The Irresistible Influence

When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”  – John 2:1-11

When the late effects of Post Polio Syndrome forced me into an early retirement, my mom did not ask nor implore but simply stated: “With the successes in life that you have experienced, in spite of the challenges of polio,  you should write a book.” No other word was said by her or me. Her expectation was as that of Mary’s. That their wishes would be fulfilled. As Jesus responded with an act of affirmation, so did I. He restored to the wedding feast the choicest wine, thereby beginning His mission as the Incarnate. And I went about writing my autobiography, “The Little Red Chair.” For which loving son can refuse his mother?

An invisible truth and a deep love between mother and son influences the son and brings forth from him a free act. – Sheen

 

There is a humorous aspect in both stories. In the miracle of the wedding at Cana a grin comes to one’s face in that Mary did not wait for Jesus’ OK. She simply said: “Do whatever He tells you;” and then she continues in the wedding celebration. My mom, somewhat, did the same. When my retirement was inevitable she lay down the gauntlet to me to write the book that would prove to be most cathartic. Then she went about preparing dinner.

Mary knew Jesus as any mother knows her son. With the exception that she knew before conception where His destiny would lead.  Mary is the new Eve. Jesus is the new Adam. As Adam’s yes to Eve led to the disobedience that sealed heaven’s gates, so, too, did Jesus’ yes to Mary set him on the road to Calvary, where his obedience to God’s will would lift him upon the cross that was the key to unlocking the gates of heaven once again. One selfish act that separated us from God through sin, would be reconciled by the ultimate selfless sacrifice that would render sin impotent.

A woman’s influence over a man is significant. Be that woman a lover, wife or mother. In Homer’s Iliad, Paris yields to Helen’s beauty. Hers’ is known as the face that launched a thousand ships, initiating a war between Sparta and Athens. Monica, the mother of Augustine, sacrificed in prayer which, with time and patience, would free her son  from sin’s enslaving grip. Through his mother’s efforts he would convert and become a defender of the Catholic Church, named one of Mother Church’s most honored doctors, and be canonized a saint.
A women’s influence, as we have here seen, is apparent. It can either invite men to vice or virtue.
 
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Love and Hate

A Dallas police sergeant wears a mourning band on his badge during a prayer vigil in a park following the multiple police shooting in Dallas. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

A Dallas police sergeant wears a mourning band on his badge during a prayer vigil in a park following the multiple police shooting in Dallas. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”
― Martin Luther King Jr.

Hate is the harvest of a selfish heart. The anger that precedes hate arises out of frustration when men and women place their complete trust in fallible individuals who fail them in their leadership. When a pot of water is about to boil over one reduces the heat rather than increases it. When the unfathomable happens common sense insists that cooler heads prevail. Knee-jerk emotional reaction before the facts are known can only place one on a road that leads to no good end.  No one truly knows what is in the heart of our leaders or any individual. Whether their goal is to serve self or to serve others. But a tree is known by its fruit. If the goal is to serve self then the goal will not foster fruitful love, but barren hate. A Native American sage once said: “In every person’s heart there are two dogs fighting. One good and one evil. The one that is fed the most wins.”

“What’s wrong with the world is the devil. What’s right with the world is God.” – G.K. Chesterton

No one of us comes into this world to die. We come into it to live. Nor is one destined to murder or to be murdered. The former does so by choice, the latter has it chosen for him. The only One who came into this world to die was Christ. Death to any of us is an accident of life. For Christ death was an intent. His sacrifice purchased for us forgiveness, the remedy to sin, and re-opened the gates to Paradise for those who aspire to the perfection of truth through following His way that leads to life everlasting. Those who accept this infallible reality and hold fast to it will not be susceptible to hate.

The tragic events in Dallas Texas that took the lives of five Dallas police officers and wounded seven others was an act of hatred born of selfishness. Such an act as this is evil for it takes life when not in direct defense of life. The only just war is one fought in defense; whether between nations or individuals. When the shots rang out at the end of a peaceful protest rally, as inherent instinct would dictate, people ran away from the threat knowing full well that evil was in their midst and that what follows evil is death; be it of body, soul or both. The officers, by professional instinct and strength of character, put themselves between the threat and vulnerable people that they have sworn to protect until those people were a safe distance away. Then these police officers rushed toward the threat. Not to embrace evil, but rather to stop it. Always in such calls to duty their lives are on the line. And in this instance evil staked a claim; but, as always, fails to win in the end.

So long as there is hatred in any heart there will be occasion for tragic events. There will be the ongoing conflict between perpetrator and victim; evil and good. And in between the two are the police.

Final Inspection

The Policeman stood and faced his God, Which must always come to pass.
He hoped his shoes were shining as brightly as his brass.

“Step forward now, officer. How shall I deal with You?
Have you always turned the other cheek? To my Church have you been true?”

The officer squared his shoulders and said, “No, Lord, I guess I ain’t.
Cause those of us who carry badges can’t always be a saint.

But I never took a penny that wasn’t mine to keep,
Though I worked a lot of overtime when the bills just got too steep.

And I never passed a cry for help, though at times I shook with fear.
And sometimes, God forgive me, I wept unmanly tears.

I know I don’t deserve a place among the people here.
They never wanted me around except to calm their fear.

If you’ve a place for me here, Lord, it needn’t be so grand.
I’ve never expected or had too much. But if you don’t, I’ll understand.”

There was silence all around the throne where the saints had often trod.
As the officer waited quietly for the answer of his God.

“Step forward now, Officer, you’ve borne your burdens well.
Come walk a beat on Heaven’s Streets. You’ve done your time in Hell.”

-Peter Hornbach

“In the end it comes down to good and evil, light and darkness. We have to choose a side.” – G.K. Chesterton

No matter how difficult, even under the gravest of circumstances, one must restrict anger to keep at bay the fraudulent consequences of hate. For only through the certainty of truth can justice be acquired, mercy be granted, and the open wound of division be healed.  

 

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Is Anybody There? Does Anybody Care?

justice-is-blind-statueIn the Broadway musical “1776,” through a song from the score titled, “Is Anybody There?”, a frustrated General George Washington sends a letter to the Continental Congress apprising its members of the condition of the army under his command. The letter describes the woeful circumstances; soldiers, mostly the age of boys, have little by way of food, weapons, munitions and low morale. The low morale is not solely due to the conditions depicted but specifically regarding their purpose. What are they fighting for? Washington urges Congress to get about a commitment to unity and a declaration of war against England before it is too late. One can get behind a creed but not an idea. Without a creed one’s identity is lacking. Washington always opens his battlefield correspondences to a divided and uncertain congress with, “Is anybody there? Does anybody care?”

The 2012 Benghazi attack took place on the evening of September 11, 2012, when Islamic militants attacked the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, killing U.S Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and U.S. Foreign Service Information Management Officer Sean Smith. Stevens was the first U.S. Ambassador killed in the line of duty since 1979. Several hours later, a second assault targeted a different compound about one mile away, killing CIA contractors Tyrone S. Woods and Glen Doherty. Ten others were also injured in the attacks. During the days leading up to and including the thirteen hour siege requests for military support was denied. If not for the CIA contractors, who disobeyed the order to stand down, the loss of life would have been even worse. These brave selfless men were former military warriors who lived by the code of “NO One Left Behind.” They were not going to stand by and not go to the aid of those remaining in the American diplomatic compound. I’m certain that during those terrifying thirteen hours until rescued by Libyan government forces along with a group of Americans the question arose often: “Is anybody there? Does anybody care?”

In the complete text of the Declaration of Independence where the case is made against King George III of England, the following accusation is found:”…deaf to the voice of justice…” When FBI director James Comey presented his case against Hillary Clinton, the facts seemed clear for a recommendation for prosecution. Yet in the end he walked away from it. And justice again fell on deaf ears. His accurate scathing rebuke of her gross negligence was meant to appease those who would be dissatisfied by his decision, yet, more likely, it was meant to ease a troubled conscience persuaded by political pressure.
We the tax payers who do the heavy lifting in this country by the sweat of our brow, giving it its life blood, have been short-changed again. The double standard of justice that now exists can be delivered a crippling blow. People of good conscience can impose their own indictment come November through the power of the vote. So, again, in the light of these recent events the question must now be asked of ourselves, as citizens of these United States of America; “Is anybody there? Does anybody care?”

Those who are ignorant of the truth can be forgiven, but not those who know the truth and choose to ignore it.

 

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Our Two Freedoms

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. – The Declaration of Independence

“For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” – Galatians 5:1

The Declaration of Independence provides man freedom on earth from tyranny.

The Bible provides man freedom on earth from sin.

The Declaration of Independence provides a temporary freedom.

The Bible provides eternal freedom.

The freedom of the Bible is the foundational tenet of the Declaration of Independence. It is so stated in the document, “…that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights…” I believe that the Founding Fathers understood that if this document drafted had not adhered to a divine absolute truth, separate from man’s fallibility, then the test of opposition that surely lay before this new nation would not be overcome. And that the experiment of democracy would very likely fail at its birth.

Indifference is the greatest threat to freedom…

When we are indifferent to those oppositions to our freedom. When we look the other way when challenged, assuming that our freedom is intact; that is when freedom is on its way to being lost. When a faction of Peoples ask for tolerance yet offers none in return, then freedom is in jeopardy. For tyranny is born of tolerance; in this circumstance freedom is lost.

Indifference toward prudence opens one to loss of personal freedom. One who drinks his first beer gives no thought to the possibility that a door to alcohol dependence may have been opened. One whose curiosity draws him to view pornography may find that an unintended habit may ensue, resulting in an unrealistic and skewed view of others. No longer seeing that every person deserves to be valued, one soon sees himself as valueless. The fantasy then becomes the dark reality. Misused freedom leads to enslavement.

A nation that sought, fought and paid the price for freedom in blood will lose it and dishonor the memory of those who sacrificed by not guarding it against indifference.

Individuals have relinquished their freedom from sin, purchased by the act of Deicide, through a lack of respect for evil’s power by not prudently utilizing their God-given common sense to avoid the surrender to that power.

Freedom once acquired is not guaranteed. It necessitates a constant prudent vigilance; energized by an imagining of what would be the fate of our lives or souls should we let down our guard.

The choice before God in creating the world lay between creating a purely mechanical universe, peopled by automatons, or creating a spiritual universe in which there would be a choice of good and evil. Praise and blame can only be bestowed on those who are masters of their own will. It is only because you have the possibility of saying no, that there is so much charm in your character when you say “yes.” – Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

 

 

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When Enough Is Enough

“Politics has not been poisoned, but rather is poisonous;” – G.K. Chesterton 

The words of Margaret Thatcher rang clear in the hearts of the British voters: “Socialism works so long as someone else’s money holds out.” The people of England have spoken loudly in voting to back out of the E.U. They have had their fill of stagnant wages, a struggling economy and compromised national security the result of open borders. These Brits were tired of being told by arrogant elites how they should live their lives. Elites, on both sides of the political fence, who profess to know what’s best for people have opened themselves to pride rather than wisdom; thereby making it impossible for them to admit when they are wrong. The E.U.’s welfare mentality bodes well for the progressive socialists and their acolytes, but offers little for those members of the middle-class who are compelled to carry a financial burden beyond their own.

A predominant two-party Democratic form of government, as is true of England and the U.S., acts as a pendulum. The rod of the pendulum, for the purpose this discussion, once set in motion, swings to the right and to the left. Influenced by gravity it is compelled to pass through the center. In politics that gravity is the mindset of the people. They will support the party whose policies fulfill the promises of life, liberty and the best opportunity for happiness. No one party can expect to be in power forever, no matter how keen their method of manipulation or persuasion. For the proof is always in the pudding. The pudding which the voter is forced to consume.

Democracy loses sight of its tenets when run by uncommon men and uncommon women promoting uncommon ideals, rather than being run by common men and common women promoting common sense ideals that will best suit the common man. Therein lies the injustice and sad inconsistency of such governance. Failing to be mindful to needs of all. Failing to acknowledge the unique worth in each person, thereby neglecting to provide opportunity for each to exercise his/her God-given purpose. A person without purpose is a person without self-worth. Such leadership has failed to find the center.

Blessed Mother Teresa said: “Truth without compassion tends toward cruelty, and compassion without truth is sentimentality.” The conservative right, primarily, is the purveyor of truth; the liberal left, primarily, the purveyor of compassion. The best that the right and the left have to offer the citizens materializes when both converge toward a balanced center. The center is also where Christ is found. From there He imparts all truth and compassion through a balanced orderly power. An incorruptible power which is bestowed by an infallible God, and loving Father, the source of all power. Those centered in Christ adhere to an absolute objective truth that assures a genuine beneficial compassion.

Due to the fallibility of man, any governing body can be likened to well-worn underwear. Eventually a change is needed.

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We Are There

HOLY EUCHARIST 95“What is the Mass? The Mass is a drama; it’s not a tragedy because there is a resurrection. In  every good drama there is first of all the conception of it strong in the mind of the artist. Second, there are long rehearsals, the choosing of characters and types; third, there is opening night; and fourth, there are road companies. The drama of the Mass was conceived in the mind of the eternal dramatist, for the lamb was slain from the beginning of the world. Then there were the rehearsals and the types and choosing  of characters: paschal lamb, the serpent, the many other instances and prototypes of sacrifice in the Old Testament. Then came the opening night, the Last Supper, which looked forward to the cross. And then the Lord sent out His road companies, his priests.  “Do this in memory of me.” Same action, same words, same drama, only different characters pronouncing the lines. When, therefore, we begin the Mass, we are reaching back to the cross of Calvary and lifting it out of its rocks and planting it right down here in our midst. Every time a Mass is offered, Calvary is represented somewhere on earth.” – Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

Too often parishioners do not attend weekend Mass. Their excuse, they say, is that they don’t get anything out of it. One reason for this is that they bring nothing to Mass; namely themselves.  There is more we can offer than a few coins in the collection plate. A little self-denial that we bring to Mass goes a long way in identifying with the Divine Sacrifice of the cross. Another reason is that they do not appreciate fully what is taking place each time Mass is celebrated. It is my contention that the majority who attend Mass have seldom cracked open the Catechism of the Catholic Church, let alone own one. How can anything be fully appreciated if so little is known of it? That failure falls upon the parishioners, as well as the clergy, in particular, who are responsible for guiding the faithful toward awareness and complete understanding. These negligent or neglected followers simply regard the celebration of the Mass as a reenactment of an event in history.

In the movie “Apollo 13” Ron Howard brought to life another event in history. It was a moment when the U.S. Space Program snatched victory from defeat and transformed what seemed certain failure into its greatest success. Many wondered how could a movie in which the ending is already known be of interest to movie goers? Yet the detailed manner in which the movie was constructed drew the viewer in and allowed them to experience the event as though it was happening at that moment. It was that method of dramatizing the facts of the event and eyewitness testimony of the astronauts who were on that mission that enthused the audience and inspired accolades experienced through the courage and heroism of these three brave men, scientists and engineers who collectively defied the odds and saved a mission and very likely the Space Program.

Catholic parishioners must approach attending Mass as did the viewers of “Apollo 13.” Not expecting a simple reenactment of history, but one that transcends time and space. Not as disconnected viewers, but as connected eye-witnesses.

As a young boy I remember a series titled: “You Are There.” The series narrator was Walter Cronkite, a well-known  T.V. news anchorman of that time. The series brought to life events of history, such as the Continental Congress during the American Revolution. Those men of history were interviewed, figuratively, live during congressional sessions, bringing the viewer right into the debate. Thereby elevating the viewer to that of a witness to the actual proceedings. I recall how much more meaningful to me was that experience than that of a conventional production.

The same is true of the Mass. The Mass is a living event because the main character is alive in and through His Church. He is the vine and we are the branches. A vine that is ever-growing and everlasting. At the most dramatic part of the Mass, when the sacramentals of bread and wine are consecrated and changed into the body and blood of Christ, the pages of history are joined; the then and the now.  When a believer understands this he will no longer say, “I don’t get anything out of the Mass.” Because, in all truth, all who attend actively participate and do not passively observe.

When Our Lord, at the Last Supper, blessed the bread and wine, instituting the Holy Eucharist, He foretold that the purpose for which He came into the world was upon Him. Wheat must be ground to make bread and grapes must be crushed to make wine. The sacrifice of the mass is the crucifixion of Christ.  The congregation experiences the sights, sounds and emotions at that moment. The crack of the whip in scourging, the pounding between hammer and nail in penetrating wood, black and blue colored bruises, crimson stains of blood – the result of open wounds, and the mournful cries of the sorrowful. The pain, suffering, sacrifice, redemption and a love that surpasses all, overwhelms senses and strikes to the core of every heart.  The then is now, and in the now, again, we are not observers but witnesses. Through the Mass we find ourselves not thirsting over an empty abandoned well, but forever quenched by His living water. This is so when we are not passive, but indeed active. We are richly fulfilled by the Mass rather than dissatisfied. Because, “We Are There.”

 

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Father’s Day Tribute-Remembering Dad

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