Our Lord Jesus Christ the King

November 25, 2007

Readings for the Solemnity of Christ the King

Reading 1: 2 Sam. 5:1–3
Responsorial Psalm: Ps. 122:1–2, 3–4, 4–5
Reading 2: Col. 1:12–20
Gospel: Lk. 23:35–43
Link to Readings

By Most Reverend John F. Donoghue

Dear Friends in Christ,

It is amazing, but true, that many people doubt or deny the effects of original sin upon the human race. And doubting the effects, many people soon doubt the sin itself, the story of Adam and Eve, and most importantly, the tension that remains between the Creator and what He created, between heaven and earth.

It is true that God sent His Son to redeem us, to “redeem the earth” as poets like to say, and indeed, by a life of grace, by living in the bounty of the Sacraments, we are able to obtain God’s forgiveness and enjoy fully the fruits of the Redemption. But this dispensation pertains to our individual souls, and revelation assures us that a day of general reckoning will occur—the final judgment will come, and the universe will be rolled up in the hand of God, in His eternal embrace for those He has loved and chosen, and who have chosen Him and loved Him in return.

Many times during the history of mankind, God has presented His creatures with gifts reflecting His mercy, His desire to embrace us with love. When He brought the Hebrews out of bondage in Egypt, God gave them laws—rules to lead them on the path of perfection, to strengthen and shield them in the midst of their enemies. And God gave His people prophets, to remind them of the law, to restore their awareness of the Covenant, when trouble or sin dimmed their vision and cooled their faith. But it was not enough for the people—they wanted a king. Finally, God granted their wish.

But did it work?—this desire of the people for a king?

Well, it worked sometimes—but most of the time, it didn’t.

Kings and Kingdoms

The first king, Saul, fell victim to his own greed and the influences of sorcery and died by his own hand. David and Solomon followed, both great kings, but with great faults as well. And thereafter, the tale is one of ups and downs—of a few reasonable and fair monarchs, and of many tyrants and weaklings. The effects of original sin, were well visible in the strivings of the Chosen People to form and keep a government after their own design.

Fast forward to the time after Christ, when for a few centuries, the ideal of the Godly King seemed again to be attainable—the era we call now the Age of Christendom, when the Western world, was chiefly governed by one power—the power of the Church, the legacy of the Apostles. But again, the temporal reign was not to succeed—for the rulers of the Church were no less susceptible to the effects of original sin than those who came before. The love of God the Father that gave us Jesus Christ remained intact—the power of the Holy Spirit has watched over the deposit of Christ’s teaching without fail. But the Church could not rule the world—the fracture of original sin is with us, and human utopia is a bad and unattainable dream.

The truth of this assertion was at no time more real, more visible, than in the aftermath of World War I, the “war to end all wars.” But in the ruins of the terrible conflict, the Holy Spirit put it in the mind of Christ’s vicar on earth, to once more proclaim a king—but this King was to be the Real One, the one mankind has always waited for, the One who cannot fail, because He is without the disfiguring scar of original sin.

A New Feast

In 1925, one of the greatest of the Church’s popes, Pius XI, instituted the Feast of Christ the King, the feast we celebrate today, and the feast which encapsulates the faith, the fervor, and the pride of Christ’s Church on earth—the pilgrim and the militant Church.

In that year, the Holy Father must have contemplated, as we have briefly today, the truth about original sin, the truth about human plans, and the truth about earthly kings. He had lived through the horrors of the First World War—he had witnessed the terrible failure of earthly kings to come to grips with the needs of their nations. Some may have claimed victory, some may have accepted defeat, but the final result was that eight and a half million men died as a result of this struggle—human self-destruction on an epic scale.

And surely, with the prescience given by the Holy Spirit, he saw festering just beneath the surface of a harsh and resented peace, the poison of the next conflagration. For people were not tired of kings—they just wanted a different variety, born not of the ancestral homes of the monarchy, but from the people—a new kind of king, with names that now make us shudder—Stalin, Mussolini, Hitler. Before too long, a sorrowful Pius XI was to see all these men in firm control of their countries, embarking again on a plan of world conquest, a plan of death and destruction, a plan riddled with the terrible fractures
of original sin.

Honoring the King of Kings

Moved by this apocalyptic vision, and his burgeoning fear, Pope Pius XI determined to say—to define with a certainty only the Holy Spirit can bestow—once and for all, that there can be only one King for all mankind, and He is named Jesus Christ. The proclamation of the King did not prevent the Second World War—or wars to follow, of a smaller but no less cruel scale. And as much as we long for peace, as much as we treasure those moments when we have it for a few years, no one can say that we will never have war again—no one can say that we will never have tyrants for kings—they exist today, and war exists

But what we do have is a King to lead us through the conflicts of earth, and the sins of mankind upon itself—a King, who if followed, will lead us to justice and peace, and a resolution of the conflicts that beset us—a King with a prefect plan. In his proclamation establishing the Feast of Christ the King, Pius XI declared:

Nations will be reminded by the annual celebration of this feast that not only private individuals but also rulers and princes are bound to give public honor and obedience to Christ. It will call to their minds the thought of the last judgment, wherein Christ, who has been cast out of public life, despised, neglected and ignored, will most severely avenge these insults; for his kingly dignity demands that the State should take account of the commandments of God and of Christian principles, both in making laws and in administering justice, and also in providing for the young a sound moral education.

This is the message the Church recalls and renews as we celebrate this great Feast of Christ the King. This is the message we wish to send to the world. That if it ignores Christ, it prolongs its own misery. For peace can only come when we bow to the Prince of Peace. Any other prince can only be the one of darkness, who delights in our conflicts and wars, and who pleasures in the destruction of our souls.

The Humility of the Good Thief

Let us pray, as a people who worship and who walk every day under the banner of Jesus Christ the King, that the world will embrace the message of our Redeemer – and the power, not of brute human strength, but the power of Christ’s perfect way, the power of Christ’s perfect love. For only from His way and from His love, can we ever find our way, our love, and be ready to face judgment, when God rolls everything up, in the justice, and we pray, the mercy of His strong hand. Let our wisdom be the humility of the good thief, who knew his place, knew his sin, knew his King, and died upon this confession:

“…we have been condemned justly, for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes, but this man has done nothing criminal.”

Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

And Jesus answered him, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

The Most Reverend John F. Donoghue is Archbishop Emeritus of the Archdiocese of Atlanta, GA. He has contributed to  Lay Witness magazine, including an article on Pope John Paul II’s encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia entitled “From the Heart of the Church: A Personal Message from Our Holy Father”.

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Christ Is King!

November 25, 2007

Readings for the Solemnity of Christ the King

Reading 1: 2 Sam. 5:1–3
Responsorial Psalm: Ps. 122:1–2, 3–4, 4–5
Reading 2: Col. 1:12–20
Gospel: Lk. 23:35–43
Link to Readings

By Father Ray Ryland, Ph.D., J.D.

Christ is King! In our limited vision, His kingdom seems to be in disorder. Only when He comes again will we learn how this disarray is part of His over-all plan for history as its sovereign.

This Sunday marks the end of the liturgical year. Indeed, it marks the climax of the liturgical year. Since the first Sunday in Advent last year we have been working up to this feast.

Today’s second lesson is the key passage in all of Scripture for understanding the scope of Christ’s kingship. Let’s ponder it for a few moments, and think about our response to that kingship.

Colosians 1:15–20 seems to be a liturgical hymn, incorporated in St. Paul’s letter to the Colossians. Colossians was probably written around 60 AD. This hymn sets forth the Church’s teaching at a time much earlier than when the letter was written.

The first stanza of the hymn (v. 15–17) speaks of Christ as “the image of the invisible God,” as “the first-born of all creation.” This recalls to us the opening verse of the fourth Gospel: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” That stanza (v. 16) also states that “in him all things were created.” Again we see the theme of John 1:3: “All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.”

Verse 16 tells us even more than John 1:3: it reveals that “all things were created through him and for him” (emphasis added). “All things”—everything has its being through Christ. All things were created in Him and through Him and for Him. Jesus Christ is not only the agent of creation; He is the goal and purpose of creation.

Keeping the Universe in Order

In Christ, according to verse 17, “all things hold together.” Literally, “in him all things consist.” The Jerusalem Bible gives an even stronger translation: “He holds all things in unity.” Think about the order of the universe: so intricately related through unimaginable reaches of space and time. And who is responsible for all this? Jesus Christ—“he holds all things in unity.”

When I was a navigator on an aircraft carrier during World War II, there were no computers and no satellites, no navigating by pushing a few buttons. We navigated in the same way countless generations of men before us had navigated. We used sextants and chronometers to measure the declination of certain stars, and to plot them in accord with navigation tables.

To get star sights you had to work fast in the few minutes after the stars you wanted to use became visible and before the horizon disappeared in the dark. With four or five good star sights, carefully timed and plotted, you could plot the exact location of your ship (within a few hundred yards) at a certain second.

There we were, often with no other ships in escort, hundreds and thousands of miles from land in the blackness of that ocean. (There was land closer, only a few miles, but it was straight down!) Relying on pinpoints of light that had been traveling millions and millions of miles through space, you could calculate your position almost exactly. Daily—and frequently many times daily—I stood in awe at the beautiful order in the universe. And who is responsible? Jesus Christ! “He holds all things in unity.”

Reconciled to All Things

Verse 18 refers to Christ as “the head of the body, the church.” Notice the change of focus, from the cosmos to the earth and to human history. This cosmic Christ makes Himself known to individual human beings through His Church. The Church is Christ’s Mystical Body. You and I, by our baptism, are literally “members” of His Body: “members” in the sense in which my hand is a “member” of my body.

Verse 19 reveals that “in him [Christ] all the fullness of God [all perfection] was pleased to dwell.” That fact makes even more mind-numbing the assurance in Ephesians 1:22 that “the church . . . is his body, the [church is the] fullness of him who fills all in all.” To state the matter somewhat differently, we can say the Church is the fullness of Him in whom “the fullness of God was pleased to dwell.”

And why did the fullness of God “dwell” in Christ? Because God wanted “to reconcile to himself all things . . . by the blood of the cross” (v. 20). Romans 8:19–20 assures us that the whole of creation stands in need of redemption. Then Romans 8:21 gives us God’s promise: “The creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God.”

That means that everything that God has ever made will be redeemed; nothing will be lost. Nothing, that is, except those persons who choose not to be redeemed; who choose self rather than God. Everything is to be redeemed by the blood of the Cross.

In Enemy Territory

Quite to my surprise, this fact was brought out clearly in an old movie, Ben Hur. (Though I suspect the intention was dramatic effect, rather than theological insight.) In the crucifixion scene, the cameras were focused from behind and to one side of the cross. One camera carefully, slowly traced the flow of the precious blood of Jesus down the rough wood of the cross. The precious blood gradually drained into the ground and into the streams of water
flowing down the hill. As one of the Church’s sixth-century hymns expresses it, “Earth, and stars, and sky, and ocean by that flood from stain are freed.”

How are we responding to this King of ours?

Today our nation is at war with terrorists scattered around the world. Today—as always—as Christians we’re also at war with the powers of darkness. “For we
are not contending [only] against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Eph. 6:12)

We live in a world that is enemy-occupied territory. Recall that when Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, Satan promised Jesus the kingdoms of world if Jesus would worship him. Notice that Jesus did not dispute Satan’s statement that the kingdoms of the world were Satan’s to give. Three times in the fourth Gospel Jesus speaks of Satan as the “prince” of this world.

Yet, thanks be to God! As He hung from the cross, in His final words Jesus declared His victory over sin and evil: “It is finished” —which means “it is accomplished.” But between that victory and final victory, there are many bloody battles to be fought, and you and I are in the thick of it. The Catholic Church is the center of resistance to the prince of this world. That is exactly why so much of the hatred of the world is unleashed against the Church.

Collaborators or Faithful Citizens?

How faithful are we as subjects of Jesus Christ? In Europe during World War II some people joined with the Nazis after the Nazis over-ran their countries. Those people were called by a hated name, “collaborator.” Unfaithful Catholics are collaborators. Any time you and I accept the world’s standards, its prejudices, it tawdry morals—any time we do that, we’re collaborators! Any time we choose to do our will rather than Christ’s will, we’re collaborators!

Christ is King and Lord of history: His kingdom will be established, more surely than night follows day. As His subjects, we must trust and obey Him. We must continually battle the forces of evil in our country and in our own lives. And we must always battle with confidence. In Jesus Christ, the victory is ours.

In his Four Quartets, T. S. Eliot wrote,

For us, there is only the trying;
The rest is not our business.

It is not our business because it is God’s business. A bumper sticker I used to see says it all: “I can see into the future: GOD WINS!”

Come, Lord Jesus!

Father Ray Ryland is CUF’s spiritual advisor.

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November 18, 2007

Readings for the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Reading 1: Mal. 3:19–20
Responsorial Psalm: Ps. 98:5–6, 7–8, 9
Reading 2: 2 Thes. 3:7–12
Gospel: Lk. 21:5–19
Link to Readings

By Father Roger J. Landry

Before the Church was even born, Jesus wanted His disciples to know what they were in for. In today’s Gospel, He gave it to them straight: “You will be HATED BY ALL because of my name.” Hated by all. If they were faithful to Him, none of them would be winning popularity contests. Rather, He described a future of persecutions, betrayals, trials, imprisonments, and even death for their fidelity. To follow Jesus would be to pick up their crosses every day and follow Him who is the Way—all-the-way up the bloody Way of the Cross. By doing so, they would become like their Master and His all-encompassing
self-giving love. Jesus told us this truth directly during the first Mass on Holy Thursday. After describing that no one has any greater love than to lay down his life for his friends—as He would finish doing on the following afternoon—He told them to “love others AS I HAVE LOVED YOU.” He was calling them to love others to the point of crucifixion.

Then He informed them that they would have the opportunity to do just that, because the world would treat them just like they treated Him: “If the world hates you,” He said, “ be aware that it hated me before it hated you. . . . Remember the word that I said to you, ‘The servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you” (Jn. 15:18–22). But Jesus was not telling them by these words they were accursed. On the contrary, He was telling them they were blessed: “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Mt. 5:11–12).

An Opportunity to Testify

Jesus tells us within today’s Gospel, first, WHY He would permit His disciples to SUFFER as He Himself would and, secondly, how they would eventually TRIUMPH as He would. This teaching isn’t obvious and it isn’t easy, but it is at the core of the truth that will set us free. It is at the center of our discipleship.

The reason why Jesus will allow His followers to be persecuted, arrested, thrown into prison and brought before civil rulers He tells us with great candor: “This will give you an opportunity to TESTIFY.” And the greatest testimony of all is FIDELITY in the face of suffering and death. As Blaise Pascal, the famous mathematician and Christian apologist, once said, “I readily believe those who are willing to get their throats cut.” We see in the history of the Church how persuasive this type of witness has been. The courage, faith, and serenity of the early martyrs in the face of harrowing tortures and executions
were the proximate cause of the conversion of hundreds of thousands. No amount of persecution could break their faith. Spectators beholding their serenity in the midst of torture would start to ask themselves if what they believe in really could be true. So many conversions would ensue from their deaths that the early Christians coined a saying, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of [new] Christians.” Their blood would fertilize the soil so that the seed of the Gospel would sprout abundantly.

That their union to Christ’s suffering and death would be so fruitful shouldn’t surprise us, because it was the same methodology God the Father chose for His own beloved Son’s greatest witness. Christ’s Passion, death and Resurrection comprised the greatest homily He ever gave, the supreme opportunity for Him to testify to the depth of His love for the Father and His and His Father’s love for us. This constitutes the “words and wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict,” that Jesus promises He’ll give to His faithful disciples under trial. St. Paul points to the force of this wisdom in his letter to the Corinthians: “We proclaim Christ crucified, a scandal to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1Cor. 1:24). We proclaim that power and wisdom of God to the extent that we preach Christ crucified by our words and particularly by our body language. Persecution gives us the pulpit and the occasion.

Our Faithfulness Brings Others to Faith

None of us here may have to suffer for Christ to the point of shedding our blood, but all of us have indeed been suffering to the shedding of tears. We may not have suffered in courtrooms or jails, but we have suffered at kitchen tables reading newspapers, in living rooms in front of television sets, in our work places, in our schools, in gyms, on the streets, even outside of some of our churches. We may not have sensed ourselves “hated by all” on account of our fidelity to Jesus and the Church He founded, but most of us now know what being hated, derided, and despised on account of the faith feels like. We may
not have been betrayed unto death by family members and friends, but we have felt the sting of verbal lacerations from those closest to us—and the deep sense of betrayal by some whom we have affectionately called “father.” What’s the purpose of all of this suffering? What good does the Lord want to bring out of it?

The Lord Jesus answers these questions in the same way He spoke to His disciples 2000 years ago: “This will give YOU an opportunity to testify!” Many people who would not bring up the faith and the Church in ordinary circumstances are bringing it up with us now. Many of them are doing so out of kindness, but many of them are doing so in order to see our reaction and possibly to rile us. Just like the early martyrs’ fidelity was what brought many
non-believers to the faith, so our fidelity to Christ in the face of these scandals and hardships can show others that Jesus is worth suffering for.

Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen used to say that he loved living in a time of difficulty, because that was the time real Christians had a chance to shine. “It’s easy to float downstream,” he’d preach. “After all, even dead bodies can float downstream. But it takes a real man, a real woman, to swim against the current.” This is one of those times. And when we swim upstream others will notice. They will start to ask themselves WHY and FOR WHOM we’re willing to go through such an effort. The cynics in our culture often say “It’s easy to love Jesus when everything seems to be going so well.” But when they see us
remain faithful in hardship, even they will start to wonder WHY—and we’ll have the chance to give them the reason, the reason Jesus gives us in today’s Gospel.

Trials Can Strengthen Us

Jesus tells us today that, practically speaking, everyone will betray us—our family, our friends, the government—except one. One will never betray us, and this is why we can remain faithful even when, like Jesus experienced on Holy Thursday, everyone else seems to abandon us. The one who will never betray us is God Himself. He will be there with us no matter what, giving us “words and wisdom,” courage and grace to remain as faithful to Him to the end, as He has been and will be faithful to us to the end. When we base our lives on fidelity to Him who is faithful, we can weather any storm with confidence. St. Paul
wrote to the Corinthians: “No trial has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it” (1Cor 10:13).

Jesus also tells us in today’s Gospel that, paradoxically, scandals can sometimes make our faith stronger, by forcing us almost to base our faith on God and God alone. Sometimes we can base our faith on “holy idols,” rather than on God. That’s what many Jews did with the Temple in Jerusalem. They thought it would last forever. Many based the foundation of their faith on its supposed stability. Jesus told them, however, that it would be destroyed and not one stone would be left upon another. Sometimes we put our faith in such temples and make them ends rather than means—thereby taking our eyes and real
foundation off of God, who is our one, true End. We may base our faith too much on a particular parish building or may base it too much on a person we put on a pedestal. Just like God allowed the temple to be destroyed, so sometimes He can allow the holy places or persons we know to fall, so that they don’t end up becoming ends keeping us from God rather than means bringing us to God.

Perseverance: A Life-Saver

Jesus finishes His instruction with words of great hope, which really are, in my opinion, the most important part of the whole Gospel passage: “By your perseverance, you will save your lives.” He calls us to STAY WITH IT, “to fight the good fight, finish the race and keep the faith,” telling us that if we do, a “crown of righteousness will await” us (2 Tim 4:7). He recognizes that the great temptation that faces any of us whenever we’re suffering, whenever we’re doing anything hard and challenging, is to GIVE UP.

Jesus tells us in today’s Gospel the same message that Winston Churchill gave his countrymen during the height of World War II, when so many Brits were wondering if the fight against Nazist tyranny was worth it. He got up to the microphone and gave what many scholars say was the greatest speech of this famous orator’s whole life, eighteen words in all: “Never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, give up. Never give up. Never give up. Never give up.” That’s the message Jesus gives us at the end of the Gospel: “by your perseverance, you will save your lives.”

When we feel like throwing in the towel, Jesus tells us to use it to wash and wipe the feet of those who are beating us down. In doing this, Jesus isn’t saying, merely, “Do what I say,” but rather “Follow me!” Despite all He suffered—from betrayals to brutal scourgings to the burden of the weight of the Cross—He kept getting up and heading toward the finish line, giving witness to the love that made even that much suffering bearable. By His perseverance, He opened the gates of heaven. By our perseverance, we will enter those gates. Not a hair on our head will perish, because we will gain every strand back,
gloriously, at the general resurrection.

Heavenly Cheerleaders

We began this month of November by invoking the memory and intercession of all those who through their faithful perseverance have saved their lives. They have shown us that perseverance is possible and that the eternal reward is sure. They now inspire us along the journey to keep our chins up and keep our hearts lifted up toward God, and to never, never give up. We make our own the words of the Letter to the Hebrews, which refers to all the saints as a cloud of witnesses cheering us on at every step, to help us to persevere: “Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with PERSEVERANCE the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such hostility against himself from sinners, so that you may not grow weary or lose heart” (Heb 12:1–4).

The same Jesus who helped that cloud of witnesses will help us. All the saints and angels are cheering us on. There’s nothing to be afraid of! We have so much to be proud of! We are the disciples of the One who by love has conquered the world! Amen.

Father Roger J. Landry is pastor of St. Anthony of Padua Parish in New Bedford, MA and Executive Editor of The Anchor, the weekly newspaper of the Diocese of Fall River. An archive of his homilies and articles is found at catholicpreaching.com.

This is adapted from one of Fr. Landry’s recent homilies.

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Preparing for Advent

November 18, 2007

Readings for the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Reading 1: Mal. 3:19–20
Responsorial Psalm: Ps. 98:5–6, 7–8, 9
Reading 2: 2 Thes. 3:7–12
Gospel: Lk. 21:5–19
Link to Readings

By Father Ray Ryland, Ph.D., J.D.

A vivid memory of my Protestant years is my first sharing in a Christmas Eve celebration of Holy Communion in an Episcopal church. Before the final blessing, all the lights in the large church were darkened. Only the altar was lighted with candles. As the congregation began to sing “Silent Night,” the crucifer knelt in front of the altar and held the cross high. The shadow of the cross seemed to brood over the altar.

At first this sight disturbed me. “Why put that cross there to detract from our great joy of the birth of Jesus?” I asked myself. But on reflection, I began to realize how appropriate it was. The Cross brooded over the manger that holy night, and over Our Lord throughout His earthly life. The Cross was itself the purpose of His life.

In the last Sundays of the liturgical year, the Church brings to our attention gospels having to do with the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. This should be part of our preparation for welcoming and celebrating the season of Advent in a couple of weeks.

By preparation for Advent, I mean simply this. If we think only of Our Lord’s coming to earth at Christmas, there’s always the temptation to become somewhat sentimental. There’s the temptation, in other words, to focus on the baby Jesus and put aside thoughts that this baby Jesus is going to be our Judge.

Standing Before God

Perhaps you’ve heard the story about the cardinal who rushed into Pope Benedict’s apartment and blurted out, “Holy Father, I have some good news and some bad news!” Always positive in his outlook, the pope said calmly, “Let’s start with the good news.” The Cardinal almost shouted, “Jesus Christ has come again!”

Immediately the Holy Father bowed his head and poured out his heart in thanksgiving. Then he looked up at the cardinal and asked, “After that, what could be bad news? How do you know Our Lord has come again?” The cardinal said, “How I know is the bad news. He just phoned from Salt Lake City!”

Only God knows when His Son will come again to ring down the curtain on history. But long before the Final Judgment, you and I will face another judgment at the end of our lives. The Church calls it the Particular Judgment.

Here’s what the Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us:

Each man receives his eternal retribution in his immortal soul at the very moment of his death, in a particular judgment that refers his life to Christ: either entrance into the blessedness of heaven—through a purification or immediately,—or immediate and everlasting damnation. (no. 1022)

Sometimes we use the term “judgment” to mean “punishment.” Take the case of a person who has lived a very disordered life and who is undergoing tribulation. We might say the terrible things happening to him seem to be a judgment on him for all that he has done.

“Proclaimed Upon the Housetops”

However, the term “judgment” in the context of the Particular Judgment, is more properly understood in terms of “verdict.” When at the moment of death we face Christ in the Particular Judgment, He will render the perfect verdict on each one of us. He will reveal to each one of us exactly what we have become by the choices we have made in this life.

Scripture seems to say that Our Lord’s pronouncement of the perfect verdict on our lives will not be confidential. “Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. Whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed upon the housetops” (Lk. 12:2–3).

Commenting on this passage, C. S. Lewis wrote,

. . . it will be infallible judgment. . . . We shall not only believe, we shall know, know beyond doubt in every fibre of our appalled or delighted being, that as the Judge has said, so we are: neither more nor less nor other. We shall perhaps even realize that in some dim fashion we could have known it all along. We shall know and all creation will know too: our ancestors, our parents, our wives or husbands, our children. The
unanswerable and (by then) self-evident truth about each will be known to all. (The World’s Last Night, 113. Emphasis added.)

So we know Jesus is coming again; we know each of us will stand before Him in the Particular Judgment. Our concern, then, must be to prepare for his coming. Indeed, that’s the whole point and purpose of our lives: to prepare to meet Our Lord at our Particular Judgment.

We prepare for the Particular Judgment by our response to Jesus Christ now.

God Speaks in Every Moment

Jesus Christ comes to each of us, moment by moment: Are we aware of His coming? His coming to us in the sacraments, above all through the Eucharist? His coming to us in our prayers? His coming to us through our meditative reading of Scripture?

God ordinarily speaks to us with a particular purpose. Throughout Scripture, we see that when God speaks to a person, He always gives a command: something to be done. Throughout Scripture we see God coming with an order: Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Hosea, Joseph, Saul—I’ve got a job for you!

God continually tries to speak to us in similar terms. Can you hear Him say, “You’ve got to stop doing that!”? Or “Why aren’t you doing this?”?

Christ continually comes to us in the guise of persons in need. Recall that frightening parable about the Particular Judgment in Matthew 25:31–46. Our Lord said that to refuse aid to those whom we can help is to refuse help for Him. Any time you and I confront a real need in another person, we are confronting Jesus Christ.

He tells us, in this parable, if you want to meet me, look for someone in need—material, emotional, spiritual—look for someone in need, and I’ll be there. And, He says, in effect, “I’ll be there to meet you.” He says, “I’ll come to you with my hands out, expecting you to respond to the needs of this person. Not just material needs, though those are important. Emotional needs, too: the need of a kind word; a bit of encouragement; even a friendly smile; some undivided attention for a while.”

Yes, and there will be spiritual needs, too. Someone’s need to hear us witness to the power and love of Jesus Christ. Someone’s need to be led into personal relationship with Him. Someone’s need to be guided into an ever-deepening love for Him.

Jesus Comes, Day in and Day out

Jesus Christ also comes to us in our daily responsibilities. He comes to us throughout the day in each duty, in each choice we have to make. Every single task has eternal significance, if we do it in response to Jesus’ summons to love Him and serve Him. Once we recognize that fact, there is no place in our lives for monotony or boredom.

Literally, in each moment and in every situation, Jesus is there, seeking in everything to draw us to Himself. That’s why Jean-Pierre de Caussade, an 18th-century spiritual writer, emphasizes “the sacrament of the present moment”: each moment can give us Christ.

Remember Our Lord’s final resurrection appearance, by the Sea of Tiberias. It was John, the beloved apostle, who first recognized Our Lord and exclaimed, “It is the Lord!” (Jn. 21:7). You and I must always be on the lookout—in every event, in every duty, in every encounter—learning to recognize the presence of Jesus: “It is the Lord!”


Every day, every hour, every moment, we are shaping that verdict which Christ will render on us when we meet Him at death.

We must train ourselves to ask more and more often this question: How will the things I am saying or doing or thinking or failing to do—how will they look when the irresistible light of Christ shines on them? How will they look when they stand revealed before the whole creation?

Father Ray Ryland is CUF’s spiritual advisor.

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The Life to Come

November 11, 2007

Readings for the 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Reading 1: 2 Mac. 7, 1–2, 9–14
Responsorial Psalm: Ps. 17, 1, 5–6, 8, 15
Reading 2: 2 Thes. 2, 16–3, 5
Gospel: Lk. 20, 27–38
Link to Readings

By Father Thomas Acklin, O.S.B.

We are so busy with our everyday lives that we hardly think about the life to come. Then, when someone we love dies, or we ourselves realize that we are aging or perhaps that we are facing death, we find ourselves up against a wall. All those accounts of the appearances of the risen Lord Jesus and His promise that we will share in His Resurrection, how can this be, and how can we believe this?

It is probably the relative comfort and security of our lives that allow us to put off having a stronger faith in our share in the Resurrection. Maccabees’ sons, whom we hear about in the first reading, were facing martyrdom for their Jewish faith. Many years before the coming of Christ, they already believed in the resurrection. The persecution they suffered, which eventually led to martyrdom, made them even firmer in their faith. The same is true of the early Christians, like St. Paul who exhorts the people of Thessalonica in today’s second reading.

Whose Wife Will that Woman Be?

Other than the appearances of the risen Lord in the Gospels, there are very few places in the New Testament where we get as clear a picture of what our risen life will be like than what we hear in today’s Gospel. We learn from the Gospel that, despite some Jews’ faith in the resurrection, the Sadducees still did not believe. In His response to the Sadducees, Jesus unequivocally pronounces the reality of the resurrection from the dead. At the same time, He strips it of any magical ideas.

Jewish law had called for a man to marry his brother’s widowed wife, and the Sadducees use this law to paint an absurd picture of what it would be like in heaven if a woman has more than one husband. To whom would she be married in heaven? In His reply, Jesus rejects all understandings of life in the world to come that see it simply as a prolongation or extension of this life. In “the age to come” we are “Sons of the Resurrection,” “Sons of God.” We will be “no longer liable to death” because “God is not the God of the dead, but of the living. All are alive for him.”

Live in the God of the Living

So the best way for us to face death and to live life most deeply is to not so much worry about ourselves, or even our loved ones, in terms of what is to come beyond death and what it will be like. Rather, we should simply live in Jesus Christ, “the God of the living.” In our baptism, we died with Christ so that we might live with Him. When we go to Confession, we receive not only forgiveness, but the promise that we are sons and daughters of God, God who is the God of the living.

Sin is death, and we begin dying spiritually when we live in sin. When we confess our sins and are nourished by the Body and Blood of Christ, which brings us life, we move from death to life. Pope Benedict XVI said in one of his interventions during the synod on the Eucharist in 2005, that in the Eucharist we receive not only Jesus as He lived and walked on earth, not only Jesus as He gave Himself at the Last Supper and on the Cross, but also Jesus risen and glorified.

Our faith in our share, someday, in the Resurrection of Christ will become more and more real if “we live no longer for ourselves but Him,” as we say in Eucharistic prayer IV. If we live not only for others but for Him and in Him, who is the God of the living, we will know the truth that we will share someday in His Resurrection because we will already somehow experience eternal life as we live our life on earth.

Fr. Thomas Acklin, O.S.B., S.T.D., Ph.D., resides at St. Vincent Archabbey in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. He presently serves as a professor of theology and psychology at St. Vincent College and St. Vincent Seminary, and is a faculty member of the Pittsburgh Psychoanalytic Institute and Foundation. Fr. Acklin has written a number of articles and recently published two books: The Unchanging Heart of the Priesthood and The Passion of the Lamb.

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No Marriage in Heaven

November 11, 2007

Readings for the 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Reading 1: 2 Mac. 7, 1–2, 9–14
Responsorial Psalm: Ps. 17, 1, 5–6, 8, 15
Reading 2: 2 Thes. 2, 16–3, 5
Gospel: Lk. 20, 27–38
Link to Readings

By Father Ray Ryland, Ph.D., J.D.

The Sadducees of Jesus’ time denied resurrection of the body, immortality of the soul, and any kind of life in a world to come. For them, the only sacred writings were those of the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Old Testament. Since the Pentateuch does not speak of resurrection, they claimed there must be no such thing.

Today’s Gospel tells us a group of them came to Jesus with the apparent object of learning from Him. In fact, they came to pose a trick question to Him, hoping thereby to show the absurdity of believing in the resurrection of the body. They appealed to a common Jewish tradition called the “levirate,” a word meaning “brother-in-law.”

This was what the “levirate” decreed. If a man died childless, his widow was obligated to marry one of his brothers to produce children to carry on the deceased husband’s name. The Sadducees posed a hypothetical situation and asked Jesus a question. Following the law of the levirate, they said, seven brothers were successively married to one woman. Now, they said: if there is resurrection in a next life, whose wife will she be there?

Jesus ignored the Sadducees’ obvious motive for asking the question. Instead, He proclaimed the truth to them in a two-fold response.

The God of the Living

First of all, Jesus referred the Sadducees to their own scripture. He quoted Exodus 3:6: At the burning bush, God said to Moses, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” Jesus’ point was simple. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob died many centuries before Moses’ time, but for God they are living persons. As Jesus explained (Lk. 20:38), God “is not God of the dead, but of the living; for all live to him.” This makes sense only if one admits the reality of life after death.

Jesus was telling the Sadducees that the Giver of life is above the law of death by which man’s earthly life is ruled. It is true that due to sin, we human beings must undergo physical death. But after our death God, who is the source of all life, renews the life of those who belong to Him. At other times, in other circumstances, Jesus spoke plainly about His own resurrection.

Then secondly, Jesus took the occasion to teach us all about the relationship of marriage and resurrection.

Jesus said, those who rise “from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. . . .” (Lk. 20:35) The institution of marriage, Jesus is telling us, belongs exclusively to our life on earth. Marriage and procreation do not in themselves define what it means to be male or female. They are only expressions of human sexuality in its maleness and femaleness. Never forget that only one Person has been fully, perfectly human—He who is also divine—Jesus Christ—and He was celibate.

Our Homeland is Heaven

The Church speaks of the gift of “integrity” which the first human beings enjoyed. That gift was the total absence of the conflict we now experience between our natural urges and God’s will for our lives. When they still had the gift of integrity, our first parents were completely at peace within themselves. All their desires were completely controlled by their will.

This gift was lost in the Fall. Now even we who are regenerated in baptism still struggle with unruly desires and fears. At the resurrection, our bodies will return to perfect unity and harmony with the spirit. They will be glorified and made eternal. The Spirit of God will not only dominate our bodies, but will fully permeate them. The gift of integrity, then, once lost by sin of our first parents, will be restored in the resurrection.

Our identity as male or female will not only be preserved, but in fact glorified. Remember that Jesus was taken into heaven as a man. Our Blessed Mother was taken bodily into heaven as a woman. In the resurrection we will be like angels, but we will never become angels: They are a different order of beings.

Sacred Scripture reminds us “our homeland is in heaven, and from heaven comes the saviour we are waiting for, the Lord Jesus Christ, and he will transfigure these wretched bodies of ours into copies of his glorious body. He will do that by the same power with which he can subdue the whole universe” (Phil. 3:20-21, Jer. Bible).

Indeed, Jesus Christ has “subdued the whole universe”: He has redeemed it. And some day, like ourselves, the whole universe will be glorified. We have this promise: “. . . creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God” (Rom. 8:21).

Glorified and Fulfilled

In our glorified state, God will give Himself to us to the fullest extent of our capacity to receive him. (More about this later.) Our response to God’s gift of Himself will concentrate and express all the energies of our whole beings. In other words, the beatific vision itself will give us such complete love for, and concentration on, God that it will absorb our whole beings. Yet not only will there be new depth of relationship with God; there will also be
new depth of relationship with those around us.

In heaven, what John Paul the Great called “the nuptial meaning of the body” will find its fulfillment. Repeatedly John Paul taught us that each of us is created in the image and likeness of God. Just as God Himself is a communion of three divine Persons, so our being the image of God is realized in us in a communion of persons.

In this life, the majority of people find this communion most intensely in marriage and procreation. Those called to the priesthood or the religious life or the single state are called to find communion in their total relationship with God, and in other relationships appropriate to their state in life.

In the resurrection state (heaven), we shall find the ultimate experience of communion in the beatific vision and the resulting Communion of Saints. There, as we have already suggested, we shall enter into such a depth of communion with other persons as we now can only dimly imagine and faintly experience in our most loving, self-giving moments.

Our Capacity to Love

In conclusion, let us keep in mind that the experience of marriage is intended to be preparation for eternal life. The fact that there will be no marriage in heaven is not itself a slight of marriage. It only means that something far greater than marriage awaits those who yearn for and work for the resurrection.

For those called to marriage, marriage is their training ground, so to speak, for heaven. Spouses must learn through their marriage the meaning of yearning for complete union with their beloved. This is like the yearning that ultimately must be directed toward God Himself.

This is the whole point of the Song of Songs in the Old Testament. The book’s tender, poetic descriptions of the love of bride and bridegroom for each other, their yearning for total union with one another: What’s the purpose of this sacred writing? It’s to set before us the necessity of the yearning for God that we must all develop, by His grace. That’s what the great mystics of the Church tell us. That’s why for some of them the Song of Songs is their favorite book of the Old Testament.

Think about this. In our marriages—in all our relationships—are we developing our capacity for love? That capacity will some day determine the extent to which we can share in the beatific vision and in the communion of saints. The Church teaches us that capacity is determined by what we do and become in this life. From the moment of our death, there is no more growth in our capacity for love. Through purgatory we strive toward perfection of whatever capacity we had when we died. That will be our capacity throughout eternity.

Can you imagine a husband telling his wife, “I love you, but I am not interested in cultivating our love and deepening it”?

That is basically what you and I are telling God, when we fail to grow in our love for him day by day, when we fail to grow in our yearning for him, day by day.

Is that really what we want to say to God?

Father Ray Ryland is CUF’s spiritual advisor.

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CDF Responses Concerning Artificial Nutrition and Hydration

Congregation For The Doctrine Of The Faith

Responses To Certain Questions of The United States Conference Of Catholic Bishops Concerning Artificial Nutrition And Hydration

First question: Is the administration of food and water (whether by natural or artificial means) to a patient in a “vegetative state” morally obligatory except when they cannot be assimilated by the patient’s body or cannot be administered to the patient without causing significant physical discomfort?

Response: Yes. The administration of food and water even by artificial means is, in principle, an ordinary and proportionate means of preserving life. It is therefore obligatory to the extent to which, and for as long as, it is shown to accomplish its proper finality, which is the hydration and nourishment of the patient. In this way suffering and death by starvation and dehydration are prevented.

Second question: When nutrition and hydration are being supplied by artificial means to a patient in a “permanent vegetative state”, may they be discontinued when competent physicians judge with moral certainty that the patient will never recover consciousness?

Response: No. A patient in a “permanent vegetative state” is a person with fundamental human dignity and must, therefore, receive ordinary and proportionate care which includes, in principle, the administration of water and food even by artificial means.

The Supreme Pontiff Benedict XVI, at the Audience granted to the undersigned Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, approved these Responses, adopted in the Ordinary Session of the Congregation, and ordered their publication.

Rome, from the Offices of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, August 1, 2007.

William Cardinal Levada

Angelo Amato, S.D.B.
Titular Archbishop of Sila

Date created:

Seeking Zaccheus

November 4, 2007

Readings for the 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time

Reading 1: Wis. 11:22–12:2
Responsorial Psalm: Ps. 145:1–2, 8–9, 10–11, 13, 14
Reading 2: 2 Thes. 1:11–2:2
Gospel: Lk. 19:1–10
Link to Readings

By Father Frank Pavone

The story of Zaccheus is not only a marvelous example of redemption and restitution. It is a profound lesson that the redemption of the human person is the Lord’s priority, and that carrying out that priority requires breaking through the false barriers that people set up between one another.

Zaccheus couldn’t see Jesus because of his small stature and because of the crowd. Apparently, nobody in the crowd was making a move to help him, either. So he took matters into his own hands, ran out in front, and then climbed up a tree. Aside from all this, Zaccheus was looked down upon because of his role as chief tax collector.

The Lord showed His eagerness to seek out those whom others are tempted to look down on. Jesus sought him out, not only by giving Zaccheus attention, but by dining at his house.

Jesus breaks down the false barriers we place between certain kinds of people and others; he goes first to those who are pushed aside by the crowd.

“You Are All One in Christ Jesus”

Jesus always acknowledged the equal human dignity of every individual, despite what common opinion might say. Hence we see Him reach out to children despite the efforts of the apostles to keep them away (Mt. 19:13–15); to tax collectors and sinners despite the objections of the Scribes (Mk. 2:16); to the blind despite the warnings of the crowd (Mt. 20:29–34); to a foreign woman despite the utter surprise of the disciples and of the woman herself (Jn. 4:9, 27); to Gentiles despite the anger of the Jews (Mt. 21:41-46); and to the lepers, despite their isolation from the rest of society (Lk. 17:11–19).

When it comes to human dignity, Christ erases distinctions. St. Paul declares, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave or free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28).

We can likewise say, “There is neither born nor unborn.” Using this distinction as a basis for the value of life or the protection one deserves is meaningless and offensive to all that Scripture teaches. The unborn are the segment of our society that is most neglected and discriminated against. Christ Himself surely has a special love for them.

Love the Weak and the Strong

The Church, through which Jesus continues to carry out His mission today, does the same thing, and therefore speaks up for those pushed aside by the crowd, especially the smallest of the small, the unborn.

Their lives, like ours, are not just the handiwork of God, but a continuous proof of His love. The first reading reminds us that at every moment God is sustaining each one of us with the breath of life. We would fall back into nothingness at once if God did not have His love focused on us in an uninterrupted way. To snuff out a life, therefore, whether of the born or the unborn, is a direct contradiction to God’s loving will, which sustains all things in being.

We cooperate with the life-giving love of God each time we reach out to those around us who may be unsure about how to handle their pregnancy, and give them the strength to love their unborn child. We do likewise when we strengthen those who care for the vulnerable, the disabled, and the dying. By helping one another grow in love for the weakest in the human family, we and they literally become more like God, for (as the we hear in the first reading), “How could a thing remain unless you willed it, or be preserved, had it not been called forth by you?”

Indeed, the story of Zaccheus is not primarily about him seeking Jesus; it’s about Jesus seeking him, as He seeks all those who have been pushed aside by the crowd. May He strengthen us to seek them as well.

Father Frank Pavone is the national director for Priests for Life and a member of CUF’s
advisory council. He is a contrubutor to
Lay Witness magazine.

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Science and Beauty

Benjamin Wiker
From the Nov/Dec 2007 Issue of Lay Witness Magazine

Is Beauty Real?

That might seem an odd question to ask. After all, we acknowledge seeing beautiful sunsets and roses and hearing beautiful symphonies and songs. We also readily admit the difference between beauty and ugliness and use the distinction with all the surety of a scientist when we compare, for example, the splendor of a pristine mountain lake to the repulsiveness of the gaping hole of a garbage landfill. But is beauty real? Is it something out there? Something actual?

Our common sense tells us that it is. The effect of something beautiful on us is, we think, just as real as the effect of something hot or sharp or heavy. But common sense and science have been at odds now for several centuries.

Reduced to “Reality”

Let’s take an example to illustrate. We pick a rose. We smell its delicate fragrance and note its deep red luster; we can feel the satiny luxuriance of the petals. Even for a flower, it seems a thing of rare beauty, and that accounts for its association with one of the most profound experiences of humanity love.

But according to the dominant view of science, the fragrance, the color, the feel of the rose are not real. What is real, if we reduce the rose to its essentials, is the peculiar chemical combination of DNA that produces the chemical structure, on the visible level, that we call “rose.” The fragrance is not in the rose, but is the effect that particular chemical structures have on our sense of smell, which is itself, of course, merely another chemical structure. The rose is not deep red; “red” is what we call a particular wavelength of the electromagnetic spectrum that, given the chemical structure of our eye, nervous system, and brain, causes us to “see” red. Of course, when we dig down to the bottom of the rose, we realize that none of the constitutive chemicals—hydrogen, oxygen, carbon, nitrogen—are red. They have no color at all. The satin feel of the petals is likewise an illusion of chemistry, for down at the bottom again, atoms have no “feel.” They are almost completely made of empty space.

The same kind of reductionism is applied to the beauty of sound. We listen to a symphony of Mozart. We are carried away by the ethereal union of harmony and melody; our hearts are pierced with what we believe, surely, must somehow be the very music of the angels. Yet we are told that, scientifically speaking, music is merely a wavelength that causes disturbances in the air of particular frequencies that have a particular molecular effect upon our ear drums, neurons, and brain.

On this reductionist account, things on the everyday level of sight, sound, and touch are not the level of reality. What is real is chemistry and physics, the world both abstract and minute that scientists deal with in their everyday work, a world of numbers, formulas, and laws. That’s the objective  world, the real world.

The world of our everyday experience? Well, that largely consists of subjective experiences—feeling heat of things that aren’t really hot; seeing color of things that aren’t really colored; perceiving beauty in things that, if we broke them down to their real sub-microscopic constituents, would be far below the level of our perception.

It would seem, then, that beauty isn’t real. It is merely subjective. That is, beauty really is in the eye of the beholder, and not in the thing beheld.

Beauty Is the Big Picture

This kind of reductionist mindset is not found solely in science, although it is science that gives it its cultural status. Reductionism is much larger than science; it constitutes a particular approach to reality, one that has defined the general intellectual approach of the West for about four centuries now. Reductionism is rooted in materialism, the view that spiritual things don’t exist. There is only physical reality, and to understand physical reality means to take apart larger things until you get to the smallest possible parts, and only those are real. But beauty goes the other way. It looks primarily at the whole, not just the parts. In a symphony, which is made up of individual notes played by individual instruments, all brought into a harmonious melodic totality, the parts make their contribution to beauty insofar as they are taken up into the whole symphony.

The beauty of the rose is the same. Surely no one would disagree that the rose is made up of cells, and cells have a particular chemical structure and DNA code tucked within, but the rose is the whole of which these are parts. These parts are, as it were, like the individual notes of a symphony or the individual letters of a Shakespearean sonnet. Like a symphony or sonnet, when they are brought into a particular kind of ordered whole, we have beauty. The rose is beautiful, the biological culmination of its chemical structure and properties, the living symphony we can hold in our hands, nature’s sonnet that we can hand to our true love. It is as foolish to deny that a rose is real because we can take it apart into distinct chemical parts as it is to deny that a Shakespearean sonnet is a beautiful, poetic whole because we can take it apart into its constituent letters.

Oh, but that’s mere poetry, not science!

On the contrary. As Jonathan Witt and I argue in A Meaningful World, beauty is real; indeed, beauty is scientific.

A Scientific Revolution

That may seem like an outrageous claim, but the latest science actually supports a reversal of the 400-year trend of reductionism. Rather than seeing wholes as the merely collection of their smallest parts, scientists have begun to realize that we can only understand the full potentialities of the parts when we analyze them as they exist, taken up into wholes.

Rather than reducing biology to chemistry and physics, scientists are finding that to truly understand the properties and potentialities of chemical elements and physical laws, we must examine them as actualized in the realm of living things. To truly understand carbon or hydrogen or oxygen, the laws of their combination, and their amazing properties, we cannot study carbon, or hydrogen, or oxygen, each in isolation. We find out what they really are, what they really can do, when we study them in a complex, living entity . . . like the rose. The beauty of the rose is as real as the rose. It is the rose.

As we demonstrate, science is becoming biocentric. The universe points to life, to biology, as its culmination. Even more amazing, it is anthropic, that is, it points to human life as the culmination of biology (anthropos is Greek for “human being”).

So what of the love-struck giver of the rose? Certainly he too is made of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and various other chemical elements, built into molecules, molecules into cells, and cells into structures—all of which are brought into a living, breathing, thinking, loving whole. But he, the person, is not the mere sum of his parts any more than the rose he holds nervously in his hand or the Shakespearean sonnet that he has memorized in his heart. The layers upon layers of organized chemical complexity do not “add up” to a living man; the man is the whole, the living symphony that organizes the chemical complexity into a harmonious, complex, intricately integrated living, thinking, acting, loving, real being.

This being is capable of perceiving beauty, real beauty; in fact, that is one thing that separates him from all other living things.

But is it scientific? Indeed! As we show in detail—with examples from contemporary physics, the history of chemistry, and mathematics, the perception of beauty is essential to the very activity of science.

Let me cite two examples. Physicists use mathematics to help them try to understand the way things work, but as the most famous and fruitful physicists confess, when they look at the multitude of mathematical constructs they might use, they are inevitably drawn to those mathematical expressions that are most elegant. As one notable physicist said, “It’s got to be beautiful!” What is most astounding to them is that, again and again, the most
elegant mathematical formulas are the very ones that turn out to be the most fruitful for scientific discovery. It is as if the universe were designed by Someone with a deep appreciation of mathematical elegance.

One more example, this one from history: We might think that the great march of chemical discovery began with very humdrum practical working with metals to make, say, weapons or tools. Such is not the case, however. As historians of chemistry have noted, it was beauty that drew the first metalworkers, the first real chemists. They were dazzled by the beauty of gold, and wanted to make ornaments, not armaments. There is so much more, but enough has been said for us to realize that beauty is indeed real and scientific.

Benjamin Wiker, Ph.D., is a senior fellow of the Discovery Institute and of the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology and co-author with Jonathan Witt of A Meaningful World: How the Arts and Sciences Reveal the Genius of Nature (InterVarsity Press, 2006). For more information, visit www.ameaningfulworld.com.

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Guiding Teen Feet

An interview with Nancy Humes
Mariann Hughes
From the Nov/Dec 2007 Issue of Lay Witness Magazine

Nancy, for how many years have you worked with teenagers?

I began teaching eighth-grade religious education to students in my parish, Most Pure Heart of Mary, some 20 years ago to prepare young people to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation. I taught there for nine years. I also taught for four years at Hayden High School in Topeka.

What exactly is it about young people that attracts you?

Young people have enthusiasm and energy. If this is channeled in the right direction-toward Christ and His Church-amazing things can happen.

How was A Lamp for My Feet and a Light for My Path birthed?

Over the 13 years I taught, I became aware of the great number of students who had little or no knowledge of the Scriptures. Even more disturbing was a lack of appreciation for the miracle of the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. With little or no success, I began searching for Catholic Bible studies directed toward teens to supplement the existing curriculum. Since I had studied the Scriptures for many years, I began to compile a study for teens myself that dealt with the subjects they were concerned about. A Lamp for My Feet and a Light for my Path is the result.

What fruits do you expect to see with the publication of the study?

I have seen firsthand how God’s Word transforms lives, both young and old, when people begin applying it to their daily lives. When the Scriptures are in our minds, in our hearts, and on our lips, we radiate the light of Christ. I believe this study will help to change the lives of the young people who will one day lead the Church.

St. Jerome said that ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ. I believe that truer words were never spoken!

How can parents, “the primary educators of their children,” get kids involved in reading and interacting with Scripture?

If parents become convinced of how applying God’s Word could improve their marriages, their parenting skills, the quality of their friendships, the atmosphere in their homes, and so on, they would be enthusiastic about passing on this treasure to their children.

Practically, when my children were small I wrote Scriptures on index cards and encouraged them to memorize them. Of course, at the time, they were not very enthusiastic about this exercise. But now they are grateful that they have committed God’s Word to memory.

How can the Bible relate to teens’ lives?

Young people live in the present. So when you present the Scriptures to them they want to know, “What does this have to do with me now?” We began discussing such topics as their relationship with their parents, the importance of making wise choices in regard to friends and entertainment, and the fact that their bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit to be valued and protected. When I showed them the answers to their questions were in God’s Word, most of them were surprised to find how relevant it was.

The world is attempting to pull our young people along the path of least resistance, self-centeredness, over-indulgence, and rebellion. I believe this study directs them to the “narrow path” that leads to our loving, merciful Savior.

How can teens use the Bible to bring others to Christ and to the Catholic Church?

The sad reality is that many of our Catholic youth are being evangelized by Protestant teens who are more knowledgeable of the Scriptures. However, it is not enough that Catholic young people know the Scriptures. They must also know what the Church teaches. The Catechism of the Catholic Church is an invaluable tool in helping believers understand and appreciate the rich traditions taught by the Church and the Church’s indispensable role in explaining the Scriptures to Catholics.

Why would you encourage a parish or a teen to use your Bible study?

I believe this study would be an excellent supplement to the existing curriculum preparing students for Confirmation-for both Catholic school students and Catholic students attending public school who attend religious education classes.

The study should be assigned a week in advance so that the students can read the Scriptures, answer the questions, and then reflect on how they will apply what they have read to their daily lives. The following week, the teacher would guide the students’ discussion.

It is important that those who are teaching religion to our young people be prayerful and frequent recipients of the Sacraments of the Eucharist and Reconciliation. The Holy Spirit will fill in the gaps.

Do you have any humorous or inspiring stories about your experiences with young people?

I was teaching about the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit when one young lady who had mastered the art of eye rolling lamented that she had learned “all that stuff” in grade school.

I asked her to recite the fruits and gifts and, of course, she couldn’t. I asked how she would know if they were present in her life when she couldn’t even name them. She didn’t appear to be impressed with my question, but at least she knew she didn’t have all the answers as teenagers typically think they do!

And I’ll treasure forever how one young man, at the end of the school year, expressed how much he had learned in the Bible study and how grateful he was that I had been in the classroom.

Mariann Hughes completd her undergraduate degree in communications at Franciscan University of Steubenville.

How important is it to train high school students?

A recent survey by the Pew Research Center for The People & The Press (The Cara Report, Summer 2007) suggests that within the last two decades there has been a decline in Judeo- Christian identification in young adults ages 18- 25. More than ever do we need to catechize our young people in the faith from the early stages of their education!

“Thy word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”

Ps. 119:105

A Lamp for My Feet and a Light for My Path is Emmaus Road’s first teen Bible study. New author Nancy Humes brings years of experience in teaching young people to her book-a simple yet thorough and efficient breakdown of Scripture passages that inspire, motivate, and guide teens in finding life’s answers.

Each chapter contains assigned Bible readings, short prayers and reflections, and space for journaling personal reflections.

Humes resides in Topeka, Kansas, with her husband, children, and grandchildren. Following is an interview with Humes about the experiences and inspirations that led to Emmaus Road’s newest Bible study.

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