The Resurrection and the Life

I recently finished up re-reading the book The Resurrection: Myth or Reality? by Episcopalian bishop John Shelby Spong that totally consumed my “free” time over the last couple of weeks. Being that it’s Lent, I wanted to, as I got my ashes on Ash Wednesday, “turn away from sin and be faithful to the gospel.” Reading religious books (beyond The Good Book of course) is one way I chose to stop and reflect on my faith and what better book than about The Resurrection of Jesus Christ? Spong has always spoke directly to me and help me put words to a faith I find difficult to describe.

I realized that I never really confronted exactly what I positively believe about the resurrection and afterlife. I tend to dismiss literal interpretations of sacred history recounted in The Bible, but that’s a negative affirmation: what I don’t believe. As a Christian, I believe that Jesus is in fact risen and alive though not as I am. He’s alive in a way I’ve struggled to put in words beyond a vague spiritual description, but Spong does better.

It was as if scales fell from his eyes and Simon saw a realm that is around us at every moment, a realm of life and love, a realm of God from within which Jesus appeared to Simon.

As I expected, Spong confirmed that resurrection is not the sort of thing you film and playback on a DVD much less narrate.

Was it real? Yes, I am convinced it was real. Was it objective? No, I do not think it was objective. Can it be real if it is not objective? Yes, I think it can, for “objective” is a category that measures events inside time and space. Jesus appeared to Simon from the realm of God, and that realm is not within history, it is not bounded by time or space.

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Morass Authority

The crisis of episcopal governance in Philadelphia | National Catholic Reporter

If they can’t get the clergy sex abuse mess right, after all their protestations that they had taken steps to deal with the problem, and all their claims that the Catholic Church was now ahead of the curve on the issue, that our policies were such that the Catholic Church was the safest place for a child to be, nothing else matters.

The New Evangelization? Forget about it. Pro-life activities? Not a chance. Advocacy for the poor? It rings hollow. If the leaders of the Church cannot be trusted to keep their most solemn pledge to protect children, they cannot be trusted at all. If they fail to see this, their moral sensibility is not merely skewed, it is dead. It is not only that they cannot be trusted, it is that they should not be trusted.

They have succeeded in destroying the authority they were so obsessed in protecting.

On Female Clergy

Rom 16:7 Greet Andronicus and Junia, my relatives who were in prison with me; they are prominent among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was.

If a woman can be a prominent apostle before Paul and, by Catholic tradition, was made one in a church founded by Peter himself, then women can be priests. The hierarchy hiding behind Jesus’ choice of 12 male apostles, one of whom saw fit for women in the apostalate, to justify patriarchy in our Church is sophistry at best. Full stop.

What Do You Believe Rob?

A friend recently asked, “I sincerely would like to understand what makes a bright, educated, eloquent person believe in god and accept religion. Please tell me.”
This is my answer:


“To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible.

The truth of our faith becomes a matter of ridicule among the infidels if any Catholic, not gifted with the necessary scientific learning, presents as dogma what scientific scrutiny shows to be false.”

–St. Thomas Aquinas

Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1)

“I believe in Coincidence like I believe in God. I know both exist but have never seen either.”
The Unit

Simply put faith is like love or the appreciation of art or one’s morality. It is part of who you are and is not the product reason, rather the reverse. (Nor does the object of these human experiences change their essential nature. From a materialist reductive standpoint, a father’s love for his son is completely in his head, just a collection of neuro-chemical reactions and bio-elecricity regardless of the reality of his son.) Faith is a human experience that is ineffable though we, like romantic love, spend many words describing it’s reality. Religion is faith in practice and like anything else human, subject to our strengths, weaknesses, and limitations. And that is the plain truth.

So for me, Truth is accepting what Is as clearly as I can see it and refraining from letting my desires, wants, and biases cloud that vision. So the truth is I believe in God because I have experienced God. I have a modest spiritual capacity. I deploy religion to practice my spirituality and employ my faith because I am driven to do so. I do not subscribe to fideism, nor does my Church by the way. I believe that experience lies at the ground of all we hold True. The rest is mental exercise and commentary.

I am a Catholic because I found a spiritual home at St. Raymond of Penafort Church in Mt. Airy, Philadelphia. Otherwise, I would be done with organized religion as my wife and I were tired of lots of sizzle and no steak. Spirit: that’s all that’s Real to me. Otherwise you might was well worship Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny or Russell’s Teapot for that matter.

Catholicism is enough for me because I know God intimately through it. I don’t worry about ancient traditions, doctrines or dogma too much. (Maybe that makes me a bad Catholic in the Magesterium’s eyes, but I’m not in this for them now am I?) A caveman and I start a campfire pretty much the same way and appreciate its reality despite vastly different understanding of its nature. So I’m less worried about the Trinitarian Godhead as monotheism, for example, and more worried about how my religion makes me a better persons and deepens my spirituality, i.e. knowledge of God.
Jesus, my Lord and Master, taught:

And I tell you, ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks finds; and the one who knocks, the door will be opened…If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him? (Luke 11:9-10,13)

Amen.

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What We Have Seen and Heard, Part 2

In the previous post we looked at out faith informs our culture and values. Now for a look at Sacred Scripture

African-American spirituality is based on the Sacred Scriptures. In the dark days of slavery, reading was forbidden, but for our ancestors the Bible was never a closed book. The stories were told and retold in sermons, spirituals and shouts. Proverbs and turns of phrase borrowed freely from the Bible. The Bible was not for our ancestors a mere record of the wonderful works of God in a bygone age; it was a present record of what was soon to come. God will lead his people from the bondage of Egypt. God wil preserve his children in the midst of the fiery furnace. God’s power will make the dry bones scattered on the plain snap together, and he will breathe life into them. Above all, the birth and death, the suffering and the sorrow, the burial and the resurrection tell how the story will end for all who are faithful no matter what the present tragedy is.

For Black people the story is our story; the Bible promise is our hope. Thus when the Word of Scripture is proclaimed in the Black community, it is not a new message but a new challenge. Scripture is part of our roots; the Bible has sunk deep into our tradition; and the Good News of the Gospel has been enmeshed in our past of oppression and pain. Still the message was heard and we learned to celebrate in the midst of sorrow, to hope in the depths of despair and to fight for freedom in the face of all obstacles. The time has now come to take this precious heritage and to go and “tell it on the mountain.” [emphasis mine]

The Bible is everywhere in our culture and community. Even a Muslim preacher can get a church full of Christians to stand up and clap with a little John 10:11-12 and some 2 Chronicles 7:14. Turns of phrase are so ingrained we can repeat them almost automatically when called out. The inevitable response to, “To whom much is given…,” is of course, “Much is required.” (Lk 12:48) These phrases are like inside jokes, incredibly pregnant with meaning. MLK said, “I’ve been to the mountain top…I have seen the promised land.” Even Tavis Smiley’s and Cornel West’s Covenant with Black America has no meaning if you don’t have a deep sense of the Bible.

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What We Have Seen and Heard, Part 1

Very soon a Black Catholic Bishop named Steib will be coming to speak to my parish about a pastoral letter on evangelization he co-authored titled “What We Have Seen and Heard.” Because my parish is considered to be one of the 800 or so in the country that are predominantly African American, we are reading the letter in preparation for his talk, discussing it and it’s implications amongst ourselves. It has been very fruitful so far and I have been reflecting on it daily. The letter is pretty long so this will be a serial post. Let’s begin.
Part 1 of the letter is titled “The Gifts We Share” and talks about our call as black people to share our gifts. It enumerates them all. The first is our culture.

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Community is the Opposite of Poverty

CNA – Documents:

“Someone once said that the opposite of poverty is not property. Rather, the opposite of both poverty and property is community.”

(Via Catholic News Agency.)

At the recommendation of a friend, I read this homily. Pass it on to the hardhearted.