Monday, April 25, 2016

The death of Religious Freedom in the United States.

It is sad to see the death of freedom in America.  With the rise of the radical anti-Christian state, gay marriage, abortion on demand etc., all other freedoms are threatened as well.  It is not only the "legalization" of these things but the demand that Christians accept them as goods, and that Christians participate in them and pay for them.  Just as was the case in ancient Rome, Christians who refuse to worship at the state's altar are destroyed and forbidden to do business.  As the bishops point our in this video, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, the right to protest all travel along with freedom of religion.  That freedom has been abolished in the American Empire today.


Sunday, April 24, 2016

Love One Another?

From today's Gospel reading at mass. 

"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35 RSVCE

This is the commandment of Jesus, the ONE thing he demands of us... and we all fail miserably at it day after day. We fail sometimes out of frustration.  We fail other times because we tend to forget what Love is.  As Bishop Robert Barron says often, "Love is willing the good of the other…and then doing something concrete about it.  It’s not an emotion, it’s not an attitude.  It’s a move of the will.  To want the good of the other, and do something about it.  That’s love." (From this YouTube video, at the 7:59 mark.)



Love is not an emotion, it's an act of the will, it is doing something, not feeling something.  That's how we miss it so often I think.  We are hunting for that warm fuzzy feeling toward some annoying person around us, when we should be doing something good for them. 

So when Jesus tells us to "love your enemies" he's not telling you to like them, but to desire good for them and to do good for them. 

Of course if you find it hard to do good to your foes you can always recall this passage from Proverbs:

"If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink; for you will heap coals of fire on his head, and the Lord will reward you."  Prov 25:21-22 RSVCE

Or this similar one from Romans,

"Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” No, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head.”  Romans 12:19-20 RSVCE

I find it just slightly easier to be good to people who don't deserve it when I remember that this will drive them crazy, it will "heap burning coals upon his head."  :-)

Here is a great blog post on the subject from the Sick Pilgrim blog on Patheos:  "The Dark Devotional: Christians Drive Me Crazy."  I urge you to read the whole thing, if you are at all like me and have just the teeniest tendency toward judging our fellow Christians when they are just so very wrong on so many things... this is a good corrective I think.   

" “So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”
These words were spoken in the upper room. Jesus was not speaking to the masses. He was speaking to those closest to him, the apostles.
We will not be recognized as Christians by our t-shirts or play lists or beards or glass water bottles. We will not be known by our doctrines or our interpretations of Scripture or our positions on infant baptism or our end times theologies. We will be known by our love."

I leave you with this old song to remind us of what love is...


This video was made in honor of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha,
canonized on October 21, 2012, by Pope Benedict XVI.



Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Prayer, meditation and contemplation



Canticle of the Creatures

All Praise be yours, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars; in the heavens you have made them, bright, and precious, and fair.
All praise be yours, my Lord, through Brothers wind and air, and fair and stormy, all the weather's moods, by which you cherish all that you have made.
All praise be yours, my Lord, through Sister Water, so useful, humble, precious and pure.
All praise be yours, my Lord, through Brother Fire, through whom you brighten up the night. How beautiful is he, how cheerful! Full of power and strength.
All praise be yours, my Lord, through our Sister Mother Earth, who sustains us and governs us, and produces various fruits with colored flowers and herbs.
All praise be yours, my Lord, through those who grant pardon for love of you; through those who endure sickness and trial. Happy are those who endure in peace, by You, Most High, they will be crowned.
All praise be yours, my Lord, through Sister Death, from whose embrace no mortal can escape. Woe to those who die in mortal sin! Happy those she finds doing your will! The second death can do them no harm.
Praise and bless my Lord, and give him thanks and serve him with great humility.
St. Francis of Assisi

One of the things that I like about the Catholic church is its openness to diverse forms of prayer, meditation and contemplation.  Within the Catholic church there is a long tradition of mystical experience that is absent from much of Protestantism.  Indeed, it is not only absent but condemned as dangerous and unchristian in many cases.  I think this cutting off so much of traditional forms of meditation is a mistake.

Even with the acceptance of mysticism within the Church I have heard some Catholics express discomfort with such things as Centering Prayer and some forms of meditation that they see as too much aligned with "eastern religions."  I have read their arguments and find them mostly unconvincing.  It is true that one could go astray with such methods of prayer, but I don't think it is a problem so long as we keep our eyes and our focus on Jesus.  Some of the arguments I've heard sound like squabbles over definitions.  Somehow unless you use the right Catholic jargon you can't be doing it right.  And boy is there jargon!  There is even a whole dictionary of "Spiritual Terms" they have so you can translate from the jargon into English.  It seems to me that the problem they have with more recent methods of prayer, such as Centering Prayer, is that the practitioners of these methods don't use the same "spiritual dictionary" when talking about it.  Instead they use terms even I can understand.  I think this is a good thing.

I'll have a lot more to say about this in the future, but I've just heard several Catholics on EWTN warning folks away from Centering Prayer in particular and I think it's wrong headed. 

I haven't written in the last couple of days because I have been very tired.  On Saturday and Sunday I was sick, then I've been pushing myself, playing and swimming with the kids, going to the park, taking the RV for repairs and going on a long "hike" to get home from the shop... really I should have been resting I think.  

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Prayer amidst confusion and pain

 

I've just read two posts from a couple of bloggers on on Patheos, a great place for spiritual and religious writing from all sorts of traditions by the way, I focus on the catholic ones naturally.  In any case the first of these was Teach us to Pray...But be Gentle: Prayer and Mental Illness.  I found myself nodding as I read, yes and yes.  Here is one section that spoke to me this morning as I sat here gazing out my window, fervently wishing I were not going to work, and wishing as well I could flee to the hills to sit alone on a rock and be finished with this world once and for all, but knowing I cannot do that because I have work to do, because I have love to give and to receive and it's wonderful and joyful... even when deep inside I'm saying "Let me go, please just let me go..."

"Teach us to pray – for we are crushed by it. Teach us to pray – for we are swallowed by the hollowness of it. Teach us to pray – but could you sometimes be gentle with us and listen to our stories?"

Well, that post was inspired by another, Prayer and Mental Illness, which is linked within it, and that post is also one to which I sat this morning and gave my yes and yes and yes again.  Especially here as she is speaking about God...

"Someday, I tell myself. Someday. God has made something new of worse.  Or, you know. He hates me and wants me to hurt. Depends on where you catch me, hinges on the moment and where I am in my head. Or however it works. I sincerely believe that God loves me. I also sincerely think he doesn’t. That’s me: somehow always almost safe and never again safe. Always living along that God damn partial bridge of body and mind."

The question of "Why God?" is always there, always in the back of my mind, and it is never answered.  But what happens, when I allow it, is that Jesus is there with me, holding me in his nail pierced hands, his arms around my shoulders and whispering into my ear, "I love you Larry, I am with you and I've always been with you."  And I weep in his arms and say "I know Lord, please don't let go of me because I'll fall without you."  And he holds me gently and tightly and the pain and the fear and the despair and the exhaustion and the desire to be just done with life eases just a little and I can smile a bit and say "Thank you Jesus, my brother and my Lord and my God." 

Friday, April 15, 2016

Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.

 

Today's readings from the USCCB

Acts 9:1-20 (RSVCE)

The conversion of Saul... the great persecutor and murderer of Christians is confronted by the risen Jesus and struck blind and in his blindness he finally is able to see as Anani′as is sent to pray for him to have his sight restored and to be filled with the Holy Spirit.  God can take anyone no matter how far from Him he might seem and bring him to faith.

John 6:52-59 (RSVCE)

As is pointed out in the footnote to verse 52, when the people ask "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" Jesus does not explain it away, but reemphasizes the reality of it.  Jesus does not say, "Oh it's just symbolic, but instead he pushes it further.

53 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; 54 he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. 55 For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. 56 He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me. 58 This is the bread which came down from heaven, not such as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live for ever.” 59 This he said in the synagogue, as he taught at Caper′na-um.

The Eucharist is not symbolic, note the "Truly, truly, I say to you" double emphasis, he is saying that it is the very body and blood of our Lord.  You are what you eat it is said, and in this case it is even more true than usual.  It is through the Holy Eucharist that we are brought into both physical and spiritual communion with Jesus Christ and His Body, which is the church.  What a fantastic gift!

 







What is wrong with America?

John Horvat II describes the condition of America accurately, but in the penultimate paragraph he conflates "society" with "government." Thus he says we "...should not...rage against ALL authority..." But he's wrong!  We certainly should rage against authority, it is these "authorities" who have caused all of the problems he describes, they are not worthy of trust and never have been, he's upset because people's eyes are finally being opened to the fraud.

You can read the whole article here, it's well worth the read.



Thursday, April 14, 2016

The Hermeneutics Quiz: What’s Your Score?

I still plan to post about today's readings some time after mass today.  In the meantime I ran across this Hermeneutics quiz on Patheos.  It was interesting figuring out each question and I landed in between on quite a few.  

First of all, the quiz is HERE if you want to take it yourself.

I'm pretty sure this means I'm going to hell but I scored Progressive.  

The Hermeneutics Quiz
Score 77  
Evaluation
You scored between 66 and 100, meaning you're a progressive on The Hermeneutics Scale.

What does Progressive mean in this quiz?  As described by the authors:

The progressive is not always progressive. Those who score 66 or more can be seen as leaning toward the progressive side, but the difference between a 66 and 92 is dramatic. Still, the progressive tends to see the Bible as historically shaped and culturally conditioned, and yet most still consider it the Word of God for today. Following a progressive hermeneutic, for the Word to speak in our day, one must interpret what the Bible said in its day and discern its pattern for revelation in order to apply it to our world. The strength, as with the moderate but even more so, is the challenge to examine what the Bible said in its day, and this means the progressives tend to be historians. But the problems for the progressives are predictable: Will the Bible's so-called "plain meaning" be given its due and authoritative force to challenge our world? Or will the Bible be swallowed by a quest to find modern analogies that sometimes minimize what the text clearly says?

With that description I suppose I'm quite happy to be a so-called Progressive.  Personally I'd just call it a realist but hey, that's just me :-)  If you take the quiz let me know where you score.
 
--
Larry Devich
I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.  Philippians 4:11b

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Daily Posting

The other day I probably implied, or just said, that I'd be posting daily.  I don't actually think that is plausible with my schedule, on days when I work for 12 hours and commute for 3 hours there isn't much time left for thoughtful consideration of the mass readings for the day.  

Plus, I neglected to bring my laptop with me so I'm posting via email anyway. 

That said I'm going to take a stab at posting today anyway. :-)



35 Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst. 36 But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. 37 All that the Father gives me will come to me; and him who comes to me I will not cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me; 39 and this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up at the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that every one who sees the Son and believes in him should have eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day."

Continuing on with the Bread of Life discourse today.  

What stands out here?  Well, other than the repetition of "I am the bread of life..." from yesterday's readings?

What stands out to me is the comfort to be had in the words "All that the Father gives me will come to me..." and also "...this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of that he has given me..." and "For this is the will of my Father, that every one who sees the Son and believes in him should have eternal life..."  What absolute sounding words those are.  ALL.  Lose NOTHING.  EVERY ONE.  It's almost enough to make one a universalist. :-)  While I am most certainly not a universalist I do think it quite likely that we will be very surprised at the number of "hopeless cases" that God manages to bring into communion with Him at the end.   

Well, that's it for today's post, now to see if it goes through with any semblance of formatting and links intact.  
 
--
Larry Devich
I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.  Philippians 4:11b

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

The Bread of Life


Today's readings (USCCB)

Acts 7:51—8:1a

During this time of the church year the first reading, which is usually from the Old Testament, is from the book of the Acts of the Apostles instead.  Today we are continuing the story of the first martyr of the Christian faith, St. Stephen.  Stephen is stoned to death while Saul, who will later become the great Apostle Paul, stands by approving.  I wish I were better at emulating St. Stephen, I have a hard time forgiving someone who cuts me off in traffic, let alone someone who is truly seeking to kill me!  Thankfully we have the example of Saul here as well, there is hope for us, we can repent and turn back to God no matter how serious our sins.

John 6:30-35

Today's gospel reading continues with the Bread of Life Discourse by Jesus in John chapter 6, this is one of those passages that those who claim to take the bible literally, refuse to take literally.  They are all good with the world being created in 6 days less than 10,000 years ago.  All good with a talking snake and the ark with all the animals riding out the world wide flood.  But for some reason when Jesus says "I am the bread of Life" they are out the door.  

Of course as we go on with the readings in John 6 things will just get worse and worse for those who want it to be symbolic, but for now it is enough to say Jesus is the Bread of Life, whoever comes to Him will never hunger and whoever believes in Him will never thirst! 
Thanks be to God.  

 

Monday, April 11, 2016

Reboot

 

The Angry Gnome has been languishing in the shadows for a long time now, six long months of silence.  Should I reboot the Angry Gnome or start over fresh I wonder?  The Angry Gnome is my avatar I suppose, so I think I'll just reboot it here today.

I've given considerable thought... well an hour or so this morning actually... about what the focus of the Angry Gnome ought to be.  I am not an expert on any subject to tell the truth, so what do I have to offer any potential readers of the Angry Gnome?

I've been browsing through ancient blog posts I made and finding myself mildly amused by some of them.  The best ones are the ones where I don't hold back and try and be something I'm not, where I embrace my Angry Gnome self :-)

Looking back I see that while time has gone by, my core self has changed very little.  I'm still a pacifist, anarchist and Catholic.  Things that seem at first glance to be contradictory but that all work together in my mind just fine.

I suppose that I could pontificate on politics without even needing to think about it.  But everyone who knows me is already aware that I'm a pacifist and an anarchist who believes that government is nothing but violence and evil, so going on and on about that would just be boring to me as well as to my victims... er... readers.  I'll leave that to the shallow waters of Facebook.

I think of a blog as a place where things are discussed in more depth than is really reasonable for a Facebook post, on Facebook people expect to see the whole idea in a single quick glance.  Most people don't even bother to click on the "more" button when there is a long post, at least that's how it seems to me.

What I decided this morning, as I pondered my desire to write daily here on the Angry Gnome, is that I will use the readings of the day from the Mass as my starting point for each post.  This is a way to keep me focused on "whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise..." and to always "think about these things." (Philippians 4:8)  

This is not to say that my posts will be restricted only to the readings from Mass each day.  While I want to keep my focus on those things suggested by Philippians 4:8 I don't want to be restricted too narrowly either.  I can imagine posts on many tangential subjects that I find fascinating, especially those places where the worlds of science and faith intersect.  Be warned, there will be some posts in which I regale my readers with the glorious exploits of my family or the events in this chaotic and semi-anarchistic place that is our home. 

A note on translations first.  The official translation used in the Mass in the United States is the New American Bible, Revised Edition (NABRE).  That is what is linked to in the first link below at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) web site.  I actually prefer the Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (RSVCE), it's the one I read for my personal devotions and the Protestant RSV is the version I grew up reading as a child, they are almost identical, except for the books removed by the Protestant Reformers for various, invalid, reasons.  That is another topic I may well discuss at some point.  In any case the links to the individual readings go the Bible Gateway site RSVCE for each reading.

USCCB - Today's Readings

Acts 6:8-15
Psalm 119:23-24, 26-27, 29-30
John 6:22-29
 

What strikes me from today's readings is John 6:27,  "Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of man will give to you..."  What is that food that the Son of man gives us?  It is the very body and blood of Jesus presented to us in the Eucharist of course, as is made obvious over the next few day's Gospel readings from the rest of John 6.  The Eucharist gives to us the forgiveness of sins won by Christ on the cross and the grace and ability to begin to really live the Christian life.  It feeds us spiritually as we take in the very essence of God the Son under the appearance of bread and wine.  The Eucharist is the greatest gift we have from God, it is Jesus given to us in tangible form.  Praise God!

Most of my posts won't be quite this short, all that introduction took up a lot of my time today and I'm pooped from writing. :-)  Please feel free to comment below.