Monday, September 29, 2008

The Trouble with Angels

Throughout human history, in our philosophy and in our cosmology (or worldview), the pendulum of our place in the cosmos has swung back and forth again and again. Are we the crown of creation or are we just "trousered apes?" In our tinkering with the inner and outer worlds that we find ourselves swimming in, we are often ennobled and belittled all at once. The great Shakespeare summed it up well: "What a piece of work is man! How noble in reason! how infinite in faculties! in form and moving, how express and admirable! in action how like an angel! in apprehension, how like a god! the beauty of the world! the paragon of animals! And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust?" (Hamlet, Act V, scene ii) And of course, the Bible encapsulates the enigma even better: "What is man that you should care for him? You have made him little less than the angels, and crowned him with glory and honor. You have given him rule over the works of your hands, putting all things under his feet" (Psalm 8) The perennial question remains for each of us as to where our destiny lies. Are we angels or are we animals? The singer-songwriter John Gorka once sang "We are dust that was made in stars, now we roll off to work in cars. When we were young we spilled our dreams in bars. Now we clean up the mess." I think the answer as to our place in the universe is, scandalously, up to you and me. You see, we alone in this wonderful cosmos can choose chaos. We can be sacred or profane, holy or horrible. No other created reality, stars, dogs, planets, buttercups, can choose it's identity. But we can. I think this freaks us out. I've been reading an amazing book for the past few months (that's my style, a couple pages at a time). It's called the Philosophy of Tolkien by my hands down favorite author, Dr. Peter Kreeft. He took me through a whirlwind of deep thoughts by positing this idea that we, as free persons made in God's image have the power (because of our freedom) to maim or to manifest that image; to distort or declare it. At the end of the day, I think we are afraid of this great task that God has laid upon us; the challenge of living up to our own dignity. We seem today to be shrinking away from it, from our worth as human beings. God has "put all things under our feet," and all we are concerned about is leaving our "carbon footprint." Wake up, people of the earth. "Do not be afraid. You are worth more than many sparrows." (Luke 12:7) And this brings us to today's Feast of the Archangels Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael. They are clarion calls to us, trumpet blasts from the Realms of the Infinite. Their mission it is to "trouble" the waters of our complacency, to stir us up, to remind us that there are indeed "more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in our philosophies." (thanks again Mr. Shakespeare). Are we angels or are we animals? Neither. We are men and women, a unique bridge in the visible universe that opens up into an invisible world. So today we should take a long look below us at the plethora of animals and a deep look into Heaven at the myriads of angels. We should rise to the occasion and take our assigned seats in God's plan; to be voices of praise lifting up created reality, and hearts made for eternity that will someday swim in God.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

St. Michael Defend Us in Battle

PRAYER TO SAINT MICHAEL THE ARCHANGEL St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the Devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly hosts, by the power of God, thrust into hell Satan, and all the evil spirits, who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen. I've posted the following snippets from Dr. Peter Kreeft before, but on this eve of the Feast of the Archangels, I just can't resist a rerun! The Twelve Most Important Things to Know About Angels 1. They really exist. Not just in our minds, or our myths, or our symbols, or our culture. They are as real as your dog, or your sister, or electricity. 2. They’re present, right here, right now, right next to you, reading these words with you. 3. They’re not cute, cuddly, comfortable, chummy, or "cool." They are fearsome and formidable. They are huge. They are warriors. 4. They are the real "extra-terrestrials", the real "Super-men", the ultimate aliens. Their powers are far beyond those of all fictional creatures. 5. They are more brilliant minds than Einstein. 6. They can literally move the heavens and the earth if God permits them. 7. There are also evil angels, fallen angels, demons, or devils. These too are not myths. Demon possessions, and exorcisms, are real. 8. Angels are aware of you, even though you can’t usually see or hear them. But you can communicate with them. You can talk to them without even speaking. 9. You really do have your very own "guardian angel." Everybody does. 10. Angels often come disguised. "Do not neglect hospitality, for some have entertained angels unawares" — that’s a warning from life’s oldest and best instruction manual. 11. We are on a protected part of a great battlefield between angels and devils, extending to eternity. 12. Angels are sentinels standing at the crossroads where life meets death. They work especially at moments of crisis, at the brink of disaster — for bodies, for souls, and for nations. __________________________________________________________ For more fantastic spiritual reading from Peter Kreeft, visit his excellent website at www.peterkreeft.com

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Pio, Something Smells!

PREAMBLE: Before we even begin today's reflections, I have something to smell you, I mean tell you. One of the coolest things about Padre Pio and the way God likes to work lies in the acclaimed "odor of sanctity" that often follows the holy ones. Yes, believe it or not, when God allows miracles to pour forth from His beloved saints, they are sometimes associated with fragrances. Therese is roses, and Padre Pio is often known by the scent of... tobacco. This to me is beyond awesome. Tobacco.... brilliant. "For those who believe, no explanation is necessary. For those who do not believe, no explanation is possible." Today the Church celebrates the Feast Day of one of her most beloved and most misunderstood sons... St. Pio of Pietrelcina. Born on May 25, 1887, he died on this day in 1968, and today is still affectionately known as Padre Pio. I say he was misunderstood, but more accurately I mean missed. This is simply because so much attention was given to the miracles that Jesus let flow through his hands that many missed the simple truth of who he was; a quiet man of extreme austerity who praised, loved and served Jesus and the Church passionately his whole life. He hated the attention the miracles brought. It's like the image of a man pointing to food and the dog stares at the finger instead. "Look at the food, not my finger!" I think that was perhaps his greatest cross in life. People coming to him looking for some fireworks or a show, or to cut a piece of his robe as a souvenir... yes, they did. They did it to St. Francis of Assisi too. Heck, they did this to Jesus! And perhaps I should stop saying "they" - we do too. "God, give me a sign! Prove Yourself to me!" Well, maybe our intentions aren't always that extreme. We just want recognition or affirmation, right? Maybe something merely tangible is all. And the funny thing is, God is quite willing at times to oblige! Wasn't everybody flocking to Jesus for cures, and didn't he cure many bodies? The woman with an illness of 38 years came to Jesus in a crowd of starstruck followers and she said "If I could just touch the hem of his garment, that would be enough." And she was right, it was enough. But for Jesus, as for his followers like Padre Pio, the enough wasn't enough until he got both body and soul, mind and heart. In a word all of us. So why did God allow so many miracles through St. Pio's stigmatized hands in 1950's and 60's? Maybe He will use anything and everything when the timing is right to get our attention? What follows is an excerpt from EWTN's special section on St. Pio for today's feast. Let's celebrate the extraordinary wonders of God today, and wonder how we can become more like Him in our often ordinary daily life. Bilocation and Odor of Sanctity The phenomenon of bilocation is one of the most remarkable gifts attributed to Padre Pio. His appearances on various of the continents are attested by numerous eye witnesses, who either saw him or smelled the odors characteristically associated with his presence, described by some as roses and by others as tobacco. The phenomenon of odor (sometimes called the odor of sanctity) is itself well established in Padre Pio's case. The odor was especially strong from the blood coming from his wounds. Investigation showed that he used absolutely no fragrances or anything that could produce these odors. The odors often occurred when people called upon his intercession in prayer and continue to this day. Among the most remarkable of the documented cases of bilocation was the Padre's appearance in the air over San Giovanni Rotondo during World War II. While southern Italy remained in Nazi hands American bombers were given the job of attacking the city of San Giovanni Rotondo. However, when they appeared over the city and prepared to unload their munitions a brown-robed friar appeared before their aircraft. All attempts to release the bombs failed. In this way Padre Pio kept his promise to the citizens that their town would be spared. Later on, when an American airbase was established at Foggia a few miles away, one of the pilots of this incident visited the friary and found to his surprise the little friar he had seen in the air that day over San Giovanni. As to how Padre Pio with God's help accomplished such feats, the closest he ever came to an explanation of bilocation was to say that it occurred "by an extension of his personality." - (visit here for full article)

Monday, September 22, 2008

Fire and Freedom

Before His gaze all falsehood melts away. This encounter with Him, as it burns us, transforms and frees us, allowing us to become truly ourselves... His gaze, the touch of His heart heals us through an undeniably painful transformation “as through fire”. But it is a blessed pain, in which the holy power of His love sears through us like a flame, enabling us to become totally ourselves and thus totally of God. - Pope Benedict XVI, Spe Salvi
I love the Pope. I love this challenging invitation from the Holy Father, a man anointed and appointed by the Holy Spirit to guide and govern the Church on earth. And though this invitation speaks of great pain, I take the greatest comfort from these "burning" words of his, because... 1. I know they are true, and 2. He has the courage to tell us this truth. Christianity is not a sugar-coated religion, an escape, or a crutch. It is not unrealistic, or naive. It is standing arms outstretched in the midst of scorching winds; it is stepping into the white hot furnace where the three young man danced before an evil king of this world in the Old Testament. It is a New Testament. It is a test, it is our testimony.... a blessed pain, in which the holy power of His love sears through us like a flame, enabling us to become totally ourselves and thus totally of God. And as a dear professor of theology once told me, "Everything that happened to Jesus must happen to us." So when we find ourselves in this fire of sorrow, then we find ourselves in the best of company.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Amazing Grace

An update on our Snowflakes adoption story.... We had another ultrasound this week, and our baby's condition has not changed since the diagnosis of acrania. We're still holding out for our miracle, through the prayerful intercession of Pope John Paul II, because nothing is impossible with God. And what our baby needs is the impossible. Bone where there is no bone; a total and complete healing. We did receive a tremendous blessing, though, in coming to discover the baby's sex. So we welcome to the world, though still hidden in the womb, our little girl, Grace Elizabeth. And she is a dancer. In our 22nd week, the images seem so clear. She came waltzing out of the murky shadows of the ultrasound screen, in a dimly lit room at the perinatal testing center. We could see her hands waving, the bones of her tiny fingers, her heart pounding strong and fast. When the technician, Janene, said "It's a girl," I felt such a swell of emotion. Coming to know someone's name has a power in it. It's a privilege actually. And now it strikes me as so much more personal than before... We have a little girl... and we will always have a little girl. Sixteen years from now, come what may, we'll be celebrating her birthday. We'll speak of her, dream of her, talk to her, and if the miracle doesn't come (though in a certain sense it is here already) we'll ask her to wait for us in Heaven. And we'll all look forward to meeting her in that Perfect Place where everything is whole and every tear is wiped away. But here below, this new knowledge is a two-edged sword; even as it helps us cut through a section of the sadness by our naming and knowing our little girl, it tears at us because we must consider all ends; we might have to say goodbye just as we say hello. I know it's not by coincidence that we found this all out on the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows. Feasts of Mary and the saints have been curiously aligned with our visits and appointments throughout the past couple of years. A comfort on this way of the Cross. Grace Elizabeth.... be strong, be whole, be healed. We love and wait for you. Keep dancing in your watery world as we treasure every second of this journey.

The Catholic Vote

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Indiana Bill and the Quest for Velveeta

Have you ever tried to find Velveeta without the help of a certified supermarket technician? You'd sooner find the Holy Grail than this coveted orange wedge of pasty goodness. And why, you ask, is it so hard to find? Because no one knows exactly what it is. Cheese? But it says "pasteurized cheese product" on the side. Spread? But it says "cheese" on it. Whiz? But it comes in a rectangular box. You can scan every aisle, as Rebecca and I have, and you can ask employees... but every store will have a different story.
Velveeta is like the Sasquatch of Supermarkets, the Nessie of Snack Necessities. This is why I took a picture of it when I found it, lest it should vanish in a flash like the "you-know-what" in Season 4 of LOST (I didn't want to give a spoiler there to anyone still watching Season 3). But if you're in the Acme supermarket off of Springfield Road, Delaware County, you can find this stuff in aisle 4 by the Pasta Roni. Abandon hope all ye who seek elsewhere.... or at least pack a lunch before you begin the journey.
Ah Velveeta... we did find it last week as you can see. We had to find it; it's one of the secret ingredients in Rebecca's Super Dip of Champions, aka the Nectar of the Gods. This dip transforms ordinary chips into masterpieces. Like gamma rays transformed David Banner into the Incredible Hulk, like the suit made Ralph Hinkley the Greatest American Hero, this dip gives tortillas a quantum leap into the highest realms of culinary perfection. I suppose in light of this dip, the endless search for Velveeta becomes somehow worth it. A real adventure. I was going to make a really neat spiritual connection to Finding Velveeta when I started this post, but now I think you get the idea. So... yeah.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Crossbeams

Two beams have shot out through human history, each on a course and each on a quest. One is horizontal, passing through time, looking on the world as on a linear plane, longing for the infinite but finding only finite things. The top is spun and the circle runs and days pass, but all is vanity, passing away in clouds of half-knowledge. It is man's search for meaning.
Everyone is seeking something. Every soul is longing and working and sweating out its days in a quest for a paradigm that will offer insight into the enigma of being here, of being human. We awake every morning and we rub our eyes and we look out across time; our horizontal beams like beacons, scanning the vast sea of humanity, eager to find its edge and its end. We lay out the tracks of our thoughts so that our hearts may have a Way to travel, a Path to navigate, a Destiny to reach. But all is vanity, and there is nothing new under the sun.
But a second beam has fallen, and ever falls, perpendicular to the thoughts of men, streaming down from infinite fields, vast and limitless. This beam intersects our history, personal and collective, and impregnates it with meaning, with purpose, with life. It's the gaze of God. But this beam of Love does not break or sever our horizontal gaze. Rather, it permeates and radiates and lets run backwards and forwards through the long line of human longings, of births and deaths, life and love, and gives it a New Fire. This beam bends our stubborn necks and gives us cause to look up.
Into the finite descends the Infinite, into space comes spirit, throughout time there now breathes Eternity. The Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross is the celebration of Heaven penetrating Earth. Of God breaking into our story and giving our plane of existence a vibrant new dimension. The Cross is the stamp on every letter God sends us, to say "Look up... your redemption is near at hand."

A Little Silliness

Slightly irreverent and very funny... Ron Burgundy Interviews.... J.C. (and how does he keep from laughing?) Thanks Brian Barcaro for the link.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Love Your Enemies

I remember vividly this day 7 years ago. I remember who first told me about a plane hitting a building, then another. I watched in disbelief as the TV screen showed that mighty tower slide down and diffuse itself and hundreds of souls into dust and ash through the streets of New York. I remember the smallest details, the emotion, room I was in, the bright blue of the sky that day, the turns on Lincoln Drive as I sped along to get to Rebecca at Mount St. Joseph's. That was the only thought. Find loved ones, be safe. I remember making scattered phone calls, then calls not getting through. Everyone scared, blank expressions, whispers... "What is happening?" Then prayers welling up, pews filling up and overflowing; the tenderness of people's words, the slower pace we gave our steps, and how that lasted for a time. Then another thing crept into the place of silent shock; anger, bitterness, and a searching gaze into the world to see who would "pay" for this. By coincidence, or Providence, you can decide, the gospel for today in the three year cycle that the Church planned long ago happens to speak of love for our enemies. "Do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you... turn the other cheek." Jesus uses a dramatic rabbinic method of teaching here to wake up his listeners. We've heard this a thousand times, but how should we on this day of remembered terror and attack respond? When these words filter through our emotions and trickle down to the sanctuary of the soul, what are we led to do? Ultimately, forgive. And another thought came to many even on the day of September 11, 2001. Self-reflection...
Why us? Though the nature of these horrific acts is rooted in chaos, something sparked this madness. Perhaps it should drive us into a deep collective examination of conscience as a people. How does the world see us? What good have we done that has merited this action? What good have we failed to do that has drawn such anger and destruction? Are we stewards and allies or have we grown fat on our riches and bullies in the eyes of other nations? It seems to me that we have both weeds and wheat growing in our amber waves of grain. A day like September 11 is a day to walk through these fields and ponder these questions, wrap them in bundles of prayer, and turn them over to the Harvest Master Who knows our hearts better than anyone.
I'll close with a few lines from David Wilcox's poignant 9-11 song "City of Dreams." It's on iTunes and well worth a listen today. I pray we can make it's closing thought a reality.
All the flags on front porches
And the banners of unity
Spanning the bridges
From the top of the fence
As we heal up the wounds
And take care of each other
There's more love in this nation
Than hate and revenge...
- David Wilcox

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Mist and Sun and the Meaning of Life

I love back roads. Swervy, windy, half in shadow, half in sun ribbons of asphalt. They're like "mobile prayer" for Rebecca and I. Add a little Lord of the Rings or Dances with Wolves soundtrack music into a Sunday drive and you are GONE... floating away to Happy Land, the Land of Contemplation! And all's right with the world! Well, mostly. My drive into school each morning is a gift; back roads abound! There are a number of paths to take and I generally mix it up from day to day. Case in point: just last week, after passing it for three years in moderate "haste," I decided to take "Grubb's Mill Road" for a spin. Now don't judge a road by its name. As I made my way over hill and dale (what is a dale anyway?) I was literally captured by the sunlight streaming through morning mist over wet grass. I flipped on the hazards and with the handy iPhone (I know I know, Geek Boy Returns) I snapped a few pics. One is handsomely portrayed in this post above for your observation. Click on it and it should fill the screen.... go ahead, try it! Now curiously, I was able to use this image as a teaching moment in class that very day. I start off my freshmen theology course light on the homework, heavy on the heartwork. I invite them into a fresh way of looking at the world.... into a "sacramental" vision. Afterall, this is how a Catholic sees the universe..... as a mosaic full of meaning, an icon, a Mystery wrapped in ribbons of protons, neutrons, and electrons. This is pretty dang exciting. Here's that quote I love to quote... again: To materialists this world is opaque like a curtain; nothing can be seen through it. A mountain is just a mountain, a sunset just a sunset; but to poets, artists, and saints, the world is transparent like a window pane - it tells of something beyond....a mountain tells of the Power of God, the sunset of His Beauty, and the snowflake of His Purity. - Bishop Fulton Sheen Back to the back roads.... This image (above) was breathtaking. And I guess what intrigues me about an encounter like this is how the physical channels the spiritual, the visible can communicate the invisible. How does it happen that we alone in the universe can "see" this? Apprehend this? Comprehend this and be captivated by this? Objectively, the scene I saw was made of water vapor, chlorophyll, and a swirl of elements bending and twisting in the rising heat of a large ball of gas 93,000,000 miles away. But it was beauty that caught me. The squirrels didn't stop and stare. Mr. Bluebird didn't land on my shoulder and strike up a conversation on the matter, cool as that would have been. For some reason, I saw in these elements a wonder, a story, a window that opened into my own experience. In this sacrament of the present moment, as the mist swirled before the sun, I thought of our sorrow thick and dank, sapping us of hope. The trees reached in and broke its cloudy mask, like the hands of friends praying for us, reaching into our lives and rooting us in hope. And then the Sun, beyond hope, pierced that mist of melancholy like a dozen swords of holy light that shone and fell upon the earth. And behold, there was light and heat and a new kind of "illumination." I think it was Dostoyevsky who once wrote that, in the end, "Beauty will save the world." Well, Beauty has arrived, and often lies waiting for us on the back roads, in places least expected, in sudden and sharp turns from shadow into light. Perhaps all we're asked to do is stop and look with love and gratitude.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Happy Birthday Humanae Vitae!

This year the Church "celebrates" the fortieth anniversary of Pope Paul VI's theological lighthouse, Humanae Vitae, a brief letter highlighting what human life is all about and what human love is meant to reflect. It materialized like a beacon atop a pillar of rock in the midst of the fog kicked up from a so-called sexual revolution in the 1960's. I call it a lighthouse because today, anyone with half a brain can see that the revolution shipwrecked in turning away from it; the Yellow Submarine sank just as soon as it set sail, and we've been floating through some pretty dark wreckage ever since. The proof is in the statistics. Forty years ago, public and parochial reactions to Paul VI's letter were said to have broken his heart. Souls abandoned the Bark of Peter in droves and chose rather to find their own way through the deep and mysterious waters of human sexuality. But we have paid a high price for jumping ship... Dr. Janet Smith (click here for the complete text) recently wrote an article highlighting the prophecies that Pope Paul VI made concerning what would happen if the Church's teaching on contraception were ignored. For one, he said that the widespread use of contraception would lead to more cases of adultery and a general lowering of morality (anyone want to argue with that one?) The Pope predicted that men would lose respect for women and "no longer (care) for her physical and psychological equilibrium," coming at last to "the point of considering her as a mere instrument of selfish enjoyment and no longer as his respected and beloved companion." Paul VI also foresaw that the widespread allowance of contraception would put a "dangerous weapon . . . in the hands of those public authorities who take no heed of moral exigencies." (enter China's one child policy, for example). Finally, contraception could lead humanity into a distorted sense of dominion over our own bodies. As Dr. Smith mentions, "sterilization is now the most widely used form of contraception in the U.S.; individuals are so convinced of their rights to control their own bodies that they do not hesitate to alter even their own physical make-up." Despite these forty subsequent years of tragically fulfilled prophecies, many still cling to the hope that condoms and the Pill will somehow tame the teenagers and bring us "adults" a marital tranquility that won't be "interrupted" or "disturbed" by expensive and intrusive children. Forgive us Father, we know not what we do. * Humanae Vitae hit the culture like a bomb, and many are still picking pieces of its razor sharp clarity out of their shattered dreams of sexual license and reproductive autonomy. This teaching still burrows into the skin of many Catholics, like a piece of metal the spin doctors missed. We can't figure out why the Church won't "stay out of the bedroom" - as if the Church were a building built apart from flesh and blood. Perhaps we should recall that the Church is born in the bedroom, for it's a living body after all. Where else would the Church be found? Humanae Vitae told the world that the natural and sometimes fertile flow of love from man to woman that held the power to unify hearts and bring new life into the world should never be blocked, barricaded, or belittled into something merely biological, or merely pleasurable. Sex should (and could) always be knit to love and life, pleasure and procreation, bonding and babies. Our biology is never separate from our theology. That would be a divorce. What God has brought together, let no man separate. What the world wanted to divide, Pope Paul VI announced, the Church would hold together. And I'm so glad he did. But he paid a price too, like Gandalf facing his enemy, standing on the bridge between life and death. The rather intense image in this post was inspired by a talk of Christopher West's I attended this summer. I was given permission by the artist Ted Nasmith, himself a non-Catholic, who was gracious enough to let me "alter" his work. What a hero we have in Pope Paul VI, for his courage in holding fast to the beauty of the sexual embrace, of fertility, of life, of its sacred character from womb to tomb. May it be soon that his spirit of love and sacrifice resurrects like the Grey Pilgrim from the abyss in which our culture is falling. That a true Culture of Life prevail.... free, fruitful, and full of hope. Pope Paul VI, pray for us...
________________________________________ * I recognize the strong tone of this post may offend certain readers who disagree with the Church's teaching on contraception. It is certainly a very personal and sensitive issue. I would like to welcome any comments or questions and I pray that a fruitful dialogue might come from it. This is a teaching that I and the Church I love feel very strongly about. For a deeper understanding of the issue, please read the letter of Pope Paul VI first, found here.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Faith Database.... Wow.

I just learned about this fantastic new resource through Catholic Exchange. I would have scratched it right up, but the Mac version isn't out until next month. Check out the video intro on the website here.
  • 2000 Years of Christian History
  • 10 Bible Translations
  • 88 Council Documents from all 21 Ecumenical Councils
  • 400 Early Church writings
  • 165 writings from the Doctors of the Church
  • 74 books from John Henry Newman
  • 112 books from GK Chesterton
  • 1300 Papal writings/encyclicals
  • The Old Catholic Encyclopedia (1200 entries and 5000 images)
  • Many classics including Gibbons' "Faith of our Fathers," Thomas a Kempis' "Imitation of Christ" and John Paul II's "Theology of the Body"
  • 1000 Bible Art Images
  • Over 100 Bible Maps
  • Illustrated Church history
  • Search Catechism and Code of Canon Law
  • Some of the Over 1500 Featured Writings Classics Apologia (Newman)
  • St. Thomas Aquinas (The Summa)
  • St. Augustine's Confessions
  • Irenaeus' Against Heresies
  • St. John Chrysostom's Commentaries
  • and more!

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Jawdroppin' Jesus

What's the most exciting adjective ever hurled at you? Funny? Crazy? Caring? Compassionate? Nice... ? How about spellbinding. Now that's an adjective for ya. This rarely used word is the one used in today's gospel from Luke 4. Jesus is making his rounds around the towns and villages of Galilee (the sea of which is pictured above), and this time he's in Capernaum. The people are "spellbound" by his teaching. What a great word.... spellbound. It means "entranced by or as if by a spell; fascinated." But why were the people so entranced, you ask? Because he spoke with authority. Now there's something we need desparately today but are afraid to take, like nasty medicine that we know is going to heal but it hurts to go down; words of authority. The funny thing is, they only taste nasty when we are sick, that is, need to get out of unhealthy situations of self-righteousness and autonomy. When we are arrogant, anarchists, or anti-authority, words of authority come storming towards us, shining with all of the clarity, force, and power of a waterfall or a flash of lightning. They quite literally rock our world, like the words of Jesus did to the powers that be (or were) in his own time. But the truth is, we need a shock to our systems, so dulled as they are by soupy words, wishy washy words that dribble out from our lips or in opinion polls or from the media. We need a center of gravity. We need a Son to revolve around. In the me-o-centric universes that we can construct for ourselves, we simply end up floating through space like asteroids, bound sooner or later to crash into something. But it takes alot to convince us of this truth. To assure us that there is an Authority and a Law, and that we need to obey it (Him) just like the planets follow the rules. But we have the added challenge of doing so willingly, of placing our hearts and wills into His system. Falling in line with the Law of Love is the surest way of finding ourselves, of discovering our ryhthm, our pace, our deepest identity. All else is chaos. To resist his words of authority is to fall prey to the black hole of self-absorption, to lose all sense of space and time, to be bent... to be lost. The prayer today is to realign ourselves, reorient ourselves under His authority. So God, make our crooked ways straight. Draw us in and bind us to Your Truth. Then we can truly be spellbound, and in that binding we will truly be set free. "In His will, our peace." - Dante

An Inconvenient Truth

The following is from an e-mail that began circulating in March of last year. I received it yesterday from a friend. It was checked on snopes.com for authenticity and is in fact accurate! Kind of funny, kind of sad. I put it here on the blog because it puts a new spin on the spin doctors. They never tell us this stuff.... and I just wonder why. Two Houses House #1 A 20 room mansion (not including 8 bathrooms) heated by natural gas. Add on a pool (and a pool house) and a separate guest house, all heated by gas. In one month this residence consumes more energy than the average American household does in a year. The average bill for electricity and natural gas runs over $2400 per month. In natural gas alone, this property consumes more than 12 times the national average for an American home. This house is not situated in a Northern or Midwestern 'snow belt' area. It's in the South. House #2 Designed by an architecture professor at a leading national university. This house incorporates every 'green' feature current home construction can provide. The house is 4,000 square feet (4 bedrooms) and is nestled on a high prairie in the American southwest. A central closet in the house holds geothermal heat-pumps drawing ground water through pipes sunk 300 feet into the ground. The water (usually 67 degrees F) heats the house in the winter and cools it in the summer. The system uses no fossil fuels such as oil or natural gas and it consumes one-quarter electricity required for a conventional heating/cooling system. Rainwater from the roof is collected and funneled into a 25,000 gallon underground cistern. Wastewater from showers, sinks and toilets goes into underground purifying tanks and then into the cistern. The collected water then irrigates the land surrounding the house. Surrounding flowers and shrubs native to the area enable the property to blend into the surrounding rural landscape. HOUSE #1 is outside of Nashville , Tennessee ; it is the abode of the 'environmentalist ' Al Gore. HOUSE #2 is on a ranch near Crawford, Texas; it is the residence of the President of the United States , George W. Bush. ___________________________ You can verify it at snopes.com