Thursday, September 15, 2011

Advice to Timothy

According to Magnificat, the Lectionary gives options for today’s first reading: “Today, the Gospel of the memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows is obligatory. However, for the first reading and the psalm, one can choose between the texts fo the Thrusday of the Twenty-Fourth Week in Ordinary Time or those of the memorial.” I had two observation upon reading the selection from the first Letter of Saint Paul to Timothy (1 Timothy 4:12-16).

First, what a wonderful reference to the sacrament of Confirmation: “Let no one have contempt for your youth, but set an example for those who believe, in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity. Until I arrive, attend to the reading, exhortation, and teaching. Do not neglect the gift you have, which was conferred on you through the prophetic word with the imposition of hands by the presbyterate.”

The second requires a little background. We’ve got a fellow in our men’s group who is of the faith alone, once saved, always saved variety. Paul advises Timothy, “Attend to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in both tasks, for by doing so you will save both yourself and those who listen to you.” If Timothy’s salvation was assured and could not be lost, then why is Paul telling him that he will save himself by perseverance?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Centurions and Widows

It’s a fairly common practice, when meditating upon the scriptures, to put oneself in the story. In some narrative passages, there a multiple characters with whom we are invited to identify.

Monday’s gospel reading (Luke 7:1-10) was the healing of the Centurion’s servant. The Centurion, a gentile, recognizes the power and authority of Jesus, and makes profound statements of humility and faith: “I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof . . . but say the word and let my servant be healed.” We echo these words at every mass when we say before receiving communion, “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed.” [The words of the response will be changed in the new translation of the missal to further highlight the relation to the scripture passage in Luke.] In our paraphrase of the Centurion, we take on the role of both him and his servant.

The same can be said of Tuesday’s gospel (Luke 7:11-17), in which Jesus brings back to life the dead son of the widow of Nain. We are invited to see ourselves as both the widow, upon whom Christ has compassion, and the son, whose life He restores.

The Centurion, in his faith approached Christ through the elders of the Jews. We often approach Christ in the sacraments through the mediation of His Church. The widow, weeping for her dead son, is like the Church, weeping over the spiritual death of her children brought on by sin.

He wants us to be alive in the Spirit and not dead in sin. Reconciliation and new life await us in the sacraments. The only thing that He asks of us is humility and faith.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Human Energy

There are occasional signs that I’ve drunk deeply from the well of popular science fiction. Today, for instance, I received a magazine in the mail. On the back cover was an advertisement, the left half of which was a picture of an attractive, middle-aged Asian woman. On the right, in progressively large text, were the words, “The world needs more than oil.” Below this statement, in a hand-stamp styling were the words “We agree” and two signatures. Back on the left, near the bottom of the Asian woman’s photo, was an oil company logo and “Human Energy ®.”

“Oh my God!” I thought. “They’re sticking people in stasis pods and harvesting them for electricity just like in The Matrix!”

Ha! That was just some silly movie. They couldn’t really do that, could they?

[Note: the ad is really promoting natural gas, but it’s necessary to read all the fine print to find that out. I’m no marketing genius, but this strikes me as a really lousy advertisement. The agency that designed the ad should be fired, and whoever approved it should be demoted.]

[Further note: I showed the ad to my 17-year old son, who’s never seen The Matrix. He said that it made him think of a bunch of Chinese folks pedaling away on stationary bikes to generate electricity.]

Monday, September 12, 2011

Casual Sundays

There’s a stereotypical view out there that anyone who complains about the way people dress for mass is either a grumpy old fogey or a sexually repressed prude. I’ve come to accept that my views on proper church attire probably make me a fogey.

Then came some affirmation of my view from a surprising source: ABC News! If even ABC News is noticing that Catholics are really dressing poorly for worship, then there must really be a problem!

Go read the story for yourself, and watch the video!

My hope is that, with the fundraising drive of our parish Church to install air conditioning, grown men won’t feel the need to wear short pants and beach shoes to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass next summer.

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Thursday, September 8, 2011

25 Years

I was chatting with my older sister this weekend. She related how, when she was first entering the work force, she was told not to count on Social Security being around when she reached retirement age. That was more than 25 years ago. I can’t remember anybody in my generation ever thinking anything other than that Social Security would go bust before we ever got a chance to claim the benefits for which we were allegedly paying into the system. We all knew that our contributions were being spent, and the only thing in the “lockbox” was a stack of IOUs.

My point is that we’ve known for at least 25 years that we had a problem. It’s not exactly true that we’ve done nothing. We’ve invented Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) and 401k plans. But at the same time, we’ve left the charade that is Social Security go unreformed.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Racing for the Finish

I heard something recently, I think it was over the television, that left me shaking my head, muttering, “I don’t think so.” The basic thrust of what I heard was that the person wanted to be racing for the finish late in life.

Sure, it sounds life a fine sentiment. Make a strong finish! But my experience running in the 5K tour this summer has me thinking that I’d rather not spend my last years that way.

Don’t get me wrong! I’ve been running pretty well this year. I’ve been able to mix long distance, middle distance, and speed work into my training schedule, and it’s been a long time since I’ve had a really bad workout. My race times have been great – I haven’t been over 20 minutes since early June. But in nearly every race that I’ve run, the third mile has been my slowest, taking all the effort that I could muster just to keep running. I cross the finish line dripping with sweat, gasping for breath, barely able to keep from collapsing.

I’d really rather not spend the last third of my life the way that I spend the last mile of a 3.1 mile race.

Friday, September 2, 2011

This Year's Sophomores

After a hiatus of a couple of years, I am returning to the classroom this year as a high school catechist. In the fall session, I will have one of three classes of sophomores preparing for Confirmation. Our first session falls on Sunday, September 11 – the tenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks that changed the world for so many of us. I was a little stunned to realize that this year’s sophomores would have been 5 or 6 years old on that fateful day.