Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time,
September 25, 2011
Bottom line: What counts is not the image that others perceive. What counts is our final state before God.
This Sunday’s Gospel has a message similar to last Sunday: What counts is our final state. As you remember, what mattered was not how long a person had worked in the vineyard, but whether he was at work in the vineyard at the end of the day. Today we hear that a person might say “yes” to God and later lose his soul by disobedience. Or, visa versa, a person might say “no” to God, but later save his soul by an act of obedience.
When you think about, there are really only two moments that matter: the present moment and the final one. In the Hail Mary we say, “pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.” At the last moment – the hour of our death – our eternal fate will be sealed. The moment of our death is in God’s hand, the moment we can control over is now. At some point the two moments will coincide: the hour of death will be now. There will be no tomorrow to plan for – or to postpone repentance.
As we talked about last week, some people do leave after years of practice – and others embrace the faith at the end of life. During this life we are like moist clay: by our choices we can be molded into almost any shape. But death is like putting the clay into the fire. The clay might be a beautiful vase or a misshapen lump. Whatever form it has will last forever. Similarly with our souls: at the moment of death we will either be turned toward God or away from him.
Some people ask about the justice of all this: How can a choice that one makes at the end of life determine where one spends eternity? To some it seems unfair, but the prophet Ezekiel gives this word from the Lord: “Is it my way that is unfair, or rather, are not your ways unfair?”
When a person looks at life as a whole, it may not seem so unfair. In reality, during our entire life we are molding ourselves – or allowing ourselves to be molded – into a particular shape. While this process is going on we might be only dimly aware of what is happening, but at the end it will become clear.
Last weekend I mentioned the example of Oscar Wilde, who made a death bed conversion and received the sacraments of forgiveness shortly before he died. To some it seemed drastic – as if he were one person during his life and then someone else at the time of death. That was really not the case. Oscar Wilde himself had written a novel about how a human soul is formed. Perhaps you have heard of it or even read it. It is titled “The Picture of Dorian Gray.”
In the novel, Dorian Gray is a handsome young man who envies his own portrait because it will never grow old. Well, as the story develops, Dorian retains his youth and beauty even though he undertakes a dissolute, self-centered and cruel way of life. At the end he encounters the portrait. While Dorian remained outwardly beautiful, his portrait had changed. Dorian sees the hideous face and realizes that it represents his true inner self. He attacks the painting with a knife. When people hear the commotion, they come running and discover the portrait restored to its original beauty. Next to the portrait they see the body of an old man, horribly disfigured – repulsive to all.
Perhaps Oscar Wilde learned a lesson from his own novel. His life is a mirror image of Dorian Gray. He did things that scandalized, even repulsed, his contemporaries, but he made a beautiful ending. The change, however, was not as dramatic as it appeared. Joseph Pearce has written a new biography titled, “The Unmasking of Oscar Wilde.” He shows how Wilde had a longstanding attraction to Christ and to the Catholic faith. His contemporaries saw one thing on the outside, but God saw something different in the heart of Oscar Wilde. He was making small choices that molded him – or allowed himself to be molded – in ways others could not imagine. Or that even he imagined only dimly. It all came together at the time of his death.
So it is with all of us. What counts is not the image that others perceive. What counts is our final state before God. Amen.
A Digest of Articles from Catholic Blogs and Websites
September 18, 2011
26th Sunday: The Name Above All Names
This Sunday we are treated to one of the most beautiful passages about Jesus in the entire Bible. It is found in the Letter of St. Paul to the Philippians. St. Paul begins by telling the people to be kind, and loving, and merciful to each other. They, we, are to put the interests of others above ourselves. And then he tells us about Jesus. He says that we should have the same attitude in life as Jesus had. He was forever God, but he did not regard this as something to be grasped. Instead He emptied Himself of his divinity. He became a human being. More than this, he became a slave for all of us. And he obeyed His Father for our sakes, even when this obedience led to His death on the cross.
Talk is Cheap- Parable of the Two Sons
There will never be a shortage of words. Words are plentiful because talk is cheap. It’s easy to make a promise. Keeping a promise is an entirely different matter, as this Sunday’s gospel makes abundantly clear
Christian Perfection, Grace and Contemplation
If we are called to be perfect as the heavenly Father is perfect, then we must seek, far outside the narrow frontiers of our own fantasies, a perfection beyond all natural capacity, exceeding anything which our limited reason can calculate. This is why those who want to obey Christ, those who want to be perfect as is our heavenly Father, must first of all approach God like beggars.
The Four Last Things
Traditional Catholic theology has distinguished the “Four Last Things” : Death, Judgment, Heaven and Hell. We are admonished to meditate upon these things frequently. We WILL die, be judged, and spend eternity either in Hell, or in Heaven (likely after some time in purgatory). All men are appointed to die once, and after that face The judgment (Hebrews 9:27)
Courage: Speaking the truth in love
The Pharisees wanted to trap Jesus. They brought him a woman who had been caught in adultery, and stood her alone in front of a crowd. They told Jesus that she was a sinner, and that she should be stoned. They waited for him to trip up—to ignore her sinfulness, or to treat her contemptuously. Either could be used against him.
Why the Pope has to be Infallible, Part 2
In my last post, I tried to show that there were two basic positions about who is the final arbiter of the interpretation of Scripture, either (A) the Church or (B) the individual Christian, and if (A) is true, then the Church has to be infallible; otherwise one returns to the default position (B).
What Jesus Said About Reincarnation
First, there is one thing that probably ought to be stated even though it looks like most of you are already aware of it, which is the fact that there are two fundamentally opposed views of reincarnation. At the risk of sounding like a Waffle House menu, we can call one kind “Eastern style”, and the other “Western style.”
Angels: Messengers from Heaven
Angels serve humankind by demonstrating God’s immense love for us through their spiritual power
Human beings over the centuries and across cultures have long been fascinated with and captivated by angels. We seek their protection and pray for their guidance. We both fear and crave their presence.
The Meaning of the Mass: Do This in Memory of Me
As Catholics, we have been given great dignity, for we are responsible to call upon the Lord in union with the angels and saints in heaven on behalf of each other and all creation. But along with this great dignity comes a frightful responsibility.
“There’s the Saint for Me!” St. Vincent de Paul
Religious images were destroyed during the French Revolution. But one was left untouched — that of the priest known as “the father of the poor.”
Bring back John Vianney!
Saint John Vianney (1786-1859) was the curé of the parish of Ars in France and, because of his simple but great gifts as a pastor, was made the Patron of Priests and Parish Priests. I try to read his biography each year and am regularly struck by some of the features of his daily life.
Padre Pio on Hell
Padre Pio was asked what he thought about modern people who didn’t believe in hell.
“They’ll believe in hell when they get there.” he replied.
When “Having” is Pursued over “Being”
One of the great challenges of our time I believe derives from the loss of knowledge of who we are and what we are made for. Actually, we may know these eternal truths, but we tend to suppress them in our consciousness. In this age of consumerism, we tend to define ourselves, not by who we are and for what we are made, but rather, by what we have or don’t have
The $6.15 Christ
A Son’s Birthday Gift to His Father
It’s been a tough summer financially. Our Buick unexpectedly died and had to be replaced. My pneumonia led to unexpected doctor’s bills. Our riding lawnmower bit the dust. As a single-income family, we’ve come up short and it’s kept me up many a night. It’s at moments like these that I question our commitment to a single-income and home-educating our children.
QUAERITUR: Bowing during the Creed
From a reader:
Why do we bow during the Nicene Creed for the lines “by the power of the holy spirit…” and who started this practice?
What I Learned from Praying in Front of an Abortion Clinic
The first time I went out to pray in front of an abortion clinic as part of a 40 Days for Life vigil, it felt surreal. Not only am I naturally awkward about public displays of faith, but less than a decade ago I was still a pro-choice atheist. In fact, it felt like such an unnatural thing for me to do that I was tempted to back out at the last minute and see if I could find someone else to cover my hour. I’m very glad that I went through with it, because it ended up being a powerful, eye-opening experience. Here are a few things I took away from it:
A Catholic Moral Worldview
Shortly before his election to the papacy, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger said that one of the biggest challenges to faith in the modern world is relativism – the view that there is no moral or religious truth to which we are all accountable. Indeed, the relativistic perspective that dominates much of the Western world makes it very difficult for Christians to talk about morality.
Why Matthew is the First Gospel – and not Mark (or Q)
For the first 1,500 years of Christianity, the Church unanimously held that the Gospels were historically written in the order we find them in the canon: Matthew first, Mark second, Luke third, and John last of all.
We Cannot Stay Silent
I know a guy who for many years was pro-choice. Well, he wasn’t really
PRO-anything. Abortion kinda’ just got a shrug out of him and he bought into the
whole, “Well, I’m a man so it’s not for me to make a decision” line of
A True Legacy for Our Youth
A few days back I saw the following posting on Facebook, which I reposted, and have thought a great deal about consequently: ” We need to teach our daughters how to distinguish between a man who flatters her and a man who compliments her …. a man who spends money on her and a man who invests in her …. a man who views her as property and a man who views her properly ….. a man who lusts after her and a man who loves her ….. a man who believes he is God’s gift to women and a man who remembers a woman was God’s gift to man…..And we need to teach our boys to be THAT man.”
Anglican Convert: Dr. David Daintree
Dr. David Daintree is the president of Campion College, Australia’s first traditional liberal arts college. David has been married to his wife Elizabeth for over thirty years and they have three grown children.
Crossing the Alps
I want to talk about my own spiritual journey, a major part of which was the crossing of the Alps – I speak figuratively – from Canterbury to Rome, and the influences on my life that led me to make it.
Conscience: Its Strengths and Limits
When Father Hermann Geissler of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith called attention to Blessed John Henry Newman’s teaching on conscience, he was making an important point. This is the kind of story which we put at the very bottom of the day’s headlines, because it does not amount to a great deal as news. But as apologetics, well, that’s another story, for in our culture, conscience is most often seriously misunderstood.
Mortification of the senses, of the imagination, and the passions
Author: Cardinal Desire Mercier (1851-1926)
1 – Close your eyes always and above all to every dangerous sight, and even – have the courage to do it – to every frivolous and useless sight. See without looking; do not gaze at anybody to judge of their beauty or ugliness.
2 – Keep your ears closed to flattering remarks, to praise, to persuasion, to bad advice, to slander, to uncharitable mocking, to indiscretions, to ill-disposed criticism, to suspicions voiced, to every word capable of causing the very smallest coolness between two souls.
It is finished: remarkable hand-drawn Bible goes on display
It was a task of biblical proportions — drawing every letter and illustration in a Bible painstakingly by hand. Now, 13 years after its inception, the brightly colored and massive St. John’s Bible is complete, and pages from the finished work are about to go on display.
The Benedictine monks at St. John’s Abbey and St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minn., commissioned the Bible in 1998 to celebrate the beginning of a new millennium. The first words were written on Ash Wednesday 2000, and the seventh and final volume — “Letters and Revelation” — was completed earlier this year, with the final word — “Amen” — written on May 9, 2011.