Monday, November 21, 2011

The third way

Watching Fr Robert Barron's series Catholicism this week and I was struck by his explanation of Jesus's statement: 
But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil. When someone strikes you on (your) right cheek, turn the other one to him as well.  (Matt 5:39)
There are two typical reactions to violence.  Fight or flight.  Reacting with violence simply escalates the violence.  The tougher person wins.  Flight confirms the aggressor in his actions and allows the aggression to continue.

Jesus espouses a third way.  In those times, you did not use your left hand for most uses since it was typically considered unclean.  A person would strike with his right hand.  If he strikes your right cheek, he would be using the back of his hand, like you would strike a bad animal.  It would show a contemptuous, you're-not-worth-it attitude.

Turning the other (the left) cheek does two things, it forces him to not use the back of his hand, making him unable to strike with the same dismissive attitude and it shows your defiance to his violence in that you are not running away.  You mirror his violence back to him as if to say, "I am not cowed."

He gave a wonderful example.  Mother Theresa on the streets of Calcutta held a starving child by the hand and took the child to a bakery.  She approached the baker and begged some bread for the child.  The baker contemptuously spat full in her face.  She stood firm, looked at the baker and said "That was for me, now can you give something for the child?"

The baker would have been taken aback by the woman who did not fight back nor flee, but stood firm, showing him her face, asking gently again for bread.

Turning the other cheek is an oftentimes confusing phrase that does not mean pacifism, but resistance to evil without violence and without abandonment.  It requires facing the enemy, come what may and showing him that you are not beaten, nor are you even harmed.  Nothing he can do can touch your resolve as if to say "the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."

Thinking Means Connecting Things

Apologist G.K. Chesterton once said that thinking means connecting things. Never were truer words spoken. To really understand what something is we must first understand what it is for and then how it connects or relates to other things.
Suppose I were to bring someone from the 17th century into a car class with the first lesson being on the fuel injection system. He may say, “Excuse me, but what is a car?” I’d respond, “It is a mode of transportation to get you from point A to point B.” The time traveler may think of a horse in this context and ask, “How would a car relate to a horse?” I could explain, among other things, that a car is a machine that is generally bigger, faster and can hold more people & cargo than a horse.  A better understanding of a car emerges when we can understand its purpose and how it connects or relates to other things.
This “knowing” and “relating” is key to understanding some basic facets of life and how they connect. The Catholic faith has always taught that the following are inexorably linked ………
God» Male» Female» Marriage» Sex» Children» Family» Community» Nation» World
I teach a course in troubleshooting in which a negative is always used to help confirm a positive and vice versa. If thinking means connecting things, the opposite of thinking (lack of thinking) MUST involve some kind of “disconnect”.
Let’s look at some lack-of-thinking that breaks (attacks?) the connections above:
• Marriage and sex have nothing to do with each other. If you want sex, just do it: This disconnect results in treating others as objects among many other societal ills, such as unwanted pregnancies, STD’s and an unknowable amount of emotional pain.
• Marriage and having children have nothing to do with each other. If you want a baby, find a partner somehow or go to a sperm bank:  This disconnect results in the break down of the family unit.
• Sex and children are not necessarily connected. The purpose of sex is pleasure, children are an optional byproduct. A pregnancy (side effect) can be terminated as a personal choice: This disconnect results in legalized murder.
• Male and Female? That doesn’t mean anything. Love is love regardless of what genders are involved: This disconnect results in an unintelligible definition of marriage.
In an age of internet surfing, texting and tweets we are getting good at looking at many different things very quickly, but in a shallow way. We are losing the ability to dig deeper to see how ideas link up. We lose the big picture. We lose the connections. Thinking is indeed connecting things.

Gilbert Keith Chesterton
English Writer
1874 - 1936

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

All Statements are False!

If the title of this post is true, it must also be false since it too is a statement. It is a self-contained contradiction. It fails a basic rule of logic called the principle of non-contradiction. The only way to reconcile it logically would be to say, “All statements are false except this one.” From here we would need to explore and question the premises and sources for the exception. The point of this post is not to play word games, but to help us think through the things we believe in.
Let’s look at some more…..
Ø  A Square Circle: This is fairly simple to understand.  It is not possible to have a geometric shape that fits the definition of both a square and a circle at the same time.
Ø  An Achieved Unachievable:  Also simple. If you achieved it, it cannot be unachievable.
Ø  All Truth is Relative:  We’ll need to think harder now. For this statement to be true it must also be something relative, which by definition cannot be universally true.
Ø  Truth is Unknowable: Is this statement true? How can we know for sure if truth is unknowable?
Ø  Nothing is True:  Very similar to the title of this post; if true, it must also be false.
Ø  The Bible Alone is True (Sola Scriptura): A contraction arises because “Bible Alone” is not found in the Bible. We need to go to some source outside the Bible to get it. It is unbiblical as well as illogical. Additionally, we find scripture like 1Timothy 3:15, where the pillar & foundation of truth is said to be The Church, not scripture itself.
Here’s one on Papal Infallibility just for fun…..
Ø  No person can be “infallible”: If true, no person could declare this “infallibly”.

Self-contained contractions are also used as amateur attempts to mock the existence of God. For example, “Can God make a four sided triangle?” or “Can God make a weight so heavy that He cannot lift it?” These kinds of things are meaningless. In a certain sense they are nothing…………. and nothing is impossible with God!!
WARNING: Contemplating the photo below can lead to insanity. It’s really nothing. Just let it go.

Friday, November 4, 2011


"A Mystery, in short, is an invitation to the mind. For it means that there is an inexhaustible well of Truth from which the mind can drink and drink again in the certainty that the well will never run dry, that there will always be water for the mind's thirst." - Frank Sheed

This is a reassurance that when we fail to wrap our puny brains around a mystery, we are fundamentally incapable of full knowledge, of "getting it completely."  We are encouraged not to despair at it but to continue trying.  To put on the mind of Christ.

And how "anti-modern" is that reassurance?  The mind of materialism wants to believe that we CAN reach the bottom of the well.  A "mystery" by that definition offends them.  They don't WANT there to be something about which they cannot fully know, dissect, understand down to the bottom.  There is no room for a transcendent God who is not fully knowable and so must be excluded.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Day of Rest

A relationship in which two parties can “rest” in one another can conger up images of a comfortable, self-giving union in which nothing is hidden or held back. This may remind us the Catholic ideal of marriage or the idea of “covenant”, as it should. This should also remind us of this day, All Saints Day, since the saints enjoy an eternal rest with God.

 I’ve never heard The Day of Rest explained so well as in the Great Adventure bible timeline during the early world sessions in Genesis. Catholics do well to treat Genesis, not as history book or a science book, but as the story of the beginning of a relationship; the relationship between God and man.

A Review of Creation:
• Day 1 and 2: Creation of time & space (see Genesis 1: 3-8)
A day is not necessarily 24 hours, but some segment of time. “But do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years are like one day.” 2 Peter 3:8. Could day 1 and day 2 be part of the first nanoseconds in the Big Bang Theory? (just my own musing here)

• Day 3: Space on the earth & the creation of life (see Genesis 1:9-13)

• Day 4 - 6: All about how the presence of God fills voids. In this case voids in the sky, sea & land
(see Genesis 1:14-31)
It is important to note that the creation of man & beast is on the same day; day 6. We should stop and contemplate why. Isn’t man set apart from animals with a soul; made in the image & likeness of God? Why don’t we get our own special day?!? We’ll get back to this.

SIDE NOTE: One of my confirmation students once asked “What about dinosaurs?” I replied, “What about dinosaurs?” She continued, “How can man & beast be made on the same day if there were no humans around when dinosaurs were around?” I restated, “A day is just some segment of time; it could be billions of years. Dinosaurs could have come and gone in the earlier part of the “day” and man at the later part. It’s really not important. Dinosaurs are just another beast.”

• Day 7: God blessed the 7th day and made it holy because he rested on that day (see Genesis 2:2-3)
God does not need physical rest. The Sabbath day is for us. “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” Mark 2:27

The beasts made with man on day 6 do not know or love God. They were not given the will or the intellect to do so; it’s not what they are made for. How many people do we know who relate to God the same way an animal does? They do not know or love God, even though they were given the capacity.

Man is called to leave the beasts behind in day 6 & find “rest” with God in day 7, the kind of rest described in the opening paragraph, the kind of rest a saint has. Will we choose to “rest” with God in day 7 or remain with the beasts in day 6?

Remember too that the number 7 in scripture always represents perfection, fullness or completion. The number 6 is 1 less than 7 and always corresponds to evil, imperfection or…..…The Number of the Beast!!!

A visual is always helpful. Click upon the earth below to view all of creation!