27 July 2015

Pull the weeds! Or not. . .

NB. From 2009, by request. . .

17th Week OT (Tues): Ex 33.7-11, 34.5-9, 28; Matt 13.36-43
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
Sisters of St Mary of Namur

Jesus fell for it! His disciples ask for the meaning of the sower's parable and Jesus caves. Just yesterday, I was praising our Lord for having the proper teacherly attitude toward the use of parables. Up until today, he has resisted the temptation to dissect his stories, to take them apart for close inspection and risk killing them for the sake of ever-elusive clarity. But today his students want to know what the sower's parable “means.” They ask Jesus, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.” Jesus explains his story by matching each image or action in the parable with a parallel image or action from scripture: “He who sows good seed is the Son of Man, the field is the world, the good seed the children of the Kingdom,” and so on. For the disciples and probably most of those reading this passage centuries later, Jesus has the last word on the meaning of this parable. And why not? It's his story, so he gets to interpret it. Even if we accept as definitive the meaning he gives to this parable, we can still ask why he gave it an explanation in the first place. Well, the Psalmist sings this morning, “The Lord is kind and merciful,” so maybe Jesus is taking pity on the metaphor-challenged. But doesn't Jesus say in earlier readings that only those who are graced with insight can understand the parables? If the disciples need to be taught the correct interpretation, does that mean that they don't have graced insight? Or is Jesus doing something here other than what it at first appears he is doing? The Lord can be very sneaky when he wants to be. . .

The disciples ask Jesus to explain the parable to them. Does Jesus do this; does he explain the parable? More or less. What he does is give them the interpretative keys to the story; he lays out for them how to give the parable meaning by giving it one meaning—the sower is the Son of Man; the field is the world, etc. So, one way of explaining the parables is to replace story elements (images, characters) with complementary elements from scripture and then work out how these elements tell a new story. The explanation that Jesus gives is not The Explanation for All Ages; it is what we could call a hermeneutical pattern, or an interpretative model. For example, the sower of seed could be the Church; the field could be missionary territories; the seeds could be fired-up catechists and their families, etc. Are their limits to this sort of interpretative model? Oh yes. I used to warn my students away from hermeneutical relativism by telling them, “There may be no one right interpretation of this poem, but there are millions of wrong ones!”

In the case of the sower's parable, Jesus enlightens his disciples with an explanation that cracks open a cosmic story, an end-time tale of how All This ends in a harvest of souls for heaven and a midden-heap of sinners for the fiery furnaces of hell. Though we might tinker with the details and shift around the storyline, what we cannot avoid in the sower's parable is the rather straightforward teaching that our choices as loved-creatures have eternal consequences. We are animals gifted with reason; set above the angels because we are free to love or not. To love as we ought is to measure our share in the divine life; to fail to love as we ought is to measure our grave for an eternal abode. With a face set in stone and a heart to match, the anti-lover will burn—maybe it will be the furnace fires of hell, or maybe it will be the scalding freeze of a deathless void. Whatever else hell may be, it is to be eternally abandoned. And the most appalling part is that it is freely chosen abandonment.

Jesus explains the parable to the disciples, but he doesn't refine his explanation into a full-blown interpretation. He gives them and us a way to understand what our glorious or inglorious end looks like. There is a choice to make. As always-loved creatures, we receive Christ's wisdom to the limits of our capacity. Augustine liked to (unknowingly) misquote Isaiah, “Unless you will have believed, you will not understand” (Isa 7.9). First comes our assent to the Good News of God's mercy, then comes our understanding of what that mercy means for us eternally. If, as Aquinas teaches us, we receive according to our natures, then make sure your nature is properly graced in belief to receive the truth of a parable—even if the details escape your less-than-poetical imagination. Remember: parables do the teaching; Jesus does the saving.


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26 July 2015

God provides all that we need

17th Sunday OT
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
Our Lady of the Rosary, NOLA
Divine providence: God provides. We are asked this evening to acknowledge and receive all that our Father has to give us. And all that God has to give us is God Himself. Our Father takes care of us so that we might come to Him in love and live with Him eternally. When it comes to providing for His people our God is never stingy, never thrifty. By nature, He is always generous, abundantly gracious, even extravagant. But here's the thing. . .He provides in copious amounts all that we need to come to Him in love. Not all that we might want. Not all that we think we deserve. But all that we need to come to Him in love. What God knows we need to thrive is not always what we think we need to survive. Our daily challenge is ask for and receive from God all that we truly need and not worry over the stuff that cannot bring us closer to Him. 
How do we even begin to tackle this task? How do we effectively separate what we truly need from what we merely want? One way to do this is to think about The Basics for Survival. Ask yourself: what can I not live without? Literally, not live without. Meaning, if I didn't have this, I would die. Food and water come to mind. Some sort of shelter from the elements. Clothing would be good. For some of us, we could add this or that medication. With access to these things we could keep body and soul together. That's a good start but our goal here is not mere survival. Yes, we need to be alive in order to get closer to God in this life but just getting by isn't the same as thriving under His care. We need more than the material necessities to fulfill our goal, our end in love. Remember the purpose of creation is “that all creatures should manifest the glory of God”* and for us in particular it is to attain “the full development of [our human] nature and to eternal happiness in God.” What do we need on a daily basis to assist us in fully developing our human nature so that we might attain eternal happiness in God? The one thing we need more than anything else is God Himself. We cannot become the men and women we were made to be w/o Him. And we certainly cannot attain eternal happiness w/o the source of that happiness working in our lives.

If you knew this already, then you know that merely surviving as an intelligent animal is not your reason for being. If you didn't know this, then hear it again: we need God not only to exist, to survive as we are, we also need Him to thrive, to grow, and to become perfectly human, perfectly happy as Christ himself was perfectly human and perfectly happy. God's providence, His loving-care for us, comes to us as graces, gifts, freely given. Our tradition tells us that “Providence is God Himself,” God gives Himself to us for our spiritual provision. He gives Himself to us in our existence – that we exist at all is His gift. He gives Himself to us in our ability to love one another – that we are capable of loving is His gift. He gives Himself to us in our desire to return to Him – that we long for happiness, peace, consolation is His gift. He gives Himself to us in His sacraments, His Church, His Word—that we are one Body in Christ is His gift. He gives Himself to us in faith, hope, charity – that we are able to trust Him and His promises is a gift. All we need to flourish and grow toward happiness is provided; freely, abundantly, extravagantly given. Why then do we find ourselves so often wallowing in unhappiness? It's not for lack for divine provision. It's b/c we have yet to find a workable way of separating what we truly need from we merely want. When we are unhappy, we are dwelling on what we do not have. We have locked ourselves in the prison of scarcity, a self-made spiritual illusion.

Paul is in prison – a real prison – for preaching the Good News. He writes a letter to the Church in Ephesus, urging them “to live in a manner worthy of the call [they] have received. . .” What call have they received? They were called to Christ by Paul to live lives of repentance and sacrificial love. This sort of life must be lived with “all humility and gentleness, with patience. . .” There's no mention here of a new car, a better paying job, a better-looking spouse, smarter kids, the latest electronic gadget, or an off-shore tax shelter. Humility, gentleness, and patience. All divinely provided free of charge. Have you received these gifts so that you might be happy? If you have received them, do you use them? How should we live together? Paul writes that living lives worthy of our call means “bearing with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace.” No mention of liking one another; agreeing with one another politically; being thrilled to bump into one another at Mass; or going to the movies together. Bear with one another in love; strive to be one in the spirit b/c we all want peace. Also, all divinely provided. Have you received these gifts and do you use them if you have? From the prison-cell of scarcity, all we can ever see is what we do not have. Wanting is not needing. If you need it to grow in holiness, it has already been given to you.

Look at the 5,000 who gather around Jesus to hear him preach and watch him heal. When Jesus sees the crowd, he wants to feed them. He turns to his disciples and asks a perfectly reasonable question: can we afford to feed this many with what we have? Philip, avoiding the question, anxiously notes that even if they spent the wages earned over 200 days, they wouldn’t have enough food. Andrew pushes forward a boy who has some food, but gloomily notes that the little he has won’t be enough for the crowd. Can’t you hear and see Jesus sigh and roll of the eyes!? At this late date, these two still don’t get it! Philip and Andrew see only scarcity; they see only what they don't have or how little they have. Jesus doesn’t berate them. He teaches them: “Have the people recline.” Have the people prepare to feast. And they do. And afterward Jesus tells his disciples to pay attention to the excesses of the feast, what’s leftover, the abundant remainder of what they could only see at first as scarcity. Is this a lesson about how to stretch a meal on a budget? No. Jesus feeds us with the bread of eternal life – all that we need to attain perfect happiness. Philip and Andrew do not see the possibilities packed into the bread Christ offers the crowd. Not only is there enough for everyone, there's an abundance of leftovers. In other words, there is mercy and love and trust enough for everyone to attain their happiness and leftovers besides. God provides in copious amounts all that we need to come to Him in love. What He knows we need to thrive is not always what we think we need to survive. 
Our daily challenge is to ask for and receive all that we truly need and not worry about the stuff that cannot bring us closer to God. We are free from the prison of sin; do not lock yourself up in the prison-cell of scarcity. Receive what God has given you – all that you truly need – and thrive onto eternal happiness in Him! 

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24 July 2015

Coffee Cup Browsing (Friday)

Strange. Man intending to commit mass murder ignores Gun-Free Zone signs and. . .commits mass murder. Perhaps he was illiterate. 

No GOP politician should answer media abortion questions until the Dems take a position on Planned Parenthood's trafficking in baby parts.

Big Corps (no pun) fleeing from Planned Parenthood!

Nuns go to the Supremes to save their right to freely exercise their religion.

The Left always eats its own


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23 July 2015

The frustrating truth of parabales

16th Week OT (Thurs)
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St Dominic Church, NOLA

Poets use verse to hide secret messages. Everyone knows that they could just say what they mean in plain prose, but the whole point of poetry is to figure out the code—the symbols, the allusions, etc.—and then decipher the hidden message to win the prize! Once you crack the code a poet uses, all of his or her poems can be decrypted in the same way. Every time I've taught poetry, I've had to un-teach this method of reading poetry. At some point in the class – especially with E. Dickinson or W. Stevens – someone will snap and cry out in frustration: “Just tell us what it means!!!” Though I am moved to pity, I am also resolved to resist allowing my students to turn good poetry into a de-coder ring game. Jesus seems to share my teacherly attitude when it comes to his parables. Those listening to Jesus must be about ready to do a little shouting all their own: “Mustard seeds! Fig trees! Wine presses! What are you talking about?!” The irony here, of course, is that Jesus is speaking in parables not to hide the truth, but to uncover it. He says, “I will open my mouth in parables, I will announce what has lain hidden from the foundation of the world.” Like enjoying good poetry, understanding a parable is more an experience of wisdom than it is an act of intellect. It's not so much about what you know as how you live.
Poetry, prophecy, parables – all very risky ways of telling the truth. You would do a lot better with a straightforward propositional claim, or even a mathematical equation. No ambiguity, no room for getting it wrong. The future, if we are to know it, must be known clearly; otherwise, we will make all sorts of mistakes now. Of course, some say that the future is mute. Emily Dickinson declares: “The Future never spoke,/Nor will he, like the Dumb,/Reveal by sign or syllable/Of his profound To-come.” What is to come for us is not revealed by sign or syllable. Why? The future never spoke, nor will he. Notice that the parables Jesus proposes are not about the future either. They do not gesture toward tomorrow, rather they describe what the wise can already see: the kingdom of God grows, spreads, breathes life into, is infectious, multiplies. What has lain hidden at the foundation of the world is that the world's foundation is God's kingdom.
Jesus “proposed” his parables to the crowds. The wise see. Those who do not see nonetheless get a glimpse, a flash of what lay underneath. Like the seeds and leaven, the parables themselves work their way into the soil of the imagination, into the flour of the spirit and begin expand, multiply, and breath until they either propose wisdom or produce frustration. Maybe we should say that frustration is the beginning of wisdom. It could be the rough edges of a tale that move us into seeking out more and more. . .or maybe just the half-told truths of fable that spark a quest. . .or even the odd little story about a woman and her bread dough. . .none of these are about a fictional future but a deepened present. 
Given that our world seems to be spinning out of control, how does it change your day to believe for even a minute or two that the foundations of this world rest on the kingdom of God?
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Coffee Cup Browsing (To Hell in a Handbasket Edition)

ABC/CBS/NBC/NYT, etc: the whores of Moloch

"Crush Planned Parenthood". . .excellent plan!

"Not all individuals who menstruate identify as women. . ."

B.O.'s disastrous Iran deal

Armed civilians defending military recruiters b/c the military recruiters are not allowed to defend themselves.

Top 20 cities Americans are running away from. . .

New U.S. citizens can opt-out of pledge to defend the nation. 

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19 July 2015

To be a good shepherd, be a good sheep

16th Sunday OT
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
Our Lady of the Rosary, NOLA

Shepherds all over the world must quake in their sandals when they hear Jeremiah prophesy: “Woe to the shepherds who mislead and scatter the flock of my pasture, says the Lord. . .against the shepherds who shepherd my people [the Lord says]: You have scattered my sheep and driven them away. You have not cared for them, but I will take care to punish your evil deeds.” If these malicious sheep-herders don't flinch in fear at this warning, they should! They have taken on not only the hard work of keeping their sheep safe from the wolves, they have placed themselves squarely in the sight of the sheep's owner who watches his flock with an unblinking eye. What the Lord knows and the shepherds should know is that the dangers of the wilderness come closer when the flock is divided. One set of shepherd's eyes cannot keep watch over a flock separated by hungry wolves. The lambs are the first to die, but the killing rarely stops there. And so says the Lord: “I will appoint shepherds for them who will shepherd them so that they need no longer fear and tremble; and none shall be missing...” The Lord has done more than appoint responsible shepherds for his flock; He has sent us the Good Shepherd who keeps the flock together, creating in his own body one flock, one people. Woe to the wolves who would divide his flock and woe to any of the Lord's shepherds would let the wolves among his sheep!

Jesus, the Good Shepherd, and his disciples are exhausted and hungry because they have been preaching the Word and healing the sick for many days. They retreat to a deserted place to grab a snack and catch a quick nap. Leaving in a boat to find a moment's peace, they are astonished to find that a vast crowd of clamoring souls waiting for them when they arrive. Mark tells us that when Jesus sees the crowd “his heart [is] moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he [begins] to teach them many things.” Not yet made one flock in Christ, the vast crowd is united however in achieving a single purpose: they are in pursuit of the Truth — a truth that binds and heals in the binding.

Hungry for a Word of healing and compassion, those in the crowd are relentless in chasing down Jesus and his disciples. They are sheep without a shepherd. Men and women without protection, without a teacher. They have been abandoned by their appointed shepherds who rule them from the temple with the legal commentary and ritual pettiness. They are misled and scattered by shepherds who attend to nothing but their own power and prestige. No longer born or raised in compassion, the people of the crowd seek after a better way, another path to their Lord's affections. In the preaching and good works of Jesus they see and hear a way to be one people again, living and loving under the merciful eyes of their God. What they do not yet understand is that the way of Christ they hope to follow will lead them into a flock larger and more robust than any they have ever imagined possible. This is just one of the many truths that Jesus has to teach them.

Many years after Jesus looks out over the vast crowd with compassion and teaches them the way to salvation, Paul writes to the young church in Ephesus, reminding them of their of spiritual history, calling to mind again their fallen state before the coming of Christ. He writes, “You were dead in your transgressions and sins in which you once lived...All of us once lived among them in the desires of our flesh...and we were by nature children of wrath...Therefore, remember that [you] were at that time without Christ, alienated from the community of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, without hope and without God in the world.” Dead in sin. Children of wrath. Alienated from Israel. Strangers to the covenants. Without hope. Without God. Without God in the world until the Word of God was made flesh and dwelt among us as one of us. Having devastated the Ephesian pride by retelling their mournful history without Christ, Paul goes on to teach them one truth: “...through [his] flesh, [Christ] abolish[ed] the law with its commandments and legal claims, that he might create in himself one new person in place of the two...” This new creation brings the Father's two children together in peace—His chosen people and the people who choose Him: all of Israel and the Gentile world. One person—one body, one soul made whole again in Christ.

The unity we enjoy as sheep in the Good Shepherd's flock binds us and heals us in the binding. No longer outside the promises of the covenant, we as a Body live and love with one heart and one soul, burdened by nothing more than a lightened load carried under the well-worn yoke of the Master Shepherd. And though our unity sometimes creaks under the strain of theological and cultural differences, we can look toward the ultimate fulfillment of our created purpose to be Christs for the world and find a blueprint, a promise for what it looks like to stand before the throne of God and sing His praises with one voice, to worship in His glory as nation, a people, a priesthood of prophets and kings. But if we live now dreaming only of a perfected future, we fail to do the work of the apostles; we fail to go out and teach everything that the Lord as taught us. Who will hear the Word if no one speaks it? Who will speak the Word if no one is sent.

We are sent to speak the Word of reconciliation and peace to the world to hear. Not words of passive forgetting or surrender, not words of capitulation and withdrawal from conflict, but the Word of God Who created us to love Him and one another. As brothers and sisters in Christ we are both sheep and shepherds, leaders and the led. If we will to be good shepherds, then we must will to be good sheep. And as faithful leaders, we will listen eagerly to the warning Jeremiah sends from the Lord: “Woe to the shepherds who mislead and scatter the flock of my pasture...” The wolves circling the flock are called by many names: Religious Indifference,* Racial Tribalism, Terrorism, Relativism, Lawlessness, Scientism,** Collectivism, Slavery to Desire, New Ageism, and many, many others. The immediate and most effective means of confronting these wolves is the teaching of Christ in his Church, the ancient and unbroken teaching of many true things.

We are no longer a vast crowd clamoring after Jesus and his disciples for healing in the truth. He has given us every truth we are capable of hearing. Our task now is to grow in our hearing so that our understanding may overflow in love, and by overflowing in love, draw us closer and closer to the holiness we were made to enjoy.

* The idea that one religious is just as good/right as any another; the rejection of the unique revelation of Christ as Savior.

** Replaces religious faith with an uncritical faith in material science; e.g., the Church of Global Warming.

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Coffee Cup Browsing (Sunday)

"No accountability, no transparency — just a pattern of bureaucratic failure that has cost lives and has fueled anger against government."

Willful Ignorance of the MSM in explaining why that Elderly Presbyterian Lady murdered five U.S. servicemen in Chattanooga. 

Catholics rally to combat demonic statute in Detroit.  

Jebbies at USF celebrate the invention of SSM.


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16 July 2015


15th Week OT (Thur): Ex 3.13-20; Matt 11.28-30
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St Dominic Church, NOLA

God reveals Himself to Moses on Mt Horeb as “ipsum esse subsistens.”* Who God Is and That God Is are identical. As Being Himself there is no difference between God's essence (who) and His existence (that). No difference, no distinction. Using the first person imperfect of the Hebrew verb “to be,” God unveils the mystery of His abiding presence to Moses as: I AM Who Is. At this revelation we are stunned into reverent silence. It is unlikely that any limited creature will truly grasp the full measure of this unveiled mystery. So, we must ask: who among us, when pressed with disaster, cries out: “Being Itself! Help me!”? Who among us, when possessed by joy, sings: “Ipsum Esse Subsistens, I give you thanks!”? None of us gets out of bed on Sunday morning to offer praise and thanksgiving to Essential Existence. No Christian soul searches for love in I AM WHO AM. Our faith and hope excel in a God Who has always, is now, and will always be our Father, our brother, and our very life here on earth and in heaven to come. 
Along with preaching his Good News, Jesus spends a great deal of time warning anyone who will listen that the Way back to the Father is an adventure worthy of heroes. There will be great deeds performed by those of us who follow him: moments of triumph over evil; terrible injustices rectified; diseases and infirmities cured; demonic spirits expelled. We will also suffer harrowing tests: religious and political persecution; exile and torture; and even death for the sake of his name. To join this salvation epic all we must do is abandon family and friends; shrug off wealth and prestige; go out into the desert of selfless service; and follow behind him, bearing our crosses to a sacrificial end. He promises us suffering, and our deaths are guaranteed. How strange is it then that we hear Jesus say this morning, “...my yoke is easy, and my burden light”? What's so easy and light about torture and death?! Wealth and security sound much easier and a whole lot lighter! For that matter, I am not particularly soothed by the prospect of being water-boarded defending the honor of Essential Existence.

Fair enough, pain and suffering do not seem to be much of an incentive to risk life and limb in the defense of Esse Subsistens. But do wealth, prestige, and the boredom of security offer us the adventure of preaching the Good News of God's mercy, of bringing the lost back into the family, of living lives steeped in the luxury of knowing that we serve a God of loving-care? Can anyone we attach ourselves to in this world offer us a life beyond temporary affection? Can anything we own guarantee happiness beyond its limited warranty? Even the praise of our fellow citizens fades and the awards we win get dusty and dry. Nothing created—no existing thing—can ever bring us to the excellence that God has created us to be. With Him—Perfect Being—we are made fully human, impeccably whole. Will you suffer and die for the sake of sharing in this promised glory?

God unveils the mystery of His Being to Moses. To Moses God is revealed as I AM WHO IS and WHO WILL ALWAYS BE. But He says to Moses as well, “I have watched over you with care; I am concerned about you and My people. Go tell them that I have sent you to deliver them from the misery of slavery for My sake.” To Moses Ipsum Esse Subsistens promises deliverance and He does exactly that. To us, He not only promises deliverance from slavery, He promises an eternal life with Him in Christ. The Father promises; the Son delivers; and the Love they share comes with us on the Way, lifting the burden of our labors by showing us how to love one another as God Himself loves. Even the sweatiest work is made easy when it is done for love.

* "Subsistent Being Itself" is Aquinas' description of God's nature.
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15 July 2015

Coffee Cup Browsing (Wednesday)

Free exercise of religion? Nuns forced to buy condoms and the Pill. 

Progressive Catholic Authoritarianism

Wow. Nobody saw this coming: gay Scout Masters

I'm a Christian, not a bigot.

Real Liberals would support tax-exemptions for churches.

The academic agenda of hate and exclusion


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Here I am?

St. Bonaventure
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St Dominic Church, NOLA

Moses finds a bush burning in the desert. The bush is burning, but it is not reduced to ash. Both surprised and curious, Moses wants to know why the bush is not consumed by the fire. As he approaches this “remarkable sight,” a voice calls out, “Moses, Moses.” Hearing his name spoken in fire, Moses stops, screams like a scalded camel, and runs home in terror! When he tells the story of the flaming shrub, no one in his family believes him. After years of therapy, Moses concludes that the whole incident resulted from dehydration, low blood-sugar, and a deeply embedded sub-conscious fear of vegetation. He resumes his work as a shepherd and avoids contact with anything that might be called bramble, hedge, or scrub. He dies a very old man secure in his well-managed anxiety around wilderness foliage. How do you react to God's voice flaming out at you? Do you scream and run in terror? Or do you follow the real Moses' example and answer, “Here I am”?

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger recalls the difficult process of writing his second dissertation, a work on St Bonaventure's theology of history.* He writes that one of his readers had rejected his thesis because of its modern research methods and radical theological conclusions regarding the nature of divine revelation. What was so radical about the future Pope Benedict XVI's views on revelation? The young Ratzinger argued that divine revelation is “the act in which God shows himself. . .” Is this a fine distinction that only a German theologian could love? Not at all. From this distinction, Ratzinger concludes that God's Self-revelation must be witnessed by someone in order to be a revelation at all. He writes, “Where there is no one to perceive 'revelation,' no re-vel-ation has occurred, because no veil has been removed.” For our future Pope, the perceiving subject of divine revelation is the Church and the Church's understanding of God's revelation is contained in tradition. Because of this “dangerous modernism,” Joseph the student was sent back to his desk to try again. Despite this setback, he won his doctorate. And he won the argument.*

My fictional Moses, the terrified shepherd, chose to flee God's revelation and rationalize his encounter with the fiery voice of the shrub as a product of physical ills and psychological trauma. Perhaps we can forgive this fantasy version of Moses b/c we might be tempted to follow his example! Fortunately, the real Moses, upon hearing his name called from the fire, approached the bush and said instead, “Here I am.” Moses surrenders his courageous heart to this world's most dangerous message: the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob lives and He has a job that needs to be done. Because he bravely stepped forward and answered to his name, Moses is sent to free God's people from slavery in Egypt. And like any of us given a similar task, Moses says, “What?! Me!? Who I am to do this work?!” 
As the Church, the Body of Christ on earth, we are each called by name and sent out to do the work of freeing God's people from slavery. This might be the literal slavery of child-trafficking or forced prostitution. This might be the slavery of poverty or political and religious oppression. This might be the slavery of individual disobedience and personal vice. Whatever face slavery wears, the chains that bind are held fast by sin and the fear of death. Liberation for slaves begins when they are told that the Pharaoh of Sin is powerless, his armies defeated, and the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob has commanded him to “let My people go.” Liberation for the slaves arrives when they receive this revelation and begin to live lives freed from Pharaoh's rule. Where the dignity of the human person is violated by sin, the message of freedom in Christ must be announced. And when this revelation is received, it must be lived. Not only by the one who hears it but by the one who speaks it as well.

Who am I to do this work? Who are you? If we say to the burning bush—wherever it may appear—“Here I am,” we become ones sent to announce freedom from sin in Christ. First, we are called, then we call. First, we are freed, then we free. We become exactly who God calls us to be. And who is that? Christ dying on his cross for the salvation of the world.

* Milestones: Memoirs 1927-1977, pg 108.


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14 July 2015

Coffee Cup Browsing

Coming out of the coffin: accepting the vampire lifestyle. Ummmm, no.

Who does the Left fear most for 2016

Dressing for Church: a few suggestions. The Good Monsignor is braver than I.

Planned Parenthood exec caught on tape talking about selling fetus body parts after partial-birth abortion. Disgusting. 

Spiritual but not religious: no, you're probably neither.


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Sin/Death = Prison/Cemetery

Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St Dominic Church, NOLA

Are there any better symbols of sin and its consequences than the prison and the cemetery? Disobedience and death. In the first few lines from his novel, The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne brings his readers to witness a dreary gathering, a scene heavy with sin, punishment, and individual failure: “The founders of a new colony, whatever the Utopia of human virtue and happiness they might originally project, have invariably recognized it among their earliest necessities to allot a portion of the virgin soil as a cemetery, and another portion as the site of a prison.” Before the prison-door stand “a throng of bearded men, in sad-colored garments and gray, steeple-crowned hats. . .” This crowd of utopian worthies has “assembled in front of a wooden edifice, the door of which was heavily timbered with oak, and studded with iron spikes.” With the grim certainty of those who believe themselves innocent of sin, the earliest Bostonians wait outside their “ugly edifice” for the village's latest sinner to emerge, to show herself as one chastened by “the black flower of civilized society, a prison.” Hearing Jesus speak so disparagingly of the citizens of Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernuam, we might wonder if Hawthorne is right: despite our deepest desires for holiness, our most strenuous work to do the good, and the constant offer of redemption from the Father through His Son, we are doomed to reject the Holy Spirit's ministry among us and fill our prisons to breaking only to end up stocking our cemeteries for eternity. Is our story, as Hawthorne describes the life of Hester Prynne, “a tale of human frailty and sorrow”?

It would grossly irresponsible of us to see only the good in our hearts, ignoring the siren call of sin so that we could pretend innocence like those waiting outside Hester's prison-cell. We would be equally irresponsible if we were to make our lives into a paranoid vigil against every impulse, every natural instinct that comes with knowing the difference between good and evil. We give life to the same pride that brought down our first parents when we dwell obsessively on our failures in a quest for a purity that lies beyond our unaided reach. We can be pure. But not by ourselves. Though our prisons and cemeteries mark the consequences of human sin, Christ is the rose-bush flowering outside our cell-door, along side our tombstones. He is for us “some sweet moral blossom...that relieve[s] the darkening close of [our] tale...” But he is more than that: with us he is our holiest spirit; for us he is the only light in the darkness of our sin.

Jesus rails against the stubborn hearts of Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum, condemning their blindness to his mighty deeds and offer of salvation. We know that he is rejected as a heretic and demon by the temple, as a rebel by the empire, and possibly as a madman by most of those who hear him. The audacity of his message is too much to hear: the Father and I are one; He has sent me to you as your lamb of sacrifice; believe in me and you will be saved from sin and death. Too easy, too neat, too much for a disobedient heart that has grown muscular on the hard labor of chasing after salvation. There must be more to it than simple trust in God and love of neighbor!

How like the Psalmist we can be when we find ourselves doubting God's mercy: “I am sunk in the abysmal swamp where there is no foothold; I have reached the watery depths; the flood overwhelms me.” We may have escaped the prison, but the cemetery is not far away. Or is it? “But I pray to you, O Lord, for the time of your favor, O God! In your great kindness answer me with your constant help.” And how does the Lord answer us in our mire? “Turn to me in your need, and you will live.” Even as we indulge the folly of believing ourselves innocent, even as we grow more and more foolish in our refusal to turn our hearts to the mighty deeds of God, He says to us, “See, you lowly ones, and be glad; you who seek God, may your hearts revive! For the Lord hears the poor, and his own who are in bonds he spurns not.” This promise is Christ among us. No prison door remains locked. No tombstone stands against our eternal lives.

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12 July 2015

We might exist for the praise of his glory

15th Sunday OT
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
Our Lady of the Rosary, NOLA
Before God got a hold on him, Amos was a sheepherder and a tree surgeon. Before God found him on the road to Damascus, Paul was a lawyer and a zealous persecutor of Christians. Before Jesus walked past Matthew, he was a tax collector; James, John, Peter were fishermen; Luke was a doctor. What about Mary? She was a teenaged girl betrothed to Joseph. We have a prophet, twelve apostles, and the Mother of God. From who and what they were before hearing their call, all these ordinary people became extraordinary players in even more extraordinary events. Amos is called to chastise a corrupt priest of the royal court. Paul is called to cease his persecution of Jesus' followers and become one of them. The other apostles are all called to leave their ordinary jobs, to become students of the Master, and give their lives to the preaching of the Good News. And Mary, a virgin girl, is called to become the woman who bears Christ into the world. By the Word of our loving God, ordinary people—just plain folks—are pulled out of the tedious minutiae of just getting through another day and fashioned into instruments of the Divine Will and set out to accomplish a divine purpose. If God will use shepherds, fishermen, a doctor, and a virgin girl to complete His work, why wouldn't He use you, use any one of us? 
If called upon to serve a divine purpose most of us would probably react the same way most of the Biblical figures reacted: Who me? Why me? I'm just a bank teller, a cashier, a stay-at-mom, a fast food cook! I'm just a high school graduate; I barely passed my religion classes; I don't like to speak in public; I'm a Big Sinner, probably the Biggest! Given enough time, we could find a thousand and one reasons to avoid being called, a thousand and one excuses not to do whatever ridiculous and potentially embarrassing job God wants us to do. And if we couldn't find the one thousand and second excuse, we'd make one up! Alright, maybe I'm projecting here, maybe I'm telling you more about how I reacted to the call than predicting how you might react. But my point should be clear: when pressed into divine service, quite a few of us truly believe that we are unworthy of the honor, unfit for the job. And we're right to believe it. We are unworthy, unfit to do God's will. . .that is, until He makes us both worthy and fit, until He gifts us with all that we need to accomplish the work He's given us to do. To the shepherd Amos, He gives a prophet's voice. To the Pharisee, Paul, He gives a motivating vision. To Peter, John, James, Andrew, all the apostles, He gives knowledge, wisdom, and authority. And to Mary, He gives a sinless start. What gifts has He given you so that you might complete His work?

Paul writes to the Church in Ephesus, assuring them that he is absolutely confident that they have received their gifts from God and that they have the will and fervor necessary to use those gifts in God's service. When he writes his letter to the Ephesians, Paul is a prisoner of the Roman Empire and from his prison cell he preaches the gospel of freedom in Christ. He shouts out God's Word across the known world. Amos, a sheep-herder and dresser of sycamores, is sent by God to prophesy to Israel. Angrily confronted by the priest, Amaziah, and ordered to leave the temple, Amos says, “I was sent by God to speak His word.” And Jesus, calling the Twelve together, sends his friends into the world, giving them authority to command unclean spirits, to preach and to teach. A prisoner, a sheep-herder, a tax-collector, a handful of fishermen, a doctor, and a few ambitious corporate climbers—all chosen, all taught, all sent to do one thing: speak the Living Word of God in spirit and in truth so that the heirs of the Father might know that their inheritance is at hand. Not one of these apostles or prophets goes willingly. Not one goes without apprehension. Not one of them leaves to do God's will without believing that he is unprepared, unworthy. But they go b/c they trust that God prepares them and makes them worthy to bring His will to completion. 

As baptized men and women, we have already accepted the call from God to be His apostles, to be those who go out and preach His gospel in word and deed. As the Body of Christ together in this building, we are here to say “Amen, so be it” to God's charge that we become Christs where we are. And though we may believe ourselves unprepared and unworthy, we are nonetheless vowed to do exactly that. In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul takes the time to describe to his brothers and sisters the origin and flowering of their work as heirs to the kingdom. His detailed account of their creation in love and their recreation in Christ's sacrifice is not just pretty theological rhetoric. His goal is to open their eyes and ears to the truth of their identity as ones who have been picked out, selected to do the job God has given them to do. Do you feel unprepared? Who doesn't? Nonetheless, you are a daughter of the Father, an heir. Are you unworthy? Who isn't? Nonetheless, you are a son of the Father, an heir. Are you a prisoner? A shepherd? A fisherman? Probably not. Are we without tools? Training? Experience? Maybe. Nonetheless, we are sent. The only important question now is: will we go? Or will we wrack our brains to invent that one thousand and second excuse to leave God's gifts untouched and go on with the tedious business of just another day? Or maybe, we are willing to pick up His gifts and do His will there's something or someone stopping us. Amos is threatened by a priest who invokes both divine and worldly power. Paul is threatened by imperial Rome. The apostles are threatened by temple, empire, and the rulers of this world—priests, soldiers, and demons. Though threatened from every direction by every force available, Amos, Paul, and the apostles go out anyway and do what their Father has commanded them to do. 

Who or what is stopping you? The government? Your spouse? The kids? Your job? If so, listen again to Paul, the prisoner of Rome: “In [Christ] we were. . .chosen, destined. . .so that we might exist for the praise of his glory...In [Christ] you also, who have heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and have believed in him, [you also] were sealed with the promised holy Spirit, which is the first installment of our inheritance. . .” What worldly power can un-choose you? What relationship do you enjoy that trumps your inheritance as a child of the Father? What deficiency in training, moral purity, motivation, or intelligence can defeat the promise of your baptism? “In accord with the riches of his grace that he lavished upon us,” we are free from every deficiency that limits us, holds us back, or fights to defeat us. His grace, His gifts are lavished upon us and in harmony with these gifts we are forgiven our transgressions and sent out as apostles to give testimony to the freedom we enjoy as God's possessions. So, if we are timid or lax or afraid of doing what we have already promised to do, then it is more than past time to ask for strength, determination, and courage. There's work to be done, God's work. And when we do this work with the Holy Spirit, we are more than merely capable; we are made worthy, fit, and thoroughly prepared. In His truth, we are truly blessed. 

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Coffee Cup Browsing (Sunday)

No. The Pope did not call capitalism "the dung of the devil."  

"Capitalism has always been a revolutionary force and when traditional institutions of various sorts have gotten in its way, they have rarely been spared."  To wit: the Protestant Reformation.

Plain dress, religious habits: the importance of public symbols of faith.

A review of Fr. Driscol's mystery novels. . . 

Nothing New Under the Sun: SSM and the early Church

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11 July 2015

Coffee Cup Browsing (Saturday)

Climate scientists experiencing psych problems. . .unsurprising given that they spent their days spinning wild speculations based on computer models that defy reality. 

Now it's a mini-ice age??? I thought the Science Was Settled!

Does the U.S. need a national exorcism? No. We need five or six.

After the Charleston massacre, B.O. said that it was in our power to stop mass killings, i.e. more gun control. Actually, it was in his power to stop Dylann Roof. And he didn't.

Why hasn't B.O. commented on the murder of Kate Steinle by an illegal alien? Good question.


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10 July 2015

Coffee Cup Browsing (Friday)

Fail-to-launch young men and their revenge fantasies. . . 

Pay the fine for UnGood Thoughts or lose your house!

If "sanctuary cities" can defy federal immigration law at will, why can't cities or states defy the Supreme Court decision that invented a right to SSM?

Another data breach. . .21 million federal workers' info now in the hands of China. . .we're in the very best of hands.

Pope Francis trolled by Commie dictator: "That's not right," says the Pope.

15 religious movies to get that Avengers/Minions/Jurassic World taste out of your mouth.

Oregon allows 15 y.o.'s to get tax-payer funded sex-change surgery w/o parental consent.


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09 July 2015


A Big Acrylic Thank You to MMF for the paint! And be assured of my prayers for you and your family at Mass.

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Coffee Cup Browsing (Thurs)

Pope Francis in Ecuador to priests:  "You did not buy a ticket to get into the seminary. . .You did nothing to 'deserve' it."  BOOM!

The Everybody Gets a Trophy Generation is failing out in college. Mom, dad, you gotta let Little Timmy and Susy learn to lose.

Is you state, county, or city a "sanctuary" for illegal immigrants?

Big Surprise: GOP-run states are solvent. Dem-run states? Not so much.

IRS/DoJ/FBI colluded to prosecute conservative groups. 


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08 July 2015

Coffee Cup Browsing

My NDS seminarians can tell you that I harp on clarity, concision, and precision to the point of being obsessive. 

Christ didn't die on the cross to teach us how to be nice.

EU is committing suicide. . .I say, "Kudos!"

Imagine that. . .Hillary is scripting a "grassroots" movement that will "spontaneously" praise her when her media shills show up.

Why are women more likely than men to believe in astrology

Jimmy Carter *feels* like Jesus would approve of same-sex "marriage."
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07 July 2015

Coffee Cup Browsing

Should the Church stop signing-off on civil marriages? I've thought about it, but the consequences aren't clear.

The New Totalitarianism. . .not really all that new. 

Same-sex "marriage" will lead to polygamy. None of the arguments against polygamy can survive given Kennedy's invention of new civil right to dignity.

Hillary herds her media sheep with a rope. . .literally, with a rope.

SSM is not like divorce

Einstein can't be wrong about relativity! The science is settled! 

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05 July 2015

When I am weak, then I am strong

14th Sunday OT
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
Our Lady of the Rosary, NOLA

God sends a prophet to His people, “rebels who have rebelled against [Him].” These rebels – “hard of face and obstinate of heart” – have turned away from their Father, shaming themselves in disobedience and bringing upon themselves the inevitable consequences of their sin. Ezekiel, the prophet God sends, knows that he will not be welcomed among his kin. He knows that his proclamation to the nation – “Return to the Lord!” – will not be well-received. This is an old problem. Some six-hundred-plus years after Ezekiel's death, Jesus will say, “A prophet is [honored] except in his native place and among his own kin and in his own house.” Why is a prophet sent by God honored everywhere except in his own native land? For a prophet to speak with authority, for him to be heard by God's people, he must be truly “other than” those to whom he preaches; that is, a prophet must be “set aside” in his family; somehow an alien in his own hometown; an odd sort of animal in the ambling herd. Familiarity breeds contempt. Who listens to and believes a prophet who grew up in the neighborhood just like everyone else? If you and I, the Church, will be prophets/witnesses sent by the Father to invite the world to return to the Father, we must be “set aside,” “other than,” the odd animals in the ambling herd. But being the ones set aside is dangerous business, even a deadly business.

I'll just say it straight out: nobody likes a prophet. Think about what prophets are sent to do. Basically, God looks at His people and sees them being disobedient – they are stealing from the poor, cheating on their spouses, killing one another, ignoring their religious obligations, worshiping foreign gods, and just generally pretending they do not have a covenant with the Lord. Seeing all this, the Lord calls out a prophet, someone who is given a vision of the His plan for humanity and sent to the people to tell them that they are on the wrong path. Every prophet has an amazingly simple mission: go among the sinners, call them sinners, and warn them that the clock on God's wrath is ticking. Repent or face the consequences. Over and over again, we know, that God's people (that us, too) have treated prophets with contempt. When we aren't ignoring them, we kill them. If we don't kill them, we dismiss them as religious-nuts. The reason we do this is obvious. Where the prophet sees sin, we see personal choice. Where he sees disobedience, we see liberty and license. Where he sees injustice, we see opportunity. He says we're wicked; we say we're just doing our own thing. He says we're had better repent or else; we say, “Don't impose your religion on me, buddy!” 

Scripture reveals that prophets are unpopular b/c they show us what we could be with God while we are busy being nothing more than what we want to be without God. Now, lest any of us here think that being a prophet is optional for Christians, let's set the record straight: it isn't. If you are baptized, you are a priest, a prophet, and a king. You offer sacrifice for others in prayer; you hold yourself and others up to God's plan for humanity; and you work in service for the cause of justice. Being a prophet is not optional for us. It's who we are. And it means being the odd animal out when the herd is heading toward the cliff. It means standing up and yelling, “STOP! We are racing to our deaths! Turn around before it's too late!” The men and women of Nineveh heard Jonah and turned around in time. But Nineveh is the exception to the rule. In every other case of prophetic intervention, the herd stampeded on, ignoring the warning signs, and God allowed them to suffer the consequences of their disobedience. Foreign invasion. Exile. Enslavement. And death. Every time the nation turned its face from God and worshiped its own will in violation of the covenant, God gave them a warning and a way out. And every time – excepting Nineveh – the nation chose to spit in God's face and do its own thing. Decline and destruction followed. 
We are prophets. Not b/c we are especially moral. Not b/c we have some special vision from God. Not b/c we are uniquely attuned to hear God speak. We are prophets b/c we have directly experienced the power of the Father's mercy to free us from sin and death. We are prophets b/c we have directly experienced the divine love that binds all of creation in being, and we have sworn to be witnesses to that love in word and deed. We are prophets b/c we strive to be perfect as our Father is perfect, to be righteous not self-righteous, to be bearers of His invitation to the world so that no one is left out of the heavenly party. And as prophets, we will not be particularly popular. In 2015, not many already in the Church and many who are, not many are eager to bend an ear to hear the truth of God's plan for humanity, a plan for our eternal happiness. You don't have to search long or hard to see or hear the depth and perversity of this nation's disobedience. From abortion to Wall St greed; from racism to consumerist waste; from lawless politicians to a scandalous Church; from the desecration of marriage to murder, we are a nation in rebellion against God. And He sends His prophets out into the nation to bear witness. Not to His anger and wrath. But to His abiding love and boundless mercy.

We are prophets. What do we say? What do we do? Many Catholics believe that last week's Supreme Court ruling imposing same-sex “marriage” on the nation is just the first step along a long road of trouble for Christians. That's not true. The Court's decision is actually one of the last steps on that road. That decision was as inevitable as the rising sun and long in coming. We can imagine the last few steps: polygamy, incestuous marriages, and, finally, the elimination of civil marriages altogether. Actually, we don't have to imagine them. All three of these have already been proposed. What do we say? What do we do? As witnesses to God's abiding love and boundless mercy, as prophets, where do we go? We say what we have always said. We do what we have always done. We go where we have always gone. We speak about Christ and his sacrifice for sinners. We do the good work that God has given us to do. We go to work, to school, to church, out in public, anywhere we have ever been before. We are prophets, and prophets bear witness. We cannot bear witness with our lips sealed shut in fear. We cannot show others the miracles of faith while hiding from uncomfortable confrontations. We cannot abandon our works of mercy and at the same time claim to be witnesses to mercy. Nothing has changed for the Church or her prophets. Nothing. Our Lord still reigns. And our work remains unfinished.

There is a dread temptation poking at us right now. I've heard it. I've felt it. The spirit of despair is urging us to just surrender to the inevitable victory of sin, and run off to a mountain somewhere. This is not an option for us. Too many out there need us. Too many out there have yet to experience all that Christ has freely died to give us. Yes, get ready for some hatred, some foul language flung our way. Get ready for some lawsuits and fines. Prepare yourself to lose some friends. I've lost several already, including my two best friends of 25 yrs. We will not see the kind of persecution that our brothers and sister are experiencing in Syria and Nigeria. Americans are too well-armed! Perhaps you believe that none of this affects you. Well, you don't have to join a side in this Culture War. You will be drafted. The spirit of rebellion that pervades our nation will not tolerate fence-sitting. There can be no neutrality. If you don't care, you will be made to care. As a friend of mine says, “Acceptance is no longer enough. You must approve and applaud. Anything less is hatred.” As so many US bishops have made perfectly clear, Catholics cannot and will not approve or applaud this latest step along the road to national destruction.

To prepare yourself as a witness to God's abiding love and boundless mercy, remember Paul writing to Corinthians, “I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”
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