Tuesday, June 30, 2015

‘How Come You Catholics Ignore Jesus’ Words and Call Men “Father”?’

“How come you Catholics call men ‘father,’ in direction violation of Jesus’ command: ‘Call no one on earth your father; you have but one Father in heaven’? This is just another example of Catholics following man-made traditions and ignoring the Word of God. That’s why you’re not real Christians!”

*     *     *

Wow, have you ever been confronted with these questions by a friend or co-worker or, most zealous of all, a family member who USED to be Catholic? How do you respond? Is it really true that we Catholics violate a direct command from the Lord when we call our priests “father”?

Well, it is a fact that in Matthew 23:9 Jesus said, “Call no one on earth your father; you have but one Father in heaven.” And it is a fact that non-Catholics have been citing this verse for centuries to claim that Catholics blatantly violate Jesus’ command by calling priests “father.”

But is this what Jesus really meant? To fully understand Jesus’ “call no one…father” statement, we have to read carefully the first half of this passage. Jesus’ main objective was to highlight the attitude of pride and superiority held by the scribes and Pharisees. The key statement here occurs in verses 5 and 6. Describing the selfish motivation of the religious leaders of His day, Jesus said, “All their works are performed to be seen….They love places of honor at banquets, seats of honor in synagogues, greetings in marketplaces, and the salutation ‘Rabbi.’” 

Jesus was telling His followers to be humble. We know this by the last verse of the passage: “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” He was describing the Pharisees’ obsession with titles of honor—Rabbi, Teacher, Father, Master—and warning His disciples to avoid that type of sinful pride and arrogance.

Still, some people will insist, “But Jesus said, ‘Call no one…father.’ And if He said it, then we gotta do it, and since you Catholics DON’T do it, you’re not Christians!” This is taking a very literalist approach to Scripture, which can cause a lot of confusion when Jesus used symbolic language or exaggerations to make a point. For example, in Matthew 5:29-30, Jesus said, “If you eye causes you to sin, gouge it out.…If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off.”

If it is true that we are supposed to take each word Jesus said literally, and if it is true ALL people have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), then every church ought to be filled with people facing a difficult dilemma: they are blind because they gouged their eyes out, but they can’t hold their white canes very well because they have no hands. I think you get my point.

Let’s take a closer look at this so-called divine command that no one should ever use the word “father” to describe another human being. In Acts 7:2, St. Stephen said, “Brothers and fathers, listen to me!” Oops, was Stephen violating Jesus’ command?

In 1 John 2:13, St. John wrote, “I write to you, fathers, because you have known him…” Oops, was John violating Jesus’ command?

In his first letter to the Corinthians (4:15), St. Paul wrote, “In Christ Jesus I became your father through the Gospel.” Oops, was Paul violating Jesus’ command?

In Matthew 15:4, Jesus Himself said, “Honor your father and mother.” Oops, was Jesus violating His own command?

From these verses in the Bible it is clear that Jesus was not offering a sweeping command that no one shall ever use the word “father” when referring to a man. Otherwise, all of these great saints in Scripture (plus the Lord Himself) were in violation of that command.

It’s perfectly OK to call a Catholic priest “father.” Just as St. Paul called himself the spiritual “father” of the Corinthians, we Catholics call our priests “father” because they nurture the spiritual life of the flock by preaching the Gospel and administering the sacraments. 

Oh, and one last thing, in case you’re not sure: Catholics definitely ARE real Christians.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Is gay marriage really about persecuting the Church?

Below are the words of Catholic blogger Patrick Archbold, who posted these comments soon after the Supreme Court decision legalized gay marriage in all 50 states. Mr. Archbold is well-known in Catholic cyber-circles for being somewhat pessimistic. However, many of the things he’s written over the years, which seemed a bit over the top at the time, have proven to be true.

So what do you think? Is he correct when he claims gay marriage was never about gays getting married, but about persecuting the Church? Will the Church lose its tax-exempt status and be prohibited from preaching the Gospel? Will Christians end up in jail for not agreeing with the gay agenda?

I’m just offering Mr. Archbold’s thoughts here for your consideration:

It is one thing to know the enemy is coming and try to prepare for it. But that doesn't make the moment when they come over the hill any easier.

Today, they came over the hill.

In a 5-4 ruling, "Gay Marriage" has been imposed nationwide. 

But "gay marriage" has never been about gays getting married, it is now and always has been about persecuting the Church. Not that they have this ruling, the persecution against Catholic and Christian organizations will begin in earnest. Institutions will lose their tax-exempt status, they will lose grants, they will be denied contracts, they will be denied building permits, and they will be denied speech. And all that is just the beginning.

Hell hath been unleashed today and they will attack us with all their fury.

This moment has been a long time in the making and now it is here. The persecution begins in earnest now.

Christians in the United States will soon go to jail for no other reason than they believe and speak the truth as revealed by Jesus Christ and his Church.

This has never just been a political battle, it has always truly been a battle with principalities and powers.

This is the natural end of a supernatural battle in which we lost the faith and now must pay the price.

But I assure you, what will result from this persecution is not what our enemies expect. The Church will triumph as a result of this coming persecution and they will never see it coming.

We have been asked to have faith, take up our crosses, and make our way to the resurrection.

May God have mercy on us all.

Friday, June 26, 2015

The ‘Wait, What?!’ of the Week, June 26, 2015

Here are a few phrases you’ve probably heard before: “America is the land of opportunity,” “America is a melting pot,” and, “There is only one race, the human race.” These phrases are fairly innocuous, right? They express ideas that have been held by many folks for many years. But according to the people who run the University of California higher education system, these phrases are actually “micro-aggressions” that could leave students feeling discriminated against, and therefore should never be uttered by professors, according to a new faculty training guide.

Wait. What?! Yes, you heard right. The University of California has warned all professors to avoid these and other equally benign phrases, because the phrases can be interpreted by some students as “denying the significance of a person of color’s racial/ethnic experience,” and even worse, can be interpreted as a demand that certain students “assimilate to the dominant culture.”

Tim Groseclose used to be a professor at UCLA, but now teaches at George Mason University in Virginia. Groseclose says, “I don’t think the University of California realizes how crazy it’s become.” Noting that one of the forbidden phrases is, “When I look at you, I don’t see color,” Groseclose observes, “According to that document, Martin Luther King, Jr. would be guilty of micro-aggressions.”

I was going to try to come up with some smart-aleck comments, but this situation is so pathetic, I’m just not in the mood. So instead I’ll cite one of my favorite authors, Dr. Peter Kreeft, who said that no idea is too ridiculous that some Ph.D. somewhere won’t embrace it. Looks like a whole slew of Ph.D.’s on the Left Coast have embraced this ridiculous idea. Can I claim that political correctness run amuck is a micro-agression towards me? I mean, honestly, this idiocy truly offends me. No, unfortunately I’m not a member of an approved gender, race, religion, age, sexual orientation, political party, or socio-economic class, so my feeling don’t count. 

At this rate, the phrase, “America is the land of opportunity,” soon will not be allowed—not because it’s offensive, but because it no longer will be true.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

‘Attitude of Gratitude’ observation for Thursday morning

I am grateful that I work in the heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning industry. There, I said it. Pope Francis is going to be so upset with me. If you hadn’t heard, the pope’s recent encyclical on the environment claims that air-conditioning is one of the world’s “harmful habits of consumption.”

Yes, air-conditioning requires energy, a lot of energy. But just think what the world would be like if we stopped using air-conditioning. More people would die rather than recover in sweltering hospitals. The elderly would succumb more frequently during heat waves. Nursing homes would be uninhabitable, as would major cities in southern climates.

And air-conditioning is the same technology that brings us refrigeration. Without refrigeration, modern medicine could not exist. Without refrigeration, food could not be transported safely across the country. Without refrigeration, countless thousands—if not millions—of people would die of food poisoning or starvation.

No, I’m sorry to say it, but Pope Francis has gotten some terrible advice on this topic. When mankind learned to harness the refrigeration cycle a little more than a century ago, it was a GOOD thing. Unlike some technological advancements that have been harmful and destructive, the development of air-conditioning and refrigeration has improved the lives of countless millions of people. In fact, it has SAVED the lives of countless millions of people.

Michelle Malkin offers further observations on this issue, including the ironic fact that the Carrier Corporation is in the process of designing and donating an expensive, sophisticated air-conditioning system for the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican, which is needed to keep Michelangelo’s priceless artwork from being ruined. Read it at:

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Treadmills Are Too Dangerous

There was a front page newspaper story a few weeks ago about treadmills. No, I don’t mean the emotional lament type of “treadmill,” as in, “My job is so tedious, it’s like I’m stuck on a treadmill.” Or the Elton John song about Marilyn Monroe: “They set you on a treadmill, and they made you change your name.”

I’m referring to the treadmill type of treadmill, the exercise machine with a moving platform, on which you walk, jog, or run. And when I say “on which you walk, jog, or run,” I definitely mean YOU. Personally, I avoid treadmills like the plague. (On the other hand, how many people actually seek out the plague? What a weird figure of speech.) I already do enough walking — around parking lots trying to remember where I parked my car — enough jogging — to the front door of Dunkin Donuts so I get in line ahead of the two other people merely sauntering toward the entrance — and enough running — up the sidewalk of the highway rest area facility and then into the men’s room, because I didn’t stop at the last rest area 24 miles ago, temporarily deluded into thinking I still possessed a young man’s bladder.

So, regarding the idea of purposely stepping onto a machine so it can force me to huff and puff for 45 minutes, forget it. But many people swear by treadmills (and I suspect many people swear AT treadmills). Reportedly, it’s a great way to get a good workout without having to go outside for a run, especially in these parts where it seems the earth is covered in snow and ice for at least 14 months out of every year. Even during those brief periods when the weather actually is nice, the odds are good some motorist will be distracted by his cell phone and turn an unsuspecting jogger into a new hood ornament.

But if you think treadmills are a safe way to get a good workout, think again. The article in the newspaper — remember the newspaper article I mentioned in the first sentence, about 19 thought tangents ago? Well, don’t worry, I didn’t forget — explained that treadmill related injuries cause more than 24,000 emergency room visits per year.

Stop and think about that for a moment. Twenty-four-thousand! Every year! (I’m pretty sure it’s not the SAME 24,000 people each year, since a treadmill injury trip to the E.R. most likely would cause a person to try a safer exercise routine in the future, such as jogging blindfolded in the middle of I-84 during rush hour.)

Now, I’m not an expert on emergency room statistics, but in my family we reserve the E.R. for situations with broken bones, lots of blood, or concussions so severe you think you’re a former quarterback for the Chicago Bears. This means that far MORE than 24,000 people get injured each year on treadmills. If someone stumbles and falls off a treadmill, and only sprains an ankle, or scrapes a knee, or chips a tooth, he’ll limp around the house for a few days with an ice bag, but won’t become an official entry in the massive database of the federal government’s Office of Treadmill Death and Dismemberment, a sub-division of the department of Health and Human Services. 

If you ask me (and I know you didn’t actually ask me, but it’s time to wind up this rambling essay seemingly composed by a former quarterback for the Chicago Bears), treadmills are simply too dangerous. If you insist on exercising with a treadmill, please at least do this: never turn it on. Just stand on it and watch your favorite show on TV. The whole point is to be healthy, right?

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Jesus Reversed the Curse

In our culture, we are often told that death is just a part of life, and that death is perfectly natural.

These statements are told to us by many wise modern philosophers, including animated cartoon characters from that old Disney movie The Lion King, who explain that we are all a part of the great circle of life, where each generation has to move aside and make way for the next generation.

Death is just a normal part of life, right? Well, tell that to Jairus, the man we read about in this weeks gospel, as his friends come to tell him, Your daughter has died; why trouble [Jesus] any longer?

Sure, just tell Jairus that death is perfectly natural. Sing the circle of life song for him. Oh well, a dead child? Youll get over it. Cmon Jairus, lets go have some lunch.

Well, I suspect we are constantly told this death is natural view to keep us from becoming despondent at the death of loved ones, and to keep us from being terrified by the thought of our own death. However, the idea that death is just a part of life is the farthest thing from Gods view. God did not create life just so it ultimately could wither away and die.

For the weekend of June 27/28, the first reading at Mass is from the Book of Wisdom in the Old Testament. We read: God did not make death, nor does he rejoice in the destruction of the living.For God formed man to be imperishable; the image of his own nature he made him. But by the envy of the devil, death entered the world.

This idea is also confirmed in St. Pauls letter to the Romans. Paul wrote that sin came into the world through one man (Adam), and death came through sin, and so death spread to all because all have sinned (Romans 5:12). Death was not, and has never been, a part of Gods plan for mankind. Death is an abomination; it is an obscenity; it is a curse.

Death first came into the world, and corrupted Gods perfect creation, when Satan tempted Adam and Eve to sin. This gives us an idea of just how powerful and far-reaching sin truly is; it can send a shock wave throughout the entire natural order. Remember THAT the next time someone tries to tell you that sin is just an old-fashion concept. On the contrary, sin is real, and it screws up everything!

Up until about a decade ago, we Boston Red Sox fanatics had a rallying cry: Reverse the Curse! This referred to the so-called Curse of the Bambino, the idea that the late, great Babe Ruth had cursed the Red Sox never to win the World Series as punishment for trading him to the rival New York Yankees. At times, it certainly seemed as though this curse was real. It took 86 years, but the Sox finally reversed the curse in 2004. (No, I wasn't alive for ALL of those 86 yearsit only seemed that way.)

The reason Jesus came to earth was to reverse the cursethe curse of death. His sacrificial death on the cross once and for all paid the price for the entire worlds sins. And His rising from the grave three days later conquered death. What Satan had gleefully unleashed in the Garden of Eden, Jesus reversed on Calvary.

So even though we still have to deal with death on this side of eternity, death no longer has the final word. Jesus changed all that.

Death is still painful and horrific, and anyone who tries to cheer us up with that death is just a natural part of life nonsensewhether a well-meaning friend or a philosophical Disney cartoon charactershould be politely ignored. 

Death is painful, but it is no longer hopeless. Jesus changed all that. The curse has been reversed. Thank God!

Sunday, June 21, 2015

A Connecticut Yankee in King Jesus' Court -- part 5


     Jerry Francis and his companions had done very little so far this day. They mostly sat around the cramped, smelly room in the boarding house and discussed recent events. They mostly discussed Jesus.
     At first Simon the Zealot was angry at Jesus, while Benjamin was confused. As the day went on and the discussions intensified, Simon’s anger abated. “Well, I’ll just ask him face-to-face tonight at the Passover,” he said. “Then we’ll know whether we should look to another to lead us in our revolt against Rome.”
     However, during the day Benjamin’s confusion gave way to firm conviction. He decided that Jesus was definitely a fraud. He felt betrayed that Jesus had raised their hopes about a new Jewish kingdom, only to dash them with his strange behavior and apparent appeasement toward Rome. He told Simon, “Don’t waste your breath. Jesus is NOT the one.”
     All the while Jerry listened to the discussions with rapt attention. Jerry knew that Jesus had no intention of leading a military revolt against Rome. If that were so, he surely would’ve remembered it from his catechism classes. No, Jesus was obviously a gifted speaker and leader, but his message was love and forgiveness, compassion and service toward others. When Jerry thought about the miracles Judas claimed to have witnessed, along with the Resurrection and Son-of-God-stories his wife Brenda believed, he shrugged his shoulders in confusion. I bet those fables were added on many years later, Jerry thought. I mean, that stuff can’t possibly be true.
     As Jerry continued to listen and think, he felt sad that Jesus was about to die on a cross. He could do much more good for people if he has the chance to keep preaching and teaching, he thought. Then Jerry had another thought. But what if he doesn’t die on Friday? What if the crucifixion never occurs? Jerry smiled. If Jesus lives to be an old man, he’ll be able to preach his full message. And other people won’t be tempted to add miracle stories onto his legend just because he was a martyr. If I can stop him from being killed I could change history—and for the better. If Jesus doesn’t die tomorrow the world will know his true message without all the fairy tales added on.
     Deep in thought, Jerry lost track of the conversation around him. His ears perked up when he heard Benjamin say, “Too bad our friend Barabbas is in prison. He would’ve made a fine leader. At least he fights. At least he kills Romans.”
     Barabbas? Jerry thought. That name rings a bell. Jerry wracked his brain to remember some details. He could only recall that the crucifixion takes place on Friday afternoon and Judas’ betrayal of Jesus causes it to happen. I need to get to Judas, Jerry said to himself. He’s the key. If I can convince him not to betray Jesus, then Jesus will live.
     Simon stood up and said, “I’ve got to get going. I’m supposed to meet the fisherman Peter near the east gate, and he’ll take me to the secret room where Jesus will celebrate the Passover.” Then Simon said to Benjamin, “And you have to get going, too. You need to buy the unleavened bread for your Passover.”
     “That’s right,” Benjamin exclaimed as he slapped his forehead. “Come Jeremiah, we’re late. We need to leave right now.”
     “Hey, uh, Simon,” Jerry said nervously, “you’re going to see Judas tonight, right?”
     “That’s correct,” Simon answered.
     “Well, I need to talk to him,” Jerry said. “Tell him to meet me here early tomorrow morning, OK?”
     Simon looked at Jerry suspiciously. “Well, all right,” he said. “I’ll tell him.”
     “Thank you,” Jerry said. Then he thought to himself, Good, that will give me time to stop Judas before he betrays Jesus.
     As the sun moved lower and lower in the sky, Jerry and Benjamin walked quickly down one of old Jerusalem’s countless narrow streets. They purchased unleavened bread and herbs from a curbside vendor. The bread reminded Jerry of a small pizza without any sauce or toppings. Benjamin looked up and saw that the sun had dropped out of sight, hidden behind the two-story buildings that lined the street. The shadows were growing longer. “Come!” he said urgently to Jerry, “It’s almost sunset.” Then he broke into a trot. Jerry struggled to keep up. Man, I’m in lousy shape, he thought. I should’ve played more sports rather than watch them on TV all the time. As he huffed and puffed, he added, And these stupid sandals are painful. I wish I had my Nikes.
     Soon throughout all of Israel the Passover meal would be celebrated. As he jogged behind Benjamin, Jerry realized he never attended a Passover before. If Jerry knew little about the Catholic faith in which he had been raised, then he knew even less about the Jewish faith. I hope I’m not called on to say or do anything as part of the ceremony, he thought. I’ll be clueless.
     The Passover meal was held in the back room of an old home at the end of a desolate street. Jerry recognized a few of the other zealots he had seen in recent days. A couple of women and five children also were in attendance. Jerry thought the ritualistic aspects and the prayers of the ceremony were interesting, although mostly incomprehensible. He recognized references to Moses and the Exodus, but since his knowledge of the Old Testament was even less than his meager knowledge of the New Testament, it was all a blur. There were some solemn moments during the evening, but also much laughter. Jerry was relieved that no one asked him to say or do anything.
     Jerry was delighted with the food. The roasted lamb and fresh bread tasted fabulous, especially compared to the dried fish and stale bread he had survived on since being transported into this strange world. The food portions still were tiny, but everyone seemed genuinely grateful. Jerry thought about all the abundant material goods he had enjoyed back in Connecticut, even though he considered his family to be barely middle-class. There was always plenty of food, to the point where Jerry and Brenda worried about getting fat. They had closets full of clothes. Their house was modest by Connecticut standards, but they had a finished basement with a hi-definition flat screen TV, a sizeable yard, and the children had their own bedrooms.
     As he looked at the smiling faces around the room, despite being in the midst of what his former world would label as abject poverty, Jerry felt guilty. These people are really happy, he thought. And they’re so thankful for the little things. Jerry then thought about a recent argument he had with Brenda. Jerry wanted to get a bigger big-screen TV, having decided their 39-inch screen was woefully too small to watch the Yankees games. Brenda wanted instead to use the money to get braces for Jennifer’s teeth. That’s why Jerry went to Vinny’s house that fateful night. Vinny’s new TV was a full 60 inches. Jerry shook his head and thought, What a jerk I am. If I ever get back home…
     Jerry paused then shook his head again. His eyes got misty. What are the chances that will happen? he asked himself sadly. I’m stuck here.
     After the meal, and after a few more cups of wine, Benjamin said, “Jeremiah, it’s time to go.” They said their goodbyes and left the house. The streets were quiet and dark. The wine had put Benjamin in a good mood. The wine also had made Jerry feel better, until he began to think about his family back in Connecticut.
     They returned to the boarding house room, and had just laid down to sleep, when a frantic knocking at the door startled them. “It’s me, Simon,” they heard in a loud whisper. “Open up!”
     Benjamin lit a small oil lamp, then motioned for Jerry to unlock the door. When he did, Simon the Zealot ducked in and quickly shut the door behind him.
     “What’s the matter?” Benjamin asked. “Why are you here at this hour?” Then Benjamin and Jerry noticed that Simon was clutching a dagger. He looked terrified.
     “I don’t know if I was followed,” Simon gasped, as he struggled to catch his breath. “There must have been at least 50 Roman soldiers. And Temple guards, too.”
     “Where? What are you talking about?” Benjamin asked.
     “In the garden. In Gethsemane,” Simon said. “Jesus took us there after the Passover meal. But then we all dozed off, and suddenly the place was filled with soldiers. The fisherman Peter started to fight. He cut off a man’s ear with his knife. But the rest of us ran. The soldiers were too many. They would’ve slaughtered us if we stayed and fought.”
     “Why were soldiers there?” Benjamin said.
     “To arrest him,” Simon answered. “To arrest Jesus.”
     Jerry’s eyes grew as wide as saucers. “Oh no,” he mumbled out loud. “Now I remember. He gets arrested the night before, in a garden, not during the day on Friday. I’m too late!”
     The other two men looked at Jerry in confusion. Then Benjamin turned back toward Simon and said, “How did they know you were there?”
     “The Iscariot!” Simon said with a sneer. “That coward Judas brought the soldiers to us. He almost got us all killed!”
     After a pause, Benjamin asked, “So now what happens?”
     Simon shook his head and said, “I don’t know.”
     Jerry said, “I know.” The two men looked at him again. “Jesus will be crucified tomorrow afternoon,” Jerry said matter-of-factly.
     “Crucified?” Simon said. “And so soon? How do you know this?”

     “It’s a long story,” Jerry whispered as he sat on his bed of straw with his back against the wall. He no longer was sleepy, and he no longer had any idea what he would do next.

Friday, June 19, 2015

The ‘Wait, What?!’ of the Week, June 19, 2015

In the nearby town of Plymouth, CT, the town council recently approved a school budget that will spend more than $23.7 million on public education for the 2015-16 fiscal year. This is a $400,000 increase over what is being spent this year. In reaction to this, assistant high school principal Amy Radke exclaimed in horror, “Never in my wildest dreams would I believe this council would do that to the education budget. I am ashamed. This is the beginning of the end of our education system.”

Wait. What?! This little town is going to spend $23.7 million in taxpayer money on education next year—400 grand more than this year—and that is “the beginning of the end,” according to Ms. Radke? Apparently Ms. Radke’s forte in the education world is not mathematics, but rather fiction writing. It seems the final budget amount is about $200,000 less than what the school board originally requested. (Not $200,000 less than what is being spent this year, which would be a genuine reduction. But $200,000 less than the proposed $600,000 increase, which of course means a net $400,000 increase. But only in the world of government spending can a $400,000 increase be thought of as a shameful “cut.” Sheesh!)

Similar scenarios occur on a regular basis all across the country. Is anybody beside me getting fed up with this charade, where tax increases and spending increases are called “cuts,” and where government employees have indignant hissy fits when the taxpayers do not joyfully cough up every single penny that’s demanded? I have an idea how the town of Plymouth can free up an extra $200,000 of funding: fire a certain hysterical assistant principal. Her generous salary, health insurance, vacation days, sick days, personal days, and pension contributions surely cost the town at least 200 grand per year. Just sayin'.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

A Connecticut Yankee in King Jesus' Court -- part 4


Early Wednesday morning Jerry Francis and his companions, Benjamin and Simon the Zealot, left their smelly room in the squalid boarding house and walked through a maze of shadowy streets and alleyways in old Jerusalem. With each passing day since he arrived in this place, 20 centuries removed from his life in suburban Connecticut, Jerry thought less and less about home and more and more about the situation in which he was immersed. Oh, he certainly thought about his previous life, especially at night just before falling asleep. Jerry would shed tears as he longed to embrace his wife Brenda and his children Michael and Jennifer. Then each morning he woke up thinking for a moment that he was back in his own bed, in the 3-bedroom raised ranch on a cul-de-sac in Hamden. But one look around the dark and dank room made him realize he was still in Jerusalem, and his heart sank.
As Benjamin and Simon continued to plot the overthrow of the hated Roman occupiers, expecting Jesus of Nazareth to be their inspirational leader, Jerry wracked his brain to remember the details he was taught about Jesus in the catechism classes of his youth. I wish I had gone to church with Brenda once in a while, he thought to himself, frustrated that he had given the topic absolutely no thought in at least 20 years. But Jerry had a good excuse for not giving Jesus any thought for such a long time: he truly believed it was all fairy tales. Now that he was thrust into the middle of these events by some inexplicable cosmic force, the idea that it was all fairy tales seemed quite foolish. He was seeing the various incidents unfold right before his own eyes. Other than knowing that Jesus would be crucified on Friday, however, Jerry was vague about any other particulars.
For at least the hundredth time in the last three days Jerry reached for his right hip. Then he paused and shook his head with a frustrated grin. Oh yeah, he thought, I can’t do a Google search about the details of Holy Week because I don’t have an iPhone anymore. And even if I did, the Internet won’t exist for another 2,000 years.
The three men came to a doorway at the end of an especially narrow alley. Simon gave three quick raps on the door and waited impatiently while the door was unbolted from within. When the door started to swing open slowly, Simon and Benjamin pushed it forcefully, and quickly entered the building. Jerry followed more cautiously. It took a moment for his eyes to adjust to the darkness. Then he saw that it was Judas the Iscariot who had let them in. This was the meeting the men had planned the previous day while in the Temple courtyard. Jerry thought to himself, Hey, I also know something about Judas. He betrays Jesus…I think.
“I wasn’t sure if you would still be here,” Simon said to Judas with a sneer.
“Where else would I be?” Judas replied.
“I fully expected that you’d flee Jerusalem in fear and return to your hometown,” Simon answered. Benjamin looked at Simon and then looked toward Judas and vigorously nodded his head in agreement.
Judas shrugged his shoulders and offered a crooked smile. Apparently being accused of cowardice was a common occurrence, one to which Judas had grown accustomed.
Simon got right down to business. “OK,” he said, “we’re alone. There are no scary Pharisees or scribes around. So Judas, my friend, what exactly is Jesus doing? Why did he say we must give to Caesar what is Caesar’s? How is he going to rally the people behind him? How is he going to lead us to victory if he acknowledges that the Roman occupation of Israel is legitimate?”
“Simon, Simon,” Judas said. “I told you yesterday, I don’t know. I truly don’t know. You and I have been with Jesus day-in and day-out for almost three years. And as we’ve discussed quite often—sometimes to the point of you wanting to strike me—my views about Jesus’ mission are very different than your views. I’ve never thought he had any plans to drive the Romans out of Israel.”
On hearing this Jerry nodded his head in agreement. Benjamin noticed and gave Jerry an angry scowl.
“Well, what is his mission then, if you’re so smart?” Simon growled.
“I wish I knew!” Judas exclaimed as he wrung his hands. “I thought I understood. I thought Jesus was here to bring healing to our shattered nation. Emotional healing. Spiritual healing. Physical healing. You saw the miracles, Simon. You saw those cripples walk, those blind men see, those lepers completely cured. You saw those thousands of people feast on a few loaves of bread. You saw him walk on water. Jesus has been given divine power from on high. I thought he was going to use those powers to bring peace and prosperity to our land; peace and prosperity despite the Romans. I thought he was going to show us how to be happy and content and full of life, even as the Roman army occupies our nation. I thought he was going to give us freedom in our hearts and our minds and our souls.”
“Oh that’s nonsense!” Simon yelled. “You are a fool! There is no freedom as long as Romans take our property, rape our daughters, throw us in prison without charge, and terrorize our villages. The only useful thing Jesus can do is employ his divine powers to drive the Roman army out of our land. How can you possibly think we can be ‘free’ while still under the yoke of Rome?”
Judas took a deep breath and hung his head. He said quietly, “I no longer think that’s possible anymore. I am indeed a fool, Simon. I thought Jesus would teach our nation how to have inner peace despite all our hardships. But now I know that is not his plan.”
“What is his plan?” Benjamin asked.
“Jesus’ plan is simple,” Judas said matter-of-factly. “Jesus plans to die.”
Simon and Benjamin looked at each other in confusion. Jerry stared at Judas with fascination.
“Well, um, all good Jews are willing to die, if need be, to save our nation and further God’s kingdom,” Simon said. “Is that what you mean?
“No,” Judas said. “Of course all Jews must be ready to give up their lives for Israel and for God. But Jesus WANTS to die. And soon. He’s planning it right now. He has become so deluded, he somehow thinks his death will do something wonderful for our nation.”
“Wonderful?” Simon said angrily. “The only way someone’s death can be wonderful is if he kills four or five Romans in the process. Is that what Jesus is planning?”
“Hardly,” Judas laughed. “He has no interest in military things. I was correct early on when I realized this. You have never accepted this fact about Jesus, Simon. When he said, ‘Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,’ you were deaf. When he said, ‘Turn the other cheek,’ you only heard what you wanted to hear. There will be no revolt against Rome. At least no revolt led by Jesus.”
“Raca!” Simon swore as he slapped his hand against the wall in frustration. “So I’ve wasted three years of my life following that man?! You’re saying he will not use his amazing powers to free our nation?!”
“Simon, he will not use his powers even to free himself,” Judas said. “He wants to die. He thinks he is the ‘lamb of God.’ He thinks he is the true Passover sacrifice. He wants his own blood to be spilled as some sort of sacrifice.”
As Simon and Benjamin paced around the room, muttering to each other, Jerry watched Judas. Jerry’s mind raced as he tried to piece together fragments of information he was taught long ago about the Gospels.
When Simon and Benjamin began speaking to each other in a far corner of the room, Jerry leaned toward Judas and quietly said, “Did he really walk on water?”
Judas smiled. “Oh yes,” he answered. “He’s done many other miraculous things.”
Jerry nodded thoughtfully. Then he said, “By the way, I think you’re right. What you’re saying about Jesus sounds kind of right.”
Judas smiled weakly at Jerry. “Yes, I’m sure that’s what Jesus is planning to do.” He took a deep breath then added, “So that’s why I have to stop him.”
Jerry mouth hung open. “Oh wait,” he stammered. “No, don’t do it.”
“Do what?” Judas asked.
“Don’t betray him,” Jerry said.
“Betray him?” Judas said with a laugh. “I’d never betray him. I love him. I want to save him. Save him from himself.”
Simon and Benjamin walked back to the middle of the room. “This meeting is a waste of time,” Simon said. “Nothing you say makes sense, Iscariot. I have to find out what Jesus is really planning to do.”
“Well, if you don’t believe me,” Judas said, “ask him yourself. Tomorrow night is the Passover. You can ask him when we all gather at sundown.” Then Judas added, “I have to leave now, anyway.”
“Where are you going?” Simon asked. “To buy supplies for the Passover meal?”
“Uh, yes,” Judas said while glancing sideways to avoid eye contact.
“C’mon, let’s go meet up with some of the others and try to figure out our next move,” Simon said to Benjamin and Jerry.
As the three men walked through the doorway and into the now sunny alleyway, Jerry turned back and said to Judas, “Don’t do it.”
“Do what?” Judas asked again.
“Don’t meet with…” Jerry paused, his brain struggling to find the right words. “…with the High Priest.”
Judas’ eyes bulged wide in surprise. Absolutely no one else knew of Judas’ scheduled meeting later that day with the supreme religious leader of Israel. Jerry’s eyes also expressed surprise. How did I come up with “High Priest”? he asked himself, amazed that a tiny fragment of information from a distant 7th grade catechism class had emerged from the depths of his brain.

Simon and Benjamin walked up the alleyway, and Jerry started to follow. As Jerry walked he looked over his shoulder and stared at Judas, who was standing in the doorway returning the stare. As they continued to look into each other’s eyes, both men felt waves of anxiety well up inside.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Multi-Tasking Reduces Attention Span

We live in such a fast-paced world these days, it’s hard to keep up. To make matters worse, in the last decade a plethora of electronic gadgets has flooded our lives. Wait, is plethora the right word? Let me look it up with the Dictionary app on my tablet. Yup, OK, it means “overabundance” or “boatload.” Some guys I work with might say a different kind of load, as their language tends to be a little salty. Wait, is salty the right word? Hang on. Yes, that’s right.

Anyway, as I was saying, before I was so rudely interrupted by myself, there is so much information and mental stimulation coming at us from so many different directions nowadays, our lives have become like one of those nightmare dream sequences in a movie, where the main character is wandering through Times Square in a daze while zillions of people and lights go flashing by in a blur. What movie was that? Let me ask Siri on my iPhone. Hey Siri, what’s the movie with the guy wandering around Times Square? No, I don’t need a restaurant reservation in Times Square. I’m looking for a movie, maybe from the ‘70s, and the guy’s having a bad dream. No, I don’t need movie times for a theater on 70th street. Oh forget it. You are so stupid, Siri.

I’ve begun to realize in recent years that I spend all my waking hours multi-tasking. This comes in handy at work since I get bombarded with requests from a multitude of customers all day long. Wait, is multitude the right word? Hold on. Hmm, multitude is OK, but a better word would be host or horde or legion or swarm or, again, boatload. You know, having this dictionary/thesaurus application at my fingertips is pretty cool. I sure wish I had it when I took Freshman Composition in college. Maybe I wouldn’t have gotten a C-minus. Or maybe I could’ve just gone online and copied essays from some of those smart guys, like Walter Shakespeare and Clive Dickens. Wait, are those their right names? Let me look it up. Oh yeah, William and Charles. I knew that.

Where was I? Oh right, multi-tasking. During the day I have to juggle so many things in my head at once, because everyone is looking for product information or prices or delivery schedules, and they all need it ASAP. Oh wow, I just remembered I forgot to send a quotation to a good customer yesterday afternoon. Rats, he’s going to be honked off. Is honked the right word? Hang on. Yes, honked is one of many very appropriate and occasionally salty words. Let me make a note to get that quote to him. Let’s see, should I enter it as a “task” on my phone, tablet, or computer? I know, I’ll go the old-fashioned route: I’ll write a note to myself on a piece of paper. Um, does anybody have a pencil?

The thing about being bombarded with information these days is that my attention span is now about the same as a chipmunk on crack. Sometimes I can’t go more than a few moments — oh wait, here’s a pencil, but now I forgot what I was going to write down. Siri, what was I going to write a note to myself about? No, I don’t want to order a copy of “Notes to Myself” by Hugh Prather. What are you even talking about, Siri? 

Maybe I’m suffering from Attention Deficit Digital Disorder. Sometimes I think my brain is going into overload mode. Wait, is overload the right word? Hang on, this will only take a second — the exact length of my attention span.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

‘Attitude of Gratitude’ observation for Tuesday afternoon

I am grateful for the day’s first cup of coffee. Early in the morning, everything is silent and it’s still dark outside. (During June it’s hard to get up before the sun does, but I still manage to do so most of the time, presumably because the sun does not have a middle-aged bladder and can sleep later than me.) While still half asleep, the aroma emanating from the Kuerig machine is delightful. I wish it wasn’t so noisy, though. When the thing starts brewing, the pre-dawn silence is shattered by what seems like a wood chipper.

Sitting on the couch for a few minutes, praying and meditating a bit to get ready for another day, with a steaming mug of freshly-brewed coffee in my hand, has become my favorite time of the day. And no matter how good or freshly-brewed any subsequent cups of coffee might be, the first one of the day always tastes the best. Sometimes at night when I’m getting ready for bed, I’m already looking forward to the next morning’s first cup of coffee. This means I’m either learning to be grateful for small pleasures, or my life has become painfully boring. I prefer to think it’s the former, not the latter.

Monday, June 15, 2015

‘How Come You Catholics Worship a Piece of Bread?’

“How come you Catholics worship a piece of bread? Don’t you know that idolatry is the worst sin of all? And yet you Catholics bow down and worship the bread used during the communion service—which, of course, is only symbolic—as if was God. The idea that the bread becomes the body of Christ is not biblical. Therefore, you are committing the terrible sin of idolatry. That’s why you’re not real Christians!”

*     *     *

Wow, have you ever been confronted with these questions by a friend or co-worker or, most zealous of all, a family member who USED to be Catholic? How do you respond? Is it really true that we Catholics worship a piece of bread?

The Eucharist is a central part of the Catholic faith. In fact, the Catechism of the Catholic Church says the Eucharist is “the source and summit of the Christian life.” Why would a piece of bread and a cup of wine be so important? Well, that’s simple. It’s because the bread and wine truly become the body and blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ.

And the reason Catholics believe the bread and wine become the true body and blood of Christ also is simple: because Jesus said so.

Unlike what our zealous friends might claim, the doctrine of the Eucharist is VERY biblical. It’s one of the easiest Catholic doctrines to defend directly from Scripture. In John’s gospel, chapter 6, Jesus offered His “Bread of Life discourse.” He repeatedly said that people must eat His flesh and drink His blood. Unlike other times during His ministry—when He spoke in figurative terms and was quick to explain the figurative meaning if His listeners got confused—here Jesus did not offer a figurative explanation for His shocking statements. He actually doubled-down and repeated in even more graphic terms His original claim: people must eat His flesh and drink His blood.

As folks in the crowd began to leave, shocked by what He said, Jesus did not say, “Wait, come back. Let me explain. It was just symbolic.” Instead, He let them leave, and then turned to His 12 apostles and defiantly challenged them: “Do you also want to leave?”

Good ol’ Peter spoke up in reply, “To whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” In all likelihood, Peter was probably thinking, “I’m staying, but what you just said makes no sense!”

Maybe it started to make some sense at the Last Supper, when Jesus held up bread and wine and said, “This is my body….This is my blood.”

It certainly made sense to the apostle Paul, who wrote about the Eucharistic ritual in his first letter to the Corinthians: “Is not the cup…a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ?” The clincher comes a few verses later when Paul exclaimed, “Whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord….For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself.”

“…without RECOGNIZING the body of the Lord…” That does not sound like symbolic, figure-of-speech language, does it? It sure sounds like St. Paul knew without a doubt that the bread and wine are truly the body and blood of Jesus.

The Eucharist is the source and summit of the Christian life, because it truly is Jesus. Our Lord proclaimed it, the apostles believed it, and the Bible clearly teaches it. And as Catholics, we should not be defensive about it. 

Oh, and one last thing, in case you’re not sure: Catholics definitely ARE real Christians.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

‘Attitude of Gratitude’ observation for Sunday afternoon

I am grateful for just a wonderful day. Sitting on the back porch in the shade with my honey. The weather absolutely perfect: warm, comfortable, no humidity. Earlier today it was the parish’s annual chicken barbecue. The food was great, and we sat with Fr. Tim. Enjoyed the food and commiserated about the woeful Red Sox. Before that a great liturgy, being in communion with the Lord of the Universe by partaking of His body and blood, soul and divinity. How can it get any better??

Friday, June 12, 2015

The ‘Wait, What?!’ of the Week, June 12, 2015

For quite a while now we’ve been told that gay people are born that way and it’s impossible to change a person’s sexual orientation. To put a religious spin on it, we also are told that God doesn’t make mistakes, so if anyone says gay behavior is wrong then he is actually going against God who made gays that way.

Now, with the media circus known as Bruce/Caitlin Jenner, we are told that transgender people need to correct the mistake of their birth biology. In other words, hormones and mutilating surgeries are needed to correct the mistake that God made.

Wait. What?! God doesn’t make mistakes when it comes to gay people, but He does make mistakes with transgender people? Hmm, something is fishy here. 

I heard a term recently: “Polite fictions.” Our culture is teeming nowadays with polite fictions. Everybody smiles and says, “How nice,” all-the-while ignoring reality. And logic and reason are completely ignored too, such as the “God doesn’t make mistakes—except when He does” contradiction, and the “he fathered four children, but he’s really a woman” nonsense. I believe Pope Benedict called this the “tyranny of relativism,” the abandonment of truth, when feelings trump facts and emotions are more important than evidence. In this day and age the only thing that’s wrong is to claim that something is wrong. We venture down this path at our peril.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

‘Attitude of Gratitude’ observation for Thursday evening

I am grateful it is now that wonderful time of year when there are more than 15 hours of sunlight per day. A couple weeks on either side of the summer solstice is just an awesome period of time. Sunrise is around 5:15 am and sunset is about 8:30 pm. This means it’s actually light outside before 5, and it doesn’t get fully dark until after 9.

Of course, south of here it’s not quite as pronounced, while north of here it’s even more spectacular. Maybe one of these years I’ll visit Scandinavia during the third week of June. That must be really amazing to watch the sun ALMOST set, and then begin rising in the sky again. (See time-lapsed photo below.) It’s The Land of the Midnight Sun. But I’m quite happy here in The Land of the 15-Hour Per Day Sun. 

And for all you folks in Australia, sorry you’re experiencing the least amount of sunlight during the year, in this, the dead of winter in your hemisphere. But it’s not like you have two feet of snow on the ground, so I’m sure you can handle it!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Feeling Sorry For Bored Retirees

At my age (“three score minus two,” as Abe Lincoln might say), I’ve noticed that a lot of the guys I went to school with are starting to retire. I don’t mean “retire” in the sense that they got laid off when the big corporations they worked for downsized them out the door (or as Abe Lincoln might say, “Dumped the chumps approaching the age of three-score”). Nowadays, these fellas spend their weekdays going to job interviews, where they beg young smart-alecks to hire them, and then they spend their weekends at Home Depot earning a part-time paycheck, where they beg other young smart-alecks to explain the stupid computer system one more time. No, I’m not talking about these guys when I say “retire.”

The folks my age to whom I refer are the ones who actually retire on purpose. These are the select few who were smart enough 30 years ago to get a job with an organization that offers a “magic pension,” something the vast majority of us can only dream about. A “magic pension,” by the way, is one that pays a set amount each month (plus annual cost of living increases) for the rest of the pensioner’s life — even if he lives to be 120 years old. It’s called “magic” because the funds flow from a fiscal fountain that never runs dry. So when I say these folks were smart enough to get a job with a particular organization, the organization, of course, is the government. These guys are civil servants.

Now, you may get the impression from what I’ve written so far that I am jealous of state employees who are still in their 50’s and who can retire with full pensions for life, while private sector dummies like me have to work until age 80 in order to have enough money for retirement. (And we have to make sure we die at 83 or else the money runs out.)

I’m not jealous of these guys. In fact, I feel sorry for them. Think about it: here they are, in the prime of middle-age, with lots of experience, lots of knowledge, and enough energy to work the standard 50-hour week. (Oops, I forgot, they’re staties. I mean 35-hour week.) And what do they do instead? They sleep late. They play golf. They nap. They go out to dinner each night. They watch TV whenever they want. And sometimes they go on vacation — but how can you even tell? What a sad existence. And they’re stuck in this same boring routine for the next 25 years or more. 

These poor schmoes are missing out on the really challenging and fulfilling aspects of life, for example: the thrill of juggling six phone calls at the same time from irate customers, who are preventing you from making six outgoing phone calls to other customers who haven’t paid an invoice since February, in the hope that you might collect enough money in the next 24 hours to meet payroll this week. Now, that’s entertainment! That is nothing like the boring retirement life of golf, Judge Judy, watering the petunias, and ordering the early bird special.

The non-retired life, my life, is a life filled with purpose. It’s a life where you are needed. It’s a life where other people really depend on you — to the point where they won’t hesitate to give you a mouthful of bloody Chiclets and slash your tires if their paychecks bounce. 

So, being only “three score minus two,” I’ve got at least “one score and two” years to go before I can retire. And I wouldn’t have it any other way (mostly because I can’t).