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Monday, March 30, 2015

PALM SUNDAY: This Holy Week Ends in a Showdown between Good and Evil

Sermon by Rev. John Paul Shea
Palm Sunday, March 29, 2015
Saints Peter and Paul Parish, Tucson, AZ

"'Then what do you want me to do with man you call the kind of the Jews?' They shouted again, 'Crucify him.'" (Mark 15:12-13)

Praised be Jesus Christ! Today we enter into the most holy and sacred week of the year for Catholics.

On this day we welcome our Lord. We wave our palm branches, accompanying our Lord, walking with Him into His Calvary so that we can be given the grace of new life in the resurrection.

On this day our Lord enters into a showdown between good and evil. He takes up this battle not with weapons of destruction, but with humility and obedience right up to His death and surrender on the  cross.   

Today we heard the passion narrative from the Gospel of Mark (Mark 14:1--15:47). What we just heard should move our hearts to thanksgiving! This passion narrative should drive our hearts to conversion! Everything that our Lord Jesus went through was real! The very fact that our Lord Jesus Christ came down from heaven and suffered and died this most extreme death for us should bring us down on our knees begging Our Lord for forgiveness of our sins!

My brothers and sisters, today we enter into the most holy and sacred week of the year for  Catholics. In one week, we will celebrate Easter, the glorious resurrection of our Lord from the dead. 

Fr. John Paul Shea 
Our Lord loves us. He wants us to live with Him in the final resurrection. Yet, we are reminded today, as we enter into Holy Week, that if we want to share in our Lord’s resurrection, we must first enter into our Lord’s passion. We must die to ourselves and offer our bodies and souls to our Lord. We must make sacrifices, not just during the season of Lent, but throughout our lives. May we seek true contrition for our sins, and may we pray desperately for the salvation of souls. Praised be Jesus Christ! Now and forever!

Did you enjoy this homily? There are more. Try this one also by Fr. John Paul Shea: Climb Aboard the Ark of Our Salvation!

Saturday, March 21, 2015

The Mighty Message of the Precious Blood: He Speaks for "Life!"

Author Susan Fox
by Susan Fox

“To the sprinkled blood that speaks more graciously than the blood of Abel.” (Heb 12:24)

So we learn in Hebrews that the Blood of Jesus Christ is mightier than that of the first martyr of Genesis -- the innocent Abel, victim of Cain’s envy and fratricide.

For though Abel still speaks from the dead, yet he is dust and to dust he shall return.  Not so Christ. “Earth does not cover over the blood of our Redeemer, for every sinner, as he drinks the blood that is the price of his redemption, offers praise and thanksgiving, and to the best of his power makes that blood known to all around him.” (From Reflections on Job by Pope St. Gregory the Great)

And what does the Blood of Christ say? Life!
He begs for life for His persecutors! The blood of Jesus calls out more eloquently than Abel’s, for the blood of Abel asked for the death of Cain, the fratricide, while the blood of the Lord has asked for, and obtained, life for his persecutors.” ( St. Gregory the Great)

“Is it possible to offer, or even to imagine, a purer kind of prayer than that which shows mercy to one’s torturer’s by making intercession for them?” the Holy Pope Gregory added. Yet His persecutors will no longer spare the lives of their unborn children, nor their own lives.  Cowards, they fear suffering so they ask doctors to bear the burden of their murders.

Yet the Precious Blood still speaks from the cross, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do!” More than ever that applies to the hurt inflicted on innocent people today.

But I have to laugh. It is Lent, and the Islamic State, which has kidnapped whole families, murdered people brutally by burning and beheading, is now threatening to kill Pope Francis. His response? In summary, that’s up to God. But I pray it won’t hurt.

In his prayer to God, Pope Francis said, “I ask you just one favor: that it doesn't hurt because I am a big wimp when it comes to physical pain.” Me too, Holy Father, I’m a wimp.

Was that not Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane? “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me.” Any sane, sensible person would pray that.

But the Mighty Message of the Precious Blood in the Garden is:  “Father, not My will, but Yours be done.”  Hmm. He echoes His Mother: “Be it done to me according to Your Word.”

"Don't lay a hand on the boy!" the angel said.
Do not hurt him in any way, 
The “cup” did pass Isaac, carrying his heavy burden of wood up Mount Moriah, apparently unaware that his father, Abraham, planned to sacrifice him when they arrived at the top. For  -- as a test -- God had asked Abraham to take his son, his “only son, whom you love,” and offer him as a burnt offering to God.

Abraham obeyed, and on the way up the mountain, Isaac poignantly reminds his father, that they have the wood and the fire, “but where is the lamb for the sacrifice?”

“God Himself shall provide the lamb for the sacrifice,” Abraham unknowingly prophesizes. Hark! Do you hear the Voice of the Holy Spirit? Slicing through time 2,000 years later, God Himself did indeed provide the Lamb for the sacrifice. Isaac was spared on Mount Moriah, and a ram offered in his stead. Abraham had so completely offered his son in his heart, that he received him back like one raised from the dead. (Heb 11:19)

But Jesus was truly, thoroughly and completely sacrificed on Mount Moriah.  “For God so loved the world He sent His only Son.” On the third day, His Father, mother and His friends received Him back –literally raised from the dead.

Publically identified as “The Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world,” Jesus was crucified at the summit of Mount Moriah, according to archeological evidence. “Mount Moriah, site of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.”

"Behold! The Lamb of God Who takes away the
sins of the world."
It was a literal fulfillment of Abraham’s offering of Isaac, "On the mount of the Lord it [the final offering for sin] will be provided." (Gen 22:14)

Dear God, in Jesus’ case I know it hurt.

Meditating on the Passion of Christ is a means of overcoming sin and growing in holiness. The priest who says Mass for us daily at the Augustine Institute in Denver advises us to say only the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary during Lent. Woe, my least favorite mysteries.

But for incentive consider the fact that of the 12 apostles, only John the Beloved was present at the foot of the cross during the crucifixion. But ALL the apostles (save Judas the Betrayer) were painfully martyred --  except John. He died of natural causes.

So over the centuries since Christ died, it has been very popular to meditate on the sufferings of Christ. It is said Our Lady herself walked back over the ground Christ covered during his final hours meditating on His Passion and Death. I have been told on good authority that we only know a small percentage of what He suffered.

But I also know not to ask God about the rest unless I am prepared to experience it myself.  Rwandan teenager Segatashya of Kibeho taught me that.

Segatashya of Kibeho
He had a series of visions of Jesus starting in the summer of 1982 when a beautiful voice said to him, “You there, my child! If you are given a message to deliver to the world, will you deliver it?” Sure he would. He wanted to deliver that message, according to  “The Boy who met Jesus: Segatashya of Kibeho” by Immaculee Ilibagiza.

What is so unusual about Segatashya is that he was literally that little pagan boy from Africa that we American Catholic kids always prayed for in the '50s and ‘60s. He couldn’t read even up to the day he died in the Rwandan genocide that killed more than a million innocent people in 100 days in 1994. It was a genocide he had witnessed 10 years before in a vision from His Friend, Jesus.

He wasn’t educated, having spent his childhood raising beans living in dire poverty. Yet he could accurately quote Scripture from memory, and knew Catholic prayers. But the Church uncovered evidence that nobody taught him anything about Christianity except Jesus Himself.

During the early ‘80s, Segatashya was allowed to ask Jesus anything and he shared the answers with the world from the heart of beautiful Africa.

He was a very curious boy. So, of course, he asked Jesus about the suffering He endured while on earth. The answers are reported in the findings of an official Commission of Enquiry conducted by the Roman Catholic Church.

Jesus answered Segatashya telling him of His sufferings recorded in the Bible: the beatings, carrying his own cross, the whipping, the crown of thorns, the way they nailed his hands and his feet, stuck a spear in his side. But there were 15 other tortures He suffered that people don’t know about. But Segatashya wanted to know them.  

What happened next in Segatashya's relationship with Christ is similar to what happened to St. Paul right after his conversion. When Ananias was sent to St. Paul to baptize him, the Lord said, "Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; for I will show him how much he must suffer for My name's sake." (Acts 9:15-16)

“Of course, I wanted to know every pain that the Lord endured for us because he did it for our salvation, so I asked him to tell me what they were,” Segatashya said, adding, “In retrospect, that was a big mistake on my part.”

Jesus sent his mother Mary to answer Segatashya’s questions about his unknown sufferings. She appeared to the joyful boy, ascertained he really wanted to know. “Before I had a chance to finish the sentence, I fell to the ground and felt like someone was smashing my body with clubs and iron rods. I shouted out in pain. There was darkness all around me; I was traveling through a landscape of pure suffering. I tried to stand up – but a great crushing weight kept knocking me back to the ground, as though boulders were being dropped on me from a great height.”

The curious boy begged Mary to stop answering his question, but “my eyes swelled shut. I felt like my spine had snapped in two and my leg bones had been splintered.”

“It seemed the battering would never end, but after my face smashed against the floor for the 15th time, whatever power had me in its grip released me,” he reported, adding “I lay on my back aching so bad I could barely breathe. I was sure my rib cage had been crushed and my lungs ripped open.”

Our Lady appeared and eased his suffering instantly, “My poor child,” she said soothingly. “I was always here to take away your pain. Now you know some of the suffering my son endured to take away the sins of the world.” **

So that’s why this wimp blogger won’t ask Our Lord about His suffering. However, I have picked up some information incidentally along the way without asking.

In fact when I was 11 years old, I quite innocently attended a Catholic Discussion Group led by the Legion of Mary. The topic was the sufferings of Christ according to a book written in the year of my birth, 1953, “A Doctor at Calvary: The Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ As Described by a Surgeon” by Pierre Barbet, M.D. Dr. Barbet studied the Holy Shroud of Turin to gather his medical evidence for the crucifixion. It’s advertised this way: “What the gospels don’t reveal about Christ’s suffering, science does.”

That Catholic discussion was 50 years ago, and I still remember it! Christ, whose feet were nailed to the cross, couldn’t breathe unless he used his legs to push His Body up. So for the entire three hours He hung on the cross, He stayed alive by struggling, suffocating and pushing up on the nails imprisoning His feet to the cross.

The Blood from the Feet of Christ speaks mightily to every single one of us: “I willed to die for you. I wanted to take away your sin -- even before you were born!”

Do you know those two great commandments? Love the Lord your God with your whole heart, soul, strength and being, and your neighbor as yourself? We always focus on ourselves -- how we must love God and neighbor, but how often do we put on God’s glasses and look at ourselves?

Evidence of His Death on the cross demonstrates He loved each and every one of us passionately with His Whole Heart, His Whole Soul, His Whole Being and with His WHOLE STRENGTH.
Listen to this Catholic medical blogger, “Notes of an Anesthesioboist”, who read Doctor of Calvary in high school and wrote about it in 2009.

“Even now, years later, it's hard to be confronted with the Passion narratives without the thought of Christ as a doomed patient who suffered a fate worse than death before finally dying in one of the worst ways imaginable.  I'm amazed he had the presence of mind even to recite psalms as he did.  If he had been taken down from the cross and brought into my Operating Room for resuscitation, I don't know if we could have saved him,” she wrote, explaining in medical terms that He suffered fluid loss, low electrolytes, and he was “hypoxic (deadly lack of oxygen in the blood) and hypercarbic (high carbon dioxide) from the slow suffocation caused by hanging on the cross.”

“To be honest, I can get distracted identifying with what I imagine to have happened to him.  The excruciating agony of nails being hammered through bone.  The muscles cramps. The claustrophobic sense of panic at being pinned to something in an uncomfortable position. The unrelenting pain of head wounds, scourge wounds, bruises from beatings.  The asphyxia.  I can't get past these very physical, physiologic things.”

The physical sufferings are only a small part of Jesus’ Passion. Consider the shock of the people watching the crucifixion. They had witnessed Him raise the dead, heal the sick, forgive sins, and expel demons. Now He did nothing to defend Himself.

The envious chief priests, scribes and elders gloated over His sufferings. They taunted Him: “He saved others; He cannot save Himself. He is the King of Israel; let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe in Him. He trusts in God; let God rescue Him now, if He delights in Him; for He said, 'I am the Son of God.'"  (Matt 27:42-43) Even the criminals taunted Him: “One of the criminals who were hanged there was hurling abuse at Him, saying, ‘Are You not the Christ? Save Yourself and us!’" (Luke 23:39)

Excruciating Humility is the response of the Precious Blood in that moment. The Lamb of God was silent in the face of such persecution. He let the insults go unanswered.

There is so much more. Christ’s Blood speaks
courageously in silence during the scourging. In the Garden, it encouraged His apostles to pray so they would withstand the coming temptations. It poured from His Head while the soldiers crowned Him with thorns. He, the True King of all Nations, was regally silent when His Kingship was mocked. The Blood was kind, working miracles as He met grieving people while carrying His cross. The Precious Blood was generous giving His own mother to mankind from the cross.

The Blood withstood the arrogance of Pilate, admonishing him in the midst of his pride: “So Pilate said to Him, "You do not speak to me? Do You not know that I have authority to release You, and I have authority to crucify You?" Jesus answered, "You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above; for this reason he who delivered Me to you has the greater sin." (John 19:10-11)

A priest friend of mine one night looked up at the cross and saw Christ actually present suffering on the cross. Strangely, Christ was smiling, the priest said. “Is that you Lord?” he asked with a painful squint.

“Yes, it’s Me.”

“Why are you smiling, Lord?”

“I’m smiling because I’m happy I died for you,” Christ simply told the priest.

It is the same message found in the physical evidence of the crucifixion. It is the same message Early Christians shared in their eyewitness accounts of these events recorded in Holy Scripture.

But the Blood of our Redemption still speaks. Now it is never silent. To make sure He was dead after the crucifixion, they pieced His side with a spear, “And immediately blood and water came out.” (John 19:34)

And a New Birth took place. 

The Church, the Precious Bride of Christ, was born from His Side. Just as God took a rib from Adam to make Eve, so Christ’s Passion, Death and Resurrection created the New Eve, the Church destined to be living mother to God’s children until the end of time.

"O Blood and Water, which gushed forth from the Heart of Jesus as a fountain of Mercy for us, I trust in You!" (Prayer from the Chaplet of Divine Mercy)

The red and white rays from the side of
Jesus, Divine Mercy, represent the
life-giving Blood of the Eucharist
 and the waters of Baptism
The Living Blood from the side of Christ flows into the Sacraments of Baptism and Eucharist, of which all the faithful may partake, Baptism once for all sin, and Eucharist daily to strengthen us in the journey. “The blood that is drunk, the blood of redemption, is itself the cry of our Redeemer,” Pope Saint Gregory said.  

Then there are the cool white robes we get to wear in the next life after we survive the tribulation. Strangely, they are washed in the Blood of the Lamb, and made white. (Rev. 7:14)

Who knew? Tide is not necessary, only the Blood of Christ.

Christ, Our High Priest,
makes atonement for our sins 
“But you have come to Christ, the true high priest. Through his blood he has made God turn to you in mercy and has reconciled you with the Father. You must not think simply of ordinary blood but you must learn to recognize instead the blood of the Word. Listen to him as he tells you: This is my blood, which will be shed for you for the forgiveness of sins. (From a homily on Leviticus by Origen)

**Lest you think Our Lord and Our Lady were mean to the teenager Segatashya of Kibeho, they were actually kind. He was being prepared for one of the most difficult apostolates I’ve ever read about. His message was rejected, he was subjected to beatings, prison, he witnessed atrocities and demonic attacks. Plus he knew he would be killed at a young age in the Rwandan Genocide, and I’m sure he faced that with courage and trust in Our Lord, happy and joyful to be seeing his Friend at last.

Did you enjoy this piece? Maybe you would like a Lenten poem by Susan Fox on "The Beloved." It refers to the Beloved Son of God, Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

NON-CHRISTIAN ROOTS: The Sadness of Socialism

By Christopher Ziegler

Find Christopher Ziegler
@CZWriting on Twitter
Socialism is the most likely political position of the man who takes Darwin’s theory of evolution seriously; whereas belief in free enterprise is the most likely political position of the Gospel-believing Christian. This is my thesis.

Now, the reader has probably already raised an objection along these lines: “Isn’t it the capitalist who believes in what is called ‘Social Darwinism’?” The short answer to this objection is—No. Anyone remotely familiar with the reigning political coalitions in the United States knows that my thesis is a roughly accurate description of the situation. 

Nevertheless, I understand the nature of the objection, and I understand that the logical connections contained in my thesis are less than obvious. This essay will endeavor to explain those connections.

Government appeals to liberals because they honestly believe that it is the only available means of escaping the cruelties of the Darwinian state of nature. By “Darwinian” I mean any way of interpreting the world where natural selection (survival of the fittest) is the dominant theme. Darwin premised his theory of natural selection on the pessimistic ideas of English Cleric Thomas Malthus (1766-1834).  

Malthus believed that the growth of populations of organisms is constantly outpacing the growth of available natural resources. Consequently, there is constant competition between living beings over scare resources where some live and others die. This non-stop competition is the engine that drives natural selection. 

Darwinism is a disease of the mind. 

Liberal View of Capitalism
Once it is seriously entertained it inevitably winds up coloring all areas of a person’s belief system, damaging the brain. Liberals have a dog-eat-dog understanding of how capitalism works 
(in fact, Dog Eat Dog Films is the name of Michael Moore’s movie production company). This is the thinking behind the demonization of the rich. According to the Darwinian/Malthusian view, one man’s gain can only come at another man’s loss. If one man is very rich he must be
"It has appeared that from the
inevitable laws of our nature,
some human beings must suffer
from want. These are the unhappy
persons who, in the great lottery
of life, have drawn a blank."
(Thomas Malthus)

responsible, albeit indirectly, for making another man very poor. 

This is not how liberals want things to be but how they honestly believe things to be. Hence they embrace socialism as a remedy to spread the wealth around and to manage these Darwinian forces. This is why Socialist Author Jack London (1876-1916) said the cardinal tenet of socialism is “the materialistic conception of history.”

But this interpretation of the economy, like Darwinism itself, is complete bunk. 

Darwinism has absolutely nothing to do with classical economic theory. In fact, these ideas are antithetical to each other. But the term “Social Darwinism”  has proven a useful tool in the hands of enemies of free enterprise. 
The reigning classic of the genre is The Jungle by Upton Sinclair. Published in 1904, it describes capitalism as a “war of each against all, and the devil take the hindmost.” Liberals have used this mischaracterization as a cudgel against conservatives ever since. In the 2012 presidential election campaign, for example, the Obama campaign consistently smeared Mitt Romney as a man who, if elected, would “put ya’ll back in chains.”

For the liberal, to intervene in the free market in such a way that decreases individual freedom in the narrow sense of the term is to actually increase individual freedom in the broader sense. This is because he sees these actions as being undertaken to protect people from Darwinian predation by the capitalist class. He believes the rich must be restrained lest they gobble up the little fish. This is why
Liberal View: Rich gobbling up little fish 
liberals cannot escape their 
naiveté about the great things government can accomplish. They have to believe in it because they see no other option. The liberal does not usually regard his own opinions as pessimistic, he just thinks they are an honest assessment of the way things are.

But that is not the way things are—at least not according to the theories of capitalism. Capitalism is based on the idea that nature and human society clearly show evidence of being designed by a benevolent Creator. God has designed man, programmed him if you will, to pursue his natural good, which is most often found in marriage and family life. 

His pursuit of happiness redounds to the benefit of all even if the greater good never enters into his thinking. It simply works because this is how God has preordained things to work. The “invisible hand” of the market place gives rise to organized complexity without the need of outside interference. Our first responsibility is personal responsibility

According to Malthus/Darwin, life is a zero-sum game like chess, where one player can only improve his position by weakening the position of the other player. But this is not true. Just because my neighbor achieves success does not rob me of anything. In fact, his gain is my gain as well, even if only to a lesser extent. 

Capitalism works more like a game of Scrabble, where when one player spells out a word they not only benefit themselves but they might also create an opportunity for another player that did not exist before. This is how human relations work when people are free to make transactions with only enough outside interference to ensure transparency and fairness. So long as the transactions are not coerced, all parties will partake in some degree of mutual benefit. This is part of God’s providential design for human society.

The free market theories of Scottish Moral Philosopher Adam Smith (1723-1790) are well expressed by a line from Robert Frost: 

             Men work together, I told him from the heart,
Whether they work together or apart

Men have already been designed to work together for each other’s mutual benefit in spite of themselves because this is God’s plan. This process of symbiosis is at work in the natural world no less than in human
society. The bee does not know it is helping to pollinate the flower, nor do the bacteria inside of us know they are helping to digest our food. Things cooperate despite themselves.

The conscious intention of living beings has nothing to do with these symbiotic designs in nature. Nor can these designs be explained by anything resembling natural selection. It is the providence of a wise and loving God. If the world were not governed by this providence, and if life were in fact a Darwinian war of each against all, the human race would have already destroyed itself a long time ago.

American businessman and economist Edward Atkinson castigated the materialistic theories of Malthus and Darwin as being based on a false law of diminishing returns. Materialism is ignorant because it upholds the primacy of matter over mind. But capitalism gives us the ability to leverage the power of human minds to bring forth ever more abundance from nature. There is no theoretical limit on this process because mind is stronger than matter. That is why Malthusian doomsday predictions have always failed to materialize, and why capitalist societies have lifted more and more people out of poverty over the centuries. As Atkinson explains:

"Through competition among capitalists, capital itself is every year more effective in production, and tends ever to increasing abundance. Under its working the commodities that have been the luxury of one generation become the comforts of the next and the necessities of the third…The plane of what constitutes a comfortable subsistence is constantly rising, and as the years go by greater and greater numbers attain this plane."

But if you believe in Darwin’s theory then you do not believe that there is any intelligent design in nature. The loss of faith in a benevolent design will necessarily entail a loss of confidence that the market will naturally produce beneficial results, and you will no longer have any basis for assuming that an individual’s pursuit of happiness will automatically redound to the general good. If individual pursuits are insufficient to produce the general welfare, then there is a necessity for central planning to provide for the general welfare. The only collective instrument through which to execute central planning is the government. Hence the specter of socialism arises and, with it, the justification for some degree of economic coercion (ranging from income taxes to forced collectivization).

But everywhere socialism has been seriously tried it has failed spectacularly. The cases of North and South Korea and East and West Germany are most telling. In each of these cases we had nations with the same history, culture and language which were split in half and subjected to competing economic visions. Hence, circumstantial factors cannot be blamed for the separate results. And those results were unambiguous. It is not just that the socialist policies did less well than the capitalist policies—it’s that they failed spectacularly.

I see no need here to retell the horror story which is the history of twentieth century socialism, although that story must be told and retold so that we never forget.  Forced collectivization of agriculture in the Soviet Union caused a  famine 1932-33 that  killed six million people. That it was covered up for years by liberal Western journalists, should serve as a chilling case in point. Man cannot improve on God’s design. He can, however, screw it up royally. And never does he screw up worse than when he thinks he knows more than his neighbor about what is best for his neighbor.

By living a virtuous life and following my pursuit of happiness, I do in fact indirectly benefit my neighbor. If we as a society want to help the poor, we have to let people keep more of the money they earn and not steal it from them through income taxes. The idea that someone else knows how to spend my money better than me is unjust. The idea that someone else will be more responsible than me with my money is ludicrous. Governments cannot be more rational than individuals, because they are only mere collections of (usually idiotic) individuals. And whereas when an individual screws up the damage is limited, when governments screw up the results can be catastrophic. 

Sometimes liberals will even quote Jesus to justify their demonization of the rich. This is hypocritical of them since, as a group, liberals are either outright hostile to Christianity or lukewarm and skeptical about its claims. It is curiously selective to quote Jesus in this regard while ignoring the rest of his teachings—on marriage, for example. Sometimes they even try to claim that Jesus was a Marxist, which is laughable. If they actually read the Gospel with the intention of understanding it on its own terms they might realize why the vast majority of Christians are conservative. In fact, this is what happened to me and why I  am now proud to call myself an ex-liberal.

The gospel does not present a pessimistic view of nature, and certainly not a materialistic one. It  does presents a pessimistic view of man. This is why government, or any other body where power is concentrated, should always be regarded as untrustworthy.  But the natural world is good, being the creation of a loving God. Consider the lilies if the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin

Hunger and poverty are the result of man’s greed and ignorance, not the inevitable result of the ways things are. This same God who made nature good also set up human society to allow for the possibility for human flourishing. Capitalism is a product of the Christian West. It could only have arisen in a Christian society because it is predicated on the peculiar Christian worldview of a God who is good and who, in his goodness, gave people the ability to flourish by following their best judgement.

There is no valid reason for me to despise or resent the rich just for being rich. That attitude would be sinful on my part as well as counter-productive to my own interests. Jesus never called on us to hate the rich. He called on us to sacrifice our love of riches and status for the sake of the Kingdom of God. But this renunciation is predicated on the recognition of the generosity of God which Jesus revealed to us. Hence, it is a renunciation which can be possible for us only through faith in Him. On the other hand, the materialist outlook which is apt to find evidence of scarcity and impending disaster everywhere becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy. 

What many liberals simply lack is hope and faith. It was a struggle for me to finally come to accept the words of the Gospel, and to see that to have heaven, all you have to do is hope for it; and that to have faith, all you have to do is ask. Ask and ye shall receive.

To expect great things from the Lord is to receive greater things. It is painful to see how much hopelessness there is today in our secular society. Despair is the norm. The world is constantly trying to drag us down to its level.

To accept the goodness of God does 
at times require a leap of faith. But it is a leap we must make. As Christ says to Nicodemus in the Gospel of John: If you do not believe me when I tell you about the things of this world, how will you ever believe me when I tell you about the things of heaven?

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Sunday, March 15, 2015

Wake Up! Repent and Turn Back to God

Sermon by Rev. John Paul Shea
Fourth Sunday in Lent, March 15, 2015
Saints Peter and Paul Parish, Tucson, AZ

Fr. John Paul

Repent and turn your heart back to God. That is the message of today’s first Mass reading from 2 Chronicles 36:14-16, 19-23.

The stage is set before the Babylonians invaded Israel and took the Jews captive about 600 years before the birth of Christ. The Jews had turned away from the laws of God, rejected His Word and followed the vanity and pagan practices of the people around them.

"They mocked the messengers of God, despised his warnings, and scoffed at his prophets, until the anger of the LORD against his people was so inflamed that there was no remedy." (2 Chron 36:16)

In their sinfulness, the Jews had forgotten to keep the Sabbath sacred and devoted to God. They were adding “infidelity to infidelity.

God "early and often" sent prophets to the Jews to warn them that they needed to turn their hearts back to God or face the consequences, but they would not listen. 

So, God allowed Jerusalem to be desecrated, using Babylon as His agent of judgment against the Jews for their sins of idolatry. The king of Babylonia swarmed into Judah. There was slaughter and looting. Jerusalem was taken and the temple was burned down. The city walls were pulled down, and many of the Jews were forced to leave their homeland and were taken captive and deported to Babylon. Captivity meant they were denied temple worship in Jerusalem. 

My brothers and sisters, today’s reading should be a wakeup call for each one of us. The Jewish people experienced this huge tragedy because they had turned away from the laws of God. 

Whenever we turn away from God in our individual lives, things do not go right. Whenever societies turn away from the ways of God, the society experiences unfortunate repercussions. Yet, what angers our Lord the most is when the members of His Church do not follow His ways. To whom much is given, much will be expected. (Luke 12:48)

The Jews and their leaders were
“practicing all the abominations of the nations and polluting the LORD’s temple which he had consecrated in Jerusalem.” (2Chron 36:14)

So we are reminded that the sins of the world and society at large are one thing, but what angers the Lord most is when we allow His temple to become polluted. 

As Catholics, it is essential that we strive to keep our Lord’s Church and our hearts holy. This is why our Church emphasizes the importance of receiving Communion worthily. When we enter our Lord’s Church, we should have a spirit of reverence. We should enter God’s house knowing that our Lord is present in the tabernacle! 

In last week’s Gospel (John 2:13-25), we heard the story of the cleansing of the temple. Our Lord Jesus went into the temple with whips because there were those exchanging necessary coin at a profit  in His Father’s house, causing an impediment to worship for the people.
So we can see that Our Lord Jesus clearly understood the importance of keeping his Father’s house free from the ways of the world.

While today’s first reading relates the struggles that the Jewish people encountered because they had abandoned God, this reading also gives us hope. 

The suffering of the Babylonian exile caused the Jewish people to turn back to God. The chosen people collectively did penance for  70 years, until they made up for their disobedience to the covenant. 

"By the streams of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion." (Psalm 137)

Then God allowed the Jewish people to return  to Jerusalem. And the temple of God and temple worship would be restored. 

Yet, this restoration would not end with the building of the Jewish temple. The fullness of this restoration would come nearly 600 years later through the Life, Death and Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ when true worshipers would worship in Spirit and in Truth. 

This restoration will be complete at the end of time when Our Lord comes again to judge the living and the dead. 

Until that time, Our Lord calls us to be faithful. He has given us His Church, which is His temple, and He calls His members of His Church to follow His ways. 

As the Jews in today’s first reading were influenced by the sins of the peoples around them, so our Church is being attacked by the influences of the sins of society today. Our relativistic society is seeking to pollute our Church with its infidelities and its abominations. Our society today even defines marriage in ungodly ways, even though marriage is already defined by God and was created by God!

Our Church is the voice of God in a troubled world. Yet, many today do not want to listen to our Church.

I don't want to wake up!
Even many Catholics are not following our Church’s teachings. Many disdain the Word of God in order to follow their own pursuits.

As God's messengers  were mocked for speaking the word of God, so it is today. We Catholics who stand up for the truth of our faith are mocked by the world.

Yet, if we do not want to be half-hearted Catholics, that is what we are called to do --live in the Truth. We are called to be a light to the world. As our Lord says in today’s Gospel (John 3:14-21), “Whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God.” 

My brothers and sisters, let us Catholics individually heed the Lord's wake-up call.
As a country, as a world, as a people, we are turning away from God. If we continue to defy God’s word, there will be serious repercussions for us and our children. 

God is warning us through the great prophets of our day: the voices of our recent popes, the lives of our recently canonized saints, the witness of lay evangelists, through the apparitions of our Blessed Mother, and through Scripture itself! God is calling us to repentance. Let us heed this call. Let us come back to God before it is too late!

Who is Fr. John Paul Shea? From Mormon to Catholic priest.