Sunday, November 25, 2012

"Everyone Who Belongs to the Truth Listens to My Voice"

Today's Gospel reading at Mass was another personal love letter to me from God.

Not many people would look at these verses as a love letter, especially given the fact that Jesus Christ is facing Pontius Pilate and trying to speak truth to him. In fact the Truth was standing right before Pilate and he was blind to it.

From John 18:33b-37

Pilate said to Jesus, "Are you the King of the Jews?" Jesus answered, "Do you say this on your own or have others told you about me?" Pilate answered, "I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests handed you over to me. What have you done?" Jesus answered, "My kingdom does not belong to this world. If my kingdom did belong to this world, my attendants would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not here." So Pilate said to him, "Then you are a king?" Jesus answered, "You say I am a king. For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice."

The reason it is a love letter is because it reminds me that the Kingdom of God is not of this world and I really need to be reminded of that right now. I have been going through a lot of soul-searching regarding how much focus I've put on politics and the dawning realization that I fell into a belief that "a man" could change things.

Well, we do have a Man who did change things. He was born of a virgin and came to save the world from sin. He conquered sin and death to give us eternal life. He reigns with goodness, love, compassion, and justice. As such, He is the rightful King of our souls.

Today we celebrate the Solemnity of Christ the King. He is the ruler of a heavenly kingdom, and as followers of Him, we know that we will never feel as though this world is our home. The Truth lives here, but ultimately His home is in heaven and God willing, that is where we also will be someday.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Where Does My Help Come From?

A Song of Ascents. I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; From where shall my help come? - Ps. 121:1 (RSV)

I, like many other Americans, have been doing a lot of soul-searching over the past few days. After a crushing defeat at the polls for Governor Romney and Congressman Paul Ryan, those of us who were looking to them as "the last stand" of sorts, were bitterly disappointed.

We thought things would turn out so differently. We thought that the large crowds at the Romney/Ryan rallies would prove to win the day on November 6. But for reasons that are a mystery to us, things did not turn out the way we planned.

I also was very disappointed in an overwhelming percentage of Catholic Hispanics who voted to re-elect President Obama. (Breitbart News, "Latino Catholics: Immigration, Not Religion Decided Vote") It is almost unfathomable to me that any Catholic could vote for Obama, especially after the heavy-handedness in requiring religious employers to pay for contraception in their health insurance. But they did.

However, all of this is, for the  most part, buckets of tears under the bridge.

We must now focus on what lies before us.

Today, as I drove to Mass, I was in prayer. All week I have been petitioning God for many things, mostly for the grace to accept His will. I believe with all my heart that if God wanted Mitt Romney to have become our president, it would have happened. So I am left to ponder the possible answers as to "why?"

I never wanted to live in an age where I could possibly be persecuted for my faith. I, like many of you, have enjoyed the freedoms this country has given to us, freedom that I don't take for granted. Today, Veteran's Day, I especially am reminded of all the brave men and women who have fought and died to preserve such freedom. But, perhaps we have taken our freedom for granted. Perhaps it is, as Thomas Jefferson said, "time to refresh the tree of liberty."

His quote often appears in patriotic blogs and articles, but I will give context to his quote, and the fuller text.

Thomas Jefferson had just receive the latest copy of the U.S. Constitution. He liked some of it. He didn't like other parts of it. From this letter, it sounded as though he wasn't keen on keeping a President in office for four years, but at least it wasn't for life.

What is interesting is his view that rebellion is a necessary thing in order to preserve freedom. I highlighted the most commonly quoted portion of this letter.
"I do not know whether it is to yourself or Mr. Adams I am to give my thanks for the copy of the new constitution. I beg leave through you to place them where due. It will be yet three weeks before I shall receive them from America. There are very good articles in it: and very bad. I do not know which preponderate. What we have lately read in the history of Holland, in the chapter on the Stadtholder, would have sufficed to set me against a Chief magistrate eligible for a long duration, if I had ever been disposed towards one: and what we have always read of the elections of Polish kings should have forever excluded the idea of one continuable for life. Wonderful is the effect of impudent and persevering lying. The British ministry have so long hired their gazetteers to repeat and model into every form lies about our being in anarchy, that the world has at length believed them, the English nation has believed them, the ministers themselves have come to believe them, and what is more wonderful, we have believed them ourselves. Yet where does this anarchy exist? Where did it ever exist, except in the single instance of Massachusets? And can history produce an instance of a rebellion so honourably conducted? I say nothing of it's motives. They were founded in ignorance, not wickedness. God forbid we should ever be 20. years without such a rebellion.[1] The people can not be all, and always, well informed. The part which is wrong will be discontented in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive. If they remain quiet under such misconceptions it is a lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty. We have had 13. states independant 11. years. There has been one rebellion. That comes to one rebellion in a century and a half for each state. What country ever existed a century and a half without a rebellion? And what country can preserve it's liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to facts, pardon and pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is it's natural manure. Our Convention has been too much impressed by the insurrection of Massachusets: and in the spur of the moment they are setting up a kite to keep the hen yard in order. I hope in god this article will be rectified before the new constitution is accepted." - Thomas Jefferson to William Stephens Smith, Paris, 13 Nov. 1787[2] (Source)

The day after the election, Glenn Beck said this:

"[God's] work and his glory is not for a presidential election. It’s for the salvation of all mankind. And that requires freedom. So his agenda is freedom, and we have esteemed it too lightly." (Source)

I thought that was a profound statement. God is still God. He's in charge, not us, and maybe we needed the results of this election to reminds us of that truth. I know I've already changed since Tuesday, November 6, 2012. I am reminded that ultimately, my security comes from God, not from any government. And those who know me would tell you I never depended upon the government anyway, but I did want to see an end to cultural relativism or at least a slight pressure on the brakes.

Alas, it looks like we're about to head over more than a fiscal cliff at breakneck speed. However, I do not think this needs to happen without Christians sounding the alarm. We still need to speak out against the culture of death. We still need to bear witness to the saving power of Jesus Christ and preach the Good News. No matter how dark the days may become, we cannot allow them to extinguish the light of hope that lives within us. In fact (and I know you're gritting your teeth as you realize what I'm about to say...), it was during the dark days of persecution that the Church grew in strength.

I have been convicted today to pray for our President and his administration much more often than I ever did. (which was next to "never.") I confess I have been filled with anger and resentment more than peace and love. I have been convicted by the Holy Spirit that this is not the way I am to conduct myself. I am to pray and trust in God. Much easier said than done, but that is what I am called to do.

I will close with the rest of Psalm 121, for it is a beautiful reminder of where our help comes from— not from any government, but from our Divine Creator, who knows all things and can do anything. I pray you also find peace through His grace.

My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved, he who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The LORD is your keeper; the LORD is your shade on your right hand. The sun shall not smite you by day, nor the moon by night. The LORD will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and for evermore. 
- Ps. 121:2-8 (RSV)