Wednesday, February 22, 2017

God is calling, line 3.

We often hear that we have a vocation crisis in our Church. When we here this we automatically think of the priesthood. It is true that we do not have enough men answering the call to become priests and that there is not enough of them to meet the need. Without priests to consecrate we have no Eucharist. So goes the priest, so goes the Eucharist.

But the priesthood is not the only vocation in crisis. The diaconate is also a vocation. Deacons are consecrated servants of God. Can you have too many men answering the call to serve? If your diocese is like mine most of your deacons are getting up there in years and are serving much longer than they should be.

The consecrated life is another vocation people aren’t answering like they used to. Catholic hospitals and schools used to be staffed by the nuns in their habits. During the cultural revolution of the 1960’s and 1970’s nuns lost their habits and shortly to follow the Church lost many of their nuns. Catholic education is now taught mostly by secular teachers, many whom aren’t even Catholic. The vocation to the consecrated life is also in crisis.

There is one vocation that is in greater crisis than any other. This is the vocation of sacramental marriage. The crisis in secular marriage is that the culture is demanding that anyone should be permitted to marry anyone they wish and that this marriage should be accepted by everyone no matter what their personal beliefs may be. Sacramental marriage is not a right, it is a vocation. The call from God comes first. If God does not call one to a sacrament the sacrament does not exist no matter where a couple gets married.

A secular marriage is a contract, an exchange of goods and services for a time. A sacramental marriage is a vocation where we have a total exchange of self for life. God does not call everyone to the sacrament of marriage. The first thing a couple who are contemplating marriage should ask themselves is, “Is God calling us to this or is this something we want for ourselves?”

A sacramental marriage is a microcosm of the Holy Trinity. God is the head of every sacramental marriage. The husband and the wife work together to do the Will of the Father, that is, to be fruitful and multiply. Far too many marriages today start with two people who choose to take a sacrament that they were not called to and then live that sacrament for purposes other than what the sacrament was designed for. A sacramental marriage is the fundamental building block of society. God’s purpose for marriage is to fill heaven. Man’s purpose for marriage is to raise the next generation, or at least it used to be.

Knowing this, the devil has done everything he can to attack sacramental marriage. If sacramental marriage is destroyed it greatly limits the amount of children that are born and slows the growth of heaven. As goes marriage, so goes society and when society falls the creation of Saints goes with it. When sacramental marriage is not fruitful we have fewer men available to become priests. When sacramental marriage is not fruitful we have fewer people to become deacons and enter consecrated religious life. When sacramental marriage is not fruitful we have fewer students to fill Catholic schools. When sacramental marriage is not fruitful we have fewer people to answer every other vocation. Sacramental marriage is not only the fundamental building block of society but it is the primary building block of God’s Kingdom.

Pray for all vocations. We need more people to hear and answer God’s call in their lives. Pray especially for the vocation of marriage. Pray for marriages to be open to life and to God’s command to be fruitful and multiply. Without people answering this vocation there ceases the need for the others.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Possession is 9/10ths of the Law.

Last month Billie turned sixteen and passed his driver exam with flying colors. His parents let him borrow the car from time to time to run errands or to go see his friends. He enjoyed the freedom being able to drive gave him. This opened up a whole new world of opportunity.

Billie asked a girl he liked at school out to go see a movie. Much to his horror she said yes and they planned to go see a film that Friday night. Billie was exuberant as he rushed home from school. He begged his mother to use the car that night. He was disappointed to learn that his mother already had plans and would need the car. He was granted the use of dad’s “car” instead – a 1978 Oldsmobile Cutlass affectionately called “The Deathmobile”.

Billie was horrified. He couldn’t be seen in that old thing. What would this girl think? But left with the choice of the Deathmobile or nothing the Deathmobile would have to do. Maybe he could clean it up a bit. He called his good friend, Charles, to come and help.

First they gave it a good washing. No matter how hard they scrubbed they couldn’t get the faded maroon paint to shine. The solution was to get out the paint roller and give it a fresh coat of semi-gloss black. The rims were next on the list. They added a set of chrome spinners Charles brother was saving. He wouldn’t notice they were gone. The car only had an AM/FM radio in it so Billie wired in a boom box with CD player. To top it off he added a nine-foot whip antenna on the back. Now here was a car he could drive around in with pride.

His father wasn’t nearly as enthusiastic when he got home and saw what Billie had done to his car. Livid I think was the word later used to describe how he reacted. What Billie failed to understand was that the car did not belong to him. He didn’t have free reign to do what he wanted just because he got to use the car. It was only on loan to him and his father wanted the car back in the way he lent it.

Visit any woman’s “rights” demonstration and you will see signs held in pride and defiance all over the place that read, “My Body – My Choice”. It is one of their strongest arguments to keep abortion legal. It is my body. Who are you to tell me that I can’t have a medical procedure done to it if I desire it to be done? As with all the arguments the devil puts in our heads this appears to be full of logic and rational thinking, but only on the surface.

No man ever created himself. Each and every person was created by God. Seeing he created us we belong to him and not to ourselves. We do not have dominion over our bodies. We are allowed to use them for a time and then they go back to the one who created them. The only thing that is truly ours, the only thing that we have free reign to do with what we will, is our will.

Yet, like Billie, most of us are under a false impression that our bodies belong to us. We do all kinds of strange and bizarre things to these bodies. It began with simple things like piercings and body art. Now we are to the point where we can deny the truth of our chromosomes and choose what gender or race we want to be. If I am not happy being an old, white guy I can choose to be am African-American woman and even go as far as to alter my body to give the appearance that is what I truly am. After all, it’s my body – my choice. Who has the right to say that I am wrong? Well, the guy who has rightful claim to this body does I guess.

Luckily, these bodies are only temporary. They give us a chance to learn to be good stewards of what we have been given. One day these bodies will fade away and be replaced with perfect, permanent, and glorified bodies.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

The longest journey is not one of a million steps but one of twelve inches.

During the ordination of a permanent deacon in the Roman Catholic Church the Bishop passes along the Book of the Gospels to the newly ordained with the following words:

                Receive the Gospel of Christ, whose Herald you have become.

                Believe what you read.

                Teach what you believe.

                And practice what you teach.

It is a reminder to all of us that we are also called to believe, live, and pass on our faith in Christ. There are two types of belief. There is intellectual belief where you know something in your mind. Then there is an intimate belief where you know something in your heart. For example; when I had my heart surgery I knew that there was a chance that I would not live through it. I also knew that if I didn’t I would be with God and that he would care for my family. I truly believed this and trusted in God. If surviving the surgery was the worst outcome how could I be afraid? This gave me a great deal of peace going into the surgery. If I only believed this in my head I would have been filled with anxiety and worry.

This is known as making the twelve inch drop – dropping belief from your head to your heart.

Every day people leave the Catholic faith for another denomination church, or they walk away from God altogether. The “nones” is one of the largest growing demographics in the world. The reasons given for this are vast and varied and usually revolve around a selfish reason.

                I don’t like the music.” “I am not a fan of the priest.” “The sermons are boring.” “I didn’t feel welcomed.”

The ones that bother me most are, “I don’t get anything out of it.” Or, “I wasn’t being spiritually fed.”

As part of our Sunday Mass we stand together and make a profession of our faith by reciting the Nicene Creed which begins:

                I believe in one God,

                the Father almighty,

                maker of heaven and earth,

of all things visible and invisible.

The Catholic Mass is much more than a simple worship service. It is more than the music, more than the scripture reading. It is more than the Gospel, the homily, the fellowship, or even the reception of the holy Eucharist. These are all visible parts of the Mass. But the Mass is so much more than just the visible.

Some Protestants criticize the Catholic Church because they have the false belief that we “re-sacrifice” Christ and that Jesus was sacrificed once for all. The Catholic Church uses the verbiage that she “re-presents” the sacrifice on Calvary. I find it more accurate to say that the Church “makes present” the one sacrifice to the people today. We are creatures that live in the visible world. Most of us have neither the thought nor care for the invisible reality happening around us. Our intellectual belief knows that we are surrounded by the spiritual, angels, demons, and God but rarely do we embrace this with intimate belief.

What the Catholic Mass does is act as a conduit between space and time. Our time, our reality is joined with all times at the one and only sacrifice Jesus made for all. In our visible reality we see the priest elevating the host at consecration. In the invisible reality, in that very spot stands the cross and our Lord hanging upon it. As we look upon the visible priest we are actually looking upon the invisible Jesus made present to us.

In our visible reality we are surrounded by our fellow parishioners. In the invisible reality we stand before the cross with all of the angels and heavenly host, all of the Saints in heaven, and every believer who lives, has ever lived, and will ever live throughout time. We stand with billions upon billions of God’s creation all worshiping at the one sacrifice of our Lord. Do you miss a person who has passed? When you attend a Catholic Mass you stand with that person at the foot of the cross.

In our visible reality we respond to the consecration with an often groggy or half-hearted “Amen.” In the invisible reality we are joined to the resounding “Amen” offered up by billions upon billions of voices at the same time. To open your heart to this reality will shake you to your core and you will never see Mass in the same light ever again. The greatest event that will ever happen to creation is made present to us each and every time we attend a Catholic Mass anywhere in the world.

In ministry we are often trying to get people to make that twelve inch drop from the intellectual knowledge in the head to the intimate knowledge in the heart. With regards to the reality of the Mass this needs to be a rise of twelve inches. We must believe in our hearts what is happening around us even though we cannot see it and allow that to rise to our heads and become intellectual knowledge. I see because I believe.

I am Catholic today largely in part to the complete reality the Mass offers. No other church can offer this reality. When a Catholic walks away from the faith because they do not feel that they are getting anything out of Mass they never really believed, intellectually or intimately, anything the professed to begin with.