The “Do-Good Haters of the Church” (thinking about the protestors)

Is disrupting a worship service–so to protest that its members there are all the damned–hey, is that ever a godly thing to do? Who would want to do such a thing? You may be meeting some such people soon…
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So-called Christians are going out to Catholic parishes lately, not to join in and worship there, but to raise a ruckus and protest us as “evil” and as “false Christians.” As non-Catholics, they think they have a special claim on being true Christians, and from that superiority they think they have some divine mission to be hateful to us Catholics. How so? They have it in their interpretation of the Bible and private opinion that Catholics are the wolves in sheep’s clothing (of the gospel example) and, worse, that Catholics are the feared, nasty whore of Babylon that deceives the world at its end and serves the greatly evil anti-Christ figure (a crazed interpretation of Revelation). This is their basis to be hateful to Catholics.

The Bible made them do it!
(It used to be said that “they devil made me do it.”)
But maybe it is the devil, after all.

We were told that anti-Catholic protestors have started showing up at some Catholic parishes, as they did at St. Pius X in Bowie last Sunday. We don’t know who the group or church is—(Evangelical Adventists? Fundamentalist Baptists? Cult ‘church’ members?—these are the usual ones)—but it is oh such a sorry thing.

The best course is to totally ignore these misguided folks. One should not take their vile tracts or engage these protestors, or they will probably crazily think that they had won a Catholic’s attention and that possibly they can ‘save’ a popish man/woman from hellfires and damnation. (They would be emboldened to come back every week to ‘win’ more away from the ‘doom’ they think we Catholics face!)

These groups or churches have interpreted the end times as now and that all Catholics are in the duped service of the devil.
Great (sic)! Thanks, brothers and sisters for the love in Christ Jesus. Not.

I recall how Our Lord was even accused of such things by the mad religious people of His ministry day. He asked them, then, why the devil would attack his own? Luke 11:15-20. Hence, even the reasoning of Christ’ attackers was so flawed. (So, too, today.) Jesus said that we would face persecution, too, even from surprising people (like those claiming they are “saved” and on a mission from God to hate us and do away with us). The last Beatitude is the toughest one to live; Jesus lived it out. We can too. “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely all on account because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in Heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Matt.5.11-12.

These types of ‘Christian’ to Christian persecutors were around in the First Church. (When you read Johannine Scriptures and know its background, it all becomes obvious.) When St. John writes his scriptures, and speaks of opposition, it is interesting that he doesn’t single out the Romans, who were the obvious persecutors, but that John is more concerned with A/those Christian brothers who don’t accept the Signs (Sacraments) of Jesus, and
B/those who are in spiritual blindness or those who won’t walk in fellowship and mercy with one another in Christ, and
C/those awaiting Christ’ Return who get deceived into denials of The Faith, and
D/those who say they follow Christ and His apostles but accuse the authority of Christ in them and spread false charges.

These were the ones to watch out for, says St. John.
(Scripture references e.g. signs of John in ch. 1-12, blindness of heart in John 9, the needed fellowship in mercy in 1st John 1-2, the problem of denials in 1st John 2:18-3:10 & 4:1-6, and the false accusations in 3rd John).

Today there are people on a dimented crusade, too. They think that mistreatment and actual hatred (of others in Christ) is endorsed as a missionary or evangelism tactic of Christianity. How sad. I have been on its receiving end. Have you?

So a group may be coming to our church one weekend to protest us with bullhorns and tracts and sit-ins and confrontations. They usually come once and then are gone off elsewhere on their ‘crusade’, as misled in service of the evil one (as his pawns) to hurt the Body.

You know what I pray? May they one day recognize how they were not abiding in love in these actions, and how they were attacking the Mother Church of Christendom. May these persons even one day come into the Catholic Faith, being given revelation from God, and to join into what they once did hate. I know some people who have come to the Light of Faith from such a background. Now and then it is a featured conversion story on EWTN or other Catholic programming.

St. John writes about it in his epistles, having to face the same early on in the First Church. Take a look at his three epistles. Have you ever studied them in depth? Do you know the context of these letters of John?

When John wrote his epistle, the trouble back then came from gnostics, apostates, and heretics (pseudo Christians), or as he called them in 2nd John as “many deceivers…who deny Jesus as God come in the flesh.”

The early Church under the apostles had to face these haters, who named themselves as the ‘true believers,’ in opposition to the apostolic community, while aiming to sweep away persons from Christ’ founded flock, by claiming their own ‘authority.’ (Yet they had no such appointed authority! Only the apostles were given it, such as in examples like written in John 15 and John 20.)

John the Apostle had to address the situation of the wrongness of the independent movements, as in the heretics, and call for truth, love, unity, and respect in the One Church. He calmly but firmly writes in one of his epistles:
“And this is the commandment, that we should believe in the Name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as He commanded us… He abides in us, by the Spirit that He has given us…Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God (i.e. Incarnation & Eucharist & a Church Body of believers—all Catholic teaching)
but every spirit that does not—is not from God. And this is the spirit of the anti-Christ, of which you have heard that is coming…” 1John3:23-4:1-3

So, sadly, these misled persons were actually attacking the Lord and His body as they protested the apostle John’s community, and as they do so today to us.

These independent ‘Christians’ on the attack versus the instituted Church of Jesus Christ are engaged in what the military hates to have happen: dubbed “friendly fire” (firing on/ killing one’s own side).
In Afghanistan last June, an air attack by U.S. forces killed some of our own. It was one of the Summer’s most upsetting news stories.

We have practiced faith in Christ Jesus for about 2000 years, but somehow these others in Christian circles don’t get it that we are family in Jesus the Lord. We actually have lived the Faith and passed it along for all these generations.
They may be of a Christian sect or group that was founded later in history, but Christianity started with Pentecost and has been present since then, mostly due to the Catholic Church and her fidelity to God’s purpose for her service of Christ Jesus.
To hate us, the Catholics, is to be quite un-Scriptural, as St. John told his own such opposers as he wrote:
”those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God Whom they have not seen. The commandment we have from Him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also. (And who are they?) Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the parent loves the child. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey His commandments. “1 Jn 4:20b-5:2

Catholics are still abiding in following all the teachings of Jesus from His founding the Church. We are longing to be faithful, and we mean for our fellowship to be one in Christ’ love.

We may have some trouble practicing all that Jesus taught, yet we do know His commandments, and the Church teaches obedience to the Way of the Lord. We have been assigned that mission–to preach and teach Christ Jesus as Lord, Head of the Body, the Church,

but we have people on the attack versus us.

I think back to the story of Saul. He was a religious person on a mission to stop the church of Peter. Saul came to the Light of Faith and saw his serious error. As recorded in Acts, God said to him: “Saul, Saul—we are you persecuting Me?” Then, Saul was convicted by The Light and converted, to become Paul. As Paul later understood, Jesus had said: “Why are you persecuting Me?” as Saul was persecuting the Church. The famous convert from Tarsus caught on: Jesus was showing how the two were united. If you persecute the Church, then you persecute Christ.

Same thing today.

We-bola

WE-bola: Can Virtue Go Viral?

I am borrowing this question above and some comments from a Dominican priest’s blog, which I saw today. He asked this question this week on his blog. Let’s ponder it.

Our neighbors living in Western Africa really have cause for tremendous alarm at the threats of infection with the Ebola virus. For us living in North America, the danger is exponentially smaller; more of this continent’s citizens die from the flu annually. Nevertheless, Ebola has become more than a hot-button, trending story; it is now a frontline political issue causing new presidential appointments and some significant bureaucratic realignment in the United States. Mexico is similarly alarmed.

It makes good sense for all governments to take strong precautions against this viral killer, and the international efforts to attack it and prevent its spreading illustrate how intimately we are related: Our neighbors who live tens of thousands of miles away from us can impact our lives as profoundly as those we can see outside our windows. Social media and the Internet bring us news of our continental neighbors with greater immediacy than the local gossip reports on goings-on in our own zip code. As this new story illustrates, our foreign friends’ health could impact us as powerfully as those more proximate to us. And, our hearts break for people’s suffering, no matter where it occurs.

Both growing up in a family and now living in exposure to the many persons I daily contact via the Church (school, parish, community, etc.), I have long been on alert on how to avoid catching a cold that another already has. I try to wash my hands through the day, and to not often touch my face when just shaking hands with others, or after I touch things in public such as door handles. I try to help my body by taking vitamins and drinking good fluids in this season. Soups are a favorite. Yet, when in a public life, you know you are going to be exposed to germs; it really is inevitable.

Now, for mostly everybody, we see that our connections to others (even around the world to us, and we to them) is getting larger and larger. We are connected in ways that we had previously never dreamed. So, on this subject of catching things–since we catch each other’s germs, whether locally or internationally, here’s another question to ask: How well do we catch each other’s goodness. When does virtue go viral?

This globe-threatening virus is teaching the world the power of how quickly deadly disease can bring down civilizations. Cannot the converse be true?: Can Life-giving virtue be spread around better to lift up civilizations? Haven’t we received a life-saving and soul-filling Spirit of God (through Jesus Christ) that would be what so many others need to bless their lives out of their soul miseries and maladies? How are we helping people to catch the Spirit of Christ? Is it exactly the definition of a believer to be so ‘contagious’ with The Faith. Jesus said: “You shall be My witnesses to all the earth.” He said: “Go and preach the gospel to all of creation.” It is vocation to every disciple of Christ Jesus. Through the apostles He has reaffirmed this call. “May the Word of the Lord spread rapidly and be glorified everywhere, just as it is among you, and that people might be rescued from wickedness and evil.” (from St. Paul to the Thessalonians). OR consider these verses: “Children of God, let us love, not (only) in word or speech, but in truth and action. And by this we will know that we are from the truth… beloved…we have boldness before God and we receive from Him whatever we ask…God lives in us…the commandment we have from Him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also…. and this is the victory that conquers the world (and its fears), our Faith!” (from St. John’s 1st Epistle)

Are others in the world in need of the Lord? The Cross of Jesus says Yes. If we say “yes,” then how important is the witness and spreading of the Truth and Love of God in Christ out to our community and world? Very important. People need to catch the Goodness of the Lord! We are the ones to transmit/spread/pass it on.

I was telling some young adults of the impact that one person can have as a Catholic that could have global significance. A young Catholic woman started a website to share her faith and spiritual stories, and she has people around the world now looking at it. A priest in another P.G. County parish has had a blog going for many years, and it has attracted interest from around the world, as he deals with some tough issues on it, and it helps people to deeper Catholic faith, or even to get interested in it for the first time (as a non-Catholic interested in converting). A man (who had some national fame) went on a Catholic retreat for repentant parents of abortions and he came out a changed man and now witnesses nationally and internationally for pro-life causes and for chaste living in the goodness of Christ. These examples are of how virtue can spread and :go viral,” as the Dominican blogger put the comparison of how our Faith can spread out quickly and effectively.

All of this Autumn the series on “Doing The Faith” in my homily series is really about witnessing. As we do what the Lord wants of us, then He uses it to spread His love out and also His invitation to join into the Body of Christ. Our “works” in His cooperation serve a higher purpose. His gathering of the nations unto Him.

We all need to be indwelled by the Lord Jesus Christ. He came to save a body of believers into Himself. A catholic (or world) body… One Body through time to all be joined to Him, the Head of the Body. (ref: Colossians 1)

When we see others in need not as “them,” but as “we,” the Kingdom of God is more fully alive. This is the vision of faith that all service to others needs. We need to see as God does. He calls us all as “His.”
Others in the world are really not a ‘them’ but a part of “us.” We are called together in Christ Jesus, the Son of the living God, the Savior of Humanity.

We can get ‘infected’ with the pursuit of The Good and the Virtuous. Jesus said that In HIS Spirit we could then be godly. He said: “Be Holy as I am holy.” So, we can catch His Goodness. We can be healed in Him and filled with His Spirit. And we can share the Spirit of Christ. We can help others catch into the virtuous life.

The Dominican blogger commented how the recent awarding of the Noble Peace Prize to Malala Yousafzai left many with a good feeling about a young girl’s fight against evil in her efforts to advance girls’ education throughout the world. But, (he says), it appears as if the feeling has left us, and how many people still discuss—or work toward—the need to educate girls well, locally and beyond. Perhaps rushes of viral virtue and goodness are rare, like Ebola in the negative. Maybe a rich benefit of healthy, organized religion emerges here: inspiring ordinary people to lift up each other daily through the grace of God surging in their lives. (The priest adds:) Let’s not allow the pervasiveness of grace flowing from our faith in action around the world minimize its impact.

St. Francis de Sales tells us: “Nothing is small in the service of God.” Whether caring for our neighbor or relieving the pain caused by a microscopic germ, yes, nothing is small; rather, each work of service is a large opportunity to live Jesus.
God can spread His love and goodness from any work, large or small, as lived through His servants.

“Faith Working, or, A Working Faith” Homily Oct. 26 30th Sunday B

All this Autumn and up through Thanksgiving, the preaching theme and emphasis (of mine and Deacon’s homilies, and some guest preachers) is on the happiness of our doing things to the honor and glory of God. It’s all about God, not us. It’s about a Faith Working, or a Working Faith–not about some do-gooders looking to score points with God. It’s about “doing Faith” from an inspired heart.

You parish members have provided the examples of various things they share as inspired, or as led by God for them to do in His love and goodness.

I try to match the stories of which I am told (or of those I am witness to) with the first reading of the Sunday Word. That means we have heard examples paired to prophets, along with some wisdom writers, and today to that of Moses, prophet of The Deliverance.

Each Scripture example of that first reading has been (in some way) an urging to God’s faithful for “a faith that does, ” or, to “a faith that is working for good under God’s inspiration.” In so many appeals of God via O.T. Scripture, people have been urged to act in their Chosen People relationship to God, and not to passively just ‘identify with God.’ This is because Faith is a response to God. It takes action as prompted by one’s trust in God.

In today’s reading we go way back to Moses at Mt. Sinai and to this prophetic and anointed leader passing on lessons to the people. He basically says all through Exodus: ‘God expects some actions of obedience and/or service in His inspiration.’

Before we look at that Exodus 22 reading, let’s go to our example, first, of a parishioner that believed they were called to go out with their Faith and live it. We have a parish member who has recently involved themselves as a VA volunteer at a VA hospital in this Baltimore-Washington corridor. They got started in a program called No Veteran Dies Alone (NVDA) and its purpose is to send helpful visitors to go see hospice veterans, and other vets who are hospitalized for illness, treatment, surgery, and other things. This new volunteer member of NVDA now goes to volunteer at a hospital every Wednesday. The goal of this service is to bring comfort and to let our veterans know that people really do care for them and respect them thankfully. This parishioner also is a volunteer for home hospice vets as needed.

As a veteran themselves, this person found out about the No Veteran Dies Alone program while reading their VFW magazine while on the beach. The program peaked their personal interest, which led to their doing something. (They were already serving God in some other actions, but this one caught their added attention.)

God often works that way, inspiring someone’s thought or moving their heart and soul towards a need, or just drawing notice to something that a person might be able to offer in loving help.

God wants to move through His people in such works as these. He is asking us permission. God doesn’t force His charity through anyone, even to get charity onto another one in need. He looks for channels of grace. That’s how the Kingdom of God’ works, uh, works!

In a related verse that I remember of this understanding of grace and works, I go to Philemon 1:14. Paul the apostle shows how charity is not to be forced. He says to Philemon that an inspired charity could be good to give “Onesimus” a good new life and relationship to his old boss (Onesimus was a released prisoner going back to his boss, Philemon), and Paul had met Onesimus in prison, and knew how deserving this Christian would be of a whole new start back at his job. However, Paul says to Philemon: ‘I prefer getting your consent, and to not tell you what to do, but that you find God’s inspiration , in order that your good deed might be voluntary and not something forced.’ That whole letter is about an appeal to a believing man, Philemon, to recognize the inspirations of God and thus to act in good works as by showing his faith is working.
Thus understood–works are a response to God of letting His reign move through us. Paul wanted Philemon to experience that for himself. When Faith works–it really is satisfying!

God used an article in a magazine to call our parish member to a regular action of faith and volunteer service. He read about No Veteran Dies Alone, and thought about how the VA was having its difficulties in doing its job, even with some scandals going on in the VA, and that provided some impetus to act on this ‘movement’ of God in him/her to get involved. One added reason that they told me why they said “yes” to God and to volunteering with NVDA would that for the thanksgiving attitude of it all—works are best by thanksgiving to God (rather than proving your own ‘goodness’ to God). This parish member who volunteered was a vet themselves who had been in good health (never having to use their VA benefits for medical needs) This action could be a thanksgiving action to God for their good health in life.

Their volunteering took them first to hospice training at two facilities, to learn of what would be the most needed and valued help they could offer in their charity of time. Then, after training, they began their service of comfort and caring. They have said that in their short time of volunteer service, they have seen and heard a lot! And they pray for these vets. They say that it has also led them to get to know the full time priest chaplain. It has been rewarding, all spurred on by an article they had read on the beach, and a “what can be done” article of a group working for justice and love for a needy bunch of Americans.

In today’s proclaimed chapter 22 of Exodus, God teaches about laws of restitution and fairness of actions for one Jew to serve to other Jews— it is His revealed Law about actions of love and goodness that should be taken by the Chosen People. God says that Israel should have no strings attached or conditions put upon charity in the body of believers. They are to change to be much better than that.
Moses says: ‘The bar is raised. We are to love one another. God saved us. Let us act in gratitude and in conversion of heart.’ Moses singles out how the poor treatment of widows and orphans and fellow pilgrims out of money were to be the models of how caring God expected them to be ahead. They had acted miserably in these areas beforehand, God says, ‘Not any longer—if you are to call yourselves as Mine.’

They are to act in a new prompting of the Lord to love-by-faith actions. The inspiration for this will be coming from within their more deeply formed minds and more deeply caring hearts. (The miracle of the Exodus started was reason enough to get into a new relationship with God!)

This teaching of loving by faith action wss further developed by Jesus and with His apostles passing on His Word of Truth. The Lord Jesus had a new commandment for love as we heardcin the gospel today. God’ s Son AND the Holy Spirit will provide for His people to go further in Faith.

For example, of the New Covenant life, Paul says to the Thessalonians today (ch. 1:vs. 5-11) that they now “serve a living and true God…” in anticipation of the Day of the Lord to come (the exodus end to Home in Heaven). The Thessalonians, too, are not dominated by the spirit of favoritism or conditional service to others or a this-for-that gain in lending of help to others. They don’t act in this way because they know that it is not how Jesus taught people to live. He taught of a faith that leads into being a channel for God’s works to move through us, and hopefully, as unhindered.

James the apostle famously taught: (Ch. 2:14,17,25): “What good is it, my brothers and sisters (in the Fold), if you say you have faith but do not have works? Faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead…. See how even Rahab was justified by works when she welcomed the scout messengers of God, and help to send them out safetly by another way?”
Rahab was no saintly model at the time, but she sure acted with courage under the prompting of God. James remembered that Exodus helper as a model of “works.”

In coming into the home stretch of this Sunday’s message, can we remember the fundamentals of our Faith—how we should keep saying and asking of Our Lord: “I am available to You, Lord, for how You want me to further your Kingdom Come among the earth– So, how might You be calling me now, and in what manner I am to be of use to You? For I know that I want to live a Faith that works. It is about my relationship response to you.”

In sum: A description of The Faith is that it is “a holy doing from a service of thanksgiving.” What this means is that it is not just about doing nice things or racking up good points with God. Not so. (“Who is good but really God alone?” is something that Jesus said. Mk. 10:18.)

Faith lived is with works because it is participating in the holiness of God by some action. God’s goodness is ready to flow in us and help us to become holy, as He is holy. It is a pleasure in letting our faith work out our conversion. That’s true Catholic Faith. It is what service is all about.
We are just learning how to act in harmony with our loving God, Who is One.
Amen.IMG_07881 Let the Word be On Fire in our lives– St. Jerome.

Passing on a nice opinion on the recent Synod on Family Life (at the Vatican)

I saw and read this article from an Irish newspaper. It has a nice report from their opinion on the Synod on the Family.

Synod on the Family: Pope Francis is calling on us to end indifference and engage with people
Opinion: Priest helped unmarried parents to gradually build foundation for family
Breda O’Brien Published: Sun, Oct 19, 2014

At his recent synod, Pope Francis called for discussion on family life, and we are getting discussion, but we have not been used to grown-up discussion in the Catholic Church.

Anyone trying to understand the interim discussion document which emerged from the Synod on the Family this week could do worse than read a blog post by young American mother Calah Alexander, even though it was written two years ago.

She describes being a crystal meth addict, trying to get her life together when she discovered she was pregnant. She was not Catholic, but she and her Catholic boyfriend started talking to a Cistercian priest.

They wanted to get married, but the diocese that they lived in did not allow couples in their situation to marry until the baby was at least a year old. Calah talks about how living apart for the year would have been really, really difficult for her, given her state of emotional and mental instability. Her boyfriend was working almost full time while trying to finish a degree, and could not afford two households. Calah worried about how she would parent the baby virtually alone.

People were full of advice. Live like brother and sister, they were told. Calah wryly notes that this is widely acknowledged to require heroic virtue from even the most virtuous, “yet the likelihood that two people who hadn’t attempted to live virtuous lives, basically ever, would be able to accomplish it was somehow not of interest to solicitous advice-givers”.

The Cistercian priest spent hours with them, individually and alone, trying, as she says, to help them begin to build a foundation “that might one day support a solid family”.

He was with them for the long haul, gently, firmly, nudging them towards taking responsibility, but not expecting them to jump straight to sainthood. As part of the process, he suggested that they have a civil marriage, and not to live as brother and sister, because he believed that it would put too much of a strain on them at a tumultuous and difficult time.

Some staunch Catholics were horrified, and avoided their company. Their parish refused to baptise their daughter. When Calah applied to enter the Catholic Church, a couple who did marriage preparation for the diocese recommended that she not be received into the Church.

Baby steps
Through it all, their priest went out to bat for them, baptising the baby, writing letters to the bishop, and constantly, gently supporting them as they took baby steps towards stability and faith.Calah and her husband made it, insofar as any of us make it, in that they are now a practising Catholic family with four gorgeous kids. They stumble through the haze of exhaustion small children bring, trying to love each other, their children, and their God.

That’s an example of gradualism – helping people edge their way towards a very high ideal, loving them where they are, and always, always reminding them that there is another step on the road, but you don’t have to take it alone.

Grown-up discussion
Pope Francis called for discussion on family life, and we are getting it, but we have not been used to grown-up discussion in the Catholic Church. Instead, we have been excellent at mutual excommunication and caricature.

Much of what the document says has been given zero coverage – like this sentence that declares the importance of clearly denouncing “the cultural, social and economic factors, for example, the excessive room given to market logic, that prevent an authentic family life, leading to discrimination, poverty, exclusion, and violence”.

As for the much-quoted passages on homosexuality, they are asking questions without easy answers, but they are really important questions.

As the document asks about gay people, “Are our communities capable of providing that, [welcoming home] accepting and valuing their sexual orientation, without compromising Catholic doctrine on the family and matrimony?”
Sexual orientation is not the sum of a human being, but it is an important part. The document is suggesting that we need to be able to accept people for who they are, yet without compromising key Catholic teachings.

Calah Alexander and her young husband-to-be were not able to put the whole of Catholic teaching on sexuality into practice at first, but they wanted to do their best for their baby. Who acted like Christ, the priest who listened to them and helped them grow or the people who were horrified at their inability to fulfil all of the requirements?

And yet, their Cistercian priest also didn’t tell them they were wonderful and that they didn’t need to change a thing. The modern idea of mercy is often actually just thinly disguised indifference – not really caring enough about other people to support or indeed, challenge them.

Pope Francis is calling us to end that indifference and to start to engage with people. It’s hard, messy work, but work that will eventually decide the success or otherwise of any family synod.

More thoughts… the Gospel of Caesar’s coin

Some men pose a trick or trap question to Jesus. They think they are pretty clever. In the Gospel lesson with Caesar’s Coin, one of its main lessons of Jesus teaches is that they (and of anyone like them) has a big problem going on– it’s of their terribly-limited view of things.

Call it today as tunnelvision, or spiritual myopia, or missing the larger picture by being too sighted on what is selfishly in focus. Jesus answered that what Caesar is “owed” or “due” may be immediate, but it is of smaller and of lesser importance to what God has due to Him for His people. Give (or render) to Caesar what is Caesar’s, but give (or render) to God what is God’s.

It’s the difference of the temporal to the eternal, to what an earthly power may be demanding of you to what the Higher Power of God Himself is offering to you–His company in His eternal kingdom.

Jesus held up the little coin with a little image of Caesar on it, as to show its littleness, in the end. Then He just looked up into the sky and held open His arms to indicate, “OR, rather than keeping such a little picture of life, you can be a part of greatness. You can be friends of God! What a lesson! A little coin or the kingdom of God. Where ultimately is your investment? The coin can be any worldly thing. Jesus is the sign of the other. In this gospel you have Caesar’s coin or you have Jesus.

We Catholics have the two options to choose: bear the image and Sign of Jesus in us OR bear the image of the world.

On our web site the show “Five Loaves” shows the host showing that coin used in Roman times. It is a useless coin now, except to collectors. Caesar and his successor Caesars have all long been dead. But those whose treasure was Jesus still hold their treasure. The Church continues, until the Way of Eternity is fully revealed (and Jacob’s Ladder will be seen!) The show’s host then introduces a song for our meditation and it plays to the end of the program. The Song is called “Eternity” and was written recently by Catholic artist Sarah Hart. Go listen to it. It’s a nice one.

When we start thinking of what we are giving away in our lives, you really don’t know what to measure with until you come into spiritual sight of the Lamb Who was slain. In Jesus’ total gift, we see that in Him, our model, He rendered to God the Father, for us, as one of us, 100% pure gift. He gave all to God.

He has told us that He would put His Spirit (that generous heart of His) in us. He would let us be inspired by the Spirit walk in imitation of Him, our Savior, and to be able to live in the inspiration of giving our lives to God.

Some people today are so clever in their secular humanism as to become very blinded at what is all around them. God has given us much, even this very heartbeat of existence thumping inside of us. He has given us His Heart, even in the pierced side of the Son of God on our earth, at a Cross. That offering of love is forever for us, as St. John says from his vision in Revelations “I saw the Lamb of God slain for us. God gives! God gives in total measure to us!”

The Christian message is the Cross–a Cross that is the Total Gift of God. If we would get any real understanding of Christ at Calvary, we would want to give back to God. We would want to be givers, doers, servers of His Highest Plan. It is the Church’s mission: to serve our Lord and Head Jesus Christ, Son of God, Lord of Glory.

“God respects His followers, He is Glad we recognize Him” October 19th homily 29th Sun.

In this Autumn time, I am preaching a series about “doing The Faith.” We are particularly looking at the first reading (Hebrew Testament) each Sunday to take example from it. On this October 19th, we go again to Isaiah the prophet, but now to his Second Isaiah (or second tier/second era writings) as much Jewish experience has unfolded when Isaiah 45 gets written. It’s a long way from the history of the start of the prophet’s writings. People Israel have really been tested, as they have lost the Holy Land experience and have gone off to forced labor and domination in Babylon. In that testing, some Jews are still staying faithful to God, as represented by this prophet named Isaiah and disciples of his and a remnant faithful Chosen. God sees how the remnant faithful have kept belief, and through Isaiah He reveals how He sees this, is moved by this, and has a future hope for the downtrodden people of God. God speaks tenderly to His steadfast followers and to the Jewish people who want to turn back to God and really believe again, even in their exile time.

In God’s dialogue to His people in prophecy, He says to His loved ones of Israel : “O Jacob, my servant…my chosen one, I have called you by your name, giving you a title… And I Am the LORD and there is no other, there is no God besides me. It is I Who go with you…so that toward the rising and the setting of the sun people may know that there IS none besides Me. I Am the LORD, there is no other. And you are mine.”

For us who try to remain as steadfast Catholic and live out our faith in God in various works and testimonies and offering and gifts of love by faith–here this again, as for us. “O Jacob, my servant.” Jacob really is a community title of affection, as God made His pact with Jacob who was renamed Israel. At Jacob’s Well God has let his patriarch believer see a vision of heaven and earth being linked up, as called Jacob’s Ladder. God would send help down, and lead people up one day via such a “ladder” (or “highway to heaven” as Isaiah would call it). So, when God speaks this way to you, as “Jacob, my servant”– He is recalling a person of faith in the past who trusted Him and served His purposes— AND– God is glad to see you in such similar holy footsteps.
The next phrase of God’s address is “My chosen one, whom I have called by name, even entitled.” Again, let us hear it as Catholics who want to follow Christ Jesus. We are “chosen” for this holy Way of Christ-filled, Spirit-led living. It is a favor or anointing from God to act in, like Isaiah and others of old did so similarly receive and do something about. We are not choosing grace or good things to impress God by– it truly is offered to us. We are acting towards the prompting of God to be good and right, as we were first God-designed to do. And all of this is greatly personal to God, as He says “I have called you by name.” This is a big deal to God that we have freely responded to want to be His children and to do graceful and heaven-inspired things. So, we are given a title as “the sent ones” or “The Body of Christ” or “the priestly people” or as today’s epistle says “those who labor in love.” These are wonderful titles, and they all match up to the first title of Servant. Jesus was a servant, so to follow Him, we will be a servant. A servant does things for His Master. God is our Master.

Isaiah then gives us that Big Word of God. God says: I AM GOD and I alone am God, there is no other.
We serve the Lord God, the Source of All Things. The Eternal One…. Who cared about us.

Are these words for us? Yes, o generous ones of our parish community, you would serve God, and who come today as to serve God in prayer and community, tithes, and renewal of who you are in Him: you definitely are God’s chosen ones. You give of your hearts so much, and God is pleased to dwell there! Be the chosen. Delight in it.

Let us speak about works of faith. Sometimes one need not go far and wide to find who God wants to inspire you to serve. While I see church singers, scout leaders, marriage prep helpers, spiritual group members, charity outreach helpers, retreat leaders, social justice advocates, and others here who do works of God as ‘out and about’– charity does begin at home, and I want to recognize some persons who are called mostly to serve and work for God by helping someone in their home. God has given them ministry of care at home to a family member who really needs them. I think of a few families at St. Edward’s that have a situation where a young person or an old person has some serious difficulty, and they need the other family members to give much assistance. In some case, the family has to make a total adjustment to the needs of their unhealthy or limited ability, broken person. It can be difficult. It is that labor of love the epistle talked about. It is that sojourning in a place that you didn’t think you’d be in, like in Isaiah’s people in exile. Yet, as Isaiah prophesied, God sees the true charity and real soul-ful life going on, and He wants to show He is there as “provider” of grace. In Isaiah’s 45th chapter, he will mention how God allowed the Persian king Cyrus to rise up and un-do the Babylonians hold over the Jews. God has some instrument of help to us, too, though His provision may not turn things around to be easier or comfortable. God turns it into chosen service, and He changes the servant to become heavenly-like. Love and its works for others changes the person doing it. I see that in some parish families in challenging circumstances. God is forming them to be the kind of people He hopes them to be, even through the experience. I recall a wedding 15 years ago of a man who was delaying getting married to a wonderful woman, because he was trying to serve some obligations and responsibilities as the older brother to a severely mentally and emotionally challenged little brother. He had to be the main help to his brother. Yet the woman to be his bride waited for him to know when the time was right to leave home and start a marriage and home with her. That time came. I did witness their vows. The bride said that such service and unconditional love in her new husband, as learned by that experience of unselfish care in his family home, was the very thing that she knew would make their marriage great. Plus, she could join in more to help out, too. It was a beautiful witness there in St. Aloysius parish, as is the witness beautiful here of people who have served great charity at home. That is my example this week of works of faith.

We live in a world that lives in such the opposite direction. People want to be served, and want to feel entitled above others in this secular culture. It’s very selfish. Yet Jesus famously said: “I came not to be serve, but to serve.” And He said: ” Follow Me. (Follow My example set for you.)” Today’s Gospel passage at Mass quotes Jesus as being put in a trap of asking whether “one should serve Caesar (the world) or God.” Jesus held up the coin with Caesar’s head on it, and showed how little that coin was, while He remarked: “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s…” Then, looking all about Him, east to west, north to south, up and down, inside and out– He showed that the entire experience of existence was permeated with God and with grace. He lived as Servant with us to God the Father, and He said: “…but give to God what is God’s.” And Jesus would lead that example by giving Himself for us to the Father, so that we would have His offering to lead ahead of our own offering. Our works and gifts and offering could follow behind His Worthy one.

In a nutshell, when asking someone why they were generous to God with their time, money offerings, charity, talents, and orientation of life, they simply said: “When I really got an inkling of Jesus as the Sacrificial Lamb of God, Who was slain, and Who offers intercession and advocacy for us now— I realized that my thanksgiving service was just the right response to the Savior. I give to God what is God’s–really everything! In Jesus’ Name.

END OF HOMILY

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Other jottings I was thinking about with this homily, are written below. It extends the homily thoughts, and you may enjoy it too.

One can fall into boasting, or one can fall into self-giving. It’s a matter of where you want the focus and credit to fall. One time, a person was boasting of their success, and how “they did it all themselves,” via their cleverness and talent (of course!). The person they were boasting to– knew that actually was not to be true. The person of success had not done it all themselves. The boaster was crediting it all to their self, but they were not truthful about their situation publicly. Much of their backing and support had come anonymously to them. It was why they had success. How did this listening person know? Because they were the hidden provider for that person. But the help was done much in secret. They were much of the actual reason for the person’s success. Yet, it was a little hard to watch the successful person act so arrogantly and boastful, and then become so demeaning and cruel and forceful to others. So it poses a situation for the observer of the boaster: Should they, the provider, have just come out in public and pop that bubble of arrogance, and take back the success to their self? No one would blame them if they did so.
Let us wonder about that story and about how God does things amidst our foolish and proud world.

In the example of God in Isaiah 45 today, God had witnessed a few hundred years of Jews being proud and independent from Him and claiming all kinds of self credit, away from their God. God eventually just took away the blessing or provision or protection on Israel, and they quickly learned that they never were in control, but that only God really is in control, and should be respected and served. So as the exile period happened, God was not meaning to force the Jews to come to their senses, but to help lead them back to sound living and happiness in righteousness. They could now be free to see things in reality. After awhile, it was not just Isaiah saying: “He is the Lord, and there is no other.” Many other Jews were saying it, and realizing that God was still with them, although in some hiddenness, but that their souls could find a way back to God out of their shame. God did not want to end his relationship with His chosen, but to help it become unbroken.

What God says is interesting, in Isaiah’s prophecies right here in chapter 45, to a people Israel who mostly need to repent, as He says “(verses 1 and 2), I will open doors for you (to change)… I call you by name… I am the Lord, I arm you (I am your strength and provider), though you do not know Me. I am the Lord.” Then, in the close of Isaiah 45, He will say: “Turn to me and be saved!… For I am God, and there is no other…To Me every knee shall bow, every tongue swear…to My righteousness and strength…My triumph and glory.”

In other words, don’t be proud and indifferent and apart from Me, but accept my Lordship and Aid. I Am the One Over All People and Things in existence. I, your God, even brought existence to existence!
Don’t be arrogance in vain-glory of yourself. That leads to nowhere.

This is the message that runs through all of Isaiah 45.
I, the Lord, give you a break-through to Me. Take it! And to my remnant faithful ones: thank you all. –Love, God.
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The Gospel today depicts idolatry and a life under Caesar (worldliness) as a tragic mistake of investing one’s life. Jesus says: God would rather you invest your heart in Him. Let me show you He can be trusted.

Being generous to God is to act in belief that He can be trusted, and that anyway, everything already is His. We can act respectfully by acknowledging this. We really have all things in life and this world as loaned from God to us. This truth is a marvelous realization, whether partially or half-way or all the way realizing it. It’s realization will change a lot of things of what is a priority in life. Wisdom in this can help us size up the choices of our world with keener discernment. What is the world investing in? Can it save or pay off? Or, isn’t God the only reliable One? How do I serve Him?

Just get back to Isaiah once again in chapter 45 (for more verses than we read from it) and hear what God was saying through him in his day. In Isaiah 45, verses 19-21 we hear God speak through Isaiah, declaring: ‘I the Lord speak the truth, I declare what is right. Idols cannot save you, so do not carry on with them and hoping on those ‘gods’ to save or deliver you. They can’t. They are not involved with Me. They are false. Get together and realize this! I have told you: I am the Lord, there is no other god besides Me; I am a righteous God and Savior.’
God wanted back then in Isaiah’s time to set things right for them, so He sent the turn of events through helping a Persian ruler named Cyrus to win over the Babylonians and change the captive Jews future situation. God is doing things today that is His Hand at work setting things aright for us, to come back fully to Him. There is a lot in the path to tempt us with worldliness… or there is a lot of despair and trouble in the world to influence us to lose hope… yet we have a better choice: to acknowledge God and recognize His call over us and to be the Church and to be in Jesus’ works of love.

God respects His followers; and He is glad we recognize Him. The Bible has Jesus state it plainly: “Those who acknowledge Me before the Father, I will then acknowledge.” Jesus said: ‘I am your advocate… and I even send you another advocate, the Comforter, who will teach and guide you to all things.’ I.E. Get in this Light of Faith. Yes, Lord!

For as Isaiah 45, verse 25 says, the day will come when to Thee “every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear…and all the offspring of (the remnant faithful People)…shall triumph and glory.”

Go Birds

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For the first time since 1983, which was my college graduation Summer, the Orioles might make it to the World Series. I remember going so long ago to see the Magic-al Orioles win their way to the top, with many trips up to the ballpark through the Summer of ’83. We rooted very hard, and Cal and Eddie and the team won many times for us. Yeah!
I couldn’t attend any Series games in October because I was started in seminary classes far away in Cleveland. I watched the games on tv there. The O’s won it all.

So, it took a long time, but the Orioles are in the playoffs again right now, so I got some tickets and I made the little trip from Bowie up to Camden Yards last Friday night to root them on. Here is a photo of the 48,000 of us crazies trying to pump the home team up. After a 4 hour game and extra innings and some drizzles at the park (I was smartly in a seat under cover), the visiting KC Royals took the opening game. Even after we had shaken and flown our O’s Orange Towels for a lot of waves, and sung all sorts of cheers for an evening. Eeeecckkkhhh! Come on, Birds!!!

I am really hoping the O’s can go all the way. Our hopes for a local Nationals-Orioles World Series were dashed last week when the Nats fell to the SF Giants.

The two National League hopefuls for the Series (who would meet Baltimore) are a pair of saintly Catholic teams: Saint Louis’ Cardinals and Saint(San) Francis’(co) Giants. :) I have always had a liking for both clubs, but I really want them to be coming to Baltimore, and not Kansas City, for their Series games. And I want to see Baltimore win over them. And, I will do all I can to get into a Series game, too, to be an eyewitness this time. If just the Birds can do it again!
First, the Birds have to win over KC, which they have had some opening trouble in doing. The Royals have been a royal pain so far, as they took Game Two as well from us, of a Best of Seven series.

If it turns out to be the KC Royals playing the King St. Louis Cards, you could say that they’ll be playing hard for the crown. It would also be a return to the I-70 Series–both teams are on the same midwestern Missouri highway, within close (enough) driving range in the “Show-Me State.” It was 1985 when that Show Me Series last happened there. KC won it over STL that time, but their team hasn’t returned to the Series ever since. Like the O’s, they are mighty hungry to get back to the World Series.

I remember watching Game 7 of the Royals-Cardinals World Series in late October 1985. I was in my third year of seminary and I watched the game at Mt. St. Mary’s with a bunch of Wichita Kansas seminarians who were crazy on the Royals. That deciding seventh game was really something. The Royals won it 11 to nothing. One night after becoming a father, KC’s Bret Saberhagen pitched a five-hitter and the Royals became the only team to ever rally from a three games-to-one deficit twice in the same postseason to win the World Series. They also were the first team to lose the first two games at home and rally to win the Series.

So, you see, I am remembering that so to keep my chin up right now. If the O’s are in that same predicament right now (down 2 games to none), then they can remember history when those same KC Royals did turn it around in ’85. Only now (in ’14)–we hope its OUR turn for amazement.

Oh, those Witchita Kansas sems all were quite happy with their ‘miracle team’ in ’85. Then in ’86 it was the sems from New York (the Mets) who were happy. Then in ’87 it was the sems from Minnesota (the Twins) who were baseball’s happiest fans. It was kind of neat being in a seminary that represented 39 states at the time I was there. We had fans from Boston down to Atlanta and over to the Missouri midwest, as well as we guys from Maryland following the O’s.

(I was ordained in May 1988.)

The Feast of God 28th Sunday Homily

[Blog Version--Homily expanded a bit]

Happy Anniversary parishioners! October 13th is our anniversary date, the Saint’s Day of Edward the Confessor, the King.
Once Edward became King of England from 1042 to 1066 a.d., he was sure to have some royal feasts, with a good spread of food and tasty drinks at his table. The same was mentioned in Isaiah’s reading today of the King of Heaven, Our Lord, Who offers great wine and food on “The Mountain of the Lord.” He is offering it to His people who stay steadfast in faith, despite living in times when things were falling apart around them in Judah and Jerusalem. God is offering a feast ahead as a goal and a promise for them to keep in faith. His prophet Isaiah is encouraging them, even if to the smaller number of Jews who will do so. Some Jews have lost their faith and soon their hope, even looking at death ahead for them. Isaiah says that death need not have its hold on a faithful person, and that God would provide a freedom from death, and even joy in exchange for tears, if but His people could just put a renewed trust in Him again. He was their God still with them through everything.

Apply that word of hope for us today in the Church. Let us put our eyes on the prize of Christ our Resurrection and our Reason to live and the One Who will keep His promise to us, and that we need pray for His Spirit for our own life to remain in zeal for the Faith. Let us keep our Sunday feasts and holy holidays in the Spirit of renewal to Christ Jesus our Prize.

Our patron Edward kept his Catholic faith from the time as a boy into his full adulthood, even though he had lost his royal father to death as a boy, and saw his mother Emma marry the invading Danish king to England, and experienced himself a forced exiled from England until he was almost 40. While he had reason to falter, instead Edward became a man of great faith and zeal, and when he came from Normandy to England to be invited to rule it (since he had royal blood in him), he arrived with plenty of ability. Not only that, he was ready to lead the nation and to do so from his soul of faith in Jesus Christ. England would receive a saintly person to wear the crown. In decades after Edward’s passing, a pope deemed this English king worthy of recognition as a saint of the Church, who very well did show and “confess” his Catholic faith at the throne.

Let us ask our patron today for intercession to our own zeal in living out our Catholic faith, and for the longing to show it in some way in kindnesses or good works. Let us pray for the spirit of “feasting” in our faith, of being evidently very thankful to God for our salvation by our lives and deeds, and long for this feast that Isaiah 25 gives us in Scriptural prophecy, that God has invited us to dine with Him someday at His banqueting table, and even to anticipate it by our being at this altar table of blessing in His Church established.

Do you know that this past week the Jewish feast day of rich wine and food just past on the calendar? The Feast of Booths or Tabernacles is a day or succession of days of Jewish thanksgiving. People of the Jewish faith (as done in the past, and even in Jesus’ day) get together in thanksgiving prayer and feasts of wine and food, to the honor of God. When Jesus celebrated it in His final year of ministry, He took Peter James and John up the Mount to pray this thanksgiving in “booths” and then Jesus celebrated the Feast of Salvation from His Father by receiving Elijah and Moses to meet Him there, and Jesus was put into a state of glorious light in acknowledgement of the victory over death and the salvation of peoples that lay ahead by what He would accomplish. Peter James and John celebrated all of this with him, even if secretly up there on the Mount. In the Gospels, this story is told in all four of them, so to remind us that we are to “feast in Faith for God.”

We Catholics live today in the fulfillment of what Christ Jesus did on the Cross and how He arose and for what He gave us to celebrate: participating in the dying and rising of Christ brings new life, even eternal life, to the follower of God. It is a Feast of Salvation that we have here. The Feast of Faith should just naturally flow in thanksgiving right into charity and works of goodness and an unashamed fidelity to God. God wants to shine the Light of Faith all over us, if we will let Him.

We have examples of people letting Him do so here in our parish. Speaking of food, we have had a number of parish members dedicated to keeping a pantry going here in our kitchen area of the church and in its storage areas. Some have done so as regular contributors of groceries that they themselves have shopped for, following a list of needed and useful items. While not serving a feast, they know that the down-and-out persons that need free meals are not looking for caviar, but some nutritious canned vegetables or beans or cereals and canned fruit. On weekdays during office hours, needy people have come now and then for help. We have been ready for them. We have had a person whom I will single out, but who has passed on, who had been a nice charitable volunteer for the pantry. Though she was frail and elderly and lived alone, she managed to go out shopping and get help and fill her car up with groceries, and bring them here to be unloaded for the pantry. She is missed. She did a lot of good in her time. She passed on a few months ago. We really haven’t had someone fill in her slot. We also have other new needs for helpers in keeping our pantry going. But it really was a testimony of a thankful heart of faith that led her to such love for strangers in need, and when she passed, which happened right here at church, I am sure that the Lord had His hand extended to her, saying “Now it is time that I serve you, oh dear believer who has served me!”

The woman was a feaster of her faith. She had a great love for Mass, too, and she especially liked that we had an outreach team to go to her retirement apartments and lead prayers each week.

Our parish has been given 42 years so far to celebrate a Feast of Salvation in Jesus.
We have done about 2,500 Masses, had so very-many baptisms and weddings and funerals, and we have had many community activities and many charitable enterprises. We have had thousands of parishioners living out their faith, as a part of St. Edward the Confessor parish in Bowie, and coming here to celebrate it, so then going out and telling the Good News or showing it to people of this area (and to the world) of the message that God reigns, Jesus is His Divine Son Who is come among us, and the Spirit of God is being poured out among us to help us become the children of God.

We are a parish whose Mass is the center of a celebration and a feast of faith. We have come together for four decades in Catholic life. Yesterday, speaking of feasts and food and wine, we had a wedding of a young woman who grew up in the parish, Tara Restly, daughter of Dan and Tracy, who have moved to another area. Yet they were back yesterday to their parish of St. Edward that included many faith-building times. Tara married Brian Shea of Bowie’s Sacred Heart parish. They both practice their Catholic faith, and were overjoyed to witness to that in a Nuptial Mass with over 300 people here. Then, they had their reception at the K of C Hall. Food and wine and dance and thanksgiving to God and for family and for their blessing of marriage.

The prior weekend we had back-to-back weddings here in the church during the afternoon. You know what that meant?! It was back-to-back wedding receptions and its feast of food and drink and merriment. I made both! It’s a tough job but someone has to do it! I did have to pick-and-choose how to eat and participate in both banquets without overdoing it and exploding!

The Scripture prophecy from Our Lord in Isaiah 25 says how He has rich fare of wine and food awaiting us on His Holy Mountain. We will not have to worry about diets or holding back in Heaven. It will be an unending banquet and you won’t have any weight concerns, either. The 23rd Psalm that we sung in today’s Mass also says that the Lord’s table is set for us to consume a feast of victory, that “even in the sight of our foes” (like death) we will raise a glass in the triumph of the Lord. And surely such goodness and kindness will be ours all the days to come there. ‘Nice promise!

In Isaiah’s time, the Covenant People of the Hebrews had mostly been unfaithful to God and unfaithful to practice the holy Ways that He laid out to them through their forefathers and foremothers, and to which God reminded them to practice again through His holy prophets. While too many had not paid heed, God was speaking through Isaiah to say that to those who remained in faith, a Messiah was coming, a Promise was still to be fulfilled, and it all led to a glorious feast. The Table of Blessing at the Mountain of the Lord of Hosts was there to be received by those who would take God at His Word.

That the ancient Feast of Tabernacles just passed us on the calendar this week is no coincidence, what with the words the Lord gives to us today. He says: Come to the tabernacled Presence and give thanks, for the Lord is with us. He is our Feast of Salvation. Let us live for Him and celebrate always in Him.

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Photos of the church in one season and another…

At the close of Mass on October 12th, a blessing with the relic of St. Edward the Confessor was done, and Donut Sunday gave us a time to gather and remember after Mass of God’s goodness here. October 13th is a Patron’s Feast Day and also Founder’s Day of the parish.

Is it In God or Google do we trust?

Is it in God or Google do we Trust?

Two years or more ago my theme for a season at our parish was on idols: the counterfeit gods. It was a worthwhile review of what acts as a replacement for the First Place that God is meant to have in our lives.
In a short return to that theme, I reflect here from a bumper sticker that I saw on a car in Bowie which read In God, Not Google, I Trust. Humorous? ‘heh?

So–is Google like a god in our lives? Or other such web search companies? Are we looking harder on Google that to God for our answers and direction?!
It’s a funny question, but one we can raise in trying to figure what are the possible “idols” in our day, since golden bulls seem to be out of style. The vice-president of a Wi-Fi provider said: “Google, combined with Wi-Fi, IS a little bit like God. God is wireless, God is everywhere and God sees and knows everything. Throughout history, people connected to God without wires. Now, for many questions in the world, you ask Google, and increasingly, you can do it without wires, too.”

Whoa!IMG_20141010_151328

What is the name Google taken from? “Googol” is the numeral 1 followed by 100 zeros, signifying how much information Google initially hoped to catalog, “Googling” has now become synonymous with the search for information. Interestingly, when Tim Berners-Lee first imagined the web as its inventor, he named it “Enquire,” short for Enquire Within upon Everything, based on a magic book of a portal into everything. Yes, Googling (or other web searching) seems a little like doing magic, with gathering quickly the info of everything from “How to remove a wine stain on clothing” to “Where is Qutal?” to tips on investing money.” Google is also the “triage nurse” that “spares our blushes.” It has been confirmed that searches on erectile dysfunction, incontinence and weight loss vastly outnumber the cases physicians actually encounter in their practice. Searches on areas of immoral living and activity now dominate the activity of googling, too, says an internet magazine. They go looking for things they ought not to, in the darker side of the endless internet. “And the promise of anonymity,” observes Kate Bussman in The Telegraph, “has also led us to seek answers to our emotional, ethical and existential dilemmas.”

But so often to the wrong source. THE SOURCE WHO IS GOD.

God is a source that is Real and Caring and Compassionate and Empowering for us. Yet–true deep prayer probably lags behind internet time for many persons. As Luciano Floridi, the Professor of Philosophy and Ethics of Information at the Oxford Internet Institute has observed, “We’re looking for an oracle.” And, he adds, the “new oracles are online and digital.” What is an oracle? It is defined as “a source of wisdom: somebody or something considered to be a source of knowledge, wisdom, or prophesy.” So, in today’s world, are people seeking God out for important matters, or are we a little too lost out on the internet? But, if so, just who are providing the ‘answers’ on these web sites that people are arriving to for answers? Do they have the ultimate answers for life? :)

The Scripture epistle for Sunday’s Mass of Oct. 12th (27th Sun. “A”) is one that encourages us to go to God with our lives. For us to present ourselves to God, and to look and meditate on what is good and meaningful for our living. St. Paul writes these lines in Philippians 4:12-20: “I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me… I (Paul) am fully satisfied, now (as you helped my ministry) that I have received the gifts (of support–and of which I relied upon God to assist me.)…And my God will fully satisfy every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”

IMG_20141010_151126 We Catholics have turned to Jesus and His Eucharist, His Cross, His Church and His Holy Spirit for our ultimate guide and source.

In some ways Googling has replaced praying and spiritual reading and even public worshipping–as our way of being satisfied (ref. Phil.4.20). Google can get in the way of our real time with God. Which then makes google like a false god, or counterfeit.
Googling and goofing off with lots of one’s time on the internet might seriously cut into one’s time of reflecting on life by their conscious mind and of their seeking God out with full heart and soul. The real stuff with God gets crowded out by the false stuff flashing by on one’s screen. Mindless entertainment on the internet (or electronic games) might even take over during one’s free Sunday morning. Rather than be a part of a praying, live community– you go chat with strangers or serve lots of chatter with people you do know. Is that what Sunday morn is for? But Sunday is the Lord’s Day, and He has called us to Church, not to our electronic screens and gizmos. God has real guidance and direction for us, and we especially need it, since He has said we need some serious saving. (Salvation is offered in Christ Jesus in a real Sacrament Way, not in any compiled random search list.)

For some people, I think there internet access machine (whether tablet, phone, personal or office computer) is like their entrance to a shrine, like that of an ancient god. In ancient Greece and Rome, shrines were dedicated to a particular god where people went to consult a priest or priestess in times of trouble or uncertainty. Somehow, it seems that some people have made their trips into the internet like as to a shrine to a god.

Now, in all things moderation, some saint once said. With prudent and good use of these new communication mediums, our lives can be bettered and blessed. We can find the balance. Yet if one were to overdue it–then overdue it in quiet prayer and reflection with God, or even just take a walk in nature and go without your electronic devices or phone.

A New York Times columnists reviewed the problems with Google and why one should be wary (and not so trusting with it), and they said:

“There are several dangers in Google’s place in our world.
One is the herd mentality for decision making. A site such as TripAdvisor may be helpful, but it should never be forgotten that it is just the organized opinions of people you do not know who may not share any of your tastes or sensibilities.”

“Another danger is the staggering amount of misinformation on the web.”

“Another is the illusion that if it is info on the web, then it must be true…” (Like, if someone mistakenly had printed that there would be two moonrises in a day, then you’d be sure that many would believe it to be true, just because it was in print on the web site.)

The columnist continued, “Then there is the trivialization of knowledge. While we may talk of the internet providing such things as access to the contents of the great libraries of the world, in truth we are more prone to search for the latest escapades of Justin Beiber or Beyonce Knowles.”

“But most concerning of all is the separation of information from wisdom… (This may be the web search’s real achilles heel.) …Quentin Schultze once wrote that the torrent of information now at our disposal is often little more than endless volleys of nonsense, folly and rumor masquerading as knowledge, wisdom, and even truth.”

Hmmm….
So if Google is becoming our god or oracle or such, perhaps the best conclusion is one uttered by none other than the Incredible Hulk in the first Avenger’s movie of Loki, the supposed demigod who wanted to rule the earth.
Hulk looked at him and said: “Puny god!”

Baseball Informs Marriage

For Andy and Becky Oct. 4th Wedding

Since your wedding falls in the midst of play-off baseball in the Major Leagues, with our local teams both in it, I thought I would advice you today on marriage as given from the wisdom of baseball.

Baseball Informs Marriage Homily

Marriage: It calls for Honesty. To Size things up correctly and honestly. Like in baseball, as pitcher Curt Simmons said, “I have learned to be honest with the game: Trying to sneak a pitch past Hank Aaron is like trying to sneak a sunrise past a rooster. Just get it in your head that you won’t sneak anything by. “~ Thus, marriage is based on honesty. Be up front and real. Don’t try anything silly. Or, it’ll get knocked out of the park. You don’t want that.

Marriage: It calls for Sacrifice. Like in the grand ol’ pastime…”Baseball is the only place in life where a sacrifice is really appreciated.” The miscellaneous quote could be associated with Eddie Murray or Cal Ripken–the all time leaders for “sac flies.” Fly ball outs can score runs. With a runner on third. You sacrifice an out for yourself, but the other player scores on it. That worked well for Eddie and Cal and the Orioles. It’s a good lesson for marriage, on “other-centered living.” If both marriage partners do sacrifice for the other, then you have the successful marriage formula, which Pope John Paul II called “the Way of Mutual Self-Giving.” This life helps you both get to home, eventually, which is Heaven.

Marriage: It calls for Reliability and Having Good Back-up plans for the what-if surprises. In baseball, it is a long season, so reliability and readiness are valuable. So would the same be applied to the long, good life of marriage. You play for a whole season of life, and hope to finish well, and make adjustments as you go to reach success. Bob Lemon, the great MLB pitcher once said: “I’ve come to the conclusion that the two most important things in life are good friends and a good bullpen.” Applied to you two in this marriage: You each have a good friend on whom you can rely on. You both will keep a discerning way on life and keep prepared with a back-up plan for when life loads up on you. Go to a good bullpen. That is–good planning, wisdom, flexibility, extra effort. For dumb luck only goes so far in life.

Marriage: It calls for Handling the ups and downs by keeping a good, consistent middle course.
As a manager once said: “No matter how good you are, you’re going to lose one-third of your games. No matter how bad you are you’re going to win one-third of your games. It’s the other third that makes the difference.” That was from fellow Catholic Tommy Lasorda. We can do what we can do. Some good stuff and some bad stuff will happen, out of our control–but the rest can be in our hands. It can make the difference. We choose what kind of way we will go. We try our best and let God take care of the rest.
American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr wrote a Serenity Prayer that would be applied here in marriage: God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
Tommy Lasorda said that “lighting a votive candle and pleading the Lord’s help” was a course he’d often take, saying: I was asking the ‘Big Dodger in the Sky’ for guidance. Prayers and candles were for help in that everyday middle course of life. I am a practicing Catholic, this great baseball life is all lived for Jesus’ Glory.

Marriage: A lot of humor might help.
Baseball legend Casey Stengel used humor all the time to keep things light: He said of himself as a youth: “I was such a dangerous hitter that I even got intentional walks in batting practice.”

Marriage: Remember Who is the Umpire: That God is God, and the world bows to Him, and life should be lived truthfully before His gaze. Bill Klem, a MLB umpire, was asked about why he sometimes took a moment to call a pitch or to name a play safe or out. He said: “I want to get it right, as I am the ultimate baeball game arbiter. I want people to respect that, too–so with every play: It ain’t nothing——until I say it is!” For marriage and family and life, God has also settled things that should be applied and followed. Love is always the first measure. We ask ourselves, in God’s Light: Is this loving? What has God to say of it? (As in the Bible, Catechism or Revelation). 1st Timothy 2:5-6 says: “There is one perfect umpire. “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and humankind, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.” Today’s Scriptures at Mass chosen by our couple also indicate that they know what God says of love and marriage. We live and work and play on His field.
Amen.

Play Ball! Or, really—let’s have you profess your vows at the altar—and get your Game of Marriage underway.

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