Our Lady and Sheen

“If there were no Cross, there would have been no crib”

I would highly recommend “Go To Heaven” by Archbishop Ven. Fulton Sheen. His deep philosophy on all matters has always impressed me, even before I pretended to grasp what philosophy was.

Sheen writes about the idea that we have that the Cross was the humiliation of Christ, and reverses it. We look at most of the “great” teachers, and death interrupts their teaching, but Sheen points out that the Cross is the fulfillment of the teaching of Christ (along with His resurrection). In his great poetic nature, Venerable Sheen writes:

If there were no Cross, there would have been no crib; if there had been no nails, there would have been no straw. But He could not teach the lesson of the Cross as payment for sin; He had to take it. God the Father did not spare His Son – so much did He love mankind. That was the secret wrapped in swaddling bands.

How much more “humiliating” is it that God would take human nature unto himself, from the secular perspective. What CEO takes out the garbage from his office? What car salesman gets under the hood and helps out a potential customer instead of seeing a sale? Only a great CEO or salesman. How much more, then, is it that God would condescend Himself to enter our lowly form. The Cross is the culmination of that, for we are not yet so perfect as to truly sacrifice ourselves. There is always something that prevents us from being perfect, even if it is thinking that we’re perfect.

From the perspective of faith, God can not lower Himself into humanity, so to speak, rather, “What happened was not so much the conversion of the Godhead into flesh, as the taking of a manhood into God.” (p. 40) How incredible is that idea. I could spend 15 seconds or 15,000 years trying to wrap my head around the mystery of the Incarnation, and be no closer to true understanding. But, I pray that as we approach the Cross, in Lent and daily, that God gives me a deeper fulfilment in the idea that humanity has been once lifted up, and offers us Hope for our future homeland.

Our Lady, Mother of Sorrows, Pray for Us.

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February 16, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why does God not provide even lowly bread to the hungry?

Pope Benedict XVI, as a personal reflection, examines the temptation of Christ in the desert, as Satan tempts him to turn stones into bread and feed himself.  Jesus responds to this temptation by quoting Deut 8:3, “Man does not live by bread alone, but… by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord.”

Why then does God, who can do all things, not provide food for the hungry by casting down bread?  His Holiness quotes Alfred Delp: “Bread is important, freedom is more important, but most important of all is unbroken fidelity and faithful adoration.”  The Holy Father then continues:

When this ordering of goods is no longer respected, but turned on its head, the result is not justice or concern for human suffering.  The result is rather ruin and destruction even of material goods themselves.  When God is regarded as a secondary matter that can be set aside temporarily or permanently on account of more important things, it is precisely these supposedly more important things that come to nothing.  It is not just the negative outcome of the Marxist experiment that proves this.

 

The aid offered by the West to developing countries has been purely technically and materially based, and not only left God out of the picture, but has driven men away from God.  And this aid, proudly claiming to “know better,” is itself what first turned the “third world” into what we mean today by that term.  It has thrust aside indigenous religious, ethical, and social structures and filled the resulting vacuum with its technocratic mind-set.  The idea was that we could turn stones into bread; instead, our “aid” has only given stones in place of bread. (Ratzinger, J.  Jesus of Nazareth, 33)

I pondered this as a question of to what do we give the needy of the world?  Do we stop providing food, medical care, and education?  Of course not, and the Holy Father was not saying that we should.  His attempt to convict our hearts was instead, I believe, a call to do things in the proper order.  If we are giving men and women education, so that they can become free, and then adore God, is that good?  In a sense yes, we are providing the opportunity for the greater good to occur.  Is this not a wonderful thing?  I would say that helping someone suffer less is an amazingly wonderful thing, I hope you would agree.

But!  What about this thought: If instead of giving education (or bread, or any number of examples) to make men free I give them Christ.  Christ, crucified.  Christ, resurrected.  Christ, the Second Divine Person of the Holy Trinity.  Christ, crucified so that they can unite their sufferings with Him and look for Justice; and in doing so, gain freedom from the slavery of sin.  Christ, resurrected to give them Hope and Mercy; and in doing so, Love more purely.  Christ, the Son of the Living God, so they could be united with the Trinity, and use the power of God to change the hearts of men and configure them like unto Jesus’ own Sacred Heart.

When we see this order can we not see that men, capable of nothing by themselves, can do all things in Christ?  Instead of the “we know better” mentality that carved up Africa, Asia, the Americas, can’t we provide the, “I am in service to The One, Who does indeed know better.”  When men receive their God, does not true Freedom begin; Freedom of the heart and soul that no man can smother out.  When that Freedom exists in a society, is it not a plain to see that bread will be given, neighbor to neighbor, father to son, community to community?

Do we stop sending food?  No.  But we send food for the right reason!  We send food so that man may see Christ.  Which, as a person in the “first world” would you prefer?  Someone putting bread on your plate, or God forming our will to go and earn bread?  It is up to you, individually.

Also, keep in mind.  “We” have bread in abundance… which makes us then ask for soup… which makes us then ask for steak… which makes us then ask for phones… computers… cars… and so on… the real question is, “What are the ‘basics’ that need to be provided for.”  The only answer that is true is Salvation, because God cares more for you than I could ever love; He cares more for me than I could ever love myself.

 

March 5, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mardi Gras!

Recently I was down in southern Louisiana for the end of the Mardi Gras season, and I had a great time! It was one of the best trips that I have taken in a while!  I celebrated with friends and strangers for the weekend before Mardi Gras and Lundi Gras.  I saw five parades, played lots of games, enjoyed New Orleans twice.  Drank a bit, ate a whole huge sampling of king cakes over the weekend, probably 6 different kinds, and enjoyed getting into the “season.”

Mardi Gras has a huge stereotype about drunk, crazy, and sinful encounters.  And… it is true.   That happens a lot, but, in certain parts of the city it’s just a small increase over the normal.  It also has a LOT of family togetherness.  I met so many of my friend’s family that I can not keep them straight in my head, not to mention all the friends and friends’ friends who opened their doors (or their bathrooms) to us.  It is a joyous celebration in the guise of getting ready for Lent.

But wait! On Thursday, just two days later, I was sitting in the Abbey of Subiaco and it dawned on me that all of Lent is looking towards Easter. It probably dawned on me because of a reading, homily or passing comment by one of the holy monks.  Here, on my left hand, we have Mardi Gras.  A celebration with names like “Bacchus” and “Proteus” and “Rex” and “Isis” and other idol names, parades in which beads, coins, toys, and various other things are thrown to the people who are out watching their friends, community and strangers parade.  Looking at these “gods” we see the anticipation of what all the Faithful look forward to: gifts from our God.

Mardi Gras ends and the Faithful fast, abstain, and pray for Lent.  Even the non-believers will sometimes take Lent as a time where “giving something up” sounds like a good idea.  To quote Archbishop Sheen about philosophies of life: There is the Christian philosophy which says, “First the fast, then the feast;” The world’s philosophy is, “First the feast, then the hangover.”  When we look at Mardi Gras as a secular celebration, we harken back to the days before the Eternal Gift of the Cross, when our pagan and heathen ancestors worshiped trees and themselves.  “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die,” as 1 Cor 15:32 tells us.

So, where are we?  Looking at the microcosm of February-April, we see first the celebration, missing the mark… the Lord.  Then, we have the great fast of Lent, the purging of ourselves, the turning toward God, the anticipation of the Victory over the Dead.  Then, on the other side of that forty days, looking  across the rich wasteland of the desert journey we see the True Feast… the true reason for joy and hope… we have Easter.  A feast dedicated to true celebration, focused not in some pagan afterthought, but rather, rooted in the Hope of Christ.  Salvation.  For we know the dead will be resurrected to Eternal Life or eternal death, and we have seen the first fruits.

Easter is a purified Mardi Gras, so to speak, because it is in redirecting our purpose that we find Truth: not in beads thrown from floats, but in beads given to us by Our Mother; not in drink poured from bottle or can, but in Drink poured from the veins of our Savior;  not in king cakes made of sugar and fillings, but in the Bread of  Life given by our King; not in crying out, “throw me something, mister,” but in crying out, “Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, HAVE MERCY ON ME, A SINNER!”  And finally, not a feast followed by a hangover is this Lent and Easter, but rather, a fast followed by the Feast, as this life will be when we enter into the Heavenly Banquet.

 

February 25, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment