31 August 2015

Who do I need to be. . .?

22nd Week OT (M)
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
Notre Dame Seminary, NOLA

So, Jesus – the hometown boy – walks into his synagogue, picks up a scroll, reads a passage from Isaiah, and says, in effect, “God the Father has sent me to rescue y'all, you bunch of sinners.” Surprisingly, this little stunt goes over well. . .at first: “. . .all spoke highly of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth.” Then some of the less-impressed listeners start asking questions designed to put Jesus in his place, “Hey, wait a minute, isn't he Joseph's boy?” Seeing where this line of questioning is headed, Jesus nips it in the bud, “Amen, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own native place.” He then goes on to point out their faithlessness and how their ancestors abused God's prophets, earning the Father's wrath. This went over like a possum fight at a church picnic, and Jesus finds himself run out of town. What's the lesson here? When your people don't like your preaching, insult them repeatedly and wait for them to get their pitchforks and torches? No. Not quite. If there's a lesson here, it's this: remember who you are wherever you are and preach the truth with charity. 

Now, you might think that I'm accusing Jesus of not preaching the truth with charity. Not true. Jesus was on a tight schedule. He was headed to Jerusalem on a time-table. And he didn't have the luxury of winning hearts and minds with carefully crafted homilies. He spoke the truth. And he did so as a sign of his salvific love for his people. That he was dealing with hearts grown cold and minds long closed is no fault of his. No doubt, someone in that synagogue that day heard and saw what he needed to see and hear and came to know Christ as Lord. Jesus' method of revealing his identity and mission is meant to shock those cold hearts and closed minds into recognizing the truth that stands before them. What they heard him say amazed some and enraged others. How these two groups divided out has everything to do with who Jesus is for them. He's a hometown boy. They know him and his family. They've probably known him all his life. And now, here he is claiming to be the long-awaited Messiah. Some are amazed at his gracious words. Others are enraged by his arrogance. But Jesus is who he is – the Lamb of God headed to the altar of sacrifice in Jerusalem. He speaks the truth. And his love is made manifest on the cross.

And how does he love us from the cross? He says himself that he will bring glad tidings to the poor. He will proclaim liberty to captives. He will restore sight to the blind. And he will let the oppressed go free. All true. He also says, pointing to Isaiah's prophecy, “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” But do his listeners hear him? Some do, some don't. Do we? Do we hear the Lord when he says that he is sent to set us free? Maybe we hear, but do we believe? Do we truly trust his word, his word that we are free? Free from sin, free from death, free from the traps of daily disobedience and despair. Free from whatever and whoever it is that oppresses us. And as men and women freed from sin and death, we are vessels of and vehicles for bringing Christ's truth to the world and bringing that truth in love. It's not enough that the truth be spoken; it must be spoken so that it might be heard. When you speak the truth, be prepared to hear “hypocrite,” “don't judge me,” “holier-than-thou,” “keep your god out of my life.” Do not be put off. Speak the truth again and speak it until you can speak it to be heard. Remember who you are in Christ. Wherever you go, you belong to Christ. It's his truth you speak. Speak it with love.

Follow HancAquam or Subscribe ----->

23 August 2015

Book List for My Fall Classes

I. HP 505: Homiletics II 

Peter John Cameron, Why Preach: Encountering Christ in God's Word

Richard Lischer, The Company of Preachers: Wisdom on Preaching, Augustine to the Present

II. HP 201: Proclaiming and Interpreting the Word of God

Robert Stein, A Basic Guide to Interpreting the Bible.  

David Lehman, The Oxford Book of American Poetry.

Cormac McCarthy, The Road.

III. DT 101: Catechism I

Catechism of the Catholic Church

Ryan N. S. Topping, Rebuilding Catholic Culture: How the Catechism Can Shape Our Common Life.

Follow HancAquam or Subscribe ----->

UPDATE on NDS. . .

We begin a new academic year at Notre Dame Seminary today! 

The renovations of St. Joseph Hall are moving along. We should be able to move back in May 2016.

We have 40 new men and a total of 126 seminarians from 18 dioceses and five religious orders.

This semester I'm teaching three classes: 

Homiletics II: Preaching the Ritual Masses (3rd Year) -- homilies for baptisms, weddings, funerals, reconciliation, etc.

Proclaiming and Interpreting the Word of God (2nd Year pre-theology) -- general overview of biblical hermeneutics with lots of liturgical proclamation practice; also, poetry and a novel. 

Catechism I (1st Year pre-theology) -- introduction to the CCC and in-depth coverage of Part I (God, the Creed) and Part III (moral theology). 

As the only religious priest on the formation faculty, I am assigned all of the religious seminarians, which means most of my 24 advisees are Africans (Kenya, Uganda) and Vietnamese. 

Please pray for all of our men and pray for my Poor Knees. . .I'm walking with a cane these days. Ouch.

Good News: I've lost 17lbs since June. . .only 120 more to go!
Follow HancAquam or Subscribe ----->

22 August 2015

Our definitive deliverance from evil

NB. From 2012. . .I'll be con-celebrating the opening Mass of the academic year tomorrow at Notre Dame Seminary.

21st Sunday OT
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Dominic Church, NOLA

AUDIO file

Before his disciples and a curious and quarrelsome crowd, our Lord teaches his most sensational lesson, saying, “. . .my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.” There must've been a pause, a small moment of total silence for the import of this outrageous claim to sink in. His disciples, his best students and closest friends, start murmuring, perhaps trying to find some sense in his words, or perhaps they are questioning their decision to follow a mad man. They ask, “This saying is hard; who can accept it?” Is this a challenge, like a dare? I dare you to accept! Or is it a declaration of disbelief, an incredulous outcry? No one can believe this nonsense! Or is it something more subtle and strange, like a question that answers itself and in doing so blows away the closed doors and rusty locks of ignorance? Jesus knows their hearts and so he asks, “Does this shock you?” If the disciples answered him, we do not know what they said. What do you say? More importantly, if you eat his flesh and drink his blood, are you prepared to live in Christ and have him living in you? 

Many in that curious and quarrelsome crowd were shocked. Some who were shocked walk away from Christ and “return to their former way of life. . .” Watching them as they walk away, Jesus turns to his closest friends and students and asks, “Do you also want to leave?” Is he worried that they might leave him? Is he indifferent? Angry? He gives them a choice: stay and follow me to eternal life, or leave and follow death to eternal darkness. As usual, Simon Peter speaks for the disciples, “Master, to whom shall we go?” Who else teaches the Father's truth? Who else can show us the Way? Who else can feed us with the bread of heaven? Peter then explains his response, “You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.” Are the disciples shocked? Yes. Shocked into belief and conviction; shocked into the truth of Jesus' outrageous claims; shocked by the hard reality that standing with them is divine truth given flesh and blood. All that they have ever sought, all that they have ever truly needed. . .is with them: body, blood, soul, and divinity—the Holy One of God. Again, if you eat his flesh and drink his blood, are you prepared to live in Christ and have him living in you? Are you prepared? 

Before you answer, please bear with me as I read a longish passage from BXVI's 2007 exhortation, Sacramentum caritatis: “In the sacrament of the altar,. . .the Lord truly becomes food for us, to satisfy our hunger for truth and freedom. Since only the truth can make us free, Christ becomes for us the food of truth. . .Each of us has an innate and irrepressible desire for ultimate and definitive truth. The Lord Jesus. . .speaks to our thirsting, pilgrim hearts. . .our hearts longing for truth. Jesus Christ is the Truth in person, drawing the world to himself. 'Jesus is the lodestar of human freedom: without him, freedom loses its focus, for without the knowledge of truth, freedom becomes debased, alienated and reduced to empty [whim]. With him, freedom finds itself '”(2). That's a lot to take in, I know. But here's what I hope you heard: as rational creatures created by a loving Creator, we are made to long for the Good and the Real; we desire Truth and Freedom; and we have come to believe and are convinced that Christ Jesus is our Truth, our Freedom, our Good, and our most basic Reality. “In the sacrament of the altar,” our Holy Father writes, “. . .the Lord truly becomes food for us, to satisfy our hunger for truth and freedom.” Are you prepared to receive the truth and freedom of the Lord? 

Before you answer, bear with me one more time as I read another passage from the Holy Father's work: “The substantial conversion of bread and wine into his body and blood introduces within creation the principle of a radical change, a sort of 'nuclear fission,'. . .which penetrates to the heart of all being, a change meant to set off a process which transforms reality, a process leading ultimately to the transfiguration of the entire world, to the point where God will be all in all”(11). When we celebrate the Mass, when we witness the transubstantiation of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ, and when we commune on his sacrament, we begin a process that radically changes all that is real; reconfigures at the root of reality not only our individual lives but our communal life together so that God might work through His love in me, you, and all of us at once to bring His whole creation to redemption. Fission sparks out, dividing into smaller and smaller parts. When we eat his Body and drink his Blood, we are saying, “Yes, Lord, I will go out and be Your love in the world so that the world will see in me what You see in Your Son!” Are you prepared to be a spark for the radical transfiguration of the world in Christ? If not, walk away. “Does this shock you?. . .The words I have spoken to you are Spirit and life.” 

Our Holy Father [BXVI], mediating on the Jewish origins of the Mass writes, “. . .[The] Eucharist demonstrates how Jesus' death. . .became in him a supreme act of love and mankind's definitive deliverance from evil.” The supreme act of love and our deliverance from evil. We are delivered from evil in this sacrament of love. But finding ourselves so delivered, what next? Freed from the Enemy and set loose to return to the world, what next? Here we are flush with the recreating love of God and wholly prepared to participate in the radical transfiguration of the world and. . .what? We go out and we keep on doing all that we have done here and will do here. Gather in his holy name with family and friends. Confess our faults and receive His mercy. Listen to His Word and give witness to His mighty deeds. Give thanks and praise for His abundant blessings. Sacrifice in love and offer one another to Him in prayer. Seek out all that is true, good, and beautiful, and exhaust ourselves in being true, good, beautiful for others. Invite the stranger. Fight against injustice. Visit the sick, the dying, the lonely. Take Christ's light anywhere and everywhere darkness hopes to rule. 

If there is one evil we must resist in 2012, it is the evil that tempts us to turn inward and away from the world; tempts us to hide the light of Christ for the sake of a worldly peace, a peace settled against the Church through fear and intimidation. This is why I have asked you if you are prepared to be a spark for the radical transfiguration of the world. Even as we move out of the sanctuary, suffused with the love of Christ, we are met with demands that we silence our praise and thanksgiving for the sake of propriety. That we continue our good works but cease offering them for the greater glory of God. Without Christ, we can do nothing good. Without Christ, we are nothing. Christ is who and what we are. And when we step outside these walls, if we are prepared, we take him—Body and Blood—into a world dying for its Creator. You—each of us—leaves here as a spark shot from the Sacramental Fission of the Eucharist. If Christ lives in you, bring him to another and another. Go out there and set fire to a world that's falling quickly into darkness. Make it a holy conflagration, a world set ablaze in the love of the Holy Spirit.

Follow HancAquam or Subscribe ----->

16 August 2015

Wisdom not foolishness

20th Sunday OT
Fr. Philip N. Powell, OP
Our Lady of the Rosary, NOLA

St Paul admonishes the Ephesians, “Watch carefully how you live, not as foolish persons but as wise. . .” Excellent advice. But I wonder: what would it mean for a Christian to live foolishly? It could mean living outside the church’s care, outside the historic embrace of the living tradition that guards and hands on the priceless arts of our faith’s living-wisdom – the stories, the teachings, the creeds that we use to become saints. Living foolishly as a Christian could mean buying into one of the many cultural train wrecks that will inevitably litter our social landscape: the disappearnce of personal responsibility; the multiplication of lonely souls perpetually jacked into IPods, laptops, and cell phones; the ease with which death comes to be a reasonable reaction to daily inconveniences. Living foolishly could be something as “old-fashioned” as living in sin, living in defiance of the Father’s will for our lives, denying divine providence; or maybe something like living a life of unhealthy risk, constant stress and trauma, living outside reason. Or it could mean living with nothing more than a superficial faith, living with just a barely minimum veneer of religiosity, while setting aside Christ's wisdom for the wisdom of the world.

We can live foolishly a hundred different ways, a thousand! But only one way of living offers us life-saving wisdom. Paul writes, “Watch carefully how you live, not as foolish persons but as wise[…]do not continue in ignorance, but try to understand what is the will of the Lord.” Living in ignorance of the Lord’s will for your life is what it means to live foolishly, to live without wisdom, without His guidance and care. A fool believes he wisely maps his life by considering all contingencies, covering all possibilities, insuring against all inevitabilities, but by leaving the Father’s will off the map the fool guarantees that the biggest possible picture, the end-game of his life is missed entirely. Without God, without His grace we are nothing. Literally, “no thing;” we are not.

And here is where the arts of our faith’s living wisdom, handed on to us, are the most help. As Catholics, we simply cannot plead ignorance of the spiritual life. We cannot say with any integrity, with any expectation of being seriously believed: “I didn’t know about the life of wisdom! I didn’t know I had access to the treasures of our tradition!” If you make it to weekly Mass, you already have access to the priceless pearl of the Father’s revelation in the proclamation and preaching of the Word. You already have ready access to a communal life of prayer that lifts up praise and thanksgiving to God and petitions the Father with the indomitable intercession of the community of saints. You already have access to the living bread, the flesh and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, given in sacrifice for us all and eaten at his command for our growth in holiness. You already have an open door to heaven, a cleared path to your final union with God, a greased shot straight up to the Throne! Everything we need to find ourselves in the presence of the Father after death is freely given to us right now. Nothing we need is held back. Freely given and freely received, the Father's love brings us back to Him. How do we receive His love?

When you attend Mass, properly disposed, you eat and drink of the Lord’s body and blood, taking into your body and bloody the substance of the One who suffered, died, and rose again for our everlasting healing. True food, true drink he remains in us and we in him and we come, at our end, to Life because of Him. The foolish call what we do today – this sacrifice, this familial meal of his body and blood – they call it a “mere symbol” or a “simple memorial” without any real world effect, without salvific consequences. Jesus says, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life[…]the one who feeds on me will have life because of me.” If Moses and his people ate real life-saving bread in the desert, why would we deny the reality of the life-saving bread that we eat here tonight? Symbols cannot save us. Signs cannot save us. Memorials cannot save us. Only the Body and Blood of Christ can save us, and save it does.

My life, your life is caused – granted, given, gifted – by the life of Christ in this sacrifice of the Mass – not a mere symbol, not simple remembrance, but his Real Presence and efficacious sacrifice – the folding together of history by the power of the Holy Spirit so that Back Then touches Right Now and the one death for many on the cross is Right Here for our thanksgiving and praise. We do not sacrifice Christ again – over and over each Mass; we re-present him, we make present again his once-for-all sacrifice on the cross, our only means of salvation.

The will of the Father for us, for our life in wisdom, is that we live together praising his Name, eating at His table, forgiving one another, outdoing one another in charitable acts, teaching and preaching the truth of the faith in love, witnessing to His mercy by seeking justice, and, quoting Paul, by “singing and playing to the Lord in our hearts, giving thanks always and for everything” in the name of Jesus our Risen Lord. The Father's will for us is life, abundant life freely given and freely received. Our Lord says, “Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me.” And b/c we can have life in Christ, we can have eternal life in the Father. That's His will. That's His wisdom. 
Only a fool turns from that kind of gift.

Follow HancAquam or Subscribe ----->

14 August 2015

The Assumption is a promise kept

NB. A homily from 2006. . .St. Mary the Virgin parish is an Anglican Use Parish in Arlington, TX. I was invited to preach their vigil Mass.

The Assumption of Mary
Fr. Philip N. Powell, OP
St. Mary the Virgin Church,

The small metal crucifix I wore on the outside of my shirt drew stares. It was something foreign, inexplicable, vaguely pagan to my Baptist classmates. The bent catechism given to me by my grandmother, a life-long Methodist, was ever ready in my back pocket, a easy reach and whip of the wrist to answer the ridicule and the curiosity of my friends. Once, during a debate with my best friend about the necessity of baptism for salvation, the catechism became a weapon. When I tried to show my friend the relevant passages in the catechism about baptism, she grabbed it from me and whacked me upside the head with it!

After some few days of silence on the subject, we resumed our debate. But as a high school convert who knew little to nothing about the faith, my witness was weak, sputtering, mostly protests against anti-Catholic stereotypes and bigoted myths. The experience of being Catholic in community would come some fifteen years later. After a long, difficult stint in the Episcopal Church and after years of studying the various “-ism’s” of postmodernism in an English PhD program, at 35 I answered a call, heard as a teenager, to serve the Body of Christ as a priest. But I still needed to learn how to witness to the faith, how to be an apostle worthy of the message. School is still in session.

The assumption of our Blessed Mother into heaven is a promise kept, a vow made good by our Father. Marking this day not only reminds us of the promise of the resurrection, the promise of eternal life, it also brings us back to our baptisms and gives us a few thumps on the head to remind us that we have vowed to be witnesses to the gospel, apostles of the Word—to be those who go out and give testimony in word and deed to the power, to the mercy, to the love of Christ.

The assumption of Mary into heaven is a consequence of her obedience, her YES, her faithfulness. Elizabeth says to Mary, “Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.” What is the engine of our witness, what pushes us out there to speak the Truth in Love? We believe what the Lord has spoken to us will be fulfilled. If we don’t believe this, we need to shut up.

If we are not witnessing to the Word, giving testimony to the power of Christ’s love and mercy, then what are we witnessing to? What is it that sits on your heart, dwells at the center of your soul, driving you to your chosen end? There is a supermarket of attractive alternatives out there. Have no fear that you will bored with the options.

On aisle two for Catholics frightened by orthodoxy we have a wide selection of Gnostic heresies, Greek inspired mystery cults updated for the postmodern Catholic soul—cryptic, kabbalahistic devices to plumb the wells of egotistical fantasy and distract the heart with sweet affirmations and pretty lies. On aisle six we have cases and cases of discounted secularism for those Catholics embarrassed by the transcendent—boxes of materialist dogmatism, doctrinaire scientism, and rigid moral relativism. Buy two and get a case of Political Correctness free! Then in the meat section we have for those Catholics tempted by worldly triumphalism fatty slabs of nationalism, militarism, partisanship, shelves loaded with the bloody idols of violence and death and oppression, plenty of raw hatred and scraps of vengeance for sale. Finally, on the candy aisle we have religious syncretism for those Catholics who think they are excluded by Tradition and Scripture—colorful bags of chocolate covered faux Native American rituals, creamy blends of Buddhist-Christian prayer wheels, honey-roasted Jesus avatars and bodhisattvas, and nutty Mother Goddess womanrites with glow in the dark Gaia rosaries! OK, a bit of fun…but these are the eclectic fascisms of hearts that remain unconvinced by God’s truth, unawed by His Beauty, and chilled by His Goodness.

What does your heart desire? What do you want? To what do you witness?

Elizabeth greets Mary, calling her blessed b/c she heard the Word spoken to her, believed that the Lord’s promise would be fulfilled, and in radical trust, gave herself to the keeping and birthing of the Word for the world. She is the Lord’s mother in history and our mother in faith. She is also an apostle of the gospel, a preacher of the Word, and in her maternal care for our Lord, a prophet—one chosen by God to show His people how to live in righteousness with the advent of His Kingdom. She is a sign of the Church and for the Church, a blessed creature given to a life of showing her Son to the world. She is who we should be now and who we will be eventually if we believe on our Father’s Word, witness to His healing mercy, and flourish in His grace to our perfection.

And I ask again: what does your heart desire? What do you want? To what do you witness? In her Magnificat-hymn, her homily of praise and thanksgiving to God, Our Blessed Mother witnesses to the crowding generations who will call her blessed, holding up for us the great things done for her by the Almighty; she witnesses to the mercy that flows from a proper awe of His glory, the strength of his justice; she witnesses to His love of the poor and His contempt of the proud and the mighty; she witnesses to His care of the hungry, His help for His promised people, and His ageless fidelity to Abraham and all his children. Our Blessed Mother’s heart desires the Spirit of the Lord; she finds food for her deepest hunger in His service, and with gratitude pours out a lasting witness, a testimony for the generations: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord!”

Perhaps the Assumption is not so much about what we have always known and always believed—that God took Mary body and soul into heaven—perhaps the Assumption is more about what we often need some goading to do: to believe that the Word of the Lord to us will be fulfilled, to believe His promises, and in this belief, this trust, offer our promised witness, honor our baptismal vows to be Christs in the world! If our Blessed Mother is who we should be now and who we will be eventually, then we will be prepared—intellectually, physically, spiritually, sacramentally—well-prepared to stand in the public square facing down the temptations of materialism, Gnosticism, relativism, violent nationalism, all the temptations that Good Catholics wrestle with, and we will proclaim the greatness of the Lord, rejoice in our Savior, bless His Holy Name, and refuse, always refuse, to offer worship to the idols of the culture.

What does your heart desire? What do you want? To what do you witness?

What do you need from the Lord to fulfill your promise to give Him witness? What strength do you need to weaken the temptations of a culture seemingly bent on social suicide? What gift can God give you to move you to offer Him praise and thanksgiving without ceasing? What do you need to bear His Word?

What will get you ready to be Christ for others? 


Follow HancAquam or Subscribe ----->

12 August 2015

Coffee Cup Browsing (Wednesday)

DoubleThink and crappy art. . .

Aussies are awesome! Can I get a dual citizenship?

Pro-abortion columnist: Planned Parenthood vids are a game-changer.

Scott Walker: aggressively normal. After eight years of the Lefty Circus trashing the town, we need some Serious Normal.

This is why you should your kid(s) to a Catholic liberal arts school like the University of Dallas.

We should be more like Sweden or Denmark! Not.

Archbishop Chaput: There is NO equivalence between the Church's opposition to Baby Murder and her support for the poor, etc.


Follow HancAquam or Subscribe ----->

02 August 2015

Futile w/o Christ

18th Sunday OT
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
Our Lady of the Rosary, NOLA

Have you ever lost your mind and wondered where you put it? Have you ever changed your mind and wondered if you are now another person? Ever have something on your mind and wondered if the weight of it was showing up on the bathroom scale? What is the mind anyway? Most contemporary philosophers have accepted that the mind is simply the work of the brain and that when we use “mind-terms” to describe mental activities and states (sadness, confusion, insight), we are really just talking about neuro-chemical activity in the brain. “Happiness” is just this amount of serotonin and these neurotransmitters firing. Nothing more. Most modern psychological theories of mind tell us what the mind is; how it works with memory, perception, learning, and will; how we use it, and how we lose it. So, when Paul writes to the Ephesians, “I declare and testify in the Lord that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds; that is not how you learned Christ...,” we much ask: have we learned Christ, or do we live as the Gentiles do in the “futility of their minds”? 
By the third time I attempted college algebra—having dropped it twice out of abject fear—I concluded that my brain was not wired to comprehend the occult lore of math. To my mind, geometry is an ancient magical system for plotting an eternity of suffering. Calculus is a demonic wisdom that tricks us into giving our souls to the Devil. Confronted by the squiggly gibberish of numbers in formulas, my mind freezes in fear and then flees to poetry where nothing can hurt me, or make me hurt myself or others. I failed to learn math as a kid, and now, as an adult, I will not put on the mind of math because such a renovation project seems to me be utterly futile, hopelessly empty of promise. So, along with all the number-challenged souls in the world I rejoice to hear Paul say, “...truth is in Jesus...” Alleluia! This truth is the one truth I do not fear. Though I seek this truth, there is some question about whether or not I have learned it. This is a judgment to be made at the conclusion of this world, the Mother of All Final Exams. I hope Professor Jesus allows us all a crib sheet! 
Desperate to witness signs of wonder and learn the mysteries of salvation, crowds follow Jesus around throwing questions at him like paparazzi after Beyonce. On occasion, Jesus obliges the crowds by healing the blind, the demonically possessed, and even the dead. He teaches his Father's mercy and calls all to repentance and a new way of living life toward a glorious end in heaven. He even demonstrates his command of math by multiplying five loaves of bread and two fish into enough food for five thousand. Impressed but unfulfilled, the crowds demand more and wait on the next miracle to confirm their faith. Jesus tells them that they are asking him to teach the wrong lesson: “...you are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled.” They are lead by the stomach not the mind; hunger-pangs brings them to Christ not the pangs of ignorance. Though the bread they eat fills the belly, it does not fill the soul. Therefore, Professor Jesus concludes, “Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life. . .” 
What do you hunger for, thirst for? What do you need to see, to learn, to feel before you can say that you are filled-up, completely satisfied? If you were in one of those crowds following Jesus around, what one gift would you beg him for; what one question would you ask him? You might say, “I only desire to do the work of God!” Do you know what that work is for you? Have you read the job description for being a good Christian? Have you learned Jesus as your one truth, putting “away the old self of your former way of life, corrupted through deceitful desires, and [been renewed] in the spirit of your minds”? If you have, then you have done the work of God. Jesus says, “ This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent.” First, believe; then think, feel, act, be always out of this belief in Christ and your life will be a sign to others that you have “put on the new self, [and have been] created in God’s way in righteousness and holiness of truth.” You will be a sign of hope to all those who seek the truth that Christ is the truth they seek.

Though we have a long, long history of exploring the philosophical, scientific, and theological nature of the human mind, we do not need a philosophical or scientific theory of consciousness in order to comprehend and live the mind of Christ. We do not need a clear and distinct idea about the structure of memory or perception, or a fulsome argument for the nature of thinking, or the workings of emotion and will. If mind is simply the neuro-chemical activity of the brain, fine. Do your dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine belong to Christ? If mind is the rational faculty of the soul that allows us to abstract ideas from sense experience, fine. Does your reason belong to Christ? Do you see and hear and touch Christ first? And if mind is a reflection of the One Mind corrupted by the body, so be it. Are you receiving God's graces to perfect your body and elevate your mind? If not, Paul reminds you, “...you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds.” For Paul, the Gentile mind reaches for knowledge and understanding without first having grasped Christ. This is utterly futile because “truth is in Jesus.” 
You might be the one in the crowd who yells out to Jesus, “OK! The truth is in you. What sign can you do, that we may see and believe in you?” Jesus says to you, to all of us, “What can you do? Our ancestors ate manna in the desert...it was not Moses who gave the bread from heaven; my Father gives you the true bread from heaven.” You look to the sky. Glance around at the ground. Your stomach rumbles a bit. “Well, sir, give us this bread always.” Jesus smiles. This is the perfect set-up, the best of all segues. He takes the moment in hand, pauses just long enough to build an arc of anticipation, and then teaches the crowd, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.” Never hunger. Never thirst. First, believe; then think, feel, act, be always out of this belief in Christ and your life here and now will be a reflection of your promised life at the foot of the throne. You will be the only sign any of us will need to believe, the only miracle any of us will ask for. 
Have you learned Christ? If so, then be Christ for us! If not, then let the Body and Blood you take this evening be your food and drink for the pilgrimage to heaven. Receive him as you would a rescuer come to take you from the wilderness. He will bring you to a far holier land.
Follow HancAquam or Subscribe ----->

Retreat Week!

Headed out tomorrow morning to spend a retreat week with the Dominican nuns of Mt Thabor Monastery in Ortonville, MI.

We'll be reading and discussing Pope Francis' encyclical, Evangelii Gaudium.

Follow HancAquam or Subscribe ----->

Coffee Cup Browsing (Sunday)

Garland, TX terrorist got his gun from BO's Fast and Furious debacle

Not exactly a selling point for many: Jeb to govern like LBJ

Pope Francis a Peronist? Makes some sense. . .

BO donor/appointee federal judge squashes Planned Parenthood vids.

Media coverage: Cecil the Lion vs. Planned Parenthood Butchers

Dramatic rise in homicide rates in major US cities. All of these cities have something in common. . .wonder what that is???


Follow HancAquam or Subscribe ----->

01 August 2015

Where's your dancer?

From 2009, by request. . .

St Alphonus Liguori
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
Sisters of St Mary of Namur

Herod hands us a warning —the head of John the Baptist on a platter. Surely, Herod has no idea that this grisly gift to a dancer would serve as a caution twenty centuries down the road. Fearing the anger of the people, he sets aside his own anger at John and enjoys his birthday party. He enjoys it a little too much; so much, in fact, that he foolishly vows to grant the party's exceptional dancer whatever she might wish. At the prompting of her mother—Herod's illegitimate wife—the young woman asks for John's head. For us, twenty-first century Christians, the girl's naivete produces a first-century warning: those in power will not tolerate prophets who speak the truth, especially if the truth spoken risks stinging an unruly conscience and rousing an unjustly ruled people. We are duly warned. But if Christians cannot or will not speak the truth to those who rule, who will? Can we afford to tolerate rulers who will not hear the truth spoken? Are we ready to surrender our heads to the court dancer?

John discovered the hard way that princes and kings do not like God's grubby spokesmen spouting off about truth, justice, and the holy way. Out of fear, Herod allows John to live despite John's harangues against his royal adultery. Watching the daily tracking polls, Herod no doubt sees John's popularity as a prophet of God, a man worthy of the job given to him. Focus groups indicate to the king that beheading John for speaking out would be a very dangerous move poll numbers; so, he refrains. Instead of the calling the axeman, Herod funds a political action committee and begins oppositional research. The negative ads were poised to air the day the dancing girl moved seductively onto the scene. She's the game-changer. In what will become one of history's most notorious political gaffes, Herod promises her the world. She wants and gets John's head. For the next several months nothing else is discussed in media. How will Plattergate play out at the polls? Has Herod hurt himself with the religious demographic? Was the whole affair a set-up by Herod's zealous opponents to embarrass him?

Among the witnesses that day were John's disciples. They collect his body and bury it. Then they tell Jesus that his herald is dead. Hearing this, Jesus goes alone to a deserted place. Does Jesus think that John was foolish to admonish Herod? Would Jesus have advised John to resist speaking the truth to his king? Maybe the better way here is the path of quiet persuasion through earnest dialogue and common ground engagement. After all, the truth is so harsh, so dramatically uncompromising, and impractical. Surely, our Lord would have coached John to be more tolerant, less judgmental, more willing to see both sides of the issue for the sake of staying at the political table. And then there's the whole beheading episode. There's a message for us from our rulers: tell me the truth, and I get your head. What compromise won't get me, the axe will cut away. Negotiate away the truth or die.

Are we ready to surrender our heads to the court dancer? A grim question! One we can hope and pray we never have to answer. Of course, the question will never be put to any of us in exactly those terms. We'll be asked a much more subtle question: are you willing to stop being so stubborn about all those moral and religious issues if we allow you to participate in the democratic process? If not, chop! You're out. Your head won't be on a platter, but your voice will be muffled under the weight of lawsuits and judicial injunctions. If we fall, we fall to the tax-man not the axe-man.

So, what do we do? Negotiate? Engage on “common ground”? Get what we can and thank our secular betters for the scrapes? We are as wise as serpents and gentle as doves, so we could. But too often gentle doves forget that they must sometimes be wise serpents. Fortunately, we are political animals only for a while. The life we have been chosen for and have received is the life of truth lived on the way to an eternal life. There is nothing to fear in speaking the truth, nothing and no one to tremble before when absolute moral virtue needs our voices to be heard. We have been warned. True. But we have also been promised. Warned by a king. Promised by The King. Promised to his Father. The beauty of this promise is that we have already been beheaded, died, buried, and made ready to rise again. Why would we fear the wrath of a king when we truly belong to The King? Besides, who told you that being a prophet was an easy road to fame and riches? Welcome to the Platter! Where's your dancer?

Follow HancAquam or Subscribe ----->

31 July 2015

Being flowers not weeds

NB. From 2007 by request. . .readings are proper to the feast.

St. Ignatius of Loyola: Exo 33.7-11, 34.5-9, 28 and Mt 13.36-43
Fr. Philip N. Powell, OP
Church of the Incarnation, University of Dallas

Every gardener, every farmer, every owner of a yard knows that when you till up a patch of ground, fertilize it, water it, sow it carefully with seed, there’s an excellent chance that along with the strong stems and healthy leaves of the desired plants, there will grow choking weeds, undesirable sprouts that steal water, food, and sunlight from the Good Plants you intend to enjoy. Weeds are as inevitable as bugs! No lover of a neat, manicured lawn, however, just leaves the weeds to take root and flourish and flower, seeding all over carefully cultivated ground. Weeds are pulled, poisoned, chopped, hoed out, and cut off. And then these thieves are piled high, allowed to dry, and burned. Jesus tells the disciples that there will be those in his garden who try to steal Life from those who wish to flourish in his Word. These thieves he calls, “The Children of the Evil One” and they are sown by the Devil. What do we do with the weeds among us?

Think back to the parable where Jesus introduces the idea of the weeds among the good plants. The planter’s servants ask their master if they should pull the weeds before the harvest. The master says, “No, let them grow and I will tell the harvesters to cut them, separate them out, and burn them.” Why does he leave the weeds? Why does he let them flourish, potentially damaging the good crop? The master reasons, “Pulling the weeds while the good plants are young might damage the good plants more than the weeds ever could.” So, he lets both the good and the evil mature in his fertile ground, knowing that the evil will be dealt with in the end.

Does this parable need any further explanation? No, I don’t think so. But it does provoke a question for us: for those of us who tend to think of ourselves as Good Plants, how do we deal with the obvious weeds among us? Notice the dangerous assumption in this question: that we know how to identify weeds! Now, there are extreme cases of Weeds Among Us—for example, those who would see us become unitarian-universalists; or, those who would turn us into new-age Buddhists or Mother Goddess worshippers; or those who would the whittle the church into a tiny remnant of apocalyptic survivors. We may also readily point out the self-proclaimed prophets of public dissent and those who mock the sacraments—especially Holy Orders—by play-acting at ordination rites. And there are those who willfully take on the identity of Weeds by throwing themselves in front of any live camera or open mike and denouncing the Church’s centuries old moral tradition in the name of "liberty." Beyond these extremes—few and far between they are!—Good Plants and Weeds can look a lot alike. So, in the end we must humbly submit to the infallible judgment of our Lord in plucking the weeds and leaving the righteous at the time of harvest.

We aren’t helpless against the noxious effects of the weeds right now, however. True, we must be patient in waiting for the weeds to be pulled; but, we can minimize their damage to the garden by carefully tending to that which makes the garden fertile in the first place: God’s gift of growing His love in us. No, this is not some lame deflection or crippled sentimentality put up to serve a faint heart too weak to fight the Weeds! There is nothing faint-hearted or weak or sentimental about God’s love being perfected in us. Jesus says that on the day of harvest, “the righteous will shine like the sun in the Kingdom of their Father.” No darkness, no shadow, no fleck of sin. Nothing contrary to the brilliance of the Father’s glory. Nothing stands against His end, His means, His perfection. For us then, we need only be living Christs for others in order to show the weeds their fate. While they suck life from the air and poison the ground, the Good Plants must be more deeply rooted, stand taller, produce more and better fruit, and be more beautiful in flower than any weed can.

Being right is not our witness. Being faithful to the end…that’s the testimony that will turn heads and change hearts.

Follow HancAquam or Subscribe ----->

29 July 2015

No one else can bring us home

NB. From 2009, by request. . .

17th Week OT (Th)
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
Sisters of St Mary of Namur

Setting aside for the moment a few ugly episodes and outrageous characters from the Order's history, it is safe to say that Dominicans have a well-deserved reputation for preferring to teach folks into heaven rather than scaring them away from Hell. We would rather persuade than cajole, influence rather than frighten. Generally speaking, it is better to touch a rational soul with the Light of Christ than it is to scare the snot out of a sinner with ghastly visions of Hell. But sometimes the rational soul of a sinner might need to be shown a scene or two of eternal life without God—just a brief glimpse into exactly what never-ending torment looks like. Doesn't a soul twisted in folly, unable to choose the Good and come to God, doesn't a soul so injured deserve the mercy of wisdom's most immediate remedy? Jesus, the Master Philosopher, knows that even a mind deeply dedicated to right reason but steeped in sin may need a hot-shock, a whack upside the head in order to see through foolish to wisdom. The “fiery furnace” he refers to so often in Matthew's gospel is just that jolt of reality we sometimes need. It's not pretty, but it sure is helpful.

As helpful as images of Hell may be, we tend to shy away from preaching about eternal damnation these days. Too 1950's. Too fundamentalist. Very “pre-Vatican Two”—whatever that means. But if we are going to preach the gospel, there is simply no way to avoid the subject given the lectionary readings! These last two weeks alone Jesus has separated the goats from the sheep; pulled the weeds from among the flowers; culled the good fish from the bad; and his angels have set the midden-heap of pruned branches ablaze. The wicked and the righteous are well and truly labeled, properly queued up, and ready to receive their eternal itineraries. So, let's not mince words; let's study the truth as Jesus presents it to us: make a choice—goat or sheep, flower or weed, good fish or bad, fertile soil or barren dirt. All you need to do is make the right choice. The consequences of making the wrong choice are—shall we say—extremely unpleasant! In the best sense, the choices before us really are just this stark and the consequences of our choices just this easy to discern. Few of us, however, experience the choices in such stark terms.

So why is Jesus presenting the choices in such glaring black and white terms? Why the threat of eternal punishment in the fiery furnace for making the wrong choice? Jesus is a Master Philosopher and a Master Psychologist. Think about how Jesus preaches and teaches. He uses parables, scriptural allusions, conversation, examples, even miracles. Sometimes he interrogates and cajoles. Rarely does he argue like a Greek philosopher or a Pharisee. The people in the crowds respond to him b/c he sparks to life their intuitions about what is true and good and beautiful about being well-loved creatures. He knows that his very presence jump-starts that nagging desire for God that we are born with and strive to satisfy in this life. And he knows that without God's help we will consistently fail to reach high enough when reaching for our happiness. Settling for imitation happiness, faux-joy—this might impress the neighbors, but it takes the real-deal to enter the kingdom. And if Jesus has to scare the snot out of us to get us to pay attention to our eternal choices, then get the hankie ready—here comes the scare!

If you were frightened into the faith, you might not be particularly proud of the fact. It would be more embarrassing, however, to remain faithful out of fear, to remain a believer because the fiery furnace looms large in the imagination. The threat of the furnace is meant to scald a foolish soul into seeing the light of reason, to awake a sleepy desire for God. Clearly, Hell is a very real option for anyone who chooses to live without God for eternity. But Hell is not the be-all and end-all of the gospel. Once the furnace-option has been rejected and we have joined the flowers, the sheep, the good fish, and the fertile soil, Hell might linger as a whiff of smoke to remind us of our wise choice, but the daily life of a Christian is not dominated by the fear of an already and always defeated enemy. We chose to receive the extravagant graces poured out from the cross and the empty tomb. Though the heat of the furnace may have turned us from its punishing flames, setting us on the right course, we stay the course for Christ b/c nothing else, no one else can bring us home. For us, no one else is home.

Follow HancAquam or Subscribe ----->

Coffee Cup Browsing (Wed)

If your child's school brings in an "anti-bullying" group, check and double-check their program. (NB. graphic language) 

$15/hr minimum wage in Seattle leads workers to demand fewer hrs. Why? They aren't eligible for welfare benefits any longer. . .

Why the co-founder of Greenpeace left the group. . .Hint: anti-human ideology.

Big Gov't: left vs. right 

Adjusting the temp to support The Narrative: all the facts made to fit

Trump and the revenge of the Radical Middle. . . 

Ouch. A pic that pretty much says it all.


Follow HancAquam or Subscribe ----->

28 July 2015

Do you believe?

NB. From 2009, by request. . .

St Martha
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
Sisters of St Mary of Namur

In the presence of the people, Moses veils his face, shielding them from God's radiance even while sharing with them the Lord's commands; in the presence of the Lord himself, Martha unveils her face, revealing her grief to Jesus even while confessing her belief in him. Moses must hide God's brilliance so that the people will hear what the Lord has to say. Martha must show Jesus her mourning so that he will ask of her, “Do you believe?” Both Moses and Martha see the Lord face-to-face. Both hear him and converse with him. Moses speaks with God for the sake of His people. Martha speaks with Jesus for the sake of her deceased brother, Lazarus. Moses is the anointed prophet of God and leader of His people. Martha is sister to Mary; friend to Jesus; and no one has anointed her to be a prophet or herald, yet she believes that Jesus is the promised one to come; she proclaims his arrival among us; and names him, she names him Christ, the Messiah. What Moses must hide so that others might see, Martha announces so that all may hear.

If you have ever mourned, you know how wholly consuming the pain can be. The gravity of loss drags against every offer of comfort, any possibility of relief. Nothing, no one can lift the ruinous pressure that squeezes your guts and chokes your heart. There is nothing to see behind you anymore and nothing of promise for tomorrow. There is only more defeat in the futile hours that circle around. . .again and again. Martha and Mary mourn the death of Lazarus, their brother. They do not grieve alone—neighbors, friends, family visit with them. Martha goes out to meet Jesus on his way. Finding him, she says, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. . .” She “says” this? Or does she scream it? Is she accusing Jesus of neglect? Is she merely disappointed in him, or just annoyed? Do you hear grief in her voice? “Lord, if you had been here. . .” If only, you had been here. . .

What we could easily take to be Martha's accusation against Jesus, quickly turns into something else entirely: “...my brother would not have died [had you been here, Lord]. But even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you.” From accusatory outburst to faith-filled profession, Martha moves from being a grieving sister to speaking as a holy prophet of God. Jesus assures her that Lazarus will rise. And Martha, in tone that could put steel in the weakest stomach, answers, “I know he will rise. . .” The strength of her conviction almost overshadows Jesus' moment of glory: “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live. . .” We can safely assume that Jesus never sputtered when he spoke, but it is not too much to imagine that he may have been both a little surprised and greatly pleased by Martha's faith. Nonetheless, he must ask. . .

Do you believe this? Do you believe that if you believe in Christ Jesus, you will never die, and if you die, you will live again? Martha says in answer to this question, “I have come to believe. . .” In other words, not always fully convinced of your name or mission, over time I have found belief, arrived at faith, been convicted in the spirit that you are the Christ. Martha is our prophet of progressing belief, of unfolding faith. She is our patron saint of those who Come to Believe despite their anger, their grief; despite all the evidence and argument against believing; over the objections of family, friends, colleagues; and, overriding disappointment and accusation, come to know that all will be made well—even death—all will be made well. But first we must believe. We must watch what cannot clearly be seen, reach for what cannot be grasped. Only by watching and reaching do we ever see or grasp.

Martha wants to know, “Do you believe?


Follow HancAquam or Subscribe ----->

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.


Follow HancAquam or Subscribe ----->

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! 

Follow HancAquam or Subscribe ----->