Friday, October 24, 2014
Many lump ouiji boards with other things that labeled as harmless fun. You know, a little scary fun that no one believes is real. Tarot cards, palm readers, mediums, astrology (not to be confused with astronomy..the study of space), and such are seen as diversions. The Scriptures forbid them. I know, I know...the killjoy Bible bans it. The Catechism of the Catholic Church also condemns this in paragraph 2117: All practices of magic or sorcery, by which one attempts to tame occult powers, so as to place them at one’s service and have a supernatural power over others—even if this were for the sake of restoring their health—are gravely contrary to the virtue of religion. These practices are even more to be condemned when accompanied by the intention of harming someone, or when they have recourse to the intervention of demons. Wearing charms is also reprehensible. Spiritism often implies divination or magical practices; the Church for her part warns the faithful against it. Recourse to so-called traditional cures does not justify either the invocation of evil powers or the exploitation of another’s credulity. The occult seeks to harness spiritual powers in order to manipulate them to an end for the individual. Sometimes that end is seen as noble, such as talking with a departed loved one. Sometimes it is for purposes of taking revenge and so on. Either way it is playing with fire in which the handler gets burned.
Evil is real. We see that day in and day out in our news. Spiritual entities are real. Both good and bad. Both angels and demons. They are real. That which is evil is not simply going to present itself as such. Want to contact Aunt Matilda who died years ago to see how she's doing? Maybe mom or dad, a child, grandparents is the desire to be contacted. We do it more often than not because we miss them and our hearts ache that absence.Maybe our problem is we are confused about our futures and want to see what is ahead. The problem is that when we use such means as the occult to do this, we invite things into our lives that we might not have otherwise let in. The demonic is always looking for a welcome entrance. If it has to fool us into believing we are with a dearly departed..so be it. It is not as if deceit isn't part of their game.
Now, some might be thinking this all a bit of hyperbole. It is just a little harmless fun. Isn't that how all addiction in our lives begins? A little harmless fun. In study and study and story after story of documented exorcisms, so many began with a 'little harmless fun' that quickly spun out of control. Inviting these things into your home is dangerous. There is no such thing as a christian medium...that is like saying there is such a thing as a christian professional liar, christian ax murderer, or a christian thief...each are engaged in a behavior expressly forbidden by God. God doesn't do this because He has anything against fun, but because like a loving parent, He wants us to stay away from that which means us harm. To engage in such things as listed above is to push away the hands of God and invite in true evil. To engage in the occult is forbidden because it is a breaking of the 1st Commandment. We are to turn to God with our concerns, our aches, and our loneliness. Why? Because He means what is good for us.
I do not watch horror films and such because I make a point to rejoice in truth and beauty. As followers of Christ our time is better spent rejoicing in beauty and truth as opposed to entertaining ourselves with ugliness and deceit. As one who has seen the aftermath of what happens when evil is invited into a life, it is with no shortness of urgency, I plead with you if you should have engaged in these things, please seek confession, remove the items from your house, destroy them, and never replace them again. They will oppress you. You were not created to be oppressed by evil, but to walk freely as a child of God. Ouiji boards and such are not parlor games, they are contagions which will bring things in that you would never actually want. Do not allow sorrow your sorrow or angst lead you to allow in charlatans and the demonic. Turn rather to God to fill those empty parts and you'll have nothing to fear.
Saturday, October 18, 2014
When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his starat its rising and have come to do him homage.” When King Herod heard this, he was greatly troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. Assembling all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it has been written through the prophet:
‘And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
since from you shall come a ruler,
who is to shepherd my people Israel.’”
Then Herod called the magi secretly and ascertained from them the time of the star’s appearance. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search diligently for the child. When you have found him, bring me word, that I too may go and do him homage.” After their audience with the king they set out. And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them, until it came and stopped over the place where the child was. They were overjoyed at seeing the star, and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother. They prostrated themselves and did him homage. Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their country by another way.
We hear now of the birth of the Anointed One (Messiah/Christ). The first to hear of this great news in the Gospel of Matthew are those who shouldn't: the magi. The Magi are pagans. They are astrologers. They are part of a group condemned in the Old Testament as those engaged in the occult. Yet these are the first to find out. God reaches out them where they are and gives them the opportunity of being transformed by the greatness of His love. God beckons and they come. Truth is revealed to them and they respond. From the first moments of the birth of the Messiah we are told that this saving message is meant for all humanity. This message was a message of hope bound in the love of a God that so desperately wants a relationship with us that He will send His Son among us to restore that relationship.He reaches out to these Magi, not by warnings of condemnation, but in the bearing of the Good News. Through their gifts they show that what has been revealed to them is a bit of who Jesus is to be: A priest (frankincense), a prophet (myrrh), and a king (gold). For Jesus to be able to do that for which He was sent, it is necessary He be all three: A king who guides us with the tenderness of the Good Shepherd, a prophet who announces the Gospel, and a priest who will offer Himself to restore a broken relationship between God and man.
Also in this story is a disturbing plot twist: those who should have been thrilled with the news of the birth of the Messiah are not. We hear all Jerusalem is troubled. We see Herod concerned. The chief priests and scribes say where it is to happen but we are given no record of their going. We know Herod will try to have the audacity to kill the Messiah. Their self interest prevent their knowing or believing. Those who should have believed didn't and those who shouldn't have did. Yet the message is made known to both and will continue to be so.
What do we take from this? The whole of our faith is built upon a longed for relationship. That relationship will call us to change, a change that may well not be welcome. We cannot allow the chance that we may be rejected in proclaiming God's desire for a relationship to deter us from that proclamation. We cannot allow the fear of necessary change for the better deter us from heeding the call to relationship. Finally, in making this proclamation ( a prophetic proclamation we are called to make by virtue that we share in the 3 fold ministry of Christ by virtue of our Baptism) we must meet people where they are at...not wait for them to get their acts together (whatever that means!) before it is 'safe' to proclaim. There are no groups we can write off or persecute. There is no person to whom the message of Christ can be kept from. We must approach with compassion, not judgment, not merely calling for conversion, but showing where God has already reached out to them.
Will all accept? No. We will never know who will ot will not accept if we treat our Church as a country club looking for the right members and who doesn't want the wrong ones. This Gospel passage reminds us that in God's eyes their are no membership requirements save one: a willingness to develop into the relationship He calls us into and allow that relationship to transform us into what is better.
Monday, October 13, 2014
“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. Woe to the world because of things that cause sin! Such things must come, but woe to the one through whom they come" Matthew 18: 6-7
On two occasions, I like every other priest, placed my folded hands in the hands of my bishop, who asked if I promised respect and obedience to him and his successors. Both times I said , "I do". No where was that respect and obedience conditional. To be honest, it is a struggle as I try to navigate ministry day in and day out. It would be easier to be disrespectful in some times, especially when playing to the crowds. It is easy to try to pass the buck to cover my own incompetence and push blame away from myself. It is a constant temptation to play the hero for a person who is confused by or in rebellion towards the Church. It is easy to dispense with teachings when I might gain some personal attention or approval. It is easy to nuance, explain away, or deceive myself into conditional obedience and respect. However, as one given care of a flock that is not mine, it is not without good reason that I obey those in authority over me. I cannot ask for that which I am unwilling to give.
Why say this? I have seen much written by clerics of the Church on the Synod on the Family. They seem to be rallying a side or playing to a loyal crowd...all in the name of defending Holy Mother Church. Some have found it within themselves to chastise the synod which has yet to put out one document. Polarizing clans fight over perceptions that the Synod Fathers want to be too this or too that. Scapegoats are being lined up for future use...pinatas being readied lest an outcome not favorable should appear. Defenders of orthodoxy versus defenders of compassion (as if the two were opposites). Social media and the blogosphere only add to the venues to which raging opinion can be bloviated. Eating this up is a wide eyed audience expecting the spectacle of it all. To what end?!
To what end indeed! Control! A Church that does what I want it to do! A Church that teaches what I want to believe! I can in my heart of hearts believe that what I want is what Christ wants. Should I be so bold! Yet in sowing the seeds of disrespect to this prelate, that bishop, that cardinal, and so forth...I must ask, "How are my actions and words in union with the four marks of the Church which we profess as a matter of faith whenever we pray the Creed?" Do my words and actions support or rend asunder the "one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church" to which I have been ordained as a member of her clergy? If they do not, how can I have the audacity to demand unquestioning respect and obedience from my flock or partisans? In breeding discontent and conditional obedience, will I not be slain with the same sword? It is scandalous that a cleric of the Church should engage in the petty war of words so common in our political sphere!
So what of the synod? I sit back and wait. I try to understand. I don't jump to conclusions one way or the other. I know the basis of this synod is the same as all things with the teachings of the Church: understanding that there is right and wrong, but that mercy needs to be applied to heal those who are engaging in detrimental behaviors and sins. That mercy may well be pushed aside, but it is what we do. It is not mercy to condone behavior that might well jeopardize eternal life. It is not mercy to tell others to get their act together then come in. It is no secret that the topics of marriage, sexuality, and family life have become a societal war zone. It is not secret that we as a Church have demonstrably failed in preaching and teaching the depth and beauty of our beliefs. These teachings can neither be ignored nor used as weapons to beat sinners. I suspect that this is what the synod fathers are struggling with. I doubt my snapping at their heels or openly vilifying will offer any good. I do know that should I engage in that, I am openly welcoming those placed in my care to give the same disrespect.
To those engage in such behavior, I plead, stop it! You are giving scandal..even if what you are doing is well meaning. To those rallying around such talking clerical heads...perhaps prayer and mortifications for the Holy Spirit's guidance over these proceedings might be a better use of time. Our enemies laugh as we become a circular firing squad. They rejoice in our division. I know that Jesus gave Peter and His successors the keys to the Kingdom, not because of their worthiness, but because they are called to be the chief shepherd of the flock after Christ Himself. We tread into very dangerous waters when we entertain disrespect...for it is a sword that will fall on our head eventually.