son and upon the praises and satisfaction which He offers you in the name of sinners; and to those who implore your mercy, in your great goodness, grant forgiveness in the name of the same Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you forever and ever. Amen.

Dear friends, the Sacred Heart of Jesus burns with love for you, just as you are, right now and always.

On this solemnity I want to direct attention to the editorial that appears in the current issue of America, Community of Disciples. I had a phone conversation with a friend last night about just these matters. To wit, as the editorial points out: "A disciple is by definition one who has not yet arrived, but is on the way to full conversion. This more humble view of a pilgrim church always in need of purification and improvement may help to tone down the rhetoric and encourage Catholics to work together in addressing the great issues of our day, especially those involving the culture of life."

Disciples on pilgrimage is the image of the church that was retrieved by the fathers of the Second Vatican Council from the early church. Pretending to a certainty we just don't and probably cannot have, substituting ideology for faith, and trying to pit us against them is no way to engage culture, or those with whom we disagree. As St. Irenaeus wrote long ago, "the glory of God is a human being fully alive!" So, being fully alive in Christ by the power of the Spirit is of the essence of discipleship. This requires positive engagement, not negative. Our baptism does not summon us to ghettoize, as St. Paul wrote: "you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear" (Rom. 8:15).

"I want more, impossible to ignore"



This traditio is the result of finding my Cranberries greatest hits CD and listening to it in the car all week. Delores O'Riordan is the only rock star whose Irish accent carries over to her singing. She made her Καθολικός διάκονος debut in 2007. Her rendition of Ave Maria was my blog's 600th post.

Maybe it's the all the rain, but I'm feeling quite Celtic. Even though the video is in Paris, look at and listen to all the Irish ex-pats. I guess Joyce and Beckett paved the way, eh?

"Then I open up and see
The person fumbling here is me
A different way to be"

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Anniversary of a diaconal milestone

Deacon Greg Kandra, writing over at The Bench, and giving props to Dr. McNamara, reminds us that it was 42 years ago today that His Holiness, Pope Paul VI, promulgated the Apostolic Letter, given motu proprio, Sacrem Diaconatus Ordinem. This was one of Pope Paul's responses to Lumen Gentium, in which the council fathers, among many things, called for the re-establishment of the diaconate as a permanent order of ministry in the church:


"the diaconate can in the future be restored as a proper and permanent rank of the hierarchy. It pertains to the competent territorial bodies of bishops, of one kind or another, with the approval of the Supreme Pontiff, to decide whether and where it is opportune for such deacons to be established for the care of souls. With the consent of the Roman Pontiff, this diaconate can, in the future, be conferred upon men of more mature age, even upon those living in the married state. It may also be conferred upon suitable young men, for whom the law of celibacy must remain intact" (par. 29).
It is also in Sacrem Diaconatus Ordinem that Pope Paul permits married men to be ordained permanent deacons: "Older men, whether single or married, can be called to the diaconate. The latter, however, are not to be admitted unless there is certainty not only about the wife's consent, but also about her blameless Christian life and those qualities which will neither impede nor bring dishonor on the husband's ministry." When the revision of the Code of Canon Law was promulgated by Pope John Paul II in 1983, the minimum age for a married man to be ordained a permanent deacon was set at 35 years (canon 1031, par 2). The average age of permanent deacons in the U.S. is around 62. In other parts of the world where the diaconate is established, the average age 20 years younger. I was ordained in 2004 at 38.

Nine and-a-half years after this motu, Bishop Joseph Lennox Federal, bishop of Salt Lake City, on 26 December 1976, the Feast of St. Stephen (my patron saint and the patron of this blog), ordained the first deacons for my diocese. These men were true trail-blazers and set a high mark for those of who are still following their lead.

Now, to answer Deacon Greg's question: I was eighteen months old and probably ambulating around our house and yard in South Weber, Utah. So, to honor this day, ask a deacon to get you a cup of coffee, or to serve you in a suitable manner, especially if you are on the staff of Currents.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

"Human greed is a form of idolatry" BXVI

Michael Sean Winters posting on America magazine's In All Things blog writes about the shape, form, and content Pope Benedict XVI's long anticipated encyclical on economic matters: Looking Ahead to Pope Benedict's Encyclical.

This post is well worth reading. I gravitated toward this quote:

"Readers familiar with the writings of Hans urs von Balthasar or with the charism of Communione e Liberazione and its founder Luigi Giussani will see their influence in the following passage: 'So what is capitalism suffering from? It is not suffering only from its excesses and from the greed and egoism of the men operating in it. It suffers from its point of departure, from its functional principle and the power that creates the system. For this reason, it is impossible to heal this illness with marginal remedies; it can be healed only by changing the point of departure.' I confess I would be surprised if this finds its way into the encyclical, but it is powerful stuff, and its gets down to the level of theological analysis that few men are capable of. Pope Benedict, however, is one of those few."
I agree, he is and I cannot wait for his judgment on what has transpired since late last summer.

A diaconal bow to Fred posting over on la nouvelle.

"Peace! Be still!"

I have so many things to do today. I awoke feeling weighed down. As I made my way to the kitchen and made coffee while looking out the window, a part of Mark's Gospel came to mind, perhaps the fact that it is raining contributed. It is the narrative from chapter four, in which Jesus calms the wind and waves with a simple command. I am very grateful for this today.

"On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, 'Let us go across to the other side.' And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, 'Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?' And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, 'Peace! Be still!' And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, 'Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith? And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, 'Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him'?” (v. 35-41 ESV)

I am convinced that Jesus' words, "Peace! Be still," are directed at the disciples as much as at the wind and the waves. Since Mark was most likely written in Rome during in the midst of the church being persecuted, a persecution that saw the execution of St. Peter, this account is as much about what they were experiencing at the time as it is about an event that happened during Jesus' life. This is important because it is easy for us, as we live, love, work, and suffer, to see Jesus as asleep, as unconcerned about what is happening to us, to say, "Lord, do you not care that I am perishing?" He cares. Our cry is a prayer that he hears and to which he responds. His question to us is "Why are you so afraid? I am with you. I will never abandon you. In me you are always already victorious over everything you face. Trust me and stop throwing yourself into the storm, against which you alone are powerless and likely to drown." Because Jesus initiates our journey-, "Let us go across to the other side"- he will see it safely through, if we but stay in the boat.

I am put in mind of another, very similar event in Mark, one that also takes place on the water, when the disciples saw someone walking toward them over the choppy waves and were scared. Jesus said to them "Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid" (6:50). In the midst of life's storms, Jesus seeks us out. He is at work in all the circumstances of our lives, making all things work together for our good, which is for our sanctification. Christ does not love our destiny, He is our destiny and loves us.

Jesus, I Trust in You.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Why deacons?

In his remarkable book, Sacramental Theology, German theologian Herbert Vorgrimler writes: "In his person, the deacon makes it clear that the liturgy must have consequences in the world with all its needs, and that work in the world that is done in a spirit of charity has a spiritual dimension" (pg 270). This is a brilliant sentence on the order of deacons. As a deacon, I also find it a bit intimidating, at least until I remember what Vorgrimler goes on to state, namely that "ordination asks for and effects in deacons the grace to perform this service." Indeed, diakonia means service and to be an icon of Christ the servant can only happen by grace.

Deacon Owen Cummings has wisely observed, "the permanent diaconate cannot make sense in the church until the entire church is diaconal in its life." Building on this observation, I wrote recently for another endeavor that "[b]ringing about this transformation is the task of deacons because we are ordained not only to put our own gifts at the service of the church and the world, but also to foster the Spirit’s many gifts poured out on the people of God. Being configured to Christ in a particular way through his ordination to service, the deacon leads by example, showing how service is integral to the baptismal vocation of every Christian." As Pope Benedict XVI pointed out in his first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est, exercising the ministry of diakonia, or charity, "is not a kind of welfare activity which could equally well be left to others" (par. 25a). Rather, it is "an indispensable expression of" the church's very being (par. 25a).

Friday, June 12, 2009

More mythellania and a hierarchy update

My interview did not make the cut for the movie Mormon Myth-ellaneous after all. Despite the fact that my footage wound up on the digital cutting room floor, I did get a screen credit. It is still an interesting film for anyone with a Utah or LDS background. Appropriately enough, when I was at Costco with my wife after our anniversary supper of Friday-appropriate sushi at the Mikado here in Bountiful, I ran into President Dieter Utchdorf, the second counselor in the LDS First Presidency, who was shopping with his wife, too. It was prior to eating and visiting Costco to purchase our anniversary present, a new digital tv for our bedroom so our nightly viewing of British comedies would not be interrupted (it also has built-in DvD player) that we went into LDS-owned Deseret Book and bought a copy of the film for $6.95. Coming out of the store, my wife wanted to hurry to the car so as not to be seen leaving that bookstore. I laughed and walked more slowly- for just a second.

Returning to Catholic stuff, Bishop Gregory Aymond, a native of the Big Easy, the local church for which he was originally ordained a priest prior to becoming the bishop of Austin, Texas, was named by the Holy Father to be the archbishop of New Orleans. He is the first native New Orleanian to be head the archdiocese. He replaces Archbishop Alfred Hughes, whose resignation, which he submitted in December 2007, when he turned 75, was accepted. With Archbishop Hughes' retirement, the Archdiocese of New Orleans has three living emeritus archbishops, including the 96 year-old Philip Hannan, who ordained Archbishop Aymond a priest, and the fabulously named Francis Bible Schulte, who ordained him a bishop.

The number of Latin rite bishops currently serving beyond the mandatory retirement age of 75 is now eight.

There are now seven vacant sees in the U.S.: Austin, Texas; Cheyenne, Wyoming; Duluth, Minnesota; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Ogdensburg, N.Y.; Owensboro, Kentucky, and Springfield, Il.

"Plays that song thats so elusive"



A truly classic song by a great group: Spirit of Radio by Rush is our Friday traditio.

glittering prizes
And endless compromises
Shatter the illusion
Of integrity



The very first live concert I went to was Rush. I saw them in Salt Lake City at the old Salt Palace in 1982 on their Signals tour. It was life-altering. It is one of those events that I recall vividly. I can't believe that I have not posted a Rush song before. A song about radio and radio frequencies seems appropriate on this date of television digital conversion, with radio conversion to digital signals well underway. The fact is that my children will never understand how much radio meant to me.

I should probably post something more romantic for my 16th wedding anniversary. One of our favorite movies, which came out the year after we were married, is So I Married An Axe Murderer. In the film, the main character, Charlie, played by Mike Myers, goes to an anniversary party for his parents. In his speech, Charlie's dad, also played by Mike Myers, gives a speech. Here's my version:

Sixteen years ago, Holly and I said "I do" and we haven't agreed on one thing since.

Of course, this is not true, as we have agreed on plenty, but for those of us who are married, we catch the meaning.

Today also puts me in mind of the remarkable priest and our friend who witnessed our vows and celebrated our wedding Mass, Fr. Thomas Kraft, OP. As readers know, Fr. Tom passed earlier this year after a long, courageous and (dare I say?) inspiring and faith-filled battle with cancer. Cancer did not defeat him because Christ has overcome death! I cannot thank God enough that I had the chance to see him one last time when I visited Seattle last fall. It is Christ Jesus in whom Fr. Tom totally and completely trusted. On the day we learned of his death, with tears in her eyes, my lovely wife said: "There's another saint in heaven." So, on this our wedding anniversary:

Fr. Tom- ora pro nobis

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Misc and myth-ellaneous

Yesterday I learned, quite by accident, that I made my film debut. The movie is Mormon Myth-ellaneous, which played at the LDS Film Festival this year.

Cast: Shawn Rapier, Dixie Johnson, Richard Holzapfel, Eric Eliason, Paul Skousen, Quint Randle, Chris Bigelow, Richard Bushman, Deacon Scott Dodge, Jerry Borrowman, Ken Baldridge.

Synopsis: Did Elvis read the Book of Mormon? Why are the Three Nephites always hitch-hiking? Are whales living in the Great Salt Lake? Was Yoda really based on a Mormon Prophet? Elevator shafts in the Salt Lake Temple? Underground tunnels at Temple Square? A swearing Apostle? Take a comical jaunt to unlock the hidden mysteries of Mormon urban legends, faith-promoting rumors, and curious facts and fallacies. Hang on tight and enjoy a fast-paced, fun ride and who knows, you may even learn a little something.

I think it was back in 2007 that I was contacted by one of the film's directors, who wanted to ask a few questions. After a couple of phone conversations, we met in person and did a preliminary interview. Finally, using the dining room of the Cathedral rectory as our setting, we filmed. I thought the shoot went well enough. I never heard anything back from anyone associated with the film. I concluded that maybe it never made it out of editing, or whatever. Now I feel compelled to purchase a DvD and watch it. It was fun working with the directors and small crew.

Below is a clip from the film. There is a second clip, too.



Being a native Utahn, all of this is familiar to me. I also remember the myth that Stevie Nicks was LDS and Alice Cooper, too. I was 11 years old when Star Wars was released in 1977. It was the first movie I saw twice in the theater. It was also the first movie I saw on video tape- a top-loading beta-max machine. It was very easy to equate the Force with the LDS understanding of priesthood, which is the preeminent force in the universe, pre-existing even God the Father, "who has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man's," and the power used by God to exercise dominion over his realm (Doctrine & Covenants 130:22). I also remember developing quite a crush on Carrie Fisher, who was lovely as Princess Leah, a far cry from the ugly sister in the story of Jacob's quest to marry Rachel in Genesis 29.

We are continuing to make our way through Big Love. Rebecca was right, it grows to be quite compelling, despite some large gaps in the story.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Holiness of life

Sanctification happens in the crucible of experience. St. Paul wrote that "the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose" (Rom. 8:26-28 ESV).

St. Ephrem the Syrian, deacon and
church doctor

While the apostle goes on to talk about how those who are justified are predestined, here he clearly is talking about sanctification, becoming holy, being made holy. In baptism you were called according to God's purpose.There is no other way for us to become Christ-like than by facing our lives, the circumstances in which we daily find ourselves, reality. It is no good dreaming or acting as if it were otherwise. Reality has a way of imposing on us. Given this, how can we not pray?

In Morning Prayer today, a day on which falls the Memorial of St. Ephrem, in Syriac ܡܪܝ ܐܦܪܝܡ , ܣܘܪܝܝܐ, transliterated Mâr Aphrêm Sûryâyâ, deacon and doctor of the church, we pray:



Grant that we may progress today in love,
-and that all things may work together for our good and the good of all.

As St. Ephrem instructed On Prayer:

"See, brethren, what strength prayer has. There is no possession more precious than prayer in the whole of human life. Never be parted from it; never abandon it. But, as our Lord said, let us pray that out toil may not be for nothing, ‘When you stand in prayer, forgive if you have anything against anyone, that your heavenly Father may forgive you your faults’."

I like very much what Andrew, writing over on In Umbris Sancti Petri, reminds us about by quoting Don Giussani: "The idea of the Trinity is to say that the very nature of being is 'community'." As Owen Cummings, a teacher and mentor, taught me in no uncertain terms: "one person is no person." This takes me back to the beginning about holiness being accomplished through experience, which always includes others. Hence, becoming Christ-like, as the life of our Lord and the fact of the Trinity demonstrate, cannot be a solo endeavor, even Carthusians live in community.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity Year B

Readings: Deut. 4:32-36.39-40; Ps. 33:4-6.18-22; Rom. 8:14-17; Matt. 28:16-20

On this solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity our readings today remind us of two fundamental facts: that God calls a people to be his own and that by being baptized we become members of God’s holy people. The blessed Trinity is invoked over those who are baptized and so they enter into communion with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Towards the end of the Rite of Baptism for Children, the celebrant says to the gathered assembly, "these children have been reborn in baptism. They are now called children of God, for so indeed they are" (par. 68).

It is in the waters of baptism that we receive what St. Paul, in our second reading, calls "a spirit of adoption" (Rom. 8:15). By being baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit we are adopted into God’s family, the church, which, in turn, and by fits and starts, shares in the very life of the Trinity, which, like the church, is a communion of persons. This leads us to another important discovery, namely that sanctification, becoming holy, is not and cannot be a solo endeavor. As God’s triunity shows us, one person is no person. When we are baptized we join, not just the Christian community, but a particular Christian community.

Grace is the name for the dynamic process through which God communicates divine life to us, seeking to make us as divine, that is, as Christ-like, as we are capable of becoming. "Grace is participation in the life of God…[and] introduces us into the intimacy of the Trinity" (Catechism, par. 1997). Love is necessary for true intimacy. It is precisely because God is a trinity of divine persons that the essence of divine life is love. Love is not closed in, but directed outward and best exemplified by Jesus’ arms spread open wide as he hung on the cross in the concrete act of infinite love, thus showing us what it means to say "God is love" (1 Jn. 4:8.16). Jesus’ sharing our humanity shows us that we are most human when we empty ourselves in the service of others. This is what it means to be and, in turn, to "make disciples" (Matt. 28:19).

The passage we read from the end of Matthew’s Gospel is read on Trinity Sunday largely because of its trinitarian baptismal formula. These are the words of the risen Christ as he commissions the apostles, instructing them about how they are to continue the work he started. It is fair to say that these four verses are a tight summary of the whole of Matthew’s Gospel. It is from this Gospel that we know Jesus as Emmanuel, or God with us. As theologian Elizabeth Johnson observes, "If Jesus is God with us, then" he is the "answer to the question, 'Who is God'" (Consider Jesus 50)?

Our second reading today comes at the end of a long meditation on life in the Spirit, in which Paul focuses on the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of believers. By leading and guiding us, the Spirit makes it possible for us to be children of God and to address God as Jesus did: "Abba, Father." St. Paul is primarily concerned with how the Spirit brings us into relationship, into a concrete realization of the divine life of love God seeks to communicate to us. It is this Spirit-initiated relationship, which is always dynamic, that makes us God’s people in Christ.

If the Scriptures reveal nothing else to us, they reveal that God is always in relationship with his people and is passionately concerned with creation and the successes and failures of humankind. God is never merely content to be with us. God is for us because God is love. In the incarnation God even stooped down to become one of us. After Christ’s glorious ascension into heaven, God continues the work of creation, redemption and sanctification through the Holy Spirit, with whom he anointed the disciples at Pentecost. The most powerful means by which God remains present to us are the sacraments, which are the masterworks of the Holy Spirit, all of which flow from and back to the Eucharist, the axis around which the other six sacraments revolve in the dynamic action of the Holy Spirit on behalf of the whole world. While brought about by the Holy Spirit, all of the sacraments are Trinitarian actions. This is brought to something of a crescendo in the liturgy when, at the elevation during the Eucharistic prayer, the priest intones- "Through him, with him, in him. In the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor are yours almighty Father forever and ever," which we affirm by singing the great "Amen."

It is precisely because we recognize that we are all in this together that we are gathered here for Eucharist today. The liturgy reminds us over and over that while Eucharist is the fullest expression of Christian communio, it is not an end in itself. Our parish has a life outside of Mass, the life we are dismissed at the end of Mass to live, not just strengthened and reinforced by the Eucharist, but empowered by it, giving our life together a discernible form and dynamic.

In a special way during this, our centennial year, we are refocusing not just on what it means to be a community of disciples in some generic sense, but on what it means for us now as the people of St. Mary Magdalene on the cusp of the second decade of the twenty-first century. It is not a question that will be answered by a wordy and erudite document, but by your response. In baptism, confirmation, and Eucharist we do not receive "a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear." Rather, we are empowered by love to witness, proclaim, and serve in order to usher in God’s reign.

In the creed we declare that the church is one, holy, catholic, and apostolic. The church is apostolic in two distinct ways. The first way is by apostolic succession, which ensures the continuity of the church through time. The second and more important sense that flows directly from the first is that, like the apostles, we, too are sent to announce the Gospel of Lord, glorifying him by the manner in which we live together.

One of the gifts of the new millennium, to be promulgated in the next few years, is a new English translation of the Roman Missal, the ordinary of which has already been approved. As a deacon, I am very interested in the dismissals, which I have the privilege of singing at the end of Mass. I think two of the dismissals in the new translation particularly apt: Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord and Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life. After all, is this not what the Lord himself is sending the apostles to go forth and do, reassuring them that he is with them always, in today’s Gospel? In like manner, it is the Lord himself who dismisses you at the end of Mass, with the same assurance. Your "Thanks be to God" is measured by your response to his summons.

Friday, June 5, 2009

"there is a wonder and wildness to life..."



Since yesterday I have been participating in a North American Forum on the Catechumenate Beginnings seminar, which runs through tomorrow, which is all about RCIA, I thought Michael Card's lovely Joy in the Journey an appropriate Friday traditio.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Hierarchy Update

Today, the Holy Father accepted the resignation of Archbishop Elden Curtiss of Omaha, Nebraska, one of those serving past age 75. He will be succeeded by Bishop George Lucas of the Diocese of Springfield, IL.

The number of Latin rite bishops currently serving beyond the mandatory retirement age of 75 is now nine.

There are now six vacant sees in the U.S.: Cheyenne, Wyoming; Duluth, Minnesota; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Ogdensburg, N.Y.; Owensboro, Kentucky, and Springfield, Il.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

How are we to live?

"Transgression speaks to the wicked
deep in his heart;
there is no fear of God
before his eyes.
For he flatters himself in his own eyes
that his iniquity cannot be found out and hated.
The words of his mouth are trouble and deceit;
he has ceased to act wisely and do good.
He plots trouble while on his bed;
he sets himself in a way that is not good;
he does not reject evil" (Psalm 36:1-4).

This seems to me a collective societal and cultural stance at present, ceasing to act wisely and do good. At root is the issue of freedom, not only what freedom means, but what freedom is for. When conceived of as an end in itself there is nothing more destructive than freedom. Scripture challenges us as to freedom. Psalm 36, which was the first psalm for Morning Prayer this morning, put me in mind of this from 2 Peter:

"Be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.

"Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls" (v.13-25).
Being willing to suffer for doing what is right seems to me the stance of the church and Christians in the present cultural turmoil. We are not called to fight fire with fire, meaning returning evil for evil. The last petition for Morning Prayer today is: "Grant that we may live today in peace with all men, never rendering evil for evil." This is the life we are called to lead in and for the world. This is the manner that befits God's priestly people, who are called to offer up our very lives at every moment as a living sacrifice to God in imitation of our Lord Jesus Christ and all his saints.

Monday, June 1, 2009

A program note

June is here. Easter is over. We begin ordinary time today. These next few months I will reduce posting quite a bit due to the sheer number of things I have to do. There will be nothing like the daily posts I have been able to write up to now. However, I will post regularly. It remains to be seen how frequently.

As to the murder of Dr. Tiller, the Kansas abortion doctor who was killed over the weekend while ushering at his Lutheran parish, it should be self-evident to anyone with a developed moral sense that this is a gravely immoral and wrong act. I do not want to provide any grist for the media mill that will grind from this senseless act food to feed the media beast, attempting to show how all people who are pro-life are extremists.

The reading for Morning Prayer today, Monday of Week I of the psalter, is from St. Paul's Second Letter to the Thessalonians, in which he exhorts them that they/we must "not grow weary in doing good" (2 Thess. 3:13). This day after Pentecost we know that we need to the Holy Spirit to keep us fresh and committed to doing what is right out of love of God and neighbor. Love is what keeps doing what is good and avoiding what is evil from becoming a white-knuckle experience.