Category Archives: Jesus

Becoming upset with the chaos. “Beginning the Church’s downfall”

We usually get upset when we’re frustrated, which is when things are out of control, when we get nervous that the spinning of worldliness is spinning away while the true pole of the earth is tossed as irrelevant. However, it remains true that the Cross remains while the world spins away:

Crux stat dum volvitur orbis.

That’s just a two second video of Shadow-dog above. He demonstrates well my reaction to anyone holding the cross to be irrelevant. That’s my reaction because I’m not as close to Christ Jesus as I should be. So, I get nervous, upset. How stupid is that. We must retain our peace of heart even if we also have anguish of soul. Anyway, I had that frustrated reaction the other day to something someone who should know better said of a proclamation of Saint Pope Paul VI to the Fathers of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council which received something like a dozen minutes of thunderous and unanimous applause in Saint Peter’s Basilica. Try anything more than ten seconds of applause…

Because Jesus is the Head of the Body – so to speak – and the members of the Church are the members of that Body, Saint Pope Paul VI proclaimed Mary to be Mother of the Church, Mater Ecclesiae, which title is no innovation, no heresy, but is instead a title which is humbly bestowed upon her so as to celebrate the reality of her motherhood. She is the Immaculate Virgin Mother of God, and her prayers for us under that steadfasat Cross that we might receive the grace of redemption as salvation directly from her Divine Son appropriately confers upon her such a title, for she is, then, our mother in this way, Mother of the Church.

The nasty thing I heard someone who should know better say is that this proclamation was the beginning of the end of the Church. I was stunned. Perhaps I didn’t hear correctly. Perhaps he meant to say that Mary’s inclusion in Lumen Gentium, the dogmatic decree on the Church, was and is somehow the driving engine bringing all to hell. Or perhaps he was saying that in general about the Council itself and he had no intention of demeaning our Lady.

But this is a symptom of the times, is it not? Flippant statements smashing everything and everyone down? Two seconds to throw all into chaos, and then smirking away. Wow.

But things are not “out of control”. The Lord Jesus remains the Lord of History. And we can remain with Him. He can and does make us part of the Holy Family. He does forgive us. He does fill us with sanctifying grace. He does give us the wherewithal to continue.

If that video above were to continue, one would see Shadow-dog immediately lie down and peacefully oversee his domain. A good example. Goooood daaaawwwg!

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Devil Dog’s Son, Fr Byers: ironic proof

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Yours truly on a day-off, of sorts. Smiling and what all. The gall. A snake-handler preacher man ruint with longevity. Way too snarky. Having waaaay tooooo much fun. And who ever heard of a day off for a priest anyway? Sounds demonic. Anyone who casts out Satan must be doing this by Satan, and is a devil himself, a downright snake in the grass. And… and… I’m the Son of a Devil Dog. So, that seals it.

VMFA 312 Marine Fighter Attack Pilot Devil Dog six 50 cals

While the USMC in general has a nickname of Devil Dogs, dad was a commander of the Checkerboard Marine Fighter Attack Squadron of gullwing F4U Corsairs (VMFA 312) each sporting six 50 Cals and having the logo of a Devil Dog carrying the same. But the idea that the Marines are Devil Dogs isn’t that they are demonic. Here’s a one minute recruiting commercial about that:

The idea of extreme violence of a Devil Dog is not that goodness and kindness and truth are suppressed. No no. Instead, it is to bring goodness and kindness and truth to those who are happy to receive it even if it means battling in hell to do it, and looking, for that reason, finally coming out of hell, very much like the devil himself for having fought battles in hell over against the devil, that serpent who, for all his bluster, has been vanquished by Christ. I mean, isn’t it true that Christ Jesus looked demonically criminal on the Cross for having battled all of that hell that was broken out all at once against Him on Calvary?

Jesus crucified passion of the christ

One of the greatest defeats of contemporary mankind is the loss of a sense of irony. We don’t see behind the truths plainly spoken to see… the truth! What to do when we are just learning to live with Him who is Truth, but who for all intents and purposes and constructions looks to be Untruthfulness. He did that for our sake, by the way, laying down His life for us, the Innocent for the guilty, so that He might have the right in His own justice to have mercy on us. I might have said that once or twice before… ;-) Jesus is very much the Devil Dog Himself. You don’t think so? A blasphemy you say? Let’s review something I’ve many times posted, but not in a while. It bears a re-reading. We MUST get a sense of irony back if we are to be Christian, if we are to have a sense of identity, a solid base from which to work, that is, a oneness with Christ Jesus, Himself Irony Incarnate, as it were, so to speak, a Devil Dog. Let’s turn to the great historian Hilaire Belloc once again, for, after all, we bear the burden of being naive, or, as he says, “young”, “pure”, “ingenuous”, so easily thrown into fear, unthinking, cowardly fear. Enough of that! Behold: irony!

hilaire belloc“To the young, the pure, and the ingenuous, irony must always appear to have a quality of something evil, and so it has, for […] it is a sword to wound. It is so directly the product or reflex of evil that, though it can never be used – nay, can hardly exist – save in the chastisement of evil, yet irony always carries with it some reflections of the bad spirit against which it was directed. […] It suggests most powerfully the evil against which it is directed, and those innocent of evil shun so terrible an instrument. […] The mere truth is vivid with ironical power […] when the mere utterance of a plain truth labouriously concealed by hypocrisy, denied by contemporary falsehood, and forgotten in the moral lethargy of the populace, takes upon itself an ironical quality more powerful than any elaboration of special ironies could have taken in the past. […] No man possessed of irony and using it has lived happily; nor has any man possessing it and using it died without having done great good to his fellows and secured a singular advantage to his own soul.” [Hilaire Belloc, “On Irony” (pages 124-127; Penguin books 1325. Selected Essays (2/6), edited by J.B. Morton; Harmondsworth – Baltimore – Mitcham 1958).]

If there’s any proof that I’m a Devil Dog, it’s that I love such irony in the face of my being the most naive, the “youngest”, the “purist”, the most “ingenuous”, the most stupid idiot in the world, unable to appreciate such truths until they smack me down with such extreme violence that I gotta pay attention. It’s like Thomas the doubting Apostle. I’m forced to put my finger into the holes the nails made in the hands and feet of Christ. I’m forced to put my hand into the side of Christ, where I touch that beating heart, still pierced open. “My Lord and my God,” I blurt out. The irony is, I’m the absolute last person who would ever say that. Not me. I’m the one who put those wounds there. But the truth, “vivid with ironical power”, shines the light, and makes me a Devil Dog too. Thank you Jesus, you who want to make us all Devil Dogs.

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Filed under Humor, Jesus, Military, Spiritual life

WNC Cecropia Moth and… Jesus!

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This is a rare Cecropia Moth, as big as a bat. They don’t bite. They don’t even eat, surviving only for some days after caterpillar stage. For all of his fake eyes, this guy surely doesn’t even see me. I’m not in his purview. He’s on his way out. This picture was taken just down the way from the rectory at the gas station pumps, in the way of everyone, not long from death. Everyone was busy talking on their phones. No one else noticed him. Perhaps such things are not in their purview.

Are there other things not in our purview? Think about it. We can’t really know if we have no time or desire to see whatever it is we don’t even know we are not seeing.

So, we can ask whether Christ Jesus is in our purview. What a dumb question. As if we would even know what that means. We would ignore Him if we were without His grace even if He had His hands on both of one’s shoulders, trying to get us to notice Him. Our ineptitude of purview is total. What’s important is that we are in His purview. That’s what counts. We’re on our way out. But He sees us. Salvation is then wonderful to behold.

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CYA assigning priests to Jn 3:16

fatima lucia trinity mercy

I was once assigned to a parish (not this one, not this diocese) in a far flung place on the other side of the world. The throw away comment – always the important one – was that I was not to make waves; I was just to be a warm body filling the position of pastor; I was just to ensure that all kept moving along nicely, getting along to get along. Nice!

Of course, if one is faithful to Jesus in whatever way – however otherwise weak, however otherwise sinful – one will then embody the sign of contradiction, which is goodness and truth, kindness and truth, charity and truth, that for which Jesus was crucified. Everyone who is not with Jesus, not with goodness and kindness and truth, hates Jesus and anyone who would in whatever way be attempting to be with Jesus.

A priest is to be all about being a sign of contradiction by being good and kind in a truthful manner, however weak and sinful he otherwise is. To demand that the priest is to be nice, a sycophant, with no truth and therefore no actual goodness and kindness, no Jesus whatsoever, is to entrap such a priest faithful to Jesus for failure in the eyes of those who assigned him. That priest cannot but be a sign of contradiction; that priest cannot for a second be simply “nice.” The failure was foreseen and desired, and vengeance for the failure will be swift and vicious, not nice at all.

The second there is a complaint about the faithful priest not being “nice,” but rather good and kind and truthful, that priest is ripped out of that parish for having had the audacity to be faithful to Jesus, but the accusation, of course, is that that priest wasn’t nice, and couldn’t fulfill even one simple assignment to just keep a parish running with no problems by just being nice.

On the one hand: God the Father so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son among us, to reveal to us the goodness and kindness and truth of the Father, knowing that we would consider that all to be not nice, knowing that we would torture His Son to death, but this so as to take on what we deserve for sin, death, so that He, standing in our place, the Innocent for the guilty, might have the right in His own justice to have mercy on us.

On the other hand: Those who entrap others by assigning them to be nice so that they can later crucify them for not having been nice, but “merely” good and kind and truthful, style themselves in a CYA manner as those who are like God the Father, you know, tough enough to assign those under them to go ahead and be crucified.

There are so many problems of logic with all that, as many as there are with being “nice” while not being good and kind and truthful.

My assignment in that parish was to be “nice.” However otherwise weak and sinful I was, I wanted instead to be good and kind and truthful. I couldn’t publicly condone and vocally bless violent racism and “strict segregationalism.” I was therefore accused of not being “nice.”

I’m happy to be accused of not being “nice.” ;-)

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Pope Francis and… Jesus

How’s your Italian? Pope Francis spent his whole homily on the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul talking about Jesus and us getting closer to Jesus by receiving His forgiveness for our sins. Stunning, really. There was no ambiguous reference to non-repentance or half-hearted conversion as a process, meaningless accompaniment, blah blah blah… No. Just receiving a proper absolution and walking in friendship with Jesus.

That continued in the Angelus message:

I mentioned this to another priest and he said that if I say anything good about Pope Francis I will be dumped by any followers and dumped on as I have been when I say that I’m standing in solidarity with Pope Francis by saying that I’m going to continue praying for him. He’s always asking for our prayers. Anyone in his position as successor of Peter needs our prayers. Does that mean that we agree with everything he says about anything everywhere all the time? No.

But people are really maliciously stupid about this. Jesus says that He prayed for Peter that his faith might not fail. Jesus also called Peter “Satan”. Peter did deny Jesus. Three times. Are we to say that Jesus is stupid for praying for Peter that when Peter turns he is to confirm his brethren in the faith? No. But people effectively do this, becoming themselves agents of Satan over against Jesus. Don’t do that. Pray for the successor of now Saint Peter. Get it?

Hail Mary x 3.

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Scars of mistrust after being shot? Me, Shadow-dog, Laudie-dog, Frankie-dog.

SHADOW-DOG: I’m getting to know how to use my phone-camera with a video option. I held up the phone, a small black object, in front of my face and aimed it at Shadow-dog. As you can see in the video, he has to do a double-take, not believing what he is seeing. He then ran around the fence and right up to me to be sure that I was still the same old me, and was not malicious against him, trusting that it just can’t be that I would betray him, trusting that he can still be absolutely loyal to me. But he had to make sure, immediately. “We’re still friends, right?” Yes, Shadow-dog, we’re still a team. We still work together. We’re still friends. We’ll still stand up for each other. Trust is still the only way.

Shadow-dog has never been suspicious of me. His reaction to the camera, the small black object in my hands, instantly brought to my mind that – I had forgotten – he’s been shot at with a pellet gun a couple of times…

His fur is so thick that it didn’t do much damage, just mashing the skin into a glob and making the fur stand straight out at that spot for, say, about four months. But that image of someone with a black object in their hands held up to their face and pointing it at him is an image that is obviously frozen in his memory.

He absolutely just could not believe that I would be doing the same thing with him, and he had to know the truth of the matter… immediately. Having ascertained the truth of the friendship and team effort, the bond was all the closer between us.

FRANKIE-DOG: You’ll remember my neighbor’s dog getting shot with a pellet gun in the shoulder. Had Frankie-dog had his leg forward it would have been a kill shot to the heart. It was a hunting pellet. It’s inoperable. They tried. An ex-ray shows it clearly in the shoulder bones. Here’s Frankie-dog posing for a picture a week after the operation:

You can read about that episode in the neighborhood: Shooting my neighbor’s dog. Frankie-dog had a hard life in the past but is now ultra-super-pampered by his new owner. He took this all in stride though he was in bad pain for quite a while. Before this he was exclusively an outside dog as he had under his previous owner suffered so much inside a house and refused to go inside another house, ever. But now his bonds of trust with his new owner are such that he has braved to also go inside at night. Gooood doggie!

LAUDIE-DOG: When Laudie-dog first adopted me some seven years ago, she appeared to have been shot between the shoulder blades perhaps a month previously with bird shot of a .410 shotgun. That made her pretty timid. She’s such a gentle dog. She had a bit of mange and was severely flea-bitten. With some care and lots of love she got over all that pretty quickly. Having been reduced to starvation when she had been so abused, she became a voracious eater until this day, happy as ever. She’s risked her life to defend me any number of times over against bears and wolves and a panther. The latter happened at night. I had seen it close up twice previously. Laudie-dog and I are, to say the least, good friends and a team. She’s been with me so long that she doesn’t have to do a double-take with me even after getting shot by someone… again…

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Laudie-dog was shot in the neck, just in the back of her skull, again, this time by a pellet gun. Fortunately, she has super-thick fur, a kind of mane around her neck, and of course, really loose neck skin. But the skin was all mashed up and ripped to the side and temporarily infected. The wound is healed over now. It was tender for a while, as the slightest whimpers she would emit upon inspection of the wound attested. The vets say she’s just fine. Here is is healing up…

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Another angle:

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Considering that, I’m guessing this is the kind of hunting round that was used:

pellet gun brass ammo hunting

That’s what the x-ray shows for the pellet buried in the shoulder of Frankie-dog.

Both Shadow-dog and Laudie-dog got a working over by the Christian Veterinarians Mission up in Graham County the other day, which was composed of Dr Joe and many veterinarian students. Both Shadow and Laudie got their parvo and rabies shots and another combo-shot for seven other things, and a blood draw for heart worms. They’re both in great shape. Both happy happy doggies.

But what if a human being gets shot at? Is there trust to be had after that?

I’ve been shot at in my life, perhaps as much as some other non-military, non-law-enforcement civilians:

  • I honestly don’t know how many times I was shot at and hit by a BB gun as a kid.
  • I was shot at many times and hit once smack in the middle of my forehead with a pellet gun as a kid. I had to pry out the projectile from being embedded in my forehead.
  • When I was twelve or thirteen my family was shot at by a crowd armed with 12 gauge shot guns one particular day. We were pretty far away, with the BBs showering the trees around us, first up high, but then right at us, with the BBs hitting us, but not drawing blood, though one hitting my mom’s neck might have drawn a little blood.
  • Perhaps on three different occasions as a teenager I was shot at exactly 300 yards out by a .22 rifle, with bullets whizzing by all around me. That I wasn’t hit was accidental. It’s not that the shooter didn’t try. The proximity of a bullet whizzing by your ears is unmistakable also as to distance. Too close! On each occasion the entire barrel magazine was emptied out against me, 15 bullets each time. Yes, I know what type of gun.
  • A sniper guy sent out a bullet which, because of instantaneous circumstances, just missed me. It would have gotten me smack in the heart. This was after I was ordained a priest and was studying in Rome.
  • At the hermitage on a number of occasions a hunting rifle similar to a .30-06 / 7.62×63, with a handful of rounds each time. I was out in an opening of the forest and the shooter was hidden in the forest on the ridge behind me. He could see me. I couldn’t see him. There was no escape. He had no intention of hitting me, just scaring me. I just don’t get scared in such situations.

That’s it, so far. It’s a good idea never to trust any fallen human being because, as it is, all human beings are fallen. We can, however, trust in Jesus. After all, look at His track record. Jesus entrusted Himself to us. Look at what we did. Look at how He still entrusts Himself to us. We can learn to trust Him, that He wants what’s best for us, that He wants to get us to heaven. Jesus, I trust in you.

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Our perception of time is surreal until

salvador dali persistence of time

Salvador Dali calls this The Persistence of Time. That’s our fallen human perspective of reality for sure. Surreal.

Meanwhile, time is drawn into one hour upon the Cross where we find the very Creator of time, time being drawn together in our redemption, He drawing all to Himself right through that hell of Calvary.

This is where we find the mercy of forgiveness, mercy being a dirty word for many these days, you know, for those who have no need of mercy whatsoever, so self-righteous are they.

But it is good to rejoice in mercy in humble thanksgiving, which becomes the engine of any firm purpose of amendment. This is most beautiful in contrast to the arrogance of self-righteousness to which so many run ever so breathlessly, congratulating themselves.

Confession!

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Ilhan Omar: Jesus was not a Jew

lion of the tribe of judah

Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., says that Jesus, Son of Jesse of the House of David, Jew of Jews, is not a Jew, the very Lion of the Tribe of Judah.

That’s like saying Ilhan Omar doesn’t cover for terrorists, you know, some people who did something.

Just my opinion, but I think Jews should stop voting for democrats. No, really.

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Filed under Jesus, Politics, Terrorism

Paul Harvey – An Easter Story

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Filed under heaven, Hell, Jesus

Homily 2018 03 30 – Good Friday and the Silence of God. Oh my…

holy sepulcher

Too long of a homily, so, just some bullet points:

  • God’s Word, His Son, becomes Incarnate so as to forgive our sin in all mercy but by way of justice, He taking on the punishment for our sin, death, the innocent for the guilty, so that He might have the right in His own justice to have mercy on us.
  • We ask in our idiocy: “Where is God? Why is He silent?” But we don’t mean it. We don’t want to hear God speak to us. That’s why we killed him.

  • Jesus’ corpse answers with silence that screams out His love for us so loudly that our reaction so as not to hear Him is to distract ourselves with such noise that can’t hear His silence speaking to us from the tomb. We seal ourselves off from everything and everyone, especially Jesus in His eloquent silence, through alcohol and drugs and distractions which really cost us lots of money. When I mentioned in my homily about the distractions which really cost us lots of money, there were very many who laughed.
  • When we finally hear the silence of God, of Jesus, in the tomb, speaking His love for us, He having heard us, He coming to the rescue with a mercy founded on justice, doing it the right way, with God knowing what suffering and death means, when we are stunned finally by the goodness and kindness of Jesus right to the end, perhaps then we can say in all the unearthly silence with His blood all over us – along with the soldier who had just shoved his spear into the side, into the Heart of Jesus: “Truly this was the Son of God.” That is: Truly this is the Son of God who hears us and speaks to us so eloquently from the tomb.

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The Necessary Co-Redemptrix

SISTINE MADONNA detail

While preaching this Palm-Sunday on what would be an appropriate meditation for this Holy Week for my parishioners – the Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane and then the 4th and 13th Stations of the Cross: Jesus meeting his mother after getting smashed down by the cross for the first time and then Jesus being lowered from the cross into her arms, ever so dead – in preaching on all that… well… I mean… I suppose I could put the audio of the homily up… It’s just that it’s embarrassing as I got entirely choked up a number of times, entirely unable to speak for at least what seemed like ten seconds… thirty seconds…

Here’s the deal: Not that it at all came out in what I said necessarily, but it was in preaching on Jesus and His good mom that I “understood” – beheld quite directly, if you will – the dynamic, if you will – by which it is entirely necessary that Mary be Co-Redemptrix. To me this wasn’t just an “insight”, but rather an invitation to behold what’s really going on with our Redemption, ever so personal for Jesus about Mary, the good Son of a good mom. It was like seeing Mary as Mother from the eyes of her good Son.

I asked a specialist in psychology and priests about this fault of mine, getting choked up, which the Brits would call weakness, and even worse. He knows me well, and is my spiritual director. He straight up laughed at me for stupidly even asking the question, saying that Freud would say that it all has to do with an unresolved conflict with my own mom. But, then he said that Freud has been discredited on saying everything like this must be a “conflict,” adding that surely this was, in fact, for me, a valid religious experience. And then he went on to mention some of his own like experiences.

I say all that just to rid some of such unnecessary distraction so that they might pay attention to what is important. Here are some points spelling out a bit what I didn’t entirely spell out in the homily because of my getting choked up:

  • Only Adam was responsible for the “breath of the living ones” which was only given to him with its intention that he and his offspring be alive and then reaffirm this life should he eat from the tree of the living ones, that is, living with good choices, instead of eating, as it were, from the tree of knowing good mixed with evil, a kind of epistemology of dumbed-downness by which the power of his agent-intellect was corrupted not only for himself, but for us. Adam changed the intention of the breath from life to death. We no longer have the wherewithal to keep matter and spirit, body and soul together. We start to drop into the grave the moment we are conceived.
  • Any offspring have a share in the breath of the dying ones, and are dumbed-down, weakened, unable to love that which, the One – God – whom they don’t know, as they otherwise should, and so are immediately in sin, what we call original sin.
  • God creates the soul which is concomitant with that life, that dying life at the choice of Adam, not of God. God is just respecting Adam’s choice for himself, for us. We are created good up to the point Adam chose. And that’s the point: up to the point that Adam chose. Adam chose to descend to the level of where his wife bid him to go, not more nor less.
  • In justice, in our Redemption, Jesus should redeem us, recreate us only inasmuch as, only to the point that one of us would ask for this, Mary’s intercession for us.
  • Mary, free from original sin, and therefore with purity of heart and agility of soul and clarity of (spiritual) vision so that she could see exactly what we needed as she looked upon what sin has ravaged on her Son. She was in perfect solidarity with Son, her Immaculate Heart, His Sacred Heart.
  • Jesus followed up on her intercession for us, and only up to the point she desired this for us, which, of course, was perfectly. She’s the perfect mother. Our mother.
  • That maternal intercession of hers was necessarily for Him. It is this to which He looked. And only this. Jesus had a human nature. In justice, He should use this human nature. It is in His human nature that He received the intercession of His mother for us. He was going to do exactly what she wanted for us (which is, of course, exactly what He wanted for us precisely as her children, with Him).

Just to say it:

Our Redemption by Jesus is equal, not more, not less, to the maternal intercession of Jesus’ good mom for us. He looked to her, the Son to the Mother. Just as Adam looked to his wife as to just how far he should fall, so did the new Adam look to The Woman to see just how far He should lift us back up. Being Immaculate, she saw our need perfectly, and, in perfect solidarity with her Son, interceded for us perfectly. Having said all that, it is she who set us before our Redemption. Jesus would not have done it without her indicating that Redemption. Mary is entirely necessary as Co-Redemptrix for our Redemption.

Academically, the point is entirely valid with all my years of doctoral studies on Genesis 2:4–3:24 (including 3:15). I have much to say on all this, drawing out all the implications, drawing out the incisive ironies. I am overwhelmed with the entirely and very personal dynamic, if you will, of what is happening with our redemption, Jesus looking to His good mom: “Woman! Behold! I make all things new!”

Finally, this provides me the engine – how to say it? – to draw out a popular version of the thesis. I pray that I’m able to accomplish this. I pray that this works toward what has been called the fifth Marian dogma.

Now it’s more personal than it ever was. It’s like a project with Jesus.

I entirely realize that making it personal makes me look to be the fool. Delusional. An idiot. Fine. Whatever. I know what I know. It’s all come together. Whatever authority by which I write anything has nothing do with me. It’s to be judged on consistency with the Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition, the Magisterial interventions of the Church. It’s to be judged on the reasoning. Yes.

All I can say is that, right now, at the start of Holy Week, I’ve been shaken to the core of my being before God that Mary, our good mom, is necessarily Co-Redemptrix. It has to be that our Redemption in entirely involved with Jesus looking to His good mom. And, yes, she was singled out in Genesis: “I will put enmity between you [Satan] and The Woman [in context, the future Mother of the Redeemer].

In saying that, what is left to say? Just this:

Jesus, Immaculate Mary’s Divine Son, has done all things well.

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Filed under Immaculate Conception, Jesus, Jewish-Catholic dialogue, John Paul II, Mary

Day Off: guns & spiritual conversations – Jesus bragging on His mother in hell

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Not having bought any ammo since, I think, sometime in late 2018, the “long-way” was taken to the hermitage, passing by a number of Walmarts with variously stocked ammo desks, some desk managers being more on top of things than others. Then, after hitting the UPS Store, it was up and up and up “the mountain.” BTW, can you spot the huge cross made out of I-beams partially hidden by the trees towering above the driveway in the picture above? The neighbor to the hermitage is a master welder.

After a couple of hours of quiet time – a day off after all – energy returned, prayers were said, protection of angels was requested, targets went up, mags were loaded, timers were set, “ears” were adjusted, adrenaline was forced, trigger fingers, left and right, were steadied, concentration was narrowed…

The first course consisted of some six stages of drills, supposedly of a SEAL team, surely dumbed down and from “back-in-the-day.” Here’s a picture of the first stage, just three yards out, from cover/holstered, with an 8 1/2 x 11 target of the usual “body” (inside the two vertical lines: 5:3/4″ x 10:1/2″) and “head” (consisting of a 2″ x 4″ box at the top, an eye-forehead shot instantly “stopping the threat”). The first stage is just one shot from holster to the “head” ≤ 1.5 seconds. Dunno why, but this time I was much more accurate and quick for all stages of all courses, coming in mostly (way) under time and with smaller more centered patterns, mostly inside the “inside bottle” representing the spinal cord. Prayers for priests and the bishop while moving, marking, changing out targets.

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The target then moves further away for different stages until 75 feet away up the ridge.

DIGRESSION: Someone had given me some massively oversized targets (23″ x 35″), I guess to poke fun at my aim, the comment surely being that I’m not able to hit the side of a barn… from inside the barn! I took those dozen or so roll of wallpaper-esque targets just to see if there was anything superimposed. Nope. Having ascertained that, those targets will now go back to the giver. As of a couple years, the most recent policy really is no gifts from intel, ever, zip, zero, zilch… can’t happen. I’m guessing the targets are for zeroing in rifle scopes, say, from a mile out. But I’m not a sniper. I don’t own or use rifles. Not my thing. With a Glock, as the saying goes, aim small, shoot small.

After that, it was time for an FBI course with reduced QIT 97-99 inside bottle targets (that partial detail fitting on legal paper), and then the pre-2001 Federal Air Marshal courses (that target consisting of foam dessert plates propped up by pigtail wires), and then some swinging breakfast blend plastic coffee buckets on ropes and filled with dirt (out to about 15 yards), totaling for day I’m guessing about 175 bullets. Not much, but enough. It was a good day for review and keeping edgy.

With the Glock thoroughly cleaned and oiled and the target-ammo changed out for appropriate carry-ammo, I was eager to go to the neighbors of the hermitage. That’s when the real happiness of the day began.

The spiritual conversations after plinking are becoming a thing, as it were, something that’s expected and to which we all look forward. We spoke of judgment, heaven, hell, purgatory, witnessing to the point of martyrdom, suffering, angels, Jesus, our dearest Heavenly Father, the state of the Church, the state of our souls, the patience of our Lord with us sinners, and being happy for Jesus that after all He has gone through for us, He is now in heaven with our Heavenly Father.

But most of all – at length – we spoke about our Blessed Mother, Jesus’ good mom, about what she went though in this world, what with her purity of heart and agility of soul and clear vision confronting this fallen world, how it is that she was in solidarity with her Divine Son Jesus as He was tortured to death right in front of her. If recorded, these conversations would be good material for an ongoing series of blog posts.

A repeat-topic about our Lady came up, you know, which of the 14 Stations of the Cross would be most – how to say? –  involving to Jesus. The neighbor said it would surely be the meeting with His mother. I agreed, but in another way, saying that it may well be when Jesus is taken down from the cross and put in the arms of His blessed mother.

Aquinas says that the divinity of Jesus never left His body even when that body died and He, with His soul, descended to hell to preach to the fallen spirits. It struck me then, devastated as He would be in His soul that His mother was so devastated holding His dead body, that He would be bragging on His mother to the fallen spirits: “Look at her! She’s the mother-warrior who crushes you, Satan, under her heel. She’s remained faithful in the most adverse circumstances, all of hell attacking. You have failed! She has won souls for heaven!” These are the words, so full of love, which will torture those fallen spirits, so full of hate, for eternity.

Much better to have our souls in order, frequenting the Sacraments, to go to heaven and rejoice to be happy that, after all they went through in this world for us, both Jesus and our Blessed Mother are there.

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Localized Theology Doctorates and the homosexualized abuse crisis

dung snow

Some doctorates about local stuff are good. But – just to say – …

For all the years I was in Rome across many decades – and also here in these USA, fellow students were – pretty much all of them it seemed – were writing their doctoral theses (you fill in the blanks) on ____[TOPIC]___ in ___[LOCAL AREA]___. For instance:

  • Sing-song vocalizations of various words spoken by street people [of a certain race] on a particular street corner in Louisiana depicting continuation in liberation. [That’s for real. The priest who wrote this thesis ended up convicted of abuse of minors. Yep.]

Some were more serious theologically, along the lines of:

  • Whether violence is useful in Liberation Theology applications in Amazonian Region #___[NUMBER]___

Most were outright attacks on the Creed, along the lines of:

  • The non-divine Jesus from below in the experience of the ___[TRIBE]___ peoples

Lots of these dealt with sexual morality, of course, forcing a loss of morality.

  • One, from a priest in Oceania, promoted ethnic cleansing, even violent, as in genocide. He hid it in footnotes, but I spotted it. None of the professors on the defense commission – somehow – did not spot this at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. Surprise, surprise.

I brought that thesis to the attention of his bishop, of the local archbishop, and of a number of dicasteries in the Holy See. The guy was promoted. I’m so naive. But failure is still success if one has done one’s best to do what is right and just. We must never give up. Never. God’s not so interested in our success as He is in our faithfulness to Him.

The content of all this blather doesn’t matter. The point is that the very exercise of writing such a thesis restructures the writer’s beliefs, so that he now has nothing but a Marxist world-view, a dialectic analysis of “the people.”

Did I say that pretty much everyone was doing this?

And now we see this as the constant theme, the pastoral solution of this diocese or that conference of bishops in that ever so special culture in an ever so special place, so special that the Church is irrelevant, Jesus is irrelevant, the truth is irrelevant. It’s experiences and feelings and stuff like, you know, like that stuff.

When people in not so special cultures in not so special places hear of such things, of course they think that they are also so special that the Church and Jesus and the truth is also irrelevant for them, so they can do what they damn well please. And make no mistake, this is always about morals, always about sex.

Does no one believe in Christ Jesus?

These weak people do such damage to peoples right around the world.

If you’re reading this and you’ve done up such a thesis, perhaps you’d like to comment and defend yourself, or, as someone else known to me has done instead, repent of such idiocy and then speak of your new found friendship with Him who is the Living Truth, for all peoples of all times and places and cultures and social conditions, of all tribes and tongues and peoples and nations. Perhaps you would like to speak of looking upon Him who we have all pierced with our sin, He who hangs on the cross for all of us to see.

Jesus crucified passion of the christ

It’s all about Him. He’s the One. He’s the only One. Write about Him. Speak about Him. Bring people to Him, to their knees in Confession. Then we’ll live by His love, His Truth, His goodness and kindness, His forgiveness, and yes, then, His mercy founded on… wait for it… His justice.

Otherwise, people run to the lowest common denominator of hell. Sexual deviance. Always.

Peace, my friends.

Update: LifeSite’s interview with Cardinal Sarah, a particularly apropos interjection:

“We tolerate any calling into question. The Catholic doctrine is challenged, and in the name of self-styled intellectual postures, theologians take pleasure in deconstructing dogma and in emptying morals of their profound meaning. Relativism is the mask of Judas disguised as an intellectual. How can we be surprised that so many priests break their commitments? We downgrade the meaning of celibacy, we demand the right to a private life, which is the opposite of the priest’s mission. Some go so far as to claim the right to homosexual activity. One scandal follows another, involving priests and bishops.”

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JBS: Yaron Svoray & Simon Wiesenthal [Jesus sweat great drops of blood]

Mr Yaron Svoray, thank you. Having said that, a warning: Yaron doesn’t give details to this audience. Thank God. But what he says about Neo-Nazis today put me into what I wouldn’t rightly call a deep depression so much as an overwhelmingly clearer awareness of the evil that we can and do find anywhere around us and with the most unsuspecting people. This story is NOT for the innocent and naive. It contains things you can’t unhear. My recommendation: Don’t subject yourself to it. I put it here as a proof of the point made. Having said that, again, thank you, Mr Svoray.

Mr Yaron Svoray mentions that he thought he was going to simply die, not being able any longer to stand in the presence of such terrible evil, the pressure being too much. Just listening to his story I understood exactly the feeling he had. I know that feeling. I’ve experienced it. It’s not a depression thing, as people might describe as one’s insides being gripped by a darkness which drags one down. No. This is instead like one’s soul is trying to leave one’s body so as to escape the evil… the evil… The pressure of the evil, the feeling of inescapability from the evil, is just too much, as if one is going to get a heart attack. One feels like one is going to drop to the ground, dead. Don’t listen to Yaron, lest you die. It took me days to somehow be extracted from that feeling that one’s soul is trying to escape the evil, so close, I guess, to having a heart attack, enough for this to be noticed by others. Uggh.

Having said that, I profusely thank Mr Svoray for his presentation. He, a Jewish guy, having worked with the great Jewish educator and Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal (31 December 1908 – 20 September 2005), has, in this way, led me to the wounds of Jesus. In seeing those wounds, like Thomas the Apostle, one realizes that there is nothing that should surprise us. Jesus saw it all, already. But we are weak. Like Yaron, who knew all the horrors of the holocaust, and who was about to die just for being in the presence of evil… like Yaron, we are just so weak to behold any more evil in the present moment. What do we really know about evil? And if we do not have the wherewithal to withstand the evil, what, therefore, do we really know of God’s love, God who, in beholding all the evil, nevertheless so loved the world that He… ? Again, Yaron, thank you.

Having said all that, Jesus, in His human nature, also had this experience in the agony in the garden of Gethsemane, when He sweat great drops of blood. All of hell and hell’s evil and all the sin of all had come upon Him. Uggh! As the “Doctors of Calvary” tell us, in their examination of the Gospels and the Shroud of Turin, Jesus did indeed have a massive heart attack breaking the pericardium. Jesus died more of this heart attack before 24 hours would pass than He did from the torture and crucifixion. Remember that Pilate was surprised that Jesus had already died, the process of the effects of the crucifixion usually taking a few days. Jesus faced all the evil. Uggh.

The question then before us is this: Do we become cynical in the face of any and every bit of evil that we see, or do we allow ourselves to have our eyes opened however painfully right throughout our lives, and therefore do we allow ourselves to help others who are being subjected to the evil?

It is in seeing how far Jesus had to reach to get us, into our darkness, into the evil, knowing what it would cost Him to show us His goodness and kindness and truth… It is in seeing just how far Jesus had to reach to get us – and He coming among us anyway – that we can turn from the darkness to thanksgiving to God for Jesus coming among us.

For those of you who choose to watch that video… uggh… Just know I’ve warned you.

Having said all that, it is listening to this story a certain statement of a certain person who told me that he wants to “kill Jews” comes to mind.

I’ve never been one to say “Never again!” because it is too easy to think that in saying that one has already done enough. If you see something say something. But just like the tragedy at the school shooting in Florida, no one is listening. Too bad, that.

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The real blasphemy behind Ronald McDonald crucified

Oded Balilty / AP

This is in an Israeli Museum, whose disclaimer is that it was just part of a loan from another museum in another part of the world. Of course, that rather singular piece may well have been the purpose of getting a loan of lots of stuff from that other museum. It’s surely not a mistake, like they didn’t know about it. There have been some protests.

But let’s think about this. Whatever of some of Jesus’ followers throughout the centuries, Jesus, at the very least, for Jews, is a Jewish good guy, right? Spectacularly truthful, spectacularly good and kind, spectacularly forgiving, spectacularly in-your-face in the correction of hypocrites while NOT being a hypocrite Himself.

So, I don’t think the artist has anything against Jesus. I do think that there is a protest about the hypocrisy of some individuals who call themselves Catholic or Christian for that matter. Indeed, there are those like Martin Luther, whose anti-Jewish ideology was arguably as bad or worse than that of Hitler. For Luther to use the Cross to smack down Jews is the ultimate hypocrisy. I agree.

However, I think that using Jesus Himself, who is innocent of the hypocrisy, as the object of one’s scorn, is to take on the very hypocrisy that one says one despises.

So, let’s do a test – and mind you, while I’m a Catholic priest I am also Jewish – what if the Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem and say, the one is Washington, D.C., were to transform their museums and paint all pictures of victims as Ronald McDonald, because, after all, they were innocent and Jewish, like Jesus, right? I would be outraged if anyone did that. That would be horrible. A travesty. Sooo very disrespectful. Uggh. So, what about the treatment of the Jewish good guy, Jesus, tortured to death by the Romans because of…. wait for it… because of the sins of us all, from Adam until the last man is conceived?

As I say, those who take on the hypocrisy of the hypocrites are as hypocritical as those they despise as hypocrites. How about leaving the innocent out of it, and offering a critique of those who are hypocrites? I have. I do. At risk to myself, mind you. And with great effect, mind you. How is that? Because I say all the time that I am a repentant hypocrite, just another of all of us. Without Jesus, I myself am just another hypocrite. Hypocrites, repentant or not, know other hypocrites.

Having said all that, what’s going on? I think the artist and museum and whoever agrees with such blasphemy in all laughter and high five-ing BUT – unbeknownst to themselves, are looking for deeper realities in the followers of Jesus. They have already seen the hypocrites and dismissed them. Great. But they want to test and push and see if anyone anywhere has anything of Jesus about them. Whether they realize it or not, they want to see all the love and truth and goodness and truth and kindness and truth and forgiveness and truth that our Lord has to offer also in His followers. They are fascinated by Him, drawn in by Him, want with all their hearts and souls and minds and with all the strength they want to know if Jesus is the One, the only One, the Messiah, the Suffering Servant, the Divine Son of God coming into the world to take away our sins by standing in our place, the Innocent of the guilty, so that He might have the right in justice to have mercy on us. And we all – all of us – obliged. We all pushed Him right to death.

Here’s the deal:

  • All people on earth have the right – the absolute right, mind you – to have the fullness of the love and truth of Jesus proclaimed and demonstrated to them, for, after all, Jesus did redeem all of us and wants that we be saved.
  • If we do not witness, people are absolutely going to push and shove, baiting, until they find that it’s all true, that Jesus lives and is with His true followers who are NOT hypocrites. But push and shove they will.
  • How can we blame anyone for such “art” when at the same time we are not witnessing to Jesus as we should and as we are indeed able by Jesus’ grace… should we choose to take that up and live as Jesus’ good friends.

So, does this artwork make me angry? No. I am saddened by it, saddened that there are those who do not know His love and His truth and His goodness and His kindness, noticing that we need salvation so much as not to see the Savior Himself. What I am angry about is that there are those who are in a position to witness widely but choose not to present the truth, but rather only political correctness. If you want to know what the real blasphemy is, that’s it, right there. Do you think Jesus is upset with the Ronald McDonald crucified thing in Israel? I think rather that He is angry that some of His own priests and bishops are total F***-ups. What? Not nice of me? Here’s what’s not nice, if you’ve forgotten:

When I published the following linked rant, I thought surely I would be silenced and worse. But, no, that didn’t happen. It’s hard to argue against the truth.

Update: Martin Luther: “We are at fault in not slaying the Jews.” The Holy See: “Let’s celebrate his life!” J’accuse!

Permit me to put up the video I made some ten years ago in Jerusalem. Don’t think I don’t know. Don’t think I don’t care.

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Homily 2019 01 20 Τί ἐμοὶ καὶ σοί, γύναι; Οὔπω ἥκει ἡ ὥρα μου. John 2:4. *The* Wedding. Priests are married.

wedding of cana mosaic lourdes rosary basilica doors

These are the massive central portals to the Rosary Basilica in Lourdes, in front of which the candlelight rosary procession is led nightly in Lourdes, France. The artist attempts to get us to understand that the two scenes are one by distributing the jars of water now turned to wine at the Wedding in Cana on both sets of doors. He also has us pointed to where the real “Wine” is to be had, as well as Mary’s solidarity with Jesus at His Hour, where she is to intercede for us in the redemption of the image of God, as Genesis has it, one man and one woman for marriage and family.

Τί ἐμοὶ καὶ σοί, γύναι; Οὔπω ἥκει ἡ ὥρα μου (John 2:4).

  • Mary’s statement: “They have no wine.”

After all, we have to celebrate the image of God as to be found in marriage and the family when the Redeemer of the image of God within us is present. All the Sacred Scriptures point to this. She, who is the Mother of the Redeemer of Genesis 3:15, knows she can go to her Son who is set for the rise and downfall of many in Israel, He who is the Light unto the Nations.

  • Jesus’ title for His mom: “Woman”

Some think that this is an insult. Since when is being a woman an insult?! Anyway, this is the epic title of the Woman in Genesis 3:15, the War Hero over against Satan, and the Immaculate Mother of the Redeemer, the War Hero by way of her maternity of “her Seed.”

Then we see the Woman below the cross who, already having given birth to the Head of the Body, Jesus, becomes mother also to the members of the Body, that is, by way of her perfect intercession for us under the cross, with all the “birth pangs” as it were that that entails. This is when all of hell is broken out. This is when she is successful in the battle with her Seed, her Divine Son, Jesus, who crushes the power of Satan over us and is crushed in His human nature for us.

Then we see the Woman in the Apocalypse, the Woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under he feet, and crowned with twelve starts, she, again, depicted as victor over Satan by way of her maternity.

For Mary to be entitled Woman is not an insult!

  • Jesus’ question: “What is that to me and to you?”

That question refers to both Jesus’ good mom and Jesus. Jesus wants to draw out the truths that are taking place. The Vulgate gets it exactly right: “Quid mihi et tibi est?” “What is that to me and to you?” It’s a real question, seeking the deeper truths to be spoken publicly. Great!

The Holy Spirit inspired the words to be the way they are. If we rewrite the Scriptures, bad things happen. Thus:

The Catholic NAB translates this if not with true malice, then with sheer incompetence: “Woman, how does your concern affect me?” That makes it sound like Mary just wants more alcohol for everyone, and that Jesus couldn’t give a hoot about anyone there, so that He wants to point out her stupidity publicly.

The KJV is even worse: “What have I to do with thee?” It’s like these rebels are having Jesus disowning His mother. That’s bad, really evil.

One of the Spanish translations simply has “déjame,” “Let me take care of it” (which leaves Mary out of it altogether. No good, that. And that’s only if we give it the far-fetched best sense, which would otherwise be: “Leave me alone!” Sigh… The Lectionary version we had was this: “¿Qué podemos hacer tú y yo?” That puts way too much emphasis on stuff to do instead of what the real question was about, namely, the explication of the deeper realities at hand.

  • Jesus’ hint for the answer: “My hour is not yet arrived.”

His Hour is when He is on the Cross on Calvary when all hell is broken out and the battle is on, when Mary’s hour of intercession for us is to be in full operation.

Let’s do the analogy: Cana has a wedding banquet. The Last Supper is Jesus’ wedding banquet. His vows refer to the epic battle for our souls mentioned above: This is my body given for you in sacrifice, the chalice of my blood poured out for you in sacrifice.

If Jesus wants Mary to make the realities of our salvation more apparent by this question, if Jesus wants to point out that we are to celebrate such a marriage at Cana because Jesus is set to redeem all marriage and the image of God within us by way of His own marriage with His Bride the Church at the Last Supper and then on the Cross, then we understand Mary’s “response.” She simply has to turn and say to the servants: “Do whatever He tells you.”

We priests and bishops MUST understand this, that we are married to the Church by way of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass that we offer, by way of the wedding vows that we recite in the first person singular: This is my body… my blood. And we have to be just that ready instantly to lay down our lives for the flock just as Jesus, that is, by way of the love and truth and goodness and kindness of Jesus granted with sanctifying grace.

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Baptism of Jesus the sinner?

jesus faces

This coming weekend we celebrate the Baptism of Jesus. So, like, when’s the last time you heard a rousing sermon on the Baptism of Jesus that was something more than “Jesus sanctified the waters” (true but there’s more to actually say) on the one hand, or Jesus was a sinner and needed baptism like everyone else on the other hand (the incessant clamor of the filthy, filthy, filthy liberals)? Print this out and give it to your priests (and deacons… and bishops for that matter) to help them get the plot…

  • So, because of Abraham’s lack of faith (and therefore lack of openness to, you know, life, for, like, what, 25 years before he finally believed in the Lord, and not because of his faith but because of the faith given to him by the Lord God, well, because of all that previous lack of faith there would be a punishment, which is that for hundreds of years the chosen people would be enslaved down in Egypt.
  • They were then brought to the Lord God on eagles wings. They went through the sea on dry ground and their pursuers, the soldiers and charioteers of Pharaoh, were drowned as a punishment for enslaving the chosen people for physical labor.
  • John the Baptist, the greatest prophet, preparing for the coming of Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, wanted to give people an opportunity to have a humble and contrite heart so that they would be prepared for the words: “Father! Forgive them!” After all, the chosen people of his day had been enslaving each other in sin and deserved to die just like the soldiers and charioteers of Pharoah.
  • John, with utter brilliance, had the people come down into the waters of the Jordan, long a symbol of the sea during the exodus. The people confessed their sins publicly and went under the waters to show that, with humble and contrite heart, they deserved to die like the soldiers and charioteers of Pharaoh for enslaving each other in sin. Perhaps the Lord God would forgive them of their sin.
  • Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, comes down for the baptism to that, under the waters, the innocent for the guilty, He could confess our sins, the Suffering Servant, calling out to our Heavenly Father that He might be treated as guilty of all sin from Adam until the last man is conceived, and thus have the right in His own justice to have mercy on us.
  • After this event, when the skies opened, the Holy Spirit descended, and the Father spoke of His Beloved Son, Jesus then spoke of how much He was constrained until He could be baptized with the baptism for which He came, the Baptism in His own blood, the punishment for our sin.

Thank you, John. Thank you, Jesus.

=============================

Those who have no sense of irony, that Jesus is Irony Incarnate, don’t get the plot, and are always stuck on merely external indicators of religion. Too bad, that.

For instance, from the right, about all I’ve ever heard is that Jesus sanctified the waters by His presence, thus recalling the Fathers of the Church, that is, their shorthand way of speaking in homilies and sermons. The Fathers packed in much more than that, but so many of those on the right don’t want to go there. They might get the plot.

For instance, from the left, the filthy, filthy, filthy left, about all I ever heard is that Jesus went down to John’s baptism unto repentance for the forgiveness of sin because He was in fact a sinner and He knew it or at least wanted to look politically correct because everyone else was going down for the baptism.

Jesus, have mercy, bring us into your way of salvation, your self-sacrifice, your truth, your goodness and kindness. Amen.

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Homily 2019 01 03 Jesus’ Holy Name

Warning: The story I recount herein makes some people pretty upset with me, but the way I look at it, I’ve been mandated by Jesus to preach about Jesus, and if I cannot tell this story, rejoicing in the Most Holy Name of Jesus, then all is lost for my priesthood. Today, a great Army Colonel in our parish said that the guy who smashed me down the most for this shouldn’t have allowed me to preach in the first place if he didn’t want to hear about Jesus! I agree wholeheartedly. You’ve been warned.

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Lol! But then… Donkeys and Jesus

Donkeys, always with the Holy Family, know the entirety of the hell the Holy Family went through. Behold, the reality of a donkey with the Holy Family, with Mary being the Ark of The Covenant:

12294900_10208466304923210_1903207402074592364_n9129564843207925856.jpg

I love it.

Mind you, if you think the donkey is scowling and is upset with his burden, no no, it’s not that way; instead, the donkey knows he’s on a forced journey bringing the Holy Family into exile in Egypt because of Herod murdering all the boys in Bethlehem in order to kill Jesus. The donkey, hardly upset with the Holy Family, is practicing his situational awareness. Gooood donkeeey!

This is my life while bringing Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament on my far flung Communion Calls to shut-ins, to those in Rehabs and Nursing Homes and Hospitals. I hope Jesus thinks I’m a gooood donkeeey! ;-)

And if anyone needs reminding about the great situational awareness of any good donkey, remember that donkeys are put in with flocks of sheep as they are superb at protecting the flock from predators. All priests should be gooood donkeeeys!

DONKEY FOX

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Today’s Politics of the Sistine Madonna UPDATE: What’s Raphael doing?

SISTINE MADONNA full

M.T. sent in a postcard sporting the Sistine Madonna by Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino (Raphael). The postcard itself arrived a bit damaged, as postcards do, so the above is a Wikipedia file.

I’m thankful for a reminder of the Sistine Madonna (with its wild history of locations both for the real painting and my mom’s copy) as it throws me fully into nostalgic mode. But that would be known from what I’ve written over the years. This was my mom’s favorite painting which always graced the “living room” of whatever house we lived in. Her copy looked like the real thing (to a kid like me) and was very elegantly framed. My mom made the frame and “antiqued” it. All very stately.

I would stand before this painting in wonder as a kid. It was my secret way to peek into heaven. There was heaven, right there, for all to see. How is it that the angels in the background allowed me to live. Even the angels are bored down front as they tolerate my presence. Did others see the treasures to be found here, in heaven? For me, these were mesmerizing sacred moments, so many, but always the same right through the years and in different houses: I would be racing about as a kid but then, in passing this painting, I would stop, instantly transported to the gates of heaven. Out of breath in my running. But absolutely still. “Look!” thought I, “There are all the angels!” straining as I was to see not so much the two angels out front, but the zillions in the background.

“Wow…” constituted the extent of my art appreciation at the time, though I imagine that that word was inscaped with more of a Hopkins’ umph than most grownup critics could ever muster with all their ulterior motives.

I remember being miffed that I didn’t know who Pope Sixtus was, or, as such a little kid, what his tiara was, and that I didn’t know who Saint Barbara was. But no matter. I happily gazed into the faces of Mary and her Son Jesus. M.T. shared his thoughts about these faces with me. I suppose I should return the favor with some of my own musings at this stage in my life.

SISTINE MADONNA detail

M.T. says he sees something “stern” in the face of Jesus. The way I myself would describe that is something of dread determination in the face of what is to come for Jesus during His life upon this earth, yet joy for what the result will finally be when He comes to judge the living and the dead and the world by fire. Jesus and His good mom are totally in solidarity with each other and mean to accomplish that which they set out to do for our redemption and salvation. But as with all such paintings, you have to follow the eyes, and in context. What’s said with just this detail is not wrong, but it’s all out of context. So, let’s move back to the full painting.

You’ll notice that young Saint Barbara, Virgin and Martyr, is looking down at the two angels who entered heaven, as did she, by the right choice to follow the Son of Mary. We have to remember that about angels. They, like us, had to say “Yes!” They expect us to use our free will correctly as well.

You’ll notice that Sixtus is bidding Jesus and Mary to look out from heaven to those here upon the earth. It’s as if Sixtus is saying “Look at what they are saying about me!” with “they” referring to those at whom he is indiscriminately pointing. And Jesus is looking over him – indeed over the viewer of the painting – and Mary is scanning the crowd also in back of the viewer of the painting (her eyes just a bit askance). As Sixtus makes his complaint, Jesus has already gone through His passion and death, and has risen from the dead and has ascended into heaven. But here Sixtus is addressing Jesus as a child. That surely refers to what Sixtus is complaining about.

There was a vicious gossip columnist in Rome at the time – given no credence by anyone – who wrote about Sixtus in such manner – repeating without discernment all that he heard – that you would think that gossip guy is writing in late 2018, all stuff about interfering with kids and young men.

Again, back to Jesus and Mary: there’s a certain foreboding, a certain sorrow, but also and more importantly a certain joy for those who will make it to heaven. Note as well that Sixtus himself is canonized in the painting. He’s up in the clouds of heaven. Is protected by the bored angels who would happy to do some janitorial work over against enemies if called upon, and can speak with Jesus and Mary at will, and they are right with him. But the gossip? Horrible. But the truth? That’s what Raphael is painting.

Lots to think about there. To M.T.: Again, thanks for the postcard.

UPDATE: What’s Raphael doing?

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