Posts Tagged With: Sin

A Most Unwelcome Homily

Last Monday, my Kindle Fire announced a new post was available in my Google Reader (which I need to just delete and move on, but it’s tough) and the moment I glanced at it in my feed, I knew I didn’t want to read it. There was nothing in the title that was would cause offense, and I wouldn’t be following the blog if I didn’t enjoy the posts. However, despite the seemingly benign nature of this post, I was consumed with dread at thought of reading it. Was it a premonition or just a lazy bone? Who can say? I just know that I did not want to read that post!

So, I did what all good Catholics do when we there is a particular task we are avoiding and it’s right smack in the middle of Lent: I forced myself to sit down and read that article. And I was right–it was a message I did not want to hear.

Throwing the First Stone by 8 Kids and a Business is a transcript of Father Eric Mah’s homily for the 5th Sunday of Lent. Read it if you dare. Here’s a particularly unsettling excerpt:

The French philosopher René Girard has spent much of his career studying the particular psychology – and even spirituality – of the mob.  And he basically says this: human communities – whether we’re talking about families, towns, cities or even nation states – are typically characterized by a sense of tension, rivalry and conflicting desires.  In other words, there’s only so many things to go around – we all want the same thing – and so, we fight!  And so, again, there’s this ongoing sense of tension and conflict within the community.

Now, the question arises: how does a community deal with this sort of problem?  Well, according to Girard, one of the classic ways in which we deal with it is that we tend to scapegoat.  And scapegoating is essentially this: the town – the community – or the mob finds some person or some group upon whom they can project their own sense of tension and violence.  And so, the violence that would otherwise destroy the community is now channelled and transferred onto the scapegoat.

And what does this do?  Well, oddly enough, it does seem to effect a kind of peace and unity within the community.  In other words, we do tend to bond and come together – precisely through our common hatred of a particular person or group.  The down side, of course, is that it’s a very phony and unstable kind of peace – because it’s ultimately based on something that’s actually very evil.    

Now, I don’t know about you, but for me, this has been a long time coming. I have just been waiting to be scolded for this since, oh, Junior High? There was a situation where there was tension and unrest in my little circle of friends. This went on for some time before one of my friends was brave enough to say something. She was, therefore, declared the source of all of our problems and was shut out. The next few weeks, those of us that remained bonded like we never had before. There was no more infighting–but it was an uneasy peace, because I could not escape the reality that we had obtained this new strength by standing against one of our friends.

I’d love to say my worry stemmed from my love for my friend, but it didn’t. I was mostly concerned that I would become the next scapegoat. We all had our turn, I think, and learned nothing.

Of course, I don’t have to worry about such things anymore since I’ve crossed over into adulthood, right?

After going out with a friend a few months ago, I came home in a cloud of frustration. “We’re not really friends!” I told Scott, “She just wants to talk trash to me about XXXX and I don’t want to anymore!” What upset me most was that I was so easily led into temptation and said horrible things about people I love very much. And whatever for? I knew the answer: ENVY. That’s the big one. I envy what someone else has and I need someone to blame for what I lack. Envy leads to gossip leads to scapegoating and where does it go next? Scapegoating is a poor foundation for relationships, but how many relationships do we have that are based solely on tearing others down?

I decided to take a step back. If I can’t control my trash talking with certain people, maybe we should spend less time together until I can. I blame no one but myself–I know what is good to say and what is destructive, but I react so very poorly to temptation, it makes me sick.

We know that the law is spiritual; but I am carnal, sold into slavery to sin. What I do, I do not understand. For I do not do what I want, but I do what I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I concur that the law is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. For I know that good does not dwell in me, that is, in my flesh. The willing is ready at hand, but doing the good is not. For I do not do the good I want, but I do the evil I do not want. Now if [I] do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.

Romans 7:14-20

I want to cry and scream in frustration when I read this passage. In the moment, when my frustrations are boiling over, it seems just to point a finger, but almost instantly, I’m filled with regret. I’ve driven a wedge between myself and the ones I love, and by my poor example, I’ve lead others astray. Worse still, I’ve also turned my back on God. All so I could blame someone for something that was never really their fault.

Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa!

That homily cut like a knife, but we need a knife to cut the cancer from our hearts sometimes.

Categories: Chasing After God, Negative Nancy | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

A.L.L. Book Review: The Ultimate Saints Guide to the Immaculate Conception

When I bought Scott’s Kindle Fire for Christmas, I had a fair amount of $$$ in my shopping cart, which I suppose is what prompted Amazon to offer me 20$ off a yearly Prime subscription. In addition to free shipping and Amazon Instant Video, I receive one book each month to read for free on one of my Kindle devices from the Amazon Lending Library(A.L.L.). As of the date of this posting, this book is available for free to any Amazon Prime members with a Kindle device.

 

The Ultimate Saints Guide to the Immaculate Conception

by Dan Quinn & John Quinn

Back in September, I shared with great delight that my sister was starting RCIA classes! Unfortunately, a few weeks ago, Betsy advised me that she could not accept the Immaculate Conception. She is continuing RCIA classes for now (it goes without saying–please pray for her!) but will not be joining the Church at this time. I wasn’t sure how to approach the topic with her, so imagine my delight when I stumbled upon The Ultimate Saints Guide to the Immaculate Conception!

For those of us who are Protestant converts to the Catholic Church, our relationship with Mary can feel more like a mother-in-law relationship. It’s awkward and strange, and sometimes it just feels wrong. After all, we were raised to believe that veneration of Mary is sinful. The Immaculate Conception did not become dogma until 1854, which leads many people to believe that is a new theory propagated by the Catholic Church, but that couldn’t be further from the truth, as this book reveals.

 The Ultimate Saints Guide to the Immaculate Conception is really just a wonderful compilation of writings from Saints. The Quinn brothers begin by defining what the Immaculate Conception is (which far too many of us confuse with something else entirely), then telling the story of St. Joachim and St. Ann, taking from the revelations of St. Bridget of Sweden, St. Elizabeth of Shenau, Ven. Anne Catherine Emmerich, and Ven. Mary of Agreda.

Next up, a defense of the dogma of the Immaculate conception by St. Robert Bellarmine. St. Robert dishes up the usual fare: Mary declares that all generations will call her blessed, the woman clothed with the sun of God’s radiant grace can be no one else, and so forth. My favorite scriptural reference, of course, is the foreshadowing in Genesis 3:15:

“I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed, and she shall crush thy head.” 

It was, in fact, the Lady of Grace statue at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Cathedral in Oklahoma City that I was gazing upon when I suddenly, completely out of the blue, understood the “whole Mary thing.” There she was, her foot on the serpent, crushing his head, and a light bulb went off. I had read books, prayed, and finally just resigned myself to uncertainty, but in that moment of quiet reflection, I just got it.

My favorite section by far is the writings of Church fathers on the Immaculate Conception. Going back to the first century, to St. Andrew, the Apostle, we have writings of Church fathers supporting the dogma that Mary was full of grace and therefore did not fall into sin. While the idea that Mary was withheld from sin from the moment of her conception is not universally acknowledged, there is evidence that although she was capable of sin, because of the grace given to her, she did not succumb to it.

I especially liked this quote:

“Purity is understood by the absence of what is contrary to it, and, therefore, a creature may be found, than which nothing can be more pure in created things, if it be defiled by no contagion of sin; and such was the purity of the blessed Virgin, who was exempt from original and actual sin. But she was beneath God, inasmuch as there was in her the power to commit sin.”

St. Thomas (8th Century Church Father)

The Quinn brothers also dive into the visions of St. Bernadette at Lourdes, and St. Catherine Laboure of the Miraculous Medal. The story of Lourdes is particularly important to me because that was the story that helped me to accept Mary as Mother and advocate, along with my light bulb moment. It’s very difficult to deny the events at Lourdes, and if the events are true, then what Mary said there was true. St. Bernadette was so poorly educated, and so sickly, but she was also so devout. I just find it difficult to doubt her story.

Overall, I think this is a marvelous little reference on the Immaculate Conception, especially for converts who need a little help with getting to know Mary a little better. As far as being just the thing I needed to convince Betsy….No. I’ve been there. She needs an AHA! moment, a light bulb experience. No one can contrive that for her. Arguing with her won’t change a thing (trust me, you don’t want to try). So, if you’re trying to convince a Protestant, this is a must-have tool, but there’s no magic bullet as far as I’m concerned. Of course, with all matters of faith, sometimes our hearts just have to find a quiet spot where they can sort it out for themselves.

Categories: Amazon Lending Library Reviews, Saints | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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