Lighthouse July 25, 2021
Today I thought I would just share with you something you
might find interesting and know little about. This past Sunday we had a
celebration for Sr. Rose Mock celebrating 60 years as a consecrated sister and Sr.
Carol Prenger celebrating 50 years. While some denominations use the term 'sister' as referring to any of
the women in the congregation, Catholics, Lutherans, Episcopalians recognize
women who have made vows to God that they will live poverty, celibacy,
obedience for the rest of their lives. As such they own nothing as all belongs to the community they joined and
they profess obedience to the superior of the house. Some want to know the difference between
sisters and nuns. A nun is a sister who
lives in a cloister (basically isolated from the world) to pray constantly as
we spoke of last week. A sister is more
involved in a ministry in the world such as teaching, or hospital work. Then a sister or nun may also be committed to
living in a community or alone. This is
to live in accord with Jesus' teaching in Mt. 19:12 'for there are eunuchs who
have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by
men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the
kingdom of heaven. He who is able to receive this, let him receive it.' in
doing so they live out their lives as St. Paul who said he wished everyone
could live as he does even though he recognized that there was no sin in
marrying. Until Jesus the most important
thing a man could want was to have children. In choosing to remain celibate a
sister is making a profound declaration of faith in Jesus that there is
something more, there is eternal life where there will be no more marriage;
there will be no more male or female. This week I can't help but look back with joy when I invited these two
to serve this area in 1983. Since then
we have experienced 130 years of service by their order, School Sisters of
Notre Dame. After Sr. Carol and Sr. Rose came to especially help in the church
Sr. Rita came and established Whole Health Outreach and Casa, a shelter for
abused women in Ellington and Sr. Anne began the Whole Kids Outreach in the
area. Besides these we also received 20
years of ministry from the order of Ursulines and a couple from the
Franciscans. The world, our country, our
area owes a lot to the service and witness of these consecrated women through
the ages. President Abraham Lincoln
described the sisters in the Civil War as 'Veritable angels of mercy...of all
the forms of charity and benevolence seen in the crowded wards those of the
Catholic sisters were among the most efficient.'
June 29, 2021
Independence Day, July 4 How many will think of it as only one more national holiday? At least it is a holiday which is celebrated on a particular day and not just on a convenient Monday so we can have three day weekends. Some might remember their history, if it hasn't already been woked, and think of 'no taxation without representation' and the Boston Tea Party. But we know it was about much more than just taxation. Many had fled to this country because the religion they freely embraced was not so tolerated in England. As such they wanted a land where one could live by their conscience. That was certainly a driving force when our early fathers began crafting the possibility of starting a new, independent country. They wanted a system which would truly protect the right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness (free conscience). They saw these as inalienable rights, rights given by God and not created by man to be altered at the whim of man. Consequently we know they created a democratic republic, not just a democracy where a vast number in one area could inflict their will upon everyone else but to be as equitably as possible to protect these essential rights. Many throughout history have paid a great price in trying to be faithful to their conscience. This past week, ending with today, Catholics celebrated an international week of prayer for the protection of these rights. During this week we celebrated the feast of Thomas More on June 22. As you know, he was chancellor of England when Henry VIII decided he could take control of the church and decide what others had to believe. More could not support his divorcing the queen. The king not only wanted to do evil but wanted to force everyone else to support it. This cost More his life. We celebrated the birth of John the Baptist which comes six months before the birth of Jesus. He too was killed because he could not approve of King Herod taking his own brother's wife. Then today we celebrate Sts Peter and Paul, both of whom were not able to comply with the state. It seems, doesn't it, that the actions of political powers will always have a moral dimension which needs to be addressed while the moral life of its adherents need not necessarily have a political repercussion, unless those in politics want to control the moral life of others. In that case it may often be a matter, as in the examples above, where the state wants to make demands on the moral life of others. Scripture reminds us that there would be a time when some will say what is evil is good and conversely what is good is evil. That is the struggle people of faith always have to contend with. Such a struggle is being well played out in our own day when we have politicians saying they defy the church to deny them they sign that they are in communion with the church while at the same time they proclaim a list of many objections they have to what the church sees as divine revelation. Again and again we find that there are those who not only want the freedom to do what they want but the ability to demand everyone else approve of what they want. Is that the call for life, liberty and pursuit of happiness which our founding fathers envisioned? Happy Independence Day
June 15, 2021
Mt. 19:19 Honor your father and your mother
Mt. 19:29 'and every one who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother...for my name's sake, will receive a hundredfold and eternal life.
1Cor. 4:15 'you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel.'
Ep. 6:4 'fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.'
As we look to Father's Day this Sunday I know there will be many different feelings and memories that come to mind. We live in an age where less than half our children have a father living with them and really being the father figure they need. For many, their experience of father greatly determines the kind of relationship they have with God our Father. While there are many scripture passages which refer to a human father I chose the above hoping we can glean something we can apply to ourselves and enhance the role of father in our society. The first one is most fundamental in that it is the only commandment which carries with it a promise, 'that you may have a long life.' We are called to honor our father all their life. As children we are called to obedience knowing that we are totally dependent on parents. As such they have tremendous responsibility over our lives. Not only in providing for our physical needs but also our development as educated spiritual human beings. When Jesus said call no man 'father' he was saying that no one can replace 'our Father who are in heaven'. Our earthly father shares that honor to the degree he turns to the heavenly Father. So, yes, fathers do have a responsibility over our religious worship, our education, who we hang out with, in person, or on line. Fathers do need to be concerned about this responsibility first before succumbing to any notion that they are friends. When Jesus says that we are to leave 'father...for my name's sake' he is reminding us not only of the natural progression of things, 'leaving father to cleave to his wife.' but of how that progression must be for the sake of the kingdom. When one is ready to establish his own family unit he should be well prepared to lead and guide the next generation. Of course, here, he is also referring to those, who like Paul, have given up everything to shepherd others to Christ or to those who like St. Joseph are so willing to raise other people's children. Joseph raised Jesus. We need to also honor foster fathers and step fathers who have taken on this awesome task. And, if you are single, but like Paul have brought others to Christ then you, like him, can boast 'do I not have a right to be called your father, for it was I who begot you in Christ?' Being a father is not just to share in the giving of physical life but to share in the nurturing of the total life of another person. So, happy father's day to all you who are honorable in sharing their life for the fullness of life for others.
June 8, 2021
Fun, faith, family forever
this past week I had the great privilege of having a service for a group of young people out of St. Louis. They have been coming here to Eagle Sky for a week each summer for several years. Each year I have a service for them at 7:30 in the morning, yes, morning on each of the week days. Each day includes religion, prayer and lots of fun. I would say their parents have discovered the perfect formula for growing as family. Families definitely need time together. Now that we have survived a year of lock-down it has been needed more than ever and so they found a perfect time to get out together. Eagle Sky is certainly an awesome place to pull this off. One certainly has to give a lot of credit to those who had a dream to make such an environment available. But, what we are looking at is the formula and not necessarily the place. Many adults have made it a point to serve in their own local church camps during the summer and that is to be highly encouraged. It seems that more than ever have opted to go as a family to the beach. In being born of Mary and raised by Joseph Jesus definitely chose to be part of family. God calls us to be community, a community of persons. (Gen 2;18) “It is not good for man to be alone” And what more important way to learn love, patience, forgiveness than within a family. As you look at your summer yet, and it will be over all too soon, I encourage you to consciously take time to plan family outings away from the constant distractions of the world. How brave are you to take that time and greatly curtail the use of computers and phones. If we have to turn to them constantly we are not really present to family or even those distracting us on the phone. And, talk about being present to family. If you have a blended family it is even more critical to take time for just family. It's not my children, your children, but our children. When one gets married the spouse's children, parents, cousins, aunts and uncles all become your family. Then, spread your heart a little further. With the number of children being raised in one parent families, often without fathers who is there you can 'safely' reach out to and be a real father figure? St. Joseph took Jesus under his wings and forsook having his own children to do so. If you do take time to get away make sure there is time for God in it whether it be in the sharing of scripture each day or taking in church services wherever you are and discover how your brothers and sisters in faith turn to the Lord.
June 1, 2021
How can we not think of our people in uniform this week? We all notice the wonderful display of flags throughout the area. This week with Memorial Day we remembered those who gave their lives, most particularly to helping our allies. Most of us have family or friends whose lives ended all too soon. On Veterans Day we will remember those among us who were willing to go to such defense and yet God has given them time to use their skills in other ways for the good of the community. When I think of these special events I can't help but think of the Christian's participation in such. Our brothers in the worship of the One God, the Jews, had a defined country which they were faithful to. Their patriotism and faith were intertwined but Christians have no such country. I think of one of the earliest Christian writers who commented that the Christian's true home was not in this world yet they served the good of whatever country they lived in. Wherever they are, they pray for their political leaders. Wherever they are, they serve to the full their share in the workings of their country. While in this world, they live by a moral code the world does not understand. They are called to help all, to forgive injustices, to protect their children from the values of the world, to not share their spouses but to have a union of one man, one woman for life, to find time for the worship of God. Sometimes, they are persecuted by the very country they try to serve, for maintaining their consciences. And some, because of their absolute conviction of not being able to take anyone's life at any time are persecuted even more. As Americans, as a people who honor those who have given their lives for all, I pray we never forget the reason they gave their lives and what values they were dying for: the right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness (serving God according to one's own conscience). God is good and has greatly blessed this country for protecting the rights of conscience. Let us pray that the day comes where we truly give that right to all, born and unborn. Do you realize that that child born alive in an abortion and left lying to die on the table is already an American Citizen, one for whom, otherwise we would be willing to go to war? May these celebrations be a reminder to all that we all have a responsibility to serve our country by taking time to be informed and vote in each election. Eternal rest be granted to those who have given all.
May 25, 2021
Jn. 16:7 'if I do not go away, the spirit will not come upon you.
Lk 24:49 'and behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you; but stay in the city until you are clothed with the power from on high.'
This Sunday all Christians of the west celebrate the feast of Pentecost, 50 days after Easter, the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead. As we do so the book of Acts is reminding us in one more way that we are to bear fruit. 50 days after the Passover was the time for the Jews to celebrate harvest. What kind of fruit are we to bear, and how? One of the many themes I keep dwelling on is the reality that the scriptures are all about God desiring to be united to mankind. He often describes this union in-terms of marrying His people. John makes it even more clear when he begins his gospel with a wedding feast and then describes the wedding feast of the lamb. So, in that context one of the verses which continues to make me ponder is the first quoted above in Jn 16:7. Why would Jesus have to seemingly go away, get out of the picture for awhile 'for a little while you will see me and then you won't see me and you will see me again.' I suspect it all involves the playing out of that marriage between God and man. Just as Luke begins Acts with the account of the Holy Spirit descending upon Mary and bringing about the birth of Jesus he has the Holy Spirit t Now in Acts come upon the church, the bride and infuse her, the church, with the generating power of giving life. By Jesus being out of the picture for a little while we poor human beings are not as apt to confuse the reality of what is happening. Once the church has been infused with all power to now, bear fruit, going out to all nations and giving birth to other believers, Jesus, who was born of the Virgin Mary, is born in His body, the church. The church and Jesus are one body. St. Paul often describes the phenomenon as Jesus being the head and the church, the body. In reality, Jesus, the Spirit, the Father, as with our own spirit, totally permeates our body and the body of the church. This is why it is right to see Pentecost as the birthday of the church. This is why marriage continues to be the most profound witness of this union. Man and wife shall become one flesh, a life long process. Our being one in Christ is a reality now but not yet fully realized until we totally surrender our will to Jesus' will in all things. My prayer for you is that you are totally open to the out-pouring of the Holy Spirit and also bear fruit that will last. COME HOLY SPIRIT, COME.
'Jesus is Lord' Jesus is Lord! Not everyone who says Lord, Lord will be saved says our Lord. It's not enough to say I've been saved, I've been baptized. Our Lord's words remind me of the old song with the repeated lyric 'show me' or the musical Fiddler on the Roof where Tevya asks his wife if she loves him. She goes through a litany, three times, of things she does or has done for him and finally says: 'if that's not love I don't know what is.” I guess that is what Jesus is saying when in Mt. 25:35 he says “I was hungry and you gave me to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me to drink, I was naked and you clothed me.” We have a number of people in our community who have been going beyond, way beyond what might be asked. Besides trying to keep up with the day to day requests for food assistance, the monthly commodities distribution and the monthly food distribution in Patterson, Des Arc and Ellsinore they put a hard week in creating new shelves; unloading; reloading all of them so they can better serve in the future. There are many individuals and churches in the area who help with finances regularly. Besides those, different groups in the schools have often made a collection of food, as have the Boy Scouts, the Postal Service, Share the Harvest, Certainteed, Tyson, Graham Farms, Connor Farms, and AARP with their stuff-a-truck. The Pantry used to receive additional resources to help through Salvation Army Christmas Collection but there has been no one take charge this past year. And, if resources were there, they would like to acquire a walk-in-freezer in order to be able to handle food from other agencies. This year the ministers would like to move to a regular distribution night each week instead of having to run up to the pantry each time an individual calls. You don't have to look far to realize there is ample opportunity for many more to have a hands on experience of fulfilling Our Lord's words: “I was hungry and you gave me to eat.” Then, when you consider the Outreach right next door there are many more opportunities to volunteer in helping our neighbors.
IS IT ALL ABOUT BUNNY AND EGGS?
By the time you read this, Easter is right on top of us. Yet, what do we see but all kinds of decorations, blow up figures, and candy. How many even realize what this weekend is about. It wasn't too many years ago many businesses would close at noon on this Friday to reflect on the reality that the Son of God, the one through whom all things were created, including the millions of galaxies, the millions of stars in each of them, the millions of different life forms on this earth, and YOU. This God who loved you so much that He chose to actually become one of us. He chose to humble himself and become totally dependent for His DNA, his nourishment, from Mary, for 9 months before being born as a weak, dependent baby. Scripture says, 'how blessed the breasts that nursed you.' He did not choose to be united with the angels but humans. 'To what angel did God ever say 'This is my beloved son.' I still can't wrap my mind around that mystery, much less, comprehend how He could choose to die in about the most torturous way the Romans had devised. He wasn't just tied to the cross but nailed, severely flogged with a whip having three straps with metal balls with barbs, crowned with thorns. Any one of those would have killed me. If there were ever a battle to be taken on; He took on the worst in order that through His death He could overcome death itself by rising on EASTER. 'Death where is your victory, death where is your sting?' That's what Easter is! You and I by our faith in Jesus also overcome the power of death in our lives. But, lest we think it's all 'easy street' from there, we have to remember the words of St. Paul, 'we bear within ourselves the completion of the sufferings of Christ.' What did he mean by that? I thought Jesus did it all. We can hardly ignore the words of St. Peter 5:8 'Be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experience of suffering is required of your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself restore, establish, and strengthen you.' So, yes! Let us celebrate Easter as we proclaim Jesus the first to break the bonds of death. May we do whatever is necessary to follow Him to our eternal glory. HAPPY EASTER !!!
Can God's Patience Be Tried?
Remember when the Jews came out of Egypt and had already experienced a number of great miracles, not the least of which was splitting the Red Sea. Moses disappeared for a few days to converse with God and they were immediately into idol worship. They worshiped a golden man made object. God told Moses he wanted to wipe them all out and start over with just Moses' family. They had to eat the golden powder of this statue and then had to begin also offering cattle in sacrifice. How many times we, and I say we, human beings keep wanting to push the envelope. Last week we read the story in the Gospel where Jesus made a whip of cord and drove out the money changers. Is that the gentle Jesus you think of? God is kind, gentle, merciful, surely? That is an example of God's righteous justice. When is too far, too far? How did this happen? Jews were required to offer different kinds of sacrifice involving lambs, sheep, cattle, doves. But you've heard the saying 'if a camel gets his nose under the tent soon he is totally in.” As Jews may have come from great distances to offer sacrifice it was a nice service to have such things available near the temple. After a while though with competition and all they were pushing for being closer and closer until one day someone either made the bold move to start offering these goods inside the area reserved for women and pagans or they somehow got the priests to look the other way until the habit was well established in Jesus' time. There was no room for Jesus to show a halfway action. The temple had to be cleared. But, Jesus establishes that the real temple is His body. We are his body. Our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit in which the Father and Son both dwell. So, how much more does He want us to cleanse our temples? We all know the ten commandments. They were not suggestions. They were not just intended for a particular time. God knew we would always want to realitivize them; tell ourselves that God could not mean for them to apply in our time. In what way have we made excuses to not fully keep them? Which one, ones do you find yourself wanting to liberalize? The sabbath, God's name, adultery, covet? To the extent we have not fully embraced them we have placed our full trust in God for our happiness. And, when you think about it, the commandments are kind of the outside parameter for belonging to God's people. When one goes outside of the boundaries in any game, the game stops. How can we excuse ourselves to break any of these commandments when Jesus expects more: anyone who has lust in the heart has already committed adultery; anyone who calls his brother a fool has already committed murder. Are we really trying to go beyond the commandments as Jesus calls us to? Now is the time to cleanse the temple by our own choice and not wait for God's righteousness to judge. We should be careful in making small excuses or we may soon be outside of the bounds and not even know it. We have the same weakness as the Jews in the desert, as the Jews in Jesus' time. Let's live up to who we are called to be.
GOD WILL PROVIDE
“behold the Lamb of God” and two of John the Baptist's disciples left him to follow Jesus. What's up with that? John could have introduced Jesus simply as his cousin. He could have said “hey, guess what. I jumped for joy in the womb when this guy came near and we were both still in the womb and my mother declared his mother as the mother of the Lord.” What's with “lamb of God”? A Jew would be well aware of their faith history. John's disciples would immediately think of Abraham 4000 years ago being asked by God to sacrifice his only son whom God had promised. They would think of how Isaac would carry the wood for sacrifice up the hill to the altar of sacrifice. They would be thinking of how Isaac would have asked “where is the sacrifice' not realizing it was to be him but how Abraham responded “God will provide.” and just before Abraham was ready to sacrifice Isaac God stopped him and there was a ram which he went on and sacrificed. John's disciples would have been thinking of the Passover where every year they were called to sacrifice a spotless, unblemished lamb while they lived the memorial of the original Passover. They were called to sacrifice a lamb the night before they left Egypt and put its blood on their door posts and those who didn't would have their oldest son killed by the angel of death. They were also to eat the lamb as a covenant meal making them one family with God. If Jesus was 'the Lamb of God' they knew it was something powerful. They knew it meant he was spotless, unblemished, and, as a human being, without sin and therefore be the lamb capable of removing all sin. They did not know yet how in a couple years when they would share their third Passover with Jesus that he would actually start it the day before the Passover. They didn't know that they would be asking 'where is the lamb?' since the lambs would not be sacrificed till the next day. It's like Jesus was saying 'God will provide.', and he has them eating bread and calling it His body. They didn't know that, like Isaac, Jesus would be carrying the wood to the top of a hill for the altar of sacrifice upon which He himself would offer Himself for the sins of the world. They didn't know that Jesus himself would be the 'lamb of God' which God provided for the redemption of the world. So, John the Baptist has them follow the Lamb which would eventually cost them their lives for the sake of the kingdom. John had offered them a baptism of repentance but they were to be baptized, washed in the blood of the Lamb for the forgiveness of sin. When you look upon this Lamb are you really washed in His blood and willing to follow Him to the cross?
Did you celebrate the Epiphany? We think of Epiphany as being the three kings, or astrologers, or wise-men. And actually it is the last of the epiphanies in the childhood stories of Christ. First was the epiphany to Mary, and boy was she surprised: 'how can this be since I have no relations with a man?' Then we have the epiphany to Joseph who questioned what to do about it. Next we had the epiphany to John the Baptist 'he jumped, or danced, in his mother's womb at the presence of the unborn Jesus. And then Elizabeth who says: 'who am I that the mother of my Lord should come to me.” and then, the shepherds. Why shepherds? Notice that the scribes, priests, pharisees, the ones who had the knowledge, who were with Herod did not see the star or have contact with the Christ child. The shepherds are at Bethlehem reminding us that David was the least of his brothers, the least likely to be chosen as leader, yet God anointed him to be king. Jesus comes as the shepherd. Then we hear of the three wise-men we celebrate today. We don't know how many but there were three gifts; gold for a king, incense for a god, and myrrh, myrrh for death. Actually this first chapter of the gospel gives us insight of the rest of the gospel to come. Did you notice the other epiphany the three wise-men got. It's kind of like the star led them close to Bethlehem and, seeing Jerusalem, they thought they knew where they were going so the obvious conclusion to their quest would be that , if there is a king, then his son would be the new born king. And, so they ask: 'where is the new born king?” kind of expecting that he would be right there near Herod. What a surprise when they are directed to Bethlehem and again pay attention to the star but discover their quest ends in a stable, a stable. It never seems to be what we expect. And, finally we discover the natural result from these encounters. Like the three kings, like Joseph, we are called to go a different direction. We are called to make changes in our lives. Like the shepherds we are called to let others know what we have seen and heard. Christmas is not just about finding Jesus, it is about allowing Jesus, the Father, the Holy Spirit bring about changes in our lives. Only then is Christmas fulfilled. May each day bring about an on-going change in your life as you continue to open up to Jesus.
2020 is over; 2021 is yet to come; today is God's gift to you. Yes, 2020 may have seemed really bad in so many ways. Yes, 2021 with new threats may or may not be worse. What you and I know is St. Paul calls us to be thankful for all things. God is in charge. If we are truly thankful and believe God is in charge then we might look at the gift today is and embrace it, doing the best we can with it and know it will make a difference tomorrow. This week we also think of the Three Kings, astrologers who brought the Christ child gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
On one hand that really sounds so good. Gold is for a king. Frankincense is for God, but myrrh. That is for burial. Even in their coming, even in the meeting with the prophet in the temple telling Mary that a sword shall pierce her heart, we are reminded that Jesus came to die. We are all going to die. This life is only a blip of our entire existence. So, yes, today is a gift to us. It is a gift to be unwrapped slowly, consciously, and fully. We don't know what all of its consequences will be, but we do know that if it is a gift then what we make of it will be our gift back to God. Several times Jesus used parables of servants receiving with the expectations that they would increase their value. God gives us this day with the expectation that in some way we will add to it. Just think, if we look at the whole year like that we have 365 days to make better and be able to present a truly precious treasure to our Lord at the end of the year. The three astrologers gave up family, positions, everything, to bring their gifts to a Lord they did not yet know. They followed a light for two years not knowing if it would really pan out. They were ready to offer gifts they neither knew would be appreciated nor used in a way they might want. Still they were ready to offer what they had. Each of them did not offer the same thing, but it was what they had. God does not expect us to be somebody else, offering what somebody else is able to offer. He just asks us to be in a relationship with Him and doing the best we can to increase what He has given us so that with great joy we can give that to Him. I pray that this year, with its ups and downs; with its sicknesses, accidents, troubles, increase in family and well-being will all be something you can give thanks to God for, for He has your back and only wants the best for you as we approach eternity.
What do I do with the gifts others have given me? With the ones God has given me?
“He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not winnow; 25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ 26 But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sowed, and gather where I have not winnowed? 27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. 28 So take the talent from him, and give it to him who has the ten talents. 29 For to every one who has will more be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away.” How easily we forget, or ignore that basic knowledge we all have within us: No Pain, No Gain. We all know that if we get laid up for a few days our muscles begin to atrophy. If we allow ourselves to become couch potatoes we become unable to productively do much of anything. Whether we are looking at our ability to walk, play music—I mean personally like on a real instrument, do gardening, speak a second language. If one does not use it, one loses it. In the above scripture the one given the least just didn't seem to think it was worth trying. Really! God knows what gifts he is giving. For example: if you had a child who was born without arms, a thalidomide baby, how much encouragement would you give him to do anything? Would his mother be too demanding if she began expecting him to dress himself? If that child wanted to play guitar would you encourage it? If he wanted to have his own show in Branson and go on the road giving witness performances would he have a chance? Such is Tony Melendez who had a show in Branson for years and has now traveled all 50 states and many foreign countries performing and giving witness. He even drives a car. How many testimonies of disabled Vets have you heard doing things many would say: “no way” to? We are all called to work with what we have to be as fully a functioning human being as possible. How much more so when it comes to relationships, and especially our relationship with God. If we ignore it, it cannot grow. So, when Jesus says that what little bit one has will be taken away He is speaking of the automatic consequences for the decisions we make in life. Now, we all know, as I have said many times before: each one of us is a unique, one of a kind, unrepeatable, manifestation of God's love. Each one of us have been created with a gift, an ability, which no one else can specifically fill. God knew what He was doing when He gave you the gifts you have. Let us not be afraid to take inventory of the gifts we have and be willing to stretch in developing them. Again, let this apply all the more to our relationships; with family, friends, and especially with God.
In fiscal year 2019, ICE initiated 1,024 human trafficking and forced labor related cases which led to 2,197 criminal arrests. These effective actions resulted in nearly 700 convictions and the rescue of more than 400 victims. And now, even as I write this there is news of another rescue of many young people. During this time of Covid reports of online child exploitation are up 75%, according to the Asbury Park Press daily newspaper. “(This) can lead to human trafficking and other abuses,” Rep. Chris Smith said. Rep. Smith got passed a number of anti-trafficking laws 20 years ago that led to conviction of guys like Jeff Epstein and Keith Raniere. But that was before we had the high internet social use we have now. Sometimes the numbers seem so high that we just turn it off as if it were simply another non-event, something we don't seriously want to believe. This past week I was listening to the scripture of how we are not to oppress the orphan and the widow. It's nothing new, and those are the most vulnerable. Are the numbers growing or are we just being made more and more aware of it? I think it is both. Why are they growing? I would have to conjecture that the primary reason is that we as a society have gotten further and further from God. We don't believe there is really a right and wrong. We don't believe there is an eternal accountability as we have been fed a steady diet of: “if there is a God, He couldn't send anyone to hell, if there is such a thing.” do we really have to have the threat of hell to do the right thing? To truly love our neighbor and want what is best for them? The second thing I think that is driving this sex-trafficking epidemic is our wallowing in pornography. Hugh Hefner opened up the world to over-the-counter soft-porn some fifty years ago. He was onto something, knowing that sex is good, beauty is good, but it became extremely marketable, no longer just sleazy tabloids under the counter. As a culture we have bought more and more into thinking this was alright. I remember a number of men justifying the magazine because it seemed to have some socially relevant articles in it. As we became accustomed to that our society was fed a diet of porn which was more and more revealing; more and more provocative; more and more, if you will, violent. One of the things we know today is that scientifically porn addiction is just like drug addiction. It makes greater and greater demands for serotonin and in the process does destroy the brain. While its users are looking for more and more violent, more and more kinky, more and more forbidden sex, sex with youth and we know that it only gets worse. In this whole process one has long forgotten that this other person, this woman, this child, is someone else's loved one. This is a person and not a thing. By the time this other person is seen as a thing there is no regard for the fact that they are being used, coerced, trafficked. How often people my age sit around reflecting on how we were totally free as children to roam the streets. Women could easily walk through downtown to shop or get to work. Now, parents feel they must have their eyes on their children 24/7. In that sense, we have all become prisoners. We have all lost a tremendous freedom and sense of innocence. As Christians we must be willing to do everything we can to eradicate pornography. It is not a victimless crime. We must be willing to help get those so involved off the streets and into treatment. It is not an easy journey to get free of pornography any more than it is to get off any other drugs. As a society I believe, I pray, we can do it. Monitor your children's internet. Get Bark.us it will monitor all your child's activities on the phone and give you warning messages so you can talk about it.
Fratelli tutti Recently Pope Francis came out with this new encyclical addressing a number of social problems and needs and how we as Christians are called to expand our notion of who we are to help. At first, because I know it reaffirms his requirement to put in our catechism the reality that capitol punishment can never be justified, I kind of retreated. Not because I'm for Capitol Punishment, as I mentioned some time ago about the sermon I gave at my niece's and family's funeral. I had called on the Prosecuting Attorney not to seek the death penalty. I had difficulty with that teaching because it has always been part of our teaching that the state has a right to take a life when the person has done something very egregious. We said that that person was actually forfeiting their life by choosing certain actions. But, then I had to stop and think. Are there some moral laws which are developing to demand more of us? The Pope couched everything in his encyclical in terms of love of neighbor. Everyone is aware of the story Jesus told of the GOOD SAMARITAN, a Samaritan who went out of his way to help a half dead Jew who had been robbed. ‘Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” He said, ‘The one who showed him mercy.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do likewise.’”(Lk 10:25-37). until then the Jew might have thought of his neighbor as only those who lived closest. While there are a number of Old Testament sayings which called for the care of the foreigner that was not necessarily the practice. Jesus constantly called for his followers to go beyond.
“In everything, do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets” (Mt 7:12). This command is universal in scope, embracing everyone on the basis of our shared humanity, since the heavenly Father “makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good” (Mt 5:45). Hence the summons to “be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” (Lk 6:36). Does the same thing apply to how we think of the taking of other's lives? Think of the Hatfields and the McCoys. Early civilizations beginning with Cain would take you out just because I want what you have. Then, if you hurt me I will hurt you worse. If you hurt my family I will kill you or maybe your whole family. Finally Jewish law would call for equality in retribution. You cost me an eye, you loose an eye and so on. You could exact nothing more that what it cost you. With Jesus we discover a new level of development. Now we are called to love as the Father has loved us. Jesus reminds us that it rains on the just and unjust alike. Finally, we are told to love our enemies. In looking at and trying to understand the death penalty we have to ask ourselves if it is love that would end their life? Are we the ones who should determine when they should be ready to meet their maker? In the past we justified the death penalty as a deterrent, as the only way to keep society safe. Do either of those rationales even begin to apply today? There might be some primitive societies which don't see any option. Then, on the other hand we do have to ask ourselves if it is always applied equally to everyone no matter their social status. Are there ever any who are unjustly condemned. Certainly, as the pope points out every society we are aware of is able to confine someone who forfeits their ability to live in society in peace. What feelings come up in you when you think of abolishing the death penalty? Why?
Lighthouse September 29, 2020
How do you make decisions? Unfortunately the means I want to share today is too often the default many use, from the time we are children. “I want to wear my red dress to school.” “no, that is for special occasions.” “everyone else is wearing red, wah!” and so it goes. “so and so's mother lets them do it.” When we get a little older we might think we are a little more sophisticated. There is a famous question: “What would you do if you knew there would be no ramifications?” That is what will tell what kind of person you are. Look at the riots. How many are committing what they know to be an evil but if you can sack and loot under the guise of a peaceful protest, why not? Others look to how they can use the law. If it's legal, it must be okay. When Roe vs. Wade was passed it supposedly allowed abortion under rape, incest, or, or, the life of the mother was threatened. How many doctors told me first hand how that worked out. Once someone discovered that all they had to do was say they were considering suicide if they had to carry the child to term that was grounds enough for killing the child. So much for those limited and rare occasions. Then, there is the reversion to the child's argument “so and so's mother lets them do it.” So, if I can find a minister, or confessor who will tell me what I want to hear that will make it okay. Today, there are so called ministers of almost every persuasion who will help you justify almost anything you want. Even Catholics might say “well, such and such bishop says one can vote for that person in good conscience.” But, if they take time to examine exactly what is said they might discover that it is often nuanced in such a way to sound like it is agreeing with them.” for example: knowing that the killing of the unborn is the pre-eminent issue, equal to none, they are told that if, if the candidate who claims to be pro-life in regards to the unborn is a scoundrel who is not able or will not make good on his word to protect the unborn and the other candidate considers himself pro-life because he would like to see more money going to help immigrants then one in conscience might support that other candidate. In such a case, one must examine the records. Is it just a lot of hot air or, is the candidate who claims to help the unborn really doing anything about it? Just before the Civil War there were certain bishops in the South who supported the existence of slavery. The official church teaching had been consistent in condemning modern day slavery as opposed to the slavery which existed in the days of Christ which was more of an indentured servant of any race. Modern slavery targeted blacks, as being somehow, less than human. So, bishops caught in the culture of the south might rationalize that they were better off with good masters than being freed where they would be subject to the abuse of anyone. In such a way they were able to misuse scripture's support of a different understanding of slavery. And so it goes, we can justify anything we want.
Lighthouse September 22, 2020
How do you make decisions? We have
been looking at a couple different mental filters one might operate
out of in making decisions: majority opinion, polls, lesser of two
evils, natural law (how was something created to function). Today I
would like to get down to making a decision, well thought out on
one's own. This can work for any decision making although I always
suggest one begins with prayer that one is not fooling oneself. A
common way is to just list the pros and cons in different columns.
The problem there is one might think the greater number wins. Not
only are we capable of stacking the deck, we also know that every
reason does not have equal value, just as every issue does not. So,
what I like to suggest, if one were looking at political parties for
example, is, take the known issues. What does the candidate, or party
say it stands for and what does the record show. So, list the issues.
Immigration, environment, gun control, medical reform,
infra-structure, economy, abortion, religious rights and education,
family life and equal rights and so on. Now, looking at the
Constitution how does the issue affirm: life, liberty, pursuit of
happiness (religious freedom). Is there any issue that must pre-exist
all the others? Is there any issue without which none of the others
would matter? If so, you might say that is a non-negotiable value.
Look at the other issues and ask yourself if there is room for
debate, room for give and take. Then, use the Olympic model: on a
scale of 1-10 with 10 being the highest, how earth-shattering is this
particular issue right now for the country? For example you might
say the economy is reasonably well so you give it a 5. You might see
immigration is in serious need of reform to bring greater justice and
give it a 7. Then as you look down your list and you see several
issues are a 7 or 8 you might ask if one party addresses all those
in the way you want. If one party is really strong on one of them
and the other party strong on your other issue, you again ask if they
are of equal value. You might recognize your heart pulling for one
or the other and acknowledge that. Then finally one has to ask, are
any of these issues non-negotiable values without which your other
strong inclination could not exist. In staying focused on the more
important there will always be another day to address the other
concerns. Are you on your knees yet? It sometimes takes a lot of