"WASHINGTON -- White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales succeeded in weakening the government's intervention in the University of Michigan racial preference dispute, but at a potentially heavy personal cost. He increased the difficulty for his friend and patron, George W. Bush, to make him a Supreme Court justice. ..." more
Good. Given, as Novak goes on to report in the column, Gonzales's authorship of a Texas Supreme Court "majority opinion invalidating a statute requiring parental notification of abortion by a minor. Democratic senators who last year blocked confirmation of Texas Supreme Court Justice Priscilla Owen as a federal appellate judge repeatedly cited Gonzales's attack on her minority opinion as an 'unconscionable act of judicial activism.'"
The reasons for hope here: (1) Gonzales's record on abortion (and "affirmative action") is now clear, whereas George H.W. Bush may have been genuinely unaware of how far left David Souter was. (John Sununu may have been more culpable for that appointment than Bush was.) (2) Bush fils has, in general (as now on race issues, as Novak points out), shown himself to have learned from Bush père's mistakes, and to tend to avoid repeating them.
Good. And I don't like the NCAA system either, so I hope the NFL doesn't simply adopt it. If it's really too much for the players to have to play another quarter maybe once or twice a season, as some commenters have suggested, then at the very least they should adopt a version of the NCAA system modified to have teams start their series on their own 40 or 30 or even 25 instead of the opponent's 25. So that each series will be a real series, requiring significant advancing of the ball. A football game should be decided by ... playing football. Not by a coin toss, and not by a turkey-shoot contest either.
William F. Buckley Jr. writes (a couple months old, but still timely): "Some weeks ago, President Bush was asked if he knew whether Osama bin Laden was dead. He answered that if he was dead, so much for that problem, if he was not, the hiatus would not be for very long. Mr. Bush then moved on to speak of other aspects of the al-Qaeda war than whether its architect was still alive. ..." more
If an attack in Iraq is necessary, I don't know that I buy that it's a "distraction" from the war on terror. But Buckley makes a good case that - and why - Osama still matters.
"WASHINGTON — The White House is considering whether to extend U.N. inspections in Iraq beyond Monday's deadline, in an effort to appease an international community that is growing increasingly opposed to an attack against Saddam. ..." more
"DAVOS, Switzerland — Secretary of State Colin Powell said Saturday that the world must use force if necessary to disarm Iraq, and warned 'the going is getting tough.' ..." more
Paul considered the preaching of the deacon Stephen an outrage. To rid the world of the message he agreed to the killing of the messenger. Filled with zeal, he initiated a program of torture and intimidation intended to weed out the heretics and preserve the integrity of God’s covenant with the People of Israel. Blinded by rage, he campaigned to rid the world of the insidious blight of the Way. Once his prejudice had deprived his enemies of their God-given dignity, he could treat them like animals fit for slaughter. Goading his horse on, Paul was suddenly stopped in his tracks. The Light of Truth shined upon his spiritual blindness. "Paul, Paul, why are you opposing the Holy One of Israel (cf. Acts 9:5)? The time has come for you to stop fighting against the goad (cf. Acts 26:14), and to start preaching the Good News of salvation wherever I will send you" (cf. Acts 9:15).
Filled with insight and grace, Paul began to proclaim the Lordship of Jesus with fierce boldness. He first proclaimed Good News to the household of Israel and when they refused to listen, he turned to the Gentiles. The Gospel was not to be limited to any specific group of people. No one was to be excluded from its embrace. Paul was tireless in his teaching and courageous in his preaching. "There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God who was Father of all, over all, through all and with in all" (Eph. 4: 5-6). The unity Paul wrote about is a gift that we carry in fragile and breakable earthen vessels. Scarcely had these words been uttered, the vessel of faith was dropped and broken to pieces. No sooner had these words been penned, than the body of Christ had been pilloried, scourged and lacerated. It is sad, but nonetheless true, people who had received the one baptism and have been numbered among the children of God have inflicted the deepest breaks and cuts.
Let us admit that we have acted in ways that have contributed to the dismembering of the Body of Christ and to the loosening of the Bonds of Love. Let us dedicate ourselves to seek the path to reconciliation and work to reestablish the communion of faith. Without a doubt, there are many obstacles to Christian unity. However, if we are willing to seek the truth in love, none of these barriers are insurmountable. The Lord who gave Paul the grace to see through the veil of his blindness can do the same for us. The glory of Christ that shines in us can guide us towards reconciliation and enable us to engage in a process of mutual forgiveness. We must work tirelessly to make Jesus' prayer for unity our own (cf. Jn. 17:20-22). Only then can we hope to experience the joy of full communion with all who have come to the fullness of life in Christ.
A rabbi was asked to teach his congregation the most effective method of intercessory prayer. He suggested that they learn from the ways of their children. When a child wants something, at first, he asks his parents for it. If he does not get it, he starts to cry and beg. When all else fails, he throws a tantrum. A child knows how to get his parents to give him what he wants! If God our heavenly Father has not brought about unity among Christians, it might be because we have not wanted it badly enough.
No one is fond of taking responsibility for his actions, but consider how much you'd have to hate free will to come up with a political platform that advocates killing unborn babies but not convicted murderers. A callous pragmatist might favor abortion and capital punishment. A devout Christian would sanction neither. But it takes years of therapy to arrive at the liberal point of view. -P.J. O'Rourke
(See below. Good to know that Knoll is largely a devout Christian - and that Rendell is merely a callous pragmatist.)
PA's new Dem. administration: male gov. pro-abortion, female lt. gov. pro-life
"HARRISBURG, Pa. (CNS) -- Two hours before being sworn in as Pennsylvania's first female lieutenant governor Jan. 21, Catherine Baker Knoll found herself the focus of a homily by Bishop Donald W. Wuerl of Pittsburgh. The bishop pointed out that the 72-year-old lieutenant governor has maintained strong ties to her Catholic roots ..." more
Here are Gov. Ed Rendell's and Lt. Gov. Knoll's responses to a PA Catholic Conference survey. Knoll looks pretty good on life (and many other) issues (though her answer to #1a is disappointing). Interestingly, she opposes capital punishment, while Rendell supports it (#6). Her answers to #7-8 are very irresponsible, though.
"WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Will the fight against abortion in the United States be won through politics and judicial appointments, with a war of words or through the larger 'culture war' for the hearts and minds of Americans? ..." more
John Paul on Canon Law anniversary, on bishops' governance
"VATICAN, Jan 24, 03 (CWNews.com) -- The Code of Canon Law should be interpreted with a view to the doctrine and practice of the Church, Pope John Paul II said in an address to canon-law specialists. ..." more (subscription required)
"VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope John Paul II urged bishops not to neglect their duty to govern through administrative processes, trials and sanctions, calling it a 'pastoral service' necessary to prevent 'true injustices.' ..." more
"JERUSALEM, JAN. 24, 2003 (Zenit.org).- The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity took a decisive step in Jerusalem this year: the end of the Greek-Orthodox Patriarchate's opposition to participation in these prayer meetings. ..." more
"MANILA, Philippines, JAN. 24, 2003 (Zenit.org).- The theological congress that opened the World Meeting of Families ended with a special delivery: A Philippine attending the meeting gave birth to her 10th child. ...
"In a homily to close the theological congress, Cardinal López Trujillo referred to a 'fundamental battle between light and darkness.' ..." more
"When President Bush traveled to the United Nations in September ..., he brought along a rare piece of evidence for what he called Iraq's 'continued appetite' for nuclear bombs. The finding: Iraq had tried to buy thousands of high-strength aluminum tubes ..." more
I blogged below about the Chicago priest who spoke at an Atlanta MLK observance last weekend, mentioning, among other things, that the (pro-abortion) Al Sharpton is speaking at his parish this year. I also blogged below a MLK-Day speech by Harry Belafonte, in which, among other things, he complains that "the Bush administration [will] try to ... eliminate abortion."
What parish web site has an homage to its pastor like this one?
Pfleger, for all the good he has done, has I think succumbed to the greatest treason: to do the right thing, for the wrong reason. (Apologies to T.S. Eliot.)
He has been at St. Sabina for 22 years, much longer than any priest in Chicago is allowed to serve a parish. When his term came up a year ago, he fought it tooth and nail, and threatened to leave the Church and found his own. Most of his parishioners said that they would follow him. This shows that they at St. Sabina are not Catholic, but Pflegerites.
I think the best thing for St. Sabina would be for him to be removed, although it couldn't happen without lots of kicking and screaming, since Pfleger is a media hound and a crybaby. Perhaps when he dies things will get better. I hate to say that sooner would be better than later. It would be the best thing to happen to that parish, that they find a new pastor and figure out if their faith is in Mike Pfleger or in Jesus Christ.
"Jack Kevorkian shocked consciences and turned stomachs a few years ago when he advocated using assisted-suicide victims as subjects of medical experimentation, a process he planned to call 'obitiatry.' ..." more
"The anniversary of Roe v. Wade has people on both sides reflecting on three decades' worth of controversy. ... Roe has meant a long 30 years of protest and political struggle. And nowhere has that struggle seen more drama and enthusiasm than in the state of New York. ..." more
"Last week, President Bush reiterated his call for medical-liability reform. Out-of-control malpractice litigation, he claimed, is causing health care in some places to suffer. ..." more
"LONDON — Children growing up in single-parent families are twice as likely as their counterparts to develop serious psychiatric illnesses and addictions later in life, according to an important new study. ..." more
New Senate committee chairman on judicial nominees
"WASHINGTON — With Republicans in charge and President Bush calling for quick action on his judicial choices, Senate Judiciary Chairman Orrin Hatch says he will make it harder for Democratic senators to block home state nominees for federal judgeships. ..." more
"WASHINGTON — More than 50 senators Thursday received a closed-door briefing on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and ties to Al Qaeda from Secretary of State Colin Powell and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld ..." more
"WASHINGTON — Iraq's failure to make scientists fully available for interviews with U.N. weapons inspectors is 'unacceptable' to President Bush, the White House said Friday. ..." more
"VIENNA, Austria — The head of the U.N. nuclear agency will tell the Security Council next week that his inspectors need more time in Iraq, but that Saddam Hussein gets a 'B' for his cooperation ..." more
The New Testament, morality, and capital punishment
I blogged below a short passage from de Lubac's Catholicism that is relevant to the controversy about the relationship between contemporary opposition to capital punishment and Christianity. I left open, however, the question of how to deal with what is often taken to be the New Testament's consistency with the Old Testament's support for capital punishment, especially the famous passage in Romans 13.
I actually think that serious questions can be raised about this oft-cited "proof text." I think it is very likely that Paul has capital punishment in mind - but I hardly think that the text is emptied of its central meaning, I think that its central point still stands, if it is applied to other kinds of punishment instead.
And the supporter of capital punishment has to grapple more seriously than I have seen done with the many Gospel passages about mercy, as well as with the one to which de Lubac here alludes (Catholicism, p. 256):
Moreover, it is not advisable to judge the past by the standards of the present. Elias was right to call down fire from heaven on the guilty, for such severity was required to strike the imagination of a people that was still immature; but James and John, wishing to imitate the prophet, were blamed for it by our Savior. Some things were fitting pro tempore prophetiae which today are fitting no longer.
I think that John Paul is right to conclude (cf. Evangelium Vitae 40) that in light of New Testament standards (as distinct from proof texts), capital punishment (when not necessary to defend society from further aggression by a criminal) is unwarranted. His teaching concerning capital punishment, then, is not at odds with what is at the heart of the Catholic Tradition.
For more on how to read the New Testament on morality, see Heinz Schürmann's insightful essay in Principles of Christian Morality, which also contains excellent chapters by Joseph Ratzinger and Hans Urs von Balthasar.
This is from Francis's Introduction to the Devout Life, from the Office for his memorial today. I often read this excerpt to my FUS students at the beginning of the semester, especially in intro courses:
I say that devotion must be practised in different ways by the nobleman and by the working man, by the servant and by the prince, by the widow, by the unmarried girl and by the married woman. But even this distinction is not sufficient; for the practice of devotion must be adapted to the strength, to the occupation and to the duties of each one in particular.
Tell me, please, my Philothea, whether it is proper for a bishop to want to lead a solitary life like a Carthusian; or for married people to be no more concerned than a Capuchin about increasing their income; or for a working man to spend his whole day in church like a religious; or on the other hand for a religious to be constantly exposed like a bishop to all the events and circumstances that bear on the needs of our neighbor. Is not this sort of devotion ridiculous, unorganized and intolerable? Yet this absurd error occurs very frequently, but in no way does true devotion, my Philothea, destroy anything at all. On the contrary, it perfects and fulfills all things. In fact if it ever works against, or is inimical to, anyone’s legitimate station and calling, then it is very definitely false devotion.
In connection with this, I sometimes remind them of how St. Dominic chose not to make his Rule binding under pain of sin, partly so that the friars would be free to exercise their mission, and of how St. Ignatius of Loyola allowed Jesuits in formation to be dispensed from most daily prayer except for examination of conscience and the Little Office. None of these saints were known for their spiritual laxity.
Diablogging: Christianity, fortitude, and war and peace
Robert Gotcher blogged last week on "warrior virtue" and just war vs. pacifism. I agree with most of what he says, and would like to add a few thoughts.
I'm actually comfortable saying that thinking about war should begin with a "presumption against war" as well as a "presumption for justice," and I think that George Weigel* unnecessarily pits the one formulation against the other. After all, just-war theory does by definition not merely declare (vs. pacifism) that war can be just, but also entails that war is just only in certain kinds of cases, not whenever one wishes to wage it. It entails that any given decision to wage war must be properly "justified." Already in Augustine and Aquinas, war thus seems to be something other than a neutral option for or against which there is no presumption. This becomes explicit in the Catechism's developed teaching: "Because of the evils and injustices that accompany all war, the Church insistently urges everyone to prayer and to action so that the divine Goodness may free us from the ancient bondage of war. All citizens and all governments are obliged to work for the avoidance of war" (2307-8); "moral legitimacy" of war requires that among other "rigorous conditions," "all other means of putting an end to [the damage inflicted by the aggressor] must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective" (2309). All this, and especially the latter, strikes me as equivalent to a "presumption against war."
Now, this is still not pacifism, nor a "den[ial of] the validity of the soldier's calling." It affirms that war can be just and even necessary, and that the virtues proper to the soldier are therefore genuine moral virtues. It does, as Robert suggests, leave room for a type of pacifism, though. It rules out the sort of pacifism that would object to all war - that would, equivalently, call the just, unjust, and demand that governments refrain from just (and charitable) resistance to injustice. It rules out, as Robert says, "pacifism ... as a legitimate vision of political life." While I admire Dorothy Day, I was deeply troubled when I learned years ago that she opposed US participation in World War II. However, it is compatible with a "personal pacifism," "as," in Robert's words, "a prophetic witness." I would add that his characterization of this as "an evangelical counsel on the level of poverty, chastity, and obedience for consecrated religious" should not be taken to mean that only clergy or religious could rightly adopt pacifism-as-witness; so also could others willing to serve their community in some significant and sacrificial way.
But if this is an especially high calling, then what of virtues like fortitude, and other virtues that may be distinctive to the soldier? We should first remember that a virtue does not fail to be a virtue for not being the highest virtue, for being a virtue that could sometimes be superseded by others.
So, although Aristotle rightly taught "that fortitude is chiefly about death in battle," this is because "the dangers of death which occur in battle come to man directly on account of some good, because, to wit, he is defending the common good by a just fight." But, "Martyrs face the fight that is waged against their own person, and this for the sake of the sovereign good which is God; wherefore their fortitude is praised above all. Nor is it outside the genus of fortitude that regards warlike actions, for which reason they are said to have been valiant in battle." (Aristotle probably knew no good greater than the common good of the political community, which is why he emphasized death in battle in the usual sense, in war.)
Can pacifism-as-witness be called fortitude, and even likened to martyrdom? I want to suggest that it can. The "witness" is a "martyr." It might be objected that the pacifist-witness is more like a "free rider" than like a martyr, since he relies on those who do go to war to save his liberty and life. But this is not necessarily so: the true pacifist-witness would refrain from bearing arms even were no one else willing to protect him (just as a priest would refuse to take up arms for lack of soldiers around him). As someone who would eagerly bear arms but for a physical disability need not be said to lack the fortitude of the soldier, so someone who would die for witness to the peace of the Kingdom but for the presence of others who will protect him need not be said to lack the fortitude of the martyr.
And the above is all the more true given the persecution (even if not to the point of death or bodily injury) from his own fellow citizens that the pacifist-witness may have to endure. Willingness to endure this is not to be scorned. Nor is the willingness, which, to repeat, should attend pacifism-as-witness, to serve one's community in some other way (beyond the service that attends witness itself) that will require some endurance and patience (there being in fact no community-directed virtues, justice and charity, without the intrapersonal ones, fortitude and temperance).
Anyone who is troubled by this must ask him- or herself: does the priest or religious who does not bear arms simply substitute "higher" virtues for "lower" ones (he does, Aquinas says, pursue a higher good rather than a lower one, but this does not speak to the question of the virtues with which he pursues that good), or does he perhaps exercise fortitude in the manner I have suggested? (Does a priest or religious, though celibate, not exercise, in his or her own way, the virtues associated with marriage and parenthood?) And if so, then why might others not exercise it similarly, for similar reasons (witness combined with other service of a high sort)?
As a final note, Weigel has spoken of the importance for this world of a peace humbler than that of the Kingdom, one in which swords are not yet beaten into plowshares. Similarly, it has been observed that for the Old Testament prophets, the promised peace will come through war. But when one reads these prophecies as a Christian - in the context of the New Testament - one might conclude that the war has been fought, by Christ, on the cross. This does not mean that we will never need to share in that fight through war, to share in that cross through the suffering that attends just war. But it does mean that the peace of the Kingdom is nearer than Weigel perhaps realizes. We cannot grasp the Kingdom, by war or by other means; we can, and must, open ourselves to it in hope. A charitable and merciful reluctance to wage war must be a part of that openness.
*For criticisms of some other claims Weigel makes regarding Catholic teaching on war, see below.
"ANNAPOLIS, Md. — With Gov. Robert Ehrlich poised to permit the first Maryland execution in five years, his administration is planning to create a death penalty review panel with Lt. Gov. Michael Steele at the head of the table ..." more
Opposition to capital punishment: "progress" in non-Christian culture?
Henri de Lubac writes of the operation of providence among pagans to prepare for Christ (Catholicism, p. 231, n. 41):
Of course, no more than St. Paul or the Fathers do we wish to use this providential role to explain away any "infidelity" of paganism. The part of actual evil in the latter is manifestly immense, and it was not at all inevitable. From this viewpoint, what is truly progress can sometimes appear to be deterioration: the corruption of a particular period or society, for example, may be bound up with a development of civilization and a deepening of moral conceptions that are, in themselves, true progress. Corruptio optimi pessima. ... But human progress renders the possibilities for evil more and more formidable. ...
By way of application: In Evangelium Vitae 27, John Paul II accounts "growing public opposition to the death penalty" as among "signs of hope" in our culture of death. Avery Dulles, however, expresses a concern:
The mounting opposition to the death penalty in Europe since the Enlightenment has gone hand in hand with a decline of faith in eternal life. In the nineteenth century the most consistent supporters of capital punishment were the Christian churches, and its most consistent opponents were groups hostile to the churches. When death came to be understood as the ultimate evil rather than as a stage on the way to eternal life, utilitarian philosophers such as Jeremy Bentham found it easy to dismiss capital punishment as “useless annihilation.”
Many governments in Europe and elsewhere have eliminated the death penalty in the twentieth century, often against the protests of religious believers. While this change may be viewed as moral progress, it is probably due, in part, to the evaporation of the sense of sin, guilt, and retributive justice, all of which are essential to biblical religion and Catholic faith. The abolition of the death penalty in formerly Christian countries may owe more to secular humanism than to deeper penetration into the gospel.
Arguments from the progress of ethical consciousness have been used to promote a number of alleged human rights that the Catholic Church consistently rejects in the name of Scripture and tradition. The magisterium appeals to these authorities as grounds for repudiating divorce, abortion, homosexual relations, and the ordination of women to the priesthood. If the Church feels herself bound by Scripture and tradition in these other areas, it seems inconsistent for Catholics to proclaim a “moral revolution” on the issue of capital punishment.
So it is no accident, I think, that the modern view that the death penalty is immoral is centered in the West. That has little to do with the fact that the West has a Christian tradition, and everything to do with the fact that the West is the home of democracy. Indeed, it seems to me that the more Christian a country is the less likely it is to regard the death penalty as immoral. Abolition has taken its firmest hold in post–Christian Europe, and has least support in the church–going United States. I attribute that to the fact that, for the believing Christian, death is no big deal. Intentionally killing an innocent person is a big deal: it is a grave sin, which causes one to lose his soul. But losing this life, in exchange for the next? The Christian attitude is reflected in the words Robert Bolt’s play has Thomas More saying to the headsman: “Friend, be not afraid of your office. You send me to God.” And when Cranmer asks whether he is sure of that, More replies, “He will not refuse one who is so blithe to go to Him.” For the nonbeliever, on the other hand, to deprive a man of his life is to end his existence. What a horrible act!
Besides being less likely to regard death as an utterly cataclysmic punishment, the Christian is also more likely to regard punishment in general as deserved. The doctrine of free will—the ability of man to resist temptations to evil, which God will not permit beyond man’s capacity to resist—is central to the Christian doctrine of salvation and damnation, heaven and hell. The post–Freudian secularist, on the other hand, is more inclined to think that people are what their history and circumstances have made them, and there is little sense in assigning blame.
De Lubac's point, I think, helps one to see that, despite the not-always-Christian inspiration of the anti-death-penalty movement (and despite the intellectual and social evils that have shared that inspiration), that movement may still reflect the working of providence, and the reexamination of the place of the death penalty in the Christian tradition that that movement has prompted may be a salutary one.
More tomorrow on a closely related matter: how de Lubac might help us to read the New Testament on the death penalty.
"I looked in my immigration law practice's scheduling book, and saw a blank space after Irma's name. She did not leave a telephone number and had refused to tell our receptionist what the purpose of her appointment was, so we had to wait until she arrived to find out why she wished to see us. ..." more
Testimony: Planned Parenthood employees vs. abuse reporting
"People answering the phone at Planned Parenthood offices in Alaska flouted sexual-abuse reporting laws and in one case urged a caller to lie about her boyfriend's age to help him avoid prosecution ..." more
I guess that one can't expect someone who violates "Thou shalt not kill" to adhere to "Thou shalt not bear false witness." (See also below.)
"VATICAN, Jan 22, 03 (CWNews.com) -- The new president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace has advanced the view that Church teaching on the justice of warfare are evolving-- much like the Church's stance on the death penalty. ..." more (subscription required)
I think I've heard someone advance this view before. I still agree with it. On this, see also William Portier, "Are We Really Serious When We Ask God to Deliver Us from War? The Catechism and the Challenge of Pope John Paul II," Communio 23 (1996): 47-63.
World Meeting of Families organizers on mission of Christian family
"... Jean-Marie and Anouk Meyer, members of the Pontifical Council for the Family, and one of the leading couples of the event, spoke about the mission of the Christian family.
"Jean-Marie Meyer, professor of philosophy in Paris, has been concerned with the family for a long time, especially topics related to identity and education. His wife, Anouk, is a professor of languages and daughter of the late geneticist Jérôme Lejeune, first president of the Pontifical Academy for Life. ..." more
"VATICAN CITY, JAN. 22, 2003 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II says that the restoration of full communion among Christians is not only the duty of pastors and theologians, but of every baptized person. ..." more
"LONDON — Britain would support a U.S.-led war on Iraq without United Nations backing if any countries imposed an 'unreasonable blockage' on a new Security Council resolution, Prime Minister Tony Blair said ..." more
"ST. LOUIS — America's top military brass delivered their message loud and clear to Saddam Hussein on Wednesday: The United States is prepared to go to war with Iraq. ..." more
"BAGHDAD, Iraq — Only days after agreeing to give U.N. weapons inspectors better cooperation, Iraq has launched a campaign to discredit them ..." more
"WASHINGTON — In an unusual public confrontation, Secretary of State Colin Powell says he doubts France is serious about facing up to Iraq's defiance of the United Nations. ..." more
"UNITED NATIONS — A top U.S. official said Wednesday he will push for the U.N. Security Council to consider sanctioning North Korea for its nuclear programs, even as a U.N. envoy said the North would consider sanctions "an act of war." ..." more
At the dawn of salvation, it is the Birth of a Child which is proclaimed as joyful news: "I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord" (Lk 2:10-11). The source of this "great joy" is the Birth of the Savior; but Christmas also reveals the full meaning of every human birth, and the joy which accompanies the Birth of the Messiah is thus seen to be the foundation and fulfillment of joy at every child born into the world (cf. Jn 16:21). (Evangelium Vitae 1; see also below)
"SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CNS) -- Any Catholic politician who supports abortion should 'abstain from receiving holy Communion until he has a change of heart,' Bishop William K. Weigand of Sacramento said Jan. 22. ..." more
"WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Invigorated by a cardinal's call not to 'sit on the sidelines and simply allow others to dictate the future of our society,' thousands of Catholic pro-lifers joined those of other faiths in the March for Life ..." more
"MONTGOMERY, Ala., Jan. 15 — Teenage girls in Alabama who want an abortion without a parent's permission must go to juvenile court first, to get permission from a judge. ..." more (registration required)
Guy Bedouelle, OP, Saint Dominic: The Grace of the Word, trans. Sister Mary Thomas Noble, OP (Ignatius, 1987).
Because of (or despite?) umpteen years of Jesuit education, I have a special regard for St. Ignatius of Loyola. But despite (or because of?) not having met many Dominicans or known any well, I have a special regard for St. Dominic (and if I took religious vows, they would probably be Dominican vows), even once having helped influence friends to name one of their children Dominic Thomas. My interest in him was originally provoked especially by reading Josef Pieper's brief account of the founding mission of the Order of Preachers in his Guide to Thomas Aquinas. Not long afterwards, a Dominican friend of a Jesuit friend recommended that I read Bedouelle, who is Professor of Church History at the University of Fribourg, Switzerland.
His Introduction promises: "In Part One we are introduced to Dominic through documents from the first generation of Dominicans. ... Part Two verifies the basic truth that for Dominic, 'the grace of preaching' could be exercised only within the Church."
With regard to the former matter, Bedouelle goes on to write, "The fact that our access to St. Dominic is so indirect reveals his discretion and, in a sense, his detachment from himself. This detachment in turn is an eloquent statement of the place he wished to hold within the Church." Thus, "Dominic lived among his brethren as if he were not present. He had no bed, no cell of his own. He scarcely ate, yet followed the common life and the Rule in all points. Any one could approach him."
Perhaps I find Dominic an attractive figure in part because his personality may have been the opposite of mine in many ways, but in ways that constitute a welcome challenge. The austerity to which the above summary alludes would be difficult for me; no one will ever say of me that I "spoke only with God or about God." Like Dominic, I love the Bible, but it is probably not at the heart of my intellectual life as it was of Dominic's. Perhaps especially, I value an explicit intellectual life. Now, "Dominic has the reputation of having founded an Order of intellectuals. Though the expression may seem exaggerated, the affirmation is not false. ... St. Thomas Aquinas is in perfect accord with the intellectual ideal of the Founder of the Order he chose to join. ... As for Dominic ... he unequivocally commanded [his brethren] to study the truth of 'sacred doctrine,' all of them, whoever they might be ..." Yet, Bedouelle explains,
But the noblest form of Dominic's audacity was his unbounded confidence in God, and consequently, in his brethren. It was this which moved him to send out the least clever of his sons to preach, saying to them, "Go in confidence, for the Lord will give you the gift of divine preaching. He will be with you; you will want for nothing." They went, and everything came out just as he had predicted ...
There is a quality of daring discernible in all holiness, consisting in the special confidence displayed when the "gospel of God" is to be preached, so stressed by Paul (1 Th 2:2). Dominic possessed this on all occasions: in the initial organization of the Order; in the assurance that they would receive their daily bread ...; in his unfailing hope for the conversion of the brethren. In all these circumstances he had complete confidence in God's action, a full assurance that all would be achieved by divine will.
Do I, sometimes, trust scholarship more than God?
I decided to blog this book today not only because of its merit on its own terms, but also to make a point concerning how we must go about building a culture of life in response to the sad event whose anniversary we mourn today and to all that is associated with Roe. Beginning with his first papal encyclical, "The Redeemer of Man," John Paul II has emphasized the importance of the share given to the Church - to all its members - in Christ's triple office of prophet, priest, and (servant-)king. Each of us must live out our share in this triple office in its entirety. This teaching from chap. 4 of "Redeemer" underlies the teaching of chap. 4 of "The Gospel of Life" that it is necessary for each of us to proclaim, celebrate, and serve the Gospel of life, since it is only by thus making Christ comprehensively present in the world that the Church will overcome the culture of death, rooted as that culture is in alienation from God.
Now, one finds in the history of the Order of Preachers the living out of this threefold mission. The Order is, of course, especially devoted to preaching. This preaching, though, is grounded not only in study but also in prayer, including liturgical (and Marian - compare John Paul II) prayer. Dominic's own prayer life was especially intense, as Bedouelle describes. And of course, beginning in his own lifetime, contemplative Dominican nuns have aided the Order's mission. And Dominic was, as his relationship with his brethren shows, eager to serve. Those in his Third Order especially serve various human needs. (For more on the richly diverse contributions that the Dominican family has made to the world in its history, see also Bedouelle's In the Image of St. Dominic: Nine Portraits of Dominican Life.)
May we all learn from the example and with the help of the intercession of St. Dominic something of how to integrate preaching or teaching, prayer, and service, especially to overcome the culture of death that is our day's form of Manichaeanism (John Paul II, "Letter to Families" 19; cf. "Gospel of Life" 22-23).
Question from Mike A. on 01-14-2003: Judie,
With all of the discussions of Democrats vs. Republicans, and which party has done more for the life movement, isn't really up to the Supreme Court to outlaw abortion? Maybe President Bush is waiting to get as many pro-life appointments into the judiciary, then maybe we will see some action. Could this be?
Answer by Judie Brown on 01-16-2003: Dear Mike
When we get down to the nitty gritty, it really is not up to Republicans, Democrats, Judges or others. It is up to Catholics like you and I to follow the Holy Father's lead and teach, preach and pray the Gospel of Life so that, regardless of what politicians do or do not do, babies will live, and the nation will be healed.
We do not need laws or judges to end the murder of the innocents, we need courageous witness to Christ and His truth.
laws or witness? or: law and witness?
Question from Daniel Cotarelo Garcia on 01-16-2003: Dear Mrs Brown:
... I was somewhat puzzled by this phrase you wrote:
"We do not need laws or judges to end the murder of the innocents, we need courageous witness to Christ and His truth."
Reading it in context with the rest of your posts, it is evident to me that you must have meant: "Laws or judges are not enough..., we need..."
I live in a country where babies in their mother's wombs are relatively safer than in the U.S., for our Constitution states the defense of life of the unborn. (The defense of the unborn was added in 1994; since we took your Constitution as model for ours in 1853, feel free to copy back our 1994 ammendment into yours, with no regard for copyright.) ;-)
Unfortunately, there are many pressures to make abortion legal in our country. I feel (and I'm sure you'll agree) that if abortion is legalized, there will be even more abortions than now (for as you may guess, when a woman has determined to murder her child, more ofen than not a few words on a code won't stop her.)
Anyway, if at least some abortions are spared because of fear of the law, this is better than nothing. Granted, "I would willingly kill you, yet I'll let you live because I fear legal punishment" is far from being so nice as "I cherish your life because I love you", yet I think it would be a lesser evil.
But even if fear of the law deterred nobody from commiting an abortion, the law would still be fulfilling another function: to teach the moral truth. If things worked the way they sould, when having a moral doubt one ought to be able to read the civil law and conclude: "If the law allows it, it is probably right; if the law forbids it, it is probably wrong."
In a nutshell, we thing laws and judges would ALSO be useful, this implying no denial that the most important part is that of courageous Chirstian witness.
Yours in Christ,
Daniel Cotarelo Garcia. Buenos Aires - Argentina
Answer by Judie Brown on 01-17-2003: Dear Daniel
Thank you for the insights. ...
Of course laws that defend life from conception and judges who rule that every person is a person from conception are not only useful but absolutely necessary.
In the United States, after 30 years of slipping farther and farther DOWN the slippery slope of the culture of death, my comment was designed to point out that if Catholics allow compromise when it comes to legally protecting the most vulnerable of our brothers and sisters, then disaster occurs. This is why we strive to be courageous witness to Christ and His Truth, while working to touch people, including politicians and judges, with that Truth.
When the majority of people reject the act of abortion because they KNOW it is murder, then the laws and the judicial rulings that affirm life will follow.
Thank you and God bless you.
Brown's position remains deeply problematic. Indeed, changing the culture facilitates changing the law (and vice-versa - campaigns to change the law can help change the culture), and then some (so that in a "culture of life," people will refrain from abortion for reasons that go beyond obedience to the law). But Brown's long-time contention that what she calls "compromise" - i.e., trying to get legal protection for as many babies as one can for the time being - is part of the problem rather than part of the solution is wrongheaded. Such "compromise" need not change the culture for the worse, depending on the message of which it is presented as a part. And her invocation of "the Holy Father's lead" reflects either misunderstanding or dishonesty. John Paul II calls for us to, in her words, "teach, preach [i.e., "proclaim"] and pray ["celebrate"] the Gospel of Life" - and, unmentioned here by Brown, to "serve" it. And precisely in the context of detailing the meaning of the latter, he "encourages political leaders, starting with those who are Christians, not to give in, but to make those choices which, taking into account what is realistically attainable, will lead to the reestablishment of a just order in the defense and promotion of the value of life" (Evangelium Vitae 90, emphasis added; cf. 73).
So, in voting, take into account the real differences among the candidates and parties, including especially Bush's promise to name Supreme Court justices who will be just, and including many Democrats' promises to name or confirm only justices who will be unjust, since, in fact, the most pro-life of Congresses won't be able to outlaw abortion until Roe is overturned by the Court (unless Congress and the states first amend the Constitution).
Earlier today, President Bush, by contrast, addressed by phone participants in the March for Life. Here is a transcript of his remarks:
Thank you Nellie, and thank you all very much. I am in Missouri today, and I appreciate being included in your celebration of life.
I know that many of you have made great sacrifices to come to Washington today -- riding buses all night, and braving the cold all day. I admire your perseverance and your devotion to the cause of life.
You are gathered today on the National Mall, not far from America's monument to Thomas Jefferson, author of our Declaration of Independence. And the March for Life upholds the self-evident truth of that Declaration -- that all are created equal, and given the unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
That principle of America needs defenders in every place and every generation. In our time, respect for the right to life calls us to defend the sick and the dying, persons with disabilities and birth defects, and all who are weak and vulnerable. And this self-evident truth calls us to value and to protect the lives of innocent children waiting to be born.
You and I share a commitment to building a culture of life in America, and we are making progress. As President, I have signed the Born Alive Infants Protection Act, opposed the destruction of embryos for stem cell research, and refused to spend taxpayer money on international programs that promote abortion overseas. My Administration is challenging the Oregon law that permits physician-assisted suicide. We support abstinence education, crisis pregnancy programs, and parental notification laws. And we are offering compassionate alternatives to abortion, by promoting adoption and extending state health care coverage for unborn children.
I hope the United States Senate will pass a bill this year banning partial-birth abortion, which I will sign. Partial-birth abortion is an abhorrent procedure that offends human dignity. I also urge the Senate to ban all human cloning. We must not create life to destroy life. Human beings are not research material to be used in cruel and reckless experiments.
For 30 years, the March for Life has been sustained by constant prayer and an abiding hope: that one day every child will be born into a family that loves her and a Nation that protects her. And when that day arrives, you will have the gratitude of millions -- especially those who know the gift of life because you cared, and you kept the faith.
May God bless you all. And may God bless America.
It mattered to millions of babies, and millions of mothers, that Clinton was elected in 1992 and reelected in 1996. It mattered to millions of babies, and to millions of mothers, that Bush beat Gore in 2000. And it will matter to millions of babies, and to millions of mothers, whether Bush or one of those Democrats who paid homage to "choice" last night wins in 2004. Bush isn't perfect; the GOP is still less perfect. But Clinton entrenched the abortion license more deeply; Gore and congressional Democrats would have entrenched it still more deeply; Bush has taken steps in the direction of changing this, and promises to take more as they become possible. Especially because of Roe, your vote matters.
This is a grave problem in the US, and not only - though especially - because of Roe. See, e.g., below. Nor is the problem of substantively and constitutionally unjust policies resulting from judicial despotism an entirely new one; consider Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857). Can we learn anything from Abraham Lincoln's response to Dred Scott? See Robert P. George's article "Lincoln on Judicial Despotism" in the latest (Feb.) First Things (the articles from this issue will be online in a month).
"Mom and dad observe in wonderment and awe as the ultrasound instrument flows over her still-flat abdomen. ..." more
"I was what the sociologists call an 'early adopter' of feminism. ..." more
"A friend once commented that growing up a fan of the Boston Red Sox (as he had done) was good preparation for being a conservative later in life because it prepares you for perpetual disappointment. Something similar might be said about pro-lifers ..." more
"'Abortion is such an easy, safe way to terminate pregnancies, yet women were dying for lack of safe abortions,' a Minnesota ob-gyn tells Glamour, remembering life before Roe v. Wade liberated women. ..." more
As it turns out, they didn't do so without a bit of an on-air fight. The Media Research Center reports:
The View gang ganged up, though politely, on a guest on Tuesday who dared to suggest that abortion may not always be a wonderful experience. ...
Her variance from the “pro-choice” line clearly appalled the regulars on the ABC daytime show, especially Joy Behar and former NBC News reporter Star Jones, though former CBS News reporter Meredith Viera also revealed where she stands. (Barbara Walters was out, replaced by former Saturday Night Live cast member Ana Gasteyer who was also appalled that O'Neill's work might threaten Roe v Wade.) In the next segment, actress Katey Segal scolded the View team for being so “polite” to O'Neill.
Some of the comments and exchanges on the January 21 The View, as transcribed ...: ... more
Not that we can expect better than this, but we should be able to.
"WASHINGTON — Long-standing supporters and opponents of abortion rights are using the 30th anniversary of Roe v. Wade to renew their battles over a woman's right to choose to terminate her pregnancy. ..." more
(Notice FOX's "fair and balanced" language there.)
"MEXICO CITY, JAN. 21, 2003 (Zenit.org).- The bishops of Mexico and the United States wrote a joint pastoral letter to appeal to their flocks and nations to recognize and promote the rights of immigrants. ..." more
In a keynote address, the Rev. Michael Pfleger, who leads a Catholic church in Chicago with a predominantly African-American congregation, said the movement toward war is part of a "campaign of fear" that seeks to shift the focus from larger problems.
"We need an enemy, a boogeyman, so we do not have to look in the mirror of self-reflection," he said.
In light of gratuitous swipes (as distinct from substantive critiques) like the above (concerning prudential issues), and in light of the priest's apparent willingness to hang out with the likes of Al Sharpton, I smell an ideological rat.
Where are "Jane Roe" and her lawyer 30 years later?
"DALLAS (AP) - They were on the same side 30 years ago, fighting for the right of women to get an abortion. But attorney Sarah Weddington and one-time abortion rights poster girl Norma McCorvey have sharply contrasting views today. ..." more
"Roe v. Wade turns 30 this week. Marking the end rather than the beginning of so many lives, it is a most unusual and unhappy birthday. ... But perhaps there is light on the still-distant horizon: ... Americans are increasingly squeamish about what their indifference has wrought. ..." more
"CHICAGO — Harry Belafonte is at it again. The singer, speaking at a Martin Luther King Jr. celebration ..., criticized Secretary of State Colin Powell and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice ..., and said he expects the Bush administration to try to wipe away affirmative action ..." more
"It is now well known that the president favors diversity of experience in higher education, even racial experience, but not the mindless or unconstitutional use of race in admissions. What that actually means under the law was left for Solicitor General Theodore Olson to articulate ..." more
"WASHINGTON — While U.N. teams cautioned that they would need more time to complete their search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, President Bush warned Tuesday that he is running short on patience with Saddam Hussein. ..." more
"WASHINGTON — North Korea is capable of expanding its nuclear arsenal to a half-dozen weapons within a few years ... U.S. officials fear a full-blown nuclear weapon production line run by the communist country, with the product available to any government willing to pay the price. ..." more
"By one of those happy coincidences in which no Iranian ever really believes, both The Economist and the New York Times have discovered that Iran's religious leaders are not happy with the way things are going in the Islamic Republic. ..." more
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation recently announced a $100 million grant to launch the India Aids Initiative, which will focus on prevention and education. This latest grant is in addition to the $450 million the Gates Foundation previously committed to the battle against AIDS. Some 4 million people in India are currently infectd with HIV, and U.S. government officials estimate that by 2010 India could have over 25 million people infected. Bill Gates hopes to help India avoid the devastating spread of the disease that has afflicted sub-Saharan Africa. His gift, however, was not universally welcomed. India's health minister accused him of "spreading panic" about AIDS. Some cynics suggested that because Microsoft has invested $400 million in India, Gates's motive is more Big Businessman than Good Neighbor. Others sniff that the donation represents a relative pittance given the CEO's billions. Please. Countless African lives could have been saved had more governments reacted in the early stages of their epidemics with a measure of "panic" rather than indifference. And if India is near the front of Gates's mind because of his business - so what?
Perhaps some of these complaints are unwarranted. However, is the Gates money going to be well used in the important fight against AIDS? The second of four "proven prevention interventions" listed as examples of that Initiative grant area is "Condom distribution and social marketing." And this is not surprising, given that the Foundation seems to be somewhat obsessed with condoms for AIDS and pregnancy prevention, as well as other methods of contraception: see, e.g., its recent $45.7 million in "grants that will combine innovative uses of existing tools with research and development of technologies that could offer important new approaches to HIV prevention and contraception"; or its earlier joint statement with, among others, Tim Wirth (friend of Al Gore, and Bill Clinton's Under-Secretary of State for Global Affairs, famous for keeping a bowl of condoms on his desk), calling for, among other things, "commodity availability (including male and female condoms)."
And, as I have blogged, condoms aren't the answer to the AIDS crisis. It's to be deplored that some combination of the profit motive and ideology are leading Bill Gates to use his money in such unhelpful and indeed harmful ways. I'm not down on Microsoft products per se as some of my friends are (although I will not give up my Corel WordPerfect for MS Word); I'm not even sure whether its business practices are evil; but I object to Gates.
"BAGHDAD, Iraq — The Iraqi government will expand its cooperation with U.N. weapons inspectors under a new agreement worked out in two days of talks, but it's sure the U.S. military will attack anyway, an Iraqi vice president said Tuesday. ..." more
"SAN DIEGO (CNS) -- Those who argue in favor of the 'humanity' of killing patients through euthanasia typically cite a person's unrelieved pain as the primary rationale for taking life, but the argument is 'absolutely not true,' said a San Diego physician. ..." more
"VATICAN CITY, JAN. 20, 2003 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II says the Catholic Church is 'irrevocably' committed to the ecumenical way and the full unity of Christians. ..." more
"... In this interview ..., Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, analyzes the state of relations of the Catholic Church with the rest of the Churches and Christian communities. ..." more
"VATICAN CITY, JAN. 20, 2003 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II expressed his spiritual closeness to divorced Catholics, and reminded them that they are called to participate in Christian life, respecting the rules of the Church. ..." more
"WASHINGTON — Anti-abortion activists marking this week's 30th anniversary of the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision say they have their first chance in years to put a dent in abortion rights now that Republicans control the House, Senate and the White House. ..." more
"WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court ruling allowing legal abortions turns 30 years this week, an anniversary heavily shadowed by speculation that a high court retirement could shift the balance of power in abortion politics. ..." more
"WASHINGTON — Top Bush administration officials said Sunday they would welcome Saddam Hussein seeking exile outside Iraq, saying it could avert military action to topple the Iraqi president. ..." more
"BAGHDAD, Iraq — Hans Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei made some headway during their two-day trip to Baghdad, getting the Iraqi government to make partial concessions toward facilitating disarmament. ..." more
"UNITED NATIONS — Secretary of State Colin Powell warned the United Nations Security Council Monday that it 'cannot shrink' from its duties should Iraq fail to meet its obligations ..." more
I wondered below about how coverage of Wednesday's March would compare with that of Saturday's anti-war rally. The March coverage has begun:
"An odd consequence of the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion 30 years ago has been an annual boon to bus rentals. ..." more
The article, in itself, is probably fair, and allows pro-lifers to speak for themselves. Part of it is devoted to highlighting tensions within the pro-life movement in general and at the annual March in particular; this is part of the reality of the event, although perhaps the number of words spent on this is disproportionate. I didn't notice anything similar in the same newspaper's coverage of the anti-war rally, although I also didn't notice an advance article about that rally, and its after-the-fact article wasn't by one of its own reporters, but rather was taken from the Washington Post.
Bush admin on "affirmative action": news, commentary
"WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Colin Powell said Sunday he disagrees with President Bush's position on an affirmative action case before the Supreme Court, as the White House called for more money for historically black colleges. ...
"A White House spokesman declined to say Sunday night why the black and Hispanic grant programs are acceptable, when the University of Michigan admission system is not. ..." more
"ON WEDNESDAY, President Bush announced that his administration would file briefs in opposition to the University of Michigan affirmative action policies now before the Supreme Court. Bush apparently would be taking, as one news account put it, a 'hard-line' position.
"But then, late Thursday night, Solicitor General Theodore Olson filed the briefs. To be sure, they ask the court to declare the Michigan policies unconstitutional. But they do so in a way that hardly can be called 'hard-line.' ..." more
"NEW YORK (Reuters Health) Dec 31 - Since all the publicity of a possible association between measles-mumps-rubella vaccination and autism, parents of autistic children tend to recall the onset of regressive symptoms as coinciding with MMR vaccination, UK researchers report. ..." more (registration required)
"Investigation of fetal dopaminergic tissue transplantation is being conducted in animal models and clinical trials as a potential treatment for advanced Parkinson disease (PD). ... Glial cell line derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF) has been shown to improve survival of stored human dopaminergic tissue ..." more (registration required)
"In the first double-blind, placebo-controlled randomized study of fetal tissue transplantation for the treatment of patients with advanced Parkinson disease (PD), investigators found that implanted dopaminergic tissue can produce measurable improvement in young PD ... The results ..., however, also highlighted several serious limitations of transplantation. ..." more (registration required)
"LONDON (Reuters) Jan 06 - Drug companies pioneering the use of stem cells to treat incurable diseases are pleading the case for cloning research amid a furor over claims by the Raelian UFO sect to have created two cloned infants. Industry leaders fear a ... backlash against all cloning would jeopardize research into novel ways of treating ... atherosclerosis, diabetes, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease. ..." more (registration required)
"VATICAN CITY, JAN. 19, 2003 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II says that full unity among Christians is possible, with God's grace. The Pope today spoke about the the goal of full communion among believers ..." more
"VATICAN CITY, JAN. 19, 2003 (Zenit.org).- World Day of the Sick, scheduled for Washington, D.C., will help resharpen the meaning of the care the Church offers to the sick and to health care workers ..." more
In a special way, believers in Christ must defend and promote this right [to life], aware as they are of the wonderful truth recalled by the Second Vatican Council: "By his incarnation the Son of God has united himself in some fashion with every human being." This saving event reveals to humanity not only the boundless love of God who "so loved the world that he gave his only Son" (Jn 3:16), but also the incomparable value of every human person.
The Church, faithfully contemplating the mystery of the Redemption, acknowledges this value with ever new wonder. She feels called to proclaim to the people of all times this "Gospel," the source of invincible hope and true joy for every period of history. The Gospel of God's love for man, the Gospel of the dignity of the person and the Gospel of life are a single and indivisible Gospel.
"WASHINGTON — As the United States moves closer to a possible military confrontation with Iraq, thousands of anti-war protesters gathered in the nation's frigid capital Saturday to voice their opposition ..." more
"Washington - Amid chants of 'no blood for oil' and signs and speeches assailing President Bush as a warmonger, tens of thousands of protesters rallied and marched against U.S. policy in Iraq. ..." more
"WASHINGTON -- Tens of thousands of war protesters converged on Washington yesterday, braving the bitter cold in thunderous numbers and assembling in the shadow of the Capitol dome to voice their opposition to a U.S. military strike against Iraq. ..." more
I ask again (and as someone who does lean against war in Iraq at this time), will Wednesday's March for Life get this kind of coverage? If not, why not?
The times we live in are not much different from the times when Samuel lived. Nations are waging war on other nations. Some servants of God have become self-serving, like the sons of Eli. Competing interests are deafening the ears of our hearts to the call of divine love (cf. I Sam. 3:1).
People want to live in peace and enjoy security. In spite of this, Nations continue to build up their military arsenals and terrorists wreak havoc in every corner of the globe. In the wake of the sexual scandals of the year 2002 people feel abused, abandoned and betrayed. The allurements of secular society drive people to grasp for more and more of the things they don’t need and don’t want once they acquire them.
While the light of faith has not gone out, its beams are not easily recognized (cf. I Sam. 3:3). We grope along trying to find our way. By God's grace, our wanderings bring us to Jordan's distant shore. Exhausted, too tired to go farther and too anxious to relax, we hear a voice cry out, a voice that speaks to the longings of our heart. "You are not far from God's dream for you. Now it is up to you to decide if you will make God's dream your own. However, to do so you must abandon the path you have been following (cf. Mat. 3:2). You must stop killing yourself in the pursuit of those things that cannot satisfy your deepest hunger" (cf. Is. 55:2). Like our forbearers who stood on the banks of the Jordan many generations ago, we must make a decision. Will we choose life or will we choose death? Will we beg for a blessing or will we live under a curse (cf. Deut. 30:19)? It is wisdom to choose life. Which will we choose?
It is mind-boggling how easily people forget the prize that God holds out to them. Why would anyone intentionally strain after something that is not worth having (cf. Phil. 3:12)? John the Baptist calls out to us and speaks with a sense of urgency. He knows that there is no reason for us to be harassed or dejected, to act like sheep without a shepherd (cf. Mat. 9:36). Standing on Jordan's shore, John pointed out the one whom every heart desires. Are we willing to listen to his words with the ears of their heart?
Abraham, our father in faith, spoke to a nervous and bewildered Isaac as they made their way towards Mount Moriah. He told him not to be anxious, but to trust that God would provide all that would be needed for him to live (cf. Gen. 22:8). Today, the children of Abraham heard the words of John the Baptist, "Look, standing in your midst is the Lamb God has provided. He is the one who will give you life" (cf. Jn. 1:36). The one to whom the John points is God's Eternal Word who existed in the beginning, and in whom all things and all people and all nations have their being. The one to whom John points is the Omega, the end point, and goal our existence (cf. Rev. 1:8). The one to whom John points is the heart of the universe. He is the one who gives life to all who believe in him (cf. Jn. 3:15). Like Andrew and the other disciple, will we ponder the meaning of these words in our hearts? Having pondered them, will we do whatever it takes to make them our own?
The disciples heard and understood the words John spoke. Without delay they set out to claim as their own that for which Christ had claimed them to be his own (cf. Phil. 3:12). For a time, it is enough for them to be anonymous followers. But this anonymity could not go on indefinitely. At one point, Jesus turned and asked the question, "Why are you following me" (cf. Jn. 1:38)? The two disciples, and now we must give an answer. Like Samuel, we can say, "We are here because you have called us" (cf. I Sam. 3:5). Continuing, we can say, "We have tried so many other paths that have led us nowhere. Teach us how to live" (cf. Jn. 6:67, ff.).
Seeing the sincerity of our hearts, the Lord looks at us and loves us (cf. Mk. 10:21). Then He tells us that if we are serious about following Him, we must distance ourselves from all that we hold dear, our comfort zone, and regular circle of acquaintances (cf. Gen. 12:1). Only then will we be free enough to be born anew in the Spirit (cf. Jn. 3:8). In that Spirit we will find our brokenness healed and our sadness comforted. In that Spirit we will know the joy that comes with hearing the Good News and of knowing that God has shown His favor towards us (cf. Is. 61: 1-3). We have Jesus' word that if we conform our lives to His teaching, His Father will claim us as his own and make his dwelling within us (cf. Jn. 14:23).
May we who have gathered here to share in the Banquet of the Lord be filled with His Spirit so as to live in unity and peace. May the Lord purify and renew us, that we might receive an even greater portion of His love and grace. And when He comes on that last day, may he bring us all together to everlasting life.
"The public universities of California, Texas, and Florida, whose 'race-neutral' admissions policies were applauded by President Bush this week, are notable for their efforts to achieve the goals of affirmative action -- racial diversity -- without actually using affirmative action. ..." more