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Oct. 7th, 2013

WHY REPENTANCE IS ESSENTIAL FOR FAITH

                     REFLECTIONS ON REPENTANCE

One of the tragedies of our human condition is the tendency to view the grace
of repentance in a negative light. The fact is that, far from undermining a healthy
self-esteem, authentic repentance is the way, in which God leads one to a more
profound appreciation of one's true dignity. Repentance is only possible when one
is willing to become accountable to the whole sanctifying mystery of divine truth.
There can be no personal dignity without personal accountability to the truth.

   Sadly, though, In our weak fallen human condition, there is a strong tendency to
avoid an authentic encounter with the truth of God. And such avoidance leads to an
even more serious avoidance of the fidelity of God to the truth of His Word, whereby
He committed Himself to form humanity in His image and likeness. As a result, It was
so easy for our first parents to seek seductive shelter from the truth of God in the
bushes of equivocation, ambiguity, relativism, excuses and resentments (Gen 3:8).
They sought to develop a false and vapid sense of security, whereby they could
excuse themselves from the awkward struggles required to become truly pure of heart.
   In this regard, we need to remember that sin is first of all a choice to distort one's
perspective, even before it perverts ones actions and attitudes. In the Garden of
Eden, the woman had to first choose not to believe that she was already "like God"
and to view God as not gracious, but greedy and resentful. Only then was she able
to give herself over to the seductions of sin. Likewise, after our first parents sinned,
they chose to further distort their perspective of a compassionate and merciful God
so as to view Him as a threatening Presence to be avoided. By hiding from His pure
mercy, they compounded their commitment to live by a spirituality of excuses and
resentments (Note how Adam blames the woman and God for his sin - "The woman,
whom You put here with me - she gave me fruit from the tree, and so I ate it." - Gen 3:12).

   Repentance, then, is primarily a gracious gift of God, whereby the soul becomes
docile to its need to be held accountable both to the integrity of truth and to the
reconciling mystery of divine intimacy. Without this major purification of perspective,
repentance merely moves the soul from one state of despondency to another such
state or to a state of resentful self-righteousness. This reality is reflected in the
wisdom of the Church in urging her children to make an act of contrition, and not an
act of guilt. Guilt is based upon a subtle self-centered pride ("How could I have been
so perverted, cruel, stupid, etc. to do such a thing?"). Contrition, on the other hand,
is based upon a deepening reverent appreciation of the gracious mercy and love of
God ("How wonderful are Your mercies, O Lord. Even after I have given myself over
to such despicable behavior, You preserve my life, enlighten me with Your truth, and
offer me forgiveness, healing and strength!"). Authentic repentance must thus always
be focused on God's gracious love, not on one's own perversion or on the power of
one's will to overcome sin.

   One aspect of authentic repentance, though, which is often overlooked, is that such
repentance must be directed to reconciliation in spirit and in truth. i.e., in attitude and
in action. Thus the soul must be drawn to realize that God's mercy is a dynamic mystery,
not merely a stagnating gift. We most profoundly share in the transforming mystery of that
mercy by ministering it to others - giving as a gift, what we have received as a gift. This
is why those growing into a mature spiritual life are drawn by the Holy Spirit to bear the
consequences of others' sins by sacrificial acts of reparation. Committed to avoid the
dangers of subtle forms of self-righteousness, they seek to suffer in communion with Christ
crucified for the salvation of others. At the same time, they come to realize that their own
conversion to the integrity of truth was made possible through the prayers and sacrifices of
others in the Body of Christ. Thus no one can boast, except in the gracious love and mercy,
by which we are saved and renewed in Christ.

   All this is highlighted by Lord Jesus Himself. In obedience to the will of the Father that
it was "thus fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness" (Matt 3:15). Jesus humbly received
John's baptism of repentance, thus enabling that baptism to lead to the forgiveness of
sins (Lk 3:3). Since the repentance of those coming to John was grossly inadequate
(Lk 3:7-9), Jesus had to lead humanity out of its imperfect repentance, based on sorrow
for the painful and tragic consequences of sin, into that true repentance, which led
sinners into God's sanctifying righteousness, even as it led Him to the agonizing death
of crucifixion. Thus, no one of us can enter into salvific repentance without the grace of
being in communion with Christ or without that docility to the Holy Spirit, Who guides
the soul to authentic righteousness.

May. 17th, 2012

THE OBFUSCATION OF THE NEW EVANGELIZATION

            If the bugle gives an indistinct sound, who will get ready for battle? I Cor 14:8

 A few weeks ago, an elderly man who had lapsed from the practice of the Catholic Faith, summarized his reason for leaving by saying, “Father, let me know when the Catholic bishops finally decide what the Church really teaches”. He had earlier expressed dismay at how quickly Church leaders sought to appease dissidents and how slowly they sought to please God. He gave the example of how quickly the USCCB was willing to change the words of institution from “for all men” to “for all”, in order to appease radical feminists. In contrast, it took over four decades for them to concede that pro multis means “for many”, not “for all”. He went on to point out that The Roman Catechism specifically addressed this issue over four hundred years ago. Yet the Vatican chose to ignore this clearly delineated teaching in order to approve liturgical texts that tended to prioritize relevance over Revelation.

The man also pointed out his consternation over the current HHS-USCCB controversy. The bishops cannot even agree among themselves that it is sacrilegious to abuse the Eucharistic Christ in order to give spiritual encouragement and consolation to those who pro-actively pursue policies promoting the brutal murder of pre-born children. Yet they are afraid of desecrating their insurance dollars to help pay for the allegedly divinely sanctioned practices of contraception, abortion and infanticide. If our liturgical praxis affirms that Christ is giving a smiling “thumbs up” to these practices, why should we make a fuss about our dollars supporting those same practices?

The gentleman had several other major points of concern. But the pettifoggery of subtle theological distinctions was inadequate for dispelling the fog of consternation that enveloped his soul. In the end, he could only sadly conclude that the Church militant had incrementally become the Church milquetoast, and that its hierarchy had, by the same gradual process, embraced theological, liturgical and pastoral policies, which curbed the fervor of fidelity for the sake of catering to the demands of secular expediency.

This man’s honest assessment of the current condition of the Church brought me up short. It especially led me to look more carefully at what is the true meaning of the New Evangelization. Specifically, it led me to think back to the idea of Newspeak in George Orwell’s prophetic book, 1984. By the technique of Newspeak, the government, Big Brother, sought to expunge the language of the sacred from society’s language and thought processes. So it is that the forces of secularism have gradually seduced many, even among our Church leaders, to forsake the Gospel of the Cross of Christ for the sake of the new gospel of expediency and capitulation to the demands of comfort, convenience and complacency. In order to oppose this new gospel, Blessed John Paul II, accentuated in the Third Luminous Mystery, the fact that the proclamation of the Gospel necessarily included the call to repentance – and not merely a repentance based on sad feelings, but one based on the integrity of the whole truth of God and on sincere contrition for having offended Him so grievously.

Evangelization is impossible without repentance. And one area of the Church’s life, which is seriously in need of repentance, is the tendency to uncritically embrace the secular premises and language of the Culture of Death in order to convey the sacred truths of our Catholic Faith. Over the years, the Newspeak imposed by the unholy trinity of secularism, relativism and hedonism has systematically desecrated our language. For example, there has been a strong tendency to affirm that the truth of God cannot be incarnate in specific teachings and disciplines, but only indicated. Thus the proclamation of both the centrality and the necessity of God Incarnate, Jesus Christ, for our salvation has been downplayed. Instead of proclaiming Christ Jesus as Savior and Lord of all, we have been urged merely to propose that people seriously evaluate certain “Gospel principles”. And even these principles have been degraded by avoiding references to objective virtues, to which we all are to be held accountable. Instead, we have tended to accentuate “shared values”, which are carefully nuanced to appease the demands of political correctness and perverse lifestyles.

The Newspeak also has degraded our ability to appreciate the core dynamic of salvation. I was shocked when even the pope seemed to uncritically affirm the agenda of evolution, by affirming that evolution was more than a theory. Whereas the Church has consistently taught that all of us, both personally and communally, are called by God to share in His life through Jesus Christ, the current tendency is for Church leaders to affirm that the process of human development is not guided by evocation, but rather by evolution. Yet, if God is love, and salvation necessarily involves participation in both the mystery and the ministries of divine intimacy, how is it that we can teach that we evolve into salvation? True intimacy can only exist when there is an invitation, or call, by the beloved, whose whole being is open to communion. People do not evolve into conjugal intimacy. Yet it seems that we are becoming increasingly addicted to using the Newspeak of evolution and self-fulfillment to explain some of the most profound and sacred mysteries of our Faith. Although it is possible to survive by entering into relationships that are merely symbiotic or parasitic, the integrity and joy of authentic humanity can only be realized by accepting the invitation to share in the mystery and the ministry of covenantal love.

In addition, the theory of evolution tends to deny objective morality. Since survival, rather than integrity, is the central guiding principle of evolution, morality can be, at best, a useful tool. But it cannot be a foundational principle for human development. Thus, in endorsing evolution as a valid scientific principle for human development, Church leaders must necessarily acquiesce to the legitimacy of moral relativism and situation ethics. Since evolution insists that survival, rather than integrity of life, is core standard for making ethical decisions, a whole host of sins have become sanctified by our secular society – only in certain circumstances, of course. In this mindset, even violations of civil and criminal law are not viewed as objectively wrong – just so long as one is careful enough not to be caught or, minimally, to maintain plausible deniability. Thus it is that any evangelization poisoned by the premises of evolution can ultimately only bear the fruits of perversion and promiscuity.

Another example of the perverting influence of Newspeak is the tendency of many Church leaders to present the magisterial teachings of the Church as “the official teaching of the Church”. Sad to say, even the poorly educated know that “official teachings” come from bureaucracies. But authentic teachings come from the Holy Spirit of God. Why then do we continue to degrade the authoritative teachings of the Church in a way that leads people to view these teachings as authoritarian? The fruit of this capitulation to the secular view of Church leaders as merely a stagnating bureaucracy clinging to archaic ideas and rigid rituals is increasingly obvious.

As Church statements forsake sacred language in order to cater to relativism, and as Church praxis continues to capitulate to demands that she become adept at adapting to and adopting the premises and practices of secular society, what else could we expect? Is it any wonder that officials at HHS thought they were merely (and perhaps even “prophetically”) helping Church leaders to evolve in their understanding of the deeper meaning of social justice? As indicated above, if survival, rather than integrity, is the basic principle of life, is  it not the loving thing to help the Church to survive? After all, in order to appease addictions to comfort, convenience and complacency, Church leaders have already de facto eliminated the Eucharistic fast, turned Lenten discipline into an optional practice, downgraded holy days of obligation and even moved Ascension Thursday to Sunday. And the Vatican itself pulled the reins on Cardinal O’Boyle in 1968, when he took steps to stop theologians, who were dissenting against the authentic teachings on conjugal love proclaimed in the encyclical, Humanae Vitae.

As I stated above, all the above points out the need for the New Evangelization to be preceded by a very careful and discerning examination of conscience by all in the Church. And this examination must go below the surface and discern where we have been seduced into accepting the perverted vocabulary, language, perspectives and premises of the Culture of Death. Then, through the graciousness of God, sincere and humble repentance will open the door to Christ. Only then, will we be able to witness anew, with Our Most Blessed Mother, how God, Who is mighty, is doing great things for us and through us. 

Feb. 22nd, 2012

USCCB - HHS CONTRACEPTION CONTROVERSY

The recent decision by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to include a mandate for all health care plans to include provisions for contraception, sterilization and abortion has raised a number of concerns among Catholics and other Christians. Sad to say, such concerns are often dismissed as inconsequential, just as the concerns about the racial segregation were often dismissed as out of hand in the deep South one hundred years ago. Yet dismissing a concern does not really address the issues raised by that concern. It would be helpful, therefore, for those with open minds, to address some of the questions often suppressed in the name of "sexual liberation". Among these questions, which the American Catholic bishops believe should not be dismissed in such a perfunctory manner, are the following:

  1) From whom does an individual receive the right to life and the right to live - from God or from society? Our Founding Fathers declared that these rights are endowed by our Creator.    But our secularized society has sought for decades to assert that these rights are derived from the individual couple or, as in China, from the government. The secular perspective would have us think that such rights are not inalienable, but rather contingent on the choice or the permission of the couple/society. Which of these perspectives is more authentically human?

  2) Is the human person sacred or merely functional? Are we to assert that a child has intrinsic value as a person? Or are we to assert that a person has value only if he/she is "wanted"?   If we accept the second option, will we be falling into the tragic syndrome lamented in the song, Sweet Dreams,  "some people want to use you, some people want to be used by you;  some people want to abuse you, some people want to be abused by you."?

  3) Is HHS correct in considering pregnancy a preventable venereal disease - with the pre-born child to be relegated to the status of a parasite or a malignant tumor, which is a threat to the health or the life of his/her mother? Are we thus build up our children's self-esteem by teaching them that they began life as parasites and, after they were born, became part of a serious "pop-pollution" problem?

  4) Does a child have a basic right to be conceived in the context of the beautiful mystery of marital love? Or is a child to be considered an unwanted by-product of unbridled lust?  Does God intend a child to be created as the fruit of the sacred love of husband and wife? Or is a child to be considered an accident, a punishment or merely as the product of medical manipulations designed to suit the desires of the consumer? 

5) In view of the 1965 decision of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology to redefine "conception" as occurring at the moment of implantation, rather than at the moment of fertilization, are we ignoring the fact that some contraceptives" actually act as abortifacients by preventing a newly formed human life from implanting in his/her mother's womb?  

6) What percentage of woman have suffered strokes, heart attacks or even death due to blood clots caused by the pharmaceutical contraceptives?

7) Is contraception limited to sexual fertility - or does it lead to other forms of suppression? If man believes he has the right to force a woman to suppress her fertility in order to appease his lust, will he be more or less likely to demand that she suppress other dimensions of her uniquely sacred personhood for the sake of his agenda and desires?

8) Since proponents of contraception, sterilization and abortion have promised for over fifty years that these practices would lead to happier marriages and to decreasing rates of domestic violence, child neglect and divorce - how true have these "prophecies" proven to be?

9) Is there any indication of a statistical correlation between the use pharmaceutical contraceptives and abortion before a woman has a full term delivery of a child and the rate of breast cancer?

10) At Auschwitz seventy years ago, the Nazi SS consigned new arrivals to either death or to slave labor. Are we gradually being drawn into a similar mentality, whereby we are consigning our posterity to either death by abortion or to involuntary servitude to pay off a $15,000,000,000,000 national debt that is projected to grow by over $1,000,000,000,000 a year? Is this the proper way to secure the blessings of liberty for ourselves and our posterity?

The concern of the Catholic bishops, therefore, goes beyond merely religious convictions. To American Catholics, it is a reminder that, during the Exodus, the golden calf was built and worshipped at the behest of all the Israelites while Moses was on Mt. Sinai - and they were seriously in error. To the rest of our citizens, it raises several important issues. Do we want to build our nation on resentments or resilience? Do we want to promote real virtues like chastity, or do we want to promote virtual reality and the masking of sexual addictions as machismo? Do we want marriages based on reverence and respect or on the arousal and appeasement of our more base instincts?

The Son of God, Jesus Christ, was sent into this world not to confirm our slavery to lust, greed, pride and resentment. Rather, He came to free us from sin and its consequences by shedding His Precious Blood for our redemption, our healing and our reconciliation. Do we want to seek salvation through His healing mercy, compassion and truth? Or are we to content ourselves by building our own salvation on a flimsy foundation of excuses and resentments? As the true prophets have warned us through the ages - just because something in society has become normal does not mean that it is morally normative. Salvation is not found in capitulating to evil, but in confronting evil with the truth and fidelity of Christ, proclaimed with the same love that moved Him to lay down His life, so that we could have life to the full with Him.

Feb. 1st, 2012

A LESSON FROM HISTORY

In 1896, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision on the Plessy v Ferguson case. In that decision, the Court asserted that the Southern laws mandating segregation were legal within the norms set by the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments of the Constitution. Fifty-eight years later, in the famous Brown v Board of Education case, the Court found that, de facto, segregated education was proven to be intrinsically unequal, and thus a violation of the equal protection guaranteed by the Constitution. These two decisions have important implications for the Eucharistic praxis of the Catholic Church.
In the early 1970's, a number of priests took the initiative of changing the Eucharistic discipline of the Church by introducing the practice of Communion in the hand. Eventually, this violation of the Church's liturgical law became so widespread that the Vatican capitulated to the innovators and allowed this option for the faithful. But this permission was given with strict stipulations that this manner of receiving Our Lord had to be carried out with the greatest reverence, with one hand cradling the other, as the sacred host was placed in the palm and then reverently taken with two fingers and placed in the mouth. Sad to say, these basic rubrics have gradually been forgotten by many. The situation has become so bad that a comedian on National Public Radio was able to make a humorous commentary on the actual practices tolerated today in the liturgy. Some of the abuses he and others have indicated are as follows: 
       - the Body snatchers, who grab the Sacred Host from the hand of the priest;
       - the takers and breakers, who break the Host in their hand, so as to be able to "take some
            home" for their private devotions or for sharing with their beloved cat or dog; 
       - the baseball players, who receive the Host in their gloved hands, with no regard to the reality
            of the Eucharistic Christ in even the smallest particle of the Host left in their glove; 
       - the homemade bread takers, who receive the Host in the form a bread that is made at home
             and tends to leave so many Eucharistic particles on the floor as to make the church
             vacuum cleaner bag a de facto tabernacle; 
       - the pantry Catholics, who come to the tabernacle and self-communicate while visiting the
             church; 
       - the cultists, who take the Sacred Host to use later for voodoo rituals or for Satanic black
             Masses.
Sad to say, just as it took decades for the U.S. Supreme Court to finally recognize that segregation was promoting a debasing discrimination against non-whites, many Church leaders still have a hard time admitting that Communion in the hand is opening the way for all kinds of serious liturgical abuses - not to mention outright sacrileges.
This is especially noteworthy, since liturgical directives normally attempt to promote practices that minimize the chances for trivializing the sacredness of the Holy Eucharist and the chances for desecration of the Sacrament. But, just as the Supreme Court's Roe v Wade decision reversed the normal legal practice of not permitting any action that could possibly be endangering a human life,
the Vatican's capitulation to the disobedient liturgical innovators continues to promote numerous
abuses of this Sacrament. It seems that the Vatican accepted the innovators assertion that such
a practice would enhance the Church's life. But with less than 25% of registered Catholics now keeping the minimal commitment to participate in Sunday Mass each week, not to mention other
signs of "renewal", especially seen in the embrace of secularist sexual standards that are directly opposed to the sacred covenantal nature of Marriage, it would seem to be wise for those same leaders to accept the standard for discernment given in Deut 18:21-22. The innovators promised a great renewal of the Church, if only she would break away from her fixation on the sacredness of marital sexuality and of the Holy Eucharist. Sadly, the fidelity of the Holy Spirit has generated a sort
of renewal, while casual liturgical and moral discipline has made hundreds of millions of souls easy prey to the world, the flesh and the devil. In America alone, the Church continues to hemorrhage souls at an alarming rate by the many "pastoral" concessions being made to the tyranny of relativism and to the compulsive quest for comfort, convenience and complacency.  
Though Communion in the hand is often practiced with great reverence, it is also frequently practiced in ways that gives rise to serious abuse and scandal. Proper catechesis for this practice would have to be both ongoing and universal, in order to prevent abuses from subtly seeping into the sanctuary. Sadly, it may de facto be impossible for such an ongoing catechesis to be properly conducted. If that be the case, it would seem both reverent and prudent to discontinue a practice so prone to abuse.       
    
     

Jan. 21st, 2012

NEW WINESKINS - PART IV

The previous three parts of this series pointed out some of the major problems that have developed over the past decades as a result of allowing the premises of secularism and of heresy to be used as the basis for the Catholic Church's participation in dialogue with non-Catholics. Defective premises, which  have been affirmed by the acceptance of the perversion of vocabulary and language, reflect the basic injustice of Christ's crucifixion. For, as many of the leaders of God's People had become so accustomed to mutilating God's Holy Word for the sake of expediency, so also they found themselves impelled by the demands of the same expediency to mutilate God's Word-made-flesh, when His integrity challenged their complacency by the call to radical conversion of life and perspective.

The core of this Gospel proclamation is the fact that salvation is not to be found in the alienation of radical individualism, but rather in the reconciliation offered through the mystery and ministry of a covenantal love, which reflects the perfect intimacy of love, which the Church calls the Holy Trinity.
We possess life by the sharing our lives completely in the obedience of faith - not by the imposing of our short-sighted and perverted agendas on others. Jesus Himself showed by His example that His life was one of gracious and grateful generosity. And at His Last Supper, He proclaimed His life-blood to be covenantal - i.e., to be poured out for and shared by the many, who were willing to be embraced into the discipleship of faith, so as to be delivered from all the dis-integrating power of sin.

This points out a basic truth that humanity is intrinsically covenantal. God intends each human life to be conceived in the sanctifying covenantal dynamic of the nuptial embrace. And in spite of the fact that many innocent children suffer the abuse of being conceived in lust (i.e., through fornication or
adultery) or as the product of technology (i.e., in vitro fertilization, and its consequent destruction or
cold storage of extra embryoes), the fact is that God affirms that each child is so precious and so sacred as to have the basic right to be conceived in the chaste love of Holy Marriage. And even though various forms of sexual perversion have become normalized in our increasingly secularized society, such aberrant behaviors are never to be considered as normative. As a number of spiritual masters have pointed out over the ages - love is our origin, love is our life, and love is our destiny. And since the highest form of love is covenantal, the realization of our true dignity as human beings must be found in each of us, in our unique sacredness, becoming increasingly invested into the mystery and the ministry of covenantal love.  

Similarly, any authentic evangelization must be based upon the a solid rejection of the perverted premises of evolution. The theory of evolution values survival and expediency over integrity and
compassion. In direct opposition to this theory, the Church proclaims the truth of evocation - the fact that authentic human growth and development takes place in the context and in response to the call of Love. Human life cannot survive very long unless it is integrated into the mystery of the covenantal love, through which and in which God wills to draw each person into the fulness of life. Thus it is that salvation cannot be considered a private matter, in which one is saved in alienating aloofness for others. Salvation is communion with the covenantal Person of Jesus Christ, Whose life is lived and shared with all humanity in perfect covenantal intimacy with His Blessed Mother. He did not merely
"use her and lose her" in order to save us. In His divine love, He never "uses" anyone. Rather, He
graciously invites each person to share in the sanctifying mystery and ministry of His gracious love.
And, since graciousness can only bear fruit when it it is watered with gratitude, He humbly grew in wisdom, age and graciousness until His human nature became pure gratitude (Eucharist). Thus, He  
could infuse into the graciousness of our humble obedience the infinitude of His divine gratitude, so as to enable our ministry to bear fruit unto eternal life for many others. As St. Peter was clearly told on Holy Thursday, only those willing to allow Jesus to humble Himself and to wash their feet with His gratitude will be able to be His disciples and share in His inheritance.

Finally, the new wineskins needed to bring the Kingdom of God to the world must be permeated with the spirit of ongoing repentance. The Church grows only through such ongoing repentance - both in numbers and in spirituality. Thus she must always hold herself accountable to the whole truth of God, before she can efficaciously share the redeeming mystery of the Gospel with the world. Sadly, this basic spiritual truth is often overlooked. In a number of attempts to maintain a good public image rather than humbly and contritely seek God's mercy, Church leaders have left her in a scandalous situation. They have allowed sin to fester and metastacize to the point that even her sancturies have been violated by numerous sacrilegious Masses and Communions. As a result, the fear of the lawsuit has supplanted the fear of the Lord as the guiding principle in many chancery offices. Even now, calls for acts of reparation for the sins that have defiled the sanctuary are tragically few. And those suggesting such reparation for these sacrileges are often consigned to the status of voices crying in the wilderness. Such leaders also tend to accept the secular idea that healthy self-esteem is based on alienating pride, rather than on redemptive gratitude. There seems to be great difficulty in converting from the perspective of "I am better than you" to that of "I am better because of you". Yet it is only by a humble contrite acceptance of our ongoing need for redemption, both personal and relational, that we will the the flowering of the Faith around the world. Our Lord promises us, "Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, but whoever humbles himself will be exalted." When our
focus is no longer on how great we are, but rather on how great God is, we will discover, with purified minds and hearts, how the gracious redeeming wisdom of the Holy Spirit is again renewing the face of the earth.       

The choice is with us -  perpetuate the frustration that comes from trying to contain God's sanctifying graciousness in the old wineskins of "relevance" (i.e., the perverted premises of hedonism, evolution, secularism, relativism and materialism), or discover the joy of pouring out that new wine from the new wineskin of Divine Revelation (i.e., humble contrite receptivity to the mystery and ministry of God's gracious and grateful generosity).  

Jan. 19th, 2012

NEW WINESKINS - PART III

As indicated in the first two parts of this series, the key to resolving the many conundrums facing the Church in the modern world is to be found in identifying and correcting the defective and even perverted premises that are guiding the development of our language and thought processes. And this process requires that we begin by decisively rejecting the "Three Monkey Syndrome". Whereas the traditional Three Monkeys reminded us to "see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil", the current version of this motif imposed by the bullying tactics of the tyranny of relativism is to "see no Jesus, hear no Jesus and speak no Jesus". Thus the Church has been pressured to stop proclaiming the absolute truth of Christ's Gospel, but instead to "propose" that truth as merely one of many opinions. In her liturgy, she still  refers to the Person of the Eucharistic Christ as "it" rather than as "Him" in the prayer of co-mingling before the Agnus Dei, thus perpetuating doubts as to the Real Presence. And this obfuscation is compounded by the perpetuation of the heretical teaching that Christ is present in the Holy Eucharist, rather than as the Holy Eucharist. (Christ does not come to us in the Eucharist in the same way that I come to my friends in my car, but rather He is the Holy Eucharist - the Blessed Sacrament is thus much more than "a mode of Christ's presence". The Sacrament is Christ Himself - and should be reverenced as such at all times).     
The problems we face are rooted in three key secular dogmas -  Darwinian evolution, radical individualism, and dialectical materialism. Darwinian evolution tend to put survival above integrity as the highest priority. And this error is compounded by positing survival on power without moral accountability. Thus cheating, aborticide, infanticide, lying, exploiting the "unfit" are permissible -
provided one is able to evade or pervert the law to one's advantage by various forms of manipulation and cronyism. Human dignity thus is measured in terms of empowerment, not in terms of virtue, compassion and love. 
Radical individualism takes Darwinian evolution to another level by embracing self-fulfillment as the foundation of all ethics. Thus freedom is no longer seen as the ability to make and to keep one's commitments, but rather as the right to be fickle without accountability - and to have this fickleness
subsidized by others through contraception, abortion, entitlement programs, and the excitement of free entertainment. Subjectivity and relevance thus are elevated above accountability to Divine Revelation as the basis for determining what is right. And feelings, rather than truth, have become the guiding principles for the formation of one's conscience. As one song says it, "It can't be wrong, when it feels so right."
Thirdly, dialectical materialism proclaims that there is no objective virtue. All values are subject to change, so as to adapt to each person's evolving needs and desires. And since there are so many
religions and philosophies, human civilization needs to adapt to a new world view, not based upon the most noble aspirations of humanity, but on its lowest common denominator - crass materialism and
the pursuit to maximize comfort, convenience and complacency. And since secularism proclaims that human beings are merely over-evolved protoplasm, the common good can even require that those who cannot become adept at adapting to and adopting the values of the New World Order be terminated - lest they continue to suffer from their scruples and to disturb the continuing evolution of society with their "crippling" religious convictions.   
All this points to how critically important it is for Church leaders to reaffirm the absolute need for the world not merely to cherry-pick certain Gospel values in its grand designs. Rather, all humanity needs to decisively repent with us from these perverted perspectives. We cannot afford the arrogant luxury of justifying moral capitulation with such euphemisms as "dialogue", "ongoing discernment",
"tolerance", "relevance" and "respect for the individual conscience". Only by a radical break from this incremental perversion of our perspective will we be able to rejoice anew in the transcendent and transformative riches of divine graciousness offered to the world uniquely and decisively in and through the Person, the life, the mystery and the ministry of Jesus Christ.  
Ultimately, it will only be by the decisive renewal of both our Eucharistic doctrine and praxis, in a way that clearly, concisely and consistently proclaims the awesome and sanctifying sacredness of  Our
Eucharistic Lord that our vision will be cleared up enough to discover that our true dignity is not to be discovered in the decay and decadance of the material world, but only in the Love that draws us out of the pettiness of sin into the humility and the dignity of God's gracious and grateful generosity.
                                                                                                              ... to be continued

NEW WINESKINS - PART II

As indicated in Part I of this reflection, sin is not merely a distortion of action, It begins by distorting one's perspective, either by deliberate choice or by capitulation to social conventions. This, in turn, leads to a distorting of one's attitude. And after this distortion is ratified by specific action or negligence, it deforms one's character and one's eternal destiny.
Tragically, even if one regrets one's sins and, guided by God's gracious Holy Spirit, contritely enters into true repentance, the consequences of the sin remain incarnate in one's life. To use an example, if someone steals and wrecks a car, the owner of the car may forgive him, but that forgiveness does not change the fact that the accident has left him paralyzed for life. He may not have to go to prison for his crime, but he is definitely imprisoned by the consequences of his sin for the rest of his life. 
The mutilation of humanity due to sin is even more serious and complicatred than this scenerio. Every sin introduces a metastacizing and multidimensional perversion into our perspectives, attitudes, actions and characters in a way that compounds the catastrophic consequences of other people's sins in our shared human condition. And such sins also affect people who are not immediately guilty of a particular sin. To use another example, by choosing to compound the sin of drunkenness with the sin of driving while intoxicated, a man can end up destroying the life of a whole family coming back from a church service - even though he had no direct intention of hurting anyone by his "private" sins.
As indicated in an earlier article, even in the Church, we see how actions have grave consequences on others. Since the Catholic Church is the People of God, what we do as Catholics has serious and lasting effects on the whole world. Every time a Catholic chooses not to participate at Sunday Mass, the world is deprived of the special blessings which can only come upon it through his own unique participation in the prayer life of the whole Body of Christ. And since the Mass is the re-presentation of Christ's salvific sacrifice on Calvary, such an absence is a de facto denial of the reality and validity of that sacrifice. For that sacrifice involved the whole Body of Christ -  both Jesus, its Head, and all who are members of that Body through baptism into the Church. With less than 25% of Catholics being conscientious about being faithful to their Baptismal promise to participate in this sacrifice at least on Sunday, it is no wonder that the world is so seriously wounded and confused by the power of the Father of Lies. To compound this, many in the state of mortal sin refuse to repent and to receive God's healing forgiveness through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Instead, they insist on covering up their sin by committing the sacrilege of receiving the Eucharistic Christ in the state of serious sin. And this tragic state of affairs is repeated by others. Many, who have cheated, stolen, slandered, lusted, fornicated, and otherwise desecrated themselves and others, routinely compound their sins both by the sacrilege of receiving the Eucharistic Christ and by the sacrilege of embracing the lie that Jesus does not really consider their sins as serious. I could go on for pages detailing the various serious sins, for which people seek to sieze the Eucharistic "seal of approval". But suffice it
to say that such attitudes and actions affect the condition of the Church, and consequently of all humanity, in a way analogous to a man suffering from a 75% blockage in his arteries, compounded by serious infections in his bloodstream. This is not, in my humble opinion, the renewal envisioned by the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council. But it does clearly indicate the serious consequences of an ongoing capitulation to the radically alienating agendas of radical individualism, secularism, relativism, hedonism and materialism.
The first step needed for the Church to break away from the tendency to appease the world's craving for relevance is for a renewed appreciation of the wisdom of Blessed John Paul II, when he asked that the third Luminous Mystery of the Rosary be  The Proclamation of the Kingdom with the Call to Repentance (emphasis added). Such repentance involves both sincere sorrow for having offended God, substantial restitution or reparation for our sins, and a firm purpose of amendment in harmony with the whole truth of God. Such humble repentance must be appreciated as a gracious gift of the Holy Spirit. While it is possible to wallow in the subtle pride of guilt, such guilt cannot open the way to authentic forgiveness and reconciliation. It remains focused on self (e.g., "How could I be so dumb, so perverse, so weak, so calous, so cruel, etc. to do such a thing"). In sharp contrast, true deliverance from sin can only be realized in Christ by sincere contrition, based on a humble gratitude for the compassionate mercy of God (Who has been gracious enough to preserve my life after I sinned, then to bring me to realize the seriousness of my sin, then to offer me forgiveness, healing, reconciliation and strength through the Sacrament of Reconciliation and, if needed, the Anointing of the Sick). The bottom line is that I cannot save myself. Neither can all I be delivered from my sin by the rationalizations offered through secular psychology. Though the powers of this world may be able to temporarily numb the pain of my sin with their vapid excuses and placebos, they cannot heal my brokenness.  Only the humble and contrite sharing of my brokenness with God, combined with an reverent receptivity to the redemption offered through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, can bring me into a sanctifying joy and a peace, which this world can neither give nor take away from me.
One important point must be stressed here, though. The redemptive graciousness offered in Christ is both transcendent and transformative. To properly receive it, we are required to allow ourselves to be dis-illusioned from the false perspectives and premises of sin. Only in this way can we be completely delivered from the dissolution that sin brings into our lives and relationships. And the greatest and most seductive illusion foisted upon humanity by the Father of Lies goes all the way back to the primordial and archetypical deception in the Garden of Eden. It is the idea that fulfillment is to be discovered not in the obedience, love, trust and gratitude of consecrated covenantal love, but rather in the alienated autonomy of radical individualism, which prefers to use people rather than to love them.
(e.g., Eve "shared" the forbidden fruit with Adam not as an act of generosity, but as a way to use him to personally ratify the deception that made her think that her sin was not all that serious)
The new wine skins that are needed, therefore, must be strong enough to maintain their integrity, while withstanding the pressure gererated by those who are willing to repent only in accord with their own agendas, which they call their "conscience". With patience, prayer and fidelity to the whole truth of God, however, such souls can be gradually led to realize how supeficial and transient is the "salvation" offered by their agendas and lifestyles. Then, by God's grace operating through the sanctifying ministry of the whole Body of Christ, they can open themselves up to the wonder of the transforming graciousness offered to the world in Christ. That transforming graciousness draws all into a new perspective of integral humanity, which we will examine in Part III of this reflection. 
                                                                                                              ... to be continued

   

Jan. 4th, 2012

NEW WINESKINS NEEDED - PART I

In the Gospel, Jesus warns about the danger of putting new wine into old wineskins. Sadly, over the years, many have distorted the meaning ot this instruction  in order to accommodate all kinds of theological novelties, which subtly distorted key dimensions of the authentic teachings of Christ.
In our own day, these distortions tend to deny the need for any development of doctrine and discipline in the Church to be organic and faithful to the lived Tradition of the Faith. Instead, ideas that seem novel and revolutionary are often embraced with little real discernment. And any discernment tends to beguided more by the desire to promote happy hormones than by the commitment to live out the sanctifying graciousness of Christ crucified. Convenience is thus readily embraced as a key factor in determining whether a Church teaching should be changed. As a result, Catholics have been led to believe that expediency should guide their understanding of the true nature of spiritual integrity. This problem is further compounded by a distorted idea of inculturation, whereby the degradation of the standards of virtue - especially with regard to marriage and sexuality - is accepted as part of the ongoing "evolution" of Church teaching.
This tendency has even invaded the sanctuary of the Church in America. In a tragic and futile effort to play catch-up with our culture's obsessive-compulsive quest for relevance and convenience, we have seen the regular capitulation to convenience. We have had the number of holy days of obligation cut  back, rescheduled to the nearest Sunday, or diminished to merely holy days (if they fall on Saturday or Monday). We de facto have accepted the praxis of a diminished fast before Holy Communion, with
a special unwritten exception for those who feel the need to chew gum during Mass - and even while coming to receive Our Lord in Holy Communion. We have the combining of Communion in the hand with the baking of crumbly bread for consecration, resulting in so many sacred particles of the Eucharistic Christ being dropped on the floor that the local church vacuum cleaner bag becomes a de facto tabernacle. And we have had many of the moral demands of the Gospel with regard to chastity and marriage reduced to merely preferential options. All this has been interpreted by many Catholics as a sign that the  Church is indeed playing catch-up with ever-evolving and prophetic voices of the consciences of its people.
All the above is partially the result of the vitually unquestioned acceptance by many Catholics of the "gospel" of self-fulfillment, proclaimed so widely through the relativism, pragmatism and hedonism of our society. Many think that spirituality should be guided by their personal feelings, rather than by
objective truth. Even the Gospel is perceived not as the proclamation of the eternal truth of God, but
rather as proclamation of the agendas of particular evangelists of the first century. Many thus feel that it is best interpreted as a holy Rorschach test, so as to help one fulfill his/her quest for meaning, relevance and the fulfillment. 
In the Church, this is also reinforced by the tendency of so many to identify the path for the salvation of one's soul not with the mystery of the Self-emptying love of Christ crucified, but with the satiation offered by the fulfillment of one's agenda, perspective and lifestyle. Thus, they are led to allege that any Church teaching, which does not harmonize with their personal agenda, may be rejected. And,
since the evolution of ecumenism over the years has led to the popular acceptance of the idea that faithful membership in the Catholic Church is not necessary for salvation, many feel free to leave the Church, in order to be nurtured by more inspiring and relevant communities. They even go so far, at times, as to assert that the absolute supremecy of personal conscience may even demand that one break away from the Catholic Church.
This tendency is also strengthened by the degeneration of the meaning of conscience. Our cultural understanding of conscience has gradually eroded over the past fifty years. We have gone from "Do
what God has commanded", to "Do what is right", to "Do what you think is right", to "Do what you feel is right", to "If it feels right, do it". As one popular song put it several years ago, "It can't be wrong, if it feels so right." Ironically, though, the happiness promised by allowing one's life to be guided by such evolving awareness of the meaning of conscience has been as frustrating and evasive
as the refreshment that was always just beyond the grasp of Tantalus. In spite of this, many continue to accept as dogma the idea that an evolved consience is better than a conscience rightly formed by the whole truth of God. Sadly, this is confirmed even by a number of bishops, who require that their priests violate their sincere consciences by offering the Eucharistic Christ in Holy Communion to those, whose sin-seared consciences lead them to pro-actively promote abortion - thus seeking to seal and ratify the legitimacy of their perverse policies with the Most Sacred Body and Blood of Christ. (And God help the priest who dares to raise the question as to whether this is sacrilegious)
All the above shows how a radical and alienating individualism has poisoned even the life of the Church. With the Church seen as merely a means to enhance and fulfill one's personal agendas, any
fellowship within the Church soon stagnates at the level of the symbiotic or the parasitic.  And ministry becomes mired in pragmatism and favoritism. It is any wonder, then, that we have witnessed a hemorrhaging of souls to the point where the second largest religious group in America today is
fallen away Catholics. And even among those who still consider themselves to be Catholics, we see
that attendance at weekly Mass is down to twenty-five percent or less. It is rather obvious, then, that  radical individualism, even when tempered by the convenience offered by symbiosis or the subtle pride nurtured by the charitable works of an alienated altruism, cannot address the deepest needs of the human soul. But as long as Church praxis gives only lip service to the cross of Christ, while capitulating to the tyranny of relativism and its demands that she appease people's desires for complaceny, comfort and convenience, the new wine of divine graciousness will merely subsist in small droplets within her, rather than overflow in redemptive abundance upon the whole world.  
                                                                                                                 ... to be continued  

Dec. 14th, 2011

SACRILEGE - THE UNSPEAKABLE SIN

Over the past several decade, in an ongoing quest to seek relevant to the cultural trends and mindset of the secular world, the Church seems to be rather reluctant about expressing the reality of the evil and of the metastacizing perversion of the sin of sacrilege. This goes along with the mindset of political correctness, which seeks to put a positive spin on sin by replacing the judgmental word "immoral" with less offensive terms, such as "unethical" or "inappropriate". This practice is an offshoot of a modern tendency to promote as normative an "evolutionary" perversion of theology, in place of a faithful organic development of theology in accordance with the consistent teaching of the Church through the ages. Such an approach goes along with the prejudice that affirms that anything new must be better and thatall development is progress. Yet any "progress" that is not in full harmony with the integral development of the Catholic Faith is actually pathological. It is like a cancerous tumor, which develops and grows within the body at a rapid rate, but not in harmony with the organic growth of the rest of the body. Just because tumor is new and growing rapidly does not make it healthy for the whole body. Rather, it is a pathology that must be devisively excised from the body.
The avoidance of addressing the real evil of sacrilege is also a consequence of seeking to be relevant to the New Age "gospel" of continual self-fulfillment and self-gratification. Many in the Church see her mission as one of promoting self-esteem, of helping people feel good about themselves. Even in the confessional, many people confess that they "feel bad" about doing wrong, with little indication of any awareness of how seriously their sins have offended God. Such spirituality tends to overlook the importance of the cross of Christ in the life of faith. As a result, many are left cluelss about the need to deny themselves, to take up their cross daily and to follow Christ in fidelity to the integrity and sanctifying graciousness of divine mercy.
Even among the clergy, there has been a tendency to allow the business model of Church to focus attention on operational stability to the point of allowing her prophetic charism to be shackled with the demands of political correctness. The "ordering" of Holy Orders is thus seen more in terms of bureaucratic efficiency than in terms of fidelity to the organic integration of all into the mystery and ministry of Christ.
This serious problem of sacrilege is most evident in the casual way in which so many come to receive Holy Communion. Sadly, even the 1996 Guidelines for Reception of Communion does not discourage people guilty of serious sin from receiving Holy Communion, but only those who are conscious of serious sin. With the abundance of new excuses for old sins in this age of moral relativism, such an approach tends to legitimatize dissent from the authoritative moral teaching of the Church in favor of the authoritarian arrogance of the tyranny of relativism. It also overlooks the fact that lack of culpability due to ignorance does not guarantee lack of consequences. If one takes poison that he thinks is actually aspirin, he still gets sick - or even dies.Likewise, if one gets a drink of pure spring water with a glass, which has not been cleaned after contact with infectuous waste, that person will also get sick.So also, those in serious sin that has not neen sacramentally absolved put themselves in grave, or even lethal, spiritual danger.
In addition to the serious consequences of sacrilegious reception of Holy Communion for the individual soul,  there is an ecclesial dimension to such sacrilege. Our world is now confronted with threats from a host of metastacizing and multidimensional evils, which are quite evident in our social, political and economical lives. I cannot help but to wonder how many of these evils are the consequence of Catholics receiving Holy Communion in the state of objectively serious sin. How many Catholics routinely (irreverently?) receive Holy Communion, without repenting and receiving
sacramental absolution for the following serious sins - glibly failing to participate at Mass every Sunday, contraception, abortion, slander, fraud, fornication, adultery, pornographic perversions, sodomy, pedophilia, physical or verbal abuse of others, masturbation and deliberately not mentioning a mortal sin in Confession? The grave seriousness of this situation was vividly dramatized by the response to the priest child abuse scandals, which came to light over the past two decades. When these horrible sins came to light, little was said about the obscenely grave sacrilege of unrepentant priests offering Mass and receiving the Precious Body of Blood of Christ in the state of serious sin. Political correctness again seemed to trump true devotion.
It should finally be noted that, when souls in the state of serious sin do receive Holy Communion, aside from compounding their sin, they also pollute their spirituality, to the point that their ministry becomes nothing more than helping others move from coach to first-class in that long black train going to hell. And as the living waters of divine graciousness continue to be polluted by unchallenged and unrepented sacrileges, the Church's ability to proclaim clearly and efficaciously the redeeming love offered through the cross of Christ will also lose its credibility in a world incresingly poisoned by cynicism and skepticism.
May we all come to appreciate more deeply the mercy of God, Who continues to call us to authentic repentance from such grave and degenerate sacrileges, so that the authentic hope of salvation offered therough the pierced Heart of Christ may renew us all in the rich and redeeming graciousness
of His Holy Spirit.
denied organic integration into the    

Dec. 6th, 2011

AUTHENTIC HOPE

One of the tragedies of our modern world has been the tendency to embrace what George Orwell referred to in his novel 1984 as Newspeak, whereby euphemisms are so twisted as to call slavery
"freedom" and constant oppression as "peace".
Of particular interest here is the way the word "hope" has been distorted to describe what the Church has traditionally called presumption. All kinds of immoral and lax behaviors have been embraced on the basis of the presumption that the Church's teaching will "evolve" so as to allow various forms of codependence to be included within the parameters of "pastoral compassion". People have been led to "hope" that their enslavement to lust, greed, irreverence, resentment and a host of other vices will gradually come to be accepted as normal and even normative through the "prophetic ministry" of our modern purveyors of perversion. In order to develop a New World Order on the basis of fostering pleasure and convenience at all costs, such "prophets" urge people to reject the saving mystery of the cross of Christ, so as to discover "true liberation" from their moral inhibitions. Thus, our legal system has come to open the doors for sexual promiscuity by denying the personhood of pre-born children, by proscribing chastity education as an "establishment of religion", by promoting "no-fault" divorce, by imposing medical treatments on our youth so as to enable them to feel free to engage in "safe sex", and by expanding "protected minority" status to practitioners of all kinds of sexual deviance. 
There is big money to be made in pornography and promiscuity. And so many institutions promote perverse behaviors so as to enhance their "bottom line". Readily accessible pornography is now as de rigueur in most hotels and motels as Gideon Bibles used to be. Many psychologists have also discovered that the mainstreaming of perversion is quite lucrative. At a meeting in Baltimore this
past August, one group even called for the reclassification of pedphilic desires as healthy. On many a college campus today, aside from co-ed dorms, and an abundance of contraceptive resources, the new protocols of politeness demand that a student go to the library to study, in order to allow her roommate to turn their dorm room into a temporary brothel - a tragic fact accentuated a few years ago when one young woman was abducted and killed while acceding to this protocol. And back in the 1960's, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology was shown that "the pill" was not only a contraceptive, but also an abortifacient. It resolved this inconvenient truth by conveniently changed the definition of conception from fertilization to implantation. There is, indeed, big money to be made in helping people to invent new excuse for old sins.
As a result of these and many other factors, many now have embraced a new audacity of hope, which envisions the gradual mainstreaming of perversion by redefining such terms as "acceptance", "tolerance" and "hospitality" so as to promote a sea-change of social consciousness. In that way, they hope to bring society to a point where our laws and customs will gradually come to view any number of sinful behaviors as normal, then as normative and finally as healthy.
In direct opposition to this perverting of our culture, authentic hope, as proclaimed by Christ, points to the fact that, by God's graciousness, no one needs to be a slave to sin or an addict to perversion. The true hope that He proclaims convicts the heart that, in Him, forgiveness can be found and true integrity brought to fruition in the mystery of divine righteousness. Although this freedom requires the struggle of the cross, in this struggle a joy and a love is discovered that this world can neither give nor take away. Through ongoing repentance and a deepening appreciation of the many dimensions of Divine Mercy, a soul is able to discover a more profound and authentic dignity than is offered through the manipulative functionalism of secularism.
The key factor that distinguishes perverted hope from authentic hope is the sacred Person of Jesus Christ. Without Him, there can be no victory over the degenerative power of sin and death. Thus it is that, if a man accepts the seriously defective premises of secularism, he cannot experience the regenerative graciousness of God's promises. And thus it is that, whenever Church leaders allow themselves to divorce Gospel principles from the Person of Jesus Christ, all they end up doing is helping souls move from coach to first class in that "long black train" going to hell. Authentic hope can only be realized through a repentant, grateful and reverent participation in the mystery and ministry of the cross of Christ. Secular salvation may offer us the fleeting thrills of happy hormones, but only Jesus Christ can bring us lasting hope and joy.
May all come to appreciate the hope, the joy and the peace He offers us through His gracious sacrificial love!       

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