When we read the story of David and Goliath, many of us have rather vague notions of how he used a slingshot to kill Goliath. When I was a kid I had a crude slingshot, a toy really, that didn’t do justice to the actual weapon, which can be very lethal!
The video below show an expert use of a sling shot and goes a long to showing how David might have so easily taken down Goliath by expert use of a slingshot.
The Sunday Gospel announces a critical Advent theme: While I want to comment primarily on the Reading from Isaiah, the Gospel admonition surely deserves some attention as well.
Too many today hold the unbiblical idea that most if not all people are going to Heaven. For weeks now we have been reading parables in the Gospels in which the Lord Jesus warns that many (possibly even most) are not headed for Heaven. There are the wise and the foolish virgins, the industrious and the lazy servants, and the sheep and the goats. Today’s Gospel features those who keep watch and those who do not.
Although many prefer to brush aside the teachings on judgment or the teaching that many will be lost, Jesus says, “Watch!” to all of us. In other words, we should watch out; we should be serious, sober, and prepared for death and judgment. We must realize that our choices in this life are leading somewhere.
Some try to tame, domesticate, and reinvent Jesus, but it is not this fake Jesus whom they will meet. They will meet the real Jesus, the Jesus who warns repeatedly of the reality of judgment and the strong possibility of Hell. The beginning of Advent is an especially important time to heed Jesus’ admonition and realize our need to be saved.
This leads us to the today’s first reading, from Isaiah, which rather thoroughly sets forth our need for a savior. Isaiah distinguishes five ailments which beset us and from which we need rescue. We are: drifting, demanding, depraved, disaffected, and depressed. In the end, Isaiah reminds us of our dignity. Let’s look at each of these ailments in turn and then ponder our dignity.
1.Drifting – The text says, Why [O Lord] do you let us wander from your ways, and harden our hearts so that we fear you not? Return for the sake of your servants, the tribes of your heritage.
It is a common human tendency to wander or drift gradually. It is relatively rare for someone to suddenly decide to reject God, especially if he was raised with some faith. Rather, what usually happens is that we just drift away, wander off course. It is like the captain of a ship who stops paying close attention. The boat drifts farther and farther off course. At first, no one notices, but the cumulative effect is that the boat is now headed in the wrong direction. The captain did not suddenly turn the wheel and shift 180 degrees; he just stopped paying attention and began to drift bit by bit.
So it is with some of us, who may wonder how we got so far off course. I talk with many people who have left the Church; many of them cannot point to a single incident or moment when they walked out of Church and said, “I’m never coming back.” More common is that they just gradually fell away from the practice of the faith. They missed Mass on Sunday here and there, and little by little, missing Mass became the norm. Maybe they moved to a new city and never got around to finding a parish. They just got disconnected and drifted away.
The thing about drifting is that the further off course you get, the harder it is to get back on course. It seems like an increasingly monumental task to make the changes necessary to get back on track. Thus Isaiah speaks of the heart of a drifter becoming hardened. Our bad habits become “hard” to break. As God seems more and more distant to us, we lose our holy fear and reverence for Him.
It is interesting how, in taking up our voice, Isaiah, “blames” God. Somehow it is “His fault” for letting us wander because He allows us to do it. It is true that God made us free and that is very serious about respecting our freedom. How else could we love God, if we were not free? Compelled love is not love at all.
What Isaiah is really getting at is that some of us are so far afield, so lost, that only God can find us and save us. And so we must depend on God being like a shepherd who seeks his lost sheep.
Thus, here is the first way that Isaiah sets forth our need for a Savior.
2.Demanding – The text says, Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down, with the mountains quaking before you, while you wrought awesome deeds we could not hope for, such as they had not heard of from of old. No ear has ever heard, no eye ever seen, any God but you doing such deeds for those who wait for him.
There is a human tendency to demand signs and wonders. Our flesh demands to see, and when we do not, we are dismissive, even scoffing.
This tendency has reached a peak in our modern times when so many reject faith because it does not meet the demands of empirical science and a materialistic age. If something is not physical, not measurable by some human instrument, many reject its very existence. Never mind that many things that are very real (e.g., justice, fear) cannot be weighed on a scale. What most moderns are really doing is more specific: rejecting God and the demands of faith. “Because we cannot see Him with our eyes, He is not there. Therefore, we may do as we please.”
Isaiah gives voice to the human demand to see on our own terms. We demand signs and wonders before we will believe. It is almost as though we are saying to God, “Force me to believe in you” or “Make everything so certain that I don’t really have to walk by faith.”
Many of us look back to the miracles of the Scriptures and think, “If I saw that, I would believe.” But faith is not so simple. Many who did see miracles (e.g., the Hebrew people in the desert), saw but still gave way to doubt. Many who saw Jesus work miracles fled at the first sign of trouble or as soon as He said something that displeased them. Our flesh demands to see, but in the end, even after seeing we often refuse to believe.
Further, God does not usually do the “biggie-wow” things to impress us. Satan does overwhelm us in this way. God, however, is a quiet and persistent lover who respectfully and delicately works in us—if we let Him. It is Satan who roars at us with temptation, fear, and sheer volume, so that we are distracted and confused. More often, God is that still, small voice speaking in the depth of our heart.
Thus the Lord, speaking through Isaiah, warns us of this second ailment, the demand for signs and wonders. Our rebellious flesh pouts and draws back in resentful rebellion. We need a Savior, to give us a new heart and mind, attuned to the small still voice of God in a strident world.
3.Depraved – The text says, Would that you might meet us doing right, that we were mindful of you in our ways! Behold, you are angry, and we are sinful; all of us have become like unclean people.
The word depraved comes from the Latin pravitas, meaning crooked or deformed. It means to be lacking what we ought to have. Hence, the Lord (through Isaiah) here describes our deformed state in the following ways.
Unthinking – the text says that we are “unmindful” of God. Indeed, our minds are very weak. We can go for long periods so turned in on ourselves that we barely if ever think of God. Our thoughts are focused on things that are passing, while almost wholly forgetful of God and Heaven, which remain forever. It is so easy for our senseless minds to be darkened. Our culture has “kicked God to the curb.” There are even fewer reminders of Him today than there were in previous generations. We desperately need God to save us and to give us new minds. Come, Lord Jesus!
Unhappy – the text says of God “You are angry.” But we need to remember that the “wrath of God” is more in us than it is in God. God’s anger is His passion to set things right. God is not moody or prone to egotistical rage. More often than not, it is we who project our own unhappiness and anger upon God. The “wrath of God” is our experience of the total incompatibility of our sinful state with the holiness of God. God does not lose His temper or fly into a rage; He does not lose His serenity. It is we who are unhappy, angry, egotistical, and scornful. We need God to give us a new heart. Come, Lord Jesus!
Undistinguished – the text says, we are sinful; all of us have become like unclean people. We are called to be holy. That is, we are called to be “set apart,” distinguished from the sinful world around us. Too often, though, we are indistinguishable. We do not shine forth like a light in the darkness. We seem little different than the pagan world around us. We divorce, fornicate, fail to forgive, support abortion, contracept, and fail the poor in numbers indistinguishable from those who do not know God. We do not seem joyful, serene, or alive. We look like just like everyone else. Our main goal seems to be to fit in. Save us, O Lord, from our mediocrity and fear. Come, Lord Jesus!
4. Disaffected– The text says, There is none who calls upon your name, who rouses himself to cling to you; for you have hidden your face from us and have delivered us up to our guilt.
In other words, collectively speaking we have no passion for God. We get all worked up about politics, sports, the lottery, and television shows; but when it comes to God, many can barely rouse themselves to go to Mass, pray, or read Scripture. We seem to find time for everything but God.
Here, too, Isaiah gives voice to the human tendency to blame God. He says, God has hidden his face. But God has not moved. If you can’t see God, guess who turned away? If you’re not as close to God as you used to be, guess who moved?
Our heart and our priorities are out of whack. We need a savior to give us a new heart, a greater love, and better priorities and desires. Come, Lord Jesus!
5.Depressed– The text says, All our good deeds are like polluted rags; we have all withered like leaves, and our guilt carries us away like the wind.
One of the definitions of depression is anger turned inward. While Isaiah has given voice to our tendency to direct anger at and blame God, here he gives voice to another tendency of ours: turning in on ourselves.
Our good deeds are described as polluted rags. While they may be less than they could be, calling them polluted rags gives voice to our own frustration with our seemingly hopeless situation and our addiction to sin and injustice.
Ultimately, the devil wants us to diminish what little good we can find in ourselves. He wants us to be locked into a depressed and angry state. If we think there is no good in us at all, then we think “Why even bother?”
There is such a thing as unhealthy guilt (cf 2 Cor 7:10-11) and self-loathing that is not of God, but from the devil, our accuser. It may well be this that Isaiah articulates here. From such depressed self-loathing (masquerading as piety) we need a savior. Come, Lord Jesus!
So the cry has gone up: Come, Lord Jesus; save us, Savior of the world! We need a savior and Advent is a time to mediate on that need.
Isaiah ends on a final note that takes the song from the key of D minor to the key of D major.
Dignity– the text says, Yet, O LORD, you are our father; we are the clay and you the potter: we are all the work of your hands.
Yes, we are a mess, but a loveable one. God has so loved us that He sent His Son, who is not ashamed to call us brethren.
We are not forsaken. In Advent we call upon a Father who loves us. Our cry, Come, Lord Jesus, is heard and heeded by the Father, who loves us and is fashioning us into His very image. God is able and will fix and fashion us well. Help is on the way!
The following verses are reminders that the Lord is a healer and deliverer. While it is true that there are sufferings in this world, it also remains true that God delivers his people from destruction and only permits sufferings and evils that something greater may come from them. The verses below are presented in the form of a Scriptural Rosary. They are not keyed to any of the mysteries per se but can be used on any day when one might wish to pray the rosary and meditate on the deliverance of our God and the love of our lady and Lord for us; one verse per bead. Pray with our Lady and allow her to remind you of God’s love even in difficult moments.
1. For I am the LORD who heals you. (Exodus 15:26)
2. And I will take away sickness from among you. (Ex 23:25)
3. When the just cry out, the LORD hears them, and from all their distress he rescues them. (Ps 34:17)
4. He who forgives all your iniquities and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from destruction and crowns you with loving devotion and compassion, (Psalm 103:3-4)
5. He sent forth His word and healed them; He rescued them from destruction. (Ps 107:20)
6. I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the LORD. (PS 118:17)
7. May Your loving devotion come to me, O LORD, Your salvation, according to Your promise. (Psalm 119:41)
8. And I will walk in freedom, for I have sought Your precepts. (Psalm 119:45)
9. This is my comfort in affliction, that Your promise has given me life. (Ps 119:50)
10. I remember Your judgments of old, O LORD, and in them I find comfort. (Ps 119:52)
1. You are good to Your servant, O LORD, according to Your word. (Psalm 119:65)
2. The LORD is close to the brokenhearted; and those who are crushed in spirit he saves. (Psalm 34:18)
3. I will never forget Your precepts, for by them You have revived me. (Psalm 119:93)
4. On the day I called, you answered, you increased the strength of my soul. (Ps 138:3)
5. Abundant peace belongs to those who love Your law; nothing can make them stumble I wait for Your salvation, O LORD (Ps 119:165-166)
6. Though I walk in the midst of affliction you give me life and frustrate my foes. (Ps.138:7)
7. You stretch out your hand and save me, your hand will do all things for me. (138:8)
8. I thank you, Lord, with all my heart, you have heard the words of my mouth. (Ps. 138:1)
9. But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. (Is 53:5)
10. Your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will come quickly. (Is 58:8)
1. Your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard. (Is 58:8)
2. Then you will call, and the LORD will answer; you will cry out, and He will say, ‘Here I am.’ (Is 58:9)
3. your light will go forth in the darkness, and your night will be like noonday. The LORD will always guide you; (Is 58:10-11)
4. He will satisfy you in a sun-scorched land and strengthen your frame. (Is 58:11)
5. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. (Is 58:11)
6. Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins; you will restore the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of the Breach, Restorer of the Streets of Dwelling. (Is 58:12)
7. if you call the Sabbath a delight, and the LORD’s holy day honorable, if you honor it by not going your own way or seeking your own pleasure or speaking idle words, then you will delight yourself in the LORD, and I will make you ride on the heights of the land and feed you with the heritage of your father Jacob.” For the mouth of the LORD has spoken. (Is 58:13-14)
8. For I will restore your health and heal your wounds, declares the LORD (Jer 30:17)
9. I will bring to you health and healing, and I will heal your people and reveal to you the abundance of peace and truth. (Jer 33:6)
10. But for you who fear My name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings (Mal 4:2)
1. Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor Me. (Ps 50:15)
2. In You our fathers trusted; they trusted, and You delivered them. They cried out to You and were set free; they trusted in You and were not disappointed. (Psalm 22:4-5)
3. For He has not despised or detested the torment of the afflicted. He has not hidden His face from him but has attended to his cry for help. (Psalm 22:24)
4. But those who wait upon the LORD will renew their strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not faint. (Is 40:31)
5. When he calls, I shall answer: “I am with you,” I will save him in distress and give him glory. With length of life I will content him; I shall let him see my saving power. (Ps 91:16-17)
6. My word that proceeds from My mouth will not return to Me empty, but it will accomplish what I please, and it will prosper where I send it. (Is 55:11)
7. You will pray to Him, and He will hear you, and you will fulfill your vows. Your decisions will be carried out, and light will shine on your ways. When men are brought low and you say, ‘Lift them up!’ then He will save the lowly (Job 22:27-29)
8. For I the Lord have declared to the oceans: ‘You may come this far, but no farther; here your proud waves must stop’ (Job 38:11)
9. The Lord has calmed the storm to a whisper and stilled the waves. (Ps 107:29)
10. He rebuked the storm … the waves of the sea were hushed. (Ps 107:29)
1. In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, (Is 30:15)
2. And Jesus said to the centurion, “Go; it shall be done for you as you have believed.” And the servant was healed that very moment. (Mat 8:7-8, 13)
3. When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to Jesus, and He drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: “He took on our infirmities and carried our diseases (Mat 8:16-17)
4. Daughter,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be free of your affliction. (Mk 5:34)
5. I was hard-pressed and was falling, but the Lord came to help me. The Lord is my strength and my song; he is my savior. (Ps 120:8)
6. To the Lord in the hour of my distress I call, and he answers me. (Ps 120:1)
7. It is he who will free you from the snare of the fowler who seeks to destroy you; he will conceal you with his pinions and under his wings you will find refuge. (Ps 91:3-4)
8. For you has he commanded his angels, to keep you in all your ways. They shall bear you upon their hands lest you strike your foot against a stone. (Ps 91:12-13)
9. The Lord is at my side as my helper: I shall look down on my foes. (Ps 120:3)
10. Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can make your stand against the devil’s schemes. (Eph 6:10-11)
What follows is a kind of Scriptural Rosary that draws on Wisdom texts from the Old Testament. There, wisdom is often personified as “Lady Wisdom.” While some have thought to attribute these verses to the Holy Spirit there are difficulties in that approach. The Holy Spirit is not a lady or a creature. He is the uncreated Third Person of the Holy Trinity. While in essence God is neither Male nor Female, Jesus consistently refers to the Holy Spirit as “He” and “Him.” Secondly, since some of the texts below speak of Wisdom as being created by God, this cannot be said of the Holy Spirit, who is God, not a creature. Similar problems emerge when one tries to apply these verses to Jesus.
Hence, an alternative seems opportune in attributing these verses and the image to our Blessed Mother who is the Spouse of the Holy Spirit and the Seat of Wisdom. Our Blessed Mother is the personification and exemplification of Lady Wisdom in the Old Testament. She is the seat of Wisdom in two ways. First, upon her lap sat He who is God’s Wisdom. Secondly, as Mary formed and brought forth He who is Wisdom itself (I speak of Jesus’ human origins) so too does she form Christ in us, by God’s grace. Allow then these verses that speak of God’s Wisdom speak also of Mary who is “Seat of Wisdom” and, by God’s grace, a source of Wisdom for us who all called to formed into Christ.
These verses can be used in conjunction with any of the current Mysteries of the Rosary. Hence, I leave the mysteries untitled below. These verses can also serve as the basis of a mediation apart from the rosary. But pray them meditatively and rejoice in the great gift Jesus gave us of his most holy, most pure, most Blessed and glorious Lady, Theotokos and ever Virgin Mary.
Mary, Seat of Wisdom and Spouse of the Holy Spirit: pray for us!
Therefore, I prayed, and prudence was given me; I pleaded, and the spirit of Wisdom came to me. (Wisdom 7:7)
I preferred her to scepter and throne and deemed riches nothing in comparison with her. (Wis 7:8)
I loved her, And I chose to have her rather than earthly light, because her radiance never ceases. (Wis 7:10)
All good things together came to me with her, and countless riches at her hands…though I had not known that she is their mother. (Wis 7:11-12)
For she is an unfailing treasure; those who gain this treasure win the friendship of God, being commended by the gifts that come from her discipline. (Wis 7:14)
For in her is a spirit intelligent, holy, unique, [yet] manifold. (Wis 7:22)
Subtle, agile, clear, unstained, and certain, (Wis 7:22)
Never harmful, loving the good, (Wis 7:22)
Keen and unhampered, beneficent, kindly and powerful, (Wis 7:23)
Firm and secure, [yet] tranquil, all-seeing, and pervading all spirits. (Wis 7:23)
For Wisdom is mobile beyond all motion, and she penetrates and pervades all things by reason of her purity. (Wis 7:24)
For she is a breath of the might of God and a pure emanation of the glory of the Almighty. (Wis 7:25)
Therefore, nothing defiled can enter into her. (Wis 7:25)
For she is the reflection of eternal light, the spotless mirror of the power of God, the image of his goodness. (Wis 7:26)
Although she is one, she can do all things, and she renews everything while herself perduring. (Wis 7:27)
Passing into holy souls from age to age, she produces friends of God and prophets. (Wis 7:27)
For God loves nothing so much as the one who dwells with Wisdom. (Wis 7:28)
For she is fairer than the sun and surpasses every constellation of the stars. (Wis 7:29)
Compared to light, she is found more radiant. (Wis 7:29)
For, though night supplants light, wickedness does not prevail over Wisdom. (Wis 7:30)
The root of wisdom—to whom has it been revealed? Her subtleties—who knows them? There is but one, wise and truly awesome, seated upon his throne—the Lord. (Sir 1:7-8)
It is he who created her, saw her and measured her, poured her forth upon all his works, upon every living thing according to his bounty, lavished her upon those who love him. (Sir 1:8-10a)
With the godly she was created from of old, and with their descendants she will keep faith. (Sir 1:10b)
She inebriates them with her fruits. Knowledge and full understanding she rains down; (Sir 1:16, 19)
Wisdom teaches her children and admonishes all who can understand her. (Sir 4:11)
Those who love her love life; those who seek her out win the LORD’s favor. (Sir 4:12)
Those who hold her fast will attain glory, and they shall abide in the blessing of the LORD. (Sir 4:13)
Those who serve her serve the Holy One; those who love her the Lord loves. (Sir 4:14)
With all your soul draw close to her; and with all your strength keep her ways. (Sir 4:26)
Inquire and search, seek and find; when you get hold of her, do not let her go. (Sir 4:27)
Thus, at last you will find rest in her, and she will become your joy. (Sirach 4:28)
Whoever obeys me will not be put to shame, and those who serve me will never go astray. (Sir 24:24)
Her fetters will be a place of strength, her snare, a robe of spun gold. (Sir 4:29)
Take her yoke upon your neck; that your mind may receive her teaching. (Sir 51:26)
She will meet him like a mother; …She will feed him with the bread of learning and give him the water of understanding to drink. (Sirach 15:2-3)
He will lean upon her and not fall; he will trust in her and not be put to shame. (Sir 15:4)
She will exalt him above his neighbors, and in the assembly, she will make him eloquent. (Sir 15:5)
She says, “I will water my plants, I will drench my flower beds.” (Sir 24:31)
When I was young and innocent, I sought wisdom. She came to me in her beauty, and until the end I will grow with her. (Sir 51:13-14)
From my earliest youth I was familiar with her. In the short time I paid heed, I met with great instruction. (Sir 51:15-16)
I resolved to tread her paths; I have been jealous for the good and will not turn back. (Sir 51:18)
I burned with desire for her, never relenting. I became preoccupied with her, never weary of extolling her. (Sir 51:19)
I spread out my hands to the heavens and I came to know her secrets. (Sir 51:19)
For her I purified my hands; in cleanness I attained to her. At first acquaintance with her, I gained understanding such that I will never forsake her. (Sir 51:20)
My whole being was stirred to seek her; therefore, I have made her my prize possession. (Sir 51:21)
Come aside to me, you untutored, and take up lodging in the house of instruction. (Sri 51:23)
How long will you deprive yourself of wisdom’s food, how long endure such bitter thirst? (Sir 51:24)
For she is close to those who seek her, and the one who is in earnest finds her. (Sir 51:26)
Acquire but a little instruction, and you will win silver and gold through her. (Sir 51:28)
Since in this way I have profited, I will give my teacher grateful praise. (Sir 51:17)
The readings for this Feast of Christ the King evoke three images of Christ as King. All of them are to some extent paradoxical because they emphasize things we don’t usually associate with kings. They also tell us that we have already met King Jesus even if we don’t realize it. Let’s look at these three images of our Lord Jesus Christ, King of all Creation:
I. Caring King – The first reading, from Ezekiel 34, speaks of the Lord as a shepherd who cares for His flock. Here are some of the lines that summarize His care: I myself will look after and tend my sheep … I will rescue them from every place where they were scattered when it was cloudy and dark … I myself will give them rest … The lost I will seek out … The strayed I will bring back … The injured I will bind up. The sick I will heal.
In the modern world we don’t typically think of kings and heads of state in such a caring role. Most world leaders are inaccessible to us, existing behind many layers of security and staff. Even bishops of larger dioceses are hard to reach personally.
Jesus, however, is a King who is more present to us than we are to ourselves. An old revival hymn says, “Jesus is on the Main Line … call him up and tell him what you want.” Another song says, “God is just one prayer away.”
In the ancient world it was much more comment to speak of a caring king. Most kings had more immediate contact with their subjects. Many had certain days on which their subjects could line up to talk to them. It is said that St. Athanasius ran up to the emperor on his horse one day, grabbed the reins, and proceeded to debate a theological point with him.
Until relatively recently, even U.S. Presidents had office hours. It is said that on Tuesdays Abraham Lincoln received visitors from among the citizenry who sought to speak to him of their concerns. They would line up at the door without formal appointments and he’d listen to them one by one. As our culture has become more violent and public figures have become more widely recognized and vulnerable, leaders have receded into sealed, bulletproof, and figuratively soundproof worlds, hearing little from “ordinary people.”
The idea of a king who cares for his people personally is somewhat paradoxical to us today, but Jesus does care for His people.
I want to testify that I do indeed have a caring King, Jesus. He’s been good to me. He has led me, rescued me, purified me, fed me, instructed me, and graced me; He died for me.
I also want to testify that He was being good to me even when I didn’t think He was being good to me. Scripture says, All things work together for good to them who love and trust the Lord (Rom 8:28). Notice that not just the “good things” work for my benefit but even the bad things. God sometimes permits some “stuff” to happen because it will bless us in the end. Even if you’re suffering, don’t give up on God. Some of His gifts sometimes come in strange packages. St Paul says, For this affliction is producing for us a weight of glory beyond compare (2 Cor 4:17).
Did you notice the last line in the passage from Ezekiel? But the sleek and the strong I will destroy, shepherding them rightly. Yes, even at those times when I needed to be humbled (to have my pride destroyed) the Lord was shepherding me rightly. There was a time in my life when I was sleeker and stronger, but the Lord let me experience some humiliation, destroying me as it were, and giving me humility. I even see this humiliation physically, for I was once slim and now I am overweight. It is humbling to be fat, especially when people scold me; they seem to think it is easy to lose weight. But God will humble them too, perhaps in other ways. God hates pride; He just can’t stand it. This is because He knows how deadly it is to us.
Yes, God is a caring King. Some of His ways are paradoxical. Do not reduce the noun “care” merely to meaning “that which comforts and consoles.” It can be that, but not always! Sometimes the “caring” thing to do is to rebuke, warn, or even punish. God never ceases to care for us. I’m a witness. He’s been good to me. Even when I didn’t think He was being good to me, He was being good to me.
Finally note that Jesus exercises this care through his Body, the Church. This means all of us, not just clergy. Parents, elders, youngsters, and all area summoned to share the faith, to console and care, find the lost and straying, and correct the sinner. We are Christ’s voice, his heart, his hands.
II. Conquering King – Today’s second reading speaks Jesus’ victory over all things, saying that He has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep; that He has reversed what Adam did; that He is the first fruits, then each one in proper order will also rise. It says that He will hand the kingdom over to God his Father when he has destroyed every sovereignty and every authority and power and that he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet, the last enemy to be destroyed being death.
Here, too, there is a great paradox. As Hebrews says, In putting everything under him, God left nothing that is not subject to him. Yet at present we do not see everything subject to him. But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death (Heb 2:8-10).
So while at times it seems that evil triumphs, God is working. One by one, He is putting all His enemies under His feet. One day, even death itself will be destroyed. The paradox of the cross shouts to us that God conquers, not by brutality and cruel strength, but by love, forgiveness, and mercy—things the world dismisses as weak.
Here, too, I want to say that God is a conquering King in my life. He has destroyed the power of many sins and diminished the strength of others on the way to their ultimate destruction. I have seen sins put down and under His feet as He cleanses the temple of my soul. He has conquered so much of my pride. I am seeing lust, greed, anger, sloth, envy, and fear on the ropes. One by one, He is diminishing their power and replacing them with greater love, compassion, kindness, purity, love for the truth, prayerfulness, courage, trust, and eagerness to do good and to win souls.
Thank you, Lord, for being a conquering King in my life.
Unlike worldly kings, this conquering King does not force us to be His subjects and live in His kingdom. Earthly kings conquer regions and force peoples under their rule by might. But Jesus is a King who respects our freedom to decide whether to have Him as our King and to accept the virtues of His kingdom—or not. Hence, Hell is not so much a place of punishment as it is a place for those who refuse, those who say no to Christ and His kingdom. This King, though all-powerful, does not force His kingship and laws. He offers them to all and allows each of us to decide.
III. Concealed King – The Gospel teaches us that Christ will come again to judge the living and the dead. In this second coming we will discover that we have known Him all along, though in a paradoxical way. As Christ comes and takes His seat and all are summoned to Him, we are going to have a strange sense that we’ve met Him before—and He will confirm that.
For indeed, we have met His Majesty and He is the strangest King of all. He is a King who is hungry, thirsty, sick, lonely, a foreigner, in prison, and a stranger. The list He gives should not be seen as exhaustive, for He is in the needy, whether rich or poor. He is in the discouraged loved one who cannot find a job; He is in our children, who need to be taught and encouraged; He is in the co-worker who just lost his wife; he is in the patient who was diagnosed with cancer; He is in the lost family member who needs instruction and to be drawn back to the Sacraments. He is even in you, in your struggles and needs.
Yes, we have met this King every day. And He is not merely saying that these people have some moral union with Him. He is saying, mystically, that He is each one of them. And when we cared for them, we were not simply doing something ethical; we were serving and caring for Him: “You did it for me.”
What a strange King! We usually picture kings in palaces, far removed from trouble, but this King is naked, poor, hungry, and thirsty. We walk past Him every day.
To those who have cared for Him in His poor, He says that He will never forget what they have done. The poor may not be able to repay us, but King Jesus will repay us a millionfold. On the day of our judgment we will look at Jesus and say, “I know you! I recognize you!” And He will say, “I know you, too.” Come, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”
We should not view this judgment scene as containing the only standards by which we are to be judged, for numerous other passages lay out other standards such as having faith, being willing to carry our cross, living in purity, forgiving others, and loving our enemy. But this passage does remind us that we are not to neglect the corporal works of mercy.
Yes, Jesus our King is the strangest one you will ever meet: a caring and close King, a conquering King who never forces, a King who is hungry and thirsty, a King who reigns from the cross, a King who dies so that we don’t have to, a King who washes our feet, a King who comes to serve rather than to be served. He is a King, all right, one who rules with love, not force. He’s the strangest King you’ve ever met, and you meet Him every day: in the Eucharist, in the poor, in His Word, in your heart, in the events of your day, and in your very self.
This past week in the Breviary, I have found certain readings in the Office of Readings to be helpful and encouraging in times like these. With Western culture collapsing and many in the Church seeking to adapt the Lord’s teaching to the modern (and collapsing) age, we need to stand firm, not loose heart and actively resist notions that seek to set aside what the Lord has clearly taught. Consider this reading from last week’s office from the Book of Daniel:
Many shall be refined, purified, and tested, but the wicked shall prove wicked; none of them shall have understanding, but the wise shall have it. From the time that the daily sacrifice is abolished and the horrible abomination is set up, there shall be one thousand two hundred and ninety days. Blessed is the man who has patience and perseveres until the one thousand three hundred and thirty-five days. Go, take your rest, you shall rise for your reward at the end of days.” (Daniel 12:1-3)
Now this reading teaches us numerous things:
1 This is a time in the Church of testing. That is to say we are all being tested to see what we are made of. Do we have the true faith? Or, are we the sort who merely hold the faith when it is convenient or expedient? In this collapsing Western Culture once known as Christendom, holding to the true faith is getting costly and, at times discouraging. We are rediscovering that the faith is costly and, like the early Church, we are becoming a small and persecuted group. Large numbers of us have fallen away from the practice of the faith and become enamored of the world. We are like Gideon’s army of 30,000. God told Gideon to send the cowards home. 20,000 left. But God wasn’t finished and further insisted that only true believers were fit for the battle. Only 300 remained after the testing. But they won since the battle was the Lord’s. Are you and I among the 300 zealous enough for the faith that we are fit for battle. Or are we among the compromisers who seek to adapt the faith to the views of this world and the prince of this world? Are you fit for battle? Can you pass muster in the Lord’s army? Are you ready to defend the faith and suffer for it? Or are you and I among the slothful, the lukewarm and the cowards whom the Lord considers unfit? Yes, we are being tested. Will we pass the test?
2 We are being refined and purified. To refine gold or silver means to subject it to the fire and burn away its impurities. In this time rebellion and where the gospel is “out of season”, many scoff and raise questions for us; they confront us with false notions of compassion, fake versions of Jesus, and a tyranny of relativism that demand tolerance for everything except the Gospel. And yet, in this cauldron of dissent we are forced in a sense to sharpen our skills and understanding of the faith. There is a saying, “Things through opposition grow stronger.” And hence, the enemies of the faith do us a kind of favor by forcing us to lay hold of the deeper realities and meanings of our faith. In defending and teaching the faith we come to realize just how truth and good these teachings are if we stay in the battle and listen to the Lord who uses opposition to deepen our knowledge of the faith and purify us of sloth, vagueness, and compromise.
3 True Repentance is hard to come by. The text from Daniel says, but the wicked shall prove wicked; none of them shall have understanding. Sin hardens the heart and the longer it is active the harder it is to repent. We might like to think that deathbed conversion are numerous but, as I have learned by experience, they are not. It is a very strange thing to have someone nearing death refuse the sacraments. But it happens often. The more frequent occurrence is that they don’t ask for the Catholic chaplain in the first placed. God and the sacraments simply aren’t on their radar. We see too how, in our culture that sinners are very hardened in their views and quite passionate about them. This is particularly obvious in the LBGTQIA+ movements that openly celebrate what the scriptures condemn, even considering themselves morally superior to “rigid” and “hateful” believers who have a principled opposition to the lifestyle they celebrate. We see obstinance in other matters too such as abortion. Though the left often says to “follow the science,” it seems that no amount of science will ever shake them from their view that its alright to kill children in the womb for all nine months. Obstinacy can also be observed in matters of racism, greed, and so forth. Does this mean that we should give up trying to call people to repentance. No. Some do repent. And besides, God did not say to evangelize only if people are not stubborn. God’s wants to give everyone ample opportunity to hear the truth and repent. And even if many stubbornly refuse, he does not withhold his merciful summons to all to repent and believe the gospel.
4 Idolatry and false religion are always near at hand. – We may have thought that the worship of idols was ended centuries ago and that our age is too rational for such. Don’t kid yourself, in New Age and other practices people are worshipping stones and crystals. Occult practices are widespread and Tarot Card readers are doing big business. Further note that the text from Daniel says, From the time that the daily sacrifice is abolished and the horrible abomination is set up…. Many of us sadly note that that masses were abolished during COVID and that an ancient idol, Pachamama, was welcomed in Roman Basilicas. Supplied explanations by the Vatican regarding Pachamama were not helpful and tended only to confirm that this was, in fact the pagan Mother Earth goddess being welcomed into our Churches and being venerated by many. The text from Daniel calls this a “horrible abomination.” These are very dark and difficult times in the Church when many of our leaders involve themselves in such practices with little or no compunction and sensing no need to explain themselves or repent.
5 Tribulation produces future glory. The prophecy of Daniel says that those will e blessed who persevere and keep the faith for the three and a half years (or days) of tribulation. (Literally, “A time, two times and half a time.”) One need not get out a calendar and count exact days. Three and an half years or days is a usual prophetic device that indicates a period of tribulation. It is half the perfect number of seven, hence an imperfect and troubled time. The exact time of the tribulation is indeterminate, the point is that it is a period of time a persecution or tribulation lasts. And while it is true that tribulation is painful, the blessings that will come to the one who perseveres is more than worth it. The texts says to those who endure: Blessed is the man who has patience and perseveres until the one thousand three hundred and thirty-five days. You shall rise for your reward at the end of days.” So, those of us who endure this painful time in the culture and in the Church need to remember that our reward will be great if we stay faithful. Scripture says elsewhere of an exulted group of glorified saints in heaven: Then one of the elders addressed me: “These in white robes….These are the ones who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” (Rev 7:13) Yes, this is our future and our dignity if we are faithful. Tribulation serves only to increase our glory. Do not fear it! Stare it down and declare to it: “You are my ticket to glory, through Jesus’ power.” Everything Satan does backfires eventually if we are faithful.
Finally, in the same Office of Readings last week comes this commentary by a Second Century Author:
Those who keep God’s commandments will have reason to rejoice. For a short time in this world they may have to suffer, but they will rise again and their reward will endure for ever. No one who holds God in reverence should grieve over the hardships of this present time, for a time of blessedness awaits him. He will live again in heaven in the company of all those who have gone before him; for all eternity he will rejoice, never to know sorrow again.
So do not be disturbed at the sight of wicked men…we are receiving the training in this present life that will make us worthy to be crowned in the life to come. …To the one invisible God, the Father of truth, who sent forth the Savior, the author of immortality, and through him revealed to us the truth and the heavenly life—to him be glory throughout all ages, for ever and ever. Amen.
– From a homily written in the second century
(Cap 18:1-20, 5: Funk 1, 167-171)
The past few Sundays have featured the November theme of the Four Last Things: Death, Judgment, Heaven, and Hell. In today’s Gospel we are reminded that we will one day have to account for our use of the gifts and resources that God has given us.
But today’s readings do more than that; they also set forth a virtue that helps us to use God’s gifts well. That virtue is the fear of the Lord. It is a foundational disposition of the wise, but not the foolish. Scripture says, The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Prov 9:10).
In today’s first reading contains this nugget:Charm is deceitful, beauty is fleeting, but the woman who fears the Lord is to be praised (Prov 31:30). Today’s Psalm says, Blessed are you who fear the Lord (Psalm 128:1).
“Fear” of the Lord can be understood in two ways: perfect fear and imperfect fear. Both are important. Imperfect fear (which most of us begin with and still need from time to time) is the fear of punishment and the loss of Heaven. Jesus often appeals to this sort of fear in His preaching; He vividly warns of the punishments that come to impenitent sinners, both here in this world and ultimately in Hell. While imperfect, this kind of fear is necessary—especially for the spiritually immature (and all of us have our areas of immaturity). It is somewhat like a young child who needs punishment and/or the threat thereof in order to learn discipline and the consequences of bad behavior. As the child matures, we can begin to appeal to his reason and his love for others in order to encourage good behavior. Good preaching and teaching should not wholly neglect the appeal to imperfect fear because congregations have people at many different stages. Jesus did not neglect this kind of appeal and neither should we.
However, just as we hope to be able to appeal to higher motives as our children mature, so as we grow in the spiritual life do we hope to move toward a more perfect “fear” of the Lord. This more mature fear is not a cringing, servile one. Rather, fearing the Lord is holding Him in awe, revering Him, having a deep love and appreciation for Him as the source of all that we are and all that we have. Because we love God and He is Abba to us, we fear offending Him by sin, or severing our relationship with Him by refusing His grace. Out of love, reverence, and a sense of awe, we fear giving any offense to Him, who is Holy, God, and deserving of all our love.
With this background, we can look to a deeper teaching in today’s Gospel. On one level, the teaching is clear: We will all have to account for our use of the talents and resources God has given us. On a deeper level, we are taught of the importance of attaining to a mature fear of the Lord as the essential way of bearing the fruit that will be sought. There is a danger in remaining only in imperfect fear (which has its place and time in our life) because we risk developing resentment and avoidance if we refuse to grow toward a more perfect fear.
Let’s look at it with this perspective in mind and discover the differences of each kind of fear.
A man going on a journey called in his servants and entrusted his possessions to them. To one he gave five talents; to another, two; to a third, one—to each according to his ability. Then he went away. Immediately the one who received five talents went and traded with them and made another five. Likewise, the one who received two made another two. But the man who received one went off and dug a hole in the ground and buried his master’s money.
Three men are given resources to use. Two succeed; one fails. Why? Ultimately it is the difference between holy fear, love, and confidence on the one hand, and unholy fear and resentment on the other.
Consider the plan of the first two men (the ones who succeed):
Receive Riches– One gets five talents; the other, two—each according to his ability. While the “inequity” may offend modern sensibilities, note the explanation in the passage itself: the men had different abilities. Before getting outraged, consider this: what business owner would not give more resources to an outstanding employee than to a mediocre one? The fact is, God blesses some more abundantly than others due to their good use of gifts. Later in the Gospel, we receive this fundamental rule: We must prove faithful in a few things to be ruler over many (Matt 25:23).
Risk Reinvestment– Something in these two men makes them feel free enough to risk reinvesting the money: It is likely their relationship with the master. They view him as a reasonable man, one who would applaud their industriousness. Though they are taking a risk, they believe that even if there were to be losses, they will not be dealt with unmercifully. They seem to experience the freedom and courage to step out and make use of the talents entrusted to them. Notice that the text says they “immediately” went out and traded. They are eager to work for their master and take the risks on his behalf in order to please him.
Render a Report – Upon the master’s return the men seem somewhat joyful as they report, “Master, you gave me five (two) talents. See, I have made five (two) more.” There is an enthusiasm for the opportunity they were given and a joy for the harvest.
Rise in the Ranks– The men’s presumptions of the master’s fairness and reasonability are affirmed in his response: “Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master’s joy.” We see that the master is joyful and wants to share his joy with his servants. Further, he is willing to give them greater access to share in his blessings and joy based on their openness to trusting him and their showing themselves to be trustworthy.
The two successful servants see the owner of the riches as a man with whom they can deal. They have a healthy respect for him but not an immature fear. They receive the funds gladly and with gratitude go to work, motivated and enthusiastic about the opportunity they have been given.
Allow the posture of these two servants to be a portrait of a holy and more perfect fear of the Lord. With this sort of holy fear, we love God and are enthusiastic to work for Him, realizing that He shares His blessings and is both reasonable and generous. Confident of His mercy (though not presuming it), we go to work in His vineyard. Although there are risks and temptations in the vineyard, if we do fail or fall, we do not make light of our sin but rather repent of it and are confident of God’s mercy. A mature fear of the Lord does not box us in or paralyze us. It does remind of our boundaries and keeps us away from truly dangerous things that erode our talents, but because we love God we respect His boundaries joyfully, knowing that He protects us from “unsafe investments.” Within the designated boundaries, there is both room to maneuver and safety from the thickets of sin. Mature fear of the Lord is joyful and encouraging, not cringing or hiding from Him. Choose the fear of the Lord.
The servant who fails follows a different plan, one by which he
is Fruitless– for he buries the treasure
is Furious – for he says, I knew you were a demanding person, harvesting where you did not plant and gathering where you did not scatter, so out of fear I went off and buried your talent in the ground. He considers the owner a hard man. He also sees him as unjust because he has others do his planting, etc. The man sees his work as slavery, unlike the other servants who see it as an opportunity. Notice, too, this subtlety: The man refers to the talent he was given as “your talent.” In contrast, the other men say, “You gave me five (two) talents.” These men see themselves as stewards whereas the third man sees himself as a slave.
is Fearful – for he says that he buried it out of fear. In this case, we see a cringing and servile fear, and immature and imperfect fear of the Lord. This is distinct from the more mature fear of the Lord, toward which we must move to bear fruit. Note that it is his image of the master that drives his fear.
Forfeits – It is clear that he wants nothing to do with his master. In effect, the master says this to him: “Fine, if you don’t want to deal with me you don’t have to. I will take your talent and given it to the one with ten. If you do not wish to be in my presence or deal with me then consider yourself dismissed.”
The failed servant gives way to anger and resentment; he indulges his immature fears that the owner is out to get him, that the deck is stacked against him. He is not grateful for the opportunity he was given. Notice that these thoughts lead to his actions; but are his thoughts true and unassailable? It is clear that the other two men do not see the master in this way. We see through the reaction of the master to the behavior of the first two servants that he is in fact reasonable, decent, just, and joyful. The failed servant’s thoughts were not accurate. Rather than believing everything he thinks, the failed servant should test those thoughts against reality.
To fear the Lord more perfectly is to hold him awe, to rejoice in His power and wisdom, to accept His authority as saving and helpful. In this way we yield an abundant harvest with His gifts.
Now look, if imperfect fear is all you have, go with it! Sadly, many people today in this secular culture conduct their lives as though they will never have to account for it; they go on sinning, scoffing at the idea that they should have any fear of a judgment day. They are going to be surprised and unprepared for what they will face.
So, even if you have an imperfect fear of the Lord, rooted in punishment, don’t cast it away! To grow, though, seek a more perfect fear, rooted in love and awe of God’s majesty and goodness. If we remain in an imperfect fear that does not seek to grow in love, we risk falling into resentment and aversion and will not bear the fruits that the Lord seeks for us. This call for growth is what the Lord means here:
There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and he who fears is not perfected in love (1 Jn 4:18).
The fear counseled against here is not the perfect and mature fear of the Lord referred to elsewhere in Scripture. Rather it is the immature fear, rooted merely in the fear of punishment. We are counseled to grow out of this imperfect fear through deepening love of God.
The deeper teaching here is this: grow in love; mature in your fear of the Lord and reap the abundant riches of a faithful servant and child of God.
I have been asked by numerous people what I think about the recent Vatican responseon so-called “transgender” baptisms and other related questions. The original dubia (a list of questions) was submitted by His Eminence Mons. José Negri Vescovo of Santo Amaro in Brazil.
My first reply was that I be allowed to read the document. Most discussion of this topic has been based on headlines and summaries by secular sources and some Catholic sources as well. Almost all the headlines say something to the effect, “Vatican Permits Transgender Baptisms.” Clearly, an unqualified approval of such baptisms, or of “transgenders” serving as Godparents etc., is a severely flawed notion and a pastoral disaster. But is an unqualified “yes” what the document proposes? Let’s take a look.
Before quoting some details, my reply to those who sought my reaction is that I would interpret the document in a very strict manner and largely conclude that “transgender” baptisms, sponsorships etc., could rarely if ever be approved. For the sake of simplicity lets just speak of baptisms at this point, although the same thinking applies to other aspects of the question such as trangendered people being sponsors, godparents, or witnesses.
The document, while stating that such baptisms could theoretically be approved, sets some serious hurdles that must be cleared first.
The reply begins thus:
Can a transsexual be baptized? A transsexual – who had also undergone hormone treatment and surgery sex reassignment surgery – can receive baptism, under the same conditions of the other faithful, if….
(Note: this English translation from the Italian is unofficial).
So we see that theoretically Baptism can be given, but there are conditions! As a pastor, in the current cultural confusion regarding sexuality, I would feel obliged to interpret the conditions strictly so as to avoid confusion regarding Church teaching, seeming approval of the “trans” agenda, and scandal. A pastor must regard not only the needs of the individual, but must also protect the flock from error or heresy.
So what are the conditions laid out in the document? There are two in particular and we can consider them here in reverse order. A primary condition is stated as follows:
The following must be considered, especially when there are doubts about the objective moral situation in which a person finds himself, or about his own subjective dispositions towards grace. In the case of Baptism, the Church teaches that when the sacrament is received without repentance for serious sins, the subject does not receive sanctifying grace, although he receives the sacramental character. The Catechism states: “This configuration to Christ and to the Church, created by the Spirit, it is indelible; it remains forever in the Christian as positive disposition to grace, as a promise and guarantee of divine protection and as vocation to divine worship and to the service of the Church.”
The document then cites passages from St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Augustine in the regard. It then continues:
So, even when doubts remain about the objective moral situation of one person or on his subjective dispositions towards grace, one must never forget the aspect of the faithfulness of God’s unconditional love, capable of generating even with the sinner an irrevocable alliance, always open to development. This is true even when there does not appear fully in the penitent an express desire for amendment….
But, in any case, the Church will always have to call them to live fully all the implications of the baptism received, which is always included and unfolds within the entire path of Christian initiation….
So we note that the document envisions the possibility of extending baptism to a “transsexual” (sic) even where they remain fuzzy on the serious error of such a stance. This is to offer the hope that baptism might clear away their error. However, note that the document says they are not sanctified by the Sacrament until they renounce the error of “transgenderism” and any other errors contrary to Catholic and Biblical teaching.
The document, while admittedly fuzzy on what degree of doubt can be entertained by the one baptized, it does conclude this section by declaring that the Church must insistently “call them to live fully all the implications of the baptism.” Of course an essential implication of Baptism and Holy Communion is to believe all that the Holy Catholic Church believes, teaches and proclaims to be revealed by God. This would include an understanding that theories of “transexualism” are neo-gnostic notions contrary to what God has plainly set forth in the nature of the human person. Human nature is received from God and cannot be refashioned or crafted anew by mere human creatures. “God made us, Male or female… (cf Gen 1:27). We are not permitted to hurl back into God’s face what he has made us to be:
Woe to the one who quarrels with His Maker—an earthenware vessel among the vessels of earth! Will the clay say to the potter, ‘What are you doing? ‘ ….The clay may not call into account the potter and say, “What are you doing? (Is 49:9-10)
As a pastor, I could not in good conscience make light of the serious condition and error of a “transgendered” person who requests baptism. There must be a well-founded hope that he or she understands the true teaching of God and the Catholic Church (cf Canon 868) and realize that they are expected henceforth to abandon principles contrary to the faith and seek to live in accord with what is taught. I may well be more lenient to an infant whose parents are poor Catholics since the infant is not responsible for their parent’s bad behavior. But transsexuals are not infants and have made choices contrary to the faith. If they are not repentant of such choices and worldview, it is misleading for a pastor simply to overlook such an issue or, by silence, give tacit approval.
I would therefore strictly interpret this response to the dubia document and be highly reticent to offer baptism to a self-identified “transgender” individual without strong indications that they understand Church teaching and the requirement to repent of false thinking and live the truth of the Gospel.
The document says, “In any case…” that is, in all cases, the Church must call them to live faithfully the implications of baptism. Lacking this, I would delay baptism. Pastors cannot ignore or make light of the serious wounds with which people may often present upon arrival at the Church door. If a man thinks he’s actually a women, there is a serious problem that needs to be addressed. Only the truth sets us free.
Consider another case to help further illustrate. A certain man approaches the Church requesting baptism by way of the Catechumenate. However, it comes to light that he is actively seeking divorce his wife. That wife approaches the Church and says that she is desperately trying to save the marriage, is seeking his cooperation in attending marriage counselling. There is a further urgency to save the marriage since they have two young children. Should a pastor simply overlook this and wave the man through to the Sacraments even though he is planning to act gravely against Church teaching on marriage, charity and the just demands that his young children not be the heirs to divorce and all its complications for them? As a pastor, I could not simply wave him through. I would delay the celebration of any sacraments until the matter can be resolved. Silence is tacit approval and simply celebrating sacraments under these circumstances is misleading and scandalous to others. The matter must be confronted prior to baptism.
The other “condition” to be met prior to baptising a “transgender” person is mentioned twice in the document. “Transgender” baptisms can be conducted only:
if there are no situations in which there is a risk of generating public scandal or disorientation among the faithful.
Well, the obvious answer here to any honest pastor is that there is always going to be a risk of public scandal in such a scenario. Scandal can be considered in two ways. First scandal can be thought of as the shock created by doing strange or sinful things contrary to Scripture. Scandal can also be thought as the end result of doing wrong things, namely, that people are no longer shocked as they should be and have settled down with sinful or unbiblical practices. Either way, the risk of scandal is enormous when the Church seems to affirm or tacitly approve what God teaches is wrong. So why would a pastor want to so mislead and confuse the faithful by even seeming to affirm what is a lie (a man cannot become a woman) and contrary to God’s design? In such a sensitive and confused climate a pastor must strictly interpret the “risk of scandal” clause here and almost never, except perchance in danger of death, even consider introducing practices that seem to affirm “transgender” ideology.
The document also cites the danger of “disorientation” among the faithful. Here too, how would the faithful not be disoriented if the local parish starts embracing this and other aspects of the sexual revolution? With all the emphasis today on this or that individual not being “hurt” or feeling “unwelcome” we have lost any focus on the common good. Pastors have to look out for their flocks, and not let them be carried away by all sorts of deceptions today. The Letter to the Hebrews says,
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings… (Heb 13:9-10)
Indeed. So, to all those who have asked my thoughts on the latest dispatch from Rome, herein is my reply. The document is sadly sketchy in areas and seems to put a lot of hope in the effects of baptism even while saying that a baptism received under such circumstances does not confer sanctifying grace. However, it does give some guidance that I, as a pastor, think must be interpreted strictly and that the caution called for in this response to a dubia must be taken both strictly and seriously.