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Wake up and smell the miracles, Rip Van Winkle!  Are you a Catholic sitting on the witness stand with the prosecutor ripping into you, demanding answers about how you can believe the things you believe without having a firm, scientific foundation to support it?  Are they grilling you like you’re Joan of Arc, insisting you come clean and admit the truth.  (Joan of Arc’s last words, by the way, were, “Excuse me, I believe I asked to be seated in the non-smoking section, thanks.”)

You should look the prosecutor in the eye, pull a Jack Nicholson, and shout out, “You can’t handle the truth!”  (If you’re into clichés.)  The truth is science is a Catholic’s best friend and we’d really be hung out to dry half the time, if we didn’t have science to back up our seemingly outrageous claims.  You should really change seats with this presumptuous prosecutor and make him answer some questions.  For instance, why is it that skeptics and nonbelievers throw the Big Bang theory at Catholics as a supposed proof AGAINST our creation assertions when it was a Catholic Monsignor, Georges Lemaitre, who proposed the theory in the first place?

Atheism: the belief that there was nothing and nothing happened to nothing and then nothing magically exploded for no reason, creating everything and then a bunch of everything magically rearranged itself for no reason whatsoever into self-replicating bits which then turned into dinosaurs.  Makes perfect sense.”

Eggheads sit around college classrooms pooh-poohing the simpleminded, superstitious religious rubes of history, but it was the Jesuits who pretty much constructed the entire academic system as we know it today.  For some other generous Jesuit contributions:

pendulum clocks, pantographs, barometers, reflecting telescopes and microscopes, to scientific fields as various as magnetism, optics and electricity. They observed, in some cases before anyone else, the colored bands on Jupiter’s surface, the Andromeda nebula and Saturn’s rings. They theorized about the circulation of the blood (independently of Harvey), the theoretical possibility of flight, the way the moon effected the tides, and the wave-like nature of light. Star maps of the southern hemisphere, symbolic logic, flood-control measures on the Po and Adige rivers, introducing plus and minus signs into Italian mathematics – all were typical Jesuit achievements, and scientists as influential as Fermat, Huygens, Leibniz and Newton were not alone in counting Jesuits among their most prized correspondents.  — from Jonathan Wright’s “God’s Soldiers”

Science, who’s your daddy?!

OK, so Christians pretty much built the civilized world and then explained the science behind it to a mind-blowing extent, but then these same scientific, rational, reasonable geniuses continued to accept and persist in insisting on the reality of the miraculous; the unexplainable mysteries.  And that’s where they lose a lot of their bandwagon followers.  If you can’t see it, and measure it, it’s not there — right?  Well, radio waves were present throughout history, but they weren’t discovered until 1865.  Electromagnetic radiation was always with us, but Napoleon’s army didn’t have any night-vision infrared goggles, much to his chagrin.  (I just wanted to say ‘chagrin’ today.)

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”  William Shakespeare

The Unexplained
Lucy, ‘splain to me the Shroud of Turin, the historical artifact that many believe to be the ancient burial cloth of our Lord.  His image was somehow manifested unto this 14.3 x 3.7 ft strip of fabric, and though it’s been scrutinized and experimented on by scientists of every make and model since the 14th century, they have absolutely no idea how the outline of this naked and battered body was superimposed onto the cloth, but have eliminated just about every method known to man so far.  The majority of scientists who began their work examining the shroud went into it intending to debunk the ridiculous notion that it’s Christ’s burial cloth, and many end up as true believers and what one might call religious zealots.

The Catholic Church, by the way, has neither formally endorsed nor rejected the shroud, which should make peoples jaws scrape the pavement, since they could really — really — insist the fabric is undoubtably divine.  However, despite popular opinion, the Church takes the business of the miraculous very very seriously, so don’t buy the propaganda.

Prop-culture leads you to believe that the Church jumps on every whacked-out far-fetched Jesus and Mary sighting that’s presented to them.  You’ll be watching a late-night talk show where they’re mocking some poor, fourth-world farmer who discovered the image of God on a sheet of two ply toilet paper while doing his business, and everybody will have a good laugh, but the not-so-subtle implication is that these religious fanatics are all so gullible.  Meanwhile, the Pope is probably watching and laughing just as hard as anyone else.  And, contrary to popular opinion, the Holy Father doesn’t canonize Saints on a whim either.  He doesn’t hear a secondhand account of somebody’s Aunt Flo in Walla Walla Washington turning water into vodka and exercising obese demons and then say, “By the power vested in me, I declare thee St. Flo Walla Walla.”

If anything, the Vatican’s investigative division is more thorough and nitpicky than any investigative unit out there.  There is a lot at stake, and a lot of these miracle-workers were burned at the stake, so, please no mistakes.

For every grilled-cheese sandwich with the face of the Virgin Mary on it, there are many more legitimate, unexplainable apparitions that go unaddressed by satirists.  The sandwich-worshipers and their yeast inflection get all the ink and laughs, while the uppercrust Marian mysteries receive little to no fanfare by our cynical secular overlords.

In February of 1858, young Bernadette Soubirous — an illiterate peasant girl from Lourdes, France — received all kinds of attention after claiming to speak with Our Lady, leading to crowds of onlookers watching in disgust as she, in a trancelike state, began scooping up grass and dirt and eating it.  After coming out of her trance, those who stuck around asked the girl with the dirty mouth why she did that, and Bernadette explained that the Lady told her to “drink at the spring and wash in it” only there was no spring there — yet.  Of course, everybody knows this eventual body of water became a healing pool, and thousands of people make the pilgrimage to Lourdes yearly.  There are many documented healings that took place after a dip in these waters.  Other noteworthy things are how Bernadette, while in her trance, many witnesses saw her hand go astray and end up resting in the flame of the candle she was holding.  One of these witnesses was a physician, who said that he examined her hand thoroughly after Bernadette came out of her trance, and he was astonished to find that, after about an hour of her hand being submerged in the flame, there wasn’t even a mark.

Another thing: Bernadette was a 14-year-old who couldn’t really read or write, but, when she asked the Lady who she was, the apparition referred to herself as “the Immaculate Conception”, and there’s no way the young girl could’ve had any knowledge of such terminology, since the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception hadn’t even been established yet.  The concept would have been foreign to your average clergymen back then, nevermind an illiterate peasant girl.  Everyone knows that term now, and most people know about Our Lady of Lourdes, but in my next entry, I want to get into some of the other science-baffling phenomena that you may not be as familiar with.  Please check out the video below for a tasty tease.

Miracles are not contrary to nature, but only contrary to what we know about nature.”
Saint Augustine

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“Personal morality is an oxymoron,” he routinely insisted, this home tutor of mine.  (What do I know?  I’m just a regular moron.)  It was a dinosaur bone of contention, repeatedly being unearthed in our debates.  “There is no such thing as ‘personal morality’, because morality is inherently based on the good of all, so one person can’t decide what’s righteous, since that would be self-righteous.”  My argument was that personal morality is inevitable, since the individual ultimately chooses what is right in the end.  Say, for instance, you decided that Jesus’ way is the right and moral way.  Who decided that?  You did, i.e., personal morality.  I was in my late teens, he was in his late 60s, and we were both certain that our respective position was the correct one.  I have reconsidered after roughly eighteen years.

My high school days had become too much of a hassle: getting bundled up on winter mornings in New England, in time to meet the bus to go to a place I dreaded.  I would have liked school if it was the same for me as it was for able-bodied students, but it just wasn’t.  I had an aide going with me from class to class; which would’ve been fine, but this particular aide was — oh, how can I put this charitably? — past her prime; a somewhat slow old lady (God bless her), who was accustomed to working with the mentally challenged, and couldn’t quite make the adjustment to dealing with a physically disabled individual.  Always being talked down to like Barney the dinosaur talked to his TV audience tends to wear on you.  I made friends fairly easily when I was younger, but 16 and 17-year-olds tend to shy away from somebody who had a silver-haired chaperone following ’em around.

So, when my mother approached me with the idea of getting a home tutor it didn’t take much time to decide in favor of it.  Two days a week somebody would come to the house for a couple of hours and, presumably, teach me the same curriculum I would have been learning in regular high school classes.  This was great.  Right off the bat I was sleeping until 11 o’clock in the morning on weekdays, because the tutor wasn’t due to show up until noon.  Up all night, sleep all day.  Sweet deal!

Mr. Shaw showed up right on time that first day — something he always managed to do.  For some reason, I expected him to be wearing a suit and tie, but he dressed very casually in a sweatshirt, slacks and sneakers.  Whenever he entered the house, he always said, “Peace be with you”; which probably would’ve seemed strange coming from anybody else, but he made it charming.  I was oblivious, but my mother knew the traditional Catholic response was, “and also with you.”  I called him Mr. Shaw and he insisted that I call him by his first name, Jim.  I could tell Jim was as relieved as I was to be liberated from the shackles of the public school system.  And I was dead wrong for thinking that we’d be covering the same curriculum other high school kids were.  He liked my sense of humor and, after the feeling out process, Jim decided that sharpening my wit and honing my comedic timing would be one of our primary goals.

Seriously.

We’d start each session with a joke, and oftentimes it would be the same joke.  Which was weird, but Jim took his comedy seriously.  He’d bring books from old Irish comedians, so we could study their techniques.  It probably wouldn’t be permitted in the public schools nowadays, but, along with the meticulous joke-telling technique, Jim and I  talked a lot about politics and religion.

Politically, Jim was a right-winger.  I, on the other hand, was a wannabe-hippie, open-mindededed, give peace a chance, sexual-evolutionary, civil rights inactive activist looking to save the spotted owl or give it an abortion.  Jim was a staunch Catholic (though I didn’t make a distinction between Catholics and any other Christians at that time), and he came with his beat-up, duct taped, paperback Bible, ready to break it out at anytime and do the chapter and verse thang.

He had his own notes written in the margins.  I assumed, at the time, that this was his way of taking what was written and then interpreting it so that it would conform to his preconceived notions of morality; in other words, his own ‘personal morality’.  Had I not been such a smug, know-it-all punk, I might have called him out on this, and he would’ve explained to me that the Catholic Church has an unbroken Tradition of divinely-inspired, uber-intellectuals who literally did nothing else but eat, drink, meditate, ruminate, marinate in, and digest sacred Scriptures.  Interpreting the holy texts was all these great church doctors did, and, though they didn’t always reach the same exact conclusions, they came miraculously close.

Jim once told me that, when he would come to parts of the Bible that didn’t feel right — teachings that seemed to him unfair — he’d accept that he must be wrong and adjust accordingly.  This admission made me cringe.  I couldn’t respect that thought process at the time.  Surrendering your own reason to that of an outside point of view, based on nothing but an assumption of subordination (like this outside source was God or something).  And this coming from the man, Jim Shaw, who’d taught me better than anyone else about the practice of critical thinking and how I should be cautious in automatically yielding to conventional wisdom.

Although I was tentative at times about voicing my uncensored opinions on certain topics, Jim never really gave me any reason to be so.  He wasn’t at all intolerant or averse to hearing a dissenting view — to the contrary — Mr. Shaw wanted to be challenged, because he was a genuine seeker of the truth.  He was steadfast in his beliefs and convictions, so, back then I probably would have described him as stubborn, but that just wasn’t the case.  We practiced the Socratic Method, where ideas were simply bounced around in want of feedback and exploration, and possible correction.  There would have been no sense in taking part in these debates if neither of us was prepared to acknowledge flaws in our argument.  It would have been intellectually dishonest.  I want to at least be honest, if not intellectual.

Though sometimes a bitter pill to swallow, the Truth is the goal we all wish to attain, so we might as well cut to the chase.  Easier said than done, I know, since the genuine article is often a diamond in the rough.  You have to have something to be your guiding star, though.  For Jim Shaw this was Jesus and His teachings.  One can have an endless array of teachers, but I highly soberly recommend investing in only one doctrine from which you shouldn’t waver.  You ought to have a foundation on which to build.

A man with one watch knows what time it is; a man with two watches is never quite sure.” – Lee Segall

You’re on the right path if your intentions are pure.  Money is great, but money can’t buy me love.  Love is great, but loving somebody else without first having a source to draw from is impossible; like offering somebody the shirt off of your back when you yourself don’t own a shirt.  So as Jim and I explored, chipped away at the outer shell, I discovered that the only discovery worth discovering was self-discovery; whereas, Jim always knew that finding out who you are isn’t nearly as important as finding out Whose you are.

The Infinite, in His infinite wisdom, thought it important — nay, paramount — that YOU should be created.  Is it not worth the time to investigate His investment?  I think so.

I unofficially graduated from high school the year I was scheduled to; however, I continued my sessions with Jim Shaw until I was 22 years old.  I had a physical therapist come to my house twice a week, and the only way this could continue was if I stayed in the public school system, since they were footing the bill.  It was a surprise to me to find out that my insurance wouldn’t cover physical therapy, because, after being evaluated, the powers-that-be came to the conclusion that physical therapy was a luxury, not a necessity.  Furthermore, therapy wasn’t improving my condition, it was merely “maintenance.”  That’s the word they used.  It’s hard out here for a gimp.

Anyway, though I was not happy about this at the time, it ended up being beneficial having those extra four years — of tutoring and physical therapy.  (I had a crush on the therapist, but that’s a story for another time.)  So, sometimes serendipity gives you a subtle kiss on the cheek.  I don’t believe in fate, but I appreciate it nonetheless.

The things Jim Shaw taught me stuck, despite myself.  The older I get, the righter he was; especially with regard to politics.  As I said, he did a full tilt to the right.  Shaw was a Conservative, and the people and authors he followed almost always fell under this heading.  I hated Pat Buchanan and the like.  Abby Hoffman and dead civil rights activists were my heroes.  Heroes will never let you down, just as long as they’re dead.  I still admire civil rights activists from that era, but the rub is, current counterfeits in politics are hanging from the coattails of The Ghost of Kennedys’ Past, trying to tell you they’re selling the same product.  Stop snorting the party line!  “Republican” and “Democrat” are themselves corporate entities.  They are products.  However, conservativism and liberalism are adjectives.  Still, what’s considered conservativism now is far more liberal than it was 50 years ago.  I consider myself a libertarian-leaning conservative, high in moral fiber, low in preservatives.  Separation of church and state?  Somewhat.  Why?  Because — keep your filthy politics away from my beautiful religion!

Al Charlatan is not Martin Luther King.  Pat Rob-you-some is not Billy Graham.  The manipulative media — which itself is nothing more than a product — has them prepackaged for you in the same grocery aisle as if they are one and the same.  Whatever floats your vote.

Listen to them.  If you really care, don’t be one of those people who shrugs their shoulders and says, “They’re all corrupt anyway.”  If we operate under the assumption that all lawyers and politicians are, without exception, sinister bad guys, then what kind of students are going to aspire to be lawyers and politicians?  You reap what you sow.  By the way,  the word “sinister” is derived from the Latin for left-handed.  The left?  I’m just saying…

And don’t be one of the naïve people who think that you can ignore politics, because it’s boring or esoteric.  Politics touches every area of life and how we function in society.  The same group that would tell you that it is morally wrong for law enforcement to profile in order to save possibly thousands of human lives, only seconds later will turn to a different camera, for a different story, and tell you that their research shows that 85% of African Americans voted for this one candidate, but this other candidate is winning the Woman vote by almost 65%, and roughly 70% of the Senior Citizens.  There’s also this one candidate who’s doing particularly well with unemployed overweight Asian widowers with multiple tattoos and peanut allergies who go by the name Biff.

While you’re not paying attention to what strings the Puppet Masters are pulling, they’re polling and organizing focus groups in order to try to figure out how to manipulate you and your demographic into purchasing their product; and by ‘product’ I don’t mean their brand of bottled water, I’m talking about selling you a nondiscriminatory, all-access ideology.  Once this Trojan horse gets through, your opinions are obsolete and you’ll buy anything that their manufactured celebrity endorses.

When you are reduced to an archetype, a stereotype, a particularly shaped peg to fit within a similarly shaped hole, you are a more targetable mark.  What’s fascinating is that this status is much sought after in modern times.  People will readily trade their individuality, their status as remarkable, for their unremarkable status as part of some sub-group based solely on a shared attribute.  They become a targetable mark and a marketable target.  ‘Single black mothers from the inner-city, between the ages of 18 to 32 vote this way …’  Divide and conquer.  I myself, being a middle-class, white-bread, blue-collar, multicolored-underwear-wearing, environmentally-conscious, down-to-earth, Joe-average, everyday-Joe, living in a Hyphen-Nation, don’t like being put into a box.  I’m made from the ‘think-outside-of-the-box’ mold, and when they made me, they broke it; at least according to some trendy market jargon with a monopoly on the lexicon.

I’d like to be a part of the minority of the less than 1% who are called wealthy.  Though, I’m not one of these class warfare people who think that either the really rich or the really poor are immoral parasites on humanity.  I’ve known sour grape people who harbor such contempt for the affluent and their lifestyles — a lifestyle that they themselves one day hope to attain — that it gets really confusing at times.  Some of these people work harder in an argument to justify their predetermined role as one of life’s have-nots than they ever would to make an attempt to better themselves and their position.

Then there is another group, who do all the right things and play by the rules, but still never manage to attain financial breathing room.  Sadly, this is the majority of us.  It’s one of those majorities we’d like to remove ourselves from.  But there is another majority that is even more inescapable if you live long enough.  Technically it’s a minority, but it’s not one of those glamorous minorities that we would strive to be associated with so that we could wear it as a crown of thorns, since there is no long-term payoff in this one.  Because, in this one, there is no long term.

If you’re lucky, you’re going to get to be old someday.  The music you once enjoyed will accompany you between floors on an elevator ride.  You’ll say things like, “In my day we didn’t have electricity, so we had to watch TV by candlelight.”  Within all of us is an elderly person in utero, so it behooves us to apply the golden rule to those of us who are already in the golden years.  One of the reasons we are so afraid to get old is because we can observe how society treats its elderly.  We don’t want to be thought of as expendable.  We want our opinions to matter.  And you know that someday somebody who has seen and experienced a fraction of the things you have in your life is going to roll their eyes while you speak and discard your words, because they are coming from one who might be regarded as a feebleminded old person who’s stuck in the past.  (Or an aide for some wheelchair-bound punk in public school.)

When Jim Shaw saw me for the last time as his student, he was in his early 70s and still as sharp and mentally adroit as ever.  I was with him for about four and half years, since joining him partway through my sophomore year in high school until the end of my allowed stay in the public school system.  Before Jim, I was always pretty much a B student, but he gave me straight A’s every year I was with him.  To this day my mother teases me about this.  No doubt there was some generous grading going on there from my dear friend.  (If he graded me on a curve, it was a Dolly Parton-esque curve.)

He told me on occasion that I was his best student.  Carefully chosen words were his craft, so, coming from Jim, such a compliment made me feel good.  Upon his departure in an official capacity, he left me with tools of reasoning for which I’ll be eternally grateful.  The Jim Shaw Affect has resulted in my inclination toward conservative writers and speakers, although, it’s still not the singer but the song that resonates.  It’s the Truth we seek, not its mode of transport.

A couple years after Jim said goodbye as my teacher, I found out that he’d become ill.  Years before he became a teacher, Jim worked as some kind of laborer, and due to regular exposure to asbestos on the job site, his lungs had been contaminated and it’d taken all that time to grow into a noticeable problem.  If I remember correctly, he had surgery to try to remove some of the liquid that had built up in his lungs, making it difficult for him to breathe.  It was shortly after this surgery that Jim came to visit me at my house once again.

to be continued…

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I’ve been looking forward to The Catholicism Project for a long time now and it’s finally going to be airing — just apparently not in my area.  I’m a big fan of Fr. Robert Barron and his “Word On Fire” video monologues on YouTube.  It’s hard to find someone who appreciates the wisdom of both Thomas Aquinas and Bob Dylan, but Fr. Barron speaks passionately about both of these freewheeling Christian philosophers, and does so with a thoughtful and articulate approach that’s appealing to religious and secular audiences alike.

The Catholicism Project is a series (I think twelve parts) which is going to be shown on various PBS affiliates throughout the country, with the notable exception of Massachusetts.  I’m trying not to be skeptical about it being on PBS, but it’s difficult, because the Public Broadcast Service is not exactly known for its conservative viewpoints.  Their politics generally lean to the left, and that’s putting it “conservatively.”  First the Red Sox’s epic collapse and now this.

Anyway, I’ll be hoping to catch it somewhere on TV (if not on the Internet), and I suggest you check it out in the early days of October, too, if you get the opportunity.  I never knew how addicted I could be to learning Church history, and of course world history in general.  Trying to learn world history without Catholic history is like trying to go swimming without getting wet.

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When life gives you lemons you start spreading rumors that there’s a lemon shortage in the country, put out a press release where you get a couple quack physicians to stake their reputations on the fact that lemons are the greatest healing discovery since penicillin.  Find a prophet-for-profit guru who will swear that lemon juice is God’s nectar, get the Fox News channel to say that the “Lemon Craze” is some trumped up liberal propaganda, which will get the late-night talk show hosts to make fun of Fox News for saying this, which will result in a plethora of counterculture college students putting together pro-lemon video montages on YouTube.  There will eventually be a lemon special interest group dedicated to ensuring the protection and proliferation of this citrus sensation, but they’ll get carried away and start assaulting people who insist on having lemon wedges in their beverages.  However, the movement will get attention from political panderers hoping to sway the lemon lemming vote, and some candidate will win the election running on a platform of Hope, Unity, and Lemon Appeal.

John Lemon

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Still Cooking

One of the reasons we shouldn’t judge others is because we’re all still cooking — we’re not done yet.  You’re still alive?  Me too!  We’ve got that much in common.  So don’t open up the oven and pull me out prematurely, OK?  We’re supposed to be trying to win souls for Christ, not pointing out the splinter in our brother’s eye, while we’ve got dueling Oak trees popping from our own peepers.  On this issue many simply won’t budge: Judge not, lest ye be judged.

On the other hand, you have different fingers.”  Steven Wright

On the other hand, we are called to recognize and reject sin wherever it rears its ugly head.  Sin isn’t a person, it’s a condition.

For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood; but against principalities and power, against the rulers of the world of this darkness, against the spirits of wickedness in the high places.”  (Ephesians 6:12)

The above was written by St. Paul, who started off as a formidable foe to the early Christians.  Prior to his conversion, he was most commonly called Saul, from the Mediterranean city of Tarsus, which was an intellectual hotbed at the time, and he was one of their prize pupils.  Saul was wicked smaht, but mostly wicked, being that he was famous for his relentless pursuit and persecution of the renegade Jewish sect that worshiped some criminal carpenter the Romans executed.  He had clout coming out of his ears, since he was both a Pharisee of the Jewish tribe of Benjamin, and a Roman citizen, which gave him carte blanche to do whatever, wherever.  We’re talking Don Corleone power and swagger, without having to bribe law enforcement — because he basically was law enforcement.

That’s Saul, folks.

And you all know the story of his interrupted journey on the road to Damascus, where our Lord literally knocked Saul off his high horse.  The resurrected Christ asked, “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?”

And then Saul sort of answered his own question when he asked, “Who art thou, Lord?”

I am Jesus who thou persecutest.”

This baffled our boy, Harvard, because he’d never met Jesus, so he couldn’t quite figure out how he could be accused of persecuting him.  But that’s the key to it all.  The Christians ARE the mystical body of Christ.  If you persecute them, you persecute Him.  “Amen I say to you, as long as you did it to one of these my least brethren, you did it to me.”  (Matthew 25:40)

And Saul became Paul, who became the greatest Christian missionary this side of heaven.  Not surprisingly, though, his clout went out the window when he switched sides.  As he was traveling from place to place preaching the gospel, Paul found himself on the opposite end of that harsh Christian persecution.  He was the apostle that took a lickin’ and kept on ticking.

It’s a good thing nobody took Paul out of the oven while he was still cooking.  We’d have lost one of the most influential individuals in the history of the Church.  Only our Lord is mentioned more often in the New Testament than Paul.

We are all Sauls with Paul-potential.  Or at least I think we should look at it that way.  We should look at others that way, too.  Love the sinner, hate the sin.  Don’t throw the toddler out with the tub liquid.  I don’t intend this to sound like one of those tolerance rants, mind you, where some feel-good pseudo-psychologist goes on about how I’m a sinner and you’re a sinner, and we’re all sinners, and therefore sinning is OK.  I’m a Pepper, you’re a Pepper, he’s a Pepper, she’s a Pepper — wouldn’t you like to be a Pepper too?  (Sorry, soda flashback.)  I’m not about pumping you with self-esteem steroids, telling you there’s no place for judgment calls.  And, yeah, God loves you just the way you are, but He also loves you too much to let you stay that way.  But anyway, the point is, it’s our job as the church militant to make our fellow foot soldiers aware of the fire, so they can avoid falling into it; not to take some kind of prideful pleasure in the fact that we know something they don’t know, then pushing them into the fire because you appointed yourself judge, jury and executioner.

You are your brother’s keeper, because when one of us is wounded, the mystical body is wounded — His body.  And we revisit Matthew Chapter 25, where Jesus talks about the last day, when the Son of Man will divide all into two groups: the sheep at His right hand and the goats at His left.  The sheep are welcomed to their inheritance, the kingdom prepared for them since the creation of the world:

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”

And of course all the righteous are scratching their noggins, trying to recall when they ever did all that for Him, just as Saul wasn’t sure how he’d managed to persecute God without ever having met Him.  It’s essentially the same answer for both:

Amen I say to you, as long as you did it to one of these my least brethren, you did it to me.”

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How are you at your weakest?  When life’s juicer has totally drained you until you’re a walking raisin?  The raisin I ask is because that’s when I think you’re exposed for who you really are.  I think that’s what God wants to see.  We all want to be judged when we’re at our best, but as Sean Connery once put it, “Every LOSER whines about their best!”  (Only he said it with a really cool Scottish accent.  “I mustache you a question, but I’ll shave it for later.”)  No, no, I want to see you when you’re on autopilot, when you’ve had about two hours sleep and you look like they wouldn’t let you past the velvet rope at the methadone clinic.

When you are bright-eyed and bushy-tailed you can put up a good front; big generous grin, the patience of a saint, as sharp as a tack, fresher than a TicTac.  Sorry, that’s not when the exam takes place.  He wants to see the weeble wobble and not fall down.  He wants to see you so advanced in your studies that you can literally do it in your sleep.  Just like nobody seems to want to take your picture when you’re prepared for it, but they happen to catch a candid shot of you from a weird angle, while you’re nose-mining, clearing out a crouton from the deep recesses of your nasal cavity.

The Bible was written by several writers but only one author.  And in the Good Book you may take note of the continual theme of trial by fire.  It’s obviously a good thing to be favored by God, but, having said that, you might notice His favorites don’t exactly receive special treatment in terms of the avoidance of suffering — au contraire mousse hair.  (That’s French.)  Job, for instance, had a bad day.  Several.  And if St. Paul comes across as having a little bit of an attitude problem, keep in mind that he was regularly beaten, was imprisoned, was bitten by a poisonous snake, was stoned and left for dead (but miraculously didn’t die), imprisoned some more, and then finally decapitated.  The earliest Christians were the original Meow Mix, fed to the lions … oh, those were the lucky ones who weren’t set on fire, used as streetlights lighting the way to the Coliseum where their brothers and sisters were makeshift cat food in front of sellout crowds.  (This was before cable.)

And then, of course, our Lord who endured the most excruciating punishment anyone has ever faced.  Indeed, all of our punishment all at once in the fullness of time.  He is our example; the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  Weak and exhausted from loss of blood, lack of food and rest, Jesus falls three times under the cross.  How many times have you fallen?  It’s OK, He keeps helping you up.  God wants us at our weakest, because He wants us to come to the realization that we have no power whatsoever without Him.  “Let Go & Let God” has reached the unfortunate status of bumperstickerdom, but when trends end and pop culture pops Truth will still be there waiting to be observed and utilized.  God wants you running on empty because He wants you emptied of you and refilled and replenished with Him.  The elderly and the terminally ill are in the homestretch, approaching the altar; therefore, it’s the enemy’s last opportunity.  All hands on deck!

From out of my weakness emerges His strength.  Tough times don’t make us, they reveal us.  My fellow banished children of Eve, in the overall scheme of things, the trials we suffer are well worth it.  Eternity submerged in pure love and light, our inheritance promised us by the embodiment of Truth.

The game is not so much about winning, it’s in seeing how you deal with loss.  And if you handle your loss (your cross) with dignity and honor, your defeat turns into a victory; the death becomes the Resurrection.  Game over — you win (by the grace of God).

And because, “The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh weak.”  Matt (26:41), you will fail time and again.  But He is the Eternal God, in whom mercy is endless and the treasury of compassion inexhaustible; He will look kindly upon us and increase His mercy in us, that in difficult moments we might not despair nor become despondent, but with great confidence, submit ourselves to His holy will, which is love and mercy itself.  AMEN.

 “He Giveth More Grace”  by Annie Johnston Flint

He giveth more grace when the burdens grow greater
He sendeth more strength when the labors increase;
To added affliction, He addeth His mercy,
To multiplied trials His multiplied peace.
When we have exhausted our store of endurance,
When our strength has failed e’re the day is half done,
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources
Our Father’s full giving has only begun.
His love has no limits, His grace has no measure,
His power has no boundary known unto men;
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus
He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again!

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These thoughts have been persisting in my mind. I thought I’d better write them down before they give up on me and go wherever it is neglected thoughts go. So my friend wrote something today which was along a similar thought process. I figured this must be a sign. My friend wrote about Perfection and being a perfectionist. What is perfect? If perfect is our goal then we need an example of this. The easy answer is God. The more difficult question is what is God? Is God perfect? I sure hope so — He’s God. His imperfections are even perfect: the inhale necessary for the exhale; the space between the notes which makes the music; the temporary absence of a loved one which makes the reunion all the more exhilarating. The power of the sweet and sour, the sour enhancing the sweetness of the sweet.

And if the creator is perfect, then are all of His creations not perfect? It seems pretty obvious to me that, if God wanted us to be perfect, we’d have come that way right out of the box, batteries included and all. However, this is the perspective of a person who is an imperfect creation, (or a creation moving toward perfection?), because clearly Scripture tells us our goal is to: “Be you therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” At which point I imagine the apostles were so disheartened that they were ready to take their ball and go home. “Oh, is that all you want? Perfection? No problem.” St. Sarcasm

OK, I made up St. Sarcasm, so let me quote somebody who actually existed, Yoda the Jedi Master, who said, “Do or do not. There is no ‘Try.'”

Think of it this way, a newly engaged couple doesn’t go to the bride’s parents and say, “We’ve got great news: we’re going to try to be married!” Marriage is hard work, so going into it with that kind of ‘try’ mindset is doomed at the outset. The bride’s dad is sitting there, smiling and nodding his head, while whispering to his wife out of the corner of his mouth: “I give ’em three weeks.”

Perfection is both the destination and the journey. Your ability to overcome obstacles has brought you closer to the ideal. You were not made perfect, you were made to become perfect. Your offering to God is humble, because you are only human. You are a mere creature, a creation. However, God’s immense love for you graciously accepts your humble offering based on its loving intent. When you give love you glorify God, because you are giving God. God is love.

A little girl gets up early with the intention of surprising mommy by making her breakfast in bed. The little girl has limited culinary skills, so she goes with her specialty, which is a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, heavy on the grape jelly. She’s not allowed to go near the stove, so coffee is out of the question. Grapefruit juice is the next choice, and it’s a big ol’ bottle of grapefruit juice, filled to the rim, so the transfer from bottle to Little Mermaid-decorated cup doesn’t go so smoothly, resulting in spillage and contamination of one corner of the PB&J. Extra soggy sandwich helps it go down easier anyway, right? The breakfast wouldn’t be complete without the addition of chocolate, so a chocolate Poptart rounds out the meal. Perfect! Not surprisingly, the Mom not only doesn’t reject the sticky mess presented to her, but is overwhelmed with love at the gesture when she looks into the eyes of her daughter, who is absolutely ecstatic with anticipation at the prospect of being able to please her mommy with this humble offering. It’s not the presentation, it’s the loving intent of its presenter.

So it is with us and God. When Michelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel, it was probably the equivalent of a soggy peanut butter and jelly sandwich in the eyes of God. Perhaps not even as significant, because maybe Michelangelo’s intentions were not as pure as the little girl’s. It’s probably safe to say that the most valuable works of art — in the truest sense — are hanging on refrigerator doors of mommies and daddies all over the world.

I remember watching some documentary about a tribe somewhere in the third world where they created intricate works of art on the ground using various colored sand and rocks. And they were really very beautiful, but the artist would always finish the work by intentionally smearing the final stroke, in order to prevent it from being “perfect.” When asked why they did this, why the intentional blemish was added, they explained through an interpreter that it’s because only God can make perfect things. They didn’t want to offend God by matching His impeccable workmanship.

Excuse me?! I couldn’t hear you; I was distracted by your enormous ego. Somebody give the bushman a slice of humble pie. We need to keep things in perspective. Without God, we are a speck of dust. Wait a minute, correction: without God, there are no specks of dust with which to make intricate sand paintings.

With God, however, perfection is the direction and the inevitable conclusion. There are many cracks and blemishes on the path to the promised land, all of which are meticulously designed to enhance, strengthen, and enlighten us along the way. After all, we are being prepped and polished in order that we may be made presentable.

We, a humble offering to a father who delights in the sincerity of our hearts. All of our broken works, done with noble intent, pile up under our feet, raising us higher and closer to heaven. Just because daddy beams with pride and joy when his child gets the training wheels removed from their bike doesn’t mean that he was ever ashamed that they were needed in the first place. Our Loving Father wishes for us to be comforted in His peace, not slaves to the anxiety-inducing external demands.

Perfectionists are obsessed with the future, with the end results. God resides in the present, yet knows what has been and what’s to come. So, if God sees the future and loves you in the present moment, what does that tell you?

“I am careful not to confuse excellence with perfection. Excellence, I can reach for; perfection is God’s business.” – Michael J. Fox

Is the Grand Canyon a magnificent display of God’s awe-inspiring beauty or is it a giant hole in the ground? It’s several centuries worth of “happy accidents.” Serendipity is a choice tool of the Almighty. Although you are mistaken if you believe in accidents. Particularly if you are on purpose. And you are on purpose. That purpose being perfection. Have faith that you’re heading there, and you’ll be rewarded by Him taking you there. God bless you.

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