Return of the Prodigal Son by Pompeo Batoni - 1773

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Being a Child

Being a Child

This past Sunday’s Gospel is one of the more challenging to understand. It recounts Jesus’s encounter with a Canaanite woman who has come to him to ask for healing for her daughter. Jesus’s response is coarse to our modern ears. He tells her that He has been sent only to the lost sheep of Israel and that it is not right to give the food of the children to the dogs. The woman responds that even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from their masters’ tables, to which Jesus says, “Great is your faith,” and He grants her request.
Why does Jesus initially seem unwilling to heal this woman’s daughter? Why does He make reference to children and to dogs? I remember seeing a movie about Jesus many years ago in which this scene is portrayed as Jesus being taught a lesson by this woman. It apparently expands His compassion and refocuses His mission.
Well, that didn’t sit well with me, so when I got my hands on the Catena Aurea, this was the first passage I looked up. I was eager to see what the Fathers and Doctors of the Church had to say. Here is my interpretation of Sunday’s challenging Gospel, informed by what I found.
There are a few things to remember. First, the miracles of Jesus are signs that point to who He is. He is not a magician, or a traveling sideshow. He is God, come to redeem the world. Also, the Jews of the time divided people into the Children and the goyim (dogs) – the pagans. The woman understood that, so Jesus was not throwing an insult at her.
What is amazing is not that Jesus has a conversion experience, but that He invites this woman to become a child of God. Jesus, in this event, is eliciting faith from this woman. He is bringing salvation to her. Being a child, Jesus teaches us, is not about ethnicity, but about faith. When she approached Jesus, the woman had probably heard of this wonder-worker and hoped he could help her, like some traveling magician. But Jesus will have none of that. He challenges her to identify not with the dogs, but with the children. Her desperation over the condition of her daughter opens the woman to faith, with a little prodding from the Lord. Once she has faith, the healing of her daughter can take on its full meaning.
What, then, can we learn? Jesus is the great Healer, but He offers us much more than simply the answer to a problem. He invites us to be children; He calls us to faith; and through that Faith we are freed from bondage, as was the daughter of the woman in Sunday’s Gospel. May we have the humility and openness of the Canaanite woman, and like her, truly become children of God.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Link - Malta

Link - Malta

      Shortly before the Supreme court's Hobby Lobby decision, a friend asked me, “If the United States gives up on religious freedom, where do we go?” I answered jokingly, “I don't know, Malta.”
      I say jokingly because I can't imagine moving my family from Southern California to a Mediterranean island nation. Texas, perhaps, but Malta? However, it's true that in many ways, Malta is the world's last true christian holdout. The article at the link below is a great feature on the tiny country, and how it needs prayer to hold strong, since it is a target for the culture of death.

Monday, June 30, 2014

The Supreme Court and the HHS Mandate

The Supreme Court and the HHS Mandate

Like everyone interested in the freedom of religion and with an understanding of the potential impact on the future of our country, I was greatly relieved to see Hobby Lobby vindicated by the Supreme Court Monday in its battle against the HHS mandate.  By the narrowest 5-4 margin, sanity held the day, but there are many things that still concern me greatly.
            The first is the limited scope of the court’s decision.  Fox News reported that:  “The court stressed that its ruling on Monday applies only to corporations that are under the control of just a few people in which there is no essential difference between the business and its owners.” Why?  How can the court justify any business being forced to pay for the services demanded by the HHS mandate?  And upon whose judgment will we rely to determine which companies qualify?
            The dissent sounds at times as though the sky is falling, and that civilization is under attack by the ruling.  Is it not true that contraception / abortifacient coverage has never been required until Obamacare’s putrid mandate?  Somehow women were not left on the streets to die.  Framing this whole debate around the issue of women’s health is incredibly misleading to begin with.  The claim that the court’s ruling will somehow have disastrous consequences is simply ridiculous.  The one part of the dissent which I pray is true is the statement: “Although the Court attempts to cabin its language to closely held corporations, its logic extends to corporations of any size, public or private. Little doubt that RFRA claims will proliferate.”
            The biggest problem with the decision is that the court gave any credence to the idea that the government can force any employers to provide morally objectionable coverage for its employees.  Don’t get me wrong, I am elated that Hobby Lobby won its case.  But to think that we have won a decisive blow for religious freedom is na├»ve.  The battle is far from over.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Link - The War on Men

Link - The War on Men

     The article at the following link has gotten a lot of attention lately, but with Fathers' Day just behind us, it is worth considering.  If manhood is under attack, not only will our children suffer from a lack of mental and emotional development, but spiritual as well.  It is our duty as fathers to introduce our children to their true Father in Heaven.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Remembering Tony Gwynn

Remembering Tony Gwynn

Growing up as a baseball fan and player in the 1980s, I loved Tony Gwynn.  As a baseball “purist,” I always appreciated his game.  But one of the great things about Gwynn was that with him, you really had a sense that he was as good a man off the field as he was on it.

          This Hall of Famer, with his .338 lifetime batting average, the highest for anyone born after 1900 or who did not play before World War II, died Monday of oral cancer at the age of 54.

          Tony Gwynn was very visible and accessible in his community, so many people have Tony Gwynn stories.  If you live in Southern California like I do, you have been treated to them for the last couple of days on the radio.  I would like to share two of my favorites in this article for the benefit of those who live everywhere else, as a tribute to “Mr. Padre.”

          One of my favorites was called in to a local radio show on Monday.  The caller said that her family used to travel to Yuma, Arizona for Spring Training.  One spring her family was staying in the Days Inn in Yuma and three doors down was Tony Gwynn with his family.

          Shortly after her family got settled in their room, she found her son, along with about half a dozen other kids, playing catch with Gwynn in the motel courtyard.  Years later, her son went to San Diego State University, where Gwynn was the head baseball coach after his playing career was over.

          The caller’s son did not play baseball for the university, but decided to stop in at Coach Gwynn’s office one day and ask him to sign a baseball for his younger brother.  Not only did Gwynn stop what he was doing and sign the ball, he invited the young man to sit down and proceeded to ask him about his major and his family.

          The other story I would like to share occurred in 2013 when a San Diego Little League team made it to the finals of the Little League World Series.  The community was hoping for a big celebration when the team returned home, but they had lost to Japan in the final game, and the kids were going to be welcomed home mostly by family and friends.

          But Tony Gwynn, still recovering from a recent surgery, was there.  He wanted to welcome the kids and celebrate with them personally.

          Even as he faced his life-threatening condition, Gwynn was courageous.  He said publicly that he attributed it to his use of chewing tobacco.  “I did this to myself,” he said, never seeking pity, but wishing that his suffering would spare others the same fate.
          The city of San Diego will long miss Tony Gwynn.  Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him.  Through the Mercy of God, may he rest in peace.  Amen.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Saving Secular Marriage

Saving Secular Marriage

We have seen the redefinition of marriage repeatedly defeated at the ballot box, yet repeatedly enforced by judges.  In truth, marriage can not be redefined in either venue.  But many people are beginning to wonder, “Is it even worth the fight for us as Catholics to try and defend marriage in the secular sphere?”  After all, we are concerned with Sacramental marriage, which will not be touched, and society has long recognized as valid many unions which, in the proper sense, are not valid marriages.

The battle everyone agrees we must fight is that for religious liberty.  With courts trying to enforce our participation in same-sex “marriages,” there is much work to be done on that front.  So should we even care what secular society believes about marriage?

I believe the answer is “yes,” and something I saw recently hammered home the reasons why.  I was watching some game show and the exchange between the host and a contestant went like this:

Host: “You’re a married man?”

Contestant: “Yes, my wife and I have been married for 10 years.”

Host: “And you have children?”

Contestant: “We have three.  Our oldest daughter is 15, our son is 13, and our youngest daughter is 11.”

It was clear that the three kids are all from the contestant and his wife.  The youngest is 11, and they have been married for 10 years.  That means their oldest daughter was five years old, with two younger siblings before they decided to get married.  Now I’m not judging them personally; this is the culture in which we live.  The fact that they are still together, and the three children are with both of their natural parents, means that this family is actually ahead of the game, nowadays.

But I’ve known many people with similar circumstances.  The state licenses marriages in the first place because sociological studies (and common sense) overwhelmingly demonstrate that a married mother and father provide the best environment in which children can grow up.

Should we care about the state of secular marriage?  Yes, because as St. John Paul II said, “As the family goes, so goes the world.”  The problem is that we’re getting forced into a debate exclusively about same-sex “marriage.”  The redefinition of marriage began years ago with the acceptance of wide-spread divorce.  That had to come first; once a generation grew up without a true sense of marriage, they would be able to accept all other sorts of redefinitions.

The media try to keep us focused on the same-sex issue because they like to portray us as bigots, or at least out-of-touch.  Nothing is further from the truth.  It is we who don’t define a person by his or her sexual attractions, but rather by the fact that they are made in the image and likeness of God.

What we need to do is adjust the message.  Our culture has lost a true vision of marriage.  Instead of letting other people focus on what we say “no” to, we need to let people see the beauty of what we’re saying “yes” to.

It’s the same reason we lost the culture on chastity, in large part.  The “sexual revolution” portrayed the Church as only telling people, “Thou shalt not,” but the truth is that the beauty of chastity, and what it means for fruitful relationships far outweighs the darkness of the sexual revolution.  But until recently, we have been so much on the defensive against the darkness, people have not been able to see the light we bear as Catholics.

We need to present the culture with a true, positive, beautiful view of what marriage really is.  And that means first, we as a Church must be living it.  Is it too late to save the culture?  Perhaps.  But, then again, let us never forget, as St. Teresa of Avila said, “God plus one equals an army.”