“You just can’t say that, just as you can’t say that all Christians are fundamentalists. We have our share of them (fundamentalists). All religions have these little groups,” he said.
“They (Muslims) say: ‘No, we are not this, the Koran is a book of peace, it is a prophetic book of peace’.”
Not at all the same thing. He’s not saying the Koran is a prophetic book or that it is a book of peace, just that Muslims say it is.
I would not be at all surprised if Francis thinks the Koran is a “book of peace,” because there are elements of peace in Islam. It’s simply foolish and reductionist to measure an entire faith by its worst elements, even when the worst elements are pretty bad. That’s what our enemies do to us. We shouldn’t then turn around and do it to others. A critique must be both honest and generous. With Islam, violence is baked right in the cake, but so is charity and devotion to God as well. Whatever we think of it, we have to consider the real thing, not a caricature.
More problematic is the, Hey we all have our nuts, amIright? comment from Francis. Christian fundamentalists are tacky and stupid and annoying, but only very rarely violent.
When a Christian goes fundie, you get Jack Chick and bad music and, sometimes, Eric Robert Rudolph.
When a Muslim goes fundie, you get the armies of ISIS, 9/11, jihad, beheadings, Jew-hate, and the destruction of civilizations.
Of the two faiths, one has tendency to violence and extremism that is rooted in elements of the faith itself, while the other does not. It’s a false equivalence.
Isaiah distinguishes five ailments which beset us, and from which we need rescue. We are drifting, demanding, depraved, disaffected, and depressed. But in the end, Isaiah reminds us of our dignity. Let’s look at each in turn.
1. Drifting – The text says, Why [O Lord] do you let us wander from your ways, and harden our hearts so that we fear you not? Return for the sake of your servants, the tribes of your heritage.
It is a common human tendency to wander or drift. It is a rarer thing for people to reject God all of a sudden, especially if they were raised with some faith. Rather, what usually happens is that we just drift away, wander off course. It is like the captain or pilot of a boat who stops paying close attention. Soon enough the boat is farther and farther off course. At first things are not noticed, but the cumulative effect is that the boat is now headed in the wrong direction. He did not suddenly turn the helm and shift 180 degrees, he just stopped paying attention and drifted … and then drifted some more.
And so it is with some of us who may wonder how we got so far off course. I talk with many people who have left the Church and so many of them cannot point to an incident or moment when they walked out of Church and said, “I’ll never come back here.” It is usually just that they drifted away, fell away from the practice of the faith. They missed a Sunday here or there and, little by little, missing Mass became the norm. Maybe they moved to a new city and never got around to finding a parish. They just got disconnected and drifted.
The funny thing about drifting is that the farther off course you get, the harder it is to get back. It just seems increasingly monumental to make the changes necessary to get back on track. Thus Isaiah speaks of the heart of a drifter becoming hardened. Our bad habits become “hard” to break, and as God seems more and more distant to us, we lose our holy fear and reverence for Him.
It is interesting how, in taking up our voice, Isaiah, “blames” God for it all. Somehow it is “His fault” for letting us wander, because He let us do it.
It is true that God has made us free and that He is very serious about respecting our freedom. How else could we love God, if we were not free? Compelled love is not love at all.
But what Isaiah is really getting at is that some of us are so far afield, so lost, that only God can find us and save us. And so we must depend on God being like a shepherd who seeks his lost sheep.
Thus, here is the first way that Isaiah sets forth our need for a Savior. And so, in Advent, reflecting this way, the Church cries out, “Come, Emmanuel! Come, Lord Jesus! Seek and find us for many of us are drifting.”
5. Depressed - The text says, All our good deeds are like polluted rags; we have all withered like leaves, and our guilt carries us away like the wind.
One of the definitions of depression is anger turned inward. And while Isaiah has given voice to our tendency to direct anger and blame at God, here he gives voice to our other tendency: to turn on ourselves.
Thus, our good deeds are described as being like polluted rags. It may be true that they are less than they could be, but calling them polluted rags also expresses our own frustration with our seemingly hopeless situation: our addiction to sin and injustice.
Ultimately, the devil wants us to diminish what little good we can find in ourselves and to lock us into a depressed and angry state. If there is no good in us at all, then why bother?
There is such a thing as unhealthy guilt (cf 2 Cor 7:10-11) and a self-loathing that is not of God, but from the devil, our accuser. It may well be this that Isaiah articulates here. And from such depressed self-loathing (masquerading as piety) we need a savior. Come, Lord Jesus!
The Monsignor has more and it's all good stuff particularly for those who are unhappy or down in the dumps.
Read it, digest it and be helped. We are all in need of a Savior and especially in need of knowing of that need. You may be suffering in a way that is indicating that need. Seek help.
It was at this time that I couldn’t help thinking about St. Pope John Paul II’s brilliant encyclical, Veritatis Splendor (The Splendor of the Truth). The modern world is infatuated with the notion of conscience. We say all sorts of pseudo-enlightened things like, “My conscience is clear.” or “My conscience allows me to sleep at night.” We treat conscience as the infallible guide and final judge of all actions. If we aren’t pricked by our conscience to act otherwise, we can barrel ahead into any number of misadventures.
But John Paul II offers a corrective.
A conscience is a good guide…if it is well-formed. A well-formed conscience is nourished by prayer, engagement in the sacraments and study of God’s word and tradition. A well-formed conscience is wedded to God’s Law and corrects our actions using this infallible Law as its supreme standard. But St. Pope John Paul II warns,
“When God’s truth is obscured, human consciences are also deformed, if sin is denied, God is also denied…Human conscience goes astray if it is neglected and deprived of the truth.”
To repeat, consciences can become blunted and deformed. Starved of prayer, sacraments and study, a deformed conscience can lose sight of Truth and comport itself to Untruth. We can find ourselves unpricked, uncorrected and unaware that our path is going astray. Before long we can find that our ill-formed or deformed conscience is in the service of our self-satisfying appetites while disregarding the God who should be its true master.
Why do weddings still move us? We do not become emotional when business partners strike a deal. We shed no tears at a friendly handshake. We feel no such joy to hear of “casual” mating.
A wedding is different. Here stand a man and woman, entering together into a new life.
And yet it is more than this. They are about to enter the generations. Their union proclaims life: their parents and grandparents still live within them. Humankind lives within them. The cultures and creeds of the world live within them. They are there—in the blood. Those bearing witness know this truth. They too have been born from a union of man and woman.
See the grandmother who looks on, now frail. She was once that bride, and the memory of her own mother and father dwells within her still.
See the brother who welcomes guests—he will one day be that bridegroom, and he too will enter in a new way the long history into which he was born.
See their friends and neighbors. They are more essential than any might guess. For it is they who will help make this marriage flourish. Their investment will return to them, for marriage is a cup that runs over.
See the mother of the bridegroom, hugging her son amid smiles and tears. He was once a helpless baby whom she nursed at the breast. Now he stands tall above her, and his voice is deep, and his shoulders broad. She remembers his birth. He who was once her child will one day be a father.
See the father of the bride, holding her by the hand. He recalls when her mother bore her, and he envisions in her what is so hard to believe, the mother-to-be. She is the bearer of a future. She is irreplaceable.
See man and woman together. They are not just two people. He is for her, and she for him; it is inscribed in their bodies. Their union will bring life that binds and mingles families, encourages faith to flourish, and brings humankind and the world’s diverse cultures to flower again.
Both are eager to undertake their new responsibilities—their gift of self to the other—and think little about what is owed them. They know nothing yet of the difficulty of the years ahead, only of their desire to travel it together.
It is hard now to speak of such obvious and beautiful things, but they are there. All the witnesses know it. It is the music of man and of woman. Man with woman brings out the finest in him, directing his blood and his mind toward what makes life possible; and woman with man brings out the finest in her, directing her love and her care toward what makes life sweet.
Today, however, the homes that marriage makes are exposed to an army of distractions, and to the thief and the enemy who comes to steal and destroy. Weddings are rarer and children fewer. Where poverty erodes, marriage feels out of reach. Where war afflicts, families are crushed. Anywhere marriage recedes, we lose the transcendent and material goods that all human beings should enjoy.
And we too are at fault, for when marriages are exposed to the wind and the rain, we have paid little attention. When the needs of children succumb to the wishes of adults, we have often remained silent. Love is reduced to a consumer item, an airbrushed image, or a slogan to export. It will not work. We will not flourish.
For marriage is no mere symbol of achievement, but the very foundation—a base from which to build a family and from there a community. For on earth marriage binds us across the ages in the flesh, across families in the flesh, and across the fearful and wonderful divide of man and woman, in the flesh. This is not ours to alter. It is ours, however, to encourage and celebrate.
And so it is that we rejoice at weddings.
This we affirm.
This is a powerful, dare I say counter-cultural, statement of affirmation, one that will not likely get much air time, much exposure unless you dear reader do your part to share and disseminate it.
In God’s mysterious plan of salvation, the transmission of His sacramental grace requires human beings as His conduits, and we all know only too well that often our less than charitable attitudes and mannerisms can spark resentment rather than gratitude in those we are called to serve. It is on this point that some, especially Church critics, fixate. They do not see the grace that God is offering because they allow themselves to be consumed by less than gracious responses from the fragile conduits of grace.
Fallen beings that we are, we all fall short of the charity and welcome that may be demanded at a given moment. But our failures point us to another truth about what “welcome” means: genuine welcome is not easy. It requires sacrifice from the “welcomer,” who, in imitation of our Lord, must give of himself so that the other may receive. Awareness of this reality should prompt forgiveness and a willingness to seek again for anyone who has not received the welcome that he deserved.
During recent debates surrounding the Synod, some voices suggested that the Church could make herself more welcoming by omitting language that describes sin. The preferred groups of the Synod – divorced Catholics and Catholics experiencing same-sex attraction – would be more likely to participate if the Church ceased to remind them of the realities of sin. The drafters of the Synod’s midterm report, bishops and cardinals all, seemingly attempted this very tactic by using what the New York Times deemed “words of welcome and understanding” to address these groups.
But ignoring obvious problems and sins is no welcome at all, and Jesus’ own actions show that “to welcome” is not synonymous with “being allowed to do what one wants.” As Jesus dined with Zacchaeus, the tax collector immediately renounced his sinful ways. As Jesus saved the adulterous woman from stoning, He warned her to sin no more. As Jesus tried to change the ways of the Pharisees – men whose hard hearts needed welcome as much as anyone – He hammered them with insults for their dogged stubbornness. And as Jesus explained that His flesh and blood must be eaten to have eternal life, He did not rescind or modify His teaching after many would-be disciples, having rejected it, walked away.
“It is so difficult to listen to the voice of Jesus, the voice of God, when you believe that that the whole world revolves around you: there is no horizon, because you become your own horizon,” the Pope told mass-goers in the Vatican’s Saint Martha residence on Nov. 4.
“In the end (they) prefer their own interests rather than sharing dinner together: They do not know what it means to celebrate,” the Bishop of Rome said, noting that if the dinner had been a small gathering for business, everyone would have come.
“But what shocked them was the gratuity. Being one among the others, there…this form of egoism of being at the center of everything.”
Pope Francis explained that this form of egoism is often rooted in a fear of God’s gratuity, saying that when Jesus offers something so great that “even the saint is suspicious,” like he did to the disciples of Emmaus or to Thomas who wanted to touch his wounds, we think it’s better not to get involved.
“We feel safer in our sins, in our limitations, but feel at home; leaving our home to answer God's invitation, go to God’s house, with others? No. I'm afraid,” Pope Francis said, observing how this is a fear that all Christians have hidden deep inside.
The message seems clear.
If you want to feel good about yourself, if you want to be validated at all times, if you want to feel secure and comfortable and sentimentally warm and fuzzy in the faith, then Christianity, and dare I say Catholicism, is not for you.
But if you want to be challenged, if you want to be stretched, if you're ok with occasionally having your toes stepped on or in fact, occasionally be the toe stepper yourself, then Christianity, and particularly Catholicism, is something you should be embracing because in the end, you'll be better prepared to take on what life hands you.
The Pope steps on many toes and I'm of the firm belief the Holy Spirit is guiding his steps and for good reason.
Pope Francis said that those waiting at the threshold of the Church without going inside are not true members of the Church which Jesus established and on whom it is built.
“We are citizens, fellow citizens of this Church. If we do not enter into this temple to be part of this building so that the Holy Spirit may live in us, we are not in the Church,” the Pope told those present in the Vatican’s Saint Martha guesthouse for his Oct. 28 daily Mass.
Rather, “we are on the threshold and look inside…Those Christians who do not go beyond the Church’s reception: they are there, at the door: 'Yes, I am Catholic, but not too Catholic.'”
The Pope centered his reflections on both the day's first reading from St. Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians and the Gospel, taken from Luke, Chapter 6.
“Jesus prays, Jesus calls, Jesus chooses, Jesus sends his disciples out, Jesus heals the crowd. Inside this temple, this Jesus who is the corner stone does all this work: it is He who conducts the Church,” the pontiff noted, explaining that the Church is built on the apostles.
However, despite the fact that the Twelve were chosen by Jesus, they were all still sinners, the Pope said, explaining that although no one knows who sinned the most, there could have been one that sinned more than Judas did.
“Judas, poor man, is the one who closed himself to love and that is why he became a traitor. And they all ran away during the difficult time of the Passion and left Jesus alone. They are all sinners. But (Jesus) chose (regardless).”
And Jesus, the Pope added, wants everyone to be inside of the Church he founded, not as strangers passing through, but rather with the “rights of a citizen” where they have roots.
The person who stands at the threshold of the Church looking in but not entering has no sense of the full love and mercy that Jesus gives to every person, Francis said, adding that proof of this can be seen in Jesus' relationship with Peter.
Even though Peter denies the Lord he is still the first pillar of the Church, the pontiff explained. “For Jesus, Peter’s sin was not important: he was looking at (Peter’s) heart. But to be able to find this heart and heal it, he prayed.”
It is Jesus who prays and heals, Pope Francis noted, saying that it is something he does for each one of us.
“We cannot understand the Church without Jesus who prays and heals,” he said, praying that the Holy Spirit would help all to understand that the Church draws her strength from Jesus’ prayer which can heal us all.
May it have an effect on the marginally faithful... may it have an effect on all the faithful... may it have an effect on me.