The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!

Although I am an ordained deacon of the Catholic Church, the opinions expressed in this blog are my personal opinions. In offering these personal opinions I am not acting as a representative of the Church or any Church organization.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Random Thoughts

What follows are just a few random thoughts that popped into my aging brain as I scanned the news yesterday evening and this morning. Among them are a few predictions, which will likely be very wrong indeed. In truth, though, I've sometimes done pretty well looking into the future. For example, back in 1967 when I was making my way through Navy flight training in Pensacola, I would occasionally chat with another flight student who happened to be a Saudi. It didn't take long to realize that he and his colleagues despised us. These conversations and other subsequent interactions I had with military officers from Muslim nations convinced me that our greatest future threat would come from the Islamic world, a threat motivated by a kind of irrational fanaticism. Whenever I aired these concerns in military circles the response was predictable: "You're crazy. It's the Soviet Union we need to worry about, not a bunch of Arabs." This attitude changed on 9/11/2001.

More recently I got quite good at predicting President Obama's actions involving the Middle East. My rule of thumb? Any action he took, any decision he made, would always support the Shiite Muslims. I may be wrong, but I believe this stemmed from the fact that his father was supposedly a Shiite. But enough of the past...

Bye-bye Europe. If you plan to vacation in Europe, I'd suggest you do so soon, while it still exists. The pro-abortion vote in once Catholic Ireland is just one more symptom of Europe's rapid decay. The acceptance of abortion, indeed the entire contraceptive mentality that has gripped much of Western Civilization for the past 50 years, is the primary cause of its future destruction. Once a people decides its weakest can be destroyed for any reason whatsoever, human life at every stage becomes essentially worthless. This can lead to nothing but the people's ultimate self-eradication.

The root causes? Europe's movers and shakers openly deny its Judeo-Christian roots and have convinced most of the population to do the same. In fact, Europe has discarded Christianity to such an extent that today European atheists quite likely outnumber its active Christians. And Europe's Jews are more at risk than anytime since the 1930s. It's all very sad and so predictable. Once the cult is removed from a culture there's really nothing left that's worth saving. I expect that my children and grandchildren will witness Europe's accelerating destruction from a kind of continent wide civil war. It will be messy, fueled by an immigrant-led insurgency, a confused and suicidal secular establishment, and a feisty nationalistic remnant. Think of Syria on a continental scale. Messy indeed.

Memorial Day Forgotten. I had hoped to visit the national cemetery in Bushnell, Florida on Memorial day, but then discovered that, along with Diane I was assigned as on-call chaplain at The Villages Hospital. And so we spent a few hours popping in and out of the rooms of the newly admitted folks, praying with them, talking and laughing about all sorts of things, and spreading God's love and mercy wherever He thought it was needed. It made for a good morning, and got my mind off of the weirdness that seems to arise on Memorial Day.

Every Memorial Day I suffer because of the stupidity and ignorance of so many. Yesterday, for example, some leftist talk show host stated that on this day we should honor those who resist President Trump. Hearing such talk from the left encourages me since I can't believe most Americans could possibly agree. If the day ever comes when a majority discard the true meaning of Memorial Day and replace it with such gross political tripe, we are doomed as a nation.

Then there's the trivial uttered by the clueless. Earlier yesterday morning a smiling TV meteorologist declared that Memorial Day is "really the day we celebrate the beginning of summer, the first real beach day!" She was hoping to join her family for a week's vacation at the Jersey shore.

Of course there are also those well-meaning but ignorant folks who confuse their holidays. One news flunky told everyone to "be sure to thank all those veterans out there on this day when the nation  remembers them." Yes, it's always nice to be thanked (on Veterans Day), but the ones we thank on Memorial Day are the ones resting in peace in our national cemeteries.

And I try to ignore all those who create the commercials and newspaper ads that use Memorial Day as a way to push their wares.

I really think the decline began in June 1968 when Congress voted to change the dates of four of our national holidays to give people three-day weekends. No longer would Memorial Day be celebrated on May 30; we would now salute our fallen on the last Monday of May. With this, people began to think more of the long weekend with its barbecues and trips to the shore than of those who gave their lives so we could taste such pleasures in the freedom they won and preserved for us.
Antifa Doing Their Thing
Democrat Crack-Up. I don't understand the Democrat party. Their visceral hatred of Donald Trump has seemingly blinded them to the reality of political life. Not long ago the polls (if you can believe them) gave the Democrats a huge lead in the upcoming November mid-term elections. Now those same polls show them several points behind. The party, which once had a rather large, influential, and moderate center, now seems to be led by those of the far left. Even Hillary, who's not all that moderate, recently complained that the socialists (aka Marxists) have taken over the party's leadership. And at the grassroots level it has become a party of far left special interests -- Antifa, Black Lives Matter, Planned Parenthood, CAIR, La Raza, Southern Poverty Law Center, etc. -- that certainly don't represent the beliefs of most least not yet. Has the party become so ideological that it has lost the ability to engage in any kind of bipartisan effort or seek productive compromise? It would seem so. If the Democratic far left wins in November I suggest you pack your bags and go off the grid.

The Senator's Father
John McCain. Let me state up-front that, even though I voted for him, I've never been a fan of John McCain. I got to know his father, Admiral John S. McCain, years ago when he was Commander-in-Chief Pacific. As a young junior officer and Navy helicopter pilot I flew him around Hawaii for a few weeks and during this time had a number of interesting conversations with this crusty, cigar-smoking admiral. I developed a tremendous respect for him.

As for Senator McCain, I've always thought he was too much the politician. For me that's perhaps the worst thing you can say about a public figure since I can't think of a single career politician I respect. I'm sure there are a few deserving some respect; I just can't think of one. Career politicians, driven by their desire to remain in office, tend to lose whatever philosophical and moral grounding they might once have had. Lacking this firm foundation they say whatever is necessary to appease the voters and then do what is necessary to maintain power. I won't denigrate Senator McCain's patriotism because he certainly suffered at the hands of the Communist butchers of then North Vietnam. This, however, happened years ago and I have many friends who suffered right alongside him. No man should be judged solely on the good or bad he did in the distant past.

I'm concerned more with the senator's recent political antics that seem to be focused more on creating problems for his personal foe, President Trump, than on the good of the country. The latest piece of news is that he is waiting until after June 30 to resign, thus eliminating the need to have an election for his seat this year. This would allow Arizona Governor Doug Ducey to name McCain's wife, Cindy, to serve as senator until the 2020 elections. If this is true -- and I don't know that it is -- it seems to be just another example of a career politician's sense of entitlement. The voters are ignored so the politician's plans can be fulfilled. We'll just have to wait a month to find out.
John and Cindy McCain
I'm sorry that the senator is dying but that's something we must all face. As Senator McCain approaches his death, I ask God to grant him the same grace I hope and pray He grants me: that John McCain, the man, has the will to repair any damaged relationships he may have caused; that he is humble enough to heal any wounds he may have inflicted; and that he turn to His merciful God and Judge in repentance.

God's peace...

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Homily: Saturday, 7th Week of Easter

Readings: Acts 28:16-20,30-31; Ps 11; Jn 21:20-25


For the homilist, today's readings present a bit of a dilemma. There's just so much on which to reflect, to preach, and to pray. And so I decided it was best just to turn it over to the Holy Spirit in prayer and ask for His help.

You see, our readings today are somewhat special, because they're the final verses of both the Acts of the Apostles and John's Gospel. In a sense they sum up all that’s gone before.

Luke began and ended his Gospel in Jerusalem, and it's in that city, too, where he began his second  book, the Acts of the Apostles. In Acts we follow Paul on his journeys through the Greek-speaking world, as he establishes local churches and calls people to Christ while moving inexorably toward his destination, toward Rome, the new Jerusalem.

St. Paul, under house arrest in Rome
In today's reading we encounter Paul in the final days of his ministry. Imprisoned in Rome, he awaits execution at the hands of Nero, the emperor who will also take the life of Peter. And it's there, in Rome, where Paul – as Luke tells  us – "with complete assurance and without hindrance he proclaimed the Kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ."

Yes, Paul remains the true disciple as he completes his earthly journey of faith. For us the journey of discipleship is much the same – a journey that carries us toward new “Jerusalem,” this “Rome,” a journey filled with all kinds of experiences, the good, the bad, and the ugly. Like Paul’s ours is a journey of discipleship, one of discovery, and praise, and wonder, and prophecy fulfilled. 

But we, too, will sometimes encounter obstacles or outright barriers, or simply head off in the wrong direction, only to be called back by the Holy Spirit. And just like Jesus and Paul, we need opportunities to rest along the way and regain our strength, for discipleship is no easy road.

Jesus knows this. He knows our weaknesses, all those little pieces of us that crave attention, all that calls us away from Him. And so He comes to us again and again, giving us a taste of that which awaits us.

Paul knew this too, which is why he told the Jews who visited him in Rome, and he tells us, that we share in the hope of Israel, a hope fulfilled in Jesus’ death and resurrection. Keep the faith, Paul tells us, don’t let all the stuff of our lives distract us from the eternal.

Paul Visited by Jewish Leaders
Peter also learns this, and will preach just as Paul does. But as John’s Gospel comes to a close, we encounter a Peter just beginning his formation as a disciple, a Peter who’s still full of questions, still awaiting the fullness of the Holy Spirit. In his heart Peter knows he’s been given a very special task – “Feed my lambs, feed my sheep” – and no doubt he fears all that it will bring. Suspecting Jesus has given him the hardest road to travel, he points to young John, the fair-haired boy, the one whom Jesus loved, and asks, “What about him?”

Peter is so devilishly human, isn’t he? He’s so much like you and me, so worried about himself, always comparing himself to others, unaware that God doesn’t compare, that God sees each of us exactly as we are.

Jesus tells Peter this, in effect saying: “Look, Peter, don’t worry about John, or my plans for him. It’s really none of your business. Just do the work I’ve given you.” And to ensure Peter understands, he adds, “You follow me!”
'What if I want him to remain until I come?
What concern is it of yours? You follow me.'
How often are we just like Peter, so caught up in what others are doing that we neglect the work God has given us.

What is God calling you to do – not next week or next month or next year – but what is His will for you today, right now?

Life is a gift, brothers and sisters, and it can end at any moment. If we take each of those moments that God gives us, and simply follow Him, always doing His will in all the seemingly little things, one moment to the next, He will lead us to the big things.

Even though we’re struggling and broken and torn and sinful, God continues to call us to the work He has for us. He calls us in the moment, in the little things of our lives, in the things He knows we can handle.

This is what Divine Mercy is really all about: it’s about God’s love bringing us back to Him, repeatedly, one tiny piece at a time.

And that’s what discipleship is all about. It’s a total offering of self, an offering of all those pieces, an offering that God willingly accepts.

Through His love, His mercy, and the working of the Holy Spirit, He puts together the pieces and makes us whole once again so we can do our part to complete Christ’s mission on earth.

Just follow me, he commands. We need do nothing else.

Homily: Feast of St. Matthias - May 14

Readings:  Acts 1:15-17, 20-26; Psalm 113; Jn 15:9-17

Today we honor St. Matthias, apostle and martyr. We don't really know too much about Matthias, other than what we just heard from the first chapter of Acts, Matthias' one and only appearance in Scripture.

We know he was one of the 70 disciples of Jesus, and had been with Him from His baptism by John all the way to the Ascension. And we know that Peter, in the days following the Ascension, proposed to the assembled brethren that they choose one of their number to replace Judas, the betrayer of Jesus. Two disciples, Joseph, called Barsabas, and Matthias were selected; lots were drawn; and Matthias joined the ranks of the Apostles. And that's about all we know for certain about Matthias.

Tradition has it that he preached the Gospel for 30 years in Judea, in Cappadocia in Asia Minor, then in Egypt and Ethiopia. Reportedly he was martyred in 80 A.D. by being stoned to death in Colchis, which is in modern-day Georgia on the Black Sea. It would seem Matthias got around. And I remember being shown his relics by one of the resident priests of the basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome. They were reportedly brought to Rome by St. Helena back in the fourth century.

So, that's about it. With such a paucity of information one might think we have little to learn from St. Matthias. But that would be a mistake. His brief story really has a lot to teach us.

First of all we learn that, from the very beginning, Jesus' disciples considered the apostolic foundation of the Church to be essential. Jesus had chosen twelve, the number of the tribes of Israel; and if His Church, the New Israel, was to come from His disciples, a twelfth apostle was needed to succeed the unfaithful Judas.

The idea of apostolic succession, then, is introduced right from the start. Matthias is chosen and numbered among the apostles. They, in turn, hand on to him what they received directly from Jesus. This is a cause for rejoicing on our part, rejoicing that the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church today is the same Church that Jesus established. Our Bishops are the successors of the apostles, and Church is still guided by apostolic leadership under the Holy Spirit.
Apostolic Succession
Someone else we encounter is Peter, the apostle singled out by Jesus to lead the brethren. Yes, we see Peter, in all humility, taking on this role of leadership. He calls on Scripture for support. He then clearly defines the qualifications of the one they must choose. And once two candidates have been proposed, he calls the community to prayer in the Holy Spirit. Peter's role as Vicar of Christ is, therefore, solidified. He's shown to be the foundational rock on which the Church will be built and will grow through the ages. And it's a role that becomes increasingly evident as Luke continues to relate the history of the early, Apostolic Church.

Of course this incident might lead us to ask: why Matthias and not the other? Why not Joseph, the one called Barsabas? We don't know...and neither did the assembled disciples. For instead of choosing between the two, they let the Holy Spirit decide, and cast lots.
The Holy Spirit Descends on the Church 
If might seem odd to us that they chose an apostle by a roll of the dice. And yet, there's a kind of purity in it...a purity of faith. They prayed to the Spirit and then in a remarkable act of faith, they let the Spirit make the decision.

I'm sure it was humbling for both Matthias and Joseph: for Matthias since he would constantly be reminded that he was not chosen to be an apostle because of any merit on his part; and for Joseph because he was in effect chosen to serve the Lord in some other capacity. And yet, I'm sure that Joseph, as a devoted disciple, went on to live the same faithful, committed life that had caused the other disciples to consider him. He might not have been chosen, but he was certainly choose-able. One thing Matthias, Joseph, and all the disciples knew: but for the grace of God, they would have remained terrible sinners.

And, brothers and sisters, the same is true of us. Through His love for us, and in his infinite mercy, God has called each of us to faith. Like the apostles, we must always be humble and grateful; for we can claim no good thing to our own credit.  All that we are and all that we have that is good comes from God.

Today let's take a lesson from the apostles and turn always to the Holy Spirit in prayer. Only then can we come to rely on Him to guide us each step of our journey. But how much do we really rely on the Holy Spirit to lead and guide us?

And let's not forget what Jesus calls us to do, what we must do if we are to be one of His disciples. Quite simply, He calls us to love others just as He has loved us. He calls us His friends; and true friends have love for each other, a love so great that they will give their lives for each other. Do we allow ourselves the time to grow in friendship with Jesus?

I hope so, brothers and sisters, for we too have been chosen - just like Matthias and just like Joseph -- to fulfill God's commandment so that love of God will endure in our world.