Sunday, February 1, 2015

Put On the Armor of Christ

In St. John’s gospel, Our Lord calls Satan “ruler of this world,”teaching that the salvation he would bring us as God’s gift involved the destruction of Satan’s power in this world. Just before His passion, Jesus told the apostles that an eternal fire awaited Satan and his angels. Sacred Scripture teaches that The Prince of Darkness will be allowed by God to test us for a time, but in the end will be “thrown into the lake of fire and sulphur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.”  Thus, in Catholic teaching, the reality of spiritual warfare, though often dismissed, is something the Church Militant here on earth must be prepared for. Paul Thigpen offers a manual for preparation in the video above. Very experienced, he!

Now for a little catechesis on today;s Gospel by Fr. Longenecker:

Then they came to Capernaum,
and on the sabbath Jesus entered the synagogue and taught.
The people were astonished at his teaching,
for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes.
In their synagogue was a man with an unclean spirit;
he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?
Have you come to destroy us?
I know who you are—the Holy One of God!”
Jesus rebuked him and said,
“Quiet! Come out of him!”
The unclean spirit convulsed him and with a loud cry came out of him.
All were amazed and asked one another,
“What is this?
A new teaching with authority.
He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him.”
His fame spread everywhere throughout the whole region of Galilee.
The Gospel reading is taken from the Gospel of Mark. Here we read about Jesus' activity in Capernaum, a place that apparently becomes the functional headquarters of his Galilean ministry. 

The crowds were astonished at his teaching for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes. The Greek word here translated "authority" can also mean "power". Jesus teaches with "power"--a kind of power not associated with the scribes. 

This power is demonstrated by Jesus' action of casting out a demon, described here as an "unclean spirit". The term is used for fallen angels in 1 Enoch 6-11. The exorcism leads some to describe Jesus as offering a "new" teaching. What exactly is "new" about his teaching though is unclear. 

Some have suggested that Jesus is said to not teach like the scribes do because he does not refer to the opinion of other respected teachers; he bases his teaching on his own authority. Something similar may be seen in Jesus' exorcism. Adela Yarbro Collins notes that Mark's portrait of Jesus' exorcisms may be contrasted with what is found in the exorcistic practices described in the Dead Sea Scrolls, particularly the fragment identified as 4Q560.
This text is evidence for the practice of exorcism in the cultural context of the historical Jesus. The means is verbal, as in Mark, but the exorcist in 4Q560 adjures the demon “by the Name of Him who forgives sins and transgression” (4Q560 1:4) whereas Mark’s Jesus does not call upon the name of God as he casts out demons. (Mark, p. 167)
In fact, whereas other exorcisms seemed to be performed only through the use of various incantations, Jesus' simple response immediately drives him out: Quiet! Come out of him! In fact, the Greek term,phimōthēti, actually can be translated, "Be muzzled!" All of this further underscores Jesus' unique power.

In fact, elsewhere in the New Testament Jesus is described as explaining how he casts out demons "by the finger of God" (Luke 11:20). The language here recalls the Exodus. Upon seeing the plagues wrought by Moses, the Egyptian magicians concede, "This is the finger of God."

Before being sent out, the demon identifies Jesus as "the Holy One of God". This scene sets in motion a major motif that is well-recognized in the Gospel of Mark: the "messianic secret". Demons appear to recognize that Jesus is the Messiah and yet Jesus does not want the truth of his identity revealed. Why? The most likely answer is that Jesus is concerned that his messiahship will be misconstrued and therefore his mission misunderstood. Jesus has not come as a political messiah. His victory is not primarily to be achieved militarily but spiritually. 

The enemy Jesus comes to conquer is Satan. Jesus' exorcistic ministry is a sign of this. Mark portrays Moses in terms that identify him as the fulfillment of Deuteronomy 18; Jesus is the "prophet like unto Moses" who brings about a New Exodus. He does not deliver his people from Pharaoh, but from Satan. 

And he does all of this by virtue of his unique divine power. 

One last element I'd like to mention. Interestingly, the unclean spirit calls Jesus, "the Holy One of God". Notably, that is actually not the term used for Moses; it is actually evocative of the language used for the high priest, Aaron. For example, see Psalm 106:16, which describes how some men of Israel were jealous of "Aaron, the holy one of the Lord". Numbers 16:7 also describes Aaron as the "holy one" chosen by God. 

Jesus is the true priest. This Sunday, as we celebrate the liturgy of the eucharist, we reflect on the way his power drives out demons--and we encounter that power through the Church's worship. Let us go to him, confident that he will free us from the power of the evil one through the sacrifice he has made of himself. 

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Libido Redux: In Praise of Cardinal Dolan: (What are the Sixth and Ninth Commandments?)

In psychoanalytic thought, libido (from the Latin: desire, lust) is the psychic and emotional energy associated with man’s instinctual biological drives (sexual desire). Though theoretically held in check by the ego and super-ego, in Freudian thought libido understands man as a sexual animal whose happiness derives from the unrestrained libido. The virtue of chastity in Freudian logic could only end in illness and unhappiness. Such thinking became normative in the United States in the 1960s, and it was not long before the greatest of natural mysteries,” the marriage act, was reduced to an openly discussable fun activity.

Paul VI offered libido as one way Satan, the “malign, clever seducer” undermines man’s sexual morality with his “sophistry.” The Devil’s strategy here, as the Pope cautioned, is “eminently logical.” He approaches man with what amounts to a false reason in his mind, which, if dwelled on, can influence the will by rousing him to do something evil which seems to be good. Deceit is basic to his strategy. By way of one example, if one is gifted with a superior intellect, Satan will tempt to pride and sins of the mind. Thus it is not surprising that the notion that the Church is out of touch and unbending on issues relating to sex and marriage to this day is advanced by  intellectual Catholic theologians the likes of Frs. Curran, McCormick, and O’Brien.

If one is worldly and hedonistic, Satan enters with temptations of the flesh. One hears often that the “liberation” of the human libido began in earnest in the United States in the “sexual revolution” of the 1960s. Americans, troubled over repressive attitudes toward human sexuality, hoped for a revolution that would free them from outdated moral and social constraints. It resulted not in liberation but in license and a host of societal sexual crises. Since the onset of the sexual revolution, we have had to face an ever-increasing array of sexual problems. One has only to think of the tremendous increase in the number of post-1960s illegitimate births and abortions, sexually transmitted diseases, opposition to censorship of pornography (especially on the Internet), and the resulting sexual addiction (in some extreme instances resulting in murder). Consider too the tremendous blows to marriage and the family done by adultery, the battle over the homosexual lifestyle in the United States, Canada and Europe (now to the point of the redefinition of marriage under the law); the increasing incidences of sexual harassment, child pornography on the Internet, Internet predators, date rape, and of course, the divorce rate. 

                                                                 -from The Smoke of Satan in the Temple of God

Having studied the devastating effects of the sexual revolution on the spiritual health of souls, I must draw attention to recent statements by the Archbishop of New York! His topic is timely, and I for one will pray that other shepherds will follow his lead.  Oremus.                   

Postscript: While we are on the subject, please note that Dawn Eden has updated her classic The Thrill of the Chaste                                           

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Pope Francis' Family

Since his elevation to the Chair of Peter Pope Francis has almost tripled the size of crowds attending papal audiences, Masses and other events in Vatican City. What explains this suddenly renewed interest in Catholicism? What need is Pope Francis meeting in people?
As is well-known, the Church was beset by allegations of scandal and mismanagement in its bureaucracy and its bank, its reputation besmirched by the sexual abuse scandal. John Allen of the National Catholic Reporter: "The dominant narrative about the Catholic Church today is 'rock star Pope takes the world by storm'….If that's not a revolution, at least at the level of perception, then we have never seen one." 

The revolution is seen in the Pope's decision to include a Muslim woman when he washed the feet of young offenders last Easter, and his instinctive hug for a man whose face was badly disfigured by disease.It is seen by his refusal to live in the papal apartment or to wear the regal clothes that go with his office. It is seen in his picking up the phone to call people out of the blue. It is seen by Pope Francis sayings:
·         "If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?"
·         "It is not 'progressive' to try to resolve problems by eliminating a human life... This defense of unborn life is closely linked to the defense of each and every other human right."
·         "With all the food that is left over and thrown away, we could feed so many. If we were able to stop wasting and start recycling food, world hunger would diminish greatly."

Of late the Holy Father has recruited eight cardinals to help him reform the Vatican bureaucracy and has acted to address mismanagement in the Vatican bank, and could be considering a revamping of the Synod of Bishops to give it real power and use it to help him rule the Church and eventually to give them the authority to make decisions themselves.
The Pope has also suggested that the power and authority concentrated for centuries in the papacy might be devolved to some extent, to conferences of bishops in countries round the world. Saint Thomas More would nod and smile. Francis has been praised for his warmth towards children and the poor, admirably seen in his recent trip to the Philippines.

Other reforms on the table, though not likely to be undertaken are an end to the ban on divorced and remarried Catholics from taking Holy Communion, perhaps a greater role for women in the Church. There will be no change to conservative teaching on fundamental issues such as homosexuality, euthanasia or abortion. Again, Mr. Allen: "We need people to see the real commitment to human flourishing that is ultimately at the core of these doctrines. What we are going to see on Pope Francis's watch is that he will put a beguiling human face on to the classic message." 

Pope Francis now has the world's attention, so let us pay attention, especially to the following news item, not likely to be covered in the mainstream media:

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Libido Redux: What do Vag*** Costumes Have To Do With Planned Parenthood?

It was Blessed Pope Paul VI who was of the view that the human libido was one crack through which Satan gets us to do the things he wants us to do, at the peril of our soul's salvation. I suspect most people wonder just how successful the prince of this world has been at accomplishing his goal? Here is one prime example that he is more successful than one might think.... And it isn't just in the good ol' U.S. of A. that He is at work! 

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Beauty and the Beast (porneia)

Well, If I look half as nice as does Ms. Welch when I reach her age, it will be a miracle. But, the woman who made history as a sex-symbol is today offering the gender who may once have ogled over her some life-saving advice! It has much to do with men's health, which, if one listens to commercial ads these days, has much to do with the libido, the title of  my third chapter. The chapter's thesis is that Pope Paul VI opined in 1972 that the prince of this world sucks his targets into his grasp through their sex drives, once they disregard the enemy's teaching on the intended use of human sexuality. The success for many men of Devil's strategy is set down in Ms. Welch's spot on reflections....

Sunday, January 4, 2015

On Catholic Universities

The Holy Father has called for Catholics to become doers on climate change, but I have another suggestion: Francis ought to hear the call to fix Catholic colleges falling into ruins. Think on the drive-by media’s’ reaction to Francis’ “Who am I to judge?:”the theme was that greed and economic exploitation are sins, while lustful sins do less harm and should not be exposed to moral exasperation. Just give to soup kitchens, collect blankets for the homeless, don’t give people a hard time about forbidden private sins that bring them pleasure, and perhaps more people will come to Mass.

In the post-Vatican II years, as I recount in my book, Catholics focused overwhelmingly on the economic and political side of social responsibilities, failing the responsibility to emphasize traditional moral teaching. Many priests and nuns who ignored the prevalent sexual anarchy did not do their spiritual charges any favors. The preferred summum bonum was, to paraphrase one typical example, to be drawn to the Jesuit mission of social justice.

How did this neglect play out at the premier Catholic university? Here is an example. The University of Notre Dame proved unwilling to bear an “uncompromising witness,” as Pope Francis challenged it to do, to Catholic teaching on marriage and sexuality, prioritizing talk about the “social justice” mission of Catholic education (i.e., people who desire sex with people of the same sex can’t be critiqued). Once again, the hope for a Catholicism based on liberation theology would prefer students stop complaining when they suffer the fruits of adults’ sexual selfishness.

Our premier Catholic U also gave its imprimatur to a conference on “Gender and Children.” One panel was on “children and gay parents” which, as it turned out, opposed biological parenthood and socialized gender roles without including representation of people in support of traditional Catholic teaching on marriage and the family.

There is another Catholic University many of my students apply to, Marquette. When a student in a contemporary social issues class wanted to explore the issue of children’s rights to a mother and a father, the instructor’s response was  that Gay rights could not be discussed, since disagreement (of which there was most certainly) would offend gay students.
 The student persisted, arguing against homosexual marriage and adoption, to which the instructor queried about research showing that children of gay parents do worse than children of straight, married parents. The student produced the following study conducted in 2012, whereupon the instructor told the student to leave, and feel free to drop the course, with the caveat, “In this class, homophobic comments, racist comments, will not be tolerated.” So we have individuals devoted to LGBT “social justice” at a Catholic college forbidding an undergraduate to write a paper sympathizing with the Catholic Church.

Let’s conclude with an event at a Catholic University bearing the name. On November 20, 2014, a speech was delivered on the occasion of the International Day of the Child to the effect that divorce and abandonment, not gay adoption, are the most common ways that children are deprived of a mother and father.
Students from an unofficial LGBT group were present, complete with badgering questions and slanderous accusationsadding that Pope Francis would not approve of the speech. Pope Francis, who said every child has a right to a father and a mother.

The Holy Father would agree (as I have documented in these pages) that sexual radicalism and extreme LGBT advocacy have no positive role to play in pastoral ministry, let alone Catholic higher education. Francis, who has equated he gender identity movement with the demonic, no doubt would recognize that people sympathetic to the LGBTQIA phenomenon come to Catholic universities to suppress Catholicism and turn it into something not recognizably Christian. If the three incidents here portend the future, then the future is bleak. Only at the Church’s peril can Pope Francis ignore the implosion of Catholic higher education. Satan would no doubt give His blessing.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Which Side are You On?

Here is advice you can take to the bank from an unlikely source. It is entirely in keeping with the message of these pages, and so, if you find yourself in the belly of the whale as 2015 begins, when you are emeted, seek first God's Kingdom over you-all else will be added, much as we read about in this fascinating biographical note.