A nice hotel in Jerusalem looks much like a nice hotel in just about any other city in the world but for one thing. At the entrance of each room there is a small metal cylinder called a mezuzah that protrudes from the doorjamb. It contains a tiny scroll containing a verse from this Sunday’s first reading: “Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord alone. Therefore, you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.”
A few verses later, the author of Deuteronomy says that this command is so important that it should be repeated constantly, hung as a pendant from our foreheads, even inscribed on our doorposts. Hence the mezuzahs in the Jerusalem hotel, and the phylactery boxes that pious Jews strap to their forearms and foreheads, even to this day, as they pray at Jerusalem’s western wall.
So the Lord Jesus was not doing anything particularly new when he underlined this famous verse as the most important commandment. True, he did connect this with a verse from Leviticus 19:18 “you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” It may be, though, that another rabbi paired these two commandments before him.
But there is something that Jesus did regarding these commandments that no one managed to do before him. He actually kept them.
Some, like the rich young man, had managed to keep a good many of the other commandments, like thou shalt not steal or thou shalt not commit adultery. These commandments prohibit a certain kind of evil activity. They set limits that cannot be transgressed, boundaries that are well-marked. To violate these commandments mean stepping over the line, engaging a sin of commission.
With the two commandments in today’s gospel however, it is not about engaging in a forbidden activity or crossing a well defined frontier. It is a positive command of loving like God loves, wholeheartedly, completely, every minute of every day. The sin forbidden here is a sin of omission, of failing to carry out a positive obligation that binds us at every moment. It’s not just about some visible activity, but the hidden motivation of each and every activity. For a sinful human being, fulfilling this commandment is much more difficult than refraining from larceny, fornication, or pork sausage. In fact, it is positively impossible.
So forget about the nonsense that “I deserve to go to heaven–I love God and am a decent enough person.” Sorry, but God has given you everything. Justice requires that you should not just give a “nod to God” in weekly church attendance and grace before meals, not just avoid murder and burglary. You are obliged to ardently love and serve God 24/7. Neglect to do so for a moment and you’ve done an injustice to God and deserve to pay the consequences.
Fortunately, however, Jesus lived every moment motivated by perfect love–for us and for God. He even preferred torture and death to reneging on his commitment to fulfill these two commandments. By his obedience, he won eternal life for himself and all who belong to him, crediting to their account what he himself earned by his own blood, sweat, and tears.
And this perfect yet merciful high priest continues to live for us, ever at the Father’s right hand interceding for us. He prays for mercy, that the Father would look not at our sins and the consequences that they deserve, but rather at the cross which Jesus endured that those sins would be wiped away forever. Yet He also prays that His Spirit would be poured out on us ever anew, empowering us to love with greater and greater intensity, with fewer and fewer interruptions, exceptions, and limitations. For He did not die simply that His love would be credited to our account. He poured out his blood so that it would run in our veins, that we could love with His heart. For man it is impossible. But with God, all things are possible.
Digest of Articles from Catholic Blogs and Websites
November 4, 2012
31st Sunday: Integrity
Do you ever feel like you don’t know if you are coming or going? Well, sometimes, I get so busy that I have to make a priority list and then ask myself what I’ve done or not done. I guess that is normal for all of us as we go about our daily chores. But it is not normal or acceptable if we don’t know if we are coming are going in our relationship with God.
Today’s Gospel provides us with an aid to feeling whole, one, and in harmony with God. Jesus was asked to recite the greatest commandment. He cited Deuteronomy 6:4, the commandment called the Shema Israel, or “Hear O Israel.” We are to love our God with our whole heart, soul, mind and strength. Following this demands integrity.
Is there Mass in heaven? Is Christ a priest forever?
31st Sunday in Ordinary Time, Hebrews 7:23-28
Jesus, because he remains forever, has a priesthood that does not pass away.
And again we read, Thou art a priest for ever, according to the order of Melchisedech. (Psalm 109:4)
Jesus is indeed truly a priest, rather the priest, forever – nevertheless, he has offered the once sacrifice of the Cross only once, for all. Thus, while our Savior is truly a priest in heaven, we must admit that he does not make continual offerings for sin, for he has entered heaven once through the one sacrificial offering of his own most pure body.
John XXIII: Saint in the Age of Television
In 1958, a congenial old man, Angelo Roncalli, was elected to the chair of Peter. He was to be a caretaker pope, someone to keep the ship steady while the cardinals identified a more long-term leader. That smiling old man soon stunned the world by calling the first ecumenical council in nearly a hundred years. That was not exactly what the Cardinals had in mind.
Buthey had chosen a profoundly holy man for the job, someone who’d be declared “Blessed” just a few decades later. One thing about holy people — they are docile to the Holy Spirit. The Spirit blows where he wills, and they follow without hesitation. Don’t choose that sort of person to man the helm if you don’t want to rock the boat.
Born on January 23, 1838 in Heppenheim, in the Grand Duchy of Hesse, Maria Anna Barbara Koob moved with her family the next year to Utica, New York. Her father became an invalid when Maria was in the eighth grade. She left school and worked in a factory to help support her family. By 1862 her younger siblings were old enough to take care of themselves, and she felt free to follow her heart’s desire by joining the Sisters of the Third Order Regulars of Saint Francis based in Syracuse, New York. After her novitiate, she served as a teacher and principal in the parochial schools set up for the children of German-speaking immigrants.
Catholicism 101: Creation and the Angels
God is the Creator of heaven and earth because He made all things from nothing. The chief creatures of God are angels and humans. Angels are created spirits, without bodies, having understanding and free will. God created the angels to see, love, and adore (give honor to) Him in heaven. They are spirits, and therefore have no bodies. But they have understanding and free will like we do. Besides that, God also gave them great wisdom (love and skill in the things of God), power and holiness (a sharing in God’s own life).
Angels: Messengers of prayer
The word angel means “messenger” in Greek, and the witness of scripture and many ancient Christian writers suggests one of the main jobs angels undertake is to act as courier for our prayers.
The archangels Raphael and Gabriel both identify themselves as angels who stand in the presence of the Lord. Raphael helpfully explains the purpose of this position in the twelfth chapter of Tobit, saying that he “present[s] the prayers of the saints,” telling Tobit and Tobias that he “brought a reminder of your prayer before the Holy One.”
Consciences Inflamed with Love
We must follow our consciences, but the heart frozen to a cause instead of warmed by the truth is not free to love. Catholics who act against human dignity in the voting booth often justify themselves by claiming that they are following their consciences and that they did everything they could to form their consciences in accord with the Church. They reason, but their reasoning is callous and this cold indifference is revealed by the degree to which their actions rob others of the dignity that is owed them. Only the chill of darkness can form the heart so cold.
Friends in High Places
In many ways, she was on top of the world. Colleen Carroll Campbell was a highly successful 20-something journalist in the Oval Office writing speeches for President George W. Bush.
Yet something did not sit right with her. A restlessness stirred within her. Where did her career fit in to her call to marriage and motherhood?
This was not the first time that she had struggled with such questions.
From her confusion over the campus party scene of her college days to her anguish over infertility and her father’s descent into dementia, she found consoling answers and comfort in the lives of six saintly women.
Purgatory is Rooted in a Promise
I have blogged before on Purgatory. For example here: Purgatory – Biblical and Reasonable. I have also provided a PDF document on the Biblical roots of the teaching here: PDF Document on Purgatory.
On this Feast of All Souls I want to reflect on Purgatory as the necessary result of a promise. Many people think of purgatory primarily in terms of punishment, but it is also important to think of it in terms of promise, purity and perfection. Some of our deceased brethren are having the promises to them perfected in purgatory. In the month of November we are especially committed to praying for them and know by faith that our prayers are of benefit to them.
Why Do We Pray for the Souls in Purgatory?
Archbishop Fulton Sheen, in his masterpiece Life is Worth Living, says about Purgatory, among other things, that it is “where the love of Man tempers the injustice of Man.”
Purgatory is that state in which people who have died in God’s Grace, but without letting go of some of the imperfections and attachments of sin, undergo a purification before entering Heaven, which nothing unclean can enter (Rev. 21:27).
Sin has many nasty consequences. Even after we are forgiven, the wounds and weaknesses may stay with us. We may even still harbor some attachment to our forgiven sin. Those in Purgatory have died in friendship with God and through His Mercy have been given the opportunity to be made perfect.
Of Hurricanes, Kindness, and Vanity
For everything there is a season. After hurricane Sandy there will be a time of rebuilding, for sure, but that is not now.
Politicians love to give teary and stoic pledges to rebuild bigger and better after a disaster and this resonates with some people, it is a profoundly human reaction, but I don’t mean that in a good way.
Now is not the time for gnat-like bravado in the face of giant nature. Now is the time to help one another.
Does the Real Presence Violate the Old Testament Law?
One of the arguments raised against the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist is that it violates Genesis 9:4, which forbids eating anything with the blood still in it. So, for example, Roger Oakland makes the argument this way, in trying to explain away Christ’s Eucharistic discourse from John 6:
Jesus is not the perishable manna that their descendants ate in the wilderness—He is the eternal bread of life that lives forever. Only by partaking in His everlasting life can we hope to live with Him forever. This contrast strengthens His main message, where Jesus says, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life” (vs. 47). Notice, Jesus said that as soon as we believe in Him we have—present tense—eternal life. It is not something we aim at or hope we might attain in the future, but rather, something we receive immediately upon accepting Him by faith.
The Final Destruction of Demons
Final is not a word you often hear in Christian teaching. Most Christians leave the final things until, well, the End. But this is not the language of the fathers nor of the Church. A good illustration can be found in the Orthodox service of Holy Baptism. During the blessing of the waters the priest prays:
And grant to [this water] the grace of redemption, the blessing of Jordan. Make it the fountain of incorruption, the gift of sanctification, the remission of sins, the remedy of infirmities; the final destruction of demons, unassailable by hostile powers, filled with angelic might. Let those who would ensnare Your creature flee far from it. For we have called upon Your Name, O Lord, and it is wonderful, and glorious, and awesome even to adversaries.
Winning the Battle for Souls
Deborah Lipsky went through tremendous suffering as a child. Her high-functioning autism elicited the frustration of teachers, along with the ridicule and abuse of classmates, leaving her hurt and isolated — and eventually enraged.
She sought revenge through witchcraft and then full-blown satanism. Her goal was to destroy the Catholic Church, which she saw as responsible for her pain. Yet she found that getting even would exact a price. Despite initial thrills of power, Lipsky became increasingly miserable.
Is There a Lesser of Two Evils?
A persistent question arises every election cycle among Catholics: Is it ever justified to vote for the lesser of two evils, that is, for a candidate who does not hold the Church’s teaching on abortion, but whose position is less extreme than another candidate’s?
Catholics who desire to remain faithful to Church teaching, and thus to God, naturally do not want to vote for anyone who favors abortion in any circumstance or who holds other positions not in agreement with the Church on what Pope Benedict XVI has called the non-negotiable issues — human life, marriage and family, religious liberty.
Indiana priest recallsstories of exorcism
If you think you’re experiencing an issue with demonic entities, there is someone you can call.
The Rev. Vincent Lampert is an exorcist based out of Greenwood, Ind. The priest has been an ordained exorcist since 2005.
An individual does not simply call Lampert and get an immediate exorcism, though.
Culture: Our Favorite Catholic Hauntings
It’s Halloween, and we love ghost stories. Word On Fire Research Assistant Jack Thornton reveals our top ten favorite rumored Catholic hauntings in the U.S.
Well, it’s Halloween: a time when folks dress up in all manner of costumes while enjoying candy, parties, scary movies and ghost stories. The ghost stories in particular arouse the interest and wonder of many a lively imagination at this time of year. All over the world, stories of hauntings, spirits and monsters, including some supposed hauntings of Catholic locations, frighten and delight believers everywhere, especially during the Halloween season. Some stories are scary and mysterious. Others, not so much.
“Sorry, but I don’t feel like doing that anymore.” Flakiness is a vice that everyone can agree is a problem. We want people to be reliable, to be there when they say they will. But all too often, people just don’t follow through. Someone tells you they will be at a meeting, and they never show. A friend offers to help you move, and at the last second, you receive a text saying they won’t be there. I have friends who have had four jobs in the past two years—nothing seems to keep their attention. Couple this with the fact that divorce rates are higher than ever—between forty and fifty percent—and it seems we have a real problem. We can’t seem to sit still for more than fifteen minutes.
Mark Regnerus’s Sound Social Science
If you are a regular reader of Public Discourse (and if you’re not, you should be!), you will already have seen my two latest contributions there. Yesterday, in “Mark Regnerus and the Storm Over the New Family Structures Study,” I described the furor that erupted back in June when Regnerus, a sociologist at the University of Texas at Austin, published the first high-quality, random-sample research of the outcomes of parenting for the children of those who have same-sex relationships. Today, in “Vindicating Mark Regnerus,” I describe the response he himself has now given in a second article in the journal (Social Science Research) in which his original article appeared.
Traditional values pay: Chick-fil-A makes record-breaking profits after marriage controversy
Chick-fil-A has learned upholding traditional values is not just good for the soul; it’s also good for business. Since President Dan Cathy stirred up a firestorm of controversy and protests by daring to say in public that he supports traditional marriage, the fast food chain has enjoyed record sales and increased brand recognition.
According to a report by USA Today, consumer use, visits, and ad awareness all rose measurably in the third quarter, despite widespread negative media coverage of Cathy’s remarks to the Baptist Press opposing same-sex “marriage.”