13 September 2014

Every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord!

NB. Preached this one back in 2007. . .it's a little more. . .robust. . .than my later homilies. Also of note: at the request of the CDF, the USCCB investigated Fr. Phan's bizarre theology of religious pluralism and issued a notification to the faithful, warning against the excesses of syncretism.

The Exaltation of the Holy Cross
Fr. Philip N. Powell, OP
Church of the Incarnation

Much like the slaves recently freed from servitude in Egypt, “their patience worn out by the journey,” those called to research and teach the faith of the Church frequently give themselves over to complaining against God and “Moses”—those in authority over them. The freed slaves complain about being in the desert—no food, no water, no end to the sand and the long scorching days of wandering. Our more prominent theologians complain about a desert of sorts. They complain about the magisterium’s “version” of the faith, noting that rock-bottom fundamental doctrines, such as the Incarnation, the Resurrection, the Sacrifice of the Cross, the Blessed Trinity, are all excluding, rigid, authoritarian, privileged, and absolutist; and worse, these dogmas of faith of the Roman Catholic faith are white, European, and rational. Since these theologians are mostly slaves to fashion, they wander a desert of fleeting premises, trendy conclusions, and temporary commitments. 

These theologians believe one conclusion dogmatically: the shifting sands of culture triumph over the Rock of faith everyday, all day. And so we read paragraphs like this one from Fr. Peter Phan of Georgetown: “[The church would be very different] if the resources of other cultures are marshaled to reconceptualize the whole gamut of the church’s beliefs, liturgy, moral practices, and prayers. What if the God the church worships is depicted as a multi-ethnic, multi-racial, multi-colored, gender-inclusive Deity? What if Jesus is presented as the Buddha, the Guru…?[. . .] What if Mary is seen in parallel with Kwan-Yin, the Buddhist Bodhisattva of compassion? What if the Bible is read and interpreted in the context of other sacred writings such as the Hindu Bhagavad Gita, or the [Buddha-Dharma], or the [Muslim] Qur’an?” (full article)**

Notice: we are to “reconceptualize the whole gamut of the Church’s beliefs, liturgy, moral practices,” etc. based not on any further revelation or a deeper understanding of the revelation we have—fulfilled and finished in Christ Jesus—no, we are to reconceive and alter the whole of our Christian faith based on the demands of alien gods, books of foreign theologies, and practices contrary to the faith. Listen again: You will have no other gods before me! Where is the uniqueness of Christ? Christ isn’t unique! There are hundreds of saviors, hordes of avatars! Where is Christ the final revelation of the Trinity? Christ is not the last word of an on-going, unfolding revelation! There are millions of unwritten bibles out there. Where is the exclusive claim that God the Father has on our allegiance as His children? Exclusive claims! We are inclusive, open, free…all the gods claim us! Are there differences in how various cultures live out their Christian faith? Of course there are! But the faith comes first. Culture is shaped by faith. Sand blows around the Rock. The Rock doesn’t shift and slide every time the wind blows!

Alright, enough of that. Why am I beating these theologians, er, I mean, dead horses? Today we celebrate the exaltation of the Holy Cross. The Triumph of the Holy Cross over sin and death. Oddly enough, we must be reminded on occasion that we owe our eternal lives to the single sacrifice of Christ on the Cross. He emptied himself. Son of God, emptied himself. Became a slave like us, for us. He humbled himself and made himself obedient to death. Even to death on a Cross—ignoble, criminal, unclean, despicable; he was executed. And because Christ did all of this freely—yes, with some anxiety, with some sense of having been betrayed…again—but because he commended his spirit to his Father for our sakes, “God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name…and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.”

Open your eyes to see, open your ears to hear: God loved His creation so much that He sacrificed His only Son, Jesus, on the cross. He did this so that everyone who believes in Christ might not die but have eternal life with Him. God did not send His only Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save us all through His Son, Christ Jesus. The final triumph of the Cross will never be the serene Buddha nailed to the wood of the cross or the gruesome Kali Destroyer sitting on the cathedral altar waiting for blood or a “gospel reading” from the elegant Koran. Never. The Son of Man, the Son of God “must be lifted up so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.” Jesus Christ—final, unique, singular, the one and only name given under heaven and on earth for our salvation.

With apologies to our impatient theologians who complain against God and Moses: to dispel any confusion, let’s hear it one more time: “God greatly exalted Christ and bestowed on Christ the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend…and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord…” 

* Pic is Kali, Mother-Destroyer 
** pages 11-12

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11 September 2014

The Magic Number: 500


HancAquam reached 500 subscribers today.

We've been sitting at 499 for months and months and months.

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Painting, reading, and looking for space. . .

A Humble Mendicant Thanks to Charity A. for the Bullivant book on atheism from the Wish List.

And another one to M.R. for the canvases! Now, I really have to get busy and do some painting. . .

Anyone got any free -- as in "rent-free" -- studio space???

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08 September 2014

Evil: really not that evil

Excellent article:

In the 21st century we are often lectured that such simplistic, one-dimensional evil is long gone. An ubiquitous civilization has so permeated the globe that even the worst sorts must absorb some mitigating popular culture from the Internet, Twitter, and Facebook, as if the sheer speed of transmitting thoughts ensures their moral improvement.

Even where democracy is absent, the “world community” and a “global consciousness” are such that billions supposedly won’t let Attila, Tamerlane, and Genghis Khan reappear in our postmodern lives. To deal with a Major Hasan, Americans cannot cite his environment as the cause, at least not poverty, racism, religious bigotry, nativism, xenophobia, or any of the more popular –isms and -ologies in our politically correct tool box that we customarily use to excuse and contextualize evil behavior. So exasperated, we shrug and call his murdering “workplace violence” — an apparent understandable psychological condition attributable to the boredom and monotony of the bleak, postmodern office.

But then suddenly along comes the limb-lopping, child-snatching, and mutilating Nigerian-based Boko Haram. What conceivable Dark Age atrocity have they omitted? Not suicide bombing, mass murder, or random torture. They are absolutely unapologetic for their barbarity. They are ready to convert or kill preteens as their mood determines for the crime of being Christian. In response, the Nigerian government is powerless, while the United States is reduced to our first lady holding up Twitter hashtags, begging for the release of the latest batch of girls.

P.C. stupidity has made it impossible for us to see Evil as such and to name it as such.

Read the whole thing. . .


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07 September 2014

23rd Sunday OT: audio file

Audio File: Breaking the Conspiracy of Silence (23rd Sunday OT)


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Breaking the conspiracy of silence

23rd Sunday OT
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
Our Lady of the Rosary, NOLA

Audio File

On truth-telling, Polish poet, Czesław Miłosz, said, “In a room where people unanimously maintain a conspiracy of silence, one word of truth sounds like a pistol shot.”* To draw attention to yourself – fire a pistol in a silent room. Or, fire that pistol in a room full of noisy people but be prepared to face the angry consequences. Nowadays, anytime the Church speaks to a controversial social or moral issue – no matter how gentle or persuasive her words – it's as if she has pulled the trigger on a hand-cannon and her enemies run screaming as if fatally wounded. One word of truth spoken in a conspiracy of silence, or even to a conspiracy of racket and theater, just one word of truth can break that conspiracy's hold on it victims. Jesus tells his disciples to tell each other the truth, whatever that truth may be, tell it – one to another, one to many, and, finally, one to all. It is no easy thing to be the one who fires off the pistol of truth among those who want nothing more than to be left in silence. But if that silence is hiding a lie, a deadly lie, then the trigger must be pulled. The question for the one who would pull the trigger is this: why are you telling this truth to this person at this time? Fraternal correction – inside and outside the Church – must always be done in a spirit of love and mercy and with a eye keenly focused on one's own faults. 

Way back in the olden days, it was considered a work of mercy to “admonish the sinner.” Warning a sinner that he/she is sinning was thought to be a merciful act, an act of concern for the eternal salvation of another's soul. Admonishments from the pulpit were frequent and could be quite fiery. No pastor wanted to be thought of as “soft on sin.” The caricature of the blustery Irish pastor haranguing his poor flock on the evils of short skirts, rock music, and communist infiltrators is Hollywood stock and trade, an image that many fallen away Catholics of a certain age still use to excuse their distance from the Church. No doubt there were priestly excesses in naming and shaming sinners, but those excesses (such as they were) were replaced all too quickly with another excess – an excess of laxity that has left the Church in much of Europe and the U.S. with a pathetic moral legacy, up to and including the scandal of clerical sexual abuse and the on-going scandal of dissent from the apostolic faith. Our unwillingness to name and confront sin among our own has left us w/o the moral authority to speak to our culture, a culture that desperately needs to hear – in love and mercy – that there is a livelier Way, a truer Way of being a better human being. 

Like most successful cultural revolutions, the revolution the Church needs to restore her moral authority will come “from below,” from the pews not the pulpit or the bishop's chair or a balcony at the Vatican. The revolution we need is a revolution in holiness. Not just another diocesan program or weekend retreat scheme or a new religious order. The clear and unflinching message that Jesus delivers to his disciples is that we are all responsible to one another for one another for our individual and collective holiness, and it is a dereliction of our Christian duty to see or hear sin – our own or someone elses – and not work overtime to help the sinner find repentance. This is not a license to snoop, tattle-tale, gossip, or become a busy-body. It is a call to take seriously the truth that individual sins and collective sins can wreck utter devastation on a family, a parish, a city, or a nation. And that when one member of the body is sick or injured, the whole body suffers. If the Church is weak right now, it's not b/c God has failed to strengthen us; it's b/c we have failed – laity, clergy, religious – to receive His strength; we have failed to bear up under our responsibilities to fraternally correct our wayward brothers and sisters. And to be corrected in turn. 

The pistol shot that Miłosz spoke about, that startling crack of truth let loose among the conspirators of silence, it draws attention, scrunity. Maybe too much attention, the wrong kind of scrutiny. Speaking up to speak an unspoken or forgotten truth will turn heads and the investigation begins. Who are you to say such a thing? Why would you say that? Why do you hate me, us, them? Oh, so you're perfect? These are questions designed to silence the pistol shot of truth, questions that attempt to undermine the truth by undermining the truth-speaker. Firing that pistol takes courage and strength in abundance; it takes clarity in purpose and purity in motive. We cannot wags fingers at our neighbor's dirty house while our own house is filthy. When the pistol is fired and the noisy room drops into silence and all heads turn to you in anger ready to accuse, your holiness doesn't have to be perfect (it can't be yet), but your motive for firing – why you let that round go – needs to be as pure as a baby's baptismal gown. If you fire that pistol for any reason other than love and mercy, to show your love for the sinner and God's mercy, then do not be surprised to find yourself ignored, confronted, or even worse, abused. Hypocrisy is a nasty public sin.

So, how do we avoid hypocrisy while doing our Christian duty? Paul, as usual, gives us sound advice: “Owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another.” Owe nothing to anyone, meaning owe no one a debt in sin. The only debt we should owe one another is the debt of love, the obligation to will the Good for one another. If all I owe you and you owe me nothing except love, then offering one another fraternal correction is the gift of holiness, the gift of drawing one another back onto the narrow Way of Christ. Knowing that you are wandering off the Way and letting you do so is not me just minding my own business; it's not who am I to judge?; it's not well, I'm not perfect either. It's standing by and watching a brother or sister in Christ slowly destroy themselves through disobedience. Sin blinds, it makes us stupid and reckless. Would you watch a child play in the middle of I-10 at rush hour? Or carry around a loaded gun in the Quarter during Madri Gras? Of course not! Why would we then watch a brother or sister carry on in sin, knowing the devastation barreling down upon them? We owe one another a debt of love, an obligation to do the Good (the Best) for one another: when one member of the body is sick, the whole body is sick. Correction is a cure. 

Fraternal correction is indeed a cure for what ails the Church. And I am under no illusion that fraternal correction is easy. Of all the tasks our Lord gives us, this one is among the hardest. It requires us to defy our cultural training to mind our own business. It makes us confront our own motivations for speaking up. It leaves us open to retaliation and scrutiny. It sounds like judgmentalism and moral finger-wagging. But the failure to fraternally correct a falling brother or sister would be far worse than the potential embarrassment of speaking up. We are responsible to one another for one another for our individual and collective holiness. With a heart made pure by genuine love, let loose that shot of truth. You may fail to provoke repentance, but you will have succeeded in breaking open the conspiracy of silence, the conspiracy of sin.


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Jesus speaking Cherokee. . .

The things you learn while preparing a homily. . .here's this Sunday's (23rd OT) Gospel reading in Cherokee:


Courtesy of BibleGateway.

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