Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Core of the Charism of St. Josemaria Escriva Is The Experience of Jesus Christ Guided By the Gospel

The center of the Chrism of St. Josemaria is to experience the Person of Christ such as to become “another Christ.” That experience must be ordered by preaching/reading the New Testament. Escriva wrote: “Mingle with the characters who appear in the New Testament. Capture the flavor of those moving scenes where the Master performs works that are both divine and human, and tells us, with human and divine touches, the wonderful story of his pardon for us and his enduring Love for his children. Those foretastes of heaven are renewed today, for the Gospel is always true: We can feel, we can sense, we can even say we touch God’s protection with our own hands.”[1]

                As an example, consider the Gospel scenes that we have been offered in the month of August – all from Matthew 14-16:

-          Mt. 14, 13: John is beheaded. Christ retires to solitary place. Crowds (large) follow him. He takes pity on them and wants to feed them bread after the Word. The apostles suggest He dismiss them to get bread in adjacent town. He says: you feed them – with the paltry means of 5 leaves and 2 fish. Obeying, the miracle occurs.

-          Mt. 14, 22: He sends the apostles to cross the lake; wind and waves rise, and He comes to them walking on the water. Peter suspects it is He, asks that He bid him come to him over the water (doesn’t make sense), and He does: “Come!” Peter walks on water but converts back to rational thought, doubts, sinks and is saved by Christ. The wind and waves abate immediately.

-          The Assumption: An experience of the veneration of the whole Church. Ratzinger: “the decisive driving force behind the declaration was veneration for Mary, that the dogma, so to speak, owes it origin, impetus, and goal more to an act of homage than to its content. This also becomes clear in the text of the dogmatic proclamation, where it is said that the dogma was promulgated for the honor of the Son, for the glorification of the mother, and for the joy of the entire Church… What the orient achieves in the form of liturgy, hymns, and rites, took place in the occident through the form of a dogmatic proclamation, which was intended to be, so to speak, a most solemn form of hymnology. This is how it should be understood.” In a word, “the dogma of the Assumption is simply the highest degree of canonization, in which the predicate ‘saint’ is recognized in the most strict sense, i.e., being wholly and undividedly in eschatological fulfillment…(W)e must remember that the gospel itself prophesies and requires veneration  for Mary: ‘Behold, from henceforth all generations will call me blessed’ (Lk. 1, 48)” that was already present in Elizabeth’s “Blessed are you have have believed…’” (Lk. 1, 45).[2]
This act of faith, as an ontological act of self-transcendence whereby the Virgin make the gift of her entire self, is the ontological grounding of the reality of her assumption and queenship.
-Mt. 15, 21: The Canaanite woman comes to ask for the healing  of her daughter. Christ answers: “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (25). She protests with faith “even the dogs eat of the crumbs that fall from their master’s table” (28). Christ: “O woman, great is thy faith! Let it be done to thee as thou wilt.”
-Mt. 16, 16: “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” This knowledge emerges from the act of faith as the self-transcendence in Simon of prayer with Christ: “And it cam eo pass as he was praying in private, that his disciples were with him, and he asked them, saying, ‘Who do the crowds way that I am?’”… ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God’…

        To pray is the experience of living faith, whereupon Simon is transformed into Peter. That is, there is a change in name as there is an enlargement of the ontological density of Simon into being “another Christ” – i.e.  Simon becomes Peter (“rock”) as Christ is “corner stone.” Hence, knowledge is an experience in likeness (“Like is known by like”) whereby one takes on the ontological dimensions of the other. Since Christ as Son is pure relation to the Father, and when incarnate reveals Himself as prayer, so Simon, by praying, begins to take on the dimension of “Son” and, being “like,” experiences what it is to be Christ “ab intus” and can say: “You are the Christ, the Son,” – and this from within himself.

-          Finally, today [22nd Sunday of Ordinary Time], Christ reveals that the will of the Father is that He suffer – which is denied by Peter. Notice, that only now Christ reveals the Cross, now that Simon could possibly be ready to take it as “other Christ.” But, no. “Far be it from thee, Lord.” “Get behind me Satan.” To suffer for Christ is the food of His identity as God-man, man who has taken our sins on himself as his own. Peter collapses from the demand of such Love, but he will be raised by Christ yet again. And again: Simon, agapas me?:  Do you love me with my Love and my Heart?

And so, August is the month of the experience of the Person of Christ guided by the Gospel narratives. Escriva says: “The whole secret of our sanctity lies in becoming like Him. He is our model. Therefore we read the Gospels daily, so that we will never lack the fuel that enkindles the fire of our love” (1966).

[1] St. Josemaria Escriva, Christ is Passing By #216.
[2] J. Ratzinger, “Daughter Zion,” Ignatius (1983) 74 et seq.

Thursday, August 28, 2014


A modern condition that isn't improving. To the contrary.

By Janice Shaw Crouse – 5.18.14

The National Science Foundation (NSF) reported in its General Social Survey (GSS) that unprecedented numbers of Americans are lonely. Published in the American Sociological Review (ASR) and authored by Miller McPhearson, Lynn Smith-Lovin, and Matthew Brashears, sociologists at Duke and the University of Arizona, the study featured 1,500 face-to-face interviews where more than a quarter of the respondents — one in four — said that they have no one with whom they can talk about their personal troubles or triumphs. If family members are not counted, the number doubles to more than half of Americans who have no one outside their immediate family with whom they can share confidences. Sadly, the researchers noted increases in “social isolation” and “a very significant decrease in social connection to close friends and family.”

Rarely has news from an academic paper struck such a responsive nerve with the general public. These dramatic statistics from ASR parallel similar trends reported by the Beverly LaHaye Institute — that over the 40 years from 1960 to 2000 the Census Bureau had expanded its analysis of what had been a minor category.  The Census Bureau categorizes the term “unrelated individuals” to designate someone who does not live in a “family group.” Sadly, we’ve seen the percentage of persons living as “unrelated individuals” almost triple, increasing from 6 to 16 percent of all people during the last 40 years. A huge majority of those classified as “unrelated individuals” (about 70 percent) lived alone.

The compelling findings about loneliness and isolation and the ramifications for American society prompted numerous publications and talk shows to focus on the prevalence of loneliness in America. It is no accident that the social interaction trend declined sharply in the mid-1960s when “doing your own thing” became vogue and “sexual freedom” separated the physical act of sex from the embrace of an emotional attachment and/or a romantic relationship. Rabbi Daniel Lapin suggests that “we are raising a generation of children who are orphans in time.”  He laments that today’s generation of young people is “incapable of integrating their past and their future ... [living] instinctively in an almost animal-like fashion only in the present.” He notes that it is virtually impossible, then, to connect time and space in a way that enables them to build their “present.” Thus, they wander aimlessly about without connections — physically, emotionally, or spiritually.

Rather than acknowledge family breakdown, some commentators blame the increase in social isolation on television. In his book Bowling Alone, Robert Putnam cited a dramatic increase in television watching — five percent of American households had televisions in 1950 compared with 95 percent in 1970. Now, many homes have a TV in every room. Putnam provides further reasons for the fragmentation of the family circle and disintegration of family life since the 1960s: Families have 60 percent fewer family picnics and 40 percent fewer family dinners.

Other analysts see longer work days and longer commutes as sources of isolation. The Washington Post estimated that for every 10-minute increase in commuting time, there is a 10-percent decrease in time spent establishing and maintaining social ties. The number of people who indicated that they had a neighbor with whom they could confide has dropped more than half since 1985 — from around 19 percent to about eight percent. As both the work week and commutes have extended, those people who would ordinarily take the lead in developing and maintaining social structures — the well-educated and higher-earning people — are no longer available to mobilize efforts that build communities.

In short, with the growth of two-career and single-parent families, people have lost connection with neighbors and have little time or energy for groups or volunteerism. With the growth in “bedroom communities,” there aren’t enough moms available for field trips and community service projects that depend upon volunteerism. One of the most frequent complaints of home-schooling moms is that they are the only adults in their neighborhoods during the daytime.

In an era of instant communication via cell phone and e-mail, some would argue that it doesn’t make sense that people are lonely. Nevertheless, sharing [sic: Blogger: self-giving] — the antidote to loneliness — is not the same thing as talking. Chattering with another person can simply be a mask, a veil, a barrier, a poor substitute, and distraction from loneliness, similar to having the television on in the background to keep the house from seeming empty and barren, or to make it less obvious that the people inside are not interacting with each other.

While sharing may be thought of as an event that takes place at a particular time, in a particular place, and in a particular manner, it springs from a set of attitudes and values rooted in the timeless Scriptures. The Scriptures provide a clear understanding of the big picture issues that bear on our loneliness. They teach that human beings are driven by two distinct sets of impulses: our higher nature and our lower. Sharing flourishes when those who are interacting are driven by their higher nature to trust each other and have the capacity for affection and empathy. But trust requires mutual respect and caring, insight and understanding. Perhaps more importantly, trust — and thereby, sharing — involves the indispensable ingredient of vulnerability — a quality sadly lacking when excessive self-reliance and self-sufficiency rule the day.

Indeed, a spirit of independence can be a barrier that impedes sharing. Aloofness is the opposite of all of the favorable ingredients necessary for camaraderie. Likewise, pride — the desire to be viewed as a “winner,” the determination to be “in control” at all costs — is a quality that isolates us from each other and keeps us from interdependency with our family and friends.

Finally, the secular humanist view that human existence is disconnected from any higher power and from responsibility for anyone other than ourselves gives a certain freedom to make one’s own rules, but there is a price to pay for this freedom. Gone is human dignity. Gone is mankind’s special connection to the Author of beauty, truth, or goodness. Ultimately, we are “free,” but autonomy is just another way of being alone. Autonomous individuals have no responsibility to others, just as others have no claim on them. There is no obligation to care about others’ troubles, or even to listen when someone intrudes into another’s priceless personal space in search of a sympathetic hearing of their concerns and difficulties.

In the best of circumstances, sharing is not simple; it is a complex combination of conflicting factors. On the one hand, we have an innate need to be known and understood; the desire to be open and vulnerable with others is too strong in some and too weak in others. On the other hand, we need the freedom to control our lives and particularly our personal or emotional space. But the self-centeredness that results from a culture dominated by the values of radical individualism is not a pretty thing; it does not contribute to the maturing of individuals, the strengthening of family, the growth of friendship, or the development of communities. As a song, “Toby Keith’s “I Wanna Talk About Me” may be good for a laugh, but that attitude doesn’t work as a way of life.

Augustine - St. Paul and St. Josemaria Escriva

 “O eternal Truth, true Love, and beloved Eternity, you are my God, and for you I sigh day and night. As I first began to know you, you lifted me up and showed me that, while that which I might see exists indeed, I was not yet capable of seeing it. Your rays beamed intensely on me, beating back my feeble gaze, and I trembled with love and dread. I knew myself to be far away from you in a region of unlikeness, and I seemed to hear your voice from on high: “I am the food of the mature: grow, then, and you shall eat me. You will not change me into yourself like bodily food; but you will be changed into me”.

  “Accordingly I looked for a way to gain the strength I needed to enjoy you, but I did not find it until I embraced the mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus, who is also God, supreme over all things and blessed for ever. He called out, proclaiming I am the Way and Truth and the Life, nor had I known him as the food which, though I was not yet strong enough to eat it, he had mingled with our flesh, for the Word became flesh so that your Wisdom, through whom you created all things, might become for us the milk adapted to our infancy.[1]

Late have I loved you, O Beauty so ancient and so new, late have I loved you! You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you. In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created. You were with me, but I was not with you. Created things kept me from you; yet if they had not been in you they would not have been at all. You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness. You breathed your fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for you. I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more. You touched me, and I burned for your peace.”[2]

          Blogger: Every conversion from self to help another is a transformation into Christ. Such a conversion on the occasion of work and ordinary life is called secularity. And so St. Paul’s, “I live, no, not I; Christ lives in me,” (Gal. 2, 20), Augustine’s “late have I loved You,” and Escriva’s “Christ’s life is our life” are the same teaching. Add to that Benedict XVI’s conviction that this conversion away from self is the deep meaning of the act of faith: “belief… has always been a decision that… demanded a turnabout by man that can only be achieved by an effort of the will.”[3]

[1] Confessions, 10, 18
[2] Confessions, 10, 27.
[3] J. Ratzinger, Introduction to Christianity, Ignatius [1990] 25.

Monday, August 25, 2014

No Peace in Gaza As Long There Is No Normal Life Permitted Within It.

The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem has expressed dismay at the collapse of Gaza peace talks, saying peace is unlikely until there is a new culture and mentality that allows the people of Gaza to live a normal life.

“What is a cease-fire if the conditions that lead to violence remain the same? Conditions that create desperate people, frustrated, extremist and angry," the Patriarch said.  “We must do much more to create a normal life: we need a (new) culture, a new mentality and an international force that can take the place of Israel (to keep the peace) in order to break this wall around the city.”

“If there were a normal life (in Gaza), if there were streets leading outside, if there were an airport for travel, if there were a port, if the roads were open (into and out of) Israel, Egypt, and Jordan…and people could do business, live, sell, travel, study, go to hospital and to university, we would not have frustrated and desperate extremists.”

Editorial: Path of destruction in Iraq began in 1991

NCR Editorial Staff  |  Aug. 25, 2014

The horrid truth of this moment in Iraq is that it is, finally, a moment of clarity. The lucidity, if one dare call it such, that emerges from the long fog of war is a scene of utter futility and devastation. The hideous symbols that signify the moment are the final flight of Christians and other religious minorities before the brutal extremes of the most virulent of the pan-national terrorist groups to have emerged in the Middle East.
The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria at the moment is a state only in the abstract, a statement more of ambition than reality. Yet it has effectively taken over huge sections of Syria and Iraq, including oil resources and power-generation facilities, in its attempt to construct a wide-flung caliphate in the region. More violent and fundamentally dogmatic than even al-Qaida, the Islamic State has become the latest and most formidable threat to any hope that Iraq might somehow gain its equilibrium and form governing structures representative of all of the ethnicities and religions contained in its borders.

The Islamic State wants nothing to do with inclusive governance. It is brutally forcing conversions under threat of death. In its wake, hundreds of thousands of Christians are fleeing territory that can claim some of the deepest roots in Christian history. This is no longer a matter of "complex" geopolitics or of oil wars. The politics of this certainly can generate strange alliances -- the enemy-of-my-enemy dynamic is at work in several directions -- but the urgency has to do with the assault of innocents by religious and political fanatics who have no regard for law, culture or human life.
As Msgr. John Kozar, president of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA), put it, "We are witnessing, at the hands of extremist thugs, the eradication of Christianity in the cradle of civilization." A recent CNEWA release noted that fewer than 150,000 Christians remain in Iraq, where more than a million coexisted with multiple Islamic and other religious communities prior to 1991.
It dangerously distorts the reality of the moment, however, if we reserve our moral outrage for the indisputably repulsive acts of the Islamic State. For that threat did not arise out of nothing in the deserts of the Middle East.
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The year 1991 is important, because it was the year that the United States took its first steps down a regrettable path that has gone on for nearly a quarter of a century. That path has led to far more chaos and destruction than peace. With the final remnants of the Christian population now scrambling for borders and safe haven in other countries to escape Islamic State marauders, the bitter fruit of decades of military folly is on full display. This is former Secretary of State Colin Powell's Pottery Barn analogy come to full reality: We broke that country completely and we will be paying for it far into the future. We miss the point entirely if we ignore the whole bloody arc of 24 years that witnessed the criminal destruction of a country:

·         From the senior George Bush's oil war, Desert Storm;
·         Through Bill Clinton's 10 years of sanctions that were directly responsible for the deaths of a half-million Iraqi youngsters under the age of 5, and for the utter collapse of Iraq's infrastructure and educated middle class;

·         Through the lunacy of the occupation of Iraq conceived by the younger Bush in league with the likes of Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on demonstrably false claims.

It is not a sign of political tolerance but of ongoing political confusion that Cheney still has access to national forums from which he continues to advance his delusions about that period of history. For the rest of us, the lesson should be strikingly clear: Our quick and repeated resort to war and the brutal use of sanctions yielded a bitter harvest. What we created was a condition infinitely worse than the disease we were attempting to treat.
It is necessary to carry the burden of that history into the urgency of the current moment, for part of that history was the overlooked or ignored voices of religious leaders -- popes, women religious, lay peace groups and local pastors -- insisting that war was not the solution.
Those same leaders and groups, while appealing to the international community for whatever assistance it can provide, are also the ones most directly involved in the work in those border areas where refugees are pouring in, looking for safe haven.
The Catholic Near East Welfare Association, a New York-based nonprofit, is an agency of the Holy See working mainly in the Middle East. It has launched a campaign to rush emergency assistance to tens of thousands of Christians forced to flee the city of Mosul in northern Iraq. More information can be found on the association's website.
Catholic Relief Services, a U.S.-based agency, is partnering with Caritas Internationalis, a consortium of international Catholic agencies, to provide relief for refugees from Iraq. More information on CRS work in that region and ways to contribute can be found at its website.
Pope Francis has appealed to the international community "particularly through the norms and mechanisms of international law, to do all that it can to stop and to prevent further systematic violence against ethnic and religious minorities."
Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, repeated the pope's words in a recent letter to President Barack Obama, urging the United States "to answer this call in concert with the international community."
For those who construe a green or yellow light or other permission in Francis' words during his airplane news conference on the way back from South Korea, we would only urge reading the entire segment of that response. Yes, the pope said it was "licit" to stop the unjust aggressor. But he qualified that statement: "I underscore the verb 'stop.' I'm not saying 'bomb' or 'make war,' just 'stop.' " How the aggressor is to be stopped should be evaluated by the international community, not by one country's decision, and he suggested the United Nations as a venue.

More telling, perhaps, is his warning that "we nevertheless need to remember how many times, using this excuse of stopping an unjust aggressor, the powerful nations have dominated other peoples, made a real war of conquest." In one economically stated sentence, Francis seems to not only turn the question back on the questioner but also give a micro-history of the last 24 years of U.S. involvement in Iraq.
We dare not take too much solace in finally having an enemy almost everyone can agree on. The enemy owes a great deal to our own national stupidity and rush to war, not to mention the weaponry we left behind.
It is beyond time for any reasonable outcome in Iraq. History shows the difficulty of stopping the war machine before it is too late, and the battle with extreme forces is likely to go on for the foreseeable future. Facing such a grim prospect, we strain for a bit of hope and an answer to that fathomless question: What can we do?
As a nation, we have poured inordinate amounts of treasury into what has amounted to the destruction of Iraq and the scattering of its citizenry. As people of faith, our personal treasury may seem miniscule, but it is one way we can show solidarity with those suffering the consequences of international violence. Both CNEWA and CRS are worthy recipients of whatever we can give. Further, Kurtz has requested two special collections at the beginning of September to aid those in need in the Middle East. Look for details from your parishes.

People of faith can step into this moment of urgency by understanding the harsh lessons of the last 24 years and by adding a layer of action by giving, whatever your means, to the rescue of those whose lives have been forever altered by the demons of war and religious intolerance.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Ontological and Epistemic Priority of Christ (in view of Robert Barrons’s “The Priority of Christ”[1]

“(R)ather than experts in dire predictions, dour judges bent on rooting out every threat and deviation, we should appear as joyful messengers of challenging proposals, guardians of the goodness and beauty which shine forth in a life of fidelity to the Gospel.”[2]

The Epistemic Priority of Christ: The mind-boggling reality that God, the Creator of all things, has become man. This is the truth that St. Anselm was after, and Robert Sokolowski clarifies. Anselm had said that God was “that than which nothing greater can be thought.”  Sokolowski  writes: “Anselm’s argument works explicitly with the contrast between being in the mind and being in reality. This contrast, the two ways of being that it distinguishes, are themselves deserving of further thought. But besides this explicit premise for his argument, there is another, an implicit premise, which the argument requires but which is not expressed openly by Anselm in chapter two [of the Proslogian]. This implicit premise also contains a contrast. It might be formulated as the statement that:
                (God plus the world) is not greater than God alone;”[3]

                The point Sokolowski makes is that the being of God is so different from the world, that His Being (reality) would not be more because the world exists, nor would It be less if it did not. That is to say, the Being of God as Creator of all things is so different from the being of all things that they are incommensurable. That is not to say that they are not analogous insofar as they are; but rather to say that the way that they are is epistemically different.

                What does that mean? That the Being of God is not part of the world that we know by the experience of sensation, abstraction and rational thought.  His humanity is, indeed, “part” of our world, but His divine Person is not “part” but Creator of all of it.  Nevertheless, His humanity was assumed by His divine Person, and therefore, is it. Being Creator of the world, and yet “in” it, He must be known – as incarnate God in Jesus Christ - through the experience of ourselves as created images of Himself and baptized into Him. We do this by transcending ourselves in the act of faith as He is totally out of Himself as Son of the Father.

Romano Guardini says it thus: “The person of Jesus is unprecedented and therefore measureable by no already existing norm. Christian recognition consists of realizing that all things really began with Jesus Christ; that he is his own norm – and therefore ours – for he is Truth.
                “Christ’s effect upon the world can be compared with nothing in its history save its own creation: ‘In the beginning God created heaven and earth.’ What takes place in Christ is of the same order as the original act of creation, though on a still higher level. For the beginning of the new creation is as far superior to the love which created the stars, plants, animals and men. That is what the words mean: ‘I have come to cast fire upon the earth, and what will I but that it be kindled’? (Lk. 12, 49). It is the fire of new becoming; not only ‘truth’ or ‘love,’ but the incandescence of new creation…. Down, down through terrible destruction he descends, to the nadir of divine creation whence saved existence can climb back into being…
                Guardini then points out that this will demand a new way of knowing: “Now we understand what St. Paul meant with his ‘excelling knowledge of Jesus Christ:’ the realization that this is who Christ is, the Descender. To make this realization our own is the alpha and omega of our lives, for it is not enough to know Jesus only as the Savior. With this supreme knowledge serious religious life can begin, and we should strive for it with our whole strength and earnestness, as a man  strives to reach his place in his profession; as a scientist wrestles with the answer to his problem; as one labors at this life work or for the hand of someone loved above all else.”[4]
                And then, in implicit reference to the spirit of Opus Dei: “Are these directives for saints?  No, for Christians. For you. How long must I wait? God knows. He can give himself to you overnight, you can also wait twenty years, but what are they in view of his advent? One day he will come. Once in the stillness of profound composure you will know: that is Christ! Not from a book or the word of someone else, but through him. He who is creative love brings your intrinsic potentialities to life. Your ego at its profoundest is he.”

                This is totally the charism St. Josemaria Escriva received experientially on October 2, 1928. And you will know Christ in the most profound intimacy with the most radical realism because you will become Him, such that you will hear from the Father: “You are my Son; you are Christ.” Escriva wrote: “When God sent me those blows back in 1931, I didn’t understand them… The all at once, in the midst of such great bitterness, came the words: ‘You are my son (Ps. 2, 7), you are Christ.’ And I could only stammer: ‘Abba, Pater! Abba, Pater! Abba! Abba! Abba!’ Now I see it with new light, like a new discovery, just as one sees, after years have passed, the hand of God, of divine Wisdom, of the All-Powerful. You’ve led me, Lord, to understand that to find the Cross is to find happiness, joy. And I see the reason with greater clarity than ever: to find the Cross is to identify oneself with Christ, to be Christ, and therefore to be a son of God.”[5]

                With this in view, Pope Francis encourages “the fundamental role of the first announcement or kerygma, which is the first proclamation that must ring out over and over: “Jesus Christ loves you; he gave his life to save you; and now he is living at your side every day to to enlighten, strengthen and free you.” Since it is addressing the unique ontological reality of the God-Man, it is “the principal proclamation, the one which we must hear again and again in different ways, the one which we must announce one way or another throughout the process of catechesis, at every level and moment.”[6]  And as a result, “rather than experts in dire predictions, dour judges bent on rooting out every threat and deviation, “we should appear as joyful messengers of challenging proposals, guardians of the goodness and beauty which shine forth in a life of fidelity to the Gospel.”[7]

                Msgr Robert Barron has written “The Priority of Christ – Toward a Postliberal Catholicism.”[8] The third part of the book is entitled “The Epistemic Priority of Jesus Christ,” and his first chapter under that rubric is “The Scriptural Warrant.” There he writes that “It is my conviction that we don’t read Jesus through the lens of a predetermined epistemology, but rather that we understand the nature of knowledge in general through the (narrative icons concerning Jesus Christ).”[9]
                “But is this coherent? Do Christians know in a distinctive way? Are both the object of their intellectual investigation and their manner of rational procedure unique?”

                I skip to the point:  Two texts: a) Accepting St. Paul’s face to face experience of Christ led to his Colossians 1, 15:  “(Jesus is) the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For in him were created all things in the heavens and on the earth, things visible and things invisible… All things have been created through and unto him, and he is before all creatures, and in him all things hold together.” Barron writes: “Jesus is not only the one in whom things were created but also the one in whom they presently exist and through whom they inhere in one another. And if we are inclined to view the future as a dimension of creation untouched by Christ, we are set straight: ‘Through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross’(v. 20). Individuals, societies, cultures, animals, plants, planets and the stars – all will be drawn into an eschatological harmony through him. Mind you, Jesus is not merely the symbol of an intelligibility, coherence, and reconciliation  that can exist apart from him; rather, he is the active and indispensable means by which these realities come to be. This Jesus, in short, is the all-embracing, all-including, all reconciling Lord of whatever is to be found in the dimensions of time and space.

                b) The Prologue to the Gospel of St. John: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God; and the Word was God… He was in the world, and the world was made through him… And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us… No one has at any time seen God. The only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has revealed him.” (1-18).

Barron writes [the same as Guardini]: “Now what follows from these breathtaking descriptions is a centrally important epistemic claim: that Jesus cannot be measured by a criterion outside of himself or viewed from a perspective higher than himself.”[10] That is, you cannot apply a metaphysic of “being” taken “from below” – i.e. from the experience of the created world [except the created human person going out of himself]. And this because there cannot be any created things without the Creator. The Being of God and the being of things have two totally different meanings save that they are (or can be). Barron writes: “He cannot be understood as one object among many or surveyed blandly by a disinterested observer. If such perspectives were possible, then he would not be the all-grounding Word or the criterion than which no more final can be thought. If we sought to know him in this way, we would not only come to incorrect conclusions but also involve ourselves in a sort of operational contradiction. To be consistent with these accounts, we must say that Jesus determines not only what there is to be known (since he is the organizing principle of finite being) but also how we are to know what is to known (since the mind itself is a creature, made and determined through him).
                “A Christ-illumined mind in search of Christ-determined forms seems to be the epistemology implicit in Colossians and the Johannine prologue. Further, as Bruce Marshall has argued, this primacy implies that the narratives concerning Jesus must, for Christians, be an epistemic trump, that is to say, an articulation of reality that must hold sway over and against all rival articulations, be they scientific, psychological, sociological, philosophical, or religious. To hold to Colossians and the prologue to John is to have a clear negative criterion concerning all claims to ultimate truth: whatever runs contrary to the basic claims entailed in the narratives concerning Jesus must certainly be false.”[11]

                Keep the Chalcedon-Constantinople III Christology in mind. There is only one ontological Person in Christ, and He is God the Son, endowed with two natures. All free actions performed by Christ, be they divine or human, are performed by His Person. Both natures are ontologically distinct as uncreated and created, but there is only one active principle: the Person. Therefore, every human act of Christ is divine in time and space. This is what Barron means by “Jesus cannot be measured by a criterion outside of himself or viewed from a perspective higher than himself.”
                Therefore, He is the meaning of “Being.” And if his every human action derives from his divine Person, it will have the characteristic of relation since He is nothing but Relation to the Father.  Therefore, we have to view all the human from sex to doughnuts through the prism of Christ, divine and human. This is a revolution.

The unfathomable forgiveness revealed: How can we begin to understand the magnitude of divine mercy unless we commit an unfathomable sin and be forgiven?
                The unfathomable sin: Deicide. Did Christ suffer as man, or as God-man? Ratzinger: “The suffering Christ… was an unshakeable fact; but there is no such thing as a Passion without the passions: suffering presupposes the ability to suffer, the sensibility and its feeling faculty. In the patristic period it was Origen who most profoundly grasped the theme of the suffering God, and who also most straightforwardly declared that this theme cannot be reduced to the suffering humanity of Jesus, but that it colors the Christian conception of God himself. The fact that the Father allows the Son to suffer constitutes the Father’s own Passion, and this is also the suffering of the Spirit, of whom Paul says that he sighs in us and that, in us and for us, he bears the passion of our longing for the fullness of redemption (Rom. 8, 26f). And it was also Origen, moreover, who formulated the normative hermeneutic on the theme of the suffering God: whenever you hear of God’s passions and sufferings, says Origen, you must always relate these to his love. God is a sufferer only because he is first a lover; the theme of the suffering God follows from the theme of the loving God and continually points to it. The decisive step that the Christian concept of God takes beyond that of the ancients is the realization that God is love.”
                And so, God can be rejected and suffer and not cease to be God as Greek “instrumental” reason saw it. They under stood that one suffers only by a diminution in being, and therefore God, within that metaphysic, would have to cease to be God to suffer. But if God is Love as Self-gift, He suffers because He is not received.[12]

                The Son of God dies, not because they kill Him (Person), but because He wills to die. Death is an act of the whole person. It is done to us; but it could not be done to Him (the Author of life). He would have to execute the action of dying by His divine Self.

John Henry Newman wrote: “He offered Himself wholly, a holocaust, a whole burnt-offering; - as the whole of His body, stretched out upon the Cross, so the whole of His soul, His whole advertence, His whole consciousness, a mind awake, a sense acute, a living co-operation, a present, absolute intention, not a virtual permission, not a heartless submission, this did He present to His tormentors. His passion was an action; He lived most energetically, while He lay languishing, fainting, and dying. Nor did He die, except by an act of the will; for He bowed His head, in command as well in resignation, and said, ‘Father, into Thy hands I comend My Spirit;’ He gave the word, He surrendered His soul, He did not love it.

                “Thus you see, my brethren, had our Lord only suffered in the body, and in ti not so much as other men, still as regards the pain, He would have really suffered indefinitely more, because pain is to be measured by the power of realizing it. God was the sufferer; God suffered in His human nature; the sufferings belonged to God, and were drunk up, were drained out to the bottom of the chalice, because God drank them; not tasted or sipped, not flavored, disguised by human medicaments, as man disposes of the cup of anguish.”[13]

                Now, in the light of the mental revolution that we must undergo to come to grips with the reality of God in His own creation and living a human life in time and space through a full humanity, we can begin to understand the unthinkable horror of deicide and the return we received from it: Shalom: “Peace to you! It is I, do not be afraid” (Lk. 24, 36).
                Barron wrote: “According to the standard interpretation of justice and the traditional theology, this greatest of crimes would call for the greatest of retributions, but instead it is met with nonviolence, compassion, shalom. This in turn shows us that authentic justice is much different from what we had imagined and that God is much stranger than we had thought. God’s love is such that it can swallow up, absorb, and conquer even the most pointed resistance, and this becomes clear in the manner in which the murdered God restores order to the broken circle of his disciples. They (alone with many others) contributed to the killing of God, the most egregious violation of justice imaginable, and God answers this injustice with forgiving love. In light of this compassion that swallowed up the greatest of sins, Paul could exclaim, ‘I am certain that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers… neither height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord’ (Rom. 8, 38-39).  Human beings committed the unsurpassable sin – not only turning from God but actively opposing him, even to the point of putting him to death – and they were met with forgiveness. The only conclusion is the one that Paul drew: that nothing is powerful enough to turn back the relentlessness of the divine mercy.”[14]

                Conclusion: Revolutionaries!! Christ lives! “(R)ather than experts in dire predictions, dour judges bent on rooting out every threat and deviation, we should appear as joyful messengers of challenging proposals, guardians of the goodness and beauty which shine forth in a life of fidelity to the Gospel.”[15]

                The goal is not morality, virtues, orthodoxy, a religious life, apostolate, heaven…, all of which can be ways of looking for yourself. The goal is Christ, the God-Man. And you find Him by exercising in the Bread and the Word.

[1] Brazos Press (2007).
[2] Pope Francis, Joy of the Gospel #168
[3] Robert Sokolowski, The God of Faith and rEason, UNDP (1982) 8.
[4] Romano Guardini, The Lord Gateway (2002) 357-358.
[5] John F. Coverdale, “Uncommon Faith,” Scepter (2002) 93-94.
[6] Pope Francis, The Joy of the Gospel, #163.
[7] Ibid #168
[8] Brazon Press (2007).
[9] Ibid. 133.
[10] Ibid 135.
[11] Ibid
[12] J. Ratzinger, “Paschal Mystery as Core and Foundation of Devotion to the Sacred Heart,” in Towards a Civilization of Love. Ignatius (1985) 154-155.
[13] John Henry Newman, Discourse 16 to Mixed Congregations:  Mental Sufferings of Our Lord in His Passion.
[14] Barron, Ibid, 125.
[15] Pope Francis, Joy of the Gospel #168

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Who Will Stand Up for the Christians?


WHY is the world silent while Christians are being slaughtered in the Middle East and Africa? In Europe and in the United States, we have witnessed demonstrations over the tragic deaths of Palestinians who have been used as human shields by Hamas, the terrorist organization that controls Gaza. The United Nations has held inquiries and focuses its anger on Israel for defending itself against that same terrorist organization. But the barbarous slaughter of thousands upon thousands of Christians is met with relative indifference.
The Middle East and parts of central Africa are losing entire Christian communities that have lived in peace for centuries. The terrorist group Boko Haram has kidnapped and killed hundreds of Christians this year — ravaging the predominantly Christian town of Gwoza, in Borno State in northeastern Nigeria, two weeks ago. Half a million Christian Arabs have been driven out of Syria during the three-plus years of civil war there. Christians have been persecuted and killed in countries from Lebanon to Sudan.
Historians may look back at this period and wonder if people had lost their bearings. Few reporters have traveled to Iraq to bear witness to the Nazi-like wave of terror that is rolling across that country. The United Nations has been mostly mum. World leaders seem to be consumed with other matters in this strange summer of 2014. There are no flotillas traveling to Syria or Iraq. And the beautiful celebrities and aging rock stars — why doesn’t the slaughter of Christians seem to activate their social antennas?
President Obama should be commended for ordering airstrikes to save tens of thousands of Yazidis, who follow an ancient religion and have been stranded on a mountain in northern Iraq, besieged by Sunni Muslim militants. But sadly, airstrikes alone are not enough to stop this grotesque wave of terrorism.
The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is not a loose coalition of jihadist groups, but a real military force that has managed to take over much of Iraq with a successful business model that rivals its coldblooded spearhead of death. It uses money from banks and gold shops it has captured, along with control of oil resources and old-fashioned extortion, to finance its killing machine, making it perhaps the wealthiest Islamist terrorist group in the world. But where it truly excels is in its carnage, rivaling the death orgies of the Middle Ages. It has ruthlessly targeted Shiites, Kurds and Christians.
“They actually beheaded children and put their heads on a stick” a Chaldean-American businessman named Mark Arabo told CNN, describing a scene in a Mosul park. “More children are getting beheaded, mothers are getting raped and killed, and fathers are being hung.”
This week, 200,000 Aramaeans fled their ancestral homeland around Nineveh, having already escaped Mosul.
The general indifference to ISIS, with its mass executions of Christians and its deadly preoccupation with Israel, isn’t just wrong; it’s obscene.
In a speech before thousands of Christians in Budapest in June, I made a solemn promise that just as I will not be silent in the face of the growing threat of anti-Semitism in Europe and in the Middle East, I will not be indifferent to Christian suffering. Historically, it has almost always been the other way around: Jews have all too often been the persecuted minority. But Israel has been among the first countries to aid Christians in South Sudan. Christians can openly practice their religion in Israel, unlike in much of the Middle East.
This bond between Jews and Christians makes complete sense. We share much more than most religions. We read the same Bible, and share a moral and ethical core. Now, sadly, we share a kind of suffering: Christians are dying because of their beliefs, because they are defenseless and because the world is indifferent to their suffering.
Good people must join together and stop this revolting wave of violence. It’s not as if we are powerless. I write this as a citizen of the strongest military power on earth. I write this as a Jewish leader who cares about my Christian brothers and sisters.
The Jewish people understand all too well what can happen when the world is silent. This campaign of death must be stopped.
Ronald S. Lauder is the president of the World Jewish Congress.

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Papal Envoy: Iraqi Minorities Facing Genocide, Calls For Urgent Action
Cardinal Filoni Appeals to International Community to Intervene, Says Visit of "Great Benefit"
By Staff Reporter

BAGHDAD, August 20, 2014 ( - The Pope’s special envoy to Iraq has said Christians and religious minorities in the country are facing genocide and the international community must act quickly to come to their aid.
In an interview with the Italian bishops’ newspaper Avvenire Wednesday, Cardinal Fernando Filoni said Iraqis have told him the world must urgently help them and “not wait until they are in a hopeless situation.”
“We are faced with a tragedy that is genocide,” Cardinal Filoni said, “because when all the men are taken and killed, when women are robbed, taken away, their dignity violated in the worst human way and then sold, then you are destroying these people, knowing that in this way they will no longer have a future.”

The special envoy, who has been in Iraq and Jordan since Aug. 12, was speaking after celebrating Mass in Ankawa, an Assyrian suburb of Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan. Pope Francis sent Cardinal Filoni to the region after Islamic State terrorists brutally drove Christians and Yazidis from their homes in northern Iraq.
Asked about offering the religious minorities international protection, the Church diplomat echoed comments made by other Church leaders in suggesting that military action is necessary but on a multilateral basis. The international community “must intervene to take responsibility for the situation and not only morally,” he said. “It’s nice to say we defend these people, but they are dying. How can they be removed from the clutches of these predators? There’s already an answer.”

He said a “stable solution” must be found to the refugee crisis, and that the primary responsibility for dealing with those displaced rests with the civil authorities, but with help from international bodies such as the United Nations and the European Union. “We must act at different levels and with different capacities,” he said.

The special envoy said his presence on behalf of the Pope has been much appreciated. “My visit has been of great benefit,” he said. Thousands, he said, have told him and the authorities: “Thank you for coming to see how we are”, “please don’t forget about us,” and “tell people about us.”  
“As a pastor,” Cardinal Filoni added, “I feel that these are the forgotten sheep that, as Pope Francis said, we must take on our shoulders.” He said the local church, bishops and patriarchy have all "given an extraordinary hand", and although they alone cannot give hope, "we promise to be always present." He added that “walking in the midst” of the Iraqi people “gives us strength and gives them strength to want to continue living here.”

“As [Iraq’s] President Barzani said, ‘This is a mosaic of large stones and small stones, but even removing only one piece of the jigsaw, we are no longer the same: this is not Iraq.’ We must ensure that these stones do not fall, but are part of this coexistence. We must find a means to foster peaceful coexistence.”