Sunday, August 30, 2009

Do you really believe that transubstantiation stuff?

Dear Rev. Know it all;

I am amazed that people like you still believe all that mediaeval voodoo about transubstantiation. You Catholics believe that bread and wine become flesh and blood. It looks like bread and wine. It tastes like bread and wine, but it’s really flesh and blood. That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard. If you put it under a microscope it’s still bread and wine.

Yours realistically,

Moe Dernistik

Dear Moe,

Not always. It seems that sometimes bread and wine become visibly flesh and blood, even under a microscope. Let me refer you to an interesting web address:

Or you can look under “Eucharistic Miracle, Buenos Aires.” It’s in Spanish, but has English subtitles. It seems that not long ago, a host that was dropped on the floor. When it was found, it was put into a little bit of water and let sit in the tabernacle in a church until it dissolved and could be reverently disposed of. Instead of dissolving, it become a red liquid with some red gelatinous material. They had the substance examined. It turned out that it was tissue from a human heart, from the left ventricle, to be exact. That was weird enough, but much to the shock of the doctors who examined the sample without knowing its origin, the tissue which should have been dead was still alive and beating. Watch the video.

Interesting to note that a host turned to flesh in Lanciano, Italy in the 8th century, as a doubting priest said Mass. It has been reserved in a reliquary ever since and it is also tissue form the human heart. I can hear you saying at the top of your voice, “Impossible! They are committing fraud! This needs to be examined by competent scientists!”

Remember when the Shroud of Turin was examined a few years back by competent scientists? They turned out to be completely incompetent. They tested a patch and told the world that the Shroud was a fake. It was the “competent” scientists who were the fake. The Shroud of Turin has never been carbon dated, except for one small thread that someone tested without permission. That turned out to be from the time of Christ.

Go to your computer and look it up: “Shroud of Turin Website.” Your refusal to believe that miracles can happen is the product of your faith, that is, trust, which is what the word faith really means. You are blindly trusting science which is ultimately as shaky as any human endeavor. We Americans like to think that science is irrefutable truth.

Have you been keeping up with physics lately? The more we know about the structure of matter and reality the more miraculous it seems. I dare you to turn off the reality shows about important celebrities arguing with each other in the jungle and eating bugs. Do a web search. Just type in “Eucharistic Miracles.” You will be amazed.

As for me, I have no doubt that in the tabernacle there is a living heart that pulses with love for me and for you. It is the heart of God, made present in the person of Jesus, the Messiah. He loves you and would fill you with His own life if you would just stop long enough hear His heart quietly beating.


Rev. Know-it-all

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Isn't religion the cause of all wars?

Dear Rev. Know it all;
I was shocked to discover that most of the wars in the world today are religious wars. Religion is the source of everything bad. War, the Crusades, the Inquisition, overpopulation, persecution, prejudice; it’s all religious. I have no idea whether or not there is a God, but if religious people would just leave the rest of us alone, we would all be fine.
Bella Koes

Dear Bella,
Let us first define our terms. We read in James 1:27 that, “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.”

The Greek term, (remember them, the Greeks, precise to the point of tediousness?) is “threskeia”, which means “worship, religion, especially expressed in (religious) cult, that is, ritual.” Translating the text into Latin, the word is religio, whence comes our word religion. Religio meant holding scrupulously to the ceremonies due the gods. There is no clear agreement among scholars as to the origin of the word. It seems to come from “re” and “ligare” thus would have something to do with holding back, or tying down.

In the Church, we talk about the virtue of religion, which is a dimension of the virtue of justice. Justice is that virtue which gives to each his due. It is impossible to give God what He is owed, but our attempt to do so is called religion. In the common understanding religion is “...all that God stuff, do unto others etc.” It can be thus argued, that Christianity, and especially Catholic Christianity, is not itself a religion, but a faith and a fellowship that has a necessary religious component. (Boy is this boring. What is he talking about? ) Just this: you’re assuming that you know what religion is, and you don’t. “It’s all that God stuff, no?”
We need to define our terms. There are lots of religions. In the above mentioned passage, St. James says that some religion can be foolish. You are making the claim that religion is the source of human suffering. Which religions? Let’s look at the question of war and religion in tedious detail. The United Nations seems most interested in wars that involve a thousand or more fatalities a year, so we’ll start there. In this list are included:
1) the Arab-Israeli Conflict with a grand total of 50,000 - 90,000 fatalities since its inception, then
2) the Somali Civil War, 300,000 - 400,000 fatalities, then
3) the Afghan Civil War 1,500,000–2,000,000 fatalities, a war into which we have recently jumped with both feet and a patriotic smile, though it was originally a Muslim vs. Communist war, then
4) the civil war in Darfur, Sudan, 450,000 (+/-) fatalities, then
5) the Iraq War, 500,000 - 1,500,000, then
6) the war in North-West Pakistan 13,900 dead and, finally,
7) the Mexican Drug War 10,000 fatalities or so.

There are many other smaller-scale armed conflicts that are currently causing a smaller number of violent fatalities each year, but still worth an honorable mention.
8) The Colombian drug war 50, 000 to 200,000 fatalities,
9) the Communist/ Islamic Insurgency in the Philippines about 120,000 dead, then
10) the Kashmiri Insurgency in India, perhaps 60,000 gone, then
11) the Niger Delta and
12) Baluchistan conflicts, (who knows how many dead?) and finally in India, the
13) Naxalite Maoist insurgency whatever that may be!

I have not mentioned the Northern Irish situation, because at the time it seems to be over, but the famous conflict between Protestants and Catholics was not what it seemed. Many of the so-called Catholics were actually Maoist Communists. The conflict seems to be ending because the combatants are just getting too old to continue. You can only do so much damage from a wheel chair.

So, of the twelve wars listed above, 10 involve Muslims, 1 involves Communists, and two involve drug dealers, admittedly in Catholic countries, though I suspect the drug lords don’t attend church that often. In the above list there is not one Vatican paid Swiss Guard mentioned. So those miseries cannot be directly pinned on the Pope.

I mentioned above that the word “religion” may actually mean to restrain or tie back. I would venture that some religions, like Islam, make war a positive virtue. Remember that Mohammed was himself a general who mandated beheadings. Other religions seem to restrain the impulse to kill. Jesus and Buddha seem down right opposed to war, though their followers occasionally ignore them. Still, I would venture that Christian/Catholic religion performs the function of restraining what seems to be the favorite pastime of humanity: murder on the grand scale. Where Catholicism has been practiced, war, though not eliminated, has been held back. Have you ever heard of the Peace of God and the Truce of God?

The Peace of God was the protection from military violence won by special groups in medieval society. These included the clergy and their possessions; the poor; women; peasants along with their tools, animals, mills, vineyards, and labor; and later pilgrims and merchants: in short, the vast majority of the medieval population who neither bore arms, nor were entitled to bear them.

The Truce of God, while often confused and later merged with the Peace, protected certain times of the week and year from the violence of the feudal class: no private or public wars were to be waged from Wednesday evening until Monday morning, during certain Saints’ days, during Advent, Lent, and Rogation days, also Holy Week, Easter Week and the 12 Days of Christmas, with it’s partridges and pear trees. This peace, though often broken, extended from the 800's until the Reformation in the 1500's. The Pope could excommunicate violators and people actually worried about such censures for almost 700 years.

The History Channel and Hollywood have convinced you of the myth of the scheming evil popes bent on world domination who were overthrown by the glorious Reformation and the still more wonderful Enlightenment. Look at the numbers. If conduced by the rules, medieval wars were not much more violent than modern English soccer matches. (I’m joking, but not by much.) Remember you could only kill other knights and the technology of killing had not yet benefitted from the Enlightenment of the 1700's and the wonderful scientific revolution which has made our lives so much richer and our war so much more deadly. Medieval wars just didn’t kill as many people as modern wars do.

War in Europe really came into it’s own when the papal domination of western Christianity was overthrown. That’s when the “wars of religion,” really got rolling, principally in France, Germany and England. These probably killed 10,000,000 (ten million) over the course of a century, certainly an inspiring achievement, but nothing compared to the progress we’ve made as we gradually shake off Christianity altogether. Take away the pope, and ten million die. Let’s see what happens when we take away Christianity all together.

There is an interesting little book about the death toll caused by Communism. The introduction, by editor Stéphane Courtois, himself a former Maoist/Communist, asserts that “...Communist regimes...turned mass crime into a full-blown system of government.” He cites a death toll which totals 94 million, give or take, not counting the “excess deaths” (decrease of the population due to lower than the expected birth rate). The breakdown of the number of deaths is as follows:
65 million in the Peoples Republic of China
20 million in the Soviet Union
2 million in Cambodia
2 million in North Korea
1.7 million in Africa
1.5 million in Afghanistan
1 million in the Communist states of Eastern Europe
1 million in Vietnam
150,000 in Latin America
10,000 deaths “resulting from actions of the international communist movement and communist parties not in power."

Courtois claims that Communists are responsible for a greater number of deaths than any other political ideal or movement, including Nazism. Let us remember that both Communism and Nazism are socialist systems that deny the claims of God on humanity. The state is supreme, not God. Communism has killed about 100,000,000 (One hundred million) for political reasons. We’re not talking war here, just political ideology. Nazism “only” killed 25,000,000 (twenty five million) for political reasons, 6 million of them being Jews. This does not include the 40,000,000 killed as a result of combat in the Second World War.

So, take away the pope, ten million dead. Take away God, two hundred million dead, counting war. There are a lot more wars and religions we could go into, but enough is enough. I think you get the picture. Still, it is worth mentioning a religion that incorporates war as a divine mandate, such as Islam. Communism has been responsible for the deaths of maybe 100 million people. Bill Warner of the Center for the Study of Political Islam says, “Approximately 270 million nonbelievers died over the last 1,400 years for the glory of political Islam.” If he is correct, Hitler comes in third, a mere piker, a veritable camp fire girl.
"Wait a minute! You papists can’t get off that easy! What about the Crusades, the Inquisition and the conquest of the Americas?"
Aren’t I always warning you not to get your religion from the Discovery Channel? The Inquisition, though not something to be proud of, really didn’t give it everything they had. The Vatican has opened up meticulous records kept over the 400 years of the Inquisition’s heyday and in Spain and Portugal perhaps 2,000-3,000 were killed.

How about the Crusades? In the course of two centuries perhaps one or two million died, and let us remember these were defensive wars. A very political religion burst out of the Arabian Peninsula with the express intention of taking over the world, a hope still warmly cherished by many Muslims. Christian lands were conquered and Christians killed. Remember that the Middle East was solidly Christian at the time. Around 1000 AD, Caliph Hakim of Cairo killed the entire Christian population of Jerusalem, burned every Christian shrine in the Holy Land, and hacked the tomb of Christ to pieces. Imagine what would happen in today if a Christian tried to destroy the Ka’aba Mecca! For us the Tomb of Christ is comparable to the Ka’aba, the central shrine of Islam.

Those assaults started the Crusades. If not for the Crusades, the slaughter of Christians would have continued unabated, until the followers of Jesus of Nazareth, the Prince of Peace, were either dead or converted to the banners of the armies of Islam. As for the conquest of the Americas, true, there were atrocities on the part of gold crazed conquistadors, but the rights of the native Americans were defended by the priests and friars who followed in the wake of the conquerors. Most of the dead were killed by microbes, and that encounter between the microbes of the old world and the people of the Americas was inevitable.

So there you have it. Where Catholic Christianity has been practiced, the murderous human spirit has been restrained. Where secularism and warrior religions are practiced, the deaths are counted in the hundreds of millions. Once again, I would like to remind you, don’t believe everything you see on television.

Rev. Know-it-all

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Is there a document that says we must respect priests?

Dear Rev. Know it all;
Is there an Encyclical or a Papal Teaching on how the lay person is required to respect their priests? We have someone in our lay community, who does not like the way her pastor gives homilies and is constantly criticizing him. We know this is wrong, but we don't know how to correct her without hurting her. Especially now, in the Year of the Priest, I would think there would be something from Rome. Please help.
Clara Qalysm 

Dear Clara,
First, the simple answer to your question: Yes. There is something recently written, Pope Benedict’s letter of June 16 inaugurating the Year of the Priest. That said, I am delighted to hear that some one is upset by the sermons in your parish. Hopefully, she is upset for the right reasons.
Somehow we have gotten the impression, (I think it started somewhere in the 1950's) that we are supposed to like priests. What an odd assumption. If a priest is doing his job, he should make us feel at least a little nervous, if not downright uncomfortable. We assume that Mass should be entertaining and that sermons should be enjoyable. The job of the priest is not to entertain. It is to do what Jesus did. Certainly you don’t believe that Jesus was crucified because He was such a nice fellow. It seems they didn’t have to look far to find a mob that was willing to shout “Crucify Him!” He must have irritated a few people. The job of the priest is to continue the work that Jesus did. Certainly, preaching and teaching were part of it, but so were healing the sick and casting out demons. However, Jesus’ ultimate work was to offer Himself as a sacrifice in reparation for the sins of the world.
When I was a young priest many years ago, I was given a new assignment as an assistant pastor. Shortly before I arrived to take up my new duties, St. John Vianney, the patron saint of parish priests, came to me in a dream and told me that I would have to pray a lot in this new assignment. When I arrived at my new rectory, I noticed a beautiful wood carving of St John on the mantelpiece in the front room. A few weeks later, I noticed that the statue of St. John was gone, and in his place was a mechanical monkey. It seems the pastor had taken his vacation in Las Vegas, where he had won the little wind up monkey in a game of chance. When he needed a refill at the bar, he just switched on the monkey who banged a little pair of cymbals and the bar maid would fill his glass, and he would switch the monkey off, until pressed into service once again. Thus, it was that the patron saint of priests was replaced with a mechanical monkey.
In the 20th century, we became accustomed to the priest as headman of the immigrant community. That changed into a kind of social director which has developed in our times to “pious bureaucrat.” The priest goes to meetings, conducts programs, fills out forms, visits the school, and glad hands everybody in the vestibule. He does weddings for young couples who have been living in sin for the past two years, then goes to the banquet where he gives the blessings at the beginning and end, thus giving the whole thing a veneer of sanctity. He conducts funerals, reassuring us that perhaps there is life after death and, doubtless, God, who is merciful, will overlook Uncle Mortimer’s gun running business and countless adulteries. After all, Old Mort had a kind heart.
A priest should be good with young and old, but not too good with young. He should be kind and pastoral and never critical he should preach a nice, though brief, sermon. He should go to all the events, the wakes the weddings, the men’s club, the women’s club, the youth group, and having done all that he should be a man of prayer, or at least appear to be. He must have the wisdom of age and the energy of youth, and be ready to rush to the hospital in the middle of the night to give the “last sacraments” to some reprobate who has not darkened the door of the church since his First (and last) Communion.
Above all, the priest makes sure that the fund raising is on schedule and the buildings are in good repair. Keep banging the cymbals, Father. At least keeping up the buildings has something to do with the ministry of Jesus. He was, after all, in the building trades for about 18 years.
In his letter of June 16th, on the year of the priest, it doesn’t seem that the Holy Father is urging people to celebrate the priesthood as much as he is urging priest to remember their calling. The letter is mostly a meditation on the life of my old friend, St. John Vianney. He was the Curé (the Pastor) of Ars, a small town in the south of France. After the French Revolution, the faith in France was in terrible shape, almost as bad as it is now. St John was to this little village of perhaps 250 souls, few of whom practiced their faith. He was not well received. In fact, they hated him.
For years, a group of women offered a special Mass intention. After a while, Fr. Vianney asked what they were praying for. They told him, “For a new pastor.” He went right on praying for their special intention. When he arrived in the parish, he prayed “Lord, grant me the conversion of my parish; I am willing to suffer whatever you wish, for my entire life!” He then went around for a month meeting his parishioners, getting to know the life of his little village, then he went to the pulpit and denounced their sins, especially their dances, which were nothing more than seduction.
As the pastor of Ars, Father Vianney realized that the Revolution's aftermath resulted in religious ignorance, due to many years of the destruction of the Catholic Church in France. At the time, Sundays in rural areas were spent in the fields working, or spent dancing and drinking in taverns. In modern America we work, run errands, go to sporting events and watch soft core pornography on our televisions. Vianney reminded his parishioners that Sundays were meant for the worship of God. Father Vianney began by giving sermons referring to the tavern as "the devil's own shop, the market where souls are bartered, where the harmony of families are broken up, where quarrels start and murders are done." No wonder they hated him.
I wonder what he would have to say about the way people come dressed when they bother to come to church at all. I bet he would have a few thing to say about video games and television programming as well. We live in an age when the Catholic Church is being systematically attacked from without and within. The ignorance of children regarding the faith and the sacraments is appalling. The torrent of pornography to which children are exposed is unfathomable, and that’s just prime time TV.
Our entertainments have corroded our sense of right and wrong just as they did in Ars 150 years ago. I am genuinely shocked when young people come to arrange a marriage and they are not living together. No one thinks twice about what in a former time would be called adultery or perversion, in fact it is celebrated. Parents are at a loss, unable and sometimes unwilling to do anything. God forbid the priest should fail to be in step with the times. We priests have been so in step that many of us have been swept away in the same river of filth and narcissism that is currently engulfing the world.
The problem then, as I see it, is not that someone in your parish is critical of the priest, but that only one person is critical of the priest. People want to love their priests because they are such nice fellows and give such nice homilies. This is a mistake. The priest is to be valued because he absolves sins and offers the sacrifice of Calvary, the only sacrifice which can make up for the barbarities of the age. In his own life, the priest is called to offer the sacrifice of the Mass as an expiation for his sins and the sins of his congregation, even if the congregation believes itself sinless, and worse still if the priest refuses to acknowledge his own weakness and sinfulness. The priest is supposed to be the one who leads his people to repentance, having himself wholeheartedly repented.
Allow me to quote from the Pope’s letter as he quotes St. John “The great misfortune for us parish priests – (St. John Vianney) lamented - is that our souls grow tepid"; meaning by this that a pastor can grow dangerously inured to the state of sin or of indifference in which so many of his flock are living. He himself kept a tight rein on his body, with vigils and fasts, lest it rebel against his priestly soul. Nor did he (St. John) avoid self-mortification for the good of the souls in his care and as a help to expiating the many sins he heard in confession. To a priestly confrere he explained: "I will tell you my recipe: I give sinners a small penance and the rest I do in their place". Aside from the actual penances which the Cure’ of Ars practiced, the core of his teaching remains valid for each of us: souls have been won at the price of Jesus' own blood, and a priest cannot devote himself to their salvation if he refuses to share personally in the "precious cost" of redemption.
We want to like the priest for the same reason we like the softball coach, the scout leader and Santa Claus. Again quoting St. John Vianney, the priest is to be valued for a quite different service, “Without the Sacrament of Holy Orders, we would not have the Lord. Who put Him there in that tabernacle? The priest. Who welcomed your soul at the beginning of your life? The priest. Who feeds your soul and gives it strength for its journey? The priest. Who will prepare it to appear before God, bathing it one last time in the blood of Jesus Christ? The priest, always the priest. And if this soul should happen to die [as a result of sin], who will raise it up, who will restore its calm and peace? Again, the priest. ... After God, the priest is everything! ... Only in heaven will he fully realize what he is. 'O, how great is the priest! ... If he realized what he is, he would die.' (St. John Mary Vianney)
If only a few more priests would take these words to heart and forget what their congregations thought of them.
 Rev. Know-it-all

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Why does God give children diseases?

Dear Rev. Know it all
A good friend of mine at work is a very faith-filled Catholic with a healthy desire to better understand why God allows disease. Her toddler son was recently diagnosed with a rare disorder which could seriously affect him cognitively. It's a genetic disorder that no one was aware of even existing in the family. She has surrendered the problem over to God, and realizes that this is an opportunity to grow closer and more dependent on God, yet questions why disease exists at all and whether or not God actually 'gives' someone a disease.
Thank you,
Ms. Ari Bell
Dear Ari,
You have asked THE question. First of all, let me tell you from the start that God does not give anyone a disease. If the Catholic Church believed that God caused disease we would have to close all those Catholic hospitals and stop trying to cure the sick. Lourdes, as well as other healing shrines would have to be shuttered as being the work of the devil. We Catholics believe in healing, both supernatural and natural. If God caused disease, curing the sick in any way would be resisting His perfect will. We believe that death and sickness entered the world because of the sin of Adam and Eve.
This simple answer doesn’t help at all, does it! It just brings up two more questions. First of all, why do I suffer for the sin of two ancient people, if they existed at all? Second, if God is all powerful and all loving, couldn’t He just wave His almighty hand and make life better? These are two really good points. It’s easy to say that God doesn’t will sickness and suffering, but if He is all powerful, then He at least allows bad things to happen. If we are correct about God, then it is fair to say that nothing in all the universe happens, except with His permission. So, isn’t it fair to say that He is to blame for everything from the Holocaust down to the common cold? Why not blame Adam and Eve or some other poor cave men for the current mess, or for my personal suffering?
Lots of great religious thinkers have come up with lots of creative answers to the question of “if God is so good, why is it that my life, and that of so many others whom I love, is, at times, so lousy?” Let’s call it the “Good God/Lousy Life” problem. (Or GGLL, for short.)
Jean Calvin 1509-1564, of France and Switzerland, the lawyer who founded Reformed Protestantism and inadvertently the United States, said that your life was lousy because you deserve it. God created two groups of people, the elect, chosen to show His mercy and the damned, chosen to show His justice.
And you, poor, blighted sucker, are probably among the damned, as are most human beings, so it’s only going to get worse and don’t think it’s unfair, because after all, God is God and He can do whatever He darn well pleases and He decided to make you a miserable sinner, just like Adam and Eve and if you think it’s bad now you’re going to Hell so what you’re current suffering is a picnic by comparison and who are you to criticize God anyway, you sniveling little worm. Amen.
Then there’s Rabbi Harold Kushner (1935 — ), his son died at the age of 14 of progeria, a rare hereditary disease. His answer is that not perfect. (See page 148 of his best selling book “When Bad Things Happen to Good People.”) In other words, God is not all powerful and He can’t make everything all right, no matter how hard He tries, and believe me He’s really trying. Rabbi Kushner seems to answer the question by making us feel sorry for God who’s doing His level best at a job He’s not really cut out for.
Then there’s Carl Sagan 1934-1996 American agnostic and astronomer. Let us pretend that he stands for the great number of those who believe, practically speaking, that there is no God as most people understand God to be. In a 1996 interview with NPR's Fresh Air, Sagan said, "I find that you learn absolutely nothing about someone's belief if you ask them 'Do you believe in God?' and they say yes or no. You have to specify which of the countless kinds of God you have in mind." This is very much to the point. God is defined as that reality, greater than which nothing exists. As far as Carl knew, and he may be of a different opinion now that he is dead, the universe with its “billions and billions of galaxies spinning endlessly....” was in fact that greatest reality which existed. It is, therefore God, and the Universe does not give a good gosh darn whether you and yours are living happily ever after.
The Catholic Church has a different answer from Carl, Calvin and Kushner. First of all, we Catholics agree that God can do whatever He pleases and the beauty and order of the Universe are what He pleased. Creation itself is an out flowing and mirror of God’s perfection, imperfect, though it is. God is not arbitrary, as Calvin would have us believe. Physical, natural and moral law flow from God’s very nature. In the words of Einstein, a rather smart fellow, “God does not play dice with the Universe!” (Actually Einstein said that “He (God) does not throw dice.”) God does not contradict His own nature.
God’s sovereignty doesn’t mean that He will cast you down to the deepest hell because, well, He just felt like it. Calvin might do you such a thing, but God doesn’t. And different from Dr. Sagan’s opinion, God is not impassive and uncaring. Carl Sagan may have been. I don’t know, but the first Pope, St. Peter advised us “to cast all our anxieties on Him, for He cares for you.” (1Peter 5:7)
How can He be all-caring, all-powerful, all-knowing and I’m still a mess? My answer, which I hope is the Catholic answer, would be a question: Have you looked at a crucifix lately? If you go into a Catholic Church, at least one where the pastor is paying attention, there is a crucifix. There is a modern, though beautiful church in Skokie, Illinois. It shines with beautiful stained glass windows, stained glass, mind you, not painted. The light filters through the western, stained glass wall at sunset like a vision. In front of that western wall is a huge crucifix, perhaps thirty feet tall. If you sat for an afternoon looking at that wonderful cross, you would gradually see the cross almost disappear in an explosion of light. It would take an afternoon, but you would have your answer.
I have heard nouveau, pseudo, deep as a puddle, progressives criticize the old custom of the crucifix on the altar. I remember an old German who was made pastor of a progressive parish. He put a large Crucifix up in the rectory dining room. Two of the ministresses of care were horrified by the change. “How dare he put that symbol of violence and repression up in our dining room!?! It’s repulsive!” It had a very salutary effect. The old pastor lost a little weight and the two ministresses stopped bothering him at mealtimes.
You’ve probably been asked, “Why does the Catholic Church have crucifixes and not just a simple cross? After all, Jesus rose from the dead!” You forget that when He rose He still had the nail marks in His hands and the wound in His side. He carried the Cross with Him even in the Resurrection. If you look closely at the Gospel of John, when Jesus talks about the hour of His glory, He is talking about the crucifixion, not the Resurrection, though you can’t have one without the other.
We want life to be easy. God wants life to be beautiful. We want God to do things for us. God wants to make us His children, sharing His nature. And what is His nature? Love. Real Love. Sacrificial Love, not just sentiment. Jesus said, “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48) We think of perfection as flawlessness. A perfect person is beautiful, brilliant, rich and so on. Remember the command is not be perfect. It is be perfect “AS” your heavenly Father is perfect. “AS” is one of the most important words in the Bible. “Peace I give you, not “AS” the world gives peace.” “Love one another “AS” I have loved you,” not “AS” seen on TV.” Love is easy if you define it the way a TV producer does, raging hormones and no problem that can’t be solved in half an hour. Love one another “AS” I have loved you involves nails, a cross and a crown of thorns. God is love, and love is the goal, but remember that love is defined by the cross.
I had a friend years ago, a real mensch. He was smart, handsome, from a good family, well educated and well to do, a promising career a gorgeous, loving wife two children and they actually went to church. A charmed life. He called me one day in a state of confusion. All I could do was listen. He and his wife had been informed that their soon to be born child had Down’s Syndrome. She would be as some say “mentally retarded.” The perfect life was over. He didn’t know what to do. The doctors urged him and his wife to end the pregnancy. After all, it would be more merciful to the “fetus.” Because they were Catholics, they decided to allow the baby to live. Shortly before the birth he called and said he did not know how they would be able to go on. About three years later he called me and said that he hadn’t known that there could be so much love as his littlest daughter had given him and taught him. What had been his greatest fear had become his greatest blessing. The perfection of God is more than His omnipotence or perfect knowledge. It is His unlimited love.
That little girl was tiny and weak. She wasn’t the greatest thinker ever born, but when she loves she is the very reflection of the nature of God, and when we love, really love, love sacrificially, so are we. She is perfect, not AS the world would have her be. The world would have killed her, but God gave her to my friend as an opportunity for true love. All of us get sick and all of us die. It is the inheritance that we receive from our first parents. In the first garden, they were offered a gift of love, sacrificial love, and all they had to do was sacrifice the fruit of a tree. They could not trust God even that far. Our inheritance is not just their failure, it is the question they were asked by God and that God still asks of every human being, “Will you trust Me?” Jesus was asked the same question in a different garden. Gethsemane by name. “Will you trust Me,” asked His heavenly Father. He answered, “Father, not as I will, but as You will.” He took what had been stolen from that other tree and placed it back on the Cross, the tree of life and so by His complete trust he gave love back to the world.
So, disease exists for the same reason that the tree of the knowledge of good and evil existed in the garden of Eden, for the same reason that the cross stood on Calvary’s hill. It is the reason for imperfection in the midst of our yearning for perfection. In the end, love will win. The tears that glisten on a mother’s cheek will not disappear “they shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye,” (1Cor.15:52) They will shine like gold and diamonds in an infinity of love.
Tell your friend that I will be praying for her and the child she loves so much. 
Rev. Know-it-all