Sunday, February 25, 2007

Christ's Love and Understanding for Gays

I continue to be very irate at both sides, who put words in Christ's mouth either "condemning" gays or gays condemning Christ because of their misconceptions of his teaching. People should read carefully Matthew 19:12. While the topic of discussion between Jesus and his disciples is marriage, Jesus expands to talk about those who cannot marry in the full meaning of the word (male-female). He said: But he said unto them, All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given. For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother's womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.

Now, understand that Jesus is deliberately using the word to indicate someone who cannot (or will not) have sexual relationships of one man to one woman, so do not let the use of the word "eunuch" disturb you. He is clearly speaking of men who are either born, made so, or chosen to be "eunuchs." Notice he is not saying anything that is not compassionate or outcasting. He does not say, oh, by the way, anyone like this is condemned by me. If he intended to do so, he would have. That does not mean he is endorsing a lifestyle choice that is outside of what is set forth in the ten commandments. But he is certainly not condeming gays out of hand, and he does not deserve being disrespected by gays who attack him because of some crazy ideologues. Jesus is kind and merciful to all, even when he cannot endorse a life style or a sin. In this passage he clearly states and recognizes that some of God's children are born a certain way. If the purpose of this conversation had been about being gay per se, he would have expanded on the subject. Clearly, as with heterosexuals, restraint and a moral lifestyle would be paramount to him.

I often think of Matthew Shepard and his terrible murder in 1998. His was a gentle soul, and he was personally escorted to heaven by Jesus and Mary. They recognized too the pathos of his needless and cruel death on such a "cross" like means. He would be very distressed if he heard people on both sides attack God's mercy, love, and understanding - for now he sees it forever first hand.

This is not an endorsement of an uncelibate priesthood, regardless of sexual orientation. It is a statement that people should not overlook the inclusiveness of God's love and acceptance of all. When some gays mock God and the Catholic church, they are doing God, and Jesus, a tremendous injustice. I know other gays who are very pious, and they are to be commended for maintaining their connection with God's love and the teachings of Jesus. The teachings of the Catholic church do not condemn a person for being gay. Gays and straights are all judged as children of God and their piety and moral character. As Jesus said, the most important things are to love and obey God with one's heart and soul, above all else, and to love one's neighbor (charity) as oneself. The Catholic church is also, truly, saying the same thing, so far being an individual. This does not mean that gay marriage is "OK" or that gay priests are OK. Jesus clearly speaks of marriage as between one man and one woman. He then discusses, as shown above, that there are others who are not of that orientation. He views them with love, understanding, and charity, and they are not automatically exiled from God's fold for being gay. But whether there is one gay person on earth or many, it does not change the sacraments (specifically marriage and the priesthood and their requirements). Being a human is not easy, and in our society, being pious and humble in the face of limitations and challenges is not easy either. Jesus, who was treated so unfairly and cruelly, understands that more than anyone. And his wisdom should be respected.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Thoughts on Lent

While reading some of Fr. Lagrange's thoughts on the "spirit of poverty" in his tour de force 2 volume book "Three Ages of the Interior Life", I was reminded of a way to make the practice of giving up something for Lent even more meaningful. Some people might give up a favorite food or beverage for Lent, and that is a wonderful discipline. I've sometimes recommended that a person might enrich their experience further by not only giving up that item, yet, still purchase it and give it to the poor, a neighbor, a food bank, or some other in need. Alternatively, the money that would be spent on the item could be donated in stead of the item itself. For example, if one was giving up a daily expensive coffee, one could purchase coffee for a food bank.

There is precedence for this when one thinks of prayers that are entrusted to Jesus or to the Blessed Virgin, for the benefit of those in the greatest need. Fr. Lagrange writes, "Following the advice of St. Grignion de Montfort, many interior souls strip themselves of all that is communicable to others in their prayers and good works and entrust it to the Blessed Virgin that she may use it to the best advantage of souls on earth or in purgatory in greatest need of it."

Likewise, the faithful who give up a material advantage that they possess for Lent can gain extraordinary benefit for themselves and others by allocating that material item or its financial equivalent to those who lack that same item, or the funds. Imagine that not only do you give up a cherished food for the Lord on Lent, but the smile on some person's face who gains that item as an unexpected treat in their life!

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Mother Angelica and OLAN's Broken Cross

While I admire the many decades of faithful service by Mother Angelica, her sisters, and the Franciscan Brothers of the Eternal Word, I am deeply scandalized by the condition of the church at the "OLAM Shrine." The Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament & Our Lady of Angels was built north of Birmingham, Alabama in the countryside of Hanceville. It is beautiful and imposing, lavishly funded by five families of anonymous donors, and others. It is beautiful and peaceful. But it is scarred. The cross over the church is broken by a lightening strike during its building, and for an incredible to believe reason, has not been repaired. Mother Angelica explains in a sign that it was "God's will" and that the defaced cross should actually be viewed as the Greek "tau" sign "worn by early Christians who had to hide their faith." So the cross sits over the church, basically decapitated of its upright beam. You can see where the cross upright should be because the metal support piping inside the concrete cross remains. It looks like a war wound and a slap at the crucified Christ, because it sits unrepaired on top of a lavish church, because of a superstitious belief in how God "communicates."

Um, well, let me think. On September 26, 1997 the St. Francis of Assisi Basilica in Italy was seriously damaged by an earthquake. In fact, four people died within the Basilica, including two Franciscan friars. Part of the vault was lost along with a precious fresco by Cimabue (one of my personal favorite artists, by the way.) I guess by this logic, God was sending a message. I guess the Fransciscan friars should have disbanded. I guess the Basilica should have remained a ruined sore. And I guess to be really sure we understand "God's will" we should have shrouded any Cimabue frescos. But instead, faith and reason pervailed. The Basilica was beautifully restored over a period of two years. It remains the mother church of the Fransiscan Order, and is a world heritage site.

I do not understand why Mother Angelica did not understand that, well, lightening tends to strike high up manses on hills, in a countryside prone to warm weather storms. Maybe investing in less gold and more lightening protective devices would have helped. Did she understand back then that churches, to this day, sustain damage in natural disasters (look at the recent tornados in Florida.) And that rather than sending some mumbo-jumbo New Age message, if there is any message, it is to be grateful when there is not a loss of human life (praise God) AND that God is with all the people through all the storms, and does not exempt God's own temples from the cycles of nature. I have beautiful pictures of OLAM and cannot look at them because of the wound of the unrepaired cross over the church. And I gag knowing that "tau crosses" are sold in the gift shop. By the way, it is not confirmed that it was tau crosses per se that are the one time worn symbols mentioned in the bible. Do we need New Age Greek symbolism when Christ on the Cross is real? I think not. But worse, after so many years of faithful hearing and obedience to God, I do not understand what, back in 1999 or whenever this lightening strike occurred, made Mother Angelica (and those supporting her) believe such a bizarre interpretation of God. A guilty conscience about something? Confess and repair the cross, then. After all, the Basilica recovered from actual deaths in their earthquake, and they praised God and rebuilt. They did not make the earthquake "all about them."

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Why I Think Britney Shaved Her Head

Looking at the photographs of her shaving her head, and then receiving further body art, I think that Britney is doing a "self Dalila" to her Samson. Samson, as you may recall from the bible, confided in Dalila that "No razor has touched my head, for I have been consecrated to God from my mother's womb. If I am shaved, my strength will leave me, and I shall be as weak as any other man" Judges 16:17. For Samson had been the superhuman-ly strong leader of Israel, who delivered Israel from the power of the Philistines. He ruled "judged" Israel for twenty years, until Dalila worked out of him the secret of his strength and betrayed him. Samson was captured and blinded by the Philistines. He died by calling upon the Lord and pulling down the false temple of the Philistines upon himself and them, winning a last victory in his own demise.

I think that there is an inherent spirit in all men and women that recognizes when one is in an untenable situation, and often turns to traditional, even biblical, ways of expressing it. The ancients "rend-ed their clothes" when they witnessed great sorrow or blasphemy. Women kept their hair covered because it was viewed as their treasure of beauty (and so the cutting of it was a great punishment or sacrifice.) And there are many biblical laws and guidelines about men's shaving. I think that Britney recognizes that her influence and power at such a young age is a great burden, and has become very complicated through her and her companion's lifestyle choices. Rending one's clothes means very little in our society today, lol, some of our jeans and tops are pre-rended lol. So I believe that Britney feels lost and betrayed by the burden of fame, especially of being a sex symbol, and decided to Dalila her own Samson power.

I understand her strong feelings and hope that this helps to give her a clean slate, both in her own mind and spiritually.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Another view of the portraying torture controversy

It is wrong for the media to explore, even in a "socially responsible" way the use of torture - ever. The reason for this is simple. One cannot prepare oneself for "situations" where one "must" do something that is morally wrong or sinful. Let us use the extreme example that a "terrorist" knows of the location of a weapon of mass destruction that is about to be used and could kill millions of people. Yes, it should be illegal to use torture ever, and EVEN in that situation. To save the world as a moral people, wrong must be wrong, illegal must be illegal, and sin must be sin, even in dire and extreme circumstances. However, the "saving grace" in such a situation is that the top decision maker (and I do mean the top) can make a determination to break the law and sin, in order to, in this one case, save the people.

For example, if this was the case and people knew FOR SURE that a terrorist knew of a nuclear bomb about to explode, it would be the responsibility of the President or the top military person to be notified and to make a one off decision, just as they do in any true crisis. One cannot justify torture in any case in advance. And it remains a wrong act, both criminally and sinfully, to do so even in the most extreme case. Part of being a leader, however, is to be the one to make the personal and professional decision to break the law and sin, given an extreme crisis.

That is why the media is doing a disservice and is propogandizing to their viewers when they explore "what if" scenarios. Torture is always wrong and always sinful. A person who is the chief and must make that decision is making the decision to commit a crime and to sin. That is his or her rightful decision to make. They must then answer for that decision. Justice, both earthly and heavenly, will - as it always does - weigh what has occurred and then decide penalties or justification. So no one should ever take it upon themselves to ever say torture is right or justified, or portray those "decisions" because the premise is wrong. Torture is never right. However, all people have to make a decision in a crisis point in their lives and take responsibility in a criminal or soul threatening context. A decision to torture is a commission of crime and a sin, and must be the responsibility of the top military commander or civilian leader.

I do not believe there would ever truly be a "missed opportunity"(on the scale of the potential nuclear bomb, for example) though the use of this principle. These black and white scenarios are more the basis of fiction. The reality is that terrorists hate America because some of them perceive that many Americans have abandoned God and morality. The moral high ground must be regained by America, or it will be at its peril. I actually think that there is less likelihood of these extreme situations ever occurring if we re-occupy the moral high ground and refuse to endorse torture. I think terrorism loses recruits in the long and short run, and less recruits equals less real risk.