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.

Monday, November 25, 2019

AI: Clever Stuff, If a Bit Creepy

I've been aware of and followed the developments in artificial intelligence for decades. I'm by no means an expert, just an interested bystander who finds the field rather fascinating, if a little scary. I'm sure many of you share these same sentiments. It's convenient to allow technology to relieve us of many of the repetitive, mundane, and time-consuming tasks that fill our days, thus freeing us to focus on those things only humans can do. The trouble is, defining that strictly human work has become increasingly difficult as AI capabilities have expanded to include much more than simple tasks. 

For example, autonomous (self-driving) cars and trucks are already on our roads and will no doubt continue to improve. Ultimately, when autonomous vehicles actually prove to be safer than vehicles driven by human beings, we will have to answer the question: "Should humans still be permitted to drive cars?" I suspect at some point the answer wiill be, "No!"

I suppose my first involvement with AI dates to my years teaching computer science at the U.S Naval Academy during the years 1973 to 1976. Several of my faculty colleagues had managed to access an entry node into what was then called the ARPANET. I suppose, in a sense we hacked our way into the network. ARPANET (Advanced Research Projects Agency) was a Department of Defense effort aimed at creating a worldwide network accessible by government researchers, technology companies, and academic institutions through which they could access powerful computer systems from a distance. ARPANET was actually the predecessor to the Internet that we know and love today. 

I remember, during one of our ARPANET searches, coming across a program developed by someone at Stanford Research Institute. The program was called "Parry" because it simulated a person with paranoid tendencies. When you ran the program you could type in a question and it would offer seemingly paranoid responses. All very amusing 45 years ago. Not long ago I came across an interesting 1974 critique of Parry: Ten Criticisms of Parry.

Motivated by Parry, pretty much as a lark, I decided to write a poem-generating program -- cleverly called "Poem" -- which I occasionally enhanced during my three years teaching at the Academy. It was actually a good teaching tool. It held the students' iinterest and showed that programming wasn't restricted to mathematical, engineering, or scientific applications.

My first, rather simple version generated free verse in ten-syllable iambic pentameter. If I recall correctly (and it's been a while), my final version generated rhyming verses in a variety of meters, and even created some rather weird similes. The program was publicly available on the Academy's computer time-sharing network and was a big hit with midshipmen who sent this computer-aided doggerel to their girlfriends. I was hoping to code a sonnet-writing program, but never had the time before I was transferred back to sea duty and flyiing helicopters.

Today, thanks to Amazon and Apple, we have Alexa and Siri talking to us, recognizing our voices, answering our questions, running our homes, and listening in on our domestic lives. Very handy things, but, yes, more than a bit creepy.

For example, the other day I picked up my new iPhone and asked, "Hey Siri, what's the temperature?" She responded with, "It's about 81 degrees." Thinking the modifier "about" was somewhat odd when giving such an exact temperature, I turned to Alexa and asked, "Alexa, what's the temperature?" She said, "Dana [yes, Alexa recognizes my voice...], it's currently 81 degrees Fahrenheit in The Villages. Today's high will be 83 degrees, with a low of 67." Diane, having overheard these exchanges between me and the two disembodied female voices, said, "Alexa, you're a lot smarter than Siri." How did Alexa respond? In a way I never imagined: "We all have our gifts."

Yes, indeed, we've come a long way from paranoids and poems to personal partners who at some point will probably know more about you and me than we know about ourselves. I suppose the larger question is: what will be left for humans to do -- in the workplace, the home, the world? And what will happen when the tools become more intelligent than the toolmakers?

Something Rotten in the U.S.Navy

I wrote the following three or four days ago, but never got around to posting it because of family issues that have taken my time. But in light of events that were reported this morning -- the Secretary of a Defense fired the Secretary of the Navy -- I thought I should probably post it now. Here goes...


From 1963 to 1993 I wore the uniform of the U. S. Navy: four years as a Mishipman at the U.S. Naval Academy; 12 years as a regular naval officer;  another 15 as an officer in the Navy reserve; and finally retiring as a Captain. My grandfather was a veteran of the Spanish American War and the Boxer Rebellion in China. My dad was a veteran of World War Two and retired as a Colonel in the Army reserve. My only brother, a West Pointer, served in Vietnam and spent almost 15 years in the Army. My younger son is a former Marine. Military blood flows in our family's veins. I begin with this family sketch merely to assure the reader that I'm not some anti-military wacko, who believes the nation can defend itself from all enemies, foreign and domestic, without the help of a military. Believe me, then, when I express tremendous respect for and gratitude to the United States Navy. It seems, however, the Navy has changed.

Back in October, a Navy court upheld Chief Petty Officer Eddie Gallagher's conviction on a single charge of posing with the corpse of an Islamic State fighter in Iraq. Chief Gallagher, a Navy SEAL, had been acquitted on six charges, including the murder of the ISIS terrorist. He was sentenced to a reduction in rank, which could cost him upwards of $200,000 in retirement. 

I won't spend a lot of space and time addressing Chief Gallagher's trial, but it was a travesty, the result of improper and illegal actions by a prosecution determined to do anything for a conviction. The prosecution, abetted by agents of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (aka NCIS), conducted warrantless surveillance and even tracked the emails of Chief Gallagher's defense team. They're also being investigated for manipulating witness statements, misusing immunity grants, and attempting to keep pro-Gallagher witnesses from testifying by using a bogus “target letter.” It appears they also attempted to taint the military jury pool by illegally leaking documents to the media. Worse yet, they then tried to cover it all up when their shenanigans surfaced. It would seem the fix was in, and most likely came from above.

But last week President Trump signed an order reversing the sentence and promoting Chief Gallagher to the grade of E-7, the rank he held before the trial. This, of course, is something the Commander-in-Chief  has every right to do. And I applaud him for doing so.  

The prosecution of Chief Gallagher also sheds light on the politicization of the Department of Defense. Sadly, far too many senior officers are little more than self-serving careerists. For example, Rear Admiral Collin Green, who heads the Navy's Special Warfare Command, seemingly believes the president shouldn't have overturned Chief Gallagher's single conviction and decided to challenge his Commander-in-Chief by convening what's called a Trident Review Board to force Chief Gallagher to give up his SEAL Trident pin. In other words, because the Cammander-in-Chief intervened, Admiral Davis cannot punish the Chief using what has become a corrupt military justice system. And so, Admiral Davis decided to punish him administratively by, in effect, expelling him from the SEAL community he served loyally for so long.

But President Trump will have none of it. After learning of Admiral Davis' plans to strip Chief Gallagher of his Trident, the president tweeted the following on Thursday: “The Navy will NOT be taking away Warfighter and Navy Seal Eddie Gallagher’s Trident Pin. This case was handled very badly from the beginning. Get back to business!” Yes, indeed, "Get back to business!" Always good advice when you've drifted away from your primary mission. 

In addition to his tacit insubordination, Admiral Davis has also been accused of making contemptuous comments about the president during meetings with subordinates (His spokesperson denies this.) and firing several senior enlisted personnel and officers who apparently supported Chief Gallagher. Interestingly, in the midst of all this, a spokesperson for Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Mike Gilday, stated that the CNO "supports his commanders in executing their roles, to include Rear Adm. Green." We'll see if that support holds if Admiral Green continues in his attempts to thwart his Commander-in-Chief. I'd also encourage the CNO, in addition to supporting his commanders, to support the men and women who actually form the pointy end of the spear, those who must often make near instantaneous life and death decisions under conditions JAG lawyers will never experience. 

Given the leadership problems plaguing the Navy's Special Warfare community, I'm surprised the president hasn't told SECNAV to replace much of that leadership with officers who understand the concept of the chain of command. In the past, if a senior officer disagreed with a superior's decision or order, and for whatever reason could not accept it, he would act honorably and resign or retire. But he certainly would not work in the shadows in an effort to undermine the superior's decision. After what we've seen from the FBI, the Justice and State Departments, and the intelligence community, it would seem a lot of folks in Washington are more concerned with preserving and protecting their power than the Constitution.


After today's firing, I suspect there may be a few more changes in the Department of the Navy.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Going Poilitical Again...

Since the 2016 presidential campaign, my opinion of our president has undergone more than a little change. I was no Trump supporter, but neither was I a "never-Trumper." Before and immediately after his election I was leery of the man and his intentions. It was hard to believe he really meant what he said, especially when some of what he said, and how he said it, seemed so outrageous at the time. For example, his campaign comments about John McCain's status as a POW during the Vietnam conflict were particularly offensive to me, a veteran of that war and, like McCain, a naval aviator. I was never a fan of John McCain, the man or the politician, and believe the Republicans couldn't have chosen a worse candidate to compete with Barack Obama. But McCain's military service was honorable and not worthy of ridicule by someone who never served in the military. This, plus other Trumpian campaign statements, caused me concern. And yet, despite my misgivings about the man, I predicted Donald Trump's election fairly early (see my post of July 18, 2016), and did so for a number of reasons:

First, I agreed with candidate Trump that the American people had become increasingly fed up with career politicians, especially Washington politicians, who promise everything and anything during their campaigns. Once established in Congress, however, many, perhaps most, vote against the good and the will of their constituents, and do so without embarrassment. I thought that Donald Trump's clearly stated mission -- Drain the Swamp -- appealed to enough voters to make his election probable.
Bill and Hilary
And second, although Hillary Clinton was perhaps the best candidate the Democrat party could have nominated, she was still a horrible candidate. She seemed to exhibit an attitude of entitlement, as if she and only she deserved to be president. This is the kind of elitist attitude despised by many Americans. It's an attitude we'd expect from socialist elites who believe they are so much smarter than the rest of us that they should have the power to plan every aspect of our lives. Despite her husband's Rhodes Scholarship and his two terms as president, I'm pretty sure she's convinced she's the smarter of the two. She might well be right. I also believe a large number of Americans had come to view her as unethical in the extreme and hoped she and her husband would vanish from the public square. Some voters probably feared a Clinton presidency more than they hoped for a Trump presidency. And others simply didn't believe her or like her. I never really thought Hilary Clinton could be elected president. I could not believe our nation had fallen that low.

Donald Trump won the election, and like most of the nation, I sat back and wondered how this most unusual president would carry out the responsibilities of the office. Since then, however, I have come to appreciate his rather unorthodox approach to things political. Don't get me wrong, though; I am still astonished, and often perplexed, by some of his comments (and his tweets). And yet his use of Twitter and other unorthodox means to communicate directly to the American people and the world, thus bypassing a hostile and increasingly irrelevant media, is a stroke of true genius. Although I don't always agree with the man. I suspect we're probably on the same page more often than not. And most surprisingly I usually know exactly where Donald Trump stands on any given issue. If he changes his stance, he doesn't dance around the issue, but lets us know. He is actually willing to admit a change in belief or policy, and to tell us why. This is more than refreshing; it's unheard of in modern American politics. We have become so accustomed to politicians and their constant lawyerly spin (apologies to my few honest lawyer friends) that we have come to accept their behavior as "normal."

The career politician's approach to his responsibilities eludes me. I've known quite a few over the years, and if I were to name one trait that most of them shared it would be their unfamiliarity with the truth. Instead of accepting the Gospel maxim, "The truth will set you free" [Jn 8:32], they seem to believe that the truth will lose elections. A few weeks ago, a friend asked me to name the members of Congress whom I most respect, and I decided it would be best to ignore the question. Whenever I've spoken well of a politician he or she soon says or does something that causes me to regret my words of praise.

President Trump Rally
I'm pretty sure President Trump honestly believes he is speaking the truth. And he delivers it in plain, non-political, unrehearsed language. It's the kind of talk most Americans hear around the dinner table or when they share their views at work or with their friends. Like me, you might not always agree with him, but unless you're a denizen of the far left, consumed by hate, you probably find him refreshing.

As I look back on the past few years, I am truly amazed that Donald Trump, who is so despised by the mainstream media and his political enemies on both sides of the congressional aisle, has accomplished so much. But even more amazing, to me at least, is that I am in agreement with so many of these accomplishments.

Perhaps most encouraging is his pro-life record, one surpassing that of all his predecessors. I never expected this of him, largely because other Republican presidents talked pro-life during their campaigns but did little while in office. I just assumed Donald Trump would be no different. How inspiring to encounter a president who took action and courageously took the heat that predictably followed.
Pro-Life Support for Trump
I also agree with President Trump's decision to move our embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Israel is our only real ally in the Middle East, the only nation in the region with a truly representative form of government. Israel isn't perfect, but then neither are we. And every nation, including Israel, should strive to do what is best to further its citizen's interests and defend itself from aggressors. The rest of the region is a sewer, a collection of despotic regimes that truly despise both Israel and the United States. Worse, far too many of them support, bankroll, or harbor the Islamist terrorists that have plagued the world for so long.

Like Trump, I too am not a big fan of the nation-building goals of our protracted wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, although I'll admit my views have undergone some change in recent years. But I've always believed that any effort to develop democratic systems in Muslim-majority nations is doomed to failure. Islam is far more than a religion; it is a societal totality that strives to permeate and control every aspect of a people's life. Its governing rule of law -- shariah -- is simply incompatible with democratic, representative forms of government. Any attempt to democratize a fervently Muslim nation will eventually fail. Such attempts will also be overwhelmed by the growing number of Muslims willing to use force (I.e., terror) to achieve their Islamist ends. 

Pope Benedict XVI (2006)
Most informed people now realize Pope Benedict was absolutely correct when he addressed violence and Islam during his Regensburg lecture in 2006. It was the ideological intolerance of both Islamists and Western academics that drove the criticism and violence that followed the pope's well-reasoned remarks.

President Trump has shown he understands the need to destroy the Islamist terrorist organizations whenever and wherever they arise and thrive. This may well be his most difficult international challenge because this aim runs counter to the appeasement efforts of so many of our European allies, and of too many in our own government, including both the state and defense departments. Yes, indeed, it's easy to hide in that murky swamp water.

President Obama made a total mess of the Middle East. Examining his policy in the region, one would think his every decision was driven by what would be best for the Shiites of both Syria and Iran. His do-nothing approach to the atrocities the Syrian government inflicted on its people only strengthened Russian presence in the region and increased Iranian influence. Repairing the long-term damage caused by President Obama's agreement with the Iranians is a case in point. I find myself in full agreement with President Trump's decision to dump the agreement, a non-treaty even the current Congress would never have supported. Russia and China are certainly long-term threats, but Iran, the world's foremost exporter of terror, must be dealt with today.

I also support the president's tax cut, a piece of legislation to which only a socialist would object. Whenever we have slashed taxes, especially taxes on businesses, the economy has boomed. It happened when John Kennedy cut taxes, just as it happened when Ronald Reagan did the same. And yet not a single House or Senate Democrat voted for this tax cut. Democrats have certainly changed since Kennedy's time. Indeed, their rejection of the legislation tells us much about the current core beliefs of the Democrat party, a party that has moved increasingly to the far and irrational left.
What the Democrat Party Once Believed
President Kennedy, when promoting his plan to cut taxes, said, "It is a paradoxical truth that tax rates are too high today and tax revenues are too low -- and the soundest way to raise revenues in the long run is to cut taxes now." He was right and his tax cuts led to a period of remarkable economic growth. Like Kennedy and Reagan, Trump also ignored the deficit hawks of his own party, believing that the tax cut will, in the long run, lead to a significant increase in revenues. Ironically, many Democrats, and more than a few Republicans, who have never uttered a word against increased deficits were suddenly all aflutter, expressing fears about the legislation's potential impact on the deficit. Go figure.

When it comes to immigration I find myself wondering why we don't focus on the root cause of illegal immigration. Most immigrants flock to our borders because they want to leave the failing economies and corrupt governments of their native lands. How often have individual bishops, much less the USCCB, challenged the corrupt governments of Latin America and elsewhere? They seem far more interested in attacking our nation for trying to control immigration and protect our borders. And how often do our politicians do anything to encourage our corrupt neighbors to change their ways? If these nations actually developed free economies and truly representative governments perhaps they, too, would become lands of opportunity. As for those screaming for "no borders," I think we can safely ignore them for the ideologues (or "useful idiots") they truly are. The only aim of those pulling their strings is to destroy this nation. Every nation has the obligation and the right to control its borders -- how much control is something its citizens must decide. This is a question that Congress has danced around for some time, but time is running out. I suspect the President and the voters will force the issue sooner rather than later.

As for North Korea, President Trump's efforts to overcome the horrendous mistakes of previous administrations should be interesting to watch. For the first time since 1953 this vicious, totalitarian regime seems to realize they are dealing with someone who won't allow them to break agreements. I expect these negotiations will take some time, quite likely several years, before they bear real fruit. We'll see what happens.

Then there's China, the world's most populous, communist, totalitarian state. It is a nation ruled by those who murder and enslave, a pack of liars and thieves who will do anything, absolutely anything, to maintain their power. Like Mafia dons, they dress up in their shiny suits and smile at the cameras while they plan the destruction of all that is good. They cleverly instituted some elements of a free economy because they realized their socialist policies had failed and they needed to bankroll their ever expanding base of power. But make no mistake, every Chinese firm is under the thumb of the ruling Communist Party leadership. 
The Communist Dons
Unlike his predecessors Trump seems to recognize the truth about China and his negotiations with the communist leadership will surely break the mold. When he hammered the Chinese with tariffs and other barriers, the talking heads and Wall Street hand-wringers screamed and assured us the president would drive us into economic ruin. Many said the same thing when Trump was elected in November 2016, but our economy instead experienced continued record-setting growth. 

Finally, and perhaps most importantly in the long term, despite the efforts of the Senate Democrats to block confirmation votes on the president's judicial and executive appointments, most of these appointments, particularly those of federal judges, have been wonderful. Once again a president is appointing men and women who actually read and understand the Constitution and reject ideological activism. If President Trump serves another four years the federal judiciary will likely experience historic change.

Our president, like all men, is far from perfect, but he's certainly far better than the collection of wannabes the Democrat Party offers us. Every single one of them supports the great atrocity of our age, the deliberate, pre-meditated murder of the most innocent among us. I fear God's judgment, not for me, for I'm too near the end of my life. No, I fear for my children and grandchildren, and for all who may well face a faith-testing decision to choose between a culture of life and a culture of death. 

Here's something I trust all the faithful can agree on: Pray for our nation and our president.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Interesting Stuff That Caught My Eye

Every so often, and it's usually in waiting rooms -- at the doctor, or dentist, or auto repair shop or, like today, when I took Dear Diane to get her hair cut -- I browse around the web on my iPad and uncover interesting stuff that I otherwise would not have known. 

(By the way, before I go on, please add Diane to your prayers. While walking Maddie, the wonderdog, the other evening, Diane fell and broke her arm. She's experiencing a lot of pain and will probably face a long recovery. But with me as the primary caregiver, she'll be well taken care of. I've already learned how to roll her hair on curlers, and have manufactured and rigged a washable sling she can wear in the shower. I'm using the washer and dryer daily, making meals fit to be consumed by undemanding humans, and scanning the ads for deals at the supermarket. Old dogs can learn...)

Anyway, here are just a few of the interesting items I came across during recent waiting room visits:

Dawn Eden Goldstein
Rock historian and critic, Dawn Eden Goldstein, who converted to Evangelical Christianity and later made her way to Catholicism in 2006, thanks partly to her discovery of the works of the great G. K. Chesterton, has written a memoir, Sunday Will Never be the Same: A Rock and Roll Journalist Opens Her Ears to God. It's a book I must read and one I thought some of my tight little band of blog followers might enjoy as well. Here's a link to a story about Ms. Goldstein and her latest book: From Rock Concerts to Catholic Cathedrals.

Theodore Dalrymple, who can always be counted on to address interesting, and sometimes offbeat, topics, penned a column on rights, in this instance, the right to tattoo oneself. To be brutally honest, and here I think I agree with Dalrymple, tattoos are nothing less than "self-mutilation." But if folks want to disguise parts of their bodies using tattoos, I'll say nothing. Just don't expect me to appreciate the artistry. When I was a kid, tattoos were rare and pretty much restricted to sailors, marines, and macho guys like longshoreman. Their application was usually accompanied by a substantial intake of amber liquids. But things have changed. 
A few years ago, while Diane and I were on a Caribbean cruise, I found a comfy seat by the ship's pool and sat back in the sunshine to read one of the books I had taken with me. But the book was boring, so I began to watch the people. I was shocked by how many people -- young, old, male, female -- sported tattoos, and some in the most amazing places. Indeed, whenever I see an otherwise pretty girl who has defaced her body with one or more tattoos, I ask myself, "Why?" Why did she do that to the beautiful body God gave her? Did she think that she (or the tattoo artist) could improve on God's gift? Heavens, girl, if you want to show the world what's important to you this week, get a charm bracelet. Anyway, you can read Dalrymple's column here: Right to Bare Arms.

Beto Making a Point
Our expansive collection of Democrat candidates for president all seem to think little of religious freedom. Beto O'Rourke, he of the now defunct presidential campaign, not long before he began to scour the fast-food want ads, told the world that as president he would deny tax-exempt status to any churches that opposed so-called same-sex marriage. Although a few of the other candidates said they wouldn't go that far, they believed religious organizations that provide public services should not be free to exercise their religious beliefs. You see, this collection of leftists consider the rights specified in the first amendment of the Constitution to be subservient to rights that can be found nowhere in our nation's founding document. Read this article by Lauretta Brown in the National Catholic Register: 2020 Democratic Front-Runners Downplay Religious Freedom.

Holy Eucharist and Joe
Unless you pay no attention to the national news, you must have heard about Joe Biden being refused the Holy Eucharist by Fr. Robert Morey, the pastor of a South Carolina church. The reasons for denying the Eucharist to Mr. Biden all relate to his public acceptance of evils that are and always have been condemned by the Church, specifically, abortion and same-sex "marriage." Three cheers for Fr. Morey. The secular media, of course, was apoplectic about this insult to the former vice president, but it's about time a pastor demonstrate the wisdom and courage to remind Catholic politicians that Church teaching can't be set aside for votes. In the same way, it would be refreshing to see priests and bishops place God's law above their fear of media backlash. Let's hope Fr. Morey inspires others to be as courageous. You can read an informative article by Kristan Hawkins in the National Catholic Register: On Joe Biden and Walking the Christian Walk. I read another article on the same subject in the Catholic Herald: Ignoring Church 

That's enough for now...time for dinner. God's peace.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Homily: Monday, 32nd Week in Ordinary Time

I have embedded a video of this homily for Monday of the 32nd Week in Ordinary Time. The full text of the homily follows the video.


Readings: Wis 1:1-7; Ps 139; Lk 17:1-6


Years ago, when I was just a lad, we lived in a rural area of Connecticut. Our immediate neighbors included a dairy farm – Parker’s Dairy – and a few other homes. One of those neighbors had a large and very old millstone in his backyard. I have no idea why he had it, but it was huge, probably four or five feet in diameter and must have weighed nearly a ton. 

Whenever I read today’s Gospel passage, that’s the stone I think of. I suspect Jesus was speaking about a somewhat smaller millstone, but maybe not. Anyway, my large stone certainly drives home the points He makes. The idea of being tossed into the sea with my head stuck in the center hole of that millstone paints a very vivid picture.

In today’s passage from Luke, we get a bit of a trifecta: Jesus makes three important points about our relationships with each other. 

Jesus first addresses our behavior toward children, indeed toward all who are the most innocent among us. And it’s a warning to all of us: woe to those who lead these little ones to sinfulness. The physical abuse we’ve heard so much about is horrendous, but there are other ways to bring evil to those easily led astray. 

Adults, and yes that includes parents and grandparents, do this through lying, through hypocritical behavior, through selfishness – all means by which we scandalize those whom God loves. Luke uses the Greek word, skandolan, which really means to cause one to stumble or fall. In a sense, then, we become a stumbling block to others, but to very special others, leading them to sin and away from God. 

I suppose it all boils down to an extreme form of vanity, a hardened heart in which one’s own desires blind a person to God’s presence in the other, especially in a child. In our reading from the Book of Wisdom God calls us to “Seek him in simplicity of heart.” [Wis 1:1]

Yes, we are called to be childlike, to turn to our God with simplicity, to be open to God’s love and the Holy Spirit’s movement within us.

Jesus continues by calling for forgiveness, but for a divine forgiveness, one that submerges our own hurts and looks to the other with love.

Back in my Navy days, a chaplain once told me: “The life of a Christian is really marked by a continual struggle to offer and to ask for forgiveness.” He merely echoed Jesus who describes a corrective forgiveness, all part of what the Church calls reconciliation. 

Where true repentance is, forgiveness must follow. Even if a brother or sister wrongs you seven times, but repents each time, you must forgive.

Hard to do, isn’t it? In truth, it’s impossible without God’s help; just as it’s impossible to turn away from sin without God’s help. Indeed, it’s not about judgment and condemnation, and we must always remember that. It’s all about reconciliation, helping others and helping ourselves turn to God, so we can experience His healing and His mercy. 

Today would be a good day to revisit chapter 15 of Luke’s Gospel, and re-read those three parables of loss: the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost sons. We lose ourselves often enough, but we’re never lost to God, brothers and sisters. He knows exactly where we are. How did the psalmist put it in today’s psalm?
"Where can I go from your spirit? From your presence where can I flee? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I sink to the nether world, you are present there" [Ps 139:7-8].
He never ceases calling us, but we don’t have to find Him. We need only respond, and He will come to us wherever we are.

Luke concludes our brief Gospel reading by telling us that the apostles, becoming aware of their own weaknesses, beg Jesus, “Increase our faith” [Lk 17:5]. And like them, our faith today can be severely challenged unless we accept God’s promise that He will be with us until the very end of time. 

Given the attacks our faith suffers today, accepting that promise just might be the most important act of faith we ever make. We see a crumbling world, a world that seems to have lost its way and we want so much to be able to do something.

But God wants us to believe something, to deepen our faith through prayer, to change the world not by scandalizing it, but by the example of loving God and neighbor in all that we do.

It all comes back to love, doesn’t it? For that’s what love is, the simple manifestation of our faith.