25 Nov

King and Queen of Hearts

Dear Parishioners,

We celebrate this weekend the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the King of the Universe.  Let me talk a little theology with you all, unpacking, albeit cursorily, what it means that Jesus is King. I won't take offense if you fall asleep while reading.  Hopefully my homily will be more engaging.

When Jesus came upon this earth and then died for our sins, he offered himself to the Father.  This offering to the Father obtained our salvation.  Jesus then also took the fruits of this offering, or merits, theologians might say, and applied them to each of us.  Thus, there is an upward movement of Christ to the Father, as well as a downward (or lateral) movement of Christ to us. 

Mary, by the way, works with Jesus in that lateral movement.  She assists those divine graces coming to us from the fruits of Christ's offering.

So Christ dying was just one part of the equation.  We need to receive, each of us, the fruits of that death.  It is possible for us to not receive the fruits; for us to reject the graces Christ won for us.  To help fight against this, Jesus has established himself as King (and Mary as Queen).

25 Nov

Ye of Little Faith

To people who doubt the existence of God and of Catholicism, using science as their reason, I would encourage a survey of the greatest scientists of the 20th Century.

Albert Einstein, though he did not believe in a personal God, did, nonetheless, believe in a "superior mind" and a higher order. God, to him, was a principle of intelligibility and rationality.  Einstein's colleagues, who developed quantum theory, had a more advanced image of God…

Max Planck, who was the originator of quantum theory and the domain of subatomic particles, believed not only in God and a personal God, but also in religion.  "Religion is the link that binds man to God," he said, "resulting from the respectful humility before a supernatural power, to which all human life is subject and which controls our weal and woe."

Werner Heisenberg, the originator of the matrix formulation of quantum mechanics, was an active Christian and defended the existence of the soul and the need for faith. 

Arthur Eddington, who confirmed Einstein's general theory of relativity from an astronomical standpoint and established other theories about the conception of the universe, has a chapter in his book on quantum theory titled, "A Defense of Mysticism." God draws us continually to new heights, be it in the field of art, spirituality, or science.  Our minds are not reduced to our brains.

Kurt Godel, a leading mathematician, demonstrated that the human capacity to understand the rules of mathematical principles and algorithms cannot be explained or grounded in the algorithms themselves.  This friend of Einstein said, "I am convinced of [the afterlife], independently of any theology. It is possible to perceive, by pure reasoning that it is entirely consistent with known facts. If the world is rationally constructed and has meaning, then there must be such a thing [as an afterlife]."

 

18 Nov

Thank Him!

Dear Parishioners,

As I have mentioned before, I teach 7th grade religion once a week in school, and I give time each class for the students to ask me questions.  The questions are always fascinating and entertaining.  In fact, I usually will mention their questions in some of my daily Mass homilies, so perceptive and thought-provoking are they.  One student asked me this on her quiz the other week: "What do you do when God answers your prayers?"

I highlighted her question (I do that when the question is very good). I had never been asked that before.  The answer I wrote on her quiz: "Thank him!"

It's a profound question.  That's because we don't think too much about our prayers being answered.  I usually hear more from people angry that God didn't answer their prayers.  I usually don't hear the "success stories", though I know they are out there.

We don't hesitate to be religious beforehand.  That is, we quickly pray and ask God for help.  Afterwards, we become secular.  That is, when something goes our way, we just move on to the next thing, or we chalk up the good outcome to our effort, the normal occurrence of events, or even luck.  God doesn't enter our radar.

The 7th grade student's question was so striking because she demonstrated consistency and deep faith.  She went to God beforehand and wants to go to God afterwards.  She has faith. She believes 'things went her way' because of God.  He prayers were answered. So, what should she do? My response: thank him!

18 Nov

The Argument from Aesthetic Experience

The Catholic theologian Peter Kreeft has a very simple proof of God, which he calls 'The Argument from Aesthetic Experience." It goes like this: 

            There is the music of Johann Sebastian Bach.

            Therefore there must be a God.

            You either see this or you don't.

Bach will not be the topic of our discussion.  Franz Joseph Haydn, a contemporary of Bach's, will be, however.  The Austrian composer, born in 1732 (Bach died in 1750), is known as the "Father of the Symphony." He ushered in the musical era known as the 'Classical Period,' while Bach was of the 'Baroque Period.'  Haydn was a devout Catholic.  He prayed daily, received the Eucharist, and relied on God for strength both in his work and in his life.  In fact, he once said about his relationship with Mary, "If my composing is not proceeding so well, I walk up and down the room with my rosary in my hand, say several Aves, and then ideas come to me again."

Haydn arranged 14 Mass settings.  The Missa Brevis in F is perhaps his most famous. His Missa in tempore belli (Mass in a time of war) is also worth a listen.

Mass settings in classical music are very different than the ones we hear today at Mass at a typical parish.  The five parts of the Mass set to elaborate choral and orchestral composition are the Kyrie, the Gloria, the Credo, the Sanctus, and the Agnus Dei.  Each part could be five to ten minutes long!

Now, one would think composing the Mass over and over again (the words do not change) would eventually grow boring and monotonous, but not for Haydn.  Each musical composition was a prayer for him.  And he made the glory of his profession add to the glory of God. 

11 Nov

The Best Story in the World

Dear Parishioners,

We have two more weeks left of the Gospel of Mark.  November 25th is the Feast of Christ the King, the end of the liturgical season, and we will read from the Gospel of John that day.  It's been a fascinating journey the last several months.  Labor Day weekend we were in the 7th chapter of Mark.  Jesus was ministering and preaching around the Sea of Galilee.  Around the middle of October, Jesus left Galilee and set out for a journey to Jerusalem.  On this journey the rich young man approaches the Lord with the question about what he must do to inherit eternal life (October 14th).  James and John make the request to sit on the Lord's right and left when he enters into power in Jerusalem (October 21st).  Jesus heals the blind beggar, Bartimaeus (October 28th), and at last makes it to Jerusalem. 

11 Nov

A Short History of World War I

World War I ended one hundred years ago today.  There are many anecdotes relating to Catholicism from this cataclysmic event we could invoke to inspire us.  There are also lessons from the conflict, which took 20 million lives, which we could apply to the spiritual and moral life to help us grow. With this in mind, allow me to quote at length an insight about the Great War from the historian James L. Stokesbury in A Short History of World War I