Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time
February 19, 2012
Bottom line: Today we are witnessing an agressive attempt to deny sin. More than ever this Lent we need a personal meeting with Jesus who is God, the only one who can forgive sin.
A popular myth about Jesus runs along these lines: The original Jesus was a kindly man who wanted to help people face their problems, feel good about themselves and get along with each other. (Kind of a first century version of Dr. Phil.) But his followers began to add miracle stories to this teaching, then gradually divinize him until finally Paul developed a full blown theology which made him into God.*
Today’s Gospel explodes that myth. By most scholarly accounts, St. Mark wrote the earliest Gospel. It is certainly the plainest, the most unadorned. Yet right at the outset we have a strong assertion of Jesus’ divinity: He forgives men’s sins.
That may seem innocuous to us, but only because we have forgotten what sin is. Suppose the man lowered through the roof was a swindler who had cheated locals out of their life savings. If you were one of the victims, sorry as you might feel about the man’s present condition, you would still resent Jesus’ absolution.
It would be as if I ministered to a serial killer and announced, “I forgive you.” Family members of those murdered would react quite bitterly. In my case their anger would be justified. However, with Jesus, the matter is different. Robbery and murder offend him more directly than even the victims. He is the very Source of life and of all created goods. The people were right to ask: “Who but God alone can forgive sins?” (Mk 2:7)
Accepting Jesus as God – the only one who can forgive sins – has huge implications. I would like to draw out one implication, especially as we enter the season of Lent: If we accept Jesus as God, it means we stand in a radically different posture from the world. We live in a society that attempts to deny sin – and thus deny the need for Christ. I say “attempt” because as J. Budziszewski has shown, conscience has a way of reasserting itself. (see The Revenge of Conscience: Politics and the Fall of Man)**
If a person has a guilty conscience (and does not repent) he cannot bear that others do not accept what he is doing. In recent years we have witnessed how far some will go to get others to say that there is nothing wrong with things like homosexuality, abortion, sterilization and contraception. And that not only that there is nothing wrong with those things, but that they are positive goods. Thus, acceptance of homosexuality requires a redefinition of marriage and the acceptance of contraception, abortifacients and sterilization requires their universal coverage in health care plans.***
The Catechism says that what is involved are “two irreconcilable concepts of the human person and of human sexuality.” (2370) We are in a spiritual combat – and the battle line runs through the middle of our society. And let’s be honest: the battle rages in your heart – and mine.
We need Lent 2012. We need the spiritual disciplines of prayer, fasting and financial sacrifice. In our society, we are witnessing an agressive attempt to deny sin. This campaign has powerful tools (media, universities, courts, etc.) and, without compunction, it uses words not to express truth, but to beat down dissenters. (For them “truth” is not a goal – they only acknowledge “my truth” and “your truth.” But they will use the word as a club.) And the campaign is succeeding; it has subtlely impacted even even those who oppose it.**** More than ever this Lent we need a personal meeting with Jesus who is God, the only one who can forgive sin.
*Although the letters of Paul come toward the end of the New Testament, they are not, as this myth supposes, the last written. On the contrary, they are the first writings. His Letter to the Thessalonians (c. 52 A.D.) is the earliest New Testament text.
**This not something new. In his Confessions, Augustine observes how Homer “attributed divine attributes to sinful men, that crimes might not be accounted crimes, and that whoever committed such crimes might appear to imitate the celestial gods and not abandoned men.” (Book 1, Chapter XVI)
***Along with many other American bishops, Archbishop Sartain has written a strong letter and an insightful column on this issue. In spite of this unprecedented attack on the U.S. Church, we need to thank God for the unity and clarity of our bishops – and for this unique moment to reach out to our American brothers and sisters. (And to renew our own understanding of Jesus teaching on marriage, chastity, conjugal fidelity, marital fecundity, the gift of a child, and the offenses against the dignity of marriage. See Catechism 2331-2400.)
****They have obviously committed a blunder with the HHS Mandate, but they will retrench. A conscience that does not repent can never rest. (For their part our bishops have shown that they will stand firm in calling us all to repentance.)http://www.parishworld.net/con_KnowingOurFaith.cfm?contentUUID=88113C5F-2219-2361-ACE1C273AB9F385D|201202
A Digest of Articles from Catholic Blogs and Websites
February 19, 2012
“Pick up Your Mat and Go Home”
Sometimes we act as if sins are just black marks against us in God’s ledger, debits against our rewards account.
But the gospel story of the paralytic (Mark 2:1-12) should wake us up to the real nature of sin. For sin is more than a demerit–it is distancing of a person from God, who happens to be our source of life and energy. God’s Holy Spirit is “the force” that must be with us if we are to have life and strength and vigor.
When does Anointing of the Sick cause physical healing?
“Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, pick up your mat and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority to forgive sins on earth” – he said to the paralytic, “I say to you, rise, pick up your mat, and go home.”
Every Single Bishop Has Condemned the Obama/HHS Mandate! (181)
From Portland, Maine to San Diego, California– From Miami, Florida to Seattle, Washington–
Every single Roman Catholic bishop in the United States has condemned in public the Obamacare HHS mandate — all 181 bishops who lead dioceses in the U.S. have spoken.
This is a simply incredible, unified, universal Catholic witness on this critical issue of religious freedom.
The Audacity of Power and Zero Tolerance for Those Who Disagree: President Obama Vs. The Catholic Church
In one of the boldest, most audacious moves ever made by a President of the United States, President Barack Obama is on the brink of successfully rendering moot the very first clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” (emphasis added). If he forces the Catholic Church to comply with the Health and Human Services ruling to provide its employees with insurance that covers activities the Church has long held sinful — abortion via the morning after pill, sterilization and contraceptives — then the precedent is clear: when religious beliefs conflict with government decrees, religion must yield.
The Parable of the Kosher Deli
Bishop Lori Testifies Before the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform
For my testimony today, I would like to tell a story. Let’s call it The Parable of the Kosher Deli.
Once upon a time, a new law is proposed, so that any business that serves food must serve pork.
There is a narrow exception for kosher catering halls attached to synagogues, since they serve mostly members of that synagogue, but kosher delicatessens are still subject to the mandate.
Do a virgin birth and perfect knowledge make Jesus less human? Or Mary less a mother?
The Church teaches that Christ was miraculously born of a Virgin without causing his Mother any of the pains associated with labor. Further, the Catholic Church believes that our Savior knew all created things from the first moment of his Incarnation such that he even knew (for example) how to speak every language that had or ever would exist.
How to Consecrate Yourself to the Immaculate Mary
(St Maximilian Kolbe’s Method)
The Popes of the last 150 years (from Bl. Pius IX through Bl. John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI) have taught the Catholic Church that the best and highest form of devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary is total consecration to Mary.
Total consecration means that one consecrates himself to the Mother of God to become an instrument and tool in her immaculate hands. You become a servant of Christ the King more perfectly by allowing Mary to form you for His Divine Purposes. All of your prayers, works, penances, and received indulgences are committed to her care and discretion for the greater glory of God.
18 Quotes by Roman Pontiffs on Mary as Mediatrix
Treasury of All Good Things
1. “God has committed to her the treasury of all good things, in order that everyone may know that through her are obtained every hope, every grace, and all salvation. For this is his will, that we obtain everything through Mary.” and “God has committed to the Blessed Virgin Mary the treasury of all good things in order that everyone may know that through her are obtained every hope, every grace and all salvation.” (Pius IX: Encycl., Ubi primum, February 2, 1849.) — [p. 12, number 12; p. 18, no. 38]
Woe to the Solitary Man – A Brief Meditation on our Need for the Church
There is a line from the Book of Hebrews that says this: And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (Heb 10:24-25). The teaching is clear, we must come together each week for Mass and learn to live in deep communion with one another. We are not meant to make this journey alone. We need encouragement and exhortation, food for the journey, company and protection.
Jesus’ prayers on cross should inspire forgiveness, Pope teaches
The final words of Jesus Christ as he died on the cross should prompt Christians to pray for those who have hurt them, Pope Benedict XVI said on Feb. 15.
“Jesus by asking the Father to forgive those who are crucifying him, invites us to the difficult act of praying for those who do us wrong, who have damaged us, knowing always how to forgive,” the Pope told over 6,000 pilgrims attending today’s general audience in Paul VI Hall.
If someone tells you that Matthew invented the idea that Jesus founded a Church, here’s what you should say…
A reader writes:
I am debating with a semi-atheist acquaintance. Among his many arguments, one was that Jesus did not establish a church, his followers did. I came back with Matthew 16, to which he responds, “Jesus didn’t say that. Matthew did.” Any ideas on how to respond to such certain uncertainty?
On Being Made For Infinity
There is an ache within atheism an awful lot like unrequited love. There is a nameless and uncomfortable burning within nihilism, agnosticism, and all the lonely fashions of post-Christian man that rings of being rejected. But before I bother you with all that, let’s go on a walk, you and I, around the Point in the hopes of arriving back again, full of understanding.
In January, the Archdiocese of Hartford, Connecticut announced it was becoming the latest diocese to launch a chapter of Courage, the Catholic apostolate that helps men and women struggling with same-sex attraction live in accordance with the teachings of the Church. Deacon Robert Pallotti, director of the office of the diaconate for the archdiocese, helped develop the program for Hartford. He explained that Courage helps people “who need our care and love. In some cases, they have been rejected by society. They need to be accepted, affirmed, and supported as Roman Catholics trying to remain faithful to Church teaching.”
Is Heaven a Fairy Tale?
I used to see Professor Stephen Hawking almost every afternoon when I lived and worked in Cambridge, England. The famous physicist would be moving along in his motorized wheelchair with his wife walking behind assisting him whenever necessary. I look back at that time and wonder what it would have been like if I’d had the nerve to invite him in for a cup of tea and a chat.
Heaven in Faith Series Continues – Prayer and the Mystery of Our Faith
Christian prayer has a divine quality to it. It is not just an activity rooted in the exercise of my own psychological powers. This prayer is directed to something beyond all the natural capacities of my soul. It is animated by a deeper more vital principle. Indeed, my faculties are naturally limited by time and space. Christian prayer explodes out of heaven into our lives, imbues our weakened nature with the supernatural, and constantly pierces through this dying cosmos to a new birth, an eternal reality beginning to unfold.
Nun who co-starred with Elvis will return to the Oscars
If you spot a nun roaming the red carpet during the Oscar telecast Feb. 26, don’t adjust your set.
Mother Dolores is not flying or singing, but the real deal — and the focus of God Is the Bigger Elvis, which is nominated in the best documentary short category and premieres April 5 on HBO.
“It will be so nice to be back at the Oscars,” says Mother Dolores, 73, the Benedictine nun who stars in the 37-minute visit to the Abbey of Regina Laudis, appropriately located in Bethlehem, Conn. “It’s such a fun night.”
Pro-Life Motion Picture Opens Nationwide in March
When filmmakers Jon and Andrew Erwin tackled October Baby, they knew that their movie was imitating life. The film is loosely based on the life of abortion survivor Gianna Jessen.
What they didn’t know is that their art was imitating life in more ways than one, through the story of one of the film’s actresses.
The Mayan Calendar 2012: End Timing Is Not Everything
The end of the world is once again nigh.
Or so claim interpreters of the so-called Mayan calendar.
But Catholics are advised to ignore this year’s end-times fantasy, just as they did regarding last year’s Bible-inspired prediction promoted by Protestant radio-show host Harold Camping.