Putting Away My Sword

Today’s homily centered on the Passion of Christ and how we read it today during Mass. The passion in Luke’s Gospel was read like a play with different parts read by different people. The folks in the pews read parts where groups of people speak, e.g. the crowds or the High Priests. So Father focused his homily on the parts for us folks in the pews and highlighted how they were all parts that spoke ill of the speakers themselves. “Crucify him!” etc. One section really spoke to me and my sins, Anger and Pride in particular.

Luk 22:49 When those who were around him saw what was coming, they asked, “Lord, should we strike with the sword?”

I really love to draw my sword. It happens when I lord over someone in a debate. It happens when I turn righteous anger into scornful rebuke and feel pride in my self-righteousness. Thank God for the sacrament of Reconciliation and the grace from God of friends who challenge me with love.

Back to Life

A friend asked me if I believed in the resurrection.  I’ve been uncomfortable with saying “Yes” because I’m skeptical of the somewhat weak explanations I’ve heard.  I’m also uncomfortable with saying “No” because I’ve always believed in my heart of hearts that there is something to it.  In other words, I believe in the Resurrection but have not the words to describe it in a way that I feel is honest. Continue reading

Is It Live Birth or Is It Memorex?

Last week I had a disagreement with my pastor over the nativity stories and their veracity as history at Bible study (a story for another day) that got me to thinking about nativity scenes and the old and tired battles about truth and the Bible. However, it never ceases to amaze me how people avoid facing facts in service to what they believe (and this includes you athiests out there, perhaps especially so given recent events). I think it has to do with our need to order our world and make it comprehensible, predictable in some way. I’m not judging whether this is bad or good, just the way it is often discussed in a less than honest fashion IMHO. So back to the nativity.

The discussion at Bible study turned to Christ’s birth and I remember Father speaking of eyewitnesses, etc. I objected to this because there are lots of problems with claiming the birth stories together are eyewitness accounts and are therefore history, at least history of a sort. Even our understanding of the nativity as an amalgam of Luke and Matthew has issues. In the end, magi offering gifts to a babe laid in a manger is not a scriptural scene. In other words it’s not in the Bible. Yet we see nativity scenes in front of plenty of churches and have kids play out Christmas plays every year, traditions that I think speak to a deep need to make the separate stories in Luke and Matthew make sense together and support our faith in a modern world.

And I’m OK with that as long as we are honest and up front about it. When a believer goes into spin mode in an attempt mask the simple fact that Jesus’ birth is a historical mystery beyond the tradition that holds that he was born of a virgin in Bethlehem of Judea a little over two millenia ago, it’s worse than an outright lie, it’s a con job: an attempt to fool another person ( or oneself!) through trickery.

I know such language is harsh and unforgiving but we all know whose game lies and trickery is. It’s important we don’t succumb to such temptations to speak in half truths which are whole lies. It besmirches the Gospel which is so dear to us.

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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Rational Lies

This weekend was a good one spiritually. Saturday, Bishop Steib from the Memphis visited and gave us a Word that had people rushing for his autograph. Today at Mass, Father gave a great homily on authentic Christianity. Both had me pondering on how I saw my own faith. Was it something I should defend against attack from the Jehovah’s witnesses at my door on the one hand to the subtle (and often not so subtle) condescension of my atheist friends and the likes of Bill Maher on the other? For a long time I, in fact, thought so. Well, no longer. I am willing to evangelize and to explain, but I’ll no longer defend. To do so is to accept the premise for attack. I don’t apologize for loving my wife. Why in the hell should I for loving Jesus? Rationally, neither makes any sense.
I remember a good friend asking me essentially why I was a man of faith, “You’re so bright,” he said. He went on with the usual old saws about how religion is good to get your through a tough time or if your are weak mentally or emotionally but not for the serious minded and intelligent. And I explained, patiently, where I was coming from.
Such thinking is ironic to me. It demonstrates a strong faith in one’s senses. If a man born blind denies the existence of color, what argument could convince him? His senses tell him nothing about the existence of color. In fact, every argument that I know of made to convince him could easily be employed to “prove” the existence of God!
Faith like love or art is a part of the human experience that is not subject to argument. It is ineffable and undeniable for those who experience it. To quote St. Thomas Aquinas:

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

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