Sunday, April 27, 2014

New Saints! New Saints! 2nd Sunday Easter

A year and a half ago the Catholic Church received her newest Saints. Among them were two Americans: Sr. Marianne Cope and Kateri Tekakwitha. The new parish encompassing Gallatin County came into being that very same day. So we get to say that our parish is named for one of the Church’s newest batch of Saints. But we can only say that for a few more hours. Sunday morning in Rome - the middle of Saturday night here - Pope Francis will canonize two more Saints, and our new newest Saints will be Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II. And he’s chosen the Feast of Divine Mercy to do it. That wasn’t an accident.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Sort of the Only Thing That Matters: Easter 2014

Christ is Risen. He is Risen indeed!

We have done our worst. He’s seen the very worst we are capable of, from brutal violence, deceit, betrayal, mockery, right down to the sheer indifference and apathy that makes it all possible… because we did them all to Him. In reading the Passion twice this week, in praying the Stations of the Cross all through Lent, in the liturgy of Good Friday, we allow all this to soak in. We take time to remember the darkness, to force ourselves to face the horror of what happened that Friday afternoon. And we do this… why? To wallow in guilt? No. We do this because the victory of Easter flows out of it. Easter is only Easter because of Good Friday.
See, this isn’t about the kind of victory that just gains some ground, or rights some wrongs, or makes things a little better somehow. What was conquered on Easter Morn? Good Friday is the answer to that question. Here’s the bottom line, here’s what it all boils down to: things got as bad as they could possibly get, we sinned as outrageously as ever we could sin, darkness covered everything and hope flickered out in the face of darkness, evil and darkness and death had their moment of total victory, and it’s okay. 

Friday, April 18, 2014

Out of Nowhere: Good Friday Portraits pt. 2

My spear gave him the last of the five wounds. Well, many more than five; there were the thorns in his scalp, cuts from the scourging, bruises from the rods. You’ve seen it depicted on film or in print, I suspect, in varying degrees of brutality. It’s all speculation, of course. For now, just believe the Gospel accounts, the eyewitnesses: the man was badly hurt. It’s not why I joined the Legion. It’s not what I had in mind the first time I put on the armor and the colors and swelled with pride. But out here, out on the fringe of the empire, it’s part of the job. So, yes, we got very good at hurting people. 

We were very good at hurting people in such a way that no one who witnessed it would ever step out of line. You don’t hold together an empire this big by showing mercy. I can show you a man who talked of a kingdom built on mercy. He’s hanging on that Cross. That’s his mother at the foot of the Cross in so much pain that you’re not even strong enough to look at her. That’s his best friend with her. Where are the rest of his friends? They’re nowhere. Gone. Fled. Except the one who gave him over into our hands, who’s dead by his own hand. That’s one especially treacherous, and one especially loyal, but ten out of twelve not hot or cold, just… well, like I said: they’re nowhere.

I was here, not out of compassion, not out of antagonism, just doing my job. I didn’t give it much thought. I put a lot of effort into not giving it much thought. You have to do that, you have to dissociate yourself, if you’re going to plunge a spear into the heart of a man you neither hate nor fear. Remind yourself that this is your job: make sure he’s dead. Tell yourself he probably is, and if he isn’t you’re doing him a favor. And it was that simple, in a way. 


Thursday, April 17, 2014

If You Knew You Were Going to Die Tomorrow: Holy Thursday 2014

If you knew you were going to die tomorrow, you wouldn’t want to be alone. Nor would you want to be in just any old crowd. There would be a very special, very particular list of people you wanted around for your last night. You’d gather them together. Whatever else you did that night, you’d probably have supper together. Your last supper. That meal, and the conversation that accompanied it, would be a meal unlike any other in your life. For the people who shared it with you, it would be a vivid memory seared into their minds forever.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Heal My Sight: 4th Sunday Lent

Just a thought experiment. Imagine you got all the people you know in a room (it’s a big room) and divided them in half according to how happy they are. More happy people over on the right, less happy people on the left. What makes them different?

So for example, would you look at the dividing line and realize that all the people on the left had faced more hardship and challenge than all the people on the right? Is that what makes them different? Would the happier half be the half who hadn’t seen as much suffering? If you start thinking through the people you know, I think you’ll find that isn’t the case at all.

What makes people happy is obviously a fairly ambitious question; so let me get straight to the rather simple point I’m trying to make here. If you did our little experiment in your head, would it be true to say that the happier half of people tend to look at things differently than the less happy half? You bet.