Thursday, March 6, 2014
Wednesday, March 5, 2014
Our Lenten Discipline
Image from simplyquiet.blogspot.com
Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. Lent, of course, is a wonderful time of spiritual opportunity that the Church gifts us with. One of the beautiful things about Lent is its duration: 40 days.
Of course the 40 days is based on Jesus’s 40 days of fasting and prayer in the desert, after which He was tempted by the devil. During this 40-day period we are called to face our own temptations and weaknesses. The beautiful thing about 40 days, is that it is the perfect amount of time to develop a habit, or to break one.
As we pray about what to offer God this Lent, I suggest the first thing we need to do is examine ourselves and ask the question, “What habit do I need to develop, or to break, that can bring me closer to God?” The answer to that question will guide us in discerning a powerful Lenten discipline.
By focusing for 40 days on this discipline, we should find ourselves a better person on Easter than we were on Ash Wednesday. It is good to give up something that we know we will return to after Lent, simply as an offering to God, but we should also do something that will make a lasting impact on us spiritually.
Do I lack discipline in my eating habits? Can my stomach become my god, as Scripture says? Then perhaps my discipline should be dietary, and include fasting. If I am faithful to it, by Easter I should have much more self-mastery (and be healthier, too).
Have I struggled to find time to pray? The maybe my discipline should be focused on prayer this Lent. If I am faithful to a Lenten prayer regimen, then by Easter I should be a man with the habit of daily prayer, a habit that should naturally continue long after Lent is over.
Do I lack generosity, or am I anxious about financial matters? Then perhaps my discipline should center on almsgiving. If I am faithful to it, but Easter I should be a man less attached to material wealth, and better able to trust in God for my temporal needs.
This Lent, may we prayerfully consider what we will offer God. Consider what your habits are today, and what you would like them to be in 40 days. Then this Lent will truly be the gift that God means it to be.
Tuesday, March 4, 2014
Monday, March 3, 2014
Son of God Movie Review
One of the hardest things to do is make a movie about the life of Jesus. It’s true that you don’t have to make up the story, but you have to somehow do justice to the greatest story ever told. You also have to take a life in which every breath touches the depths of both time and eternity, and encapsulate it into a watchable time frame. It’s no easy task, I’m sure.
Son of God opened in theaters this weekend. The film is structured as a narrative told by St. John at the end of his life, as he’s in exile. It begins with the words, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” It then quickly moves through some of the early events of salvation history, from Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and even the birth of Jesus. The story then takes its narrative form with the beginning of His public life.
One of the things I liked about the film is that it really brought out how controversial a figure Jesus was. An encounter with Him demands a choice. Often, society turns Jesus into a cuddly teddy bear, but as Professor Peter Kreeft likes to remind us, “Aslan is not a tame lion.” Jesus should shock us. How could an encounter with God do any less? I do think a glaring omission was perhaps the most shocking and controversial thing Jesus ever said: “Unless you eat my Flesh and drink my Blood, you have no life in you.”
However, though this production was basically put together by Protestants, there is not much a Catholic would complain about. The film clearly portrayed Peter as the head of the Apostles, and the rock on which Christ built His Church. It also did a good job in its treatment of Mary. The Last Supper was handled with care – we might find some things lacking, but the filmmakers did a good job of making it amenable to both Catholics and Protestants (and the Orthodox, of course).
That being said, for someone with a deep love of Scripture, some of the license that was taken may be a little annoying. I know it was usually done with an eye on including as much as possible into two-and-a-quarter hours, but each word and gesture of Jesus has such meaning that at times certain things were lost. There are also minor historical errors (such as Pilate telling Caiaphas to go ahead and execute Jesus, even though in reality Jews had no authority to do so) that only nitpicking lunatics like myself will probably even notice, and some license taken with lesser-known characters like Pontius Pilate and Nicodemus.
The only other concern I have is one scene in which Pilate’s wife Claudia is a bit immodest. It’s not major, but could have easily been fixed. Another thing to be careful of, especially if you come with children, is that the previews before the film are not necessarily chosen with them in mind. I found one quite inappropriate.
I brought my seven year-old son to the movie in the hopes of giving him a visual framework for the story, as well as some help in meditating when praying the Rosary. Overall, it was fine for him, though there were some parts that were violent, both during the Passion and at other times, that parents may want to be cautioned about. The Passion scenes were obviously heavily influenced by Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ, but Son of God does a good job of showing the suffering of Christ more than most films while still being within the limits many kids can handle.
One of the best qualities of Son of God is that it is an extremely watchable film that covers the whole life of Jesus while remaining the length of a typical film. That makes it very accessible. People who want to watch it to meditate on the essence of the Story will probably not be disappointed.
Thursday, February 27, 2014
The Veto of Arizona’s SB 1062
Yesterday, the governor of Arizona, Jan Brewer, vetoed SB 1062, a bill which would have allowed business owners to deny services to people based on their own deeply held religious convictions. The bill sparked passionate reaction on both sides.
Proponents of the bill said that it is necessary to protect religious liberty, while opponents said it would have enshrined prejudice against homosexual people in law. Republicans across the country, of course, were terrified of the bill, and urging a veto. Many organizations were vocal in opposition, including some loud groups whose favorite political tactic is intimidation. However, a bill of this magnitude should not be weighed by political calculations, but rather by moral ones.
I haven’t looked closely enough at how the bill is written to know whether it warranted a signature or a veto, but it seems to me that the underlying issue at hand is really not all that complicated.
The Church consistently teaches the dignity of every human person (regardless of sexual practice), and opposes unjust discrimination. However, it also teaches that homosexual behavior is objectively sinful, and that there is no such thing as gay “marriage.” Any proper understanding of religious liberty should free people from having to participate in or support activity they find morally objectionable.
Therefore, given our current climate, there is definitely a need for a law that protects people from providing goods and services that support or promote such activity, such as a wedding photographer being forced to work at a same-sex “wedding.”
However, a person is not defined by his sexual identity, and it seems to me that discrimination that has no bearing on that activity should not be permitted.
Now, one of the most difficult things to do is to take politicians at their word. Many are corrupt and easily bought. Even many ethical politicians see lying, or at least “spin,” as a necessary tool of the trade. However, though I do not live in Arizona and scrutinize Governor Brewer, she has not given me reason to doubt her sincerity. So it is with every benefit of the doubt that I examine some of what she said upon announcing her veto.
There were two comments that particularly struck me. (Others, of course, are relevant, as well, from a political and legal standpoint, and have been analyzed by others.) The first comment of which I took note was her statement that the bill was too broadly written. That very well may be true. If so, it should be rewritten and passed again, with improvements. I would have liked to see Ms. Brewer call for that.
The second statement was troubling. Ms. Brewer seemed to imply that the protections in the bill are not necessary. That sentiment is ludicrous. Given our current climate, nothing is more necessary at this time, in every state. The red herring of “gay rights” is a powerful tool being used to persecute Christians (and many others) all over the Western world. Doubtless, there are many who see it as the key to destroying the Church. They will never do that, but people willing to stand up for truth had better be ready to suffer for it.
On a human level, what happened yesterday is likely to scare most politicians. But I pray that there are some heroic leaders out there who will see the grave necessity of a bill similar to SB 1062. It needs to be written properly, respecting each person’s dignity, but it needs to be passed now, everywhere.
Wednesday, February 26, 2014
Sunday, February 23, 2014
A Simple Phone Call
It’s that time of year – when people are blindsided by pornography in the grocery store aisle, in the form of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition. Anyone who receives the magazine, by the way, can opt out of receiving the Swimsuit Edition and have their subscription extended by two issues.
This morning I went to the grocery store and saw, in the middle of the main aisle, a stand-alone display of the issue, whose cover can not be called anything but pornography. I was actually shocked when I came upon it. I figured I’d at least turn the front issues around backwards, but the back cover was just as bad.
When I got home, I called the store and spoke to the manager. I told him that it was bad enough I had to unwillingly see the cover, but as a father of four boys, I wouldn’t be able to bring my family back to the store. His response both surprised and encouraged me.
He thanked me for calling and told me that the store is contractually obligated to provide the display. However, once they receive a complaint, they are freed from that responsibility and permitted to put the magazine in a more inconspicuous place, with the cover….covered. He promised to take care of it as soon as we got off the phone.
This may not be news to many people, but I found it enlightening. How many store managers need only one phone call to clean up their stores? Even if they don’t personally agree, as the one I spoke with seemed to, they know that no one will avoid a grocery store for not displaying the such things, but once they realize there are people who will when they do, no reasonable businessman would take the chance.
This is a great opportunity. With one phone call, we can win back some dignity for the women in the magazine; we can protect the men who struggle with pornography, not to mention our own kids; and we can win one small victory over the devil for whom things like the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition can be a powerful weapon.