Faith, Reason, and Scepticism

There is a meme going around that states, “If the Bible calls it sin, your opinion does not matter.” What is lamentable – it is a meme by ‘Catholic Study Fellowship’. The problem with this statement begins by shutting down the beauty of a real rational inquiry about sin and why Christ seeks to lead us from it. The statement itself allows no dialogue and is an argument from authority (weakest form). For sin effects each individual at the very ground of their existence – in their relationship with God, themselves, others, and the world around them. It is the experience of a disordered relationship that requires dialogue, conversion, and grace to fix. For speaking against sin requires a real explanation to help the person understand how it is an act contrary to ‘truth, reason, and right conscience.’

Today we live in a post-Christian era. Not for the fact Christianity is unreasonable, but I believe it is because people were not given a good reason to believe. The culture mindset, for the most part, seems to be a “wavering or unbelieving agnosticism”. Every human being is a person with this profound dignity and worth. Also, they are endowed with an intellect and will by their Creator. Therefore, if we do not appeal to these faculties, the human person is strip of their authentic personhood, their ability to think and engage in a real conversation about sin and its destructive habitual path.

The first medicinal truth that needs to be applied is the fact Sacred Scripture is not primarily about sin, but how God communicates the authenticity of Himself and his love for his creature. For God took flesh upon Himself not simply to take on the sins of the world, but to be personally involved in the salvation of each man and woman. Who went astray. Who lost their way. Who in darkness needed light. It is about this authentic care for the beloved – each human person – unique, individual, and unrepeatable. Its focal point is a Personal God who desires our happiness, our good, and who values our ability to come to know the truth.

September 18, 2020
Friday of the Twenty-Fourth Week in Ordinary Time

Following Jesus

“Jesus journeyed from one town and village to another, preaching and proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom of God. Accompanying him were the Twelve and some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities… “Luke 8:1-2

Jesus was on a mission. His mission was to preach to town after town tirelessly. But He did not do this alone. This passage points out that He was accompanied by the Apostles and several women who had been healed and forgiven by Him.

There is much this passage tells us. One thing it tells us is that when we allow Jesus to touch our lives, heal us, forgive us and transform us, we want to follow Him wherever He goes.

The desire to follow Jesus was not only an emotional one. Certainly there were emotions involved. There was incredible gratitude and, as a result, a deep emotional bond. But the bond went so much deeper. It was a bond created by the gift of grace and salvation. These followers of Jesus experienced a greater level of freedom from sin than they had ever experienced before. Grace changed their lives and, as a result, they were ready and willing to make Jesus the center of their lives following Him wherever He went.

Reflect, today, upon two things. First, have you allowed Jesus to pour forth an abundance of grace into your life? Have you allowed Him to touch you, change you, forgive you and heal you? If so, have you then repaid this grace by making the absolute choice to follow Him? Following Jesus, wherever He goes, is not just something these Apostles and holy women did long ago. It’s something that we are all called to do daily. Reflect upon these two questions and recommit yourself where you see a lacking.

Tuesday 15th September 2020, 24th Week in Ordinary Time

Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows.

“Our Mother Mary teaches us to live, together with her, beside the cross of her Son. In her suffering, she reminds us of the malice of sin and shows us the way of true repentance.” (Roman Missal).

Today, the Gospel not only tells us what women were next to the Cross, but also that Jesus Christ does not leave His mother alone: He places her in the custody of John. When St. John speaks of human acts like this, he certainly remembers events that had actually occurred, but he always wants to go deeper than mere facts of the past. So, what is he trying to say?

The first clue comes from his form of address to Mary: “Woman”. Jesus had used this same form of address at the marriage feast of Cana, anticipation of the definitive marriage feast, of the “new wine” that the Lord wanted to bestow. What had then been merely a prophetic sign now becomes a reality. Second, the Church has not had any difficulty to recognize in the “Woman”, on the one hand, Mary herself, and, on the other hand —transcending time— the “Church”, bride and Mother, in which the mystery of Mary spreads out into history.

In the Gospel, we hear the most unspeakable words in the mouth of old Simeon: «And a sword will pierce your own soul» (Lk 2:35). From its context, we can assert this declaration does not only concern Jesus Christ’s passion, but his missionary work, that will stir up the division of the people of Israel, and therefore, a painful grief in Mary’s heart. All along Jesus’ public life, the Virgin Mary will experience great sufferings upon seeing Jesus rebuked and threatened with death by the city authorities.

As the rest of Jesus’ disciples, Mary has to learn to place her family relations in a different context altogether. She must also leave her Son because of the Gospel (cf. Mt 19:29), and have to learn not to appraise the Christ for his flesh, despite the fact He is flesh of her flesh. She is to crucify also her flesh (cf. Gal 5:24) to be able to transform herself into the image of Jesus Christ. But the topmost peak of her suffering, where she lives the cross more deeply, is Jesus’ crucifixion and death.

Also in her pain, Mary is the model of perseverance of the evangelic doctrine while sharing Christ’s suffering through her patience (cf. Rule of St. Benedict, Prologue 50). She has done it all her life, and most than all, while in the Calvary. There she becomes the prototype and model for all Christians. Because she has been so closely linked to Christ’s death, she is linked afterwards to his resurrection too (cf. Rm 6:5). In her excruciating pain, Mary’s perseverance to abide by the Father’s will, deserved her a new irradiation in benefit of the Church and of Mankind. Mary precedes us and helps us to follow Christ in our way of faith. And the Holy Spirit leads us to share with her this great adventure.

Sunday 13th September 2020, 24th Week in Ordinary Time.

“How many times must I forgive the offenses of my brother or sister?”

Today, we can see in the Gospel, how Peter asks Jesus about a very concrete theme that is still to be found in the heart of many persons: he asks the question about the limit of forgiveness. The reply is that this limit simply does not exist: «No, not seven times, but seventy-seven times» (Mt 18:22). And to explain this reality, Jesus uses a parable. The king’s question centers the theme of the parable: «Weren’t you bound to have pity on your companion as I had pity on you?» (Mt 18:33).

Forgiveness is a gift, a grace flowing out of God’s love and mercy. For Jesus’ forgiveness has no limits, provided repentance is true and sincere. But it requires opening our heart to conversion, that is, do with others as God requests us to.

Grave sin is excluded from the Kingdom (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church n. 1470). In converting to Christ through the Sacrament of Penance and faith, the sinner passes from death to life, and the penitent’s act crowning this conversion is his atonement. Our own deeds showing our expiation are the sign of our personal commitment —that the Christian has assumed before God— to begin a new existence, while repairing, wherever possible, whatever damage made to our neighbors.

There cannot be any forgiveness of sins without a minimal satisfaction, the finality of which is: 1. To avoid sliding over towards graver sins; 2. To reject sin (as expiation acts like a brake and makes the penitent more prudent and cautious); 3. To forsake, through virtuous deeds, the bad habits acquired with our bad life; 4. To resemble to Christ.

As St. Thomas Aquinas explains, «Man becomes God’s debtor in two ways; first, by reason of favors received, secondly, by reason of sin committed: and just as thanksgiving or worship or the like regard the debt for favors received, so satisfaction regards the debt for sin committed». The man of the parable was not willing to behave according to the favor received, so he was no longer deserving forgiveness.

Saturday 12th September 2020, 23rd Week in Ordinary Time

Most Holy Name of the Blessed Virgin Mary

(Fr. Bassols Imo)

This feast is a counterpart to the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus; both have the possibility of uniting people easily divided on other matters.

The feast of the Most Holy Name of Mary began in Spain in 1513 and in 1671 was extended to all of Spain and the Kingdom of Naples. In 1683, John Sobieski, king of Poland, brought an army to the outskirts of Vienna to stop the advance of Muslim armies loyal to Mohammed IV of Constantinople. After Sobieski entrusted himself to the Blessed Virgin Mary, he and his soldiers thoroughly defeated the Muslims. Pope Innocent XI extended this feast to the entire Church.

The Church in her teaching authority interpretes for us the role of Mary in the economy of salvation. Here is what the Church teaches about the feast of today, Most Holy Name of Mary:

“God the Father is glorified by the exalted role in salvation of the Blessed Virgin Mary.” Thus her name is a name of honor, to be venerated and called upon with filial trust and devotion.” (Roman Missal).

Mary always points us to God, reminding us of God’s infinite goodness. She helps us to open our hearts to God’s ways, wherever those may lead us. Honored under the title “Queen of Peace,” Mary encourages us to cooperate with Jesus in building a peace based on justice, a peace that respects the fundamental human rights of all peoples.

Wednesday 9th September 2020, 23rd Week in Ordinary Time

“Blessed are you who are poor…
Blessed are you who are now hungry…
Blessed are you who are now weeping…
Blessed are you when people hate you…
Rejoice and leap for joy on that day!” (Luke 6:20-23)

Are the above statements typos? Did Jesus really say these things?

At first, the Beatitudes can seem quite confusing. And when we strive to live them, they can be very challenging. Why is it blessed to be poor and hungry? Why is one blessed who is weeping and hated? These are difficult questions with perfect answers.

The truth is that each Beatitude ends with a glorious outcome when fully embraced in accord with the will of God. Poverty, hunger, sorrow and persecution are not, by themselves, blessings. But when they befall us they do offer an opportunity for a blessing from God that far surpasses any difficulty the initial challenge presents.

Poverty affords one the opportunity to seek out the riches of Heaven above all else. Hunger drives a person to seek the food of God that sustains beyond what the world can offer. Weeping, when caused by one’s own sin or the sins of others, helps us seek justice, repentance, truth and mercy. And persecution on account of Christ enables us to be purified in our faith and to trust in God in a way that leaves us abundantly blessed and filled with joy.

At first, the Beatitudes may not make sense to us. It’s not that they are contrary to our human reason. Rather, the Beatitudes go beyond what immediately makes sense and they enable us to live on a whole new level of faith, hope and love. They teach us that the wisdom of God is far beyond our own limited human understanding.

Reflect, today, upon the incredible wisdom of God as He reveals these, the deepest teachings of the spiritual life. At very least, try to reflect upon the fact that God’s wisdom is far above your wisdom. If you struggle to make sense of something painful and difficult in your life, know that God has an answer if you but seek out His wisdom.

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Feast of the Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary

“Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel.” Matthew 1:23

We all love to celebrate birthdays. Today is the birthday celebration of our dear mother. In December we honor her Immaculate Conception. In January we celebrate her as the Mother of God. In August we celebrate her Assumption into Heaven and there are many other days throughout the year where we honor a unique aspect of her life. But today is simply her birthday celebration!

Celebrating her birthday is a way of celebrating her personhood. We celebrate her simply for being herself. We do not necessarily focus in on any of the unique, beautiful and profound aspects of her life today. We do not necessarily look at all she accomplished, her perfect yes to God, her coronation in Heaven, her assumption or any other specifics. All parts of her life are glorious, beautiful, awe-inspiring and worthy of their own unique feasts and celebration.

Today, however, we simply celebrate our Blessed Mother because she was created and brought into this world by God and that alone is worth celebrating. We honor her simply because we love her and we celebrate her birthday as we would celebrate the birthday of anyone we love and care for.

Reflect, today, upon the fact that Mother Mary is your mother. She truly is your mother and it’s worth celebrating her birthday in the same way that you would celebrate anyone’s birthday who was a member of your family. Your honoring of Mary, today, is a way of solidifying your bond with her and assuring her that you desire her to be an important part of your life.

Happy birthday, Blessed Mother! We love you dearly!

The two meanings of the Bible

The reason why the divine power has give us the Scriptures is not solely to present facts according t the literal interpretation of the narrative.  If one looks to the letter of the text, some of the facts have not actually happened and would be irrational and illogical.

Granted , the facts that have happened in the literal sense are much more numerous than the facts that have been added and have only a spiritual meaning.

All the same, in the face of certain pages the reader feels embarrassed.  Without accurate research it is not possible to discover if a fact that seems historical actually happened according to the literal sense of the words or if it did not happen at all.

By keeping the commandment of the Lord to “search the Scriptures” (John 5:39), one ought to examine with care and attention where the literal meaning is historical and where it is not.

In Scripture not everything is objectively historical in the literal sense. Sometimes it is obvious that the result of taking it literally is impossible. But the divine Scripture, taken as a whole, has a spiritual meaning.

Thursday 3rd September 2020, 22nd Week in Ordinary Time

The feast of the Servant of the Servants of God, St Gregory the Great. (540 – 604).

“Put out into deep water”

Today, we are still surprised at how those fishermen were capable of leaving everything behind, their job, their families, to follow Jesus («They brought their boats to land and followed him, leaving everything»: Lk 5:11), precisely when He manifested himself before them as an exceptional collaborator for the business which they lived from. If Jesus of Nazareth would make the same proposal to us, in our 21st century…, would we have as much courage as those other men had?; should we be able to sense which is the true gain for us?

We Christians believe that Christ is ever present; this resurrected Christ, therefore, requests us, not only to Peter, John or James, but to George, Joe, Paula, and all of us who accept him as our Lord, that we accept him —from Luke’s text— in the boat of our life for He wants to rest by our side; He requests us to let him make use of us, to allow him to show us where He wants to guide our existence to, so we can become productive amid a society which every day is more far away and in need of God’s Good News. The proposal is quite attractive, we need only to know how are we, and if we really wish, to manage to get rid of our fears, of our worries about what people may “say” or “think” and set a course for deeper waters, or what is equivalent, to horizons which may be farther away than those restricting our quotidian mediocrity of anguish and disappointments. «He who stumbles on his way, no matter how little he moves forward, always gets somewhat closer to the end of his journey; but he who runs out of his way, the more he runs the farther he gets from the end of his trip» (St. Thomas Aquinas).

«Duc in altum»; «To pull out a little from the shore» (Lk 5:4): let us try not to rest by the shore of a world that lives by contemplating its navel! Our navigation through the seas of life has to take us towards the harbor on the promise land, the end of our course in this Heaven long waited for, which is a gift from the Father, but, indivisible too, the work of man —yours, mine— from the service to others in the Church’s boat. Christ knows quite well the fishing grounds; it all depends upon us: or in our harbor of selfishness, or towards his horizons.

Wednesday 2nd September 2020, 22nd Week in Ordinary Time.

Sacrament of “Anointing of the sick”

Today, moved by so much suffering, Christ not only allows himself to be touched by the sick, but He makes their miseries His own. God —as God– cannot suffer but He can suffer with. Man is worth so much to God that He Himself became man in order to suffer with man in an utterly real way. Thus, by redeeming man through pain, Jesus has redeemed the very pain (He has given it a new meaning): now man can join his suffering to the savior pain of Christ the Redeemer.

With the sacrament of “Anointing of the sick” our Church prays for the sick and helps them join the suffering Lord. It is not by sidestepping or fleeing from suffering that we are healed, but rather by our capacity for accepting it, maturing through it and finding meaning through union with Christ, who suffered with infinite love. Really, to every human suffering, there has entered “One” who shares suffering and endurance; in all suffering “con-solatio” is diffused, the consolation of “touching” God’s participating love.